Further Tales from Rosings Park

What’s a typical May evening like at Rosings Park? Let’s take a peek…

It’s not raining when I get home from work. In fact, it hasn’t rained since mid-morning. I check the grass: it’s basically dry. I check the sky: it’s grey and ominous, but there’s no rain. I decide to risk it.

I set the mower wheels on high and start it up. I mow at light speed, nearly jogging. Even so, it’s a slow go — the grass is tall from all of the wet, warm weather. After just ten minutes, it begins to sprinkle. I continue mowing. A light rain comes and goes as I sprint through the tall grass. I mow the road lawn, the front lawn, the side lawn. I’m just about ready to start on the back lawn when there is a crash of thunder and the sky falls in. Rain comes down in a torrent. I park the mower under the maple by the back porch and go inside. So close! Another five or ten minutes and I would have mowed it all.

Kris comes home.

Our gutters, which were well-cleaned in January, have become clogged in the recent monsoons. I cleared the gunk from the lower gutter last night, but I wasn’t willing to brave the cold and the wet and the heights to clean the upper gutter. We stand at the kitchen window and watch the rainwater splutter-splutter from the top of the house onto Kris’ precious planter box.

In the spirit of “responsiveness”, I grab a stepladder and make for the roof. Simon helps. When I lean the ladder against the guestroom wall so that I can open the door, Simon climbs onto the bottom rung and wriggles his way to the top. There he surveys the room. He isn’t happy when Kris pulls him down. (You may recall that Simon loves ladders, as demonstrated by the following photo.)

Kris holds the ladder while I climb onto the upper roof. A single fat, waxy leaf is clogging the works. (Not much can reach the upper gutters. They’re very high.)

When I climb down, Kris is gazing longingly at her gardens. She loves her gardens. Sometimes I think she loves her gardens more than she loves me! “You should take a picture of the gardens,” she says. “I’ll go move the yard waste container.”

I grab my camera and snap a few shots, but can’t get anything framed that I really like. (“These pictures aren’t any good,” Kris tells me later as we are reviewing them. “You’ve cut off this plant here. And what about those roses? And we don’t need to see the lawn.” sigh)

While Kris and I are otherwise occupied, Simon has come outside onto the lower roof and scampered along a little outcropping to the balcony outside Kris’ office. We decide to let him have some fun, and so go inside to eat our dinner. When we come back up to get him, he is gone. Kris goes outside into the yard to see what she can see. What she sees is Simon, now on the upper roof, lounging away.

“How’d he get there?” I ask.

She looks at the balcony outside her office. “I have no idea,” she says.

I look at the area around me. It is conceivable that Simon might have climbed up a low, angled bit of roof. But to have reached the upper roof, he would have had to twist himself at an odd angle while jumping, similar to the way he had climbed the ladder earlier. I shudder at the thought. Any mistake and he would have plummeted to the camellia hedge below.

I go to Kris’ office and out onto the balcony. Here the situation is almost worse. The only way Simon could have made it to the roof was to make a six foot leap to a small platform above another camellia hedge. A tough jump for such a big cat. (From there, though, it would have been easy for him to scamper up.)

These are the only two routes he could have used. It’s difficult to conceive that he would have tried either of them, but apparently he did, because now he is lounging on the upper roof. I climb up the rickety ladder and call him over. He trots to me, tail tall and proud: “Look what I did!” He trills and even purrs at me as I pet him. But then I turn into Bastard Dad, hauling him down to the top step of the ladder (which is wobbling beneath me).

He stomps off to sulk in the bedroom.

His little brother, Nemo, is proud of himself for sneaking into the basement during the excitement upstairs. At dinner, I went down to fetch a bottle of salsa. I must not have fully latched the door. All three cats have a special sense that tingles whenever they approach an unlatched door. I don’t know what Nemo finds so exciting in the basement, but he loves it. He can spend hours down there. (No doubt he’s tearing open the spare cat food bag — that’s one of his hobbies.)

At the moment, Toto, my misunderstood daughter is sitting on the arm of my easy chair, purring and staring at my face. She wants attention. Every so often she reaches out a paw and gently claws my ear, pulling it toward her. Why? Because she’s a cat.

Kris is upstairs watching the Lost episode from three weeks ago via BitTorrent. She’s sad that we’ve forgotten to download last week’s episode, because it further goofs up her sequencing. Basically, if tonight’s two-hour finale contains episodes D and E, and the one she just finished is A, she will be watching them in this order: B-A-D-E-C. I hope she can keep that straight in her head. (Update after the fact: she could not keep them straight in her head. Apparently episode C contains critical stuff, because she was completely lost. She gave up and will have me download it for her later.)

And me? I will soon be taking a hot bath while reading The Wealthy Barber, which I hope to review soon at my personal finance site.

And that is a typical evening during springtime at Rosings Park.

Graphic Novels for People Who Hate Comics

Note: I’ve cross-posted this to Four Color Comics, my comics blog.

Kristi asked yesterday about good graphic novels for book groups. In response, here’s a list of comics that I think nearly any adult would find entertaining and interesting. Note the absence of superheroes.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
The most important graphic novel yet published. Maus recounts the experiences of Spiegleman’s father as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. It won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Outstanding. A+ $22.05 from Amazon.
La Perdida by Jessica Abel
La Perdida tells the story of Carla, an aimless young American woman living in Mexico City. The ending is a little Hollywood, but overall, this is a great read. B+ $12.97 from Amazon.
Blankets or Good-Bye, Chucky Rice by Craig Thompson
Thompson is a Portland-area creator. Blankets is considered his best work to date, and it’s fine in a Tori Amos sort of way, but feels a little sophomoric at times. I prefer the more imaginative Good-Bye, Chunky Rice. Blankets: B $18.87 from Amazon. Good-Bye, Chunky rice: B+ $9.97 from Amazon.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is the autobiography of a woman who grew up in Iran during the reign of the Shah, and during the Islamic Revolution. This book has been compared (favorably) to Maus, and while it’s not quite up to that standard, it’s excellent nonetheless. Highly recommended. A- $11.67 from Amazon.
Black Hole by Charles Burns
One of the next books on my “to-read” shelf. This highly-acclaimed graphic novel is another portrait of adolescence. It combines a sexually-transmitted plague with a series of murders. Highly-regarded. Inc. $15.72 from Amazon.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid in the World by Chris Ware
The story of a sad family full of sad men. I collected this in comic book form during the mid-nineties — I bought the first issue on the day my father died — but haven’t read it since. Ware is the darling of the intelligentsia.B $22.05 from Amazon.
Torso by Brian Michael Bendis
Remember Eliot Ness of Untouchables fame? After he stood up to Al Capone in Chicago, he moved to Cleveland. This true-crime graphic novel tells of his other big case, the one that ruined him: a series of gruesome killings. A- out-of-print, but available used at $12.95 from Amazon.
Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships and Age of Bronze: Sacrifice by Eric Shanower
Over the course of a planned seven volumes, Shanower is writing and drawing the history of the Trojan War using primary sources as reference. He’s dispensed with the gods and goddesses, but not their roles. When drawing the books, he relies on archaeological evidence to get the costumes, structures, and objects correct. This is great stuff. Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships: A $13.57 from Amazon. Age of Bronze: Sacrifice: Inc. $12.97 from Amazon.
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Some of you have probably seen the film adaptation of this book. The graphic novel on which it is based is a little different, emphasizing the relationship between the two young women, and spending less time on secondary characters. This is really a series of eight short stories that hang together as a whole. Shortish. A- $9.20 from Amazon.
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
This book contains dozens of short autobiographical bits from Pekar’s early work. Some are great, others are less impressive, but on the whole American Splendor does a great job capturing adult angst. I actually prefer the recent film, which is wonderfully post-modern and often hilarious. B+ $11.53 from Amazon.
Locas by Jaime Hernandez
Though this is a classic in the field, I haven’t read any of it yet. To quote Publishers Weekly: “These superb stories … define a world of Hispanic gang warfare, ’80s California, punk rock, women wrestlers and the subtle battle to stay true to oneself. Hernandez’s main characters are Maggie and Hopey, two adorable lesbian rockers who start out in a somewhat vague relationship.” Inc. $31.47 from Amazon.
Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez
If you enjoyed Like Water for Chocolate or One Hundred Years of Solitude, then Palomar may be for you. Publishers Weekly again: “The earliest stories in the book owe more to magical realism and Gabriel Garcia Marquez than to anything that had been done in comics before. But in later pieces … Hernandez’s style is entirely his own”. Inc. $25.17 from Amazon.
Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson
Here’s a graphic novel that I do not own and have not read. Box Office Poison gets rave reviews from every corner. From what I understand, it tracks the misadventures of a group of recent college grads. Inc. $18.87 from Amazon.

Did you notice how the good graphic novels plumbed teen angst and autobiography for material? Did you further notice how the great graphic novels covered bigger subjects: the Holocaust, the Islamic Revolution, the Trojan War? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

One other excellent book to consider is Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics ($15.61 from Amazon). Understanding Comics is not a graphic novel, but a visual exploration of the comics medium: how it works, why it works, and so on. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. I actually want to choose this sometime for our book group, and then ask each member to read a graphic novel, too.

Some of you may be wondering, “Where are the great superhero graphic novels?” The short answer is that there aren’t any suitable for people who think they don’t like superhero comics. If you can’t buy into the genre, you’re not going to like the superhero stuff, no matter how good it is.

The primary exception are the products of Alan Moore. His work is imaginative and literary; I think that most open-minded adults will find it engaging. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (volume one, volume two) is clever fun. It takes fictional Victorian heroes — such as Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, and Mina Harker — and melds them into a sort of “superteam”. Every character in the book is an established character from a previous work of fiction or an ancestor of a character from modern-day fiction.

Moore’s V for Vendetta has no superheroes, though it trades on superhero comic tropes. It explores themes of freedom, identity, and fascism. I think the beginning is strong, but the ending is something of a chore.

Finally, Watchmen deals explicitly with superheroes (though largely C-list superheroes that nobody has ever heard of). Many, including myself, consider Watchmen the finest superhero comic ever published. To quote the wikipedia:

Watchmen is drama that incorporates moral philosophy, popular culture, history, art, and science. It is set in an alternative history 1980s America where costumed adventurers are real and the U.S. is close to a nuclear war with Russia. Public opinion towards the notion of vigilantism has soured and public demonstrations demand the police be reinstated as the de facto marshals of law. Meanwhile, members of The Minutemen, a defunct organization of costumed adventurers, are being murdered. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to have won a Hugo Award and is also the only graphic novel to appear on Time magazine’s list of “100 best novels from 1923 to present.”

That’s a lot of information, I know, but I hope this guide proves useful to someone. Comics and graphic novels are often marginalized by the well-read, and that’s too bad. I often find them just as exciting, entertaining, and educational as any other literature.

Sesame Street Video Clips

Update: Foldedspace reader Dennis has found a popularly-requested video. Here’s Loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter. Thanks, Dennis!

Update #2: Dutch has posted a bunch of YouTube clips for toddlers, including what seems to be additional Sesame Street clips. Right-click and open in a new tab, folks. You’ll want to go there next…


I state quite confidently that this is the best entry I’ve made in five years of weblogging. Go away if you have work things to get done. This is an enormous time-waster.

Below you’ll find a fantastic collection of Sesame Street video clips. These are great. I remember many of these from when I was a kid. I’ve tried to organzize them as best I can. If you know of more Muppet/Sesame Street clips, please let me know.

Let’s start with a song we all know by heart: “one two three FOUR five, six seven eight NINE ten, eleven twelve…”

Next we have a random selection of number and alphabet clips, as well as random skits:
Letters versus numbers.
Telephone rock
Look at this
The alligator king and his seven sons
Yakety yak
I remember liking this one as a kid: sounds
My martian cutie (number nine)
Jake the snake — body parts
King Minus
Fishing for the alphabet
Animal department store elevator
Song about riding the subway.
The rhyming song
Count it higher
Robert DeNiro imagines he’s Elmo (the spawn of Satan)
For Kris: the mad goat
Funny farm
The ladybug picnic
The number painter (and Stockard Channing! — I always loved this)
Mahna Mahna
We all live in a capital I
Choosing a national bird (hilarious!)
The villain in the panama hat

How about a collection of popular songs done Sesame Street-style?
Johnny Cash and Big Bird: Don’t Take Your Ones to Town”
R.E.M. and the Monsters: “Furry Happy Monsters”
Stevie Wonder: “1-2-3”
Ray Charles (and Patrick Stewart?!?): The Alphabet Song”
The Beetles: “Letter B”
Norah Jones (and that spawn of Satan, Elmo): “Don’t Know Y”
“Born to Add” (minus Bruce Springsteen)

For Jeff — the ‘yip yip’ Martians:
The Martians meet a telephone
The Martians meet a computer

Guy Smiley
The Remembering Game
Beat the Time
Mystery Guest

Oscar
It’s Not Easy Being Green
I Love Trash

Grover
Grover is surprised
Grover examines Kermit’s teeth
Grover’s echo
Grover takes a bath
Grover takes a day off
Grover goes to bed
Grover the waiter: big or small?
The monster in the mirror
Grover and the butterfly

Cookie Monster
Disco Cookie
Casey McPhee
C is for Cookie!
Cookie Monster raps about healthy food (boo! sell-out!)
The mystery box (with Kermit)
Rhyming (with Kermit)
Cookie steals Ernie’s cupcakes
Cookie steals Ernie’s pillow
Cookie and Ernie sing about D
One of these things is not like the other
Eatin’ Cookie (a parody of “Makin’ Whoopee”)
Six cookies
Monsterpiece Theater: Chariots of Fur
Monsterpiece Theater: The King and I
Monsterpiece Theater: Twelve Angry Men

My favorite has always been Kermit
It’s Not Easy Being Green
A-B-C-D-E-F-Cookie Monster (very, very cute)
The mystery box (with Cookie Monster)
Rhyming (with Cookie Monster)
Muppet News Flash: Santa Claus
Muppet News Flash: The Six Dollar Man
Muppet News Flash: Cinderella
Muppet News Flash: The Beanstalk
Muppet News Flash: The Wrong Seven Dwarves

And now for the grand finale, a collection of Bert and Ernie videos!
Bert and Ernie go fishing
Ernie does the laundry
Bert’s favorite number
Ernie can’t sleep
Bert can’t sleep
Bert and Ernie remember (and can’t sleep).
The ‘la la la’ song (This is a classic.)
Bert is locked out
Artwork by Ernie
Ernie and the chocolate cake
Ernie and Bert at the beach
Ernie goes rock hunting
Bert and Ernie explore a pyramid
Bert’s brother, Bart
Ernie quizzes Bert
Bert and Ernie play tag
Ernie breaks the cookie jar
Ernie has a banana in his ear (One of my all-time favorites.)
Bert and Ernie and the ice cream man
Bert and the National Association of W Lovers
Cookie steals Ernie’s cupcakes
Cookie steals Ernie’s pillow
Cookie and Ernie sing about D
Rubber Duckie!
Ernie and Lefty
Lefty and the painting
The broken ukelele
Natalie Portman (hubba and hubba) and Elmo (spawn of Satan) play the princess and the elephant

And, finally, the Muppet tribute to Jim Henson: Just One Person.

If you love these video clips, check out the complete first season of The Muppet Show, which is now available on DVD. (Also, this Songs From the Street boxed set features many of the songs above. Teach your children the songs you love!)

After watching some of these, I groused about Bert: “Bert is so lame. Who likes Bert?” “I like Bert,” mumbled Kris. “Why? How can you possibly like Bert?” I asked. Kris was firm: “Bert is sensible.” I just shook my head.

