Feb 292008
 
Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Last month I worte an article titled Maximizing Savings By Playing The Gift Card Market which has proven to be one of my most popular. Consider this a Friday Frugality Follow-up (man, I just loves me some alliteration 😉 ).

According to a report from my local CBS affiliate, KPIX channel 5

Since January 1st California merchants have to give you cash back for anything under $10 if you ask for it. Merchants count on you not using it. Last year $8 billion went unused on gift cards, so a law was passed to give ‘you’ the cash back but as we found, the law isn’t always followed.

Unless you know to ask for it, stores usually won’t offer it but if you ask for it, they legally have to give you the cash back.

Many consumer friendly businesses would already honor a request for cash back from a gift card when it was such a minimal amount, but this is excellent news for Californians, despite it being a government edict.

Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Feb 202008
 

Yesterday’s Morgan Hill Times contained an opinion piece by Lisa Pampuch, a former City Hall reporter for The Times, former City Editor for the Gilroy Dispatch, and President of the Morgan Hill Friends of the Library. The main point of her article seems to be that we need the public libraries in order to supplement the lack of internet access among a portion of Santa Clara County’s population. In fact her response to the questions “What is the purpose of a library? What is the justification of a tax supported library?” is rather telling-

The Santa Clara County Library’s mission statement answers those questions: “The library provides free access to informational, educational, and recreational materials and services. … The library provides diverse resources on a wide variety of subjects and viewpoints and helps people use these resources.”

Is it just me, or is there absolutely zero justification for a tax supported library in that mission statement? Okay, so the library provides (supposedly) free access to materials and services. But that access isn’t free. It’s funded by money stolen at the point of a gun from the very citizens the library claims to serve.

Here’s some actual numbers for you-

  • Combined budgets of public library systems in Santa Clara county – $101,764,193
  • Number of households in Santa Clara County – 565,863
  • Average household contribution to Santa Clara County library budgets – $179.84
  • Cost of internet access through Fry’s/Outpost – $5.99/month ($72/year)
  • Number of WiFi Hotspots in Santa Clara County (according to Hotspotr) – 65
  • Number of sub-$100 desktop PCs sold on eBay in the last 30 days – 7,991

If you’re really worried about residents Santa Clara County residents having internet access, then you’d be much better off reducing the tax burden on residents by $179.84 per year and allowing them to choose for themselves whether or not to spend that money on internet access. Meanwhile, those who currently have internet access would be free to donate their savings to a library of their choice. The current library branches could be sold off or even simply handed over to the current employees to be run as any other business in a free market place.

Feb 142008
 

I’ve always been against Valentine’s Day due to its contrived nature. As a romantic I feel that love should be expressed regularly and special moments and gifts aren’t nearly as special when they are dictated by the date. But this year has got to be the worst ever.

I’ve spent the last two years devoting 99.5% of my time to caring for others and trying to make their lives better. I left my entire life behind and moved to Morgan Hill to be a bigger part of my daughter’s life and try to build a relationship from scratch because I’d missed the first 9 years of her life. In the process I took a job as a caregiver for developmentally disabled adults as it gives me the freedom of schedule required to be available to my daughter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I made a vow to myself to put aside the anger and frustration with my ex-wife and do whatever favors I possibly could for her in order to make it easier to be a part of Z’s life.

Today is Valentine’s Day. The day set aside for all American sto honor and show their appreciation for the people they love. And I got nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Here’s how the day’s played out so far (I started writing this at 9:50am local time)-

6:15 – Wake up and ensure Roommate 1 is up and getting ready for school. Get myself ready to drive 25 minutes to Gilroy in order to take Z and her half-brother, G, to school. I’ve been doing this for the last few months because their mother (who’s been off work since last summer), was unwilling to get up in the mornings and drive them to school on time.

7:00 – Head out on the drive, thinking about how much fun it’s going to be teasing the kids about school romance on Valentine’s Day. I was hoping to take the kids to a surprise breakfast and had purchased V-day cards (something I NEVER do) for everyone in their family (X, Z, G, and even the newest half-brother, 5-month old J).

7:30 – Open the door of X’s house, nearly bumping it into Z who has just carried the remains of her mother’s special V-day breakfast downstairs. I receive a half-hearted, one arm hug and a brief hello. Since the kids clearly made breakfast, that plan is out. But instead of offering me some I get told that I have to go upstairs to talk to X.

