Friday, December 29, 2006

Text Link Ads Now Works With Blogger!

Author: Nick
Category: Money

blah-gers can now use TLA

All you folks still stuck on can finally rejoice: Text Link Ads now works with Blogger! I promised a few folks I’d spread the word once this happened since I made a good deal of cash with TLA in my early days.

b now works with tla so you can make $

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up with Text Link Ads.
  2. Advertisers buy links on your website.
  3. You get a check.
  4. MOST IMPORTANT STEP: You send me chocolate or precious metals to thank me!

The Blogger implementation looks ridiculously easy to install–just add one line to your template. One warning: you need to be using the newest version of Blogger. So either upgrade or be poor forever. Or just ditch Blogger already!

Oh, and WordPress users, some bad news: a few bajillion new sites will be joining Text Link Ads in the next few days, meaning fewer link sales for you.

Wait a sec, that’s me! NooOOoOooOoOOO!!!

(P.S. Yup, those are affiliate links. Clicking them might give me lots of money and bring peace to the world, but probably not that second one.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top Five Companies We’d Be Better Off Without, #2: Verizon

Author: Nick
Category: Money

i woke up this morning and had to pay verizon a 32-cent just-because-we-can fee

In putting together this list of companies we’d be better off without, I’ve done my best to set aside personal feelings and past incidents which might unduly bias me against certain companies.

I ain’t doin’ that no mores.

I hate Verizon with a passion. If Verizon were a poor little beggar girl in the streets who came crawling up to me whimpering “Please, sir, may I have a small morsel of food to eat?” I would snap back, “Away with you, you scoundrel of a telecommunications corporation!”

Well, there isn’t anything poor about Verizon, that’s for sure. They had a 2005 net income of over seven billion dollars. Yes, billion with a “b” and 7 with that stupid little line through it. And of that $7 billion, I think no less than half of it came from me!

My personal reasons for despising Verizon have manifested themselves on Punny Money before (see Verizon Lies About Dry-Loop DSL Availability and Verizon Is One Sneaky Telecommunications Corporation!), but here are a few others that show why the world would be better with one less Verizon in it.

  • Customer disservice. Hit yourself in the head with a crowbar. Feel the pain? That’s almost what it’s like dealing with Verizon’s customer service. Heaven forbid you should ever have a malfunction that requires you to deal with Verizon’s technical support people or an overcharge that mandates a call to their billing department. Sadly, you’ll probably suffer less mental anguish if you just eat that $6,000 billing error or wait a few months and see if your dial tone returns.
  • Price of a $35/month service? About $50. Plus taxes. Oh, and more fees. Verizon has this neat way of making extra money without having to up the price of its advertised rates–adding fees. These fees have long, official-sounding names like Universal Serial Stabilization Matrix Standard Regulatory Surcharge that make it sound like Satan will conquer the world if Verizon doesn’t charge you for it. In reality, they’re just extra profit for Verizon’s pockets. And when those pockets get full, look for a new “Pocket Enlargement Surcharge” on your bill sometime around 2008.
  • Verizon is really, really bad at math. Read the story for yourself or settle for my awesome limited attention span summary: Guy likes data. Verizon sells data. Guy uses Verizon. Verizon charges .002 cents for data. Guy gets charged .002 dollars for data. Verizon says dollars = cents. Guy is out $70+. Guy rants about it on the internet and gets his money back after twelve MIT professors are called in by Verizon to perform elaborate quadratic equation analyses which demonstrate that, despite Verizon’s wishes to the contrary, dollar = 100 cents.
  • Verizon wants your internets. Along with other phone and cable companies, Verizon is waging a political, social, and economic war to take over the internet. Verizon wants to tax internet content providers to ensure their content actually reaches users. Since Verizon and other telecoms own the transmission networks upon which the internet is built, they could very well do this. “Pay us, or we shut you out” may soon be the corporate motto at Verizon.
  • Phone – Verizon = No Phone. Some people in the United States have two real options when it comes to landline telephone service: Verizon or nothing. Fortunately, more options are popping up everyday including new but lesser-known telephone companies, voice over IP, or even ditching your landline and going mobile-only. But all of those require people to do something different, and we all know how the world is about accepting something new and different–it generally takes about 100 years to fully adopt by which time it’s just as bad as the older thing.

