Monday, October 18, 2010

You Cannot Multiply Wealth by Dividing it.

You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.  When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."*

*  Adrian Rogers, 1931*

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guilt Free Vacations

Are you feeling bogged down with debt? Don't worry, you are not alone. However, you CAN rise up and take that dream vacation. It's not just a fairy tale. Lots of people are finding out how and sharing their stories with us.

I read an article today over at Yahoo Finance: "Staying out of debt leads to first affordable vacation in years."
The article explained how an average couple found themselves, "in a continuous cycle of borrowing from this week's paycheck to pay last week's bills and desperately wanting to catch up and get out of debt."
However, they "finally had to sit down and ask, "Where's all our money going?""
Once they did that, they were able to prioritize their spending. Rather than just throw money away on things that didn't have value to them, they consciously spent or saved their money for things that did. The end result?

After climbing out of debt this year, my fiance and I were able to take our dream vacation to New Orleans. Everything was paid for outright, without any interest charges. We were able to enjoy the trip to its fullest, without wondering how it would be paid for.
This is my idea of a dream vacation! Paris, France.
Paris Exposition: Champ de Mars and Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 1900

Photo Courtesy of Flickr, Brooklyn Musuem
It seems that a common thread lately from personal finance bloggers is chronicling the personal success stories. JD at features a weekly Reader Stories, Trent Hamm at TheSimpleDollar features numerous Mailbags where he answers individual readers questions with his own opinion, Ramit at IWillTeachYouToBeRich also has featured success stories entitled Master's of Earning More.

It makes sense - that is how their own blogs were started. They were reporting on their own personal finance journey. Once they achieved their own success and continued to prosper with their new foundation in personal finance, they have all started showcasing the personal stories of other fellow readers.

This isn't a new tactic. Personal finance books have always included snippets of success stories from people that have been helped by following the proposed program or principles. In some ways, reader stories serve as a further testimonial that what the author is spouting out really does work and more importantly, that it works for more than one type of person.

Take heart in the success stories and realize that you CAN achieve your dreams, too. Others have done it. Look at their stories and try to identify what was their turning point. Identify what things worked for them and try to apply some of the principles and ideas into your own life. Not everything will work all the time, but there is a lot to learn from the experiences of others.

Stop dreaming and start sailing!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Will Teach You To Be Rich Book Review

I Will Teach You To Be RichI recently picked up I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. Ramit has a great website and his book on personal finance is one of the funner ones to read. This is the book to read if personal finance is still a new word for you - then this is the book for you. Ramit has a targeted audience of younger twenty somethings.  As with all knowledge - if you aren't too put off by simple examples that don't exactly mimic your situation and instead apply the principle being taught - you will definitely learn something and most likely benefit, too. 

Ramit has boasted that his $10 book has helped people save thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars. Boast might not be the right word, because some people have reported these savings on one of his videocasts. In fact, armed with the scripts in the book and a bit of extra confidence, I tackled the seemingly impossible task of negotiating the removal of some rather nefarious fees from one of my credit cards.

The real beauty of reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich is that Ramit remembers that there is a large psychological piece of the money puzzle that other personal finance authors and mathematics simply ignore. Ramit realizes that people are  lazy and want the easy way out. This is not to say that Ramit has uncovered the magic silver bullet. Quite the contrary, he is not fearful in telling people that they need to buck up and do the hard thing to get their finances initially under control. Yes, that might mean some work, but then he introduces what he terms your "Conscious Spending Plan". Ramit finds it ludicrous to cut out your daily latte - IF, that latte brings you significant happiness and pleasure to your day. Instead, cut mercilessly in areas that you do not care about so that you can splurge on the things that matter most to you. There is a HUGE difference between being cheap and being frugal.

Ramit dutifully covers the basics of checking accounts and savings accounts and preparing to invest for your future. One of the key messages of the book is the 85 percent solution. Don't worry about getting it 100 percent done, or even perfect. If you only get an 85 percent solution, that is still leaps and bounds ahead of doing nothing like the rest of the population. At least you'll have something to show for it.

Sprinkled throughout the book you will also find a short piece written by some of the most admired personal finance bloggers. Entries from Get Rich Slowly and The Five Cent Nickel and The Simple Dollar among others all contributed. I appreciated the additions from these bloggers because I was familiar with them and I thought it was a rather unique way to collaborate with them in this manner.

