Gone Grazing (again)

The Money Heifer is away.

Will return November 1st.

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I would be killed by airplane baggage charges

Am on the road, traveling by car,

Have stopped at an outlet mall so my mom can visit the Coach outlet store.

Looking at the trunk of the car – filled to the rim.

With a car I have the freedom to lug as much stuff as I want. No weight restrictions or extra fees.

Boy, would I be in trouble if I had to put all my stuff in a suitcase!

Help Wanted But Few Interested

I think we all are aware of the high unemployment numbers. But guess what, there are employers looking for help. Who? Farmers.

According to an article by Joel Millan entitled Captive Labor on the Farm: Growers Rely on More Convicts to Harvest Crops as Pool of Field Hands Dries Up, in the Tuesday, October 18, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal

Despite high unemployment across the U.S., many farmers are struggling to find hands willing to labor in their fields. From Arizona to Alabama, states are cracking down on undocumented migrant labor with legislation that gets tough on employers. One result: some “illegal” farm hands are being replaced by criminal ones.

* * *
Convict labor has a dark history in America, notoriously in the post-Civil War South, when thousands of African-Americans endured what historians say was a kind of de facto enslavement as prisoners on chain gains.

Today, federal laws restrict the capacity of states – and some counties – looking to deploy inmates with commercial enterprises. Whenever it is allowed, authorities have to certify no other labor is being displaced and that inmates receive prevailing wages. Most states further insist such convicts make some of their pay available to victims whom courts deem eligible for restitution.

Interesting. The article notes Idaho has had such a program for about a decade. Inmates in Idaho are enthusiastic about such jobs because they make more money than jobs on the inside such as doing laundry. They get to hang around folks who are not convicted felons. And, they have an opportunity to learn a trade [what a concept – upon release, the convicted felon has a skill if an employer is wiling to hire him/her]. This program in Idaho mandates savings. “Idaho is one of several states that require inmates to save a portion of their pay to support themselves after release.” [How come this mandatory-savings rule is not required by all states?].

I love the concluding paragraph of this article. A farmer in Arizona stated “that even with wages as high as $12.50 per hour, few native-born Americans seek jobs in his greenhouses, and the few who do usually quit. Prison laborers are paid around $7.35 per hour, he said.”

Yes, farming is physically demanding. I know, sort of, with my urban gardening. Spent an hour this evening removing sweet potato vines and harvesting sweet potatoes (a couple the weight of a football) from a raised bed and my garden plot. And I have a lot more to do this Saturday morning.

For those who are unemployed, don’t overlook employment at a farm to feed yourself and your family.

LoJack for your Subaru?

My boss’s tongue & check response when I relayed to him that my keyless remote alarm died on Friday.

Who wants to steal a Subaru? Yeah, I know, not a “sexy” or “sporty” vehicle. Just reliable. That’s what I want.

But, hey, I live in the District of Columbia. And auto theft is not a rare occurrence. Plus I worked hard to purchase & pay off that car. I want to protect my property.

So, why NOT LoJack for my Subaru Forester 🙂

When writing a check & paying for postage is cheaper

How many times have you heard or read that you can save money (meaning not paying for postage) by paying your bill online? Too many to count, right? Well, RCN is an exception.

I paid a bill online, via RCN’s website, with my credit card last Friday. RCN charged a $1.00 fee. Hello, RCN. I’m not a math wizard but $.44 cents is less than ) $1.00. I could have mailed payments for two months, and still have change to spare.

Yup, never using a credit card again to pay my bill with RCN. Definitely an incentive to continue writing checks!

LoJack’s Keyless Alarm Remote is Great Until. . .

the remote dies.

This happened to me on Friday. Luckily, the keyless alarm remote died in front of my house. This could have happened during the four weeks I was taking a class at a Community College about an hour away from my home. Or, it could have occurred last weekend when I drove to a farm in Montgomery County to fill eight 5 gallon paint containers with composted manure. Thanking my guardian angel that the remote did not die at those times!

When I realized the keyless alarm remote had died on Friday evening, I entered the house and pulled out the extra alarm remote I had purchased in 2006. I programmed that remote and it is working fine. After programming the remote, I called LoJack and ordered two more alarm remotes. Cost = $68.50. Of course, this is an unexpected expenditure and not in my budget. I will cover this “expense” like similar unexpected expenses – raid the furlough fund 😦

Package by mule FINALLY arrived

Okay, not really delivered by a someone on a mule, but it feels that way.

The company will remain nameless. I placed an order with the company on September 21st for two printed materials. I saw one of the items I ordered at the Virginia Store (I think that’s what it is called at the Library of Virginia) on September 29th.

Having not received my order, on October 1st I sent an e-mail to the webmaster. Three days later, on
October 4th I get a response. The webmaster informs my order was shipped on September 26th (wow, 5 days to process) and normally takes between 10 – 14 business days for delivery.

