Play All Day, Party All Night on National Bowling Day (Aug. 13)

When I was in high school I was a pretty good bowler.  I was in a league and tied a teammate for the 3rd highest score in the league (202).  Fast forward (mumble-mumble) years and I just don’t play as often anymore. But that might change on Saturday, August 13 – National Bowling Day.

Always held on the 2nd Saturday of August, NBD is a daylong celebration that includes a Charity Challenge, Free Bowling, Giveaways, and Food and Drink Specials at all Bowlmor AMF Centers Nationwide.

Get your bowl on!

Get your bowl on!

For more information and to find a participating alley near you, click here.

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Win a Free 1 Oz. Silver Coin from CoinWeek (CoinWeek Connections Giveaway #134)

Numismatic publication CoinWeek is at it again with another free weekly contest.  Last time I posted up about the awesome Terminator Silver Reverse Proof coin.  This time they are giving away another 1 oz. beauty in the form of a graded (MS-69) 2016 American Silver Eagle NGC MS69 ER (Black Core)

To enter, just click here.

This week’s giveaway runs until the end of the day on Sunday, August 7.  CoinWeek will post the winner’s name on their website (http://www.coinweek.com/contest/) and on their Facebook page.

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Free Root Beer Floats, Compliments of A&W Restaurants!

Aug. 6 is National Root Beer Float Day and A&W Restaurants is celebrating by handing out free root beer floats at all of their locations from 2pm until closing.

You and a friend can also win free floats for a year by entering their contest#rootbeerfloatday

Click here to find the location nearest you.

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Why I love paying bills

I love paying bills and look forward to each new one that comes in the mail.  Seriously.

When I tell people this, it’s usually greeted by eye rolls or an I-don’t-think-this-boy’s-right-in-the-head look.

But really, I DO like paying my bills.  And the reason is simple… the quicker I pay off that month’s bills, the sooner I’ll know how much money I will have left over for myself.

In Rhonda Byrne’s book and video, The Secret, one of the speakers mentions how he loves getting bills because with each bill he also envisions getting checks in the mail, too, and now he gets checks in the mail.  (I don’t know if I’ve successfully nailed that last part but I did try)

Click on the image to purchase The Magic - the latest in the Secret book series

Click on the image to purchase The Magic – the latest in the Secret book series

Maybe for me it’s more Zen than Secret.  I work hard to budget for known expenses and I never go crazy with spending.  And at the end of the day, knowing how much is left over to use for the rest of the month makes me feel good.  Maybe I can then buy that extra bottle of wine, or take Ms. GMMW out for a nice dinner, or just stick it away for the future.

And that’s better than dreading the mailbox, isn’t it?

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From Wired.com: T-Mobile’s Free Pokémon Go Data Isn’t Worth the Trouble

I’m not into phone-based games and was born a little too early to be part of the original Pokémon craze, so when Pokémon Go made big headlines last week I was curious enough to find out what it is but not enough to play it.  Other companies are now trying to jump on the PG bandwagon, including mobile carrier T-Mobile.  I found this tidbit from wired.com quite interesting – and a reminder to all that you need to break down these so-called great deals to find out if they’re really so great after all (and this one certainly isn’t):

T-Mobile’s Free Pokémon Go Data Isn’t Worth the Trouble – wired.com (e)

T-Mobile has been exempting some music and video data from its caps for a while now, so the Pokémon tie-in shouldn’t be surprising. Besides, any company that’s willing to give away stock to new customers is probably willing to hand out data-candy. But while the potential music and, especially, video savings are legitimate, it turns out that racking up Pidgeys doesn’t chew through much of your plan at all. As the WSJ reported, P3 Communications pegged the Pokémon Go data gulpage at a measly five to 10 megabytes per hour. To fill up a 2GB plan, you’d have to spend more time playing Pokémon Go than you would working a full-time job. As it turns out, after you run the numbers, it’s not much of an offering at all.

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DxO Lens Correction Software – The best photographic investment I ever made

A few weeks ago I gave my friend Bob from The Dragtime News the link to the Nikon Image Space folder where I house my NHRA Summernationals photographs.  His (awesome!) website is dedicated to drag racing, especially Sportsman and Bracket events, and was there at the Nats taking pictures, too.

Bob is a fellow Nikon enthusiast and drag racer like myself.  When we spoke recently, he was still learning how to use his brand new D750.  I gave him a few pointers to try based on my own experiences shooting races after jumping up to a more advanced model myself.  And when he mentioned that his .raw files were not as sharp as he was expecting I knew what the problem was.  He uses good glass and the D750 is a great camera.  His issue was not with one or the other but with both together.

