Useless skills

I’m terrible at remembering names.  Absolutely terrible.  To make up for that, I have a superior memory in some pretty useless areas.

I can remember things I’ve eaten.  Like, if you ask me what I had at a restaurant a year ago, I can remember that.  Often I can also remember what everybody else had too.  And sometimes how much each item cost.

I can remember where I read a specific book (in the bathroom, in the tub, on the couch, in my in-laws’ basement etc.).  Not what the book was about mind you, just where I read it.

I can also remember how many comments there were on a post the last time I checked it.  (Maybe this isn’t so useless if it saves a click?  Though usually it doesn’t really because I just hit reload if the number hasn’t changed.  You know, just in case.)

Do you have any completely useless superpowers?

Getting some kind of exercise routine

In cooler climes, summer is the best for exercise and getting into shape.  Being outdoors and doing stuff naturally causes activity.  It’s fun and effortless.

Living in the South, summer is the worst.  Three months of slinking from air conditioned car to air conditioned building and back again.  It’s awful awful awful.

In the summer I’m a living example of how one can be a good weight but woefully out of shape.  I may be reasonably thin, but there’s no way I’m healthy.

I know some things about myself.  I’m basically lazy (this is one of the reasons I stuck with math so long– mathematicians are basically lazy).  I have next to no willpower.  I overheat easily.  I get rashes when I sweat.  I’m also allergic to most of the plants outside, including grass (I was tested!).  I find most exercise interminably boring.  If I sign up for a class I’m going to understand sunk costs and just not go because the discounted value of my time at the point of going to the class is always going to tell me that I should skip, even if it’s better for me in the long run.  (And it’s not one of those things like work where I might avoid starting but then I enjoy it once I’m actually there.  I hate exercise classes with a lazily violent passion.)  Also, team sports give me bad flashbacks in addition to not being fun and taking time away from my family.

I like swimming.  I like leisurely walks with the family.  If we lived some place with altitude, I would enjoy hiking (I would be super healthy if we lived in Northern California).  Biking isn’t bad but it isn’t particularly safe where we live (and I, um, don’t own a bike).  I like walking to get to places, but we live in a suburban wasteland and I have no desire to attend Catholic church and I switched dentists.  I dislike having to shave if I can help it (and some of my professional colleagues live in my neighborhood so I can’t just go around unshaven without getting a reputation at work).  We do have a pool in the home owners association and a nice park with playground equipment and a little forest with a stream and nice walking paths, both within walking distance unless it’s really hot outside and then by the time I get there I’ve wilted.

And we’ve got some constraints.  The temperature is ok for walking outside before 9am and after 7:30pm.  (#1 is lucky.  #2 is in a place where it doesn’t cool down much at night and the hottest part of the day is 6pm for some reason.  #1 is not lucky– it’s actually hotter where she is, but she’s gotten more used to it.  Checking the weather *right now* it is exactly the same temperature both places.)  The kids have to be out the door pretty early in the morning (with me doing half the chauffeuring, which ends at 9:20 when I roll into my office parking lot) and me getting up earlier to exercise is not going to happen, not if I want to have any semblance of a brain for work throughout the day.

If I’m going to start exercising more regularly, I need to do two things:  1.  I need to make it easy to exercise by removing all impediments to exercise and 2.  I need to make it a routine.  The best way is to get other people in the house to nudge me, but I can’t just rely on them because past experience has shown that it’s all too easy to say, “oh no, you guys go without me,” or “oh, no you go ahead and play that video game, we can do this some other time.”

I owned two swimming suits.  One I got in college.  The other one I got right after my 7 year old was born.  I figured I could buy a new swimsuit or two at this point.  Because I hate shaving, I got a rash guard top, which is pretty cool.  Then I hit Land’s End’s 40% off swimsuit sale and got a skirt to go with the top and another suit that’s a dress.  I’m liking these old-fashioned suits and the rash guards that are in style.  I’m not sure anybody actually wants to show as much nether-region area as standard swim-suits show, especially those of us who don’t wax.  (#2 reminds about radical self-love.  #1 points out that radical self love has nothing to do with indecency.  She can love showing her partner part of her body but not want to show that to her neighbors and colleagues.)

Also as I’ve been forcing these nightly walks, I’ve noticed that my two pairs of sandals are pretty worn down and not so comfortable for exercise.  Putting on my hiking boots this time of year is out of the question.  So I bought some Chacos.  I’m bad at deciding, so I’m like, I want them in black, what is their most popular black sandal in my size and got that.  Hopefully 7W fits… I’m much better with the European sizes and shoes than with the US sizes, but I’m somewhere in the 7-8 range.  Update:  I bought the wrong shoes– wasn’t careful about making sure I got a woman’s size 7…. I’m definitely not size 9W!  Luckily Zappos really does have a super easy return policy.  I’m going to try to hit a shoe store the next time I’m in a city.  If I don’t make it I’ll try Zappos again.

