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Hope and Change: The Inflation Monster

Are you better off than you were a decade ago? In terms of real wages, I’m making about what I did when I was 26, and I’m now 40. Granted, a lot of that is self-inflicted, so I really can’t complain. I gave up salary for flexibility, and the opportunity to take risks on new and interesting things with bigger potential payout down the road. But I have to admit, as I get older, it gets harder and harder to sacrifice for uncertain future rewards than when I was in my twenties.

That’s the one side of the coin. As I’ve have to be more careful about finances, the other side of the equation is undeniable: inflation. The powers that be decided that food and energy prices are too volatile, so they should not be calculated into the official rate of inflation. If you listen to those charlatans, inflation has been non-existent. But when I look at my own finances, the big things that stand out (other than the mortgage and taxes) are food and energy. I’m spending way more in those categories than I was a decade ago, as a percentage of my income.

In 2011, when I lost the high-paying job after the company went tits up, we decided to start eating more meals at home, and eat out less. Sure, it did save money overall, but my grocery bill shot way up to compensate. It was still a net savings, but the grocery bill offset more than I expected! Ordering out some pizza or cheesesteaks every once in a while, it turns out, is reasonably competitive with cooking at home.

Sure, if you can subsist on a diet of hot dogs and ramen, you can do pretty well, but if you cook meals at home as to not bore yourself, it will cost you some money. Eating on the outside of the grocery store? Yeah, that’s some shit invented by rich hippies with money to burn. I don’t find it to be cheap, even if you’re good at meal planning. I realized this summer I am mostly priced out of the beef market. I usually like to smoke a brisket at least once in the BBQ season, but not this year. Last summer we enjoyed several nights of grilled ribeye, but not this year. I haven’t had beef that wasn’t ground in some time. Fortunately, my mother taught me how to make a mean meatloaf, but I have to admit to missing steak.

How is the great recession treating you? Are you better off now than a decade ago? Is food and energy inflation pinching you? And let’s not even get into whiskey prices! It’s almost enough to turn a fella into a populist!

Dead Air

No posting from me for a while. I have been working every waking minute, amounting to about 18 hours a day since last Monday, including the weekend. The client project is wrapping up with a good old fashioned death march. It might be over after next week. I’m not sure, however. In the mean time, I’m going to be scarce around these parts. Apologizes, but the mortgage doesn’t pay itself.

Sorry for the Dead Air

Bitter has come down with a cold, so she has not been in the mood to do much blogging. I came home today to see her on the sofa, watching a foreign movie that involved two guys who had just killed a bear by impaling it from underneath with a spear, set inside a church. Apparently this involved some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare. I said “What movie is this? I must watch this from the beginning,” since I figure any movie where two guys run a large brown bear through in a church probably involves all kinds awesomeness to arrive at the scene.

Either way, I’m still billing at the client, and about to take a second on. Today was to be my last week at the current client, but they extended me until the end of September, or I run out of work, whichever comes first. My bet is the end of September comes first.

Fourteen years ago, I invested in a small consulting company when it was a start-up. That is now my current employer. Two and a half years ago, I came on board to work on special projects. We wanted to take up special projects, because we don’t want to be in the consulting business long term. The consulting business has lasted 14 years, and has thrown off enough extra money to support my (and several others) efforts for the past two and half years to try to come up with a line of products that people might want to buy. But consulting is a tough business to be in, especially when you’re a small outfit. Unfortunately, we need the consulting business alive to provide the cash flow to fund the special projects.

This winter sucked. I can’t express how much it sucked, both in terms of weather and lost economic productivity. I wish I could say it was all the weather, but a lot of other unhappy things are just hitting at the same time. In consulting, it can be like that, and if you’re not Very Big Consulting, you can only take so much bad luck.. So that’s why I’m out billing instead. As long as I’m out in the field, even if it’s part time, I’m making money instead of costing money, and the company needs that right now.

