It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

“What in the world are you doing?” Kris said, stopping in the middle of the road. She pointed at my bare feet.

“It’s just a whim,” I said. “I want to see if I can do this.”

“It’s over a mile to Paul and Amy Jo’s house,” she said. “The asphalt is hot.”

“My feet feel fine,” I said. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s go.”

We walked up the hill, past the smokey bar, and then down the hill to Laurie Avenue. We chatted about her job, about how Mom is doing, about the garden.

“Hold up a second,” I said. “I think there’s a rock stuck to my foot.” Kris gave me a knowing look. I rubbed the bottom of my foot, but there was nothing there. That seemed a little strange, but I kept walking.

My feet began to hurt a little. For large stretches along Laurie, there are wide expanses of asphalt that are basically smooth tar. Walking on these was a blessed relief. I sighed inwardly at the cool, smooth surface.

At the end of Laurie, I stopped again to pull pebbles from my feet. There was nothing there. “That’s strange,” I thought. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to realize this might not have been a good idea.

The last few hundred yards to Paul and Amy Jo’s house were sheer torture, but I tried not to show it. My feet were on fire.

“Look at me,” Kris said, turning into the driveway. “I’m walking on gravel.” I ignored her and walked up the lawn. I relished the cool, green surface where the grass had recently been watered.

Amy Jo opened the door. “I’m not even going to ask,” she said.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I said.

“I tried to make him go back and put on shoes,” Kris said. “But he wouldn’t listen to me.”

“How do they feel?” asked Paul.

“They hurt,” I said. And they did. In fact, I was in pain. I slumped in a chair on the back patio. “Ouch,” I said. I looked at my feet. Each one sported two huge blisters.

“You know what that is, don’t you?” Kris said.

“No. What?” I said.

“That’s psychological,” she said. “Right now you need to be an adult. Your mom’s situation requires you to be at your best. This is you rebelling. You’re being a kid.” I gave her a look. Like she knows anything about psychology!

Paul brought me a pair of socks. “These should help,” he said. I put them on, and while they did help some, my feet still felt like they were on fire. We ate dinner. We talked about life and about work and about the weather. We talked about our gardens. We ate berries and burgers and ice cream.

When we’d finished, Paul said, “Are you going to walk home? Or would you like me to drive?”

Everyone was silent. I didn’t want to speak. At last I said, “I guess you’d better drive us.” My companions laughed.

“And what did you learn from this?” Kris asked.

I was reluctant to admit it, but I knew the correct response. It’s the same response to every conflict we have. And so I said, “Kris Gates is always right.

She Rules a Crowded Nation

It’s one o’clock when we reach the house. Neither Mom nor I have eaten all day. She took her meds sometime before I picked her up at nine; I ate half a bag of peanut M&Ms on the drive to Salem. When we walk into the kitchen, she sets her purse down and says, “I’m hungry.”

“What would you like to eat?” I ask.

“Peanut butter,” she says.

“Just peanut butter?” I ask.

“And bread,” she says.

“A peanut butter sandwich?” I ask.

She thinks about it. “Yes,” she says. She shuffles her feet and looks down.

“Would you like me to make the sandwich?” I ask, pulling the bread and peanut butter from the fridge.

“No,” she says. “I can make it.” I watch as she slathers the bread with thick gobs of peanut butter. “And milk,” she says. I pour her a glass of milk.

While she works, I prepare a place for her at the kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit down,” I say.

“I’m fine,” she says. She stands at the counter and devours the sandwich in great gulps. She chases it with the milk.

When she’s finished, I show Mom the computer at the kitchen table. She sits down and types in a URL. She clicks the button. She clicks the button. She clicks the button. “It’s not working,” she says. I look. She’s not actually clicking the button.

“You’re pressing the space bar,” I say. “You need to click the button.” She presses the space bar again. And again. She looks at me, and I know that I’m making her uncomfortable, so I leave.

