Funny about Money

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

May 24, 2015
by funny
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DUCK-Duck saves Day from Hell (almost)

Well. She tried. Until a fly fell into the last few drops of cheap red wine we were self-medicating with.

She’s so, soo cute. Come 4:30 in the afternoon, she dropped into the pool (like a fly into a puddle of wine, only DUCK-Duck can swim). Ruby and Cassie the Corgis went bat-sh!t, of course. Cassie has been distracted by Ball but Ruby is still running around in circles. Anxious. A very anxious little dog.

DUCK-Duck is a calm bird. Nothing seems to faze her, not even very anxious little dogs. Evidently realizes that the VALD can’t get through the fencing between Duck and Pups. Even if VALD could pull that off, by some magical canid trick, Ducks have wings. VALD’s do not.

Today has been a Day from Hell, oh so inappropriate for a Sunday. Especially the Sunday of a Memorial Day weekend. I guess it’s because we’re not singing for the summer, unless of course we could afford to go on the European tour. Those of us who are on Social Security, who believed the Mayo Clinic would ding us for something between three and ten grand, and who are generally flat broke under the best of circumstances do not fit into the European Tour category.

By late last night, it became apparent that DropBox, the system through which we deliver services to Our Beloved Clients, had cut off the Fat Lady from its sacred services. The Kid could still access it, but to her puzzlement noted that those things I claimed I was posting to Our Current Beloved Client’s folders seemed not to exist.

A little squirreling around revealed that DropBox was quietly — very, very quietly, yea verily almost inaudibly — saying that it was “not running.”

Not running on the laptop.

Not running on the desktop.

Not fucking running.

So to make a long story short, I started working at 5:00 a.m. of this lovely, crankifying Sunday. I worked until 2:30 p.m., with one midmorning break of about an hour to gulp down some fruit for breakfast, feed the dogs, and run a  load of laundry.

Six hours of banging around seems to have caused DB to “run” on the laptop but not on the desktop.

Having been around the technological block a few times, I sensed that the damn thing was about to do quite the little number. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of megabytes that resided on DB still visible on my terminals if not on anyone else’s, I began the downloads.

Downloaded as fast as I could to flash drives (one was not enough to hold all the data, ohhh no). (We do run a bidness here, after all).

I backed up to flash drives. Backed up to the laptop’s hard drive. Backed up to the iMac’s  hard drive. The iMac backed up to Time Machine.

These processes revealed some extraordinary weakenesses in our organizational architecture: to wit, this stuff has been growing like kudzu.

Grabbed a machete and started to hack.

Reorganized and sanitized the mess on one computer.

Cloned the reorganization and sanitization on the other.

Searched (and searched, and searched, and searched) for a fix online, since as is SOP for these accursed tech entrepreneurs, no human being could be reached.

Struggled and thrashed and banged and thumped and struggled. Eventually both terminals were back online with DropBox.

Let both Bidness Partner and Client know they could access the ongoing project.

Five minutes later, the iMac lost contact with DropBox.

Just this minute, the MacBook (laptop) still seems to be in touch. But I don’t expect that to last long and don’t give a damn. Whenever I sober up (which probably will be along about 5 tomorrow morning), I will open a new account at some other provider of free online Cloud space.

Pisseth me off.

Do you know how much productive work I expected to do today?

Download and install Scrivener
Learn to use Scrivener
Apply it to at least one FireRider serial installment; but
Ideally, apply it to three
Check on new online stoonts
Read the several papers early-bird online stoonts have already posted
Work on Old New Bad Novel
Come up with some spice to replace a very boring post-adolescent passage therein
Clean the pool
Walk the dogs
Socialize with the neighbors
Socialize online

Oh hell. At least we got the pool cleaned.

I love computers. I hate computers

YoungDucksminimized

May 23, 2015
by funny
1 Comment

Spending Frenzy!!

Two of my dearest friends invited me to join them on a shopping expedition to our favorite vendor of pain-free footwear, the Shoe Mill, a now venerable joint in the studenty heart of Tempe. We first chowed down at the House of Tricks, probably the best restaurant in town, IMHO — certainly in Tempe, if not the entire Valley.

