January 31, 2008

Driving in snow

Last night I was driving home from a client's house. She lives less than 10 miles from me and it generally takes between 15 and 20 minutes to get home depending on traffic...and traffic lights (how is it that the lights turn red one after the other when you're running late?). Anyway, it had been snowing for a bit over an hour and there was about 3 inches of the white stuff on the ground. By the way, I live in Colorado. This is state that's known for snow (not as much or as often as people think...but don't tell anyone). So, you'd think that people would know how to drive in it. You'd think people would have a clue as to how their very own vehicles are going to react in the snow. You'd think people should figure that snow, no wheel drive and bald tires will lead to disaster. If the weather report says it's going to snow, you drive the four wheel drive or the boat with snow tires on it. You're just not going to go anywhere if you don't have a grip on the road. And the fact is, if you get stuck, everyone behind you will get stuck by default. But unfortunately common sense is really a rare commodity.

I have two cars. A front wheel drive, purple colored, sporty looking, two door car known affectionately as "My Saturn". It's 12 years old this year and I acquired it with 1700 miles on it. It blew an engine and then was recalled for that (how is it that my engine knew to blow before the recall when after would have been so much better?). It
now has 220,000 miles and several new parts on it. Sadly, it was broken into twice a little over a year ago which led to the rash, but researched, decision to buy an all wheel drive, deep red colored, luxury looking, sedan styled, four door car with a secure trunk, known affectionately as "My Subaru". It's now 4 years old and has almost 105,000 miles on it (the previous owner must have had a long commute...but really, Subaru's are known to last past 300,000 miles, so it's all good). Now I must admit, prior to acquiring My Subaru, I drove My Saturn for 10 winters and I stayed on the road. Mostly. Seriously, I can not recall when I last ended up in a ditch, but I'm pretty sure the only time I needed a push out of snow was when we were snowed into my old cul de sac neighborhood after a four foot dumping several years ago and a snow plow didn't arrive for three days. So I think I know something about driving in snow with a pretty average car.

Here are the keys to driving in a fast dropping snow storm. First, make sure you have good all weather tires (or snow tires) with decent tread. Put something heavy in your trunk if you have rear wheel drive (aka "no-wheel" drive). If you have front wheel or all wheel drive, the engine is heavy enough already. Second, if you're in slow moving traffic you should still give a couple of car lengths between you in the next car especially when going down hill
(although honestly, I have been known to leave less room if I suspect the HUGE SUV next to me is going to try to cut me off). Third, if cars are struggling going up a hill, it's actually best to wait for the car at the front of the line to clear the crest before the next one takes off and so on and so forth. This allows more room for each driver to get a running start up the hill without having to stop until they reach the top (unfortunately if you're on a multi-lane road the cars in the next lane might not understand what you're doing and jump over in front of you thinking that you're stuck too [pardon this second aside but...see how I think of the other drivers...as "cars"...very inanimate and with no regard for the humanity within...of course they're doing the same thing...]). I used this technique on a very steep highway off ramp many years ago after sitting for 20 minutes waiting for people to move. I was in a no wheel drive pick up truck, so I knew I'd get stuck if I didn't get a running start up the ramp without having to stop. I got out of my truck and spoke to 20 some drivers to explain the plan. It worked out great and half an hour later I was home in front of my fireplace. Fourth, if you're already at home and have a car that's crap in the snow, STAY HOME. Call in sick, skip dinner, wait until the next evening to visit your girlfriend (or boyfriend). They can stand a night alone (even if they are cold and lonely...and miss you badly...and you're horny). It's just not worth the extra aggravation you're causing your fellow human beings, not to mention getting stuck in a ditch.

January 27, 2008

Car repairs

As would be expected, I'm a do it yourselfer. Well, except if it involves first time home maintenance or electricity ( I did the home maintenance/electrical thing once and it blew up in my face...we don't wanna go there again). Simple car repairs are no problem...generally speaking. I've changed out a heater hose, despite warnings that a professional ought to do it so that a proper complete water vacuum is maintained. I've replaced small parts and even did 3 valve cover replacements on my old truck until I discovered that I had "blow by" which requires a major engine rebuild (I also did something to the truck that required removing the steering wheel, but that was so long ago I can't remember what the issue was...though it might have been related to poor radio reception).

