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Archive for January, 2007

Headline: One Possum Short of a Match Set

January 31st, 2007 at 07:48 pm

Observant readers will note that, in order to be "One Possum Short of a Match Set" I must have at least one possum to begin with. And you, dear reader, would be correct.

Today was the convergence of several comic, er, cosmic forces of the universe which culminated in my taking a picture of a possum in my basement. Ironically, I got the picture when it ran to hide under DH's deer stand. HAAAAHAHAH!



First two forces of the universe involved: laziness and procrastination. I say this because there is a vent hole into our basement that's needed to be replaced since we bought the house in July. Our cats use the hole to get in and out of the basement, which isn't too bad. The neighborhood cats use the hole to get in and out of the basement, which isn't too good. Apparently a possum can use the hole to get in and out of the basement.

Next force of the universe involved: kizmit. The dishwasher we ordered from Lowes on the 15th arrived today. WOO and HOO! Today is the beginning of a new fiscal month (long story), so we were all exicted to pick up the appliance, buy the last bits needed to install it, and get it wrapped up tonight.

Final force involved is quite common: mother nature. See, it's gonna get nasty here during the next 24 hours. For details, click the flag shaped weather button to your right. Suffice to say it'll be cold and went and likely very icy (as in an inch on the power lines, not good). As a side note DH and I chopped and gathered wood when I got home from work, so since we're prepared nothing should actually stick...

So, when one has a hole into one's basement and plumiting temps outside, it is reasonable to see how one might wind up with wildlife in one's basement.

The chances of actually walking down your basement stairs and finding a possum drinking out of your sump-pump hole, however, and likely SLIM and NONE. Apparently luck was on our side and slim was still hanging around...

So, money saved by this evening's adventures in plumbing and wildlife:

$59 (pick-up instead of appliance delivery)
$150 (switching out the plumbing underneath the sink)
$150 (installing said dishwasher ourselves)
$??? (not calling a pest guy regarding the errant possum)

Going Freelance: Got Samples

January 29th, 2007 at 10:05 am

So, I went out this weekend and braved the cold and wind and got some pictures. As a side note, I also realized I really need to get a lens cleaning kit, but that's neither here nor there. Turns out, some of the pics that are posted online are even for the wrong house! Jeez Louise...

At any rate, I wanted to post a few and see if anyone (especially the house hunters among us!) would give some feedback from the perspective of a potential buyer. I'm including the realtor's name and contact number on the photo (and I'm debating about putting the MLS# on there too), which I think is a good idea but who knows if it'll fly... What do you think, would a buyer like that info placed on the photo as long as it doesn't obstruct anything?

Before & After
OK, the first house has a huge tree in the front yard, so the only viable way to shoot it is from an angle.

The other two houses are the ones where the wrong picture is currently posted online. WTF....





Visit from the Computer Fairy

January 28th, 2007 at 02:31 pm

My house has been visited by the computer fairy! Big Grin

First, some background for this post. I remember unpacking my family's first computer with my dad in 92, maybe 93. We'd splurged and gotten a 486 instead of a 386. HAAAAAAHAHHAHA!!! Anyways, we'd had computers in school for a couple of years at this point, so I sat there in the floor with my dad showing him what all the bits and pieces were, how to hook everything up, etc.

How fast they grow up...

Fast forward to today. Computers are my dad's hobby, something he tinkers with when the cigar store is slow. Over the past few weeks he's been Ebaying, buying 3 servers of varying age and completeness in order to build himself a gigando Frankenstein server. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Anyways, after taking his pick of all the parts, there was a ton left-over so he pieced them together for a new computer for me. Woohoo!!! I can't call it a PC b/c it's technically a server configuration. Can't call it a server b/c I'm not actually serving anything on it.

Semantics aside, I've got a nice new-to-me 'box' that will more than do what I need. 3 hard drives (two 18s and a 9), dual 733 mhz processors, and 788 in ram that'll get boosted up to a gig or two once he's finished picking over the parts. And since it's a 'server', there's plenty of room to grow.





My cost? Well, he won't let me help pay for the parts. Dad's, what can you do? Since it used to be a server, there was no sound card and no USB ports (which I need for my photographs). We went to Circuit City today and bought a sound card, a USB PCI card, and a USB hub for $75.

Having the new computer gave us the motivation to rearrange the office to be able to fit everything in properly. Here is our office, with all the freebies marked with a red X. And yes, there is one on the cat Big Grin



Going Freelance: I think I Can!

January 26th, 2007 at 01:40 pm

I've been mulling over the whole "generate your own income" thing for a while. Some of you might remember it's one of my new year's goals to come up with 10 ways I can make about $500 per month. On that list I've already include "something to do with photography". Real specific, right?

I've always been better taking pictures of inanimate objects for some reason or another. Especially buildings. I have a 'thing' for architecture and I really enjoy taking pictures of houses, churches, etc. Probably 2/3 of the pics I took in Argentina were architectural. This combined with my realtively recent house purchase has made me think of real estate photography on and off for the past couple of months. I know when I was looking at houses, if it didn't have a picture I usually didn't bother. I think that's pretty much the norm.

Things were slow at work today, so I revisted the idea. Went online to my favorite real estate watering hole to see what the market looks like right now. Generally, there are about 6000 houses on the market at any given time in my area, over 600 in a 5 mile radius of my house. Even with a 'bursting real estate bubble' our area is booming, what with BMW, Michelin, FUJI, and ICAR calling the upstate 'home'.

6000 properties. If I could just grab 1% of those...

Anyways, when browsing today I picked 21 listings, ranging from $64,900 to $1,649,000. These listing either had no pictures (BAD), or really crappy pictures (WORSE!). Don't believe me?

This house is listed for $77,900





This house is listed for $210,000




WHAT THE FOO? Who's gonna bother looking when the pictures are like this? What does that say about the real estate agent, or the agency?

When I saw these pics, I thought to myself "A trained monkey could do better than this. Or an untrained human!" Since I myself am an untrained human, I figure I qualify.

