“I’m a Toydarian, mind tricks don’t work on me. Only money. No money, no parts, no deal!” – Watto, Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
Maybe I’m not quite as bad as Watto, but I do love a good deal – especially now that I’m being forced to rein in the budget something fierce. Since I don’t know if everyone else knows about it, I’m going to put in this link to Amazon.com’s bulk-buying Subscribe & Save program. I l.o.v.e this program. Every time I order something from it, I get free shipping and an automatic 15% discount. Woo-hoo!
What reminded me was that I just ordered some more HE detergent for my front-loading washer today. I get paper products (my much beloved Seventh Generation toilet paper, paper towels, and bath tissues, for example), Dad Windu’s favorite face wash (very hit or miss at the grocery store), “lady items” and other such bulky non-perishables this way. I’m a huge fan of buying local and supporting local merchants, but I’m also a big fan of being able to get my weekly groceries on my bicycle (hard to do when you’ve got lots of bulky items) or – if the load is really light – walking there and back. Plus the local grocery doesn’t even stock Seventh Generation stuff (yes, I’ve requested them) – and that bugs the crap out of me! So the the UPS truck pulls up and delivers 6-7 months of TP in a big o’ cardboard box.
To get the great deal, it makes me pick a recurring period (1, 2, 3 or 6 month time frames). That seemed a bit risky until I realized that I can cancel the repeat order immediately after buying something if I want to. They also send you a reminder email about a week before sending out the next shipment, too, so you can skip the upcoming order if you wish. Generally I order everything on the 6 month plan and move the order date back or forward as needed.
I hope this helps some of you out too.
“No you listen! We live in a real world, come back to it.” – Padme, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
I have a new calling – budget manager for The City. I’m going to make up this year’s $8,000,000 budget deficit, and then some.
You see, The City planted a tree in my curb lawn on Wednesday. A small, baby linden tree to replace the mature, spreading maple that Padawan Learner loved to climb while he waited for Dad Windu to get home from work. The tree that some jackass distracted driver literally wrapped his giant SUV around nearly 2 years ago, setting it at a jaunty 65 degree angle for 9 months while The City waited “to see if it will make it”.
At 8:45 a.m., a City flatbed truck with two men inside pulled up in front of my house with a backhoe on the trailer. The driver got out of the truck and watched as his passenger climbed up into the backhoe, backed it off and proceeded to dig a hole 3 feet wide and 1.5 feet deep. He returned the backhoe to the trailer and the two men drove away.
At 9:45 a.m., a City pickup truck arrived with two men inside. The driver got out and walked to the front door with a very valuable piece of paper: instructions on caring for my new, baby linden tree. Meanwhile, his passenger took two metal poles out of the bed of the truck and placed dropped them in the newly dug hole. They returned to the truck and drove away.
At 1:20 p.m., two City trucks arrived: a pickup truck (A) full of baby trees sticking up over the back and a water truck (B) filled with The City’s secret formula of water and baby-tree fertilizer. Each truck had a driver and a passenger. Now this is going to get a little tricky, so be sure to pay attention.
The two drivers got out of their respective trucks and watched while Passenger A placed the baby tree in the hole, arranged the poles and guy wires correctly, and covered the roots with the piled up soil. Passenger B stood at the ready with his over-sized garden hose. When the ground was firmly tamped, Passenger B soaked the disturbed soil area well with his proprietary mix. All four men returned to their respective trucks and drove away.
That’s right, The City paid 8 men to plant my small, baby linden tree.
Oh, I should add that two days previously, The City sent another man in a pickup truck out to rake out the bare area where my formerly lovely tree had stood and spread a healthy layer of grass seed down – right where the backhoe dug the hole for the new, baby linden tree on Wednesday.
Now using my advanced degree and keen efficiency skills, I have deduced that the planting of my new, baby tree on Wednesday could have been performed (with a reasonably adequate amount of waste, as required by all government entities) by a total of three men altogether – one per truck, with the stake dropping and instruction giving truck’s tasks handed off to the occupants of Truck B and Truck A respectively.
If we reduced the city workforce by these 5 men alone (6 if we include the counter-productive tasks of the guy who came on Monday to seed my soon-to-be-backhoe’d bare spot), I could immediately save The City approximately $150,000 (or $180,000) without any loss of service to City residents – assuming that each man is paid $30,000 per year.
What efficiencies would you put in place if you were able to get your hands on your city or county’s Budget?
