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Archive for June, 2012

Halftime Dirtnap Show

June 30th, 2012 at 09:18 pm

Today is June 30. Thursday I was thinking, "boy would it not be spiffy if I got five kills in the $$$ dead pool before the end of June?" This has not yet happened, but I did get a hit in the alt.obituaries deadpool today with Yitzhak Shamir. Oy! " I am nowhere near the top, but I do have a 'twin' who has, at least until today, shared the exact names of stiffs for 2012 and thus the same number of points. The half-time for the year actually is on Canada Day (31+29+31+30+31+30+1=183=0.5*366).

I am not happy with the $400+ bill to evaluate and diagnose the tot's neuromotor difficulty. But if it leads to an individual education program and legally required concessions, it may be worth it. The boy is to try martial arts next month.

Visa bill is still high, pending my brother's reimbursement for Mariners tickets, and $100 taken out for a hotel stay. Hotels in the Great Plains sure are cheap!

Trying coconut oil to lose weight. I take two tablespoons a day so far, and put it in baking instead of shortening. Coconut oil is great for the hormones and for blood sugar, I have found, and moisturizes my hair and skin. The Energy Medicine alone did not help me to lose weight AT ALL, but two hefty walks along a lake so far may help. It did make me feel better to read that thickening of the middle is a natural and normal sign of middle age. I do not fancy the muffin-top look on me though.

Activated AmEx card after three years inactivity

June 28th, 2012 at 04:05 am

Only because I intend to rent a car with it for our holiday. This better not be the beginning of the end.

Getting Replacement Printer

June 26th, 2012 at 05:16 pm

As long as I am ranting about people who are in denial about their animals' age-related decline, I admit that my HP inkjet printer is not worth maintaining anymore. We are shelling out $20 big ones for a laser printer and a USB keyboard from the University surplus.

More in cheap deals: my credit union generously reduced the ticket price to minor league baseball so I could save $32 while I see my hometeam lose 2-12! We invited my kid's best friend to come along, which was a bad idea, as he brought lots of money and bought sugary things for him and for our own boy. At least my kid cannot claim we don't take him anywhere fun this summer.

I Don't Understand Some Homeowners

June 23rd, 2012 at 03:31 pm

Some people in my neighbourhood are still doing cash-out refinancing of their houses. I suppose it is marginally better than having outstanding home equity lines of credit if the balances are large, but doesn't one have to pay application fees, discount points, credit checks, appraisal fees, documentation fees, title search costs, et cetera? A regular refinance here could cost $4200-$6900. And the terms are usually for 30 years, regardless of the ages of the mortgagees. So four mortgage refinances over a decade, not uncommon where I am, cost close to $22000. Now, if the mortgages were for shorter terms and smaller interest, the costs would not be so cumbersome. I paid close to nothing for my refinance and neither shortened nor lengthened my term but I saved $8700 in interest. But if the amounts are larger and the terms remain constant, that is prolonged, the interest saved is not as significant.

Our newspapers used to present "oh woe" articles of people who have lived in their houses for most of their lives, but somehow did not mention the frequent mortgage refinances, always for larger amounts. And articles of the "we are underwater on our mortgage and have lost our equity" sort and it turns out they got 0% down or interest-only mortgages. Values in our area dropped from the 2007 peak by 30% by 2011, which is not long ago.

I weep for the future of your country. About half of these people vote too and nearly all have good, professional jobs. Or maybe it is just that many people in my neighbourhood are clueless. That seems most likely to me.

Money Musings

June 22nd, 2012 at 02:49 pm

Having a lot of equity in the house helps only when you are trying to sell it; nowadays you cannot borrow so much from it.

We learned that a house down the street is scheduled for public auction. The owners had gone to India to take care of an ailing relative, but rented the house. I do not know how it is that the rental payments, for there are people living in the house, are not applied to the mortgage and that the mortgage is not paid. Maybe the mortgage is with a lender who went under or who is notoriously inept or the owners died or something. The amount owing is a trifle above what we owe on our house, I did not know if the renters knew about the notice of trustee sale so I printed a copy out, along with some advice and links on renters' rights. If they get booted out they can live in our house if they do not smoke. Their cat comes over almost daily to hang out with one of our cats. My husband fantasizes about buying the house by covering the outstanding amount so we save on moving expenses.

Gold slid 2.5% on deflationary fears. This bums me out but it is not like I have not already profited, and I expect some volatility. I am relieved my obsession with buying a car and keeping as many assets liquid as possible kept me focused away from gold buying.

