Monday, March 26, 2007

Chicks Love a Vegetarian

Gentle reader,

Are there any readers out there who are considering becoming vegetarians? If so, you might be interested and hopefully encouraged by this article.

About a month ago I made the decision to stop eating meat.

I had been thinking about it for years but had always been too unmotivated (ahem, lazy) to take the plunge. Then, a member of my family stopped eating meat. And soon after that, I found out that another close friend of mine had also done the same thing.

That set me to thinking.

Finally, I decided to jump on the veggie bandwagon after forcing myself to watch part of a movie clip that showed some chickens being mistreated and slaughtered. The chickens were placed into slots on a conveyor belt upside down, dangling from
their feet. The conveyor belt moved through a blade that cut their throats. Then they were put into hot water and scalded to get their skins off. I don't think that all of them were dead when they were being scalded.

Once upon a time many years ago I spent a day working in a chicken "factory". In just one day I observed how people become desensitized to the suffering of animals when they work with them in factory conditions, day after day. Terribly cruel things happen to animals in such conditions. Yes, I always knew that animals had to die to make meat. Somehow, until recently,
I was able to shove this information into a part of my brain where it still allowed me to
eat meat. That has now changed.

So how do I feel after the first month?

Well, so far I feel remarkably good. I feel much healthier and more upbeat. The day I stopped eating meat I was just getting over a cold. So in the beginning when I was feeling good and having more energy I reasoned that it was just because I was recovering. But that feeling has persisted now for the entire month. I feel much more energetic and happier than previously. I wonder if this is just a passing thing. I hope not! Psychologically I enjoy the thought that there is no longer a chicken, a pig or a cow "out there" somewhere who is going through hell because of me and my need to eat meat.

A nice side-effect has been a drastic reduction in the amount of unhealthy fast food that I gobble down. I confess, I was partial to the occasional McDonald's quarter-pounder with cheese. I no longer am tempted to eat at McDonald's because most of the menu is meat-based. Even though I still go there once in a while with my family, I no longer order a quarter pounder with cheese like I used to. I guess that is a good thing! Also I have my pizza without sausage and pepperoni. Small victories!

As for protein - I found out that many foods are a source of protein. Nuts are a well-known source, but even vegetables have protein. When you think about it, it makes sense. Cows eat mostly grass, yet beef is rich in protein. So a cow's protein must come from grass. Similarly, vegetables contain protein as well.

As far as adverse side-effects, so far I haven't noticed any. So, as of writing this, the experiment has been a great success.

Here is a summary of the benefits:

1) I am healthier and have less worry about ending up in the emergency room for bypass surgery, or worse.
2) Fewer animals need to be raised, potentially mistreated and ultimately killed just so that I can eat them.
3) We will no longer waste resources (grain, water, etc.) to feed the animals that I would have eaten.
4) I feel happier, have more energy and my pants fit a little better :)
5) I don't have to handle or cook meat, which I never enjoyed doing.

Time for today's quote:

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
-Mark Twain

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Moving House? Not So Fast.

Gentle reader,

Are you thinking about moving house?

Are you caught up in the manic cycle of house buying and selling, just so you can"move up", impress the Joneses and feel good about yourself?

Hold on one minute, let's think about this.

Old Memories
There is something to be said about laying down roots in one place. I am not talking about shallow roots, I am talking about deep, deep roots.

I remember Karl from next door. He was in his mid-80's when we first moved in. We helped him and his wife mow their lawn when he was sick and I remember how he joked, when one day he had not woken up until 4pm, that he was "getting ready to sleep full-time". Old Karl is gone now. But those memories of him live on and they still make me smile once in a while.

I remember my children running about the house when they were little.
This old place has all those old memories in its woodwork. If I were to move, I am afraid that most of those memories would stay behind.

How about you?

What memories do you have and don't you think you might lose some of them in the shuffle?

It's hard to build a solid community when people are constantly coming and going.

True friendships are forged over long periods of time. Shared memories of "how things used to be" and hardships endured ("do you remember the winter of 1986?") help to form a bond between neighbors. Think about how long it takes to build these bonds.

People can be fiercely individualistic and it can take many years for people who were strangers
to become true neighbors. If you move, perhaps you will lose some or all of these relationships and it may take years to re-build them in another area.

