A review of 2018 financial goals

I made some financial goals in 2018 and I met some of them.

First of all, I paid off my student loans! I am still excited about this, even many months later.

I had a rather ambitious savings rate goal, which I did not meet, partially because Oct–December I funnelled any extra money (including birthday money) into starting my business. But 35% of my net pay is nothing to sneeze at.

I did not start the financial independence blog. I thought I was going to take two months (September and October) and get both the 3SMReviews blog and the financial independence blog launched, and I was very wrong in that thinking. My new goal is to start in September 2019, when I’m more settled in my 3SMReview production schedule.

I did find some side gigs. I’m starting a copyediting business and I’ve got 3SMReviews on its way to making money, though that might be a slow process. I also learned what I don’t want to do for side gigs, which are gig economy things that throw me out of my routine (charging scooters, doing store audits, stuff like that). I’m happy to come home from work at the same time every day and work at my desk for two more hours. What I don’t like is random things popping up here and there. Basically, everything that Financial Panther does, does not work for me. I’m glad that I learned that.

“Retirement accounts in the best place for them,” was code for “Should I move my money match money out of the PERS system?” I have decided not to do that at this time. We shall see if that was a wise decision.

Books read in December 2018

December was another light reading month. Eventually I will return to reading more.

Recommended

Middle Grade: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
Young Adult: None this month
Young Nonfiction: March Forward, Girl
Adult Nonfiction: 168 Hours, You Have More Time Than You Think.

Middle Grade

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
Connor
Read for Librarian Book Group

Mason is the reason to read this book because Mason is an overly large, overly sweaty kid who can’t read and is a little slow to put things together. He’s got a good heart, though, and is trying to make the best of his life, which, frankly, hasn’t gone very well lately.

I figured out what was really going on long before Mason did, and I suspect most readers will do the same, but I think that’s okay. It’s fun to see Mason’s love for Moonie the dog, plus his caring for friends old and new.

Young Adult

Always Never Yours
Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegmund-Broka

I was feeling tired from Christmas prep and thus picked up this frippery of a teen romance. It was solid entry into the genre, providing some Shakespeare, a female character who knows what she wants, and a general PG-rated sex-positive story. (20 years ago the number of boyfriends Megan had, plus her general lack of apology as to enjoying physical activities with those boyfriends, would have cast Megan in a different light.) It was also set in a mystery town outside of Ashland, Oregon, so the Oregon connection was fun. (Though I’m not sure skinny dipping in October would have been a comfortable activity.)

This book was extremely predictable; it is a first novel that hits all it’s marks exactly when they should be hit. But when I’m overly tired from Christmas prep, I’m fine with predictable.

I am Alfonso Jones
Tony Medina
Read for Family Book Group

This book did not go over well in Family Book Group. None of us liked it. We had problems with the number of characters and they way they were drawn made it difficult to determine who was who. This was due mostly to inconsistent depictions.

The story device was good: Jones is killed in a department store by an off-duty policeman and must ride the train with other people who have also died due to police violence. In the book we see the current story playing out, both before and after Alfonso’s death and we also see the stories of the others on the train and how they died. Unfortunately, there aren’t many indicators to let us know if we are in present day, or recounting someone’s death. It was hard to follow what was going on.

This was a good premise, but a flawed final product.

Young Nonfiction

March Forward, Girl
Melba Pattillo Beals
Read for Librarian Book Group

I was assigned to read Melba Pattillo Beals’ memoir Warriors Don’t Cry in college and it has stuck with me. This book does not focus on her role in integrating Central High School, instead, it is her memories of growing up in Jim Crow-era Arkansas.

I appreciated how Pattillo Beals grounded her experiences with discrimination and terror in her body. As she illustrates example after example of being deemed lesser than, she talks about where she felt her feelings.

This book has some scary scenes. There’s a lynching in a church and a near rape. It’s frustrating to see Melba and her family have to maneuver to survive. But this is a story I’m glad she told because as a white person it’s easy to distance myself from the everyday indignities of that time period.

It’s also a story of where she thrived and the people who supported her.

Unfortunately, the illustrations are not a good fit for this book. Other than that, this is a worthy read.

Nonfiction

The Bullet Journal Method
Ryder Carroll
A concise guide to getting started with a Bullet Journal. I learned that the daily logs aren’t logged in the index. Also, the layout is very pretty.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
Laura Vanderkam

This book is heftier than your average productivity book. It will take you longer than 90 minutes to read it, and the margins aren’t large.

I’m not blown away–as the author is–that there are 168 hours in a week. That doesn’t sound like a ton to me. However, I did like her focus on figuring out your core competencies, figuring out 100 things you want to do and then start paying attention to how you spend your time. She also writes about split shifts and calls into question how much time we really spend at work. 60 hours? She doubts it.

I stopped watching TV in real time when the West Wing was in season three, so I’ve reaped the oodles of time rewards for at least 15 years, but for some people they may be amazed at how much time goes to television.

Overall, this was well worth some of my 168 hours.

A very good thing for the Cully Neigborhood

When a former strip club and front for a prostitution ring is torn down in order to build affordable housing, it’s a very good day for the neighborhood.

Even better? When a bunch of small organizations were the ones who bought the property in the first place, because they knew that good piece of land would be better served by a different sort of building.

Christmas 2018

And so we gather to celebrate Christmas.

The tree, in all its splendor.

