Coffee heat rising

Roundup: Cactus flower edition

If you came here following a ping, you’ve found the beta version of Funny about Money in WordPress. After I’ve worked out a few bugs, I plan to migrate the domain name to this site. Till then, to ease the workload I’m copying current posts from iWeb to WordPress as I write them.

The past week’s violent summer rains have borne fruit in the form of a spectacular new flower, spotted on an otherwise unassuming little cactus that grows under my desert willow’s canopy. Isn’t that the loveliest shade of pink? It’s evidently a variety of Easter lily cactus-the blossom has the classic trumpet shape. I’ve never seen one before that wasn’t white or magenta.

A lot has been going on while Funny was off the air. Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, along with Lynnae of BeingFrugal.net and Steve of Brip-Blap, got on this weekend’s Marketplace Money, quite a nice coup, indeed!

Feeling cranky as I am about Apple these days, I enjoyed Jim’s gentle jibe at the ridiculousness of the iPhone craze.

Out of Debt again is back from summer camp and Mrs. Micah is back from vacation and plumping her first blogiversary contest. Be This Way has her hands full this summer, between moving her dad out of his house and putting her own house on the market. Meanwhile, also on the home front Be This Way’s little one has already begun to test the law of nature that says to outwit a small child a parent must be faster than the child by a factor of ten to the twenty-seventh power.

Plonkee has an interesting series of discussions going on the question of whether one should (or would) move to engineer a lower cost of living. Five-cent Nickel thunders about the state of financial education in this country…only one small element, I might add, in the overall state of American education. Wisebread reports on a new subspecies of the Trophy Wife: the SAHW (she stays at home whether she has kids or not). Lordie. Who’d’ve thunk it?

SmallNotebook.org has a nice essay on how to zing “natural” housecleaning products to get them to work a little better. At The Simple Dollar, Trent et famille are off to the state fair and planning ways to keep their outing frugal. And My Dollar Plan offers an interesting strategy to use your Roth IRA to help lower your tax bill.

Lessons learned from a computer crash

First: Don’t believe a Mac is any more reliable than a PC. It’s not.

Second: Never believe what Apple’s sales staff tells you. When I bought the Mac, I specifically asked if the Quicken data the Apple Geniuses obligingly converted to Macintosh format could be converted back to PC format, in case I didn’t care for the platform. They said there would be no problem. That turns out not to be true. A Mac-compatible Quicken data file can not be converted to a PC-readable format. Thus, if you’ve faithfully backed up your Quicken data every time you enter transactions and you own only one Mac, after it crashes you may never be able to retrieve your data-especially if your version is out of date and a newer version of Quicken won’t read it. (Remember, this is one of Quicken’s devices to force consumers to keep buying new, unneeded software: if you decline to buy each bloated new version, when you go to buy a new computer and have to install the current version, you may find all your old data is unreadable.)

Third: However, you can save a Quicken file to PDF format. You can do this with transaction reports and with entire account registers. I don’t know if it’s a function of Acrobat Professional, which resides on all my terminals, or if Quicken will make PDFs on its own, but I think it’s the latter. The process is very easy: simply print to a PDF.

While a PDF of course has no functionality, it does at least save your data in a format readable on both platforms, and PDF files are extremely stable. As such, they provide a last-ditch back-up. If everything in Quicken crashes and for some reason (there certainly are reasons!) you can’t get back into your QDF files, you at least can get at the data so that you can re-enter it in a new version of the program or into Excel.

Fourth: The relationship between Intuit and Apple is tenuous, and Mac-compatible versions of Quicken for Mac are pale (often annoying) shadows of Quicken for PC. Although Intuit alleges that it will come out with a spectacular new Mac version so ground-breaking it must be rebranded “Quicken Financial Life for Mac,” believe it when you see it.

Consider using Excel for bookkeeping. This requires you to forego the swell online communication with your bank and investment brokers…but really. How necessary is that, in the large scheme of things?

Fifth: The capability to back up Quicken data files to MobileMe is dubious. For one thing, it’s unclear whether the file is stored with a .qdf extension, and so it’s equally unclear whether the file can be used to reconstruct lost data. Then there’s the alarming fact that one of Apple’s online support gurus told me flatly Quicken cannot be backed up to MobileMe. The store’s manager denies it, but given the contradictory tales that have come at me from all directions, I believe it’s smart to put that bit of intelligence somewhere other than in the circular file.

