Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Thursday, 12 August 2004

Thursday, so a workout at the Fitness Center followed by an hour of writing while Jackie took her belly dancing class. Got some pretty good work done on chapter 3: more stuff that was already in my head, so it was just a matter of getting it down. Where I left off on chapter 1, things are a bit fuzzier. I've got an idea where I want go, but the internal timings don't quite work and I need to decide just how to handle it. I left that for another day.

I've got 4667 words, so that's about 500 new words this evening.

I woke up this morning with the vague idea that I was supposed to be in to the office by 7:30 for a teleconference with people in a distant time zone. I ate a quick breakfast, packed up the bicycle, and rode hard all the way in to the office. Made pretty good time, too. My average speed for the ride averages about 11 mph; this morning I did 13.5 mph. Good enough time that I was showered and in my cube right at 7:30, only to find that meeting was scheduled for 8:30.

I'm still trying to get the rhythm of a novel in my head, and I thought it might help to read more novels. (I read plenty of novels, but I made a point of reading lots of short stories before Clarion and that seemed to help.) Just lately I'd been reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is long that my efforts to make visible progress in it had not left any time for novel reading. So, I set it aside temporarily and read Charles Stross's Iron Sunrise which I really liked. Now I've moved on to Bruce Stirling's Zenith Angel, which is also going well.

My employer let slip recently that they're seriously considering a plan that would freeze our pension plan at the end of 2009. On the one hand, this is a predictable move, in that fewer and fewer companies have traditional-style pension plans. On the other hand, it really sucks, because it would amount to a significant pay cut.

It's hard to figure out what one year's accrual in a pension plan is worth: you have to make assumptions about raises through that year, then you have to make assumptions about interest rates from that year until retirement. Still, back-of-the-envelope calculations: 15% pay cut. For me, that is. For someone closer to retirement it would be more, for someone farther from retirement, not so much.

They claim that no decision has been made, and I believe that. They'll make the decision based on whether they think a pension plan will be the best tool for attracting and retaining employees, and based on whether they're having trouble doing so as the date approaches. But whether it happens in 2009 or not, I'm pretty sure it's going to happen.

In the meantime, I've started using Quicken again, tracking our income and spending. I need to know what we're actually spending before I can make an informed estimate about how much money we'd need to live on. If we can live frugally enough, maybe I'll be able to decide that I won't have to accept a 15% pay cut.

As part of that same analysis, I've gradually come around on the idea of some sort of national health care system. Ten or fifteen years ago, I'd sort of vaguely opposed it on the grounds that other things the government ran (the post office, say) provided pretty poor service and that medical care deserved better. Since then, though, a few things have changed. First, non-nationalized health care has gotten more and more like what I imagine a national health care system would provide. Second, the service that the post office provides has gotten quite a bit better. Mainly, though, it's just that I want to retire early, and it's hard to see my way clear to do so, as long as the health care system is organized around employer-provided insurance.

It's almost enough to make me become politically active.


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