Proper Placement

When we went on our epic trip to South America several years ago, we decided to rent out our home . . . about a month before we were leave. This forced us to clean out some stuff and pack away everything else for storage in a mad dash. After living in the same place for over a dozen years, we had naturally accumulated a lot of stuff. Moving out was a good exercise – it forced us to get rid of things we hadn’t used, or hadn’t gotten around to getting rid of before, like a broken filing cabinet, our CRT TV, etc.

Now we’re doing the same thing again. Some boxes were never unpacked since our South America trip! This time, there’s less stuff to purge, since we got rid of the obvious ‘low hanging fruit’ last time. But with longer advance notice, the process is slower, since I can be deliberate more about that to keep or discard. This is not a good thing: I feel like I’m dragging things out, and in the end, it’ll be another frantic mad dash to finish it up.

Last time, we knew we were coming back within a year, so we kept all our furniture and appliances. This time it’s long term and long distance, so it requires a different approach in deciding what to keep and what to discard. There’s also a timing issue: some items I am still using (bed, tea kettle), so I’ll have to wait until the last to get rid of them (and hope I’ll find a quick taker). Others like the pressure cooker I haven’t used in years I could sell now on craigslist.

I’d read both Marie Kondo’s  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and  Spark Joy. One of her premises is to keep only things that spark joy in you. Even if they don’t have a practical use, you can still keep them. Conversely, if something is functional, but doesn’t spark joy, you should get rid of it anyway. Regrets, swung both ends of spectrum.

OCD: One personal hang-up is slowing me down. Some items have worth and value and value to me, and while I could just give it to a thrift shop and forget about it, I want it to go to  a good home. This isn’t even a pet I’m talking about, but inanimate objects. Yet I feel concern for its welfare even after we part. It’s a bit like leaving a job under amicable circumstances: you hope the person after you will take care and do well in those tasks that used to be yours, even after they are no longer your responsibility. Legacy issues.

I want the my discards to go the appropriate someone or someplace where it will be appreciated, used, and even needed. Even things most people would simply throw away, I try to find a use for them. I want to recycle things and avoid adding to landfills.

Finding the right recipient for different things takes a lot of work and thought. Which one of my friends would like it or could use it? Who has tastes or interests which are similar to mine? What good cause/charity would take it? It’s an obligation and a responsibility.

I have been foisting things on people. My friends are probably cringing each time they get an email from me “Hey, want a . . ?” But I also don’t want my discards to become a burden on others. Problem is I’m at that age where most of our friends already have their own established households, and/or trying to get rid of de-clutter/ downsize also, so they don’t want to take more stuff!

Sometimes I give something to a friend who wants it, which makes me happy, yet slightly guilty because I know they have too much stuff cluttering their home and I’m adding to the problem! I sold an insulated teapot and a set of nesting colanders to an acquaintance. When I went to drop them off at her house, I was surprised by how much stuff she had piled up around her place. She’s really into cooking, so I’m sure she already has a teapot and a colander. But these were really nifty versions, so I knew she would also appreciate them.

My four main avenues to discarding: (1) emailing/talking to our friends, (2) Freecycle (an online bulletin board for giving away stuff for free), (3) craigslist (both for selling and giving away for free), and (4) donating it to the appropriate charity.

Some of my recent adventures in discarding . . .

Lonely Planet books (travel guides):

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I had a hefty collection of LP’s, now very outdated. Still I’d kept them because I thought one day I would write up travelogues, and use them then as reference. And sometimes it’s fun to read the descriptions of how things were before they became how they are now. Neighbourhoods they didn’t mention or even told you to avoid, which have now cleaned up/gentrified, like Times Square. Restaurants that have since closed down. (I don’t like the new format of Lonely Planet, it’s not as informative as the older layouts. Nowadays, I tend to check out the latest editions from the library, rather then buy them, to save money and space, since I still like browsing hard copies.)