I Will Teach You To Be RichIn summary, if I was just starting out with personal finance and didn't want to fall asleep reading about asset allocation in my 401(k) or get lectured about cutting up my credit card - I'd think this was the best book out there. Understanding my current situation, having applied most of the principles, it was a good reminder of why I was doing things and in some instances, a call to further simplify them.  If you are at this stage of your own personal finance, then I'd suggest you visit Ramit's website I Will Teach You To Be Rich to learn how to advance you to the next stage of personal finance: Earning More Money. There is a definite focus on his blog and his products to help you earn more money. Inspiring as that all may be - it means nothing if you never take action. Decide today to take action!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Moving Woes

The Berenstain Bears' Moving Day (First Time Books(R))I took a day off work this week to do something unexpected. Yikes, taking a day off work was unexpected enough. One of the guys I work with accepted a new job offer and was moving across the country. He had scheduled a U Haul and I offered to help him move his spartan belongings from his third story apartment and help pack it in the U Haul trailer for him. I had no idea that a Queen size bed fits so perfectly inside a 5'x8' trailer. 

Alas, there was one incident worth remembering for future moves. Some of the boxes were standard weight, the dishes were understandably heavy, and yet other boxes were surprisingly light. The most prized possession was the box of computers. It also turned out to be one of the heaviest - and unfortunately, happened to be the one box that was dropped.

The takeaway lessons - Don't put all your eggs in one basket, and secondly, don't over pack your boxes. When you are moving, things are going to get disorganized anyways, so don't try so hard to put all of the same thing in one box. Diversify. Put some soft, light stuff in with your fragile, or heavy and expensive equipment. Packing it all together, two desktop computers in this case, causes unnecessary risk from the added weight and from single points of failure.

Pioneer Packing #N10 10LB Newsprint PaperI did notice that there was a package of packing paper on the counter, so hopefully, it was used in abundance. Packing paper is great for protecting your valuables in creating a crush zone around your items.

Disclaimer: I really like the Berenstain Bears Books and I don't know what kind of paper that is, but the stuff I used, looked like it, and it's worth it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quotable Quotes: Phantom

Phantom: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 2 (Sword of Truth, Book 10)These are the Quotable Quotes that I found very interesting or intriguing or inspiring while reading Phantom by Terry Goodkind, the 10th book in the Sword of Truth Series.

Richard is explaining to Zed and Nicci how he could understand the emblems of the Chainfire spell and brought up the amulet he wore which held symbolic representation of the way of the primary edict.
"It means only one thing, and everything: cut. Once committed to fight, cut. Everything else is secondary. Cut. That is your duty, your purpose, your hunger. There is no rule more important, no commitment that overrides that one: cut.
"Cut from the void, not from bewilderment. Cut the enemy as quickly and directly as possible. Cut with certainty. Cut decisively, resolutely, Cut into his strength. Flow through the gaps in his guard. Cut him. Cut him down utterly. Don't allow him a breath. Crush him. Cut him without mercy to the depths of his spirit."
US Hardcover, page 92

Nicci describing how the Old World was subjugated and why the people blindly follow along.
"And since faith is the indispensable glue that binds together their teetering tower of beliefs, faith eventually gives birth to brutality. Without brutality to enforce it, faith ends up being nothing more than a fanciful daydream,...."
US Hardcover, pg 158

Richard is commanding his army, the D'Haran army to wage a new kind of war in retaliation to the Imperial Order.
"It's true that innocent people - including children - will be hurt of killed. What is the alternative? Continuing to sacrifice good people out of fear of harming someone innocent? We are all innocent. Our children are all innocent. They are being harmed, now. The Order's rule will eventually harm everyone, including all those children in the Old World. The order will turn many of them into monsters. Many more people will die in the end if the Order wins.
"Moreover, the lives of the people in the Old World are not our responsibility, they are the Order's responsibility. We did not start this war and attack them - they attacked us. Our only proper course of action is to end the war as swiftly as possible. This is the only way to do that. IN the end, this is the most humane thing we can do because in the end this well mean the least loss of life.
"We are defending our right to exist. If we succeed we will , as a consequence, help countless others to live free as well."
US Hardcover, page 266

Jagang is attempting to explain to Kahlan his view of life as a brutal contest.
'Kahlan knew that life could be brutal, but that such brutality did not define life or its purpose, and that the sexes were not rivals, but meant to share together in the work and joys of life.'
'To those like you it is,' she said. 'That's one difference between you and me. I use violence only as a last resort, only when it's necessary to defend my life-my right to exist. You use brutality as a tool of fulfilling your desires, even your ordinary desires, because, except by force, you have nothing worthwhile to offer to exchange for what you want or need- and than includes women. You take, you do not earn.'
US Hardcover, pg 469

The introductory statement to The Book of Life reads: Those who have come here to hate should leave now, for in their hatred they only betray themselves.
"People who hate don't usually recognize that vile taint within themselves. They spew their hatred as righteous. That corruption is what makes them so evil - and so dangerous. They are able to do the most despicable things and think themselves heroes for having done them.
Chainfire Trilogy (Sword of Truth, Books 9-11)US Hardcover, pg 543

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Baking Soda

The many uses of Baking soda. You can do more than cook with it!

