Wasting Time

I find myself procrastinating more and more as I near the finish line… Today while I’m lackadaisically running simulations to tie up some loose ends, I’ve been reading old posts by Errol Morris on the NYT blog about photography (Zoom).  The blog has a number of lengthy, multi-part series on old photographs.  I read the first two of a seven part series currently running about depression-era photos (e.g. Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Woman) and whether they are posed, and whether it matters if they are posed.

Craving a completed series, I moved on to one on the Crimean War.  I found the following paragraph buried in it, which, though it is certainly not the most captivating part of the very verbose series, enthralled the knitter in me:

The Crimean War, often described as a precursor to the American Civil War, is more a harbinger of World War I – a stationary front informed by endless and futile exchanges of lethal artillery fire. Trench warfare par excellence. Lord Raglan, the commander of the British forces, previously the Duke of Wellington’s aide-de-camp, lost his arm to a French cannonball at Waterloo. His specially designed sleeve – the Raglan sleeve, along with the cardigan and the balaclava – is how we remember the Crimean War. A war defined by innovations in wardrobe – a sleeve, a sweater and a hat. Raglan, who died in the Crimea just before the fall of Sebastopol, seemed often confused about what was going on. He would exhort his soldiers to go out and fight the French and had to be reminded that in this particular war the Russians were the enemy. The French were his allies.

I used to be quite the history buff – I honestly believe I may have gotten every single answer on my AP U.S. History exam exactly correct – but I’ve been thwarted by my poor memory and the myriad other subjects demanding my attention.  I miss the rich, albeit  partial view you can gain of other times and places.  I think the historical record of now will be slightly absurd for the overly detailed and scattered records being kept by everyone and their mother, myself included.


Unrelatedly, though from the same article, my favorite phrase of the day (or perhaps, ever):

You could just make out the orange roofs of a large building complex. Gorbachev’s summer home. It kind of looked like a metastatic International House of Pancakes.

This doesn’t conjure visions of the actual IHOP building, but rather little outcroppings of pancakes, stacked high, all over the countryside.

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I’m really ..  excited.  About god knows what.  I don’t know, maybe it’s like… dissertation induced insanity.  I like it.

I’m psyched about my lovely dear friend’s art,  and how I want it all over my house.  I’m excited about my house.  I’m excited about Washington.  I’m excited about finishing grad school and making my husband call me Dr. Wife for at least two weeks.

I’m excited about seeing my family for the holidays – we just bought the most expensive plane tickets of my life.  It’s like…  I think I will enjoy them so much more because I will only get to see them for a bit.  That sounds terrible, but it’s true – we squabble like children when we are together too much.

Excited about playing frisbee before Thanksgiving…  Turkey Tourney, with good friends I’ve not gotten to know for long enough.  An excellent last tournament…

I can’t wait until I’m finished with this sweater dress I’m knitting.  Nearly done.  Also can’t wait to start the next three things I’m planning to make.  Excited about all the movies I’ve never seen that we’re going to watch during our first winter in a strange place.  And the research I get to do at my new job.

Hah now I’m excited, and irritated with myself for over-using that damn word…

Ahhh did one of my roommates slip me something?  This is ridiculous.

Posted in neuroses | 2 Comments

Life Insurance 101

So.  Life insurance.  I’m feelin’ like a big kid lately.

Shortly after the wedding, a friend on my frisbee team who works for Northwestern Mutual contacted us, asking if we would be interested in getting some life insurance.  At first, I felt like that was something we could put off, but since we are buying a house (i.e. taking on a substantial amount of debt), life insurance makes a lot of sense.  While Husband and I have budgeted so that we can afford our life style one only one salary though we are both working, I imagine we’d be pretty sad if the other got hit by a bus and died, possibly not working for awhile – and even though we’ve got emergency funds available, and a decent amount of investments, eliminating some of the financial pressure for a worst case scenario like that seems prudent.  So we agreed to meet with our friend (subsequently called NWFriend) – and that meeting occurred yesterday.

We were asked a ton of details about our financial attitudes and current financial situation, our life plans and goals, our health.  I kind of like having those conversations because they tend to stroke my ego a bit – I feel like Husband and I have done a good job of creating a great financial foundation for ourselves.  So NWFriend gave us a bunch of info about different options, and based on our current life style and future goals, outlined what would be good for us to get.  We ended up getting a $500,000 term policy on me, and a $650,000 term policy on Husband, both expiring at age 80 (this is a standard age limit).  The premiums are $20/month for me and $30/month for him, so pretty low in terms of our income.  The premiums increase every year over the duration of the policy, but very slowly at first.  However, if we still have the policies when we are 75, it will cost something like $10k a year each.  That sounded crazy at first, but it’s not.  First of all, it’s standard amongst all term policies, and second of all – it makes sense.  When you are 75, you are probably going to kick it soon.  Plus, having relatively higher expenses for life insurance are offset by (presumably) having lower expenses for things like housing.

