Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lets have some fun . . .

Today I had the big idea. Here it is. I need to plan each writing week. Put together an outline. For example, on Monday, I list the topics I'm going to be looking into during the week. Along with that I include a list of favorite posts from the past. Tuesday, I start the story for the week, introduce the character, set up the plot, foreshadow a bit. I, also, include updates on the weeks topics and the research results. Wednesday, I start with the continuing research results. Part two of the weekly story. Posts from blogs/sites I've visited for entertainment are next. Thursday and Friday, I review a book/magazine/blog. Saturday, the story concludes. Sunday, the week's research concludes.

Here are some examples: Monday: Topic one - A history of money. Topic two - Middle class America's salaries. Topic three - Politics and money. Tuesday: The Man with $20 Bill. Wednesday: blogging and the arts. Thursday and Friday: Lets take a look at Adbusters.

As I said, lets have us some fun next week.


They say that you need to be aware of tags and keywords in this blogosphere because if you use them incorrectly or without thinking of their meanings then no one will find your blog and then no one will read you. Well, I am sorry but I'm going to communicate the way I want to here and not the way some set of prescribed soi disant bloggers say I should.

Meanwhile, I am thinking that this is a good time to talk about how easy it is to let your current state of mind affect what you are trying to accomplish. I don't know about you but my moods and energy levels vary. Some days I know clearly what it is I have to say and exactly what I want to accomplish by it. But other days it is as though the climate changes outside have swept directly into my system and tornadoed me out. I flit from idea to idea, I want to say things slowly and coolly but instead they come out in a torrent.

How do I deal with this? Time wounds all heals. Exercise is best. Read a great book, even if it's one I've already read, sometimes especially if it is.
My favorite repeat books are by John D. McDonald. The Travis McGee series has been in my life since I was a teen. I'd ride my bike over to Carlsbad State Beach and after body whomping for a while, I'd pedal down to the paperback book store on Elm St. and pick out one to read. I loved the fact that he lived on the beach in a houseboat and that he worked when he needed money instead of because he needed money. Even then I knew that making do with less was always going to be my way of doing things. So now when I get particularly stressed I either read one of his books or pedal down to the beach and whomp a few.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do you ever feel as though . . .

things are just never going to work the way they are supposed to? I have been trying for months to set up my blogs so that people could subscribe to an email version published by feedburner. And I know I'm not the most technically adept of computerists but this is ridiculous. No sooner do I discover that wordpress will actually do what I want it to do when wham the dashboard on my wordpress blog reverts to some older form and I can't use the things I had completed earlier as models for the blog I want to format. Its really easy to fall into that it's all just a waste of my time anyway feeling. If I can figure it out and then it all becomes worth it. Because then I'll have learned something that will put me one step closer to what I want to accomplish. But sometimes, don't you just get that feeling?


Yesterday, while reading GRS I came upon this post which fits in with my current ruminations about letting go of the newspapers in our lives. I know it is a hard idea to get your mind around, especially when the banks are all clamoring for us to go "paperless" and the utilities, credit card companies, and anyone else who can have already started using an electronic debting system even though we wrote them a check. It is really difficult to trust these changes. For one, who trusts the companies who are fostering them? And who trusts completely the electronic storage systems that we all have seen break down or delete info or simply mis-file it?

I like the fact that several comments about this recommend a paper backup system of essential docs. That means that we can reduce the paper in our cluttered lives without losing complete control of our own information. And it seems to me that those individuals who recommend this system are more likely to listen the idea of giving up the actual newspaper for its online version. In fact they are probably already doing it.

The great unwashed is the target here. We may all be computer connected one way or another but there are no doubt millions of people who aren't and may never be. So how do I address this problem and build trust into the possiblity that we could live in a future that has learned how to use its resources responsibly?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More news

The Arguement, Eli Pariser, Paul Wellstone, and assembled thoughts. Things really can't help but come together when the connections are just a click away. Today after reading another chapter, this one on the development of, I found myself Googling Paul Wellstone just to see what the news would bring. Of course, earlier today I posted more about the idea that it may be time to give up our newspapers. But then I went down to the B&N to buy my Sunday times. So I don't know, it's easy to see the forest but man I would really miss the trees.

