Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Going Green Challenge

My "Going Green" challenge was amazing. By going green I don't mean using those cloth bags at the grocery store, but paying with cash only. I challenged myself to pay with cash only for my next paycheck. For two weeks, a small but reasonable goal, I paid for food, groceries, entertainment, clothing, dry cleaning, and extra treats with cash. All bills were taken directly from my checking account and any other pre-budgeted sinking funds left in the bank. The results were amazing. I saved close to $700 dollars! I watched the stack of greens dwindle down and it seemed to hurt more each time I broke a twenty. Before it was all said and done, I just couldn't bring myself to spend those last $40 greens. I became more frugal, using coupons, taking time planning my spending, and having no impulse buys. It was a huge success, I was no longer living "paycheck to paycheck" but actually had a disciplined plan in place; I had decided from now on to "go green".

The Sinking Fund

Impulse buying can be the end to all financial plans. Accounts are most likely overdrawn by the end of the month or purchase decisions are regretted. This is the reason for a "sinking fund" for all planned or major purchases.
Sinking funds are simply savings put in one particular place for a specific thing. For example, car tags; each year a car owner must pay the tax on the registration. Each year the tags and taxes are about the same price. Allocating savings each month until the next year saves panic when that time comes. Sinking Funds are a great way to never be in need of money for a must have purchase.
Sinking funds are also a great way to not impulse buy. Perhaps the camera wanted a month ago (as an impulse buy) is not the camera wanted three months after, and there is a better camera for a cheaper price, or perhaps the camera wanted is now on sale and there is money left over from the camera sinking fund to spend or save at a later time. Here are some ideas for such funds: car repairs, home improvement, vacation, Christmas and other gifts, emergency funds, and maybe even a "blow money" fund. Blow money can be used for whatever may come about.
One idea for sinking funds is envelopes, kept in a safe or a safety deposit box. Or perhaps allocated savings plans. ING Direct is a good on-line bank where you can set up several savings accounts, specified for different funds with no minimum requirements.
Starting early enough, no purchase will be unplanned and there will never be panic for unavailable funds.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Grocery Game - What a Deal

"The Grocery Game", a site put together by a house mom became a multi-millionaire. Although I am glad for her, I am mostly glad at the deals this site puts together. Using this service can save you hundreds of dollars. The site works like this: you choose which stores you want to know the sales of and The Grocery Game gives them to you. It is very inexpensive to use and you make up the money for dues in one visit to the grocery store. There is a trial period of four (4) weeks for $1 and after that if you wish to continue, depending on how many stores you have in your service is menial. At two stores for less than twenty dollars quarterly, it is well worth the money. You also can get referral rewards. For each person you refer, you get twelve weeks free.
The Grocery Game site gives links to coupons you can print, purchase, or bid on to help in your savings. My first week of The Grocery Game, with only the coupons I printed from her page and shopping only the sales from the site, I saved forty (40) dollars at one store and ten (10) dollars at another, with seven (7) dollars back in rebate money. That is a total of fifty-seven ($57) dollar savings in one week! Just think what I could have saved if I would have had all the coupons on the site! This site does not promise you the exact savings listed, but shows just how much you could potentially save and gives you the tools to do it. The site also has forums, Terry's tips for frugal savings, and many other links. This site is probably the best deal savvy site on the web today. Once you've added your savings and referrals, it's like getting it for free!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MVelopes Worth The Money?

