Black Coffee: Speeding Tickets, Tongue Twisters, and Expensive Light Bulbs

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

Let’s get right to it today.

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

JoeTaxpayer26 Surprising Facts about Speeding Tickets. I see a Texas driver has the honor of being written up for the biggest speeding ticket ever; apparently he was clocked doing 242 miles per hour in a 75 mph zone. Meh. The Honeybee does this all the time in her minivan — she’s just never been caught. Hey; do you think the cop showed a little compassion and wrote the scofflaw up for only doing 235 mph?

Steadfast FinancesWhy Gas Prices Rise. Shaun nicely summarizes the main reasons gas prices rise. I think the only one he missed was lack of supply. Well, that and too many people these days driving over 200 miles per hour. Ahem, Honeybee.

Oblivious InvestorHow Much Safe Retirement Income Do You Need? I think common sense would suggest it’s at least enough to cover the cost of gas — and pay off your annual collection of speeding tickets. Don’t worry though; Mike has a slightly more refined answer for your consideration.

Control Your CashSeychelles by the Seashore. Says Greg: “Seychelles. The word even sounds paradisiacal.” Really? I sprained my tongue trying to say “Seychelles.” Then I broke it on “paradisiacal.” Thanks, Greg. It makes me wonder why the inhabitants of that Indian ocean playground didn’t give their island a name that’s much easier to pronounce. You know; something like   … Mister Mxyzptlk.   Or onomatopoeia.

Afford Anything – We Bought a Second Rental House! Find out why Paula is quickly becoming the Donald Ivanka Trump of Georgia. Needless to say, if she keeps this up she won’t be worrying about limiting her vacations to island paradises I can’t pronounce, the price of gasoline — or keeping her speed on I-285 south of 200 miles per hour. (Yes, I realize I’ve gone to the speeding-joke well about three times too many today.)

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From March 2010:

It’s True: Premium Gasoline Is a Lot Like Male Enhancement Drugs – The truth is, if they only took the time to check for themselves, most people who use premium gasoline would discover that the promised results don’t really, um, measure up.

Credits and Debits

Debit: If you don’t live in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois or New York, consider yourself lucky. The average price of gasoline is now over $4 in each of those states.

Debit: In California, the statewide average has jumped 51 cents in the last month alone; it’s now $4.36 per gallon. My station’s pump price climbed to $4.39 on Monday before falling back a nickel on Friday.

Debit: Uh oh. The CBO evaluated the president’s 2013 budget and has concluded it will add $3.5 trillion more debt through 2022. That’s bad.

Credit: However, the CBO also shows that, under certain scenarios, the president’s 2013 budget could actually reduce the deficit by as much as $4.3 trillion over ten years. To the average person, that probably sounds good.

Debit: White House budget director Jeff Zients proclaims that the CBO report, “confirms that the president has a balanced plan to reduce our budget deficits and put the country on a fiscally sustainable path.” No, it doesn’t. Not even under the most optimistic scenario. Just sayin’.

Debit: Mr. Zients is either being deliberately misleading, or he’s confusing “deficit reductions” with “deficit elimination.” Consider a household CEO earning $50,000 annually — but who spends $60,000 each year — proudly announcing he’ll reduce next year’s deficit by $1000. Big deal. In essence, he’s still charging $9000 that he doesn’t have to the credit card.

Credit: The only way to put this nation back on a “fiscally sustainable path” is to run balanced budgets every year. The only way to do that is to greatly reduce spending — and the only way to do that is via smaller government.

Debit: One place to start would be the elimination of bogus government programs like the $11 million grant designed to provide 400 low-income job seekers in Detroit with business attire. That’s $27,500 per business suit. Whaaa?

Debit: And I thought Armani made expensive suits. Of course, that $27,500 price tag assumed all 400 people got an outfit; unfortunately, only two people were actually helped.

Debit: I’d like to say the idea looked good on paper — but that’s not even true. That is, unless you were one of the program’s scam artists who ultimately ended up pocketing all that money.

