Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

February 18, 2017
by funny

Six Things That Have Turned Out Exceptionally Well

The News of the World is not so great — you tune into Google News just to see what new signs of dementia are emanating from the White House — so one looks to a smaller scale in the search for things that have turned out well.

The CRP V500 Call Blocker ordered up from Amazon a couple weeks ago. Damned if the thing doesn’t WORK, pretty much as advertised. The nuisance calls have fallen off to almost nil. The crooks who like to jangle your phone at 7:00 a.m.: blocked. The sh!theads that call at 9:00 p.m.: blocked.

The number of robocalls per day has dropped from about a half-dozen to one. As a reviewer at Amazon noted, nuisance incoming drops precipitously as you block those who do get through. The first day or two after the gadget came to live on my phone line, robocall harassment dropped from six or eight a day to two or three. Within another few days, it was down to one a day. That’s one helluva big improvement on six or eight interruptions a day, especially when you do the kind of high-focus, ditzy work I do.

Speaking of the which…

Billing by the Word. Why did I never think of this before? It looks more and more like it’s true that when people hear “YY cents per word,” they imagine that sounds better than “X dollars per page.” This is so even when the YY cents works out to more, overall, than X dollars.

I just sent off the most incredibly mind-numbingly complicated piece of network theory to its Chinese authors — really, on the highest end of what I’m qualified to do. They didn’t even blink when I asked for a stiff fee expressed in pennies per word. The result: I’ll get paid something close to what my time and skills are worth. No more giving away hours of time for minimum wage. Or less.

Now I’m thinking there should be a way to convert this by-the-word approach to indexing. As a matter of fact, the latest would-be indexing client asked how much I would charge to index his academic tome “per word.”

Indexing is not normally calculated by the word; it’s charged by indexable printed page. You work from page proofs, unless you’re entering code in a Wyrd manuscript for machine indexing. I personally find that to be more work than just going through page proofs and…you know…reading the copy. And, oh, say thinking about where entries belong, how they should be ordered, who’s going to use the index, and why.

But it does occur to me that I could calculate an average number of words per page by pasting from PDF to Wyrd and figuring an average from, say, 10 pages. Or simply copying all the indexable pages into Wyrd and reading the total word count.

When you think about how you would do that so as to come up with the desired $4 to $6 a page, you come up with a per-word range of 1.05 to 1.75 cents per word. A typical 350-page academic tome would have something between 81,250 and 82,500 indexable words. That would create a range of about $800 to about $1200, which is what I’ve been getting with the existing page rates. It would even allow for pushing an estimate as high as $1445, for really complicated and abstruse horror shows.

Today, if I have time after getting through 10,000 words of the other client’s Great Novel of the 21st Century, I’ll update the business’s website to reflect a per-word system for indexing as well as for editing.

The Countertop Oven Gambit. Now that has worked out well. The self-destructing wall oven is permanently turned off at the breaker, and any broiling, roasting, or toasting that needs to be done happens on the propane grill or in the little oven.

It works exceptionally well to make toast. REAL toast, not warm bread, not slabs of charcoal. It’s fast, clean, and out of the way.

Given Mrs. JestJack’s concerns about the potential fire hazards associated with the things, it gets unplugged after each use. It now resides in the garage, on a work table lined with ceramic flooring tiles. It seems to be pretty well insulated — doesn’t ever get hot underneath the thing — but I’m careful not to put any paper products near it and also to be sure it’s left unplugged. Although I have yet to get around to installing another smoke alarm out there, that’s high on the list of priorities. In lieu of an alarm, I’m careful to leave the door open between the kitchen and the garage, and not to wander off while bread is toasting or cheese is melting.

The Weather, For a Change. It’s raining again, lhudly sing huzzah. We’ve had so much rain this winter, I’ve been able to turn off the irrigation system altogether, thereby cutting the city’s water gouge in half.

Just now we’re getting the tail end of the storm that’s hovering over Southern California. The drought is officially broken in that state, reservoirs full and streams running again. Whether that’s the case here remains to be seen — our drought has run longer than 10 years. However, the kind of soft rain we’re having now is crucial: it recharges the groundwater, because it doesn’t run off to the Gulf of California the way a hard rain does.

We should have wildflowers this spring. Real wildflowers. For the first time in years!

Shopping Less at Costco. Not allowing myself to be dragooned back to Citibank’s obnoxious Visa card has worked to surprisingly good effect. Because it’s a little bit of a hassle to charge up goods on the credit union’s Visa card or debit card — you have to produce your official Costco card as well as a second piece of plastic, and now you have two statements to hassle with instead of just one AMEX bill — I’ve taken to shopping in grocery stores and on Amazon in preference to Costco.