So, impediments have been removed.  The routine thing is still a work in practice.  When it rains, the routine disappears as if it never happened and even if it’s nice the next day we completely forget to go out.  About a week later we’ll get started up again on the walks.  Fortunately DC2 loves the pool and reminds us to go in the morning on weekends even if we forget.  And ze makes us stay longer than we would otherwise.

Anyway, wish me luck.  My goal is to be less winded when I do the least amount of physical activity.

UPDATE:  I’m really not looking for, “You’re doing it wrong” and “You’re not doing enough” advice right now.  Really, I’m not.  Because if I hear that enough I’m just going to stay sitting in the a/c in a chair, hitting reload on the internet because seriously, why bother at all?  Please feel free to share what *you* do, but don’t tell me what to do.  (If you do need to tell someone what to do about something, check out the previous post and give me your thoughts on window treatments.)

UPDATE 2:  No, seriously, I DO NOT WANT ADVICE.  Share your experience, but don’t give me advice on this topic.  (Again, I do want advice on window treatments in the previous post.)

If you do regular exercise, how do you keep yourself doing it?  What about those of you who hate most exercise?  Do you do it anyway?  How?

August Mortgage Update and what to do with the 30K in the home maintenance fund

Last month (July):
Balance: $49,389.48
Years left: 3.75
P =$1,007.01, I =$207.39, Escrow =788.73

This month (August):
Balance: $46,373.71
Years left: 3.5
P =$1,018.90, I =$195.50, Escrow =788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.90

As I hinted at last month, with DH employed, we have accumulated a lot of money in our savings account just sitting there (or, more accurately, we didn’t completely de-cumulate our savings from saving up for him leaving his job before he got a new one).  Some of it is tagged for specific things, like tuition and the emergency fund… I guess that’s really it.  So in addition to the amount that’s legitimately in savings, we have more than 30K that’s loosely been earmarked for home maintenance repairs.

Now, before you go and say, “30K?  You should invest in stocks/pay off the mortgage with that are you crazy?”  Note that we have owned this house for almost 10 years and we didn’t change a thing when we moved in.  The only maintenance we’ve done has been completely reactionary:  fixing leaky pipes and faucets, fixing a leaky skylight on the patio, replacing the water heaters when they died, repairing and then replacing the dishwasher when it gave up the ghost and then fixing the new one, replacing the microwave multiple times, replacing the a/c in stages as it died, replacing broken fence pieces, replacing a broken board in the deck, and a whole ton of yard work usually when the HOA sends us a nasty letter.  We also touched up paint in the kitchen once.  And we always seem to be replacing the innards of two of the toilets (DH thinks this may be a waterflow issue).  You know, standard everything that breaks when you’re a homeowner stuff.

During that time we’ve had two kids potty train, and at least 6 cats coming and going.  We have carpet in two of our bathrooms.  We have aging vertical blinds.  We have peeling wall paper.  The paint is coming off in the kitchen.  We have an electric stove.  The kitchen triangle is messed up and the countertops are the cheap kind that turn yellow when you use bleach and, although we have gas hookups in the kitchen, everything is electric.  The kittens have destroyed the master bath, though really the cabinets in there have water damage anyway so it’s not all their doing.  There’s stains on the carpeting and drawings on the walls.  And many more things I haven’t mentioned.  At this point you may be thinking, “Only 30K?  Are you crazy?”

So we’re obviously not going to do everything.

DH has identified as priorities replacing the bathroom carpet with something that isn’t carpet and window treatments.

Warning:  the next few visuals are NOT PRETTY.  Look away now…if you can.

Bathroom carpet + potty training is not a pretty sight.

 

Even if you're in the minority of those who like vertical blinds, these are starting to get ratty.

Even if you’re in the minority of those who like vertical blinds, these are starting to get ratty.  See the watermarks from leaving the window open when it’s raining?  Oops!

And then there’s the tops of our window treatments. We have two sets of these lovely windows. Those half circles at the top are a pain to cover.

Here you see the needlework skills of the previous owner.  Even if you love these top things, they're kind of dirty and we have no idea how to go about cleaning them.  We suspect the fabric will disintegrate if we try.

Here you see the needlework skills of the previous owner. Even if you love these top things, they’re kind of dirty and we have no idea how to go about cleaning them. We suspect the fabric will disintegrate if we try.

I’m going to save you the master bathroom pictures (aka “kitten island”) to present another day.  They’re pretty stunning, but we’re doing baby steps here.  And we don’t want to overwhelm you with awfulness all at once.  We’re thinking of your health here.

