This is not about Bernie Sanders.  Amanda wrote that post.  It’s not even about price as we’re used to thinking about it, in dimes and nickels and dollars and all.  This is about other prices (though in the end money is usually a translation of time and effort and other trade offs we’ve made too.)

Yesterday Older Son realized that he has to mothball his Ninja Nun comics and bid sister Agnes Day farewell possibly forever.

Perhaps you’ll say this should have occurred to him before, but like many other things in life, it came on so gradually that it didn’t hit him full force till last night.  He hasn’t updated in over a year, first because he was helping me rebuild the Victorian almost from the ground up (more like refinish, but that’s about it) while working almost full time, and then because he was accepted into medschool, we had to find him an apartment, and then he was getting hit with the hammer of MS1 — now almost finished — which I understand like many military disciplines IS supposed to break you, so they can reassemble you the way they wish.

Suddenly he was faced with the fact the upcoming summer is the only summer he’ll have ALMOST free for the next seven years or so, and while he can resume Agnes and take her to a point where she can be safely parked, he’s not sure when or if he’ll come back to it.  Sure, theoretically, he might have more time when he is a full doctor, but is that time better spent on comics, or novels?  And if comics can you pick up after ten years on the same character and setting?  I’ve tried to do that with novels, and let me tell you, it’s a task.

We had a rather maudlin conversation last night, as he realized, to put it in simple terms, that when you pick a path you can’t walk the other as well.  You either follow one road or the other.  You can’t walk both.

Now most of us here are… uh… insane would be the term, but overachievers or polymaths would work if we want to be polite.  We — almost all of us — have enough work and hobbies each for a platoon of busy people.

And for a long time (the boxes in my basement attest to this) I refused to believe that to walk one path is to deny the other.  I still do writing and art (and can’t wait to have a permanent abode again, so I can settle in and pull out the art computer and start working on everything I’ve lost through lack of practice) but I have boxes and boxes of fabric, and unless things calm down considerably once both boys are out of the house, I don’t think I’ll ever resume dressmaking.  I’d like to make stuffed dragons, at that edge where they’re almost sculptures, but I’d have to learn.  I still do fillet crochet but at glacial speed, since I only do it when I watch TV, which is rare these days.

What I mean to say is that I’m 53 and only now coming to grips with what my kid figured out: you pay in time and in yourself, as well as in money, for what you want to do.

As with a novels, where each time you make a choice you collapse all the possible choices, which makes the novel always less than it was in your head (and sometimes three novels, but that’s something else) every time you make a choice in life, you collapse the choices you can make from there.  Your range of choice becomes smaller.

For instance, when I chose to spend my time practicing writing, instead of rebuilding my freelance translation business after the move to Colorado, I didn’t realize I was paying for the opportunity to maybe one day be a professional writer with my mastery of languages, so that 24 years on, I could not really remember most of them (even if I can still read in them) and my own brother calls me an “Ex speaker of Portuguese.”

It’s not all bad.  It’s entirely possible I’d have made a lot more money if I’d stayed in translation, but you know, there’s no way to tell, and if I hadn’t tried writing, I’d be regretting it now.

And honestly, I never wanted to be a translator, I wanted to be a writer.

The trick of managing life is to accept you’re going to collapse your choices, but if you never collapse your choices, you never do anything or achieve anything.  You’re just living in a formless sea of unmade choices.

I have no idea whatsoever why older son wants to be a doctor.  But when he actually gets to do the hands-on stuff (rarely since he’s young in craft) you can’t help but realize that there might be more than volition here.  In the sense that someone is born to do something, he might have been born to do this.

I don’t know if I was born to write.  I know it’s what I always wanted to do, even when I thought it was impossible.  And I’ve paid the price, because there’s always a price.

The same with having the boys.  No regrets, butit cost us not just money, but time and health and energy.  However if I hadn’t done it, I’d have lived half a life, and I really — trite as it it sounds — wouldn’t trade the boys for anything, not even a Bil Gates sized fortune and a Stephen King sized career.

You puts down your bet, you collects the winnings.

I got maudlin, too, thinking of the paths not taken, and of everything I now lack the energy to do.  BUT we live in a blessed time.  It used to be you were done raising the kids and you were DONE.  Nothing in front of you but doddering old age or premature death.  Now you can start a career at fifty and still have 20 good years in it.

So… As we’re buffeted and besieged with the technological changes that are turning society upside down remember that every choice has a price, and some of the price you won’t even know.  But there’s no point getting mired in might have beens.

Choose.  Be.  Do.  A life where you never pay any price is a life where you never do anything.

