Funny about Money

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

October 4, 2017
by funny
2 Comments

An Era Ends

Sunday was our beloved choir director‘s grand finale, his last day before his (we expect) even more grand retirement. The choir loft was packed with present and former singers, all come to celebrate Scott’s gifts and to say goodbye.

Scott’s tenure has been pretty amazing. He combined a crew of professionally trained singers with the usual set of amateur churchgoers to create a highly polished sound and earn national and international recognition. The choir has toured the world, even singing in the Sistine Chapel. All this was going on while he conducted a group of choristers and worked on the school’s music program and established an annual Bach festival.

It will be interesting to see if the new guy can fill those shoes. A nationwide search was launched, and we (the choir) auditioned three finalists. All were very impressive. Of the three that we sang with, I thought either of two would be an admirable replacement…an opinion shared by just about everyone. To my delight, they hired the one I personally happened to favor ( 🙂 ). Now we shall see…

By the strangest of coincidences, the man who got me onto the choir, Fr. Carl Carlozzi, died on the very morning of our last service with Scott.

Carl was rector and headmaster at the time my son was attending the school. We were tangentially connected in some other odd ways — he married, for example, the very lovely ex-wife of one of my ex’s clients. After a notably successful career at All Saints, Carl followed his calling to become a volunteer chaplain for the Phoenix Fire Department.

At any rate, he was still there back when I showed SDXB the door, leaving myself in blessed peace. After awhile, though, enough blessed peace was enough: I began to realize that I needed to get a life…and it needed NOT to be an offshoot of the Great Desert University. Since “Social” is not my middle name, I really had no idea where to look to find a life. So one day I presented myself to Carl and asked, in effect, “How do you go about getting a life?”

Said he: “I know: you can join the choir!”

I thought, “Choir???

Brooking no dissent, he picked up the phone and called Scott into his office. When presented with me, Scott said, “I’ll take what I can get.”

And that is saying something. Surely even he had no clue how ignorant of music I was (and by and large remain). Deep in the lovely Rub al’Khali, there was no such thing as music instruction. I never took music lessons. Never practiced the piano (because I didn’t even know what the keys were supposed to do). Although I basically knew what a staff and musical notes were for, I couldn’t begin to read music. Once I tried to teach myself to play the guitar, but without others to learn with, that was a forlorn hope.

But even the densest of ignoramuses could not fail to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the music that Scott provided, week in and week out, for that congregation. Or to appreciate the amazing accomplishment involved in getting us all to sing it and make it sound pretty darned good.

Over time, thanks to Scott’s amazing patience and teaching skill, I managed to learn to follow along. Nowadays I can even sort of figure out what a piece of music might sound like by looking at the score. Placed next to a professional or near-professional singer, I can follow along fairly convincingly…given enough practice.

Did I get a life? Well, that probably was never in the cards, since I don’t make friends easily. But I did meet a lot of people whose company is pleasant, and choir does provide a twice-weekly junket out in public.

Nothing lasts forever. All things pass.

I’m sad to see two icons of a lively and creative era move on. But I look forward to the next stage: let us hope it will be just as productive…or maybe even more so.

October 2, 2017
by funny
0 comments

Helping a Millennial Future-Proof Their Finances

If you are a parent of a Millennial, a friend of a Millennial, or a Millennial yourself, it’s time to start dealing with the some of the difficult financial realities that today’s youngest working generation is dealing with. Millennials may have come of age at a difficult economic time in American history, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t have a better future on their own terms. Millennials will benefit from some traditional financial methods for security and future wealth. There are also some financial techniques which will benefit Millennials in particular. If you have influence in the life of one of these young people, help them out with this kind of advice.

 Some of the specific financial problems that Millennials found thrust upon their laps over the past decade were related to the 2008 financial crisis in the United States and around the world. Many young people found themselves graduating from a college without a job to go to and with tons of student debt to their names. Fortunately, the worst of this is over, but many young people are still not fully recovered.

 This is a good time in history for young people to specialize in skills that will provide them with adequate improvement moving forward. Some employers even pay for their new hires to get an updated education. For specialized fields, there are simply not enough qualified people to fill the jobs. Disappointed Millennials who still haven’t found an application for their major may be well-served by calling it a wash and acquiring new skills which can be had without spending a great deal of money on a new degree.

