Friday, July 31, 2009

Funny People Review | Critics Have Mixed Feelings

Funny People reviews give mixed results

Could it be that Judd Apatow is all grown up?

Could it be that Judd Apatow is all grown up?

Well, the “Funny People” reviews are in, and they are pretty mixed. I had very high hopes for this film because it looks hilarious and strange and a little dark on the Funny People trailer, which is posted after the last “Funny People” review on this page.

The director of “Funny People” as you very well may know is Judd Apatow, famous for “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” “Funny People” also stars Seth Rogen, along with Adam Sandler and Leslie Mann. Despite the mixed “Funny People” reviews, I am sure the film will make back the $70 million cash advance that was spent on making it.

Here are some “Funny People” reviews from RottenTomatoes.com.

Kyle Smith, New York Post:

“Funny People” turns out to be one of the most absorbing films of the year. … Apatow, the writer-director of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” starts with a camcorder snippet he took nearly 20 years ago of his then-roommate, Adam Sandler, making prank calls in a prison-bare apartment. A third roommate, another comic, isn’t famous. That’s part of what “Funny People” is about. Apatow and Sandler’s experience gives the movie its foundation. ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Funny People Review | Critics Have Mixed Feelings"

House approves $2B more for 'cash for clunkers'

The White House says it’s reviewing options about keeping the “cash for clunkers” program going. Auto dealers already may have surpassed the 250,000 vehicle sales funded by the $1 billion program. The White House says any valid deals already made will be honored.

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UPDATE: House OKs $2 Billion More For Cash For Clunkers

Mo’ money, mo’ clunkers

(Photo: wgba.images.worldnow.com)

If you were worried like we were that Cash For Clunkers was suspended due to lack of funds, worry not. It’s halfway to be being extended, thanks to a House vote that approved $2 billion more dollars for the program. Now the program might last… a couple more weeks!

Because people are all over this deal

After that, you may need payday loans with no faxing or other short term loans to make up the difference the $3,500 or $4,500 Cash For Clunkers would have brought you with an approved trade-in. But for now, it appears that Cash For Clunkers may be extended. So long as your car’s not on the Cash For Clunkers list and meets the general qualifications, you can apply for the trade-in credit.

But will the Senate agree?

Aaron Smith reports for CNN that the House voted 316-109 to divert $2 billion from a U.S. Department of Energy program loan guarantee program. What will Secretary of Energy Steven Chu think of this? Furthermore, will the Senate be able to come to a consensus quickly? People want those cars they can’t really afford, you know… ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "UPDATE: House OKs $2 Billion More For Cash For Clunkers"

Saving money is a pain

It is a good thing to do. I definitely believe that saving money is for the benefit of everyone involved in the situation. It helps people when they get into sticky situations. If I or my spouse were to lose our job, we would probably be ok for a while because of the money that we save. It does limit how much we are allowed to spend on things though. It makes our budget a little bit tighter every year. It is a little bit frustrating when I just want to buy a new couch to fix the one that got ruined but I can't because we had to save more money. I'm just going to have to live with it.



Constantine Maroulis

Anyone remember Constantine Maroulis? Constantine Maroulis was a contestant on American Idol Season 4, and after elimination went on about building his own solo career. He’s recorded and toured on his own solo album, but his biggest success was found starring in Broadway and off Broadway plays, typically musicals. Recently, he was routinely hailed as the lead of the musical Rock of Ages, a musical set to some of the greatest hits of 80s rock, including songs by Twisted Sister, Journey, and others. His performances were so good that he netted a nomination for a Tony Award. Maybe it would be worth some short term loans to see Constantine Maroulis perform.



'Cash For Clunkers' Lacks Cash For Clunkers

The White House says it’s reviewing options about keeping the “cash for clunkers” program going. Auto dealers already may have surpassed the 250,000 vehicle sales funded by the $1 billion program. The White House says any valid deals already made will be honored.

