2008 Illinois Money Smart Week

I found this in my inbox this morning.
During Money Smart Week (April 6 - 12) choose from more than 70 free classes on personal finance topics in Champaign County. The week is coordinated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and many partner organizations, including the U. of I. To view a calendar of events, visit http://www.moneysmartweek.org.
You can search for events in Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, Rockford, Chicago, Michigan, Iowa, or the Quad Cities on the Federal Reserve Bank's website.

There are free classes for credit counseling, home buying, home retention (a huge topic right now), estate planning, identity theft, budgeting, socially responsible investing, debt management, taxes, banking, small business issues, investment planning, insurance, and more. There are also classes focusing on issues for children and seniors.

These classes are very timely and if I get a chance, I plan on hitting up a couple this week. I've been pondering moving from renting to home ownership, but I feel a bit unprepared and some of these classes might arm me with the very information I need to make that decision and *informed* decision. And I'm pretty sure there are others out there that might be interested in these classes as well who either (a) don't read their eweek or (b) don't get the eweek newsletter.

Let me know if you attend any of these classes and I'll do the same.


Tasty Lost Tidbits

Sagefool sent me a link to a website that has a theory about Lost and what's going on with this series. So far...I'm intrigued. It's the best one I've heard yet and it answers the one big mystery that has been missing on the show for some time: the black smoke.

There's four pages:

Questions & Answers

from LOLLost

I nearly peed my pants

If you haven't watched the most recent South Park episode entitled "Cheesing my F-ing Brains Out," then you should. I've sent the link to everyone I know. It's awesome.

Here's the trailer from southparkstudios.com.

Here's a link to the full episode.

And just to be clear---this is neither work-safe nor child-appropriate and if your significant other has never seen the movie "Heavy Metal," they *may* mistake it for a cartoon of another sort....

Regardless, it's a classic.

Is it wrong that I want to buy Heavy Metal (Takin' A Ride) by Don Felder after hearing it again in this episode? I also heard it on 107.1 today over lunch so my guess is lots of people caught this episode and got the same jones.


Time for a new phone

And I'm looking for input. I'm not changing carriers so that means Verizon---it would have to be an amazing deal for me to switch. I get an 18% discount plus my entire family and most friends are on Verizon. But I've had this phone for two years and I eligible for some credit for an upgrade.

I've been looking into Blackberries and other smart phones. I want to be able to surf, keep up with news, and post to blogs and forums from my phone. I want to be able to take photos and video to upload to YouTube and the like. And I want a large screen, a larger keyboard than the standard phone, and any ability to work on documents from the phone would be awesome.

So far, one phone I liked doesn't have a camera, one has a camera but no video, and neither runs flash. Some might work, but seem bulkier than necessary.

And, no, I won't be purchasing an iPhone.

Any suggestions would be appreciated....

Good Friday

For a minute there, I thought spring had sprung. So on Friday, we went for a couple walks.

Long walks. And with the weather and the sun, it was beautiful. First, we walked around enjoying the daytime beauty. Campus was pretty empty and we saw few people as we walked---which was slightly reminiscent of an eerie horror movie. Closed stores, empty apartment buildings, no cars parked on the streets, and few pedestrians. Ran into a couple basketball players when we got close to the Union which was a trip for sure....

When we got back around sunset, we grabbed a quick bite and refilled our water and headed down to Jarling's Custard Cup. By the time we hit Hessel Park, we found about a hundred people wandering around in the dark with flashlights. It had been completely still and quiet the whole way there. I don't think the street lights had kicked on yet and with no traffic and no one apparently home...it was quite a shock to come upon Hessel Park and find a *ton* of people apparently searching for hidden eggs after dark.

Course, then a freezing cold breeze kicked up and we had to hightail it back to the house.


But I am definitely ready for some serious outdoor activity. Flowers are trying to poke out of the dirt, trees and bushes are budding, the ground is damp and squishy, and the weather is just precarious enough to add a bit of adventure to long walks.

That or hypothermia.


An interesting counter-argument

From Jezebel:
Today the Federal Reserve, hot on the heels of saving Wall Street, elected to cut interest rates once again, by 75 basis points. And while the stock market had a screaming orgasm over this, I did not personally think it was such a great move. Herewith, a dissenting opinion.

