My ideal house and a weird/fun website

I have complained before about the difficulty of having a house in a 4-season climate (even worse when you rent, not own, and/or when all the available properties in an area are shoddily built!).  I have moved since I wrote that, and the new place is definitely better.  However, the HVAC system is in no way balanced between the upstairs and downstairs.  In my dream world, I live in a house with correctly-balanced temperature control zones and better insulation and larger eaves, especially on the side of the house where it always rains into the windows.

I found this interesting (?) website called truehome.net.  I have many opinions about interior designs, but a lot of them are surface-level that wouldn’t play into buying a home.  For example, if the flooring’s not ideal, that can be changed pretty easily.  Anyway, truehome asked me to describe my ideal home in detail, and here’s what I wrote:

Built-in bookshelves EVERYWHERE!  Comfortable, supportive seating.  Lots of places to sleep and be cozy.  Bathrooms with separate tub & shower (deep soaker tub, no jets).  Shower does not require curtain or door (nautilus).  Toilet next to sink.  Gas stove.  Areas to be together but also lots of privacy and sound isolation.  Garage.  No-maintenance yard.  Well-insulated with a well-balanced HVAC system and zones of climate control.  Fireplace.  At least 2 bathrooms.  No HOA.  Hardwood floors.  Maybe 4BR.  No dogs nearby!  Near or in the city.  Not modern, not minimalist: comfortable.  Not country.  Colors on walls.  Efficiency, low-maintenance, green.  Comfortable, safe, easy, lovely.  High ceilings in main living areas.  Cabinets I can actually reach.  Big closets.  Maybe a courtyard.  Privacy is a high priority for me.

(#2 likes modern and minimalist and dislikes fireplaces, also prefers neutral walls.  The rest sounds great.)

Then it also had fun questions where you could pick out which castle you wanted, and the reasons you need it.  My answers to “Why do I need a castle?” included the multiple-choice options:  My servants are bored.  I identify with eccentric Bavarian kings.  Everyone needs a moat.  I like how this house is protected from pirates.

Readers, why do you need a castle?

Mutual fund taxes: Lessons learned

Every year I learn a little bit more about investing that I often wish I didn’t know.

Why?  Well, back in the day, my father took care of my investments and he’s really into complicated stuff.  Each year I can generally only handle untangling one crazy thing.  (I think I’m going to have one share of AOL for ETERNITY.  How?  I had AOL, then it became TWC, then it split off again, so now I have a bunch of TWC, some other Turner/Time Warner company, and one lonely AOL share.  Figuring out the cost-basis on that share is a really low priority.  Update:  And now Comcast is buying TWC… that’ll be fun.)

This year I learned that mutual funds can generate capital gains without your knowledge, and they don’t give you the money but instead they reinvest it, buying more shares of the fund.  This particular capital gain hasn’t done any such thing since like 1994 (before I was paying attention), so the $4K capital gain was a surprise.  I immediately groaned and wished I’d given these funds to the school instead of cash back when my dad was donating money to the school, but I was worried about dealing with that paperwork then too.  Or that I’d taken leave from the school when DH was unemployed so that I could claim a 15% marginal tax rate and sell every single one of those tangled up funds.  (Or better yet, taken a capital loss on all of them when the markets were down during the recession!)  If only I were more organized and not still learning in the past.

But, it turns out that paying capital gains taxes now on mutual funds isn’t such a horrible thing.  The tax I pay now will reduce my tax bill in the future when I actually sell the whole thing.  So it may be best not to donate these shares to charity.  (I probably have some QQQQ with a higher capital gain anyway.  QQQQ has been good to me.)

Still, this mutual fund has a 1% expense ratio, and I think it’s just a large cap fund, so I should get rid of it one of these days anyway since I can get large cap from Vanguard much less expensively.

So anyway.  None of our readers probably cares about this, but hey.  Stick with Vanguard index funds or Target date funds and you’ll be fine.  Stay away from needless and expensive complications!

And so say I.

A review of this library that you might not even know is here

There is kind of a “stealth” library really near where I live.  It is part of the county system, not the city system, so I didn’t know about it until I walked in looking for a place to work on my laptop.   It looks like a secret from the parking lot.