7:35 – Wish X a Happy V-day as she tells me to sit down because we need to talk. I tell her it needs to be quick. She agrees and then goes off on a 15 minute story about how Z lost her phone last night, but it was found and is being recovered. This turns into a fight since a) she’s now wasted every minute I am allowed to have with my daughter on Valentine’s Day, and b) despite her throwing a fit two weeks ago because I spoke to Z about a problem before speaking to her (X) she not only had a big conversation with Z about the phone without calling me, but instead agreed with Z that I’d “just lecture her about responsibility” (wrong) and wouldn’t allow her to get a new phone (wrong). So I was pushed even further into the bad guy role (since , X of course just hugged her and solved the whole problem without taking the opportunity to try to teach Z anything other than that there are zero consequences to anything) when I wasn’t even aware of the situation, much less permitted to take part in the conversation myself.

7:52 – Now late (and seething) I drive the kids to school in silence. If you were in a car with someone who’s usually laughing and joking and carrying the conversation and they were silent wouldn’t you ask what was wrong? Especially if you cared about that person? not these two. they just ignore their chauffeur and cary on their own conversations.

8:00 – Drop Z and get a perfunctory ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ as an afterthought as she closes the door.

8:10 – Drop G and get the most genuine sounding wishes for a good day from the unknown 5th grader working safety patrol at G’s school.

8:40 – Return home (sprinkling bits of valentine cards along the way) to shower in hopes of calming down.

9:00 – Still angry I write X an email trying to explain why I was so upset this morning, hoping writing it out will clear my system.

9:50 – That didn’t work either so I start this blog post with the same hopes.

10:00 – Stop blogging to walk Roommate 2 over to laundry room to start his laundry.

10:15 – Return from laundry room and resume this post.

10:40 – Pause again to walk Roommate 2 back to laundry room to change laundry.

10:55 – Return and attempt to finish post before Roommate 2’s laundry is done drying.

The rest of the day will be devoted to meeting Roommate 2’s needs (doctor’s appointment, cooking, cleaning, errands, entertainment, etc) until Roommate 1 returns from school this evening and I spend a couple of hours doing the same for him.

In the brief moments in between I’ll try to work on my blogs and online ’empire’ to earn money to give to X (who makes twice as much from unemployment as I do working 500 hours a month and earning online) or spend on Z (who refuses to earn any of her own money). If recent history is any example, I won’t hear from either of them (or anyone else) unless they are calling to complain about some slight they think I’ve made against them or they need a favor of some sort. Any calls from me to them to ask about their day or offer something will go unanswered and unreturned.

I don’t know why I feel the need to vent about all this today. It’s not really any different than any other day of my life over the last couple of years. It’s the life I’ve created for myself, but I still feel trapped in it and am clearly all alone in the world as a result of my own actions. But it’s Valentine’s Day. Sure I haven’t had a Valentine for roughly a decade, but at least before, when I was living my life primarily for myself there were always platonic relationships with people who took a few moments to show they cared.

It’s just been wearing me down lately. I’ve been trying to do my damndest to do the right thing – having the briefest of moments, separated by days if not weeks, to try to both build a relationship with Z and set her on a course to successful adulthood. Meanwhile everything I’ve tried to do in those brief moments is actively undone (intentionally or not) by her mother who has nearly 5 times as long with her between my visits.

I’ve just lost track of the point of ANY of this.

Feb 122008
 

By definition, yes, PayPerPlay is a scam-

American Heritage Dictionary
scam
n. A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.

On their website for publishers (GetAudioAds.com) they promise that “Publishers (website owners) will earn revenue on 100% of their traffic…“. This is simply not true. Many publishers are reporting tens of thousands of hits without a single penny earned. Personally, I’ve only earned on less than .001% of my traffic. Their “official” blog (I’ll get to why official is in quotes shortly) actually came out yesterday and admitted that they have no way to live up to that promise-

NetAudioAds can only serve approximately 220 million paid ads per month based on current advertisers. This means that at full throttle only 1 out of every 5 hits (shown in the stats system) will trigger a paid audio ad.

[…]

Now we can’t say that website owners will get paid on 100% of their web traffic because we don’t have enough paid ads to cover it all.

