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Website Issues

June 7th, 2015 at 06:07 pm

We are aware of the forum issues and are working to get them resolved. We are in the process of increasing security on our server and it's causing random issues around the site. Please be patient and let us know if any that you come across so we can fix them asap

Forum Posting Issues - Access Denied

September 2nd, 2009 at 12:22 am

We are having issues with the forums and many of you are getting messages that you can't post or reply because you don't have the access to do so. Nate is working on this and hopefully we'll have the issue resolved soon. Apologies for the inconvenience

Jeffrey and Nate

Confessions of a Dumpster Driver

May 4th, 2007 at 01:48 pm

The following was sent in by Dave, a savingadvice member that doesn't have a blog and didn't want to start one for just one post, but wanted to enter the contest.:

If you have never dumpster dived, then you probably have an image that isn't too positive about this activity. I know, because I once had the same image. I thought that it was for young people with no money and people who couldn't afford to purchase merchandise from a regular retail outlet. Had I known back when I was younger what I know today, I would have started this years ago.

Over the years I have come to realize that there are a large number of positive aspects to dumpster diving that the average person is simply unaware exist. I believe even those than may at first turn their nose up at the thought of dumpster diving should give it a try at least once.

One of the greatest joys I get from dumpster diving is that not only do I find stuff for myself, I can also help out charities at the same time. If I come across something in good condition, but I really don't need it (this happens a lot), I still take it with me. I'll then donate it to my local Goodwill or Salvation Army store.

I would donate the stuff I don't need to charity even if it didn't help me, but one of the the great benefits of donating these finds to charity is the tax deductions I receive for doing so. That means that in addition to helping out charities, I get some tax write-offs on my federal taxes.

Another option that you will realize quite quickly is that many of the things that your find when dumpster diving have value beyond giving to charity. The items with a higher value I sell and make some money. With the Internet and sites like eBay and Craigslist, it makes it quite easy to sell many of the items reclaimed from the dumpster. While I only make a bit this way, I know quite a few people who make a reasonable second income through dumpster diving.

A surprising benefit of dumpster diving is it's a great way to get extra exercise and stay healthy. First and foremost, it gets me up from the couch in front of the TV and out of the house. I get exercise not only picking up the objects that I find, but also climbing in and out of dumpsters. While it's nothing like running a marathon, I think most people would be surprised at the amount of physical stamina it takes and my health has improved from this activity.

One of the more controversial areas of dumpster diving are those who dumpster dive for food. I'll admit this was an area that I was sort of disgusted by when I first heard about it. The fact is that there is a lot of food that is thrown out that is still quality. Grocery stores must throw out food when it reaches its expiration date, but that expiration date assumes that a person purchasing it will keep it in their house for a specific amount of time after that date. That means that if you pick up food from a grocery store that has been thrown out, it's still very likely to be good. I found that once I got over the initial impression of dumpster diving for food, much of the food that is thrown out is prepackaged and individually wrapped so that even though it is found in a trash bin, it is still in perfect shape and perfectly edible. In the end this is something that you have to decide for yourself, but if you do decide that this is an acceptable find, you will get a lot of free food.

One of best parts of dumpster diving is the opportunity to find prizes. That is, a lot of stores give away game pieces to their customers and the game piece may win the customer a prize. The fact is that many people never look at the game pieces and simply throw them away. For example, when McDonald's has the their Monopoly type game where you need to find several pieces to win a prize, there are always an abundant amount of those game pieces to be found in the trash. In addition there are instant win prizes that can be found.

While this may be a surprise to most people, it is also possible to win money from lottery tickets found in a trash. I have no idea why, but people end up throwing away a winning lottery tickets from time to time. While I don't find winning lottery tickets very often, I have found a number of them over the years. These are usually in small amounts with the biggest winning ticket I have found to date being worth $20. Still, it adds some excitement when you are dumpster diving and find a ticket that is worth some money.

One of the things that I really enjoy about dumpster diving is that it is environmentally friendly. All the things that you reclaim from the dumpsters were headed to landfills. By taking them out of the dumpster, you give the items a new life and avoid adding more to landfills.

Another aspect of dumpster diving that surprises most people who first begin is the wide variety of people that you meet while doing this activity. The vast majority of the people you will meet when dumpster diving will be quite friendly and dumpster diving will give you an opportunity to make a lot of new and unique friends.

