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Why some of Bitcoin’s hurdles may actually be its drivers [08 Jun 2011|02:23pm]
 Why some of Bitcoin’s hurdles may actually be its drivers

     There are two biggest complaints I keep hearing about Bitcoin, first, that it makes tax evasion too easy and governments will hate it, and second is that it only benefits early adopters. I argue that the first is not really thought through, and the second is already proving to be wrong.

     Bitcoin is designed to be completely anonymous, but that anonymity is only by choice. The argument is that, with people creating anonymous addresses, companies will be able to hire people and pay them under the table, and the government will have no way of tracking such transactions. Technically, the same could be said of cash payments, which could be, and very often are, paid “under the table.” However, companies have an incentive to report their financial transactions. That incentive may be due to failure to report may bring down the law on them, or that reporting transactions and being in good standing allows them to operate more securely within the government legal system, and contest any theft or dispute between other companies and participants.

     Regarding a Bitcoin based scenario, just as a company can hire employees, report their social security numbers to the government, and make payments against those social security numbers, having to report all the payments every few quarters, a company can hire employees, use their self-selected Bitcoin addresses to pay them, and report those addresses to the government. The huge benefit is that, since all transactions are public, there is no longer any need to collect and report payroll information. As long as the government has all the employee addresses, all salary information can be collected automatically from the Bitcoin blocks. And if the employees feel that they would still rather keep the rest of their transactions private, sending the received salary amounts through a few addresses before sending to another one of your own would make the amount of money anonymous again. Yes, that could be considered money laundering, but we will have to see how the law comes down on that when we get there.

     The second biggest claim I keep hearing against Bitcoin is that “it mainly benefits early adopters.” I guess the claim is that, since people who got into it early will have all the money, newcomers will want to stay out of the system, and that will lead it to failure. What this claim fails to take into account is that those people who got in early, and now have a lot of wealth, have an incredibly high incentive to see this system succeed. They will very likely use their wealth to invest in improved financial service companies, design easier ways to transact with Bitcoin, and make the system more prevalent and user friendly in general. In a way, early adopters who have taken on enormous risks on the hopes that this currency goes anywhere, will be paid by the currency itself to make sure that it succeeds. An excellent example of this is the largest Bitcoin currency exchange site MtGox. At present volume, they already make an estimated $30,000+ a day in revenues, and the owners have pledged to use the money to continue to expand and improve the system, and to create a lobby to defend Bitcoin in governments. At $14,000,000 a year that is expected to only grow, that is a pretty nice chunk of cash to run a lobby with.

     Am I sure that Bitcoin will succeed? No. Rick Falkvinge has written some excellent analysis of it’s other more realistic hurdles (goo.gl/HBvYM). But, after reading up on the technology behind it, and meeting the community involved with it, I am personally fairly confident in it.
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[30 Jan 2011|10:54pm]
[ mood | contemplative ]

 As I was at the checkout line, the cashier's register beeped, letting her know she needed to put away some of the cash. She excused herself, took out and counted out ten $20 bills, and started loading them into the slot in the safe under the counter. I realized that the whole experience seemed very strange to me; taking such care of pieces of green paper and storing them so safely. I almost never deal with cash, instead choosing to deal with just numbers in Excel, finance software (Quicken), and brokerage sites. I also deal with such huge amounts all the time, thousands of dollars of my own home finances, and hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars while at work, that a $20 bill has lost all meaning to me, and dealing with money is just calculating and moving around numbers on computer. So, watching someone deal with paper cash and being so protective of it is just really... alien to me. I don't know what this means, or what kind of implications this may have.

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Restoring sanity [01 Nov 2010|11:29pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