I did an email blast to my friends who are afflicted with wanderlust. I was quite surprised when I got quite a few takers for the books. It’s amazing how some destinations are so in-demand. Every one wanted Pacific Northwest. Europe locales were popular too. No one wanted Venezuela . . . or Brazil. I guess I don’t know anyone going to the Rio Olympics. (I ended up never going to Venezuela.)

Bandannas:

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I collect bandannas and use them for travelling. They are versatile, multi-purpose, decorative, and keepsakes all in one. A makeshift towel, a jaunty scarf for my neck, I can also tie them up to bundle gummi bears or pinon nuts.

The recipient was a no brainer: Fifth-graders at Lincoln School for science camp, where bandannas are used as lunch plates, i.e. ‘crumb-catchers’. Last time I chaperoned, I had brought along one extra bandanna, for just-in-case. But there was more then one student who hadn’t brought a bandanna. So now those ten bandannas can be spares for future science campers.

Bike water bottle:

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I spent $13 mailing a bike water bottle worth $2 to Hong Kong! Yes, I am THAT anal. But Pat really wanted a pull-top water bottle. “Remember those palmolive dishwashing liquid bottles?” he asked me. When Pat takes his dog for walks in Tsimshatsui, he rinses the spot where Brownie has done a number one with water. Pat is a very, very responsible pet-owner. So I gladly sent it to him.

 

 

 

Holey socks and ratty old T-shirts with fraying collars that thrift shops won’t want because no one would want to buy them:

I had accumulated a lot of them to use as cleaning rags, but I don’t clean often enough! A friend of a friend of Anne’s collects them for a group who will use them as stuffing for the pet beds and toys they make for a local animal shelter. It warmed the cockles of my heart that I was helping unknown Fidos and Fluffys out there. And I still have holey underwear to use as cleaning rags.

Ironically, when Marcella organized a crafts booth at Zoe’s school last year, she recycled the stuffing from a dog bed that her dogs had torn up, for the students to use in making pumpkin pin-cushions.

Cardigans:

It’s hard to get rid of winter things in the summer – people don’t think about unseasonable things. I foisted a couple of them on Anne. One she liked, because it’s machine washable. The other was a cashmere one I wore around the house quite a bit. She didn’t really want it “I’m a sweatshirt person!” but I persuaded her that come winter, she could wear it under a sweatshirt, and she’d thank me for the warmth and coziness!

Books:

I discovered there’s a non-profit program called Prisoners Literature Project here in the Bay Area. They will take all old dictionaries, thesaurus, current text books, self-help books, how-to books (especially drawing/art) and books by/about people of color, because there’s a constant demand for them amongst the incarcerated. You can drop them off in the hidey-hole under the stairs at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, so it’s very convenient.

This is a case of giving your items to someone who really NEEDS them rather than just casually wanting them. You might be able to sell such books, or you could donate them to a thrift store where eventually someone would browse and buy them. But those in jail who are trying to improve/educate themselves would most appreciate them, since their access to books is most limited.

I emailed one of the project coordinators to double check what they would and wouldn’t take, because I didn’t want them to be burdened with things they couldn’t use. Hardback books are generally a no-no, because they can potentially be used as weapons? There wasn’t as much demand for books by/about Asians – not too many people of yellow color in the prisons around here, I guess.

Postcards:

In my 20’s, I liked visiting art museums, and buying postcards of the works of art in the museum that had spoke to me. I also bought postcards of tourist attractions, since often they looked better than any photo I could take with my 35-mm camera. Now I had too many. But who needs postcards nowadays when you’ve got smartphone cameras and digital mail?

Perhaps prisoners could use them to send notes to their friends/family outside of prison? I consulted PLP again:

“Thanks for thinking of us regarding your postcard collection.  Because we’re a ‘books-to-prisoners’ group, we don’t receive prisoner requests for postcards; but we do get plenty of requests for art books (particularly drawing & painting).  If you’d kindly donate a shoebox or small filebox of postcards, we could tuck them into packages, along with the art books.  I don’t think we’d be able to take more than a shoebox full. As you suggested: Please omit any nudes. FYI, prisoners seem most interested in drawing and painting (representational, not abstract), and sometimes copy the work.  Few have access to sculpting materials.”