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Cash for clunkers program may be running on empty

The White House says it’s reviewing options about keeping the “cash for clunkers” program going. Auto dealers already may have surpassed the 250,000 vehicle sales funded by the $1 billion program. The White House says any valid deals already made will be honored.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The spike-tailed vulture scavenges for dead animals

If it finds an animal that is not dead, but is severely injured, it beats it to death with its spiky tail. This vulture will eat anything it can find, but its favorites are raccoons, small birds, rabbits, squirrels, and deer. A plain with tall trees is the habitat of the spike-tailed vulture. The plains are home to many of the animals the vulture likes to eat. Tall trees provide perfect places for them to build their nests and raise their young. If the climate were to suddenly change to a desert climate, with little or no rain, the spike-tailed vulture would not be able to survive there for very long. All the animals that it eats would move away or die. The vulture would eat all the dead animals that didn't survive. Then it would have to move to another plain



My grandma’s father never owned a car

They had to walk everywhere they went, like to work, school, and the grocery store. Back then everything cost different than it does now. Ice cream cones and candy bars used to cost only a nickel, a loaf of bread cost ten cents, and to go see a movie it cost a dime, or a quarter if it was at nighttime. When my grandma was young, people had to pretty much make their own fun. They would ride their bikes, roller skate, swim, and go to movies. Sometimes they would see famous movie stars walking on the streets. This was because many movies were made in Cedar City.



7 Year Old Car Theft

Every so often, a headline makes you stop and look – like “7 year old steals car!” Headlines of 7 year steals car are correct - a 7 year old boy in Plain City, Utah (it should be Plain State) stole his fathers’ Dodge Intrepid to skip church. He managed to find a parking lot and turn around and head home. The further comedy is that he began a police chase, wherein officers tried to stop the tyke – but he eluded them. (Police officers were eluded by a 7 year old – and we give them guns.) After the news of 7 year old steals car broke, it’s good to know the kid won’t need no fax payday loans for bail.



'Home With The Kids' Highlights Real Work-from-Home Jobs

Read about work-from-home jobs here!

Turn your laptop into an office!

Turn your laptop into an office!

Home With the Kids is a web site dedicated to weeding out the real work-from-home opportunities from the scams. You can try to check out homewiththekids, but it isn’t working for me.

However, thanks to Fox Business, I have info on the top 10 work-from-home jobs, some of which are posted on Home With the Kids. I also have links to other web sites that screen work-from-home job postings and present the legitimate ones. Kind of the way that Personal Money Store picks out the best short term loans lenders and stays away from the shady ones. Now, let’s get to those jobs!

1. Virtual assistant

Oooh, that does sound classy. Fox Business says “Small businesses hire virtual assistants to help when they can’t justify a permanent employee.” The money here really lies in running your own virtual assistant business and working for multiple companies. Check out The International Virtual Assistants Association.

Also, Home With the Kids, at homewiththekids.com, features a dozen or so similar companies. However, last time I checked, homewiththekids was still not working.
... click here to read the rest of the article titled "'Home With The Kids' Highlights Real Work-from-Home Jobs"

Saving Money on Pet Costs: Frontline Plus Flea Medication

Now that we have two dogs, we’ve had to keep a closer eye on pet costs. One regular expense is flea medication, for which we have found Frontline Plus to work acceptably. If you buy it straight from the vet or in a retail pet store it can be around $15 per monthly dose.

In the past, we’ve found that the cheapest price has been on eBay, getting costs down to about $8 per dose for the exact same 6-pack product packaging. But a recent development amongst eBay sellers is to sell the bigger vials made for 89+ lb. dogs, and then have the consumer split the medication fluid into smaller doses themselves. Here’s an example of the cost breakdown for a small dog (under 22 lbs).