Dumpster diving will also save you money. Since I find so many different things when dumpster diving, I don't need to purchase any of the items I'm able to find. I figure that I save a couple hundred dollars each month on things I would have had to buy, but I end up finding for free while dumpster diving.

While all the above reason contribute to why I enjoy dumpster diving, the number most enjoyable aspect of dumpster diving for me are the adventures I have and the stories that come from doing this activity. From the people I meet to the different items that I find, there's an adventurous tale to tell almost every time I go out and dumpster diving. These tales make for great conversation and have enticed many others to give dumpster diving a try.

Blog Contest 5/1 - 5/15: Confessions

May 2nd, 2007 at 02:42 am

The first blogging contest is over and we had 19 entries. You can vote for your favorites. The entries have been divided into 4 groups and voting will last 1 week. The top 2 from each group will be in the finals for the prizes. You can vote here:

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4

The next blogging contest theme is "Confessions of a" - simply begin the title of your post with this phrase to enter the contest.

These don't necessarily need to be your personal confessions, but can be confessions of something you do with the point being trying to help others learn about some money matter from your confession(s).

For example, Confessions of a retail clerk may say something like "if you are nice to me, I have the authority to give you up to a 10% discount on the items you buy"

Confessions of a gym manager could be "the price of a gym membership is always flexible and not necessarily what is printed on the signs in the gym"

Prizes for the top 3 will once again be $25, $15 and $10. Have fun and if you have any questions, let me know.

Blogging Contest 4-18 - 4-30

April 18th, 2007 at 10:25 pm

This is going to be a test to see how much interest there is in something like this for those of you writing blogs. We are going to have a little blogging contest with small prizes: $25, $15 and $10

The theme is: "How to...."

You can write a post on anything with a How To theme. You are free to write more than one if you'd like. Nate and I will pick the best submissions to be in the finals where all forum members can vote.

We know that everyone has different experiences and we hope that by getting all the interested bloggers to write about experiences that they have had and learned from, the information will help others as well.

To have your post entered in the contest, all you have to do is title it beginning with "How to"The contest will run from today until April 30. If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the forums (or here) and we hope that there is enough interest that we can have these on a regular basis.

Jeffrey and Nate

I Love Nude Yoga!

December 28th, 2006 at 01:59 am

I, apparently, am fond of nude yoga. I found this out today when a reader sent me the following Amazon reviews that "Jeffrey Strain" wrote (he wanted to know if I had written them). I also apparently find Nude Personal Training "An Inspirational Exercise Tape" and was disappointed with Nude Cardiovascular Workout/College Co-eds Uncovered because it was shot "hot in a small room, with bad lighting, and ill-considered camera angles."

While there are a great many things you can control with what you do on the Internet, one thing that you have little control of on the Internet is what people with the same name as you do. While something like this may seem humorous at first glance, it could have significant financial repercussions depending on your employment situation.

More and more companies are doing searches on the candidates that are applying for jobs. If one of them searched "Jeffrey Strain" they would see that Amazon entry appear on the front page and if they assumed that it was I who wrote it, it could have consequences on whether or not I would receive the job.

If you are in a position where people will be looking up information about you, having people with the same name doing inappropriate things under your name could come back to haunt you in a number of ways that you might not even be aware that are happening (if a company decides not to give a sale to you because of something they disagree with that was written by someone with your name, they are not likely to tell you).

If you are looking to change jobs or in a position where you believe others will be searching your name, it's worthwhile to know what is going to turn up if someone happens to Google your name. If there is something that is present which is embarrassing that may be attributed to you, then you can explain away the situation before it even becomes an issue.

This is yet another reason why I feel that getting your name's domain name is one of the best investments you can make. No matter how much writing I do about personal finance, if some other Jeffrey Strain had the domain JeffreyStrain.com and decided to use it to share his various nude exercise video reviews, it is quite likely that his material would be at the top of any search engine search for the name Jeffrey Strain. By claiming your name you ensure that you have control of what gets associated with it which can save you a ton of grief depending on how stupid other people in the world that happen to have your name are.

While this particular instance has little effect on me (and no, I did not write those reviews), I'm sure that there are more than a few people on the Internet who have people with their same name that they would give practically anything to make them disappear. While there is little that you can do in most situations, taking as much control as you possibly can over your own name is an important first step to limit the damage.

