Thursday, October 25, 2007

Need Your Helping of Snark for the Day?

What a coincidence! Because I have just found it:

It's not, like, rocket science.

And yes, I am PROUD to be a part of this snark helping.

In addition, check out the "blog".

It's Been a Week AGAIN??

Don't think I haven't been blogging! I have been, and I've been flamed and insulted and gotten in arguments with people, and you can read all about it on the other blog, specifically this post and this post, and also this LOOOOONG post if you really care that much.

A week ago today, I ran home after work and packed to attend my cousin's wedding in Sacramento, i.e., to meet her bridesmaids, which I'd never met, and stay at the house of family, which I loved, and find something to do for myself on Saturday night with said bridesmaids I'd never met. As I am rather extroverted as a person--no, really! I am!--this turned out well. About the time I was revving a new manual Toyota Celica in 70 degree sunshine on Saturday afternoon, I thought, "Can't I do this every day?" The Toyota Celica belonged to my new best friend Julia, my cousin Amanda's maid of honor and an even faster driver than myself. Most of her own friends--including my cousin--refused to ride with her. I didn't blink an eye, of course, having pushed the limits of cars myself, and we tooled around California and bought iced coffee and sang Christmas Carols--she's a piano player--and when she asked me if I wanted to go out salsa dancing that night, I said, "DO I??"

Which is how I ended up in someone's VIP party at 3:00 in the morning, drinking champagne out of the bottle on the table and suddenly looking at my phone and finding Julia and screaming in her ear, "I have to be at the airport in an hour and a half!" Needless to say, no, I did not get any sleep. For the third day in a row. Fortunately, when the LT picked me up at the airport, he was just as sleep-deprived (read: hungover) as I was. We rode in relative silence. (And he brought me COFFEE. Such a sweetie.)

Fun quotes from the weekend: when I arrived in Sac-town, having gone to bed at 1:50 am and woken up at 4:00 am, Amanda's bridesmaids expressed the opinion that I was crazy or possibly on uppers. As I was chugging my second Triple Soy Cinnamon Dolce Latte of the day, after three cups of black coffee and a shot in the dark, Amanda said, "Well, she's always like this, so I guess...both." Three days later, after four hours of sleep on Friday and zero hours of sleep on Saturday, even this energizer bunny was feeling pretty tired.

As for the driving: I still forget that riding with me is avoided by other people until I'm forcibly reminded; i.e., when driving with Nina The Former Intern. We were tooling around Georgetown, trying to find our way among the twisty back roads and dead-ends, and I kept apologizing for my last minute, shouted instructions, and she said, "No! It's okay! I have accepted the fact that whenever I drive with you in the passenger seat, my life will be in danger at some point. It's okay."

Well. If you've ACCEPTED that fact already...

...and then I was passing this story along to some work friends, including the amazing Tri-Tip who helped me move to Seattle a year and a half ago, and I added the fact that my own boyfriend closed his eyes when he rode with me.

Tri-Tip: "Wait. You're saying that your boyfriend voluntarily gets on nuclear submarines and pilots around for six months in the dark, in secret places far under the ocean, and he won't open his eyes when he rides with you?"

Me: "Yes."

Tri-Tip: "Get help."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blogging the Relationship Special Edition: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the LT!!

It's today! The LT was born today! WOO! Obviously, I am pretty happy that this man chose to enter the world. Safe to say that I am a fan.

After all, this is a man who is letting me attend a book signing tonight, a book signing celebrating a woman who is a She-Hero of the Bloggernets, a woman who has written honestly and openly about her divorce and her finances and her job and her hobbies (knitting) and her cats' hobbies (pooping) and the amazing part is how little I have in common with this woman and yet how much I--and every other woman in the world with a sense of humor--identify with her. But enough about me, the point is that the LT does not mind that I am spending his birthday celebrating a woman who is divorced and living alone with three cats, spending her days knitting. (I don't understand why all the men in town, including the LT, aren't falling all over each other to attend this book reading, but apparently it's not very manly. Or something.)

Also, this man is the kind of man that has all the right responses to important questions like, "Will you still love me if I confess now that we were supposed to take a left three blocks ago?" He did, he said, through gritted teeth. (My ability to give directions to a driver, even if I know the area well, is a byword in Seattle.)

"Is it okay that I don't wear makeup much?" (Read: hardly ever.) His answer: "Yes, definitely. I couldn't stand it if you had to put on makeup before we left the house to go to brunch or drop by the video store."

