James heads to preschool

Posted in Family, Life at 11 am

It was the first days of school for James this week. It is a real change for us all. Until this week, James had been my commuting buddy since he was 5 months old. 4 days a week he would sit in the back seat and mostly patiently wait to go see his friends. I still remember when we finally were able to put his seat in the front-facing position and I could keep an eye on him thru the rear-view mirror. Whether he was snacking on some goodies or playing with an old iPhone, I could always reach back and give his leg a tickle and get a big grin from him.

Now the schedule is a quick Prius trip to preschool, Tucker Maxon, in the morning and then I take Viva, (my 1973 VW Karmann-Ghia) to work. Amy then has the far safer Prius to pick up James in the afternoon. She gets to pick him up and they run errands or have fun until I get home. But that’s not always the case. This week he has stopped taking his afternoon nap that he took at daycare. Once he gets buckled into his car seat he’s been falling asleep and taking a nap. Amy told me how she needed to go to Fred Meyer and she packed him up on her shoulder; James slept there the whole time she was in the store. I hope he learns to take that afternoon nap at school. I imagine he’s pretty cranky by the end of the day.

James seems to have made the transition from daycare to preschool pretty well, but I am looking forward to taking him to his daycare on occasion, when we get to be commuting buddies again.


Each Night

Posted in Life, People at 11 pm

Each night as we put 14-month-old James to sleep, our routine usually touches the following steps:

1. A night cap of a small bottle of milk or formula or both. Followed by a knee bounce and back-pat till burped. This is done by the very dim light of a star lamp.

2. A story or three from the cardboard-page books. Goodnight Moon (a gift from family friends), I’ll See you in the Morning (which is beautifully illustrated) are two favorites. Our eyes are adjusted to the light so it’s dark, but we can make out the words. Most of them are memorized by now anyway.

3. A quiet “Goodnight James” and a kiss before taking off his cochlear implant. The CI goes on the night stand, and the star lamp is turned off. The room is now dark except for little LED dots and clocks scattered around. Amy goes to make preparations for the next day’s food and clothes and chores.

4. Then I rock him to sleep. But not like in a rocking chair, or even upright. After the bottle and starting with the books, we get in position. For this, I lay in bed and he lays on top of my chest, facing the ceiling, his head resting on my sternum. Then he rocks his head back and forth across my chest and I alternate lifting my shoulders a bit to make the rocking easier for him. I hold his hips so that my arms are just above level with my chest and he can rock back and forth between them.

The rocking goes on for 10 or more minutes. Usually by the 15 or 20 minute mark, he’s far enough asleep that I can lift him and place him in his crib. The room is almost dark except for those scattered LEDs from the TV, clocks and assorted equipment.

I wonder if we should be more aggressive about making him go to sleep without me being there. I wonder if we should ask on a mailing list, “Are we coddling him?” Should I ask my co-workers what they’ve done with their kids?

Then I realize that I don’t want to change those steps. I like rocking him to sleep. I will only have this for a short time. He will want his independence soon enough, demand it even. He will take it when he’s ready. I must give it when it is time.

I have until then.


Sunday Chores

Posted in Life at 12 am

Cats: Fed and watered. Clothes and bed linen: washed. Dishes: rinsed. Cat box: cleared. Dresser drawer: fixed. Garbage: To the dumpster. Journal: Moved to new host. Recycling: taken out. Groceries: Put away (mostly). Comforter: In car trunk to drop off at dry cleaner’s. Bed: gone to.


Cite Your Sources

Posted in Life, Media at 9 am

The simple addition of the directive “Cite your sources!” to a political discussion (whether in person, in a townhall, or in any other medium) would have a profound impact on the quality of the discussion.

That is all.


Please Vote

Posted in Life, Media at 12 am

All I’m asking is that if you’re going to vote, don’t vote based on the amount of melanin a candidate has. That’s not a very good method of predicting leadership ability.

Please Vote. Please Vote based on issues.


Mini Money Management

Posted in Life at 11 am

Getting Smart Slowly: I’ve been following Get Rich Slowly by a guy who lives in the local Portland area, so I can relate to some of the places he goes and people he names. I’ve been enjoying reading his articles, and it’s made me more conscientious about the way I deal with money, plus I’ve been watching for ways to keep the money we have.

As part of that effort, we paid off one of our credit cards last year (Card A) and have kept it at or near a zero balance for a while now. So the Card A people sent us, on a monthly basis, these blank checks to use “for whatever you want” with minimal interest rates. Wow, how nice of them.

The Offers: The checks come in two flavors: 1) 0% interest for 12 months (after which it reverts to an unacceptable percentage rate over 20%) or 2) 3.99% for the duration of the balance. One of the fine print items was a 3% transaction fee that capped off at $200 I had to keep in mind.

I mostly ignored them for about a year, but they were certainly tempting. We had a nice credit limit and the idea of jetting us off on some spur of the moment getaway certainly crossed my mind… but I knew it was just putting off (and increasing!) the cost. I’ve looked at the offers each month. I just needed to find the right time to use them: a time when they would save us money rather than cost us.

