How I paid off a brand-new car in one year

Posted in simple living with tags , on 09/18/2014 by Fox

Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.
~Robert H. Schuller

First, off, I apologize for my rather erratic posting schedule. I had a post that I wanted to write a week ago, but I’ve been busy with the house and it just hasn’t happened. I wanted to post something, though, and this one requires a lot less putting together of thoughts. Hopefully I’ll have some breathing room to write the other this weekend.

One Sunday in October last year, I was cooking pancakes for breakfast when my neighbors from a couple doors down knocked on my door and informed me that the apartment complex had flooded badly the night before and that our cars were among the victims.

Sure enough, the interior of my car was soaked, just up to the bottom of the dash. I ate my breakfast, called my insurance company, called my father, sent out the fox signal to friends, and then started cleaning out my car. I threw away what was ruined or useless to try to salvage, and left the doors open (seriously, who was going to steal a half-drowned car?), and attempted to dry it out.

A couple friends showed up to give advice and to help salvage the engine. We got it running, took it to a car wash, and vacuumed the shit out of the seats, hoping to get as much water out as possible. Then I drove it on the highway, trying to drive as much water out of the exhaust as possible.

Then I drove it to work on Monday, and my bosses helpfully allowed me to use a large fan and space heater to dry it out some more. My insurance agent handling the claim told me to expect someone that day (Columbus Day, actually), to have a look. He came by, examined the car, expressed surprise that I was able to drive it to work, and left, informing me that the car was likely totaled. I blue-booked the car at about $6,500, and figured I’d get a couple grand from the insurance company.

Tuesday I got a call from the insurance company. They totaled the car, and estimated its value at $9,000, due to “low mileage.” I didn’t think it was that low, but I wasn’t going to argue. My deductible was only $500, so I got half the value of a brand-new Nissan Versa in exchange for my six-year-old car.

So I bought a new one. I took three grand out of my emergency fund, went to the dealership, found a Versa without all the bells and whistles (seriously, it doesn’t have power locks or windows, how cool is that?), and in a good color. My old car drowned on Saturday night, I drove a new car to work on Friday.

I financed the full amount of the car, minus my $3,000 down payment. I opted for a three-year note, which made my monthly payment quite high. Financing through Nissan netted me $500 off the purchase price. When I got my insurance check, I threw it at the principal, dropping it like a rock. And here in about two weeks, I will send off the check that will pay the last of it.

Naturally, you can’t plan to have a six-year-old car drown, nor can you plan to have your insurance company offer you half the cost of a new car in return. But take this as a case study. Things can go horribly wrong and there’s nothing you can do. Things will go horribly wrong and there’s nothing you can do. But you can prepare. An emergency fund and living below your means will turn disaster into a story about How Fucking Awesome My Insurance Company Is And How Nissan Versas Hold Their Value Really Well Actually.

The carbon footprint of emails and tweets

Posted in green living with tags , on 09/10/2014 by Fox

If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.
~Joe Rogan

So I got an email the other day. It’s one of those embarrassing situations where someone asks your opinion of something and just as you’re about to open your mouth you realize that they’re probably not expecting what you’re going to say and they might not like it. But hey, when have I ever not given my opinion of something just because I was afraid someone might not like it?

To stop making a short story long, someone from SingleHop invited me to make a collaborative blog post on making your digital life a little greener. I doubt the following really qualifies as “collaborative” in the sense they’re using it, but I’m going to forge onward anyway.

While I can’t deny that yes, the digital domain has its own carbon footprint, and in sufficient quantity can be quite large, I think we’ve still got bigger fish to fry than emails and tweets.

There are many benefits to cutting down on the number of emails sent and received (I do it simply because seeing too much crap in my inbox makes me crazy), but I’d much prefer to focus on fewer miles driven than fewer tweets tweeted. Or whatever. Fuck social media.

One bit they mentioned that interested me was in regard to taking advantage of weather. Computers naturally exude a lot of heat, and need to stay at a cooler temperature. In my most recent apartment, I could watch the thermostat rise by two or three degrees simply from its proximity to my computer. A company with a server farm in, say, Canada, may be “greener” than an identical farm here in Texas. Add in that, again, as they mention, a larger farm is more justified in using more efficient cooling systems, and you’ve got a good environmental argument for the kind of service SingleHop and others are offering.

But I still find the concept of a carbon footprint for my inbox a bit goofy. And I’m never going to be more concerned about the carbon footprint of Facebook than I am with the negative social impacts it can have.

So tweet away, you tweeting tweeters. Just don’t do it in the car, for the love of god.

Is it time to switch to LEDs?

