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Archive for June, 2012

My financial life, in a line chart

June 30th, 2012 at 08:10 pm

Among other questionable uses of my time, I created a rudimentary line chart some time ago. It tracks my net worth each January for the past 17 years, from 1996 through 2012.

I bought my house in December 1995 and used a good chunk of my savings as a 45% down payment. So 1996 seemed like a good time to begin the chart since my life savings were the lowest they'd been in a while.

What's interesting to me is how much I can read into this chart about the ebb and flow of my financial life, my career, unemployment and a few windfalls.

Let's take a look....

As you can see at the bottom left of the line, there was a nice, steady, upward trajectory in net worth from about $67,000 in 1996 to $221,000 in 1999. Those were the latter half of the good money days when I worked as a financial copywriter for a firm that sold mutual funds and annuities, but they were also high stress years with a long commute and not much of a social life. I socked away the maximum 15% in my 401k each year, contributed the maximum to my IRA and saved a few thousand more each year in taxable savings.

From 1999 to 2000, you can see an even steeper climb in net assets. It was in 1999 that I lucked out and sold some stock options. My two grandmothers both passed away around that time, around a year or so apart. I inherited from both.

From 2000 through 2003, I didn't seem to make much headway. Maybe because, burned out and tired of the long commute and demanding hours, I left the well-paying job in 1999 for a start-up financial publisher in my hometown, only to see that job, and its income, go kaput when the company folded a year-and-a-half later. A period of unemployment followed while I tried to make a go of freelancing full-time, as well as full-time, but low-paying work and some consulting.

From 2003 through 2007 there's another sharp climb in net asset, from $227,000 in 2003 to $437,000 in 2007. Those were bull market years, plus I was working full-time with no interruptions. (Even if you're unemployed for just a brief period between jobs, changing jobs has its penalty since many employers won't let you begin contributing to a 401(k) for 6 months.)

The big drop in 2009 was of course due to the stock market crash. That was also the year I was laid off. But as you can see, I've recovered net worth nicely in the past few years.

This is the big picture snapshot. There were a lot more fluctuations in the months between each January. My highest net worth, not really reflected in the line chart, was $525,000 in May 2011.

I was down about $25,000 in January 2012 compared to January 2011, but I did withdraw about $14,000 for vinyl siding last summer and I threw at least $15,000 at my mortgage around the same time. Because I'm not working steadily, I've been unable to replenish the funds taken out, which bothers me.

I've also plotted out my net worth on a monthly basis, and that reveals even more nuances than the year by year chart.

Scored some eggs

June 26th, 2012 at 01:11 am

My dilemma about what to do today sort of solved itself when the woman i do legal editing for asked me to edit her new website. I spent a few hours editing, and offered quite a few unsolicited, yet i think valuable ideas for further marketing herself (with my help, of course). This included blog posts, some PR and a vest pocket, leave-behind brochure about her services.

I'd love to get some extra work from her. She asked about my rates for the above, and I really made them much lower than what i charge my main real estate client. The difference is becus my real estate client is a corporation whereas this woman, a social worker aside from the guardian ad litem work she does, works for herself, so it's coming out of her pocket. But she won't be issuing me a 1099 so that will help make for it.

I want her to consider giving me work on an ongoing basis, not just as a periodic, one-time event, so I needed to make my prices reasonable.

Oh yes, the eggs. In between this morning's hail storm and this afternoon's thunderstorm, we had a brief hiatus, and I slipped out to run down to the farm. I scored some eggs from their help yourself system, basically a large cooler on their front porch. There were maybe 4 dozen eggs there and a small box where you put your money. $3 i consider a bargain for locally laid eggs. We'll see how good they are tomorrow at breakfast!

I picked two cups of loosely packed basil leaves from my plants and for dinner whipped up a batch of homemade pesto sauce. Normally I don't cook anything (is that the way you're supposed to do it?) but since I decided I would freeze the leftover portion, I blanched the basil leaves for just 1 minute. It seemed a lot less sharp/pungent than how it usually is, but still very good.

After work i went for a leisurely walk around the block where I saw a rainbow. Where's my pot of gold??

Violent hailstorm

June 25th, 2012 at 01:41 pm

We had an early morning (7:30 am) storm here, even hail. It's probably beaten down the bean seedlings.

