Archive for November, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone shopping on Black Friday and there were a couple of things I was in the market for that I decided to make an attempt to take advantage of this year.   Of course, I’m not getting up at 5 a.m. and no one in my family or extended family did any shopping this early this time around either.   I woke up around 8:30 a.m. with a mission to get a couple of things this year.

First stop, Target at 9:00 a.m. I show up and look for an XBox 360.   I go to the Xbox aisle and all the XBoxes are gone so I ask a Target rep if they have anymore, she says yes.  She goes to the back of the store and brings out a cart full of XBOX 360’s.  I take one and head to the check out.   The ONLY reason I went to Target for the XBox is that it came with a $50 gift card in addition to a $10 gift card for spending more than $100.   The shopping experience was quick, pleasant and the place wasn’t a mad house and I get $60 back on a $200 purchase.

Second stop, Walmart around 10:00 a.m.  The planned purchase was an iPod Touch for $229 which came with a $50 gift card.  I don’t know why I bothered going to Walmart, the place was filthy, hardly any reps around, and the people acted like your typical unfed animals.  Seriously, I am glad that they didn’t have them in stock when I got there because I don’t know what I would have done with that gift card because I certainly didn’t want to go back there ever again.  Oh and I went to TWO different Walmarts and it was the same thing at both.

Third stop, Fry’s around 11:00 a.m.  The last two times I shopped here I had the same problem, the lines are always too long and Fry’s has a stupid system of queuing people and then sending you to a specific stall to cash out.   The last two times I shopped there by the time I get to the stall either the cashier closes up or someone else gets into the same stall.   I only had an HDMI cable with me that I was going to purchase but I opted to just leave it there in a cart and walked out, no point in wasting time with a stupid inefficient electronics store like Frys.    I won’t ever purchase anything there again but I did get a good chance to walk around and look at flat panel TVs to determine which one I wanted.  I overheard a sales rep pressure some poor sap to buy an extended warranty on a TV.  The TV the guy is buying is $600 and the warranty he’s trying to sell him is $300.  You have to be an idiot to take him up on the offer given the price of TV’s drops significantly every year.  Newsflash, in two to three years there will be TV’s 10 times better and 10 times cheaper so why buy a warranty?

My observations at both Target, Walmart and Frys were that electronics were the big items this year.  At Walmart, the iPads were cleared out as were iPod Touches.  At Target, TVs and game consoles were selling fast.   At Fry’s the TV and computer section were fairly croweded while the rest of the store was empty.

So I only really got to purchase one thing on Black Friday and I plan on doing all my other purchases online.   No sales tax, no hassles, door stop delivery, and it’s always in stock when I order online.     I will continue with my narrative that retail is dying a slow painful death as the experience continues to get worse and worse every year.

It’s time to stop thinking about that turkey and start thinking about insurance, the following is a guest post from Baily Harris.

*How Much Insurance Do You Really Need?*

Reducing insurance coverage can seem like a good way to save money, but
doing so could lead to expensive problems later on. At the same time, you
don’t want to buy too much insurance and waste your money on coverage you
don’t really need. The following guidelines will help you determine if you
are under or over insured.

*Auto Insurance*

Every state in the nation requires motorists to have some form of auto
insurance coverage. Lenders and dealerships also require customers to carry
a minimum amount of auto insurance on vehicles that are leased or listed as
collateral on an unpaid loan. Minimum requirements can vary depending on
where you live and your personal situation.

Everyone should purchase an auto policy with some form of liability
coverage. Liability covers other people’s expenses when you are at fault in
an accident. The amount of liability that you need purchase is dependent on
the amount of time you spend on the road (your risk level) and whether or
not you have overlapping liability coverage. For example, if you rarely
drive and have an umbrella insurance policy that provides additional
liability protection, you can probably keep the liability levels in your
auto policy relatively low.

