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My Life

Lighters, but not Water! And NO BAIL OUT!

Ugh. This is going to be a ranting entry!

First, Hillary Clinton! It’s so annoying how now her campaign is saying “We have MOMENTUM!” You won TWO major states in one day. That is NOT momentum! You’ve lost 11 in a ROW! Wining two is not that big of a deal! Sure, good job. You won two major states in one day, but to go out and start proclaiming that you now have such great momentum. UGH! I hate this woman.

Second, I was going through security on Sunday at Hobby Airport in Houston. This guy walks up to the security guy next to me and asks. “So we can bring lighters on the plane now, right”… EXCUSE ME?! You can CARRY ON KNOWN EXPLOSIVES, but you STILL cannot bring on a sealed bottle of water! This is f’ing messed up! Great IDEA TSA! Lets allow people to carry on a flame creating device, but not WATER! I swear they hire the most retarded people they can find there. Then when you get up to the guy checking IDs there’s this HUGE blue box that looks like a high school shop student put together. The guy takes your ID and ticket and puts it into this blue box to check it… Umm? What I’m not allowed to see you verifying my name?

Third, I was watching CNN the other day and they were talking about all the different housing bail out proposals. These just really annoy me. Really. I am sorry that you and your 5 kids with no husband are being thrown out on your asses. Or that the white Newport Beach family who mortgaged their house 5 times so they could afford the Bentley and the new Mercedes for your sweet 16. But really. DO NOT USE MY TAX MONEY TO BAIL THESE PEOPLE OUT! They got themselves into this situation. Any IDIOT should have foreseen this coming. You cannot expect to live in a house by just paying interest on your mortgage. You cannot expect to get an ARM loan and NEVER have the interest rate increase. That’s the whole DEFINITION OF AN ARM LOAN! If these people weren’t smart enough to figure out that an ARM meant that there was the possibility of RAISING PAYMENTS then it’s their own fault that they can’t afford the house.

The same goes for idiots who used the equity in a house to buy material goods. You should NEVER EVER do this! Anyone with a half ounce of financial intelligence should know this. You home equity loan is a loan where if you default on payments the bank can seize your house (secured debt). If they had purchased the material goods with a credit card or other means (unsecured debt). They could default on the loans, perhaps get whatever they purchased repossessed and suffer a small setback on future credit. BUT THEY WOULD STILL HAVE THE HOUSE! Idiots.

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My Life

Mint.com – Manage your money!

A while ago, I stumbled upon a site called mint.com. I signed up for an account, but after that I was leary about submiting my personal info for all my banks to it. So I kept an eye on it and watched the forums. One of the guys here at the office told me he had been using it and really liked the way it worked, then a couple weeks later, mint.com hit the front page of digg.com and there was a very large discussion about the security of such a site.

Come to find out they actually use an outside firm to handle the verification with banks, which is also used by the likes of Charles Schwab, T.Rowe Price, etc. So I decided to sign up. I’ve now been using it for a solid two months and really like it.

They are still technically in a “beta” phase, but who knows how long that’ll last. IE, some of Google’s stuff is in a perpetual beta. Anyways, they have nearly everything I could want in a system like this. The site basically looks at your most recent transactions and imports them from all your accounts. You can then categorize them, exclude them, add notes, create a budget, analyze your spending in categories and over all, search for past transactions, etc. It’s all very very cool.

Here’s what the transactions page looks like:

When you click on one of the transactions in the list, it will then pop out a box on the right which will let you enter notes, see details about the expense and some really neat statistics such as your total purchases there, average purchase cost and average spent per month there. It also compares you to the national average for that retailer!

When mint imports a transaction, it tried to automatically categorize it. But you know computers, they are not always right. So you can create rules that certain transactions should always be categorized a specific way. For example, it kept trying to categorize my Gas utility bill as an Auto Gas/Fuel expense, so I created a rule and now it gets it right all the time!

They will even email or txt you alerts when certian things happen. Ie if a large withdrawl is made, or you get close to $0 in your account, when you are close to your bill due date, etc. Here’s what the budget screen looks like:

You can see at the top the alerts that are currently active. You can adjust at what dollar amount each alert goes off at, and even have different alerts and thresholds for your email or cell phone txt alerts! Below the alerts, you can see the budget. The line is where you are in the current month and then you can see how much you’ve spent, what you are over and how much you have left! It’s all very cool. Since we aren’t that far into the month, you can see I haven’t spent very much money. But sadly, I’m WAY over budget already for Entertainment! I guess I’ll be sitting around the house the rest of the month!

