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June 8th, 2008

muggy + hot = bad tempered me

You could probably write some kind of equation for how much humidity, hot much heat and how long it takes me to blow up about something.

*sigh*

I really hate being sick.

And I don't much care for being pregnant, either.

Leaks in the basement and bored toddlers do not help.
Well, I _didn't_ hit a limit on it, as it turns out. It's like a fractal rabbit hole: each element of the problem turns out to be as big as the problem itself initially was. I _think_ I've decided we're going to rent a condo in Windsor Hills, but I'm currently working the stroller problem. When T. was just flat out refusing to ride in _any_ stroller (pre-recent Seattle trip), this was a non-problem. Now, however, I'm exploring the Sit n Stand space (I'd never even heard of a Joovy Caboose before), Buggy Boards and so forth. Trying to figure out all the compatibility issues (with the car seat, with the Buggy Board, with lack of sidewalks around here, etc.) is somewhat nightmarish.

I got out _Vinyl Leaves_ from the Disney Studies used book purchases before going to DLR a year and several months ago and started reading it. (Yes, I _know_ I'm in the middle of like five other books; I did finish one, which I should post a review of.) Once I hit the paragraph or two quoting Neil Postman I felt compelled to take a break (also, I was in the tub, and T. kept splashing me, the book, etc.). And I got to thinking about it.

Fjellman (oh, I hope I spelled that right) titled the book after the vinyl leaves on the Swiss Family Robinson TreeHouse (then in both Disneyland and WDW; since then, DLR's version has become a Tarzan attraction), and expends several sentences on the path to the TreeHouse, which in his world goes like this:

Fake Tree -> Disney Movie -> Wyss book -> Defoe book

This is problematic, largely because Fjellman _stops_ at the Defoe book, whereas to my mind, that's where things actually start to get interesting. Defoe's book is at least sometimes considered the first novel in the English language, and was almost certainly inspired by the RealLife Adventures (sorry, I just _had_ to) of one Alexander Selkirk who got stuck on an island which has since been renamed Robinson Crusoe Island BUT the description of the island probably comes from a different island (Tobago) and a lot of the themes of the book comes from elsewhere, including, but not limited to, yet another book set on a desert island, Abubacer's Philosophus Autodidactas, or Robert Knox's "An Historical Account of the Island Ceylon". Largely ripped from the Wikipedia article on Robinson Cruse, altho everything but the specific books Defoe probably borrowed from I had previously encountered and vaguely remembered.

That implies:

Defoe book -> Alexander Selkirk (at a minimum) and a big set of branches as well

What is it about Disney that causes perfectly good academics to start making statements that indicate their grasp of reality is pretty derivative? I'll put that on hold for a moment and go on to my next point.

I've been neck deep in trying to figure out how DVC (Disney Vacation Club) works and whether it might be a worthwhile thing to do. I'll expand another post on the weird economics of DVC, but for right now, I'd just like to do a similar little diagram for real estate.

Timeshare (which is a time-slice of a condo, generally) -> condo (which is real estate composed of air, as opposed to land) -> real estate (land)

You could stop there, but like the Swiss Family TreeHouse, that's actually where it gets interesting. We've got deeds now, but what exactly is a deed? There are land right that cross governments (and not in the boring old we get a new government every 4 years sense) -- land grants in California spring to mind, but there are also pre-colonial long term leases in NY that I think are still in the courts right now because no one's got the original paperwork (makes ya long for the 1000 years of files in the Vatican, doesn't it? Not.).

And that's the paper. Which we all know doesn't mean anything, because a war could happen, you could be an oppressed minority and be forced to sell it all. Except, wait, then you can sue decades later and _maybe_ get some or all of it back.

Not much point of getting into all that, now, is there? Because you talk about that too much and shortly there's a discussion of reparations for the descendants of slaves in the America and shortly after that, we'll have to return it all to the Native Americans, and that leads to highly divisive remarks so why would _I_ go there. Oh, wait, I'm cranky, anyway.

Returning to DVC (but if you think about it, this is all relevant, isn't it? I mean, Disney's about making all that irrelevant, but you rip everything free from its moorings and I see nothing STOPPING me from going there), what, precisely, is DVC in this world?