As many of us are struggling in today's market, we search for options to help us maintain our finances. One of these products is MVelopes. MVelopes is an online module that helps you sync all of your accounts into one place, maintaining each and every transaction you make. Payments options are a plenty, ranging from quarterly to annually. MVelopes helps you watch where your money goes by helping you make a spending plan and funding envelopes. These envelopes are categorized spending and you fund these envelopes and only spend the allotted amount within that envelope. Options to move money as needed is available as well as transferring money from one account to another. MVelopes has a great bill pay feature where you can set up to pay your bills directly from this module without having to pay your bank for the service or purchasing stamps and mailing, saving you money.
MVelopes also has per session paid money classes, teaching you how to best use your finances to save more money and to get out of debt. The classes are reasonably priced and you can choose the options that work best for you if you so decide to purchase these sessions.
This is a great product for the price if used correctly. For those who use the product, moving money to and from envelopes without ever sticking to their plan, it's an expensive arcade game. Even at the lowest quarterly price of $39.00, why waste your money? It is a good way to keep your checkbook balanced as it accounts for all transactions (if your bank is compatible and you can have an online account). Mind you, not all banks are compatible and if your account is not, there is definitely no reason if you can balance a checkbook. Most of us who would use a module such as MVelopes only use it because we are not structured and disciplined in our money spending anyway.
So the question, is "is MVelpes worth the money?". After a five month test run, I can say I am perhaps a little better off being savvy of where I spend my money; but is it worth the $80 I've spent so far? Once I figured out the product, I could do the same thing on spreadsheets and put that $80 in a savings account. But if I was that disciplined, I wouldn't need this product in the first place and it does so much more. I would also like to say that the support team is phenomenal and help to solve any problem you may have.
Perhaps the financial sessions would be the best service for the price. Everyone could use more knowledge in how to spend their money and how to save it, and the sessions are faster learned than a product such as "Financial Peace University", a Dave Ramsey program. Both are excellent products, but after sixteen weeks of FPU, MVelpes lessons are faster learned and the prices a little cheaper.
In a time where every penny counts, If you must choose a lesson to learn,go with MVelopes but save the quarterly price of the product if you are not disciplined.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Desecration of Graves

"Reverend" A.L. Dowdell desecrates the graves of civil war soldiers.Monday is Confederate Memorial Day. The day we show homage to our ancestors, Black, white,red, and yellow, men and women alike, who fought and died in the civil war. In Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn, as the daughters of the confederacy placed confederate flags on their forefather's graves, reverend A.L. Dowdell of Auburn walked right in front of them, grabbing each flag he saw and snapping them in to. Desecrating the graves of War Veterans, a crime in the state of Alabama by the way and I'm sure everywhere else. He said the flags offended him. They stood for the Ku Klux Klan. OK I'll give you that there are many ignorant people, not just in the south, that believe in that kind of ignorance. But I say, you, sir, just walked upon the graves of men who died defending their homes, their families, their livelihood. (Which is exactly what our veterans do today and I dare you to do the same to their graves) Men in the civil war did not fight just for the cause of abolishing slavery, which many I am sure stood against, but for their homes. I dare say, sir if you have read the "Slave Narratives" (a composition of interviews by many men and women whom lived through the war) you would know that these men and women, slave and master, were terrified of what was happening. Their homes were uprooted, they were abused by Union Soldiers. Their food was stolen, their women used in God awful ways their homes and cities were burned to the ground whether they joined the cause or not. Many of these men who fought did so to keep their families fed and clothed and you might have well urinated upon their graves, dear sir. Not one of those flags were placed upon a head stone that read "here lies the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan" they said here lies a father, a husband, a war veteran. Shame on you Mr. Dowdell, you should be charged with the crime you committed. There is no amnesty for city councilmen as far as I know, and I do know the law. I know they mayor will give an excuse and look the other way, turning it around into some political hoopla that you are so famous for, Mr. Dowdell, but I say you have committed a crime against the people of the State of Alabama and to the men and women you so veraciously offended with your politics.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Refined Southern Gentleman