So you'd think replacing a dead battery would be a piece of cake. Unscrew a couple of nuts, pull off the connections and remove the old battery...put in the new one and do the reverse with the connections and nuts. Yeah, how hard could that be? Did I mention that I bought the '04 Subaru used and the dead battery was installed in 2003? Okay, no big deal there. How about I live in Colorado and I suspect the previous owner lived in the mountains where it snows from October until Mayish or so? Yeah, so much moisture there. Not like on the plains of Colorado which are remarkably dry (don't tell anyone, but it really doesn't snow nearly as much as people think down here in the "valley"). My point is, RUSTED nuts. If my car was a male, it would be a very sad day. As it is, I haven't driven the car in over a week and it's supposed to actually snow tomorrow...sigh. I can not remove the rusted nuts. It requires solvent, special sockets and strength. I bought the solvent and I probably have enough strength if the solvent works like advertised. But I don't have deep enough sockets. Alas this is a job for deep sockets...

January 24, 2008

eeny, meeny, miney, moe...

I'm completely stumped at this point. Clinton, Obama, Edwards, someone else? The only thing I know for sure is I want a Democrat in office. I have a caucus to go to, so I've checked out a few political sites and some news sites. I've not been very thorough about this...really. Yet, what I have found is even the knowledgeable bloggers and other politico's, who spend hours daily on this, have the same issue. It's a toss up. Advantages and disadvantages abound for all candidates. I think what it really comes down to is we all want to back the EVENTUAL WINNER. We're afraid to pick someone and then find out that they weren't the one to save us all. Such cognitive dissonance is paralyzing. We love the idealism and promise of change that Obama brings to the table. We love the studied reason and personal strength of Edwards. And then there's Hillary Clinton. Of THE Clinton's. Brilliant minds. Killer instincts. But would it be Hillary actually leading. Or maybe it would be Bill. A puppetmaster. A Chaney to her Bush. On one hand, it seems like they have the best chance to win it all. On the other hand, what if they did?

January 23, 2008

Stocks down so the Fed slashes rates...excited yet?

The average person who has money tied up in either investments or some kind of debt gets pretty excitable when the media reports wild movements in stock prices and interest rates. Here's the thing. If you are the type to feel excitable, then you need a financial coach. Not just any coach though. As with other aspects of life, the coaching necessary is intimately tied to your specific needs. Trouble is, identifying those needs. But even before the identification of needs can happen, you have to admit you actually have needs. So let me help with that.

You have a need for financial coaching if you have money. If you don't have any money (as in none at all), you need another kind of coaching (no time to cover that now...but feel free to check back later). So now that the need for financial coaching has been established, how do you decide what kind? For the average middle income person ($25,000 to $200,000 a year...single low middle to married high middle) a good coach is either knowledgeable and provides access to services in many areas of finance (at least investing, insurance and debt elimination services) or has access to people knowledgeable in these areas and more. Unfortunately, many people presume they only need coaching for investments or worse that their insurance representative (who only handles insurance services) is a financial guru. By the way,
if your investments are internal to your insurances then you potentially have a rip-off artist for a coach or at least an ignorant insurance agent. In any case, the biggest and most ignored area financial coaching is managing and eliminating debt. Yet, the most people have no idea that dealing with debt is part and parcel of all their other financial goals, most importantly their long term investments.

Stocks falling greatly is, for the short run, disconcerting at best if, and only if, you have the coaching to work this event to your advantage. Interest rates falling, for the short run, is not actually cause to run right out for a new mortgage or loan. It could be, if you have a coach who can help take the emotion out of the decisions. And that is the key. Coaching in any area of life is really for the purpose of managing your emotions in order to hit goals. Sometimes you need more emotion, sometimes less, sometimes no emotion (and in sports directed emotion is generally useful, but that's another blog topic). I
f you're feeling excitable right now, take a deep breath, and begin the process of interviewing a few potential coaches. Start with a list of all your financial services and all your short term and long term goals.