Then it was off to the expensive environs of our target.

P1030497

(Click on the image for a decent view.)

I’m afraid I went completely berserk — must’ve been the wine. Or maybe the exotic dessert…  Five hundred dollars later:I love me a red shoe…especially if it’s a strappy sandal! Those things are SO LIGHT they feel like they’re made of styrofoam. You have never seen a pair of shoes that is so comfortable and so…almost unnoticeable.

They’re made by Romika, a brand I never heard of but will certainly look for again. Then we came up with this somewhat dressier number, created by Brako:

P1030501I’ve been searching for a pair of decent shoes in this color. They were originally presented to us in bright orange, which really DID look awesome. But I’d already decided to get the red sandals, and I couldn’t imagine what I could wear orange shoes with. These will go with almost everything. And they’re also extremely comfortable.

And of course we couldn’t get out the Shoe Mill without another pair of Naots:

P1030510Why stop at orange when you can have purple and red in the bargain?

The last pair of Naots I bought — which admittedly are a conservative black — have been on my feet almost every single day for the past two years and are only just beginning to show some wear. They’re so comfortable yet at the same time so good looking I wear them almost everywhere, from church and business meetings to the Costco.

So I spent a lot. But I have it: the once-a-month limit on the Costco junkets is saving so much in the monthly budget that I actually was able to cover the horrifying water-heater bill without having to raid emergency savings(!). So the $5000 in backup savings is still sitting there.

This spring has been so temperate — almost the end of May and I haven’t had to turn on the air conditioner! — that power bills will hit a historic low. Soooo…that means this month I probably can pay for the shoe extravaganza out of cash flow. If not, the raid on the credit-union savings account will be minimal.

And so, to work…

May 21, 2015
by funny
7 Comments

West Coast Cost of Living

Great American pride lies in the massive cities that we have built. With 80% of the population residing in these cities, they offer citizens more opportunities than anywhere else in the world. They provide access to a myriad of entertainment, leisure, culinary, and recreational activities. Not to mention being immersed in the different cultures that gather in these great cities.

Unfortunately, city living can also be very expensive. With high populations access to living can be tricky; availability for housing in safer parts of town is low, driving rents higher. This is especially true of cities on the west coast, which possess 5 of the nation’s top 10 most expensive. Being wise with finances is especially important living in this area, as many who have not have been forced to file for bankruptcy.

California Lifestyle

California is known for its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches, and better than average weather, but living this way comes at a high price. Real estate along the country’s west coast is some of the most sought after anywhere, and can force citizens deep into debt if they don’t handle money well.

The city of San Diego is the 10th most expensive city to live in, with the cost of living sitting at 30% above the national average. In addition, citizens of San Diego make about $10,000 more than the national average, and pay $300,000 more for their homes!

Los Angeles and Oakland are the 9th and 8th most expensive cities to live in. While the cost of living is similar to that in San Diego, citizens make significantly less money with both cities falling below the national average. This has caused problems in L.A., with about 20% of the population living below the poverty line.

The 4th and 3rd cities on the country’s top ten most expensive are San Jose and San Francisco, respectively. San Jose boasts the highest median household income at about $80,000 per year. The citizens need all they can get with housing costs that trump the national average by more than twice, and utilities that run 20% higher than other places nationally.

San Francisco also has a high median household income, coming in at about $70,000 a year. However, the average home costs are the highest on the list at around $750,000. The good news is that the job market is flourishing in the city by the bay, with the unemployment rate around 6%. Poor financial planning, can jeopardize the ability of these citizens to continue living there.

In Too Deep

For those citizens that do get out of control with their finances, they turn to bankruptcy law in order to dig themselves out of the hole. One of the ways in which citizens are doing this in California is by filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 is available for those that make a normal salary. This allows for those people to repay all or some of their debts, usually over 3-5 years in monthly installments. The advantage of chapter 13 is that those who file can save their houses and other assets from foreclosure. Those that file for chapter 7 unfortunately don’t have that option.

