June 12, 2003

Check This!

Hmm. Looks like I can't reorder checks, because I've never ordered checks. TCF Bank used a different company when I first got an account. My old checks were from Deluxe, but they now use Harland. I guess I'll wander over to my bank branch and talk to a real person.

Posted by mike at 10:56 AM Central | Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2003

Death, Taxes, and Spam

Well, I'll have to be careful with my income, once it starts up again. I'm going to be in a contractor position where they don't bother much with the taxes. They probably report my income, but I have to deduct taxes on my own. I'm not really sure how that works—my dad was saying once that consultants need to deal with taxes on a quarterly basis. I'm not sure if I will fit into that category or not...

Well, I suppose if I do things right, I can earn some interest on the extra money. It might not work out to be much, but it might cover the amount of time it takes me to figure out the whole tax mess...

Posted by mike at 11:09 AM Central | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 31, 2003

Funny Money

The paycheck is still hiding from my mailbox. I suppose the envelope figures it has a right to live and is trying to stay away from my grubby fingers as long as it can..

My mom reminded me that I actually have a card that I could theoretically use to get money out of my savings account through an ATM. However, I don't know if I ever set a PIN on it, and the account may have gone “dormant” since I haven't touched it in a year… All I know for certain is that my card says “Check Card” on it, which is an outright lie ;-)

Anyway, I'll have to stop by an ATM tomorrow if I don't get a paycheck. If that works, I'll at least be able to avoid a trip home on Friday or Saturday.

Posted by mike at 11:28 PM Central | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2003

Die Another Day

Hmm. I must remember to go and buy the fourth season of Deep Space Nine on the 5th (or soon after). Hopefully I'll be able to get one that has the bonus DVD (I've gotten them for every other season so far).

Hopefully I'll have money to pay for it…

I thought my workstation here had gone schizophrenic earlier today, as it was only showing the system updates available about 1/4th of the time when I went to Windows Update. Turned out that the proxy firewall I had been using for IE wasn't working…

I hate proxies. Well, 99% of the time.

I think that an Apple G5 has been ordered for us, but I have no idea when it will show up here. That'll be fun.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM Central | Hardware , Money , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2003

Trickle-Down Economics

The amount of cash in my checking account is deceptively high. I've handed in my rent check, and I have a few bills to pay soon.

I had been planning on going home to get cash out of my bank yesterday morning, but my parents came up to see a concert and brought a check for me with them. I didn't really want to take it, but I really wanted to go to the TCLUG meeting, and heading home to the bank would make it very hard for me to be back in Minneapolis in time. I haven't been able to go to any meetings for months, and was feeling the need to geek out with some Linux people.

I am going to head home this coming weekend, though. It's my mom's birthday on that Monday, so I guess I'll have to pick up something soon.

Negative cashflow sucks.

Went out to Ground Zero last night for the first time in nearly two months, I think… The crowd seemed different from what I was expecting.

I think today will be a chore-heavy day. Groceries, washing dishes, general apartment cleanup, etc.

A few months ago, I felt that my life was finally getting interesting, but things seem to have changed so much. Well, they're probably the same as they ever were.

Working in a male-dominated industry sucks. The fact that the only woman at my workplace is 60 definitely puts a damper on certain things.

Posted by mike at 11:59 AM Central | Abode , Family , Money , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2003

Become One with the Static

Weird mind-block day today. I'm stuck between two different projects at work, so nothing is happening today other than random miscellany.

I've tried to get a jump start on some stuff for the upcoming project, but I keep finding out that Microsoft Office applications never like to print the same way twice. Also, dealing with the errors like “blah can't be deleted because it is in use” gets to be annoying (that error is very uncommon in the Unix world). I was trying to rename a folder where one of the files inside it was open, and the system got mad at me.

I hope my paycheck arrives today. That would make going out to buy DS9 at Best Buy much less stressful tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 03:04 PM Central | Money , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2003

Show Me the Money

I guess I would have barely skimmed by with my bank account if my parents hadn't brought up some money last week. I would have had $13.79 leftover after my rent check went through. Well, I guess it could have been a little higher, as I went out and bought some CDs, which I wouldn't have done if I couldn't get any money.

Anyway, my bank account is happy now. I should set up a savings account somewhere, though I'm thinking I'd like to do it someplace other than TCF, since TCF tends to have limited accessibility outside of the Twin Cities.

Posted by mike at 08:10 PM Central | Family , Money | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 12, 2003

Fresh Is Spesh

I've been thinking that adding some auxiliary DC power outlets to computers would be a good idea. So many things require little power bricks these days, and it would be much nicer to consolidate the process.

