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My Life is Officially Surreal

July 16th, 2007 at 03:32 pm

Good grief, where to start...

Remember this cat?



Well, two days after my last blog post, Summer's rear-end exploded all over me when I picked her up from the floor. There was still a deep-tissue infection below the nicely healed top layer, and it just sat there and festered. There are no words to accurately describe the smell that eminated from this cat, so I won't even try. Suffice to say the stench was so bad that I immediately packed her up and took her to the emergency after hours vet clinic rather than waiting 14 hours and taking her to the normal vet.

They kept her overnight and had to do surgery to remove dead and/or infected tissue. The hospital stay and two rounds of antibiotics they gave her were $726. The three follow-up visits and extra round of antibiotics to my regular vet were $34...

So, four weeks, four vet visits, three rounds of antibiotics, and $750 later, she's healing up well.

Ancient bill rears it's ugly head
DH had visited the emergency room in early '04 after a traffic accident. He gave them the insurance information, paid the co-pay, and all was well. Right?

Wrong! The day after Summer's explosion we got a call from a collection agency. Turns out the insurance company took too long to process the claim and the hospital never got paid. For whatever reason we never heard word one about it until now, over three years later.

Because of the situation we negotiated a payment for half of the total and insisted upon a letter that this payment would have the debt marked paid in full on the credit report. Got the letter, gave them $595.

June turned into a very expensive month...

Had to testify in court
Not really a big deal, except I was asked to be a witness for my parents divorce hearing at the end of June. To make things super weird, the three of us had lunch together afterwards. What the foo...

Ran away to Asheville
So, since things in life were getting weirder and weirder, I took some extra vacation time around the 4th. Even though June was expensive, I still have vacation money saved every month, and we like to take a couple of mini-vacations throughout the year. Plus, we had concert tickets. We enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins show, but I can say that at 29 I'm getting too old for this crap. I'm such a geezer...

Opened a store on Etsy
Since I've starting making incense again for my local customers, I had a ton of it drying and needing a good home. It takes the same amount of time to make hundreds of sticks instead of fifty, so I always make a larger batch. Things are going well so far.

The most surreal thing of all
Life was getting back to normal. I was thinking about my blog, and feeling bad because I had neglected it. Since I felt bad about it, I kept putting off posting a new entry, thinking I had to come up with something really great to make up for all the time I'd missed.

Am I the only one that's done that?

Well, I huge wakeup call on Friday.

I didn't check my email on Thursday. Don't ask why, I'm sure there was a reason but I don't remember it. When I logged in on Friday, there was an email from a reporter from ABC in my personal inbox asking for an interview. Sure... My spam-o-meter was ringing off the charts.

Then I checked the email for my hosting company. The same person had filled out the contact form there, again asking for an interview. Curiosity got the best of me, so I did some Googling.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. The guy was legit.

Even more surreal? He wanted to interview me about a post I had made here on my blog from the beginning of May 'Confessions of a Customer Service Rep'. How the heck did an reporter get to my blog in the first place?!?

So Friday afternoon I did a half hour phone interview with ABC.com about what it was like to be a customer service rep. Surreal doesn't even begin to cover it... The article is supposed to come out at some point today. When it does, I'll edit this post to include a link.

---------------------------
EDIT: Here's the link to the article on ABC.com. The reporter had me as Tina Beana throughout the whole thing, so I emailed him to get it corrected. Who would actually name their kid Tina Beana? Smile
---------------------------

So, there you go. My life is surreal, and I'm one of the world's biggest blogging slackards. I promise, I'm going to try to be better about this. After all, you see what happens in life when I don't blog like I'm supposed to?

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes Week 8 and 9

June 14th, 2007 at 01:55 am

Have no fear, the tomatoes are still here!

Actually, we're down to one, but boy is this one hearty.

Here were the two remaining tomatoes on Saturday, after 8.5 weeks. As you can see, once has a bad end (that could so be cut off and the rest of the tomato could be used).



For comparison purposes, here is the remaining 8.5 week old tomato hiding in a basket with week old tomatoes from the flea market. Can you tell which is which?



Today at 9 weeks and 1 day, the final creepy mutant tomato is still holding strong. Here he his hiding with the remaining flea market tomatoes, now 1.5 weeks old. Can you find him? Hint: he's not the one on the left!



Here he is in full glory: a tomato I've had in my posession for over 9 weeks, which makes it easily close to two and a half months old. CREEPY!!!

Confession: I am a Design Junkie

June 8th, 2007 at 02:19 pm

Hello.

My name is Tina, and I am a Design Junkie. (Hi Tina)

If you don't know what I mean, then read on and it might get a little clearer.

The concept of a junkie can apply to any type of design, really. Do you collect paint chip cards, fabric and wallpaper swatches, and pages from magazines with pictures of great rooms? Then you, my friend, are an Interior Design Junkie (IDJ). If you watch shows like "Pimp My Ride" or "OverHaulin" and get hyped up when the Discovery channel runs a show on future cars, the you are an Automotive Design Junkie (ADJ).

Personally, I'm a Graphic Design Junkie (GDJ). The symptoms:

1. I belong to a website called ColorLovers where people put together color palettes and you can collect them. I have 128 on my 'favorites' list and I want to find ways to use them all. When I look at some of these palettes of color, I can instantly see a business card or website or brochure made out of them. I just need to find a client to go with it.

2. I have over 1300 fonts. This isn't enough. When I have nothing else to do I scour the web looking for more. Got any good ones? Wanna trade (like baseball cards)?

3. I have so many fonts, I use a separate program to organize them. It's called The Font Thing. I can group them together in whatever method makes sense to me, so I have a groups like 'retro', 'futuristic', 'classic', 'funny', 'typewriter', etc. I can temporarily install a font, use it, and then uninstall it to keep things like MS Word from having 1300 fonts in it's list.

4. I have willingly browsed the Flickr set on business card design inspiration.

5. When I get bored and can't find any good fonts, I do weird things like make web 2.0 badges (aka 'violators' aka those star shaped sticker lookin' thingies on websites), glassy orbs and globes, cartoon flowers and people, and logos using Open Source software like the GIMP and Inkscape. Just for fun, you know.

6. I can completely rationalize my desire to spend a couple hundred dollars on a used Wacom digitizer tablet (where you draw with a stylus instead of a mouse). After all, think of the money I'll save on co-pays and wrist braces by NOT developing carpal tunnel...

Edit: Can't believe I forgot # 7!
7. I have visited three online color picking and combining websites within the past month. Two of them are still up in one of my browser windows. Color Jack let's you combine colors and then download the palette in several different formats. Well Styled's picker gives you fewer color combination options but more palette downloading options. VisiBone's ColorLab has been around for years and is still one of the most popular pickers around. You can't download the palette, but it is the only one I've seen that will show you how one color will look like on another when used for text. Too neat...

*Sigh*

So, there you have it. My dirty little secret is out: I am a Graphic Design Junkie.

