Funny about Money

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

June 29, 2015
by funny
7 Comments

It Lives!

And it just quit its job.

Mayo PxYesh. I survived the surgery, apparently (to judge from the nurses’ and doctors’ commentary) better than most old ladies. Other than an overall sensation of having been run over by a truck, I feel pretty good. The tubes are out, everything is out but the IV connection, which they flat refuse to remove until I’m walking out the door. I even managed to figure out how to use the shower, which in its environmental correctness barely trickles out enough water to get your body damp.

In theory, I’m supposed to be discharged at noon, when M’hijito will kindly take MORE time off work to come schlep me around. The surgeon said I could pick up the dogs, which will make it possible for me to deal with them. And if that’s the case, I should be able to handle the pool, since nothing involved in its maintenance weighs more than 20 pounds.

Food is going to be a problem: I have to avoid high-fiber foods, and in my “real food” diet that’s mostly what I eat. The doc favors fake “food supplements,” which I flat refuse to eat. Somehow I’ll have to pick up some things I can cook that will be soft, high in protein, and low in fiber.

And that, I believe, will be chicken à blanc with rice or pasta. Heh. And I happen to have a lifetime supply of Costco chicken in the freezer…

My drinking habits will have to abate for a few weeks, alas. (How will I survive??) But that’s hardly the end of the world. In fact, it may be a good thing.

And: While I’ve been sitting here fielding sass from the current batch of students, some of whom have shown themselves to be exceptional douches, I’ve had a full-blown epiphany: I am NOT going to teach any more!

I’ve had six surgeries over the past year, one of them for a life-threatening condition. Enough is enough: I fail to see any reason to continue making myself miserable for a net income of $1,120 a month, max, averaged over 12 months.

So… I just sent an email to the departmental chair telling him I can finish out this section but wish to be relieved from duty this fall. If I just can’t make it without that $1,120, then I’ll go back in the spring. But somehow I don’t think a $13,400 drawdown from something over $600,000 is going to break me up in business soon. That’s a 2% drawdown. There’s enough in the credit union to cover six months’ of living expenses without any teaching income. So the soonest I’d have to start a drawdown is next January. Probably not even then, with any luck at all.

And with any luck, my proposed new enterprise, which promises to be pretty lively, will generate at least that much. And more, I hope.

June 28, 2015
by funny
2 Comments

Still Living; Still Trapped

The extravagant belly pain that brought me to the Mayo’s ER turned out to be a bowel obstruction caused by scar tissue from an old appendectomy. Fortunately, the docs were able to fix it laparoscopically — that was not a given when I was rolled off to the ER.

At any rate, the surgery is done and apparently successful. I’m still stuck here and getting more & more miserable.

Main source of misery is that I can’t get them to remove a nasal-gastric tube that’s no longer needed and is increasingly uncomfortable & painful. They stuck this down my gullet to relieve the excruciating pain from the obstruction by suctioning out all food & such in the stomach & gut. It worked. But now the gut is empty — I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since Thursday morning — but I can’t get them to take it out. I can’t get the floor nurses to get a doctor’s permission to remove it.

So that’s fairly horrible.

Meanwhile, the rest of my life is going to hell on a handcart. The summer session is winding to an end and student p apetrs are coming in. The monsoon dirt storms are also rolling in, meaning catastrophic messes in the pool and no one there to clean it up. My bills are going unpaid. Fortunately most are on autopay, but AMEX isn’t… It’s a fuckin’ nightmare.

The church has a woman who does its healthcare ministry. She used to be a nurse at the Mayo. I’m going to see if she can advocate for me. First I’ve gotta get this tube out of my throat and then I’ve gotta get out of this place.

June 27, 2015
by funny
8 Comments

Waylaid!

In the hospital. Have been for several days. Bowel obstruction. Surgery probably upcoming. Not very coherent: doped to the teeth on morphine.

Watch this space. Will be back someday. :-)

June 25, 2015
by funny
1 Comment

Done Duck

Well, Duck is now definitively gone. I’d say Ruby the Corgi had chased her off, but I don’t think that’s quite the case.

As the days have progressed on their summer trek toward Hell Central, Duck has spent less and less time on her nest. She’s been MIA for hours at a time, which can’t be good for the gestating eggs, even though it’s so hot they can’t very well be cooling off.

To the contrary: they’re probably overheated in there. Baked duckling, as it were.

Yesterday she was hiding under some other shrubbery, presumably where it’s cooler — it was 110 at 7 p.m., to give you a clue of what it’s like out in the backyard. Anyway, I needed to get the hose to keep a few potted plants alive, and when I opened the gate, Ruby squeezed in around my legs and shot around the pool, flushing Duck from her shelter.

Duck took off, and she hasn’t come back.

Oh well. Now I can have Gerardo’s guys trim those damn filthy palm trees.

That’ll be another $300 bill…

June 24, 2015
by funny
5 Comments

Economics of Changing Horses in Mid-Stream

Or of bailing out of the sinking canoe? Of the Eng. 102 papers graded so far — about half — 36 percent have D or F grades. Actually, only one of those has a D. All the rest are flat-out failing.

Schoolroom2

Before the Online Course…

Why? Because they don’t bother to read the assignment, and they’ve found a way to rack up the full score on the quizzes over the textbook chapter without reading the book. They haven’t the faintest idea what they’re doing, and they don’t care.

I am so sick of this. Reading a failing paper is really a painful process, because you have to justify everything you’re doing that marks down the paper into the 69% or lower category. You can’t just scribble “this is sh!t” and give it a goose-egg. If you find they’ve plagiarized, you have to locate and document the source and demonstrate exactly HOW copying word for word is plagiarism. If they haven’t done the documentation (or any documentation) you have to point out where they’re lacking and explain how to fix it and refer them to websites that explain MLA style for all perpetuity. If they’ve used Glamour Magazine as a scholarly source (I kid you not…), you have to explain why Glamour is not a scholarly source (can you imagine having to explain to a grown man or woman why a fashion magazine for 20-somethings  is not a scholarly journal???) and then explain to them how to recognize a scholarly source and then refer them to several websites that explain how to find and recognize acceptable sources. On and on and drearily on it goes.

Got to get out from underneath this job!

Yesterday I came across a podcast interview with a woman who writes romance erotica under three pen names. She discussed her business model in detail, and it is highly replicable.

With a hundred novels and novelettes online, she’s earning about $5,000 a month. That, I think, is a lot more realistic than the $30,000 figure, which may or may not be a one-shot event but is unlikely to continue forever. And I’ll tell you, if I were turning five grand a month from Amazon, I would be beside myself with joy.

She said that she made a conscious decision to treat the enterprise as a job, not as a side gig to gainful employment. She quit doing any other kind of work and began to focus her workday hours on writing erotica and publishing it. Like others, she designs the covers herself (apparently high art is not what these readers seek), converts them to e-book formats herself (there are tools for that), and rides herd on things herself.

She did not mention hiring people to write some of the bookoids.

So, I’m thinking I could capitalize the p0rno venture with funds in the S-corp’s checking account. There’s not enough to underwrite an entire semester off the teaching job and cover start-up costs. However, this fall I will be forced to take a required minimum withdrawal from the big IRA. Since I’ll have to pay taxes on that anyway, I may just tell the chair I’m not teaching this fall because I’m sick or some such — trying not to burn that bridge behind me — and use a few thousand bucks from the RMD to live on this fall. Then spend every single day writing or managing other writers.

I would like to keep capitalization costs down to $5,000, but that may be unrealistic. Adding up what I think it will cost to start up and run this business, here’s what I get:

StartupCosts

In the best-case scenario, operating costs would run about $1,700 a month. Actually, they would run $1,700 to $4,450 a month. I could sustain this over two quarters, assuming it takes six months or so for revenues to reach a noticeable level, but only if costs were kept at the very barest minimum. That is, only if Murphy’s Law never strikes.

Heh. We know about how realistic that scenario is.

Assuming a 30% cost overrun, in the best of all possible worlds monthly operating costs would run around $2,430; in an OK scenario, around $5,785. Over two quarters, the latter would not be sustainable. The former — costs are kept in the basement and I do most or all of the work and I do never anything black-hat like hiring people to write reviews, would drain most of the S-corps funds. At a 50% cost overrun, the whole project is untenable, no matter how you look at it.

Unless, of course, the stories that people tell about generating untold riches in the p0rn bidness are true.

Sappho, the Tenth Muse

Let’s say it takes six months to start cranking a $5,000 monthly income. That’s assuming I succeed in spinning out 20 to 30 books a month, to the tune of $100 apiece. At the end of the 2nd quarter, our first $5,000 check comes in.

Then, in our very best-case scenario — costs kept to a minimum and no Murphy’s Law attack — we’re $3369 in the red ($8,369 in costs offset by $5,000 revenue). This is not good, but it’s not unsustainable yet. If, at the end of  Q1, $5,000 actually does start coming in monthly, by the end of the next quarter we should be the black. In one quarter we make $15,000. It costs $8369 to run for a quarter and we’re $3369 in the red: a total of $11,738 to make up. So $15,000 less the $11,738 of red ink gives us a profit of $3262 after four quarters.

Folks. Four quarters is a whole year…

None of the other scenarios look as bright as this.

However, the Bowker (ISBN) and Shutterstock charges would be annual, not monthly, so that would reduce costs by $470 to $650 in most months. If I wrote most of the books myself — a lot more than 10! — that also would cut a major cost significantly.

As a practical matter, there’s no way I can write 20 or 30 bookoids a month. I would need to farm out at least 10 and probably more like 20, certainly to reach the 30-squib-a-month goal.

Our spy in the p0rn bidness claims his books are 5,000 words. Another writer, posting on some message board, says his/hers average 3,000 words. Either of those would take me at least a couple of days to write. The woman who spoke in the podcast — the one who says she’s turning five grand a month — said her bookoids are 10,000 words long and that she takes two days to write one and one day to edit, create the cover, convert to e-book formats, and post. Five thousand words a day is a fair amount of copy to churn out! It also means she’s only putting out ten a month, assuming she works on weekends.

