I sort of got overly involved in buying precious metals this year (gold, silver parts 1, 2, and 3). I don’t think there is anything wrong with having some precious metals in a portfolio, up to a few percent of total investments, but I probably haven’t been doing it that well. It’s hard to know whether prices will go up or down, but realistically prices would have to go up quite a bit before I could realize any gains by selling physical silver and gold somewhere. Maybe a 40% increase in price to realize a 20% gain. I also put some money in exchange traded funds that you buy like stocks that are much more efficient, allowing a 20% gain with maybe a 24% increase in price. But the price has continued to slide and is down to around $16 per ounce whereas it was $19 when I first started buying and as high as $21 at one point.
I’ve been wanting to upgrade my 6 year old Dell Vostro 1400 for a little while now, though it wasn’t urgent since the Vostro works pretty well, especially after reinstalling everything back in February. I bought a ultra portable Transformer T100 which can also be used as a tablet if you remove the keyboard, but it was too small for me. I thought maybe I could get a powerful laptop that I could use to replace my ancient desktop computer and also take it with me when I needed to, but I find myself using the laptop a lot while watching TV, so I’m not sure I would use the laptop as a desktop very often. Plus I wanted to support two monitors, but I’m not sure how that would work. Maybe I could just get one very large monitor to take the place of two separate monitors.
Earlier this year I wrote about considering upgrading my internet and cable to AT&T Uverse from my currently separate packages consisting of AT&T DSL and Dish Network TV. Ultimately, even though I wanted to upgrade my internet speed, I decided that once I included all of AT&T’s add-on fees, the package was just too expensive to justify.
So the other day two salesmen came by the house pushing me to sign up for Uverse. They were able to put together a package that was going to cost about $105 per month, but right now I am paying about $80 a month, and the $105 was just the introductory rate: after 12 month it would go up substantially. The salesmen said the answer to that was to call AT&T and tell them you wanted to keep the old rate and they would leave it alone. I wonder about that. I ended up sending them on their way without agreeing to anything.
When I wrote about my ancestors, the McCords, last year, I mentioned a great website where a guy had assembled information from pretty much any family bible that had information about births, deaths, and marriages of people named McCord. One of the bibles quoted there originally belonged to my great, great, great-grandfather, William J. McCord. William McCord had done a great job of recording everyone in his family before him, going all the way back to Scotland, and then everyone that came after him, which his descendants kept adding to until the 1930’s, including the marriage of Mom’s parents and the birth of her two older brothers. Part of the bible information included the indians killing William’s own great-grandfather in Pennsylvania in 1756.
Anyway, that page was a great resource and there were a couple of other bibles there from other family members as well. When I went back to visit the site recently, it was gone. I found the email address of the site owner and he said that he hadn’t had much interest from people in the site and the web provider had gone up on prices recently, so he just let it expire. I asked him if I could host the site on my own server, which I’m already paying for, so it would cost me nothing. He wasn’t sure he had all of the original files, but he started working it. He is a retired doctor and had kept a lot of records. At one point he thought I could scan all of the printouts of the old web pages and post those to my website, so he wanted me to have hard copies of everything. Luckily for me, he wound up finding the electronic files along with all the physical file folders for the 31 different family bibles he documented and mailed me a box of all of this stuff, which I got this week. There is a lot of neat stuff in there, including transcriptions of letters from one of Mom’s aunts or cousins in Birmingham about the McCord family.
I was doing some genealogy research on some of Dad’s family, going back to his great grandparents and working my way down those families, finding some of his second cousins. His great grandfather, John Cashin, who emigrated from Ireland to Augusta, had a lot of children (at least 9), one of whom was Agnes Cashin. Agnes married a jeweler whose parents had emigrated from Germany, named Antone Renkl. They had five children. Their middle daughter was named Fidelis, born in 1890 and a first cousin of Papa’s.
I was working on familysearch.org and trying to find out if Fidelis was ever married. I had found spouses and children of her brothers and sisters already, but if you don’t find a marriage record, it is hard to find records of women once they adopt their married name. I did a Google search on her (how many people could be named Fidelis Renkl?) and found a mention of her in a Charlotte newspaper where she was a maid of honor. Wedding announcements are usually pretty good sources because they mention not only the spouse, but parents and brothers and sisters and sometimes where they live, etc. But the scanned text of the article seemed to be mixed up with something about Ty Cobb, the legendary baseball player. Reading closer, it was clear that Fidelis Renkl was in the article because she was the maid of honor at Ty Cobb’s wedding in Augusta in August 1908. She must have been very good friends with Charlotte “Charlie” Marion Lombard, Cobb’s 17 year old bride. Because he had taken off from the team without permission and was missing games, the wedding was rushed and he took his new wife back to Detroit as quickly as possible. The Tigers were trying to get to the World Series and he wound up missing 4 home games (the Cobbless Tigers still won 3 of them). How long ago was this? It was the fifth world series ever. Detroit wound up with the best record in the American League (no playoffs then), but lost the World Series to the Chicago Cubs. The story of his wedding appears in a book about Ty Cobb here and the newspaper article that mentions Fidelis is here, also quoted below.