Store Cost (w/ shipping) Cost per dose
1800PetMeds.com (”retail”) $83.99 for 6-pack $14
Amazon.com $58 for 6-pack $9.67
eBay (sample listing) $47 for 18 doses $2.61

At less than $3 a dose, you can save over 80% off of retail. The absolute savings are only about $7-$11 per month, but it adds up quickly. Especially if you have multiple dogs, the ongoing savings could be hundreds of dollars per year.

Of course, you could also just buy the extra-large doses from Amazon.com for $61.49, which equates to $3.42 per small dog dose. However, the eBay auctions also include a glass vial and a marked syringe/dropper to easily measure out the correct doses. (Some also include latex gloves.) If you’re going to go through the extra trouble, you might as well go all the way!

More Accurate Dosing
Another potential benefit of essentially buying this stuff in bulk is that you can more accurately dose your dogs. By default, Merial categorizes dogs into four broad categories: 0-22 lbs, 23-44 lbs, 45-88 lbs, and 89-132 lbs. This corresponds to vial sizes of 0.67 ml, 1.34 ml, 2.68 ml, and 4.02 ml. I don’t know about you, but I see a pretty big gap between 45 and 88 pounds.

If you take the largest size for each category and divide by the vial size, you get 0.0305 ml per pound every time. So if you have a 25 lb. dog why give them double the dose of a 22 lb. dog? Just give them a bit more (0.76 ml) and you should be fine - and save even more money!

As with all these flea medications, you can do some trial and error to see what brand and dosage level works for your dog. You might need more or less than indicated. Either way, with this method you should still save a good chunk of money.

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Moving is fun

You get to meet new people and make new friends. The only thing I dislike about moving is packing and unpacking. It takes a lot of effort to squeeze all your belongings into boxes and bags, especially if you are dealing with a lot of breakables. You have to make sure that it won’t all break during the trip, so you must pack it carefully, and that takes a lot more time. Then when you get to your new home, you have to unpack it all and figure out what you’ll put where. Most people unpack the things they need the most first and work their way down to the less important things. Sometimes, they may not get to the last box for a couple years. That’s what happened the last time we moved. It took us a while to finally unpack that last box. So other than the packing and unpacking part, moving is a wonderful adventure.



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The other day I was taking this road trip to this lake

While we were driving, we drove past this train that had these propeller type things on it. I thought it was awesome. Apparently they were what they used to make the pin wheel things that make more energy. I had no idea they were that big. I only ever saw them from a distance so I of course thought that they were smaller. It makes a lot of sense that they would be that big. I guess I wasn't thinking about it enough or something to that extent. I can't wait till the next time I see them and I can observe hoe large they are again



Short hair is good to have in the summertime

Long hair also has its benefits though. Short hair is more comfortable during the summer because there's nothing hanging over your neck (if it's that short), so your neck doesn't get as hot and sweaty as it would if it had a layer of hair covering it up. But this exposes it to the sun a lot more, and that's why it is sometimes better to have long hair–to protect your neck from sunburn. Of course, that problem can be easily taken care of if you just wear sunscreen on your neck. There are benefits of having short hair and having long hair, but I would rather have short hair.



Light travels at different speeds through different materials

It travels fastest through a vacuum where there are no molecules of any kind to get in the way and slow it down. When light passes through one material to the next, it undergoes refraction. Every material has something called an index of refraction. This number is found by dividing the speed of light through a vacuum, which is 3 million meters per second, by the speed of light through that particular material. The index of refraction will always be greater than one because light always travels slower when it isn't in a vacuum. Because light travels differently through different materials, we can see the water level in a clear glass even though the water, air, and the glass are all clear materials. Light bends at a different angle when it hits each material.



My friend is taking finals this week at college

The last week of school can be stressful. There are a lot of finals to take and last-minute studying. Then of course she has to pack all of her belongings since she is going to be moving into a different apartment for the next semester. There is also the end-of-semester clean-check. She has to do a deep-cleaning of the whole apartment and make sure everything is spotless. The big jobs are of course divided among all the roommates to make this process go faster. After everything is packed away and everything is clean, the only thing left to do is to check out. Then, my friend gets to come home!