That means I’m spending a lot less, overall, each month.

Yesterday’s bills came in on budget, in theory: about $1200, right around what I’ve always figured for routine spending. But… The actual routine spending was a lot less than that. The $1200 tab included a $235 HVAC service/repair bill, $200 for a pair of shoes I didn’t need and shouldn’t have bought, and $150 for the dentist.

So that means I spent $585 less than I used to spend routinely! Mostly by staying out of Costco.

The Wash Machine Gambit. I love, love, love and worship the new Speed Queen washer. Oh, my GOSH what a difference between this marvelous old-fashioned machine and the accursed HE, low-water contraption. It works, it actually gets the clothes clean,  it never tangles anything into a braid, and it does the job in 30 minutes flat.

It’s a miracle.

February 15, 2017
by funny

45 Minutes to Blast-Off

My friend and sometime editorial client La Maya will show up in a little less than an hour with a plan to go for coffee at our favorite uber-Mexican restaurant. So that will be a nice way to start the day.

Normally by 7:30 I’ve been working for half an hour or 45 minutes and will have another hour to go before disconnecting to feed the dogs and then go back to work.

The Copyeditor’s Desk is experiencing an amazing flood of work, one customer after another lined up at the door. Just now I’m working on two major projects, an abstruse study in business management theory by one of the elite Chinese academics and a wild-assed fantasy novel by an author who appears to be a gamer at heart. We just wrapped up (I hope) another issue of Chicana/Latina Studies, and I’m hoping the client whose ethnic studies volume we just finished editing will hire us to index it and its companion volume.

If this much work would come in all the time, I could make a living off the editorial business. Well, no: I could earn enough that combined with Social Security I wouldn’t have to use every red penny from the forced drawdowns from my IRAs. Then I could reinvest the drawdowns in taxable funds and, with any luck at all, not run out of money before I die.

Exactly how to keep the work flowing in escapes me, though. Facebook does nothing for you as an advertising medium. Twitter is a joke. About the only effective marketing device for this kind of work seems to be word of mouth. The Chinese will spread your fame like wildfire. Americans? Not so much.

Meanwhile, some changes need to be made pretty quick.

Intuit has jacked up its rates for Quickbooks Online to far more than I’m willing to pay. It was more than I’m willing to pay from the git-go, but $15 a month for a program that’s been “upgraded” to the point where I can’t even begin to figure out how to use it is not gonna make it. I keep all my records in Excel and my accountant enters stuff in Quickbooks by downloading from the bank accounts and checking against my spreadsheets.

IMHO, that is fuckin ridiculous.

She wants me to keep QB Online for the business but suggests dropping it for the personal accounts. I would like to switch the business to a program such as Wave or Xero, which can download to .csv files that can be uploaded into HER Quickbooks.

So…that discussion is ongoing.

I’m also royally sick and tired of PayPal. The bastards gouged me $12 for the most recent payment from Taiwan. It’s annoying to use, and since the most recent Flap of Fraudulence episode — in which my business partner’s  husband insisted that we both take our bank accounts offline from PP — the only way to transfer funds to my bank is to make them issue a check. They gouge you for that privilege, too.

Not sure how to jump that ship, though. Although there are several alternatives — some apparently both cheaper and better — everyone uses PayPal. Asking clients to use some other tool is problematic. Most people who live overseas do not use checking accounts. In the rest of the world, interestingly enough, checks are a thing of the past. If you ask someone in Asia or Europe to pay with a check, they’re flummoxed.

They end up having to pay with a money order, which is even more expensive than PayPal, and a nuisance to boot.

And speaking of providers, Cox was up and down all day yesterday. Looks like it’s doing the same thing today. I don’t think it’s on my end, and neither did the Cox tech I chatted with yesterday. My son thinks I need to shut everything down and reboot the computers, the modem, and the router. Did that. Didn’t work. So…struggling with large files when your Internet isn’t working is not a joke.

Lovely Uptown Phoenix has precious few internet providers, so this is going to be a problem. I could switch to Qwest’s successor, CenturyLink, but really, I want nothing to do with anything even vaguely connected to Qworst. And as a matter of fact, CenturyLink’s Yelp reviews are in the sub-sub-basement. Roundly hated. Cox: equally so. They both rank one (1) star. The only ISP that’s well rated is Direct Satellite TV, which states firmly, “We are not a stand-alone internet service provider.”

