2012 in Review

Another year now in the books. Was 2012 a good or bad year?

A year ago I was looking to change apartments. I was very unhappy with the team I was working for, and how politically isolated I felt at my company. But I enjoyed the work I did. I was happy that I’d put my financial life in order, that I’d started a blog, that I’d finally started traveling.

Not too much has changed on a macro scale – I’ve moved to a new apartment. At work, I asserted myself and transferred to a much better team, but I’ve become unsatisfied with my work – it feels as though an alarm is going off telling me “now it’s time for something new.” I feel a tension between the desire to embark in a new direction, and my desire to ride the job I’ve got to financial independence. I’ve continued increasing my savings linearly – by 50%, in fact – while building up a pretty strong dividend portfolio (even if that portfolio has suffered some in the past month).

But on a micro scale, a lot has changed. I’ve managed to write semi-regularly. I’ve downsized in meaningful ways: disposed of a bookcase worth of books, eliminated a sack of unnecessary clothes, and given away some furniture. I’ve learned to cook a lot of new dishes, and to experiment in the kitchen. I’ve become comfortable programming in vim, learned to sharpen knives, air-dry my clothes, switched from Windows to Linux full-time, revived my interest in web programming, and built a few cool toy games. I play European boardgames and watch less TV. I’ve traveled to Iceland, and the Netherlands, and Bavaria, and I’ve seen and done exciting new things there. I’m more comfortable with my looks and dress better than a year ago. I keep a somewhat tidier apartment. Some very nasty, tension-inducing family troubles are behind me.

On the other hand, I’ve become less healthy than I was a year ago, as stress and sedentary life bury me further. I do some new things, but never as much as I want to. I still waste time surfing the internet, and I haven’t reduced expenses by nearly as much as I want. I haven’t been as outgoing or adventurous as I’d hoped. I still have room to downsize and streamline my life. I’m less satisfied with my work than ever.

Peering into 2013, the future is a bigger mystery than ever. I don’t know where I’ll be working or living, what my passions will be, what projects I’ll have completed, or what relationships I’ll have built. There are question marks entering every year, but more this year than most. I do know that if I grow and change as much in 2013 as I have in 2012, I can count it a successful year.

Skill a Week: Apartment Cleaning

Forgive me, this is closer to a realization and a few tips. Every weekend where I don’t have something planned, I tell myself “this weekend, I’m going to do a great job cleaning my apartment!” And I never do. Now, there’s no particular reason for me to clean, usually. Sure, it’s nice to have a clean apartment, and I feel more responsible when I have one, but in the end I could instead live in squalor.

When my back’s against the wall, though, it’s awfully easy to clean an apartment. For instance, between Friday night and Saturday morning, I spent about six hours cleaning. And in that time, I totally re-arranged two rooms (a much better arrangement), cleaned a kitchen counter full of dishes, scrubbed the stove, cleaned the bathroom, mopped five rooms, changed bed linens, moved my computer, and dozens of other small things. In six hours! And that’s the amount of time I spend procrastinating on a normal weekend!

So, the lesson here is that, once you get started, it’s shockingly easy to do a serious amount cleaning, so long as you put your mind to it.

And here’s a very simple cleaning tip I picked up. Previously my cleaning arsenal had mostly consisted of windex, bleach, draino, paper towels, vinegar and baking soda. At a dollar store I found 6 dishrags in a bundle for $1 (they’re very shoddy/loosely knit). They’re so much more effective and re-usable than paper towels. First you can use them for drying things, then wiping down mostly-clean surfaces, then mopping up drink spills, and then finally cleaning/scrubbing seriously dirty things – one dishrag can easily replace a roll of paper towels. If they get disgusting, you can throw them out; if they’re just dirty, you can run them through the washing machine. One thing I cleaned was the stove – I think paper towels are too soft to cut through accumulated oil spatter, but the dishrags were rough enough that it posed no problem.

Also useful – using an old sponge to cut through layers of grime in the bathtub or bathroom sink. I’d used paper towels here as well and they always left some grime behind. But after 2-3 months of use a sponge gets gross and is only suitable for this type of cleaning (or wiping down kitchen counters).

Deliberate Practice and Dreams of Sushi

Deliberate practice has been en vogue on the internet for a few years – but it’s been a popular idea for hundreds of years. I watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi recently (it’s free on Amazon Prime), and it’s one of the best testaments to deliberate practice I’ve seen.

