A Very Small Summer Adventure

I had breakfast with Paul and Amy Jo yesterday morning at Broder on Clinton (which is apparently a sister restaurant to Savoy). Over baked eggs and Swedish pancakes, we chatted about life. I mentioned that Thursdays were my days for walking the 2-1/2 miles into Milwaukie and back. “I go to the comic-book store and have cheap tacos at Cha Cha Cha,” I explained.

“Have you checked out the railroad bridge into Lake Oswego?” asked Paul. Oak Grove is directly across the Willamette River from Lake Oswego, but there’s no easy way to get from one community to the other. It takes about 25 minutes to make the drive. It would be a two-minute drive if there were a bridge.

“No,” I said. “I’ve always wanted to. But it’s illegal to cross, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think so,” he said. “There’s a pedestrian path on the side. And one of our neighbors used to work in Lake Oswego. She walked used the bridge to walk to work every day for years.”

Paul and I decided to check it out. Instead of walking into Milwaukie on the Trolley Trail, I would join him for an adventure into Lake Oswego. When I posted about our plans on Facebook, Tiffany warned: “FYI, It is a federal trespassing charge if you are caught.” We were undaunted.

I was a little more daunted, though, by the actual posted prohibition:

No Tresspassing

I think it’s funny that the Portland and Western Railroad have mis-spelled trespassing as “tresspassing”. Anyhow, because there were wide shoulders along the tracks, we played scofflaw and proceeded to the bridge. Where the rails were elevated above the ground, there was a metal grating along one side — the “pedestrian path” that Paul’s neighbor must have used to get to Lake Oswego.

We walked up to the bridge itself and snapped a few photos:

Railroad Bridge

But then we chickened out. (Well, I chickened out. Paul may have been willing to continue.) We turned around and walked back the way we’d come.

Rather than pull out where we’d started, though, we followed the tracks toward Milwaukie. It’s actually a lovely stretch of land, that mile beneath the bluff and along the shore. (Sorry, no photos.) Paul pulled out at Elk Rock Island, and I continued along the rails, across the bridge that goes over 99e and the lake, and into downtown. I didn’t see a train the entire time.

It was a fun walk, and I intend to do it again in the future. (The “to Milwaukie” part, not the “bridge to Lake Oswego” part. I may do the latter at some point, but not regularly.) On the way home, though, I played it safe and took the Trolley Trail.

Some New Romantic

While cleaning my office this afternoon, I found the journal I kept when we traveled to London, Dublin, and New York during the summer of 2007. Two years ago today, we were spending our last full day in Dublin. I spent €29.13 (roughly $39.84) on lunch, magazines, ice cream, and mass transit.

But what I was really excited to find was that while touring the big art museums on that trip, I had written down some of my favorite artists and paintings. Right now, Kris and I are in the process of redecorating the “Man Room” (the red room, or the den), and I’m looking for some art to put on the walls.

While I cannot afford originals, I might be able to afford some reproductions. So I’m taking this chance to transcribe the notes to a more permanent location.

Francis Danby

Francis Danby was an Irish landscape artist who lived from 1793-1861. His images seem liquid and dreamy. They’re definitely part of the Romantic era. At the Royal Albert museum in London, I saw a Danby painting I really liked: The Upas, or Poison-Tree, in the Island of Java. I can’t find it online anywhere, though, and I only have a vague recollection of what it looked like.

Here are some of Danby’s other works:

The Deluge (with Noah’s ark in the background)

View of the Avon Gorge

The Enchanted Island

Oberon and Titania

Sergei Chepik

There’s a terse note in my journal: “In St. Paul’s, I like the paintings of Sergei Chepik.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell me much. Looking online, I can see that Chepik was born in 1953, but I don’t particularly care for the works I can find. I wonder what I meant by that note.

Joseph Turner

Before we left for England, a friend of Kris’ parents urged us to check out the paintings by Joseph Turner (1775-1851) while we were at The National Gallery in London. Turner was another English Romantic. He focused less on landscapes, though, than on sea scenes. And his work evolved until his later stuff became quite abstract (almost what we’d consider modern art).

