Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Pre race pump up.

Jo jo

This past fall, I worked for the title sponsor (Grand Dynamics International) of the Ultimate Towner obstacle course race to build and run two of their races on the East Coast. One in Lake Placid up in the Adirondack Mountains, and one in Syracuse, New York. This was a blast.  Basically the race is 4 miles over varying terrain with 25 obstacles (mud pits, walls, more walls, tires, sand bag carries, balance beams, etc) that add up to one challenging course. There are two heats: a fast class (where you are timed and must complete every obstacle) and a fun class (which is as the name implies, for fun.)

ultimate_logo

The main thing that distinguishes the Ultimate Towner from say, Tough Mudder, or Warrior Dash, is that they hold the races primarily in small towns, focus on overcoming obstacles through teamwork and passion, get the community involved, and a part of the profits go to a local charity. It is a super fun and inspirational event. Tim Walther (pictured in white, above), president of Grand Dynamics, starts off the race with a large group pump up/ dance/ aerobic work out craziness and it goes on from there. The race is open to all ages, and I think we had a two year old on the course at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid.

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So yeah. Lot’s of fun. Great people. Hard race. What more do you want. Oh yeah, also, cheaper than the other races too. So register for one near you. Or travel to it. The one in Jackson, WY is awesome. Be sure to check out the links up top for more info on races near you. Here’s some more pics from the New York races:

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Tuffy Slacklining at Whiteface Mt.

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The Over Under Through walls, in the beautiful Adirondacks

 

Teton traverse wall

Teton traverse wall

 

At mile 3, that's a tough climb!

At mile 3, that’s a tough climb!

The "Love Life" wall

The “Love Life” wall

 

Overcome your Obstacles

Overcome your Obstacles

 

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Potato sack race obstacle

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

Racers get a fun spray down from a young spectator!

So I finally got to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movie last night in all its 3D high frame rate glory. The verdict?

Terrible… with some shining good points.

But Dan, you say, I thought you loved JRR Tolkien and the Hobbit? Yes. Yes I do. Why do directors/screenwriters feel the need to mess with something that has been a well-loved classic for millions? WHY! If it has enjoyed success up to this point with the story that exists, why change it? And don’t tell me, “For the story/ narrative.” The narrative worked just fine, that’s why there are Tolkien fans world-wide. So if you’ll indulge my nerdy wrath, let me tell you the various reasons why I was disappointed in the film.

The whole backstory with Azog the goblin. Yes he existed, but he was dead long before the company of 14 left Bag-end. I kind of see that the writers needed a stronger antagonist for this cut-up part of the story, but come on. Here’s what really happened:

After Smaug took the Lonely Mountain. Thror gave his Ring of Power to his son Thrain, and left with a friend, Nar, to go to Moria. When he got there, the gate was open and his friend warned him not to go in, but he walked in like an heir returning. Nar waited outside for many days before the body of Thror was tossed out, headless. The head was also tossed out and on it was branded AZOG. Nar was told that Azog was the new master in Moria and to go back and tell the dwarves. Of course Thrain was furious and the dwarves spent three years amassing an army before they finally marched on Moria in 2799. That is the scene in the movie where Thorin and Thrain are battling the goblins. That scene is accurate in that it shows how Thorin got his nickname Oakenshield, but that’s about all. Nain is the dwarf who battles and is killed by Azog, and Dain (of the Iron Hills), son of Nain, revenges his father and kills Azog, beheading him. Not just cutting off his arm for him to fight another day. Dead. Storyline ends there. Bye bye Azog.

Years later, Thrain, Thorin’s father is captured on the outskirts of Mirkwood and is taken to Dol Guldur where he is tortured and the Ring of Power is taken from him and delivered to Sauron in 2845. Five years later, Gandalf enters Dol Guldur and receives the key to the Lonely Mountain from Thrain before he is killed.

Whew! History lesson over. OK. Next.

The beginning of the movie is fine. The dinner party at Bagend is great. Where it departs from Canon is with the Trolls. First of all, it was pouring rain, not a nice day. Second. The whole party voted that Bilbo should go check out the firelight, not go chasing after some lost ponies. Third, Bilbo is discovered but manages to get away when the trolls start fighting amongst themselves, then the dwarves start showing up one by one and get put into sacks so that they can’t warn the others. Thorin manages to get in a few licks with a burning branch, but he too is captured and Bilbo is punted up into a tall bush. Then Gandalf comes back and impersonates the Troll’s voices so that they end up arguing about how to cook the dwarves until daylight turns them to stone. All in all, the movie didn’t change too much, and the scene is not pivotal to the plot. But if it wasn’t so important, why change it at all? It was fine as originally written.

