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Life Tips

People are brewing coffee at home

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Folgers coffee pic

Reuters: JM Smucker Q4 beats Street, raises 2010 profit view. Quote:

Peanut-butter and jelly maker J.M. Smucker Co’s (SJM.N) fourth-quarter profit handily beat market expectations, helped by strength in its Folgers coffee business, and the company raised its 2010 profit outlook.

“Our core business continues to produce solid results and the recently added coffee business’s performance has exceeded our expectations,” co-Chief Executive Tim Smucker said in a statement.

My take
More trouble for Starbucks…this is one sign of consumer behavior change amid this recession. Bye bye $2 a cup coffee, welcome home brewing gourmet coffee 🙂

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Life Tips Windows

Amazon used book, COM, Juggle

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I bought a used book “Inside COM” from Amazon Marketplace recently. This is my second Amazon Marketplace buy this year. I found for used (a little out of dated) computer books, Amazon Marketplace offers a great value.

Why I need to buy the COM book?
I found in order to really understand the .NET stuff, one needs to learn the COM. This is just like in order to be a good value investor, one really needs to pick up Graham’s “Intelligent Investor”. Reading the blogs by Buffett followers are fine, but definitely not sufficient. Because those second handed materials don’t precisely convey the ideas of the masters.

Google search not working on Internet Explorer?

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Life Tips

McCafe Coffee review: second try

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Went to the nearby McDonald (NYSE: MCD) yesterday afternoon, and tried out the Iced Latte. Personal opinion: the latte at MCD is not as good as Starbucks ( Nasdaq: SBUX). Two things:

1) McDonald makes this mostly by machine, while in Starbucks the barista used some hand;

2) McDonald serves the latte not in a full cup, this never happened to me in Starbucks.

So in summary the latte McDonald (McCafe) looks cheap, although they can argue in “blind test” their coffee tastes better. As to the regular brewed coffee in MCD, it depends: it tastes better when it was fresh brewed. The coffee beans in those stores are similar, except SBUX are usually overly roasted (looks darker and tastes bitter).

Other stores

Categories
Life Tips Saint Louis

Wifi hot spots and plan

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Mobile broadband (3G) is getting popular these days, but for most people (esp. consumers) that’s still a bit too expensive. At this time I think the good old Wifi is more suitable for me and many working from home (Starbucks, Panera Bread, Borders, Barnes Noble, or McDonald) type.

I used to use Free Wifi at Panera/St. Louis Bread Co. But “free” usually comes with a price, such as the new policy of “limit to 30 minutes use” between 11 AM to 2 PM. I have used two Wifi plan so far, T-mobile hotspot (Borders) and Boingo (many airports, Starbucks, McDonald). Let me compare those two plans:

Cost: T-mobile $19.99 per month for everyone ($9.99 for T-mobile wireless users, like me); Boingo costs $9.99 per month (US)

Coverage: Boingo wins this one because it is available in most Starbucks, McDonald, and airports. T-mobile hotspot is available in Borders bookstore, and it has a free roaming agreement with Starbucks (using AT&T Wifi), but I got some connection problem in one of my two visits to Starbucks. Of course the downside of Starbucks and McDonald is it’s more noisy than Borders (usually).

BTW, I found the iPhone Wifi Finder to be cool.

Categories
Economy Life Tips

Buying books from Borders

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I have been a Borders customer for a long time, most times buying coffees while studying (reading books) there, from time to time I also bought some computer or finance related books, such as Effective C++, My Life as a Quant, etc. One benefit of buying books at Borders (compared to Amazon) is getting the book right away, vs. waiting and waiting (I normally use Amazon free shipping option which typically takes a week). We know time is money in many cases.

Recently I bought two books from Borders, one is Cocoa Programming on Mac OS X, another one os Pro C#, both with 40% discount (available to Borders members only, free to join). With the 40% discount, the books are about the same price at Amazon. For instance, the list price of Pro C# 2008 is $59.99, it’s $36 after 40% off (before tax). Amazon price is $37.79.

borders book store
(Source: NPR Market Place)

Inventory

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Life Tips

Join Club Fitness

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What is the best investment one can make in 2009? Invest in yourself: health, family, financial knowledge, job skills, business skills,…among all I think health is the most important because without it everything else will get hit or become less meaningful.

club fitness pic

Amid growing belly I decided to do something about it this year. I used to have access to treadmill when I was living in apartment and working for my previous employer. Now I work from home, I need to find a fitness center. Not that I can not walk/jog outside, but you know the winter and summer in St. Louis are not that friendly. I asked the people at Fitness Edge (who does personal training), and they told me about Club Fitness. So I went there right away last Friday afternoon. They have 2 monthly plans: $14.95 and $19.95. I picked the latter plan because it gives more access in terms of time and locations, and it’s still under the reimbursement limit of my current employer fitness benefit. I have been to the facility a few times, and the only complaint I have now is it’s getting crowded in the evening (5 PM).

Interestingly, I thought about a pedometer would also do the job, and now pedometer app for iPhone are available on the iPhone App store (iTune store), such as this one.

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Life Tips

New Year and Hotel frequent guest programs

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Happy New Year!!! The Chinese New Year of ox, or bull (or cow). If you missed making new years resolution on Jan 1, this is another time to make up.

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Hotel Frequent Guest Program
Like Airline frequent flyer programs, there are hotel frequent guest programs. And I joined two lately: Hilton HHonors and Mirriott Rewards. There are some tangible benefits to those programs, such as getting the points for the hotel stay and redeem them sometime later. One thing I noticed interesting, at least something I was not aware of, is that hotels sometimes assign better rooms to its frequent guests.

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Life Tips

New shoes and new mattress

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I ordered this Asics GT-2130 from 6PM early this Monday ($46 including shipping). The regular costs $95. It arrived yesterday and got plenty of cushion. 6PM is doing a sale on many Asics shoes. (click men or women on the left to refine results).

Asics GT-2130

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Life Tips

Last minute tax saving tips

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1) Pay the Jan mortgage by Dec 31;

2) If you own small business, buy the stuff you need to buy anyway by Dec 31;

3) Sell the losers in your stock portfolio: I mean those true losers that you don’t expect them to come back. Some people sell their losers and buy them back in Jan. Perdsonally I never tried that, and don’t recommend it (there is possibility violate IRS free ride rule). Another strategy, which avoids messing around with free ride rule, is sell a stock (say GE), and buy a similar stock back (say Emerson). This may work better for mutual funds (e.g., there are many S&P 500 index funds).

Categories
Life Tips Travel

Expedia Citi Premier Card

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When I was booking the Hyatt hotel at Expedia a while ago, it offered me the Expedia Citi Premier Card.

Expedia Citi Premier Card

I went ahead and did it, to get the $50 off for the first purchase (the hotel booking). They do offer another card, which gives back up to $100, with an annual fee of $75. I decided I don’t want that 🙂

Interestingly, Citi only gave me $2,000 credit limit. I remember earlier this year, Citi gave me $4,000 on the Professional card. Just another sign the bank is tightening the credit (lending).

To be fair Citi is not the worst, JP Morgan appears to be more strict. Earlier this year when I asked them about Home Equity Line of Credit, they gave me a same credit limit as I have now with a rate higher than my current rate. What’s more recently I received a mail from them, they are closing a dormant credit card of mine. I am just curious:

What are the money Treasury give to those banks? Did they put it under mattress?