Wherever the Road Leads

The Cheapness of You

& The Surreptitious Upgrade II

A while back I was friends with a man, now deceased, who was raised during the Depression. He told a story of his growing up where his mother instructed him to put his butter on the ‘small’ side of his piece of bread. THAT is being frugal. However, this was not an eye-rolling moment for me, this was a moment of understanding the logic behind the directive and thankfulness that despite growing up poor, things for me were never as extreme as the Depression.

On my father’s side there was only my grandmother and she remained in Scotland until her dying day. On my mother’s side, most of her brothers and sisters – my aunts and uncles – emigrated to Commonwealth countries and bettered the life they had for themselves and for their children. My father and a few of my uncles started out in Canada working underground in a gold mine. With inherent ambition, necessity, and the desire for a better lives for their children, all of the family members who left Scotland succeeded in attaining comfortable, though modest, lives.

Some of that Scottish frugality is hard-wired into my mother’s DNA. I am glad that she never heard of the ‘back-of-the-bread’ story as that would have been implemented in our house for sure. But to this day, sixty-two years after leaving Scotland, some things never change.

coast1I have used ‘Coast’ soap for thirty years. I like how it smells. At times I have been wooed away because Irish Spring was on sale and my genes are, after all, Scottish. I have soldiered on with the Irish Spring knowing that, eventually, the bars would be used up and I could return to Coast. I brought a bar of Coast up to Canada with me when I came late last year. Long gone. I went through a bar of Ivory, my mother’s favorite if she has to buy soap herself.

Currently, we are using bars of soap off cruise ships. Fortunately they are not the tiny bars, these are more generous but they are not Coast. Now, yes, I could go down to Food Thrills or Wal-Mart and invest in a 4-pack of Coast. But a blue bar of scented soap in the shower is not something that will go un-noticed and I have decided to pick my battles.

However with this latest bar of cruise-ship soap came a request that may just rival my old friend’s Depression-butter-bread story. When finished in the shower, I am to take the bar of soap and place it in a  grated soap dish by the sink, so that the underside will not turn to mush and be unusable. I don’t know whether to roll my eyes or be impressed.

I do know that by saving these pennies – or parts thereof – all her life, I’d better inherit at least ten dollars more that the $97.50 I’m expecting.


Adobe After Effects is killing me. What a program! Here is a screenshot of a project that I am working on. It might not ever see the light of day as I am in way over my head and not smart enough to realize that I’m not smart enough to accomplish what I want to. I wonder if the University of Toronto has free chairs in their Computer Graphics lectures for feeble-minded old folks.


This is a 3-dimensional project a la Star Trek, supposedly in space, with smoke, clouds, red and white flares and the Lion Rampant logo that I have started using. The individual letters are 3-D and are spinning, coming from behind the ‘camera’. They will come together to spell out “GordonMcB.com”.

My new 4-gig processor from the original Surreptitious Upgrade is a real help. However, long before the finished project gets rendered out to a little minute-and-a-half ‘movie’, simply seeing each change or addition or new idea is taking more effort than my current graphics card can handle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the error message, “Sorry, Charlie, the joke’s over for your current graphics card. After Effects will now close.”

Probably when my mother was drying off the soap, it must have been my father who taught me the (British) expression, “In for a Penny, in for a Pound.” (as in ‘£’,  Pound Sterling). So it was back to Canada Computers, eh?

750John 11:35. Serious gamers would consider this a middle-of-the-road video card. On the other hand, I’ve built entire systems for less than what this card cost me.

But ain’t she a beauty?

I’m anxious as can be to try out this marvel of Taiwanese technology but I know that with me, computer installations never come easy. Come to think of it, nothing involving computers comes easily to me. I should give up.

I’ll wait for a day when I feel like being frustrated and skinning my knuckles in order to install it. Then I’ll take it all apart and install it so that it works.

It would be less frustrating if I had someone to do this wrongly with. I recently heard a story about a man whose marriage failed, unusually, the one who strayed was the wife.

He chose which pond to fish in very carefully, and in time he remarried. He attributed the happiness of his current – now later-in-life – marriage to having something in common: both were avid golfers. Maybe that’s what I need to find. A woman who is as passionate about getting frustrated by computers as I am.

Blondish hair and reddish nails would be nice, too.


Norah Jones performing Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Cheapness Of Wilma”…

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