An Eureka moment: the neighbours who are negligent dog owners are probably too clueless to suspect that their animals are at the ends of their average life spans per breed, and do not think animals can get dementia. Google will give the average life span for a dog breed, and calculating how long the people have been in their houses with their dogs leads us to conclude that these are old dogs. Having had a 19.75 year old cat, I can tell you that elderly animals can wander in the dark and moan, whimper and whine because they are disoriented or feel alone. Even without dementia, elderly animals suffer from separation anxiety and the pointer next door has ALWAYS suffered from separation anxiety.

Tip: do not get a Burmese or Siamese kitten if you are over 50 years old. At one time the world's oldest cat was a Burmese cat, 35 years old. We had no idea about the life spans of Orientals when my mom bought kittens; we told a couple who once owned a Siamese that we wanted to wait until my very possessive Burmese had died before having a baby, and they said "they can live into their 20s, you know."

I walked from Convention Place to Boren and Madison, then to 5th and Madison, then to Columbia and 4th, and saw no coins anywhere. The beggars must be especially keen-sighted or baselle must have beaten me to it. I was hoping for eleven cents to make up for my mortgage increase.

Screening for Stocks with Nested Conditional Statements in Excel

June 20th, 2012 at 09:07 pm

I should have read Amazon.com reviews of Peter D. Schiff's "The Real Crash" audiobook prior to attempting to listen to it. Out of the 2 of 5 discs I bothered to listen to, I got one independent clause of value, and that was a reiteration of the value I saw in _Crash Proof_.

That was to look for dividend-yielding global companies. I logged onto ValueLine and customized a screen for Foreign Stocks with Dividends higher than 3%.
I gathered short ratio and short float, target price, Price/sales ratio, current price from FinViz.com; Buy Price recommendations from Morningstar; IQ ratings from Standard and Poor. Tgt/Price is my custom formula for target price - current price, divided by the current price, or "upside potential, baby."

My conditional statement looks like this:
IF(AND(price<buy_at,Dividend>2.5,PriceSales<MEDIAN(PriceSales)),"buy", IF(AND(Return_on_Equity>15,IQ>90,tgt_price>0.3), "buy"))
leaving me currently with ArcelorMittal ADR (MT) and Total ADR (TOT).

If it's June it must be annual Tightwad Gazette reading time

June 19th, 2012 at 03:32 pm

I am mixing this up with 50 frugality blogs to help save money. I want my son to take martial arts this summer, even if it means cutting down on cappuccinos and potato chips.

Some debt group people are looking at their food expenses. I know I tend to overspend my own food budget, which is uneven because some months we buy meat in bulk, and some months we have Costco runs for the deals. Costco coffee went up 10 cents a pound, pooh. But gasoline went down twenty-five cents a gallon.

My visiting family are gourmands, so I will make some fish and veal stocks for them to use as they cook for us.

My price book cover looks like the Rapture happened, with four faces removed. As we are nearing the halftime show of Fantasy Celebrity Cemetery 2012, or Dirtnap for Dollars, here is a psychic remembrance of whom we will lose in 2013:

- Kirk Douglas
- Ernest Borgnine
- Andy Williams
- Billy Graham
- Christopher Lee
- Jake LaMotta
- The Duke of Edinburgh
- Olivia de Havilland
- Pauline Phillips ("Dear Abby")
- Mickey Rooney

you are welcome.

My goal now is to get more than $9.23 a month increase in net worth for my money market account, savings, certificates of deposit and chequing.

Happy Father's Day

June 17th, 2012 at 06:26 pm

Just made biscuits and sausage gravy for brunch. Will make steak for dinner.

The day before was Bloomsday so I had a James Joyce cocktail at a very busy (two hour wait if you arrived at 7:15 pm) oyster bar. I saw the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" at the budget cinema, with no horrendously expensive pop or popcorn or candy.

I forgot what we entered as an acceptable deductible for health savings accounts but I am a little regretful it is high. I just paid $306 to my optometrist, $200 of that from the health savings account, and now the podiatrist is charging me $243 to show and tell me I fractured a toe. I have $19 left now in the HSA, so I must pay. The consolation being that when my medication needs a refill my deductible will be met. I will scramble for crash savings.

A bonus: if my spouse books and stays at a budget-conscious chain hotel, at least twice by mid-August, we can get a $50 gift card in addition to 15-20% discounts.

Almost interesting: the difference between the sum of HELOC payments made and the mortgage payments made is $3.60. As I cannot sustain $680/month HELOC payments the mortgage will have taken the lead.

I use the credit card to charge entertainment my brother's family wants: good tickets to a baseball game, market food tour. A Missouri-scale flood of expenses. I wonder if they will reward me by selling a Canadian gold coin to me without the premium.

