Money – Got the Jimmy Legs

Money

To get bread from dough you gotta bake it

Now that the holidays are over, I've pretty much reached the end of my rope, unemployment-wise. I could stay on unemployment, continuing to dip into my savings until I hit the time limit, but this lack of true income is starting to affect my judgment. Every time I think about doing something, I stop and do an internal audit; if it seems too pricey, I don't do it. While this is sound judgment for most things, it keeps creeping into odd places.

For instance, at the grocery store I seem to be unable to buy canned beans any more.  Yes, cans of beans are too expensive for me to justify purchasing at the local Key Foods. Instead I buy dried beans. They are significantly cheaper than canned, but of course you have to reconstitute them for use. I figured this would be no big deal, the Joy of Cooking says I can just throw them in a pot of water overnight and retrieve fully hyrdrated foodstuffs. I tried this recently, giving the beans a good 24 hours to soak. The water made no discernable impact. Is New York water too hard or something? What's up with that?

I ended up softening the beans up in some boiling water. No big deal but what a hassle. The other bags of beans in the cupboard remain untouched thus far. I guess that's one way to save money: don't eat anything.

Here's another way to save money: spend a hell of a lot of money.

On Tuesday we rented a Uhaul cargo van and went to Costco and spent something in the neighborhood of $800. No one is more aware than I that this seems counterproductive during these leans times. But if we have played our cards right, we won't need another such trip for at least 6 months, if at all. For one great expense has been dealt a mighty blow by our brave quest: the cats have their food. We bought 20 bags of Costco's premium cat food. At 25 pounds apiece this adds up to 500 lbs. of kitty kibble stacked up in the cellar. Our basement looks like a feed store.

But of course we stocked up on human supplies as well. Since I am intent on not spending unwisely at the grocery store, I went kind of nuts at the warehouse store and bought a bunch of bulk items that should help sustain us until I get a job. Among other things, I bought a 25lb. bag of flour and a 2lb. bag of yeast. I've been baking a lot more of late, and I'm always running out of these items, so it sort of makes sense … until you look at the bags.

cookies, anyone?

cookies, anyone?

I have no idea how to store this stuff once I open the bag. I guess I can dole it out into several containers, maybe freeze some of it or something. But I've been going through a 5lb. bag a month, and once I start making all our bread from scratch, I'm sure this stuff won't last 5 months. I'll still have to buy whole wheat flour separately, I guess. They only had white in these institutional sizes.  It added up to a big bill, but pound for pound this stuff is dirt cheap!

In other cost-saving measures, I am happy to announce that one of our foster cats will be adopted out this weekend! Louie, who has been with us since the summer, will be moving to Cobble Hill to a home with an other (one one!) cat.  He is a fun cat and some of our other cats will miss him I'm sure, but it feels good to be back on this side of the adoption game. If his adoption is any indication, we will be adopting out one cat every month of the year and will be down to zero by Christmas!

This big noggin is movin on

This big noggin is movin on

Naw, that probably won't happen, but I sure hope we can find these cats some permanent homes this year; it's a full-time job taking care of them as it is. I'd hate for my paying work to suffer!

What I look like under a microscope

If you thought this site was single-minded before, get ready for "All Job-Loss Talk." As usual, I'm about 18 months behind everybody else on the trends, so you're probably all full up with whining about losing one's job. So maybe I won't do that, even though I sure am thinking about it. I guess I would care more if I liked my job. But here at the flute end of things, I gotta say that the tedium had long won out over the interesting parts of this work. Ideally I'd like to get out of this business altogether and work in a field I actually care about. And I would … if I hadn't bought this damn house!

The one big trade off of my lousy job was that it provided me with, literally, more money than I knew what to do with. I saved up enough to jointly buy a house, and then had enough left over I was able to let every cat in the neighborhood move in with us. It was the thing that allowed me to say Yes to stuff I would never have been able to otherwise; in some cases it became the thing that forced me to say Yes (would I have all these cats if I had the self-control that limited funds provides?).

