Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I have a spreadsheet showing current and projected expenses and income for the next couple of decades. I use it to remind myself why I'm nowhere near retirement.

One of the columns is projected routine spending, which is current routine expenses like insurance, taxes, bread and milk, plus projected increases in routine spending (ie, things we don't pay for now, but I assume we will have to in the future, like health care premiums). Since costs rise, year to year, I add a percentage increase, just for inflation, each year.

A second column is projected extraordinary expenses -- new cars and the like.

Last night, I thought 'why separate out projected changes in routine from extraordinary? Both are money we expect to spend, and both are limited in how often we'll have to pay -- they don't go on forever. ' So I changed the projected routine spending to be just that, and changed projected extraordinary to be just projected one-time spending. Hey, what's the diff, right? Just cleaning up the spreadsheet.

Oh, my goodness.

It turns out that by combining the one-timers with the normal spending, I was making the implicit assumption that the one-timers would actually happen in whatever year they occurred -- and every year thereafter. Once I pulled them out, so that they don't get rolled up each year, the spreadsheet projected our total spending over the entire period to be about 70% of what it otherwise would have been. And the net effect is, our projected ending net worth is projected to be about 15% higher.

Maybe I will retire.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

I didn't write this. The person at did. It's terrific.

Mission Impossible - Dowbrigade Remix
The Dowbrigade has discovered that although busses and subways in Boston run much diminished schedules on Sundays, with meticulous planning and split-second timing it is possible to get from Malden to the tennis courts in under an hour, even on that Godly day.

As I waited for the first bus on my route, the 108, which stops right in front of our house, I popped into my cheapo CD player the disk I burned last night just for that purpose. Old reggae from the Heptones got me to the Malden Center stop on the Orange Line, then the sweet acapella of the Persuasions.

Finally, the train pulled into Downtown Crossing, the labyrinthine underground complex which unites the Orange, Red and Green lines and, as a bonus, features a direct entrance to Filene's Basement. I needed to navigate the narrow Orange Line platform, race down two flights of stairs, down an underground concourse, up a short set of steps and across two sets of Green Line tracks and dash down a final stairwell onto the Red Line outbound platform, within 2 minutes, in order to catch the 9:15 train to Cambridge, Central Square being the closest subway stop to the Just Don't Suck Tennis Club.

Just as the doors of my Orange Line train opened (I could barely hear the annoyingly androgynous announcer intone "Change here for the Red and Green Lines" with my headphones on) when the playlist I was listening to sprung up with Moby's techno re-mix of the theme from "Mission Impossible". It was perfect.

As I stepped off the train, I was instantly enveloped in a world of choreographed precision in which every detail had stark definition and significance. The soundtrack took over my Central Nervous System and I began moving in smooth and stylized unpredictable jerks, like a boxer bobbing and weaving to make a more elusive target. My eyes shot around the station in time to the music, cutting reality into diffuse shots, glimpses and quick cuts; a face watching out of the corner of one eye, a buff businessman holding too tightly to a slick atachee case, a suspicious bulge under the My Little Pony blanket covering an innocent looking baby stroller.

My feet moved to the beat of the tense techno strains of MI. I deftly sidestepped two clueless tourists studying the system map like Egyptologist trying to decipher previously unknown hieroglyphics inside a pyramid, lept lightly over the opened guitar case of an overtly gay bleached blond Rasta, and slipped adroitly between two concrete columns, disappearing from the sight of anyone who happened to be on my tail.

As the music's staccato pace quickened with tension I found my stairwell and bolted up two steps at a stride, still in time to the music. Emerging on the Green line complex my eyes chopped the scene into sharp, revealing shots, cutaways revealing a professors umbrella, an odd bag of fruit, a particularly repulsive hairdo, and plotting a path across the two trolley tracks between where I was standing and the stairwell to the Red Line.

Like a mad ballerina I dashed, juking and feinting, shooting glances left and right, searching for danger, the opposition, the unexpected, inevitable, ultimate sanction. The music was building to its dramatic crescendo. I was moving at a great pace now, my feet dancing over the tracks like Arthur Murray possessed, moving surely and lightly like the seasoned pro I was.

I was going to make it. I had a full 30 seconds to get down the stairs and into the Red Line train. 4 stops to Central. I'd be on the court in 15 minutes. As a finishing flourish to shake off any surviving tails, I faked towards the stairway to the left, then darted between a cement bench and a huge column toward the right stairway - and smack into an 87-year-old Chinese grandmother retuning from the Chinatown markets loaded down with boxes bags and baskets. We both went sprawling on the cold grimy floor of the station. Small white feathers had escaped from one of her many packages and lay on both our bodies, and the floor. A few still hung in the air.

Thank God she wasn't hurt or a lawyer! I helped her to her feet, apologizing profusely, and offering (stupidly) to replace her feathers. She addressed me at length in Chinese, and though understanding not a word I felt chastised and chagrinned.

Needless to say, I missed the train, and finally got to the courts still shaking from my close escape. However, had I not had that fortuitous run-in with the Nationalist Chinese agent, the highly-trained hit squad waiting for me at the foot of the right stairway disguised as a troop of highly decorated girl scouts might have done me in.