Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Economics of Stuff

A couple of years ago I read this great article. I wish I could cite it properly or even, were it possible, hyperlink you to it. I looked in one folder where the original article might have been but it wasn't.

Anyway. I'm stealing this from something I read a while back somewhere. Could be The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Or not.

I found an article that I think references the article in question

The gist of this stolen material was that when we buy something there is an immediate loss of value. That proverb about the new car that is worth thousands of dollars less when you drive it off the lot. Yeah, that idea. But these guys had extended the idea to gifts and, the theory was, that a gift you buy is worth even less to the person who receives it than it would have been had he bought it for himself.

I can't help thinking of this every time the gift-giving season rolls around. I plunk down money for something and I feel this decline in value. It's sad. There must be a way to put a positive spin on it but I haven't found it.

I've been thinking about presents and buying some things. Bummer. Economic disaster.

The picture was taken Sunday at a flea market on Burnet Road. And, yeah, I know, sometimes stuff gets more valuable over time. That's just not the point, though.

Well, a little more digging has turned up an article in The Economist from December 2001 and I think it is the very one that triggers my thinking. And yet...if you click the link, this article ends up being upbeat. How could I have missed that? The thought may actually count. Even economically speaking.

Should I Practice or Save It?

I love daily bloggers. You can count on them to give you a little lift with their writing. Hardly the day passes that I don't check for updates from The Journal of a Writing Man and I'm rarely disappointed. I do frequent checks on Rob but he doesn't update every single day. So I'm not always rewarded.

Well, I signed up for Holidailies along with 150 or more other people and I'll be committed to writing from December 1 to January 1.

One question is should I waste words and pictures prior to the start of the daily rat race? Should I limber up now or should I be saving it?

Another question is what I should write about each day. Should I just tell what I did that day? You know: went to the gym, allegedly burned three hundred calories, ate nachos, drank beer, watched The Simpsons. Or should I have little daily rants with themes? Themes that could be generated from the day's events or come from nowhere. Or should I have an overall theme for the entire period? I actually thought of doing that...the overall theme thing. I thought of blogging about my neighborhood for the entire time.

The picture is from the South American coffee shop in our neighborhood: Pacha's on Burnet Road. I snapped it midway through a coffee and eggplant empanada on Sunday when FFP and I took the dog for a Burnet Road walk.

Hmmm...so what will it be? So many questions of so little importance! Also, I'm thinking maybe I should do this daily ranting, er, writing in my own space instead of here?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Turkey Dies for Us

Cranberry this and that, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, green salad, spinach casserole, relishes, dressings, rolls, corn, squash casserole, pie, wine. Need I go on? There was probably more. One forgets. And the two turkeys, of course.

My cousin Bob operates on a smoked turkey in this photo.

We watched football. We tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle.

Yeah, that's Thanksgiving in our family.

Lots of family. No little kids though. This branch of my family is at this point where the generation younger than mine is grown but without children so far. That will probably change in a few years.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Anybody out there hungry for The Visible Woman postings? Anyone thinking "Gee, my December isn't busy enough...what I need to be able to do is see a few words from LB every single day from December 1 to January 1"? Yeah, that's what I thought. Still I signed up to do it. I'll be posting here on this blogging site at least once a day and registering one a day with Holidailies. I'll have lots of company. (There were 82 others signed up last I looked to participate fully and twelve pledging to update but without registering the entries.)

And speaking of hungry...is anybody up for turkey and pie and stuff? I'm with some family and I've already had a piece of pumpkin pie in honor of the season.

The holidays are officially here. On Lover's Lane in Dallas tonight I saw lighted Christmas displays. Why am I sort of ready for them to be over?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

E.A.S.T.ern Art

The graffiti in this picture apparently refers to the latest show at AMOA (Austin Museum of Art) but I took it on the sidewalk at one of the 86 official locations in this year's East Austin Studio Tour in Austin. It was a lovely day and we started our eastwardly adventures by eating at the Eastside Cafe. Then we took in a few of the more northernly studios (including Karen Maness) and then a few of the more furthest south (including Art Amici where Jennifer Balkan was showing).

It was a glorious day starting cool and sunny and warming up to the point where the sunny spots felt warm and the shade felt cool.

This afternoon I saw the premiere of young Jake Sawyer's short film Downloader. A pretty ambitious undertaking from a teenager, this film showed a very adult sensibility and communicated obsessive compulsive behavior, office politics, office romance, paranoia and our Internet/drug/technology culture in a way you wouldn't really think a young kid would understand. Plus it had cops and stunts and lots more. John Merriman starred and was fabulous and funny and convincing from the beginning to the end. Young Jake directed a lot of adults in this short and did it well.

It's an artsy town, Austin. Radical NY indeed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Where Does My Time Go?

