Funny about Money

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

July 15, 2018
by funny
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Report from Sauna Central

Hot, wet, gray, and muggy.

We haven’t had a real summer “monsoon” season for several years — make that quite a few years. The so-called “heat island” effect creates a bubble over the ever-bloating urbanized area that acts like the Dome in the TV show of the same name. The daily afternoon showers of yore are bounced off, to pass by miles to the north or the south. This is the first time in probably close to a decade that we’ve had a system strong enough to overcome that phenomenon.

And strong it is: strongly wet. Took the dogs for a walk around 5:30 this morning and came back drenched. Parboiled, actually. Jumping in the pool doesn’t help much: the air is so wet, water won’t evaporate off your skin and hair, so you don’t get the cooling effect. My hair was still damp this morning — from yesterday afternoon’s dip!

One amazingly wonderful thing, though: despite the heat, the mustard algae has not returned to the pool!

It’s like some kind of freaking miracle!

What caused the little green critters to decide to vacate the pool? Beats me.

I’m not doing anything different. The only odd act was adding two pounds of non-chlorine shock treatment, an oxidizer that is known not to affect algae. The stuff disappeared within a day of that, and it hasn’t been back, except for a few small patches that I was able to wipe right off…and that did not just grow right back within a few hours.

So that makes me feel a lot better about the proposed replastering project. Really, I figured I was about to spend $10,000 to cover the pool with yet another fine substrate for the rampant algae. Of course, the stuff is in the filter and the pump by now, and so jackhammering off the old plaster and smearing on expensive new PebbleTec product is not gonna get rid of it. Its just going to create a very expensive algae-infested pond.

But nay! Apparently not!

Whatever is going on, something has killed it off, and it’s not readily coming back. This is the time of year, when the water is like bathwater, that it grows most exuberantly. So the fact that it’s not running amok now suggests it will refrain from covering the new surface with green slime.

It’s so gray and murky out there…I”m surprised it’s not raining right now. It is, however, only about 90 degrees, rather cool. “Feels like”: ohh, about 110… Chance of rain is only about 24% (so we’re told), dropping to about 15% tomorrow. And that’s about it until next Saturday, when the chance of precip spikes to 15%…very, very briefly.

Oh well.

Plants singin’ in the rain

 

July 13, 2018
by funny
6 Comments

$$ Hair $$

LOL! Once, within living memory, it looked like this! Don’t even ASK what it costs to maintain this style…

So before choir starts, along about the end of August, I’ve got to get the hair trimmed. My long-time stylist, the ineffable and much-beloved Shane, charges $80 for the privilege. And that is marvelously incompatible with the present Anchorite Budget.

Turns out there are several beauty schools in town where you can get your hair coifed for a very modest price. Appears to be in the range of $10 or so. One of them is right up the street, amazingly enough!

About $260 is left to live on until the end of the month — and we’re only at the 13th of said month. Just about every regular bill is paid, including the exorbitant power and water bills. Today I’ll pick up about $20 worth of items from Costco, but those also are, in effect, already “paid for”: their cost will be covered by the $80 remaining on the CC cash card I bought two weeks ago, leaving a $60 remainder on that card.

Gasoline is similarly already “paid for” with a dedicated Costco cash card. I’ve only used about half a tank of gasoline so far — which I paid for with a credit card before the “cash card envelope” scheme came to mind, so there’s a good chance I’ll only use about $30 of the $60 I put on the Costco gasoline card. In fact that’s just another Costco cash card, so in a pinch some of the “gas” budget could be used on food or other necessaries from Costco. But truth to tell, I don’t see that happening.

In theory, I probably could afford to pay Shane eighty bucks to trim the magnificent locks. But that presumes no emergency or extraordinary costs arise between now and the end of the month.

Drive out to Scottsdale and spend an hour socializing with Shane, and you know what’ll happen?

The car’s battery will die. Oh, heck, no: it’ll probably explode.
The toilet will plug intractably.
All five electric fans in the house will quit running at once.
The dog will eat a dead bird and develop ptomaine poisoning.
Gerardo will figure out where the leak is in the irrigation system and rack up a $350 bill to fix it.
The microwave will short out and fill the house with smoke.
The dishwasher will grind to a halt and flood the kitchen with hot soapy water.