Then the movie goes on a lark with Radagast the Brown and tries setting up how Sauron is amassing power in Mirkwood, but that doesn’t really enter into the Hobbit at all. Gandalf just mentions that a “Necromancer” is gaining power in Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown shows up in the Hobbit for all of ONE SENTENCE, while they are on the way to Beorn’s house.

And the whole business about being chased by Wargs before “escaping” to Rivendell? Rubbish. They missed the whole fantastic scene in the book where the company enters Rivendell at twilight and the elves sing/make fun of them from the trees. Also, still on ponies and horses. They didn’t run away after their ordeal with the trolls.

Rivendell itself was spectacular as it always is, but the whole council with Galadriel and Saruman never happened.

The Stone giants scene was cool and I’m willing to forgive a little creative license there, but they still had the ponies with them, and Gandalf too, when they were captured in the cave. Bilbo remains with the group the whole time during their escape, which was a ridiculous affair of Disney theme ride/ Ewok village rope bridges in the movie, where in the book it is all dark low passages. When the goblins catch up with the group a second time, Dori, who was carrying Bilbo on his shoulders, is grabbed from behind and Bilbo is knocked out and overlooked. When he awakes, he fumbles over The Ring on the ground, he doesn’t watch it fall out of Gollum’s pocket.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great, except that it’s not dark. When Bilbo finally escapes, he losses his brass buttons trying to squeeze out the final door to the outside, away from Gollum and the goblin guards.

The scene where the party goes from the frying pan and into the fire was well done except for the whole showdown between Thorin and AZOG, who as we found out, was already long dead.

When they are rescued by the Eagles, (who just look down and see the fire with their good eyesight and don’t have to be informed via butterfly mail) we miss out on the whole scene of the dwarves being taken up to their Eyrie that night and wondering if they are going to be eaten for the Eagle’s dinner. And then they are brought to the Carrock, and so we leave them there., gazing at the nonexistent view of the Lonely Mountain.

After all that, here’s what the movie did right: Visually stunning. The HFR was incredible, but hard to get used to. At first, it looks a bit like Spanish daytime soap operas. You know, that hard light where everything looks very realistic. After a while, you begin to appreciate the detail, but it takes time. Erebor was amazing and the golden hoard was a sight to behold. All the characters were wonderful, and Bilbo and Thorin were spot on, even though they participated in scenes that shouldn’t have existed. the Wargs were awesome, and the goblins were perfect. Just different enough from LOTR’s orcs to be just right. The Goblin King in particular was wonderful.

Overall, I think that Peter Jackson has a great vision for the world of Middle Earth, and he did better than most would. But why didn’t he just stick to the beloved story? Tolkien fans should watch it, but you have been warned to not expect it to be true to canon.

What do you think?

P.S. I think I’m so upset, because I grew up with Tolkien s’ works. It’s different than, say, The Walking Dead graphic novels versus the TV show. I read and enjoyed the comics first, and noted the differences when the show aired, but since it wasn’t ingrained in my childhood; since I didn’t spend hours drawing maps of Georgia, or making hand-drawn board games of The Walking Dead, I wasn’t as upset. Or take any modern series. Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Yes, it bothered me when the movies departed from the novels, but it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

Another good year for books. Since I got a Nook, I read even more than usual. But I still kept a lookout at the library and when I spied some new addition to a series I enjoyed. I will say though, the Nook contributed to some reading A.D.D. I definitely started a good deal many more books than I finished this year. And switching to digital has spoiled me in some ways too. I found myself reading a real paper book and getting annoyed that I couldn’t just touch and hold a word for an immediate definition. Or that it took my 12 seconds to turn the page when I was reading on my side in bed with one arm under the covers; instead of just a push of a button. ‘Tis the way of  the future I suppose. Anyway, I hope you get something out of my list. Happy reading!