So, our first order of business is the kids’ bathroom.  We spent a few weekends looking at sheet vinyl while getting completely ignored by sales people at three different flooring stores in town.  At the first store it sounded like this was going to be a $600 project and we were all, why does anybody do this themselves (as in, why save $300 at most, though DH points out that $300 is a lot for a lot of people and the work isn’t as daunting for people who know what they’re doing better than we do).  But then we gave up on the local flooring places and just went to Home Depot, where the guy was incompetent, but the contractors he sent to the house weren’t.  After the measurement, the estimated cost is $900.  (So according to the home depot invoice, we’d actually save $500 in labor doing it ourselves.  But we’re not gonna, not this time.)

DC1 picked out this tile, or, to be technically correct, ze picked out this sheet vinyl.  It looks a lot nicer in the picture than it does in the sample, but having mosaic actual tile (like DC1 really wanted) is not a good idea for a children’s bathroom because it’s hard to clean and gets slippery.  Vinyl tiles look better, but they only look better with bigger squares and DC1 really likes the pattern of little squares.  Plus sheet vinyl, is again, much easier to clean.  It’s also the least expensive option.

And they’re going to destroy our beautiful baseboards and replace them with ugly quarter-round.  I think this is why people do everything in their bathrooms at once.  DH thinks he can handle getting, painting, and putting in nicer baseboards so he’s going to ask them to omit the quarter-round moulding.

While they’re doing this, we’re also getting a new toilet.  Not only is the current toilet kind of gross, but it has been nothing but a graveyard for new toilet innards.  I swear, the thing breaks every 3 months or so.  So after some research, we picked out this Toto toilet, complete with the stain guard (because DC2 is still potty training).  That’s $300.

So the jack and jill bathroom flooring + toilet is going to cost something like $1500, depending on how much the fancy moulding costs.  We probably should have done it years ago, but $1500 is a lot of money!  Still, not as much as we thought it would cost.  Sometime in the next month or so, we should no longer have carpet in the kids’ bathroom.

As for the window treatments… we’re not sure what we’re going to be doing there, so any suggestions you make now could influence what we do!  There are a lot of options out there, and some of them are better than others.  But that’ll probably be the topic of another post.

What are your thoughts on our home improvement plans?  Any suggestions?

Let us love your links

This is really gross: poor people go in a separate door.

Girls’ intellectual lives.

Racism in preschool.

Call me, Ishmael.

Donna Freedman and wealthy people who think you should live on less.

We love Kristen Bell’s work, and here she is as Mary Poppins on the minimum wage.

These signs have been around the internet, and I like #10.

Potential OTHER books about middle-aged Harry Potter.

This mug is great and useful.

Interesting nonfiction about warning fatigue (beware your dog?).

So I’m a woman and I see this.  A young woman could think, If I get into STEM I’ll make $0.86 for every $1 a man makes, plus I hear the climate is hostile. Why would I keep going in STEM?  (Obligatory women need more money link.)

We support Prof. Jennifer Freyd’s editorial: Official campus statistics for sexual violence mislead

This is what it looks like when we try to do things these days…

Ask the grumpies: Aftershock

Linda asks:

The book description of Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown notes: “From the authors who accurately predicted the bursting of the global bubble economy comes the definitive look at what lies ahead in 2013 and beyond.”

My reading of this book is summarized thusly: there are still more economic bubbles yet to burst and the global economy is “evolving” and not just “cycling” up and down. The authors acknowledge that it is very hard to accurately predict when this big “afterschock” will hit us. They recommend some employment and investing strategies that they say will help one better ride out the “aftershock,” although they note that one could lose some big returns if one shifts assets too early. The principal author is an economist, but he sounds very critical of economists in general.

The book was an easy read (maybe because there was so much repetition) and it appeals to the part of me that is always concerned that in my lifetime our society will become increasingly dystopian. (Could it be that I’ve read too much Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler?) I’m wondering if true academics such as yourselves have a different opinion or general guidance on what to read to balance out the hype of this Aftershock idea.

Somewhat related: if one had a chunk of cash (such as from the sale of a home), what are the better options for saving or investing it for a short term (2 to 5 years)? I’m starting to think about what to do with the equity I’ll get when I sell my house later this year for my big move to the Bay Area, hence my unusual interest in investing and PF books. I will also be meeting with my (fee-based) financial adviser, but I like to have some ideas to discuss with him first.

 

Lots of economists were talking about the market crashing before it crashed.  I don’t think anybody really understood the *extent* of the housing crisis, but we all knew it was unsustainable and going to crash.  Ditto the earlier tech crash.  We’re actually pretty good at seeing bubbles but nobody knows when exactly they’re going to pop, probably because there’s an element of chaos theory there.  The bubbles in my lifetime have seemed to grow bigger than possible before inevitably popping.

