Coded green.

Tuesday 3 October 2000


Pic of the day: The best things in life are free - but you have to survive to enjoy them, and that costs money.

Need cash?

Got a letter from credit card company. "Fine!" I thought. "They're early so I can pay the bill on time." Two weeks before due date may be early for them, but so much the better. I opened the letter. There was no bill. One might say, quite the opposite. "NEED CASH?" asked the letter, only it was in Norwegian of course. They thoughtfully provided a form I could use to transfer (borrow, though they did not say that) money from my credit card account.

I see in the newspaper today that the increase in borrowing from July to August would amount to 15% on a year. Not sure why they tell us that now, since it's September that's just over. But it certainly seems to justify the central bank's recent increase in interest rates. The credit card company has already raised its interest rates too, of course. Perhaps they are worried that people may not continue to borrow more and more now, after that. Well, it seems to me that they're worrying too early. The party isn't over yet.

Need cash? Yes, sure. Need to pay back twice as much in a while? Uh, thanks but no thanks. Don't need it quite that much any more.


Some people like to pile up money. There may be some who want it in actual cash, who like to see the coins and bank notes. Others are more flexible, they can just see the figures grow in their bank statement. Those people must be the nightmare of the credit card companies. They'll avoid borrowing as much as they can, and if they borrow they will shop for the lowest interest rates and the best conditions. And they'll pay back as soon as they can.

The ideal customer is more like me. I don't take any special pleasure in having money. It's the spending that is fun! I don't really think we are less greedy than the ones who hoard their coins. It's just a more childish, primitive form of greed. We like the things that can be bought for money, and we want them all now! And since our desire is always larger than our wallet, borrowing is a constant temptation. "I don't have the money now, but next month ... or in four months ... sure, I'll have money then. I can just save up, since I know it." But of course, next month or in four months, my desires will still exceed my money supply.

The buddhists (and Smiths Friends, too) are right, you know. There is no lasting peace until the desire dies. The solution is not outside us, but inside.

But regardless of that, there is also the small detail that you start out with very little, and after a while you have a lot. So unless you continue to expand your needs, you may eventually be satisfied. Perhaps. But how are you going to keep your needs from growing? The advertisements will continue to hail down on you. The neighbors are going to have things you don't. New inventions will be made possible, and the fashions will change.


I've recounted in these pages how my economy seems to have improved over this couple years. I've been repaying small loans, and now I'm paying the bills before they are due instead of letting them slide (and paying extra for that, too). That's nice. But I don't really trust myself. A leopard does not change its spots. Oh, I did regret buying that stereo; but I have regretted a lot of things in my past. And then done them again, though sometimes in a slightly different form.

Do I eventually learn from experience? It is a funny thing: I was a genius when I was young. I took IQ tests and got consistently over 140 points, which is pretty good. And when I eventually stopped ignoring school altogether, I slid to the top of my class without even working hard. In programming, I would compete favorably with a large team of educated professionals. But I was still acting like a moron when it came to so many things ... and money among them.

OK, not quite a moron. I'll reserve that term (apart from its clinical use) for the target audience of the daily spam. The unsolicited and unwelcome e-mail that rushes into my mailbox. There is hardly a day that someone does not offer me some exciting possibility. After some weeks I stopped reading them. After some more weeks I started setting up automatic filters to keep them from my ordinary inbox. But still they keep coming. You'd think people would reason: "If people hate this mail, there is no way they will buy anything." But no, they have to use subject lines that makes it seem like it's a normal mail. What makes the mind boggle is the idea that someone can actually read (even if they have to move their lips) and still fall for that kind of stuff.

But then again, as I said, it is quite mind-boggling that a bright young man like me could handle money so poorly. (And don't get me started on the things that really count in life, such as sex, bodybuilding and magic. Uh, that should be love, health and religion, of course.)

Now you may say: "Don't put yourself down like that!" But who else would put me in my proper place? It's not like I'm married or something. (Of course, if I were, I'd really need cash. But that's another long chapter. Let's not go there today.)

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