Monday, November 26, 2007

George Foreman Ipod Grill -Whaaat??

This is a strange product I came across today. It's a grill with built in connection for the ipod plus speakers and amp.

Who would buy this frankensteinian grilling gear? I think the market researchers were polling people on April Fools day.

Why would I plug an ipod near a hot, smoking, grease-dripping grill? It's such a bizarre combination. An ipod is the last thing you would want to have near a grill.

Or maybe they hired some monkeys with a dartboard on George Foreman Industries HQ?

I can only imagine what went on at the CEO's office at George Foreman Industries. Just like a Dilbert comic.
"Johnson, my nephew showed me his ipod last night. I want you to build a grill with an Ipod connector."
"But sir, who would buy that?"
"Get it out by Christmas or start packing your cube!"
"Yes sir!"

What's next? a grill with built in Wifi, keyboard and LCD screen? So you can surf while grilling your steak? Maybe also a Wifi router addon, so you can make your grill also function as a hotspot for the neighbors.

Movie Night

I had a chance to watch "No Country For Old Men" last week. I had read that this film was good from So I was eager to check it out. This is a movie about a guy who finds a bag filled with millions of dollars. The bad news is that the drug smugglers are also looking for their money. The bad ass dude played by Javier Bardem is one guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. The story is punctuated by straight-faced comedic moments from the Texan sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. Good to see that Tommy is in a role that fits him.

It was an enjoyable movie, with thrilling moments and not the expected ending. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. I got a good deal for a matinee ticket price of $7.50.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Costco Observations and Crystal Ball

Alakazam! Gaze into my crystal ball...

So I was returning something at Costco last night. And as I was waiting in line I was observing the shopping cart contents of the patrons leaving. This was Monday night around 7pm at a fairly affluent area. Over about 15 minutes, I scanned at least 20 shoppers and I found that around 95% of their shopping carts contained ordinary food stuffs. Cheese, soda, water, fruits, vegetables, and similar items.

The interesting thing I noted was there wasn't any big purchasers of electronics, toys, clothes, tools, or luxury item.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill. But I was expecting at least more shoppers would be be playing Santa and buying something nice for Christmas. The only obvious non-food purchase I saw was a cyber dog with a carrying bag. CRAP alert!

Maybe people are doing serious belt tightening due to the falling stock market, and the rising oil prices, and the falling dollar. Or maybe I was at the store at an odd hour plus it was a weeknight.

Are you looking to spend less for the Christmas list this year?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wastrel Show Rocks

The Wastrel Show blog rocks!!!

The blogger is a 50-ish woman who blogs about retirement, finances, and living debt free. The more I read her posts, the better it gets. She has a very entertaining writing style and I enjoy reading her updates on saving, kids, and her thoughts on money.

Add this blog today to your reading list:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Iphone Jailbreak

My relative was visiting, and he bought 2 Apple iphones. They don't have them yet in his country. So being the geek of the family, I helped unlocked the iphone.

The procedure to unlock the phone is not too difficult.
Requirements are:
1. Internet connection
2. Windows PC
3. WIFI router
4. Iphone
5. Downloaded files:

I followed the directions from this page. So refer to that site for full details.

1. Start off by downloading the various zip files listed. Unzip the files
2. Install the .Net framework. Uninstall older .Net framework required.
3. Make sure your WIFI router is working. DHCP is enabled.
4. Install ITunes
5. Install WinSCP. A file copying program, used to copy files from PC to iphone
6. Install TouchFree
7. Reboot windows if needed
8. Hook up the Iphone crade to the PC's USB port
9. Start Itunes to see if it can recognize the Iphone in the doc. Stop Itunes, and use taskman to kill the iphone services.

Basically the procedure is
1. Make sure Iphone version is correct
2. Use iphone Emergency Call feature to access the Addressbook
- Add URL for preferences. Go to Preferences and Turn off the Autolock feature
- Add URL for the
3. Connect the Iphone to your WIFI network. Write down the IP address of the Iphone.
4. Connect to the jailbreak URL.
5. Start TouchFree. Then follow the onscreen instructions, touch free will copy files to the Iphone, and prompt you to reboot the Iphone several times.
When touchfree is completed, you will be able to see the Springboard, which is the main page of the iphone with the various icons.
6. Next you Unlock the iphone. Bring up WinSCP to copy files to the iphone. Copying AnySim to the phone allows the iphone to work with other phone carriers.
7. Next you activate the phone. Copying the new lockdownd and reboot
After this you should be able to use a non-ATT sim card to make calls.
8. Final step is to install the youtube file. After this you can browse youtube videos via WIFI.

The site has all the details. Overall the procedure is pretty straightforward for PC users with some experience tinkering around. Took about 30 mins to uninstall older .Net framework and to install the downloaded zips. Another 30-40 minutes to do the unlocking.

The iphone is a cute toy. Expensive but worth it. If you dont want to carry a bulky laptop, this is a good compromise. The price cut brings it down to $399 plus tax. It's a nice phone, web browsing device, plus it has a camera, and of course an Mp3 player.

Thankful Part 2

Got up early today to volunteer at the annual food drive. The local boy scouts and brownies distributed some bags and flyers a few weeks ago. Today the scouts and their parents drive around the neighborhood and pick up the donated food.

