Thursday, November 30, 2006

Top Five Companies We’d Be Better Off Without, #4: Wal-Mart

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

always low prices, wages, customer service, ethics, etc.

Number Four on my list of companies that ought to be removed from the space-time continuum is probably Number One on a lot of people’s lists: Wal-Mart.

The Big W has earned the ire of countless websites, its own employees, and even entire cities.

So if nobody likes Wal-Mart, why isn’t it the #1 company we’d be better off without? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this question: if nobody likes Wal-Mart, why is it still around?

The answer: because people still shop there, and they always will. Some have no choice because they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. I was in that boat myself just a few years ago. I’m still occasionally forced to shop there because they carry a lot of stuff in one place, and the convenience is too much to resist. Bad Nick, bad.

Wal-Mart may be evil, but it has made itself into a necessary evil for many people. While the world might be better off without it in the long run, there’d be a lot of hurting for low-income families in the meantime.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Top Five Companies We’d Be Better Off Without, #5: Sony

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

It’s almost winter here in the United States, which means moods will quickly be changing from summertime joy and happiness to intense sorrow and extra-strength depression. Nowhere will the winter blues be more apparent that on the internet–the refuge for pouting, criticism, and complaints.

sony spelled backwards is winos

So let’s get the season started off right by complaining about large companies we really don’t like just because we can! First up on my chopping block: Sony

Founded in 1412 as a Japanese noodle shop, Sony quickly grew to become the world’s largest producer of garbage we don’t really need including:

Before you buy another Sony product, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something I really need? (Probably not.)
  • Does another company sell this cheaper? (Almost certainly yes.)
  • Does another company make something better? (Yup.)
  • Will it explode if I use it? (Maybe!)

Thanks to these questions, I haven’t bought a Sony product in years. Sony used to be synonymous with quality technology and entertainment, but companies like Apple, Nintendo, and those dudes with the awesome $30 DVD players are proving otherwise.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Marry For Love. And Money. And Some Other Stuff.

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

you: will you marry me? her: can i see an ekg first, please?

ACTIVATE CONTROVERSIAL POST MODE. BEEP. BZZT. VROOM. PLOINK.

I have the wonderful pleasure of being married to an extremely awesome woman. She’s sweet, smart, and fantastic in bed very forgiving. For all you single, dating people out there, perhaps there’s a special someone in your life you’d like to one day be joined to in marriage. If that’s the case, good for you.

But before you pop the question and become emotionally, legally, and financially bound to another person, make sure first and foremost that you want to marry this person out of love. Marriages without love are a sham. Without love, you might as well marry a piece of coal; it’ll still keep you warm at night.

Despite what the fairy tales and John Lennon may tell you, love by itself isn’t going to be enough for a successful marriage. Perhaps 500 years ago in simpler times it would have been. But today, in the year 20XX, where your breakfast pops out of a toaster instead of your farmhouse chicken, you need to look honestly at your potential spouse and make sure there’s more than just love in the air.

Love Is A Must, But Also Marry For…

Money. You heard me. Marry for money. To clarify, make sure the person you are marrying is in a similar financial boat to your own. If you’re both poor, unemployed, and homeless, then you’re all set! But if you’re a doctor bringing home six figures and you own your own home in six states, hopefully your spouse-to-be isn’t living paycheck to paycheck.

Also make sure that your intended’s financial behavior is like your own. If Mr. Frugal marries Ms. Credit-Cards-Are-Free-Money, there’s going to be a disagreement sooner or later.

Health. A healthy person who takes care of his or her body will make for a happier spouse than one who catches the plague and dies on the honeymoon. While you shouldn’t let people’s physical limitations deter you from loving and marrying them, you might want to watch out for someone who will enlist you to run a double marathon with her when your idea of exercise is blinking more than once a minute.

Companionship. You’re happy with that person you’re going to marry, right? That’s good, but how strong is that “with” part? Will yours be the kind of marriage where the husband is in the garage all night while the wife is upstairs reading? Or do you have enough in common and a strong desire to spend time together that your spouse will not just be your legally wedded partner but also your best friend?

Stability. It’s sad but true that the divorce rate in the United States is quickly approaching 150%. Soon, not only will all marriages end in divorce, but so will most first dates! Okay, so the situation isn’t that dire yet, but more often than not, a marriage is doomed to failure from the start. The best way to make sure your marriage ends up in the statistical minority (i.e. those that work) is to think about where it’ll be on your fifth anniversary, your tenth, your twentieth, your fiftieth… and if you can’t even comprehend still being with your spouse for those longer periods, then you probably won’t be.