Robopocalypse: A Novel

A welcome change from all the zombiepocalypse novels I’ve read lately. Basically the military experiments with AI and, what do you know, it escapes and decides to “destroy” the humans. When you read it, you’ll understand the quotes. The book is well written and follows several disparate groups along their path to fight against Big Rob. The book is also written completely from the perspective of recorded digital footage gleaned from a hard drive. So, all conversations, movements, etc. appear from a robot’s sensors. This is not nearly as tedious as it sounds, and was quite cool.

Indulgence in Death

Possession in Death (In Death Series)

Treachery in Death

Assassin of Secrets

A good old spy thriller set in the 60’s. If you like James Bond or Jason Bourne, you’ll enjoy this romp through Europe at the heels of the best secret agent in the US as he tries to snare the organization that is systematically killing off top operatives all over the world.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse)

After reading about spies, robots, and New York City Police Lieutenants, it was nice to get back to a really good space opera. Although one of the main plots follows a detective following his nose in classic Noir. This book was political without trying too hard, and seemed to accurately predict what society might be like after a few hundred years living in the outer Solar System on asteroids and on the outer moons. Tension builds well throughout the book and, much as I try to escape it, I still ended up reading about zombies. (kind of).

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel

A zombie novel centered around a secret government organization (think NSA, CIA, + Seal Team Six) trying to stop the first outbreak before it becomes public knowledge. Oh, yeah, also, the zombies are terrorist bio-weapons, designed for maximum contagion by radical Muslims. A fun, bloody stroll through terror suppression, but since it is contemporary, it doesn’t totally redefine the world like “Feed” by Mira Grant.

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta’s War)

This is the 3rd in the series, however, after trying to sync up my reading schedule and library holds, I just couldn’t wait any longer to start at the beginning. It was a pretty good military sci-fi tale.

Command Decision (Vatta’s War)

Context

I like everything this guy has written, so that said, this is a great collection of essays (blog posts) about writing, life in the digital age, copyright, and other cool issues. Dig it.

Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. A good mix of detective yarn and political thriller set in Edinburgh around 50 years from now. I liked all the cool gadgets like the augmented reality spex that the police use (much like Google is designing now) and the cheap 3D printer/ fabbers running in back garages, making things for the black market using illegal feedstock disguised as…well I don’t want to ruin it.

Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War)

Seed

A desolate, distopic, ecopunk vision of America after extreme climate change. The only way people can scrabble a living is using genetically engineered seeds from an all powerful corporation, Satori. But that’s just the beginning.  This was a supremely creative work, filled with Chicano slang, genetic engineers who can literally see the helix dance, sleek military vehicles growling across the desert, and a city made from living flesh and bone.

The Dervish House

A book that you can really delve into, sinking slowly past layer upon layer of character, location, culture, and cutting edge science that all coalesce into a magnificent whole: Istanbul. The city features in this cool near-future mystery through the streets of the Queen of Cities.  And it even has a very satisfying ending! One of the best I’ve read in a while.

Coffee is Good for You: From Vitamin C and Organic Foods to Low-Carb and Detox Diets, the Truth about Diet and Nutrition Claims

Foolish me, I thought the whole book would be about coffee. Still an interesting read. I generally eat pretty well anyway, so I already knew many of the things to stay away from, or eat more of.

Hell’s Gate (BOOK 1 in new MULTIVERSE series)

I usually limit my fantasy intake to one or two a year, but this seemed to have enough sci-fi in it to qualify. Also, I was between books and this had been recommended to me (thrust into my hands, in fact) and so I gave it a chance. Once you get over the fact that there are multiple universes that can be travelled to by passing through portals, it isn’t too bad.  Basically, two scouts come face to face in a wood where neither one expected to see other humans. One guy is from a culture that is based on magic. They use spells in everyday life and think nothing of it. The other guy is from a culture much like our own around the 1890s. They have steam power and machine guns, but still use horses to travel. Also, a section of their culture has mental powers, such as the ability to communicate over long distances, or visualize terrain. This was a bit of a sore point for me, as I thought the story would have been better had the technological civilization been modeled more closely on our own, without the mental “Talents.” Either way, the story pulled me along to the point that the book was constantly in my pocket or in my hand. The story itself follows a husband and wife, among others, as the two cultures deal with the fallout of their two cultures clashing in violence at their first meeting. It will definitely read the sequel as I have already invested 1400 pages so far.

Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine

A great primer on wine, written with a fresh insight and a knowledgeable hand. Read this, and drink more of the Good Stuff.

The Games

A fast-paced thriller about the future Olympic gladiator competition where the contestants fight to the death and the only rule is that they can’t have any human DNA.  Pretty good. I think I read it in two days.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I’m almost ashamed to say, this was my first time reading the Holmes stories. This also marked my switch-over from paper to digital e-books. As proven by history, the Sherlock Holmes tales are superb and rightfully deserve their place in literary classic literature.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions)

Before the Strand  by Amanda Raymond

A great novel written by my oldest friend. (we met when I was two) Succinctly, a novel that centers on Sherlock Holmes’s secret son. The author is a true Holmes fan, so I assure you that everything makes sense, fits with earlier timelines, and is accurate to the nth degree. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as you can see, I read it right in the middle of reading all the classic Holmes stories and it rang true. Her tale is well thought out and fast paced, taking the reader on a tour of Old London and Cambridge following Holmes’s son Jonathan as he comes to terms with who he is as a man, and struggles to escape death at the hands of one of the most famous murderers in Europe.

A Study in Scarlet

A great mystery of intrigue and Mormonism.

The Sign of the Four

The Hound of the Baskervilles (with illustrations by Sidney Paget)

One of the greatest tales of Sherlock Holmes.

Sh*t My Dad Says

Hilarious. That’s all you need to know.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Just when you were missing the shorter tales, he’s back!

Kill-Basa by Sean Graham

A cool collection of zombie short stories.

Countdown: A Joe Ledger Short Prequel Short Story to Patient Zero

This works as a short story, only if you don’t plan to read Patient Zero, because it”s basically just the first chapter of the novel. Patient Zero was fun though, so give it a try.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse)

The sequel to Leviathan Wakes.

Exogene (The Subterrene War)

The Subterrene war from a clone’s perspective. Very bleak, with much existentialism and religious control thrown in. A chilling read on the future of warfare. Really good.

Chimera (The Subterrene War)

The final subterrene novel. This was a crazy trip through war, kind of like “Heart of Darkness” meets “Apocalypse Now” meets “Blade Runner” Really cool. Very dark. The main character is a classic anti-hero. A masterful capstone to the trilogy.

Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box

A chilling short story from the author of the Newsflesh trilogy.

Heat Wave, Premium Edition (Nikki Heat, Book 1)

The first Nikki Heat novel by fictional crime writer Richard Castle from the ABC show Castle with Nathan Fillion. This was a great quick read. I found it especially interesting because if you are a fan of the show, you can gain insight into the authors decisions for how the “journalist” and the detective interact. It was better than you would think a book based on a TV show about writing crime books could be.

The Book of Rules: The Right Way to Do Everything

This was a fun book. I thought it would funnier than it was, but no it IS actually a book of rules for life. However, there are some good ones. Having to notify and obtain permission from your neighbors if you plan on installing wind chimes. Bending Q-tips in half after use so they won’t be reused inadvertently. Stuff like that.

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile (Book 2)

The adventure continues and widens in scope.

The Book of Swords

If you are a fan of swords, knives, axes, knights in shining armour, vikings, etc. then you should really read this book.

The Cold Commands

A great sequel to “The Steal Remains.” My biggest complaint with the first book was that there was too much explicit gay sex. It seems that the author listened to his fans as the intimate moments in this volume are toned WAY down. Far from detracting from the realism of the story, my enjoyment was increased by their absence. By the way, I don’t hate gay people, I’d just rather not read very descriptive sex scenes all through a fantasy book. The Cold Commands expanded on  the world-building of the Steal Remains and followed an ever tightening circle of mystery to a cool climax.

7th Sigma

I was sure exactly what to expect with this book and I was pleasantly surprised. The main character is a young boy who falls in with an Aikido master in the American West… after a mysterious event happened where that part of the country is infected with robotic bugs that devour all metal. A cool mix of serene martial arts, undercover spy novel, and western, with crazy bugs thrown in.

Foreign Influence: A Thriller

A good thriller that I was semi-forced to listen to on a roadtrip, but when we got back home, we were only halfway through. So I had to finish it.

Weather by Alastair Reynolds

A great short story about knowledge of self, sacrifice, your life’s work, and of course, space pirates.

