Funny about Money

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

January 20, 2018
by funny
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The Internet Is a Many-Splendored Thing…

How do I love the Internet? Let me count the ways…

Continuing to ruminate on the bed-purchasing project and reflecting on how meh one feels about the ugly pieces of furniture available at Ikea, I chanced to wonder what Pier 1 has. And Cost Plus. And…and…and…  Yeah.

Hence, a Google search in the wild.

Yes. Pier 1 does sell platform bed frames, but apparently not in twin size. BUT, saith Google, maybe you oughta take a look at this-yere Home Depot page.

“Home-freaking-Depot? You must be kidding, Mr. Page.”

“I kid you knot,” replied the virtual CEO.

And lo! Lookee here!

JUST the ticket! I was going to paint the cheap-looking Ikea number black, to match the black wicker Pier 1 rocking chair residing in the proposed “guest bedroom”/office with the ultimate recliner. And this one has no hideous DIY-looking headboard thing attached to it.

Then, darned if it doesn’t get BETTER. Lookit this:

Dang! Isn’t that moderne! More to the point, it is tall enough that you could push a (dog hair-breathing) vacuum cleaner or a swiffer mop under it with no problem. And…hang onto your hat…the price is $70.40!!!!!

They’ll ship it for “free” (meaning, of course, that it cost HD $71 less whatever they estimate to be a typical delivery cost less the wished-for profit). The wooden one runs twice that: $143.

This would solve the problem.

The assembled height of each of these clunky gems is about a foot — 11 inches for the wooden number. Unless you bought a real mattress with box springs, the resulting bed would be so low that hauling an aged, aching human frame off it would be painful. But for the price, you could afford to buy a traditional innerspring mattress with a box spring, which would make it tall enough to get up with relatively little discomfort.

Wonders never cease, eh?

January 19, 2018
by funny
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What Price a Decent Night’s Sleep?

Apparently the demand for a decent night’s sleep is SO high that mattress- and bed-makers feel comfortable charging all the market will bear, and then some.

Flare-up of the old familiar back pain caused me to think that I should carry my computer to a bed or sofa to work. But the living-room sofa isn’t really very comfortable for reclining, and there IS a limit to how much I want those dogs loafing on my bed. For quite some time, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to put a twin bed in the spare room, so as to be able to claim (after a fashion) that I have a guest bedroom. And also so as to have a bedstead that’s light enough for me to slide a couple bricks under the legs at the headboard (or whatever), in case the GERD-like thing resurfaces.

So today while I was at the better Costco in Paradise Valley, I checked out the price for a twin bed.

HOLY mackerel! $350 for the mattress alone! If you wanted a real mattress (as opposed to a sponge-rubber simulacrum), the mattress and box springs would set you back $700 to $1,000.  Then you have to buy the cheesy metal frame thing to set it on.

Moving on.

That Costco is next door to a Penney‘s. Not my favorite place to shop, but…really? Five hundred to upwards of $2,000. What do they think the damn things are made of? Tried one of the cheaper foam numbers: ugh! Like sitting down on a kitchen sponge.

Once I got home, I checked online at Ikea and at Tuft & Needle.

Ikea has both foam and innerspring mattresses. In the past, I’ve tested the foam mattress, and it’s comfortable enough (I guess)…though I suspect it could be pretty hot and sticky on a summer night when you can’t afford to cool the house much below about 82 degrees. Foam: $89 to about $400; latex (whatever is the difference?): $1,000. Innerspring: $130 to $800. They don’t seem to carry a box spring — but the truth is, that’s not needed.

Tuft & Needle, of course, carries only its specialty, a roll-it-up foam number. The twin version is $325. Of course, the concept of “box spring” does not exist in the T&N universe.

Whichever you chose, you’d want to get SOME sort of bedstead, whether it was just a metal frame or something that looks like furniture. Tuft and Needle makes one, but not in the twin size.

