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October 2008 Monthly Archive

You would think after over a decade on the Interweb, I would have a photographic memory of all the top entertainment websites from the world. But alas, till this day I still get astonished looks from people as they ask: “What? You’ve never heard of Google?”

Well I’m sorry that I’m not well-versed on the fast pace viral world of Web 2.0 — you freaking ass. (There was also this matter of living in a dungeon for most of the 21st century).

Here’s seven websites for some fast, free, and easy entertainment, presented to you via pictures and links — Web 1.0 style. Woot woot.

TV, Flicks, and Videos


With a recent sneak peek of 30 Rock’s Season 3 premiere, one has to wonder how much more joygasm Hulu can provide.  A joint venture from NBC Universal and News Corp, has been be on the web for just a little over a year. You’ll find the majority of NBC, FOX, and other cable network shows on Hulu, along with plenty of blockbuster movies from years past. Who needs basic cable when there’s

2. is a website that allows users to distribute videos and TV shows using peer-to-peer TV technology (whatever the hell that means) — like Hulu, you’ll find TV shows, music videos, films from national television networks and big time studios on Joost.  The interface feels a bit more clunky than Hulu’s, and you’ll also need to sign up to use the service (takes only a few seconds).  Video quality seems a bit worse than Hulu’s, especially since many of Hulu’s content are available in 480p.


For our anime, Japanese and Korean soap loving crowd, Crunchyroll is the source to go for semi-legitimate (heh) Asian media.  Although not as refined as Hulu, as a video portal site Crunchyroll is full of content and contains a robust, active community.  Crunchyroll has also been providing more studio supported content in recent months. With show titles such as “I Love My Younger Sister,” how can you go wrong?


Spiffy Music


Fresh off its recent royalties payment battles, is one of the most popular music recommendation and Internet radio service website on the web (now limited to US residents only). Simply type in an artist or genre of your liking, and Pandora will start playing select piece that you may be interested in.  Thumbs up to play more like it, or thumbs down to skip and avoid similar type of music. A recent application for the iPhone now allows you to stream music from Pandora straight to your iPhone from any location.  Pretty sweet except I’m an iPhone hater.


Just in case you feel jaded by the US-only Pandora, in comes, most likely the largest Internet radio and music community website on the Internet. The UK based service claims over 20 million active users from over 200 countries, and was recently acquired by CBS. Like Pandora, sports a recommendation engine that lets you choose and stream the type of music you may like. Fairly easy to use and no registeration is required (but a profile saving your musical preference can be quite helpful).

Quick and Easy Games

6. Yahoo Games

Ah, the classic Yahoo Games. Don’t even get me started on how many hours I wasted playing Yahoo Pool during freshmen year in college. Oh, if only that translate into real billiard skills at the tables, I wouldn’t have to sell off my puppy.  From Scrabble, Monopoly, Spade, Bejeweled, to Chess and Go, test your mettle against others across the world. Just remember that no matter how good you think you are, there will always be some bratty 12 year-old kid from South Korea that can pummel you without breaking a sweat.

7. PopCap Games

The ultimate casual gaming publisher, PopCap Games’s flagship title Bejeweled has wasted away thousands of productivity hours.  If you love casual puzzle games, PopCap is the place to go.  The site is fairly easy to use, choose the game you’re interested in, install the plugin, and game on.  As an extra bonus, Steve Notley, the creator of one of my favorite web comics Bob the Angry Flower, works at PopCap.  I believe Steve’s website is as popular as this very blog — haha, zing!

This obviously isn’t a definitive guide to all the free resources on the web for music, videos, and games.  If you have a favorite site or service that you frequent, do share.

It doesn’t take a brand new sports car, a tropical vacation, or a well furnished house to make you feel “rich.”  Here’s ten simple ways to feel rich without extravagant materialistic means:

1.  Cook dinner with friends, family and loved ones. Try something simple like lasagna.  Use the time it takes to prepare and cook to catch up or reminiscence.