I could understand PLP being a little wary of getting too many postcards, if they didn’t get many requests for them. I sifted through for censorship, keeping Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe and Matisse’s La danse II. I had enough to fill one of the Lindt boxes in which I had stored some of my collection.

“OK, the postcards will be in a small pink chocolates box (less than a shoebox) at Moe’s,” I wrote back.

“Thank you for giving prisoners a gift much more valuable than chocolates!”

I never thought about that. If I were in prison, would I long more for art postcards or chocolates?

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A teapot missing its lid:

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This garnered 5 wanters on freecycle! (I suggested using it as a planter, which is what I used it for, for a water-based creeper plant.) Maybe that did the trick: a bit of copywriting to give people ideas of desiring something they didn’t even want.

There’s a reason why I’d kept it for so long. I used to use this a work. I dropped the lid and broke it at the office on September 11th.

 

 

TV tray tables:

I think it was the strawberries that did sealed the deal.

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It takes some effort to sell stuff on craigslist: not only do you have to write a compelling-enough description, but you have to stage it for photo, setting up the lighting. Lots of people are selling the same item you are selling on craiglist, so how do you make yours stand out other than low balling the price? I’m convinced my TV tray tables sold quickly because I put a bowl of strawberries on top of one in the photo . . . and my description said “Strawberries not included.”

Wooden blinds:

We replaced our kitchen blinds recently. They still worked, the wood slats still in good condition, but the paint was starting to flake off from countless sunny mornings. I didn’t want it to go to landfill. Perhaps someone could use it for a Burning Man orcraft project.

Things I give away for free get posted on freecycle. Things I sell go on craigslist. Having no takers on freecycle, so I posted it on craigslist as well, since that gets a wider audience. I had 2 takers. I offered it to the first respondent, who volunteered that he would use it for gardening, either as a trellis or shade structure.

He also offered to give me some tomato and pepper seedlings in return, which was icing on the cake. I wasn’t looking to get anything for the blinds, being happy enough they weren’t going to a landfill. I asked if he had basil instead. I had made caprese salad last week, and bought a bunch at Milk Pail, forgetting that I should have gone to Trader Joe’s instead to buy a plant for a little more money.

He wrote back:

There’s a quote “Every time it’s different and every time it’s good” I read in a BBC magazine interview about making pesto that’s stayed with me. I think it says so much about basil – how can one not fall in love with basil and the art of making pesto.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36014143

Yes I do have couple basil plants remaining but it’s not doing well (think it was too cold). I’ll bring them and also bring some seeds. Unfortunately I mixed fhe seeds by mistake during harvest last year and I forget which one is which (3 kinds – I think Italian Genovese basil is the smaller black seeds).

You meet some pretty thoughtful people through random craigslist transactions.

A blue cheong sam:

Other people I know have the same philosophy as I do in wanting their discards go to someone they know, rather than a complete stranger, in which case, they’d rather keep it themselves even if they have no use for it.

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My step-mom was culling some old clothes, and came across a blue cheongsam, a gift she’d never worn. It was polyester brocade with flowers, the type you’d find in souvenir shops in San Francisco Chinatown selling to tourists.

I accepted it, more to relieve her of clutter, rather than to wear it myself. I ended up foisting it on my cousin on my mom’s side and mailed it to her in Minnesota. She has two daughters and two nieces who might have fun playing dress up in it. There’s no Chinatown in Minnesota, so I think they would appreciate its exotic Chinese-ness more than people in California.

Black patent leather rainproof boots:

I gave them to Truc. We have shared memories of the boots: I got them at Bloomingdales, when we were on a trip to New York. They fit her. I’m glad she has them now, I’ll be able to see them again.

Tall purple suede boots:

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They are flat and comfy, not “slutty”, an impulse buy from Nordstrom Rack. But I understand that they are not to most people’s taste. I offered them to two high-school age girls (daughters of friends), but no takers.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to stop writing here, and stop procrastinating, as I have lots more stuff to get rid of, and to pack. Well, actually, I’m going to procrastinate some more and go cook/bake.