We wanted to get policies that would allow us to pay off the major debts we have (~240K house loan, 10k student loan debt) so that the reduced income wouldn’t send the survivor into having to spend down our savings.  Also, in anticipation of other life changes that will likely occur in the next 5-10 years (one or more kids), we wanted to get enough that the survivor could invest the remainder of the money and receive monthly income off that investment.  250k invested roughly equates to about $1000 a month in income.  As neither of us anticipate being a stay-at-home parent, we can currently assume that 500k and 650k policies are adequate.  Often in situations where a woman is a stay-at-home mom and the man works, you would end up with $500k and $2 mil. policies, respectively (once kids are a certainty/actually exist).  We got a more expensive policy on Husband because boys die sooner, and because if I die tragically, Husband is more likely to bury himself in work, whereas in the opposite scenario, it’s entirely possible that I would stare at a wall for a year.  This is true for us, and true generally for most couples.

We got a higher policy amount for me than many couples choose at our age, because of my high earning potential and because of my health risk factors for MS.  As NWFriend said repeatedly, the cheapest life insurance you can get is what you should have bought yesterday – because I’m currently healthy and should easily pass the physical, I can get a cheap policy that won’t change if I do end up having MS; if we waited to buy more until I developed MS I would either be uninsurable or insurable at great cost.  Also, it’s very easy to change the policy (though easier to reduce than increase).

Another aspect we talked about briefly and will look into more later is permanent life insurance.  While term runs out at a specified age (80), perm runs out when you die.  Perm sounded like a forced savings plan, where you purchase a policy amount at a fixed premium that never changes, and have that amount invested in the companie’s (i.e. NWM’s) mutual fund, which has received at lease a 6.5% dividend (I think it was dividends) for the past 150 years (that was the line NWFriend fed us at least!).  Then you can receive the dividends as cash or reinvest them (like for any mutual fund).  For the term policy we purchased, we can choose to convert any portion of it to permanent before we turn 60.  I’m sort of fuzzy on the details of permanent insurance – I want to look into it more, but it sounds like a intersection of life insurance and forced mutual fund investment.

Life insurance is often offered by employers, and while we will likely take advantage of the highest policy amount we can get without needing a physical, we don’t want to rely on this alone.  If we did, and one or both of us lost our jobs, and then tragedy struck – well, that sucks.

Ok, so back to our purchased term life insurance -we went ahead and set up an automatic bank draft, and are already insured less than 24 hours later.  We had our physicals this morning (I won – my pulse and blood pressure were totally lower than Husbands!  Suck it!), which included medical history, height and weight, urine sample and blood draw.  We didn’t warn our roommates before hand, so they came down to breakfast to find us giving blood to some random lady in the kitchen.  Good times.

Finally, while I don’t think it would be a big deal if we had waited a few years to purchase life insurance policies (perhaps until we were actively trying to reproduce), I feel good about having gone ahead and taken care of it.  Partially because I have morbid anxiety problems and think about that hit-by-a-bus scenario on a daily basis, and partially because it makes me feel all grown up and responsible and holier-than-thou.  You know, if I’m being honest :)

Posted in milestones, neuroses | 2 Comments

Can’t be bothered with paragraphs; dissertation is due in 2 weeks (wahhh!):

– Car is fixed.  Mechanics did something or other, possibly involving magic and duct tape (kidding!), and I will have it back this week or next (you know, whenever I have time to drive 3 hours away).  Part of me wishes I could have a shiny new car, but mostly I’ll be glad to have this one back.

– We got life insurance this morning.  It was really interesting and I’d like to talk about it more someday soon.  I am more inclined to talk about financial stuff on here than I would have guessed.

– I got really excited about decorating our new house last week, which is obviously what I should be focusing on right now.  Paint!  Furniture!  What style do we want?  I have never decorated before, as I have always lived in college houses with other people.  We mostly just keep all our crap in our room and it’s um…  really, it’s just messy.

– It’s raining here again.  A few weeks ago, before ATL flooded, I went running in the rain and the whole 4 miles I was thinking about how it might be the last time I get to run in the rain, because I’m moving to a desert, and oh it’s so lovely and let’s be nostalgic.  Now I would really just like them to turn off the damn faucet so I can stop feeling like a drowned rat, nostalgia be damned.

Ok, that’s all.  Boring/busy etc.  Back to panicking.