It turns out to be a pretty good place to work if I’m feeling done with the coffee shop for the day.

It’s quiet, with just enough noise to not be creepy.  It has lots of places to sit, including this:

bookcase fakeout

Facilities include study rooms, a computer room, and a surprisingly decent collection of graphic novels.  I started a new series while I was there, and I’m planning to go back for 2 more.

Near a sofa is a vase with some yarn and a pair of knitting needles in it.

In the back is a huge classroom with kid- and adult-sized chairs.  I don’t know what classes are held there.

It has carrells, an enclosed children’s room where they can make some noise, and a “Christmas tree” made out of old encyclopedia volumes (it was summer when I went).

If you get bored you can wander around and look at all the pocket pets they have distributed throughout the library in little cages: tiny tree frogs, a guinea pig, gerbil, bearded dragon, gecko, dove, koi.

As you may be gathering, it’s much bigger than it looks from the outside, as well as having good a/c and wireless access.  On the somewhat sad side, there are surprisingly fewer books than I think it needs (the shelves are not full and there is room for a lot more of them).

There are some “honor books” by the front that you can take without checking out and return whenever.  I haven’t checked out their bookstore yet.

It’s really doing a pretty decent job overall!  It sort of looks like they have not grown into their huge space yet, though they have been there at least 3 years.

This review does you no good, Grumpeteers, but it amuses us.  #2 adds:  What do you like about your favorite library?  What would your dream library have?

What are we getting for people?

Lessee…

MIL completely remodeled her kitchen and is removing the 1990s style country accents and replacing them with red things.  So we bought a whole lot of red things, including an ice cream scoop since theirs kept breaking on me last Christmas.

FIL dropped a hint that he wanted a specific expensive book by a hunter about bow hunting, so we did that.  (Not available on Amazon.)

BIL1 gets a game.  SIL1 gets colored pencils off her wish list.  Nephew1 gets sheet music to Mario Brothers.  Niece gets a box of books about a character who shares her first name.

SIL2 and BIL2 get a fancy crock-pot off their wishlist.  Nephew2 gets an assortment of books I would recommend for a 1-2 year old.  He also gets a contribution to his 529.  (Why none for the other sibs– It’s Nephew2′s first Christmas and we made the offer for BIL1′s kids, but BIL1 never got around to setting up an account, so we didn’t contribute.)

My sister requested a checked luggage.  So I got her that.

My mom I will get a B&N gift certificate, though I think I’ll up the amount from $50 to $60 this year.

My father we usually buy some hard liquor.  He tends to like high quality on-the-sweet-side stuff.  We’ve done fancy rum and fancy brandies the past few years.  Also some apple jack that I suspect he didn’t like as much.  I wonder if I can get Dumante delivered to their place…  No, scratch that.  This just in:  He doesn’t want any more alcohol and they’ve switched to a no-sugar diet.  Uh…

Are you getting anything fun for people on your list?

What do you miss from high school?

We miss different things than CPP.

Holy shit, I miss almost nothing.  I miss some of the people, but I could always call them or something.  I miss NOT being the smartest person in the room — generally I miss hanging out exclusively with really smart people.  That’s about it.  There were more things I enjoyed, but sure as hell not enough to go back.

I don’t miss the angst, depression, terrible food, boyfriends dumping me, looking for a boyfriend, not getting enough sex, worrying about Cell Bio, math problem sets, restricted freedom, rules, communal living (we went to a boarding school), coming down with mono, my parents having power over me, not being able to live with a cat, lack of privacy, moving all my stuff twice a year, classes that started at 7:30AM, etc.  Criminy.

Lucky for me, high school was not the best time of my life.  It was certainly the best time of my life UP UNTIL THEN!  Particularly senior year, that was pretty sweet.  Except that my life kept on getting better after that, too!  I love getting older.  Joking aside, being a grownup pretty much rocks.

#2 totally agrees with all of the above, except she kind of liked the math problem sets, and sometimes has to make solution sets for them these days (and, for the most part, she still hangs out with super smart people).

How does your life compare to high school?  What’s better and what’s worse?