[all of this madness is via Metafilter, of course]

Chore Cloud: One Difference Between Men and Women

Allow me to be sexist for a day.

Kris was working away Saturday, doing some chore or other, when she asked me, “What’s your schedule for today?”

“I don’t have one,” I said, and I could see that my answer made her tense.

“You are going to sweep the floors, though, right?” she asked, her voice filled with a blend of pleading and contempt.

I sighed, grabbed pen and paper, and drew a couple of diagrams that delineate the difference between how men and women view chores.

Women
Women have a list of chores. Each chore is a discreet item, with a scheduled time for beginning and a scheduled time for completion. If the list of chores is not completely finished by a given time, the woman is unfulfilled. She is tense.


Black ink by J.D., green ink by Kris

The woman derives great satisfaction from the methodic progression through the list. Dishes Washed? Check. Floors swept? Check Husband on task? Check.

Men
Men have a cloud of chores. In his mind, a guy is aware of the things that need to be finished (which, of course, include those items on his “honey-do” list, but also include other things like sorting comic books or watching the latest episode of Beauty and the Geek).


Black ink by J.D., green ink by Kris

The man doesn’t attempt to complete these items in any particular order. He might start emptying the trash, for example, and notice that there’s a stack of books that needs to be sorted. Sorting the stack of books might not have been in the cloud of chores before, but now it is, and in fact it seems more pressing, so he begins to sort the books. After he’s finished, he sits down to admire his handiwork. While he’s sitting there, he turns around in the chair to check his e-mail. His friend Dave has sent him a message asking him to burn a copy of the latest Battlestar Galactica episode, so he does. He takes this disc downstairs so that he won’t forget it on Monday, and while he’s in the mud room he notices that it’s sunny, so he might as well get the peas planted since that, too, is in the cloud of chores. He goes outside to do this, but his wife comes up and says, “Let’s go for a walk.” They do. On the walk, she mentions that she’d like to rearrange the living room furniture. Now, re-arranging the living room furniture was neither in his chore-cloud nor on her list of chores, but when they get home, they spend four hours pushing chairs, arranging plants, shifting bookshelves, etc. When they’ve finished, the man is pooped, but he’s happy. He’s done a lot today. True, he didn’t finish much in his cloud of chores, but he did get a lot of other stuff done, and those chores will still be there tomorrow. Or next weekend. He’s pleased. His wife, who views his cloud of chores as a list of chores, is not happy. The list is incomplete. In fact, it has barely been touched.

Conclusions
Obviously these are generalizations. Some women have a cloud of chores. Some men have a list of chores. Some members of each gender have some spooky hybrid. But, from my experience, the above descriptions are essentially correct. The challenge then, one of the primary objectives of marital relations, is to find a balance between the woman’s list of chores and the man’s cloud of chores.

Sometimes the answer to that challenge is Merry Maids.

Death by Chocolate (Home-Brewed Chantico)

Profanity warning.

So, I made my first batch of chantico tonight. Using just one-half of one of the three bags of Starbucks chantico mix mailed to me by a foldedspace reader, I brewed some drinking chocolate.

[three bags of chantico mix]

Holy shit!

I’m dying here.

First, here are the stats from the bags:

STARBUCKS ®
Drinking Chocolate

  1. Empty contents of one (1) bag of product into one (1) liter of cold whole milk.
  2. Mix until powder has been fully incorporated.
  3. Re-mix before each use.

Ingredients: sugar, cocoa powder processed with alkali (26%), milk, cocoa butter, vanillin (an artificial flavor).

Not for retail sale. Product of Holland. Net weight 750g.

Lord, how I wish I’d taken photographs of this adventure.

I knew that I didn’t want to fix an entire bag of chantico, but I couldn’t decide how much would be enough for an after-dinner treat. Half a bag? One quarter of a bag? I measured out 375g of mix and called it good enough.

How much volume does 375g of chantico mix displace? Two-and-a-half cups. How much volume does 500ml of whole milk displace? Approximately two cups. That’s right: the ratio of mix to whole milk is 1.25 to 1 in favor of the chocolate.

I was alarmed already.

We don’t own a milk steamer, and I’m rather anti-microwave (yes, really), so I mixed the stuff in a pot on the stove and brought it nearly to a boil. I say nearly because it soon became clear that heating this stuff too much too quickly was going to burn it. I backed off on the heat and poured myself a mug.

Yum. But not hot enough.

I microwaved it for twenty seconds, then sat at the table and sipped. The first mug was so good that I poured a second. And a third. I heated a mug for Kris, too. She’s shared sips of my chantico before, but has never had one of her own. She was shocked by the overwhelming chocolate experience. “This is undrinkable,” she said. “It’s like chocolate soup.” She diluted her mug with some skim milk. (Sacrilege!)

Midway through the third mug, I realized the folly of my ways. My mouth was coated with cocoa butter and vanillin. I felt as if my digestive track had turned to liquid chocolate. I groaned and stumbled to the kitchen, swigged skim milk directly from the carton.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I said. “I shouldn’t have had a third mug.”

To summarize: one bag of chantico mix and one liter of whole milk will make approximately eight six-ounce servings, which Starbucks once sold at $2.65 a pop. Unfettered by that price, granted unrestricted access to the stuff, the most I could drink was three servings before feeling sick.

I now plan to share the rest of my hoard, to parcel it out in small doses.

(Actually, I think my next step is to try a one-to-one ratio, mixing half a cup of chantico mix with half a cup of whole milk, stirring it, and then microwaving the stuff. I’ll bet that this results in about six ounces of drinkable chocolate without being quite so overwhelming.)

The Good Stuff

I’m often torn between frugal living — buying all my clothes, etc. at Costco and Goodwill — and a desire for top-quality stuff. Today I yield to the latter, sharing a collection of links to purveyors of quality products, from clothes to hats to pens to camping supplies.

Recently at AskMetafilter, somebody said “What other brands would appeal to a Filson man? Old school preferred. Gold stars for companies that have existed for more than a century.” Because I love Filson stuff, I followed the thread with great interest. I visited the web sites of all the recommended companies and sent away for catalogs when they were available.

This weblog entry is an attempt to collect information on the most appealing of the companies recommended in the original thread, as well as information on other companies I’ve discovered over the past few weeks. Most of the following are still “Filson man” material, though some — like Bob’s Red Mill — are wholly unrelated.

All of the companies here provide quality goods via mail order. All of them have web sites from which one may order their products. Not all of them provide a means for requesting a print catalog. (I’ve provided a link to each company’s catalog request page, if one exists.)

Clothing

  • David Morgan (Seattle, 1962) is an an outfit from which one can buy products produced by several of the companies (Filson, Akubra, etc.) listed elsewhere in this entry. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Filson (Seattle, 1897, “Might as well have the best”) for outdoor clothing, hats, bags, and accessories. I own two Filson hats, a Filson vest, a Filson jacket, and a Filson bag. Each piece was moderately spendy, but well worth it. Filson makes high quality products. (Great website, catalog available.)
  • The J. Peterman Company (Kentucky) for expensive, oddball pieces of clothing. But still stuff I want. Who wouldn’t want Italian genius pants? (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Woolrich (Pennsylvania, 1830, “The original outdoor clothing company”) for outdoor clothing. I am not familiar with this company, but look forward to browsing their catalog. (Good webiste, catalog available.)
  • L.L. Bean (Maine, 1912) for clothing. I’ve always been aware of L.L. Bean, but never shopped there except at the outlet mall in Lincoln City. (Good website, catalogs available, outlet store on the coast.)
  • Kevin’s (Georgia, 1979, “Fine outdoor gear and apparel”) for outdoor clothing and hunting supplies. This catalog came yesterday. It contains several things I want: canvas trousers, a pocketwatch, etc. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Patagonia (California, 1965, “Committed to the core”) for active outdoor clothing and gear. I bought one piece of Patagonia gear at the last REI sale. It has served me well. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Devold (Norway, 1853, “Quality outdoor clothing”) for, well, quality outdoor clothing. I’ve only glanced at Devold’s web site, and cannot tell what to think of their offerings. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Barbour (England, 1894) for outdoor clothing. After browsing the catalog, I don’t think this company’s stuff is for me. (Fair website, catalog available though it lists no prices.)
  • Holland & Holland (London, 1835) for upscale outdoorswear. Looks similar to Barbour. Again, not my type. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Le Chameau (France, 1927) for hunting clothes and riding gear. See last two comments. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • French Creek Sheep and Wool Company (Pennsylvania, 1970) for woolen coats and sweaters. These are a bit too wooly for me. (Poor website, catalog available in theory.)
  • Pendleton Woolen Mills (Portland, 1909, “Good for life”) for shirts and blankets. I own one Pendleton hat; it’s the one I wear most often (the brown one). I’ve owned Pendleton shirts, and have always been impressed. (Great website, catalog available, many stores around Portland.)
  • Timberland (Boston, no specific date, “Make it better”) for boots. My only exposure to Timberland is through the pair of work boots I bought last fall. They’ve served me well during the past year, and I’d be happy to purchase Timberland again. (Decent website, no catalog, outlet store in Woodburn.)

Accessories

  • Hartmann (Tennessee, 1877) for luggage. They even have some cases that George Bailey might have liked. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Duluth Pack (Duluth, 1882) for bags, packs, and camping gear. The web site has some keen-looking stuff. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Tilley Endurables (Toronto, 1984) for hats and travel clothing. I intend to order at least one Tilley hat before the end of the year. I admire their products. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Akubra Hats (Australia, 1874) for hats. Many of these look too, well, Aussie for me, but I’m willing to spend more time at the site. Lord knows I love hats. (Poor website, no catalog.)
  • Geier Glove (Seattle, 1927) for gloves. These gloves look durable and stylish. (Good website, no catalog.)
  • Hardy (England, 1879, “Tackling the world”) for fishing supplies. I’m not a fisherman, but some of this stuff still looks appealing. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Frost River (Duluth, “Reliable softgoods”) for all sorts of outdoor supplies. This would probably be a good place to stock up on camping equipment. (Good website, catalog available.)
  • Bosca (Ohio) “Accessories in leather”) for leather goods. All of Bosca’s stuff looks tempting. (Fair website, no catalog.)
  • Breitling (Switzerland, 1884, “Instruments for professionals”) for watches. I’m not sure these are the sorts of wathces I want. I’d love a pocketwatch! (Terrible website, no catalog.)

Furniture, Etc.

  • Gandolfini (England, 1885) for large-format cameras. In my dream world (the world where I have unlimited funds), I’d shoot only large format. (Poor website, no catalog.)
  • Stickley (New York, 1900, “Collector quality furniture since 1900”) for furniture. I’m currently shopping for a new chair for my library. I’ve considered a Stickley piece. (Decent website with fun extras (including a video tour), catalogs available for a price.)

Paper Products, Etc.

  • Waterman (Paris, 1883) for pens. I’ve never purchased and expensive pen of any sort. (I’d probably lose one if I did.) I don’t know if the extra cost purchases extra quality. (Weak website, no catalog.)
  • Moleskine notebooks are fantastic, but there is no one centralized source for infromation on them. This site is good, though based in England.
  • Smythson of Bond Street (London, 1887) for products, including bespoke stationery and featherweight paper. Expensive, but appealing. (Good website, PDF catalog available.)
  • Dempsey & Carroll (New York, 1878) is another stationeer. I’m tempted to try them. (Decent website, no catalog.)
  • Library of America (New York, 1979, “America’s best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions”) for classic American books. I own several LoA volumes, and have been impressed by each. (Great website, catalog available, subscription available.)
  • The Criterion Collection for feature-laden, authoritative film transfers to DVD. If you must ever choose between a Criterion version of a film and a non-Criterion version, choose the former. (Decent website, no catalog.)

Foodstuffs

  • Bob’s Red Mill (Portland, “Whole grain foods for every meal of the day”) for inexpensive, quality cereals, flours, and more. I just visited the actual Bob’s Red Mill store this afternoon and bought a case of my favorite cereal. (Great website, no catalog.)
  • Glory Bee Foods (Eugene, 1979) for natural foods and crafts. Excellent honey. (Good website, catalog available.)

One commenter in the original AskMetafilter thread suggested using eBay to find used items from quality compnaies. For example, one might search for vinatage Woolrich to find high-quality used items from that company. This is something I’d like to play with. I did search for Filson products last fall, but ultimately bought new from the shop down the street.

If you know of other sources of quality food, clothing, whatever, please let me know. I’d love to find a good source of globes.

Comments


On 28 September 2005 (07:41 PM),
Ron said:

I agree with the Filson recommendation. Everything I have purchased from them has met or exceeded my expectations. 10 years after the purchase of some of the items they are as good as when I bought them.

On 28 September 2005 (08:22 PM),
John said:

J.D.:

If you’re not aware of it, http://www.kk.org/cooltools is a great place for wishlist daydreaming.

John

On 28 September 2005 (08:33 PM),
Lisa said:

A few years ago, I snagged a classic, vintage red and black plaid Woolrich coat. It was lightly used and $20 at a thrift store where I was wasting time before an appointment. I think it was one of my best purchases ever–I love that thing. If nothing else, a good quality, lightly lined wool coat is the perfect weight for most of our weather. Mmmmmm!

As for Filson, I’ve always admired their long, waxed canvas duster coat. Not that I think I have the presence to pull it off, but they sure look cool.

On 28 September 2005 (09:19 PM),
Chris said:

JD – Try Fountain Pen Hospital for many brands of high end fountain pens and other writing instruments. They have both a website (www.fountainpenhospital.com) and a paper catalog. You will no longer think that Waterman pens are expensive after visiting this site.

On 29 September 2005 (08:03 AM),
Peter said:

JD,

In my opinion you can’t get much better than Mountain Equipment Co-op for outdoor clothing and gear.

www.mec.ca

On 29 September 2005 (08:34 AM),
J.D. said:

It looks like Fantagraphics Books (the fantastic Seattle-based comix publisher saved from bankruptcy by The Complete Peanuts) has a free catalog, too

On 29 September 2005 (07:13 PM),
J.D. said:

Ugh. I just removed Orvis from the list. I can’t believe that it was recommended in the original AskMetafilter thread. Their catalog came in the mail today, and after looking through it, the stuff is nothing like Filson or L.L. Bean or Tilley or Waterman. It’s, well, catalog junk.

Essential Macintosh Software

It seems that more and more of my friends are moving to Macintosh. This is a Good Thing. Macs are not perfect, but for most users they’re the best choice. They’re safe, reliable, and accessible. Best of all, they’re a pleasure to use.

As these friends change platforms, though, they find themselves asking: “Which software should I use?” I’ve been back on Macintosh for nearly three years, and have explored a lot of the available software, and am now willing to make recommendations.

(Please note that the programs I mention aren’t the only (or even the best) options. They’re merely the options I recommend.)

Web Browser
Safari is the default Macintosh browser, and it’s a good one. It’s my favorite web browser, actually, on any platform. It’s quick and flexible, with tabbed-browsing and a built-in google search bar. Safari’s biggest weakness is printing. On Internet Explorer for the PC, you’re able to print a selection from a web page. You can’t do this from Safari, and, quite frankly, it sucks. (Free.)

Firefox,the best browser option for the PC, is also available on the Mac. Firefox is very similar to Safari, but more extensible. You can download addons to change the browser’s functionality. Firefox is a great option, but I happen to prefer Safari. (Free, open-source.)

E-Mail Client
Apple Mail is the best of a marginal field. It’s included with every Mac and, for the most part, does a fine job. It features lightning fast searches (best e-mail search I’ve ever used), custom filtering, and an elegant interface, but the damn thing is far too buggy. It crashes often (without loss of data, fortunately), and a couple times a year it just stops working altogether. Apple Mail is good except when it isn’t. (Free.)

