Saturday, March 18, 2006


In December of 2004, my brother figured out the source of most of my parents' arguments.

We were at the Wuxi train sation during our southern China tour, and my mother bought a packet of tofu curd marinated in chili oil. It cost 2 RMB, the equivalent of 25 US cents.

She ate half of the tofu curd, and offered the rest to my dad, my brother, and me. We passed on the pungent snack, preferring the sweet red bean rolls and lotus buns sold at a cart vendor in the train station.

It was time to board the train, and my mother carefully folded over the top of the 8-inch plastic bag containing the remaining tofu curd.

"Throw that thing away!" my dad urged impatiently. "We're not going to carry it with us on the train."

"No, it's mine, and I'm going to eat the rest later."

I could see the anger rush into my dad's face. "After the train, we're going to have to walk with all of our luggage to the tourist van. Then they're taking us to the hotel, and there's not even going to be a fridge. That bag is going to stink up the whole room. Throw it away!"

"I'm not going to waste food."

This went on for 5 minutes, after which my mom got up, with the bag in her hand, and boarded the train. My dad followed, fuming. The marinated tofu stank up their hotel room for the next 2 days.

I inherited a frustrating mix of optimization. Recently I bought a computer desk from Bombay Company -- elegant tapered legs, wide table surface with dark wood.

After I put it together, I realized that the computer is in full view, with all of its cables dangling behind the mahogany Victorian tabletop. I then thought that perhaps I should sell it and buy this desk instead:

Bombay has a $75 flat fee for all deliveries -- whether you have one item delivered or ten, it's the same fee. This is incentive for consolidating purchases.

Furthermore, this weekend is a 2-day-only sale of 10% off their items. So I am self-inflicting pressure to decide on a new desk, chairs, wall clocks, and dining table, and do it all today!


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