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Paying more for better things Thu, Dec 31, 2015
I can't remember when it happened, but sometime in the last five years or so, I flipped the switch from always seeking out the cheapest alternative, to occasionally paying more for better things.  Case in point:  I switched from Sprint to Verizon as my cell phone provider.  I initially went with Sprint because they had the lowest prices for the most features.  That may still be true (with their unlimited data), but Sprint has notoriously poor coverage, and cheap and abundant features don't make up for poor cell service.

I also recently switched cable providers because I'd rather have a good product for more money than a bad product for less money.  This idea has some sort of boundary which I'm still figuring out.  I won't pay more money for better clothes or a better car or better wine, UNLESS of course the more expensive things offer me something I value more highly than thriftiness.  I spend more for shoes because I'd rather be comfortable than not.  I bought my car because it had the exact features I wanted (all-wheel drive and gas mileage), sort of regardless of price.  But once you start factoring in more than one requirement, your options get more limited, and saving money becomes less of an option. 

The bottom line is that spending more money for certain things now brings me more pleasure than spending less money on a worse version of things. #money

Antisocial on Facebook Thu, Dec 31, 2015
It took me a long time to join Facebook, because literally every single aspect of it sounded unappealing.  Connecting with people?  Finding friends from college, or even high school?  Who would want that? 

But I joined, and quickly discovered something that appeals to an antisocial person like myself:  I can be antisocial while pretending to be social.  Facebook connections can act as a sociability stand-in:  I'm keeping up with your life circumstances and the things you care about, but I don't have to actively interact with you to do so.  It's completely passive, unless I want to give a thumbs-up or leave a comment.  It doesn't necessarily need to be a stand-in; I can also have a social relationship with you in real life.  But the passive nature of it and the lack of direct social contact allows a person like myself, who doesn't enjoy a ton of social interaction, to maintain some form of sociability without actually being sociable. #sociology

Caring about issues Thu, Dec 31, 2015
People really only care about issues when they're directly affected.  Cases in point:  #politics

Insufficient metrics Wed, Dec 30, 2015
I've written before about temperature units.  There are lots of them, and they're not based around a useful zero point.  I hope one day we can come up with a better metric to quantify temperature.  Not only because the units are dumb, but because equal temperatures don't always feel the same.  Temps in the 80s (F) in a humid area feel much hotter than temps in the 80s (F) in a dry area.  Cooking on a metal tray takes a different amount of time than cooking with stone.  That has to do with thermal conductivity and other properties of materials, whereas meteorologists have a pseudo-hack called "feels like temperature".  That's cool and all, but it would be nice if we could come up with a way to rise above these variations. 

Same with Calories in food.  A Calorie is the measure of energy in the food itself.  But I think what would be more useful to know is the nutritional value.  That's obviously a whole other can of worms, but it would still be helpful to have an established metric that showed why fast food calories are not equivalent to real food calories.  (Update:  I'm not alone.) #math

Facebook vs. blogging Wed, Dec 30, 2015
Facebook is kind of a like a big room with a bunch of theatrical stages, and each person has their own stage.  The things people post are kind of like them standing on their stage and announcing it to the rest of the room.  It's loud and on a stage, but not everyone notices because they're all on their own stages and there's a bunch of background noise.  Every now and then, someone announces something from their stage and it gets echoed around to other stages. 

Blogging is kind of like talking quietly to yourself while walking down a crowded street.  Most people don't even notice you're there, but every once in a while you'll get a passerby looking for information.  And shouting obscenities in your face. #technology

Opinions vs. preferences Tue, Dec 29, 2015
I posted on Facebook, "Feel bad about your opinions; don't feel bad about your preferences."  I feel it requires an explanation. 

People have opinions about everything, usually involving entertainment, consumables, or even facts.  "Mad Men is a high quality TV show."  "Budweiser is a fairly crappy beer."  Opinions can be based on facts, or they can be based on non-facts.  "All Muslims are bad."  "Global warming is a hoax."  The first part of my Facebook post was basically saying that if your opinions are based on ignorance or misinformation, you should feel bad about them.  The fact that "they're just opinions" doesn't negate the fact that they're wrong, or stupid.  If your opinions are stupid, you're stupid.  Stupid. 

But preferences are another matter.  A preference is what happens when you recognize a fact, and it doesn't change your mind.  You can recognize that Budweiser is a crappy beer, but you can still buy it and enjoy it because it's your preference.  I enjoy fine whiskeys, but I never turn my nose up at Jack Daniels, even if it's widely recognized as inferior.  The second part of my Facebook post was saying that people shouldn't feel bad about preferences, because preferences can't be wrong.  Preferences also can't be applied to facts.  You can have an opinion about facts, but you can't say you have a preference one way or the other. 

This comes up a lot with wine and whiskey.  I have certain preferences for things, and I like to share my purchases with other people.  But I always say, "Don't feel bad if you don't like it."  I'm not offended if your preference doesn't match my own.  In fact, you could even say your preference really isn't even your choice.  It just is what it is. #psychology

Buying our second house Mon, Dec 28, 2015
A few months ago, we completed the purchase of our second house.  It was a trying experience, for a variety of reasons.  Of course it meant selling our first house, moving all our stuff, paying the ridiculous fees that go along with buying a house, and whatnot.  But it was made much worse by the sellers of the house we were buying, and really the entire process in general. 

