Promises Are Meant To Be Broken

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about how I had made a vow that I would not replace our old TV with a new flat screen TV until it died.

Well, I broke my vow.

The old TV was a 32″ Toshiba tube TV.  I purchased it in early 1997 for around $800 from Best Buy.  At the time, I had been out of college for just under a year, and this was a great TV for my roommate and I.  Pretty much everybody else in our age group was sitting at a 27″ or lower.

We enjoyed the heck out of that TV, and our apartment was the de facto hangout place for our friends.  Not just because of the TV, but it made watching movies, watching TV, and most importantly, playing video games, a total blast.  We played a lot of Madden football (Madden ’98!) and NBA Live ’97.  Lots of great times!

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Sprint Protects Itself From Fraud But Customers Are On Their Own

On the surface, it would seem crazy for someone to write a post complaining about having a $556 credit balance on your cell phone bill, but that’s exactly what I’m about to do.  See, I have a $556 balance on our Sprint account and I am not at all happy about it.

A suspicious text message that was all too real

mb-cellphone201302My wife has the primary line on our Sprint account, and she called me up one day to tell me that she had gotten a text message saying that it was from Sprint indicating that they had detected a potential fraudulent activity on our account and gave a number to call back.  She passed along the number asking me to see if it was real and to handle the situation.

I did a reverse search on the number and found that it was in fact a real number tied back to Sprint’s Fraud department.  I called the number and passed along the information we had received on the text, and they pulled up our account.

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Suing S&P Over The Mortgage Crisis Is Crazy

I often laugh at news stories over at The Onion, which is a news site full of satire.  The headlines and stories are presented as real, but you usually find that they’re written to bring out laughs and are not based in fact.

mb-gavel201302I thought I had to be reading a story on The Onion when I recently saw that the United States of America is planning on suing Standard & Poors for up to $5 billion dollars due to the credit ratings issued by the ratings company on mortgage backed securities prior to the housing crash.

Basically, they’re faulting S&P for giving high credit ratings, which made them seem like good investments, accusing S&P of giving these high ratings even though there was evidence that the underlying mortgages were quickly degenerating into riskier and riskier assets.

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A New Car Is Little More Than A Drag On Your Net Worth

I got a call from our credit union the other day.  I used to do all my banking at this credit union until we got married, when we decided to combine our finances, and this led us to consolidate checking and saving services into a nearby bank, meaning that the credit union accounts largely became dormant.

Still, I kept the account active with a little bit of money because for several reasons:

Read moreA New Car Is Little More Than A Drag On Your Net Worth

I Believe Consumers Can Affect Gas Prices

Winter is typically the time of year when we use the least amount of gas.  Travel is down because people aren’t doing the amount of vacation travel that happens over the summer, meaning that gas consumption is down.  Since demand is lower, this usually means that the winter sees the lowest gas prices of the year.

Not this year, so far!

I’ve noticed a trend that gas prices start climbing in advance of the summer season earlier and earlier each year.  It used to be that prices would start rising in April and peak around Memorial Day, then level off and start sliding down a bit after the Fourth of July.  The earlier part of those trends moved back a couple of weeks, and this year is no exception.

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There’s A Lot Of Money In The Cable TV Business

I was talking to my dad the other day about our cable TV service.  We use the same provider, so we were both dismayed (but not surprised) when we both received a letter in the mail from our cable company letting us know of a rate increase.  This is something that usually comes out around this time of year.  My dad got a note that his service was going up $3 a month, while ours was going up $8 per month.

The letter blamed rate increases from content providers, which is a pretty standard reason that they’ve given the last few notices.

While talking, my dad did a quick set of math that was pretty eye opening.  He did some research and found that our cable company has roughly 800,000 accounts.  A $3 month increase per month is $2.4 million extra charges coming in each month.  Multiply that by twelve to look it over an annual basis, and you’re coming close to $30 million dollars.

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Don’t Do Something If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you may know that I used to run things on the Blogger platform.  Very early on, I actually started the blog on WordPress, but when I gave some thought of giving up blogging, I migrated over to Bloggers since that was free.

It didn’t take long for me to renew my interest in blogging, but I stuck with Blogger for a couple of years. I always had a mind to get off of it and over to WordPress, but it took a couple of years for me to do anything about it.

Finally, I found a new hosting company and got everything signed up.

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Our Major To Do Items For 2013

Earlier in the week, I wrote a summary of our 2012 to-do items in terms of large projects around the house.  Here is a quick list of things we want to get done during 2013:

  1. A new roof –  I hinted that, like in 2012 with our tree removal, the biggest items would center around the outside of our home.  As it turns out, our biggest (hopefully!) purchase for the year will be to get our roof replaced.  The roof is original to the house, and was likely installed in 1998, making it just around 15 years old.  The shingles are definitely curling pretty much everywhere, and the top layer of asphalt is coming off in a valley and along one side of the house.  Luckily, those areas are over the garage, so if there happened to be any leaks, they wouldn’t be catastrophic, but it’s definitely time to get the roof redone.  I’m looking to get some of the more common upgrades done, including better looking shingles and ridge vents (to replace the ‘box vents’ that we have today).
  2. A mantle around our fireplace – We’ve long talked about getting a new mantlepiece around our fireplace, and we saw one last year that sparked our interest.  Of all places, we saw it in a neighbor’s house while trick or treating!  We asked them about it, and it was there before they moved in, but we’re going to look around to see what we can find.  Our wood trim is all white, so that should make it a little easier to find something to match.  It’s also drywall above the fireplace, so installation should hopefully not be too difficult.
  3. Replacing the front hall table – We have a small table in the foyer right inside the front door.  This table was something I purchased 7-8 years ago to ‘class up’ my bachelor pad, and it’s definitely worn out it’s welcome.  I’m pretty sure I got it at WalMart, so I surely was not thinking anything high class.  While we’re not going to get anything extravagant, something that gives a little better sense of style is definitely in order as it’s placed as probably the first thing guests see when entering our house.
  4. Re-painting the deck – When we moved in the deck was in pretty sad shape, as most of the paint was flaking off.  Somehow we lived with it the first two years, but in 2009 I power washed it and repainted the entire thing.  I gave it a quick overcoat in 2011, which helped, but the paint is peeling off at a pretty alarming rate now, so it’ll be time to do a re-paint.  The spindles aren’t bad, so they will probably just need one coat, but the surface will need a wash and paint.  I was hoping that it would last longer, but we have so many trees in our backyard that come down in the fall, that (even though I try to sweep them off the deck regularly) having them sit on the deck likely speeds along the decay process for the paint.

I think that’s it, though other stuff will surely come along that will require attention, but those are the plans for the year.

What are your big to-do items for the house in 2013?

How Much Would Bail Cost?

I found out some shocking news earlier in the week about someone that I used to consider a very close friend.  We have fallen out of touch over the last few years (a situation that’s worthy of its own future post), but I found out that he was charged with embezzling almost $400,000 from a trust fund that he was managing.  It’s shocking and you can bet that I’ll be watching with great interest.  I’m torn because as a former friend, you want to believe he isn’t capable of something so ghastly, but some of the things that went into him becoming a ‘former’ friend were tied to character issues.

In any case, one of the things that came to mind was how he would be handled prior to the eventual trial I’m sure will happen (unless he strikes a plea deal) and specifically how he would be processed for bail.  I received some great information from Expert Bail that was timely and informative.

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Reviewing Our Major To Do Items From 2012

Last year I wrote about the major things we wanted to get done around the house, and just recently stumbled across it, so I thought it would be a good idea to check in on how things fell for last year’s list, and spell out a few of the things I want to get done this year.

This is our 2012 In Review

  • Tree Removal in the backyardDONE – I had this taken care of in March last year, right after a spell of warm weather that made it easy enough to do.  The tree had to come down in pieces, as it was hanging over the deck and there was no clear path anywhere else that wouldn’t have put houses, play structures, or other trees (that belonged to the neighbors) at risk.  I also had three other trees on the smaller side taken out, as I wanted a big open area where the kids could play.  We also had the stumps ground, and I took it upon myself to level off the areas, backfill them, and seed them.  It turned out great.  It also had the side benefit of giving the yard a lot more sun, so the grass back there thrived, so much that it used to get to the point where I could skip most of the backyard every other cut, but this past year the backyard produced the most clippings of anywhere on our property.  And, we still have over 30 trees back there, so we still have plenty of trees (and leaves to rake in the fall).
  • MulchingDONE –  I didn’t have this on the list but I realized it needed to be done. The benefit was that the tree trimmer used his chipper to turn our cut-down trees into mulch.  Usually the mulch I need costs a couple of hundred dollars, so although the tree trimming was pretty expensive, having the cost of mulch offset was a nice benefit.
  • Replace the dishwasherNOT DONE – Our dishwasher developed a small leak that I was alerted to by a beeping water sensor I’d place underneath for that purpose.  I figured that meant the end of the dishwasher, but I instead found that the leak is very small (probably less than a quarter cup during each cycle) and has not gotten any worse since discovering it over a year ago.  I slid the lid of an unused storage bin on the floor.  This catches the water, and the fact that it’s such a small amount plus the heat generated from a normal load, combines to evaporate the leak very quickly.  It’s a patch, for sure, but to look at it from the front, you’d never know there was anything wrong.
  • Re-landscape the area between the front of the garage and the front walkway DONE – We have a side entrance garage so there were overgrown bushes between the front of the house and the walkway to the front porch.  They made the pathway smaller and smaller, even with regular trimmings, and in the winter they got caked in snow, which would later fall right onto the sidewalk.  I hated the bushes and wanted them gone.  I actually had the guy that trimmed the trees rip them out of the ground for an extra few bucks.  The area stayed bare most of the year, but in my mind that even looked better than the ugly bushes.  Finally, at the end of fall, I had someone come and do some tasteful decorations.  A small batch of ornamental grass is on one end.  There are two juniper bushes which flank a few little rose bushes n the middle.  We haven’t seen it yet for a full season, but it should hopefully look good and last a long time.
  • Re-paint the deckDID NOT DO – We put it off another year.
  • Replace the kitchen sinkDID NOT DO – We’re still using the same, cruddy, chipped white porcelain sink.

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