Purchasing collision and comprehensive coverage is also important if you
have a nice vehicle. Collision covers damage done to your vehicle in an
accident. Comprehensive insurance provides coverage for non-traffic related
incidents, such as theft, vandalism, and damage from falling objects. If the
value of your vehicle is not equal to one year’s worth of insurance, you can
probably forgo both collision and comprehensive coverage–you’d be better
off saving the money for a new car.

You can also choose to purchase additional coverage such as personal injury
protection (PIP) or underinsured motorist protection. PIP covers your
medical expenses regardless of who was at fault in an accident. This type of
insurance is not necessary if you already have good health insurance
coverage. Uninsured motorist protection helps cover your costs if you are
involved in an accident with someone who has no insurance. This type of
coverage is not absolutely necessary but is worth exploring when you
consider the fact that 16 percent of today’s drivers are uninsured.

*Home Insurance*

Although home insurance is not required by law, you will undoubtedly have to
carry some form of coverage if you are paying a mortgage. Even if you aren’t
making payments on your property, home insurance is still a good buy.

To begin with, you should have enough insurance to cover 100 percent of your
home’s replacement costs. This amount may or may not be equal to the market
value of your home or the outstanding amount on your mortgage loan. What is
important is that it covers the cost to rebuild your home from the ground
up.

You will also want to purchase coverage for the personal possessions inside
your home. The only way to determine how much insurance to buy in this
situation is to take inventory of your possessions. Determine how much they
are worth and how much money you might need to replace them. Coverage is
often limited to 40 to 75 percent of the amount that your home is insured
for. However, you can purchase a floater policy if you think you need
additional coverage.

Your home insurance policy should also provide some type of liability
protection so that you are covered if someone is ever injured on your
property. Liability coverage levels vary. As with auto insurance coverage,
your home insurance liability coverage can be kept to a minimum if you also
carry an umbrella insurance policy.

A final home insurance coverage option is loss of use protection. This type
of coverage will reimburse you for hotel bills, restaurant bills, and other
living expenses that may be incurred if you are forced to leave your home
after a disaster. If you live in a high-risk area, loss of use coverage is
worth considering.

Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes on insurance and related topics
for http://www.homeownersinsurance.org.

I have not yet had the fortune of being molested or manhandled by TSA at airports this year despite my many business trips and rather than continue to take chances at molestation roulette, my family and I have decided not to do any air travel this winter.   Normally we’d go skiing in Utah during Thanksgiving and somewhere warm (Hawaii) in December or elsewhere but that’s not happening.  Hotels won’t make money, ski resorts won’t make money, car rental places won’t make money nor will restaurants.    All part of the economic ecosystem that will continue to collapse because some idiot in Washington decided it was time to molest Americans at airports.

And why the hell are pilots being given a free pass? I know what you’re thinking, “hey the pilot is flying the plane so he can crash it, he doesn’t need to blow it up.” Well that’s where you are WRONG because a pilot could sneak explosives in his crotch, go to the airport bathroom, take it off and HAND IT TO A TERRORIST that has already passed screening. The assumption that the pilot is willing to die is WRONG as he may just be a pilot wanting to make a few extra bucks. Perhaps the pilot makes additional bonus money by purchasing puts on the airline stock that’s about to get blown up and he knows first hand when it will happen. Hell, terrorists now just need to find a pilot to bribe, blackmail or otherwise cajole into doing their bidding and presto plane goes boom!

Before any idiots post comments about “keeping planes safe” please keep your bullshit nonsense to yourself.   The next logical evolution for terrorist is to pack explosives in body cavities so what will TSA do next?  Require gynecological and rectal exams before boarding an airplane?   If the U.S. government has been unable to keep 200 tons of cocaine from crossing the board every year much less hundreds of thousands of illegals, it doesn’t stand a damn chance of catching a well organized and determined terrorist.

I have no doubt that no matter what the TSA does, a bomb will eventually go off somewhere and people will die.  Ironically, 50,000 people get killed in drunk driving incidents each year – where’s the outrage?   According to the CDC, the leading causes of death are as follows:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Wow, I don’t see terrorist attacks anywhere on the list, perhaps instead of TSA thugs we should hire medical doctors to do screenings at airports because that may actually save some lives.   It seems cancer and heart disease kill over 1 million people each year and that’s like having a city like Salt Lake City, Utah disappear every year but I don’t see anyone interested in solving that problem; I thought it was all about saving lives?