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Giving Thanx for X’mas themed wear

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I sheepishly admit that I was inspired by a current Bank of America TV commercial to make an ‘ugly’ Christmas sweater.  Well, mainly because I’m cheap: why pay money for one when you can make one yourself for practically free. (See my post on World Cup soccer gear).

We went down to spend Thanksgiving week with Joe’s parents. I usually bring sewing projects with me on those visits, because there are almost no distractions and I can make a lot of progress on them.

I’m proud of myself that I actually planned far enough in advance to do this in time for Christmas. But it’s also appropriate that I completed this around Thanksgiving, because  almost all the materials used were upcycled/recycled from items from friends and family. I’m grateful to them, for both the intangible relationships I have with them, as well as the actual material items that live on on the project.

Joe is modeling the completed project in the photos. It’s a sweatshirt from a time when clothes were cut baggy, so even though it’s labeled an “L”, it’s quite loose on him. However, he does not want the sweatshirt, since it doesn’t fit with his sartorial style. So I guess I will wear it.

Christina L. gave to him when she was attending University of California at Santa Barbara – which is what it says on the original front of the sweatshirt. It is now covered up with a white ‘snowflake’ on a background of dark red T-shirt material, so that it ‘pops’ more.  The snowflake is actually a doily made by my cousin-in-law Simone. She made it by hand on cross-stitch material, and there are little patterned holes cut into it. I think she told me there’s a specific name for this craft, which I’ve unfortunately forgotten. I decided the doily was eminently and magnificently Christmassy – a better fit for my sweatshirt than the rare occasions where I might put a vase of flowers on top of it.

An old green T-shirt was used for the Christmas tree, decked with a multitude of Christmas tree ‘ornaments’ of colorful buttons I got from someone on freecycle.org

The back of the sweatshirt has a reindeer head from:

1) Fingerless brown mitten: I found this on the street one day and saved it because you never when it might come in handy. Like when you need to make a reindeer head on a Christmas sweatshirt. Or there’s a pocket-sized two-headed chihuahua that needs a sweater.

I often find things on the street when I’m biking with Anne (who let’s me pick up the things. Like today I found a dime, a bungee cord and a head-lamp), or walking with April (who doesn’t let me pick up things because she thinks they’re dirty and crawling with who-knows-what).

2) The shoelaces that make up the reindeer horns are from Joe’s old hiking boots, which was a previous Christmas present from sister-in-law Betty.

3) The button nose and eyes were from the same freecycler.

4) The “Noel” spelled out it candy-cane striped ‘ribbon’ is something most people would consider overkill in frugality. They’re actually old white shoelaces (from discarded sneakers). I took red fabric ribbon that were originally tied around gift boxes of See’s Candy from Joe’s mom, and sewed each red ribbon twist in place onto the white shoelaces. Somehow I felt it would be cheating if I simply took the short cut of buying candy-cane striped ribbon at a crafts shop. But I really wanted to have some sort of candy cane element on my Christmas sweatshirt.

I did go slightly against principles and bought another sweater at a thrift shop to make into another Christmas sweater. But it was only $1.25. I have a ton of salvaged sewing/fabric materials in my rag bag. I don’t know if I will get it done in time for this Christmas.

Boiling away

Boiling away

This past week has been occupied with World Cup, World Cup and making joong. (It got stretched out over three days, because I kept running out of rice, and you need to soak it overnight before stuffing). Even though Dragon Boat festival was on June 16.

I haven’t made joong in 2 years, so I was really due to make them this year. We’re down to one left in the freezer, and I was worried I’d forget how to make them if I didn’t make them again soon.

It only takes 3 days of advance prep if you cheat on The Holy Grail of recipes: my mom-in-law’s. Prepping the leaves is the most tedious part of the overall process. Soak in lye solution, boil in lye solution, and then scrub each single leaf . . . I skipped part 3.

