Post Date Feb 25

The Cookie Thief by Valerie Cox

Cookie Monster, The Cookie Thief
The Cookie Thief

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops.
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be.
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too,
When only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
Then she sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair,
The others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

Post Date Sep 6

Practice your Spanish verbs

I spent this summer in Dublin working in media and learning a lot about how the digital world works in that industry. I also spent a lot of time keeping up with my Spanish – I highly recommend Loly from SpanishDublin.com if you are trying to learn Spanish whilst in Ireland. She is a brilliant teacher from Argentina that gives private lessons and uses a unique format that combines academic modules, social events (like BBQs with students), movies, magazines, and audio books.

Whilst studying I felt the need to practice the different forms of verbs in Spanish. There’s obviously an app for that … and I found one called CN Spanish. I showed the app to my friend, who has an Android, and well … it wasn’t available for Android.

On a rainy weekend in Dublin – they have many of those – I made a little replica of the app designed for the web. Using the public Spanish Verb database from the University of Purdue I made the Spanish Verb Practice page.

Spanish Verb Practice

Enjoy it and leave a comment for feedback!

Post Date Feb 3

Glasses – A Year in Review

Cat in Glasses

Last year, in February, I bought a pair of Mykita specs … right time for a side story already:

I went to International Optics thinking I’d get me a hip pair of glasses. I forgot that I have the fashion sense of a tea spoon. So I purchased a pair thinking, “Yes!”, only to wake up in the morning with the word phrase “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!” echoing in my head. I went back very quickly and changed the frame … the folks at International Optics had a good laugh. I also described the pair to Toomzie @Hello965 and that was the pin that broke this camel’s back – “wai3!!”.

… back to our main story line now. So, besides trying to be hip and cool and miserably failing at it ~ I was looking for pennies to save. So a year later, have I saved anything at all? Should I have continued wearing contacts?

I spent KD 196.500 on the glasses, and in September I bought a box of contacts for KD 25. So total spent in 2011 was KD 221.500 ~

I would have purchased 12 boxes of contacts each month totalling KD 300 for a year. The total savings made on contacts KD 78.500. Not much considering it’s about KD 6.500 a month but any saving is a good saving :]~

Time to look for bigger buck budgeting! >.<’

Post Date Jan 3

How I Spent 2011 – Literally.

This is a little sad, but as 2011 came to a close I started to get an inkling of excitement … not about 2012 and new beginnings … no, no. I was excited about completing a whole year’s worth of tracking every fils that came in or out of my proverbial purse.

Perhaps what I am most happy about is the fact that I actually stayed committed. Having said that, I must say that there is no sensation quite similar to feeling like you are Scrooge McDuck – counting your cash everyday …

You’ll find two posts about my spending patterns in 2011:

Enjoy those and I’ll try not to repeat any of the details in there here. Also, I decided to take out one of the biggest spends I had in 2011: paying off my car. The rationale is that you do not buy a car every year (… take a moment to feel decadent if you do … done? Ok, lets continue …) making that expense a negligible outlier.

Before we get going, here’s what we’ll be talking about:

  • How did this all start … No really, how?
  • A Year in Brief: A quick summary of spending
  • Category Emmy Awards: and the biggest spending award goes to …
  • Food: Who made me fat and happy this year
  • Telecommunication: Alo? Kthxbai.
  • Budget: Set it and don’t budge.
  • Finances with Benefits: was it worth all the effort?
  • Counting for Noobs: How you can start your own personal savings effort.

Let’s go …

How did this all start … No really, how?

At the end of 2010, the little elves working in my savings account started getting fat and lazy from the lack of work they had to do. Whilst not exactly on the breadline, working for the 2nd oldest industry meant that I could probably see the people standing at it …

There are two sure ways to bulk the bulge in your pockets: make money and/or save it. The latter was the quicker option.

