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Archive for March, 2007

measurements, good and bad

March 29th, 2007 at 08:34 pm

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $.65 milk + $5.45 curry

Gained 1 lb back, dang, but I lost another 1/2 inch on the waist, 1/2 inch on the hips. The trainer and I were job shadowed by a trainer-in-training. Today my body behaved and I showed good form during most of the workout. I managed to hold a full plank position for one minute, one second.

T-bill matured and I got $15.96 in interest on the purchase of the next one. Put $40 in one Drp, automatically put another $50 into another Drp.

Saturday DJ friend and I hammer out an easy way to manually generate the royalty logs for the radio station. It looks like we can automate the log, but it will be a month or two of broadcasting beforehand. DJ friend is a bit depressed - like most big undertakings, this is a marathon, not a sprint - he needs a second wind. And he's worried that with all the hoops, he won't have enough time and energy to do what he really loves - create and broadcast his own mixes.

snooze-a-roni

March 27th, 2007 at 08:11 pm

Saving log - $44 (from tip box into savings) + $10 rebate check + 15$ rebate check
Spending log - $5.50 lunch

Ah, free coffee. I could get used to this.

Getting a lot done at work and now I'm relaxing a bit. Had gym today, get measured Thursday. T-bill matures on Thursday too. Waiting for the next paycheck on Friday.

Waiting for DJ friend to give me some files so we can finish up with the logging.

Even found a dime in the parking lot. Steady as she goes, really.

log-rolling in our time

March 26th, 2007 at 07:43 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $.65 milk

Writing this entry reminded me of Spy Magazine. Ah, I miss that rag sometimes.

Well this weekend wasn't as restful as usual - to help DJ friend, I worked with Excel and Access all weekend, developing a way to take DJ playlists and convert them into a log. I work with Excel and Access all week, so when this weekend was more of the same, well blegh.

The log is what is holding up the start of the radio station. To stay legitimate, DJ friend gives 25% of his profits or his costs to an entity that will pay BMI, ASCAP, etc royalties if some one plays a song in one of their mixes. We have to give that entity a log of what has been played and how many people listened so they can look it over and pay who they have to pay to.

I did it ... its kludgy, not quite push button, but straightforward enough. It does what it has to do. There are a couple of other logs that other programs generate, so my work isn't quite done.

I also helped DJ friend with a couple of forceful letters so that he can get timed mixes from the DJs. Some DJs have radio shows of their own, know exactly what the score is, and have given DJ friend what he needs. The others ... well, if they want to be professional, they've got to understand what it means.

As a little barter for my weekend, DJ friend bought me dim sum lunch and gave me a prepaid coffee punch card. So a couple of weeks of free coffee.

Anywhoooo. When I wasn't in Access this weekend, I made a lot of stuffed cabbage, which we will be noshing on all this week.

good 'n bad

March 23rd, 2007 at 08:15 pm

Saving log - $7 tip box
Spending log - $1.65 coffee, milk

Bought a footlong sub yesterday, ate the other half of the sub today.

Mail was good and bad - the sewer water garbage bill came in on time (drat!, just when I plan for them to be late). I barely had enough of my current paycheck to pay for it, and it has left me with about 150$ for 10 days.

Chiropractor got a new billing unit. Good news, but their transition got a late start - we hadn't gotten a bill since mid December. Got a bill much bigger than I had thought (insurance has re-kicked in), and worse, it shows a non-zero number in the 60-90 day range. Time to harrump. I'll be damned if their slow transition makes me look like a deadbeat.

Paid off my credit card in full this month.

Got my two rebate checks tonight. One for $10, one for $15. 12 weeks between when I bought and when got the checks. Rebate harvesting, cutting UPC codes, mailing, and waiting for the checks is one financial tradition that I will not miss.

the radio station

March 22nd, 2007 at 07:56 pm

looks like it will be delayed another week. I'm helping DJ friend - internet radio stations in the US have to submit a log of what they've played and how many are listening every two days. The info can be pulled from a number of different logs which should and can be put in a database - my kind of project, especially since it a rush job! I'll know I've done it right when you can do it with the press of a button.

Lost a pound Tuesday. I'm now at 184!

Suze Orman

March 20th, 2007 at 08:14 pm

So yesterday I made it to Suze Orman's talk at the Seattle Public Library, and it seemed like I was working on all frugal fronts:

* Picked her free talk at 12:30. If you saw her at Town Hall, you had to pay!
* Sidestepped the books on sale on the right, and dodged the Starbucks coffee and cookie on the left.

