In which it looks like I screwed up

You may recall that I turned down an opportunity to teach summer school in June. Now, despite everything I’m about to say, the reason I turned that position down remains true: that by the time they got around to offering me the job, we had signed our son up for a bunch of summer camps and I’d signed up for National Board Certification, meaning that I now need to cram four years of high school mathematics into a summer.

That said:

There are twenty days of summer school, six hours long each, and I was originally under the impression that my hourly rate was around $32.(*) That would mean that I’d have made $32 x 20 x 6 = $3840 before taxes. Which isn’t nothing by any stretch of the imagination, mind you, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to back out of stuff that I’d already committed to or screw up my kid’s summer.

Then I found out my actual hourly rate is $41. I’m not sure how I fucked up that calculation, but that means my actual pay would have been $41 x 20 x 6 = $4,920 before taxes, and at that point– I discovered this after I turned the job down– losing out on that money starts to hurt a bit.

Well, they’re having serious trouble finding teachers– because I’m not the only person who took the two-month gap between applying for jobs and finding out whether they’d been accepted as a reason to find other summer plans– and the union and the district just signed off on increasing the summer pay to seventy fucking dollars an hour. Which is over twice the original rate I had calculated and would have meant a whopping $8400 before taxes, enough money to kill my last remaining credit card bill and put a substantial dent in the amount of money I owe on my car.

And … well, now I’m pissed. I mean, I’ll get over it, and I’m still not screwing over my son, but … shit.

Anybody want to hand me a big pile of money for no particular reason?

(Also, shit, how much Covid money must my district be sitting on right now, that they can even contemplate this level of pay? Holy shit.)

(* And before anybody jumps on my case for being a math teacher and not being able to calculate my own hourly pay: it’s not as simple as dividing my salary by 52 and then however many hours of pay I get in a week– first of all, it’s the actual number of weeks we’re paid for teaching in a year, a number I don’t know off the top of my head, and secondly, at least until recently anything that was paid on an “hourly” basis was actually paid at the scale of the lowest-paid teachers, not actually on my individual hourly pay, so the “hourly” for all the teachers in the district was the same. They’ve apparently changed the formula at some point and I didn’t notice.)

In which I’m on to this now

In the past time-has-no-meaning-anymore-so-let’s-say a month or so, I have developed and abandoned several new hobbies. I was super into woodturning for a while, and recently I’ve developed a fascination with paper- and bookmaking. I have turned no wood, made no paper, crafted no books, but I’ve been watching a lot of videos. I’ve managed to avoid spending any money on anything, although the fact of the matter is investing in the few things I’d need to make some shitty little notebooks with my copious spare time and brain cycles would actually not cost very much.

The other day I discovered that an app I was already using for something else allows me to buy stocks and Bitcoin. On a lark, and because I’m so unused to the concept of having spare funds that I don’t know what the hell to do with it, I bought $20 in Apple stock and $20 in Bitcoin, and at some point in between then and now I bought $25 in Moderna stock and upped the Apple buy to $25 so that they were even. Because that is how you make stock decisions; you look at how much you’ve spent on two entirely different companies and even the amounts out just for the hell of it.

Bitcoin has plunged in value since I bought it. Like, to the point that there are articles being written about it. I’ve made like two bucks on the stocks. But the fact is, I don’t know anything about any of this and in theory I would like to retire some day, so … maybe I should learn something about how, like, investments work? When I was unemployed a few years I had to cash out what little retirement I had so we could, like, keep the house, so in theory I have some investments in some funds somewhere and some retirement accounts, maybe something with a K in the name of it or something, although it’s not a 401K because something something public employee, I don’t know. But I don’t know anything about this.

(An example of how little I know: I found out earlier that a Pfizer … subsidiary … named BioNTech may be close to a Parkinson’s vaccine. I don’t know what a subsidiary actually is or whether BioNTech is one, but the companies are related somehow. BioNTech is BNTX on the Nasdaq and the app I’m using appears to not know it exists and I don’t know why, because I don’t actually really know what the Nasdaq is, or if it’s different from what I’m using to invest, and blah blah blah blah. I do not actually really know what “The Dow” is, in any functional way, other than it seems to be a graph that reacts to the emotions of rich people on any given day. I’m real real real dumb about this. I need to be less dumb, so I need a way to learn.)

So here’s my question, if there’s anyone out there who knows a useful amount of information about this: if I were to want to fiddle with the idea of being a small-time investor for a little while, making the occasional trade to the tune of, like, $20-25 a week or something like that, what apps or services should I be looking at for something like that? Ideally with a portfolio that has independent existence outside the app, so that I can take it with me, so to speak? The Bitcoin thing isn’t something I’m dedicated to, and I’m fine with the idea of selling everything I’ve bought in this app before moving to another one– I’m using such small amounts of money right now that even if I took a hit on it it’s not a thing I’m worried about.

Also, before you say anything, yes, I understand that right now is probably not a great time to get into the market, what with the impending civil war and all; again, I’m just dipping my toes in and only putting in money I’m willing to lose. I’m not about to suddenly invest an entire paycheck and cross my fingers that I’m going to get rich or something like that.

But all that said: any suggestions?

Okay FINE then I WON’T

The picture almost makes customer service seem cool, doesn’t it?

