Nov 26, 2014

KC 'Cocks and More

Shuttlecocks, of course.

I was bored silly on my prior three visits to Kansas City.  Kept thinking either I'm doing something wrong or this town got nothin'.  We drove down last month for a 2 day to rub out another and determine if this town can bring it.

Learned I was doing it all wrong before...we loved this visit.

Curls is a hardcore planner.
I'm the opposite and prefer being lightly prepared but making real-time decisions.  Too many variables, and modifiers always crop up that jack the plan.
This opposition drives us bonkers.
She mapped the itinerary, but I messed it with some game time mods.

Sep 28, 2014

DSM to Fran

We visited California this summer, chunking it into a three course of San Francisco, Yosemite and wine country.  Flight was Frontier, a no frills bird with a quick 30 minute stop in Denver.  Peanuts cost extra, naps and drool are free.

Sep 11, 2014

Dueling Thunder Closets

Okay, I get it, nobody likes my idea of combining two small bathrooms into one.  Loss of privacy and pooping people on dueling side-by-side toilets are top concerns.  Resale value drop, too.

Let us talk privacy.

In a bathroom, there are three sketchy zones where you don't want other humans seeing your junk:  toilet, shower and tub.

The two toilets would be completely private, drywall between them, fans to vent that nasty fecal air.  Standing by the sink, you'd see doors.  Sitting on the throne, you'd see walls, door and Car and Driver:

Sep 10, 2014

Blowing Toilets

Waiting for a gray rug to boat in from India, then Pigtails' room is a wrap.

Updated her walls from meconium orange to light lavender.
Removed poorly designed wooden closet compartments and replaced with movable wire racks.
Ripped the carpet and whitewashed the creaky oak floor, added a dresser, mirror and nightstand.
The dresser was Curls' idea, if up to me we'd shove all that crap in the closet.

Aug 19, 2014


Long time no post, here's a quickie on what's new with B&P.

A few of you tracked our California trip over on Facebook.  We visited San Francisco, Yosemite and wine country near Vacaville.  San Fran was nice, but they got nothin' on Des Moines on the foodie front. 

My favorite in the Bay Area was renting a Tesla and driving the electro-beast over to Muir woods to hike 1,000 year old Red Woods.

I'll post more trip pics later, we covered a lot of ground:  Highway 1 drive to the Pacific at Half Moon Bay, a multi-mile hike through Yosemite to Vernal Falls, stealth stop at Lake Tahoe and a ridiculous hilltop vineyard stay near Vacaville.  If you book hotels and have never done, please try it.  Curls did a great job finding rental homes in Noe Valley and wine country.

Pigtails is 12 now and has had the same bedroom decor since poopy diapers.  Speaking of, the walls were meconium orange. 

She wanted to pull the carpet, we found the floor half painted to cover pet stains.  She asked for more fluffy colors and less cat whiz, here's where we're at:

She has volleyball practice tonight, hence the spanx.  Working on installing a modular closet system now.  The box says "EZ 15 Minute Install," the instructions are 30 pages deep and come with a sack full of 50 nuts and drywall hooks.  It'll be a two day project.

Off to pick her up from practice now, leave a comment and tell me what's new!


Jul 14, 2014

Code Brown

Sure, everyone knows the benefits of working out.  It makes you feel better, fat pants get loose and you can make that guilt-free third trip through the orange chicken buffet.

However, there is a dark side to running that often goes unspoken.  

Saturday mornings, several of us meet for a 12+ mile long run on the Johnston trail.  Greg, Tony, Jenny, and Patrick joined me last weekend for a sweaty 7:00 am, 90% humidity grease trot.  I fell back at mile eight due to a code brown.  I wrote them the following today to let them know what happened:

Mile 8 is when the problems started. A near-miss on a shart signaled it was time to slow down. Hopefully, it was a false alarm and the backside burp would disperse.

Nearly caught back up with the group when another round let loose. Like a warship dropping depth charges on a German u-boat, this second attack was primal and not playing games. Slowing to a walk and squeezing cheeks to contain the brownie batter, I eyed both sides of the trail looking for an emergency landing strip. The recent flooding meant normally dry woods were a foot deep in swamp. Waddling and scanning for high ground free of bramble, there was a small dry spot between a floral rose bush and a sick tree infected with ash borer bugs.