On the whole, I didn’t like Turner as much as I had hoped, but there were several pieces I did like:

The Shipwreck

The Junction of the Thames and the Medway

Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

Dido Building Carthage

Frosty Morning

Rain, Steam, and Speed — The Great Western Railway

John Constable

While Turner was not my favorite, I did find one English artist that I loved. John Constable (1776-1837) was another English Romantic painter that I liked (notice a theme here?). Many of his subjects depict quiet country life, that pastoral lifestyle for which I pine. His work has a very natural feel about it, as if he understands the plants and the animals.

Note that Constable, too, got more experimental with age. Here are some of my favorite Constables:

Stratford Mill

The Valley Farm

The White Horse

The Haywain


Salisbury Cathedral


I’m not sure which of these I’ll choose to decorate the den yet, but I’d like to use one or two of them. I have a story about that last painting from Constable, though.

While we were in England, we took a driving tour of the countryside. One of our stops was in Salisbury to see the cathedral. I took several photos of it.

A couple of weeks later, we were in New York. While touring The Frick Gallery, I happened upon Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral. Excited, I pulled out my camera to review the photos I had taken. I wanted to compare them to the painting. A museum security guard was by my side instantly, telling me to stop. I tried to explain to him that I had just been to this cathedral. I showed him the photo on my dSLR. He was unimpressed. He wouldn’t let me browse the photos on my camera, even if I promised not to take a photo. I was disappointed. (Thanks to Kris for correcting my memory of this story.)

WIN-WIN vs. LOSE-LOSE: Two Approaches to Conflict Resolution

On 19 April 2007, I wrote a short post about compact fluorescent light bulbs for Get Rich Slowly. It was a throwaway post, really — just a quick update. To illustrate it, I googled for a photo of a CFL in action. Most of them sucked, but I found one that didn’t:

I downloaded the photo, added it to my article, and went about my business. A few hours later, I received this e-mail in my inbox (I’ve added HTML to make things more readable):

My name is David Hobby, and I run Strobist.com. I see that you and I have similar Technorati rankings, so I would assume you know that it is not nice to just grab someone’s photo without permission, wherever it came from. *Especially* if you do not even credit and link to them.

I spent a lot of time and thought making that photo. And to my knowledge there is not another one like it in the world. Normally, photographer tend to pretty much go apeshit and point both barrels at an infringer in a situation like this. But I do understand that you probably have a lot of things in the air at one time and I want to give you the benefit of the doubt when going forward.

Rather than go into the Default Legal Mode like I do when a big company does this kind of thing (I had a very nice, 6-week European vacation on a publisher who did this once) I would rather treat this as a minor oops and give you a range of choices for you to decide how you want to go forward.

For a few moments, I felt like the world was crashing around me. I knew I had done something wrong. I’d been “borrowing” photos via Google for years, even though I knew it wasn’t strictly kosher. I’d always thought of it as a venial sin, though, one that would never cause me woe.

In his e-mail, Hobby outlined four possible resolutions to the problem. In each option, he won something. But what I got out of each choice was vastly different. In one case, I lost a lot. At the other extreme, I actually gained something. In other words, he was offering me a variety of scenarios, some of which were WIN-LOSE, and at least one of which was WIN-WIN. I chose the WIN-WIN.


To compensate Hobby, I wrote an article about the blurring line between amateur and professional photographers, in which I included plenty of links to his site. I got to use Hobby’s photo, and he received some “linkjuice” and exposure for Strobist.

But then a curious thing happened. Hobby and I became friends. We began to pick each other’s brains. We asked each other blogging questions. We spoke by phone, and he explained that Strobist was making enough money to support him. Get Rich Slowly wasn’t quite to that point yet for me, so I found this fascinating.

Then, for one of the “assignments” on his site, Hobby created a photo with Get Rich Slowly in mind:

Nest Egg by David Hobby

Earlier this year, Hobby decided to sell his home in Baltimore. As part of his marketing effort, he created a blog. I thought this was a cool idea, but it also gave me a chance to help a friend. I wrote about the idea at Get Rich Slowly.