Keep in mind, while some coaches are fee based and others have fees worked into services. Both are valid. Don't rule out coaching based on cost. In fact, I could probably write a multi-page blog on what a good financial coach brings to the table when it comes to making solid financial moves. Bottom line, good financial coaching provides a value that can be measured in both the money made and saved through making good reasoned decisions as well as the emotions not expended because you have access to a sounding board upon which to bounce your decisions. Managing your finances without a trained financial coach is rather like walking a tightrope without a net. It's way more dangerous than it appears. However, unlike tightrope walking, a misstep now might not have immediate consequences but in the long run it can compound into a devastating one. Don't give into your excitable emotions by running out and making a rash decision about your investments and/or mortgage. Get a coach instead.

January 22, 2008

Too much time...so few ideas remembered...

I've been thinking about my little blog here and all of the observations I make each day. In fact, throughout the day (or weekend) I have thought of several topics to cover. Then the ideas pass and drift away. Like smoke, right up the chimney. When I actually take the time to write them down, I can't seem to remember a one of them (I have considered that this could be an age thing, though). However, technology being what it is these days, it occurred to me that I should use my multipurpose-do-everything-but-the-dishes cell phone (otherwise known as one of those smart phones) to make up for my memory lapses. It has a voice memo feature that I just never got in the habit of using. So then, when I'm not reading the paper, eating breakfast and watching TV (all at once), I could have all sorts of ideas just waiting in my little gizmo ready for me to ponder upon, muse over and put into words. The thing is, I just haven't had a need to learn it, let alone develop a habit of using it.

That got me thinking about habits... Yeah, not sure I'm ready to report on my observations there. Moving on. One observation I did have today, is that I'm ready to get back to a regular (well semi-regular) work schedule. I actually put together a bit of a training program for one of my two careers and contacted folks for my other career to inquire about lining up some consultation gigs. And don't you know, after a month of farting around (you'd think with TWO careers I'd already be too busy for anything more), I have a place to be for some work now. This is a good thing. It requires more discipline on my part and in addition to income, I get to ply two different trades that involve interacting with people. Interaction with people, which can lead to opportunities for observing. Therefore, in preparation for all this potential observational activity, I feel it's time to learn to use my gizmo's voice memo feature. Because people are interesting and I wouldn't want to let anyone down...what with all the baited breath out there waiting to ruminate with me on my latest observations...

January 18, 2008

Ellen Page - Mature Beyond Her Age...

Oprah is touting the virtues of Juno now (this of course could lead to an Oscar win, because the nomination was probably already a done deal before the Oprah campaign started). I must say, I also found the movie very entertaining (probably had nothing to do with seeing it on a date...right?). After reading several blog posts and other articles on the movie and/or Ellen Page, I decided it was time to watch her other movies (okay, one of them happened to be airing today on one of my many many movie channels making it rather convenient).

Hard Candy was released in 2006 (but listed as a 2005 movie) according to IMDB. Ellen Page will turn 21 in February this year, so she was probably 18ish when it was filmed. This is a good thing as the movie is a disturbing psychological "thriller"
about potential pedophilia (not sure "thriller" is quite the right adjective/genre, but it is very much psychological). IMDB's plot outline describes it thusly: "A mature 14-year old girl meets a charming 32-year old photographer on the Internet. Suspecting that he is a pedophile, she goes to his home in an attempt to expose him."

But that is the only the beginning. I'll not ruin it for anyone by revealing the specifics. My interest is more the depth and range of Ms. Page's talent. But as she's been acting since she was 10, I don't think I can really address that now. I will say, however, that Juno and Hard Candy taken separately do show Ms. Page's depth of talent in that she conveys a maturity well beyond her age. I would suspect this is more telling about Ms. Page, herself, rather than about having had good direction. That said, I don't think that these two movies really reveal her range of talent by themselves, as I have seen suggested in other blogs and articles.