Lasagna dinner
photo credit: flit

2.  Take the dog, little ones, nephew, niece, kids from the neighborhood to the park.
Fly a kite, play b-ball, soccer, football, or tell Chuck Norris jokes.

photo credit: Ingorrr

3.  Hug someone you truly care about. When they wither in disgust or surprise, hug tighter.

photo credit: Tom@HK

4.  Write a hand written letter to your parents or loved one of choice. List all of your accomplishments, goals, and dreams — and before they start thinking you’re too full of yourself, thank them and tell them it couldn’t have happened without their love and support.

Writing My Letters
photo credit: barnabywasson

5.  Bake cookies. Hand deliver them to people you care about.

Fresh-Baked Cookies
photo credit: druzziel

6.  Volunteer your time. Help an organization or someone in need.

Family Volunteer Day
photo credit: blossominc

7.  Get outdoors. If you’re near one of the 58 national parks, grab some friends & rock on.

Capitol Reef National Park
photo credit: Wolfgang Staudt

8.  Get some family time in. Picnics, broad games, or a good flick from the library.

Family Time
photo credit: John Thron

9.  Read a great book. Don’t do it alone, read it with your partner, friends, or family.

Early Morning Reading
photo credit: Luis Fabres

10.  Watch a beautiful sunset.

Utah Sunset - Zion
photo credit: Timothy Hamilton

You’ll notice that most of the list entails some form of interaction with friends, family, and loved ones.  The election, market turmoil and other headlines can sometimes make our head spin and grab our attention, but don’t forget what truly matters, what easily make us smile, feel loved, and feel “rich” — the people around us.

If you liked this post, please share it on, StumbleUpon, or other bookmarking sites below. I’d appreciate it, thanks!

Macy, Best Buy, Walmart, Ikea Branded Credit Cards

Here’s a blast from the past — a post written well over two years ago on five reasons to stay away from store branded credit cards. Reposted today for your amusement.

Every time I see a person sign up for a retail store credit card at the check-out line, a little part of me dies inside. I would scream “No! Don’t do it!” silently, hoping to convey my dismay telepathically — unfortunately, it never seem to work.

There are about sixty-seven different reasons why you shouldn’t apply for a retail store credit card, but for the sake of simplicity and my sanity, let’s just go with five:

  1. Shady credit lenders.
  2. Interest rates are ridiculously high.
  3. Tarnish your credit with unnecessary line of credit.
  4. Benefits are usually nil while penalty fees are usually in abundance.
  5. Some are store-only credit cards and can’t be used for purchase at other locations.

Reason #1: Shady Credit Lenders

When you apply for a store credit card, it is usually issued by a sub-prime lender in partnership with that particular store. You may enjoy shopping at that particular store, and the store may have great customer service, but be wary in associating the store’s credit card offering with the actual store.

Store cards like Gap Card, Banana Republic Card, etc. are issued by the infamous Monogram Credit Card Bank, an offspring of GE Money. They are notorious for their shady practices, such as magical late fees and magical finance charges even if you paid balance in full. If you don’t pay attention to the actual bank that issues the line of credit, you’ll be doing yourself a major disservice.

Reason #2: High Interest Rates

The interest rates are ridiculously high. Expect APR in the ranges of 20%-24%

“Sign-up for an IKEA card and get 15% off right now!”

Wow. 15% off the brand new dorm room set sounds like a smashin’ deal—but not if you carry a balance. Alright, no problem—all you have to do is pay in full and you’re set. Except when you deal with shady lenders like mentioned above.

“Woops, we accidentally charged you. We’ll fix that and credit your account right away.”

“Hmm? You still have those charges plus extra finance charges from the previous month? Well… okay, we can only remove one of them though.”

Reason #3: Potentially Hurt Your Credit

It’s one thing to build credit, it’s another thing to screw up your credit with a large amount of unnecessary accounts open. The entire ordeal can be made even more confusing by the fact that sometimes closing unused accounts may end up hurting your credit score, especially if you carry large balances.

It’s very simple. Don’t have more credit cards than you have fingers. A small discount at some retail store isn’t worth the amounts you’ll end up paying when you have trouble obtaining favorable mortgage rates in the future.

Reason #4: Low Benefits and High Fees

The benefits are usually stupid. Congratulations! You’ve spent $1,000 at Banana Republic. Here’s a $10 gift card! Oh, there’s a minimum purchase of $100.