I made it to the library at 12:10, so I figured that it would be standing room only. Nope, all the front seats were packed, but I got a back seat and they expanded the room. By the time I left - a little early - it was standing room only. The audience was comprised of about 95% women, and 5% very brave men.

Suze Orman came out on time (much appreciated). 30 min talk, 30 min question and answer. It was also a book signing, so the rules were: she would sign first names only, she will sign multiple copies, she will sign old books of hers, she will not sign body parts, napkins, etc. In case you needed to know: bright lime green blazer, black outfit. Hair and teeth look fantastic - you could see them gleeming all the way up my seat.

Her talk was a bit of a ramble. She was quite happy we all came - it was raining puppies and kittens and there were going to be not one, but two anti-war demonstrations that afternoon - gave a little history of herself, why she wrote her current book. She thought that men could get something out of her book... "men, if you want to read this book, all you have to do is.." She covered the WO on the cover with her fingers. If you heard her on PBS, you've got the general gist.

Except for one thing - she announced both the secret codes in her book and she invited the book buyers to share them with friends and family. The TD Ameritrade deal holds for everybody, book buyer or not.

Sunday routine

March 18th, 2007 at 08:13 pm

Saving - $0
Spending log - $3.28 bagel, coffee + $7 haircut + $8.80 pants & blouse + $11 CD

The usual... bagel and coffee and the Sunday paper, but afterward I got my hair cut. Said haircut was the 10th one, so I got it for half price. Forgot about that but since at my current rate of use (4 haircuts/yr), I see it every 2.5 years.

Then, walking in the bright warm sun, it was the library, then the thrift store, then the used CD shop. It was putz shopping, but for $25 I got fun and entertaining stuff and a little tan.

I heard that Suze Orman is going to give a free lecture at the Seattle Public Library at 12:30pm. That's in my neck of the woods so I'm going try and check it out.

blood oranges

March 17th, 2007 at 09:42 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $10.66 produce stand + 36$ groceries

Blood oranges for $1.49/lb, which is unheard of, along with cheap bananas, cheap orange tomatoes, cheap grapefruit. At the HT, I picked up the cheap cabbage, more edamame, a couple of Mexican sodas, hominy, cilantro, wasabi peas, a coconut tart. Decided on the fine Irish dish of:

Chili.

Well, there are a lot of Irish in Texas. Besides, we haven't had homemade chili in awhile. Paid off the credit card in full, so these next two weeks feel like a retrenchment.

Borrowed a couple of current Paris guidebooks from a coworker, so DH and I will be poring over them for the next 8 weeks. (WOW - where does the time go?) I've planned ahead so I have my passport.

Finis on the mail theft

March 17th, 2007 at 12:22 am

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1 coffee + $15 chirashi lunch

Remember back in August that we had our mail stolen? And in November that the US Postal Inspection Service was pressing charges?

DH and I each got nice big envelopes in the mail today. Inside each was a nice little letter from the US Postal Inspection Service and several unopened envelopes, which, since the mail is mine, I opened 'em. Mine had the DRP letter and the CD statement that I had told them were missing, along with a wedding gift thank you. Thank G*d they were all unopened. (... and for an agnostic/atheist, I've been invoking deities a lot lately.)

The letter said that the culprit was convicted and is serving 4 years in prison. And the detective thanked us for our help.

The next time we see the married couple I'll have to mention that we *finally* got their thank you and tell them the story. Did you know that your thank you note helped put someone away for 4 years? Smile

big stuff disguised as small stuff

March 15th, 2007 at 07:14 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $0

No spend day. I ate the other half of my sub sandwich while I listened to the 403B talk from the Merrill Lynch broker. It turned out that this was a check-in meeting, not too horrible or drastic. Trying to calm the troops from the sell-off from a couple of weeks ago. But there were some highlights:

1. There was more than 5M in total in our office's 403B retirement accounts, so now we will have A-shares, instead of R-shares. A-shares, we are told, have slightly lower fees - about .25% to .50%.

To an data geek like me, that's good news. Of course I will verify. Smile My lawyer friend joked that I was sweating the small stuff. Au contraire, I said, I'm sweating the big stuff disguised as small stuff. Fees look small when you see them on the page, but when applied secretly on your account, they loom large. Worse, its not like there's going to be a line on our quarterly statement that says: Fees!

2. Someone asked about the socially responsible fund - who picks it and what criteria do you use? I'm not saying I told you so .... I'll just link to it instead. Tee hee.

3. I asked this one: because stocks are so volatile, when is the best time to rebalance? Now or wait a bit when things settle down?

The broker hemmed and hawed a bit. Now if you want to buy stuff cheap and you think this is just a burp (his opinion), or a little bit later if you are nervous. Luckily for me, everything went down in about the same measure, so eh...