Posted in green living with tags , on 09/06/2014 by Fox

Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb.
~Mitch Daniels

I’ve mostly ignored LEDs up until now. They were simply too expensive. But I’ve been spending a lot of time at Home Depot and Lowe’s recently, and LEDs have starting popping up on my radar.

Specifically, I saw a security light that was powered by a small solar panel and an LED bulb, which I thought was pretty fantastic, if expensive. It doesn’t work well for my house, because my front door is in shade all day and all night, and my back porch is shaded by trees, but I love that it’s an option for people who don’t live in houses that resemble large, benign tumors.

Right now, LEDs are at about the price point CFLs were when I started paying attention to them. I’m not buying yet, but I’m checking prices. Once they start getting a little cheaper, I’ll probably start to slowly replace the CFLs and few remaining incandescents.

But right now? Still too expensive. I just bought a house…even getting the shower rod I want for the bathroom involves a lot of hemming and hawing and “Should I really shell out for this now?” Nevermind buying multiple LED bulbs when I’ve still got several CFLs in box and the house came equipped with numerous still-functioning incandescent bulbs.

Yeah, yeah, switching those incandescents out would save me money and use less power, but I can’t bear throwing away perfectly good light bulbs, even if they are incandescent. They’re not new, they probably won’t last long, and then they’ll be replaced by CFLs until I run out of those and then maybe I’ll be in a spot where I can start to buy LEDs. Same with my CFLs. I’m not going to throw away a perfectly good bulb because something better came out. Fuck that.

On a related note, since the quote at the top of the page references it, I am against litigating what products people buy, unless said product is directly harmful. I don’t know anyone who still purchases incandescent bulbs except for old specialty fixtures that require them. Eventually, CFLs will phase out in much the same way, and perhaps even faster now that CFLs have “primed” the market. Different people have different price points, and as we well know from plastic bag bans, much less hostility is generated when you let people decide when and where and why to switch on their own.

The first step to financial freedom

Posted in simple living with tags on 08/25/2014 by Fox

Great emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed.
~William James

I am not happy with the state of my bank account right now. Of course, I closed on a house just two and a half weeks ago, so the lack of funds is understandable.

But I miss my emergency fund. Having several thousand dollars squirreled away has saved me on many an occasion, and with the cushion gone, I feel like the net below my financial tightrope has disappeared.

None of my less financially stable co-workers keep an emergency fund. But the emergency fund is the first, and most important step to financial freedom. I am convinced you will never achieve your financial dreams without an emergency fund.

Let me give you some real-life examples.

Last May, one of my cats stopped eating. To make a long story very short, she had eaten her stomach 60% full of plastic. She spent a week at the vet, had her stomach opened up, and was fed via tube for several more weeks. It cost me three thousand dollars. At one point, I had to make the call for the stomach surgery. I made it in the full confidence that I could afford to get my cat taken care of.

After that, I built the fund back up.

Then, in October, my car was flooded, along with several other vehicles, and no less than seven apartments (none of which were mine). I will go into detail about this incident later, but I was able to put several thousand down on a new car within a week.

Right now, I’m having trouble with the subleaser I thought was going to take over my apartment. And then the fridge in my new house quit keeping things cold.

Had I not just blown what I had on the house, neither of these things would faze me at all. As it is, I’m in a bit of a mental mess right now, even though I have several directions I can go to solve these dilemmas (right now a friend is talking me through the fridge repair, yay!).

Random emergencies will always happen. There’s no way around it. You are not immune to it. The single best thing you can do is to prepare for them. Preparation gives you the cushion you need to bounce back from what someone else may think of as a financial disaster. It will keep you from putting said financial disasters on a credit card and paying 20% interest on several thousand dollars.

There is nothing like the peace of mind that can be obtained by knowing it will take more than a broken fridge or flooded car to knock you off your feet.

It’s been a long time…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 08/03/2014 by Fox

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
~Nelson Mandela

Hello internet. It’s been a long time. Over two years, in fact. My last post was in January of 2012. Here we are, August 2014.

I ran out of things to say, honestly, at least things that would just be parroting what I’d already said. Intended to write some, didn’t, got busy, forgot.

I’d been getting the writing bug again. Thought about writing on Tumblr, thought about reviving the Ouroboros, thought about starting up something new. But then someone (they know who they are) just…asked. And I know myself of projects left uncompleted that I wish the authors would come back to. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as that tired old quote goes.

And you know what? This feels right. Like coming home after a very long time. Everything’s a bit dusty, and things aren’t the same. But the bones are still here.

I can’t honestly say that things will go back to the way they once were. I find myself with many things to say, and some of them may not be the bread and butter of the Ouroboros. But we’ll see. It’ll be an adventure.