Do you have some old baking soda you don't want to cook with or is no longer useful at sucking in yucky odors in your fridge?
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (01170) 
Use it to clean off all the corrosion on your car battery terminals. One day I walked out to the parking lot after a long day's work - alas, my car would not start. I popped the hood and saw that my battery terminals were showing signs of excessive corrosion. My wife came to the rescue with some warm water and some baking soda. We dissolved the baking soda in the warm water and then slowly poured the mixture over my battery terminals. Once clean, a solid electrical connection was possible, and my car started right up.

Use it to kill mushrooms on your lawn. When we moved into our new house we discovered after an especially rainy spring that a huge patch of mushrooms had grown into our lawn. Apparently, an old tree had been cut down years ago, but the root system was still underground providing ample food for mushrooms. A little baking soda sprinkled on them took care of that problem.

Use it down your drain to eliminate smelly odors. Just like in your fridge, drop it down your drain and let it dissolve into the water in the trap to eliminate some odors and neutralize any acidic decomposition.

Disclaimer: I use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda products like the one pictured.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Handling Bulk Purchases

It is generally accepted that buying in bulk will help you save money on your grocery bill. However, if the quantities are so large that they are cumbersome, you might end up losing money in the long run. Here's a few tips on how I handle bulk items.

Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 51-Ounce BottleOlive oil. Buy this heart healthy food in a nice large can - and then what? Who wants to drag out a gallon can when they just need to measure out a tablespoon of oil? And who really measures anyways?
My trick - save your syrup bottle, wash it out, and make it your new oil dispenser. It's just the right size, and a little squeeze of oil in the pan is all you need. If you do not like the old syrup bottle idea - then a nice glass oil dispenser might be what you are looking for.

Disclaimer: The above picture is for reference only and is not the brand I use.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SimCity2000: Screen Shots and Building Tips

SimCity 2000: CD CollectionFeeling a bit nostalgic, I busted out my copy of SimCity 2000 and DosBox and went to work as the mayor of a thriving metropolis. But it wasn't a metropolis right away. I built this city, slowly, from the ground up. I was surprised that I had forgotten some of the intricate details and strategies for building a successful city. However, these mistakes only set me back a couple of decades of development as I waited for my coffers to refill. 
So, just for fun, here are a few screen shots of my city as it grew throughout the years. Enjoy!

"Commerce needs connections."  I kept getting this message until I realized what it meant. The commercial sector needed a way to do business with the world outside of my immediate city. Building roads that extend to to the neighboring cities is one way of connecting your city to the outside world. Additionally, building seaports and airports will also do the trick. Another tip regarding ports - they need roads and power like any other zone - however, unlike residential, commercial, and industrial zones, do not stretch power lines across the available squares to speed up development. The power lines actually hinder growth at ports. So, only stretch the power lines across the road in a few places and let the ports grow from there.

Your sims need to travel. You can use the query tool to check on how much traffic a section of roadway is getting. Add subways and rails, or build a complete highway system with on ramps and off ramps. The bus system, however, is one of the most effective at moving your sims along. This allows them to travel further distances and reduces pollution. Sims will only attempt to travel so far. They need to be able to reach each of the different zones. They need to live and go to work and go shopping. The better the transportation infrastructure, the further they can travel and the more valuable the zoning arrangement will be. Remember, this game is all about developing the most expensive real estate because property taxes are what fill your coffers at year's end.

As property values increase, you will notice the building types to look cleaner and crisper. Use the query tool to view each property and its characteristics.

Hydroelectric power is the overall cheapest method to power your city. Every other power plant looks cooler, is more expensive per megawatt, may produce lots of pollution, and also has the expensive requirement of needing to be replaced after every 50 years. Hydro is also nice because it can fit in nicely where ever you have a slope with water to build it on. While this is not very realistic sometimes, it also has the added advantage of spreading out your power supply. During an earthquake, any number of buildings could be lost - and if one of them happens to be a costly power plant - your city could be without power while you try to recover from the wreckage. Disasters are the primary reason it is recommended that your power and water grids be as interconnected as possible. In the event of a disruption on one block, power can still be rerouted around the problem center. Take the time and place extra power lines around the block.

