Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

October 21, 2016
by funny

New Diet/Exercise Scheme…works fast!

Down only two pounds and already starting to feel much better. Old CardioDoc — the one who may have been a perfectly fine MD but who had a little personality problem (just talking to him was likely to bring on apoplexy…) — suggested the palpitations did not indicate a cardiac problem but were anxiety attacks. He said that if one would bestir oneself to get rid of the excess fat and exercise vigorously every day, one could bring the palps under control.

He was right then, and he appears to still be right. Over the past week I’ve managed to get rid of two of the 11 pounds of overweight and have combined daily one- to two-mile walks with some vigorous yardwork. Luckily, the yard has really gone to pot over the past year or two, so there will be lots of hacking and heaving to do over the next couple of weeks.

A-n-n-n-d…whatever it is does indeed seem to be getting better. Haven’t had a palp in days, and the average BP over the past 10 days has been 124/69. Not all that bad for a 71-year-old woman who favors rib-eye steaks, strong coffee, and bourbon.

🙂 {sigh} 🙂

There’s nothing like a fine spread of good food to improve your disposition. My god have I been eating!!!

Try this rendition of grilled fish, per serving:

slab of fish (salmon, mahi, cod, whatEVER)
canned or boxed Italian-style chopped tomatoes (the Pomì brand is especially good)
a finely chopped garlic clove, or chopped little green onion
a few leaves of fresh basil, chopped, or some dried herbs of your preference
olive oil
small amount of crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the grill. If you’re using one of those perforated grill pans, put it in there to preheat, too.

Rub the outside of the fish with a little olive oil.

Into a small microwavable bowl, place enough of the tomatoes to cover your serving(s) of fish. Stir in the garlic, onion (whichever you’re using, or both) plus the herbs and feta. Warm this gently in the microwave — no need to overdo it.

Grill the fish until it’s done to your preference. While you’re at it, you can put some veggies on the grill, too: I happen to like asparagus. Summer squash grills quickly and nicely, too: either way, toss them in a little olive oil to which you’ve added lemon juice, lime juice, or balsamic vinegar, to taste.

Place the fish and veggies on your favorite dinner plate and top the fish with the tomato concoction.

This is amazingly good. Serve it up with a salad: a handful of lettuce with whatever salady oddments you happen to have in the fridge, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a drizzle of vinegar or lemon juice.

So much better than working…


October 19, 2016
by funny

The Woman Who Could Not Throw a Box Away

Hey! Is it my fault that SOME day EVERYone will need a box? The box in the perfect size?

Okay, it’s true, more than the ideal number (that would be 1) of perfectly sized boxes were piled atop the garage cabinets. What can I say?

With the Dog Chariot’s back seats removed from the garage cabinets, it’s been time to clean out the garage and reorganize the cabinets ever since Phryne LaVenza arrived. The weather is now cool enough that ungodly heat is not an excuse to continue gold-bricking. And I need some exercise.

So tidy! Note the apposite use of old cardboard boxes...

So tidy! Note the apposite use of an old cardboard box…

Exercise is what I got, shoveling out the cabinetry.

I tend to collect boxes that will hold a set of moderately sized objects with comfort, should one ever have a collection of moderately sized objects and need to stash them.

You’d be surprised how rarely one needs to stash moderately sized objects…

The recycling bin is now full to the brim with moderately sized boxes, all of them devoid of moderately sized objects. But I did save a couple of them. Just in case!

As you can imagine, a person who collects boxes also tends to accrue a number of other interesting items.


Uncontrollably evil…

Prominent among these was — hallelujah! Not one, not two, but three containers of Over-the-Top in the old formulation that actually used to kill Bermuda grass!!!!!!!

Few weeks ago, I did order some Over-the-Top from Amazon, despite warnings from reviewers that it doesn’t do much to kill grass anymore. Sprayed it on twice, and it…well…it sorta made the devilgrass look sickly. But clearly it did not faze the stuff. I mourned the old, real Over-the-Top.

So was beyond joy to find several half-full jugs of now illegal (no doubt) grass-killer hiding in the garage litter.