Life of grime

March 14th, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $1.68 coffee, milk + $10 lunch

Booking electronic pledges and now more electronic pledges are coming in. Tis the season.

My fourth right toe is now bruised, along with a spot on my foot. Damage from the 18 lb pole was blessedly minimal.

Lawyer friend's father - who lives on the east coast - is ill with a laundry list of ailments, including several different cancers. We had lunch and commiserated. Hard to know in that situation when to visit or help in the family dynamic or even get the straight scoop on what is going on.

DJ friend's Internet radio station is nearly ready to get on the air - the liners are done, he's got a good month or two of content, the servers are working and the website is nearly done. His tasks are also so data heavy that he listens to submissions while he's working. Its a strange, but great test - if the mix can pull him out of what he's doing and he's thinking "wow", then he knows its a good mix. Every so often he gives me a couple of MP3 files. He's turned me on to grime - a mix of UK rap and drum and bass, with a lot of dark elements in it. Coolness on the cheap!

March 26 is the date that jumps out at me. And who knows, grime might pay. Big Grin

Ha Ha

March 13th, 2007 at 11:29 pm

Saving log - 2$ tip box
Spending log - $1 coffee (didn't have the nofat or the lowfat milk, so I didn't buy milk) + $6 lunch

Now that life is quiet at work, it means that its quiet in the refrigerators, so I went back to my get a foot long, cut in quarters, nosh for couple of days trick. Planning ahead here - Thursday we have a lunch-time meeting discussing our 403B. I'm not sure whether this is a couple of times a year update thing or something more serious, but now I can have something to eat while I listen.

Dropped an 18 lb bar on my foot in gym. Ow! My trainer got a promotion, which means that her price is going up a bit, and apparently I'm a good enough customer so that I get a grandfathered in price break. Yay boo! She is worth it and she shouldn't but herself up for sale. But it does mean that I'm going to fool around with my numbers or get a training buddy to make 12 sessions last 2 months.

Right now rent has gone up slightly, so will the credit card, and now this. Time to squeeze a bit more out of the routine on all fronts. At least the HT flyer has some good deals on groceries.

The Ha Ha in the title comes from the preliminary results from Seattle mail-in vote on viaduct or tunnel. I voted for neither; it turns out that a majority of Seattleites did the same. Traffic sucks, but the voters here have been so disrespected by the governor, the mayor, and the powers that be on all fronts for years that two no-s was really the only way to go. Bwwwaphlt!

Maxed Out: See it!

March 11th, 2007 at 07:51 pm

I saw the documentary Maxed Out and here this afternoon. My only regret is that I didn't see it on Tuesday, when all times for the Varsity Seattle are $6, off from $9.25. So much for being frugal.

My all means every journal/blogger/reader of blogs here on this site should see this movie. If it doesn't make it to a movie theater near you, Netflix it or Blockbuster it, or rent it from the library (when it gets there) or h%ll, even buy it...with cash, of course. If we (as bloggers) cannot encourage you to tackle your debt then this documentary will. My head is still spinning and if this entry is disjointed, its because the filmmaker covers so much ground that every American should know about. The links I sent at the top will give you a nice taste on some of the bits.

Now for a few of my observations.

A lot of what had happened - people getting in over their heads in debt - happened to me, too. (I became debt-free in October 2004.) For an agnostic/atheist, I am blessed that:

1.) I got in over my head back when the credit card companies hadn't thought up most of their wicked ways - universal debt, 2 cycle billing.
2.) I remained in good health.
3.) I can still be content even when living a materially-poor lifestyle - no house, no car, no kids, Goodwill as a furniture store.
4.) DH - to my knowledge - does not practice financial infidelity.
5.) I treasure my privacy. Cash is anonymous.
6.) I always had a job, even if it was a temp job.
7.) Nothing financially big went wrong with either me, DH, or in our family circles. At least nothing bigger than my emergency fund.

There but for the grace of G*d go I. Sheer luck. I'm not going to say that I dug out of debt my way, heroically, by my bootstraps. I had a lot of luck that many folks don't.

And finding out that credit card companies will magically "lose" your check until a day or two after the due date. I'm happy that I don't play chicken with my credit card bill. I pay it a day or two after the 15th, before the bill comes. I'm tempted to send the bill registered mail!

I do have a divergence of opinion with Michelle Singletary (second link) when she thought that the tithing clip was a cheap shot. Au contraire. In the clip, Jerry Falwell told his flock that even those in under heavy debt stress should still tithe. I have no problems with tithing if goes to G*d. I have a problem with it going to Jerry Falwell, who clearly needs it far less. My cheap shot.