Eudora is the same e-mail application that many people use on the PC. It does a fine job, but it’s just, well, ugly compared to other Macintosh applications. The interface is less-than-ideal, and the search is just okay. Still, it’s a fine alternative. (Available in three modes: free but feature-limited; free and full-featured but with ads; and $50 paid mode.)

Some people swear by Mailsmith. I swear at it. After using Mailsmith for a year, I’m afraid I have to recommend against using it. Its user-interface is fine, and it offers a lot of options, but everything else is a mess. It’s slow. (I mean really slow. Sorting or searching with just a couple thousand messages in a mailbox is unbearable.) It’s a nightmare to find and change a preference. Support is unhelpful. And it’s expensive. If you’re willing to fuss with the program, it’s probably great. (Why else would people praise it?) But if you want to fuss with things, you ought to be on a PC. Me? I just want my mail program to work. ($100 and an infinite amount of patience. Fully-functional 30-day demo available.)

Office Suite
Most Macs (all Macs?) ship with Appleworks, a basic office application similar to Microsoft Works. For most people, this is all the office application they’ll ever need. It doesn’t have all the features of Microsoft Office (though it will read MS Office files just fine), but I’ve never really noticed. It does what I need. Jeff notes that he uses AppleWorks a lot, and is generally content with it. It’s not ideal. (Free.)

If you need Microsoft Office, it’s available. I never crave Word, though sometimes I crave (and use) Excel. Excel is rather keen. ($400.)

Text Editors
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I don’t use a word-processor. I use text-editor. What’s the difference? A text-editor doesn’t have fancy features like multiple fonts and page layout options and rudimentary graphic design tools. A text-editor is just a program for writing. I left the world of word-processing six or seven years ago, and I’ve never looked back. The Mac ships with TextEdit, but there’s a better option.

Most Macintosh power-users sing the praises of BBEdit, which has been a mainstay on the platform for over a decade. I’m not a huge fan of BBEdit. Like Mailsmith (it’s made by the same company), it suffers from an overwhelming options screen. The latest version of the program (version 8) seems to be a step sideways. Some nifty new features were added, but at the expense of speed. ($200. Fully-functional 30-day demo available.)

Instead, I recommend the stripped-down version of BBEdit, which is called TextWrangler. If this had been available when I bought BBEdit, I could have saved myself a chunk of cash. (Free.)

Image Editor
Apple has made a big deal about iPhoto, and I’ve been impressed at some of the things that Jenn uses it for, but I’ve never been anything but frustrated by it. It’s slow. It’s cumbersome. It’s feature-set is anything but robust. (You can’t even re-size a photo!) It’s a good way to organize your photo library, I suppose, but that’s about it. (Free.)

Many Mac users love the venerable GraphicConverter, a $30 shareware program that allows for basic image manipulation. The geekier set advocates the free, open-source GIMP. I’ve used GIMP on both Windows and Linux, though, and have never been impressed.

For image manipulation, I use Photoshop Elements, a stripped-down version of Photoshop that has a wealth of features for the average user. The latest version (3.0) isn’t very good, though. I regret having spent $80 on it. It’s slow, buggy, and features some mind-numbingly stupid programming. It’s a good choice if you can’t find 2.0, but otherwise skip it. I’ve uninstalled Photoshop Elements 3.0 on my computers and am using 2.0 instead. Photoshop Elements 2.0, if you can find it, is a pleasure to work with, with some clever intuitive features that have just disappeared in the latest version.

Music Jukebox
Macintosh ships with my favorite music jukebox: iTunes. As with most Apple products, iTunes features lightning-quick searches, an excellent user-interface, and great organizational capabilities. I used to use WinAmp on the PC, but iTunes is superior to it in nearly every way. (Free.)

Movie Player
Every Mac ships with two movie-playing applications: DVD Player for watching DVDs and QuickTime for watching other video files. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only video players you’ll need.

You’ll also need Windows Media Player (a free download from Microsoft) and the fantastic free open-source VLC. VLC is a must-download app. It’s my default media-player. If it doesn’t work (which is rare), I fall back on Windows Media Player or QuickTime.

It seems strange to need so many different media players; I console myself with the fact that I needed just as many in Windows. (All of these applications are free.)

Other Applicatons
Here’s a list of other useful applications that the Mac ships with by default: Address Book (which integrates with Apple Mail and other Mac apps), iCal (which is notoriously buggy, but still useful), iDVD (for burning DVDs, which I never do), iMovie (for making your own movies, which I rarely do), iSync (for syncing data on multiple Macs — I use this all the time), and iChat (for internet chat, which I rarely use).

And here’s the meat of this entry, the little Macintosh utilities I can’t live without:

Acquisition
I’ve used a half dozen file-sharing clients from Napster to BearShare to LimeWire to Kazaa to Kazaa Lite. None of them come close to touching Acquisition for quality of user interface. As a bonus, Acquisition is fully integrated with iTunes. This application is beautiful. (Free download. $17 payment requested.)

Audacity
Don’t let the ugly interface scare you; Audacity is a handy app for working with audio files. It’s a free, open-source with which you can record live audio (like birds in the yard); convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs; edit sound files; cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together; and more. (Free, open-source.)

BitTorrent
I’ve already ranted about how I would watch almost no television if it weren’t for Netflix and BitTorrent. Using various directories, I’m able to find “torrents” for download, and thus I watch television programs I otherwise would miss. Network executives aren’t happy about it, but would they rather have me publicize their programs in my weblog after downloading them via BitTorrent, or would they rather have me not watch at all? (Free, open-source.)

Lightbox
Like iPhoto, but better. Lightbox is an image-management program for serious photographers. It works with RAW image files, keeps track of thumbnails, and, best of all, doesn’t make you keep all your images in one directory. ($25, fully-functional demo available.)

MacGourmet
I love to cook, but I do a terrible job at keeping my recipes organized. I’m always asking Kris things like, “Where’s that recipe for Thai tuna salad?” MacGourmet solves that problem. Or it would if I ever got all my recipes entered into it. The program even has a keen companion website with recipes and more. ($25, time-limited demo available.)

NetNewsWire
This app allows you to read syndicated feeds. That may be gibberish to you. An RSS (or similar) feed is basically a plain-text version of, say, this weblog, which can be acquired by various applications, including NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire lets you subscribe to these feeds, essentially tracking to see when your favorite sites and weblogs are updated, then displaying the new stuff for you to read. It’s very handy. ($25, fully-functional 30-day demo available.)

Quicksilver
Ah, Quicksilver. I’ve barely begun to use this little app — loudly advocated at 43folders — and already I sense its power. It’s essentially an operating system accelerator: press option-space and type the first few letters of a program, or the first few letters of a URL, or the first few letters of a document name, and Quicksilver opens it for you. Very handy. Here’s an excellent introductcion to Quicksilver. (Free.)

Unison
Some of us are still on Usenet. (When I first started using the internet, Usenet was the internet: there was no world-wide web.) ($25, fully-functional 15-day demo.)

SpamSieve
If I could have only one third-party Macintosh application, it would be SpamSieve. SpamSieve is the most effective spam filter I’ve ever used. It integrates flawlessly with every e-mail client I’ve used. It just works. (I only have two very, very minor complaints: its icon lives in the dock, and it gives me a modal dialogue box after each (frequent) program update.) ($25, and worth every penny.)

Transmit
How do I move files back and forth on my web site? With ftp, of course. There are plenty of free ftp clients available, but none of them offer the features and elegance of Transmit. Transmit is the best ftp program I’ve ever used on any platform. Most people don’t need an ftp client; me, I can’t live without one. ($30, fully-functional 15-day demo.)

WeatherPop
This handy little menu-bar app displays weather forecasts. It used to be available for $8 from the developers, but their web site is gone. I can’t find it. I think the above link will give you a free fully-functional demo, but I’m not sure.

WireTap
This little app lets you record sound from any source, even realaudio or DVD audio. WireTap captures the sound as it’s routed to the speakers. Ambrosia used to have a free version available, but they’ve updated the app and are charging for it now. (Wow. I just installed WireTap Pro. It’s got Windows-level of crap in its folder after installation. Not a good sign.) ($19, though the old version is free if you can find it.)

I’m hesitant to recommend anything from Real Networks knowing how insidious their software is on the PC, but from what I can tell their various media players are actually fairly innocuous (even useful!) on a Mac. The latest version is Real Player 10, but I’m still using RealOne Player and am quite happy with it.

I’m sure there are scores of other great little Mac apps out there that I haven’t discovered yet. One great thing about Macs is that they’re useful out-of-the-box. Throw in a couple of the above apps and they kick ass.

Comments

On 02 June 2005 (04:29 PM),
Kris said:

Boy, is this boring!

On 02 June 2005 (07:43 PM),
dowingba said:

$200 for a text editor? And you actually bought it? Sorry but I just can’t get past that price. I know it has alot of nifty features and what not, but two hundred dollars?! For a text editor?!?

On 02 June 2005 (09:16 PM),
Jeff said:

Here’s my take on the applications (programs) listed above. Keep in mind that my computer needs are very basic and I have zero desire to do any tweaking:

Safari -> My browser of choice, no need to think about switching.
Firefox -> Use it at work on PC, would use if not for Safari.

Apple Mail -> E-mail search is a wonderful feature. Best e-mail client I’ve used, much better than Outlook Express. I have never had if crash.
Eudora -> Seen it, used it a few times on JD’s PC at work, better than Outlook Express, but I’ll keep Apple Mail.

Appleworks -> I like the drawing & painting portions, but if you are used to Word or Excel, the rest of it takes some getting used to.
Microsoft Office -> If you are an Excel addict as I am, Office is worth the price of admission.

TextEdit -> I’m typing this in TextEdit. I find it to be the perfect weblog entry composition too — plain text with spell check — I don’t need anything else from a text editor. One of my most often used programs… er, applications.
BBEdit -> Played with it a little on JD’s PowerBook. Way too complicated for a text editor… I’ll stick with TextEdit.
TextWrangler -> Never tried it… don’t feel the need to.

iPhoto -> Great for retrieving photos from the camera and organizing in albums, but that’s about it. You can do cropping, rotating, red-eye editing etc, but I just find it all much easier in Photoshop.
GraphicConverter, GIMP -> Haven’t tried either one.
Photoshop Elements 2.0 -> My default photo editor — intuitive & powerful. Perfect for editing photos for weblog entries.

iTunes -> Two big thumbs up here. Easy song or artist searching, easy CD burning (either MP3 or standard format), easy to use.

DVD Player -> Works very well, but mainly plays kid’s movies… ๐Ÿ˜‰
QuickTime -> Never been impressed with QuickTime. Microsoft wins in this category.
Windows Media Player -> My default video media player.
VLC -> ???????

Aquisition thru Unison -> Never used any of these. Don’t know why I would need to.

SpamSieve -> Have been training SpamSieve for 5 months now, and it is starting to pay off. Most of the spam from or Custom Box account no longer gets through to my home computer.

Transmit -> Never tried.

WeatherPop -> A very handy feature. Nice to get the weather forecast with one click of the mouse.

WireTap -> Sounds interesting, but I’m not sure when I would use it.

Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back…

On 03 June 2005 (08:26 AM),
Tammy said:

I’m sooo with Kris on this one! (yawn)

On 03 June 2005 (11:03 PM),
Dana Johnson said:

I hate paying for software — except for games.

So.

I’ve had a mac available to me for a week now (in addition to my multiple linux boxes, some of which can dual boot into various MS operating systems)…

For those of us who are inveterate geeks, DarwinPorts and Fink provide a centralized interface to downloading and installing a very large number of ‘standard’ *nix apps.

The Mac mail app is adequate, I suppose. Thunderbird is nearly it’s equal. Of course, neither is really the equal of mutt, but that’s just IMHO. =)

On the browser front, I can only add a pointer to Camino, another Mozilla-based browser project, a la Mozilla and Firefox. This one has a native Cocoa interface (unlike Firefox, which is technically rendered in XUL, same as Mozilla — if this means nothing to you, you can safely ignore it).

I like pretty icons!

While BitTorrent is indeed keen (I like the looks of this client, but haven’t really put it through it’s paces), I’ve had much better luck finding stuff on eDonkey, a client for which lives here: xDonkey.

For those of you just as geeky as myself (which is probably nobody), there’s also QemuX, an OS X port of the QEMU ix86 emulator. Using QemuX, you can boot Windows (or Linux, actually) in a window.

I actually use this functionality all the time for actual work-related type activities. But if you don’t actually need this, then you’ll never use it.

If you are at all an IMer, I would also recommend Adium X, based on a native-port of GAIM. This is a multi-protocol IM client which handles some protocols that iChat doesn’t (ie, Yahoo Messenger).

Finally, there are tons of little tweaks and apps at Apple’s site, here. Many are native ports of common open source apps (such as JD’s aforementioned GIMP), like OSX versions of VIm and Emacs…

Getting Things Done

Note: foldedspace.org died recently, and is gradually being reconstructed. This entry has moved. Its new URL is http://www.foldedspace.org/weblog/2005/05/getting_things_done.html. The 10 comments from before the move can be found here.

“So, basically, it’s just a bunch of lists?” — Jenn

I spent the weekend implementing the system found in David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Rather than explain the system, I want to tell you how I implemented it. However, since I didn’t follow things to the letter, and since most of you are probably unfamiliar with this, a brief summary is probably in order. The following has been significantly simplified.

THE ART OF STRESS-FREE PRODUCTIVITY
Our lives, says Allen, are filled with Stuff. Too much Stuff. We think about this Stuff, we worry about this Stuff, we never get all the Stuff done that we need to do.

His solution is simple: collect all the Stuff in a Collection Bucket. When all the Stuff is in one place, process the top item in the Bucket. When the first item has been processed, move on to the second. Process everything in order until there’s nothing left in the Collection Bucket.

How are items processed? Whenever one takes an item from the Collection Bucket, one asks: “Is this actionable?” In other words, “Is this something that I need to take care of?”

If the item is not actionable, one should (depending on its nature):

  • toss the item in the trash,
  • file the item for future reference, or
  • place the item in a regularly-reviewed tickler file for possible future action.

If the item is actionable, one should (depending on its nature):

  • do it, if it’s only going to take a few minutes,
  • delegate it, if it’s somebody else’s responsibility, or
  • defer it.

Using this system, many items are done immediately, while many other items are deferred. Deferred items may be:

  • placed on a calendar if they must be done at a specific date and/or time, or
  • put on list of Next Actions if they’re things that need to be done ASAP

There’s a special subset of actionable items called Projects. These are multi-step events. Each Project gets its own file, and the Next Action for each Project is placed in the Collection Bucket.

After the system is erected, one should empty the Collection Bucket(s) once a week (or as often as necessary). That’s it. That’s the system.

Here’s a graphical representation:

[flowchart demonstrating Getting Things Done steps]

An alternate graphical representation:

[flowchart demonstrating Getting Things Done steps]

There are other nice Getting Things Done flowcharts out there. I’ve got a pretty one hanging above my desk now.

APPLYING THE SYSTEM FOR PERSONAL USE
This ideas in this book are designed for business use, but they’re easily applied to one’s personal life. That’s just what I did last weekend.

Here’s how I got things done:

Preparation
I made a trip to an office supply store to pick up: file folders, an automatic labeler, four 12×12 tiles of cork, a nice wooden inbox, thumbtacks, scotch tape, and a few other items.

Collecting Stuff
I gathered together all of my Stuff, both physical and mental, and piled it on the kitchen table.