All of those will happen. Trust me: I know. And peals of divine and angelic laughter will be heard echoing down from someplace behind the Pearly Gates.

God and Her Angels have a twisted sense of humor.

The last time my hair was this long — about halfway down to my waist — I was much younger and could trim it myself. In those days, we had mirrors that would allow me to see the backside of my bod’, which made it possible to manipulate hair and scissors by myself. And I could reach the backside of the bod’. That is not so much the case in my dotage.

Used to cut it in three or four layers, progressively longer from the inside to the outer, surface layer. This would make it tend to curve under, in a kind of natural page-boy. But it was shorter then. At its present length, layering it would be redundant. Besides, I wear it up most of the time. At this point, all I really want is to get the split ends trimmed off, so as to make it easier to comb.

I’ve never had my hair done at one of those beauty schools, mostly because I don’t trust some budding stylist not to screw it up. Professionals have screwed it up so many times, why would I trust a kid? And of course, because I’ve had Shane. For many, many years. But at this point the hair is so long that even if she cut off two inches in the course of dorking it up, I could run back to Shane and have him fix it.

In that case, I’d have to pay $90 instead of $80 for the privilege of getting rid of the split ends. And he’d probably cut off an ear, too… 😉

It’s just not that hard to do a blunt cut.

But then….a lot of things are not that hard. And look what happens with them…

Long hair on an elderly woman is an eccentric luxury. Most older women wear their hair short: first, because that is what is expected; second (I imagine), because it’s easier to dye or bleach “blonde”; and third, because they (incorrectly) imagine it’s easier to care for.

I never do what is expected. My philosophy of life is keep ’em confused!

I do not apply any chemicals other than shampoo and conditioner (and water) to my hair.

And long hair is ridiculously easy to deal with. Very short hair is also easy to care for, except that it has to be trimmed every six or eight weeks, which amounts to a gigantic and expensive PITA.

My mother hated her hair. She used to permanent it and dye it and even sometimes cover it with wigs. Turns out that was amazingly…weird.

When she was dying  (as in “RIP,” not as in “don’t it make my gray hair brown?”) — a process that took some long, grim months — she was in so much pain she couldn’t sit up long enough to have her hair cut. She certainly couldn’t ride in the car to the salon, and she couldn’t have sat in a chair long enough, either, even if my father had thought of hiring a stylist to come to the house to cut it. Which of course he did not. So over that time, her hair grew out to about shoulder length.

And in the nursing home where we finally had to take her when my father could no longer cope, the staffers would occasionally coo to me, “Oh, her hair is so beautiful!” They marveled at its wavy heft.

As it develops, once it grew out her hair was almost exactly like mine, except for the color. She had thick, naturally wavy hair.

It was a dull mousey color by this time — she was 64. Starting some years before, it had gone to mostly gray, no doubt because of her excessive smoking. And heredity, I imagine. Her mother was blonde until she got scarlet fever in her twenties, which caused all her hair to fall out; it grew back in very dark. Her grandmother and aunt were natural platinum blondes whose hair went straight to white without pausing at gray. I always believed she damaged it with the hair dye and especially with the harsh permanent solutions. It was pretty frizzy until it grew out…and turned into a faded version of mine.

Like my father, in my old age I’m only just beginning to go gray. My father, who was largely Native American, had black hair. Well. He called it “brown” by way of passing for white, but you and I would call it “black. ” It stayed dark until he was 80 years old. In his late 70s his hair was just slightly graying at the temples. After he had his heart attack, at the age of 80, he did get a lot more gray. But…at 80, I don’t suppose you’d need a heart attack to achieve gray hair.

My hair is chestnut brown with red and blonde highlights — still, after all these years! Now it has a few silver highlights, too.

So if those women thought my mother’s faded mouse-brown hair was “beautiful,” mine must be pretty awesome, eh? 😀

Now here’s my idea of DIY hair styling:

July 12, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Coyote Morning

So along about 6 a.m. the dogs and the human are trotting up Sub-Feeder Lane, headed back toward the Funny Farm, when flying around the corner comes — HOLY SH!T — a full-grown coyote moving out at a gallop. Big one, too: probably male. His hackles are standing on end (so, we might add, are mine…). Something’s got him scared. He glances at the human with its jaw hanging open and the extremely interested (and interesting) dwarf dogs but keeps on keepin’ on.

