Photo of Jackie’s fabric

I did a photo-shoot for Jackie this morning, taking some pictures of her new fabric fresh off the loom.

I rather liked this picture, which I think captures the texture of the fabric rather nicely. (Click the photo for a larger image.)

As I type this, she’s preparing to wind a warp for another piece of fabric to go with this one.

As I understand it, she’s making three difference pieces of fabric with three different weave structures, but all three made out of the same cotton yarn. Then she’s planning to use the fabric to make a blouse.

I expect Jackie will be posting on her new fabric shortly, with additional photos. So if you’re interested, keep an eye on her blog.

I’ll be interviewed on Rudy Maxa’s World tomorrow

I’m going to be interviewed on Rudy Maxa’s World (America’s #1 Travel Radio Show) tomorrow (Saturday, May 19th). I’ll be on at 11:43 Eastern time for five minutes.

If you want to hear me talk, you can:

They want me to talk about my Why I Hate Points Wise Bread post.

I’ve been interviewed before, but usually either by a reporter who’s gathering info for a story, or else by email where I can compose my replies. This’ll be my first live interview.

Lunch boxes

Various containers for carrying lunches
Photo of lunch boxes originally taken for Wise Bread.

I took this photo specifically to illustrate my latest Wise Bread post, which uses lunch boxes as an example in a discussion about how to choose between buying disposable versus buying to last. The editor ended up going with a different image, but I kind of liked this one, so I figured I’d use it here.

Turns out I have a lot of containers for carrying lunch.

The right-most one is Jackie’s tiffin carrier. Some places in India, wives produce fresh hot lunches for their husbands in the late morning and use a delivery system to have the lunches delivered at lunch time in carriers like this. We sometimes bring it to restaurants so we don’t need to ask for a box when we want to bring leftovers home.

Next to that is a brown paper bag, which I contend is a perfectly reasonable choice for brown-bag lunches: paper is cheap, made from renewable resources without requiring large amounts of energy, and is bio-degradable.

The blue container next to that is the lunch container I actually used to bring my lunch to the office for years. It’s insulated, so food from the fridge would stay cold enough to remain fresh, and then I’d heat it up in the office microwave.

Behind that is a metal lunch box printed with a Hindu pantheon. (The other side has a rather terrifying picture of Kali.) As best I can recall, we’ve never used it to carry a lunch. I think Jackie stores some sort of textile-related tools in it.

At the far left is an awesome thermos-brand lunch carrier that’s basically a big thermos bottle. I won it in a raffle at  Motorola company picnic. (It’s got a Motorola logo printed on it, although it was made by Nissan which I gather bought Thermos some years ago.) It’s a very clever contraption. Clearly someone put a lot of thought into it. There are four stackable containers inside. The bottom one is made for soup, and has gasketed lid to keep liquids in together with a little valve that lets pressure equalize as the soup cools. The next one up is a big container for the main dish—rice, pasta, whatever. The lid of that container is insulated. The next container up is supposed to be used for salad (kept from getting hot by the insulated lid below it), and the top container is for desert. I don’t think I ever used it as intended, to carry both hot and cold dishes, but it worked great as an alternative to my blue insulated carrier to carry cold dishes that I could heat up in the microwave. (And I might yet use it as intended, if I ever want to carry a hot lunch someplace that doesn’t have a microwave.)

As I was setting up for the photo shoot, I kept thinking of more lunch containers that we own. We actually have at least two that didn’t make it into the picture.

Some years ago, my dad gave us a picnic backpack. It’s for rather higher-class affairs than lunch at the office. It came with a tablecloth and place settings for two, together with a cutting board for serving bread and cheese, and a corkscrew. There’s a sleeve suitable for a carrying a bottle of wine. The pack has two compartments, one for the implements and then another insulated compartment for the food.  (I think it’s this one: Picnic Backpack at REI.) I never brought that into work for lunch, but Jackie a couple of times packed up food for two and came to join me at the office for lunch.