Anyway, continuing on. As a person who pays in full most months and is a great saver, how this debt load most affects me is on the investment level. If the US government is playing a shell game with its debt - does that make me a chump for investing in T-bills? (they are 4 wk T-bills, so probably not, but still...) How do you assess risk?

Debt is slavery, no good or bad. If you are in debt in America, you are not free, period. You are watched, you are hounded, you are sold. A FICO score only determines how much of each you are. And I would make that case even if you have a 30 fixed mortgage.

Finally, a word. My credit card, Capital One, is bumping my rate from 7.99% to 12%, even though I'm a credit "deadbeat" (pays every month). Apparently this is occurring to many in my situation. Since my revolving piece is about $100 or so every once in awhile, the interest that I would pay is still minimal, but I'm still going to go through my $60 or recurring debt - the newspaper, Netflix, etc and see what I can get transferred to my debit card. Last I checked, 12% of 0$ is 0$. Perhaps the card companies will figure out a clever technique to get money out of that situation.

squash soup and edamame

March 10th, 2007 at 06:38 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $10 Denny's breakfast + $28 Trader Joe's

If I can't think of anything to say, I'll go for the recipes. The curry on Wednesday left quite a bit of thick coconut cream, so I semi-frugally used it like this - it also had the advantage of getting rid of a number of jars in the fridge:

Squash soup

1 lb package Trader Joe's squash chunks
1 can chicken stock
2 tbsp red pepper spread + 2 tbsp water to rinse out the jar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar
1/3 can coconut cream - paste consistency
salt and pepper

Simmer squash chunks and chicken stock in a saucepan, until squash chunks are tender. Add the red pepper, cinnamon. Mash squash chunks in the soup, then puree until smooth. Heat gently, then stir in the coconut cream and brown sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.

I just didn't feel up to getting a squash then carving it up from its hard shell...I figure that avoiding the cost of a trip to the emergency room with a knife stuck in my hand has got to be frugal. Smile

And because I'm on the recipe vibe, I have a foolproof way to cook edamame - soybeans in the pod. Don't make a face, they are terrific, and I feel like I can mindlessly snack on them. Not to mention they are .99/lb.

Edamame

1 lb bag
salted water - 1 tsp salt in water
kosher salt

Boil the salted water - get it rockin' and rollin'. Take the bag from the freezer, open and dump in water. The water will cool and the edamame pods will sink. Watch as the water returns to the boil. When all the edamame pods float, they are ready. Should take about 3 minutes

Dump the pods in a colander, then vigorously shake and flip the pods in the colander. You want the pods dry, but warm for the next step.

Put the edamame pods in a bowl, then sprinkle with kosher salt. You know you've done it right when the little hairs on the pods will catch the kosher salt, but they are dry enough so that salt doesn't melt.

Eating edamame - you don't eat the pod, you use your teeth to squeeze the beans out of the pod. Think sunflower seeds.

Snapshot for today

March 9th, 2007 at 09:16 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $1.62 coffee, milk + $15 lunch

Just a lot of Robert Altman-esque Short Cuts today.

Succumbed to the lure of chirashi today. I got a new sushi chef, who gave me a slightly smaller plate but wasn't stingy with the fish. I'll have to remember that my usual sushi chef works on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Found out that the first person I met at work had died. A remembrance of his is tomorrow. He was the computer/network guy who showed up to fix your computer when it was ailing. He retired five years ago, but its still a bit of a shock.

Gave my assistant a little hug as she was leaving on her last day. She told me that she had done more varied stuff in 5 months here than she did in 7 years at workplace unnamed.

The 2007 Poetry on the Bus competition is up and running. I'm a bit lukewarm on the theme - but I have my idea and my twist. All I need is a bit of incubation on a couple of words (you only have 50) and I'll send my shot off. We find out on June 1 - perfect, I'll be in Paris not fretting about it - but by then I'll sure be able to use the $125. Big Grin

Speaking of the bus, I relearned the pole slide today. It's where you use your angular momentum to slide into a window seat, usually stealing it from someone who hasn't discovered the trick.

DH discovered old stewing hens at .99/ each at the HT. Coq au vin tomorrow!

Excuses, excuses

March 8th, 2007 at 07:29 pm

Wednesday, March 7
Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $1.67 coffee, milk + $7 lunch

Thursday, March 8
Saving log - $4 tip box + $16.00 T-bill interest + $40 DRP + $35 another DRP
Spending log - $1.67 coffee, milk + $16 lunch

Right now I have about 41 million dollars of electronic data to book. Don't get too excited - most of it is going to other places. It was easy for my boss to triage my time and get me out of several commitments to other people in other departments. It feels different than last year - calmer - because with time I know I can get everything done and the 41 million is a great reason to leave me to do my task. I just have to remember I will always have something like this this time of year.

