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Archive for March, 2010

Gambling economics explained in a single comic strip

March 22nd, 2010 at 02:22 pm

Gambling is just one of those things I never saw the fun in. I guess its from my math background, I just know that its just a fancy way to throw away your hard earned money. A lottery isn't so bad, at least you are told up front what the odds are. But casinos are ... well... not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

Anyway, if you feel like I do, here is the perfect comic strip to show those that think going to a casino is a great way to spend some time. You need to select Saturday March 20 to view it, and it will probably be there for only 10 days, so don't wait...

Text is Pearls Before Swine and Link is
Pearls Before Swine

Just when you thought banking couldn't get any crazier

March 11th, 2010 at 01:56 am

Just a quick note from something I was pointed to online. Here is a link to a bank that doesn't want money. Seriously. If you withdraw money from your account (which by the way is earning 0%) and its a large enough amount of money, they'll pay you to just go away. Now that is just crazy.

Text is Here it is and Link is
Here it is

Water costs how much?

March 10th, 2010 at 01:21 am

A person's discussion here on their water and trash rates got me to check my last 12 months of trying to live with minimal utilities. OK, maybe it was a little extreme keeping the house just below 60 this winter, but it was me testing how I could live with minimal usage.

Anyway, here are the results for the last 12 months of bills:
Trash: $0 (I compost & recycle, and usually end up with at most two grocery bags full of trash a month which I can take to a friend's house about once a month)
Water & sewage: $61.79 I shower at work in the gym as well as work out there which really helps (the gym cost $100 last year). If I read the bills right, my usage was around 500 gallons last year. And over half the bill was just fixed service charges, little of the bill was for the actual water.
Electricity: $451.54 (Considering my dividends from stock in that same company was just over $200 last year, that's pretty good!)
Natural Gas: $563.68 I use this for heat, heating water, and the stove.

Grand total of $1,076.92 (or about $90 per month)

Although I've mentioned them before, how do I keep the costs low?

Insulate everywhere you can. I did that the first year I bought the house.
I hand wash dishes twice a week. As I live by myself, this isn't as bad as it sounds. It ususally takes two or three gallons to do all my dishes.
I try to use the stove in the winter, microwave in the summer. That way I add heat to the house when it benefits me.
No clothes dryer. I use a large drying rack, as well as a special sock hanger.
The aforementioned showering at the gym at work. By doing this I not only use less water at home, but I can keep the water heater at very low temps during the week. And showering instead of a bath uses less water as well.
Installed new windows in the home. Doing it myself cost maybe 1/3 of the cost of having someone come in and do it. These were not cheap windows, but good low-E, double pane windows.
No central AC, I use only window AC units where I need to be cool. Last summer my largest electric bill was just under $50. The AC in the bedroom works like white noise, helping me go to sleep. I use fans in the rest of the house to make it liveable.

I'm not sure how long I can keep low rate of utility usage, but as long as I can, the money will go to buying more DRIPs, which means more financial independence for me.

A bad day ala Bliss Hunter

March 7th, 2010 at 06:27 am

Some days things don't go right. After doing early morning errands, I returned and tried to open my garage door. As I lifted it, it jamed and I hear all types of noises inside. After some effort I got it open a few feet and was able to get in. Here one of the two spring / pulley / counterweight mechanisms came totally apart, with the spring flying to the other side of the garage, and some parts on the floor. Now it is extremely hard to open the door, and without the spring there is nothing holding it back from crashing back down. I found all the parts except the pulley, so until I can find where that spun off to, I can't try to fix it (if I can even do it by myself!).

And then my Apprentice Bliss Hunter moment came a few hours after that. I had talked with a woman online off and on for a few months, and we met two weeks ago where I paid for a modest lunch, and then we talked and walked for about two hours afterwards. I had a wonderful time, it was very interesting, and she seemed to really enjoy it. When we were leaving she made a point to give me a card and wrote her cell phone number on the back. This week I got back in touch with her and as she was stressed at work, I suggested since the weather was nice this weekend, lets go to the museums Sunday. We could take some sandwiches and a drink, and have a few relaxing hours. She says "That sounds wonderful" (on Thursday), and then today (Saturday) I get the message from her that she can tell we're totally incompatible and wishes me well.

I had very little emotional baggage attached at this point, but I soooooo understand Bliss Hunter's feelings when it comes to dating. If she had been less than happy with me when we met, I could certainly understand. Not everyone connects, of course I get it. But what is it with them having the same values as you, even having good dates, then just pretending it was the opposite, not wanting to even see if something special happens? I'm not really stressed about this, as somehow I found this was going too well to be real. Still the last year has totally jaded my view towards dating. And certainly towards the cries of women that the good men aren't out there. Spare me the tears, I just ain't falling for it any more. These women have issues, and I simply don't get what they are.

Apprentice Bliss Hunter, if you're out there, you're not crazy, and you're not alone. Keep your chin up, and do what you feel makes sense, not what others tell you. In the end all you can do is make yourself happy, at least that's something.

Thank G I don't have to deal with Verizon

March 1st, 2010 at 03:21 pm

Subtitled: No wonder older folks don't like the internet / computers / modern technology. (Not much finance here, mostly rant)

Been visiting mother 2 states away and she asks me to help her with Verizon combined bill. She has the company take the money directly from her checking account for their monthly bills. On it is multiple credits and debits that don't make any sense, especially since she didn't change the phone or internet service in many months. Years ago I worked in utility billing, so I understand this stuff about as well as anyone, and I can't figure out what they're doing.

So I have the idea, hey, why don't we acess your bill history online, maybe that will give us a clue (Baaaad idea).

Before I start, let me say I build interactive business web sites for a living, so I was appalled at what I went through.

What all happened? First we try to register on a weekend. We go all the way through the registration process, just to have it say at the end, "sorry we're not able to register you now". You do NOT let someone go through a process if it is not available at the end. We try a few times over the weekend with the same result. No explanation as to why, or when we can register. That is insane.

Next we got registered Monday morning. We get on their site which is filled with a bazillion advertising and whiz bang thingies, but we just want to review bills, which is what the paper bill says we can do. When we go to the registration site it also says we can review bills online. We go to the manage account section, go to view bill, and all we get is the internet portion of the bill, and nothing about what was automatically taken out. WTF is this?

Then I find a link that says oh, if you have a combined bill, click here to access it (why we have to do it this way I don't know, but okaaaay). Try this link and immediately it asks me to log in again. WTF #2? You do not build a site that asks a user to log in again and again. That is really bad design.

Ok, we log in again, only to be put back at where we were before. WTF #3? (I don't think this one needs any more explanation).

OK, lets go the FAQ. There it has a section on what to do if you want to pay or view your bill. I go there and am told I can view and pay my bill online. How? No directions, just a link that says click here to go to view the bill. Guess what??? I am asked to log in again. (%#@#@!!!) After I do that, what happens? I am taken back to where I was when this all started (AGAIN). WTF #4. Who makes answers to FAQs without instructions on how to do basic things? I mean, really, who is this incompetant?

I do more searching and come across a link for a demo site that is supposed to show you how great it is to use their site. Ok, I try that one. What happens? Well nothing actually as the page never loads anything. Try it again 10 minutes later - nothing, half hour later - nothing. Well I have to admit, the demo does show how useful their site is.

My mother (& I) give up at this point and just decide calling will have a better chance to find out what the F they're doing.

No wonder older folks don't use the internet. They want it as a tool, not something whiz-bang. And when the basics dont' work, well of course they're going to go back to paying with checks, using stamps, and having the same more expensive slower life. And where I live I have the option of Verizon or another provider for service (thankfully I don't use Verizon!).