Hovering over a toadstool like a Chinook, the hydraulic bomb bay doors opened. I could hear a flock of mosquitos hovering inches away, they buzzed like tiny quadrocopter drones. Their bloody beaks had a lock on my glutes, and they were hungry. As I laid a curly pile of DQ, they commenced their strike on my albino parts.

I counted 37 stings in 90 seconds.

Realized I wasn't more than a few feet off the trail, I glanced up and there was little barrier between the active code brown and bikers. Clean-up in aisle 7, the first leaf I reached for had little poky needles on the underside. Bomb bay doors still open, I bear-walked a few feet over and grabbed different random leaves, praying for no poison ivy or a mother biking by pulling toddler on a tag-a-long.

Limped back to the cars, Jenny was waiting with a sack of chocolate chip cookies to celebrate Tony's birthday.

The end.

Jul 10, 2014

Yard - A Clean Slate

My yard is small, yet needy.  That's a bad combo.  It eats a bunch of time on shrub haircuts, weeding and removing decaying leaves that turn to mud in the rocks.

River rock is boring, so I wonder why the previous owner thought it a good idea to scatter 10,000 pounds of this junk around the foundation.  

After living here 15 years, it's finally time to reclaim my yard and make it look how I want.  

It all started a few week ago with a downed branch from the back soft maple.  Carpenter ants are building suburbs in that tree, it floods my garage gutters with helicopters, so it's time to take her down.  Since the tree people will be here removing the limbs and mess, figured I might as well pull my shrubs and add to the pile.  Since the shrubs are gone, remove the rock.

Goals for the yard:

1)  Easy to maintain.
2)  Increase my grass size to more than 12 square feet.
3)  Do things I haven't seen before, like coal as landscaping rocks.  Grow bamboo, Irish moss, 8-foot reed grass and more.

Here's what things looked like before the destruction:

Jun 14, 2014

A Boundary Waters Adventure - 5, Gränsfors Bruks and Basswood Falls

Not all water flows south.  We settled north of the Laurentian Continental Divide, where glacial lakes drain upward towards Hudson Bay into the Arctic Ocean.

Base camp was purty, our tents staked atop a cold slab of granite overlooking Basswood Lake.  The humps across the drink are Canadian.

Slobs, all of us.  Water bottles and a rogue pair of wet underpants drying in the sun.  This is what happens with a sausage fest and no girls around to scold.

San Fran

Not enough in Diego to keep us out of trouble for 10 days, so we reverted to San Francisco for summer holiday.  We'll drive this trifecta loop in a Ford Focus rental:

1)  Francisco and Silicon Valley
2)  Cabin and hike @Yosemite 
3)  Lake Tahoe

May 25, 2014


We hoped to hike Kauai this summer.  You peeps offered bountiful advice on volcanoes and topless drives along the coast.  Made me hungry rehashing your huddle around pit-style hog roasts and fresh cuts of yellowfin tuna.

The plan was to fly from Des Moines to California, hang out on the west coast for a couple days, then arc over to Hawaii and fry our pasty Iowa flesh.

Flights between California and Hawaii are running $650+ roundtrip.  More than we want to pay, so we're truncating and looking at only doing California.

A lot of B&P readers ping from the left coast, you're the #2 hit count after Iowa.  400 last month, I figure you'll offer better travel advice than what I can glean from Google:

May 19, 2014

Ear Holes and The Reddit Army on Habanero Sauce

I've got issues.

Often, the best solutions to my problems are offered up by creative entrepreneurs over at  This is where I go to get the scoop on products before they're released to the wild.  Below are a some of my 'starter goodies.

Custom Fit Phones
All brands of earbud headphones I've tried are terrible when trying to bump the beats on a run.  They bounce around and fall out of my ear holes when prancercising.  Cords tangle and my high hats sound like sissies.  

After nearly giving up on trying to listen to Tiësto on my trots, I browsed Kickstarter and found a fix.  Decibullz are a set of custom-molded 'phones for $39, claiming to stay in place on a 10 mile tempo.

Waiting is the hardest part, I forked over the bucks last November, with an expected ship date of March. Kyle is in charge of Decibullz, he raised $112,000 in 30 days.  He kept contributors up-to-date on progress, sharing photos of his trip to the factory in China to help configure molding machines and finalize design tweaks.  I love watching the details of a product growing from idea to production.

May 13, 2014

Why $1,000,000 is Not Nearly Enough (for retirement)

$1,000,000 is Limp

A million bucks will last for about 10 years of retirement.

