Funny about Money

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

November 27, 2015
by funny
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A Night of Mares…

haywain-1What a weird night.

Had a great time at the Thanksgiving party yesterday afternoon and evening. Got home not very late, around 9 or 10 p.m. Fed the dogs, let them out, went to bed.

Along about 4:30 a.m., Ruby started twitching in her sleep. Pretty clearly she was having a dogmare. Eventually she settles down and I think now it’s back to sleep.

And so it seemed, for about five minutes. Then she begins to utter little hmh! noises.

This dog’s vocalizations are eerily human. They often have exactly the intonation that human speech would have, with question marks and exclamation points and periods and dot-dot-dots… This noise sounds just like the hmh! you and I would make when contemplating something that mildly surprises and interests, or some set of facts that contradicts an assumption.

Sometimes if I ignore her when she wakes in the middle of the night, she’ll go back to sleep. But no. This keeps on. Then she goes down to the end of the bed, where they get lifted on and off.

It was late when they got fed, so I figure she probably needs to go out. But once she’s on the floor, it becomes evident that “let me out” is not what “hmh!” means. The instant her feet hit the ground, she goes BATSHIT!

She roars down the hall, barking furiously. Cassie follows her. I hobble after them.

Nothing in the house. She’s at the back door. None of the motion-sensitive lights are on, so I figure it’s probably OK to open the door and let her out.

She flies out the door IN FULL HOWLING BAY!

Yes. Corgis can make a sound a lot like baying. It’s the final level before they start to scream, and this particular specimen of corgidom does scream when something gets her mad enough.

She chases into the yard in an utter frenzy, and now Cassie kicks in and she charges out there emitting her fullest-throated make-my-day! bark. They are both ready for bear, and Ruby apparently thinks the bear is in the yard.

I run barefooted into the yard behind them, thinking damn, I should’ve at least grabbed a steak knife out of the kitchen drawer. I’m unarmed and not what you’d call dressed. The only thing between me and whateveritis would be two twenty-pound shepherd dogs.

But once we rounded the corner, it became obvious that no one and nothing was in the yard. Apparently no one was in front, either, because both dogs came to call (they will not, if they’re seriously distracted) and Ruby quieted down as soon as she patrolled the side yard and found no threat.

So THAT was weird.

Back to bed. Back to sleep.

Between the waning hours of night and the waxing hours of dawn, it was my turn to have a vivid dream. Worthy of a Twilight Zone episode it was, fully plotted, set in a clearly developed scene, even filmed in color. A sort of Hieronymus Bosch color, but unimistakably not the usual dreamtime b/w.

That was even weirder. First the dog has a nightmare that persuades her something real is out there. Then I have a nightmare that persuades me I’m trapped in a 1960s television show.

It’s a great story idea, though. I may try to write it up. Very strange.

November 25, 2015
by funny

A Thanksgiving Series! Just in Time…

Just in time for your Thanksgiving trip to the family homestead, we finally got all eight installments of The Family at the Holidays posted to Amazon! It’s really a fun little set of sexy romances, perfect for whiling away the time in airports, planes, or the passenger seat of the car.

In Julio, Andrea, and Karyn, one of the brothers discovers the girl next door. And then another girl next door! And finally, back at the ranch, the family patriarch and matriarch enjoy their lifelong love…and a little surprise.

Pack all eight of these sweet Thanksgiving tidbits into your Kindle and make passing the travel time a lot more fun!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2015
by funny

Every Phisherman Needs an Editor!

Do you or do you not just LOVE this? Supposedly from Chase Bank:

Chase scam“if you do not authorized this change…”  “your account from being close or experiencing error…” “until you have verify your information…”

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!

Where do you guess it came from? China or Russia?

My bet’s on the Russians: the unfamiliarity with the use of articles with nouns is a clue (a native speaker of English would say “an error” or “errors”). Most halfway decent Chinese ESL speakers get the verb tenses down pretty well: “do not authorized” and “you have verify” are atypical, but on the other hand, Russians can usually get Western European verb structures better than this.

Let’s toss Africa into the mix, too. “Once you have complete this process, you will transfer $10,000 to our account in Nigeria so Prince iBangiBangi can succeed to his throne, at which time he will bestowing the $1 million reward upon you via Western Union…”


November 24, 2015
by funny
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Why Do I Dislike Social Networks? Am I a Curmudgeon?