KuddlKat and I got up at 5:30am and got to the Greenbelt Metro station at about 7:30am. There was parking, but the lines at the ticket booths were already starting to et a bit large. Got to the rally at 8. Couldn't get a good location, but were around the middle and fairly close to the front. There were people already there who apparently have been camping out for a while. We all pretty much got stuck there with the crowds quickly surrounding and tightening around us, but we still enjoyed the heck out of it, and had space to sit, and time to do some reading and sign drawing before the preshow started at 10.
Was AWESOME to see the MythBusters there doing large crowd based experiments. Probably only place they would get a chance to, since this is the one rally they can go to without being accused of being partisan. It took 1 minute for a crowd wave to go from the front of the crowd to the back. Also, 200,000 people all jumping up and stomping the ground at the same time apparently creates a zeismic wave 100 times greater than a car at a 35mph collision crash. So, 200 million pounts of meat hitting the ground = a sedan in an accident * 100?
Rally itself was awesome! Surprise musical stars were awesome and surprising. I was shocked and wowed when Ozzy Ozbourne came out of stage, and a bit confused when Kid Rock came out to play a Bob Dylanny "I'm a moderate, stuck in the middle" kind of song, especially since his other stuff was "Hell Yeah! I'm an American Badass!" type songs, mostly performed at Republican rallies. Granted I confused his stuff with Toby Keith's at one point (sorry Kid Rock, no hard feelings?). And, of course, Stewart's closing speech was very moving and very much on point. The "cars going into a tunnel" metaphor was beautifully spot-on. Also, Stewart is hot.
The signs were almost all pretty cool, too. Mind was decidedly unfunny goo.gl/aoNXJ but I was hoping to go for a more serious point regarding the #1 election issue *shrug* Ones i found most disappointing were actually the "9/11 Truth" conspiracy nut ones. There were others parodying or making fun of stuff, but at least the Republicorps were satire, so they could probably be forgiven for at least trying to be humorous. Regarding examples, plenty of pics on the web of those.
After the rally, we realized that we couldn't go anywhere for a while, since there was even a HUGE crowd/line just to get off the mall, so we just chilled, ate pre-packed sandwiches, and walked around looking at other signs. Ran into a fursuit group that people were taking pictures of. Totally awesome cause it was Halloween, and they probably had the best costumes there (the Cylon with "Toasters United Against Teabaggers" sign was cool, too). Getting home was a bit difficult. Metro trains were still packed even at 7pm when we finally got out of there.
Despite the traffic and stuff, it was TOTALLY worth it, and the crowds definitely beat out Beck's size. Aerial photos don't really show the sizes right due to differing altitude scale, but if you look at a map, Beck's crowd filled the mall completely from the Lincoln Memorial to 17th Street just in front of the World War II memorial, obviously not including the reflecting pool in the center. By noon, the Sanity Rally filled the entire mall from 3rd Street to 14th Street in front of the Washington Monument, and spilled out onto the surrounding streets. That's at least 1/6th more in just the area covered. Many people reported not being able to get to the mall, and just hanging out on the sides or turning around and going back home or just to walk around the city. But regardless of the numbers, I'm very sure the Sanity people had a heck of a lot more fun.

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My only (stupid) contribution to the furry community: The EFH! [22 Oct 2010|05:46pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Efficient Furry Hypothesis (EFH) is based on the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH). It states that "Furry drama/flame-war efficiency causes an individual furry's reputation to always incorporate and reflect all relevant information." According to the EFH, the reputation or background of a member of the furry community will always be quickly exposed through drama and flame-wars, and thus will always be reflected at its true value, making it impossible to inflate/over-exaggerate one's background or tarnish someone else's. This means that someone incorrectly claiming to be an upstanding, reliable citizen will quickly be exposed for a fraud, and someone being tarnished by rumors, lies, or accusations, will quickly be exonerated once the drama explodes.

Examples of this effect in the real world are furries asking for a room, claiming they are financially stable and do not cause drama, only to have a large chunk of the mailing list they have solicited to step in and expose every sordid detail about them.

This theory is obviously controversial, in that most furry fans are uncomfortable with the idea that there is a good chance their bad decisions in life will by default become public knowledge, and because this theory claims that it is impossible for someone to hide their identity or infringe on someone else's.

P.S. Yes, I'm proud of this one :D

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[11 Jul 2010|11:55am]
Last speech of the reception

Read more...Collapse )
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Pics from Italy trip [09 Sep 2009|11:22pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Italy trip pics are finally up. Rather, they are re-upped, geotagged, keyworded, and descriptions have been added. Link is here
The order of the cities was:

8 wonderfull, if EXTREMELY exhausting days. Looking forward to doing this every year >:D

