time and money

money money money...
Welcome to 2004 y’alls.

I think true economic freedom, from a personal finance aspect, has a lot to do with the decoupling of time and money. For me, money and time are still tightly coupled, and very much dependent on each other. At certain times, my money situation is rosy – other times, not so rosy. We’re never really “broke” like warming-by-the-fire-in-a-trashcan broke, but we do have peaks and valleys – which are mostly dependent on time.

Sometimes spending equal amounts of money becomes either acceptable or unacceptable based on when the spending will occur. That’s the difference between going out and buying $10 worth of pizza or burritos from a restaurant for dinner, or staying home and cooking $10 worth of pasta or meat that was purchased at the grocery store. See, the stuff in the pantry or freezer at home was purchased at a time when there was $10 to spend. Whereas it may not be the best time to drop the $10 for the restaurant meal. So yes, it’s the same amount of money being used – a wash as far as the bottom line is concerned. But it still makes a difference. Even tho it’s the same total monthly/weekly/daily pool of funds – the exact time of expenditure ends up mattering.

The coupling of money and time is used to fool consumers all the time. Car salesmen use time to distort the amount of money you’ll pay over the term of a loan. People who measure money only in terms of present-day output are relieved when the salesman tells them they can lower their payments by $100 a month, even though they’ve just bought thousands more in interest over time. In some ways I envy the ignorance of people who don’t realize that less money over more time is actually a worse deal. I mean, what would it matter if I died having never paid back my school loans. Other than the weight of my conscience telling me I stole an education, a debt on my head when I’m buried and gone means little to me.

When money is no longer coupled to time, I imagine we’ll be able to spend whatever we want whenever we want. But for now, it’s still very much cyclical. As we spend these initial years of married life climbing out from under the shadow of college debt, we’re still basically living paycheck to paycheck – the paychecks are just a lot bigger than they used to be. Perhaps that’s a sign of poor budgeting or management, I’m not sure. All I know is that we’ve managed to make impressive strides in reducing debt, while still managing to have fun and maintain a nice “entertainment” budget.

My approach to personal finance is pretty simple. Pay off debts, save and invest, and most of all have fun. I’ve also decided it’s important to realize that there’s no such thing as “extra” money. “Extra” money is always balanced out by “unexpected” expenses. If you find a $100 bill, chances are you’ll lock yourself out of the house and have to pay $100 to get back in. For all the time I spend worrying and thinking about money and finances and budgets and debt, I spend way more thinking about sunshine and music and food and nothing at all. So I think I have a pretty healthy handle on the whole money thing, and I’m not too terribly obsessive.

OK I’m going to publish this without even re-reading it. Sorry if it makes no sense and sucks.

Dave out.

messages from your dead aunt

Ben if you're reading, it's back and worse.  Help.
Ahhh? finally a “free” morning where we’re not running around. Kinda nice actually. It’s the day before we leave, the time seems to have gone so fast. I can hardly believe we’ve been here a week already.

This morning I had the house to myself, so after I read some in my books and made a nice bowl of leftover spaghetti, I sat down to watch some TV. That show with that dude who talks to dead people was on, you know the one where he does “readings” for audience members? I have mixed feelings about that show, it’s amazing to see how hard some people fall for his junk. So part of me feels bad, like he’s tricking these poor people into thinking their dead aunt is communicating with them. It’s like he’s taking advantage of these peoples’ weaknesses. On the other hand I think, what’s wrong with it? I mean, if he were telling people to go on a killing spree maybe it’d be bad – but what’s wrong with telling someone their dead father is watching over them from beyond? Some of the people were so happy and relieved to “hear” from their departed loved ones that it made me at least think he’s doing something a little nice for them. I dunno. He’s feeding the dementia of these people, so that’s probably not the best – but he’s also giving some people some kind of happiness. Either way, he’s a straight up fake – but it’s fun to watch him.

The weather here is so nice. It makes me want to get out and do something. I had this idea that I was going to drive around town and take pictures of all the places we used to hang out. Pictures to go along with all the stories I have. But, I didn’t really get the chance to do it. I stopped and took some pictures of a couple old haunts, but nothing more than that. I’d really like to go back to Astro and get some pictures, if anything remains to be photographed. Doesn’t look like I’ll make it down there either tho.

