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Archive for October, 2008

Halloween work pics

October 31st, 2008 at 11:45 pm

A little bit of fun from the Halloween decorating contest...


Don't be alarmed. $4 buys a big bottle of red tempera paint. Cut it a bit with water to get to blood consistency (as opposed to paint consistency), lay out your butcher paper sheets on concrete, and flick gobs of paint with a spoon. Its all in the wrist. I thought of Jackson Pollock rather than Freddie Krueger. Tape up when the paint kinda dries. The effect is even better when the paint is a little bit wet and gravity helps out.


Our auditor's headstone, in progress...


And a puking pumpkin.

RIP, Studs

October 31st, 2008 at 08:49 pm

Thursday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $12 lunch

Friday
Saving log - $6 tip box
Spending log - $9 groceries

We put the finishing touches on our "Vault of Eternity", did a little work, set up for the potluck, toured and took snaps of the other floors (the fear floor was very good - each cubicle had a fear), ate at the potluck, did a little work, voted for the favorites (of course it was us), cleaned up and broke down the decorations, did what I really wanted to get done that day.

Not a bad day until I found out that Studs Terkel died. RIP, Studs. Even twenty five years ago in Chicago, when I saw him perform in the red-checked shirt, he seemed old to my then teenage eyes. I learned from him that if you really embrace what you are, the name can't hurt you. One of the young college Republicans at the time called him a socialist. "Of course I'm a pinko socialist," he roared. "What's your point?"

Substitute "frugal" "cheap" or "thrifty" for socialist. Of course I am...what's your point?

reverting to childhood

October 29th, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Tuesday
Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $8 lunch + $3 snack + $2 donation

Wednesday
Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $8 lunch + $10 art supplies

Busy, busy, busy.

Work is heating up a bit, and for the internal giving campaign, one of our contests is a Halloween floor decorating contest. Down in our basement, we have so much - corridors where we can dim the lighting, an old vault, elevator out with a caution partition, all the cardboard we can possibly want. Our concept is a graveyard. We are busy making headstones, banners, brought out our fall and Halloween items. My headstone is particularly lovely.

Picked up some red tempura paint - I plan on decorating the vault with a hanging white paper curtain splattered with tempura "blood". Reverted to childhood by drawing my hands and arms on paper, cutting them out of the paper, splattering them with red stamp ink (this was before the red tempura), then sticking the hands under the elevator caution partition.

403B doings, part 4

October 27th, 2008 at 09:06 pm

So in the other parts we discussed a bit about learning about the mechanics of your 403B (aka 401K), research into what individual funds comprise your 403B, general macro considerations - how much should you want in equities, how much in non-equities like bonds and ready-asset. The rest of the parts are in category 403B doings.

Now we come to the heart of the question - what equities funds do you want in your equities part, and what bond/ready asset funds do you want on your non-equities side?

If you are a new hire, you think you have to rush this decision. So many decisions - aurgh! Don't rush it. Pick a couple of funds or the retirement target fund, then do the research, and PROMISE yourself to research and revisit your 403b/401K and change it around if necessary. Frankly the most important task for a new hire is to set the account up and get the bucks out. Usually you can monitor and rebalance your account from the web. Check to see if you have to wait 30/60/90 days between changing your funds around. Those restrictions happen to prevent you from mock day trading.

So what funds should you pick? Here's where the research and the narratives about each of your funds comes in. If you see several funds that look alike and seem to invest in the same funds, don't invest in all of them ... invest in 1. Preferably the one that has the lowest fees, or has the largest number of Morningstar stars...which is also based on the fee structure.

In my case, MDLOX and THVRX are international. In picking one I'd lean to the MDLOX because of its lower fees, and since it has a strong position of bonds, I can drop the bond fund holding a bit.

MASRX, MDBAX, MDLRX are similiar. Again, I'd consider the funds with the lower fees first.

Can't stress checking the fees strongly enough, especially times like these where you want the lowest fees. Aim for under 1%. After all, when the stock market goes down in the dumps its not as if the fee administrator will give you a break on the fees. Hah hah. Nope, they plan on figuring out the fees the one hour that the stock market rallied and charge that. And in the 403B/401K land, often the fees are hidden - no line item that says: Fee! It means that your results are not going to be quite as good as the fund claims.

You also want to consider what funds seem to complement each other. Morningstar has a chart that shows where 75% of a fund stocks are in its "style" box. Often it shades a corner or an edge. Does another fund shade a different corner or edge?

