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Frugality and Valentine's Day
All this Valentine's Day stuff has got completely out of hand. One of the most inspiring things I've seen in the last few months is The Story of Stuff, about how, as a direct result of the post WWII reconstruction effort, we have all spent our whole lives being systematically manipulated into spending all our money and energy on stuff acquisition. The media fooferol around Valentine's Day is a very good example of this.

I know that I have some acquisition issues, partiuclarly around small shiny gadgets. But on the whole, and especially since watching The Story of Stuff, I've been thinking quite hard about whether I need to replace things, particularly things that work. Because wouldn't it be better to have less stuff and more time to enjoy all the stuff?

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I try very hard not to do it any more, and only get something new when I need it. The Mac Pro was bought because it was increasingly hard for me to work without Windows on the desktop.

But our cars are over 10 years old, our iPods are 2nd generation, we only bought a new TFT television when we had an insurance claim on the old one.

It's not easy, but I do try now.

Oh, I forgot to say that perlmonger and I simply don't do Valentines nonsense. Nor Hallowe'en, Easter Eggs, or much at Cashmas - presents only for daughter and grandson, and certainly not for each other.

I can't bear the commercialisation of these things.

Valentines 'stuff' bothers me. Especially the ultra expensive cuddly toys that presumably get thrown out pretty much instantly. Does anyone really want a giant red devil plushy with sex undies on, I mean for more than three minutes? We keep the Valentines stuff to a minimum in our house, partly because it is the day after DD's birthday and for the last five years we have been a bit whacked on the day. We do hand-drawn cartoon cards and I tend to give sweets but that is it and I don't think our love has been diminished by the lack of conspicuous consumption - although at Xmas I fall off that wagon with a crunch :(

We don't do Valentines much, but I did buy Steven a cuddly Valentines' microwave hottie last year; because he needed a heat pad and I thought it was funny. He used it every day until the kids appropriated it, so that's ok. Stuff you use every day is fine.

My computer is now too old to play modern games at a decent speed.

And occasionally I'm tempted to upgrade it.

But then I remember that I don't actually have time to play games, and all I really use it for is internet stuff.

So I'm sticking with it until it dies. And games are being played on the Wii - when I have time to play them.

Damned technological temptations!

Yeah. My computers are castoffs from layoffs, or bodge ups. I do have a couple of IBM workstation PCs, but they're surplus.

Lousy at running the latest games, great at getting work done.

Still want a Macbook Air.

You'd better never switch to Macs then, because they Never Die. Or at least, none of those that we've bought yet (and Marianne's is coming up to 6 years old) is anywhere near dying.

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I knew someone was going to say something like this (and indeed, my iMac G5 had a new power supply on Apple's 'the power supplies on this computer are inherently crap' program). Macs are not at all immune to things going wrong.

However, every PC I have ever owned has suffered a sort of galloping crud where bits go wrong and stop working properly together, and over time it gets worse and worse; replacing individual bits puts something else out of whack; reinstalling the operating system helps somewhat but never really makes it all feel right, and eventually the machine just pisses you off too much and you replace it.

Laptops less so, though we've only ever owned three PC laptops. One that started horrid (and was the only major lesson from our burglary; we didn't pay enough attention to what they were offering us in place of our seven-year-old high end laptop), the seven year old laptop that did, in fact, work fine until it was stolen, but was the most expensive computer I have ever owned when new; and the laptop that had a gin and tonic poured over it and has never been the same since. Clearly that last is not the fault of Windows.

I'm willing to bet my MacSE, bought 1987, is still happily chugging away somewhere.

Hah! I have an XT (that's before the 286), old enough to go to college, that would still happily process words, if only this blasted internet email thingy hadn't turned up. You could fit a lot of words on a 40MB hard drive ya know. At least the old kind of words we had in dinosaur days, when punctuation was not so cheap.

Paul Graham on stuff.

(Paul Graham is a highly advanced computer geek who made it rich in the dot-com era and has been free to arse about and pontificate ever since.)

That was good reading, thank you.

I'm fighting the tide of stuff to the point that I think things are now leaving the house faster than they come in - charity shops, freecycle, ebay, Amazon marketplace, recycling pods, are all doing nicely, and I revel in each new bit of space.

Yay for the not buying stuff needlessly.

I think his analogy with weight is very good; all this stuff is the household equivalent of my extra weight.

Paradigm shift -- Run away!!

I'm a little afraid to watch this -- it might call for me to change!

OTOH, just read Made to Break, a history of obsolesence, in America particularly. It, too, gets one thinking "Waitaminit, I'm replacing this why again?" Bogs down a bit towards the end, but the first half is full of things to read out loud at one's partner.

Who is asleep right now, it being 05:30 here, but I'm Awake and about to venture out to buy fresh croissants for a Valentine's breakfast surprise.

'Because wouldn't it be better to have less stuff and more time to enjoy all the stuff?'

But time is an item that's both hard to acquire and incredibly expensive; to drop from five to four days a week would require me to move to a large and supportive company (probably the Civil Service), and to lose anything resembling career ambitions, as well as an immediate salary drop significantly greater than my total annual Stuff spending.

I do now buy books at about the rate I read them, and have spent the last couple of months reading mostly borrowed books, but the bookcase full of mediocre American paperbacks bought in fits of 'ooh! books! by authors I've heard of but never seen the books of! for a dollar!' on my first American cons still sits lowering oppressively at me.

Borrowing things is very instructive as to whether you'll actually get round to using them - I've had Simon Bradshaw's excellent telescope for about six months and used it twice, which is telling me that I shouldn't own a telescope - but sometimes I'm the person I know with the most disposable income to direct in some direction - at any time most local UK libraries have less American hardback SF published in the last six months than I do - and sometimes I have a Nikon camera and all my friends have Canon lenses.

Edited at 2008-02-14 04:29 pm (UTC)

Shopping, and looking after and maintaining Stuff, takes significant amounts of time. But yes, one of the reasons I'm in the civil service is that it's good about part time working. Borrowing things, or asking people if they've got a *thing* they don't use, is a great way to avoid buying new stuff. We got a slow cooker and a footspa from friends; the footspa we use not at all, but we slow cook a dish most weeks now.

Anyone want some boxes of old books? Digest magazines? Fanzines? Can I bring another 11 boxes of stuff to the next Corflu and rid myself of them?

If not Corflu, then perhaps Denvention 3? There will be a fanzine lounge...

What did the MacBook Air feel like to use? ;)

Like a MacBook. Except much prettier. Screen not as nice as on my 15.4" AluBook. Keyboard is like the iMac keyboard, so that's fine. Touchpad quite nice. Fabulously portable. Speedy but I noticed they didn't have photoshop on the ones in the shop.

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