Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yesterday's Sunset

Here in the Chattanooga area, we don't have sunsets as much as we have the Sun disappearing behind mountains. The photos below, taken in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, show the Sun setting behind a section of Lookout Mountain known as Flat Top...

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Giving the Economy a Little Prod

Tax Season is a welcome time for poor people, especially if they have a child or two they can claim. There's no waiting for the April 15 deadline. As soon as those W-2s come in from your employer, it's off to a nearby tax preparation professional to get 'em done. You're looking for someone who can get you some money as quickly as possible in the form of a refund anticipation loan. This usually means paying outrageous preparation fees for filling in some numbers that you could do yourself and paying usurious interest payments on that RAL, but you can usually have your money within a day or two.

For poor people, tax season is a godsend. It's a time to catch up on whatever big bill you've been putting off paying or it's a time to make a big purchase that you could otherwise never be able to afford. You see, if you have a child or two to claim and are poor enough, you qualify for the Earned Income Credit and a Child Care Credit, which means that you get back whatever money you've paid in through the year plus a significant amount extra.

So there I was with money in my pocket for the first time in a while. Instead of doing something sensible like putting it away for the many rainy days that lie ahead, I've been doing my part to stimulate the economy. It was time for the major purchase I've been putting off for a long, long time, a purchase I would not be able to make without some kind of financial windfall. It was finally time to buy a new camera.

When the New Year began, we (the wife and I) began browsing and comparing. I had a film SLR many moons ago, then purchased a digital point-and-shoot camera when digital cameras were still a new technology (and I was not so painfully underemployed.) My trusty Olympus was with me for many years through thick and thin before finally dying on me a while back. We thought about a nice digital point-and-shoot camera, but finally decided that now was the time to move on up to a digital SLR. The Nikon D40 seemed to be the basic jumping in point. We looked at kits and finally found two stores that were carrying the D40 with two lenses and a few other extras. The price between the two stores was three cents.

But we started the day at another store. Circuit City is going out of business and advertising big savings. Don't bother. They haven't gotten serious about liquidating yet. The basic Nikon D40, which has been listed at around $450 at several stores, was listed at $500 at Circuit City. Subtract their 10% liquidation discount and the camera was the same price there as everywhere else. No kits available -- no extra lens, no extra anything. Just a store full of customers wondering where all the discounts were. We went to one of the two stores with the deal we were looking for and laid the money down.

After spending Saturday night charging up the battery and beginning the slow process of deciphering the owner's manual, I awoke Sunday morning to the news that the same camera package was listed in the sale papers at the same store for $50 less. It somehow slipped the friendly salesperson's mind to let us know that they were about to mark it down. So Day One with my new camera was spent returning to the store to get some money back and delivering a few more minor prods to the economy. I haven't had a chance to do much except figure out all the camera's point-and-shoot modes and play around with them a little, but below are a few of the first photos with my new purchase. Many, many more to come...

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