In my case, RGACX and RIDCX seem to be such a pair. Between the two, they cover the upper half of the style box. The fees seem reasonable, and they are 4 & 5 star funds to boot.

Final piece of advice is to pick a fund or pair of funds that will serve as a "core holding", then juice up that core holding with specialties. A decent core holding is often an index mimicking S&P 500 or total stock. Again it is valuable to know what particular stocks are inside - just because GM is big, doesn't mean you should have a ton of it.

Specialities are just that - growth, or midcap or small cap or real estate or international or...whatever. How much you want as core and how much specialty is really up to you. Word of advice: specialties add up. 10% international, 10% mid cap, 10% small cap, 10% international, 10% growth, 10% value means that you suddenly have 40% core and 60% specialty in a portfolio that should be 70% stock. (so a final would be a percent of a percent - 7%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 24%).

Here's another case where the Morningstar x-ray feature comes in handy. Not only can you pump in what you have, try making a mock portfolio and see how you do.

For the record I went extreme - in the 40% equities I had (1/4 core, 1/4 small, 1/4 mid, 1/4 international).

In the non-asset 60% I had (1/6 gov bond, 1/2 bond, 1/3 cash)

After you make your picks & set your 403B/401K, that's not the end. Maintenence strategies next. Whatever you do, don't forget it!

lightning struck

October 26th, 2008 at 03:37 pm

Thank you all for the ideas for a cheap Halloween costume. I got inspired last night by a photo of ... candy corn!

So white sneaks, long white socks, orange pants, light yellow long sleeved top, yellow hair dye. I saw a pair of orange pants at Value Village for $20... too rich for my blood. I got a pair of white jeans for $7, and two packs of tangerine Rit dye for $3/pk. I used both packs - I want the pants brick orange, because the dye always dries lighter. The pants are soaking now.

Festive, warm, non-slutty, funny, simple.

Oh yes, found a penny in the QFC parking lot.
.15 -.01 =.14 to go to equal my T-bill interest.

.15 left to go

October 25th, 2008 at 06:48 pm

Saturday
Saving log - $.11
Spending log - $14 brunch + $7 groceries

Friday
Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch + $50 dinner for 2

Yesterday DH and I hit a just opened brewpub right next to our coffeehouse. Not bad for a beer, but it was very busy, proving, in part, that beer is nearly recession proof. After the beer (the pub really didn't have a lot of food choices), we walked past a 5 table Greek restaurant, and got the very last table. DH had the lamb, I had the chicken, and the price above included a glass of wine and tip.

Today I worked off a bit of the beer and Greek chicken by walking from work to home - about 7 miles.

During the walk, I found a dime and a penny. I am challenging myself to find .31 in change in 4 weeks ... therefore doubling what I earned in interest on my T-bill that month. With the nickel from last week -
.26 - .11 = .15 left to go.

never thought I'd hear that word again

October 23rd, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Lay-away. Wow. I actually heard this on a TV ad this evening. In Seattle. Or maybe I'm just more attuned to 70s thinking.

spinner rims of the 1890s

October 23rd, 2008 at 07:54 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $11 lunch, paper + $2 donation + $11 groceries

Did a good money deed late in the day. I was at the neighborhood WaMu ATM, when I saw the ATM frantically pushing in and pushing out a card. The receipt (for $13) jut out of the slot. I figured that he (name was on the card) left the card in a fit of pique. Still, not good. I pulled it out, put my card in, got my money, then took the card and receipt, put it in a deposit envelope, then stuck it in the deposit slot.

I figure that the bank will open it and set the card aside. The bank might call the guy, they might not, but at least the card is not an attractive nuisance.

After lunch I walked back and saw that the Seattle Fire Dept had a little exhibit open. Free, but I put in $2. and who wouldn't, seeing these beauties:


And the fantastic ancient hook and ladders:


And the spinner rims of 1890:

looking forward to a NSD

October 21st, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $15 lunch

Put my $44 in tip box earnings into the downtown bank (WaMu Tower) this month. Still WaMu in name, on the slips, & the teller uniform and in the color scheme, but the colors of the banners are changing, with a few items called "Chase". The ATM - the electronic face - is now branded Chase. Digestion is at a plateau.

Looking forward to a NSD. Tomorrow is coffee from the French press at work and a lunch party.

