Rants


I’ve been working on my taxes this year and was sadly disappointed to see that I would have to pay an additional $5,000 on top of the $70,000 I have already paid in taxes for 2016.    It seems that I was hit with multiple bonus taxes for Medicare and the AMT for some reason.  I’m still haven’t received all my tax documents so that number may fluctuate but it looks pretty gloomy nonetheless.

Since the majority of our income comes from W-2 (i.e. our employers), there aren’t too many things we can write off.  Worse than that, our son will start college soon and I doubt we’ll qualify for any tax deductions for higher education as our income limits our too high.

I hope Congress will do something to fix this taxation mess soon.  Having a tax system that penalizes people for hard work is just insane!   Think about it, if I just got lazy and quite my job, I’d be eligible for all sorts of tax deductions and credits.   What the hell kind of system is this?

Christmas is just around the corner and I have been struggling with what to buy for others and myself.   I don’t really need nor want a new 4k TV since what I have now is fine – I even have TVs that I don’t use in the house!   The new MacBook Pro that I’ve been waiting years for turned out to be a gimmicky garbage laptop.   The new 3.5mm jackless iPhones are a no-go for me until the wireless technology can give me a FULL day use without needing recharging.  Heck with 3.5 mm headphones, I never need charging!

In talking to a friend about some ideas, he told me he had just bought a new Sonos 5 and that he absolutely loved it.  I read the reviews on Amazon and everyone seems pretty happy with the device.   I was set to buy a few of these for my home but decided to do just a bit more research and then I found a deal killer – this device has TWO built-in MICROPHONES.    Why on Earth does a speaker system need to have microphones?    This isn’t a recording device, it is a sound distribution node so WTF!

History and court decisions have already shown us that any device that has any kind of snooping technology will inevitably fall into the use of government agencies and bad actors.   Worse yet, to get the most out of this device, you need to connect it to the internet so how many of you want live microphones all throughout your house being broadcast to a government agency or criminal bad actors 24 hours a day seven days a week?     We’ve already seen baby monitors, OnStar systems, telephones, and probably a thousand other things we don’t know about yet but I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to add Sonos devices to that list.

Sadly, I won’t be buying any Sonos products anytime soon until this issue is addressed so in the meantime I am looking at alternatives that have more security in mind that stupid features that serve no real purpose.

I write to you with very sad news….I am no longer a Costco fan.   I fell in love with Costco many years ago, they always seemed to have great stuff and great customer service but my last few visits reminded me of why I stopped shopping at Walmart many, many, years ago.    The Costco store is always packed, filthy, disorganized and the worst part – very long check out lines.    What exactly is the point of having 12 check out lanes if only 3 or 4 are ever open?    What’s the point of self-serve check out lanes if they are always closed?     Gee Costco, can’t you do better?   What happened to the promise of running your cart through an RFID reader and have it automatically total up your goods and breeze through checkout?    If there is any store that is ripe for automating checkouts it’s Costco but they just don’t seem to care anymore.

Truth be told, the entire retail experience everywhere is horrible.   There is never enough parking, too many people walking around, not enough sales clerks so why would anyone want to deal with this nonsense?      I now do about 80% of my shopping on Amazon.com where in two days it’s at my door.    I recently discovered Boxed.com which is a Costco clone but sells entirely online.  Unfortunately it doesn’t offer free shipping like Amazon but it does sell many of the bulk items Costco has without the hassle of the store.

What should Costco do?   Well they need to offer online delivery of ALL OF THEIR PRODUCTS not just a few of them.  They need to hire more people and open more check out lanes or just automate the process.   They should probably raise their membership fee if they can’t attract enough people to work there and pay them better.    Until Costco makes their retail experience more pleasant, I’ll just order more and more online.

This Labor Day weekend I decided to stroll down memory lane and catch up with some personal finance bloggers that I enjoyed reading over the years and much to my surprise I find that most of them have either sold out and moved on or have left their blogs hanging out to dry in the Internet sun unattended.

I must admit that I’ve been a very infrequent blogger but I have very valid excuses:

  1. I have been traveling the world
  2. I am at my career peak and I am in very high demand
  3. I am trying to make the most of my time left with my teenage kids before they head off to college
  4. I am trying to make plans for the future (more global travel) over the next few years and that takes considerable planning

First up is My 1st Million at 33 which I read rather regularly a few years ago seems to be sporadically posting now.