Everyone knows how much I love my statistics. Just look at my Gas Tracker that I have. So Mint.com’s statistics page is one of my favorites! The last couple months have been pretty unusual in spending for me, but with the following image you can really get a feel for how it works.

You can see that each part of the pie is a “Major” category item. Below each of these there can be sub-categories. IE for “Auto” there’s “Gas/Fuel”, “Maint”, “Service and Parts” and “Lease/Payment”. You can click on any of these major categories and it will break it down into the sub-categories, on the right it will then list all the purchase in that category based on the number of visits. You can also select one of the pre-set time periods or you can adjust the slider for your own custom time period.

Lastly, there’s a thing called “Spending Space”. Which is neat app, but not very useful for me. It will show you how your spending compares to America, a select City, or a select State. Here you can see how my spending for Food & Dining compares to California.

It’s a little strange that the spending for California dropped suddenly in Jan, not sure about that. But it’s still kind of neat. Again on this app you can also break it down by sub-category, or even compare yourself to just the LA area!

There have been a few hicups in starting this up. First was setting up my ING bank account. They ask you for SO MANY things that most of them I didn’t even know. Basically they have to ask you for ANY possible question that the bank will throw at them for security replies.

Second is that sometimes a bank will not respond. If this happens. It deletes all the log in information for that account and next time you do an update you will have to re-enter all this information. The good thing is that when this happens, it doesn’t delete the transactions for an account. I haven’t had it happen to much with my major accounts. But one of my credit cards has problems almost every week.

Third is that it only imports what is displayed on the first page of your account history. There’s no way to export from your accounts and then import into Mint. This would be an excellent feature. The forums are all abuzz with requests for this and the typical answer is “We didn’t expect people would want to do this.”… Really? How can you not expect people to want this feature! I have over 5 years of data on my banks website. It’d be awesome to import that into mint and extrapolate my spending trends over all this time!

Fourth, pending transactions can cause some issues. For a while all my pending transactions on ING were entered as credits, not debits. Now they appear to be correctly entering as Debits, but if you categorize them, once they become posted, they loose that categorization so I have to re-enter it, which can be a bit annoying.

Fifth, separation of accounts, I have both a business account and a personal account with one of my banks. However all the transactions are mixed together in Mint. It’d be nice if I could tell Mint that this one account was a different organization and to keep them separate.

Sixth, searching… This really needs some improvement. If you try searching for any category with an “&” in the name, you get NO RESULTS. All of the categories are setup by Mint.com, and you cannot edit or rename them. So trying to find all your transactions with an “&” in them can be difficult.

Lastly, support for IRA, stock accounts, etc. I know these are not considered bank accounts, but if we’re going to have one centralized place to manage money, it’d be nice if these were included…

I’d highly suggest going and checking it out. In case you can’t remember, the URL is http://www.mint.com/.

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My Life

American Airlines’ Reply

So, after I got back from my trip, I sent American Airlines the following complaint:

Hello,

I am writing about my Flight on December 20 from LAX to DFW to DSM. My flight was supposed to get me to my home on the night of December 20th. However, I did not arrive until 2 days later because of your airline. I am very unhappy with the way I was treated by your counter assistance, and that I had to spend nearly $400 in excess because you were unable to get me to my final destination. I had to pay for 2 nights in a hotel, 6 extra meals for myself and a bus ticket from Minneapolis to Des Moines because your airline was unable to get me to DSM.

In all my years of traveling, I have never had a worse experience with an airline and been treated so poorly. I feel that I should be compensated for the lost time with my family and all the added costs of traveling home. I paid $550 for these tickets and you were unable to even get me to my destination.

Also this is the second time this year that my flights on your airline have been canceled (Sept 5 from SNA to DSM) causing me to spend at least one night in the airport and lose out on the very little time each year I get with my family.

Once I finally reached my destination, I was horrified to find my luggage sitting out without security.

Lastly, my flight on Dec 28 from DSM to LAX was an hour late leaving, causing me to miss my ride from the airport and having to spend nearly $100 for cab fare which I feel is unacceptable for your airline to be so constantly late.

Thanks,
Cj B

To which, I got the following reply:

Dear Mr. Cj B:

I know you emailed us some time ago and have been waiting for a reply. Due to the current busy travel period, we’ve not been able to respond to our customers’ emails as quickly as we would like. Thank you for your patience. I’m glad to have the opportunity to respond to your email now.