"Do you notice that I have gained ten pounds?" Yes, I actually asked this question, trying to stop myself even as I said it. The LT may be the only man in the world who had the right answer to this question, said so straightforwardly that I actually believed him: "No, I really can't."


He loves Titan, so much that Titan would much rather live with the LT, I think, than with mean ol' mama who keeps taking him to the vet and making him take pills. (Update on Titan: he has a bacterial skin infection, which didn't respond to the antibiotic shampoo, so now we are trying oral antibiotics.)

In other news: I'm still sick, but on the mend; I'm keeping a really long and boring log of Food I Ate This Week that will be published on the other blog, in case other people want to know how I eat and when I eat it. It doesn't seem exciting, but I confess that I LOVE to see what other people eat on a daily basis, so I thought I would publish mine. I love food logs, especially detailed ones, I love sample menus, I love it when chefs talk about what THEY eat, (hence my irrational love for Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, and therefore I am forcing myself to write down what I eat in an attempt to make it look more like a sample menu, i.e., something that an adult should be eating as opposed to what a child eats with an indulgent grandparent. (Left alone, my diet consists of pieces of bread with some kind of spread and/or cheese. And steamed spinach with sauce. That could be my whole life, easily.)

And in spite of the LT's proclamation that he can't see my extra pounds (God Bless the man), last night's dinner of a Chipotle burrito, a piece of toast slathered in fake cheese, a few spoonfuls of carrot cake Rice Cream, and a tumbler of scotch on the rocks is definitely not a bikini dinner*. Something HAS TO BE DONE. And seeing Crazy Aunt Purl is proven to be low in fat and high in fiber!

Bikini dinner: a dinner that keeps one in shape for bikini season. Substitute lunch or breakfast when necessary.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Been Sick, Plus, an Idea

Very sick. I was priding myself on the fact that I hadn't gotten sick, when indeed half of the Seattle-Tacoma area seemed to be out sick, and then...I got sick. (I blame Tut-Tee Claire. At first it was only she and I who weren't sick, and then she fell, and then I did. Dammit.)

Anyway, whoever is to blame, I fell sick overnight on Tuesday and woke up on Wednesday with glands the size of golf balls, a headache, and the shakes. Fortunately, I had just been to the library--literally the day before--and stocked up on a bunch of fiction I'd never read: four Charlaine Harris', two each from two different series, and three non-fiction: The Tipping Point, French Women Don't Get Fat, and The Year of Magical Thinking, that last one on my mother's recommendation. I've read all four fiction paperbacks and am partway through Magical Thinking, although I've gotten distracted with The Eye of the World. Yes, the very same Eye of the World, I don't think there are two, that starts the famous Wheel of Time series, that will probably never actually end as the author just died. May Robert Jordan rest peacefully in a world beyond blood diseases and book critics. And as he would say, I'm not sure which is worse! As for the rest, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with French Women Don't Get Fat, and I've already read Blink and loved it, and so wanted to read Tipping Point. From now on, all the books I'm reading or have read will be in their own list right above the blog archive, so you can click on any title and be taken to Amazon. No, I don't make any money if you buy it...yet. (Some of the books I've read will be in Aarwenn Culture, if they're reference books I refer to often.)

Reading this much fiction--especially by authors I enjoy, although the jury is out on whether I actually enjoy Robert Jordan yet--has got me thinking (again) about my own work of fiction. I've been thinking for some time that I would post the first chapter here, on this blog, so that people can read it and hopefully give me their opinions. I hope that might spur me on to finish it, as the plot has been finished long ago, and now it just requires the words. Sadly, the words--as Robert Jordan knows--are the hardest part. The plots are easy. It's the words, and the characters, that are so hard. Anyone can describe a plot. Telling a story is the tough part.

So what do you think, readers? Yay or nay posting the novel? Would you rather wait until its finished? Anyone out there want to be my writing buddy? I can't seem to do it alone.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

ING and Mary Kay

The two things aren't really related, but the LT read the previous Mary Kay post and said to me, "You spent two hundred dollars on make up. Isn't this going to directly affect--in the reverse way--all this progress you're making with your ING account?"

To which I say: "THBBBBBBBBBT."

But that's just the short answer! I have a longer answer, which involves more B's.

No, seriously, I do have a longer answer, mainly about ING, based on a number of questions I've received recently. (And thank you! Ask more questions! I love to talk!)

What kind of interest rates do you get?