$7.11 interest over six months of CDs. I could cry.

Keeping the child active during the summer

June 16th, 2012 at 12:24 am

Thankfully there is an ice arena within driving distance. The boy will find out if he truly likes skating or hockey. If not, well, there is always curling, and that is plenty Canadian.

Thinking also of camps: spy camp, cooking lessons, swimming lessons, lacrosse... it is a first for me to even be considering these before school is out.

Also considering u-pick farms. Strawberries, blueberries... mmm...

Disorganization Blues

June 15th, 2012 at 03:28 am

Today I found a recent 401(k) statement for the spouse. This set me off on a hunt for the retirement statements I have. I have piles of papers scattered in the spare room, our bedroom and in the living room. Never mind I have three crates for filing these.

In rooting for these statements like a blind pig who trapped her snout in lavender oil for a half-hour, I learned I miss investing. I have not invested for three months, instead saving $$ for house, taxes, laptop, family vacation. I must return to dropping envelopes of hot love to my brokerage of choice, and dabble in foreign currencies and precious metals.

I have also learned I cannot have control over my life until I tame my clutter. Then I will have organized and prioritized. Everything is a wildcard right now. I want so much to keep things simple, but the monkey mind reigns supreme. I hate this because I set a bad example for my child who is even more organizationally impaired than I.

But in also rooting for the statements I have found a library book I feared I would never see! That goes back tomorrow.

$306.13 optometrist bill today. I wonder what kind of high deductible we have in our health savings account.
He understands though, and spots me some prescription medication when I visit for my regular examinations, saving me $89.

What else: oh I was tabulating the finance statements for our bridge loan application outside a closed cafe (no, baselle, not THAT one) when the killer's dad (TKD) comes up. We are alone as the spouse had gone across the street for cheap roadtrip reads. I give TKD a hug, we talk about the grieving process, bridge loans, nuclear detritus washing up on the West Coast (note to self: do not move south) and why the cafe is closed: owner hastened downtown for a permit to participate in the local farmers market which started today. I did not tell TKD that I bought gift cards for the recovering barista/cook (RBC). Some stalking, errr, research showed that RBC was threatened with foreclosure three years ago so he presumably is not a wealthy person. I got a Target card for him and a Petco card for his little cat friend who could well be his "cheap therapist" as he recovers to return to work. A man who rides a motorcycle and owns a cat melts my heart.

A fearless, organized life filled with vitality and love: that is my goal to work toward.

going, and gone

June 10th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Going: me, on a road trip. I have a terrific 250-song list to put on my mp3 player.

Gone: Frank Cady and Ray Bradbury, the Cadbury week.
Dedicated to the list administrices of my dead pools this year, this entertaining and always safe for the grandkids Scopitone.

now we are six

June 7th, 2012 at 04:03 pm

Possibly yesterday it was my blogoversary. I am not sure. Could have been Saturday.

What I am celebrating today: I succeeded in paying off the roof from the Home Equity Line of Credit. I borrowed $3500 last June and here we are back at $13400.

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina, Nightmare Abbey. Finished The Sisters Brothers: I started it before May 30, and found the violence hard to take after Wednesday. I didn't have as much problem with the violence in Lady, Go Die!, the sequel to Mickey Spillane's _I, The Jury_.

I may try collecting spare change to pay for the higher escrow payment (higher real estate taxes). By collecting I mean beyond what falls out of pants in the washer and dryer. My kid is pretty good about wading into water pools downtown to fish out cash. You should see how surreptitious we are at the Butchart Gardens and Kubota Gardens. I need to find new places. I've read that vending machines are good but I don't see many of them. Maybe I will try those at Safeway. I also look under photocopiers. Places to try: parking lots, bars, fast food outlets (not likely).

Fast food -- we looked in my kid's science notebook and saw a table of "what I know about fats" and "what I learned about fats" and half the notes were diatribes against McDonald's. I never taught my child to hate McDonald's, but I never took him there other than for preschooler birthday parties. The adults we know think it is strange for a child to be that vehement in actively disliking a fast food chain and I agree. He doesn't feel this way about Wendy's or A&W.

My rough challenges for June

June 4th, 2012 at 09:50 pm

Cafe One is closed because of a horrific murder on Wednesday. Cafe Two will be closed by noon tomorrow as the owner is going to the Oregon Coast for scuba diving. Dare I attempt weaning myself off coffee? I heard coffee drinkers live longer but not where I am.

Challenge #2: the glorious thing about my travel was that I went with a menopausal woman who is dealing with spongy tummy, hot flashes and surreptitious weight gain just like I am. If you're a gay man like Dan Savage you can say that weight loss is easy when your diet is mostly fruits and vegetables, you lay off HFCS, and you exercise. If you're a woman of a certain age, your experience is that exercise and diet are key, but not the complete cure. We lay off HFCS but we suffer progesterone loss. So I will try to reduce my weight. Maybe five pounds this month. I am using Energy Medicine for Women which my friend bought at Powell's.

Challenge #3: Going outside to do gardening/yard cleanup while my neighbors let their dogs bark. This is a sanity challenge as after a few years the barks become close to torture. Better to have two months of prolonged torture and a lifetime of relief afterward than slow torture for years. I guess where I live the odds of dog owners stepping up their care regimen when their pets become geriatric are as likely as criminally insane people voluntarily committing themselves or voluntarily giving up their firearms.

---------
coupon book for 2nd year of mortgage arrived. Taxes went up, no surprise, and we are now paying eleven cents more a month.

Back from Portland

June 4th, 2012 at 12:19 am

I don't even want to talk about how much I spent. I went away to Portland to tour it with a Vancouver BC friend. I rented a car, got free breakfasts, went to Voodoo Donuts and Powell's (two locations) and the Saturday Market. We watched the Rose Festival Starlight Parade on a local news channel. I slept beautifully: blackout blinds, quiet floor, lots of room to stretch out on both the sofa bed and the kingsize bed.

My English Castle was correct: it was good to get away. When my friend came in on Fri/Sat @ midnight, I babbled about the shooting, apologized and said I didn't plan to be a downer this weekend. And I apparently wasn't.

My friend told me about the Toronto shooting -- I have had it up to HERE with shootings, and it turned out her train back was replaced by a bus owing to mudslides so rather than return to Vancouver on the bus from Portland, she went with me back to Seattle where we had some nice espresso (you'd think I would give up coffee since Wednesday) and biscotti and croissants. She's on a bus departed from Seattle back to Vancouver. I am happy in retrospect to have driven down rather than taken the train. My time in a 180-mile jaunt is 2.5 hours, including ten minutes jammed in Seattle Sunday traffic: very pleased!

I have a spiffy cloth large tote, three fragrant soaps from Rileyville, progesterone cream, two boxes of Shreddies for the boy, Games World of Puzzles, a copy of Anna Karenina for book club, a Haruki Murakami novel, a book for my friend whose birthday list would have led me to Cinema Books and Scarecrow Video, a few blocks south of Cafe Racer) so I told my travel companion if she wanted she could think that she saved my life by giving me the option to shop at Powell's Books.

I'd do the candle walk/dual service for the Cafe Racer victims but despite my fractured toe we walked several miles yesterday. My toe didn't act up but the soles are complaining.

Life is precious and fleeting, I see that now. Thank you for all your kind thoughts and fellowship.

What's Bleak this Week

June 1st, 2012 at 03:32 pm

My family and I lost some friends on Wednesday at one of our hangouts. At the other coffee hangout I would see an elderly man and chat with him, and come away happier or more filled with knowledge from the experience: that man is the father of the person who killed my friends. I hurt, but not as much as the family and best friends and fans of the dead, the man whose jaw, lung and armpit were shot, the cafe owner whom I have known and rode scooters with for years, and the elderly man who could do nothing but tried everything to prevent this from happening.

I paid $756 of our credit card bill. DH bought a laptop. Since August 1 I have paid $10225 principal of mortgage debt.

DH finally fixed his tax withholding so we are living on 6% less cash. This doesn't wreck me, but wherever we land next I will most definitely start working. And no more skimping for eight-ten weeks to come up with tax money.

I am going out of town for a few days. This was planned before the shootings and I need some time away from home. My friend is paying for the hotel, we are going dutch on food, and I am paying for my transportation there, back and around. I don't intend to be too frugal: I need sleepwear, would like some books at one of the largest brick-and-mortar bookstores in the country.

I still dislike my son's school. It employs an evaluation tool for teachers from the Northwest Evaluation Association which is very uneven and unreliable: my kid has scored from 60 percentile for his grade to, I kid you not, off the charts in the same subject. This tells me nothing. Nobody tells me anything, very few read my sentences, most interrupt or talk over me. I am waiting for education professionals to tell me how these behaviors and actions foster trust and communication and cooperation between parents and teaching staff. I do not put forward anything to the staff that is not evidence-based or documented or undiscussed with my in-laws, with a half-century of teaching experience between them.

My state really sucks for education and funding for public health. Do not move here.