Thursday, January 29, 2009

everyone's gonna be jealous of my beans

Note to self:

When you're already cutting it a little close to meet a friend on time, it might not be the best idea to grab three of the surplused bulk bins the food co-op is selling for $2. It will very much confuse the cashier, though I did have a PLU. And then when you try to push your cart full of groceries, with the bins balanced precariously on top, you will fail. The 50# bag of oats alone, draped halfway over the front edge of the cart, would make it hard to navigate the parking lot because of their weight. A parking lot full of ice, slush, and potholes? Even harder. When you can only push the cart with one hand because you have to use the other to keep the bins from smashing to the ground? Nearly impossible.

But I was only a little late, and even if I can't find anywhere to put these bins, they're still pretty damn cool.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


As of April '08, more than half of our monthly mortgage payment started going toward principal rather than interest. Last month 62% went to principal. Even without making additional payments, which we do whenever we have extra money in our checking account, we're on track to pay it off in less than half its 30-year term.

(Excluding, of course, property tax escrow, which is 29% of what we give the bank every month. And likely to only increase, since state education funding is decreasing. Thanks Governor Paterson!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

SimCity and urban planning

This reminded me that I once tried to set up a city with no roads, just rail. Didn’t work. I tried building one road leading from the edge of the screen (presumably where other cities might be) that stopped on the outskirts of town but that didn’t work either. Wonder if it would in real life. If there’s not a SimSustainableCity out yet, that allows you to build windmills and greenhouses and bike trails and horse stables, there should be.

(The rate of nuclear meltdowns, incidentally, was more than a little high in the Sim universe. I guess that was the only way they had to provide a reason NOT to go nuclear, because otherwise it was by far the best choice. Maybe they should have had protestors instead, or bad-karma points.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

don't let Tumnus break your heart

A has informed me that she doesn’t believe in Jesus but does believe in Santa Claus. She cites Santa’s presence at the Delmar holiday parade as evidence for this position. I’ve cautiously suggested that sometimes people like to dress up as Santa, but she does not think anyone other than Santa himself could produce a costume that good. Dan wonders if she’ll convert if we take her to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Some people say they felt betrayed upon learning that Santa wasn’t real. I’m not concerned about that. The big betrayal of my childhood was perpetrated by C.S. Lewis. I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia at an age when I could immerse myself in fantasy and half-believe that it was real. I longed to be Lucy and set up elaborate worlds with paper and glue and Playmobils and gerbils (one named Aslan).

I was 12 or so when I picked up The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe again and saw the religious symbolism. I was truly devastated. To see that something that meant so much to me was nothing more than a medium Lewis created to forward his religion (which was, by chance, the same ones I’d been raised in, but had never particularly subscribed to) was profoundly disillusioning. Now I can appreciate that most of the books can be read as damn good stories irregardless of Lewis’s intent (or was it that he used the proselytizing as an excuse to justify writing fantasy?) but as a teenager, no.

I’m not the only one who had this experience. I thoughtlessly mentioned it to an unsuspecting friend at summer camp in 1989 and he had to fight back tears.

I don’t think that C is as fanatical a reader as I was. While he reads continuously he never rereads books or uses their characters in his play. If I hand him the first book* it’s likely that he’ll whip through it cheerfully and then go back to drawing up his plans for snowball-throwing tanks**. On the one hand this makes me sad because I’d like to share the experience with him (in a way I really couldn’t with his WWII obsession) but on the other I hope it means that he’ll never experience the same sense of betrayal I did.

Until now I put off giving him the books because of the violence, but given his research on the invasion of Normandy that’s not really relevant at this point. I’ve considered mentioning the allegorical components to him but decided against it. I’m hoping that the joy he may obtain from reading them uncritically*** will override any loss he might feel when he recognizes what’s behind the story. And if he doesn’t read them soon he won’t appreciate it in the ways that only children can. But I still hesitate to do it, remembering how hurt I was and wanting to protect him from that.

* Meaning The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe- there’s a movement to reorder the books chronologically but starting with The Magician’s Nephew is WRONG. Gee, you think I have any emotional investment in this?

** Inspired by the go-carts in The Dangerous Book for Boys. Thanks Shannon- I think.

*** I am usually incapable of reading uncritically now which is somewhat of a shame.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

it's all what you're used to

I love it when the New York Times talks about the economic troubles of people with lifestyles insanely outside of the norm.

Shortly after Scott lost his job, the couple replaced their full-time nanny with a more cost-effective au pair and began choosing long-weekend getaways instead of weeklong family vacations. Some expenses, though, haven’t changed: they still shell out for membership at a local country club (“the most modest one in town,” Tracey said); they rented a condo last summer on Block Island; and they continue to pay hundreds a month for soccer, skating, T-ball and karate lessons for the children. They afford these things by dipping into the savings Scott put away during the flush years.

I’m betting their downsized vacation expenses are more than my family’s annual income. Oh the suffering!

Monday, January 12, 2009

stocking up again

I can make wheat flour prices a regular feature! Slightly down from last time- $56.00 for a 50-pound bag instead of $69.50. But it’s unclear whether or not that price included a 10% case discount (former prices listed did not) so it’s probably not as dramatic a drop as it appears.

Seems that we’re consistently going through 50 pounds in a bit less than five months. We use more than 10 pounds of white flour in that timeframe too. I was thinking that was a lot but average annual consumption is 147 pounds per capita. We’re buying about 180 pounds per year for the whole family. We eat more than that- C buys school lunches, we eat out occasionally, etc.- but the vast majority of our meals are prepared at home. We also buy bulgher (best guess- 20 pounds a year) and crackers and breakfast cereal in small quantities.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

why no one gets newspapers anymore

I need to remember to check in on the awesomely random comments of the Bethlehem blog more frequently. A post on a pleasant experience at the Delmar post office led to a shrill indictment of Bethlehem snobbishness (recurring theme), a rail trail announcement became a forum to complain about irresponsible hunters, and a picture of my kids led to the TU being damned for using children to push their political agenda.