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Hello! Still plugging away here!

September 10th, 2015 at 04:10 pm

The sun is the same in a relative way but I'm older.

Shorter of breath, and one day closer to debt!

Sorry, not much to say, but I had to say something!

About my only good financial thing is I have built a nice emergency fund, and continued with a 401k, but it just never feels like enough!

So what is new with you?

Four Days!

December 31st, 2014 at 03:01 pm

I read somewhere that people are serious about losing weight for only about four days at the beginning of the year! Of course I can't remember where or how credible the source was, but it seems like it could be true.

Anyway, a similar thing in relation to money brings me back here every new year, like the salmon returning to Capistrano. We lazy people are amazing!

So what has been happening here in personal financial blog land?

March 6th, 2014 at 05:23 pm

I am one of the "zombie" posters who come and go, mostly go! So who amongst you are the longtime regulars? What keeps you going?

One of the things that keeps me away is financial denial. I just get so sick of dealing with money matters. But I was doing pretty well for a few years there! Maybe now that I've had a little break I will get re-enthused.

I've noticed that in all online forums. Many people come and go while a few regulars remain.

First week in my new job - so far so good!

January 22nd, 2012 at 09:06 am

I just started a new job within the same company at another location, after the old location closed.

So far it is pretty nice. There are a lot of similarities with the old job but there is enough that is new and different to keep me well stimulated.

I got very lucky in that the first few problems I was assigned were right up my alley, so I was able to help and also help transfer some of my skills to other people to help them contribute. All in all, very satisfying.

The main downside is the distance - for now I am commuting a VERY long distance. I need to figure out how I am going to handle that.

On the finance side, I was able to keep a nice salary and benefits, but with the added commuting costs it is a minor net loss, especially when compared to how bad it could have been. So I need to cut costs NOW! Hence, I am back here! I am spending today cutting down my ever-present stack of mail! Two things I need to do immediately are refinance some CC debt to 0% and renegotiate my cable bill and get rid of my landline.

The economy finally caught up with my job. :(

October 29th, 2011 at 11:50 am

The site I work at was recently shut down. Frown Oh well - we served each other well for over 30 years! A very nice run. A great job in a great location.

So I have to decide soon whether to take a severance package or stay with my company at another location. Although the severance package is over a year's pay, I hope to stay with the company at the closest location, 95 miles from my house. I really don't want to move.

So now I am looking at a 2 hour commute, or the added expenses of an apartment to crash in on weeknights.

Just typing this makes me wonder why I don't just move to one of the other 10 or so locations throughout the country, or take the package and then do that with other companies. But the company's pay and benefits are very good, and with over 30 years of time with them, I get a lot of vacation and good pay.

Anyway, I need to blog here more than a handful of times per year!

Hi everyone! It's been a long time!

July 3rd, 2011 at 06:08 am

I didn't realize I haven't posted since last October! I've been busy goofing off, so this is my periodic return to trying to be responsible. Not that blogging here is being responsible, but just by spending time here you good people always put me on the right track.

And Sunday mornings are when I always seem to gravitate here. But I have to admit I would be riding my bike if the roads were dry!

Anyway, I am back for a while! Smile

A beautiful vacation day on tap! Plus, Adblock is nice!

October 26th, 2010 at 05:04 am

So I am spending a little time here first thing just to get in the frugal frame of mind. My main goal for today is to recover the garage for my car by organizing all the junk stored therein before the first frost, so today it is!

I just searched my blog for "About Me" and I successfully found when I asked about the data in that section missing, and I found that Kimiko told me it was Adblock in Firefox, so I just disabled the Adblock filter ###ad_left and the data returned. Searching really is a boon for us people with old-timer's disease! And I love Adblock, so this one little quirk is easy to take.

OK, the dog needs a walk, so we're off!

So has anyone else here moved from Quickenonline to Mint?

August 31st, 2010 at 06:26 pm

I have and it looks pretty similar. It makes some pretty stupid extrapolations from data it gets.

Are shortcuts really inherently bad? Why do they have such a bad reputation?

August 29th, 2010 at 05:28 am

What do you think of when you hear the word "shortcut"? Is it a negative or positive thought?

