Clark Howard has improved my life. Or my financial well being. Or something like that.

Over the last six months, I’ve been catching this radio show called the Clark Howard show. He talks about savings, retirement, good deals, etc.

I love his non-condescending approach and his simple to follow advise. Listening to the show has made me think about things I hadn’t spent much time thinking about, but knew I needed to get around to, some day.

We’ve delegated debit cards to the back of the wallet, almost never to be used, for so many reasons. I was so proud of only having one credit card, but didn’t realize that that practice was actually a detriment to my credit score.  Also dropped the ‘do nothing for us’ gas card that we paid off every month.

I applied for a high rewards American Express Blue Cash Preferred and am now getting 6% cash back on groceries and 3% on gasoline.  With modern banking, I can pay off the Amex daily or weekly, so we never actually carry a balance.  My intent is to make it effectively our new debit card, albeit one that requires a bit of tending.

And that’s OK.  I’ll give you an hour of my time, once a month, if you are going to buy me a lobster dinner.

And for reasons that I don’t have the inclination to delve into here, my credit score has shot through the roof.  It was good before, but now it’s close to perfect.   Why should one care, if you try to eschew credit, as one generally should?  Well, like it or not, your auto insurance rates can have more to do with your credit rating than your driving record.  There are other implications, even reaching into the employment realm.

And the final piece that Clark has inspired me to do. This isn’t a specific meme of his, but he talks about it enough to have made me take action.  I’ve  gotten  all my retirement and investment accounts into one spot.  I’ve got accounts and 401Ks spread out..  well, all over the place.

I’ve found a tool called Financial Engines, and have at least consolidated the information there.

Anyway, my point to all of this is that Clark Howard has made me think about and actually make some changes in my day to day life, that will improve my family’s well being.

And for that, I thank you for your Service!

Norwegian Cruise Lines – The Ultimate? Beverage Package

ultimate-beverage-packageThe Ultimate Beverage Package – Enjoy unlimited soft drinks, beers, spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass”

We’ve got this package for an upcoming cruise and it seems pretty cool.   But I was digging into the fine print, and… well,  NCL might want to reconsider the use of the word “Ultimate.”

Package does not include room service, package sales, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands (subject to change), bottled wine, mini bar purchases, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, energy drinks, vending machines, wine stations or spirits, cocktails, draft or bottled beer and glasses of wine over $11.

OK, I understand in regards to room service and bottles of wine… But bottled water? Fresh Squeezed juices?  Specialty Coffee, i.e Cafe Mocha?

So, you can order premium Bahama Mama, and that’s just fine.  But, you’d better pony up for that bottle of water.  Bottled Water is just a bit too Ultimate.

But it’s cool.  NCL was gracious with us.  There is ONE bottle of water included with our Haven Suite.  Family of five.  I wonder how far that’s going to go.  I’m sure our butler will help us figure it out.

It’s OK.  I don’t make it a practice to drink bottled water, in general, any way.   I’m not that Ultimate.



Cruise Critic – Note to Self

I’ve been doing some research for an upcoming cruise we are taking, mostly lurking on a website called

Boy  Howdy, the vitriol and trolling that goes on over there is amazing,   A short list of users I hope of never have the displeasure of encountering:


Los Angles Union Station to Portland Union Station via the Coast Starlight

(Found this in my drafts from February of 2014)

Having just arrived home from my latest 30 hour excursion on Amtrak’s 14  – Coast Starlight, I wanted to jot down some notes.

Why must all of the Sleeping Cars of the train smell like poo by the second day of the trip?  Time and romanticism seems to obscure this confounding observation, but I really need to remind myself of this reality when contemplating a repeat booking.

Dining Car:
Surly Attendants, Unintelligible over head announcements, inconsistent 
announcements (First Call, Second Call, Third Call, Dinning Car is Open) and the walk-about reservation system is silly.  These folks don’t seem to be interested in serving customers. They seem to be simply burdened by them.  And going through the motions.  

Let me rephrase that.  There is almost a palpable contempt for the dining car customers.

That being said, everything I’ve eaten on board has been delicious.

Unions:  I am generally pro-union (in concept) , but if Amtrak is a example of what a unionized work force is like, then I want to steer clear, both personally and professionally.

Communal Seating – I’m so over this.  I think next time I will just bring some tupperware and when my meal arrives, scrape it into the tupperware and take it into the Parlour Car to eat in peace.

Especially breakfast.   I don’t want to be social for breakfast.

There are plenty of tables, but I think they want to reduce the amount of tables that need to be bussed.

Pacific Parlour Car:
I love the Pacific Parlour car.  It’s the (only?) reason I keep riding the Coast Starlight.  I can’t imagine taking trips without it, and haven’t considered other lines, because of it’s absence.

Attendant-  Seemed so desperate to retire and obviously not interested in being there.  Complained about slow bar sales and the impending elimination of the Parlour Car Attendant’s position, but was often absent.  In the evening, waited 15 minutes for her to reappear so that I could buy a cocktail.

On that note, Bottled wine prices seemed to be rather expensive at $30.  You can bring your own wine on board.  Hint, hint. 

The red bag of wet towels shouldn’t be stored in the shower.  There is very limited space in there to be start with.

Deviations from previous trips:   No more champagne or sparking ling cider during departure.  No flowers (fresh or otherwise) in the Parlour Car.

I think I am no longer in love with the Coast Starlight.    Aw, well, we had some good runs.

Some Poetry by Dana

Wild Daffodil (by Dana)
I’m a wild daffodil
A fish is by me
A bear comes by
And reached for the fish
But grabbed me too.
Right before he put
Me in his mouth,
The wind
Blew me away
And left me there to rot.

 The Dogs Bark (by Dana)
I hear the dogs bark
And scratch at the door.
I hear the doorknob turn.
I sway in the garden
And think any last words.
They come out
They stomp on me
And break my stem.
I know I can’t live to be a daffodil
Now I just lay there.

Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure

Listened to this album via hoopladigital today, when I had some free time with just Dana and I after school. I’m not a big Beach Boys fan, but I really enjoyed it.

There are a few songs that stood out, and seemed to have vocals from other Beach Boys, including one called “Tell me why” that made me nostalgic both in a  musical sense as well as the break-up-y nature of the lyrics.

Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure