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  • Right on your Money

    I'm always surprised when I find that one of the news agencies is doing something "real" with their webspace, namely providing truly valuable information for the average American that actually makes sense and is understandable.  Today I came across a new CNN dot com special report entitled Right On Your Money that feature a whole slew of great short articles and statistics that can really help Americans to get in touch with their place and their finances in the American economy and society.  The webspace is separated into convenient sections that recount everything from real life stories sent in from readers to quizzes and surveys about a variety of finanically-related topics.  Their section title Way of Life contains a large number of helpful articles that talk about planning healthy finances by starting now and thinking into the future for yourself, your retirement, and the education of your children.  My favorite part, and the part most Americans will likely enjoy the most, is the interactive special features that hit key topics that are specialized to the individual interests of particular people.  The one in particular on today's site was about learning how to diversify your investment portfolio by purchasing artwork.  It's not every day that people can really get helpful advice from qualified professionals on topics such as this without paying out tons of money for a personal financial advisor.  For the more technology-savvy American on the go, the website also offers podcasts that keep up with the newest ipod trends...since it seems like everyone and their grandmother has an ipod these days.  It would be great if more news sites and in particular financial sites for investments, banking, and personal finance would start to follow suit on this great idea that the news agencies are starting to implement.  Many folks would not think to visit the news agencies first in order to find out valuable information about these financial topics, but instead would visit the website of their bank or investment firm first.  They might be sorely sorry when they get there to find that the kinds of information contained there, while thorough and well-done, may very well be far over their heads in terms of coherence and content.  Many Americans want to know that dealing with their personal finances isn't something that is all too complicated for them to handle without the help of others  Americans want to be financially independent and able to make decisions for themselves about how they spend and save their money.  The information contained in Right on your Money is a great step to help them along such a path.  If you haven't had the chance to peruse the website, I really do encourage you to set aside a little bit of time, whether during breakfast in the morning or when you're relaxing for a few minutes after work in the evening, to sit down and take a look at what the site has to offer to you.  You might be surprised that what you find there really does pertain to the precise questions that you are asking about your personal finances.   

    Posted Feb 18 2008, 10:00 PM by christophergreen with 3 comment(s)
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  • Icy Damage

    For those of you who live in the Midwest like I do or in the Northeast like I used to, I'm sure that you are no stranger to being pounded by nasty storms several times through the winter months.  A lot of the time, these storms end up just being a lot of snow or even freezing rain that turns into a slushy mess when it hits the ground.  Either of those types of winter weather don't seem to be too terribly bad, but I'll tell ya that the weather that we've been having around these parts for about the last two weeks has been a nightmare.  Rather than having nice pretty snow or dealing with the slush, we have had two huge ice storms over the past week that have essentially crippled the small midwestern town that I live in.  The first storm was actually pretty shocking in that the precipitation was actually ice rather than freezing ice.  In just a matter of an hour, the town ended up with over a half inch of solid ice covering anything that was standing still.  Looking out onto the roads, it looked like a ghost town, because no one was out braving the roads (thankfully).  Just when everyone thought that it couldn't get worse, the ice covered power lines started to pull from the weight of the ice and the power was out for several hours during the late evening hours...all during the coldest month we have seen since I have lived here.  Luckily the power company (for once) assessed the damage quickly, and the electricity was returned for the most part within a couple hours...although it did continue to flicker quite a few times during the night as I heard from my cell phone beeping every time the power went off and on.  This kind of storm can not only be crippling in terms of people being able to get around but it can also be a major cost to the town for prevention, cleanup, and recovery.  The newspapers in town said that the combined total of salt and sand that was used in a three county radius exceeded two hundred tons.  That seems like just an extraordinary that I can hardly imagine, even having grown up in the lake effect snow country of central new york.  I can only imagine what things were like in the smaller towns even smaller than the one that I live in that dot central and southern indiana.  I would imagine that it is particularly scary for the folks who live in the hilly areas to the east and south of here who don't likely have much money to allot to sanding and salting or even plowing the roads.  I can only hope that people know to keep themselves off the roads and safe in their homes until something can be done about the travel safety issues.  As if that first storm wasn't enough, everything melted a few days later only to have a second storm where all the wetness and slush just froze it was and then was topped with ice once again.  Unfortunately that is how we stand now...stuck once again and at the mercy of the ice and the daily temperatures that we hope will at least reach a degree or two above freezing to get things somewhat melted so that people can move and use their cars once again.  My car for one is stuck in the parking space where it is with no hope of gaining the traction necessary to move it for at least a few more days until the temperatures rebound above freezing for a long enough time.  If you are out there reading this and have been hit by these storms...please keep yourselves safe and warm by staying home and not braving the roads!!! 