50 Things About Me You Didn't Know

November 15th, 2006 at 11:21 pm

I started making this list a while back and never got around to finishing it. Nate was doing some work on the blog yesterday, read it and said that I should finish it. I'm sure that some of you are going to say, "what?!? This is the guy running this website?" after reading this (I probably would be), but I enjoy reading about all of you so sharing these seems to be appropriate. So here it is - 50 things about me that you probably don't want to know, but hey, it's me...

1. I had a Mohawk in college - electric blue.

2. I still had the Mohawk when I attended my father's second wedding (although I did take the electric blue coloring out)

3. I have jumped into a glacier ice pool naked. It was cold...I mean really, really cold (I haven't always been the brightest bulb of the bunch)

4. I ran a marathon. I could barely walk for a week afterward. I never plan on running one again.

5. I was a slacker until college and credit my friends there for turning me around. They would have conversations about virtually any subject and all were able to give a quality opinion about whatever the subject was - something that I couldn't do at the time. I decided that I wanted be able to hold a quality conversation on any subject and that is when I began to enjoy learning.

6. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received after graduating was that I can hold a conversation on any subject.

7. For the "how to do" something class presentation I had to give in high school as a junior, my class presentation was "How to cheat in class and get away with it" I got an A on the presentation, but also landed in the principals office.

8. I wrote a paper in college on the the differences between US and Japanese non verbal behaviour so I had an excuse to travel and visit my best friend who was studying in Japan at the time. A perk of being a Sociology major (although worthless in every other respect).

9. I also wrote a paper on the behavior of people waiting in ski lines which meant I had to go skiing 3 straight weeks (have to study ski lines all over the slope since the ones at the bottom might not give an accurate representation of all of them). Maybe the Sociology major wasn't such a bad choice after all Wink

10. After sitting on the bench for my high school basketball team for three years, I finally worked my way into a starting position my senior year. I gave it up to go on a two week trip with my dad through Asia over winter vacation (instead of attending mandatory practices). It was one of the toughest decision I had to ever make, but I don't regret it at all. I still love shooting baskets and it one way that I relax when I get stressed.

11. When I landed in Japan, I didn't know a word of Japanese. I was promptly shipped out to a small town in the Japanese countryside where nobody spoke a word of English. I spent the next six months with a headache trying to understand what everyone was saying and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

12. Due to my terrible lack of Japanese skills, I mangled the language enough times to write a book about mistakes not to make in Japanese including:

Telling the mayor of my town that he was a giant cockroach
Telling the women that had babies in town that their babies looked "pitiful" for several months
Telling all the students at the junior high school where I taught that I liked to take drugs in my spare time
Telling a police officer that my car had broken down and there was a dead body in it.

I think you get the drift that me and the language were in conflict a great deal of the time Wink

13. I played competitive badminton in high school. I did so because I had a crush on one of the girls on the team. I never went out with her, but became one of the better badminton players in our school district.

14. I traveled with my wife for 9 months around the world before we got married. I figured if we were still speaking after that time period traveling, then marriage should be a breeze.

15. My policy is to not eat blue food. It's just not a natural color for food to be.

16. I'm an insomniac. I usually get to bed around 3:00 AM, but I have mastered the art of taking thirty minute power naps when needed.

17. I have travelled to 30 different countries. My goal is to reach 100.

18. I hate it that many countries no longer stamp your passport. Passport stamps are just plain cool. I sometimes ask if they will give me a stamp if I think they aren't going to give me one.

19. I was living in the Kobe area of Japan when the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred. I went into downtown a few days later to deliver medicine to my wife's aunt. It looked like a war zone and it's something I hope I never have to see again.

20. I have never owned a mobile phone nor do I have any desire to own one.

21. I've learned to eat virtually any type of food (except if it is blue, of course) although I have also learned to never ask what I'm eating until after I have finished it.

22. When I have have to teach a class or give a speech, I get physically ill before hand. Once it starts, however, I feel fine.

23. I like being alone, especially when I walk. It gives me time to think.

24. I never go for the closest spot in the parking lot. This drives my wife crazy.

25. I hate driving. The one thing I really miss about Japan was that there was no need to drive anywhere since public transportation was so good.

26. People often have a hard time telling when I'm telling the truth and when I'm joking. My humor tends to be very dry.

27. I would never want to be recognizably famous. Being a foreigner in rural Japan gave me a taste and it sucks.

28. I can easily amuse myself and I often laugh out loud when alone. This drives my wife crazy because it is considered very strange in Japan.