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Writer's Block: I May Be Crazy [11 Aug 2009|12:05am]
What does this Rorschach blot look like to you?
Two birds with big butts holding onto the sides of a bell
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Kendo seminar and promotional exam [02 Aug 2009|07:42pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Yesterday (Saturday), 9am till 7pm, Kendo  seminar. Lots of swinging, listening to very high ranking senseis, and lots of sparing practice. Later on a friendly tournament (not regional competition, but just a for-the-heck-of-it tourney). I lost both matches 0 to 2 for three reasons. First, the referees were brutal. They judged everyone as if they're black belt. One of the high ranking senseis even came by and said, "hey, these are lower level fighters. Cut them some slack on their form. If they hit a target, regardless of whether it was executed perfectly, give it to them." Second, my opponent was apparently about to test of black belt. I was testing for any rank at all, so I was very severely outclassed. And third, I think my kendo really sucked. I did realize that the opponent was very sloppily leaving his wrist open very often, but after going for it three times, not having the judges give me the point, and consecutively getting smacked in the head with his sword in retaliation (I attack, and leave myself kinda open), I gave up, and was just going for his head.  Crap strategy, since I got frustrated and threw my strategic thinking out the window. In the end, there was just open sparring with whomever, including the visiting senseis. One of the senseis I fought, Maida sensei, was 7th dan, which is just about the highest rank you could get. He was WAAAAY fast. I would see the sword in his hands, pointing at my throat, then I would barely see a streak of orange (bamboo swords) about at his chest level, and then my head would hurt from the *THONK*. In that one instant he's able to bring it way up above his head, and arc it back down in a full 180 swing, right on the center of my forehead. He was really nice about the whole killing me over and over deal, giving me pointers along the way, and letting me practice whacking him on he head unopposed at the end, correcting my attacks as I went. After fighting him, though, I now understand why my sensei aid that later on in the ranks, the fights are much more about mental gymnastics, trying to predict your opponent, rather than physically trying to parry and outmaneuver them with speed and strength: at their level, they move so fast you can't see them anymore, so reading their intentions is the only way to compete.

At 7pm we had our promotional exams (promotional as in not promoting Kendo, but testing for promotions). It wasn't point-based competition. We just went at each other until the judges (the high level visiting senseis) felt like they have seen enough. I thought I failed, case on my second bow out from the competition, where I'm supposed to squat down, put away my sword, and stand up, I fell over backwards, twice! (had to catch myself with my free hand to keep from landing on my ass). I guess the judges were lenient, and figured the rest of my fighting was good enough, because I did end up being promoted to san-kyu level (3rd kyu). Ranks are 5 through 1 kyu, then 1 trough 7 dan (dan being similar to black belt). I was fully expecting 4th kyu, so yay me!

Now I just have to rest and home and deal with the consequences on my body. I got some blisters on both of my feet from last Wednesday's competition, but really didn't want to miss all this, so bandaged up my feet and hopped up on some pain meds (aspirin). It helped throughout the day, but in the end, both blistered got torn, and one of the deep ones even got another one inside it. I.E. I'll be out of commission probably for at least two weeks. Hurts, sucks, but was definitely worth it, since college starts up again in September, and I doubt I'll have a chance to go to a promotional exam any time soon.

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Wekend review (10 year anniversary) [06 Jul 2009|10:40am]
[ mood | happy ]

Despite my fear that the weekend would be rather blah, compared to how important it is, it turned out to be quite spectacular. Saturday started out kind of early. We thought Doug needed to do some work for a friend of his this weekend, but it turned out that the work was requested for the following weekend. Either way, it got us out of bed. We spent the afternoon cooking various tasty things, like humus and pudding, then spent the rest of the afternoon sunning while burgers were grilling on the BBQ

We ate the food while watching "Pretty Woman" (Doug apparently has never seen it before), and later that evening went to see the local Catonsville fireworks. We parked a bit of a ways off, but the walk was fairly short, and we were able to get almost front seat view of the show. We could even see the people with road flares running around on the field below, lighting the mortar fuses.

