Coffee heat rising

Funny’s New Clothes…

So now we have a new template for Funny about Money. To my eye, it looks amazingly like the one we had before, but it’s all up-to-date, current with contemporary styles, and should run trouble-free (I hope) for a few more years. The Comments work fine in this new costume, solving the problem that had developed with the last template.

This small miracle was worked by our Web guru, Grayson Bell of iMark Interactive. None of it was anything that I could have pulled off on my own — nor is any of the other magic he occasionally works here. If you have a website and need a behind-the-scenes pro to keep it looking its best, Grayson’s your man.

Thanks, Grayson!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Standing By…but Not Standing Back

…got fruit?…

As we noted a day or so ago, the comments section at Funny isn’t working properly. Some readers may be able to post a comment in the “Reply” feed, but it won’t show on the site. Yet. It will be forwarded to me, though, meaning I can see it. But no one else can. Feel free to stay in touch! 🙂

Funny’s Web guru has located a new template that’s remarkably similar to the one we’ve been using. But he’s had to go out of town, so it’ll be awhile before the issue is fixed.

Meanwhile, life continues. Ruby the Corgi has proved her worth as a ratter. Did you know corgis are bred as ratters as well as for herding? Yes. You have never seen anything move as fast as this dog when she launches after her prey. Except, of course, for Rattie.

For some years, Phoenix has been infested by roof rats, a relatively small rat (compared to a sewer rat) that favors fruit. I think of the little pest as a kind of wingless fruit bat, actually. They’re attracted by citrus — of any kind: Rattie will happily eat the Meyer lemon outside the back door. They’re strangely charming, in a rattish way. The problem, though, is that they’re extremely destructive. They can climb straight up a block wall…and once they get into your attic, they’ll gnaw on the wiring — which can cause a fire. Get under the hood of your car, and they’ll eat the hoses and wiring. Got a washer in the garage? They’ll chew up both the wiring and the hoses! Inside your house, they’ll slip in behind the sofa, dig their way inside, and establish a nice comfy nest in the furniture, there to bring up the family.

So: needless to say, no matter how cute Rattie may be, she’s gonna hafta go.

The easiest way to dispose of these fine creatures is poison. Last time I had one as a guest, she took up residence in the garage, underneath the washer. . At that time my room-mate was a German shepherd, who was pretty easy to keep an eye on. This made it possible to lay poison bait behind the washer & dryer and keep an eye on the place until the victim croaked over in the middle of the floor.

Today, however, Rattie has staked out her territory in the backyard. First off, she built a nest under the westside deck. After I stuffed steel wool into every nook, crack, and cranny around the thing, she moved into the river rocks that line a drainage ditch across the backyard, and then built a cool tunnel along the base of the cat’s-claw hedge.The backyard is inhabited by Ruby the Corgi, and so poison is out of the question.

Wilier strategies are in order.

My son gave me a box of sticky-board traps. Problem is, Ruby got stuck in one of those at his house, and it was quite the little fukkin’ disaster. The dog almost croaked over in her terror, and to free her, we had to hack the thing out of her fur with a pair of scissors.

He also gave me a couple of cage traps. These ingenious devices have a little platform that’s connected to a delicate catch. You put the bait on this platform and when the critter lifts it up, it releases the door, trapping the critter inside.

Very clever.

Problem is, rats are very clever, too. Indeed, most likely they’re more clever than the human. Rattie has successfully evaded the glue traps. I barricaded Ruby out of the area under the tree where I placed these traps, by surrounding the tree with a wire garden-border fence — plenty of room for Rattie to get through to her favorite lemon stash, but not enough for Ruby to squeeze through.

Or so I thought.

Took her a week or so to find her way inside there. Once she was in, she panicked. Luckily I spotted her and managed to get her out before she flailed onto the glue traps…Whew!

Rattie built a nice nest in the middle of the marjoram patch. Tossed a glue trap in there. She moved on.

Next trick: try to lure her into the rat cage. First time I tried these, Rattie laughed. Noooo…not interested in your peanut butter, thankyouvery much. A cruise of the Web produced some clues: get the critters used to the traps by locking the door open and putting food in there for several days & nights, so they expect to find treats in there.

