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Archive for February, 2019

Sunshiney day

February 28th, 2019 at 07:20 am


The end of the road, during one of my workweek lunch break walks.

I did my investment report a day early, and I like what I see....my investments have continued to rebound nicely. In fact, my net worth is the highest it's been since Feb 2018 (which was my all-time high).

The macro look at the month of February shows that year-to-date, I've spent about as much as I've earned. I was ahead last month, but in February I had 2 big expenses that wiped out the January surplus: a $650 state tax bill and $448 to pay for this season's CSA organic farm market share.

I happened to get out of work early last Tuesday, which gave me the opportunity to attend the meeting of a local environmental action group in town. It's something I wanted to do for a long time but I rarely get out of work in winter early enough to make their meetings, but now work is easing up a bit (as it usually does for the summer).

I was promptly tapped to manage the group's litter pickup days, which they do monthly all season long. So today I'll be driving around to the town's parks, schools and other public places to do a trash inventory so I can organize the next cleanup. I'll also write a press release for the paper and Patch to invite public participation.

I've also decided, on a personal level, to no longer purchase single serving beverages. Not that I buy water, soda or other sugary drinks, but I did on occasion like to buy a case of Bai, which is sweetened with Stevia. I wrote them a letter but otherwise will just stop buying it.

Seems like a nice group. Two of their other big issues have to do with eliminating plastic grocery store bags and the pollinator crisis. I think they're also talking to local restaurants about plastic takeout stuff.

Thursday things

February 15th, 2019 at 04:52 pm

I was inspired by a recent story in The Economist (about the connection between rising education of women in undeveloped countries and falling global fertility) to more narrowly focus my future Kiva loans to women seeking money for their education.

I've made a few "seed" donations which, when repaid to me, I reloan out, so the money is continuously being repaid and then reloaned. But I get impatient waiting for the repayments! There are so many deserving young women on the Kiva website.

I finally got my taxes filed today. So glad to be done with that for another year. I wound up with a small $18 refund on my federal taxes but owed about $650 on my state taxes. I think it's mostly due to having done a backdoor Roth IRA conversion. So I'm not going to fiddle with my CT withholding yet.

It's late winter now...time to call my favorite mason. I scheduled time to meet with him next week on this year's projects. I have 3 in mind that I'd like to do, but will only do 1 this year. I'm also thinking about bulking up my attic insulation and replacing the garage door.

We've had a few good weather days for walking, so I'm trying to take full advantage. I usually get some sort of walking in, but it's harder to squeeze in 10,000 steps.

I recently decided not to renew my Amazon Prime account since the cost rose from $99 to $120. I buy from Amazon very frequently, partly because I earn $20 a month in Amazon gift cards by participating in a credit card forum that doesn't take much time. But without too much trouble I can still time my purchases to qualify for free shipping.

I used to also rely on Prime a lot for my TV viewing, but now that I have .99 a month Hulu through November, it seems like unnecessary overlap and I'm watching just as much stuff on Hulu as I am Prime. So between now and April, when the Prime membership expires, I'll try to catch up and view any "must see" movies on Prime.

I think it's better not to get too attached to any one subscription, or a discretionary spend gradually becomes a necessary one in a way you might not even notice.

Autopilot

February 13th, 2019 at 03:51 pm

The past week or so has been more or less routine, save for my father's recovery, which is mostly forward-facing but which still poses some issues of concern.

I'm hoping to file my taxes tomorrow, provided the missing IRS form magically appears on their website.

Otherwise, it's business as usual, and I'm not really complaining about that.

This was a shorter-than-usual workweek for me because I worked from home yesterday due to snow/ice storm, and I get clobbered whenever I work from home since I'm supposed to bill for actual time worked. When I'm in the office, I get paid for time spent there, regardless of what work I do.

So I worked 13.5 hours this week. I have time to make it up; as long as I average 20 hours weekly for the year, I'm in good shape, but I don't want to fall much below that. Luckily there shouldn't be too many more snow days.

I'll be seeing my father again tomorrow and perhaps, as a rare "treat to self," tomorrow night I'll be catching a subtitled movie at our local town hall theater with its $3 seats. ("Becoming Astrid")

I did apply for 2 bonus credit cards and was rejected for both before realizing I should have temporarily suspended the freeze I have with all 3 credit bureaus. So the card issuers couldn't check my credit. I will probably call them tomorrow about that to see if there's anything I can do at this point. I wish I'd remembered that...

I plan to try a new pizza recipe this week which calls for hummus, caramelized red onion and roasted red peppers.

I'd like to declutter/clean my downstairs hall closet.

I'd like to contact my mason to get bids on 3 separate jobs I'd like to do (not all this year).

To auction we will go....

February 9th, 2019 at 06:22 am

I've been doing some copy editing for my neighbor, who will be self-publishing his book soon. I knew he couldn't really afford to pay me, so I asked him to do some very simple chores in my yard, like cut down an ailing apple tree, or cut down some old wood posts that pose obstacles for my lawnmower, all that remains of an old picket fence that long ago rotted away.

My neighbor decided to throw in something extra: 2 very old books, one written in Latin and centuries old. One is about Aristotle and was published in 1576; the other is a history of wars in the Netherlands and was published in 1643. Each book is pocket-sized.



These are interesting to look at and admire (for a moment or two), but since I can't read them (despite 3 years of Latin in high school), I don't really have much use for them, and I am on a decluttering kick.



My neighbor told me when he gave me the 1st one that I could feel free to sell it if I wanted, and that's what I've decided to do.