With inflation, one million dollars in the year 2040 will be worth $400K in today's dollars.  $40K a year for 10 years, then the tank's sucking fumes.

I think most of us will need at least $2.5 million in savings by the time we're riding Rascals.

$2.5 million / 30 years retirement = $83,000 per year ($40K inflation adjusted)

Many of us will croak before 30 years of bingo, and some may get lucky and receive a social security or pension stipend.  Taxes vacuum some out of the coffer.  So the numbers are nebulous.  But better to have leftover $ than run dry when it's time to touch up your blue bouffant.

You've Already Made $1,000,000

Slow Growing Tree
Most people in this country will make more than one million dollars in their lifetime.

If you earn $30K per year, you'll see one million after 33 years of paychecks.
$60K per year, a million after 16 years of bacon.
$100K per year, you'll hit a million in 10 years.

You get the idea.

Totaling up all the money you've ever made is an interesting way of looking at saving and spending.

Crunched the calculator tonight and realized I've already made seven digits.  Been pretty structured with saving and investing.  Plain oats for breakfast every morning and an 8-yr-old filthy flip phone to save a buck is fine by me.

But dang a million in income already, and way less than that in savings...makes me realize I can do better.

May 11, 2014

Smarten my Phone

8-yr-old Staphylococcus Flipper
This is my daily carry, a crusty Samsung flip phone, circa 2006.  Its capability checklist includes:

1)  Sending and receiving phone calls.  
2)  Sometimes it makes random spaceship beeping noises.
3)  That is all.

I'll pause now so you can go ahead and mock and taunt me.
That's it, get it out of your system.

May 5, 2014

Electro' Shades

I've got a small face, roughly the same size as a 12-year-old boy.  So finding sunglasses that fit is a difficult task.  Even small shades look like giant BluBlockers on this delicate mug.  After striking out on finding spectacles that don't make me look like a clown, I downloaded the Glasses app to help.  The idea is the app allows you to "try on" different types of sunglasses to see what they look like, without actually putting your mitts on them.

The app snaps front and side pics of your face, then creates a 3D Terminator-style wireframe, pimples and all:

May 4, 2014


Blew a calf on a 15 mile training run a few weeks ago, so have been taking it easy and resting it back to health.  I'm 37 and the fitness goes down the toilet quickly at this age.  I remember in my 20s when I'd have a sore leg or the start of an injury.  The fix was to simply go to bed, the next morning I'd wake up and my body was back to 100%.

As you age, it's use it or lose it.  Injury comes more easily, and so does body fat.  Here's a pic from a few months ago packing for the Boundary Waters trip:


I didn't realize birds work together to build their nest.  Always figured mom bird did the heavy lifting.

Last spring, I suctioned a GoPro to my soffit to capture a robin weaving her house of sticks, then planting a pair of blue eggs and hatching her chicks:

Simple Soy Citrus Grilled Chicky

Tonight's dinner was easy and delicious, so thought I'd share it in case you'd like to give her a try.   Here's how I whip up citrusy soy chicken on the back deck.

Apr 27, 2014

A Boundary Waters Adventure - 4, Blueberries and Basswood Base Camp

Day three, we needed to polish off a 7 miler to reach base camp at Bassword Lake.

We loaded up our three canoes, I knotted on a 5-of-diamonds spinner spoon and we steamed northward.

Our Kevlar fleet passed beside an oval islet.  Blue wood smoke wafted from a camp pitched beneath coniferous pines.

A lone white-tail eyed us.  As she turned to bound, her brood sprang from behind the spruce and followed pursuit.

Apr 13, 2014


What food do you munch on that's common in your area, but not in other parts of the country?

Tenderloins are popular in Iowa, where pigs outnumber humans 5-to-1.  Pound a pork loin flat, bread it with spiced cornmeal and fry till tender.  Top with red onion and mustard, crown with toasted buns and chow down.

My folks were in town this weekend for Pigtails' first track meet.  Dad's bucket list includes hitting all the shops that are on Iowa Pork Producers top 5 'loin list.  So yesterday we drove an hour north to Paton, IA to check out 209 Main's pork. They're #2 on the list and population 236, I cracked up at their city office.

Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwiches

What plate of food, if placed in front of you now, would transport you back to your childhood?  For me, it's peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

I mentioned to someone at work that mom made us PB&Nana sandwiches growing up, loved those things.  They made an oh gross, that's a weird combination face.  This got me thinking about what else we ate as a kid that maybe not everyone else did.

Let's see, there was beans-n-franks...chopped weenies cooked in a can of Van Camp's pork and beans, with added ketchup and onion.  Maybe every kid ate that combo, it was yum at the time but now sounds gross.

Mac&Cheese with a can of tuna added for protein.  SpaghettiOs or egg sandwiches if mom was in a hurry.

The worst was a school meal called "perky noodle bake."  I think perky was an exaggeration.  It was always served on Fridays at James Madison Middle School.  Lunch ladies with their hairnets and plastic gloves would mix all the leftovers from the week, add noodles, top with cheese and bake.  Always a surprise inside, one week it could be a mix of carrots, fried chicken, lima beans and sour cream.  Next week it was taco meat, broccoli, leftover chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes, all cooked together.  Looked like barf, no wonder I was scrawny.

What did you eat growing up, good or bad, that brings back being a kid?


First 1500

5th grade means Pigtails is old enough to join her school's track team.

I invited her to run with me earlier this spring to log a few training miles so the races would go smoother.  She said it's too cold outside (30 degrees).  I responded, "Well, do what you want, but a minute into your first race you'll wish you'd trained more."

Offering her advice, but letting her choose, learn along the way and let competition be the teacher.

Her first meet was on Friday, coach marked her down for the 1500, sprint medley, 800 and high jump.  She started crying when she learned about the high jump, as she hasn't had a chance to practice it yet.  "What if I hit the bar on the first jump and people laugh at me?"  I told her all the kids were new at it, and being afraid to try something isn't a good reason to tap out.  She got the last laugh and talked coach into swapping high jump for long jump.

The 1500 is just under 4 laps and a tad less than one mile.  She's logged a total of 5 miles in practice before her first meet, so I kept it simple and gave her three bits of advice:

Don't go out too fast, try to be in the middle of the pack on the first lap.
Finish strong the last 200 meters and pass at least one person.
Have fun.

Apr 7, 2014

New Ears and Other Stuff

Now With Improved Hearing
Last year, I encouraged readers to help Quincy raise money for upgrading his hearing processors.  He was born deaf, but hears pretty well now with cochlear implants.

After several months of fundraising, his mom received enough moola to replace one processor.  Quincy was able to get a new device last September, old processor on the left, new on the right:

He said the new one "doesn't sound fuzzy like the old one."

A couple Sundays ago, we head over to pick up Quincy.  His mom asked if we noticed anything new.  She started to cry happy tears...Q smiled and showed us his new processor on the left side!  So now both ears are upgraded, his hearing is no longer fuzzy and the new devices stay on better when we shoot hoops.  FYI, the little dude's skilled at bball and rattles out Kevin Durant stats faster than a fat guy ordering a 6-pack and a pound on Taco Tuesday.  

I told Quincy now he can't use the excuse that he didn't hear his mom when she asks him to clean his room.

Thanks everyone who chipped in to help out.  He and his mom really appreciate it!

Apr 4, 2014

A Boundary Waters Adventure - 3, Bourbon and Blue Sky

Last big fish I caught was 30 years ago.
Latched a rainbow trout on vacation in Colorado with my family.
It was probably only 3", but it sure seemed massive when you're 7 years old.

In the Boundary Waters, you don't bring enough food to survive.  Instead, we'd rely on catching pike, bass and walleye to fill our gut.  

My fishing equipment consists of a 24" My Little Pony pole Pigtails got years ago.  I was pretty sure a tail slap from a small-mouth bass would snap my rod, so before the trip picked up a $25 rig from Wal*Mart.  Cork handled composite shaft and aluminum reel with the Made in China sticker still attached.  That'll work.

I sure hoped someone in the group knew how to fish.  It's one thing to play around on the spillway with stink bait and a line Sunday after church.  Another when you need catch and live on walleye for a week.

When do you rig a jig vs. knot on a 5-of-diamonds spoon?
Spinnerbait or live leeches?

We needed to hook 2 large pike or 6 medium walleye/bass a day to keep our stomachs from growling.  We had a few packets of dried Cajun rice-and-beans mix, 9 lbs of raw bacon, 2 gallons of bourbon and beef jerkey in case our poles went limp.  A water filter and iodine tablets allowed for unlimited amounts of treated glacier drink.  Iron ore leaches into the Boundary Waters lakes, which tints the water.  We'd drink yellow toilet water for the next week.