The movie focuses on the lives of an elderly man and his two sons, who are all sushi chefs. Although the film covers, at various points, the family relationship, sushi preparation, fish markets, apprenticeship, and the environment, the heart of the film is an ode to dedication, routine, and deliberate practice. Jiro is 85 years old, and in many ways he lives in a way I wouldn’t want to – he admits he wasn’t a good father – but he also works constantly to become a better chef. It’s his explicit stated goal to get better at has profession, every day – even after 75 years of study. So, he lives every day following the same pattern, leaving energy to focus on cooking skills. He loves his work – and his dedication has paid off: he’s considered the best sushi chef in the world.

The enemy of deliberate practice is not “no practice,” but rather “mindless routine.” It’s so easy to fall into a routine – and then you learn nothing. Even the littlest things can make a difference. For instance, I frequently export displays in Linux – almost daily at work. Basically, this means that you’re showing the display of one machine on a different machine (to oversimplify). You sometimes need to check which machine will be doing the displaying. I always ran the command env | grep DISPLAY – searching the environment for DISPLAY. But this is imprecise. Recently I saw a shell script and realized (to my chagrin) that I could just do echo $DISPLAY instead. It’s only a few characters shorter, but it’s just correct. It’s simply better than what I was doing before. And yet, I’d never really thought about a better way to find the display – for probably two years! I had something that worked, after all. This is a terrible attitude, but even if you recognize that, it’s still a common trap to fall into.

Skill a Week: Knife Sharpening

The last set of knives I bought was probably 5 years ago. They were wonderfully sharp when I bought them, now they’ve become dull. After all, 5 years of wear is quite a bit (I also inherited a few cheap knives that probable hadn’t been sharpened in 15 years)! Of course, since I’m trying to cook more frequently, it’s important to have a razor-sharp knife.

So, it was either replace the knives or sharpen them. And if to sharpen, what method to use? Well, if you asked me 5 years ago, I might have just replaced them. I suspect a lot of people end up doing that. But these were decent knives, so I didn’t want to get rid of them. Then, the question became how to sharpen the knives. There’s a lot of options. For instance, I was considering this Accusharp knife sharpener.

I was really enthusiastic at first, but I also felt uncomfortable. There was a dissonance I felt when considering this purchase that made me uncomfortable. First, the reviews were mixed. The device sounded effective, but according to experts it was damaging to some knives. I didn’t want that – but then, if I sharpened by hand I’m sure I wouldn’t do a great job either. Worst than being semi-effective, it was a cheap, disposable solution for knife sharpening. It also wasn’t “traditional,” and in the end, even if I saved time, I wouldn’t learn anything that could be usefully applied to other edged devices. So – it was down to sharpening by hand.

I ended up buying a Japanese waterstone (I might also buy a sharpening steel next year). I’m not sure exactly what it’s made of, but it feels like a very smooth, dry, piece of fabricated stone. When I say it feels dry, I mean it – it’s as though it sucks the moisture out of your hands when you handle it. You have to let it soak before using it – hence the name ‘waterstone’.

I looked up a few Youtube tutorials, and found this one featuring an older Japanese chef the most useful.

I also learned a few things through experience. First, leaning over the stone is important to maintaining the right angle of the blade through the full stroke. Second, the slurry of stone powder generated by sharpening is critical – as it gets generated, the sharpening goes better and better. Maintaining that slurry on top of the stone is key.

I sharpened five knives, and it ended up taking me an hour. I bet after another few sessions of sharpening, I’d be able to do the same 5 knives in half an hour. The knives are delightfully sharp. To me, the best test is with a tomato. By the end of my sharpening, I could simply hold the knife on top of a tomato and it would be able to slice right through.

This is a skill that’s only periodically useful, maybe every few months. But I enjoyed sharpening. Once I got a rhythm going, it was almost meditative, and it also felt good to be doing something by hand.

Skill a Week #3: Programming a Game

I have a confession. One of the core things about who I am is that I consider myself a programmer. And yet, for over four years now, I haven’t done any programming outside of work.

It’s true! It’s shameful! My excuse is a lack of time. But that’s a terrible excuse. It’s one of those things I can’t really explain. Programming makes me feel so good and yet I haven’t done any programming on my own.