Our boss, out on family leave, announced the birth of her daughter by her partner. Pwhew - she went on family leave and for two weeks we heard nothing about birth and delivery.

first nickel

October 20th, 2008 at 09:20 pm

Saving log - $6 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch + $1.70 cream cheese

This month I made .31 in T-bill interest. For laughs, I'm going to see if I can find at least .31 cents in the next three weeks. I found a nickel in our driveway and in the dark.

.31 - .05 = .26 to go.

I walked past the little pocket park and discovered that the city had bought two more parcels next to the park and were interested in turning them into P-patches.

I'd be very interested in a bed in a P-patch... it would be 1 1/2 blocks away.

403B doings, part 3

October 19th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

So in part 1, we studied the mechanics of the 403B; in part 2, we did a little bit of research into the funds of my 403B; in part 3, we'll go through the macro aspects of constructing a portfolio.

Constructing a basic portfolio is bit like making a stew or a curry - the idea is to make it rich (hah hah) and interesting. You need diverse ingredients, but you have to hit the basics, and the proportion of ingredients give you vastly different results.

All those funds that you can pick for a portfolio generally boil down to three types, two if you are unlucky, a rare four if you are lucky.

1. equities - individual stocks, mutual funds, index funds. (invest in the profit)
2. bonds - government, muni, currency, corporate, even a bond fund. (invest in the debt)
3. cash or ready asset
4. commodities (precious metals usually, other commodities tend to be very volatile).

A portfolio comprised of 100% of any of these 4 ingredients is a bad idea. This last month has taught many people why all in into equities (100%) is very risky. And 100% in company stock (often a company matches is in company stock) is geometrically more risky. A WaMu-er got triply hit: stocks are low, WaMu stock is 0, WaMu-er might not have a job. But 100% in bonds is bad - generally a bond is more stable than stock, but often the return isn't juicy enough and with this current credit crisis, investing in debt doesn't seem like a hot idea. 100% in cash and ready asset feels familiar, but again, its an electronic mattress - only a 1-2% return.

You tend to need at least two pieces: bonds and equities. You can make even finer adjustments with bonds, equities, and cash. Bonds stabilize returns, stocks juice your returns up (not this month), cash gives you a baseline and gives you flexibility to buy additional funds.

An old-style rule is that the % of bonds/cash should be about your age, rest in equities. I'm 46, so using the rule would be about 40-45% bond/cash and 55-60% stock. This is for an average to slight risk-adverse person. How much stock and bond is right for you is something that you have to establish on your own.

My current holdings are 60% bond/cash, 40% stock. I am a tinkerer, a watcher, and not that adverse to risk. So I'm investing like a 60-70 yr old woman and my portfolio could use a shot of Botox!

Another good strategy is to look inside your target year fund (eg Vanguard 2045 fund) by getting the ticker symbol, then putting it into Morningstar and seeing how much they put into equities and how much into bond.

Once you set the general proportion of bond vs. equities, its time to establish what kinds of specific funds you want to invest in. Next time.

bummer, but

October 19th, 2008 at 06:36 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.62 bagel, coffee + $3.70 decaf, scone

Bummer - the MEHVA fall leaf tour is today, and we made it in time to join the line. The bummer came when we were turned away - they needed one more historic bus and one more driver. First time in 15 years they turned people away. Ah well, the joys of popularity. At least they got a great turnout and paid for their gas.

Found this tidbit in the NYT to send to sister. In Germany, they have 'hay hotels'. Wacky and alternative, but something to consider - I'm sure we'd get a couple of cheap Germans during EAA, which occurs in July. If you are going to sleep in hay in a barn, might just as well do it in the summer. And, we still have the barn and the hay!

Halloween curmudgeon

October 18th, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $10 brunch + $60 groceries

Food is starting to become a bit cheaper again - I picked up canned tomatoes and canned chickpeas for .50/can. Pretty reasonable for Seattle.

Did the 6 mi mega-walk today, ending up at Goodwill. I pored through the costumes and Halloween whatnot, and as I did so, I thought, "why am I shopping for a costume that I'm going to wear once, don't want to store, and am spending money for the privilege? Clearly, I'm not feeling any inspiration or love. I remember feeling as a kid that Halloween was a kid pleasure, and the lack of Halloween must be an adult pleasure. No candy, maybe, but you didn't have to think about what you wanted to be - because as an adult you were it - and you didn't have to wear cheesy stuff in the snow (this was Wisconsin) and put on a mask.