Emergency office supplies

Keeping emergency supplies at work can help save time and money because you don’t need to go out and buy something more expensive (see: a meal out) and unplanned right when you need time most.  It can also improve your productivity by decreasing discomfort.
#1 and #2 discuss further.
#1: It rained really hard and I got soaked.  The sandals will dry eventually; meanwhile, I’m barefoot in my office
#2:  I have emergency back-up shoes here
#1:  I wish I had socks, but oh well.  I’ll just sit on my feet
#2: :  hm, I seem to have taken my emergency backup cardigan home to get washed
#1:  I have an emergency backup umbrella in my office, which enabled me to give my regular one to a colleague who was heading to class unprotected.  I have a blazer that lives on my office chair in case of chills. I also have tampons, floss, mirror, ibuprofen, etc.

#2:  let’s not forget emergency chocolate!
#1:  almost out of that!  Still good on emergency nuts though
#2:  mmmmmnuts
What contingency supplies do you have in your office?

Ten Books By Which Ye Shall Know Me

… As of this moment.

I was re-reading The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and the author was talking about how you would know him by the books he re-reads.

This list is based on number of re-reads, not on anything else (quality, influence, etc.).  It was hard to make!  It is in no particular order.

1.  Dune – Frank Herbert (SciFi) (my cover is cooler than this, though)

2.  Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (Classic, Gothic)

3.  Arrows of the Queen – Mercedes Lackey (Fantasy)

4.  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader – Anne Fadiman (Essays)

5.  Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott (Advice)

6.  Gaudy Night – Dorothy L. Sayers (Mystery)

7.  The Initiate Brother – Sean Russell (Fantasy)

8.  Going Postal – Terry Pratchett (Fantasy)

9.  A College of Magics – Caroline Stevermer (Fantasy)

10.  The Blue Sword – Robin McKinley (Fantasy)

The runner-up list had even more fantasy on it!

Does #2 have a list?

[No, but if she did it wouldn't include Dune, or Mercedes Lackey.  I'll have to check out Sean Russell-- hadn't heard of him.]  I can make an off-the-top-of-my-head list that isn’t well thought out.  Rereads are heavily populated by classics and children’s fiction.

1.  Frederica by Georgette Heyer

2.  Jane Eyre

3.  Pride and Prejudice, though honestly I haven’t been able to read it again since I took a class on Austen in college.  I think I have it memorized.

4.  Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini (Free on kindle!  Also the movie is wonderful.)

5.  Anne of Windy Poplars (also Anne of Green Gables)

6.  A College of Magics – Caroline Stevermer, though it bugs me that my copy is still at my parents’

7.  Witch Week and The Lives of Christopher Chant (and many others, but especially the entire Chrestomanci series) by Diana Wynne Jones

8.  The Thread that Binds the Bones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (though A Fistful of Sky is close)

9.  Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin

10.  Spindle’s End edges out Hero and the Crown or Blue Sword for the Robin McKinley spot.  Because I’m older now.

What are your rereads?  What books should we know you by?

Vertical blinds

We have several gorgeous picture windows in our house.

In the Great Room we have 3 long and tall windows that are too close together for drapes, and the drapes would obscure the beautiful moulding that frames each window.

The dining room doesn’t have the moulding, and has a bit more space between the windows than those in the Great Room, but is also a set of three long and tall windows.  These have large half circle windows on top.

The library (potentially future child’s room) is similar to the dining room.

The guest bedroom could have drapes put in its large picture window (actually a set of three windows that can be opened but with no walls between).

All the windows are between 81 and 84 inches long (this is important as most of the pre-made Roman blinds are 64 in long).  Widths vary, but are generally in the 30+ inches category.

All of these currently have off-white textured vertical blinds.  They all look great when the blinds are open.  They’re energy efficient when the blinds are closed.  But… apparently vertical blinds are so far out of fashion that people COMMENT on them.  My sister, my mother-in-law, #2….  (You can still *buy* vertical blinds, and apparently these are very nice quality vertical blinds… but they’re still vertical blinds.  They don’t have quite the color in stock at Lowes that we have at home, but they have similar textured off-whites.)