OK, enough writing. I'm gonna go drool over some pretty colors and download some more fonts!!! Big Grin

Paycheck Update

June 7th, 2007 at 12:52 am

In case you missed the drama, I found out today that my paycheck from 5/31 bounded. Ugh...

Well, for a bit I thought I was the only one. At lunch, a co-worker called from the office and said someone else's check bounced. By the time I got back from lunch, two more met the fate for a total of four. Bear in mind, we only hand out seven paychecks, so this is over 50%.

Our office manager (who also cuts our payroll, and yes her check bounced too) spent the afternoon on the phone with the CFO in Florida and our overseeing VP in Chicago. See, my current company was bought a year ago by a company based in Chicago who uses a bank from PA and the accounting is overseen by a CFO in Florida. Confused yet?

At any rate, we're expecting new paychecks overnighted for all seven of us, so we should see them tomorrow. Their story? They're in the middle of switching bank accounts and payroll was drawn on the old one... Rolleyes

Perhaps it's just me, but that sounds too much like the "I forgot to sign the check" gambit when someone can't pay their electric bill.

At any rate, I made a call at lunch to my former boss. Yes, the one I'm doing contract work for. He's in the middle of starting a new venture (hence the contract work) and he and his new partner have already expressed interest in luring me away from my current job. My phone call was basically to let them know they could get started with the luring.

See, this company I'm at now was this guy's baby, and was in great shape when he was there. Things started to go downhill fast once it got bought last year, even more so when he left the organization in December/January.

The partner I mentioned? He's another cigar store customer we've known for about 7 years now who has been running his own successful local business since retiring at 50. I know several of his employees (also cigar store customers) and can confirm that this business hasn't once had a financial hiccup thus far. To put it in some kind of weird perspective, he drives a Lamborghini and paid cash for it...

Lessons readers may want to take from my odd-ball day:

1. It pays to keep some cash locally, not just in an online savings account.
Having cash meant I could get gas today with no worries (yeah, I'd been riding the light for a day). I could have used a credit card, but what if they check thing didn't get cleared up for a month and I couldn't pay the bill in full?

2. Apparently it's easy to meet future employers at a cigar store.
OK, not exactly. My family's cigar store is where I 'network' with a lot of people from a lot of different industries, and as a result I can quickly and easily put out feelers when it comes time to look for another job. If I get hired on with Mr. Lambo's company, that will be the third job I've gotten from that store. Not to mention the contract work it helps generate.

Networking isn't the bad word some people seem to think it is. And there's nothing smarmy or unseemly about it, it's simply being friendly and personable, listening to people and getting to know them. You might know it under another name: "fellowship". No matter what you call it, it's getting to know the folks around you, and being there for one another when needed.

Take the cigar store: we've been there for customers during marriages and divorces, births and deaths, illnesses and celebrations. We have a lunch crowd, a Friday afternoon crowd, etc. Customers come in and hang out for a couple of house, and many of them bring their computers and work (they call it the field office!). We even have potlucks once a quarter. People bring in their pets, their kids, and friends and family from out of town.

If we have a customer who has a widget for sale, chances are we'll hear of someone this week looking to buy a widget. Need a plumber, carpenter, electrician, mechanic, police officer, golf pro, realtor, computer guru, or doctor? I know one (or more) of each, and every one of them has had dinner at my house or my parents'.

You probably don't network at a cigar store, but the principle is the same no matter where you do it. Trust me, it's not a dirty word.

The Secret of Money Saving Sleep

June 1st, 2007 at 02:37 am

Your parents always said you needed your rest, but did you know that not getting your Z's could actually be costing you big bucks?

That's right, folks: not getting enough sleep can hurt more than your health.

- Poor sleepers spend an average of $4200 more on medical costs.

- Insomniacs visit both doctors and hospitals twice as often as those who sleep properly.

- People with poor sleep habits are three times more likely to miss work.

- According to a US Navy study, insomniacs are promoted less often and are more likely to leave their job.

- Essential job skills like problem solving, creativity, and ability to handle stress are severly affected when you're deprived of sleep.

- Going 24 hours without sleep impairs a driver as much as a blood alcohol level of .10. Remember, in many states DWI means 'driving while impaired', not driving while intoxicated.


So, anyone care to do the math?

Take into consideration co-pays for office visits and possibly a prescription sleep aid. Perhaps even a new space-age mattress, a white noise machine, or over the counter sleep-aids.

Add in the effect of missing work and lackluster performance on the job and the resulting lack of promotion and raise

And heaven forbid a car accident while groggy, resulting in hospital bills and possibly even a DWI conviction.

Think staying up an extra hour is still worth it?

For those of you that have a hard time sleeping, try some of these ideas:

- Try meditating when you lie down to go to sleep.

- Create a sleep ritual of relaxing activities before you go to bed (i.e. a cup of tea, a hot shower, brushing your hair) that you do every night. Not only will they help you relax, but they will eventually be activities that cue your body that it's time to go to sleep.

- Tell yourself a goodnight story. Even better, try playing the scene out in your head. Chances are the story will turn into a dream in no time.

- Investigate the concept of the power nap. Some researchers think our bodies are designed for a little cat-nap sometime between 1pm and 4pm, often called the 'siesta hours'. Try taking a 15-20 minute nap sometime during those hours. Personally, I take a later lunch around 1pm anyways, so it's easy to set the alarm on my cell-phone and rest my eyes during my lunch hour.


Selected Sources:
Wise Bread
CnnMoney.com
WikiHow

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes: Week 7

May 30th, 2007 at 01:17 am

You read it, folks: we're on week 7 of these creepy, space age tomatoes!

Two more are down, but the remaining two are looking AOK for now. Anyone want to wager how long these tomatoes will hold out?



I've decided that if they make it to week 8 (2 months!), I'm likely going to have to send the whole saga to the Bloom company.

Top 7 Reasons Businesses Need a Website

May 28th, 2007 at 02:08 am

OK, as someone who hosts websites I realize I have a vested interest in convincing people that they do in fact need a site. I've been doing the internet thing for a while, so it comes second nature to me. But the fact remains that if you have a business you really do need a site. Not just any website like the freebies you can get some places, but one that is specific to your business (aka branded)

1. Your customers probably expect you to have one.
Simple, but true. Web sites are today what business cards used to be. Nowadays anyone can have a website, even the 9 year old daughter of one of my co-workers. With so many easy and inexpensive options available, there's no reason to leave your customers wondering "Why don't they have a site?"

2. A website with your own domain name is an easy 'branding' tool.
Even though it's not hard, having your own domain name makes your website seem more professional and established. Plus, it usually ties in to your business name or what you do, which means it's easier to remember. For instance, which of these example web site addresses strikes you as more professional? Which would be easier to remember?

