A lyrical – and overly simplistic – salute to 2014!

Well, 2014 is almost done, and everyone has something to say about it.  Of course, there’s always a way to put these sort of things into verse, and I have chosen to do so.  This year-in-review will be put into lyrics, and you can sing along to it using “Hip to be Square” to by Huey Lewis & The News.  This song is titled “Here’s to 14!”

It should have started differently

No issues lurking ‘round

But nature took the gloves off

And chose to smack us down

Motorists stranded on Atlanta freeways

The polar vortex was the just the start, you see

Of a crazy year yet to be

 

Here’s to 14!

Here’s to 14!

 

We lost our minds in politics

It all played out on TV

We watched the fools most every day

And wished they’d cease to be

Now the elections over, congress is gridlocked

You got what you wanted, now the GOP

Is calling the shots in DC,

 

Here’s to 14!

Here’s to 14!

Here’s to 14!

Here’s to 14!

 

Don’t get started on Ferguson

Or immigration now

The dialogue should focus on

Healing the pain around

We made it through the craziness

Sure wasn’t a lot of fun

But don’t try to deny it

These ideas’ time has come

No more for hate

It’s time for love, you see

We’re all in this together now

 

Here’s to 14!

 

The 2014 Southern Style Green Weenies – the winner is…(hint: crooked politician alert!)

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With less than 48 hours to go until 2014 is officially in the books, it is time to award the not-so-coveted ill-colored sausage of doom, the infamous Green Weenie!

After the debacle of last years “tournament style” Green Weenie presentation, we have decided to become more nimble and limited in our approach.  As the Green Weenie Nominating Committee is based in Atlanta, Georgia, we have chosen to restructure the entire way we do business.  Namely, we chose to focus on a southern appeal, with nominees coming strictly from the southeastern United States.  The day we announced this, a courier representing themselves as from the Southeastern Conference sent us a cease-and-desist letter, until we had to remind them this had nothing to do with the College Football Playoffs, which led them to realize how stupid they really were, leading to a Weenie Nomination.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.  There were so many worthy candidates to pick from, we had to whittle down the list to some blatant examples of pure idiocy.  Bruce Levenson, for example, made the list immediately for racially insensitive comments made about the Atlanta Hawks core fan base, and he’s the owner of the team!  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi actually managed to leapfrog her boss into the nomination with her steadfast determination to uphold Florida’s ban on gay marriage, despite a federal court ruling saying she was out of her tree.

Of course, 2014 was full of foolishness, which allowed for a wealth of eligible nominees from all across the southern tier.  There was Georgia Bulldogs star running Todd Gurley, who proved that not only do cheaters never prosper, but they tend to be arrogant enough to get injured in their first game back after a near season-ending NCAA investigation.  Did we mention he is now entering the NFL draft?  Of course, from the pro subdivision, the Carolina Panthers upended the Atlanta Falcons in the U-Suck Bowl, becoming the first NFC South division champion with a losing record when Cam Newton pulled the dreaded “Bank of America Play” and screamed to the Falcons defense “all your accounts are overdrawn,” leading to confusion and several successful touchdowns which Cam Newton actually caught himself!

In Tennessee, a true drama began to play out when Nashville was sent abuzz by country superstar Taylor Swift’s decision to remove her music from Spotify, earning a Green Weenie nomination by saying “valuable things should be paid for” and leading us to wonder if that was really directed at former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who is on trial for accepting gifts (gasps!) as part of his campaign.  The Green Weenie, if he were have won it, would have been delivered to his attorney, who sent another cease and desist letter, only this was aimed at our complaints he would have probably put it on Ebay to pay legal fees.

The Carolinas remained relatively Weenie-free this year, except for the fact that the North Carolina began accepting Florida’s SunPass as a toll billing method for its express lanes and toll roads.  This received a nomination only because giving SunPass a Weenie nom is so old, they just send us a bill for additional unpaid toll violations.  Last balance statement, $1,555,202,312,556,111.01 and a slice of pizza.

Louisiana and Mississippi almost received a nomination, but we felt sorry for Saints fans and gave them a pass.

That leads us to Texas.  Of course, the only person worthy of a Weenie is Rick Perry, but as he is busy campaigning for President at the moment, he is unable to do anything truly worthy of weeniehood, except for making nonsensical statements about the immigration, health care and gay marriage.  Even the Koch Brothers told us “waste of time,” which really means “we will destroy you if you nominate him,” which we believe translates from One Percentese into English as “Screw it.”

Alabama’s University of Alabama at Birmingham should have received a nomination, but their now-defunct football team actually defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a pickup farewell game, they gained a shred of respect.

So who gets the Weenie?

This took a great deal of thought and care, and it required a level of judiciousness not found in everyday life.  There were many worthy candidates, but only one rose to the level of a true “Green Weenie.”  That person, despite all the race baiters, golddiggers, gravy trainers, and total morons, managed to rise to the top of the cesspool of stupidity which plagued the Southern United States, and just yank that Weenie home!