A refined southern gentleman’s way -ruthless, evil, deadly. That was the way sources described Mr. C.B. Mills. Mills lived and died playing a game for money. He cared not whom he hurt; that dollar bill was number one.
Mill’s saga began when he took a job working for his brother, Fred Mills. Fred was in business with Jeffrey Baker and a disagreement incurred. The details are unknown but Fred Mills shot Jeffrey Baker and after a $50,000 settlement the ongoing battle began between these two families. After that, C.B. had a grudge against Jeffrey’s son, Billy Baker, accosting him in passing whenever he could.
Fred began to work at the First National Bank as a teller and soon C.B. followed. C.B. began as an assistant teller. Before long, Mr. Al Jackson, the banks manager, passed away and C.B. worked his way up the ranks to president. At this time, C.B. Mills joined with Mr. Cincade, another business partner, and Mrs. Jackson, the widow of Al Jackson, to create the Milsonade Mills. Interestingly enough, the papers were all signed in Mr. Jacksons’ name instead of Mrs. Jackson – Chauvinism at its finest. Shares of the mill were sold door to door for $100 par for the mill. Things seemed to be looking up for Mr. Mills.
The depression began to hit and hit hard it did. Production was at a standstill at the mill; after-all, no one could afford fabric and the mill was going under. It was at this time; sources say C.B. came up with a plan. Mr. C.H. Cincade would be his way out. C.B. went and had a life insurance policy for $1 million dollars put out on Mr. Cincade. Then one night two men knocked on Mr. Cincade’s door while he was sitting at his dinner table and when Mr. Cincade answered the door, he was shot dead.
As a side note, at some point in time, C.B. moved with wife Lilly and children from his home across from the United Methodist Church (which is now owned by the church) and into his new home on E Wilmington Avenue. He actually paid very little for it, somewhere in the $20K range, but he was one of the only ones in town that could put even that much into a home in the 1930’s, which of course made some suspicious he was stealing from the bank.
On the day of Mr. Mills’s death, there are two stories. The first story is that Mr. Billy Baker asked for a loan from C.B. and C.B. refused him. Billy believed the rumors C.B. was stealing money from the bank to build his house and gave him thirty minutes to change his mind before he came back and killed him. The second story, is that there was an argument between Billy and C.B. Eyewitness accounts stated you could not hear what was said in the argument, but that C.B. was doing most of the yelling. Billy stormed out and later that afternoon, behind the bank, C.B. saw Billy on the street and began his usual prodding of Billy. C.B. reached for something in his pocket, Billy thought it was a gun, and shot C.B. three times “right in the tie” and C.B. died from his injuries.
Billy Baker turned himself into the Sheriff’s office and was first charged with Capital Murder. After, Lilly, C.B.’s wife took over the bank, Fred Mills ran for sheriff in an undisclosed county and won, and turmoil began in the trial of Billy Baker.
The Mills, being powerful in the community, were known to have many political and law enforcing citizens, “close to their pockets”. When it came time for jury selection, they even went so far as to put a Mills on the jury. For unknown reasons, a jury would not convict him, and the first set of Jurors was released. A Judge Robert Ransom then denied Baker bail; all the while presiding Judge Charles Bridle in essence said there was no reason to deny bail.
In the second trial of Baker, it was rumored as well that any juror who would convict Baker would be paid one thousand dollars each. Supposedly an unknown potential juror was asked to meet the briber, (whom it was assumed was the D.A.) in a restroom to discuss the proposition. When he walked into the bathroom, the juror’s brother was waiting in a stall. The Propositioner was then either threatened physically by placing the man’s head in a toilet to drown or politically threatened to unleash the truth if the charges were not plead down. The next trial, Dee was tried under Manslaughter and convicted, being sentenced to nine years.
Some sources seem to tell Billy went to a mental institution between trials and, according to local papers, Baker was found hung in a tool shed in prison and “his death was listed as a suicide.”
This story is all but still alive in the sleepy town of Podunk, Alabama. Both families still live in or around the small town and the names have been changed to protect the living. It is a story told under breath. The story of the ruthless man who “got his” and the victims he left in his wake.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Energy Pool Theory