29. I was forced to learn to swim when I was young after almost drowning (I vaguely remember this and it might be my earliest memory). I ended up being a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons for all the summers I was in college.

30. My first job out of college was working for Hallmark Cards. It didn't take me long to know I didn't want to spend my life writing greeting cards.

31. I drove a stick shift car 3 hours through the mountains when I had a broken leg (it was in a cast, but the broken leg had to use the clutch) to pick up a friend stranded with a broken hand (long story...)

32. I like money not because of the merchandise it can purchase, but because of the freedom to do the things I want it gives (and I think a lot more people would be happy if they learned that).

33. When I ski, I use a monoski (single ski like a snowboard, but regular ski bindings pointing straight ahead like skis)

34. I am one of the few white males I know that has seen both subtle and overt racism directed directly at him. I think everyone should feel that once (but only once) and I think the world would be a lot more tolerant place.

35. One of the most profound points of wisdom came from a six year old girl who looked up at me and said "You're tall. You must see the world much differently from me." It made me realize that two people in the exact same room can see something completely different depending on what they focus on and their perspective.

36. I am a man and I can ask for directions when lost.

37. I had a machine gun pointing at me for an hour over bumpy roads in Guatemala (the gun was in between the legs of a soldier who leaned it in my direction and promptly fell asleep). I prayed the whole time that the safety was on and haven't been more scared in my life...

38. I've seen a jaguar in the wild (not an easy feat) and have swum with dolphins in the open ocean. I want to go to Africa to see the wildlife there before I (or they) die.

39. I spent my senior year in high school wearing one black shoe and one white shoe to school for no other reason besides it didn't make sense to anyone else.

40. I'm totally bummed that I lack artistic talent.

41. I paid for a good portion of college education with baseball cards - probably the first entrepreneurial experience I had which started in jr. high school. I never thought of it that way then. I just had fun doing it.

42. Even though I warn people to be very careful when loaning money to family and friends, I loaned my best friend from college a large sum at one point. It was one of the best decisions I made.

43. I love to people watch.

44. When people ask me the question "what animal would you like to be?" I always answer "a sponge." I don't remember exactly why I decided on a sponge, but one time when I was in jr. high school I sat down and decided to come up with an answer to that question and that was the answer I came up with (the reasons to the question "why?" that inevitably comes have changed over the years). I have used it automatically ever since and it always catches people by surprise.

45. I took my date to the Golden Gate Bridge, walked to the center, set up a folding table and chairs and had sparkling cider, cheese and cracker (wasn't brave enough to try champagne) before our senior prom. Great memory, but we froze our butts off.

46. I have participated in a Rocky Horror Show lip sinc contest before.

47. I sleep on the floor when I travel (beds seem to be too soft most of the time).

48. I work much more efficiently when there is some type of background noise like the radio.

49. I am more disappointed when I go to sleep than when I wake up because I know there isn't enough time to do all the things that I want to do.

50. My goal is to be writing this blog from exotic locations all over the world within the next 3 years.

Amazing Way To Fold A T-Shirt

October 4th, 2006 at 02:40 pm



This is a great trick that my wife taught me when she got tired of me folding my shirts in all shapes and sizes (and not very neatly). If I can do this, anyone can. Your friends will be incredibly impressed when you show them how to do this. Enjoy and pass it along Smile

My Money Forest Interview

September 1st, 2006 at 08:42 am

Earlier this week, Tim over at My Money Forest asked me quite a few questions for his blog about Nate and I and SavingAdvice.com. If you're curious about the two of us that are running this site and about the sites we run, the following questions were asked and answered:

Jeff, how did you and Nate meet?
How long have you two been working together?
Are the day jobs you two have related to any of your websites?
What prompted you two to start your own Internet empire (in the making)?
How is the empire structured legally (Inc., LLC, partnership)?
Across all the websites: How many page views? How many uniques?
How much time on average per week is dedicated to the maintenance and content creation of your websites?
From what Iíve been able to gather you two have nearly 50 satellite sites, how many do you plan on creating?
Of all the sites you two own, which one[s] is/are your favorite to work on?
Do you two tend to use open-source platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and others? Or does Nate tend to code them?
At some point will blogging and website creation turn into a full-time job?
Whatís been the biggest challenge in running the websites?
I bet it feels really good to have mainstream media pickup on your articles. How long after SavingAdvice.com was launched did you get the first media mention
When you launched SavingAdvice.com how did you encourage people to sign up for the forums and post messages?
You host over 100 personal finance blogs on SavingAdvice, is there profit sharing with the bloggers or do they blog for free?
Whatís the most interesting thing youíve learned from your members on SavingAdvice?
Why do you think you two have been so successful?
What inspires you two to keep working on your businesses?
Anything new and exciting in the pipeline youíd like to mention?

