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Myth or Knot. . .

She says, after slight pause, “I didn’t like the war stuff, the fighting, too loud, too much slamming things around.”  I  think “Wait, I thought that was what made it so much different and better than …” but I say, “You mean . . .?”

“Well, it was different than those Lord of the Rings movies, and the …”

“and the Daniel Potter films.”   I finish for her.  This all happens as we’re riding home from seeing the Golden Compass.  Neither of us have actually been able to make it through either of those other two film series but we have talked often about why this is, so we both can finish each other’s sentence on this subject.  The techies that control the film world these days are not good story tellers, they are however great game designers.  Boring.

On the other hand, going to the movies again after a long self-imposed hiatus, let me see how things have changed by staying the same.  Ticket prices were up.  And now, our favorite theater group, Ultra Star, has a new rewards card system to replace the old see 8 movies, get one free card.  NOW you have to see 8 movies to win the card and then you have see 40 movies at $8 a pop to win your free movie.  Wow, what a reward for someone.

This is another one of those things I was thinking about the other day.  Why, with the technology we now have, are the costs of tickets to movies still going up?   Popcorn inside the theater the other day, $5.25 for a small bag.  It must be true, the beast that makes up the movie going public, the one that goes to horror flicks, and chick flicks, and movies designed for kids, is voracious and at the same time curiously forgiving.  It will pay to watch video games made into movies, comic books made into movies, remakes, franchises, endless tedious trash paraded as the picture of the year.  While, the entertainers and the movie makers rake in the millions to keep the cycle turning.

“Lets watch Monk when we get home.” she says.

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The Opinion of others . . .

wins the day in Iowa.  Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee make a fascinating pair.   One hopes they can stay true to the people they now appear to represent.  Meanwhile, amidst the rising food/fuel/insurance/entertainment costs of living that normally hold us in thrall, we can look at this coming election and enjoy each side for its achievements.  The Repugnants wanted Christian Conservatism and that’s what they got.  The Democants asked for  a chance to stand up for Liberal and Progressive beliefs and guess what, that’s what they got.  I actually like both of these guys though I still worry about the secret agendas or rather split agendas that both may have that filter their decisions through religious or racial screens. 

I think Huckabee is too Christian for my own good.  And by that I mean, he will make decisions for me for my own good whether I want him to or not, just like Bush has.  Huckabee is more intelligent in his speech but I see the same insane stubborn christianity behind his eyes. 

Obama has spoken of using whatever and whomever it takes to work on our common concerns.  Mention of Schwarzenegger in his cabinet, a definite time line for ending the war, and an agenda for meeting with our friends and enemies on the international front speaks to a mind that wants change and peace.

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Stoozing . . .

I believe I’ve mentioned several times over the last few months a money-making technique my partner T. discovered during the process of running our small business.   Two years ago, with all our credit cards paid off and no bills in sight, T. received one of those continuous credit card offers we all get these days that offered her to borrow up to her credit limit of $27,000 for a full year at 0%.  She was already tiering her CDs so she knew immediately that here was an opportunity to make some money if she played her cards right (ha ha).  And off she went.  So far she’s used this strategy to fund construction work on our rentals, by borrowing it and then loaning it to our real estate business at a modest interest rate;  to money market and CD it, by shopping for the highest rates to fit the correct tier; and by loaning it again to our other business to fund construction of a concession stand and buy storage.

And now she’s discovered, thanks to a post from Gary at Think-CreditCards.com, that there is a whole Stoozing.comworld just waiting down the blogoshere hallway.  And she’s been in up and back down that hallway to yell at me “Come see this” ever since.  I tell her its just an appearance of our old friend Serendipity and try to go back to writing this.

Anyway, just a little looking at both sites, tells me that there is definitely a community of Stoozers with a forum, and stoozing calculators, and competitions for best Stoozer, and of course the ubiquitous 0% credit card offers.  (As soon as I saw the latter knew that T. and I needed to talk more about this venture.  Luckily, Gary’s Think-CreditCards site was an immediate help in this regard since it is actually a web site designed to link you up and help you out with a range of financial insight and information about the how and why of Stoozing the credit card market . . . 