Ikea has a variety, the best of which appears to be the “Tarva”: made of unfinished wood, very simple and plain…perfect for the proposed “guest” bed and substitute office desk. In fact, since I’d be doing a lot of CE Desk work reclining on this thing, by way of minimizing the back pain, it occurred to me that I might even get away with making the business buy it. Sale price(s): $79 and $109. Darned if I can tell what the difference is.

The wood is ugly and Ikea suggests you stain or at least wax it for durability’s sake. Right.

I have no idea what the quality of an Ikea mattress is. T&N gets good reviews, probably engineered by its marketing department, but whatEVER. Probably the path of least resistance would be to order both the mattress and the slab to put it on from Ikea. And Ikea will deliver, for a $60 ding. Since it costs about $8 to drive to the far East Valley in a vehicle that doesn’t have room to carry a mattress(!), where the Ikea store resides, it probably would make sense to simply order the pieces online and have them delivered.

That’s assuming this is something you won’t be sleeping on every night…

January 17, 2018
by funny
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Bureaucracy as Circus

Ever hear the classic circus theme song jingling as you confront yet another hilarious bureaucracy?

Of late, the Kid and I have been thinking about changing our little enterprise’s direction, away from working with individual journals and editors and toward government contracting. One of my spies in the real world asked if we would help with grant proposals for a nonprofit he directs, thereby causing a cash register to ring in the far, far distance. I had actually forgotten that in CE Desk’s previous incarnation, my business partner then — the late Phil Harrison, a bright light in the local marketing and “literary” scene — landed several juicy federal contracts for us. So long has it been, yes, that when we were canned from the Great Desert University I was so focused on the idea that we could simply continue to sell the service we were already providing that I didn’t even consider the possibility of resuscitating Phil’s approach.

Well, when the Kid heard about this, her ears perked right up. She started looking into it and realized we’re a woman-owned business and a totally small business and on and on, and then she got herself into the Federal Business Opportunities site, ran a couple of rudimentary searches, and lo! What should her eyes light upon but several jobs we could easily do.

I explained that these things are highly competitive; we could apply for ten and be lucky if we got one. She pointed out that since the Feds pay a fair rate (as opposed to what our current clients pay), if we landed just two contracts a year they would support us.

Yeah.  So that’s what we’re looking at for 2018: hauling our little ship into a new wind.

LOL! This led to a reminder of WHY it is soooo good not to be working for a bloated bureaucracy.

To pull off the proposed shift in business plan, we will need to access databases available most conveniently at the Great Desert University (although I suspect we can get at them through the community colleges’ libraries, too). But I long ago lost my campus ID — required to use the libraries — and so didn’t have the retiree’s convenient version thereof. So the plan was to drive out to the nearest branch campus today, park for free in a credit union space, walk into the CU, extract a pocketful of cash, and then fly as fast as I can to get my picture re-taken and retrieve another piece of plastic to carry around.

Before leaving the house, I called GDU to find out where the desired bureaucratic office was. “In the ‘Welcome Center,’” said the underling who answered. Found two maps of the branch campus, neither of which gave a clue to the whereabouts of a “Welcome Center.” Called the office that dispenses these cards at said campus and reached (of course) a number on the main campus, whose proprietor informed me it was in the same building as the credit union. She thought. She connected me to the office itself, where a woman said it was in the same building as the credit union.

Convenient: makes it easy to cover up my little parking larceny.

Welp, the only other outfit sharing the building with the credit union is the parking authority. Bold as brass, I march in there, ask where the “Welcome Center” is, and am told by the kid at the desk that he doesn’t know but thinks it’s vaguely in the center of the campus. Having taught there many a year, I doubt that somehow.

I walk into the nursing office across the road and ask if they know where the “Welcome Center” is. A person there, very generous with her time, calls the main campus and gets a 15-minute telephone runaround. The best we can figure is that it IS the parking authority office.

So I hike back over there and find that the kid who told me to seek it somewhere in regions to the south IS himself the dispenser of Sun Cards! If I’d gone in the front door instead of the back door, I would have seen a sign on his desk to that effect; if I’d asked the right question (“Is this where I get a Sun Card,” not “Where is the ‘Welcome Center’”) I would have spared myself and my co-conspirator across the road that runaround.