The last time I wrote, I was still living in a 600 sq. ft. apartment with a roommate. If I wasn’t still working two jobs, it hadn’t been that long.

I’m living alone now, in a one bedroom apartment of comparable size to the old one. Not for long though…I’ve just closed on a home (well, half a duplex) of my own, and I’m in the (very busy) process of making it ready for my habitation.  It’s a fixer-upper, naturally.  :P  Nothing like sweat equity!

I have a new car. More on that, later.

I also have a Roth IRA, which alleviates some of my fear of being old and poor.

My income has improved, but not by terribly much. Maybe a couple thousand more a year. I’ve accomplished what I have by force of frugality, not by an increase in income.

I have more shit, including some things that serve absolutely no purpose other than to collect dust and cat hair, but I still have a lot less than almost everyone I know.

So, expect some stuff coming down the pipe. Stuff about buying houses in general, buying houses while low-income in particular, why the hell I have a new car and why it’s not used, lifestyle creep, Obamacare, and god only knows what else.

Since I can’t black the site out…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 01/18/2012 by Fox

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.
~Eric Schmidt

…I’ll just rant instead.

I should hope by now you’ve heard about SOPA and PIPA. SOPA has apparently been shelved for the moment, but PIPA is still kicking around in the Senate.

Others have already done a better job of dissecting SOPA than I, but here’s the kicker, if you’re unfamiliar:

“An `Internet site is dedicated to theft of U.S. property’ if [a portion of the site is US-directed] and is used by users within the United States and is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables or facilitates [copyright violation or circumvention of copyright protection measures].

Still doesn’t sound that bad, but consider this: Any site that allows users to post content is “primarily designed for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables copyright violation.” The site doesn’t have to be clearly designed for the purpose of copyright violation; it only has to provide functionality that can be used to enable copyright violation.

This means that YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Gmail, Dropbox and millions of other sites would be “Internet sites…dedicated to theft of U.S. property,” under SOPA’s definition. Simply providing a feature that would make it possible for someone to commit copyright infringement or circumvention (see: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) is enough to get your entire site branded as an infringing site.

Furthermore, you may be painted as infringing if you, the site owner, “take deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of…the site to carry out acts [of copyright infringement or circumvention].” This means if you deliberately decide that it’s not cost-effective to screen every piece of content and determine whether or not it is copyright-free before it is posted to your site (whether there is infringing content on your site or not), then you are labeled as an “Internet site…dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” Simply the act of not actively screening every piece of content makes you a criminal under SOPA.

Basically, these bills give the US government and copyright holders (namely, the RIAA and other assholes) the ability to effectively shut down websites for the most vague of reasons.

Let’s take thatguywiththeglasses.com, for example. He does a hilarious show called “Nostalgia Critic.” Recently, he reviewed “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” It was not a favorable review. What if the company who owns the franchise decided they didn’t like that and took action against That Guy With The Glasses? Well, with SOPA or PIPA in place, all they’d have to do is yell and his site would be removed from search engines, have any and all advertising removed, and be blacklisted by such entities as Paypal. Because his site allows comments, basically. And hell, if what I was told was correct, he already had to fight off this type of bullcrap once when he reviewed “The Room,” based on his use of clips from the movie in question during the review. The review is back up, since his use of clips is fair use.

Something similar happened with YuGiOh: The Abridged Series, which was removed from Youtube for a while for copyright violation DESPITE the fact that parody is also supposedly protected.

The TL;DR version: the intellectual property protection guys are fucking nuts, have a lot of money, and want the internet on a very short leash. Tell them where they can shove it.

The Obama family gives the middle finger

Posted in green living with tags , on 01/07/2012 by Fox

We have two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.
~Bertrand Russell

So Michelle Obama and the kids took an Air Force One jet to spend Christmas in Hawaii…only four hours before Obama also took an Air Force One jet to Hawaii. Clip courtesy of the No Agenda Show.

Does this strike anyone else as FUCKING STUPID? Air Force One is a necessity, yes, but can’t they just wait four hours and all ride on the damn plane TOGETHER?

Even if you ignore the environmental consequences (a stupid waste of a limited resource and an unnecessary output of jet engine exhaust), the sheer COST of flying a private jet, much less AIR FORCE FUCKING ONE, TWICE, within FOUR HOURS, to the SAME DESTINATION, is just ridiculous.

This is just giving the middle finger to both the environment and the American people. We ride on a plane squashed between two fat people and not eating for ten hours while they take separate planes the way some people take separate cars.

And he claims to be cutting wasteful government spending. BULLSHIT.

Fuck you right back, Obama family.

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