31 May 2006

Interview with the Nuge

I love animals. They're delicious!

Ted Nugent is a strange dude, as is proven by this interview. For example, his thoughts on deer:

They're only interested in three things: the best place to eat, having sex and how quickly they can run away. Much like the French

Of at least equal entertainment is the commentary of the nutty interviewer. I've never seen a "Glock revolver" myself, but Ted's British interviewer has. Or perhaps he's just fixated on the Beatles.

30 May 2006

Jay and Silent Bob's tale of addiction

I'm pretty fortunate to have not been directly affected by addiction. There's no easier way to screw up your life, and annoy your family, than to develop an expensive, self-destructive habit. It's tough to save money when you start treating capital assets as potential income sources to support a habit. Except for lead slinging, the cats, and the recreational use of gasoline, Mrs. Random and I are lucky not to have many expensive habits.

So, having only peripherally witnessed other peoples addictions, I found Kevin Smith's description of Jason Mewes' beginning, bottom, and eventual end of drug use fascinating. It's a great read, especially if you are a fan of Kevin Smith's movies (except for Jersey Girl).

Two warnings: It's quite explicit, which you could probably guess if you've ever seen Clerks, and the tale is spread over a whopping NINE sections!

Me and my Shadow, Part 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; Conclusion, Part 9

Mint harvest

There are a few non-financial benefits of spending much of my free-time on my most hated of activities. All the landscaping I've been doing has helped me appreciate what's actually in the yard.

Perhaps it was due to the mild winter, but the yard looks pretty good. Trees planted when we moved in are doing well. Deer-eaten plants have sprung back and bloomed. And I've passed one litmus test* of being a fine Southern gentleman, the herb garden has mint growing in it.

I came across this recipe for Mint Julep a few weeks ago. I'd never had one before, but was familiar with the concept. Mix sugar and bourbon with crushed mint, serve over ice, and sip on the porch, preferably while wiping sweat from your brow with a handkerchief. Bonus points for plotting a gold heist. And for the ladies, stupid hats are optional.

It's not quite as disgusting as it appears. I've found that using a little less bourbon than the knock-you-on-your-ass 4 oz. called for in the recipe helps. I also use a garlic press to pre-crush the mint leaves, which saves a little time.

And with the temperature today above 90, it's just getting into prime Mint Julep weather.

* Other tests passed: I own a truck, I own a gun, I live in Virginia, and I actually like Mint Juleps.

"Your Tenants are NOT your Friends"

One of my favorite PF bloggers is Adventures in Moneymaking. It's a refreshingly different perspective than the typical "save money, pay down debt, look what's on sale at blah blah blah". Today's post is on a bounced rental check. He offers some harsh advice:

It never pays to be nice to your tenants. They just take advantage of you. Remember your tenants are not your friends. You are not in the welfare business. If they can't pay their rent, they need to ask Uncle Sam for help.

Mrs. Random and I are preparing our house for rent. One key difference is that this action is NOT an investment. We don't expect to make much money on the rental, if any at all. But it is our home, and we'd like it to still be in decent shape when we return.
So, how do we motivate our renters to not trash the place without being a little bit nice to them? I hope we find out.

29 May 2006

Gaming the McSystem

McDonald's has (re-?)introduced a line of sundaes. Mrs. Random wasted no time and drug us there on Saturday. They are quite yummy. After eating my "Apple Pie A la Mode", she pointed out that what I just bought for $2.29 could be purchased as components for only $1.50, with some assembly required.

Today, we put this to the test. We bought two apple pies, and two caramel sundaes from the dollar menu. Total cost (with outrageous 7% Fairfax city tax), $3.21, vs. $4.90, a savings of $1.69, or more than a third! And we got two free packets of peanuts. We did have to assemble the "sundaes" ourselves at home. But they were just as yummy.

Of course, even with the DIY method, a sundae still costs 6 times what a McDonald's ice cream cone costs in China.

Memorial Day Weekend

Instead of going anywhere, Mrs. Random and I spent the long weekend working on landscaping projects. A few big projects got knocked off the list, and the last of the major outdoor projects is now underway. With a bit of work in the evenings, we should be done outside by the end of the week.

We also remembered the whole point of today's holiday, which was too much to ask of Google. They do know about Percival Lowell's birthday, though.

24 May 2006

World news links

I still haven't downloaded our photos from China. But, the Pentagon's annual "China is coming to get us" report is out. I will say that while we were in China, we saw a few recruiting posters around town. I'll have to go through our photos to see if I have an image. You wouldn't think China would be hurting for recruits, though.

In other news, Bush has, again, called for new nuclear (nukyular?) power plants.
For the sake of economic security and national security, the United States must aggressively move forward with construction of nuclear power plants. Other nations are.

Let's hope someone pays attention this time. Too bad they didn't five years ago, or ten years ago, or 27 years ago.

Cheap eats at Costco

Tell me something I didn't know. When we were poor college students, we'd have dinner at Costco once a week.

