Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Funny or Not?

Is it wrong that I actually laughed when reading this?
see more Fail Blog

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Memory of Tuck

After a year and a half battle, and 4 surgeries for removal of the mast cell tumors that kept coming back, worse and quicker each time, the cancer finally got the upper hand. Less than 2 weeks after his last surgery, the masses were back and bigger than ever. By this weekend, Tucker could hardly get up, and when he did, would only take a few steps before laying back down. He stopped eating, refusing even hotdogs and steak. So on Tuesday afternoon, our beloved vet made the 25 mile trip out to our house to help Tucker through his last moments. It was a peaceful and quick, but terribly sad ending.

We have had Tucker since he was a 2 month old puppy, getting him the week we moved into our first house in October 1998. He was a sweet, loyal, eager to please pup. He had a great life, but the roughest of our menagerie, winning a battle with Parvo at 8 months, replacement of a "knee" ligament at 6 years, and terrible itchy skin problems from spring to fall for the last 7 years. We spent an incredible amount of time and money at various vets over the years, but never regretted a single dollar.

He will be missed terribly and never replaced or forgotten. Our hearts are heavy with the loss but our lives richer and blessed for having almost 11 great years with our boy.

We hope that everyone is blessed with a Tucker at least once in their lives.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Tax Cuts

So unless you get the daily emails from Move On you may not have seen this. I found it very interesting and thought I'd share. This comes from Daniel Mintz,

Dear MoveOn member,
This is ridiculous. The media has been obsessing about President Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—from 35% to 39.6%—even asking if that makes him a socialist.1

But do you know what tax rate the wealthiest Americans paid on the top portion of their earnings at the end of Ronald Reagan's first term? 50%.
Under Richard Nixon? 70%. Under Dwight Eisenhower? 91%!
Shocking, right?

And for all the whining about rolling back Bush's irresponsible tax cuts, the truth is that Obama's plan cuts taxes for 95% of working Americans. Further, it closes huge tax loopholes for oil companies, hedge funds and corporations that ship jobs overseas so that we can invest in the priorities that will get our economy back on track.2
We saw a great chart in The Washington Monthly3 that shows just how absurd Republican complaints about Obama's budget are. Check it out and pass it on:

Becoming an Investor

John and I are still somewhat worried about our job security although having survived 3 rounds of layoffs (me) and his hours cut by 2 days a month, we think we will probably be ok.

Additionally, we are in the middle of refinancing to take advantage of the lower rates. With a 2.675 point buy down, we can get 4.375% as of yesterday. We are all approved to go but have yet to lock in - I will probably do so soon but I'm nervous wondering if there will be another rate drop.

Anyway, with the refinance, we are also taking a cashout to pay off ALL our other debt - our new car loan, creditcards (all of which have always been at 0% but those 0% offers are disappearing fast!) and student loan. This will lower our monthly payments by a little more than $800. At first I had just planned to use the surplus to aggressively pay down the principal and get the house paid off in 10 years or so, until I started running the numbers of what investing that same amount would get us. I was blown away! We would be idiots to pay down the principal at a cost savings of 4.375% when investing the money over time can get us a return of 8% conservatively and more likely in the range of 12-16%. Not to mention, the money would be there if we needed it, whereas cashing in on equity in your house is much more difficult. And with 25-30 years until we retire, we will still have the house paid off by then anyway.

So, for the first time in our lives, we are finding ourselves with a monthly budget surplus. We have been doing pretty well month to month and have even managed to save some money over the last year while still making some decent retail purchases.

So for the first time in our lives, we are in a position to start some serious savings. As a public employee with Oregon pers benefits, I will have a pretty decent retirement already. Add to that the fact I have been contributing over the years to other retirement accounts as well, not alot, but currently about $200/month, and we are not in bad shape for retirement without the additional money. We still plan to increase our retirement contributions significantly, but even if we did an additional $400/month ($600 total) that leaves us with a MINIMUM of $400/month to savings. I am actually thinking we will be able to swing an additional $800 or more most months.

While we want to increase our liquid savings, it is obvious that within a year we will have more than we really need in liquidity and with current interest rates at a maximum of 1.75% (traditional CD) it doesn't make sense to just put it all in savings. So I think we are going to be opening an investment savings account for the first time. I feel like over the last 48 hours I have been cramming for finals, trying to learn the basics of investing! Up until now, I have just done the standard retirement accounts, not having to really worry about how it works. Savings investments are a whole different ball game. I am leaning toward Hartford which the investment advisor at our bank suggested. The individual who runs the account has an excellent track record. I am still nervous as this is brand new territory for us, but I am excited about the prospect as well. Particularly with the markets so low right now, I feel like this is the perfect time to get started.

So, do you have any investment savings other than a retirement account? What has worked for you? Any advice or good reading suggestions would be appreciated!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vacation Planning

So we have our plane tickets and are getting ready to book another vacation to Disney World for the end of August. Just wish it wasn't 6 months out! We are planning on staying at Pop Century again and are banking on Disney offering the free dining plan again at the end of August as they have done for the past few years. We did the dining plan last year (a year ago today as a matter of fact!) and loved it. But at around $90 a day for the three of us, getting it free means we will save around $800 in food costs over a 9 day vacation - well worth the wait! Plus it is the off season and we save on the package rates as well.

The really cool thing is that Gunfighter will be there the same time! Hoping to get a chance to meet up with him and his family. That would be really cool.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catching Up

So Jaxon had his colonoscopy last week (yes he's not even 5 yet!) and it went smooth as silk. They gave him and oral sedative before wheeling him in to "surgery" so he doesn't even remember anything about it, not even getting his anesthesia. He recovered just fine. Took a couple hours for the anesthesia to wear off, but once he started to wake up, he was back to his normal self, eating lunch in the cafeteria with Grammie and I a half hour later.

The doctor found one polyp which he removed. Couldn't have asked for a better outcome. One polyp explains where the blood was coming from but isn't otherwise anything to be concerned about, so it looks like we can put this year long ordeal to rest finally! And so far, no more blood in is stool since then. Yay!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Brilliant Idea?

So John's been playing M.I.A.'s Paper Planes a lot the last few days. It's one of those songs that really sticks with you for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is that it is so catchy. But the lyrics at first glance are a bit disturbing. After reading through them a few times, I started to grasp that they are heavy with satire and irony as well as double meanings. Listening to a few interviews with her she certainly seems to have a depth and intelligence about her that further support the likelihood of that rather than just some disturbing gangsta rap song.

Anyway - I was just thinking about how different her background is, having grown up in Sri Lanka and experiencing the early years of Tamil fighting. Hearing her speak and then listening to the lyrics of her music takes you out of your comfort zone, shouting hey - there are a lot bigger things going on in the world.

Which got me thinking...
1. We have an over-population problem in our jails. Many of these criminals are repeat offenders. Many come from a small world where they not only lack education but any sense of a world beyond their neighborhood or group of loser "friends".

2. There are many programs out there all over the world that need volunteer help.

Why not give some of the less dangerous offenders the choice of serving some of their time in some sort of relief program in a 3rd world country? Somewhere totally away from the influences that got them in trouble to begin with, somewhere that will broaden their horizons, somewhere where they can accomplish something to be proud of and give them a chance to see what they have to contribute, and a chance to see what else there is to experience in the world beyond their small horizon. I think this could be a very powerful rehabilitiation tool, with benefits for both sides.

Or, how about troubled kids? Same context, but get them out of their element before they get into serious trouble. Everyone I know who has gone to third world countries to help with relief efforts has been changed for life. Why not provide those kind of life altering experiences to sectors of the population most in need of a positive life changing experience?