I never did find a spouse for her because apparently she never got married. She lived in Alabama most of her life, in Birmingham for a while, where her brother, Antone, and his family lived before he died in a car accident in 1934. She died at age 77 in 1967 in Andalusia, Alabama, where her brother’s widow died and was buried in 1954. So maybe she helped raise her brother’s kids. She was buried in Augusta’s Magnolia Cemetery with a lot of other Renkls and Cashins, even though Papa and Barbadee and a bunch of the more recent Cashins are buried in Westover.
Here’s the text from the Charlotte article:
Augusta, Ga., August 6 Today at high noon, Tyrus Raymond Cobb and Miss Charlie Marion Lombard were quietly married at “The Oaks,” the country home of the bride’s parents, nine miles from Augusta. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Thomas Walker, pastor of the Woodlawn Baptist church, of this city. Mr. William Sheron was best man and Fidelis Renkl was maid-of-honor. Only the most intimate friends and immediate members of the family were present. Cobb arrived this morning from Atlanta and proceeded to the home of his bride-to-be without delay, not even tarrying in town to see the many friends who were anxious to greet him.
In March, I wrote about gold and wound up buying a couple of gold bullion coins and some shares in a silver exchange traded fund. Then in April I wrote about silver and bought a few silver bullion coins. In May I wrote about buying some more and maybe buying more than I should including on auctions on eBay, to the point that it was kind of hard to justify. After that I continued to buy substantially more, though just 2-5 ounces at a time when I would win an eBay auction at a reasonably favorable price. The way I see it, if the spot price of silver is $20 an ounce, then any silver I buy is worth at least the spot price, and the amount over that is the true price I am paying. So at a spot price of $20, 5 one-ounce coins would be worth $100, and if I paid $120, then I am really only paying $20 and the rest is safely invested in the value of the silver. So while the difference between paying $120 and $125 may not seem like much, it is sort of like paying 25% more ($25 is 25% more than $20). My point is that small differences in price can be pretty significant when buying silver.
I’ve written about a few of Mom’s ancestors. Her great grandfather, Alexander Grant, was pretty colorful, living during a time of tremendous change in the United States. He was the son of Alexander Grant from Scotland, who moved to New Orleans and owned a store in the city as well as a couple of sugar plantations. So this Alexander Grant, sometimes called Alexander Grant, Jr., grew up the son of a pretty wealthy store owner in New Orleans. He also seems to have gained some skill running river boats up and down the Mississippi River, probably in part making runs between New Orleans and his father’s plantations (and maybe plantations of store customers) further down the river in Plaquemines Parish.
When the Civil War broke out, Alexander Grant was made a Lieutenant in the Louisiana navy and given command of a river boat renamed the General Quitman that had been converted to a gun boat by adding a couple of cannons. It was called a “cotton clad” in contrast to the “iron clad” warships. While cotton was probably easier to get than iron in the South, it couldn’t have been that much protection against cannons. Alexander Grant’s superior officer in the defense of New Orleans was Captain Francis B. Renshaw, formerly of the US Navy, who was born in Philadelphia and had been stationed in Pensacola before the war. Eventually Grant’s son Joseph would marry Renshaw’s daughter Isabella, both just kids at the time of the war. These are Mom’s grandparents. Grant commanded the Quitman in some reconnaissance missions and was probably involved in some skirmishes with the Union navy, but when New Orleans ultimately fell to the Union, Grant had the General Quitman burned rather than allow it to be handed over to the Union. There is a 1904 public domain book of navy records that mentions Grant and Renshaw a few times (use the search feature or index since it is a pretty long book). There is also a neat picture of an envelope addressed to Captain A. Grant of the Louisiana Navy here with some explanation.
When I got Rosa from the shelter they warned that she was very scared of thunder and had actually climbed out of her chain link kennel once during a storm, even though she had never climbed fences before. It didn’t take too long before I found out that she does like to climb up on things during storms (not just with thunder, but rain). Or she will try to get into narrow spaces behind the sofa or under a desk or table. Eric closed himself in his room during a storm so she couldn’t mess up any of his computer stuff and when he came out she was standing on the rolltop desk.