Maybe its too early for me. I get into holiday spirits a couple of days before - when necessary.

31 cents and -6.5%

October 17th, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $10 lunch

My $4000 in this week's monthly T-bill has earned me a grand total of 31 cents. I don't know whether, again, everyone's fleeing to safety from stocks from last week, or will be fleeing stocks next week. All I know is that this month I can do better by sticking the money in my mattress and hunt for sidewalk change. There's only one flaw in the plan - its fall, and its dark during my walk. Hard to spot those little metal circles in the dark.

I opened up the envelope containing my 403B results. As of Sept 30, I lost 6.5%. Well done, baselle.

403B doings, part 2

October 16th, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $8 lunch

So in the last episode of 403B doings, I wrote out the basic rules of my 403 - when money gets put in, match mechanism, and what funds I can choose from.

Now comes the research. There are several reasonable places that I like to look at:

Morningstar
Value Line

And for a little bit of fun, useful for the larger stocks and funds -
Map of the Market (Stocks)
Map of the Market (Mutual Funds)

For all of these tools, I type in the ticker, and collect as much info as I can. I especially like the Data Interpreter tab in Morningstar, which talks about a fund in relatively plain English. I also pay a visit to the Top 25 holdings, because that is very instructive. Often you will find that large cap (capitalization) funds have similar blends of companies, so then you want to decide on other criteria - lower fees, or a higher fund rating...if you believe in ratings.

Right now, during my fact finding mission, I construct a note narrative...tell a story so I can tell the difference between my funds. And that can sometimes be depressing.

GCMAX - mid cap, above 1% fees, mostly utilities, gas, and chemicals
GSGOX - gov bond, 1% fees, 50% of the fund short bond positions
MASRX - S&P 500 Index, .35% fees, 3 star, many dividend stocks w/decent yield
MDBAX - value, .8% fees, similar to MASRX, P/Es lower
MDHQX - bond fund, .91% fees, top 2 holdings are long euros at 2010, short euros at 2009 (kiddies, long and short pairs like this are known as a hedge)
MDLOX - international, 4 star, 1.18% fees, multi-national, large position in US bonds
MDLRX - large cap core, 1.17% fees, 2 star, similar to MASRX, P/Es higher
MRAXX - cash, yield 2.21%, fees .65%, so really 1.55%
OPMSX - small cap, above 1% fees, 2 star, lots of little companies in energy consumer. Big Lots at top.
RGACX - growth, .93% fees, 5 star, google near the top along w/other software
RIDCX - income, .93% fees, 4 star, seems like a good pair w/RGACX more value-y
SPEGX - social choice, 2.93% fees, 4 star, but BP, Walmart, and Coke in a social choice fund???!!!
THVRX - international, 1.7% fees, similar to MDLOX

Reprise of a post

October 15th, 2008 at 09:47 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $3 coffee, muffin + $7 lunch + $8 groceries

Had a meeting before work, so I bought a coffee and muffin. Had lunch at Uwajimaya, where everything was 10% off, in honor of their 80th anniversary. Bought yogurt at the grocery store on the way home, talked with the woman who was selling Real Change out front, bought the Real Change, then also bought a chicken salad sandwich for her on the way out. We'll be buying sandwiches for each other before this recession is through.

Speaking of that, with all that is going on and with the new and returning folks reading the blogs, I want to reprise a post from March. I don't know whether it bothers folks or comforts folks to know that all the things they are seeing with the slowdown and the stock crash are really well-worn paths. Its basic, sure, because we've trod on this road before.

What a recession can teach you about money

Flu Shot

October 14th, 2008 at 09:42 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $8 lunch + $4 grapes and apple

Today I got my *free* flu shot. I'd have to look but I swear that it was early by a couple of weeks.

I mentioned that I was getting the shot in our staff meeting (minus our director, who is now out on leave), and I got a couple of hoots. Why are you getting the shot? Don't you know that either (a) not going to work, or (b) you will get the flu?

Pardon my french but that's chicken s%^t. I rarely get sick. I get the shot, I wash my hands very regularly. I usually have to call in for a day or two for a "mental health" day. My PTO is up to 200 hours ... which I have to prune. Everyone else? Aaaak aaaak, I can't make it.

Please. Time to start taking names and teasing when the inevitable happens in February.

In other health news, I signed up for the new health insurance plan.