    Posted Feb 16 2008, 11:17 PM by christophergreen with 2 comment(s)
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  • Another Hallmark holiday

    Yes, that's right, it was really only less than two weeks ago that we celebrated another odd holiday in the United States.  As if one somewhat pointless holiday in the month of February wasn't enough, here we are again paying tribute to to Saint Valentine (for what I'm not sure) just a few days later.  Now, I don't want you to go thinking that I'm some bitter single person, because that's really not it at all.  I just don't get why it's necessary to have a day to celebrate romance, since in theory, if you're actually in love or in a good relationship, you should be celebrating your romance very day.  You really shouldn't need another day to forget about, like birthdays and anniversaries, where you can just as easily get yourself in trouble for not remembering or not getting a gift.  I suppose that certain commercial business in the United States and perhaps around the world really rely on holidays like Valentines Day.  I question the "around the world" part, because I honestly don't know if folks in other countries celebrate Valentines Day, and I also don't have much energy to go looking stuff like that up today.  I think that businesses like Hallmark would be absolutely devastated if certain holidays like Valentines, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and maybe even Halloween were not celebrated as extensively as they are.  Of course, there are others like grandparents day, secretaries day, and who knows what other ridiculous holidays like arbor day that they probably make decent money off of as well.  I suppose that I might be old fashioned in this regard, but I think that holidays should really celebrate something significant that we don't necessarily get a chance to celebrate on a regular basis.  Take Labor Day for there is a real holiday...and a truly American one at that.  How often do we really get a chance to step back and think about how grateful we are to the American work force?  That's right...not too often...perhaps just on September 3rd of each year.  Memorial Day, 4th of July, President's Day, Veterans Day...OK, those fly in my book.  Even Thanksgiving is somewhat marginal, since we should be giving thanks for things every single day.   But then you get these other intervening holidays that make no sense.  People even go as far as to celebrate the equinoxes and things like April Fool's Day.  Why bother?  As much as I love being an American most of the time, I honestly don't understand some of our holidays and our customs.  I'm sure that I'll probably be strung out to dry talking about all this stuff, but I'm going for it anyways.  I just seriously doubt that most people in America, particularly people my age and young, don't even have an idea about what the holidays that we celebrate are really about.  Most of them just find them as opportunities to take time off of school or work.  Most people don't even appreciate celebrating Easter or Christmas anymore, owing to the fact that fewer and fewer Americans identify and/or practice Christianity.  Alas, this is what we have, and it doesn't look like anyone is doing much to change it...not that it necessarily needs to be changed.  Sure, celebrate some German tradition about a groundhog seeing it's shadow, but don't make a big deal out of it.  Most people in American don't understand it anyways.

    Posted Feb 14 2008, 11:08 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • The expense of chocolate

    I have to admit that I'm quite stunned and a little bit shocked to have just learned some facts about chocolate production that I am sure not many people are aware of.  I happened to be clicking through the CNN dot com business section as I do just about every day, when I came across a headline titled "the human cost of chocolate".  Well, since I like I'm sure that many of you do, I was intrigued by the headline and decided to go in for a closer look.  I was surprised to encounter a slide show documenting the process of chocolate production as it stands in countries of West Africa where the majority of the world's chocolate supply comes from.  While we often think of child labor issues in south eastern and eastern Asia, very rarely do we hear talk about the conditions concerning child labor in African countries.  As an Africanist by trade, stories like these are especially shocking, considering the fact, as the article details, nothing is being done to combat the practices.  As it turns out, the cocoa beans that are harvested in West Africa make up nearly three-quarters of the world's supply.  The people who are harvesting these beans for the rest of the world are just young children who are living and operating under terrible conditions and getting paid close to nothing for their efforts.  The pictures provided in the slide show are absolutely shocking as they reveal the squalorous conditions that families live in who work on the cocoa plantations in several countries in the forest areas of West Africa.  While it may be true that the majority of Africa is lacking in modern technologies and resources in comparison to many other places around the world, the conditions displayed in these photographs reveal a truly unacceptable and inhumane situation.  The pictorial captions tell a story focused on the child of poor plantation workers who are forced to move their families away from areas that have a ready supply of food and other necessities.  On account of this distance from towns and villages, the children are forced to work alongside their parents on the plantations rather than being afforded the opportunity to go to school.  Another shocking fact about the chocolate producing industry is the payment structure and how it affects the workers who are trying desperately to survive with their families by working in these conditions.  The cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast for example is funded by a non-government organization or NGO which, for a slew of reasons is not responsible for paying wages directly to the cocoa plantation workers.  They instead outsource their payments to yet another non-government organization that provides wages, shelter, and food for the worker.  Where there is a middle man however, there always appears to be a reassignment or realignment of funds, not to mention funds used up in the transfer to fund the second group.  Once again, the plantation workers are suffering at the hands of these NGOs on many levels.  What can we possibly do but sit idly by in these situations?  It seems as though things are so far out of the hands of the average American who feels so strongly against unacceptable child labor practices elsewhere around the globe.  I personally feel nearly helpless to be able to even speak up about the situation, but not surely not as helpless as those poor families and their children who are forced to work in such terrible conditions to satisfy the decadent taste buds of chocolate lovers around the world. 

