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Archive for November, 2006

A tale of two scallions

November 29th, 2006 at 09:55 pm

I brought back two pots and topsoil from Thanksgiving with the 'rents.

I planted two scallions in one of the pots. They're just scallions bought from the store, with the greens cut off.

I measured them yesterday. 4.5 cm and 5 cm.

Today? One of them is still 4.5 cm...

But the other one is nearly 6 cm!

They're so cute! I'm going to be sad when I eat them.

Rock on! Guitar Hero 2.

November 28th, 2006 at 09:48 pm

I've decided on a little holiday splurge.

I generally don't do presents, and I have a very hard time spending on myself, but this year, in celebration of my newfound indepedence, I'm going to kill two birds with one stone.

I'm going to buy Guitar Hero 2 for the SO.

But wait, there's more!

I'm getting him GH2 because... I WANT TO PLAY IT! In two-player mode! ROCK ON!! Big Grin

The best part? Due to my SO's relationship with our school's computer store, he can order the game at cost from the distributor.

Which means I'll save $20-ish off the retail price of $80.

And now, I have something to look forward to! Smile

If only the damn game weren't so popular that it's backordered till goodness knows when... Grrrr...

Expense Log for November

November 28th, 2006 at 09:22 pm

11/1
- rent: $500
- credit card: $76.02

11/10
- $13, round-trip Amtrak tickets
- $1.25, shuttle bus

11/13
- $1.25, shuttle bus

11/16
- $10.21, HK market

11/17
- $6, pizza dinner

11/22
- $11, Metro-North

Utilities
- cable modem: $24
- electric: $28.10
- gas: screwed up

Wow. Total spending for the month, discounting rent, utilities, and student loans: $42.71.

Food total: $16.21. Because my mother bought me groceries for my birthday, and my father bought me groceries when I went home for Thanksgiving. Not because I, like, stopped eating.

New desktop for $200

November 25th, 2006 at 10:24 pm

(One of) my desktop PCs bit the dust a couple of weeks ago. It was a little over four years old.

My father jumped at the chance to replace it for me.

The thing about our family is that we do not walk into a store and point to a box--oh no. My father's hard-core. Here's how we shop.

- Pentium D 830 3.0g GHz processor: $133.86 ($50 rebate)
- motherboard to match processor: $49.13
- 1 gig RAM: $149.99 ($100 rebate)
- cooling fan: $18.99 ($10 rebate)

End result?

A spanking new computer with quite decent specs for $201.20 (includes $9.23 shipping and handling).

The only caveat? Assembly required. Wink

He would've gotten me a double-layer DVD-burner to compliment my pre-existing CD-burner, but I turned it down. I also turned down a new monitor.

I did, however, accept a 1 gig Flash memory stick for $7.98 (after rebate).

I'm all tech'ed out for the season. Big Grin

I smell a ra(n)t coming--a reaction to Rich Dad Poor Dad

November 16th, 2006 at 12:33 am

Way back when, I read part of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki at the bookstore. I found it at the library sometime later, and have since finished the whole book.

I've been trying to write a post on it for a while now, but I've had blogger's block the entire time. I just... couldn't figure out how I felt about it.

On the one hand, the book introduced an entirely different way to think, which I've always found that to be valuable, even if I end up disagreeing vehemently in the end.

On the other hand, it just rubbed me the wrong way, and actively pissed me off in many parts.

I wanted to do a "balanced" post on it, discuss the book fairly, but everything I tried to write came out heavy-handed and negative, and I didn't feel comfortable or confident enough to post it.

But then I found John T. Reed's website, and the floodgates broke. This entry came pouring out, and here it is.

Beware, you are now entering Rant Country. Smile You have been forewarned.

To start off, I must point out that my family is pretty much a carbon copy of his "poor dad". And guess what? We're not rich, not by a long shot. So I don't know--maybe poor dad's views and advice are, in fact, antiquated, and causes one to be stuck in an inescapable rut/"Rat Race".

But in order to convince me that this is TRUE, especially since the majority--the VAST majority--of people are NOT rich, he must present logical, evidence-based arguments that this is the case. And I found Kiyosaki to be quite underwhelming in this regard.

First of all, a stylistic nitpick. His prose was god-awful. Having been a lit major for three years, I feel like I have the right to make this claim. Not only was his writing mind-numbingly repetitive and blatantly padded with extraneous phrases that were ultimately meaningless and downright distracting (he ought to either fire his editor, or hire one, seriously), he often takes a righteous, holier-than-thou attitude that I found incredibly distasteful and inappropriate (read: unprofessional). Most of the book felt like a mindless, barely coherent rant with quite a bit of propaganda.

I know this is harsh, but just based on the quality of the writing ALONE, I get warning bells on the intellectual acumen of its author. But enough about style. It's superficial, and I'm willing to overlook it if there's substance behind it.

...But is there?

One of Kiyosaki's main points is that "financial literacy" is more important than "traditional" education. After all, poor dad had a prestigious law degree and a successful "career", but he still struggled financially, while rich dad barely finished eighth grade (or something to that effect), and became one of the richest people in Hawaii.

I'll grant this point--to a degree. It's true that schools don't teach you "financial literacy"--if by "financial literacy" you mean "ability to analyze financial opportunities". That's not what schools are for. School is for learning how to think critically, nurturing intellectual passions, and developing skills for a fulfilling career, not for teaching ways to spot get-rich-quick schemes. Even if it's true (via the evidence-based research by the authors of "The Millionaire Next Door") that higher education is inversely correlated with net worth, it's certainly not because higher education teaches you to become a tool, which is essentially his argument.