Don’t know what spooked him. On the other side of the corner wall, the only people I could see were Manny’s wife and daughter pushing their dog in a baby stroller (don’t ask). No one could be more unprepossessing.

So that was an interesting start to a soggy day. Water is still dripping off the eaves from last night’s rain. It’s hot, muggy, and wet out there.

The pool dude is supposed to materialize in another hour and a half, by which time I will need to be washed, dressed, and painted, and the pigpen more or less picked up.

Later.

The mind (as it were) is about made up: for the new PebbleSheen surfacing job, we should go with the lightest color available that has some sort of irregular mottled-looking pattern. This is most likely to retain its appearance over the product’s 15- to 20-year lifespan. Pool Dude remarked, when asked straight-on, that the coveted darker colors all fade to gray over time. Over, he added, not so much time… Yesterday whilst killing time a-cruisin’ the Web, I came across a chat board inhabited by guys who make their living in the swimming pool biz. One conversation was going on about recoating with PebbleTec and Pebblesheen, which several of the guys had put into their own pools.

{chortle!} God, but I love finding an online chatfest made for guys (and gals) in a trade. You learn so much from their water-cooler yakfests.

So, yeah: all of these products indeed do fade to a pretty uniform gun-metal grey — and it may take just three or four years for that to happen. Several of them posted images of the results…in their own pools. One guy had a chip from the original (black) surfacing job, which he held up against the (faded to chalky slate) side of the pool.

It appears this is mostly caused by precipitation of minerals and pool chemicals out of the water, although sunlight may play some part in it. Around here, you can be sure you get plenty of mineral precipitation: our water is very hard. That’s why, if you have any sense and plenty of money to burn, you should drain and refill your pool at least every two years. Really, it would be ideal to do it every winter, but I don’t like that kind of water waste and so put it off as long as I can.

Like…ahem…four years, just now. This, Pool Dude speculated, might explain the algae issue.

If you could install a couple of water tanks in the backyard that could hold the agèd pool water and allow you to pump it onto your landscaping or use it to wash the car, that would be ideal.

But in the first place, it’s probably illegal. And in the second, it’s unclear to me how you’d pump 18,000 gallons sitting below soil level up into a tank sitting on the surface of the ground.

My water bill this month was $277.

No, not an illusion: that’s almost three hundred bucks! A hundred and twenty-seven dollars over budget.

True, we had an irrigation leak on the front patio, which Gerardo has now fixed. But that zone runs only about 20 minutes…it’s a little hard to believe that would be enough to run up a $300 bill.

***

Pool Dude just called to cancel today’s get-together. Lhudly sing huzzah! It’s hot, muggy, and stuffy in here, and i gotta say…the LAST thing I feel like doing just this minute is banging around picking up the mess and getting myself washed, combed, & painted. Yay!

***

This will free up a lost hour or two to return to drafting the over-prescribing book. Yesterday I finally finished a second draft of the chapter on NNT and NNS (number needed to test and number needed to screen), and even managed to throw in outlines for half of the 14 chapters. Today: finish the chapter outlines; recruit someone to read the NNT squib. I’ve already shipped a draft off to The Kid to fix the documentation — when you write that fast and focus so tightly on difficult subject matter, getting the commas, colons, periods and italics right is more than you wish to cope with.

Next: write the proposal cover letter. Run through the NNT chapter again — third, maybe fourth draft. Then put the package together and ship it off to Editor #1.

As soon as it goes into the email, it’s off to the GDU library to track down their database or (preferably) their hard copy of LMP so as to compile a list of another half-dozen university presses that might be inclined to publish the thing.

Actually, I like a list of a dozen potential publishers for a project like this. Back in the Day, I would always have a half-dozen copies of the proposal in circulation: ship off six copies to six editors; then as a rejection comes in, just ship off another one to the next person on the list. This keeps half-a-dozen queries in circulation and cuts the time required to sell the project to a publishing house by several months. (It’s very bad style, BTW: publishers and editors hate you for doing this!).