In the article on business credit cards, for example, I was reminded about being wary of giving your personal SS# to back up the card amount.   The real Snoozer remembers to only accept an offer that is willing to use the company’s EIN since one of the side effects of this particular strategy that you are trying to achieve is that it will raise your company’s credit score while separating your personal finances from any possible calamity.  It is a nice point and the succinct way it was presented fit snugly into a neat less is more feel to the whole site.

See you tomorrow for more adventures with the Errant Stoozer.  Oh yeah, I meant to mention that this seems to be mainly an English phenomenon for now.

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It doesn’t have to be this way, does it?

My wife and I were talking the other day about money and how we use it.  She said something like “What in the world do people spend their money on if they make a million a year?  House payments, car payments, clothes, jewels, vacations, …?  I mean, if you made a million a year wouldn’t that just about pay for anything you’d need or want?  So why do people need more than that, aren’t there people who like CEOs who get 50 or 60 million a year?  What do they spend it all on?”

I couldn’t help remembering a story by Dorothy Parker about two young shopgirls who spend their lunch hour daydreaming about being rich as they walk along New York’s Park Avenue.  “What would you buy if you had $10,000 says one?”  The other replies by pointing at something on display inside one of the posh store windows.  As they walk they take turns playing the game.   One day they decide for some reason to go in a Tiffany store and actually try something on.   Within minutes they are back on the street and walking in a sort of stunned silence.  Finally, one of them says, “What would you buy if you had a million dollars?”

And so it goes.

I don’t really know how to answer my wife’s question.  Why do people need so much more money these days?  Why, as we become more and more proficient at providing everything anyone could need to survive, do we keep looking for more things to own and symbols to display that show who we are and what we are worth?  Why are the beings that live in future of Star Trek so capable of living free of that concern while we who have had the benefit of the insights provided by this and other science fiction futures stay still stuck in a consumer driven economy?

It doesn’t have to be this way does it? 

  

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Electronic Wonders?

It is definitely a new age.  Yesterday, I was sitting in a comfortable chair and reading my book dejour at Borders when I noticed a new display being setup.  On a two-sided kiosk, a RCA Small Wonder Camcorder, a Matsunichi 7″ Digital Photo Frame, a Sansa 1GB Express Music Player, a Sony Clock Radio w/iPod Speaker Dock, a Sansa Music Shaker for Kids, and last but not least, a Sony Book Reader were displayed and ready to test drive.  The reader even came with a 40% discount on your first downloaded Audio-book.  As I walked over for a closer look, an eager clerk intersected my path with a smile and an invitation to help.  I nodded no and went closer.

The camcorder fit snugly in my hand and immediately brought to mind how easy it would be to turn this on an unsuspecting world.  But that world would need to be deaf to not hear the audible clicking sound of its operation.  And that thought brought me to thinking about the way our world has yielded its sense of privacy.  Like Bill Maher has pointed out we can go back to worrying about that when the idiots give up their cell phones.  Or as this review at C-Net pointed out “While its video quality is only so-so, RCA’s Small Wonder EZ101 will appeal to technophobes looking for an idiot-proof way to quickly send video e-mail clips to friends and family.” 

Next in line was 7″ digital photo frame that implored the user to insert a memory card loaded with pictures and let the auto-slideshow begin.  You know I actually remember a time when people rolled their eyes at the boredom of watching someone’s home movie.  Now apparently we can’t wait to see what naughty little blooper some friend has caught on film.

Meanwhile, the Sansa 1 GB Epress music recorder was waiting for me to eagerly put the ear pads in place and listen to my favorite songs, record my own songs, or simply plug it into my computer to get ready for my next youtube/facebook, whatever. 

