Wedding Ramblings

In honor of Valentine's Day, today's post addresses the true cost of a lavish wedding. In addition to the Dartmouth participants, several of K's girlfriends have recently gotten engaged, and thus she has had the opportunity to play wedding planner and dress consultant. One friend is clearly going to have a very high-end wedding, but the other three are going to have what I would call a "more reasonable" budget.

Of course, the key here is the extreme subjectivity of what is "reasonable". Popular wedding website reports that the average wedding is now about $27,800. According to Richard Markel, president of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. (in 2008) fell between $21,000 and $24,000. Clearly location matters as well, but let's work from a conservative value of $20k.

A friend of ours got married in a very elegant $99 dress, and last year we attended a wedding where the bride's dress was upwards of $15k. I honestly would not have known the difference, and I think that many guys would say the same. However, I'm sure that most women in attendance could tell, and most importantly the brides themselves knew the cost. The "bride-as-center-of-the-universe" is not something that I understand 100%, but from my own experience I know that I wanted my wife to be perfectly happy on her/our big day, and if happiness cost a little bit (or, honestly, a lot) of money, then I was pleased to pull out the checkbook.

First, the grinch-y perspective: the cost of a wedding is a decent start on a down payment on a house or condo. Alternatively, if the cost of your wedding were instead invested towards retirement, that $20,000 would grown into $160,000 (assume 8% APY over 35 years), and $8k-worth-of-dress would grow to $64,000.

On the other hand, who is to say that we can assume that the stock market will approach an 8% return? Multiple previous posts have highlighted my skepticism; accounting for inflation and taxes, honestly I think that 5% is more reasonable, if itself rather optimistic. If the kind/size cake doesn't matter, that can save you $1,000. Make your own invitations, or select a less elegant design, hire a younger photographer, or (here's the tricky one) invite fewer people. Want to trim some fat off the catering bill? Don't serve meat. Don't be cheap or leave your guests feeling mistreated, but thriftiness is making a comeback these days, and if you and your fiance(e) are on a tight budget, your friends and family will understand and support you.

This is my point; prioritize your expenses and try to save money on details that don't matter as much to the two of you... but don't be afraid to pay full price on the wedding elements that really matter most. Yes it's possible that every dollar you spend now could be invested and turn into $10 in 40 years, but do you really want to postpone happiness for 40 years? Moderation, people.


Sneaky Hot

We have previously addressed this item, when one comes across hotness in either an unexpected, unanticipated or unconventional situation, or instead when traditional hotness is encountered in an atypical wrapping.
It is in this second category that I submit the item below:

Everybody expects cheerleaders to be hot, or rather is at least not surprised when cheerleaders turn out to be hot (but don't forget the importance of community service) - and disappointed when that hotness is not lived up to. But what is extra-, or should we say, sneaky-hot, is when you put a hot cheerleader in 1960's throwback outfits. They didn't quite make up for the awfulness of the Broncos uniforms - see below - but it was a good effort.


A problem with pleats.

So, hypothetical situation. You're shopping and you find a beautiful suit. The jacket literally fits like a glove, like it was made for you. The fabric is a perfect navy with overlaid with a nice windowpane pattern. It's designer, not a Tom Ford level designer, but Hickey Freeman. Originally it was up around $2K, but I got it for around a quarter of that. Oh, wait, this is hypothetical.

The only problem is that the pants are pleated. It doesn't show when you have the jacket buttoned, but are pleats a problem?

Obviously, I'm trying to avoid my real work.


Conference update, pt. 1

An imbalanced gender ratio is not a surprise to any physics conference veteran, and I'd imagine that the female-depletion phenomenon is common across the non-biology sciences. Or maybe that's generalizing too much?

Anyway, at this week's conference I was really surprised by the demographics; I'd guess not more than 15-20% female, and 50+% were 50+ years old... which meant that between session breaks the lines stretched out the restroom door.

Perhaps unrelatedly, I'm wondering if the inter-session snacks were sponsored by Medicare, since I've never seen a more calorie- and saturated fat-intensive collection of cookies, brownies, ice cream bars, cheesecake, etc at any conference. Meanwhile, the CS conference in the other side of the complex got to have fresh fruit and muffins: maybe not an upgrade in the eyes of some, but some variety would be nice. I almost ate something that had 87% of the daily saturated fat requirement, yikes.

Finally, I really wish my phone had a better camera, since I've seen some truly spectacular fashion mistakes this week. Many of the usual three-inches-too-short khakis with white socks and black sneakers, but also some impressive attempts at hair, including a rather quality mullet on an otherwise normally-attired attendee. But I really wanted to get a shot of George McFly's twin brother and his slicked-down, icky-feeling-inducing bangs.


AAS: The Party

This, of course, is where AAS meetings get interesting.

Andrea and I gathered together a random group of people, including one girl who I'm pretty sure was the tallest woman at the conference. (Note: still not taller than me, although astronomers have a very very strange height distribution. It's like being in the Netherlands.) Dinner was tasty, but nothing to write much about, just a faux-Irish American place. My general plan was to create some new friends so I'd have someone to talk to at the party rather than being bored and alone.

Then Andrea bailed on me.

And the tall girl asked if they were going to card at the door since she was only 20. (Note: YIKES!)

So, that left two people from UC Davis and one of my friends from NMSU that I was going to meet up with.

Yadda yadda yadda, people going to hotels to change, things taking longer than expected, we get to the party... the drink special is a Galileo and seems to have no redeeming characteristics other than being strong. I decide to start my drinking slightly later. Since we were late, that puts me a good three drinks behind everyone else.

The good stuff starts below.
Continue reading AAS: The Party


Not black and white

Or should I say, not silver and black? But either way, I want to point people to this article pointing out that the piracy off the coast of Somalia is out of desperation and a direct result of Western neglect, not a simple case of greed and immorality.

The quick summary: In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas....As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

According to the UN envoy to Somalia, "somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply.

Combine that with severe overfishing by foreign supertrawlers, you have a sick, starving, and desperate population... and suddenly piracy and hostage-taking seems a lot more reasonable, even if not defensible.