 For Millennials who have families and children, there is even greater reason to future-proof finances. This can be done in many ways. Acquiring wealth in many forms: through career, through saving, through investment, through equity in a home, and even through life insurance. Life insurance policies are very affordable for young people, because they are statistically more unlikely than some to die within the term of the policy. If the worst were to occur, life insurance could help a Millennial preserve their wealth for the people that matter most to them.

 Some Millennials are future-proofing their finances by increasing their knowledge to compensate for the lack of financial opportunity that was available to meet them when they graduated. By becoming more financially savvy, young people are investing in new opportunities, saving with better intention than previous generations, and living on less with greater satisfaction than typified more materialistic cultures that characterized some segments of earlier generations.

 If you count yourself among this generation, then there are many ways for you to make the most of your money in the long term. Get savvy and always make financial preparedness a priority. If you learn how to spot opportunities and make the most of what you have, you’ll likely end up in a better situation than those who squandered the roaring economies of several previous generations. Future-proofing money isn’t easy for Millennials, but it’s worth the effort.

September 30, 2017
by funny
5 Comments

I Knew Better…

ohhh boyoboy yes indeed I certainly did know better than to take on the job of cleaning up the 19 single-spaced pages of coded passwords and secret instructions about this or that techno-headache.

But those passwords get changed. The websites get out-dated. One’s own sites get moved to new servers or closed down or changed in some strange way. New permutations of social media come online. And after a few years, the whole damn secret-code mess needs to be overhauled.

It’s almost two in the afternoon. I don’t know how many hours I’ve been working on this obnoxious task: several, is all I can say. Several boring, tedious, miserable, frustrating, HAIR-TEARING hours.

It’s a wonder I have any hair left at all, considering the number of boring, tedious, miserable, frustrating, and hair-tearing hours I spend in front of a computer.

The password conundrum is just one of the many indications that he who imagines the computer makes our lives better should get his head examined.

Yes. I do know that I could use one of those password generators to emanate random, supposedly unguessable passwords. But…y’know…if a hacker can’t guess or break into a randomly generated code…neither can you or I. If you lose the master password, if you have a stroke or an accident and you forget the master password, if you croak over…then YOU CAN’T GET INTO YOUR OWN ACCOUNTS. Neither can your heirs, should you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Knowing my own propensities for loss and for forgetfulness, there is noooo way I’m handing over the keys to all my bank accounts to some random password generator.

The problem is that WHEREAS I should’ve had enough sense to have put this vast table of websites and secret codes into an Excel file, I started out with it in a Word table.

Word’s behavior with tables is the main reason we call Word Wyrd. The program is OK with short tables, and with tables that aren’t very complicated, and with tables that have no Asian characters in them, and with tables that have no math symbols…as long as they’re short. That’s the operative term: “short.”

Let your data set grow to, say…oh, 19 pages, and you drive Wyrd berserkers.

Word has a lot in common with a cat. It will purr along, seemingly calm and cooperative, for the longest time. Then when you get about four-fifths of the way through whatever you think you’re doing, WHAKOLA! It will give you such a smack upside your head you’ll never forget that cat.

Twice I had to redo page after page of mind-numbing trash the thing deleted and would not “undo.”

The job would’ve taken enough hours without having to redo and reformat whole sections.

Welp, I managed to get rid of a lot of out-dated and redundant blather. We’re now down from 19 single-spaced pages to…yes…18 single-spaced pages.

 

September 29, 2017
by funny
6 Comments

Stop the World!

I wanna get off….

My God. It’s 9 in the morning and I’ve already coped with three nightmares.

Nightmare the First:

Anyone who believes that computers, at the base level, improve our lives needs to stop inhaling whatever they’re smoking!

This nightmare started last night.

At some point, I realize a bunch of incoming email is…well…NOT incoming. Eventually I figure out it’s stuff addressed to my corporate gmail account.

Understand: I don’t use gmail. Don’t use it because I hate the interface; don’t use it because I hate being spied on by a monopolistic corporation. To the extent that I MUST have a gmail account, I forward that account’s incoming to MacMail. So I don’t even remember the damn passwords; finding them involves a great deal of searching through a secret, coded document and finally changing the passwords.