We also have issues with daylight saving. This brands me as an old fart, but I remember when you got the word in the paper when and which way you changed the clock, you changed the clock by hand and you went on with your life. The Windoz-ation of everything hasn't made anything better... but it has given you a great three week excuse for being late.

Tomorrow is my assistant's last day, so today I took her out to lunch. Lunch was curry, and for dinner DH made ... curry.

Lost another 1/2 pound, 1/2 inch of my hips, and 1% of body fat.

403B mystery solved

March 6th, 2007 at 07:54 pm

Found out what that extra $2000 in one of my retirement accounts was. Our match money gets deposited in it once per year on March 1.

Just 40 times

March 6th, 2007 at 07:24 pm

Saving log - $2
Spending log - 1.62$ coffee, milk + $10 lunch

Noticed that I rarely finish my 16 oz coffee, so I decided to get the 12 oz coffee, which drops my cost about 40 cents.

This evening, I actually read one of the offers my bank mailed to me. If I, baselle, just used my debit card 40 times in 6 weeks, I could get a plane ticket. Oh boy! Spend twice a day for 6 weeks and then get the opportunity to spend even more in a foreign place.

Got to look away before I shred!

on the fence

March 4th, 2007 at 08:18 pm

This week was going to be the week that I put that 20K into Vanguard. But this week was a wicked one for stocks (500 point drop), so I'm inclined to keep it in ING for just a little while longer. I hesitate to call it market timing, I just don't want to catch a falling knife.

'dies

March 3rd, 2007 at 06:26 pm

Saving log - 0$ tip box (right now I get $3.20/day in ING)
Spending log - $10 Denny's + $1.50 tea + $35 Fred Meyer + $3.80 thrift store + $2 spinach

this entry dedicated to Princess Perky. Big Grin

This afternoon I kicked around my neighborhood after deciding to buy some new underwear. I've dropped two pants sizes, and it means I've dropped two underwear sizes too. Lately I've been rolling the excess - in a sense creating fake "boy shorts" - but after pitching a couple with holes, it was time to refresh the inventory. Of course I buy new and aim for sales; used underwear isn't frugal, its just weird. I walked to Fred Meyer and along with the bikini briefs, just for laughs I got real boy shorts (black), 25% off.

There are few things sweeter, more secret, and more delicious than new fresh undies of a smaller size. The other thrill is that my size is now a medium there, too. I'll have to remember that when that dish of ice cream comes knocking and when I'm trying to do my 10 minutes of night calisthentics.

Inspired, I hit the thrift store. Nothing in the jeans/pants category, but I picked up a couple of tops, one for $1.49. I love dark colors - pastels do nothing for me.

Rounding off the spending by picking up 2 bags of spinach at a $1/bag. I consider bagged spinach (without E. coli) to be frugal because of the rinsing involved. The grit is gone, so it makes it easier for me to eat only vegetables as a late night snack. All that for a $1/bag means its worth it to me.

Rumors and float

March 3rd, 2007 at 12:01 am

Saving log - $5 tip box + $16.06 T-bill interest + $75 from checking to saving
Spending log - $1.50 coffee + $13 lunch + $40 ATM

Noticed that the matching piece of my 403B jumped up by about $2000. I'll have to ask around to find out what's going on. Rumors seem to be better than HR right now. A mysterious email appeared that there will be upcoming changes in the 403B and to find out about them on March 15.

Scanned through the transactions on one of my DRPs. The transfer agent changed in August. Before August, all the transactions were as neat as a pin - credited on the 1st or 2nd of the month, except on December, when it was credited on December 15th - afterwards its the 5th, 6th, 8th. And they take the money out promptly on the 26th. Ten days of float, in other words.

"secret" electronics tip

March 1st, 2007 at 08:24 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.50 coffee + $8 lunch

For tinapbeana - My favorite electronics tip:

Look at the brand of what you've bought and then hunt down the user forum online.

For instance, my MP3 player is an iRiver H10 20 Gb. The iRiver forum I use is here where you can find enthusiasts - people who probably have either tried doing what you want to do, have learned the secrets, or best of all, have solved your problem already. Often there is a "wiki" which is a cross between a FAQ and a better written owners' manual. A fabulous, free resource. So fabulous and free that you should consider looking for forums before you buy any electronic device.