403B doings, part 1

October 13th, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $11 (lunch, soda, Financial Times)

As threatened, since the financial climate has changed, I'm going to take another look at my 403B holdings. I'm not interested in "timing" per se, but I have to note that with a new macro-economic/financial wind, I have to trim my sails again. Buy and hold doesn't mean buy and forget.

So the first task in any job is to arrange your tools, figure out what you have and what sort of rules you have. One of the basic tenets of frugality is to use what you have. I'm just applying this to the 403B. YMMV.

We can contribute any amount up to the limit of $15.5K. Employee contributions go in monthly, we are matched .50:1 with a cap of 4%. (Means I have to contribute 8% to max out the match)

Actually, even if we do not contribute anything, our place of work will give the employee at least 1%. Those contributions are put in a second account (retirement fund), which go in yearly in March. Those are the monies that are fully vested after 6 years.

Like many small-ish workplaces, we are limited in the mutual funds that we can invest in in our 403B. Not really a surprise - the more choices, the fewer dollars in each choice. The more dollars that are in the total plan, the lower the fees are (R-type funds).

Our funds are, in a word, ... meh. The only advantage is that I don't have to research zillions of funds, I just have to research 12. (One is cash)

They are (ticker symbol):
American Fund Growth (RGACX)
American Fund Income (RIDCX)
Alger Green A (SPEGX)
Black Rock Basic Value (MDBAX)
Black Rock International (MDLOX)
Black Rock S&P 500 (MASRX)
Black Rock Lg Cap Core (MDLRX)
Black Rock Total Return (MDHQX)
Goldman Sachs Mid Cap Value (GCMAX)
Goldman Sachs Government Bond (GSGOX)
Oppenheimer Small Cap (OPMSX)
Merrill Lynch Ready Asset (MRAXX) - cash.
Thornberg International Fund (THVRX)

Important to know that mutual funds have a ticker symbol for the further research.

2 saturday pictures

October 11th, 2008 at 05:30 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $18 brunch (for 2) + $2.25 cookie

Perhaps your 401K, 403B, or IRA was like the little orange car in the mural. (upper right, above the live shrub)


First comes the crash, then the end-is-near-folks. Can the soup line be far behind?

Oh yes, and remember, He invests too.

dodged a bullet

October 10th, 2008 at 07:45 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch

I opened up my Ameriprise quarterly report this evening. This was the account that grandma's inheritance was put into. In April I moved the money into Vanguard. More precisely, I cleaned out all but $1.96. Hence the quarterly report.

It turns out that the Ameriprise cash sweep account was administered by The Reserve, one of whose funds "broke the buck" by 3 cents in mid-September. (In other words, a 3% loss, unheard of in an MMA). The Ameriprise newsletter says they will be using 33M of their own money (?! - I suspect its OPM) to "mitigate losses".

Well, I'm pretty sure that my 6 cents will be mitigated, but I don't think my sister moved her money anywhere, so I suspect that her mitigation will be less of a no-brainer.

I feel a little like the combat soldier who, when taking off his helmet, finds that little circle of daylight near the top.

In other news, my electric bill is only $47 (for two months). We've used less juice than the August - October before.

KO is now less than $42/share, so I will write a check out for that DRP. Will also be disciplined and add $40 to MMM. $50 already went to IP.

And I'm not kidding when I say that I am freakishly lucky also with ... fortune cookies. Everyone else gets the weird one or the klinker that you need the "in bed" for, not me. Today's fortune: "Prosperity is in your future."

you know its bad when...

October 9th, 2008 at 08:05 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $6 lunch

both Ben Stein and Jim Cramer make it on Dr. Phil. That's what greeted me above the elliptical machine as I warmed up.

We had the super duper exciting explain-the-new-medical-insurance meeting. It was, in a word, baroque. There's the network, the non-network, and the really non-network. We also have less than a week to fill in our paperwork. Sheesh. Can you say railroad?

ran the numbers

October 8th, 2008 at 09:05 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $13 lunch

I looked at the totals of all of my accounts and compared them to the numbers that I ran on my net worth on 6/30/2008.

I've lost $25.7K since late June.

Today, my dividend stock portfolio, about 4% of my total net worth, is down about 16%. KO is still showing a profit - my average share cost of KO is $42, so it has to drop a bit more before I lose money. WEC is also showing the barest of profit (8$). In other words, both have "the margin of safety".

If KO gets down to $42, I think that's when I will buy more. The rest of the DRPs I will maintain the discipline and dollar cost average. Dip implies a drop and then a rise. Well, while I believe in the rise, it looks far, far away.

