Archive for June, 2008

Stimulus check, ho

Yes, you can read that anyway you want to.  But the point is that I got my (wait for it) . . . letter telling how much my stimulus check will be and where on line I can go to find out where the hell it is.  That sure sort of stimulated  me.

Especially since I am sort of floating between the save it all in the Emergency Fund and the spend part of it to buy something I have been putting off getting for about a year.

Like most music-heads of my generation, making tapes was what you did.  But as technology evolved, and like, has gotten, well, different, I have moved away from making my own.  I used to listen to music all the time back when FM meant free from commercials music.  But these days of promos instead of honest reviews and downloads and Ipods and MP3s just feel fake to me.  Plastic in the old sense of the word.

When I saw the Crosely CD Recorder though, my mind went immediately to the treasured 300 albums I still have stored safely in my workroom.  I could splice some great stuff was my first thought.  But my second thought was to impose the 10 second rule while pondering what else I could do with the $300 out of pocket.  At that time my ING savings were earning 3.4% so adding $300 to the 5k already there would bring in about $15 a month compounded.  Not bad.  Plus,  well that was it for the pluses. 

So I went ahead and hesitated.   Seven months went by and every time I was in Target or Linens & Things I somehow found an excuse to check to see if it was still there and maybe on sale.  Target dropped its price twice, once by $10 and once by $25.  Still . . .

Then came the news of the Stimulus Checks.  Whoa!  Since the money was extra I could just treat it like found money, right?  Plus, ING was now down to 3% and falling.  So now I was looking at $9 a month compounded that I wouldn’t earn.  Okay then, this was my emergency/special occasion fund wasn’t it?  All systems were go but somehow I found reasons for not.  Damn, how did I turn so frugal?

Fate, meanwhile seemed to be working the situation too.  My check is being sent in the July cycle.  Gas prices show no sign of falling, the economy be heading deeper into a recession followed by a spectacular inflationary period and now is not the time to slip down the slope.

And then I saw it.  Posted in the window for all, and especially me, to see.  20% off on your first purchase when you sign up for our Linens & Things store credit card.  Uh oh!  that is $60.  My dream for just $240 of found money, I’ll pay the credit card off right in the store.  

I’ll only lose out on $240 worth of interest earning but I will gain that in pleasure just in compiling my first CD.  I think I am going for it.  Come July or high water, that is.

Advertisements

Comments (2)

Let’s Get Stuffed

JD over at getrichslowly.org  sparked a little controversy with the we-are-Number-One-crowd last week when he posted this chapter from the Story of Stuff.  The offence taken certainly indicates how screwed up this whole consumer thing has gotten.  For one thing, we are all tied into the process through our economics (social capitalism) and our economy (the free market) and our politics (based in a fear of communism) and our religion (the failure to recogize the atheist in all of us).  So any discussion of this kind leads almost inevitably to arguements and anger and dismissal of the original idea which was that we all have too much stuff.

Leave a Comment

Cars and Trucks

Sophistication has its limits even in the US of A.  Apparently so does Hudibras.  So the news last week from GM was as much surprising as it was long over do:
GM announced plans at its annual stockholders meeting today for new company strategies designed to “aggressively respond” to this increasing demand for fuel-efficient cars that the North American consumer can afford. The company will be focusing on a series of efforts aimed at cutting costs, eliminating jobs, and limiting its dependency on truck and SUV sales.

Unfortunately, the good comes with some bad. Since it is always about profit, and not very often the workers, nothing in the announcement mentions plans for reeducation, or transitional support for the unemployed thousands as four plants will close by 2010.

Investors cheered the decision, sending the company’s stock up about 2 percent in early trading.

What makes this news a Loser is that this decision smacks of not being about what is right and sustainable for the economy but what self-serves the interests of Wall Street and by extention we the stock holders.  Because no matter how you cut it, we are caught up in a web of our own making.  We have to consume, we need to make money, we are invested in the very corporations that we know have only self interest at heart.

Contrast that to this kind of story of a Winner from Alex at YBwhoUR?  It’s about an inventor named Matt Shumaker and his motor bike.  It’s an example of what each and every company should be using as a reason for being.  What do people need not what can we sell them. 