I know it's been done in a few cases. One of the Sony VAIO laptops at work has a DC output. I may have actually gotten the idea via osmosis from sitting next to the thing for a few days straight.

At any rate, it wouldn't be too difficult to do—two of the most common voltages for power bricks (5V and 12V) are the main power levels already supplied inside a computer. Heck, in many cases, a computer PS would produce a much more clean and reliable voltage than those black cancers that fit somewhere between the wall and your favorite little device.

I've been fretting so much about getting paid that I've almost forgotten how to spend money. I just remembered a moment ago to pay my cable bill (due tomorrow). Hopefully I'll get back in the cycle of things now that my checking account is happy again.

I need to debate several items on my to-do list. I'd like to get a replacement PDA—especially a nice one—but I am getting nervous about plunking down a lot of cash for that. So, I'll have to see what's available in the medium to low end of the scale.

I don't think I've bought any clothes since about this time last year, so that will have to change. There are various other things, like getting a microwave (my brother's is returning to him soon), a stand for that, and possibly some cabinets or drawers for organizing some of my computer junk. I may have already mentioned that something other than a card table for kitchen dining would be nice.

Anyway, I suspect my checking account will take a bit of a beating this weekend, but it shouldn't be too bad. Fortunately, reinforcements will be coming in on a regular basis for at least the next few months.

Posted by mike at 08:47 PM Central | Abode , Hardware , Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2003

The Tax Man Cometh Too Early

When is 1/4 equal to 1/6? When the government is involved.

I've been busily calculating taxes today, since they joy of “self-employment” requires me to pay taxes to the federal and state governments on a quarterly basis. I was amazed to see how much more I will be paying next quarter. There's a drastic difference, although that is because I have only been paid for one and a quarter months so far, but I will pay for four months next quarter.

Four months? You bet. Somehow, taxes are calculated for January through March, April and May, June through August, and September through December. How they got this 3-2-3-4 pattern, I have no idea. Because of this (and the fact that my “employer” is being a dick about paying me at a reasonable pace), my taxes for last quarter end up being less than $900. Next quarter, they'll add up to about $5000. Joy. At least I'm only paying taxes on 92.35% of my self-employment income. Huh?

Taxes for the quarter that just ended on August 31 are due on September 15. That's two weeks of time! Craziness. I guess procrastination and self-employment don't mix.

I'm amazed that the IRS hasn't produced more comedians.

Posted by mike at 08:58 PM Central | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 09, 2003

“Purpleback” Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring

Color U.S. money (meaning not just green and black) is going to show up next month.

So weird, so weird.

Posted by mike at 01:48 AM Central | Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 22, 2003

No Mas

It sure would be nice to get paid again.

Posted by mike at 07:29 PM Central | Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 24, 2003

Blah Blah Blah Free Lunch

Everybody at work went out to Applebee's for lunch today, all on the tab of the guy who fired us ;-) Not much else happened, and a few people have already started packing things up. Others are trying to keep at least a few projects at the site for a while, if only to justify our existence for the next month. I have mostly continued doing the same stuff I was doing before.

I don't know how long I'll stay there, but it's hard to say if my position will be kept around for more than the next two weeks. Fortunately, I did get a check in the mail today for another three weeks worth of pay. Too bad the Radisson parking lot was too busy for me to stop into TCF, and the TCF by Target was closed by the time I got there (and I didn't have a pen to use the ATM).

Shouldn't these people want my money? Bah.

Anyway, I suppose I'll have to take a half day at some point so I can drop by the U's career center to thumb through job postings.

Two of the guys at the site seem to be ready to start scheming about setting up a new business. They were both co-founders of Trillium, the company that was there before Adaptec bought them (hmm, Googling around now, I see that there are at least two tech companies using the name Trillium now, though I don't think they're related at all).

Posted by mike at 08:12 PM Central | Money , Work | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 08, 2004

Dead Presidents

Well, my family went to the funeral service for my step-grandfather yesterday. They had a lot of people show up both from my grandmother's family and from his first wife's family. I suppose that goes to show that if you want a lot of people at your funeral, you should get divorced ;-)

So, there were lots of people I didn't know. I vaguely knew my grandfather's kids and grandkids, and there were some old friends of my grandmother who showed up that I had met at one point or another. Mostly I just stood around, then smiled and nodded when people told me I looked like my uncle (except for the lack of curly hair).

