Sunday, August 16, 2009


This summer, my experiences have given me much time to think about this entire healthcare debate and this whole idea of people with insurance vs. people without insurance. I feel like I straddle this line. I do have health insurance which has paid the bulk of my bills but the insurance I have is costly and has not covered the things needed most, those being simple preventative screenings that might have saved me from surgery and bills totaling in excess of $100,000.

I am so offended by the comments of the right wing "tea-baggers" who talk about "death panels" and call our president a Nazi because they speak from a position of being a "have" vs. a "have not." These are the people with cushy healthcare plans who refuse to sacrifice any portion of what they have in order to let those who have not obtain a little. For all of their yelling about preserving the rights of "real Americans" and capitalists, they are showing themselves to be greedy, selfish and totally self serving.

Healthcare should be a fundamental right for all. If you are arrested, the government guarantees you the right to see a lawyer, why not a guaranteed right to see a doctor?

I consider myself a capitalist. My life has been filled with financial ups and downs. I believe in America as the land of opportunity, but this whole idea of healthcare being tied to employment is just ridiculous. When I went out to start my own business, I applied for health insurance on my own and was met head on by the current system which took every opportunity to smack me down and deny me access. I was finally able to purchase insurance with government assistance. The New Mexico High Risk Insurance pool came to the rescue but the only options I had were expensive plans with high deductibles. I took it knowing it was better than being uninsured.

What I'm asking for out of healthcare reform is something more affordable that does not care about pre-existing conditions. Something that will pay for routine screenings and would not punish me for being diabetic when I haven't been diabetic for 6 years. The kind of healthcare that people refer to as socialized medicine. But I don't mind that term because I know that we've had socialized medicine for years in the form of Medicare. Ask these angry people who yell about socialized medicine if they want to repeal Medicare and they think you're crazy. The lack of information in this debate is astounding.

And though I'm in favor of this socialized form of healthcare, I still consider myself a capitalist. If I weren't a capitalist, would I get up at 5:00 on a Saturday morning to make a few bucks selling my product at the farmer's market? There are a lot of entrepreneurial people out there who aren't starting their own businesses because they are afraid of losing the health insurance tied to their jobs. Get the costs down and make it accessible and it will help the economy overall. That's the message I want to get out there.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

I apologize for not updating sooner but since I've been out of the hospital I've had so much to do and not enough energy to do it. It's tough trying to accomplish things when you are in a weakened state but I have to get back to business in order to survive. Here are some of the things I have and haven't accomplished--tasks large and small.

  1. Got my farmer's market vendor permit
  2. Finished sorting the stats for the upcoming football pool with Brian
  3. Made more product to sell at the market
  4. Printed lots and lots of labels
  5. Made significant progress on Las Cruces Arts Association website
  6. Back to baking for other people
  7. Killed the weeds in the yard (so I don't get cited again)
  8. Got my first diet mango limeade from Sonic
  9. Collected some money from the consignment shop
  10. Have not found the Airport Express router to send to Brian
  11. Have not yet found my birth certificate (for my disability claim)
  12. Have not cleaned the carpet in my bedroom
  13. Have not harvested all of my tomatoes
I have much left to do but each day needs to be punctuated by long periods of rest. My energy level is way below normal and that's frustrating.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging

For those who may be wondering where I've been the last five weeks, I have been experiencing the American healthcare system first hand. I now feel eminently qualified to have a voice in the public healthcare debate and have spent the last five weeks railing at the suits in Washington, Republican and Democrat because I'm exactly the kind of person that healthcare reform needs to help and they are totally missing the boat.

I should start out by saying that I have health insurance even though private health insurance companies turned me down due to pre-existing conditions that I no longer have. 7 years ago I was a type II diabetic but then I lost 150 lbs. and my diabetes went away along with a lot of other conditions. I completely turned my life around and began exercising and eating sensibly. But for all their talk about rewarding people for healthy lifestyles, I am marked for life as being uninsure-able because I had these conditions at one time.

So how did I get insurance? My insurance is courtesy of the state of New Mexico. I got my insurance through the state high risk pool--that dreaded government interference that is available in some states. If it weren't for the government subsidy I would be declaring bankruptcy today.

However, the only insurance I could afford is what they call catastrophe insurance which means I must meet a $5000 deductible before it begins to pay. Knowing something awful might happen I made sure that I had $5000 in savings but without a job it was getting harder and harder to keep that cushion.

The $5000 deductible is what kept me from getting immediate care when I first started having abdominal pains. I'd had pains like that before and they went away so a trip to the emergency room which would cost me at least $1500 was something I wanted to avoid. So I waited through three day of pain and vomiting before I gave in and went to the ER.

Of course when I got there my condition was pretty dire. I had an obstruction in my bowel. Since I couldn't hold down any liquids, I was dehyrated almost the the point of kidney failure an my blood pressure at that point was dangerously low. They admitted me to the hospital and tried to figure out, if possible, a non-surgical way to clear the obstruction.

I was hooked up to IVs for fluid and medication and could have no food or drink by mouth. I was kind of out of it, but I clearly remember day two when I got a visit from the hospital's finance office. They mentioned the $5000 deductible and wanted to know how I was going to settle my bill. In my state of grogginess, I handed over my Visa card and said "hey, at least I'll get miles for it."

The rest of this rant which I am calling "Healthcare, the good, the bad and the ugly" will continue in the next few days as I unravel that whole story.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


In my never ending quest to find a real job, I answered an online posting for 911 dispatcher trainees at the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority (MVRDA). This morning I went to the initial meeting where a 21-year veteran of 911 service explained the complexities of the job. The purpose of this was to go through the real downside of the job--the hours, the stress, the constant re-certification process and, of course, the calls themselves.

MRVDA covers all of Dona Ana county wich encompasses about 3500 square miles and about 200,000 people from Hatch to Sunland Park. There are 7 different "consoles" that cover different areas and different emergency service providers. You have to become certified in all seven to be a full-time dispatcher so you have to know geography of the area and you have to have EMS training because you're actually what they call an EMD or Emergency Medical Dispatcher. He said giving CPR instructions over the phone was fairly common.

He covered the fact that we would be working rotating shifts over 24 hours and we would have to go through 12 weeks of training before they let you on the phones by yourself and to show us just how gruesome it can be, he played a tape of a call where the woman was on the line with the 911 operator while her husband shot himself in the head. The operator managed to remain totally calm while the woman was screaming and I know several of us in the meeting were rather disturbed by it.

So I don't know how far I'll pursue this. I signed up for the testing (which will come after I pass a background check). It's 2 hours worth of various test including spending about a half hour listening in to real 911 calls. I'm not sure I have the stomach for it but I'm going to check it out because it pays fairly well and you get benefits if you make it past the 12 weeks of training.

I just don't know if it would afford me the time I need to pursue the bath products line. I need to be able to juggle everything.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I now know about a half dozen people who have lost their jobs within the last six months. Their number one concern is affordable healthcare. President Obama is insistent that we address healthcare now but Congress and critics who are happily secure in their jobs with lush healthcare packages don't feel the urgency of the matter.