TinasBusiness.freehosting.com
OR
www.TinasBusiness.com

3. The email address.
A huge reason your business needs its own domain is the email address. Even if you have nothing more than a single page website, you can still use your own email address when running your business. Think about it: which email address looks more professional and established?
tinapbeana1978@freehosting.com
tinasbusiness@freehosting.com
sales@tinasbusiness.com

4. Having a site makes it easier for your business to do business.
How much time would you have to spend on the phone explaining what you do to 100 prospective customers? At 5 minutes per call, that's 500 minutes or almost 9 hours. How much time (and money!) would it take you to drive to see 100 prospects and give them your 5 minute presentation? I'm guessing days. With a website, prospective customers can learn about you and your business 24/7 without you ever having to be involved. This frees up your time to do other things, things you get paid for.

5. Reach customers you couldn't get to before.
And I'm not just talking about people from around the country or the world. Take a minute to think about the types of people that live in your area. Are there shift workers who sleep during the day and work at night? What about a deaf population? Or perhaps your services would be of use to people who are disabled and aren't able to come o your office or location. Having a website opens your business up to a whole new world of customers right in your own back yard.

6. A business web site makes it easy to relay information at little or no cost to you.
If you don't have a site, how do you let your new or existing customers know if you're running a special? Chances are you call them or send out a flyer or post card. Either way, you're spending a relatively large amount of time, money, or both to relay this information. If you have a web site, you just post the information on your front page (or news page, or specials page) for prospects to see and send your existing clients an email.

7. You can save money on software and protect your ability to run your business.
This is probably one of the least thought about perks of having a web site for a business, but it's definitely worth mentioning. When you have a website for your business, you can install Open Source software that is intended to help you run your business from your website. Invoicing, scheduling, trouble tickets, accounting: the list goes on.

As an added bonus, you'll have the option of running these aspects of your business from any internet-capable computer, not just your own PC. This might not seem like a big deal, until your computer crashes and you can't create invoices or balance the books! By using web-based software you've installed on your own website, you could just head to the local library and continue business as usual.

Slush Fund: Third Time's the Charm

May 28th, 2007 at 01:05 am

You ever hear that old saying that bad things come in threes?

Well, after taking cat number two to the vet this past week, I was joking with DH that I was going to hide my third and final cat in the house until June arrived.

We both had a good laugh.

Then, yesterday afternoon, DH reached up to pull off his glasses and clean them. The arm fell off right in his hands, and is designed so that it cannot be repaired. Believe me, we tried superglueing everything back together.

He's had this problem with these frames before and took them back and had them replaced. Unfortunately, the optomitrist where we got them is not open on Saturday's. Plus, there's only a 1 yr warranty on the frames that is about to run out, so getting them fixed would have only been a stop-gap.

Add this to the fact that he was due for an eye exam anyways and he HAD to have glasses because he has to drive a large delivery truck for work tomorrow (a holiday), and you get the two of us at the only place that both participated in his insurance and had an exam appointment available Saturday afternoon: the Lens Crafters one county over.

GAH!!!!

He has a big head, so we're limited in the frames that'll fit him. And since we had to have the glasses ASAP, we had to take the in-stock featherweight lenses instead of the less expensive version. Finally, he got the other frames just last year so we didn't qualify for a full frame benefit only a partial on the insurance. Grand Total: $241.18 for frames, lenses, and co-pay for the visit.

127.00 - cat one at the vet
115.75 - cat two at the vet
241.18 - DH glasses
------
483.93 - total damage to the slush fund in 2 wks

Oh my....

Seriously, me and the other cat are going to hide out somewhere and wait out the rest of the month.

Slush Fund Strikes Again!

May 25th, 2007 at 01:17 pm

So, apparently 2 of my 3 cats were involved in some kind of massive turf war street fight the weekend of Mother's Day.

The boy, Samson, was gimpy on his paw so I took him to the vet Monday of last week. Sure enough, puncture wounds. A few days of forcing antibiotics down his throat and taking my life in my hands by spraying his paw with wound-wash, and all was well.

See, here he is, all regal and fit as a fiddle.



This past weekend we started to notice that Summer was getting a little swollen on her back, right by her tail joint. It looked like she'd been stung by a wasp the way it swelled a bit. But, she didn't act like it was hurting her and was moving and eating as normal, so we didn't think much of it.

Wednesday night while I was in the shower, DH yells "Tina, Summer's butt exploded!". Uh-oh...

Apparently where she was swollen was starting to abcess, and wasn't a wasp sting at all. Abcess ruptured, and there was goo oozing everywhere. At 11:30 at night, when there are no real options to get it looked at.

So, call yesterday morning and set up an appointment with the best vet clinic ever (which happens to be the one 1 mile from my house). DH takes her in, and she comes out looking like this:



Poor kitty! They sedated her to shave her rear, cleaned the abcess, stitched it up, inserted two drains, gave us more antibiotics, and added the collar as a stylish finishing touch.

Our total for the visit was $115. I LOVE MY VET!

She'll have to go back on Tuesday to have the drains removed, which will probably cost another $25 for the visit. I'm happy to pay it, though, because I want to do whatever I can to make sure this vet stays in business. They offer mobile pet vacinations and very low cost spays and neuters for our area, and I think they do a great service.

At any rate, two cats to the vet within a week and a half. Once again, the slush fund comes to the rescue. Woohoo!!

More important, I think, is the fact that DH saw first hand that having extra cash available (well, in savings, whatever) made it much easier for us to weather these two small emergencies. There was a time when an extra $250 expense in a month would have put us over a barrel, and it really wasn't that long ago. I'm hoping that by seeing this situation, he'll understand the concept of an 'emergency fund' just a little bit better.

Creepy Tomatoes Week 6

May 23rd, 2007 at 03:55 am

Yup, six weeks of crazy creepy mutant tomato fun!

Here they are



One tomato is obviously on the down and outs. There's another one in the back of the bag that's a little harder to see, but it's funky by the stem.

So, after 6 weeks, only two of the tomatoes are bad. The other four are still technically quite usable. So, I'm tossing the two that are funky and I'll be keeping the rest in the bag for the sake of this, um, experiment.

Funny with Language Warning

May 22nd, 2007 at 03:04 pm

If foul language bothers you, you might want to stop reading now.

If foul language can sometimes make you laugh, by all means continue!



I've been on the internet a long time, going on half my life now. Geez, how sad is that... Anyways, one thing that has always been consistent are trolls. Usenet, Delphi, chat rooms, forums, MySpace, Digg, and beyond: none of them have ever been immune to trolls.

Well, earlier today I happened upon a useful classification tool for trolls based on the posts they make. I found it on http://www.venganza.org, home of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Regardless of your views of the CoFSM, I hope you find this tool useful.

* * * * *

Here’s Jingles’ masterpiece: the patented Fuckwit Finder.

**********

1.Capitalized handle
2.Overuse of capslock
3.Alternating upper/lower case
4.Incorrect grammar
5.Incorrect spelling
6.Threats of burning in hell, divine vengeance, etc
7.Lowbrow insults
8.Lowbrow insults of our god
9.Accusations of homosexuality
10.Threats of rape, physical violence, oars, etc

One point per positive answer.