After a few different tries at it, and months of looking each time, we found a house we liked for a price we could afford in an area that was convenient for us.  Standard hurdles, made more difficult because we had preferences that included things like having a garage and not living on a main road.  The house had been put on the market in January, and the price was lowered in March.  We put in an offer in May for under the asking price, and there just so happened to be a higher offer at right around the same time.  I still have a hard time believing that was an actual offer, and not the seller's friend pretending to put in a higher offer so we would increase our offer.  On the market for four months and suddenly you get two offers in one week?  Regardless, we increased our offer and they accepted, and they also offered to sell us stuff from their house -- standard stuff like a washer and dryer, curtains, etc.  But they also offered a big ugly shelving unit in the basement that they didn't feel like moving out, plus a generator hookup, which was physically wired to the main circuit breaker box.  I questioned how they could sell us the house then charge us more for the actual contents of the house, but I was told this is an acceptable practice.  Already feeling slighted, I rejected all their offers, hoping they would be pissed off at having to clear all that stuff out of their house. 

So we put in the initial paperwork and waited around for a while.  About a month later, our realtor asked us if we secured a mortgage yet.  We thought we were still in the negotiation process and needed to wait until after the home inspection.  (Side note:  This is the second time we've done this process in a decade.  We can't remember what happened last time, and we won't remember what happened this time.  You'd think a realtor would understand that.)  We hadn't even started the paperwork and document-collecting.  So suddenly we had to rush around and try to get a mortgage, which was no problem and we were already pre-approved for.  But the actual process takes time, and suddenly people felt the need to rush. 

The home inspection went fine, except for one little detail:  The home inspector initially said he'd never seen such low numbers on a radon test, which suggested to him that the test had been tampered with.  He didn't note this on his report, since the actual numbers fell within the acceptable limits.  But his feeling was that the seller moved the radon test kit so it wouldn't show the actual radon numbers in the house.  Since it wasn't official, nothing was done about it.  So that's cool. 

At some point in the process, the potential buyer of our old house hit a snag with finances or something, so the closing date had to be postponed a few weeks.  Our seller sent along a nice little threat saying the delay was unacceptable and that they could simply accept one of the other offers on the table.  I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen because we already had a signed legal contract, but that didn't make the threat any less threatening. 

Next up was the home warranty.  The real estate listing said there was a home warranty, which is a pretty cheap thing for the seller to pay for in case of unexpected broken appliances or whatnot.  In the signed contract after submitting our official offer, the seller said they refused to pay for a home warranty.  I went to our realtor and objected to the seller's habit of offering something for free and then reneging.  Realtor-to-realtor discussions proved I was correct.  The seller still refused to pay for the warranty, so the seller's realtor ended up paying for it.  This is the type of person we were dealing with. 

A few weeks before our scheduled closing date, I decided to do a quick drive by the house just to make sure they didn't decide to steal anything else from us.  What I found was a giant pile of trash and household construction debris on the curb.  Like a ridiculous giant pile of garbage.  I figured that was gonna be my first home project, so I kept driving and hoped the issue would take care of itself.  By closing time, the pile had magically vanished, but not before the seller's realtor received complaints from neighbors for the giant pile of trash in the otherwise nice neighborhood. 

At the official closing at the lawyer's office, the seller didn't show up because they had already moved to Texas.  The seller's lawyer signed the papers and said something along the following lines:  "Not to be racist, but I've dealt with people from that culture before, and they all tend to be like that."  The seller's realtor had a similar comment:  "Most real estate negotiations are win-win:  Both sides come out on top.  This seller was the first person I've dealt with who was a win-lose negotiator." 

So there you have it.  Three months of my life questioning if I would have a house to live in.  I'm sure all real estate transactions have their complications.  I feel like it shouldn't have to be that way. #money

No simple issues Wed, Dec 16, 2015
I find myself feeling decreasingly sure of my position on most issues.  Confidence and assuredness are generally seen as positive qualities, so in the past I've often established my personal stance about something, then derided the other side as ignorant blowhards.  I still do that now, but I sit the fence more often.  My history teacher in high school told me that fence-sitting is bad when you're writing a persuasive essay.  Well Mr. Garbarini, it turns out many things aren't that simple. 

There are refugees from the Middle East.  We should let them in because we're nice.  No, we should reject them because they might be bad people.  I was initially very far on the left side of this issue, but then some people killed some people, and that moved me a little farther right.  I still think we should value human life by helping people in need, but I also don't feel like dying because some asshole thinks the world should burn.  People who are firmly on one side of the issue or the other tend to not be looking at the whole situation.  And it gets messy because these are human beings we're talking about, not endangered toads or kale. 

Some people are too poor to pay their water bill.  We should cut off service because that's how things work.  No, we should still provide service because it's water.  This isn't simple.  The logical part of me says, "No pay, no service."  But again, these are human beings, and this is water, not cable TV or a cell phone.  I wish I had a more concise opinion about this. 

I just realized I'm dealing with cognitive dissonance here.  I'm holding two opposing views in my head at the same time, which is why I'm uncomfortable about it all.  It's much easier to simply choose a side and stick with it.  I envy that ability right now.  Instead I get to have a mixed opinion about something and feel bad about it, both because I have a mixed opinion, and because both sides of the issue are messy.  Argh. #psychology