Funny about Money

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

January 17, 2020
by funny
8 Comments

Why Blog…Still?

Just imagine! Funny has been online for  over 12 years! Its first post in WordPress appeared on Christmas Eve, 2007, but that was far from the first word. Funny about Money was born on an ancient Apple platform that was (as I recall) dubbed “iWeb.” It was a pretty limited tool, but it did allow you to publish a daily squib that could reach an audience on the Web, if you publicized it enough.

Over time, personal finance blogging took off. I’d started my site after becoming enamored of Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar and thinking “I could do that!” Never occurred to me to try to make a living at it — as he apparently was doing. For me, it was something to occupy my mind while sitting in front of the television set, trying to cool the brain after reading too many student papers.

Television sets…remember those? Free TV shows that came in off the air, that you didn’t have to pay to watch? Wow! Those were the days.

Whatever. By 2007, FaM was getting large enough that it needed a stronger platform…plus it was apparent that Apple’s thing wasn’t going to last forever (it was discontinued in 2011). But well before its demise, I’d made blogging friends who urged me to switch to WordPress or Blogger. Of the two, WP looked like the least hassle and probably the least restrictive, so it was away to the Big Leagues.

It took awhile after making the jump to WordPress before I realized some people (other than Trent) were actually making money off these things. And that Funny was doing pretty well as PF blogs go…at one point it ranked among the top 50 personal finance blogs in the English language.

So I tried a few monetizing strategies. Adsense was a bust, IMHO. It seemed as though if I could get my junior college students to go to the site and encourage them to click on a few ads, I could make…ohhh…maybe ten bucks a month (what is that? $.000001 a word?). But was it really worth junking up the damn site? And having Adsense serve advertising for Scandinavian…uhm…escorts?

Advertising goods for Amazon? Well…okay. Maybe. If I knew a friend or reader wanted to order XXX or YYY from Amazon, I could post a link on Funny and talk them into clicking through to the desired product. One friend liked to order very expensive dog food, in quantity, from Amazon. This worked, a couple of times. How well did it work? Well…maybe it produced enough to buy a package of chewing gum.

Advertising my own books on the site? Uhmmmm…. Ooohkayyy. Sorta. Certainly not enough to plan a night on the town, though.

But I wasn’t writing Funny about Money to make money. I was writing it because it entertained me and passed many an otherwise boring evening in front of the television. It made contact with humans in the outside world. And who knows? Maybe someone out there somewhere was even helped by some tidbit of advice the site emitted.

Over time, I drifted away from mumbling on endlessly about budgeting, investing, retirement planning, and all things money. There are only so many ways you can say the same things over and over: get an educational or decent vocational training. Get a job. Live within your means. Build an emergency fund. Stay out of debt. Pay off necessary debt (such as mortgages or car loans) as fast as you can. Never spend more in any given period than you have coming in. Be prepared for a layoff by having a side gig or too and contributing your emergency fund with every paycheck.

Quite a few personal finance blogs survive, although the most interesting and well written ones were sold off by their founders. Get Rich Slowly, Budgets Are Sexy, The Simple Dollar, and many others are no longer written by the excellent creative minds that brought them to us. In fact, it really is true that you run out of ways to deliver the obvious advice, and there are only so many fresh spins you can take on that advice.

Blogs went out of style some time back. Younger folk, it appears, prefer to communicate online in staccato blurbs or images, rather than wasting time reading thought-out essays. Presumably reading has gone out of style, too — even though books continue to sell. What do you suppose people do with them? Use them as fireplace kindling? 😀

Style not being my thing, I continue to post at Funny. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve thought of it as a “personal finance” blog…now it’s just a “personal” blog. Actually, it functions as a writer’s journal, a kind of five-finger exercise to warm up before turning to something more serious. Or to paying work.

So I expect it to be around for quite awhile longer. Hope you will be, too!

January 15, 2020
by funny
2 Comments

Cranky as a Cat….

Ever feel out of sorts…like…all day? It’s what my father used to call “getting up on the wrong side of the bed.” {gronk!} Irrationally crabby, cranky, and…mad as a cat.

That’s my State of Mind of the Day.