    Posted Feb 12 2008, 09:52 PM by christophergreen with 2 comment(s)
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  • Things students need to know

    Did any read some of the bigger headlines today in the news about personal finances and loans?  If not, I'm here to tell you about it...and heads up to all of you student out there, graduate, undergraduate, postgraduate...this is all about student loans.  Student loans are one of those mysteries that everyone has to deal with but has no idea about until a long time after you get them.  When students are applying to school, lenders make it seem like getting a student loan is the easiest and most pain-free process that you could possibly go through.  They fail to tell you about all the hoops that you have to jump through with financial aid offices, university bursars, loan counseling, signing promissory notes, and the kicker...paying them back sooner rather than later.  I suppose that if you are anything like I was when I was going to school, you probably don't know and/or care much about loans because all you want to do is get away from home and start a new life at college.  I wanted so little to do with my university student loans that I made sure that my mother took care of just about all of the technicalities, right down to communicating back and forth from New York to Florida when financial aid office needed to be called for one thing or another.  It may sound immature, but it's the truth, and I know for a fact that I am not in the minority on this point.  One of the biggest problems that a lot of kids face for school loans is the money that their own parents make.  When you first start out in college or at a university, most students don't have much credit if any at all, and when you apply for your loans, all the lenders want to know is how much your parents make each year so that they can co-sign for you.  What the lenders and the federal government fail to understand is that a lot of students going off to college don't have parents who want to participate in their education or college experience.  Be that as it may, students often end up getting the short end of the stick if they have parents who make a decent amount of money but who have no interest in helping to fund their child's education.  This leaves them uneligible for a lot of loan funding and other sources of aid, while it still leaves them with an enormous college tuition bill...not to mention needing money for everything else.  Heaven forbid that these students should go out of state!  I was in somewhat of a similar boat as what I've described, however not quite as bad.  My parents had a decent amount of income, but since I was going out of state and I was the first person in my family to go to college, we went about the situation all wrong.  My parents thought student loans were great and opted to have me take out more in loans rather than providing me with anything out of pocket to go to school, even though the mystery "estimated family income" number was pretty high in my case.  What I didn't have covered in scholarships, I got loans for, and I even worked for three years while in undergrad.  End of story, I am sitting on a good amount of student loans from undergrad, but now that I'm in graduate school, I haven't paid for a thing.  You just never really know how things are going to work out.  I surely know plenty of people in my own department in the graduate program who are still paying for their own education via loans.  I have always said that if you have to pay for your graduate education wherever you are, you are surely at the wrong school.  You should be good enough that they want to pay for you to be there.  If you aren't the right material for one program, you should definitely look for another one.  It gets worse when kids who are very smart but simply can't afford the extras of living in a big city for school have to take out extra loans to go out top of tuition.  I know several people who come out of medical or law school with nearly one hundred thousand dollars in loans to pay off...all in ten years.  I'm very thankful that my situation isn't quite that bad...but I'm sure that I won't be a happy camper when I have to start paying things back full force in another few years.  Hopefully I'll have a great job where I can afford to live comfortably while still paying big payments on my loans. 

    Posted Feb 10 2008, 09:57 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Changes at the coffee house and beyond

    I was so very excited to read in the news today that Starbucks is dropping its service as a T-Mobile hotspot in favor of free internet access for its customers.  Let's just say that it's about time that they decided to take exactly this step!  Out of all the coffee houses that I have gone to at home, in Florida, and here in Indiana, the only place that I've been to where I've ever even had to consider paying money for internet access has been at Starbucks.  The odd part about this, as I'm sure that you have all figured out, is that Starbucks makes the most money out of all these places (perhaps even combined) but yet we have to pay for six dollar an hour internet access on top of paying four dollars for a coffee.  I honestly never go to Starbucks to do work unless I know that I am just going to be writing a paper or working on an assignment where I know that there is no chance that I will need to have access to the internet.  While I prefer the coffee at Starbucks compared to some of the other places in town, I surely would much rather sacrifice my coffee preference for not having to worry about dealing with not having the internet at my disposal when I need to look up a reference or find an article electronically from the library.  So while this sounds all well and good, there is a little bit of a catch.  The article that I read stated that Starbucks is pushing this new "free internet" program, but while this is true, the internet is only free for your particular computer for two hours per day.  I find this a little odd to start out with, mainly because they wouldn't have a way of tracking such a thing inexpensively.  I imagine that what they are doing is assigning a network key password to each customer, most likely on their receipt that will expire in two hours.  I then imagine that if you want more time, you would have to purchase another least this is what makes sense to me and what I have seen other coffee houses do in the past.  I suppose that I will have to go and try things out and report back to all of you how the system works, because after all this is a very important technological development in the eyes of student like myself, as well as others who like to take their work with them to the coffee house when they have a hankering for some caffeine.  I like to take advantage of one of the seven Starbucks locations in my town which happens to be in the student union on my university's campus.  With this particular setup, we can have access to all that delicious coffee as well as to a lot of space to work and unlimited speedy wireless internet for everyone with a university network identification number on their computer.  As if this new technological advance wasn't great enough (or at least a step in the right direction), the same article that I read also reports that certain airline are toying around with the idea of offering free in-flight wireless internet access for their customers.  What an amazing difference that would make for air travel.  People traveling on business and students who need to get work done would make an enormous amount of progress by being able to use the internet while on long flights.  Of course I can see where obvious problems might pop up with this whole situation, because the airlines would have to implement some safeguards against certain kinds of unsavory materials from being used or viewed while on flights.  I suppose though that it is not much different than when people have their own personal unsavory material on their laptops during flights.  I would expect and hope that common courtesy and intelligence would win out in the situation.  Either way, just to know that airlines are now considering this change is a real step in the right direction once again.  I know that they have been talking for years about allowing limited cellular phone use on airlines, but I would have a much larger problem with implementing a program like that than having wireless internet access.  The last thing that I want to hear on a long flight is people yacking on and on for hours right behind my head while I'm trying to relax.  Here's hoping that the airlines and the Starbucks executives keep to their current plans to move forward with their technological advances! 