The last is my “rack trunk” for my bicycle. It’s sized to fit on top of the bicycle’s rear rack, and is basically a big plastic tub lined with insulation, and then covered with nylon. It’s just the right size to hold a six-pack of soda (turned sideways), with enough room left over to hold a sandwich, along with a couple of granola bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, or what have you. Jackie packed my lunch in that pretty often as well, during summer bicycling season. (If you don’t try to fit in a six-pack, there’s plenty of room for a proper meal.) They don’t make this sort of rack trunk any more. The new ones lack the rigid plastic tub, and just get their shape from the structure of the fabric—they’re not nearly as nice as mine.

I’d had no idea I had so many lunch boxes, until I started gathering them up for that photo shoot.

Jackie’s Huck Weaving, with cat

Jackie has an update about her latest project, in which she’s weaving something called Huck Lace.

I mostly wanted to draw attention to the third picture, in which I captured Rapunzel “helping.” In this case, she’s helping by poking her face up through the warp.

Pure luck that I got that picture—her head wasn’t even headed that way when I pressed the button, but there it was in the captured image.

Decluttering

Dad sorting through old files

I’m just home after four days spent with my dad, working on decluttering the house where we lived during my high school years.

It was a good trip. I forget between times what a good model my dad provides for working: focused sessions of work, interspersed with breaks for exercise, snacks, and caffeinated beverages. I tend to focus too long when the work is interesting and not long enough when the work is tedious. My dad is better at that than I am.

Slightly related to breaks and snacks, we also got to restaurants in both Scotts and Vicksburg. As best I can recall, Scotts had no restaurant when I lived there. Now it has two. I remember ever eating in Vicksburg one time, so they must have had a restaurant; I barely remember it and don’t remember any others. Now they have multiple restaurants—you could eat lunch there every day.

Good trip up and back on Amtrak—I always enjoy traveling by train. A vast improvement over the nightmare that air travel has become.

My visit turned out to serve as a catalyst for additional decluttering efforts. My dad’s wife did a bunch of work getting stuff taken to the dump and Jackie did a bunch of work decluttering the study at home. So, three households have made significant decluttering progress, all thanks to my trip. I’m so proud.

Oh, and we saw a Pileated Woodpecker! They’ve apparently almost gotten common around Kalamazoo.

The wrong class of euphoria-inducing chemicals

Chuck McCaffery and me, after finishing the Allerton Park Trail Race in 2003
Chuck McCaffery and me, after finishing the 5.5 mile Allerton Park Trail Race in 2003. Photo by Jackie Brewer.

I remember back in the late 1970s and early 1980s people were speculating that endorphins might be the source of runners high—and I remember how disappointed they were when experiments showed that exercise-induced levels of endorphins were much too low to produce the reported levels of euphoria.

They may simply have been looking for the wrong class of euphoria-inducing chemicals—it now looks like runners high may be produced not by endorphins but by endocannabinoids. Further, according to a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology, there’s reason to believe that this euphoria is important enough in improving reproductive fitness that it is broadly selected for in cursorial mammals (that is, those with bodies suited for running). See Endocannabinoids motivated exercise evolution for an overview. (The paper itself is behind an annoying paywall for people without some sort of university affiliation.)

This could explain a lot of otherwise hard-to-explain behavior:

. . . a neurobiological reward for endurance exercise may explain why humans and other cursorial mammals habitually engage in aerobic exercise despite the higher associated energy costs and injury risks, and why non-cursorial mammals avoid such locomotor behaviors.

Sadly, the evolved system does not show much promise for turning couch potatoes into endurance athletes:

. . . couch potatoes are not about to leap suddenly out of their comfy chairs and experience the pleasurable effects of exercise, because they probably cannot produce enough endocannabinoids. . . . Inactive people may not be fit enough to hit the exercise intensity that leads to this sort of rewarding sensation.

This is why I’m so pleased at having come up with an exercise regimen that I can persist with over the winter—I enter spring already able to enjoy the euphoric joys of exercise without having to first get in shape.

