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Friday, March 24, 2017

Fixing what is broke

More Work than They Bargained For (Isaac H. Evans), by Carol L. Douglas. A working schooner is the antithesis of our throwaway culture.

“My other piece of advice, Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, “you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” (Charles Dickens)

One of the easiest ways to get richer is to never spend every penny you earn. This dictum is apparently shared among my peers. Contrary to what the popular press would have you believe, more Americans are saving for retirement today than in the past; retirement plan contributions are rising, and retirement assets are at record levels, even accounting for inflation.

At times my household has been very, very poor. I’ve suffered catastrophic illness and been wiped out financially. I’ve had towering debt. The principle for recovery is always the same. As our parents said, you “pay yourself first” by putting a little money aside every week.

Detail from The Beggar of St. Paul, by Carol L. Douglas. I'm trying to adapt and reuse old stuff here.
Not only does this help you sleep better, it allows you to take risks. You can’t, for example, quit your job and become a missionary if you’re locked down by credit card debt, a mortgage, and student loans.

Our parents did this by never throwing anything away. That's basically impossible in our modern throwaway culture. However, living on the coast of Maine helps; there are no shopping malls out here.  We try to buy less stuff and keep it as long as we can. For example, I drive a 2005 Prius with 241,000 miles on it. I've adopted the Maine habit of buying my clothes at Bean because they really do last forever.

My laptop travels with me so that you can travel with me. My former model, a Toshiba, has been a fantastic workhorse. Nevertheless, it was time for it to take its honestly-earned retirement. It has parts rattling around in the case and it is prone to shut off at inopportune moments.

I didn’t notice that its replacement had a manufacturing defect in the screen until after I’d spent two days installing software. I should have returned it immediately, but like everyone else, I dread entering the terrible maw of bad customer service that we, as a nation, suffer. There is a price to pay for the convenience of mass markets, and we pay it when anything goes wrong.

Illustration from Even from Far Away, by Carol L. Douglas. If you don't throw old things out, you won't have to replace them.
Then the SD card reader quit. I use it every day, and there’s no easy workaround. It had to be fixed. I spent all day yesterday allowing a technician from the Philippines to remotely-operate my computer as I watched in abject boredom. Eventually he reset the operating system, which essentially wiped the hard drive clean. Nothing doing; it was—of course—a  hardware problem all along. I now have an expensive, useless brick awaiting a long trip to a service center in Texas.

All of this is long way of saying that all my work for the last two months is buried in the treasure chest of a system backup. If we’ve been communicating about projects, workshops or classes, you need to take the whip hand, because I'm not sure I can find the information. 

Meanwhile, the ancient Toshiba has been recalled from retirement. I just know my Prius is out there in the driveway, grinning slyly to itself. It knows I will never replace it.

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