Debit: Meanwhile, I’m more worried than ever about the cost of Obamacare. Even though it was painfully obvious at the time, the CBO has now doubled its original cost estimate of the unpopular program to $1.76 trillion — and that number is expected to increase again next year when more actual data becomes available.

Debit: Keep in mind those costs are based upon only six years of spending versus 10 years of revenue. I can only imagine what the actual cost will be over the following ten year period.

Credit: The smart alternative for improving healthcare is reduced government regulation and interference — not more. For starters that means increasing competition by allowing health insurance companies to compete across state lines, and instituting tort reform. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

Debit: Speaking of free market interference, last year’s government-sponsored $10-million “L-Prize Challenge” victor, Phillips, put their winning energy-efficient light bulb entry on the market this week. Their “affordable” LED bulb — which is intended to replace traditional 60-watt incandescents — costs $50. I know.

Debit: Don’t laugh. Although they only cost about 50-cents each, federal law mandates that those perfectly-good 60-watt incandescent bulbs will be effectively banned in 2014.

By the Numbers

The top 10 grossing movies of 1999 (worldwide):

1. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace

2. The Sixth Sense

3. Toy Story 2

4. The Matrix

5. Tarzan

6. The Mummy

7. Notting Hill

8. The World is Not Enough

9. American Beauty

10. The Spy Who Shagged Me

Source: Box Office Mojo

The Question of the Week

How much credit card debt are you currently paying interest on?

View Results

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Podcast News

Yes, I am now part of a weekly roundtable segment on a new personal finance podcast hosted by Average Joe from the Free Financial Advisor. I know. Joe has made a very big mistake. If you don’t believe me, here is Episode 1.

Thankfully, the roundtable panel does have some semblance of credibility; besides Average Joe, it also includes Dr. Dean (the Millionaire Nurse Blog), Carrie (Careful Cents) and the up-to-now “mystery blogger” from Your Finances Simplified.

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — 5 Canadian provinces and territories in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Alberta (2.42 pages/visit)
2. Prince Edward Island (2.41)
3. Nova Scotia (2.40)
4. Ontario (2.05)
5. British Columbia (1.83)

8. Newfoundland (1.58)
9. Manitoba (1.53)
10. Yukon (1.50)
11. Saskatchewan (1.22)
12. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1.00)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Alberta, eh) — or not (the Northwest Territories, you hosers) — please don’t forget to:

1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!

2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter!

And last, but not least…

3. Don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! Thank you. :-)

Letters, I Get Letters

Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not!

Earlier this week, Melinda sent on these words of encouragement:

I’m glad I finally found somebody who knows what they’re talking about.

Thank you, Melinda, but I think you have me confused with somebody else.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 1


    you know, I’d like to see the term “smaller government” go out of use. it has no meaning. ask ten people what they mean by the term and you’ll get ten different answers.

    the federal government should be limited to dealing with foreign affairs with the advice and consent of the Senate. allow the States to deal with domestic affairs as needed for their particular populations.

    think of how that would effect government policies and taxes

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Well, Griper. I’m pretty much with you. When it comes to “small government” that can be construed as: If it isn’t specified in the Constitution, then the federal government shouldn’t be doing it — those tasks are the states’ responsibility.

      So stuff like national defense and the establishment of post offices and “post roads” should be paid for by Uncle Sam.

      Social security, medicare/medicaid, subsidizing green power and auto manufacturers, and paying for business attire for low-income job applicants shouldn’t. (But if the states want to pay for that stuff, they are free to do so.)

  2. 3


    One can pick up LEDs for far less than $50 a pop. They’re still not cheap by comparison to incandescents, but they’re not nearly as expensive as the one you mentioned above. And, the price continues to drop.

  3. 4


    Dude, you ARE the show! Plus, this gives your fans in Saskatchewan a reason to visit 1.4 pages per visit.

    On another note, $4.31 for gas! That’s steep…..

  4. 5


    “… but I think you have me confused with somebody else” — what a perfect answer.

    Do you think I can wear my $27,500 suit for a job interview at the Cincinnati school that pays each kid $40 for attendance?

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