The meat pie, in all its splendor.

After breakfast and presents, we had a Fun Christmas Activity. This consisted of a variety of activities one could partake in. Here are some pictures of what we did.

Linda made a New Year’s scene from a purposefully limited supply of colored paper.

Matt’s scene

Matt attempts the blind Christmas tree tear.(After first cheating and folding a Christmas tree.)

His two results.

Linda’s blind Christmas tree.

Chris works away at the Christmas packet, consisting of trivia questions, a crossword, a word search, and a cryptogram. Aunt Pat cleaned the kitchen. (Cleaning up was a category, as was taking a nap.)

Mom made a New Year’s scene.

I attempted a Blind Christmas Tree tear, and was better at the Christmas tree then taking a picture of it.

Aunt Pat’s cat Roo takes a break.

Aunt Carol’s New Year’s scene.

One of our activities was reading a poem aloud. Inside one volume of the Book of Verse, I found my grandmother’s transcription of “Thanksgiving Day.” This was a great find. I so rarely come across her handwriting.

And here are the final standings of all who participated.

Broadway Rose Theater 1940s Radio Christmas Carol

It’s been a long drought of theater and then I get to see two shows in two days. My Aunt Carol was too busy to take advantage of her Broadway Rose ticket, so I got to come along to A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol.

This was a fine Christmas production which told the story of a 1940’s radio broadcast where the players combine song and story (and radio commercials!) and run into some problems with their radio version of Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas story.

Also, I always enjoy watching the radio sound man, and this play delivered on that front.

Asylum Theater Speed-the-Plow

The Northwest Classical Theatre Company has taken its last bow in Portland and I miss it. So when I received an email that one of the players from the NWCTC was starting a new company and would preforming David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, I made a note to buy tickets.

And we did! And here we are back at the Shoebox Theater, which is now the home of Theatre Vertigo. They’ve taken down the costumes which used to hang from the ceiling and done a few things different with the lighting and the painting, but otherwise it’s still the same cozy place.

I had forgotten that when you walk into the theater there are usually some newbies who gasp and exclaim at how tiny the theater is. That was fun to experience again.

Self portrait.

Speed-the-Plow was a great play! It was made better by the fact that when it started, it was trending in a direction of me not liking it. Two guys talking about the amazing deal they were going to make on a movie is not my favorite thing. But things kept shifting and I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me several times.

Jason Maniccia and Danny Bruno were great as Gould and Fox and Briana Ratterman was also very good as Karen.* Don Alder directed.

Matt and I had a lot to chew on as we drove home from the theater, which is always the mark of a good play. Hopefully we will see another production by Asylum Theater soon.

Fun audience moment: the music playing before the play started included “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2 from their Rattle and Hum album. I was signing along quietly and noticed that the woman sitting on the other side of Matt was also singing along quietly.

*Fun fact: Madonna played Karen when the play debuted in 1988. Also fun fact: the revival of this play was supposed to star Jeremy Piven, but he begged off claiming Mercury poisoning due to eating too much sushi.

Cascading Home Improvements

I can tell the economy is better because the house across the street from me started a renovation trend that has rolled down the street to four houses. Let’s take a tour.

The beginner of the trend is this house. It’s been sold maybe twice in the 11 years we’ve lived here. It started as a classic house which hadn’t been updated much. There was a weird diagonal path surrounded by hedges from the front porch to the corner of the lot. The new owner has been a busy bee, removing the hedges, sledgehammering out the path and putting in a straight one. There’s a new fence and lots of boxes to grow things, plus things being grown in the boxes. (The two don’t always go hand in hand.) That bay window on the front porch is new and I think the front porch has been enclosed. Plus it’s been painted. It used to be a salmon color that wasn’t the greatest.

Next door, this house, which has also been sold in the past five years, has a big new front porch and the house has been painted. It used to be a cream color. Clearly the trend is toward darker colors.

Next door is this house which got a new retaining wall (mostly hidden by the blue car.) I think also it got a new porch, and they are building a big garage where their either wasn’t one or where there was a small one. It looks to be a garage with living space. I wonder if it will be rented out.

And the fourth house on the street is getting new siding, after getting its own very formidable retaining wall. The house next door to that is new construction so there is where our rolling improvements end.

But! Across the street from those four houses, this oddly shaped house has added an oddly shaped tall extension onto it. I hope it flows better indoors than it looks from outside.

Three houses on one skinny lot

This is a lot I’ve been watching since 2015. I used to ride by it regularly as I bicycled to work. The lot was sectioned off from the house next door and sold during that time. Not much has happened since then, though that fence is new.

Today I was interested to notice this for sale sign which not only advertises the price of the lot as just south of $300k, but also has already drawn plans for a three-unit modern condo development. My mind boggled a bit trying to mentally fit three houses in here so I spent some time studying the renderings.

This seems to be an example of vertical living. On the main floor is the kitchen/dining area, followed by the living room/office on the second floor. Then you climb to the third floor to get to the first set of bedrooms and then to the fourth floor to get to the master bedroom.

I did the math and the square footage works out to 376–441 square feet per floor. That’s a little bit bigger than the footprint of my studio apartment.

This is an interesting development in infill housing. It doesn’t provide parking, which I still feel should be at least a small priority for each lot. I do rather like the idea of three normal-sized houses on one lot, rather than one big one.

I’ll keep my eye on this property and see what appears.