What I do know is that it’s high time I get spontaneously rich. Preferably within the next week or so, making it so I won’t have to return to work. It’s not that I hate work, I actually like my job a lot – but I would much rather not have to work. Owell, I guess that’s the dream of most. As Drew Cary said: “You say you hate your job? I’m sorry to hear that. There’s a support group for it, it’s called ‘everybody’ and they meet every night at the bar.” Well, I don’t “hate” it, but I would much rather be independently wealthy and not have to do it. I’m just waiting for the idea of a lifetime to come into my head, so I can quietly collect my riches and retire at 30. I’ll letcha know when it happens.

Well, I gotta go take a dump, and I’m tired of writing. Hope everything is well with all of you. Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane bound for home, and then I have a few days off before I have to return to work. Hopefully we’ll get some time to relax and maybe do a little work around the house.

Dave out.

newcastle?, you mean bud?

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Davis
What a busy past few days. I’m glad I don’t write over the weekend, because I’m not sure I would have had time.

Friday night was my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It was very nice, just casual and laid back. A nice time to chat and further get to know people. At the bar before we sat down, I was again reminded that we were in FL. When I asked the bartender if they had Newcastle, he gave me an odd stare. When I followed up by asking for Guiness, he almost walked away from me. Finally, I ordered a Michelob Amber Bock and was done with it. I think he sensed that I was just some dumb yank who doesn’t worship at the alter of Anheuser Busch – and took pity on me by suggesting their darkest and most exotic brew.

When Anthony visited Florida recently, he came back having noticed a few stark differences between California and here. Firstmost, he noticed that foreign cars are nearly nonexistent here. He also noticed that from supermarkets to restaurants, you can only get the most generic, US brew beers. Both his observations have proven true by me. I never really noticed before, but you really have to go to an Irish pub or specialty beer bar to get anything other than Bud and it’s not-so-distant cousins. Strange, but I guess you only need to give ’em what they want.

Saturday was my little brother’s wedding. Man, what a crazy site to see the kid you grew up with standing in front of you getting married. It was a nice ceremony, and the reception was held to only a mild level of crunkedness (thanks Steve), despite my bro’s hoodlum friends. One thing I did think was awesome, they called my bro Frank throughout the entire wedding. The only time they referred to him as John was during the legal vows. Otherwise, even the guy marrying them called him Frank. It said “Angela and Frank” on the napkins, the DJ called him Frank, and even his wife calls him only Frank. I was so proud of my nicknaming abilities I stole a couple napkins so I could keep them for souvenirs. If you don’t know the Frank/John story, check out the bro’s entry in the Cast of Characters page, this paragraph will make more sense then.

Aside from the wedding, we’ve visited with a whole mess of people we haven’t seen in a long time. I drank some beers on the deck of the Cocoa Beach Hilton with a couple guys I haven’t really seen since high school. We visited Sharaun’s grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousin, and others. I finally met Jeremy & Jess’ new little boy, and got to hang out with them for a while. So we’ve been making the rounds.

Well, I’m off. Today we visit more grandparents, more old friends, and have dinner with Bob from FL. Seems like another action packed day to keep us busy.

Dave out.

broken down charm

Jesus Christ and NASCAR.
Florida is just like I remember it. No, I mean just like I remember it. Sure, there are little things that have changed here and there, but by and large this place is untouched from when I left it. Driving into our old home town, I was stuck by how run down and ragged things look. This is an old area, and I don’t think much new money comes in. I’d say there are an equal number of closed up, shuttered, and unoccupied stores than there are open and functional ones. There are large supermarkets that stand as empty as the day they closed when I still lived here nearly ten years ago. Chipped paint and broken storefront signs still scream for repairs like they did the day I left. Strip malls with less than half their stores filled look like a set of redneck teeth, empty gaps more prevalent than not. Faded “for rent” signs still taped to the windows of the same dilapidated commercial properties they pleaded from years ago.