Madonna's biceps

A lot of people are out looking for pictures of Madonna’s biceps. The pictures that have surfaced of the Madonna biceps are not flattering. The veins are popping out like a body builder’s would, but it looks like she’s wasting away. (Ironically, she went all out to adopt a child from a poverty stricken area and now she looks like a resident of a poverty stricken area.) Starvation among celebrities is becoming somewhat trendy, as part of the health craze for the Hollywood set is to not eat – which kills a person. Someone get some quick cash together and make her eat something, and maybe future Madonna biceps pictures won’t look like a skeleton wrapped in wax paper.



Gender Pay Gap "Not Closing," Says U.K. Study

Be a mom, a nurse, a bricklayer or an astronaut

Is she climbing up or down?

Is she climbing up or down? (Photo: witanjardine.co.uk)

In case you missed it, President Obama signed legislation into law earlier this year that mandated equal pay for equal work between men and women. This was a landmark in gender politics in the workplace for Americans, and it was a long time in coming. However, when it comes to the actual careers men end of choosing vs. what women choose on average, there is still a large gender pay gap. This can lead to an occasional need for payday loans and unsecured loans.

The gap is not closing

That’s what BBC News has found. Thanks to studies by groups like the Women and Work Commission, it has been determined that government in the United Kingdom is doing too little to tackle the issue of gender stereotypes in schools. They believe that this is the cause of the widening gap: women are still being steered toward “traditional” jobs. From 2007 to 2008, the gender pay gap in the United Kingdom jumped from 21.9 percent to 22.6 percent.

Tackling the stereotypes

“The government is committed to tackling inequalities in the workplace and progress has been made across the public sector and in helping women get the skills and training they need,” said Baroness Margaret Prosser, chair of the Women and Work Commission. “But ministers must match commitment with fundamental change that will make a real difference - starting in our schools.” ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Gender Pay Gap "Not Closing," Says U.K. Study"

Helping Out in a Health Crisis

Sometimes I look at the past year and wonder if all the good luck I’ve had in life is turning out to be a loan that’s been called in by the bank. Nothing bad has happened to me personally other than losing some money in the stock market, but I feel like misfortune has been getting closer to me, in the form of bad things happening to my friends and family. In addition to my father’s brain tumor and friends losing their jobs and getting divorced, I’ve had a cousin and a friend diagnosed with very serious cancers. Things were very scary for a while with both of them. Now, miraculously, things are looking pretty good. But none of this came without a cost, both emotional and financial.

Both my friend and my cousin have health insurance, one through an employer and one privately purchased as she is self-employed. But that didn’t mean their treatments were affordable. In one case, there was chemo and radiation and major surgery. In the other, there were chemo treatments, a special diet, and a lot of long-distance drives to doctors. Both had to take time off work, unpaid in at least one case. Both of these people have spouses, but neither were making much money. Both couples also had another dependent, either a child or an aging parent. What all this comes down to was that even with insurance, the illness put them in debt.

But here’s the upside to this depressing story: people helped. Both my cousin and my friend knew people who organized fund-raising events for them. They were each fortunate enough to have a lot of family and friends who could donate their talents or their services or their products or convince others to do so. In each case, a whole community came together and donated money and showed their support and love in a truly special way. They raised thousands of dollars, but it ended up being about more than just the money, somehow.

All this reminded me of an article I bookmarked months ago: Helping Out With Cash: A Delicate Art (which was an follow up to an earlier article Not Laid Off? How to Aid the Less Fortunate. Both of these articles give some excellent suggestions on how to handle the delicate issue of offering help to someone who may need it, but feel awkward about asking for it or accepting it. It’s a more and more common issue these days. I just hope my usual sphere of good fortune will return and no one else I know will need this kind of assistance!