    Posted Feb 08 2008, 09:30 PM by christophergreen with 1 comment(s)
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  • Ten 4 Ten

    Sometimes going shopping for groceries can be a whole lot of fun...especially when things that you want to buy are on sale.  The situation gets even better when things that you really really like that usually are way too expensive to buy for normal groceries are on sale.  You know what is eeeeven better than that???...when those on sale expensive things are so on sale that they are part of the "ten for ten" program at the store.  As you have surely guessed, I went grocery shopping last, and much to my enjoyment, I found that my store had once again implemented its ten for ten program where a significant number of items throughout the store are on sale for an entire week, ten items for one dollar each...hence the ten for ten.  Back when I worked at this grocery over the Summer last year, I learned that the ten for ten program was something that the company was experimenting with for the Summer months, but that they were not sure if this type of incentive pricing was going to stick around after the trial period.  I was so pleased to find out that after about six months now that the promotion is back in full swing.  I felt much like the proverbial "kid in a candy store" last night as I went from aisle to aisle to discover a lot of my favorite products when part of this promotion.  One of my favorite snack slash breakfast foods in the whole world that I got used to eating at a good price when I lived in Florida was mangoes.  The problem with mangoes is that they are perfect for eating for a very limited time, so when you purchase them up here, they are either far too unripe or just plain mushy.  They are also very difficult to tell when one is ripe or it's always a toss-up for me to tell if I'm going to get a good one or not.  Well, this week, mangoes are on the ten for ten promotion, and most of them look pretty perfect to eat right away.  At a dollar a piece, I can afford to give it a go and to have mangoes for breakfast for the next couple of days.  Other things that are on the ten for ten promotion are bricks of cheese, yogurts, canned vegetables, and other such things that folks like me use all the time.  If you don't know about it already, I would definitely encourage you to ask someone at your local grocery store about what they special promotions are, even if they aren't every week.  You could really save yourself a lot of money by knowing these things or even putting them on a calendar so that you know when the ads change and can plan your shopping around it.  If you're really into being a frugal shopper, you can essentially shop around for the sale changes at all your local grocery stores.  That way your calendar can be full of price saving opportunities to take advantage of several times throughout the week.  Then, you can get the sale advertisment flyers from the various stores and plan out what stores you need to get to for certain products and then find who is generally cheaper for the other non-sale items that you're going to need to get.  It might sound like a lot of work, but with just a little bit of extra effort, you can probably save yourself a good amount of money each week by shopping for least enough money to make it worth your while.  On the other hand, I totally understand if you're like me and extend your loyalties for grocery shopping only to one store.  I think that this stems for the fact that I actually worked at the grocery store and have thus grown to dislike the other rival stores around town.  I will only go to shop at them if absolutely necessary or if they have a sale on a more generic product that I just can't pass up.  

    Posted Feb 05 2008, 10:39 AM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Not fine with fines

    I remember back when I was growing up that my parents never really brought my brother and me to the public library.  We had one of the best public library systems in the state as far as I was told, but looking back now, it really wasn't all that great.  Because my parents never brought us to the library, I never had the responsibility of having a library card to check things out.  That all ending when I was in eighth grade when my class took a field trip downtown to see all the historic buildings, among which was the city galleries that included the main branch of the city public library system.  I saw that many of my classmates had library cards and were checking out books, so I decided that it was high time that I got one as well.  I had something in my bookbag proving my mailing address, and just five minutes later I had myself a library card, and I was off to the stacks to pick out things to borrow.  In the midst of all this, it never dawned on me about the whole deal about returning the books by a particular time and how that might prove to be difficult since I was only 15 years old and didn't have a car or a driver's license.  I forgot that depending my parent's for things like that wasn't so easy either.  Nonetheless, I got what I wanted (which I recall I never read) and heading back.   The books sat in my room, and I lost track of time, and it wasn't until the notice came in the mail announcing that the three books were far overdue that I panicked.  The maximum penalty for late fees at the library in those days was five dollars...per book.  I would have an issue paying fifteen dollars now for late fees, so as you can imagine, I was horrified at the prospect of coming up with fifteen dollars when I was so young.  That meant that I was either going to have to talk my parents into paying it, or I was going to have to mow my grandparent's lawn three times.  One way or the other, I paid the fine, and vowed that I would never use the public library again...a vow that I believe that I kept until I was past my undergraduate years down in Florida.  I had heard somewhere along the way that the public library in my city had an extensive compact disc collection with lots of classical cds that I could borrow, burn, and add to my collection.  I went and got myself a library card once again and picked up a pile of compact discs to check out.  You would have thought that almost ten years later I would have learned my lesson, but two weeks later, I got an email letting me know that the cds were all late.  In that day and age, with electronically-generated emails to tell you things were late, I didn't end up making the same mistake as I did years before.  I immediately jumped in the car and brought the cds in to be returned and paid the fine immediately.  The kicker is that, once again, I never even listened to the discs that I had borrowed.  Now that I'm up here in Indiana with an enormous campus library at my fingertips, I haven't yet had the chance to even visit the public library to see what it's all about.  In a way, I'm avoiding going in there, because I'm sure that I'll have the urge to borrow something, and then once again forget to bring it back and have to pay a fine.  I realized that I never have run into this problem in the school libraries with bringing materials back late, because I end up at the library several times a week, and I actually have to use the materials that I borrow all the time.  I've come close a few times to forgetting to return my materials, but I always manage to catch the online renewal date right on time.  Nowadays, I get a little bit nervous, because I'm borrowing a lot of books for my research through interlibrary loan, and the penalties for late fees are assessed by both the borrowing and lending libraries, so it would end up being a double whammy if I forget to return those.  I need to start tying a string around my finger every time I go to the library!

