Archive for December, 2010

So I’ve been trying to tally up my spending for the holiday season and I lost count somewhere over $6,000 and I honestly don’t know what the total tab has been.  So here’s a quick run down of the holiday shopping list.

  • Samsung 55″ LED TV w/BluRay player $2200
  • Vizio 47″ LED TV $900
  • 3 iPod Touch’s  – $700
  • Xbox 360 + game and controller – $300
  • Nintendo DSi – $130
  • Variety of games, toys, and other items $600
  • Cash gifts to family members $900
  • Hosting Christmas at home (food, decorations, gifts, wine, etc)  $600
  • Variety of accessories for all the stuff bought (HDMI cables, ipod Touch covers/sleeves, etc) $200

There are other expenses not even included in here but I have to say it was a really great Christmas compared to last year.   I have no guilt spending this money because it was money that would have otherwise gone to the shitty airlines and pay for TSA goons which I will continue to boycott until my summer vacation in 2011.

So instead of American hotels, restaurants, airlines and tourist locations making money this year, a vast majority of my money went to overseas manufacturers of electronics, toys and other items….looks like China wins yet again!

Boy, I am seriously beginning to regret my Samsung TV purchase.  Although the picture quality is great, the additional premium I paid for the Samsung App Store and Internet stuff is total crap.    Fortunately, I got NetFlix to work fairly easily and that’s about 90% of my usage as far as internet apps on my Samsung but it’s still very disappointing.

Technically, I’m having problems with the Samsung BluRay internet but the TV uses the same interface and today I returned the Samsung Wireless Link USB adapter back to the retail store.

So what did I need to do to get my Samsung BD-C6800 BluRay player to work?   Well, in the morning I downloaded the firmware upgrade I wasn’t able to get at home from the office computer.  I put it on a USB flash drive then plugged the flash drive on my Samsung Bluray.  Upgraded the flash and presto the internet on my Samsung was working.   Then I had to create an account on the BluRay player, no problem, then I had to get on the internet and create an account on Samsung’s website then the BlueRay wouldn’t accept my Samsung website password.    That’s essentially where things got stuck and I can’t get to any Samsung apps because my accounts won’t synchronize.    It is also impossible to select a secure password because the remote used that stupid cell phone T9 interface.

Sorry but Samsung designers, engineers and others who worked on these products need to be hanged.

So a few days into my new purchase of a Samsung 55″ 7100 LED and free Samsung BluRay BD-C6800, I am sorely disappointed with Samsung’s Internet based devices.   Honestly, I think Samsung is overwhelmed by huge demand or they are the most incompetent company on the planet.    I couldn’t get my Samsung BluRay player to connect to Samsung App world or Samsung Internet.   The tests show all systems are operations but nothing works.   I tried updating the firmware through the device but got strange message about my firmware being wrong for my model number.   I tried going to Samsung’s website to download the file manually and the download file isn’t available on the website (website crashes).

I had also purchases a wireless Samsung USB device but fortunately it’s still in the package and I’m retuning it tomorrow.   I am going to opt to possibly buy Google TV although I’ll wait until the price drops to $149 or less before I do.  You can google “Samsung Internet” and simply read about the endless problems with Samsung.  Here’s an example of the problems with Samsung Internet.   Worse yet, if you read reviews about Samsung TV’s and BluRays most critiques make valid claims that Samsung’s remote sucks when it comes to controlling the advanced features on the TV or BluRay.

I am happy with the quality of the TV and the player actually plays BluRay disks but aside from the basic functionality, everything else promised is pure garbage.

So Costco has a great bundle that includes a Samsung 55″ 3D 240hz LED TV w/ free BluRay player and 3-D starter kit for a little over $2,000 and I couldn’t help but pick one up.   I took it home and setup it up and the picture is simply amazing.   The screen is so large that it actually overpowers the room it’s in and the images are so lifelike that it looks like the people on the screen are actually in my family room!    I was watching the nightly news with Brian Williams and could see the wrinkles in explicit detail along with a horrible makeup job.   Sorry Brian, I love your nightly newscast but your makeup people need to step it up a bit!