But while the benefits are few and far in between, the penalty rates and fees are plenty.  These fees are usually higher than many regular bank issued credit card, even when compare to non-store branded sub-prime credit cards. If you stay vigilant, you may be able to avoid the fees, but using a credit card shouldn’t require mass paranoia — just a small dose of healthy suspicion.

Reason #5: Sparse Acceptance Locations

Some of these credit cards are store-only credit cards. If you don’t see a VISA, MasterCard, or a Discover logo like the Walmart card pictured above, you won’t be able to make purchases with the card at other locations. Not a big deal if you’re a frequent shopper at these specific stores, but when combined with all the other reasons above, this reduces the value and utility of the store credit card by quite a bit.  There’s little reason to make purchases with a credit card that can potentially give you so much trouble, especially when you have other options.

Alternatives to Store-Branded Cards

A lot of people seem to suggest store cards to build credit with, due to their general ‘no credit’ and ‘bad credit’ friendliness. In my opinion, they’re only to be used as a last resort in rebuilding credit.

If you have no credit because you’re a student, there are many student credit cards available from national institutions such as Citibank or Bank of America. The Citi mtvU Visa Card, despite being associated with the now-crappy music channel, is actually a pretty good pick for many college students.

If you have bad credit and want to shape up, try local credit unions or check out Patelco Credit Union’s Visa & MasterCard. It has been noted by others with bad credit that you should try applying by phone with Patelco to increase your chances of approval. You can also check with your local community bank or credit union to see if they offer secured credit cards.

If you’re simply looking for some rewards from your purchases — unless you’re a frequent shopper at the store — you’re better off with a regular cash-back card like the Discover More Cashback Card.  Cold hard cash means you’re not limited to spending your reward or cash back at one specific store.

Having said all that, the next time the cashier ask you if you would like to sign up for a store credit card, politely tell them “No thanks, I don’t think it’s a good idea to open a line of unnecessary credit without due research, especially since it may potentially jeopardize my credit.”

If you don’t, you may find yourself being stared at intently by a weirdo from the next check-out isle, with his lips slowly moving and seemingly whispering, “No… don’t do it.”

ING Direct Electric Orange $50 Sign Up Bonus

  • Sign up for an Orange Savings if you don’t have one to qualify for this bonus.
  • Apply for an Electric Orange high-yield checking account.
  • Use reference code: EM227 when prompted.
  • Activate your Electric Orange MasterCard Debit Card.
  • Use your Electric Orange Card to make at least 3 signature-based purchases in the first 45 days after your account has been opened.
  • Your $50 bonus will be automatically deposited into your Electric Orange 50 days after your account has been opened.
  • Note: May have hard credit inquiry when opening.

Electric Orange Features:

  • High interest: 1.50% balance under $50,000; $3.05% APY for balance between $50,000 and $100,00; 3.50% APY for balance is $1000,000 or more.
  • MasterCard Debit card for purchases. Free ATM access at over 35,000 ATMs nationwide. Free Bill Pay. Send money securely wih Electric Checks.

Bonus Update:

After confirming a few things, it looks like you need to open the account through a specific Electric Orange link (updated above), along with using the reference code when prompted. You’ll also need to be an existing Orange Savings customer — but there may or may not be a hard credit inquiry as you’re already an existing customer.

If you’re having trouble opening the account due to whatever error code it spits at you, just give ING a ring at 1-888-ING-0727 and they should be able to help you. Make sure you mention the reference code. Lastly, sorry for the unclear post on the sign up bonus!

From [FiveCentNickel] and [FatWallet]

Just saw this on CNN at four in the morning: a latest survey released by ComPsych Corporation shows that nine out of ten Americans are losing sleep over financial worries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m staying up to teach this 12-year-old kid in Australia who’s the real king in Call of Duty 4 — how dare he knifes me while I’m refilling my bowl of Cap’n Crunch!?

Here’s the survey break down:

  • 30% worry about cost of living
  • 29% worry about credit card debt
  • 14% worry about mortgage payment
  • 13% worry about retirement savings
  • 3% worry about childrens’ tuition
  • 3% worry about health care costs
  • and 8% aren’t losing any sleep

And here’s the amazing interactive poll:

[poll id=”5″]

Choosing a high-yield online savings account can be quite a headache, so hopefully this review will help you in your search for an online savings account.