To gather the physical Stuff, I walked from room-to-room with a box, into which I shoveled all the Stuff I could find (e.g. magazines, photographs, junk mail, to-do lists, letters, etc.).

To gather the mental Stuff, I walked from room-to-room with a stack of index cards, onto which I wrote all the Stuff that occurred to me (e.g. put away clothes, clean cat food area, hang painting on guest room wall, organize DVDs, prune laurel from back porch, etc.).

Sorting Stuff
When all this Stuff had been collected in one spot (which took several hours), I began to process it.

Mostly the Stuff was easy to process. I just started with what was in front of me, picked it up, and asked myself what the item was and what needed to be done with it.

If it was something I could deal with in just a few minutes, I dealt with it. (For example: books that needed to be shelved.)

If it was something that needed to be dealt with soon, but that would take longer than just a few minutes, I set aside in a Next Actions pile. (For example: cancel cell phone.)

If I no longer needed the item, I threw it out. (For example: house flyers from last spring.)

If it was something that I wanted to keep for Reference, I made a new file folder (labeling it with my handy automatic labeler). (For example: all of the various songlists I jot down for future CD mixes.)

If it was something for somebody else, I put it in a Delegated pile. (For example: anything related to the bathroom remodel, which Kris is basically in charge of.)

If it was a part of a larger Project, I stuck it in a folder marked Projects. (I didn’t finish organizing my Projects this weekend. They can wait. For now there’s a file-folder filled with them.) (For example: organizing all of my writing, from high school til today.)

If it was something that needed done on a specific date, I entered it into iCal. (For example: my upcoming dentist appointment.)

If it was something that didn’t need done right away, I stuck it in a Tickler file to process later. (For example: schedule a poetry night.)

If it was something that was just an idea, something that I might want to do someday, but it won’t kill me if I don’t, then I put it in a file marked “someday/maybe”. (For example: buy a nice leather easy chair like the one Paul J. has.)

This sorting process took an entire day. When the kitchen table was clean once again, I had several file folders filled with to-do lists. I also had a stack of Next Actions.

Organizing Stuff
All of my reference file folders (and there were several dozen of them) were tucked in a desk drawer. I put the Projects file into my inbox (because I need to break it down later, creating individual files for each project). Most of my organization, though, involved the stack of action items.

I hung the cork tiles in the nook, behind my desk. I labeled the top one “Next Actions”. Then, for each action item, I created an index card. (Actually, I ended up using my old Computer Resources business cards. They’re the perfect size.) I tacked the index cards to the cork in no particular order.

After two-and-a-half days, I was finished. My version of the Getting Things Done system was set up and ready to use.

Getting Things Done
When using the system, you’re supposed to take the next action item, no matter what it is, and just do it. You’re not supposed to sort through them. For this one time, for setting up the system, I made an exception. I cherry-picked. I selected a few cards at a time, and then I did whatever they said: clean car, buy mini-to-mini cable, check hoses on washing machine. If the action was something that I know comes up repeatedly (clean car, for example), then I tucked it in a drawer for later use.

After my initial Brain Dump, I had 53 next actions. I did eleven of them yesterday. I brought six more with me to work today (get watch batteries, let State Farm know we replaced furnace, read credit union policies, stop by Les Schwab to check on tire).

A LOAD OFF MY MIND
I took yesterday afternoon off to relax. I didn’t do any chores. I didn’t feel like I needed to: everything that needs done is sitting there, tacked to my corkboard. I don’t need to worry about it anymore

To some of you, this all probably seems silly. It may seem like a lot of effort to take care of something that you can do in your head. The point, though, is that this gets everything out of your head.

When you’re trying to juggle 53 next actions in your head (along with a dozen projects, a dozen someday/maybe wishes, a score of calendar items, and a bunch of other ideas), it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to feel stressed, or bewildered, or desperate. With the Getting Things Done system, everything is out of your head and on paper. You don’t have to think about things anymore. You just do them.

Any time a new idea occurs to you, you jot it down and put it in your inbox. (For example: a few moments ago I jotted “incorporate all calendars into iCal” on an index card. It’ll go in my inbox when I get home, to be processed later.) When magazines come in the mail and you haven’t time to read them, you put them in your inbox. When a friend gives you a flyer about an upcoming concert series, you put it in your inbox. Once a week (or more often, if you like), you sit down and process your inbox, creating next actions, filing things for reference, and otherwise deciding where each item belongs.

Toward a Pastoral Lifestyle
You know that freedom you feel when on vacation? That wonderful sense that there’s nothing to worry about? That’s what this system attempts to give you. For me, it’s yet another step toward the ever-elusive pastoral lifestyle for which I continue to strive.

Pre-Crash Comments

On 23 May 2005 (09:30 AM),
Lisa said:

When I was working in Seattle, my company paid 1/2 for everyone’s PDAs (mostly Palm Pilots at the time) and then had David Allen come and do a presentation (at least I’m pretty sure it was him). Taking all the thing out of your mind and storing them elsewhere certainly is an incredible relief. It worked really well but my system fell apart after I stopped working full time. Perhaps it’s time to bring it back into my personal life…

On 23 May 2005 (09:37 AM),
Courtney said:

Sounds like a great plan to me! I can’t stand getting bogged down with all the to-do lists in my head. So, I started out with an in-box too, several months ago. The problem is, my in-box has spread to an entire room, which is supposed to be my den/knitting room. Instead, it is piled with stuff to take to Goodwill, photos to be sorted and put into albums, magazines to read, linens to iron, items to file, Henry’s bathtub, etc. Sigh! Just opening the door to that room stresses me out. Someday soon I’ll sort through it all and get it down to a managable size which can be contained in my in-box.

On 23 May 2005 (09:50 AM),
Tiffany said:

I get told that I am organized all the time. But I do not consider it a talent because I think that, for me at least, it is genetics. Both parents are big into โ€˜To Doโ€™ List and I started those early in life too.
In college I found โ€œCalendar Creatorโ€ which looks a lot it ICal. Then back in the late 1990s I got my first Palm Pilot. I became addicted to it, in a good way. You are right about having the items out of your head leads to less stress. I have a thought (I need to call about the ordered furniture, but it is Sunday and they are closed) it goes on the To Do List for Monday. I can set up To Do list my die date so that I know to complete the task in order of needing them done.
The calendar works great for setting up repeat items (like changing my contacts every three weeks and changing the house air filter every three months); in addition to keeping dentist appointments, and flight/hotel times.

I always find it interesting to see how other people organize because there is always room for improvement. Good Luck.

On 23 May 2005 (09:51 AM),
Tiffany said:

Oh, yeah, the biggest benefit to the Palm Pilot, no wasted paper.

On 23 May 2005 (10:13 AM),
Jeff said:

My favorite way to make a list… Microsoft Excel.

I generally work better with lists, but I need to leave them in prominant locations (like the kitchen counter) or I forget about them. Steph sees them as clutter, so she throws them into her piles (her organizational method). My lists get lost in her piles and nothing gets done.

So, I started making electronic lists and leaving them on the electonic desktop… seems to be a good compromise, and I can always print them out if I need to.

On 23 May 2005 (10:40 AM),
Amy Jo said:

I often wonder if I became an editor because of my inclination to order things, to have an ongoing task list, to put everything in its place, or if my non-work life became this way because I am an editor . . .

On 24 May 2005 (11:08 AM),
JC said:

Good post. In a very non-GTD move, I printed it out and took it home to read.

I’ve been on the fence about buying the book for some time now. There are a couple of blogs I’ve been reading that promote the GTD movement [one had an in-depth project management Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been playing with].

My problem/concern? I can’t seem to throw anything away!

Either way, I need some sort of system. JC

On 05 September 2005 (03:18 PM),
Jon M. said:

I’ve been working at implementing GTD, and my efforts seem to keep sputtering like a bad car engine. But after reading your presentation, it’s a lot clearer to me now…my hat’s off to you!

On 02 October 2005 (04:46 AM),
Matthew Cornell said:

Thank you for the post, J.D. I esp. liked your collection idea of using index cards during a house walk-through, and the implications of GTD for a “pastoral lifestyle.” I have one concern, having to do with this point: “When using the system, you’re supposed to take the next action item, no matter what it is, and just do it.” If you are referring to the next action in a list of actions for a project, i.e., that you should pick the next one to put on your next action lists, then I understand and agree. However, if you’re instead talking about how to *choose* actions from your lists, then I believe Allen would say use one of his models for deciding what to do, esp. the “four-criteria” model: 1. Context, 2. Time, 3. Energy, 4. Priority. Of course, I’m new at this and might be completely off my rocker! Thanks again for the post.

matt

On 08 October 2005 (09:07 AM),
JC said:

That is my understanding too Matt. I think the idea to process things one by one without preference applies to the inbox only and not to next actions. For those who are interested, this is discussed near the beginning of chapter 6 which starts on page 119.

JC (Yes, another one.)

Get Rich Slowly!

Note: foldedspace.org died recently, and is gradually being reconstructed. This entry has moved. Its new URL is http://www.foldedspace.org/weblog/2005/04/get_rich_slowly.html. The 86 comments from before the move can be found here.

Today’s entry is long and boring. It’s all about the keys to wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Over the past few months, I’ve read over a dozen books on personal finance. Recurring themes have become evident.

These books have embarrassingly bad titles, seemingly designed to appeal to the get-rich-quick crowd: The Richest Man in Babylon, Your Money or Your Life, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich, Wealth Without Risk, Creating Wealth, etc.

Some of the books out there — most of them? — really are as bad as their titles. Others, however, offer outstanding, practical advice. The best books seem to have the same goal in mind: not wealth, not riches, but financial independence. According to Your Money or Your Life, which I consider the very best of the financial books I’ve read, “financial independence is the experience of having enough — and then some”. More practically, financial independence occurs when your investment income meets or exceeds your monthly expenses. Financial independence is linked to psychological freedom.

How is financial independence achieved? Again, the best books all basically agree. (To some of you, this will be common sense, stuff you’ve known all your life. To others, like me, this kind of thinking is a sort of revelation.)

Here, then, is my personal summary of the collected wisdom found in these books.

Step One: Prepare the Foundation
The first step is to lay a foundation upon which the secure home of financial independence can be built. To prepare to build wealth, one must first eliminate debt, reduce spending, and increase earnings.

There are many ways to approach debt elimination; the key is to use the one that actually works for you. All the books agree on this: cut up your credit cards. Get rid of them. There is no compelling reason to keep them. Next, pay off your debts. All of them. For years, I tried the oft-touted method whereby you first pay off your highest-interest debt. This never worked for me, because my highest interest debt was also my largest debt, and psychologically I just never seemed to make any progress. What worked for me was the “debt snowball”, as defined in Total Money Makeover. I eliminated my debt by paying off the obligation with the smallest balance first. Then I took the amount that would have been applied to that debt each month and used it to pay off the second-smallest balance. When that was finished, I went to the next, etc. It only took me four months to pay off my debts this way. I was dumbfounded. I’d struggled with this for a decade, and I solved the problem in four months? Good grief.

The next step in preparing the foundation is to reduce spending. First, track your expenditures for a month. Or two. Or three. (Many people — including myself — use Quicken; it’s quick and easy.) After you’ve accumulated enough data, analyze your spending patterns. Are you spending a lot on shoes? Books? Alcohol? Dining out? Try to find expenses you can eliminate or reduce. I cut my comic book spending by a huge amount. Many of the personal finance books encourage you to reduce your auto and homeowner insurance coverage to save money. This is also the point at which some books encourage you to adopt a budget. (I tend to think a budget is unnecessary if you remain aware of your current financial situation.) (Note: it’s in this step that I should note that all of the books I’ve read advise against purchasing a new car; all encourage you to purchase late-model used cars.)

The final phase in laying the foundation is to increase your income. Not all of the books mention this, and I happen to think it’s optional. However, there are a couple of authors who are quite vocal that this is an important step on the road to financial independence. How do you increase your income? Become better educated so that your job skills are more marketable. Work harder, and smarter, at your current job so that you qualify for raises and promotions. Change careers. Find a way to make a hobby profitable. Or, as more than one book suggests, work two jobs.

I can testify first-hand that by following these three steps, you can lay a solid foundation for future financial independence. I’ve only recently finished my foundation, and am amazed at the amount of money I’m suddenly able to save each month. Amazed. And that means I’m now ready for…

Step Two: Build the Framework
The second step toward financial independence is to construct the framework upon which future wealth can be built: establish an emergency fund, maximize your retirement investments, and begin acquiring income-producing assets. This is what I’m preparing to do. (I’ve already done one part, but only by happy coincidence.)

Every book I’ve read stresses that the most important part of the framework, the first part that must be completed, is the establishment of an emergency fund. This emergency fund ought to contain enough money to support you for three to six months in case you find yourself without an income. I have a very hard time grasping this concept, admitting its usefulness. All of the books stress it. Kris, who is always right, insists that it is important. Yet I want to skip this and go to other, more exciting steps. However, having seen the results after “laying my foundation”, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and just do it. I’ll build the emergency fund.

Next, the books encourage you to maximize your retirement accounts. If you have a retirement account through work, contribute as much as you possibly can, as soon as you can. Establish a personal IRA outside of work, and every year contribute the maximum amount. I already do this, at least in part. Custom Box has a retirement plan, but not one to which the employees can contribute. The company itself contributes approximately ten percent of each employees’ annual salary to a stock plan. One of my goals for when the bathroom is finished is to get a Roth IRA set up.

The final step in building a framework for financial independence is to invest in income-producing assets. For some reason, I’d totally missed this recurring theme until this weekend; on Paul C.’s recommendation, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book that’s almost solely about this particular portion of the framework. Beyond your retirement investments, the collected financial wisdom is that you ought to participate in further investments, specifically in income-producing assets. For different people, this means different things. Maybe it means bonds, maybe it means stocks, maybe it means investment properties. It does not mean things like cars, or collectibles (coins, comic books, baseball cards), or expensive furniture. These things may be assets of a sort, but they are not income-producing assets.

Step Three: Finish Construction
After you’ve laid the foundation to financial independence, and after you’ve built the framework, you must then spend years (decades!) finishing construction. All that’s required during this time is patience and discipline. Resist temptation. Do not accrue debt. Acquire income-producing assets; avoid non-income producing assets. Faithfully contribute to your retirement plans and your IRAs. Wait.

Step Four: Move Into the House
Some years later, you will wake to find that your financial house is in order. It’s finished. It’s ready for you to move in. How do you know when this is the case? Financial independence is achieved when your investment income equals or exceeds your monthly needs. If the total of your house payment and living expenses is $1000 per month, then you are financially independent when your investment income reaches $1000 per month. Achieving this takes time. It’s a slow, gradual process, but every book emphasizes that it’s not only possible, it’s inevitable if these steps are followed.

That’s it. That’s the combined wisdom of more than a dozen financial self-help books. I haven’t fleshed out the final two steps as much as the first two simply because I haven’t reached those steps yet. There are scores of books on how to best approach each step (even each substep!). I’m sure to obsess over each one in turn.


There seems to be only one major point on which these books disagree. Some argue that your home should be considered your most important investment, that you should carry a thirty-year mortgage and not attempt to accelerate payments. Others declare that a home should be considered a liability, the same as a car or a credit card. (The latter admit that a home will appreciate in value, but they note — rightly so — that a home is a cash drain, not a source of income.) All of the books, with one exception, encourage readers to only purchase modest homes; they smash the commonly held belief that you ought to “buy as much house as you can afford”. Instead, these books say you should only buy as much house as you actually need.


