AVOIDING THE DOLLAR

Peter Kaczowka: ‘I’d like to know how (and whether) to invest in fixed Euro-based funds, e.g. CDs or relatively safe (government?) bonds. My broker (Fidelity) does not provide this service. I realize the fees might be high and obviously the interest rates will be low but I may still be interested. I believe the dollar will continue downward significantly over at least the next decade. I recently bought a fair amount of international mutual funds to guard against dollar devaluation but I’m retired (albeit at 54) and want most of my money in fixed assets. Most of my money will still be in dollars but I want to diversify. Any ideas, from you or your readers?’

☞ One idea: see everbank.com and, in particular, this page.

Perhaps the strongest thing the dollar has going for it these days is the near unanimity of informed opinion that it has further to fall. But whatever short-term rallies that may presage, it may not be enough to reverse the long-term trend.

MY STICKY KEYBOARD

Tim Bonham: ‘Steps to fixing a keyboard (in order of increasing seriousness):

  1. Turn it upside down and bang on the bottom of it to knock out a few months’ worth of dust, dirt, donut crumbs, etc.
  1. Take a business card from somebody you don’t like and won’t need anymore, and run it up and down between the rows of keys, to clean out the gunk stuck in there.
  1. Buy (!) one of those outrageously overpriced cans of compressed air, and use that to blow out the dust and dirt in the keyboard. (If you’re real cheap, you can use an empty spray can – one that has only the aerosol propellant left in it. But make sure it really is empty. And it’s probably safest to avoid cans that contained non-keyboard-healthy stuff, like oven cleaner, bug killer, spray starch, etc.)
  1. Unplug the keyboard, and take it into the shower with you. Really. Wash it with a gentle, mild soap, like Ivory (slivers work fine!). Then let it dry completely (a couple of days) upside-down over a towel. A blow dryer (air-temp, not hot!) can speed this up.
  1. If none of these fix it, break down and buy a new keyboard. Should only cost $10-$20.’

☞ Did I mention it’s a laptop? I don’t think I’m taking it onto the shower.

SKYPE

When I was a kid, we had this barn. Not that I am even remotely a farm boy, but we did have this barn. And upstairs in the barn there were rafters we could climb that led up to perches that were maybe 20 feet apart. So we did that deal where we connected two empty cans with a taut string and could talk from one perch to the other through this device. It’s a long time ago, so I may have this wrong, but I think you could whisper into one can and, if your brother’s ear was in the other, he could hear you. Failing that, you could just talk – you were only about 20 feet apart, after all.

Cut to 2005 and me at my computer, having taken all of a couple of minutes to download Skype, free – you don’t even need to buy string – and my friend Joey is across the way at his computer – in France – and he clicks my Skype screen name and my computer rings.

(My computer rings!)

I click the little green phone icon that appears and he says (from France), ‘See how easy this is?’

It is completely free, and it is as if he is in the next room.

‘Ahhhhhhh-LO?’ I say. ‘Who EEEEEEEEEEZ zeees?’

I speak virtually no French, but can chatter happily with a bad French accent all day long.

  • Yes, you need a microphone and speakers, but many computers have both already built in.  I had never talked to my computer before, but apparently it was just waiting me to want to.  Someplace (stuck to the keyboard perhaps?) it has a microphone I had not even realized was there.
  • Yes, once in a while the connection may get dropped.  But it’s free!  And it has all sorts of bells and whistles, including conference-call capability.
  • To call someone who has not also taken a couple of minutes to download Skype – calling them on their regular phone, that is – you can still use Skype, paying by the minute at a ridiculously low rate.
  • If you don’t want coworkers to hear your conversation, you can get a handset that plugs into the USB port of your computer.  Or if you really want to splurge (even if this is not exactly consonant with the whole money-saving point of Skype), you could get this neat “dual phone.”

So here we are . . . able to talk to virtually anyone in the world who belongs to the privileged-but-rapidly-expanding Internet class with a couple of clicks . . . and absolutely free.

Ah, brave new world that hath such beauteous features in’t!

 

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