Basically, what started as a confrontation because I had done something very stupid turned into a mutually beneficial relationship. Why? Because Hobby encouraged me to pursue the course of WIN-WIN.

The Big Book of Everything

Not every conflict is resolved so amicably. Sometimes one (or both) of the parties is unable to take the long view, or perhaps feels so aggrieved that they’re not willing to pursue a WIN-WIN option. Here I have another example from the world of Get Rich Slowly.

Authors and publishers send me books all of the time. I get several per month (and sometimes several per week). I can’t hope to review them all, but I do my best. Last year, Mark Gavagan sent me a copy of his It’s All Right Here life and affairs organizer, a three-ring binder designed to help people organize their important information.

I was intrigued by It’s All Right Here, but I felt like it had some weaknesses (it was big and unwieldy, almost too comprehensive). Also, at $50, it seemed expensive. Instead of doing a full review, I mentioned it at GRS whenever it seemed appropriate.

I mentioned It’s All Right Here in February, for example, when answering a reader question about how to organize account information. That same question prompted a GRS reader named Erik Dewey to organize his own information. He created a personal spreadsheet to act as his own life affairs organizer. In May, Dewey sent me e-mail:

I read your post about preparing your information for disaster. I did the same thing a while back and made what I called the Big Book of Everything. I PDF’d it so I could print out new pages when I needed to. Anyway, I thought you might like to take a look at it. Enjoy, let me know if you see anything I missed.

I thought Dewey’s project was great, so I wrote back and asked permission to share it with the Get Rich Slowly community. He gave his okay. Last week, after two months of sitting on the idea, I finally posted about Dewey’s free life-affairs organizer.

People loved it. It was obviously unpolished, but it gave folks a framework with which to assemble their information. Lifehacker picked up the story, and Dewey’s project made the rounds of the web. Everyone was happy.

Well — not everyone.


Mark Gavagan, the creator of the It’s All Right Here life and affairs organizer was decidedly unhappy. He wrote to me expressing his concerns that Dewey had “stolen” from him when creating the free Big Book of Everything

This was a sticky situation. I had communicated with both Gavagan and Dewey, and they both seemed like nice guys. Having read both books, I didn’t think Dewey had plagiarized from Gavagan. His e-book had similarities to Gavagan’s book, but that was only natural. All life affairs organizers have similarities, just as all books about debt reduction have similarities.

I didn’t want to be caught in the middle of this dispute, so I suggested that Gavagan contact Dewey in order to work things out. Both sides agree that conversation was friendly enough, but the end result was the opposite of the WIN-WIN scenario Hobby and I arrived at a couple of years ago. This time the result was LOSE-LOSE.

Dewey took down the PDF and Excel versions of his Big Book of Everything and posted the following statement:

I received a call from Mark Gavagan who wrote the It’s All In Here information organizer. He had concerns about where I got the information for what I put in the Big Book of Everything.

Let me state that I do not own, nor have I read, or even handled his book. I could not find anything that met all of my needs in an information organizer, so I decided to make my own. I gathered the list of what forms to include from a variety of sources, including my father’s will.

Still, I am sympathetic to his concerns. He is a small publisher and something like the Big Book could have a noticable impact on him. Call it the law of unintended consequences.

My goal in posting the Big Book was just to share something I had created, similar to some of the gaming spreadsheets and quick reference cards I’ve posted on this site. I had no intention of harming someone else in the process, but that is what happened.

So, I’ve decided to take down the Big Book and I apologize if you came here specifically to find it.

Again, let me re-iterate: I think that Gavagan and Dewey are both nice guys. I don’t think either one is trying to be a jerk. But in a LOSE-LOSE scenario, that doesn’t always matter.


GRS readers were upset at how things played out. Here’s a typical response from a reader named SHS:

What a shame that Erik felt compelled to take down his very useful creation! I definitely will NOT be buying It’s All Right Here — or anything else from that author and his publisher. If anyone has this file in Excel format — or editable PDF format — please let me know via a follow-up comment.

Essentially, everyone in this scenario loses:

  • Dewey is forced to take down his Big Book of Everything.
  • Denizens of the web no longer have access to this free life-affairs organizer.
  • Gavagan and his project get negative publicity.

