Monday, November 30, 2009

How Ridiculous

I stopped eating beef over 10 years ago and never looked back. Every few months there's another food recall related to E. coli, salmonella, botulism, and whatever other food borne illness that's out there. Beef is not the only culprit, we've seen veggies such as spinach and other staples, such as peanut butter, take a hit as well. Perhaps it's just me, but I'm a tad bit concerned with the blatant lack of responsibility being displayed in the food industry and co-signed by the gov't. Okay, I may have stretched it with the botulism, but you get the point;-).

For example, here's
an excerpt from consumer advocate Clark Howard's syndicated radio show related to a recent beef recall:

Nov 17, 2009 -- Ground beef recall results after plant stopped E. coli testing
More than 500,000 pounds of ground beef was recalled late last month after two people died and estimated 500 were sickened by an E. coli outbreak, according to The New York Times.

The tainted beef came from a meat-packer in Ashville, N.Y. that reportedly stopped testing for E. coli two years ago at the request of beef suppliers (are you kidding me?!). Surprisingly, E. coli testing is not required by the Department of Agriculture. It's only recommended sans any legal enforcements for not doing it (okay, so we're just relying on self policing in an industry that can give a rats boom boom about anything other than profit?! Yeah, that's great and comforting to know. ***side note, this is just one example why relying on Gov't to "take care" of you is such an awful idea!)

The recall has prompted Trader Joe's to stop sourcing its meat from the affected plant (aah, my beloved Trader Joes. Way to go, take action!). The grocer also now wants its other suppliers to test all ground beef for the deadly bacteria.

Costco Wholesale is the only large national retailer that mandates E. Coli testing. Perhaps Costco can do so because it uses its own grinding facilities. (How sad. Great for Costco, sad that no one else gives a hoot.)

Too often it seems like the Department of Agriculture feels its responsibility is to protect processing plants and beef suppliers, not the American consumer. (yep, and amen.)

Clark is an unabashed free-marketer, but he knows that there needs to be some referees in place for capitalism to work optimally. The marketplace suffers when there's no cop on the beat. Consumers need to feel confident that the feds are on the case to make sure their food is safe.

***It's my plan to venture into a little square foot gardening this spring. We'll see if my plans come to fruition. Oh, and one last thing, if you haven't done so, you should check out the movie Food, Inc. I thought it was pretty well done.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

5 Challenges of the Great Exodus

This is a follow-up to my previous post where I discussed 5 benefits to the great exodus. As I mentioned before, I'm sure that I'll continue to discover more benefits as time goes on, but those were just a few that I immediately identified. On the other hand, I have also identified 5 "challenges" to the great exodus. I put "challenges" in quotes because I've already begun to put things in place to overcome them. Yay me! So here goes:

  1. It's all you boo! Yep, you're everything. You're the service provider, the marketing exec, the bookkeeper, the administrative assistant, the janitor, the mail clerk, the billing department ... and in the event a customer's check doesn't clear ... the collection agency. Until you're able to outsource some of those functions, running your own business is NOT just about doing that one thing you want to do - you actually have to run the operations of the business as well.
  2. Social Isolation! Remember that cubicle environment I mentioned in the previous post? It has come to my attention that even with all of the ickiness that comes along with cubicle land, there is one major benefit - camaraderie amongst like-minded folks. I was always fortunate to have wonderful co-workers whom I enjoyed greatly. Now it's just me and my PC and sporadic e-mails to former co-workers saying things like "I miss y'all." LOL. If you don't care much for the folks you work with, this wouldn't be on your list of challenges to overcome.
  3. Income! As my blog pal Christine mentioned in the comments section of the 5 benefits, income is a double edge sword. Yes the salary limitations are lifted but, so are the "guaranteed" paychecks. Being an entrepreneur definitely demands you to dig into your inner Type A personality and pull out that tenacity and fortitude required to go out, kill something and bring home the bacon - and maintain your integrity and character.
  4. Stagnation! If you're in a field that continues to evolve and requires you to stay on top of new rules, regs, technology, etc, you can possibly become stagnant in your technical knowledge. Why? Well because this type of education is generally acquired through on the job training or outside courses - yeah the ones your employer used to pay for. Keeping abreast on the developments of your field is another overhead cost that you have to carry. Many people skimp on this part but I don't think that's a very good idea.
  5. No PTO! Remember that pitiful 2 weeks of vacation that you often complain about? Heck, who am I kidding, my last gig gave me 4 weeks of vacation so yeah 2 weeks would be pitiful to me too;-). As an entrepreneur there is no PTO (paid time off). In my case specifically, my income is earned by services that I provide. Basically I barter my time and knowledge in exchange for dollars and cents. No work, no pay ... little work, little pay, you get the picture.