Be not afraid.  Build. Live.  The price will take care of itself.

166 responses to “TANSTAAFL

  1. Amen, Sarah

  2. Opportunity cost. One of the hidden things you don’t think about much, but it’s always there.

    For example, you go to your favorite restaurant. Do you decide to try something new this time? After all, there’s half the menu you haven’t even tried yet. But that would mean missing out on the opportunity to eat your favorite meal. And so, yet again, you order the same thing at the same restaurant.

    Instead of thinking of yourself as stuck in a rut, realize that the opportunity cost for this experience was more than you were willing to pay.

    • This is a primary concept of economics. Every decision has a cost. Every time a resource is consumed for something, it can’t be consumed for something else. People need to understand this when making choices. They also need to understand that not making a choice is a choice that also has a cost.

    • A conservative is a person crazy enough to understand opportunity cost.

      • Yep. That free stuff you promise will only come with much higher taxes. Those higher taxes mean the hated rich spend more time and effort shielding the money they have. The higher taxes means that the not so rich will decide to settle where they are at, and not expand their business.
        All that means that there are fewer opportunities for new workers, and fewer opportunities for new entrepreneurs.

        • Reality Observer

          Another way – the more things that you get for free, the more things that you will never get – because they are not produced for any price.

    • I look at the menu, strike the things I can’t eat because of food allergies, can’t eat because they’ll cause intestinal distress and I have something scheduled for later or the next day, and things that are similar to ones I’ve tried before and didn’t like. That leaves a small set of selections… but maybe one of them, that particular restaurant does *very* well, so why not make the most of it? Sooner or later they’ll change cooks or drop it from the menu, and then I won’t have that vhoice any more.

      There’s a Mexican place near where I live that I get to periodically. They have a Mexicanized version of a Pakistani dish that I like a *lot*. So I order it most of the time. That’s the same Mexican restaurant that plays Korean pop music over the PA system…

    • Professor Badness

      My wife just orders what she loves and I order whatever she wants to try.
      It’s worked out so far.

  3. Or as Cat Stevens put it long ago…

    Oh life is like a maze of doors and they all
    Open from the side you’re on
    Just keep on pushing hard boy, try as you may
    You’re going to wind up where you started from…

    Every choice you make precludes others. I can look back on my life and seem some pretty major decision points. I can also look back and see things that – in retrospect – were very small at the time but got me where I am today.

    But try as you might, you can’t do everything.

  4. (Nods) It can even hit you when you’re young.
    I know (inasmuch as anyone can know) that the path I’m taking is the one I’m supposed to be on. But I also know good and well that there’s a lot of things I’m giving up, at least in the short term, and possibly into the long term as well.
    It’s not always a pleasant realization, as you see your old friends and acquaintances settling down and being productive, while you’re…not.

    • I think this is the kid’s problem, too.

      • Mind if I ask what he wants to specialize in?

        • “Specialization is for insects.”

        • He went in knowing he wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but since then he has developed doubts, so we’ll wait till he finishes to see what he wants to become. Right now he says “no family practice and no pediatrics” but that’s about it. He won’t do rotations for another year. I think his top runners right now are neurosurgery, ER and orthopedics.

          • My not-little-brother went in wanting to be a neurosurgeon and came out being a researcher (MD/MS program). Now he’s teaching pre-med students full time and working on his PhD part time.

          • Ike Azimov found out he couldn’t take the sight of blood in med school, and switched,

            • This is why these days they require experience or heavy volunteering in Health fields. Robert worked as a scribe in an Urban ER for almost a year.
              I knew I gave birth to a stranger when he told me there was this event that was so NEAT. They got to do sutures on FRESH LIMBS. “They weren’t preserved, just refrigerated.” This is the sort of thing that peoples my nightmares, but he was stoked.

              • Reality Observer

                Which is a very good idea. My Dad (a veterinarian) would have one assistant for three or four years – then they would go off to pre-veterinary in college.

                Then he’d go through a dozen or so the month after…

                We kids got so that almost nothing bothers us, either – because we’d be drafted in between one, and his finding another.

                (Only one of us went into a medical field, though. Myself, the work with animals would have been highly satisfying – but the humans, I would have neutered a few of them.)

              • I knew I gave birth to a stranger when he told me there was this event that was so NEAT. They got to do sutures on FRESH LIMBS. “They weren’t preserved, just refrigerated.”