In fact, I’m the only one who wins because I get to write this article about how not to handle conflict resolution.

How would I have handled the situation? First, let’s make it clear that this is no Kobayashi Maru.

In fact, there were a number of WIN-WIN scenarios available to Gavagan and Dewey. As a (mostly) impartial third-party observer, I think that one of the scenarios is far superior to all others. If I had the power to shape things to what I consider an ideal outcome, here’s what would happen:

  • Dewey would re-post his Big Book of Everything, both in PDF and Excel formats, just as before.
  • Dewey would also offer links to Gavagan’s products: The It’s All Right Here organizer and the new, smaller spiral-bound version, 12 Critical Things. He might even include info on these products from within the Big Book of Everything.

I think Dewey’s message should be: “I’ve created this free organizer. It’s pretty useful. But if you want something more comprehensive, check out these products from Mark Gavagan.” And I actually think Gavagan could profit by bringing Dewey on to consult with him, to create digital versions of his products for people to download.

To me, that’s a WIN-WIN scenario.


The older I get, the more I realize that much of what I do and choose is predicated on the avoidance of conflict. I’m still a competitive guy — deep inside, I still long for those days that Kris and I played games with Mac and Pam a couple of nights per week — but there’s a difference between competition and conflict.

To me, conflict is non-productive. It produces losers. It lessens everyone involved in some way. This is one reason that I so loathe the American political process and the petty conflicts it produces. This is why I smack down negative elements at Get Rich Slowly. And it’s also why I think shows like Battlestar Galactica are far less than they could be. (Battlestar‘s modus operandi seems to be “conflict for conflict’s sake”.)

I’m disappointed that Gavagan and Dewey arrived at a LOSE-LOSE solution. I think outcomes like this subtract something from the universe. (Boy, that sounds all mystical, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it that way.) I’m a firm believer in the notion of social capital. I’ve come to understand that WIN-WIN solutions build social capital, and lots of it. But the LOSE-LOSE option weakens everyone.

Two Stories About Corn Dogs

Believe it or not, I have two stories to share about corn dogs. One occurred about a month ago; the other occurred last week.

Haggling Over Hot Dogs

The geeks have been getting together to play Dungeons and Dragons again lately. I can remember playing D&D with Dave when we were in grade school and junior high. Now, 30 years later, we’re doing it again. Last month, we met at Dave and Karen’s.

On my way over, I stopped at the minimart near their house to pick up something for dinner. As I was trying to decide what to buy, a man and a woman came into the store. I couldn’t tell their relationship exactly, but he seemed like her father. She waited by the hot-food case while he picked up a beer.

“How much are them corn dogs?” the woman asked while her companion selected his beverage. She had a southern accent.

“Seventy-nine cents,” said the shopkeeper.

“Seventy-nine cents,” said the woman. “Seventy-nine cents. How ’bout you give me two fo’ a dollah?”

“Seventy-nine cents,” said the shopkeeper.

“Yeah, but that’s the price during the day,” said the woman. “It’s late. You ain’t gonna sell those. How ’bout you give ’em to me two fo’ a dollah.”

The shopkeeper didn’t say anything. I picked up a bag of chips and a bottle of soda while I listened them haggle.

“You cain’t give me two corndogs for a dollah?” asked the woman. “Come on, now. You know you kin do it. If you give me two fo’ a dollah, I’ll buy ’em. But I ain’t buying nuttin’ fo’ seventy-nine cents. Whaddya say?”

“Seventy-nine cents,” said the shopkeeper.

“How come you cain’t do it? The woman that work here, she’d do it. You know she would. Two fo’ a dollah. That’s better than lettin’ ’em go to waste, dontcha think?”

The old man came up to the counter to pay for his beer. The woman turned to look at me — I was next in line. “Whaddya think of the weather?” she asked. “Hot, ain’t it?”

“It’s not too bad,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “But it’s muggy.” It wasn’t really that hot or muggy, but I just nodded and smiled.

The shopkeeper took the old man’s money and handed him his change. The old man picked up his beer, but then he paused. “Hold on,” he said. “I want wunna them corn dogs.”

