Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Six months in

I've been 50% spaceman for half a year now.  Half a year in which I have not taught any classes.  Half a year in which we had two major surgeries for little Miss.

Have I written any books?  Sort of - I have brought the poetry book to the point of publishing, and am now waiting on my graphic designer to make a good-looking publishing logo.  I also cranked out a long-overdue chapter for a science reference book (haven't heard from the editors yet...) and just today sent out a journal article that has haunted me for about 22mos.

Have I finished the house?  Ha.  No.  But I have done many things to the house, like finishing the plumbing in the master.  After Mrs. changed her mind on where it should go.

Have we successfully gardened?  Sort of.  The corn was a hoot.  We got about 3 good ears, and half a dozen scrawny ones.  The beans never came up.  The squash failed in the heat.  The watermelons did OK.

Have we accomplished any of our goals?  Yes.  Though really not by dint of our effort.  We are now mortgage-free.  A timely inheritance pushed us across the finish line, and now our monthly expenses are much reduced.  Let me tell you, there's nothing quite as anticlimactic as taking a large chunk of money and making it disappear against a loan.  But it's pretty awesome to just live in our house.  Now we will just stay out of debt, Lord willing.

Have we learned anything?  I hope so.  I've gotten to do a good bit of studying for teaching the college kids, and am working up an adult class for the new year.  We have also learned that little Miss does not thermally regulate in the summer.  CP messes with the parts of your brain that control sweating, I guess.  So she just bakes.  She also gets dried out like nobody's business, especially now that it's "cold" here.  We just live in a very, very, very dry state, which is hot a lot of the time.  We're not sure if we have to move to cooler weather.  That would make a pretty funny joke on us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In Which the Workload Is Reduced

This is my first week of 50% time!  I am excited. The college kids from our church were suggesting that I could now qualify for a T-shirt reading:

50% Spaceman,
100% Awesome

I am not sure I qualify for that.  But I will be a 50% spaceman going forward, and in the fall, a 50% spaceman who is learning Hebrew.  This is also exciting.

And, in the "you can't get rid of opportunities" column, I had a good visit with this gent today, and if he likes me well enough, I will get to help design an off-grid rammed-earth house.  There's a lot of thermal analysis in such a job, especially when you want to go totally untethered.  Can't run out of cold during a summer night.

So, I'm excited.  That's the takeaway message for today.

Tonight, I will paint a bookshelf.  And, now that I have a better phone, I may actually start taking photographs of these things I make, since you will not think that I am some cave goblin who makes dark blurry furniture (or the sort of person who kept using a Motorola Defy XT long after it was obsolete - same thing).

Also, we decided NOT to get a dog.  This was a difficult decision, because we like dogs, we particularly liked this particular, well-mannered adult dog that we met early in June, and because we believe that J.M. Barrie would not lie to us about parenting - dogs are competent nannies, yes?

But we decided not to.  We have lots to do, lots to think about, lots of other things that require money, and decided that we did not, at this time, need to adopt a canine.  Maybe another year...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

It's the Economy, stupid!

"Although the United States faces other headwinds, the newfound prudence of American consumers has turned into the country’s core economic dilemma. Some economists say that the recession caused a psychological trauma deeper than initially appreciated, leaving Americans of all ages less willing to inject their money back into the economy in the form of vacations, clothing and nights out." - WaPo article




Let's start with the "economy", and gently shepherd it back to its proper home (oikos) where it will not go to the mall, it will not go barhopping, and it will not go to Tobago this year unless it can afford to go to Tobago two hundred and fifty times (or 300, if you prefer a 3% safe withdrawal rate).

Economy is about the home.  It's about tending the law of the house, the iron law that says "if there are two of you and only one pickle left, you may not each have a pickle".  When did the "economy" get tripping on LSD and think that THERE CAN BE PICKLES FOR EVERYONE you just have to BELIEVE and SELL that pickle to each other, and if you all buy the pickle at least once then you have ALL CONSUMED THE PICKLE and then everyone has pickles ohmanohmanohman is that my finger ohmanohman.

See?  Is that what you want the economy to do?  Fall over in the kitchen in a mess of glass and pickle juice, spasms contorting its once-handsome face, chewing on its own fingers?  Because that is my best understanding of J. M. Keynes and his economic theory, absent government creating fiat pickles.  And you can't eat fiat pickles.  And it's not like they even print them all anymore, it's all just electronic fiat pickles.  It's terrible.

Let's stop talking about the economy, as it is apparently going to need serious rehab, and just talk about how a household runs.  We grow or buy food.  If we do not have the food that Jr. wants, we tell him he can't have it right now.  If a house project doesn't add value right now, I don't do it.  If Mrs. doesn't have time to pickle cucumbers, there are no pickles.  And Jr. has to learn that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all, if we even have bread, which we rarely do.

How about Mr. Miner?  I mostly run into the law of finite time.  If I do this right now, I can't do that.  If I water the garden, I am not working in the shop.  If I go to my salary gig, I am not doing diddly for my oikos.  I am earning money, yes, but that does not build household economy.  That actually enables lack of discipline in household economy.  To build household economy (which you should realize is a redundant phrase), you must spend time at home - maintaining, building, playing and teaching, helping, cleaning.