With the current lack of regulation, of course there are going to be more bubbles.  The system is still set up for bubbles.  Government has to interfere for there to be no bubbles (as it did after the depression and again after the S&L crisis in the 1980s), but there’s a lot of money to be made in bubbles and the people with money are the people in power these days.

And yes, the US is growing increasingly dystopian.  This depresses me because I grew up thinking it would get better.  Two steps forward and half a step back.  But income inequality has been broadening and things have been getting worse for the poor.  There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens when income inequality gets bigger.  Very depressing.  (I voted for Al Gore, and I like to think in some parallel universe things are better.  More likely though there’s a backlash in that universe and the inevitable was just delayed a couple of decades.  *sigh*)  One of my (libertarian) colleagues is always saying, “Bread and circuses” and forecasting the downfall of civilization.  I hope he’s not right.  I still have the little fairy of Hope in my heart.

So, what to do?  Well, the standard advice *still applies*.  Bubbles mean you need money in stocks.  Bubbles popping mean you need money in bonds.  We can’t predict when a bubble is going to pop or how big it’s going to get.  So we diversify.

Investing for the short term is the same standard boring advice as well– if you’re going to need the money, put it someplace safe (with lower returns).  Bonds, laddered CDs, etc.  If you feel like gambling, put it in the stock market.  (Because houses in SF are so very expensive, and it’s generally a seller’s market, plenty of folks keep that “short term” money in the stock market rather than pulling it out.  When tech bubbles burst, so do housing prices in the SF bay area, so it isn’t quite as big a risk for them, but that’s a very unique market.)

Even if we go into hyperinflation, you’ll need money in stocks for the long-term.  If society collapses, then probably you’ll need bullets and bottled water more than anything else.  But it’s hard to say.  We’re not prepared for a zombie apocalypse.

Our justice system is f*ed up for victims of sexual violence (triggers)

Just did another stint with jury duty.  Third time being called since September.  This time it was for ongoing sexual abuse of a child.

I didn’t get selected.  Because I said I was biased because forget getting to the indictment stage, just coming forward about sexual abuse is so rare that even getting to the kid actually telling someone means it’s pretty likely that it actually happened.  The defense stopped asking me questions at that point, just skipped over me.

I hate the jury selection procedures.  The prosecution and the defense throw out enough “hypotheticals” that by the end of it you know not only what the (alleged) crime is, but you know how the two sides are going to proceed.

In this case, the prosecution was going to allege that this dude repeatedly assaulted a young girl in his family, and that she didn’t come forward right away because she was scared to tell anyone.

The defense is going to paint said child as a malicious liar who is being manipulated by an older sibling into making a false accusation.

This is just so @#$@#ed up.  No wonder nobody ever comes forward when being abused.  No wonder nobody is willing to go through the trial.  No wonder false accusations are such a small statistically unlikely occurrence.

And of course the other prospective jurors just ate it up, especially the former teachers.  Kids lie all the time.  They’re malicious awful creatures.

Hell, the defense attorney wasn’t any better.  When asking us a hypothetical about the punishment, he made a comment about girls who were 13 going on 30, and if a 13 year old who looked like an adult was dating and having sex with a 17 year old for a six month period, then surely that would be not that big a deal (the defendant was obviously a middle-aged man).  WTF?  A 13 year old is still a child even if she has breasts.  Especially if she has breasts.   Seventeen year olds should be damn careful that they’re not having sex with middle-schoolers.  And if they are, that is in no way the 13 year old’s fault.

I don’t know what would be a better system.  I’d like to imagine that having these cases be decided judicially would be better for the victims, but judges are probably no better than normal people for being influenced by the patriarchy.  Just look at the supreme court.

RBOQ

Wandering Scientist (aka Cloud) has mentioned that age 7 is questioning age for her daughter.  DC1 is also in on it.  As with Cloud, we’ve had lengthy conversations about race and inequality and gay marriage and so on in the past few months.  Here’s some other random conversation starters.

  • What is gummi bear juice made of?  (Answer:  it is a secret!)  Why do gummi bears bounce?  (Answer:  Gummi berry juice!)  Yeah, but why?  For what purpose?  (Answer:  Um, maybe we should hook you up with some of the cartoon episodes on youtube…) There was a tv show?  (Answer:  Yes, that’s where the song came from.)
  • How much pee do you have?  How could we measure it?  How much water is in the pee?
  • How do people make so many cars?
  • Why do people mostly have multiple [significant others] before they get married?  Why didn’t daddy?  Why didn’t you know what love is until you met daddy?  Why is the type of love you have for your parents different than for daddy?  Is the type of love for us different? How many types of love are there?
  • Why is Boston so big?  Why do people live in cities?  Why is there more stuff in cities?
  • Do you wish you could be daddy?

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