“Seventy-nine cents,” said the shopkeeper.

The old man picked up his beer and his corn dog, but then he paused. “Gimme a lottery ticket,” he said, and he handed two more dollars to the shopkeeper.

When I got to Dave and Karen’s they were seated around the table, finishing their dinners. Paul was there too, eating a burrito. Tim was chatting with the group.

“Is that your dinner?” Tim asked as I pulled my bounty from the bag: chili-limón Doritos, Necco wafers, diet Dr. Pepper, and a pickled sausage.

“It is,” I said. “Would anyone care for pickled sausage?” Nobody did.

“That minimart down the road is great,” I told Dave and Karen.

“It is?” asked Karen in disbelief. I’m not sure she’s ever been in a minimart.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s my favorite minimart in Portland.” (And it is, too.)

A Corn-y Tale

Last week, I was in a nearby 7-11 picking up a snack. When I went to the counter to pay, I had to wait for the woman in front of me. She was fumbling in her pockets, looking for change while holding a corn dog in one hand. It was slathered in mustard, and she was taking big bites out of it while she searched for her cash.

In addition to the corn dog, she was buying…two cans of corn. WTF? I didn’t even know 7-11 carried corn. I thought it was a vegetable-free zone. More to the point, why would anyone stop at 7-11 just to buy two cans of corn and a corn dog?

I was baffled. I still am.

Flash of Insight

I’ve been itching to make more photographs lately, and to learn more about the craft. This interest is made more urgent by the fact that Celeste has asked me to be one of two photographers next weekend at her commitment ceremony with Nikki. I’m happy to do it, but also nervous because I haven’t used a camera regularly for more than three years.

Last night I picked up my seldom-used Nikon D90, attached a new SB-600 flash unit (the first flash unit I’ve ever used), and took some photos of the MNF group.

Background: When I was in high school, I was part of a church youth group: the Mennonite Youth Fellowship, or MYF. This group has remained friends for more than 20 years, though now many folks are in different churches. We call the group the “MNF group” because we used to get together to watch Monday Night Football — before there were so many kids…

It was fun getting re-acquainted with the camera. I didn’t get any great shots, but I had fun trying:

More importantly, I got to play with the flash unit. Having never used one before, I didn’t really know when or how to activate it. Eventually I realized that “fill flash” can be a powerful option, even in decent light. For example, here on the left is Diego running across a balance beam without flash. On the right is a similar shot with flash:


I like it.

This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, I know. But as somebody who has rarely done flash photography, I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

I learned most of my photography skills by taking a series of community college classes. I’m tempted to take one again this fall to get more practice. I’m excited about dabbling in photography again. I’ve been away too long.

Behind the Scenes with Buying Food

One of the things I’d like to do here at Foldedspace is to have a little fun with some of the things I write about at Get Rich Slowly. When I write at GRS, I mainly play it straight. I can’t provide a lot of extraneous info or make fun of the things I’m writing about. That’s not the case at Foldedspace!

This morning, for example, I posted some grocery shopping tips from the 1950s. These tips are taken from an old educational film about buying food. Here’s the 11-minute video, in all its gender-role-specific glory:

As with all of these old insructional films (I’ve watched dozens over the past couple of months), I love Buying Food in oh so many ways. I love the cheesiness and the earnestness. But I love it for non-ironic reasons, too. I love the glimpse into the past, I love the writing (it does a great job of distilling ideas into a short segment), and I love a lot of the individual frames.

Here are some of my favorites (and, incidentally, a short summary of the film):

First up is this glimpse at a supermarket circa 1950. Self-service grocery stores were introduced in 1916, though they didn’t gain popularity until the 1930s. (Many people were resistant to the idea at first.) Supermarkets were still relatively young in 1950. I like to think that they were trying to discover their “vocabulary”.

Although early supermarkets did not contain the thousands of products we’re accustomed to today, they did flood consumers with choices. Which beans to choose? And which size?

I love this example of comparison shopping: Which beans have the lowest price per ounce?