So, I have 21 listings from 14 different agents, all in about a 5 mile radius of my house. This weekend, I'm going to go around to several (one's even on my street!) and take some pictures. Next week I'm going to email the pictures to the realtors directly, letting them know I'd be happy to work with them.

BTW, I don't have any 'normal' house pictures with me that I've taken, but here are some of my more 'artsy' ones for comparison purposes.











Dishwasher Saga

January 26th, 2007 at 05:15 am

Grrrrr... Dishwasher is backordered until the first. Ergo, $300 tied up in the intricacies of Lowes ordering system for 2 weeks.

Good news is that the drain pipe is of course fixed, and we've run the electical. Last thing on the list (other than bringing the blasted thing home!) is to replace the drain plumbing under the kitchen sink so the washer has a place to hook up. Oh, and cut some holes in the cabinatry with a hole saw for the water in, water out, and electrical. Luckly, there was already an opening in the cabinatry for the dishwasher, so no major carpentry is needed. Someone had just added doors and a kick plate to the front when they took the old dishwasher out back in the way back.

Here's hoping that when the darn thing finally arrives, all we have to do is plug 'er in, hook 'er up, and slide 'er home!

Replacing the Kitchen Drain: A Soapmaker's Perspective

January 22nd, 2007 at 08:01 am

That's right: a soapmaker. As in 'one who makes soap'.

As many of you know I have really sensitive and dry skin. This led me down a path several years ago that resulted in making my own soap. Not the stuff you buy to melt-down and mold, I'm talking full-on face protection while you mix the lye, add some fat, and eventually cut into slabs soap. It's actually quite enjoyable, a nice blend of exact science and crafty creativity (kinda like baking).

FYI, for the curious fruggie, you can make basic soap for about $1.50 per pound, perhaps $2 if you decide to make it smell pretty. It is cheaper to buy Ivory soap when you find a coupon or a good sale, BUT Ivory dries my skin out. Plus, for the veggies and vegans out there, Ivory is made from animal products (sodium tallowate = soap made from beef fat, which is actually a very good fat for making soap).

I'm still hoarding my last batch of soap, I make some every 2 years or so b/c it is a PITA to clean up afterwards. You'd think a big batch of soaping stuff would be easy to clean, right? WRONG: the stuff in the pot isn't soap yet, it's just a hot greasy caustic mess that'll burn you if you're not careful!

But, I digress.

DH and I replaced the kitchen drain pipe Friday evening. Yes, the one that was leaking like a seive. The pipe we took out was 2.5" cast iron and likely original to the house. It was so badly deteriorated that, when we tried to snap it with the specially rented pipe cutter, one part of the cast iron shattered. Turns out we could slice the thing off using our Saws-All and didn't have to have the rental equipment after all. Oh well...

Anyways, we got the section off, and I found myself staring into the pipe. Like a bad car-wreck, I couldn't tear my eyes away. Inside the 2.5" pipe was maybe 1" of space for the drain water. The rest of the pipe looked like it was filled with red clay.

Of course, it wasn't clay. It was 80 years worth of EWWWWWWWWWW!!!! Think of the stuff that gets poured down your kitchen sink. Imagine 80 years worth of it. That's what was inside the pipe. It looked like red clay because it had been tinted by the rust from the pipe. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing otherwise I mighta tossed my cookies.

And this, dear friends, is when my inner soapmaker spoke up about the beauty of drain cleaners.

Sodium hydroxide (lye) + water generates heat (a lot, actually).

Hot water/lye solution + fat = a cascading exothermic chemical reaction called saponification, otherwise known as soapmaking.

The chemical structure of soap gives it a dual nature, a split personality if you will. One side of the molecule is hydrophillic: it loves water and is attracted to it (this comes from the lye used in the process). The other side of the molecule is hydrophobic/lipophillic: it loves fats and is attracted to them (this comes from the fat used in the process). The result is soap's ability to 'cut' grease and increase water's cleaning power.

Putting lye down a drain and flushing it with hot water creates the solution which in turn reacts with a layer of the fatty EWWW lining the pipe turning it into some weird freakish soap (but soap nontheless). Soap + hot water = the ability to dissolve even more of the unreacted fatty EWWW in the pipe.

Moral of the story? Who-ever named 'drain cleaner' must have been a soapmaker!

I Fought the Lawn, and the Lawn Won

January 20th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

OK, for the purists out there I am using the term 'lawn' very loosely, as I have no actual grass to speak of. Well, I do have some, but that wasn't what I dealt with today.

Today I raked.

And raked.

Oh, and did I mention I raked?

I filled my compost heap, I covered the 8'x10' tarp, and I have another two huge piles. For the curious, I only raked 2 areas, totaling maybe 200 square feet. Got leaves?



The good news is that rotten leaves are second only to poop (cow or worm, not cat or dog!) when it comes to making good dirt. To be living in the land of Carolina Clay, I have uncovered a gold mine of rich moist loamy black earth. WOOHOO!! I'm thinking I'm going to use this lovely dirt to my advantage and plant a lettuce plot in the back yard, which is all northern exposure. I have some old lettuce seeds, but might get some new ones here, where I can buy a 1oz mix of organic seeds for $7.50. In case your curious, 1 oz of lettuce seeds is about 20,000 (!!!), which means I should be able to have plenty of baby green salads for the spring and winter.

At this point, the lettuce is my only planned contribution to my yard's foliage. As many of you know, the house I bought originally belonged to what I must assume was an avid gardener. I say this because I have counted, thus far, 11 varities of camellias, and have another 4 or 5 that haven't even bloomed yet. I 'inherited' camellias, azaleas, daffy's, periwinkle, roses, mimosa, nadina, rose of sharon, and countless other items.

Here's what's showing off today. Nadina berries, periwinkle, daffodil, 2 of my camellias, bamboo, and what I think is privet. Not sure on that last one, though.



And, while I'm thinking about it, does anyone know what this is? I've got a crapload of it!

Optical Illusion: OW!

January 19th, 2007 at 12:23 pm

OK, if the pic below isn't big enough, click on it and it'll take you to a full-size version.

Just glancing at the picture, the bits seem to move. Focus your eyes on any particular spot and the movement grinds to a halt. OW!