SIDE NOTE ON IMAGE FILES:  Unlike a .jpg (or JPEG) file which are images that are processed and then compressed within the camera based on algorithms that the manufacturer sets, .raw files are not.  For you pre-Millennials, think of it as undeveloped film.  The .raw file has all the original unadulterated digital information that the camera sensor recorded.  With more information on hand, experienced users can produce a better final image.  But that’s a tedious method better left for the fine art and commercial photographers who aren’t shooting 400 images in a session.  For me, if I’m shooting more than just a handful of important shots I will skip ahead to JPEG (usually the largest and finest JPEG files my camera will allow) and then make whatever post production adjustments are necessary at that point.

Even the best cameras and lenses out there have some inherent weakness depending shooting conditions – some far less noticeable than others. Sure you can buy cameras and lenses that are near-perfect, but you’ll need a hefty bank account or business that can write off the expense to get there.  I’ve seen some lenses alone sell for over $5,000!  The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM lens, for instance, retails for $5,699 and that’s still far from being the most expensive lens out there.  For the rest of us, we routinely give up a little bit of perfection in order to afford a camera that fits our needs and budget.  And with that, we get a variety of imperfections in our images based on the camera/lens combination.  Sometimes the artifact is so slight that you aren’t even aware of it until it’s corrected.

I was never more aware of the limitations of my own equipment than when I purchased DxO OpticsPro.  Like Bob, I was not getting the sharpness I expected from my images no matter how I shot.  I came across the DxO vendor booth at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo – an awesome FREE exposition held annually every October at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center for both professional photographers and the public.  DxO showed me how their software analyzes and improves any image based on unique algorithms developed for your specific lens-camera combination.

From the moment I started using the software I noticed a marked improvement in all of my images. Distortion (which I wasn’t even aware of before)?  Gone.  Vignetting?  Gone.  Chromatic aberrations?  Gone.  All of my images were sharper.  Slight exposure setting and lighting issues were corrected as well, resulting in me spending far less time post-processing and more time enjoying my images.  I now batch process all of my images in DxO as soon as their upload to my pc from my camera.

The settings and workflow are easy to understand and completely customizable.

The settings and workflow are easy to understand and completely customizable.

You can preview adjustments before the files are formally processed. And you can do before-and-after comparisons, too.

DxO Image Preview

With each new version comes more camera/lens combos, improved processing, and more features. Bob just downloaded OpticsPro 11 this week.  I can’t wait to see his results.  I’m still on OpticsPro 8 and will probably wait another year until 12 comes out since I’m already very satisfied with the improvements I saw upgrading from OP 4.

OpticsPro 11 is currently only available via download directly from the DxO website, but you can still get hard copies of version 10 from Amazon by clicking here: DxO Labs OpticsPro 10 Essential Edition Photo Enhancing Software for Macintosh & Windows

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Win a Free 1 Oz. Silver Coin from CoinWeek (CoinWeek Connections Giveaway #131)

One of my favorite online numismatic publications, CoinWeek, is holding another free contest.  This time it’s for a Terminator Silver Reverse Proof coin.  Made from 1 oz. of .999 silver with a limited mintage of only 5000 pieces.

Win this cool Terminator Silver Reverse Proof consisting of 1 oz. of .999 silver

Win this cool Terminator Silver Reverse Proof coin made with 1 oz. of .999 silver

To enter, just click here.

The giveaway runs until the end of the day on Sunday, July 17.  CoinWeek will post the winner’s name on their website (http://www.coinweek.com/contest/) and on their Facebook page.

Good luck!

 

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Scratchers (or “How I stopped the Commodities Exchange in 6 easy steps”)

Enough time has gone by that I think it’s safe to put this story in writing…

The summer after I graduated high school I got a summer job as a runner on the floor of NYCOMEX (the New York Commodities Exchange) in the World Trade Center (WTC).  A runner is someone who takes written orders from the traders and hands them off to their company’s trading desk elsewhere on the floor to process and then brings other orders from the desk to the traders to execute.

It was a very stressful, high-paced job.  I got only 15 minutes for lunch and then couldn’t leave at the end of the day until all of the contested trades were reconciled with the other brokers’ clerks.

But it was also a very interesting learning experience.  I worked the Silver and Gold rings and got to see first-hand what goes on there and how world events affected the Futures markets for those and other commodities.

It was also less than a year after the Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd movie “Trading Places“.

The trading sequences were shot right there on the very same floor and they used a lot of the traders as extras so I recognized a lot of faces from the movie.  And, no, they don’t actually trade Frozen OJ futures.

I tended to work the Silver Ring (where silver futures are traded) more than the Gold Ring, and one day the trader I was assigned to turns to me and says, “I don’t like this. There’s too much trading going on here relative to what the market is dictating right now.”