He snaps my picture and generates the plastic. I ask if the university will take AMEX or if he needs Visa.

He says, “It’s free.”

I say, “They told me it was $25.” (Actually, one web page said it was $100.)

He says, “No, it’s free to retirees.”

I say, “Oooohhhhkayyyy,” smile engagingly, and shoot out the door before he or his boss can catch me.

😀 🙄 😀

As these shenanigans proceed, another SNAFU is under way at the credit union.

Yesterday after I return from the junket described above, WonderAccountant emails to say what’s this $1175 payment to Lilliput Mort?

“Huh?” I email back.

“It seems to be a recurring payment,” she returns.

She has downloaded 2017 credit union transactions for my personal and corporate accounts into QuickBooks and is trying to make enough sense out of them to fill out the requisite tax forms.

We study these phantom transactions and conclude that it’s some kind of fraud. I prepare to drive BACK up to the CU and alert them to whatever the phenomenon is, but point out to her that the electronic records I’ve downloaded myself — and presented to her in .csv format — do not contain any sign of these transactions, nor do the paper statements the CU sends.

Waaaaaitaminit… M’hijito and I have a  joint account which he uses to collect funds for the mortgage payment on the downtown house. Could “Lilliput Mort” be some mortgage outfit to which the CU has sold his mortgage?

Now I break into that account and find, yea verily, he has been faithfully shelling out nearly twelve hundred dollah a month to some mortgage company in Lilliput.

When I report this to WonderAccountant, she realizes that somehow QuickBooks has engrossed the joint CU accounts along with my own, deciding — even though they’re clearly carried on the CU books as separate accounts — that they all most be one account owned by me.

Lovely.

So she went to work untangling that, eventually deciding to force QB to upload from the .csv files, a fairly simple procedure that (believe me!) is far from self-evident.

Time passes. Late last night in comes an e-mail from my son. “Did you withdraw $60 from my bank account?”

Huh? It is late. I am tired. The $60 figure sounds vaguely familiar, but why would I have raided his account? Whaaa?

It takes awhile, but finally it dawns on me: this is the amount I withdrew to create the illegal parking ruse.

I go into the shared account and see, yea verily, that figure has been withdrawn. I go into my account and see, nay verily, the CU flunky did NOT withdraw it from my checking account. She withdrew it from his account.

This, even though she had my debit card in hand!

So I had to transfer $60 out of my account into his. Which, of course, is why we created that joint account: to make it easy to transfer house-related funds back and forth. But…honest to God.

🙄 😀 🙄

January 16, 2018
by funny
6 Comments

Frugalista Frolic

As you know, SDXB is the King of Cheap: this is a guy who can live comfortably on practically nothing. One of his habits — one that used to abhor me no end — is washing out plastic baggies and using them again.

SDXB used to make me crazy by insisting on washing every baggie and leaving them around the sink and drainboard to dry. At one point I suggested we should run the things through the washing machine. But of course he poo-poo’d that idea — partly because it came from the Little Woman…but better yet, because he was right; running those cheapie baggies through the wash would make the precious things fall apart forthwith.

Well, I’ve developed quite a fondness for those Ziplock bags with little zipper pulls on them. Unlike regular Ziplocks, they’re easy to open and close. Also unlike regular Ziplocks, they’re brain-banging pricey.

HowEVER….  The fancy zippered things are another critter altogether from the old ones. You can wash the things in a washer — many times. They do not wear out easily. And y’know, if one of these things costs three times as much as one with no zipper gadget on it but you can re-use it twice (1 use, 2 uses, 3 uses), then you actually pay the same for it as you do for the cheapie bag. Use it more than three times, and it costs significantly less than one cheaper baggie.

One FaM reader, back in the day when FaM was more devotedly a personal-finance site, remarked that said procedure sounded fine for veggies, fruit, and dry stuff, but (gasp, shudder!!) she would NEVER reuse a bag that had ever held raw meat.

Really? So you never eat off a dish that has held a piece of raw meat, preparatory to tossing it on the grill or the frying pan? {chortle!} Betcha do!