Oh well, if this keeps up, I will take the train or boat on my next vacation or I will just opt to drive even if it means losing a day or two commuting back and forth.  I simply will not tolerate my family being molested by government employees but the hopeless sheep don’t seem to have too many problems with it.  Never forget, most Germans didn’t have any problem with making Jews put star of David symbols on their clothes the first year around and we all know where that led.

As usual, there are a few people that stand up for logic, reason and freedom…
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-N5adYM7Kw&feature=player_embedded

As I mentioned yesterday,   I purchased a new 47″ LED TV for my bedroom and about a few weeks ago, I had gone into the Apple Store and picked up Apple TV for my new planned TV purchase.    Right after I setup my new LED at home, I hooked up the Apple TV.  I will start with the pros of Apple TV.    I like the small sleek design, I sort of like the remote control and I like the overall functionality.  I love Netflix!

Now here’s what I hate!   No QWERTY keyboard!   Apple  should know better, most people these days know how to type on a QWERTY keyboard so why apple choose an alphabetical character notation is beyond me.   The setup of Apple TV is fairly straightforward but tedious.   There is no easy way to cut & paste your WEP encryption key especially if it is very long!

What I really hate is that for some strange reason, the Apple TV will dim my TV too dark for no apparent reason.  If there is some sort of ambient light sensor on it, I need to figure out how to turn it off because it is very annoying.    Apple TV seems to go into power save mode too frequently as well!

What’s really missing from Apple TV is the ability to attach or tie in a NAS or external drive to watch personal content and videos.  Overall I’m disapointed with the product but I will continue to use it as my Netflix interface.

Costco has some deals on LED LCD HDTV’s and this weekend I picked up a 47″ LED LCD TV from Costco.  It was a Vizo brand with a 2 year warranty and using the Amex card extends warranty an additional year so I’ve got 3 years of coverage on an $800 TV.

I brought the TV home and was quickly disappointed with the TV stand as it didn’t swivel and worse yet, I had installed it backward which gave the TV a 10 degree inward inclination.   I attempted to call tech support and was prepared to return the TV until I decided to try spinning the stand around and then the TV was mostly vertical but still not 90 degrees.    Ultimately, I’ll likely mount the TV so the stand won’t matter much.

That’s really the only complaint I have with the TV except that it may be too large for my bedroom.   It’s a 47″ LED and its razor thin and the color and picture is good enough.    There were a few other TV’s in the display aisle that clearly had a better picture such as Samsung, Sony and an LG model but they all cost $300 to $500 more than the Vizio.    Since this isn’t going to be the major entertainment center in our home, spending $800 for 47″ LED was fairly reasonable.

By the way, these things were flying off the shelves…I saw FOUR leave the floor while I was standing there deciding on whether to take one home or not.

The Fed announced a $600 billion dollar planned Treasury purchase and may decide to pump more money if “necessary” in the future.  This essentially now lays the groundwork for the next bubble.   The Dow is already showing signs of resurrection as it soared to 11.5k and while there may be a few pull backs I have no doubt we’re on our way to Dow 12k and maybe 13k.   I also have no doubt that all bubbles end in only one way: hard crash.

So the only obvious question that is begged here is when to get out?    Dow 12k or 13k  or maybe tempt fate and try to ride it all the way to Dow 14k?   This will be my last ride up and I suspect it may be a ride through December 2012 but I have no plans on “investing for the long term” in the Wall Street Casino.    There are just too many baby boomers that are starved for cash and whatever money they have in the “market” will simply be pulled out over the next decade.   Generation Y and below is saddled with poor job prospects and trying to get by TODAY much less planning for 40 years into the future.   Generation X is a bit disillusioned and trying to find their footing as the crash of 87, 2001, 2007 have left a bitter taste in their mouth.