Him or Her. Most of all, marry not just for yourself but for the other person, too. Live your own life for your spouse, and let your spouse live his or her life for you. If you each put the other first, then you’ll have two forces acting in unison to make sure the marriage is a happy, life-long union.

It’s a simple recipe for marriage, though all it takes is one overlooked ingredient to rip apart an otherwise joyful couple. But if you can find someone who shares the same longing for love, desire for stability, and financial discipline as you, you’ll be well ahead of most on the path to eternal matrimony.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nick Speaks to Artists and Art Lovers at AnimeUSA This Weekend

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

nick speaks at animeusa

Join me at AnimeUSA this weekend, November 17-19, 2006, as I present programming geared toward one of my favorite hobbies–collecting and creating anime-style art. I’ll be speaking at two panels:

Anime Art Collecting – Friday 10pm
Come learn how to become a true collector of anime art. Topics include how to decide what to collect, where to go to grow your collection, how to find the best bargains on art at conventions, how to beat the competition at art shows and auctions, ways to display your collection, and how to store and preserve your most prized pieces.

How to Make Me Buy Your Art – Saturday 8:30am
This panel is for both beginner artists and veterans. You’ll hear tips for making the most of your convention appearances, maximizing your profits while minimizing your expenses, dealing with customers, and turning your art hobby into a full-fledged business. Bring some of your work with you and see if you can Make Me Buy Your Art!

You can expect the usual Punny-brand humor and a few bits of personal finance thrown in. Hope to see you there!

bob at example dot com: A Great Way to Give Spammers Your E-mail Address

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

world wide waffle

Somewhere in the course of recent internet history, the following advice seems to have spread like wildfire:

“If your e-mail address is bob@example.com, you should never spell it out on websites or message boards as bob@example.com. Junk e-mailers have these ‘spider scripts’ which can harvest e-mail addresses from websites if they’re printed in their standard form. Instead you should say something like bob at example dot com.”

And so that’s what lots of people do on the internet…

My e-mail address is smart_dude at yahoo dot com

If you have questions about this offer, please contact sally at smartbusiness dot org

Hey d00d fr33 nak3d chiXoRz: nak3d_chiXoRz at omg-super-hot-girls dot yum

Hooray, address-harvesting spiders are defeated forever! Peace on earth, good will yadda yadda.

Guess what? Every time you say “bob at example dot com,” you have just told e-mail spammers that your address is bob@example.com.

But but but I didn’t have the funny little @ and the . is a dot so I’m safe, right? Right???

No! You’re not safe, Mr. Italics Bold! That’s because e-mail harvesting spiders can read and interpret “bob at example dot com” just as well as they can read “bob@example.com.” It’s as simple as programming the spider script to look for ” at ” in addition to “@” and ” dot ” along with “.”

Oh okay. So I’ll just come up with something more clever, like “bob -is at- example -period- com.” I am so smart!

No! You are so lame, Mr. Italics Bold! Spammers can just program their script to start with the “com” and work backworks, trying any number of combinations. It might pick up “example@period.com” and “is@example.com” as e-mail addresses, but it’ll also catch “bob@example.com.” And sending a single junk e-mail is virtually free, so spammers can still come out ahead even if only one out of thousands of e-mails they send actually hits a valid user!

I’m scared of the internet now! Time to go live in a cave! Call me when they fix this.

Sorry, Mr. Italics Bold, but this problem won’t be going away anytime soon. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your e-mail address from unwanted solicitations:

  • Protect your e-mail address like you would your home address or phone number. If I put a form on this website asking you for your home phone number, would you fill it out? Heck no! You don’t want me calling you up at three in the morning. You might need to give out your e-mail address to more places than you do your phone number, but you should think long and hard each time you do it.
  • Never post any part of your e-mail address in text form in a public location on the internet. As described earlier, it’s easy as spam pie to harvest those addresses, even if you obfuscate it with seemingly invalid syntax. Really, if you wanted to make “bob at example dot com” tricky enough to hide from spider scripts, it’d probably be too hard for people to understand it, too.
  • Use alternate means of communication in public areas. If you need to post a method of contact in a public location, your personal e-mail address is not the way to do it. On message boards, instruct users to send you a private message (or “PM”) through the boards’ own messaging system. In other places, post a single-use or temporary e-mail address like those you can get at Mailinator. For more permanent setups like website contact pages, consider a form-based solution with a captcha and spam blockers to filter unwanted messages.

If you’d like more information on this subject, please input your e-mail address in the following form.

Your e-mail:

Hey, hey, hey! What’d I just finish saying? Don’t give out your e-mail address just because someone asks you for it!

But in all seriousness, go ahead and fill it out if you’d like more information.

Your e-mail:

What’re ya doin’??? Stop filling out random forms and go do something useful.