A move "just for the sake of moving" can be very costly. Consider the following:

1) How much extra mortgage will you have if you "move up"?

Perhaps more importantly, how much longer will you need to be paying that mortgage if you refinance with a new 30 year loan? Will you feel good about your decision later, when you are forced to keep sending a cheque to the mortgage company when you could have owned your old house free and clear?

2) If you move into a bigger house, what about the increased insurance, heating and cooling bills and property taxes?

3) Do you really need the extra space? Is it worth the use of all those resources (construction materials) and added energy usage?

Of course, sometimes it is necessary to move.

Jobs come and go, harsh economic realities often take precedence over personal preferences.

These are just some things to think about before you make your decision.

And on to today's quote:

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us."
-Winston Churchill

Until the next time, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Being Religious is Easier

Gentle reader,

I was raised (loosely) as a Roman Catholic. I went to a Catholic comprehensive school in London on the weekdays and church on Sundays. Well, most Sundays. One time I snuck away with my brother and we bought comic books with the collection money. That was fun! But over time I have become an atheist. As I grow older and spend more time thinking about life, I cannot not bring myself to stay religious. The more I think about it, the less I am able to buy into believing something without evidence. I am a scientist at heart. Moreover, there are some aspects of the bible and religion that I believe are harmful. For example, threatening people with hell to make them behave in a certain way. There are many other things.

I walked away from religion. However, I can see how absolutely necessary it must be for some people to have religion in their lives. Having given up on religion myself, I strongly believe that life is easier if you are religious than if you are an atheist. Here are some of the reasons:
  1. If there is no God then what is the purpose and meaning of life? Anyone who ponders this question and has no religion is left with a huge, empty chasm. I personally spend some time every day wondering about this. If you are religious, this question is answered.
  2. If there is no God, what happens to me when I die? It is daunting and unpleasant to think about this question, and imagine oneself underground, or being burnt in a furnace, with NOTHING afterwards. You will never get to see your loved ones again. How much nicer it is to believe that they will all be waiting for you in heaven. Or that you will have a bevy of virgins, or attain Nirvana.
  3. If you are religious you have an instant social network through your Church. Without church you may have to work harder to find friends.
  4. If you don't have a religion, you are completely responsible for your own life. There is no such thing as "leaving it up to God". If something bad happens (e.g. you lose your job), there is no-one to turn to but yourself. That can be a lot to handle. How much easier it is to trust God to do the driving.
  5. You are responsible for your moral choices and you must live with your conscience forever afterwards. There is no such thing as going to confession and being completely forgiven. I would love to have all my sins forgiven. But it's just not an option for me.
Despite all of these disadvantages, I have no choice but to be an atheist. I simply don't believe in any God, or Gods. But I do understand why many others are religious and I do not hold it against them. It is more difficult for me now that I know (I am pretty sure, let's say) I am "alone" in the universe, than before when I was a believer. Which brings us to today's quote:

"Whatever gets you through the alright".
-John Lennon

Until the next time gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

Monday, March 19, 2007

Buford Twain's Simple Fitness Plan for Life

Gentle reader,

Here is a simple and very inexpensive plan to help you stay healthy.



Get *some* exercise and remain as active as possible during the day. Walk around a lot if your job allows that. Even if you are stuck at a desk (as I am), you can get up every once in a while to run small errands to keep somewhat active.

If you work in an office, go for a 1/2 hour walk at lunchtime. Head out to a local park, or just walk around if you are in a city. If you don't have time for a 1/2 hour walk at lunchtime, make time.

You are more important than you job. You are the one who may die from a heart attack or suffer illness if you don't exercise, not your co-workers. You are worth it - do it.


Try to stay active, e.g. clean your house a little bit (sweeping and scrubbing are good exercise), play with your kids (if applicable), go to fun places that involve walking (e.g. museum, art gallery, park). There are other activities that are great exercise that are also fun. You know what I mean :)


For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner try to eat lots of fruits, vegetables and try to steer clear of fats and sweets. If you feel like a snack between meals, try to eat an apple or some other piece of fruit.

Remember, an occasional candy bar won't kill you and chocolate actually has some health benefits :)

The key is MODERATION.

General guide to eating healthy food:

Fruits and vegetables are best. It's a good idea to wash them before you eat them to remove chemicals that might be on them.