The storm has passed but this was an entirely free day for me. I don't know what to do with myself! I had been toying with the idea of going kayaking, but it's wet, damp, and still very dark out there, plus thunder is still rumbling off in the distance.

For the same reason, I don't think i want to do weeding; I'll just get eaten up by mosquitoes.

I don't think I want to start the hypertufa until I'm read to buy the concrete and actually do it on the same day, because in this humid climate, I've found rock hard bags of unused concrete in my basement.

It's so dark and wet outside I'm disinclined to do much outdoors.

So...what to do, what to do.... about the only thing that appeals to me right now is maybe later i'll venture over to Cherry Grove Farm (don't you love that name?) and see if they have any eggs.

I'll likely read my simplicity book some more.

Anatomy of a purchase decision

June 25th, 2012 at 01:30 am

My attitudes about buying things have really changed in the past year. In fact, it's getting harder and harder to spend all these gift cards i've accumulated.

Case in point. i visited Home Goods a few weeks ago to try to spend a $25 gift card. You don't know how long I browsed the store. Twice down every row. Couldn't find anything I had to have. They must've thought I was trying to shop-lift or something. I did finally settle upon an attractive blue glass bottle wrapped in sisal, and a long, rectangular box made in India from a pinkish stone.

But then I reconsidered. I mean, what was I going to DO with these things. I would find a place for them and then they'd sit. Forever.

But darn. I had to use the gift card on something. So this a.m. I decided to head for TJ Maxx, which is owned by the same company as Marshall's and Home Goods. I figured I would get more use out of clothes and I do seem to have a shortage of presentable tops and bottoms.

I pretty much did the same thing at TJ Maxx as I did at Home Goods. Scourred the racks. Hit the dressing room I think 3 times. I finally settled on a pair of black capris, the kind made for working out, but so comfortable. They could be worn to my office. They were just $10, so I still had $15 to play with. I carefully searched through the shoes and didn't see anything remotely intersting. Then I browsed all the home decor aisles.

I was pretty well set on a largish yellow glass ball covered with macramed rope or something. It had a nautical feel to it. It would go perfectly with the goldish slipper chair I don't really care for, and the creamy yellow vase in my family room. I thought I would get a cute set of colored pencils carved out of wood, for my sister at Xmas.

Ahh, but then it hit me again. Why, I asked myself, am i buying more or less useless things? How will this improve my life? What purpose will these serve?

Reminding myself of my under-employment status (not that I could forget) I tried to think in more practical terms. So I spent the remaining $15 on gourmet imported food and toiletry items, the kinds of things I would never spend money on ordinarily, but since I had to spend it on SOMEthing in the store, i figured food would be a good choice. I would benefit in a tangible way. So i got some very interesting pasta sauce ($6 for the jar!) and some special honey (also $6) imported from Germany. Oh, yes, and a bar of soap with healthy ingredients.

It must have taken me 2 hours just to buy that stuff.

Then I did my usual grocery shopping and got tons of fruit, including nectarines and plums and organic grapes, plus some yummy dark chocolate-covered frozen bananas I'd never tried before. Also got a rotisserie chicken, which I chowed down on for lunch.

Dinner was light, just a large salad with greens from my garden (amazing they haven't bolted yet) and cucumber, tomato and croutons.

There are lots of green cherry tomatoes on my plants but nothing's ripe yet, and the one broccoli plant that had formed a small head, well, i didn't pick it soon enough and in the heat it's started to open up and bloom, so too late to eat it. I have a ton of snow peas in the fridge i need to do something with.

I learned to lift up the hay I've mulched with under the broccoli becus i discovered that's where the slugs hang out during the day and it's much esier to grab and fling them far away, across the lawn, now rather than early evening, when the mosquitos are biting.

So i was looking for slugs under the hay and found a cute little toad who had submerged himself in the soil so just the top of him showed when i lifted the hay, Toads eat slugs. Smile Smile I carefully replaced the hay.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot to get a washer for my garden hose, which is leaking. Of course you have to buy a dozen washers at a time, not just one, but they're only a buck or so. A young man approached me and talked me into a free, at home consultation for kitchen cabinet refinishing/refacing. I had always been curious how much that would cost, and i figured the kid probably made a commission based on how many people he signed up.