For this reason, all QDF files should be backed up to an external hard drive and also to a flash drive. If there’s any chance you will not have access to a second Mac loaded with Quicken, also back up your account registers in PDF format.

Sixth: iWeb’s blogging function is resident on your computer and only on your computer. Thus if your computer crashes, your blog is gone. Gone for good. Unless you’ve backed up the content of your site, it can’t be retrieved; the Genius who revealed this gem was unclear whether saved data can be imported into iWeb on a new computer. If you start anew on a fresh computer without having imported your old posts, even if you can access your blog site (a matter that appears to be questionable), the minute you publish a new entry you will erase all your blog’s archival content.

Never, ever do a blog on iWeb!

What’s going on here?

Funny about MoneyatiWeb is down for the count, the Mac presently residing in Apple’s ICU. I’ve been planning to migrate funny to WordPress for a while, anyway, so this little headache presents an opportunity to get moving on that project.

It’s huge, and I’m still not convinced I want to do it. The amount of work involved is daunting–just capturing most (but not all) of the posts from the Net into Word takes about an hour for each month’s worth, and Funny has been around for seven months. Once I have the copy out of the Macintosh, it still has to be stripped of all the weird Microsoft tags and reformatted for republication. Augh!

Then I have to figure out how to migrate the domain name to WordPress, a complicated-sounding process,and then pay for the privilege, one that was included in the cost of .Mac. I wonder if this is worth the effort.

WordPress has some huge advantages, foremost among them that it’s accessible from any platform. With iWeb you have to be on a Mac, a killer of a restriction, since I can’t afford to own more than one Mac. Then you have to set up the Mac so that iWeb will access your site, and that is something I have no idea how to accomplish.

On the other hand,inserting graphics in an iWeb page is extremely easy, which can’t be said of WordPress; there’s no problem with pasting copy from Word into iWeb; and you can design your own page without having to know CSS. WordPress wishes to charge you if you put ads on your site; there’s no charge for that at Apple. While Apple charges for the use of its servers, in addition to space for your website you also can back up your data there. Alotof data. Taken together, all those are almost as big as the accessibility issue. Bigger, maybe… I don’t much care for the WordPress template I’ve selected, but I don’t see anything else that makes me happier. Plus–speaking of access–you don’t have to memorize passwords to get into your iWeb pages.

So the decision is not yet taken. If the Mac can’t be fixed, obviously I’ll have to go to WordPress. But if it comes back up…well. This is certainlynotthe path of least resistance.

The show must go on!

It’s 4:20 in the morning. At 3:00 a.m., the dog got sick and demanded to go outside. While I was standing out there with her, a car drove up the alley with its lights off and stopped behind my back gate.

I called the police.

A few minutes later, I heard pounding and the sound of something breaking. I called the cops again. They sent an officer over, who discovered the perp is a Cox Cable worker.

That’s right. Cox sends guys with hammers and power equipment into residential neighborhoods to set up a racket outside people’s bedroom windows in the wee hours of the morning before dawn. The guy is still out there banging around.

Heaven forfend that some hapless viewer should have to wait until daylight to watch television!

Big Brother in action

Have you seen the CriminalSearch site? It’s free. You can enter a person’s name and state of residence, click a button, and up will come what purports to be his or her rap sheet. w00t! You, too, can get the straight skinny on all your neighbors. And on that sketchy dude your daughter has been dating! And oh, heck…while you’re at it, why not check up on your daughter, too?

You also can enter an address and get a report showing which of your neighbors in the surrounding area have criminal records, with their names, addresses, and a map showing how to find their homes. And…uhm…yours, if you happen ever to have been caught in the act of turning right at a stop sign without coming to a full stop or failing to yield the right of way.

Problem is, the results seem to be less than significant and less than accurate. A neighborhood search, for example, shows my area rife with desperados: all of them flagrant violators of the traffic laws. Nary a violent criminal or a sex offender appears in the district that includes my neighborhood, the scary slum to the north, and the tenements to the west. Ditto the Investment House’s neighborhood and the bordering crime-ridden area to the west, which is infested with gangs. Well, not quite ditto: one person arrested for theft lives in the general vicinity. Some of the traffic arrests include such heinous crimes as not carrying one’s car registration in the vehicle and not wearing your seatbelt. Now, recently I read that to protect yourself from car theft you should not keep the registration in the car. And when I was pregnant, my gynecologist told me absolutely not to wear a seatbelt in the last trimester, because it would inflict more damage in a minor accident than the collision would.