I keep hearing the "horror stories" of government run healthcare and the usual right wing scare tactics saying that you will lose control over your choice of doctor and that the government will step in and tell you that you can't have certain treatments. The people spreading these rumors aren't listening to what Obama says because the crux of his argument is that if you have employer subsidized health care nothing is going to change.

The urgency of healthcare reform is for people like me and my friends/family who are out of work. We need access to affordable care and the assurance that we can get this coverage despite pre-existing conditions.

The pre-existing condition factor is a difficult one that probably won't happen as long as for-profit insurance companies are running the show. To run a profitable business it makes sense to deny insurance to people who will actually use the service. But that's what's happening every day in the richest nation in the world.

Here in New Mexico we have something called the high risk pool that allows people with pre-existing conditions to buy Blue Cross insurance but these are high-deductible plans that are only good if you have a catastrophe. This is why I have this gives me some comfort that I know I will not be wiped out if I break my leg or develop cancer.

But as for everyday stuff...I had a physical recently because my policy says I'm allowed to have one physical per year. So I recieved a statement saying that the doctor's visit was completely covered but not the accompanying blood tests. The results of said blood tests showed that I am still suffering from anemia. It was suggested that I see a hemotologist but I will not because I can't afford it. I went through anemia treatments when I was covered by workplace insurance and watched as Blue Cross paid almost $10,000 for a treatment that did little for me. Now that the cost has shifted to me, I made the choice to live without the treatments because I cannot afford to pay for them.

Since it hasn't been settled yet, I don't know if Obama's healthcare plan would help me pay for my anemia treatments but I'm pretty sure it would pay for my routine blood tests. Oh and I did place a challenge on the Blue Cross denial of paying for blood tests that are routine screenings. The emphasis is supposed to be on preventitve care and a simple CBC would detect problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and yes, anemia.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Look at this tomato. It's the same one that was pictured a couple of posts ago as the teeny tiny tomato. And...I have 11 more at various stages of growth.

My new business is moving along. Today I got my tax ID number so I'm ready for my orientation. I also picked up some gift packaging ideas at the Dollar Store so I can offer gift sets of my products. Also making more bath bombs. There's an exact measurement to follow...not too dry (or they won't stick together in the molds) and not too wet (or they start fizzing before they hit the bath). I'm getting the hang of it. Luckily the ingredients aren't expensive so I can afford to mess up a few batches.

On the money-saving front, I have started grinding my own hamburger meat. This isn't a huge savings but the quality is so much better than the stuff in the grocery store. I took some and made a killer sauce for some angel-hair pasta (small pasta for my small stomach) and will grill some burgers tonight.

Tomorrow is Senior Day at Albertsons so Alyce and I are going bargain hunting. We're also going to Hobby Lobby (which I think is a really stupid name for a store) since there is no actual lobby there. But I want to find small cello bags for my bath bombs.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

First Batch of Bath Bombs

So...since we've learned that we can't make money the easy way by getting bank drafts in FedEx envelopes, we need to turn our attention back to business.

Having received my 5 lbs. of powdered citric acid, I commenced to making bath bombs to add to my product line. These are the first ones, with sort of a Hawaiian theme, scented with a combination of Ocean Mist potpourri and my essence of pineapple. I added the blue food coloring to give them a little ocean personality. Now they are locked inside their molds where they need to stay for a couple of hours. Then they need to cure for at least a week in a dry place. A dry place is easy to find out here.

I'm hoping that my first selling date will be June 13.

Half my samples went out on Friday and the other half will be going to the post office tomorrow. I've gotten good feedback so far and am adapting some recipes after the criticism (mostly about strength of fragrance).

My oils showed up on Friday so I'm ready to proceed full speed ahead.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do You Think This is a Scam?

This was in my e-mail today

Customer Service:

We have been waiting for you to contact us for your Package that is been registered
with us for shipping to your residential location. We had thought that your sender
gave you our contact details. It may interest you to know that a letter is also added
to your package. However, we cannot quote the content of your package, except that it
has a Bank Draft worth of $288,000.00 (Two Hundred and Eighty Eight Thousand US
Dollars). As you know, FedEx does not ship money in CASH or in CHEQUES but BANK
DRAFTS are shippable.
The package is registered with us for mailing by an official of the united nation
office in UK. We are sending you this email because your package is been registered
on a Special Order. What you have to do now, is to contact our Delivery Department
for immediate dispatch of your package to your residential address. Note that as soon
as our Delivery Team confirms your information, it will take three (3) working days
(72Hrs) for your package to arrive at your designated destination.
For your information, the VAT & Shipping charges as well as Insurance fees have been
paid by your colleague before your package was registered.
Note that the payment that is made on the Insurance, Premium & Clearance
Certificates, are to certify that the Bank Draft is not a Drug Affiliated Fund DAF)
neither is it funds to sponsor Terrorism in your country. This will help you avoid
any form of query from the Monetary Authority of your country.
However, you will have to pay a sum of £105 GBP which is equivalent to $210 USD to
the FedEx Delivery Department being full payment for the Security Keeping Fee of the
FedEx Company as stated in our privacy terms & condition page. Also be informed that
your colleague wished to pay for the Security Keeping charges, but we do not accept
such payments considering the fact that all items & packages that is registered with
us have a time limitation and we cannot accept payment without knowing when you will
be picking up the package or even respond to us. So we cannot take the risk to have
accepted such a payment incase of any possible demurrage. Kindly note that your
colleague did not leave us with any further information.
We hope that you respond to us as soon as possible because if you fail to respond
until the expiry date of the foremost package, we may refer the package to the
British Commission for Welfare as the package do not have a return address. Kindly
contact the delivery department (FedEx Delivery Post) with the details given below:
Contact Person: Mr. Richard raynor
Tel: +234-7062266794
Kindly complete the below form and send it to the email address given above.. This is
mandatory to reconfirm your Postal address and telephone numbers.
As soon as your details are received, our delivery team will give you the necessary
payment procedure so that you can effect the payment for the Security Keeping Fees.
As soon as they confirm your payment of £105 GBP which is equivalent to $210 USD,
they shall immediately dispatch your package to the designated address. It usually
takes 72 Hours being an express delivery service.
Ensure to contact the delivery department with the email address and ensure to fill
the above form as well to enable successful reconfirmation.
Yours Faithfully,
Mrs .chiara dallavalle
FedEx Online Management Team.
All rights reserved. © 1995-2009 FedEx.

This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

I wonder how many people fall for stuff like this.

Gas Prices Don't Help

I can remember when gas was 33 cents a gallon. How old does that make me? When I say that, people ask if I remember nickel hot dogs and I say no but I do remember nickel candy bars. Hot dogs were 35 cents including the fries when I first started buying them.

I just got back from Sam's Club where I bought gas for $2.29 a gallon. I know that seems cheap to those of you in Chicago and California but the last time I filled up it was $1.88. Good thing I don't go anywhere.

I also stopped at the post office to drop off the first of my sample packages. The parking lot was mobbed and usually there's nobody there during the middle of the day. I was glad I had printed my own postage labels so I wouldn't have to wait. When I got inside I realized that the long line of people wasn't for postage it was for passports. Starting Monday you need a passport (or something new called the passcard) to get across the border. Judging from the line, the government is going to make a lot of money this weekend.