There are a few complaints I have about Samsung.   First, neither the BluRay nor the TV came with an HDMI cable and for two grand, you’d expect the right cable to be included in either box.   The problem is that there are so many freaking HDMI cables to choose from it’s getting harder to decipher what you need without an engineering degree.   A coworker told me to be sure to get a version 1.4 HDMI cable to make sure it works with my 3-D TV.

Next, while my BluRay player has built in WiFi, the TV does not have WiFi.   I actually had to shell out another $80 to buy a Samsung Wireless Link adapter for the TV.   Why didn’t this have it built in to the TV?  I haven’t yet had time to play with the Apps or even Netflix but that brings me to my next point: complication!

As features and functionality get better, it is also increasing the complexity of setting up a TV as now I have to enter a 200 character WiFi encryption key with a 10 button remote!   As always, it’s almost impossible to use a single remote either!

My biggest complaint is the lack of and cost of 3D BluRay movies.   Take a look at the short list of movies available in 3-D here.   There were a few movies at retail outlets selling for $40!  Yikes!   Come on guys, $40 for a movie when a comparable DVD is under $20?

Lastly, the Samsung 3-D glasses cost $150 EACH.  Yes, that’s right, it costs $150 for 3-D glasses so a family of four will spend $600 just on glasses!   Of course, I got two “free” but that still means I need to spend another $300 on glasses and god forbid if one pair gets damaged!

It’s all pretty ridiculous but I’ve got money to burn now that I’m not spending $6,000 traveling thanks to the TSA molestation policy this year so the money has to go somewhere and it may as well go to Korean manufacturers instead of American workers.

At my current rate and my recent change to get two MBA’s for the price of one, I anticipate I’ll be done by 2013 instead of 2012.   Of course, I could take a bigger course load, go to school during the summer and be done sooner but I love getting student loan money semester after semester dirt cheap.   In the final analysis, the student loan money is my ticket to hedge against any type of government gold seizures, confiscation of accounts, etc.     I won’t go into details into exactly what I’m doing but if you’re smart enough, you can figure it out.

It is perfectly easy to me to see how people get 100k in debt going to school because although my tuition is generally a couple of grand each semester, the finance department sees fit to allocate well over 10k per semester to me.  I take the money and use it wisely while I get a tax write off and hedge.   Of course, idiots go and spend the money on crap which is why they can’t get out of the black hole.

I have to admit, I’m still not convinced the MBA is worth anything and my only reason to continue on now is to get the student loan money.    Hell I may even get into buying rental houses as it’s the last undiscovered fountain of subsidized money.   If this keeps up, perhaps I’ll stay in school forever and use the money to put my kids through college…lol that would really be a good way to stick it to the man!

It is with near mathematical certainty that the stock market is going to crash and crash hard in the near future.   The Fed continues to pump money and talk of QE2 and QE3 ad infinitum.  Just ask yourself one thing:   What is going to happen when the funny money spigot is shut off?

The ONLY thing supporting this stock market is essentially free money the fed is pumping into the economy which gets recycled back into the financial markets to support more paper.   It’s all totally worthless or at the very least worth less than it should be now.   I consider the market recovery from when the Dow crashed down to 6000 a blessing but the recent recovery is not sustainable by any measure.    I have been slowly cashing out at every opportunity while continuing to sell short the market.

Yes, the Dow may rise and even hit 12k or above again and it may as the Fed continues to pump money but at some point, it is going to get real, very real for everyone and those that aren’t preparing are going to hurt the most.    Quite a few people I know have cashed out and I plan on using my next employer bonus to pay off remaining debt and shoring up savings and emergency funds.   I remain mostly in cash with a few exceptions such as commodities to hedge against inflation or a hard crash.

If you recall from December 2008, the Fed was injecting money into the “system” back then and by March the Dow had crashed down to 6k.   We’re in December 2010 and the Fed continues to pump money into the “system” yet again.  I won’t go so far as to say March is when the next crash will hit because QE3 may be right around the corner but rest assured I think there are greater odds of the Mayan end of the world prophecy to come true than for a miraculous economic recovery.   Oh well the Mayans end date was December 2012 so we’re only two years away!