I am very sorry that your trip to Des Moines did not go smoothly. A review of your flights indicates that they were either cancelled or delayed due to weather at the destination or from where a plane was originating (as was the case with your flight from St. Louis). On-time performance is very important to us and when we can’t get our customers to their destinations as planned, it’s disappointing to all of us. After reading the details of your experience, there is no question that the cancellation and delay of your flights was frustrating — bad weather can really cause difficulties for everyone concerned.

Unfortunately, when the weather is inclement, we just don’t have very many options to make the situation better. Still, your comments help us understand how we could have made this experience a little less frustrating. We will learn from your criticism and use it to do a better job the next time inclement weather interferes with our operation.

In view of all you endured, I can certainly understand your request for reimbursement of your expenses. Unfortunately, we just cannot guarantee that you will always arrive at your destination exactly at the scheduled time. Since we cannot make that promise, I’m afraid we cannot reimburse our customers’ out-of-pocket expenses or compensate for personal time lost when we don’t operate our flights as planned.

Also, because it is considered a low risk for baggage theft, our claim area at Des Moines does not station security personnel to verify the claim checks of customers retrieving their luggage. Our procedure, however, is for any unclaimed baggage to be locked up, at which point a claim check is required for retrieval. In light of your comments, I have sent a copy of your email to the Manager at Des Moines for their review. We also will continue to monitor claim area procedures to ensure maximum security and efficiency. Your feedback will be used as a part of that continuous review.

Still, we want you to know that we care about the negative impact this had on your trip. Therefore, as a gesture of goodwill and to encourage your continued business, we’ve made arrangements for an eVoucher ($50) for you to use toward the purchase of a ticket to travel with us. I hope you will accept our gesture in the spirit of compromise. The next time you travel with us, we’ll do our best to make sure your trip is a good one.

Mr. Cj B, again, I am sorry that your plans had to be changed. However, I hope I have persuaded you to think more favorably of us; we are eager for another chance to serve you. I am confident we will restore your trust in us.

Sincerely,
Lynette B. Reese
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Umm, what exactly have you done to persuade me to use your airlines again? Absolutely nothing!

I replied to them, we’ll see what happens.

Update://Well I replied to them with the following:

I recently wrote you about an issue with my Flight from Dallas to Des Moines, IA.

It has recently come to my attention that the exact same flight the next day was ALSO canceled and your airline bussed the people on that flight from Dallas to Des Moines THAT NIGHT.

It seems unfair that I had to spend 2 nights in hotels, and had to pay for my OWN bus ticket from Minneapolis to Des moines when your airline paid for busing of these passengers directly to their destination.

Therefore, I feel that I should be compensated by the airline for the $78.00 cost as well as the $50.00 for the additional hotel room that I had to pay for.

Thanks,
Cj B

And again, here’s their reply..

I am sorry we disappointed you by providing you with a goodwill voucher. It was meant to convey our disappointment in not getting you to your final destination. We also appreciate the opportunity to further respond.

It is never easy to say no to a customer. We attempt to design procedures that make sense for the majority of customers in most situations — recognizing that the rules won’t always be best in every single instance. For those exceptions, we evaluate all the circumstances and try to be reasonable and fair in our decisions. Having gone through this process, we reached the conclusion that we are still unable to satisfy your request for reimbursement of your out-of-pocket expenses. As indicated in my previous correspondence to you, we have the authority and the responsibility to make changes to our schedules to resolve problems caused by weather, flight conditions, mechanical difficulties or other operational challenges. Accordingly, we cannot assume financial responsibility for our customers’ personal time lost or for out-of-pocket expenses when extenuating circumstances prevent us from operating as planned. I am sorry.

Mr. B, again I apologize that weather caused such an inconvenience when traveling in December. We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon.

Sincerely,
Lynette B. Reese
Customer Relations
American Airlines

I’m sorry, but again, I _REALLY_ Think that they should compenstate me for at LEAST the cost of the hotel and the cost of the bus because THEY PAID to bus all the people on the SAME FLIGHT the next night from Dallas to Des Moines.

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My Life

American Airlines SUCKS!

You will not believe the story I am about to tell you.

I left LA at Noon on Thursday…. I got to my parents house at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon..

Where have I been you ask?

