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Archive for May, 2011

firmly in the 21st century

May 28th, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Well, I had an entry yesterday but my Firefox burped and the site ate it and it was gone. Let me summarize:

I moved my checking from Chase to a local credit union, and was asked whether I needed checks. Since I am 49, I was taken aback - you mean people don't use checks. Turns out that I only have 4 places that I use checks regularly ... so I've become one of those people who don't use checks. I set up two bill pays, two more to go should I need them. I feel like I'm the 21st century.

I will have to go back to monitoring my spending - I've had to dip into my savings twice this month. Its one thing if its inflation or bad luck or I spent a bit on some fun, but its another thing if there's a mindless leak that I can do something about.

So far in the two last weeks I spent on two out-to-eat lunches, one with a woman I met on the Vietnam tour (to be honest I didn't think I made any friends), the other with screenwriter friend and partner of lawyer friend; money on net rice papers that were a lattice instead of solid (those were $1.49 per package, so not a bank breaker), some on pork sausage, ginger, rhubarb, and other groceries to make cha gio; the sewer water garbage bill; to take one class in garden mosaic art; paint, brushes, sandpaper to artistically 'distress' the picture frames I got at the neighborhood yard sale - so so far, I've spent on needs, social, and fun that I'm going to implement. No mindless leak has appeared yet.

Two days ago I began to harvest some baby lettuces that I've been growing in a two foot bowl with wheels. This year I was clever - I planted the lettuces in a big "X", so that no matter when I got around to weeding and harvesting, I knew what's in my pot. Last year I planted randomly, and what happened is that the lettuces sprouted randomly, along with the weeds. It was okay for a few weeks, but then the weeds got the better of me. Planting the "X" means that I can also plant another "X" between the older "X" for a later harvest.

another reason for not carrying my credit card

May 25th, 2011 at 09:45 pm

So I got a new credit card from Chase - a 1% and 5% cashback one. I only put the credit card in the wallet the day I plan to use it (never carry it just to carry it...too dangerous).

The day I put it in the wallet, I learned about another reason not to carry it; the credit card conflicts with my bus pass card as I tap the bus pass on the reader. The bus pass has a chip and a radio signaler in it so that it can store and compute the fare when you tap the reader to get on and tap it to get off. Apparently the credit card also has reader to store what is being charged and whether I get 1 or 5%.

Easy enough fix - just pull the bus pass card out of the wallet, but an even easier reason to not use it unless necessary.

Greenwood Yard Sale and auuuurrrgh for other reasons

May 23rd, 2011 at 08:43 pm

The aaaauuuuuurrgh came from total computer problems for me today at work. I (and the IT guy) thought it was hard drive problems, but it was a piece of despicable mal-ware that was pretending to cause a hard drive failure ...probably to pay 'em money and they would magically "fix" it. So I didn't get much done today. Thankfully, I'm now in the quiet season, where there is planning, but all but one of the big projects is done.

Change finding for this year is marching along - I'm at over $80 since last July. One of the players of the death bet had Harmon Killebrew, so he is now ahead.

Greenwood Yard Sale for 2011 has come and gone. DH and I went to go, thinking we'll just see what's out there and take a picture of something that I couldn't believe was for sale. Nothing to do a double take ... maybe that "make me an offer" saddle. But I did buy a batch of picture frames - one for $.50, where the lady wouldn't play when I tried talking her down, and 8 more for .25 apiece, with the seller who did play along. Since even the fifty cent frame was so cheap, I thought I'd have a little fun and distress them artistically. I also bought a sturdy one foot square cedar table that we could use as a little outdoor tray, a stool to stand on, a stand for some of my outdoor container plants. $10 for that.

Repotted the sage and rosemary. DH has potato plants growing in a black plastic garbage can that are now about 3/4 of the way up the can. Blueberry plants are going great gang busters, even the plant that I thought was on its last legs from canker. This year, its all leafy goodness and doing wonderfully.

Light rail near me

May 17th, 2011 at 09:56 pm

Some of the very old time readers might remember that I live in the Seattle neighborhood of Greenwood, about 7 miles north of downtown. And a few of the merely old time readers might remember me being excited enough about Seattle light rail to post about it.

Well, plans are afoot to get light rail to north Seattle - yesterday the two gigantic borers near the University of Washington were christened and began digging south, hooking up to the northern most downtown stop. Five years from now light rail should reach to the UW. Great, but still 4 miles south of me.

Tonight I went to an open house for a light rail stop at Northgate, which is about 1.5 miles east of me. The place was packed - a good 150- 200 came. The route and placement of the station has been pretty much decided - tunnel most, popping up some, and an elevated stop next to the Metro transit center. Multiple plans for what the station would look like, and multiple plans for how the buses will interact with the light rail.

Comments from the crowd were mostly good, although it was weird to hear the "how come its not across the street?" versus "its gonna wreck my property values because its so close". Can't win.