                Would it probably not surprise you if I told you that when I read that I realized that I heard Robert’s statement reverberate in the back of my mind in The Daughter’s voice. 😉

                The difference is that I know The Daughter is not a stranger. My work group in Biology were all, um, ODDs. (Our only complaint about the was that our labs were just after lunch.) When we discovered that the frog we were dissecting had an intact insect in it’s stomach and we happily proceeded to dissect that as well.

          • Ah. Ok. And I completely misread pedi as podiatry…Depending on what he wants, all three can require call and can be plenty interesting. Definitely would have gone ED MD if I had known my stress tolerance was good for it. Actually know a few real good ones that went from booboo bus to it.

  5. I sorta have wandered thru life so far. grew up, school, college. When my Prof asked what I was going to do at graduation, I replied ‘I don’t know…’. I looked for a job, became a short order cook, (Nam was going full bore), ended up joining the US Navy (officer): flight school – washed out, Surface force (destroyers) passed over and out of srevice. It was possibly the worst choice I ever made (didn’t fit in), and the best… I met my wife, grew a family, found a career in computers and have continued wandering. I know choices were made, but they never seemed to be big ones, just one step in front of the other. The cost? I don’t know or care… I have loved it all.

  6. Our house is filled with the detritus of various hobbies and enthusiasms. I’m getting close to retirement age and my husband is eleven years older, so it’s starting to sink in that I’m never going to be able to really master these interests. So I’m trying to clean and sort and get rid of some of it. I too have boxes and boxes of fabric and art supplies and woodworking tools. And a Victorian that’s going to need a ton of work before we sell it, probably in a few years. It’s hard.

    • Regarding your Victorian manse–do not resort to arson, please! It took the law two days to make the arrests when my neighbor couldn’t make the payments on the house she inherited. (Okay, being silly; but true.)

      • Hehe. Mostly it’s a lot of plaster work. Lots of the plaster is crumbling. I’m planning on gluing some of it in place and plastering over it. Removing it is so horribly dusty and yucky.

      • Ours sold back in November. Since then we’ve been looking for a place to buy.

      • The Other Sean

        Fire investigators are pretty good at detecting arson. Detectives are pretty good at tracking down well-document motives. That’s method and motive tackled.

  7. I’ve come to that conclusion about my writing. I enjoy it, and there are those who enjoy reading it, but the price in terms of time, energy, and missed opportunities to do other things, is higher than I want to pay.

    • And if my writing weren’t paying significantly at this point, I might too.

    • I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.

      Oops — reflex. Sorry. RES wants a cracker.

      • Sit down, RES.


      • Third cabinet on the left. The red ones. It has an enamel handle with wheat painted on it, and the never-empty cracker container inside.

      • I think three is a political party, four is a congress…

        • The Spouse kindly gave me a copy of the book for the musical…

          I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a congress. And by God, I have had this Congress!…

    • I find myself in the annoying position that the opportunity cost of what I would like to do costs more than what I currently get paid for the stuff that I can do, but would rather not do.

      I’ve toyed with cutting back hours and pay, and I might just do that soon, but it’s yet another opportunity cost. (Bern’s magic “free college for everyone” wouldn’t work for me in this context, either, for two reasons: first, I’ll need money to pay the rent and feed money, and free college sucks up time, and thus the money I could be earning during that time; second, I already have a degree in STEM and experience in a high-demand field, so I’m automatically disqualified from all those education programs for the unemployed…even though I’m sometimes unemployed in part because I’m burned out on what I’m doing….)

  8. Admittedly this is one of the items I deal with, especially now. Thankfully I’m still young enough that I can push through and trying to get my list of wanna do’s down to something manageable. But right now I’m in the state of trying to read, write, revise, take classes, volunteer, oh. and work a full time job. But I also know that what I have done with volunteer time, both fire and EMS has given me opportunities and experiences I would not get without the drive to take the time and do it.

  9. Of course, the flipside of the fact that each choice you make eliminates a multiverse of alternative possibilities is that it also opens up a multiverse of others. If, upon returning from Saudi Arabia in ’91, I’d accepted the job offers for positions on the DEA interdiction force in Belize or on bleeding-edge Naval air systems at Patuxent River NAS in Maryland, it is likely I’d never have gone drinking with the President of the Federated States of Micronesia.

    Now if I could only find the universe where I kissed Mary D. . . .

    • If I had sent that actress that fan letter… (Ha! pre-internet; I would have had to find a copy of Tiger Beat or something to get her agent’s address.)

    • Yes – and every person you meet may add a multiverse of choice-making opportunities you’d never have known otherwise.