You can find all the answers in his post Get Personal Finance Advice at SavingAdvice.com Enjoy and feel to throw out more if you'd like Wink

LuckyRobin In the Media

August 24th, 2006 at 12:24 am

I'm not sure if everyone will like this or find it a bit scary, but your blogs are starting to attract attention in other areas on the Internet. I just wanted to send out congratulations to LuckyRobin who wrote about cooking and the heat which received a mention in a recent Kansas City Star article. A big congratulation on the mention!

Shower Cap Food Storage Video

August 23rd, 2006 at 04:30 am

Well all, here is the first video I made with the new digital video camera I just purchased. Bear in mind that this was purely a test video to see if I could 1) take it 2) upload it to my computer 3) edit it and 4) upload it to youtube - I managed all except for the editing which I'll have to figure out.

Anyway, since this is the first time to video tape something with this camera, I wasn't sure what to do. I was taught this little trick with a shower cap and storing food so decided to tape it. Anyway, here it is and be kind Wink

Nate & Jeffrey

August 16th, 2006 at 08:53 am

For all of you wondering what the two of us look like, here is a photo of us in front of the Luxor hotel before going to see a comedy show there. I'll be posting more photos this week as I get time to write about our trip there.



New Family Member

June 3rd, 2006 at 10:18 am

Leave it to my wife to find us a new family member in the days before going back to the US. While we already have a houseful of Hello Kitties, we're also working on the real thing.

Our latest family member arrived this afternoon when my wife found a stray kitten sticking out of a water drain pipe of a cement wall next to a busy street. That meant instant new family member. He comes home to the current family which consists of three other stray cats and a stray dog which have been adopted over the years as they crossed our paths when we've been out.



His name is TsuTsu - which means drainpipe (the pronunciation) in Japanese. Now my wife likes the sound of tsutsu, but there was no way she was going to name the kitten "drainpipe" so she changed the Japanese characters to have the same pronunciation, but different Japanese characters.



Tsutsu appears to be about a month old or so - his teeth have all grown in, but still tries to nurse. The other cats don't seem to be too thrilled to have a new brother, but that always seems to be the case when a new stray arrives. Here are a couple more photos:



Penny Pincher Of The Year Contest

May 16th, 2006 at 02:48 pm

If you are good at saving money and do so with unique ideas (or know somebody that does), the Washington Post wants you for their Penny Pincher of the Year Award (cash prizes awarded). Seems like a great idea for many of you here - hope you take the time to enter.

I Used To Do This

April 24th, 2006 at 03:57 am

I had to smile when I saw this one because I used to do it - not necessarily for giving hope, but to bring a smile to their faces. It's funny watching people. Lots would simply walk by, but those who stop and pick up pennies almost always have a smile on their face like they have found a hidden treasure. Try it sometime!



From Post Secret

Spammed To Death

April 20th, 2006 at 03:45 pm

Just wanted to give a big apology to the few of you who had the spam bots get through our defenses - if you were one of them, you'll know because your mailbox probably has close to 100 emails of posts to your blog in it. I spent over 2 hours today deleting spam messages on blogs here (if you come across ones that I missed, send me an email so I can clear them out) and clearing out my mailbox (let's just say it wasn't a pretty site with hundreds upon hundreds of spam posts) While it wasn't good at all, the barriers that Nate did set up worked on more than 90% of them (we still got them all though).

Nate will be adding another (hopefully today) barrier to try and foil the ones that got through this time.

It's days like today that I have to remind myself that I really do love this job Wink

Show Me Your Coin Jar!

April 10th, 2006 at 03:14 pm

Okay, I admit it. I have a curiosity of people's coin jars. I love it when I visit a house for the first time and they have their coin jar in full view. I find it interesting the way that people collect their coins. Even though almost everyone in the world does it, no two coin jars are quite the same.

