Coffee heat rising

* sigh *

Wish I earned four times what a senior editor makes, as young Fabulously Broke is doing as an independent IT guru. If I did…well, then I would.

😉

Last night I learned that the person I hoped would take care of Cassie the Corgie in October, when I’d planned to go to a reunion of my dearest college friends, can’t do it. That leaves me with no babysitter for the dog, and so that means I can’t go. Darn it. I was really looking forward to getting together with these women, only one of whom I’ve seen at all since we graduated from the university forty-two years ago.

Besides the fact that I can’t afford to put the pooch up at a kennel or at the vet’s, I’ve developed a real flinch reflex about that strategy. During my adult life, I’ve had seven dogs and seven cats. For twenty years I was married to a man who loved to travel and who could afford to board the dog while we were in transit. Not once, EVER, have I boarded a pet (dog or cat) and brought it home healthy. Every single time, the animal has come back from the vet’s or the kennel with some ailment or parasite infestation: kennel cough, enteritis, ear mites, ticks, fleas…you name it. What this means is that after you’ve paid the vet to put the dog up for several days, you then get to pay the vet to treat the dog for whatever it picked up at the vet’s kennel! And I really can’t afford to pony up another $100 to get Cassie well on top of the boarding fee, the $100 my car will burn in driving to Sedona, the cost of eating out four days, and the cost of a gift for the hostess. If I earned IT guru money, I could afford to have a petsitter come to the house. Because Cassie won’t use a dog door and won’t go out and do her thing unless you go out and stand there with her, such a person would have to show up twice each day to feed her and then come back and let her out another four times. Or so. We won’t be doing that.

Oh well. I’ve lived forty-two years without seeing old friends. Guess I can manage to get through however many years remain without it.

Then there’s yesterday’s bêtise: I stupidly bought a beautiful little table on megasale at Pier One. It was already marked off a substantial amount. Then I got another 20% discount for taking the floor model.

And then I let the sales dude load it in my car. If I’d done it myself, I would have done it right. The thing fell over at the first turn I made, splitting the pretty painted top. This might have been OK, because the broken part is in a corner and doesn’t show much. Or it wouldn’t, if the table fit in the place I planned to put it. But it doesn’t. It’s two inches too wide! And because I took the extra discount, I can’t take it back.

So now I have a $170 Goodwill item. Bad stupidity!

Yesterday another of my little stupidities came home to roost: I’d agreed to accept a guest post on the uses and misuses of the one-em dash for The Copyeditor’s Desk. This magnum opus arrived yesterday morning. Duh! WordPress won’t do a one-em dash! So now I’ve got a very fine essay full of examples requiring a character that doesn’t exist, as far as I can tell, in the blog’s publishing software.

Then I realized, along about 11:30 last night, that I’d forgotten to go by La Maya’s house and pick up the newspaper, they being out of town. They’ve probably been burgled by now.

Well, I’d better get up, feed the dog, and see what new disasters I can commit.

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine…

Cassie the Corgi decided the crack of dawn was too late to start the day, and so began campaigning to spring to life at ten to five. Gronk! After wringing her out and finding myself still being importuned to get up, I put her on the bed, in hopes that would quiet her down. You don’t put a dog on the bed when you do that. You put a 23-pound puffball of fur on the bed — one that wriggles. So…we’ll be washing the bedding this morning, among other activities.

Precious few blossoms are clinging to vines here at the tail end of summer. When the power went out the other day, it shut down the irrigation timer, and so quite a few of the blossoming critters in my yard are parched. The weather has been surprisingly balmy this year: only a few 115-degree days. We’re supposed to have a heat wave this weekend, with temperatures predicted at around 110, although just now it’s quite lovely outside.

Thank goodness we get an “extra” paycheck this month! Last week’sfurniture-buying exploitoverspent my Diddle-It-Away savings by about $200. Truth is, the money could come out of ordinary cash flow, but that maneuver would engross this month’s payment into the Renovation Loan paydown fund. A couple hundred bucks out of the paycheck of the 29th will do no harm.

I vacillate between taking the $9,500 now accrued in the paydown fund and applying it to principal right now and keeping it in savings to double as emergency fund cash. One thing to be said for paying it toward principal right this minute is that it will keep me from spending it on anything else. Another thing, of course, is that it will cause a much larger chunk of the regular monthly payment to go toward principal, which would be good. On the other hand, with the economy as iffy as it is and the university busily laying off its employees, I hesitate to let those dollars out of my hands.

This is gunna be a hectic weekend. I’ve got to hand over an indexing project to my sidekick for proofreading no later than Tuesday noon; at the moment two chapters and an endless series of narrative endnotes remain to be marked up, and then I have to type, format, and organize the entries. That job alone will take at least an entire day. The author is paying us a premium to do a rush job, so in fact we each will earn more than enough to pay the extra $200 needed to cover the entire furniture adventure. But horrors! It requires me to (shudder!)work! Meanwhile, food needs to be purchased, laundry laundered, floors and furniture cleaned, pool tended to, yard plants rescued….where will the time come from?

TheHealth & Wealth rafflehas had its first two drawings. So far the organizers have not awarded me the million work-free dollars to which I feel I am entitled. One more drawing is slated for September 26. Surely at that time the money will be deposited to my checking account.

And so, to work.

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.

If I won a million dollars . . .

All right. I confess: I succumbed to the impulse to buy a lottery ticket. A raffle ticket, actually, but the IRS regards it as a kind of lottery. For a hundred bucks, the Health & Wealth raffle gives you a 1 in 18 chance of winning something, most likely a $100 bauble. You get about a 1 in a zillion chance of winning a million bucks. The C-note you toss to the winds lands in the coffers of Barrows Neurological Institute, a world-class hospital specializing in brain and nerve injuries. So it’s far from a total waste.