      Which is part of why this introspect doesn’t just curl up at home and do the familiar that resulted of old choices, but is involved in outside activities that involve people doing things (church, theatre, SCA, etc…)

      Occasionally I wonder if I’d like to be more like “normal” people, veg out in front of a TV in evenings, etc. – then I go home at Christmas to my brother-in-law who IS rather that way, spend a few days, and come back recharged to keep doing a variety of stuff.

  10. Martin L. Shoemaker

    “TANSTAAFL” is the popular Heinlein quote on this topic, but I prefer: “Anything free is worth what you pay for it.”

    What I like about it is that it has a double meaning, which I’m sure he intended. Anything free is worth nothing, that’s the simple interpretation; but also, anything “free” is worth what you REALLY paid for it, in time and choices and opportunity costs. Maybe in health and family time. Maybe even your life. “Free” is almost never without cost, even if it has no monetary cost. So just because an opportunity is “free” doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it.

    I suppose there’s a third meaning: that “free” thing can have a monetary cost, too. Maintenance, upkeep, taxes, and more. It might be “free” because the current owner is tired of paying for it and wants to unload it on you.

    • That last one is called a “white elephant.”

      Sometimes free costs far more than you want to pay.

    • Exactly, a free puppy/kitten really means no down-payment.

      • My friend ended up with every stray cat, dog, or carnival goldfish his granddaughter brought home. They were all free.

        • Old cartoon: Veterinarian telling a customer, with a big smile: “Congratulations! You’ve just paid off your free cat!”

    • Randy Wilde

      The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion . . . and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself — ultimate cost for perfect value.”

      – Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.)

    • In the Open Source world, “free” has another meaning: you are free to do with it as you please.

      Even this has costs, though: if you install Linux on your computer, you can’t call Microsoft for support, and you might not get a driver for your WiFi. You probably won’t be able to use all those fancy programs that are available on Windows or Mac. Sure, if something goes wrong, you are free to look at the source code, but doing so (and understanding it) takes time to drill down to the bug and then fix it–or you’ll have to find someone who can and will do it, but only for lots of money–or you could just live with the inconvenience of that bug.

      The last point certainly sounds like a nightmare, but consider this: a team of programmers working out the graphics for a computer-generated character in a movie might very well be up a creek without a paddle if their Windows or Mac system has a bug that prevents their computer graphics from rendering in a timely manner…but the team has the expertise to hunt down that bug and fix it, on their own terms and time-tables, and thus be able to get their work done on a deadline.

      Sure, you pay a price for this freedom, but, having paid it, you are an heir to certain powers as well…

  11. As a consolation, we end up forgetting more than most ever learn.

    re stuff: Don’t throw it out, just make sure it all leans toward the wall so it doesn’t fall on you when you sidle by.

  12. Why did I turn down a permanent job 40 minutes from home in my field and go on to flunk out of grad school? Get back home; trying to sell stuff to my eighth-grade math teacher. Coming back and saw this sign for a ceramic shop; found out I could make my sister a present there; she had ordered something that hadn’t shown up. Went to the shop at night for class. Met my wife.

    A guy I used to work with would discuss crazy ex-girlfriends, and I would break into this Rascal Flatts song: “God Bless the Broken Road”. Amen.

  13. kenashimame


  14. Ah, opportunity cost. And making decisions about your life. Decision trees. Once you choose a serious branch off the trunk, you preclude others. You wanted to be a writer, I am glad you chose to pay the price.

    Right now I am writing and editing full time, But that is a result of my finding a good provider and moving and retiring: all major choices. And it’s possible because a few years ago I chose finding a husband to grow old with, instead of finishing my novels. That was a decision tree off of where I’d been abandoned 25 years before and chose to not re-enter the dating scene until I was successful and the kids were grown. And being successful had all sorts of paths I could have taken, but I chose safety engineering.

    At first I did not realize it any more than you did. But as I got older, every time I chose one door I intentionally closed the others.

    I could have been an artist: I can sketch people’s portrait essences in record time. I have other talents, other dreams, other things I had to say no to because saying no to them meant saying yes to what I was born to do. It’s a wonderful feeling, looking over a life of accomplishments as opposed to a life of unrealized dreams. But sometimes I look at my sketchpads and wonder what could have been.

  15. The day the flesh shapes, and the flesh the day shapes.Orange Catholic Bible.

    Perhaps some people are born to do some specific thing, though as I’ve aged I’ve found that to be a questionable premise. But I can say with some assurance that each of us is born to do.