So the church has obtained this social network thing called “Realm,” a proprietary platform available to nonprofit groups. They want everyone on the choir to join up. Just now they have a campaign going to have everyone in the parish get photographed so your picture can be posted on the system.

The other morning while we were lining up to process, I ran into a very charming young marketing type, a greeter, who urged me to hurry and join Realm. I said I’d tried to do so but was unable to get it to accept any credentials or allow me to create a username and ID. She suggested I needed to download Chrome, install it, learn to use it, and try to get in with that browser — though she allowed that FireFox (the browser of choice) should work.

Others around me really started to apply a lot of pressure to get on Realm. That I said I do not want to join yet another social media platform nor do I enjoy the platforms I have to use in my business was irrelevant. Nothing would do but what I have to join up this thing.

Well. I think not, thank you very much.

I find myself wondering why I dislike and distrust social media so much. Twitter? God, I hate it! Facebook? Okay, so friends post a few photos of their trips or their kittens or whatever and that’s nice, but I can take it or leave it. Google+? Total mystification.

But what IS the problem?

I think the problem is that in my mind, a computer is not a toy. It’s a tool. It’s something you use to do work. And you know, I feel I , do quite enough work, starting at around 5 a.m. and grinding through till 6, 7, 8, or 9 at night: all of it on computers.

I don’t want to socialize on the computer. I just want to get the damn work done and get OFF the computer! Far from making me feel “connected,” the social networks feel like just another component of something that keeps me from having a life. Twitter, with its torrent of spam; Facebook, with its unending stream of trivia, false wisdom, and sappy sentimentality; Google+, whose reason for existing at all is inscrutable:

Here’s a post by an employee of Constant Contact plumping in favor of Twitter. And yeah, I get it: she finds an expensive doodad — a cell phone — that she’d lost in an airline’s overhead compartment; she figures out how to escape a traffic jam; she gets the very LATEST latest news; she asks a credit bureau to correct an error; she apologizes to some famous guy for offending him.

But…really? Are there not more direct, less time-sucking, less “social” ways of accomplishing these things? For example…

  • Don’t put your cell phone in an overhead compartment — take it out of your jacket pocket and put it in your purse or your pants pocket. Listen to the local radio traffic reports, or simply avoid routes prone to traffic jams.
  • Recognize that most of what we think of as “news” today is trivia, and that you can do nothing about 99.999% of any news that really matters. You don’t need to have instantaneous Tweets about any of it.
  • Email or snail-mail the credit bureau; it’s a lot more private…and again, does that error really need to be fixed right this very minute?
  • Don’t insult celebrities (or anyone else) in public (or in private).

When you consider what the writer’s saying, you’re inclined to think that over time her growing dependency on Twitter surely must erode her problem-solving skills. What does she do if she can’t Tweet up her lost phone? If she stumbles across a news report that really does concern something important and urgent, how does she find out all the details, and how does she get a fully reported, credibly accurate accounting of events? And how does she (or her husband) ever learn common courtesy?

Last year Lifehacker posted an article by Alan Henry that offered a number of very good suggestions for keeping the social media plague more or less under control. I like his ideas…but again: t.i.m.e…s.u.c.k!!!! The amount of time it would take to clean up your accounts and organize them in the ways he suggests: oh, ugh! Once you got the mess under control, though, these strategies probably would help cut the amount of time you then continue to waste on Twitter and waypoints.

If I follow the guy’s suggestions, I’ll have to “unfollow” about 600 Twits. That could be even more time-consuming than luring them to follow me in the first place. To say nothing off pissing off a lot of Twits. Organize them by “Lists”? I know Twitter Lists exist, but I also know finding out what they are, figuring out how to work them, and deploying them in any meaningful way represents yet another huge time-suck. Is that really what I want to do with the shrinking number of minutes, hours, and days left to me on this earth?

Well, no.

Therein lies the problem. And I don’t want to spend any of those fast-dwindling minutes, hours, and days on learning a new social media platform, either.

November 23, 2015
by funny

Gentrification on Steroids?


New build in Richistan

Just got back from circumnavigating the ‘hood on the bike. The weather is gorgeous, and this is the first time I’ve felt like getting out of the house and riding a bicycle. Either I’ve been hiding in a hole for a very long time, or the area around the Funny Farm is gentrifying at something just under Mach 10. It’s hard to believe the difference: North Central really has become the new Encanto District.