Moments later, she’s up again. I can see her pacing. She’s pacing, as if she can’t make up her mind where to go or what to do. I hear her walk into the next room and begin rummaging on the bookshelf. She comes in to my room. “You said I could borrow books,” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “What would you like to read?”

“How long will I be gone?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “A few days.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “Anything.”

I giver her My Antonia by Willa Cather, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and a couple of others. She sits down at the kitchen table again, in front of the computer. She opens her e-mail program. I go back to my chair.

Moments later, she’s up again, pacing. “I don’t like it here,” she says. “Can’t we just go someplace and drive around?”

“Yes,” I say. “I have to go upstairs for a minute first.”

“Is the car unlocked?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say. I go up upstairs to send e-mail so the family knows where we are. When I get in the car, Mom is sitting at attention in the passenger seat. She has everything with her: her purse, the pile of books. I start driving.

Tony and Kamie pass us going the other way. They turn their truck around to follow. Tony calls me on my cell phone. “We’re behind you,” he says.

“I’m scared,” Mom says. Her hands are fidgeting uncontrollably. She’s sweating.

“Yes,” I say. “I am too. But it will be okay. It will be fine.” We drive in silence for a few minutes. Mom fidgets.

“Can we go to the hospital now?” she asks at last.

“Yes,” I say. “We’re almost there.”

Stevie Nicks Day

All afternoon, I’ve been listening to the same song: “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks. This was a modest hit when I was a freshman in high school. I had the LP and loved it. Some genius (and I mean this in literally) recently thought to remix the song into a nearly-twelve minute version called the “Tracy Takes You Home Mix”. I have no idea where I got it (iTunes?), but it’s awesome. I’ve been listening to it all day, over and over and over again.

“Stand back, stand back, in the middle of my room, I did not hear from you…”

The Wild Heart is a great album, by the way. Several of the songs are just awesome: “Stand Back”, “If Anyone Falls”, “Wild Heart”, “I Will Run to You”, and “Beauty and the Beast” — the latter of which is the perfect love song for geeky young men and women from the mid-eighties.

The Cat Who Was Raised by a Crow

Last fall at Animal Intelligence, I shared a two-minute video of a cat who was raised by a crow. A reader recently pointed me to a longer video with a more complete story on this unlikely friendship:

There is nothing I like more than stories of interspecies friendship. I love the idea that different kinds of animals can communicate and empathize with one another. Now if only our cats would be nice to the blue jays…

Five tactics for pursuing voluntary simplicity

One of my favorite personal finance bloggers is Philip Brewer at Wise Bread. He writes long, thoughtful articles about the philosophy of money, not just on tips and tricks to save at the grocery store.

Brewer recently posted a piece called “What I’ve Been Trying to Say” that summarizes his philosophy. Explaining why he believes voluntary simplicity can be a great choice for many people, he writes:

You can choose how you want to live. If you choose to live simply, you gain a certain kind of freedom. In particular, you’re free to choose to do the work that’s the most satisfying, rather than the most lucrative. Choosing to live simply doesn’t mean that you have to give up all the cool stuff you want. It means, rather, that you have to focus on a small number of wants — the ones that matter the most to you.

Brewer’s key idea is similar to that of Timothy Ferriss (of The 4-Hour Workweek): you are responsible for designing your own life. When you were young, other people determined how and where you lived. But as an adult, those choices are up to you.

Brewer suggests five tactics to make the most of these choices:

  1. Live intentionally. Decide what’s important to you and what you want to do with your life. Set goals. Be aware of why you’re spending your money. Try to make conscious decisions, and not just react out of emotion.
  2. Raise some capital. Personal finance isn’t all about saving, Brewer argues. It’s not all about living cheaply, either. It’s about finding a middle ground that works for you. But every goal will require some money to back it up. Prepare for emergencies, invest for the future, and use your money to support your values.
  3. Find your true calling. “Find meaningful work, so that you can spend your time doing something that you care about,” Brewer writes. Saving and investing don’t just yield financial benefits, he says, but they also allow you to choose a vocation instead of basing your job decisions only on salary.
  4. Do it yourself. This notion has figured prominently in my thinking lately: that whenever possible, I want to do things myself instead of paying to have them done. (This probably has something to do with the fact that I just spent several thousand dollars on a re-wiring project.) There’s a lot of satisfaction to be derived (and often money saved) from growing your own food, repairing your own home, and maintaining your own car.
  5. Value community and experiences over stuff. You are not what you own; you are what you do. It took me a long time (nearly forty years) to realize this. I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around it. But like Brewer, I’m coming to understand that it is relationships and experiences that give life meaning.

Brewer’s article offers more background on his philosophy. In many ways, it reminds me of a guest post I published last January, in which Mark Cunningham wrote, “Simplicity frees one to make any range of choices and pursue any range of possibilities.” As Kris and I continue our own personal finance journey, we’re amazed at the possibilities we might pursue. Freedom is the greatest reward for getting out of debt.

From Bread to Cherries

Ah, friends, so many things to tell you in order to relate a simple story. I should write at this blog more often. I’ll do my best to be succinct.

In March, I wrote a post at my fitness blog asking which whole wheat bread is best? I picked up one of every loaf from Safeway, compared ingredients and price, and then asked six people to taste test each loaf. I concluded that Milton’s Whole Grain Plus offered the best bang for the buck.

After some advice from readers, I tried a couple loaves from Trader Joe’s, and ultimately decided that I liked Rainier Organic Sasquatch Grain & Seed Bread. Eating a slice of that stuff is like eating a field of wheat.

But during that discussion, Brad suggested I should try making my own bread. “That’s crazy,” I thought. “Making your own bread is too much work.” But Brad pointed me to a Mark Bittman recipe for No-Knead Bread. Soon after, Kris and I discovered some refinements from Cook’s Illustrated. Over the past few months, she and I have been regularly baking an easy and cheap home-made bread that is far better than any store-bought stuff.

When I wrote about our breadmaking experience at Get Rich Slowly, several readers told us we could make the process even cheaper by purchasing our ingredients at Costco. On Friday, we headed over to pick up two pounds of yeast and fifty pounds of bread flour. (We also met Rhonda for lunch, where we talked about clothes and clubs, but that’s a story for later.)

While Kris was looking for breadmaking stuff, I nosed through the books. I found a title called Back to Basics: A Guide to Traditional Skills, which I fell in love with immediately. It’s an illustrated how-to manual for people interested in homesteading and self-sufficiency. It features lots of advice on growing your own food, both vegetable and animal.

This afternoon, Kris went across the street to chat with our neighbor, Patrice. I eventually went over to join the chat. Patrice was offering to let us pick more from her cherry tree, an enormous old thing that may never have been pruned. While we chatted, we started talking about the property she rents from John.

“This used to be a farm,” she told us. “In fact, John still calls it The Farm. The barn was actually a chicken coop. That’s where the vegetable garden used to be. And he had cows and horses. He was pretty self-sufficient.”

This is unsurprising. In addition to the old cherry tree, he has several large apples, rows of raspberries, and the best grapes in the neighborhood (which grow wild along the fence and up into the trees). When we moved in, John was the one who gave me wood and advice to set up our own grape and berry arbors. He’s happy to see us growing our own food.

This evening, Kris and I went back over to pick cherries. We’ve already picked all the low-hanging fruit (which led me to understand finally what that phrase actually means), so we carried a ladder over. Kris climbed into the tree first, but she chickened out. “You’re a girl,” I said. “I’m a boy. Let me at it. This is boy’s work.”

I loved climbing trees when I was a boy, monkeying around from branch to branch. I did something similar this afternoon — in a 39-year-old man sort of way — snagging all the gorgeous cherries. (While I was in the tree, I thought I was doing a very Joel-like thing. “My new motto should be WWJD — what would Joel do?” I thought.

