Gus' road to retirement

Where are you and where are you going?
Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:14 pm

I'll start by saying I'm embarrassed about my financial situation, and I mean that sincerely, I'm sure many of you will be wondering why I haven't manned up, downsized, obliterated my expenses, and retired accordingly. So please don't poke too much fun.

I love to read early retirement blogs, and dream about financial independence, but ERE is where I feel I fit in the most philosophically, or at least admire the most philosophically. I feel like Jacob has truly nailed it, and I'd been searching for someone with a similar bent for a while before stumbling across the blog. Before that, reading Walden was my big aha moment, and it's still my favorite book of all time. I like to think in terms of trades, you can trade time, effort, money, etc for the things you want. The thing that struck me the most in Walden was when Thoreau compared the different amounts of effort different peoples put into acquiring a place to live. The natives spent 2 weeks to erect a long house, Thoreau spent a few months and roughly 1 years wages to build his cottage, meanwhile most people today (and back then) seem to think it's okay to spend 30+ years to achieve the same thing. I value plumbing, electricity, and environment controls enough that I think spending a couple years is a reasonable trade, but trading 30 years for a place to live is like trading a year of back breaking labor for an ice cream cone. It's a horrible trade and you could do it yourself in less time. This line of thinking applies very well to housing, you should be able to build a house that is better than ones that are mass produced with far less than 30 years of labor, so why on earth would anyone be excited about doing just that? This is not to say that I intend to build my own house, but that my efforts should be proportional. A person should live in a house that they can afford with a few years wages, that is a sensible compromise. Trading more than a few years of labor defeats the purpose of working for a living. You aren't spending much time living if all you do is work.

Recent History:
I'm a computer programmer. I was laid off in 2009, and as I had always wanted to start a business, I decided to start a small IT contracting firm because the job market was no good at the time. It has had it's ups and downs emotionally and physically (I started getting white hairs, gained 50 lbs, and for a brief period had high blood pressure), but financially it has exceeded my expectations. If I was single, I'd be retired now.

Fast forward 6 years and I have shed 30 lbs from my peak (stubbornly working on the last 20), still have white hairs but much less stressed, had a horrible business partner that ended in legal turmoil which is now finished, had an office and employees, got rid of office and employees because I didn't like the pressure of having to manage them and always be coming up with income to cover the overhead (> 15k/mo), am now a one man band again and very happy this way, got married, moved out of southern california because living expenses were ridiculous, and had a baby in 2015.

Finances:
Assets:
  • Bought a house for 210k and paid it off, supposedly it is worth 280k, but I only count it as an asset in that it means I pay $200/mo to live here in taxes and insurance, which means it's generating roughly 1000-1200 per month in savings versus something nearby that we would feel comfortable living in, more if I wanted to live in a place of equal size.
  • 4k - 1 2005 economy car I am contemplating selling when I become truly FI, right now it gets light use for business and a few errands, under 300 miles per month
  • 15k - 1 2012 subaru because I fear for my wife's safety in anything else when it's snowing (4 mos per year)
  • 90k in equity in a rental property, generating a 5.3% return after expenses
  • 40k in IRAs (vanguard 500 index)
  • 10k in taxable vanguard funds
  • 46k in cash accounts
Total:
435k (I am ignoring market price of the home, but counting the improvements in infrastructure and some small remodeling we did, the place was a repo and kind of a mess)

Liabilities:
  • 100k mortgage on rental property
Monthly Expenses (or the reason why I still work):
  • 200 - home ins/taxes
  • 400 - my food/gas/misc
  • 150 - baby food, clothes, diapers, etc
  • 60 - family cell phones
  • 100 - gas (mostly during winter heating, and something I want to optimize with more insulation)
  • 80 - electricity (also needs optimization)
  • 110 - water,sewage,etc - flat rate lowest tier from the city
  • 80 - business class internet, when I work less I'll scale back to a $40/mo plan
  • 55 - car ins
  • 700 - health insurance (thanks obamacare, it was 200/mo 4 years ago pre baby)
  • 2500 - nanny
  • 100 - misc
  • 50 - drs, baby has to go a lot
  • 200 - entertainment - movies/dining/museums/family day trips/etc
Total: 4785

Childcare is far and away our biggest expense, and one that I'm reducing. I work from home, and I really value having someone one on one with my daughter at my house. Baby didn't sleep well for a long time (up every 2-3 hours for the first 10 months, still reverts ocassionally), so we have someone who comes a few nights a week so that I can get a good nights sleep. It's a luxury, and also kind of a business expense, I can't think straight without a good nights sleep and my job is purely intellectual, I was literally running into things like doors and desks after we first had her, apparently my collision detection shuts off if I'm sleep deprived. Baby is now sleeping pretty well, so that's the first thing that goes. Lowering that cost to around 1300/mo. I am putting this into place this month, so if I can handle it then total expenses become $3485. When I quit working so much (ideally next year), I aim to reduce that to a baby sitter once or twice a week, reducing the child care costs to 360/mo, and my total expenses to $2645.

I exclude my wifes expenses because we set it up so that she contributes 60% of her take home pay to our joint account for expenses, and keeps the rest to spend however she wants provided that it covers her food and gas. She isn't a true believer of ERE yet, and may never be, and seems to find her identity in having a job and spending money. Her contributions roughly balance out to 0 if you factor in vacations we take and luxury items that she likes to purchase. I'm fine with this if she wants to keep working and those are the things she finds satisfaction in.

When I finally hit FI, I will cut further, I can easily shave off another few hundred and bring expenses down to around 2000/mo, when I have more time to cook and less dependent on eating on the go and expensive transportation.

Income:
Because I'm self employed my income is irregular, last year was a huge windfall, and I do not expect it to happen again. It coincided with having the baby and a huge increase in monthly expenses, as well as purchasing a rental property with 90k cash. I really hit my stride with savings in 2010, before then I was a spendthrift. Never going in debt, but never saving. Since then I have had roughly a 50% savings rate of after tax dollars, sometimes more, sometimes less.
2009 - 100k
2010 - 100k
2011 - 170k
2012 - 170k
2013 - 200k
2014 - 200k
2015 - 300k
2016 - 200k (projected, could vary wildly)
2017 - < 100k (planned)

FI Goals:
I plan to take a phased approach to retirement. In 2015 I eliminated most of my clients, and focused only on the big ones. Counter intuitively this increased my income by a lot because I was wasting far less time chasing small fish and only pulling in big ones, and every hour was paid instead of unpaid work marketing and looking for new projects. I was working waaay too much though and it was too stressful. I lost a big client at the beginning of this year, and I'm happy with my current workload. I plan to not look for any more clients and coast for a while. Eventually I expect that I'll lose my other big clients, and at that point I aim to work 1 big project a year for a few months and then stop once I hit a savings quota. I am aiming at 80k per year with this approach, assuming I can make 10k per month on a project (which I have been for the last 3 years), I should only need to work 8 mos a year or less and still be able to save around 50k per year.

After 4 years of this I should have 2000/mo in passive income from 2 fully paid off rental properties with a 5.5% return after expenses, and I intend to work even less, maybe a month or two a year. At that point I will consider myself FI, if I want to quit completely I can do some cutting in expenses.

I estimate that I am between 5 and 6 years away from being FI, depending on how things shake out. I wouldn't actually mind if it took me 10 or 20 more years if I only worked 3 months a year, that would be good enough for me.

I know I don't fit the mold for ERE, I am not nearly extreme enough :) MMM is probably a better match as far as financials go, but in my opinion he lacks the interesting philosophical aspects that Jacob has covered so well and that I wholeheartedly believe in. After reading the ERE book I've begun cutting my own hair (for some reason I always thought you needed an expert to do that) and looking more into bicycle maintenance. Once I have more free time, hopefully next year or the year after, I'll start gaining moderate expertise in many more areas, such as home repair and remodeling. Overall, the generalist approach and reducing reliance in "stores" and "experts" really speaks to me. I am in awe at how deeply advertising and my peers have instilled in me the idea that I can only do what I'm an expert at and nothing else, thus making me have to work the rest of my life because I rely on other experts to do everything else. It's kind of funny when you think about it, because computer programming, my expertise, is not something I even need in my daily life, so I'm an expert in something I don't use, while needing other experts to do everything that I'm helpless with such as food, shelter, electricity, etc.

I'll try to post my findings and overall progress every month or two. I think of myself as a fairly good cook, and I'm always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality, or at least not too much quality :) My haircut for example is good enough, I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I realized that most mens hair cuts do not require expertise at all.

User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 5653
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by jennypenny » Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:23 pm

Welcome! You sound like you fit in here just fine. MMM is good, but I think it's mostly about the money and anti-consumerism. ERE is broader than that. As a systems guy, it doesn't surprise me that ERE appeals to you on a philosophical level.

That childcare number is pretty big. I read what you said, but can you find another solution? Do you have the room to offer up free housing to someone in exchange for childcare duties? A local student maybe or a young relative?

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:14 pm

Thank you! I wasnt sure how I'd be received. I'm not a normal case, and I'm painfully aware of my waste.

I've weighed a lot of options for child care.
  • Au pair doesn't give enough hours, and I've read horror stories of care providers running out with no notice, you don't even get a refund.
  • Going rate for a local live in is 2500+
  • We tried a foreign live in, for 2200, two of them actually, but it got weird, things you take for granted like hygeine became a problem (ex: I kept finding baby poo all over my bathroom and sink, gross), or the other lady was sneaky, we'd take her grocery shopping and she'd throw a bunch of expensive stuff in the cart and poof she'd vanish at the checkout. I'm sure there are good ones, but we got burned and gave up.
  • We're hoping to have my MIL come for few months, we'll see. My mom has health issues.
The cheapest solution is daycare (~800/mo), but I had bad experiences when I was little with them, she'll end up there eventually but I want her to be able to talk first. She's thriving right now, ahead on all developmental marks, and a very happy little girl, so I feel like this is worth it. This month the costs should drop to $1300/mo, and then to $800/mo or $200/mo for daycare or Mr mom care with babysitter relief respectively, whichever comes first.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:12 pm

2016 Goals:
Save another 100,000
Lose the last 20 lbs I gained when I started my business. I'm 1 down this morning.

Investment musings:
I love real estate. I bought my first property at 18 or 19. It was a duplex near a college, and total failure as far as making money goes, but I learned a lot. The reason I like real estate more than stocks is that I have more control over the outcome.

The first property I bought right before the market crash, after a year or two all I wanted was to get out of it, I chose horrible tenants and the place kept falling apart, but it was underwater. So I learned a lot about home improvement, upgraded the place, and increased the value by around 20k, to the point that I was able to get out. This was a horrible investment, 0 down, PMI, etc. But what I still like about it was that a) I learned a lot about rentals, real estate, home improvement, etc and b) I was able to turn it around with creative thinking and effort.

The house we live in now I bought when the market was low and rented out for a while until we moved up here. Learned a lot there too. Never buy a house that is approaching the 20 year maintenance cycle (roof, ac, heater, plumbing fixtures, windows, etc all go out around 20 years) and hasn't had it completed, without at least a concession from the seller to pay for them. The tenants paid for a lot of maintenance, but I didn't get a good return. I've still got to do the roof and the windows, which I'm dreading. If I cut back on work I will try to do the windows myself, but so far work is steady and I'm sticking the left over money in the bank.

I bought a rental last year, as I noticed that property prices were going up again. I got a decent deal on it, but not amazing. The property is fantastic though, built in 2006, hoa handles the exterior, and it's in a great location. I've only put it on the market once and I got 10 applicants the first week with many more viewings. I also got a home warranty thrown in as a concession from the sellers, and I really like it as a hedge for rental repairs. It cuts into my profits ($30/mo), but it has already made up for that when the tenants complained the appliances and garage door opener weren't working right.

This year, I'm really hoping for a market crash. That's why I have so much cash on hand. I missed the amazingly low prices when everything was on sale in 2008, and I'm still grumpy about it. I don't think you can time the markets, but I want to keep enough cash on hand for the next crash that I can put a down payment on a great investment and snap it up when the prices are low. This is a conundrum. I don't like having cash that isn't earning a decent rate of return, but if the market crashes and I put it in some kind of paper assets, they will plummet too.

Thinking out loud, I think I will keep 60k on hand. Since my income is irregular and my clients can terminate me at the drop of a hat, having a buffer is essential to piece of mind. This gives me enough of a fund to have a buffer and a big enough amount of a down payment if the property markets do tumble. Anything in excess of that I plan to put towards paying off the rental. I am very open to suggestions, I often poll my friends before I do things, because it's easy to miss what may seem obvious to others.

My goal is to have two paid off rentals generating ~2000/mo, and a paid off place to live in. Once I'm there, I'm done working full time and I'll shut down most of my business. I may build up a little more savings just to pad the bank but I don't see why I would stay in full time business any longer than that.

After that, I do plan to work a month or two (max) a year, to keep my skills sharp and to work on interesting projects, and then reward myself with a fancy vacation afterwards. To me that seems like the ideal life balance. My time is very important to me, and my body is only going to be healthy for so long, both of which are the most precious things anyone has.

Miscellaneous:
I am a self taught college drop out, I learned to program (C) around 12 years of age because I thought it was fun and exciting, I started working professionally as a programmer at 15 for a local company. I find it depressing that working a regular job has made programming no fun for me anymore. I've had fantasies of flinging my laptop off a pier and walking to the nearest bar when I retire to celebrate. Recently I've started cutting back hours and focusing on non income generating computer stuff, and the fun of it is starting to come back for me. I am a strong believer in self education, and I'll probably post more on that later.

Also, since the meyers briggs thing is popular, I'm an INTJ "Architect" according to this site: https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality

George the original one
Posts: 4467
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:28 am
Location: Wettest corner of Orygun

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by George the original one » Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:24 pm

Your real estate plan is sensible because you're comfortable & experienced with real estate, but relying on only 2 rental units seems risky because if something happens to one, then your income is cut in half.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Fri Apr 08, 2016 10:41 pm

I nearly went with a 4plex last year, the return us roughly double where I live and the cost is only 50% more. But I figured with the baby on the way I didn't need to dive head first into managing a bigger property. You make a very good point though, I would like to spread the risk more.

Forskaren
Posts: 125
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:04 pm

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Forskaren » Sat Apr 09, 2016 2:26 am

"Total: 4785"
Was that your total expenses or just the part that you pay yourself? Does real estate take alot of time compared to for example investing in an index fund with low fees?

Your health costs and nanny costs seem high, but you seem to be earning alot. Here in Sweden healthcare is nearly free and childcare is cheap, but you pay higher taxes instead. If you make good money, your marginal tax is almost 70% in Sweden if you include payroll tax. It should also be noticed that here you get no additional benefits from the payroll tax over a certain income (no extra pension, no extra pay during sick leave or unemployment). As self employed there is also a sales tax on your services, so basically if you make an extra $400 from a client, the taxman will take $300. Also Sweden got the lowest spread in earned income in the world, so you would probably be paid less.

IlliniDave
Posts: 1902
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:46 pm

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Apr 09, 2016 4:43 am

You are certainly not alone here in letting a number of relatively high income years go by with inefficient behavior due to lack of focus. You can only start from where you are now, so there's no point worrying too much about the coulda-shouldas. I can't offer much besides general encouragement regarding a real estate-based plan.

Noedig
Posts: 178
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:15 pm

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Noedig » Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:19 pm

' letting a number of relatively high income years go by with inefficient behavior due to lack of focus' just about nails it for me. The best thing is to start, from now: and because you are here you know that already. Well done with the comprehensive statement of your situation now, and what you want to achieve in the medium term.

Good point about MMM vs Jacob : MMM is all hedonic muscular FI, Jacob is more the king of infinite space in a nutshell kind of chap - I had not really considered this before.

I am with you on deciding consciously not to be a mere consumer, liking fixing things, and being a sort of urban Waldenite. In the heart of London, that is a tad pretentious but then again, no it is exactly the right approach: in a city more than other places, forces are constantly at work to sell you stuff, but the opportunities for good interactions and experiences are also high.

Risk is part of real estate investment: it can be mitigated if you have done your homework, as you evidently know how to do. If the tax structure is favourable, it is the easiest way to FI. Many of us here are risk averse people. It has taken me a long time to both understand and feel, that risk can be managed and is strongly associated with reward. Like, doh!

Noedig
Posts: 178
Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:15 pm

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Noedig » Mon Apr 11, 2016 11:36 pm

' letting a number of relatively high income years go by with inefficient behavior due to lack of focus' just about nails it for me. The best thing is to start, from now: and because you are here you know that already. Well done with the comprehensive statement of your situation now, and what you want to achieve in the medium term.

Good point about MMM vs Jacob : MMM is all hedonic muscular FI, Jacob is more the king of infinite space in a nutshell kind of chap - I had not really considered this before.

I am with you on deciding consciously not to be a mere consumer, liking fixing things, and being a sort of urban Waldenite. In the heart of London, that is a tad pretentious but then again, no it is exactly the right approach: in a city more than other places, forces are constantly at work to sell you stuff, but the opportunities for good interactions and experiences are also high.

Risk is part of real estate investment: it can be mitigated if you have done your homework, as you evidently know how to do. If the tax structure is favourable, it is the easiest way to FI. Many of us here are risk averse people. It has taken me a long time to both understand and feel, that risk can be managed and is strongly associated with reward. Like, doh!

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:12 pm

Forskaren wrote:"Total: 4785"
Was that your total expenses or just the part that you pay yourself? Does real estate take alot of time compared to for example investing in an index fund with low fees?

Your health costs and nanny costs seem high, but you seem to be earning alot. Here in Sweden healthcare is nearly free and childcare is cheap, but you pay higher taxes instead. If you make good money, your marginal tax is almost 70% in Sweden if you include payroll tax. It should also be noticed that here you get no additional benefits from the payroll tax over a certain income (no extra pension, no extra pay during sick leave or unemployment). As self employed there is also a sales tax on your services, so basically if you make an extra $400 from a client, the taxman will take $300. Also Sweden got the lowest spread in earned income in the world, so you would probably be paid less.
That's what I'm paying, and excludes my wife's food, gas, and frivolous spending money. So far managing one to two properties has taken me a about an hour a month, or less, while it's occupied and maybe 10-20 hours while it was vacant and I needed to do repairs and market it.

The good news is I did manage to trim out the night time nanny spending (after a few painfully sleepless nights she is now sleeping pretty well all the way through, but every night is different), which takes me down to 3485, and when I get my daughter in daycare it will go to 2985, which will happen within a year.

After the government takeover of insurance, my rates went up by 150% (even after decreasing coverage), then we had a baby with hearing loss which pushed it even higher as the only way to get the best doctors covered is with the more expensive plan. The only way I'll be able to drive that cost down is by lowering income and taking subsidies, which I plan to do because right now I'm basically funding them for other people.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:14 pm

IlliniDave wrote:You are certainly not alone here in letting a number of relatively high income years go by with inefficient behavior due to lack of focus. You can only start from where you are now, so there's no point worrying too much about the coulda-shouldas. I can't offer much besides general encouragement regarding a real estate-based plan.
Yeah it's pretty silly to count dollars you've already spent. I'm more embarrassed that I'm not retired already, but life happens, and I'm getting there slowly. If I were single on the other hand, I'd already be done, but I'm happy with family even if they are an expensive addition.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:22 pm

Noedig wrote:' letting a number of relatively high income years go by with inefficient behavior due to lack of focus' just about nails it for me. The best thing is to start, from now: and because you are here you know that already. Well done with the comprehensive statement of your situation now, and what you want to achieve in the medium term.

Good point about MMM vs Jacob : MMM is all hedonic muscular FI, Jacob is more the king of infinite space in a nutshell kind of chap - I had not really considered this before.

I am with you on deciding consciously not to be a mere consumer, liking fixing things, and being a sort of urban Waldenite. In the heart of London, that is a tad pretentious but then again, no it is exactly the right approach: in a city more than other places, forces are constantly at work to sell you stuff, but the opportunities for good interactions and experiences are also high.

Risk is part of real estate investment: it can be mitigated if you have done your homework, as you evidently know how to do. If the tax structure is favourable, it is the easiest way to FI. Many of us here are risk averse people. It has taken me a long time to both understand and feel, that risk can be managed and is strongly associated with reward. Like, doh!
I think the philosophical part is the most important part. I sometimes wonder if having a couple million dollars and lots of toys would actually be a negative impact on my life. I see what it does to other people and I'm not sure humans are fit for that kind of existence. I think a modest life, that doesn't distract you, is probably the more fulfilling route in the end, and that even though it's counter intuitive, some deprivation will actually increase your satisfaction.

I should read more on real estate investments and risk mitigation. I've been playing it very conservatively. I could make more money if I wanted to do messier projects, but I have been focusing on easy properties to manage. I do lots of preventative maintenance, make sure things are fixed quick, and I reject around 95% of applicants and wait until I find one I think will be risk free. Basically the opposite of my first try when I was younger. So far it has worked for me.

In the future I'll probably be more ambitious and try something harder, such as a multifamily unit. But my number one rule is would I want to live in it with my family? That rules out a lot of properties based on bad neighbors, rundown properties, areas where I'd be worried about my kid being run over by stupid teenagers, etc. If I can find a 4plex that fits that and I've seen a couple that are nice enough, then I may get one. Again, this is not the most profitable approach, but it's the one I like because it's very little hassle, and I attract people like myself to the properties.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Sun Apr 17, 2016 6:11 pm

Self education:
I have a bad habit of buying used books (that I can't find at a library) and getting a chapter or two deep before becoming interested in another topic and abandoning it. This has bothered me for years, and I now have a 5 year backlog of books on my bookshelves. To remedy this, last year I decided to write up a schedule and develop some discipline to get through it, and not allow myself to buy any more books until I've finished, just add them to a wishlist. I've also decided to throw in the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree course material in to the mix. I didn't want to set myself up for failure, so I've broken it down to 2 books per 3 month period. It's been very rewarding so far and I'm really enjoying it.

I think it's a very under discussed topic these days that you can get the course material including homework exercises, exams, lectures, and answers from a university like MIT for free online. It's absolutely amazing that this is available to anyone with an internet connection. I'd like to imagine someone without a lot of opportunities educating themselves and changing the trajectory of their lives, but I imagine instead they're probably sending pictures of cats to each other. In an ideal world everyone would be using these resources to better themselves. I don't think I'll receive quite the same level of education as I would if I were going to school full time, but I'm happy enough knowing that I can complete the homework and exams on my own without cheating and scoring around 80%. In addition, unlike at a regular school, I can read further when something interests me rather than speed reading as quickly as possible and only covering the questions on the exams.

In the same vein, I also picked up the book "The Well Educated Mind," and once I'm done with the heavier engineering titles I plan to start knocking out a classical literature curriculum. The author also has books for teaching your own children world history and the classics, which I love and plan to implement as well.

Anyways, I'm 6 mos in, I've worked my way through Assembly Language, MIT computer architecture, and the books Forgotten Algebra and Forgotten Calculus in preparation for starting on the MIT Calc 1 course this month. If anyone wants to tag along I think it would be fun, I'm just starting the beginning of the EECS-2 studies as well as working through the book Linux Bible to hone my linux skills.
Last edited by Augustus on Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Dragline
Posts: 4450
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Dragline » Sun Apr 17, 2016 6:33 pm

You're giving me bad memories of struggling with this stuff at Caltech.

If you want a quick and entertaining romp through lots of classical and modern literature, I'd highly recommend the "Thug Notes" series on YouTube, where you can learn about everything from MacBeth to the Hunger Games in a "what does it say" and then "how has it been interpreted" format. It's like a combination of Ice Cube and Alistair Cooke. Direct link: http://www.wisecrack.co/thug-notes/

For another useful and interesting summary of many Western classics, you might read this: http://www.amazon.com/Self-Soul-A-Defen ... -1-catcorr

It was very good for the raw content, even if I didn't always agree with the conclusions.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:17 am

Dragline wrote:You're giving me bad memories of struggling with this stuff at Caltech.

If you want a quick and entertaining romp through lots of classical and modern literature, I'd highly recommend the "Thug Notes" series on YouTube, where you can learn about everything from MacBeth to the Hunger Games in a "what does it say" and then "how has it been interpreted" format. It's like a combination of Ice Cube and Alistair Cooke. Direct link: http://www.wisecrack.co/thug-notes/

For another useful and interesting summary of many Western classics, you might read this: http://www.amazon.com/Self-Soul-A-Defen ... -1-catcorr

It was very good for the raw content, even if I didn't always agree with the conclusions.
They'll go on my wishlist, I'll let you know in 5 years :) They look good though.

User avatar
theanimal
Posts: 1069
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:05 pm
Location: Gates of the Arctic
Contact:

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by theanimal » Tue Apr 19, 2016 10:50 pm

I just began the reading list for students at St. John's College (as mentioned at the end in Investing:The Last Liberal Art). It's a fairly comprehensive romp through the classics ideally giving their students a multidisciplinary view.

I'd like to join you. I probably won't start until early winter (late Sept.). How'd you decide upon the books in your last paragraph? I was looking through the pages for the EE and CS online courses and only saw online notes and other materials.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Wed Apr 20, 2016 10:55 am

theanimal wrote:I just began the reading list for students at St. John's College (as mentioned at the end in Investing:The Last Liberal Art). It's a fairly comprehensive romp through the classics ideally giving their students a multidisciplinary view.

I'd like to join you. I probably won't start until early winter (late Sept.). How'd you decide upon the books in your last paragraph? I was looking through the pages for the EE and CS online courses and only saw online notes and other materials.
My general plan is to tackle two "heavy" books per 3 month period. By heavy I mean something thick and of a technical nature (your economics books fit that bill), that takes sustained reading and discipline to complete. I have a backlog of these, and I figure it will take me 5 years to complete while working in the MIT EECS courses. The MIT EECS 6-2 roadmap is here: http://www.eecs.mit.edu/docs/ug/6-2.pdf and the course information can be found on their open courseware (OCW) site, such as: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/ ... fall-2005/ OCW gives you a list of books used, the exercises, and the exams.

Since I want to finish off my own library, and work in the MIT courses, I'll be doing one of each every 3 mos, hence the apparently random mix. I had also tried to take an MIT physics course a few years ago and failed miserably, at that time I had recently completed calc 1 and 2 in college and figured I would be ready, but their course (it was the advanced/honors version) was waaaay ahead of anything I had learned. This time I wanted to be prepared, so I chose to do the Forgotten Algebra and Forgotten Calculus books before starting in on the bottom rungs of the EECS list, Calc 1, Calc 2, Phys 1, and Phys 2. I'll probably take the standard physics courses this time, though I wish I could find the book I was using a few years ago, it's from the 60s and I've noticed that college math/physics books back them were in some ways much more rigorous.

I definitely recommend the forgotten algebra and forgotten calculus books if you're rusty, they are fast paced refreshers with lots of drills and explanations to get back in the hang of things.

My reading schedule so far is:
Q4 2015: Assembly Language Step by Step, and Forgotten Algebra
Q1 2016: Computer Architecture by Hennessey & Patterson, and Forgotten Calculus
Computer architecture is something I had wanted to read for a while anyways, and it just happens to be the text for MIT course 6.823, it is INTENSE in that it has a huge breadth and depth of coverage.
Q2 2016: MIT Calc 1 18.01, and The Linux Bible
Q3 2016: Linkers and Loaders, and MIT Calc 2 18.02
Q4 2016: MIT Phys 1 8.02, and Hacking: The Art of Exploitation

You might see a pattern in the computer books, I have had an interest in computer security since I was a teenager, and I have managed to learn a few things here and there, but I'd like to hone that knowledge by developing a much deeper understanding of computers and programming. Starting with assembly language, then comp arch, then linkers and loaders to give me a solid foundation, and moving into Hacking: The Art of Exploitation once I have something to stand on. In 2017 I'll probably round out the security knowledge with a couple other books in similar veins, especially Wireless Hacking Exposed, which I find fascinating, then start working down the list of other books I have on my shelves.

Oh and before I forget, I LOVE your journal! Keep up the good work. I've caught myself thinking of what it would be like under the aurora before falling asleep a few times this week.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Wed Apr 20, 2016 11:11 am

Oh and one other thing, coursera occasionally offers MIT courses, they have Calc 1 18.01 on there, which I like since it's more interactive and you get to see actual lectures. https://courses.edx.org/courses/MITx/18 ... T2015/info That's the version I'm working through this quarter, A B and C are all calc 1 so I'm trying to get through all of them by june.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Fri Apr 22, 2016 11:26 am

The need for praise:
This is going to be a tricky post to write. Stray a little in one direction and I'll be perceived as a pompous windbag, a little in another direction and I'll probably sound like an angsty teenager, too far in yet another direction and I'll probably sound like someone who is still pining over perceived slights from my childhood. Too some extent I probably do have all those traits, but the dominant parts of my personality have tamped those down as much as possible.

It's also probably a good idea to clarify my intentions here. I'm trying to offer a different point of view, not to attack anyone or belittle them. If you feel attacked, please don't. Seriously, that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm also not trying to say everyone is doing this, some are some aren't.

Okay, here goes: Since starting this journal, I have been reading lots of other journals, very curious to see how others are progressing. One thing I have noticed in a lot of them is that people seem to have a need for praise, or acceptance, or some other kind of affection, and that they attempt to get it in ways that I think are a) unhealthy and b) foolish. I'll start with the one I dislike the most: deriving personal worth, value, and satisfaction from a job, and ESPECIALLY from what a boss, coworkers, or clients think about you. This is just downright dangerous and masochistic in my opinion. I don't think I have ever done that, or even considered it, and I have a hard time comprehending it.

Here is my reasoning. One of the big aha moments of my life was properly understanding other people in relation to myself. I believe that you can classify most people in this respect with a few simple categories.
  • They don't know you exist. There are billions of people, almost all of them are in this category.
  • They know you exist but don't care about you. I tend to evaluate this by how I think a person would act upon hearing of my untimely demise. For nearly everyone that I have ever been acquainted with, the reaction would probably be along the lines of "Oh that's too bad," and would probably be the last thought they ever had of me. If you think less then 99% of the people you have known do not fit this category, you are either extremely popular and well loved, or you're kidding yourself.
  • They care about you. Again posing the above question, they would grieve for weeks or years if you died. I think there are about 10 people out of the thousands I have been acquainted with who truly fit in this category. Others might be sad or at least pay their respects at my funeral, but that's about it.
In my mind this is a fact of life. Wishing it weren't so is a waste of your time and energy. Wasting time and energy is stupid. So, yearning for the care and admiration of people who fit in categories 1 and 2 is a waste of time and energy, and is therefore stupid. You should know better and not do it. Applying this to the work place, nearly everyone there fits in category 1 and 2. Therefore you should never ever try to derive self worth from those people. At best you will be delusional, at worst you will be manipulated.

These ideas are pretty much the foundation and bedrock of my interpersonal relationship skills. When I was younger and I did not have that understanding I suffered a lot at my own hands because I was constantly yearning for care from the wrong places. I have pretty much always felt like an outsider, at first this made me feel uncomfortable, now I honestly revel in it, I feel great.

Another fundamental idea I had to learn the hard way is that some people don't mix. There are not many people I feel an instant understanding with, where you just get each other because you're cut from the same cloth. I've met maybe 10 of them in my life. When I was younger I would try to befriend all kinds of people. It usually ended up with me never fitting in, always trying to mimic them, and still not fitting in. I was lucky enough that most people are tolerant if you put on a smile and are friendly. Some people just wont like you, and will never like you. Got burned a few times that way. Again, just a fact of nature. Other people are just plain assholes and treat everyone like shit, spouses, children, parents, etc. It's important to realize that there usually isn't a reason, or something that can be fixed, in these situations. People are different.

And yet another big learning period for me was entering the world of business. I developed a lot in that time. What I came to realize is that most adults behave according to the same principles as 5 year olds on a play ground. The bullies try to bully, nice people are nice, self centered people only care about themselves, and most people are barely aware of you. The idea that adults behave like adults is generally untrue. Often they are just more sophisticated. They're not going to punch you and steal your toys, and they're not going to throw a tantrum (most of them anyways), but that's just because they've learned socially acceptable ways of doing the same thing. Entering in to negotiations, setting up contracts, dealing with conflicts, rreaaallly exposes these things in people.

The attitude I have adopted after dealing with so many peoples shit in business (and trust me, there is a loooot of shit to deal with that you are shielded from in a w2 position) is that I will be nice to the nice people, and I don't give two shits about the people who are not nice. I will still be professional with them, because that is a part of my personal ethos, similar to the idea that you should be the change you want to see in the world. If you want to make the world a better place, don't be an jerk. So I never engage in those types of things, but I very clearly draw the line between who I care about and who I need to treat like a screaming toddler who is throwing a temper tantrum. In my opinion this is how everyone should view work. If your boss or your coworkers are acting in a manner unbecoming of a rational human being, don't get wrapped up in their pathology.

Also, it is critical to very clearly iterate what you owe a job/boss/client at the beginning, do not get all mousy and expect other people to have the same understanding as you do, this is quite frankly unprofessional. A professional person will establish what is owed and make it very clear that anything not explicitly agreed to is NOT owed. This is very important for two reasons, one is that some people have totally different belief systems and will think you owe them more than you think you do, thus it is critical to be up front and establish a clear understanding between both parties. Two, people who clearly establish boundaries get more respect, it is a sad truth that many people will try to take advantage of you (these are the people who fit in category 2 above), usually this can be mitigated by setting explicit boundaries, but sometimes people are just jerks and will do it anyways, by eliminating misunderstandings from the equation it is easy to see who is who and to fire them or penalize them appropriately. For example since starting my business career I have double and triple time rates, double for anything requested outside of normal business hours, and triple for holiday emergencies. You would be astounded at how quickly people reverse their positions and things become not urgent when this is established.

You only owe a few things to a job in my mind: 1) Good dependable work 2) A professional attitude 3) Notice before quitting 4) The contracted number of hours. You don't owe anything else. Just as importantly your job DOES NOT OWE YOU ANYTHING ELSE either. Don't expect accolades, awards, appreciation, loyalty, etc. Find that in other areas of your life that actually make sense. Getting a job is a business transaction. Business transactions in my opinion are mutually exclusive from friendship. Both parties can and should be professional, courteous, and kind but from personal experience as an employee and as a boss I firmly believe that they cannot be true friends. Friendship requires special allowances for each others idiosyncrasies, and understanding in the event that someone messes up. Business requires you to fulfill your contracted obligations or face the consequences, from getting fired all the way through to bankruptcy and jail time in the event of negligence, all of which specifically excludes understanding and special allowances, making it mutually exclusive to friendship or at least a very inhospitable place for it. I say this because I did business with a couple of friends, and had to either fire them, let them go, or the friendship ended because you simply can't let your hair down with your boss and social situations become awkward after that. After learning those lessons I never do business with friends. Friends let things slide, bosses can't do that, because then the bosses will face the consequences of not performing on their contracted obligations to their clients.

Anyways, I've gone on long enough.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Mon May 02, 2016 12:26 pm

April Recap:
A mostly aggravating month.

I did meet my goal of cutting out the night time nanny support, baby is sleeping through the nights most nights in her own room. It varies though, sometimes she scares herself and I've got to wake up and comfort her a couple times a night. This usually leaves me a zombie the next day. So I cut back $1200 in spending there. Also finished off a few smaller projects, giving me a little extra income.

Seeking to balance out the savings with spending, nature gifted me with a nasty infection in my lower back that needed to be lanced and cost me a visit to the ER. I'm scheduled for surgery this month to remove what is likely an ingrown hair. Extremely painful, and will probably more than offset my childcare savings and extra project income when it's all done.

Overall, everything balanced out though, so I was able to save about $9k this month.

Assets:
280k primary house market value, less transaction costs if I sold it
4k - economy car
15k - subaru
90k in equity in a rental property
42k in IRAs (vanguard 500 index)
10k in taxable vanguard funds
60k in cash accounts (i miscounted this last time)
Total:
501k (following suit with the rest of the forum, I am now counting current home valuation minus transaction costs if I sold, I also counted too low on some of my cash accounts last time)

Liabilities:
100k mortgage on rental property

No complaints here. Still intending to keep 60k cash on hand (which I reached this month, yay!) and then pay off the rental property mortgage with the rest. I should be able to pay about 70k of that off this year, and finish it off next year, if, and this is a big if in consulting, I don't lose any income. So the rosy scenario is that I pay off the rental property early next year, the less rosy scenario is that I pay it off late next year after having to scrounge up another client.

I keep flip flopping on what to do after I pay off the rental property. Do I continue to work full time and hammer out a second rental in ~2 years? Or do I cut back to 6 mos a year and take 4 years? I generally feel that it's foolish to turn away cash if it's already coming in, at least until I'm FI, after FI there's no point to it. I have a feeling I will let my clients decide for me. If I lose one, I just wont look for another and will slow down. If I lose them all, I think I will take a break and then go looking again the year after.

I still feel like the markets are overvalued, and would love to see a crash. When that happens I fully intend to snap up another rental property, I just don't know if this is 1 year, 2 years away, or more.

Base Monthly Expenses (not including emergencies):
200 - home ins/taxes
320 - my food/gas/misc, I plan to shave off 20 per week this month
150 - baby food, clothes, diapers, etc
60 - family cell phones
100 - gas (mostly during winter heating, and something I want to optimize with more insulation)
80 - electricity (also needs optimization)
110 - water,sewage,etc - flat rate lowest tier from the city
80 - business class internet, when I work less I'll scale back to a $40/mo plan
55 - car ins
700 - health insurance (thanks obamacare, it was 200/mo 4 years ago pre baby)
1300 - nanny
100 - misc
50 - drs, baby has to go a lot
200 - entertainment - movies/dining/museums/family day trips/etc
Total: 3505

1280 lower than last month, but obviously still too high. When I quit working in 3-5 years, I'll cut childcare to $200 a month for weekend babysitters so that my wife and I can go out, or maybe we'll move closer to relatives and get that for free. My daughter's hearing loss is still unexplained, so I plan to keep the better (more expensive) health care coverage until we have either exhausted all options for figuring out what it is, or we've found some solutions. In a year or two I can probably switch to a cheaper $500/mo plan. After both of those changes I'll be at about 2205/mo, and when I quit I'll try to trim off another 200. These changes are at least 3 years away, and very likely 5 years away, but the math works out and I'll be pretty much FI, though I still plan to work 1-2 mos a year on projects of my choosing and take bitchin vacations and cover any unexpected expenses. I think keeping my skills sharp is a good idea, you never really know what will happen in the future and having options is very valuable.

Health:
I gained 2 lbs this month because I was unable to exercise for 2 weeks after the infection. I gained more than that, but I've been cutting back my calories and I'm able to walk again now, so 2 lbs are all that's left. It does put me back with my goals though. I would like to lose 5 lbs every 2 months until I reach 200 lbs. I'm 6'1" and 221 lbs right now. 200 lbs would be pretty skinny for me, I come from a large bodied farming stock. I was planning to reach 215 by today, and I don't think I can do that by June, but I will try. That would put me at 200 lbs by December.

Health is the foundation of wealth in my opinion, because if you don't have it you don't have anything else. When I started my business I let things get out of hand, ate too much, worked too much, stressed too much, developed prehypertension, and soared to 250 lbs. To counter this I signed up for a bootcamp type workout a few years ago, all calisthenics with light weights. After learning the exercises and format I started doing it at home instead of paying for it. I've been pretty good about sticking to that program 3-4 days a week and my blood pressure is about perfect again. I also bought a treadmill desk which I absolutely recommend for people who do computer work like I do. It was pricey (1500) but I burn about 600-800 calories a day while working now. I picked up the idea from Neal Stephenson's essay "Arsebestos," great read: https://bi.hcpdts.com/reflowable/scroll ... 0062133618

Along these lines I also improved my diet a lot. I had a hipster employee who brought in a green smoothie every day, at first I was repulsed, a spinach smoothie?! Then I was curious, so I gave it a try. Now I'm hooked, this is my usual breakfast in the morning, it makes me feel so refreshed and energetic. I even got a nutribullet blender (I justify this because it saves me time and does a better job than a regular blender, and I use it 7 days a week 1-2 times a day). These are my go to recipes:

Base:
1-2 cups spinach, kale, swiss chard
1 banana (riper the better)
half cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp chia seeds or flax seeds

Tropical Version:
half cup Frozen costco tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, strawberry)
1 cup vanilla almond milk

Berry Version:
1 cup frozen mixed berries (also from costco)

fill with water to top of ingredients. put seeds closest to the blades.

If it sounds gross, try the berry one with a cup of apple juice, it makes it taste like apple sauce. It might be the placebo effect, but I get a huge boost of energy and mental acuity if I have this for breakfast. Other meals don't help as much, something about having it first thing makes it the most effective.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Thu May 12, 2016 11:38 am

I turned 31 this week. I've gotten more focused on health every year since my late 20s. I try to make sure I can handle the same or better workouts than I did on my previous birthday, and that gives me a lot more satisfaction than going out and drinking or having a party, those have pretty much gone away. An author I used to read said he would run one quarter mile lap for every year of his life on his birthday, I think that's an interesting idea. I doubt I'll be able to do 500 pushups on my 50th birthday or anything, but I may experiment with something along those lines. Maybe more reps than usual or something. These days I like to enjoy the simple things to celebrate, favorite meals, treats, etc. I even splurge for a 5 dollar coffee which is usually antithetical to my philosophy.

I'm also a big fan of mindfulness. Every year one of my recurring resolutions is to meditate more and write more. Mindfulness is hard to pin down a description for. There are lots of, in my opinion, frauds related to the practice. The ideas I like best about it are related to the idea that when you are a child things seem boundless and unlimited, you're not full of a bunch of metaphorical junk in the attic type thoughts as you are when you're older. The older you get, it's almost as if you're looking through a window that has a bunch of gunk on it and makes things unclear. Often when you see people or things, you are seeing your past experiences with them, and not what is actually in front of you. This is limiting and inaccurate. Clearing those thoughts and preconceptions out and experiencing what you're seeing right now without them is immensely liberating and satisfying. All the thoughts that can weigh you down are gone for a little while, it feels as if a huge burden is lifted off your shoulders. It's also tricky to do, because we naturally accumulate all of these thoughts, they help us survive, but I think they are also the main source of our unhappiness. A book I really enjoy on the subject that isn't religious or spiritual is "Wherever you go, there you are." It explains things much better than I do.

Financially I'm just ticking off the days until I'm retired. I have been doing this for years now. It seems like I'm waiting out a prison sentence, though in a much nicer prison than usual. I really don't understand how anyone could be happy working for most of their lives. I've been working professionally with computers since I was 15, so 16 years now. This means I've been working, doing variations of the same thing, 5 days a week or more, for more than half of my life.

These days I work less, earning more money has no appeal to me, this baffles friends and family. After a certain point earning more income does not improve your day to day life, and if you have to add more time for working and more stress, it only has a negative impact. I'm always somewhat depressed when a happy client wants to give me more work. I've become an expert at spotting red flags in new clients, things that signify cheapskates, hagglers, hasslers, etc. Most new work I turn down these days. I'd rather be able to quit early around 2 or 3 pm and exercise and read a book instead.

My wife has a friend who is very proud of herself, she is now a director of something or other at a hospital. She wakes up at 5 am to drop her teenage son off at school at 6 am, heads to work, and comes home at 8 or 9 pm. She is proud of this. She says she is doing it to give her family a better way of life. She complains that she missed her sons early years, and so she is trying to make up for that by giving him more now. She just bought a 680,000 dollar house. I ventured a guess that she must have zero energy and lay down all day on the weekends, which my wife confirmed, she literally lays on a couch all weekend. My wife thinks she is somewhat inspirational. I listen to her story like it is a horror story. My parents worked a lot when I was living with them, my dad did very similar hours to this lady, I wonder if her son feels the same way that I did, swearing adamantly that I'd never live that way.

User avatar
Dragline
Posts: 4450
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:50 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Dragline » Thu May 12, 2016 12:12 pm

You might like "The Mindful Geek": https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Geek-Min ... B0155FWYBW

It takes a lot of the woo out of various meditation practices, explains why/how they work and provides practical choices and guidance.

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Thu May 12, 2016 4:22 pm

Nice find! You're adding a lot to my list :)

Augustus
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:15 am

Re: Gus' road to retirement

Post by Augustus » Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:05 pm

Finances
Assets:
280k primary house market value, less transaction costs if I sold it
4k - economy car
15k - subaru
90k in equity in a rental property
42k in IRAs (vanguard 500 index)
10k in taxable vanguard funds
70k in cash accounts
Total:
511k (following suit with the rest of the forum, I am now counting current home valuation minus transaction costs if I sold)

Liabilities:
100k mortgage on rental property

Base Monthly Expenses (not including emergencies):
200 - home ins/taxes
320 - my food/gas/misc
150 - baby food, clothes, diapers, etc
60 - family cell phones
40 - gas (something I want to optimize with more insulation)
80 - electricity (also needs optimization)
110 - water,sewage,etc - flat rate lowest tier from the city
80 - business class internet, when I work less I'll scale back to a $40/mo plan
55 - car ins
700 - health insurance (thanks obamacare, it was 200/mo 4 years ago pre baby)
1300 - nanny
100 - misc
50 - drs, baby has to go a lot
200 - entertainment - movies/dining/museums/family day trips/etc
Total: 3445

I cut out 20/wk and the weather changed lowering gas usage. It's going to get hot soon, so electricity will probably rise. My advice is never ever buy a split level house. They are extremely inefficient all year round. My ideal house would be a townhome or rambler with a basement. Love my basement, it's always much more comfortable than any other room, as long as you seal it to keep the bugs out.

I managed to hit my savings goal through some extra income, despite the extra outlays for surgery. My weight is 4 lbs higher than a few months ago, due to not being able to exercise after the surgery. Aggravating, but not horrible.

Money wise things are fairly constant.

Food:
Last week I set up an indoor container herb garden. This is my second attempt, the first attempt I somehow got a fungus gnat infestation. So I put everything outside and let the gnats die off indoors. Tenacious little things though, they immediately infested again somehow after I filled the containers with newly purchased soil. I had previously tried sprays to kill them but they did nothing and I don't like using pesticides on things I want to cook with. This time I poured boiling water over all the soil before planting, worked like a charm. Everything is sprouting now and no more gnats.

The gardening is prep work for cooking. I used to cook a few times a week, now I always feel like a don't have enough time, and what little time I do have I usually want to relax and unwind with. Young children take a lot of time, who knew? Right now I have snacks like chips, fruits, vegetables, or sandwiches for lunch. But I am getting very bored of this.

I would like to start cooking again but I have a few issues I want to overcome. One, I like cooking really good food, I'm a huge fan of cooks illustrated magazine, but the recipes take a lot of time and often expensive ingredients. Two, I want to cook healthy, but I want it to taste as good as the hearty stuff I used to cook. Three, I need to somehow sneak it in to my already overfull days. Four, I have started a "diet" of my own devising wherein I drink a green smoothie for breakfast and dinner, and have a larger, heartier lunch. Five, I want my meals to be fresh. Six, I don't take long lunch breaks, in fact I rarely take them at all.

My goal this month will be to hit all those marks: healthy, delicious, easy, timely, quick, and fresh. It limits my options a lot. So I found a few slow cooker books from the Americas test kitchen people, they always have great recipes. I will probably also pick up one of their quick meals books. I would like to start a dish off in the morning while I make my coffee, and come back a few hours later to have the finished result. Or, to be able to whip something together in 15 min or less, maybe doing a few minutes of prep work the night before. Big maybe there though. I see a lot of chicken, stir frys, and soups in my future. Due the the emphasis on beans and lentils on these forums, I have decided to give them a go as well. However, like I said, I am a fan of really delicious food, so I'm not sure that's going to work for me.

Summer Vacations:
Earlier this month I was sitting in a hospital bed getting prepped and reading a scifi novel. I love scifi novels. It occurred to me that this is what I used to do in my early teens during summer vacations, that and watch twilight zone marathons. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't had a vacation longer than two weeks in 17 years. That astounded me. I started working when I was 14 doing the usual burger flipping jobs, then at 15 I got my first programming job as part of an internship program at my high school, they hired me 3 weeks later to get more hours. I very much disliked high school, so I worked out a deal with my school where I took some independent study courses from a nearby college in lieu of going to class, so I was able to start going to school 8-12, and then 12-5 work, and full time during the summers. At 17 I went full time independent study and full time work. I also moved out of my parents house, which is apparently legal with parental consent, I had done most of the prep work to be emancipated and when I convinced my parents to go in with me to file the papers, that's what they told us, go figure. I was a funny kid.

I actually had dreams of retiring way back at age 14, I read standard consumer investment books (the power of compounding interest, and using other peoples money [OPM] to make a real estate fortune, etc), and I think I had a target date of 30 to retire. Obviously the standard consumer methods don't work for most people, and they didn't work for me either.

Anyways, 17 years of no vacations longer than 2 weeks. That's amazing to me. I feel like I've lost myself. I think it takes down time, unbounded time, to be in touch with who you really are. I remember days stretching out and being filled with possibility. That is not the case these days, and when I'm really busy weeks and months feel like days used to feel. I'm sure part of this is just natural aging, but my suspicion is that most of it is because I don't have time to be myself, with no outside pressures causing me to react all the time and take away the initiative. Most of the time I am not a conscious, mindful being. Most of the time I am more an assembly line. I set the objectives up, block out time for them, and knock them out as quickly as I can. Over, and over, and over.

It's just downright weird in my opinion, for people to live like this. I think that it is a sign of the times. The times, I think, are sloppy, wasteful, unplanned, reactionary, and more than a little pathetic. Or maybe just a sign of humanity in general, over all time periods. My reasoning is that no one in their right minds would say hey, 2 weeks of time for myself each year, for the next 50 years, eureka! that's it! This way of life obviously came about due to absolutely no foresight or long term planning. I can attest to that personally, because looking back, I did not plan it out either. If I had, I would have saved up a few months expenses and taken 3-6 mos off every time I switched jobs, which occurred every couple of years.

My point is, I miss summer vacations, I feel like I have both been cheated and have cheated myself out of them. I think that it is weird that this has never come about in any culture that I know of. I am aware that some countries give you a month off by law, which is a step in the right direction, but still inadequate in my opinion. In my dream society, you and your close friends all have 2 consecutive months off at the same time, imagine that. Unfortunately, most lives seem like half assed, haphazard, jumbled affairs. It's astounding to me that so much effort has been put in to science, art, literature, technology, etc. But no culture that I'm aware of has ever developed what, in my mind, is a reasonable way of living. Very odd.

Post Reply