I stared to look online for models to help me save (not the Victoria’s Secret kind of model … but if you are reading this now and you’re a VS model, please feel free to save me) … There are plenty of brilliant solutions out there now, but none of them did what I needed to do at the time: categorical tracking of expenses across accounts over a period of time with the flexibility of generating custom reports. So I decided to make my own model using MS Excel …

So I fired up the application and got on with it … except, I didn’t know where to start.

Most online websites talking about personal savings recommend that you “create your categories” … rubbish! I had no clue what categories I was going to use and the ones online were so generic and presumed I had a family of 3 with another on the way …

Instead of starting with categories, I just started tracking my expenses and categories emerged over a 1 month period. This kept going for 365 days … and here we are today! Hello.

A Year in Brief: A quick summary of spending

Percentage of Total Spending by Month

Percentage of Total Spending by Month

The graph above shows how my spending was distributed during the year. I travelled both in September and in December (oddly enough to the same place) which shows how predictable my spending is … I also had to dash out some cash for insurance in September … so you can deduce that I had a little bit more fun travelling in December XD #happyNewYear

Jokes aside, this graph should really show a relatively flat trend line – because if I was sticking to my budget, I would not have had an odd increase in June, July, August, October, and November compared to the first half of the year. We’ll get to budgeting later.

So lets see how this fizzles out …

Category Emmy Awards: and the biggest spending award goes to …

Percentage of Total Spend by Category

Percentage of Total Spend by Category

Mah belleh!! The round rascal is filled with happiness that keeps me warm in the winter … We’ll dig deeper into the food category later and see exactly who has been making me fat … and it’s not because my belly’s high maintenance …

Gluttony

Gluttony (source: musthavecute.com)

Of course this has a lot of behavioural implications: for example, I nearly never go grocery shopping (probably because I’m always full!). If you are very clever you can make a lot of accurate assumptions about my personality and what makes me tick from this … but I’ll leave that for you to figure out :]~

Runner ups for this award were Gifts! 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days – can you calculate the probability of finding an opportunity to make someone smile on an occasion? There were 5 types of gifts this year. In order they were Birthdays (58%), Gratuity – it’s nice to say “thanks” (29%), Congratulatory (6%), Donations (4%) and Babies (2%). The only concern I have here is that the ratio spent on Gifts was so far away from Food! I’ll have to have a chat with my appetite – it’s being greedy.

This also tells me I need to do more of something I thoroughly enjoy ~ travel. It’s good for the soul.

 

Food: Who made me fat and happy this year

I eat cake like a boss

I eat cake like a boss

Before we get into the specifics: Food and Beverage in 2011 was consumed at Café’s (52%), Restaurants (39%), Delivery (8.8%), and only 0.2% was spent at Fast Food joints #epicWin.

The graph below will only show the top 20 locations (of a total of 98 places) which make up for 78.5% of all my spending on food.

Hey! look at that, it’s the 80, 20 rule – 80% of all my spending is at 20% of all the locations I’ve visited.

 

The gist of it is, I spend a lot of time at Baking Tray – those of you who know me are now thinking “because of Qooqies” … yes damn it! yes. Also because the people that work there are brilliant, the food is healthy, the people that work there are brilliant, it’s conveniently located next to my workplace, the people that work there are brilliant, the people that go there are awesome, the people that work there are brilliant, and QOOQIES!

… the people that work at Baking Tray are brilliant …




Spending on Food and Beverage

Who's making me fat?

So for 2012, if I wanted to be smarter about spending, I would look for a cheaper alternative. I could also change my diet and eat less qooqies, but that only happens in the movies. Another good option is to stop eating at restaurants that account for much of the one time spends that take up a large share of my wallet (39%).

The trouble with cutting down on Food is that it hacks away at my principles … I like to eat good food and I exercise to eat a lot of it >.<' it's a terrible vicious and delicious cycle that I'm stuck in ... we'll see how I manage in 2012! Telecommunication: Alo? Kthxbai.
One of my goals in 2010 was to reduce spending on telecommunications. This might not sound like a lot to some people out there but my phone bill used to hit three digit figures – I was at a loss for words every time the bill came …

Phone Trend

Alo? Kthxbai.