Fuck the Street. Please, Ben Bernanke, just fuck them. Raise interest rates to fucking 10% for the month if you must, just to master cleanse all those fuckers of their liquidity addictions. And seriously, that $30 billion in cash you promised JP Morgan? Fuck that. Just text Jamie Dimon tomorrow afternoon and say you can't make it, maybe he can find some sovereign growth sugar daddies in one of the Emirates or maybe China? I mean, China's got all the jobs now anyway, they might as well control a few more multinational companies in time for the Olympics, right? And really, how hard can it be to scrounge up $30 billion if Goldman managed to cough up $21 billion on Christmas bonuses? Anyway, like I said, not your concern; fuck them. I wouldn't say this if I hadn't thought about it at least as hard as the average overleveraged hedge fund short-seller when he pushed down on the panic button that got us into this mess, Ben Bernanke.

And by "us," I mean Bear Stearns, because I personally have weighed the odds and I'm pretty sure I personally have nothing at stake here, no matter what you do, Ben Bernanke. My balance sheet, while admittedly lacking much in the way of assets, is also blissfully insensitive to short-term market and/or interest rate fluctuations.


So fuck the Street, Ben Bernanke; just this once, just for, like, a quarter or something. You don't have to play rough; I'm not asking you to nationalize any industries or institute land reform or anything, just give them a little scare. They chose this path, you know. They chose to worship Ayn Rand and wear those Paul Smith shirts and pay zero money down on their Hamptons summer homes and obnoxiously, whenever confronted by someone like myself at a bar, claim that the Market Solves Everything. Let the market solve this one for them. People are eating dirt for dinner in Haiti, Ben Bernanke; you can let Bear Stearns go to bankruptcy court.
Another article today said that Bear Stearns people have "spent their life savings" and are hurriedly putting their weekend homes up for sale. Really? You spend the life savings before selling a *weekend* home? Some people are gonna have a real hard time with this recession....


Fun internet quizlet thing

bedroom toys

So I didn't get in on the "Who's your TV boyfriend?" craze, but I'll hop on this bandwagon. Recession be damned....


Five Facts

I've been tagged by Singleat50 to post 5 Facts about myself. This is hard---trying to think of some interesting stuff. Let's see....

1. I like just about all music *except* country. It's a conditioned response from childhood. Not gonna change. That's not to say I can't listen to specific songs or artists like Patsy or The Man in Black, but in general, it makes me sick to my stomach. No offense to country music fans out there....

2. I am *terribly* near-sighted. It was first discovered in second grade---I was 20/200 at age 7. We went to get glasses and by the time they were ready, I already needed new ones. After about a couple rounds of this, the eye doctor suggested that I get fitted for hard contact lenses---hard lenses are supposed to slow the progress of worsening eyes. This would have been about 1980 and we had to drive 45 minutes to Kankakee to an eye doctor that offered contact. It was a specialty back then. I switched to gas permeable lenses in middle school or high school. Then, I switched to soft a few years after college. After almost 20 years of hard/gas perms, my eyes were bloodshot 15 minutes after putting them in. No one wants to have bloodshot eyes at 9am *forever*....

3. I like random. There's something almost divine about it. Like, removing any intention allows for the unknown. I know all you math/science types will rain on my parade, but superstitiously, true randomness has some odd sense of power to me.

4. I had my appendix *almost* burst when I was at girl scout camp the summer before 6th grade. We were getting ready to go on an week-long canoe trip down the Kankakee river when, the night before, I was served the most bizarre meal I'd ever seen in my life---ham and pineapple. Now, it doesn't help that I didn't really like or ever eat ham, but *fruit* with your meat? That's just absolutely *crazy* to a kid from the sticks. So, I ate a bit of it and woke up with the *worst* stomach pains I've ever had in my life. I dragged myself to counselors' tent and they went and got the van to take me to the hospital. I thought I was dying---from ham and pineapple.... They got it out before it burst---they said it was "oozing"....

5. Ok...here's one that relates to #2. Right after I had gotten my glasses for the first time, we were driving a babysitter home after dark. I lived out in the country so the sky can be very dark. I looked up at the sky as we drove and I freaked out---I saw stars for the first time. At like, 7..maybe 8.

I tag Ryan, Narc, Matt, Jonathan, and...Emily.


I really can't even be clever with stuff like this....

Yah, I know...we all already know it. But here's video proof---Dr. Laura is bat-sh*t crazy.

