Funny about Money

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

June 23, 2015
by funny

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.


You need a gecko:

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.


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

June 23, 2015
by funny

Get Out & Go This Summer

What is it about the warmer weather that wakes up my adventurous side? Maybe it’s the Vitamin D, but there seems to be so much more to do after June has begun. Now that spring is coming to a toasty close, I want to actually do things!

But what? Well, the outdoors is a great place to start. And I’ve discovered that there’s one thing that comes to mind when I think of the perfect summer activity, and it’s…fishing.

I know what you’re thinking. Fishing is boring. Fishing is an expensive hobby. But picture this… wading into the cool, refreshing water in peaceful silence while also having fun. Got it? Good. Now we’re on the same page.

With reels starting at $5.99, it’s never been easier to pick up the habit. Apart from maybe catching yourself some dinner, there are tons of benefits to picking up a pole and heading to the water. Apart from actually getting you up and moving, it’s been proven to reduce stress, allot a sense of self-fulfillment, social bonding, and the good ol’ thrill of it all.

This could be you!

This could be you!

photo from

Y’know what they say… Give a man to fish, blah blah blah. So get on out there! See the world, bask in the sun (don’t forget that SPF!), become one with the surroundings, channel your inner Ahab, and introduce yourself to the other 90% of the world—the sea!

If you’re still thinking “Meh…not really for me,” then let’s talk about some other fun summer activities, like hiking! Nothing gives you perspective like being able to stand on top of a mountain and look down on the world, or to disappear into the woods so deep that you lose cell phone service.

Another benefit of hiking is that it generally doesn’t cost much. All you need is a good, comfy pair of shoes and you are set. Whether hiking is an activity you enjoy by yourself or with others, it is a very rewarding way to keep yourself moving and to stimulate all your senses this summer. These days there is so much to discover, whether nature hikes are your thing, or bird hikes, or discovering edible plants (wild strawberry season is upon us!) or you’re just the type of person who enjoys seeing the world from a new perspective.

Sam’s Point Preserve in Ellenville, NY

Sam’s Point Preserve in Ellenville, NY

photo courtesy of Heather Stadler

But you don’t need to be anywhere near a mountain to enjoy a nice, long hike. You can check out tons of different trails by you right here.

Still not really diggin’ it? Okay, fine. Let’s use the summer to explore somewhere else. Broaden our horizons. It’s tourist season everywhere, so you’re guaranteed to find some awesome deals when travel companies start to get competitive.

Think of somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Got it? Good. These days there are tons of affordable ways to travel, even if you’re just roadtrippin’ it, or having a good ol’ staycation a short ride away. I’ve always been a firm believer in collecting memories over things and there’s no greater way to create lasting memories than by experiencing something exciting and new.

Sure, some of the grander vacations can be on the pricey side, but it’s Summer 2015 and you only live once or something like that, so it’s time to treat yourself and get to traveling!

Oh! And don’t forget to send me a postcard from wherever.

Sontagphoto courtesy of


June 22, 2015
by funny

No Ducklings in Sight…

Well, we discovered DUCK’s nest on May 14. She was first spotted on April 11, a month earlier, but it wasn’t until the middle of May that Ruby found her nest. Assuming she’d begun to lay by then, I think it’s safe to assume that she’s not going to hatch any of the eggs sitting there.

Mallards, we’re told, take 24 to 28 days to hatch. The mother doesn’t begin incubating until all the eggs are laid; at a laying rate of one egg per day, the incubation period started no later than May 25. Today is June 22, which would make today Break-Out Day. So far, though, no sign of any babes.

It’s likely she started laying sooner than May 14, though, because she was SO determined not to leave the pool area after I discovered her. If she had begun laying in April, then the ducklings are way overdue.

She still sits on the nest at least part of the day. But she’s gone for extended periods now. The weather is so hot that she presumably could leave for quite awhile without having them cool down…it’s 5 p.m. right now, and the back porch thermometer says 110 degrees. That’s in the shade.

So, I suspect DUCK is returning for a few hours a day out of habit or forlorn hope. But it looks like that hope really is forlorn, indeed. {sigh}

June 20, 2015
by funny

At Last: A little traction!

FINALLY am getting a little traction on the Boob Book!!! Yesterday was a true Day from Hell, in which I got exactly nothing done, despite arising at 5 a.m. and planning to spend all of Friday on constructive work. Goddamn Wyrd completely crashed my computer…thought I’d lost several days worth of work in files that were live when the system went down. And naturally at the same time a (temporarily) dormant client resurfaced, in a tizzy and seeking rescue.


Right now.

But today… Just finished Chapter 2 and tossed together the ToC and a chapter outline. So now I’ve got most of the package:

Table of Contents
Chapter Outline
Chapter 1: Mammography
Chapter 2: “Something Suspicious”
Appendix A: How to Read a Scientific Article
Appendix E: The Komen controversy and alternatives to donating to Komen

Now all I have to do is write the cover letter and the marketing pitch, toss it all together, and find someone at William Morrow to send it to.

