A kilo – 2.2 lbs – of this tea will set you back $297 including tax. Not even organic, natural or anything worth attention, except for the GMO-free pouches.

At first I thought it was pretty funny (ha ha, who are the dummies buying this – I’m all for expensive tea, but when it’s good), but then realized – this is 3 times cheaper than buying a cup of tea at the Starbucks :-/

Starbucks: (SBUX: 55.09 +0.15%)

ridunculous

geckoThis will be old new for some…

I’m selling my unlocked cell phone on eBay where I came across this warning:

Due to a recent change in US law, eBay sellers can no longer sell unlocked cell phones unless they were unlocked by the manufacturer or unlocked prior to January 26, 2013. There are also restrictions on unlocked phones sold before the carrier contract expires.

Turns out, it is now illegal to unlock carrier phones in the US. A bunch of corporations lobbied their interests and made this into a LAW, can you believe it? Unlocking a phone will be considered a violation of copyright law – specifically, subsections concerning circumventing DRM (digital rights management).

I always felt that unlocking phones had a somewhat borderline criminal vibe about it, but then it was MY phone I was hacking, wasn’t it? When it comes down to it, when buying anything with software, we agree to the Terms and Conditions that are never read, and it may turn out that we don’t even own the phone.

Wonder if Canada will pass the same law. And will Craigslist follow Ebay’s example?

MasterCard_Logo.svg

A couple of years ago I upgraded my favorite credit card to an annual fee option ($190 a year, totally worth it, topic for another day). The moment I did it, I started having terrible luck with getting my card number stolen. In the summer of 2011 it happened twice! After the first incident I was issued a new card and within a month that one was misused again. Thankfully I wasn’t liable for any of the fraudulent charges, but having to update all preauthorized payments is a pain. Do it twice in 2 months, and you might think about canceling the card completely!

Fast forward to January 15th of this year. I called Mastercard requesting a new statement closing date – wanted to change it from the 9th of the month to the 1st of the month. (The dates are sort of important here, please bear with me for a couple more paragraphs.) Instead of doing a short month and then starting on February 1st, they let the billing cycle run for 7 weeks, and closed the statement on March 1st. That meant I hadn’t looked at the account closely for nearly 2 months.

If you were to look at my statement, you’d see 1) on average 150-200 charges every month 2) In December my statement was in the 5 figures because of the end-of-the-year business spending 3) AND, I pay off the balance in round numbers, like, $3,000 or $5,000 etc. You might easily conclude I’m a bimbo who doesn’t check the statement line by line.

This morning I discovered a fraudulent charge for $160 or so. The date of that charge is January 16th.

In 2011 they ran up thousands of dollars overnight and the card was blocked within hours. This time it’s a single charge.

Based on the fact that every freaking time I call the company to request a change to my account, I have problems with theft, I’m now firmly convinced that it’s someone, or rather, someones, within the company who are involved in this. Their modes vary, obviously. Some try to slip in a charge unnoticed, others go the whole hog and siphon as much as they can. It’s ridiculous, but I’m almost afraid to call the company out of fear of drawing attention.

As long as they continue protecting me from these fraudulent charges, I’ll continue dealing with it as needed. It’s a hassle, no doubt (arghhh), but I’m getting pretty good perks with it.

Mastercard latest stock quote:
(MA: 141.89 +0.12%)

Some practical tips on how to stick to your new year’s resolutions.

By Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang

DECLINING house prices, rising job layoffs, skyrocketing oil costs and a major credit crunch have brought consumer confidence to its lowest point in five years. With a relatively long recession looking increasingly likely, many American families may be planning to tighten their belts.

Interestingly, restraining our consumer spending, in the short term, may cause us to actually loosen the belts around our waists. What’s the connection? The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping.

The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.

In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes. Similarly, people who were asked to circle every “e” on a page of text then showed less persistence in watching a video of an unchanging table and wall.

Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink, suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses, taking exams and trying to impress someone. Task persistence is also reduced when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.

What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a few minutes. Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.

In the short term, you should spend your limited willpower budget wisely. For example, if you do not want to drink too much at a party, then on the way to the festivities, you should not deplete your willpower by window shopping for items you cannot afford. Taking an alternative route to avoid passing the store would be a better strategy.

On the other hand, if you need to study for a big exam, it might be smart to let the housecleaning slide to conserve your willpower for the more important job. Similarly, it can be counterproductive to work toward multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the efforts that are required. Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few goals at a time increases the odds of success.

Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s willpower capacity.

Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life.