Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On “Going Without…”

I recently finished a book by Judith Levine, titled “Not Buying It.” It was written as a journal, and chronicled her year-long experiment in not buying anything but necessities. While “necessities” is completely subjective, and she failed by her own standards a few times, it was a very interesting read that made me think about my own consumption. While saving money was not the author’s reason for the experiment, it obviously ended up as an additional benefit. The most interesting benefit that she observed was her transformation from a “consumer” to a “citizen.” She became more reliant on public goods and services, ranging from transportation, to the use of libraries, to neighborhood co-ops, to the generosity of friends and neighbors. This led to her caring more about goods and services that are set up to serve the public, shaping her political and moral values.

I am insulated from people and social interaction during most of my day. I work in a quiet office, without peers that I can share a conversation with. After work, I spend several hours at the boxing gym. There is a lot more personal involvement with my friends at the gym, but still, a good part of the time and energy is focused on your individual work and progress. Partly by necessity, I have become a lot more reliant on less traditional forms of interaction. Social networking sites like facebook.com, on-line message forums, and instant messaging have taken the place of more direct forms of communication. I want to force myself out of this comfort zone. I also want to take back some of the wasted time that I devote to these on-line diversions. That time could be better spent reading, writing, learning, working, or a million other more productive activities.

One way I will do this is by going without internet or television at my new apartment. Of the two, the internet will be the harder service to go without. However, I have internet access throughout the work day if I really need to look something up, and my internet time after working hours is almost entirely made up of “time-wasters” such as the activities I mentioned above. To make up for this “loss,” I will read and write more. I hope to finish the rough draft of my book by the end of my 1001 day experiment, some 930 days away. I also have a huge stack of books, bought throughout the years, but never finished, and in some cases, never started. Along that same vein, I will be going without buying any new media until I have gone through everything I have. I plan on making use of the fact that I am within walking distance of the main branch of the San Francisco library. Using public services, such as the library, will do its part to force me out into the city and being more social in my daily life.

I plan on cutting back consumption in all areas of my life, not just with new media. I don’t have a clear goal yet of how I want to keep track of this, but I will be avoiding any non-essential purchases moving forward from today. One example of this will be the 4-day hiking trip this September with my Dad and Brother. Rather than buying new or even used equipment, I will be renting the backpack, sleeping bag and tent from a Berkeley adventure shop. One possible exception to this rule is a purchase of a road bike. With my new move, I am much closer to both work and the gym. It has made going “car-less” much more of a realistic possibility than when I was living way out in West Portal. The still-unformed plan would be to make the purchase of a road bike, and then experiment with using it for all transportation purposes. Getting rid of the car would save me a lot of money, especially in a city where your monthly parking fees cost upwards of $200.

So, that’s the plans for now. Any comments on how to proceed with similar goals would be appreciated.

Monday, May 18, 2009

101 Goals - Beer, Steaks, Boxing and Frugality

59. Get Beers with Will, Mike and Steve
Good seeing these guys down in Southern California last week. Got to meet Steve and Lou's new addition to the family. Emma is little and doesn't do a whole lot...she has a good grip though if you give her a finger to grab. We all drank too much...

64. Visit a Churrascaria

Went to Esbetus last night with Israel. This is a Brazilian BBQ place within walking distance of the Hayes Valley neighborhood. If you haven't been to one of these, GO. Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan who hates America, Freedom, Apple Pie, and probably even Puppies. There is a full buffet with salads, fruit, rice and other side dishes, but the main event is the meat. Each table is set up with a green (meaning "go") and red (meaning "stop") button. If the green light is on, waiters will come by your table constantly with huge spits of meat and slice them onto your plate. Prime Rib, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Lamb Chops, etc. All you can eat. Make sure to order a Capirinha as well.

68. Read "50 Pages of Financial Freedom"

This is a guide to handling your finances and saving money by one of my favorite bloggers. The Simple Dollar is a personal finance blog, which offers a lot of money and time saving ideas, thoughts on productivity, work-life balance, etc. You can find a link to the actual post here: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/05/06/everything-you-ever-really-needed-to-know-about-personal-finance-on-just-one-page-download-my-personal-finance-ebook-for-free/

56. See Local Pro's fight Live in the Bay Area
Got to see Oakland's own, Andre Ward fight at the Oakland Coliseum for the first time in his career. Ward won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and has been brought along pretty slowly by his management. Last Saturday night was his first big test, and it came against Puerto Rico-based slugger, Edison Miranda. Miranda is crude, but has one of the hardest right hands in the sport, and has a knockout percentage in the 90's. Ward dominated the fight from start to finish and earned the unanimous decision in front of a very partisan crowd. Ward was cut in the very first round by an accidental clash of heads, but was not bothered by it for the rest of the fight. On the undercard was John Molina, a fast-rising prospect who got a 2nd round stoppage after his opponent declined to continue. Also on the card was San Francisco-based fighter, Karim Mayfield. Mayfield fights out of the Straight Forward Club (SFC) in the SoMa neighborhood, and improved to 9-0 (6 KO's), following his 2nd round demolition of opponent Roberto Valenzuela. Possibly the most impressive fighter was California-based Super Bantamweight, Rico Ramos. Ramos dominated his fight against Trinidad Mendoza, a tough and game veteran of 45 fights. Ramos has excellent hand speed and focus, and was adept at presenting angles to his overwhelmed opponent. Ramos improved to 10-0 (6 kos). Thanks go out to Rich for the tickets.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Knocking 'em Out

23. Visit a brewery
Visited Marin Brew Co. with Hanley and Jen. Sat outside in the sun for hours drinking some decent and not-so-decent pints.

32. Move into a more urban part of San Francisco
Last weekend I moved into my favorite part of the city. This is what I had pictured San Francisco living to be like before I moved from Southern California. Tall apartment building, old-school elevator, dozens of family-owned coffee shops, bars, restaurants and shops, very little parking, and the random crackhead. I love it. I love my apartment, despite being a studio. I love the neighborhood, with all it's quirks and charm. I am very, very pleased.

39. Research working for the State Department
This was appealing to me ever since I read "Children of Jihad." The idea of traveling to exotic locales, being fully engaged in meaningful and intense work is appealing. For now, it's not for me. I am not shutting the door on it entirely though.

55. Continue to use "Fup" as the gauge of a person.

Used this several times. This book is amazing, and you have to be a bit...rugged, I guess the word is, in order to appreciate it. If you like it, I believe that we will be able to connect on a deep basis. Not that it's the only way, but I do think that it's a good judge.

61. Completely clean inside of car
I didn't do it. The auto-body shop did, after repairing the damage from a hit and run, earlier this month. Thanks guys!

83. Repair relationship with Susan
Most importantly, Susan and I are back to buds again. Without going too much into personal detail, Susan and I moved to San Francisco around the same time. Both of us are from SoCal, and we worked together at Dave and Busters back in the day. We had a bit of a falling out over a misunderstanding, and we had a rift going that lasted for a good 6 months. I am very glad to say that we were able to talk and get everything hashed out. At 6 weeks after the initial conversation, we have been hanging out more often than ever before, and we are back to sharing confidences with each other. Glad to have one of my best friends in the world back in my life.