Scoring

As for scoring, well, its a fairly loose guide. If borderline, class as appropriate. Otherwise;

0-2: A Wit; Intelligent, reasonable, polite and respectable. High likelihood of a reasoned belief system, and serves as a credit to the human race.

2-4: A Wit in a Fit; While they may normally be a decent poster, they are either irritated, excited, or otherwise unfocused, allowing slightly more than the occasional slip to occur.

4-6: A Nitwit; Likely seeking attention, may not necessarily mean to irritate, but is not aware of proper forum etiquette, and so comes across badly. With patient councilling, and the occasional application of a large blunt object, subject may be cured.

6-7: Dimwit; Not overly violent or aggressive, but is nevertheless a troll, an inbred hillbilly, or an above average-intelligence fundamentalist. They are on the absolue edge of redeemability. With extreme electroshock, elocation & deportment lessons, and substantial severe blunt-force trauma, could be upgraded to a nitwit.

7-8: A Twit; Annoying, loud, cannot use even simple words… what we have here is the Twit. Beyond redemption, these sorry excuses for humanity can be found primarily in years 7-9 of primary/secondary education, and behind the pulpit in Pentecostal churches. Avoid if possible. If unavoidable, bring a big stick. Thankfully, due to short attention spans, these specimens will generally depart after a single post.

8-9: The Shit; Sets out from the off to be an absolute monkey scrotum. Unable to take a hint, this is the sort of poster who will haunt a thread for as long as their attention span holds. While not a long term poster, they can clog a thread for up to an hour in severe cases. If encountered virtually, non-engagement is advised. If encountered physically, use a shotgun.

9-9.5: Mimic; what we have here is the stereotype troll. At first glance, will appear a complete fuckwit, however, closer inspection will reveal telltale hints that this is actually an educated poster (Nitwit or better) imitating the lower-order troll lifeform. Should they get annoying, utilising their real name will likely end the display.

10: The granddaddy of them all, the complet and utter Fuckwit; Few and far between, these few are talked about with hushed voices. Going down in forum legend, their names will be forever uttered as a byword for all things troll. Easily capable of devouring a website for weeks on end, any challenge makes them stronger, any attention makes them bolder. Be warned, for their sign is L337, their marker is spam. If encountered in multiple numbers, can murder a thread beyond salvage. This is the anti-Cheesus. Run while you still can.

***********

What Counts As Saving

May 21st, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Really more of a philosophical musing than anything else, but feel free to respond!

I ask because I don't feel I'm saving enough. Then again, do you ever feel that you are?

On the surface it looks like my household ain't doin' that bad. I send almost 20% of our net off to the online bank every month. Sounds good, yes?

However, some of that I don't REALLY consider savings. How so? Well, that lump includes the monthly contribution I make to my irregular bills, like water, property taxes, and homeowner's insurance. Granted, I save the money up for a year (or quarter, in the case of water) and then spend it, so I guess it would qualify as short-term savings. But it doesn't 'feel' like savings, it feels like a bill. Probably because it is.

I feel somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard spot, as the saying goes. See, DH responds well when he wants to spend relatively big cash and I tell him that the money in the bank is allotted to X, Y, or Z. For instance, he understands that the homeowner's insurance and property taxes have to be paid no matter what because if we don't we loose our house, so that money is easy to see as sacred. But when money is sitting there without a purpose other than "in case we need it", he seems to see it as fair game.

So, perhaps I just need to mull over and find some more categories that are easy to see as sacred Big Grin

For those that are wondering, here are the categories that account has so far:

Property Taxes: house
Property Taxes: car
Homeowner's Insurance
Water Bill
Tina's Retirement (no 401k, so saving $ until I can open a Roth)
Christmas Fund
Gift Fund
Medical Fund
Car Maintenance Fund
Vacation Fund
Misc. Household Fund

Today's Time Waster

May 17th, 2007 at 01:37 pm

For anyone with some time to kill

OR

For anyone who severly needs a laugh

http://icanhascheezburger.com/

"We Can't Make It Here Anymore"

May 16th, 2007 at 01:26 pm

Don't know if I've specifically mentioned this or not, but I mostly listen to WNCW on the radio, a public radio station from western NC. It's the most unique station I've found, playing a mix of blues, folk, bluegrass, rock, country, and whatever else strikes their fancy. I've heard Dolly Parton, Frank Zappa, and Ben Folds in the same afternoon before.

And if that's not enough to get you to check 'em out, consider this: they play Grateful Dead every weekday afternoon at 4:20. HAAAAAAAhahahahhahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

You can listen to them online even if you're not in the area, that's where the link above goes.

Anywho, I bring this up because I heard a song on WNCW today that I wanted to share. Don't ask me why today, as I've heard this song several times before. It's by James McMurtry, who is faily indescribable. Imagine someone whose lyrics are social commentary like Dylan but sounds gravely like the guy who sang "Convoy". Oh, and he looks like a cross between Weird Al and Zappa...

"We Can't Make it Here"

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their sh@# don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the da$% little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat sh$%, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry

Creepy Tomatoes Week 5

May 15th, 2007 at 03:56 am

Yup, I'm still watching those creepy mutant tomatoes! Here's a photo of them after week 5.



You'll note that a few of the tomatoes are getting just a touch mushy right around the stem area. Nothing amazing, and definitely not rotten by any stretch of the imagination.

After taking this picture, I packed them back up into their bag, sealed it back up, and placed them back on the shelf. We'll check on them next week. At this rate, I'm pretty confident that they'll still be relatively un-rotten.

All Hail the Slush Fund!

May 14th, 2007 at 04:21 pm

Others might be more familiar with the concept of a mini-EF, but I choose to call it a slush fund. It's a couple hundred bucks I keep in my local savings account. If there's a minor emergency, it's there. If there's something I need to buy but the actual money for it is in online savings (like car maintenence or medical expenses), I can use the slush fund to cover me until the money arrives from New York.

All in all, a tiny little saftey net.

Well, Saturday one of my kitties came in the house limping. He plays like a big bad @$$ but doesn't like to fight other animals, and there are multiple toms in the area who could have beat him up. As the weekend went on he was putting less and less weight on it and meowing at me pitifully to make it all better with a can of sardines. I tried to get a good look at it, but nearly lost a limb in the process. Apparently he's only a bad @$$ when it comes to people...

So, this morning I took Samson to the vet. First, BIG KUDOS to the vet clinic near my house. Apparently they don't take walk-ins anymore, but were happy to fit me in since this morning's first appointment had canceled. Granted, Samsom meowing from the depths of the cat carrier like he was about to die surely helped get us through the hoops. No worries, though, he was only meowing like that because he was actually in the cat carrier, not because of the wound. Next time I'll carry him to the vet in a gift bag: for some reason, he really digs that and doesn't get nearly as freaked out.