I was recently able to zero out all but one of my credit cards, and Lord willing and the creek don’t rise it shouldn’t be long until I’m able to whack that one as well. I was startled to see a bill show up from one of my cards a few days ago; the card actually got overpaid a bit so the last I’d looked at it they owed me money, which is always a fun thing to have happen with a credit card. Turns out they’d charged me a $59 annual fee. Now, chances are this fee has been around for all if not most of the time I’ve had this card, but during damn near 100% of that time I’ve carried a balance. It pissed me off that I suddenly owed them an annual fee on a card with no balance, so I did a brief check to make sure it wouldn’t affect my credit rating too unduly and then called to cancel the card.

(A five minute period ensues here, as we go from blustery-but-dry outside to torrential rainstorm hello tropical storm Cristobal in about ten seconds and then the power blinks out. By the time I have the computer back online and the Internet back up, the rain has stopped.)

Anyway. That was a long lead-in to a quick resolution, but: it turns out that if you’ve had a credit card for 23 years and you call them and say something along the lines of “Hey, y’all charged me this annual fee. I don’t wanna pay it. Cancel the card!” they will not only remove the fee from your card (and, to be honest, I pretty much expected this result) but they will set things so that you are never charged an annual fee again. Which, paradoxically, is kind of annoying, because I find you must pay this annual fee, unless you don’t want to to be really obnoxious as a policy.

But, hey, I guess I don’t have to cut the card up now? All told, I’d rather have the credit than not, so I went ahead and kept it.

Also, I can see blue sky outside now. Weather is weird.


5:45 PM, Tuesday June 9: 1,973,803 confirmed cases and 111,751 Americans dead.

Okay this is a banners and finance blog now

And video games. Because sometimes I talk about Sekiro. Which I discovered today I’ve put forty hours into since it came out … twelve days ago.

*coughs*

This is why I can’t get anything done.

So anyway. My computer is from 2011, right? It’s not dead yet but I’m looking at replacing it this summer sometime. I created that banner in GIMP, and the first thing I had to do was download the newest version of GIMP because the old one wasn’t compatible with my operating system any longer. The new one is giving my computer hiccups. Then I pulled up the template that I used to create my original Skylights banner and created the new banner.

I then tried to upload it and got barked at because of the resolution of the image– which, remember, they’ve already printed a banner from this exact template. Which, it turns out, was 100 DPI. They wanted 300.

Oh, and also a pull-up banner has slightly different dimensions than the one I originally had made. Oops!

I created a new version of the file at 300 DPI. My computer said “Uh, you know that’s 2.2 GB just for the template, right? And that I’m old?” And then it made some noises I’ve never heard before, and everything took a lot longer than it had on the original images. And I dunno if my images are gonna look right scaled up quite that much, although my cover file was supposed to be 300 DPI itself, it was also for a cover that was only like a foot wide and not three.

And then I dug around some more, and found their template– meaning the one the printer I want to use provides– and it’s 150 DPI.

So my computer will explode if I made the file 300 DPI, my original file was 100 DPI and the image looks fine, and their own templates are 150 DPI.

This will be fine, right?


In accordance with the advice received from many of you yesterday, I will not be cancelling the card. Interestingly, after griping about there not being some sort of simulator online I dug around and discovered that Capital One actually has a “what will this do to my credit?” tool on their website. Their suggestion was that cancelling that card will drop my credit score 5 points, and considering that it’s gone up 21 points in the last six months I can probably afford the hit.

Nonetheless, I’m following instructions.

A banner update and a finance question

This should probably be two posts because the two halves could not possibly be any less related to each other. But whatever. I’ve continued fiddling with the banners I posted yesterday and now I’m looking at this (which I posted to Patreon yesterday!):

Interesting fact: everyone who commented on the blog preferred the banner with the characters, and everyone who commented on Facebook preferred the one with the BA1 cover. This still isn’t final (I need to move the Prostetnic logo up a bit, take the capital letter out of the T in “Trilogies” and maybe change the font on the pull quote) so I’m still open for suggestions if anyone has them.


I paid off a credit card yesterday. Without getting too much more deeply into my business than is strictly necessary, I’ve spent my thirties and the first couple of years of my forties either a) managing or b) putting to bed bad financial decisions I made in my twenties. I have, in other words, more credit card debt than most people. My credit rating is on the high end of average, I think– I don’t miss payments, ever, but I have a lot of open credit and a lot of debt. I would like it to be higher, and I would like for a substantially lower amount of my paycheck to go toward paying off credit cards.

The card I paid off has been paid off before, for the record. The last time I paid it off I didn’t close it, and then I was unemployed for six months and underemployed for two years, so not cancelling it seems, in retrospect, to have been a pretty good decision, because as it turned out the available credit kinda saved me. However, it’s a Bank of America card (one of two I hold, because they bought this card from MBNA) and I kinda hate Bank of America and want to be out from underneath them. It’s *also* my longest continuous line of credit, though– I’ve had this account for over twenty years.

So: is it better for my credit to close the card, thus lowering my overall available credit (which I keep being told is hurting my credit rating) and reducing my dependency on Bank of America, or to hold onto the card with its zero balance, because it’s my longest continuous credit account (which I’m told helps my credit rating) and I can’t predict the future and who knows if I might need it again?

(I’m also not certain how much I need my credit rating to be high right now, for whatever that’s worth. We own our house and aren’t moving anytime soon and I see no reason why I might be applying for anything demanding a credit check any time in the foreseeable future. So maybe I can afford to take a hit right know? Who knows.)

I hate how opaque credit ratings are. There should be a formula I can feed this shit into and get an objective answer and I’m pretty sure even people who know what they’re talking about are gonna be mostly guessing. But if you know more than me, feel free to jump in with advice, because I don’t know shit.