We’re pretty much ok with the vertical blinds, except for a few annoyances.  A few of them got dirty during a rainstorm when a bottom window was open and we have no idea how to clean them.  A few of them broke up at the top and are currently hanging by the grace of clear plastic tape.  And the clippy thing at the top of one of them in the guest bedroom refuses to face the right direction no matter how many times DH takes it apart and puts it back together.  (It used to be 3 of them that wouldn’t face the right direction, but now it’s down to just the one recalcitrant.)

So while the in-laws were here over break we went window treatment shopping. We hit up JCPenny’s and Lowe’s and another cheaper local store.

We measured all the windows.  We decided on roman shades, because they don’t obscure the moulding in the Great room.  We liked Bali as the brand.  We picked chocolate as the color.

Of course none of these have prices, and over the holidays there aren’t a whole lot of people trying to sell you blinds.  So we just decided what we liked and left it at that.

On the internet, Bali links to places so you can order blinds.  JCPenny:  $325.50 for one of the three windows in the Great room.  They claim that’s 70% off the original price, but I imagine that is a lie.  Lowes gives $291.55 for the one window.  Home Depot says $276 but doesn’t give the exact size.

So… to outfit the Great Room alone we’re talking upwards of $900.  And that’s only one of the rooms with vertical blinds.  There are four rooms with vertical blinds.

Dear readers,  What would you do?

Challenge Update: WOOOOO

This month’s challenge was :

Oct.:  write every day for 30 min., without fail

Here’s how I did at it:

Not so good.  Well, I started out ok.  I was even making beautiful graphs and charts and everything.  And then… October.  Partly I ran out of things that were easy to write on in 30-minute chunks.  I wrote all the easy parts and all I have left are the hard parts, but people keep calling meetings.  I now have a bunch of stuff backed up that requires thinking, right when my brain is reaching the end of its useful life for the semester.  (Too bad the semester isn’t over!)  I wrote some things in small chunks, which was good, but thinking is harder and takes longer.  And my brainage is minimal right now.

Another reason I pooped out on writing at the end of October has to do with my partner and his Diabolical Plan.

See, my partner came to me and said, “I really want to start going to the gym in the morning before work.  And that’s really hard to do.  It would work a lot better if you came with me.”  *puppy dog eyes*

When I told my friend this, she said, “Did you punch him in his mouth?”

Mournful, I said, “No.  I went to the gym.”

Readers, it sucks.  This is how you know I love this guy: I have never worked out at a gym in my life.  And now I am doing it multiple times a week.  I bought a membership.  I’ve tried out various machines and even the saline pool.  Ugh ugh ugh.  I hate gyms.

Fortunately, it was the day AFTER this conversation with my partner that my doctor called and said my triglycerides were too high, and that I needed to cut back on pasta (possibly more on this later but possibly not), as well as to “get aggressive” with diet and exercise.  I had a little moment — ok, hours — where I pouted on the couch and then cried about losing all the good food in my life.  Don’t tell my mom.

My partner has been very encouraging and proud of me.  He even bought me a gift: a heart-rate monitor.  Gee.

We don’t talk in the morning on the way out the door.  Putting on shoes is the limit of what I can manage at 6:30am.  He knows I will cut him if he tries for more interaction.  And I tend to feel queasy at that hour.

Getting up at 6:15am almost every day?  I don’t think I’ve ever been so grumpy (hello, rumblings!) as I’ve been the past week or two.  And yes I am sleeping.  And trying to eat well or at least better, but that’s infinitely hard.  Most of the time I am fueled by hatred of the world.  I don’t hate my partner, but I do hate the world.

Nov.:  take up some form of exercise, at least 30 min per day at least 3 times per week

  • fidget more.
  • take the stairs at work

Report from Oct. 24 – 31st:  FML.  Oh god.  Here is my current schedule:  gym on MWTh; ride horses TuSat; rest FSu

The gym takes place at o-dark-hundred hours.  I am starting slow.  Today I did a 10-minute warmup on the elliptical, then got off and stretched.  Then I did the elliptical some more for about 20 min at around a heart rate of 154 bpm.  I hate everything about this.  Though the machines do have TVs on them, so I watched a show about baby cheetahs while I sweated and hated.  Awwww.  Also, my partner and I are both about to take a few days off from the gym: him because he has a martial arts tournament, and me because I won’t go without him and also I am tired.  Also also, eating a lot of protein is hard.