Thanks to iEverything, talking on the phone just makes little sense anymore. I can get more done in a Tweet, Mail, or iMessage than I could with a phone call. I managed to make International Calling walk the plank too – not with technology, I just stopped calling >.<' In 2010, 30% of my spending went towards phone bills. In 2011, that number was a lot less. If I find a cheaper alternative to access the web through my phone anywhere, I can probably reduce this even further - but the amount would be minute compared to improvements I could make elsewhere. Budget: Set it and don’t budge.

Piggy Bank

Piggy Bank - Slice it up

The whole concept of budgeting is to discipline yourself to commit to a number as a ceiling. I’m very bad at commitment, so instead I set unrealistic goals and try to stay as close as possible to those … having said that, on average in 2011, I spent 127% of what I budgeted for and stayed within budget only 2 months of the 12 in the year (1/6th). Poor performance, but … the caveat is in the next section!

Finances with Benefits: was it worth all the effort?

Scrooge McDuck

Benefits

Despite having been over budget almost every month of the year, I have made a significant savings by tracking and managing my spending … every day.
If we don’t consider paying off my car, I would have potentially saved 47% of my total income by doing this (money to invest elsewhere perhaps).

Is it a hassle? Yes. There is no doubt about that. Don’t be fooled by Scrooge McDuck, counting cash is not fun – but the benefits are apparent. The best part is, I can’t remember the last time I looked at my accounts and thought to myself “o.o fffuuuuuu!… where’d I spend my money?!”.

I now know!

 

Counting for Noobs: How you can start your own personal savings effort.

Right, so you want to know how to do this yourself? In 2011, I gave my excel sheet to 2 people, and quickly realised it was way too complicated (because I tend to over complicate things). If you really want the excel model I use, just contact me, I’ll give it to you and I’ll even offer to walk you through it (by phone or over coffee). You can find my contact information on my resume

There are other alternatives that do the same thing. One of the better options I’ve found is available on the iPhone: Money for iPhone by Jumsoft. My friend also suggested a website the other day, I can’t remember what the address was for the life of me, but I’ll update as soon as I’m done.

Closing Comments
It’s fun. It helps you improve. It’s a way to remember the things you did. It’s a lot of commitment.

Saving wont make you a millionaire. Tracking your expenses will just tell you how fast you’re not becoming a millionaire.

Finally, if you are my boss and you’re reading this post … this information is not to be used to justify a stingy bonus recommendation next year #sarcasm #myBossRocks

Post Date Oct 20

The Personal Performance Model

Personal Performance Model

Personal Performance Model

The personal performance model is one that needs to be used like a survey – for a period of three weeks, fill this model rating each category (three of them) on a scale of 0 – 10. To do this, every day rate your tasks (as a group) by answering the following questions:

Want to: To what extent does this role correspond to what I want to do
Have to: To what extent is this role imposed on me?
Able to: To what extent do my tasks match my abilities?

The results
Once the three weeks are done, look at your maps.

  • If your map changes constantly, then you have a good variety of tasks.
  • If your stays the same, then you need to ask yourself are you being challenge enough? Where can you improve?

This model is from The Decision Book. Please make sure to visit 50 Top Models – the author’s website. If you like what you see, buy the book! Support the author and awesome content.

Post Date Oct 10

Appreciative Inquiry Model

Appreciative Inquiry Model

Appreciative Inquiry Model

In the early 20th Century, a major development in philosophy took place called the Linguistic Turn. Not to bore you into a state of comatose ~ the linguistic turn is based on the notion that language constitutes reality and is not a transparent medium for thought. In layman’s terms: your language defines the way you see the world.

The appreciative inquiry model is not far off from this notion – it asserts that discussions should focus on positive attributes, strengths, and latent potential rather the weaknesses. The principle behind the model is that everything has faults, and an awareness of this fact sets people on a course to continuously improve and develop towards perfection.