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EPA Changes MPG Ratings Last-Minute For Cash For Clunkers

In my post Does My Car Qualify For Cash for Clunkers?, one of the major requirements was that the car must have a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg or less, according to FuelEconomy.gov. Many people have been complaining that their old car gets nowhere near the mileage that the website says they do, but at least there was a definitive source.

But wait. Due to some government wackiness, last week the EPA changed the ratings on nearly a hundred models of cars so that they no longer qualify. For example, some versions of the 1988 Toyota 4Runner SUV now have combined MPG ratings of over 19. The buzz about Cash for Clunkers has been going on for months, so people have been getting ready to trade-in their old vehicles. In fact, the bill runs retroactive to July 1st, so many are already driving their new vehicles!

From this CNN Money article:

Even though the program’s basic requirements have been known since it was created by Congress earlier this year, Cash for Clunkers didn’t become official until Friday. So as part of the official launch, the EPA conducted “quality assurance and quality control effort regarding fuel economy calculations on more than 30,000 vehicle model types spanning the past 25 years,” according to an e-mail sent by EPA spokesman Dale Kemery.

As a result, 86 car models became newly eligible for the program. However, 78 models became ineligible, EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourne said in a statement released Tuesday night.

In other words, if you were close before, check your mileage numbers again. Your car may now qualify even though you didn’t before, or it may no longer qualify at all.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

AnnualCreditReport.com For Free Credit Reports

The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles everyone to access credit reports from each of the three credit agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion every 12 months. While there are tons of places that offer free credit reports for a free trial of their service, the only federally authorized source to offer free reports with no hidden agenda is AnnualCreditReport.com.

Some people like to order all three credit reports at once, while others like to order one report from each agency every four months. The former allows you to compare all three to see if there are any discrepancies, while spacing out your orders allow you to keep on top of your reports in a more frequent manner. Personally, I find that it’s more beneficial to space out the orders, so I will order a report from Experian in January, another from Equifax in May and TransUnion in September. That way, I think about my credit reports more frequently and if there ever comes a time when there’s an error on one of the reports, I will go ahead and order all three to see if I need to dispute the mistake immediately.

How Checking My Free Credit Report Helped

There are countless reasons why you need to stay on top of your credit report, but here are three more real life examples of how it helped me by checking my credit reports.

  1. Last time I checked my credit report, I noticed that one of my credit cards was not being reported. It was as if the card didn’t exist at all. After calling the card company and telling them of the situation, they resolved it and the card is not being reported correctly.
  2. Another interesting fact I noticed was that while most other credit cards show on the credit report as type Revolving, one of them shows Flex Spending. Since not having enough account types may hurt my credit score, I was please to see that there were multiple ones even though the only form of debt accounts I have are credit cards.
  3. Some cards don’t report a spending limit at all. Even though my Citibank mastercard has the highest credit limit, it shows a credit limit of N/A. Armed with this information, I will only ask for a credit limit raise on my other cards in an attempt to improve my credit score.

Check Your Credit Report Now!

Although it’s free, many people don’t bother to check the credit reports since they don’t see it as necessary. However, the cost (only a few minutes of your time every few months) is so negligible that it’s a no-brainer to check because any potential mistakes can be catastrophic. Check your credit reports now, and keep checking to make sure your credit is sound.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

The Color of Money: When Target-Date Funds Miss the Mark

As dark as this recession has been, there’s been an upside in that it has exposed myriad problems in the investing industry.


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Bernanke Takes His Message To Kansas City

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says last year’s taxpayer-financed bailouts of big financial companies was necessary to avoid a major meltdown of the U.S. financial system and the broader economy. Bernanke’s comments came during a town-hall style meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. The complete discussion with Bernanke airs in three parts, begining Monday on PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Squirrels Can Teach Us About Investing

This is a guest post from Paul Puckett of Beacon Wealth Advisors. Puckett is the author of Investiphobia: You Can Invest Without Fear. This piece originally appeared at his blog, Just Puckett, and I liked it so much that I asked for permission to reprint it here.

