Funny about Money

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

June 18, 2018
by funny

What Possesses People?

What possesses them, indeed? Poltergeists, maybe. Wisps of madness?

The people in question today: the previous owners of the Funny Farm, lovingly known as Satan and Proserpine. These two were inveterate DIYers. Satan, as far as I could tell, sweltered his way through one of the most boring day jobs known to personkind. So he filled his off-hours with creative renovation projects.

Some of the things, he did very well, indeed. He did a great job on the tilework that covers about half the house’s floors, and my tile guy said he did a fine job installing travertine on the shower walls. But…

But…what you wonder about is their taste in materials.

That travertine, for example, has to be stripped and resealed every six months. Hence: I never use the shower, because there ain’t a chance I’m a-gonna strip three walls full of stonework and reseal it in a tiny closet of a bathroom that has no ventilation to speak of. Except out its door and into the bedroom… 🙄

Then there’s the kitchen cabinetry. It’s all custom-ordered from Home Depot. They bought top of the line boxes: maple. Practically indestructible. The stainless steel of wood, as it were.

But they faced it with…hang onto your hats…PINE.



Used every day.


Pine has got to be the softest wood known to personkind, at least this side of balsa. Look funny at it, and it dents.

All around the pull for the drawer holding the tableware, it’s dented up…from my fingernails touching it! You understand: I do not wear acrylic nails, and my nails are about as sturdy as paper. Usually they’re broken off flush with the pads of my fingers, they’re that soft and weak. But if a nail taps that pine facing as I reach for the drawer pull, it’ll dent the damn wood.

And put a 90-pound dog in there, one who knows the doggy treats are on the kitchen counter and so is that steak you left out while you were firing up the barbecue? Yeah…

Great long doggy gouges. Whenever Charley tries to investigate the riches atop the counter, he scratches up the woodwork. Big time.

Run the vacuum cleaner along the baseboard, parallel to the cabinets? Leave long scratches and gouges all along the bottom of the cabinet doors.

Pine??? What on earth could they have been thinking?

Had friends over for dinner last night and realized the cabinets were getting kind of embarrassing. So this morning began the job of rubbing them all down with English Oil. This will take two or three days, because it’s a job I hate. And because I hate it, I haven’t done it in quite a long time. (Read: years) And because I haven’t done it in such a long while, the cabinetry needs to be cleaned with Murphy’s oil soap: blots of grime scrubbed off around the drawer and cabinet pulls, layers of greasy dust scrubbed off the tops of the cabinet doors and the microwave…and on and on.

And that would be why I hate the job.

The other reason, I suppose, is that every time I have to take it on, I’m mystified by the stupidity of facing high-use cabinetry with a soft wood that dents at the touch of a fingernail.

It’s annoying. Very annoying.

And really, if I had a job and an income, it would be an expensive annoyance. Because if I could afford it, I’d have those cabinets refaced.

Putting something on there that would hold up better would cost an arm and a leg. Maple would look nice, though it might be a little lighter than I’d like. It’s very tough, anyway. Red oak would probably look pretty good in there, and it’s said to be fairly durable…and passé. Very passé.

Hilariously, when I was looking at the house to buy it, Proserpine remarked (proudly!) that they had designed their “gourmet” kitchen for “people who love to cook”!!

Yeah. If by “cooking” you mean “heating stuff in a microwave.” 😀

They removed the ceiling-hung cabinets the builder had installed over the sink and counter dividing the kitchen from the family room. Aesthetically, this was a good move: it opens up the space and allows people in the kitchen to see and interact with people in the family room. In theory, you could put an idiot box in the family room and then whoever was working in the kitchen could watch TV while she was cooking and cleaning up.

Not that there’s much cleaning up after a microwave dinner. But whatEVER.

Brains-wise, though, this was not such a great strategy: it removed half the kitchen’s over-the-counter cabinetry. Then they replaced the cabinets that flank the stove with shallow boxes that, despite their pretty glass-fronted doors, will not hold a standard dinner plate!!!!!

So this means you have no place to put your dishes except in the deep drawers intended for pots and pans.

Know how much a set of Heath stoneware weighs?

Yeah. Back in the 1970s, we had real stuff, with real heft. I still have it, and I still use it. Every day.

So far, the dinnerware drawer has not given way under the weight of eight heavy stoneware plates, eight salad plates, eight bread-&-butter plates, eight soup bowls, and eight smaller bowls. But IMHO, that is some kind of miracle.

It’s not exactly a nuisance. But it’s weird.

Then those fine glass-fronted upper cabinets…they don’t hold an ordinary wine glass.

