Saturday, June 5, 2010

The telescope is done

Here are some things that have been happening:
  • My husband finished assembling the telescope for his colleague, with some help from the kids, the colleague and our neighbor down the street who owns a table saw. The telescope has Japanese optics and a homemade casing made from Baltic birch plywood. The colleague came by with his three boys to pick the telescope up late this afternoon.
  • My husband will be home from a star night soon. He just called to report from the road that he saw his first local scorpion in the men's room tonight. It was reddish, 2", and had a nicely coiled tail.
  • I did some grocery shopping with the kids today while my husband was slaving away at the lawn. Grocery shopping with the kids is always more expensive and involves more high fructose corn syrup than when I shop by myself, but it guarantees that the kids will be eager at meal times and well-primed with ideas for what to have. Part of the deal is that each co-shopper gets to choose exactly one special item at the store. Today, C chose a helium balloon and D chose chocolate-covered pretzels. On previous occasions, D has chosen flowers. Today, my special item was a tub of 2% fat Fage (fa-yeh) Greek-style yogurt. It's pretty shockingly expensive (about twice as much as the usual US brands), but it's got a very interesting velvety texture (similar to sour cream) and doesn't have the aggressive bite that a lot of plain yogurts have. A cup of the 2% yogurt has 150 calories, 7% of daily fat, 9g sugar, 25% of daily calcium and 38% of daily protein, which is pretty spectacular. I had about a serving of it with fresh cherries for lunch, and didn't feel deprived at all. I first ran into this brand of yogurt in NW DC at Marvelous Market, in the single-serving version where there are two compartments, one with yogurt, one with honey, a combination which I whole-heartedly endorse.
  • There aren't any new developments on the real estate front, although I was playing with the NYT rent or buy calculator today. I used the following assumptions: 10% downpayment, $1,000 a month rent, 5% interest rate, 1% yearly home appreciation, 3% yearly rent increase, and presumably a 30-year mortgage term. The home appreciation and the rent increase numbers are highly speculative, but I think those numbers not unreasonable. Anyway, I plugged in various home prices, from $90k to $240k. At $100k, the decision to buy paid off in 2 years, at $120k in 4 years, at $140k in 5 years, at $160k in 8 years, at $180k in 12 years, at $200k in 19 years, at $220k in 26 years, and at $240k we run out of chart before it is more financially rewarding to buy rather than rent. I don't have formal financial training or higher level math, so it's very interesting to me to see how non-linear this all is. Looking at these numbers, I think that $180k is probably the upper end of my comfort zone.
  • On a lighter note, I have some kid notes and quotes. Although there has been a lengthy dispute over a stick horse which C traded away and then regretted, the kids were exchanging affectionate notes today. D dictated notes to me that said things like "I love you, C" and "You can splash me once today." C (who has been doing a lot of tracings today) produced a note for D with an elaborate dragon tracing with the following text: "Dear D, inclosed in a zipblock bag are some little coupons that say things like Hug from C."
  • My husband has been telling me that there's been talk of changing Radio Shack to simply The Shack. In the car today, he pointed out a Radio Shack store with the old name and explained to the kids that radio just isn't very relevant these days. "What's radio?" asked D from the back seat.
  • "Stay, dragon!" said D, securing it to a chair with a shoe lace leash. "He knows the stay trick."
  • "I know a little how to sound like Dark Vader," said D and demonstrated an excellent imitation of Darth Vader breathing.

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