That's right---it's the *wife's* fault....


It probably doesn't help that I watched this video shortly after reading this blood-pressure-raising article from 20o6 about Joe Francis, creator of Girls Gone Wild.


Someone posted it after Joe Francis recently plead no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges in Florida and got time served plus court costs.

Sometimes there just isn't enough energy for the outrage.


Cuz it got stuck in my noggin today

It's almost unbelievable....

Vanity Fair has a piece by David Rose called The Gaza Bombshell. It's very long but very good and it confirms this administration is stupid as hell. The sooner this bunch of morons is out of office, the better.
Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

Within the Bush administration, the Palestinian policy set off a furious debate. One of its critics is David Wurmser, the avowed neoconservative, who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser in July 2007, a month after the Gaza coup.

Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.

The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. “There is a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy,” he says. “It directly contradicts it.”

Go read the whole thing. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I can't 'cuz I'm not.


High Dive in chicago

Sold out crowd in the 300-level

Talking during a break in the play

Second period

It's barking cold!

I'm off!

Like you all didn't already know, but...I'm getting picked up shortly for a trip to the Windy City for a Blackhawk game tonight with some college buddies and their spouses and some extended family (brothers, dads, etc.). There will be 22 of us in the group and some of these guys I only see once a year and others I haven't seen in almost 15---should be a trip.

Definitely moblogging.... Haven't been to a game (or, frankly, watched a game) in years. Used to watch them all the time when I was in college.

Stopping at a Trader Joe's tomorrow morning before heading back.

Have a good weekend!


Dish and DSL?

'Cuz I can *barely* surf anymore. YouTube doesn't really even *work* for me.

Anyone else having problems? I *know* I'm not the only one....


Am I watching?

Yah...I'm watching. But *hopefully* it won't make any difference.

CNN's Election Center 2008 has the running count of delegates *and* superdelegates. There were 370 delegates up for grabs last night.

Hillary Clinton
Pledged: 1,186
Superdelegates: 238
Total: 1,424

Barack Obama
Pledged: 1,321
Superdelegates: 199
Total: 1,520

2,970 (or 69%) of 4,049 total delegates awarded; 2,025 delegates needed to win nomination.

Remember---it's not important who wins or loses a state. It's the delegate split that matters. Clinton needs larger margins of victory to put her ahead in the delegate count. She gained very few delegates over Obama last night. She's not cutting into Obama's lead much.

But...it's not over.... Last night, the talking heads were discussing whether Florida and Michigan should get a "do-over" primary.


Think he's in jail?

*That's* how you rock a bowl cut. I'm still trying to remember why my mom would have allowed us to wear short-sleeved shirts for Santa pictures.


This should get really interesting....

I'll be watching the news tomorrow. Can't wait to see what happens next....

We've still got a lot of work to do....

Today I'm re-posting (with permission) a good friend's recent blog entry. crtclb's post really struck me the other morning and I hope it makes you think a bit.


Welcome to the weekend. I usually like to feature something a little lighter for the weekend blog opener, 'cause we've usually had a heck of a week. But (ya knew that was coming, didn't ya?) this morning I want to draw your attention to a tragedy that hasn't gotten the coverage it deserves---the murder of Lawrence King in Oxnard, Calif. King was shot in the head in a school computer lab, in front of his classmates, allegedly by Brandon McInerney a 14-year-old fellow student. He died the following day from his injuries.

Why did McInery shoot King? Details were sketchy as the story unfolded, but it seems that King, who had come out as gay, was killed, in large part, because of that.

Here is Anderson Cooper on his blog:
Tonight, in addition to an interview with Ralph Nader, who this weekend announced he is running for president, we are focusing on a story that hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

The story is about a young man named Lawrence King. He was 15 years old. On the morning of February 12, a classmate of Lawrence’s allegedly walked into the computer lab in front of some two dozen other students and shot Lawrence in the head.

He was declared brain dead later at the hospital. According to authorities, this was not a random killing, it was a hate crime. Lawrence had recently told people he was gay, and apparently wore clothing that was viewed as effeminate.

According to many accounts he had been bullied repeatedly, and some parents have even claimed students knew of threats to Lawrence’s life. At this point it doesn’t seem clear how much school officials knew of the bullying, but a full investigation needs to be done. If this had been an African-American student bullied by a teenage skinhead would it have received more attention?