As for processed foods, try to eat the ones with the fewest ingredients.

Check labels and count ingredients. If you see a huge list of ingredients be leery, most of the
ingredients are probably additives and chemicals that you want to minimize.

Bread is usually good, particularly wheat bread. Again, check and count the ingredients in your bread. Bread really only needs to have flour, water and yeast.

What to Avoid

Don't diet, in the sense of depriving yourself of food.
Try to have a good diet (in the sense of good nutrition), but don't actually diet.
Dieting doesn't seem to work in the long run and makes you miserable.
Being miserable oftens makes people eat junk food in an uncontrolled way.
This becomes a vicious circle of misery and overeating.
The only ones to benefit from this are DIET COMPANIES.

If you can't seem to stick to the plan, it is possible that you are stressed, or have other issues that are causing you to overeat.

I overeat when I am stressed, and sometimes turn to candy as comfort food.
It feels good for a little while, but there are consequences later that I don't like.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Consider focussing on improving your state of mind.
Try a calming activity like yoga, or play music that you enjoy.
Paradoxically, exercise in itself can help you feel better mentally, which in turn
can help prevent you from overeating, in a positive feedback loop.

At the risk of repeating myself, if you get nothing else out of this article, here are 2 points to take away:

1) You can and should eat healthily WITHOUT DIETING.

2) You can and should EXERCISE A LITTLE EVERY DAY, and you don't need to join an expensive gym to do that.

That's it! I hope it helps someone. If it does, please post something. If not, please post and let me know what I can do to improve this.

And on to the quote of the day:

"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow."
-Oscar Wilde

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Don't be Number 1. Be Number 2.

Gentle reader,

espite what they may say ("our employees are our greatest asset!"), companies don't have your best interests at heart. Trust me on that.

They are there to make money and that's about it.

Not-for-profit companies may be the exception (I have never worked full-time at one) but somehow, I doubt it.

Given that it's a dog-eat-dog world, what can you do to improve your chances at thriving and surviving as an employee commando in the corporate jungle?

Here's a tip that may seem counter-intuitive but bear with me, all shall be revealed...

Don't be Number 1 at work...(even though you definitely have what it takes)
Don't be number 3 at work...
Number 2 at work (no, not in the scatological sense).

If you are number 1, you might be paid more than the others but that comes with some serious drawbacks. You are too smart to fall into that trap. It means...

* You are the person they all turn to in a crisis. This means: LOTS OF PRESSURE
You must be driven and competitive. In other words, STRESSED OUT
You will be expected to lead the critical projects. Or, YOU WILL LIVE AT THE OFFICE

If you are number 3 (i.e. significantly below number 1) you will have the following fun little issues to deal with:

* You will be passed over for promotions and will therefore MAKE MUCH LESS MONEY
* You will be viewed as a bit of a LOSER and will therefore be the FIRST TO GET THE BOOT when the layoffs start.
* You will probably not enjoy your job and so you will be MISERABLE at work

However, if you are #2, or just ever-so-slightly behind number 1, you will enjoy the following benefits:

* You will get to work on some of the most INTERESTING PROJECTS.
* You will be PAID REASONABLY WELL (though, of course, not as well as #1)
You will enjoy a moderate amount of prestige
* You will not have a lot of pressure, since the #1 guy or gal will be taking most of it (haha!)

It's a bit like trailing directly behind Lance Armstrong in the Tour-de-France.

It's similar to following in the slipstream of an 18-wheeler.

Or driving right behind the speeding emergency vehicle when traffic is stuck.

It's almost (but not quite) immoral (you are purposefully holding back your best work)
It's a little bit risky (you might just get promoted to the #1 spot. Aaargh!) but...

Come on, you know it makes sense. You're a savvy slacker.

And on to the quote for the day...

"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."
-Anatole France

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain as always,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Essentials for the Working Stiff: The 401(K)

Gentle reader,

In case you haven't noticed, there are many companies that no longer offer a pension.

If you work for a company and they have never, not even once, mentioned that you are a part of their pension plan, then you probably work for one of those companies.

Of the few companies that remain that do offer pensions, some are going to go bankrupt. So they really don't offer a pension either.

If you are young and naive, you probably think you are going to live forever and you aren't too worried about your retirement.

