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January 27th, 2008 at 06:05 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $3.36 coffee & bagel, $60 clothes

Didn't feel like working out at the gym. It was a nice day so instead I did a little shopping - bought several more long sleeved solid colored tops that I use year round - and did the mega 50 block walk.

I did a little detour. DH sometimes cuts down streets I never travel along, let alone walk down. On the corner of one street he drove, we saw an asian temple, so during my walk I walked past it.

I've lived in Greenwood for 8 years. Darned if the neighborhood still surprises me. This is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery founded in 1973. Its stupa (the white shape) is on the right, with prayer wheels circling it.

The red sign in the left corner invited you to walk around the stupa clockwise, turning each prayer wheel clockwise as you do so. Didn't have to ask me twice. It was very relaxing to hear the wheels turning as I walked. And I forgot to get ATM money afterward.

N.B.:According to Images of America: Seattle's Greenwood-Phinney Neighborhood, this is Sakya Monastery, the only Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of Tibet. The head lama is 3rd in rank below the Dali Lama.

fake pledging

November 30th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Saving log - $1 tip box
Spending log - $1.19 coffee + $8 lunch + $25 poker game

Crazy, crazy day today. I work for a large non-profit in Seattle, who shall remain nameless (initials are UW). Today we organized and readied pledges for processing from a large company. From my perspective it was fun, putting pledges in piles, adding things together, taking a box of unruly and making it "ruly". Just a few observations on the process.

1. Fascinating looking at personalized/ artistic checks. It makes you wonder what kind of adult writes a Kenny Chesney or a Scooby Doo check. Since artistic checks come in a series you have to wonder ... for every Kenny Chesney-guitar pose check, do you get the Rene Zellweger handing-you-divorce-papers check? Big Grin

2. Checks are a magnet for another kind of transaction - badly filled out checks. A fundraising staffer showed one check which had the money amount written on the to:line, where our name of our non-profit is supposed to go. Nothing else. We can't cash it. I was pretty sanguine about it. "Fake pledging at its finest," I said.

Fake pledging happens every so often. Its a badly filled out check or a pledge form. Sometimes the check bounces, sometimes the "donor" wants his gift to go to a place that we can't send it (a place that's not a non-profit). If you are new to the non-profit biz, you think, "how can the person be so careless?" The old hands to this biz just smile. Fake pledging. After all, if the person is paying a mortgage or rent ... they know damn well how to write a check.

Fake pledging is perfect to the passive aggressive employee. They appear to follow the herd and pledge, and if they do it in the sight of others they aren't bothered for the rest of the fundraiser. They don't have to go through the discomfort of saying no. Best of all, they spend no money - when the fake pledge gets to us, we can't cash the check so we don't book it.

Too bad the employee who didn't want to participate couldn't say no... they could save themselves a check, we could save some time, and we would have no one to laugh at.

Farmette tour pt 1 (very long)

October 4th, 2007 at 08:04 pm

I know you are curious, so as threatened, pictures of the farmette. These are shots of the house and barn. Warning - long, long, long, with lots o' pictures.

House - facing west. This is the side facing the barn, which we will see later. The foundation got recently fixed.

House - facing east. This is the side facing the garden and the property now owned by the Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources. We'll see that later, too. We never ever used that porch.

This is the north side of the barn and the now fixed up milkhouse. The red barn door is now new, and there aren't many diamond windows around on barns these days. The house would be behind you and to your left.

Inside of the old shed on the east side of the barn - all you would do is take a few steps to the left of the previous picture. This old, 20 ft shed contained the old, copper-bottomed still my grandfather (father's side) used to make whiskey during Prohibition.

This is the south side of the barn. The barn is actually in the shape of an upside down U - The milk cows were generally led in the central courtyard before milking and went there during rainstorms. Nowadays, the solar panel stands proud on the left. Its generating power - kind of fun watching the inverter go in reverse, sending power back to the utility.

Close up of the three poles. We installed three poles in case sister and I wanted to install two more solar panels. Under the three poles lay a trenched copper cable which delivers the power to the farmette. In the background, the southwest corner of the house is peaking through the trees.

Close up shot of the back end of the solar panel.

Close up of the courtyard where the cows lay. The flooring - ahem, compost - is like scotch: very well aged.

This is the south west corner of the barn. That little blue-green thingee sticking out is the automatic manure spreader - how cow manure got out of the barn.

Grounds and fields next.

the fugitive (long and funny)

September 15th, 2007 at 03:44 pm

It was a bizarre day at work yesterday. We interviewed for my temporary helper. The first interview went with only a minor, non-bizarre hitch, but the second one... well, you hear about it maybe as a joke or urban legend. What happened was this:

The HR person on our panel confided in us that she wondered if she would make it - interviewee wanted to come in at 11 am, rather than 10:45. One of our panel had to leave at 11:30, so to get at least the 45 minutes, HR was insistent - 10:45.

At 10:45, the person was waiting for us. We ushered her into the room, and while we were all standing, introduced ourselves. Interviewee, a woman, introduced herself - and solved the mystery about how we were to pronounce her first name - then said that she had to use the restroom. Fine, the HR person (a woman) escorted her to the restroom, maybe 30 ft from the interview room.

Back in the interview, while we were waiting for the interviewee, we chatted a bit about this and that, listening. DJ friend, who was on the panel, told us about the little whooshing sound people make as they walk on the carpet between the cubicles.

Minutes pass. I make a joke that the interviewee will be interviewing at 11:00 am. But we thought - well, zippers, snaps, putting yourself together, the fact that women have number 3 to deal with, etc. A few minutes after that, the other woman on the panel and I went to the bathroom to check.

