Less than 10 days to my break

Phew! It’s been a long while, my darling blog. How have you fared in my absence? 🙂 Well, my Christmas shopping is far from done. It goes without saying that Matt & I are going with thoughtful gifts that won’t break the bank. I wouldn’t want to receive any gifts that broke the bank either. Anyway, my break starts on Christmas Eve until the New Year. That’s pretty awesome. I have been plotting on ways to spend my time and I need to draw up a sheet with the list of activities that could be done.

First of all, I just want to congratulate Matt on getting an A one of his first courses towards getting a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). He put so much time & effort into it and it paid off handsomely. Cheers, babe!

Second, I’m contemplating the idea of pursuing a minor in Computer Science. Hear me out folks! lol. I think know life is too short and I’m all about focusing on what makes me feel fulfilled & happy. At this stage in my life, I think a change of pace/scene will do me some good and perhaps light the fire under me once again. The exact details of what I hope to study are sort of, unclear, but in time, once I figure out payments et. al, I’ll keep y’all updated. Basically, it’s been well documented that I have an interest in computers and I’d like to explore that part of me. Who knows where it’ll take me? In any case, keep me in your prayers!

Map picture

Third, I finally got some video of my darling niece (Maxine). She’s just too cute for words and I cannot wait to hold her in my arms. 🙂 ‘Well, that’s all for now. It’s getting late here. Cheers! Lest I forget, that’s a map of Lagos, Nigeria. For any newcomers, that’s my city, right there.


A lengthy (or not) recap of events. :)

Well, where do I start from? I guess I’ll give the bad news first. I forgot to turn in Certain Someone’s timesheet. It didn’t help that I was champing at the bit to be let loose in order to start on my break so presumably that wasn’t on my top list. 🙁 I found this out yesterday so that put a bit of a damper on things. Now on to the good. I started off the break by hanging out with J & J along with M’s dad and M, naturally. 🙂 We exchanged gifts and I absolutely loved the thoughtful items that we were given. It’s safe to say that our basic needs a la camping have been met. 🙂 You know, the basic things: shelter (a lovely tent and an inflatable mattress) and food (a gift card to a place that M says will rock the yet-to-be-found steak lover in me). The clothing part was supplied by M’s momma and her family which ye shall be seeing in pictures soon. 🙂 Prior to this, another family member sent me a gift of food i.e. some decadent chocolate mousse desserts. Christmas Eve was spent at M’s mom’s place and we ate some supremely yummy vegetable soup with seasoned meat sprinkled liberally. We got there at about 8.30pm and tucked in for the night about 3 hrs later. We meant to watch the midnight mass at St. Peters Basilica in Rome, but we were so out of it by the time Mg (M’s momma) called out to us. 😀 Christmas Day saw me indulging in my first true alcoholic drink in several weeks i.e. a martini cooked up by Mk, Mg’s hubby. I got quite a bit of food in me before imbibing and still, I proceeded to sleep out my mini-drunkenness. I got to see M’s aunt Fy and her hubby and Jm sans Aunt L (who is currently watching from the Pearly Gates and possibly being the life of the party with the angels). 🙂 We got us a bottle of Champagne as part of our Christmas present from Aunt Fy which we intend to fully consume on New Year’s eve as a way of ending 2007. We didn’t spend Christmas night at Mg’s place though as we had to get things going. However, like Mg said, there’s no dieting on Christmas day. So, we dropped by M’s dad’s place (B) and sure enough, he had some food offerings for us. With Mg’s exhortation in mind, I decided to indulge myself in some surprisingly healthy Chinese food. I am proud to say that M ate most of it so I didn’t feel too bad. lol. So, here I sit after all the socializing. I realize truly how blessed I am to be surrounded with so much love (literally). There was no pressure to gift-reciprocate even though I/we did our best to be thoughtful and get gifts. Thankfully, our gifts were appreciated and they came from the bottom of our hearts to the recipients. I got calls from Aunt B (Texas) and Aunt C (Georgia) who were just brimming with positive energy. Man, times like this truly warm the cockles of me heart! lol. I also called family members to share the love and I hope to be able to see my other family members in other states soon.

Now, as the year comes to an end, I’d like to be jaded/cynical and say, what’s the big deal? You know? It’s technically a new year, but it’s no different than me waking up to a new day. I can just as soon make a resolution to start a day anew or differently as I can make resolutions for the new year. More than anything, just terming it a resolution even jinxes things in my mind! I really have some superstitious bones in my body. Nevertheless, I think resolutions assessments or re-assessments will never go out of style. I am always up for probing myself and seeing what needs improvement. What I am not always up for is the waiting which is proving very taxing to me. However, as they say, “the patient dog eats the fattest bone.”