DVC is a time-limited (expires in a particular year, based on the wording on the deed) _deed_ (so it is real estate) that is a number of points in a particular property. I haven't seen the paperwork (_try_ to get this kind of information out of someone -- it's out there; I want a copy if you can get it), but Someone specified on the deed says who gets to decide how many points gets you how much time in that property. There are also contracts governing exchanges of points between properties.

DVC -> TimeShare Exchange (think Interval International, which DVC gets you access to for a fee) -> TimeShare -> Condo -> Land

I don't think words like "derivative", "faux", "ersatz" or similar really do this situation justice. We're in a Whole New World here.

A big chunk of Disney Studies is devoted to analyzing the theme parks as an exercise in utopian urban planning (especially WDW). They spend time talking about thinks like public transportation (WEDway PeopleMover, the Monorail, the trains, etc.), human scale (upper stories are fractionally scaled), curvature, etc. We need a branch of Disney Studies devoted to analyzing the Disney company and its various products in terms of legal innovation. Can it be a coincidence that DVC rose (and continues to rise) in a world which simultaneously went nuts for CDOs? We can't figure out refis, but we're all convinced we're getting a great deal; doesn't _that_ sound like a point based exchange system like DVC?

Here's where it gets really good. Built into the legal structure of DVC is a Right-of-First-Refusal on reselling your property interest (because you got a deed, you _can_ sell it and Disney cannot actually stop you). There's an active -- thriving! -- resale market, occupied by what appear to be some good guys and almost certainly includes a few scammers who are up to no good. "New" points from Disney are sold primarily in "new" DVC resorts, at a cost of about $104. There are a variety of incentive programs going on right now to knock about $10/pt off the price and some gift cards and what have you to get the deal done. "Resale" points from Disney in older resorts (they do have them, altho they don't advertise this) go for close to the same price but probably without incentives. "Resale" points from ordinary folk in Wilderness Lodge are currently averaging $80/point (I picked out the top few reputable resellers, shoved their listings into a spreadsheet and did a weighted average a couple days ago, so I'm pretty confident in this number); other lodges go for (typically) less. You can offer whatever you like for points, but once the seller has agreed and you have a purchase agreement in place, Disney gets 30 days (or thereabouts) to decide whether they want to buy it instead. And as near as I can tell, Disney _is_ buying stuff that people try to get for a really low price; that is to say, Disney is supporting the market.

Let's just take a brief moment to contemplate the time frame of the auction rate securities market and what happened to it.

How long is Disney prepared to support the prices on DVC points? Certainly as long as they are trying to sell more properties, it's in their interest to keep the market afloat. But then, that was the argument for why auction rates couldn't fail. After all, studen loan makers would need more capital and how else were they going to get it? Indeed.

Derivative? Just doesn't seem strong enough, does it? We all got used to the idea of derivatives. We need a new word.

Florida Real Estate: DVC Part 1

Long ago, in some World History or US History class, or similar, you probably sat through several lectures and engaged in some amount of writing/multiple guess/timeline/map/etc. exercises associated with learning about the Great Depression. Virtually everyone in history class made it to the Great Depression, unlike, say, the Vietnam War, which was typically evaded by letting everyone out at the end of the school year (sometimes the year ended around about WW2, some people made it to the Korean War -- there's some natural variation here).

Depending on the quality of your instructor/school/class/textbook/worksheets/etc. and your memory, you might or might not recall that part of the bubbliciousness leading up to the 1929 stock market crash and slowly and probably not inexorably continuing for years and _years_ and _years_ and not really ending until the stimulus associated with WW2, er, where was I? Oh, yeah, speculation in Florida Real Estate. Specifically, people were selling land that was not just wet, but well offshore from Florida proper. When I was a young, isolated person being raised by crazy-ass religious folk, my father would often compare things to Florida Real Estate, so let's just say that when we hit that stuff in class, it really stuck.

With Climate Change a really un-ignorable reality, and a lot of diagrams a la those in _An Inconvenient Truth_ finally appearing in somewhat modified form even from the Bush administration (there's a shocker), it's increasingly apparent that there's a real future in jokes about underwater real estate in Florida. There's also a real _present_ in jokes about "underwater" real estate in Florida, and I could expend several paragraphs in how many water related words appear in finance-speak, and why, precisely, that might be (never mind liquidity, what about "bank"? But we all know that humans have civilization because they figured out how to move water around and the big world empires have always been about moving water around so it's not like this is even particularly interesting any more).