Personally, I think it’s all a conspiracy by the Obama Administration to deliberately wreck the economy. That way the people who have to do all the work to support the technocratical terror he’s constructed don’t have time to complain ;)

Happy Independence Day

I hope you all enjoy celebrating the birth of our nation by blowing up a small chunk of it. I’m going to spend most of today doing as little as possible. My major planned activity is snoozing in my chair and drinking iced tea.

My apologies for the light posting this week, but we’ve been busy tidying up for a house guest this weekend, and yesterday I had problems with the server the blog runs on. I was down a good chunk of Thursday because of a persistent crash involving the Ethernet chip on the board. I switched over to the other interface, in the hopes that it might only be specific to that one. We’ll see. I usually will get a text when the monitoring system detects the machine is down, but the mail relay was coincidentally out on that machine, which is the one thing that could go wrong where I wouldn’t know about it.

It may come time soon to replace the blog server. If I come to that point, I might have a fundraising drive. But I still think this current machine has some life left in it yet. We’ll see if switching to the other port fixes the problem.

Thanks To All Who Commented on the Chair Bleg

Several days ago I had written a post asking for some advice on what to do about my beloved Aeron chair that had an arm break clean off. I got a lot of good advice, but the one that fixed it was the person who suggested looking on Fastenal. A pair of calipers and counting the thread density revealed the bolt was a 1/4″-28 X 2-5/8 black oxide bolt. I managed to find this bolt at Fastenal, which fixed the issue right up. The plastic part I thought I was missing it turned out was just hiding, so all parts were present. The new bolt put the chair right back together like nothing had happened.

Fixed Aeron Chair

As a person who spends an unhealthy amount of time, between working in IT and blogging in my spare time, with my ass planted in a chair I appreciate it. Now the only question is how long it will take the Glock 19 to finish wearing through the mesh on the (my) right side (which you can see in the pic if you look closely).

Office Chair Bleg

I’ve been planting my rear in a Herman Miller Aeron Chair for the better part of a decade. Back around 2003 the previous company I worked for acquired another company out in San Diego that was about to go tits up. We mainly wanted their technology and a few key employees who understood it, but it also came with a heaping shipment of Aeron chairs. I snatched one up immediately, figuring it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission. It’s hands down the best chair I’ve ever owned. When our company finally went tits up in 2011, I was the last employee out of the building, and since the wind-down team had to hold on to our chairs through the asset auction, I took two Aeron chairs home.

Everything was fine until just before we were ready to head to Annual Meeting, and I stood up from my chair and the right arm broke clean off; the bolt head having separated completely from the shaft. Given the chair is about 14 years old at this point, that’s not a bad run. But I’m loathe to spend money on a new one. The trouble with fixing it is that Herman Miller pretty heavily controls its parts distribution, and there are only certain approved parts that can be sold, like lumbar pads and arm rest pads. There isn’t a arm rest bolt to be found on all the Internets that doesn’t look like a cheap non-hardned knockoff.

Herman Miller demands you to take the chair to an authorized service center to be repaired. I have a real problem with forcing customers to screw themselves out of hard-earned cash. It’s a chair, not a Saturn V rocket engine. I can fix it myself given the proper part. My guess is Herman Miller knows the .com crash flooded the secondary market with their chairs, and they know they are very well built and last forever. So they have to manufacture ways to extract money from the used market, and probably hope you’ll just buy a new one. Except that one with all the bells and whistles, a new Aeron pushes close to 9 or 10 bills.

So I’m kind of pissed off at this whole thing. I’m wondering if anyone out there knows of either a good Aeron knockoff that’s well built and comfortable, or knows a good source for Aeron parts outside of official Herman Miller channels. I’d also be open to getting a broken one to use for parts if it’s cheap enough too.

UPDATE: I found a solution! The chair lives!

Lineage & Guns

As most of you know from occasional posts, Sebastian & I have been into studying family history since last summer. I joined Daughters of the American Revolution last fall based on the research, and I’m finding even more patriots with practically every family line that I open up. But just this morning, I found I have a new goal. I want to find a gunsmith in my family tree. Why? Because of this qualification for designating a patriot in DAR:

Those who rendered material aid such as furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the Colonies, munitions makers, gunsmiths, etc.

