Pwned

I’ve always had a poor relationship with money, and with pawn shops in particular. Currently, my Takamine acoustic-electric (which I’ve owned for a dozen years) and my Carvin Bolt guitar (which I built and finished from a Carvin kit) have both been in the pawn shop for two months. In addition, my Fender Cyber-Twin amp and Behringer foot controller have been in for over two months.

The paycheck I’m getting tomorrow is already committed to other, more important debts (mortgage, space rent, car payment), and I already skipped one month of payments on the pawned items. This particular pawn shop allows a loan to roll over one month; the payment amount is simply doubled in the second month. However, I would be surprised if they will let me roll into a third month without payment. They will probably just call it a breach of contract and put the gear up for sale.

That means I will have to say goodbye to Leslie, the Carvin I built and named after my Uncle Leslie, who was also a guitar player. And I will have to say goodbye to the Takamine, which I never named, but dearly love playing, especially at night with the lights off while my wife dozes next to me. I will also have to say goodbye to the most versatile amp I’ve ever owned.

This is not new for me. There have been a long string of guitars that I’ve loved, but parted with because of poor money management. In reverse order, the guitars and amps I’ve previously given up in order to pay creditors include the following:

Fender Contemporary Stratocaster (Japanese 1986 model)
Peavey Ecoustic amp
Gibson Les Paul Standard (American 1977 model, which I purchased from a friend; that one really hurts, because I not only lost a beautiful instrument, I feel like I let my friend down.)
Peavey Backstage Plus amp
Sigma/Martin acoustic guitar (which I modified to be an acoustic/electric)
Epiphone Strat Clone
Unbranded ES-335 Clone and small practice amp (which I inherited from the aforementioned Uncle Leslie)
Yamaha Classical Guitar (a gift from my first mother-in-law)
Takamine Mahogany Acoustic/Electric (early model; would be worth a lot of money today)
JB Player Strat Clone (nice, with a through-the-body neck and a Seymour Duncan humbucker in the bridge)
Carlos acoustic (a piece of junk, but my first acoustic)
Roland practice amp
Gibson Sonex 180 electric (my first guitar, also purchased from a friend)

As I said, it’s not a new process to part with guitars and amps in order to pay bills. But it doesn’t get any easier. In fact, it gets harder every time, and I’m tired of having to give up my music equipment in order to shut the creditors up. I’ve been doing it for nearly twenty years now, and it’s getting very old and depressing.

I do still have one guitar at home, thankfully: a Line 6 Variax 300. The Variax is the most versatile guitar I’ve ever owned — despite the fact that it has rather poor build quality — and it’s become my main gigging guitar. I won’t be letting down my band mates if I lose the guitars and amp, I’ll just be letting myself down.

Again.

I’ll talk with the pawn shop tomorrow and see if they will let me roll over one more month. If they won’t, I’ll just ask to say goodbye then and there.

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Resolutions follow-up #1

Since it’s February, I figured I’d better check in and see how I’m doing with my 2008 resolutions. Without having looked back at the list, I think I’m doing pretty well, but we’ll see. Following is a list of the resolutions and how I’ve done on each.

Creativity

1. Write more consistently, whether journaling, blogging, or creative writing.

I have been blogging and journaling more, though not always publicly. I haven’t done any creative writing, though.

2. Find another outlet for article writing (since ComputorEdge has gone virtual.)

I sent a query letter to another computer magazine, but have received no response. I am considering writing for a website that gives ad revenue shares, but am still on the fence about that one. My experience with Associated Content leaves a lot to be desired, but much of that is probably on my shoulders for not marketing my writing there enough.

3. Publish some fiction. (Didn’t I say this last year?)

I’ve done nothing in this regard as yet.

4. Play more musical gigs.

Steel River Three has a gig scheduled on March 29th. That’s a start.

5. Start teaching my stepson how to play guitar (his request, my responsibility to follow up.)

We started on this, and he’s done a great job of learning the first position notes. It’s clear, though, that a full size guitar is not going to work for him right now. His left arm is not long enough to have proper hand position on the low frets, and that will lead to poor playing habits and frustration for him. This is what he needs, I think. Unlike some of the other mini guitars, it actually tunes to standard EADGBE tuning, which is important for playing along with other instruments.

6. Transplant my Variax electronics into a Carvin Bolt kit or Warmoth guitar body.

This takes money, and I’m not in a position to do it yet.