Real Estate really sucks in Florida now, and has for several years. But as bad as it is to be in a house that you owe more on than you can get out of it in a sale, consider the poor people who are in condos where other people have been foreclosed upon. The condo building _still_ needs to be maintained, which means that all those non-dues-paying units (and we're talking a significant percentage of any given tower at this point, and a significant chunk of the towers in general) have to be covered by large assessments on the remaining owners. That pushes some of them into bankruptcy, further aggravating the problem. It does not help when needed maintenance (like, fixing a roof leak) isn't done because there's no money for it, and the value of the property decreases etc. think water, drain, etc.

Let's go back to our little graph:

DVC -> TimeShare Exchange (think Interval International, which DVC gets you access to for a fee) -> TimeShare -> Condo -> [Building -> Land w/services ->] Land

I've added a couple of levels.

Let's say you're driving around. Somewhere. And you see a sign: so many acres for sale for so many dollars (total or per acre or both). Wow! Great deal!

No.

If it's completely undeveloped land, and you're comparing it to something that's got a house on it with power and sewage and water and whathave you, you are not comparing the same thing at all. Each step costs money: getting a road in, getting a power line in, getting a gas line in, getting city water in, hooking up to municipal waste, etc. Each of these things you don't do will require an equivalent service on site. No gas line? That'll be a truck arriving to fill your tank. No sewage? That'll be a septic tank you have pumped every couple of years. No city water? That's a well that you need to drill. (No power? Solar panels, windmill and everything you can to cut your usage plus a generator to make up the difference if any remains off that tank you are having deliveries made to.) In rural New Hampshire ("live free or die"), you may be "free" of services, but it ain't cheap unless you want to live with cold water in a cold house heated by a wood stove you cut down from your own wood lot. Which had better be substantial. And consider the work: that ain't cheap or free.

Further, there should be a further step in my path for subdivision. The legal process of splitting up a parcel of land varies by region (and Florida made it Real Easy, at least for a while there) and is intricately involved with what you are then allowed to do with that parcel -- also, not free or cheap.

But let's say you do buy that land, and figure out you were a chump and selling it will get you .50 on the dollar for what you paid. Poor you. But you can get a lot more than you paid for it if you subdivide and get permits, so you do. And then that market tanks on you and again, you're looking at .50 on the dollar (or worse) for your total-in. Poor you. But still, unless you're operating on a Grand Scale, this is all chump change compared to the next few stages, even for single houses.

Take that subdivided, permitted land and put services on it. We're now talking some money here. Build housing on it. Even more. Do all the paperwork to create a condo association. Still more. Market the condos. Etc. Every step in this process is more legally intensive, costs more money, and requires a bigger payoff just to break even, never mind turn a profit. Let's say the scale is large enough to justify permanent management of the resulting building. Permanent marketing of the association. Now we're talking timeshare.

No wonder Disney put a drop-dead date in the deeds. Worry about timeshares that _don't_.

If you sold the "units" (whatever the hell that might mean) for what they truly cost in terms of endowing their future expenses in perpetuity, _no one_ would buy them. Only a tiny fraction of the population can afford to be in an endowed burial ground and really most of what's involved there is _mowing_, with a lot of edging, some fertilizer, and so forth, and maintaining a decent fence and a lockable gate that closes at night along with some tiny number of guards. "Units" in timeshares, just like units in condos (or "units" in co-ops, which I have been carefully avoiding in this discussion, even tho in a lot of ways they are a better comp for DVC and timeshare than a pure condo) have annual dues.

DVC annual dues vary by property (which actually kind of makes sense) but run around $5/point currently; they have gone up a few percent annually since the inception of DVC (as has the cost per/point to buy in, and the cost to rent a unit in a DVC property through Disney when the owners are not using it, or the cost to rent a room in a Disney property elsewhere at WDW).

If Disney decides they can afford to support the resale market, but finds they are sitting on a lot of unsold points in existing resorts, will they raise the dues of the remaining owners so they aren't on the hook for them?

If Disney stopped supporting the resale market, and this stuff started wending its way through bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc. proceedings, what would Disney do to raise the maintenance money on these properties?

Would they cut access to IntervalInternational as a savings measure? Would IntervalInternational cut them because there's no property to trade into anymore?

Obviously, if WDW is underwater, destroyed by hurricanes, etc., there's a problem. It's a problem that's relatively easy to anticipate, unpleasant to think about, but I don't know that anyone would feel that Disney had somehow screwed them if this happened. How are DVC owners going to feel if one of these other scenarios happens? Who is thinking about this?