I was happy to see my aunt, who usually visits for Christmas but had decided to stay in New Mexico this year. My mom had been up in Fargo since Friday, but my dad, brother, and I just stayed Tuesday night.

Anyway, we headed home around 5 in separate cars. My brother and I were split, so we could trade off in the driver's seat with our parents. We met for supper about an hour later, and then stayed in close formation on the highway until my brother and my mom pulled off to a rest stop.

My dad and I mostly listened to NPR last night as we drove. For one of the shows, a guy who researches the loopholes in the tax system came on. There was discussion of how the people who get taxed the most are in the middle class to middle-upper class range of people earning $50-500,000 a year. Below that, people have lower taxes (which seems pretty fair to me), and above that, a lot of tricks emerge for hiding money away from tax laws. I guess my memory is getting a little fuzzy, but I think he said that there were 2400 people last year who earned an average of $170 million, and paid no taxes. Lots of other people can defer taxes for decades. They may pay the actual dollar amount that they owe, but it ends up being much less significant because of inflation.

A lot of discussion also centered around companies that use offshore tax shelters. I think people and businesses that do that are a big reason why it's hard to balance the Federal budget. The guy on the radio mentioned that Ingersoll-Rand, a company that makes jackhammers and other construction/destruction equipment has a mailbox in Bermuda that serves as their headquarters. They pay $26,000 a year in fees for that, but they don't pay any taxes on their income here. Just because it's a name I've seen a lot around campus, I was thinking of mentioning this in a letter to the editor in the Daily—I figure that contractors to the University shouldn't be supporting companies that are based offshore. I think the U already restricts contractors from using materials from certain companies that use child labor, etc., but my memory might be failing me. Companies shouldn't be punished for using equipment they already own, but I wouldn't want the money that the U spends on construction to end up on some unnamed Pacific island…

Now, today, there are a bunch of stories popping up on Google News discussing a new International Monetary Fund report telling us what we already know but often ignore—the U.S. is deeply in debt and running a large deficit. My growing opinion of many Republicans (and some Democrats, I'm sure) is that they are really anarchists in disguise. They pass laws designed to reduce the income to the Federal government and then spend more money on extravagant defense initiatives. As the guy on NPR was saying—and as the IMF is implying—eventually, the U.S. won't be able to borrow money anymore. Nobody knows when that will be or what the consequences will be, but it won't be fun. I think that a lot of things we take for granted will break down.

If you think Y2K was a scary proposition, just wait.

Posted by mike at 12:28 PM Central | Corporations , Family , Law , Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 22, 2004

Pop Will Eat Itself

I decided to stop trying to go back to sleep at around 7 this morning, and then I even did a little exercising. Blech. I've been sitting around way too much lately.

Hmm. Time to find the appropriate tax forms today, methinks.

I think I'll have to travel somewhere next fall/winter…

Posted by mike at 01:38 PM Central | Money , Self , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2004

The Ax-Man Cometh

Ugh. I know I messed up my taxes. Scratch that—TurboTax messed up my taxes by being idiots. Not figuring self-employment tax… Goddammit…

On the upside, I can get over $500 back in property taxes for being a poor little renter. The downside to that is that I won't get money back until August.

I hate the fact that my taxes are simple in actuality, only with about six or eight dollar figures that go in to the equation (they'd be even simpler if I hadn't gotten a new job), but so complicated in practice.

Looking at the federal picture, say we have adjusted gross income (AGI) and self-employment income (SI), with some federal withholding (FW) and federal estimated tax payments (FP) already in the government's hands. I qualify for the standard $4750 and $3050 deductions that apply to a guy like me, and I was in the $6000–28,000 bracket, meaning I had a base tax of $600 and a rate of 15%. Self-employment tax is applied to 92.35% of self-employment income, and is 15.3%.

So, my standard income tax from gross income is

(AGI−4050−3050−6000)×0.15 + 600 = GIT

And my self-employment tax is

SI×0.9235×0.153 = SIT

The total amount I owe to the feds would be

GIT+SIT-FW-FP

So, TurboTax wants to forget about the second (important) bit and charge me $20. Bah. I should have just done it on paper.

Posted by mike at 01:56 AM Central | Money , Work | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

February 03, 2004

And the Ax-Man Taketh Away

I can't sleep. I've stayed up way too late for a few nights, mucking around on the Internet. I finally got my taxes sent in, though things still didn't go right. H&R Block's website never let me file anything at all, and TurboTax's site kept complaining that I couldn't re-e-file before I fixed errors on my Minnesota tax return (my Minnesota return filed perfectly—it was the federal return that had problems).