One Week One Goal: Google Revelation

January 18th, 2007 at 01:34 pm

I received an inspiring comment on my blog yesterday. Nothing particularly special about that, as I have grown accustomed to reading the kind, insightful, and inspiring words you leave me on a daily basis.

With that said, this comment was different. It was on an entry from October 16th: over three months ago (!) from someone new to the site. He wasn't on the site due to an interest in personal finance, he found my blog due to a Google search for one goal one week. I WAS THE NUMBER ONE RESULT.

Actually, his exact words were "Googled it - and you are the first link. So there.So I've decided to hold myself accountable and live-by 1-goal.1-wk." I didn't believe him, so I tried Gooling the phrase. Searched one goal one week without quotations, and there are "about 45,700,000" results.

And there I am. At the top.

My eyes bulged, my jaw dropped, my little heart went pitter-pat. There are companies and websites that would kill for that kind of placement. OK, maybe not kill, but definitely spend good money... And somehow I manage to get there by accident?

Odd. Weird. Perhaps even kizmit.

This one comment, from a man in India using the handle Condor, has left me with an itch I desparately want to scratch. It brought to light the known but unacknowledged fact that what I put forth on this blog (perhaps spew forth would be more accurate!) could really and truly have an effect on some unknown person somewhere out in 'The Real World', be it positive or negative. Was it the intended effect? No, but I guess that's part of the revelation, too. People will take what they will from your writing, which may or may not be what you expect.

Long story short, this has made me realize several different things. Most basically, I stopped my "One Week, One Goal" entries when the holidays hit and I really should start again, if nothing else but for my own good. Also, it made me wonder whether or not "One Week, One Goal" could be the basis for a viable online community. And whether I could create it. Or maintain it. Or, with enough luck and enough Condors, grow it into a self-sustaining entity.

So many what-if's, so little time...

Thinking of Jumping In...

January 16th, 2007 at 02:23 pm

My $20 challenge is somewhat stagnating, other than the change and ones that are slowly collecting. I may revisit whether it's just me or the house and me that are participating, but also of concern is thinking of a way to actively generate income. Combine this with the very real possibility of losing 60% of the household income at the end of February, and ACK!

And that's why I'm thinking of jumping in. To a business, that is. Not even really a business, more of a 'venture'. No, not MLM: those folks hate to see me b/c I always play devil's advocate and they can't answer all the questions I ask Big Grin

I'm thinking about getting some prints made of my photographs. Specifically, I found a REALLY CHEAP place to get posters printed, 18 x 24 size.

http://shortrunposters.com/

First one is free, each add'l is $2, and S&H is $10 from what I've read online. The quality is OK from what I've read, nothing to try and sell in an art gallery or nuthin'... I was thinking, though, that I could get 10 posters printed for $28 after S&H and see if I could sell 'em for $5 each.

So, what do ya'll think? Should I try and be a photographer? More importantly: ANYONE WANNA BUY A POSTER? Big Grin

Adding value to the house...

January 15th, 2007 at 08:48 am

Yeah, that's the ticket, I'm adding value to the house...

DH and I said we were going to put a dishwasher in our house when we closed in July. One because it'll add value to our 1969 kitchen, and two because we're a couple of slacker anti-dishwashing fools. Don't ask me why, don't ask me where it came from, but I've hated doing dishes since I was 10 years old. HATE IT!

My parents made me do the dinner dishes for our family for about 2 months, and I was so bad at it my punishment was to have to wash every dish in the house. Nice thinking, pops: now ALL the dishes in the house were only halfway washed, not just the everyday dishes... My mom finally had it UP TO THERE (you know where THERE is, right?) and told me I wouldn't have to wash the dishes, but she would never wash a stich of my clothing again. COOL! I like laundry, and love to iron, so we were both very pleased with this compromise.

Anyways, I digress. I hate doing dishes. I'm better at it than I was in my youth, but I'd still rather iron king sized sheets than wash a load of cutlery any day. And DH, well... Let's just say he means well when he washes a dish.

Add to this the fact that the cast iron drain pipe from my kitchen sink leaks like a seive (no exaggeration here, I'm afraid) into my basement, and you get a kitchen that is an absolute wreck. Intead of washing the dishes as they're used, they get rinsed and then wait for a full load since all the dishwater is going to drain into the basement anyways.

Needless to say, the dish situation made it difficult to work up the motivation to do something so frugal as to cook and eat at home. So, well, we didn't.

Over dinner last night I told DH I enjoy eating out, but I enjoy eating at home too. Add to that it's financially healthier to eat at home, and my preference becomes clear.

He didn't understand what I meant when I said it was financially healthier. So I told him what we've spent the past 2.5 weeks in groceries and eating out (mostly eating out). I cannot, I will not repeat the number here because it is utterly appalling, mortifying even. He asked me to repeat myself, because surely the number I had just given him couldn't be right. Could it?

Oh yeah, it was right. His response? BLINK BLINK.

After a very long pause he said "Maybe we'd cook at home more if we actually put that dishwasher in. Of course, that means we'll have to fix the cast iron drain pipe, first..."

HALLELUJAH!

The cost of repairing the pipe will come out of my monthly budgeted amount for home improvement and repair 'stuff', so no extra money spent there. The money for the dishwasher? Well, the house had some cash sitting around unallocated in savings from the era of my 'save it aimlessly till you need it' mentality. Since it is in no way figured into our existing budget, we're gonna use that to pay cash for the dishwasher.

Total cost for the dishwasher and materials/tools to fix the pipe: approximately $350

Total saved doing the pipe repair and dishwasher install ourselves: approximately $250

Total value added to the house: WHO CARES!!!! I WON'T HAVE TO WASH DISHES!!!!

Well, I do care of course, but it'll be several months before we get it appraised so I guess we'll find out then. Alls I know is it appraised for 74,500 without a dishwasher, cook top, or oven, and with that freaking huge tree in the yard. Tree's gone, cook-top is in, dishwasher is moving in; now I just gotta find a built-in-oven for cheap.

Total saved by eating out less: I'm so ashamed, I really can't reveal that. Let's just say it's, um, A LOT.

