Monthly Archives: September 2007

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Scion Xa Series 2.0Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of paying off my auto loan with one of those checks from a credit card company boasting a 3.9% rate for the life of the balance.

My current auto loan rate is 5.35%. Not great, but not that bad either. Total balance right now is just over $8k. I don’t have a payment due until 2008 though I’m still overpaying what my regular statement would require each month.

Currently, I get dinged for around $1.20 in interest each day on that loan. That sucks.

Using the promo check, and for simplicity sake ignoring the transaction fee I’m sure is in the fine print, I’d get hit for around $0.89 per day.

Over the span of a year, and, again, for simplicity sake, assuming the balance never dropped, that’d work out to a $113 savings (or 31 cents per day).

Not having the paperwork in front of me, the transaction fee attached to the convenience check is probably $99 — if not 3% which is a staggering $243 — no matter how you slice it, it’s not worth the hassle and I’d likely ending up paying more, even with the lower rate.

Wacky how that works.

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That is so not fair.
That is *so* not fair.

I actually heard that twice this morning from co-workers.

It didn’t relate to finances at all — it was a desk relocation type of thing and a vacation request.

Anyway, touching on yesterday’s post, well, “it” is fair. It’s totally fair.

Over the past few months, just by observing other people, it has become a lot more obvious to me that life is pretty much fair.

Most people just don’t seem to get it. They’re on cruise control in life and think that it’s unfair when things don’t just fall in their lap.

What they don’t seem to get, and this is my list so your’s may vary, is that life requires:

  1. That you never stop learning and growing.
  2. That you DECIDE what you want, with precision. You can’t be vague. I want to be rich or I want a sports car doesn’t cut it.
  3. That you set goals.
  4. That you focus upon what you want, visit your goals often, and track your progress.
  5. Think and act in accordance with the above, weighing even the smallest decisions against how they help you learn, grow, and/or get what you want.

These are EXTREMELY powerful requirements — and here’s the catch: you can’t miss a single one… For me anyway.

Too many people want to float through life and have good things fall out of the sky upon them.

It doesn’t work that way.

It never worked that way.

People get ahead by trying to get ahead. By working to get ahead.

I challenge one co-worker, who’s thrown in the towel and stopped their 401k contributions entirely, all the time to try this for just 30 days and tell me they haven’t made progress towards building a better life.

Do it for a year and you won’t be the same person — your habits will totally change. You’ll be happier.

Do it for five years and you’ll be destined to realize most of your dreams. Guaranteed.

I know I’m on that road myself.

But they just don’t get it. To them, it’s unfair.

Conestoga WagonTook a few days off from blogging. Seems this month isn’t going as well as I would have liked — no concrete numbers or anything, but my checking balance isn’t allowing me to attack my credit card balances the way I’d like. Such is life, right?

But that brings me to the real subject of this posting. That’s life. And you know what? Life is fair.

I’ve found that life is ultimately fair for the most part because it’s pretty much a cause/effect type of thing. There are consequences to actions.

Just this month, I can’t attack my balances the way I’d like in part due to the fact that I splurged on some hockey jerseys earlier in the month. Dumb.

Counter productive and dumb.

So for the rest of the month, I’ve got to go back to the basics and focus on the goal…

Dragging DebtI’d have to to estimate that it was about 5 years ago when the light bulb went on for me. Carrying debt wasn’t the way to go.

Then, credit cards were the *only* thing I considered to be debt. And I carried a lot of it — probably just shy of $30k. Since then, my definition of debt has been expanded.

But my own debt wasn’t the switch that illuminated the light bulb…

At one of my jobs, there was a “privileged” group that was supplied with a company car for personal use. More accurately described, they each got a HUGE SUV. It was kept pretty hush-hush — but when a fleet of similar SUVs are all parked in the lot, all next to each other, well, let’s just say, word gets around.

There was a lot of thinly veiled animosity and jealousy hanging in the air for months when it all came to light. But for me, well, I thought to myself, you know, if I happened to be offered a big shiny SUV, I’d be offended. Yes — I said offended. I don’t need one. I can supply that myself, thanks…

Sure, it would be nice to have my car payment subsidized. It might even be nice to have an SUV in the winter — but at what cost?

Not only would my employer have me held hostage by my paycheck, but also my vehicle? That’s too much weight for me.

I mean, in that situation, if you lose your job or want to leave for whatever reason — you’ll lose your transportation too. That’s a *huge* hit. With out the job, you really have nothing. The way I see it, those folks are now “owned” by their employer — much like how one’s debt (credit card, student loan, mortgage, auto) owns them.