23 May 2006

Nigerian scammers

After reading this article, I'm beginning to wonder if part of the most famous spam campaigns is true. Someone in Nigeria clearly has too much money.

So, when using eBay, don't sell stuff to 14 year old Nigerian scammers. You might not get paid.

16 May 2006

DIY savings update

After saving thousands on landscaping with a bit of DIY chainsaw action, we've now completed phase I of a long-term driveway project. This was a job that was quoted to us at $25,000! Over the next few years, we want to replace the aging concrete driveway with pavers. Phase I was just a small section, but it served as a proof of concept.

We've only done about 5% of the project, at a cost of $400-, total (see this post for what to do/what not to do when buying pavers). Projecting into the future, the whole job should cost about $8K (including renting a jackhammer, and not buying crazy amounts of gravel like we did for the test section). That's a savings of $17,000, enough to buy a new car to park in the driveway.

Unfortunately, a few of our projects have a defined time limit. We have to get the house ready to rent and we only have a few months remaining before we leave for China. Based on a referral, we've found a realtor and property manager. With luck, we'll almost cover our mortgage. The more we can take care of ourselves, without having to call in an expensive professional, the less we'll end up loosing.

What's wrong with this (motion) picture?

Around the world, The Da Vinci Code is sparking protests, and calls for boycotts and censorship, lest a work of fiction shatter the shallow faith of the easily misled. But not in India. Foxnews uses this image to underscore their coverage of the protests.

But they miss the bigger story. In India, a fictional account of Jesus' love child(ren) pales in comparison to the threat posed by the “Story of a Sexy, Bold, and Naughty Nun”. The other poster in the image is for Tickle My Funny Bone, an Indian comedy.

Why does this remind me of Bert and Osama?

09 May 2006

$7 worth of Coke Zero

Giant (the better of the two main supermarkets in NoVA, now that Safeway has gotten boutique, and pricey) is celebrating their 70th anniversary. As a result, strange things are on sale. For example, 2 liters of Coke are on sale for $0.70 each. The only trick is, I had to buy TEN (10!) bottles to get that price.

As I was loading my cart with 20 liters of Coke Zero, all I could think of was Barry and Levon, and the $240 worth of pudding.

Aw Yeah...

Nonsensical Asian tattoos no longer popular

I didn't know that this fad dated all the way back to the mid-ninties, but this article about tattoo removal is pretty funny. The tattoo in the article, BTW, says "beautiful spirit", when translated literally.

The money quote from the article, though, is the conclusion:
And Morel predicts the next big tattoo fad people will want off.

"It's like the lower-back tattoo — the tramp stamp — probably will be."

Too bad SNL already covered that, two years ago.

07 May 2006

Cash vs. Credit in China

FMF has made this point, repeatedly, and I believe incorrectly:
Use Only Cash
It seems impossible to exclusively use cash in today’s credit-oriented world, but those who do “create” significant cash. How? By spending dramatically less. Ron Blue, author of Master Your Money, notes that the mere use of credit cards causes a family to spend 34 percent more even if the statement is paid off monthly. Author Nancy Dunnan agrees in Never Call Your Broker on Monday by noting, “People like your parents or grandparents actually went through life using checks or cash. It worked then and it works now. Do the same and you’ll wind up spending 20% to 45% less.”

So use cash and reap a windfall. Imagine how spending one-third less could impact your family finances!

I don't believe it. It's the fiscal equivalent of saying "Only eat pre-packaged food and you'll end up loosing weight". Well, the only diet I've ever seen work is one where you, gasp, keep track of what you eat. By counting calories, I was able to loose 20 lbs. over a few months. It's the same for spending money. That diet works for money, too. By keeping track of what we spend money on (by actually looking at our credit card records online) we save money.

Conversely, while we were in China, very few places accepted credit cards. We spent cash on everything. Now, we could have been really anal, and kept track of all of it (we do have the ATM receipts, of course), or we could just make intelligent decisions about which cheap Chinese crap we brought back for our family. Good thing we didn't do that. ;)

I like credit cards. We don't carry a balance, we get cash back, and we can keep track of every purchase. Cash can't do that. And, I'm fairly certain the credit cards in my wallet are not counterfeit, which is a lot more of a concern in China than you'd probably like to think.

Networth IQ update for May

Calculated in RMB, currently about 8:1, we're multi-millionaires! But in regular USD, our net worth increased by $6962- last month, or 1.82%, to $390153-. This is half of last month's jump, and is helped by an up-market. The trip to China and the tax bill hit our cash reserves, but our retirement investments did fairly well.

BTW, our net worth in China, 3.12 million RMB (CNY, ¥, , etc), would yield a 20 foot tall stack of 100 RMB bills.

Back from China!

It was a long trip, but a lot of fun. I haven't even downloaded the photos yet (about 500). More on all that soon.

China was really nifty. By the end of the trip, it didn't even seem weird anymore. I don't know if that's good or bad.