Not Frugal, But Worth It!

January 14th, 2007 at 03:31 pm

I ate brunch about 6.5 hours ago, and I'm still not hungry. In my 'eat every 4 hours' world, this is a minor miracle. Actually, not minor.

Any ways, I accomplished this feat by eating brunch/lunch at a German buffet with DH and my mom. For $8.95 plus a drink each, there was kraut and schnitzel and bratwurst as far as the eye could see. Red cabbage with apples, home-made mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy that was good enough to make you smack your mama. No, I didn't smack my mama, but the gravy was good enough she would have understood if I had!

And to top it all off, they had apple pie. Not Mrs. Smith's feux pie (HA!) in a box, I'm talking homemade 3 inch thick pie with a flakey just-right salty crust and candied crumb topping. Holy crap, I almost ate myself sick on pie!

In retrospect, considering the 2 plates of food and piece and a half of pie, perhaps I did get a good deal for $8.95!

Cash From Trash

January 12th, 2007 at 01:34 pm

So I've been pondering the question on how to turn trash into cash, and I think I might have some ideas. Some of these I have done before, others are just thoughts more than anything. Some involve actual trash whereas others use the concept of 'trash' in a slightly looser fashion. Most of them could be done entirely cost free or entirely not-cost-free, depending on how you go about it.

Fire starters
I had mentioned this idea in another blog entry, when DH and I saw wax dipped pinecones that were intended to be used as fire starters. As I've never done this please don't mistake any of my ponderings for actual instructions! Assuming you live in or near a wooded area (or even a park), one could easily find enough pinecones to get started. I was thinking things like dry moss, sawdust, and pine needles might also work to make nice firestarters too. The wax could come from candles or crayons that have seen better days that you have lying around the house.

Cardboard Boxes, Paper orPlastic Bags
Around here the liquor stores stack them up outside with a sign that says "Free Boxes!". One option is to use these to pack peoples suff in when they move, but since most wouldn't pay for the boxes you might be tempted to pack the stuff for pay. Thing is, what if it breaks? ACK! So, my other thought was to take them to the flea market and sell for like a dime each for people to carry their stuff around in. Same thing for paper and plastic bags: sometimes the booth proprietors forget to bring a sack of bags and you might be able to sell them a bag of bags for a buck....

Cigar Boxes
Yeah, I know, I have an in with the cigar man so this might not apply to everyone! My dad actually gives them away by the garbage bag full, some other places might do the same. I've sold these before at the flea market, anywhere from 1-6 bucks each. Not bad for trash! Some of the nicer ones can be done up as a humidor, and I had one guy buy several to hold handguns (he was going to do the whole velvet lined interior bit). Sometimes you'll be able to get the same box design in different sizes and you can sell them as a set, and I speak from experience when I say they're great clutter catchers! Some of the cheaper looking ones could be done up as a bird house, painted and made into mail holders, that sort of thing.

Wires
Other than the obvious copper, which is kind of a hot market right now, have you ever looked at the wires inside your phone cord (RJ11) or ethernet cable/cat5? The inner wires are covered in a colorful sheath made of insulated plastic. When I was a teenager, I made bracelets from the stuff by stripping them out of the outter plastic coating and leaving the copper wire inside the inner plastic sheath. Braclets, bookmarks, perhaps picture frames? All possibilities.

Glass and Pottery
For those not broken, you could paint them and give them a new life. I'm mostly thinking broken glass/ceramic/potter items here, though. Take pieces and make mosaic anything, really. Trivets, coasters, picture frames, wall art, candle holders, the list is almost endless. You'll need a mortar of some sort, I've used plaster of paris before.

Paper Goods
When I think paper goods I think wrapping paper, labels, gift bags, calendars, CD covers, junk mail, magazines; just about anything. Some of my favorites are calendars and gift bags, but maybe that's just me. Anywho, you could take some of the cardboard boxes and make picture frames that you cover with some of your paper goods. Same thing with the cigar boxes, actually. Decoupage is pretty fool proof, and I've used school glue instead of the actual decoupage medium with success.

Homemade Paper
OK, not all trash here but still pretty cheap! Dryer lint plus clean unused el-cheapo toilet paper (you know, the half ply stuff that always leaves you wanting more!) = the makings for homemade paper! Used tissue paper (think gifts, not sneezes) works too. Instructions are available online, and school glue works here as a 'sizing agent' (what bonds your paper together). Even better: pair up with a decorated box and have a handmade stationary set...

Dammit Dolls
Cut what looks like a gingerbread man type of figure out of clean rags, sew edges shut except for a spot where you stuff with it whatever you've got around, sew shut. Include instructions:

When you'd like to kick the dog
or throw the phone and shout
here's a little Dammit doll
That you can't live without
Just grasp it firmly by its leg
and find a place to slam it
And as you whack its stuffing out
Yell Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!!

General Updates, Musings

January 11th, 2007 at 06:04 pm

Can't believe it's Thursday already! Good grief! *in my best Charlie Brown voice*

I've been under the weather here lately, even called in sick to work yesterday. Don't think it was still "Revenge of the Poblano", but let's just say I'm now intimately acquainted with my bathroom... Bluh... Still not high on energy level, but what can you expect when your food isn't in your system long enough for you to get any nutritional value?

Sick or not, I took my uninterrupted computer time at home to a) figure out work problems and b) work on personal problems. It makes sense in my head, just not when I write it down! At any rate, I did figure out the work problem, hence the code post from earlier in the day.

The personal problem is a horse of a different color, as they say. Remember me saying one of the emails wasn't written from our home computer when DH and I were both home? Well, one of my options was that he had email capability on his phone, but so far as I can tell, he doesn't. So, what do we make of an email sent from DH's email account when he wasn't logged in to his email? Very weird... Perhaps a cohort? Who would he get to help him in such an endeavor? Especially when everyone knows I use the sheriff as a personal referance when applying for jobs?

Since I'm unsure as to the authenticity of what I've seen, I've not brought it up. I am still, however, keeping my ears to the ground and my nose to the wind, so to speak.