Also, an update on the gardening front. My tomato plant has 5 tomatoes growing on it and the birds haven't eaten them. Of course they have to get bigger and ripen so it's still touch and go for now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Update to the Update

Samples are coming together and will be heading out to my testers. I'm signed up for the June 11 orientation session at the Farmer's market and things are looking good. I need to go to the tax office and get a tax number. It's required so I can charge sales tax on my sales.

I'm really excited about this

Monday, May 25, 2009

Business Update

Well here it is, Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. I have absolutely no job prospects in this bad economy so I'm concentrating on business ideas that I can do to make money for myself. The tech support business is hanging in there. I'm picking up a new customer this week for basic education and have contracted to do the website and Facebook page for the Las Cruces Arts Association. So I've got a little money coming in from that.

Then there is the bath and body product business. I'm having a lot of fun with this. My materials are continuing to arrive on my doorstep so I'm getting ready to send out sample kits to friends and family across the country.

I'm re-formulating my salt scrub into a sugar scrub which is a little less abrasive. I've made some oatmeal milk bath that is pretty good and the bath salts are nice especially with the decorative packaging. And I'm going to make bath bombs. I have all the ingredients and ordered some molds on Ebay. I'll be making heart shaped ones like the ones in the picture. I figure I'll be up and running by the end of June...maybe sooner if all goes well.

So that' where I am and I'm still optimistic about where I'm going. Oh and while you're here reading, click through on a few of the Google ads at the right. I get a few pennies for each click.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gardening Update

The parsley has been chewed to the roots, the rosemary fried in the 99 degree sun. The strawberries were eaten by the rabbits or roadrunners or whatever critters roam the night. But take heart. I have the start of a tomato. A teeny tiny tomato is growing on my plant. I am so excited.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mixing Up the Bath Products

If they won't let me sell food from my kitchen I will make bath products. You need to be creative to survive in this economy and if there's one thing I'm not lacking it's creativity.

I have mixed up home made salt scrub and lip balm and am waiting the arrival of more supplies to make bath salts, body lotion and shower gel. It's fun and I hope it will be profitable for me. Overhead is low. I have to get a tax id and farmers market permit and I'm ready to go. I'm also going to have home parties to sell them as well.

I'm psyched about this and the research and development portion of it is a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Purse

I decided a movie would be a good investment yesterday. I could get some entertainment and best of all, I could sit in somebody else's air conditioning for a couple of hours. But here's the do you avoid the lure of the concession stand. That smell of movie theater popcorn has been an alluring aroma since I was a kid.

But six bucks for popcorn and a drink? That's as much as my ticket cost (bargain matinee). The solution...sneak in your own food. The key...a large purse or tote bag. Although they post signs saying no outside food or drink, they haven't gotten to the point where they're searching bags. So I popped some popcorn in the microwave and stuck a bottle of water into my purse. I was able to blithely walk past the concession stand and into the theater to enjoy my movie and snack by myself.

I've got to say if you're like me, that Monday afternoon is a great time to see a movie. I hate crowded movie theaters because people talk, kick seats and forget to turn off their cell phones. I went to see Star Trek which was the most popular movie over the weekend but there were only about 20 people in the theater at 4:30 on Monday afternoon. Perfect.

Oh and the movie was great. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I finished my paperwork for my LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) application. I don't know how much of a break I'll get on my electric bill but whatever it is, it will help. I finally cracked and turned on the air conditioning to cool down the house for a while. It reached 99 the other day and inside the house it was 90. I just couldn't take it any more.

The saving grace of living in the desert is that it still cools down at night. Unlike back in Chicago I can get a good night's sleep without AC. The hottest part of the day is between 4 and 7 pm. After that I can get by with just the fans. We'll see how that affects the bill.

Part of the paperwork was to give my account number with the phone company to see if I can qualify for assistance on that. I'm thinking they might have a problem with my broadband and Direct TV service on the same bill. I may be poor but I'm not ready to give up my internet or CNN.

Oh and speaking of CNN, they called yesterday in response to my latest video upload. It may be on their Money and Mainstreet Special on Thursday night...or I'll end up on the cutting room floor like I did last time.

If you want to see it, here's the link.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saving on Utilities

I was not happy with my gas/water/city services bill last month. It was not huge but it was bigger than last month because I am using more water and gas these days. Most of it is the result of my baking and dishwashing. I am cutting down on the baking as we get into summer but I don't know if I'm ready to give up the dishwasher.

I am becoming a martyr to the heat. We've had four days of 90 degree weather and I haven't turned on the air conditioning. I am making do with fans and really it is only uncomfortable from about 4 to 6 in the late afternoon. When the sun goes down it's actually quite cool and by the time I wake up in the morning I am wrapped up in blankets because it is cold. I get out of bed, turn off the fans and start all over again.

I am cutting my laundry back to every two weeks instead of every week. I did an assessment and found I had enough clothes so I could last two weeks. That will save on both water and gas. I have no room to put up a clothesline (and it's probably against neighborhood rules) or I would hang the laundry because in the desert things dry in about 10 minutes. I haven't used a blow dryer on my hair since I've been down here.

I haven't used the gas grill in a while either. So we'll see what next month's bill brings. Electricity has been down (mostly because of not using the AC)

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bureaucrats Squashed My Dreams

I went to the Dona Ana Department of Health today to find out what I needed to do to get licensed to sell casseroles at the weekly Farmer's Market. People have raved about my chicken pot pies and macaroni and cheese and I figured I could make a mark up of $3.25 on each individual serving. But just like the city bureaucrats that made me take down my banner at the club, the bureaucrats at the Department of Health told me flat out that they will not certify a home kitchen. Case closed.

Now we've all seen those stories on Food Network about the people with the killer salad dressing, brownie, toffee, fill-in-whatever you want. They start in their home kitchens and then the operation becomes so successful they have to expand to commercial kitchens. Well none of those stories was ever filmed in this town because you just can't make it happen.

I understand about Health Department Regulations and I have steam cleaned my kitchen to within an inch of its life. Germs are not growing on my watch. I know all about cross contamination and have separate cutting boards and knives for meat and vegetables and know to keep cooked food away from raw food and use bleach water to clean all surfaces. I've fed hundreds of people with not one incident of illness. Can Taco Bell claim that?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going to the Consignment Shop

It's come down to this, folks...I'm selling my clothes. In the old days when I had money, I spent a portion of it on J. Jill, Liz Claiborne, Sigrid Olsen and Juicy Couture. And I haven't worn any of it in years.

For two years while running the club my workday uniform consisted of sweat pants (in long, short and capri length) and my Club50 baseball shirts or T-shirts. It was comfy and reassuring that I didn't have to decide what to wear at 5 am. every morning.

So despite having pared down my wardrobe before I left Chicago, I had the closet that was rarely touched. I hung everything neatly when I moved in and then forgot about it except for a few occasions. There was synogogue on the high holidays, Scott and Colleen's wedding. Rosario's New Year's day brunch, the Chamber of Commerce Christmas party and trips back to Chicago. I'll admit I do not have most exciting personal life but that's basically the result of two years of working/sleeping/working/sleeping/working/etc/etc.

So that explains why the clothes are "very gently used."

