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Archive for May, 2009

vacation alert

May 29th, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Letting you all know - I'm on vacation starting tomorrow, so I won't be posting much for two weeks. See you in the middle of June!

on the edge of stimulus

May 28th, 2009 at 09:33 pm

Found out in the Phinneywood blog (a blog about our local neighborhood) that our street is getting a sidewalk all the way up until our block.

Our neighborhood is infamous for never getting sidewalks, despite being a part of Seattle since 1952(!), so I have to assume that this sidewalk construction initiative is one of those "shovel ready" projects in the stimulus package.

If only it reached one more block. I'm a taxpayer, too!

garden growing (very long)

May 28th, 2009 at 08:55 pm

Allow me to hijack this blog a bit and post how the container garden is doing. Reader, you are my secondary audience - think of this post as if you were listening a series of spy code numbers on the shortwave.

The two blueberry plants. They love "wet feet", so they should be watered every or nearly every day. If you are in a time bind, I invite you to take 'em home and water them on your porch.


The two lettuce bowls. They like it wet too, so treat them the same as the blueberry plants. Harvest with scissors, and eat as much as you can. No kidding. As the days get long, the lettuce will "bolt", sending up a flower spike and make the lettuce bitter.


The two tomatoes - water about every other day.


Don't forget to water the topsy turvy one. Water from the top. Oh yes, remember that the patio chairs are in that cool, dark corner. If you are in a time bind or we suddenly get into the 90s (hah), if you put all the plants in that corner, they will use less water and you can water less frequently. Extra bonus: closest to the hose!


Carrots, beets and strawberries in the strawberry pot. Water every couple of days.


That sage is going crazy - it loves it hot and dry. Water if you remember, but don't beat yourself up about it.


DH's garbage can potato garden. As the potatoes grow, we add moss and soil until they make it to the top. We'll harvest in the fall by dumping every thing out of the can. Sneaky, no? Water every 2-3 days.


Along the house, more carrots, beets, and some oregano. The oregano, like the sage, loves it hot and dry. There's also an old dahlia plant poking up. Everything 2-3 days again.


The pea plants crawling their way up the screen. They are starting to get flowers - if you get a pea pod, go for it. Water every other day.


Over and out...godspeed. Big Grin

this is novel...

May 27th, 2009 at 08:49 pm

Had a glorious weekend, and finally got caught up on what I needed to do before vacation (3 days and counting...Big Grin).

I'm back!

Chalk it up to the recession, but our non-profit workplace now has a severance package. I don't know why they didn't before, unless it was because attrition and incompetence did its magic in the past. Anyway, if we are laid off - not quitting, not fired - we receive a sliding number of weeks based on our seniority.

I'll be 10 years in February. I would get 4 weeks of severance right now, after February 5 weeks. I wonder whether PTO
is additive to the severance. Wonder if its too crass to ask.

bet they didn't teach you this in the Boy Scouts

May 23rd, 2009 at 06:44 pm

Weird, but experimentally demonstrated to be possible.

One glass dog bowl + some water + wire stand + noon sun + wood (eg untreated deck) = fire.

change hunting

May 21st, 2009 at 09:17 pm

Wednesday
Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $15 groceries

Thursday
Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $20 dinner

The week I've found 1 penny on a clean sidewalk, 1 penny on the crosswalk right at the curb with a cigarette butt three feet away, and 2 pennies at the foot of a tree near several cigarette butts. All in downtown Seattle.

Nothing to see here, just testing the hypothesis, move along....

extra money on a drp

May 19th, 2009 at 08:10 pm

Saving log - $2 tip box + $500 drp
Spending log - $0

One of my other drp stocks drops in price as the rest of the market rallies. Its at a four year low right now. The valuation and the basics of the company are sound, and a few months ago it even hiked its dividend. I had a bit of spare cash, and added to my position.

thank you for smoking

May 17th, 2009 at 07:50 pm

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $.69 apple + $11.50 conveyor belt sushi

Today I found .12 on the ground. I generally find a coin here and there (pennies mostly) every couple of days. Often, like Disneysteve, if I find one, I find another - so that is a good little rule.