For a good twenty blocks the rail line should run in a channel alongside the interstate, so there was a lot of concern about making sure neighborhoods to the west (namely me) could use it. Two road/sidewalk overpasses would be maintained - on 92nd and on 103rd. A couple of comments about community college students not being able to use it. What happened to college students these days? I thought nothing of walking many, many blocks. And this community college campus - like many college campuses - ain't tiny. 12 blocks walking shouldn't be anything.

Matter of fact, the open house was about 8 blocks from the transit center which would be where the light rail line would be. I walked home from the open house. Took me 45 minutes to walk home, no biggie. Ride itself would take about 13 minutes from downtown to the stop.

The real time lag though is that the light rail will come to us in 2020. I'm probably going to be a little less spry by that time.

wrestling with the water heater

May 16th, 2011 at 09:01 pm

Late last night the conversation went like this -

Me: we have got to figure out what is kitty's problem. I think she's been peeing, but it doesn't smell.

DH (feeling the carpet): Wow, kitty has quite a bladder. Wet here, here, here.

We open the swinging doors where the washer and dryer are - the floor is sopping wet, so much so that it was overflowing into the carpet pad and the carpet above it.

Turns out it was even worse than that - the water heater leaked catastrophically. From the bottom. We used every towel we had, turned the heater off and shut down the water. Still, there was plenty of water everywhere this morning.

The one good time to be a renter.

The RE management company called in the water heater guys and the carpet guy. I got home this evening with an industrial dryer running on the carpet, and the water heater replaced. Apparently water heaters last about ten years, we've been renting this spot for eleven. I would love to get new carpeting because of this, but that will be unlikely - no doubt because of the kitty, but also because its easier to change the carpet between tenants.

Coinstar is my friend

May 11th, 2011 at 08:53 pm

Again. About 8 months ago I found a silver dime on the bed of the Coinstar machine. Today I found a silver dime right in front of it. (1957 - any dime minted before 1964 is silver)

Now I haven't found an amazing fantastic amount by the Coinstar machine, but when I do find something, its either Canadian or very old...which makes me wonder. I think that the Coinstar machine tells the coin by the weight. A silver dime or a Canadian penny has a different weight and it gets left behind. The owner thinks its worthless when its worth a lot more.

And worth more...last month I spotted a sign at an antique shop that the shop was willing to pay 25X above face for silver coin. Coinstar wouldn't take it at all, the shop would take it at $2.50.

happy Mother's Day

May 8th, 2011 at 08:48 pm

Happy Mother's Day, or perhaps Happy Mothers' Day. I'll go generic since me mum died in 2003.

Some doings on the fiscal front for the small money. I've still have to remember that I bank at the credit union instead of my bank. Just yesterday when I planned my day I plan to hit the bank then... no, no scratch that, hit the credit union in the Safeway.

The interest rate on both checking and saving is 6% on the first $500, 0.1% on anything above it. It means that I have to figure out when to slice off some savings when it gets to be $1000 or so. ($500 @ 6%, $500 @ about 0% ... 3% is about my target). This time around I had $300 that I put into my Sysco (SYY) drip.

The variable interest rate on the I-bonds for these next 6 months is 4.6%.

Small money making small money. It feels as slow as being on a pumpkin pulled by gerbils, still every little bit of money is making something.

Right now I'm immersed in portfolio construction. Best book I've read so far is The Perfect Portfolio by Leland Hevner. Its interesting because it gives one a real nuts and bolts view of constructing a core and specialty investment portfolio. The Kiplinger book on portfolio construction reads like the same ol' same ol'.

cheesemaking part 2

May 5th, 2011 at 08:13 pm

So part 1 was yogurt, which was pretty easy once you figure out how to get the right temperature to hold the milk and yogurt culture.

Part 2 - I've expanded to include queso blanca, a white cheese made with milk and vinegar. Easiest recipe ever! I got the milk for $1.89/half gallon + a few pennies of apple cider vinegar and it made at least 1/2 lb of cheese.

Queso blanca

1/2 gallon of whole pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk
2 tbsp vinegar. I followed the recipe and used apple cider vinegar, so I don't know how well other vinegars work.

Heat milk in a saucepan to 185 - 195F. Direct heat, right on the burner. Stir often so the bottom doesn't scorch.

Take milk off heat. Add vinegar a bit at a time until milk curdles - forms a white precipitate/curd and a slightly yellowish whey. I halved the recipe I referred to (1 gallon milk/ 1/4 c vinegar), which worked. The recipe also stated that if it doesn't curdle, you can add a bit more vinegar.

I let it cool for about 20 minutes - not sure whether curds increase as you leave it, but I figured that it wouldn't hurt much.

Pour curds and whey into jelly bag, let the whey drain off. Leave the curds in the bag for a couple of hours to firm up the cheese. Can twist the jelly bag to really get the whey out. This cheese needs a bit of salt.

So far, the cheese spreads okay on bread and crackers, great crumbled into a salad, and heats up very well - I'll bet it will be great as a ricotta substitute...like in a lasagna.

nobody had him

May 1st, 2011 at 08:33 pm

For all you regular readers regarding this year's death bet: nobody had him.