Odds and Ends

Summer is cruising by and we have been keeping busy.

I read a great murder mystery book by an up and coming new author.  Okay, the book was penned by my sister AND I got a copy for free, but I still enjoyed reading it.

Frugal Boy has finished up his summer reading program and now has a bag full of coupon goodies.


After many months of trying to hawk the Microsoft Surface tablet that we won in a cereal box sweepstakes we finally found a buyer and unloaded it for $325.  Then the buyer had problems registering it and was upset so we found a happy resolution at $225.  Whatever, we found $225 in a cereal box.  Color me happy.

In less drama filled gadget news, Shae’s Fitbit wristband doodad gadget had started to peel and bubble around the display.  She wrote in and asked if there was something that she could do to fix it and they just sent her a brand new one.  When she asked if they wanted the old one back, they said no, just toss it.  Guess who has a ‘new’ Fitbit.  😀

We had a pizza party and movie after Frugal Boy got his 100th potty training sticker.


We have also been playing with ‘blocks’ (Lego Duplos) a lot lately.  I gave Frugal Boy all of the parts to build the fire engine and this is what he came up with on his own.


It has been hard to sleep at night because of the heat and humidity so people have been getting naps in wherever they can.


The babysitter was shocked to find out that we don’t have air conditioning.  What I didn’t go into detail about was that we are saving up money for a downpayment on an investment property.  If we end up pulling the trigger, I’ll do a more in-depth numbers post, but for now, here are a couple of the properties that we have taken a look at.



I picked up what should be the last load of lumber for rebuilding our front porch.


The 23 boards above are for the skirting that goes around the bottom of the porch.  I stopped updating my porch rebuild spreadsheet, but based off where I left it and a general idea of how much I’ve spent since then, I figure this whole project will come out to around five grand.

I decided to get cutesy with the skirt design and stole inspiration from here.  It wasn’t too hard to recreate.


The treated lumber that I picked up from Menards has been utter crap.  They looked alright when I picked them from the stacks, but the high humidity has been causing all sorts of grief.  Hopefully, they won’t completely twist, split, shrink, or crack when all is said and done.

Our garden has been outputting daily vegetables.  Japanese beetles have done a number on our bean plants, but tomatoes and carrots have been doing well.


The Rising Tide of Protectionism and Nationalism

2016 is shaping up to be one for the history books in no small part to yesterdays referendum held in Great Britain.  In case you were unaware, the UK citizens voted in favoring of leaving the European Union.  The ‘Brexit’ or British Exit was not expected to happen by most think tanks and caught the rest of the world off guard.  Supporters of Brexit believe that it will help to ‘Take Back Their Country”.  Does that sound slightly familiar for USA citizens?  It should, the Republican nominee for President uses a very similar “Make America Great Again” slogan.

The growing popularity of nationalism, both here at home, and abroad is a step in the wrong direction in my opinion.  Most supporters of such a mentality favor decreased immigration, more isolationism, and a feeling that their culture, country, land, people are the best.  The last time that dozens of countries had this boisterous attitude, there was a colossal world war.

The opposite of Nationalism is Globalism.  In Globalism the borders between countries blur or disappear altogether.  If you are a Star Trek fan and like the idea of living in the Star Trek universe, then Globalism is for you.  The European Union was founded with the ethos of Globalism.  The thought was that if all of the European countries were united together in trade and citizens could freely move about between countries, then another catastrophic war could be avoided.

In the Brexit case, the primary motivator was immigration.  The civil war in Syria has created millions of refugees.  These refugees aren’t malevolent individuals.  Sure, there might be a few bad apples in the mix, but for the most part they are just families, or broken families, trying to get away from atrocities.  Part of the reason why Shae and I travel internationally is to learn about other cultures and peoples.  Men and women, infants and children, jobs and bills, for all intents and purposes they are the same as us.  Sure they may speak a different language, have a different skin tone, and may even worship a different god or no god at all, but they are still human beings.  Immigration is a wonderful thing.  Immigrants bring fresh blood to the workforce, new talents, creativity, a drive to improve, and a can-do-attitude.  By the second or third generation, they’ve been assimilated into the country and speak the language and have adopted the culture.

Adopting a xenophobic attitude, like the one that Brexit supporters or the Republican nominee, have adapted is short sighted and fool hardy.  Look no further than Japan, a deeply xenophobic country with tight immigration laws.  Like many developed nations, Japan’s birthrate has hovered at or below replacement rate for the past two decades.  Without young immigrants feeding into the Japanese economy, the native youngsters have had to sustain a larger aging population.  The result has been a stagnant economy for decades.

On the same side of the Nationalism coin, is Protectionism.  Protectionism is when a country tries to help domestic companies sell their products by blocking foreign competitors.  Governments pursuing a protectionism agenda can accomplish this by taxing foreign imports at obscene levels.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have run their campaigns on a protectionism platform.  “Made In USA” is their rally cry.  Protectionism in my opinion is a poor grasp at turning the clock back 50 years.  America enjoyed a golden period after WW2 where every other major industrialized nation was in ruins.  Now, 65 years later, other countries have rebuilt and American companies face stiff competition.  This is the new reality, and there is no turning back the clock.  What these two candidates have failed to mention is that if Free Trade is sliced up with protectionist tariffs, the result goes both ways.  Trading partners such as Mexico, Canada, and China would be just as likely to retaliate with their own tariffs.  Nobody wins in a trade war, least of all consumers.

We all live in the same spot.  It’s time to start acting like it.


What’s My Cluster? A Look Into PersonicX

Have you ever wondered how advertisers such as Facebook can seemingly know so much about you?  The answer boils down to 7 simple questions that can place you into one of 70 Clusters and 21 Groups in the PersonicX model developed by Acxiom.  As a happy coincidence, Facebook employs this very same model.

What is PersonicX?

According to the Acxiom website, “Personicx segments U.S. households into one of 70 distinct clusters within 21 life stage groups.”  The goal of categorizing individuals into different clusters and groups is to make advertising more effective.  You can try out the demo on the Acxiom website (they say that the results won’t be used for anything besides the demo purposes).

Link to the Demo

I inputted our answers and got Cluster #21: Children First.

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Generally, the lower the Cluster #, the more affluent the individual happens to be.  Cluster #70 “Resilient Renters” describes unemployed or temporarily employed renters living in mixed housing.  Cluster #1 “Summit Estates” describes the wealthiest group.

The methodology, and descriptions of all 70 Clusters is available here.  Scroll about half way down to see the Clusters.

What Cluster do you belong to?  Was it eerily accurate?