Well, i rethought that today. The appointment was to be Tuesday, but what was i thinking? I'm in no position to act on that, and it would be a temptation to do something if the price seemed reasonable. So I called him today to cancel it. Like I said, i did it more for the kid than for myself. Young people are finding it hard to land a job as it is. But i have to think of myself too, and kitchen redos aren't in the plan for 2012. Plus, the house is a MESS and I'd have to do some cleaning if i knew they were coming over.

I got psyched up about making some hypertufa troughs and pots. I've read about it before and had a strong interst, but the blogs I'd read didn't seem quite detailed enough to convince me I could do it. Then I came across a blog today and she had both step by step instructions and photos. It seems pretty easy. I went looking around the house for the right sized containers. You have to nest one inside the other with about an inch of space in between.

I'm all set with my containers, I think, but have to return to Home Depot and get some Portland cement, perlite and peat moss. the cement, i fear, is going to weight a ton. That's going to be the biggest pain, just getting the stuff home.

But I am excited to try it and will do it either tomorrow or next weekend.


June 22nd, 2012 at 08:49 pm

Well, I'm feeling pretty good that I filled up my heating oil tank this past week. I may have mentioned, the price I paid per gallon ($2.96) is the lowest I've paid since February, 2010, when I paid $2.44 a gallon. The highest I ever paid was $3.52 a gallon, last year. What a killer.

So i should be set for winter's cold at least into December, perhaps early January. Having a full oil tank makes me feel "secure" in the same way that a well-stocked refrigerator does.

Got paid $350 for some freelance work this week. Nice. It,and the $175 I made as a poll worker will help offset the cost of the heating oil.

I did a quick preliminary tally of my June expenses and see that I'm ahead $200, income vs. expenses. Funny how it works...I often feel I make just what I need to make to cover expenses, and not much more. Although I'm not religious, it does remind me often of the bibilical saying about how the birds always finding a way to get the food they need.

I finished up my publishing/editorial work early afternoon and now my time is my own until next Wednesday. Got a request from the Massachusetts woman I've done some legal editing for to edit her website. I LOVE getting unexpected new business from existing clients.

I was going to head out to Trader Joe's this afternoon to beat weekend crowds, but, I don't know, it's still humid and so unpleasant, and now I hear rumblings of thunder. I think I'll just wait til tomorrow afternoon and brave the crowds.

I watched Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live last night (on Hulu, not sure when it aired) and was amused by the guy. the Stones were once my #1 band, when I was in college. He's in amazing shape and can still parade around on stage with so much energy.

Looking forward to doing some repeatedly deferred "shopping" with assorted gift cards, including $25 worth of BP gas and a Sears gift card I want to use on a pair of white capris and perhaps a pair of shorts and/or a summer top. The mall and TJs are both down in the same area. I also have a Home Depot card and i really need to get some watering hose washers.

I ordered my annual dump sticker online and got a $5 discount for doing so online. First time they made that available. I guess the price went up, cus it's usually $80 and with the discount I still paid $85.

I'm afraid the front lawn needs mowing again. Bane of my existence. One wonders how much MORe overweight I'd be if it weren't for all the mowing I do.

It's blueberry-picking time Jersey now. Most of July is. I want to get down there to see my dad, maybe after the 4th of July weekend.

I've been trying to cut Luther's long fur to give him some relief from the heat, but he HATES it when I cut his fur! I don't pull on it at all, but it's the sound of the scissor he dislikes. So I can only cut a little at a time before he hisses at me (!) or runs away. What a baby!!

Today on the 2nd floor of my house wasn't as bad as yesterday, when it actually did get up to 90 upstairs. Today I see it was "just" 85 degrees.

They promise better weather tomorrow. It can't come soon enough.

Barter Kings

June 21st, 2012 at 09:29 pm

I read somewhere there's a new A&E show called Barter Kings. Sounds like something I'd really like to see but, boo hoo, it's no available on Hulu.

Tons of birds flocking to the mulberry tree. This morning there was a Baltimore oriole in there (!), along with red-breasted grosbeaks, house finches, cardinals, catbirds, robins, squirrels and even a limber chipmunk.