Another trick I remembered was how well water pumps perform based on their location. The amount of water each pump can produce is directly dependent upon the number of fresh water squares that are adjacent to it. That is why most of my water pumps are sitting next to my hydroelectric dams - it increases their output tremendously. One adjacent square of fresh water will increase output by nearly 50%. This will ultimately help reduce the number of water pumps you need to quench your thirsty city.

The military will come knocking on your door when your population reaches 60,000 residents. Apparently, you need to have a pretty hilly terrain in order to get the elusive Army base. They are useful when you have a disaster because they are additional units to deploy to assist your police or firefighters in containing riots and fires and whatnot.

The SimCity BoxIf you do not want to play the original SC2000 inside of DosBox - you can pick up SimCity4 along with its expansion and a few other games in the SimCity Box. I have been wanting this latest version for some time. If you have it and have played both, please share your comments below.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Microsoft Office Update Fields

Do you need to update all the fields in your Microsoft Office Word document when you don't have a table of contents?

Microsoft Word 2010CTRL+A to select all text and then hit F9. 

It will then update all your fields instead of having to right click and select "Update field" for each one individually. 

Do a quick search for any errors, for example, "Error! Reference source not found.

It may be helpful to save right before you do this so you can open up the last saved state and compare if you suddenly find yourself scratching your head wondering where a reference link was supposed to be pointing towards.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sword of Truth Series: Chainfire

Chainfire: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 1 (Sword of Truth, Book 9)The Sword of Truth series continues with Terry Goodkind's ninth installment: Chainfire.

Chainfire is an epic struggle between the hero, Richard Rahl, and his friends. His greatest adversaries in this novel are those friends closest to him. He believes strongly in one thing and is focused to see it through, and yet he meets resistance from all those around him.
The time line serves to allow Jagang's army to complete critical strategic movements which will position them for the 'final battle'.
Another civilization is encountered briefly, yet plays a critical piece to the puzzle being worked out by the Seeker of Truth. 

It finally dawned on me while reading this novel and listening to another author's book the differences in introductory writing styles. Specifically, how an author is carrying forward recurring characters throughout a series. One style simply assumes the reader has participated in the previous installments and is already intimate with the characters. In this case, the next novel in the series simply continues the story with only minimal reference to the background story or recent events. This is akin to reading one really long novel that just happened to be broken up in separate physical books.

The other style assumes new readers are discovering the series mid stream, or sufficient time has passed to allow readers to forget important qualities and characteristics of the main characters. In this case, the author will use the beginning phase of the book re-introduce the main characters and to re-establish their defining characteristics.

The Sword of Truth series continues from one book to the next without gaps in the time line. Most begin on the following day, however, Goodkind devotes the first half of his book with the second style mentioned above. I believe this is why I was so frustrated with Soul of the Fire. I found it maddening to read about chickens and spend over 100 pages doing nothing with the story before the group finally started moving again. My perception of the story was that it was dragging on endlessly and further fueled my frustration when I neared the end and the climax was wrapped up in a matter of only a few short chapters.

Sword of Truth, Boxed Set III, Books 7-9: The Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire, ChainfireWhile it is true that Chainfire follows the same pattern, I felt much more comfortable with the pace of the story at the introduction. The group was traveling, rather quickly in an attempt to save Richard's life, and the development of the new plot line served to more naturally re-introduce the characters.

It makes me wonder, now, understanding this, if my attitude towards Soul of the Fire, might have changed had I recognized this before I picked up. Probably not, the chickens were really getting on my nerves.
What is your opinion? Do you appreciate an author who takes the time to re-introduce his characters every book? Or are you just impatient for the story to move along?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sword of Truth Series: Wizard's Rules

Wizard's First Rule (The Sword of Truth)The Wizard's Rules that are learned, one by one, in each book were originally in my quotable quotes posts for each book. But then I found that Wikipedia had already done a much more elegant job of phrasing them and referencing them. This post, now has simply become a compilation then of the Rules sections from the individual book's wiki pages. Additionally, it is worth noting that each of the Rule's form a large basis for the foundation of the plot for each novel. Each specific Rule is an underlying theme throughout its book.