This place is old and run-down, and the years show. Still, there is a charm here. Some kind of beach-bum, Florida-bred, run-down-and-who-cares charm that so well fits the Floridian mentality. Where things are simple, and don’t need to be new and shiny. Where people buy things at the same place their parents bought things. With the Jimmy Buffet attitude, the dusty and outdated facade becomes something nostalgic and not at all unpleasant. There is a history here, and the people are friendly to each other. There is a Mayberry-esque “general store” type feeling that shines through the old-n-busted exteriors and makes me somewhat homesick.

It’s strangely enticing. “Come here and don’t worry.” “Look at this place, this is the pace at which life should be lived. We have all we need and we’re happy this way.” Florida is great for that. Of course, there are newer, more California-minded, areas – as there probably are anywhere you might go. But here in our old home town, it’s business as usual. I’m somewhat envious of it, but altogether not sure if being here now would amount to relaxation, or something more like stagnation. It’s Florida, it’s the South, it’s where I grew up – and it’s still in my blood. I can’t deny the draw of it all, but it’s definitely a double edged sword. For all the reasons there are to admire this place, there are the same reasons to think it a festering sore. Still, the memories are here – and I do smile when I drive around. That’s Florida, that’s where I grew up.

As for us, we’re having a great time so far. Since we’re here for far less time than we’re used to spending, we have to cram a lot of visiting and socializing into our schedule. Today I met my brother’s fiancé’s family for the first time. Above all, they seem like really nice people. We spent time opening gifts with Sharaun’s family, and resting from our harrowing journey from the Schwarzenegger state. Once again, I made out like a bandit on the gifts front. I got lots more nice clothes, and a handful of other cool this-n-thats. We also had an awesome home-cooked southern Christmas dinner. The rest of the week plays out with my bro’s wedding, and visits with friends and relatives. Should be a fun, if hectic, time.

Day two of vacation and I’m still blogging. Although uploading and searching for images over dialup is supremely frustrating. I’m off to bed, good night all. Hope everyone had an awesome Christmas. Oh, and hope you pagans enjoyed whatever heathen rites you celebrate as well.

Dave out.

legions of evil conspiring

Ho ho ho!
Merry Christmas y’all! Despite the legions of evil seemingly joining forces to conspire against us, we are now at cruising altitude on our last leg of the journey to FL. Evil you say? Oh yes, evil – listen up and I’ll rap it to ya.

In order to save a little dough on long-term parking at the airport, we set up a “carpool” thing withSteve & Ragan. We took them to the airport around 5pm, dropped them off, and left them with my set of keys. Since they get back before us, they’ll get the car, and then come and pick us up when we return. That way we get to split the cost of parking between the two of us. All went as planned, and Sharaun and I returned home to finish up packing and readying for the trip. Our flight was set to leave at 10:30pm, so we planned on leaving the house around 8:30.

As we were getting ready to leave, I was burning a dvd of all our latest photos so we could show her family, and Sharaun needed to get her backpack out of her trunk. She got her set of keys from me, and went into the garage. A few minutes later she came back to me and asked me for the keys again. When I told her that she still had them from before, she said something like “oh crap.” Turns out she had locked her set of keys, the only set of keys we had since we gave mine to Steve & Ragan, in the trunk of her car. As we panicked and I tried to jimmy the lock with a coat hanger, Sharaun also realized that her ID was locked in the car. So, even if we could manage to get to the airport somehow, we wouldn’t be able to board the flight. By now it’s 8pm, and we’re supposed to be leaving in half an hour. Sharaun got on the phone with AAA and they said they could have someone there in 45min or loss – it would be cutting it close, but it was the best we could do. Thankfully, the AAA guy arrived in a mere 10min. The car was unlocked and we were on the road by 8:38pm. A bad situation narrowly averted, but that’s just the beginning. (As a sidenote, this is at least the 3rd time I know of that Sharaun has had to call AAA because she’s locked her keys in her car. She usually doesn’t mention it to me out of embarrassment, but at least were getting our money’s worth out of ’em.)