Physical & Mental Health

1. Learn how to get up earlier, consistently.

The first half of the month, I got up consistently at 6:00 AM. The second half of the month, though, I started taking new prescription meds (part of the mental health thing) and am still working out the adjustments to my sleep schedule.

2. Utilize my handheld BalanceLog software to track my eating and exercising habits.

I did this for about a week before I fell off the wagon. The odd thing is that I’m still losing weight.

3. Ride my bike or walk to work more often. (If I get up earlier, this is not a problem!)

I have ridden and walked a few times, but not as much as I’d hoped.

4. Schedule dental appointments to get my teeth taken care of.

I just added this one. It was already one of my goals, but I forgot to include it in the original Resolutions list. I’m certain I will need oral surgery; I have wisdom teeth that have come in vastly crooked over the years and are damaging the insides of my cheeks. I also have at least one extra tooth below the gum on the lower right that will probably need to come out. I’m not looking forward to this; I am very afraid of surgery, and the one surgery I’ve had didn’t go well. (It was outpatient surgery, and I had a panic attack in the middle of it.) Anyway, the dentist is lined up, I just need to make the appointment.

Financial Health

1. Get the amp out of the pawn shop, and never put it in again.

My plan is to get it out this month, then I’m going to learn how to play Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Goin’ Back Again” as a reinforcement to never take it back to the pawn shop.

2. Continue to provide quality computer consulting, but stop devaluing my services as much.

I’ve had several consulting gigs in the last month, and the small amount of extra money has helped. I haven’t raised my rates, but I also haven’t given away as much of my time (except to family, whom I don’t think I should charge.)

3. Keep current on space rent, car payment, mortgage, and car insurance.

The mortgage is current, the car payment is current, and the space rent will be current by next weekend, as will the car insurance. (The insurance is not in default, the payment is just late.) I’m considering talking to the mortgage company about changing our payment date, if possible.

4. Make a spending plan (a.k.a. budget) and stick to it.

I made the budget, but sticking to it has been hard. Part of the plan is to give both me and Lannette a specific amount of “mad money” per paycheck to spend as we wish, with the rest of my paycheck going to a household account for paying bills.

5. Track finances better with Quicken on computer and handheld.

After having some initial trouble getting Pocket Quicken to work with Quicken 2008 (and receiving very little helpful support from Landware, the developer of Pocket Quicken, who just dropped communication when they couldn’t solve the problem), I finally have my accounts syncing up correctly and am entering all transactions in the handheld. I know at any given time exactly how much money is available and when all bills clear.

Home Improvements

1. Clean cat boxes daily.

This may sound silly, but I’m very proud of this one. Although I love my cats, I hate cleaning cat boxes, and that has led to behavioral problems (i.e. peeing on the floor) before. Every day in January, I cleaned both cat boxes, and it now feels like a habit, which was my goal. I also realized part of the way through the month that since I was cleaning the cat boxes, I may as well clean the ferret’s litter box daily, too, which had been my wife’s chore (by her choice.) Makes sense; I have the scooper, so I may as well do it, right? My thanks go out to the ZenHabits.net forums for providing a place to check in daily to reinforce the habit formation.

2. Help more with household chores without having to be asked.

I’ve done well with this over the last couple of weeks. I’ve kept up with the dishes and the trash (for the most part) and I’m finding that when I get started on one chore, the others naturally follow. I hope I can continue this habit.

3. Reduce household clutter gradually (this will help mental health, too.)

In addition to moving my main dresser to a more convenient location in the bedroom, I also picked up a suitcase that had been laying on the floor and constricting access to the master bathroom for months. One final toe-stubbing was all it took. There is still a lot of clutter, but this is something that I expect to work on a little at a time over the year. Otherwise, it will seem insurmountable.

4. Upgrade my computer (new mobo, RAM, and video.)

This really needs to happen, but I don’t have the money right now. My motherboard is losing track of its USB ports and it has started taking 5 minutes to POST when booted. 🙁

5. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring throughout the house.

I really hope we can do this this summer. It will take a good chunk of money and a lot of work, but it will get rid of the carpet that the cats ruined, will make the house easier to keep clean, and will increase the value of our home.

6. Landscape yard.

This is something that will have to happen in spring, if it happens, and it will just take some significant shovel and back work. (And money, again.)

7. Install carport/awning.

I would love it if I could build one of these this year. I can envision it, but I don’t know if I can afford to do it, either in terms of money or time.