Sunday we slept in till about noon, then went to a few grown-up toy stores (Home Depot and Best Buy), and then went to downtown Baltimore harbor for our dinner cruise (Spirit Cruise). I bought tickets for it a while ago as a surprise to Doug for our anniversary, but it surprised both of us. The atmosphere was quite more relaxed than I thought it would be. Instead of being seated with a group, we got our own private window seat, and felt as if we were getting special treatment. The hosts knew it was our anniversary, and we heard congratulations a few times. They even announced our anniversary, along with everyone else's who was celebrating theirs. Our 10 years, what we thought was a long time, turned out to be the shortest there, with next one being 13 years, and ones after that being 25 to 35. Doug joked that 10 years is actually a VERY long time in "gay years" for a relationship to last. The views were quite interesting. Perhaps not very romantic, but we saw parts of the harbor and bay that we've never seen before. I didn't even know most of that stuff was out there. Upstairs was a big open area to walk around and enjoy the view, which we did a few times, but the weather was surprisingly cold for July - even in dress pants and shirts - so we didn't spent a lot of time there.
Regarding the service, a few things rather surprised us. First, we were quite surprised at how ok they were with us being a gay couple. It was all smiles and nods, without so much as a weirded-out look, even while we were on the upper deck, arms wrapped around each other, being really close. Second, after we had the dinner and went up outside to enjoy the view, after a few minutes our server James actually tracked us down out there, with a tray of two desert plates, asking if we would like to enjoy our desert outside. We said no (it was too cold), but I've never had anyone track me down like that, with desert, before. I expected they would either wait until we came back, or just leave the food on our table, not actually look for us, find us, and bring it to us. The stuff on the plates looked delicious, too (some sort of chocolate mousse thing, and cheesecake), so we chased after James back down to our table to enjoy it.
The last part really floored us. Doug's word, "dumbstruck" is even more fitting. One of the features of this dinner cruise is a DJ and some dancing after dinner (line dancing, which we didn't participate in). Near the beginning of our trip, James, our server, asked us if we had a song that he could request the DJ to play for us later. We said that it's a bit obscure, and doubted the DJ had a copy of it on his laptop, so said "thanks, but don't worry about it." (FYI, it was Sway, by Anita Kelsey http://bit.ly/12UO50) To our completely astonished surprise, after dinner was over and music and dance was about to begin, James came out to introduce some of the other servers that will be entertaining us that evening, and then saying he'll sing something first, actually started singing the song Sway by himself. And he was GOOD! He acted it out and intoned it well while teasing some of the women, and Doug and I could do nothing else but gape and stare, thinking OMG How?!?!?! I wish I had turned on my PDA and hit the audio record button, but we were just too surprised as soon as we heard the base and piano play the first few notes of the song. All in all, that was like a huge sweet cherry on top of an otherwise perfect evening. Later on we told James that the song he sung was actually our what-we-thought-was-obscure song, and thanked him for it.
The rest of the cruise was mostly just hanging out and enjoying the views on the upper deck while people below line-danced. Upon disembarking the cruise, we were given fresh baked cookies, then spent another hour or so walking around the harbor area, and finally headed home. All in all, our 10 year celebration of being together was quite apt for the occasion.
Oh, I also got a flickr account at http://flickr.com/rassah, and will be using that to post more photos of our weekend, as well as any future events and trips *coughITALYcough* I spent part of the weekend uploading all we had so far: 3,133 photos O.o! Fang said we travel all the time, I didn't think so (since it's mostly just to Florida or nearby in the States), but now I'm kind of starting to agree with him.

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Life update [21 May 2009|10:48am]
[ mood | complacent ]

Work: Got settled in pretty well. Besides doing the normal finance calculations, debugging their screwy Excel sheets, putting together new, more efficient ways of doing things, and researching stuff outside of our company to compare ourselves with, I'm also now teaching Excel classes for beginner and advanced students. Lately, for the most part, things have been rather slow here, with my Boss being unavailable to teach me new things, and with us being between quarters (last one ended March 30th, next one is June 30th). This is the calm before the storm, though, since our fiscal year ends on June 30th, and then everything, shit and otherwise, will be hitting the fan all at once, so to speak. My contract position expires on June 30th, too, but I fully expect to be picked up for another year, since I'm apparently very valuable to them. I'm kind of hoping for a full time position, since apparently medical coverage WOULD be cheaper through them than on my own. That, plus they'll be able to pay for my Masters university degree.