LOL! Do as I say, not as I do. 😀

At any rate, this time I’m starting with a publishing house that I have some reason to suspect might be interested in the project. Once they reject (which they probably will: they don’t know me from Adam’s off ox), then we’ll start with the proposal-pushing waltz.

A-n-n-d…if any of this grand plan is going to happen, I suppose I’d better get to work…

July 10, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Rain! At last!

So yesterday evening we finally got a monsoon that blew in with enough force to push some precip into the rain shadow of the North Mountains. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!

We got a fair amount of rain last night, though not enough to flood the back patio. Certainly enough to water everything nicely, though. And as usual, to confuse motorists who haven’t see water falling out of the sky since they were small children…

I believe that’s a view of a freeway in the East Valley…or…something…

Does your car have oars?

Into the breach…

A tree blew over on some poor soul’s house in Mesa, an East Valley bedroom community. Fortunately, the occupant, a 70-year-old man, was not seriously injured. People have been killed by trees and limbs coming through the roof. That didn’t happen this time, mercifully.

The moisture’s supposed to stick around for about a week, so we should get some more rain. Much needed…but what really is needed is not a (now very rare!) summer thunderstorm, but the regular annual summer deluge plus the now-extinct lengthy, softer winter rains. We get neither of those anymore. Haven’t, not in years.

But don’t worry. There’s no such thing as global warming. Because there’s no such thing as science. Right?

I’d planned to go to a local Fincon meeting last night, and was looking forward to it. But this freshet blew in right about time to head out. And it was still rush hour as the storm blew up. Given the delight I take in driving the homicidal streets of Phoenix under the best of conditions, I decided to opt the pleasure in a wind-and-rain storm. People here simply forget how to drive in rain (or maybe they never learned). They’re crazy under the best of circumstances, but in weather? Rolling menaces, every one of ’em! 😀

Plus…I’m kind of inclined to think it’s not a great idea to leave the dogs here when high winds and heavy rain are under way. Given that gigantic tree on the west side, which would take the house out altogether in a direct hit…and the palm trees that call out to the Lightning Bolt Gods…and the potential for flooding through the back door…. Not that they’d drown. But if the house were busted open they’d run off toward Yuma, never to be seen again. And of course if a fire got started, they wouldn’t live through it without someone here to get them outside.

Incredibly, the pool is holding its own against bathtub temps and blowing dirt. The mossy mustard algae has still not returned! Why, I do not know. One day, it just disappeared, and it has not come back. I did take Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner out as the storm was running in, so as to keep him from choking on tree limbs and drowned rabbits. This morning whisked about half-a-bushel of debris off the bottom, using a garden-hose attachment; then dropped Harvey back in the drink.

Meanwhile…no, I have done exactly NONE of the work laid out on my plate. It is hot. It is humid. And I am too lazy to do much more than loaf.

And so, away: to crank that chapter on NNT!

Images: Arizona Department of Transportation. Public domain.

July 9, 2018
by funny
9 Comments

Why I Bank at a Credit Union…

A fine Day from Hell in every way: at five in the morning, temp on the back porch in the 90s and air so thick you need a spoon to breathe it. It rained during the night, so that did cool things off. But. Ugh.

First order of the day’s business, once business establishments opened, was to run up to the credit union and try to find out why all my accounts are scrambled.

Ugh, indeed!

You’ll recall that to reset my grip on the finances, I decided to use Costco cash cards and my existing credit union cookie-jar accounts to create an “envelope method” approach to budgeting. Purchases at Costco would stop when the current cash-card was used up ($300, though I may drop that to $200). And (as usual) set-asides for 2019 taxes & insurance, for incoming Medicare and Medigap reimbursements, and for an emergency fund would be doled out, monthly, among three credit-union savings accounts.

These accounts have always existed. You can make as many savings accounts as you choose at my credit union, plus your checking account. So I’ve always had an account called “Emergency Savings,” one called “Mayo” (for the medical reimbursements), and one called “T&I” (for tax & insurance).

