On weighing the evidence

My friend J’s husband called her from work today with the immortal words, “I’ve met someone else.” If he had been able to pick a worse time in life to tell her — say, when she was hooked up to chemotherapy or had just been knocked over and broken her spine — I suspect he would have. (I’d like to think I’m joking.)

I recently had another opportunity of my own to mull over the impact of emotional deceit and betrayal, but after the initial surprise I found those reflections boring.

Instead, I turned to thinking about getting so attached to my hopes and errors that it becomes almost impossible to look at the evidence and admit I was wrong. I _was_ misled, but also, for a year, I remained more attached to my erroneous assumptions than to the weight of the evidence.

So I’m reminded of the importance of being ready to notice, and own up, when I’m likely to be wrong. What someone tells you isn’t evidence, but what they do — or fail to do — certainly is. Sooner or later, you have to go with the evidence.

J and her husband had years of shared struggles, victories, and all the usual pushme-pullyou dramas and traumas that go with two different people sharing their lives.

There were times when, on the basis of the evidence, I told her she should leave. Maybe she should have, for the sake of her own soul. But she didn’t, and her husband would almost always call when we were talking, because whether they were getting along or not, he’d still call her every hour throughout the day and then ring off with a real, “I love you.”

So what do you do when the evidence itself is so confused?

Very few people wind up in solid marriages. Both my brothers did, so I sometimes think that I should, too. But I’m beginning to believe, down to my soul, that nobody will have my back that devotedly — and maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe I shouldn’t come first to anyone, nor put anyone first, myself. Becoming that attached to something that’s so very rare in reality does seem to hinder one’s ability to see the evidence, and destroys the ability to admit that one is wrong.

I have congenital trouble with admitting that my perceptions are wrong in the first place. Perhaps I should just work on that.

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Housing crisis? Really?

More and more in the news about the feculent mess our mortgage system
is in. Housing is too costly & too scarce. Empty houses are hanging
very heavy on bankers’ hands. Office buildings stand vacant for years.
Oh dear.

Hmm.. How about making those vacant spaces available to the homeless?
In return for a little maintenance & hygeine, plus paying for whatever
water & electricity they use, you could have a huge impact on the most
vulnerable poor. Think of all the women, kids, even men who could get
enough peace, safety and stability to get back on their feet & back
into the economic life.

You could also keep empty homes from turning into eyesores. I know
quite a few squatters in organized squats, some of them there with the
owners’ knowledge, and they have had a significant effect on one or
two rotting neighborhoods because they simply won’t let their squat
rot, and they won’t let the real trash take over. It definitely keeps
the tone from getting worse & it keeps the drugs & violence down. I
guess squatters can be kinda scary — they are sure protective of
their squats.

When the place becomes rented or sold, they have to move, but should
get 30 days’ notice. Seems fair in return for how much money & trouble
they’ve saved!

A landowning friend of mine said squatters moved in, crapped on the
new carpet, tore up the repainted walls, and so forth. In my ideal
world, those squatters would be blacklisted & left to homeless
shelters. Squatters who decide to use your space should have basic
standards, and if they have some living-security in exchange,
should be ready & willing to take basic care of the place. Not that
you won’t want to bring in cleaners afterwards, but that costs
much less than re-refitting the whole interior!

In Egypt, they had boabs (two syllables: bo-ab) who lived in building
sites or abandoned residences to keep things from falling apart & keep
thieves and scavengers away. They weren’t paid much but they got free
rent. (Had some living across the street in a half-demolished house
that was tied up in litigation; nice neighbors, helped me with my
Arabic.) Since they were one step away from being on the streets, they
knew the underground and would let the neighbors know if there were
thieves in the neighborhood, if rabies had shown up in the area, or if
the Army was going to come around shooting loose dogs (their idea of
rabies control.)

Makes a lot of sense to me. So the rich neighborhood had a blue-collar
family in their midst — they made us all a little more comfortable,
overall. I’d love to have a “boab community” here!