As with all federal savings bank, E-Trade Bank is a member of the FDIC (certificate #30746), with all deposits in E-Trade banking accounts insured up to $250,000. E-Trade currently offers a few different options for their banking products, including high-yield savings & CDs, and high-yield checking.  For this review, we’ll be taking a look at the high-yield Complete Savings Account.

E-Trade Complete Savings Account Features:

  • No minimums or account fees. FDIC insured.
  • Yields more than 8x the national average.
  • Easy access to money with Quick Transfer.
  • Secure electronic statement.

Account Opening Process

After opening more than eight other high-yield online savings account, you’ll start to appreciate online accounts with simple opening processing. E-Trade made the account opening process fairly painless. You start with the usual personal information, follow by a quick identity verification (no hard credit inquiry, screenshot below).

E-Trade Identity Verification E-Trade Opening Process Complete

Once you verify your identity, your account will be opened and you’ll be presented with a screen providing you with your Complete Savings account number. It is recommended you print this page or write down the account number so you can immediately set up your online account functionality.

Within about a week or so, you’ll receive a mailer from E-Trade Bank. This was a pleasant surprise as most other online savings usually don’t bother to follow up with a banking and website usage guide.

E-Trade Banking Quick Start Guide E-Trade Banking Guide with Account Forms and Terms

The E-Trade’s Banking Quick Start Guide provides you with three quick step to get you started. 1) Log-on to account 2) make a deposit 3) maximize your money (by setting up automatic savings, online bill pay, etc.).  Included in this mailer is also a sheet of deposit slip for those that needs it, pre-addressed envelopes,  account agreement terms, privacy statement, and rate and fee schedule.

You’ll also find an “Account Holder Signature Card” in the mailing, which you’ll need to sign and mail back to E-Trade to complete your account opening. If you forget to send in your signature card, E-Trade will send you another mailing in about a few weeks to remind you.

Account Usage and Transfer Speed

Although E-Trade’s site has more navigation and menus that you’d clear to examine, once you’ve logged in, the account usage is pretty easy and straightforward. You’ll be presented with an overview page, listing the type of accounts you have (screenshot below), along with a Quick Transfer interface, giving you quick access to the ability to transfer your funds in and out of E-Trade.

E-Trade’s Quick Transfer setup is the same as any other Automated Clearing House transfer setup, put in the routing number and the checking account number for the banking account you want to link to your E-Trade account, and you’ll be presented with two methods to verify your external accounts (screenshot above).

You can choose the instant verification method which takes only a couple of minutes, and is available if your financial institution has an online website. You provide your website username and password and E-Trade will verify your account ownership.

If you’re not comfortable with the online instant verification method, you can use the good old deposit verification method, which entails E-Trade making two small random deposits into your external account, which you’ll have to verify. The deposits usually takes about 2-3 business day to show up.

Once you’ve finished setting up the Quick Transfer accounts, you’ll find that E-Trade fund transfer is one of the fastest in the industry. Tested fund transfers usually gets withdrawal from external account at the very next business day (if you initiate transfer before 4 P.M. EST), and is cleared for withdrawal from your E-Trade savings on the evening of the 3rd business day after the day of deposit.

Without a doubt, E-Trade’s fund transfer is as fast ING Direct’s transfer speed (if not faster), and E-Trade clearly beats out HSBC Direct or FNBO Direct in terms of fund transfer speed.

Customer Service and Overall Impression:

Contacting E-Trade is straightforward enough. If you click on the “Online Service Center” link on the upper right hand corner of your screen, you’ll be brought to the Service Center page, which includes a link for you to send a secure message to an E-Trade representative.  Some basic questions regarding withdrawals and transfers were sent to customer service for testing, and an E-Trade customer service representative was able to reply (correctly) to the question within about 48 hours.  Not too bad, but nothing stellar either.

Customer service is of course, a your-result-may-vary issue that deeply depends on the complexity of your question or problem.  If you need immediate customer service, you should consider calling E-Trade Bank at 1-800-387-2331, from 7 A.M. to midnight ET.  You can also fax E-Trade Bank at 1-800-664-4641.  Take note that these customer service numbers are different than those of E-Trade Securities.