Once at the airport, we discovered that the day’s earlier flight to Atlanta (our connection on the way to Orlando) had been cancelled, and there were people that had been waiting nearly 10hrs for the next flight – out flight. Needless to say, that plane was completely overbooked, and Sharaun and I didn’t get to sit together. Upon getting on the plane, I walked down the aisle looking for my appointed seat with fingers crossed. When I saw the hulking whale of a woman who would be overflowing into my seat for the next three and a half hours, I knew it was gonna be lovely. This beast of a lady made it impossible to sit in a normal fashion, instead I folded my body like origami and sandwiched myself between her mass and the window. Did I mention she smelled like shellac? No? Well maybe that’s because she didn’t really, in fact, I don’t even know what shellac smells like – I just really like that word and think it would be funny to describe someone as “smelling like shellac.” Anyway, her breath was bad, and each yawn sent a toxic blast my way.

So, here I am cowering beneath this side-show lady – and the captain comes on to inform us that the “auxiliary power unit” on our aircraft is not working. This means we have no air circulation while the engines aren’t running. This means it’s hot as crap on this plane as we sit for what seems like an hour. I might as well have worn my trunks, because my balls were swimming. The plane finally gets underway, about 50min late. What a coincidence, we have a 50min layover in Atlanta that has just been negated. As we take off, I realize that there are about 700 babies on this flight, and the two kids in front of me aren’t going to get along at all. Ugh, I bend my neck like a contortionist, look down the aisle to where Sharaun’s sitting, and do my best to ignore it all. Just as we climb into the air, the captain comes on again to let us know that this will be a particularly turbulent flight. Grand.

We finally arrive in Atlanta, and we have about 15min to make our connection. Once again our situation is looking iffy, but once again things work out. They end up holding the plane to Orlando, since so many from our flight are trying to make that connection. We do a speed-walk to the terminal, and once again aren’t sitting together. And that brings us to the present: I sit on the plane and wait to get to Orlando. At least we made it.

The girl in front of me is reading a US Weekly magazine. The actual printed headline on the cover of the magazine reads: “Jennifer Aniston’s Hot New Haircut.” Holy crap. That’s the lead story in this magazine? I can’t even fathom what other stories might be in there. Who the crap cares about Jennifer Anniston’s haircut? I wonder if each time she cuts her hair she gets a headline? That could make you have a big head. People are insane. A real headline would be “Jennifer Aniston loses head in lion fight,” or something a little more interesting. Maybe then I’d buy it.

Dave out.

great gifts all around

Off we go into the wild blue!
This blog upload comes a little later than usual, but here it is.

So, Christmas Eve. Sharaun and I exchanged presents today rather than pack all our gifts round trip to FL just to unwrap them. We both made out really well. I got the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers extreme collectors edition, with the little Gollum figurine and all. Five dvds worth of stuff, yeehaw. I think we were both happy with the loot. Last night we tried to get into the Christmas spirit: we drove around town looking at Christmas lights, and then came back and watched both Charlie Brown Christmas specials on dvd. It was fun.

Today will be spent cleaning and packing for the trip. We leave tonight at 10 o’clock. Heard on the news that some flights from France to LA were canceled for security reasons, great. If you hear anything on the news about Delta 1124 or 329, that’s us. Hopefully the only news story will be about how the crew gave out $500 to each passenger or something. I’m sure it will be plenty uneventful, and hopefully I can get some sleep. We get into Orlando around 7:45am on Christmas morning, talk about crappy flying times – but hey, it was dirt cheap. We should be at Sharaun’s folks’ place by 9ish, and we’ll do presents then.

For Christmas gifts thus far, it’s been a great year for me. Great gifts all around. I got a flask, that’s right! A real-deal drinkin’ flask like honest-to-goodness priests carry at all times. I got some homestar runner figurines. I got an *awesome* all-in-one Namco game controller. You know the kind you plug into the AV inputs on the TV, and all it is is a joystick, but the joystick contains five classic Namco games – including Pac-Man. How awesome is that!? I got a boatload of clothes, more books in the current series I’m reading, a much-needed umbrella, and more. Plus my folks got us an awesome set of Henckel knives for the house, because our old knife set is totally busted. All in all it’s been an awesome year for both giving and getting.