Anyways, after an exam and a shave job, we could see the punture wounds on the front and back of Samson's paw. Since he wasn't running a fever or anything, we're working off the assumption that it's a war wound, rather than a snake bite.

They gave me lots of advice, antibiotic drops, wound wash, and a bag full of gauze. My total? Fifty five dollars. Did I mention I love my vet clinic? So, even though the total isn't that big, the Slush Fund comes to the rescue and does what it does best: pay for life's little unknowns.

All Hail the Slush Fund!

Now, Samson is at the house nursing his injured pride while my other two cats laugh at his shaved foot. I got the first round of antibiotics in him, which was no easy feat: the stuff smells like fake bananas and can't be hidden in anything. BAH!

Washing the wound didn't turn out too well. We'll take another crack at it tonight: it'll involve me, DH, and a pair of welding gloves.

Blurbies, Baldy, and Money Karma

May 8th, 2007 at 02:25 am

Just not in that order...

I'm Bald!
OK, well, not really. But, DH surprised me with a gift certificate w/ the hairdresser for our anniversay. I hadn't been in 2 years (since the day after we were married, actually), and the hair guy finally believed me when I said I didn't care what he did with it. My only rules are 1) Either long enough I can pull it all back or short enough it's off my neck 2) I don't 'do' my hair, it needs to be socially acceptable without blowdrying, straightening, curling, etc.

75 minutes later, I left 20 inches and about 3 pounds lighter. Of the 20 inches, 16 was cut off in one fell swoop to be donated to Locks of Love. Everyone seems to like it, and I'm just happy it's short enough that it's off my neck for the summer. The kicker? My hair grows almost an inch a month (ACK!), so it won't last long...

Money Karma
Recent money karma includes a free night in a 4 star hotel in Atlanta last weekend. How? I finally had enough rewards points with the Sheraton from my trip to Argentina and last year's anniversary trip.

Money karma struck again this past Friday, with free tickets to the Elton John concert. DH's boss gave them to him, and while the seats were in the nosebleed section, they were in direct line with the stage. Great show for $10 in parking and $8 (allowance money) for a bratwurst and soda for me.

And the final intallment of money karma: our microwave bit the big one. Absolutely kaput. Just the sort of thing our little emergency slush fund is for! So, Sunday saw us in the appliance store purchasing the biggest model they have (on sale and with a $10 mail in rebate too!). We bought this one b/c it's the one DH picked out. It only took him 4 hours to say it was too big and too loud and he wanted to take it back for the smaller version. You know, the one I liked that happened to cost $30 less and still had the same rebate...

No worries, except the folks at the appliance store acted like they've NEVER given a cash refund. It took 3 people... In the end, though, we walked out with our new microwave, our extra $31.50 after tax, and our $10 rebate form.

And how does this fit into money karma? The price we paid for the first microwave was within FIVE DOLLARS of what we would have paid for the night in the hotel in Atlanta. See? Money Karam, it does exist.

Blurbies
* My office is still open, so I still have a job for now. Woohoo!!!

* I am almost fininshed formatting the book for a friend that I mentioned ages ago. There've been so many delays, we've been working on this for almost a year. I just want to have it done!

* I finished the lingerie website and got paid for it!!! BIG WOOHOO!!!

* I discovered something TRULY CREEPY (wait, is it supposed to be bizarrely creepy BA?) in my kitchen today. It deserves an entry of it's own and that one is coming up next.

Confessions of a Customer Service Rep

May 3rd, 2007 at 02:20 pm

As many of you know, I used to work for a major telephone company: first as a Customer Service Agent and then as a trainer. I've decided it's time to share a little about how phone customer service works. While these are based on experiences from only one major corporate player, I'm pretty confident that they apply to almost any phone-in customer service.

1. Reps might sound scripted, and sometimes it's because they are. There is verbiage a rep is required to use for legal reasons in some situations, and there's no 'conversational' way to to cover some of the finer legal-ese.

2. Agents are required to apologize. More importantly, they usually can't just say "sorry" or "I'm sorry" because it can be interpreted as unprofessional or sarcastic. Therefore, you'll hear the ubiquitous "I apologize".

3. You will not speak to a supervisor or manager when you ask for one. Trust me: you don't want to, since actual managers and supervisors don't handle customer accounts and likely wouldn't know what to do with one if they had to. Managers and sups handle HR issues, not accounts, and if you actually do get one on the phone all they will do is talk to you and then give the account information to one of their reps to have them handle the situation.

4. If you've asked to speak w/ a manager or supervisor and get transfered, you are likely speaking to what is known as "Second Level Support". It's OK, 2nd level support usually has more access and leeway to handle an account, not to mention a higher credit limit.

5. The amount of time you will wait when an agent asks you to hold will vary based on which level of support you're speaking with. First level support can usually place a customer on hold a minute or two; 2nd and third level for 3-5 minutes (per hold!).

6. Reps are goaled for how long they are on the phone with you, and like hold-time this also varies based on which deparment you're speaking with. It also varies based on which options you chose in the automated menu. Typical call goals range from 180 seconds (3 minutes) to 640 seconds (almost 11 minutes). Choosing the wrong option at the automated menu in order to get a rep faster penalizes the rep.

7. If you are invited to mail or fax your request to customer research, 9 times out of 10 you're being sent into a black hole.

8. Cursing and yelling don't help the cause. In fact, if you're speaking with a rep who doesn't intend to stay on the job, you could wind up with a truly messed up account.

9. Not every company assigns "rep IDs", "operator numbers", or "extensions". The only 'number' that got associated between me and your account was my SSN, and there's no way I'm giving you that. I could give you the extension of the phone unit I was using on this call, but that's not tied to me in any way. If it'll make you feel better, though, that's the 'extension' you get.

10. Reps are leery of giving out their info over the phone, too. We were required to give first name, last name, and location when I was first on the phones. I received a death threat from someone about 20 minutes into a call after he'd requested that information. No big deal, except he only lived an hour and a half away.

11. Absolutely everything is computerized. There is no magic button the rep can push to turn on your phone, cell phone, cable, power, water, etc.

12. Reps are required to give you a timeframe when they do something. It might be a stupid timeframe, but Legal says they have to. So, when a rep says you'll see a credit in 1-3 invoices, it's because they have to.

13. Not every call is monitored for quality purposes, the system is random. With that said, if you're a rep: know the quality deparment can almost certainly focus on just one person at a time if they see a need. I know we did.

Think Someone Tried to Break In

April 12th, 2007 at 02:32 am

Bluh.

We got home tonight at about 6:30 and immediately noticed that the cover was gone from DH's motorcycle. Uh-oh... The bike has an alarm on it with a bump and tilt sensor, so we're having a bear of a time figuring out how they got the cover off without setting off the alarm, but such is life.

Walked in the house and all was well until DH went to the back door. While the lock was still turned properly in the knob, the door itself was no longer latched. Luckily we have a chain at the base of the back door.