I know what you’re thinking: I could just as easily have writen this article with “AT&T” or “Comcast” in place of “Verizon.” That may be so, but I’m not a customer of AT&T or Comcast. Should this spot belong to Verizon? Or is there another telecom the world would do much better without? (That’s your cue to click the Comment button and type stuff.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

Author: Nick
Category: Money

Who am I to defy the wishes of a Mapgirl? (By the way, I do indeed live in Maryland, just north of DC.)

Five Things You Don’t Know About Nick

say yer prayersI’m a Sunday school teacher. It’s my way of making up for what goes on Saturday nights!

I have watched over 15 days worth of anime. Here’s my complete list.

no-nick airlines is ready for take-offNo planes for Nick. I haven’t been on an airplane since I was five years old. But I think I have to go on one next summer for a conference. Ironically, I work in air traffic control software.

I was once mistaken for a teacher in school… when I was in seventh grade. Yup, I’ve always been pretty darn tall.

i am going to eat this icon once it finishes loading CHOMPMy favorite food is meat. Mmm, meat. Yummy.

And there you have it! As you can see, I’m just your run-of-the-mill carnivorous, cartoon-loving, kainolophobic Catholic.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top Five Companies We’d Be Better Off Without, #3: McDonald’s

Author: Nick
Category: Money

those golden arches look a little tarnished

(Just for posting this article, McDonald’s is probably going to sue me and have me thrown in Federal Pounding-in-the-Ass Prision. If that happens, please consider McDonald’s promoted to #1.)

Yes yes, McDonald’s is not alone in its trans-fat strangle-hold on the hearts of people everywhere. Our collective health would certainly be better off if Burger King, Taco Bell, Arby’s, and all those other fast food joints closed up shop. But as the first and largest fast food business, McDonald’s has had plenty of time and money to help it stand out from its competitors… in all the wrong ways.

In case you’re a little behind on the McDonald’s Crimes Against Humanity news, here’s a quick recap:

  • Manslaughter by fat. Okay, so nobody’s forcing you to shove those six Big Macs in your mouth. But McDonald’s, in good conscience, could’ve tried to make them a little bit better for you. In 2002, McDonald’s finally said it would reduce the trans fat content of its food. But McDonald’s didn’t actually reduce it. And McDonald’s didn’t tell anyone it didn’t reduce it. Later it turned out that there was more trans fat in McDonald’s food than it originally admitted.
  • Undermining freedom of speech. A couple of folks bad-mouthed McDonald’s in some leaflets, so McDonald’s sued them, claiming everything in the leaflet was a lie. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, just about everything in the leaflet was the 100% ugly truth, and it found itself having to defend its business practices in what turned into the biggest PR disaster in history.
  • Dirty business tactics. Fast Food Nation should be required reading for anyone walking into McDonald’s, except then you’d die from hunger because you read a book instead of eating. It details some of McDonald’s shady business practices such as its bold political maneuvers and child-targeted advertising all designed to bring in the dollars for the Big M.
  • Disrespecting people’s beliefs. While I’m proud to be a meat-eating man, I totally understand (and secretly admire) those who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. McDonald’s, however, does not. Even after claiming to fix its french fry recipe so that it was 100% vegetarian, it turned out that the fries were still made with various beef extracts. And so are the biscuits. Will someone please explain to me why foods I can make out of potatoes and flour have freaking cow in them???
  • Making children cry. When I was seven years old, I went to McDonald’s for the Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers Happy Meal toys. I had all but one, and it was the last week for the Ranger toys; but my local McDonald’s switched over to the stupid McRobots Changeables a week early. I never got my Gadget. She was so hot for a cartoon mouse.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Cancel Citi Credit Protector, Get a Penguin?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

can citi credit protector get you a penguin? absolutely not

About a month ago, jim over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity (easily my 8th favorite website after Punny Money repeated seven times) suggested that his readers sign up for a free trial of Citi’s Credit Protector in order to take advantage of their $100 gas cashback gift certificate. And since I listen to everything jim tells me, I did just that.

