Funny about Money

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

January 19, 2016
by funny

Loafing at the Publishing House…

DCP_1186So I’ve gotten three, count’em (3) publishing enterprise-related activities done today. And that’s about it. Can’t quite say I’ve been totally loafing. But it’s close.

This morning I typed up and emitted our newsletter to those hardy souls who kindly subscribe. (You know who you are! ) Sounds simple, looks simple enough. Doesn’t it?


DCP_1358It consumed the entire morning, from about 8:30 to almost 1:00 p.m. Let the dogs out after they rousted me at 7:00; turned on the heat, fed the dogs, and then climbed back into the sack with the laptop to wait until the chill was off the refrigerated air.

Read the news on the Internet. Played a computer game. Filled in a crossword puzzle. Then figured I’d just flow the copy I’d drafted into MailChimp, tidy it up, add a picture or two, and ship it off.


DCP_1497Should’ve known better. Once sucked in, I was like a fly in a vacuum cleaner: there was no escape.

Item: Do not, ever, paste copy from Wyrd directly into MailChimp. At the very  least save your file as an HTML file. But don’t. Best choice: Paste it into a WordPress post, edit it there, and then copy and paste from WordPress into MailChimp. This will cause relatively little conversion wackiness.

DCP_2079Failing that, paste it into a plain text editor. Do the best you can to edit in that, then paste into your MailChimp page and edit copy and add your images there.

After merging content from two draft sources, pasting the resultant Wyrd copy into MailChimp, and fiddling around ad nauseam to make the result vaguely coherent, I tried to format heads, subheads and body copy and add an image or two. Holeee crap! What a nightmare.

Hours of fighting with MailChimp later, I finally gave up and sent it out. And what did I see in the version MC kindly sent to me?

DCP_2486Let me assure you, it looked nothing like what MC was showing me at its site. Crazy type fonts in the subheads — some look sort of like Copperplate Bold (huh?????), some like Tahoma. The bulleted lists? The bullet points appear in the middle of the second character in the first line of each list item! Like that character overwrote the bullet point. Wha-a-a-a-a?

I had set the whole damn thing, blanket-style, in Times New Roman 12 points! Each subhead was formatted using Mailchimp’s “Styles” function. The bulleted lists were set using “Styles,” too.

DCP_1554If I tried to pull up extra space between a level 2 head and the following paragraph, sometimes the paragraph would morph into 18 point boldface. Sometimes it would not. Sometimes the graf would appear flush left, no first-line indent; sometimes it would appear indented. No rhyme nor reason for these quirks was evident. It was all catch as catch can, trial and error.

So I spent the larger part of the morning dorking with that, to not very good avail.  Would’ve been a lot better off to have printed out my draft from Wyrd, dropped the print-out next to the computer, and transcribed the entire thing character by character into MailChimp. Would have saved a lot of time by doing that.

DCP_1558Oh well.

Then it was off to the church to drop off a couple of small donations.

From there: a straight shot into the scariest part of South Phoenix, where the printer has his plant.

Somewhere near there, according to a couple of hand-lettered signs, are a couple of living spaces. One is described as barato; the other as barrado. Spelling variation?

DCP_1260Hm. Barato means “cheap.” Or it can mean “trashy.” What is this person trying to say to us?

Barrado means “barred.” Now that would be a selling point. But corduroy can be described as barrado; so can striped fabric. Maybe the joint has a fancy paint job.

And if you happen to be in Chile, barata, which around here means “sale” (as in “at the sale”: en la barata), can also mean cockroach. Personally, I rather prefer la cucaracha. Much jazzier. I’ll bet the person trying to unload the real estate has the same thought. 😉

Picked up the page proofs, which show that on the new equipment the cookbook’s cover will have to be tweaked. That’s frustrating: I’d expected to walk in, say “uh huh, fine,” and order ten copies.

DCP_1556So….if you’re waiting for your copy of the cookbook, it’ll be a few more days. {grump!}

Back at the Funny Farm, I could not face another session of fiddling with the computer. So decided to do some yard chores that have been neglected since before the start of the first Adventure in Medical Science — damn near two years ago. Though the  yard is fundamentally minimalist, the plants have been suffering.

