Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Creditless

I just received a modest sum of money which enabled me do something I’ve been planning for a while: to pay off the last of my debts, put the foundation of some savings in the bank and cancel my final credit card. This means that for the first time since I was about 20 years old, I’m debt free and living without credit.

I twittered this fact and asked for feedback from people and got some interesting responses (mostly cheers) via Twitter and Facebook. In order to calm people down a little: I still have a Visa debit card, so I can still shop online. My friend Lochy asked me to blog a little about how the whole experiment goes and I think that’s an interesting idea, so here’s some first thoughts:

First, it’s exhilarating. Every personal finance book I’ve ever read starts with the advice: “first, pay off your credit cards” and I have to say it feels very good, both doing it and knowing I have enough money in reserve to cover some basic emergencies. Even while using credit cards constantly, I have irrationally resented the banks for giving them to me and for constantly raising both the interest rate and my credit limit. Really though, I should read the product disclosure statement, have some self-control, turn down credit limit increases.

So second, I want to come out in public and say: I’m not good with credit. I’m the ideal credit card customer who fills the card, stays just under the limit, pays pretty regularly and never quite pays it off. Banks love me. The clever credit users pay the card down to zero regularly, never spend more than they can repay within the interest-free period and never get charged late fees. Banks hate those guys – they’re a drain on a perfectly good profit-making system. I aspired to be one of those people. But I’m not.

I’m a person who lends money and then forgets the debt within a few weeks. I can rarely answer how much things I bought cost. I don’t bargain. I mentally use the same anticipated income to pay more than one debt. I’m not what you’d call “deft” with my finances.

I’ve come to acknowledge that I have a mental deficiency… let’s call it, Idunno… Profound Financial Aphasia or something. I’m a little retarded about money. Some people need books with big print and small words. I need to only spend what I have.

Third, having something saved makes me feel like saving. There’s a few things I want, nothing urgent. I could just buy them, or I could save some money over the next few months, make a little extra interest and buy them later. Here’s the weird thing: for the first time, I feel like waiting. So not me.

I’ve waited to buy a few things recently: some computer gear, some books, a cassock. I’ve had no credit to spend, no cash in reserve, I’ve just had to wait. You know what? Just like Grandma used to say, having to wait makes it genuinely more delightful when I finally get the thing. I’m sure it’s something I really want, not just a passing whim. Waiting makes me feel like I deserved it.

So, why not wait, save up and buy it when I have some more money saved? My friends who don’t have PFA are ROFLing right now, but pause, reflect on how insane a lot of my behaviour has seemed over the years and share a moment of happiness with me that perhaps I finally get it.

… and check back with me in six months to see how I’m doing.

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Barefooting

People who know me usually know that I’ve had neck and upper back pain that varies from mild to excruciating for years. Most of my friends also know that it’s one my favourite projects: I’m always trying a new body-mind therapy, a new osteopath (Hi Tim!), a different kind of chair or something – all in the interests of trying to quiet the occupational agony of the geek.

Most people probably assume that this is all nonsense and none of it’s had any effect, but while the frequency of me talking about my back hasn’t diminished much over the years, the actual pain definitely has. The various therapies have helped me get a better sense of the emotional repressions I habitually do, which result in constantly winding more tension into my back. They’ve also helped me end many of those habits. Simple, practical stuff like a good working chair and a better arranged workspace helps me not re-offend, as does some exercise, chiefly: walking.

I’ve been reading stuff about walking and running barefoot for a couple of years and recently I’ve started trying to go for long-ish walks barefoot. A few things seem to be happening as a consequence:

  • I’m learning to engage with the ground in a different way, more involving my big toe and the ball of my foot, this seems to be gradually making the painful bit of connective tissue behind the ball of my foot calm down. Win!
  • The whole way my legs and pelvis work together as I walk is balancing in a different way, this seems to be shifting my spine to a more balanced position, and I’ll be darned if my shoulders aren’t shifting naturally backwards, my neck getting more erect and the shoulder pain lessening one more quantum. Win!
  • This is a big one: it’s really, really joyful to walk barefoot. I feel like breaking into a run spontaneously. I feel connected to the ground in a more intimate way. A surge of energy seems to rush out of the ground and up the front of my body from time to time. I feel like a kid, I want to hope up on walls and jump over things. This isn’t exercise, this is hilarious. Win!!!

