Monthly Archives: May 2010

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    President Woodrow WilsonA great deal has been said about the difficulties of English spelling — much of which is not true.

    Learning to spell, of course, like everything else worth while, requires effort. But it need not be a bugaboo. Everyone can learn to spell if he goes about it in the right way.

    Many have said that English is not a phonetic language, that is, it is not spelled as it is pronounced.

    Let us look into this statement.

    Investigation shows that same 22 per cent of the words in common use are non-phonetic, but that leaves 78 per cent that are spelled as they sound and are pronounced as they look.

    An authority on word study calls attention to the fact that “six of every seven syllables of our language are phonetic.”

    Such difficulties as there are, then, must lie in the 22 per cent non-phonetic words, and with the one syllable out of seven.

    Now, we might make out a list of non-phonentic words (words that look one way and sound another), so that we would not have to waste our time on words that are easy to spell. But to make such a list is not so simple as it might appear. For in that list we want only the words that we actually use.

    Each of us has three vocabularies: one for reading, one for writing, and one for speaking. The first is decidedly the largest.

    We understand in out reading many more words than we use. It has been estimated that the average person can read and understand between 8,000 and 10,000 words.

    Our writing vocabulary is not more than half as large; from 4,000 to 5,000 words are enough for all the writing we are likely to do.

    Oddly enough, though most of us speak many hundreds of words for each one that we write, the actual number of different words we use in speech is small, not more than 700 on the average.

    It is said that the average talker makes only 43 words do duty for half his ordinary conversation, using these 43 words over and over again.

    They are: and, be, have, it, the, to, will, you, about, all, as, at, but, can, come, day, dear, for, get, go, hear, if, in, me, much, not, on, say, she, so, that, these, this, though, time, we, with, write, your, her, one, of, by.

    What a difference between the ordinary person and the scholar! Woodrow Wilson used, it has been found, 6,200 different words in 75 of his speeches, but at least 60,000 in his writings.


    Wow… I don’t know where to begin on this one…

    First off, let me just say that this is the first time ever that I’ve utilized the word “bugaboo” on Pants in a Can. I don’t really expect to use it again so… I hope you feel privileged to have read it twice now.

    The next thing that I can’t get over is how it’s as though women do NOT exist. Everything is listed from a male perspective — “Everyone can learn to spell if he goes…”

    Apparently women aren’t included amongst “everyone” either. Perhaps it’s just that women can’t spell.

    Further, if you read the 43 words — you can tell that their guy words. “She” and “her” both made the list but I don’t see any mention of “he” or “his”.

    Why is that?

    I’ll tell ya — it’s cause the “Authorities on Word Study” back then were spending far too much time using words like “her” and “she” while talking about woman. Even nerdy guys talk about the chicks…

    Lastly, technology has made things like distinct words relatively simple to sum up. I don’t know how many words I use in speech but analyzing my writing (and I write exactly the way I talk) indicates that I’ve used well over 9,000 words here on Pants in a Can.

    Take that Mr. Average Person!

    For the record, my 43 most common words — in order — are: the, to, a, I, all, in, of, and, on, that, it, my, for, this, is, but, was, at, you, as, not, have, be, with, I’m, credit, it’s, card, like, now, out, just, one, by, from, so, may, money, me, more, up, they, we.

    Sure, there’s quite a bit of overlap but there’s no doubt that the language has certainly changed over the past 40 years… No “he/she” or “his/her” to be found on my list but “like” is, like, right up there.

    I also, apparently, like to talk about myself with “me”, “my”, and “I” making my version of the list. No, that doesn’t surprise me.

    Oh yeah, and pulling a number from Woodrow Wilson’s speeches as if it were his conversational vocabulary is total garbage… Everyone knows the speeches were written and probably all by a team of speech writers…

    But, speaking of Woodrow Wilson, did you know that he was on the $100,000 bill?

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    PIAC is Straight Outta ComptonStraight Outta Compton:

    Growing up, while the living room sported the 1970 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, my bedroom contained the complimentary set of Compton’s Encyclopedia — essentially a dumbed-down version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica semi-geared towards children.

    I used to read through each volume randomly and often cited them for book reports and research projects in grade school (long before the internet and the ever reliable Wikipedia.)

    Recently, I’ve been flipping through their pages again only to laugh at the choice of words, the tone of the message, the blatant racism, and the “women should always be pregnant and in the kitchen” slant of many of the entries — most of which have nothing to do with women, pregnancy, or the kitchen.