Bathroom empty; interviewee gone.

Other woman and I make a cursory pass along the cubicles in case she got lost. I went and chatted with the front door receptionist. She described the interviewee, saw her go in, didn't see her go out.

Oh boy. The four of us on the panel each took a floor to make sure she wasn't hurt, hiding, lost, committing a crime, etc. I took the second floor and chatted with a coworker little about our "runner". Other than the fun fact learning that visitors to Bill Gates' mansion are given a name tag with a GPS unit in it... well, we saw or heard nothing odd or amiss in a bathroom, stairwell, cubicle, office, store room.

Interviewee went poof. The HR person scratched her head. No shows, yes; but she never had anyone bail out at the interview stage before. Someone thought that maybe she thought that she could count us as one of the three contacts/week needed to collect unemployment, but that would mean the definition of contact really stiffened up in the past 15 years.

One thing's for certain - she had a transporter and we didn't.

voting for nutballs

August 21st, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Saving log - $0
Spending log - $.10 coffee

Well, had my dime spending day today. I feel almost as virtuous as I would if it was a no spend day. Made $180 in interest last month.

Voted this morning in a special primary. Normally its in September; this year's several weeks early. I voted an electronic ballot - its very rare that electronic gadgets fail for me, but not for many other people. It won't matter soon because King County is heading toward an all mail-in ballot.

I prepare for voting the night before by looking at the voters guide and writing down how I'm going to vote. It was nice to have a friend running for school board because I usually decide eeny-meeny-miny on those. But despite the planning, there's always one item on the ballot that I didn't decide on. When I pick blind it never fails that I pick the nutball. Too bad; nutballs are easy to spot in the voter's guide. Here are my EZ rules:

1. No more than two fonts in the candidate's statement. Regular and italic or regular and bold. As soon as you start with the regular, bold, italic, ALL CAPS all on a 1/2 page, well...do you really think that way?

2. No underlining passages whole passages and paragraphs. C'mon, it looks kind of stupid when you underline whole chapters in a textbook. If you think all of this is that important than none of it is.

3. Not keeping the use of capital letters to the first word of a sentence and proper nouns. Just because You have a Word you like doesn't mean You can Capitalize It.

4. No third person POV. The main reason baselle didn't vote for Bob Dole ... well, okay other than the fact that baselle normally votes Democratic.

5. A first name that's not obviously made up. This year it was Goodspaceguy Nelson. (actually his entry was pretty funny - "to glorify King County, ask that governments make it easier to make movies here.")

Get 'r done, the girl version

August 12th, 2007 at 07:54 pm

So Duvall friends told me they had no ripe blueberries...

And they swore they had no ripe huckleberries...Cripes, this is the most huckleberries ever I've seen on a bush. I must not get out all that often, I guess.

The Duvall friends were interested in doing pickles and marmalade. Are you crazy! I told them that berry jam is easy with no botulism potential. And the quick pickle steps usually had the "put in salted ice water for hours" step, which means canning the next day. The only problem with the jam is what couple can really go through a quart of jam in a reasonable time and without an insulin shot?

So we picked up some pint jars in addition to the quarts we got from the other friend. They'll use the quarts in the next few weeks. I showed them what you look for when you go through jars. We got one bad cracked one, one with a rough spot on the rim (I use those, but that one gets opened and put in the refrigerator after canning), and one mayo jar. No mayo jars as a canning jar for me.

We picked berries for a couple of hours, doing grizzly bear style picking - stripping the berries, rather than picking each one. For the huckleberries it still meant a lot of stripping for a small volume and it meant a lot of cleaning of leaves, berry stems, bugs, overdone fruit. My advice: use a fair amount of water. Leaves float, and the overripe stuff tends to sink and dissolve. Still it took about an hour to clean and pick.

The first step is to measure, which is a bit of a craft, because if you pack them down, you change the volume. This is 4 cups of blackberries, 7 cups of blueberries, 2 cups of huckleberries.

We made two batches of jam - 6 pints of a blueberry huckleberry lemon combo with added pectin, and 6 pints of a straight cooked-down blackberry blueberry number with sugar. The Duvall friends took lots of notes, but they did fade in and out, something you can't do during canning. Something about hot boiling water and hot boiling sugar that keeps you on task.

Here's the waterbath canner in action, steam surrounding it.

The batches of jam. Blackberry on the left, huckleberry/blueberry on the right.

Turns out that the added pectin number did something strange. It passed my fork test for jam, which means that it would jam up, but it seems jammy at the top and syrupy at the bottom. Tastes fantastic though. The cooked jam number took forever and ever to cook - it never really fully passed the fork test - but it jammed up nicely in the jar. Tastes great, but blackberry is always stronger than blueberry in my book.

tractor fair

August 12th, 2007 at 07:03 pm

Spent Friday night and Saturday in Duvall Washington, at the north edge of the county. The Duvall friends invited us to the tractor fair Saturday morning and early afternoon. Not only did it harken back to a more frugal time, it was a blast!

This is an International Harvestor (IH) tractor M - a tractor that my dad had and "Nut" borrowed as a ransom. This one is in far, far better condition.

These weren't just for show - they had to run enough to participate in a parade and some, for a tractor pull. This is one of the oldest tractors restored and running - a 1919 Allis Chalmers.

The 1919 tractor with one of the newest tractors - from 1981.

It wasn't just tractors - any old engine or gas fired appliance that could be restored seemed to appear. This is a gas powered washer. You primed the beast using the pedals at the bottom.