To make himself sound more credible, no doubt, Kiyosaki claims to support "education reform". This sounds nice (since who would claim to be against it?), except if you actually READ into what he's saying, he's alarmingly anti-education, and I certainly wouldn't trust him to inform educational policy, since I seriously fear what he would do to the curriculum. His measuring stick for the value of any form of "education" is its ability to put (tax-deductible) profits into one's pocket.

I don't know about anyone else, but I find this to be quite disturbing. Whatever happened to learning something because you love it, not because it makes money? It's apparent that making money is right in line with Kiyosaki's own passions and priorities, but he must concede that at least for some people, it doesn't work that way? Maybe some people aren't willing to quit their full-time jobs so that they can "not work for money" by looking for real estate foreclosures and speculative microcap stock investments all day? Isn't there some sort of middle ground for the average Joe/Jane, who has a fulfilling career, but would still like some more financial security without sticking it to the Man, so to speak? According to Kiyosaki, such people are clueless, fearful, and wasting their potential genius. Uh, thanks. YOU find the cure for Alzheimer's Disease, then!! Sheesh.

Furthermore, I find his attempt to posit a dichotomy between "education" and "financial literacy" to be absurd. Financial literacy requires education. In my experience, many, if not most, subjects are easy to learn in terms of basics, but difficult to master thoroughly, and I believe the same is true for real estate and stock market investments. Now he may be just being selective about what constitutes "financial literacy" (knowledge useful for making money) and "education" (everything else), but the fact remains that I simply do not believe that such profitable real estate and stock market investments can be accomplished so easily and in a matter of hours. People spend years in those fields, gathering the experience and mastering the nuances. Kiyosaki himself claims that he doesn't invest in anything he doesn't understand. But reading this book is enough to send Joe Shmuck on his way from rags to riches?

To answer my own rhetorical question, NO, I don't think it's enough, and Kiyosaki doesn't think so, either. He gives himself away when he said that his personal examples of making money were "not recommended" and only meant to "inspire". Now if his examples were any good, they would be recommended, so I can only understand this to mean that his examples are, in fact, crap. So he's trying to inspire you with... crap. Wonderful disclaimer there, eh? Of course, a more charitable interpretation would be to say that he's admitting that these deals were closed by professionals, so don't try this at home, which implies that you do need REAL knowledge and training not given in his book to pull something like that off.

The only decent advice I feel he gives is his recommendation to buy "assets" and not "liabilities". But strip away the asset/liability rhetoric, and all that remains is the standard advice to maximize investments and minimize spending. So in the end, I really don't see what this book says that is new and valuable, despite its bestseller status.

Not all that glitters is gold?

Go Dems!

November 8th, 2006 at 11:37 pm

I don't know if I'm asking for trouble posting this, since I've been advised to never discuss religion or politics on the internet and/or with strangers, but...

SQUEE! Go Dems for taking back Congress! And buh-bye Rummy. Good riddance.

Without even going into other issues (don't really want to open that can of worms on a public forum), I, for one, am sick of the financial indiscretions of this Republican administration.

I fully and freely admit that I am nowhere near educated or informed enough to feel comfortable presenting an ind-depth argument supporting my views, which are subject to change, but at the moment, I'd call myself a FISCAL conservative.

That means responsible, sustainable government taxation and spending. I generally side with taxing the rich, and government spending for necessary or good causes (social justice, education, research and development, etc.).

Oh, did I mention minimal government debt? Yeah, can't forget that one.

What has this current administration achieved? Tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts in non-military research and development (which happens to pay my salary), corporate handouts, burgeoning national debt, and a downright financial HEMORRHAGE into Iraq (which has also achieved next to nothing), none of which is consistent with my financial philosophy.

Now I have no clue if the Dems will do any better, but I think it's time for a regime change.

In other words, I'm with the kitty on this one. Big Grin

Screwed up gas bill -- so confused

November 7th, 2006 at 04:01 pm

Something funky is going on with my gas bill, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

FYI, the gas company is Southern Connecticut gas, and the account is under my roommate's name.

It started last month, when the bill for September came in--

--as being $0.

Now since gas was obviously consumed during the month of September, it was kind of baffling. I told my roommate to call the gas company and ask, but he moaned and groaned and of course did nothing. His argument? They messed it up, they fix it themselves. The implication being--don't argue with a good thing, he'll take the free gas.

Um, okay. Not what I would do, but hey--his account, his problem, ultimately.

I surmised that the bill would probably be double for October.

Well, the bill for October just came in. It was... $3.48. Again--very, very wrong. Again, I told my roommate to call the gas company. Again, he's dragging his feet. I really can't get him to do anything that he doesn't want to do, because he is Just. That. Stubborn.

*bangs head*

I really don't know what any of this means. I just don't want him to accidentally default on the bill and get our gas cut off or something, or slap me with half the late fee/penalty when it finally catches up to him.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Credit card companies are grand

November 6th, 2006 at 07:32 pm

This is from the October 23rd issue of Time magazine, "How credit cards soak you", p. 90:

"Card companies are weighing a fee for people who pay their balance every month."

Well, isn't that grand.

I stand by my old adage of "TRUST NO ONE" when it comes to any entity that attempts to profit off of you.

You can never let your guard down, can you? Argh.