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Archive for September, 2007

Financial matters

September is an interesting month for me this year.  I’ve relocated to Washington state, but at the same time I’ve also received a few extra (cash) bonuses that have just so happened to occur at the same time.  These bonuses occur only once per year, and one of them is a one-time thing.  However, they are all occurring concurrently.

So, I have some decisions to make.  One of things I’ve always been careful to do is make sure I have enough capital in reserve in case I need it.  This is for those unexpected expenses that come up, such as needing to buy a plane ticket and rent a car in order to get back into my country after a trip to Las Vegas.

I am currently at the point where my reserve capital should be okay for a while, so here’s where I see things:

  1. I can deploy my excess capital by paying off some loans, and indeed this is what I did.  I still have a little bit of student loans to pay down and also my car loans.  Which one do I pick?

    Ultimately, I went with paying down part of my car loan.  I split the loan into two pieces, I put part of it on a bank loan and another part on my line of credit.  Since my line of credit has the highest interest rate, I paid off that one first.

    I then paid off my Manitoba Student loan.  I can’t remember what the interest rate on that is, but I think it’s higher than my bank-financed car loan.  Next in line would be my Canada Student loan.

  2. I used to think I could take a trip somewhere, but that option has been taken off the table.  When I moved from Microsoft Canada to Microsoft US, all of my remaining vacation days (I had a lot due to carrying so many of them over) were paid out to me.  So whereas before I had the time but not the capital, now I have the capital but not the time.  This kind of concerns me, because my big goose of a brother has now traveled to as many countries as I have.  I need to retain my lead.
  3. I could invest some of my money.  I’m currently holding 8 stocks, all of them profitable.  I could put some extra money to work, but I don’t know if I’d want to hold more than 8 positions.  Too many positions are hard to follow.  I’d probably have to pyramid into an existing position.  Or maybe I could buy an oil stock.
  4. I could buy some doodads.  I rarely buy doodads, particularly electronic ones, but I have been thinking of an iPhone or a GPS device.  Or maybe a Macbook.
  5. I have to move out of my temporary apartment soon.  I will need money to buy furniture.  This is definitely something I have to keep in mind.
  6. I could simply save my money.  I view this as the riskiest option because of the declining purchasing power of the dollar, both in terms of inflation and in terms of the US dollar weakening against world currencies.

The biggest motivation I have is that I should keep my money moving.  Point 6 is the one that concerns me because not doing something with my money is (probably) worse than doing something silly with it.

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That’s a bit of an overstatement, but there is a school of thought that says that possessions cannot make you happy.  I disagree; they can make you happy… but only for a little while.

I’ve been driving around in a rental car for the past three weeks.  It’s a PT Cruiser, an American vehicle made by Chrysler.  However, today my Toyota Corolla that I had shipped down from Canada arrived.  Let me tell you, I was happy.  I got in my car and the smooth feel of the car welcomed me back.  Seriously, it felt really good to drive my Japanese vehicle as it handles much better than the Cruiser.

This won’t last forever, but certainly I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.

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A first for me

This evening, I went to a meeting for Objectivists at Microsoft.  For those of you who don’t know what Objectivism is, it is a philosophy created by Russian writer Ayn Rand about her views of the world.  Ayn Rand is the author of Atlas Shrugged, the book I quoted earlier when I criticized Hugo Chavez.

Anyhow, I went to the inaugural meeting for Objectivists at Microsoft.  Let me tell you, this is one of the first meetings of any social group I’ve gone to where nearly everyone knew what they were talking about more than me.  I’ve only read Anthem and half of Atlas Shrugged, while everyone else had been reading Rand for years.

Usually I’m pretty good at trivia, or I know theological or political topics very well, but not this time.  It was actually fun to go to this group as an underdog.  I liked learning lots of new things.

That’s one thing about working at Microsoft – there are a lot of very smart people working at this company.

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Yesterday evening, I went and saw the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  It was a decent movie, but in the row ahead of me was this seriously annoying guy.