At this point he promptly rushed me out of the house, got his 45 out of the truck and checked out the house inside and out. Everything's in place that we can tell, the only thing missing is the $65 weather cover which we will now have to replace.

First thing we thought: why couldn't they take the motorcycle, we'd get 50% more than we paid for it?!?? At least we have a sense of humor, right?

So, battened down the house and headed out to price a new back door. The one we have wasn't damaged but is old and needed to be replaced before next winter for energy effeciency purposes, so the option was to install a deadbolt in the existing door or go ahead and replace the door.

Also bought a 3 pack of battery operated door/window sensors. The only real possible entry points for our house are a window in the back about 4 feet off the ground and that back door. All the other windows are too high off the ground except for 3 in the very front of the house, and those came with decorative/protective wrought iron gratings. Plus they're in the front, like I said, so two of my three retired neighbors can see them...

The good news, everybody, is that this is where money karma rears its wonderful head again. See, I sat down and did the final draft of my taxes, and will owe about $400 less than I had budgeted. Good news, since the cost of a new door, deadbolt, 3 pack of sensors, lockbox for our keys, and possibly a small safe will be, oh, right about $400! Gotta love money karma!

Update on "Things I'm Not Gonna Buy"

April 10th, 2007 at 06:40 pm

At the beginning of the year I posted a list of things I didn't need to buy any more, at least until I used up what I currently have on hand.

Lotion.
So far so good: I haven't bought any. Woohoo!!! I might have to buysome new sunscreen in case what I have expired, but that's it so far.

Lip Balm
Ditto the lip balm! I actually used up a tube to the very end without losing it. Believe me, it's a feat...

Ink Pens
Not a single new pen all year! I have bought mini-sharpies for DH to use at work, but that's it.

Note Pads
None here either! But, I did buy a Day Timer kinda thing that I can keep notebooks in, along with a calendar and contact list. This way, I can carry around the notebooks I have all to meetings etc without looking utterly disheveled.

Shoes
Bought a pair of brown boots and black heels in February, but have set aside 4 pairs of shoes for Goodwill to make up for the 2 pair I brought into the house. Not too bad, seeing as I had 'allowed' myself hiking boots, dress boots, and a pair of heels in the original post...

Nail Polish and Care
Nope, none! Still need to throw out the stuff I have, though, since all it does is take up space.

Makeup
Bought a new mascara. Still not satisfied, but for a buck at Dollar Tree it's still not a bad deal: easier to put on than the $5 a tube Mabelline stuff, and looks better too. Just doesn't stay on my lashes real well: makes me look slightly racoonish after 8 hours. Bah!

I Didn't Fall Into a Black Hole!!!

April 10th, 2007 at 12:22 pm

I promise!!!

Really, I have been in the blogs and forums just about every day, but I didn't realize just how long it's been since I've posted anything of my own. Sheesh, what was I thinking?

On the financial front, things are pretty much on auto-pilot. This is a beautiful thing in my world, as it means the only things I actually have to keep up with are 1) the monthly check to my inlaws and 2) grocery money. Everything else is set to pay itself.

I've held onto my tax money as long as possible, so now it's time for me to finish the paperwork, write the man a check, and watch my bank balance deplete horrifically. At least it will be done and off the list...

Easter was interesting (in a good way) and a bit stressful (actually, also good). Anyone remember the Thanksgiving fiasco? Well, Easter turned into pretty much a replay of that. No body else wanted to have it at their house, so mine got nominated. Seeing as we had cleaned out and canceled a storage building between TG and now, the living room and dining room were a freak show of junk. In order to clean it up, we needed to finish out the attic space we have upstairs. Technically it was finished out 30-40 years ago, but it was in bad shape with insulation peeking out and what not, so it needed a redo.

So, Friday my office closed early and DH and I started demo and got 2/3 of the plywood up on the walls and ceiling. Not bad for 5 hours of work! Saturday we went to his parents house to pick up a carpet remnant, and he finished the other 2 walls and layed down the carpet whilst I went about making the den and kitchen publicly presentable.

Once the attic was finished, we began the great junk migration of 2007. GAHHH!!!!

In other news, Easter dinner consisted of a free Honey Baked Ham. DAd had a gift cert for a 7 lb ham and they were out. Instead of downgrading us, the cashier pulled out an 11 lb ham, marked it as 7 lbs with a green sticker, and sent us on our way. That was a $70 ham!!!

Maybe that's why everyone wants to have holiday meals at my house: I always wind up getting the entree for free Big Grin

Other than that, I've been dealing with contractor's drama with regards to the website I was asked to work on. Not the site itself, that's turning out fine. But, the customer's webhost was being miserable, and we had to jump ship. Since I couldn't find a place for her site that had all the features I needed and the pricing she wanted, I did the logical thing: created my own web hosting site. GAH!!!!

Actually, I can't really complain. So far I'm enjoying the experience of getting everything set-up, and it's something good for me to learn. While I only have the one client now, I have a handful of folks locally who are looking for a new home online that I might be able to grab. Combine that with what I would pay for hosting my sites at another company, and it starts to make sense.

So, anybody looking for a place to host a website? Big Grin

April's Fools and the Power of CSS

April 1st, 2007 at 04:44 pm

So, how's everyone liking the new blog design? HAAAAAAAAAAhahahahahhahaaa!!!! Good to know Jeffrey and Nate still have a sense of humor...

At any rate, you've now been introduced to the power of Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. All CSS does is tell browers how to display information (ie colors and placement), but it doesn't change the information itself. All your blog data is there safe and sound, waiting for Jeff and Nate to change the style sheet back. Ya'll are going to change it back, right!?!??

Housing: Why I Bought

March 22nd, 2007 at 02:08 pm

I've been seeing a lot of talk lately about objectively reviewing whether renting or buying is best for your financial situation. While pretty confident in my choice to purchase, I wanted to run the numbers just in case.

------
BEFORE
------
Rental
900 sf
$650 per month for rent
$ 75 per month for storage building
$200 per month average gas & electric
------
$925 per month

------
AFTER
------
Owned Home
1800 sf
$493 per month for mortgage
$--- per month PMI (not required for our loan)
$ 55 per month for homeowner's
$ 55 per month for property taxes
$100 per month average electric
------
$703


OK, so right off the top I'm saving $222 per month. Interestingly enough, that is exactly equal to the 6% of my gross salary I set aside for retirement, but I digress...

------
MONEY INVESTED IN THE HOUSE
------
$4246 5% down, half of closing costs
$2600 tree removal (bought knowing this was needed)
$ 350 dishwasher and drain pipe replacement
$ 500 various vixture & outlet replacements
------
$ 7696
$59600 owed on mortgage
------
$67296

------
CURRENT TAX ACCESSOR'S VALUE
------
$72000

------
CURRENT ZILLOW VALUE
------
$91000


So at this point I have 67k invested in a house that I could turn around and sell for 75-80k after 9 months of ownership, plus I'm saving $222 per month in 'operating costs'.