Some people will put bills in with the coins while other wouldn't be caught dead doing so. Sometimes the coin jar becomes a mini pack-rat collection of small things with screws, thumb tacks, paper clips and rubber bands thrown into the mix. Other times the coin jars are so neat that the family has a different jar for each different type of coin: penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar. Some families have a community coin jar where everyone leaves their coins together, while other families have a coin jar for each individual.

"Jar" is also used extremely loosely here. While a good many are made of glass, just as many are made of different material in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the coin jar was a default - the only thing around to hold coins when the person decided they needed to start a coin jar while other times it has been carefully chosen by the person to match his or her tastes.

I've had a wide variety of coin jars over the years. I'm the type that ends up using whatever happens to be around when I need to put a pocket full of change down. Currently I use two drawers next to my desk as my "coin jar" These are supposed to hold paper, but I defaulted them to my coin jar due to convenience. My wife ends up getting a lot of packages from her hobby/business and most of them are pay on delivery. That means I need easy access to coins quickly when the doorbell rings and a package needs to be paid for and the two drawers have proven to be the most convenient place thus far. Truly, there should only be one drawer, but for some reason I didn't specify which particular one when I first decided to make them my new coin jar and so they ended up in one or the other drawer. Being too lazy to dump all the coins from one drawer to the other, both ended up being coin jars together.



I think that the coin jar tells a little bit about you. my double drawer coin jar is typical of me. As you probably have already guessed, my wife's coin jar is Hello Kitty. Hers is actually a tin can and fits perfectly on a shelf in the living room. Not only is it neatly placed, you can also see that it is rather neat on the inside as well with only a few coins. Unlike me, she is good at spending the coins when she has the opportunity and thus her coin jar never gets that full and the two highlight our differences in this area.



I've often used money jars to help me remember people. For some reason, they have always been distinctive to me even when they were quite similar to someone else's. There has been more than one time when I've been asked by a someone, "Do you remember so and so?" and my reply would be "Oh, you mean they guy that has in coins in German beer stein with the half naked lady on it." At that point I would usually get a blank stare like I was half crazy since nobody but me would have noticed -- until I finished "yes, I remember him..."

I can still remember the money jar that my dad had when I was growing up. All his coins went into a a Miami of Ohio Beer college beer mug that sat on his dresser and later got moved into the closet changing room. my best friend from elementary school to high school had his in huge water cooler bottle and I remember when he decided to turn all the coins in we couldn't even lift it up it was so heavy.

Have a coin jar? Take a photo of it, place it in your blog or site and leave a comment here. I'd love to see it - a description on why you chose it would be all the better. I'll link back to one and all and can't wait to see what else everyone stashes their coins in...

Coin Jars Around The Blogosphere

Barb's Coin Jar: Armywife's Journal
Jane Dough's Coin Jar: Boston Gal's Open Wallet
CollegeSaver's Coin Jar: Life of a Poor College Student
Princess Perky's Coin Jar: Princess Perky's Page
Dawn's Coin Jar: Frugal For Life
Contrary1's Coin Jar: Contrary1'$ Money Musings
RS's Coin Jar: Young Professionals Financial Blog
kashi's Change Jar: kashi's journal

Cherry Blossoms In Kobe Japan

April 8th, 2006 at 02:01 pm

Spring is in the air and the cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom. That meant that we had to go out for cherry blossom viewing and none of this casually walking around viewing - my wife wanted to get dressed in her best spring kimono (with cherry blossom obi) to go out and view them. So today we took off at 4:00pm and did the rounds - here are a few photos from the trip:

Before we even left to get to the cherry blossoms, I had to take photos of the kimono:











We arrived to view the cherry blossoms with still a bit of daylight left outside:





but before long the sun started to go down:



Before it got completely dark I had to get at least one close-up



And as dusk turned to darkness, they turned lights onto the cherry trees







If it doesn't rain this week, we'll probably make one more trip to view the cherry blossoms (if it rains, then they all fall off). The cherry blossoms only last about a week, but Spring is now here.

What's On Your Desk?

April 5th, 2006 at 05:13 pm

Well, I couldn't pass up this opportunity. Bill Gates wrote an article appearing on Money.com titled How I Work: Bill Gates As you can imagine, Bill and I work a tad differently so I thought I would go through some of the differences:


Bill Gates' Desk
photo by Robyn Twomey from money.com

From the article, here is a nice photo of Bill Gates and his desk. this is what he has to say in relation to it and his office:

If you look at this office, there isn't much paper in it. On my desk I have three screens, synchronized to form a single desktop. I can drag items from one screen to the next. Once you have that large display area, you'll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity.