As long as the bag is thoroughly washed — and as long as the plate is thoroughly washed — what’s the difference?

To be sure each baggie is clean, first I squirt a little dish detergent in it, add some water, and squirchel it around so as to massage soap and warm water all over the inside. Then let it sit for awhile, until you get around to washing dishes. Then rinse out the soap, turn the baggie inside out, and set it aside until you have enough to make it worth running the washer. A small basket is convenient for holding your stash.

When you have ten or twenty of the things, drop them in the washer — leaving them inside out. Add a small amount of clothes detergent, set the washer on warm and at the smallest load size, and let ’er rip!

Since I have a washing machine that actually works now, this process really does get the baggies clean, and without wrecking them. Whether one of the horrid front- or top-loading “high efficiency” washers would do the job, I do not know. Of course, those washers being what they are, it would take forever and a day to run the the collected baggies through a wash cycle — but I’d guess if you used the shortest cycle offered (what? only an hour and a half? 😀 ) and selected the gentlest cycle you could extract from the thing, it would probably wash them well enough.

Then either hang them on a line (if you have such a thing) or prop them open on the sink grid or a dish drainer to air-dry. Et voilà! That many baggies that you don’t have to buy (or throw in the landfill) for awhile longer.

January 15, 2018
by funny
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The Blood Pressure Project: Update

Exactly one week ago I decided that enough was enough with the blood pressure conundrum. By this time last week, I had myself so worked up that I was spiking 150/97 readings(!!) and feeling just like you feel when you have to make a cold call and tell or ask some total stranger something, or like you feel in the 6th grade when you’re about to take a math or spelling quiz. At length I realized that the tension caused by obsessing over this bullshit simply had to be what is pushing up those crazy, never-before-seen spikes.

So I decided to put the damn Omron contraption away, close the BP spreadsheet, and stop thinking about the stuff for a full week.

That was good.

The project was to do a daily two-mile dog-free walk, an evening 1.5-mile dog walk (for a total of 3.5 miles a day), plus one 20-minute yoga practice, plus the 10-minute back-pain exercises the physical therapists showed me some time ago.

Three days into said project, along came…amazing! an ocular migraine! Sumbeach! A pair of pinking shears meandering across the field of vision… Who’d’ve thunk it?

I haven’t had a true, verifiable ocular migraine in years. Many years. This cleared, as of yore, in about 15 minutes, leaving behind a mild headache. Mercifully in my precincts these auras do not end in severe pain. That’s something. I guess.

This was followed, that very night, by the single most brain-blowing terrifying nightmare I’ve had since I was a small child. It was really, I think, more on the order of a hallucination: awaking in the midnight darkness, I heard two men in the front of the house, speaking to each other in subdued voices.

For an instant, I was dead convinced there was a pair of prowlers in the living-room. Mercifully, the dogs were on the bed and I had not completely lost my grip: if there really was anyone in the house, the dogs would be going screaming batshit. They were not. They were awake (dogs are often awake at night, interestingly) and just sitting there quietly. Unfazed. Unalerted. Totally unbatshit.

It actually took a second to persuade myself that the “visitors” were phantasms, because if they were real the dogs would have…well….noticed.

Stress and migraine are connected, and migraine is also associated with a wide variety of sleep disturbances, among them dramatic nightmares. And it can take a few days for an episode of stress to evince its various side-effects.

Come dawn, now freshly re-obsessed, I decided I should see what the BP was, in light of the Episode of the Fantastical Night Visitors. So dragged out the contraption again, hating every minute of it. Dogs yapping in the background (not exactly a restful environment), the average was 130/84. Not great, but a far cry from stroke-worthy. As of that evening, the overall average for the several days since I’d decided to quit obsessing was 125.5/79.4. That also is not ideal, but it certainly isn’t in the “high blood pressure” range. Unless, of course, you’re in the business of peddling pharmaceuticals…

Today — another couple days later — the average of readings is 124.6/84.6. So it doesn’t look like I’m going to die soon.