My package FINALLY arrived today, October 13th. Yup, delivered by a mule.

By contrast I placed an order with Amazon.com on September 22nd and received my items three days later.

Amazon has set such high standards that we consumer expect other companies to follow the lead.

Not the nameless company I ordered from. Needless to say, that company will not get any additional business from me.

Amazon Has Daily Deals?

About 2 weeks ago I ordered two books from Amazon.com.  I received the customary confirmatory e-mail and another e-mail that my order has been shipped.

I continued to receive e-mails from Amazon.com and didn’t pay attention at first.  I presumed the e-mails were “Amazon.com recommends”, you know, a message declaring that you ordered product A, you may be interested in product B.

Well, this weekend I finally looked at some of those Amazon.com e-mails and realized Amazon.com has local deals.  Who knew?  Well, at least I didn’t.

Of course those Amazon.com local deals are targeted for my locality (which is based on my shipping address).  Recent deals included half off two hours of house cleaning and half off for high-end tea and spice at a local boutique.  But, upon closer examination, I noticed these local deals are sold by Living Social.  Huh?

And then I recalled reading a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this year (or late last year) that Amazon.com invested $$$ with Living Social.

Okay, I already receive daily deals directly from Living Social.  I don’t need to receive the same offering from both Living Social and Amazon.com.

And, has the excitement about the daily deals evaporated?  For me it has.  Haven’t purchased a deal in months.

“Blame Yourself for Joblessness”

Have you not heard what a Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, said about individuals who are protesting in New York, an action labeled “Occupy Wall Street”?  As reported by Yahoo’s Daily Caller,

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s blunt  style was on full display in a Wall Street Journal interview published Wednesday.

Cain told reporter Alan Murray that he isn’t a fan of New York City’s “Occupy  Wall Street”
protesters. “Don’t blame Wall Street,” Cain said. ”[D]on’t blame the big banks,
if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, currently
tied with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in polls for the Republican presidential nomination, speculated the
the protests were a ploy to distract voters from Democrats’ responsibility for the state of the economy.

“I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these protests are planned and orchestrated to distract
from the failed policies of the Obama administration,” he said.

Pressed on whether major banks had anything to do with the current economic recession, Cain conceded that they did, but
described their role as historical. “They did have something to do with the crisis that we went into in 2008, but we’re not in 2008, we’re in 2011,” Cain added.

“It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed,” he continued. “And so this is
why I don’t understand these demonstrations and what is it that they’re looking for.”

First, I strongly dislike the callous remark – blame yourself for joblessness.  In today’s Wall Street Journal there is an article about Friendly Ice Cream Corporation filing for bankruptcy.  Friendly’s employs about 10,000 individuals and operates over 400 restaurants.  “Friendly’s said it has closed 63 underperforming restaurants as part of an effort to trim costs and will keep 424 restaurants open for business during the restructuring.”  I guess if any employee lost a job due to  the closing of one of the 63 underperforming restaurants, according to Cain, it is their own fault!

Second, I wish to challenge a basic assumption by Cain, namely, that people blame the big banks because they, the people, are jealous because they are not rich.  Hello, not everyone wants to be rich.  Some just want to live comfortably.  [And, I think people are upset about the taxpayers bail out of the banks, the banks’ recovery and the suffering of the little guy.  The government should have allowed the big banks to fail like Lehman’s Brothers.  That’s what a free market system is about after all, right?].

But, maybe Cain is onto something.  There are a lot of Americans who dream about becoming rich.  And when they become rich, they don’t want higher taxes or too much government regulation (except when there’s an oil spill or food poisoning and then they wonder why the government isn’t doing its job).  So, they vote with the hope of one day being that rich person.  But they live in a reality of being part of the shrinking middle class, the working poor or the destitute.

Well, I live in reality, not in fantasy.  And I listen to individuals who really know something about personal finance without a political agenda (i.e., Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey).  And I don’t waste my hard earn dollars on any politician.

But, hey, for those who dream about being rich, but struggle with “making it” even with a full-time job, remember, you can’t blame anyone for your predicament but yourself.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back”

As a follow-up to my earlier post about the Wall Street Journal’s article about Bank of America’s online banking upgrade snafu, besides the $8.95 monthly fee if one uses a teller, the article mentions how some local banks and credit unions have seen an increase in account openings since Bank of America announced the $5.00/month fee for using a debit card effective January 2012.  For instance, an official with Arizona State Credit Union claims, due to customers’ dissatisfaction with BofA, it has seen a 20% increase in account openings.  That official further stated,

For the first time, “we are seeing consumers . . . taking action on feelings they have had for a long time,” said Paul B. Stull, a senior vice president at the credit union, which has $1.3 billion in assets and 21 offices in Arizona.  He calls the new  debit-card fees “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Will be interesting to see what BofA customers will do between now and January 2012.

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