On a different, and yet somewhat related, note a show came on TLC last night about sex addicts while DH was channel surfing. He hadn't heard of this before and decided to watch. I kept my psych-major mouth shut and let him hear what other folks have to say on the subject. We'll see....

Financially, all's quiet on the western front. Water bill came today, and I've had enough money in the 'water bill account' since the middle of last month, so it's nice to see things working out they way they're supposed to. Pocket money is gone but is due to be replinished on payday the 15th, so no real worries there. Ditto grocery money. Don't worry, it's not like there's no money; it's all sitting there waiting for me to take it out when I'm scheduled to do so. Since Monday is a holiday and the banks are closed, I might actually take $ out early. This is one of those months where getting $400 per month rather than $100 per week turns into a real pain!

Oh, I forgot to mention the books!!! Someone had asked what I'd gotten to read and I forgot to respond. I just finished the last one yesterday, but here they are anyways:

"Body Movers" - Stephanie Bond: Murder mystery w/ romantic overtones. It was OK, got it b/c it was set in Atlanta

"Dead Cat Bounce" - Norman Green: Mystery with mobster overtones. I liked it, but didn't like the way the ending wrapped up so impersonally when the main character's personal grievances were driving the plot. Like the author's writing voice, though. Favorite phrases "more moves than an epileptic prostitute" and "what a pain in the dick" Big Grin Got it b/c I liked the title

"Monkey Man" - Steve Brewer: Mystery with zoo overtones. I think the main character in this is featured in the author's series, so it might have been more enjoyable if I were more familiar with the line. Got it b/c there was a picture of a stuffed monkey on the front, and a friend of mine in college was nicknamed 'monkey man'

"Farewell Summer" - Ray Bradbury. Got b/c, well, it's Ray Bradbury! Definitely not what I was expecting from Ray, but nice nontheless. Pretty much a human drama, but the ending is a hoot and made me laugh out loud.

"The Christmas Pig" - Kinky Friedman. I've read a couple of his books and wasn't sure what to expect from this. Good thing, cause I never would have expected this! Cute, slightly inspiring, definintely not what I expect from Kinky Friedman...

Sublime Spinach

January 11th, 2007 at 04:11 pm

Spinach. How do I love thee? Two ways: cooked and raw Big Grin

You've gottena bad wrap, spinach, what with the e coli stuff going around. Folks are scared of you, but I know better! Bring spinach into your home, wash it lovingly and with care.

I prefer a spinach salad over any other. Especially nice with sliced strawberries, diced purple onions, walnuts and a strawberry or raspberry vinagrette. YUM!

Spinich in my alfredo sauce, please. And artichokes if you've got 'em.

Creamed spinach that tastes creamy but isn't: one thawed package of spinach and one mixed up egg microwaved and occasionally stirred until the spinach is heated through and through. Cheap, tasty, and Oh! so good for you!.

From World's Healthiest Foods , one cup of cooked spinach provides

vitamin K 888.50 mcg 1110.6%
vitamin A 14742.00 IU 294.8%
manganese 1.68 mg 84.0%
folate 262.44 mcg 65.6%
magnesium 156.60 mg 39.1%
iron 6.43 mg 35.7%

Boy Does My Head Hurt...

January 11th, 2007 at 01:49 pm

I've been coding too long this week!

I think I'm done, actually, which is GOOD NEWS. Why? Cause this is what I'm starting to see when I close my eyes to go to bed at night... GAH!!!


--------------------------
CREATE VIEW dbo.UHG_Compiled AS
--------------------------
select
convert (varchar(5), b.VersionIndicator) AS VersionIndicator,
convert (varchar(8), b.GroupID) AS GroupID,
convert (varchar(12), '') AS B01,
convert (varchar(2), a.Relationship_Code) AS Relationship,
'00' AS F01,
convert (varchar(9), b.SSN) AS SSN,
convert (varchar(4), '') AS B02,
CASE a.Relationship_Code
When '18' THEN '00'
ELSE ' '
END F02,
CASE a.Relationship_Code
When '18' THEN convert (varchar(9), b.SSN)
ELSE ' '
END ESSN,
convert (varchar(4), '') AS B03,
'00' AS F03,
convert (varchar(13), '') AS OSSN,
convert (varchar(16), '') AS B04,
convert (varchar(8), b.HireDate) AS HireDate,
convert (varchar(12), '') AS B05,
replace((replace((replace((replace((replace(convert(varchar(20), a.LastName), '/', ' ')),'-','')),'#','Nbr ')),',','')),'.','') AS LastName,
--------------------------
DTS UHG_Export
--------------------------
HEADER.txt
DECLARE
@count int,
@use varchar(5)
set @count = (select count(*)+1 FROM UHG_Compiled)
set @use = convert(varchar(5), @count)
SELECT
' ' AS Filler,
replicate ('0', 8 - LEN(@use))+@use AS InclHeader,
'|' AS EOF
BODY.txt
VIEW dbo.UHG_Compiled
--------------------------
UHG.bat
--------------------------
# Create UHG Export File, compile header.txt and body.txt,
# add date-stamp to .gsf file
#
@echo off
for /f "tokens=1-4 delims=/ " %%i in ("%date%") do (
set dow=%%i
set month=%%j
set day=%%k
set year=%%l
)
set date=%year%%month%%day%
set file=SUBMITID.U.%date%0000.gsf
copy c:UHGUHG_header.txt+c:UHGUHG_body.txt c:UHG%file%
exit

Sneaky CVS

January 9th, 2007 at 08:09 am

Just wanted to drop a line regarding something I noticed in CVS last night. 'Tis very sneaky, and didn't want anyone to fall for it.

While walking around CVS this time of year, you'll notice a TON of clearance stickers. Lines they no longer carry, manufacturers have discontinued, or perhaps the packaging is going to change. Regardless of the reason, they're everwhere.

Some of the clearance tags on the shelves are market 25%, 50%, or 75% off and give the before and after prices. Good deals, and even better if you combine them with coupons you might have lying around.

But then there are the sneaky clearance tags on the shelf. They say 'Clearance, Get it While it Lasts!' and only have a price on them. No percents, no before price, just a price. If you peel this sticker tag off the shelf, you can see that this "clearance" price is actually the same as the regular price.

