Friday, September 12, 2008

Paycheck to paycheck on $100,000 a year

Some 21 percent of those with salaries of $100,000 or more say they are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com.

They certainly are spending a lot between paychecks. But the article offers advice:
Eliminating one night of dining out a month can free up $50 to $100 that can be saved or invested.
That's true, but if you're making six figures and still living paycheck to paycheck, you might want to look at some of your bigger expenses.

Hurricane Ike warning is very, very serious

The National Hurricane Center isn't pulling any punches as Hurricane Ike approaches the Texas shoreline. From last night's Hurricane Ike statement:

ALL NEIGHBORHOODS...AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES...
WILL BE INUNDATED DURING THE PERIOD OF PEAK STORM TIDE. PERSONS
NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY
HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.

Yeesh. I hope this hurricane somehow loses strength before making landfall.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Large Hadron Collider topped by lipstick on a pig

By now, you've probably all heard about the Large Hadron Collider. If that name doesn't ring a bell, think of this ... the big machine that some people believe will unleash microscopic black holes that would eventually destroy Earth.

Well, yesterday it passed its first test by firing beams of protons around a 17-mile underground ring. What is the goal of this $3.8 billion project, which is described as the biggest physics experiment ever?

According to this story:
Scientists hope to eventually send two beams of protons through two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space. The paths of these beams will cross, and a few protons will collide. The collider's two largest detectors -- essentially huge digital cameras weighing thousands of tons -- are capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

The CERN experiments could reveal more about "dark matter," antimatter and possibly hidden dimensions of space and time. It could also find evidence of the hypothetical particle -- the Higgs boson -- which is sometimes called the "God particle" because it is believed to give mass to all other particles, and thus to matter that makes up the universe.
Wow ... that's way over my head. It's no wonder we have heard less about the collider than Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" reference that seems to have created a big bang.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

High heels for babies

I thought most moms didn't want their babies to grow up fast:
Two Washington state moms have launched a business that sells high heels for babies.
Yes, you read right.

You can read more about it here. Apparently, more than 1,500 pairs have been bought off the Web site www.heelarious.com.

These should be great for this baby with the natural look, which I believe is defined as "having no pores."

Now entering new city, population unknown

On the TV news last night, there was a report about how the Fort Worth area is growing so fast that Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs can't keep up with the population numbers on the signs that say, "Now entering ..."

Which brings up the question of why population figures are on the signs at all. If a city needs to replace a sign simply to update its population total, isn't that just a waste of money?

Or is there someone out there who sees a sign that says, "Now Entering Cityville, population 182,000" and decides not to stop because the population isn't quite 200,000?

Maybe Sundance above is a huge metropolis by now.

City council president: "You are all evil!"

If you start reading this story about the incoming Detroit city council president, you might think the unprofessional behavior ends with shouts to the media of "You are all evil!"

But don't stop there. Read on and find out how she was involved in a bar fight (and then exonerated), called her $81,000 a year (plus car use) job part time and taunted another councilman by calling him "Shrek."

Apparently, there is also a federal probe into contracting payoffs that led to this great paragraph in a different story:
Asked if she could promise voters she has done nothing that could lead to her indictment, Conyers responded by asking if a person could promise he or she would be alive from one day to the next.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Condoms, an energy drink, and that will be all

In Dallas, we have some frightening robberies. And some very strange ones:
Dallas police today are searching for a man who robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store in his wheelchair, stealing 10 boxes of condoms and an energy drink before rolling himself out the door, authorities said.
Yes, if you're going to take 10 boxes of condoms, you better also get an energy drink. Actually, it's pretty sad. Police do not have any suspects, but they believe the man may be homeless.

Or going to a party. Or both.

An astronaut's concerns about experiments

An Onion video on one astronaut's concerns about his space experiments:


Astronaut Suspects NASA Using Him To Test SpaceĆ¢??s Effects On Fat People

Desperate colleges looking for donations

Here are a couple of the responses I received to the "My old friend needs some help" column.

***

Boy - I think your U and my U must be linked to the CIA.... or some other organization that keeps track of where we live.... maybe the IRS.

I have not ONCE donated to my U.... yet they have managed to track me through six moves, two of them to a different state, and back home again. How do they keep up with me? Heck, I was still putting my OLD address on my envelopes six months after I moved... they managed to find me within two weeks of the mailbox transfer.