I went through the summer stuff since that's what's selling now. I had some nice Sigrid Olsen summer pants but the woman at the store said she didn't need any more pants in my size because her rack was full. I looked at it and it was full, but full of plain black and brown pants. My Sigrid Olsen prints would really stand out.

Would you believe I had five pairs of athletic shorts, Reebok, Addidas and Nike. Some even still had the tags on them. I think I bought them figuring I'd wear them at the club in hot weather but they're way to short for me. It's an age-appropriate thing.

She did say that she would take jeans which is good because I had two pair of regular jeans, two pair of capri length jeans and one pair of white jeans. I'm hoping I'll get a good return on those.

I'm throwing in a couple of handbags as well. I parted with a bunch of purses before I left Chicago but I still have too many. I'll always have too many. But I' m not giving up the good ones because I'll never get what they're worth.

So I'll be reporting back here with the results of how much I take in and whether or not this is a worthwhile venture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Canceling Services

One way to save money when you have little coming in is to cancel those extraneous services that you've decided you can live without.

I just got off the phone with The New York Times. As much respect as I have for their journalistic skills, I have absolutely no respect for their sales department. The woman on the other end of the line supposedly "pulled up" my account information and told me she could offer me the paper at half price for 6 months only charging me $13.60 per month. I pointed out that I was already paying $13.60 per month and she insisted I was paying $27.20. Just to refresh my mind and prove to myself that I wasn't going crazy, I pulled up my credit card bill online and saw that I was indeed paying just $13.60 per month. Then I said I would like to keep the crossword puzzle access like I used to have and I believed that cost $35.99 per year. She told me that the crossword only access would cost $179 per year. I told her that was ridiculous and to cancel the whole thing. I went online to try to find out the actual cost of the crossword puzzle access and I couldn't confirm it because it still recognizes me as a member. I'll wait until they cut me off and then sign up again (unless it really is $179 per year). She pissed me off even more when I asked for a confirmation e-mail or snail-mail. She said they don't do that so now I have to wait until next month to check my credit card bill to make sure they really canceled it.

Back at the beginning of the year I restructured my communications options and needed to cancel my old services for TV, phone and internet. Dish network was very sympathetic and although they offered me a deal citing that they hated to lose me after 9 years of service they canceled with no problem.

Comcast, with whom I had internet service, canceled me with no questions asked. They just wanted their equipment back so I had to drive over to their office and drop off the cable modem and cables.

Vonage was another story. I knew they were going to be difficult because I tried to use it at the Club to save some money but it wouldn't work properly with the wireless internet service I had at the Club so I had to cancel. They really didn't want to cancel me at that time, instead offering me a "hold" for $5 a month. I explained to them that it just wouldn't work and I wanted to cancel outright but it still took several minutes of arguing to get them to cancel it completely.

So when I went to cancel my personal Vonage service I was prepared or so I thought. They told me I was going to have to answer 2 out of 5 security questions to verify my account. One was the amount of my last bill so I had to do a quick credit card search to find that. Then they wanted to know the name of my plan. The NAME of my plan? I told them it was their basic plan but I didn't know what they called it. I couldn't answer the next two questions either (I don't remember what they were) and was beginning to feel like scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the troll under the bridge is asking questions to let them pass. What's your favorite colour? What's the capital of Assyria? Fortunately the last question for me was What's your e-mail address? and I knew that one.

Then she started in with the offers. They'll pay my bill for one month, they'll pay my bill for two months, they'll keep my phone number active for a small monthly fee. At every turn I held my ground and told them no, I wanted to cancel outright. Finally, after about 15 minutes I prevailed. They really do try to wear you down, putting you on hold at length (while they supposedly check with supervisors) but my advice is to hang in there and hold your ground.

If you tell them you're not working, they'll be sympathetic but still persistent. I still think the best tactic is to tell them you're dead. I discovered that one 10 years ago when I was canceling my father's cable TV service after he passed away. They have no answer for death...remember that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let's Mess With Texas

A wise person (the name escapes me now) once said Texas is too small to be a country and too large to be an insane asylum. I think whoever said that was dead on but evidently in this day and age of the delusional right wing some people are conniving to have Texas secede from the union so they can have have their own country with lots of guns, no taxes and for some reason, no teleprompters.

So which looney right winger is stirring up this sentiment. One of those militia neo-nazi guys who blew up Oklahoma City? No, it's Rick Perry, the governor of Texas.

On the surface this seems like maybe not such a bad idea. Confining those people to a single area could only make things better for the rest of us. But then New Mexico would have to build a border fence to keep them out of the USA. On the other hand they would probably have a job for Norm Coleman of Minnesota so Al Franken could finally get down to the business of being a senator. And hey, did you hear about that Senator Burr from North Carolina who told his wife to take as much money as she could out of the ATM as a personal run on the bank. It's his own bailout program...take the money and bail out.

I believe in free speech and the right to protest but I don't understand these people. Tell me why they're asking for tax cuts? If they earn less than $250,000 a year (and by the look of them I think we can make the assumption that they do) they got a tax cut. Didn't they look at their pay checks? And their leaders like Rick Perry and that goofy congresswoman from Minnesota spout these unbelievable statements throwing out statements like herding college students into re-education camps (she was talking about Americorp) Obama brazenly ordering the killing of three black Muslim teenagers (Rush Limbaugh talking about the Somali pirates). Oh and they actually called these rallies the largest grassroots turnout in history. After all, they got 200 people in Rockford. That's only 4600 fewer than the amount of people who showed up for the Motley Crue reunion there. Largest in history? Did they see Martin Luther King's march on Washington in 1963.

The only consolation I can take in all of this is that the group that spouts this hatred have their teabag parties and has already judged the Obama presidency to be a failure is less than 25% of the country. As hard as Fox News tries to make it look like a silent majority we can take some comfort that many people who were supporters of GW Bush have now seen the light and come over to the side of humanity.

But back to Texas. You know how much damage the last governor of Texas did. You remember him. ...the guy trying to reshape his legacy after screwing up the entire world for the last eight years. Rumor has it when he left Texas he had a bumper sticker on his car that said "If You Think I was Bad, Wait til you See the Guy Replacing Me."

I booked Brian's flight into El Paso for his visit here in June. He'd better bring his passport.

I'm going to brew myself a nice cup of tea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Victory Garden

It will be a victory if I can actually grow this garden. Michelle Obama has inspired me to supplement my food budget with vegetables grown in my own garden.

Anybody who knows me well knows my history with plants. Let's just sum it up by saying "not good." When I opened Club 50 my family sent me a "money tree" which was actually a scheffalera plant. I managed to keep it alive for two years which is some sort of record for me but in the end it succumbed along with the business. I can't blame the plant's death on the economy but lets just say the economy depressed me enough to stop watering the plant.

As for vegetables, I tried growing them in Chicago when my cousin, Scott built a lovely raised garden bed in our backyard. I planted lettuce, chives, parsely, tomatoes and peppers. The lettuce became a salad bar for rabbits in the neighborhood. Somehow they ignored the chives and parsely. I guess they didn't like the taste. As for the tomatoes and peppers, I will always remember that proud day in early October when I harvested my crop before the first frost. In my basket were two tomatoes the size of golf balls and a green bell pepper the size of my thumb.