What has brought about this predicament?

Mostly (I suspect) being forced to jump through a series of expensive hoops to replace the scratched lenses in my glasses, gouged up when I tripped over a busted chunk of sidewalk and fell on my face, in the dark.The insult of having to buy new prescription lenses is much exaggerated by the longstanding US law that requires prescription lens users to get new eye exams and new lenses — to the tune of a couple hundred bucks and two to four hours of their time — every year. It’s been about two months over a year since I bought the excellent glasses I now have and that I have exactly zero desire to replace.

And it absolutely positively infuriates me that I’m being made to spend several hundred bucks on an unnecessary eye exam for the privilege of spending 60 bucks on a new pair of lenses. This is just fuckin’ stupid and insulting. Let ME decide when I need a new vision exam…puh-leeeze!

But of course, if we all did that, our behavior would not enrich anyone, would it?

So today I had to trudge to Costco, sit around waiting to be seen (a half-hour or so after the appointed hour), dork my way through another eye exam, then line up at the glasses counter and present the resulting totally unnecessary, utterly redundant prescription to the unhappy counter attendant, fork over my glasses, and wait a week or ten days to get a new pair that works.

Just pisses me off no end.

You should be able to call on the phone, say, “Hey! I need a new pair of glasses in that prescription you have in your records!” and get it. Sure, let the optician say “Wellll, but don’t you think you really should, if you have any sense at all, update your prescription?” And leave it to the customer to decide yea or nay.

So that set me off on the wrong foot. The annoyed foot.

The time-fucking-wasting foot.

Moving on, this morning dawned clear with mare’s tails… The latter usually a clue to incoming rain. A dark streak of smoke blackened the western sky — fire, apparently. Brushfire? House fire? Another business burning down?

By midday the sky was gray, and it still is. Apparently rain is unlikely. But it’s cold and it’s glum.

On the way home from the Costco Optical Scam, I stopped by the (legal! keep your hat on!) marijuana dealer’s place, located in the Home Depot’s parking lot. Naturally they no longer carry the CBD cream that has helped so surprisingly with the spavined paw and arm. The clerk kept trying to sell me stuff with menthol in it. Something about “I simply hate the odor of menthol!” just does NOT register with some people. Neither does “I don’t want to smell like (fill in the blank: menthol, lavender, rosemary, or effin’ Nuit de Paris.) Grrrrrrr…

If they had what I want, I couldn’t figure it out, so left empty-handed. And annoyed.

Moving on…the cleaning lady was still here by the time I got home, of course. By now it was after 1 p.m.. Having enjoyed a light breakfast around 7 a.m., I was damn hungry and did not want anyone underfoot while I was trying to cook a full meal.

So opted the meal in favor of a few slices of avocado, a couple slices of cheese, and a slice of bread. Ugh.

It’s after 4 p.m. She just strolled out the door, leaving in her wake in incredibly, UNBELIEVABLY clean house. How she does that escapes me.

So one can’t feel too, toooo crabby…except on reflecting that one would like to have a nap (having as usual not slept well at night) and one would really, truly like not to get ripped off a little extra when one’s glasses get scratched up through no fault of one’s own.

Thus one could argue that I yam indeed irrationally crabby.

Ohhhhh…to frost the cookies, I forgot that tonight is choir practice. Can I possibly, possibly squeeze in a couple hours’ nap between now and 7 p.m.?????

January 13, 2020
by funny
5 Comments

Hallelujah! Another miracle…in spite of it all

A couple of sweet little miracles occurred today…

This morning I had to traipse to the Mayo for yet another allergy test. We’ve ascertained that, despite earlier indications to the contrary, I am not allergic to ibuprofen.

Said earlier blessing has relieved Yrs Truly of substantial pain from the bunged-up wrist, elbow and shoulder. Yea verily, it is like unto a miracle.

So today I had an appointment, mid-morning, to schlep out there — waaaayyyyy out there — to be tested for the allergy to penicillin that was diagnosed before my son was born, some 43 years ago.