A lot of these books are easy to summarize. Their content lends itself to bullet points. For example:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. This book was the first I read. I want to re-read it. It features lots of practical advice, including the concept of the “debt snowball” I mentioned earlier. Here are Ramsey’s steps to a “total money makeover”:
Step #1: Save $1000 as an emergency fund.
Step #2: Pay off debts, starting with the smallest first (ignore interest rates).
Step #3: Increase the emergency fund so that it will cover three to six months of expenses.
Step #4: Invest 15% of income in growth-stock mutual funds.
Step #5: Pay off the mortgage.
Step #6: Build wealth.
(I’ve left out a “Save money for college” step because it doesn’t apply to me.)

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin is, as I mentioned, the cream of the crop of these financial books. It’s advice is sound. This is an especially great book for those seeking simplicity. It lends itself less to bullet points than some of the others, but I’ve made an attempt to enumerate the steps it advocates for financial independence:
Step #1: Determine how much money you’ve earned in your life. Next, determine your net worth. Compare and contrast the two.
Step #2: Establish the actual cost — in time and money — required to maintain your job. From this derive your actual hourly wage.
Step #3: Keep track of every cent that enters or leaves your possession.
Step #4: Determine which items are actually worth the money you spend on them.
Step #5: Graph your total monthly income and your total monthly expenses.
Step #6: Minimize spending through conscious decisions.
Step #7: Maximize income by doing something you love.
Step #8: Accumulate capital. Track its growth.
Step #9: Invest this capital so that it provides long-term income.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is an aging chestnut. It’s a classic in the field. Many later financial books are based on Clason’s advice, which is framed in King James-style English rules:
Rule #1: Start Thy Purse Fattening — save 10% of everything you earn
Rule #2: Control Thy Expenditures — create a budget to live within your means
Rule #3: Make Thy Gold Multiply — invest the savings from rule one
Rule #4: Guard Thy Treasures From Loss — invest only where the principal is safe
Rule #5: Make of Thy Dwelling a Profitable Investment — own your home
Rule #6: Insure a Future Income — plan for retirement
Rule #7: Increase Thy Ability to Earn — become better educated, more skilled; respect yourself

7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life by Michelle Singletary is a recent all-purpose financial book. I was ready to dismiss it for the absolute stupidity of mantra number one (stupidity in its phrasing, not in its advice), but after reading the book, I have to admit its advice is solid. It features:
Mantra #1: “If it’s on your ass, it’s not an asset.” If you can wear it, it’s not an investment. Also, something is riding your ass (such as a high house payment), it’s not an asset.
Mantra #2: “Is this a need or a want?” This is a question Kris has been trying to get me to ask myself for years.
Mantra #3: “Sweat the small stuff.” Do worry about the small expenses; they add up.
Mantra #4: “Cash is better than credit.” There is almost no reason to carry a credit card.
Mantra #5: “Keep it simple.” With money, avoid anything that seems complicated. If you don’t understand it, avoid it. You’ll probably lose money.
Mantra #6: “Priorities lead to prosperity.” Determine what’s important to you, and pursue that with your time and money.
Mantra #7: “Enough is enough.” Don’t overconsume. Recognize when you have fulfilled your needs and your wants.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth by Ric Edelman is rather a unique book. It features advice distilled from surveying 5000 people of moderate wealth. Each chapter relates a secret for obtaining financial security. At the end of the each chapter, there are excerpts from the surveys featuring anecdotes and advice from the respondents.
Secret #1: Carry a mortgage even if you can afford to pay it off. — This flies in the face of every other financial book I’ve read, and I do not subscribe to the idea. I’m willing to be that the people surveyed carry a mortgage out of habit, not because they think it’s smart.
Secret #2: Don’t diversify the money you put into your employer retirement plan; instead, put all your contributions into stock mutual funds — I’m okay with this. It may not be appropriate for someone close to retirement, but for younger people, this seems like sound advice.
Secret #3: Make many small investments rather than a few large investments. — The key is to make investing a habit, and to invest the money when you have it.
Secret #4: Rarely move from one investment to another. — Market timing is not something to be treated lightly; it’s not easy for a casual investor. Buy and hold.
Secret #5: Don’t measure success against the Dow or the S&P 500. — Understand what you own and why you own it; don’t compare it to market indicators.
Secret #6: Don’t spend a lot of time paying bills and fretting about personal finances. Don’t bother budgeting. — Many books encourage a budget, though I’ve not adopted one. And my success these past few months has come precisely because I have fretted about my personal finances. Maybe this advice is true for the long run, but I’m not sure it’s applicable to somebody just starting to lay the foundation of financial independence.
Secret #7: Involve your children in family finances. — This is another piece of advice that all of the books offer. I haven’t mentioned it because it’s not appropriate to me, and doesn’t actually fit my metaphor.
Secret #8: Pay attention to the media, particularly financial news. — This seems to go against secret #6, but whatever. I’m not willing to devote a lot of time to reading financial news, but it can be fun from time-to-time.
The rest of this book contains three wonderful chapters entitled: “The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made”, “The Smartest Thing I Ever Did”, and “My Advice to You”. The common threads? Far and away, the number one thing these people recommend is to start investing as soon as possible. As much as possible. (They also recommend getting a financial adviser, something I’ve avoided until now.)

I was going to include a point-by-point summary of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, but when I went to write it up, I couldn’t put Kiyosaki’s advice into words. I re-read a chapter. Everything seemed generalized. I did a google search, and found that not everyone agrees with the author. I, too, found the book amorphous and vague, full of outlandish claims. I thought it contained some kernels of wisdom, though, and so I’ve taken some of its advice, albeit with a grain of salt. I’ve incorporated advice from Rich Dad, Poor Dad in my general summary at the beginning of this entry, but I cannot recommend the book.

Other books that I plan to read soon include: The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko, Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens, and Creating Wealth by Robert Allen.


On the drive to work today, I was remembering another time I was deeply interested in personal finance. When I got out of college, I went to work for Combined Insurance. (I still promise to tell that full story some day.) During training, we were asked to make a poster illustrating our life goals. I cut out a picture of a log cabin in a lush, green woods. My goal was to retire to a peaceful lifestyle within ten years. Ha! Now, fifteen years later, I have the exact same goal. Only this time, there’s a chance that I just might achieve it.

Pre-Crash Comments

On 26 April 2005 (11:40 AM),
paul said:

All these financial planning books seem to forget to tell you one thing. Write a book about financial planning and make a lot of money! Regardless of whether or not they follow their own rules, principles or plans, they are making money off selling their book. The all state that you should make money off of an asset that you don’t sit on. So, JD, get off your ass and write a financial planning book. It appears there is money to be made.

On 26 April 2005 (11:44 AM),
J.D. said:

I should note, because it’s appropriate, that I am proud to have purchased only one of these books. The rest I’ve borrowed from the library.

The one book I’ve purchased was Your Money or Your Life. Michael gave me my first copy. Yesterday, on the trip back from Bend, I found a used copy for $6.95, so I bought it. It’s now available to loan to anyone who might find it useful.

I recommend it highly!

On 26 April 2005 (11:56 AM),
Denise said:

I think this is a great entry. I have always struggled with my personal finance and just recently have gotten it under control.

I have to budget and I have to consciously track what I spend or I will over spend. I have gotten better at this, but it is still a constant battle for me. I think as I start to see the returns from not over-spending it will get easier as it has for you.

I think the getting your children involved in the family finances is very important (if you have children, that is). I wish my parents had done that with me. I had no understanding of financial responsibility and what damage credit cards can do. That was a long, hard lesson I had to learn on my own.

Great post – thanks, J.D.!

On 26 April 2005 (11:58 AM),
Denise said:

Hey – I wouldn’t mind borrowing that book if you don’t have any other requests yet!

On 26 April 2005 (01:00 PM),
tammy said:

My husband and I have no debt! Everything is paid in full including the house. For what it’s worth, here is man who bought his first home spanking new at 22 yers old. He bought his first brand new car at age 40. It was a Ford Expedition. We paid cash for it. Before that he drove only used cars.

His Dad died when he was 13 years old. At 15 he began working at a gas station. By 18 he was living on his own. Nobody helped him or gave him even one penny. He never went to college. He chose the trades instead. He is a steam fitter.

He never uses an ATM card. He doesn’t even own a debit card. He uses a credit card only for things like ordering over the internet or going on vacation. He gets the room and rental car with it. But on a daily basis his slogan is to take only the cash in his pocket to the store. He says people get in trouble when they take checkbooks or debit cards or anything that gives them full access to their bank accounts.

Today he is 47 years old and owes no man anything. We live in house that would sell in todays market for $400,000.00

And this is what this man says about budgets. I quote; “Budgets are for people who dont know how to budget.”

We have been together 19 years and have never lived on a budget.

On 26 April 2005 (03:31 PM),
Denise said:

Tammy, you say that you don’t live on a budget – but doesn’t your husband give you a certain amount of spending money every month? Is that not a budget?

On 26 April 2005 (04:30 PM),
tammy said:

Yes, he gives me 80 bucks a week. To him that’s an expenditure just like paying the electricity or paying the baby sitter or paying the gas bill. That really isnt budgeting. It’s paying a bill.

Budgeting is an itemized account of expected income in any given period. Then one forms a plan of operation from that itemized account. It’s intent is to make sure the money is there for the needed items and at the needed time.

No, when my husband gives me 80 dollars a week that does not mean he’s budgeted that money to go to me. Nor does it mean I’m living on a budget. I carry my credit card all the time. I have access to all of our accounts. I choose not to make use of that access. That’s why we now live debt free.

Neither of us live on a budget. But because we hold ourselves in check financially we have no need for a budget. The money is always there to pay the bills and to put into savings.

On 26 April 2005 (05:16 PM),
Johnny said:

For those of you who are wondering, that’s called a control issue. The only difference between “an itemized account of expected income in any given period…[combined with] a plan of operation from that itemized account” and doling out the cash like that is that the budget has never been committed to paper. My dictionary also includes “the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose”. $80 per month seems like a budget to me.

On the other hand, kudos to prospering within your means. Most folks can’t do it, which is why we’ve such a high bankruptcy rate in this country (that and a lack of truly market driven credit practices that encourage poor credit and lending decisions).

On 26 April 2005 (05:29 PM),
J.D. said:

Though Johnny Doe — how I miss his weblog! — has a point, I agree with Tammy. To me, a budget specifically must be written down somewhere. Maybe that’s just me.

I’m developing certain limits in my head. I don’t want to spend more than $100 on books/comics combined. I’ve bend spending $120/month on restaurants; I want to reduced that to $80, or maybe even less. But I don’t consider this budgeting.

Of course, it’s quite possible we’re all just playing semantic games.

Johnny Doe’s right, though: the key is to live within your means. And, if possible, to live well within your means.

Our culture has been constructed so that it push push pushes us to spend spend spend on anything we want. Remember that I used to say that I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I always had enough to pay my bills, but I always spent any surplus. I lived within my means, but only barely. I lived at the edge of my means. Why?

I have self-discipline issues, no doubt, but I’m also a willing participant in our society, a knowing victim of the advertising and marketing machines that surround us. The more we expose ourselves to mass media, the more we allow the media to influence our thoughts. We may think this isn’t happening, but it is. It absolutely is. The best-kept secret of advertising is that it works, and so our society descends into debt.

If I could evangelize the first step in achieving financial independence to all my friends, I would. Wait. Maybe I can. That’s what this weblog is for!

You heard it from me, friends! Even if you do nothing else toward financial independence, you can enjoy a happier, wealthier life if you simply eliminate debt, reduce spending, and increase earning potential. (In fact, those first two alone will do a damn good job of setting you right.)

Go read Your Money or Your Life. Read it and think on it.

On 26 April 2005 (05:49 PM),
tammy said:

This thing of semantics is exactly why my hsuband says that budgeting is for those who can’t budget. In esssence he is saying he lives on a budget but nothing is truly budgeted on paper. Whew sorta complicated but I still maintain there’s difference. ๐Ÿ™‚

On 27 April 2005 (09:11 AM),
Denise said:

Hmm…I don’t fall in the camp of ‘must be written down to be a budget’. If you are mentally saying we can spend $100 on fill in the blank a month then I consider that budgeting. Even though you have access to credit cards or bank accounts, if you make the conscious decision NOT to spend the money on say, a new pair of jeans or a new fishing pole (or whatever), you are budgeting yourself.

I think people (like me) who like to have it written down are just more anal than those that don’t write it down. Plus, since I know I am really bad at finances, if I have it written down I have a way to track my success.

J.D. – you say that you budget things in your head, but at the same time you track EVERY cent you spend in Quicken. Is this not in some form budgeting? You look and see that you spent $150 on comics and say to yourself, I want to spend less on comics. This in itself is budgeting, it is merely after the fact budgeting.

[Please note I am devil’s advocating here.]

On 27 April 2005 (10:04 AM),
J.D. said:

To me, a budget is a written document, a sort of contract with yourself (and/or with your partner). A monthly budget for my discretionary spending might look like this:

Books $100
Comic Books $100
Dining Out $125
Computer Stuff $50
Cable $50
Cell Phone $40
Groceries $200

These aren’t actual numbers, though they might be based on them. These are targets. Firm targets. In my mind, a person tries not to spend more than the budgeted amount. If I budget $100 for books, and I’ve spent $95, I forgo the new Stephen King novel until next month.

My parents worked with a budget for a while when I was a kid, and I know some couples who do so now. I’m not imposing these sorts of written limitations on myself. Yet.

Instead, I’m trying to change my actual behavior. (Budgets don’t change behavior; they simply provide external stops.) I’m trying to change the way I think about money. I’m trying to change my relationship with it.

On 27 April 2005 (10:22 AM),
Denise said:

Yes, but you are almost arguing my point. A budget is setting limits – whether it is written down or in your head.

Behavioral change is a good goal, but wouldn’t you say that your changing your behavior from ignoring your budget (or not having one) to remembering your limits? For example – when I didn’t budget, I would pay all my bills and then just spend whatever cash I had left over. In addition, if I ran out of cash and wanted something I would just use my plastic.

Yes, I know – that is very stupid and believe me, I paid dearly.

I guess I just look at budgeting as imposing limits to personal spending (not bills such as electricity) and sticking by it. It is interesting to me that you make the link of it having to be written down. I mean – Nick and I have a budget that we created in Excel – $90 for this, $250 for that, blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t mean that sometimes the $90 isn’t $100 or even $75 – it is just what we shoot for so we know how much to save, how much spending money is reasonable per week, whatever. To me, even though we write it down we are doing exactly what you are doing.

Do you not think you are budgeting because you feel there is a stigma to budgeting?

I find it interesting how peoples minds work so differently when dealing with personal finance.

On 27 April 2005 (11:11 AM),
Courtney said:

Uh, J.D., I still have your “Your Money or Your Life.” Sorry. I’ll return it next time I see you.

We are definitely on a budget (in writing). We have been for over a year now. The first year was training for this year, now that we have a baby and only one income. It helps us live within our means, which is mandatory at this stage in our lives.

Great post! Thanks for summing it all up!

On 02 May 2005 (06:57 AM),
Darcy said:

After reading dozens of “wealth creation” books I’m amazed that none of the authors has strongly suggested that luck has anything to do with the creation of wealth. It clearly does.
Person “A” buys a “fixer-upper” investment property, pours hours of work and a small bundle of cash into the property and after 5 years it’s worth no more extra than the investment of time, effort and cash.

Person “B” on the other hand buys an almost identical investment property, spends the same effort and cash and is rewarded with a windfall courtesy of real estate market madness ie the timing was perfect.

The trick, as a great competitor knows, is to minimize the bad luck.