The News

First some research: You know the Google kind, pages of hits on the subject, newspapers, and some interesting options to the process of reading a newspaper. For one thing if you are really interested in finding out what the world newspapers think about a specific topic then starting online is a much better way to go. Besides, the economics of the situation may take the decision out of our hands. We may not be able to support our habit. Though I have to use that word habit advisedly. My wife never read the newspaper until we met. Our son, a 22 year old, only uses computers to find out what is going on. So maybe the habit will be a generational thing and just as fewer people read books so will fewer read papers. Of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility that the political arena will always need analysis from the underground.

Still, the idea I am trying to espouse is the necessity that we face as we try to harness our remaining resources and learn to live within our means not just as an individuals but as world wide society. Maybe that's what this Blog Day will presage?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

This blog day thing

I've been thinking about this Blog Day for the environment and I am leaning towards writing a post about why and how we should give up our need for paper. For example, I read the LA Times most days but really from day to day the news isn't that new, and some days I just scan the sections before I move to the comic section which I always read. But we have here in Encinitas, five newspapers plus several weeklies that really are just vehicles for ads. I want to think about this more and I do know what a momentous thing this would be so I am going to look at transitional ways to ease into this.

I guess I really started thinking about this when I was reviewing "Deep Economy" and wondering about what happens to the recycled plastic bags and how do we form a habit of bringing a recyclable bag or two with us when we go shopping. I have a theory about habits and learning. Instead of trying to break old habits, I usually try to establish new ones and let the old ones fall by the wayside with disuse.

Anyway, I have to do some research on this idea. And at the same time, I'm wondering about the advisability of this whole idea in the light of how the politicians play.

Friday, August 24, 2007

This cookie didn't go to market

Terri was telling a funny story last night. She said that all this past week a regular customer at our market has been coming in and moaning and groaning about what he should do with the money he had deposited in CountryWide Bank. He really liked his interest rate but with the news papers reporting that there was a possibility that CW bank might face a run of depositor withdrawals, he was beginning to feel he'd better get in line. One day he was going right to the bank, the next he thought he'd give them one more day. Finally the pressure was just too much. He went to the bank branch and withdrew it all. Even paid a penulty for closing a CD. Then he drove downtown and deposited it in a real bank, he said, Bank Of America.

Serendipity . . .

I don't know if this counts as a serendipitous event but yesterday I came across the invitation to join bloggers around the world in a Blog Action Day, Oct. 15, 2007 to discuss the environment. The fact that this ties into my recent musings about the political possibilities of blogging and personal finance principles in particular could be just coincidence but I like to think not. I wonder what this event will be like. I've listened to Bill Maher's rants and read Micheal Chrichton's State of Fear. I've even gone back to some older SF to read John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up. It stands to reason that the environment is threatened by the continuous use and misuse to which we put it. More people, more buildings, more plastic bags/bottles. It is really funny how we use to laugh at "plastic" as the definition of something not real and now it's really clogging the arteries of our oceans, and lining the half lives of our dumps. Anyway, on that day at least we will be able to see what the blog community is all about - real or plastic?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Feedburning, pt. ?

Well, I decided to go back to the forum at feedburner and see if they have come up with a solution to the comment count problem. And the answer folks, a resounding no. I even emailed Trent at thesimpledollar to see if he could advise me, his answer after a couple of suggestions that didn't work was to go back to feedburner and keep bugging them. Shit! This is really frustrating. The forum people act like they don't even understand why this is a problem but for me if I can't engender a discussion on this blog then why publish it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Like clockwork . . .

they park their US Postal vans side by side, one pointed into the space, the other in the escape position pointed out. Ten minutes tops and they're out and walking, arms swinging, usually in shorts but as regular as clockwork except on Sundays and holidays. These two lady postmen. At first, I though it was just an occasion to talk. They were both in the same area and got finished the same time of day. But then I realized that every once in while a third person would join them so I knew that this was regular and organized. The way I see it they started out as letter carriers walking a route. Then as they got more experienced, they won or earned or just got promoted to the truck routes of businesses and apartment complexes and housing developments. But, and this is the part I like, they missed the exercise and the fresh air, plus who wants to get a big butt from sitting down all the time? So they got together or just happened to meet, and decided to keep up the legwork. Like clockwork, 45 minutes everyday, nothing's stopping these lady postmen from their decided rounds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A while ago, I wrote my . . .