Yes. for the past 43+ years, we have proceeded on the assumption that a rash incident on a prescription for penicillin indicated an allergy to said penicillin. Even though the Little Woman tried to convince the Big Bad Doctor that the rash in question (and the fever, and the array of miseries) looked a whoooole lot like German measles, a childhood ailment she had escaped by being largely isolated from children throughout her formative years.

It’s a long, long, long way from the Funny Farm to the Mayo Clinic. Nevertheless, I figure the effort is worth it. So off I go, shortly after dawn has cracked.

I get HALFWAY ACROSS THE VALLEY on the journey to the clinic — planning to go, on the way back home, by the upscale Costco to set in motion the process to get the glasses fixed (the glasses that were gouged up when I fell flat on my face in the dark over a busted chunk of sidewalk), and then by the upscale Fry’s to pick up enough food for another week — and then it dawned on me:

I forgot my credit-card holder! 

Sheee-ut! The driver’s license is hidden in the car. But…but…no credit card: no groceries. No Costco card: no way to get into Costco’s eyeglass department.

I swear, the older I get, the less competent I get. In particular, the fewer thoughts I can keep in mind at any given time. Admittedly, there were several things to remember:

  • Charge up computer, hope it will last for the time I have to sit around and twiddle thumbs
  • Leave money and a note for cleaning lady
  • Pick up mess so cleaning lady can find a surface to clean
  • Empty coffee grounds on plants outside
  • Wash French press so cleaning lady doesn’t clog the drain by dumping coffee grounds down the sink
  • Write shopping list
  • Dump trash so cleaning lady can haul it out to the alley
  • Wash up, comb hair after a fashion (which is no fashion at all…)
  • Paint face
  • Hide the quarter I use to pop open endlessly annoying eye-shadow and eyebrow pencil cases (otherwise cleaning lady tries to put it “away,” where I can’t find it)
  • Correspond with financial adviser
  • Be sure dog is in house and safe
  • Get credit cards, drop in pocket
  • Find car keys
  • Remember to load computer into the car
  • Forget shopping list

Yeah. None of these things seem to be items that I’m competent to handle anymore… Well, except for the last one.

Speaking of Financial Adviser: I’d asked him if he felt we could spring loose another few thou’ so I can trade in the hated Venza on some older car that still has intelligible controls. And by the way, did he know a car broker?

He wrote back and said the partners there use the owner of Gateway Chevrolet for advice and consent about buying cars. Now…I wouldn’t have another Chevy if you gave it to me…but if he can do actual car brokering, well…maybe.  So asked him to get us in touch. Let’s see what he has to say.

The guys at the Scottsdale Business Association have a fella they like to use…but he gives me the whim-whams. Why? Because he owns a used-car lot. Duh! Guys! That’s not a car broker. That’s a car salesman.

…..

A-N-N-N-D after two hours of cooling my heels in the allergy testing department, we now know I’m not allergic to penicillin or amoxycillin.

No. Not at all.

We’ve proceeded on the assumption that I am allergic, because WAAAYYYYYY back in the day, before the Kid was born, I developed a rash and a fever after taking some penicillin prescribed by the good Dr. Daley. I surmised that I was enjoying a case of German measles (the symptoms exactly coinciding with that ailment). But when I suggested that to Dr. Daley, who hates it when women self-diagnose, he said nooooooooo, gimme a break! You’re allergic to penicillin.

And into the permanent medical record that went.

A few years go by and I decide to get pregnant. Now the gynecologist does a titer test and discovers that yea verily, I had German measles.

Sooooo….it’s unlikely that the penicillin allergy theory is correct, but no one has wanted to take a chance on it.

Meanwhile, last time I was out in the Mayo’s precincts, I learned that I’m NOT allergic, after all, to ibuprofen. Which was a kind of a miracle… On the way home, I bought a bottle of the stuff. Just the first tiny dose the Mayo folks gave me here, by way of kicking off their test, made the sore hand feel soooooooo much better! And a pill a day for about five days made that sprain one whole helluva lot more tolerable. In fact, I suspect the pain relief (or something associated with it) helped the injury to heal faster.

Life is getting a whole lot simpler, really fast.

😀

 

January 11, 2020
by funny
6 Comments

Ever have one of those *CLICK* moments?