Yesterday and today were brutally hot, very humid and in the 90s. There comes a point when running fans does little or nothing, as does draping blankets and towels over windows as the sun moves through the sky.

I'm working at home all week, naturally, and my office and computer are on the second floor. I guess I could think about moving the computer downstairs. I must have the Internet connection, so I guess as long as I can plug in the modem into a phone jack, it should work, right? The place to do that would be the dining room table, but of course, no phone jack there. Hmm, that leaves the living room and the family room. The latter gets awfully hot in its own right, being over the garage. The living room is a tad cooler, but I don't have a spare table or anything to put there. I'll have to ponder that some more.

Don't much feel like cookin!

It's 80 degrees downstairs now, which means it's at least 85 upstairs. I did order two small box fans about 12 inches square on Amazon today with the last of my gift cards. I plan to put one in either of the two small windows in my attic, then put a larger box fan at the bottom of the attic stairs, blowing up. I will do this at night to sweet out the hot air which seems to get trapped in the attic.

Of course, by the time I get it, the heat wave will have broken, but it will be good to have the extra fans for the next time.

Doing battle with vinca

June 19th, 2012 at 12:10 am

Between yesterday and today, I "cleared" a roughly 6 x 6 foot square area inside a fenced garden on the north side of the house. There was poison ivy in there, and vinca growing right up against blueberry bushes. I cleared the first one. Then I transplanted some perennials, then cut holes in a large piece of white plastic.

Tomorrow when i go to the landfill, I'l pick up as much mulch as I can carry, and I'll dump that over the plastic. If that doesn't kill the remaining vinca roots, I don't know what will.

It's extremely tiring work, but if I don't clear it out now, it will only spread more.

Clematis in bloom

More clematis


Yesterday I went on a fruitless search for local eggs. The two homes on a certain local street where I'd seen "Eggs for sale" signs several weeks ago no longer had signs out. Two other locales in town that I knew once sold eggs also aren't doing so now.

I went onto my town's Patch online and found an article talking about all the places in town that sell chicken eggs.

I now know of a farm that sells them and plan to go tomorrow.

Early this a.m. I started work ghostwriting an article for a builder magazine and was able to finish in a couple of hours. I got a brief email back later this afternoon. "Terrific, nice." Smile

So then I billed them, $290.

The last few days have been absolutely LOVELY, weatherwise. Warm, in the 70s, but no humidity. All that's going to change Tuesday night, and Wednesday will be very humid and in the 80s/90s. I'm so bummed to see this great weather go. I imagine my productivity level will drop to 0.

Got some great news from the publisher's. They are setting up new computers and don't want me to come in at all this week. I can work at home all 3 days. Hooray!

Bluebirds already feeding young 'uns, second time around! I love watching them swoop around the yard refining their insect-hunting skills.

CVS's tempting

June 17th, 2012 at 11:50 am

I went to CVS the other day to get some Zyrtec for Waldo, who has terrible seasonal allergies. I noticed the cashier checked the expiration date on the package for me, and I thanked her, commenting that no one had ever done that for me before.

She said oh, we have to, and that if anyone ever came back to the store to complain about expired meds, they'd look up to see who checked them out and fire them. I don't know if that's true...seems a little draconian. I've been going to CVS for years and I never noticed anyone else checking the expiration date of things I'd bought.

But I was more interested in what she had to say after that. That the store is so obssessed with getting rid of expired merchandise that they routinely throw out perfectly good stuff that doesn't have an expiration date. She specifically mentioned hairbrushes and those colorful rubber band things girls wear in their hair. They apparently throw it out if it's considered out of date.

Made me want to go dumpster-diving.

I was tempted to say something about the multiple times CVS has been caught carelessly exposing its customers to identity theft by throwing away sensitive patient data with birth dates and Social Security numbers in the dumpster (, where anyone can fish it out, but I didn't.

I used to write a lot about identity theft in my last job, and what struck me was the apparent stupidity or obliviousness of CVS because after being convicted in one state, they did not clean up their act or change their procedures; it happened several times, not just in Texas, that I'm aware of. They should have used a professional shredding company to dispose of the reams of patient data they generate.

Oh, the weekend's here

June 16th, 2012 at 01:36 am

I love my long, 4-day weekends and the flexibility they offer.