    Posted Feb 03 2008, 04:29 PM by christophergreen with 2 comment(s)
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  • One month down, eleven to go

    I can hardly believe that it's already February!  Even harder to believe is that I've lived in Indiana for eighteen months, and that I am so much happier here than I ever was when I lived down in Florida.  While I wouldn't trade my time down in Florida for anything, it always amazes me that things are so different in my life up here.  So, with one twelfth of the year already over and done with, I wonder to myself (and to all of you) if things are on track for me.   And to you all, I ask you...are things on track for you thus far?  It's really a difficult time to gauge as far as I'm concerned.  I mean, at one month into the year, what exactly is there to reflect on so far?  I suppose that we can effectively revisit our New Year's resolutions and see how they are holding up, if at all.  We've had an entire month to deal with them, and I shudder to think how many of us have actually kept up with them.  I guess that, as far as money goes, it's pretty difficult to gauge the year on the first of February, since we have that huge tax deadline looming ahead of us.  I know that I personally dread the day that I gather everything together from the preceding year and head over to get my taxes done.  I more or less have to psych myself up to do it, because I know, no matter what happens, that I'm going to walk out of there a pretty unhappy guy.  I remember the good old days when I was essentially a "kid" and I would do my taxes.  I always got a pretty decent event that has slowly drifted away to a point where I'm almost totally sure that I'm going to owe Uncle Sam some extra dough this year round.  It's scary to think that this subject of paying taxes is really the only thing that will be on my mind over the next couple of months in the realm of financial things.  I remember dreading going to get my taxes done last year, and honestly, I dread it even more this time around.  I know for a fact that there is a very successful musical production that has been on broadway that ends with the line "except for death and paying taxes, ever thing in life is only for now."  How very appropriate for how I feel right at this moment while sitting on my couch during a rainstorm thinking about the beginning of two thousand and eight.  While the main concern on my mind is that the lightning is going to cause my power to go out and that I'll lose this entire post, it really is rather ridiculous to think that paying taxes is one thing that we know will keep us on track from year to year.  It never will go away, and it may or may not get worse for us as time rolls on.  Maybe it's one of those things that we need to put on our "take it day by day" list.  As soon as we finish paying taxes one year, we know that it's only going to be another three hundred sixty-five days until we have to pay them why fret about something that we know is essentially inevitable.  Being a natural born "fretter", I just can't help myself, but then I wonder how other average Americans get by in these months before the tax deadline.  For once, I find myself at a real loss for some words of wisdom for the situation.  Being a young man of only twenty-seven years, having to worry about taxes on a real level is not something that I've had to deal with extensively thus far in my life.  Sure, I've been paying my taxes for several years now, but it's only recently that I have come to appreciate the burden that annual taxation really causes on the American public.  I have never really taken the time to sit down and consider what it's all about and how the formulae work for taxation, but judging from what I get back versus what I end up paying into taxes, I'm sure that I wouldn't understand or appreciate the intricacies of it anyways.  At some point I'd really like to know more about it, but I think that for the time being, I'll just keep myself occupied with knowing that I have to get them paid over the next two and a half months.

    Posted Feb 01 2008, 12:44 AM by christophergreen with 1 comment(s)
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  • Car Prices and Gas Prices

