Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Checkbook Experiment Day 2

Yesterday I virtually purchased an iPad for my wife. It should feign to arrive in 7-10 days. I think tomorrow I will purchase one for the boy, and maybe for myself. What to purchase today?

Today is the second day. Adding another two thousand dollars brings the current balance to $2004.00. I know I'll be purchasing a lot of electronics in these early days. Just to keep things interesting, how about something else?

Aha! My wife has been wanting a replacement sewing machine for a long time now. With this sort of buying power, she will never need sew again unless she simply wants to, so maybe this Singer will be something she will enjoy using for all those projects she has wanted to accomplish.

The Singer sewing machine costs $1995.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling from Amazon. Subtracted from the previous balance of $2004 leaves a balance forward of $4.05.

These first days I am certain are the easiest, yet I am already feeling the challenge of getting it all spent.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Great Checkbook Experiment

I am attempting an experiment, beginning today.

I am going to load up a virtual checkbook with $1,000 and spend it. Then I am going to add another thousand for each day of the experiment. Thus, two thousand dollars on day two to spend, three thousand on day three and so forth.

I have no idea how this will go, as I cannot now imagine spending $365,000 in some useful, productive, happy way. I found this idea through Abraham, with the recommendation that it only be done while it is still fun.

My only goals are to have lots of fun and learn what I may from such a thought experiment. If I can grow just a bit from examining how I would and wouldn't spend such monies, then I will consider the experiment a success.

I have been thinking about how to spend money for many years now. I am sure I am not alone. I am quite curious to see where this process takes me. I mean, really, we all want to donate vast sums to charity and save the world, right? Or do we?

I will approach this from the perspective of doing what feels right and good. If that includes a specific charitable donation, so be it. I am setting some ground rules, however. It seems like donations could easily be used as cop-out: Spend $28,000 on day 120 and donate the remaining $92,000 to a charity. Great. Now I have warm fuzzy feelings about all the "good" I just did, but I am really not playing the game. So, the basic rule is something like this: All purchases are to be as specific as possible. If it feels like an avoidance of actually playing the game, I will not do it.

I will not concern myself with charities and filler spending. If it feels good, I will do it.

Now, what do spend the first thousand dollars on? I know just the thing. My wife really wants an iPad. As configured, I am spending $996.00 this first day.

Balance forward: $4.00

Thus it begins.

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Friday, June 22, 2007


Let me start by being perfectly clear: I did not want a MySpace Page. At all. Ever.

Is it enough to say that I now have one? Would it be enough to stop myself after imparting how the love of my life decided I needed one? Nah.

MySpace pages break most of the rules of good page design within the basic framework of coding. That reason alone was enough to keep me away. Then I looked at how most pages were being "pimped." I believe the word nauseating comes closest to my reaction. So many pictures and colors and combinations seemingly intended to beat the viewer into submission. A visually pummelling sensation.

Readability? What is that? Not something typically found, apparently. Poor use of contrast, poor control of presentation, a random mish-mashing of content and my number one biggest pet peeve on the whole world wide web: Fixed width layouts.

That's right. I said it. I HATE fixed width web pages.

I work on many different sizes of monitors during the course of a typical day. Why does flowing with my current monitor seem to be so much to ask? To examine the look of the web, the immediate first conclusion is it must not be possible. Then a site pops up that does it. Then another. They are out there. They are just few among the many. Interestingly, all the Google-related pages seem to do it. Hmm.

So, trying to get over that, what else is there? Social networking? Blogging? Photo posting? General sharing? All that and more apparently. I have avoided MySpace. For whatever reason, that time is over.

Now it is time to move forward and see how much joy can come of it.

By the way, I have found my love knows what is best for me FAR better than I do...


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Maui is Wonderful

Wow. I love Maui! The Ritz-Carlton is fantastic. Over the years, we've stayed at quite a few hotels. The grounds at Atlantis may have these beat, but I think I have found a new favorite all-around hotel. These people know what service is all about. Everyone has been pleasant in the extreme. We have had the standard sorts of minor inconveniences which elsewhere have turned into major ordeals. For example, I was supposed to have an envelope delivered to my room. Because my name was not on the room, I did not get mine while the others of our party received theirs. Not the hotel's fault at all. I seem to have an incident such as this on every trip. Some sort of curse, I suppose.

On other trips, a trip to the front desk for something like this has produced lots of finger-pointing and "Not my fault" attitudes. As a guest with an issue, no matter how great or small, I do not care who did what. I do not care which procedure was not followed. I do not care which department is responsible for what. I just want my envelope. I know at least four departments got involved in the search for my package. Less than ten minutes after I first asked, I had the envelope in question with my name on it in my hand, even though not one of those on duty at first had the slightest idea of what I was asking. By that time, I also had reservations for six at the second-best luau on the island, information and pricing for surfing lessons and horseback excursions, and Patty Jo's direct line at the concierge desk. The only reason I did not have the best luau booked: The next available opening is five weeks away. I felt incredibly well served.

The people of this island are extremely friendly. I heard someone say that was just because they want my money. I remember lots of other places just as tourist oriented which came across as downright rude. Conversations start and end with "Aloha" and everything seems to have a healthy dose of sincerity to it. The laid back attitude common in the caribbean is everywhere here as well. I am not trying to say I have never been anywhere full of friendly people, mind you. Just that my experiences here put Maui at or near the top of the list.

Ritz sidebar: I am sitting on a divan with my shoes off and feet up typing this in a lounge with a gorgeous view of the ocean. A lovely young lady with a beautiful smile asked if I would like anything. I sagely chose coffee to ensure my wide-eyed participation in tonight's activities. The coffee came in a pretty white ceramic set, with cup and saucer, spoon, cream pitcher and a little pot of steaming brew. I love this place. The bathrooms here have no paper towels. Instead, they have chosen to provide neatly folded rows of cloth towels and a hamper. They clean the pools starting at five o'clock in the morning every day, whether they need it or not. I spotted a man dusting and then scrubbing the crown molding in the halls. Everyone uses and remembers my name. They even have Splenda. You might be surprised how many places do not. I was. If I seem impressed, then I am successfully conveying my feelings.

Okay, enough sidebar. We went whale watching yesterday morning. Wow. I was fully anticipating one of those trips I have heard others grumble about where they spend several hours and maybe spot one whale. My wife estimates we spotted about a hundred. I will go with that. They were everywhere. We had a particularly good crew for it, also. Apparently the rule says a vessel can only approach under power to about one hundred yards. If you cut engines and the whales then come closer to you, then so be it. A heat train of perhaps six whales came within twenty-five yards of the yacht. VERY cool. We saw whales slapping their tales, blowing spray, rolling and tossing, jumping out of the water (called breaching) and generally doing lots of cool whale stuff. Incredible. On the trip back from snorkeling, one whale stuck his fin up and waved his fin in the air so many times and for so long, the kids on board nicknamed him Wavy the Whale. My son would have said, "Awesome, daddy!" Miss him.

Another sidebar: We do not all experience the same things even remotely the same at times. I just encountered a woman who believes this to be the most boring place she has ever stayed. She had absolutely nothing nice to say about the hotel. She surmised I could be at home doing the same thing on my computer for free. When I asked, "What about this view?" she bade me enjoy my $500 view and left. I felt sorry for her.

After the whales we snorkeled and watched turtles, Nemo fish and a coral reef. Apparently there was a turtle wash in the area where the turtles lined up and took turns being cleaned by smaller fish like in Shark's Tale. Some of the others spotted it, but we missed out. The yacht opened up the bar right then, so I did not miss it too much. All in all it made for a great day.

This morning we had a choice of activities. My love and I chose to see the local islands by helicopter. Wow again. For weight distribution, we each ended up on a separate aircraft. Bummer. Double bummer when you take into account that I had a much better pilot/guide than she. I took lots of pictures for us to share, however. The sheer cliffs and waterfalls of Molokai are absolutely astounding. Whales from the air are cool, also, by the way.

I love my life. Do not ever let me lead you astray from that simple little point. My motto holds true: Life is Good.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Airline Ruins

As I type this the monitor before me is depicting the Texas landscape disappearing beneath and behind me. I used to love to fly. Everything about aircraft appealed to me. I wanted nothing more than to be a fighter jockey, nudging the controls, guiding a multi-million dollar machine through high mach numbers and obscene g forces. Motion sickness and near-sightedness slammed the bars on that dream.

Failing that, I decided I would design them instead. I became fascinated with aerodynamics, mechanical design, orbital mechanics, flight controls, electronics - the whole ball of wax. I obtained a position as an assistant engineer with one of the major airlines during my sophomore year. I loved it. It practically ruined me.

I approached the whole affair with gusto. I took advantage of every opportunity to be on or around the planes. I flew on every business trip I could finagle my way into. I spent hours, both on and off duty, exploring the repair bays, examining the components, structures and everything about these fantastic vehicles I could possibly absorb. It was a slice of heaven on earth.

Now I sit on one of the very same aircraft I was responsible for many years ago. All I can think of is: What have I done? I know the answers I have been using. The Berlin wall fell down and peace broke out around the world, thus causing the bottom to fall out of the aerospace engineering industry. I went to a tough, unfriendly school that helped me burn out on the whole concept of education. I delved into some very new-age concepts of pursuit of happiness and follow what you love which made the standard path of chase the money seem unenlightened. All true, but the two big reasons both came from my experience at the airline.

The first part of my downfall was my degree training. I barely used it. I had large quantities of physics, calculus and engineering coursework under my belt already. Instead of running calculations or anything resembling actual engineering, I was filling out reports and recommending manufacturer solutions to known issues. Some baggage worker punched a hole in one of the carbon-fiber bulkhead partitions and my entire function is to measure the whole and recommend repair method A or repair method B from the manual. None of the engineers around me were doing anything much different. They were all overworked and under-challenged. They would tell stories of the few tasks each had once had which required actual engineering skills. I found my outlook for the future becoming more bleak with each engineer I met. The foundation bricks of my future downfall were falling into place.

Then came the second part. The portion which turned out to be the coup-de-gras: The Macintosh.

Said airline was moving its engineering department into the digital age. Since the drafting department had just been transitioned, the decision of which platform was a slam-dunk for the Mac. I still remember my first drag-and-drop. I could not possibly have been more hooked. I was in on the ground floor of testing and installing EVERYTHING. We tested different networking solutions, potential printers, various scanners, every software solution in existence at the time, the latest Macs, and all the imaginable hardware accessories which might possibly be of use to the new digital engineering department. Like I said, heaven on earth.

So, my ruination bloomed. The seeds were sown and germinated. Many years later I find myself a frustrated graphic designer because I did not want to become a frustrated aerospace engineer. I tied myself to the machine of my dreams and watched many of them slip beyond my reach. I am even on this plane, one of the craft in the fleet I was responsible for, because of my wife's chosen path, not mine.

It turns out she and my son are among the very few choices I have made that have worked into dreams come true.

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Year Resolution

My New Year's Day post was supposed to be about the resolution I had made this year. I was so apalled by the dark one's atrocious nomination I felt it rated discussion more.

Now that I have raved a bit, I can get back on topic. I have heard several other's resolutions this year. They ran the normal range, mostly. Lose weight, eat more healthily, make more money, be a better person, and so on. Unless I have misplaced one, I do not remember any which struck me as particularly unusual.

I, however, only made one resolution this year. Ready? Brace yourself.

I resolved not to make any resolutions this year beyond this one.

That's it.

As for why, an example from last year provides the best illustration. I resolved last year to not miss any aniversarys or birthdays. I wanted to send a card, an e-card, make a phone call or something more for every single occasion. A combination of several methods for each was my true goal. I decided to enter everyone's significant dates into my calendars and reminders and act on each as it popped onto my screen.

It was the worst year I have ever had.

I missed everything. Well, nearly. Might as well have been everything. Even when I knew the date was approaching, I failed to take action or prepare. Worst of all, I let my wife's birthday come and go without any significant gifts.

I am still miserable and self-tortured over that.

It's like I became the anti-celebrant. For my wife, in particular, I searched my brain and the internet for something that would both surprise her and she would truly enjoy. I got the first part right, I suppose. I would try to set aside some time to just go browse through some of her favorite stores to see what jumped out. Late evening would roll around and I would realize I had fed and bathed the boy, fed the puppy, done the dishes, gathered the trash, moved my nonsense out of the family room, put the boy to bed and NOT been anywhere to look for any gifts. It finally became too late to order anything online. I let the last day to have flowers delivered go by. I bought three different cards. If I ever find them again I believe I will round-file them. In short, it was the worst birthday performance I have ever managed. Ever.

Normally, she tells me I have gone too far. Too many flowers, too many cards, too many gifts, too expensive of gifts, too packaged, too silly, too over-the-top, too predictable, too goofy, too much effort, and, of course, too weird. You get the idea. I have tried to learn to tone it down over the years. I believe I am one of the few men on this planet who has actually been asked to STOP giving flowers. PLEASE. One more too: This last year I toned it down way too much.

This year I will do better. But I am not resolving diddly-squat.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Anti-Christ Strikes Again

My most incredibly significant other calls him the anti-christ. She makes some very interesting, valid points. Sometimes I think she is only joking.

Imagine my dismay when I heard just after midnight this morning the anti-christ and his wife are sharing Time Magazine's Person of the Year award with Bono. Just gag me now.

The report said he had mentioned for a long time giving his money away. The interesting part for me is I do not remember him making any significant donations until the feds came investigating. Each of his major contributions thereafter seemed calculated, timed for maximum impact. I remember reading that his company had made the largest single software donation ever. Then I found out they exceeded the mark by counting their merchandise at retail value when everyone else had counted their charitable products at wholesale value.

Little stuff like that has always bugged me.

It does not take much web surfing to find articles discussing this "altruism." Many just consider this kind of article sour grapes.

To the best of my ability to discern, however, this person has ruthlessly crushed any and all opposition, with seemingly no regard for ethics and only enough respect for the law to keep actual jailtime at bay. He is well known for throwing tantrums when he does not get what he wants. He apparently has no qualms telling authorities one thing while telling others the exact opposite on the sly.

I am supposed to believe a person with characteristics such as these is the year's greatest philanthropist?


My girl tells me it is all part of the master plan. The geek persona is only a cover. A ploy to dupe the world while proceeding with world domination. Seeing how many have bought it so far, she seems more on track than the rubes at Time.