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Then Why Am I Getting Poorer?

There are statistics about personal income, and then there's how you actually feel. Statistically, many Americans have become affluent. Statistically, many folks in the Washington metropolitan area are particularly well-heeled these days, their incomes ranking second in the country after San Jose. Statistically, I am among those with a significant amount of disposable income. Then how come I feel like I haven't had two dadgum nickels since about 1987? Why do I feel like I'm downwardly mobile? Where's all that money that I supposedly have, statistically?

Obviously part of my problem is that, as I've noted many times, I'm in a lower socioeconomic bracket than my children. As their clothes increasingly become name-brand garments from Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie, mine increasingly become rags. As they grow into charming and polished young women, I decay into a desiccated troll who is not fit to be seen by company. There is some kind of zero-sum game going on. And I am the go-to source for all the subtractions.

Future income is already claimed, already promised, already mortgaged, already marked down for future expenses, obligations, duties, tuitions, marriages, health care expenses, funeral costs. If you're like me, every nickel you have and every nickel you'll ever make is already spent. The American Dream is to have enough money during retirement to afford hospitalization or at the very least a good personal nurse. We turn to our spouses and say, "Someday, if we keep working hard, and are frugal, and make lots of sacrifices, we will be able to afford the Iron Lung."

[You're thinking: Wait, aren't you the guy who just went to France for the longest vacation in recorded human history? Yes. True. Stipulated. Conceded. It was indulgent. It was expensive. Which is why I spent the entire time writing columns, a travel story and a freelance science piece. "Working vacation" is redundant nowadays. I'm the guy at the beach cursing because there's sand in my laptop.]

To be sure, I can't complain about my income. Because they would fire me. That's all I'll say about that. No comment. Matters involving salary should not be discussed in a forum that is owned and operated by those for whom my salary is a budget item. It is highly likely that my perception of my salary is different from the perception of senior management, which can't even look at me without fantasizing about deleting me and my salary from the ledger. To them, I'm the Hindenburg, ready to go down in flames. Maybe I'm paranoid but whenever they walk past me in the hall I hear them making explosion sound effects and muttering "Oh, the humanity."

The other day I was talking to a financial adviser who, looking over the family balance sheet, said rather bluntly, "So you haven't been building any wealth." Apparently there is a whole concept called Building Wealth. I tried to argue that we were doing pretty well, but I could tell that she was desperately searching through the paperwork to see if she'd overlooked some crucial savings account, some hidden stash, some reservoir of moolah that would be appropriate for someone of my age and work history. She all but screamed, "WHERE'S YOUR MONEY?"

She asked how I had planned to pay for all the college tuitions coming up, and I told her the truth, that my policy had been to ignore the problem and hope it would go away. Maybe the kids wouldn't even want to go to college. My main financial strategy had been to try to prevent them from learning to read and write. Is there a law that they have to be educated? Isn't that awfully bourgeois?

I say we worry too much about how much statistical "wealth" we have. Money isn't the measure of a good life. What really counts is happiness. And, of course, one's credit rating.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 30, 2006; 7:14 AM ET
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Next: Guest Kit: Curmudgeons On a Plane


Thank goodness for wife and I didn't choose public eduction for the money. Thank goodness, as well for our children who at this writing are doing well enough in school that at least one of them will be eligible for scholarship opportunities as a means of furthering their education. We always wonder about where the money is...

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

--Charles Dickens

Posted by: kbertocci | August 30, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

It is a given that the needs (real or perceived) always manage to just outstrip the amount of income (also real or perceived) coming in. Once upon a time I was (thin), dumb and happy making $12K a year, living in a 2BR garden condo. Now our income is over $100K, and we are scratching for the extra bucks to renew our season tickets to the Shakespeare Theater. Twas ever thus.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 30, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm just glad WaPo has enough income to get the Boodle working again.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Ahh, I hear you, Joel!! The median family income in this area may be high, but the "cost of living" is exhorbitant! And I'm not talking about Ralph Lauren & Abercrombie, either, but simple things like paying $12000 a year for daycare for my daughter.

My employer requires all 5-year employees to contribute 5% of their salary to their 401(k). And they have an 8% match for 2-year employees. As a result, I have way more in my 401(k) than most other 20-somethings - for which I give due thanks.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I try to remind myself of the wealth/happiness disconnect often, as I certainly don't earn a lot now, and won't any time soon.

It would be easier if my roommate, all of 4 months younger than me, didn't earn double what I do. However!

(Coming out of lurking to say I'm still lurking, as I've been since the very beginning of the achenblog ;). It is an addiction! Thanks for the nudge, kbertocci!)

Posted by: AnnieHayes | August 30, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what it is--maybe some sort of hidden Marxist gene that infiltrated my ancestry several generations ago--but I've always disliked that phrase the financial planners use, "Managing Wealth." Creating Wealth. The whole notion of "wealth" to me has always been vaguely reprehensible. It doesn't mean being "comfortable," which is fine, nor having a good pension, or an IRA, or doing financial planing, and setting aside money for that iron lung. I'm cool with all that.

But "wealth" implies to me "excess," being "filthy rich," having significantly more money than I need to live "comfortably," and therefore spending it on frew-frews like gold-plate bathroom fixtures, $100,000 sports cars, flying to Paris for lunch and Tuscany for ravioli.

Maybe it's just being born into the middle (slightly lower middle, perhaps) class and being in it for six decades, I am so thoroughly middle-middle that the notion of wealth is actually upsetting. The fantasy of being fabulously rich is on a par with the fantasy of having a date with Natalie Wood: it's sure fun to think about, but I just know somehow I'd screw it up royally.

I've long had a theory that there are two kinds of people in the world--those who more or less contantly think about money, and those who don't. I'm one of the Don'ts. (I've also often wondered if the difference between most Republicans and most Democrats really just boils down to their perceptions of money. Repubs are forever thinking about money, earning, saving it, paying taxes, NOT paying taxes, Wall Street, the Dow, blah blah blah. Democrats, by and large think of money only as a means to something else, which is why they want to spend it on this, that, or the other. I'm certainly guilty of that.)

Maybe it's also something that rubbed off during the 60s--to me there was always something slightly disreputable and unseemly about money, that to think about it very much was just "uncool." Back in the 60s, being a business major in college was just about the worst thing you could be--it just marked you as a hopeless and uncool nerd, a College Young Republicans type, and with the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam going on, that was the last thing anybody I knew or hung with would want to be. Then somehow, everything went to Hell, and getting an MBA from Wharton and becoming a bond trader was the cool thing to do (yuck).

How did we ever go so wrong?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Mudge writes: "The fantasy of being fabulously rich is on a par with the fantasy of having a date with Natalie Wood: it's sure fun to think about, but I just know somehow I'd screw it up royally."

Mudge, I never suspected you were a necrophile (yuck).


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, I blame Gordon Gekko.

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

PLS said: "paying $12000 a year for daycare for my daughter."

Hmmmm. That's in the vicinity of what we used to pay for our firstborn ScienceKid's daycare. Then we did some market research and discovered that there were much better in-home daycare providers who were charging half as much, and providing lunch and toys. Do a little shopping. It seems you are currently paying $230 a week. It's been a while since we used in-home daycare, but accounting for inflation, you ought to be able to get the cost down to $150/week ($7800/year) without sacrificing on quality. I can't recall if your child has special needs. If so, then your high daycare cost makes more sense (of course, I believe you also have more opportunity to deduct the expense). You should look into a flexible spending account so that you can set aside money in advance for this expense. It makes it possible to deduct a much larger portion of your daycare expense from your taxes.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As I have mentioned before, my financial strategy is based on the notion that I will never retire. I plan to expire on the job. This isn't that unusual here. There are some people who, I suspect, have been legally dead since the Carter Administration yet still manage to get favorable performance reviews.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Gordon has a lot to answer for, in my view, scotty.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Having gone back and read Mudge's philosophical discourse and comparing it to my 11:49 contribution, I feel compelled to note that I really am a big-D Democrat. I just get irked by the thought that someone is explicitly ripping me off, so I become money-conscious in that situation.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Look at it this way, Joel: You're a bright, funny, smart, hyperactive, youngish man who has made his name a brand.

You OWN science nerdom, plus you're funny. You're the Kornheiser of the pocket-protector set, with Monday Night Physics awaiting your audition.

And you said you make a lot of money. Maybe you make it the hard way, but it sure beats being a Sales Associate or oil-change guy.

Not that I don't have sympathy for you. I, too, have your concerns, and right now I'm in the thick of the Big Spend Down, shoveling cash to get my college graduate son settled in DC and my daughter settled in at college -- on one income.

My goal is to make it to a Medicaid bed in an unlicensed nursing home on the bad side of town.

Barring death, I will arrive there right on time. And that makes me happy. As happy as you are, apparently, and as unhappy as you are -- bro.

Posted by: j. roberts | August 30, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

RD> There are some people who, I suspect, have been legally dead since the Carter Administration yet still manage to get favorable performance reviews.

John is a quiet and unassuming employee, and a pleasure to have in the office. His minimal demands during budget time have endeared him to management, and his non-confrontational nature make him very popular with other employees.

Office records indicate that John has not attended harassment training since its inception in 1994, so subject to scheduling, we encourage John to attend during the next FY.

The significant personal hygiene issues noted during the 1980-83 FYs are long past, and we look forward to many more years of seeing John's runners' physique and ever-present grin for years to come.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I like the fact that Joel's Road Tripping through life, 'cause that's exactly what I'm doing.

My wife and I started talking about retirement the other day, and we quickly burst into laughter. The conversation remains unfinished, as does The Ride.

Like RD, I expect to die with my boots on.

Perhaps the better metaphor for me is ending The Ride upside down in a farmer's field at 120 mph, after trying to find out how far I could push the old crate One Last Time.

Better that than getting my license pulled and slowly expiring while waching the traffic go by.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

RD, that's my financial strategy too! Ivansdad's professional endeavors don't come with retirement policies, so we're saving for two retirements on one-and-a-quarter incomes. Fortunately, I like working, and so far have found a profession where they can't make me stop for little things like age or dessication. Ain't government jobs fun?

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse


Don't forget the moose's role in that One Last Time...

Or was it a cow? Damn memory...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I think it was a cow, Scotty.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I fully anticipate that in my golden years, I will be a Walmart greeter for the pure 'pleasure' of it.

I am comforted to know that I could live in a really old, almost abandoned farmhouse, eat legumes grown on the back 40, and raise a calf or a piglet and that I would survive. Been there, did that.

But I would not have to like it, which is why I have the lofty Walmart career goal.

Posted by: dr | August 30, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Four months, two days...yes, I'm still counting! I could continue to work, but...I NEED A CHANGE! So I'm going to retire. One kid is through college, the other is halfway through and has a partial scholarship, so it's a good time to go.