I was working on the front patio project (long form project - but it's shovel-ready), and I saw a wasp entering and exiting a small chink in the block mortar.  I'm glad I saw him, and I'm glad I had a mortar patch pail in the garage.  Mrs. saw some leaf-cutter bees doing a similar stunt out back.  If we hadn't been out working on and around the house, we would potentially have two infestations going.  This is not a problem at which you can throw money - you have to spend time, getting to know your home inside and out, so that you can be a wise steward of it.

This is something my dad excelled at.  He was always doing some project in or out of his house (a big house, a bed and breakfast, which he designed and built).  He knew every nook and cranny of that house, and it was all in ship-shape.  He didn't earn a ton of money as an innkeeper, less (I think) than he earned as a carpenter/contractor in Seattle, but he was always home.  He was always in his house, building it better, making it his and my mom's in a way that I have seen only with him and his father, my grandpa (who was also a carpenter/contractor).

So forget about the national economy babbling on the kitchen floor.  Just tend your house, and help your neighbor.  That will make a difference.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


The slow




designed to quell the pain and
keep the patient from moving about
more than the experts think is best,

that which is doled out
suited to each patient,
(it's for the best)

is called
by those who understand such things,

a salary.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mom, seriously.

So, after two years, I got a new phone.

To the mass of Verizon subscribers, that sounds like a normal thing. But my new phone is still with Republic Wireless, which continues to provide a really excellent service at a really excellent price.  And my monthly bill dropped.  To less than half of my previously "unthinkably cheap" $23/mo.

See, the crummy Defy XT was a beta, and Republic offered only a single plan for it - talk, text, 3G, $23 or so per month.  But the newer better faster Moto E/G/X phones have a much broader suite of plans offered, including my favorite, $10/mo for talk + text.  I have WiFi at home and at work, and those are the places I spend most of my time.  But if I want 3G (say for a road trip), I can add it online, and then drop it when I no longer need it, since Republic lets you switch plans! On the fly! Up to twice a month! (last time I checked)

They were sending around $50-off mother's day coupons, and like a good son, I used it to by myself a new phone.  So, I got a snazzy new Moto G for $120 (which includes tax +shipping).  With the drop in my plan price, it will pay for itself in a bit less than a year. 

So here's to all of our change-averse family and friends.  You can do it, Mom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To Dream the Impossible Dream

I had the opportunity to counsel a young engineering graduate yesterday.  She had just received a really fat offer from a very good aerospace/defense firm in my state, and she was asking my advice.

First, I said she should say "thank you", and maybe "and when do reviews happen?" because the offer was very generous and the job will be fun for her (certainly for a few years - manufacturing and test can be great, or it can be great for a while). 

Second, I said "and you're not buying a car for at least five years".  This caught her up short, because apparently her mom had (jokingly?) said "Now you can afford that Audi!".  As thought that were a funny joke.  Ha.Hum.

We then had a crash discussion of the core principles of Mustachianism as relate to a student who is really tempted to dive into the newly-employed lifestyle inflation that I have (regrettably) done myself and seen so often. She had just assumed that this would happen.  She had no idea that you could NOT succumb to this.

I asked how much she had lived on in the past few years.  The average was about $24k.  This is more than necessary, but certainly not insane given her preferences (she does not like roommates, and has cats...sigh).  So I just asked her if she could keep living on that amount. This was like cold water.

(Her, eyes wide) "Well, yes, I guess." 

(Me, eyes narrow) "So do that."

That would automatically put her in the admirable category of 50%+ savers, and this would be of discretionary take-home pay, not including the pretty-good employer match 401k.  I pointed out that this would allow her the privilege of deciding to do whatever work she wanted in a fairly short period.  This was news.  It was not news she expected, but I hope she realizes it is good news, and that she can take this unique opportunity to start off right in her career.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still actually alive

and putting radiant barrier in the attic.  I have done most of BR3 and about half of the master.  It is slow work, with lots of attic-crawling on my back, and stapling the mylar up into the joists.  But I anticipate a savings from it, and it made a difference in the master, which is at some remove down the ductwork.  It got less cold in the room at nights after the install, so that was good.

In other news, the kitchen is almost done!  And I mean, almost done.  Like, I have to build the corner-cabinet door and the over-fridge cabinet door, then we're good.  The vent hood is installed, but I need to fish vent duct through the attic, and I have been putting off attic work out of sheer laziness - it's annoying to get to that side of the house, crawling over the HVAC nest is required.  However, I would like to eventually do a full-up pipe insulation in the attic, and lay additional batts over all my ductwork.  That would help muches in the summer.

The garden is growing!  We have a 2'x12' bed going gangbusters with last fall's plants, and a third of our 6'x12' bed is planted with seeds and beginning to sprout with spring stuff! 

Also, beginning work on the front yard.  Prognosis is good, though the patient's present condition is poor.  Application of two lantana has not made a full remedy.  Flower beds are being dug, and we are planning for nut/fruit trees.

That's about it for now.