Sunday, December 30, 2007

Decisions, decisions

Every year I have to decide how to spend my Christmas money. It's always a struggle! This year, I got some shirts from Old Navy, and the heart "I got the beat!" t-shirt from IHeartGuts.com - I know, I'm a nerd :-) Then, I was thinking about going for a massage with the rest. But I ended up ordering an espresso machine and a case of syrup flavorings (case = 6, and you can mix them up so I got my "favorites" - Amaretto, Caramel, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Gingerbread, and Vanilla). So hopefully the machine will work well and based on how often I go to S'bucks (at least 2x a week) I figure it should start paying for itself in about 3-4 months. After that it's pure profit, baby!

I also had to decide if I wanted to wait until next month to order, because I'll be getting a $5 amazon.com gift certificate from one of my survey sites. But Matt told me it wasn't worth it to wait so I just went ahead and ordered.

One last thing - I refuse to give any credence to an online review for an "expresso machine."

----------

I did our budget updating and bill-paying tonight; there were some good parts and bad parts. The bad part is that we ate out waaaaay too much and are pretty much not going out to dinner until like Valentine's Day. The good part is that, as of January 2nd, we completely own Matt's car! And we are on track to pay mine off by May. I also did our tax estimation, and we have finally gotten our federal refund to under $300 (which is perfect). But I think our state refund is still too large (IMNSHO) so we'll have to play with the withholdings again this year. And then we'll probably have to do it again next year because hopefully by the end of '08 I'll have a real job.

----------

I usually don't make new year's resolutions but I do like to have goals. This year, I'd like to pay off my car, open a Roth IRA, keep better tabs on our discretionary spending, and go "pro" with our Nerdy Babies site. And finish grad school, obviously, but I think that was implied by the previous paragraph. As I said recently on my Facebook page, "I'm either walking at graduation in 2009 or just plain walking."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Proof that people really do change

Looking over some old posts from my Diaryland account recently; I took a Myers-Briggs test in 2002 and was an ENTP (Extroverted-iNtuitive- Thinking-Perceiving). The one I took this year said I was an ESTJ (Extroverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging). I'll let my loyal readers decide which one is which (and which is more me):
1. E---s thrive on order and continuity. Being extroverted, their focus involves organization of people, which translates into supervision. While E---s enjoy organizing and mobilizing people according to their own theories and tactically based agendas, E---s are content to enforce "the rules," often dictated by tradition or handed down from a higher authority.

E---s are joiners. They seek out like-minded companions in clubs, civic groups, churches and other service organizations. The need for belonging is woven into the fiber of E---s. The family likewise is a central focus for E---s, and attendance at such events as weddings, funerals and family reunions is obligatory.

Tradition is important to the E---. Holidays, birthdays and other annual celebrations are remembered and observed often religiously by this type. The E--- is inclined to seek out his roots, to trace the family heritage back to honored ancestors both for a sense of family respectability and for a sense of security and belonging.

Service, the tangible expression of responsibility, is another key focus for E---s. They love to provide and to receive good service. The E--- merchant who provides dependable service has done much to enhance her self image.

E---s have an acute sense for orthodoxy. Much of their evaluation of persons and activities reflects their strong sense of what is "normal" and what isn't. E--- humor is frequently centered around something or someone being off center or behaving abnormally.

E---s promote the work ethic. Power, position and prestige should be worked for and earned. Laziness is rarely viewed with ambivalence nor benevolence by this type.


2. "Clever" is the word that perhaps describes E---s best. The professor who juggles half a dozen ideas for research papers and grant proposals in his mind while giving a highly entertaining lecture on an abstruse subject is a classic example of the type. So is the stand-up comedian whose lampoons are not only funny, but incisively accurate.

E---s are usually verbally as well as cerebrally quick, and generally love to argue -both for its own sake, and to show off their often-impressive skills. They tend to have a perverse sense of humor as well, and enjoy playing devil's advocate. They sometimes confuse, even inadvertently hurt, those who don't understand or accept the concept of argument as a sport.

E---s are as innovative and ingenious at problem-solving as they are at verbal gymnastics; on occasion, however, they manage to outsmart themselves. This can take the form of getting found out at "sharp practice;" E---s have been known to cut corners without regard to the rules if it's expedient -- or simply in the collapse of an over-ambitious juggling act. Both at work and at home, E---s are very fond of "toys" -physical or intellectual, the more sophisticated the better. They tend to tire of these quickly, however, and move on to new ones.

