Perspective

I was thinking the other day, apropos nothing much (you know that kind of thought you have when lying in bed between waking and sleep) and realized how strange our sleep arrangements were when I was little.

You see, my parents believe mortgages happen to other people.  So when they got married, my grandparents converted what used to be the “storage” portion of their house into a shotgun apartment which my parents rented until I was seven and they’d built their house, into which we moved at that time.

This is why when I was little I thought windows were “posh.”  We didn’t have any.  The height of my ambition was a veranda.  (Having now rebuilt two upper-floor porches from scratch, I’m okay, really.)

The floor plant of the house was as follows: Living room/mom’s “office” for meeting with clients, into which daylight came from two glass panels on the front door.

Mom and dad’s room (3/4 of that width, with a window cut up top to get a little light from the living room.  (Not super effective.)  And a hallway, large enough for a row of chairs and enough space for an adult to walk past.

Past mom and dad’s room, the space widened again, and there was a single bed for my brother and a very large bin-cabinet for mom’s work supplies.  After that there was a kitchen the width of the apartment and about twice as long as the living room (I’d say about 14 ft? but I’m remembering with a child’s eyes.)

We pretty much lived in the kitchen.  Mom worked at the kitchen table most of the time, and cleared it only for meals.  The radio was in the kitchen and was the main form of entertainment in the house.  Dad brought his typewriter from work, and worked at the kitchen table.  I learned to type (and write) at that kitchen table.  Mom’s knitting machine (a way to supplement money between big jobs.  Even local farmers payed to have a sweater knit a winter, even if sometimes you had to undo the previous sweater (developing holes) and redye the wool.) was against the wall across from the sink and stove.  My earliest memories of reading were of scrunching on the floor next to the knitting machine and just going away in my mind.  Oh, the kitchen door had glass in it too, but this being a Mediterranean climate, in all but the coldest days, the door would be open for more light.

You will notice there was no bathroom.  That’s because the bathroom was outside grandma’s kitchen door.  And it wasn’t an outhouse, but a full bathroom, with sink and shower.  It just was outside.  I don’t know how much of this was because the walls were thick stone and almost impossible to pierce/plumb, or how much because great grandma thought bathrooms were dirty and should be out of doors.

Anyway, what I realized is that I had (at least) three sets of memories: one of my brother sleeping in the 125 grams (1/2 of a quarter kilo.  The word for quarter and room is the same in Portuguese.  Yes, my family is like that.)  Of me sleeping in the 125grams (particularly when I started school, about a year before we moved out.) and of me sleeping either in my parents’ room with mom, or upstairs with my cousin Natalia.

So I lay there and put them in order.  The apartment was adequate, though not wonderful when my parents had only my brother (about nine plus years before I was born.)  There was a curtain to give him some privacy, and he had a little “not quite bedroom.”

Then I was born.  Fortunately when I was born, my dad worked outside town, so I simply slept with mom, except on weekends, when I was turfed out to my grandparents’ and slept with my cousin Natalia (14 years my senior.)

Dad came back home when I was about 5.  At that time my grandparents had partitioned off a bedroom off their large, second floor family room, for a visiting relative.  My brother was sent up to sleep in that room, and I inherited the 125 grams (at any rate he was six one at that time, and the little childhood bed, even with all the additional patches at the bottom that grandad had made over time, was not particularly safe for him.)  So when I started school I had my own “room” of sorts.

Note I had to reason this out and pay attention to things like my brother’s surgery at sixteen, when he was laid up in grandma’s spare room.

All of which is not to tell you how terrible my childhood was.  It wasn’t.  Heck, grandma’s backyard was a kingdom and I ruled it as queen.  Also, I wasn’t aware of being poor (we weren’t for the area.  The neighbors sharing a wall with my parents’ apartment were raising six children in the same space arranged similarly, cut out of the house of the farmers’ next door. Mom was raised in a smaller space with four siblings.)  Our diet could be eccentric, mostly because mom lived in search of the cheapest meal, so they could save more money for the house, but when I went into school I was one of better fed kids there. I’d have been one of the healthiest too, except for my screwed up auto-immune.  We had plenty of books, even if sometimes I had to go dig in the storage buildings for them.  Sometimes my paper was rationed because I used a sh*tton of it writing and drawing, but then dad’s godfather who owned the general store across the street found in his attic a pallet of composition books that had been there probably 50 years.  They’d long since been written off, so instead of selling them, he gave us the lot.  Those books, with yellowed pages and gengivitis-pink covers lasted me for my purposes till highschool.  I wrote my first “novels” in them.  And I had toys aplenty.  In fact the only lack of my childhood was people to play with, since I was by far the youngest in the family and my brother, the next youngest, had modeled his amusements on our older cousins.  This is probably why I make up stories (it was so lonely.  It started with imaginary friends) and why I started to read very early and read a lot.  It’s a weird upbringing for a kid, but not bad.

What I was thinking about, lying in bed, though, was that these days if one of my kids tried to get married and rely on that type of arrangements for living, I’d hit the roof.  “Wait, you don’t even have a bathroom?  You’re going to share the single bathroom with a family of three?  And it’s OUTSIDE?”

Unthinkable, right?  As is “Tell me again how this apartment doesn’t have running water, and first task in the morning is to bring in a bunch of it in gallon jugs!  Is this even up to code?”  And “Wait, you wife is going to run her small business out of the kitchen, meet clients in the tiny living room, and store her stuff throughout the house, including kids rooms?”  You know what the verdict would be: “You guys can’t do that, that’s slum conditions.  CPS will be down on you like a ton of bricks.”

And yet, when and where I lived, it was solidly middle class.  A little below my parents’ means, since they were saving to buy a house outright, but not, you know…. alarmingly low.  If anyone had reported us to the equivalent of CPS, the social worker would have laughed herself into stitches.  There were people living much worse.  We had cement floors in the kitchen (not beaten Earth) and electrical light throughout.  And I pulled through my constant illnesses, was doing well in school, and my brother made it to college (even in my time that was rare for village kids.)  It would be viewed, now, as someone complaining of living in a small but adequate home.

And that’s what this is all about.  I’m sick and tired of the whining about “inequality” as though that means anything.  It’s a sanctifying of envy, is all it is.  As it is, my family was pretty wealthy compared to our neighbors, partly because my mom squeezed every penny till it screamed, and kept the house sparklingly clean.  So we lived like people richer than us, while a lot of the local craftsmen who made a ton more lived in filth and misery, with six or seven kids crammed in the same space we had.  They got a ton more meals out, pastries on the weekend and “bought wine” (as opposed to the one you grow yourself) though.

Sure, right now there are people so wealthy I still can’t imagine their circumstances (let alone my little self who dreamed of windows imagining their circumstances.)  But I fail to see how their being unimaginably wealthy hurts me.  We have a bathroom per person, right now, and a powder room to spare and I have room for my hobbies that mom could only dream about for her job.  And we’re not exactly wealthy.  (We’re not poor either.  Though we might be if the kids don’t graduate and support themselves soon.)

But thing is, I’m not taking money from anyone living in conditions similar to what my parents lived when I was born. (No one lives in the same conditions.  Not if CPS catches them.)  I make my own money.  I don’t take it from the poor.  And the people above me, save for those that ally with government to get the tax money, aren’t making money off me.  They’re just making money.

I think the left has a fundamentally broken understanding of economics.  They believe in a fixed pie, in which the only way to get rich is to steal from others.  In that kind of system inequality is a problem, because the people at the top are rich at the expense of people at the bottom.  But that’s not what we live in.

The only system in which their fantasies are true is the one that suggest to “cure” our inequality:A top down, controlled economy, with bureaucrats in charge.

Thing is, my friend Nicki grew up in the Soviet Union, under one of those systems designed to stop inequality.  Not only were the common people unimaginably poor (the village would seem like a bit of paradise to them, what with one family per house, and each family growing most of their own food in the backyard) but the party members lived almost like our current one percent, and yep, on the backs of the poor.

In communism and socialism, the only way to live well is to exploit others.  And boy, do they ever.  Some of the world’s wealthiest people are children of “great leaders”.

And in OUR country there is enough interference, mind you.  See where I said above that my parents would have been denounced to CPS if they tried to do what they did then, now and in the US (or even in Europe.)  And yet, fifteen years of sacrifice allowed them to build a house beyond the dreams of their parents’ (particularly mom’s parents) and to send two kids to college.  And then to have my brother build a house beyond THEIR dreams.  If the government had forced them to move out of that little (and relatively cheap) apartment and rent a real one, in one of the highrises then coming into the village, they’d probably never have been able to move out.

Rage, if you must, at bureaucrats who make your property not your own, and force people to live in ways that much wealthier middle-class people think acceptable.  That does, probably, rob wealth from the poor, in the long run.

But stop worrying about inequality. What does it matter to you what your neighbor has?  In college, (or even I, at professional meetings) my kids found out we were Job-poor.  We’re not of course.  But I’m a writer, which means work/payment is irregular and can’t be counted on. Also, though we have a mortgage, we partake my parents’ madness in the at consumer credit is something that happens to other people.  (We should take out a small loan and do some work in the house — we bought it short sale and it needs stuff done — and then pay it off, instead of saving for the work.  But my dad’s last words to me, as I got on the plane to the US after my wedding, were “don’t run up debts.”) So our kids were raised buying clothes at thrift stores, and without a single European vacation.  OTOH they each had their own computer from age 3, and we did buy them materials/books for whatever interested them at the time.  So, in a way we were richer than their rich friends.

And note, at no time did our way of living have anything to do with how billionaires live.  Who cares how billionaires live?  How does their being very well off affect you?  Do the people who are much worse off than you get a vote in how you live?

And what precisely would it do to take people’s money away and give to those below them in conditions?  Remember where I said the people in the village who made more money than my parents lived far worse, because they never saved for better housing (or kept the one they had clean?)

Make the most of what you have, and stop hankering over the unimaginable riches of the super-rich.

The poor we shall always have with us, but the poor in America live better than my parents did, middle class and working as hard as they could, long ago and far away, and we live better than my parents ever did.

The rich we shall always have with us, even the super-rich.  In the middle ages, inequality was if anything greater, as the poor lived close to animals.  But their kings — except for ceremonial and power — lived worse than our wretched poor.  And going back further, Solomon in all his glory couldn’t get piped in hot water, or food warmed instantly in a microwave, or aspirin to manage the headaches he acquired from his multitudinous harem.

You can’t eliminate the super rich.  Even vast revolutions don’t manage that.  They just replace them and the source of their wealth.  You can’t eliminate the poor.  As Venezuela is proving yet again, the best you can do is make everyone poor.

Let everyone do what they want to and can do with their own.  And keep your mind off other people’s business.

If you must have fantasies of being super-rich, have those.  But don’t bother thinking that you’re not that because others are.

Envy is poison that corrodes the soul.  Work for what you want.  No one has ever stolen your success.  Only you can blight your own life.

If you don’t think about it, the problem of inequality goes away.  That means it’s not a problem.

Go tend your garden.

 

 

 

416 responses to “Perspective

  1. My roomate’s wife’s dad, a retired doctor, seems to have this perception of my roomate as being poor… even though said roomate makes twice the national average.

  2. I do, once in a while, fantasize about being “super rich.” My standard for many years has been “a fortune equal to the U.S. national debt,” and that’s one thing Obamacare has done for me, I guess . . .. made my occasional fantasy self richer. But it’s so remote from anything that might conceivably happen that it doesn’t seem to infect my day to day thoughts.

    I think you’re spot on with envy. I read a line of H.L. Mencken once where he said that one of the greatest blessings of his life was that he didn’t suffer from envy, and I see the point, because envy is really corrosive; it can spoil your happiness with whatever good things you have.

    • My impression is that H. L. Mencken knew he was superior to 99.9% of the population. I am not surprised that he did not suffer from envy.

    • I wouldn’t mind a bit bigger place to live in – enough room for my books – but other than that I don’t think I’d have all that much use for a fortune, not when it comes to my personal life. Okay, one thing, like most people I hate the air travel security theater, and if you fly charter or in a private plane you can avoid that, so… (plus enough leg room, and no screaming kids unless you invited them in, and… okay, it would be very nice).

      And I’d probably travel some. But except for flying I am happy enough with the cheaper alternatives. Motel 6 is not that bad, at least as long as they don’t have something like bedbugs. And that you can nowadays sometimes find in the luxury hotels too, if news are to be relied on. So I’d sometimes perhaps stay in the better places, most times in cheaper as long as they were clean and in safe areas.

      But then there are all these other things you could do if you were really, really rich. Donate when you want to help somebody who needs it. Finance start-ups, some of which might in time compete with the current systems taken over by liberals, movies, publishing, news. Maybe schools. Help people fight the system when the system should be fought, like maybe eminent domain and civil forfeiture abuses and so on.

      That kind of stuff. Power to change or at least affect things. Money makes that a lot easier. For that it would sometimes be nice to have unlimited funds, or at least a lot.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I’d travel a LOT, but I’d mostly stay in Hostels and backpacker hotels.

        • I do travel by air a lot, and find not a terrible lot of difference between the cheap and expensive hotels.
          My preference is for a place in a decent area with a nice view & balcony, within walking distance of stuff worth walking to, and close to a train station if I’m not renting a car/ airport shuttle not provided.

          • The best hotel I have stayed in was The George in D.C., 2015 when I stopped there for a few days before flying to the west coast during my 6 weeks holiday in USA (that long because our firm was sold, along with us employees, and we had to use all vacation days which we had accumulated during the time we had worked for the previous firm during that year).

            I got it a bit cheaper because I reserved the room four months before I got there, so it was a bit over 150 dollars per night when their rate seems to be close or over 200 dollars when reserved closer to the time of your stay, but I don’t regret it. However I have to say it was not that different from any of the under 100 dollar places I stayed in after that. A bit better quality materials used, that’s about it.

            The big thing for it, and every other hotel in that area, is, I suppose, the fact that it’s very close to the Mall, on the Capitol end. Got a nice exercise walking from there to the Lincoln memorial one day, then later visiting the Smithsonian museums, although I didn’t have time for more than Air and Space and the Natural History ones. As a hotel, nice, clean, looks fairly good, but nothing much that you can’t have in something like some well kept Motel 6. And the prices for what is in that fridge are pretty high (I did succumb the first night as I was not in a mood to start looking for a store or go downstairs to their restaurant when I wanted something to drink). They would have had complimentary wine tasting but as that is not my thing I didin’t go, so that kind of perks are pretty useless for me. I think the breakfast would have been included but I didn’t use that either, most times hotel breakfasts don’t have much if you won’t eat the bread, and as I have some issues with my stomach, bread being one of the problems, I was very, very careful what I ate during that trip (mostly just salads and meat and potatoes or rice kind of meals).

            • The link, if you want to take a look: https://www.ihg.com/kimptonhotels/hotels/us/en/hotel-george-capitol-hill/wdchg/hoteldetail

              As said, for me the main thing was the location, and everything in that area is relatively expensive. However, when you count the travel time and expenses from the nearest cheap place I thought it was worth the extra money. I didn’t feel like learning to use the buses or metro for the few days I was there. Although I did that the last four days before leaving the country which I spend in Chicago, there I was in a cheap hotel near the airport and went to the lake front area by metro. Didn’t have time to look at much anything else but what is between the Navy Pier and the Field Museum (of course I had to go and see Sue). If I ever visit D.C. again I will probably do it that way there too, a cheap place close to some metro station, use that to get to the sights.

              I don’t have big problems driving in strange cities, however the parking is scary when you don’t don’t know the area and aren’t completely sure of the rules, and what sign concerning parking means what (hey, those are a bit different in Finland than they are in USA) so as a rule I prefer not to do sightseeing with a car in cities but rely on public transportation.