Being a devotee of Martha Stewart I felt humbled and ashamed that I could not grown a decent garden. I tried to blame it on lack of sun but I don't think that was the whole story. The parsely turned out to be my cash crop. I harvested enough parsely to garnish plates for weeks.

Of course here in the desert it is not easy to grow anything. First of all my landscaping does not allow for anything but container gardening. My "lawn" is a bed of rocks which is nice because you don't have to water or mow it. Basically, the perfect lawn for me. But yet I have this urge to grow something. Remember the speeches Eddie Albert used to give on Green Acres about planting the seeds and watch them shooting up to the sky. I have that but I don't know why.

Last year I planted a tomato plant but despite watering it every day it simply fried in the hot sun. My marigolds fried too. So this time I could blame the heat but yet other people were able to make things grow. Certainly Home Depot, Lowes and WalMart wouldn't be doing such big garden business if we couldn't support anything but cactus.

So I did some research and went to Home Depot and found a tomato hybrid called "Heatwave." It's specially bred to thrive in hot climates. I was thrilled. Then, emboldened by my tomato find, I looked onward and bought a strawberry plant, rosemary and my old cash crop, parsely.

I planted them in three containers and put them near my front door but not under the canopy so they can get full sun most of the day and then shade in the evening. I have a hose so I can water them every day and even put these glass bulbs in that retain extra moisture.

And so far so good. It's been a couple of weeks and nothing is dead yet...and I even have a strawberry. Yes, one tiny strawberry, but I grew it myself and when it gets a little bigger I will proudly eat it. Maybe I'll even make a cheesecake to put under it.

I doubt that it's really going to make a dent in my grocery budget but it's in my blood (and on my membership card in the Martha militia) so I will press on and of course, continue to post updates on the garden.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Transportation in a Brave New World

Is the GM Puma the answer to our fuel efficiency problems? I'd like to know what liability insurance runs on this vehicle.

Today I'm driving a funky Mazda 5 which is my loaner car while my tail light is being fixed. I can't quite get used to it. It's very low and there's no satellite radio which some of you may view as a luxury but in Las Cruces it's a necessity.

It's Passover tonight but I'm not going to a seder. I probably could wander over to the temple down the block and press my nose against the stained glass window but I think I'll be happy with my own matzo ball soup. I made a great batch of matzo balls this time. They're floaters, not sinkers.

Besides, there's plenty of baseball to watch. Of course I have my Cubs but Direct tv is having a free preview of their Extra Innings package through this weekend. So I'm watching all sorts of teams that I don't even care about but heck, it's baseball.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Senior Day Score

I am becoming the mother of all grocery shoppers. I can sniff out a bargain and Senior Day at Albertsons is definitely part of the mix. There are still things that are cheaper at WalMart but I won't buy meat at WalMart and Albertsons has some good sales like cereal for $1 per box, eggs for $1 a dozen and best of all bread flour for $2 for a 5-lb. bag.

I only spent $40 and I got four of those bags of flour, a whole chicken and the necessary veggies for making chicken soup and then chicken pot pie with the soup chicken. Matzo balls may be another story since there wasn't a box of matzo meal to be had in the store....and believe me I'm not holding out hope of finding it at WalMart or Lowe's Fiesta Market. They did have matzo and macaroons and kosher for Passover cake mixes. They had gefilte fish in a jar and matzo ball soup mix but no matzo meal. I suppose I could grind matzo in my food processor...I'll have to think about it. Oh and they didn't have the jelly candies that nobody eats.

But I'm excited about making soup tomorrow. It's been a long time.

Oh and I should mention that we found a really good barbecue restaurant today. It's called Smokey Dick's and even though it's way over on the other side of town, it's definitely worth the drive. They have a slightly sweet sauce with a peppery aftertaste that lingers for just the right amount of time. They also have cole slaw made with pineapple

Excuse me if I chuckle but I'm watching a Republican congressman trying to spin their budget proposal. He's talking about a simplified tax option for the very wealthy that would lower their tax rate to ten or fifteen percent. He's arguing that it's not a tax break for the's "revenue neutral." This is what I hate about Republicans. They think that ordinary people are too dumb to do the math. The whole Bush administration was built on "because I said so."

Oh and one word on the Obamas in Europe. Don't you love the fact that Michelle wore a J.Crew sweater to meat the Queen. But i'm not sure about this gift giving stuff. They gave her an Ipod and somehow it doesn't seem like the ideal gift for the Queen. She'll probably re-gift it to her grandson.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Automotive History

Today's the day I've been waiting for. General Motors has a really good chance of going bankrupt. Not that I want GM to go bankrupt. Quite the contrary, but you see, I have this history.

My first new car was a Fiat. A 1980 Fiat Strada in a lovely copper color. It was a comfortable, beautifully designed car. Those Italians know how to design a car. Unfortunately they don't really know how to build them. I credit that car with teaching me much of what I know about cars and how to fix their problems. That car wouldn't start if it was below 10 degrees or above 90. Or if it was raining. If the engine got wet you'd have to open the choke and stick a screwdriver in the carbureator the spray all the spark plug wires with WD40 and maybe it would start. Things regularly fell off of it for no apparent reason. Little things like the knobs on the radio and the rubber cover on the gas pedal and big things like the windsheild wiper that flew across six lanes of traffic on Lake Shore Drive and impaled a squirrel on a tree.

The car came with a handy tool kit which was nice because everything was metric and American tools wouldn't work on it. I also had to pay twice as much for an olio filtre than I would have for an ordinary oil filter. But most of all it started a trend for me. Within a couple of months of buying the car, the dealership went out of business and then about a year later Fiat stopped selling cars in North America.

I think I kept the car until 1985 or 1986 when I traded it in for another European wonder--a Renault. The Renault was not as bad as the Fiat but a few months after buying it the dealer went out of business and within a couple of years Renault stopped selling cars in North America.

In 1992 I bought a Geo Tracker which was sold as a GM car but was actually made by Suzuki in Canada. Nothing happened. In fact, at that point I started leasing cars and had a steady stream of GM cars that gave me very little trouble.

But in the back of my mind I always figured something terrible would eventually happen to GM. But what could happen? Back then they were the biggest company in America and the biggest car manufacturer in the world. But slowly it started to erode. Exxon Mobil took over the biggest company in America and Toyota eventually sold more cars. But GM? C'mon.

My current GM car is a Chevy Trailblazer which I love dearly. It's comfortable and I feel safe driving it. I've taken many long solo driving trips in it. I carried in it all the furniture I bought for the club from the Ikea store in Phoenix and the five computers I brought home from California.

I think the dealership where I bought it is still in business--Sharp Chevrolet on Golf Road in Skokie but the big one, of course is GM going out of business. I hope it doesn't happen. I hope they can get it together and build cars that people want to buy.