I knew about Thundershirts from Aunt Jane who said that Chris was somehow involved with the company that produces them. It is a tight fitting shirt that goes around their body and chest and seems to help anxiety in some dogs. Austin is scared of thunder, but nothing like Rosa, so I thought maybe I could get Rosa a Thundershirt and see if it would do any good, knowing that they don’t always work. Some reviews at Amazon say they work, some say they don’t work, and some say they seem to help reduce anxiety, but don’t make it go away. They can be used for any kind of anxiety, not just thunder, so some people use them for dogs that don’t like to go in cars or have separation anxiety. Rosa’s weight puts her right in the middle of the large size. I was able to get one from Amazon for about $35.
The Thundershirt arrived Wednesday and I spent a while figuring out how to put it on her. There is an extra flap that didn’t seem to make sense, but looking at the instructions and watching a YouTube video, I figured it out and now can put it on her pretty easily. She doesn’t seem to mind too much when I put it on her, though she doesn’t exactly move a lot either. I left it on her and pet on her and gave her treats so she would like the shirt. They said you need to get them used to it before thunder ever shows up and you want to put it on them before any thunder starts so they don’t associate the shirt with storms. I just left it on her for a little while and then again about an hour or two later.
Then on Thursday, there was a big storm coming through. I put the shirt on her once I heard the littlest bit of thunder, before she got too anxious, but eventually there got to be a lot of thunder and lightning (not much rain). She was still very nervous and still shaking sometimes, but she at least stayed next to me most of the time instead of wandering around and getting onto and under things constantly. So maybe it helped a little. It may also have helped that she was still groggy from going to the vet for a dental exam where they pulled six small teeth and one broken canine tooth, and cleaned all the rest. The next day it looked like there would be another storm, so I put the shirt on her and we even went for a short walk. She did fine and didn’t seem to mind the shirt as much this time, but the storms never really materialized. I think it could help and that even though it didn’t do the trick the first time, maybe she will realize she doesn’t need to be as anxious and will get better over time. The shirt has a 45-day satisfaction guarantee if it doesn’t work, so I could return it.
Rosa has been doing pretty well since she moved in. She likes the backyard, made friends with the dog next door, loves going for walks, and had her first vet appointment last week. She even got to meet Jeb and Kathy yesterday. One thing about her is that she will take food wherever she can get it, so you can’t take your eye off your own food and I have had to move the garbage can to the utility room so she can’t get to it.
Today I got home from work at the usual time and Austin was glad to see me. But no Eric, and no Rosa. I figured they might be on the back patio, so I let Austin out and we went over to see Eric. No Rosa. I said “Where’s Rosa?” and Eric said he had texted me as soon as he got home at 1:00 asking if she was at the vet or something (I never got the text). So he had been home for 5 hours and hadn’t seen her. I don’t see how she could have gotten out of the house, but she is microchipped and I just got her a new collar with a collar tag with my name and phone number on it which she has been wearing for a couple of days. I looked in my room, the living room, the kitchen, and then I remembered I had some fried chicken yesterday and threw the bones in the garbage. I bet she was in the utility room somehow. I opened the door of the utility room and there she was. The utility room is pretty small, so she had pushed her way in (door may not have latched or I just forgot to close it), but when she knocked the garbage can over, it shut the door on her. I’m sure she enjoyed the chicken bones and whatever else was in that garbage can. I guess Austin had the house to himself today.
I wrote about investing in silver a few weeks ago. At the time I purchased a few silver coins, not much, but a good sampling of US, Canadian, and Austrian coins. A total of ten coins for a little over $20 each, with the hope that if silver goes up in value I could get all of my money back and then some by selling them. I took pictures of them for the blog, and took measures to keep them from tarnishing that I hope work.
There are other coins as well though. JM Bullion, where I bought my coins, doesn’t have a huge selection, sticking mostly to true bullion coins as well as “rounds” which are made by private mints and generally cost less for the same amount of metal. Another company, APMEX, has a lot more selection, but they are typically a little higher than JMB, plus APMEX charges for shipping on orders less than $5000 . . . Until this week, when they decided to give away free shipping. This seemed like a pretty good opportunity, but a lot of the fancier coins that APMEX sells are priced too far over the market price of silver to make me think they are a decent investment. For instance, Australia makes a silver coin with a kookaburra on one side (Queen of England on the other) and every year since they first started making them, they use a different design for the kookaburra (the queen gets revised every now and then as she ages). They also limit production. The result is you pay more for a kookaburra, but it also goes up in value over time even if silver stays the same price. A lot of silver collectors really like the Kookaburra, nicknaming them “Kooks,” which is probably appropriate for people who horde silver. The Kookaburra coin was so successful that Australia made a Koala coin (kangaroos are on their gold coin while their platinum coin features a platypus). Well, koalas are pretty cute. The United Kingdom mints a coin that features Britannia, a deity that represents Britain, sort of equivalent to lady Liberty appearing on US coins. The Britannia design changes every year as well (sort of, they are saying now that the bullion coin won’t change, but the proof coin will), and the coins tend to be pricey (Chinese coins are the most expensive, featuring panda bears).