    It’s true that no matter what one chooses to do, the opportunity cost is everything else one might have done with the time, effort, and other resources put to it. If we look at that as a fraction – all the possibilities as numerator, the one chosen as denominator – it’s very large, but finite. Compare it to the fraction formed by the chosen possibility as numerator and doing nothing as the denominator.

    The actualization of self that flows from choosing, committing, and following through on any course is the essence of maturation, a process that once begun ends only with death. But for those who choose to do nothing, whether out of stubbornness, laziness, or because they fear to “choose wrongly,” it never begins.

    A friend of mine told me recently of an acquaintance, a highly valued self-employed carpenter, who’s eighty-nine years old. My friend asked him why he keeps going despite his years. The reply? “I love this. Besides, if I stop working, I’ll die.”

    Perhaps he wouldn’t…but why take a chance?

    • you know, i checked the link for that, and was lookign at Dune.. and to bring up other topics… the Kindle version is $2 more than the MMPB. Sorry, Ade, I don’t see any way where the ebook version costs 25% more than the paperback.

      • *Ace*

        • TradPub ebook pricing is just broken. Somebody has sold them research that is bonkers crazy stupid, and since the ones in charge have no actual real life experience they can’t tell it is so.

          Baen is pretty much the least broken right now.

          • and their ‘studies’ say ‘ebook sales are down’ and they wonder why…

          • Perhaps that’s the programming old Hy did.

          • Frankly, I have a hard time believing even they are stupid enough to not realize that ebooks are a vast potential income stream, if they just set the prices reasonably. I think their agenda of marking the reading of books as a thing of pretention and elitehood is causing them to actively attempt to destroy ebooks, because they actually realize their potential to make reading even more accessible than ever before.

            • You got it. It’s not about profit, it’s about control.

            • But, but, but, actually doing something with the goal of earning money is simply too crass for words don’t you know. Those currently in positions of authority at the major publishing houses would far rather be lauded for producing literary master works that get great critical acclaim yet never earn out. They do very reluctantly publish the occasional best seller, usually foisted off to a junior editor on staff, simply to bring in enough funds to pay the rent on their lavish NYNY offices.
              Such as they have absolutely zero respect for their customers, the readers, or for that matter the vast majority of their authors as well.

              • Well, the whole concept of money is simply too crass and barbaric for them, and the only reason they occasionally publish something that actually earns money is because we haven’t instituted blessed socialism yet.

                GAH. Where are the buldozers?

                • Heh. I consider “the whole concept of money” to be simply too crass and barbaric as well…but for different reasons.

                  Money is something that government creates and controls, at the expense of the rest of society. I would much rather see us decide for ourselves what medium of exchange to use, independent of what governments tell us what we ought to use. I would expect that we’d settle on gold, silver, and copper as standard mediums of exchange, with the values of an ounce of gold, an ounce of silver, and an ounce of copper, to each fluctuate in relation to each other, determined by simple laws of supply and demand.

                  But, if we actually did the proper thing and actually do that, the publishing houses will still balk at the collection of gold, silver and copper, much as they balk at the collection of money, because it is profits they despise…and it seems like they despise money, because we currently determine how much profit we make by how much government-controlled money we obtain…

                  That doesn’t change the conclusion, of course, that we need to figure out where those darn bulldozers are!

                  • ” I would expect that we’d settle on gold, silver, and copper as standard mediums of exchange”
                    Money – as tokens representing value – is primarily a convenience (or would you prefer to haul around a scale for daily shopping, and negotiate any differences between your scale and the person you’re transacting with, for each purchase?)
                    Doesn’t mean it isn’t subject to government control and abuse of same, but just changing to raw metals as a medium of exchange might not be the best solution.

                    • Not copper! I have visions of the local riffraff stripping my house circuits for cash.

                      Oh wait. That’s already happening in some neighborhoods.

              • I once worked for a small manufacturer – owned by a clever guy, had a lotta smart people working there, lots of great ideas for new products – and a basement full of prototypes of new products that never made it to market.
                Best I could figure: owner knew how to manage the size of company he had, couldn’t actually handle growth without losing control, so subconsciously subverted everything that might cause the company to get too large for him. Pity, that.
                I wonder if an analogous problem bedevils today’s SF tradpub houses: They indulge in crazy fantasies and rationalizations about how to market books because, subconsciously, they’re afraid of monetary success…
                Makes a reasonable story, anyway.

      • Randy Wilde

        I don’t see any way where the ebook version costs 25% more than the paperback.

        It’s been happening more lately. The publisher sets the ebook price, which Amazon can’t discount, but Amazon can discount the hard copy as much as it wants.