From the first book we learn the Wizard’s First Rule – People will believe anything they want or are afraid might be true.

Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, Book 1)People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.
—Chapter 36, p.397, U.S. hardcover edition

Stone of Tears (Sword of Truth, Book 2)
Stone of Tears teaches us the Wizard’s Second Rule – Law of unintended consequences.

The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.
It is explained in the book as follows: "It sounds a paradox, but kindness and good intentions can be an insidious path to destruction. Sometimes doing what seems right is wrong, and can cause harm. The only counter to it is knowledge, wisdom, forethought, and understanding the First Rule. Even then, that is not always enough. [...] Violation can cause anything from discomfort, to disaster, to death."
—Chapter 63, p. 634, U.S. hardcover edition

Blood of the Fold (Sword of Truth, Book 3)
Blood of the Fold teaches us the Wizard’s Third Rule – Passion rules reason.

 Passion rules reason.
It is explained in the novel as follows: "Letting your emotions control your reason may cause trouble for yourself and those around you."
—Chapter 43, p. 360, U.S. hardcover edition

Temple of the Winds (Sword of Truth, Book 4)Temple of the Winds teaches us the Wizard's Fourth Rule: Forgiveness Heals.

There is magic in sincere forgiveness, the magic to heal. In forgiveness you grant, but more so, in forgiveness you receive.
It is explained in the novel as follows: "Forgiving and being forgiven are powerful elements of healing for the soul. Forgiving others grants by the giving of forgiveness but more so one receives self healing by the necessity of letting go of bitterness through forgiveness of others."
—Chapter 41, p. 318, U.S. hardcover edition

Soul of the Fire (Sword of Truth, Book 5)Soul of the Fire teaches us the Wizard's Fifth Rule: Actions Speak Louder than Words.

Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.
It is explained in the novel as follows: "People will lie to deceive you from what they truly mean to do. Watching the actions they take will prove their true intentions."
—Chapter 28, p. 205, U.S. hardcover edition

Faith of the Fallen teaches us the Wizard's Sixth Rule:    The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.

Faith of the Fallen (Sword of Truth, Book 6) (Mass Market Paperback)It is explained in the novel as follows: "The Sixth Rule is the hub upon which all rules turn. It is not only the most important rule, but the simplest. Nonetheless, it is the one most often ignored and violated, and by far the most despised. It must be wielded in spite of the ceaseless, howling protests of the wicked. Misery, iniquity, and utter destruction lurk in the shadows outside its full light, where half-truths snare the faithful disciples, the deeply feeling believers, the selfless followers. Faith and feelings are the warm marrow of evil. Unlike reason, faith and feelings provide no boundary to limit any delusion, any whim. They are a virulent poison, giving the numbing illusion of moral sanction to every depravity ever hatched. Faith and feelings are the darkness to reason’s light. Reason is the very substance of truth itself. The glory that is life is wholly embraced through reason, through this rule. In rejecting it, in rejecting reason, one embraces death."
    —Chapter 41, p. 319, U.S. hardcover edition

The Pillars of Creation teaches us the Wizard's Seventh Rule: Life is the future, not the past.

The Pillars of Creation (Sword of Truth, Book 7)It is explained in the novel as follows: "The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices."
 —Chapter 60, p. 549, U.S. hardcover edition

Naked Empire teaches us the Wizard's Eighth Rule: Deserve victory. 
Naked Empire (Sword Of Truth)
(Translated from "Talga Vassternich" in High D'Haran)
It is explained in the novel as follows: "Be justified in your convictions. Be completely committed. Earn what you want and need rather than waiting for others to give you what you desire."
  —Chapter 61, p.626, U.S. hardcover edition

Chainfire teaches us the Wizard's Ninth Rule: A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole.

Chainfire: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 1 (Sword of Truth, Book 9)It is explained in the novel as follows: "To believe in a contradiction is to abdicate your belief in the existence of the world around you and the nature of the things in it, to instead embrace any random impulse that strikes your fancy - to imagine something is real simply because you wish it were. A thing is what it is, it is itself. There can be no contradictions. In reality, contradictions cannot exist. To believe in them you must abandon the most important thing you possess: your rational mind. The wager for such a bargain is your life. In such an exchange, you always lose what you have at stake."
—Chapter 48, p. 489, U.S. hardcover edition

Phantom teaches us the Wizard's Tenth Rule:
I have not read this yet. I'll update this post when I do.

Confessor teaches us the Wizard's Eleventh Rule:
I have not read this yet. I'll update this post when I do.


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