Just a year or two ago, about every third or fourth house in our corner of North Central’s affordable sections was looking a bit tired. The sections where the richerati live were always reasonably well cared for, but the houses are old and they also looked a bit out of date.

Well. No more!

Over in Richistan, big expensive old ranch houses on half-acre+ lots have been renovated and painted, their landscaping spruced up, and they are to die for! Almost every house has been upgraded and spiffed up. The whole area over there, up and down roads I haven’t explored in a couple of years, looks absolutely great.

Then over here in the poor folks’ ghetto, hardly anybody’s house is badly run-down. Maybe one or two need some major work. Quite a few houses have been fixed and flipped. Or just fixed up. Most houses (except my neighbor’s, wouldn’tcha know it) are freshly painted, the landscaping looks good, the roofs are new (thanks to the  hailstorm not so long ago). Lawns are green and mowed. Desert landscaping mostly looks up to date and tidy. Dead and overgrown plants have been cleared away. What can one say?

The neighborhood to the north of us used to be seriously run down — not a very good neighborhood at all. There was a drive-by shooting up there some time back; the city let a facility for delinquent boys go into one house, causing all the neighbors to give up on maintaining their homes or to sell to people who didn’t give a damn; the Fry’s grocery store behind the tract was, to put it nicely, not a good neighbor.

But that area now looks much, MUCH better. Dead landscaping has been revived. Homes have been repaired and painted. Some of those old Levittown-style houses are actually very cute, with new coats of paint and upgraded elevations. Some people have gone so far as to install fancy new facing — stone and brick — on the old tract boxes, to surprisingly good effect. And on the feeder street that buffers our part of the hood from that part to the north, people have run freaking amok fixing up places. As in tear everything out and rebuild the interior from the slab to the roof. Amazing.

Of course, this means our property values are going through the roof. That’s good in a sense: maybe I can get myself to Scottsdale if our prices catch up to similar construction in more upscale parts of the Valley. And bad in a sense: should I prefer to stay here (inertia precludes moving…), my taxes soon will be unaffordable. Oh well.

At this point, the only seedy part of the immediate ‘hood is the section right around where I used to live, about two blocks to the north and two to the west. Everything else on that street has been fixed up, but my old house is still a wreck. And it seems to depress the properties near it. Either that or it’s so bad it makes everything within two or three lots look sad.

The woman who bought the house from me on the Bubble’s uptick, a former GDU colleague who quit a tenure-track job to run off to California with a lover, never did get another job after she moved back here. She never seriously tried. What she did was borrow money against the house’s ballooning value and live on that.

Consider: I bought that house for $100,000, back in the day. It was, I believe, around 1994. I sold it in 2004 for about $210,000. She ultimately borrowed over $400,000 against the house, so we’re told. Of course, she paid virtually nothing on those loans. And she let the house run down slowly.

Finally she was evicted. The bank couldn’t resell the house. It went to pot. (So did the bank…) A number of shady renters lived there and it continued to rot away. At one point the house was on the market for an astonishing $60,000! That was when even low-end houses in this area were selling for something over a hundred grand.

The people who bought at that price were, shall we say, a “cultural problem.” They showed no interest in renovating. They evidently wanted to live in it, but they didn’t have the money to fix it up, or else they didn’t have the cultural wherewithal to do so. It soon became a shambles.

It looks a little better, but it’s still pretty much trashed.

Which is a shame: I really did a lot of work on that house. When I sold it to my distant friend, it was cherried out pretty nicely, with expensive tiling and appliances and a yard like a city park.

No more.

It’s funny how one blighted property will depress the properties around it. And it’s sad to think the blighted property was once my house.

Fortunately, though, it’s not now. 😉

My part of the ‘hood is in pretty good shape, with just a couple of exceptions. One owner is deliberately letting two historic old trees in the front yard die. And my neighbor hasn’t been able to paint the woodwork she replaced in the eaves and dormers…so that looks pretty tacky. But other than needing a coat of paint, her place looks passable.

My house will soon need a coat of paint, too. In fact, I should call Bila the Bosnian Painter and see a) if he’s still in the bidness and b) if he’ll do the job for a reasonable price. I’ve always liked Bila. He’s a good man and an interesting one. And he does decent work without wasting time.