I do not know how they do this.

Maybe they are connected to those people who keep sending me those pesky juror summons.

I'll put my U requests right in the same place as I do those little red cards telling me to show up in court.

Need a coaster for your drink??

***

I went to an Ivy, which uses the technique of forcing students to call alumnae and explain the exciting benefits of donating at various levels. I feel so sorry, hearing their hopeful voices, knowing that I have to disappoint them (4 kids! Three in college NOW!). And the letters and brochures I get in the mail, which I know from experience have been professionally produced, must be a significant expense.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Potential space tourists, please take note

For those of you who have more cash than me, here's a reminder that you can still sign up for a space flight at www.virgingalactic.com for the low, low price of $200,000.

Oh yeah, and something else you might want to know:
A retired NASA engineer looking to develop an inexpensive way for people to travel to space might have to go back to the drawing board after one of his experiments exploded Saturday.
"It's just an experiment that went bad," police Chief Glenn Manis told the Galveston County Daily News.

Hopefully, the first space-tourist trip won't be described the same way.

Humor Me: My old friend needs some help

By MATT WIXON

Over the years, I've lost contact with most of my friends from
college. In the case of my buddy Milo, who spent an entire year
playing Nintendo and dropping classes, perhaps some distance is a
good thing.

But I regret that I let so many other friends slip away. I miss
them sometimes, along with my exciting, carefree, full-head-of-hair
college days. The days when I strove for greater knowledge by
investigating theories, challenging widely held beliefs and
limiting myself to two presses of the snooze bar. (The first 20
minutes of Introduction to British Literature weren't that
important.)

Despite the pull of time and geography, however, I have kept in
touch with one friend. Actually, it's more that one friend has kept
in touch with me. Every few months, this friend calls to check on
how my life is going and how my job is working out. And, of course,
whether I can spare some extra change.

"Milo, is that you?"

No, it's my old buddy the University of Arizona whom, as a student,
I affectionately called "The U." (In return, The U. affectionately
referred to me as "Student No. A14259T." It was something like
that, anyway, because I remember that I was not just a number to
The U. - I was a combination of numbers and letters.)

Anyway, last week The U. called me up for a few minutes of
reminiscing and begging. According to The U. representative, it was
a "friendly" call that the university likes to make to alumni.

It started out friendly. We talked about the university's expanded
computer labs. We talked about the new student union, the football team and other university updates. We even talked about college reunions.

It was fun to talk about college again because I really
loved my college experience. And as I told stories of getting lost
in the social sciences building, changing my major four times and
standing in line for three hours to get a student ID card, it felt
as if I were talking to an old friend.

But along with hairlines and waistlines, it seems time changes
friendships. After a few minutes, I realized The U. and I had grown
in different directions. While I still wanted to swap stories about
3 a.m. fire drills in the dormitories, my buddy started talking
about capital improvements, funding shortfalls and donor levels.

Granted, I think about money a lot more than I did 15 years ago.
These days I'm more likely to view an exciting CD opportunity as a
certificate of deposit than the latest release from Pearl Jam. But
while The U. and I share a heightened interest in my money, we have
a serious problem: I'm concerned about keeping it, whereas The U.
wants a piece of it. It's not a healthy baseline for a friendship.

Not surprisingly, our talk turned serious. Suddenly, The U.
representative was talking like an insurance salesman concerned
about my level of collision coverage.

He talked about the crucial role of alumni. He mentioned the "gold
level" and becoming a "partner" with the university. I tuned out
after that, but phrases like "one thousand dollars, two thousand or
more" and "payment plans" came up several times.

"Alumni like you are essential," I remember him saying. "The
university is counting on your continued support."

Continued support? My friend doesn't know me very well. Other than
a few basketball tickets and a couple of school sweatshirts, I
haven't funded The U. since I received my diploma. Extending
payments to the school after my graduation hasn't even been
tempting.

So I declined to make a donation. But I know our friendship isn't
over.

The U. will call again soon for another friendly chat. And when my
buddy asks me to continue my current support levels, I might have
some good news:

I'm considering buying a new Arizona baseball cap from the school bookstore.

***
To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail mwixon@dallasnews.com. Have a great week.