In May last year, I re-allocated my 403B holdings to (for me) a very conservative mix - 30% bond, 20% cash, 10% gov bonds, 40% stock. (I was 90% stock, 10% bond). I blogged about it quickly, but didn't discuss it much in real life. I figured I would get teased for trying to "time the market". I'm glad I did, and would do it again - I'm down about 10% on the 403B holdings.

The rest is cash and cash equivalents (T-bills, I-bonds). Most of grandma's inheritance is still in a cash money market in Vanguard. Vanguard is participating in the Treasury Guarantee program, so if it "breaks the buck", we'll all be standing around burn barrels to keep warm.

So far I've kept my nose above water and have done much, much better than many. I do want to explore getting out of the very conservative mix of my 403B (stocks are about to get cheap enough for buying on that margin of safety), but I want to do so in a thoughtful, calculated way. I plan on blogging my thoughts, calculations, and analysis. I've been giving advice to others about looking into what they have in mutual funds and making reasonable decisions based on that. Time to practice what I preach.

my SWOT

October 7th, 2008 at 07:59 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box
Spending log - $12 lunch

SWOTs are a kind of old school brainstorming technique. I'm going to brainstorm here a bit and apply the answers to my investing and financial plan.

S - Strengths - strong cash position; patience; somewhat diversified (403B, IRA, Roth, taxable, cash equivalents, individual stock); no outstanding credit; still have a job w/benefits including health insurance and a bus pass; ability to save; can live cheap; good health; stable relationships; optimism & gratitude; ability to think and learn; a taste for being contrarian.

W - Weaknesses - emotion (unless you're Vulcan, you have that problem); my investments already have a lot of moving parts; need to experience things to learn them; a taste for risk; tendency to cheerlead and weigh positive info more strongly than negative info; incomplete analysis; too much/incoherent data; being contrary by itself is not a good enough reason to do things.

O - Opportunities - stocks are dropping to levels that I can afford; real estate is beginning to drop to levels that I can afford.

T - Threats - macro economic uncertainty (deflation, inflation, stagflation, hyper-inflation - do I have all the -flations?); political uncertainty; will I have a job?; mis-timing how low asset prices can go (they can keep dropping); as I buy, I tie up money that I'll need for other things.

not a bad day, really

October 6th, 2008 at 07:31 pm

Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $9 lunch, apple + $8 groceries

I know that with the stock market and the world-wide fiscal badness, it sounds like the line, "so Mrs. Lincoln, what did you think of the play?", but everything else about my day went well.

The last couple of weeks I've only made it to the gym on Thursday. Today I managed to get there the other day that I promised myself I would go - Monday. I've been weighing myself each time I go: 185, 187, 186, 185. Today, 183. Yippee.

Rolled over a 1 yr CD to a 13 month at 4% interest rate. This is one of the 40K CDs. Couldn't get the highest rate (4.2%) because I had no loan with this bank. Who knows what will happen fiscally when this CD matures? I expect to be looking seriously at real estate at this time. But holding it in a CD means I can't be tempted to buy...much.

Saw a .50/can deal on tomato products, along with 4/$1 little lemons. I'm starting to see more things under $1.

It is time to think over things fiscally. As the stock market drops, its time to console one's self and plan.

do I look like I have a dollar?

October 5th, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $3.26 bagel, coffee + $1.75 decaf coffee

Stopped by the office yesterday to pick up my dirty gym clothes, after the night ride I washed and dried them. Today I delivered them back to the office, then I walked the 7 miles home.

Odd ball observation on the way home: I had a woman ask me for a dollar as I crossed a street downtown. That wasn't so odd. It was odd because she was well dressed, relatively stylish combo of pants and heels and not in jeans. She appeared to be walking with another woman, also stylish. I was dressed in my running tights and track jacket. Why did she ask me for a dollar? Why did she need a dollar from me? If she got caught short she looked like she had plastic...or did. And just a dollar. Was she breaking the ice - or practicing depression-era skills just for me?

I got asked for change a couple of more times, each from expected sources. In that aspect, the world was righted again.