After some hassle, I do get in and search all around trying to figure out the trouble. Not even sure the test emails are hitting gmail at all. Web Guru and I study it and bang away at it and crash away at it and still can’t find the problem. Finally — after two hours of fighting with the damn thing, and with damn MacMail, which has decided to get stubborn, I finally discover the problem: Google has unilaterally decided that anything coming from mac.com or me.com must be spam! It has derailed all my test emails and quite a few other things.

I mark these messages “Not Spam.”

Doesn’t work.

Confer with guru. We’re both bamboozled.

I try again to mark the messages “Not Spam.”

AT LAST this does the trick.

Ducky. I’ve now wasted my entire evening wrestling with fucking Gmail. It’s 10 p.m. I have to get up and take the dog to the vet the next morning.

However, as one might have guessed…when thou hast done, thou hast not done…

This morning I need to print out an Excel file. To do that, I have to email it to myself (I could post it to Dropbox but that would make sense: let’s stay in Never-Neverland). The reason I have to do that is that fucking Apple has decided I can’t print from my laptop, and I’m working in the file on the laptop. So I have to send the file to myself, then get into it on the iMac (the only computer still speaking to the printer), open it, and print the germane section.

But…I can’t get into my MacMail on the iMac. Floating in the upper right-hand corner is a demand from Google that I enter a password!

Huh? For WHAT?

I start on this at 6:30. At 7:00 I call Apple help. The help rep and I labor with it for another 40 minutes (bear in mind that I needed to take the dog to the vet at 7:30).

Finally we figure out that somehow Google is hanging my MacMail and will not unhang it until I enter a password that I haven’t used in a good two years.

We sift through the NINETEEN SINGLE-SPACED PAGES of fucking coded passwords stored on my computer for this purpose.

Finally we find one that works.

You understand: to recover a password now, you have to tell fucking Google what your last functional password was. But…uhmmmmm…if you’ve lost your password, how the HELL would you know what it was????????

Before we ask to change the pw, though, I decide to make a guess that this thing actually is the current working PW, so we back out of the “lost my password” hoop-jump and try signing in with it…and it works.

As it develops, to make Google unhang MacMail, I have to sign into fucking Gmail and then close out of it.

Makes sense, eh?

Nightmare the Second

I’m now running way late to schlep the dog for this morning’s surgery. The dog is upset, because I’ve been TEARING MY HAIR for the past hour. I grab her, fling the unhappy beast into the car, and set out.

Fortunately, the few minutes spent on hold waiting for the Apple rep gave me time to wash my face, brush my teeth, and throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.

We fly out the driveway and….

…come to a stop.

The vet’s office is about a 30-minute drive to the east of the ‘hood, through brain-banging traffic. To make things difficult, during rush hour we cannot turn east out of the ‘hood: the only viable main drag has a reverse lane that prohibits left turns between 7 and 9 a.m.

Thus to make a southbound drive I have to go north to Gangbanger’s Way, go east as far at that road goes, then turn south on the secondary arterial that goes, oh, maybe halfway downtown. Because this road doesn’t go all the way through, I have to turn east on the last major arterial that does go through to points east of the fucking Squaw Peak Freeway, whose construction blocked most of the navigable east-west drags north of McDowell.

At Main Drag NSE, traffic on Gangbanger comes to a DEAD STOP. I don’t know what’s going on up there, but no one can get through.

I make an illegal right turn across the parking lot of an abandoned gas station, awakening a few camped bums who were hoping to sleep in, and then dart south on Main Drag NSE and east again on Feeder Street East/West, which proceeds to Richistan Avenue. There, I plan to turn north and then go east again on Doesn’t-Live-Here-Anymore Lane, which connects with the east-west road that (with any luck) will take me to Navigable Arterial EW.

Richistan Ave., not surprisingly, is jammed with people trying to get around whatever is going on up on Gangbanger way. I cannot turn north. I go south to my friend’s patio-home development, which I know has a generously sized entry with no gate. Swerve into a U-turn and peel north.

Ah, the joys of a six-banger…

Now I reach Doesn’t-Live-Here-Anymore and proceed fairly calmly toward East Major Arterial, where I start the long, LONG drive to 40th Street.

To get there, I have to drive to 36th, then proceed south through Upper Richistan (makes our Richistan look like a barrio), hang a left, proceed past THE most expensive private school in Arizona (dodging cops and cameras), then turn south on 40th and keep on driving, driving, driving.