I shall be beginning my 23rd year of life soon (March) and despite certain very real challenges that face me, I remain largely optimistic. One thing that weighs heavily on my mind these days is finances. Right now, no creditors are breathing down our necks. Essentially, we’re living with very manageable debt that can be wiped out with (i) tax refunds (ii) mine or his paychecks. This is a situation that’s not uncommon for Americans. However, I am beginning to like the idea of actually having some money on hand that’s really mine. Here’s where I stand with my credit card usage: I’ve paid off 75% of my BoA card leaving me with just $200 that I feel the need to wipe out Right Now. lol. However, M’s cautioning me not to be so foolhardy. I happen to think he’s right because it appears that having a low balance left on this card makes me seem responsible to lenders i.e. I am not in that dire need of cash/things that I have to max this card out. On the other hand/card that I’ve got with SunTrust, I have maxed it out at some point. I can however say that these were not frivolous i.e. rent payments, moving, etc. I’m actually using almost 93% of this card! Majority of the damage happened while in graduate school and when I was jobless. Nevertheless, I’m employed and M’s employed. I am of the view point of aggressively paying it off i.e. spreading it over 4 paychecks (I get paid every 2 weeks). At the very least, I want to get it down to 25% usage before the end of the first quarter for next year. Currently, we’re a two person family living under $500 after utilities. With our combined income, it’s workable. However, that may change with our plans to move to a place that’s more conducive to a newly married couple with the female who gets territorial sometimes and the male that likes his baths. 🙂 We’ve been searching casually and I have to say that I’m glad it’s a joint decision i.e. it’s not up to me. I have this lets-go-anywhere attitude and M’s oddly somewhat of a perfectionist with his I-have-to-find-the-perfect-place. (I love you, M). lol. I have to give him credit because he does know what he’s doing. He found my little apartment for me back in the A and that was without input from me really. He did the visitations and talked with the people. So, I am certain that we will find something for us. You know? I feel the need to consult (hopefully for free) with a financial consultant or planner in order to know how to start with the whole financial tracking thing. I’ve debated the merits of ponying up ~ $60 for either Microsoft Money or Quicken, but the jury is still out. Enough about the money talk. Moving along…

Here’s the tentative plan for the days running up to the new year. We plan on going to a tavern to watch the UFC 79 fight featuring Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva. Of course, we’ll support the tavern for offering this pay-per-view event by purchasing actual food and not a cheap entree. 🙂 That’s what I’ve got a moneypot for. It was actually a gift and I actually appreciate it. We’ve accumulated change and used it right back up. So, this money pot will be put to some good use. Back in high school, I always ended up running out of “pocket money” when the term ended so I eventually asked a thrifty friend of mine to ‘hold’ twenty naira each week for me. By the end of the term, I had about 240 naira (for the 12 weeks in the terms). That was the most I’d ever had at a term’s end and that was my first introduction to saving. Now, even though it’ll hurt like pulling teeth, I intend to donate $10 to my money pot each with in addition to dropping change like dimes and quarters (no nickels sweetie). 🙂 The best part of this money pot is that what goes in cannot come out! I kid you not. Right now, I’ve got a $100 bill that I’m itching to drop in it. lol. That was M’s contribution to paying off the credit cards. I didn’t bank on receiving it, but he gave it to me so I’m seriously contemplating dropping it into the money pot. The only way to get any monies (minus coins that can slip out with a lot of vigorous shaking) is to actually break the pot. Now, a little instruction manual that came with the money pot had a cute blurb about the tradition behind this type of pot. Obviously, you save change for a reason be it just for the heck of keeping coins in one damned place or a laptop/external hard drive fund. I’m having trouble picking between my 1TB external hard drive or a laptop. In quarters alone, this money pot can hold up to $500. I’m putting bills in and I won’t keep track of what I put in it. It will be very interesting to commit to putting change in it along with my $10/week pledge and to see what happens in 6 months from now. So, when the money pot is full, you recite some rites (feel free to make your rites up) and you smash the money pot. I was more enamored of the money-pot-breaking tradition than I was with the money pot at the time, but now, I realize that everyone needs a money pot. PC (our landlord) has these little jars that are chock-ful of quarters. It makes me wish I had this brilliant idea when I moved to Georgia. Oh well, it’s never too late to start. Just as it’s never too late to start asking questions about investing in funds. [Omg. I just realized this post has turned into a monster, but I can’t stop writing now]

Right now, I’m part of a retirement system which sees me paying 5% of my total yearly income. My employer contributes ~ 9% of my income which is pretty neat. However, I’m looking into participating in a tax deferred savings plan. Now, I’m pretty much making graduate student type of money so it’s not a whole lot. However, considering we live rather frugally, it will not be a show stopper. Still, none of my ramblings are to-be-done-right-this-minute. I’m really just using my blog as a sound board and it helps me think. 🙂 Go suck a lemon.