I think I most often hear it in business situations like this: "he tried to shortcut it, and now it's all messed up". I guess there is some merit in that way of looking at it since business needs to be pretty proceduralized and we can't have people just winging it because they think they know better than the official procedure. But the flip side of that is good procedures evolve from good input, and my thought is that when that doesn't happen people get frustrated and try to "shortcut" it. But if you take "shotcut it" to mean "improve" it, and they go about it the right way by providing useful feedback to the procedure owner, and the owner then adds it and gets it properly reviewed and approved to assure that there are no unintended ill-effects, the net result should without fail be positive.

So all that said, I am a BIG fan of shortcuts. So in an effort to improve them so we can make greater use of them, shouldn't we take a look at their failings? I'll use the common computer example of browser shortcuts since that is easy for all of us to relate to which makes it very illustrative.

Some common failings of browser shortcuts:
1. Too many to quickly read through to find what you want.
2. Out of date or dead links.
3. Forgotten.
4. No longer of interest.
5. Other? Let's hear 'em!

So what tips or tricks do you have for maintaining good browser Bookmarks/Favorites, Whatever?

At work, I have a pretty deeply nested and hierarchical list that serves me well. It is pretty darn big list that has developed over the years, so of course it benefits greatly from a periodic (and it can be infrequent, like once a year or so) cleanup to remove dead links, defragment, repack, etc. I just recently did that and now it works MUCH better for me. The main thing was to re-alphabetize, where the need results from my bad habit of ad-hoc addition of new ones at the bottom of the list instead of taking the few seconds to find the proper category. Just the act of thinking about it how it fits in helps keep me organized.

I have yet to have a similar success at home. But one trick I use everywhere that has also helped at home is to create digital "junk drawers" or "Little Used" folders to hold stuff that I might have looked at once and then didn't have a regular need for. Of course it is good to sift through them once in a while also to make sure something doesn't get forgotten.

So what are you tips and tricks? Something elaborate like Del.ico.ocious (what ever the heck that is)?

Or something more simple? In the extreme case, I recently heard of someone who simply deleted ALL of his shortcuts because what the heck, everything is just a quick Google away anyway, so why not? Although I doubt many of us would go that far, I think that keeping them well organized would go a long way in preventing the urge to nuke your shortcuts like that.

So FINALLY, I have stopped my verbose outpouring and it is your turn to comment, dear readers, if any of you have persevered this far. Smile

Creativity and simplicity

August 7th, 2010 at 06:57 am

I am starting to read the book Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and I like it right from the start. He is a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. One of his early points in the book is that there are many things competing for your attention, so if you really want to have a chance at being creative it helps to cut down all the noise around you. And creative people can be so wound up in their ideas that they can appear isolated and unfriendly, when actually they are just preoccupied, like the stereotypical absent minded professor (maybe a little projection on his part)? Smile

I thought I would get this down here since it is one of my main ideas in life and one of my main pet peeves, that as an advanced society we seem to have to spend way too much time on mundane or overly complicated stuff. Take computers, for instance. Computers can be wonderful tools, but also maddening nuisances! And I am convinced that there is SOMETHING I can do to help this situation since it is a field rife with opportunity.

Anyway, that's all for now, but I'll probably bore you with ideas from this book all along until I finish it. Smile

OK, I am now an official David Allen Getting Things Done fanboy!

August 3rd, 2010 at 04:29 pm

This post is dedicated to Homebody. Smile

After reading GTD about twelvedy-fifteen times, I think it FINALLY sunk in! I think the defining moment was when I realized that I could use my cell phone's Notepad to jot down notes of things that flit across my mind. (previously they just flitted right on through!) An age old principle, to write things down, but one I was never able to fully follow until now. It's hard to carry a pen or pencil and paper everywhere, but it sure is easy to carry a cell phone!

I have been keeping lists at work for years with pretty good results, but I only recently dumped out my work email inbox and it feels great! So I also dumped out my personal email inbox, although I did just stuff it all in a big folder called "limbo". The defining moment for that one was when I missed an ebay sale because my inbox was so full of crap that I avoided it like the plague and missed multiple mails. But I went in and unsubscribed to all the junk mail lists I was on (I think my ISP screwed up and has multiple people with my email address, hard as that is to believe). That one is a lot harder to keep empty even than work because it still gets so much junk, but so far I am stemming the tide.

