Brandon's Articles, Page 10 of 32

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03 Jan 08
Cup

Free Wii Remote Jackets

I love my (uh, I mean our) Wii. Perhaps my only complaint is the destructive tendency of playing involved games in tight spaces. I’ve smashed my fingers a couple of times on various surrounding objects, given neighboring players a good whack or two in the elbow, and even watched my TV endure a hardy-yet-incidental smack from my mother-in-law. As of yet, there has been no permanent damage, but Wii Remote Jackets did start to look more and more appealing. (Because they’re safe … not because they’re addictive-ly squishy.)

01 Jan 08
Cup

Music Purchase Log: December 2007

Albums I purchased in December 2007:

  • Calla – Scavengers
  • Emery – I’m Only a Man
  • Health – HEALTH
  • June – Make It Blur
  • Killswitch Engage – As Daylight Dies
  • Nada Surf – The Weight Is a Gift
  • New Amsterdams, The – At the Foot of My Rival
  • Piebald – Accidental Gentlemen
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
27 Dec 07
Newspaper

Pakistan Opposition Leader Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated earlier today. The assassin shot the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party to death and also detonated a suicide bomb that killed over 20 others. Leaders worldwide expressed outrage at the act, and are no doubt uneasy over growing civil unrest in a country already owning a nuclear arsenal.

19 Dec 07
Cup

Comparing Very Small Business Free Checking Options

After some top-level online discussion of general banking issues for very small businesses, I hit the streets to investigate business checking options. I certainly didn’t look into all of the potential banks, but I think the five options detailed below (in alphabetical order) provide a good cross-section of what’s out there – at least as far as free business checking goes. The information is also available in a public spreadsheet here.

Capital One

  • Fees: none
  • Signers: need to visit local branch
  • Debit card: one per signer
14 Dec 07
Cup

Best R-Rated Movies of the Past 10 Years

This probably looks like an odd question, so let me give it some context: I haven’t watched a rated R movie in a long, long time. (I don’t think it’s been 10 years, but it’s close enough.) Why? Because I’d rather avoid the things that make movies rated R – even though it pains me to miss out on movies like Matrix that seem to have very little in them to worry about.

In any case, now that I have ClearPlay, I can watch just about whatever movie I want – as long as I can get a filter for it.

06 Dec 07
Cup

New GMail Features: AIM Integration, Group Chats, New Emoticons and Colored Labels

GMail recently integrated the following new features (listed in order of complete awesomeness, from most awesomest to least awesomest):

  • Group chatsFinally. (Hint: Start a chat and click the options button at the bottom of the chat window.)
  • AIM integration – GMail users can now sign into AIM and interact with their AIM buddies through GMail. (Hint: Click the down arrow below your chat status.)
  • New emoticons – In addition to Google Talk’s "no frills" emoticons, there is now a basic staple of both the round and rectangular variety. (I’m actually rather surprised at this; I thought Google would stubbornly stick with "their thing.")
05 Dec 07
Newspaper

Chimps Beat Out University Students at Memory Game

World, meet Ayumu – a 7 year old chimpanzee who can knock the socks off of a university student at a number memorization game. In fact, meet a couple of his chimp buddies who can, too (although not to the same extent as Ayumu). Training was required for the chimps to learn to play the games, of course, but three human students failed to catch up even after spending six months of training themselves. (Compare videos of a chimp versus a university student.)

05 Dec 07
Cup

How to Deposit Checks Written to Children

Being the wonderful relatives they are, my wife’s paternal grandparents recently sent a check to start our new son’s savings account. The "pay to the order of" field included my son’s name, as well as an appended "(child)."

Being new at this sort of thing, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Could I simply deposit it in the normal fashion? Would I need to open a separate checking account for my son, deposit the check there, and then transfer the money? The check was burning a hole in my pocket waiting to be put into a high-yield online savings account. (This time bankrate.com led me to choose ETrade.) A couple of quick searches online didn’t turn up anything useful, so I gave Wells Fargo a call.