Trust me, you do not want the invasive weed that is Bermuda grass in your flower beds. But if you live in Arizona, you cain’t hardly avoid it. The stuff is persistent, wiry, nasty, and ubiquitous.

Is the antique Over-the-Top so old it’s no longer effective? We’ll soon know: I sprayed it all over the mound of grass that is choking out the pretty Mexican primrose in the poolside flowerbed.

So it’s not bad, maybe, to hoard garage items.

Many other splendid objects were exhumed. Most went into the recycling bin. But others were reorganized where they could be found, not forgotten…and maybe even used one day.

Garage cleaning. It’s a rite of passage.

Image: Cynodon dactylon. Public Domain,


October 19, 2016
by funny

The Amateur Videography Jamboree

Imagine a video of this critter in action...

Imagine a video of this little guy in action…

So I hired one of my former students, an audiography major with some video training, to help create the video application for the $20,000 business grant I imagine the Boob Book might be eligible for. He came over and recorded interviews of a couple women who have had encounters with breast cancer (one has recently learned she has a recurrence), and then went off to work on the results.

The plan was for him to come back and record me doing my pitch. However, knowing the kid has a full-time job (40 hours a week, can you imagine? horrors!), I figured it would be hard for him to squeeze in another recording session and do the editing job he’d set for himself in his spare time. To help out, I decided to use the Mac’s considerable video recording capacities to record my 90-second blabfest, and then he could splice what he has into that.

Well. The first effort was OK but not great.

Next thing I know, Connie the 18-Wheeler is in the offing. She’s in town for a couple of weeks, and she offered to use her iPhone to try to record a better rendition.

This was really pretty awesome. I can not, for the life of me, memorize 90 seconds worth of spiel anymore. Back in the day, when I was a young pup, I had a photographic memory. In high school and college, all I had to do was go over class notes and textbook copy a couple of times, and it was seared into my brain like so many PDFs. Literally, on a quiz or mid-term, I could see the page in my mind, right down to the page number. To answer a question, all I had to do was call up the page and read it. Cheating, no doubt…but it did work to extract a Phi Beta Kappa key and a $30,000 graduate school grant. 😉

That skill now gone with the proverbial wind, Connie decided we should record just a few sentences at a time. Since the pitch is very short, any given paragraph consisted about two or three utterances. Her idea was to move the camera angle back and forth for each new statement — there were five of them, by the time we broke the last graf in two.

Not a bad idea: it turned out that I can memorize three or four sentences, if asked to regurgitate them within seconds after going over them a dozen times. She also coached me in speaking as though I were speaking rather than reading from mental PDFs.


iMovie logo. Copyright Apple Corp. Fair use claim: Illustrate and identify the software under discussion.

The result was five clips with lag time at the beginning and end of each. Putting those together in a sane way required me to learn to use iMovie.

At first it looked TOTALLY overwhelming. But thanks to the Tyro’s Treasure Chest That Is the Internet, I managed to identify and find guides to the tasks that needed to be done: trim out the blank spaces at the beginnings and ends of each clip, blend the clips together, add a title at the front and a list of our contractors at the end (by way of making it look like we’re a real entity…we are, but we’re pretty ghostly), and even add transitions between the clips to lend a little logic to the shifts of angle. Since we’re a publishing and editorial company, I used page-turn transitions.

The result is certainly not professional, but neither is it awful. By the deadline, we should have something acceptable to submit to the contest.

And…my but that was enlightening.

The Mac comes with some surprisingly sophisticated software. There are two video programs in this thing, both of which can  be used to edit videos. It looks like iMovie can do a lot of stuff, such as add a sound track (music!) in the background and do a number of special effects. I think. With some practice and exploring, one could have a lot of fun with this stuff.

And create all sorts of marketing videos, eh?

What would you think of some cooking videos? Shorties, they’d have to be…but something simple would be easy to record with an iPad or iPhone and a couple of tripods. I could post them on YouTube and embed them on FaM pages, or on the P&S Press blog. Or both, for that matter, since embedding a video is not the same as typing identical copy into two posts. Hm.

