Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't Rush Me!

I use Quicken, a computerized personal bookkeeping program for anyone who doesn't know, to keep track of the family finances. And the other day as I was entering in a receipt from the grocery store, where my wife and I had bought all of two candy bars, I noticed something I had not been aware of when we made the purchase.

A discount. It was there, as a separate line item, right on the receipt. For a moment I couldn't figure it out, and then it dawned on me. It had been a Tuesday. And on Tuesday the store gives a Senior Discount.

A Senior Discount. Do you hear what I'm saying? I said a Senior Discount! A discount for seniors. That means, in this particular store, people who have reached the age of 55. That's not me.

So, okay, I'm getting close, but I'm not there yet.

What's funny is that I might not have gotten the discount had I not been there with my wife. Karen is a little younger than I am, but she looks a lot younger, and I think it makes me look older by comparison. Not that I'm complaining.

And of course, it depends on the age of the cashier as well. If the cashier is a contemporary, he or she is less likely to make me out to be older than I am. But the youngsters, teen to twenty-something, nearly always peg my age above the speed limit. And I don't even have that much gray hair yet.

I'm also less likely to get the discount if my kids are with me. Maybe it's because although I am technically old enough to be a grandfather to either of my youngest boys, it's quite obvious that I'm not Grandpa. I'm definitely Dad. And so I lose the discount. Not that I'm complaining.

I am complaining, however, about being sent mail by AARP. That's the American Association of Retired Persons. Retired persons. I'm not thinking about retiring, I'm trying to start a new career!

So what do I do about this? If asked about the discount I'll say no. If given the discount without being asked, I'll say nothing. And the AARP mailers?

Ripped up and thrown in the trash before I even leave the post office.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scam Spam. Damn!

Anybody who is out there on the Web for any length of time gets a lot of junk email. But lately, perhaps because of the faltering economy (to put it mildly) I've noticed a lot of messages in my email box that are obvious con games. Not very good ones, and certainly nothing on the scale of what the big financial companies have been doing to us.

But if they did manage to hook me they would make a pretty good chunk of change. Most of them are of the "you have unclaimed money" variety. A cashier's check, or lottery winnings, or some other riches await you if you'll just contact the sender and, oh, put up a little "good faith" cash, or "shipping and handling charges."

Hey, what's a few hundred weighed against a couple million? Where's my checkbook?

After all, most of these people say they are from some kind of bank or another. And we all trust bankers.

Don't we?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Making Music On the Fly

Peavey is a company know for making guiatar amplifiers, although a peek at their Web site shows that they make a lot of other things, including instruments and microphones. But what caught my eye in a recent issue of Pro Audio Review is a cute little white box that also comes from Peavey.

Let me set the scene: you're walking down the street with nothing in your hands except your guitar and maybe a small bag with a few picks, a few cables, a pair of headphones, and your cell phone, when suddenly an inspiration strikes you and you really want to record a hot lick. You don't have your amp, and you're not in the studio. What do you do?

You pull out the little white  box and your cell phone, which happens to be an iPhone. You connect box to iPhone, your axe to the box, some headphones to the box, and start playing. The white box is the AmpKit LINK ($39.99), and the app to record it is AppKit (free) or AppKit+ ($19.99).

I have not tried these, having no iPhone at present, but I am still fascinated by what can now be found in very small packages. AmpKit is both a recording system and an amp modeler, with effects, in something that's about as wide as the iPhone and not as long, and maybe three times as thick. Amazing!

And it's not just small and portable and versatile. It's cheap! The tools for making cool music, like the tools for making video and recording audio and publishing books, are becoming more available, more sophisticated, and less expensive with each passing year.

It's a great time to be an independent artist. About all you really need to suppy are the effort and the talent.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Powerless

Our power was out for a total of over four hours today, with a one-hour outage just before the kids got home from school, and a four-hour outage just before Thomas was going to start frying up some chicken. We ended up having Chinese food for dinner, and the power came back on just as we managed to get the boys to bed, an hour late.

As it really frosted me. Yes, okay, it was raining and windy, and so a couple of dead trees fell down and the line and knocked us out. Nothing the power company can do, right? Well, I'm not so sure. If you read our family blog or keep up on our YouTube page, you might remember something that happened over a year ago, when a tree fell and split the line right in front of our house, while it was still under construction. At that time there was another tree leaning against one of the power poles. Did they take that tree down, too?

Yes they did—in August of this year when it caught on fire. Our local power company is not too swift when it comes to keeping trees off the line. In addition, the power lines in our neck of the woods are not insulated (as they are in the neighboring town). That means if a wet branch lays across the neutral and either or both of the hots, even if it doesn't break the line, it will cause a short circuit and shut the power down, maybe taking a transformer with it.

It seems for what we pay, which is among the higher rates in the country, that we might expect to get a little more infrastructure to go with it. Not a lot. Just some insulation as lines are replaced.

And the cutting down of a slew of dead trees.