As a public service, and to the determent of my own coin hunting, I thought of coming up with a checklist of reasonable places where I find stray coins. I've been hard at work thinking about it, but the places that I've found coins are so varied - sidewalks, parking lots, bus stops, on the floor of the bus, in front of my driveway, on the road along the curb, pedestrian intersections, behind the paper honesty boxes, in front of ATMs ... in other words I can give you an inelegant, exhaustive list that isn't very easy to remember.

Later, it hit me the thread that most of these places share: they are high foot traffic places where people wait for a few minutes, stick their hands in and out of their pockets and then leave. Fine, but as you are walking along a sidewalk, hard to tell those high traffic hotspots from ordinary sidewalk.

Or is it? I suspect not. One of the things that some people do as they wait and jam their collective hands in their collective pockets is smoke. And when the bus comes, friend comes, cigarette is finished, what happens? Some of the butts go into the can (thank you), some land on the sidewalk or whereever.

I submit to you a very simple rule: the more cigarette butts on the ground, the more likely you will find change on the ground.

Let's be clear here. I'm not saying smokers are more likely to drop change. I'm saying that cigarette butts are a reasonable marker to identify those good coin hunting places where a lot of people wait with hands in pockets, yet have to leave in a hurry.

I'm probably also saying that street sweepers and those business folk who keep their front sidewalks clean are my competitors - if you sweep a butt, you probably are sweeping coins too.

The rule isn't perfect - I've found coins in our front driveway (neither of us smoke), close to gas station pumps (not supposed to smoke there), on bare sidewalks. Still, today, there were a lot of butts (even a joint where I found that dime) where I found my change today.

If you are a coin hunter, let me know if this rule helps you find more change!

Joes and Saturday errands

May 16th, 2009 at 07:13 pm

Saving log - $300 SYY drp + $40 MMM drp
Spending log - $12 breakfast + $26 tights & MP3 speaker + $40 cell phone + $4 watch battery

Ran a lot of errands today. Mailed in my first optional payment to buy more SYY stock.

We went to Joe's, formerly GI Joes, now bankrupt Joe's and soon to be no more. I had gotten shoes and running tights there in the past, and noted the $40 flip flops (!). Now its in its final stages of liquidation. The back had a lot of empty stands and round racks (also for sales). I figure that maybe 25% of their stock remained to be picked over. Its funny, when we used to talk about liquidations, it was a time to really get the 90% off deals. Nowadays, not so much - only about 40%-60% off - because liquidation is a big business by itself. And the ammo was only 25% off. What gives there! Big Grin.

I saw something that I would have taken a flyer on, but in doing the math the price would have still been about $30.

I went across the aisle to Ross and while I didn't find tights, I found running pants that were my size for $12. When we got home, I cut the ripped tights off at the knee and tried them on. I'll try them out in their new guise.

We are going on a road trip in June, hooking up with sister and visiting the farmette (which has no land line), so we broke down and entered the 21st century and each got a no-contract cell phone. $40 flat with 300 minutes and a 60 day trial.

Lastly, I bought a new watch battery and tried it out. My heart monitor lives again.

thank you, paycheck

May 15th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $12 lunch

It might be just me but payday seemed extra, extra welcome today.

Not a lot going on but somehow there's more on my shopping list this weekend: a battery for my heart monitor, new set of running tights (DH suggested I cut the old ones off at the knee and use nail polish or something to stabilize the spandex. I might try it, but I'd prefer to buy a new set when it doesn't work out), a cell phone for the June vacation.

I can console myself in thinking that no matter how much I think I'm spending myself into the poorhouse, it won't be but a drop in the bucket compared to this guy. Read this guy's story, then read our refreshingly boring blogs.

N.B. The guy's story referenced above has a very interesting "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say.

the parable of the marshmallow

May 13th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $16 groceries

I've been thinking about the marshmallow test (a test for self control) and how it relates to saving money and investing. And money temperament in general.

