Baltimore has a system where, for owner-occupants, your property taxes can't go up by more than 4% a year, no matter what your property assessment; for many people who owned before the bubble hit hereabouts in the early-mid '00s, their taxes are creeping up a little bit every year towards a theoretical assessment that it won't meet for decades. My wife was lucky/smart enough to buy our house in 2001 and I know for a fact that we pay less than half the taxes that our neighbors in near-identical houses do. Baltimore property taxes aren't cheap, either, which means that we're saving more than $150/month on our mortgage because of this.
@bgprincipessa @Logan Sachon ok, but ... why did the cell phone lady have sex with him? I mean, guys who don't have long-term partners and/or daughters do NOT carry big bags of tampons into bars, right? Her come-on was so weird and out of the blue that I kept thinking "OK, this has to be some weird plot, she was in that strange prostitute-compound, maybe she's luring him to his death for the Yellow King," but nothing seems to have come of it and it really made me more sympathetic to the argument that women in the show are basically there to advance the plot/screw up the men/prance around naked and beg to be fucked in the ass. :(
My 1 Thing is actually something that wasn't in my control but it came together today. My mother (who hates buying things online) wanted to get my stepfather a record player turntable for Christmas last year, and I ordered it for her from Amazon (with my credit card, on the understanding she would pay me back). I live in Baltimore and had it shipped to their house in Buffalo. He decided he didn't really want a turntable, so we returned it -- I was in Buffalo for this part, so I printed out all the return slip info and boxed it up, and then he took it to the UPS Store in Buffalo to ship back. This was, as you might imagine, in late December. I didn't bother having my mom write me the check because I figured I'd just get the refund on my credit card once it all got sorted out. Well! The third-party reseller from whom I bought the record player (Amazon was only the intermediary, it turned out) claimed they'd never received it, despite the fact that UPS's records showed it being delivered and signed for at their warehouse address, and basically told me it was UPS's problem to solve, not theirs. They were frankly pretty rude about it. So began a long, desultory process by which UPS launched an "investigation" which as near as I could tell involved trying to call the warehouse and not getting any answer; after several weeks, during which I would intermittently call UPS's national number to check on the status, they eventually told me that the people I should *actually* be talking to were the ones at the UPS Store in Buffalo from which we shipped the package. Those people actually turned out to be super nice, and they eventually reported that UPS had decided to just pay me for the cost of the turntable, which was fine, except that (a) UPS HQ would only send the check to that UPS Store, and (b) they would only make the check to my stepfather, since he's the one who brought it there to be shipped. This news got to me a week and a half ago, and I just moments ago got a call saying that the check is there for my stepfather to pick up, which is great because my parents are actually leaving Saturday to go spend a month in Florida, and I'd worry they'd miss it. My mom, who was increasingly mortified by the whole thing, finally wrote a check to me and put it in the mail this week (I kept telling her not to, because I was expecting to get recompensated myself eventually). This has not made her any more likely to order things online, despite my repeated reassurances that this is by far the worst online ordering experience I've ever had. So honestly I guess really my 1 thing, once I have it double-confirmed that the check is in my stepfather's hands, is going to be leaving some shitty feedback for this reseller on Amazon.
There really is all this class/money stuff about Ron's family being poor (supported on a civil servant's salary, no less) and Draco's family making fun of him for it and Harry having grown up deprived of material things by his middle-class aunt and uncle but then discovering that he actually has wizard-wealth but not a lot of understanding of what tha tmight mean in practice ... but it never really takes shape into a coherent system, does it? Sort of how there's the "MInistry of Magic" which is supposed to be a kind of parallel Wizard government but it's never clear exactly how they're chosen or what relationship they have exactly with Muggle authority. Do they ever explain how people like Hermione, raised in the Muggle world, go about obtaining wizard money? What did she pay for her books and supplies with? Is there a special scholarship? All the wizarding people tend to be pretty baffled by British cash.
@bgprincipessa Indeed! Thai Restaurant and its staff is/are the best.
My wife and I get take out from a nearby Thai place a couple times a month -- she gets different things every time, I and always get the same thing, which is fairly distinctive because I ask them to take out a couple things that usually go into it. As soon as I order it the owner (who also usually answers the phone) knows it's me and says "Ah! Mr. Josh!" He's super nice and it's meant as a 100% friendly gesture, but it always makes me feel awkward and embarassed about the fact that (a) I always get the same thing and (b) I'm a diva/child who doesn't want onions or broccoli in his drunken noodles and can't handle picking them out or eating around them. So I end up always putting that in at the end of the order, to minimize the amount of the phone call in which he knows it's me. It's pretty silly, but I've been doing it for years and it's become my weird vaguely self-loathing routine when ordering from this place at this point.
I honestly have a hard time from the info given saying that she really "blew" $170K? It's not clear how quickly she ran through it, but, say she ran out in 2011; that's still about $55K a year -- plenty of money to live off of, to be sure, but New York is spendy. How long would a "virtuous" person be able to live on $170K? 5 years? 8? Obviously she assumed she would sell more books, and obviously that didn't work out for her, but it's hard to blame someone who's been paid $200K for their first ever novel for feeling like chances were good more was coming.
@Meaghano @Morbo thank you so much for this info! It looks like the expense ratio for my 401k fund (T. Rowe Price Retirement 2035) is 0.77%, and my wife's (Fidelity Freedom 2030) is 0.79%. A little below industry average, anyway?
@Morbo (Also, the $3 fee comes up on our statement as a "RECORDKEEPING FEE", whatever that means. Also also, now that I look at our records, it appeared once a quarter for years but then hasn't been assessed since Q1 2013, so ... the system works?)