What is “The Paranormal”? What is their purpose? Why do they plague some places or people more than others? What can we do to help them? Perhaps it is not our responsibility to help anything. We should observe their activity and try to understand our role in their world and their role in ours. Consider this, the Global Law of Conservation of Energy states the total energy of the universe cannot change(Wikepedia.com). That means energy around us cannot pass on from this universe; what has always been here will remain in some form or fashion. Either on another plane or in another form, that energy must remain constant in our universe. Either it continues to be used, or it is transferred to something else. Therefore, you could say that a life force could stick around and maybe in a different form than what we are use to. How is it that the paranormal can use energy from living objects? The second law of Thermodynamics states energy and matter tends to be more evenly spread out across the universe (or their surroundings). Living organisms, being inefficient in how they use the energy received, let this energy spread out around them potentially letting something else to use that energy “pool” around that organism. Think of it as getting out of a swimming pool. You ring your clothes out and are now standing in a pool of water. That water was once a part of you, but now is transferred to the ground around you. Now say a wasp lands in the pool of water and drinks the water, that was once a part of the pool, and a part of you, and spread out around you on the ground. The water gives the wasp energy to fly.This is a perfect example how energy spread out from you can be transferred to something else to use for its own purposes. Just as a “ghost” could go into your energy pool, take some of that energy and use it for its own purposes. If you consider that your energy force cannot change, perhaps some remain in their energy force, but without ways of renewing their energy levels (like we use food, water, and sun); the only way to renew that energy that may have been transferred by use is to pull from other energy pools, therefore having to interact with those things around it – like living organisms. Perhaps their purpose is not to go around scaring people, or attacking people; but simply to keep their energy levels at a place where they can continue on without transferring so much energy that they are no longer what they started out as – but are spread out amongst the universe. People experience this concept when you brush against someone and sometimes get shocked. That is energy transferring between the two of you until it is even between you. Could a person, having a high “absorption” rate of energy, if you will, be hypersensitive to people, places, or entities with high amounts of energy? Yes! Some people are drawn to places where there are high amounts of energy. Perhaps this same place has high paranormal activity for the same reason. Could the activity become more active when that person is around? Yes! That person “absorbs” energy in high amounts, so the energy pool around them may be very large. Entities are drawn to that energy and to that person. That person may feel drained at times, or charged up – like a shock going up their body. They may experience stigmata or even psycho-connectivity to that other energy force. That person must understand, it is not an attack, it is not their duty to set en energy force free. That person is simply the light in a very dark room. Accepting that it is science and not a personal can allow this person understand their role and the role of “The Paranormal” in our universe.
The Energy Pool Theory
By: Michelle Smith
Investigator/Researcher:Michelle Smith

Camp Watts: a Legendary Camp of Southern Independence

Two tombstones are the only reminder of what once was here. The mules, the tents, the soldiers, and the wounded were all a part of this now cow pasture. "Camp Number One of Instruction" (http://history-sites.com/~kjones/ALcamps.html) better known as Camp Watts was the stuff of legend, making men of boys and sending them to their untimely graves.
Camp Watts was one of the many training grounds in Lee County Alabama for young men during the Civil War. It had temporary buildings for two to three thousand men along with wall tents, a railroad and station, a grand cemetery, and a hospital (www.leecountyhistoricalsociety.org/watts.php). The most famous of the buildings on site was the hospital, because after General Lovell Rousseau came through, it was the only building left standing.
Rousseau came through Alabama in 1864 with about twenty three hundred men from the Union Armed Forces and his sole mission was to cripple the West Point Railroad. During this mission, known commonly as “Rousseau’s Raid”, he and his troops burned cities by the dozens all the way from Montgomery and up towards Atlanta Georgia. Some of the cities burned were Notasulga, Loachapoka, Beauregard, Opelika, Auburn, Chehaw, Decatur, Greensport, and Ten Island Ford (which as far as I can tell, is not even in existence now). (http://www.cartweb.geography.ua.edu/) During his raid, Rousseau met opposition at Chehaw and was forced to retreat to Camp Watts with wounded soldiers. It was at this time, he burned the camp, the well, the railroad station, and the barracks. He spared the hospital, but left them with little supplies and no well. (www.leecountyhistoricalsociety.org/watts.php) Journals of personnel stationed at Watts talked of high water, so water may have not been an issue (http://www.history-sites.com/).
If you try to find Camp Watts today, you will only find a pasture. It is almost impossible to find where the camp would have been on the acreage. You can see where an old dirt trail would have possible led to a general store or the depot, but how far back, no one knows. Needless to say, the hospital may have been down wind from the general barracks, and the cemetery near the hospital. Other than that, very little evidence has surfaced on where the camp was exactly. The majority of records are in the library of the University of Texas, Austin in the Samuel H. Stout collection. These were detailed medical records over 22 linear feet of paper, with no index hand written by Stout, the medical Director of the Confederate hospitals (Samuel Hollingsworth Stout Papers, 1837 (1860-1865) 1902, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.) Any records in the town of Notasulga were burned in a fire years later that engulfed the town. At one time, the land was riddled with grave markers, buckets, horseshoes, and other litter, but as the years went by and the three hundred and twenty acres was turned into farm land, the markers were removed, the fields cleared, and the Legend became all but a ghost.
Camp Watts was added to the Alabama Registry of Military Heritage in May 1, 1979 (www.leecountyhistoricalsociety.org/watts.php), but was long before in the hearts and stories of those in Lee County. While traveling down the road you can almost feel the air change as you approach the field. If you did not know its history you would blow it off as indigestion. But knowing the history, knowing the fright, the fight, the bravery, and the deathly call the land suffered; even a Northern Sympathizer would stop, turn off their car, and say a prayer for the thousands that died at the hands of a gripping war; laid to rest here at Camp Watts, Notasulga, Alabama, trodden on by cattle and long since forgotten.