Sneaky...

So, when you're in CVS gathering up great deals, make sure you're picking up items that are marked with a clearance tag that shows a certain percent off. Otherwise, your clearance might not be the great deal you think it is.

Still Kickin!

January 8th, 2007 at 01:36 pm

Lux posted a comment saying I've been a li'l too quiet and to pipe up if I'm still up 'n' at 'em.

So, here I am, still up 'n' at 'em.

I'm quiet b/c I'm wrangling, you see. Wrangling the obvious personal problems, plus an enjoyable conundrum at work. I like my work conundrums as there's almost always a right answer, whether I'm the one to find it or not.

As for the aforementioned personal issues, well, I'm still in ponder mode. So far as I can tell the email/emails in question weren't typed on my home computer. Don't ask how, just trust that I'd know Wink With that said, I know at least one of them was sent while DH and I were both in the house together. There are 2 possible solutions to this personal conundrum, and I'm still trying to determine which it is. One involves someone else accessing his account, one involves his cell-phone....

I've not been feeling particularly well the past few days, for some obvious reasons but also due to a poblano pepper I ate Saturday night at a Mexican restaurant. I love them stuffed with cheese, but PLEASE take the seeds out next time!!!!! Please?!?!?? Needless to say, it felt like my insides would prefer to be outside for a while. All in all, not the most awe-inspiring weekend of my life.

But on a pleasant note I went to the library yesterday and checked out 5 new releases. Finished the first one today during my second break at work. It's doubtful the rest will last me until next Sunday, but we'll see...

A Funny, A Question, and Waxing Philosophical

January 6th, 2007 at 06:22 am

A Funny
Baselle said I should kick K-Fed out the door and I almost peed my pants!!!! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHHAHAHHAh hHAHAHAHAHH AHHAHAHAHHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! If DH looks like anybody it's Santa but with brown hair and a goatee... So I started picturing kicking Santa out the door and that's when the laughs started!!! hehehehe!!!! Thanks for that, b/c it definitely lifted my mood.

A Question
This is a call to anyone willing to share their experiences. I don't know if it will come down to divorce or not, but I would like some tips on being prepared, if need be, financially speaking. Emotionally speaking is a whole 'nuther story...

OK, here's the facts Jacks.

There are 3 checking accounts total: DH's which has my name on it too, and my two which are in my name only. All bills are paid from my account. There are 2 savings accounts: 1 at the credit union in my name only with my checking accounts, and one online in my name only. DH has $550 direct deposited into my checking account every 2 weeks.

The only debt we have in both of our names is the house, otherwise our CCs are our own, the car and student loan are mine, and the hospital, Honda Card, and inlaws are DH's.

Currently all our money except for his allowance goes into my checking account and I handle it from there. After bills, allowances, and short term savings we have a $1300 excess each month. In ideal times this is used for long term and retirement savings and the rest for debt reduction, but since my job is tenuous right now we've already decided to stash it as a mini EF for the next few months anyways.

When it comes to household income including both of our personal allowances, DH makes 38% of the total brought in, I make 62%. I don't think we've been together long enough for alimony to be awarded (for some reason I'm thinking that's 4 yrs of marriage here but I'm not sure). Even if it were a question, SC doesn't require alimony be paid to an adulterer if that's the proven grounds for divorce.

Lately DH has been lobbying to be added to my credit union checking account since that's where all the household money is in case of an emergency. I had his name added to the actual printed checks but haven't yet added him to the account. I'm pretty sure that if I add him to that account he'll have access to the savings and both checking since they're all available online together when I log in.

So, with that: what're your thoughts?

Waxing Philosophical
What with this week's events and all the New Year resolutions flying around, I've been pondering a bit. Lots of you read my blog about weight issues, and the comments on that entry do a great job of pointing out one sad little fact: no seems to be happy with themselves. An 18 wants to bea 12, a 12 wants to be an 8, an 8 wants to be a 4, and a 4 just isn't happy till they're a 0.

I guess it's not really that folks aren't happy with themselves, it's more a dissatisfaction. And it's not just weight, of course.

Why can't we be satisfied with who we are, where we're at, or what we have? I say we b/c I do this too. I make good money, but there's a part of me that thinks it would be great to make more. I'm in pretty durn good shape, but sometimes I look in the mirror and think "I've gotta do something about this!"

I don't think this is a ladies only affliction, guys do it too just not the same way. Not satisfied with the gadget they have, or the car they have, or the wife/GF they have. And hey, ladies fall prey to all those too sometimes...

And I don't really think it's an age thing, even though there are they sterotypes of mid-life crisis and going through a forced 'rejuvination' (if you want to call it that). Along those lines, I stumbled upon a site about "quarter-life-crises". Real or not? Or just a bunch of dissatisfied people? Hehehehe... Maybe DH is going through a 'quarter-life' crisis *wry smirk*

What I don't know is: this 'whole not being satisfied with what we have and who we are', is this an American condition? Is this the result of living in a competitive, commercialized, disposible culture. Or, is this a human condition? Instead of houses it's huts in place A, and instead of cars it's mules or pigs or chickens in place B.

I can see where, on Darwinian terms, the urge to take the net step up and out would be beneficial. Satisfaction leads to stagnation and complacency, which leads to being the next dinner for a lion, tiger, or bear (Oh My!). So, I can see the urge to move onwards, upwards, and forwards being 'hard wired' so to speak.

But is it really that bad everywhere outside of America? From what I can remember of Argentina, they weren't like this to the extreme so many Americans are. Well, they are in certain ways: apparently plastic surgery down there is like getting braces up here! Seriously, 2 of the reps working part-time had just gotten nose jobs, it's that common.

But in so many other ways, they were content to just be content. Small houses, used cars, lots of shopping and plastic surgery. A weird amalgam of the old-world Europe and rat race USA stereotypes.

So, what do you think? Can we actual be satisfied, or is it human nature to think the grass is always greener on the other side? Is it really possible to be content with just being content?