Blood Oath

One of my first Vampire novels besides Dracula. I stick more to zombies. Anyway. I thought this was really good. The basic idea is that the President has had a Vampire working for hi since 1860 or so. He’s like the ultimate secret agent and Seal Team Six rolled into one. It did a good job of explaining the vampires physiology and limits. An interesting idea, well executed.

Casino Royale (James Bond)

The first Bond novel. Very good. Stark.

The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds

A cool short story about the consequences of trying to mess with physics and multiple universes.

Live and Let Die (James Bond)

If there is one word that would describe the essence of this book, it would be: negro. Yeahhhh, I know. It was first published in the 50s and it is now very dated. Once you get past the awkward language, it’s a great spy story.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

What can I say? I love pretty much everything this man has written. A great, fast paced ( I think I read it in 2 days) novel that pokes fun at Trekkie tropes and yet creates something new.

Little Fuzzy

I read Scalzi’s reboot last year, so I thought I should check out the original. It was good, but I preferred the updated version.

Amped

A great cautionary tale about how society reacts to scientific advancement and change. Mirroring apartheid, humans that have undergone intelligence amplification quickly become outcasts from society and have to fight for equality against public opinion and a shadowy organization.

Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books)

A decent steampunk yarn, but somehow I was expecting more.

Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy)

The conclusion of the greatest zombie trilogy out there.

Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

How it all started. A must for Newsflesh fans.

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura (Rot and Ruin))

A cool take on living post zombie apocalypse. I read part of this novel as a short story and the idea captivated me. Benny Imura’s brother is a bounty hunter for zombies. People still remember their loved ones, so they take old pictures to “erosion artists” who paint them as zoms. Then they hire bounty hunters to go out and kill their zombified relatives to give them peace. But the novel is so much more than that.

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat)

The second book by fictional author Richard Castle from the TV show. This one drew far more on plot points from previous episodes in the show, but that didn’t make it bad. The actual mystery kept me guessing till right near the end.

Moonraker (James Bond)

I’m sure this was a great story in the 1950s. But it is very dated today. It’s still a good Bond story though.

The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

Fans of Arlen and the Demon Cycle will really like this collection. I like the one about his searching for the lost tomb.

The Passage: A Novel

Wow. Cronin writes beautifully, and the 850+ pages fly by. I wasn’t sure how I would like yet another vampire book, but this is believable enough that it makes sense. You know the deal. Military is working on biological enhancements for soldiers, oops they escape. World ends. But the whole milieu is great. A classic quest tale.

The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Illustrated by the Author

Classic. I read this to my son for bedtimes the last few months. It’s still such a good tale. If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to.

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms (Volume 1)

I got this series as a gift. It is much more fantasy than sci-fi in the beginning, however it has a way of turning inexorably towards a bigger picture. Like most trilogies, the first book doesn’t really come to a conclusive end, so I must press on. It’s also interesting that the humans are the bad guys.

The Tamarisk Hunter

This is a short story that can be found here: Pump Six and Other Stories  A realistic look at what may happen in the American West when fresh water and water rights start becoming super important. Important enough to destroy cities and alter society.

Lodestone Book Two: The World of Ice and Stars (Volume 2)

Book two. The far side of the world. What would happen when one species is separated early in it’s development and then develops along two very different paths? Well, we know from all the varied cultures here on Earth that anything i possible. My one big complaint with this series so far is that the timeline of events is not clear. Everything with the main characters is fine. I’m talking about planetary developments throughout history. Regardless, I will finish the 3rd book in the series within the week.

Total 59

2010…………………………………………………………………………………………………………66

2010 was another great year in my reading life. I would have to say that my top favorite books this year were:

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

This book was integral to our getting a real handle on our finances, getting on a budget, becoming debt free, amassing six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund, and starting to build wealth.

The “In Death” police procedural mysteries by J. D. Robb.


These near-future, gritty, sexy mysteries really grabbed me this year and I have now read more than half of her 30+ books. The characters are great and the interplay between all their relationships kept me intrigued enough to keep picking up the next one in the series. I especially like the audio books because Susan Erickson does such a great job acting all the different characters with distinct and entertaining voices.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett.