And a more detailed shot of the gas iron. Inside the base of the iron was a pilot light! To a farm wife, the question "did I leave the iron on?" had a whole new dimension.

image, funny story, and outta here

June 26th, 2007 at 07:50 pm

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $1.84 coffee, milk + $5.45 lunch

Nothing, nothing, nothing happened today. I mean I always think of something to write about, but today absolutely nothing financial happened to me. (Okay, when I got back from an hour of gym, I got 22 messages, all from a fax machine.) So little has happened today that all I'm going to do is post the image, tell a story, and get outta here.

Its summer, and the poppies are out...

Which reminds me of a story.

Back in the 80s, I went to a housewarming party in West Seattle. It was a charming little place, tiny front yard with a little deck, and a high fence. I went into the backyard and came chest to face with a clump of 4 foot high red poppies, the flower and ovary capsule swelled up the size of a baseball. The real (ahem, illegal to grow in the US) thing, if you know what I mean. I remarked on it to the new owner ... how could I not? He smiled and told me that when he moved in the entire garden was comprised of two plants - these huge poppies, and dill (!) While he enjoyed opium poppies as well as the next knowledgable non-DEA agent, he wanted a little more variety. So he dug all of the dill and most of the poppies out and composted them.

A couple of days later, some of the older neighbors came to visit, and were very, very disappointed to find that the new owner had dug most everything out. It turns out that the old owner was the daughter of a Chinese missionary and used to make a "medicinal tea" with the poppy leaves. The neighbors remembered with a certain amount of fondness that they would all sit around, sipping tea and dreaming about how they would renovate the kitchen.

So I say to you ... if you want to get away with something, have a good story. Don't want your opium den busted? Invite your neighbors over for tea and dreams.

Paris pics, pt 1

June 3rd, 2007 at 08:59 pm

A quick itinerary:
18th - L'Opera & the neighborhood around the 1st arrondisement
19th - Madeleine Church, Rue Royale, Invalides, Napoleon's Tomb, Champs Elysses, Arc de Triomphe
20th - French lunch with the Parisian side of DHs family
21st - Notre Dame, Ile de Cite, a little bit of walking around the Rive Gauche
22nd - Montmartre; Dali Museum
23rd - Louvre, Place de Bastille
24th - 2nd french lunch with MIL friends, a nap, then an evening at the laverie automatique. Smile
25th - Le Defense, Effiel Tower
26th - Marche aux Puces (Flea Market); walking tour of the Pallisades
27th - Versailles
28th - Picasso Museum, Pompidou Center
29th - Rodin Museum, Musee d'Orsay
30th - Pere Lachaisse Cimitaire

Thank you, Paris Metro and the Paris Museum Pass (PMP)! We managed to get to museums before the crowd did early on, but we got the 2-day PMP for the 28th and 29th. The PMP doesn't pay if you calculate it against admissions, but boy it does in terms of time and aggravation. The cheap person waits an hour in the rain, the frugal person gets the PMP and walks right in.

These pics aren't exhaustive - they're just some of the fun ones.

From the hotel room balcony

The cafe scene along the Champs Elysses is not as intimate as one would like Smile

A nice atmospheric from the top of Notre Dame. Sepia setting, not sunset.

I have a ton of great Louvre snaps, but I just love this one. What you would really get if you tried to wrestle a big cat to the ground.

The laundromat next to the boulangerie...

Damn, its big...

Well you get the idea. Might just as well stop before y'all fall asleep. Big Grin

Klondike musings

January 15th, 2007 at 07:54 pm

Saving - 0$
Spending - $20 chiropractor + $3.50 coffee, cookie + 5$ lunch

Today DH and I were off, but since the chiropractor was next door to work, it didn't really feel like it. Got my neck and back popped; another set of errands got us to the Pike Market and then it was back to the car.

On the way back, we made a little pit stop at the Cadillac Hotel where the revamped Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park has their new digs. Fabulous place to visit, and for the frugal, the price is right: free. Course we made a suggested donation and took a look around.

The Klondike Gold Rush occurred 1896 - 1899, but there is so much similarity between Americans of a 100 yrs ago and us today. There was an economic panic in the early 1890's. News of gold sparked gold fever in hundreds of thousands of desperate people. Crazy decision 1 - to go. Seattle made almost $1B (today's money) provisioning prospectors - everybody had to have a year's worth of food and gear for the Yukon, which happened to be in Canada. In other words, 1 ton of gear. Crazy decision 2 - to buy.

Most of the trip was by boat, but there was a mountain pass that a prospector had to cross...with 1 ton of gear. Most had to hoof it, going up and down that pass over 30 times, taking a pack of gear up the hill, then sliding down, then up the hill, then sliding down. I'll bet it got old after the first trip. I felt for those prospectors, doing something insane just because they made those first two crazy decisions.

Lesson 1: How much had I bought in my early 20s on a credit card that I was metaphorically lugging up that pass over and over again?

And when the prospector got there... the good claims had been taken already. Some worked other claims or bought them. The guys who really cleaned up were ones selling donuts and coffee or fresh vegetables. One guy took one look at his claim, then looked at all the scurvy going around, and farmed it. 20 hrs of daylight, giant vegetables, big bucks.

Lesson 2: The entrepreneur sees the situation as it is. Its rarely the original situation that provides the opportunity.

Final amazing stat:
For every 100,000 people who started out
40,000 made it to the Klondike
20,000 prospected for gold
60 people found more than $15,000 worth of gold
30 people kept at least half of their gold after 5 years.

Lesson 3: A lottery's a lottery, no matter how its dressed up.

half a million pennies

December 28th, 2006 at 09:17 pm

Saving log - $4 tip box
Spending log - $1.50 coffee (didn't drink my milk yesterday) + 7$ lunch

Walked to my bus stop on a near solid surface of black ice. Thanks, Yaktrax. You still have to be cautious, but those rubber springy things really work! Crossed my usual black ice intersection with a lot more confidence.