And what if I did readings from Fire-Rider? Would you sit through that? Or how about a reading from one of the many essays I wrote during about my mis-spent youth? Or gosh…maybe even the poem that Puerto del Sol published…? Classic hikes in Arizona? Heh…would you watch one or more videos of a hike down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? That’s something to see, for sure.

Would you be interested in watching stuff like that? Would you find it more interesting than a written blog post? Less interesting? The same?

Anna’s Hummingbird: Wikipedia, PaloAltoNorvig, Creative Commons.

October 18, 2016
by funny

Gotta find a new electrician…

Ohhhhhh i shouldn’t have put this off…. 🙁  Dave, the beloved electrician and all-around nice guy who has kept the power on in three of my homes over the past 32 years, has apparently retired or shuffled off this mortal coil. When you call, you get a “this number is not in service” recording. Dayum!

I fear the worst. Dave is (was?) even older than me. I always figured he probably planned to die in the traces — it was hard to believe he lasted as long as he did. In recent years, he’s always had one of a series of young kids following him around, apparently apprentices. The man was a true master craftsman. But most of all, he was competent, efficient, and honest. He never tried to cheat or gouge the customers.

One of the kitchen light switches has shorted out. Because the Funny Farm has aluminum wiring, not just any handyman can change out fixtures and switches. To fend off flammability, you need a special piece of equipment that can join copper wiring with aluminum so as to keep the pieces from eventually working apart and causing a fire. Electricians have that device and know how to use it.

Anyway, I’ve known for a couple of months that no one was left at home at Dave’s phone number. I should have tried to track down a new guy then, before it became a matter of urgency.

Fortunately, Dave referred me to an electric supply house that he uses all the time. Those guys know him. A little later this morning I’ll drive over there and ask if they can refer me to anyone in Dave’s tradition.

{sigh} Why can’t we all last forever?

ahem…except for the Donald, of course… 😉

October 17, 2016
by funny

Handy Online Medical Reference


Be sure to read MD’s comments (below) before using FactMed to assess the side effects of whatever med you’re curious about. Try to find the information published by your medication’s maker — if you have a generic Rx, you usually can find a source on the net that will tell you the brand name if you enter the generic name.

Every now and again, you need a source for side effects of medications that is NOT a woo-woo naturopathic site like LiveStrong or any of the myriad sites of the various quacks who try to convince you that their snake oil is better than researched, tested prescription drugs. WebMD always comes up relatively high in a list of search results, and sometimes the Mayo Clinic will have a page describing the uses and potential side effects of various nostrums. The Mayo is reliable enough as a reference, but WebMD has occasionally been questioned.

I recently came across a site called FactMed. It’s a searchable database based on “more than 18 million FDA adverse drug reports for 20,000 different pharmaceutical products.” If you explore around in there, you find a search engine that will let you enter a drug and a specific ailment that you suspect might be a side effect.

Results show the proportion of patients reporting side effects who reported THAT side effect. So, if 100 patients reported that they’d had some side effect of a given med and 5 of them said the med gave them a roaring headache, you would be able to see that 5% of people who had some effect had reported “roaring headache” as the problem. It also shows you the proportion of ALL medicated patients reporting that as a side effect, and it provides a graph showing the proportion of physicians who reported that they highly suspected the med was a cause, that they thought it was a “likely culprit,” or that they thought a connection was highly unlikely.

This is extravagantly useful information. Even though, yes, correlation is not causation, FactMed at least provides some quantitative data to help you assess whether some symptom might be attributed to a drug or combination of drugs you’re taking, and it gives you some credible ammunition when you need to discuss any such issue with your doctor.

The cardiologist and I have been trying to figure out what caused the episode of presyncope (near-fainting) that occurred while I was flying westward across a major surface artery at 50 mph a few weeks ago. Since it was accompanied by a spate of heart palpitations, we of course have suspected a cardiac issue. But so far he has been unable to find any indication of a heart problem. Even my blood pressure, a subject docs love to harp upon, is well into the normal range.

Consequently, he has lashed me up in a Holter monitor — a device that listens to your innards 24/7 — and asked me to wear it for a full freaking MONTH!