As we were finishing, the new neighbors came down to pick cherries, too. While Kris went inside to make some cherry preserves, I stayed outside to meet them. I let them use my ladder to climb into the tree to pick fruit of their own. We chatted a little to get to know each other.

“This is a strange neighborhood,” said one of the new neighbors. “It feels so old-fashioned. We’re so close to Portland, but it feels like we’re in the country. I mean, here we are all getting together to pick cherries.”

Exactly. That’s why we love it here. In a way, it feels like getting back to basics.

Movie Meme

It’s been a while since I did one of those silly internet games, yes? Well, Frykitty recently posted a movie meme, and I’m going to join in. This list is apparently based on Entertainment Weekly‘s 100 classic movies of the past 25 years. I’m going to break from the ongoing list method (“bold everything you’ve seen”? uh, no…) and use the following format:

  • If I haven’t seen it, the film is listed in red.
  • If I saw it but would never watch it again, the film is listed in strikethru.
  • If I saw it and loved it, the film is listed in bold. (I own many of these on DVD.)
  • If I saw it but have no strong reaction, the film is listed in normal type.

And here’s the list:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) — I have never understood the lovefest for Quentin Tarantino

2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) — we all know my love-hate relationship with these films

3. Titanic (1997)

4. Blue Velvet (1986)

5. Toy Story (1995) — though I haven’t seen it, I’ve heard it twice, and think it’s very loud

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

9. Die Hard (1988)

10. Moulin Rouge (2001) — the first half hour of this is amazing

11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) — Kris and I love this film

12. The Matrix (1999)

13. GoodFellas (1990)

14. Crumb (1995) — almost a cross-off; interesting, but not redeeming

15. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

16. Boogie Nights (1997)

17. Jerry Maguire (1996)

18. Do the Right Thing (1989)

19. Casino Royale (2006) — my favorite Bond film; can’t wait for this fall…

20. The Lion King (1994)

21. Schindler’s List (1993)

22. Rushmore (1998) — I love this movie so much I paid like $80 for the Criterion version…

23. Memento (2001)

24. A Room With a View (1986)

25. Shrek (2001)

26. Hoop Dreams (1994)

27. Aliens (1986) — I know everyone loves Aliens, but the first film is one of my favorite movies of all time

28. Wings of Desire (1987)

29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

30. When Harry Met Sally… (1989) — hilarious; havne’t watched it in a while

31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

32. Fight Club (1999)

33. The Breakfast Club (1985)

34. Fargo (1996)

35. The Incredibles (2004)

36. Spider-Man 2 (2004) — one of my favorite superhero movies

37. Pretty Woman (1990)

38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) — meh

39. The Sixth Sense (1999) — I was surprised by this movie TWICE! (I couldn’t remember the ending the second time around)

40. Speed (1994)

41. Dazed and Confused (1993)

42. Clueless (1995)

43. Gladiator (2000)t-e-d-i-o-u-s

44. The Player (1992)

45. Rain Man (1988)

46. Children of Men (2006) — an underrated film; loved it

47. Men in Black (1997)

48. Scarface (1983)

49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) — one of my favorite movies

50. The Piano (1993) — ugh, I hated this movie

51. There Will Be Blood (2007) — sitting on our DVD player, though (and has been since April)

52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)

53. The Truman Show (1998)

54. Fatal Attraction (1987)

55. Risky Business (1983)

56. The Lives of Others (2006)

57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)

58. Ghostbusters (1984)

59. L.A. Confidential (1997) — at one time, I loved this film; haven’t seen it in a while

60. Scream (1996)

61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)

63. Big (1988)

64. No Country For Old Men (2007)

65. Dirty Dancing (1987)

66. Natural Born Killers (1994)

67. Donnie Brasco (1997)

68. Witness (1985)

69. All About My Mother (1999)

70. Broadcast News (1987)

71. Unforgiven (1992) — a great film

72. Thelma & Louise (1991)

73. Office Space (1999)

74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

75. Out of Africa (1985)

76. The Departed (2006) — how this won Best Picture (even in a weak field) is baffling

77. Sid and Nancy (1986) — no desire to see it

78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

80. Michael Clayton (2007)

81. Moonstruck (1987) — saw this on a “date” with Kristin, if I remember right!

82. Lost in Translation (2003)

83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

84. Sideways (2004)

85. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

86. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002)

87. Swingers (1996)

88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

89. Breaking the Waves (1996)

90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) — “do the chickens have large talons?”