Do they have a plan?

Florida Real Estate: DVC Part 2

One more look at that diagram:

DVC -> TimeShare Exchange (think Interval International, which DVC gets you access to for a fee) -> TimeShare -> Condo -> Land

In principle, moving _back down_ on this tree should save you money, at the cost of some non-substitutable attribute which is the basis for the increased value used to justify purchasing DVC. If it's _really_ like the refis, there might not be a "real" basis for "increased" value; it could just be a big ole scam. Remember, we're talking about real estate.

In Florida.

But let's have a good hard look at what Disney is offering in the way of non-substitutables.

(1) "Home" resort (the one you buy your points in, which is why a point in one resort, like Vero Beach, may be a lot cheaper than a point in another resort, like Wilderness Lodge) gets you the right to make reservations 11 months in advance of stay.

(2) Being in DVC gets you the right to make reservations 7 months in advance of stay.

I'm betting that Interval members who point into DVC get 6 months, but who knows.

You can (in theory) rent the units in DVC properties for dollars, but actually lining up dates is really amazingly tricky (altho that could change if Disney winds up sitting on a lot of resale points they bought back to support the market). When you buy into DVC (minimum of 160 points in general, 100 in Animal Kingdom on a special -- hmmm, do you think that reflects current economic realities?), you're basically spending (not financed) $16K+ for the right to jump the line. (Disney offers financing, as do some resellers. The financing rates scream chump.)

Kinda like FastPasses, in a way.

DVC resorts are also (almost) the only way to get a full kitchen on-site at WDW.

It's not clear that Disney had a solid handle on what the appealing selling points of DVC were when it started them back in 199x with what is now Old Key West resort. On property, kitchens, game rooms, etc. were clearly understood as desirable. But virtually all the DVC properties have been well away from MK, and the price differential in favor of Wilderness Lodge indicates that was maybe not the best plan. Bay Lake Towers (formerly known as Kingdom Towers -- makes you wonder what they were thinking with _that_ name), a timeshare property associated with the Contemporary Resort (first stop on the monorail) is apparently an attempt to correct this issue.

Ah, the temptation: drive-til-you-qualify led to sprawl and now, with the blah blah blah, everyone wants to be close-in and on public transportation. It is to laugh. While we're laughing, Disney is really working hard to make it so you _don't_ have to have a rental car if you stay on site: they'll bus you and truck your luggage from the airport; they'll bus you around the resort (or boat you, or monorail you); they'll schlep your purchases from the souvenir stand to your room, etc.

BLT is expected to charge a substantial point premium compared to the other DVC properties; I'll put my guess in now at 2x.

When you ask on Disney discussion boards (not official Disney) about where to stay that has a full kitchen and 1-2 bedrooms (there are a lot of families out there with a similar travel strategy -- I didn't have to actually post to see this question. Repeatedly.), what you get are a lot of people plugging renting at Windsor Hills. Even when people specifically say, _NO_, I want a suites hotel with a breakfast buffet, a full kitchen, 1-2 bedrooms and daily service for the room, you get people plugging Windsor Hills. And it is not hard to see why. The travel distance is roughly comparable (since at the locations in question, the dominant time-cost is parking/tram/monorail to get to MK) between hotels and WH, and WH is way cheaper than off-site suites hotels (well, comparable to Enclave; way cheaper than anything else with a kitchen). The comparison to staying in a DVC property is laughable -- it would cost you 4x-8x to reproduce with dollars on property what you get at WH (and as noted above, tough to get that reservation at all). This is a relatively good reflection of the above diagram getting cheaper as you pass through the stages.

Where does a hotel fall on that diagram? Given that WH seems to be a whole lot of investment/vacation rentals owned singly or in small groups by individuals, I'd say the hotels just look like the same, with a larger staff and therefore higher costs.

There are some interesting little cul-de-sacs in this space. You can rent timeshare weeks (floating or fixed). You can rent DVC points. At least with DVC, there's substantial risk on both sides of the transaction so trust is required -- that makes them a little less liquid/fungible than they might otherwise be. Disney will also let you "not use" your points to offset financing charges and possibly annual dues. At least, I _think_ that's why I understood. There's also a bank/borrow set up so you could vacation every other year or every third year in a very luxe way with a lot fewer points.