No. Stemware is too tall to fit in the shelves.

If you move a shelf, then you make the space for the shelf above your wine glasses too narrow to hold much more than a yellow pad or two. Nice.

Sure can’t afford to replace all the kitchen cabinetry. But maybe someday I can have it refaced. Or not. The doors and drawers that got oiled this morning look pretty nice. If I would just get off my duff and polish the woodwork about once a month, they’d be fine.

I guess…

June 16, 2018
by funny


Or is that grey? Oh, well: Yank or Brit, it’s unmistakably a gray, muggy day. The fringe of the supposed hurricane drifted in during the night. Though the air was so thick water seemed to be condensing out like steam, the dogs and I took off for the 5:00 a.m. one-miler, human hoping to get back before real rain began to fall.

And this is where it gets Arizona crazy…

So we’re trotting along and there’s the neighbor wife, ambling around the front yard looking puzzled.

“I can’t figure out where this water is coming from!” says she, pointing to a damp spot on the concrete…directly under the eaves.

This is pleasing, because it means someone else woke up at 4:30 or 5 feeling dazed, muzzy, and befogged. 🙂

After a second she looks up and says, “Oh! The roof?”

I say, “It’s falling from the eaves.”

She says, “Omigod! It’s rain!

And we both realize it’s been so long since we’ve seen actual rain we can barely recognize it!


Whatever the stuff is, I do wish it wouldn’t pester us today. I’ve got to drive from effing pillar to effing post this morning. And if you think homeowners here are puzzled by water falling out of the sky, wait’ll you see what an Arizona driver does in the rain!

It is going to be horrible.

So at 9 a.m. it’s off to the library to pick up a book that came in from Interlibrary Loan. Then down to AJ’s to pick up not one but two types of dog food, the beasts having consumed the kibble I use as doggy treats and to supplement the home-made stuff. The makings for real food of the doggy variety are only to be had at Costco, and the present budgetary constraints mean I’m out of Costco until the first of the month. Later in the day, it’s pick up friends and meet their kids at their fave restaurant for pre-Father’s Day. One of said kids is Connie the Long-Haul Truck Driver, who hits town today (assuming the weather doesn’t hold her up) and then will have to turn around and head back to some garden spot in North Dakota. Or some such.

What I really want to do with today is work on the Overprescription book. Yesterday I got about 3/4 of the way through chapter 1 — maybe more, actually: just a few more topics to address, just a ton more research sources to dig up. If I would sit still and work on the thing, I could get this chapter done today and chapter 2 done by the end of next week. The Introduction is now done and a credible TofC in place.

The copy is not that difficult to write, because the skeleton of each chapter — well, of most of them — is already sketched out in a series of blog posts. True, a blog post a book chapter does not make. But it makes a damn good running head start.

Once chapter 2 is built, I’ll be ready to send out the proposal. Well, o’course I’ll have to write the cover letter/proposal, but that should be pretty easy. I can do that while Tina is working on the intro and sample chapters to go in the package.

Tina, bidness partner at The Copyeditor’s Desk, has agreed to regularize the citations, a chore I happen to hate. She happens to be in China just now. So that gives me a week or 10 days to get all three sample parts of the book — Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2 — in a clean enough draft for her to attack the documentation. Then go over it again with a finer comb, and it’s off to the first publisher!

Yes. Mercifully, you still don’t really need an agent to peddle a book to an academic press. It helps, but unlike the commercial publishing landscape, it’s not de rigueur. So…what you do is compile a list of the presses you imagine will be interested in your topic. At the head of my list is a Canadian university press, because Canada is a great deal more aware of the overmedication issue than the US. Then for each press you find the acquisitions editor for books in your specific subject area; get the person’s name and address. Rack up about a dozen of these, and start sending out your package.

If you have good manners, you send it to just one editor at a time.

However… a) no one has ever accused me of having good manners (not since about the second grade, anyway); and b) I do not have enough years left in my life to wait for …one…editor…at…a…time… to get around to rejecting me.

In the past, I’ve sent out a half-dozen at once. That was in the Day of the Snail, mail-wise. When a rejection would come in, I’d just take the package out of the SASE and drop it into a new envelope for the next editor on the list, which would have no fewer than a dozen candidates. So at any given time, at least six proposals would be in circulation.

In the past, too, the first, second, or third editor would bite. Others wouldn’t even respond, or would send an offer a day late and many dollars short. So it wasn’t really that a half-dozen offers were gonna come in from the first mailing.

We shall see how this works in the Age of E-mail. I surely do hope it goes faster…but don’t hold out much hope.

