Archive for August, 2012

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about my dystopia-like feeling  of the next election and hinting that I had no idea who or what I would support but it is becoming clear now.   For starters, I couldn’t support McCain in the GOP in 2008 because Bush turned out to be a miserable failure with the near total collapse of the global economy under his watch.     I accepted the fact that the world needed hope and change but in all honesty, Obama has been a failure, not a miserable failure but a failure nonetheless.

This brings us to the 2012 election and after reviewing material on Romney, I cannot bring myself to support this guy.    It was bad enough he seems to flip flop on positions as easily as the wind changes direction and it bothered me that he didn’t want to release his tax returns but the final nail in the coffin for Mitt was the fact that he’s hiding money overseas.   I simply cannot bring myself to vote or support a man that is running to be the leader of the United States of America who stashes most of his money in the Cayman Islands and Luxemburg or whatever other caches he has to hide money.    The whole notion to me seems very anti-American to be hiding money in foreign countries.   This is the type of behavior I would expect from drug lords, criminal syndicates, terrorist groups, and unscrupulous corporations but not a man running for the greatest office in the world.

Unfortunately, while I can’t support Romney, this doesn’t default into a win for democrats because I view the democratic party as a miserable failure these past four years.   I can’t name anything that has been done over the last four years that’s a positive for democrats.

So what’s a personal finance blogger to do?   Well, it’s clear that since I can’t support Romney and since I can’t support Democrat candidates at the congressional level it’s going to be an even split.    I suspect if I can help keep gridlock in capitol hill, this might actually buy the economy enough time to recover on its own.

 

So recently I was enrolled in the TSA Pre Check.  I actually didn’t enroll myself and only guess that one of the many airlines I frequently travel and have status with gave me entry into this perk.  I was prepared to write a glowing review of the TSA pre check process and finally give some kudos to the TSA but was ironically too busy flying the past few weeks to write this post and then with the extended travel came the realization that the TSA Pre Check still has a long way to go.

For some background, the TSA Pre Check line doesn’t require you to remove your belt or shoes nor remove your computer from your laptop bag or backpack.  It is extremely convenient and it should be the way travel should be for most Americans.   Think of it as a “ez pay toll tag” you find on toll ways where you just whiz by instead of stopping to pay with cash.

So what’s my beef?

First, just because you are TSA Pre Check doesn’t mean you’ll always go through the hassle free line.   I stepped up to the various lanes (my airport now has one for elite/business first customers, one for Pre Check and one for regular people, oh yeah and one for pilots and employees) and was eager to simply “walk through” the TSA pre check line when the mob of TSA agents at the front told me to go to the business first line.  I told her I was “TSA Pre check” but still made me go through the other line where I had to take my belts and shoes off and take my laptop out of my bag.   I honestly don’t know why I had to go through the long line after getting TSA Pre Check but I guess that’s a mystery we’ll never know.

Secondly, on another trip, I had my teenage son with me and we both went through the TSA Pre Check once without any problems however we had left some items in a rental car and had to go out and back to the car rental place.  On the return to the pre check security lane, the TSA agent said my son would need to go through the other lane and couldn’t go with me.    Now my son just barely turned 13 so I’m not sure what “threat” the TSA thought he would be and it makes no sense that I can walk through the TSA pre Check but my child cannot.   Is this some type of sinister terrorist plot to have terrorist earn the TSA Pre Check so they can then bear some children and have them blow up planes by sneaking through the Pre Check lane?   I know, it doesn’t make any sense and neither does the dimwitted TSA leadership, agents, and their idiotic polices make any sense.

By now you’ve heard stories of 85 year old ladies being strip searched, mothers being asked to drink their own breast milk, 7 year old kids being frisked and other mindless nonsense by the TSA and little or no accountability for any of it as hundreds of millions of dollars  of waste and billions in lost productivity but hey at least we’re all “safe” right?  For every step forward, the TSA takes two steps back.  It’s time to demand some accountability and the first political party to do so will have my vote.

I got an email from Amazon to try out the new “college book rental” program and I thought I’d give it a chance.   Much to my surprise, I found the offerings quite beneficial to me.   I looked up all my books for the three classes I will be taking this fall and all of them are available for rental at significant cost reduction.    The list price of many of the books is about $150 to $200 but the rentals vary about $50 to $75 for most.