Succumbed to the holidays: I gained 1.5 pounds for Christmas. I can lie to myself and I can lie to the trainer, but it appears that my body has the last laugh during the holidays. At least I enjoyed that little bit of chocolate.

Still was a crazy work day today but the work piles are backing down, so I'm catching up. The highlight of weirdness came this afternoon when one of our campaign managers told us that one of his companies had a penny drive.

Fine, we said.
Oh no, you don't understand, he said. You will be processing 5000$ ... in pennies!

They were rolled (pwhew, I guess) and were put in boxes and boxes, filling a dolly cart to a height of about two feet. About a third came in cardboard boxes the size and heaviness of a large brick - 25$. The other two thirds were loose rolls thrown in boxes, and even a large money bag. Yikes! I never thought I would see a half a million pennies in one place. Actually, the claimed count was 5003$, so 500,300 pennies. Maybe.

The campaign manager managed to get them all in his car trunk, but he could have sworn that his front wheels never touched the pavement.

The COO came down to our safe just to see what a half a million pennies looked like. The manager who brought it asked how we were going to process a half a million pennies and I joked that we were going to dump them in a pile and roll around naked in them. And why bother with the safe, anyway? If the pennies disappeared, all we would have to do is check the hospitals for thieves with hernias.

Seriously, if it wasn't for the massive amount of energy it would take, since it takes 1.4 cents worth of metal to make a penny, the scientist in me would have much preferred to extract the $7000 worth of zinc and copper from the $5000 pennies.

Sigh. Fun's fun. I'm sure that the bank that we normally use would basically wipe their collective eyes from laughing, then charge twenty percent for the privilege. Its either a run to a friendly credit union and a coin counter, or to the nearest US Treasury office, where they would weigh them. Hard to imagine a coin counter that would handle a half a million pennies.

N.B. we didn't get those pennies out of the safe and in the bank until June of 2007. You want a penny drive? Write us a check!

White lying (funny & philosophical)

December 3rd, 2006 at 07:19 pm

Now I'm not talking about the big horrendous lies that break the law or really, really hurt people. I'm talking about the little white lies, the ones that provide social grease. Often, white lying is a skill that can help you become frugal. Let me explain...

My DJ friend is also a co worker at the non-profit, just a couple of office doors down. Because it is a non-profit, its just like a family - money is short and arm-twisting is long, especially with fund raising staff, who have heard soft "nos" before and will press you until you give them a hard "no", and then you get the lecture on teamwork. Substitute "what kind of team are we that we can't get X?" with "what kind of family are we that we can't get X?" and you can see where I'm going with this.

Anyway, DJ friend got tapped to run his two turntables for a task at work. Bad in some sense because now everyone knows he has equipment. A day or two later, another co worker (also a DJ, kinda) wanted to borrow DJ friend's stuff to use for his DJing at another work event.

DJ friend, of course, knows that all electronic equipment is touchy. He doesn't trust the other guy but he knows that a straightforward "no" will get the lecture about not being a team player. (Of course getting your stuff back busted or tweaked so that it takes a month to get it to what it was isn't team playing either, but somehow that gets ignored. Smile) So DJ friend came to me for help.

I laughed. "You gotta learn to tell a brilliant white lie."
"Teach me," he said.

So what are the principles of a good white lie?
0. (to get you in the mood) Remember that the original situation might well be a white lie. Smile
1. Know what your final result is.
2. Your white lie has to start with the truth.
3. It has to be plausible & the implications understandable.
4. It has to told simply enough so that no one wants details, or even thinks to check on the few details you do provide.
5. It has to be complete. No one should be able to come back and say, "maybe we can do/wait for Y instead?" This is the principle that most people fail at - its the difference between white lie and glorious white lie.

So let's begin.

Borrower claimed that he didn't have the funds to rent or buy another turntable - he bought records for the event (principle 0). Could I borrow one or your turntables?

Here's the white lie we came up with for DJ friend.

First of all, the final result is that no, you cannot borrow either turntable (principle 1).

During the event that DJ friend used his turntables, one balked on a song. Nothing horrible, one performer had to take the place of another until the snafu was resolved ten minutes later. So the truth was that DJ friend's turntables were balky, and we had hundreds of folks who witnessed it. That formed the nucleus of the white lie (principle 2).

DJ friend embellished the problem a bit, claiming skipping, which is a brilliant twist - DJ friend could claim that both he and the borrower's reputation are at stake (principle 3).

Now we get to the meat of the white lie. Both turntables are in the shop. No one wants to know which shop (principle 4). Both turntables are in it (principle 5.) This part was where DJ friend questioned the lie. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"You have to do both," I said. "Your turntables are a team so both could be causing the skipping (principle 3), and besides you don't want him to borrow either of your tables. Right? If you say one, you give him the opening to ask for the other. Then you have to give him a second lie about the other turntable."

(And the second lie is where the white liar usually gets into trouble. Remembering one lie is doable, remembering two is often not.)

The closer is that the problem is so intermittent that its going to take a while (principle 4) for the repair shop to figure it out. (principle 5)

So sorry, came the reply. Then nothing. No reply is the symptom of the brilliant white lie.

I throw the principles of great white lying out as a public service to the frugal community. After all, how much money do we have to shell out to fix whatever a borrower did?