I probably will shop the proposal around to about a dozen houses. If no one picks it up, I’ll self-publish the thing. But really…the subject is too important for the Trash Heap That Is Amazon. It really needs to go out through a real publisher with a real marketing operation and enough clout to get real reviewers to look at it.

But here in the Brave New World, a lot of things need to happen, don’t they? 😉

June 15, 2018
by funny

How to Cause Angels to Sing

So here’s what: I need to know if the PDFs at this site — The Complete Writer — actually work from a website visitor’s perspective.

Does the page explain adequately what is going on and how to access the three PDFs posted so far?

Do they download without a problem?

Once they open, do they seem intelligible?

What have I forgotten, screwed up, confused, or otherwise rendered colorful and mysterious?

Got any suggestions? observations? complaints? whatever?

Lemme know, through comments either here or at the P&S blog post on the events of the day. And plug the darned thing on all your social media sites.

June 15, 2018
by funny


Finally figured out what went wrong with the scheme to upload a chapter at a time of The Complete Writer to the P&S Press blog and then consolidate them into a whole book in its own page at the P&S site: information overload.


Thanks to Grayson Bell, proprietor of iMark Interactive and behind-the-scenes wizard for the FaM digital empire, I learned that there’s a limit to how much data WordPress will tolerate in any given file. And a book-length work far exceeds that limit. Just now the Complete Writer‘s web page is maxing out WordPress with a mere 33,000 words. Total word count for TCW is 77,862…which actually is rather short for a book.

So the plan is to take down the WP content on that page and replace it with PDFs.

This book comprises several sections. So the idea would be to publish each chapter, as usual, in a Friday blog entry, and then when all the chapters in a given section have gone online in the blog, post a PDF holding those chapters. If all a person wanted to know about was writing nonfiction, then, they could simply download that section. But if you want the whole book, you can email me through the contact page and I’ll send you a PDF of the entire magnum opus. (Who would want to miss a single Golden Word?????)

So that will be this morning’s Project of the Day.

Presumably I’ll have to do the same with Ella’s Story and If You’d Asked…  But not today.


June 14, 2018
by funny

But it’s a…soggy heat…

Whatever it is out there beyond the Air-Conditioned Bubble, it ain’t a dry heat! Indeed, one could call it, well…soggy.

Monsoon weather is drifting in, gently shoved along by the cutesily named Hurricane Bud. That means enhanced humidity, which means enhanced heat. It’s only 109 on the back porch just now — around 3 p.m. — but if you’d asked me to estimate, I’d guess about 112, maybe even 113. The creeping moisture in the air makes the ambience feel a fair amount warmer than it is.

The past couple of days have been hot and muggy. It’s the kind of weather that makes you feel out of sorts, even when you’re inside the expensively air-cooled house. Crabby, even.

Tomorrow there’s a scant chance of rain — maybe as much as 15%. But on Saturday chances jump to 79%. So with any luck we’ll get some serious rain on that day. Hope springing eternal in the desert rat’s heart, preparations have already been made. The back porch furniture, now pretty much unprotected in the absence of the fiberclass shade-structure cover, is covered in plastic bags and camo drop cloth, the latter tied to the legs of the table so it can’t fly away. The pool has been zapped with chlorine (the mustard algae is still laughing). The garbage has all been hauled, so that doesn’t have to be done through wind, flying dust, rocketing tree limbs, or ankle-deep puddles.

Our so-called “monsoons” blow in from the Sea of Cortes at this time of year. The talking weather-heads are predicting it will be the “earliest start of the monsoons” on record. Let’s hope that’s so, and not that it’s yet another fluke. Or another false alarm. The Sonoran Desert desperately needs rain: the drought has gone on for over a decade. This is probably permanent, but since we don’t believe in climate change or science or any other such nonsense, we proceed with the building of one of the largest cities in the country, as though all were well with the world. Our predecessors in this land, when faced with a similar drought, had the good sense to migrate away from it. We just keep on swarming in and laying asphalt. 😀

Oh well.

Morning — early morning — was as usual lovely, if a bit stuffy. By 7 a.m. the dogs were walked (one mi.); a stash of stolen tools discovered along the way, reconstituted in its toolbox (undoubtedly lifted out of someone’s pickup or carport), and placed by a neighbor’s driveway where it will be seen; the dogs fed; the pool cleaned; the hair washed; the plants watered; the garbage gathered and dumped; the outdoor furniture battened down; human fed; dishes washed; towels washed; computer crashed; computer recovered…

So it goes…

Rain, rain come again…


June 14, 2018
by funny

Budgeting: Back to the Envelope Method

And, for a change: back to Funny about Money’s long-defunct theme: personal finance. You’ll recall, those of you who are Dave Ramsey fans, that one strategy for keeping yourself on budget is called the “envelope method.” In that scheme, you cash out a month’s worth of dollars and fill a separate envelope with the amount designated for each budget item. So, $200 for groceries in one envelope; $100 for gasoline in another, $30 for dog food…and so on, ad ditzy nauseam.