              • In the December following 09/11 the family took advantage of depressed traffic aggressive hotel discounts to visit DC and stay downtown (at the Hilton on, I think, 10th) just a few blocks from the Mall. While we’d ordinarily have stayed on the Beltway and taken the train in and out we figured the savings in travel cost and time for three people made the downtown location a better option.

                You are entirely right about the benefits of having so much within walking distance, and DC is a compact enough town center to put pretty much everything (or, at any rate, more than enough) within a convenient stroll. Being able to get up, dress and walk to the Smithsonian or the monuments without the need of consulting train schedules a real treat.

                Of course, stashing the car in the hotel garage was ridiculously expensive — but not really much more than the train fares in and back for three.

              • We visited DC for 4 days last summer between other East coast destinations. We’re too cheap to pay for the downtown/near the Mall hotels, found a motel in Arlington on a main drag with good Metro bus service to choice of Georgetown/downtown/Capitol Mall/Metro train connection to Mount Vernon, etc. It worked pretty well for us.
                Used Uber to get between Union Station and motel to start it all off… I wouldn’t want to drive in DC, too aggressive and “honky”.

              • Hotel Harrington on 11th Street, 1/2 mile from city center, or < 1 mile from most distant part on the capital mall.

            • I stayed in (same) hotel twice, in 2001 & 2005, just a block off of the mall & close to the subway system. Both years it was $100/night plus fees. Older, definitely dated & worn, but comfortable, non-smoking & clean; which is my criteria. Plus, they let me haunt the lobby until check in time, both times. That it was August & I had just spent 10 days at National Jamboree as staff, had something to do with it. So needed both air conditioning & laundry. It was a bonus being close enough to the mall to walk to everything except the National Zoo.

              FYI, was not my fault travel agent couldn’t get me on a flight for two days because of all the scout troops leaving Virginia & DC at that time 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • > Okay, one thing, like most people I hate the air travel security theater, and if you fly charter or in a private plane you can avoid that…

        +1.

        I don’t need (or want) many luxuries, but I would really, really love to be able to afford one of those “fractional jet” cards that let you order up a business jet more or less as you’d call a cab, then when it arrives at the local small airport (no TSA), just go down there, get on the plane, and GO.

      • FeatherBlade

        And that you can nowadays sometimes find in the luxury hotels too, if news are to be relied on.

        The odd thing about luxury hotels (based on the one that I have ever stayed in) is that they charge for everything.

        You go to the Travelodge or the Sleep Inn, and you get complimentary breakfast and free wi-fi, and free cable TV (if you’re into that kind of thing). You expect it to be clean, but maybe a bit shabby.

        The luxury hotel charged for Internet access.
        Pretty sure they charged for more than a couple TV channels.
        As far as I know, they has a restaurant, but no complimentary breakfast.

        The room’s finish materials, at least in the bathroom, were pretty fancy, and the bathroom had a phone in it, but the carpets were nothing special, nor were the sheets, and it wasn’t as clean and well maintained as you’d expect for the price.

        The luxury just… wasn’t what you’d expect, if your standard is “improvement over cut-rate hotel”.

        • Usually fancy soap, and a better location. Worse parking, though, if you’re not in a smart car.

          • I stayed in what I suppose was a luxury hotel in Arlington, for a mil-blog meet-up, a couple of years ago. What I recall was the bedding, towels, bathroom extras were fab. Top-rate, high-quality. The rest of the place was OK. Don’t know about parking, can’t recall of the breakfast buffet was anything to write home about. But oh – those sheets, comforters and pillows!

            • Two criteria for hotels: 1) Non-Smoker, 2) Clean, 3) Allows dog. #3 not as important because she is a Service Dog. Otherwise it has to be inexpensive enough to make not dragging the trailer along worth while. We just got (evacuated away from due to flooding) from Yosemite. We stayed in a hotel this time. Cost Gas + Hotel $555 VS Trailer (est. $435 – w/ gas = 3x car) over nights (was suppose to be 4 + return thru Redwoods). So, even with gas hit, camping would have been less. Then too we would have been hampered by wind from the storm, way more than the car was effected. Truck & Trailer are paid for & 8 or more years old (least someone point out not including a cost for having RV). Have no desire for Motorhome (well I do, but a cheap one is more than what we paid for the house & that just is not logical).

              Another advantage of Trailer is pack once, no unloading items once packed at home. Disadvantage. You think multi-lane (more than 2) freeways are fun in a car, wait until you have to change lanes with a 40’+ rig in grid locked traffic!!!! (So getting the tow camera to put on the back of the trailer before our next big trip!!!); lets not discuss towing up (or down a really steep one) hill on 2-lane highway with traffic backed up & no place to pull over.

            • C and I once spent a couple of days at a San Francisco hotel that was better than 50% more expensive than the chain hotels we were used to. The most notable thing about it was that the staff consistently gave us the feeling that they were personally glad to have us as hotel guests. Of course that was part of the job description; what I’m impressed by is that they were exceptionally good at it.

              I suppose it was kind of like the difference between a whore and a Companion.

              • I confess that one of the reasons I left the Hospitality Business was my inability to convey pleasure at sharing a planet with most guests, let alone have opportunity to serve them in the hotel.

                In my defense, this was my feeling toward most of humanity, albeit I made an effort to abate that hostility towards those whose visits helped justify my employment.

              • That attitude is one of the reasons why I’m staying at the Hilton every time I go for medical. (One more; please Lord, let it be successful.)

                The staff is helpful (had the electronic thermostat throw a battery low signal when I was there. I told the desk clerk, and the hotel maintenance guy was there. He got a battery, followed me to the room and swapped it. Total time, 5 additional minutes.

                The restaurant staff is genuinely friendly (I’m usually not a pain in the ass, and when I’m feeling awful, I don’t take it out on the help. If I’m really feeling shitty, I’ll stay in the room.) If they don’t like me much, they’re really good at hiding it.

        • When we were moving inter-state, our stopover in Brisbane was at a hotel. We originally were booked for a much smaller and cheaper room, but management had made a mistake and given our room to someone else, so they made up for it by giving us one of the executive suites. I gotta say, I loved that bathtub. They also had a hot water kettle and complimentary tea and coffee, and a little microwave. Rhys’ opinion on the king sized bed was “This just means I have to scoot further to cuddle. ;( ” I can’t remember if the place charged for Wifi. They had cable TV, complimentary (I think we watched Antique Roadshow and a couple of those British househunting shows, because it was better than any available movie at the time.)

          There was a complimentary buffet breakfast (I was fascinated by the automated pancake maker), as much coffee and tea as you wanted.

          But other than the bigger room, and the bigger bathroom, it seemed more fun to stay in the cheap little motel/hotels (these tended not to have much in the way of breakfast offerings, or not have it at all, because of the general user’s tendency to leave near dawn and find breakfast at the nearest McDonald’s.)

        • When I started the medical odyssey (last eye procedure scheduled for Thursday. Yeah!!!!!!), I had a choice of 3 hotels, using the criterion that I wanted to be in walking distance of the doctor’s office. One was a Best Western, which chain I have used and enjoyed, but the reviews for the place were iffy, and the location was right next to the freeway. The two others were sort-of luxury, both Hilton. I skipped the suites hotel, so ended in the Hilton Garden Inn. The price is about 30% more than the Best Western, and 2.25X the price of the Motel 6 in K-falls, but I’ve found it to be good for my purposes.

          a) the beds are comfortable. Decent sheets, and they’ll change the linens every three days by default, or more often if asked.
          b) the usual room amenities are there. I get internet with bandwidth better than my satellite link as part of the package. I don’t bother with downloading movies, so I’m not paying a premium for that. The coffee maker is actually useful (the first time I’ve found a niche for a Keurig–outside this application, I think they’re nuts), and the fridge/microwave are a useful size.
          c) the service is really good. My first stay, I needed a cab ride to get me to the hospital by 6:00AM. Their default choice said they’d be there at 5:30, and they were. Short wait when the hospital called for the return trip.
          d) Yeah, I have to pay for breakfast, but $10 (plus tip) for an all-you-can-eat bar, with omlettes, fruit, a DIY conveyer toaster (I’ll pass–gluten is verboten, and I’m not comfortable running GF bread through a normal machine.). Dinners are reasonably priced, and with my limited diet, there are good choices.

          I’ve been there now 4 times, going on 5. If I have to get that heart ablation procedure, it’ll be 6.

          It’s not luxury, but damned close for my needs.

          FWIW, the only place I had to pay for WiFi in 2014 was Motel 6. Days Inn ran it free to guests.

          • we vacation at Embassy Suites, something that started with the kids,w hen they were little. ES saved us a couple of meals a day, and gave us a private room.
            the kids could share the sofa (and as they grew, we took an inflatable mattress for younger son) we had a room with a door and the massive breakfast meant if we had a leisurely morning and went to the end of it, we didn’t need breakfast OR lunch.
            It’s not such a great bargain now, but for writing weekends, it allows us separate rooms to work in, so if Dan is done writing and wants to watch TV it doesn’t distract me.

          • Business hotels are the best. They’re nicer than a Motel 6, but not as expensive as a “fancy” hotel. And they have just enough perks to make you relax a bit (and not worry about little things).

            • Yeah, the Hilton caters to the business crowd. Did throw me off when I learned they don’t do lunch, but the fridge and a handy supermarket took care of that. I think the business people are too busy with other stuff to hang around in the hotel.

              They get a lot of medical business (most of the eye medical centers are in walking distance, and the regional hospital is a mile away), and offer medical rates. The hotel shuttle from the eye center (I had enough valium in me to make the walk risky) was well worthwhile.

              • I’m off to an event in Houston, this weekend – the hotel has a breakfast buffet, but I will be taking microwavable suppers for the two nights that I am there, as well as a bottle of wine, and all other edibles/drinkables that I am accustomed to. Yes, and my own teeny teapot and the loose-leaf black tea which is my morning preference.
                Yes, I learned this practice on military TDY, back in the day. Take the per diem, based on the cost of average restaurant meals, eat frozen meals from the commissary, pocket the difference.

                • I just heard from the hospital that my surgery is an hour later than the already late start time. (Was supposed to be 10:30, oops.) Since I’m type Ii diabetic, blood sugars are an issue. The good news is that I am allowed to have clear liquids up to two hours before the main event, so I can get some apple juice to keep the sugars happy. Note to self: try doing the finger poke later in the morning.

                  Post surgery, I have material for a brunch when I get back. OTOH, the nurse said bring my CPAP machine in case they decide to give me a general. Yikes!

                  I wasn’t nervous; this is my 5th go round, second major procedure, but I’ll be really happy when this is done.

                  • … in case they decide to give me a general.

                    Take my advice, demand a senior NCO, preferably a command sergeant major. Generals are effing useless without staff. (Some would say even with staff, but this is not the pace for such discussion.)

        • The last time I stayed in an expensive hotel, I think I had to call and ask before I found the ice bucket — it was this wooden box with no liner that I had assumed was some random decorative knicknack.

          What I’ve heard is that bedbugs are spreading more readily in hotels (even the expensive ones) because they aren’t washing and drying the bedding as hot anymore.

          • Can of bug spray is becoming more and more a required item for travel.

          • For what it’s worth, the tech blog at https://softsolder.com/ has a series of articles on how to deal with a bedbug infestation. (You’ll have to search for it, but it’s one of his more popular series. Sigh.)

            • Bed bugs probably scares me the most. One of the reasons we use a Travel Trailer, that & (in general) expensive accommodations, if available. As in expensive Motel 6 & other normally budget properties, rivaling the top end accommodations costs.

            • Freezer should work pretty well, but you’d have to leave the linens etc in there for a couple of days. That was the way to get rid of them traditionally here in Finland, during winters people waited for the colder days and then left what could not be boiled (like sheets) out for a week or so. I think the minimum was two days, and it needs to be pretty cold, minus 18 C at least. But as it can often enough get down to – 30 C or even somewhat colder even in southern Finland, at least when you are well inland (I live on the south west coast and we get proper winters in this area maybe once every five years, if that, but that’s due to the sea).

              Plus side, that way you can kill them off furniture too without using poisons, if the outside temperature stays cold long enough that the whole thing gets to that temperature, and there are no warmer holes left for them to survive in.

              • Ed Nisley (he of the soft solder blog) made up a heat box to kill the critters out of luggage and clothing.

                We freeze our brown rice to kill weevils when we get a bag; 3 days in the deep freeze (0 F, -18 C) kills them dead, and it’s easier on the rice than heating it. We don’t get enough long cold spells (usually) to count of freezing bedbugs.

                • There seems to be a Finnish product for heat treating bigger furniture and such (old system – take them to sauna, if your sauna is big enough and you can keep it hot for a day or two). Doesn’t seem to be sold anywhere else though (seems to be fairly new). But maybe there are other similar products.

                  • And there is a twice as big version for professional use. And the firm which makes them also uses heat by heating the whole apartment up to a bit over 50 C for a couple of days, claims it works. Sounds a bit low and a bit short a time, but I the idea at least sounds fairly solid, they can’t stand high temps all that well.

                    So, freeze them or heat them.

                    Hm. Maybe one should add to that “if I was filthy rich what would I do with the money” wish list: a house with a really big walk in freezer, something you could put your furniture in if you got a bedbug problem so you would be able to keep at least your favorites, and use it to clean what antiques you maybe found of potential infestations before you did anything else with them (so I like shopping at flea markets, and I like old stuff).

                • Huh. I’ll have to remember that about the rice.

            • I am grateful not to have encountered them so far. One acquaintance had an ongoing nightmare with them after (probably) bringing them home from travel, possibly twice, and then encountered evidence of them in a pricey hotel and quite sensibly fled.

              Another… I’m afraid to ask for updates. At last check, they had spread throughout her entire apartment building because the tenants wouldn’t cooperate with getting rid of them when the infestation was still isolated.

        • I concur regarding American hotels. I don’t stay in the upper-stratosphere, but I’ve priced them out for events.
          Likewise, the worst food I’ve ever eaten has been the highest priced (except for a few exceptions in Boulder; the food was fantastic, but the portions were too small to have left-overs).

    • There are two things that happen when I fantasize about being super-rich:

      1. The method is important. I often have the “win the lottery” fantasy, but every time I wind up, “but then if I succeed as an indie writer will it have mattered.” There is something about having achievement where the wealth, beyond where I am now at least and probably half of where I am now, needs a reason I can credit myself with for it not to feel cold.

      2. I find the amount is often a lot less than I used to think. I suspect this is because once I get to a certain spot it rapidly becomes, “But what do I do with it.” I’m reaching the point where enough land for house, garden, and outbuilding with wood and metal shops for me, photography studio for C, and music studio for C, Z, and I plus a big Winobego so I can travel and take the cats with (yes, I get separation anxiety from the cats) plus money to drive it around some and I’m good.

      Not sure if that is age, wisdom, or lack of imagination.

    • A friend, who is an accountant, and I once spent a month, on and off, fantasizing about being stinking, stinking rich. We concluded that managing the money and its ancillary issues would require at least six full time employees and a security firm.

      An accountant, an auditor, several attorneys, a property manager, a scheduler/executive assistant, maybe a PR firm, a very capable security firm. And that’s just to start with.

      It hardly seemed worth the benefit of being rich. Cause it would be the most demanding job we had ever held.

      • This is the biggest reason that I’d probably end up poor again. Not for wasting it all, but for not wanting to do the work involved to manage it.