Since I have no time or desire to sit in front of the television — nor do I even own a TV set anymore — I guess that lets them out.

Verizon has lukewarm reviews; they seem to be hated slightly less than CenturyLink and Cox, but not exactly beloved. The only one that gets really good reviews (all 7 of them, no doubt paid for…) bills itself as a “business-class telecom service,” which suggests their prices are significantly higher than Cox’s. I may call them, though, just to get a bid.

I hate doing business with these outfits. But…it might actually be worth paying more to get better service.

Uh oh…here’s La Maya. And so, away!




February 14, 2017
by funny

Why Hiring Movers Makes Financial Sense

Moving is a process that is complicated, expensive, and very stressful. As a means of alleviating the expense, many people choose to improvise on the process of actually packing, loading, hauling, unloading, and unpacking their goods. They feel like that it’s one small way they can save money in the midst of all the other expenses swirling about.

Unfortunately, this decision can backfire. Professional movers such as North American have been successful for decades for a good reason: It pays to hire professional movers.

It’s best to make this decision early on so that you have lots of time to review prices and to schedule the successful bidder. So if a move is somewhere in the near future for you, for any reason, consider these points so that you can get started sooner.

Road Efficiency

Few people have access to large box trucks or 18-wheelers for a move. Getting them requires the arduous process of getting a rental truck, which may or may not be available on your moving day. You may also have to operate a vehicle that you aren’t comfortable driving.

Plan B is to borrow pickup trucks. Lots of them. This brings about all kinds of potential disasters, such as wrong turns, dumped loads (we’ll discuss more on that in a moment), and damaged vehicles.

A professional company will come to you with vehicles designed for exactly what you are doing. They’ll know how to drive them safely, and the vehicles will have enough capacity that you don’t spend the whole day loading and unloading tiny loads and making dozens of trips.

Property Preservation

Movers are professionals. They know how to package, load, secure, carry, and place your valuables inside the trucks and inside your new home. They will bring enough personnel to handle the job effectively and safely.

Doing the move yourself can sound good in direct costs, and it truly is cheaper up front. You call in a few favors, provide some pizza, and get everything done within a reasonable time frame.

But the hidden costs show up after your plan is put into motion. One friend wrenches his back unloading the truck. A mirror breaks during transit. A bulky dresser gouges a hole in the wall as it’s carried inside. You get the idea.

Using professional movers will prevent most of these problems, and if the mover is properly insured, that will take care of the rest.

Knowledge Base

Getting settled into your new place will require lots of input. Movers may not seem like they’d be that good at interior design, but many of them have been in a lot of homes. They’ve seen countless ways to arrange furniture and other contents in a way that maximizes space, optimizes traffic flow, and otherwise makes the home more livable.

As professionals, they’ll take the time to discuss these things with you. They only want to move that heavy piano once, so they’re going to help you think it over. Your friends and family will be content just to get it in the door and put it down.

There are some things you can’t help about moving. It will be stressful. It will be scary at times. It will be complicated. And yes, it will be expensive, even though you can deduct certain costs. But saving money on the big picture isn’t nearly as important as executing your move in a way that will not only be financially better but will also prove to be less stressful, scary, and complicated, too. A professional mover is the ideal method for getting from one home to another with the least possible fuss–and cost.

February 13, 2017
by funny
1 Comment

Taking a Break from the First-World Problems…

And now for a cuppa coffee (or two) out in the Leafy Bower, courtesy of some very balmy weather. It rained a little yesterday, out of a warm sky. Today is gorgeous, a few high mares-tailish clouds keeping the glare down, perfect for yard-loafing.

Yes, it’s absolutely true, you’re right: I should not make up another pot of coffee, not at the absurd prices I’m paying. If I indulge myself with a third & fourth mug of the perfect elixir (one French press pot holds two mugsful), it doesn’t take too long to go through a pound of beans.

First-World problem.

In that vein, I happened to notice, as I was entering this week’s receipts into the budget spreadsheet, that the last time I bought a pound of the same dark-roast coffee, the charge was two dollars less. So, either The Little Guy (the shop’s proprietor) has jacked up the price by 12% or our friend the tip-begging counter clerk quietly inflated the bill. So I think we’ll be buying coffee somewhere else after this.

First-World problem.

Do you own a Cuisinart food processor? Did you know that  in some models the ultra-sharp blade has been recalled? Mine, which I use once every eight or ten days to concoct dog food, is one of the affected models. Since these things are known to fall apart and install ultra-sharp, mouth-slashing metal shards in the food, you might want to check your model number.