However, I am here to tell you that you won't live forever and before you die there is a good chance that you will be too tired or sick to work.

In that case, you will need a supply of cold hard ca$h.

It is likely that the government will provide *something* to you in your old age (I am talking about what is currently known as social security).

However, the amount probably won't be enough to live on.

What is a financially well-informed person to do?

Well, the simple answer is: "Save Money".

The 401(k) plan (basically, a tax-deferred savings account) is probably the best way to do that, assuming you are eligible (i.e. your employer has such a plan).

There are a few reasons why it makes sense to put money into a 401(k) plan:

1) You are not immediately taxed on the money you invest in a 401(k) plan. In other words, you save the income tax for yourself instead of paying Uncle Sam.
2) The earnings (profits) you earn from investing that money is also not taxed until you start taking the money out.
3) Employers typically deduct money from your paycheck to go into your 401(k) plan on a regular basis. So, there is no additional "work" required on your part other than to keep your job. This makes it far more likely that you will accumulate a sizeable amount of money than if you had to actively mail a check each month. You are "paying yourself first".

The investments that are available in a 401(k) plan are typically mutual funds.

A mutual fund is a collection of many stocks all bundled together. When compared to investing in individual stocks, mutual funds are typically fairly "boring", because they move slowly as opposed to individual company stocks (think McDonald's, Disney, IBM, etc) that are more volatile. The "boring" factor is actually good thing: you are more likely to forget about them, and then wake up one day and realize that you are RICH!, or are well on the way.

I will take a closer look at how to pick from the different funds in your 401(k) plan in a later article.

The one thing to keep in mind is that, on average, stocks (and therefore mutual funds) increase in value over time, and over long periods of time (say, 30 or 40 years) often increase A LOT. I mean, a very lot.

The longer the time period, the more you are likely to gain. The bottom line:


How much should you invest in your 401(k) plan?

Before you even start to invest in it, think about the following because that will (or may) affect how much you can afford:

1) Do you own your own house? If not, would you like to own one? That is a reasonably good investment itself and it's worth putting your money there first if that is one of your personal goals/dreams.
2) Do you have an emergency fund that will allow you to live for 6 months if you were to lose your job today? If not, build up that fund and put it in something safe like an interest bearing savings account.

After thinking about 1) and 2), consider putting as much money into your 401(k) plan as possible, up to the maximum allowed yearly contribution (which is $15,500 for 2007).

The government is essentially offering you "free money" so take as much as you can get.

Note that I make this suggestion whether or not your company matches part of your 401(k) contribution or not.

If your company does contribute more free money, then you should definitely take advantage of that as well.

You (or your loved ones) will thank you later.

On to today's quote:

“He is richest whose pleasures cost the least.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

your friend,

Buford twain

[ Disclaimer: Not to be taken as financial advice. Think for YOURSELF at all times. ]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The "God" Particle

Gentle reader,

A special installment, for the particle physicists out there...

In the excellent movie "Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels" there is a part where a gang of small-time hoodlums are being attacked by someone with an air-rifle.

The dialogue goes something like this:

person1: "Ouch, I've been shot!"
person2: "Ouch, I've been shot!"
person3 (annoyed): "Will everyone please stop getting shot?!"

In the same vein, I would like to ask:

Will everyone please stop calling the Higgs Particle the "God" Particle ?!

(e.g. Leon Lederman in his book )

The Higgs particle is the last-to-be-discovered particle in the menagerie that is described by the "Standard Model" of particle physics.

If the Higgs particle is discovered, will that prove, or disprove the existence of God?

Well no, actually it won't.

Is there anything more magical about the Higgs particle than any one of the dozens of other particles that are predicted by the Standard Model and that have been observed?

Let's see... One difference is that nobody's seen the Higgs yet (i.e. nobody has directly observed it). Also, the Higgs is "responsible for giving other particles their mass". But the W and Z vector bosons act as mediators of the Weak force.

The photon mediates the electromagnetic force. So why not call THEM God particles? The poor things undoubtedly have a terrible inferiority complex by now.

When the Top quark was observed back in 1994, was that seen as evidence for or against God?


So, why use that term?

My friends, there is one reason alone: marketing (and with that, book sales).

But the Higgs particle has no more to do with God (or absence of God) than any other particle.

So, how about we just call it "the Higgs particle"? We don't want to give any false impressions (do we?).