I tried TurboTax's technical help chat to try to fix my problem. I went through three different agents, and they all just magically disappeared on me. But, even before I got online with the first one, I'd pretty much decided to do things on paper. I started downloading form after form, while waiting for the agents to come online. No, I can't do 1040A, I have to start over on the 1040. Oh, I need to do both schedule C and schedule ES. What's this 2210 thing? Hmm. Well, I just filled out the form, and in the end, it told me that I don't need to fill it out. Thanks.

So, I got all the numbers down. They didn't quite jive with what H&R Block had calculated, but it was within about 1%. I printed out my completed forms (fill-in forms are pretty neat), and wrote out my check. I dropped it in the mail a good two and a half hours before the next scheduled pickup.

I got back to my apartment, sat down, and realized I forgot to sign the forms (since they were the neat fill-in and print-out forms). At about 2:45 this morning, I realized I'd forgotten to include a W-2.

*sigh*

Well, at least it's not the end of the world. The W-2 information was filed by the University, and I definitely did sign the check. They should be happy enough with that, since it about halves my checking account at the moment. I suppose I'll call the IRS hotline sometime, though. Plus, one of the fields on the fill-in form was my phone number, so I might end up having them call me…

It's just around times like these that I really wish I had a girlfriend to get my mind off things.

Posted by mike at 03:26 AM Central | Money , Self , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What the Hell Is It Now?

Oh my god:

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association has rolled back the cost of membership…to a price not seen since 1904. Until February 14, you can activate a single-year membership for just $10.

In other news, I see that the Daily is switching to a broadsheet format. I always liked the fact that it was tabloid-sized. I find it impossible to read broadsheet newspapers comfortably…

Posted by mike at 07:35 PM Central | Money , School | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2004

Plead the Fifth

Oh crikey. You know those five British subjects that were just transferred home to the UK? Okay, you probably don't, but bear with me. They were some of those “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo for, oh, two years or so. Upon their return, only four of them were held—one was set free right away. The other four have now been released with no charges.

So this basically tells me that these guys were held for two years for little or no good reason. Ooo. That'll do great things for the U.S.'s standing in the eyes of the world. Yeah, uh-huh, sure.

And meanwhile, we're only just starting to put the high beams on people from WorldCom and Enron. I guess Bernie Ebbers has finally been indicted, but Ken Lay appears to be off in some secure bunker chumming it up with Dick Cheney (or something…)

Posted by mike at 10:58 AM Central | Money , Politics , September 11th , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Just Call Me Samir

There was a report on ABC's World News Tonight earlier this week about a guy advertising “Indian wages” in the U.S. and quickly getting 90 resumes for the position. There are a few odd things about the story. First, it's three months old. Second, I wouldn't quite call $40,000/year an “Indian wage.” It's supposedly half the going rate in the U.S., but I have to think that wages in India are probably closer to a tenth of what they are here. Still, I think the story shows that companies aren't appropriately responding to supply and demand in this country.

Companies getting overwhelmed with applicants is one possible reason why I haven't been getting any callbacks, but I guess I haven't heard much reportage on that. My joblessness is stressful. I guess I can dig into that savings account back home and go on another few months, but I'd rather not do that.

Anyway, I guess I'm just saying that I am certainly willing to work for relatively low wages if need be. Because my rent is relatively high for a single-room place and since I'd like to actually own a car sometime soon, I'd probably at least want $25k/year, but I suppose I don't even know what I need. That might be high. I could live without worrying too much, though it would keep me from buying neat toys. I can live without neat toys for a while.

Bah. I don't like talking about money when my friends, who have had to work all through school, are watching…

Posted by mike at 03:13 PM Central | Money , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2004

No Bones About It

Today's history lesson: Immigrants beware.

Today, Mexican immigrant workers are dying at a rate of one per day. They have an 80% greater chance of dying than native-born Americans, even when doing the same job. Often this is due to negligence in safety and training on the part of employers, though the article says that the strong Mexican work ethic carries part of the blame.

This is another example of history repeating. We're all aware of the fact that black slaves were sometimes worked to death, but other populations have seen similar working conditions. My old high school history teacher once related the story of dock workers in a busy port. When rolling cargo off ships and down ramps, sometimes large and heavy objects had to be moved. When this happened, black slaves would be put at the high end, pulling on the cargo, and Irishmen would be put on the low end, pushing it so it didn't move too quickly. At the time, there was a nearly endless supply of Irish immigrants, so dockmasters had little trouble finding replacements for those, uh, taken out of the workforce. On the other hand, slaves were actually considered to take a real investment of time and money, and therefore were more valuable.