Well, not bad. Of the twenty-two resolutions I set forth, I have made at least some progress on twelve of them, and taken steps toward another three. I feel good about that.

How are you guys doing on your resolutions?

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2008 Resolutions

Why do we have resolutions if all they do is depress us when we don’t keep them? Earlier tonight, I composed my initial list of resolutions for 2008, and just a few minutes ago, I looked at my 2007 Resolutions post from last year. Of last year’s resolutions, I only completed two to my satisfaction: I got my taxes done on time and I bought a Variax.

This year’s list is much bigger, but possibly less restrictive. Several resolutions from last year carry over (and may well be perpetual entries, no matter how well I perform them), with lots of new entries. I’ll try to organize them into manageable sections, though I’m sure there will be crossover.

Creativity

1. Write more consistently, whether journaling, blogging, or creative writing.
2. Find another outlet for article writing (since ComputorEdge has gone virtual.)
3. Publish some fiction. (Didn’t I say this last year?)
4. Play more musical gigs.
5. Start teaching my stepson how to play guitar (his request, my responsibility to follow up.)
6. Transplant my Variax electronics into a Carvin Bolt kit or Warmoth guitar body.

Physical & Mental Health

1. Learn how to get up earlier, consistently.
2. Utilize my handheld BalanceLog software to track my eating and exercising habits.
3. Ride my bike or walk to work more often. (If I get up earlier, this is not a problem!)
4. Make appointments with the dentist to remove my errant wisdom teeth and extra teeth below the gum on the lower jaw.

Financial Health

1. Get the amp out of the pawn shop, and never put it in again.
2. Continue to provide quality computer consulting, but stop devaluing my services as much.
3. Keep current on space rent, car payment, mortgage, and car insurance.
4. Make a spending plan (a.k.a. budget) and stick to it.
5. Track finances better with Quicken on computer and handheld.

Home Improvements

1. Clean cat boxes daily.
2. Help more with household chores without having to be asked.
3. Reduce household clutter gradually (this will help mental health, too.)
4. Upgrade my computer (new mobo, RAM, and video.)
5. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring throughout the house.
6. Landscape yard.
7. Install carport/awning.

Whew! Am I setting myself up to fail? Probably, but as I established at the beginning of this post, that’s what resolutions are all about, right? At least making the list helps me keep an eye on the goals.

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2007 Resolutions

Yes, like every other blogger in the blogosphere, I’m going to post my resolutions for the new year. I did this once before, in a prior incarnation of the Lytspeed Communications site, back before the term “blog” existed. I did keep a few of those resolutions, namely dropping the weight (45 pounds, actually!), playing more live music, volunteering for Colorado Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and learning more about coding HTML, but not in 1997.

Yes, my online home turns ten years old this year. And though I don’t have the popularity or visitation that mainstream bloggers have, I do feel pretty good about being ahead of the curve.

I think my resolutions for this year are quite a bit more reasonable than the ones I made in 1997. Maybe I’ll look back in another nine or ten years and see how many of them I accomplished this year.

Okay, enough stalling. Here are my resolutions for 2007:

Manage Finances Better – I have always had a hard time with finances, and I’m getting tired of always being behind the 8-ball. It’s time for me to get it together this year.

Take Care of My Health – My heart attack scare of a couple of years ago really woke me up, and I have made some changes to prevent that from happening again. However, there are some other concerns I need to address before they become Big Issues.

Write Every Day – Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make one better at what one practices, and I haven’t practiced writing enough. I need to write every day. What I write and which medium I use is immaterial; if I write every day, I will get back in the habit I used to have in college, when I was most prolific. Yes, that means more blog entries, too.

Publish Some Fiction – 2006 was a great year for me as far as writing goes. I published several articles at ComputorEdge, sold four poems to Romantic-Short-Love-Stories.com (now defunct, unfortunately), and actually managed to turn a meager profit for the year after deducting my writing-related expenses. However, I didn’t accomplish one of my main goals for last year, which was to publish some fiction. It’s time to complete the set this year.

Do My Taxes On Time – Last year, I was late — very late — in doing my taxes. I guess this could be part of managing my finances better.

Buy a Variax – Line 6 makes the ultimate geek guitar, and I want one so bad I can taste it. (Yum! Rosewood!) I have all kinds of ideas on how I could use it to make things easier in my gigs.

That’s it. Hopefully I’ll get somewhere with these goals this year, and if you’ve made resolutions, I hope you reach your goals as well.

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