Luck is a very real commodity that enhances any wealth
system

On 02 May 2005 (07:32 AM),
J.D. said:

Though the above comment borders on spam (Darcy apparently runs the web site for Kiyosaki (of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”) and his organization), I’m going to leave it. It’s informative enough, and there’s a good chance that people who find this page will want her information.

However, I must take issue with the “I’m amazed that none of the authors has strongly suggested that luck has anything to do with the creation of wealth” bit.

Yes, luck is a large factor in determining whether or not one can create wealth in the short term. It’s nearly impossible to get rich quick without luck; there’s no question of that. But getting rich quick is a sucker’s bet. There’s only slim chance that you’ll have the sort of luck that’s required. You might as well play the lottery.

It is possible to get rich slowly, however, with no risk, and with no luck. All that’s required is patience and discipline. To argue that some sort of luck factor is involved is specious.

(One of the books I recommend — 7 Money Mantras For a Richer Life — even describes how a poor black woman raising several grandchildren on her own was able to build wealth slowly by using common sense techniques, the techniques that the sensible books each emphasize, the techniques I’ve enumerated above.)

Patience and discipline are the sure keys to wealth.

On 13 May 2005 (01:47 AM),
mefite said:

Hi there, I followed this link from metafilter. This is really interesting advice – thanks for posting it!
I’m currently on Step 3, trying to build some income-producing assets. But this is something that always has me wondering: how does one account for inflation/cost of living increases when it comes to income production? It seems to me that the assets’ income never grows fast enough to keep up with what your spending will be, say in 10-20 years. Admittedly, I’m only investing in stocks/mutual funds (with dividends as the “income”) right now, and should probably look at other kinds of investments (if you have any suggestions, I’d like to hear them!) Thanks again, JD.

On 13 May 2005 (06:01 PM),
schmod said:

Although it’s not exactly related to the subject of personal finance, I would HIGHLY reccommend the book “Naked Economics” by Charles Wheelan. It really puts a different (more logical) perspective on money and the economy for most people.

Despite the fact that I typically find econ quite boring, the book’s a really fascinating (and easy) read.

ISBN: 0393049825

On 14 May 2005 (03:47 AM),
Debt said:

Kudos for writing the blog article, also kudos to all the comments. Personal finance, especially debt is such a huge problem. I myself have just recently gotten debt free. It inspired me to pick up a domain and start creating a site to help people get out of debt.

Budgeting is the cornerstone for getting out of debt. The main reason is that it requires discipline. The discipline then helps build your confidence in other parts of personal finance such as saving and paying down prior debts.

Great article.

On 14 May 2005 (03:14 PM),
Leon said:

Great article! I have link this article on this blog.

On 16 May 2005 (07:39 AM),
gregor said:

Here is a great site that has a lot of understandable essays in its Financial Sense University listings.

http://financialsense.com/

Buying mutual funds may not be such a great idea in all cases.

On 18 May 2005 (09:28 AM),
Juliana Atkinson said:

This is an awesome list. I read 7 Mantras–there is no way I could live as frugal as her. I think the best one I’ve read is Millionaire Next Door.

On 18 May 2005 (01:27 PM),
Nivi said:

A Random Walk Down Wall Street is the classic money management book for individuals. Read my article on it

http://www.nivi.com/blog/article/a-random-walk-down-wall-street/

On 25 May 2005 (09:30 AM),
brett said:

You can skip the Millionaire Next Door.. I just read it, and it can be summed up in one sentence: Spend less, save more. That’s it. The basic point of the book is that millionaires don’t look like they’re rich — they don’t spend a lot, and they save their money. Those who look rich, drive flashy cars, etc, are probably up to their ass in debt.

On 25 May 2005 (10:17 AM),
kuz said:

Re: Budgeting

A budget has helped us substantially. Here’s what we do:
1) At the beginning of the year, or when we change jobs or pick up new freelancing gigs, I project our monthly take-home pay and subtract out our agreed upon savings and involuntary expenses (loans, car, utilities, subscriptions, etc.)

Whatever is left is voluntary spending money we can buy anything with: groceries, shoes, beer, whatever.

For example, if:
-take home (after taxes) pay is $2500/month
-savings goal is $250/month
-car payment and insurance, utilities, Netflix, student loans = $750/month

That leaves $1500/month = $350/week to pull out of the ATM or spend with the debit card. Use a markerboard and update the total all week (We use Monday morning-Sunday night), and you’ll be surprised how it will help you make smarter decisions. When you have only $25 left to spend on Sunday, you’ll think twice before blowing $40 on chicken and beerrr.

One more thing. Transfer that savings to a savings account at the same time you pay your rent or mortgage. When you have to pay the man, you might as well pay yourself at the same time. If your cash flow is too low to take it out at that time, then reduce your savings goal to the amount you can actually swing without worrying about it.

On 25 May 2005 (10:32 AM),
Jamie said:

Great article. Thanks!

One point on which I will controversially disagree: Credit cards.

I use a dividend paying credit card for everything. Why? I get at least 1% back and because I use Quicken to track everything, I ensure that I never carry a balance. The result: In the last two years, I’ve earned about $750 extra dollars and have not paid the credit card companies a cent. Plus, I get the benefit of an extra month of cash flow sitting in an interest-bearing savings account (ING direct in my case).

I agree that credit cards can be used foolishly, but they can be used well too.

On 25 May 2005 (10:48 AM),
Dave said:

Nice summary. I have been following these general tips for 15 years. It came about because I was nearly bankrupt. I had debt, little savings, lost my job, and divorsed. Now, I have a 7 figure net worth.

I would say the best tips beginning with the first step are:

1. Save a minimum of 10% pretax earnings every month as soon as you begin earning income. I save 30% pretax every month. I don’t care what you have to give up to save 10%. Sell your car, find a cheap apt, etc… Don’t believe that you need to keep up with your friends and neighbors. Housing and auto costs are the top 2 discressionary expenses for most people. Spend what YOU can afford.

2. Save for emergencies. Put 2 mos in savings regardless of your current debt.

3. Pay off credit card debt. At 18-25% interest, this will kill you long term. Be very cautious if considering rolling over your credit cards for lower rates. There are almost always catches. Once your credit card debt is paid off, use your cards but, pay them off EVERY month. No excuses. Your credit card company will hate you but, you will become slowly rich. 2 credit cards are necessacary for car rental, short term emergencies, consumer protection and a good FICA credit score (this can save you 10’s of thousands long term in morgage interest).

4. Save for retirement. You will eventually want to stop working. You will become mentally or physically unable to work at some point. Trust me, you do not want to become a charity case. If your employer offers a 401K, max it out. This is pretax money. It is tax defered and often companies add matching funds. This is worth 100’s of thousands of dollars long term. If you do not have a 401K, get a SEP IRA, Roth IRA, or other IRAs. Contribute every month. Do not touch this money until retirement.

5. Invest. Buy highly diversified, low cost mutual funds. Buy world wide mutual funds. Don’t bother with individual stocks. Don’t bother trying to time the market by buying and selling short term. There are genius’s out there who do this full time and don’t succeed. Ther is no formula. If it was that easy, everyone would know the secret. Invest every month. Dollar cost averaging forces you to buy more shares when the price is low and fewer when the price is high. Re-invest the dividends. When you get to this point, seek the help of a fee only financial planner If a financial planner tells you to buy life insurance as an investment, run away.

On 25 May 2005 (10:58 AM),
Dave said:

6. Insurance. Choose the least amount of insurance with the highest deductables you can afford in the event of an accident or loss. You likely will also want a umbrella liability policy. You do not want to loose your nest egg because someone trips in your home and becomes permanently disabled.

7. Home morgage. If you are in a low tax bracket, less than 20%, pay off your home morgage early with additional contributions. But, do not become cash poor and home equity rich. It can be expensive to tap that wealth if you need it. If you are in a high tax bracket, do not pay off your home morgage early. Morgage interest is tax deductable and rates are low. In this case, increase your investing. If you think the market is overpriced, OK, pay more on your morgage. Generally, do NOT choose an ARM morgage. Interest rates can increase rapidly. You can always refinance when rates drop. Worst case, you may have to sell your house if rates rise because you can’t make the payment. At that point your house value may drop because the interest rates have risen, Yikes. If you are looking into an ARM, determine what the maximum payment will be if interest rates rise 10 points. If you can afford THAT payment, OK.

On 25 May 2005 (11:00 AM),
tiffany said:

I read “The Millionaire Next Door” and I can sum it up thusly:

“Live not just within your means, but below your means. Clip coupons. Buy a used car. Live in a smaller, less expensive house. Save and invest the rest wisely. No one gets rich by giving to charity. Manage your assets.”

On 25 May 2005 (11:01 AM),
tiffany said:

Oh.. I forgot one point: “Own your own business.” The book noted that entrepreneurs earn more and are worth more than employees.

On 25 May 2005 (11:53 AM),
Duane said:

There are just some absolutes that these books tout that I never was sure how to take. For instance, I have one credit card that I pay off every month. I just use it as a convenience, and the loyalty points don’t hurt. Should I tear that one up? Why?

Or how about my wife’s car? I’ve got a 4 year loan on that (late model used, thank you very much). I’m not sure that I could easily pay that off in 4 months just by adding some more to the principal. After that, my only debt is the mortgage. But lawdy what a mortgage it is.

I have a savings fund. Several, actually, in the form of cash on hand, index funds, and stock. Should I dip into those to pay off the car now?

On 25 May 2005 (12:38 PM),
Dean said:

One other thing is to make your saving automatic. Have 10% of your pay come right off your cheque and go right into an investment account automatically, without you ever having to remember to do it.

You will ajdust to living on what’s left over and you won’t even notice it.

See “The Automatic Millionaire”.

On 25 May 2005 (02:04 PM),
HF said:

One additional book I *highly* recommend (I’ve been working on this issue, too), is “How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously.” (Jerrold Mundis)

Based on the practices of Debtors Anonymous, but presented as a memoir/how-to, this book gets into *how* to convert tracking your expenses into a spending plan. He talks about budgets versus spending plans (a nuance of deprivation versus one of choice), and shows how to free up money for larger goals by “tweaking” spending categories.

One of my favorite things about this book is its advice that, no matter how broke or in debt, you *never* deprive yourself of any needs or at least a few wants. Severe deprivation can lead to resentment binging, joyless hoarding, etc. You pay current expenses, yourself, and old debt, in that order, and you don’t incur any new debt, ever, at all.

He gets into creating space for the new by paring down unwanted possessions and habits, and there’s also a nice touch of magic or kismet. Often, unexpected financial grace moments come when you take good care of yourself and focus on your true path.

This, by far, is my favorite financial health book, because it shows that it’s possible to go from *hopeless* debt to solvency, and even gravy. No pie-in-the-sky windfalls, but some heart-wrenching examples of people who were so deep in debt they were considering drastic, self-destructive actions, and how, step by step, they came out of crisis.

Also highly recommended, Sanaya Roman’s “Creating Money.” This allegedly “channeled” book may be too new-agey for some, but the tone and writing are spot-on. This is about seeing what you have already, cultivating an openness to all sources of wealth, practicing gratitude and generosity, and honoring your real talents. One of my favorite reminders from this book is that there are multiple ways to satisfy a particular desire, and focusing on just one form of satisfaction can make one blind to alternatives. So you look for the core desire; what does that “cabin in the woods” mean to you? Are there other sources available to you for creating such peace, privacy, coziness, time among nature, etc.

Along this same line, the one book I look forward to reading (and I’ve read dozens), that comes recommended by someone I trust a great deal, is “Spiritual Economics” by Eric Butterworth.

I do own Suze Orman’s 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. It’s a geat resource for information when making very specific investment, home-buying, retirement, will, etc choices.

However, for getting motivated & looking at the big picture, you can’t go wrong with Your Money or Your Life, Get Out of Debt.., and Creating Money.

For women, a SUPER resource is The Money Club, a peer-to-peer netowrk of local groups in which women help one another reach financial goals. (Not an investment club)

They have a website with good resources, but it’s the meetings, which include a combination of a financial topic and personal sharing, that ae the core of this program.

http://www.moneyclubs.com/index.html

Another great online resource for women are the printable essays and missions at Flylady.net

Flylady is a seriously generous web-based community of (mainly) women who are working on moving from chaos (whether financial, social, in the home..) to clarity. Once a year, they have a pay-down-your-debt month, and members pay off astonishing hundreds of millions in debt.

Here are the archived essays and missions:

http://flylady.net/pages/FLYsense2.asp
http://flylady.net/pages/FLYsense3.asp

Flylady even offers a downloadable .pdf “Financial Control Journal,” with advice, worksheets, and money-saving tips.

http://flylady.net/images/FACE2004.pdf

On 25 May 2005 (02:15 PM),
Eliot said:

Great summary, J.D! I’ve been reading a lot of these books lately, too, and want to get a good footing before I find a wife and settle into normal adulthood. So far I’ve read “The Richest Man in Babylon”, “The Automatic Millionare”, “The Millionare Next Door”, and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.

After reading a couple of books by Kiyosaki, I decided he was trying to pull a scam with the books. He has a few good points, but most of it could be summed up in a paragraph or so. He always refers to his other books and makes you think that you’ll find the real answers if you just read enough of his material (or play his ridiculously expensive “game”).

The best advice was from “The Automatic Millionare” and “The Richest Man in Babylon” (both say about the same thing): pay yourself first (save), make your savings work for you, and reduce your lifestyle.

Anyway, I guess I don’t really have anything intelligent to add. It is amazing that there are so many money books and they all basically say the same thing but yet Americans are still in severe debt. I hope I actually turn some of this advice into practice. I think a big key is to keep marinating my brain with this type of material and be around other people who are trying to get out of debt and save properly.

On 25 May 2005 (02:21 PM),
HF said:

Forgot one great resource.

I went to a women’s financial workshop with several speakers from different perspectives, and one was M.P. Dunleavey, a columnist with the Microsoft network Money channel.

I looked her articles up online, and found a real cache of excellent advice & practices.

For those daunted by budgeting, this one article gives a totally do-able system (in a nutshell, allocate 60% of income for fixed expenses, and 10 each for short-term & long-term savings, investments, and discretionary spending):
http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Savinganddebt/Learntobudget/P36153.asp

Here’s a convenient article index with topic and author:

http://moneycentral.msn.com/Editorial/index/Homedate.asp?c=6&a=6

On 26 May 2005 (06:37 AM),
MrE said:

Nice article.

I think that Personal Finance should be required course in High School and college! Two of my favorite books were Andrew Tobias’ “The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need” and Peter Lynch’s “One up on Wall Street” I also used to subscribe to Money and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines (am a I dating myself?) back when they offered advice for the average person.

Anyways, the “snowball” method for reducing credit card debt works great. There’s an excellent free program (“Credit Card Math”) offered by Zilchworks.com that explains why credit card debt is so hard to pay off and demonstrates how using “snowball” greatly reduces payoff time.

http://www.zilchworks.com/CreditCardMath.html

The program does promote their other Debt Reduction Software, but the advice is sound. I actually purchased their software back when it was being distributed on floppy disk – you can use it do diff payoff scenarios. I’m sure the popular finance software available nowadays can do similar, but I haven’t used programs like Quicken and Money in years.

On 26 May 2005 (02:20 PM),
Mike Duffy said:

Since no one has mentioned it, I would add The Wealthy Barber, which tackles personal financial planning in the style of The One Minute Manager, i.e. a story. It’s definitely a “get rich slowly” approach, but the story makes it easy to get through.