He apparently has a small collection of old books and he once had plans to build a library to house them, but he has since abandoned that idea.

There is a nearby auction house, so I emailed them some photos of the first book, and he said the book "certainly has some value." So I brought both books (along with a loose page from another old book with hand-colored botanic image, which my neighbor had also given me) to the auction place yesterday.

The first book, on Aristotle, was in an "8," condition-wise, auction guy said, and the Netherlands book about a "5" or "6." He will sell them as a lot together, and expects they could fetch from about $400 to $600 for them. Aside from condition, their value is entirely dependent on how much appeal the subject matter has.

He did not take the loose page because even though it is also very old, it doesn't have much value separated from the book; maybe I'll end up putting it in a frame and using it as a decorative object.

He shone a light under the paper and told me they were made using "laid" paper, confirming their authenticity. You can see a screen-like pattern of vertical and horizontal lines in the paper.

According to Wikpedia, before the mechanization of papermaking, the laid pattern was produced by the wire sieve in the rectangular mold used to produce single sheets of paper. A worker would dip the mold into a vat containing diluted linen pulp, then lift it out, tilt it to spread the pulp evenly over the sieve, and, as the water drained out between the wires, shake the mold to lock the fibers together. In the process, the pattern of the wires in the sieve was imparted to the sheet of paper.



I used to sit in on auctions at this auction house but they don't really do that anymore since they can attract many more bidders electronically in a much broader pool of potential buyers worldwide. So I can "watch" the bidding take place online, on the day of the auction in March. That will be fun!!

Since I did not pay for these books, I'll be happy with whatever I get for them.

In other news, I finished my federal taxes but was unable to submit electronically because one of the forms I needed to file, Form 8606, was not yet available on their Free Fillable Forms website! I will have to wait at least another week or so before filing, and only then will I proceed on to the state form.

Because I was slightly overpaid for the healthcare subsidy, my $200 refund has now shrunk to about $17. I am hoping I don't owe anything on the state side.

My father is doing better now that his pain med dosage has been lowered. He continues to make progress, but he's moving very slowly, all the same. He's not yet back at the point he was before his fall.

He has a steady stream of visitors, between the 3 of us, as well as phone calls from others. He also has a bunch of new audio books to listen to from the Library of Congress, a free service for the vision-impaired. My sister and I keep bringing good food for him to eat. And he has 3 doc visits coming up this week with his urologist, retinologist and the surgeon, who will take his stitches out.

My sister said she will get a chair lift installed on the outside stairs. Progress.

Taxes and an off-grid commune

February 3rd, 2019 at 06:04 am

I spent 5 hours on my federal tax return yesterday, and I would have been done had it not been for the fact that the ACA/my state healthcare exchange has not mailed me their 1095-A form yet. I should receive it this week.

I completed everything else including a multitude of schedules and forms. I itemized my deductions, which came to "just" $11,200, so I wound up taking the standard $12,000 deduction instead. It looks like I'll be getting about $200 back on the federal, which tells me I did a good job of calculating the impact of certain things I did during the year, like a small ($7K) backdoor Roth IRA conversion and fairly significant healthcare costs.

I figure my taxes without any special software; I just print the tax forms and closely use the IRS instructions. It's an excruciating process, but I feel more assured I'm doing things correctly this way.

Looking forward to a walk with my friend this afternoon and also plan to ensure the rest of the ice is gone from my driveway slope when the sun softens it up.

Dad seems a bit more like his old self each day I go see him. I brought him some black bean and sweet potato soup I made in a thermos to keep it hot, and when i was headed for the elevator going home, my sister comes in with her own homemade pizza. So at least dad is eating well.

I really dislike the rehab place he's in, although I think it's probably no different than most other places. It bothers me he gets no physical therapy on the weekends, simply because it's the weekend, while all the other staff is there 7 days a week. It just slows down his recovery process and it's not good for him to be sitting in a chair all day long.

When you walk down the hall, people may look at you but then quickly look away, or avoid eye contact entirely, because I think they don't want to be bothered by you asking questions. Even my dad observed early on that "everyone is in a hurry." And when you do get someone's attention, invariably they say they aren't the right person to ask. With a revolving group of staff that changes with each shift, it's really hard to form any connections with any of dad's caretakers.

Dad also made the observation that the staff will do what's most convenient for them, not what's best for the patient. After a few hours of sitting in the wheelchair, it gets uncomfortable, and at one point while i was there dad asked to lay down on his bed. The aide wouldn't do it because lunch would be coming soon and then she'd have to get him up again.

I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook. He was from CT, someone I knew in my 20s, but he has been living in southern Vermont for years now, with his wife, on 20 acres on which they have built a "Resilient Cross Generational Neighborhood."

Fully occupied, they will have 18 or so people there, each living in their own "tiny home" enjoying a close-knit, rural lifestyle embracing all ages. They are living off grid; he has a successful solar panel business and so all the homes have solar, plus backup generator electricity. You pay $30K for new construction and then just $130 a month, which covers things like water and firewood. There's a greenhouse and garden, and gray water and composting toilets. Coming soon is a wind generator, pool and hot tub, plus a lodge house.

I am so impressed. He has found a way to put his personal beliefs into action.

The stock market rebounded nicely, at least in terms of my bottom line, which is now back up $30K. It hasn't fully recovered to where it was, but it's not too far off.



For BankerGurl

February 2nd, 2019 at 04:43 am

Hey, there...saw this story and instantly thought of you!

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/this-millennials-company-makes-millions-buying-from-walmart-and-reselling-on-amazon-151213013.html