DCP_1765Occasionally I look at old iPhoto images and see the spectacular flowers I used to grow. No more of those around here! Usually at this time year and also as the weather cools in the fall, one has an attack of spring fever and wishes to do nothing other than garden. Haven’t gotten into that in…well, way too long.

Pruned three roses, two of them climbers.

The recent long, soaking rains have revived many of the plants, among them the roses. I’d thought the beloved climbing roses were dying of old age. But apparently that’s not the issue. Apparently the issue is, between the gawdawful heat and the drought they haven’t been getting enough water.

DCP_1720Lo these many years ago, when my parents dragged me here to Arizona, the climate was altogether different. Every winter, we had what the Indians used to call “female rains”: days of slow, soft, soaking rain that did not run off, but rather soaked into the ground, deep-watered everything, and eventually made its way to the water table. Each summer we had what silly Europeans call “monsoon” rains: crazy hard showers pouring out of thunderheads, much of whose water rolled off the hard desert floor, made its way to the nearest riverbed, and eventually ended up in the Sea of Cortez.

P1000793The summer rains would roll through late in the afternoon, around  4 or 5 p.m., and they could easily drop the ambient temperature by 20 degrees. So a hundred-degree afternoon would soften to an 80-degree evening. A high of 110 was unusual, 112 was strange, and no one ever heard of a 118-degree day.

Good times.

DCP_1991Now the weather here is not conducive to plant life. Nor, we might add, to human life. The water table has dropped to Hades’ front door, and we almost never see a hard rain in the Valley unless it comes out of something that looks alarmingly like a tornado cloud.

But of course, there’s no such thing as climate change. Our legislators assure us that’s true. 😉

P1000758After two or three years of neglect, the “perfume delight” rose that used to be so beautiful was now scrawny, rangy, and as big as even a Mr. Lincoln can get. And a Mr. Lincoln is a big hybrid tea rose.

Only two more roses to prune, and one of them is in a pot located in a hot place with a lot of reflected glare, so shouldn’t be trimmed back very much. Then I need to cut the dead stuff off the blue plumbago and prune back the orange thing that wants to take over the galaxy.

P1000266And I really should soak the flowerbed by the pool, dig out every piece of plant life in there, and replace it with something beautiful. But I’m not going to. Right now there’s a mat of Mexican primrose in there, interlaced with bermuda-grass tentacles. The heck with that. With any luck, the Mexican stuff will suffocate the crabgrass (good luck with that). If it doesn’t…well…no one sees it, anyway.

So it goes.

January 17, 2016
by funny

Obnoxious Facebook…

In my old age, the glories of a lot of things the Moderns love do escape me. Facebook? Biggest corporate escape artist in town. Between its habitual invasion of privacy and its faceless corporate obstinacy, I find Facebook utterly obnoxious. I’ve never been able to figure out its appeal, but the more I’m forced to know about it, the less I grasp people’s fascination with it.

Facebook appears to have stopped reposting from Funny about Money. At least, it has if you believe JetPack, whose corporate credibility strikes one as a lot more reliable than Facebook’s.

Because  I have no patience with Facebook and do not wish to consume the few hours remaining to me on this earth with learning how to operate a system whose point goes over my head, I hired an ad manager to run a Facebooks Ads campaign to publicize Fire-Rider and the diet/cookbook. She asked for my log-in details so she could set up an ad account for  me.

Turns out Facebook, like Big Brother, is always watching you. Its machinery noted that someone was logging in from a different ISP than my Macbook and so they canceled the ad account, took down the ad campaign to which she had devoted a number of hours, and forced me to dream up a new password. When I asked for my money back (turns out the business of spying on your ISP is a known issue with FB — apparently no normal person can be expected to log in to FB from more than one computer), she came up with a workaround. It remains to be seen how long Big Brother is going to let that stay in place.

Understand: the feed from Funny was set up years ago by a long-since retired WordPress guru. She’s not even in the blogging business anymore. I wouldn’t have known how to set up a blog feed into Facebook, nor would I have been inclined to do so without said guru’s prompting — FB doesn’t interest me and I wouldn’t have signed up at all except for the choir’s insistence that everyone must go online.

JetPack makes it easy to feed blog posts to WordPress — thereby increasing everyone’s potential for pointless clutter by vast orders of magnitude. So with the latest update, it asked me to “refresh” FaM’s connection to FB. Obediently, the little sheeple did so.