At any rate, it’s kind of startling to see that much change in what seems like not very much time. I guess when the boob thing started I crawled into a hole and pulled it in behind me. Either that or we’re looking at gentrification on steroids.

November 22, 2015
by funny

Fourth Sunday…

There’s just one, count it (1) reason I get out of the sack at this unholy hour on a Sunday morning: the amazing music program down at the Cult HQ. Our choir director hires a passel of professional singers with whom the rest of us are privileged to sing along. This group, our “chamber choir,” also sings at least one piece unmolested by us amateurs, and the effect is awe-inspiring.

For reasons that escape my mortal comprehension, the Powers That Be have decided that once a month our entire tribe must sing at the 9 a.m. service, meaning we have to show up down there at 8 a.m. (We normally sing at a decent hour: 11:00.) I sorta hoped this would go away after they’d tried it for a year. But no. Apparently they love it! 😀

It’s not actually getting up that I could do without, because of course the dawgs are raring to go at 5 a.m., summer or winter. Well. In the summer they’re up at 4.

It’s the banging around to get dressed and get out of the house. Now that I’m old, it seems to take me an inordinately long time to get up and get going. And when you’re old, too, you’re sot in your ways and do not wish to disturb those ways once a month. Or ever.

The dogs have to be fed. When Charley the Golden Retriever is here, as he happens to be today, that project turns into a PROJECT. Two strategies can be engaged:

  1. The human locks the corgis in the back bedroom. It then prepares the corgi meals, distracts Charley briefly, grabs the food, and RUNS to the back of the house, tears into the bedroom ahead of the retriever, and slams the door behind it. Once the food is placed in front of the corgis, the human sneaks out of the bedroom, returns to the kitchen, and sets the retriever’s kibble in front of him. OR…
  2. The human prepares the corgi food, dumps a cup of kibble in the Charley bowl, locks the retriever in the backyard  with the bowl of kibble, and then sets the dishes of corgi food on the kitchen floor in something like the normal manner.

The problem with (1) is that it’s a gigantic hassle.

The problem with (2) is that Charley vacuums his food much faster than the corgis, who he believes possess BETTER food than his (he’s right about that…), and then he tries to break down the back door so as to get into the house and get their food.

As you can imagine, this is a chore I’m not in any hurry to take up. Certainly not as dawn is barely breaking.

Then of course the usual pile of e-mails has to be attended to — this morning only 50 unread messages are sitting on the server. That doesn’t count the 127 “notifications” from Twitter, the 53 from Google+, the 17 from Facebook, and the 23 automatically routed to the “trash” folder. This is not something you really want to do over morning coffee.

Cassie and Charley are having shitfits. Somebody must be prowling around out there. Apparently they’re in front: probably someone walking their dog up the front sidewalk. I’m sure my neighbor Terri is thrilled at having not one but TWO dogs barking and howling outside her windows at 7 in the morning.

Cassie just barks on general principles. She doesn’t care to go out and run around in the cold, so she stands in the kitchen and splits my ears. Sometimes she doesn’t bother to get up: she just reclines on the floor and yaps. I think she thinks it’s conversation.

When I have to wash my hair early in the morning, there’s not enough time for it to dry enough for me to set it on hot rollers. And setting my hair is the last thing I feel like doing in by the light of a sun that hasn’t cleared the horizon. So I either have to braid it, which makes me look like WT, or I have to clip it back off my face and let it cascade down my  back, which makes people wonder what I’m trying to prove.

Then I have to paint my face. I really don’t care to look in the mirror at all, and you can be damn sure I hate looking in the mirror at 6 or 6:30 in the morning! It is just too early to work up the nerve for that chore.

As usual, all the old-lady fiascos occur. None of them are things I feel like coping with the first goddamn thing in the morning.

This morning, for example, I lost my glasses. Took them off to pull a shirt over my head, put them down SOMEwhere. And then…couldn’t find them. I searched and searched and searched and hated searching and hated searching and hated searching. Believe me, THAT is a hassle I hate at any time of day, and first thing in the morning it is hated with élan.

Finally found them where I’d put them down: in a bowl I use to hold make-up.

Naturally. Who wouldn’t lay their glasses down in a make-up tray?

Well, the computer says it’s after 7:30. Gotta go find a pair of shoes (probably in the freezer, hm?), wrestle the dogs into the house, find the car keys (no doubt in the pantry), and make my way down to the church.