Assembling the ingredients is a lot of fun in comparison. Since we have a really good local German butcher/processed meat producer – Dittmer’s – I went for their side pork. I also browsed their other offerings, and picked up … smoked pork jowl. I figured it could replace laap yuk (Chinese cured meat.) The pork jowl has thick layers of fat interspersed with a little meat, and imparts yummy smoky flavor. (After the fact, Joe suggested corned beef.)

I was not going to mess with the Chinese sausage: that original stays.
Glutinous rice: 10 pounds of short grain Japanese. Leftovers from a 5 pound bag of long grain Thai.

Mung bean – check
Peanuts – check
Rehydrated shitakes cooked with a little red fermented bean curd, sugar and soy sauce.
Dried shrimp – check
Dried scallop (for Joe who doesn’t like dried shrimp) – check
Salted egg yolks – check (Joe loves these. Many a gorgeous sunset has been compared to a salted egg yolk. I avoid these like the plague.)
Sautéed white bulbs from green onions.

Another improvisation – carrots sticks. Joong are singularly lacking in vegetation. I wonder what vegetarians put in their joong, mock meat?

The good thing about joong is that you can customize it to include whatever you like, and exclude the things you hate. The bad thing is, you can’t tell what’s inside after it’s all wrapped up. The trick is to tie up the similar ones together. And then pray that the caravan doesn’t come unstrung in the boiling.

The other problem is when you tie three for one person, and tie another three for someone else, and then you have to figure out which three is which. I found some champagne – sorry, sparkling wine corks and tied them on, since cork is boilable.

I decided to make the joong on a short notice, and invited the usual suspects. Only Anne and her husband Sam could make it; they’d never made joong before. They caught on pretty quickly and took home a half-dozen of joong to boil at home, since boiling takes 4 hours. (You could boil it for a shorter time, and it would be fully cooked, but the flavor won’t be as melded.)

Folding and tying joong – you have to make a few ugly ones before muscle memory kicks in to let you make prettier joong. Thing is, all the good ingredients get used up early on the in process, so the later/prettier ones might not a proper array of ingredients.

The good thing about boiling joong during World Cup is that you can wait out two of the four hours watching matches.

Inevitably, there are certain ingredients that are leftover: I can’t make each joong with a perfect ratio of ingredients such that I use up everything.

This time I had leftover:

Leaves – in theory I could dry them and use them for next year’s joong, saving me the lye water process. In reality I always forget and have to buy new packages of leaves.
Peanuts – I shouldn’t have soaked so many.
Side pork cubes
Mushrooms –
Chinese sausage: I cut up way too many
Carrots
Dried shrimp
Dried scallop
Green onion stalks
Runny salted egg yolk – when you cut them in half, they aren’t solid.
And whopping 40 ounces of liquid salted egg white, (only the raw salted eggs yolks go into the joong)

Since I hate to waste food, I could get creative in using up all those left over ingredients that couldn’t be stored since it was cut up or rehydrated already. I also called my Joe’s mom for advice on the egg whites. She usually uses them for egg drop garnish with green vegetables like mustard greens or water cress.

The side pork was browned, and tossed into the crock pot with peanuts, mushrooms carrots and some white wine for a stew. The fat from the side pork browning I used to fry up the dried shrimp, which I’ll simply snack on.

I steamed some of the Chinese sausage, and then diced it. Took some egg white, and beat it with little water. The grease from on the plate that was used to steam the Chinese sausage I rubbed all over the plate and the poured in the egg-white mixture, threw in some of the cooked sausage and chopped green onion. After steaming for 15 minutes, it comes out like a soufflé. A bit on the salty side, though.

The rest of the ingredients I made into fried rice. I fried some more egg white and set it aside. Then I sautéed the dried scallops, added in the leftover regular rice, then egg yolk, green onion and Chinese sausage. Fortunately salted egg yolk cooks up like regular egg yolk in a fried rice – the main reason why I dislike salted egg yolk is the powdery texture. It was rather pretty, the rice tinged yellow, with specks of green (onion) and red (sausage.)