I met a friend for iced tea this afternoon at a local coffee shop (NOT a starbucks). He was a former competitive water skiier and these days heads up a local non-profit that offers war veterans and disabled people (those who are blind, amputees or anything else) a chance to leave their disability behind for a day and learn how to waterski. My friend conveniently lives on a man-made lake, which really looks like a wide river.

You can imagine how freeing it would feel if you've been using prosthetics or been wheelchair-bound for years and you have a chance to get on the water. I'm not sure exactly how they do it, but for those who can't stand on 2 legs, i think they tow them in something.

Anyway, we were talking about going kayaking together at some point.

We are finally getting some new(ish) Macs at work. They will bring us into the 21st century. For those who know Macs, the ones we've been using all this time are OSX, which are pretty ancient. More importantly, we'll also be able to access FileMaker remotely when we work at home, something we haven't been able to do up til now. What a hassle to have to copy all our work at home onto flash drives, bring that in and then spend an hour transferring Quark files to the master Quark in the office as well as doing all the Filemamker stuff then. I had to lug a different Mac home yesterday and bring the dome I had in last week. Wednesday I'll bring it back in and then I'll get my updated one which should be much faster to use.

I think we'll be able to soon start working from home 2 days a week with 1 day in office, too. Right now, it's 2 days in office, 1 at home. My cats will really appreciate this change.

I started working today on the next directory; I'm splitting the work with my co-worker, who just left for 2 weeks in Alaska. How jealous I am. But anyway, we each are mostly done with our own directories, and then this next one is so big we're splitting the work between us. Still many loose ends with the first one but it's 90% done.

I've been enjoying watching The Bachelorette on Hulu TV. She's got some nice options, though I was glad to see that condescending one go.

I've been eating pea pods and lettuce from the garden. looking for new recipes that contain pea pods. If anyone has 'em, let me know. Getting a little tired of stir fry.

Waldo has been very congested with his allergies. I ordered an herbal remedy which I should get in a few days, and after much online research determined that Zyrtec, an antihistamine that people use, is safe. However, I had to calculate a much lower dosage based on weight. Directions said a child up to 2 years old should take no more than a half teaspoon. but i needed to convert teaspoon measurements to drops, so I actually counted how many drops it took to make a full teaspoon, and the answer is about 100. So that would be 50 drops for a child up to 2 years old, and i found online that the average 2 year old, male or female, weighs 28 pounds. My cat is 10 lbs, so i determined that he needs about 6 drops 3 times a day in his food.

His sense of taste and smell are so good that anything that smells a little out of kilter, he won't eat, so I mixed the drops, which smell fruity since it's made for kids, in with some tuna juice, which Waldo hesitatingly lapped.

Not sure if there's improvment yet, but this is just first day and I'm not sure he got the full dose yet. Don't want to mix the med in with too little food, or he won't eat it, or too MUCH food, becus then he won't eat it all and I won't be able to tel if he got all the meds. So there's a happy medium where it's mixed with enough food to completely camoflauge the taste but not so much that he doesn't finish it all.

The book I edited for The Author hit Amazon this week. I'll be curious to read the reviews as they come in. I see she had one of her friends write one. I think they're very important, becus you can't erase a bad review and I know that, personally, reviews by others influence me a great deal when I'm debating whether or not to buy a book.

She asked me to edit certain parts of the Amazon description page, which I did, but other parts she didn't ask me to look at, and I cringed a little when I read them, because you could see obvious mistakes with puncutation and sentence structure.

If it were me, I would take the time to do it right. She must've said to me a million times she was at the point where she just wanted to get it out there, be done with it and move on to the next book, but it's not a race! And you want it to be an achievement you can be proud of years from now when you look back.

Can you recommend a really great book?

June 11th, 2012 at 12:57 am

I realize everyone has their own taste, but if you know of abook that you think would universally appeal to, well, me, please let me know the title and author.

I'm in the mood to buy more books on amazon.

I like travel books and those that have at least something to do with the outdoors and nature, but I'm open to pretty much everything.

Gift card spending block

June 9th, 2012 at 09:51 pm

Well, hooray. I got a $25 BP gas gift card in the mail today!! It was a reward from a BP gas forum I participate in online.