Finally, I’ve got to talk about tech. stuff. I’ve customized my dream laptop computer with standards of the current time. It is roughly around ~ $1400 and I was pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, this dream laptop is a long way into the future. I could skimp on things like memory which will cost more on the pc manufacturer’s website, but for some reason, I’ve convinced myself that this laptop needs to come with the specs that I know will need upgrading i.e. more space, more memory. I intend on doing a transfer of the desktop to M and using the laptop as mine alone. 🙂 Without further ado, I present my dream HP dv6700t laptop:

  1. At least 250GB of hard drive space, preferably a disk speed of 7 500rpm. I have an 80GB IOGear external hard drive that’s a slower drive speed (5 400 rpm). I won’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t think to look at that specification and only just found that drive speeds matter. They go up to 15000 rpm and obviously will cost an arm & leg. Obviously, a higher rpm (7 500rpm) adds to the price tab so I could skimp on that, but I’m not so inclined. In my dream HP laptop, it’s 250GB, 5400 rpm. This added $120 to the price tag versus $0 if I selected 120GB to be upgraded for free to $160. In retrospect, I could live with 160GB for $0. But anyway…
  2. At least 2 GB of memory as today’s laptops will be running Windows Vista. The basic version I will have on the laptop is Vista Home Premium. Depending on how my laptop fund goes and/or in my dream world, I’ll have Vista Ultimate Running. In the case of Vista Ultimate, 2 GB is an un-skimpable feature and 4GB will make the OS happier. Nevertheless, my specs will assume Vista Home Premium. In my dream HP laptop, I’m running Vista Ultimate with 3GB of memory (the Vista Upgrade added $160 and the extra 1GB added $100 which is not too bad considering currently memory stick prices.
  3. Intel Pro Wireless ABGN Wireless Networking with Bluetooth. Apparently, there’s going to be a new Wireless N protocol in the making (802.11n versus 802.11g/b etc) which purports to be way faster. Since, I intend on keeping this laptop for a couple of year, I need to make sure I won’t be crippled by my computer’s issues. The bluetooth I will definitely need because of my Palm Treo 750 bluetooth capability. Besides, it beats having an ugly bluetooth dongle dangle from your notebook and risk breaking it off or something. It was a whopping $20 more to add this feature. Go figure.
  4. AMD is having money issues and Intel has been the “name” in terms of processors. So, even though having an AMD processor will cheapen the cost, I’m not going to compromise on getting an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. They already have Quad Core processors, but I’m not going there. Essentially, dual core processors help the computer to be snappier and I’m all for that sort of thing. The problem though is there are hierarchies within the dual core family and it relates to caches, megahertzes, etc. I need to read a manual on that sort of stuff to really get it. However, I’ve got only 3 options and I selected the Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo processor T7250 (2.00 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB). which was a step up from the lowest. This HP model didn’t have an option for AMD processors anyway.
  5. HP Imprint Finish (Influx) + Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone: These came with the HP laptop already so nothing spent here.
  6. HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV Tuner with remote control which added $120 to the price tag. I could do without this, but it’s a good price for these things which let you record TV shows and essentially let your laptop sub for a TV. In retrospect, I can definitely do without this feature.
  7. A 1 yr accidental damage policy with HP which everyone needs. Sadly, it seems it’s usually after the second year of ownership that things start to happen. I’m contemplating renewing my own 1 yr policy for my desktop despite the fact that I haven’t yet had to send my machine in for repairs. Thankfully, my experience with the HP team leads me to believe that they will not pull any stunts with regards to handling claims etc. This adds $105.99 to the price tag.
  8. The model comes with a 15 inch screen (fine by me) and HP Wireless Laser Mini Mouse (White) and Mobile Stereo Headset (fine by me for $0).
  9. I don’t need any of their software. So, no money there. I upgraded to their 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery for $29. I upgraded to their LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support for $15 more. The other options are a HD DVD Drive or Blu Ray drive for over ~ $185. I’m not buying into that.
  10. Finally, I splurged on a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS graphics card for $69.
  11. The total cost for my dream laptop was $1404.99 with free shipping and a free customized skin which I doubt I’d care for.

With a bit of thriftiness, I can definitely see this coming to me around the 3rd quarter of 2008. 🙂 On that positive note, I’ll this lengthy post. Cheers!! Oh, check out a file on the actual specs. Check out the embedded page courtesy of Scribd. It’s just a screenshot in PDF form of the customizing page on HP taken by the wonderful SnagIt. If that doesn’t work, check out this link to the pdf file courtesy of Microsoft Sky Drive.