Things I'm Not Gonna Buy (Don't be Like Aunt Moni)

January 3rd, 2007 at 12:29 pm

My great-Aunt Moni died a wealthy woman several years ago. Best I can recall, all of Moni's money (hehehe!) got donated to charity and the family got to clean out her house.

While cleaning out Aunt Moni's house, the rest of the family found out part of how she got to be so well off: she was frugal to a fault. And yes, I do mean fault!

She had 20 or so tubes of toothpaste, bottles of medications, shelf after shelf of soaps and shampoos, etc. All bought on sale and therefore a great 'deal', but as Aunt Moni lived alone the chances of her going through 20 tubes of toothpaste were slim to none. Seeing as the toothpaste outlived her, the chances were in fact none.

Closets and cupboards and shelves were all filled with value priced expired junk that had to be simply thrown away. An absolute waste of Moni's money.

So, while I would love to die as a relatively wealthy woman, I shudder at the thought of what would go through my family's mind when they were cleaning out my house. Believe me, it's a new perspective!

With this in mind, I'm now making a list of

Things I'm Not Gonna Buy

I don't mean I'm NEVER gonna buy them, mind you, simply that I already have enough and need to use what I have before I buy more. I think I'm going to try to keep adding to this list, but we'll see how it goes.

Lotion.
Holy Crap, anyone cleaning out my house would think a dehydrated burn victim lived there! Granted, I have dry skin, but jeez... I have plenty, and somehow there always seems to be more. I need to go through my house and put all the lotions and creams etc into a box and keep it out where everyone can see. Let the shame out already!

Lip Balm
Apparently the dehydrated burn victim living in my house is also in dire risk of her lips falling off from lack of moisture and malnutrition. And I got 2 more in my stocking at Christmas! I can't help it if folks give it to me, but I'm not buying more until what I have is gone!

Ink Pens
Remeber that dehydrated burn victim with no lips? She has a pen fetish. In my 'office' there is (no joke here), a coffee tin full of pens. Yes, a big #10 can full of pens! I don't even know where they all came from, some I know I didn't buy, some were given to me. And yes, several of them were on clearance *shame*

Note Pads
When you have this many pens, you gotta have something to write on! Again, some I bought, but several were chatchkes from my old job. And the job before that. And college... Holy crap...

Shoes
OK, it's actually not as bad as it could be. I only have 5 more pairs of shoes than DH, and I can honestly say the amount I have might be excessive but it's not shameful. I do, however, have enough. My only exceptions here are that I am looking to buy a pair of black boots (mine died a year ago), a comfortable pair of black leather heels (I lost weight and my feet slide in the pair I have), and hiking boots in case mine die.

Nail Polish and Care
I don't use it and the fumes make me high. Well, maybe that's why I bought it in the first place *evil grin*. I need to resign myself to the fact that my nails are weak and split and are a bit funky shaped so they don't look good when they're long anyways. Done. No more nail crap.

Makeup
This is more because I'm satisfied with what I've got except for mascara. Still can't find a decent mascara. Anyways, everything else performs exactly as I want so I need to stop prowling the ailes of the CVS and Walgreens looking for a sale. Stop it, you've got enough!

Hehehehe!!! Now I have a mental picture of a dehydrated burn victim with no lips with nails done, makeup on, great shoes, writing letters with a nifty pen on a schnazzy pad of paper! This is what folks will think when they clear out my house?!?! Oh, I don't THINK so!!! Gotta clear out some crap!

Goals: Harsh Words, True Thoughts

January 3rd, 2007 at 08:59 am

Alright, before you click the link below remember that Violent Acres uses strong language. I'm including excerpts from her entry because I think this concept applies to a lot more than weight, which I'll get to eventually.

Americans Arenít Fat Because They Lack Willpower; Theyíre Fa...

To put it simply, a lot of people struggle with their weight because they donít have enough money to stay thin.

Celebrities arenít wearing size 00ís because they possess more self discipline or willpower than you. Theyíre wearing those sizes because they can afford a personal chef, fitness trainers and motivational speakers to come over to their houses to babysit 24-7. These people arenít better than you. Theyíre richer than you and itís likely that they spent more on their bodies than you made last year.


WOOHOO!!! Finally, someone else who realizes that we can't all look like Madonna or Beyonce or what Gwen Stefani used to look like. I'm not fat, I'm not obese, I'm a size 8. In Hollywood and most stores in the mall, this makes me a pig. What?!? Whatever happened to the concept of a 'perfect size 9'? Didn't that used to be in a song?

Whenever DH comments about how great 'insert starlet name here' looks, I've always looked at him and said "You know, I could probably look that good if it were my job, too". He looked at me like I was nuts the first time, so I explained to him that the real job of most actresses and singers is to look good because it sells. Chefs, trainers, home gyms, etc. If I didn't have to work and could spend 5 hours a day working out and the another 3 hours getting botox, massages, and alpha hydroxy peels, I'd look friggin' awesome too!

Around this time of year, people spend a lot of time resolving to lose weight. But what dooms them to failure year after year is that they donít set enough money aside to accomplish that goal. Itís inevitable that theyíll fail and when they do, itíll be a tremendous blow to their self esteem. What they havenít realized is what it would have cost them to succeed.


OK, this is where I think it applies to more than just weight. So many folks pick a goal, something really nice and admirable and life-changing, and then don't realistically determine what it will take to reach that goal. What will it cost financially? How much time will it take? What sacrifices will I have to make to reach this goal? What sacrifices will I have to ask of others?

ďThe reason Iím overweight isnít because I lack in moral fortitude. I just chose to financially prioritize my life differently from someone who is a smaller size. To me, a new computer and a swanky townhouse are more important than living a healthy lifestyle. The pleasure I get from junk food and reality TV is more than Iíll ever get from running a mile.Ē


Harsh words, but I really do think the thoughts behind them apply to almost everyone. There are some goals or ideals that are so important to us we are willing, even eager, to invest whatever time or money is needed to bring them to fruition. There are others, however, that don't resonate. Things we say we're 'gonna' do because we think we should, not because we want to.