In the meantime...I see Chrysler is merging with Fiat. Good luck with that one.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This Guy Got It Way Back When

Click here

The above link will take you to an article published in the New York Times in November of 1999. It will probably ring a bell when I tell you it is when Congress and then President Clinton signed the bill that repealed the Glass-Steagall bill. Still not coming to you? Well to refresh your memory, the Glass-Steagall bill was originally passed in the thirties and it separated the banks, brokerage houses, real estate companies and insurance companies so that if your entity is doing business in one of those areas, you can't do business in another. allowed Citibank to buy Travelers Insurance and become Citygroup. It allowed Washington Mutual and Countrywide to become banks and AIG to be able to bundle now toxic assets into derivitives and generally to take all regulations off of the financial industry somehow never thinking that human nature (i.e. greed) would never enter into it.

Well, one guy...Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota thought this was a bad idea and this is the quote from that article that stands out:

'"I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010,'' said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. "'I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.'"

Ten years' time? Well that would be now, wouldn't it?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Toying with a New Idea

I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking and have been trying to think of ways I could turn this into a business. The picture above is my batch of oddly shaped sugar-free butter cookies made with Splenda. They're not as sweet as regular butter cookies but they're pretty good. They're just oddly shaped because when I rolled the dough into a log and put it into the fridge to set it sort of settled and got flat on the bottom.

Anyway, while watching the Food Network I saw these two ladies in Austin, Texas who call themselves the Casserole Queens. They produce large (for four) and small (for two) casseroles and deliver them to people. I was thinking about the same thing with some of my depression-era cooking but instead of delivering them, selling them from a booth at the Farmer's Market. It only costs a couple of bucks to rent a space at the Market but I do need to go down to one of the city offices to get their rules and regs for selling food. I need to find out about liability and what I need to do about food safety.

I also need to have provisions for hot and cold. Cold is easy...the market is only open for four hours so the casseroles will hold easily in a cooler. I would also like hot so I could hand out samples. That's a little trickier since there's no access to electricity. But I'm working on it.

You've probably seen all the publicity on the so called "victory gardens" that everyone seems to be planting (even our first lady). I'm not very good at growing vegetables especially here in New Mexico where the hot sun can easily fry the plants. I've always found it's cheaper to buy tomatoes than to grow them...or better yet...find a friend who's good at growing them and wait for them to offer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eating Well on a Budget

One of the hardest things to maintain as a poor person is a healthy diet. I have a Facebook group dedicated to depression style cooking which generally involves a lot of starch to make the recipe go further. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there cooking like that.

I think the secret to eating healthy on a budget is to watch the supermarket sales. Buy what's on sale then devise recipes from that. Granted it takes a good sense of food (what goes with what) and nutrition (how to balance a meal) but you can also go to the Food Network website and enter the name of your sale item into the search box. Typing "chicken" into the search box will return 7298 recipes. They have good tools for paring down that search to get a manageable number to browse but the point is that if you can get a whole chicken for $3.50 as I can this week, it's worth the time and effort to find out how to cook it.

I am not yet receiving food stamps (too much in my savings account) but if I did it would give me $176 a month to spend on food. In April I plan to try that as an experiment and see if I can survive on $176 food budget including eating out.

Speaking of eating out, the photo with this post is the new Smartchoice grilled salmon from Long John Silver. It's only $4.99 and there's a coupon offer on their website to get a dollar off. This is two meals for me and even though it's a tad overcooked it's still pretty good.

Here are some of my tips for smarter grocery shopping

Buy chickens whole and cut them up yourself. The more the store does to chicken (i.e. boneless, skinless chicken breasts) the more it will cost you. Save the giblets, back, neck and wings for the stockpot. They make a great soup.

Buy store brands. Over the years I've found very little difference between store brands and name brands aside from the price. If you look in my pantry you will find Albertsons Crispy Rice and Great Value bran flakes instead of Kelloggs rice krispies and all bran.

Go with the season. As Easter nears eggs go on sale and they're very versatile for breakfast, lunch, dinner or baking. Know the seasons for fruits and vegetables and shop accordingly. Better yet, if you have a farmers' market in your area check it out. It's going to be cheaper and the produce will be better.

Bake from scratch. I make my own bread for about a dollar a loaf compared to over three dollars in the grocery store. Cookies can be made cheaply too if you find sales on flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

Drink water. It's cheaper and better for you than soda or fruit drinks.

So happy, healthy and most of all budget conscious eating.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome to the Ranks of the Newly Poor

I was having a conversation the other day about the fact that I heard the Smashing Pumpkins' song Today on a Visa commercial. I said I had gotten used to hearing the Beatles songs in commercial because they no longer owned the publishing rights. Michael Jackson bought the entire catalog around 20 years ago and it's probably one of his main sources of income. I didn't think, however that the Pumpkins would sell out. My friend said Billy Corgan (leader of the Pumpkins) can't seem to find his musical compass these days and therefore probably decided to cash in for the cash.

I can totally understand that. No need to be self-righteous when you're poor.

So I was thinking what with the Bernie Madoff scandal and all, there are probably a lot of newly poor who many be selling off some assets. I found the list of Madoff's victims on the Wall Street Journal website and perhaps I can help them list a few things on Ebay if they want.

Steven Speilberg must have tons of movie props to auction off. I personally wouldn't pay a nickel for that creepy ET costume but I'm sure someone would.

Leonard Feinstein, co-founder of Bed, Bath and Beyond, if you're reading I'm sorry I didn't buy those towels to match my shower curtain so if you still have any, I'll take a couple off your hands.

Kevin Bacon will now (for a small price) come to your house and do his Footloose routines.

Zsa Zsa Gabor...I don't think she has anything anyone would want anymore.

Sandy know this is where I draw the line. You can scam Larry King and Phyllis George and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Marc Rich and everyone else on that list, but when you cheat one of baseball's greats...this is the crime of the century.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watch out for the Scammers

If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

I'm hearing stories on the news of the scam artists who are coming out to grab the last dollars out of the hands of people who still have them.

Its always amazed me that people would fall for the old 419 scam. That's the one with the exiled Nigerian statesman (or prince or widow or something like that) who promises you millions if you would just deposit a couple of hundred thousand to tide him over until he can get at the money. I'm still getting them every so often. If they're still out there then they must be working. 60 minutes even did a piece on it several years ago.

Now I guess unscrupulous people are sending out official looking messages under an IRS letterhead asking for personal information and promising early large tax refunds.

And speaking of scam artists...Bernie Madoff is going to jail. Yay!

On a positive SeniorTech business is coming along. I'm getting calls off the flyer at the senior center and now that I've got my printer working again I can send out my mailing. Still no word from the woman at the senior center about the classes but I remain hopeful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Quote to Follow Yesterday

"I do want to get rich...I just don't want to do what it takes to get rich."

Gertrude Stein

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Weekend At Bernies

Most poor people today are angry at all the news coming out of Washington and Wall Street and Detroit. Fancy retreats, private jets and million dollar bonuses don't go over well with people wondering if they're going to make the rent this month. I've looked at all these instances and mostly just shake my head and say "these people don't get it." People like the heads of Citigroup, Lehman, AIG or General Motors have never had to scrimp and save and scrounge. Same thing with many in Congress with their chorus of "let the market run it's cost." These same people have no idea what it's like to have a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan.

What it boils down to is that the people who cause these problems usually don't have to experience the consequences. They deal in economic and political theory and in the meantime still get to have breakfast with their families every morning and live their lush lives.