Education: Smith School of Business, which is the Maryland University's prestigious MBA program, put me on their waiting list yet again. My original plan was to go back to Frostburg for 1.5 years accelerated MBA (not a very well known school, but many of my BS classes would transfer into their MBA program, so I can graduate quicker). However, my boss here really pleaded with me to stay. She said that, even if I can't get a full-time position that would cover my education costs, she would try to get me a raise to help me pay for my studies once I get the new contract. They are also perfectly willing to work with me to have my work hours fit around my education. At first, my decision to do MBA part time seemed like a poor choice, but then, to my surprise, Smith turned around and accepted me into their part-time MBA almost immediately. So, by chosing to take the part-time direction, I ended up being accepted into a rather prestigious, 16th rated business school in the country, and one I've been fighting to get into for two years. Classes start in September. I'm wondering what will be more difficult, trying to get into it, or keeping my grades up and graduating after I start with it (I'm guessing the later, but the former was a major pain as well). Either way, I'm very glad that I'll finally have a chance to graduate from something I can feel genuinely proud of (Bachelor's at Frostburg felt like just another uneventfull step in life).

Furry Cons: Not going to any. Can't afford to. It's not that I'm strapped for cash; I'm easilly able to pay off inconvenient surprises, like the $2,500 for new car engine, $500 for mole removal (wanted those gone to reduce risk of skin cancer from sunning), or the surprise $1,000 reservation fee, to be paid NOW, to get my seat at Smith. Heck, I even easilly managed to afford to gift a friend $200 to help him keep affloat with his electric bills, without it registering so much as a blip on my finances. I'm also still perfectly able to put the few hundred a month I need into savings, investments, and downpayment fund. No, it's just that, right now, I am still trying to put as much as I can into paying down at least one of my student loans so that I can get another one for the MBA (in case my job fails to help pay for my education), and Anthrocon is quite a bit lower on the priority list at the moment. Over the last few years a lot of my priorities have been restructured quite a bit. Gaming consoles, entertainment, eating out, and, I guess, cons, have all moved way down, while saving, investing, and growing my net worth went way up. So, in a sense, I feel like I'm constantly broke with no cash to spare (except on specific rare occasions), but I'm only like that because I'm forcing myself to be like that. Hubby started to help out with keeping me frugal recently, too, for which I'm thankfull.

Travel: The trip to Italy at the end of this Summer is a guarantee now. I got a bit screwed with the plane tickets, expecting to pay $1,400, but with a major inconvenience (saving $200 for having to put up with it), but ended up not getting the $200 discount, and still being stuck with the major inconvenience. The inconvenience is that our plane leaves Rome at 8:20am, while we'll be in Venice the previous day. If the plane left at 11am, we could take an overnight sleeper train from Venice to Rome, which gets there at 7:20 at the earliest. That is NOT early enough for an 8:20 flight. This means we will have to leave Venice some time in the evening (by bullet train or local airline), spend the night in Rome, and probabyl get up at 5am just to make it to the airport (30mins by train) in time to go through check-in and board. I sent them a complaint letter, asking for my discount, but that was a week ago, and still no reply. Oh well. Other than that, almost all hotels have been reserved, all the trip expenses have been calculated, and the total trip should cost us about $3,181, which puts us right smack against the total I'll have saved by then, of about $3,200. Our trip will take 10 days, and will take us from Rome and tiny beach town of Nettuno (where I spent a part of my growing up), through Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Ferrara, Venice, and Murano. There will be a lot of rushing, taking trains to a new city almost every day, and lots of walking. There will also be little sleep. But, hopefully, there will also be a lot of enjoyment. Plus, hey, we'll spend 10 days eating pizza and ice cream daily in a country that, if not invented the two, is known for having the best of those in the world (gelato is Italian for ice cream, and that's where it comes from). It's like every kid's dream :D

That's about it for anything major or interesting. Car still doing great (hit 35mpg with new(er) engine), going back to Kendo and Iaido after a month hiatus due to mole surgery, hubby and I doing well, and generally can't complain about anything.

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AIG [20 Mar 2009|02:55pm]

Ah, populism. The flip-side of nationalism, both of which, when taken to extremes, turn people into scary nutcases, and I believe both leading to the exact insane end. What would we ever do without you, crazy people?

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Finance tip of the day [06 Mar 2009|10:22am]
Here's a place that lets you track your credit score completely for free: www.creditkarma.com They calculate the score themselves based on your credit report, so it's not your exact FICO score, but it should still be fairly close. They let you track your score month-to-month, provide some advice/articles on money management, and give a list of some finance-related offers, such as high interest bank accounts, low interest credit cards, and good offers ( or free) on financial software and services. According to them, my score is quite a bit higher than it was compared to what I saw on an actual FICO report, but maybe it did actually improve in a month. Regardless, this will at least give you a good estimate of where you're at, and help you keep track of where you need to be. And it's free.