The screen on the left has my list of e-mails. On the center screen is usually the specific e-mail I'm reading and responding to. And my browser is on the right-hand screen. This setup gives me the ability to glance and see what new has come in while I'm working on something, and to bring up a link that's related to an e-mail and look at it while the e-mail is still in front of me...

The one low-tech piece of equipment still in my office is my whiteboard. I always have nice color pens, and it's great for brainstorming when I'm with other people, and even sometimes by myself.

The whiteboards in some Microsoft offices have the ability to capture an image and send it up to the computer, almost like a huge Tablet PC. I don't have that right now, but probably I'll get a digital whiteboard in the next year. Today, if there's something up there that's brilliant, I just get out my pen and my Tablet PC and recreate it.


As you can see, Bill Gates has a nice clean desk with hardly a piece of paper in site. Here, on the other hand, is my desk:



Not only does my desk have lots of paper, it has numerous low tech stuff too. Unlike Bill, I only have a single screen computer and since my desk (okay, I know, it isn't really a desk - it's an old dining table, but I call it my desk) is so small, I probably will never know about the truth of "once you have that large display area, you'll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity" because there is no room on my desk for a large display screen. That solves that Wink

While Bill has all his emails on his left screen, I have all my emails in a gmail account. Bill probably wouldn't be very happy with me about that. Bill's center screen is what he is usually working on - my only screen is what I'm working on, so you can see there are some very close resemblances between the two of us. Bill's browser is on the right screen - mine is mixed up with whatever I'm working on.

Bill also has a whiteboard (not shown in his photo) and I have a corkboard (not shown in my photo - see even more similarities!). His whiteboard is "low tech" My corkboard is also "low tech" - he will be getting a high tech whiteboard in the near future with the ability to capture images and send it to his computer. I will likely keep my corkboard and it already has the ability to makes things stick to it if I stick a pin through it (I like this a lot). Since Bill doesn't have a high tech whiteboard at the moment, he takes out his pen and Tablet PC and creates his brilliant ideas. I take out my Hello Kitty pen and Hello Kitty note pad (courtesy of my entrepreneurial wife) and scribble down my random thoughts.

As you can see, Bill Gates' desk and My Desk have quite a bit in common. I'm sure that this has intrigued you enough that I should go through some of the other things on my desk in Stop Buying Crap What's In Your Wallet fashion.



To the right I have my low tech calculator and my Hello Kitty notepad with a piece of plain paper (this upsets my wife to no end since there is no cute character on it) below where I write my random thoughts. If you look closely to the left, you can see my "Change Drawer" - this is a more convenient place for me to keep my change than in a jar.



To the right of my computer screen is my mini shelf with the book "The Big Money" that just came in the mail that I'm supposed to review. Hanging on the side is my yellow good luck charm from the God of Wealth with lots of random papers that need to be sorted (they will remain that way until my wife yells at me to clean it up).



On the left side of the desk are a bunch of sake cups and medals that I took out last week to put on eBay and still haven't gotten around to doing so. I hope to get to them soon, but probably won't until eBay forces my hand by having another sale. I also have my tin can pen and pencil bucket from Tokyo Disneyland.

I'm sure there are things of interest I left out - feel free to ask in the comment section and I will elaborate on anything you see that I forgot to mention. Oh, and of course put up photos of your desk and let us all know what is on it (and if you get really ambitious, you can compare it to Bill Gates' desk too)

Other Desks Out There

Financial Freedumb's Desk
Princess Perky's Page's Desk
Retire Young & Wealthy's Desk
The Internet Cash Flow Guy's Desk

Playing with photos

March 16th, 2006 at 08:57 am

Nate added a place where you can now add photos to your blog. So here are some random ones off my computer just to play around with the system a little



These are our three cats keeping each other warm. The one to the right is chibi, the one in the middle is marla and the one to the right is Live-chan (when we found her 8 years ago, we weren't sure she'd live the week she was in such bad shape - thus the name)



Marla sleeping - crazy cat



That's Margo, my niece and the writer of Financial Baby Steps - isn't she a cutie? Less than a year old and already a net worth of $3000+



Working on a bonsai tree display - we went there last weekend and they were pretty impressive. There were about 100 displays...