I get 3.5% on my checking, and 4.0% on my savings. Yes, that's excellent, and getting paid real money on YOUR money is just as excellent as it sounds.

What are some other good things?

No overdraft fees! Instead, they charge you interest on any amount you're overdrawn, calculated by some complicated algorithm per day. I can be hundreds of dollars overdrawn (just for a few days, I swear!) and be charged 85 cents total for the month. That is really nice. (I'd like to pretend I'm perfect, but I'm not. Sadly.)

So what's the catch?

Well, ING doesn't have any branches. And they don't have any ATMs. So you MUST have a "real" checking account linked to your ING account. And that's a problem, because in moving money around, you can (if you're me) end up short on one or both accounts, and then you get slapped with terrible overdraft fees from Real Bank.

I opened my ING account in very late May, and let's just say that although I have made something like 35 bucks in interest since then (for doing nothing! Just saving!), I have also spent 181 dollars in overdraft fees. I have also earned money (occasionally) for ING promotions, like 1% cash back on purchases during June and July, which netted me an additional 25 dollars (roughly), but still--as of now, opening my ING account has cost me money.

UPDATE: This is actually not true, at all. I have saved a great deal of money that I would normally have had to spend in overdraft fees, since I have mentioned I've been overdrawn a few times on my ING account. Conservatively, applying Key Bank rates, I have probably saved 180 dollars. At least.

Okay, but assuming I'm not you?

First of all, congratulations! Second of all, I would say opening an ING account would be a terrific idea for you. You won't have the overdraft problem that I did.

What are some other catches?

Well, even if you're not me, you'll still have a problem writing checks from your ING account. They have an electronic check option, which works almost instantaneously, like paypal. And then they have a paper check option, which thanks to some fancy graphics you can fill out online and send to someone--and that's neat--but it would be faster to buy a donkey and a horse, have them mate, raise the mule, train it to be a pack mule, and send it to the person with your check--which the mule may or may not eat on the way (um, the check, not the person)--than to send an paper check through ING. This is a serious problem.

However, it's very tempting to send checks through ING because even if you don't have enough funds to cover the check, it won't bounce OR slap you with nasty overdraft fees. They treat it exactly like a normal overdraft. In some cases, with returned check fees being as high as $75 dollars, I can imagine this would save a large amount of money. I mean, if you were me, which you're not. So maybe this won't matter to you.

So what do YOU, personally, use your ING account for? Or alternatively, why would I open one if I can't write checks from it or deposit money into it? Sounds ridiculous?

Good point. I use my ING account for everything except writing checks. I use my debit card for all my purchases (or at least I do when I can find it), I pay all my bills, all my student loans, and I give to my Roth IRA every month from it. What I don't do: pay rent, or buy Mary Kay. Evil Mary Kay.

Had I thought about this at the time, I would have written an electronic check to Jen the Mary Kay lady from my ING account, as there wasn't a deadline like there is for some checks. And I would also have paid my utilities bill from it, because again, had I sent the check right away it would have arrived in plenty of time (even if the mule ate the first one) and I wouldn't have to worry about having enough money in the account to cover the check at the right time because they don't bounce! Wow, that would have been a great idea! I could have saved 75 dollars!

Focus, Aarwenn. Why would I want to open an ING account?

Because if you're not me, and assuming you have the same amount of savings as I do (kind of insulting for you, I'm sure you'll have more) you'll make about forty dollars in four months! Ten dollars a month in interest is nothing to sneeze at.

And also, having an account with no real branches is no challenge at all for our generation. I assume you already do everything online, including bills, student loans, dating, savings accounts, group games, etc, online. (Maybe in some future world will put a link on your profile to your ING account so your potential dates can verify your income?) So it's not so odd to have an account you can't go to, in person. I also assume you already have direct deposit of your paycheck and don't get a lot of other checks, and so you have no real need to visit your bank anyway. (Although I hope EVERYONE knows they can deposit checks by ATM at your bank. I'm always shocked at how many people don't know this.)

One additional note about ATMs: the ING site has an ATM locator, in which you can find all the free ATMs that ING has, and there's a lot, all over the country. There's one half a block away from me; it's great.

So, what's the verdict?

If you're not me, i.e. you can do math and you can learn from your mistakes, opening an ING account will be the best thing you ever did, and even if you ARE me, you'll still be happy you did. I am.

Okay. Good to know. Last question: what started you on this "Money Watch" phase?