(I was really worried I wouldn't get it becus when i created my profile at the BP site, they had said we'd get rewards in the form of gift cards, so i assumed they meant online gift cards, like the other forum I participate in. So since I prefer to protect my privacy, i had created a fake snail mail address, and just happened to update it with my real address in a fit of remorse about a week before they announced the winners of a little contest, which I won. Phew!)

I know I'll have no problem spending the BP gift card, but today I TRIED to spend gift cards I've earned elsewhere and I did relatively little damage!

OK, so I had a balance of $10 left at Wal-Mart and $5 at Target and $25 at Home Goods. You wouldn't believe how long I wandered those stores, searching for something that was "worth it" and not just another tschotske that would collect dust.

The problem is, I've conditioned myself to spending so little for so long that I'm having a tough time allowing myself to buy something nice. I thought I found 2 items at Home Goods (a small woven tray basket for the bathroom and a stone box made in India) but then I looked at them and said, is this really worth it? And I decided it wasn't and walked out the store!

I did finally manage to buy 2 hand towels at Target that will match the new wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. They were $8, so I had to actually pay $3 and change. Which rather bothered me. Smile

At Wal-Mart, I finally bought a terra cotta pot made in USA because I want to plant more basil for my pesto sauce. Also bought some groceries.

I treated myself to 2 $1 burgers at McDonalds with a free cherry chiller, but after that, I was too tired to pursue Sears, Home Depot and Lowes, where I have more gift cards. I still also have about $30 worth of Amazon gift cards.

I really do want to get a hands free device for my cell phone so i dont get brain cancer, and hope to get that online at Amazon.

I feel so wiped out. Maybe it was all the fat in the burgers and sugar in the chiller.

Garden progress

June 9th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

The veggie garden is doing pretty well. Lettuce is finally ready for pickin (had some last night) and the pea pods are growing gangbusters. They're flowering now, so the pods won't be far behind. Have to remember to pick regularly so they don't stay on the vine too long and become inedible.

As in years past, I'll be keeping track of how much produce I harvest all summer long so I can calculate cost savings. Expenses were really minimal, just the cost of seedlings and seeds.

Yesterday, I also sowed a second long row of beans: wax, green and edamame. And that pretty much completes the garden, which now contains:

Pea pods
Wax beans
Green stringbeans
Edamame (soybeans)
Heirloom tomatoes, both cherry and regular-sized
Yellow squash & zucchini, 1 plant each, that's all I have room for.
1 eggplant, in a pot
Several pots of basil, for my homemade pesto.

I also have several broccoli, cauliflower and collards, but all are already so bug-ridden I don't know if I'll get anything out of them.

When I planted the broccoli, I covered them with a fabric, forget what you call it, but it's a fine mesh you might see on a bridal veil. The plants under neath the mesh seemed to fare no better than thos I'd left out, so that was a big disappointment.

When I was planting the 2nd row of beans, I decided that was a good time to dig a trench and bury the rest of my soaker hose. Before doing so, i decided to test it with the water on to see if i did possilby puncture another portion of the buried hose several weeks ago when i was pressing down a tomato hope metal prong.

Voila! The soaker hose still works! I am so thankful, becus burying it was a big pain. Probably not deep enough, in places just an inch below the surface, so i hope it does stay cool enough under a hot sun to still be usable any time during the day. Although I'm wondering how useful it is to plants not immediately next to it; Since I didn't want to disturb plants or seeds nearby, the hose is probably as much as 6-8 inches away from the plants i want to water. The way it drips, i don't know if that moisture will really spread much. Hmmmm.

Happy to see that after some sightings of both english sparrows and house wrens at the bird box, bluebirds have again appeared and seem to be nest-building in there for the 2nd time. Two bluebird nestings in a single season would be a first for me.

Yesterday early evening, I sat out on the front stoop for a while drinking a bottle of Beck's and surveying my wild kingdom. It was so cool to see flashes of blue flying by, left and right. I don't know if these could be the fledged babies or the parents, but it doesn't really matter. Just nice to have them around.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, warm but not humid. I had to put in about 6.5 hours of work for the publishing job, but after that, I vaccuumed upstairs and down, did the aforementioned garden work and some other stuff.