    Several news headlines over the past couple of days have started to really highlight the interconnectedness of the global community when it comes to key resources like petroleum and consumer goods like automobiles for example.  We all know that there has been an upsurge in the prevalance of small and very inexpensive cars around the world in recent years, a trend that is just now starting to surface in the United States.  One thing that it seems that not many Americans tend to think about is how these cheaper cars are going to affect the price of gasoline.  Most experts in economics and finance tend to suggest to that this new surge of interest in smaller and less expensive vehicles is going to cause the price of gasoline to surge even high than it has been in recent years.  It hurts a little bit to talk about a gasoline price surge in terms of years, but facts are facts any way you look at them.  So how does this interconnectedness work?...I'm glad that you asked.  It's actually pretty simple if you take a moment to consider what is really going on.  People in the developed world, and therefore the people who buy the most cars, are buying less expensive cars that often tend to be smaller.  That means that gas tanks are small, and often fuel economy is better in these cars and they may used alternative non-petroleum fuels one way or the other as well.  Such a trend in the eyes of the petroleum-producing world is somewhat devastating.  These companies have held the lion's share of the world's interest for years and years, solely because they've held the monopoly on oil, which every seems to need one way or the other.  By purchasing these new and smaller cars, it is essentially forcing the petroleum producers to re-evaluate their costs and profits and to ultimately charge more per gallon for gasoline so that they can continue to make the money that they have been making.  For those of us with regular cars that are not smaller, less expensive, or using alternative fuel sources, we will be the ones who are going to hurt most from these changes.   On the flip side of the coin, gasoline prices can be pushed higher for yet another reason.  Since vehicles are now becoming less expensive, people who would not be otherwise able to purchase cars for themselves will not be able to do so.  That means that the demand for gasoline and other petroleum products is going to continue to climb sky high.  In places like India and China, where many people have not been able to afford cars, the increase in the number of cars purchased and gallons consumed even on a daily basis is going to start climbing dramatically.  In either of the two scenarios, it just does not look good for the average American.  I know that I personally don't have the extra money to be throwing into my gas tank every week.  Luckily, living in a small town and being able to take public transportation every day to and from school, I don't have to worry about it all that much.  I think of people like my brother and mother who have to commute to work every day, and I shudder to think what kind of an effect such a hike in prices will end up having on them.  Forecasts show that in places that are already prone to high gasoline prices and high taxes, prices could sneak up to around five dollars per gallon by the end of 2008.  That is some serious money for a tank of gasoline!

    Posted Jan 30 2008, 12:54 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • A strong turn out

    Some of you might recall from a couple of weeks ago that I wrote a post talking about my excitement over plans for a community night sponsored by one of our local restaurants on behalf of one of the groups that I'm in on campus.  Well, it's been a little bit of time now, and I realized that I had forgotten to give you the update and the play by play.  All in all, the evening was a great success.  Sure, it was on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and it was absolutely freezing, but barring those two things from consideration, everything was very nice.  From our group alone, we had twenty-six people show up.  Group members brought friends and significant others, and even a few professors showed up to buy food to bring home to their families.  In addition to our people, there were also about thirty additional folks who came in to have dinner.  It was nice to see that the table tent advertisements that I had made and brought over to the restaurant the week before were all out and prominently displayed.  I don't know how much good they did, but at least people saw our names.  As I mentioned in my post a while back, it was a great deal for our group, because the restaurant ended up giving us ten percent of the proceeds from all purchases for the four hour time slot, rather than just from our own people.   For a freezing monday night holiday, we ended up with just over sixty dollars...and while that's not a ton of money, it's surely sixty dollars more than we walked in there with.  The day afterwards, the manager of the restaurant gave me a call to give me the total amount that we had made and to invite us to have another community with them in the future...something that I think is a great idea.  I personally enjoy going to that particular restaurant, so if I can go there once a month and have part of my money benefit my group, than that sounds like a good plan to me.  I think also that now that people are aware of what it's all about and how things work that they will be apt to spread the word of the next community night around to other departments and in their classes, rather than just relying on the fliers that I printed out and put up to spread the word.  I did see in the comments from my last post about this subject that some folks left suggestions for other fundraising ideas.  Thank you thank you thank you!!!  Those are really very good suggestions, and things that I will be sure to bring up to the other officers at the next meeting.  One thing that we are trying to get going over the next semester is a used book sale.  Being at a university, we seem to amass a whole bunch of books, both fiction and nonfiction from professors and graduate students when they leave, retire, graduate, move offices, and we have just boxes and boxes of these books sitting in closets collecting dust.  I'm sure that there are people around in this town who would like to go through the boxes and find some new reading material for themselves.  If we can get even fifty cents a book for what we're going to sell...once again, we might not make a ton of money, but it will be worth surely more than having closets full of these books that no one is getting any use out of.  As my grandfather used to tell me when I would end up working on any number of fundraising products for sports or teams or music organizations back when I lived at home...every little bit counts.  It's totally applicable, particularly in situations like my group at school where we are operate in a non-profit manner just to keep the club running, but I think that people tend to forget it.  People want a lot of money in a short amount of time with minimal effort, and thus they often dismiss the easy ways to make a little bit of money.  That's just being foolish if you ask me...take what you can get when it doesn't take too much to get it!

    Posted Jan 28 2008, 07:24 PM by christophergreen with 1 comment(s)
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  • And you thought it couldn't get lower...