Snowy squirrel at Rosings Park (Dec 2008)Here's a little exercise that might be beneficial to your stress level and might even help you with your investments.

No matter where you live in America, there is probably a squirrel in your yard every day. Just for fun, take an opportunity to watch the squirrels today. Maybe take that morning cup of tea or coffee into the yard and sit quietly watching the squirrels at work and play.

Watch them as they stand in line at the little squirrel coffee shop discussing the acorn futures market. As they read the Squirrel Daily's Business section looking for an update on the upcoming acorn tax legislation. Panicking as they hear that there may be an oversupply of acorns driving the price down or a shortage due to climate change. Many squirrels distrust the reporting of other squirrels, so you may notice some watching Fox News!

If you actually see squirrels doing these things in your backyard today, film it and your money worries will be over. But you won't see squirrels doing anything like this.

So go back to your coffee, take a deep breath, let it out nice and slowly, and watch what squirrels really do all day. You may see them stop and enjoy an acorn, or you may see them collecting acorns and running off to hide them. They may have a little fun chasing each other or running off a few birds from your bird feeder.

If you think about it, squirrels are the ideal long-term investors. Every day, they work on their portfolio, harvesting dividends (acorns) that have fallen from their investment portfolio (trees). Some of the dividends are used immediately. They sit back and enjoy a little of their tree's income for immediate consumption.

You may see them reinvesting the dividends by putting them in a little hole where, if not found during the winter, they will ultimately become another income producing investment in the form of another tree. Squirrels never develop investiphobia. Following their instincts, they invest wisely and enjoy the fruits of their labor and their investments. We should be more like squirrels.

So, hop up and chase your neighbor up a tree. Or, get to work and focus on work. When you play, enjoy yourself immensely. Life should be fun. Do this daily and you may find that your portfolio does fine, even when you don't watch it every day, hour, minute!

Money is not your life — it’s simply the means to the life that you want.

J.D.’s note: I just thought this was too cute — and too apt — to pass up. Thanks to Paul for allowing me to re-post this at Get Rich Slowly.


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Friday, July 24, 2009

What Would You Change – Government Improvement Series

Last week when we talked about Obama’s proposed health care reform, there were more concerns about the government running the program than the core initiative of every American obtaining medical coverage. Certainly, this is sparked by our experience of government wastes and inefficiencies but why do we have to feel that way? Why do we settle for mediocrity? Why can’t we change this?

Thicken My Wallet writes:

I often find dragging Canada as a comparison to proposed reforms in the U.S. to be a bad comparison… Ultimately, Americans should adopt a system suitable to the American political system and stop trying to use Canada either pro or con for proposed reforms.

I feel a bit native typing this, but instead of creating a system that fits, why aren’t we trying to change our political system so we can create the best government run programs?

Health care is a huge industry where many companies are MAKING money, but why does it have to COST taxpayer money for the government to run?

Many have reported that our stimulus money hasn’t trickled down to the businesses yet, but why does it take that long? China’s stimulus have already done wonders for their economy, and the stimulus was just as big (if not bigger).

There are tons of negatives about communism, but you have to admire their efficiencies. Remember the SARs scare a few years ago? China built a hospital in eight days. A typical U.S. hospital can’t even approve a change of pencil brands within eight days. Could we adopt some of that in our political system?

I know what you are thinking – we need to debate and make sure that our policies are sound. It’s great to have multiple layers of cross check, but all that happens within our system is for politicians to add more favors for their supporters. Banning excise tax on toy bows and arrows in our bailout bill? Give me a break.

Obama talks about reforms and changes all the time. Perhaps it’s the political system he navigated so well that needs the overhaul. If you could have it your way, what would you like to change?

This is the Government Improvement Series, which are discussed on Friday. Join us next Friday for more, or look through the link above for previously discussed topics.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Trillion Dollars Visualized

It’s official, trillion is the new billion. No longer is government spending talked about in terms of a mere ten digits. With the recent flurry of government spending, we are going to need another …


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