Since I will likely keep books of my major (finance) and quickly sell back or discard the other garbage I have to take (management, accounting) it seems like a worthwhile endeavor to rent the books.    In all honestly, I hardly use the textbooks instead relying on things like YouTube or other online lectures from high end schools to understand material when I get stuck.   Since I’m taking mostly online classes, I have become accustomed to finding my own answers on the web than relying on professors who aren’t ever around or too busy trying to impress noobs.

I am glad students now have at least a new option buy new, buy used, or rent.    If history is any indication, this will significantly drive down the cost of books over the long haul.   I can’t wait to start the semester, I’ll soon be done with the MBA program and ready to get back to blogging.

Amazon, thank you for moving things in the right direction perhaps this will be the start of the end of the college book cartel.

So it’s now been almost a year since I gave up cable TV and sent AT&T my uverse boxes back and we don’t miss it one bit.   I have also now found a way to watch content from overseas (UK) using something called TunnelBear that allows your computer appear to be inside the UK versus outside it hence you get access to all the BBC TV just like you were in the UK!

At the start of our cable-cutting adventure, the kids would use the Roku box about 80% of the time and the Apple TV box about 20% of the time but that percentage has been moving in favor of the Apple TV box for two reasons:

First the Apple TV features “Airplay” which allows anyone in the family that has downloaded a show or movie on iTunes to push a button and have the movie appear on the big TV screen.

Second, and just recently, Hulu Plus is now available on the Apple TV along with Netflix.   I hope Amazon Prime is added soon and that will make the Roku fairly obsolete for us although there is still some content from foreign countries that is fun to watch.

I will reaffirm my belief that cable operators offer no compelling reason to want to purchase their product.   The best analogy I can think of is walking into a McDonalds and being forced to buy a number 50 combo that comes with burger, fries, salad, parfait, fruit, shake, coke, orange juice, milk, etc when all you want is an apple pie.    Imagine going to the grocery store and having to buy everything in the store because it “helps keep prices low” for everything -NONSENSE!   Before cutting the cord, I had 1000 channels of useless garbage that I didn’t want to watch and while I only watched a few channels I was paying for hundreds!

Oddly enough, my kids are much wiser with money because they save their allowance, buy iTunes gift cards, then purchase those shows which they really want to watch and when the money runs out they have no more TV to watch unless they want to revisit the shows they purchased.   It helps control TV usage in our home as well so it’s the perfect system!

 

Well I’m trying to get back in the groove of blogging.  Quite honestly, I’ve been completely and totally swamped at work, at home and everywhere else.  For those of you that have a job in corporate America, you probably would agree that you’re working harder now (probably doing the work of two or three jobs) than ever before and probably not getting compensated as much as you deserve.   I hear you and I feel your pain.

So I’ll be restarting my MBA program in the fall and I should be done in the spring or at the latest next fall depending on how big of a course load I take.   Taking the summer off this year from school was a welcome vacation and I didn’t spend too much time blogging because that tends to feel like work as well.

Over the summer I took some vacations and got some well deserved reset.  I have also picked up a new hobby that I’ll be writing about in future posts and you’ll be somewhat surprised at what it is……

In other news, I saw a documentary entitled, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” on Netflix recently and it had a huge impact on me.  I have been heading into the exact same dilemma Joe in the movie and am trying to head off that wreck.   I purchased a juicer and have been juicing for the last couple of weeks.   So far I’ve lost about 12 pounds and I plan on continuing it till the end of the year.   I’ll likely take a few weeks off the program in December for the holiday but will pick it up again at the start of the year for the whole year.

 

I simply can’t decide who to vote for this year for president.   On the one hand, Obama has been a HUGE disappointment and I leaned toward supporting “hope and change” but am disgusted at where it’s gone these past four years.   Additionally, Obama has been as big an economic failure as that turd Bush who managed to nearly cause the total global economic collapse with his cronies.   I have no intention of supporting that bozo and clown Romney.  Is this really the best person the GOP could come up with?  What were they thinking?

I am a bit excited that there seems to be real change in mavericks like Cruz of Texas and tea baggers making inroads in Indiana, Florida and other states and maybe obstruction of all legislation for the next four years will help kick start this economy again.

If a man can dream, a democrat president, a tea party senate, and a mixed house perhaps will be the perfect storm of doing nothing for four years….we may finally get somewhere!  Our financial future may rest on congress and the white house doing nothing for four years!