    Anyone who reads my financial blog on any type of regular basis knows that I have a big problem with WalMart.  It's the people who shop there, the people who work there, the environment itself, and particularly the products.  The one redeeming quality that I have begun to notice with WalMart though is that the groceries that it carries at its super centers are actually of decent quality while they remain inexpensive.  Sure, I can't seem to bring myself to buy meat products there, and because it is on the other side of town from where I live, I don't there often, but if I happen to be out that way for one reason or another, I will at least stop in to see what is on sale.  It happens to be a great place to pick up bulk packages of toilet paper, paper towels, soda, or even beer and chips for a party or a football game.  Their vision center is allright I guess, but just allright.  So, my biggest complaint about WalMart is the quality of its products.  It seems like no matter what you want to get, whether is the poorly made clothing, the cardboard furniture, or the or dusty candles or office supplies, there is just nothing that is quality about it.  It's the classic case of getting what you've paid for, and because of that I just can't see paying anything for trash.  I would much rather pay extra money, as I've said so many times, to get something worth what I paid for it.  I think that the only thing that I go to WalMart to purchase on a regular basis is socks, undershirts, and underwear.  It's the cheapest place to find fruit of the loom and hanes brand products, and since they are already packed up in plastic, I don't have to be concerned about the dirty folks who might have tried them on or handled them before me.  Just to be safe, I always wash everything before wearing it, even though it comes in plastic.  So, as I was reading through the news today, I was entirely surprised to see the headline advertising that WalMart is now going to "slash" their prices even more.  Some products that the megastore sells are going to be reduced up to thirty percent...a discount that seems almost impossible to comprehend.  If what you are paying for now can't get you decent quality, what are you possibly going to get for thirty percent less on the dollar?  I almost shudder to think what the products will be like and what kinds of folks will rush to purchase them.  Another question that I would like to pose concerns who WalMart as a corporation is going to be able to afford a thirty percent cut on so many of its products.  From what I recall in the news in recent months, the company hasn't been doing all that well anyways, with little mini scandals popping up from time to time.  It seems very surprising that they are going to start cutting prices, unless of course they think that cutting prices is going to start to drive business away from rival stores like Target and KMart.  Forget KMart for the moment, but they are going to have to do a lot more than cut prices to get people away from the much higher quality items that Target sells.  I think that rather than cut prices, they should do something about the atmosphere of the shopping experience to start with.  Train the sales associates to be able to help customers rather than just stand around and gossip.  Concentrate a little bit on business image and solidarity...maybe even require a dress code of sorts.  Any of these things could really help to enhance the image that the company stores portray to the public.  Gosh, I think that I could come up with a list of about a dozen things that the corporation executives at WalMart could do to help out the stores without taking a huge price cut like thirty percent.  And why thirty percent for that matter?  Why not ten percent, fifteen percent,...thirty percent is a lot of money.  Apparnetly someone somewhere at their corporate offices decided that thirty is the magic number...but then again, if the people running the corporate offices have made the decisions they have made thus far for the company, I can't imagine they are folks who are all that intelligent anyways.  I guess only time will tell how their thirty percent price cut fares for them in the future.  While I wish them well (I think), I don't understand how it's going to work. 

    Posted Jan 26 2008, 06:11 PM by christophergreen with 5 comment(s)
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  • Why I can't have nice things

    As someone who used to be somewhat of a real dancer when I was in high school and undergrad, I sure can be a big ole lummox sometimes.  I just finally got my package of Christmas things that wouldn't fit in my suitcase to come back on the plane, and it was truly like opening my Christmas gifts all over again.  I had forgotten that I got a set of four beautiful crystal glasses from my cousins, and I was anxious to put them to good use.  After being extremely careful with them in their initial rinsing, I set them out to dry.  A while later this afternoon, I decided that I would try them out, and went to the freezer to get some ice to make a nice frosty beverage.  As I placed the first ice cube in the glass I heard a funny sound, but thinking that it was simply the ice reacting to the drastic change in temperature from the freezer to the ambient temperature in my kitchen, I thought nothing of it at first.  When I dropped the second ice cube in the glass however, I realized that the first cube didn't move.  I then reached my fingers inside the glass to move the first cube, and craaaaacckk, that was it.  The ice cube had frozen to the condensation still on the inside of the glass, and as I moved it way, the glass came with it.  Not even in my house for a day, and I've already broken one quarter of my Christmas gift.  I just stood stunned for several minutes staring at the small piece of glass that I had ripped away from the inside of the receptacle, incredulous at what I had just so unknowingly done.  I couldn't help but to hear my mother's voice ringing in my head from when my brother and I broke something apparently valuable when we were kids..."this is why we can't have nice things"...and now it really makes a lot of sense.  I would never have gone out and spent the money on myself to buy such beautiful glasses.  But being extremely grateful and happy to have such lovely items as part of my kitchen, it made me all the more upset that I finally get something very nice and then I go and break it.  I could just kick myself.  On the other hand, it made me laugh, because it's usually my roommate and not me who ends up breaking whatever nice things we end up getting in the house.  He ended up breaking one of our new plates when we moved within the first few days that we lived in Indiana.  That is not to mention, of course, the countless glasses, and our new food processor that he broke on the first use.  I often wonder if the two of us would be better off using the WalMart brand cookware with plastic cups that we have collected from our numerous Taco Bell value meals.  At least when we melt those in the dishwasher, we really won't be out but the few dollars spent on another delicious dinner of three soft tacos with a diet pepsi.  I wish I could say that we try to be careful with things in our house, but then again, we just grow so lenient and accustomed to not worrying about it from having cruddy furniture and other items in the house when we were younger.  Now that we are growing up and spending our money on nicer things to make our home a nicer one, we've encountered tough habits to break.  I might just have to ask my cousins where they got my Christmas gift glasses so that I can go back and buy another set of two so that I can re-complete my set...and besides, that way, when I make the same mistake next time and break another one, I'll already have a backup glass ready to replace it with.  So with that, I say to my're absolutely's stupid mistakes like these, non-intentional ones at that, that are the reason why I can't have nice things. 