Use the skills only for good! Big Grin

My list - made it to 50

November 16th, 2006 at 10:14 pm

That's why it took sooooooo long! (and that's why it is so long)

1. I follow only two professional sports – baseball and football. I do not wish to follow any more because I think you need a vacation from following stuff. I look forward to tossing out the sports pages in February, March, April. DH follows no sports. We once had a fight about what we were going to watch on Monday night. I wanted Monday Night Football, he wanted Ally McBeal.

2. In grad school, I managed to live on $550/month. I never bothered to take out supplemental loans. How stupid! I thought at the time. Now I say, “Whew!”

3. I owned a car for only 3 years of my life. During a very bad 6 week period, I wrecked and bought 3 used cars. I have not owned a car in 7 years.

4. I am the navigator on car trips. DH and I have a system that keeps us from going crazy. Default is straight, give at least ½ block warning, tell him the exit number, up to me to find and pick out landmarks and correlate to the map. We are actually quite good, even during advanced navigating jobs – Washington D.C. for instance.

5. Sometimes I have problems asking for directions.

6. I sleep like a rock. I have slept through: DH’s snoring, a category 3 hurricane, a typewriter blowing up (college roommate’s), a neighbor’s house on fire – okay my BF at the time woke me up and got me out of the house, but I would have slept through it. And I talk in my sleep.

7. That poem about driving in a blizzard through Reliance, South Dakota? All true. I believe that I was the closest to death at the time.

8. I cook, but do not bake.

9. I am the designated gravy maker during every Thanksgiving feast. Flour, not cornstarch.

10. I collect fortune cookie fortunes.

11. I have a very distinctive laugh.

12. At one point in the 80s, I lived in a shared household with my BF at the time and another housemate who later became my DH. Lawyer friend once asked me, “what do you look for in a man?” “Proximity,” I said with a sly smile.

13. I was a party girl in college.

14. My now nearly 20 year old cat knows his name. When DH and I lived in Arizona, we heard our neighbor call his dog. We came up and remarked that our cat had the same name. He told us that our cat always came before his dog did.

15. I did not talk to any family relation for 7 years.

16. I have learned to eat and enjoy asparagus.

17. To the best of my knowledge, I am not allergic to anything.

18. I am addicted to Sudoku.

19. I also do not, nor have any desire to own a mobile phone.

20. The worst grade I ever got in high school was in typing: a D. I hate to type on a typewriter – my fingers get performance anxiety. I learned computer skills starting in my sophomore year in college (1981) because I had the backspace key and you could send a print job to a laser printer and get a perfectly clean copy. My grades on papers suddenly went up at least one grade.

21. I have a PhD in botany. (Plant physiology/plant biochemistry)

22. One of my summer jobs during college was at Green Giant. I tested the sodium content of corn, and once in a while filled in for the canned corn taster.

23. Just like some people have a seasonal wardrobe, I have a seasonal mixed drink. My summer drink is campari and soda, my winter drink is an extra-dry dirty martini. Gin of course. What kind of lame-a$s drinks a vodka martini?

24. The house of my childhood – which we are trying to sell off as part of the farmette – is haunted by a ghost dressed in a fedora hat and 20’s garb that would go up the stairs. Anybody want to buy that house? It will be sold separately from the second property. Are you sure? One time only… Going, going, gone!

25. I take baths, very rarely showers. Not frugal, you say? Try taking a bubble shower! And if you are stressed and angry, a hot bath and a glass of wine is far, far cheaper than psychiatry (or bullets). I only take showers away from home – hotel rooms and in the gym.

26. I set my mp3 player to shuffle (aka random). A Julie Andrews song came up then one by Old Dirty Bastard. And no, it was not a mashup.

27. I taught DH one of my favorite car games: figure out the crop or the orchard. We farm families play practical games, none of this license plate nonsense. Sometimes it was easy – in North Carolina you could smell tobacco. Other times it would take us months to figure it out. When we were in Tucson, it took us until October to figure out what we had been driving through when we went to Phoenix: cotton.

28. I hate being photographed.

29. I once attended a botany class in college where I was the only registered student. The prof sighed at first but then brightened up and said, “if I’m teaching only one student at least its you. I can go as fast as I want because I know you’ll keep up.”

30. I am a night owl. My favorite hours to work are 12 noon to 8 pm. My best time to work is 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

31. I’m usually the cut-up during meetings at work.

32. The first time I ever had to use a key for a door was when I was 18 and in college in Chicago. The locks on the farm never worked. The first thing sister had to do when dad died was have the sheriff put padlocks on the doors of the house.

33. I can taste the difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk.

34. For the midwesterners out there: I find the smell of FleetFarm evocative. I walked into a FleetFarm in Montana, where most of DH’s family lives. One sniff and it all came back.

35. I like to find “found” food. Not dumpster diving, but blackberry brambles, plum, apple, pear, cherry trees, that sort of thing. When I find one in the neighborhood on someone’s property, I knock, introduce myself, and often will ask for a cut of their bounty. I used to pick and cure the olives along Olive Way on the University of Arizona campus.

36. Stores that have a lot of fiddley-stuff in them are catnip to me. Office supply stores, CD/DVD stores, kitchen equipment stores, five and dime stores, the dollar store, bead store…you get the idea.

37. I have more male friends than female friends. I have more gay friends than straight friends.

38. I have no wisdom teeth.

39. My hands are steady and I am good with them, which helped when I did experiments. I like to do crafts and work scissors quite well. However I cannot for the life of me cut a right angle.

40. Most dogs make me nervous.

41. My sister and I sound alike. I used to play a trick on my boyfriends in college. When they said something “good” (use your imagination), I would pause and say, “hold that thought, let me go get my sister!”