The traffic was just horrific. On Secondary Arterial the nitwit in front of me decides to turn left and so, one would think sensibly enough, pulls into the two-way left-turn lane. I’m right on her tail, as everyone else is on everyone else’s tail. She gets halfway into the left-turn lane and then fuckin’ STOPS! With her rear end out in the oncoming traffic. I jam on the brakes and yank the steering wheel to the right and JUST BARELY miss the bitch, dodging back to the left to JUST BARELY miss the poor fuck in the traffic lane to the right of us. I mean, we’re talkin’ inches. Both ways.

Thank god for fancy skid-resistant brakes and reflexes that haven’t, after all, slowed down as much as one would expect in a 72-year-old broad. Probably the adrenaline rage hypes the reflexes a bit.

Ahead, the red light turns green.

And the line of traffic sits there. And sits there. And sits there. And sits there.

Finally the jerk at the head of the line notices the green light, gets off the phone, and goes forward. One car — his — gets through the light.

So we drive and drive and drive and drive and drive and FINALLY we get to the vet’s office.

He has about a half-dozen parking spaces, all of them full. I need to go to the end of a line that runs up the middle of the little lot and kype the space just being vacated by an exiting customer.

But some IDIOT has parked her car on the far end of the middle row: outside the parking spaces. She has blocked access to the spaces on the other side of the middle row.

Son OF a bitch!!!!

I now have to back and fill to get out of the parking lot, a seemingly impossible challenge. But in the process, I realize there’s a space directly behind me along the opposite wall, and if I just glide straight back, I can grab that space and be pointed out.

This apparently, is reserved for the vet. I do not notice the orange cones blocking ingress. So just roll over them.

About then the vet drives up. He now has to find a space to park.

I slither into the veterinary’s front door, evading eye contact. Drop off the dog. And flee.

Nightmare the Third

On the way home, it crosses my mind that I do not recall having moved the exterior doorkey holder out of its (ingenious) hiding place during yesterday’s garden-furniture refurbishing frolic.

Holy sh!t. This would imply that it wasn’t in its ingenious hiding place yesterday.

I worry all the way home. Fortunately the west- and east-bound traffic isn’t so gawdawful, plus by 8:30 the rush hour is subsiding anyway.

Once home, I shoof around and yeah…do find the thing, where it’s fallen unnoticed on the ground.

This relieves me from having to spend several hundred dollah changing all the locks in the house.

Nightmare the Fourth (and counting…)

Pending. Whenever I get up from this, I have to answer a client’s convoluted email about a transaction that happened almost a year ago and about which I recall almost nothing, then clean out the coded password log (that will take half the day!), then download data to create new spreadsheets that yesterday I proposed to build for WonderAccountant, by which time I will have forgotten to call the vet to check on the dog. Then drive to the vet and pick up the dog (assuming the aged dog survives this procedure)…through afternoon rush-hour traffic.

September 27, 2017
by funny
1 Comment

Spraying

At last. Only a year late and a dollah short, I’m finally getting around to spray-painting the beloved wicker chairs that live on the side deck.

These things are now almost 30 years old. I got them shortly after I moved into the last house, and I lived there 15 years. Of course, they had to come with me when I moved…and I’ve now been here around 14 years.

Their particular charm? They’re REAL wicker.

Which is to say, they’re ludicrously comfortable to sit in.

I don’t think they even make “wicker” chairs out of real wicker anymore. They’re all that weather-proof stuff, which is great in terms of lasting power…but which is a) ludicrously expensive and b) ludicrously uncomfortable. I have yet to find a chair made of that stuff that feels good to sit in. As a matter of fact, as we scribble my back is hurting in the backyard weatherproof fake-wicker chairs.

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve refreshed the white paint on those things.

Which brings us to the new-fangled joys of the goddamn paint available on today’s politically correct market. Again.

This fine Rustoleum — same brand I’ve always used, purchased at the same ineffable Home Depot warehouse — does. not. cover.

As in does NOT EFFING COVER AT ALL.

Where Ruby chewed off the ends of a pair of rockers, I’d sanded and fashioned “end caps,” as it were, out of plastic wood. Nice idea except the damn “caps” fall off if you look crooked at them. So this morning I threw them out and just sanded the shortened rockers nice and smooth.