Summary: Win! I like going barefoot.

But… it’s winter in Sydney and in the mornings (my favourite walking time) it’s just too cold to comfortably walk, the pavements have broken glass, all the palm trees are dropping little hard seeds, every little rock and bump hurts more when your feet are cold. It’s a low-joy event.

Enter the compassionate hand of My Beloved who decided to buy me for my birthday a pair of FiveFingers Classics. We went to pick them up today and I walked home in them. As advertised, just like going barefoot, with a tiny bit of cushioning, so that hard things don’t hurt, I don’t fear broken glass, but I still get that direct perceptual link to the ground.

It’s very hard to convey how happy I’ve been from the simple act of walking home “barefoot”. I may never wear a normal shoe again.

All about the beans

"Farek and I eat our ful" by dlisbona

OK, so first up, I am not on a diet.

People who’ve known me for a while have seen me do all kinds of crazy diets to either put on muscle or lose fat. I’m not dissing the craziness — most of those diets worked and the speed with which they did was pretty motivating.

But the stuff dieticians tell you has been true for me, when I make an extreme change to my regular way of eating, it might work, but a few months later I’m back more or less where I started.

So now I’m focussing on gradual, bearable, sustainable changes to how I choose, prepare and consume food. I want to change my personal “food culture” to improve my body composition and (directly and indirectly) my health.

One thing I’m messing with is a kind of “slow carb” eating (which is to say you aim for low GI foods) which incorporates beans. I found it on Tim Ferriss’s blog and something about the idea appealed to me. The key idea is that each meal contains some kind of straight-up protein: meat, eggs, tofu (I guess); some kind of legume or bean and some kind of vegetables. Close to the Paleolithic Diet in some ways, similar to a Low Carb diet in others — but beans as well as being low GI also bring along a whole lot of health benefits.

Subjectively, when I eat just meat and vegies, I get all the odd jittery effects I’ve come to expect on a low carb diet (at least in the first week) when I add beans I get this nice, steady thrum of energy that lasts from meal to meal. I crave sugar and fat less, my energy levels are more stable. It’s nice.

When I started, I was pretty bean clueless so I used canned baked beans and canned chickpeas… which is fine, but a little dull. In the last few weeks, I’ve been keeping my eyes out for good bean recipes. My favourite so far is a dish called Ful Medames. “Ful” is the Egyptian word for Fava (or broad) beans and this dish has been filling the bellies of the hard-working Egyptian people since the place was called Kemet (or so Meave O’Meara assured us on the episode of Food Safari I found the dish on).

It’s a slow-cooked mix of red lentils and fava beans with cumin, salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil added. You eat it with flat bread and a boiled egg or salad. It’s like the ultimate breakfast of champions.

I have another mediterranean-style thing I do with chicken, but I’ll save that for another time. One day perhaps I’ll be able to brag about making feijoada… but not yet.

upgrade done

Workmen by Adrian Stewart

Workmen by Adrian Stewart

I just went from WordPress 2.0something-or-other to 2.7 yesterday. v2.7 has a very pretty, very usable dashboard. It claims it can auto-upgrade the core for me (which I’m scared of, but impressed by) and does the kind of browse-click-relax auto-install of plug-ins I’m familiar with from Gallery2.

If you haven’t upgraded, check it out. WordPress.org is running 2.7 from what I can see.

long delayed upgrade

"workmen close" by quarsan

Apologies for any bumps, I’m upgrading my WordPress install for the first time in a couple of years.

Update: if you read this via a feed reader like Newsfire or Bloglines or Google Reader, could you take a moment to drop a comment on this post so I know I haven’t broken the feed?

It warms my heart when people listen to me

Chris Caines quoted me today and it made me smile.

New job

A systems admin at NICTA

I seem to have a job. I started on Monday at [NICTA](http://nicta.com.au) working on the [Braccetto](http://nicta.com.au/research/projects/braccetto) project with my old friends Markus and Gregor.

The job’s part-time and on a six month contract. We’re building table-top collaborative applications for people trying to get crucial things done. The project’s a collaboration between clever people at [CSIRO](http://www.csiro.com/) and [DSTO](http://www.dsto.defence.gov.au/). More details as I get my brain around the project, but so far it seems cool. We have our own [big-ass tables](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZrr7AZ9nCY).