The Cost of Things

The Costs of Moving to Kazakhstan

A friend of mine sent me a job posting for a university library in Astana, Kazakhstan as a joke. My initial reaction was, “Too weird, even for me.” I was feeling ready to move on from my current job in Vancouver and I had always wanted to work internationally but I didn’t know anything about Kazakhstan.


Producing a Beyoncé-themed Burlesque Show on a Budget

It wasn’t long after I became friends with burlesque star and producer Calamity Chang through freelance work that I came up with the idea for Beylesque, a Beyoncé burlesque show to take place on or around the pop diva’s 33rd birthday. “It could be huge!” I said. “It’s underground meets mainstream pop. You could serve birthday cupcakes and have a dance-off/twerkout during intermission.”


The Cost of Climbing

I have been known to joke (repeatedly, like a dad who’s come across his favorite pun) that when you cross the border into California you are issued your choice of the following: hiking boots, a surfboard, or climbing shoes. When I moved to California two years ago I picked the third option and never looked back. It’s gotten expensive.


Saying “No I Can’t” Because of Money

It is so hard to say no! It is especially hard to say no to our friends, who we love, or who we like well enough but think for whatever reason that it is imperative that they love us. And it especially hard when the “no” is because of money. Or is it easier, money being an inarguable reality like the weather? “It’s raining / I’m broke.” No, it’s harder, because it is hard to acknowledge to our friends that we might be coming up short, that the thought of spending is making us hyperventilate, and that even though we love them maybe we don’t have or can’t afford to part with the $1,000+ their wedding will cost us.

WaPo advice columnist / demigod Carolyn Hax shows us the way:

Q. HOW TO DECLINE WEDDING INVITATIONS I’m getting many wedding invitations these days and unfortunately I just can’t afford to go to all of them. Some friends understand, but how do you explain that to the brides who just don’t seem to get it and keep pushing you on it?

A. CAROLYN HAX You don’t. You’re under no obligation to explain at all, though with a good friend you’ll want to say something, of course: “I would love to go but I can’t afford it.” Done. If pressed, you ask them please to respect you enough to accept that you’d go if you could. Beyond that, the couples’ behavior makes for a good sorting tool. Remember who was gracious and who was pushy, and then, as you continue to be called upon to invest more money and energy in your friends than you have to give, choose to give to the gracious ones.


The Difficult Task of Putting a Price on Our Pet’s Health

Winston is due for more sessions.

She said this with a smile.

Do you want to buy a package?

I was flustered. I didn’t want to buy a package. I didn’t want to be spending thousands of dollars on another round of physical therapy for my five-pound Pomeranian.

Sure, uhh, How many sessions do we usually buy?

Let me take a look here … six.

I asked how much that would be.

One thousand, fifty.

She paused. I nodded.

Great. I’ll run it through.

She said this with a smile, a smile that made me wonder if she thought she’d said “Free.”

We call our little guy, Winston, our Problem Child, our Money Pit. As a puppy he broke his leg roughhousing with my brother. Seven grand later he’d undergone emergency surgery, had metal plates implanted into his leg, and was healing in a hard cast. During this time he also suffered from seizures, and despite the money we spent and the vets we visited, we never figured out why. He grew out of the seizures.


How Much Do Plungers Cost? An Oral History

Let’s play a game where we try to guess what everyday household items cost. You know, things you should know the price of, things our parents know the price of, but for some reason we have absolutely no idea. Is it a generational thing? A geographic thing? Can we blame the internet? Or maybe I am just an idiot. Only one way to find out.


Disaster Thinking

One of the ways I’ve made it as a single parent of three kids is to practice what my friend Mike and I call Disaster Thinking. Disaster Thinking is not merely planning for potential disasters, although that’s part of it. It’s also expecting them, and then carrying out many of your plans as though the disaster is a future you just haven’t caught up with yet.


How To End Up With Oscar, “the Uber of Health Insurance”

STEP 1: Read something about a new approach to health insurance by and mostly for young people / millennials.

STEP 2: Retain a vague, positive impression of the company, which has a striking, unusual name, even if you can’t recall precisely what it is. Forget all relevant details.

STEP 3: Embark on a health insurance odyssey for your family. Your goal is to cover the three of you — two adults, one baby — for $850.

STEP 3.5: Think longingly of martinis. Shopping for health care is tedious and yet terrifying; a martini would probably help, but you’re a pitiful lightweight who barely drinks. Eat dark chocolate instead and try to focus on the task at hand.

STEP 4: Encounter, as an Obamacare option, Oscar. Think: Oscar? Oh yeah, I read about you! You’re the new kid on the block, right?

STEP 5: Read more press.

Under all its plans, Oscar allows its members unlimited free calls with physicians. The doctors are supposed to call back within an hour, but on average, calls are returned within seven minutes of being placed, says Mr. Nazemi. (Of course, many primary care physicians already provide this type of service to their existing patients.) These calls can provide a quick diagnosis and a prescription sent directly to a pharmacy for common ailments like pink eye and urinary tract infections. Oscar pays the physicians $40 a call, which is significantly less than it would reimburse for an office visit.


The Cost of Fostering Kittens

When I moved to Brooklyn and starting working in publishing, everyone warned me that adopting a cat was inevitable, but I shrugged them off (didn’t they know I was a dog person?). But the truth was, my salary could barely sustain me and my book-buying habits, much less another living being, cat or dog.

Then I discovered the ASPCA’s foster pet program, which seemed too good to be true.


The Cost of a Full-Page Ad in The New York Times

There were some fun Amazon-Hachette developments over the weekend, open letters and misguided references to WWII and George Orwell were a-flyin’. What spurred this gem of a corporate communications failure from Amazon was a letter, published as a full-page ad in the Times, written by a group of authors 900-strong. The authors called for Amazon to stop uh, blackballing Hachette books as a way to bully Hachette into giving Amazon more favorable terms in the sale of ebooks. The full text of the letter can be read here, on Authors United dot NET (smh):

Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up. Our books launched Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)

Not to condemn people you agree with for not being radical enough, no wait this is exactly what I’m doing. If any of these writers really thought of Amazon as a business partner much less a friend, well, Stephen King I have a bridge to sell you, SHIPPED FREE AND DELIVERED ON SUNDAYS.