So there you have it from Boomers to Millenials, the stock market is dead.   You’re all getting one last ride; Enjoy it; Profit from it; Cash out before the fall.

In the pit of my stomach, I knew it was coming and I’m sorry to see it finally arrive.   What am I talking about?  The desperate stories of some of my friends, peers and even strangers that have still not found work after being laid off for months or in some instances years.   Here are a few quotes from people I’ve spoken to over the past couple of weeks.

“I never thought I’d be out of work for six months and looking at jobs that paid HALF of what I was making…”   from “Bob.”

“It’s been two years and I’m ready to get back to work but nothing is out there and I’m getting desperate!”  from “Sally.”

“I’ve moved in with my mom and we’re getting by on babysitting money….”  from “Cindy.”

I know it is only a matter of time before these people will tap me for money.   A few will be too proud to ask for money and will likely end up suffering the humiliation of being homeless, living out of a car or ending up in a shelter and a few won’t be too proud and ask for money and try to make a go of it but putting a band aid on a severed limb will only provide superficial help.

Ironically and what infuriates me to no end are these planned “shopping” trips that a few of my relatives are planning for the X-mas season.  Yeah, that’s right, despite the horrible economy, potential for total financial collapse, there are people I know out there that are still interested in buying crap at outlet malls or other places to exchange gifts.  Oh well, I guess if no one buys anything the economy will worsen so maybe shopping is a good thing but crap is still crap.

Like I’ve written before, either you are employed and doing the work of three people or you are unemployed with little or no prospect because someone is doing your job for you.

So I’m on a flight from Canada on Continental and the plane is about 60% full which means it’s 40% empty.   The exit rows are completely empty as are the two main front left and right rows that separate first class and economy.   I’m sitting a couple of rows behind the first main row, the middle seat is empty and the window seat has a passenger.   The opposite row across the aisle has the same seating pattern:  Guy, empty, guy.

As I’m sitting there, I can’t help but notice that there are tiny little signs over some of the rows that read, “Reserved Row” on a few rows.  The flight takes off as normal and after about 30 minutes the guy on the opposite row of my row gets up and moves up a row to one of these “reserved” rows.   I didn’t think anything of it and I’m not surprised because the flight is 40% empty and there are empty seats all over the place and why not take a whole row to yourself?

In previous flights, this wouldn’t have been a big deal and in my last flight I had jumped from a full row to an empty row although not a “reserved” row.    Lo and behold but the flight attendant comes down the aisle and tells the man if that was his reserved/assigned seat.   The guy says no and then the flight attendant tells him to go back to his economy seat.   She explains that these are “premium reserved” seats that cost more money.

The woman sitting in the window seat and I look at each other with our jaws dropped and incredulous looks on our faces.  We then giggle quietly at the absurdity and arrogance of the flight attendant and Continental.   I mean seriously, what’s the problem with the guy sitting there?   The seat was not sold and the plane is freaking 40% empty so what’s the deal?

On the one hand, I certainly  appreciate Continental’s free market attitude to charge extra for better seats, charge for food while held captive in a plane, and not offer any amenities to their frugal customers but on the other hand, I think this is stupidity that will result in customers running toward other airlines in a typical philosophy of  “short term gains for long term losses.”  I have no doubt that airline profits will rise, CEO will give himself big bonus walk away and then watch the airline file for bankruptcy a year or two after then no doubt request a government loan or bailout.

I have never been able to stand Continental airlines, they’re the most elitist snobbish airline on the planet and I can only wonder what will happen with the United merger now but I suspect insolvency in a few years.

Well I’ve been on another business trip recently and was saddened to discover that my Netflix account doesn’t work from Canada.  I’m not sure why it doesn’t since Netflix is now active in Canada.  I received an error message that my account (created in America) won’t work in Canada.

I’m now going to assume that if I travel anywhere outside the U.S. that Netflix probably won’t work and this is sooooooo disappointing since I was hoping to save money on those overpriced movies at hotels.

Damn you Netflix!  Damn you!