What do taxing districts do?

The town of Savoy, just south of Champaign, makes a point of having lower taxes. They do so by not providing many of the amenities that Champaign and Urbana provide—no bus service, no public library, etc. Residents, since they can be free riders on Champaign and Urbana services, like the situation just fine.

A few years back, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District was looking to expand its service area into Savoy. Property owners in Savoy didn’t like that idea.

There are rules allowing taxing districts to annex adjacent areas and begin providing services—and assessing the tax. The rules make it pretty tough for an area to opt out; just about the only way is to already be in the taxing district of another service provider. With that in mind, Savoy created its own mass transit district a few years ago (the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District). The idea was that it wouldn’t provide any mass transit service and wouldn’t levy any tax.

All very sad, of course, for anyone like me who uses the bus service, along with anyone who thinks that public services are a good idea. Which meant there was a bit of schadenfreude when, as anyone with any sense had foreseen, Savoy’s transit district promptly levied a small tax (to pay the legal cost of fighting CUMTD’s attempt to annex areas within the district anyway). Taxing districts levy taxes. It’s what they do.

Now we’re getting a bit more schadenfreude: People within Savoy’s transit district (the new YMCA and an apartment complex) are asking the district to provide transit services.

It’s funny, but it’s also kind of sad. I mean, the people who built the apartment complex and the YMCA surely knew that they were building in a place where there was no transit service. I’m sure they picked those locations because the land was cheap. Didn’t they stop to think that the reason the land was cheap was because of the lack of services?

On the one hand, I’m glad to see the Savoy transit district getting pressured to provide transit services. Providing transit services are what transit districts are supposed to do. And I have no sympathy for the residents who created the district in the hopes of dodging a tax—only a moron creates a taxing district while expecting not to be taxed.

But I’m still kind of sad. If transit service to the YMCA is important (and the YMCA says the lack of it is their visitor’s number one complaint), wouldn’t it have made more sense to build the new YMCA within the CUMTD service area? Instead, they build where they know there’s no service, and then complain about it: More sprawl and more bickering.

Of course, those are just more reasons why the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District was a bad idea. I mean, really! Who’s so stupid as to create a taxing district hoping not to be taxed?

Contributor’s copy for “Watch Bees” in Russian!

In the post yesterday I found my contributors copy of the Russian magazine Esli (If) with the Russian translation of “Watch Bees”!

I’d been keeping an eye on their website, expecting that they’d update it with the new issue before I got my copy by international mail, but the paper copy arrived first.

Very interesting to see my name transliterated into Cyrillic characters.

I happened to know that the character that looks like P is pronounced as R, so I was tentatively able to spot “Brewer” in the table of contents by the placement of the Ps. I still wasn’t sure, of course, but my feeling was somewhat strengthened by the initial character of my first name looking like a Greek Phi.

The table of contents directed me to page 111, and flipping ahead to there I was able to confirm my story by the interior illustration:

What a great picture! It captures a key scene in the story while avoiding any spoilers.

I haven’t very often gotten an illustration for one of my stories, so I’m especially pleased.

I’ll try to figure out the artist’s name and see if he or she has a website I can link to. (The name is there on the picture, but in Cyrillic characters. And it’s a long name. I guess my next step is to spend half an hour hunting for each character on a Unicode character table.)

My mother-in-law, who speaks some Russian, has been asking after this issue. She’ll be very excited to learn that it has arrived.

Another view on frugal living

One of my fellow Wise Bread writers, Nora Dunn, has been posting some of the financial details of her travel-heavy lifestyle, including this post on her 2011 Income. (It’s got a link to her earlier post on her 2011 spending, and promises a forthcoming post on why she chooses to earn this much money and not more.)

It’s pretty interesting for anyone who’s thinking about the sort of issues that I write about in my Wise Bread articles—how and why to spend less, and how and why to earn the money to support that frugal lifestyle (and not some other lifestyle).