I think that a long time ago that was the way it must have been.  Then came the Mad Men, and the idea that the business of business was making money first and useful products second or even third.  Excessiveness meant success.  The more you made the more you could sell became the business model.  And it worked in two ways.  One, to show that we are a successful and abundant country where everyone has a chance to have more and more stuff.  Two, to set up a way of producing things that explained why we needed to be powerful enough militarily to enforce ourselves upon the rest of the world when the need arose. 

So now, even as we look at the younger generation as the ones who will have to solve this problem, we may be facing, are facing the possibility, that all the excess is about to come back and overwhelm us.  Unless, of course, GM is not too late and then, well, . . . ?

Leave a Comment

Changing Venues

I have decided to go back to Blogger for now for a variety of reasons, most of which you can read here at www.itaintthemustard.blogspot.com.   I hope this doesn’t confuse the issue too much but for the time being it is what it is.  Please come visit or at least comment if you will about the change.

Whew!  If you read the above then you’ll have to wonder what is going on now.  The truth, I love, itaintthemustard but I do truly hate the way Blogger is set up.   Too cranky, too unreliable, too lacking in the smooth and articulate ways of wordpress.  So I think I’ll just have to make do here until I can afford an alternative.

So yes I am back.  Ignore the first paragraph, if you will.

Leave a Comment

Weekly Tags, # 7

On one of the blogs I frequent for the discussions the talk of late has been about the power less ness of the blogoshpere.  Or rather the way the blogosphere can sap the energy from acting by just blogging about acting.  One meme that appeared was the apparent lack of cross cultural exchange, ie., that everything we see (I see) comes to us through a westernized point of view.  So like a born-rich person really can’t say that they understand poverty, we can’t really say we understand what the rest of the world is really going through.  It is a point of view that is hard to deny but doesn’t seem right nevertheless.  Take for example, this blog I found on Memorial Day.  Trace back the links from the commenters and you should see what I mean.

Right now I am listening to UBUWEB.  Kenneth Goldsmith taking me through a collection of sounds and thoughts from the years 1983 to 1993.  I may not be getting cross cultural but I am crossing time cultures.

It is enough to split your personality which may be what is going on here at the SchizoFrenetic site.  With a point of view on the marketplace but quite definitely aware of the political arena too, our careerist Zak gives me quite a bit of cross culturality too.

But this site represents my week travels best I think because the week included T and I heading up to West Hollywood to listen to Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge read from their writings.  Walking the streets with people of the same sex and comfortable in themselves with themselves has to be as cross cultural as you can get in this country that still has some doubts about who we all are.

My final mention for this week is TED talks.  I was pointed to it after beginning to read Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight.  Technology, Entertainment, Design is a site that disproves the point of view that the internet doesn’t represent action by doing what it is about.  Grown out of a 1984 conference in Long Beach it now sponsors international array of speakers at the annual and sold out meeting.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

In addition, TEDGlobal sponsors world wide activities, and the TED Prize offers $100,000 each to three conferees to a wish to “change the world.” 

Blogging may seem like a static exercise from where one can yell, laugh, cry, and piss and moan from the silence of your lonely room but as I hope you can see from the journeys above that ain’t the half of it.

Comments (1)

Our Gift from China

It is hard to buy a manufactured product these days that doesn’t come from China or some other sweat shop nation.  But that doesn’t mean much when you are out shopping.  Normally we buy what we need and take the product at face value.  News stories of product defects, of tainted materials used in the manufacturing process, are usually sloughed off by the everyday ordinariness of life.  That’s why it took me by surprise when the reality of the danger struck home.

Here’s the situation:  T and I had started working out in the pool by swimming laps using kick boards.  The weather had turned warm early and we both needed to get back in shape after a winter of stress and strain.  I had noticed though that T likes to float around in the pool after a workout while I get out to enjoy the sun.  So I went back to the store where we got the kick boards and picked up small size belly board that was small enough for pool use but large enough for her to float on.  So much for good intentions.  What’s that saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” 