Overall, E-Trade’s Complete Savings account is a no frills high-yield online savings account.  It’s account opening process was easy to navigate, and they provide you with useful literature and instructions by paper mail once you’ve signed up. The annual percentage yield rate has been competitive with other high-yield savings, thus making rate-chase a lesser issue.

If you’re already an E-Trade brokerage customer, you’ll have instant access to your cash to/from your savings to your brokerage account.  If you’re looking for a new savings account, you should have little issues with E-Trade’s offering — whether you’re a veteran online banking user or a newcomer.

E-Trade Bank Online Savings Review Rating:

Account Opening Process: 5 out of 5

Rate Competitiveness: 4 out of 5

Ease of Use: 4 out of 5

Customer Service: 3 out of 5


  • Account opening a breeze. Useful account usage literature provided after sign-up.
  • Rate has been consistent and remains competitive, if not the best at times.
  • Transfer speed is one of the fastest, compared to other high-yield online savings.
  • Perfect for those with an E-Trade Brokerage account for faster fund transfer between savings and investment accounts.


  • Customer service via phone is a bit lacking.
  • E-mail customer service is better but response time could be faster.

Related Links and Resources:

Quick Sunday night rant.

Ever have one of those moments in your life where you realize you’re the very definition of gluttony?

After waiting impatiently for over half an hour for the pizza to finish baking in the oven, I quickly took the finished good out of the oven and proceed to stuff a slice into my mouth — and quickly got my tongue burned for being a moron.

To add insult to the stupid injury, my friends decided to invite me out for a feast the very next day — but my burnt tongue still can’t taste jack doo doo.

Oh, the shame.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance just recently published their November rankings on the best online brokers, judging each brokers by their tools, commission cost (based on accounts with $50,000), investment choices, ease of use, and customer service.

Here’s the list of best online discount brokers, ranked by best to worst:

Online Broker Commission Cost Research and Tools Commission and Fees Investment Choices Ease of Use Customer Service
Fidelity $10.95 5 / 5 2 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5
Charles Schwab $12.95 5 / 5 1/ 5 5 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5
Muriel Siebert $14.95 3 / 5 3 / 5 4 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 5
TradeKing $4.95 3 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5 1 / 5 5 / 5
E*TRADE $9.99 4 / 5 2 / 5 4 / 5 4 / 5 1 / 5
Optionshouse $4.95 2 / 5 5 / 5 2 / 5 2 / 5 4 / 5
TD Ameritrade $9.88 3 / 5 1 / 5 1 / 5 3 / 5 5 / 5
WellsTrade 100 free per year 2 / 5 4 / 5 2 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5
Firstrade $6.95 1 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 2 / 5
OptionsXpress $14.95 2 / 5 2 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 1 / 5
Zecco 10 free per month 1 / 5 4 / 5 1 / 5 1 / 5 3 / 5
Scottrade $7 1 / 5 3 / 5 3 / 5 2 / 5 1 / 5

Your choice of brokers will really depend on how comfortable you are with certain aspect of investing.  For example, if you like to manually crunch your own numbers to spit out Schedule D, then you wouldn’t need any special tax tools from your discount broker. On the other hand, if calculating your cost basis gives you headache, then you may want brokers will more involved tools.

Kiplinger also judged each broker on ease of use, and I was actually surprised that Fidelity got 5 out of 5 stars, as I find the interface requiring a bit of digging, but maybe that’s just me. It was no surprise though for TradeKing to receive 5 out of 5 stars for customer service, as TradeKing always promptly respond to any of my questions regarding trades (even when I made the mistakes myself – hah).

As for the other discount broker on the list that I also use, Zecco’s rating was pretty spot on. However, depending on your investment requirements, Zecco’s low cost can be a good choice.

At the end though, I believe most people will have multiple accounts at various discount brokers. Usually a central location for their IRA, 401k, and other supplement accounts for making various type of individual stock trades and options speculations (hah).

Related Links:

  • TradeKing – SmartMoney #1 Discount Broker
  • E*Trade – 100 Commission Free Trade
  • Zecco – $4.50 per trade plus 10 free trade per month*

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