Well, lets start at the begining. Got on the plane with no problems in LA, flew to Dallas and we were late getting in there, I run to my next gate and AS I am walking up to the gate, I get a txt message from American Airlines. “Flight Cancelled”… A few seconds later, they announce it. “All flights into Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Omaha, Cedar Rapids, and Minneapolis are cancelled for the night”.

Last flight into Des Moines, and it’s fucking Cancelled. Here’s where the fun starts! I get in line, there’s room on the flights tomorrow at 7am, 9am and 7pm. By the time I get up there.. ALL of them gone. The guy BEHIND me who was smart enough to get on the phone, got the LAST seat on the 7pm flight the next day.

My only option, fly to Wisconsin and then Des Moines at 2pm the next day. Getting into Des Moines at 11:00pm on Friday. Of course, since it was “weather” related, I had to pay for a hotel and what not. VERY annoying.

Friday comes around and I go to the airport, the flight for wisconsin is right next to a flight going to DM, I go and try and get on the stand by list. There’s 40 people ahead of me! Can you believe it!

My flight to Wisconsin was an HOUR late getting out of the gate, due to mechanical issues. We fly to Wisconsin, we’re still an hour late, but I should have JUST enough time to get to my next flight… flaps down… landing gear down… landing gear UP! Flaps up! We’re going back up… We were SOOO close! We circle for a while and then they announce that the Wisconsin airport is CLOSED! UGH! We were so fucking close!

Re-route us to Grand Rapids, Michigan! Whereever the fuck that is!.. We land, NO other flights going out that nght to anywhere. NO direct flights to Des Moines, NOTHING! My only option to get to DM was to try and get a flight back to Wisconsin the next morning, get on a flight to Las Vegas, fly from Las Vegas to Denver and then Denver to Des Moines! NO WAY am I going to take that chance. I opted to take the next flight out the next morning to Minneapolis and then try and figure out a way to get to DM from there.

Thank god the airline paid for my hotel that night. But I still had to pay for food and ANOTHER night of not being home!

Sooo, I get up at 4am Saturday morning, go to the airport, get on the plane and then they make us sit around for MORE MECHANICAL problems!

Finallly we are on the plane to Minneapolis. My parents can’t get out of Iowa, it’s too foggy, there’s no rental cars, so I have to take a greyhound bus… We land at 7:30, and the only bus leaving that morning is at 8:30… I get to a cab, and we start driving, and it starts SNOWING like a mother fucker! My cabby says we might not make it! OH GOD!

Thankfully I made it JUST in time for the bus, I was the last one there! And thank god too because by the time we got to Iowa 5 HOURS later, it was snowing here like a crazy too! 6 inches of snow today they are saying!

So that’s been the crazy travel experience of this weekend! :'( One hellish trip to get back home for christmas.

I should have just freaking gotten a car in Dallas and driven home. I could have been back Friday morning!

One funny thing is that Const and I watched X-Files on Wed night, one about some Amish type people who are killing people. Anyways, some Amish people get on the bus today and one of the kids is Albino and has BRIGHT PURPLE eyes!!! Scary!

I can’t believe though how much this trip has cost me. Over $300 in expenses from food, to hotel to the bus ride home! :'( I dunno what to do about that. I want a FREE fucking flight or something for all this shit. But I just get so pissed that if I call I am just going to yell!

In good news, it’s snowing like crazy here, and it’s sooooo pretty! I just wish Consty was here to cuddle with! 🙂

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My Life Not Published

Car Shopping

Sooo, everyone knows I’ve been car shopping. I have been doing that for like the last 2-3 years! Well I’ve been at it again. It seems that everyone I know has either already gotten a new car, or is looking at getting one. And they all have WAY newer cars then mine already! So I feel left out. Plus my car has been acting up lately. The Check engine light keeps coming on and then going off, and it’s been making really funny sounds after I get off the freeway.

Anyways, I also talked to my mom about buying one and she was like. “Just do it already. One of these days your car is just going to die on the freeway”. Another big factor is that this is the last year you can write off the sales tax on a new car purchase, plus I _think_ that the laws this year still allow me to write off the 50% depreciation as a business expense. (I can’t remember if it was this year or last year that the laws changed on that) This year I could really use all the write offs I can get.

Well I’ve been out test driving basically anything and everything that catches my fancy, here’s the list:

1) Honda Civic Hybrid – It’s a great car, don’t get my wrong. But I don’t think it’s what I want any more. A year ago, I would have bought it. But after driving it a few times, there’s just to many little things that would annoy me. The same as with my current Saturn. There’s these wierd little bumps and cubbies that make no sense and the seats just aren’t comfortable enough for me since I spend 2 hours a day in my car.