Perhaps her range is wide. I don't know. Having seen only the two movies now, what I will say is that I felt her character in Hard Candy seem to be a very dark version of the same character she played in Juno. The same "mature beyond her age" teen who seems to be at or beyond the intellectual and/or emotional level of the adults populating her world. Taken together, I don't see these two roles as demonstrating significant range beyond what is found in either one singly. Hopefully, in the future, I'll have the chance to see further examples of her talent. I suspect as experience comes with age, so will true acting maturity. And then we'll all see the true range of talent that her current work promises.

January 17, 2008

Observation from a Keen Observer of the Human Condition...

Humans, by nature, are social creatures. So what happens in a big world, population wise, that has gotten so small, in terms the ability to know what's going on everywhere in the world practically...and having your nearest neighbor 10 feet away, that being neighborly is no longer what it needed to be 100 years ago? People have become isolated. Maybe this is a protective behavior given how much others now intrude on a daily basis (media, commercialism, big brother watching). And yet being human, they desire contact with others. Hence, the explosion of social networking online. But this begs the question, at least for me, does this method of interaction with others actually perpetuate the isolation? And what are the ramifications of maintaining online persona's?


January 16, 2008

Interior Decorating

Buying a home brings out the interior decorator in some folks. For me it brings out the cheapskate. I call my style: Late College/Early Bachelorette. Then, I had a date come by one evening to see my new place (okay, it's not really that new anymore, but I still have boxes to unpack 19 months later, so it seems new...ish) and it was then that I realized my place was somewhat NOT very sexy or new. Truth is, my condo needs new floors in the kitchen and bathroom as the stick down tile is scooching apart revealing the original 1983 gold linoleum...and it will need new counters eventually because fake butcher block is NOT coming back...and the appliances are 24 years old and occasionally cranky...and the tub needs reglazing... I'm sure you see my point.

So all this was in the back of my mind when I told my new blog buddy, Red Mojo, the other day that she had inspired me with her description of her home. I decided it was time to look into finally getting a chair for my living room. I've had a pretty folding chair holding the spot for me (no really, it is pretty). Off I went on Saturday in search of a small leather chair to complement my old
comforter covered futon and complete my living room furniture collection. I figured I might also get a small ottoman to go with it...or a maybe, instead, get a really small recliner like my dad's (to fit a corner of a hall office space). THEN, I saw a small brown leather sofa that went with a small brown leather chair.

Infatuation ensued. This was a BADDDDDD idea...for my wallet (by the way,
small is important as my condo living room is rather cozy...complete with a real working fireplace...and proportions are key according to my mom, the semi-pro interior decorator). Which then led me to calling my mom for advice. She actually said it was a good deal (pricewise) and I should go ahead. THAT was a BADDERRRRRR idea...for my wallet. She was supposed to say "Don't do it, save your money." I felt compelled to comparison shop. Online I went. I discovered another small leather sofa and chair, in a tan color, at the same furniture warehouse. Infatuation grew. I dragged a friend (who conveniently has a truck) through the store to look at all the options. I found a nice ottoman too...after much discussion.

Really though, I was just procrastinating...I hate to spend large sums of money. My friends think I'm a tight wad. It's just that I tend to be careful. I bought a small condo, because who needs so much space when one's single. I've made do with old unmatched furniture since I left home for college...because I was doing my part for the environment and not being a conspicuous consumer...saving for my retirement, 'cause a gal can not be too careful in that regard. I do not spend big money unless I'm in love or if it's practical. Infatuation does not love make. So...why did I just drop $800.00 for living room furniture? Okay only $750.00...because I am taking the ottoman back...

January 15, 2008

Not much to say, but here I am

This is a first for me. I read blogs occasionally and recently discovered that I enjoy several that happened to be here. Apparently you need to have a blog to comment on a blog. If you don't want to be totally anonymous anyway. Not sure what I'll be posting. I expect it might be rather random. Perhaps I should stop here for now and go read my brother's book on blogging. I wonder if he has a blog...