Well, some of us have neither the patience for that kind of ditz nor the stomach for putting an entire month’s worth of funding at risk of being heisted by some enterprising burglar or dropped unnoticed on the pavement. I use credit cards and electronic payment to minimize loss from theft and incompetence.

Conveniently, though, if you happen to bank at a credit union, you have an easy route to create electronic “envelopes.” My CU allows members to add any number of savings accounts. So right now, for example, I have one to collect the constant dustfall of tiny checks from Medicare and the Medigap insuror — whenever a couple hundred bucks accrues, I fork it over to the Mayo. And one for emergency savings. And one to hold enough to cover income tax, accounting bills, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, Medigap insurance, and car insurance, all set aside at the beginning of my personal “fiscal” year, when I have to take an RMD from my 401(k).

This allows you to earmark and set aside specific amounts for specific purposes, placing them where they’re unlikely to get diddled away in day-to-day spending.

Now we have this question: in the absence of a desirable Visa credit card, how — really — am I going to continue to shop at Costco? I haven’t cut up the credit card or closed the account — it’s never a good idea to close a credit account in good standing — but because I don’t do business with outfits that treat me like sh!t, I will never use the card again.

I do have a debit card. But for a variety of reasons, I prefer not to use it. For one thing, there’s not a chance on God’s Green Earth I’m gonna put the thing in a gas station pump — certainly not at the Costco where I shop, which is flanked to the south and the west by dangerous slums and a park that has been taken over by bums. But I do prefer to buy Costco gas, because it’s the cheapest deal in the city. And there’s always an attendant — invariably a large, imposing male — standing around that Costco gas station, so I don’t feel so much at risk as I do at the rip-off QTs within reasonable driving distance of the ‘hood.

So. Here’s my plan:

Create a new savings account to hold money budgeted to spend at Costco. That would be an entire year’s worth of money budgeted for Costco ventures: shopping and gasoline, combined. So let’s say on average I spend, maybe…what? $340 on food, clothing, household goods, dog treats, personal products, impulse buys, and gasoline. When the 2019 RMD comes in — which will be about in September — I set aside $4,080 (= $340 x 12 months) in this account.

Then I trot in to Costco and buy a cash card for the amount I imagine I’ll spend at Costco, both inside the store and at the pumps, over a month. That would be around $340. That is what I carry to the store to make purchases. Each month I pay for it out of the Costco Envelope savings account.

I spend no more than that in any given month. Run out of money: quit shopping at Costco. How hard is that?

If money is left over at the end of the month, the next month’s cash card is loaded with accordingly fewer dollars. So, say, in March I spend $250, leaving $90 unspent; the April card has $340 − $90 on it: $250. Thus whenever I spend less than $340 over a month, the overage stays in the bank account.

So at any given time, the Costco cash card never has more than a month’s budget on it. If I don’t spend the entire budgeted amount, then whatever is not diddled away stays in that savings account.

I figure at the end of the year, anything that’s left can be transferred to the Emergency Savings account, and the Costco Budget account can start over from zero at the start of the new “fiscal year.”

When you know there’s an upper limit on what you can spend, you find yourself feeling a lot more cautious about your spending.

Therein lies the threat of Costco, the Mother of All Impulse Buy Hells. When the budget is open-ended — in your mind you think you have plenty to live on (which you do, if you don’t run amok) — you go “oh, it’s only $20…no problem, I can afford that.” And you could, if you just didn’t keep doing it over and over…

But if you’re thinking, “Helles Belles, I’ve only got x number of dollars to spend today,” then you realize the $20 doo-dad is not a life-or-death purchase. The beauty of the Envelope Method is that it sets a limit on what you’re willing to diddle away.

So, what started out as an annoyance — yet another stupid faceless bureaucratic hassle — may work out to my advantage. Not so much to Costco’s advantage, but certainly to mine: by getting the Costco spending under control, this new, enforced budgeting strategy will let me stay within the annual RMD for another year or two, despite soaring health insurance and property tax rates.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I may have to think more seriously about moving out of the country, to some venue where I can stay in the middle class on the retirement income. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…