2) Saab 9-3 – Don’t get in this car… As long as you stand on the outside, it’s great. Great looking, Great warranty, great options and free maintenance for 3 years.. Just so fucking ugly once you get in. It’s like most great looking things… Nice on the outside and ugly on the inside. And plus why did they link the ONLY way to connect your phone to the car to be that you HAVE to have verizon wireless? WTF is up with that. So once I switch away from Verizon, there’s no point in having the OnStar shit. Though they did make me a great offer. A 2007 9-3 with 4,000 miles for only $23k. A demo car that is still basically new, never even been registered.

3) Saturn Aura Hybrid – Yes. I looked at another Saturn. I thought I’d give it a try and see how they’ve done in the last 7 years since I bought my car. The Aura is pretty nice overall. But it just still feels SO CHEAP still. And I’m not sure I could trust Saturn (aka GM) to build a hybrid that will last. Plus, for the price you’re paying for a “hybrid” you really don’t get THAT much better gas mileage.

4) Toyota Camry Hybrid – Another great car. I really like this one, however, I’m just not sure I could see myself driving it. It’s so big and feels very “old man”. Also, for the premium you pay for the hybrid, it’s really not worth it. I thought I had found a GREAT deal on a slightly used one, but the dealer… HUTCH wouldn’t fucking budge on the price. So I walked away.

5) BMW 3 series – The ultimate driving experience. That’s exactly what it is, but it’s just too much for me. Plus it seems like everyone here has a BMW. I want something at least a little different

6) IS 250 – I’ve loved this car since it came out in 2006. Back then, I was nearly ready to walk into a dealer and get one. But I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one at that point because I was making a lot less back then. I went in and talked to my local Lexus dealer and got them to come down $6,000 on a fully loaded IS 250 with navigation. Which would bring it into my price range that I’ve set and at 4.9% interest. I just can’t bring myself to spend that much money even though I could easily afford it.

7) Infiniti G35 – Yes, even though I gave Constantine sooo much shit for this car. It’s amazing. I went and test drove one the other day, just to see it and play with it for myself. I have to admit, I love this car now as well. I was never planning on even seriously looking at one after everything I said to Constantine. But my local Infiniti Dealer had an IS250 listed for sale on Cars.com or one of those sites. So I called him about it. We got to talking and he was like. “We also have a brand new G35 with navigation”. The deal is though that it’s anothe demo car, 3,000-4,000 miles on it and it’s a 2007. The final price he quoted me was under $30k which is exactly what I was looking for a year ago for a price range. 2.9% interest…. It’s the exact same color as Constantine’s too. I just can’t do that, I would be the biggest asshole ever. But it’s SUCH a fucking deal too.

8) Audi A3/A4 – I’ve loved the A3 since it came out, and the A4 is just a great car. However, I have a few friends who have A4’s and they say that once they hit 50k miles they just eat money in Maint. Which ever car I’ll buy, I’m going to keep for another 7-10 years. And the more money I spend on it, the longer I will probably keep it. Plus other friends are telling me that they are coming out with a new more fuel efficient engine “soon”. So I’m not sure how I feel about these.

9) Toyota Prius – Another great car and again, I probably would have bought one a year ago. But now they are just getting so old, they are in need of a major redesign.

10) BMW 1 series, A1, etc. – Oh! they aren’t out yet! But they both look like GREAT cars!

Edit:// Sorry forgot one:
11) Volvo C30 – It’s a great little cute car.. But really? It gets the SAME MPG as the Lexus or BMW, it’s smaller, and it costs about the same with fewer options… Are you serious Volvo? Comon! I know you _think_ you can compete, but you really can’t.

12) VW Jetta – This is another car I’ve heard lots of mixed reviews about. So I’m a little leary. Though I really did like it when I drove it.

13) Acura TSX – Another great car that is tops on my list. I don’t know how I forgot it! Really nothing wrong with it!

Ugh. Ultimately, I’ll probably keep the car I have for a while longer now… I’m just too indecisive about this, I need someone to just go out and buy it for me!!

So don’t be surprised when a blog post comes out about how I’m really pissed that I was stuck on the side of the I-405 for 2 hours waiting for someone to come pick me and my busted ass car up! 🙂