Those that make the median salary pay between 3 and 5 years, those that don’t can get a longer period of payments approved. Either way those in debt pay monthly to a firm that distributes payments to the creditors. During the period while payments are being made, chapter 13 prohibits creditors from resuming collection efforts unless all debts are not paid in the set time period.

Chapter 13 has become an option for those that live in areas where the cost of living has gone through the roof. With California cities being some of the most expensive in the country, economic prowess is required to avoid having to file for bankruptcy.

May 20, 2015
by funny
3 Comments

The New Writing Empire: Promising!

Yesterday afternoon I sat down and began the project of dividing the epic (not to say “endless”…) Fire-Rider novel into chunks that can be serialized on Amazon. At the end of the day, I had 19 “bookoids,” as I’ve taken to calling them. That doesn’t count the front and back matter.

Our porn king’s bookoids, which he tries to post daily, are 5000 words apiece. Fire-Rider serials average a little over 8,000 words, with the shortest in the 5,000-word range.

To my delight, I found the book deconstructs beautifully into perfect little stories, each with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And strangely, the format seems to make the saga more interesting, more engaging. Instead of feeling like oh, God, here’s another chapter plod…plod…plod…plod, your sense is w00t! I’ve finished this and now I get to start a new one!

Rather than wondering when is this ever going to end?, you find yourself wanting to move forward to the next stage.

In the morning I talked with my graphic designer — the artist, not the e-book dude. He really likes the idea.

He feels we can use the existing cover image, which is extremely cool IMHO, as a kind of “brand” identity for the entire series and, without a lot more expense, adjust cover lines and a few graphic details to produce a unique cover for each bookoid.

This afternoon I’m going to divvy up the MS into the 19 segments. With the introduction and the afterword, the total will create 21 items to post on Amazon, but I think I also will put the intro (at least) and maybe the afterword online through Plain & Simple Press, giving me something freely accessible to post on Twitter, FB, and LinkedIn. Assuming that doesn’t violate Amazon’s ToS. If it does, then Amazon doesn’t get those two items; WordPress does.

Tomorrow — or Saturday, since tomorrow and Friday will be busy — I’ll download and install Scrivener and begin learning how to use it to create e-books. That or something like it is what the Porn King is using: we’re told he farms out some of the content production (“writing” may not be le mot juste) to freelances and uploads the things to Kindle himself.

Dang! I’m excited!

May 19, 2015
by funny
3 Comments

DUCK begins modeling career

duck1

Click on the image for a much better view!

M’hijito snapped this photo of DUCK with his iPhone. How could anyone not love her?

Speaking the which, her admirer, DRAKE, dropped by the day before yesterday. His magnetic presence was enough to finally lure her off the nest. They frolicked in the pool, they frolicked on the deck, then they flew off, presumably to frolic far from human gaze.

I feared she had abandoned the nest, leaving one perfect white egg behind. But no. Before long she was back.

Windy City Gal, who has some experience with poultry, tells me that even though she seems to be attached to the nest with SuperGlue, she actually is slipping out at night to forage on small insects, grass, and the like. Particularly, WCG remarks, ducks like to eat slugs.

Ah. Now we know how our backyard was selected over all other backyards to host the DUCK family. The yard is overrun with slugs. You can’t walk around out there at night without squishing the things. The wretches fall in the pool. They eat the basil. They level the lettuce. They perform a slow-motion hora around the lime tree. In a word, after dark they own the place.

Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-d DUCK! Long may she and her offspring thrive.

May 18, 2015
by funny
10 Comments

Amazon Sales: Is there gold in them thar hills?

justineSo this weekend a friend threw a party to celebrate the return of her prodigal son. This was good. Even better: a strange conversation that came up, a real eye-popper.

My friend says a man she knows publishes 5000-word pornographic novelettes on Amazon. He tries to upload one a day — about thirty a month. So far he has 265 of these things for sale on Amazon. And…

…hang onto your hats, fellow frugalists…

AND the guy says he’s earning thirty grand A MONTH from sales on this stuff. Price is $2.99 a title, of which he gets 70%. That would work out to gross income on sales of $2.09 per sale per title. If each title sold once a month (about what Slave Labor is doing), he’d make about $530 a month. To generate $30,000, he’d have to make 15,000 sales a month: on average 57 sales per title each month.