Well, I drink a lot of coffee. It's time-consuming: the making, sipping, savoring and, if you make it at home, the cleaning. Yesterday we received our new Jura-Capresso E8 via UPS. I would tell you that it is a time-saver since it delivers each cup of coffee at the push of a button. (You have to add water, beans and do the occasional clean-out job, though.) But I'm not sure that's true. We shipped our mal-functioning, recalled (for potential electrical fire) and over six-year-old CA1000 back to the manufacturer (see this ancient journal entry for more on that device) and received this new one for a heavily discounted price. We are pleased. We spent a half hour setting it up before we watched Office last night.

That's the kind of thing I spend my time on. I am so lucky that I'm not dodging bullets and bombs in Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or one of the many other spots on the earth where that is the norm. So that I can spend time drinking coffee. I'm so lucky I have power to power the Capresso, not to mention being able to own the machine itself.

I also spend time at my country club. I've noticed whole half days get consumed this way. Yesterday I went over there at 8:30. I played two sets of singles, rode an exercise bike and lifted a few weights, took a shower and met with the club manager to go over board business while eating a delicious salad. Today I went over at 8:30 and climbed into the deep end of the pool with my dad and a bunch of ladies for water aerobics. Then I worked out in the gym. It was about eleven by the time I got home, rinsed out my suit. It was noon before I'd had a small lunch. And I still haven't showered.

I am very lucky. I retired and my days are pretty much what I dreamed they would be. Except I haven't carved out time for my novel or the technical project I have in mind. My technical skills are so lame and rusty that the patent granted this week with my name on it confuses me about as much as technical stuff I had nothing to do with. But so it goes. I get to spend half of many days exercising or playing games or eating out. Or drinking coffee. And not writing and not inventing and certainly not working for the man.

And, yes, of course, I spend a bit of time managing my money. Which requires more management now that I must make it make a living for me. But life is good. It really is. Even if I don't seem to accomplish great things. A lucky, caffeinated interlude should be appreciated all on its own.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Winnowing the Stuff

Part of our on again/off again downsizing is that we are sorting through the books. I'm tentatively identifying books that get to stay, not just avoid the thrift store box now, but maybe go to the ultimate condo location. I make sure these books are in my Access database and I've also started cataloging them on Library Thing, a site I found that is very helpful in finding the book info and also finding interesting things about books and people who own them.

Some of these books are now on a shelf in my office, nestled next to a cheap globe someone gave me as a gift a few years ago. Hence today's picture. The cheap globe is more accurate than a lot of the ones in my collection of old globes. But it is pre-1989, I guess, since it shows East and West Germany. I'm thinking, by the way, that maybe the globe collection can go to the new, small digs. Some decorative things have to survive. I'm less sure what to do with the four pocket world atlases I found. One is leatherbound and embossed with my name. Pretty up-to-date, too. One Germany. However, not perfect. It's pre-1997 and shows Zaire. Another has the same flaw but some compelling colorful maps. One is so old that it still has Rhodesia and Burma and has The Congo (sometimes wrong things become right again). It shows its age in other ways, too. A cover price of $1.50 and a copyright in Roman Numerals. (MCMLXX). The fourth mini-atlas was revised in '93 and has very readable maps and a nice binding. All four appeal in certain ways. And let's not even begin to discuss the giant 1970's atlas and the collection of maps and guidebooks. But we are making progress. A steady progression of paperback novels and other books are actually leaving the house. I feel for the first time that I'm getting rid of more things on average than I'm acquiring. Really. Honest. Books have been ebbing and flowing about the house in odd ways as himself and I queue some for discarding, move them from the other's pile to the discard boxes and, occasionally, rescue one for further consideration. A pile of literary magazines has taken over a chair in my office for possible donation to Badgerdog Literary Publishing. Of course, these old copies of Story and Paris Review are calling out to me. They are saying "Don't you want to read me before discarding??" I'm not answering, though.

Acquiring stuff is a strange process and discarding it is fraught with all kinds of emotion.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


It's not cold out. A little chilly maybe. I tossed on a sweatshirt this morning. I didn't wear it to play tennis but put it on again to go home and to go out for burgers. I had on shorts, of course. I got an old black stretched-out cashmere and silk sweater out to wear tonight. It's not realy cold, though.

The picture was taken on South Congress the other night.

Halloween was a bust around here. Some grandparents brought some little kids by and a guy from up the street brought a cute little duck, but otherwise we had these kids who were really too old and not even trying with the costumes. They almost all had pillowcases they were trying to fill with candy.

Meanwhile, the contractors tried to finish off the concrete they'd poured in the dark, illuminated by truck and Bobcat headlights. They tried to keep people off of it and seem to have succeeded. But it was eight-thirty or nine before they'd put up their temporary fence around the wet stuff. We could just see ghoul footprints. But no.

Today, I really had an amazing retiree's day. I hung around the gym at the club and read and drank coffee and worked out a bit. Then I played tennis. I got trounced but it was fun. FFP and I went to Billy's on Burnet for burgers. (Only we had vegetarian sandwiches.) I spent the afternoon catching up month-end finances, taking a leisurely shower, reading yesterday's newspapers and watching 24 Hours on Craigslist off the DVR.

Tonight I have a board meeting at my club. It will be tedious, but I'll have a beer and eat off the Mexican buffet, so how bad is that?