So anyway, I also use a very cool Linux program at home called Tomboy Notes for my monthly log of things to do, things done, etc. I love it because it works just like Wikipedia or the WWW with hypertext. If you type a word that you already have a page for, it automagically creates a link. The resultant web very nicely mirrors the way I think. Smile For both of these simple new tools, it helps a lot that I enjoy using them, since if it is fun I will stick with it.

So anyway, I am flush with success after finally checking a few things off. It is especially satisfying to fit something fairly major into a small time window. For instance, I was able to change oil in our car in an hour between events because I had everything ready, and I was tired of looking at it on my list. Another example - I finally remembered to get a USB stick to back up those Tomboy notes and I actually did it - something that I had been putting off for months. A lot of the magic is in breaking tasks up into their smallest element, that is making sure the "next action" is really a doable action and not more of a project, which is a series of next actions.

I am excited because this is the closest I have come to breaking the procrastination and slovenly practices habit in ages! Yes, I still have a LOOONG way to go, but even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I FINALLY got my snail mail inbox to zero

July 25th, 2010 at 07:04 pm

What a relief! I may as well go ahead and admit this - I found $1000 of Flexible Spending checks in there. I guess I thought they were just EOB forms. BAD Ralph! I am such a dweeb! Anyway, it took almost all day, but it was a good way to hang out in the AC and get some long overdue work done.

So now I am ready for the long haul, to KEEP the darn thing at zero. I do of course still have a "hold" bin, but at least now I know there is nothing but filing and low priority stuff in there. Of course my files also filled up again, so I expanded into another plastic container, and man, is it ever nice to have a working file system again. Up until today, I stacked the overflow on TOP of the main set of folders, so it was too painful to move the stuff to file. Now it is all clear and ready to use.

I got in the mood because I cleaned up at work Friday and that also felt great. And that was prompted by my memory of a guy at work asking for something, and as I pulled it out of one of my slovenly desk stacks, he asked - "I wonder what else is in there?".

A word to the wise... Smile

Shelf life - it is important!

July 5th, 2010 at 11:13 am

I had sort of an epiphany today as I was cleaning up some old grapes after being away for a while. Just about everything has a shelf life, and it can be very costly to ignore that fact. In an ideal world, we would review everything at an appropriate interval to ensure that it is still good. Sounds easy, right? But as refrigerators everywhere can attest, it certainly isn't!

The problem for me is that it can get quite tedious. Checking the garden for the need for watering, for instance.

I'm guessing there is no easy answer! But I suspect it is like exercise - you need discipline, and it has to be fun. Any ideas?

Oh, and here is a good example where knowledge is power in this area.
[url]http://www.stilltasty.com/questions/index/7/page:1[/url]

And that site also makes a very good point - on some products, even a use by date is just for taste reasons, seldom safety. But sometimes it is! This area needs work. My suggestion (and I am serious here) is a "use by or get sick or die date". But realistically, if we just standardized on "Best By" dates for non-safety, we could restrict "Use by" strictly to safety issues, like milk. etc.

I'm TRYING to get more organized!

January 30th, 2010 at 01:30 pm

I admit it - email and postal mail have had me overwhelmed for far too long. The problems are remarkably similar. A constant steady flow pours in, and I always left it in the inbox, while attempting to pull out and deal with the important stuff. Slack off a few days though...

So there mixed with spam and junk mail in an ever expanding mountain lay very important notices about important financial matters with close deadlines.

At work I have been quite happy with keeping a clean inbox for about a week now. I have read David Allen's Getting Things Done book quite a few times now, and probably one of the most important things he says is to trust your filing system enough to depend on it, and the only way that happens is with regular reviews. To that end, there is a very nice program for my Linux PC called Tomboy Notes. It is hyper text based so it is pretty easy to review. I have had a huge Word file at work for years now where I keep notes on day to day things in as organized fashion as I know how. So when I use it, I review it. So I hope to do the same at home with Tomboy Notes now.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I like to document things as I go along, since it helps me think. Of course it MAY also be a form of procrastination, eh?