They were photographing a commercial of some type and the woman was wearing a beautiful kimono - the photo doesn't do it justice because I couldn't get close enough.

Those are some random photos to test the new system. Hope you like it.

Save Money On Your Phone Bill - Bermuda Style

March 11th, 2006 at 11:35 pm

While it's easy to complain about phone bills in the US, it's still a lot better situation than in many other countries (like Japan) and apparently Burmuda from this tongue in cheek article. A few bits from it:

The cost of phone service is one of those items over which consumers have little control. With local calls at 25 cents a go, or an hour (whichever comes first), one could limit the number of calls one makes, but in a free, American-style society, using a phone has come to feel like a right. I do a lot of my work by phone, and so regard the phone bill as a cost of doing business, much as the heroin user probably regards the cost of his drugs as just one of those unavoidable day-to-day expenses. Heroin would probably be cheaper...

I was paying 75 cents a minute. Apparently, they had a 19-cents-a-minute rate, but to qualify, you had to (a) know about it and (b) apply for it. That is what's called sharp practice. If you went into a store and bought a candy bar, and the cashier asked you for $5, you might think that was a bit steep. If you mentioned that fact, and were told that really it was only $1, but you had to fill out a form in advance to qualify, you'd shop elsewhere wouldn'd you? Yes, but I assumed that all the other telephone service providers - don't get me started - used the same vile practice at the time...

Now, here is how to save money on your phone bill:

1. Don't date Americans or anyone else dumb enough not to live in Bermuda.

2. Especially don't date those Americans who will promise to marry you and then dump you by e-mail just before Christmas because you're an insensitive clod. This will however cut down on your engagement ring expenses.

3. Before making those pesky long distance calls, telephone your long distance service provider each and every time to ask if they're changed their rate. Your Telco bill will be astronomical, but you can't win them all...


Nice Mention

February 18th, 2006 at 07:57 am

I think that anyone who writes hopes that those who read the writing find the information useful and worth their time. For me, often the best gauge on whether I have accomplished this is when others take the time to recommend one of my sites. It's the ultimate compliment when someone is willing to tell others that visiting here is worthwhile. I was recently informed about a nice write-up that I received from Harbor Credit:

Financial wisdom. Itís something that can only be gained through experience. And, it is that kind of wisdom that we at Harbor Credit want to make accessible to our customers Ė been there, done that kind of advice. Thatís why we've added PFAdvice.com to our Weblog listings. For more than a decade, moderator Jeffrey Strain has been writing about pertinent financial topics, from loans to taxes to investing, while only occasionally slipping into promotions and "entertainment value" quotes. For the most part, his PFAdvice.com Blog serves as a valuable forum for anyone interested in getting their finances straight.

With the huge number of personal finance writers out there from which to choose, I'm happy to see that my writing is useful enough to get the above recommendation.

Does Money Make You Sexier?

February 14th, 2006 at 02:14 pm

Sorry, I couldn't let this one go and I'm interested in getting the opinions of others on this. Let's just say that my eyes were rolling a tiny wee bit as I read this article over at msn titled Why the Donald gets all the girls?

Why do beautiful women keep marrying Donald Trump?

Most people -- at least most people who aren't billionaires or supermodels -- will answer that question with an insult directed at the latest Mrs. Trump. It's an insult that probably can't be printed on this Web site, but it rhymes with "because she's a bore."

We know why rich men marry beautiful women: for the sex, naturally enough, maybe even the love, as well as the companionship and perhaps the social status that marriage confers on a companion. (Grown men, particularly wealthy ones, can have mistresses, but there's something childish about a billionaire with a girlfriend.)



No one cuts women who marry rich men the same slack. We refuse to believe they honestly find these men attractive -- after all, the men they're marrying are usually decades older, and long past their looks-good-naked-in-the-daylight expiration date. Models and actresses who marry obscenely wealthy men, everyone agrees, must be interested in the money alone, and the power and the status it brings. They get through the sex by gritting their teeth or thinking of other, more pleasant things. (Like, say, their new credit limits.)

Maybe I'm filled with the milk of human kindness, or perhaps I have a soft spot for supermodels -- I'm a gay man, so I have at least one soft spot for supermodels -- but I actually believe that it's possible for a beautiful, young woman to fall in love with an obscenely wealthy older man.


Hmmmm, I guess the way I feel about it is that if she really does love Donald for who he is, I would have less respect for her than if she was just after the money...