Slavery was not really practiced in the West, per se, although many are aware of Chinese immigrants who were placed in deadly situations while building railroads and other great works during the 19th century (as we all know because of Kung Fu and other movies). Today, businesses merely have another workforce to exploit. They seem to be extremely happy to use Mexicans, who, according to a recent article I read that talked about cheap labor being used at the ski resorts of Colorado, are fairly docile and submissive when it comes to work environments. They tend to not complain about dangerous situations if they feel it will get them in any amount of trouble. That's a pretty nasty combination.

(Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read that article. It may have been something in the New Yorker, since I read a few of them when I went to Kentucky.)

Some workplace inspectors have said that even illegal immigrants have the same rights to workplace safety as Americans do, although this seems to only be loosely enforced and open to interpretation. Michael Moore made a story about that for The Awful Truth about illegal immigrant workers attempting to unionize at a hotel in Minneapolis. I guess I don't know how the story ultimately ended up, but I believe the hotel owner was fined or something for breaking up a meeting the workers were having.

Anyway, I'm sure it's something that will get worse before it gets better.

Posted by mike at 08:28 PM Central | Corporations , Michael Moore , Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2004

10 Things I Hate About Your Resumé

Ugh. I'm tired.

I got an e-mail about a job working for the St. Paul schools for about two months. Well, it's a menial test-paper-grading job for $10/hr. Hmm. Is this one of the side-effects of that “no child left behind” thing? Well, I guess I'll talk to them about it if I don't get any leads in the next 10 days or something. I guess that would work out to $3200 (er, minus taxes and crap), which I suppose is two or three months of life.

Rent is going up here to $625/mo. Yay. I'll probably say that I will stay on through the summer, but after that, I don't know what I'll do about my lease. Such a stupid thing, only allowing people to get out in the summer and still enforcing a two month notification. Bah. I can't think that far ahead, especially when I'm looking for work, etc.

Stupid job-hunting. I'm no good at it. I don't like competing, at least not when you're in a winner-take-all scenario. Don't I get partial credit?

Posted by mike at 09:01 PM Central | Abode , Money , Self , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2004

…And Then the Monkeys Came

It's time for Presidential Daily Brief Fill-in-the-Blank!

Here are my guesses based on the length of nearby text strings in the document (plus the fact that the second one was an “an” rather than an “a”).

told followers he wan
a British intelligence

an Austrian
exploit the o

te some of the more s
a Spanish intelligence

But, I really have no idea.

I listened to a few of the most recent episodes of This American Life today. The first two were really good, though I didn't really feel comfortable with the third one. I guess the first two were somewhat interrelated, since they deal with the current political climate. Actually, the only part of the third episode I liked had a political bent to it.

Episode 260 was largely focused on dissecting the court case that the Bush administration has been using to assert that they have the ability to hold Americans in this country who are accused of being enemy combatants. Back in World War II, the Nazis landed two groups of people in Florida and New York who were supposed to sabotage the aluminum industry in the months after the U.S. entered the war. One of the people was an American of German descent who found himself in Nazi-held territory when Germany declared war on the United States. The story goes that he just wanted to get home, so when he was given a chance to be part of an operation that would bring him to America, he took it. Anyway, he was tried in a secret military court. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be tried in regular criminal court, but the justices were pressured into quickly giving an opinion without any supporting arguments.

There's also a look inside the Zogby polling operation later in the episode, which kind of tells you what you already knew, but often forget.

Episode 261 is TAL's response to the whole gay marriage debate, though they handle it by spending more time examining the more traditional version. Adam Felber has a good little satirical story, which pretty much sums up the whole thing for me, and shows how the whole debate has been blown out of proportion for the most part.

The final episode I listened to today was pretty weird. The main story was not something I could identify with, though it's necessary to listen to it at least a bit to fully understand the title of the last story, which was much more interesting to me. Always good to know that the pharmaceutical companies seem to be charging about 40 times what they need to be on certain drugs…

Posted by mike at 04:11 PM Central | Corporations , Law , Money , Politics , September 11th , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 26, 2004

World in the Balance

I guess I haven't written anything for a while. I went home this weekend, so I could go to the dentist today. I was worried that they'd find something bad was happening to my rear molars on the bottom of my mouth. Every so often, I've had some pain back there. I guess it was nothing, though. The X-rays looked normal, and he said nothing looked out of the ordinary in the visual spectrum.