So Costco does it again and doesn’t let me down.   A few days ago I bought a $300 New Zealand wool rug and today I got Costco coupons for $60 off the same rug!  Went into Costco and asked for a credit and was given one with no hassles!     I love Costco!  I wish I knew how to quit you beautiful!

I also have bought about $1,500 worth of wine over the past few months rebuilding my inventory that was depleted during my six month involuntary vacation from my previous employer.   I currently have a total of 130 bottles of delicious Malbecs, precocious Merlots, titillating Rieslings, sultry Cabernets, and sassy sauvignon blancs.   I had my kids do a count twice because I wanted to know precisely when I would run out of wine assuming two wine bottles per week and wanted to make sure I had at least a one year inventory.  52 weeks x 2 bottles = 104 bottles plus a few extras for guests and emergencies.

With the economy starting to sour again, I’m ready for the next layoff…nay…I am taunting the world for the next layoff.    Bring it on!   Seriously, I’ve noted that a few of my exec peers that had been let go, found jobs are being let go again so that doesn’t bode well.   It’s the canary in the coal mine and with unemployment benefits not looking promising for renewal, we could be in for a world of hurt.

Stock up on food, silver, gold, and extra cash cuz we’re in for a LONG winter chaps.

Since December 1, I have been on a mission to de-clutter my house.  Every single room in our four bedroom house, one office house is packed with stuff that has been sitting in a particular location for years.   We started with the office and found medical records from 2004 and earlier so project “shred” for one of my kids was to shred 7 years of old medical receipts and records.   Project “office” consisted of removing tons of knick knacks, collectibles (still in original packaging), books, records and tons and tons of compact disks, hard drives and cables (chargers, network cables, usb cables, etc) and sorting for sale, recycling or trashing.

We have three piles – stuff that recycles, stuff that goes to garage sale my in-laws will sell, and stuff that goes straight to the garbage.    I am finding the project  very gratifying and stress relieving and to some extent depressing.    I look back on my life and all the “garbage” that I collected and how little it means to me now and how much of a waste it was all to spend time, money and energy collecting it.

On December 2, we started with cleaning the closets and one particular closet had tons of suitcases.   Some of the suitcases were old and were missing zipper sliders, some had damaged wheels and some were just old.  Why are we keeping these here?   I quickly found four suitcases that we could easily get rid of and we still had five left over.    These old suitcases will go to a garage sale and perhaps they’ll get some use.   We also found some old artwork that’s going to the garage sale and no there weren’t any Picasso’s in the pile.

On Saturday we’re cleaning the garage to reclaim some more space and we’re clearing so much space that any thought of renting a storage facility is getting out of my mind very fast and that will mean saving money!

So how did I finally get the family committed to this project?   Well since I have everything I could ever want, I was asked what I really wanted for my birthday this year.  After long consideration, I came up with the idea of getting 1 hour every day for the next 15 days (Dec. 1 thru 15) to help me clean up the house.

We’ll be hosting Christmas this year with plenty of guests coming over and spending the night so I wanted to clean up the house.   I set a goal of 15 days because that’s when the kids will be out of school and they’ll lose focus fast but I figure it’s enough time to get some serious cleaning done.   1 hour x 4 people x 15 days = 60 hours of labor.

I got a notice in the mail today that my last remaining Chase Bank account was “changing” in February.  Of notable concern was a new $12 monthly fee if I didn’t maintain a balance of $1500 or if I didn’t have a direct deposit of at least $500 per month.   It seems like I will finally get around to dumping my Chase account once and for all.

As I’ve written before, I’ve essentially dumped all my big bank accounts and I didn’t know I still had a Chase account with some money in it but I did some digging and I realized that I need to close down this account asap.    I’ve switched to local credit unions and won’t be going back anytime soon.    I get better service, the tellers actually know my name and it’s fairly easy to do business with my local branches.

So long Chase, our relationship is finally over.