Here’s how this crazy cashback gift certificate works:

  1. I drive around a lot.
  2. I buy lots of gasoline.
  3. I send Citi my gas receipts.
  4. Citi reimburses me for up to $100 in receipts.

Sounds awesome, right? Just two problems. First, the deadline for submitting receipts is December 31, 2006. Second, my MINI Cooper gets approximately 60 bazillion miles per gallon, so $100 of gas by December 31st would be tough to pull off. I could just pick up receipts off the ground at the gas station or steal them from my neighbors’ trash cans, but both of those would be morally and ethically wrong. And one of them would be legally wrong, too. (In Maryland, you’re not allowed to pick trash up off the ground. We’re pro-littering.)

Instead, I just decided to do what anybody in my position would do: reduce my fuel efficiency as much as possible. Here are some steps I’ve taken to ensure my vehicle gets a hearty, proud-to-be-an-American 11 miles per gallon until December 31st.

  • I volunteer to drive the entire cheerleading squad home from practice. Not surprisingly, all 27 of them fit in my car without trouble.
  • I set the heat in my car to HIGH, but only when I’m not in it.
  • I reduced my tire pressure to zero.
  • Rather than walk to the mailbox, I drive. Yes, the mailbox is on my front porch.
  • Yellow stop lights mean give it more gas. Red means even more.
  • Instead of parking at home in the evening, I set my car to Knight Rider Mode. It fights crime all night long.

I thought the hard part of all this would be cancelling the Citi Credit Protector coverage. Citi’s by-phone customer service reps are infamous for keeping you on the line as long as possible to “break” you from cancelling. Prompted by a reminder from jim, I called Citi this morning to cancel. Here’s how the call went.

Citi: Hi, thank you for calling Citi–
Me: Cancel my Credit Protector, please.
Citi: I’d be happy to help you discontinue your Credit Protector coverage. But first, would you mind telling me why you are choosing to discontinue your coverage today?
Me: Michael Jordan came to me in a dream and said I had to cancel it or his hopes for a return to the NBA would be shattered.
Citi: Ah, one second. Let me just check off reason code 12. All right, now if you decide to stay with us a little while longer, I can offer you a free $50 gift card to–
Me: No, thanks.
Citi: How about a $100 gift card to–
Me: Nope.
Citi: Okay, a $100 gift card and a $50 statement credit?
Me: Nah.

(Next five minutes omitted.)

Citi: Okay, okay, here’s my absolute final offer if you keep your Citi Credit Protector coverage. All you have to do is say yes and I will send you the following: a $100,000 gift card, a $5,000 statement credit, six tickets to the 2007 Super Bowl, a lifetime supply of Swiss cheese, two dozen assorted figs, the original cast of Saturday Night Live, all twelve days of Christmas, a mint 1965 Ford Mustang, a solution to the War in Iraq, and a case of dill pickles.
Me: Can you make that a case of Gherkin pickles instead?
Citi: Gherkin? Yes! Gherkin! Absolutely! So you’ll be staying with Citi Credit Protector then?
Me: Eh, mmm, sorry, I’m allergic to figs. Just cancel the service, please.
Citi: Gyaaaaaaah. (Explodes.)

Cancelling was much easier than I thought. The end.

Oh, the penguin thing? Yeah, that’s totally unrelated but still a funny story. A guy put a pool in his living room in order to get a penguin as a pet. (Here’s a mirror of the story in case that link is broken.)