No, this doesn’t mean a Gloria Steinem moment of insight into the Oppressiveness of the Masculine Culture. By *CLICK* moment, I mean a why didn’t i think of this one before dawning of the light.

I’m sitting here contemplating the damn car and realizing that it’s so alien that trying to operate it is like trying to drive a flying saucer. In the 15 years between the time I bought the late, great Toyota Sienna and the time I got bamboozled into buying the endlessly annoying Toyota Venza, cars have changed so much that I truly don’t know how to drive anymore.

Out of the blue, it struck me that what I need here is driving lessons. I need to learn to drive again, the way I learned to drive in high school: with a driving instructor sitting next to me in the front seat.

Turns out there are driving schools here in lovely uptown Phoenix. They’re not cheap: instruction runs from $250 for a single three-hour drive to $645 for 16 to 18 hours of instruction. For an extra $250, you can get some sort of “MVD evaluation waiver” that apparently gets you out of some harassment of senior drivers by the state.

I have to renew my driver’s license this spring, as well as get the national ID card. This will be a major PITA if I’m required to prove I can still drive…especially since driving this goddamn car is like trying to drive a flying saucer.

Yesterday I did chat with Wonder-Mechanic Chuck and his guys about the idea of trading the Starship Enterprise in on a Subaru. They thought that was a less than perfect scheme. Chuck says all newer cars are now pretty much the same: brain-banging frustrating and complicated to learn.

Soooo….oh-kayyy…. If the problem is that you need to learn how to drive all over again, wouldn’t the logical solution be simply to do what you did in high school: take a driving course?

Duh!

Here’s an outfit that employs retired law enforcement officers. By golly! What could be more perfect?

So I emailed them and hope to hear from them on Monday.  While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of forking over $250 to learn how to drive all over again, as a practical matter I can afford it…and it would be worth it if I could get an experienced driving instructor to help me get acclimated with the Brave New World of driving technology.

Meanwhile, slo-o-o-o-w-l-y ad not very surely I’m getting the elaborate new landline phone to work.

Yesterday morning I realized that what I need to do is ONE. THING. AT. A. TIME. That is, don’t try to set it up with all its glorious functions in one swell foop. Instead, engage only one function at a time.

So: yesterday I plugged it in. I did NOT plug in the beloved CPR Call Blocker. Just plugged the damn phone and its handsets into the phone line and the electric line.

This alone took some doing. But without trying to connect the Call Blocker device, the system works fine. I think. When I call the land line number on my cell phone, it does ring through. And I’ve been able to talk with SDXB and with WonderAccountant…so apparently the basic function now works.

Today I succeeded in figuring out how to program often-called numbers into the “phone book” function. PITA of the first water, but it does seem to work. I think.

In addition, it appears that the Panasonic’s built-in call blocker also works, in much the same way. But how it’s doing that without my having programmed it escapes me. I’ve only received one nuisance call in the past two days; normally upwards of a dozen come in. That may just be coincidence…though I haven’t had a day without an unending series of pest calls in many, many months. Years, actually.

If it develops that this is just a fluke, then on Monday I’ll call the CPR folks — they have killer customer service!! — and ask how to get the thing attached to the CPR device without disabling the phone itself.

So of those two frustrations — car and phone — I feel a little better about one of them. As for the car, we shall see whether this driving school outfit will let me use their three-hour training class as a device to learn how to drive all over again. They say they have a special class for “seniors,” which leads me to suspect this will not be the first time they’ve encountered my little learning challenge.

January 9, 2020
by funny
2 Comments

“New” Car…Again???

How can I count the ways I hate the Toyota Venza?

Well…I can’t. Infinity is by definition uncountable.

The car drives OK, so I can’t complain too much about that. Fuel economy is middling, but since I don’t have to go to work every day and rarely take off cross-country, that doesn’t matter. The interior is good enough for government work…just.

The richest vein for my complaints lies in the complicated, inscrutable, unintuitive control system. The Star Trekkie audio/whatevethehellitis system is so cryptic and so frustrating and so annoying…I can hardly describe it. Look: what I want from a radio is A RADIO. I do not want to talk on the phone through the radio. I do not need to be told which way to turn at the next intersection. I do not want any other services than a radio. I just want to hear my cowboy music, dammit! Or the NPR News. The Venza, however, has other ideas: Dare to get in the car with a cell phone and it tries to grab onto the Bluetooth and turn itself into a cell and you cannot get rid of it to get your radio back.

The simplest damn things are so baroquely involved as to be nigh unto impossible. Take the headlights, for example. I’ve had this effing car since 2016 and still cannot figure out how to turn on the effing headlights.

The user manual (THREE  VOLUMES WORTH, 232 pages of which are devoted to the audio system alone) is as difficult to use as the hardware and software. As it develops, there are several headlight settings:

♦ high
♦ low
♦ foglights

(You’d expect these three, right?)

♦ regular brightness with a “high” setting that automatically comes on when you’re on a dark street
♦ setting that automatically turns the lights off a few minutes after you park and turn off the ignition

Except…it’s virtually impossible to figure out what positions on the control lever correspond to these settings. Put it on what you think is normal, and you have people flipping their brights at you. Turn it down, and you can barely see the road. If this apparently actual “normal” setting brightens up on a dark road, you sure couldn’t prove it by me.

Last night when I showed up at the church for choir practice, I drove in with what I thought was the normal setting that would turn the lights off after the car was parked. Two and a half hours later, I come out and find the damn thing sitting there with the foglights on. The headlights auto-turned off, but the foglights never got the message.

Fortunately, the car started up — to my surprise. Two hours with lights burning should have run the battery down.

It took some doing to figure out how to to turn off the accursed foglights. But when I got home, I managed to shut off the damn lights. Heaven only knows whether all the lights went off. Yesterday morning I got in the car and found the interior lights, which I had not turned on, were merrily burning away.

Next, there’s the vastness of the blind spots.

Seriously. I exaggerate not. This thing has blind spots that are SO HUGE an SUV can be sitting on your rear fender — either one, left or right — and no matter how you set the mirrors, you cannot see it.

Here on the homicidal streets of Phoenix, drivers make a game of coming up on your flank and parking there. Especially at 70 mph on the freeway. So this little flaw creates exceptionally dangerous conditions. Yeah, I do know about those little round stick-on mirrors. Sorry, but I hate them.

And fender? Fender? FENDER? You jest, right? This car’s alleged fenders are made of plastic. Look crooked at the damn thing and it cracks. Seriously: the other day I bumped into a barrier at something less than .5 mph (slower than I normally walk) and the result was a crack in the fine plastic cladding.

What. a. piece. of. junk.

Anddddd…. then we have the interior layout.

This little tank is supposed to be a sort of mini-SUV. It has a large rear compartment,  but only two rows of seats: two captain’s chairs in front and a bench seat behind them.

The  bench seat folds down, supposedly giving you lots of space in back to carry cargo. Or your dog.

Heh…  Well. No. That’s another cruel joke.

The seatbacks don’t fold down close enough to contact the backs of the front seats. So when they’re folded down, you get this empty well, into which the dog will tumble the instant you hit the brakes hard (presumably breaking her neck or, at best, a leg). There is NO way to eliminate this hole. The only way I can safely carry Ruby (short of stashing her in a carrier) is to pack the space behind the front seats with old bed pillows.

Ain’t that classy?

Then we have the amazingly inferior air conditioning system.

The Sienna, which was not significantly longer than this tank, had air-conditioning vents along the top, above the side windows. Thus the AC cooled back passengers efficiently.

The annoying Venza has ONE (1) TINY VENT at floor level, situated between the two front bucket seats. That’s it. This means that on a 110-degree day, whoever has the misfortune to sit in back gets effectively zero air conditioning.

It is as if Toyota’s designers failed to learn, in grade-school science class, that cold air drops and hot air rises.

So I decided maybe I should look around at other vehicles. Maybe someone makes a car that doesn’t require a degree in computer engineering to operate?

Well. Not so much.

When you google terms like “simple controls,” “cars for seniors,” “visibility,” and whatever synonyms you can dream up, you stumble upon 18 vehicles that might fill the bill: several of those are sedans, though, and I want an SUV-like or minivan-like contraption.

It appears that Subaru is now highly favored among the car reviewing set. I marked Toyota AVOID because, for sure, I will never buy another Toyota vehicle after my experience at Bell Road Toyota. What a bunch! The Kia Rio, the Ford F150 pickup, and the Jeep Wrangler Sport (in earlier models) come out on top, but the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outlook appear to have the best visibility as well as acceptably uncomplicated controls. Supposedly.

Sooo… I guess if I’m going to go car shopping, the first stop will be a Subaru dealership. Now to recruit a cop and a lawyer to go with me….

January 8, 2020
by funny
1 Comment

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…are we?

No. Not in Kansas. We now live on Dystopia 3, a world whirling around some iridescent monstrosity of a distant star. Two sure signs:

1. The neighbor’s new cat…  Other Daughter, the airheaded and evidently mentally ill creature who had the misfortune to be born to the Perp, is a bit of a Cat Lady. Given half a chance, she’d collect enough to fill the San Diego Zoo. Apparently her father, who owns the house down the street where she lives, keeps a rein on that. But still. She gets cats. And she lets them roam loose to depredate all over the ‘Hood.

Her latest treasure is a huge black thing that’s at least as large as Ruby, probably larger. Ruby weighs 21 pounds.

This cat has discovered the flock of doves I like to feed in the mornings, and it has NO PROBLEM climbing over the cat barrier I’ve strapped to the cinderblocks to keep Other Daughter’s little pets out. This morning it killed two of them.

Ruby spotted the f&cker and went after it, but it just ghosted away over the wall.

So now I’ve got to find a way to deal with this stupid woman’s pet predator.

I think there are two possibilities.

One is to quietly sprinkle dog kibble around the alley. This will feed the feline predator, but it also will attract coyotes. The coyotes will take care of MegaCat in due course.

Unfortunately, because the two old horse properties where the coyotes used to den have been sold and bulldozed for McMansions, the coyotes have moved on. I haven’t seen one in quite awhile. So frankly, I’m afraid the dog food trick won’t do much other than make the cat fatter.

The other possibility is to trap the damn cat.

Because he Humane Society and the pound do not want any MORE cats, to discourage people from turning in stray cats, they now charge a stiff tariff for the privilege. So your choices are to kill the cat or to take it a very long way from your place and let it go. I’m thinking the latter is about to be this beast’s fate. If I drive it to Scottsdale and let it go in the flood control wash, it’ll have a lovely place to live with lots of hideaways to get out of the rain, and the place is overrun with gophers and mice and roof rats out there. Cat will be a happy cat. And a gone cat, from our point of view.

Of course, the problem with Cat Ladies is that as soon as you get rid on one of their little companions, they bring in two more.

Most cats are discouraged by the cat barrier, though. This one is not, but maybe her next prize will be.

Then we have…

2. The brain-banging new phone… Today I worked up my nerve to try to install the new Panasonic phones. Alas, “try” is the operative word.

The goddamn thing is so complicated that its little instruction booklet is A HUNDRED AND TEN PAGES LONG!!!!! And it appears to have been written in Middle Martian, replete with weird little symbols that signify something, if only you could figure out what the hell the “something” is.

I struggled and wrestled and wrestled and struggled and could not get that phone installed so it works. To say nothing of installed in line with the CPR 5000 Call Blocker, a device I have no intention of doing without.

So now the decrepit Uniden is plugged back in. And I have no idea what I’m going to do. I simply have no way of figuring out how to get this thing to work.

My son just called and said he’ll come over — not tonight, obviously, but in the near future — and try to set it up. I’ve also called the pool guy, who said he’d put one in like it just a few days ago…but he has the flu and certainly is in no shape to run back out after a full day of work and fart with an electronic Rubik’s cube.

If I can’t get this thing installed…well… I guess I just won’t have a phone.

I mean, a real phone. I’ll have a couple of little flip phones to use for emergencies, but my business & home phone will just…go away.

Here we are in the first third of the 21st century, and we can’t even have a simple desk phone. And seriously: in 2020 I may find myself without a home phone.

Can I say how much I hate that? Why are we putting up with this sh!t?