Blog Archives

Miata tops

Yesterday I called around to several places trying to find a good price on replacing the top on my Miata. The first place I called wanted nearly $1,000, which I couldn’t believe. The second place wanted $650 which was better, but still higher than I had hoped. The third place I called is near to my office, the people were very friendls and knowledgable and only wanted $550 for the job. I still have a few questions for them, but once I get my tax returns back (any day now), I’m going to go in and put down a deposit to have them order the parts and schedule my install. It will be so nice to start the spring off with a new top on the car and not be embarrassed by my patch job for that terrible little tear!

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SpasAsssassin Rules – a laymans interpretation

I’ve been using SpamAssassin for some time now, personally and at work. I’ve been working with SpamAssassin rules to deal with spam that comes through the other filters and makes it to user mailboxes. I’ve been writing these rules in a very static way and they are not very effective as spammers frequently change their spelling. I did a search online and found a few good resources for figuring out how to write better spamassassin rules, but nothing really complete, or written for beginners in plan english. Spamassassin is written in PERL, so it uses PERL RegEx in its configuration. For me, since I am using a version of Spamassassin compiled for use on Windows in the NoSpamToday product, I am editing the local.cf file in my NST installation folder. This is where I add my custom keyword filters.

Before we get started, keep in mind, that I’ll be constantly updating this post with the most recent information.

First, I’ll assume you at least know what Spamassassin is, whether or not you are using NST (NoSpamToday for future referece). In using custom keyword filters, you basically have 3 lines of text for each word, the actual line telling SA (Spamassassin for future reference) where to look (i.e. body, subject, etc). The second line is the description telling basically what the filter is doing. The last line is the score, that SA uses to assign to a message matching the first line of code. I’m going to post the actual conetent of this post as an extended entry, so the main body won’t take up your entire screen. Click the title of this post to read more.
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Cleaning up my bills

Today, I was able to consolidate a few bills into a single bill at a better interest rate. This is very exciting because it means we can now pay more towards the total bill and pay it off faster. We also made a few changes and moved things around a little and things are looking on the positive side. We’re planning out how to use our tax refund and have several things we can try to use it for, including a new top for my car!!! So its an exiciting time!

Effective Tax Rate: 0%

I was surprised to find that for 2006, my effective tax rate is 0.0%. I am basically getting back everything I paid in for federal taxes in 2006, I’m sure this excluded social security, but thats pretty interesting.

Paperless home office!

I got a sheetfed scanner in the mail today, and started doing some searches for free or open source software for use in making our home office a paperless home office. I am so tired of all the clutter in all the papers we get from creditors, and not to mention all the papers from Sarah’s schooling and Liz’s activities. I found this great software called DocsVault, which has a free home edition for download. I had searched for a few hours and really hadn’t found much of anything that cought my eye. Some expensive server based systems looked great, but were overkill for my home needs. So I came across this software and downloaded it to give it a try. I was impressed right from the start, it has everything we need for organizationl; cabinets, drawers and folders. It stores everything in an internal database and can use my sheet fed scanner. It has backup and restore capabilities built in, and can burn stright to CD/DVD or to a hard drive location. It integrate with MS Office and save documents directly to the cabinet/drawer of your choice. It has search capabilities and lots of powerful features above and beyond what I thought I could get for free. I started today scanning in papers, anything from bills, tax paperwork and all the way to the girls drawlings. Its perfect and exactly what I need to take care of my digital home needs. This should decrease the clutter and allow for better archiving and make things easier to find.

Tax returns for 2006 complete!

I didn’t think we were ready yet, since we had such another complicated tax year in 2006, but I was going through paperwork today (will explain in next post), and found I had everything I needed to file my taxes for 2006. Good news we are getting back a nice sum this year, probably enough to get a new top for my car, and put some away in savings and maybe a few little odds and ends. I was worried we would have to pay in this year because we sold our house in 2006 and got about $8,000 out of it in profit (even though it went to pay off bills). It turns out that we don’t owe anything on that money and are getting some back, so I’m very happy about that.

Two Amazing things

Yesterday when I got the mail from the mailbox, I discovered two amazing things. First, I received a check from our title company that did the closing on both the sale of our old home and the purchase of the new one. It was a check for an overage they charged us on property taxes. They made a big deal about it at closing, that we may get charged more when the taxes came due if they didn’t collect enough. Then yesterday we received a check for the overage which was surprising. This came in the mail right after we had just decided to purchase something for someone else out of funds we didn’t really have. So this check was triple what we spent on this other person which was amazing. Then I got a letter from Lowes, which was in regards to my Lowes card account. Turns out I have a $70+ dollar credit on my Lowes card account. This is also amazing, because I really need a hedge trimmer, which this overage will allow me to get, along with a few other small items we need for the house.