I still have a lot of salted egg white leftover. Sigh.

Because I’m too cheap to pay $75 for an official jersey

I’ve been watching the World Cup matches, and was inspired by T’s blogging of his Team USA swag to wear my support of Messrs Donovan, Howard, Altidore et al. But being too cheap to pay $75 for an official World Cup jersey, I headed to the local thrift store and procured:

1) Soccer Ball – plush stuffed toy – $0.99
2) Stars and Stripes musical necktie – $0.99
3) Star-shaped flag pin – $0.25

4) A woman’s sleeveless top with a flag motif – $.099
5) A men’s USA soccer jersey-all cotton. From the looks of it, from 1994! – $0.99 – This was for Joe.

On an old straw hat I had lying around that was too big for me, I sewed on the soccer ball, and safety pinned the tie around the brim, and pinned on the flag. I removed the tinny Star Spangled Banner sound system from the tie – I find those things annoying.


On Saturday, I wore it to the USA vs. England free viewing party at AT&T Park. Most people smiled when they saw my hat – 2 people asked to take my picture! Little kids in their parents’ arms kept wanting squeeze the ball. Drunken punks kept wanting to kick the ball. “Oh no, mi cabeza!” Total expenditure for hat :$2.23.

There was another guy at the game who had a similar DIY philosophy — he had hand lettered his T-shirt. The back of his shirt said “US > UK” (OK, not technically correct for the game, but right on in spirit!)
The front had:

Steak and Potatoes > Bangers and Mash
Steve Carrell > Ricky Gervais
Jack Bauer > James Bond
Beach Boys > Beatles
Lady Gaga > Lady Di
New York > London
Billy Joel > Elton John
Bush > Blair
Bars > Pubs
NBC > BBC
SNL > Monty Python
Exxon > BP
Baseball > Cricket
Budweiser > Newcastle
American Dentists > British Dentists
Right side of the road > Left side of the road

There were some structural problems with the beta version of my hat even with the hat strings tied around my chin – the ball was very top heavy, and because the hat crown was too big and too loose for my head, the hat kept slipping. So I got home and reinforced it with a plastic yogurt lid, and some elastic – it makes a little complicate to put on, but now it’s stable enough when I tie the strings under my chin. Aesthetics were improved by sewing on the tie around the full crown of the hat.

I guess if I wear it to a bar to watch the games, I should pick a seat by the wall, so I don’t block people’s view!

Lazy plastic rebel

When I’m in a rebellious, devil-may-care mood, I . . . go shopping without bringing my own bag and . . . have the items bagged into the plastic bags provided by the store! Like I did yesterday at the Milk Pail.

Actually, since we haven’t made it to farmer’s market for two weeks in a row, I needed to stock up on produce. Whenever this happens, I usually buy stuff that is not available at farmer’s market, usually from another country (gasp!). Since I’m shopping at a store anyway, might has well get stuff we normally don’t eat.

So I bought comice and d’anjou pears, Mexican mangoes, and a lotus root. (I don’t go to Asian grocery stores much either). I’m boiling the lotus root in home-made stock right now, because I like that crunchy yet slightly stringy texture (almost like melted cheese on pizza string). It’ll be soup

I think the pears were giving me a little gas because they’re not ripe enough.

After 2012, I’ll never have to buy another calendar again

Happy New Year! Since it is January 1, I went to change my calendar. Surprisingly enough we didn’t get any calendars (via presents or freebies from stores), I had to dig through my pile of old calendars to find a re-usable one. Some years I actually get new calendars (free), so I have “duplicates”.

Since 2010 is not a leap year, and today (Januray 1st) is a Friday, I looked for a 1999 calendar. No luck. I can’t believe I didn’t have a 1999 calendar. But that’s probably because I didn’t buy or get a 1999 calendar, because for that year I re-used a 1993 calendar, which also started January 1 on a Friday. The calendar features photographs of Lake Tahoe. I probably got it as a gift from someone, since I’m not into buying landscape scenery for calendars. Most of the ones I got are rather cartoony, like Peanuts, Far Side, etc.