You know, there are times when it is appropriate to laugh in a movie, but this guy was irritating.  He let out a very odd laugh at inappropriate times and seriously, the entire theatre could hear it.  I wanted to tell him "Buddy, you can laugh, or let out gasps, or whatever you want to do, but stop making such annoying noises!"

I don’t mind if people laugh in the theater, or react to the movie, but this guy’s reactions were very annoying.

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I recently bought a jar of vegetable dip to be used with potato chips and vegetables.

I got home and attempted to open said jar of dip after pulling it out of the refrigerator, and I couldn’t open it on the first try.  It was stuck tight.  I shook my hand and gave it another shot, this time grunting a little bit. Nothing.

"Hmph," I snorted.  "Stupid jar of dip."  I shook my hand again, got a firm grip and gave it a super-turn.  I strained at it, but it would not come loose!  I then took out a knife, banged the lid of the jar hoping to jar it loose (no pun intended) and tried again.  Nothing. 

I then ran the lid under some very hot water, the theory was that the jar and lid was cold and had contracted.  Ergo, if I ran hot over over the lid and not the jar then the lid would expand while the jar would be contracted.  What a brilliant plan, except it did not work.  I gave it another go, but by this time I was starting to get a painful red mark on my hand.

I ran it under water again and tried again and the jar refused to budge.  At this point I said "Forget this, I’ll leave the jar for a day and try again later.  I don’t need it that badly."

I keep you all updated as to the status of this stupid jar of dip.

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I just saw a TV advertisement just now for a new television show for the fall.

The voiceover starts "What if you could go back in time… and change people’s lives?  Tune in to Journeyman!"

Nice commercial, except the show was already done in the 1980’s, it was called Quantum Leap.

BTW, here’s a true story about Quantum Leap, or my experience of it anyways.  The first time I heard about the show, a friend of mine said that he wanted to go home and watch his favorite show, Quantum Leap.  However, I thought that he said "Bantam Ape."  It turns out the show was not about monkeys but it would have been funny if it was.

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Readers of this blog will know that I rarely engage in politics on this blog.  So, allow me to break the silence and comment on it.

I went to a church today that I discovered on the internet as I have found in my various travels around the world that popping into a church on a Sunday in a new town can be a good way to meet the locals and learn about the area.  Anyways, this one had a good website that described what they were all about, and more importantly, what time the service starts.  This one advertised itself as a more liberal church.

Liberal is fine with me, I understand their theology just fine, just as I understand the conservative theology perfectly fine.  This one, however, also said that it concerned itself with "social justice." 

"Uh-oh," I thought, "social justice is usually a euphemism for socialism."  Still, I decided to check it out.  It was a nice place as far as churches go, better attended than the two conservative ones I have visited.  As expected, the topic of social justice came out as one person got up during the announcements and asked people to sign a petition they were going to take to Washington to stop the war in Iraq.  Thankfully, I wasn’t asked or pressured to sign it at any point.  I don’t sign petitions anyhow, neither for conservative (social) causes or liberal ones.

During the sermon, the preacher made a comment about the war in Iraq.  He was saying something about how he has his faults, and then he said that he used to think that pre-emptive war was okay.  Clearly, being against the war in Iraq (yet curiously, not Afghanistan) fits into their social agenda.

I thought to myself that if he actually meant that comment, it was either poorly worded or not thought through.  I’m not really a big fan of pre-emptive war, and I don’t think it’s an inherently good idea.  However, when it comes to war of any sort, the people in charge of deciding whether to do it need to weigh the options: what do they gain if they go to war, what do they lose, what do they risk losing by avoiding conflict, what are they intending to gain, and so forth.  Pre-emptive war may not be a good idea, but if the risks of not doing it outweigh the risks for doing it then that is the action that should be taken.

You can disagree with the assessment of the risks, of course, but simply thinking that war is a good idea without thinking it through is certainly not a wise course of action.

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