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Did you know that you can hack any ATM machine? You can! Or so those Nigerian scammers would have you think.

Half a dozen messages in today’s spam filter read as follows:

 


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Still visiting my daughter and drinking the weird water of Phoenix. She and my son-in-law cope by using a reverse osmosis system to turn the hard H20 into something approaching potable agua.

Probably I’d get used to it if I lived here; for now, I cope by turning it into iced tea.

What I really resent, though, is the weirdly random stains the mineral-saturated water makes in the toilet bowls. I made it my mission to eliminate them.

And, as Abby noted in “The beauty of a clean toilet,” I succeeded. That’s because I had a secret weapon.

Oh, vinegar: Is there anything you can’t do?

 


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I’m not going to be with my sweetheart today, except in spirit (and by phone). That’s because I came back to Phoenix to lend a hand after my son-in-law broke one foot and badly sprained the other.

Since I won’t have a holiday of my own, I’m focusing on other people’s Feb. 14 follies. For example, did you know that some people buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets?

Not making that up. Couldn’t make that up.

 


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Found money in 2016.

I waited a little longer than usual to count my found money. For those unfamiliar with the concept: All year long I pick up coins from lots of places: stores, sidewalks, parks, the return bins of Coinstar machines.

Usually I add up my found money around Thanksgiving, then add some more and donate it to the Food Bank of Alaska. This year I decided that the holidays are when people most like to donate to food banks, so why not wait a while?

Here’s what I found this year:

 


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Those who follow my daughter’s blog already know what happened recently: Her husband broke one heel and sprained the other quite badly.

Tim is feeling extra-crummy about the way-preventable incident (see “The whole story” for details) and Abby’s feeling overwhelmed by needing to take on Tim’s share of household responsibilities in addition to her own, and to her full-time job.

For those who aren’t familiar with my daughter’s situation, both she and her husband have chronic health issues. Some days she has more spoons than others.

After she e-mailed me about what had happened I wrote an “oh noes!” sort of note in return. As a P.S., I said “let me know if you want me to use one of my buddy passes and come do a little heavy lifting.” She wrote back something along the lines of, “Were you serious about that? How soon can you get here?”

And that, Phoenix-area readers, is why I’m heading south once more.

 


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Yesterday I hand-wrote two thank-you notes. In doing so I was reminded that while decent penmanship is important, it’s also hard.

Very hard. Since I was 21 years old I’ve been making a living through typing; for about 20 of those years, as a newspaper reporter, I mixed keyboarding with furious note-taking.

The cumulative effect manifests as numbness, tingling and hands that tire/hurt quickly when holding a pen.

Then there’s the fact that I’m in my sixth decade of life. No machine runs for 59 years without some maintenance issues.

So why not just type those notes? Because they were being sent to people whose opinions matter to me, and I wanted to express my thanks the way Miss Manners would. Of course, she has a staff for that sort of thing.

 


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The subtitle to this book by personal finance journalist Tess Vigeland is a bold proposition indeed: “Leaving a job with no Plan B to find the career and life you really want.”

Let me say that I do not necessarily recommend leaving a job with no Plan B. However, I’ve done it myself and survived – and I sure wish I’d had “Leap” to help me along the way.

It would have made things a lot clearer and helped with the anxiety and doubt. Part autobiography and part self-help book, it helps readers deal with the fear and uncertainty but also gets them to think clearly about their working selves: “Who am I without my job?”

The answer may enlighten in terms of what new work to seek – or, indeed, whether to seek a new definition of labor.

 


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Old One-Eye is back.

The cataract surgery is done and my left eye has recently been freed from the tape that bound it closed. Although the vision is a bit blurry and slant-y (both conditions to be expected, according to the literature), I have every reason to be hopeful.

Experiencing a little bit of discomfort, so I took a Kirkland ibuprofen and we’ll see how it goes. Overall, the experience was much easier than I’d feared.

No doubt that’s due to the kindness of the staff and the skill of the doctor. However, I think that a nice glug of orally administered Versed might also have had something to do with that.

It left me not just relaxed but also somewhat loopy, to the point when the nice woman took a long, curved needle and started slowly injecting anesthetic into my eyeball my reaction was, “Sure, fine, whatever.”

 


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bread-steamingAs part of my low-maintenance prepper campaign, I’ve been thinking about ways we could cook if a major earthquake led to a loss of electricity. We’ve got a burn barrel and a Weber outside, and if the gas were still on we could manually light the stovetop (but not the oven).

We’ve got tons of staples on hand and could likely outlast a major emergency, even if all our shiftless relatives showed up to camp at the house with a fireplace insert and loads of flour and beans. One thing we couldn’t do easily? Bread.

Thus I’ve been researching recipes like stovetop corn pone, tortillas and other relatively simple staffs of life. When I recently got a copy of “The Kitchen Stories Cookbook: Comfort Cookin’ Made Fascinating and Easy,” my eyes fell upon a recipe for Boston brown bread.

The result is literally steaming in the photograph. (DF snapped the picture shortly after the first pieces were cut.) It was the perfect antidote to a cold winter night when paired with a thick soup made from boiling-bag broth, a pint of home-canned turkey, and whatever vegetables we had on hand.

My theory is that fresh bread, or even fresh tortillas, can make an ordinary meal – or an emergency one – seem much nicer than it actually is.

 


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Warmth and plenty.

thOh, the breakfast we just had. Perfectly cooked bacon, done in the oven. Sliced tomatoes. The last of the homemade rolls from the freezer, toasted and served with a choice of three homemade (not by us) jams. Tea and coffee aplenty

Scrambled eggs for me and for DF, eggs done “the way Jesus had his.” (See Matthew 11:30 for the punny explanation.) A dish of yogurt with rhubarb compote, both – you guessed it – homemade. The only reason we didn’t add in some of those Del Monte red grapefruit sections was that we forgot they were in the fridge.

The fireplace insert was churning out BTUs, its flames resurrected from the previous evening’s fire that had entertained us and also dried two racks of laundry. While I slept in DF had folded that laundry and put away the racks.

This lazy Saturday morning was seasoned perfectly by gusts of snow blown against the kitchen windows. Not new snow, but slabs of old snow and hand-sized chunks of frost blown off the roof and the neighbor’s giant larch tree. My breakfast sat more snugly and smugly each time snow scoured the panes: It’s out there and I’m in here, enjoying warmth and a leisurely breakfast.

All of which reminded me of a line from Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth.”

 



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th-2More than nine years ago my editor gave me a black fleece jacket with the MSN Money logo. The garment has seen some seriously hard use over the years, to the point where it’s no longer midnight-black but rather more of a pre-dawn slate.

A bit worn but still warm, the jacket has reached the end of the line because its zipper is kaput. Yet I’m having a tough time throwing it away, even though it’s no longer wearable and even though I no longer need it. My black fleece Mr. Rebates pullover keeps me plenty warm, thanks; it’s softer and cozier, too.

The other day I tried to throw the MSN jacket in the trash but couldn’t unclench my fingers. Two reasons why:

 


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The concept of a “spending freeze” pops up every so often in the personal finance blogosphere. January is prime time for this tactic, given the joyful excesses of the holiday season.

Spending freezes have been announced at a couple of blogs I follow, Jana Says and The Frugalwoods. They’re slightly different: Mrs. Frugalwoods wants to help you “restructure your frugal mindset,” while Jana invites us to join her as she learns “to start paying attention again.”

While leaving a comment on Jana’s post I used the phrase “hypothermia of the budget.” That’s where DF and I are this January, and probably for the next six months. Or maybe longer.

 


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