It — JetPack — seems to have had no problem connecting Writers Plain & Simple to my Facebook feed, but it no longer can get Funny online, apparently because FaM is posted with the old password. I have no idea how to fix this, and I’m pissed.

Not that the world rotates around FaM. But since I’ve drifted away from PF blogging per se, FaM has become my personal blog. The old connection with FB, then, made it easy to update friends about whatever is, famously, “on my mind” (grrrrr! patronizing bastards) without having to log in and upload links or post bleats.

Among the many things I dislike about Facebook is the lack of control you have over what goes up on the thing. Facebook is like the Borg: We will assimilate you. It’s spying on you everywhere you go, and it seems to pick up messages for group B that you really would not like to share with group A among your friends, family and associates.

Why do Facebook’s arrogant developers fail to grasp the possibility that you might not want your church group to know about your spicy publishing venture? I do not publish porn because I so love it. I publish porn because I can’t make a living at teaching, a trade that now pays less than minimum wage. It’s not something I want anyone but porn readers to know about.

Facebook makes it difficult — IMHO probably impossible — to separate out groups of acquaintances and friends. It mandates against setting up more than one “account,” and the thing is set up to confound efforts to send out messages to targeted groups and still actually reach those groups. In theory it’s possible to do so, but who trusts Facebook? The risk that a message for Audience A will end up being shoved in the faces of Audience B is definitely there. And IMHO, any such risk is too much risk.

Brave new world, isn’t it… So we think.

January 15, 2016
by funny

Spinning Wheels in the Publishing Business

So the page proofs for the cookbook shipped from the new PoD vendor. When I was down at the plant the other day, they advised me to  enter their address as the shipping address in the order form, and then I could just run down there and pick them up, free of shipping charges.

Heeee! The message didn’t reach the mail room. Someone actually made out a mailing label and put it in the mail! Hilarious!

Post office said it was supposed to be delivered today. The front office guys were abhorred. They offered to print a new one. I said the world’s gears were not grinding to a halt and not to worry about it.

That will add another couple of days to the cookbook production. Those of you who asked for copies: hang in there! The thing is on its way.

fire book 2aiMeanwhile, on Wednesday I was supposed to have posted …. uhm… “published” the third and final collection of Fire-Rider stories — Books XIII through XVIII — to Amazon in Kindle format. For various reasons, that didn’t get done. Now it’s finally winging its way toward my sidekick, who has a PC on which to update the table of contents. Cutely, Kindle cannot read a TofC that has been compiled in or updated in any Mac program.

The new marketing agent had the privilege of tearing her hair (instead of me having to do it!) until she got all a set of ads posted on Facebook, plugging these fine pieces of literature.

As it develops — get this! — Facebook has the most incredibly stupid rule to the effect that an image for a Facebook Ad may not have more than 20% of its area devoted to type. See that boxed set image there? Just the byline and the title cover  24% of the image. Yes. What it means is, in effect, you can’t advertise a book on Facebook!

She finally managed to cobble something together by using one of the designer’s early iterations of the cover that had almost no coverlines on it. But…uhm…what we’re advertising, then, is not what we’re selling.

At any rate, while we await the correct table of contents, the collection’s interior can be prepared for hard copy printing. I need to get all three of the “boxed set” volumes posted at the PoD guy’s site, so copies of those can be ordered as needed.

So I was going to spend part of the day converting that thing for print format.

Instead, though, I ended up spending most of the time available laying out a client’s memoir for print publication — the interior pages, that is. I don’t have a cover image from him and so can’t do anything about that. But I think I’d rather have him see the interior first, lest he decide he’d like a different trim size. The book is fairly long, and I’m thinking the standard trade book size — 5.5 x 8.5 inches — might give us more pages than we’d like. A larger trim size will mean fewer pages. I guess.

I’ve reduced the font size and will install narrower margins once everything is flowed into the template. I’d like to keep the thing under 400 pages, which I think will happen. We’re at 233 typeset pages now; the MS is 300 pages, but he insists on typing single-spaced, so in reality it’s almost 600 manuscript pages: around 130,500 words. A lot of words.

