Carol Iwamoto: ‘Maybe I missed something, but the Berkshire Hathaway site for doubling your umbrella liability coverage does not seem to cover residents of California.’

☞ Berkshire doesn’t cover NY with this offer, either. Because every state has its own regulators and rules, insurers pick and choose the states they want to serve.


Hewitt Heiserman: ‘A few weeks back I signed on to download Apple’s iTunes after learning it was Windows compatible. Thought I would buy a few songs, then go to bed. Instead, I stayed for 3 hours and bought almost 50 songs. (Favorite might be Tom Jones and The Cardigans covering ‘Burning Down The House.’) Two observations: First, no Beatles catalog (yet). I have noticed a few other artists/songs missing, as well; e.g., Van Morrison’s ‘Wavelength.’ Second, check out the Radio feature. I used to listen to WCRB here in Boston. But that was commercial radio. With iTunes, I get classical for free. Whatever your musical tastes, iTunes can accommodate you.’


Karl Dudek: ‘You’ve got to be kidding! All your music on an iPod that fits in your pocket? Do I put that in my left front pocket with the Chapstick and money clip; or the right front pocket with the keys to my office and the thing my eye doctor friend (I don’t know how to spell optomotrist) got me; or my back left pocket with my wallet that has too many credit cards or my right rear pocket with my handkerchief? Of course, In the fall winter and spring I suppose I could put it in my jacket pocket along with my car keys which at other times are in my right front pocket or my other jacket pocket that has my Met-RX bar to get me through the morning because after all, it’s only there for a while. Assuming I can find some room for the Blackberry in my shirt pocket, which will weigh me down a bit and look foolish – a where do I put the iPod? Maybe the answer is a backpack. I always used to carry one around in college. It acted as a man purse. I put books in it, letters from my old girlfriend, homework, letters from my current girlfriend, money from Mom and my gym shorts. I have a backpack now; just bought it a month or so ago. Has a pouch for stuff and a second pouch underneath for a camera. Maybe that’s the answer. Stuff everything in the backpack. Do I then need some special insurance rider? Camera: $1,200; iPod: $300; Blackberry: $300; downloaded music on the ipod at .99 per song: your best guess. Imagine what else I could put in the backpack. That book I’ve been reading for the past four years by Hawkings written for dummies but I still don’t get the math in chapter three (or is it chapter two?). I could dump all the spare keys I have in the coffee cup on the shelf into the backpack so when I get locked out of anything there is a better chance I’ll be able to get in. In any event, your comments on the iPod have stirred my imagination and I thank you for that.’

☞ I have just one word for you, Karl Dudek: cargo pants. (Well, and: optometrist.) As for losing all those 99-cent songs, I think they would remain on your computer at home, ready to synch with your replacement iPod if the original were lost.


Brad Hurley: ‘When you’re ready to upgrade your ThinkPad in a few years, you might even consider replacing it with an Apple PowerBook and buying Virtual PC (soon to be offered for just $130 from Microsoft) to run all your PC programs. Then your iPod will work even more seamlessly with iTunes, you’ll be able to make free telephone calls with iChat, organize your digital photo collection (if you have one) with iPhoto (which is just as great as iTunes), etc. etc., and you’ll be able to switch right back to the Windows environment with a click of your mouse, all on one computer. The new PowerBooks come with hard drives up to 80 gigabytes, big enough to store all your PC and Mac stuff on one computer with plenty of room to spare for your CD collection in iTunes. I have both a PowerBook and a ThinkPad, but once my Thinkpad starts showing its age I’ll just move everything over to the PowerBook. In effect, Virtual PC gives you a fully functioning PC for $130, which is quite a bargain.’


Mike Kozlowski: ‘Alternately, you can download Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 9, which does everything iTunes does and is less limiting. If you rip your music into iTunes’ AAC format, you can only play it back on the iPod. If you rip it into Microsoft’s WMA format, you can play it back on a whole bunch of players (including that Dell) and devices like Turtle Beach’s Audiotron (a music player that sits in your stereo system, and can pull your playlists off your computer over the network, so you can play your music on your REAL speakers).

‘Admittedly, if you use Windows Media, you can’t get to the iTunes store – but you can get to MusicMatch’s store, or the new Napster store, or Microsoft’s announced upcoming store. (And Microsoft is increasingly committed to its Media Center line of PCs, which are designed to sit on your A/V rack instead of that AudioTron, and handle all your photos, videos, TV [think TiVo], and music…) None of that is necessarily a reason to stop using iTunes if you like it — and since you already have an iPod, it’d be silly not to use it – but at the very least it should make you wary about the potential for Apple’s stock to skyrocket.

‘Consider this very likely scenario: Windows Media Player, by virtue of being installed by default on all new Windows machines (and heavily integrated into them), will do to iTunes what Internet Explorer did to Netscape; as portable music players become a commodity, Apple will find it nearly impossible to make money competing with the iPod against Sony, Samsung, and the whole array of consumer electronics companies; and its music downloading service isn’t a money-maker for Apple now, and will become even less of one as competition heats up.’


Jim Batterson: ‘In writing about the Apple 20 January 2005 LEAPs you ask, ‘But what if, a little more than two years from now …’ Well, but isn’t January 2005 a little more than ONE year from now?

☞ That depends on how you count. If you count very late at night on not enough sleep, then it’s two years. (Sorry ’bout that.)


Lynn Smith: ‘I’m surprised you didn’t mention the closer equivalent to bi-monthly payments: making your regular payment plus an additional one-twelfth of the payment towards principal each month. Who has $1000 or $2000 sitting around to throw towards the mortgage? And the discipline to remember to actually do it? Better to pay a little more each month.’

☞ That’s good, too, so long as your lender is good about crediting principal prepayments properly. (I’d still write a separate check each month, boldly marked ‘principal prepayment.’) Some people have a lump sum each year in their tax refund. That could be the habit o get into: deposit the refund, but then write a principal prepayment check to your lender in the same, or nearly the same, amount.

And just in case you want to come back Friday for a column, here it is:


David Bruce: ‘Have you seen this graphic about Republicans’ addiction to pork?’

☞ ‘The subject of the report,’ Kevin Drum explains, ‘is earmarks, which are specific pet projects inserted into bills by congress critters who are eager to funnel some federal dough directly to their own districts. Bottom line: everyone does it, but Republicans do it a lot more. In the Labor-HHS-Education bill, as the chart shows, the number of earmarks has gone up from zero in 1995, when the Republicans took over, to 1,857 this year. In the annual transportation bill, Democrats inserted 322 earmarks in their final bill in 1995. Republicans inserted 1,818 this year. In the defense appropriations bill the number has gone from about 300 to 1,800 and in VA-HUD from 265 to 921. Earmarks in the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill have skyrocketed from 45 to 966. Put it all together, and in just these five appropriations bills the number of earmarks has risen from about 900 in 1995 to 7,362 this year.’


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