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Living lean: mulling cost and value

I’ve gotten pretty good at the
fine art of stretching a dollar so tight that if I let go, the
rebound could snap my nose off.

It dawned on me that I’ve gotten good at living cheap, though it’s
hard to tell because I’m so often out of money. It’s not because I
don’t know how to handle it, it’s that I really am that poor. Poor in
money, anyway.

Apothegm for today: EVERYTHING HAS VALUE. ALMOST EVERYTHING HAS COST.

You’d be amazed at how little you can spend per ounce of enjoyment
when you separate the ideas of “value” and “cost.”

This is probably the first most important thing I’ve done: notice what
I enjoy. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy the act of spending money.

The first question pops up: “Why am I starting with noticing
pleasant experiences? Isn’t this about saving money? Isn’t saving
money hard? Like ‘ow ow ow stop it it hurts’ kind of hard?”

Answer: because it works. Unless I win the lottery tomorrow, I’m
living lean for the long haul. That means 2 things:

1. I need a strong foundation. Most of us formed basic ideas about
money early on, and if it hasn’t worked out for me by now, it’s time
to build different foundations.
2. I need good habits. Spreadsheets, check registers, calculators,
even banking software have been around a long time. None of those
tools are rocket science. If they aren’t being used effectively by
now, no amount of “you shoulds” is going to make them work for me.

My Dad, a real genius about money, gave me two pieces of advice that
rocked my world:
1. Make time and money for entertainment. You have to have that. No
budget, however austere, should be without it for more than a couple
weeks.
2. Include a fudge-factor because, for one thing, costs always change
and for another, you’re not always right.

We’re concentrating on #1 right now. I want to figure out both how to
cost, and how to value, that supremely important item: entertainment.

This has taken time to evolve. My awareness shifts as I get
used to noticing what you enjoy. I find my tastes shifting,
since some “pleasures” are really a matter of programming or habit,
and don’t stack up well to things I naturally find pleasing.

No pressure, no expectation, no agenda — just freeing up my mental
habits so I can take a fresh look at seemingly ordinary things.

There’s a serendipitous realization that has been happening as I get better at
noticing happiness, beauty, flavor, pleasure and contentment: I get
better at feeling it, too. Don’t think about that too much right now,
though. I’m working on distinguishing between value and cost.

“No optional pain!” is my guiding
philosophy.

Keeping in mind that this is an intellectual exercise, and exercise
should happen now & then but not constantly.

Remembering to figure out associated costs, like transport, drinks, and
surcharges. I vary between being exact and giving a
ballpark figure — both approaches have their benefits.

With this, as with any skill, it’s all a matter of time — weeks,
months, maybe years. But that time will pass anyway; wouldn’t I
rather be better-prepared at the end of it?

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Expected vs. Actual: planning for WC settlement

The lawyers have finally agreed that it’s time to put this turkey of a Worker’s Comp case to bed.

My lawyer said that, for one thing, I get a mathematically-determined
“apportionment” for being 30% disabled (yes, the Governator thinks I can do 70% of the work I was trained for — writing and patient care — with no freakin’ hands!) The amount would buy a midrange car, but not insurance or gas.

In addition to that, I can either continue fighting with them for every scrap of care my doctors are willing to go to bat for, or hold them up for cash on the barrelhead in return for letting them off the hook in future.

My lawyer figured they might be persuaded to give me the equivalent of another midrange car. This adds up to roughly the cost of a moderately tricked-out Tesla Roadster.

That’s not chump change, but put this in the tailpipe and smoke it …
I suggested plotting out future expenses and seeing how close that amount (the Tesla) would come to meeting the need. So I did.

Turns out that, after writing the check for the Roadster, they’d still
have to move the decimal one place to the right. And that’s for basic lifetime care — nothing fancy, no further disasters or complications. Just regular doctor visits, generic meds, some minor surgery (although
with CRPS there’s really no such thing), and acupuncture at about the same rate they’ve allowed so far. Over a million dollars.

Think they’ll move that decimal point?

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