Well, I changed that. A buddy and I were talking about making a game – perhaps even starting a company to do so. Finally last weekend I proposed that we meet up and start programming. Neither of us has much experience with this, but I think we’re both excellent programmers. So the first thing was just to start getting experience making a game. We decided on a tower defense-style game, and a game framework (Love2D). It uses a language I hadn’t tried before (Lua). And to be honest, I’ve rarely done much graphics programming or games. So, just getting started was a challenge.

After the first 4-5 hours, I was really enjoying myself. I had some basic competency in the language, and before I went to sleep I realized “hey, I have enough knowledge now to make a tetris clone!” So, that’s what I did. Only took a few hours of puzzling to get it working, with menu, all the keys and everything. Then, as I was cooking dinner, I thought to myself “Hey, you know what would be cool? Trying to make Conway’s Game of Life in under an hour!” I like Game of Life, it’s a very simple sort of program that leads to interesting emergent phenomena. And, lo and behold, I was able to write a decent version in about half an hour. Then, another half an hour to add different game speeds, pausing, and different grid sizes.

I’ll be honest, I was really happy with these experiments. It was rejuvenating – I felt like I did about programming way back when I was in high school. That there’s just a whole world of things you can create and mold exactly how you want. Things you care about, rather than things you do for grades or work. I’d also been really down on my programming abilities. Because, although I consider myself a good programmer, and most people I work with agree, I suffer from a startling lack of diversity in experience. All the cool projects I see other programmers doing, I know nothing about! I was really scared that making Tetris would be difficult, when in fact it was really, really simple.

At this point, I’ve probably spent about 15 hours programming in this environment (love2d/lua, editing in vim). And I feel wonderful. I’ve got a playable tower defense game, and I’m comfortable making pretty much any sort of feature change to the game at this point.

Maybe this is pretty specific. But I think generally people become unintentionally confined in their jobs, as though they were wearing a straitjacket. They end up creating nothing. But creating anything is rewarding and refreshing.

Skill a Week: Frugal Apartment Clothes Cleaning

A bit late, maybe, but the skill I’d like to highlight this week is a cheaper way of cleaning clothes (particularly for apartment-dwellers).

Prior to this year, I had lived in a building that had a washer & dryer, except for two years in college. It’s a huge pain having to travel to do laundry; even worse, if you work odd hours you might not be able to get to a laundromat. Here’s the solution I’ve worked out:

I bought a small portable washing machine. There are two varieties: a hand-operated model, and an electric washer. I went with the electric model, because I’m lazy. Its priced at $250, but 9 months in, I’m happy with it. Assuming it doesn’t break for another year or two, I won’t have any complaints.

It’s light enough to be easily carried by two people. It’s 17″ by 17″, and under 3 feet tall. It uses a regular power outlet, and a nozzle attachment you put on a sink. The waste water goes into the tub. The load size is enough for a king-sized sheet, plus maybe a few socks, or 8-10 undershirts. Like I said, it’s already paid for itself in terms of convenience. If I assumed the laundromat would cost $5/week, I’m approaching payoff in pure cost terms as well.

In addition to the small electric washer, I have a drying rack (from Ikea). Everything dries on it, and there’s no wear on clothes compared to a heated dryer. If I had a yard, I’d use a clothesline… but I don’t. For half my clothes (sheets, towels, underclothes, some shirts), the drying rack is good enough. For the other half, particularly work clothes, I don’t want the wrinkles. I have two solutions here. Historically I’ve just taken all the work clothes – a single huge load is feasible, since they’re all pre-dried – and carried it to the laundromat, where 50 cents and 15 minutes is enough to heat and de-wrinkle.

However, that’s kind of a pain, and some clothes just need a quick once-over, so I’ve been (re-)teaching myself to iron clothes. I don’t mind the process of ironing. It can be rather calming. On the hole, it probably costs the same as the laundromat, in electricity terms. But it’s convenient to be able to do just a few shirts at a time.

Skill a Week: Cheap Food

The inaugural “Skill a Week” is one way I’ve been practicing to make cheap food: rice and beans (or, a vegetarian chili). It’s cheap, healthy, and tastes good. What’s not to like?

By the way, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve prepared this dish probably 10 times or so and consider this variation a success.

The Recipe

This recipe provides enough for 6 cereal bowl-size servings. If you usually eat a large volume of food, like me, that probably translates to 4 meals that will stuff you.