The film belabors the point that hamburger is a cheap cut of meat, and less desirable than a t-bone steak. I find this interesting. Was hamburger once marginalized? Did people have to be persuaded to eat it? Nowadays it’s accepted as a matter of course. And look how it’s being served here! It’s in the butcher case, being scooped up oh-so-casually. I’ve never seen such a thing.

And look at this, too. “Quality frankfurters” and “skinless wieners” outside of their packaging. The film has an hilarious example of creating a tasty and attractive frankfurter salad.

I also like this comparison of food quality. Why are the grade A peaches tomatoes better than the grade C peaches tomatoes? They both look unattractive here!

Finally, here’s a shot of the happy housewife after she’s finished pleasing her husband. I wish I could tell what they were eating!

Anyhow, the Internet Archive contains hundreds of old instructional films like this on a variety of subjects. There are films on dating, diet, and driving. My favorite sources of these films are the Prelinger Archives (browse by subject) and the A/V Geeks collection (browse by subject). (You can find more from A/V Geeks at the blog.)

Painting the Porches

When we moved into Rosings Park, we knew we were in for more maintenance — we just didn’t realize how much. Our house in Canby wasn’t that big of a deal. It was a 1976 ranch-style home that had recently been updated. We didn’t need to do a lot of work on it.

Rosings, however, is over one hundred years old — and it shows it in lots of little ways.

One of those ways is the paint. Apparently it had been painted not long before we purchased it (three years before?), but that didn’t really matter. According to the painters we had bid our recent project, it hadn’t been properly painted in decades. (Maybe they say that to all prospective clients, though.) Layers of paint had been added one on top of the other. Nobody’d done a proper job of stripping things.

To make matters worse, when the roof was done before we moved in, somebody took a shortcut with the flashing. As a result, there were two spots on the corners where water had literally been seeping into the walls for the last five years. Not good. Aside from other potential damage, the moisture had caused the paint to peel:

Kris and I considered painting the house ourselves, but not seriously. Kris is busy, and so am I. Technically, I’m home all day, but in reality, I’m working. Plus, this sounded like a bitch of a job. Instead, we hired Leo and Mike to do the job for us. (We’d used them for another job earlier in the spring.)

It took them over a week, but when they’d finished, our house had been scraped and painted. It looks brand new!

When we hired them, we said that we would paint the porches. It took us a while to get around to it, but finally last weekend, Kris and I made the time.

The back porch (the “smoking porch”) was brown before. Now it’s a steely blue. The front porch, too, is a steely blue instead of its former grey.

“I think we’re almost done for the year,” Kris said when we’d finished painting.

“I hope so,” I said. “We’ve put a lot of time and money into the house so far. I’m ready to take a break.”

This is how I felt the year after we moved in, the year we had the bathroom remodeled. We spent so much time and money on it that I wanted to take the next year off from any projects. No projects in 2010! — that’s my motto.

But we’re not done with 2009 yet. We still have the “Man Room” to furnish. That won’t take much time, but it’s going to take some money…

Foldedspace 6.0

Hey, loyal and patient Foldedspace readers.

As many of you know, I’ve been doing some soul-searching over the last few months. The end result is that I want to become more focused in my writing, and to pursue my passions with, well, passion. That means there’ll be lots of little changes in my life, most of which are visible only to me.

One external change is that I’ll be focusing my writing in three places:

  • Get Rich Slowly, my personal finance blog. All of my money-related writing will appear there, as has been the case for the past few years. However, I’ll be reducing how much I post there, and I’m actively working to bring on board some Staff Writers. That means I’ll have more time to write…
  • A personal finance book. I have a verbal agreement with a major publisher to produce a money book! My literary agent received the offer yesterday, and we’re hoping to receive a contract soon. Very cool. More info when I’m allowed to share it. Meanwhile, everything else will appear on…
  • My new personal blog. After nearly a decade at foldedspace.org, I’m moving my personal site to jdroth.com. The stuff here won’t be going away, but there won’t be anything new published. Instead, the new stuff is over yonder. I’ll gradually move the “best of” the old stuff over there, too.