    Things were perceived *much* differently in 1970.

    It’s some pretty comical stuff so when an entry peaks my interest, and it’s brief (or related to money), I’ll share it here (with my commentary in blue.)

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    Wow… What a week…

    I’d meant to post something each and every night regarding all of the happenings but sometimes you just can’t find the time. In that respect — this week totally sucked…

    On Monday night, we scheduled that appraisal that we’ve been avoiding since we initiated the mortgage re-fi exactly one month ago.

    As a result, I hastily mowed the lawn and filled the POD in the driveway pretty much up to the limit to eliminate additional clutter. Somehow I managed to do this all of this prior to the finale of 24.

    On Tuesday evening, the appraiser came over and asked about all of the updates (roof, siding, furnace, etc…) we’d made and then he ventured through the house taking pictures.

    Obviously, the entry room was a topic of discussion. Further, since we’d filled the POD already, the parlor and the dining room were also topics of discussion…

    Seemed like a nice enough guy but if I’ve learned one thing from all of the BMW and Cessna tucked away in the garage or an arcade game in the kitchen but he clearly mentioned repeatedly that “all things have value”…

    Even still, I’m not a big fan of such subjective things. The success of our loan hangs in the balance of what one guy “thinks”.

    I mean, it’s either worth it or it isn’t. It should be concrete. We’re either a risk to the lender or we’re not. It shouldn’t matter what color our walls are painted or how cluttered a one year old’s room is. It isn’t a cash out re-fi either so we’re not flight risks in the sense that we’re trying to squeeze money out and run. Our credit scores speak for themselves. This big gray area of unicorns and rainbows, err, subjectivity seems, I dunno, unfair, I guess…

    Pimped out CayenneAnd, really, this is a *tiny* loan in the grand scheme of things. I could go out to our local Porsche dealership tonight and get an auto loan (at a comparable rate, even) for a new Cayenne without a problem — but for this I need to jump through hoops. It’s just a little frustrating…

    So, back on topic… No word on the results of the appraisal yet — though my credit card was dinged for $445 for good measure. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be $445 spent for nothing.

    Wednesday was Duncan‘s first birthday and we spent the day at the Bronx Zoo. The picture at the top of this post was taken on Wednesday.

    It was a nice change of pace, taking a Wednesday off from work, but somewhere along the way (I wrestled a hippo) I messed up one of my wrists pretty badly. I mean, it hurts…

    A few years ago I jammed my other wrist playing hockey (and stupidly continued to play for months on end) and it took nearly a year before it felt 100%. This time, well, it’s *way* worse — one of those things where it’d probably have been a better outcome if I had just broken it…

    Thank goodness I’m right-handed *and* we’ve already moved 99% of the heavy stuff out to the POD already.

    Thursday night we had the contractor that gave us the $33487.70 quote come back to go over his crazily over detailed quote for our first floor renovation in more general terms and to ask a few more questions.

    After a couple of hours — mostly spent shooting the breeze — we signed off on it and even wrote the first check.

    Today, Friday, we wrote that $17000 credit card check to ourselves to get all of the money needed in place for the renovation.

    So, yeah, it’s been a pretty busy week and, hopefully, next week we’ll find out how the apprasial went and if the re-fi is going to go through, and if we’re really lucky, demolition might even begin on the house.

    Magical UnicornAnd, if everything goes right, maybe my wrist will magically heal too…

    Don’t unicorns have healing powers?

    I can’t believe that I just mentioned unicorns twice in one post.

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    Tomorrow is Duncan‘s first birthday. Yep, an entire year has gone by since that sweaty palm countdown finally ended.

    Since he’s become pretty aware of things around him, like birds, bumble bees, and the neighborhood cats, we thought it’d be a good idea to take him to the zoo for his birthday.

    Specifically, the Bronx Zoo.

    So, while researching how much this excursion would set us back (since we’re a wee bit tight on cash right now), we noticed that the Bronx Zoo has a “pay-what-you-like” promotion on Wednesdays!

    How about that? Perfect timing for a birthday!

    Now, I’m not going to say that we’re going to walk in without paying a dime (I’m sure they guilt you into some sort of donation, you know, to save the rainforest or something) but it will certainly save us a few bucks.

    Even better — the weather is supposed to be nice and sunny!