I'm a bit worried about my car. It's been vibrating quite a bit lately, though I'm not really sure if it's a problem or not. 1980s Cavaliers are known for putting out quite a bit of vibration. The problem might be that serpentine belt that Jiffy Lube never should have sold me. They didn't have the equipment to properly install and tension the belt. I figured I'd have a job by now and would have been able to take the car into a real service shop. I might just have to suck it up and go in sooner rather than later. There might also be some fluid deficiencies. The car is overdue for an oil change, so I may as well get that done.

I went to the bank and withdrew money for another month's worth of life in the Cities. I'd better deposit that tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 09:57 PM Central | Car , Money , Self | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2004

Zap Brannigan

I found my electric bill, which is good. I have to pay it soon, which is not so good.

I hope the weather stays relatively cool for a while. I don't want to feel like I have to run the air conditioner anytime soon. I can't afford that.

Posted by mike at 10:40 AM Central | Abode , Money , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2004

Rage Against the Machine

I came across this yesterday: Starve the beast.

I've had the idea floating around in my head for a long time that, behind a veil of “compassionate conservatism,” the Bush administration is actually working to destroy the government. I'm pretty sure that thought process was kick-started some day when I saw a random pundit on television make some sort of comment. The pundit merely said something that connected the dots. It's hard for me to believe that people who describe themselves as American patriots would want to bring down the government—I don't mean the current administration, I mean everything.

Who knew that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al. are anarchists? Sure gets rid of the problem of government regulation.

Anyway, this totally meshes with what's been going on. Allowing companies to skimp on their taxes, tax cuts for the rich, etc. However, people trying to still manage to balance the budget are essentially mucking up the strategy by setting up bonding initiatives and taking out loans. Tremendous amounts of economic damage could be done if lenders suddenly stopped letting the government take out more money. Well, that's what it looks like to me.

Well, it's all very confusing and hard to keep track of. My personal opinion is that the government is probably bigger than it needs to be. However, I would advocate cutting back on military spending and focusing more on providing education and health care to people, but that's just me. Fiscal conservatives seem to think that the opposite is better, which is hard for me to comprehend.

The scariest thing for me is the possibility that going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq might have maybe possibly had something to do with this. Starve-the-beast is such a backward idea for me, so incomprehensible, that I can't rule that out.

Posted by mike at 10:04 AM Central | Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2004

Gaming the System

Okay, I'm going to have to watch what my Netflix queue does in the next few months, if I'm able to keep it that long. I pretty much filled up the queue already. Of particular interest to other Netflix users is the fact that nearly all are marked as being available now. Only one is marked as requiring any sort of wait (well, aside from discs that have not been released yet).

There are indications that the wait goes up over time, at least if the customer is a heavy user. That bugs me, since that's not the initial impression I got when I saw so many movies available “now.” Most of the sites I've seen out there that complain about this sort of thing are a year or so old. One dates back to 2000 or 2001 (though the guy has been an on-again, off-again customer starting in at least 1999).

Some of the complaints don't seem relevant anymore. It looks like cancellation of service can occur over the web. At least a few people had complained in the past that you had to call a phone number to cancel service. Still, I haven't gone through the entire process, so maybe there's some required human interaction at some point.

Theoretically, if these silly numbers I jotted down are right, a person like me living near a distribution center could watch something like 25 movies a month on the regular three-at-a-time plan. However, you'd have to watch every movie by 8:00 or whatever the late mail pickup time is in your neighborhood, and if two or three movies showed up the same day, you'd have to watch all of them right away. This probably isn't actually possible, though, since there are weekends to figure in.

More practical limits seem to be around 15 or 20, but I doubt Netflix appreciates users who manage to view that many discs in a month. People outside of overnight shipping regions kind of get shafted, since turnaround averages a little more than a week. That would probably theoretically work out to around 12 per month, but the same problems pop up here as with the 25 scenario above. More practical numbers would be a little less than 10, probably (though a few examples I've seen online seem to say that getting much more than 6 is pretty difficult).

I can certainly understand from an economic standpoint if the company wants to slow down heavy users. Current subscription rates are $22 for a month. Getting 10 discs means that the company has $2.20 to use to pay for each one, which isn't a whole lot, but it should still be possible to make a profit with that (IMHO). It's reasonable to expect that fairly normal people would want service at or near that level. There may be others beyond that, but they'd be toward the edge of the bell curve anyway.