All the bags are taken to the church and lots of volunteers sort them. There were scouts, Coast guards, church members, Red cross volunteers and kids from 2 local high schools. About around 60 people were there today.

Cars, SUVs, trucks came to drop off. Thanks to the scouting parents!

Then the canned foods are sorted into the following categories:
Ready to Eat
Meats and Chili
The cans are grouped into their respective boxes.

The effort was a big success. They collected more than last year. I think 7000+ cans.
Good to see lots of giving, and also good to see many volunteers.

All the boxed food is brought to the local food bank. And the food is distributed to the local city residents.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I came across this LA Times article about life in Zimbabwe. Very sad to read how the country is going down the drain. Hyperinflation has decimated the economy and people's lives are reduced to queueing for hours on end. It reminds me of the similar situation in Germany that catapulted Hitler to power. If the people are hungry, they will listen to anyone who promises them bread.

Reminds me to be thankful as turkey day approaches...

Frugal trip to Yosemite

I had a relative visit us recently and I took them to Yosemite a few weeks ago.
I was able to save on this last-minute getaway in several ways.

Instead of renting a car, we just used my trusty Corolla. The corolla performed well since snow had not fallen, it was a relatively nice 3 and a half hour drive to Yosemite. And since it was a short 2 day trip, we did not have to pack a lot. It also helped that the Corolla is a gas-sipper. I only had to fill up once before leaving, and once before coming home.

Another way we were able to save was going there during the off-peak season. I was able to book a room at the Yosemite Lodge for around $125 a night. This was a good deal since the Lodge is located in the park, and has a food court, restaurant, and stores right beside it. The room was comfy with lots of hot water to end the day. Timing is essential. If we were going during the summer, the room would have cost double that. The lodge just is a short hike to one of Yosemite's waterfalls, and we even saw some deer wandering the grounds.

Good weather was still to be found when we got there. The temps was in the upper 60's so it was enjoyable. So we were able to enjoy taking short hikes. I was amazed that the weather was so temperate at this time of the year.

Yosemite is so beautiful, and full of life. We saw groups of deer walking with their does. And we also saw a coyote.

On our second day, we just went to the supermarket in the park and bought a picnic lunch. Salads, and heated trays of BBQ chicken. And also fruits we bought from a roadside stand.

Enjoying Yosemite can be cheap and last-minute. As long as you keep an eye out and think frugally.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Living Trust Creation

We met with our lawyer today to sign and officially create the following documents:

Revocable Living Trust
Power of Attorney
Medical Power of Attorney

The whole experience has been very educational. These documents are useful for protecting your estate and for making life easier for the survivors.

The Living Trust is helpful for avoiding probate costs and to avoid delays. So one needs to transfer assets into the trust (house, retirement accounts, etc) There are also some cases where you can use this to shelter more assets from taxes and pass assets to your child(ren). The living trust also allows you to specify who will be the guardian in case you have minor children.

The Will is used to handle your "smaller assets". You may not want to transfer all your assets into the living trust, or it may be not such a valuable asset that needs to be added to the LT, so just handle this in the will. Stuff like cars, or checking account if you dont' have much there.

Power of attorney identifies who will be handling your financial decisions in case you are incapacitated, or "sick in the head"... So normally, it will be your spouse, if not available, then 2 more alternates

Medical power of attorney, of course for the medical decisions. The big decisions are "pull the plug" and organ donation.

Many people do not like to think of their deaths, so they avoid the task of setting these documents up.

1. You can't avoid it anyway. Everyone dies. So if you don't have anything written down, then the government will either take it in taxes, or probate will delay and add costs.

2. Another thing people say is they think it's expensive to talk to a lawyer and set these things up. Well, maybe so, but there are also high costs associated with probate. And if you don't want to see a lawyer, then just do the minimum and create a will, there are many books and software that do this now.

3. It's the responsible thing to do. We want to make it as easy for our daughter. So having these issues written down is our gift to her.

4. Family relationships. If you have many children and grandchildren, I think you will be helping the survivors by just selling everything, and distribute equal portions to them all. This will help to prevent sibling quarrels and misunderstanding. However, if you want the opposite effect, then just do nothing, and don't write anything down.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Motley Fool is Dead (to me)

When I started my financial journey years ago. I would visit Motley Fool to read their articles on investing and get useful ideas. They have many articles that introduce the concepts of investing to newbies like me.

But nowadays I don't really go there anymore. In fact I have been avoiding their site. Why? because they have changed, and I have matured. If you frequent the Yahoo Finance, like me, to get stock quotes, you'll frequently see Motley fool articles listed. But I don't click them anymore.

The reason is they Motley Fool site seems to have morphed into a newsletter ad machine. Their articles almost 99% of the time give a teaser headline to get you to click it. The "ADticle" will spew some general personal finance spiel, then bam they hit you with something like "... if you want to find great money making stocks like these that kick ass, then subscribe to our XYZ newsletter today."

Motley Fool started with a compelling site. But nowadays, they're just a lifeless newsletter huckster. No thanks MF, I'll just read pf blogs instead.