I just clicked on Free Money Finance and see that his blog was abandoned about a year ago but seems to potentially be starting a new one.

Classics like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly have both sold out and posts are now more “advertainment” than anything useful.  There are many more but I won’t list them here since many are simply defunked.   It is good to see Lazy Man and Money going strong still though.

I remember the great debates around “frugality vs capitalism” or “buy new vs buy used” or “spend less vs earn more” and all that seems dead now.     I can only surmise that many of the finance bloggers were in a similar situation to me…started blog in 30s and is now in 40s and have better uses for free time than blogging.

I’m a big fan of Amazon but this Black Wednesday in July sucks.    I just tried to buy Amazon gift cards for the $10 promo and got a message that the deal is no longer available.  Really?   You ran out of gift cards already at 8:30 a.m?   The day has barely started and Amazon doesn’t have any more gift cards!

Almost all the other items I am interested in are sold out.  What a huge let down.   Oh well at least I got some baby wipes that I really don’t need….

amazon sucks, sold out!

amazon sucks, sold out!

 

A good friend sent me a link to an interview with one of Duke’s Dean of Admissions as a primer on what colleges look for in a student candidate.    I saw the interview and immediately told my friend it was 90% bullshit.    We both have kids that will be applying to college soon and I have a large network of  “people that know people” within some of the most prestigious universities and they all whisper the same thing, “Don’t bother applying, the admissions system is so skewed in favor of the well connected it would be a miracle for you (your child) to get in.”

No doubt you’ve either seen or heard of the outrageous racist rants held by OU students that happened to be members of SAE.   When I started college over 20 years ago, fraternities on campus were always doing crap like this and wasn’t limited to racism but also extended into anti-semitism, sexism, homophobism and just about any other ism you can think of but that’s what frats have long been known for and things don’t seem to have changed in 20 years and no doubt this behavior goes way back well over 60 years.

My big question to Universities is if we have such crack interviewers clearly picking out the “winners” from the losers though rigorous admissions reviews consisting of SAT scores, grades, community services, 40 dimensions of compatibility, and other feel good adjectives then how in the hell are we having these issues?

If you go over to Google News and type “college campus”  you’ll get top links talking about campus rape, campus anti-semitism, campus racism, campus crime and of course college debt.    Wow, if this is what we can expect by bringing the best and brightest to colleges imagine what the campus would be like without the crack team of admissions people doing their job!   Here’s an experiment, run “college campus” five years from now, then ten years from now and you’ll be surprised to likely see the same thing.

I told my good friend that if we actually admitted students based on what university admissions directors say they use as criteria then almost every university would be filled with students from China, Japan, India, and almost any other country with higher profile students than U.S. students but that’s not what we find on campus today is it?

I honestly don’t care about universities any more, I received my MBA from an online accredited university and have had a couple of Harvard graduates wipe out at work when I tasked them with too much work activity that they ultimately ended up quitting and going elsewhere.    I’ll support my kids in whatever they want to do but the writing is quite literally on Google News as to why not waste your time with campuses anymore.

 

After many decades of better than normal vision, I am now finally in need of glasses.   I actually bought a pair of nice reading glasses a couple of years ago through my optometrist and was just SHOCKED to learn the glasses I ordered were $600.  While insurance paid for most of it, I thought it was still ridiculous that glasses should cost $600 so I decided I would search for a cheaper alternative online.

I ended up finding several low cost internet shops and settled on Zenni Optical for their somewhat good reviews.  Big Mistake!  While the glasses only cost me $70, they are barely useable.   There is a large distortion on both lenses.  I complained to Zenni Optical and they did give me an RMA number but when I recently got the glasses back, they’re still unusable.   This is after waiting weeks for the first bad lenses to arrive only to follow that up with several more weeks of waiting for the same horrible lenses.

I am wearing them right now and I might as well be looking through Coke bottles.    Lessons learned here is don’t get ripped off by low cost glasses.  I’ll probably just go to Costco next time and get a new pair from their through my insurance program.

ZenniOptical.com sucks!

I’ve used eBay on exactly two occasions to purchase something and only because I was desperate and Amazon didn’t have something I needed desperately in stock.   The first was 2004 and the last was in late 2013.  I know the exact times because I keep very good records and both experiences have been absolutely horrible.