    Posted Jan 24 2008, 10:31 PM by christophergreen with 1 comment(s)
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  • Good days and bad days

    Sometimes there are just those days where nothing seems to go right, or even the days where everything is just fine one minute and then an absolute mess the next minute.  You guessed it...that was my day today.  I don't know why, but nothing seemed to go right for school or otherwise.  I spent nearly the entire time that the sun was out up on campus for one reason or another.  Errands before two classes, then the classes themselves, then working with a professors, a talk, a trip to the library, and then finally home to try and warm up.  Before I go any further, I'm sure that the frigid temperatures are one of the main causes of my mid-winter misery.  I just can't function when the temperature is at low as it has been the past few days.  I think that all of my processes shut down or just get really slow as my body attempts to shiver itself to warmness.  Either way, I got home and realized that I was not going to be able to get anything done until I got some food in my stomach.  I tend to forget to eat on days where I don't have a real break between my commitments.  I had fully intended to bring myself lunch, but in the morning when I'm barely awake and trying to get out of the door quickly to catch the bus, lunch isn't exactly the first thing on my mind.  Without any breakfast or lunch, I was gosh darn hungry, but without free time, there isn't a chance to go to the grocery store, so I looked into my refridgerator much to my despair to discover that we really didn't have much of anything that was ready to be eaten.  Sure, the freezer is jam packed with tons of meat and vegetables, but of course they are frozen, and defrosting things take time and effort on my part.  All I really wanted was I decided to re-bundle myself and head off to the grocery store.  What a mistake that was.  I finally got what I needed while attempting to beat the dinner time rush.  I got all the way to the cashier line, and of course...someone forgot his wallet.  Yup, that's right...this guy right here.  Luckily, it was the store that I had worked in over the summer, so there were no hard feelings about my lack of debit card.  I decided then and there that there was going to be no way that I would go home to get my wallet and come back.  I volunteered to return my items to the various places in the store and just resolved that it was a perfect night for some quick and unhealthy...but delicious taco bell.  I don't know why I didn't think of that in the first place.  There are plenty of things on the menu there that aren't terribly bad for you, especially if you are operating on negative calories for the day.  So, long story short...having eaten and gotten home, I realized that I was going to have to go back to the store tomorrow, because I'm still combatting this no food in the house thing.  If I could just get a few hours in a row off from having anything that I'm committed to doing, that would really be extremely helpful.  If anyone out there wants to give me a hand in planning that, it would be greatly appreciate.  I mean seriously, I've been trying to find time to go and get my hair cut for almost two weeks now, and luck just does not seem to be one my side with this one.  I'm going to end up being a shaggy mess.  Sure, I'm saving myself about twenty dollars by not getting it cut, but I'll just spend the twenty dollars elsewhere.  When I get tired and busy, my monetary self control just gives out because my will power is being spent making sure my school work gets done on time.  Hopefully tomorrow will be calmer (and warmer!). 

    Posted Jan 22 2008, 10:09 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • What's not in the news?

    As a person who reads the news online and otherwise multiple times per day, I'm usually shocked at the amount and type of information that has some merit that never makes it into mainstream news.  When I think of mainstream news, I try to keep in mind that not everyone lives in major cities with major newspaper, so mainstream news in my mind is the local newspaper, the internet, and the evening or eleven o'clock newcasts.  If you ever have the chance to sit for a few extra minutes after reading up on the news that we have readily available to us, you should take a moment to look at some of the other major international news agency, the most famous of which is probably the British Broadcasting Company.  A simple comparison of what is important in the news on their website, compared to that of CNN, MSNBC, or (heaven forbid) Fox News will shed some light on what we are missing in America.  I was shocked and surprised to see the latest addtion to the CNN news website's news line up.  Rather than spending the money to expand real news or make the news broadcasts and reporting of higher quality, they have recently implemented a new column called "Funny News".  It's no wonder the rest of the world thinks that we are a bunch of low IQ mouth breathers.  Who cares about the many gaffs of various police forces around the country or what blind three-legged poodle rescued a child from a puddle?  I venture the guess that this is the news agency's last ditch effort to get kids to read and to expand their readership to younger ages.  I personally feel that they are missing the mark.  Rather than giving young and less educated folks "funny" stuff to read, adopt the idea of the BBC and provide watered-down version of the top "real" news stories.  Remove the technical jargon, the fancy prose, and the tricky lexicon.  Give them something they can actually read and understand, rather than "funny" stories written in the same manner that they still won't be able to read.  It's really a pretty disgusting situation and attempt to gain readership if you ask me.  Another way to be able to prove to yourself the severity of the downward spiral of the America news media is to watch a news broadcast in another language.  In most places around the United States, we have access through either television or the radio to newcasts from around the world or even locally in other languages.  It's absolutely fascinating to hear the take that foreign reports have on the various "important" news stories.  These reports are not caught up (as much) in the politics of the political debates or with various scandals in American business that detracts from what is important to the American people.  Foreign reports, at least in my experience, tend to report closer to the facts when they are covering international stories, and there is a lot that we can learn from them.  In particular, listening to an international news broadcast gives a new perspective on what we, as a country, are portraying to the rest of the world inasmuch as those reporters have snatched it up to report on it.  See for yourself...I'm really not joking! 

    Posted Jan 20 2008, 07:28 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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