“You want to go home and rethink your life.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars V: Revenge of the Sith
Growing up, the term “joiner” was a serious put-down in my group of non-conformists, who were so independent minded that we all, ultimately, ended up looking like each other in our non-conformity: black clothes, stark hair colors and styles, unnaturally pale skin with dark lipstick and heavy mascara… You get the picture. I still use the term when I joke with the Padawan Learner and Dad Windu, “You’re such a joiner.”
I read something today, however, that has changed my opinion of this word. I think Bill McKibben gives a powerful argument for becoming a bit more of a joiner: a neighborhood joiner, a community joiner, a stop-and-talk-for-a-few-minutes joiner. Where Have All the Joiners Gone? A declaration of dependence.
What’s your take on being more inter-dependent? Does it just about make your skin crawl, does the “borrowing a cup of sugar” idea sound nice so long as the neighbor kids stay out of your yard, or is this the type of thing that you long for deep down inside?
“Anakin, the most difficult trial a Jedi must face is to look inside oneself. Often we see things we don’t like. But these aspects are not set in stone. It is our decisions that shape our destinies.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Every now and then, I like to make myself think about what we’re really doing on a day-to-day basis because no matter what our stated philosophies might be, it’s what we actually do that makes us what we truly are. So…what positive acts have the three of us made so far this Memorial Day weekend?
- We finished installing the clothes line in the backyard and I put my first load of whites out to dry in the breeze. I was immediately in my own childhood backyard. What a simply wonderful visual reminder of a normal, happy chore from days gone by (and my arms got a workout too, carrying a basketful of wet clothes up the stairs and out into the backyard).
- We hit the farmer’s market for a flat of flower plugs for the front yard. I’m slowly taking over the grass area and replacing it with flower boxes and boarders. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get rid of that most ridiculous of all things, a water-sucking and drought unfriendly grass lawn, but I’m sure going to try.
- We bought several oh-so-yummy bunches of locally grown asparagus for our scrambled eggs and as a side dish with dinner this week. I got the best smile from the little boy selling it when I said, “I’ll take the rest of what you’ve got here.” It was great watching him and his brother working together.
- Dad Windu replaced the kitchen faucet and sprayer because the old faucet leaked from the body when you turned it on, it had just started to leak slightly when it was turned off and the sprayer was melted shut from a close encounters with a scorchingly hot frying pan a couple of years back. I won’t say who did it, but it wasn’t the Padawan Learner or Dad Windu. It was someone else. Someone who shall remain nameless.
- Dad Windu rode his bike over to the hardware store to get some necessary fittings for the new faucet. Yeah for faucets that don’t leak.
- We weeded and weeded and weeded until we thought we couldn’t weed anymore. We weeded some more.
- Dad Windu and I rode our bikes to get a few supplies from the supermarket, in a stiff wind that made the ride back a real workout. It’s pretty hilly around here, even without all of aLex’s bridges, and you know the wind is seriously bad when you have to pedal going down a hill. (Happy note: There were two other bikes at the supermarket’s bike stand on the nasty, busy road.)
- I used up some scraps of fabric hiding out in my closet to make a couple of needle cozies for my double pointed and circular knitting needles since my current method of storage and retrieval, which included primarily of tossing them all in a big bag and having to dump the whole thing out whenever I wanted to use a specific pair, was annoying to Dad Windu.
- I mowed the elderly neighbor lady’s front lawn because she’s in the hospital and her live-in son hadn’t done it for the past couple of weeks. Annoyed neighbors were threatening to report her to the housing codes department (city mows the yard and charges you $75 for the inconvenience), which is the last thing she needs right now. I used our horrid, old gas-powered mower, which is an ecological nightmare, but it was still the right thing to do.
- Padawan Learner rode his bike a mile away to his buddy’s house to see his buddy’s new puppy, even though he’s not a dog-lover.
- I walked down to the library with Padawan Learner and retrieved our books from the hold shelf.
What negative decisions have we made this holiday weekend in regards to living lightly?
- We drove over to a big box home improvements store for a new faucet because one local place was closed for the whole weekend and the other place’s selection’s selection is lousy (and they were also closed). We could have bought the faucet after the weekend at the good selection local place, but that would risk a loss of home repair momentum. A very contagious malady around here.
- We hopped in the car, again, to go to the farmer’s market because we waited too long to get there via the bus-walk route. We were punished by the consequences of the absolute pain of finding a space in the remarkably small parking lot and by the very rude lady who parked her SUV in the middle of the one-way exit lane, blocking all traffic behind her, as she went to retrieve her purchase.
- We grabbed dinner from a multi-national, everything shipped here because we don’t know the meaning of the phrase grown locally, fast food place since we focused on planting too long and didn’t have the time or energy to get dinner ready.