I don’t know what these fine Pier One chairs are made of, but it looks sort of like…oh…cardboard pulp, maybe? It doesn’t have a grain. It’s soft, kind of…mushed-together-looking stuff. The ONLY reason these superb pieces of furniture have survived all these years is that they’ve never been directly exposed to the elements. They’re not only under cover, but every time real weather comes in, I dart outside and drag the things into the house. So they’ve never once been rained on or sprinklered on.

Okay. I’ve sanded off the chewed rockers and also gently rubbed each entire chair down to bat off peeling and chipping paint, which seems to occur as a result of wear and extreme temperature.

Now flip a chair upside down, spray the Rustoleum over the rockers, and then go on about my business covering the backside of the chair and then…and then…and then glance up at the rocker and see I’ve failed to cover the end of the rocker with paint.

Say what?

I just coated that thing.

The paint is SUCH GODDAMN SHIT that it doesn’t even cover enough to stain the toilet-roll-cardboard-that-is-the-rocker white! Not even FAINTLY fuckin’ white.

Well, dayum…

I spray it again. Wait for it to partially dry.

It barely covers. At least it doesn’t look like it’s never even been touched by the effluent of a spray nozzle. But…it’s not white.

I had to spray coat after coat after coat after COAT to even begin to cover the sanded ends OR the tiny spots where the old paint had chipped off the wicker.

Fortunately I foresaw this, now being inured to Life in the Fuckin’ Brave New World, and bought FOUR cans of white spray paint. Normally one can will cover one of the chairs. But instinct told me…better overstocked than mad as a cat…

“EVEN STICKS TO PLASTIC,” Rustoleum crows on its paint can.

Well, yeah.

I usually cover my right hand — the sprayin’ hand — with a latex glove, but since I don’t normally get my left hand in the paint, I left it ungloved.

Error.

So I get into the paint. And now I can’t get the damn stuff off. No amount of scouring with a stiff nail brush will remove the damn paint from the painted paw.

Finally I resort to cooking oil.

You know how duct tape is the Home Handyman’s Secret Weapon? Well…cooking oil is the Home Handywoman’s Secret Weapon. Cooking oil will remove almost anything from any surface that does not absorb oil. Such as, say, your paws.

After soaking in oil and scouring again with Dawn (always get the original blue kind, not the politically correct kind), most (but not all) of the paint came off the sore, angry hands.

Remember how you used to be able to turn a half-empty spray paint can upside down, squirt until only air came out, and then turn it back upright and it would be usable for another spray-painting frenzy?

No more. Nay verily.

When you try that with one of these clever new cans of Rustoleum, the damn thing just KEEPS ON SPRAYING. Thus you cannot save the remnants of a can of paint for a new project, or for a second coat later on. Because of course the spray doodad clogs up, and you are DONE spraying from that can.

Which is the case just now…

September 25, 2017
by funny
5 Comments

Doggy Diagnosis

So, here we are back from the vet — WonderVet, we might add. He took one look at the dog and said: “abscessed tooth.”

There’s a suspicion I’d have preferred not to have had confirmed. As I mentioned earlier in the day: a look at her big back-of-the-jaw bone-crunching fang shows that it’s not in good shape.

He said it’s not uncommon for a tooth abscess to present this way in a dog.

Fortunately, this is a vet with common sense and an underdeveloped sense of greed. He said there are two possible courses of action:

A root canal, which has to be done by a specialist
Extract the tooth

I asked if there was any real advantage to a root canal and, presumably, a crown (no joke: one friend’s dog was actually given crowns). He said that if I took the dog to the veterinary dental specialist, the guy would give me all sorts of great reasons…but that in fact there really is no advantage. He said the dog’s teeth might migrate over time. I pointed out the dog is over 11 years old…they’d have to gallop to do her much harm between now and the time Gabriel’s horn sounds for her. He allowed as to how that is exactly so. Asked which he recommended, he said extraction is the best strategy: less stressful for the dog and it doesn’t cost $2500.

Root canals on your dog. Dayum! Once again: we are in the wrong business, my friends.

Other vets have thought her teeth were in fine condition; I haven’t had them professionally cleaned (mostly because that way lies fleecing). He said professionally cleaning a dog’s teeth would not stop her from developing an abscess. But he will throw in a tooth cleaning, long as he has her knocked out. They also will do bloodwork and a cardiac test, so she’ll get a very thorough middle-aged dog exam.

So, there we are: that should set me back another thousand bucks. {sigh}