This book: Women and Money, by Suze Orman. A fabulous, wonderful book. And you can make $100 dollars by opening a Roth IRA. I'm serious. Go out and buy it, now!

Happy Tuesday! May Mary Kay ladies run from your door and may your bank suddenly decide to suspend their overdraft fee policy!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Evil that is Mary Kay

So, I have this friend that I met at a bachelorette party, once upon a time, and she said she had just started selling Mary Kay, and because I really like the idea of Mary Kay in theory--the idea of women being able to work at home, woman-owned small businesses, etc--and she was looking for test subjects, I volunteered.

Side note: Not only am I NOT a girly-girl, I am also kind of a sucker for advertisements and clever packaging, and therefore I had a period in my life (sadly, right over the time I moved a lot) in which I had TWO FULL CARDBOARD BOXES, the gigantic moving kind, product. That I never used. That I carefully moved to at least four separate residences.

Based on these experiences, and the subsequent kicking-myself-in-the-head that I did, I am very hesitant about buying any makeup product at all, although I make an exception for lip gloss. (Buy it, lose it. Buy it, lose it.) So I went ahead and volunteered to be her Mary Kay subject, but I was NOT going to buy anything. Not. Not.

What I didn't bargain on was the Mary Kay program of doing TWO facials, a starting facial and then a follow-up facial. At the starting facial I bought three lipglosses, something I always need, and also bronzer, which impressed me during the facial (and has continued to impress me.)

And then I started getting the calls for the follow-up facial.

I resisted. I flaked out. I refused to return calls. And then finally Jen (the Mary Kay girl, and actually very nice) nailed me down and sure enough, a week ago yesterday, we had the follow-up facial, and I could hold out no longer, and I bought a skin care system. And some eye cream because that would push my total up to (big scary number I can't reveal here, except that it has three digits) and then I would get a free makeup bag, and let me tell you, the makeup bags at Mary Kay are unbelievably terrific.

HOWEVER. The reason I bought the skin care system, or part of the reason, is that Jen said, "Look, I will make you a deal. If you buy this system, and use it faithfully every day, twice a day, and your skin doesn't get better, I'll buy it back from you. You're a great test case. Please, buy it and use it every day. Please?"

How can I resist a deal like that? And so now I have spent close to two hundred dollars on makeup and skin care in the past month that I will probably never use, since I did indeed use the system three days in a row last week but completely forgot over the weekend AND Monday, and all I can say is that the next girl I meet who tells me she's selling Mary Kay I will punch in the face and then run away.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Expensive Lessons Get More Expensive the Second (Hundredth) Time

For example, I was with the LT (with whom I had a great weekend, even driving back and forth from Bremerton to Seattle four times) on Sunday, and I took a look at my bank statements. I should know better, because the LT manages his money like Alan Greenspan (or how I imagine Alan Greenspan would handle his personal accounts, not America's money) and not.

It's not that I'm poor, as you'll see from the following conversation. It's more that I'm...well, scatterbrained. To put it mildly.

Me: "DAMN!"
LT: "What?"
Me: "I owe Key Bank $73.00 in overdraft fees!"
LT: "Baby! Are you okay? Do you need me to pick up some coffee bills?"
Me: "No, I'm fine." (I click and login to my ING account, which by the way I still love.) "See? I have a healthy balance here."
LT: (Confused) "Why do you have two accounts?"
Me: "I wish I could--I wish I could just go with my ING account. I hate Key Bank. But my ING account needs to have a "normal" checking account linked to it. They require it."
LT: "Okay. But why don't you keep more money in the Key Bank account?"
Me: "Because ING pays me A LOT more interest."
LT: (With great patience) "Fine, but why don't you use your ING debit card, then, more often, instead of your Key Bank one?"
Me: "Because I lost it."
LT: (Throwing his hands in the air) "I give up!"

I was passing this story along to my Tut-Tee Clair, and she said, "Um...shouldn't you cancel it?"
"Oh no," I said cheerfully. "I know it's somewhere in my apartment. I just have to find it."

For the record, when a sixteen-year-old gives you good advice--that you should be taking--about your money situation, you know you're beyond the repair given by professionals.

However, just to make my point, I did in fact TODAY find my ING debit card. Which never charges me overdraft fees. (One of the many, many reasons I love ING.)

And I have a Roth IRA, and a 401(k), and just a plain old savings account. It's not that I'm destitute. It's just that...well, let's just say that money is easy in that it just goes into accounts and earns interest all by itself. In this case, I think my own money is smarter than I am.