I don’t normally read a lot of pure fantasy with magic and things, but this was some awesome, hardcore demon slaying goodness. I also really like how we followed three characters from very early ages up through adulthood. This is a great book. A mysterious world with captivating characters pull the reader along on an incredible journey through years of their lives. It was hard to put this one down until I was done. I could see this being a great video game or movie in a few years.

After that, there were so many others and I enjoyed almost all of them. The books on Afghanistan were very interesting and also a few of the survival type books, both fiction and non-fiction. (more…)

My awesome sister Catherine is studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. Recently she has been doing radio updates and some on-camera work for their news site: http://edinburghnapiernews.com. Here she is doing a 12:30 bulletin for March 25th, 2011. Good job Cath, keep it up!

German scientist Herman Freibach achieved a world first this Thursday, when he successfully combined florescent genes from jellyfish and reindeer. Said Freibach, “This will make all the children of the world interested in science again this Christmas season.” After the formal interview he added: “I’m just glad it came out like the song. I was half expecting a jellyfish with horns.” The reindeer (named Rudolph of course) is doing well in his temporary pen on the outskirts of the Black Forest, but several major U.S. retail chains have already made bids to have the cheery science experiment displayed in their windows in New York City. When asked if he would sell, Freibach said, “I can always make more!”

After several conversations with my siblings, I decided to write this post to give them the sum total of all my financial advice I’ve learned as an under-thirty year-old. So this is for you guys, and whoever else feels like they could get a better grip on their money, and live to accomplish their dreams on their own terms.

Bank accounts: Some of the best advice I ever got was from my two older cousins Tim and Kevin. They said I should always have at least $5,000 in the bank. This was a hard feat for a fifteen year old, but once it was in the bank, I vowed never to dip below that mark. So far, I have succeeded. Everyone says that you should have between 3 months and 6 months living expenses saved up for an emergency. So if you lost your job tomorrow, you could survive in your current lifestyle for half a year. I say, why stop at six months? At one point, we had 19 months livings expenses saved, so when my wife took 15 months off to care for our first son, we were living on my smaller, non masters-degree-having job. A few months after that, I got cut to part time. So we went from two full-time incomes to one part-time income. That chunk of savings saved our lives, and our house. We were able to keep up with all payments, only because of our emergency fund. You need one, so start saving today.

It almost goes without saying, but I may as well spell it out. You need a checking account. And, you need a savings account. These cannot be the same account. After putting up with ridiculous fees from M&T, I switched to HSBC and have been pretty happy with them. The main reason I switched was because I was looking for a better savings rate. I checked on Bankrate.com and saw that HSBC offered an online savings account with 5.05% APR. This was a heck of a lot better than the 0.25% rate M&T was giving me. When I switched, (which takes a bit of work, verifying micro transactions, etc.) my monthly interest payment jumped from $1.25 to $52.25. Pretty awesome. I made $500 in interest the first year.

If you have any kind of regular employment, get direct deposit. Figure out generally what you think you’ll need each pay period, and have that amount put into your checking account. Anything left over goes into the saving account, automatically. For example, I had $400 go into checking and whatever was left, say $150 go into savings. You must think of Savings as being untouchable. If you want to save for a specific trip, a new car, etc. set up a third saving account and put $25 or $50 into that each paycheck, but your main savings should remain untouched. Not that it can’t be used. Just not regularly. We used a third account as a wedding fund for the year before we were married and it worked quite well. I also paid off my car using my savings to pay $2,000 chunks down when I could, while keeping up with the regular payments.

Retirement: Even though you’re 21, 25… you need to start thinking about this now. Time affects the amount you end up with much more than how much you put in. This is the beauty of compound interest. A 25 year-old putting in $5,000 a year for 10 years would end up with close to a million dollars, whereas a 55 year-old putting in the same amount over the same time frame would only have just under $80,000!

If you can manage it, contribute money to your employer’s plan as soon as they let you. Most employers will have a matching contribution, but the really good ones will contribute based on a percentage of your salary, even if you put in nothing. After a period of time, typically 3-5 years, you become vested and get to keep all the money that they put in too. An optimum goal for contributions should be 10% of your  salary. It took me several years to build up to this level, so don’t push it if you can’t afford it now. The best part is, my employer matched 7.5% so I was really putting in 17.5%!