Mar 23, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 7, Pigtails' First Shares

I'd like to set aside some money for my daughter.

One option is to chuck a check into a savings account and earn less than 1% per year.  This option is safe, but doesn't keep pace with inflation.  I've written about why it's risky to be too "safe."

Another option is to buy stocks.  This one has no guarantee we'll make a profit, and we could lose a lot if shares tank. I'm confident if we do the research, hold for the long term and tolerate fluctuations, we'll come out okay in the end.

Doing is the best teacher, so figured I'd let my daughter ride the stock market coaster rather than simply telling her about investing.  The criteria are simple:

-We'll invest $1,000
-Diversify by investing in two or three companies
-Invest in both stable and emerging companies
-Pigtails can pick the stocks, but we'll discuss options and agree on good choices together

Mar 19, 2014

Spring Break - Hoarder Discovered and Losing 6 Pounds in 75 Minutes

Pigtails and I usually head north to a waterpark in Wisconsin for spring break.  This year, I took four days of PTO over break to do diddly squat.  Slept in late.  Ate two sacks of Quadratini wafers.

Mar 15, 2014

A Boundary Waters Adventure - 2, Leaving Land and Dog's Wearing a Vest

Tim often takes his pup, Bailey, with him kayaking and canoeing back in Baltimore.  Dog smiled and his tail blurred when we clipped on his life vest and threw packs in our canoes.

Our packs were 60 pounds each, filled with 8 days of tents, tree saws, underpants and Nalgenes.

Tim smuggled 9 pounds of raw bacon.  I was curious how it'd hold up to a week with no refrigeration.

Ken carabiner-clipped a GPS satellite beacon to his boat.  Apparently you press the button in case of emergency and a helicopter come saves you.  I think it was more likely a piece of plastic with a blinky light inside and nothing happens when you press the help button.  Hopefully, we wouldn't need to find out.

Mar 9, 2014

A Boundary Waters Adventure - 1, Bacon Cheeseburgers and Kevlar Canoes

How It Began
This brutal winter makes me do a flashback to last August and the blue skies of the Boundary Waters. Departing from the upper tip of Minnesota, we chucked tents, dried beans and 8 days of provisions into three canoes, paddling 16 miles north towards Canada.

We dropped cell phone towers and civilization for this.

It all started when I bought that $149 plastic Menards kayak made from recycled Tide bottles, paddled the Beaver and mentioned in a post, "wish I could do the Boundary Waters."

Three days later, co-worker Chris asked, "do you want to canoe the Boundary Waters with some friends?"

Yep I said, and it was done.

Feb 28, 2014

Fix My Bush

Fix My Fireplace garnered some useful tips from readers.  Your ideas helped me morph the poop colored brick and 1990s brass:

Into this:

Now that the inside is tight, I'd like to work outside this spring.  Once the permafrost melts in April/July, I'll soak some vitamin D from the sun and reboot my landscape.

Here's what things look like when spring showers wake the lawn and rhododendrons beg for attention:

Feb 22, 2014

Fathers, Love Your Daughters

Love is Time and Discipline
Loving our kids can be pureed down to spending time together and applying consistent discipline when needed.

The past 7 days:

Cut the rug with Pigtails at the Father/Daughter Valentine dance.
Played nightly rounds of an ongoing multi-week game of Monopoly.
Downloaded Minecraft because she asked.
Explained why sex before marriage is not a good idea and why Curls and I refrain.
Grounded her from the iPod Touch when she talked smack.
Met with her teacher and brought offspring along for school conferences.
Helped her open a savings account.
Installed hair rollers on Claire, the American Girl doll.  It's a two person job.
Took PTO on a day w/o school so we could powder ski.
Drove four hours so she could hang with family on her late mom's side.

More than anything, I hope my kid looks back in 20 years and says:  "Dad loved me."

Feb 16, 2014

Des Moines Bacon Festival

We munched on crunchy pig this year at the Des Moines Bacon Fest.  This annual celebration of crispy meat and cold beer is in high demand.  Attendance increases by several thousand each year, this round of 12,000 tickets sold out in 42 minutes.

If you know nothing about Iowa and assume all residents are farmers, live in the sticks, have high BMI and survive mainly on bacon, you'd be correct.  Partially.

Feb 9, 2014

Ballroom Blitz

Curls took a swing dance class a decade ago, talks about it often and suggested we salt the floor and learn how to hoedown.  After making sure no "your package shows" white tights were involved, I agreed.  She signed us up for a six week ballroom dancing set. We meet once a week in a school gym with a bunch of old people.