Edit: From creditkarma.com, "Our score is the same as TrueCredit which is owned by TransUnion. Hope that helps."

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Home theater surround on the cheap. [04 Mar 2009|10:50pm]
[ mood | blah ]

                So, due to a nice tax return prepared by yours truly, my hubby was able to afford a shiny new big screen LCD TV. Feeling like I must contribute in some way, I went through a few test trials to provide the “sound” part of our new “home theater.” First up was a 5.1 theater system by Panasonic that had a 5 DVD changer, a Dolby / DTS surround decoder, and 5.1 speakers (2 front, 2 back, one center, and a crappy subwoofer). Cost was $300. We hooked that up to our Media Center PC via optical audio cable (toslink) to get what I thought would be best quality digital audio. Turns out there were limitations. For one, we would ONLY get full 5.1 surround if the audio source was AC3 (Dolby) or DTS, meaning true surround only kicked in when watching DVDs or 6 channel encoded BlueRay rips. To the PC it looked like we only had 2 speaker stereo, so games were limited to 2 speakers (no 4 speaker), and 5.1 surround WMAs didn’t work at all. Also I found out that what I thought was a fancy high-tech digital optical audio connection was an old system that could only support 2 channels uncompressed, had to compress 5.1 audio to fit it through the digital bottleneck (degrading the quality). Worse, toslink doesn’t support 7.1 audio, which is what comes on modern BlueRay disks. So, that went back to the store. Second setup we tried, and are sticking to, is essentially a whole bunch of stereo PC speakers hooked up to every “OUT” port in our sound card. I bought a new THX certified PC stereo speaker setup with a huge subwoofer (Logitech, $130), which we hooked up to the analog front speaker port. Then hubby brought a bunch of old stereo PC speakers from work (Creative Labs, freebies), and we used those to fill in the ports for center channel, rear speaker channel, and one we get the cables, will use the remaining audio card port for the last 2 of the 7 speaker set-up. So, instead of spending $300 for fancy Dolby decoder amp with speakers, I spent $130 on a REALLY nice set of front stereos with subwoofer, and a bunch of stereo freebies to fill out the rest of the surround setup. After all, the PC can decode Dolby and DTS in software, so there’s really no need for anything other than just plain speakers. Results are firkin amazing. Just watching plain TV sounds way different, and in some cases a bit exaggerated (base and surround), compared to what it used to be.

                Regarding other stuff in my life, work is getting very complicated, kendo is still kicking my butt stamina-wise, I still don’t have the strength to cut and stop properly in Iaido, but am working on it, and this August trip to Italy is still a go.


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[15 Feb 2009|11:30pm]

New engine: $990.
Labor: $1320.
Rental for a week: $186.

Having a car that starts up clean, runs very smooth, and performs like new: Pricel.. er, I mean $2500, and so worth it :D

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Life update [02 Feb 2009|10:23pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Work: job is getting more and more complicated. After cleaning up Excel sheets and figuring out how to optimize code and financial formulas, I a now working on putting together reports and calculations for mortgage loans, doing future revenue (income) projections, and putting together an investment bond report that will go out to Moody’s to get rated. Also found out the other financial analyst there is retiring in a few months, which means there’s an excellent chance I will be able to be hired full-time. Only benefit would be paid holidays and vacation, since apparently I can still get health insurance cheaper on my own ($80 a month v.s. $150). That, and if I keep working, they may pay for my MBA.

University: Still waiting on replies. Getting so deeply involved in my new job may make it difficult to just drop everything for 2 more years, as opposed to going the part-time route, which would mean another 4 years of studying. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Car: After a misdiagnosis and a replacement of most of the electrical system (which was called a “tune-up” and about which I found out after they replaced the 6 months old parts), I had to spend more money for they to actually fix the problem. $600 for the diagnosis, electrical system replacement, and a new exhaust pipe gasket, and $700 for new PCV valve, Automatic Idle Control Valve, and thorough engine and fuel system cleaning. Car is running fine again, but that will be the absolutely last time I ever take it to Firestone, whether they work on weekends or not.