42. I worry that I will develop some of the same mental illnesses my mother had – depression, alcoholism, hoarding.

43. For you real old timers on the Internet: I created a newsgroup on Usenet (rec.food.preserving), then developed its first FAQ file. One year after I created the FAQ, I received a note that that FAQ file was one of 7 files left and lovingly saved on the last working computer at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia during the Bosnian civil war.

44. I can usually make any piece of electronics work.

45. I find window shopping boring and stupid.

46. My first scientific love was astronomy. I used to amaze my college friends by telling them what star that was in the sky. (It was Chicago – only 12 stars are bright enough to be seen with the light pollution. Not rocket science.) Even now I can identify all of the constellations. The JPL and NASA websites are amazing to me.

47. DH keeps two rifles and a pistol in the bedroom. All unloaded. I have no desire to handle or fire a gun.

48. For 14 years, through 5 bosses, the name of my boss alternated between David or Bob.

49. I have never been outside of North America, yet if someone tells me they are from a foreign country, I know what countries that country is next to and its capital.

50. I totaled a 1975 Datsun with my face when my bike brakes failed on a hill. (Very cheap car – replacing a busted window cost more than the car was worth.) I have a noticeable scar on my upper lip from that accident.

real inspiration

October 30th, 2006 at 09:25 pm

Every so often, I read the Millionaires in the Making column on CNN, and I've glanced at the pfblog to see how he's doing.

At first glance, they both depress the hell out of me. Nothing against them, but saving a ton of money when you make a ton of money ain't that hard. I mean the worst problem is the I-make-a-ton-therefore-I'm-brilliant and-I-deserve-it spending that you would have to quell. But really now, saving 25% on a combined salary of 145K still leaves a combined salary of 108K.

Yeah, I think I can live and save on that.

I'd be more impressed if they lived and saved on a combined salary of 60K, which is what DH and I make. And I have saved about 30% of my take home salary. (Not this last year - gym ate that, its about 12%.)

Every so often The Motley Fool trots out an update on their Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth column, which usually cheers me up. It just means that I'm going to have to live for a long time. I throw the link out to cheer whomever needs the cheer.

This morning the bus passed by a dark, closed up node of Scottrade, downtown on 3rd & Union. Wonder what happened there?

The gym has come through. The Halloween costume will be spectacularly good.

Counted a lot of money and pledges today at a company. Tomorrow our department has work!

Percents, baby

August 29th, 2006 at 08:46 pm

Its weird how people will bust their butts and get all excited about a 4% raise. It is exciting, but if you save 4 pennies off of each dollar, its like giving yourself that raise.

I was talking to a mid-aged friend of mine who remembered $60/month rents, and how he joked that he was bugged when it when up to $70...all for only $10, he said. What do you mean? I said. You should have been bugged - that's a 16% increase. Man, that's an accountant's answer, he said.

And why save a dime per pound on 99 cent potatoes. Yeah, sure that's a dime, but that's also 11% savings.

Well, it's a lot easier to get into the frugal mindset and easier to rationalize your purchases if you calculate your savings in percents.

As far as gym is concerned - 0%. I lost a pound, gained .5% of bodyfat, lost an inch on the waist and chest, gained an inch on my arms and legs. Considering I punked out on eating and exercise for 2 weeks, I dodged a bullet.

taught a tourist how to tip

August 9th, 2006 at 09:38 pm

Actually it's a pretty good story.

I was eating lunch alone at the sushi bar in the place that I generally get chirashi sushi. I didn't this time - it was cool and rainy, so I sprung for hot fat - tempura!

An Asian woman tried to get up onto the high chair next to mine. The chair was light, so I grabbed on the back to help steady it. We both laughed.

I went back to eating and watching CNN. I noticed the classic pull out the downtown map and stare it. I asked her if she was looking for something. Turned out she thought she was on the opposite end of downtown from where she thought she was and that she was looking for a specific shop, to show some of her wares - she made ceramic dolls. Then she asked me something that I didn't expect, somehow.

"So how do you tip?"

It turns out that she was from Japan, that she was an english teacher (her english was excellent and she appreciated the compliment), it was her second trip to the United States, but her first real trip by herself. No tipping in Japan.

"Well," I said, "its pretty easy. Its usually 15%. My fast way is two times the tax." (On further calculation, that was closer to 18%-20%)

"Yes, but how do you do it?" she asked.

I told her that if I pay by a card, I'll just add it to the bill and they'll charge me. She had cash..what then? Well, I put the money close to the plate so that the waiter would see, but someone walking past wouldn't really.

"Do you calculate it each time?"

I told her - not really. I guess at it, and I usually tip high, because the waiter's pay depends on it. Two times the tax (I showed her my check, which came) is a quick way to do it. And I taught her that a polite "check please" is perfectly fine.

She was so relieved. She confided to me that this was her first restaurant meal, and she was very nervous. She picked a Japanese place because she thought she would find someone understanding. (Me!) I told that it wouldn't do to eat McDonalds for your whole trip because anywhere else you'd have to tip. She laughed, and at that, I went back to work.

I have to say that she was doing a lot better here than I would in Japan... I'd be tipping!

Ah, the Crest

July 22nd, 2006 at 08:09 pm

Day 2 of mid to upper 90s in Seattle. This time of year Seattle is sunny and dry. Not bone dry like Tucson is, but then again even Tucson this time of year isn't bone dry. Of course no one has AC around here -- why bother for only a week or so of hot weather? -- but it means that the entire city is cranky, out of sorts, and looking for frugal ways to beat the heat. Here are my rules:

#1 - Stay away from other people. This weekend is the Bite of Seattle. At least 100,000 sweaty people, each of whom is at least 98.6F congregating in front of 400F grills and paying at least $5 for the privilege...now doesn't that sound like cool, refreshing, inexpensive fun?

