Monthly Update

November 2020 Update

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November 2020 Update

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

I started this blog a year ago. We were in the middle of our family DIY study abroad in Spain (remember when traveling was a thing?). After reading Jeremy’s suggestion to “do interesting things and share them publicly” in his Selling the Dream post, I decided to start a blog and share about our adventure and my thoughts. I hope you’ve found it interesting. At minimum, when I have an acquaintance ask me about an aspect of my financial life, I have somewhere I can point them.

Since I started the blog, I’ve posted something every week, a steady drip-drip-drip. My worry about making that goal was that it could lead to weeks where I didn’t have anything interesting to say, but still feeling compelled to post something. So far, I’ve never had a lack of ideas for posts. If I do, I will let a week slip instead of providing drivel.

Gardens Over Streams

This past month, I discovered RetireInProgress and really enjoyed his post discussing Gardens over Streams. I’ve never been a huge fan of social media, having no personal accounts at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. When I created this blog, I did create some accounts to share content, but frankly I have used them only a handful of times. One of my primary goals with the blog is to create content, not to create a social group or following. Yes, it would be charming to have this blog pay for itself or more, but frankly blogging has a long tail.

Which makes me wonder if maybe I should be focusing on “gardening” my ideas, curating links and content that fit into my overall life thesis.

I haven’t dug in as much as I want to, but I’ll probably start by setting up a Jekyll or Gatsby site.

Timber! … Again!

During October, we proactively had a couple worrisome trees taken down in our yard. The arborist highlighted another dead tree, but since it posed no threat to anything of value, we passed. Only a few weeks and one windstorm later, that dead tree came down by itself, safely missing anything of value, as expected. What I didn’t expect was for it to come down so soon after the tree work. Glad I didn’t pay for something that mother nature could do by herself.

Dishwasher Bites the Dust

Back in September, I reported that I had discovered what was making our dishwasher flood. However, it looks like I might have declared victory too soon. We bought one from a Costco Black Friday deal, to be installed in a couple weeks.The major lesson was how awesome Costco’s extended 2-year warranty was when we first started having trouble, and when the trouble extended beyond the 2-year mark, we discovered how useless the additional two year coverage from Citi was.

Second (last?) Update: Dental COVID-19 PPE Charges

Also in September, I reported how I had chatted with my dental insurance rep who said that PPE charges from dentists should be waived from August 1st, 2020 to October 31st, 2020. My cleaning happened during that window, but I was still charged for PPE. So back to the insurance company to find out what’s up. However, this time I cannot seem to find the “chat with rep” option like I had back in September.

Update: Okay, chat was hidden unless it’s during business hours. Conversation goes like this:

Agent: Does the dentist participate in the PPE program?
Me: Uh, how am I supposed to know?
Agent: Give me the dentist tax ID and I can look it up
Me: Again, how am I supposed to know that? Here’s the claim number.
Agent: Sorry, the dentist doesn’t participate in our PPE program.
Me: Any idea why?
Agent: Nope. We’ve sent them multiple emails but they have to actually sign up for it.

You’d almost think the system was designed to be as opaque as possible. 

Whatever. It’s only 20 bucks.

From the Bookshelf

I have a pretty wide reading range, willing to pick up almost anything. I usually have four books going at a time. This month I finished the following:

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Technically, I finished this at the end of October, but I wanted to hold off mentioning until after the political swirl of the presidential election settled. This book was one of the best of my reads in 2020. My key take-aways include: stopping the war on drugs; rebalancing the amount of power in the hands of prosecutors; preventing job application questions about irrelevant criminal pasts; etc.. One especially salient thought was that a racist system can be considered non-racist by many as long as it includes a few white people in its dragnet.
  • Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State by Barton Gellman. It’s hard to believe it’s been over seven years since the Snowden leaks. I remember how polarizing the event was in the security software industry. Most either fell on the “Snowden is a Russian spy”-side or on the “the bits want to be free”-side. This book gives a fascinating perspective on the role of journalism in holding governments accountable and also the challenges of journalists protecting themselves against multiple state-sponsored hackers that have them in their sites.
  • The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephan Talty. This book had an internal war: was it a book about the Black Hand, or was it about the NYPD detective that went after it, Joseph Petrosino. In the end, it was clearly about Petrosino; the book’s arc revolved completely around the arc of his life. The book also underscores that imigration challenges aren’t unique to 2020. Every generation of Americans have struggled with how to accept and incorporate the teeming masses.


How was your November? Read anything interesting this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hasta luego!

6 thoughts on “November 2020 Update

  1. Those dead trees can be deadly! Glad it didn’t fall on anything or hurt anyone. Wow that’s cool you can get 4 books done in a month. I struggle with getting more than 4 read in a year these days, with my kids being so young. I just finished reading SPQR by Mary Beard. I find it fascinating the political fights, stances, and eventual erosion of democracy that took place in ancient Rome and how eerily similar they are to today’s political arena. I’m also in the middle of Snow by Orhan Pamuk.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I consume a lot of my books by audio. I used to be a skeptic, not considering it real “reading”, but since then I’ve picked up a book versions of things I’ve listened to in audio books and found that I retained a tremendous amount. There are still things like statistics and tables of data that are hard to consume via audiobook, but on the whole it helps me consume more than I would normally. For example, in both November and October, two of the three books I read those months were by audiobook (The New Jim Crow and Dark Mirror in November, Better and Becoming in October).

      From an early age, I’ve always read to my young children in the evening. They start to drop off at about age fourteen or fifteen, but the younger kids really enjoy it. We’re currently reading Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby ( It’s hard to target all of my kids at once, but this one interests everyone from my seven year-old to my thirteen year-old. That might be one way to satisfy some of your reading desires and helping the kids. I grew up in a family where my mom read to me so it was second nature. YMMV.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, David. I was flying solo this year so kept it pretty low-key (frozen pizza). I stuck a bird in the freezer for when my wife gets back. Amazing how cheap those things are when you consider how much meat you are getting.

    My sister in law had a tree come down last month at their place down in Albany. Her husband had a quote for the removal, but nature took its course before they had it removed. It fell and only took out a small fence. The interesting thing was the quote almost doubled AFTER the tree fell down. He seemed to think they were trying to scam his homeowners, so he went another route. Could be an isolated incident, but I thought it was interesting.

    Good call dropping the PPE charge.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Max. I have no idea why the quote would double after the tree is down. Seems like both lower risk and less skill needed to clean it up.

  3. Sorry to hear about crappy Citi dishwasher coverage. I always wondered how useful that would be. Now I know the answer….”none useful.”

    My condolences on the loss of $20 for PPE.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’d put it in “worse than useful.” To find out that it failed, we had to pay $200 out of pocket for the repair guy to come and then get told by Citi that because he didn’t replace any part, they wouldn’t foot the bill. Net negative.

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