Would school officials have taken it more seriously if it had been a Christian campus leader attacked by another student because of his/her religious beliefs? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I do think they are worth asking.
(BTW, CNN cut Anderson's comments about the King murder from the podcast of his show---but hey, they kept the stuff about the kid singing in his undies....)

I want to share with you the call to action that Lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made on her show:
I need to talk to you about something that’s really serious and really sad. And, if you know me it’s hard to talk about sad stuff without getting emotional but this is really important to talk about. On February 12th an openly gay 15-year-old boy named Larry, (King) who was an 8th grader in Oxnard, California was murdered by a fellow 8th grader, named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was gay. Days before he was murdered, Larry had asked his killer to be his Valentine.

I don’t want to be political. This is not political. I’m not a political person, but this is personal to me. A boy has been killed and a number of lives have been ruined. And, somewhere along the line the killer, Brandon got the message that it’s so threatening so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his Valentine, that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. And when the message out there is so horrible that to be gay, you can get killed for it, we need to change the message.

Larry was not a second-class citizen. I am not a second-class citizen. It’s ok if you’re gay.

I don’t care what people say; I don’t care what people think. I know there are entire groups of people who face discrimination every single day and I know we are a long way from treating each other equally.

All of it is unacceptable. All of it. But I would like you to start paying attention to how often being gay is the punch line of a monologue or how often gay jokes are in a movie. And that kind of message, laughing at someone because they’re gay is just the beginning. It starts with laughing at someone, and then it’s verbal abuse, then it’s physical abuse, and it’s this kid Brandon killing a kid like Larry.

We must change our country, and we can do it. We can do it with our behavior; we can do it with the messages that we send our children. We can do it with our vote. This is an election year and there’s a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you’re voting for. Does that person really truly believe that we are all equal under the law? If you’re not sure, I say change your vote. We deserve better.

My heart goes out to everybody involved on this horrible, horrible incident. All the families, even Brandon’s life has changed because he did this.
Now, I know I'm preaching a bit to the choir---but Ellen is right. We can make a difference---with our votes, with our actions, with our courage in always challenging hate, bigotry and their chief accomplice, ignorance. And goodness knows, there's always plenty of it to go around.


Speak up!

Smile Politely has a question up that you should all chime in on regardless of your opinion:
Is Unofficial a dangerous event that needs to end, or is there room in this town for a good old-fashioned get down?
Now, I've talked with Leeanthro, Catcora, moon_grrl, kj, sagefool, Everyday Dad, and Single at 50 about Unofficial, but one of the commenters on Smile Politely (who happens to be a former co-worker---small world) has an interesting point:
Yeah, has the Chancellor ever been to the tailgate parties at the Illini football games? Those crazy mobs get up early and start drinking at 8:00 in the morning when the game doesn't start until 6:00 p.m. The only difference is in that scenario, the U of I makes a ton of money, whereas for Unofficial it's the bars that are raking in the dough. But I've never heard the Chancellor try to shut down the drunks at the UI football games. Seems like if the drunks are making money for the University then it's fine and dandy.
Now, I know it may be a shock, but I'm prone to pontificating and story-telling. I freely tell tales of back in the day when sagefool and I were young, ignorant, drunken college students here at the U of I. We used to attend something called "Breakfast Club" at COs. They would open the bar at 8am for home football games which usually started at 11am (or 1pm if we were lucky) and the bars would have specials on bloody marys and screwdrivers and sometimes they even had *donuts.* But we were there for the alcohol---I *was* the ringer for the bucket races after all....

And then the drunken march to the Stadium would begin---yelling, cheering, laughing, falling all over ourselves. I'm pretty sure some public urination was involved because I *know* one friend got a ticket for it. And I'm not sure we *ever* made it past half-time. Once you had to pee a couple times and your buzz wore off, it was time to go drink some more.

Now, granted, I usually didn't end up going out that night.

Ok...that's a lie, but when I did, I sure as hell took a nice long nap beforehand. But...is Unofficial really any different from Spring Break? Isn't this just a Spring Break warm-up event for them? Are our attitudes toward Unofficial really just a result of not *seeing* or *participating* in this kind of thing anymore? If they were slicker about it, less conspicuous (I know, hard when your 21), would it be such a big deal? It happens all the time---just not on such a grand scale.

I, for one, feel a bit like I live in a glass house. How about you?