Which is why I, a bona fide poor person wish for the worst for Bernie Madoff.

He is working out a plea deal and thus has remained out of prison and in the luxury of his penthouse apartment. His wife went to the judge and asked if she could keep what she feels is "hers" in their relationship. Neither of them seem to grasp the fact that he did an enormous amount of damage to a lot of people who lost their life savings. All they seem to care about is saving themselves.

As most people know by now the most heinous thing he did was swindle the funds out of the Elie Weisel Foundation. Weisel, a well-known Holocaust survivor heads a foundation to fight intolerance and injustice throughout the world. Almost all of their assets valued at over 15 million dollars was lost to Madoff's greed.

It is beyond my comprehension that someone would do that in the first place and even more dumbounded that he is being given such preferential treatment. The fact that he will be given 150 years in prison even after the plea deal is little comfort every day he goes back to his penthouse.

So Mr. Madoff, don't be surprise that 99% of the world bears ill will toward you. Maybe something really terrible will happen to you this weekend. Maybe the cable will go out or you'll run out of Grey Poupon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our First Guest Blogger

I've been asking for contributions by anyone who wants to talk about how this great recession affects them personally.

So here, blogging about what it's like to buy a house and get a mortgage in these tough times is Pamela B.

Hi all! I am writing this as a guest blogger (my first official blog anywhere) on Karen’s site :> Let me give you some brief background to set the scene. I’m a 38 year old working as an Office Manager in Southern California. My husband is 43 and we are dealing with him being let go from CBS in October 2008. We have been renters all our lives and have now decided to take the leap into actually buying a townhouse. The fact that Ernie is out of work is scary but our mortgage will equal what we are paying in rent so we feel we might as well do it.

The townhouse we are looking to buy is listed at $285K, down from the $430K that the owners paid for it in 2007. Yes, that is scary indeed when townhouses were almost half a million dollars. Ernie and I were locked into a lease in 2007 but even if we weren’t we were not comfortable paying that much for a townhouse. We stayed put and bided our time. When things dropped we began to look around and were moments away from leaving to an appointment with a mortgage broker when CBS called to let Ernie go. We were devastated! We put our plans on the back burner and pretty much wrote it off.

Towards the end of February 2009, my sister-in-law (also living with us as a renter) forwarded me a link to a unit up in our complex and after looking at the unit it we felt it would work out for us so we got the ball rolling. Believe it or not, we didn’t have any problem getting qualified for a home loan (350K to be exact). We did not use a realtor since we know the area and know what we wanted. We went directly to a broker who was able to get us a loan no problem. I really thought that with Ernie being out of work we would be denied and really even laughed at but it wasn’t an issue. We have amazing credit (with both of us having scores in the 800’s) and were able to show a good source of income from when Ernie had been working so it was no problem. Since we are first time home buyers we got a FHA loan with a 5 % interest rate. Because of the FHA loan we only have to put 5% down on the townhouse. We have enough saved to put down 10% but the difference in the monthly payment was only about $60 so we decided to keep with 5%. If we did put 10% we could get a regular loan and not deal with a FHA loan but our interest rate would not be as good, causing our monthly payments to be higher than what we want. Going with the FHA loan was the best way to go. However, because it’s an FHA loan we have to do a few things we wouldn’t be required to if we were going with a regular loan. We have to have the townhouse appraised. The FHA wants to make sure we aren’t overpaying for the townhouse. We have to have the HOA/Condo Board certified which will show if the funds for repairs are there or if they are over extended. All these things cost money and we need to have the unit inspected as well. Basically, we will be spending about $1000 to get these things taken care of. The risk to us is that the bank has only given us 10 days to do these things and that’s not enough time. Usually buyers have anywhere from 17 days or more but short sales are different. We therefore have to start the process sooner. Even if our offer is accepted there is still the risk that the bank can back out of it. Meaning we could be out the money for the inspection/appraiser/certification process.

As we stand now on the 6th of March is that the bank has indeed accepted our bid of $268K with closing costs paid by them up to 6%. We now begin the process of getting the Certification and the Appraisal done. If all goes well we will be in a townhouse in about 60 days but there are a lot things that can blow it (i.e. our inspection shows something we can’t financially fix or the bank at the end backs out of the agreement). Keep your fingers and toes crossed that all goes well :>

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Proposal for the Senior Center

Friday I had one of those serendipitous events that sets your head spinning. Normally I embrace such events since I am a great believer in fate and destiny and deja vu and all that stuff. However, my last date with destiny did not turn out so well. So I'm approaching this one with caution not wanting to jinx it.

My cousin Brian and I have this thing about jinxing. Anytime we are having one of our betting competitions (baseball, football, Project Runway, whatever) we try to jinx each other by wishing each other luck. You are never allowed to get too confident about your own picks or you will jinx yourself and you never want to do that.

But serendipity makes me feel good so I was kind of walking around with a smile on Friday afternoon. I did resist the temptation to spend money on a pizza and ate the last of my depression food of the week which was made from scratch mac and cheese with tuna chunks in it. I don't need no stinkin' box to make mac and cheese even though I do think they had it during the depression. But more on depression style cooking in another post.

So here's what happened. It could be one small step for Karen, one giant leap for SeniorTech.

After getting busted at the grocery store for handing out flyers, I had to think of other places to do my marketing. I hung a flyer at the Burger Nook (and had a burger) and then headed over to the senior center. I asked the receptionist if I could leave a pile of flyers. She said no but I could put one on their bulletin board. Then I asked her if I could talk to the person in charge of scheduling their classes. I thought I'd build a little good will by volunteering to teach a couple of computer classes.

I had to wait to see the programs manager but when I finally did and told her who I was and what I did she was very excited. It seems that she is fairly new in the job (less than a year) and one of her priorities was to bring technology to the seniors. At the beginning of the year she got her new budget and was currently in the process of upgrading the computer labs at all four locations. She also said that they were currently using university students to teach the classes because they needed to do 20 hours of community service to graduate. The seniors weren't entirely comfortable with the students because they weren't very good at translating geekspeek into plain English or Spanish. If the seniors did get comfortable it didn't matter because after 20 hours they were gone.

So we had a lovely conversation and she invited me to submit a proposal for how many hours I would like to work and how much I would charge and exactly what kind of classes I would teach. I'm thinking very basic stuff like e-mail, using Google or selling and buying on Ebay. Digital photography is a big topic now and of course some people just want Windows 101 with things like cutting and pasting and keyboard shortcuts...and even something simple as using a mouse.

I told her I would have a proposal to her by next week and I will keep all you faithful blog readers apprised of my progress.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Plea for a Bailout

As part of my background information I thought I would upload my plea for a bailout that I recorded onto a video and sent to CNN. They approved it for play on TV but to my knowledge it never aired. It did get 252 hits on the CNN website.

I never did mail in the TARP application and I couldn't take it to Washington personally because my private jet was in the shop.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The WalMart Dilemna

When you are poor you become very familiar with WalMart.

It is Mecca, the Emerald City. The Shining Beacon on the hill. You are drawn to it and if you are to survive you must heed the call.

I hate WalMart.