91. Back to the Future (1985)

92. Menace II Society (1993)

93. Ed Wood (1994) — this movie was awful

94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

95. In the Mood for Love (2001) — a gorgeous film

96. Far From Heaven (2002) — a typical example of type of film (like “The Piano”) I hate

97. Glory (1989)

98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

I used to watch a lot of movies, but my pace has really slowed over the past eighteen months. (And we all know why, right?) I’m sure I’ll watch many more in the future, however. (Kris told me to remind you all about her list of classic films. After seeing that list and knowing how much work she put into it, I’m going to find a way to port it to Get Rich Slowly…)

Watchmen Trailer

I’ve been sorely disappointed by a lot of comic book movies. That’s a tough thing for a life-long comics geek like me. There’s a bare handful of comic films I like: Spiderman 2, Iron Man, Batman Begins. (And I hear The Dark Knight, the new Batman film, is pretty good.)

When I first heard that Watchmen was being adapted into a film, I was nonplused. How could anyone possibly do it justice. This is one of the best comic book series of all time (from one of the greatest comic book writers). Early production stills didn’t do anything to bolster my enthusiasm.

But this? This is the trailer. And by god, they might actually pull it off:

At the very least, this trailer has ruined my plans for the afternoon. Forget writing. I’m sitting down to read the graphic novel.

Note: I’ve replaced the pulled version with a new one. It works!

Easy and cheap home-made bread

I baked a loaf of bread yesterday. It was delicious. It was easy. It was cheap.

Last winter, I undertook a quest to find the best whole wheat bread in a grocery store. I like sandwiches and I like toast, so removing bread from my diet isn’t an option. While trying to balance cost and nutrition, I eventually discovered Rainier Organic’s Sasquatch Grain & Seed Bread. At about 10 cents per ounce, this stuff is cheaper than all but the “artificial everything” breads. Best of all? Eating it is like eating a field of wheat.

Several people suggested that I might want to make my own bread. At the time, I dismissed the idea as crazy. I can remember my mother spending a lot of time kneading dough and shuffling loaf pans when I was a boy. I may be working from home now, but I’m not interested in devoting my life to baked goods.

Minimalist Bread

Still, there are few things better in life than a hunk of warm, crusty bread slathered with honey or jam. (Perhaps with a hunk of sharp cheddar cheese on the side.) So when Brad suggested insisted I try Mark Bittman’s minimalist “no-knead” bread recipe, I took the plunge into home baking.

In this New York Times video, Bittman visits the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen to learn the secret of great bread from owner Jim Lahey.

Turns out this bread really is so easy that anyone can make it. And the total cost? According to Andy at The New Cook, this bread costs about 63 cents per loaf, or about a nickel per ounce. That’s roughly the same price as the cheap artificial stuff in the grocery store, but you’re getting a loaf of fresh, crusty bread. That’s tough to beat.

(For a great variation, check out SmarterFitter’s Four-Seed No-Knead Bread.)

A Perfect Loaf?

Cook’s Illustated tackled this recipe in their January 2008 issue. While they admitted that it was easy, they didn’t like the “bland flavor” and the unreliable rising. Using their methodology of relentless refinement, they added a bit of salt, reduced the water, and introduced a secret ingredient: beer.