There are four archetypes in this model:

  • The fault finder: Destructive positive discourses. “Good idea, but …”
  • The dictator: Destructive negative discourses. “No!”
  • The school teacher: Constructive negative discourses. “No, this isn’t good because …”
  • The Appreciative Inquiry Thinker: Constructive positive discourses. “Yes, and we could also …”

Next time you’re in a meeting, try and identify how each person forms their arguments. What category do you fall into?

This model is from The Decision Book. Please make sure to visit 50 Top Models – the author’s website. If you like what you see, buy the book! Support the author and awesome content.

Post Date Sep 7

Spending Perspectives

Monthly Percentage of Total Spending

I’ve been getting frisky with my spreadsheet – trying to size things up … the results were less than desirable.

Right now that we’ve enjoyed that quip – I took the total spending and divided it up over time to see how the bulk of my spending is spread out. I added a trend line hoping to see it declining, or at least stable … but it was steep.

I would have rather it been an upright finger and a message “You’re over doing it!”

After sobbing over a cup of coffee and a cookie, I looked for some positive news in the numbers … so I started to look at how much of my income I was spending …

Percentage of Income Saved

… and there it was, the giant middle finger called February and its ugly sisters March and June … the good news is that I’ve saved about 20% of my total income … and on average I save 40% of my income per month … but what was up with terrible triplets?

Percentage of Income Saved

… looking at the percent of income spent per month reveals more … I spent more than I made on February … and almost all I had in the other two months … then I looked into the spending details of each of those months …

  • I paid off my car in February – good bye savings :(
  • I had to pay for a set of new wheels in March (ouch .. shee6 shee6)

June on the other hand was an interesting one … It seems like everyone in the 80’s got hot and heavy in September, and most of my acquaintances were born 9 months after several September many midnight merriment … but what can anyone do about that really? Diversify your social network based on birth days maybe? 😕 you got me!

The point is, however, if you only look at spending in one way, you wont see the whole picture, and it will just look like you’re over spending … when in reality, if you tilt your head to the left a little, you see that you’re saving … but a few ‘investments’ put a cap on that …

More importantly, this lets you forecast how much you need to make to realise greater savings … e.g. I budgeted for car insurance this year and wasn’t caught off guard like I was last year … also ‘surprise’ money always colours your excel cells green ~ even though inflation is a mouldy monster that feeds on ‘surprises’ …

Post Date Aug 18

#Hi3

About a year ago I started a hashtag, #Hi3, on twitter to motivate myself (and others) to go to the gym.

If I had a fils for every time I was asked “What is hi3?”, I’d still be incredibly poor but could probably buy a box of fusen gum.

Now back to the point. #Hi3 is an onomatopoeia for the exertion of effort. I’ve made voice memos of different varieties of #Hi3:

  • Hi3: basic #Hi3.
  • Ha3: about ten times more effort that #Hi3
  • Heavy Hi3: you’d give birth to an elf after 10 of these.

There are many more varieties but that’s about all my sound chords are gifted with … and now you know!

Feeling a little unmotivated, give out a war cry: #Hi3!! and get moving ~

Keep up the good #hi3.

Post Date Aug 10

Alphabet Tag

Right, so I don’t usually do this ~ but since I’ve been tag by the Heiress of Awesome, FJ Bliss, here is my alphabet tag post!