Congratulations to Cobb County (GA) Commissioner Tim Lee on being the 2014 Green Weenie winner!

Commissioner Lee is a special sort of crooked!  Not only did he try to have an ethics investigation quashed, not only did he negotiate back door deals which led to Cobb County taxpayers being on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars to the Atlanta Braves over a stadium dogged by overruns, legal battles, and citizen tax revolts, not only has he made the DeKalb County Commission, whose CEO actually faced federal corruption charges, look like rank amatuers, he managed to win the Weenie by this single statement, and it wasn’t even by Lee but, instead, by Larry Savage, a private Cobb County citizen, who had brought an earlier complaint against Lee for similar shenanigans.

“The ethics board is not interested in getting involved in a quagmire with the board commissioners.”

Congrats, Commissioner Lee!  You earned a much-avoided titled, which may earn you worldwide notoriety someday, assuming cockroaches and rats are all that’s left.  As for our other nominees, better luck next year!

On Christmas Day, An Answer to A Profound Question of Giving

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This is an actual message I sent to my wife about a question she asked me while we were driving home from work the other day.  I did my best to answer it.
My Dear Wife:
You asked me this evening why those with money turn their noses up at the poor, and why those with power never seem to want to do anything to help the less fortunate.  To be honest, I really do not know why, nor can I see into their hearts to determine what sort of thing would block them from doing such noble things.
The only thing I can figure is that, sadly, some people have no reference point from which to originate the spirit of giving.  While there are those who may have had everything taken from them and nobody to stand up for them, others may have been born into such wealth and privilege, they simply never understood the plight of those less fortunate and, as such, are simply incapable of comprehending the degree of the suffering others deal with.  That is a sad, lonely, a void of an existence, as far as I am concerned.
Of course, there are those who have worked their way out of poverty, only to turn a blind eye to those who need help.  This, in fact, may be the group most deserving of pity.  Can you imagine living a life in which you are so terrified of being reminded of the bad times, the hard choices, the deprivation and judgment of others, that your only option to self-medicate this pain away is to look down upon the very people you rose from?  I actually could never imagine doing such a thing.
We have to face a simple fact; we are quiet blessed.  In this holiday season, we are able to, once again, donate where the need is, offer our help to those who can use it, and try to, at least for a few moments, brighten another’s day.  Where others fail, either deliberately or through sheer ignorance, it is our calling to fill that void.  It’s what we do, it’s what we are called to do, and all we can do is the best we can, and set an example which will, hopefully, inspire others.
Love,
Your dear husband