Cook’s Illustrated calls their version “Almost No-Knead” Bread, or No-Knead Bread 2.0. This bread is started on the first day and baked on the second. Other than planning ahead, it’s almost effortless and results in a wonderful chewy bread with a crunchy deep-brown crust. Here’s the recipe (with some minor modifications from us):

Almost No-Knead Bread

  • 3 cups unbleached flour (15 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water, room temperature or just slightly warm
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager, room temp and flat (note: we use a pale ale)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (note: we use white balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe’s)

Day one
If necessary, heat water and beer in microwave to make them closer to room temperature. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in a large shallow bowl. Add water, beer and vinegar. Using a rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up from the bottom until a dry, shaggy ball forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours, until the surface is covered with bubbles. Total time for day one: about ten minutes.

Day two
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 10-15 times. Wash out the dough bowl and lay a 12×18 piece of oven-safe parchment paper inside it and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball by pulling edges into the middle. Transfer dough — seam-side down — to the parchment-lined bowl and spray surface with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger (about 2 hours).

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position and place a 6-8 quart Dutch oven (with lid slightly ajar) on rack to heat. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Lightly flour top of dough and use a very sharp knife to make one slit, 6 inches long and 1/2″ deep. Carefully remove hot Dutch oven from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment paper and lower into Dutch oven. Add lid and place in oven. Immediately lower temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking 20-30 minutes longer, until the bread is a deep brown and sounds rather hollow when tapped.

Remove and transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Total time for day two: about ten minutes.

For more on this recipe, check out the Cook’s Illustrated web site, or visit Breadtopia (a blog devoted to bread!).

Delicious!

Kris and I have been making this bread for three months now, and it’s fantastic. I’ll admit that it’s not the healthiest stuff (it’s little more than flour and salt, after all), but it’s delicious — especially with home-made strawberry jam. Along the way, we’ve learned a couple things. If you have a good kitchen scale, for example, we recommend weighing the the flour rather than measuring by volume.

Also, in the winter, our house is too cold (54 degrees) for this to rise properly overnight, so we use a water/beer mixture that feels slightly warm to the touch to give it a kick start, then turn on the oven light and put the dough into the gas oven.

The cost for a single loaf of this bread runs about $1.50. The flour is about 60 cents, the yeast is about a quarter, the beer costs about forty cents, and the other ingredients cost a few cents each. So, for a little more than the cheap bread in the grocery store, you can have a loaf of actual artisan bread.

The real joy is the ease of this recipe and the sense of accomplishment from baking your own bread. Your friends will be impressed!

Five Eight (and a Half)

On my recent visit to the doctor’s office, a nurse weighed me and measured my height.

“How tall am I?” I asked. “I can’t ever get a good measurement.”

“You’re five-eight,” she said.

“Ah,” I said. “I thought I was five-nine.”

She laughed. “You’re like every other guy — always trying to say you’re taller than you really are.”

If I were a cartoon character, a little black cloud would have formed above my head. I don’t give a rat’s ass how tall I am. I’m not trying to be macho by claiming to be five nine. I weigh more than 190 pounds, for goodness sake! If I’m going to lie about something, it’s going to be my weight. I say I’m five-nine because that’s how tall I think I am.

Today I finally went to the sidebar at Get Fit Slowly to change my vital stats. Heaven forbid people believe I’m five-nine when I’m only five-eight!

As I was changing my data, I took a look at the vital stats from the doctor’s visit. I noted that the nurse had indicated my height was 174 centimeters. “That’s strange,” I thought. “Wasn’t I 175 centimeters before?” I checked.

Sure enough, when I measured my own height, I had come up with 175 centimeters. The nurse came up with 174 centimeters. But you know what? Here’s how those numbers convert to Imperial units:

  • 174 centimeters == 5 feet, 8.50393704 inches
  • 175 centimeters == 5 feet, 8.89763135 inches

So, not only was the nurse quibbling over about one-half of once percent of measurement, but she was also truncating instead of rounding. That is, she was lopping the fraction instead of rounding up to the nearest whole inch. I really am five-nine.

But just so you don’t think I have some sort of macho need to overstate my height, let’s all agree that I’m five-eight-and-a-half.