Ingredients

Note that this is just a rough guideline – feel free to toss whatever in. I’ve included costs for the full batch, based on buying store brand foods, but not in bulk, in the NYC area. I really just have a rough guideline for the cost of spices; suffice it to say that ethnic grocers and non-name brand (ie, non-McCormick) spices are the way to go. Also, feel free to experiment. I’ve tried some garam masala, sriracha sauce, vegetable broth, bay leaf, etc. The key spices are chili powder, garlic, and lemon juice – the lemon juice in particular makes a huge difference.

Ingedient Qty Cal Fat Carb Protein Cost ($)
Garlic Paste 2 Tbsp 15 0 6 2 .15
Goya Salsa 1 Cup 85 0 20 0 1.05
Dried Black Beans 3 Cups 1200 0 264 84 2.25
Brown Rice (Dry) 1 Cup 685 5.5 143 15 .30
Onion 2 Medium 100 0 23.5 2 .75
Lemon Juice Concentrate 1/4 Cup 0 0 0 0 .15
Chili Powder 2 Tsp 0 0 0 0 .05
Cumin Seeds 1 Tsp 0 0 0 0 .05
Turmeric 1 Tsp 0 0 0 0 .05
Black Pepper 1 Tsp 0 0 0 0 .05
Salt 1 Tsp 0 0 0 0 .05
Olive Oil 2 Tbsp 240 28 0 0 .50
Total 2325 33.5 456 103 5.40
Per Serving 388 5.5 76 17 .90

Preparation

  1. Beans are (ahem) well-known to be gassy. However, proper preparation can reduce this unfortunately side-effect substantially. The key is to get the beans pre-soaked, which starts to destroy some of the chemicals that lead to gas. I start preparing the beans about 2 hours before I begin cooking. Take 3 cups of dried beans and put them in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling, turn off the stove and let the beans sit for 1 hour. They’ll absorb a lot of water during this time. After the first hour, strain the beans and rinse – you’ll see a ton of black run-off. Put them back in the pot, and cover with water again. Wait another hour and then strain them again. This is pretty flexible, you can try 45 minutes or 90 minutes or whatever.
  2. Dice up the onions, and fry in a pan. I add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then I add the black pepper, 1/2 the garlic paste, 1/2 the chili, and the cumin. It smells really good. Continue frying for about 5 minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
  3. I cook my beans in a pressure cooker. I’ll put some oil in the bottom to prevent burning, and spread that around, then dump the beans in. Add in 1 cup of dry rice, and then 5 1/2 cups of water. The water is also flexible, I found 5 1/2 cups gives about the consistency I want, thin enough to eat with a spoon, but not soupy.
  4. Add the onions to the beans, the rest of the garlic, the rest of the chili, and the turmeric. Bring the pressure cooker up to pressure
  5. Cook 30 minutes after reaching pressure, then turn off the heat and wait 5-10 minutes for the pressure to subside.
  6. Open the pressure cooker, and add 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1 cup of whatever cheap salsa you found. Add salt to taste. The chili will be mildly spicy, at this point I add in additional hot sauce. The salt and tomatoes/lemon (both of which are acidic), if added earlier, will give the beans a tougher texture, this is why I wait until most of the cooking is done before adding these ingredients.
  7. Cover the pressure cooker again, and cook at pressure for 10-15 minutes
  8. Done! I add some cheese to my chili before serving; I’ve found that at heat even big chunks of 75% fat free cheese will melt (usually fat free cheese melts poorly). Store leftovers for work lunches or dinner.
  9. I don’t have a microwave, so to reconstitute I put 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a pot to prevent burning, add 1-1.5 servings of chili, and then ~1/2 cup of water, and heat for 7-8 minutes.

Hopefully this was useful. I enjoy the chili and for 90 cents per serving, the price is right, too. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The latest thing I heard was to try adding cinnamon; I might also try cocoa powder.

Hurricane

So this past weekend there was a hurricane in my area. It wasn’t much of an event, for me. I lost power for 3 days, but it could have been much worse. Nonetheless, there were two take-aways: I’m not prepared for serious disasters, and … what am I doing with my life?

Emergency Preparedness

I’ve always considered coolness under pressure, and being prepared for unusual situations, to be among my skills. (I suppose many people feel the same way, the same as everybody considers themselves an above-average driver). My presumption made my unpreparedness for this hurricane all the more jarring.