The exercise routine has gone well except for yesterday, when I had so many out-of-the-house things to do that there really was no time for walks or calisthenics. A shallow search online did not come up with any very credible figure for how long it should take for a determined lifestyle change to affect one’s blood pressure. Many sites insist that lifestyle changes do lower moderately inflated BP, but they decline to say how long one might expect this to take. One (1) modestly credible site suggests about 10 weeks.

Meanwhile, YouTube has any number of nice videos demonstrating various yoga routines. Picked a couple by a character named Adriene, who has a pleasing demeanor and does not annoy with too much rah-rah or very much woo-woo. Her “relaxation” practice and her “back pain” practice are nice, easy routines that each occupy about 20 minutes. Then I found a guy who demonstrates beginning weight-lifting workouts for the geriatric set! Chortle! These are absurdly easy but go on long enough to work up a very light sweat, which is supposedly ideal for circulatory purposes.

So. Today is the start of another week, during which I hope not to see the damned machine for seven whole days and nights. Barring a rainstorm (highly unlikely), nothing should get in the way of the proposed fitness exercises, spread out, on any given day, from 7 in the morning to ten at night. And then we shall see what we shall see.

January 14, 2018
by funny
1 Comment

Flu Fury

So the flu is reaching its apogee here in lovely (crowded, dirty) Arizona. I’ve been trying to avoid touching things or people, and carrying wet countertop-sanitizing wipes around. The latter, I figure, will be a little more fierce than the sweetly perfumed things you buy to wipe your hands and your grocery cart with.

As yet I haven’t caught it, but my son emailed to say he’s sick. Hopes it’s not the flu…but of course it’ll be a day or so before he can tell.

Every year I get a flu shot. It doesn’t always work — I still get the flu about once every four or five years. And it’s time. A-n-n-n-d…when I do get the flu, it makes me magnificently sick. Most people get over it in a couple of weeks. For me, it hangs on at least four to six weeks. Often much longer. Whatever I picked up last March didn’t go away completely till around the end of October: eight months.

So as you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to the double-whammy version that’s going around this year. The shot is said to be about 32% effective at blocking an infection…which doesn’t sound a whole lot better than nil to me. It means you have about a 70% chance of contracting an infection once you’re exposed. And sure, it’s ducky that the shot supposedly attenuates the infection’s severity if you do catch it. That would mean, presumably, that if I hadn’t taken last year’s flu shot the bug that took six or eight months to clear up would have killed me dead.

SDXB invariably used to catch the flu or at least a heavy cold a few days before Christmas. Every year. Never failed. Well naturally, I didn’t want to pick it up from him every holiday. Coincidentally, the Great Desert University started offering free flu shots to employees about the time I moved in with him. So that was when I started lining up every year to get a jab. After that, I got sick a lot less often.

But…once in a while is once in a while too often. 🙄

One thing I simply can not understand is what on earth goes through the minds of people who insist on going out and about when they’re effin’ blue-in-the-face sick. WHY would you go to the office or to a gathering of friends when you KNOW just breathing on them, to say nothing of coughing and speaking (the latter spreads flu contagion nicely) and touching their hands or handing them a cup of coffee is likely to make them sick?

It might be kind of faintly understandable that you wouldn’t give a damn about strangers. Who cares if you make some fellow passenger on an airplane sick, when it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg to reschedule a flight? Sh!t-headed, but…people being people, it at least is comprehensible. But deliberately exposing your friends? That is incomprehensible.

Maybe people are just too stupid to understand that the flu is not a benign disease. Maybe just because they get over it in two or three weeks, they can’t even conceive that someone else might take six, eight, ten, twelve weeks to get over it. Maybe they really are so ignorant that they don’t know people can die of this disease.

My uncle died of the flu. He was a young and healthy man when he got caught up in the 1918 epidemic.

He left his young wife with a baby. My cousin couldn’t have been more than a year old when his father died. The widow spent the rest of her life working (in an era when women didn’t work) to support her son and later, her mother.

Please.

Do you have the flu?
Do you even think you have the flu?

STAY HOME, DAMN IT!

Have a little fekkin’ consideration.