The thing about the stock market is…you have to be in it for the long haul. Even if the market is tanking, keep contributing. This is when you can buy up lots of stocks for cheap, so when the market finally rebounds (even if it takes several decades) you’re in the position to make some serious chop. Just think, long term. Not day trading, or even decade trading. If you start when you’re young, the market will surly have grown over four decades, and you can retire wealthy.

Loans or mortgages: First, don’t get one if you can help it. Shakespeare said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  The Bible says that the borrower is a slave to the lender. But if you really must get a loan, which most people will end up doing at least a few times in their lives (car, school, house), be smart about it. If you have a good credit score (from paying bills on time, etc.) you can qualify for a good (low) interest rate. Make sure you get one that has no pre-payment penalty on it. That way, you can pay extra principal on it if you want to, with no worries.

Once you reach 21% equity in your house, you can drop the PMI (private mortgage insurance) that you have been paying every month. This will get you an extra (for us) $35 a month that you can add to your Principal payment.

Always pay the minimum payments on all of your loans. Then, pay as much as you can afford on the one with the smallest amount in it. For example: you have three loans, $2000 ($50 payment), $8,000 ($150 payment), and $35,000 ($400 payment). Pay the $2000 loan off first. Then, when you are finished with that one, add the $50 to your next smallest loan so that you can put down $200 towards the $8,000 loan. When that’s done, you can add the $200 to the $400 for a $600 payment. If you do it this way, you will see progress much sooner than if you just focus on the loan with the highest interest rate. Dave Ramsey calls this the Snowball method because it grows as it gathers momentum. Using rough estimates, I figure we can pay off our $64,000 of debt in 6 years. This is not including chunks that we plan to slap down from our previously mentioned savings account.

Credit Cards: No. That’s it. No. They are off limits. If there’s an emergency and you need cash…well that’s what your six month emergency savings account is for.

Insurance: A higher deductible will mean lower monthly fees.

For homeowners/ renters insurance, walk around and take picture of all your most expensive things. Also keep a list with all their serial numbers and purchase price. This will help if there’s ever a burglary of fire.

Taxes: Use free software to do your taxes yourself. A local news channel did an experiment and found that people who paid a tax professional $90 got the same refund when they spent a couple hours online doing it themselves for free. (One person got an extra dollar, but they spent ninety to get it). Speaking of refunds, you should try not to get one. Adjust your exemptions on your W-4 form at your job so that you break even at the end of the year. This way, you get to use more of your own money throughout the year and don’t give the government an interest-free loan with your money.

Life: Simply put: live below your means. If the most you can afford is a $300,000 house, do NOT buy a $300,000 house. buy a $50,000 house. Otherwise, if something goes wrong (like a job layoff), you are already at your threshold and can’t afford the payments. Hello foreclosure.

If you can deal with only having one car to share between two people, do it. If you can live without internet at home because you get it free from your job or school, do it. Get movies from the library for free, don’t rent them at $5 a pop. If you live close to where you work, ride a bike instead of drive. That way you save on gas money and get in shape too. (No gym fees either.) If you have a yard, grow your own food. This is rewarding on many levels, one of which is that your grocery bill goes down. Just try to really distinguish between needs, and wants.

Recommended reading:

“The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey  Great book. Takes you through seven “baby steps” to become debt free and ultimately wealthy. The author has a no nonsense style and admits that the plan is easy but the execution is hard. I will be following this plan for the next six years at least, maybe my whole life. READ IT.

“The Automatic Millionaire” by David Bach is all about setting up your accounts and things so that you accumulate wealth…automatically! Basically set up a 401k early and contribute at least 10 % of your income for as long as you can. Second, buy a house, don’t rent. You will never get rich renting. Also don’t use credit cards. That’s about it.

“The Millionaire Nextdoor” This book goes through how real millionaires live. No, not rap stars and movie stars, real people. The roofer who owns his own business. They wear $30 Timex watches, not $500 Rolex. etc. Interesting book.

“Good debt, Bad debt” by Jon Hanson. Very good book about money management. He wrote it when he was on his death-bed. Basically, don’t go into debt unless it will pay off for you later. Ex. Debt for a school loan which will allow you to get an $80,000 a year job. Good debt. Country club membership and a brand new Mercedes AMG. Bad debt.

Some other posts I’ve written about money:

Living-below-the-poverty-line

Inspired-to-build-wealth

I think this is on my list of movies to see in the theaters. I may even try to catch the 3D showing.