I don’t remember the first time but it must have been something bad enough to keep me away for nearly 10 years but this time I’m going to document my experience here so I’ll look back at why I should never repeat business with these clowns again.

For Christmas, I received a Phantom Quadcopter and a GoPro camera.  If you want to see the cool things and fun you can have with this thing head over to YouTube and type Phantom+GoPro.     In any event, after a few days of playing with my Phantom, one of the locking nuts flew off along with the rotor blade causing my Phantom to come tumbling down from the sky and crashing into the ground.   Fortunately it was only about 15 feet off the ground when it happened and the Phantom received little damage sans the rotor.

Unfortunately, I lost the locking nut for the rotor when it flew off.  It was a small little nut and while I had spare rotors, I did not have any spare locking nuts.  The bird would not fly without the locking nut.    The counterclockwise nut is/was out of stock on Amazon and still out of stock to this day…

I found a couple of the nuts on ebay from two different vendors and desperate to make sure I get some, I ordered from two different vendors a set of four nuts.    Keep in mind that I ordered these nuts right after Christmas a couple of days after it crashed.   Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’m still waiting.    I tried emailing the vendor but was surprised to get a message from ebay that I had already, “exceeded the maximum number of messages I can send per day.”   Seriously, I had sent a message two minutes earlier to describe my problem then forgot to mention a couple of things and was going to send a follow up but I’m done and need to send a message some other day.

ebaysucks

WTF kind of experience is this at eBay?   To this day, I have no idea when I’ll get my nuts but it doesn’t matter because shortly after I placed the order, I drove 180 miles to a hobby shop that had them in stock and loaded up on them and some new rotors that don’t require the locking nut.

Contrast this against Amazon.com where I’ll have virtually anything I order delivered in two days with no need to send messages, wait a day or two to communicate with the vendor, and know when I’m going to get something delivered.

People think eBay saves them money until you realize the hours you waste trying to track down something is a huge waste of time/money in of itself.

So long eBay, as soon as I get my merchandise, if ever, I’m throwing my account away…..

How would you handle a 25% increase in monthly health insurance premiums?  That was the topic at lunch today when one of my co-workers (contractor) stated that his family health insurance policy was rising from $750 per month to $940 per month.   I pointed out the obvious, “How do you expect 40 million uninsured people to suddenly get insurance without someone somewhere paying for it?”

Somewhere out there is an insurance company raking in $12,000 per year out of my co-worker.  That’s $12,000 that won’t get spent on iPads, iPhones, televisions, furniture, new carpet, new kitchen, or anything else that will drive the economy.   The $12,000 will be spent on $200 aspirin, $4000 X-Rays, and a bunch of mis-priced, mis-allocated capital investments and operational expenses at a hospital somewhere that wants a cut of the action or into the hands of insurance companies.

I think most people were thinking the “government” was going to pick up the tab for Obamacare and then people realized that the “government” is nothing more than “we the people” so the working people are now subsidizing and providing “free” health insurance to the non-working or working poor.

I’m really curious to see what the next few election cycles are going to bring and I think the economy will head for a disastrous Obamacare driven financial collapse  in 2014 when we start seeing the full effect of this policy and premiums continue to go out of control.

I genuinely believed George W. Bush would go down in history as the worst president ever but now I think that title will go to Barak Obama.   Who knows perhaps the next president will be the worst one ever but for now Obama holds the title.

Although I have very good insurance through my employer I decided I would check out HealthCare.Gov and see what all the hub-bub was about regarding Obamacare.

After selecting my state from the main page, this is what I saw.

HealthcareGov

Can you make heads or tails out of anything on this page?   This is the best the United States Government could do with billions of dollars in resources?  Seriously?

As a society we seem to vacillate from dumb to dumber.  If it isn’t a war-mongering republican fool running the country it’s a “government can solve everything” bureaucrat running the country.

As I’ve stated many times on this blog, I’m not a supporter of either party, it took a couple of decades for me to understand my father’s skepticism about political parties and false promises but now I finally understand.

Obamacare will unleash untold chaos on the country and global economy next year given the current state of sign ups and the massive cancellations by insurance companies.   What a colossal embarrassment!

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