Moving on to today's quote:

"Wisdom comes with winters."
Oscar Wilde

Until the next time, dear reader, I remain,

your friend,

Buford Twain

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Buford Twain's Portfolio Possibility: Berkshire Hathaway

Gentle reader,

Warren Buffet and his Berkshire Hathaway company are truly diamonds in the rough.

Mr. Buffet is a man who is simultaneously smart, honest, funny and charitable.

As if that weren't enough, he consistently makes boatloads of money for his shareholders.

Warren Buffett started out in the textile business. When that didn't work so well, he moved on to re-insurance and "regular" insurance. For example, GEICO is a very MINOR part of Berkshire's portfolio of wholly owned companies. So is fast food (DQ anyone?), jewelry, private jets (NetJets is one of their latest acquisitions) and many other somwehat boring yet highly profitable businesses such as electronics components distribution (TTI).

Berkshire Hathaway's biggest "problem" is that they simply have SO MUCH MONEY floating around ("float" literally, from their insurance businesses) that they have a hard time finding quality things to invest in. Much of the money is invested in the stock market. Berkshire Hathaway owns around 8% of Coca-Cola and has a large stake in around 15 other large US-based companies including the Washington Post, Wells Fargo and Home Depot.

When Mr. Buffet sees a company that he thinks is priced attractively, poised to grow, and is run by good managers, well -- he buys it. Traditionally, these companies have been US-based. Increasingly, Warren is reaching further afield (e.g. ISCAR is an Israeli company that makes cutting tools).

Personally, I believe that Warren Buffet has shown that it is possible to make money AND not be morally bankrupt. Therefore, even those who lean toward socially responsible investmenting should take a look at Berkshire. Those of you who care solely about monetary matters (shame on you!) will also be intersted. In his annual review, almost the first thing Mr Buffet does is chart the performance of Berkshire Hathaway against the S&P 500. What other corporation does that? And isn't ashamed of the results??

Although A-shares of Berkshire Hathaway are currently running over $100,000 a piece, you can pick up a B share for about 1/30th of that, or around $3600. The only disadvantage of owning B shares is that they do not entitle you to vote as a shareholder. But you CAN attend the annual shareholders meeting in Omaha (May 5th this year)!

My only concern is Mr. Buffet's age (76). But, he is actively working on picking a successor
(or successors, since it will likely take 2 or more people to do what he was doing on his own).
Whether that person or persons will be able to carry on as effectively remains to be seen...
The question to ask about Berkshire is the same question Warren Buffet asks about the companies he is interested in acquiring, or investing in. That question is: "Is the company priced attractively and how quickly can it be expected to grow its profits?"

I leave you to do your own research on Berkshire and the "Oracle of Omaha".

But for now here are a few words of wisdom, taken from the Berkshire Hathaway 2006 Annual Report:

When someone with experience proposes a deal to someone with money, too often the fellow with money ends up with the experience, and the fellow with experience ends up with the money.
-Warren Buffet

If you want to get a reputation as a good businessman,
be sure to get into a good business.

-friend of Warren Buffet to WB

Be fearful when others are greedy,
and be greedy when others are fearful.

-Warren Buffet

ISCAR makes money because it enables its customers to make MORE money.
There is no better recipe for continued success.
-Warren Buffet

And until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

Your friend,

Buford Twain

PS - This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance #91

[ Disclaimer: Not to be taken as financial advice. Think for YOURSELF at all times. ]

Monday, March 5, 2007

(Almost) No Women in Computer Programming

Gentle reader,

Has anyone else out there noticed there are almost no women computer programmers?

From the drab world of corporate bit-crunching to the fast-paced land of game
development, it's guys, guys and more guys. As the Pointer Sisters Weather Girls succinctly put it, "It's Raining Men!".

For those who don't believe it's all that bad - take a look at a list of the contributors to the popular UNIX utility, "curl":

Notice anything? Yeah, thought so. THESE PEOPLE ARE ALL GUYS.

Lots of Pauls. No Paulas.

Masses of Erics. Nary an Erica.

Lots of Richards. No... what is the female equivalent of Richard, anyway? Whatever it is, there AREN'T ANY.

Any female name in here (and there could be one or two, maybe some foreign ones?) are the EXCEPTION THAT PROVES THE RULE.