It appears that Netflix currently has 28 distribution centers, and apparently 80% or more of their customer base has overnight delivery now, so there's a much greater opportunity for people to rent lots of DVDs. Having so many distribution centers is both good and bad. They can serve more people, and get them their videos at a faster pace. The company obviously has to pay for the expansion, and as they expand, the pace of returns gets higher and higher. This makes it a bit unclear to me if they'll be profitable in the long run.

Some people have advocated that they actually go back to a per-disc pricing model, at least if people want to watch a lot of movies. However, their current (or at least recent) strategy seems to be punishing people who watch a lot of stuff. New and low-volume customers get precedence, while high-volume customers get pushed back. This is essentially punishing good customers, which is not the best strategy in the world. The worst thing is that the company is not forthcoming about this information. Well, like I said, I don't know for certain that this will happen to me, or if this is really what is happening behind the curtain. If I see the movies in my queue slowly move from being available now toward being short and then long waits, I'll have to consider sending a note to someone like Mike Hatch, since that was not the same level of service that was presented to me during my free trial.

Posted by mike at 12:45 PM Central | Internet , Money , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 09, 2004

Candybar

Oh, I'm a few days late, but Wikipedia has now passed 300,000 articles.

Someone snapped a pic of the Hiawatha Line at RailPictures.net (though the locomotive is probably mis-identified, and I still haven't figured out what “Train ID” means there). I may try to take a few this weekend, though my camera just can't produce such clean pictures as that one. Another thing I'll have to upgrade eventually.

I'm theoretically getting paid Tuesday by direct deposit. I saw my boss authorize the payment from his end earlier today, so hopefully the pay service won't screw up. I think it was somewhere around $770, which is actually more than I expected. I suppose there were fewer deductions since I'm not a dependent anymore (or does that go the other way around?) Or maybe that $0.33 difference from what I was getting paid at the U actually adds up. Then again, I barely ever managed to put in a full 40 hours there, and holidays tended to screw things up. Usually closer to 35 most of the time.

Posted by mike at 06:49 PM Central | Internet , Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2004

Would You Die for the Mother-in-Law Land?

Woo! I got my $548 property tax refund deposited on Thursday. That means I can go shopping.

Maybe.

Yeah, I think it's just one of those things I got because I made too little money (relatively speaking) and paid too much in rent. That'll probably never happen again.

Posted by mike at 03:04 PM Central | Abode , Money | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2005

Throwing Copper

Bleh. Somehow I lost the stubs and envelopes for my cable and electric bills. I paid my Time Warner bill online with their PayXpress thing, but then when I tried to do my Xcel bill, I accidentally typed in my SSN incorrectly (okay, why do you wait until I actually want to pay before asking for this?) and that apparently messed everything up. They said to print out something so I could then wait a week and a half to be verified. Bah. I called Xcel and paid my bill in three minutes.

People are dorks, while companies are über-dorks.

Well, I did some laundry, which is always good. I should mention that I've been exercising a bit for about three weeks now. Well, it has a slight effect, but progress isn't quite as rapid as I'd hope. Even two years ago when I tried, things seemed to go faster. I guess I'm getting older. My back is bothering me, though a bit less than it had been before the exercise. The springs in my bed have deformed now, and it isn't as firm as it used to be, I think.

Heh, I should get a new bed, I suppose, but that requires money. Plus, I'd want a queen-size, and that would probably require a larger bedroom, which requires moving. Actually, I'd get an extra-long queen-size, which is all sorts of trouble ;-)

I'm not even all that tall, but I don't know how people, oh, 6'3" and above manage to keep their feet/ankles from freezing. I suppose they don't ;-)

Posted by mike at 03:17 PM Central | Money , Self | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

Oh, My Lack of God!

Hmm. Flipping through the channels and I come across Amy Pietz on some godforsaken show known as Rodney. I doubt the show will last, but I like her, so I'm glad she's getting some work (she was Annie on Caroline in the City way back when...)

I briefly turned on the A/C today to dissipate some of the humidity in my apartment (and to bring the temp down just a tad). At the moment, I'm not sure if it's better to turn it on again or open the windows. Well, we probably need the rain.

My car stalled yesterday at the end of I-394 (at a stoplight). I had to go the same way again today because I forgot to bring some application materials, and the car stalled again. Fortunately, after the car sat a little bit, I could get going again, but it's weird. Very probably related to the weird lurching it's been doing for a while now.

A total of four calls now for the few dozen applications I put in a week ago. I'd better put more effort into applying for other jobs I guess.