For heavens sake, most of the firefighters we're hiring these days weren't gleams in their daddies' eyes when I came to work here, so it's time. My boss keeps asking me if I'm serious. I don't know what I have to do to convince him; not show up one day, I guess...

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you meant Natalie Portman, right? Or are we suffering from a generational gap?

Regarding annie's post on education at the end of the last kit: those are the main reasons Mrs. D. and I both quit public school teaching after 3 years in my case, and 9 in her's), pulled our son out of school and started homeschooling. Now Mrs. D. is working as a consultant to train elementary school teachers in how to teach science (other than handing out worksheets where they have to memorize the 9,, 8...).

Posted by: Dooley | August 30, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

One of my hubby's hearing aids conked out in the last several weeks. He decided it was time for new ones, having purchased the one(s) now defective in 2001--the new ones being an upgrade to digital. He can't hear people on the job or in social situations and hope the new tech helps. No insurance coverage for hearing aids. Cost for the new ones: $5,400.

He will be selling stock to pay for these. We do not look forward to old age.
2000 was the last year we took a vacation. Even a weekend away would be nice.

Books and reading are my escape. Today "Black Dahlia" opens at the Venice Film Festival, in the U.S. on Sept. 15. De Palma is American, but why do big films have to open in Europe first? Think Cannes and "Da Vinci Code"--at least this plot is based in Europe, more understandable, I suppose.

I said on the blog on Friday that Ellroys's 1987 book, on which the forthcoming movie is based, is somewhat fictionalized. Revise that---it's hugely fictional. Detectives Blanchard and Bleichert, the protagonists in Ellroy's novel, are made-up cops. Yet, Ellroy teases and uses people who were real to the case--the victim Elizabeth Short; the last man Short was seen with, "Red" Manley; Short's girlfriend, Lynn Martin; Chief of Police Horral, the LAPD-affiliated psychitrist, Dr. de Rivier; even then-Gov. Earl Warren.

The 1987 "Black Dahlia" is a strange book, but no stranger than the fact Ellroy's own mother disappeared in Los Angeles when he was but 10 years old, and Ellroy's murdered mother is mentioned in Steve Hodel's book about the Black Dahlia murder investigation and other missing women's cases around the same time and some years afterward. I have yet to delve into Hodel's book, other than combing the index, and am not certain yet if Hodel theorizes that in fact and in deed, his father may have killed Ellroy's mother.

Posted by: Loomis | August 30, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. D. and I were thrilled a few days ago when we discovered that if we add up all our savings, CDs, mutual funds earmarked for retirement, and equity in our house, and set it against what we owe on our house and our car, our family's net worth, for the first time, has climbed all the way to zero!

Posted by: Dooley | August 30, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim - thanks, but I didn't mean to sound like we weren't happy with her daycare. :-) She's not special needs at all, but we really are happy with the place we have her (it's $245/week, I guess I did my math wrong). She's not quite two, but already has a great vocabulary and is learning to count and say her ABCs. She loves the interaction she gets with lots of other children, is a big social butterfly (strolling her through the mall, she'll wave and say "Hi!" to just about anyone who comes within six feet). I adore her little personality, and while my husband and I take the majority of the credit for that, she is at daycare five days a week, and they've done a great job. Daily crafts, lots of time running around on the playground, special weekly treats like a professional puppet show, etc. And also, I have the peace of mind of knowing that the center is open all but a few holidays a year, regardless of whether one of her teachers is sick. That's something I'm not willing to give up to save a few bucks.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

'mudge - i was about to say that if you ARE dating natalie wood then you are INDEED doing something wrong! ugh!

retirement? what's that? i fully expect that by the time i reach retirement age that they will have cloned body organs, etc and can just fix me up good as new and off i go to enjoy another 50+ years... but my co-worker keeps bugging me about starting my 401K - i'm only 35! sheesh! (wait... strike that - i'm only 34! for 3 more days so i'd better darn well enjoy it!)

Posted by: mo | August 30, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"by the time i reach retirement age that they will have cloned body organs, etc and can just fix me up good as new"

And do you really think your HMO will cover that? You better start saving now for the procedure!

Posted by: Dooley | August 30, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I think it's about control. Way back in 1975 I once made about 50 bucks picking raspberries. I felt rich because I knew that I could spend that money any way I wanted. I can't remember the last time I felt that way about 50 bucks.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Anyone catch NBC news last night and Brian Williams' interview with President Bush, shown in two parts, at the front and back of the 30-minute program?

Baghdad burns, bombs (IEDs) burst, Bush brags about his bungled Katrina response in the Lower Ninth Ward, and yet the highpoint of Williams' interview last night is that we learn that Bush has recently read three Bards (Shakespeares)? (Maureen Dowd in her NYT op-ed today reveals that one of the plays on Bush's vacation reading list is Hamlet.)

George W. Bush, if it's Hamlet you seek, then by all means, let me provide you some Hamlet.

O what a rogue and peasant slave I am!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing.

Hamlet (1601), Act 2, Scene 2

Posted by: Loomis | August 30, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Not much into Natalie Portman, Dooley; sorry. I really liked her in Leon: The Professional, but as an actress. She was what? about 14 in that flick. I like 'em a little older (and legal). Natalie Wood in "splendor in the Grass" would be perfect, fantasy-wise. Don't much care for very many in contempory set, except Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy, and of course the divine Evangeline Lilly from Lost, either of whom can have their way with me in a heartbeat.

All the actresses I tend to like are getting a little older. Sela Ward still knocks me out.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I have been associated with the financial services industry for years. Not as a planner or banker, but as an information provider to the industry. One of the more sobering things I've heard is - we are all going to be dependent on someone else at the end. A few lucky ones are going to live active lives and go quickly. An even fewer will die single and in debt, leaving only the bank to mourn. Everyone else is going to be a burden to someone - your kids, friends, family, charity or the government (which is just another way of saying, you'll be a buden to everyone else). They probably owe you. But are you comfortable with that?

The most compelling reason, in my mind, to set aside something is so that my spouse and I are less of a burden, and can support ourselves even at the end. Not always easy, but it's a priority.

And heck, if we salt away enough, folks might even fight over who gets to take care of us.

Posted by: Steve-2 | August 30, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

In Joel's kvetching about "show me the money" (or, more correctly, "I CAN'T show YOU the money"), he overlooked one monstrously huge item that will most assuredly bite him in the butt, big time. Come to think of it, he didn't overlook this, he is just cowering in the corner, hoping that the world won't notice.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear friend, but may I enter exhibits "A", "B", and "C" into the record. Joel is the father of the someday-brides-to-be: "A", "B", and "C", (for want of a better way to describe his endearing progeny) This assumes, of course, that he doesn't plan to sell them to a band of traveling gypsies. Anyway, one fine day, they'll get the notion that it would be fun to parade down a church aisle in a fancy white dress, and play games like who can stuff a wad of cake in somebody else's mouth from across the room.

In case nobody has told him, this little sashay is going to drain his wallet dry faster than a hungry vampire in a blood bank. Joel, you only THINK you're broke now. Just wait. You'll be mowing Weingarten's lawn just to have enough cash for a burger. I feel your pain already.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 30, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl, LOL at yur 11:58.

Posted by: nellie | August 30, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Don from I-270:

Joel can always insist that his daughters pay for their own weddings. My husband and I paid for ours. I think it's less and less the case that brides expect their parents to front the bill for their expensive weddings.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to make el Presidente Arbusto do a book report after reading "Henry V", and let me grade it.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

PLS, that's a good idea about weddings. So far my girls, both of whom are in relationships, haven't caught on to that idea. And it seems to me that the whole wedding thing has mushroomed in size since I did it. For my wedding, my mother and several of her friends made all the food for the reception and served it. It was in the church lounge and lovely. No alcohol, of course. Now my kids's friends who are getting married are having biiig blowouts for receptions. I could do that for them, but why?

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Pat, when I walk to lake in the morning, the sky is slightly gray-white, and the clouds look misty. As the sun comes up over the lake against that background it looks bright orange. And those clouds seem to move away to give the sun plenty of room. It is a beautiful sight, and I love to see it every morning. Some mornings there aren't any clouds, and the lake reflects tiny clear ripples against the backdrop of the sky and that orange sun. You're right, the sky is never just blue. I hope this helps.

PLS, I live about eight miles from the NC/SC line, and South Carolina is a state that I was always been deathly afraid of traveling in or visiting. African-Americans at some point in your state's history have been arrested and sent to camps or farms, and never heard from again. Sometimes dying at these farms, and their families not notified or anything. And this hasn't been that long ago. I know there are some good things in your state, but my memory hasn't been able to pull up that much, except perhaps Myrtle Beach, and the last time I was there, it was arm to arm people. No matter where one is at Myrtle Beach, one can always reach out touch someone else, arm's length. Too many people. I know your state is in the path of the storm, and often suffers just as much, or more, as North Carolina. These memories are based on events that have happened, please don't think I'm trying to be mean. Not the case.

kb, keep us in your prayers. Hurricanes/tropical storms are fickle, they change when over really warm water.

I'm truly amazed at this kit. I mean, here I am thinking that living on a fixed income has got to be the hardest thing in the world. I'm serious. I'm thinking that running out of food in the middle of the month is right up there with the most awful thing that can happen to a person, and here we have people that make good money, even considered living quite well, and now I'm learning that it is hard for these folks too. Will wonders never cease. So I guess it doesn't matter how much money you make, there's always room for more?

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The myth that money equals happiness is one that never seems to get knocked down -- no matter how many folks discover it ain't true.

That said, I know that a wee bit of financial security does make me feel, well, more secure.

I fell out of my family's upper-middle-class lifestyle when I got sick and then divorced my husband.

I've never been entirely successful at squaring the reality of my financial circumstances, of my life, with my other sibs and my parents.

But for the most part I am pretty happy --having learned years ago that money and financial security can't bring me true happiness. If I put other principles of living before my financial situation, I do okay. It's when I get hung up on what I don't have -- when my priorities get mixed up -- this is when I am miserable.

I didn't want to continue being bitter and full of it because of the lemons life had handed me. So I have worked hard on being okay with what I do have.

So much money in this country -- so many crazy people.

PLS -- my sister and brother-in-law ended their day-care dilemma when their daughter was old enough to go to Montessori. They went through all the interviews at the high-end pre-school places -- but liked the Montessori program the best.

Rose has been there for two years already -- she starts kindergarten after Labor Day. (Then she's off to Lafayette Elementary School -- where I think she's gonna be bored stiff -- but this is another story.)

My sister, who has a degree in art history, has actually started teaching at the Montessori school --

Anyway, just a thought.

Posted by: nelson | August 30, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The best thing I ever did for myself was stop accepting money from my parents after college (painful and frightening though it was). Its probably the best thing I ever did for them as well.

Posted by: Pike | August 30, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Since lately the Boodle has become a bit european I'll gripe about the Euro and how it has made me feel poorer.


I like the euro in theory - I'm an avid Pan European - but the problem for me is that since 2001 my sence of what money is worth has gone down the drain. Imagine that all off a sudden they would create a currency called the New Dollar that would be 40 old Dollars. Not a nice round number like 100 or even 50 but 40.
It doesn't impact how you sence the bigger amounts because for those it pays to do the arithmatic each time. But the smaller items kill me (and my wallet).

I used to think that a 120 BEF price for a sandwich was OK. Which converts to about 3 EUR. But now I seem to pay 4,5 EUR for the same thing without noticing that it cost a lot more.
And this is just one item. Every small thing I buy seems to cost just a little bit more than it used to. Sadly all these small amounts add up to a lot at the end of the month. But because my (and my compatriots) head doesn't pick up on that price hike on a day to day basis there is no uproar, but we feel poorer (or less rich) anyway.

I liked Cur's remark about how some people only think about money while others don't. I never thought about it that way. (I'm deffinitly part of the "I don't think about it crowd")

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 30, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Forty-four raindrops on my car around 6 p.m. last night. The moisture that fell in our part of the city couldn't even have been measured in the rain gauge. Good soaking rains to our north-northwest--but drops in the bucket compared to the rain deficit. At least a weather front came near to our area: some good news. The acquifer may have been helped slightly. Perhaps Hurricane John, Cat 4 tracking up Mexico's west coast, will send some agua our way.

We're development-rich and acquifer-foolish.

Posted by: Loomis | August 30, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to make it clear to my daughter that I'm going to be overjoyed and quite celebratory when she finds that certain, special, someone... *music swells*


Sorry, I'll start again.

I'm going to tell her that I'll be cheering her on wholeheartedly, but unless I hit the lottery, we'll have the celebration in our hearts (and perhaps close family ((read: me and her mom, spouse's parents and the grandparents)) and a few friends ((read: wedding party)) at my house. For a limited time, restrictions apply.).

Ain't I a stinker?


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

We paid for a significant amount of ours as well. Also, to the extent that parents pay, I think it's pretty rare now for the groom's parents to not be contributing 50%.

Might be easier said than done, but I think the best approach is to say "we will contribute x", and put ownership of the event back to the bride/groom to be.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I can certainly appreciate where you come from, but I hope you don't condemn the whole state because of these bad situations (which I have to admit, I've never heard of, despite the fact that my mother's a supposed "expert" on local history, including the Gullah community.) I'd like to think that at least a few South Carolinians have learned from the state's spotted history and are trying to improve on it. I know I certainly am. By the way, I'm from a small town called Georgetown, about 45 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, and the locals don't go to Myrtle Beach anymore - it's insanity!

nelson - we're in the process of looking for preschools for next year, even though she still could be kept at the daycare. It's hard to find good preschools that have a full-day program, I've found. Just when I thought I'd found the perfect place, only 5 minutes from our house, I got a really bad review of the place from a parent of two children who had gone there. We're pretty sure she'll go to public school after preschool, but not so sure what we'll do in the meantime. If you know of a good Montessori school with a full-time program in the Arlington/Falls Church area, please pass on the name! Thanks!

slyness & Scottynuke -

All your daughters will need is a little bit of creativity and budgeting expertise. For example, for the flowers, we ordered them wholesale and my mother's best friend (who is sort-of a part-time florist) did them for us. They were gorgeous and cost a fraction of what having a real florist would have cost! (Especially given that we were married on Valentine's Day.) Another one: the entire wedding party (only 2 bridesmaids and 2 groomsmen) stayed at my grandmother's beach house instead of getting hotel rooms. And for the food, we used local restauranteurs who were friends with my mother instead of an expensive wedding caterer. Subtracting the wedding dress & veil (a gift from my grandmother) and the alcohol for the reception (his parents' gift), our entire wedding and reception, including things like the limo (owned by my brother's best friend's father) and photographer (my brother's other best friend's father) was well under $10,000 - less than half of what the "average" wedding costs these days. O

Oh, and we only had 85 guests, not 300. :-)

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Dooley, I always thought Montessori would be a good name for a dinosaur. Just an idea.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm on the redneck retirement plan -- a combination of lottery tickets and nascar memorabilia.

Posted by: kp | August 30, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, good for you!

Cassandra, all I can say is, all God's children got troubles. As well you know. Much of the time, they are of our own making.

I am able to retire for three reasons: 1. I work for an employer with an excellent pension system and medical insurance for retirees; 2. I have a job that pays enough for me to live rather frugally and save quite a bit of my salary; 3. I inherited a comfortable sum from my mother that is invested with people who are doing well with it.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

We've been having a lot of trouble with our local school system and its screwy priorities and rules, so we have considered private schools. I found a private school locally that I like, and that has a good reputation with folks that I knew when I was a kid and who went there. The downside is, of course, price: sending both ScienceKids would cost $34K. There's no way that we can afford that much. If we tried, it would take all our disposable income, prevent any retirement savings, and eat up what retirement savings we have. At the end, we would have zero (financial) assets for sending the kids to college, so they had better REALLY benefit from that private education -- enough to get full scholarships and financial aid. I know that there's financial aid for private secondary education, but I find it incredible to think that I might qualify as "needy" with a family income over $100K. This is a strange world we have built for ourselves.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 1:58 PM | Report abuse

44 raindrops, Loomis?

Based on your posts, I bought Ellroy's "The Black Dahlia" last night, to take on vacation next week (along with the new James Lee Burke Dave Robicheaux mystery). Then by coincidence saw some of a long interview with Steve Hodel and his sister in that really weird house in LA, and about his father the doctor, etc. VERY weird. The sister was talking about how the doctor had sexually abused her when she was a child--very discomforting and creepy, with lots of John Mark Karr vibes--eeewwwwww.

And if that wasn't creepy enough, saw some of the Brian Williams interview with our deeply intellectual Camus-reading president this morning, who actually had the nerve to say that his "trick" was to lower expectations about himself, so that people are actually surprised to learn he reads books. (Williams had the grace not to ask if his lips move.) Williams asked what the "backstory" on selecting the Camus was, and Bush said he was just "looking for a good book" and Laura recommended it. Quite a backstory, no? So one must still presume Arbusto has no freakin' clue who Camus was, that he was the youngest Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, was in the French Rsesistance, hung out with Sartre (oh, I can just imagine Bush reading "Being and Nothingness" or "No Exit"; "Being and Nothingness" is just soooooooo George Bush), etc.

"Ya see, your French existentialism ... it's hard, hard. Ya see, life is absurd's like pushing a boulder up this big hill, see ... and it's hard. Real hard, pushing that boulder. And ya get to the top, and, and, uh, what happens... uh, the boulder rolls back down! [smarmy smirk]...heh heh... and so, ya gotta push that boulder up that hill again... and, ya know, that's hard. Real hard. Pushing boulders is hard. And that's yer French existentialism."

Next week: George Bush deconstructs Heidegger's "Being and Time" in light of Ludwig Wittgenstein's logical positivism, with a sidebar appreciation of the influence of Edmund Husserl and phenomonology, all while cookin' up a batch o' that Tex-Mex five-meat chili con queso.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I think part of our perception of poverty (I love unintentional alliterations) is an increasing standard of living. My children have access to a Gamecube, a Playstation 2, a computer, several of those gameboy thingies, and various electronic toys with a greater cumulative computational capability then NORAD. If I were to limit them to what my brothers and I had as children, a single 13 inch television and an etch-a-sketch, I imagine I would feel more Trump-like instantly.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

ScieneTim - strange world, indeed! When looking at the application for the private preschool (the one panned by the mom whose children went there), I was appalled to find that the "income brackets" that the parents were supposed to check were: 1) Less than $100,000; 2) $100,000 to $200,000, 3)...and so on...until 5) Over $500,000. Good grief!

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

You are wonderful, Cassandra. While I often feel like Joel's kit (where IS that money?), I don't have to worry about running out of food. Thanks for helping us with that perspective. That said, it is true that money worries follow you even when you have more of it. Lots of people who make good money and live pretty well are just one crisis away from losing their house. The more you have, the more you worry about.

We paid for our own wedding, too. I recommend explaining to your girls that they cannot marry until they are in their twenties, at least, and away from home. As an adult living away with my own paycheck, I just couldn't bring myself to ask my mom to pay for my wedding. It also meant we had to really look at what we wanted in light of what we could afford. We decided we'd like to throw a nice party and have a honeymoon rather than spring for flowers, etc. My aunt picked some from her garden and arranged them for the church. The hit of our home catering were the tamales from San Antonio, courtesy of my in-laws; we had to show all the East Coast folks how to eat them.

The Boy just switched from private to public school. Not only is he learning more, with an arts immersion program, but the financial savings in incidentals alone are startling.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

PLS - my wife's father paid for our rather opulent wedding largely becaause of a slightly disfunctional family dynamic. My wife is an only child. Her cousin was married the year before, and her father and aunt have never grown out of their intense childhood sibling rivalry. You get the idea.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

RD, do you get the same pleasure I do from reciting this litany to your children: "We had no microwave, no TIVO, no TV remote, only four TV channels, no cable or satellite, no computer, no videogames, no gameboy, no cell phones, no PDAs . . ." the list can go on quite a while. The best part of this background is that the Boy knows I would think nothing of unplugging him completely from technology, and thus takes the threat seriously.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Is that an increasing standard of living or and increasing expectation of living, Padouk

The back to school adds are on the air hot and heavy and there is an electronics chain who is ads are about classes for parents to let them know what their children will need for school. the specifics of the ads refer to ipods, and cell phones.

These are not what kids need for school, they are what they want, and have nothing to do with school. Watching these adds make my blood boil. And it is why I don't buy from that chain.

Now those staples adds where they emphasize the parents extreme joy that kids are back to school, these I like.

Posted by: dr | August 30, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

My sister did her wedding for like 2,000 I think. It was at a baptist church and it was a potluck reception in the church basement, bride and groom's families cooked the food and brought it in, as well as some church ladies etc. I think it was 100 people. Of course that was a long time ago. No limo. A friend of a friend did photography, etc.
But will daughters raised on designer brands know how to have an economy wedding? "DADDY everything has to be PERFECT."

I'm with Weingarten on the wedding issue. I plan to get married by Elvis in Las Vegas should I ever get hitched.

I guess Joel could always ship them off to france to live and work. No fear of the grand wedding hysteria in France, lowest marriage rates in the world because of their insane marriage laws.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

The main reason for my recent move was to downsize my expenses. Having "S" move with me cut his expenses also. I think we might truly be able to afford to live here when we retire, which is only 3 years away for him. The neighborhood seems to consist of people who have lived here forever. When I asked a neighbor who was the next newest arrival here, she said, "oh, those people three houses up have only been here for 20 years." Apparently everyone on this street has resisted the Siren call of the "McMansion" and learned to be happy with what they have. Being more spoiled, I'm not sure I could have brought up two children in this small house without losing my mind, but I'm glad I had the sense to dump my too-big house and move to something that is only slightly larger than the 'starter" house I owned when I was newly married.

My ex and his wife have a huge 5 bedroom house, a rather large boat, two or three expensive cars (I lose track and don't care enough to ask), and are building a vacation home somewhere in the Carribean. From all I hear from my girls, I have no doubt who is happier (and who has more money put aside for retirement).

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | August 30, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Now, see, Joel, you just have to cut and paste all these good ideas into a scrapbook and drag it out when those three big days start to loom immanent. Like some of these folks, we paid for many of the costs of our own wedding 35 years ago, and had lots of help from friends and family. My wife's father and her uncle were both pastors, so they officiated. That saved a buck or two. You could consider that: go to seminary, get ordained, and then be able to marry off your daughters. The ultimate do-it-yourself gig. Who says we're not always looking out for you.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 30, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim writes: //I find it incredible to think that I might qualify as "needy" with a family income over $100K. This is a strange world we have built for ourselves.//

Joel nailed it a few kits back. Our lives are insane. There is just no other explanation.

Re weddings: Glad to hear that there is still some sanity about them, at least among the boodle. (fab blog, btw)cited a David Brooks article that she thought was really persuasive. So did I.

He made the point that in 1940,and even more in 1910, a couple could walk to the minister's parlor or the justice of the peace and in five minutes, completely change their lives. This is simply no longer true. We no longer marry for life, as a general rule, we marry until we find something better we would like to do. You may celebrate this as freedom, or denounce it as symptom (and cause) of broader societal collapse. But that's the way it is now.

So Brooks's observation was that even as marriage has become less meaningful, weddings have become ridiculously more elaborate, as if the only way we can still feel we're really doing something is to turn them into the kinds of pageants (rented venue, orchestras, $20K dresses, etc.) that used to be limited to high society.

Posted by: annie | August 30, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Right, dr. The Boy, who is 10, often asks for a cellphone, computer of his own, etc., because he "needs" them. I always say that he's misunderstood the meaning of the word "need".

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's about the glitz, not the gold anymore. Hm, by that logic, one wonders if the Egyptians started planning fancier and fancier funerals as they lost faith in the Book of Dead after a while?

"Yeah,when we mummify a couple, we'll do 3 cats free."

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

PLS, many of these farms were well hidden, and not something one could to just walk up to. After the media got involved when a family missed their relative, they closed them down. And most of this was in the upper part of the state. These folks would be snatched for minor offenses like traffic violations or perhaps too much to drink after coming from the only beach African-Americans were allowed to visit. State official would try the people (usually some sheriff or justice of the peace court) and pronounce a sentence of working at these farms. These places were isolated and back in the woods. If you know your state, and I believe you do, there are places in South Carolina and North Carolina that one would believe they had left the United States of America, and ended up in another country. I believe it's better, but I've just not gotten over the those feelings of being targeted, and at risk. My father took us to the beach a lot, but we always went in groups, never alone.

Isn't it something that my perspective is so very different from yours? My experience is so different from yours, and yet people just move right on just like that is the way it is suppose to be. It does not strike anyone as odd, not in the least. I am always amazed by that. I've never gotten used to that. I believe I will die with that. How in the world will we ever start talking, when one group doesn't have a clue? And I say this with reluctance, doesn't want a clue.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Joel, concerning your salary...
How does the Post know that anybody reads your column (other than the regulars who post here)? I have been getting the paper for 30 years and nobody has asked me. The only questionnaires I have seen in print are about the comics and the crossword puzzles.

Posted by: mrk | August 30, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm late to the party, but why is Himself called "Arbusto?"

Posted by: maggieo'd | August 30, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse


I'm hoping that all of these things happened before I was born (in the late 70s), which is probably why they aren't ringing a bell with me. And I also don't think that it's true that most people "don't want a clue" as to the worst parts of our state's history. You're right, there are a lot of areas of SC that do feel as though you're in another country. I'm reminded of it every time I drive home - I get off of I-95 just south of the state line (I refuse to say "South of the Border") and take backroads for almost 100 miles to get to Georgetown. Little roads like SC-Alt-41 that go through little hamlets like Centenary, Gresham & Rhems. I felt very uneasy the one time that I did get lost driving around the middle part of the state - no cell phone service and no clue where I was - so I just kept driving for miles and miles until I hit the next major road.

I'm not going to pretend to know how you feel, but I do believe that, at least for my generation, things are changing. We can all learn from the past, but I believe that living in the past does nothing but harm both "groups" in question here.

I went through a period in my life when I was in college when I felt like a "victim" of what had happened in my life. I was very close to my father (much more so, at the time, than my mother), and he died, very suddenly, when I was still in high school. Cancer. Diagnosed in January and passed away in April. He never smoked, drank rarely, was not overweight at all (5'10" and 170 at age 49), and it made no sense to me. I wallowed in it for a while, and then realized that from that point on, it was up to me to decide what to do with my life. I wasn't going to be a "victim" of the circumstances of my life.

No money for college because my father died? I got a scholarship and student loans and worked the entire time. No money for law school? I've worked during the day and gone at night. I've gotten married, had a child, kept a job, and am finishing law school this year. I've gotten an offer at a great firm because, darn it, that's what I wanted and I went for it. And ALL the time, when people find out that I work full time, have a 2 year old, and go to law school at night, I'm told, "Wow. That's insane." Or, "You must be a zombie," or something of the like.

Nope, none of the above. When I was 19, I made a promise to myself (and my father) to not be a victim of what had happened. And I've kept that promise.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It's Spanish for "bush."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse


85 guests??? Luxury! :-)

My first wedding was largely done on gifts at the old homestead, and the whole thing doubled as a family reunion. Maybe 75 people total. Second wedding was literally driving five minutes to the justice of the peace. Frugality only concentrates the joy, IMHO.

And I'm hoping my little girl isn't too enamoured of "the finest things..."

Naive little sucker, ain't I??


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - I have often explain to my offspring that I was raised under conditions of the most destitute poverty imaginable. Their horror is nearly unbearable when I describe, in graphic, merciless, detail, something called "hand me downs."

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Curmudgeon, for that explanation.

...Pedaling furiously to catch up...

Posted by: maggieo'd | August 30, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"Everything can be taken from people but one thing - the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

PLS, good for you!

So many of the folks here have overcome incredible difficulties. I'm continually amazed at what you all have accomplished.

This quote from Frankl is more or less correct. It has gotten me through lots of difficult times.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke - Two frightening words:

Ice Sculptures.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I think there are several different and valuable perspectives on this Boodle, including yours. Although the comments may go right on, I don't think that means that people are disregarding or not listening to your perspective. Sometimes when faced with a pointed reminder of how different our lives can be, like yours or Nelson's, people may feel they really can't add to that. People may not feel comfortable commenting on the difference, but might choose to add a comment from their own perspective. One of the things I've noticed about this Boodle, though, is that people do seem to pay attention and think about the things others say -- even if it shows up much later, in other kits. When you share your life situations, it ensures that the people here have a good chance to get that clue that so many folks miss. Please don't be discouraged. Our dialogue is all part of that goal of changing the world one person at a time.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

mrk, all I know is that at my daughter's high school they assigned the Louvre column as homework. I don't know what kind of homework. Art history???? English literature??? I am not sure. Nor do I know what they are supposed to do with the column (take umbrage? ah -- but it's been done). The point is, I'm HUGE there now. I think technically you would say that I am now in "the canon" at that particular school. Like Dante and Cervantes and Homer.

Also you should know that I do not, as a rule, respond to direct questions. Veteran boodlers know this, which is why they shun me and abjure everything I stand for. If you want to pepper someone with questions, go to the Weingarten chat. He has no life. He doesn't do anything but chat all day long. I am a journalist, by contrast.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 30, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I thought when a townhouse sold on our block for $1 million that it would be the best thing ever for us. Instead our taxes went up and we lived in the same old house, plus we couldn't move into a nicer neighborhood because THOSE houses were going for $1.2 million and that point-two-million means the difference between qualifying for a real mortgage and an ARM scam.

I thought that when my wife got pregnant for the second time that we were incredibly blessed- now we're looking at $1700 a month in daycare at a minimum and friends are paying $2100 and want in our center!

I thought that when I made 6 figures that I'd be sitting pretty, but after I save the maximum to my 401k, I have no other money for savings. The plumber came last month and it cost $500. The termite guy cost $400. I owe $4000 left on a home repair loan while friends owe $95,000. We own one car- a station wagon. This is why people call it The Rat Race.

Posted by: DS | August 30, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Or do I mean "abhor."

Don't answer that.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 30, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

RD, my kids are so used to "hand-me-downs" that they actually look forward to going through the Boxes 'o Stuff in Their Size every August.

So far, it's like a treasure hunt to them, and we go through it together most of the time. We have a good laugh over stories about what happened "when so-and-so was wearing that", and sometimes about how one kids' sense of style is completely different from the others'.

Good times, and it makes the hand me down process interesting for all of us.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Also you should know that I do not, as a rule, respond to direct questions. Veteran boodlers know this, which is why they shun me and abjure everything I stand for."

If only we praised Joel and accepted his every phrase without question . . . .
Ah, the fine line between journalist and king.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

You people live in the lap of luxury. When the ScienceSpouse and I were married, we had to clone our own minister from a surreptitously-sampled scrap of DNA taken from the university chaplain. We rented tripods and put the guests' video cameras on them to view the service (we sprung the money for the electricity -- we were feeling plush), and we e-mailed cake and cookie recipes to each guest so that they could participate fully in the reception -- this was the late 80's, if you didn't have e-mail already, you didn't count. We did lose some of the damage deposit when the golf course sprinklers turned on and caused some minor cosmetic damage to the tripods, what with the sparking and shorting out of the cameras. Good thing we didn't have any contractual obligations with the guests, or that might have cost some serious money! The music was lovely, even through the tiny 2" speakers on the cassette tape-player -- very moving. After the ceremony, we sent the minister-clone on its way with some fake ID suggesting a recent escape from an institution and shipped off the video cassettes and cameras (our major expense, plus the whole in vitro cloning thing), and returned the tripods. Then we went out for ice cream. Whole thing set us back maybe sixty bucks. You guys need to be more frugal.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod--Elvis is expensive. We went to Vegas several years ago for the 25th anniversary, and didn't want the fact that we were already married to keep us from enjoying the whole Vegas experience. We "renewed our vows" at one of the wedding chapels, but passed on Elvis, who would have added $150-$200 extra and turned light-hearted fun into a major expenditure.

Keeping with the wedding theme, we married off our daughter 5 years ago, and footed the bill. We did keep it under $10k, by keeping the guest list reasonable and ruthlessly using the talents of family members to do flowers, etc.

Posted by: Gran | August 30, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Do a little shopping. It seems you are currently paying $230 a week. It's been a while since we used in-home daycare, but accounting for inflation, you ought to be able to get the cost down to $150/week ($7800/year) without sacrificing on quality


Not anymore. Or rather, not in DC, Montgomery, Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax counties. And definitely not for a kid under 3 who might qualify for a mandated teacher/student ratio. We checked with in-home daycare and in our neighborhood in DC the one was $300 per week. Do YOUR homework before you post something so silly.

Posted by: DS | August 30, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm in the midst of a non-instructional duty, after school detention. Your posts are making me laugh, say "ummhmm", "yup", and other mutterings under my breath that could otherwise be misconstrued as disruptive to the detention environment. We paid for our own wedding, too. We were married by the town magistrate on a Sunday by special appointment (long story) in front of thirteen guests. My wife baked and decorated the cake, she bought a dress of the sale rack at a reputable department store, I bought my ring and off we went: married on Sunday, back at work on Monday.

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I think we have the intellectual bandwith to both abjure and abhor.

See, I'm ignoring you already.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I secretly suspect that my wife was taking mental notes during our wedding so as to do a better job next time.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, I am currently putting my pen through my hand in a Herculean effort to prevent making any comments about a wedding that doubles as a family reunion. ;)

PLS, good on you.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. D. and I were married in a field on our college campus, the day after she graduated (so her family only had to make one trip). We made the wedding cake ourselves, the father of a friend took pictures, student musicians who were friends of ours (or children of faculty members) played the music. My mother made Mrs. D.'s wedding dress and my kilt. The wedding party wore whatever they wanted. We were married by a friend (another student) who was a minister in the Unitarian Church, performing her first ceremony ever. We rented a room on campus for the reception, and the college food service catered. I think the total cost, for 80-100 people, was on the order of $1000-$2000, almost all of that the reception hall and catering.

My father-in-law was so grateful he bought us a car.

Posted by: Dooley | August 30, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I feel compelled to point out that under the *Tim Pedantic Point system, abhorrence would typically precede abjuration.

RD, my wife swears she'll never get married again after I'm reported missing and the body is never recovered.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

DS - I'm pretty sure that ScienceTim was just trying to be helpful, especially having met him in person. Which is why I responded the way I did, instead of, "BWAHAHAHAHA!" While what you're saying is true, there are far better ways to have said it. This is the Achenblog, not "On Balance".

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I live in Howard County which came in at 3 on the "richest" counties list. That just means my artificial political jurisdiction is on the sweet spot of the donut hole of property values that surround most cities. I life in a 15 year old modest townhouse which would go for just about the median price in the county. Fortunately I bought it at half its current value or I couldn't even afford it today. New single family houses in my neighborhood are going for twice the value of my house.

Two of my neighbors in the past year have sold their townhomes and bought single family houses on large lots in Charlotte with just the equity so they don't have a mortgage in their fixed income budget.

Our combined household income is over the median for the county, so I wish they would raise the property tax faster than the income tax. That's just "tax the other guy" envy.

Lifestyle expectations have eaten up every once of productivity gain and then some. My house had more computers and televisions than occupants.

There is a flip side. The cost of living will always match income. It's basic economics. All we are doing is redistributing the sectors that get our money. Manufactured goods and food are dirt cheap. DVD players cost less than a boom box a generation ago. Housing and health care and education are expanding to absorb the slush.

Lifestyle changes eat up tons of income. Fewer kids are in a house and get more spent on them. Fortunately my son is vey happy with ironic black tee shirts from Tar-jay, but he carries his iPod everywhere. Every divorce forces a couple to spend on housing 150% of what they were living on. We eat out more meals than we cook. Food Lions are turning into boutique upscale take-out places.

I like reading vintage John D. MacDonald novels form the 50s. I find it mindboggling to read stories where a major plot point is that the vice president of a factory has only one car in the family and his weekend chores include taking the one air conditioner out of the bedroom window before the country club pool party. This world is as foreign to me as a Jane Austen novel.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 30, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Re: Brian William's interview of Bush

Did you hear Bush say that, in reference to his book choices, it's very "ek-a-lek-tik?" And this guy is Yale educated? Wow! I think that Laura needs to tutor George.

Posted by: BK | August 30, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

SoC, yer a prince.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I think the investigators should look for my body in the back yard, where we were married. They say criminals always return to the scene of a crime.

In that scenario I'm going back to stay, and push up next summer's tomatoes.

Actually, with my life insurance, the Mrs. should be able to pay off the house *and* send the kids to college.

That's right: I'm worth more dead than alive. In more ways than one, I should say.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Joel... paragraph 5, last sentence: exposion?

Is that what they call it when your clothes suddenly rip themselves from your body with a loud bang?

Posted by: martooni | August 30, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Dunno about you, yellojkt, but I'm not ready to go back to that world.

Posted by: slyness | August 30, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Ha, ha! I'm busted. Yes, I do occasionally post on "On Balance", but far less frequently than on here. Sometimes just reading the comments section there gets my blood boiling, and I'll have to post something. So much of what's on there is completely inane drivel that I can't be bothered most of the time.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Our wedding, which we thought was extravagant, had flowers at every table, two ice sculptures, a buffet line, full open bar, and a DJ. Our two nods to economy were hiring a friend to do the pictures and not getting a limo.

Nowadays, we go to rehearsal dinners that are more elaborate than our wedding. The last couple of wedding we have gone to have had sit-down five-course dinners, live bands, strectch Hummers for the entire bridal party, and "day after" brunches. Adjusting for inflation, a "typical" wedding now costs twice what our wedding did.

We planned for 100 people, but only about 60 really came, so the wedding came in under budget. My father-in-law gave us the balance as a wedding gift.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 30, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Ahah! I knew you were THAT PLS. Folks, PLS is one tough cookie. Along with Pat. They actually post on the Mommy Blog, which takes more umbrage than the French, and give as good as they get.

You have to admit, though, the BWAHAHAHetc. was a good evil laugh.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Achenbach | August 30, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Damn, ivansmom, you're like CSI: Oklahoma spotting the cross-posters.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

LOL: CSI Oklahoma.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse


I also have term life insurance sized to pay off the mortgage and finance the college tuition. The mortgage policy is guaranteed renewable. The college tuition one expires in six years. That's what I owe my family. Nobody should be worth more dead than alive. Too many film noir movies about that situation.

I had a boss say that selling life insurance was the toughest job he ever had. "Your wife's second husband is going to really appreciate your thoughtfulness."

Posted by: yellojkt | August 30, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Bk, what is ek-a-lek-tik for the Bushism impaired? Exalectic?

Since SoC won't say it much to his agony, I'll just make one sideways comment to him a la Scottynuke's wedding cum family reunion.

"And then Americans turn around and claim we French-canadians are inbred."

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

DS, I think you are being unnecessarily rude. So you disagree with me; that does not make me irresponsible, stupid, or silly. I did not call PLS irresponsible, stupid, or silly when I suggested that she is being overcharged for daycare, and she has respectfully disagreed with me on that point. From my own days in the daycare market, I am familiar with the disinclination to shop around -- we all want the best for our kids, and believe that you generally get what you pay for. Not always. I was suggesting that maybe PLS had been taken advantage of, as I was. She has affirmed that she is comfortable with her situation.

Our favorite (and by far, best that I've met) home daycare person has only recently closed down, now that all of her own kids are old enough that they don't need daycare themselves. I believe she was still well below $200 per week per child. Market rates may be different where you live. You have named several of the most gentrified and overpriced parts of the metropolitan area. This is the same area in which there are folks who seriously believe that their kids' lives will be ruined if they do not put them into preschools that cost the same as decent private colleges (a big story in the Post a couple years ago). Checking the price of the place in *your* neighborhood does not qualify as a fair example of "doing my homework"; that's doing YOUR homework for you.

Although not real recently, I have done my homework for my area rather more thoroughly than you might imagine. Comparing daycare facilities in the Greenbelt area as of 7 years ago, there were places that charged $115/week and places that charged $230/week. By a huge margin, the place with the best-qualified teachers, best student-to-teacher ratio, best everything, was the cheapest. Next closest were the places charging $130-$140/week. Assuming 4% COLA-type inflation, the cost of the inexpensive place should be up to $150/week now, $650/month, $7800/year. Even with a factor of two increase over my own estimation (annual 15% inflation), your costs of $1700/month = $20,400/year are exorbitant by comparison. At that level of expense, you should simply hire a nanny. In any case, it is $332/week, which is 10% more than what you quoted for your neighborhood in-home daycare. You may be getting what you are paying for, but what you are paying for is something besides quality daycare. What that "something" may be, I don't know -- prestige, convenience, whatever.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

He's reading Hamlet. Maybe Shakespeare for Dummies? Just askin'

Posted by: Lisa | August 30, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

yeah, sorry if my bwahaha came off as too rude. I almost jumped out of my chair when I read that, as if it's OUR fault that two kids in day care cost $1700 a month or $500 a week in-home or, what, friends have a nannyshare where they pay the woman something like $3000+ per month for 5 kids but they don't get the gym, or the chapel, or the art supplies like our daycare, plus they have to work out social security because they can't break the law. I'm very very TIRED of people telling me that I'm paying too much at $850 per kid per month when they last paid $500 a month in 1995. My friends are paying $1050 a month for two kids. Frankly that behavior (if you pay more than I did years ago, you're at fault) is ignorant and just a hair shy of rude.

This whole article is basically how our OLD system of wealth (6 figure job, $250k house, $20,000 car) doesn't hold true anymore.

Posted by: DS | August 30, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Okay, DS, I didn't mean to get your dander up. For one thing, I thought that you were talking about costs for one child, not two, which is why your expenses seemed so outlandish to me. I believe that PLS was talking about expenses for one child; certainly, I was talking about expenses per child. Also, I really do take inflation into account, although my first exchange with PLS was not so quantitatively precise as my testy reply to you. A big unfairness in the cost of daycare is the cost fo real estate. The costs of daycare staff may inflate a bit faster than COLA, as our standards for teacher-preparation increase. Costs of real estate for the facility increase much faster, related to what yellojkt posted. Daycare in an established facility may be less expensive, simply because they don't have a recently-inflated mortgage price to pay off.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 4:25 PM | Report abuse

From all the comments...
The new system of wealth: Sterilization.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, I shouldn't be but I am.

I wouldn't blame her for offing me, either.

We move about the house like Inspector Clouseau and Cato, always watching for the surprise assault from the top of the book case or out of the laundry chute (which she could blame on the Sock-Eating C-Y Aliens who use it as their front door).



Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I hope bc's last words aren't going to be, "Dear, put down the gun, please..."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 30, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - ha, ha, ha!!! :-)

And on that note, I'm offline for the rest of the day. Class tonight.

Posted by: PLS | August 30, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, would the next step in Your Plan to Improve the World be gelding, perhaps?

Those are two cutbacks I'm not entirely in favor of.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

that should read $1050 per month EACH for two kids or $2100.

Posted by: DS | August 30, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

No, need for a gun, Mudge. She has a machete and knows how to use it.

Also, please refer to my related 4:35 post.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I think that economics (about which I know nothing, except that it never seems to make any sense) is overdue for a radical new understanding of its basis in irreducible value. Right now, everything is based on some form of currency, whose value depends on what you think it's worth, but its worth depends on how much of it each of us has. Physics underwent such a radical transformation back in the 1870's (I think it was) when Josiah Willard Gibbs formulated the fundamental concepts of quantitative thermodynamics, followed by the interpretation of thermodynamics in terms of the properties of microphysical phenomena -- bouncing atoms and molecules and photons and the like. From this, ultimately, we get lasers and microchips and computers. So, a pretty powerful set of notions.

So, what is the irreducible value in economics? What material or substance or idea is there, which is valuable if you have a lot of it, and valuable if you have none or practically none? There is one substance, my friends, one substance that can fill this extraordinary role: water. You can have as much gold as you like, but you can't eat it or drink it (see: Midas). Oil is swell, but not nourishing. If you don't have water, right now, you is dead. If you have a whole lot, its value is undiminished when it comes time to trade your supply of water for other goods and services. Admittedly, there are some difficulties with working out conversion factors into other goods. An aqueous basis for finance is largely a theoretical construction, with day-to-day calculations continuing in the form of exchanges of paper notes. Fundamentally, however, you are rich only if you control water, either by direct ownership, or by the ability to compel those who own it to trade it for what you have (e.g., oil).

He who controls the water, controls the world.

I await the Nobel prize in economics for my insight.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, and that's why water has always been a "commons", a commodity (SoC, find the legal word for me)

Governments formed in part to control water sources for agriculture. The aqueducts of the Romans still stand.

Privitization of water tends to cause disaster. In South Africa, hiking water prices up to 10 dollars a month meant millions of people who were already paying over 1/2 their income just for water gave up and went to get polluted water from the local lake. It cost the government millions to treat the cholera and other diseases the people incurred from drinking unsafe water. Poor people, too. Talk about economic genocide.


Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like "Tank Girl" to me.

Posted by: Dooley | August 30, 2006 4:50 PM | Report abuse


Haven't read this kit and boodle yet, but before I do that, I'd like to thank you for the nice things you said about teachers. We do work hard sometimes, but I have to admit I have more fun than most. I sing and dance with my students, and treat my lectures like my own private variety show with terrible jokes and student volunteers for all sorts of things. Right now, before parents start showing up for open house, I'm making animal balloons for any little brothers or sisters who show up to see where the older siblings spend their days.

Posted by: a bea c | August 30, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, are you sure you don't live in the West? From here in Oklahoma, through the plains, and into the desert country, water is the single most important resource. It drives public policy and starts fights. All of us living in various drought stages are keenly aware of the primacy of water. This may be why I'm leery of water as a basis of finance (though "aqueous basis" has a ring to it). If someone else is going to ultimately own more of, and control, the subject on which my economic situation is based, I'd rather it not be something I literally can't live without.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 30, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, and take that to the extreme, then I forsee houses all having their own water purification systems, so they never buy any extra water. There'd be fights over stealing sewage, and Weingarten would be the most widely read economic author.

No brave new world like that for me, SciTim. Pass.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, let me suggest Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy for an interesting look at the beginnings of modern banking and economics. Oh, and it has Isaac Newton Leibnitz, Hooke, and a bunch of other science-type characters in there; it's tough to do science without money.

Oh, "Tank Girl", sure. "Dune", too.


Posted by: bc | August 30, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

PLS -- The Montessori school my niece goes to is on Connecticut Ave. in NW DC.

It isn't a day-long program either. My sister is very lucky -- her husband makes tons of money so she hasn't had to work since Rose was born. She started out there as a volunteer -- now she's a teacher's assistant -- hoping to eventually implement an art program there.

Before she had Rose, she was the director of the floral design shop at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown DC. She did flowers for some of the most extavagant weddings in the city.

Talk about over-the-top. Some of these weddings had 20K tied up in the flowers alone. Some of her stories were amazing -- the amoung of money spent on weddings.

I had a big wedding -- both of my sisters were floral designers so they did the flowers -- donated labor -- but georgeous results!

Expensive dress, expensive everything. Someone forgot to tell me I was becoming a wife though.

I had an allergic reaction to what happened after the wedding and honeymoon. (Actually, the man I married had a lot to do with the allergy, but I ain't tattling!).

My parents have pictures from all of our weddings lined up so nicely -- for me they have a shot of just me -- no husband -- modeling that drop dead georgeous dress. They paid for it -- they might as well enjoy the photos!

The dress ended up in the thrift shop a few years ago when I got tired of making room for it. Mother was adamant that I hang onto it -- but she lived on a boat --she certainly didn't have room for it! (If it had lived on the boat it would have sunk in Hurricane Frances -- perhaps a more fitting end to that marriage than even a thrift shop).

My older sister and her husband plan to give each daughter a set sum of money to use as they would like -- for a wedding, to invest, whatever. But they won't pay for an over-the-top event. Neither of my nieces are the kind to have that kind of wedding anyway.

As far as my life being more difficult than other people who contribute to the boodle -- it ain't necessarily so. We all have our hardships.

If I were still healthy, I'd probably be in a position in academia somewhere (if I had been lucky enough to get an academic job after I had gotten a Ph.D.)

This would have been a different life, with its own challenges and difficulties.
I would have been caught up in the race --perhaps I wouldn't have the time to spend on reflective practices.

As it is, I have time to do a LOT of reading -- I've had my nice garden here for several years. I still have quite a nice life -- the pace is very slow, I am pretty limited (but I don't know any different any more).

Unlike Cassandra, I don't run out of food in the middle of the month. I'm sorry Cassandra, that things are so very tight for you. Most of the women who live around me live in deep poverty. The food truck comes here once a week -- a great guy named Bunny gets all sorts of fresh produce and stuff and gives it all away to people in need. (He started doing this after he lost his son in an auto accident -- so Bunny has his loss to bear too).

One of the women I know here lives on $7,000 a year. She has managed to turn this hardship into service, like Bunny. A mentor got her doing Meals on Wheels -- she also helps to teach the Multiple Sclerosis (whch she has) swim class the the Rec Center.

I learned a long time ago it's not about one's situation in life (but I'm the first to admit that money makes life a lot easier). It's about learning to be happy within the boundaries we all have.

I don't have that burning desire to have all kinds of material stuff I used to think I couldn't live without. At least most of the time I don't burn with desire. I still can get caught up in it. It helped to be raised with an ethic of not having more than we needed -- even if we could afford it.

I'm guessing if I hadn't gotten sick I would be cut up in a very material existence. I may not have ever had the chance to figure out I couldn't get happiness through material stuff.

I'm no saint. I got plenty envious on the family vacation -- everyone had so much more. I spent too much money making it look as if I was on the same playing field. Ouch!

Posted by: nelson | August 30, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Girls are expensive. Boys are too but it's different. My son says, "I need a haircut -- give me money." Straight-line thinking.

My daughter says, "I hate my shoes."
I say, "So, change them."
She says, "I can't, they're the only ones that match my belt."
I say, "Change the belt."
She says, "I can't it matches my purse."
"So, get rid of the purse." Sez me.
She responds, "I might as well, I don't have any money to put in it anyway!" Same result but it's just not straight-line thinking.

Posted by: Graybeard | August 30, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

OK -- I tried again to leave a link. It didn't work. But if anyone want to type all the above non-linkable text in, this is a very funny piece in Salon -- a book report that Arbusto wrote to Laura about "The Stranger" -- to prove he wrote it.

It's a scream. You have to link onto a short advertisement if you don't subscribe, but it's worth waiting for the ad to be over.

This post makes up for the goopy nature of my most recent.

I don't know why I can't copy a viable link.


Posted by: nelson | August 30, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

nevermind -- it showed up as a link after all! I need to mark my calendar -- I finally learned how to link!

I am computer illiterate -- even though I deny this most of the time. It's like not being able to drive.

Posted by: nelson | August 30, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I don't see the aqueous basis of finance as a horrific scenario. We're already there, and we always have been. We need water, and we will pay a lot (in money, in effort) to get it if we have none. I'm talking about the language of economics and how one mathematically represents the acquisition and transfer of wealth in terms that have fundamental meaning. You get more wealth (meaning, more water, or the things that water buys) by doing a better job of extracting water from the environment. Water ownership as an investment means nothing -- it has value only when you expend it. Water ACQUISITION (a time rate of change) is how you gain wealth.

Your wealth has no value if you hoard it -- if you monopolize water, then you reach a point at which there are no producers of goods who are prepared to trade anything for your water, because they have all died.

I liken water to the concept of free energy in thermodynamics, a theoretical construct that describes how much you can do with the stored reseource that you have. If there is no mechanism to expend free energy, then there is no free energy. If all the enenrgy/water is evenly distributed, then there is no free energy. It is only through the equalization of the distribution that work gets done.

Just a few more thermodynamics-like concepts, and my theory is done!

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 30, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, water law is a very interesting area. As you might expect, it gets approached with a lot of ideological baggage. As with anything, many people believe that privatization is the most efficient means of ensuring distribution according to its "value". The problem with it forming the basis of an economic theory is that its value varies from priceless for the first unit per day for an individual to near "worthless" beyond immediate neeed.

In basic economics, water is defined as a commodity. The "commons" (usually referred to as the "tragedy of the commons") comes up as problem of joint or common ownership. The theory goes that any commodity jointly owned will eventually be overused, since it is not in the interest for any of the parties with partial right of use to conserve.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Most people would find themselves happier and richer if they disabuse themselves of the notion that they need lots of stuff (or expensive weddings). I recently got rid of most of my stuff and my car and moved into a studio apartment close to my job. I'm healthier, richer and less stressed. My college student son has learned well and also wants to get rid of his car. We're trying to start a car-free revolution.

Posted by: Melt | August 30, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

SofC, the last issue of the APEGS magasine was all about water. If water is not critical to some legal beagle you know yet, it will be shortly. Its become critical in oil industry production.

Posted by: dr | August 30, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm already car-free. It's not so fun when you get sick or need to visit friends and relatives that live a whopping 10, 20 miles away. Mind you, driving on the beltway is no fun either.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Wait. I thought the secret to wealth was understanding that "He who controls the Spice controls the universe." Now I have to go and re-think my whole investment stratagy

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Based upon the anger I am faced with when I through them out, my wife believes that all that stands between us and poverty are those discount cards we receive in the mail from Bed Bath and Beyond.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

On a smaller scale, he who controls the Old Spice controls the retirement home.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Throw them out. Through them out is, like, way harder.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 5:45 PM | Report abuse

PLS, I'm impressed and glad that you were able to do that. It speaks well of you and your effort. The point I was trying to make, and sorry didn't do so well, was that in America we live two different lives, two different worlds. And it hasn't just started, it's been that way, and continues to be that way. One has to first recognize a problem before offering a solution or coming to a solution. Even starting out the gate, if our positions were the same, I'm going to run into more difficulty than you, even though my objective and fortitude is the same as yours. I'm going to have to have more of what's needed to get through, wherein on a scale, if one was taken, your meter is not going to be the same as mine. Does anyone understand what I'm saying here? It's Bill Cosby and Micheal Dyson. It's institutional, it's built in the system. I, more than anyone, appreciate the opinions shared here. I am happy that most of you feel comfortable enough to express your differences, and to accept mine. It's a good forum, albeit, not mine or yours. But there is always room for improvement, in me, as well as, you. I am a relic of the 60's, I can't help that. The Civil Rights Era, a child that watched the violence that my people suffered at the hands of those that hated them. That I suspect will die with me, but it will never go away. I will most certainly have to die. And so many of you don't have a clue about the time because it was before you. So not knowing makes you even more incline to make those same mistakes. I'm trying to be clear here, probably not succeeding. As someone trying to live a life for Christ, I must let those things go, I must not harbor hate or malice for those things, and I try real hard not to, but we must speak the truth, and not lie, because that is just as bad or worse as harboring ill feelings, and that most abhorrent of feelings, hate.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

This kit is all cutting a little close to the bone. I make a decent income, but in order to make that decent income, I have to (a) live in an expensive market (DC); (b) work long hours, thus incurring other expenses (e.g., a dog walker, a car and a place to park it, because it's just too scary to walk home from the metro at 10 PM or later); (c) have a professional wardrobe; (d) on and on it goes.

That part doesn't bother me too much. What *does* keep me up at night is worry about the future. There will be no Social Security for me; I am absolutely sure I have kissed that money bye-bye forever. Jobs with pensions are increasingly rare. My personal savings have lost a lot of value in recent years, and my company is most likely going to be bankrupt by next year.

On my worst days, I worry that I am going to end up living in a VAN down by THE RIVER.

On my very worst days, I think, maybe it wouln't be so bad. I could take care of my dog my own self, and I'd save a fortune on dry cleaning, not to mention manicures.

Posted by: annie | August 30, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

And apropos of absolutely nothing, I went to yee olden used book place today, drawn by the urge to become even poorer, which I did, and thus I am infinitely richer.

Today I scored a really exciting find for 99 cents. The book appears to be one of a series titled 'The Best of the World's Classics', this volume is Greece. The copyright notes 1909, which may or may not mean anything at all, but the really cool part is the stamp inside the book which says "The Frontier College, Founded 1900, To Promote Camp Education" This is a little Historica clip about it.

for 99 cents I have history.

While I was gandering the Frontier College Website, they now do literacy education all over Canada, I thought of you, Cassandra. In your reading programs, did you guys ever see what resources were available through the First Lady? Literacy is her focus IIRC.

I also picked up The Farley Mowat book, 'WestViking', his theory about Viking exploration in North America, and a students copy of the 'Works of Geoffrey Chaucer", noted with neat little handwriting in the columns. This book is particularly interesting because of the $9.30 U of A price sticker on the outside of the book. When was the last time you could get a book for that price in a college bookstore?

Posted by: dr | August 30, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Here, here... pal! I'm in the same boat. Scrambling like crazy to feed kids, pay bills and maybe go out for a pizza just to find out today that I'm just above the median income for the richest county (Loudoun, a.k.a. delevelop our butts into oblivion without roads, schools, sewers, etc.) in America! WHOA, BABY! Do I FEEL SPECIAL!

America is going down the tubes so fast that 99% of us won't know it until their credit cards are frozen.

Posted by: Mark | August 30, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse

You could try and go into the dog business, at least you wouldn't spend as much on wardrobes. You are absolutely right to question what you really consider a good life.

And think about it, why would your job mean you need to come home from the metro at 10 PM? That point alone would bother me about any job.

Unfortunately, Life offers no security about anything except the fact we will certainly die and stop all those silly worries sooner or later.

I get Cassandra's point. I'm disabled since birth. I TOTALLY get her point. It's not just the institution, it's also the inequality in education and expecations she might have received as a child. Then you add on civil right issues, and from what she says she likely has PTSD.

Given those circumstances and the fact of racism... It's very hard to march confidently up to a prospective white employer at an interview and say "I deserve this job." and be assertive enough to do it

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 6:13 PM | Report abuse

One final small thought(thoughtito?) As I have aged my wealth has become greater but less visible. It has gone from freshly printed dollar bills (in sequence!) given to me as a birthday gift to equity in my home. Plus, so much is processed electronically now. My wages are deposited directly into my account. My savings duly deducted. Most bills paid automatically. Nearly all purchases are made with credit card (and duly paid off each month he says just a wee bit smugly.) It isn't wealth that is decreasing, it is the salience of that wealth. I increasingly feel like I did when I was a kid. I have a place to live, food, and a reasonable number of toys that I must share, grudgingly, with others in the house. But that sense of personal ownership is fading.
I miss those birthday cards.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 30, 2006 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Sense of personal ownership. That is a great phrase, and it is right on the mark.

My personal fanasty is to own a shack in the middle of nowhere-- outright. I just want a corner where nobody can mess with my decision to do what I want. And I don't mean a 6 bedroom shack with a deck and lake scenery. (A river.. well a creek running through it would be good tho').

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse


On your worst day you're STILL doing better than Chris Farley is.

Me, I'm not so sure about.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 30, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Why a shack in the middle of nowhere?

Ahem. You see, I have this secret dream to be the first deaf opera singer. This means a lot of offkey practice at the top of my lungs to a chorus of howling dogs, until I find the key somewhere. I think it's under the mat.

Awww, keep the hat moving, and thank you very much for your contribution to a simple gnome's dreams.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 6:42 PM | Report abuse

This one's for Wilbrod and martooni

I live in a shack, since the bubble's implosion
Mind the creek, there's been a lot of erosion
I sit singing my aria
though I've become a pariah,
Not 'cause my voice, but my habit of exposion

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, what is PTSD?

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 7:07 PM | Report abuse


PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Posted by: pj | August 30, 2006 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod -- what kind of dog business?

My personal dream is to build an off-grid staw-bale house in the middle of nowhere.

SoC -- did you mean explosion? Very witty --

annie -- I've tried to stop worrying about what will happen to me when I turn 65 and lose my private disability insurance -- and half of my income.

I used to worry so much I forgot I was still alive and okay. I could get bumped off by a truck when I leave the house in a minute.

I can still freeze with worry sometimes.

My folks tell me I'll have money when they die -- but there's no assurance of course.

Mark of 6:10 captures how I sometimes feel about the craziness of the culture we live in.

gotta go -- hopefully there isn't a truck out there with my name on it! :-)

Posted by: nelson | August 30, 2006 7:38 PM | Report abuse

dr, I am so jammed up with the business for the community organization, I haven't even started the reading and math program. I'm still planning on having it. I like to wait until the kids get settled in with their new teachers, and probably will start after Labor Day. For so many of the children, reading is not seen as something very important. A lot of the oral tradition is still a part of our culture. Thanks, dr. We have a literacy program at the community college, and I'm going to try and use some of their resources. It's a slow process.

I think I have too many irons in the fire, and some of these folks are giving me real grief. I mean serious grief. I think I need a vacation. Even the beach would be nice now. Not Myrtle Beach, but one of the North Carolina beaches where you don't have so many tourists. The fall of the year is a good time to go, because the beaches are practically deserted, and I like that. Of course, I'm dreaming here. Good night, folks. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 30, 2006 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Oral tradition is great, but reading is good too. There are so MANY good children's lit out there.

SoC, thanks for the limerick, I do sincerely hope it was "explosions" not "exposings" that you meant.

Well, dog businesses? Hmm, annie could become a puppy manicurist, for one thing ;).

Animals generally don't make you much money for the work you put in, unless you're really shrewd and lucky and got into bucking bulls before PBR took off, or something. So you have to be crazy enough to live animals 24/7.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 8:13 PM | Report abuse

re: limerick

Actually, that's where thanks to martooni comes in. His 3:45 noted a typo in the kit - exposion instead of explosion - and he asked if that meant the sudden removal of clothing. I guess it could work with 'explosion' as well, but a Unabomber reference isn't as funny as a nude, shack-dwelling opera singer.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 30, 2006 8:21 PM | Report abuse

"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. To be awake is to be alive."

-- from "Walden," by Henry David Thoreau

Posted by: Dreamer | August 30, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dreamer.. nice to "see" you! How are things in your part of the world?

Posted by: TBG | August 30, 2006 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, SoC, especially if the shack practically fits around the opera singer.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey, TBG.
Things are great here. The sun is shining, and it seems that, for the next few days at least, we've traded the humid heat for a dry heat -- my kind of heat. That said, I kind of feel like going to the movies today, since I was stuck at home yesterday while a leak in our ceiling was being repaired. (The new version of the Japanese earthquake movie "The Sinking of Japan" has caught my eye. Nothing like a disaster flick to put things like rain and minor household repairs into perspective.)

Posted by: Dreamer | August 30, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Busy day tomorrow, probably won't find that BPH at that cheeseburger stand on the sidewalk of 16th and K, was it?

So off topic du jourd'thursday...

America has an Education Secretary named Margaret Spellings? That is so--Arbusto. And I don't know a teacher that likes No Child Left Behind. Listen to this "don't focus on those who barely clear the bar, focus on the children who achieve."

I got a bulletin for her-- any kid who will achieve highly, will achieve no matter what tests are done, because they are self-teachers. That's like "look at the chess club, they're all straight A's in math" and ignoring the kids who are befuddled by basic alegbra and supposed to achieve that expertise on schedule.

And let's not even look at the pressure to undo language delay related to disabilities.

I was told that under No Child Left Behind Act's standards, deaf children basically have to be able to read by age 3. That's silly, I read at age 4 and it didn't harm me any, also, schools are NOT responsible for kids that young.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 30, 2006 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Methinks we're among the first of Ernesto's outer rain bands. Just thunder and rain right now. Tommorrow will be interesting.

All this talk of the cost of living makes me think of the immortal Tony Hendra's ditty: Papa Was a Running dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie..."Workers of the world unite
you have nothing to lose but your chains...

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: I saw the piece on NCLB. I teach some of those kids that can barely reach the bar. My classes typically have transescents that run the gamut of ability: those that test competent to those capable of functioning between the third to sixth grade level, despite being in the ninth grade or even further. Add to that nearly a third of the students with special needs [educationally and behaviouraly (adhd, beh, borderline emh)], and one has a challenge at every turn in the classroom. One recent graduate that could barely read is now holding a job that pays a salary nearly equal to that of a first year teacher, and has a newborn son. The multiple ironies are striking. I often wonder why the latter scenario plays out so often amongst our group and have come to the general conclusion that the apple rarely falls too far from the tree. The most interesting thing is to have been in the buildng long enough to have taught multiple siblings. They are truly different: some of them are extraordinary success stories that have beat incredibly long odds. I suppose that seeing that sort of thing happening keeps me in the classroom.

Posted by: jack | August 30, 2006 11:11 PM | Report abuse

I got married for $35.

$30 of it was a rip-off!

It was in Las Vegas. Justice of Peace cost #$5 for registration. Then you cross the street, where they marry you.

When the new Mrs. SuperFrenchie and I got out of the room 5 minutes later, there's this guy at the door that I've never seen before.

- You owe me $30.
- Huh? Why?
- I was your witness.
- You weren't even there.
- Ya, but I signed the papers.

I've since tried to amortize it. Doesn't work! Worst financial investment ever.

Luckily, Mrs. SuperFrenchie is pretty hot!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 30, 2006 11:49 PM | Report abuse

I love the oral tradition! The tricky part is in perceiving how to write dialect so that written stories are in a natural voice. Too many of the "approved" folk tales that are taught to students (Grimm, Andersen, most collected folk tales) are written in a ponderous and unnatural tone by authors who clearly are neither storytellers nor gifted writers. Try reading them aloud, and you quickly see that they need to be reinterpreted for a natural voice. So do it! Real folk tales should be living texts, molded to the needs of the teller. Let students translate one of these lame stories into the images and words that are natural speech for them. There's nothing like learning another language to become better at your own!

My written voice here in the Boodle may be ponderous and stilted, but it is in fact how I talk -- read what I write, throw in some sarcastic and self-deprecating inflection, and you have my spoken voice.

There are several excellent storytellers who also have produced books based on their stories (Jean Shepherd, Donald Davis, Jackie Torrence). One can read the story and also listen to the story to hear how inflection affects the interpretation of the written word. I spoke last Thursday with a storyteller/school librarian who told me about how she would read Donald Davis' stories aloud to her class. One 3rd-grade boy was so taken by them that he wrote his own story, which he ultimately performed for the school in an assembly. The teacher recorded it and sent it to Donald Davis, who was so tickled that he came to the school on his own nickel and did an assembly for the school.


Cassandra, try an experiment:

Post a list of books that you would like to have for your reading program, and post an addres that can receive packages (not your home address). See what happens.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | August 30, 2006 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of books, as we often do here, there were some interesting articles about Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer who passed away yesterday. I have never heard of him, but he won the Nobel Prize in 1988, and his books sound wonderful, and very relevant these days:

I read The Kite Runner over the weekend - set in Afghanistan, from about 1973 to the present. It's very good - about class, intolerance, betrayal, war, friendship and family - and it gives insights into that culture, as well as our own.

Storyteller Tim, that's an interesting experiment you've come up with.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 31, 2006 1:34 AM | Report abuse

"Oh,the Humanity..."

that induced a chuckle joel...:-)

my parents always admonished me--they
still do--:-) about why i did not
manage my money better...

my stock response being it was because
i never HAD enough money TO manage...:-)

since having relocated here to balmy,
monsoony and third worldish SE asia
all things have become relative regards
to money...

...i am on a 175 to 250 thai baht a day
plan which translates to about $6 dollars
american a day...compared to some native
thais daily get-a-longs that is in car
talk "running the carb rich"...

as one begins to understand more that
a sizeable portion of the worlds human
beings are making do with less than $2
american a day it puts american living
standards and expectations in clear

this 21st century surely holds much
change for americans as we come to
better and more in-balance terms with
the rest the planets human beings...

the obscene $500-$700 billion defense/
warmaking budgets and rapacious energy
and consumer culture creeds will not be
sustainable in this 21st century.

...we will become better global citizens
and better americans though and that is

this planet... earth... growns under the
burdens we humans place on its air,water
and natural world plantlife and wildlife
of the air,water and in SE
asia remaining natural forests, ocean and
coastal areas are under heavy pressure
from man everyday...current destruction,
exploitation and abuse outcomes point to
exhaustion of these vulnerable areas in
another 30-40 years...heedless logging,
rainforest clearing and burnoff and the
degradation of the regions water,air and
land resources are rampant and extensive.

..."wealth" is what you make of it,money
is one way of measuring it...for those who
do have children growing and entering life
and hence future hopes the prospects for
life and living they will find should
bring much concern and thought on...

the act of stewardship very well then
describing that awareness and provision...

lastly...we do well at remembering
to look down upon looking up at those
around us...there are many who above will
always have more...and always many who
below have less...we all then well hold
mercy,compassion and charity as truest
and greatest expression of what wealth
we possess as human beings...

the summer soon comes down to days of
autumn once again in the northern climes...
hopefully all who read this have had a
nice wishes for the coming
autumn days...indeed these are for us
"the good 'ol days"...measure well.

Posted by: an american in siam... | August 31, 2006 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm.. during the pleasant autumn weather...

A drownproof watering hole, an automatic feeding trough, and a few hundred bucks invested in a human habitrail thingie (all of this assumes a sturdy fence!), and I figure PLS could save several thousand bucks by leaving the child to gain an invaluable sense of self-reliance a couple of days a week!

I'm sure that the eventual therapy bills can be billed to some third-party payer!


Shortly after he won the Nobel prize, I picked up an omnibus edition of several Mahfouz works, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I didn't follow him closely, but was quite upset when he was physically attacked in the mid-90's. I remember being pleased when it turned out that not only Egyptians, but most Moslems were revolted by the attack. I read more by (and about) him after that. I'll miss him.

Posted by: Bob S. | August 31, 2006 2:56 AM | Report abuse

Anyone wishing to donate books for Cassandra's reading program (a good cause if I ever saw one...) can contact me and I will give you an address to send them to.

kbertocci at

Posted by: kbertocci | August 31, 2006 5:07 AM | Report abuse

RIP to a great actor (born in Quebec, Canuckistan), Glenn Ford, and to Joe Stefano, the guy who wrote the script for "Psycho" as well as developed and wrote "The Outer Limits."

In other news, Bush wants to improve press coverage of Iraq by putting out a 2-year $20 million contract for a PR firm. (

"U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

"The contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide "public relations products" that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal."

I don't suppose the PR flacks they hire will come on board in time to do anything about the 60-some people who got killed there yesterday, especially now that the bad guys are focusing on hospitals. Let's see, how would you spin that: "Baghdad medicos decentralize facilities during HVAC renovations" might work.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 31, 2006 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, AIS! Thank you for your thoughts.

The spouse poured four inches of water out of the rain guage this morning, from the last 12 hours. Jack, you got a measure of what's fallen at your house? Should be an interesting day, what with Ernesto's moisture coming upon us.

On the uses of money: Got a letter yesterday from the daughter of an old friend. She's spending a year in the Philippines doing mission work. Will I send $100 to support her? Nope, $200 sounds about right to me; that check will be in the mail today.

My older daughter has a high school buddy who emigrated from the old Soviet republic of Georgia when she was 13. She got a scholarship that paid for her first year at Appalachian State University and didn't know what she would do for the other three. My mom, my ex-husband, and I came up with enough funding for her to stay in school and graduate. We couldn't pay all her bills but gave enough that she was able to make it on that and what she was able to earn. I've never done anything that gave me more joy or satisfaction.

God only asks for 10 percent. It's what happens to us when we give that makes the difference in how we view our wealth.

Posted by: slyness | August 31, 2006 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Joel: //Statistically, I am among those with a significant amount of disposable income. Then how come I feel like I haven't had two dadgum nickels since about 1987? Why do I feel like I'm downwardly mobile? Where's all that money that I supposedly have, statistically?//

Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 31, 2006 7:43 AM | Report abuse

OMG! Curmudgeons on a Plane!!!

*pointing @ new Kit*


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 31, 2006 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - regarding the "ek-a-lek-tic" Bushism -- he was trying to say eclectic, describing the various books he's read.

My 12 year old son has a better grasp of the English language than does our President. Simply amazing!

Posted by: BK | August 31, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I have a friend who says about life insurance:

"Sure, you want some to take care of things if you go, but you don't want to put a target on your head."

Posted by: twindad | August 31, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

ALARM! We have entered a time warp!

Posted by: Dr. Who | August 31, 2006 9:00 PM | Report abuse

well, i have been wondering for my husband how in the world is he going to fund 3 kids in college. i nasty divorce and another 5 years of child support may not be able to cut it; i just sincerely wish that the other parent has a solid plan.

i, in particular has been pondering on what do we have for retirement.i should enter this blog into my damndest days journal; but i don't want to go on and on forever.

education is the foundation for a successful future.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

BR: //My 12 year old son has a better grasp of the English language than does our President. Simply amazing!//

He probably also has a better grasp of foreign affairs.

For that matter, so does my 4-year old daughter!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 31, 2006 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Hi! Very interesting! pbveal

Posted by: John S | September 1, 2006 4:42 AM | Report abuse

This is actually a serious national issue. The administration has secretively and collusively allied itself with corporate management. The forces of management and government are being combined to diminish the economic priority on the well-being of labor.

A large proportion of the "productivity gains" the Bush administration brags about have been achieved by simply transferring profit from payrolls to the bottom line, at the expense of their workers, and to the detriment of the middle class. This is a disaster in progress.

The priority placed on labor in the distribution of profits is the source of funding for the existence of the middle class and the consumer economy that accounts for as much as two thirds of the total US economy. Until we renew the priority on sharing business profits with labor, the middle class and the American standard of living will continue to erode.

Organized labor would never have arisen without a need and a purpose. Collusion between government and corporate management creates as great a need for organized labor as at any time since its inception. Corporatism will dismantle our economy if its agenda prevails.

The time has come to recognize the contribution of the unions, as well as their failings, and to reassert the right to collective bargaining. If we fail at this, our grandchildren will wonder what the "middle class" ever was, and not believe so many people were ever so rich.

Posted by: LongWager | September 5, 2006 9:32 PM | Report abuse

"The Art of Doing Nothing," Wash Post Magazine, August 13, 2006.
The following were French grammatical errors in the article:
1. The word cafe comes from the French, and it carries an acute accent on the "e;";
(my server won't let me put accents)
2. column #2, para #2: the word derriere has a grave accent on the second "e";
3. column #2, para #3: tres has a grave accent on the "e" and magnifiques has an "s" to accord with the plural noun;
4. column #2, para #3: les arts erotiques-no "e" in arts, plus an "s" at end; an acute accent on the "e" of erotiques.

For a publication of the Post's renown, I was greatly surprised to see so many French errors. You don't joke about another nation's language. If you and your colleagues don't know, you should ask someone who is conversant with the language-there are plenty of profs in area, plus expat French.
I don't think that Americans would like to see English similarly slaughtered in any
European, even French, publication.

Posted by: Richard Humbert | September 13, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

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