Will more challenges introduce themselves? I'm sure of it. These are just the ones I've identified as a one month old entrepreneur;-).

Soon to come ... how I overcome or plan to overcome these current challenges.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Most Dangerous Cake Recipe in the World!

This recipe was sent to me via e-mail. I haven't tried it yet but if anyone has or does before I do, please let me know;-).


4 TBS flour
4 TBS sugar
2 TBS cocoa
1 egg
3 TBS milk
3 TBS oil
3 TBS chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (microwave safe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. Eat!

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now you are only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night;-).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

5 Benefits of the Great Exodus

It's been almost a month since the great exodus and I've already discovered 5 great benefits. I'm sure I'll discover more in due time.
  1. No more open cubicle environment - in this day of swine flu and other highly contagious illnesses, I'm so happy that I no longer sit in a cubicle environment where germs lurk ever so freely, looking for some innocent person to pounce on. Actually the germs in and of themselves are not to blame, it's those unsavory co-workers who refuse to cover their mouths when they cough, who lick their finger to separate papers and hand one off to you (oh gosh, I HATE that) or use the same piece of tissue to wipe/blow their nose all throughout the day.
  2. No more potlucks - unfortunately I'm not one who enjoys potlucks in a large group setting. I apologize if I offend anyone, but holiday potlucks are not my cup of tea. Usually I'm the one at the potluck looking for the items that were purchased and not made. I became potluck shy when I first observed ADULTS who would use the restroom and not wash their hands afterwards. Question, if you don't wash your hands after you use the restroom, just when do you wash them? At first I thought it was just an isolated incident, but no, it happens far too frequently for my taste - no pun intended.
  3. No more salary limitations - my income is completely up to me. I will now see a direct relationship between what I put in and what I get out. No more corporate limitations. No more forced "bell curve" for evaluations and raises, which brings me to the next benefit.
  4. No more obscure evaluations - oh my goodness this must have been my Achilles heel at the end of my corporate career. My employer's annual evaluation process was just HR formality, no real career planning, no real comments that encouraged growth, just blah. In addition, there was a forced bell curve to ensure that the majority of the employees were scored a 3, or average --- so you could bust your butt but that didn't matter because excelling had become the new average. So much for the motivation factor.
  5. No more unnecessary meetings - we would have so many meetings on a daily basis that I often wondered when I would get any work done. We'd have a meeting to discuss the need for an agenda for an upcoming meeting, then we'd meet to go over the agenda and see if there were any changes needed; if there changes then we'd have to meet again to make sure everyone was okay with the changes, then we'd have said meeting, and of course we would have to meet afterwards to go over what we discussed in the meeting. After all of that, we'd have another meeting to get the next manager up the chain caught up, and then if he/she had any additional questions, we're back to meeting number 1 and going through the process all over again! I'm not kidding. I have some readers who are still in that environment and they can attest that I'm telling the truth. In fact, I might have left out a few meetings in the process.

So, is everything rosy on this side of the fence? Of course not. There are thorns in every rose bush. I'll write another post listing the "cons" of the great exodus in the near future.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

798 ... So What

Earlier this week I went to the credit union to transfer my Health Savings Account from the soon to be fee based account at a big brick and mortar bank - remember, my previous employer covered the fees as an employee benefit, but now that I'm no longer an employee, the benefit goes away.