Well. This sounds good, eh? Little pieces of fruit around the entry, a few inside the little palace.

These gems looked good, too: to the resident mockingbird. He would be the critter who unearths seedlings and yanks exotic little vines out of their pots.

Adjust strategy: place the fruit out at night, after the birds have gone to roost. Keep Ruby indoors, so she doesn’t eat the fruit herself.

So now we’re on the second night of baiting the un-set trap. We shall see if Rattie can be fooled. She’s a smart little beastie, so it remains to be seen whether she can be trained to go inside the trap and munch on a bait set on the spring platform.

Too bad she’s such a nuisance and that she carries any number of noxious diseases and parasites. She’s kinda cute. In a rattish sorta way. 😉

Have No Fear…

Funny will be back. 😀

The blog has been on a bit of a hiatus while I’ve juggled several large projects. Right now am on page 26 of 57 pages in the client’s  Chapter 2…and she’s just getting on a roll.

Seriously, it’s a sophisticated and heavily researched academic book whose author is not a native speaker of English. And I do not speak her language (gotta learn it!!!), so sometimes it takes some figuring to Englishify it.

Sooo much crazy stuff going on in our world…to say “have no fear” seems a little…ridiculous. Some of us are scared sh!tless. Pool Dude is presently armed to the teeth — he seriously expects riots in the neighborhood lanes if Trump is voted out. You can’t buy ammo for love nor money, not that it would matter because I personally have no time to pass down at the range training myself to hit a target dead-on. Nor, offhand, do I happen to have any targets laying around the house just now.

Further from the realm of neurotic fantasy and closer to the realm of reality: if you haven’t already done so, it might be wise to be sure you have enough paper towels and toilet paper to last a month or so. Was just over at the big Fry’s (the local incarnation of Kroger’s) and found the shelves about bare where those things were concerned.

Rubbing alcohol is also absent. Remember that Windex contains alcohol and will also disinfect surfaces, as will hydrogen peroxide (good luck laying your hands on any of that!). Failing either of those, you can buy straight grain alcohol under the brand name “Everclear” at Total Wine — depending on what state you live in. It’s illegal in some states. The stuff is actually a more effective disinfectant than rubbing alcohol. Do NOT drink it, no matter what anyone suggests — unless you wish to be numbered among the microbes it removes from this earth.

Back to work! Stay well…

WordPress.com Hack

Recently, the venerable blog host WordPress.com was massively hacked. If you subscribed to an RSS feed for a WordPress.com site, the hack started sending you rafts of spam emails for scams of all descriptions.

How does this affect you’n’me? With any luck it doesn’t…UNLESS you subscribed to the Plain and Simple Press website’s blog several years ago.

When I first started the P&S blog — the one that has been posting chapters from my various bookoids — it was on WordPress.com, and it was titled “Writers Plain & Simple.”

After a while, our Web guru, Grayson Bell, suggested we move the blog from WordPress.com to the server that now hosts Funny about Money and make it a subdomain of Plain & Simple Press, which also resides at Bigscoots. This freed us from some of WordPress.com’s peculiarities and put all our shiny little pebbles in one bucket.

If you are a long-time subscriber to Plain & Simple Press’s blog and you suddenly find yourself besieged by junk emails, check the URL in your RSS feed. It should NOT end in wordpress.com. The site’s correct address is http://www.plainandsimplepress.com.

I have now deleted the old P&S Press site from WordPress.com. The current P&S blog and is hosted at Bigscoots.com, and so the URL contains no reference to WordPress.

Why Blog…Still?

Just imagine! Funny has been online for  over 12 years! Its first post in WordPress appeared on Christmas Eve, 2007, but that was far from the first word. Funny about Money was born on an ancient Apple platform that was (as I recall) dubbed “iWeb.” It was a pretty limited tool, but it did allow you to publish a daily squib that could reach an audience on the Web, if you publicized it enough.

Over time, personal finance blogging took off. I’d started my site after becoming enamored of Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar and thinking “I could do that!” Never occurred to me to try to make a living at it — as he apparently was doing. For me, it was something to occupy my mind while sitting in front of the television set, trying to cool the brain after reading too many student papers.