At the time I make this decision, I figure I’ll live on my 401(k)’s Required Minimum Drawdown (or try to), and transfer all the Social Security payments into “Emergency Savings,” an account whose balance had dwindled to a little over five dollars. To accomplish this, I get on the phone and talk with a credit union’s CSR. I ask this person how I can arrange to auto-transfer the gummint’s monthly electronic deposits from checking to the account branded “emergency savings.”  SS payments come in unpredictably, roughly depending on what cycle the bureaucrats use to send them to you. Mine arrive sometime between the first and about the 12th of the month. I explain that I’d like this money set aside to build an emergency fund and I’d like not to have to do that manually whenever the SSA gets around to sending the money. She says she will make it so.

Good. Days go by.

Now I do some more budgeteering — and I realize that there’s no way I can possibly live on the RMD alone. While I probably can avoid suctioning up all the SS income, I’m going to need at least $500 a month of it. Probably more. When I go online to arrange an automatic transfer of $530/month, I’m astonished to discover the “Mayo” savings account has disappeared, and the chunk of dough set aside in there to pay the Mayo’s next bill has disappeared with it.

The money to cover medical bills has been moved over into my regular savings account (which I’d dubbed “Emergency Savings,” but which has been renamed “Share Savings”).

When I go to double-check the scheduled transfer of the SS funds, I can find exactly no trace of it.

So. You know better. I know better. We all know better: Never do your banking over the phone.

This meant I had to drive to the credit union, collar a manager or assistant manager, and find out WTF is going on.

  1. What happened to the scheduled transfer of the monthly Social Security deposit into Emergency Savings?
  2. If it didn’t get arranged, why not?
  3. If it did get arranged, why doesn’t it show as a scheduled transfer? Where did the transfer that was supposedly arranged go? Is that monthly deposit going to disappear into limbo?
  4. If it did not get arranged, can we arrange it? Can we be certain that we’re not duplicating a scheduled transfer that doesn’t show even though it  supposedly was made?
  5. Can we arrange an auto transfer on the 20th of each month from Emergency Savings (holding the SS deposits) to checking, enough to make ends meet?

Oh, those lucky people! We need to start a U-Tube Video series: Here She Comes Again!

So I get up there and discover…

  1. If a scheduled transfer was made from the CU’s environs instead of by you, you can’t see it in the online “scheduled transfer” function. (Naturally! Why did I ask?)
  2. He doesn’t have a clue what happened to the “Mayo” savings account.
  3. He suggests it would be simpler to transfer the difference between the total SS monthly deposit and the amount I need  into the “Emergency Savings” account. Keep whatever is needed in checking and transfer the rest to the savings account.
  4. He will rename “Emergency Savings” as “Mayo,” leaving the amount for the medical bills in that account rather than transferring them around.
  5. And he will create a new “Emergency Savings” account to hold a little over half of incoming Social Security deposits, leaving the rest in checking to cover cash flow. We hope.

Sounds OK, right? He says what I see at home is different from what he says on his monitor. He suggests I send him a screenshot, after I get back to the Funny Farm, so we can check that all this is working.

And so, off I go to retrace the 8.2 miles of my steps back to the house: it required driving 16.4 miles and about 90 minutes of my time to accomplish this.

A check-up revealed that we had it almost right. We ended up with…

  • a checking account  (Balance: one year’s worth of RMD plus a few bucks)
  • a savings account (“Emergency Savings, 00.” Unfunded)
  • a savings account, (“Taxes & Insurance, 60.” $8408)
  • a savings account (“Taxes and Insurance, 61.”  $538.95)

So what has happened is that the set-aside account to cover medical bills was redundantly named “taxes and insurance” rather than “Mayo.” But at least we have an account into which to stash Medigap and Medicare payments.

Gaaaahhhhhh! So I had to get on the email, send him the desired secreenshot, and ask him to rename account 61 in such a way that I can distinguish it from the real tax-&-insurance “envelope” at a glance.

Jeez.

Long as I’m wrestling with money online, I decide to check to see how much AMEX thinks I owe it as of this minute, to be sure it jibes with the $130 I believe I’ve charged up.

Well. No. AMEX’s website says I owe that fine outfit $682!!!!!!