He then hands me $200 and instructs me to go down into the underground plaza in WTC and buy 200 $1 lotto scratcher tickets.  I had to covertly purchase only 20-30 at a time from quite a few retailers, zigzagging my way around down there so as to not draw too much attention to myself by buying a ton of tickets all at once.

When I got back upstairs the trader takes the tickets from me and passes them around to all the other traders in the ring.  Sure enough, that stopped all of trading dead for a few minutes.  He had me collect the winners and cash them in downstairs and then buy more tickets with the receipts.

Again, I went back upstairs and he handed out the next batch.  And again trading was at a standstill.

This went on for 6 rounds until we depleted all of the winnings.

Trading eventually resumed but at a much more relaxed pace and more in line with what my guy said the level of activity should be.

I couldn’t believe how easy it was for the 2 of us to literally halt one of the world’s most powerful commodities markets with nothing more than $200 in lotto scratchers.

Like I said, it was a very interesting learning experience.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”  
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July 12 is Amazon Prime Day

Amazon recently announced via a press release that their 2nd Annual Prime Day will be on Tuesday, July 12.

According to the press release,

“Prime Day will feature more than 100,000 deals worldwide exclusively for Prime members, making it the biggest Amazon event ever. New and existing members in U.S., U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium, and Austria, will find deals across nearly all departments and categories, ensuring there will be something for everyone. Members in the U.S. can shop starting at midnight PT, with new deals as often as every five minutes throughout the day. To participate in Prime Day, sign-up or start a free trial of Prime on or before July 12 by visiting amazon.com/primeday.”

In the days leading up to Prime Day, Amazon will be offering countdown deals every day from July 5 through July 11.  But in order to take advantage of any of these great deals you must already be a Prime member.  To sign up, go to: www.amazon.com/Prime.  They are currently offering a 30-day free trial, with annual memberships costing $99/year.  Membership benefits include:

  • Free 2-day shipping
  • Instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost, including Amazon Original Series like the Golden Globe-winning Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle
  • Unlimited music streaming
  • Free unlimited photo storage
  • Over 800,000 free eBooks
  • Early access to Amazon’s Lightening Deals

Additionally, Prime members who open an Amazon Prime Store Card now through Prime Day get a $50 Amazon.com Gift Card instantly.   Sign up now before Prime Day and that’ll mean even greater savings!

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Arbitrage – or Buying-to-Sell

Prior to Brexit, I had intended to buy a few hundred dollars in British Pounds as an investment.  Unfortunately, my day job got in the way and I never got around to it.  Fast forward a week and the Pound dropped 11% against the U.S. Dollar.  I could have made a nice little profit converting those pounds back to dollars.

The pound has rebounded slightly since then but there’s still the possibility of further gradual declines.  I might still pick up a few hundred (though less than before) and wait for the markets to settle.

My credit union sells foreign currency via Travelex, one of the premiere currency services in the country, albeit at a lower price to its members than you can get directly through Travelex.  Savvy investors know that one of the keys to investing is to buy commodities for the lowest price possible.  That will allow you more options to sell later for a potential profit.

This is especially true with currency as banks and business like Travelex will sell you currency at a higher exchange rate than they’ll buy it back from you for.  As of today, $100 USD will buy you $66.28 GBP.  However, Travelex will convert that same $66.28 GBP into only $80.78 USD.  That’s a loss of $19.22 per $100.  Therefore you’ll want to find the lowest value/cost for Pounds and the highest value/cost for Dollars even if that means using 2 different institutions to conduct both ends of your business.

A friend of mine has a very nice business purchasing dozens, if not hundreds, of an item at incredibly low prices only to flip them on Amazon Prime for a healthy profit.  Last year he made over $10,000 on Black Friday alone.  Granted, this is his only job and he spends a lot of time (and money) on the computer every day seeking out opportunities on websites like slickdeals.net.

This flipping of goods for resale is called arbitrage.  According to Investopedia.com, arbitrage is defined as,

the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset to profit from a difference in the price. It is a trade that profits by exploiting the price differences of identical or similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms. Arbitrage exists as a result of market inefficiencies.

Deals can be found anywhere – Craigslist, eBay, Slickdeals, retailers’ websites (especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday), in-store closeouts and discontinued items.  You just need to know where to find them and have the time, money, and patience to ride out the wait until you can sell.  Thanks to my friend I scored a discontinued X-Box Kinect for $45 and flipped it on eBay a few months later for $125.  That’s an $80 profit.  Multiply that a few dozen times each week and you have my friend’s business.  And that, my friends, is arbitrage.

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