Curls showed smooth hip action swinging the salsa today.

I flail.

Looks like I'm playing charades and acting out the word "seizure."  Instructor Aimee tries to fix me.  She grips my hands and dances, saying:  "Lead with your arms first, legs next.  Pretend like you're holding a beach ball, use your hands to signal the next move."  This is the first time I've had my personal space invaded with sustained skin-to-skin contact with a 60-year-old lady.  Please don't tell Curls, but I'm beginning to wonder if Aimee might have a little crush.

Here's week 4, shuffle stepping with a turn.

We're having a good time.  It's deceptively difficult, the instructor is helpful and we'll register for another 6 week set.  Need more quality time with Aimee and I think we're ready to try a backflip.

The dudes in my running group caught wind and are convinced I'm taking ballet.  Let me know if anyone has some white tights I can borrow.


Feb 7, 2014


Digital currency is becoming a thing and may potentially supplant cash in 10 years.  ฿itcoin (BTC) is the original and most popular eCurrency.  Watch for it coming soon to a smartphone near you.

This topic needles to the speculative zone on the investment meter, so stop reading and go back to playing cribbage if you're scaredy cats towards risk.

I'll lightly scratch the ฿itcoin itch, with a few brief sentences per section.  Parts will start to smell of geek, but will try not to go too dorky.  If you want an in-depth walk in laywoman terms, tech scientist Michael Nielsen is sharp and does it right.

Feb 2, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 6, Apple and Blackberry Compared

If you bought $1,000 of Apple stock in the year 2000, it'd be worth $24,000 today.
If you bought $1,000 of Blackberry stock in 2007, it'd be worth $41 today.

It's important to eye the companies we invest in and sell shares before the scat hits the fan.  Knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold them is the stickiest part of managing your booty.  

The stock price of many companies tends to increase over time, but not always.  With Blackberry, your investment would be worth enough to buy a small cup of Starbucks.

Blackberry's stock chart is the inverse of Apple's.  The iPhone was introduced in 2007, beginning the end of BBRY.  You can see it in the chart, look at berry bleed in 2007 when Steve dropped the iPhone bomb:

Jan 26, 2014

Why a $20K Car Costs $40K and My Next Will be a Tesla

Gas Costs How Much
My grocery getter's odometer turned 125,000 miles.  Ran the numbers to see how much I've spent on gas.


Holy petrole'!

Paid $20,000 for the turbo wagon back in 2005.  When you factor in oil changes, fluid flushes and an upcoming head gasket and clutch rebuild, the total damage is $40,000.  That doesn't include the pine scented Hello Kitty air freshener.

My next car won't burn any gas.
It will be fully electric.
Dear Lord make it be a Tesla, please.

Jan 25, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 5, Charts Gone Wild

Limp Jones
Yesterday, the stock market laid brown skid marks, Dow Jones lost 318 points, or 2%.  That's a big drop, and smells a little like 2008, when people's investments bled thousands of bucks a day.  The market's starting 2014 all sick and limp:

Warren Buffett once said this about investing:

Be bold when everyone else is afraid, and be afraid when everyone else is bold.  

In other words, when the market is tanking and people are panicked and selling, that can be an ideal opportunity to be bold and buy shares at a discount.  The hard part is knowing when prices have bottomed out and buying before they rise again.

Jan 22, 2014

Healthcare Whoopsie and Near Miss on a $4476.20 Mistake

Benefits election at work recently, we selected our health insurance for 2014 and added dependents as needed.  In the past, I've gone with the Cadillac plan, which means a higher monthly premium, but low deductible and $45 out-of-pocket for prescription refills.

Since Pigtails and I are generally healthy and rarely visit the doctor (just jinxed it, my stomach will blow up tomorrow), it seemed prudent to step down to the less expensive Ford Pinto plan this year.  The cheapskate coverage offers a lower monthly premium, but a high $3,500 deductible.  It also utilizes a health savings account, which means the insurer chucks in $1,500 yearly that we can use towards doctor visits and medicine refills.

The Cadillac plan is the better deal if you visit the doctor frequently, have surgery on the docket or intend to squirt out a baby.  The Pinto plan is less expensive if you rarely get sick and shun the hospital.

Jan 17, 2014


Two summers ago, B&P readers helped map out a fun Florida trip.