:-) Guy’s done a lot of living. Most of it pretty interesting…

Other parts of the day were consumed with driving a payment to mail from the post office, since my mailbox was robbed again yesterday, driving to the drugstore, running interference between the accountant and a subcontractor over W-9s, and on and endlessly on.

The new Fort Knox of a mailbox has yet to be installed. Wish WonderHandyman would get off the dime! Not that it matters for outgoing mail: henceforth everything I need to mail will have to be physically delivered to the post office — no more little red flag for the mailman. Uhm….mailperson…personperson.

 And now it’s getting late at night. Nothing has gotten done — or at least, nothing has been carried through to completion, other than mailing one (count it, 1) envelope with a check in it. The dogs are conked out, and the human hopes to be so, too. Very soon.

January 13, 2016
by funny

Don’t Throw Out that Scratched-up Knife: Polish It!

Hallelujah: here’s a genuine personal finance post. Remember when this blog was a PF site? 😀 Today we’re doing “waste not, want not”: scratched-up knife department. (Notice how we got that SEO strategy in the first paragraph? Clumsy, but effective. I suppose. Thank you, dear Google, for your malign effect on our  writing style…)

This morning, while trying to track down a missing kitchen knife, I found myself mourning the state of all my (expensive!) cutlery, gouged up shamefully some years ago when I tried to sharpen them on my father’s old stone. They were all pretty much ruined by that effort, but I’ve never thrown them out because of course in retirement I can’t afford to replace nine Wüsthof and Sabatier kitchen knives, plus another four Sabatier steak knives.

Even if I could, that degree of waste would frost my cookies.

Knives scratchedMy father could put a razor edge on a knife. He taught  me how to do it. But apparently I didn’t learn well… Every blade that I tried to sharpen this way ended up gouged up with scratches. They still take a fine edge, but they look like the dickens.

Never did find the lost knife . But in the process of searching, it occurred to me to wonder if those scratches could be even partially polished off.

A Google search forthwith brought up this interesting post from an outfit called 100-Year Knives.

Sandpaper! says he.

Oh, yeah? My ears perked up. Sandpaper, eh?

The guy suggests polishing a scratched-up blade much as you would sand a piece of furniture, going from coarse to fine grit paper. Then finish it off with a high-grade metal polish.

I could hear my father shimmering in his funeral urn at the mere thought of this scheme.

The coarsest paper I had out in the garage was 120 grit — not very coarse, but better than nothing. The 100-Year Knives gent suggests starting with 100 grit, then going to 200, then 400 or 600, then 1,000 – 1,500 grit, then polish. The result, shown on his site, is a blade that looks practically new.

By way of experimenting, I took the 120 grit paper to a boning knife that I love but rarely use anymore. (You can, btw, save quite a lot of money on meat by purchasing large chunks of beef, pork, fish, or lamb, whole chickens, and whole turkeys and butchering them into the preferred cuts yourself.) That knife was very badly scratched. I didn’t take a shot of it before I tried my little test, but here’s how it looks now:

Knife boning

It ain’t perfect. But it’s a heckuva lot better than it was. Sorry about the glare — the camera won’t let me turn off the flash. Click on the image for a better view.

This knife was in worse shape than the chef’s knife and the utility knife shown above. A few scratches are still visible, but it’s much, much better than it was. It’s not polished to a high sheen, because I don’t have any real metal polish around the house — I used a little Barkeeper’s Helper, but I think some Simichrome or Flitz will do the job a lot better.

The result is good enough to convince me it’s worth dropping by the Ace and picking up a few more packages of sandpaper in the desired grades. And some metal polish. Even Brasso probably would help, but the kind of stuff guys use to polish the brightwork on their motorcycles is what you want. Simichrome is said to be available at your local Harley shop; or, if you must, from Amazon.

The process dulled the blade on the boning knife, which normally has an edge that exceeds “razor.” So I had to resharpen it. These days I’m using one of these manual sharpeners that resembles a blade-eating electric sharpener (never use an electric knife sharpener if you have a knife you’d like to keep around for a few years):

knifesharpenerThis thing puts a decent edge on your knife without eroding it into the shape of an ice pick and without scratching its sides. Mine is made by Wüsthof, but you can get them in different brands. Once you’ve sharpened the blade (left-hand slot), you hone it on a pair of ceramic sticks (right-hand side), et voila! I hone the kitchen knives after every use, and hardly ever have to do a serious sharpening job anymore. My knives all think tomatoes and raw pork are the same as room-temperature butter.