Maybe it’s a pride thing, but I prefer to know that my things are actually mine. These folks can walk around like they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Hey, you don’t even own your own car…”

I know, in the grand scheme, we’re all prisoners of our paycheck (or employer) in some regard, but even without that paycheck, I know that I’ve still got a lot of stuff in my back pocket, or I will, once I can put the debt behind me. It’s mine. I own it. My employer can’t take that away from me. And that feels pretty good.

All the more motivation to pay down the debts…

I don’t want to be held hostage by anyone or anything. Now to initiate some extra e-payments to Chase, Citi, and Bank of America!

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Amy ToyenToday is September 11th.

In some ways, I’m kind of glad that the “hype” that’s surrounded the date for the last few years has finally subsided. I mean, is it really necessary to commemorate every single anniversary? I think that sort of thing had gone a little too far in the United States. Everyday on the calendar is an anniversary of something — but does it have to be mentioned every year? I don’t think so.

Now I know, there are people out there that claim 9/11 is different and that its so we “never forget”. Well, I’m not sure anyone in the western world over the age of 15 will ever forget anyway. I know I haven’t forgotten.

I actually knew someone in the World Trade Center that day.

These days it seems most people claim that they knew someone who died on September 11th, so as to feel connected to the event (which, quite honestly, why would anyone want to have a connection?), but I think a lot are just blowing a lot of hot air to get attention or something. That’s sad.

I went to high school with Amy Toyen. I can’t claim that we were close. In fact, I’d have to say that I knew her older sister even better than her, but she knew my name, I knew hers, and we occasionally sat next to each other on the bus to track meets.

She was the “manager” of the track team in high school — a position she took over when her older sister Heather graduated.

What exactly does a “manager” do for the boys track team you ask?

Well, if you tracked down all of the members of the boys track team from her years in high school, I’d bet every single member would remember vividly that she was the girl who brought blow pops for all of us to eat on the bus ride home.

It sounds silly, but that’s just the type of person she was. For some of us, the blow pop on the bus rides home was one of the perks of being on the track team. Actually, when compared to running up hills repeatedly until you couldn’t feel your legs, I’d say it was the only perk. And it was because of Amy.

In addition to being the ever-popular supplier of lollipops, at home track meets, she maintained the score book — that’s where all of the competitors times, distances, and heights are recorded. Scoring a track meet is rather confusing when you get right down to it — but she was second to none.

Sometimes it was like she had the school’s all-time record book at her fingertips too — always handy when striving to break a 20 year old mile time.

In high school, I was a distance runner. I often ran 4-5 events per meet, but when the competition was stiff, the coach had me run my two best events — the long ones.

The first event of a meet was the 5000 meter. The second to last event was the 3200 meter. Looking back, it was probably set up that way so that we distance runners had time to rest between the two longest events.

Basically, I’d have about 2 hours to kill between my two events. More often than not, I’d spend most of that time leaning over the counter into the “tower” shooting the breeze with Amy…

“Hey, what was my time last week?”

“Amy, do you have a pair of pliers? My spike wrench snapped…”

“What time to I have to hit to qualify for State’s?”

“That kid over there from Tolland — can you see what he ran last year? I don’t recognize him…”

“Any chance I could get a blow pop now? Please? Pretty please?”

She always had the “right” answer to each and every inquiry.

When the news circulated that she’d been in the building, and it was confirmed when I saw her name go by on a ticker on television a few days later, I’m not sure that I was mad. Or even angry. My stomach was in a knot — I was shocked. And I was sad. Sad for her family and those who knew her, and yes, even those of us on the track team. She was one of the few ‘genuine’ people in our high school full of ‘entitled’ snobs.

They erected a statue of her at the local library where we grew up. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never actually gone to visit even though I’ve driven by numerous times over the years.

I’ve seen pictures though and, for me, it didn’t do her justice. I prefer to remember her for her huge smile, her freckles, her oversized glasses, and with an extended arm holding out a blow pop. And that’s probably why I’ve never stopped by to see the statue.

I’m going to go out and buy a bag of blow pops today.

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UConn vs. Maine Football

Last night, my wife and I went to our first college football game. I’d actually been to many games in the past when I was in University, but in Canada, well, let’s just say college football isn’t exactly the “event” it is in the States.

We happened upon tickets to the University of Connecticut’s home opener when my wife was offered them by someone at work earlier this week — and seeing as we’d never taken in the ‘event’, and the price tag was $0, well, how could we not take that up?

So off we went to begin another inexpensive weekend activity. Let me start by saying that this was no Jordan Knight concert, but it was still an entertaining night.

Parking wasn’t so bad — it was included with our tickets. Making our way through the parking lots, or more actually a maze of tailgaters, though, was a little foreign to me.