Go ahead. Click on that link. I dare you to not buy a ticket. Just look at that Mercedes roadster, that stack of cash…hot dang! There are 106 cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1 million. Then there are the cars, which could be resold for hefty amounts. Some are so extravagant that even selling at a deep discount would leave you a nice contribution to the retirement fund: two Mercedes vehicles in one prize, a combined value of $154,000, a Jaguar, a Lexus hybrid. They’re giving away 24 cars plus a motorcycle and several other small contraptions.

There are also a couple of large TV sets that are probably worth a couple thousand. And all those trips. Questionable whether you could sell a Mediterranean cruise, but the contest rules allow you to donate your gift back to Barrows. Obviously, a $30,000 tax deduction would do good things for your finances. Indeed. That’s almost two years’ worth of taxes for me. All very nice. But what I’m going for is that $1 million bag of money. I want the million dollars.

So…let’s indulge our fantasies. What would you do if you won a million bucks? It would translate to about $500,000 net, after taxes were extracted.

Pour moi, five hundred grand would guarantee that I could retire and have enough to support a middle-class lifestyle through the end of my life-no matter how long I do live.

  • I could pay off the Renovation Loan instantly.
  • I’d probably keep my job for another two years, until I can collect Medicare, since I likely can’t get health insurance as an individual. But…that much cash in hand would allow me to take COBRA, which would carry me through 18 months. So I could quit about in December and go on COBRA until I can switch to Medicare.
  • I could sell my house and move to a better neighborhood.
  • I could move to Prescott.
  • I could move to Santa Fe!
  • I could pay off the mortgage on the Investment House and then sell it to my son, collecting principal and interest payments to support myself and then put in my will that the loan is forgiven when I die. This would guarantee that all he puts into it would come back to him as principal, should he decide to move…and then some, if he stays there until die.
  • I could send my son to graduate school.
  • I could give away one of those Mercedes Benzes as a gift on my blog.

Jeeminy. Light a candle to the Goddess!
Are you prepared for the day you win a million dollars? What’s your plan?

Estate Sales: The canary in the mine?

La Maya and I drove out to Scottsdale this morning, at the crack of proverbial dawn, to attend an estate sale that looked pretty enticing. Pictured on the organizer’s site was a bedroom set in the mode that M’hijito has described as desirable, plus various other interesting-looking loot.

When we got there, we found a half-renovated house in a (relatively!) downscale neighborhood of a ritzy part of town, the pool green and the pickin’s slim. The kitchen was devoid of valuable finds; the tools were old and worn; the bedstead was the wrong size and the bedroom set was cheaply made junk.

That notwithstanding, La Maya is not called the Queen of Estate Sales for nothing. Her discerning eye spotted a handsome loveseat, chair, and ottoman in butter-colored leather. After some study, we decided it probably was a quality product. She nailed all three pieces for $425, a fine 20 percent off the marked price. Not only that, but the estate sale organizer ate the tax.

Although we were numbers 24 and 25 in line to get in the door, no more than ten or twelve people were ahead of us. Evidently the ticket number they started with was higher than 1. It took two trips to haul the furniture. The second time we arrived out there, the furniture-lifting person had gone off for a break, and so we sat with the estate sale company’s owner for a while, helping to calculate tax and hand out bags to the few buyers.

And “few” was the operative word. Over the past several weeks, we’ve found ourselves at the head of the estate-sale line, even when we arrived after a sale was slated to open. This is in vast contrast to the normal experience, where you may arrive a half-hour or an hour early and still wait to get in the door through three or four rafts of people who got there first.

Gina, the estate sale proprietor, echoed other organizers in saying that business was very slow: plenty of sellers but few buyers. She was practically giving things away-name a price for a piece of loot and you could walk with it. Gina said people are not buying, and that times are tough in the estate sale biz. What she does is considered effectively wholesaling. “Retailers”-read dealers in antiques and used furniture-are really suffering. She said her biggest buyers, who indeed are dealers, are in deep trouble.

So, we might add, was her client. They evidently had purchased the house speculatively, figuring to fix it up and turn it around for a profit. Before they were done, though, they fell into bankruptcy. They had completed maybe half their renovation work on the unimpressive little tract house. In one bathroom, blue masking tape around the paint job was still in place, only half-pulled off. A sloppy plaster repair stood out on the ceiling where some defunct fixture had been removed to make way for recessed lighting. The pool water was green, slimy, and evaporated several inches below the tile line. Old dirty carpet remained on the floor.

Understand, an estate sale is a gold mine for two sets of people:

  1. those who are in the business of reselling “antiques” and used furniture (in general, one and the same thing); and
  2. frugalists, folks like you and me looking to furnish our homes and our lives with nearly new, upscale products at second-hand prices.

When neither of these are in evidence, well…it’s not a good sign. It means consumers are not buying. They’re not buying from businesses that sell second-hand goods and genuine antiques, and they’re not buying yard-sale items. When bargain-hunters quit looking for bargains, IMHO, it indicates people are either really hurting or really scared.

Well, at any rate, La Maya scored a lovely pair of luxurious leather seating pieces. They transform her family room, and she is very pleased.

Nevertheless, we worry. We worry.

Real Life: Funnier than the comic strips

Speaking of the vagaries of megalithic bureaucracies (as we were yesterday), get an eyeful of what visitors see when they park at the Great Desert University, self-styled “gold standard” of our state’s public education system.

The photographer reports that every “compagt” space in the parking garage is so marked. He has yet to discover whether this holds true in all the many newly cleaned and restriped parking garages on the campus.

What are they trying to say to us?

Photo by Todd Halvorsen