Just to summarize, 4 yr old children were left alone in a room in full view of a marshmallow (or favorite food). The child was told beforehand that he could have two marshmallows if he could successfully refrain from eating the one he saw until a researcher came back. The child who could wait did better in school, etc, than the child who couldn't.

I wonder if the correlation holds for investors also - maybe its part of the 'investor's temperament' that Warren Buffett talks about. Or maybe not.

Of course to save money, you have to practice a form of the marshmallow test every other minute. Essentially instead of grabbing and eating the marshmallow, you delay buying or going into hock by buying, grabbing, and eating the marshmallow. Every so often, though, one should have and enjoy a marshmallow or two.

But investing is slightly different than saving. A lot of the tricks you can use 'saving' aka keeping yourself from eating the marshmallow - looking away, pretending its a sculpture of a marshmallow rather than a real one - are tricky when you are trying to invest. With investing you are trying to use money to buy cheaper money. Its more like trying to figure out by yourself when the marshmallow is at its whitest and tastiest, and eat it then. So you have to keep your eye on it to make a decision, but not keep an eye on it so you don't make a badly timed decision.

Half digested thoughts...

newest Drp

May 12th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Monday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $0

Tuesday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $4 coffee, scone

Received the invoice for my newest Drp - SYY - from its transfer agent. That makes 5 transfer agents to deal with for just my little Drp portfolio. Not only 5 transfer agents, but 5 online websites.

I spent a bit of time exploring the fee structure of my newest Drp. Generally you want small or no fees, and for my first two Drps that was a great calling card, but as you expand your horizons, it doesn't make sense to completely discount a good company investment because of fees. But one does have to figure out how to work around it.

SYY has a $2.50 flat fee to buy shares, along with a nickel fee for each share you got. No fees for reinvesting dividends, which is great. If you get enough shares, eventually what happens is that the dividend breeds more shares like a bunny, and does so for free.

$2.50 doesn't seem like much in the world of a $4 trade, but it means that it would be silly to put in $10 whenever you felt like it - that would mean a 25% haircut. The fee rule of thumb is just like it is with a mutual fund - 1%. So what you should be putting in when you can is at least 250$, preferably $300 when you factor in the nickel/share fee (SYY is going for about 23$/share - 250$ will buy about 10 shares, adding .50 to the fee sauce for a total of $3).

Weighed myself again today - 176.4. Celebrate now, then when the plateau happens, try not to gain it back.

thrill o victory/agony o defeat

May 10th, 2009 at 09:46 pm

I ran the 3 miles in 45 minutes 10 seconds.

Then thirty minutes later as I walked back, smug in my prowess, I caught the curb wrong and landed on the sidewalk, scraping my knee and putting a gigantic hole in my running tights.

Only my pride was hurt.

in defense of the pleasure of oddball items

May 9th, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Today was the day of the Greenwood Art Walk. We did a bit of walking, and saw some very pretty stuff. The only picture that really turned out were these amazing gold and brass wire baskets in a neighborhood Taoist space.


But really, what made me smile were the couple of yard sales and allied sales happening all along Greenwood Avenue today.

I took a pass on this one, but it just made me laugh out loud that someone conceived that two nouns - "Kansas City Chiefs" and "crockpot" - could be brought together.

Not only brought together, but after conception, somebody had to buy off on making more than one, and to advertise them. I'm guessing that they were quite the thing for beef bqq for those Arrowhead tailgate parties in the 70s.

However, I did bite on another item that made me smile. Who would possibly use a Beetle Bailey cloth wallet?


Yeah, me. For $9.50.

I bought this bad girl in a little tent kiosk on Greenwood that sold great cloth purses. I have too many purses, frankly, so I have to use what I have. But this was handmade by a woman who somehow found Beetle Bailey comic cloth, someone again had print Beetle Bailey comic cloth, and someone had to figure that Beetle Bailey printed comic cloth would sell well enough to justify the whole thing. Given that chain of crazy decisions, how could you walk away? Big Grin

non-fiscal good news

May 8th, 2009 at 08:19 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $15 groceries

Felt a lot better, so I went to the gym today for the first time this week. I had an appointment with the trainer on Monday because he was going to be gone today. I called in sick to work that Monday and called in sick to him also. Unfortunately I didn't really feel up to it all this week. So when I hit the scale, I expected at the very best to not gain, at the worst to gain some.

