Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Gift Horse to Ride On

Hobby horse

Winter Fundraiser 2012, Day Seven

Here we are at the closing day for our first quarterly fund-raiser of 2012. If the trend in this one is indicative of the whole year, we will be okay. No, not just okay — we’ll be FINE! Both of us are by turns relieved, happy, and encouraged. Let them push up the electric rates by 40% in May [their five-year contract with a supplier runs out then and our electric co-op has been warning everyone]. I’m ready now, thanks to y’all.

Ever since the beginning of the end of our “rich” cycle, I had the sense that something would show up allowing us to continue Gates of Vienna. I presumed it would be another telecommute job, but that didn’t happen. No, I didn’t know what or when or who would permit us to continue, but there was — still is — a sense of being on the right path, even as it has been transformed from a “path” into a much larger thoroughfare. Meanwhile, I’m just as certain we’ll darn well know when this busy road begins to narrow and eventually trails off into the underbrush. Obviously it will be time to pick up another strand of our lives and do something else. But again, at this point, I haven’t any more idea what that would look like than I could have foreseen the transmogrification of Gates of Vienna. That still amazes me.

In this fundraiser, we’ve skirted around the edges of Frugal — it’s the new “in” thing, now that many are busted flat and finding the party’s moved on somewhere else. Surely there can be fewer things more bitter than paying for things one no longer wants or can afford to keep up. But so many people have turned it around and made a virtue out of not having; suddenly it’s less painful. Just as pinched, perhaps, but changing the frame changes the whole scene. I’ve seen a few people do that.

Sewing machine #2For us, having to buy something presents a problem. I mean, we’re not used to big purchases anymore. As one small example, I’ve been trying to find a reasonably priced bottom sheet for our bed because I have all these top sheets. The bottoms wear out because of the inordinate amount of time I spend there. And they don’t even mend well. However, the darn things only seem to come in sets — two sheets, two pillow cases — and those sets are waaay too much money. So I have all these flat sheets…and I’ve been thinking: people used to use flat sheets for top and bottom. So why not do the same thing? Simply go back to the ways they do it in hospitals. No contoured sheets there & Problem Solved.

A bigger example is trying to find a laptop of some sort that I could use while lying/sitting on the couch or bed. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time because my current laptop is too big and too heavy for that, though it’s a wonderfully serviceable computer. However, it doesn’t make a good bedmate.

A generous donor earmarked a large sum “for Dymphna”. Something to make my life easier, he said. Voilà! The money part of my equation was solved. But the nuts-and-bolts of an actual netbook, notebook — whatever — something light and easy to use, that's been harder. Too many choices! I’ve been all over the map with this. Looking at ultra lights (oh my heavens) or, at the other extreme, penny-pinching ideas about buying a used model of, say, a netbook. Or notebook. Our friend, Wally Ballou, has been giving helpful advice. Like not spending it all on the computer but putting some into peripherals. Is that the word, “peripherals”? And avoiding the headaches of used electronics.

Tip jarI have become like Calvin when he found that catalogue full of cool stuff he didn’t know about but now can’t live without. I sympathize, Calvin. I mean, backlit keyboards! Who knew?? But WB says a little gooseneck attachable lamp works just as well. I have a feeling he’s right. My experience with “extras” is that they’re just something else that could break and I usually end up not using them.

In that vein, most of you are aware that we used part of our fundraising money in 2010 to buy a gas cooking range so that we’d have some other form of heat when the electricity failed. [In a wooded, rural area, the lines go down more frequently than they do elsewhere]. It was hard to find a gas cooker that didn’t use electricity to fire up the thing. Duh. But after some searching, we came across the bottom rung of the gas cooker options. And wonderfully for us, there were no added attractions and no electric anything. I don’t need another clock in the kitchen, or any of the doodads you find on modern stoves. As for the self-cleaning feature in our old electric range, I stopped using it when I found out how much it costs to get that sucker up to 800 degrees. And you still had to hand-wash the oven racks. Besides, if you didn’t pre-clean the oven, the burn-off was pretty intense. No, the only thing I miss is the glass door that lets you see how things are going inside the oven. But I don’t miss it enough to pay for it.

So that’s where I am now with this new computer purchase. After flying all over the place like a kid in a candy shop, I’m beginning to eliminate. All I want is to be able to write in bed or on the couch, with my legs not bent in this chair. Oh, and to read a few other blogs. Think of it as resting and writing. I’ve tried writing the first draft by hand and coming to the computer to finish, but something gets lost in the translation and the incomplete essays pile up in my document folder. It is painful not to be able to finish tasks, and demoralizing not to contribute more to Gates of Vienna.

I’ve found that you can’t eliminate some items, even if you know you’ll never ever use those gadgets. Like the webcams built into all of them — they removed the “no thank you” ability from that feature. However, I did find a way to eliminate Power Point (heh). And I can get varieties without DVD players. No way can I listen to music and write. No multi-tasking with ADD, thankyouverymuch. A recipe for chaos.

As we wind up the Bleg, I’ve discovered, through the process of doing it, that the whole Frugal thing is a subject to be returned to again in the future. People’s comments have given me food for thought. I’ll close with Laine again, since he touched on something I’ve pondered for years:

Socialists often assume that the world is a zero-sum game, that every good enjoyed by anyone is necessarily the result of someone else not enjoying it, and that therefore simply depriving one person of the enjoyment of a good necessarily benefits someone else who then will be able to enjoy it.

It was getting past this fallacy, the belief in scarcity rather than abundance that turned me toward conservative economic philosophy. Bastiat, Hazlitt, et al. I have the Baron to thank for that, and also Wally B. again. Both made me see that kamikaze progressive thinking — otherwise known as bleeding heart liberals’(would the Brits say “bloody socialists”?) ruination — was a serious mistake. Eventually going to work in Social Services, wrestling with the problems inherent in three-generation families on welfare was the final turn in my road to understanding why giveaways don’t work…

We’ll come back to this subject of Frugality sometime — from another direction, perhaps. I am grateful to the creative minds that saw through the scarcity tactics of statist thinking to the generativity of the free market. That recognition of abundance is indeed liberating.

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So, on this last day of our fundraiser, we had lots of people dropping by. The Baron keeps track of the places:

Stateside: California, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Texas

Near Abroad: Canada

Far Abroad: Australia, Ireland, and the UK

Ireland! Me ancestral home!

I keep track of the thank you notes — and I wish I ‘d found a notebook in time to start them whilst lying on the couch. Soon, though…soon.

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Professor L said...

There is much to be said of frugality, but also of largess in times of plenty. You've got a bigger sum from me, partly to make up for nothing at Christmas (no job, gifts for the family, etc), and partly because I can (work is tiring but great for the money), but all over with a healthy dose of "It's worth it."

And it isn't just the content. It's you two. The character of a blog is defined by the character of its writers. You post much the same content as Robert Spencer and Pamella Geller, but your characters give you a greater range in how far you take things.

I purchased a new road bike the other day (if I might quickly say that wearing lycra and being a cyclist is no excuse to be unmannerly!), and while I might have gotten a more expensive bike with a few little extras, I got one that appealed to my taste in appearance, was in my price bracket and the clincher was great service in the local shop. There was no difference in price between this shop and the others nearby, but the service and their entire attitude was the clincher. It was the person who sold me on my place of purchase, not the bike itself.

It isn't a necessity, and this time of Lent is great for working out our necessities. Father Robert Barron put it well - we fast not because we're puritans ("We like the things of this world"), but because it allows our deeper and truer hungers to rise to the surface. Our hunger is ultimately for the Person, in those around us, and ultimately in our originator, God. The things of this world distract us, hence the beatitude "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God."

But I always remember it is poor "in spirit." The wealthy may be poor in spirit; they just have more distractions to ignore.

Sol Ta Triane said...

LAW Wells

"You post much the same content as Robert Spencer and Pamella Geller, but your characters give you a greater range in how far you take things." Yeah, much more affecting, the B and D's GOV.

Dymphna, hows about something like a Lapdawg or similar, a kind of tray table you can interchangeably use in bed or on a couch with a laptop. I've never used one so I can't suggest a brand.

In one lifetime I was in the computer ergonomics industry, so careful not to get fooled by cute gimmicky computer hype. Make sure your screen and keyboard setup feels like a good pair of shoes. Then we can get more articles out of you.

Chiu ChunLing said...

On that note, avoid back-lit anything that can be avoided. Your eyes were designed to look at things that reflected light from another source. The play of reflection and shadow across a physical surface is a vital visual cue that is enormously important to letting your eyes and brain process a scene correctly.

I keep even my monitor brightness low enough relative to the ambient light in the room so that I'm able to, at any time, place a piece of ordinary typing paper with print on both sides in front of my screen and still easily read it immediately without having to wait for my eyes to adjust or fight to distinguish which print-side I'm looking at.

Unfortunately, true-color reflective displays are still a ways off in the future, and the nature of cinematography (with its preference for the hypnotic effect) means that actively light emitting displays are going to be with us a while yet even when there are alternatives. But their evils can be minimized considerably with proper lighting.

More is always important to choose what is good over what only looks good. That's really the heart of frugality.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Anonymous said...

ChristianInfidel says:

LAW Wells wrote-- and I say Bravo!-- "And it isn't just the content. It's you two. The character of a blog is defined by the character of its writers."

Amen! I read LAW Wells' comment and immedicately copied it in order to quote it here.

Dymphna, I find this a wonderful, moving essay. Thank you for it.

AND, Dymphna and Baron, thank you for your courage, your values which inspire me, and the other indefinable elements of character that made me want immediately to quote that excellent line above from LAW Wells.

May God bless you.