WTF??????? Have they not received the seven-something I sent them when the last statement came in?

Go back to the credit union’s site and find that they have indeed paid last month’s bill, as directed. AMEX should have received the money on or about the 5th…four days ago.

Get a chat rep online at the AMEX site. After endless waiting and screwing around with typing out the question and explaining that it was paid electronically and should have been received, I learned that yea verily it had been received. It would take another 24 to 48 hours  before that fact registered on their website.

Ducky.

Q. So, I ask: how much have I charged up on the card in the current billing cycle — that is, how much do you see owing right now?

A. About $126.

That’s four bucks less than my records say I’ve charged — probably because this card applies an automatic cash kickback to eligible transactions. But at least their conception of reality is now close to my conception of reality.

What a bitch of a morning! And early afternoon.

Coulda been worse, though. Just imagine if all those cookie-jar shenanigans had been happening at, say, Wells Fargo.

Needing to pick up some one-pound bags of chlorine shock treatment this morning, I serendipitously discovered a Leslie’s about six blocks from the campus (where the CU office resides). And even more serendipitously, right next door to the thing was a Fry’s grocery store….where I could buy another breakfast melon, some grapes, and a few tomatoes to restock the larder.

And at the Leslie’s, I discovered that eight pounds worth of shock treatment in bags costs about $14 less than the same amount of the same stuff dispensed in bulk. Jeez. Such a deal.

 

 

July 9, 2018
by funny
0 comments

Top 5 Reasons to Open a Bitcoin IRA

If you want to have a diverse retirement portfolio, which means a strong retirement portfolio, then you should consider all types of investment classes. Since 2014, it has been officially allowed to open a bitcoin IRA. While this is still a relatively new concept, it is one that has gained a lot of interest and attention from the media and financial experts alike. Deciding to invest in any type of asset class requires careful consideration on your part comma but it seems that most agree that adding at least some cryptocurrencies to your holding is a good idea. Let’s take a look at the top five reasons why you may want to consider a bitcoin retirement fund.

5 Reasons to Open a Bitcoin IRA

  1. Bitcoin and ethereum in particular offer a really safe haven against economic turmoil, not unlike that offered by precious metals. When a geopolitical, financial, or economic crisis hits, precious metals like gold offer a safe haven because there is a fixed quantity of them. Cryptocurrencies are the same, as they have been created in a finite amount. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that with increases in tensions around the world, and global governments printing more money, that people are turning towards cryptocurrencies instead.
  2. There are limited supply of cryptocurrencies, yet demand is growing. That is the economic formula for a price rise over time. The Bitcoin system is such that there will never be more than 21 million bitcoins around come up with around 17 million of those already having been found. What this means is that bitcoin is effectively even rarer than gold and, by 2140, no new bitcoin will ever be found again. The other main cryptocurrency, ethereum, is also limited in its production.
  3. A good retirement portfolio is a diverse portfolio, and cryptocurrencies offer you a fantastic diversification option. Most people still focus mainly on stocks and bonds but these are perhaps as volatile as alternative assets. The more secure stocks and bonds may not be as volatile but they are yield is also much smaller. Hence, adding at least some cryptocurrency is certainly a good idea.
  4. The dollar, which is a printed money, is declining. The US treasury seems to print more money on a daily basis, with a current deficit of over a trillion each year. What this means is that, with supply expanding limitlessly, the value of the dollar is dropping rapidly. Again, because of the finite nature of Bitcoin, this is not a concern.
  5. Because the Bitcoin IRA is becoming increasingly popular, it is now also much easier to find a financial advisor that can help you make the right investment decisions.

If you are wondering whether or not you should open a bitcoin IRA, the simple answer is that yes you should. But do understand that having a bitcoin IRA does not mean you should invest 100% in cryptocurrencies. Rather, only a fraction of your overall investments should focus on those but you will require a digital IRA just to be able to hold any.

Funny about Money is a little old lady with a computer, not a financial adviser, financial advising firm, or anything even vaguely related thereto. No part of this site’s content should be construed as advice, and you should not take anything that is said here as investment or financial advice. Speak with a professional before making important decisions about your money, your professional life, or your personal life.