I was able to confirm with Teva Neuroscience that my new health plan is a member of Teva's patient discount program and in fact they use the same pharmacy, Express Scripts, that I used before, so I don't need to do anything there. I will still be able to get my MS meds with no co-pay.

The assistant at my neurologist's also called to let me know she'd gotten my letter with the info on my new plan and the form the health insurer wants you to fill out for prescriptions, so she has sent that in so i can be assured there won't be a lapse in the prescriptions. If I'm lucky, they'll let me refill 3 months at a time instead of just 1 month like last insurer, which is a pain in the neck.

Today will be my big shopping/running around day, i think. Still have gift cards to use at Home Goods, Sears, Home Depot and Lowes and WalMart, and I have some plans for those. Want to see if walmart has any large terra cotta pots on the cheap. I dont like to plant edible things in plastic pots or pots of unknown substance made in China, but terra cotta seems safe, esp. if made in US. the whole toxic drywall/sheetrock thing made me leery of Chinese products generally.

Also might like to get some white capris or maybe even some sandals or comfy sneakers. The kind i'm into these days are the slip-on variety with no laces. I always remove my boots when i'm outside in the yard before coming in the house, so i'm constantly slipping my footwear on and off.

While I'm out, I'd like to use the McDonald's coupon good for a free berry cooler or whatever they call it. I tried to use it once before, but they said them machine wasn't working. Hmph.

My combined AT&T phone and internet bill last month was just $35, the result of my downgrading my phone service to the $7.50 a month base program where you pay .41 a minute for long distance calls and .03 a minute for local calls. It's ideal if you already have a cell phone and just like the landline as backup. If i can get in the habit of just not using the landline, even for local calls, i should get that bill down even more.

when i'm at wal mart today, i want to pick up a hands free device. Not sure how it works exactly as i'm not real cell phone savvy, but am hoping i could easily use it when interviewing someone on the phone and i need to type notes at the computer. I hope the sound quality is good enough that i can do that.

Work, work & more work

June 7th, 2012 at 01:05 am

Yesterday I worked from 4:30 am to 8:30 pm as a poll worker for the 3rd time this year. And the budget failed to pass AGAIN.

Then this morning it was back to the usual at my p/t publishing job.

Got home, had some leftover barley and bacon casserole (yum), put the recycling out at the curb and took a walk around the block.

Feeling a little sad, there is death all around me. Only one whom I'm close to, but it's a reminder that nothing stays the same. My friend with the prostate cancer who anticpates things worsening in a few years time. My neighbor across the street who lost his 20-something daughter in a car accident about a year ago; he recently erected a small cross and plantings in his front yard as a memorial for her, and the family recently had an outdoor memorial service for her there....very sad. My builder, who did my sun room 2 years ago, lost his wife suddenly also about a year ago.

As it turned out, when I worked yesterday in the budget vote as a checker, checking people's IDs and names in the grand list, I sat next to a woman who, I learned, was the sister of my builder's wife who died. She apparently had just spoken to her husband 2 hours before she died, saying, see you later, etc. She dropped dead as she was leaving their house. An autopsy revealed some sort of heart valve defect that no one knew about.

It's all depressing to me.

On a more positive note, I finished up all the freelance work I'd gotten in recent weeks and figure i have over $700 in billable invoices out now.

I have a ton of projeccts to do in the yard. Weeding in many areas. After being unable to contact the cheap Guatemalan chainsaw guy to do some much needed tree pruning of damage caused by last fall's freak snowstorm, I managed to at least get branches off the ground for both a mighty hemlock and an apple tree. i didn't make the cuts the way they should be made, close to the main trunk, because there's just so much I can do with a hand/bow saw, but i did at least move stuff off the lawn so I can mow there again.

I've got to call my neighbors to see if they know why he's not returning my phone calls.

I was heartened to see that the Dow recovered a fair amount today from its wretched drop of prior days.

Adventures of an avian kind....

June 3rd, 2012 at 08:24 pm

A few people are trying to make my town a "transition" town. This is a movement that's all about sustainability and weaning ourselves off oil and other fossil fuels.