      • David Weber has several entertaining passages in his Honor Harrington books about how her sudden lottery wins of prize money, titles, etc. provide her with all manner of challenges…… most of which her friends find hilarious. I particularly like the section in Ashes of Victory where she describes coming “back from the dead”.

  3. Inequality doesn’t hurt people. Lack of striving and bad personal habits hurt people.

    • There’s a pretty good reason why “Thou shalt not covet” made the top ten (such that even a heathen like me can recognize the value).

      • Heh. Don;t kid yourself. I can think of a number of “heathens” who are more worthy of entering the Gates of Heaven than a bunch of so-called ‘faithful”.

        • Pretty sure that’s not our call, but there’s also the bit where just because someone is a member of a group doesn’t mean he’s a loyal member, or will stay that way– and just because someone is a vicious opponent right now, likewise.

          Judas, after all– and Saint Paul.

          Heck, Jesus made that point quite a bit, in both directions.

        • Maybe, but I bet those heathen follow the Ten Commandments more closely than the ‘faithful’ you have in mind.

          Especially since those ‘faithful’ tend to worship their own piety, thus failing the ‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before me’ test.

      • Even when my husband was agnostic, he’d get mistaken for being religious because he refused to deny good sense when he saw it.

        Basically, he’d point out something like “those ground rules are really effective at making things better for everyone, without killing off the successful.”

      • Depending on which division (4-6 or 3-7) your church uses, it might make the list TWICE.

        • I thought it was 5-5?

          • Jewish tradition:
            1 – I am the LORD your God
            2 – No other god, no graven images
            3 – Not take the name of God in vain
            4 – Sabbath
            5 – Honor father and mother
            6 – No murder
            7 – No adultery
            8 – No stealing
            9 – No false witness
            10 – No coveting

            Orthodox/Reformed traditions:
            1 – No other god
            2 – No graven images
            3 – Not take the name of God in vain
            4 – Sabbath
            5 – Honor father and mother
            6 – No murder
            7 – No adultery
            8 – No stealing
            9 – No false witness
            10 – No coveting

            Augustinian/Lutheran traditions:
            1 – No other god/no graven images
            2 – Not take the name of God in vain
            3 – Sabbath
            4 – Honor father and mother
            5 – No murder
            6 – No adultery
            7 – No stealing
            8 – No false witness
            9 – No coveting neighbor’s house
            10 – No coveting anything else

            The convenience of the Augustinian/Lutheran tradition is it makes a 3/7 division, equating to the Trinity and the number of perfection. (Rather than those dirty, worldly everyone elses whose numbers conform to the World [4] and the Devil [6 – one short of perfection] donchaknow!) (Yes, that last bit is just sibling ribbing, not a serious statement.)
            If you really wanted to make people argue with you, you could easily distill it down to 8 or expand it to 14. 🙂

            • Oh, the “division” I speak of, is the two “tables” of the law, and how they distill down. As rabbis contemporary to Jesus (and Jesus endorsed) put it, the two tables condense down to:
              Love the LORD your God with all your heart and mind and strength.
              and
              Love your neighbor as yourself.

              So you can get 3 or 4 (traditionally) that are involved in the first table, related to God, and 6 or 7 that apply to the second principle.

              • In “Shattered Tablets,” a social critique from a secular-Jewish perspective (author’s name escapes me), the fifth commandment (Jewish & Protestant) is counted with the first four because “Honor your father and your mother” has to do with right relationships to authority, and therefore to God as well (even if indirectly).

    • William O. B'Livion

      It’s more that lack of *perceived* social mobility hurts people.

    • (Thinks of relatives…) Yep.

  4. I think the left has a fundamentally broken understanding of economics.  They believe in a fixed pie, in which the only way to get rich is to steal from others. 

    We have come from a world where having a parcel of land of your own with a cabin, that had no plumbing, no electricity and an outhouse was a good life.  The very successful might have had a grander house with a number of outbuildings and workers, but they still didn’t have plumbing, electricity and their necessaries were detached as well.  If the pie is fixed how did we get from that to where we are today? 

    Pah!  I know that thinking is hard, but come on people, this doesn’t require anything of a higher order.

    • Margaret Ball

      Part of the problem may be that on a personal level, many people do live in a fixed-pie system, or behave as if they do. In universities, there’s not a lot the chairman of the philosophy department can do to increase the university’s income so that he can share in the increased wealth. It’s much easier to try and kick the mathematics department in the goolies by complaining that math majors always ace the philosophy department’s Logic class, so obviously the math department is unfairly poaching on the philosophy department’s territory by surreptitiously teaching logic.
      (Real-life example. You don’t think I could make this stuff up, do you?)

      • Universities are POISONOUS that way. Every time my mom tried to harangue me into finishing my doctorate (a year to go when I got married) and getting a professorship, I would laugh. Because no. Just no.

        • That poisonous aspect of Academia had been long recognized, but only lately has it escaped the ivory towers and infected society at large.

        • Ah, but a doctorate would let you set up as a Mad Doctor. But you would have to find a place for the Jacob’s Ladder and the test tubes. 🙂

          • In Linguistics?????
            Plus the field has changed too much by now. I’d have to go back to square one.

            • Margaret Ball

              I wouldn’t go anywhere near Linguistics until Noam Chomsky has been dead for at least ten years. And maybe not then. The damage he did lives on.

              • Chomsky’s (linguistic, not political) theories work very well for computer languages. For human languages, not so much.

              • yeah. They inflicted him on us, in PORTUGAL. Ew.

              • My son, after taking linguistics, referred to NC as the Chompy Gnome.
                Everytime someone on the right says “of course, he’s a god of linguistics” I throw things.

                • Margaret Ball

                  Well, Loki is a god. So is Set. For Hindus, there’s Shani and Ravana. Persia, probably Ahriman. And there’s always Cthulhu. I think there’s a niche for Chomsky here.

                • I don’t care for Chomsky.

                  You know the old saying that everyone in philosophy is either a Platonist or an Aristotelian? (I’m an Aristotelian all the way.) Chomsky is a Platonist: fascinated by abstract mathematical form. His Aristotelian analog is probably Joseph Greenberg: fascinated by the variety of nature and the different forms things take, and believing we have to survey all the evidence before trying to generalize. Of course Greenberg is sometimes flaky, but then Aristotle was sometimes flaky too, which doesn’t make his basic approach unsound.

                  • Margaret Ball

                    Chomsky does not understand abstract mathematical form. He just likes to play with the pretty symbols.

              • I’m in some conlanging groups and they seem to really like him (I don’t understand it, especially since they can’t seem to get around languages not working the way he says they do.)

                • For an appalling number of folks that is a feature, not a bug.

                • Margaret Ball

                  They probably like him because they don’t go deep enough to discover the underlying contradictions in his theories. At a superficial level transformational grammar looks nice and clear and straightforward – and if you’re defining your own language (and don’t care about being able to say much in it) you can probably avoid all that nasty, complex, un-Chomskian reality of human languages.

            • Mad Science embraces all fields of insanity. We believe in real diversity. 🙂

        • Maybe get your doctorate, then start your own university (online, natch)? You could get Larry teaching there, too.

          Just think of all the possibilities! (Degrees in Monster Hunting [rooting out progs in academia], in Shapeshifting [how to constantly adapt to keep the progs from peening you in], in Vampirology [how to recognize and defeat blood-sucking bureaucrats], and a Doctorate of Theology [in USAianism, naturally!].)

          • “peening” => “penning”
            stupid double letters

          • And classes like, “Solving Any Personal Problem by Judicious Use of High Explosives”, “Theme in the Use of Fire to Removing Annoyances”, and “Advanced Gymnastic of Eyerolling Including Cat Based Eyeball Retrieval”.

        • Unfortunately, we need people with common sense to drive out the progressives of academia just as badly as we need non-progressive politicians. Seems the problem is that people who are the worst sorts to be running those institutions are the very ones who gravitate toward them. I understand the reluctance to take up that particular challenge (the stress alone would do WORSE things to your immune system.) Heck, my other half absolutely does not want me to even run for library trustee, much less any more public office.

      • Who knew Boolean logic was so superior to all the other kinds taught in Philosophy?

        • People with big bools?

        • Didn’t they have that debate back in the 19th century? The mathematicians sided with Boole (and won, for practical purposes) and the philosophers sided with Aristotle (and lost, for practical purposes). Both of them Dead White Males, so who cares?

          • In the philosophy curricula I’ve looked at, you get Aristotle (watered down a lot) in the baby logic course in lower division, but serious philosophy students take symbolic logic in the upper division. The symbolic approach has been dominant in the Anglo-American tradition for about a century, I think.

      • No, but individual professors of psychology can tape their classes, put them on YouTube, and start a Paetron.

        I hear doing that can result in a monthly income a significant fraction of your annual salary and allow you to do things like make up for the grants the government pulled over your political statements, and enough to hire a hall and give new lectures to feedback into that same YouTube channel.

        So, that professor COULD get a bigger pie if he is willing to put a toe into the world beyond the fixed pie university.

        • That would require they engage in Capitalism, after which none of their Socialist colleagues would ever again acknowledge their existence.

      • Some very related remarks from Emory professor Mark Bauerlein:

        https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2018/04/the-stunning-overthrow-of-the-great-books/#sthash.EYAqpyRf.gbpl

        “(The professors stridently opposed to a proposed Great Books program) act this way because they are suffused with ressentiment. Ressentiment is, of course, Nietzsche’s term for a certain state of mind, or rather, a condition of being. He liked the French word because it signified a deeper psychology than the German (and English) equivalent does. Ressentiment is the attitude of slave morality, Nietzsche wrote, the moral formation of one who feels rage and envy but hasn’t the strength or courage to act upon them. A man of ressentiment knows and resents his own weakness and mediocrity, and he hates the sight of greatness, which only reminds the lesser party of his own inferiority. And so he fashions a new moral system whereby victimhood becomes a high badge, suspicion signifies a sensitive eye for justice, and group denunciation of lone dissenters is the surest path to virtue.”

    • Even ox can recognize this.
      Some determinedly dumber than ox.
      Sad.

    • I really suspect that it isn’t so much that they believe in a fixed pie, but that they believe that they lack the talen to bake a new section. They want wealth without work, and think that stealing it will work.

      • It isn’t that they want wealth without work, it is that they see working at redistributing wealth has a surer payoff than working to create wealth.

        • For a lot of them I really think it’s a sense of inferiority. They aren’t educated in any useful sense, they lack the talent for anything but their endless hobby-protests, and I don’t get the sense that they really LIKE themselves very much….

          • I take it as a poisonous form of zero-sum game. It’s not sufficient that X wins, but that X gets to ensure that Y,Z, etc lose. If I had to guess, the latter is more important than the former.

            • IIRC that has been demonstrated in some studies I’m too lazy to look up right now.

            • Well, yeah. That explains why they prefer Cuba (or even North Korea) to the United States. Because “income inequality”. They would rather have everybody lose than someone win, even if the “losers” are better off in the latter case.

              • When you look at the wealth such as it is) of the populace and that sequestered by the rulers (the Castro boys, Hugo Chavez’s daughter, the Kim family) the income inequality equation don’t look so good, do it?

            • Which is funny, because they prefer a non-zero-sum game in everything else. Everyone should win!

              (Of course, it’s exactly the same driver. Where they can’t win, no one should win. Where they can win, their foe must *lose*.)

              • There’s actually three classes of people, for them: “us”, “them” (foes), and the proletariat, who don’t matter.
                “Everyone should win” is for the proles – give them something cheap (e.g. self-esteem based on nothing much) so that “we” can virtue-signal, thus winning.

          • They do have a wealth of persons and things to feel inferior to.

        • The nice thing about wealth distribution is that the person piecing out the pie gets to keep a nice chunk for themselves. Nice for the pie cutters, that is.
          And since the didn’t soil their hands with base and vulgar commerce, they get to avoid feelings of guilt- they’re making the world a better place!

          • It’s the real lesson of the Oprah car ep, except with food:

            “YOU don’t get any food,
            and YOU don’t get any food,
            and YOU don’t get any food…”

            If they are the ones who can give it to you, they can NOT give it to you as well.

          • This.
            Most of the money taken from us for welfare supports either the politicians, the bureaucracy, the fraudsters, or the cronies pretending to be capitalist vendors.
            Very little of it ever actually reaches the poor.

            • But they get a nice new government building to wait in, and a whole new bunch of bureaucrats to talk to.

      • That sounds remarkably like a Redneck culture……………..

  5. And the people above me, save for those that ally with government to get the tax money, aren’t making money off me. They’re just making money.

    Well, from a certain perspective, some do make money off you. They do so by providing something you want/need for which you are willing to exchange money to obtain. Personally, I think that’s great. I have money, earned from the work I’ve done. I can’t eat it. It doesn’t keep the rain off. It provides no warmth when it’s cold. It doesn’t entertain me (at least not for long–watching a stack of dollar bills gets boring after a while). It is only when I exchange it for something else that it has value. And so they end up with dollars and I end up with goodies. Yay!

    To certain people, however, this is a bad thing since if someone (them, mainly) want/need a certain thing, it should be provided to them free with no need to exchange that icky currency for it. Once they get that “something” they just move down the list. Healthcare. College. Housing. There is no end point short of them having everything they want without having to actually earn it.

    • Someone here made a comment about how the economic system in which everyone is forced to help their fellow man is not Communism but Capitalism.

      • IF it is forced, that it tyranny.
        IF it is free choice, that is free market.
        There is a HUGE difference between “Thou shalt make 10,000 widgets and price them as Ordained!” and “Gee, if I make about 10,000 widgets and sell them at current market prices… I might do fairly well. And if I can find a way to make better widgets and yet sell them for less… I’ll have the world by the [bippy]!”

        • You can bet your sweet [bippy]!

        • Well, at the root when the choice becomes work and get to eat or don’t work and starve then you are forced, yes.

          BTW, if you say, “They could refuse to work and scavenge food,” I will say you missed the point. That is working harder than necessary to eat. Working to get money to pay farmers or their downstream proxies is more efficient and reliable but you want to gather berries instead of work for the man I’ll just buy some popcorn.

          • Not unusual (in modern times) for people to work harder than necessary, because they don’t WANT to do the efficient thing.
            E.g. standing on a street corner in all weathers with a begging sign, instead of going to a day-labor office, because you don’t want to be “controlled by the man” or whatever rationalization you’ve come up with. (Yeah, I know that doesn’t apply to all the homeless beggars you see, but it definitely does to some. They’ll tell ya so.)

          • No argument – nature is nature. And nature is… effective, not kind.

        • And if you can make them for cheaper, and set the price astronomically high because you’ve gotten the government to ensure your monopoly, you deserve to burn in hell. (ahem, epi-pens anyone?)

    • Maybe it’s one of those “seeing a difference the other guy doesn’t” things? Like that psychologist pointed out.

      We see a moral difference between “making money from people” and “making money off of people.” One being “I offer something they want,” and the other being “I take money from them.”

      In both cases, it WAS their money…just in one case, they got a fair exchange.

      See also, recognizing other people as equally human to yourself, vs being a mere resource.

      • Still and all, when I take money off people in a poker game I am providing them with an education and enhancing their life skills.

      • I think that last sentence is the true difference between left and right.

        • I kind of hope you’re wrong, while fearing you’re right…because that’s Christianity’s “love thy neighbor as thyself” in a different format.

          • It is pretty clear that the leftist views pretty much everyone as a resource to use to get them something from moral points (the “downtrodden”) to stuff (the “undeserving rich”). Hell, I’d argue a planned economy de jure as well as de facto treats other people as resources.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              It’s not an inner path to salvation, but an outer one, and people are the symbols manipulated as part of the rituals to make it happen. (I originally worded as casting a spell, but I think public group mysticism more properly fits in the category of religion. On the other hand, part of the modern socialist ego trip is that appeal to being the secret master of the ritual if you have the right hidden knowledge and cultivate the right internal state.)

    • I have, in the past, obtained great entertainment by ironing all my bills with heavy starch. Good for an evening every payday if you take it all in small bills.

  6. Folks here might get a kick out of this– the house that my family spent the most time in? Is legally a one bedroom house.
    Picture a rectangle made of two squares; draw a line 1/3 of the way from the right side. Now draw lines to make one-thirds horizontally. The bottom right square, draw a line one-third of the way from the bottom, horizontal. Number left to right, top to bottom.

    1 is the living room, 2 is the bedroom, 3 is the dinning room, 4 was the secondary mud-room that lead to the half-finished attic (above 1 and 2, middle third of the area is a room, the rest is crawl-storage), 5 is the kitchen, 6 is the mud and laundry room, 7 is the bathroom. There’s a storage building out back with an unfinished basement.

    They moved the stairs so they come into the dinning room, made the second mud-room a computer room, my sister got the bedroom when our parents moved to the shed while I kept the bigger upstairs room, and my brother got the smaller upstairs bedroom.
    When I moved out…they turned the bedroom into a hobby shop.

    So a family of four living in a one-bedroom house, and nobody used the bedroom!

  7. You know, the house you first lived in sounds an awful lot like the single-wide my parents lived in until I was about 4. Except trailers have more windows, and the wood floor is a couple feet off the ground, and the bathroom was inside.

    Back in the ’80’s, I spent a lot of time in Korean farm village homes. During the summer, people took showers with a hose outside. One large sleeping room, and the food prep area, can’t really call it a kitchen, was usually a 5×8 to 8×12 lowered room that doubled as an entry way, with a closet for the commode on the end. Kitchen stove doubled as the floor heater for the sleeping area. Commode was shoveled out yearly for fertilizer. Have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with how well the dung was cured ( I prefer dried and then roasted) before use. But the vegetables grew well. Quite a few had an overhead electric light in the sleeping area and the ‘kitchen’, and a wall outlet or two. Coldwater tap and sink in the kitchen off the same pipe that went to the outside hose.

    But all areas were as clean as they could make them; and probably cleaner than half the homes in America.

    • You just explained why we were warned not to eat the luscious looking ripe strawberries in Korea. The advice was- if you can’t peel it- don’t eat it.

      • Oh, the strawberries were just fine, if you grew up eating them and your immune system was “calibrated” for particular viruses and bacteria there. Otherwise, a bleach bath and then rinse was prescribed.

      • I assume that the local applies in Korea were OK, though – even if the trees were fertilized with “night soil”. They carried them in the Yongsan commissary, at about three or four times the price of American-grown apples, and they were fab. Big, crisp, crunchy, flavorful … and still tasted good after a week in the fridge. One of the other broadcasters told me that the Korean orchardists practically wrapped the individual growing apples in protective wrap to preserve them for the market. All I can say is that they were WORTH it!

        • If you drive past the Harry And David’s supply orchards, they do the same thing.

          Freaky looking, too!

          • A company I worked for in the late 19s got a Harry & David gift basket, from the parent company for what I don’t remember – but yes, the apples and pears in it were so luscious that the two of us in the office staff nearly came to blows over them. They were that good…

            • They’re expensive, but as I learned when working on telephone catalog orders for them one holiday season, people are paying for convenience and quality. Unfortunately, we usually hit the outlet store on the southbound leg, which means we can’t get the fruits & veggies. (I know someone who lies when they cross the California border. But since I hang out with gardening experts, I know exactly why that’s a bad idea. On that note, cherries are currently endangered by an Asian pest that somebody probably brought over in a branch.)

              We can get the chocolates, pepper-onion relish, and other goodies, though.

              • Gee. We just crossed going South into CA (Weed). Inspection was: 1) Stop. 2) “have a nice day”. 3) Continue. It was a joke. Did we have fruit. No. Did we have veggies, yes.

                • They were store bought, weren’t they?

                  It’s the stuff that hasn’t been checked for pests that are an issue; I grew up knowing that you just say “no” to the fruit question, or “only from Safeway” if you’re feeling very honest, to save everybody time.

                  • Yes. This time of year, store bought. Maybe that was it. Last time we were towing a trailer & it was August. Got more questions then.

                  • I went through the Medfly fiasco in the ’70s. (Before he was Moonbeam, he was Medfly Jerry.) Going over Hecker Pass (SR 152), you’d see a tremendous amount of citrus dumped just before the quarantine station. I can almost sympathize, the South Bay had a metric boatload of citrus in a lot of back yards*, and it was a shame to let it go, but geeze, folks…

                    * My house in San Jose had kumquat, grapefruit, and two types of orange trees to go along with the walnut and avocado. A previous house had orange, cherry and apricot.

                • It is a joke, and I’m not worried about “getting caught”; I’m worried about the real dangers of spreading pests by transporting the good stuff over the border. (For instance, I don’t worry about the mandarins you buy at the store, since they’ve already been extensively cleaned.) Like I said, the cherry trees in California have started to show signs of a pest that has no control method, and as it spreads, that’s a total agricultural collapse for that industry.

                  • Hubby grew up in SD. So yea we follow the spirit at minimum. Besides, correct time of year, we expect to pickup fresh roadside stands in CA for our trip.

        • The general rule of thumb is: higher than rainfall bounces dust off the ground, and higher than the fertilizer may brush the vegetation when applied. Or if you can wash & peel it.

          Because the plant doesn’t transfer the local microbiota; the contamination from the fertilizer comes either in the application, or, more frequently, in the rainfall splashing the biota-laden mud up the plant.

          So strawberries, which are low to the ground, and spinach, which gets fertilizer applications after it’s already sprouted and growing, are a Really Bad Idea, while apples, oranges, pears, plums, kumquats, etc. Get their yearly fertilizer application long before the fruit sets, and are out of splash zone.

          This is a rule of thumb only, and depending on the locale, the harvest methods, the local virii and buggies, not to be trusted as universal. In rural Ethiopia, BOIL EVERYTHING.

          • In today’s issue f “I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying” we have this from Instapundit:

            Posted at 7:00 am by Glenn Reynolds

            AND YET, AS A “GREEN” INITIATIVE, THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE IS REPLACING PAPER TOWELS WITH THESE EVERYWHERE ON CAMPUS: Hot-air dryers suck in nasty bathroom bacteria and shoot them at your hands. “Hot-air dryers suck in bacteria and hardy bacterial spores loitering in the bathroom—perhaps launched into the air by whooshing toilet flushes—and fire them directly at your freshly cleaned hands, according to a study published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. . . . in the wake of the blustery study—which took place in research facility bathrooms around UConn—’paper towel dispensers have recently been added to all 36 bathrooms in basic science research areas in the UConn School of Medicine surveyed in the current study,’ the authors note. The research findings largely square with other data showing that hot-air dryers and jet dryers can launch and disperse germs from hands into the air and onto surfaces—essentially setting off a very dirty bathroom bomb. But the new study clearly demonstrates that the less powerful hot-air dryers can also bathe hands with germs already swirling in the wash room.”

            • My idea of a “green initiative” involved transplanting 4 basil plants into a planter this morning, and another parsley, so I have flat leaf and curly leaf parsley, and probably enough basil. Maybe. I had 6 plants last year and it was a little more than I needed.

              Oh! And I used initiative! I grabbed two starters of bronze fennel for a friend, because she likes them and they’re sometimes hard to find!

  8. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Go tend your garden.”

  9. Occasionally, I’ll see photos of giant McMansions and my first thought is always, “It’s nice, but I’d hate to have to clean it.” I kinda figure that anyone who has enough money to live in a house like that also has enough money to hire a cleaning service, but it’s still the first thing that pops into my head.

    I’ve never lived without electricity (for more than a couple days at a time, anyway, when the power goes out during a storm) but I have lived with substandard water. As in, there was water in the well- usually- but the pump had to be turned on manually if anyone wanted more than a glass out of the tap. That went on for about six months and was a bit inconvenient, but it’s way better than having to haul it in buckets (done that, too, for the horses) or take clothes down to the river to wash them (never had to do that). Humans are pretty dang adaptable, and part of being human is tying your shoes and getting on with what needs to be done. (Which is not overly profound or ground-breaking philosophy around here, but it’s amazing how many people in the outside world have never heard it.)

    • That’s my thought – “Look at all those carpets to vacuum and floors to sweep and/or mop, windows to wash… and the utility bills! Yipes!” I’m glad people can afford them and enjoy that sort of thing, but that’s too much house for me.

      • IF we won the lottery, I’d want a penthouse apartment near the areas I like to walk to. So, expensive. OTOH after that we’d live the same. Just money for a cleaning lady and an assistant. And maybe starting a new-style publisher and seeing how far it runs.

        • The downside of said penthouse, for me, is the need to limit the noise you make and the lack of open areas for certain types of noise making.

          • The ones I’ve scouted out have open areas outside, bigger than our yard.

          • In his younger days, Buckminster Fuller rented a penthouse with full roof access on top of a giant warehouse. It was also located in a warehouse district that emptied out completely at the end of the work day (and no one cared much about noise even during the day).

            I think it was New York, but it might’ve been Chicago.

            Party on, Garth!

            Zoning laws probably wouldn’t allow that nowadays.

            • Mrs. TRX is fully on-board with the windfall profit plan – buy some acreage out in the county, have a gigondomundous steel building put up, build living quarters inside, and have an “outside inside” climate-controlled habitat.

              She’d stay in the living area with her television, and I’d have room for the cars and machine tools…

              Traveling I-40 through Tennessee once, I noticed a number of small, nearly-circular valleys – you guys driving through west Tennessee to LibertyCon might want to look – that are small enough to be covered by a geodesic dome.

              • I’m guessing that they’re probably sink holes though. If they’re already sunk have they reached their lowest potential energy?

                • “Sink holes” – What a mundane explanation! I was hoping for the last un-eroded evidence of ancient orbital bombardments!

    • “take clothes down to the river to wash them” Had to do that one time on an extended camping backcountry camping trip. A heck of a lot of work. And they take forever to dry on the line afterwards.

    • Or as my mother used to say – the bigger it is, the more there is to clean.”
      I live quite happily in a 1.100 square foot house. I’d be willing to go as big as 1,700, just to have a separate office/study with all-bookshelf walls, and maybe another guest bedroom, but no bigger than that.

      • When both kids move away, we’re going to be rattling around in this huge house. But a place for all the books? Priceless.

      • $SPOUSE is talking about building a house. (I’m not sure how well the current place will sell, but it’s possible. Maybe.) Criteria include:
        — a kitchen big enough so that two people and two dogs don’t trip over each other. A prep sink is strongly desired.
        — one (probably) guest bedroom. Might serve as the long term pantry.
        — My office/man-cave/library. I’m getting a reclining chair in the near future, and once I kick the border collie out, it should be a good place to read.
        — A sewing room big enough to set up machines and the ironing board. I did a separate shop, and it should have been twice its size. It’s also a pain to use in winter.
        — No stairs, and ADA compatible access/bathrooms. We ain’t getting younger.

    • I’ll admit that the standard McMansion has the right idea about closet space. A lot of the other spaces aren’t efficient, though, and sort of make me nuts. For example, I’ve never understood what one was supposed to do in one of those huge master bedrooms. You’ve got an enormous walk-in closet (I approve) and a huge bathroom suite (a bit iffy on those) and a 20 x 25 foot space that not even a CalKing bed puts a dent into. Why?

      We were looking at houses with some friends of ours who were bound and determined to live beyond their means, or at least pretend they could… one house I did like a whole lot but the living room with the double high ceiling and two stories of huge picture windows would have had a trampoline in it for sure.

      • I am really not sure what the heck is up with those ginormous rooms, either.

        We have one– it’s almost the size of the living-room— and I was going NUTS until I stumbled on the idea of taking the basically wasted space next to one of the wall-closets* and putting in heavy-duty shelves that will take storage tubs. (between all the stuff that we really need to sort, the kid clothes that don’t fit anyone right at the moment and the crafting supplies which also need to be sorted, we have a LOT of those)

        Then put a work-table next to that, with a really good set of lights, so my husband can do his miniatures without anyone trying to drink the paint, and I have all the paperwork that has been sorted out of my down-stairs desk. Put shelves behind the door on the other side for all the bedding and boxes we haven’t opened yet, and it’s a MUCH saner amount of space.

        Utterly unfashionable, though.

        *it’s too big for a book-shelf, it’s too small for a dresser, you could put the dresser so it was sideways and you could open it with the closet open but then the dresser is on the wrong side of the room since we want the bed by the BIG closet, bathroom and the windows

        • I think the 500sf bedrooms are supposed to have room for your “home gym”, or maybe a couch/chair/entertainment center or something.

          Whenever I see one of those, I mentally calculate the distance to the nearest toilet… I’m now of an age where that’s more frequent and urgent than formerly, and it can be a long haul on the nights when I need the crutches to get there.

      • I don’t know about other people, but in MY large master bedroom all that extra space is used for bookshelves.

        😄

      • a 20 x 25 foot space that not even a CalKing bed puts a dent into. Why?

        Start with a floor-to-ceiling book case about 20 feet long, that add a couple 12-foot units perpendicular at either end, with a pair of 8-foot cases coming toward each other from those ends, put in a nice table and some comfy chairs for a reading area. Make sure the shelves not against the wall are double-sided units.

        • If you put all the books in there how do you show off how many books you own?

          Yes, I do have the bookshelves in the common as much as possible for many reasons and some aren’t the most laudable.

      • Leave us pause a moment and express appreciation at living in a society in which (temporarily, at least) we do not have to understand nor approve the why of ginormous bedrooms (nor living rooms, nor any other rooms.) We are not required to own such things ourselves and if developers want to offer such spaces to the market it does us no harm.

        While I would very much like them to offer more houses that suit my particular tastes I do not think it appropriate to require they do so.

        • I love big rooms! Place to put laundry that wasn’t put away yet. room for desk and chair. desk for studying, desk for doing puzzles. desk for coloring. If you have an enormous house you can invite people over. host club meetings and game tourneys. If it’s big enough host your own con. My only pet peeve besides taxation is that house Must be single floor and there must be many fireplaces. a massage room where visiting massage therapist can work. Some need it for medical reasons. If you had multiple spinal fusions you really need massage on a regular basis. a heated soaking pool would be great for my arthritic joints. Just call me Wilhelmina Mitty.

      • “one house I did like a whole lot but the living room with the double high ceiling and two stories of huge picture windows would have had a trampoline in it for sure.”

        I had a friend bring a swing set indoors (early Craftsman house, 10 ft ceilings.) Seriously, why not? If it makes you happy and doesn’t turn the house into a firetrap, do whatever you please.

      • 20 x 25 foot space that not even a CalKing bed puts a dent into

        Uhm, “play space” where you can put, uhm, “furniture”?

      • I wonder if all the excess space in the McMansion is a rebellion against the cramped and brutal small spaces of modern architecture?

        • It’s marketed as space to get away from the kids – all the “retreat” and “spa-like” marketing speak is code for “lockable door, and the square footage of your childhood home’s living room, giving you the option to exclude offspring at will”.

          • Bwah. I was eyeing a house with a giant master bedroom once thinking, “Ooh, we could fit in all the baby furniture without turning it into a maze.”

        • Indeed. I always knew that I hated-hated-hated mid-20th century modern architecture, with the passion of a thousand white-hot-burning suns. Didn’t know WHY I did, until I read Tom Wolfe’s “From Bauhaus to Our House”. Yeah, my aesthetic tastes were formed by the domestic architecture on offer in Pasadena, home of Greene & Greene, and knock-offs in the Craftsman style. Small, sensibly-designed,comfortable and LIVABLE homes!

      • its for your L desk and synthesizer collection.

        what, everyone doesn’t have one?

        • I recon I could use a Moog III, ARP 2600, and EMU Modular, plus a Hammond B-3 in addition to my collection of bass guitars and amplifiers.

    • “It’s nice, but I’d hate to have to clean it.”

      This, +1,000

  10. Peter and I like to play a game called “What if we won the lottery?” – and I realized, early on, that I completely lack imagination on what to do with money after an order of magnitude is passed. I don’t want to change my life – why would I buy a mansion? I couldn’t clean that! After “pay off my student loans and the mortgage”, there’s really only one thing I can think of to do: give it away to make other people’s worlds better.

    We start with friends, and then it becomes a lively debate on which charities to fund (my husband laughs, a lot, at “ten million to Mission Aviation, earmarked solely for maintenance! Because nobody ever thinks to fund maintenance!”).

    I knew a family that won the lottery, as a kid. At first they were ecstatic – and then they were crushed under people holding out hands, wanting a piece of the pie. And then they ended up back exactly where they started, except they had a huge custom house on the wrong side of the tracks, with a lot of expensive toys. But it didn’t make them any happier, not really; they had to deal with an overwhelming tide of jealousy and envy from people they’d thought were friends and friendly acquaintances, and it was more traumatic than helpful.

    I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, and my wealth is more in friends than in coins, which is just fine by me.

    • What if I won the lottery?  Oh, like many others I have considered that.

      Taxes — the state will take that out before I even see any of the winnings.  Tithe — because I do.  Take care of outstanding business — Repair what can be, replace what needs it and remuneration of outstanding debt.  Trusts — for personal income and for charity.  Travel — among things to Liberty Con … which would take me through much beloved mountains to see much beloved friends.

      I never purchase a ticket, but the dreaming is nice.

      • Terry Sanders

        My lottery fantasy usually includes a secret identity. 🙂

        There are a few things I might try just because they’re neat. I’d have to charter a yacht to see if I wanted to buy one. Flying lessons before I made up my mind whether that particular childhood dream was viable.

        But if it’s a Powerball/Mega Millions thing, I usually end up daydreaming about what crackpot project I’d blow most of it on. Fusion power? (You’d have to look *very hard* at the viability of any given approach. Only ten years away…) Some improved approach to space travel? Actual, *functional* charity? How *would* I throw away a couple of hundred million usefully?

        Since I don’t buy a ticket unless the payout is close to something you wouldn’t be arrested for offering in Vegas, I don’t expect it to happen…

        • Yep. we only buy a ticket when it’s in the hundreds of millions. We buy the right to dream.

          • I dream a lot for free, too cheap to see if lotto tickets would enhance it 🙂
            When I do think about what I’d do if someone gave me a winning ticket, there are a number of projects (as Dorothy said, within the first order of magnitude increase over what I earn now), but I find the sheer responsibility of wisely spending million$ to be scary, and suspect I wouldn’t be good enough steward to manage it all. So, better off where I am (which is, actually, pretty blessed.)

            • I’m assuming I win a truly staggering amount of money. Something like $1 billion Sock away money for retirement/medical bills. Fix house. Enable my husband to retire. Purchase my own Life Membership in the NRA. Pay off Sarah Hoyt’s kids school bills so she can get them “off the payroll” sooner. Send her a small monthly gift. Have a friend get her medical issues treated by the best civilian doctors in Dallas. Have a dog trainer stay with us for as as it takes to train our dog out of his bad habits. Get a personal cook and exercise trainer so that we can get healthier more easily. Donate to UTD. Visit Israel. Hire a private jet to transport Texan Huns and Hoydens to LibertyCon.

              (The above was originally posted at IMAO as a contest entry ).

              I’m happy with a 1900 square ft house in a Dallas suburb. I have cleaners who clean my house. We do our own cooking and laundry. We don’t cook from scratch. We buy convenience foods and intermediate foods (pasta sauce, salsa, butter, soaps etc.) from grocery store.

              • Sounds good; my problem is, so what do you do with the next 999-998 Million? (OK, 499-498 million, since gov’t will take 1/2 up front.)

                That’s when I get into: fund a mission? how much, which one, and will it be good for them vs. tempting toward corruption to fully fund all they will do? Even on a tithing basis, that’s hard, requires a lot of prayer and wisdom.

                • Honestly, the thing that scares me more about winning the lottery is my kids never getting to strive. We’d probably make a trust fund they could only inherit at 45. We want to give them as good a beginning as possible, but I’ve seen friends who got everything handed to them: broken marriages, discarded careers, etc.

                  • Yep. Values are the most expensive thing – they cost all you have, to give to someone else.

                  • My father-in-law has left money for my children…which they can’t have until they’re 40. Be a few years.

                  • There was a Heinlein subplot about how this one guy was able to inherit a fortune, but only if he could prove that he’d already earned that much free and clear himself. Can’t remember which one it was. Oscar in Glory Road maybe?

                  • Grumble. I really need to get to a lawyer. We have some people we want to play favorites with (and others not so much), and this will require a little bit of John Doe, Esq. work.

                • I’ve already got lawyers and accountants. You don’t realize how easy it is to spend money. I received a moderate inheritance from my father.

                • Buy a Senate seat, of course!

          • I think, should I ever win such a jackpot, that I would hire somebody to sleep for me, giving me an additional six hours a day to read, watch vintage movies and make punny comments on blogs.

            • lol RES. Ya got me. This is the first place I could talk about this in years. OTOH I might cause Sarah to forbid all discussion on this topic due to nausea and annoyance.

              • Nah, I was raised poorish with a lot of scrambling, dug a financial hole, got out of it before I “retired” early (courtesy Dot Com Bust V1.0 and the Fuggital Syndrome). Combined with a modest inheritance, we’re doing quite well, but I’ve see poor and sort-of rich, and the sheets are more comfy on the rich side. OTOH, there’s lots of stuff we might want that either gets deferred or skipped.

          • “Yep. we only buy a ticket when it’s in the hundreds of millions. We buy the right to dream.”

            Ditto. No McMansion, we’d down size to single story. Currently only 2200′ but would go down to around 1600′ no stairs. Have a plan we love. Just never figured what area to move to, then there is all the packing & actually moving, so add MOVERS to that; having no mortgage is a given. Beyond that, really don’t know. Already have kid through college without loans. Our loans are paid off. Don’t carry balances on CC, never have, use them, but we are diligent on paying off every month. Already have a Travel Trailer & Truck, although I bet the Truck gets replaced. Car already fairly new …

            Already seen what parent money can do to kids. Uncle & Aunt with lots of money passed away within about 18 months of each other, his estate was not settled before she died. Kids are now battling it out with lawyers, there were wills & trusts in place; still everything is messed up.

            We only have one kid. We’ve prepared for retirement very nicely, but it has to last 30 or 40 years; my mom is doing great @ 83 & her folks were 95 when they passed & their siblings lived that long, so who knows how much money will be left.

        • I love the idea of a Lottery fantasy including a secret identity.

        • There is a nice little movie made back during The Depression, titled If I Had A Million (1932) about a dying millionaire who decides he’ll give away his fortune rather than see it go to his greedy, unloving relatives. He has such great fun giving it away and seeing how it is spent* that it rekindles his desire to live.

          Reputedly it was the basis for the TV series The Millionaire which ran 200+ episodes from 1955-60:
          John Beresford Tipton is a multi millionaire and among the things he does with his money is to give away a million dollars to people he doesn’t know. So every week Tipton who is not seen, instructs his assistant, Michael Anthony [noted Hollywood voice actor Paul Frees] to go bring the person he chose their check. And he asks them to sign an agreement not to tell anyone how they got the money. And we see how the recipients lives are changed.
          (IMDb)


          *Such as W.C. Fields and his mate who buy a dozen cars to take on “road hogs.”

        • Should I win, I’d probably buy a nice house or apartment in Australia.
          Then I’d build guitars until the money ran out.

        • Yacht (defn.)- A hole in the ocean you throw money into.

          if you want to use one- rent someone else’s hole.

          • Terry Sanders

            I always liked the related definition–I think it was a book title:

            Boating: The Art of Getting Wet and Being Sick, While Going Slowly Nowhere at Great Expense.

            I didn’t say I was being rational…

    • I honestly think that I’d splurge a few fun big things, and no guilt over it either, like some world travel or something.

      But after that, I don’t think I’d want a bigger house. Maybe a different house and it would be fixed up nice. (I saw a show about some lottery winners who bought the McMansion and the woman said, “We’re not going to keep it and I don’t even like it that much, I just wanted to live in one for a while.”)

      And then I think I’d start telling people (as I lived in my modest house) that they’d be utterly shocked to know how much taxes takes up and how little is left and I might set up scholarships for kids and grandkids with some sort of trust set up funded by interest on investments. But mostly just tell stories about how there’s not money left. I might get away with it too, because there really aren’t any expensive flashy toys that I want.

      (For what it’s worth, my co-workers drive Lexuses and my bosses drive Toyotas. I try to take a lesson of some sort from that. I’d probably buy a brand new Subaru and be happy. I might buy my husband a Tesla.)

    • Obtain the ebook rights to a number of favorite books that are out of print. THE BUTTERFLY KID, for example. The Modesty Blaise novels.

      Take a cruise through the Solomon Islands, guided by somebody who knew the military history of the area.

      Go to London and spend a week, completely berserk in the secondhand bookstores.

      Spend a week eating in Florence.

      Go to Japan, at,least long enough to visit the Ghibli museum, and watch ‘Mei and the Kittenbus’.

      Fund the creation of ‘The International Society for the Eradication of Machines that Talk But Have Nothing To Say’

    • Go Galt.
      Eliminate all debts, get out from under obligations, and move somewhere away. (It doesn’t have to be the Mediterranean island where I install the modular reactor and the Paladin system on the tower, but that’s one idea.)

      And, after supporting a church and some real charity, start funding other subversive (read “conservative”) organizations.

      • We already did this. Well, we’re still paying down debts – though we’ve paid off all the medical bills, hallelujah! and are down to a credit card, the mortgage, and the student loans that want full repayment of all the interest they would have earned, so we don’t have save a penny by paying them off early.

        As for that mortgage – we moved away. To North Texas. It’s a wonderful place that is definitely away, while being in the greatest country on Earth. (Peter’s from South Africa, and has seen a fair bit of this planet. He holds opinions most utterly firm that despite all its warts, this is the best country in the world, and he’s VERY HAPPY to be a legal, productive immigrant here. NO DESIRE to go elsewhere.)

        • I’d probably cover the debts of my parents & sister.
          The nephews, well, depends on what they want to do. I’d probably offer to pay for a pilot’s license for each, and work out a matching funds deal towards college, trade school, or business.

    • “If money fell from the sky” is the phrasing I usually use, because people ask if you play when you say “if I won the lottery.” But if I won the lottery, the first thing to do would be to keep it as secret as I could. Yeah, there’s disclosure laws in my state, but it’s not like anyone I care about reads the listings. And keeping it secret from the kids… oy. I’d try.

      So, like this. Half set aside for taxes, another 25% set aside for retirement. All debts paid. Some other folks’ debts paid—and I very specifically have which ones picked out. They’re strivers; they just have a lot of debt to overcome. Tithes & charity is a set minimum.

      I’d build a live theatrical space for my city, because it darned well should have a public one, and it would have at least three performance spaces, recital, public theatre, and professional touring size, plus a whole lot of practice spaces and event spacing. I’d do some upgrades to my house (because there’s some stupid decisions made design-wise, and a better kitchen setup would be nice.) I’d do some minor upgrades to my mom’s house (because it doesn’t need much) and set aside money for more major upgrades to my MiL’s house (because it’s a beautiful house, but getting old enough that it’s going to need some internal fixes, like plumbing. And yes, it should stay in the family.)

      I figure that if I have more than 5-10% left at the end for “living expenses,” I’m doing it wrong. And I’d probably go with the annuity, even though it’s “stupid.” It would keep me out of major trouble, that’s what.

      • ““If money fell from the sky” is the phrasing I usually use, because people ask if you play when you say “if I won the lottery.””

        We always reply “Oh! Need to buy the damm ticket”.

        This comes from a joke: “A religious leader (pick one) was praying/imploring (etc) to a deity (or multiple) to win the lottery as there was much good that could be done with the money. Week after week this goes on. Finally (appropriate) deity replies ‘Buy the damm ticket!’ …”

        • If the government is going to give tax cuts to people who don’t pay taxes it seems unfair to deny lottery winnings to people who don’t purchase lottery tickets.

    • Pay the taxes. Pay off all my bills. Hire a huuuuuge name to do some cover art. Set aside a chunk to cover some upgrades RedQuarters needs. Help family. Help friends. Help charities. Take a leave of absence from Day Job and go spend a few weeks in northern Italy hiking and eating, er, that is, doing cultural research. Take a few weeks and go to Eastern Europe – with a local guide and driver and do research.

  11. I prefer not to be crude, but in this case I believe it is warranted:

    For anyone in the U.S. in the last half century: If you think things are unprecedentedly terrible and unfair you need to quit your bitchin’ and grow a pair.

    • Okay, I think things are unprecedentedly terrible and unfair. Mostly because of our government. On the one hand, ‘we’, as a nation, do have the government we deserve. *wince* On the other hand, I have a computer, and an internet connection, and I’m not afraid to use them. On the gripping hand, I vote, and sometimes they even elect the people I want.

      • and sometimes they even elect the people I want vote for.
        Minor fix.

        • Nope. Meant what I wrote. These days it’s not sufficient to just support the politicians you can actually vote for. Not when you have senators and representatives from other states at the national level passing laws that adversely effect you.

          • My point was that I’ll never get the people I want. But I might get the people I vote for. It’s called reality. *shrug*

      • I am reading a biography of Richard Henry Lee. I have just finished the reading through the period of the American Revolution which includes the Congress twice evacuating from Philadelphia and the defeats which Washington suffered from Staten Island to the Brandywine. After the Congress evacuated the second time even John Adams didn’t think we were going to make it. That is all to say, things could be a great deal worse.

    • Indeed! Kids have smartphone now. I grew up at a time when *families* might not have *a* phone. It wasn’t common, but it wasn’t unheard of (that song “Knock Three Times” didn’t need to be explained!). And then there’s the classic bit when someone was claiming that pollution was the worst ever: Any rivers catch fire lately? And that’s not even mentioning The London Fog/Smog and the dark days of common coal heat.

      I grew up in a Wonderland compared to the world of my grandparents, and I’m living in a Wonderland compared to my own childhood.

      • Not my own childhood. The house mom & dad built is small but nice. Mom’s childhood cabin in Montana, OMG. I’ve seen it. About 400 sq ft (maybe), one room. No running water, grandma had to cross the mine road to the creek & haul it up to the cabin, breaking ice in the winter; standard outhouse. With a new born & a < 2 year old toddler. No wonder they loved the (shack) house grandpa built when they hit Oregon (needs to be torn down but out of family now); it had 3 small bedrooms & indoor plumbing, about 900 sq ft.

        I've heard stories about the homestead cabins both mom's folks each grew up in.

        I've seen apartments available now in small rural areas. Where "going under renovations" is code for "flooded out" & my response on the completed one was – "oh hell no"; & I wasn't going to have to ever stay there. Where living in 28' travel trailer (heck our current 22' one) was more square footage & a whole lot cleaner.

  12. Your description of your parents bedroom having a window to let in light from the living room reminded me of my first “broke student” apartment. Not windowless, but it was a gone-to-seed early 1920s rowhouse (apartment over shop, shop was rented by an elderly printer who slept in his back room, we rented the upstairs). Originally the fixtures had been gas, and by some quirk of design, the pantry was dead center of the windowless side of the building, so whoever designed it had placed a skylight in the center of the apartment to give some light to the hall and placed a large window in the wall above the pantry to let a bit of light trickle in there.

    By the time I was living there, it was, naturally, all electric and it took me years to figure out why there was a window that opened into the hall.

    That area has all gentrified now, and I strongly suspect that relatively well off 40-something-year-old me could no longer afford to live there, although I bet the heat works now.

    • Our house was built in 1900; all the upstairs rooms have transoms over the doors, partly to “relight” the hallway.

  13. I’d be in the garden, but it’s still freezing nights and raining days, and the ground is clay soup!

    One week of dry weather and I can get the old manure spread and the fresh manure hauled out of the coop, my husband can till . . .

    I know now why people dislike ducklings: they believe their entire brooder should be a pond and try to turn their belief into reality, one waterer at a time. The chicks and poults are not pleased. But they’re adorable anyway, especially when put in the bath tub.

    Is it really so much to ask for just a little less mud? Can I reserve some of the spring rains until post-planting? Or at least long enough to prune and rake?

    • Right now the yard is squishy. That clay soup that is really annoying. Takes forever to dry and you really can’t do a thing until it does. We are happily looking at a needed break here, and then I’ll be doing much needed yard work. Hope some sunshine with moderate temperatures comes your way — but not prolonged hot dry spell.

      • Yard work, ugh. Spent a few hours yesterday raking all the leaves and dead stuff out of the flowerbeds and away from the stone walls. Got so much this year I’ll need to use the bucket loader, assuming the ground is hard enough to handle the tractor. Got this one really annoying species of ground-running blackberry that’s like trying to rake up heavy twine that puts down roots every place it touches the ground.

  14. Arlan Andrews, Sr.

    Way back when, Newsweek magazine compared the lifestyles of two families, both with two children, headed by male engineers making nearly identical salaries, one near Dallas and one near Boston.

    The Texas family had a nice three-bedroom house, an outboard motor boat, and two cars. The Massachusetts family lived in a small apartment and drove an old VW.

    The Texas engineer was cheerful, talking about their visits to relatives all over the US, and camping trips and water skiing.

    The Boston engineer complained about everything—the unfairness that had his family living almost hand-to-mouth, unable to afford nice restaurants and a new car. Oh, and they were only able to travel to Europe for a month at a time, and not every year at that, as their rich friends did.

    As a New Mexico engineer at the time, making a salary much less than either of them, it was to laugh.

    • It’s true about the Dallas engineer.

    • “Oh, and they were only able to travel to Europe for a month at a time, and not every year at that, as their rich friends did.”

      One of my sisters travels abroad every year. They have a good time and their pictures are lovely. But hey, I can drop the kids off at Grandma’s for a month every summer, so nyah!

      • “One of my sisters travels abroad every year.”

        My sisters SIL & Family travels abroad multiple times a year, if a niece is suddenly available to go at last minute “get your passport, your tickets are bought.” They want a companion for their daughter … good for my sister’s kids.

      • One of my sisters travels abroad every year.
        It’s not nice to call your sister that.
        *ducks carp*

  15. PJ ORourke’s Eat The Rich and Parliament of Whores should be required reading for all school students until they understand.

    We have friends who lived in 1800 sq foot house and it was just two of them, when woman got pregnant with her first and only child, they moved to 2400 sq foot house they couldn’t really afford. They told us they needed more space because of baby and I asked how big of a baby were they expecting.

    Growing herbs, and second floor verandas, are two of my favourite things. House my partner and I live in now has south facing second story veranda where I grow a lot basil, rosemary and mints in summer and it’s paradise on Earth. My partner and I spend a lot of time on our veranda in evening during the summer.

    And debt makes me twitchy as well. I cut up my credit cards when I was in mid 30s and paid cash for everything ever since.

    • I don’t have a veranda, but my rosemary, thyme, oregano, and mint all overwintered! All I have to do is replant the basil! This is awesome. Some day, likely after we’ve paid off the house, I’ll get a back porch put in. Right now, while I love the backyard in spring and fall, I’m not motivated to spend much time out there when it’s 114 F, and putting in a concrete pad to reflect heat wouldn’t help.

      Though I may need an intervention. We’ve been on low carb for long enough that I’m sick of paying for zucchini and summer squash, and thinking of planting some of my own…

    • I hate debt too. Unfortunately, my partner isn’t quite as savvy about it, and it’s cost us.

      • I am almost 50 year old and I think society attitude towards debt has changed enormously. I can’t believe how easy it is to get credit cards and loans now to buy frivolous things, it seems like free money that can be difficult to pay back in timely manner.

        • The crash is going to be spectacular. Not much fun, but definitely spectacular.

          • It’s by no means something I’m willing to bet on, but if I’m grokking it right, the cusp of the tipover from our current scarcity-based society to a post-abundance society would be the perfect time to have lots and lots of debt – as things rolled over that cusp, the whole cost-of-money equation would flip upside down, and monetary debt would become a quaint concept of the past, without meaning in modern times.

            Maybe that’s the clever plan behind the US national debt. Well, that and turnips.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Do you mean post scarcity? Or something like a economic crash, depression and hyperinflation?

              • Yes, correct, I mistyped – basically, at some point (or across some period) the transition to a post scarcity society will change the rules, and so if one were to have advance knowledge of the pace of that rules change, one could carry monetary debts worth X now through to a period where monetary debts are meaningless and take advantage of the rules change.

                Absent a time machine or a wiki-future subscription I can’t imagine a riskier bet, but that’s all I can come up with that ends up bailing out the current crazy spending and debt practices of the US: The rules change so it no longer matters.

        • I use credit cards for only two things:

          1. Online purchases. Online merchants can’t easily take cash or checks, but they’re quite happy to take credit cards, because they’re backed by a large company (Visa, Discover, or whoever) that guarantees the merchant will get the money. So I use credit cards when ordering things online, and pay them off each month.

          2. When it makes me money. In the country I live in, it’s quite normal to use cash. But my bank account is in U.S. dollars, and when I use a foreign ATM, I get charged a 1% fee, plus whatever the local bank charges for an ATM fee (which usually runs about $5-6). But my credit card has no foreign-currency fee, AND gives me a 1% cash back bonus on most purchases. So if I use cash, I effectively pay 1% of the purchase price as an extra fee. But if I use a credit card, I gain 1% of the purchase price. So using the card instead of cash gets me a net gain of 2% of the price of whatever I’m buying, and therefore I use the credit card whenever possible. (I.e., whenever I’m shopping at a large national chain store instead of a small corner store where they just take cash). And of course, I pay off the credit card in full each month, otherwise I’m not gaining 2% on each purchase, I’m losing 18% or so on each purchase.

          I’ve never fallen into the “credit cards = free money” trap. And anyone who does fall into the trap, I can only wonder WHO failed to teach them about money? Because “it’s a LOAN that must be repaid” is something so fundamental to credit cards that I wonder how people end up not knowing that.

          • This seems like the most sensible way to use credit cards, honestly.

            • My last major road trip, I did the following: Gasoline was paid for by debit card. (Back when $4.00/gallon gas wasn’t uncommon.) Hotel was paid by credit card, and paid off when I got home. Meals and minor expenses were paid for in cash. Everything was logged. If I had to repeat the trip (unlikely now), I could estimate the current cost fairly closely.

              My medical trips are similar; gas and the usual Costco run are debit, hotel is charged to credit, and if I eat at the hotel, it’s usually on credit. Other expenses tend to be cash. Cash usually doesn’t get logged. It works for me.

          • “I use credit cards for only two things: 1. Online purchases. 2. When it makes me money. … of course, I pay off the credit card in full each month … I’ve never fallen into the “credit cards = free money” trap. ”

            Ditto. In addition credit cards provide some protection against false charges. Earned almost $700 on the CC associated with Costco. Pay everything that will take CC as a payment.

            Have a compound interest example we used with Scouts: “You have a choice to take $1 a day for the next 30 days. Or. You get one cent on day one, each day after the amount doubles from the prior day. Which do you want?”

            Most Adults, let alone the kids, take the $1 a day. Nope. Not best financial answer. Latter results in $10,737,418.23!!!

            • Example can be used for perils of CC interest or benefits of early savings.

              Hammer home the example by setting up more true to life ones. Gets the point across.

            • I enjoy being what the CC companies apparently internally refer to with various derogatory epithets along the lines of “freeloader” or “deadbeat” but with more color – I pay off the balance every month, so no card issuer ever sees a penny of interest payments from me.

              The one I use most is the one that pays closest attention to fraud, and so they get my throughput and whatever they make on that on the transaction side. The rest only get used when someplace doesn’t take that one.

              They built the CC system – f them if they can’t take the joke.

              • What’s your source for the “freeloader” term being used internally? Because I’d like to know if it’s someone who’s likely to know, or if they’re just making things up. I do know that the one time I called to cancel a card that I hadn’t used in a couple of years, and that I had previously been paying off in full every month, the credit card company offered me incentives to stay — incentives that were good enough that I decided not to cancel the card after all (since I wasn’t paying any yearly fees for it, that decision cost me nothing). This does not seem like something they would do if they disliked people who pay the things off in full each month.

                • I’ve got friends in the banking industry (Banking! The only industry where Everyone is a VP!!) whom I’ll decline to out, but that usage is findable in the press – see https://www.bankrate.com/finance/video/credit-debt/what-is-freeloader.aspx, and I found another one with a quick Duckduck search that I’ll add as a reply to this so as to not pitch this post into moderation for having two links.

                  • Credit Card consider Freeloaders bad. Credit Bureaus consider Freeloaders good. Since Credit Cards like customers with high credit ratings, they seek us out going against their best interest (logically) since most of them are going to be Freeloaders. Yep circular reference, their own fault.

                    FYI. I don’t bother to cancel CC. If I don’t use it, they are going to cancel for me, eventually. After 2008, a lot faster than ever.

                    Been “credit jacked” only once. We had a line of credit on the house. Hubby wanted to refinance the house & I told him no because I didn’t want to close the credit line & start over since credit line was back stop for kid for college. Then 2008 happened & the credit line was jacked (bank lowered the max amount to just over what we owed). We refinanced & closed the credit line.

                    FWIW our credit rating is in the stratosphere & has been for the last 35 years (first 5 years of marriage is when we built it from nothing, no credit in either of our names).

              • “I enjoy being what the CC companies apparently internally refer to with various derogatory epithets along the lines of “freeloader” or “deadbeat” but with more color – I pay off the balance every month, so no card issuer ever sees a penny of interest payments from me.”

                Okay. So that’s what we’re called. Ditto. On top of not paying interest, I take money from them in the form oft incentives.

                They make a lot of money off our CC usage, because we pay everything we can with CC. Couple of exceptions are gratuities to wait staff or services where it is traditional. I use cash if I have it; otherwise they have to pay the CC percent charge.

          • We do somewhat similarly: 1) a debit card for on-line purchases, separate from the debit card used in stores, with money transferred for each on-line purchase via on-line banking. It means the balance in the vulnerable account is always low, the card company’s fraud-monitoring trips more quickly (and calls us) if/when the debit card’s number gets misused, and we’re also taking more frequent looks at what’s being paid from that card.
            2) one credit card, used and paid off a few times a year for hotel bills to keep it alive and credit rating good, otherwise intended only for large true-emergency situations (needed once in last 20 years).

    • I have three kids, a ton of books, and a husband with a bad instrument habit (the guitar wall is lovely.) We’re in 1500 sq feet. Admittedly, we could do with a shed and help sorting the garage, but it can be done!

    • $SPOUSE taught me about money management. I have a genuine credit card (not counting the debit/credit card tied to checking), but it gets paid off monthly. Today, I did a prepay, since I had an expensive first half of the month (unplanned hotel stay, plus stuff for family), and it’ll be spendy next week.

      I like not having any debt. The next truck will join its brethern, paid for on delivery.

  16. But Sarah, if the rich paid their “fair share,” then I could have more stuff without having to earn it. I’m entitled to it. It’s the American way!

  17. when I was little I thought windows were ‘posh.’

    Oh my, the studies that could be done of what constituted “posh” at any given date in History. Got three changes of underwear? Posh! Got underwear? Posh! Got a third pair of shoes? Unbelievably posh.

    • In the Eddie Cantor movie Kid Millions while it was a comedy, it was also Depression era and a line in one tune was memory-glue: “Imagine wearing shoes that nobody ever wore before!”

      • Forgive if I’ve told this before, but there were young men in my platoon in Basic Training who broke into tears during uniform issue. The boots they received were the first brand-new footwear they’d ever worn.

  18. Your house is pretty much like the trailer (early mobile home) my dad lived in during one point in his life. Parked next to Grandma’s house. One bedroom at one end, kitchen and large area at the other end. Hallway along the way had a wide spot that they stuck a bed or bunk bed in. He and his brother shared the wide spot and his sister slept in the house with Grandma. I can’t remember if there was a bathroom in the trailer or if they had to use Grandma’s.

    My mom and several others I know made do with what they had. Need more space for extra kids. Put up screens and wall in the porch. Stick the boys outside in the unheated, uninsulated walled in porch. Girls need to be out there too? Hang a curtain for privacy.

    A favorite thing my husband and I like to do is look at all those houses built by the railroad company/factory or in post WWII housing boom tracts, where you can trace the original house form but every house on the block has an addition thrown up to the side, out the back or added on top as another story. The same yards now have all sorts of different landscaping. People took their starter homes and made them fit their needs.

    • Puts me in mind of the house I spent my teens in…my parents started with a 1400 square foot house. Then added a 22 x 24 family room. Then added a free-standing two-car garage with an apartment upstairs.

    • post WWII housing boom tracts

      A while back I read about an effort to find and “preserve” an original design Levittown track house from that era. There were none, all had been modified by owners over the years.

      Sniff. Some people have no consideration for architectural history.

      • Don’t worry. HOA’s are doing their best to keep something for the architectural history fanatics to preserve in the future.

  19. the poor lived close to animals.

    Literally – bringing the animals into the house in winter was common as nobody had the luxury of heated barns. “Central heating” to most peasants meant having the family cow, goat and chickens in the single-room house.

    Which was another reason for a pounded earth floor.

    • Yep. As I understand it, upper middle class in the countryside (i.e. a small baronage with a few dependents) meant having the animals downstairs in the undercroft, so their heat would rise to slightly warm the hall as well as the solar, but you didn’t have to live with all the smell.

  20. If it’s any comfort, I share your parents’ attitude toward a mortgage. I bought my condo on a fifteen year note, paid it off in twelve.

  21. How does their being very well off affect you? Do the people who are much worse off than you get a vote in how you live?
    As you’ve mentioned, only if they steal from you. However, one of the most insidious ways of stealing from you is regulations. The rich can afford to lobby to get them enacted, and thereby raise barriers to you becoming rich. The poor not so much – unless, of course, there are some otherwise well-off people willing to use them to guilt-lobby those regulations into existence.

    In our current gov’t set-up, we’re getting it from both ends. The rich (some of the rich) working to keep “us” out, and another group working to drag us all down into something akin to mediocrity.

    I don’t envy the rich. And I don’t resent the poor. I just want everyone the gov’t to stop reaching into my wallet.

    And keep your mind off other people’s business.
    Yeah, what you said.

    (And, as far as debt, your dad was a wise man.)

  22. Synchronicity is a strange thing …


    Woderful, but strange.

  23. BTW – completely off topic but a note about one of our Odd pleasures:

    Happy 90th birthday to Teddy’s fellow Harvard man Tom Lehrer. A half-century ago, Lehrer was America’s leading musical satirist – and then packed in showbiz to go back to teaching mathematics. He returned to public performance, if memory serves, on just one occasion – an all-star tribute to impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh about twenty years ago in the presence of HM The Queen. He sang two songs that had been included in one of Cameron’s early hits, a West End revue of Lehrer’s work under the droll title of Tom Foolery. Lehrer’s politics are not mine, and they seem to have got lefter and harder over the years. But his rhymes are dazzling – going all the way back, speaking of his alma mater, to his Gilbertian laundry list on “The Elements”:

    These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard
    And there may be many others but they haven’t been discarvard.

    Which is a perfect rhyme in a Ted Kennedy accent. As for the political satire, he recognized its limitations: He quoted to me a favorite line of my old BBC “News Quiz” comrade Peter Cook. Peter had founded his comedy club in London in the spirit of “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War”. Wits generally lose to the humorless – because the latter mean it.

    I last spoke to Mr Lehrer for what would have been another man’s 90th birthday, Noël Coward – so you can figure out how long ago that was. If you’ve read Broadway Babies Say Goodnight, you’ll know that Lehrer told me he thought it absurd to regard Coward’s songs as social commentary: “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” “doesn’t say anything except it’s hot and mad dogs and Englishmen don’t go inside. The rest is dressing.” But he loved “the dressing” because it was delightful:

    But Englishmen detest a
    Siesta.

    For the same reason he preferred Beatles songs with true rhymes to Beatles songs with false ones. So he thought

    …Eleanor Rigby
    Died in the church
    And was buried along with her name
    Nobody came…

    was better than:

    Eleanor Rigby
    Picks up the rice
    In the church where a wedding has been
    Lives in a dream…

    I agreed. When we talked about Noël Coward, I expected him to like all the clever stuff – “Mad Dogs”, “Stately Homes of England” – but I was surprised when he drew my attention to this line from a fragrant Coward ballad, “I’ll See You Again”:

    Though my world may go awry…

    “That’s lovely,” said Lehrer. “What other songwriter of the time would use a word like that?”

    Ever after, I have always been touched when I hear that line, and touched that he drew it to my attention. It made me wonder what non-satirical songs he might have in him. Happy birthday to a brilliant man, artist and scientist.
    https://www.steynonline.com/8566/flacks-and-flicks

    N.B.: Steyn has praise for the new Chappaquiddick flick at the top of the column.

    • Well, I can’t covet it, but I can be jealous that you had the privilege of knowing in person, and continuing to communicate with, the man who gave us our first song for WWIII (as well as lovely dities about being pigeon control, alternate sexualities, and diversity movements).

  24. In all but one version The Ten Commandments end with

    “Thou shalt not covet…”

    There is a reason. Coveting is created by focusing on what others have you do not. It isn’t desire; it is envy.

    Now. let’s look at the rest of the Decalogue. Four of the others are prohibitions against:

    * Murder
    * Adultery
    * Theft
    * False witness

    All are sometimes, perhaps often the result of coveting your neighbor’s wife, servants, animals, house, or anything that is his. Stories of repressive regimes are filled with stories of people betrayed by neighbors who use the arrest to loot. The horrific, and by all accounts very accurate in terms of how the Stazi operated, The Lives of Others is about the abuse of the police state due to coveting a man’s partner.

    Desire something and then work to achieve it. That is one thing. To covet what someone else, has, is often the first step on the road to damnation.

    • Yeah, I summarize the 10 Commandments as, “Don’t take what isn’t yours.”

      • Well, ‘Listen to Me, not that yahoo down the street’ and ‘Don’t take what isn’t yours’

        The elventh is, of course, Bury All Thy Firearms

        • Only bury your firearms after cleaning and oiling them well, wrapping in waterproof covering, and putting in a good, strong, durable box, along with at least a 1000 rounds for it. Oh, and don’t forget where you buried it/them.

          • Look into the virtues of capped and sealed PVC pipe, with a dessicant packet thrown in.

      • Don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t hurt people, don’t make up your own gods.

        • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest is commentary.

    • ” . . . The horrific, and by all accounts very accurate in terms of how the Sta(s)i operated, The Lives of Others . . .”

      To my mind, the best (or, perhaps, the worst, depending on your ‘perspective’) indictment of the True Socialist Utopia (TM) ever put on screen because one can envision something like that happening here. Something as gratuitously horrible as The Killing Fields as a warning against the evils of socialism can be glossed over with a blithe ‘But that would never happen here; we’re too civilized for that.’ (And what does that tell you about the inherent racism of the person who spouts such nonsense?)

      The portrayal of the ‘banality of evil’ in a quite modern context in that film sends chills down my spine every time I view it.

      So what’s your candidate for best (or worst) cinematic indictment of socialism?

  25. So we lived like people richer than us,

    This was a common gripe aimed at our family, because to people who came to our house, it looked ‘like a rich person’s house’ which we’d blink at. Books everywhere, sure, but that was because books were our priority; my ‘rich looking’ clothes were from second hand shops (treasure hunting!) and the lovely plates came from Daiso. The tree came with the land, and other than hiring people to dig the ponds and put in the cement I planted the garden, and used to wheedle gardeners for better bargains on their plants. The ponds I filled with the koi that were sold at the time as feedfish for the arrowanas that were a popular indicator of wealth (so I got them cheap, 3-5 fish for 10pesos) The parrotlet and cockatiels we ended up having LOTS of was something of an accident – we ended up with male-female pairs that would breed, and I’d get them mates and new cages…rinse repeat. The massive flock of chickens (that had started out as a handful of pets) ensured we never had to buy eggs.

    A lot of ‘richness’ is entirely in the eye of the beholder; and the beholder is never really aware of the work that goes into it.

  26. Pingback: “a sanctifying of envy” – Steve Gigl

  27. Also, I wasn’t aware of being poor (we weren’t for the area..

    My mom didn’t understand that her family was poor until she was much older, either. Certainly, she didn’t own a pair of shoes until she was 13, and my sisters and I grew up knowing we were never going to be able to complain about any privation this side of an I.C.U. But we also grew up on stories of things we wished we could have had, like proper climbing trees, 7 dogs, and staying in one neighbourhood long enough to have roots. And of course, mom’s family had books, nearly a dozen–! and grandfather built grandma an outhouse. A huge step up, that was.

    So yes, what Jagi talked about, “seeing the world through eyes of love” is the way to go.

  28. There is an issue with thrift. Particularly thrift for the purpose of accumulating some degree of wealth for whatever purpose.

    The problem is the nest egg issue. If you have a nest egg, for your house or for retirement, then the government might decide that you have too much saved and that it should be redistributed to those who do not have a nest egg — for whatever reason. Like being spendthrifts or a failed gambler or a penchant for wrecking their cars.

    Actually, the nest egg issue is not potential. It is actual. Estate tax.

    If I decide to forgo spending to accumulate a nest egg for my children, the Government has decided that I cannot pass all of it on to my children. Some must be taken away to be redistributed to those who don’t have. The fact that Federal estate tax doesn’t kick in (in 2018) until the estate is over $11M is irrelevant. Just wait until the Democrats come back into power.

    And then there is State estate tax.

    “Currently, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have an estate tax, and six states have an inheritance tax. Maryland and New Jersey have both. Some states exempt estates at the federal level. Other states impose tax at lower levels; New Jersey taxes estates beginning at $675,000.”

    • While it’s not so much a problem now– rather the opposite– the estate tax can be a good thing, sort of like copyright for property. It makes it so you can’t afford to monopolize a resource for no good reason– you’ve either got to be really dedicated to building it up, or using it. Same goes for property tax. This is similar to the laws that give squatters rights to property in some situations.

      Again, while we’re so far over on the other side that it’s not much relevant right now, it’s important to know what’s in the opposite ditch, too. 🙂

      • I don’t see a problem if I monopolize my own resource; i.e., my property. The counter argument seems to be that (1) the Government defines what personal property can or cannot be monopolized, (2) the Government then takes what it defines as “excess” (the term the Feds use),and (3) the Government takes the excess.

        • Check out the really obvious abuses in English history for ideas– or just look at what happens in Washington state where the only organization that is allowed to be the dog in the manger for land is the state.
          (Don’t talk to the weed boards about it if you object to strong language.)

      • I am going to need a more compelling argument than that. As it stands the estate tax is destructive of wealth, requiring an outflow of cash at a time when no cash transaction has occurred, forcing heirs to liquidate or go into debt in order to pay taxes which might well not be an accurate valuation of the property’s worth.

        For example, if I inherit the family ranch, acquired three generations ago when the nearest town was fifteen miles away but is now butting up against suburbs I face the possibility of the state assessing that land at “fair market use” rather than as productive land, thus potentially forcing me to sell land to meet the tax bill.

        As it stands, the estate tax is a tax for not spending money while all other taxes are timed according to income generation. This is partially a consequence of estate’s stepping up the basis for any transferred assets: your “cost” of the asset is reset at the time of transfer to the heir. This means you could inherit a ranch that originally cost $100,000 and immediately sell it for $1 million and pay no capital gains or income taxes on the sale. A far better way (and presumably feasible with modern record-keeping) would be for heirs to receive the property at its historic basis (original price plus all additions and improvements) and pay capita gains (indexed for inflation) at time of sale.

        For a simple illustration, let us say I bought Amazing Fantasy #15 (first appearance of Spider-Man) off the newsstand for a dime. Having kept it in near mint condition (CGC Grade 9.0) it has a current market valuation of >$190K. I can pass that to an heir and when it is sold a day after inheriting there is no tax owed on the sale, the income tax being calculated on sale price less basis. If that original cost of ten cents had been conveyed the taxable profit would have been the sale prices less ten cents. By including that as part of my estate, however, my heir is pretty much forced to sell the comic, breaking up what had been a complete run of Spider-Man through issue 500.

        • OK, you live in an area.

          You have a small farm plot that you rent, and your family has rented it for ages.

          There’s lots of open land around, but it was claimed by the first person who got there, and their descendants leave it “natural” for their own hunting, or just because they can, since they don’t actually go there. Why doesn’t really matter, because there’s no actual cost to it.

          You have to deal with all problems that come off of it– forest fires, dangerous animals, flooding– and are not able to take any preventive measures. You’d love to move, but there isn’t anywhere to move to— all the land belongs to the heirs of those who claimed it long, long ago, and there’s no reason for them to sell it when they can charge whatever they want.

          Eventually, something that involves fewer families on the land will make more money with less effort– and you are evicted, having no right to the land. There is literally nowhere for you to go, since this isn’t 19th century Scotland with an America open and waiting.

          This is not good for society, which is the force that is enforcing the property rights. So compromises are worked out that balances the competing rights with a minimum of case-by-case judgement, since (*pauses to glare at the various tax shelter messes*) that tends to be very open to exploitation.

          As I said, similar to squatter’s rights.

          • In more contemporary terms, this seem analogous to the apartment rentee who “improves” the apartment. It is commonly held that, regardless of the improvement, the renter is not obligated to compensate the rentee for the improvements. They were made of the rentee’s own free will and he received the benefit of improvements during each time period that he rented the apartment. In fact, the rental contract might require the rentee to return the apartment to its original condition — to remove the improvements.

            The farming example seems to simply change the venue and extend the time period. The rentee farmer got full use of the land for each time period when he paid the rent. He entered into the contract knowing this and, now that the renter decides to exercise certain provisions of the contract, the rentee desires to change the terms of the contract. He wants title to the farm.

            As far as squatter’s rights, there are usually provisions of law that define the rights and obligations of the property owner and of the squatter. Interestingly enough, my astronomy club just learned that we build our observatory about a quarter of a mile from the land we were granted — we built it on parts of two parcels of land we had no right to. Fortunately for us, state law provides that, if the property owner makes no attempt to assert or indicate ownership of the land for a 10 year period, the squatter (that’s us) gets it. In this case, neither property owner has paid taxes on the land for much longer than 10 years. We are now attempting to swap our land, which we have been paying taxes on, for the land we actually occupy. Just to be good neighbors. Oh, and we are having our “new ” land surveyed and will have the appropriate deed granted by the county.

            In the case of the farm, it seems that paying regular rent for several generations would affirm the renters ownership of the property.

            • The farming example seems to simply change the venue and extend the time period.

              The entire point is that hyper-focus on a specific time and situation is going to make really bad laws.

              That’s why I explicitly and now to the point of nausea have repeated that we’re so far off in one direction that there’s a serious risk we’ll forget how we got here in the first place.

              • I understand you position and frustration. I’m just making legal arguments, because legal arguments will carry the day. Until the law changes.

                As another pointed out, there has been a recent mutation of the application eminent domain to allow governments to seize private property in order to generate more tax revenue from that property. I find that change in the law to be reprehensible and designed to benefit private developers and their government cronies.

                But I also take advantage of the law for my economic benefit. I bought several cars from my Dad for $100 and I’ve sold cars to my kids for the same amount. Paid about $7 in tax. Perfectly legal. Whereas gifting the cars would have been problematic in the tax sense.

                • Washington State charges taxes on vehicles based on what they say the vehicle is worth.
                  If you have a dark sense of humor, go check out KTTH’s afternoon guy on folks being taxed on a “value” of vehicles that is more than they sold for new.

                  *******

                  Until the law changes.

                  That is exactly the time we need folks to remember why the fence was put there, no matter how much it needs to come down.

                  • Washington State. Yes, they set the value. Not what you paid for it, no matter what the contract says. On top of that when moving to Washington State, you are allowed the one vehicle per legal driver. Additional vehicles, including RV’s of all types & utility or boat trailers (boats* are different), includes sales/use tax, on top of annual fee, when registered, regardless of how long you’ve owned them (what happened when BIL moved from Oregon to Washington). Let me describe the fun had over a utility trailer, never licensed or taxed in either Oregon or California (where it was built by FIL & both boys in the late 50’s/early-60’s) as part of the in-laws move to Washington … (never mind bet you can guess), we almost ended up with it.

                    *Boats are licensed (or were) based on where used, not storage. Since usage in case in question was Oregon lakes or Columbia they didn’t change the Oregon registration. Second boat (inherited) the state tried to tax, but it was in both boys names & we are legal Oregon owners & they don’t tax for half.

                    We were back in Oregon when the above happened. But we were in WA for about 6 years as we started our careers. Could not warn in-laws about WA practice because we not only were within the 2 vehicle limit w/o extras, the vehicles were so old they had no value even according to WA state. OTOH we didn’t license one because we “replaced” it as soon as we could. It took 5 years before state (someone turned us in) discovered it. State called wanting it licensed. It was parked on property. Not could not drive it. Weeds were growing through floor board. Someone (not me) wanted to “restore it”. Bottom line. Answer was, no, will not license it. State threatened to come take it. My response: “Really!!! Promise! Please! When will you be here?” Total silence on the other end, after initial unintelligible stuttering. We never did license it. They never came to get it. Sold it when moved back to Oregon.

                    • We had a “ranch vehicle” that had a barn fall on it.

                      The state tried to send us a very large bill for it using the tolling lanes over in Seattle, several years later……

                  • I trust you recognise that you’ve just moved the goal posts, from estate tax to property tax.

                    • Those are actually both methods, not goals.

                      They’re both charging you for something that you’ve already got.

                      The person who worked for something obviously has a stronger claim to it than their heir– it’s a big balancing act attempt.

                      Which gets even messier because it means money goes to gov’t, which is, ah, kind of a current addiction.

          • Not an entirely apt example, I think.

            When you rent you accept that you do not own the property and will not no matter how long you rent it. Squatters’ Rights do not compare, especially as they constitute a taking of land without paying for it.

            You’re assertion that “there’s no actual cost to it” ignores both property taxes and opportunity costs.

            While owners “can charge whatever they want” that does not mean they can get paid whatever they want, only what the market will bear.

            Estate taxes still seem a solution worse than the problem they intend to cure.

            • You’re assertion that “there’s no actual cost to it” ignores both property taxes and opportunity costs.

              Only if the property tax exists– and only if the opportunity is for you.

              While owners “can charge whatever they want” that does not mean they can get paid whatever they want, only what the market will bear.

              Which is not a problem if it’s a market where there isn’t an effective monopoly or whatever the word for the “tiny group has total control of a required resource.”
              Which isn’t a problem in our country, in no small part because the guys who set the groundwork tended to come from places where it had been.

      • The forced sale, break-up, or change in use of property forced by estate taxes is contra long-term planning. E.g. – There have been a number of specialty products that have been made by multiple generations of the same family, and recognized widely as superior examples of their ilk… Especially if the firm is under financial stress (which may be caused by the circumstances of the death), it can be very difficult to keep the business intact after estate taxes are paid.

        • And nearly impossible to pick an heir to keep it all in one piece because then the tax ends up all on the same person.

          So people sell everything and then split what they get.

          • My mother in law and her sister sold the Nebraska family farm for exactly that reason.

          • And who buys it? Corporations – because they never die, there’s never an inheritance tax.

            • Ultimately that is how some larger homesteads have been kept intact & grown. Family incorporated. May can be consolidated into one branch by that branch buying out the shares of other members. Essentially a closed corporation & not on the stock exchange, but at least it never “dies”.

        • You do realize you’re telling this to a ranch kid who has no family ranch left, even though there are at least three inside of living ancestry, don’t you?

          I’m starting to think I should have made the point that we’re in the opposite ditch bolded, underlined, and in flashing neon, because folks seem to have utterly missed that even though it was its own paragraph.

          • I am unclear on your ditches analogy. Can you perhaps elaborate a bit?

            • Over-correction.

              Think of it like the folks who look at a bad law, or a bunch of bad laws, or bad law enforcement– and decide that the solution is anarchy.

              They can both be bad.

              The good solution is generally going to involve a crud-ton of work, a lot of research, careful judgement, and being close enough to actually know the situation while being far enough away to not play favorites.

              • Thank you. I finally got it.

                • *two thumbs up*

                  One of the things I like about Sarah’s– nine times out of ten, if we’re shouting and waving our hands around it’s because we’re actually trying to get past some sort of a communications gap, not because we want to get the other guy to shut up.

                  It’s refreshing. Even if it doesn’t make it any less annoying. (Come on, at-will telepathy!)

      • I really can’t see any upside to essentially removing property rights as a “thing” because someone might let the lot they own grow weeds instead of a building or just let some land be wild or, heaven help you, buy some land to retire on 50 years in the future and then have someone mow it a few times when you’re not looking and get the court to steal if for them (those laws were for if people *disappeared* and couldn’t be found, not “everyone knows exactly who owns this but we want it more.”

        We end up with land confiscation because a strip mall will generate more taxes than a old row of small houses.

        And incentivizing people to try to build wealth for their children really has no down-sides while encouraging people to squander what they earn as quickly as they can because someone will take it, either today or tomorrow, if you don’t quick spend it first only has upsides in Keynesian fantasies.

        • Obviously never had to deal with a major weed infestation from the “natural” lot next door, along with the crop damage. That’s not to mention the fire and health hazards of empty buildings….

          There’s two ditches. We got into this one because folks over-corrected from the other one.

          • Ah, I get the ditch analogy now.

            But, as I have told many relatives and friends who have an issue, either as a renter or rentee — “What does the contract say?” The contract would seem to define the width, depth, and location of the ditch.

            I vaguely recall a book I read on the impact of changing technology on the law. Its theme was that the common law migrated from the idea that I can do whatever I want on my property (as long as it is legal) without regard to the impact upon others’ property —- to the idea that, if what I do on my property negatively impacts your right to “enjoy” (in the legal sense) your property, then you may have a legal case against me.

            One example was that, in days of yore, I could dam the stream on my upstream property and deprive you of any water downstream. From this issue, water rights and water law evolved. Particularly, in the Western US, where water is precious.

            But, in the case of the farm, the rentee does not own the lawn he is farming. So, what does the contract say?

            • The contract would seem to define the width, depth, and location of the ditch.

              It does– but in this case we’re looking at the, ahem, social contract. Starting with “what are property rights” and “how do we defend property rights”.

              You can’t write the farm contract without that.
              (We know because they tried. And it eventually got to “to booger with your deal, I’m going to get my buddies, kill you and just TAKE the land.” Then they wrote slightly different rules about what property rights are. Centuries and centuries of this….)

              • Getting our point more and more. In your last paragraph, it seems that not only property rights may have broken down, but that brute force and anarchy trumped the law.

                Had a friend who bought a farm upstate. A neighbor had been using a gate the neighbor had put in to enter the farm and then shortcut across it to his property. Took about a mile off of his daily commute.

                In accordance with the law, my friend posted that the gate was now closed and replaced the gate with fence. The neighbor cut the fence and kept using the shortcut. Repeated a couple of times. My friend called the county sheriff. The sheriff acknowledged that my friend was within his legal rights to shut off the shortcut.

                Then the sheriff told my friend something like, “But I’d let Joe use his shortcut. If you don’t you’ll might find your house and barn burned to the ground and there will be no witnesses. And there will be no police investigation. Just sayin’. ”

                And don’t get me started on woodcutting on National Forests and private land in my state.

                • Situations like your friend’s is why they invented easements…. although I’d be tempted to phone in that I’d been given warning of terroristic response if I didn’t do so, then sit at the fence with a shotgun and a video camera live-streaming.

                  I don’t do so well with threats. 😉 Which is another reason that the laws took the shape they did, and why I get so worried about folks not knowing about the currently very far away reasons things were done.

                  Wish I could figure out how to post pictures, I’ve got some political cartoons that are darkly funny comparing the “king’s land” with the national forests that nobody is allowed to do ANYTHING around.

                  • “then sit at the fence with a shotgun and a video camera live-streaming.”

                    Fox, I sincerely hope you would be smarter than that….. because the likely response would involve a guy with a camo mask and deer rifle from 200 yards out of camera field.

                    Rule of law is an incredibly fragile thing….. which is what the Left has either failed to grok or (more likely) is deliberately encouraging.

                    • If they’re at the point of burning down my house and cutting fences, they’re already going to kill me for violating something or other.

                      May as well make sure that they go down in flames, too, along with a selection of their enablers.

                • So the sherrif said that if he kept trying to enforce his property rights bad things would happen and the law would do nothing. Right. Good to know.

                  • Would do nothing or could do nothing?

                    It sounds like an area where doing deeds without being witnessed would be easy, and “ever’body knows Ol’ Joe done it” is not enough to bring a conviction in honest courts.

                    The sheriff wasn’t issuing threats, he was explaining the law of gravity.

                    I do not argue Joe would be in the right, but as any driver knows, being right is not sufficient.

                • Was Joe the sheriff’s BIL or something?

                  And it might have been an interesting point of – interest – to note that fires can spread.

                  • It is complicated, but the new owner of the ranch in discussion wasn’t from round those parts. Which meant that the community was going to sympathize with the barn burner … cause he was from round there.

                    And, perhaps, the sheriff knew that action on his part would result in reaction from the community.

                    Imagine the stereotype of Appalachia … then transfer the locale to elsewhere.

              • Once we reach the point of “to booger with your deal, I’m going to get my buddies, kill you and just TAKE the land.” it would seem we’ve passed the limits of rights and contracts. I somehow doubt estate taxes would resolve such disagreements.

                • Except that they, and other back-and-forth development, did prevent that from being normal, by preventing the situation from getting that bad.

                  It’s rather like how we have to point out, after ever freaking shooting that makes the news, that the alternative is worse and that we need to focus on fixing actual problems, not do something like with banning guns.

                  Or how we end up defending stupid people saying horrible things because that first amendment is rather important.

                  Or we enforce that no, charging people with crimes under laws that didn’t exist when they did the crime is NOT OK, because we KNOW how that goes, even though it means that a bad guy gets away with it.

                  Etc.

          • Weed infestation? Those have little to do with property and who owns it. The weed police come out and cite you for having noxious weeds and then start fining you for your failure to get rid of the thistle or leafy spurge.

            What does that have to do with requiring people to pay out the nose and lose family property when someone dies?

    • One way of handling that is by establishing family trusts, a la der Kennedys, but we’ve seen how that works out to sap character (although, in fairness, it might be at least in part genetic.)

      Another solution is spending that money on the kids before you die. Things like elite prep schools and colleges (those Yale and Harvard donations create quite a legacy) as well as enhanced education such as music, swimming, golf and/or tennis lessons. Trips overseas not only enrich education and experience but can establish valuable connections amongst the elites of other countries. Expensive toys, such as personal computers and the like also can offer a half-step up on less privileged kids.

      Family wealth can open useful doors for internships or even (as Chelsea Clinton demonstrated) entry-level journalism. There are plenty of ways to leverage wealth to your progeny’s benefit without burdening them with waiting for your demise.

      • All true. However, IMHO, these are escape routes from the basic issue that the Government can expropriate personal property based upon a decision that the property owner has too much. And others don’t. Regardless of the mechanisms that created too much or not enough.

        And these escape routes are not permanent, but are subject to the changing dictates of the various governments. What is not excess today is a gross excess tomorrow. In some cases, like Malta (I think), governments have imposed taxes upon bank accounts. Meaning, if one has enough to write a check, then the government takes some of it. For the greater good.

        • My point was not that these methods of avoidance were desirable nor permanent; it was that the government’s efforts tend to distort markets in ways unanticipated and which are more easily exploited by the wealthy. For instance, in your example of Malta, that tends to only hamper those who cannot afford to do their banking through another nation, such as Grenada or Switzerland.

          • Absolutely. As to economic distortion. Homo economicus. And I agree that the wealthiest have the most access to the escape routes.

            But that was not my issue…mine was the idea that, if I accumulate enough wealth, dead or alive, that the Government can target that amount and decide to take some. The mechanism for accumulation be damned. So the thrifty, who put a little away, sacrifice to accumulate the nest egg, work an extra job, defer gratification — are penalized for doing so. The thrifty person is treated exactly the same as one who receives a windfall for some reason (oil on one’s previously worthless land), with no effort at thrift.

            Estate tax is just an obvious example — and the threshold for estate tax has gone up from an exclusion amount of $675,000 in 2001, taxed at 55% to an exclusion amount of $11.2 million just this year, taxed at 40%. These are mutable figures which the Government can (and has) changed.

            As I remember, BTW, imperfectly, on Malta the government froze all savings and checking accounts and removed some or all of the funds to address a massive debt. The nature and amount of the debt made Malta unable to continuing borrowing to fuel an endlessly growing deficit. Thus, if you had money in the bank, Malta expropriated it. And gave you an IOU to be repaid at some undefined future date. So, in that case, putting money under your mattress was the logical economic decision.

      • Technically my mom has a trust with me (which is what her financial advisor advised instead of a will update when my father died.) While that means I have access to the money now, I don’t want it, and I’ve told my 70-something mother that I don’t want to have to do anything about the trust (aside from occasional signatures) for another twenty years, TYVM. At which point, I’m hoping to have to distribute heirlooms only, and have almost no money to worry about.

        • Not a trust. Mom & dad’s wills were setup originally so that when one died the other wouldn’t have to update the will. Mom has added me to a number of accounts, only so if she is incapacitated, I can do what needs to be done. Or, more likely, she wants me to talk to authorities (pain in my ass). She is 83. I honestly expect very little money other than what comes from selling the house.

          • That’s how my mom has it set up– mostly so that I can phone in and legally Do Stuff for them.

            Every account they have is in multiple names….

          • It’s listed as a trust, with me & Mom as the co-trustees. For major money things, she needs my signature, which worries me not at all. If she dies with just a few dollars left in the accounts, that’s perfect. (She’s pre-paid her funeral and all.)

            • ” If she dies with just a few dollars left in the accounts, that’s perfect. (She’s pre-paid her funeral and all.)”

              Ditto. Just no trust.

              With what is happening with my Aunt & Uncles’ Trusts after their deaths, lets just say, so glad there is not going to be enough money to fight over; no debts but no money either.

              Mom & her siblings had it better. NO money. They turned it over to an estate lawyer & set him on the (idiot) circling sharks. Property sold (2005) for more than it was worth. Paid off in full: Mortgage, Funeral Expenses x2, Court, Lawyer, Official Estate representative (can’t come close to correctly spelling correct word, sigh), which was shared with all the siblings, or all the required estate costs that get paid while money exists before creditors (sharks) get their money. Creditors got $0.10/dollar owed, & (theoretically) what they deserved. They tried harassing mom & her siblings. I answered the phone, she had the lawyers number taped to it. We were suppose to say “call the lawyer”, recite the number, & hang up. Me “This is elderly abuse. Call the effing Lawyer” then finished script. (only I didn’t use effing & I don’t normally use that word). We’d not only lost grandma & grandpa, but dad was extremely sick (died 2 years later).

              Had old debits passed to next generation, it would have bankrupted everyone down to the youngest great-grandchild of the extended family (& most of us have well exceeded the “do better than the previous generation”, some a lot more than others). OTOH Family tried to intervene, both the appalling living conditions & financial, knowing where it was all headed, years before they died (had written proof). The county they lived prevented interference under “it’s elderly abuse”. You’d have bet we would have claimed “sorry county divorced us, talk to them.” It was bad enough that when the next county over got involved (because of where they landed in hospitals), they were appalled at the resident county.

    • Oregon estate tax starts at 1 million. Individually, not over that amount. But one of us inherits the others half, the estate to kid will be taxed by the state, by the time everything is added up. We are making plans to prevent that. Most of the money being taxed = double taxation. It has already been taxed. Under this situation, only the money coming in via death insurance benefits, wouldn’t have been taxed. Not sure if the IRA’s get taxed as part of inheritance or when distributed as inherited IRA. If latter, then our estate is in good shape currently. Most our estate is in IRA or equivalent & rest is well under 1 million even with combined death benefits. We just don’t know & not sure we trust Oregon to play nice.

      • I’ve never seen Gov Kate Brown pass up on a really bad liberal idea. See: Net Neutrality. Yeah, NetFlix really needs to be subsidized by people who don’t download movies.

  29. I’ve long ago came up with plans if I ever won the lottery (only play when it’s over $400 million)-
    *Cash out immediately.
    *Put at least a hundred million dollars into a nice, secure, and stable trust fund, run by a large, reputable law firm. (I have a list that I update every time I get lottery tickets).
    *Half of what left is my “have fun” money. Within reason-I won’t get a house, I’ll get a condo. I won’t get a Ferrari Tessarosa, but I will get a nice car. That sort of thing.
    *What’s left is to help my friends. But never just giving them cash-one friend, I’ll pay their dental bills (has horrible teeth for Reasons and can’t afford to do anything other than emergency care), another I’ll help cover her physical therapist for a year.

    • Given your handle – I’m surprised about “won’t get a house” — would expect you to want a house with stables and paddock, and maybe a wooded area with trails! (or is your handle more about “-averse” than it is “equestria-“?)