Iaido: Had a day-long seminar and an exam this past Sunday. Got up at 3am to drive to New York, seminar from 9am to 5pm with an hour lunch, exam 5 to 6 (6 minutes per person, 3 people at a time), got home at almost 11pm. Long day. Ranks go 5 to 1 student, 1 to 8 “black belt.” I was hoping for a 4th degree student, and got 3. Yay me. It was really cool seeing 100+ people all practice the same kata (series of moves) at the same time. Most of the day was in silence, except when teachers spoke, so all you could hear were many sword woooshes. I was nervous as hell during the exam, or I guess more specifically focused as hell, so I fear I forgot a lot of the new tings we learned that day, and I actually don’t even remember doing one of the katas (had to do 1 through 5). I asked my friends if I remembered to do 4, they said yes, but I don’t remember doing it. Oh well. Guess I know it all instinctively well enough to still get a good rank. Next exam in a year.

(We were split into two groups: lower ranks and upper ranks. These are upper. I  snapped this while we were waiting on the side)

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[25 Jan 2009|12:29am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Oden today >^.^<

Turned out very very good. So did the miso soup I made from scratch (used a whole lot of miso to make it taste even better). I'm wondering on which nationality's quisine I should try learning next. French food is really good, and would be something more people I know would enjoy, but then again, there are some things french foods use that I would rather not know about *coughraweggwhitescough* Other option is Indian, since it would still be very exotic, I just found out we have a huge Indian supermarket nearby, and one of my new coworker friends is Indian, so could help me, too. Hmm, decisons decisons :9

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New job [17 Dec 2008|08:06pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Finished my job at Haribo late last night. Had some last minute month close issues that I had to take care of, which kept me there till very late. Today I started my new job at the Maryland Department of Housing and Urban Development. The place is essentially a bank that gives out mortgage loans, and my job is as a Financial Analyst / Advanced Accountant. No benefits, but 1.5 times more pay than I got before, and the job is what I want to do career-wise, so still major win.

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CVS - Conclusion [29 Nov 2008|05:18pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

The Black Friday sale is over. After 8 trips to CVS, where I would use the ECB coupons that print on receipts from each previous trip, I was able to get $141 worth of stuff with a final out-of-pocket expense of $1.48, and $17.79 in ECBs still left over (As in, I paid $1.48 to get ALL that stuff). I started this all out with $17.47 worth of ECBs (my initial out-of-pocket expense from last week). True, we ended up with a lot of crap, like Gatorade drinks, energy shot drinks, and a candy bar, but the useful stuff included:

5 tubes of toothpaste
1 Crest Spin-Brush toothbrush
1 Johnson's hand lotion
2 pairs of Phillips headphones
2 bottles of shampoo
2 tubes of flavored lip gloss
2 vials of CoverGirl liquid foundation
1 box of Garnier moist towlette facial wipes
1 Schick quattro razor with an electric trimmer
5 bars of RightGuard deodorant and
1 vial of nail color

Most of the make-up wet to my mom, of course. This kind of a sale comes but once a year, but I think that with all the toothpaste and deodorant, we may be set for just about that long. There's more info explaining what it is that I actually did at http://www.mydollarplan.com/cvs-my-frugal-dream-come-true/ with the Hotcouponworld.com site being the most helpful in figuring out the deals. Over the next few weeks CVS will continue to have a few deals here and there, although obviously not on this scale, and I hope to continue getting free stuff using tis same system.

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CVS Extrabucks FTW [28 Nov 2008|02:42pm]
CVS ExtraBucks + "rolling" ExtraBucks over and over wiith 5 trips to CVS + crazy 3 day only Black Friday CVS sale = $106 worth of stuff like toothpaste, shampoo, candy and makeup for only $1.30 of my on money. And I'm not even done yet. Most of it is stuff we don't think about when it comes to saving money, but still, that's $106 worth of stuff we won't have to worry about spending money on any more. And P.S. Yes, you do need to use algebra in your real life. At least if you want to get $106 worth of stuff for only $1.30
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[05 Nov 2008|12:30am]
[ mood | hopeful ]

Honestly the thing that concerned me most about this election was economics, and the candidate's knowledge of such. While some people were trying to scare other people by saying one of the guys palled around with terrorists, I was far more afraid of what the other guy might do or screw up had he got into power, and the possibility of far worse results of his decisions than any percieved ex-terrorist assocations. I'm very relieved with the results. Now I just hope I don't have to eat my words a few years from now.

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