E---s are basically optimists, but in spite of this (perhaps because of it?), they tend to become extremely petulant about small setbacks and inconveniences. (Major setbacks they tend to regard as challenges, and tackle with determination.) E---s have little patience with those they consider wrongheaded or unintelligent, and show little restraint in demonstrating this. However, they do tend to be extremely genial, if not charming, when not being harassed by life in general.

In terms of their relationships with others, E---s are capable of bonding very closely and, initially, suddenly, with their loved ones. Some appear to be deceptively offhand with their nearest and dearest; others are so demonstrative that they succeed in shocking co-workers who've only seen their professional side. E---s are also good at acquiring friends who are as clever and entertaining as they are. Aside from those two areas, E---s tend to be oblivious of the rest of humanity, except as an audience - good, bad, or potential.

(No cheating on Google!)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas is coming...why, it's practically here!

Max playing with his new "toy" - part of the string from one of our garlands.


The stockings were hung by the...um, table, with care.

PS - I posted new pictures on the photoblog!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Success!

We have our first sale on Nerdy Babies! Someone bought the kids' baseball jersey that says "Daddy's Little Carbon-Based Life Form," hehehe :-) That one was my idea.

Tell your friends!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Practically done

Cards mailed. Packages shipped. Shopping done (still waiting for two things to be delivered). Cookies baked. Tree up. House (mostly) cleaned and decorated. Gifts made.

I did not attend a single Christmas party this year.

And of course, with perfect timing, I've got another neck spasm. Sigh. This one is weird though; normally it's on one side and it affects me turning my head. This time, it's in the back center - I can turn my head just fine, but I can't tilt it back very far, and if I'm lying on my stomach (which I often do at night) it hurts to lift my head to turn from one side to the other. I woke up a lot last night :-/

An-y-way. Not much else going on; work's been a bit slow because the holidays are coming up and it's hard to start and stop things abruptly.

I've been reading a lot of financial articles lately; I have some future plans in my head; all we need now is the money! Stupid grad school.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The evidence

Matt says he "doesn't know how to smile for pictures" but I now have proof that he really does!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ummmm

I have a file in My Documents entitled tshirt.txt - the entire text of said file is "15th, shortly, 6th, shortly, 17th, shortly,"

I have no idea what that means and no recollection of writing/saving said file contents. But apparently I did on September 17th?

UPDATE: I remembered. It was when I was waiting for a t-shirt to be shipped and they kept changing the "backordered, expected in stock" date. Seeing as how I do have the shirt now, I will mark that file as baleeted.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Simply having a wonderful saturday

Apologies to Paul McCartney. Anyway, I had my orientation session at Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic this morning. It looks like a pretty neat opportunity - I'd be recording science textbooks for people with disabilities to use in their classes. I got a tour and such and then spent a while listening in on a guy that was recording, and following along in the textbook so I could see how the books are marked up and such. As luck would have it, he was recording a chapter on the male and female reproductive systems. And old enough to be my grandfather. Slightly awkward. But anyway, I start on January 5th...I'll do Saturday sessions until I (hopefully) get a job in DC and then switch to an evening session that I can do on my way home from work (their studio is right across the street from a red line metro stop).

I just read that Hopkins is offering a second section of the class I wanted to take online! That makes me really happy. It's on Product Development, and would be the last elective for me to count towards a certificate. Then I'd just have to take two required core classes, which have been really hard for me to get into - I haven't had any luck so far with those, because everyone and their uncle has to take them and I don't have registration priority. But I've been debating whether or not to try to register for one anyways (either a marketing or finance class); the pro is that it's not online so it might be slightly less popular, and the con is that it's not online so I'd actually have to show up for a class at the Montgomery County campus once a week. I'm still undecided. The rational part of me says "You won't have much more opportunity to take classes for free, so you should take advantage of everything you can now." The other part of me says "I'm tired of taking classes, think of all the other things I could be doing with that time." We'll see who wins. The other thing I'm worried about is that I'll register for one and it will fill up but the other one won't. And I think attempting to register for three classes at once might raise some red flags.

We're going to Dave and Buster's for Matt Green's birthday tonight. We've never been before, but it should be interesting. It's like a grown-up Chuck E Cheese's; as long as they have skeeball I'm happy.