One of the tasks of the day was to call the number on the page at that link (the supposed form you can fill out is nonexistent). So after more hours, starting at 7 a.m., than I wish to reckon laboring over Chicana/Latina postmodern feminist theory, along about 10:30 I finally got around to that.

First-World problem.

This morning I read and tried to render more or less literate an essay by a junior-level tenure-track type who argued…  oh, God, it defies belief. This woman dragged a fussy baby to an academic conference. When the poor little infant made, as unhappy infants tend to do, a distracting racket, she was asked to take the baby out of the meeting room. She interpreted this outrage as clear and present evidence of White (always capitalized) privilege and anti-feminist, anti-Latina hegemonic discrimination.

It’s all about me, hm? Never seems to have occurred to her that maybe the woman giving the speech would have liked to be heard. Or that maybe, just maybe some people at the meeting would have liked to be able to hear the speaker.

First-World problem. With a vengeance.

Meanwhile, the lead author on the latest Chinese magnum opus e-mailed asking if I would please re-issue my statement with just her name and institution on it, since it’s her grant that’s funding the research and Nanyang Tech has to pay just her, not her and her co-author. No problem.

Does China have First-World problems? Hmmm… If you’re at Nanyang Tech, no doubt. It’s in Singapore, not China. As for her young co-author, recently escaped from that august institution with a Ph.D. in hand, now ensconced at what sounds very much like the equivalent of Yankton State College? Maybe not so much.

First-World problem. Qualified.

Yesterday I actually succeeded in getting through another 10,000 words of the client’s 89,000-word F&SF novel. Finished along about 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., in spite of not getting started before about 1:30 or 2:00 — thanks to church & grocery-store run.

It’s Monday, so I needed to deposit the (very nice!) check said client had mailed me, which didn’t arrive until Friday evening. In knee-jerk fashion, I put “drive to credit union, deposit check” on the to-do list. Finishing the Latina feminist rant and the very cheering and interesting artist’s statement for the Latina feminist journal (some people really are outstandingly wonderful…), there was nothing more for it but to haul myself to my feet and get dressed and drive to the credit union and…ugh.

I…do…not…want…to…drive…to…the…credit union. So much so that one delaying tactic entailed cleaning the bathroom and scrubbing the toilet. That’s how much I didn’t want to drive to the credit union.

But it was a useful delaying tactic, because while I was applying Clorox toilet bowl cleaner to the john in the middle bathroom, it occurred to me that I could avoid driving to the credit union by…yes…by electronically depositing the check. There’s a unique idea…

As usual, scanning the thing correctly was a bit of a hassle. But the CU has hugely upgraded its magical-digital-deposit function, so once a check is scanned, it takes all of about 30 seconds to deposit it.

First-World problem, on steroids.

This left me with having to actually sit down and…you know…work for that check the guy sent. I’d like to get through another 10,000 words today — unlikely, since it’s 2:30 now and my enthusiasm for work isn’t any better than it was an hour or two ago, when I sat down to this little squib.

Emptied the dishwasher, reloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the kitchen, scrubbed the tile countertops, put a load of laundry in the washer.

First-World Problem.

Cleaned up the back yard; hauled the dog shit and trash out to the garbage.

World-Wide problem.

Sprayed the weeds in the alley. Pissed because the young pups who moved into Sally’s house won’t do that, which means that by mid-summer yet another fire hazard will be piled up along their alley fence. Is there some part of “Fourth of July fireworks will set fire to that damn grass” that they can’t understand? Realized the rubber-tree plant is dying and will soon have to be replaced with something. Would like to haul the potted palm around to the west side but can’t budge it; need Mexican laborer to cart it over and put it in place. Hope to God Gerardo is here legally. Think he is. Better be.

World-Wide problem.

And, in the Annals of the Floored and Flabbergasted, every morning we awake to find we still have a grandstanding, egotistical, clown for a president… Every. single. day, some new antic!

World-Wide problem

February 12, 2017
by funny

Preparing for the Trump Recession?

Ghost riders in the wind?

So I had a chat with my financial advisor on Friday. Turns out I’m not the only one who suspects our gold-plated financial house of cards will not stand the test of time. He said quite a few of his clients had come in and asked to be positioned so that their assets will withstand a major recession, which they expect to occur…oh, some time in the next four years.

Interestingly, too, at Scottsdale Business Association, on Thursday our speaker was our member who’s a financial advisor. And interestingly, he spoke on instruments that will provide a (relatively) safe haven for your investments…and some that look like they will but are real or potential rip-offs. He warned against putting a substantial amount of assets in instruments that lock up your money so you can’t get it out without a penalty and that pay no more than or even less, over the long run, than equally conservative tools that keep you liquid.