Side note: can I tell you how beautiful the credit union was on the inside? Wow, either this one is special or I've just been missing out since I never seemed to qualify for any memberships. There were specialty coffees, bottled water, baked goods, friendly employees, comfortable seating, gorgeous decor, you name it ... just completely different than what I'm used to. What does any of this have to do with 798? Glad you asked.

As I was sitting with the rep waiting on her to process my paperwork, she said "wow, you have a credit score of 798." Perhaps I was supposed to be happy or proud of myself, but I was actually pretty stoic. I wasn't sure what kind of response she expected, if any at all. I've vented before about my frustration with our obsession over the fico score. It's my goal to never borrow money again, so if I'm not going to borrow money, mister fico becomes less of a factor in my life. To some I might trend on a little financial irresponsibility because I don't check the score. Well, to that I say this, I pay all of my bills on time and I check my credit report at least once a year (primarily to watch out for identity theft). My home purchase in 2003 was the last time I borrowed money. Prior to the rep telling me what my score was, I had no idea. And now that I know it, so what;-).

You know what's crazy? There was a time in the very recent past that my 798 score would have given me access to all kinds of debt, even though my income right now is zero! How does that happen ... easy, the fico score only measures how you handle debt, it's not an indication that you can really afford what you're trying to buy. I could have gotten a mortgage easily, with zero income. Why? Because my fico score would've had lenders and underwriters drooling over me, anxious to throw money at me. Oh, and don't let me get started on the pre-approved credit card offers. I accumulated a month's worth of pre-approved credit offers once and they grossly totalled a quarter of a million dollars worth of credit opportunities.

Not to worry, I won't always have this problem because one day I won't have any debt, including my mortgage, and then mister fico will turn on me and my score will begin to drop? You see, if I don't have any debt to service, mister fico doesn't have anything to measure ... and well, if mister fico doesn't have anything to measure, nothing divided by nothing is zero.

In my opinion, credit scoring has its place, but it shouldn't be the end all, be all. Any system that penalizes me for not borrowing money is a system that I bow out of graciously and happily.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bull Anyone?

Well, well, well, we knew it, didn't we? We knew that the banks would pull some magic out of their hats before the credit card reform laws take effect. A few provisions went into effect in August, but the lion share of the provisions are not scheduled to start until February 2010 (I'm hearing that Congress is working on a bill to move the effective date up to December 1, 2009 but I'm not sure if or when that will pass). Mind you, this credit card reform act was signed into law in May 2009 - why the long wait before it's enacted, beats me ... perhaps I need to brush up on my legislative knowledge. Anywho, a few of the new laws are:
  • Raising Rates: Banks have to give 45 day notice before raising a consumer's rate (unless you're on a variable rate card which most of the banks have begun switching customers to)
  • Penalty Fees: Banks can't charge over-limit fees unless the consumer has asked for this additional credit.
  • Youth Marketing: Banks can't extend credit cards to people under 21 without verifying their ability to pay (i.e., proof of income) or obtaining parental permission.
  • Unfair Billing: The practices of universal default and double-cycle billing are no longer allowed.
  • Disclosures: Banks must clearly disclose how long it will take to pay off the balance if only the minimum payment is made.

Because the banks have long since made a boat load of money off of their fees, they have gone back to the drawing board to find new ways to assess fees on their beloved or hated customers. For example, BOA is "experimenting" with charging customers an annual fee of $29 - $99. Other banks such as JP Morgan and Citigroup are implementing similar practices. There are even talks that we may see additional fees on other traditional banking products like checking accounts.

Are these not the same banks that taxpayers bailed out less than a year ago? This is absolutely ridiculous. You have our tax dollars, we saved your tushes, and this is how you thank us? I only have one credit card that I use solely for online purchases and travel. If my card issuer (Citi) comes to me with an unsavory offer of bull crap, aka, an annual fee, I'll glady return the favor by asking them to close my account ... immediately ... with the quickness ... like do it right now! I don't care how many rewards and incentives a credit card offers, I am not going to pay annual fees to use their card, period.