One only needs a set of 14 calendars, for January 1 on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc on non-leap years, and then a corresponding set for leap years. Since I’ve been saving calendars since 1988, I’ve almost completed my set of 14. I’ve got leap year calendars from 1988 (Friday), 1992 (Wednesday), 1996 (Monday), 2000 (Saturday), 2004 (Thursday), 2008 (Tuesday). The last leap year calendar I need is 2012 (Sunday), and then I’m done.

Non-leap calendars can be reused more often. The set goes like this for Janaury 1 on the following days of the week:

Sunday: 1995, 2006, 2017
Monday: 1990, 2001, 2007
Tuesday: 1991, 2002, 2013
Wednesday: 1997, 2003, 2014
Thursday: 1998, 2009, 2015
Friday: 1999, 2010, 2021
Saturday: 1994, 2005, 2011

So next year, 2011, I have two 2005 calendars, one of Picasso prints, and a freebie from Sears that features Chinese folkart that is actually pretty cool.

Obvioulsy, while the dates for holidays like Forth of July and Thanksgiving will be correct, the preprinted dates for events based on the lunar calendar, like Chinese New Year and moon phases, will not be correct when you reuse these Gregorian calendars.

The neat thing about re-using calendars is when you see notes marked on dates when you first used the calendar. So the ones from my college years are marked “Math midterm”, “Chem final”, etc !

How to acquire DVD players without having to do research…

Joe and I hate buying electronic gadgetry, because we always feel like we need to do consumer research to find out which one works and is well priced, and then where to go buy it. That’s a lot of work.

So the first DVD player we got was about ten years ago, courtesy of Biker. It was actually an elaborate Chinese recipricocity ritual. We’d visited Biker and Si in Japan, and went to stay at ryokan in Kyoto. He paid, and we tried to pay him back. Of course we refused. So we hid a couple Yukichi Fukuzawa notes underneath a vase on his bookshelf before we left. A couple of weeks after we got home, there was a large box from Amazon.com on our doorstep, that we hadn’t ordered. It was a DVD player from them!

Along the way, our VCR died. Occasionally we would tape shows or games that we didn’t want to miss, but we figured that the VCR was becoming obsolete, so we didn’t want to buy a new one. We happened to be visiting Sue Jane, and she mentioned that she was getting rid of her VCR because she bought a combo DVD-VCR. So we took hers off her hands. Woo-hoo.

So that was fine and dandy, until (on a separate tangent) we lost cable TV. Since we’d become accustomed to watching South Park on late-night Comedy Central to fall asleep on Joe’s dinky old college TV in our bedroom., I looked on craigslist for a cheap used DVD player that was somewhere in Mountain View. I bought it for 40$. “For that price, you might as well buy a new one,” scoffed Joe. But I figured I’d rather ‘re-use’ than buy a new one. It was a Sanyo, and it worked OK, except that sometimes the subtitles wouldn’t show up on foreign movies. Once in a while it would jam, meaning the disk slot wouldn’t open, and the ‘play’ button wouldn’t switch off unless you unplugged it. After a while it would clear itself up, and we’d be able to retrieve the disc. We were pressing our luck with this routine until this fall, when it jammed pretty permanently. I was worried that we’d permanent lose The Simpson’s Disc 4 of the 5th season in there.

Last nigh we were visiting Chris and Tom (Joshua and I had fun clinking our glasses at dinner “Cheers!”, “Kanpei”, and then I taught him “Salud!” “It’s Spanish,” I said. He giggled, raised his glass and said “Taco!”. And no, there was nothing but water in his glass.) We were talking about our busted DVD player. “Oh, we’re getting rid of ours, I was about to give it to Maggie, but you can have it. It works, but because it’s older, it doesn’t play the newer movies,” they said. Score!

Last night we plugged in the new-to-us DVD player, and unscrewed the Sanyo one (more work than you’d think) to retrieve the Simpson’s. We slept well once again, lulled to sleep by the whiny tones of Cartman.