Details

Our old house sold rather quickly, it was listed, sold and closed within 30 days. Our buyer was a little wacky and we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make him happy. The closing date snuck up on us big time and we had only a few days to make moving arrangements. Liz and I packed up as much as we could and we had some friends that were nice enough to come over and help us. We had some help loading large items onto a moving truck which we were fortunately able to get for free from our real estate agent’s company. It was a 15′ truck and took 2 full loads to get all of our things to the garage of the new house. Liz and I loaded the first truck load along with some help from friends with the large items on Saturday morning. We then took the load to the new garage and unloaded it with just Liz and myself. It took us about 1 hour or so to unload the first trip. Then we took the truck back to our house and started to load more. It was getting late and Liz’s dad had come down to help from Ocala, so we took a dinner break and ended up with Liz’s dad and myself stopping by Dairy Queen on the way back. We got all the rest of the stuff from our old house loaded onto the truck in a few hours. Leaving only some trash to put out for collection and some small items like mirrors and things we could get with the van. It was almost 10pm by this time so we decided to leave it at that for the night and I drove the full truck back to a baseball field parking lot next to some friend’s house whom we were staying with. The next afternoon, Liz went somewhere with the kids and I took the truck to the new house and unloaded it by myself. It only took me a little over an hour and a half to get the extremely packed truck unloaded. What can I say, I’m nothing if not efficient. Ha ha. That evening I took the truck back to the real estate agent’s office and got my precious Miata back. I enjoyed a nice pleasant ride back to where we were staying.

First our home sale was supposed to happen on a Friday and the closing on our new house on a Monday. However, there was some kind of delay last minute and we could not close on either until Wednesday. So Wednesday finally came, I took some vacation days off work for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but also had Monday off for Columbus day. So I had 6 days to move and get settled in. We met at the title company at 3pm on Wednesday to close on both houses. The buyer of our house could not be there so he came earlier and signed paperwork. Which we were very happy about so we didn’t have to deal with him in person since he gave us such a time dealing through his real estate agent. Not to mention his agent had a horrible accent and was very hard to understand. They got to us in a short amount of time and we signed all the sale papers for our old house. We finished only after about 15 minutes or so, and then decided to move on and finish the signing of the papers on our new house. This way, when the seller got there all he had to do was sign a few papers and we’d be all set.

Bad thing was that the amount we got back at closing was not as much as we had thought due to higher taxes and expenses in closing. So we got back just short of the amount we wanted. We had planned to pay off two big debts but didn’t receive enough to pay off just one of them. We will be getting an escrow refund from our first mortgage which will help and we don’t have a mortgage payment until Dec 1st, so I’m hoping the extra bill I hadn’t counted on will not be too high of a payment. We should be able to pay a little on the second debt which will hopefully make it more managable. We still have some things we need to buy though, like a dishwasher, since it died just after we got the keys. I’d like to get a new refridgerator, but that will have to wait. We did get a new TV (woo hoo), couch set, and some other things, but the budget is going to be interesting now. We are going to have to take Sarah out of private school and send her to a very highly rated public school nearby. We just can’t afford her tuition anymore with the higher living expenses. This has been hard for Liz and I’m not happy about it either, but unless I get a major career boost (and I already do good) or Liz gets a good job, we just can’t afford to send our kids to private school. Its bad enough just paying tuition for one, I can’t immaging how we could send all our kids to private school. Sarah will likely start public school in early November.

Activating utilities at the new house was a little strange, we are just outside the city limits of Temple Terrace, but still are on their water/sewer system. Tampa Electric still services us which is good, but water and trash pickup were tricky. The county told me they didn’t service my address, the city said they didn’t service the address, Temple Terrace told us they did. So it was a bit confusing getting it all setup. But on the day we moved in we had power, water/sewer and trash pickup is covered in our property taxes. I missed trash pickup this morning, I guess they come way earlier than I am used to, so I’ll have to remember to put it out the night before the pickup day. I ordered Verizon FIOS for internet access to try it out and see how it works for me. Its cheaper than Road Runner and has faster upload speeds which is more important to me than a few MB faster download speeds. I am downloading any TV shows I want to watch now so we didn’t get cable again and I don’t want to pay for Satellite, which stinks in Florida anyway with all the rain in the summer. I connected my PC via DVI to the new TV – a Hitachi 57″ HDTV. I watched some things on it in HD and its amazing. I just need to get a good surround sound system and I’ll be set. But thats one more thing I can’t afford right now. I might be able to get a PCI video card with a DVI port on it, and just use my e-mail server as my multimedia machine. I’d also need to get a wireless keyboard and mouse, but thats not too expensive. I have yet to decide what I want to do about that yet.