As I work to mold my life into what I want it to be, my aim is to write much more often for Foldedspace (which is still the name of my blog at jdroth.com). I miss writing about non-money topics. I miss interacting with my friends and family. I miss the glory days of Foldedspace.

I know I’ve made noises like this before, but mostly failed to follow through. Fingers crossed that this time I make it happen. Come on over to Foldedspace 6.0 to join the conversation. I promise to post lots about cats and comic books and movies and our garden. And I won’t talk at all about money!

Meal Planning

I do a lot of writing — and a lot of reading — for my personal finance blog. During the process, I’m exposed to all sorts of ideas: some old, some new.

One new idea (to me) that Kris and I have adopted is once-a-month shopping. According to Steve and Annette Economides of America’s Cheapest Family, their family has gone grocery shopping only once per month for the past 25 years. When Kris and I read this last fall, we agreed to give it a try, but with a slight alteration. We’ve been trying twice a month shopping. Now that I’ve finally broken my habit of “quick trips to the store”, it seems to be working well.

Meanwhile, I recently read Tracy Rimmer’s free e-book, More Month Than Money: Tightening Your Food Budget While Feeding Your Family Well [356k PDF]. One of Rimmer’s tips is to devise a meal plan. She writes:

Meal planning is becoming a lost art…But planning can take a little of the rush out of the equation. Having a planned menu that we can work from can streamline our meal preparation time, and save us money at the grocery store checkout.

Kris and I have been talking about the notion of meal planning for the past couple of weeks. It appeals to us, and for a variety of reasons.

  • First, meal planning could help us actually eat the food we’ve already purchased (or grown). We have a huge pile of beef in the freezer, and we don’t use it often enough.
  • Second, meal planning would help us save money by fitting well with our already-practiced twice-a-month shopping plan.
  • Next, meal planning would help me to eat healthier meals. I’m a creature of habit, and I tend to just do what’s easiest. Easiest is rarely healthy. With meal planning, I could thwart my bad habits.
  • Finally, meal planning would allow us to try more recipes. We both like to cook, but we don’t do it as often as we’d like. Again, we’re creatures of habit. We tend to make the same things over and over. Meal planning would allow us to explore a little.

Last night, Kris and I spent ten minutes drawing up a tentative meal plan. We’re sure that this will change as we test it, but this is what we’re going to start with:

  • Monday: Beef (tacos, hamburgers, steaks, roasts, etc.)
  • Tuesday: Italian (pasta, pizza, etc.)
  • Wednesday: Crudités, by which we actually mean fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, olives, etc.
  • Thursday: Dining out (it’s Kris’s Friday!)
  • Friday: Chicken or fish (we’d both like to eat more fish than we do)
  • Saturday: Dining out
  • Sunday: Soup or salad

We intend to be flexible, of course. If we get an invitation to dine out on Tuesday, we’ll dine out on Tuesday. If we have leftover tacos from Monday, we might eat those on Thursday instead of going out. And I forgot it last night, but we need to try something Asian at least every two weeks!

Anyhow, it may be that many people already do meal planning, but I get the impression that it’s not very common. I know Mom used to do it when we were young, and so did many of her friends, but that may have been something encouraged by the Mormon church. I’m not aware of anyone our age who does it. (Although, again, I wouldn’t be surprised if some families did.)

Will meal planning save us money? Help me lose weight? Become an incredible bore? Only time will tell.

Kevin Spacey Explains Twitter to David Letterman

“I don’t really get Twitter,” I told Andy at lunch last week.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I try to be interesting and post useful links, but I’m finding it hard to balance between tweeting for my friends and tweeting for my readers. I only have one account, so my private and public persona are enmeshed.”

Andy shook his head. “You’re overthinking it, J.D.,” he said. “Just write what you want to write.”

At least he understood what I was talking about. Until recently, few of my friends even knew what Twitter was. Now, though, it seems to be reaching some sort of critical mass. Yesterday, for example, actor Kevin Spacey appeared on The David Letterman Show, during which he schooled Dave about Twitter:

Funny stuff. And, like I say, Twitter seems to be gaining widespread acceptance. Heck, even my mother is on Twitter now!