  16. Yesterday Older Son realized that he has to mothball his Ninja Nun comics and bid sister Agnes Day farewell possibly forever.

    I have been trying to explain to The Daughter that there are only so many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years one gets. Along the way you are going to have to make some choices about how you will spend what you have. Hopefully life will bless most often with choices that will be between one good thing and another — rather than trying to figure the lesser of two evils.

    If Robert permanently retires Ninja Nun I shall morn the passing. I shall also celebrate that Sister Agnes Day ever came into being and that I got a chance to know and enjoy it.

    • One way to help resolve hard choices: what is the most urgent thing, and what is the most important thing, you can move toward getting done this day? Set your priorities with these – you can do some of the others if time is left, but you’ll likely repine less if you choose so.

      • Some decision are of a daily nature, others are not.

        The Daughter is at the stage of life where her choices are career level. Some of that decision is out of her hands, as it will depend on which, if any, programs accept her.

        My life is in a decidedly different place. I have accepted that my once upon a time dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail is never going to happen. My decisions are generally daily now, involve sorting out which chores that need to be done can I do while my stamina holds out – and what are most necessary. Then which books and crafts would I most regret not having done.

        (This blog and its regulars has become like family … thank you all … so I keep up as I can.)

        • Cacs,
          I managed to do about twelve miles of the Appalachian trail.

        • “I have accepted that my once upon a time dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail is never going to happen.”

          Nonsense. I did it two years ago, and I met people who were three times older than I am who were doing it.

          • Thank you, but take my word for it, it is off the table.

            I seriously doubt my doctors would agree to it.

            Meanwhile, The Spouse has had knee surgery, is subject to back spasms, has chronic sinusitis and sleep apnea that has progressed to where it requires a C-pap for sleep. Even were this not the case, The Spouse, believing that it would be most thankless of us not to stay in the luxury of central heated and cooled, electric lighted and porcelain fixtured world He was so kind to bless us with, would refuse.

            • Well, if it’s a matter of straight-up medical trouble, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. However, there are some ways to get around that, if you’re interested.

        • If you take the scenic highway between Gatlinburg TN and Cherokee SC you will cross Newfound Gap. Park and visit the monument there. Walk a bit of the trail that runs along one side. You can then say you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail. Beautiful country, deep in the middle of Great Smokey Mountains national park.
          I’ve also driven the Natchez Trace, the longest narrowest National Park in America (technically speaking it’s called a National Parkway). Runs from Nashville TN to Natchez MS. 444 miles. If you drive it, take at least two days and stop at all the sights and viewing areas along the way.

          • Oh, I have been on the AT. What I meant was that I have given up on was the dream of doing the entire AT from Georgia to Maine.

            For two years I lived on the western edge of the Great Smokey Mountains in Blount County. Since moving to NC I have become a big fan of the Blue Ridge Parkway, whose official terminus is the intersection with the New Found Gap Road in Cherokee.

            I am familiar with 441 (NFG Road), the road which you mention. There is a section of it, if you look at it on a map, that looks like a line drawing of a dinosaur of the T Rex variety. Another section passes a loop on itself. It is quite fun to drive in a car that handles well, if you are the type who enjoys curvy mountain roads. (Such good memories, thank you.)

            BTW: There are also some places in VA where the AT intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

            The Daughter would love to do the Natchez Trace Parkway, and has long lobbied to do so. For some reason I have always thought I would like to do it from Natchez northwards. And yes, from what I have read, one should give it a minimum of two days. That trip might actually happen someday, possibly to celebrate when she finishes the next step in schooling.

            Have you heard of the Cherohala Skyway between Telleco Plains, TN and Santeetlah Gap outside of Robbinsville, TN?

  17. I, too, have enjoyed (and been puzzled by, the adventures of Ninja Nun. Tell Robert to get the Pope and Mother Superior to bless her and usher her to retirement before she gets killed. Mogen David, too.

  18. “As with a novels, where each time you make a choice you collapse all the possible choices, which makes the novel always less than it was in your head (and sometimes three novels, but that’s something else) every time you make a choice in life, you collapse the choices you can make from there. Your range of choice becomes smaller.”

    I need to remember this in the moments when I find myself paralyzed with indecision. And also that choosing not to choose is also a choice.

  19. Don’t sell yourself short! We started foster care at 70 (now looking at adopting a 2 year old). Keeps us sort of young. They are always looking for more of both foster care and adoptive parents. Writing fits in (except that the baby never sleeps!

  20. Well, one day back from the hospital and I suddenly turn 60, of which my considered opinion is


    So I’ve had plenty of time to consider previous and pending life choices.