Heh.

I’m about half- to two-thirds of the way through my first effort in this fine genre, Biker Babe. (Yes…obviously that working title will need improvement.) It’s taken me two days so far. More like two half-days, actually: yesterday I had to knock off to trudge through dreadful student papers.

The book, though, is a hoot. I expect to finish it today.

Then, a travel series…

Biker Babe and BillyBob Do (heh) the Grand Canyon
Biker Babe and BillyBob Do Mazatlan
Biker Babe and BillyBob Do Vegas

Or how about mystery erotica?

Biker Babe and the Mystery of the Sunken Canoe?
Biker Babe and the Mystery of the Missing Heiress?

Multiple Men erotica?

Biker Babe Goes to Sea
Biker Babe Learns to Play Rugby

The podcast interviewee says she writes about four hours a day. To which I say, Seriously?? You’re REALLY cranking out 5,000 words in four hours? How? Channeling from Anaïs Nin?

At ten or twelve bookoids a month, it’s anyone’s guess whether you could generate enough revenue even to stay afloat, to say nothing of not having to EVER TEACH ANOTHER FRESHMAN COMP COURSE AGAIN. At 30? Probably the bidness could generate enough to replace teaching income and maybe even then some. But it’s going to take several months for that to happen.

In the interim, I have to eat…

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin

June 23, 2015
by funny
3 Comments

Repelling Cats: The Practical Benefits

So, I’ve made a spectacle of myself by securing tack strips atop the block walls by way of repelling Other Daughter’s obnoxious cat.  Like the Ant Wars, the Cat War has gone on for some time, and as we know,

He who does battle with a cat loses.

Nice kitty kitty kitty! Click on the image for the alarming details...

Nice kitty kitty kitty! Click on the image for the alarming details…

However… Ah, howEVER… It does appear that for the first time since the last sabre-toothed tiger succumbed, the hominid is winning.

That damn cat has not been seen since I secured the last few feet along the eastside wall and figured out that I could use heavy-duty exterior double-sided mounting tape to attach tack strip lengths to the wall’s column caps, which offer no purchase for zip-ties.

She had pretty much stopped coming into the yard after I secured the entire west wall, the back wall, and the front wall — many hundreds of feet, since the house occupies a quarter-acre lot. Some of the houses in this tract have tiny yards, basically just a walkway in the backyard. But the corner houses were built on surprisingly large lots…and this is one of ‘em.

How she found out about Duck, I do not know, but evidently the presence of a large, delicious meal nesting right on the ground was more than the damn cat could bear. Still, the other day’s foray was the first I’d seen of her inside the yard for several months.

A season’s absence of the damned cat has wrought some startling changes.

gecko

You need a gecko: http://bit.ly/1CqHuSt

The most visible is the resurgence of birds and geckos, the voraciously insectivorous little lizards native to the Sonoran desert. The yard is alive with birds, from noisy, crowing (insectivorous!) grackles to the flying jewels that are (insectivorous!) hummingbirds, with every kind of tweety-bird and dove in between.

But the loveliest part is that these critters, the birds and the geckos that now find safety in the fortified backyard, EAT BUGS!

More to the point, they eat mosquitoes and they eat flies. This spring, when normally the house and yard would be overrun with the things, I’ve hardly seen any.

A year ago, I swatted over a dozen mosquitoes in the house one evening. They like to come to rest on the white ceilings, where they doze between meals. So at some times of day it’s easy to kill them. But this year, I’ve hardly had to whack at any of them. Nor have I been bit from head to toe…

And the flies? This morning I killed all of two (count’em, 2) with the electric fly swatter. That is astonishing. In the past, a half a dozen would zip in during the time it would take to let the dogs out and back in and to attend to the pool. One year we had some kind of fly bloom…I’ve never seen so many flies, and yes I do clean up after the dogs twice a day and no, none of the nearby neighbors still has a dog.

But Other Daughter has a damn cat.

Cats kill not just birds, as we all know, but also small reptiles and mammals. They can drive certain wildlife populations extinct in a given area. They’re particularly devastating to geckos.

Geckos eat massive numbers of insects. They eat mosquitoes. They eat flies. They eat crickets. They eat roaches. They eat grasshoppers. They eat worms. They eat any number of annoying, garden-chomping, disease-carrying, and unaesthetic bugs. I have not been kept awake half the night by a cricket in weeks and weeks. Happy day!

Birds eat most of those things, and many varieties eat ants.

We’ve had just one incursion from the Ant Queen’s Hordes this year. It was from a colony that set up under the deck, where the “organic” bug guy exterminated a hive of Africanized bees. Guess the guy was right that the stuff he used was relatively less harmful than standard products. Some DE sprinkled across the thresholds and around the entry to the ant nest moved the ants away from the house. But since the cat has been repelled, I haven’t seen a single out-of-control ant colony in the yard.

Getting rid of the cat has gotten rid of the insect pests.

Images:

Homotherium (scimitar-toothed cat): Cropbot at Wikipedia. CC BY 3.0
Gecko: shamelessly ripped off the Web.