Five rules for learning to be more independent.

1) Start with something simple like learning how to make your own bed and wash your own clothes. It seems simple but from the evidence available this must be one of the hardest tasks known to humankind. The more you rely on someone else, Mom or maid or life partner to do this simple task the less independence you have. And for me that is the secret of taking control of your finances and your life: to have a sense of independence or rather self-dependence towards whatever faces you.

2) Read, even if its just your daily dose of blogs. My life has been tied to books since I was three and hiding under a blanket with flashlight so I could finish reading a Classic Comic version of the Count of Monte Christo. Being able to make sense out of written material has been my savior many, many times, counting the GRE. Two years after I started teaching I decided to go back and get my masters. In order to score well on the GRE I needed to know my math as well as I already knew my language skills. So down to the library I went where I spent the next four weeks checking out and studying (reading) beginning math, algebra, geometry and calculus texts. I crammed into four weeks a lifetime of ignoring math while I covertly read any literature I could get my hands on. Still, I had confidence that I could read and make sense of what I read. And I did, which was proven by my 1350 total score.

3) Ride alternative forms of transportation to get to and from work. I was thinking about this yesterday as I rode my bike back from Borders books where I had been studying a new book by Matt Bai. I have been riding a bicycle for 40 years. I bought my first one as an adult when I sold my car and moved to within a mile of my new job. The thing I learned almost immediately, and have enjoyed ever since, is that a bike can take you off of the beaten path. It happens both physically, as you choose alternate routes, and mentally, as the routine of riding frees up your left brain for cogitation and rumination while your right brain takes over the guidance system. It great for working out problems and for coming up with new ideas. And as a philosophy it ain't half bad either.

4) Pay all your bills first. This too is tied to independence. Even if it's is just a pittance of what you owe, pay a little on each, use the snowball approach, starve yourself, live without, but pay off what you owe and you guessed it, you are free. Of course, Bobby McGee may have said it all when he pointed out the true freedom is when you have nothing left to lose. But I'd rather be able to say I owe no one.

5) Work no work, no work work. When I first started teaching, I came across this concept in a unit I was putting together about world religions. It struck me then and stays with me now. When work is work that you enjoy, then it really isn't work.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Politics . . .

Yesterday, admidst the various blogs I travelled I came upon a discussion of some merit that had to do with how one goes about judging a candidate's merits especially in regard to their stance on lowering taxes and I really enjoyed the intelligent tone of the discussion. But more than that, I found myself thinking about the real situation that our country has gotten into and how looking at the problems and needs through a personal finance perspective might just be what we need. Frugality first. Not by cutting taxes to please a rich and powerful minority but by actually starting out with the idea that we need to care for our money and our lives and our planet in equal amounts.

Seeming isn't being . . .

I tell myself that things are going well and that I am right where I want to be. But then it comes to me that things that seem alright may only be that way because I am really not taking the time to think about them in relation to what I had planned. It is very easy to slip into the state of mind that says a task is completed especially if I haven't written down the actual goal I set myself. It is at this very point that seeming isn't being.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Your money or your life?

This morning while noodling around two of my favorite blogs, I had cause to think about how important it is too really pay attention to the things you enjoy in life. Simple things, like the feel of spring time sun on your back as you step outside of your classroom or the rush of catching a wave just right and sliding through the water before you kick it out and start again or the wonderful feel of signing that check that pays off your last credit card debt. And complicated things, like working out a way to teach a seminar on personal finance to kids or figuring out how to control your urge to treat yourself by giving in to your wants instead of working on satisfying your needs.