03 Dec 07
Cup

Music Purchase Log: November 2007

Albums I purchased in November 2007:

  • Ataris, The – Welcome the Night
  • Avenged Sevenfold – Avenged Sevenfold
  • Bald Eagle – Hot Shoulders
  • Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 2: No World for Tomorrow
  • Lights, The – Beautiful Bird
  • Maroon 5 – It Wont Be Soon Before Long
  • Muse – Absolution
  • Planes Mistaken for Stars – Mercy
  • Saves the Day – Under the Boards
03 Dec 07
Cup

Music Purchase Log: December 2006 - October 2007

I used to track this in my profile, but I decided it would be easier to post it in my blog. I’ll still track the current month on my profile page, but will move it here at the end of each month.

October 2007

  • Academy Is…, The – Santi
  • Awkward Stage, The – Heaven Is for Easy Girls
  • Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
  • Ben Kweller – Ben Kweller
  • Dashboard Confessional – The Shade of Poison Trees
  • David Bazan – Fewer Moving Parts
28 Nov 07
Cup

Spelling realignment

The word "import" should be spelled with an "n" instead of an "m." It just makes more sense.

28 Nov 07
Page_white_text

Paid Twice a Month vs Every Two Weeks

I’ve been exposed to two payroll systems: the once-every-two-weeks kind and the twice-a-month kind. Each has its own nuances and quirks, but only recently did I realize how they could impact my personal finances in dollars, not just monthly planning differences. Before moving into my tale, however, allow me to comment on the two systems.

When employees are paid every two weeks, there are 26 nice and equal payments. The issue is sometimes there are three payments in a month, and sometimes only two. To get around this, there is the twice-a-month payment system, which includes 24 (again) equal payments, but this time on an uneven timing basis (i.e., on the 15th and the final day of the month). In the former, you have to deal with being paid different amounts in different months, but your effective hourly rate is always the same. In the latter, you make the same amount every month, but your hourly rate changes.

28 Nov 07
Cup

Using Financial Advisers and Tax Consultants

A line in a post on LendingClub.com, quoting The Millionaire Next Door, mentions the tendency of most millionaires to use financial advisers and tax consultants. This stuck out to me because I do my own taxes and make my own investing decisions. It’s not without help, of course, the help is just free – or at least much cheaper than paying a professional.

I use TurboTax, for example. I perform my due diligence and take advantage of as many deductions as I can locate (case in point). I overhear accountants I know recommend in casual conversation various expenses to be sure and deduct, and my first thought is invariably, "TurboTax covers that." Is paying a professional really going to save me enough in tax obligation above my current method to make it worth the expense?

27 Nov 07
Newspaper

Harvesting Solar Power from the Sahara Desert

Using a massive network of roughly 1,000 100-megawatt power plants, and thousands of miles of high-voltage d.c. transmission cables, a conglomeration of researchers, environmentalists and businessmen is attempting to sell Europe on the idea of harvesting solar power from the Sahara Desert. The green-energy idea includes a mix of renewable energies, from wind to geothermal to biomass power, and is dubbed DESERTEC. Not surprisingly, the issue isn’t technological, but economic and nationalistic in nature. Some, for example, are concerned about the idea of relying on Africa for power. Others are worried about the US$595 billion price tag. Jon Gibbins, an energy engineer at Imperial College London, commented, "Unless it’s extremely cheap, it won’t stop people using easy-to-get fossil fuels. We didn’t stop using coal in the last century because of oil."

26 Nov 07
Cup

Credit Cards Good, Credit Checks Bad

I hate credit checks – specifically, the "say-it’s-free-but-really-it’s-not" kind. I went on to freecreditreport.com to get, surprisingly enough, a free credit report. Although I’m usually aware enough to identify the catches, one must have slipped by, as a couple of months later I realized an errant recurring charge had been on my credit card statement starting from a month after I secured the credit report. Luckily, my wife peruses our statements for things like this and once she found them, I knew reimbursement would be quick and easy.

Why? Because credit card companies are great. Finding their contact information online is straightforward – in contrast to a trend I’ve noticed among others, particularly utility companies, to bury their customer service number behind a wall of very unhelpful "self-help" online options. Once I make the call, the menu is user-friendly and logically organized. I also am able to actually talk to someone very quickly as I don’t have to dig through 7-10 menu levels or spend a long time waiting in line.

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