Posted in tales from the city | 1 Comment

financial planning

Husband and I are having financial discussions on approximately a daily basis lately, since we are in the midst of buying a house.  And possibly also a car, as the computer in my 2003(!) nissan shorted out a few weeks ago, necessitating a costly repair that has been hampered by a “national backorder” on the part…  long story shorter, I have been without a car for nearly a month, and will be without one for at least another month.  For anyone out there doing the math, as Husband is moving in two weeks, that leaves me utterly carless very soon.  So, because the costly repair is nearly as much as the car itself is worth, and the time without a car at this particular juncture is pretty debilitating, we are looking at possibly buying a new (to me) car as well.

Anywaaaay, whenever we have these discussions, they are always very rational until we’ve established we can afford something.  Then, I like to throw in a little curve ball.  The “what if you get hit by a bus and die” contingency plan.  Husband deals with my morbid anxiety pretty well, and talks me through what would happen in the event of his untimely demise.  Then, we decide if whatever we are thinking of doing passes the Hit by a Bus Test, and then we proceed.

Neither of us has ever had any debt (beyond <10k in student loans between us), so looking at buying a house and financing a car is a pretty crazy jump to me.  I’ve been against financing cars (or most things, really – I’m a save first, buy later kinda girl) my whole life (ah I am so old and wise), but right now it looks like the planets might be aligning.  Between my unforseen car problems (Nissans don’t often kick the bucket at <80k miles! – my bro has well over 200k on his!) and the economy (woo for financing incentives!), I might just get myself a relatively newer and shinier car than I had ever anticipated.

I don’t even know where to begin looking…  oh, and I probably shouldn’t, because my dissertation is due in 20 days, and I am NOT. DONE.


Posted in milestones, tales from the city | 1 Comment

Graduate school is trying to kill me.

Remember when I mentioned that one of my committee members was unavailable for, oh, the whole semester?  Well, I ended up replacing him with Dr. Magoo, a bit of a bumbling professor who is actually familiar with my research.  All was well with the world, and there were rainbows and puppies everywhere.  Except, well, Africa and the Middle East and maybe also Capitol Hill, but I digress.

On a Friday afternoon conference call for a committee I serve on, coincidentally with Dr. Magoo, though it has nothing whatsoever to do with my University, we were all attempting to schedule the next call.  I mentioned that I would prefer late November, as my defense was scheduled for November the 13th.  We all had a good chuckle about my nerve for scheduling it on Friday the 13th, and then went back to scheduling – at which point Dr. Magoo mentions he also would prefer late November, as he will be in Asia until the third week of November.

He will be in ASIA until the THIRD WEEK of November.

You have got to be shitting me.  I email him immediately, while still on the conference call, and as soon as the call ends, I call his office (fully expecting him not to be there, as it is now 5:30 pm on a Friday and he is not known for his diligence).  He answers, and I ask him about the alleged Asia trip – he happily answers, NOT EVEN AWARE that he is ruining my life.  I bring up this point, in a much mature fashion than I am presenting it here, and he is utterly unconcerned.  He says he will get back to me with the specific dates of his trip, but that he will definitely be out of town for the currently scheduled date.

You CANNOT reschedule a defense this late in the semester.  Not for 5 busy scientists, and not around all the other room requests.  Not before Thanksgiving, which is absolutely necessary.  And so, this is how I came to replace the replacement member of my committee a month before my defense.

I emailed the graduate coordinator and asked her to be on my committee; as she is the one who has to sign change of committee forms, she will presumably exercise a bit more foresight about her availability.  She agreed as of this morning (I spent the weekend hyperventilating), but I’m asking again, just to be sure.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get my dissertation formatted as per the graduate school’s instructions…  so far that’s three hours of my life I would have rather spent scratching my ass and staring at a wall. Why is it important for an electronic dissertation to have suppressed page numbers on the first three pages, and the first page of every section?  Why must it have 1.75″ margins on the first pages as well as the first page of every section, and 1″ margins elsewhere?  Why can’t they provide templates for this shit if they are going to be so bizarrely nit picky?  And why do the instructions contain jerry rigged approaches for this formatting?  And the sample pages contain dummy text about how infuriating formatting is.  I will cut you, grad school.  You better run.

Sigh.  Husband got his official start date, and it’s in 3 weeks, so he’ll be moving a good bit in advance of me.  I think it’ll be fine, since I have so much work to do anyways, but I will miss the support.  It’s sort of a weird dissonance – preemptively missing my husband and wanting to join him as soon as possible, and feeling totally unprepared for moving away from my friends and family.  I think the ambivalence will morph me into a crazy jerk for a bit (obviously I am totally blameless in this shift in my disposition), and thus, I am sending myself to bed.

Posted in edification, tales from the city | 1 Comment

On marriage…

I think the phrase “marriage of convenience” means, to most people, a marriage that is based on something other than the relationship itself.  While I dearly love my husband (haaah!  still sounds funny.), the things that made it apparent in our early relationship that we could go the distance were all practical: we have similar attitudes on spending and saving, family, work-life balance, etc.