Television sets…remember those? Free TV shows that came in off the air, that you didn’t have to pay to watch? Wow! Those were the days.

Whatever. By 2007, FaM was getting large enough that it needed a stronger platform…plus it was apparent that Apple’s thing wasn’t going to last forever (it was discontinued in 2011). But well before its demise, I’d made blogging friends who urged me to switch to WordPress or Blogger. Of the two, WP looked like the least hassle and probably the least restrictive, so it was away to the Big Leagues.

It took awhile after making the jump to WordPress before I realized some people (other than Trent) were actually making money off these things. And that Funny was doing pretty well as PF blogs go…at one point it ranked among the top 50 personal finance blogs in the English language.

So I tried a few monetizing strategies. Adsense was a bust, IMHO. It seemed as though if I could get my junior college students to go to the site and encourage them to click on a few ads, I could make…ohhh…maybe ten bucks a month (what is that? $.000001 a word?). But was it really worth junking up the damn site? And having Adsense serve advertising for Scandinavian…uhm…escorts?

Advertising goods for Amazon? Well…okay. Maybe. If I knew a friend or reader wanted to order XXX or YYY from Amazon, I could post a link on Funny and talk them into clicking through to the desired product. One friend liked to order very expensive dog food, in quantity, from Amazon. This worked, a couple of times. How well did it work? Well…maybe it produced enough to buy a package of chewing gum.

Advertising my own books on the site? Uhmmmm…. Ooohkayyy. Sorta. Certainly not enough to plan a night on the town, though.

But I wasn’t writing Funny about Money to make money. I was writing it because it entertained me and passed many an otherwise boring evening in front of the television. It made contact with humans in the outside world. And who knows? Maybe someone out there somewhere was even helped by some tidbit of advice the site emitted.

Over time, I drifted away from mumbling on endlessly about budgeting, investing, retirement planning, and all things money. There are only so many ways you can say the same things over and over: get an educational or decent vocational training. Get a job. Live within your means. Build an emergency fund. Stay out of debt. Pay off necessary debt (such as mortgages or car loans) as fast as you can. Never spend more in any given period than you have coming in. Be prepared for a layoff by having a side gig or too and contributing your emergency fund with every paycheck.

Quite a few personal finance blogs survive, although the most interesting and well written ones were sold off by their founders. Get Rich Slowly, Budgets Are Sexy, The Simple Dollar, and many others are no longer written by the excellent creative minds that brought them to us. In fact, it really is true that you run out of ways to deliver the obvious advice, and there are only so many fresh spins you can take on that advice.

Blogs went out of style some time back. Younger folk, it appears, prefer to communicate online in staccato blurbs or images, rather than wasting time reading thought-out essays. Presumably reading has gone out of style, too — even though books continue to sell. What do you suppose people do with them? Use them as fireplace kindling? 😀

Style not being my thing, I continue to post at Funny. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve thought of it as a “personal finance” blog…now it’s just a “personal” blog. Actually, it functions as a writer’s journal, a kind of five-finger exercise to warm up before turning to something more serious. Or to paying work.

So I expect it to be around for quite awhile longer. Hope you will be, too!

The Mutability of Digitality…

Here’s the problem with All Things Digital: they’re even more transient than most human creations. Sic, we might say, transit gloria digiti. Just about anything we commit to little glowing letters — or to code in the guts of some computer system — is going to disappear. And it’s going to disappear sooner than later.

This, as a side note, is why I prefer my books between paper covers, thank you. Especially ever since we learned that Amazon can reach into your device and delete any Kindle document it pleases. Yes, paper burns. Paper mildews. Moths eat it, crickets eat it, the dog eats it, the baby eats it. But whatever you commit to hard-copy writing at least has a chance to survive for posterity to view it. A medical treatise written on papyrus, for example, survives from 2000 B.C. Carve your golden words into stone, and they’ll last as long as the pyramids stand.

Well, so… We’re told that come the end of this month, WordPress will force us all to use a new program called, bloviatingly enough, Gutenberg. It will, we’re assured, “impact” (God help us! If you can’t use English, why would you think we expect your software to be any better?) “the entire publishing experience” and yada yada.

