Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Dotcom Is Gone, But Not My Budget

After a year of trying to sell PageAMonth, a spreadsheet budget software file I wrote and still find is better for keeping track of my bottom line than any program like Microsoft Money or Quicken, and not selling even one of them during that whole year despite lining up two vendors, I had my nbkauffman.com site removed from my webhost today.

A year ago I spent a lot of time building up charts and help pages, but I had to admit I had committed a fatal flaw from the getgo: I had set up a commercial website to sell a product by using my own name for that website instead of something suggesting what I was selling, a site name which had no chance of attracting hits from anyone looking for a budget program.

I call my spreadsheet PageAMonth Budget, and I should have started a website called pageamonthbudget.com instead of nbkauffman.com. Had I done so, I might have been able to attract enough traffic through the search engines to interest someone in trying it. But in the past year I only got a few hits from random users, and I wasn't going to spend even more money on the host's offers to increase my traffic with their wonderful expertise.

I screwed up. I screwed up by letting my ego get in the way again. What will I now do with the budget? Well, I'm not sure. I'll continue to use it personally, of course, as I always have. I wouldn't use anything else, frankly; it has worked great for me for many years. And it's still for sale as Mybudget.xls on spreadsheetmarketplace.com for $19.95 if anyone wants to take a look at it. But I'm not going to hold my breath; they haven't sold any in a year either.

As for nbkauffman.com, I didn't bother to move it to another host. I just let it disappear into sitenotfound oblivion. I felt there was no good reason to use it anymore. It was just an ego site, and I don't need it any more. But I was thinking about writing a small book instead, on how to start a home budget using the experience I used to develop PageAMonth. Maybe I could peddle a manuscript more successfully than I did a spreadsheet file.

Hmm. Maybe. Or maybe I should try eBay. People buy Virgin Mary patterns on burnt toast on eBay. Maybe someone would buy my nifty spreadsheet budget.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Bynn At Lynn

Just as I was getting used to retirement two things happened: the economy collapsed and I was asked to return to the classroom, both of which knocked me off my stride.

At first the economic crisis just made me wary, then worried as it spread and I watched the For Sale signs sprout in our relatively well-heeled neighborhood, then right up and down the block, observed our neighbors move quietly out and know not where; I could guess why; watched in amazement as name brand stores died off with a whimper: Circuit City, K Mart, many mall stores going dark, not to mention so many construction firms and manufacturers. Our eyes were so shocked at the rocking and reeling banks and investment houses and the threat of losing our entire auto manufacturing industry that we hardly kept up with all the other smaller stores and services that were quietly going under everywhere.

When I finally got notified by my 401k that their directors had voted to pay 30% less interest and dividends on my savings each month I felt the downturn firsthand for the first time. It wouldn't sink us but would limit our options for sure.

By that time, however, the second retirement-stopper had happened: I got a call from my former employer asking me to return to teach two art appreciation classes. They had terminated the instructor in mid-semester for reasons I was not told nor cared to know. The reality was they were in a rather desperate need to staff the courses, which met a total of all five weekday afternoons, immediately, with a qualified instructor . Since I had taught those classes for years, I was ready to go and agreed to do it for the students' sake.

So I adjusted my mindset to a schedule again, got my dress shirts, trousers and ties out, and headed back to the campus five days a week. Fortunately when I had left for what I thought was forever last summer, I had kept a key to the lock on my old equipment cabinet when I turned in a duplicate--"just in case" I'd need to use it again someday. My equipment, my slides, my textbook, and my other course materials I had left for the next guy were all there and ready to go, and I revised my syllabus, cobbled together midterm grades from the scant information I could gather for the students' work to date, and resumed the course the way I teach it. It took the students a few weeks to readjust to my style and methods, but they have done so, just as I've adjusted to their learning needs. We will finish out by the end of this month.

In light of shrinking pension incomes, I have since agreed to return for a section again next fall and have been listed, so it looks like my next "retirement" will probably be after next Christmas again at the earliest. Maybe the economy will begin to generate better times by then, but I'm not going to hold my breath. No one knows how long this crisis will go on, or how severe it will get. As I write, things show some signs of improving on many fronts, but whether it will sustain a true recovery remains to be seen, as does my degree of retirement for the near future. I'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

March Was Harsh

March lived up to its reputation as a windy, blustery month. I think it began to blow like heck by the third and didn't stop till today, a month later.

And I have this theory that the weather is somehow made to order for the events that happen in our lives, like a well-scripted movie. So in keeping with the storms, we have had situation after situation for a month, each challenging us to handle it.

I hurt my left ankle working on ladders. First painting the front trim, then installing an attic access ladder in the garage and flooring in the area above. I thought I was up to it. I wasn't. I twisted my foot badly and it hurt for a month like hell. Today, finally, after wearing a brace for most activites and trying to stay off it as much as possible, and taking a mountain's worth of painkillers, I can do without both the brace and the painkillers for the first.

In the meantime, however, I picked up a really nasty head and chest cold from the March winds. Normally I don't pay a lot of attention to such occasional colds, which come every year or two and bring on a few days' worth of discomfort then get sweated out and are gone. This one, though, brought on at various stages chills, fever, hypothermia, dizziness, and other symptoms, and it didn't seem destined to go away by just letting it spend its course. By Tuesday I heeded Barb's advice and went to the doctor without an appointment, waited two hours to be seen by the nurse practicioner, and went on antibiotics, decongestants and an inhaler.

As I pulled out of the drive Monday morning in another gale force tempest, I thought I heard and felt the sickening thump-flop, thump-flop of a flat tire, and sure enough, the passengers' rear tire was resting on its rim. That was one of my more fevered mornings, so changing it wasn't easy, I sweated mightily and feared my cold would turn to pneumonia without much more March weather. Later that afternoon at school I had to walk to my car parked in the back lot, and the sky emptied on me. I drove home wet and cold.

Barb, meanwhile, came down with my cold as well. So we're going through the Kleenex boxes like crazy and hoping to get in good shape for our trip Thursday to New York to see Mark's new apartment over Easter. Scott's coming up from Orlando as well, so we're hoping to have a good time. But at this point I think we'd settle for just being well, being over injuries and other maladies, and above all having this insidious flu-like cold way past being contagious to the others.