#2 - linger where you know there will be air conditioning. This morning, I was figuring out whether the 2 package for 3$ special on frozen mixed vegetables was a deal. Not really. The deal came from the delightful five minutes with my head in the freezer case.

#3 - catch a second-run movie. Ah, the Crest Cinemas. $3, all times. Air conditioning, darkness, cross ventilation, and a reason to linger. It's the main reason I rarely go to a movie in March and April. I've got to save up on movies to catch in July. FYI: Thank You for Smoking is very funny. Not as funny as Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which for my money is the funniest movie this year.

Today I bought a little lunch at the grocery store and had a little battle with the cashier. It turned out that its pricing sticker was mixed up with something a lot more expensive, and conversely the expensive thing was priced cheaply. The thing that really got me was the tyranny of the sticker by the cashier. No looking at what I actually bought, or product knowledge - just the "that's how it rung up." Forget worrying about the embarassment E - its your money.

Put 6$ in the tip box yesterday. HR warned us yesterday about possible price rises in our medical insurance.

Deep Frugal, part 1

June 25th, 2006 at 10:53 pm

So getting to Nashville was a crazy adventure - a hopscotch from Seattle to San Diego to Dallas to Nashville. The Dallas connection was the crazy one, and I knew it would be crazy. In my purse went the just in case stuff: a pair of fresh socks, fresh panties, a bottle of water, 5 energy bars, 2 paperbacks, my Saturday paper, PDA, MP3 player.

The first rule of the airport is to think "prison". One checked bag, one purse, slip on shoes, no belt, no jewelry, all metal in the purse. Thankfully the metal detectors missed the underwire in the bra.

The second rule of the airport is that if you roam it with "needs" you'll spend money. The only need I should have provided for was to pack a lunch. I bought that for an uninspired $6 in San Diego.

As I said before I just made the connection in Dallas to Nashville; I had about fifteen minutes to get across the gigantic Dallas Airport. Yay for gym class. Ten minutes into the flight, though, after the relief that I made my flight came the realization that there was absolutely no way that my checked bag had made it. It tempered my relief until I realized something very important: all my clothes in that bag were at least 1 size too large, no one has seen me wear what I have on, and everything was Seattle summer-y, not Nashville summer-y. I cheered up at the thought of actually buying something.

At the Nashville baggage claim, my bag was missing, and so I stood with about 15 other people in various stages of high dudgeon, asking an airline rep to rescue their bag. One woman even threw a tantrum about her cell phone charger being in the missing bag. "That's my life they lost!" Here's a hint...if it was that big o'deal, it should have gone in the purse.

My turn with the airline rep. Many thanks to anna, jester of the bees for her customer service tips here and here that informed my tactics.

Me: Bad night, eh?
Rep (with a southern drawl): If you're here, the news is never good.
Me (low voice): To tell you the truth, I'm not that upset. You see, I've been at the gym for seven months now. All my clothes in that bag are at least one size too big.
Rep (laughing): Well bless your heart! So what did your bag look like?
Me: Carpet bag, green and kinda pink. No wheels. So I'm at [hotel]. Do you deliver? I don't have a phone...
Rep: We sure do, honey. No need for the phone, we know where that is. Do you have everything you need - toothbrush?
Me: toothbrush I have, but I need toothpaste.
Rep: Oh, let me get a little something for you...(returns with a little spa kit.)

So if you're a customer service rep, whose bag are you going to rescue first? Tantrum woman or woman with a funny story? Smile I got my bag at the hotel by 10 am the next morning.

Octavia Butler

February 27th, 2006 at 09:21 pm

I found out last night that one of my literary heroines died last night, a casuality of that stupid ice storm on Friday.


Some of us are frugal because we want to see our net worth increase. Some of us are frugal because we want security. Some of us are frugal because we would rather have more time than money.

And some are frugal because they know that their talent is going to service a project, goal, or idea that is going to be un-mainstream, unloved, and unpopular. They bravely go and use their frugality to soldier on and avoid selling out.

And when a frugal writer of that stature actually gets something like a genius grant, it goes to buy a little house. Not even a car. A little house near a bus line.

R.I.P. Octavia. You're one of the last brave writers who made a poor but honest living strictly on their writing. No Harvard teaching gigs, no journalism, no upper-class parties where a writer tweets for his supper. Just you and your writing and your infamous wrestle with your writer's block.

A little story about self worth

September 23rd, 2005 at 11:21 pm

I skipped the bubble tea for lunch and to reward myself for my frugality, I put in 5$ into my tip box. My total in the tip box came to $48, so I deposited my squeezings in my savings account. And then I turned around and took out $40 from the lobby ATM. On paper it looks like I only saved $8, but since I don't apparently like to spend my emergency funds, it feels like shielded 40$ from spending. Smile I guess that's what saving feels like to me...protecting slices of my money from my nefarious spending purposes.

I submitted my 6 month job evaluation to the COO, who is my substitute boss. He'll be the one to evaluate me.

I have to tell you this story. 7 months ago I applied for this job (which was a promotion) as an interior applicant, was interviewed, and got the job. I set a price for myself, which was on the high end but in the salary range on the application. However during the salary negotiation (which was done in my cubicle over the phone, sheesh), the VP of HR basically low-balled me, citing that I was going up 2 pay grades, and that the only "fair" thing was the low end, which as a bone to throw, they bumped up to the lower third. Since they put their cards on the table, I put mine down and told them what I wanted. The VP of HR said, "no way you're getting that." We're talking a difference of about $1,500.