From the looks of CriminalSearch’s maps, it looks like all is quiet around here.

However, the Sheriff’s office posts maps with the names, addresses, and specific rap sheet details of all registered sex offenders in the county. When you call that up, it’s a whole ‘nother story. The area to the north of me has a half-dozen offenders. The tenements to the west also house several sex offenders. The area to the west of the Investment House, which surrounds a middle school, is awash in sex offenders.

Then there’s what we personally know. Here in the mid- to high-rent district, a state legislator just had to resign after he was arrested for walloping his wife. He lives about six blocks up the road. Right across the street, there’s Carlos the Knife. I know Carlos was arrested the time he cut up his daughter with a kitchen knife when she got between him and her mother. I know he was arrested again more recently, when he went after his wife again. A block north and west, where I used to live, I know the delinquent who lived across the street from me was arrested when he got violent and his grandparents called the police. In Arizona, the police are required to make an arrest in every domestic violence case, even if the victim refuses to press charges. None of those incidents appears in CriminalSearch.

I know that one bright morning 18 months ago the gentleman who rented the house across the street from me was pursued by a small army of cops and brought to ground in his driveway, where it took the occupants of several cruisers and two motorcycle officers to subdue him and carry him off to jail. Okay, so that place is a rental and he’s gone; so maybe the records are up to date and don’t include him. But the current tenant gussies himself up like a Hell’s Angel and rides an unmuffled Harley; somehow I doubt the guy is the Angel Gabriel in disguise. Chances that he has a criminal record are very high.

This freebie, advertiser-supported service comes from PeopleSearch, an outfit used by employers and landlords to do background checks on job applicants. Could your credit rating, your shot at a job, or your ability to rent a home be harmed because you dared to flout some bureaucratic rule that makes no sense? Or because of a minor traffic violation? Meanwhile, the real perps, people who might be inclined to embezzle from the till or bring a street-sweeper to work, they don’t show up.

Invasion of privacy is real. It can get you in your pocketbook and it can get you in other ways, and you may never know why. Fairly or unfairly, it can keep you from getting a job, jack up your interest rates, and even bar you from renting a desirable place to live. Americans need to wake up to this. You should care.

Comments left on the iWeb site:

BeThisWay

You are very right.

Still, I admit to getting titillated by the discovery of an assault case on the record of someone I know very well.Someone who is quite holier than thou in general, and looks down his nose at someone else we both know who got arrested for something shockingly similar.

Heh.

New business enterprise gets under way

Well, the tiny newborn business my friend and I are starting has climbed to its little feet and is toddling around. Yesterday we got our first serious nibble, if you don’t count the client we already had when we began. The contract isn’t landed yet, but we were thrilled to attract a serious expression of interest.

Here’s what we did to get the business under way:

First, we wrote a business plan. We articulated a) what we wanted the business to do; b) how we would deliver on that; and c) how the business would be organized (as a partnership).

Next, we set an earnings goal. Since this is a side business and we both have day jobs, we decided we would each like to be grossing at least $1,000 a month within one year.

Then we established two marketing strategies: 1) join the Arizona Book Publishing Association (ABPA); and 2) create a blog in the enterprise’s name, The Copyeditor’s Desk. The ABPA turns out to be a gold mine: its meetings are frequented not only by publishers likely to need our copyediting, proofreading, and indexing services but also by writers who are either self-publishing or seeking publishers and very much need our services. It remains to be seen whether the blog will bring in much business, but it gets our name out there, and if it develops much readership, it can monetized to contribute a few dollars toward our earnings goal.

Finally, we obtained some business cards, free, off the Internet, and we designed a brochure that we will have printed through her brother-in-law’s Kwik-Kopy outlet.

It’s pretty rudimentary and at first blush doesn’t look very ambitious — until you consider that we both have jobs and she has a family to take care of. We think it will keep us busy, and if we’re lucky it will generate the fairly modest financial goal we’ve set for ourselves. Keeping it simple should at least keep it manageable.