    I have no regrets about my time at Ace Science Fiction under Jim Baen and then Susan Allison, except that I probably could have used a little more maturity than I had on hand to keep the job longer.

    Did I hurt my first writing career by going to work at a literary agency? Well, yes. because I was putting energy into my clients that I could have been putting into my work. But it did teach me that if you’re going to commit to something you need to commit to it.

    I regret nothing about my military service, even if getting sent to IOBC cost me my agency job.

    I’m mixed about my experience working for a certain small press in California. It was a toxic work environment but it gave me an exposure to the classics I would never have received otherwise, and the opportunity to mess with influence young minds by putting many of these works into an historical context they no longer receive in school.

    CCO if I hadn’t sent that letter to that actress I would never have gone to England and been chased by a man with a cavalry saber (or had a twenty minute conversation with my senior NCO’s in the tear gas room).

    But turning sixty, and realizing there are only a limited number of choices to be made and like it or not a limited amount of time to make them in, it’s time to get back to the writing in a serious way and see what I can make of it.

  21. As Rush sang…
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  22. And once choices are made do not spend the rest of your life regretting paths not taken and beating yourself up about it. Regrets are so futile.

    • Reality Observer

      Yep. Regrets cannot change the then. Nor are they likely to change the now (not for the better, anyway).

  23. MadRocketSci

    I remember a moment (not the exact circumstances surrounding it, those are fuzzy at this distance in time) when I was a very small toddler (3? 5ish?) and I suddenly faced the realization that, of the vast combinatorial explosion of possibilities, I could only ever realize one of them at a time. I guess up to that point, I had this idea that I was supposed to live all of my possible lives simultaneously (just branch into copies or, or what?). Becoming aware of death a bit later just added insult to injury. I was rather distraught about it, at the time.

  24. Way back when I was clerking in a comic book store I realized there are three costs associated with collecting a comic: the cost to buy it, the cost in time spent reading it and the cost of “collecting” it — dragging it around the rest of your life (or until you find a bigger fool eager buyer.

    Typically the time spent reading a comic book is not great — except nobody reads just one. An eight-issue “min-series” running $2.50 per issue will cost you $50 and (assuming an average reading time of ten minutes) al;most an hour and a half. And you often don’t know whether you’ll like it until you’ve invested in four issues — a sunk cost that leads many to finish because, well maybe it will get better and it is only four more issues.

    • In similar vein, there’s the time spent reading and commenting on blogs. That can add up to appalling amounts.

      • Reality Observer

        Have to admit, I needed to start tracking it. Which has forced me to cut down seriously.

    • $2.50 per issue?Daddy, tell us again how you licked Hitler?

      • Damn infants.
        I still recall the horror I felt when they raised the cover price of my favorite comics from a dime to twelve cents.

      • Well, first I took the whipped cream and …

        Comics went up to a dime (2 for a quarter, including tax) shortly after I started buying them (not my fault — I was not notorious in my purchases!) One of the first I remember buying off the spinner was FF #4, featuring the return of the Sub-Mariner.

    • The Other Sean

      8 x $2.50 = $20, not $50 – unless you’re using New Math.

      • Pretty sure he was including reading time in that $50. Now, one may quibble with his assumption of $20/hr for the typical comic book reader (who is more often in his teens to mid 20s), but there you are.

        • The Other Sean

          That’s an interesting way to look at it. I’d never considered the opportunity cost for leisure activities like reading, sleeping, etc. as compared to my hourly wage.

      • Using numeric keypad and hitting high.

        Mind, that was the price for “deluxe” books back in the Eighties, when DC jumped its most popular books* “forward” a year to put out slick-paper “hardback” versions with regular paper and ink-printed versions appearing a year later. (And when twenty bucks still had more value than Toilet Paper.)

        Funny, the books they did that o pretty much tanked.

        *Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans.

  25. Laura Montgomery

    I needed this post right now. Thank you.

  26. Random off-topic note, because something just annoyed me. Avoid PC World’s website: it will auto-load videos that talk loudly in your headphones. (The link I just posted goes to PC World; I do not recommend you click on it).

    No, PC World, just because I opened your website among fifteen tabs while trying to troubleshoot a technical problem with my parents’ computer, that does NOT mean I’m giving you permission to talk LOUDLY in my ear. Grrrr.

    • The Other Sean

      That’s very annoying, but I do have some good news. If you’re browsing with Chrome, there is a feature that allows you to easily mute a noisy tab. See http://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/mute-noisy-tabs-in-google-chrome-1683215637 for one page that covers how to enable the feature and use it.