Doesn't it seem a bit like an elephant sitting quietly in the corner of the room?

It's there, but nobody is really talking about it.

But I would like to know.

Why is computer programming such a frigging turn-off for women?

Or, as Larry Summers once conjectured, is it simply because women have less aptitude? (gasp!).

One theory is that computer programming is not social enough for most women.

It makes sense.

I don't think there are many other occupations where you are left alone to your
own thoughts as much as in computer programming.

Scientific research comes close, particularly theoretical research. And similarly, I
do keep hearing about how few women scientists there are.

On the other hand, being a writer is another occupation that is similar in
many respects. You are left to your own thoughts for long periods of time. But
in that case, there happen to be many women practitioners.

So, it seems there is something else going on here beyond just the socialization.
Or, perhaps writing a book can be considered a social activity, because in that case
you really *are* communicating with other people (as opposed to a computer).

Anyway, not content to have only one opinion on the matter, I thought I would put
this question out there:

Why aren't there more women in computer programming?

In particular, it would be interesting to hear from women who have spent some time
as programmers.

And with that question, on to today's quote. It's another from one of my favorite
authors and a humanist to boot:

To hell with the advances in computers.
YOU are supposed to advance and become, not the computers.
Find out what’s inside you. And don’t kill anybody.
-Kurt Vonnegut

Until the next time, I remain,

your friend,

Buford Twain

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Step by Step Religion Detox Program

Gentle reader,

Would you like to try to rid yourself of religion?

If so, here is a simple step by step program that you can use today.

1) Read Carl Sagan, on belief in the absence of proof, "the dragon in my garage" argument -

2) Read "Why Does God Hate Amputees?" -

3) Read "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris

4) Make like Winnie the Pooh and think...think...think

5) If still in doubt, take a walk, then go back to step 4

6) If *still* in doubt, read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins (available from

7) If cured, CONGRATULATIONS! Please leave a post and tell me all about it.

8) If not, please leave a post and tell me why not.

Today's quote?

There are 100,000,000,000 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.
-Richard Feynman

Your friend,

Buford Twain

PS - If you have suggestions for additional steps (e.g. something that worked for you) please leave a post.

Friday, March 2, 2007

No Car Payments Feels Pretty Good

Gentle reader,

Allow me a moment of joy. I have NO car payments! As the younger, online generation seems to say:


I can positively hear the "ka-ching" of my personal cash register when I DON'T send in a check for around $500 car payment to (insert car company here) each month.

Instead, that money goes to me, myself and I, and dammit, it feels good.

You can have that feeling too. Allow me to explain how I achieved what so many people do not (and never) achieve in their lifetime. Here is the elusive secret to how I managed to not have a car payment....ready...(drum roll)...

I kept my car after the payments ran out.

Yes! I did not immediately run out and buy another "shiny metal box on wheels". Pretty simple.

My oldest vehicle (a minivan) has 167,000 miles on it.

"But how " (I hear you ask) "is that sort of a vehicle reliable enough to get you back and forth to work every day?"

Actually this vehicle IS reliable. It has been well maintained and has only left me stranded ONE time in over 10 years.

But also, I am in a van pool with some other folks, so I don't need to drive my own van to/from work at all, ever!

Van pools are available where I work (Chicago and suburbs) and they probably are where you live too if you live in or near a major city. Try checking on the internet. So, my beloved minivan only needs to do short trips around town over the weekend. This frees me from having to buy another vehicle for a very, very long time.

By the way, cars can (and usually do) last a very long time these days. And even if you need to replace the engine (which I haven't had to, touch wood), that would cost me about $1500 (I asked my mechanic). Which is about 3 months of car/van payments. So even that wouldn't be so bad, eh? Moreover, I have an excellent and trustworthy mechanic who knows when things need to be done and when they don't. A good mechanic is worth his (most of them are men) weight in gold.

Moving on to today's quote, which presents an alternative point of view to the one above:

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."
Oscar Wilde

And my last thought:

"Save money, but don't make yourself miserable.
Enjoy your life as if you only get one. Perhaps you do."
-Buford Twain

Signing off for now, until the next time. Rest assured that I remain, as always,

Your friend on the internets,

-Buford Twain

PS - this article was submitted to the online "Carnival of Finance" at