This is making me unhappy, partly because it’s very hard to find any clothing that you can wear around such a thing without looking like Frankenstein’s monster, but more to the point because the cables they tape to your chest irritate the perennially sensitive mastectomy scars. These cannot be avoided, because they stretch from armpit to armpit. The discomfort is annoying during the day and makes sleeping almost impossible.

So I intend to get out of it, but to do so wish to explain a) why I’m not doing this and b) why I think it’s reasonable to believe the pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) pill I dropped that morning on top of a full pot of strong black coffee brought all this on.

And lo! Here it is, right in the FactMed database:

This stuff doesn’t just cause presyncope: it actually causes people to lose consciousness:

Proportion of pseud. patients reporting loss of consciousness as side effect: 4.6% [Holy sh!t! That’s almost 5%!]
Proportion of all medicated patients reporting loss of consciousness as side effect: .32%
Number of patients reporting side effects from pseudoephedrine: 999

As for heart palpitations…interesting:

Proportion of pseud. patients reporting palpitations as side effect: 3.0%
Proportion of all medicated patients reporting palpitations as side effect: .33%

If a medication has a weird, rare side effect, I invariably experience it. For godsake, if 5% of patients experience syncope after taking this drug, I am extremely lucky I didn’t actually pass out at the wheel and cause a wreck.

Three percent for the palpitations makes it a bit of a longer shot…but again, given my sensitivities to all drugs, prescription or over-the-counter, it strikes me as not all that unlikely that whatever already causes the occasional spates of palpitation could be kicked up by a drug that wires me to the teeth under the best of circumstances and that may cause me to faint.

The sample of about a thousand people isn’t huge, but it’s respectable.

So here’s what, in the self-diagnosis department: I feel enough confidence that whatever brought this on was not a true cardiac issue that I’m going to throw over the electronic traces and return the Holter monitor. I don’t think it’s worth irritating the scars, which are already uncomfortable enough, thank you, by having tubes rubbing on them all day & all night for a full month and by applying allergy-inducing stickum to the skin near them.

It may annoy the doc, but at least I’ll have a little evidence, based FDA reports, to make my case.

October 14, 2016
by funny
1 Comment

PayPal Enters the One-Born-Every-Day Market

   I hope you’re ready for this. PayPal’s cofounder, Max Levchin, has found a new way to help you submerge yourself up to your nose in debt: a scheme whereby you can get yourself into revolving debt for each purchase individually. That’s as opposed to racking up a single gigantic unpayable debt at 21%.

Basically what it amounts to is a short-term loan, essentially unsecured, upon which you will disgorge specified installment payments. It appears to be essentially an agreement between you and a merchant, set up through a system called Affirm. You buy a given item from a merchant who accepts Affirm; as part of the transaction, you have to give the merchant a great deal of private, highly hack-worthy private information: phone number, name, birthday, and last four digits of your Social Security number — transmitted via your smartphone (!). Within seconds, you have a loan that locks you into payments for three, six, or twelve months.

This arrangement supposedly improves on a credit card because, says Levchin, it’s “more transparent”: i.e., you know exactly what your monthly payment will be, as opposed to seeing the balance balloon quietly every time you fail to pay your credit-card bill in full. And, it’s alleged, the APR will be lower than a credit card’s.

It’ll be a boon to retailers, we’re told, because when suckers are presented with a cheap, low-interest instant loan, they’re a lot more likely to buy stuff they don’t need. Or do need but can’t really afford…

Affirm’s target market is “people with thin credit profiles, such as immigrants and millennials who have chosen not to use credit cards.”

Could it be that millennials, notorious for paying in cash, don’t use credit cards because they’re already in debt over their heads with college loans? Could it be that some immigrants come from cultures where people don’t do stupid things like going into debt to buy a lot of junk they could live without until they can afford to pay for it?

The effect of this scheme will be to hook people into not one or two credit-card bills but a whole array of monthly bills for this, that, and the other purchase. Instead of one bill on, say, a Visa card, you’ll owe a mattress company, a department store, a home improvement store, a furniture store, a you-name-it merchant.

Imagine the chaos you could infuse into your financial life with this thing! And consider that the people it targets are exactly the people who can least bear financial chaos: people who can’t afford revolving credit-card debt.

It’s brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant!