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What percent of your childhood longing does the following paragraph describe?

Children tend to relate with onscreen characters during the learning programs and build a positive relationship with that character, who seems to be heroic and/or loving and/or caring and/or funny. Then, when they interact with that character again, it tends to be in a commercial environment that’s tightly controlled, such as seeing Big Bird toothpaste on the grocery store shelf or Pokemon toys in their fast food restaurant. They want to continue that emotional connection – heroic and/or loving and/or caring and/or funny – but now the emotional connection they desire requires a purchase. Is it any wonder, really, that young children get very upset when their parents say “no” to buying an item depicting their favorite character? Often, it’s not the item they want. They want heroism, love, care, or laughter.

From an excellent, concise book review of Buy, Buy Baby
Now that more of my friends have kids, it's interesting to see how couples choose to divide up paid employment vs childcare. My favorite so far is the Bensons, who each work at paid employment a few days of the week, so they take turns with childcare. It looks like the Kullas do something similar. This is less practical when your baby is breastfeeding exclusively and won't take a bottle, or when both parents can't work from home (or farm). But there are probably as many different ways to handle this as there are couples.

Of all reasons to stay at home, obviously the best is non-financial: to raise your own children. This post isn't about that, it's about the money. The typical economic formula people use to figure out if they should return to paid employment after having a child is:

S - C

Where S is the salary of the potential stay-at-home (SAH) parent, and C is the cost of child care. If S is more than C, then grab your briefcase and get back out there in the working world!

I'd like to propose a slightly more realistic formula:

S - (C + E)

Where E is "everything else a SAH parent can do at home to contribute to the family's bottom line." Here are some ways that our family is saving by having one parent at home (usually Venessa, though she is back to working at home...YUM!). I've also included an estimated yearly cost if we had two parents with paid employment¹:

* First, the value of C: a full-time nanny for a year = $30,000
* We have time to launder cloth diapers and wipes = $750
* Venessa can nurse Lillia, so we don't need formula, bottles, pump, etc. = $1,200
* We have time to bargain shop at thrift stores or pick up craigslist finds = $350
* We're paying less income tax = $5,000
* I can take lunch from home (leftovers from homemade meals) = $500
* Also, when we go out for dinner it's by choice, not due to time constraints (i.e. we dine out less) = $250
* I commute by bike, and Venessa's paid employment is at home = $1000
* Many of our daytime hobbies (beekeeping, canning, gardening, chickens) are money-saving = $500

That's approximately a $40k salary right there, or a $19 hourly wage at a 40hr/week job. There are probably some other factors that I'm forgetting or that are harder to quantify (e.g. children in daycare get sick more often at first).

There are a few caveats to keep in mind:

* Will you be leaving any workplace perks behind? 401k match, life insurance, etc.
* Will you be able to get back into the workforce when you're ready?
* What if the person with paid employment gets laid off? I recommend everyone having a 3 - 6 month emergency fund, but this is especially important for parents.

Like I said, this is a very personal decision. I just want to make sure people are looking at the complete picture when they make this decision for their family.

¹ Source: http://www.babycenter.com/baby-cost-calculator and http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/12/17/the-real-value-of-stay-at-home-parenting/ This is going to vary a lot from family to family, based on many factors.


I love stuff like this:

Picadee (Ray's new startup) is still in stealth mode, but as any good nerd knows, when a startup's splash page isn't informative, there'll likely be clues in the html source.

The meta description on their website says:

'The easy and private way to share photos with your family and close friends.'

Hmmm, that seemed too easy and it's a dumb elevator pitch too. I wonder what happens if I refresh. The description changed! It's one of 6 different descriptions, and they all have something in common. See if you can put your finger on it...

'Changing the game in a game changing world!'
'Share music with your friends on Facebook!'
'Simple easy way to send Grilled Cheese via mobile.'
'When 140 characters isn't enough'
'The best way to let your best friends know where you are!'

Presidental Quote

"Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship brings the holders of government bonds, those who rely on Social Security and Veterans benefits."

-- Ronald Reagan, 9/26/1987

Why I won't be using google+

Thank you for the invites. I'm not joining google+. Here's a parable to illustrate one reason why

A UNIX wizard hears cries of torment from his apprentice's computer room where the apprentice is studying, and goes to investigate.

He finds the apprentice in obvious distress, nearly on the verge of tears. "What's the problem?" he asks. "Why did you cry out?"

"It's terrible using this system. I must use four editors each day to get my studies done, because not one of them does everything."

The wizard nods sagely, and asks, "And what would you propose that will solve this obvious dilemma?"

The student thinks carefully for several minutes, and his face then lights up in delight. Excitedly, he says, "Well, it's obvious. I will write the best editor ever. It will do everything that the existing four editors do, but do their jobs better, and faster. And because of my new editor, the world will be a better place."

The wizard quickly raises his hand and smacks the apprentice on the side of his head. The wizard is old and frail, and the apprentice isn't physically hurt, but is shocked by what has happened. He turns his head to face the wizard. "What have I done wrong?" he asks.

"Fool!" says the wizard. "Do you think I want to learn yet another editor?"

Immediately, the apprentice is enlightened.

Livejournal is still the old/new Livejournal for me.
I was really close to starting a blog about simple living, frugality, and other money/lifestyle topics, with a nerdy and lighthearted take (e.g. my post about energy consumption), but I figured it's all been written already. Instead, I pledged to write more here. We'll see how that goes.

0. I had a fun birthday that included some kickball and karaoke, two of my favorite pastimes these days.
1. I made this for Mike: http://freshandrefresh.wordpress.com/
2. You should fill out this form and tell the county not to cut bus service: http://www.kingcounty.gov/council/testimony.aspx
3. We bought a 7.2ft³ chest freezer for $75 delivered. I borrowed a kill-a-watt from the library to check out how much energy it consumes. At current electricity prices, it's going to cost $25 a year to keep it running. Probably less, since I measured it when it was mostly empty and full fridges/freezers run more efficiently. I think it'll pay for itself in the first year, but it's one of those things that's hard to track. I've read that buying meat by the cow instead of by the pound can save a family of 4 almost $500 a year, if they eat beef frequently. We only eat occasionally, but even if we save $100 this year, that pays for the freezer and the cost of running it.

pi feet

Isaac and I are in the swimming pool...

Isaac: How deep is the water here?
Me: Well, there's the 4 foot marker over there, and here's the 3 feet marker over here. So we're between 3 and 4 feet, but closer to 3.
Isaac: So it's like pi feet deep?


Great start to summer

Around 5:30am, Scourge (the cat) brought a live bird into the bedroom and started playing with it. Her chase moved into the closet, which made a LOT of noise, and then onto the night table, where the cat bumped the remains of a can of PBR from the previous night, and spilled it onto my clothes and an external hard drive. (The drive is OK. The clothes smell like beer).

After putting the bird outside, I am awoken by my neighbor revving his crotch rocket bike in the driveway. He proceeds to idle it there for 20 minutes.

I'm finally able to fall back asleep at 6:30am. The alarm goes off at 7am. It's "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Somehow that made the past 2 hours seem funny.


Achievement Unlocked

There was only one item on the list of Stuff White People Like that I hadn't incorporated into my life: playing children's games (#102).

But now I can cross that one off the list, as Venessa and some of her friends have roped me into joining their kickball team, Team Zissou. I suck at all baseball-diamond-type games, but I'm having a lot of fun with the team. The best part is doing "taunts" which are like cheers but instead of cheering about how good your team is, they're skits about how bad the other team is.

Last time we played an AD&D themed team so in the taunt I was a nerdy role-playing guy, which for those of you who knew me in middle school isn't much of a stretch. After the taunt we blast some Girl Talk (#107) on the boom box, crack open some beer (#23), and play ball in our matching Life Aquatic (#10) inspired outfits.

It's full-on hipsterville but I've learned to embrace it. Now that I've completed every item on the SWPL list, who am I to deny my true nature?

PS: Kickball kills two SWPL birds with one stone: children's games, and co-ed sports (#65) but I already play ultimate frisbee (#110) which is co-ed.

PPS: I've actually been called "the Yoda of stuffwhitepeoplelike"


Aaron's story

This is a cute/funny story Aaron wrote for an in-class assignment:

Mr. Weirdo was born on Mars. He was shaped like a potato. His parents decided to send him to Earth. He was adopted by Lara & Max Dingelburger. His mom was so sad to leave her son that she exploded. kaboom!!! So his dad called and said “Your mom’s dead.” So he stabbed himself with a knife but Martians are invincible so he went to school and no one bothered him (did I mention that he was 100 million feet tall?) but he got homesick and cried himself to death. He never went to Heaven or the underworld so he had to walk the Earth for eternity. Someone from his funeral saw him and said “You’re not alive anymore!” and then he went to Heaven. Everyone in the world cried because he was the only person in the world who could lift an anvil with his tongue.