Take-away PF message: Never throw out something that you can fix.

January 12, 2016
by funny
1 Comment

Strange Day in FunnyFarmville

{sigh} It’s only 5 p.m. but the sun has gotta be over some yardarm somewhere. Maybe here, for all I know, because really, who knows what “over the yardarm” really means? High noon, I’d say.

So I’m having a bourbon and water while the curried fried rice simmers, and I yam NOT doing any more work!

Flew back in the house a couple of hours after my afternoon deconstructed itself. A pile of requests & orders from Honored Client are in hand. He wants Plain & Simple Press to do the heavy lifting involved in publishing his memoir, intended for family and friends. And that’s good: it’s quite a lovely book…he’s had a wonderful life. Like my father, he’s devoted his life to work that’s taken him all over the world. If my father had written a memoir like this and left it to the family, I would be beside myself with joy. What a wonderful thing to give his kids. And his friends.

It’s also of historic interest — the guy has been at the front lines of some major early 21st-century changes, internationally, and he has known huge 20th-century figures. So these books of his are of value in more ways than one.

So of course I’m delighted to have the privilege of helping him, even in a small way, to publish this latest book.

Walked in the door from this afternoon’s meeting. Sat down and turned on the computer and just then heard a deep-throated truck’s HONK outside. Looked up from the keyboard to see a fire department truck go by, one marked “Hazardous Waste Disposal.”


Naturally, I arise and take a stroll up Feeder Street NS, looking up and down the alleys and neighborhood streets. No sign of the guys in space suits. Oh well.

But it IS gorgeous outside. The rain has died down and in the late afternoon the chilly air has finally warmed enough that one no longer needs a jacket. Dogs have been cooped up with the human for days. Stroll back in the house and lash up my furry friends for a Doggy Walk.

Painfully bored with our usual one-mile route, I decide to head up toward Conduit of Blight (which has been slightly de-blighted with the effort to make the light-rail boondoggle look respectable), where another set of turns and twists will generate a different mile-long walk.

We go across Secondary Feeder St. EW and come up on Conduit of Blight Blvd. There, a half-block to the south, we come across a bum (ahem, sorry: “homeless person”) going through a bunch of objects he’s made off with (ahem, sorry: “collected”) in his shopping cart. These appear to be CDs or possibly DVDs. Unclear whether he’s scavenged them from the garbage or stolen them — it’s even odds, one way or the other.

As we slip past him, we hear some guy on the other side of the decorative wall the city has built to gussy up Conduit of Blight, sitting on the ground next to the bus stop. (“Oh, god,” I think, “Why didn’t I get another German shepherd instead of the Short Stuff?”) He’s very stoned and he’s rambling on in a loud whiny moan about God only knows what. A woman who looks like she wishes she could figure out what to do for him is standing over him. She is saying nothing but looks confounded.

First I think, “You poor soul.” Then I think, un-Christianly, “Stay the f*** away from me!” Mother Theresa, I will never be.

So I continue down the road thinking I am a bad person, for if I were a good person I would try to do something for the suffering poor in this godforsaken city of the radically rich and the penniless. But I do not.

Seconds later, a Mrs. GotRocks shoots out of the parking lot of the fenced Montessori school. She doesn’t even slow her SUV when she crosses the sidewalk. She cannot see around the shrubbery decorating the school’s entrance, and so she does not see me and the dogs about to step in front of her. Literally — not an exaggeration — if we’d gotten there two seconds earlier she would have run us down.

We proceed, then turn back into the ’hood at the southernmost street of low-rent homes — i.e., the development I live in.

There we pass the yard where the turquoise fake grass carpeting the residents installed in the frontyard is now very, very tired, indeed. One of my neighbors wondered why the newcomers are so nosy and so vocal about minor issues such as trash in the alley and decrepitude in the front yard. Many of the Old Guard don’t understand, really, that a house is the same as money in the bank, and that when you — or your idiot neighbors — let a property deteriorate, you’re throwing money down the toilet.

It’s a cultural thing, hm?