    The Worst of RoomsSo you might be wondering, “Brainy, how on earth are you going to pay for a $33,487.70 renovation when the last time I checked, you only had $16k saved up?”

    Well, we’re going to split it — half from savings and, since it worked out so well on the siding project, half on a credit card… my wife’s credit card.

    You know, with her superior credit score and all, the single credit card she carries has a better offer on the table right now than any in my arsenal.

    We’re going to go with $17k at zero percent for 12 months with a 2% ($340) transaction fee.

    Here’s my super conservative plan on how we’ll wipe that one out with $750 monthly payments:
    Proposed Payment Plan

    Using this super conservative payment plan, we’ll pay over $1k in interest (which doesn’t exactly make me all warm and fuzzy) but the pace is so conservative that I’ll be able to rebuild my savings rapidly at the same time.

    If it gets to the point where I can’t handle the idea of paying the interest, well, my savings will have grown enough so that I’ll be able to pay it off in full — if I want to.

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    It was pretty neat how they dropped it in the driveway with the detachable hydraulic lift that came off of the delivery truck…

    Best of all, it was in place before 7:30 am leaving us a full day (unexpected) to start filling it up!

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    PODS LogoSo the ball is rolling…

    Actually, saying “the ‘wrecking’ ball is looming” would be a more accurate statement…

    The quote for our first floor renovation is in and we’re scheduled to have one of those PODS self storage unit things delivered tomorrow morning.

    The POD is only setting me back around $300 for delivery and the first month and then about $160 per month after that.

    Kinda pricey, I think…

    A bit more expensive than that storage unit we had years ago but when it’s right in front of your house, well, it’s a lot more convenient for something that I expect to be short term…

    Besides it’s pocket change when compared to what the renovation is going to set us back.

    Ready for it?

       » $33,487.70

    We haven’t signed the dotted line yet… but we’re going to…

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    Home sweet home.
    So it’s been over two weeks now since we initiated the re-fi and everything is set and ready to go except for one thing…

    The appraisal.

    We’re dragging our feet on this because of the entry room of our house. It’ll kill an appraisal on it’s own.

    The picture above is actually a glimpse of the room I’m referring to in all of its glory — not something stolen from some random person’s flickr gallery. That’s my actual house. It’s bad. Seriously.

    Now for most people, the appraisal is little more than a formality but for us, well, we could have a diamond encrusted bathtub in the bathroom and it wouldn’t matter… The entry room is a deal breaker.

    The original plan — two weeks ago — was to get some shady drywall contractor to come out to do a quick and dirty cover-up just to get through it…

    The more we thought about it, though, the more we thought that might not be the right move.

    Let’s do this right.

    On Wednesday night we had an extreme makeover type of contractor come over. We told him that this entry room was the primary focus right now but that we’d actually like to have the entire first floor renovated but due to budget concerns, for now, everything on the first floor except for the kitchen.

    I’m not saying that the kitchen doesn’t need to be renovated — it certainly does — but, for now, well, we can live with it.

    Though we only wanted 3 rooms renovated and a new staircase (maybe 650 square feet total) he went through our entire house from top to bottom. Yep, he went up to the attic. Scoped out the entire upstairs, the rooms we actually want gutted, and the basement too.

    He was basically picturing it all in his head — you could see it in his eyes — and looking for potential stumbling blocks. Oddly enough, I think it worked in our favor that we’d already destroyed one room so that he could see exactly what he’d be working with behind all of the plaster

    He flat out said, “You should start by replacing all of the wiring…”

    It’s not that I didn’t know that — it’s just that I’ve never been sure what order to do things in.

    I mean, do you replace a floor before or after you put up drywall?

    It was only after the fact that we learned that you should replace siding before a roof — I don’t want to make that mistake again and I wish one of the contractors we’d had over back then would have mentioned it.

    On that note, I also don’t ever want to deal with terrible contractors ever again…

    This guy, who didn’t seem like a seedy scumbag for even a second, didn’t seem phased or unsure about anything our 125+ year old house threw at him.

    If anything, I think he was shocked at the quality and condition of the workmanship within which, yeah, made me feel pretty good about my currently crappy house.

    When he asked what our budget was for the three rooms I lowballed a $15-$20k number (which we’ve already saved up).

    He mulled it over — likely scaling back what he’d imagined in his head considerably — and finally said it’d probably cost a bit more than that but we’d be shoring up some support columns in the basement and re-wiring the entire house as well… two things that I’d wanted done anyway but wasn’t sure how to work it in to the equation.