Any good at reading between the lines? I’ve become fairly practiced at it. Here’s what I glean from this joyous announcement:

  1. New aggravating hassles
  2. More brain clutter for us to have to cope with
  3. Websites or at least important parts of sites will break.
  4. Data will be lost.

Especially “data will be lost.”  Funny about Money has been around since 2007 — that’s 11 years, the equivalent of 11 centuries in Digital Land — and I’ve seen a lot of innovations. Scarcely a one of them has happened without some fiasco. That would be why the first several years’ worth of posts at this site have no images: all my carefully uploaded and formatted pictures were taken down without my knowledge and without my permission.

Funny’s Web guru says he likes Gutenberg — that it’s easy to use and it won’t create problems. I hope he’s right.

But… Yeah. Eleven years of data. Just sitting there waiting to be disappeared. Mm hmmm…

Yesterday evening I spend three hours on the phone with a high-powered Apple tech trying to fix the mess created when another tech decided nothing would do but what I had to re-install the Sierra OS on the MacBook, even though I tried to tell him it would create a mess. And indeed…what a mess it did create!

Most of the problems are finally resolved…except for the fact that the big iMac no longer will sync DropBox. I do not know how to fix that. When I inquired of DropBox’s help folks, I got an e-mailed set of instructions that are just flat-out incomprehensible. Literally: there is no way I can figure that mess out. Sooo… I guess I no longer have DropBox on both computers and will never get that service back.

My plan in that department is to buy a large external hard drive and manually back up DropBox to it about once a week. In the meantime, it also gets backed up occasionally to Time Machine along with everything else on each machine. And DropBox itself keeps a kind of back-up — difficult to navigate, but at least something is there.

The point here is…silicon-based data goes away. It goes away at the slightest change in the breeze’s direction. So yes, I do expect this shift to Gutenberg is going to erase a lot of Funny’s content. It may even knock the site off the air, temporarily or permanently.

And anyhow, one way or another, when I’m gone, everything of mine on the Web will go away. And you know…as a writer, I kinda don’t like that.

Backing up the content to disk doesn’t resolve the problem. The outcome is still digitized, unintelligible to the average human, and still vulnerable to disappearance. Nor is the task very easy to accomplish. When I used BackupBuddy to create a copy of FaM, it loaded the whole 11 years’ worth of duplicated data to the host’s server! This quickly maxed their server and shut down the site.

Yeah. See what I mean?

Face With Rolling Eyes on Apple iOS 11.3

So I decided to take a little project in hand:

Copy the site’s entire contents, dating back to December 2007, into Word. Store to DropBox. Copy to the MacBook’s Documents folder. Format it in “Styles.” And then print it all out on three-hole punched paper and store it in binders.

Though this is not at all hard to do, it disgorges one hell of a lot of copy. In fact, it looks like more copy than it is, because when you just slam content into Wyrd it picks up all sorts of space-gobbling formatting from WordPress. When formatted properly, many thousands of points will be reduced to normal font size, photos will be sized to fit pages, air will be pulled up, and a lot less space will be consumed. Still: a year’s worth will probably fill 800 pages or so.

But…once it’s on paper, it will be on paper. I can leave it to my son. He can throw it in the backyard firepit if he so pleases. But at least he’ll have the option to do so, which he will not have if all this content resides on the Web and only on the Web or inside a computer when I croak over.

This all sounds rather silly, not to say hubristic. But y’know… I wish I had kept my mother’s letters. In my freshman year at the University of Arizona, she sent me a series of handwritten letters, They were pretty Polonian, full of advice she had already delivered during the previous 16 years of my life and stuff I did not want to rehearse in my dorm room. Annoyed, I tossed them out.

Some lady found one that had blown out of the back of a garbage truck and landed in a street. She mailed it back to me (!) with a note saying she expected it was something I might want to keep.

Didn’t then. But do now.

So if he doesn’t throw all this junk out, maybe someday he’ll have something he’ll enjoy looking at. If nothing else, he can give it to a local museum as a record of what life was like in the dystopic 21st century here in lovely uptown Phoenix.

One never knows.