Ten useful “life hacks” for checking accounts

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The holiday season being what it is,we are all want to spend beyond our means.  Having been in the world of financial ruts for the better part of twenty years, I can safely say that most, if not all, of my financial hardships have been the result of poor choices.  I refuse to preach what I don’t practice, so there will no chastisement of the evils of credit and spending beyond one’s means.  Rather, I’ve chosen to take this opportunity to share some financial “hacks” that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Watch those gas purchases:  It’s extremely easy to get caught in this overdraft trap.  You pay for a gas purchase, forget about it and then, three days later, boing!  The overdraft fees pop up!  Why?  Simple – you are one of the lucky debit card users who only get their card authorized for one dollar, instead of the classic $75-100 gouge of gas pump horror repute.  HACK:  learn your local gas station’s authorization rhythms, and use the one dollar as a means to bridge the financial gap between paydays without getting dinged.  Never do it more than 48 hours before your payday, and always write it down!
  2. Don’t forget those trial offer end dates: You see a great offer for free whatever, but it requires a check or credit card number.  First, make sure it’s accredited.  Next, make sure the authorization amount is well marked – it’s very easy to miss this, and it can cost you big money!  Finally, put an alert in your phone with the cancellation link or phone number clearly marked, and set it at least three days prior to the trial end date.  Get a confirmation number of the cancellation, a rep’s name, and always, always, always a confirmation email of some sort.
  3. Automatic is for cars, not checking accounts: Yes, it seems like a great convenience, and a wonderful way to get some freebies.  Here’s the problem – automatic payment dates are rather arbitrary, and often the merchant/vendor/creditor doesn’t tell what they are.  A five percent discount isn’t worth the giant overdraft fees incurred because you didn’t remember to enter that item.  When you have to make the payment, you tend to remember to write it down.
  4. Tracking is everything: I’m not referring to UPS or Fedex with this one.  I’m referring to keeping an eagle eye on your money, daily.  With the convenience of mobile banking and all the tools most banks now offer to online customers, there are zero excuses to not be able to balance your expenses out on a daily basis.
  5. Never rely on online banking statements to track spending: Always keep receipts or write it down!  If you aren’t good at this, withdraw cash – it’s actually a very effective budgeting tool to know how much cash you have on hand.  If you are good at writing into a checkbook register or entering daily purchases in your computer, then by all means do it!  If you have to, get a friend or family member to help you once a week.
  6. Know your bank’s terms and conditions regarding clearing and deposits: This is an extremely useful piece of knowledge to have, especially if you are good at understanding timing.  While most transactions are realtime, there are still some which lag.  Gas purchases, restaurant tips, and certain automatic payments have lag times.  Some banks allow you to overdraw your account at the ATM without penalty if you replenish the money by a certain time.  If you know how to time the withdrawal, you can do a fee and interest free, 12 hour cash advance.  Be careful with this one – if you don’t do it exactly right, you will get burned and nobody at your bank will help you.
  7. In some cases, PIN purchases are way better than check card usage: If you are buying something you have an inkling you have to return and the refund could be critical, consider using your PIN card.  With many banks, the refund is instant, where a checkcard can take 7-10 business days in some cases to get the money back.
  8. Social media gets results: All the major banks and financial institutions are worried about their online image.  Some banks have dedicated social media support teams whose only job is to help out disgruntled customers who hit social media when they can’t get satisfaction on the phone.  Be professional, factual and reasonable in your post – the more you are, the more likely you are to get the results you are hoping for.
  9. At some point, the bank will say “no,” so be prepared to accept it: While many banks could care less about their customers, there are some who bend over backward.  Unfortunately, that bending can only happen for so long.  If you have had a history of mistakes and problems and the bank has worked with you, a simply mistake that even the bank might acknowledge isn’t really your fault will be met with the infamous “terms and conditions” fallback argument.  Be prepared for them to not care, even if you argue you could go to another bank.  After all, you can always vote with your feet and your wallet.
  10. Finally, and most important, be polite: When a bank rep acts like a jerk to you, kill them with kindness, write down their comments, and get their name and employee ID if you can.  You can use this as ammunition should you decide to escalate your complaint.  Again, be polite and professional, never profane.  The second you express anger in a disrespectful manner, the bank will have every right to tell you to take a flying leap.

So, there you have it – some life hacks I learned along the way.  I hope you find them useful, and maybe a bank exec will see this and think “hmmm, this dude gets it, but why should I care?”

In honor of Uncle Jack

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In honor of the memory of my uncle, Giacomo “Jack” Guzzardo, who passed away this morning, I post this poem found online.  Uncle Jack was in the U.S. Navy for many years, then later worked as a government contractor helping to assemble,  maintain, and troubleshoot naval communications systems.  He was also a devoted husband and father to three girls, who have now all turned into strong women.

As he spent much of his life traveling the world, and serving his country with honor, I pray that somewhere, he is smiling and approves:

When the Last Hand Comes Aboard:

No more a Watch to stand, Old Sailor.
For you are drifting on an ebbing tide.
Eight Bells has rung. Dog Watch is done.
A new Berth waits you on the other side.

Your Ship is anchored in God’s Harbour.
And though his sailors are of equal rank.
there’ll be Shipmates on the deck to greet you.
And Pipe, as you ascend the Plank..

Her boilers with full head of steam.
Cargo stowed and Galley stored.
Just waiting to get underway.
When the last Hand comes aboard.

Goodbye, Uncle Jack.  Rest in peace,and godspeed on your new journey.

Coming December 27, 2014 – the Green Weenie Awards

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This year, nobody is safe!

The 2014 Southern Style Green Weenies (more regional now to narrow the field of contenders down) will take aim at anyone, thing, group, or team which dares to do the boneheaded!  Here are some of the EARLY nominees for the not-so-coveted award of non-excellence in the Southern Tier of the Lower 48.

  • Nathan Deal – Governor of Georgia – Snowjam 2014
  • Rick Scott – Governor of Florida – too many reasons to list.
  • Bruce Levenson – soon-to-be former owner of the Atlanta Hawks for making derisive comments about black basketball fans.
  • Tim Lee – Commissioner, Cobb County (GA) for being not only a shady, secretive crook, but an incompetent one at that.
  • Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State University for being, well, a slimy-ass Division I quarterback. (And I LIKE FSU!)
  • Charlie Crist – 2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee, Florida for proving “playing it safe” never wins.
  • David Perdue – Senator-Elect, Georgia for a downright snotty, elitist attitude.
  • Oak Ridge Nuclear Laboratory (TN) – for suggesting employees with a “drawl” take speech classes.
  • Taylor Swift – for her verbalization of why she banned her music from Spotify.
  • Former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon for bailing on the team just as a stadium breakthrough appears imminent.
  • The Federal Government for failing to secure the Rio Grande then threatening Texas with repercussions if they do it on their own.

Got a nominee?  Leave a comment and why!!!  Can’t wait to see what y’all come up with!