The simple things are easy to enjoy but the complicated things quite often make us feel stressed and unhappy. Robert Kiyosaki points this out quite well in his RichDad series when he talks about how schools teach us. We learn to fear failure and thus set ourselves up for a life time of it. One thing my own education taught me was that it never hurts to ask for help is a difficult concept to keep in the forefront of your thinking as a problem develops. All they can say is no is usually the concomitant back up. But the truth is that it does hurt and sometimes they can say a lot more than just no. The key for me was in learning the concept behind these homilies. What others think about your ideas and plans doesn't have to matter especially if you are happy in working on the problem until it is resolved. And that brings me back to my original thought, letting life's complications be enjoyable can really be just as simple as waiting for that ninth wave even if it never comes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sabra wins but do we?

So You Think You Can Dance ended Thursday with the big surprise being that neither Lacey nor Danny nor outside chance Neal won. Sabra did. All of them deserved to win somehow but that ain't the way competitions work, right? One person wins and everyone else is second. But the real winner was we viewers, anyway, so why quibble about the one that ended up with the $250,000?

I quibble because I can. Terri and I were talking on the way to work today about her difficulty in staffing the market she manages. She can't find help. The high schooler's all want to take vacations even after they sign on and the college age kids aren't even applying. She points out that if you look around you'll see that all the businesses seem to be hiring - counter help, barristas, clerks, cashiers - the signs are everywhere and have been all summer. Meanwhile, the LA Times reports that the state of California lost over 8,600 jobs in the month of July.

My response to T. was that in a culture that popularizes reality tv shows where you can pursue your dream and win millions just for opening the right suitcase, where the lottery and sports betting and Indian gambling casino signs flash from every freeway what we are seeing is what we should expect. VISA is a way of life right? Don't slow down the purchase line with cash. Don't slow down at all. Run those red lights, yellow lights, push yourself forward and grab for all your worth. Who knows, you might come up with a new show idea.

Meanwhile, the fed is being forced to lower the interest rate to save CountryWide or the government from having to bail out CountryWide and we get to sit on the edge of our seats and see how it all plays out. Hmmm, maybe we will all get to apply those frugality lessons our great grandparents used during their great depression after all, instead of the whoopee isn't this fun of doing it by choice way we seem to be adopting here in Personal Finance land?

I've been down

and now I'm back up. It was a weird summer. I went in to it with the big plans about tracking our work at the fair and tracking my self with Volumetrics but guess what that didn't happen. Too much work, not enough day. Oh I thought about things a lot. Made mental notes, started posts in my mind, even collected some news articles that made me think about personal finance but the end result was still the same, I couldn't find a place or a time to post on a daily basis and so the result was just a big blank space here. However, I did start one thing that may pan out.

The first time I actually met Jim was the year I came up to help my girl friend, Terri, with her stand and ended up starting my career as a vendor slash carney. At that time, Jim was working for the Icee guy setting up his stands as they moved around the California fair circuit. The big ones at Del Mar and Sacramento and Pomona and the mid-size ones like the Orange County fair where this whole story started for me.

Now I didn't know how he moved over to the vendor side but right from the start Jim struck me as a carney. Maybe it was the fact he seemed to sleep in the same clothes he worked in, or that he never spent a dollar when he could get you to spend yours, or that his hands reminded me of my farming days and the locals who always had a finger missing from hands that looked like they could chop wood without the need of an axe. Or maybe it was the fact that he moved with a slight limp which I was later to find out was caused by the Giant Horse's sidekick pony but that's a story for another time.

The thing was I didn't know that there was a distinction between the carneys and the vendors until Jim and I were talking one day and I said that I felt I really could get into this carney life. "Well," he replied, "That'd work out real well if you was a carney but I can tell you right now that it ain't no life for you." I came to learn he was right. There's two things you should know, you cut a carney and his or her blood will sort of seep out dark and dangerous and while you're watching that happen a silent alarm will gone out and you'll be having to fight the whole carnival just to get out of there. Cut a vendor and they'll just bleed.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Car niv or us ...

Jim told me once how he got started in this business. One summer, he said, just before he was to enter the 10th grade, the carnival came to town. He and several friend proceeded to get jobs helping set up the tents and whatever else needed doing. He found the rhythm of the life, late night repairs under the stars, sleeping in and then eating at the carney table, working with the old machinery, feeding the live stock, or sitting in as a gofer for the guy who ran the basketball toss to be addicting.

Two years later when a different carnival rolled into town, he rolled out with it.