A
– Available: If you can find me.
– Age: 26 years old and 3 months.
– Animals: Imaginary cat.
B
– Beer: Whazzaap?! Adverts … and always will be …
– Birthday: May 13.
– Best friends: …
– Body Part on opposite sex: Ear lobe.
– Best feeling in the world: Company.
– Best weather: Rain and hot chocolate (yes, hot chocolate is a climate)
– Been in Love: Love is not a place.
– Been on stage: Yes ~
– Believe in Magic: Screw science, when I die I’m donating my organs to magic!
– Believe in Santa: Dad tried his best … even got the belly for us … didn’t go too well when arguing for the tooth fairy …
– Brand: Personal brand is greater than any commercial brand.
C
– Candy: Gummy bears. Bears in general, but that’s illegal in some countries.
– Color: Blue.
– Chocolate/Vanilla: QAQAAAW!!.
– Chinese/Indian/Italian: Schezwan tikka masala?
– Cake or pie: Pie.
– Cheese: Goat.
D
– Day or Night: Night.
– Dancing in the rain: Do I have a mug of hot cocoa?
E
– Eyes: Brown
– Ever failed a class?: >.> define fail?
– Enemies: Friends?
– Exercise: Do it to be healthy
F
– First thoughts waking up: O.O’
– Food: Qooqies
G
– Greatest Fear: Insignificance
– Goals: Change something
– Get along with your parents: We’re all alive, still.
H
– Hair Color: Black.
– Happy: An ideal based on relativity. Does not exist.
– Holiday: Don’t remember the last one I took.
I
– Ice Cream: If accompanied with qooqies.
J
– Jewelry: Crown jewels.
– Job: For more information please download my CV.
K
– Kids: I don’t like kids.
– Kickboxing or karate: Kickboxing
– Keep a journal?: Nope
L
– Love: Temporary insanity cured by marriage.
– Laughed so hard you cried: Self deprecating humour is humbling and sometimes saddens me.
M
– Milk flavor: Cow … moo moo.
– Movies: Comedy
– Motion sickness: Move, you sicken me.
– McD’s or BK: Freedom fries.
N
– Number: 8.
O
– One wish: to bring about change.
P
– Perfect Pizza: with friends.
– Pepsi/Coke: No fizz.
– Perfume/Cologne: Sure .. the anti-stank.
Q
– Quail: Quail-man ~ sure, I’ve had some before …
R
– Reason to cry: Too busy to cry.
– Reality T.V: Reality is relative.
– Radio Station: Internet radio.
S
– Song: Nothing in particular.
– Shoe size: 44 on a good day ~
– Salad Dressing: No dressing … minimalist coming through …
– Skinny dip: If I am the dip and she is the skinny, sure.
– Strawberries/Blueberries: Blueberries (please refer to favourite colour).
– Sport: All.
T
– Tattoos?: Win. Soon, but not yet.
– Thunderstorms: Thundercats you n00b.
U
– Unpredictable: Random … I’m weird.
V
– Vacation spot(s): No thank you, I have enough spots already.
W
– Weakness: Cookies.
– Who makes you laugh the most: You do. #sarcasm
– Worst Weather?: Thunderstorm humid dust #onlyInKuwait
X
– X-Rays: Gamma Rays are more awesome, look at the Hulk.
Y
-Year it is now: 2011
-Yellow: Kung Fu Panda.
Z
– Zoo animal: If you pay me enough, yes I’ll be your little zoo animal damn it.

Post Date Jun 16

Food and Money: A Short Story

Food and Beverage Expenditure

Food and Beverage Expenditure

Every year, around June, I start looking for behavioural trends in my spending pattern. Often I find that my spending on particular category tells a story … and what better story than that of food. Unsurprisingly, over 50% of all my expenditure is on food.

The graph above shows that I barely spend anything on fast food; I’m health conscious. I was a little naught in February and March, but if you look into the details of those you’ll find that I ate Subway in Feb … I gouged down Tikka in March so no excuses there.

The interesting bit is the frequency at which I visit Cafe’s has decreased. This is especially true in May. This is mainly because I was enrolled in a course and ended up having to avoid cafe socialising to study. This correlates to the ridiculous jump in delivery food I ordered … clearly home cooking has much to be desired still :'(

I also spent a lot more in restaurants in April and May; this is ironically because of the number of celebrations.

It looks like June is going to be a contender on spending at Cafe’s and Delivery. I expect to frequent Cafe’s a lot more however, now that I can lounge around for a bit.

I need to spend less on eating out, at least shave the figure down to what it was in January … the heat must be making me hungry >.<’ Interested in learning how to keep track of your spending? Leave a comment.