The Summer Situation: This year had me flying solo to Montana for a death in the family ($700) and over the Fourth of July Amy and I went on a follow-up road trip to the same town with a side trip for a day in Salt Lake City. (Amy went to a small private liberal arts college there.) The vacation travel costs themselves were fine (lodging $300, gas $250) but we also made some major car repairs in preparation (exhaust system, tires $2,180) so the total came to about $3,400, which we had put on Card B.

In terms of using credit wisely, I think we did okay in this instance. We had very little warning about my flight so there was no time to save for it. We needed to get the car repairs done, but we had been holding off. The family reunion trip forced the issue since we had to get there on the Fourth of July with the rest of the family. We tapped into our embryonic emergency fund to pay for some of the car repairs and cover some of the travel costs, but the $3400 remained on Card B. We traded money for time.

Cunning Calculations: Now with things settled down a bit on the home front, I have had time to re-assess our accounts and look at how we could take advantage of those checks from Card A. I looked at a few of our debts: credit union car loan, credit union personal loan that we used for some debt consolidation last year, and Card B.

The first thing I did was use a generic loan calculator to figure out that with our normal monthly payment, the debt on Card B would have cost about $2,000 in interest and taken over 4.4 years to pay off.

Next I calculated the same monthly payment against the 3.99% rate plus the 3% transaction fee. The transferred debt would cost about $1,000 and take 3.3 years to pay off.

(Paying off the personal loan with the 3.99% checks + 3% transaction fee would have saved us $20. Paying off the consolidation loan would have saved a whopping $2. Neither of these seemed worth the effort.)

Amy and I are both distrustful of large banks and corporations, so I tried to be as cautious as possible. In the end we decided to go for it. All told, we’ll save $1,000 by using these checks.

Warning: Avalanche Zone: Obviously, if we could pay more on a monthly basis, we could knock down both the cost and the length for repayment. We’ve been using a combination of techniques to work down our debts and by next March both the car and consolidation loans will be retired at which point we’ll be able to pile on a bunch of money to wipe out the debt. I think we’ll be done with it by next summer. The Debt Snowball plus automatic withdrawals from paychecks have been a big help in making sure we get these all taken care of. (See the Debt Snowball article at GRS or read the wikipedia article. Amy actually thought up and started practicing the debt snowball style before she or I ever read about it. She’s the smart one in this house.)

…With a Cherry on Top: For those of paying close attention, you may be asking: But what about those 0% checks? Wouldn’t they be an even better deal? You’re right but that’s also a gamble. If for any reason we don’t get that debt paid off in 12 months, the interest rate sky rockets. This is flat out gambling that we won’t have any major financial hits in the next year. I’m not a total pessimist however.

We used the 0% checks to pay off $500 of the debt and paid the balance with the 3.99% offer. I’m willing to gamble that we will pay off $500 in the next 12 months, even if something major comes up. It saves us about $100 in interest, which is a nice bonus.

Other families have much larger amounts of debt to deal with. These 4 figure debts are peanuts compared to what others are facing. But Amy and I are getting our money house in order. These exercises with smaller amounts make me more confident about the larger amounts that we might see in the future. (House? new car?) If I’m not getting rich slowly, I hope I’m at least getting smarter.


Who Are You?

Posted in Life, People, Web at 10 pm

From Jock:

Lemur-Labs – Who Are You?:
It is quite possible that half of the reason that people watch the various editions of CSI can be attributed to the brilliant choice to play The Who during the opening. The selection of
Who Are You? is especially brilliant. It speaks directly to the core of any criminal investigation: establishing identity.

It’s cool to listen in while the wizard makes up his latest spell… Even cooler when you get mentioned. : )


Relating to written documents produced by agencies of state government.

Posted in Life, Public Works at 3 pm

This is a House Bill 2702 that was approved by the State of Oregon:

Relating to written documents produced by agencies of state government.

(2) Every agency of state government shall ensure that written documents produced by the agency for purposes of communicating with the public, whether presented on paper or through electronic media, conform to plain language standards.

It seems almost… revolutionary! Good on Oregon. Washington’s governor did something similar, (by fiat) last year. However, the Oregon was bill was approved by the House, Senate, and the Governor. I can’t help but think that this might be the way to start making everything more accessible to the layman. At the very least it’s a start.


The Nerd: A Users Guide to Geeks

Posted in Life at 11 pm

Although I don’t agree with everything here, it’s interesting to see an exploration of the geek/nerd psychology. Rands In Repose: The Nerd Handbook



Posted in Life, Tech at 9 am

I just set up an iCal event to remind me to request a free annual credit report every 4 months from each of the three Credit Reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.

AnnualCreditReport.com : the official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report.

I set the event to repeat annually 20 times, with an e-mail alert, and included the above URL in the mail so as to not get confused as to which is the real Credit Report request site. I wish they would have registered it as a .gov site. Those are a lot harder to spoof.