One question likely answered

Extra benefit #1 for irresponsible borrowers: "The president also used the announcement as an opportunity to call on Congress to act more expeditiously on passing mortgage relief legislation, including the FHA Modernization bill, changes in the tax code, so lender concessions to borrowers are not taxed as income, and a bill enabling local and state governments to issue bonds to finance mortgage refinancings. All have been bottled up in the Senate for weeks or months." (link)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Been busy...really!

It's crazy that I haven't posted in like two weeks, because I've been on my computer ALL the time recently. I even bought a mouse because the touchpad was getting too annoying for all the work I was doing. So, what have I been doing?

1. Lab Website. Rhoda heard about some lab that got a huge donation because the donor was looking for research on their disease, and came across the lab's website. So she decided we needed a lab website as well, and we needed it yesterday. I don't remember why I volunteered, but the point is that I did. And it's about 85% done now. You can see it here. You'll notice if you click that it's a ColdFusion format. No, I don't know ColdFusion; I coded the pages in HTML (in *notepad* for crying out loud) and the content manager does whatever it does to convert them. Matt had to help me with some workarounds because the people who wrote the code for the side menubar made their CSS apply to the entire page and it was overwriting styles that I had written.

2. New business adventure? Matt and I are coming up with plans for a website through Cafepress - Nerdy Babies. I've been doing a lot of graphic design in Photoshop for t-shirts and such; we have a basic site right now but we're planning to get a paid site once we have 15 or so designs. So tell your friends!

3. Surveys. I've been juggling memberships at several paid survey sites, which takes a little bit of time out of each day. If you'd like to join the crowd let me know - there are some more decent than others.

4. Class. My online class wraps up this week ("week" = Wednesday to Tuesday) so I've been doing assignments and such for that; I'll be taking my final on Monday most likely.

---------

I'm torn about the announcement of the 5-year ARM freeze. On the one hand, I suppose something needs to be done so that the whole housing market doesn't collapse. On the other hand, how can you not feel like a chump if you have a fixed rate loan? I mean, we were fiscally responsible, bought within our budget, didn't speculate or over extend ourselves. Where's our rate cut? You people gambled on rates not going up (ha!), housing values continuing to soar, or the expectation of future income. You lost, and now they get to change the rules? We apparently gambled on the party of "limited government" and "personal responsibility" not stepping in and rewarding irresponsibility by asking lenders to "voluntarily" disregard contract law. What's next? Returning gambling losses, replacing 401K funds after the stock market drops, a refund of college tuition if you don't get a great job after graduation, gas credits for SUV drivers who are the "victims" of higher gas prices, cutting credit card interest rates so there's room on the Visa for another vacation or new TV?

Yeah, I'm a little bitter. I went back and looked at the ARM rates for the time that we bought; we could have gotten 20% more house for the same monthly payment and just sat on our laurels and waited for the rulebook to be rewritten. So much for the American Dream (TM).

From a CNN message board - ignorant self-entitled fool or the greatest troll ever?
"The people who barrow are the real victims here. The lenders told them their homes where worth more that thay really where. Then they where willing to lend them too much money for the over priced house. Then the lenders let the victims pay these loans with negative amortization. Then they didn’t explain the loan agreement to the victims. They never where told that the rate and payments would go up.

These barrowers are the victim here. I support a bill to allow the people who get foreclosed to sue the lender for fraud and therefore let them keep their homes for free, free, free!!!! This is the type of help these victims need. Lets all band together and support this type of action for these victims."

I'd like to know a couple things though - what are the consequences? Will the difference in the payment amounts be added onto the principle balance? Will it be treated as a debt forgiveness, which would not only be listed on a person's credit report but also counted as income for tax purposes? I've not been able to find anything definite on any of these questions.

Also, I've heard two suggestions that I think would have been a better idea, but since smart people thought of them I doubt they'll ever be implemented. One is that instead of a rate adjustment (or really lack thereof) the rate should have adjusted as the contract stipulates but that the loan term is lengthened to whatever length is needed to keep the payment amount the same. The homeowner keeps their house, but pays for their decision through more interest - which the lender gets as a profit. The second idea is that, since the rate freeze has already been implemented, that anyone who takes the freeze offer loses their exemption of capital gains taxes when they sell the property, as they've already received their financial benefit. One thing that I do support, however, is a waiver of prepayment penalties for anyone refinancing their primary residence, as there is no reason other than greedy lenders for having those in place.

This is the fear, this is the dread
These are the contents of my head
And these are the years that we have spent
And this is what they represent
And this is how I feel...
-Annie Lenox, Why