Spring Villa Mansion and the Ghosts that Walk Among It

Spring Villa, a mid 19th century home build by Horace King. King was the former slave of John Godwin, father-in-law to home owner William Penn C. Younge. King was a prominent bridge builder and architect who took it upon himself to take in Godwin’s family as his own due to his fondness for his old master and friend. (Incidentally, King also was attributed to building parts of Bryce Mental Institution in Tuscaloosa, AL under the contracts of Robert Jemison, Jr. who the Jemison Center at Bryce was named after). The home has incurred its own legendary status, surpassing the true beauty of the home and the Genius of King’s masterpieces.
The legend of Spring Villa states that Penn Younge was a cruel slave owner and one night a slave hid in the niche of the staircase and decapitated Younge on the 13th step. (Strangely enough, Alabama Paranormal Research Team has caught recorded sounds of something rolling down the stairs.) Younge is said to haunt the mansion to this very day. In a book about Horace King there is a mention of this legend and states it is false and that Younge died of old age eleven years after the supposed incident; although, the mansion does seem to be haunted. Alabama Paranormal Research Team has extensive recordings of a little child’s voice stating such things as “I want my mommy.” as well as a male’s voice with unsavory and belligerent tones. (APRT would like to express no one has ever been harmed in the home and stands firmly that the home should not be feared by any visitor.)
The land itself is filled with its own history. Native Americans were known to frequent lands filled with high natural minerals and we know the land Spring Villa was built on was used by the Uchee Creeks as a home (before it was settled on by Younge) due to its high energy fields generated by the quartz crystal that fills the land. Across from the home and about 800 yards to the west are mounds left behind by the Creek. Incidentally, APRT's very own John Mark Poe is credited with the discovery of the mounds 800 yards west of the land. Interesting tidbit: Lee County Creeks were the ones who named the town Opelika meaning “Little Swamp”. APRT has gotten evp’s (electronic voice phenomenon) close to Younge’s gravesite, which is across from the house about 100 yards in the wood line. Even in the house EVP's could have been Native American. One sounded like a woman, mimicking the voice of our Co-Founder Cassie Clark saying “Umaneech’ho” (roughly). Since the Uchee language is all but dead, only spoken by a minute few and never written, it is impossible to translate. The closest we have been able to discern is OmeNuce’ which is “we sleep here.” Rarely do all members of APRT visit the mounds. For many reasons, such as feelings of dread, strange occurrences after visiting, and the un-explainable events of no birds, frogs, or even bugs being heard around the mounds. Call it superstition, but even professionals can get the "heebie geebies"!
On the land is a where the swimming pool is now, used to be old slave quarters. About 50 yards away is an old “cooler” they used possibly to store meat and other products, cooled by the underground spring that still flows freely there. There, APRT has recorded more Native American Voices and received many readings on the Tri-Field meter. A Tri-Field is a meter that shows electromagnetic fields, and once man-made fields, such as power lines are ruled out, any reading you receive may be paranormal.
Most recently, APRT has discovered documents showing the untimely death of young girls where a lake once was on the land. The girls were dressed in their Sunday best and were traveling from one side of the pond to the other when their boat sank and the girls drown. This explains the constant voices of children upstairs at the house.
This land is an enigma, layers upon layers of past energy, stored in the minerals that lay upon the ground. Any emotion left by slaves, campers, masters, children, visitors-a-plenty seems to stay imprinted somehow. The home a masterpiece of an architectural genius is slowly dwindling to its demise. Yet, the land stays lively, playing back the past, but very much intelligent and interactive at the same time. APRT would like to ask you to help us keep this place alive. A place once buzzing with the laughter of campers and children is slowly becoming a broken down place forgotten by those of the living but relished by those of the dead. Help the living save this land for generations to come.