On the way home I found a dime on the ground and got a free coffee card.

night tour of Seattle

October 5th, 2008 at 06:38 pm

Saturday
Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $13 brunch + $5 grocery (produce) + $5 night trip

On Saturday night, DH and I took the night Seattle Trolley Tour. Its run by MEHVA - cost was $5 for a 3 hour tour. It was very fun and historic ... however, you will be sitting on a historic bus/trolley for 3 hrs, so a word to the wise: there is a certain amount of stamina required. Again, MEHVA - a non-profit - collects buses and trolleys, but to keep them in good condition, they must be driven around. They would be driven around anyway, so MEHVA charges the rest of us to ride along.

Our chariot for the evening - a circa 1940 trolley. This trolley runs completely on electricity: two poles attached to the roof of the trolley run along a double electric track about 25 ft above the ground.


Since we could only go where the double electric track still exists, and the 68 yr old trolley doesn't have enough of a counterbalance to handle the top of Queen Anne Hill, our itinerary was: from 2nd & Main, Beacon Hill, International District, Pioneer Square, Pike Market, Belltown, lower Queen Anne Hill, then back downtown, Eastlake, over to the University District, Montlake, Capitol Hill, then 2nd & Main again.

It was the perfect time to try out the night landscape setting on my new camera ... so let me re-phrase that: its the perfect time for me to inflict night camera pictures onto my blog readers.

Inside the trolley - they went all out and maintained the old placards, too. Hmmm, I should look into that.


King Street Station - where the Amtrak goes. I seem to remember that this station is also being renovated.


Hey, who let the Alaskans in? (N.B: Washington state is the closest in the lower 48 to Alaska).


Close up of some neon on Stewart St.


I apologize right now - no tripod, no sharp night pictures of the Seattle skyline. Maybe next year. You'll have to settle with the artistically blurry ones.

One of the layovers - this one in Queen Anne. At our layover in the University District, we were swarmed by college students who were fascinated because the trolley looks so different. It warms my heart that they were interested. DH and I suspect that we had a couple of college stowaways riding from the U-District back to downtown. Touching that we were cool enough that they would do it.


The Saturday night action on the street. We were stared at and waved to numerous times. Funny story - as the trolley was navigating through Queen Anne, a young couple got to the driver's side of their car. I suspect that they were hitting two social events last night because when the young man got to the car, he took off his shirt to change presumably for the second event. The middle-aged woman watching him in the trolley began to shriek with laughter. I still think she owes the bus driver a big tip. Big Grin


In short, cheap, fun, historic, green. What's not to like?

friday observations

October 3rd, 2008 at 08:44 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $15 chirashi-sushi lunch + $11 groceries

Things I noticed today:

1. The digestion of WaMu is happening with all possible speed. My linked ING account already recognizes my old WaMu account as a JPMorgan Chase account. That happened in the last couple of days.

2. Overstock.com Real Estate? Right? Wrong? The making of a foreclosure market and a symptom of things to come? The big question: Free Shipping? The little question: why so many questions? Oh yes, I clicked in it for my zip code. Shacks or egregiously over-priced items with no 50% off. We have a long way to go.

3. Discovered that my congressman switched his vote on the "rescue" from yes to no. Time to write him a thank you note.

talking 'bout the crisis

October 2nd, 2008 at 07:27 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $6 lunch

Only went for the 6 inch sub today. It came with chips and a soda and for $4.99. With tax it came to $5.35, and I tossed in the change for karmic tip.

The COO gave a 10 minute lunchtime talk about the financial crisis, then threw it open for questions and comments for the hour. There wasn't any mind-blowing analysis or pearls of wisdom, or even any good advice. The really unusual thing was that we had a special meeting about it. The last time we had a special meeting like this was after 9/11.

After the meeting I realized that I didn't do what I normally do - provide some sort of lightness. Heard any good jokes about this crisis? I've heard only one:

Q: What's the difference between a Lehman trader and a pigeon?
A: The pigeon can still make a deposit on a Ferrari.

the good, the weird, and the awful

October 1st, 2008 at 07:53 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $8 lunch + $20 groceries

Good
Found a good deal on Odwalla bars at Uwajimaya - I eat them for breakfast - .99/each. Usually they go for $1.39 - $1.69. At best lately they go for 10/$10, which is $1/each.

Weird
I was shocked to see a big bin of jujubes . Somehow I missed the memo that they exist as a real fruit. I just thought it was a cutesy name for a piece of candy. FYI - they appear to be in season right now.

Awful
On a darker note, we were alerted that our health insurance is going up. A lot. If HR continued with the old carrier - premiums would have gone up 41%. Now they are "merely" going up 30%.