For a small and inexpensive player, the Sansa Express offers an impressive array of features. As noted above, there is voice recording and memory expansion. The Express also has an FM tuner with autoscan, recording, and up to 20 presets. It supports MP3, WAV, WMA (including subscription), and Audible files as well as playlists. You can even create an on-the-go playlist on the device. Alternatively, use Windows Media Player or drag and drop to transfer those and other files. Music is arranged handily into the Creative step-down interface structure. Menus are basic, but the top one is icon-driven–a nice touch. You do not get album art or photo viewing with the Express, nor is the player technically compatible with Macs, but we were able to transfer an MP3 from a MacBook Pro (the player did not dismount properly, though).

What the world really needs though is another iPod speaker dock which Sony seems ready to offer with its new 2 alarm clock radio.  Not only will you be able to iPod your listening and control it with a wonderful labor saving remote but it charges your iPod while you sleep.  Just think you’ll be able to go everywhere white noising out your world and making more money.  Oh wait, did that sound too cynical?

It wasn’t that long ago (or maybe it was) that one could enjoy your own battle of the bands as each group of beach goers brought their own boom box to share the joy.  Nowadays that problem is solved with headphones or earjacks and now Sansa has added a way to keep the kids occupied with its new Shaker device.  This one is great on oh so many levels, first it’s for the little kids to start their lifetime appreciation of music even earlier than when they use to dance to the commercials on tv.  Second, it has great built in obsolesence since the memory size is only 512 MB and the battery needs changing every 15 hours.  And finally, it’s rumored to be child proof but that flap at the base doesn’t look that sturdy.  Ah well, with a price range of $27 to $35, don’t worry it’s easy to replace.

Last on the list was the item that originally caught my eye – the Sony Reader.  Unfortunately, the kiosk setup was not actually online so there was no way to test drive the reader myself.  One confusing note was provided when I discovered that the specs for the Reader were printed out on the back of the promo literature for the RCA camcorder and reverse but once that was cleared away I could still take a look and decide whether this like the other items listed above was worth its $300 price or just another in the seemingly endless stream of needless but consumerist advances that today’s economy seems to demand.

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Post Getmas and all is well

This is a pivotal time here at the old beach house.  I’ve long been an Apple user but over the past four years I’ve gradually moved most of my computer using time into the blogosphere where strangely enough I have found less and less use for Apple’s supposed talents.  Though I am just modestly Luddite in my technocracy, I really find that I can’t stand the hoop jumping it takes to follow Apple’s new programming language and technological breakthroughitism.  I just want an operating system that works to allow me to use this computer tool to write and communicate via the internet.

So as of tomorrow it is goodbye Apple as I open up my new desktop, as built my computer geek of a son, and sail off into the future.

Meanwhile, it seems as though Nature has taken a hand in the immigration situation:  According to Wednesday’s LA Times, the U.S. is becoming less alluring to illegal migrants.  Though why the editor chose the term “illegal” over “undocumented” in her title I’m not sure, she does explain quite well that the housing industry’s decline is possibly the main reason why fewer undoc immigrants are able to find work here and thus why they are heading home and advising their countrymen and women to stay there too.  So it’s a win-win deal.  Less homes being built, monster homes especially, less immigration.  Ain’t Mother Nature grand? 

And finally in news from the front, Iraq, that is, is that the U.S. has unleashed the latest in technology to help fight the endless war there.  Robots, radio controlled, but lethal have begun patrolling the country-side.  At $250,000 a pop, they are quite the bargain in this trillion dollar enterprise.  And I love the acronym, SWORDS.

Ah well, happy holidays.

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Credit card gambles

As I have chronicled in the past, my partner T. loves to play the credit card game of 0% interest offers.  She has such great credit that the companies just can’t keep themselves from offering her massive loan limits, $27,000, at 0% interest for 9 or even 15 months.  Actually, it is more likely that their computer setup reads her payment history (perfect) and her credit score (780) and automatically generates those cute little check offers so that she can take advantage of this great opportunity to go into debt.  T.,  on the other hand, doesn’t go into debt.  She takes the offer and parks the money in a CD at 5.2%, pays her monthly minimum, and collects the difference as another way to add to her income stream.  Last year, she made an additional $2500. 

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