Well, Merry Christmas erryone. Hope you all keep it sincerely crunk for your holiday celebrations. I know we will do our best.


wanna be hero

Another year down, another year gone.
Another day closer to Christmas. Worked a half day yesterday because things are so slow at work. Will probably do the same today. Hardly got a single e-mail all day, was kinda nice. We’ve still got a lot to do before we leave: pack, clean, do our Christmas Eve present thing since we’ll be in FL for the actual holiday. I’m getting excited about going back to Florida, which I still kind of consider as “home” since I did most of my growing up there. I always get a little homesick when we get out at the Orlando airport. For all the reasons I profess to not like Florida, it’s actually a great state – and I have a lot of good memories of my days there.

Yesterday my mom called me at work from her cell phone, asking if I’d felt the earthquake. I hadn’t, since it was centered too far south of here – but they did feel it there. It was kinda cool knowing a piece of big news before the news services started picking up on it. CNN and the other outlets were only about 20min behind real-time with their stories, which is pretty impressive. The US Geological pages that register seismic activity had it up instantly, which I also thought was cool. I’ve been through one or two slow rollers when we lived in Lompoc, but that’s about it. Nothing as hard hitting as a 6.4, which I’m sure is a little more scary than the lightweights I’ve weathered.

Bob asked me the other day if I was concerned traveling with the terror alert at Orange now. I guess it does make me a little more “aware” than usual, but not really nervous. That terror threat color chart seems awfully arbitrary to me, but I hope that it’s working. I guess the only real way it affects me is to just pile on imagination-fodder in my brain. See, I often have these little movies running in my head, that are sparked from what’s really going on in front of me. I run through these imagined scenarios, kind of like a “choose your own adventure” in my head.

As an example: I’ll be walking along somewhere and a surly looking dude passes by me; we both continue along our ways. In my head: All of the sudden the dude pulls out a ninja sword and rushes at me, screaming about something. What do I do? Then I’ll run though all these scenarios in my head, deciding on the best course of action. Kind of like thinking of a good comeback to an insult long after it’s been said, I’ll arrive at the coolest or most heroic chain of events, and then review them like a short action flick. I do it all the time: What if a plane hit my work building? What if a bomb went off at the airport while I am walking through? What if the supermarket got robbed right now? You guys don’t even know how many times I’ve saved the day in my head, I’m like a superhero in my own mind.

With all the year-end hoopla in the media, I felt it was time for me to put my personal spin on the “best of” game. I’ve chosen the following 10 albums as my choices for best albums of 2003. The criteria I used to judge is really twofold: How much did I listen to the album (frequency and longevity), and how much do I enjoy the music (savory-ness and emotion). Without further ado, my picks for the best of 2003 (in no particular order):

  • Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
  • Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
  • Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
  • Decemberists – Her Majesty the Decemberists
  • Shins – Chutes to Narrow
  • Hot Hot Heat – Make Up for the Breakdown / Knock Knock Knock EP
  • The Thrills – So Much for the City
  • Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts
  • Postal Service – Give Up
  • Iron and Wine – Iron and Wine

There it is, with Nada Surf’s Let Go, The Unicorns’ Who Will Cut Our Hair…, and Snow Patrol’s Final Straw barely sitting outside the list. And I know I kinda cheated on the Hot Hot Heat double-pick, but I always listen to the two together – so it’s like a single album to me.

If you like good music, check some of that stuff out – it’s all tasty. 2003 was actually a really good year for music, I don’t know if it’s just that I get so much that some of it is bound to be awesome, but for whatever reasons it seemed there was a lot of excellent stuff out. Also nice, we got to see a lot of it live – as 2003 was also a great year for live shows. This year I took in: Radiohead, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf, Pedro the Lion, Explosions in the Sky, Broken Social Scene, The Stars, Beulah, John Vanderslice, Built to Spill, Hot Hot Heat, The Walkmen, Bright Eyes, The Strokes, and probably more I’m not thinking of.

Well, what started out as a blank slate ended up with some pretty decent blog content. I’m proud. Although I’m not going to all the trouble to go back and hyperlink everything, because I’m just not in the mood. As I mentioned, I’ll be trying to write every day over vacation, but it may not work out that way.

Merry Christmas all! Dave out!