Very pleasant surprise: 177.

That brightened my whole afternoon.

We are all cylons now

May 7th, 2009 at 09:22 pm

Put my savings in the tip box early. I wanted to speed things up because I didn't want to make a special errand to deposit a $1.96 check into savings. Much prefer to combine it with what is in the tip box. Total = $45 + $1.96 was a bit better.

I went into the flagship downtown WaMu and saw the gigantic semi-futuristic clear and blue plastic Chase logo perched on a wooden platform. It was a good twenty feet high. All of the WaMu and Washington Mutual lettering was gone. Confirmed that with the ATM interface.

WaMu's bones are dissolving. If next week I have to stick my hand in some goo to interface with my Chase bank data, somehow that wouldn't surprise me a bit. But I have to see the sunny side. There are several Chase ATMs in Oshkosh and Milwaukee; there never were any WaMus there. Looking forward to no ATM fees on vacation.

On another cheerful note, the 403B is doing splendiferous. I'm up about 3% in real return, apart from putting in over $600/paycheck. I've been buying cheap in the 403B since October. From $64K at the end of December, I'm up over $76K right now.

Eating our fantastically tasty home grown lettuce tonight. We are catching up with it.

finished the garden (kinda)

May 5th, 2009 at 08:52 pm

Saving log - $9 tip box
Spending log - $0

Last Saturday, we also finished the container garden, by finally planting the three patio tomato plants. We put two of the tomatoes in regular pots, one we put in a Topsy Turvy pot for laughs. Last night we had a windstorm. I figured that the poor tomato whipping around at 20 mph couldn't be good, so DH hung it in the shed until the worst was over.

We wheeled and moved the pots during the storm to close to the patio and under the overhang so they would just get watered a bit and not drowned. Love the wheels on the lettuce. We've got to get more of them next year.

By finished, I don't mean totally done, I just mean we'll take care of what we have. If something doesn't make it, we'll use the pot for something else, but no more expansion until next year.

sick day

May 4th, 2009 at 07:51 pm

Saturday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $12 breakfast + $107 cat travel items

Sunday
Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3 bagel, coffee + $2 apple, water

Since Saturday afternoon, I felt I like I was coming down with something, but hadn't quite yet. Sunday was similar, and Monday (today), was worse yet. My symptoms are: tiredness, sore throat, and runny nose. No fever at any time, so if this is flu, its the weirdest flu I've ever had. (Confirmed that its a cold). Decided though to stay at home and keep it to myself rather than risk the wrath of co workers. You can't be too careful - we are all on alert with this flu stuff.

parade, garden, and flu

May 1st, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Friday
Saving log - $3 tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee + $15 lunch

Thursday
Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee

I got a Rhoomba for my birthday. Its fun to watch. Compared the regular vacuum its a bit quieter - and if I don't have to vacuum, that's fine with me.

Noticed that the I-bond fixed rate is at 0.10% with a zero percent variable. The first I-bonds that I bought are now approaching 5 years old, come August I start to have some that will not have the 3 month interest penalty.

The May Day protest parade right at rush hour marched past our office on 2nd. Nice and loud and went on for a good 20 minutes. We never ever get a parade - its usually 1st or 3rd Avenue that gets it.

Ate a couple of cups of lettuce thinnings - very tasty, but its growing faster than I can eat. DJ friend offered to water our containers while we're away. Hope he takes our offer of eating what he can, too. Up for this weekend is to finally pot up the tomato plants we got when we got our blueberry plants. The blueberry plants are getting itty-bitty cup shaped flowers. Not too many, but some.

Tonight I also saw my first flu masked person out on the street. An older woman. Not sure whether I should be blase about it, treat it with respect, or even try to get it (get sick and build your immunity early). The last flu pandemic I knew about was the Hong Kong Flu in 1968. I remember my parents talk about it in hushed tones, and the seeing the pictures of it in the paper. I was 6.