- Dad Windu and his beer snob buddy drove to two watering holes (the first, a preferred and locally producing one was closed) for the chance to drink and chat without wives & kids. At least they car-pooled.
- Instead of playing a boardgame, going for a walk or bike ride down to the park or another more sociable activity, we watched movies together both Saturday and Sunday nights.
- We drove to the doughnut shop on Sunday morning .again. for our turn to grab a dozen, to be enjoyed with our Sunday Morning Doughnut Buddies. Laziness on the doughnut retrieval, pure laziness.
How about you? What’s best and worst on your list?
“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster, but an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
When I first typed up this quote, I originally thought I’d end up writing about the Padawan Learner’s former life as a fencing student, and what a fascinating and revealing (personality-wise) sport it is. But as I sat here, preparing to put the words up, I got to thinking about my bike. My mom’ed-out, no frills bike. My comfortable, cheap to operate and safe to use bike. The three of us are big fans of our bikes.
The Padawan Learner and I have navigated the bus-front bike racks and can get all round town now. We frequently pedal into our little neighborhood village area for the library, a couple of restaurants, the hardware store, the coffee and ice cream shops, the bank and a great little middle eastern store with excellent hummus and grocery basics. I really wish a little bakery would move in. There’s an old-fashioned barber, too, which the Padawan Learner used to go to, but he’s since grown fond of longer styles that the 65+ year old barbers don’t even want to try to figure out.
Snapping open the rear baskets allows us to drag home a weeks’ worth of grocery odds and ends at the supermarket about a mile away (although it’s a two mile, roundabout, bike ride away since there’s no bike path on nor any sidewalks next to this 2nd busiest road in the state). Those baskets were just about the best internet find I’ve ever made. They hook right onto my rear bike rack. I installed them myself.
For the record, we’re in the market for a new bike for the Padawan Learner, so if you’ve got any advice for a reasonably priced bike for a 5’4″, 90# boy that’s growing like a weed and will probably top out around 6′ tall and be thin as a rail, let me know. We want something useful, versus something trendy or sport oriented. We’re city folk. We live in the city. We ride on the roads, at real people speeds and do not wear lycra. Ever. When we’re really “going country”, we will occasionally will find ourselves on a Rails-to-Trails bike path or in a campground. I’m keeping up with the local Craig’s List but that hasn’t proven too useful so far - lots of old road and high-end mountain bikes but nothing with fenders, a rear rack or even a remotely upright seating position. With him really putting the miles on this summer, for our commute to and from the CSA, we really need to get him a new bike. The $79 “special” from the megaToys’R store a year and a half ago served its “major growth spurt” purpose, but just isn’t going to be able to hold up much longer. Any ideas?
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
With Dad Windu off at a conference, my Padawan Learner and I have the car available to us 24/7. This is highly unusual and it’s been remarkably tempting to jump in it to do our usual activities, any and all necessary errands and more than a few unnecessary Wouldn’t it be fun to… ? things that we rarely do because they entail the use of a daytime car that we don’t have or extended, multiple bus transfers. The temptation is really quite amazing. Normally, we don’t miss having a car but suddenly now that it’s RIGHT THERE, we have almost a compulsion to go everywhere in the blasted thing. It’s provided us with some really good discussions on why people get into the habit of driving, about the basic human tendency to avoid exerting extra effort and even Newton’s three laws of motion.
We have done a few of the fun out-of-the-ordinary things, things that we save up for days like these, but yes, we have also failed to live up to all of our daily routines and some of our own live lightly ideals these past couple of days. For example, I drove to buy doughnuts – of all things! – for breakfast yesterday, instead of walking the 1.5 miles (roundtrip), but we’re also being honest with ourselves and trying to fight the urge to think of it as a “vacation” from responsibile living.
Qui-Gon Jinn: “It’s too late, it…”
Qui-Gon Jinn: “Obi-Wan, promise… Promise me you will train the boy.”
Obi-Wan: ”Yes, master.”
Qui-Gon Jinn: “He is the chosen one. He will bring balance. Train him.”
Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
So the Obi-Mom Kenobi nome de plume isn’t probably too far off the mark. We, my buddy Obi-Wan and I, tend to hermit ourselves away when things aren’t going too well, so that we can wait, think and plan. We tend to keep the few things that are important to us (such as the painted driftwood sign that my great-grandmother made or his former pupil’s lightsaber) rather than have a lot of stuff in our homes. We prefer a few good pieces of clothing in muted tones and natural fabrics to a closets full of the latest fashions in harsh shades and space age materials. We fill our days keeping close watch over a single young man, hoping to help them grow into the strong, brave men that the universe so desperately needs.