    If he comes in at $30k, this is a done deal.

    Even $35k, it’s a done deal.


    Well, let me get back to you on that…but still, pretty likely something we’ll move forward with…

    So now the plan for the appraisal depends on what this specific contractor comes back with.

    If it’s a number that works for us, we’re going to get one of the PODs delivered ASAP and we’re going to completely empty the entire first floor of our house in anticipation of the demolition phase for the remodel and then schedule the appraisal.

    With a completely bare (and possibly even already gutted) first floor, my hope is that it will appear to the appraiser that we’re in the midst of an extreme renovation and that’s why our home looks incomplete.

    Sure, it could backfire but the way things are now, it’d backfire anyway.

    A re-fi isn’t a “this must happen” thing for us. We’re doing alright as it is — I just wanted to finally skirt PMI and lower my payment at the same time.

    Basically, if it doesn’t go through, we’re out around $400 for the appraisal and life goes on. We’ll be fine and I’ll still plan on paying off the mortgage before Duncan is even out of elementary school and before I turn 40.

    The best news, though, is that we’re *finally* moving on this renovation.

    Nothing is signed but the first step has been taken and I’m excited…

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    One annoyance that I seem to stew over repeatedly is traffic.

    It’s never the number of cars on the road — my commute is quite tame. All two miles worth.

    Instead, even with such a short commute, it’s the number of, well, criminals and just plain idiots out there on the road with me.

    I’ve ranted about Virginia drivers — I’m sorry, you’re terrible.

    I’ve gone on and on about how practically every other car in Connecticut has a temporary handicapped placard hanging from their rearview when it’s quite clear that there isn’t anyone with a physical handicap in the car.

    Red lights? who cares! Apparently these days you just need to honk your horn as you speed through one and it’s okay.

    It drives me bonkers when I see a smoker toss a butt out the window. That’d be like me throwing gum wrappers out the window (which I don’t). The former is apparently okay but the latter is littering? Explain that one to me…

    I nearly explode when I see someone empty an entire ashtray at a stop light (if they even bothered to stop.)

    School buses? Don’t even get me started.

    And I’m not even going to go into my feelings on texting while driving.

    Would you believe that I actually saw a guy texting while on a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago? No joke… I should have run him over…

    So go back up to the photo at the top of this post.

    This guy was in front of me at an ATM last weekend. Everything seems to be pretty normal to the untrained eye but when you look a little closer, this is kind of like when a bank robber puts on a fake moustache to hide their identity…

    The dealer logo on his truck indicated that he bought the truck less than one mile from where I live so… isn’t it a but odd that he has a Florida license plate? A special one, even…

    Wonder why that is?

    Well, I’ll tell you why…

    He’s a tax cheat.

    Here in Connecticut, we need to pay personal property taxes on our automobiles.

    It sucks — I’ll be the first to tell you.

    The very illegal way around this, though, is to register your car in another state. That way Connecticut has no idea that you even own the car (which seems odd in this digital age)…

    Florida, apparently, is an easy state to “use” in this situation.

    Seriously, I’d say that 10% of cars on the road in Connecticut have Florida plates slapped on them right from day one. Really, I’ve never seen a space shuttle or a manatee in Connecticut but they’re all over the license plates up here.

    Further, 90% of the cars with Florida plates have bogus handicapped placards too.

    Hey, if you’re going to break the law, why not go all out, right?

    So back to this tax cheat, I mean, you’d think that allegedly being a fire fighter, you know, he’d hold himself to a higher standard being a pseudo government official of sorts.

    Really, some even consider them heroes. I’m not of that sort but that’s neither here nor there…

    Even still, I think we can all agree that heroes should pay their taxes.

    What really blows my mind is that the police (also apparently heroes) don’t seem to care.
    You’d think that our state government would be upset about all of this lost tax revenue, not to mention illegal tax evasion going on.

    It’d be quite easy to stop and then enforce — I mean it’s right out in the open under their noses.

    Just using the guy up top as an example:

    • His car was purchased at a dealership in central Connecticut.
    • He has a bumper sticker touting that his kid was a student of the month at a local elementary school.
    • His freakin’ vanity plate clearly indicates that he’s a “Connecticut Fire Fighter”.
    • His car is registered in Florida.

    Um, can you say guilty?

    Can You Dig It?