When I say that carrying myself well in serious situations is my strong point, I mean that I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve handled the few difficult or emergency situations I’ve been in. I’m also an Eagle Scout, I’ve backpacked for over a week at a time, I know basic first aid and so on. I try to think about different eventualities, and I’m very careful when hiking.

Nonetheless, after the hurricane, with stores closed and no power, I was left with some pasta and beans. Most of the other dry food I had was expired. So I subsisted on chili, macaroni & cheese, a can of pineapple chunks. I didn’t have candles or even a true flashlight, but I did have two little single-LED lights that I was able to use. Without those I would have been in bad shape once it got dark out.

I need to keep more supplies at hand. Although for the NYC metro area, this was a major disaster, I feel like many places, even in the US, can have much more serious disasters (earthquakes in California, hurricanes in Florida/Gulf Coast, Tornadoes in Kansas). Personally I think that disasters are going to become more frequent, and I’d like to be able to weather any disaster without having to worry about rushing to buy supplies. Such desperate actions indicate a softness that I don’t find appealing. I’d also like to be able to draw on fresh knowledge if I’m confronted with a serious medical problem, or whatnot. In my daydreams I’m all set for a survival/post-apocalyptic situations, but reality doesn’t bear those dreams out.

I Stepped Into a Hurricane

I had no electricity for three days, and absent that, much of my identity disappeared. There were only three things I did without power: sleep, read, and feed myself. That’s pretty much it, and I find that disturbing. I have essentially no non-electronic hobbies. When I think about life in the 19th century, this is what I find most confusing. There’s some evidence that people were a bit bored back then: for instance Edward Everett’s speech preceding Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was about two hours long, and people considered it short. Can you imagine people wanting to listen to a single speech for two hours today? Still, it seems like people kept busy.

Overall it seems people worked about the same hours as people today, or had seasonal hours – such as when farming. I’m sure people read, maybe played a musical instrument or knitted. Letter-writing, conversation and drinking were popular past-times, much more than today. But what else were people doing? I find it baffling, they must have done other things. What could I do, that would keep me occupied and engaged if I had no power?

At this point, I’m looking to institute a “no electricity hour,” where I’d shut down everything electric except a light, and then figure out how to keep myself occupied.

I’m also distressed at my lack of worthwhile skills. I’m re-reading Shop Class as Soulcraft, and it resonates as much as the first time. I’m totally disengaged from the real world. I can barely feed myself, fer chrissakes. I’m not mechanically inclined, can barely repair anything, or build things on my own.

To remediate this, I’m planning on starting a series on this blog called Skill a Week, where I’ll describe some skill I’ve taught myself, why it’s useful/interesting from a self-sufficiency and frugality perspective, and provide tips/instructions for people also interested in learning that skill. Don’t expect any skill to be particularly complicated; the idea is it’s something to pick up in a short amount of time and use with regularity. It could be a recipe/cooking skill, a way to repair something, a new way of learning, and so on. I want to be forced to push my boundaries and maybe help other people learn as well.

Switching Jobs

Over the past four years, I haven’t (ever) considered changing jobs. I’m still at my first job outside of college; my planning was constrained to one degree of freedom: “how many more years do I have to work at my current job, before retirement is feasible” rather than “what would be best for my career/sanity – and also lead to financial independence?” I earn quite a bit of money; I naively assumed that it was probably more than I would make elsewhere. Furthermore, I recognize that I have terrible interview skills; I don’t have a good memory for algorithms/data structures and my knowledge of languages is mostly restricted to a proprietary language where I work.

But things have changed, due to the following:

  • I’m increasingly unhappy at my job. I’m under a ton of stress, I’m working 10+ hours every day and 12+ hours two days per week. I’m no longer learning as much as I was a year or two ago, and although over the coming months I might pick up a little bit of java knowledge I’m certain that it’s not as much as I’d learn in a new job. And java is hardly the sexiest programming language! (Scala or Python look like fun).
  • I had a frank conversation after work, with a few co-workers who felt that staying at my job another year would hurt my career. They said “whatever raise you get this year is probably not going to be as good as switching jobs,” and “you’re reaching a point (4.5 years) where switching becomes increasingly difficult.” And I think they’re right.
  • I don’t really know my value on the market. Without interviewing, I can’t establish how much I’m “worth,” or understand whether I’m over/under paid.
  • At this point, I think I can find another job where I’m happier. Ideally, in such a job I would: be learning more broadly applicable and marketable skills, in a more socially useful profession, while working fewer hours and earning more money. Is it optimistic to assume all of the above would be true? Yeah, but I know jobs which fulfill these criteria are out there, so why not try to find them? I’d consider switching for the same salary if I knew the other three things would be fulfilled.
  • Although I think that it’s unlikely that I’d be laid off, my known weakness in interviewing is something I’d feel more comfortable remediating.
  • I’ve been programming professionally for 5 years but sadly, my knowledge is so narrow I can’t do cool projects I want to. I’m no longer thinking outside the box.

In the end, the fundamental problem is that I don’t have enough information: I don’t know my value on the market. I’m also intimidated by an obvious weakness: although I think I’m an excellent employee, my skillset is almost entirely disjoint from the skillset required to interview well.

So, the first thing I need to do is practice my interview skills, and go out and interview as much as possible. There’s no reason not to do so. I build up important skills, might get a good offer, and start to get a better intuition for whether I’m underpaid. My plan right now is to start working on code katas and little interview-style puzzles to learn a new language, and then start exploring other options in January/February.

Travel Kitsch

For travel (and I suspect for many other things), it’s important to have some memento of what you’ve done. This is biological: I think it’s impossible to store all memories in an easy-to-retrieve way, but I think most people can remember some bit of everything. However, it’s difficult to retrieve things in a sequential fashion (ie, Two years ago, first I did this and this happened, and then I did this where I saw that). Furthermore, some memories are ‘lost,’ in the sense that the memory is there but there’s no way to retrieve it. At least, that’s the way it works for me.

So, looking at pictures from travel, I remember things that I’d be unable to retrieve on their own.

The desire to remember is really strong; who wants to ‘lose’ experiences? I think people’s memories also turn sunny in the long-term, so it’s nice to always be prompted “hey this was a pretty good time,” or alternately “listen to this miserable experience I once had!” That’s the only explanation I can think of for the popularity of souvenirs, which are useless kitsch that prompt memories. Or maybe people want a subtle way to show off how well-traveled they are.

It’s probably clear that I think souvenirs themselves are worthless.

I keep pictures. And I keep ticket stubs and brochures, which don’t take up much space and provide a detailed record of travel. But these usually just sit on the computer hard drive, or gather dust in an old box.

This seems sub-optimal. I don’t want to be weighed down, trapped, by a bunch of useless crap. But I think it’s cool that you can have something sitting in plain view, prompting you to re-live magical experiences.

I thought I’d come up with a solution: buy useful things when traveling. If a place is known for something, buy a good version of that there; if you can’t think of anything it’s known for, buy something generally useful. So, in Iceland I bought a wool sweater and wool gloves. In Köln I bought a plain T-Shirt. In Amsterdam, jeans; in München, a beer mug. The jeans were 15 euros, the t-shirt, 7 – they weren’t even a local brand. But because of where and when I bought them, they were extra-meaningful. I was satisfied with this solution: I thought it was clever.

Now so fast! It also means that I’ve infused everyday objects with meaning. It’s hard enough to get rid of crap you don’t need; it’s that much more difficult if it has sentimental value. For instance, if a relative gave you a book, it’s tough to discard it. You’re throwing out smoe piece of your relationship with that relative; if they’re deceased, it’s an irreplaceable part.

So it is with the jeans from Amsterdam. A pair of jeans is simply an object; even if it’s expensive, it can be replaced. I lost a button-down shirt on my trip, and although it was a nice shirt, I shrugged my shoulders. One dollar at a thrift store, so what? But when you associate a t-shirt with that crazy bike ride down the Rhine, through driving rain and howling wind, the object assumes new meaning.

And that’s the last thing I want, to get desperately attached to objects. If I outgrow the shirt, I’d have to throw away the physical embodiment of my memories, or hold onto a useless piece of crap. If I break the beer mug, I’ve destroyed a link to the past. I already own enough crap, without wanting an extra reason to hold onto something I own.

I don’t have a solution for this – some way to remember happy times without getting bogged down in useless crap. Maybe I can put pictures on the wall and collage ticket-entries across the refrigerator. But is that the same?