As a side note, the tax accessor's value was 56k and the appraised value was 75k when we bought last July. The house was assessed at 56k in '01 and jumped to 72k in '06, a 28% increase in 5 years.

We intend to refinance this fall with my credit union, getting a better interest rate and pulling approximately 10k in equity out of the house. At that point we will upgrage the heat and air system, put a new roof on the den (an addition from the 60s), and possibly update the kitchen and bathrooms. If we hold it another 5 years, we should be able to about double our money...

OK, I feel better now! Big Grin

When it Rains, It Pours (and a Lingerie Store)

March 17th, 2007 at 02:00 pm

Literally and figuratively.

It rained pretty much all of yesterday, and went from 78 earlier this week to 32 last night. ACK! But we needed the rain, and now the world look sbright and freshly scrubbed.

On the figurative side, my last post was about trying to generate income outside of my job. I know it was long, sorry 'bout that!

Anywho, I got an email from my former boss yesterday, the one that left the company in January. He asked me to help build a website for a friend of his who is selling her real life stores and moving to the internet so she can spend more time with her kids. Cool. Since she already has a client base there's a lot of opportunity here to design business cards, postcards, T shirts, etc. for the new site.

The business? They're (ahem) lingerie stores, more Freddie's than Vickie's if you know what I mean. Personally I don't have a problem with it, but it does take some explaining when I'm browsing around trying to find a comparable layout I like online! Not to mention I've been having a bear of a time finding a good font and color scheme: everything clashes no matter what I pick.

Oh well, when the going gets tough the tough apparently have to browse online lingerie shops for inspiration. Boy is my life weird!

Catch Up

March 15th, 2007 at 08:34 pm

Good grief, where is March going?!? Well, let's start at the beginning and play a little Catch Up, shall we?

The Week of Birthday
Long story short, I ate so much my pants started to fit properly again! Things are settling back down to normal and the pants are reverting back to 'too baggy' like they were before, but it was nice while it lasted. The highlight of all my meals was an appetizer called Hell-Fire Shrimp served with cilantro sour cream. YUM! Birthday gifts included meals from friends and my father, a pot of daffodils from my mother, car seat covers from DH (which I asked for, don't down the gift!), and $45 in cash. Woohoo, best haul in years! Big Grin Rumor has it I'll be getting a gift card from my SIL and her boyfriend, which is a very unexpected suprise. Since the things I actually want are a bit on the pricey side (a $900 camera, $85 tripod, and $100 wide-angle lens), DH suggested they get me a gift card, and I think me told them to make it for office supplies. Alas, that is my guilty, shameful pleasure: the clearance aisle at Office Depot! Who knows what goodies await me!

Money Happenings and $20 Challenge
Today is payday in Tina-land, which is always fun. I get paid 2x per month as opposed to DH's every other week, which means he gets the ubiquitous 'unbudgeted extra paycheck' twice a year. This month will be the first one, and it's going straight to the Slush Fund (aka a mini-EF in the world of others). He and I have re-discussed how much we want to have readily available for actual need-cash-now emergencies, and we've decided we're comfortable with a couple of hundred. It's enough to get us out of town, pay for a car repair, pay for new tires, or pay our medical co-pays if we both had to go to the emergency room and get prescriptions. After this month's extra pay-check, the Slush Fund should be sitting pretty.

In related news, I also have the money set aside for us to pay Uncle Sam his due in April. Bah! I'm holding onto that money until the very last minute to earn as much interest as possible, dag nabbit!

Since it's the middle of the month, I also took in my personal money for the $20 challenege. This time I took in paper only, since I'm all but out of coin wrappers. No worries, though: my bank gives out wrappers for free so I left with an envelope full! YAY! The nice teller even gave me the paper strips you wrap around bundles of bills. Guess that's what happens when you deposit 92 bucks in ones!

Here's the breakdown of this month's action:

$92 in ones
$10 in leftover allowance money
$45 in gift money
$30 in incense sales
----------------------------
$177 total in 28 days. Not too shabby!

My Challenege (challenged?) account currently stands at 453.59 - 145.97 in purchases = $337.20. Remember, I'm trying to use my money to make money, so the Challenge(d) Account is what I use to purchase materials or items I use for freelance stuff. Purchases so far are a backpack photographer's bag, a hard case for my memory sticks, my web hosting, and incense supplies. As mentioned above my wish list is a bit pricey right now, but I might go ahead and get the wide-angle lens and tripod as these two items will make it easier for me to get involved in real estate photography. My other option is to sell my current camera, 2 memory sticks, macro lens, telephoto lens, and filters for about $500 and combine that with my saved money to get the camera I want. Sadly, that would leave me without a decent tripod, telephoto lens, macro lens, or wide-angle lens, or even compatible memory, which means I would be back at square one. Cannon DSLR, I love you but you're going to have to wait a while... *sniff*

Apparently a 9mm is 'My Gun'
What a title...

Last Saturday DH and I went to his parents' house to pick up his skeet thrower as he will be skeet shooting with friends of ours tomorrow or this weekend. He wanted me to go skeet shooting with them, which might be fun except for the fact that I've never shot a shotgun, much less at a moving 4" diameter target. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Anywho, his parents live in a rural area on several acres and they have a 100 yard shooting range on their property. Price, BA, I thought of you as I typed that sentence! He had me shoot the shotgun to see if I would be comfortable enough to shoot skeet, and *begin sarcasm* suprisingly enough I wasn't *end sarcasm*. Yeah, seriously: who's going to be comfortable shoot a shotgun the first time? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone want to try a moving target their first time? Duh....

While we were there he wanted me to shoot his 9 and his 45 so I'll at least know what I'm doing if push came to shove. Believe me, this is a whole 'nuther conversation in and of itself so I'll just drop that subject and proceed to the results. Apparently I'm quite good with a gun, but as someone who'd only shot a handgun once before I don't know if that's true or not. The first shot with the 45 was pure luck and hit dead center in the target at about 10 yards. HA! The rest with the 45 were nothing to write home about: it's too big for my hand and as a double-action trigger is just hard for me to shoot. The 9, however, was a different story. Out of 20 shots at 10 yards, all were within the 8 ring and about a quarter were within the 9 ring. I'm told this is good, but if you know please chime in!

Other Things Eating Up My Time: Generating Income
I've been focusing on my goal for the year of coming up with ways to make money on the side, in the event my job situation goes south. That's the lovely part about working at a small tech company, you see: it's like playing Russian Roulette with your paycheck.

Well, most know that I'm slowing working on getting the photography bit up and running. So far I've receive no responses from the emails I've sent, but our weather is starting to perk up and I think that will offer more opportunities for pictures. I'm debating about making some prints to see if those would sell or not, but I'm still on the fence.