On 26 May 2005 (05:55 PM),
Christine said:

My folks have been talking to me about money since I was a wee one. That means explaining to me and my sister that we could either go to the movies every week or go on a family vacation (we chose vacation and I still rarely go to the movies). They also talked a lot about mutual funds, savings, doubling rules, universal life insurance etc etc. When I was 18, they opened an IRA for me. Not exciting, but now I’m looking at buying a first home, I have good savings and no debt, and at least three credit cards that I have never carried a balance on.

So there’s the argument for sharing with your kids.

As for not paying off your morgtage… if you’re paying 4% interest (it’s a great market!) and that’s tax-deductible anyway and you can make a conervative 6% on your investments, you’re making that 2% for yourself, courtesy of a loan from the bank. I don’t think it’s a trick at all. On the other hand, it’s also not guaranteed.

Nice conversation here… thanks!

On 26 May 2005 (07:37 PM),
Karen said:

If you are a woman, I would suggest David Bach’s ‘Smart Women Finish Rich’ or any of his other Finish Rich books. I received my last raise by reading this book. It gives you the courage to speak up for yourself and not be scared to ask for what you deserve. Many studies have shown that a woman makes less than a man performing the same job, plus women live longer than men. We need to earn more money and know how to manage our money. Someone has mentioned ‘The Wealthy Barber’, that’s a good resource, too. I really liked ‘One Minute Millionaire’ and like some others I wasn’t that impressed with ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’.

Good post, J.D.

On 27 May 2005 (07:09 AM),
Xavier said:

“Involve your kids in the family finance”

This is important. I speak as a child of a family who is now bearing the fruits of they type of wealth accumulation advocated in these books. I can’t thank them enough.

“The Barefoot Investor” is a great read for students or those just starting out. It offers good advice for those who aren’t currently entrenched in a career or nursing morgages.

On 27 May 2005 (07:23 AM),
Keith said:

Thanks for taking the time to consolidate all of this great info and post it for us!

On 27 May 2005 (07:28 AM),
Avi Solomon said:

Thanks for the great summary. FYI ‘Your Money or your Life’ has a great grassroot community here:
http://www.simpleliving.net/forums/simpleliving/

On 27 May 2005 (11:42 AM),
Chrees said:

JD, thanks for summarizing so I don’t have to read those books!

This may be mentioned or just implied in the books, but making sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to money is very important. As is making damn sure when you get married it is for good (not trying to get into the morality or necessity of divorce, just the economic impact)–divorce can be economically devestating to both parties. I was fortunate in my divorce that both my ex and me had an easy division and were on equal footing at the time of the divorce, but in some aspects it was like starting over on some of the mentioned steps.

Regarding the Edelman book and the seeming contradiction between #8 and #6–I agree with him. Keeping up with financial news is important for your investments–if you left your money in stocks during 2000 and 2001, you would probably have considerably less worth now than if you temporarily cashed out (even after paying the taxes). While the saying “Invest in what you know” is true, I think it’s equally important to understand the market forces going on around you.

Again, a great discussion. Thanks to all.

On 27 May 2005 (02:39 PM),
Darren said:

I’ve seen a few people here talk about buying a car for cash as though this is a good thing or good accomplishment.

In most cases, this is one of the worst things you can do from a financial standpoint, especially if the dealership is willing to finance the purchase at 0%-3.9% like many do. Cars are a depreciating asset. By purchasing a car with cash, you are locking your money up in something that is *guaranteed* to decrease in value.

Most cars are $20,000+. That’s a sizeable chunk of cash that could easily be invested at 6% or more. If the dealership will finance your purchase at a reduced rate, you are much better off taking the financing and investing your money elsewhere.

Sure, you’d pay more for the car over the term of the loan because of the interest, but your invested cash will completely negate that difference plus generate a profit for you.

On 28 May 2005 (03:41 AM),
Alazka said:

A friend recently pointed out to me that, thanks to insanely spiralling property values around DC, I could theoretically sell the house I only signed a mortgage on six months ago and live on the interest alone back in Lesotho (a nation I’m quite fond of), effectively retiring at 38. One factor to bear in mind in seeking that financial independence is: there are many delightful places in the world where one can live quite comfortably on less than a thousand a month, so anyone who actually owns a significant piece of a house on either coast of the USA is probably already set for life if s/he’s willing to travel.

On 28 May 2005 (01:19 PM),
Scott said:

Re: Darren’s comment about zero or low-rate financing.

The cost of borrowing the money is actually substantially higher – the incremental financing costs are just buried in the acquisition cost of the car. If you can get 6% investing elsewhere, so can the financing company giving you the loan. So why would anyone loan money at zero percent? They don’t.

If you’re paying cash you should demand a sizeable discount over the price you pay if you’re financing.

On 28 May 2005 (08:27 PM),
Jim said:

Re: Budgeting

Here’s what we’ve been doing for two years now, and it’s worked very well:

1. Have your bank open a new checking account, and get a debit card attached to it.

2. Have your employer (if you have direct deposit) split some portion of your pay into the new checking account. You’ll have to figure out what’s appropriate for you though.

3. Use the new checking account for all the junk expenses — movies, dinner out, a new CD, etc. Essentially you budget a single lineitem for “miscellaneous expenses.”

I track every penny in and out of our primary checking account (to which all bills are paid from), but I completely ignore — except for the balance — the money in the junk account.

On 29 May 2005 (03:14 PM),
Betsys said:

My advice is very simple: save at least 10% of your income, ALL the time.

If you have direct deposit, arrange for your bank to take 10% off the top before you ever see your money. Do your budget as if the remaining income was all you had. If you don’t have a regular paycheck you have to discipline yourself. You can either accumulate the money in savings and move it to investments in chunks, or if you can, arrange for automatic mutual fund purchases.

I know this sounds inane: many people will say that they don’t make enough to save. My answer: if you were laid off, or if your paycheck was cut 10%, you would figure out a way to survive. So, just pretend. You can do it.

On 31 May 2005 (11:55 PM),
Ian Gilman said:

Also worth reading: ‘The Soul of Money‘, by Lynne Twist.

It’s not about financial independence, but about understanding and directing your relationship with money. A good complement to the other books.

Here’s what Vicki Robin (co-author of ‘Your Money or Your Life’) has to say about it:

“Lynne Twist, with great grace, beauty and conviction, is about to take away from you some precious and utterly failed illusions so you can claim, now and forever, truths that will set you free. She has earned these truths through years of meeting – soul to soul – some of the most and the least advantaged peoples of this earth. Let her speak to your heart and then test her suggestions… and see.”

And yes, I got my copy from the library.

On 02 June 2005 (08:34 AM),
Dimitri said:

Thanks for a great article. This is something I’ve been meaning to do myself as I have also read a handful of similar books.

I just wanted to mention one thing which seems to be missing: Tithe.

In the majority of books I read (including some of the abovementioned titles) there is a common thread of investing ~10% of your income and giving another 10% away to the needy (charities, communities, schools, etc.)

There seems to be consensus that although it doesn’t make financial sense, giving away a tenth actually brings in more wealth in the long run. This may have to do with karma – if you believe in that sort of thing – or maybe it’s just a psychological phenomenon … where, by willingly and happily giving money away, you lessen the chance of getting too uptight about the whole thing.

Some believe that money is a force that needs to flow (similar to water, air, chi…) when you hold on to all of it, it goes stale and is not productive. Give it away and it will come back to you hundredfold.

and that was my 2 cents (a very appropriate phrase, I think ๐Ÿ˜‰

On 02 June 2005 (11:21 PM),
Emmanuel kinobe Mugerwa said:

i really appreciate yo work.

i really appreciate your work.

On 02 June 2005 (11:22 PM),
Emmanuel kinobe Mugerwa said:

i really appreciate yo work.

i really appreciate your work.

On 05 June 2005 (06:00 AM),
Lance said:

One small item that seems mostly overlooked…

Getting rich slowly doesn’t mean giving up every comfort or luxury. Reducing your expenditures doesn’t mean you can’t spend $100 on a concert ticket or $2000 on a beach trip. When you can afford it.

Yes, during the get-out-of-debt phase it makes a lot of sense to trim all your expenses and get the interest monkey off your back. Once you’ve got a plan established, make a little room for some unnecessary necessities so you don’t go insane. It’s just as neurotic to reject buying anything as it is to be an obsessive consumer. Whether that is $150 a month or $5 will depend on your own situation.

If you can’t enjoy your life while you’re saving, you’ll have forgotten how by the time you’re “rich”.

On 07 June 2005 (08:38 PM),
The WOWmenu.com team said:

You know, wow! Thanks for taking the time to share this information.

This is truly a wealth of knowledge you’ve put together here. Everyone could benefit from investing some attention in building their financial literacy.

I think they now have a catalyst available to them for beginning that process.

Say, any other interest you’d be willing to share?

On 09 June 2005 (06:11 AM),
Stefan said:

Nice article. I wanted to point out, why the an emergency fund is of such importance, and also, why I think that $1000 may not be enough:

Imagine you put your money into some long-term contract. Now imagine, your car breaks down (lose you job, whatever) and you need a new one. And you need it today. What will happen, if you don’t have an emergency fund? You will have to dissolve the long-term contract to get enough money to buy a new (our used ๐Ÿ™‚ car, because you can’t wait to save enough to buy one.

Why is this bad? Because you will have to pay some kind “fine” for getting out of the contract early. Often you will also loose all the interest that you have been building up over the years. So basically you will start from zero (or less, because you will also buy that car). Without an emergency fund you would jeopardize your whole financial foundation that you are trying to build.

Instead, if you had an emergency fund things would have worked out differently. You would take the money for your new car out of that fund. That’s it. You don’t lose any insterest and don’t have to pay any fines.

Just remember to fill up that fund again after you bought your car!

So why is $1000 not enough for this? It depends. If you can live of off $1000 for half a year (not three month, that won’t do in my opinion — better save than sorry) then $1000 is fine. But just remeber: “Living of off” here means food, rent, gas, whatever PLUS any monthly payments for retirement accounts or basically anything that you cannot afford to NOT pay for (because that would cost you extra money).

On 09 June 2005 (03:43 PM),
Paul said:

With all these wonderfull words of wisdom, I don’t really know what to say. However I will give it a shot. I just began “Step 1”. I am now down to $1555 from $6000 in revolving debt. It took me 2 months starting with getting back almost $3,200 from the IRS, from 2004 and 2003 (I never filed the prior year…oops). With that kind of money, I decided to start paying my debt off and start saving again. At about the same time I landed a $20.00 per hour part time job and started becoming obsessed with my whole finacial situation. At this point, I am almost debt free and I started a savings acount with Capitalone at 3.15% APR…even better than ing.com. Stage one is actually fun =)

On 13 June 2005 (07:20 AM),
serenity said:

J.D Thank you so much for breaking it down for me. It is so happen today I return home with a book “finance for dummies”. It’s a bit dissapointing because many of those doesn’t apply here since it is meant for someone living in the state (I live in Indonesia), but your points are so simple to follow.
Thank you so much. I just spent my first point last month, but it’s ok, now that I got the picture I can build my frame.

When we’re both rich, you’ll hear from me.

Good luck with the bathroom, and you know what they say, borrowing comic books meant more friends as long as you returned them (and it is quite tempting I may say ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Again thank you.. mmuuach

On 23 June 2005 (08:16 PM),
barkah said:

On the credit cards, i happen not to agree with the statement that they’re bad. They’re sometimes usefull if you are wise in using it. I collected the tips based on my experience here: http://bw.or.id/blog/2005/06/119/

too long if i put it right here.

The main point is: credit card is not extra money.

On 26 June 2005 (08:46 PM),
Don said:

Great article. Thanks. I have The Millionaire Next Door and find it bland. However, Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad helped me see the importance of everything you shared in your piece. I would highly recommend it to anyone who normally finds personal finance boring or difficult to grasp. It changed my whole attitude about my needs and possibilities. Keep up the good work.
Don

On 21 July 2005 (09:16 PM),
jbelkin said:

Not disagreeing with you on the overall but you do need at least 1 if not 2 credit cards. If you travel or plan to travel, you are labeled as undesirable without a card. You cannot rent a car without one (a debit card generally has a limit of $1,000 a day and rental card companies put a hold on your overall rental + up to 100%). If you buy a ticket with cash, you are labeled a security risk and you will get the full wanding and pat down.

There are lots of cards with no fees and rebates so the they key is not to have no credit cards but to PAY THEM OFF at the next month. There are also lots of deals now where you can transfer your card to a new one with no interest for up to a year … and ironically, the more cards you have and DO NOT use or have a low % balance versus your limit, they will offer you more cards.

On 22 July 2005 (07:48 AM),
Allan Kochis said:

Check out
“Common Sense Economics” by
James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup and Dwight R. Lee
In the section on personal finance they summarize their point for you!

PS. in my opinion a book worth owning.

On 22 July 2005 (07:52 AM),
Robert said:

linked from boingboing…

anyway, I am getting into the financial thing myself, going into my sophomore year of college one of my “adult friends” is trying to pass on the wisdom…so far I’ve read “The Richest Man in Babylon” and “The Millionaire Next Door” — I personally appreciated how while their styles were completely different (babylon == king james, TMND = info about today’s people) and yet their advice seemed to be the same (within reason, the babylonians didn’t seem to have problems with economic outpatient care nor saving for college)

But anyway, I dig this post, and you’re totally right, their wisdom is sufficiently boiled down to a number of points — but I do appreciate reading their books, the examples are great ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and they don’t profit off of me — I buy my books at half-priced books ๐Ÿ™‚

On 22 July 2005 (08:44 AM),
Chรฉ said:

An excellent post. I won’t go into my personal background, but I feel very strongly these types of books need to be read in every household.

A quick comment on one of your points:

“Secret #1: Carry a mortgage even if you can afford to pay it off. โ€” This flies in the face of every other financial book I’ve read, and I do not subscribe to the idea. I’m willing to be that the people surveyed carry a mortgage out of habit, not because they think it’s smart.”

You spend your money on investments, not liabilities. Paying, say, $150,000 dollars to eliminate a $1400 dollar a month debt is a bad investment. Let’s say your house is 150k, and you owe all of it. The national average for appreciation is somewhere around 10%. That means your house is appreciating $15,000 a year, and costing you $16,800. Take into account equity buy-down of roughly $150 a month on your $1400 payment, and you have $16,800 worth of equity gain a year. Basically a wash, and that’s FINE. If you pay off your house, you now spent $150k to eliminate a $16,800 a year cost. You now have $150k in a bank account you can’t touch (equity in your house).

Take that 150k and put it into something that gives you a 20% ROI (not unreasonable), and you end up with a 30k a year cash flow, which pays off your mortgage AND gives you $13,200 to invest. So now your total ROI is better than 20%, because you still benefit from the equity buy down that is occuring as a result of your home loan ($1,680/yr).

Mortgages are -goooooood-. Collect as many as you can!

On 22 July 2005 (08:46 AM),
John S. said:

Nice post. I came over here from BoingBoing. I have one comment on a previous comment: although I haven’t read all of it by any means, I think you should be very cautious about the financialsense.com site. Just reading a few articles at random it became apparent that it is “tinfoil hat” territory. I would take what they say with a huge grain of salt.

On 22 July 2005 (08:59 AM),
Chรฉ said:

Morning typos. That last number should have read $1800 a year

On 22 July 2005 (08:59 AM),
Kenneth Greenlee said:

Dear FoldedSpace,

First of all, great post. I don’t think we can ever talk about financial planning too much. Why? Because it must be realized by everyone that financial planning is not just for rich people! Becoming rich (aside from the trillion to lottery chance) requires financial planning.

