Can’t understand the Vista loathing

Okay, let’s me just say this: I’m clearly a biased dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft user and I cannot fathom transitioning to Apple’s world. Nevertheless, I have used Macs and I will allow that they are definitely cuter than Microsoft’s offering. Still, I do think that their latest OS (operating system) stands head & shoulders above XP. I cannot get enough of how snappy my system is and I’m completely sold on their instant desktop search function. I no longer have to dig for programs or my files. I guess the difference between someone who would hate Vista and myself is the fact as much as spending hours troubleshooting can be frustrating, it’s incredible rewarding to me. With Vista SP1, I haven’t put in as many troubleshooting hours as I have put into my XP computer. I love Vista’s ability to self-diagnose issues and it gives me the feeling of complete control over my system. I don’t care that they ‘cribbed‘ some design elements of Macs. Heck, imitation is a form of flattery, no? πŸ™‚ Anyhoo, I just wanted to add a consumer voice to the fray and tell Microsoft that I think Vista does rock. I am not a ‘regular’ user and yet not quite a ‘power user’. I do think the User Access Control needs to be toned down a bit because I can see how irritating it gets. I have it turned on right now, but for software installations, I tend to have it turned off because I know/trust the programs I install on my laptop. I love the improved version of Outlook 2007 so much so that I didn’t even bother installing Mozilla Thunderbird on my laptop. I don’t have any third-party media players (VLC, Creative MediaSource Player, etc) installed because Windows Media Player does a fabulous job of cataloging my modest music collection. Enough of my rant. I just wanted to say that I am really looking forward to their next version of the Windows Operating System dubbed “Windows 7“. My plan is to put this laptop through its paces and give its dead or dying body to Matt (lol. Kidding). I definitely see myself upgrading this laptop, but not anytime soon. I need to recover from the, ahem, financial mayhem. πŸ™‚ There are a few issues with  my laptop that are mostly cosmetic. For instance, my mouse cursor is really small and Vista has made it supremely easier to personalize your PC. So, right now, I changed the color to something other than white and made the cursor larger. I would like to give my cursor a special color so I’ll root around my PC and find that option.

Enough of my mini-rant. My weekend has been relaxing and just sleeping in. I did worry a little bit about work and things I needed to do, but I intend on making this week a highly productive one. I’ve got a supportive work place so there’s nothing stopping me. With that, cheers!

Financial recap and other musings

So, I haven’t said much about savings, retirement planning et cetera. In fact, all that stuff seems trivial in the face of the real depression-style era that is looming ahead of us if things continue as they have in the US lately. The economy is in a free-fall as more people and investor panic and yank their money out of the system. I don’t blame them, but it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. *shudders* Anyhow, I’m not retiring anytime soon so I hope that my investments will stand the test of time. I’m sorely tempted to do the usual trick of investors i.e buying stocks at low prices, but what if they never recover? Well, that was not the sole focus of this post. I was going to talk about our energy usage and brag a little bit even about how two of us are keeping a low energy footprint in our apartment in the face of a hot summer and now, perhaps an unusually cool winter? Here’s a chart I whipped up in Excel:
As you can see, we haven’t even cracked $42 in bill payments yet! Clearly, we’ve shot up during the summer, but not enough to get me worried. My guess for this winter will be that we won’t hit $50, but I anticipate running some standalone heating elements because I’m really anti-cold. πŸ™‚ According to M, reason number 2001 to have more body fat. Here are the actual numbers:
Now, if only other areas of expense resemble our energy costs! In fact, our utilities are the most stable liabilities we have i.e. internet and energy. Food and Gas are the current major money guzzlers and we are working on a means to cook at home more. We are paying the price of eating out and constantly having excuses for not cooking at home. Heck, I can’t count how many items have gone bad because we didn’t cook them in time.

Payday is nigh and I’m already feeling pinched! Here is a quick breakdown of some of the pre-programmed expenses I have:

Jane’s expenses
HP Laptop Credit Card $500
SunTrust Credit Card $100
Roth IRA $200
ING Direct Savings $250
Rent $275
Cellphone $50

Now, in a sick and twisted way, seeing the expenses laid out gives me courage to keep going on because I know that my aggressive strategy will pay off! For instance, after another such $500 payment to the HP laptop fund, I’ll have an extra $500 to “play” with. We have slowed off on the SunTrust payoff, but I’ve been snowflaking little amounts to it so I fully expect to have a balance of zero by the end of the year. I’ve been making little contributions to a christmas fund so that I’ll be able to get little tokens of appreciation for people. Overall, I don’t think our financial outlook is dire. After I got my laptop, things got thrown off kilter a little bit, but I definitely don’t regret that purchase. In a couple of years, I see myself upgrading the laptop i.e. giving Matt this one and getting the next OS upgrade that Microsoft has to offer. On that sombering note, I’ll sign off and I bid you all a good night!

Newfound respect for mothers and wayward parishioners

As you may or may not know, Matt’s sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy over a month ago. Since then, there have been trials, but she & her hubby have pulled through by the grace of God and the wonderful family members they have been blessed with. As Matt’s dad & I have become accustomed to doing, we went to see little B and his parents. Her husband was exhausted from pulling night duty while his wife caught a few winks. We helped her with grocery shopping and I got to take care of little B for a little bit. Man, I tell you, carrying a 11lb baby is no joke and trying to burp a baby isn’t a walk in the park either. When I think of J carrying the little one in her arms, I mentally doff my hat to her. As she always does, she hooked us (her dad and I) with fresh farm produce which, in this case, were tomatoes. After we were done visiting, we went to church and had our seats in the worst place possible. We were running late and thus ended up with the worst pick of seats. Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t hear much of the service, but sitting at the back did allow me to see some of the unseemly behavior that people tend to reserve for the back of ‘the bus’. The case in point: a woman’s cell phone rang loudly twice and she answered the phone both times. Everyone around her turned and she kept on the phone, rather oblivious to her surroundings. A parishioner actually called her on her misbehavior and it felt like she was being a bit combative towards the elderly man who reminded her of her surroundings. It was rather sad. Thankfully, her phone didn’t ring again. I would hate for her to be have been publicly embarrassed. Continue reading Newfound respect for mothers and wayward parishioners

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. πŸ™ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜€ 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). πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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). πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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.