I remembered that my late business partner, Phil Harrison, packaged a book for HarperCollins West. HarperCollins hasn’t got the greatest reputation among writers — in terms of working with them, I mean — but I don’t recall Phil complaining. Anyway, if this bounces from Wm. Morrow I may send it to HarperColllins, since I can say with some truth that “i” (i.e., my company) worked with them in the past. But I also need to dig up an agent. My plan is to pay for access to LMP online and build a list of about a dozen agents and a dozen publishers; then start shipping the package out.

A standard advance for a book like this is about  25 grand. If I get anything close to that, I’m going to stand down off the teaching for a year (actually, $16,800 would buy me out of the teaching job…but I expect that’s what I’d net after taxes on twenty to twenty-five thou, since I’m being forced to do a required minimum withdrawal from my IRA this year, which will really jack up the tax rate). At any rate, if I don’t have to teach, then I should be able to write the book AND work on building the proposed…ahem…racey publishing empire.

At any rate, I’ve gone as far as I can today, because I’m tired, hungry, and have other projects in hand. Food is on the grill. As soon as I finish lunch/dinner, I’m going to start writing outlines of the zingy (if that’s the word…) stories downloaded from Amazon > Books > Erotica on the current free trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited. Actually I’d better download a few more, too.

From there I’ll create guidelines for writing the…uhm, what we might call the “quickies”…so that they can be turned out in a uniform way and with any luck speedily.

Believe it or not, three people have actually volunteered to write these kernels of p0rn!!!!! One of them, o mirabilis, is magnificently gay and highly creative.

Things are beginning to shape up (heh) in budding p0rn empire.

I’m out of money and out of food. So tomorrow, when the new AMEX billing cycle starts, I’ll have to spend most of the day running around town restocking the pantry and the fridge; then cook another week’s worth of dog food (Ruby and Cassie out out of food, too). And then it’s off to some friends’ house for father’s day. While I’m chasing around, I’d better pick up a gift and some wine for him.

And Monday: student papers. Two have turned in their essays early, but that leaves another 21 to trudge through…

All of which is to say it’ll be next Tuesday before I’ll get to the next phase of the Boob Book project: write the cover letter and marketing pitch, unearth the names of new editorial staff at William Morrow and HarperCollins, and send the proposal package off.

June 18, 2015
by funny

But it’s a dry heat…

It was 120 here today. So they tell us. Cold snap is coming in, though: down to a chilly 105 by next Thursday. Brrr!


LOL! Can you believe I actually grew up in that place?

By comparison, this part of the world looks pretty lush…and trust me, 120 in Arizona is balmy compared to a summer day in the Rub’ al Khali.



Rub’ al Khali: Nepenthes. CC BY-SA 3.
Sonoran Desert National Monument. BLM. Public domain.

June 17, 2015
by funny

How Much Would One Have to Earn to Prosper in the Raunch Bidness?

So I continue to contemplate the possibility that one could make a living and then some (maybe a lot then-some) by self-publishing “spicey” literature. Note how cleverly we avoid the “p” word here by way of avoiding endless annoying spam.

Not that the site’s several spam-catchers don’t do fine in that department. But one supposes it wouldn’t be good to bring oneself to the attention of, oh, say, the NSA or some other black-helicopter set. :-D

Where were we? Yesh. Raunch.

Pour moi, I wouldn’t need to crank 30 grand a month. Far from it. Thirty grand a year would get me out from under having to teach freshman comp and also bring an end to the editing jobs.

To continue to live in my present crimped lifestyle, I would need to gross (not net) $2,440 a month, on top of Social Security.  This would pay the bills — all the bills — and keep food on the table most of the time.

It would be nice to see that income float in the door all through the rest of my life, not just while I still have enough ginger to churn out two or three unclean novelettes a week.

Our spy in this business tells us that he hires out some of the writing to freelances who will scribble 5,000 words of formulaic smυt for $100. Another source I’ve come across keeps the length to 3,000 words.  Even though I probably write more than 3,000 words every day, most of those words are undirected. Hiring “content providers” would guarantee that you could keep the business going into your dotage, assuming you could hire a trustworthy project manager…which I do believe I can.

So let’s consider what the business would have to gross to cover projected costs, per month:

$3,000: 30 novelettes at $100 apiece = $3000
$500: Contract business manager: + commission on revenues above a certain level
$300: Contract accountant/bookkeeper
$400: Editor/e-book template checker (make contract providers use template)
$500: Overseas artist to create cover art
$300: Marketing agent: + commission on revenues above a certain level
$2,450:  Payout to me

While that sounds like a lot, it’s not six figures. It really isn’t much more than I was earning at the Great Desert University, especially when you add in the side gigs I had going on at the time.

At the outset, expenses would be lower than those shown, because I can do my own formatting and I can write the “content” myself.

As the business grows, the manager and the marketer would be motivated to ramp up their efforts by commissions on revenues over, say, $8,000. So, supposing the business made $10,000 in a month and each of these worthies got a 10% commission on the $2,000, they’d each make $200 extra, adding up to $2,400 a  year apiece.  If the business actually did make 30 grand (why do I doubt it so?), then each of them would make $2,200 in that month ($30,000 – 8,000 x 10%).

And that would surely make their efforts worthwhile. Mine, too:  $30,000 – 8,000 – (2,200 x2) =  $17,600 of pure gravy.


Best not to eat that Thanksgiving dinner before the turkey’s hatched. But isn’t it fun to think about?