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?

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?

In which #1 tries to cajole #2 into blogging about her move

#1: We don’t have much in the blog queue. A bunch of ask the grumpies though, so we’re set on Fridays for a few weeks. I put a book review on Monday, but there are many other Mondays ahead if you feel like doing something monetary.
#2: I dunno bout money.
#1: Well, anything to do with the move and career is money, because career is money. And quality of life can be money.
#2: Hm. I’ll think about it.
#1: I bet our readers want to know what’s up with you, even things you find boring.
#2: We don’t really know what we’re doing right now anyway
#1: you can post about that
#2: sometimes we have a serious talk, and then sex.
#1: I don’t think they need to hear about the sex
#2: (sometimes we have sex without the talk beforehand, too)
#1: it would be sad if you only had sex after serious talks. I’d be like, let’s talk about global warming.
#2: I’ll warm your globes, baby!

Also…

#2 would like to espouse the opinion that moving is the MOST TEDIOUS of all things and it even bores ME, and I’m the one doing it.  Oof!

What do you all want to know about #2’s current situation given that she’s quit her job, recovered from pneumonia, and is in the process of scheduling a move, finding a new job, and reinventing herself?  (Note that talking about the logistics of moving makes her seriously grumpy– speaking from experience.)  Please keep it PG-rated.

The Lawn

We have a corner lot and a big lawn.  We get nasty letters from the HOA from time to time.

In the past we’ve had a full-service lawn company (until we moved in ourselves– they were super expensive), mowers every 2 weeks, mowers every week, DH using the manual mower (big muscles!), DH using the gas mower…

We started out with one kind of grass, but now the Bermuda has moved in.  That means it has to be mowed once a week or the Bermuda heads start showing.  And the manual push mower doesn’t get the stupid Bermuda head seeds.

Drought has also done a number on our lawn, killing shade trees and trees that were meant to become shade trees.

DH now doesn’t have enough time to work as much as he wants, spend as much time with his family as he wants, and take care of the yard.  And taking care of the yard used to be a family affair, but as the years have gone by, my grass allergies have gotten so bad that I really just can’t.  I’ve tried, but even the smallest touch of grass (and many other green things) results in major hives.  I’m not much help.

We got a recommendation for a new lawn person.  He quoted $500 for a full yard cleanup (which it needs– bushes need trimming, flower beds need weeding and mulching) and $50/week for mowing and edging.  $50/week is a bit high, even for our massive lawn.  When he was talking to DH he said that would include weed maintenance in the flowerbeds, which might make it reasonable, but he didn’t write that on the estimate form.

We spent literally hundreds of dollars every month in the summer to keep the lawn watered and it still doesn’t do great.  DH spends hours every month fixing and replacing sprinkler heads.  We’ve called around and can’t find a sprinkler place that does drip irrigation.  They say the soil here makes it wrong, or something.  But that can’t be true because the city nearby has the same soil and there are people there who do drip irrigation.

It may be time to seriously consider xeriscaping.  We have a couple recommended xeriscapers in town (we called into the local gardening radio show to ask!).  It’s possible that xeriscaping the lawn would pay for itself pretty quickly given the costs of yard clean-up, mowing, and watering.  I don’t know.  Problems:  1. The HOA may not approve.  2.  We may still be stuck with a weeding nightmare because the weeds here are insane.  3.  We’re kind of on a hill (very small hill) which means the lawn isn’t conducive to just being paved over.  (DH has always wanted plaza.)  4.  If we ever move or go on sabbatical, the xeriscaped lawn might be a liability (and we’ll have a hard time pulling it out and replacing it with sod after all the expense of putting it in).  5.  $$$.  (I’m not sure how much, but it sounds like a lot!)  There are very few xeriscaped lots in our town and they’re mostly small (not corner) lots with lots of mature trees providing huge shade cover.

Anyway, I don’t know what to do.  The lawn is a huge hassle.  We hate it.  We hate taking care of it.  We hate paying people to accidentally mow down our bushes and trees and then over-charge us for the privilege of doing so.  We’re worried about the expense and outcome and time spent trying to re-design everything.  *Sigh*.

So, that’s my lawn rant.  Thoughts?

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?
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