The idea of tailgating doesn’t really have any appeal to me at all, though it seemed to be more popular than the actual game. Connectiut is a funny place like that. We’re posers. The number of people “pretending” to be big college football folks is downright astonishing. We’re not Purdue. We’re not Michigan. We’re not Notre Dame. We have a modest sized stadium that was built a few years ago — and now suddenly we’ve got acres of tailgaters with their little tents set up and flags flying high.

Three years ago, before the stadium was even built, well, I’d venture to say many local high schools could boast crowds that rivalled Uconn’s crowds. That aside, being that Connecticut fans are classic fairweather fans, once they realize that beating up on teams like the Maine Black Bears (they shut them out last night; 38-0) week after week isn’t really all that much to get excited about. I can’t wait for the day that a team like Michigan agrees to come here — well, they’ll see where they stand. I’d venture to guess shortly thereafter, the crowds will disappear — kinda like they did with the Hartford Whalers.

The funny part, even dominating the game, by halftime, most of the crowd had left anyway. And honestly, most of the crowd hadn’t even entered the stadium until the second quarter. So, really, it truly was more about the tailgating and less about the game for most of the “fans”.

Okay, enough negativity. The real reason for this post was that I could not believe the mount of money some of these folks must’ve spent on their tailgating set-ups. Multiple gas grills, really nice tents, flags that go for no less than $50 each, and tons and tons of food. And don’t forget the alcohol. We’re talking probably over $200 worth of consumables per car. Seriously.

Now, I’m not from the school of no-fun, but all that, for a 4-hour (the parking lots open 4 hours before game time) party? I dunno, you have to think, the set-up time is maybe a half ahour, after sitting in traffic getting in for a half hour. Cut that party down to 3 hours now. Getting the grills going and food on the go, maybe another half hour. For me to set something that elaborate up — well, I’m going to want to use it for more than a couple of hours. Maybe that’s just me, but for that kind of money, it’s not worth it as far as I’m concerned.

Dive right in!  There has to be atleast $200 in it for you!

On the way out, I couldn’t help but take a picture of one of the dumpsters they have spaced randomly all over the lots. There was easily $200 worth of empties in each one. I’m all for free money, but I wasn’t about to dumpster dive — but it is something to keep in mind for those out there who are willing to get a little (or a lot) dirty. Really, you could walk out of there with $1000 worth of cans in a few hours I’m sure.

In the end, our night cost us $11 total. Two $4 sodas (cough! ripoff! cough!) and a $3 order of fries.

Not bad for the “event” of the week in Connecticut.

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Harvey WindowsIt’s been well over a month since my last set of remarks regarding our big home improvement project this summer.  Well, the contractors finished on September 1st.

An 81-day project.  The funny part is that the contract stated that work would be complete on July 15.  Ha!

I can now say that the house is sided. We have new doors.  The new attic windows are in.  You think I’d be happy, right?  Well, I’m not.

See, the duration of the project aside, the last thing to be completed was an attic window for the front gable.  My wife and I picked out a nice window by Harvey Windows — paid a pretty large sum too for such a small window.

Harvey custom made us a defective window.  It’s not square.  Not even close.  It’s… a trapezoid.  Yeah, it’s only about an inch off of having 90 degree angles, but it’s enough that when it’s up there on the house — it looks crooked. 

The decorative window, the center piece, on the front of our house is visibly crooked.  Level, but crooked.  Can you believe that?

Well, the contractors put it in anyway, and sided around it. 

It’s a Harvey issue now — they’ll have to replace the window. 

But now, what about all of the siding that’s flush with the crooked window?  That will need to be replaced as well… and I can imagine it already, they’re not going to want to do that.  Or they won’t be able to match the color.  Or the style.  I could go on and on…

Now, after contractors complete a job, they go through a punch list — you know, correcting all of the little things and details that the homeowner points out.  The company we hired has worked on this punch list at our home on at least 4 different occasions.  The two major “issues” still haven’t been resolved — and these are 15 minute projects for a seasoned pro.

It is just so frustrating to deal with contractors — I’m not sure a reputable one exists.  I mean, if I were to run my company, and treat my customers and projects, the way a typical contractor does, well, I’m not sure I could look myself in the mirror.

We’ve moved on to some interior work again, where we’re doing the work ourselves, but at some point we’ll have to call in the professionals to do some electrical, flooring, and drywall and I’m already dreading dealing with a bunch of people who do things half-assed and lie to your face.

Don’t get me wrong, the house looks good.  I guess I’m happy with the work, but when you look at the details, in the corners and things, it makes you wonder what the hell they were thinking — I could have made it look like that myself and I’ve never done it before in my life?!

And really, was it necessary to use my entire lawn as an ashtray?  Okay, that was a low blow…

No, on second thought, it wasn’t.

Oh yeah, and thanks for leaving dirty finger prints on a window 3 stories up that doesn’t open.  I’d love to know how they expect me to wash that…

Can You Dig It?