Skip forward about two days.  T says “Look at this.”  She is pointing to a small row of pimples on her right side.  “And this.”  She turns so I can see a similar breakout across her chest.  I can tell from the way she is looking that she thinks this is more of the same weirdness that has happened to her body since the gall bladder surgery in February.  In another two days the breakout has spread to the backs of her knees and all across her abdomen.  “I don’t understand what could be causing this.” she tells me.  “I stopped using any medications over a week ago.”  So we go back to the doctor, who prescribes a steroid ointment, and then, either Benadryl or Zyrtec, whichever works since he really doesn’t know what the cause is but sees it as some sort of allergic reaction.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out what could have caused this to happen.  Could it be more post surgery body stress?  Was it the sunshine, the pool water, the combination of both?  It didn’t make sense.  Then I looked at the belly board I bought for her to float on.  China, tainted lead-based paint, asbestos, flash across my mind and I suddenly realize that the pattern of the breakout actually matched the way she would lay on the board as she floated in the pool.  Shit.

“There are generally three types of product liability cases: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty” say the folks at lawyers.com.

Strict Product Liability

If you can prove that a product is “unreasonably dangerous” – that it has a design or manufacturing defect – then you may be able to establish that the defendant is “strictly liable.” Unlike negligence cases, you may not have to prove the manufacturer knew about the danger, because even if they didn’t, they should have. (One of the main purposes of this provision is to hold manufacturers accountable for developing safe products). You still, however, have to prove that the product caused your damages.

Is this the case?  How can I even start to prove it?  Yes, the board was made in China, but how do I pursue a product liability case with so many other factors involved?  Maybe it wasn’t even mis-manufactured but just made with latex in the processing.  She is allergic to that.   The lawyer.com site recommends talking to several lawyers, and warns that the whole process of pursuing a claim will be extremely expensive.

No, for now I’m stuck with this.  Blogging about it in hopes that the blogosphere might have a response.  I’m also going to take this question over to JD’s getrichslowly forum and see what the folks there might suggest.

Comments (1)

I caught a cold last week

Or rather I should say the cold caught me.  And I have to say that it is very seldom in my life when I can’t write – something, but this has been one of those times.  Last Wednesday about 4 AM is when it started.  I woke to go pee and felt it in the top of my mouth.  A dryness, a tightness, a difficulty to swallow.  Shit! I thought.  I should have gargled right then.  Warm water, salt stirred in, head tilted back, you know the sound, gggghhhh, and spit.  But I didn’t.  Went back to bed.  Thought, I’ll be fine.

But three hours later, no way Jose.  My head had joined forces with my tightening throat and now was stuffed with snot.  I got up to go to the kitchen to start my day.  Coffee, paper, computer.  What was I thinking, I couldn’t really tell.  That morning’s post, became an afternoon’s one, and was a fair indicator of my state of mind.  If you could read my mind that is.  About three paragraphs, ending with a self-satisfied smirk of a summary.  I couldn’t sit there without breathing any longer.

I skipped the next day.  Drugged up on NyQuil, then Dayquil, and chicken soup, I slept sitting up so I could at least breathe.  But write, no I could barely think.  Finally about 2 AM, I gave it another try.  I really enjoy the experience of making something last.  I have to admit that the things in my life count for a lot.  They act as talismans.  A shirt from ten years ago that I can pull out and wear.  My homemade dance workout shoes, two pair, which I have alternated onto the dance floor for about 10 years too.  But when I tried to write that post about frugality, it was all I could do to say two things.  Rereading only shows me that I couldn’t wait to get done.  And I was really trying.  I remember going back and forth between youtube and this blog trying to imbed a Todd Rungren video that wouldn’t take and finally giving up in sick frustration.

Then came Friday.  Yes, the Lakers were into the finals, and T and I were packing for the trip to LA but I was still one sick puppy.  Dayquil all day, I even tried alcohol, two margaritas with dinner.  Here’s how sharp my thinking was.  It’s a cold I have.  So stay warm.  Not me.  We go to the book reading after dinner and sit for two hours while the cool city breezes blew in the door and swirled around my bare legs (I was wearing shorts) and sandalled feet. 

Sick Saturday, that what I’ll have to call it.  I couldn’t drive.  Thank the gods for T.  I couldn’t think or write or even read, and you know I really have to be sick for that to happen.

So now it is a tentative Sunday.  I have only sneezed once and I have managed to write this too.  I’m going to leave you with this reference point, one I gathered from the blogger at http://www.skepticsandpolitics.blogspot.com/.  I hope to write more about it tomorrow when this cold will be going going gone.  

Leave a Comment