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April 16, 2009

0% Savings Bonds

You may remember that last April I bought some I Series Savings Bonds that promised to pay 6% interest, though not for another six months. It turned out to be a great investment, not just because of the high interest rate, but because it prevented me from investing that money in the stock market, which I would have done otherwise, what with me being tapped out by October when the market was still pretty far off the bottom it hit in November and well before falling to new lows just last month.

By November I was earning 6.07% interest and starting next month I will be at 6.15%. This is because I bought the bond in April and so I am lagging the actual inflation rate by six months while also earning a fixed rate of 1.2% (the fixed rate dropped to 0% a few days after I bought my bond, but I am locked in at 1.2% for the life of the bond plus inflation; it is now 0.7% and due to change again May 1).

The latest Consumer Price Index was released yesterday and it showed a negative inflation rate during the past year for the first time since 1955. It was pretty small, just -0.38%. But during the last six months, which is what the Treasury Department uses to calculate interest rates on I Series Savings Bonds, it is down 5.55% (the website Savings Bond Advisor keeps up with all of this). This means that when the -5.55% inflation component is combined with my 1.2% fixed return, I would actually lose money except that savings bonds are guaranteed not to go negative. Since I am lagging the market, I won't start "earning" 0% interest until November. The nice thing about that is it gives me a great excuse to sell the bonds in January, forfeiting 3 months of interest as a penalty for cashing the bonds before 5 years (thus a penalty of $0).

April 9, 2009

Zenni Optical

I had heard about Zenni Optical from Mom who heard about them from Clark Howard. He raves about how cheaply you can get mail order glasses from them. I wasn't real happy with the clip-on sunglasses that came with my new glasses I got last year from Lenscrafters. They were connected by magnets, but not very securely and the extra weight made my nose hurt after wearing the glasses with sunglasses for a while.

I had looked at the Zenni Optical website before but I needed my pupil distance (distance between my two pupils) which was not part of my prescription. So that held me back, but when I was at Lenscrafters I asked for that measurement and wrote it down for use later (65 mm; it turns out it isn't that hard to get someone to hold a ruler over your eyes and tell you what it is).

So anyway, I picked out some frames (they have different prices and options, but a lot of frames are only $8, including the lenses!). I wanted some black plastic frames that would make the sunglasses look like Rayban Wayfarers (like Tom Cruise in Risky Business) because those should be cheap and look good on just about anybody. I didn't find anything close and wound up picking some wire rim aviator glasses (thinking I would get better coverage than the little rectangular ones that go on my regular glasses). I wanted to run it by Susan to make sure they were okay so I actually ordered from her house. It was $8 for the frames and lenses and $4.95 for the tinting to 80%. It was another $4.95 for shipping (straight from China). When I ordered the glasses it said that these frames were too big for my pupil distance. Knowing that I have a pretty large head, I had Susan check the pupil distance and I think we got it right. So I wound up placing the order for similar, but smaller, frames (they give you measurements of the frames, but the problem is you can't really tell the size by looking at them or tell what they will look like on online), but then had two items in my cart and I wound up deleting the wrong one. After placing the order they sent me an e-mail, seemingly from a real person fluent in English, saying there was a problem with my order and I was able to go back to the smaller frame.

Before I placed the order, Susan got her reading glasses prescription and we ordered a pair of $8 glasses for her too. They didn't charge extra shipping for the second pair, so for $25.90 we got two pairs of prescription glasses.

They arrived today. The frames were smaller than I thought, but they seem decent enough. They're not totally cheap and the hinge is spring-loaded even. I placed the order on March 17 and they just arrived today, so Zenni isn't any good if you are in a hurry (mine probably took longer because of the tinting and because I messed up my order), but if you want some cheap glasses, a second pair, or want something kind of wild and different but don't want to risk a lot of money, it's a good way to go.

April 4, 2009

Lake Lanier Water Supply

I've been kind of obsessed with the level of Lake Lanier since the media made such a big deal about it last year or so and said it could run out of water completely, or that they might have to use dead zone water that was stored there since the beginning and completely out of oxygen. None of that ever happened and the lake is actually up 10 feet from last November. In fact, just this week it was announced that the drought is over.

Though the amount of water per inch of lake varies, an article from the AJC in January said that 1 foot of Lake Lanier is equal to 10 billion gallons of water and could supply Atlanta for 25 days. That article also said that Lake Lanier holds five times as much water as Lake Allatoona, which is now full.

Part of the problem with the water level was due to a bad gauge at the lake which led people at the dam to release billions of gallons of water, or about 2 feet.

April 2, 2009


There was a coupon in the paper recently for Trop50, a new orange juice from Tropicana with 50% less sugar. I bought a couple of half gallons of it and gave it a try this morning. It comes in a thinner taller package but otherwise looks just like Tropicana's orange juice carton (it even has codes you can enter to save 10 square feet of rain forest like the regular juice has).

It tasted like orange juice with a diet aftertaste. I wondered how that worked and whether they were using oranges that weren't as sweet or something. But when I (finally) looked at the label closely it was really simple: they used 58% less juice. The contents clearly say it is only 42% juice (I usually check this, but the carton threw me) and the first ingredient is water. They use PureVia Reb-A as the sweetener, which is based on Stevia. It may be natural, but it still tastes diet. The FDA banned it until this past December.

That's the first and last time I will get Trop50.

April 1, 2009

First Quarter Results

My web page revenues continue to be way down from the glory days of 2007. The meager results: Amazon revenue was $28 and Google was $17, though my advertiser is still paying regularly for $168 in the quarter.

The big problem is traffic remains low since the migration to iGirder and the disappearance of Speedfactory (which would have necessitated the migration anyway). I am averaging just over 100 visitors per day and the majority of those are for the DeJumbler. I think at the same time there is probably a decrease in interest in iPod battery packs. My other page for fitting the Civic's Sony radio for an iPod connection grows more and more irrelevant since newer Sony's (and new cars and other car stereos) have connections for iPod's built in.

Still for Amazon sales the biggest seller by a longshot was the Turbo Charge charger with 11 units sold. The Maxell pack (which I think has been discontinued) is a distant second with only 4. The most expensive item sold was an APC battery for $34.99. The most unusual items were probably three books about extreme running along with the DVD "Run, Fatboy, Run".

If you shop at Amazon, you can stop by the iPod Battery Pack Page and visit an Amazon link, or (easier) visit the page I made that takes you straight to Amazon and either start your search or just click the ad (if you don't see an ad, your browser is blocking it, so you should use the other page).