I've made and dried 600 sticks of Dragon's Blood incense and sold half of them in bulk packs already. I also tested the 12 other sample fragrances I got in the mail: only one will work well for incense, so I'm going to try to think of something easy/cheap/sellable to do with the rest. Unfortunately, that's the way incense works: just because an oil smells good in the bottle doesn't mean it'll smell good burning, and the only way to test is to buy an ounce and go for it. If it doesn't work out, you're left with an ounce of stuff and nothing to do with it. Or, in my case, about 20 ounces between this batch and the last batch of testing... Something else I'm on the fence about: selling incense on Etsy.com... There are only so many places in South Carolina to sell the stuff!

I was invited to become a Cha Cha guide (thanks Autumn!!!), which might wind up bringing in some money down the road. I've gone through some of the training, but need to finish it before I actually begin earning money. We'll see how it goes!

Another avenue I'm persuing is 'crowdsourced software' development with Cambrian House. Basically, it's kinda like Saving Advice for computer geeks Big Grin If you have an idea for some neat kind of software, you post it there and people vote on it. If you get enough votes, you're entered into a monthly challenge (IdeaWarz). If you win the challenge, you win $10,000 and a tee-shirt EEK! WOW, a tee shirt! Seriously, you get to keep a grand of the money, and the other 9k is used as 'seed money': you pay the other members of the site to help you build your project. When the project is built, Cambrian House markets it and you and the other developers earn royalty money (and of course the website makes money off of it, too). Better built projects sell better, earning everyone more royalty money... It's a long shot, but I submitted an idea anyways because I think it would be a useful, useable service, not to mention I want to win 10 grand! I've since been invited to work on someone else's project doing high level strategy and product development. For the uninitiated, that's tech speak for I get to tell them what I would want the software to do if I were a user, then they build it that way! Too Cool!

Yes, my name is Sucha Dork...

Add to this some ongoing research for the articles I'm writing, and TADA: that's what's been eating my time. Hopefully some or all of these ventures will pan out and result in some additional income, maybe even some passive income in the form of royalties. Hans Gruber said it best "by the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach earning 20 percent". Wait, maybe that first part isn't good when talking about developing software. Unless your last name is Gates Wink

Spices and Coupon Ethics

March 11th, 2007 at 10:55 pm

First on spices: most know that I rant and rave (ok, not exactly) about buying spices in bulk versus getting them at the dollar store, etc. I promise you, they definitely taste better. Moreover, chances are you will STILL get a better financial deal, and today I have proof!

I usually buy Italian blend herbs in bulk from my favorite natural goods store. They no longer carry it, so I was looking at having to buy it online Frown Before I did that and had to pay shipping, I decided to try Whole Foods.

Long story short: they will not replace my normal natural store (yay, local business!), but they do have the Italian seasoning I want. Specifically, I bought a pre-packed quarter pound of herbs for $2.29 before tax, which works out to be about 57 cents per ounce. Check the bottles you buy from the dollar store: I'm willing to bet a quarter that they're a buck for about half an ounce, aka 4 times the price!

The picture below is to give you an idea of just how much 4 ounces of herb actually is. I'd already refilled my spice jar when I took this picture, too! Assuming I just use this to cook, rather than making gifts with it like I normally do, this will last me more than a year.



And now, coupon ethics. My grocery store has a setup where you scan your own groceries as you shop, then go to self checkout, scan your coupons, pay and leave. Pretty nice! I scanned a coupon today that rang up fine, and I looked at it and it expired yesterday. ACK!!! So, if the self checkout will accept expired coupons, do you think it is OK to use them, or should I just trash them? Opinions, please!

New Article Series: Friday Freebies

March 9th, 2007 at 03:44 pm

Sorry to be MIA, but The Week of Birthday is almost over and things will settle down!

Just wanted to let ya'll know I'll be doing an ongoing series of articles on nifty free things in the online world called Friday Freebies. Jeffrey is posting them on PFAdvice.com, but I don't if they'll make their way over to the forums so I wanted to give a heads up here. Check it out, there might be some neat stuff you never knew existed Big Grin

The Week of Birthday

March 5th, 2007 at 03:26 pm

It has officially begun!!!

Despite the title, I promise, I'm not an ego maniac. See, my birthday and my sister's birthday are 4 days apart. Technically, 2 years 4 days, but we're talking a standard calendar here. So ever since we were little, this has been the week of birthday in my household. Lot's of family time, silliness, and FOOD!!!

This year, The Week of Birthday is just perfectly timed. Mine is today, my sister's is Friday, and we each get a weekend wrapper. Woo Hoo!!!

A family friend from Manchester, England was in town last week for business. Saturday he took me and my mom out to lunch at Red Lobster. John won't let anyone pay for meals, so score my first freebie! I spent the rest of the day at the cigar store with my mom, dad, DH, and a variety of customer's. We watched the eclipse from the parking lot, which was just too neat.

My parents have arranged to take us all eat at the restaurant next door on Wednesday (right between the 2 birthday's, see how the timing works?). Around 6:30 my mom and I started looking over the menu to decide what we'd order on Wednesday. Turns out our lunch had worn out and the menu was just taunting us, so we ordered 7 appetizers for me, DH, the parents, and the customer in the store (also a family friend). YUM tasty, and at a discount to boot (it pays to be friends with the chef and order through the back door). Score another free meal!

Yesterday, my sister called and offered to take me and DH out to the German buffet in return for using the truck to carry a load to their house from Home Depot. More free food!!!

Today I'm on a vacation day. Who wants to work on their birthday? Today's plans are up in the air, but I'm pretty sure it will involve lunch with my mom. DH asked what I wanted for my birthday, and me and my practical self asked for car-seat covers. Once a frugie, always a frugie!

George Clooney's In Town

March 5th, 2007 at 01:39 pm

Yup. George and Rene Zeilweger (sp?) are in town filimg a movie, have been for the past month or two. DH saw Rene downtown at Starbucks and called me. Know what I said? "Why were you at Starbucks?" Big Grin

Part of downtown was blocked off yesterday so they could film there. Don't ask me what a historic Westin hotel has to do with a football movie, but there they were. Which means they were about 1 mile from my house.

Wonder if I'll get 'discovered'? Odds are probably better than the lottery! Maybe they'll want to do a Laura Croft 3 and Angelina will be too expensive, so they'll accept a shorter slightly pudgier alternative Wink

Guess What I Ate..

March 3rd, 2007 at 04:00 am

I caved. I saw a sign, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Krispy Kreme in my area is now offering whole wheat doughnuts. Yes, you heard me right. Whole. Wheat. Doughnuts.

Deep Fried Health Food!!!

We drove through Krispy Kreme intending to get a decaf and a free hot'n'now using our Valentine's Day Krispy Kreme card. We left with the coffee and a mixed dozen of regular and whole wheat doughnuts.

And you know what? They're GOOOOOOODDD!!! Have kind of a brown sugar flavor to them. Wonder if they're whole grain? Any idea of the fiber content of a whole wheat doughnut?


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