I had registered to attend a showing of an interesting movie at the library about how Cuba experienced a kind of Peak Oil period after the Soviet Union collapsed and all the funding and aid they got from them dried up. Suddenly, there were oil and gas shortages, regular power outages and no food, so people started planting survival gardens wherever there was open space in Havana.

I was disappointed to find it was just me and one other woman attending the movie, with her daughter. There was supposed to be a discussion afterwards. The movie was ok, but a little dull, so when a thunderstorm suddenly arrived, I decided to dash home to put away a few things I'd left outside.

Today was the day I was going to addle the eggs of a pair of English sparrows that took up residence in one of the nest boxes after the bluebirds fledged. English sparrows and starlings are the only two birds you can legally kill in the US. English sparrows are very aggressive birds and will often peck the eggs of bluebirds, effectively killing them. They are responsible for the decline of many native songbirds and tend to dominate the habitat.

I consider myself very fortunate in that we don't seem to have an entrenched local population of English sparrows, starlings or cowbirds. I'm a longtime observer of birds in my own backyard, and in fact I've monitored songbird populations for Cornell for over 15 years. Occasionally I see the undesirable species but they usually appear to be passing through, and I consider myslef very lucky, becus I remember sitting on my lunch hour countless times when i worked in other towns, and all I'd ever see were English sparrows, starlings and doves. I felt like I lived in a little avian paradise. Until this spring, when I started seeing more and more of at least one pair of the dreaded English sparrows.

After doing some online research on the subject, I determined the best way to deal with these sparrows was to addle the eggs and pierce them with a needle as an additional precaution, then return them to the nest. There have been reports that if you destroy the eggs, the birds go after and attack the eggs of other birds, and I do have house wrens in the other nest box. Plus, if you return the eggs, the English sparrows will sit on them for another few weeks, which delays their ability to reproduce until they catch on the eggs aren't going to hatch.

So I approached the box this morning, not really relishing the prospect of eggicide, but realizing it was necessary. If you're a birder, you know what I mean. If you're not, it may seem harsh, but do the research and you'll understand.

I had cleaned out the box after the bluebirds left about a week and a half ago, and according to research, the English sparrows would have built their nest and laid their eggs by now. I wanted to get to the eggs before they hatched becus I know i'm not capable of harming live chicks, but i wanted to make sure all the eggs were laid (they usually lay one a day, up to about 7 eggs).

Then just yesterday, I saw a house wren hanging out by the box, which struck me as odd, since English sparrows are rather vicious and would have chased other birds away. I was surprised to find only a partially built nest inside, and NO eggs. For reasons unknown, the English sparrows apparently abandoned that nest. I had been seeing them repeatedly going in and out of the box, and I was sure they were nest-building. I would think it would be considered a prime nest site, but who knows.

The only other thing that happened is that a few days ago, I came home after being out, was in the sunroom and when i looked out the French door window, I saw what appeared to be a dead bird on the stoop outside. It most likely flew into the window, quite possibly frightened by a hawk. I've had hawk predation before ath the bird feeder, and birds will fly in a panic, in every direction, when a hawk appears. I felt sad as i looked at the bird, but didn't have time to dispose of it then. I didn't examine it closely, but thought it might be a song sparrow, which is a very pretty little bird.

I know from experience that sometimes what appears to be a dead bird is not really dead, but merely stunned from the head-on collision with glass, and that the best thing to do is leave it be (as long as it's safe from cats) and see if it recovers on its own. I checked the bird about 15 minutes later, and it was still there, so i figured, too bad, it's really dead.

The next morning, I made a point to go and take the dead bird somewhere, and guess what? It was gone! Either one of two things happened: 1. the bird was stunned, as described above, or 2. some kind of predator happened upon it over night and grabbed it.
I do have foxes and coyotes here, as well as cats and the occasional raccoon, but they are seldom seen and are not a daily visitor, as far as I know, especially so close to the house. So now I wonder if the bird recovered.

If it didn't recover, i suppose it's POSSIBLE it was the English sparrow female, which is easily confused with other sparrows and female house finches. That could be one reason why nest building ceased in the bluebird box.

Another riddle I guess I'll never know.

Easy Come, Easy Go

June 3rd, 2012 at 11:29 am

....I'm down $28,000 for the month of May alone in the stock market. The Euro mess is doing a Euro number on my portfolio.