We love our new house, its not brand new and it has some maintenance things that will need to be done, but its been cared for and is in good shape overall. Its in a very quiet neighborhood, peaceful and pleasant. Liz has already been rollerblading a few times and I took the kids in the back yard last night to assemble their swing set and it was so quiet and there was a nice cool breeze blowing with no one else around. I have some installation inadequicies so it took a little longer than I had wanted to get the swing set assembled 🙂 We still have lots of stuff in the new garage so only my Miata can fit in there at night right now. I would like to have both vehicles in the garage by next weekend. Its not that much left to move, but its a matter of time and energy to go through it all. We made good progress in the few days we have been there, the kitchen and living room look great, but the other rooms are a little bare right now.

So I’m back at work today after a long break and am right back into the mix of things again. I think I am becomming a supporter of capitol punnishment for spammers. :-)]]>

Bad Neighborhood??

It didn’t take us long to realize that even though our house was the nicest one (as far as condition and age) that we had ever had, but our neighborhood left much to be desired. We discovered lewd music being played very loud at all hours of the day and night, we found beak-in attempts on my truck parked in my driveway just off the street!!! Drug dealers and gang bangers and barred stores all over. Suddenly things didn’t seem so nice as they had after just coming from a much worse place.

Its been a year this March (almost there). We still don’t like the neighborhood, and desperately want to move. We are embarrassed to have people over for fear that they might be afraid of the area. We have one year left to live in this house before we are going to try to sell it and move to a nicer area. I’m sincerely hoping that home values will rise enough by the time I’m ready to sell that we could take the equity in the home sale and use it to pay off all our debt. This is not so far fetched and we’ve done it once before. We bought the house for $131,000 and they are already selling now for upwards of $160 in some areas. Our neighborhood definately has something to do with the value, but hopefully by next March I’ll be able to get about $169K from the sale of our home. If that happens, we will be able to pay off all our bills, and have a few K left over to put down on a new home and pay all closing costs in cash. This would also allow me to finally trade my truck in for a car with a working heater! I know that sounds funny coming from someone who lives in FL, but lately in the mornings it can get pretty chilly! I’ve had ice on my windshield for the past two mornings now. And the heater in my truck is broken.

Should this plan work out, and we can pay off all our debt, and do the things I just mentioned; then we are aced with a new challenge. First, we have to find a new home, but not just any home, it again will need certain features. It will need to be in a nicer neighborhood, in a good location close enough to my work and Sarah’s school. And of course we can’t wander too far from Temple Terrace!

The reason I want to wait until two years has passed is that I don’t want to pay capitol gains tax, which would cut into my available funds to get out of debt. I’ve managed to acquire a bit of debt over the years. I’ve got three credit cards, a few store cards (all with $0 balances), a student loan, a truck (auto) loan, and a few minor medical bills. Not to mention my mortgages, but they don’t really count. Once all this is paid off with the sale of our home, we will much more available monthly spendable income to use towards the mortgage of a more expensive house in a better area. This will also provide the funds for sending Sarah and Abby both to private school. It will also enable us to do the things I want so badly to do, such as take a family vacation somewhere nice. Perhaps take a few trips a year somewhere with the kids and do something fun.

Individually, I do fairly well in my profession. I’ve been in IT for over 8 years now, I make good enough money (though in my area there are higher paying jobs for which I qualify). The thing that sets us apart, is that Liz doesn’t work, not at all outside the home. This presents a challenge for me to maximize my income to provide for my family on my own without the income of a spousourselvese. Most families these days must have both parents working just to make it. I’ve been blessed that I have been able to make enough money to support my family on a single income. This is very difficult and we often find ourselves down to just a few dollars in the bank more than a few times each year. (in between pay periods). This presents its own challenges, for example, at work some of the guys like to go out and eat lunch sometimes several times a week. This is something I just cannot afford to do. Also we are limited in the activities we can provide for our kids, we haven’t been to Disney or Sea World or been on any weekend trips or done much of anything that requires more than $100 (and thats high). I really want to provide more experiences for my kids, I want to travel with them on family vacations, take them to interesting places and expose them to the world around them. There is a lot of beauty in the creation we are surrounded by, most of which I haven’t seen either. Hopefully one day, money won’t be so tight that we keep telling ourselves “we can’t afford to do that or go there”.

So lookout, come next March the Church Family might be moving to a neighborhood near you!

🙂
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