So now I am guessing that whatever job I can finagle, it won't be as much as I've been making. I've been looking at my expenses and if I whittle it down to the bare necessities, I might be able to get by doing production art work for a temp agency, which was my very first job in this town, and still one of my favorite things to do (hours spent nudging graphics and tweaking layouts). But that's not a career, and maybe it's time I got one of those.

So I'm going to spend the next 3 months trying to really think of what I'd like to do with my time. Since I know I can scrape by for a while if I have to, I'll try not to let that little voice (who sounds just like my Dad) flare up too much with comments of "Hey! You! You have to get a new job RIGHT NOW. Don't wait for the severance!" I don't know if it will yield anything useful, maybe the best way I can serve humankind is through 6AM conference calls with testy Flash developers and belligerent middle managers.

Your mouth is writing checks the bank won't accept

A couple of months ago, somebody stole my credit card info and charged a bunch of stuff with it. It was only because I obsessively check my online statement that I noticed it, and at first it didn't even register. This was about the time we booked our tickets to lovely sunny Cleveland, and I noticed there were charges that looked like airfare; at first I didn't think anything of it. But then I saw there were 3 charges, not two. Plus, each was for in excess of $500, way more than one should spend to go to The Heart of It All. There was also a charge for some stupid VoIP company, but that $20 charge paled in comparison. I canceled the card and was refunded the fraudulent charges.

Now, this is what irks me: a few weeks before this happened, my creidt card company had shut my card down; it discovered suspicious charges and stopped my account from working pending my approval. What sort of charges tip off the credit industry? For me it was Century 21, Netflix and cat food … stuff I buy all the time. So I buy some stuff form stores I have bought from for many years, alarms go off and the security details suspends my account until I call into their lame automated call center. I verbally approve every charge and my account is back.

Cut to a month later: I notice airfare charges (from a company based in ROME, no less) and now it's up to me to convince them I didn't make these charges. What, are hackers so talented nowadays they can make stolen work seem more legit than the real stuff? Anyway, I will say the credit card company was rapidly compliant, closing the account and getting me a new card quickly. Among other things, we went out to Ikea with the new card and spent tons of dough on some new furniture and other crap we may regret in a couple of months. Then I tried to buy something with the card and it says it's not working again. Here we go again …

I call in to find out what's up and they lame automated system tells me they have reason to believe (again) that fraudulent activity has taken place. They recite the list of suspicious charges, all legitimate, all mine, all for companies I buy stuff from all the time. But in all of this, they didn't mention the Ikea purchase at all; I asked about it and they said it wasn't suspicious. So my 20-dollar charge to a pet supply company I buy from almost every other month is more suspect that the enormous purchase from Ikea, from whom I've never bought from before? I just don't get it.

Anyway, it's all settled now at least and as far as I can tell, my account is safe for now. But one ironic outcome: I checked with the VoIP company to find out who used my card and they gave me the email address associated with the charge. It was my email with my first and last name reversed. Clever! So I emailed it:

From: jimmylegs
To: legsjimmy
Subject: having a good time

hey
are you using my credit card?

I didn't expect a reply, but the other day I got one:

From: legsjimmy
To: jimmylegs
Subject: RE:having a good time

yes. i have ur info when i hacked one shop. im sorry

I wanted to find out how he got it, so I wrote

From: jimmylegs
To: legsjimmy
Subject: RE:having a good time

ha! wow i didn't expect a reply. can you tell me what shop you hacked? i'm trying to figure out where it got out.

From: legsjimmy
To: jimmylegs
Subject: RE:having a good time

becos im úing thí mail for búyome thing 😀 that reply u man hehe i dont remember shop was hacked i have many many

I'm not sure why his spelling got so bad at the end there, but it momentarily spooked me that he still uses the email address to buy stuff. But he doesn't have my card info any more, and as his email is a gmail account, there doesn't seem to be anything to do about it. It feels like that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry's car gets stolen and he calls the thief on the car phone:


JERRY: can I have it back?

CAR THIEF: Mmmm, nah, I'm gonna keep it.