With so many goals flying around us this time of year, with family and friends and co-workers all vowing to 'save money, lose weight, and spend more time with each other', I think it's really easy to fall into goal fever. Pick one, doens't matter which one, any one will do. If you do that, pick a goal that doesn't resonate with you, what are the odds you'll succeed? And if you don't succeed with this goal, what are the odds that you'll pick one that's harder in the future, even if it's more worthwhile?

So, there's a point in all this, I promise! The goals may always be the same, but how we chose to get there can always be different. Reminds me of the $20 challenge, where everyone comes up with a different way to reach the same goal. Anyways, if you've picked a goal for yourself, try to pick an action path that resonates and is do-able for you. Saving money? Great. Don't vow to get the newspaper every Sunday and clip coupons if you know deep down you'll never bring them to the store. You're wasting your time and your money. Find a different action path you know you'll follow through with.

Headline: First Time in History Peer Pressure = Saving Money!

January 2nd, 2007 at 02:31 pm

OK, fine, you all talked me into it! Bah!

I'm gonna do the $20 challenge. To make it interesting, I'm actually going to do two: one for me and one for the house. The rules for both of my challenges will be basically the same.

1. I will have not one but TWO Change and Buck Buckets, one for me and one for the house. Since the house pays for its groceries in cash, it can play along!

2. Any extra income I bring in will be split between my bucket and the house's bucket. For instance, my checks are $2692 each month, but I only budget $2600. Therefore, I'm bringing in an extra 92 per month, and I will split that with the house. Before, the house got it all which is decidedly unfair IMO! On the other hand, if my checks go below $2600 when my insurance kicks in, the house will eat that amount because we consider insurance a household expense. Make sense?

3. Any extra income DH brings in that somehow makes it to the house will only go into the house's bucket. Chances of this happening are slim to none Big Grin

4. For both the house and myself: if monies alloted are underspent by the end of the month, that money is put into the challenge. Similarly, categories that are overspent or splurges can come out of the challenge money at will, but they will be deducted off the total. It should go without saying my bucket would pay for me only splurges, whereas the house bucket would pay for house/couple splurges.

As a note, my fiscal calendar runs a bit odd, so there's a chance I'll be reporting actual updates monthly. See, there's the inflow of cash (which runs the last day of month 1 to the next to last day of month 2), the outflow (which includes bills due from the 6th of month 2 to the 5th of month 3), and actual calendar days.



For instance: I got paid the last day in December (actually the first business day before, but that's whatever). Money from my 12/31/06 paycheck pays bills due 1/6/07 - 1/20/07. Money from the check dated 1/15/07 will pay bills due 1/20/07 - 2/5/07. Money from DH's checks that come in between sits there earning interest.

$20 Challenge / New Year, Same Goals

January 2nd, 2007 at 08:47 am

Just wanted to post my progress on these goals. Still debating on which 2 to add to replace those I've already finished. Can't decide if I want to do the $20 challenge or not. If so, it would have to be from house money since I myself am already saving my ones and change...

* Our net-worth will be in the black by the end of '07. I would set this goal sooner, but there is the possibility of my office closing down at the end of February and debt payment is taking a back burner to stashing cash.

* By the end of February, I will come up with a list of 10 things (or more) I know I can do to make at least $500 per month should I actually lose my job. Anyone want to commision a spreadsheet design? Seriously, do you want one?
Some of these are less ideal than others, and some are down-right weird, but part of this exercise is for me to think creatively. So far I have:
1. Work at the natural foods store. Count discount received on groceries as part of income.
2. Sign up to be one of DH's contractors and deliver free publications for the newspaper. Not ideal.
3. Work part time at dad's cigar store. Not ideal.
4. Take up dumpster diving again/become a more avid Freecycler, and hit the fleamarket circuit. Did this for a month last year and made a couple hundred bucks in a month. Must consider safety issues.
5. Kinda like #4, but more specific: Learn lawnmower repair from DH (or library might be a better option). Buy mowers at yard-sales, repair and resell. DH and his dad did this for several summers and made quite an income. Being female might negatively affect sales.
6. ???
7. ???
8. ???
9. ???
10. ???


* I am going to wean myself from cigarettes. I'm not saying I'm going to quit, as I think the finality of it is what causes a lot of folks trouble. Starting 1/1/07 I am allowed 10 smokes per day. On 7/1/07 the number goes down to 5. I am not allowed to 'roll-over' any unused cigarettes to the next day. I have a cigarette case somewhere that will hold 8-10, so I think I'll start carrying that instead of a pack, just to prevent temptation. Found the case, definitely helpful! DH has decided to quit cold turkey, but DH also smokes cigars and won't be quitting those. For those that are wondering, I'm weaning rather than quitting all together/going cold turkey because I'm not sure how my body or my personality is going to react and I'd rather not set myself up for failure. And 10 a day is a 50% reduction, so it's not exactly a slow start.

* DONE 12/30: I will post a wish-list on the fridge by January 15th. There will be 3 sections: one for me, one for DH, one for the house. I think this will be helpful in keeping tabs on our goals for home improvement, getting ideas for gift-giving times, and maybe (just maybe!) giving DH a little perspective. I just made it on Excel and printed a copy. I put fix up our attic space, a freezer, and a dishwasher under the house column. I have a new camera bag and a better tripod. I'll let DH either see the list or wish for something before I start filling his in.

* DONE 12/30: I will get a library card by the end of January. As a side note, I will use said library card. Went at noon today and got my card. There are two locations really close by, one downtown and one on the way to the grocery store. Maybe I'll start going Thursday nights when DH is playing pool.

Stashing Cash Wk 10 and Wk 11

January 2nd, 2007 at 06:49 am

I promise, I haven't forgotten!

$28.10 Week Ending 12/07 (wk 8 previously posted)
$31.07 Week Ending 12/14 (wk 9 previously posted)
$31.50 Week Ending 12/21 (wk 10)
$26.08 Week Ending 12/29 (wk 11)

TOTAL: $116.75

And ready for weirdness: I've STILL not seen a single Salvation Army Bucket! WTF!!! I gave about $23 or so at PetSmart just before Christmas, but I'm not sure what to do with the rest.

Can't BELIEVE I didn't see any buckets. I even drove around looking for them!!!