That’s outrageously high, but for porn? Maybe not so much. One woman — a stay-at-home mom with a gift for fantasy — at one point was scoring (heh) a hundred thousand sales on a truly goofy concept.

In 2013, Amazon claimed to purge its offerings of the spicy stuff, but that appears not to have been so: a search of Amazon > Books > erotica brings up this amazing selection (avert your eyes if you’re the nicey-nice type!).

Lordie! There’s a hundred pages of hits! As it were.

Well. I don’t know that I could write porn, or that I would want to.

However, if what’s selling is 5,000-word pamphlets (in print, 5,000 words comes to about 12 or 14 pages), why not serialize the fiction that I do have???

FireRider, which is ready to go and has been languishing because my e-book guy is doing essentially nothing for me, would yield 32 installments if it were broken into 5,000-word chunks.

And what should I discover but a vast line-up of FREE Word-to-Kindle converters on the Web. You can use Amazon’s converter, too, which might be more likely to produce something that will work. What if I divided FR into 30 serial installments and mounted one a week or even one a day on Amazon?

I do not need to earn $30,000 a month. To achieve my life’s dream, my heart’s wish — never to read another freshman comp paper as long as I live — could be accomplished with $1200 a month.

At $2 a hit, about what our porn-writing informant says he takes home from Amazon, each of FireRider‘s 32 serial installments would have to sell just 19 times.

That’s a lot, in the world of Amazon. But it’s not impossible.

And now, my friends, the plot thickens:

Considering what I have that I might put online in small pieces, I went in search of the Novel Under the Bed: to wit, a story I wrote in graduate school, when I was trying not to stare at the train wreck I was making of my life by getting a Ph.D. in English literature and history.

And lo, way in the back of a dust-filled garage cabinet, I found the damn thing!

This manuscript, folks, is so old it was generated on a typewriter!

Yes. My first out-of-the-writing-seminar, in-the-wild-effort at writing fiction.

It’s just AWFUL! As a grad student, I could not write to save my life, apparently. However, it opens with a crazy action scene. Its heroine’s co-conspirator is a pimp. One of her mentors is his favorite ho. She falls in love with a gangland leader. And wouldncha know it, she’s a Ph.D. candidate.

Sociology, though. Not English. ;-)

Well, I’m thinking it wouldn’t take very much now to pump this thing into a Word file, rewriting on the fly and adding some serious sex scenes, thereby coming up with a bad novel that could be sold on Amazon.

Et voilà! Two bad novels to serialize: FireRider and this other thing, whose title was “Neither Be for Him” (it’ll need something catchier than THAT!). Supposedly it came to 71,500 words, but that’s probably an estimate. Assuming it’s in the ball park, though, we could figure that  serialized in 5000-word increments, it would yield another 14 bookoids. Now we’re up to 46 things to peddle.

And as for porno novelettes, life has handed me quite a bouquet in the form of my career and my students.

When I was teaching at the Great Desert University, one of my little chickadees described her life as a high-end call girl. She was working the resorts in Scottsdale by way of earning her tuition.

At Heavenly Gardens Community College, I met a very interesting young woman who worked as a pole dancer to support her little girl and send herself through school.

At Phoenix Ragazine, the most successful ad space sales agent during my tenure was a brassy broad whose out-of-the-office life can best be described as, uhm, active.

Back at GDU, we had the serial marriers: tenured faculty who would go through one graduate student after another, marrying, divorcing, and marrying again. One guy came back from a research trip supposedly spent in English archives with a new woman in tow. He showed up at the front door of his home with this lady at his side and informed his wife — late one of his graduate students — that she was out and the new kid was in. Literally threw the wife out of the house so he could install the new model.

Oh, and there was the sanctimonious full bull who liked to invite nubiles into his office to kneel and “pray.” No joke.

And the uproar that ensued recently when the president’s office issued an edict to the effect that diddling a student would henceforth be a firing offense…oh, my!

So extreme…in the early 80s, it took running a whorehouse out of your office, staffed by students, to get yourself fired. What is academe coming to?

There’s a lot to write about here. Quite a lot.