Tokenization: DVC Part 3

There's a lot of parenting and management theory that revolves around token economies. Think gold stars, demerits, "earning" a class trip or other privileges. There's a fair amount of commentary on why tokenization is a bad idea (as parenting, as management), in that when people are focused on "extrinsic" motivators, it tends to destroy their "intrinsic" motivation, and "intrinsic" motivators are far more powerful than "extrinsic" motivators and blah blah blah.

Basically, my sister D. would spend _hours_ on calculus proofs that weren't even assigned because she got a huge payoff for figuring one out (as in, felt really good). Theory says that if you paid her for each proof, she'd decide at some point that it wasn't worth the money and it would stop feeling really good. This is the same basic argument against turning hobbies into careers and paying your kid to do chores around the house that they "should" do as a member of the household. It's also part of the argument against certain kinds of clauses in prenups.

Of course, there is sort of the whole thing about money.

Disney is about "magic", and if ever there was a company that existed on creating and/or exploiting "intrinsic" motivators (do this because it makes you feel good), Disney would be that company. Dollars definitely have an impact on "intrinsic" motivators. What I'm about to say is not entirely true, but it's true a lot of the time.

Let's say you find something really amazingly cool (great house, awesome car, chocolate cake, private school for the kiddies, a Bugaboo, whatever) that does something really nifty (stores your stuff, goes real fast, tastes awesome, promises a perfect life, converts 9 ways from Sunday, whatever). You're like, all right! Wait, it costs _how_ much? There _are_ people who just ignore cost, but they are actually fairly rare, _even with people who could afford to_. This is (part of) where buyer's remorse comes from (the dang, I'm done shopping and it was so much fun accounts for a bit more) -- you have it, it's not quite what you thought it would be, you don't have that money, and you're not totally certain the trade was worth it.

There are several ways around this particular problem if you want to sell something that people aren't quite sure is worth what you are asking. (1) Ask less for the same good. (2) Offer less for less and hope that trade is perceived differently. (3) Make a strong case that your good is REALLY REALLY GOOD. (4) Make it really hard to compare the two.

If you can take a trade out of dollars (because we're saturated in dollars, we all have a pretty rock solid assessment of what a dollar is), you can have all kinds of fun with (4), and potentially exploit the hell out of (2) as well. Ideally, you can do a combination of (4) and (2) and make it look like (1). Financing is a really common way to get around things. While legions of advisors say you shouldn't shop by payment nevertheless, there's a group of consumers who _will_ shop by payment anyway. Fuck around with the term enough and you can get that group to pay an arbitrary amount for an arbitrary "good" -- at least for a while.

A slightly less common way to get around this is to tokenize. And the entire travel industry is built upon tokenization: "floating week(s)" in a timeshare, DVC points, frequent flyer miles, XX% off if you listen to our sales pitch, discounts for members of organization Y and/or individuals above or below certain age limits, some of which are combinable and others of which are not, and all of which have mysterious small print about deposits and cancellations and refundability that will only begin to make sense in the distant future under unpleasant circumstances.

My first husband was a huge believer in frequent flyer miles (his family, at the time, were commercial fishermen who were back and forth to Alaska a couple times a year) and "credit card miles". I tend to be suspicious of anything I can't understand or suspect isn't worth the trouble of figuring out -- especially if the rules can be changed unilaterally at any time by the other player. When I saw the expectable outcome of believing in "credit card miles", I ran away. Fast.

DVC is tokenization taken to a breathtaking level. You buy points (possibly with incentives). The points chart is changed annually (and has become finer and finer grained by date every year). Privileges associated with DVC appear and disappear periodically (like: discounts on annual passes, member-only activities, whether you can buy the Disney Dining Plan). If used, some discounts, like buying an Annual Pass, lead to further, variable privileges: dining card, free parking, etc. You cannot devise any kind of analysis based on this stuff, because while there is some history (percentage increase in cost of points, dues), a lot of the additional privileges, while _clearly_ worth a chunk, are specifically not to be relied upon in the future.

Like marriage -- or just having sex with someone -- DVC provides no reasonable basis for assessment. Is it worth it? You won't know until you've committed to it for a while (unless you decide this is _clearly_ undesirable_), and by that point, you'll be working so hard to convince yourself it was a good deal to justify it to yourself, you'll never really know whether it was (monetarily) worth it or not.