And yet, all of their recruiting pages still say that “website owners will get paid on 100% of their web traffic“. In fact, they hired hundreds of bloggers (myself includedtwice) to advertise that claim despite knowing that it was false. The first advertising commission I received from them in cluded the following line-

Our advertisers will buy ad plays on websites for 100% of visitors. You’ll have 100% conversion rate. 108 million sites have joined thus far.

and the second said –

Publishers (website owners) will earn revenue on 100% of their traffic… no clicks necessary!

I could accept this as a mistake except for two things: 1) they’re still spreading this false advertising, and 2) the second offer arrived on February 4th, three days after their official launch and at a time when they were already not living up to that promise.

They also continually state that they are “backed by one of the BIG 5 search engines” though they refuse to state which one, citing contractual obligations that were set to expire 11 days ago. Can you even name the “Big 5 search engines”? I canonly think of 4 I’d call “big”.

About that “official” blog. I assume it’s their official blog because its linked to directly from all of their webpages. But the blog’s author, Charles Heflin, keeps changing his story about whether or not he works for the company. Some days he swears he’s “just like everyone else” and at other times he talks about the inside info of the company as if he’s an employee (using “we”, etc). He also refuses to answer any questions on the “official” blog, instead referring people to the “official” forums (which also aren’t registered to the company. In other words, the company doesn’t communicate with anyone except its “insiders” and counts on them to spread the word. This gives them a perfect cloak of deniability should legal issues ever arrive.

Charles also seems to make up numbers at will. Yesterday he wrote that “at full throttle only 1 out of every 5 hits (shown in the stats system) will trigger a paid audio ad” but the day before he claimed “[t]he NetAudioAds servers are clocking 9,000 hits per second triggered from audio ad code in our distribution network” which works out to 32,400,000 ads being served every hour or 23,328,000,000 or more than 10 times their available ads if we’re to believe Charles.

You’re probably wondering what NetAudioAds and PayPerPlay are doing to even attempt to meet their promise. I certainly was. Well, it turns out they’re a re doing nothing, zero, zilch. Instead, they sent out their pet shill once again-

After discussions with NetAudioAds over the weekend, I have created a plan to fill the void. This plan includes you. You have the opportunity to create your own advertising agency through which to sell audio ads.

In other words, they now expect you to go sell the ads for them. So, let’s see. the publishers are getting the advertisers and serving the ads. What, exactly, is the service that NetAudioAds is providing again? Oh, they’re also going to stop accepting new publishers into the program… on Friday. Why not shut down right away?

All of the above smells like scam in addition to meeting the actual definition of the word. The most common retort to the accusation of NetAudioAds being a scam provided by Charles’ supporters (since he refuses to defend himself) is that it hasn’t cost anyone any money so it can’t be a scam. But these people are overlooking the fact that NetAudioAds (or maybe it’s Charles – the lines are so blurry it’s hard to tell) is charging people $70 to build a “SEO optimized” website to promote the program. This makes the scam smell even worse.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably wondering why I’m still using NetAudioAds, given the points I raise above. Well, I do believe it’s an innovative concept. And I do believe that it has the potential to be bigger than Adsense… eventually. I have not paid any money into the system and I’ve only included the code on a few pages that get relatively few visitors (less than 1,000 per day combined). If it takes off, I’ll be all set to be part of the next big thing. If it doesn’t I’m out a few weeks of effort. I’ve invested much more and received nothing in return in the past, so it’s worth it to me.

If it’s worth it to you as well, be sure to sign-up before this Friday because that’s when the doors close (assuming Charles and PayPerPlay are telling the truth on that).

Feb 112008
 

I’ve never watched The Colbert Report, so I need to give a big thank you to Marisa of Marisa’s Dandelion Patch for the heads up on this great quote. Andrew P. Napolitano a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, is now an analyst for Fox News Channel. He’s also the author of several books, the latest of which, A Nation Of Sheep came out last October. I have read parts of the book and found it rather interesting. It’s a highly recommended read for all of those who still think the government’s just doing what it must to keep ‘us’ safe. But I wanted to share this amazing quote with y’all. Colbert was pressing Napolitano on the question of “what’s wrong with sheep?” when the former judge stated the following-

Freedom is the default position.

Everything the government does takes away some of our freedom…

That’s why we have to watch everything the government does…

That’s why we have a constitution, to restrain the government.

It’s great to hear someone get it right for a change. The Constitution doesn’t grant us rights in any way shape or form. Its sole purpose is to place liits on the government itself in order to protect our rights.

Here’s the video for those who would like to see it for themselves-