At least I enjoy riding horses and it doesn’t take place quite so early in the morning.

(Also also also, there is political shit going on at work that makes it clear just how little the university values our department and how unrespected we are around this place, but that’s another story.  I am feeling quite a kinship with the chaps over at Hungover Owls.)

Nov. 2:  I didn’t take the stairs in my office building but I did take the stairs in the library.  Did you know that there are 8 flights of stairs to get up to my office?  They are death.  I am too exhausted to fidget.

GRUMPY EXERCISER DEMANDS ENCOURAGEMENT!

please?

#1 tries to be more productive Day One: Internet Addiction

I was crazy productive the year after I had a baby.  I think part of the reason for that productivity was that I had enforced break-times  for pumping that were probably about ideal for optimal research productivity (~20 min every 3 hours).  When I wasn’t taking a break, I was super focused because time was precious, and I knew I’d be able to take a break for whatever I felt like doing.  This past year, DC long-since weaned, I’ve gotten pretty bad at separating my work time from my internet play time.  So I decided to reboot.  For the sake of productivity!  Viva la productivity!

Day 1 was a bit shaky.  Here’s my frantically written notes from that day.

I am mostly successful at keeping my internet time to while I’m eating my cereal.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  Bonus:  I make DC’s lunch instead of DH.  When K starts we will start making it the night before, but for today, I feel like a good and virtuous partner.

I get to work early enough to beat the traffic around the high school.

I installed leech block and blocked this blog and cnn, hours from 9-12, 1-3, and 3:15-4:40.

This leads to increased clicking on Not of General Interest and Bardiac and other sites with awesome blogrolls.  I tell firefox to forget these pages so they are harder to automatically click on.

I notice myself checking my bank account.  Hey, a reimbursement, that’s cool.  Of course, I can’t enter it into the checkbook register from work, so there wasn’t much point in that.

Argh, I want to write a blog post.  Instead I will jot down my thoughts on paper.

I muse on how when I’m doing mechanical tasks that don’t take any thought I need to have some kind of entertainment in the background or I stop doing the tasks.  For tasks that require thinking though, I prefer silence or familiar music.  I listen to Morning Edition online and Performance Today.

Hm, 3 hours without the blog and nobody has commented.  Also nobody has written anything interesting.  Why does nothing interesting ever happen on the internet when I’m away from it?  You’d think I’d have figured this out by now.

So the above is what I typed in during my lunch break.  The following are my scattered notes, sans context, from the remainder of the afternoon:

“Reclaim 2 hours on weekend. ”  What did this mean?  I don’t know!  Maybe it’s about me trying to start working on research on weekends again, which I have.  Except it’s more like 3-4 hours.  (Sometimes more when there’s a deadline!  I hate working on deadlines though.  :( )

“goofing off and getting distracted”  Probably a note about what I was doing.

“problem– work isn’t unpleasant, just not as pleasant as short-term alternatives”  Man, that sure is true.  It’s not that I don’t like work… I’d just rather you know, be watching cat videos on youtube or something.

“I want to make excuses for myself”  It’s true… I keep wanting to come up with valid reasons for me to waste time online.  But the truth is there’s always *something* I could be working on, even if what I planned to work on can’t be worked on for whatever reason.  There’s always a referee report or reading or writing or *something*.

“Lit review nice or mean?”  I have NO idea what this note was.  Following it is something that suggests it might have been a research note to myself.  Oh, I remember what this thought was.  A really good paper I was reading didn’t place as highly as it ought to have, and I thought perhaps it was because the author slammed all the previous literature in kind of a nasty way.  Not something to do to potential reviewers!  One can be polite and professional and build on previous (imperfect) research without being a jerk about it.  Previous research is what makes a field exist!

How do you keep yourself on task at work?  Do you have planned and enforced break-times?

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