See, to me, marriage is all about pragmatics.  I’m not religious, so that’s out as a foundation.  I have had several intense and passionate relationships in my life, and all of those burned fast and left a whole lot of crap in their wake, so the fact that Husband and I didn’t have a whirlwind courtship is actually quite heartening to me.  The beginning of our relationship was marked by a lot of really frank conversations about important stuff: money, faith, family (kids or not? how many? when? approaches to child rearing, division of labor, etc.), communication styles (for instance, I have a tendency to bottle up my anxiety and let it all out in the middle of the night in a really irrational way.  I felt Husband should know that in advance.), career goals.  We talked about how we wanted our lives to work, and then spent a lot of time deciding if the other fit into that picture.  What we found was that if we held a lot of common views, and wanted our lives to look pretty similar.  Like, if you drew a venn diagram of things that were important to us, it would almost just be a circle.  No really:

important things!

Now, I don’t want to make it sound as if I don’t love him, I DO.  Very much.  It’s not all about practicality 100% of the time.  It’s just that I think no amount of chemistry or common hobbies can make up for certain practical inadequacies.

Marriage is, to me, mostly a financial and practical institution.  In the U.S., things are easier if you are married – it is easier to have children, if you so choose, as the burdens (financial and otherwise) of child rearing are borne by two instead of one.  It is easier to get by if you lose your job (as, at least in my life, my spouse will be able to support us both for at least a while).  You get to split up household duties – not just sweeping and dusting – financial planning, too, which I think is much more important than vacuuming.  But maybe that’s because I detest vacuuming. Good thing Husband’s parents bought us a Dyson (omg!) and Husband once said if we had a Dyson (omg!) he would do all of the vacuuming forever and ever!  Suck it sucker.

Anyways, this didn’t go where I planned – I wanted to write about my Financial Attitude, because it has been coming up a lot lately, but I guess a post about marriage is timely.  And my audience’s patience for such rambling will likely run out before too long :)

Quick, here’s a picture to distract your from my failure to properly end a post:

It rained, which made me even more glad I chose not to wear shoes!  Shoes suck!  I like green!
It rained, which made me even more glad I chose not to wear shoes! Shoes suck! I like green!
Posted in neuroses, retrospect | 3 Comments


quickly, because my dissertation is eating my face:

Sectionals got moved from Nashville to Atlanta to Chattanooga over the course of 36 hours, and then we played nearly all the games before getting totally rained out, so all my frisbee friends got to come the wedding.  Except the one who had to stay behind to help clean up after the terrible flooding at his parents’ home.  Atlanta was out of control last weekend!

Husband got a job on Friday (about an hour before the rehearsal dinner – great timing!), the job I was hoping he would get (computational support for research at the same company I am going to).

Then we bought a house*.

Then we successfully got married, and it was freakin awesome, and I made my husband take out the trash last night (suck it sucker!)

It was a big weekend.  I am totally blissed out.  And now I have work to do…

*still in the process I suppose, inspection is on Wednesday, but offer is accepted and papers are being signed and sent back and forth across the country.  Fingers remain in the crossed position, as we learn about mortgages and escrow and closing dates and home inspections and so forth.

Posted in frisbee, milestones | 2 Comments

woe, and tragedy

I should have spent more time watching Bridezillas (that terrible, awesome TLC show).  Then I would know what to do:

The frisbee team I play on has a major tournament this weekend.  It is Sectionals, the first tournament of the Series, in which teams must participate and do well enough at to proceed to the remaining tournaments of the season.  Unfortunately, it’s been raining in Nashville all week, and there is a very very good chance that we won’t be able to play on the water-logged fields.  Which would have the effect of moving Sectionals to the following weekend.

Which is the weekend of my wedding.

Which would mean that, oh, half or so of my friends can’t come to my wedding (because, honestly, they are too important to their respective teams to miss Sectionals – oh, to have friends who suck at things).  And a couple of my teammates can’t go to Sectionals (because, honestly, they are too important to my wedding to miss it).  And, obviously, I don’t get to go to Sectionals – my second to last frisbee tournament for, at least, the next several years (if not forever and ever – there is NO frisbee scene where we are moving). Lose, lose, lose, all around.

Up to now, I had been getting increasingly nervous that I was going to a) get sick, b) get injured playing frisbee, or b2) get hit in the face with a frisbee and have a black eye or broken nose or giant gash on my face for the wedding.  Now, it doesn’t matter: I won’t have the opportunity to injure myself in some ridiculous frisbee-related way, and even if I did, none of my friends will be there to witness my embarrassment and joy.

Waaaaah wah waaah (rain dancing, sobbing, etc.)


Posted in frisbee, neuroses | 2 Comments