We pass the home of the couple who have the boy who suffers some frightful crippling ailment. The father watches over his son like a kind of guardian angel. I believe he is a man who is made of steel and gold, probably the best of all possible men. But it appears the boy is not their only problem child.

From a distance we can hear another kid shrieking and screaming, fully launched into a major tantrum. The mom is moving around the open garage, trying and succeeding at appearing calm and level-headed. With an iron grip on her sanity, she issues a few motherly orders. The brat is having none of it.

The kid jumps into the car, locks the door, and LAYS ON THE HORN!

Heh heh heh… I’m sorry, it’s not funny. And it certainly was not funny for the long-suffering mom, who that point just about loses it.

After a fair amount of hollering on the part of all concerned, the kid lays off the horn. But…only because she’s figured out how to turn on the anti-theft system, causing the car to go, merrily, HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…HONK…

Hah haaaaaah! If it was my kid, I’d have whaled her little tail until she couldn’t walk, to say nothing of climb into the SUV’s driver’s seat and fiddle with the controls. But of course that would be child abuse (nevermind the wee perpetrator’s grown-up abuse), and the mom, being a creature of a more enlightened generation, manages to restrain herself.

Bless you, sister…

Moving on, we pass the home of one of our newer neighbors, a police officer and his beautiful young family. We are thrilled to have these young people here. The only flaw in the blue sky is that Dad is on the outs with the neighbor, apparently because of a misunderstanding of Brobdinagian proportions. Dad, having no insight into the history of what the local moving companies like to do to folks who move into our ’hood, believes the old dude next door is responsible for a series of  post-move-in break-ins. Little does he know. But what can one say? And how can one best serve youth, eh?

But we are glad — nay, proud — to have a police officer here, the second one to move into our precincts. The next time their brothers chase some armed and violent sh!theads into our neighborhood, we can be assured that the Force will be with us.

So it goes. Here in the Naked City, one woman’s beautiful afternoon is another man or woman’s Day from Hell.


January 12, 2016
by funny
1 Comment

Ever wonder if you’ve blown a fuse?

Do you ever wonder if at some point along the line you’ve blown a mental fuse? Slipped a cog? Dropped off the trolley cable?

Lately, “competence” does not seem to be my middle name. I never functioned at the level of one of those astonishing admins who keeps a department together and running with Scotch tape and paper clips. But as I recall, I wasn’t a total fool.

And also lately — much more to the point — it seems to me that I’m not getting things done at the rate I used to. It’s more like I can’t get them done in the time I’m accustomed to expecting. And one interruption — just one, dammit — will throw a whole day off, insuring that absolutely positively nothing gets done.

Today the schedule looked like this:

Collect last six Fire-Rider stories and lay them out for Kindle publication
Obtain ISBN for the same
Convert to Mobi format; proofread; fix; reconvert
Post to Amazon
Lay out first FR collection for print production at new PoD guy’s site
Check to see if diet/cookbook proofs are ready; drive to south Phoenix, proof, approve (I hope) and order books for sale
Walk dogs
Try again to buy ads on SBTB
Search for similar website for speculative fiction or sagas
Work on establishing presence on Goodreads

But instead, here’s how it’s gone:

Write, by email, a detailed explanation for ad manager of why I dislike and distrust Faceboook and what leads me to believe, despite her assurances to the contrary, that some risk exists for posts to any page established in my FB account to be distributed to my “friends” on the page that has nothing to do with racy books; explain why Racy Books writers and I established a “secret” page to avoid that happening
Make a decision about what to do next in the ad campaign, if anything, now that FB has screwed us. Explain in detail to ad manager
Write a post on the Facebook page for The Copyeditor’s Desk, which I had forgotten
Correspond with reader who wants to buy a copy of 30 Pounds/4 months
Correspond with accountant and with Web guru over whether Web guru needs to get a 1099
Pick up mess before cleaning lady gets here
File loose paperwork
Get email from client summoning me to meet with him to kill another afternoon going over every one of my edits, and to discuss cost of P&S Press producing his book in hard copy…AT 2 P.M. TODAY
Prepare a two-page estimate of costs, broken down by task and comparing our estimate with the going rates posted at various sites on Google
Throw on my clothes
Paint my face
Set and comb my hair
Bolt down a few bites of cold roast chicken
Fly out the door

Nothing else is going to get done today.