Some points. FoldedSpace says he is not sure about housing: buy all you can afford? or only what you need? Is it a liability or an asset. The one thing that all the planners agree on (I believe) is that you should own rather than rent. I have read most of the books above and I happen to disagree mostly with Kiyosaki regarding a house as a liability. The reason is that no matter what we have to house ourselves and that costs money. My view of housing is that if an acceptable (but not lavish) apartment would cost me $700, then my task is to find housing that costs me $700 a month to own. Anything above that is a true liability. I found and purchased a 4 unit building (in which I live in one of the units) in New Orleans which costs me around $2000 a month and which brings in around $2000 a month in income. I don’t regard this as a breakeven situation. I regard it as being $700 a month ahead, as I would have to bear the housing costs anyway.

Final point. Paul said in the very first comment:

“All these financial planning books seem to forget to tell you one thing. Write a book about financial planning and make a lot of money! Regardless of whether or not they follow their own rules, principles or plans, they are making money off selling their book. The all state that you should make money off of an asset that you don’t sit on. So, JD, get off your ass and write a financial planning book. It appears there is money to be made.”

Actually there is a book out there which says just that! It is called “Multiple Streams of Income” by Robert Allen, author of the famous “Nothing Down” book on real estate. in it he says (from memory): “everyone has a book in them. I (Robert Allen) calculate that I have made around $20 per word per year from the book that I have published.” Not a bad return.

“Multiple Streams of Income” is very good. One of its strengths is that it gives very concrete recommendations. Of course there is a lot of handwaving, but it not a book of only handwaving.

That’s it!

On 22 July 2005 (09:02 AM),
Jeremy said:

Two Additional Notes:

1. As several people have already pointed out, use direct deposit to make your savings automatic. I have a hunk of every paycheck redirected to a savings account at a different bank. I can’t stress enough how much of an impact this will have on your savings. The best piece of mail I get each month is the statement for the savings account. I do nothing and the number just keeps getting bigger!

2. Eliminate as many of your monthly recurring fees as possible. Cable? Gym membership? Storage space rental? Netflix? Trash or minimize as many as possible, then add up how much you will save per year.

On 22 July 2005 (09:21 AM),
Mark K. said:

For anyone looking for an easy way of keeping track of expenses, I’ve been using the Dome Simplified Home Budget Book. It’s just a book of simple, blank Excel-like charts in which you write the money you spend in a certain category per day. (In case you have more than one expense in a category, you can keep a small calculator handy). Then when you do your monthly totals you compare them with your budget in the last column.

IMHO, this doesn’t have the flair of Quicken, but it CAN be taken with you out and about–which is where I do most of my purchasing. I also have a small accordion file for receipts (so now I know exactly where they go when people give them to me). Anyway, I’ve found it very useful.

The total cost of the book, a small calculator, and the accordion file is probably less than $15.

On 22 July 2005 (10:48 AM),
Mike said:

I am a bachelor and I save 75% of my net income. I really don’t understand why so many people accumulate so much debt. How do they sleep at night? I am 35 and plan to be partially retired (only doing part time fun jobs) in my early 40s. You credit card debt guys should try it. It’s fun to be responsible.

On 22 July 2005 (11:06 AM),
chele said:

Just wanted to repeat; great thread! Thanks for taking the time to write it out. I have read some of the books and noticed the similarities and wondered if they all sounded so much the same. Now I know they do indeed!
Thanks again…

On 22 July 2005 (12:40 PM),
Jeffrey Allen said:

Why is it easier to find investors/lender then it is to find eligible companies wanting capital?
[email protected]
Las Vegas

On 22 July 2005 (01:42 PM),
Steve said:

Tammy,

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! That is exactly it! We do it too, similar ages to you. The best thing you can do for yourself is get rid of your debit card, they are for idiots. If you aren’t scared that your life can be completely compiled nicely for an irs goon, then you are just to stupid to really understand how this works and why. Good luck!

On 22 July 2005 (03:42 PM),
Sue said:

Great article

On 22 July 2005 (04:29 PM),
shwonline said:

Great thread!

We carry only one major credit card, which is tied to a specific major airline’s frequent flyer program. $1 spent = 1 mile. We use it a lot, but only to buy what we would have bought anyway. If I have a choice of cash, check or credit card, I use the card. We pay it off in full every month.

I also use this same airline whenever I have a choice in my business travel, as does my wife for her business travel.

We use the accumulated miles to buy airfare and other incidentals during family vacations. We have been able to afford vacations to Hawaii and London this way. It costs us no more, and saves us thousands.

The only other time we ever acquire credit cards is during shopping for back-to-school clothes. If we are buying hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, and the store will give us an extra 15% off for signing up for a card that day, we’ll do it. As soon as the bill arrives, we pay it, and cancel the account. This takes caution and discipline, and I would not recommend it as a regular strategy for most people. However, it has saved us a bundle on occasions.

One other seemingly small thing we do is to order only water at restaurants, including for the kids. We’ve done this all their lives, so they don’t know the difference, and they recognize that it’s a special treat to get something more. For a family of four, this adds up to hundreds of dollars a year.

On 22 July 2005 (06:02 PM),
greg said:

Interesting sight France, thanks for turning me on to it, Greg

On 24 July 2005 (12:12 PM),
Sebrina said:

It was not until I was separated/divorced from my financially-illiterate husband that I really was able to start building my personal finances in a positive way. NO NO NO…I am not advocating divorce, but I am saying to you single folks BE CAREFUL who you marry if one day you want to become financially independent. Both need to be of the same mind to make it work.

One more comment…i agree about the credit cards. Get rid of them. if you are like me and find it mentally excruciating to commit to paying off the balance each month or to stay away from the limit, credit cards are not for you. I keep one just for car rentals and stuff, but it would be better if I had none.

On 24 July 2005 (12:49 PM),
sennoma said:

Nice one, JD. Picked up by Rebecca Blood now. I second Paul’s advice: write a book. There’s enough material in this post alone. Ethical reason: it’s good to have the same ideas presented in a lot of different ways, because different presentations “click” for different people, and because comparison among different presentations yields bedrock principles. Slightly less ethical reason: I bet you’d make a ton of money.

On 24 July 2005 (09:37 PM),
Marina said:

I have read many of the books mentioned and agree with most of them. I would suggest two others that I liked: “Live Rich” and “Die Broke” by Stephen M. Pollan. Good luck!

On 25 July 2005 (02:58 AM),
Fazzy said:

Thank you.

On 27 July 2005 (08:15 AM),
Ganesh said:

Nice discussions!

I dont think credit cards are that bad if you use it wisely. I have a major credit card which gives me upto 5% cashback. So for all my necessities I am using my credit card and each cycle I am paying it off fully. As a result at the end of the year I am getting whopping 2 to 3% adjusted interest on my expenditure approx as a free money.I take it as my gift for being self disciplined.

What do you have to say about it?

Cheers,
Ganesh

On 03 August 2005 (01:19 AM),
Gerard said:

Dear JD,

Thank you for this post.
I was not sure which books to purchase, but now know that the one I purchased was enough. And you summary of all the books will help me greatly.
Keep up the good work.

With regards,

Gerard

On 16 August 2005 (02:06 PM),
Michael said:

Thanks for a GREAT summary of financial books. I have been looking through some of the books, hesitating pulling the trigger on any of them.

My wife and I only have two “big” debts…my student loan from college, and our new mortgage from building a house….no credit cards and no car pymts. I have been looking at way to move retirement money into some better money making investments.

Thanks for a great post, I will stick it in del.icio.ous and refer to it often.

On 19 August 2005 (05:31 PM),
Holly said:

Of course, someone writes a fantastic article and along comes the spammers. :-p

On 27 August 2005 (10:58 AM),
Andrius said:

Great article! Worth tens of books about personal finance, but totally free. Thanks!

On 16 September 2005 (05:17 AM),
Glyn Simpson said:

Good read. Although not explicity named, ‘pay yourself first’ from The Richest Man in Babylon is a philosophy I believe in, and have successfully used.

On 08 October 2005 (12:07 PM),
emma said:

greetings,

this is my first post. i can’t say that i agree with all that you have stated but do with most of it.

first, i have read some of the books that you mentioned, all of which i own. the main reason i purchased the books was to develop a library of financial wisdom for myself and my children.

second, i agree with much of what you said about kiyosaki and his book rich dad poor dad. to me it seems more of a compilation of ideas influenced from think and grow rich, the richest man in babylon and who knows what else. like you, i was unable to narrow down his keypoints and therefore lacks clear and practical application. i am a believer in reading, so this book is recommended. i don’t find it crucial for wealth building however.

i am a huge fan of dave ramsey and own 2 of his books, total money makeover and financial peace university revisited. he is one of the few financial experts that offer practical application of financial ideas and goals. i highly recommend both of his books.

i absolutely enjoyed richest man in babylon. the manner at which clason presented practical ideas was done so creatively and memorably. i personally recommend this book and am happy to have it in my library.

think and grow rich is a much more difficult reading book but has great insight into harnessing the power of the mind to generate wealth.

thanks for your input.

Tuesday is Sno-Ball Day

Kris and I met after work to go to Contract Furnishing Mart in Clackamas to look at various samples for our bathroom remodel.

“Look at that: a bakery outlet,” Kris said, as we walked through the parking lot.

“It’s not a bakery outlet,” I said. “It’s a Hostess outlet.” And we all know what that means.

We spent half an hour looking at samples of granite and Marmoleum. We hemmed and hawed over various shades of cream. Do we prefer the Umbra or the Shell? Maybe the floor would look better in Van Gogh. And what about the countertops? Should we go with Brazilian Brown or with Mystic Brown? Such choices. It didn’t help that we hadn’t thought to bring a paint chip. Kris had to scour the store for something close to the color she has in mind for the walls, and the best she could find was a big hunk of deep pile carpeting.

When we had finished, we walked over to the bakery outlet. To the Hostess outlet.

“Look!” I said, in awe. “I didn’t even know Hostess made breakfast cereal.” But they do. There were boxes and boxes of Hostess-branded cereals, knock-offs of Cheerios and Fruit Loops and various other big name brands. There were Hostess “toaster pastries”. And, of course, there was a big-ass aisle of bread.

But none of that was why I’d wanted to enter the store. You all know why I wanted to check out the bakery outlet: Sno-Balls. I’ve been very good with Sno-Balls since the start of the year. I’ve had them once. (Maybe twice.) But I figured that here, in a Hostess outlet, I’d let down my guard and stock up.

Only there were no Sno-Balls to be had.

“I don’t know if I want anything,” I said. “Do you?”

“Let me look around,” said Kris. While she wandered the rows of Ding-Dongs and Cup Cakes and Twinkies, I watched a man in distress do his shopping. Perhaps he was intoxicated. Perhaps he was crippled. Whatever the case, he teetered and tottered through the store. He reached for products in wild, flailing gestures that threatened to send stacks of Ho-Hos to the floor. When he’d finally found the food he wanted, he rummaged through his pockets to check for change. He had some, and we all knew it because it rained to the floor. Kris and I walked back to the bread where we pretended to be interested in the various varieties of hamburger buns. This guy was a little creepy.

When he’d gone, I grabbed a cherry Fruit Pie — a “sell by 01 APR” cherry Fruit Pie — and Kris picked up a box of chocolate Zingers.

“You don’t have any Sno-Balls,” I told the clerk when we went to pay.

She seemed a little daft, a little slow. “No. No,” she said. “We had them yesterday. You should have been here yesterday.”

“I love Sno-Balls,” I told her in a low, confidential tone, “but I always wonder if I’m the only one. They’re often sold out wherever I go. I wonder: are they sold out because they’re popular, or are they sold out because they’re unpopular?”

“Well, the boss used to order more of them,” she told me, “but we couldn’t sell them all. Now she don’t order as much, and it seems we always run out. I wouldn’t be surprised if people was stocking up because they know we don’t have enough.” A run on Sno-Balls!

“But you do get them in from time-to-time, don’t you?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I don’t know which days we get them, but we do get them in.” Then she changed her mind. “Well, Tuesday is Sno-Ball day.”

“Tuesday is Sno-Ball day?”

“Yes, Tuesday is Sno-Ball day. We always have Sno-Balls on Tuesday. All day long.” I thanked the woman, and we left.

“We should remember this place,” Kris said. “We should come here on our way to Bend.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Just think: we’d be the most popular couple if we brought a couple of boxes of Suzy Qs and Twinkies.”

“Can I have a bite of your chocolate Zinger?” I asked as we drove home. “I’ve never had one before.” I was impresseed. Compared to the non-chocolatey nature of other Hostess products — Ding-Dongs are the worst — Zingers are actually pretty good.

My cherry Fruit Pie was better. All 470 calories, all 22g of fat (11g of which are saturated), and all 35g of sugar.

But what I was really thinking was, “I’ll be back. Next Tuesday is Sno-Ball day.”

Comments


On 06 April 2005 (08:12 PM),
Kim said:

JD, It’s funny you should write about Hostess today. I logged on to your site to tell you that today is the anniversary of the Hostess Twinkie. The first one was made on this day in 1931. I can’t say I join you in your enthusiasm for Sno-balls or Hostess products in general. I think the last time I had one was in High School when I’d occasionally buy myself a fruit pie.



On 06 April 2005 (10:20 PM),
Kristin said:

Funny, indeed. Kim and I happened to be discussing your love of Hostess products while T and Tonio were having swimming lessons. Neither of us could recall your favorite. Now we know. I do remember your nutritious high school fruit pie-and-soda lunches.



On 07 April 2005 (06:51 AM),
J.D. said:

In high school, there was no question: Suzy Qs were my favorite. I loved the luscious chocolate sponge cake and the soft, creamy filling. I haven’t had a Suzy Q in over a decade now. Now my favorite Hostess treat is the coconutty Sno-Ball. I didn’t get this chubby without a little help from these snack products! ๐Ÿ™‚

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but just for fun I’ll mention it again:

In high school, Kristin used to chide me for my poor diet. She warned that constant consumption of Suzy Qs and Twinkies couldn’t be good. My oh-so-clever response was that no, on the contrary, this diet was very good for me. In fact, what I was doing was conditioning my body to take Hostess products as nutrition. In fact, my goal was to make things like carrot sticks the equivalent of junk food for my body. I thought I was pretty funny…



On 07 April 2005 (08:51 AM),
Courtney said:

With all the Hostess products you’ve consumed, and all the preservatives, you should have a very long shelf life!



On 07 April 2005 (12:35 PM),
Lisa said:

Mmmmm! If I were at a Hostess outlet, I’d head straight for the lemon fruit pies (a.k.a. cardboard pie). Come to think of it, I haven’t had one of those in far too long…



On 07 April 2005 (05:50 PM),
Amy Jo said:

I used to have an affinity for chocolate donut gems in all their fried, waxy artifical chocolate glory . . . They don’t sound so good now days . . .



On 08 April 2005 (06:18 AM),
bill said:

gee golly! a Krispy Kreme does’nt stand a chance.but one would have to stop and wash ones sticky paws on the way to Bend. decisions -decisions -decisions!



On 08 April 2005 (06:18 AM),
bill said:

gee golly! a Krispy Kreme does’nt stand a chance.but one would have to stop and wash ones sticky paws on the way to Bend. decisions -decisions -decisions!



On 08 April 2005 (07:05 PM),
Lynn said:

When we were young, my brothers loved those fruit pies. Once, when we were driving somewhere, my mother pointed out the rear window of our car and announced, “Look it’s the Bains.” I assumed she was speaking of the two fruit pies in the back window that one of my brothers had brought along, but she was in fact speaking of another family that passed us in their car. So, we called Host fruit pies Bains for the remainder of my childhood. In fact, it’s difficult for me to say fruit pies when I really want to say Bains. I hope you enjoyed your Bain, JD.