Married to the Mouse indeed! DVC is perhaps the most brilliant marketing scheme I've ever encountered. But then it should be: it is the current, ultimate form of Florida Real Estate.

Tags:

Not-a-Double-Stroller

As I think I noted before, I had avoided researching any of this space while T. was refusing to ride in any stroller. Trying to "can a plan" (so I can pull it out on short notice in the future) for visiting the Mouse has reopened this, as has the problem of taking the kids for a walk. Yes, I _know_ about soft baby carriers. Moving right along.

I'm not going to buy a double stroller. That just seems ridiculous at this point. T. will be 3 when A. is born unless A. makes an early arrival and then it will be a temporary, technical issue.

Sit n Stand is probably the traditional solution, with Joovy Caboose as a current competitor. These are essentially the usual crappy, heavy stroller with a built in step to stand on and a "jump seat" with a 3 point harness (may or may not have padding on the seat; seat may or may not be usable if you use the main seat with a carseat adapter and car seat; may or may not be compatible with our car seat). Fisher Price _had_ an entry which, while not, technically, "recalled" is no longer being sold and let's just say there were some "issues".

The standard UK solution (also available here) is the Buggy Board, which attaches to most, but not all strollers (amazingly, will attach to the Volo! but not to the BOB). It's the step part; no jump seat. Of course, the Volo doesn't adapt to a carseat and it's not a good idea to put a really young baby in one.

A new solution is the Strolli, which is like a trail-a-trike that can attach to many strollers. Its major claimed advantage is that you won't clip your feet on it as you would the Buggy Board.

This puts us in buy yet another stroller territory, possibly including the Buggy Board (I have to say, post carseat, the Volo + Buggy Board is awesomely lightweight without kiddies and therefore hideously tempting).

Phil & Ted make a tandem not-a-jogger stroller (but it looks like one) with a carseat adapter that is compatible with our carseat. I said I wouldn't buy a double stroller; this would probably be the exception. Kinda cramped, apparently, and if you are using the carseat, the toddler can't sit in the other seat and the Buggy Board is _definitely_ not compatible.

The maker of our carseat makes a stroller that it clips into and that the Buggy Board is compatible with. The seat on the stroller, unfortunately, is small enough it is typically outgrown in the first year. It does recline, which is a plus, but you couldn't, say, strap the wee one on to sleep and let the toddler sleep in the stroller.

The MacLaren Techno XLR might be compatible with the Buggy Board, is big enough for a toddler (a big toddler at 65 lb limit! More like a 1st grader), can fit our car seat. This is pretty tempting. You could sleep both kids (one in soft carrier, other in stroller).

The MacLaren Easy Traveler would be speculative only. It might or might not be compatible with the carseat or the board, and in any event, of questionable safety once loaded that heavily. But my, what a clever little travel device. No opportunity to sleep both kids at once, since it's just a stroller frame.

Anyone out there got an opinion? Right now, I'm torn between the Britax Vigor (made by maker of our carseat) and the MacLaren Techno XLR, and the MacLaren is winning, hands down. In any event, I'll be buying the Buggy Board and possibly the Strolli, for use with whatever we get and, ultimately, the Volo as well.

ETA: FWIW, the BOB has a carseat adapter which we don't have, and which I won't buy for travel because R. does not trust airplanes not to utterly destroy the BOB in a particularly annoying way having to do with where the front wheel attaches. However, if all I want is something better to move baby-in-bucket-on-crappy-terrain, that's an option as well.
'Cause the most expensive non-holiday day for plumbers is Sunday.

R. is out digging out the (smaller) access to the septic tank because he's been unable to snake past the block in the drain that is causing the leak when the washing machine drains. Unfortunately, this is a major drain, which means we're kinda not allowed to use much of any drain currently. Like, toilets and sinks.

*sigh*

Plumber's on his way. It would be during a heatwave, of course.

Good news: T. and I went down to hank out in the (nice cool) basement for a while where all the excitement was and I found a lot of the newborn stuff I've been itching to lay hands on. At this point, it's safe to say that my maternity dress and skirts are a thing of the past. I must have sent them all down to my sister, who of course then got rid of them.

ETA: a very few minutes later, the plumber has been and gone and _did not charge us_. Best plumber ever. It was a wad of toilet paper (why it got caught where it did and not earlier is completely baffling. Literally. The word baffle came up in the description). He said to call him when we had real work for a plumber. *snicker*