We had a great time, I was worried it would be another episode of dolphins bumping my junk.  We used to book private cottages rather than hotels.  The casa in St. Augustine could have been written by Nicholas Sparks:

GreenGro My Windows

Nestled comfy in my sleeping slacks, oolong tea on boil and tapping those stock market posts last week, we had back-to-back nights of -20F wind chills.  My circa 1950 windows were frosted white, hemorrhaging icy air and turning Pigtails' toes blue.  Decided it's time to replace the crusty single panes with something younger than 60 years old.  Haven't been able to open them in the 15 years I've lived here.  They're all stuck shut or missing screens.  I'm an open windows kind of guy, longing for a fall chill to blow in at night for slumber.

I've replaced a handful already, the big boy 8 footer in the living room and new glass blocks on my pee rooms.  $3,000 worth of windows left to go, pulled the trigger on triple panes this week.

Jan 11, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 4, Risk and Reward

Every household needs to save at least two million dollars for retirement.

              $2,000,000 / 25 years of retirement = $80,000 per year

Taxes and inflation lower the payout, so $80K is probably more like $45,000 by the time you pull it out.

If you plan to spend a lot in retirement on toys and Viagra or if you settle in a high cost of living spot like California, you'll need five+ million dollars for retirement.

Most of us won't live past 80, but we must assume so on the savings front so we don't run out.  If we croak early, any leftover dessert can go to spouse, charity and children.

Don't assume social security and pensions will pay out by the time we retire.  It's wise to take ownership of our investments and prepare for the worst.  Any SS or pension handouts will be icing.

Two million dollars is a bunch of money, but less painful if we start saving early, letting time and the compound effect do the dirty work.

Jan 8, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 3, The Dow Joneser

The market's blood pressure and cholesterol are measured by stock market indexes.

Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite are the three stock indexes you hear daily on the news.  These tools all do the same thing:  calculate a weighted average of various stock prices to provide investors with an overall picture of how the market is doing.

An increase in the Dow, S&P 500 or NASDAQ means the market is doing well.  Stocks generally increased in value that day and investors are happy.  Multiple days of a hard charging rise is a bull market.  Investors are optimistic and the charts are green.

A decrease in the Dow, S&P 500 or NASDAQ means the market sagged, stocks generally deflated in value that day. A pattern of days of flaccid stocks is a bear market.  Investors are pessimistic and the charts glow red.

Jan 7, 2014

Pot Stock Poll

January 1, 2014:  Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, and the first in the world to regulate pot from seed to sale.  The Colorado government wants a bite of the brownies, taxing joints at 28%.  To, you know, "help the kids and stuff" ($27 million towards schools).

Doobie stocks have been going bananas in the last 7 days, largely related to the Colorado thing.  GreenGro Techno deals medical marij' and jumped 182% today.  That's insane, and means if you invested $1,000, you would have made over $1,800 profit in one day.

This brings up an interesting question:  Is it immoral to purchase pot stocks?

Vote Yes or No up top in the poll.  I'll share my thoughts in two days!


Jan 6, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 2, The NYSE and NASDAQ Described, Plus Wild Baboons

Yesterday's stock post was a stampede of hits (9 clicks total), so figured it a good idea to bask in the glory and bake another.  This one covers the two major stock exchanges in the U.S.

When a corporation is birthed and issues stock, they select an exchange to be listed on:  either the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.

NY Stock Exchange
The NY Stock Exchange (NYSE) goes way back, 1792.  Which is the same year Pigtails thinks I was born.  221 years ago, two dozen stockbrokers met beneath a shady Sycamore tree outside of 68 Wall Street to sign the Buttonwood Agreement.  Then they got busy trading.

Jan 5, 2014

Stock Buy Break it Down - 1, The Basics

Rather than brewing one thick post on stocks, it'll be easier to digest if I cook up several shorter bites, each nibbling on one or two topics at a time.  We'll start with the basics then advance.  Here are the topics I'll cover this week in the stock series:

  • What is stock and how can it make us money 
  • Stock exchanges, New York and NASDAQ
  • Stock indexes, Dow Jones, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite
  • Mutual funds, money markets, bonds and gold
  • Risk vs. reward
  • Pick at stock charts and show what company fundamentals to pay attention to
  • Come with Pigtails as she purchases her first shares of stock! 

Today we'll define stock:  What in the heck is it and how can it pad our wallet/purse/murse?

10 years of the stock market