I talked with my would-be boss about this, who talked to his boss, the COO. They agreed that they had the budget for my price and both went to bat for me. HR and the CEO wouldn't budge, so I politely declined the offer. (The VP of HR said to me, "you're very calm about this.") The office atmosphere was pretty odd for awhile. Eventually a deal emerged; I would get the salary I wanted if my evaluation (this particular one) was above a certain level. I asked for it in writing and I got that, so I accepted this job.

The reason I'm telling this tale in this journal is that I had a secret weapon while I was negotiating. At the time, I had savings of about $10,000 (the kiss my a** fund, savings bonds, some stock). No wonder I was calm! And right now its over $14,000...that'll only make me calmer during my evaluation.

I mention this now because I came across an article on how you might not need an emergency fund, but that you really need "financial flexibility" in the form of credit cards and a HELOC.


In the narrowest sense, "they" are right - you have a pile of money that has to be kept liquid, earning lowish interest and away from the consumer-industrial complex. And you are losing that opportunity cost! But after I got done wiping my eyes from laughing so hard from reading that article, I can personally attest that the safety of my emergency fund gave me my calmness. A HELOC would not have worked.

Opportunity cost be dammed.

Being poor

September 10th, 2005 at 10:32 pm

I read this essay/prose poem in the middle of last week, and there's a thread on it on this site. The link is here:

I've been thinking about it all week.

Most of the essay above was in an urban setting, but the connotation carried it; reading it brought back a flood of memories. Sister and I grew up on a farm, as a matter of fact, the farm that we now inherit. Our family had no money, just cows and crops and land. Times bounced around from being bad to being really bad.

Being poor is more than just a lack of money. Heck, being frugal means you either have no money or you have less money than you'd like. Fifteen years ago, as a grad student, I lived on $600/month. While it truly, truly sucked, and yes I was poor, and yes I despaired about it, it felt different than being straight poor like in my childhood.

Being poor is also a state of mind. Its despair, its depression, its the pessimism of the same dark grayness, and that grinds on you more than the lack of money does. Being poor means you think that the future is going to be the same as the present - gray and terrible - and that you deserve only what have and what life and fate throws at you.

The dividing line between poor and not poor, I think, is optimism. During grad school, I was working toward a goal, and was optimistic that I would succeed. Being frugal is also a sign of optimism...you're saving money for a plan, a purpose, for something better in the future. If you have a lack of funds, being optimistic means that you accept help when you need it, and allow people to help you. Most optimists are aware of choices, ask about them and go after them. You believe you have a better future.

Before you start thinking that I'll spout the take-responsiblity-freemarket republican line, I want to let you all know that I'm, if anything, a yellow dog democrat. (It used to be that a yellow dog democrat would vote for a yellow dog in the road before voting republican; truth be told, that yellow dog is looking good all by itself.)

Bus rider principles

August 12th, 2005 at 09:39 pm

Now that gas is approaching 3$/gallon I see a lot of new faces on the bus and a lot of crappy (yet highly entertaining) behavior. I, herein, list several principles that every new bus rider should know about to make their experience just a little better:

1. The less you lug on the bus the happier you will be. A bus is not a car with a big back seat, not an airplane without wings, not a youth hostel on wheels. You have a seat (if you're lucky and got on early!) and a lap. If your backpack is as big as you are, you'll have problems.
2. "Spy voice" on the cellphone. Enough said.
3. Bus driver knows his route and perhaps the connecting routes, along with a few well known intersections. He is not a telepathic GPS unit with feet and will not drive you to your door.
4. Bus driver is probably concentrating on the road; he might see the express bus behind him, then again, he might not.
5. People come off before you come on. When your turn comes, be sprightly when exiting.
6. Yelling "Back door!" is acceptable and fun.
7. If you want to try riding the bus to see if it agrees with you, try it on Friday. It's less crowded, with mainly the "hard core" commuter types. We know you're serious if you ride on Friday. Smile Monday is the worst day, its full of dilettantes.

Coffee - $1.65 + Lunch - $5 + Bubble tea - $3.25 + Electric bill $75.92 (grrr. usually that's about $60 this time of year)

Tip Box - $3 + another DRP - $40

The routine last week

August 8th, 2005 at 10:00 pm

It was nearly routine last week - 1.5 hr drive from Milwaukee to Oshkosh, then to the farm. At the farm, pawing through paper in a hard target search for assets and pieces of paper that will help us file dad's last IRS return.

We put on a vinyl LP and began...

My mom was a serious clutterer. I'm debating whether she was a hoarder or not. One minute I was flipping through newspaper clippings from the 80s, the next, grandpa and grandma's wedding picture. On which side you ask? Found them both. We found my birth certificate, my sister's birth certificate, my mom's birth certificate, my dad's birth certificate, grandpa's wedding license, a school assignment my mom wrote when she was 8, pictures of my great uncle in WWII when he served in New Guinea. I also found scraps of paper with a note or a sentence or a book list written in my mom's hand and stacks and stacks of newspaper. My sister was luckier - she usually found money. (I guess that's why I have to save it. Smile )

The important papers we hoofed to Milwaukee, the rest to recycling. Here's another reason why clutter is bad. Its totally exhausting for your heirs who will never share your opinions about its value!

On the bright side, except for gas, we had several no spend days. We ate Dad's food and drank his soda and found his high school class ring, all without his permission.

Sister and I started an email chain of decisions that we made and agreed to so its written down. Sister is in Milwaukee, so she will be doing the heavy lifting in this. I feel so guilty about this. I sorted and organized the papers until late in the evening - my way of keeping busy.

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