My entire life in Chicago when I was making good money I managed to avoid WalMart. I did my discount shopping at "Tar-jhay" and that was as low as I would go thank you very much. Groceries were bought at Whole Foods where I could browse the olive bar and much samples of orange cranberry scones as I shopped. Electronics came from Best Buy, pads of paper and ink cartriges came from Office Max and clothes? Well they came from Nordstrom, Fields and J.Jill. The shopping choices were lush and with an American Express Gold Card and the cash to back it up at the end of the month, I tell you the living was easy.

Now everything (and I do mean everything) comes from WalMart.

It's become a Sunday morning pilgrimage. Why Sunday morning? Because in a quiet, religious town like Las Cruces, Sunday morning is the only reasonable time to shop there. Any other time of the week there are too many people, too many kids, too many carts blocking the aisles and too much noise.

Upon entering and taking a cart from the greeter I usually turn to the left and head for the grocery section. Our WalMart is a Supercenter so they have a full grocery department. And that is the root of why I feel compelled to shop there. Their prices are ridiculously low. Much lower than the regular grocery store. The same goes for "drugstore" items like toothpaste and Tylenol. Name brands are lower in price and if you opt for Great Value or Equate, the WalMart house brands you will really save money.

I know how they do it. CNBC had a great two-hour documentary on WalMart a few years ago. They use their size and reputation as leverage to force suppliers to give them huge discounts at the wholesale level. They're paying a lot less for that pallette of Tide than your neighborhood grocery store is. They are a lean, mean discounting machine and they are famous for wiping out every small company in its way. People who've lived here a while say they used to have several grocery stores from which to choose. Now only Albertsons hangs on to challenge them.

Now there are some items that WalMart doesn't carry that I can get at Albertsons but they are mostly expensive specialty items and I've pretty much cut them out of my diet like any good poor person would. Also, I refuse to buy meat there. They carry the lowest quality available for human consumption and that is where I draw the line. I'd rather eat less meat which is what I am doing.

Back inside the store I do my grocery shopping first. The produce is so so but no better or worse than Albertsons. We have a farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays but it's more crafts and chile peppers than anything else. So I may buy some fresh fruits and vegetables but only if I'm sure I'm going to use them right away. With the small amounts that I eat I'm better off with frozen veggies and these days they're just as nutritionally sound as fresh.

I avoid the bakery and the deli. The bakery has strange oversweetened pastries with bright pink and turquoise icing and forget about buying bagels. The closest decent bagel is at a deli I found in Truth or Consequences NM and that's about 75 miles away.

So I buy my basics. Pasta, cheese, eggs, cereal, ridiculously low prices.

And then it's time to peruse the rest of the store.

You should know that there are very few things you can't get at WalMart. This is one of the things that makes it so appealing. One stop shopping. So I start walking around the store and into the cart with the peanut butter and the Cheerios go things like a ream of printer paper, a mixing bowl, a couple of garden plants and a yellow hoodie.

Yes it's come to that. I'll admit it. I have bought clothing at WalMart. I got a pair of jeans there about a year ago and I love them. It's my little inside joke when I wear them with my expensive Sigrid Olsen sweaters (from better times). They cost me $15. Before I went on my cruise I found a pair of plain black flats for $10 that I spruced up with some rhinestone shoe clips I bought on Ebay.

So as much as it goes against my social consience to shop there, it has become a necessity in order to preserve what little money I have to live on.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jon Stewart totally Skewers the Economy

Check out Wednesday night's Daily Show. I think you can find it on the Daily show website. The whole show is about the economy and takes real swipes at CNBC. It's really funny and very appropriate.

As for me, I wanted to hand out flyers for Senior Tech since it was senior day at the grocery store, but they busted me and I couldn't do it. I'm going to look for community bulletin boards.

Oh and I just heard Terrell Owens was laid off by the Dallas Cowboys. I'm telling you it's rough out there.

More Background

I must say that if you're going to be a poor person, Las Cruces is a good place to be. The cost of living is way lower than most cities and while I admit that we're lacking in a few amenities, the internet allows me reasonable access to the rest of the world. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago I wouldn't be able to live here. I wouldn't be able to frugally keep in touch with friends and family not to mention keeping up with my Cubs, being able to buy obscure books, music and movies and finding like minded people to hang with.

And of course there's the weather. I might have a little trouble managing the electric bill when we get into those 100 degree days in June but my heating bills have been reasonable and there's something very mood lifting about being able to drive around with your sunroof open in February.

With the demise of my fitness club my primary task is to find a way to make money. Looking for a real job and getting back into the IT rat race is not very appealing. However, in this economy you must make maximum use of your skills and if your skills are in IT, you're going to be working in IT.

I decided to put a new twist on it. I did enjoy working with the over 50 crowd who came to the club and ever since 1994 when my dad (who was 80 at the time) came to me and said he wanted to get a computer. I learned how to translate geekspeak into plain English and most of all, I'm very patient.

So I started SeniorTech offering tech support and most of all instruction to people over 50. Seniors learn better one on one rather than in classes and I help them with things they don't teach in those classes like how to do Google searches or sell something on Ebay. They're all getting digital cameras now with no idea how to use them.

Early next week I will have a mailing to send out to my mailing list from my club. I have a few clients already and word is spreading. Also, today is Senior Discount Day at the grocery store so I'm going there this afternoon to hand out flyers.

Obviously it would be great if SeniorTech could support me completely but I have a feeling it won't, at least at the beginning so I'm also looking for a part time job, preferably one where I don't have to wear a paper hat. I've got feelers out there for all sorts of jobs from freelance writing to working at the Hobby Lobby. We will see what happens on that front.

So through this blog I will be reporting on these and all the issues that affect poor people like grocery and gas prices, healthcare, further education and politics.

Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lets Start with the Background

It is the 3rd of March, 2009. My business has been closed for two months now.

I'm going to give a synopsis of what happened in the first two months of the year.

January was awful. I tried to save my club and save money getting released from my lease by handing it over to a woman who said she would run it as an independent club and assume the rest of my lease in exchange for the equipment and furniture. She turned out to be a bit of a looney tune and backed out at the very last minute. I ended up having to settle with my landlord for cash and assets to avoid bankruptcy, liens, courts and all that bad stuff.

I could see their side because the same economy that knocked out my business would make it difficult for them to re-let the space. On the other hand they knew that basically I had nothing for them to sue me for and so any "bird in the hand" offer would be better than a lengthy court battle. I didn't want to take any chances since I do own property in Chicago with my cousin and couldn't risk them being able to seize that property.

To make a long story short, I am now freed of my business obligations and about to start a new life. But before I could start something new I needed to decompress and get rid of the stress and anxiety from the last few months.

So I promised myself a vacation. I took three weeks..longer than I've ever taken to travel and tried to leave all my worries behind. I drove to LA, got on a cruise ship to Hawaii, came back to LA and spent some time with my sister. Then I stopped in Arizona to see my beloved Cubs at spring training.

Now that I'm home I have some plans to support myself and decided to keep this record of my attempts to run a home-based business, maybe get a part time job and live like a poor person until I get back on my feet economically.

Unlike Rush Limbaugh, I hope that President Obama succeeds wildly with his economic recovery plan. It may be too late for my business but it would definitely help others.