I’ve found a politician (state representative from Kentucky in 1800) who is the grandson of a sometimes hard-to-prove female patriot, several refugees fleeing religious wars whose families ended up supporting independence, and a patriot documented as supplying whisky to the troops, but no gunsmiths or munitions makers for the Revolution yet. And you know I want one if I can find one.

So, this is a bit of a bleg to anyone who knows about quality historical research. Where is one likely to find sources on gunsmiths & munitions makers from that era? I assume my best bet is to try and find wills and other legal records that may make mention of an occupation, but I wanted to ask if there were potentially other sources since I know this is an audience that loves guns, gun rights, and history.

I’ve got known patriots and family lines in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the war. Afterwards, some ended up in Kentucky simply because that’s the county they were in when it was divided and then those broke off to become a state, so gun makers in those areas are more likely to be of value for this purpose.

The White Menace

Posting will resume once I dig my vehicle out of the snowstorm that came through last night. The Weather Channel likes to call it Hercules, but naming winter storms is among the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard of so screw the Weather Channel. Normally I’d just wait out the melt in my home office, but I wasn’t expecting to have to start building a data center this weekend, and I need to go to New Jersey to pick up a piece of equipment I need to get started. I hope the bridges are clear.

A Holiday Visit to Hampton National Cemetery

Sorry for the lack of posting today, but I was otherwise pre-occupied with travel. Today we ventured down to Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia to visit Great-Great-Great Grandpop Erven’s final resting place, and drop off a wreath for him. I had spent all of Wednesday scanning his pension file, so I was eager to finally complete his story, and his story ends at Hampton in the year 1906.

CloseupWreath
WreathNeighborsRight

Wreath’s Across America had managed to wreath most of the new part of the cemetery, but fell short for the one section of Civil War veterans that represented Sam Erven’s neighborhood. Most of these Union Civil War veterans seem long forgotten, as was he until I found him. I don’t think my grandmother, who shared his last name until she married my grandfather, ever knew anything about her great-grandfather before she died. We fixed his unit’s badge to his wreath, the purple clover of the 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. I thought it was a nice touch. He had been widowed for several years, and a very recent discovery that he may have decided to live out the last years of his life in sin and debauchery made me want to go the extra mile. I figured after struggling to collect a meager pension for getting his thumb and lung all shot to hell, he deserved a good bit of boozing and whoring it up behind Rebel lines at the end.

Back to the Grind

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, after a few days off. I spent a good part of the weekend visiting family and attempting to get more family pictures to scan. My aunt had kept a box of things she collected from my grandmother’s house after she died back in 2004. I enjoy reading old letters, because they are first hand historical documents, not history told through the lens of elites who can sometimes warp history to conform to their own biases.

I found this letter, written 5th October 1936, from a Mary Kidner who was traveling around the country with husband and children, living out of their car, and looking for work. This letter was written from a logging camp in Blodgett, Oregon, where they had stopped to find work. This letter was sent to my great-great Aunt Madeline, who forwarded it along to my then 12-year-old grandmother, asking her if she could use it in school. It’s not a terribly well written letter, but it gives an idea of what at least someone’s family life was like during the Great Depression. As bad as we might think we have things now, most of us aren’t raising a family in our automobiles and roaming the country looking for any chance of work. One thing it make me thankful for is that I wasn’t raised during the Great Depression.

One other little side rant is that the letter is hand written. I understand the schools are now going to stop teaching kids handwriting. This horrifies me, because I believe it makes the kids partially illiterate. As soon as they stopped forcing me to use long hand in the schools, I reverted to printing. I probably couldn’t write a letter in long hand today without great pain. But I did learn it, and can read it. The idea that a whole generation are going to be raised with a letter like this being no better than gibberish to them is shameful. The endarkenment continues.

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