In order to print out my application materials, I had to get a new black ink cartridge for my printer. I tried out Cartridge World, which has a site a few blocks from my place. $13.90 for a cartridge filled while I waited. Seems to work, though it took a little convincing at first.

I should say that when I first saw "Cartridge World" plastered on that building a year or so ago, I thought it was a video game shop.

My tax return was rejected initially. This is because my previous year's Adjusted Gross Income was incorrect, according to the IRS's records. They had received a 1099-MISC from that contracting company I never talked to. Sure wish I'd gotten one. Well, I apparently paid taxes on $1000 more income last year than I had to. Oh well, fifteen minutes of waiting on the phone fixed that fairly easily.

Posted by mike at 09:10 PM Central | Car , Hardware , Money , TV , Weather , Work | Comments (0)

April 21, 2005

Follow the Rotted-Brick Road

I didn't get the job. Of course it was too good to be true. There are actually women there. Women at a software company? That's unpossible!

At least I got one of my tax refunds already. That makes it possible to last another two weeks.

Ugh. It's times like these where I just start feeling lonely, but there's nothing I can do about it. Getting a girlfriend would most likely involve going out and spending money (Hah! Not on the woman, silly, but on everything that goes around that).

I'm too honest, and with my persistent uneasiness due to my lack of employment and personal companionship, I have no chance of obtaining either. Well, better start preparing the speeches to ask the parents for cash. Still another month of cash left, though. I might start selling my DVDs too. DS9 alone could cover half my rent, I imagine.

Posted by mike at 09:39 PM Central | Money , Self , Work | Comments (0)

October 15, 2005

History

So, two weeks ago I went to IKEA over two days and bought some shelving for CDs (hmm, I really should get back to fiddling with that—I need at least one more notch between the shelves), some nestable coffee tables, one of those Poäng rocking chairs, a small kitchen table, a footstool and a storage cube with a lot of holes in it (I'm using it for laundry), plus some stuff that I want to try putting up in my kitchen to hang things from the wall. I also got some new shoes to replace the ones that were, oh five? six? years old...

Last weekend, I met with a few other Wikipedia contributors. One user, Angela, was in town to discuss Wikipedia and other related stuff like Wikicities. One guy who came was very gung-ho about explaining a software product he's developing that is based on the software that runs Wikipedia. Well, except all of the guts have been ripped out. It seemed interesting, but I shouldn't say much about it.

I've been feeling a bit odd this week, as though I'm sick but without coughing, sneezing, or really showing much of anything. I might have a fever, and I've been getting woozy spells, but I don't see much else for symptoms. My plan this weekend is to get out and walk around a fair amount to see if I jsut need some exercise.

I should go out and buy some more CDs, just to keep my wanted music list limited. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of money two weeks ago, and my secondary monitor at home finally keeled over last night, so I need to get a new one. Scary how hard it is to get anything better than 1280×1024 resolution, though since this was my second head anyway, it doesn't matter too much. I think I'll just get a CRT for now. Boy, do I wish I could get one of Apple's monster Cinema Displays, but that would require getting a new video card. I just don't have the money for that. Hopefully, prices will drop in the future, and a reasonably-priced CRT purchased today should be equal to or less than that future drop.

I still need a new computer desk too, so I need to think about that. Well, actually, I'm trying to stay on target for a down payment on a new car next year. I seem to be going through cash too quickly, though. If I felt more comfortable in my kitchen, I'd feel more comfortable cooking. If I was more comfortable cooking, then maybe I wouldn't eat out so much. Then I could save some money, maybe.

Well, I'd better get cleaned up so I can go out for my walk. And get a haircut. And get an oil change. And buy some dryer sheets. And a good baking pan. And all these other little things that I never remember.

Posted by mike at 11:41 AM Central | Abode , Car , Hardware , Internet , Money | Comments (0)

February 21, 2007

Numismatics

Here's a factoid about the new presidential "golden dollar" coins that are being introduced now. Since the late 19th century, all coins have had "liberty" stamped on them somewhere. However, when I was looking at the coin, all I saw was "e pluribus unum" and "in God we trust" (interestingly, this is stamped along the outer edge of the coin, like the rippled edge of a quarter). I was rather disappointed when I didn't see the word "liberty" anywhere. They're making an exception for this one, since the obverse side is an image of the Statue of Liberty, they decided not to include the word.

Anyway, I was only paying attention since the presence of the word "liberty" on U.S. coinage was the subject of a Trivial Pursuit question a while back when I was visiting my parents' place...

Posted by mike at 03:13 PM Central | Money | Comments (0)