      • I’m using Chromium, and I found the noisy tab instantly (almost) thanks to the sound icon that Chromium (and, I assume, Chrome) sticks in any tab that’s playing audio.

        • Vivaldi (now at 1.0) also has the “this is the offending tab – you can silence it” icon. It’s based on Chrome code, but has a few more things added. It’s reminiscent of, but not exactly Opera 12. Some things are still missing, IMNSHO, and there are some new features.

  27. I cried taking my fabric stash to my mom’s house to be used and distributed to by her sewing buddies. The feeling that I’ll never again design my dresses or corsets makes me sad. The fact that I’m not giving it up because of my writing is down right depressing. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it. And I’ll enjoy rebuilding the stash.

  28. A day late to the party, but thank you for this Sarah. I’m currently interviewing for a job at a Managed Services Provider because working (indirectly) for the Navy is driving me insane – I’ve been waiting since July for some cables that I could order on Amazon and have here Tuesday with Prime, as an example.

    Thing is, I’m inherently lazy and working where I do, laziness isn’t much of a burden. (I told my wife I was getting a reputation as a guy who gets things done and it took her 5 minutes to stop laughing. Took me 3 minutes.) So this is timely, a reminder that being lazy has a cost too, and if I want to get what I pay for, I need to accept the fast-paced job with the overly busy company and not be afraid of the work.

    Just wanted to thank you for the reminder and easing my mind a bit. (The 25% pay increase is helping, too.)

  29. I’m not one for poetry but I think Robert Frost captured this exactly in his
    “The Road not Taken”. I learned it as a 15 year old as the words to a choral piece by Randall Thompson. As a teenager it made little sense,
    as a 55 year old it makes far more sense :-).

    The Road Not Taken from Frostiana

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    • My favoritest of the few poems I actually can read without wanting to bash my head against a wall.

      • Frost is good for that, particularly “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

      • One of the few 20th century poets I can tolerate. And the Frostiana settings by Randall Thompson are gorgeous. They were created for Amherst Ma in like 1959 and Frost himself got to weigh in. Doesn’t hurt that Thompson was probably one of the 1/2 dozen best choral writers of the 20th Century. And 60Guilders look online (like youtube) I kn ow there’s a Frostiana setting of “Stopping by Woods on a snow evening” as well as “Choose something like a star”.

        • Is Kipling a 20th Century poet? Living about half his life in each century, the peak of his career occurred just about as the centuries changed; Kim was published in 1901, Just So Stories in ’02,

          The first decade of the 20th century saw Kipling at the height of his popularity. In 1906 he wrote the song “Land of our Birth, We Pledge to Thee”. Kipling wrote two science fiction short stories, With the Night Mail (1905) and As Easy As A. B. C (1912), both set in the 21st century in Kipling’s Aerial Board of Control universe. These read like modern hard science fiction, and introduced the literary technique known as indirect exposition, which would later become one of Heinlein’s trademarks.

          , publishing Puck of Pook’s Hill in 1906 and Rewards and Fairies (which invlued “If—”) in 1910, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907 along the way.

          Admittedly, he published The Jungle Book and Barrack Room Ballads in the 1890s.

          Then there is Robert W. Service, whose first collection, published in 1907 included “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. Born in 1874 he lived until 1958. Vachel Lindsay wrote “The Congo”

          And sang with the scalawags prancing there:—
          Walk with care, walk with care,
          Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
          And all of the other
          Gods of the Congo,
          Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
          Beware, beware, walk with care,
          Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom.
          Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom,
          Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, boom,
          Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay,
          Oh rare was the revel, and well worth while

          in 1914.

          Also straddling the centuries are William Butler Yeats, 1865 – 1939, who wrote some passable doggerel. This memorable bit of verse

          Turning and turning in the widening gyre
          The falcon cannot hear the falconer
          Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
          Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
          The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
          The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
          The best lack all conviction, while the worst
          Are full of passionate intensity.

          is from his 1920 poem “The Second Coming” and Carl Sandburg, (1878 – 1967), whose bibliography was published entirely in the 20th Century.

          • Interestingly enough, I only see him listed as 19th century, even though he wrote until his passing in 1936. I think he is considered “Victorian” and thus must be 1800s, according to the current lit’rat’ee. (Who never read “Who Shall Return Us the Children,” or “This is the State above the Law,” Yeats is 20th century. Which is odd.

  30. …but if you never collapse your choices, you never do anything or achieve anything. You’re just living in a formless sea of unmade choices.

    So true. Sin boldly, as Lutherans say. 😀