So anyway, my guy is less pessimistic than I am, but still cautious. We’re invested about 40/60 in bond instruments that pay less but lose less in a crash and in stocks. Meanwhile, the investments we do have are going batshit. My investments have returned over 47% since I went with Stellar in 2000, despite the Bush catastrophe. If we hadn’t enjoyed the worst recession since the Great Depression, the return would presumably have been even higher, and today I would be able to pay for the car without worrying how I’m going to buy groceries.

Last month the big IRA returned 13 grand.

Still, I wonder. That fund is capable of losing twice as much in a month, and at times it has. The reason I survived the Bush Recession without too much long-term harm is that I bucked said advisor’s wishes and paid off  my house.

He felt I should  have kept the money in securities. I realized that once the alimony ran out, my salary would not cover the mortgage payment (at that time I had no other debt) and also my routine living expenses. As it turned out, if I hadn’t paid off the mortgage at that time, I certainly would have lost the house in the wake of the Great Recession.

So…there’s a point at which you have to think for yourself.

However, not knowing what to think as the country spins toward a colossal train wreck, I suppose the best thing is to stay the course.

It probably doesn’t matter. At this point, anything you do with your money, short of taking it all out of the market and burying it in tin cans under the roses, comes under the heading of moving deck chairs.

Image: Depositphotos, © rrraum


February 11, 2017
by funny


The editing business really is going gangbusters! It’s a drought-and-deluge affair, and just now we’re in the middle of Noah’s Flood. Just moved two academic articles off my desk; we’re about to wrap up the current issue of CLS; another Chinese mathematician is in the wings; two indexes are in the offing; and I’m 10,000 words into an 89,000-word fantasy novel.

These bursts of incoming always get me all excited: if I could get this much work coming in all the time, I could make a living on this business!!!!!

But of course, as a practical matter, over the summer all the academics will go into estivation, not to be heard from until about two weeks before Christmas, at which time they’ll show up with a raft of arcane tomes all needing to be indexed by January 5. The Chinese mathematicians presumably spend the summer calculating, once they get their grad students out of their hair. The grad students flew into a frenzy along about April, pleading to get their dissertations in order by the first week of May.

In between times, nothin’ much is up. And of course, that means in-between times, I’m not earning much.

I’d like to get through 10,000 words a day for my current budding novelist. That would move his magnum opus off my desk in about 10 days, after all is said and done.

But lemme tellya, it ain’t easy. I had a slight head start this morning. It’s now 3:30 p.m., I’ve been working nonstop since 7:00 a.m., and I only just arrived at the 98,863rd word. After I finish lunch/dinner, I’ll easily make today’s goal. But…

If anything urgent comes up, this will have to go on the table till whatever new crisis is dealt with. And there breathes nary a Chinese mathematician who is not in a state of crisis….

But truth to tell, the hardest job is working with the wannabe Great Novelists of the Western World. Whereas reading their copy is infinitely more fun, and whereas (bless’em!) they never burden you with the terrors of APA, Chicago, CSE, AIM, or AMA documentation style, and whereas you do not have to ride herd on the batsh!t things they do with their references, NEVERTHELESS…

You do end up having to teach them how to write.

Most fiction writers, when they hire an “editor,” are really hiring a “developmental editor.” That would be something very like a writing coach. They want someone to show them how to write dialogue. How to build a character, how to wrangle point of view, how to set a scene. Oh hell…what a scene is, for hevvinsake! They are amateur writers, and they crave with all their lively being to become professional writers.

Academics, on the other hand, are professional writers, and about 90% of them are pretty good at what they do. They don’t need coaching on how to write. They need to have their documents regularized to fit their publishers’ endlessly complicated requirements. They need to have their references checked. If they’re native speakers of languages of the World at Large, they need to someone to make their golden words sound like English. Sometimes like American English, sometimes like the Queen’s English.

Writing coaching is more like teaching than like editing. Sort of like teaching graduate students, because generally your client will take the lesson and run with it. About a third of the time, the result is far better than anything you could do and better even than you hope your soaring student will accomplish.

But like teaching, it’s one bitch of a lot of work.

Explaining something that you know — that you know so well it’s second nature — is not easy.

I’m thinking I may give creative-writing clients a free copy of the new book, as a kind of lagniappe. It’s ready now in PDF format; it won’t take much to get it into PoD format. And in a few weeks, I expect Wonder-ebook-Builder will have it in Kindle and ePub format. Why not give it to clients as a kind of textbook?