Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cost of Living in Urban Iowa Today

Cost of Living in Urban Iowa Today

I’m kinda’ interested in what it costs to live in an urban area in Iowa, such as Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Des Moines, Council Bluffs or Sioux City.  I’d appreciate your help in figuring this out.  Do you (or anyone you know, and could put me in touch with) have a source for this kind of information that is unbiased, valid, reliable and accurate? 

I know there are lots of variables that can come into play, so let’s get the numbers for a basic “budget” for a single person, 20 to 50 living in an urban area in Iowa.  Let’s define “urban” as a population of 30,000 people or more.  Let’s define a “basic budget” as one that includes the categories in the table below, and that allows one to live a healthy life, and a life relatively free of worry and stress regarding these categories.  That is, the individual has sufficient access to quality products and services, in adequate amounts to sustain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  (Okay, okay.  I just threw that last bit in because I like the sound of it.  Let’s don't get all political here, okay?)  We’re talking a decent standard of living.  The bottom of Maslow’s pyramid.[i] 

I’ve, rather arbitrarily, set up the following categories of expenses.  These are purposefully broad and inclusive because I want something that is pretty direct.  If these categories skew perceptions, let me know.  What would you suggest?

I consider the first five categories as requisite to a minimum quality of life.  Some folks will likely take issue with including Transportation as a requisite, but if you can’t get to the grocery store or the dentist . . . well?  Transportation can be public transportation, but the costs need to be considered.  There are those who will likely take exception to including Medical care as a requisite.  I say, “Let ‘em.”  I’m keeping it.  Again, don’t wax political on me.  I’m not advocating for a “right” to medical care, or a “right” to transportation.  This is just trying to figure out what “is,” not what “ought to be.”  Constructive suggestions are encouraged.




Medical care**




Food includes meals eaten out as well as non-grocery items usually purchased at the grocery store such as shampoo, dish soap, sanitizing sprays, and so on.  If we eat three times a day, that is 21 meals per week.  90 meals per month (30 days).  1095 meals per year (365 days).  Eating all meals “at home” (includes sack lunches) is cheaper than “eating out.”  Preparing food from scratch is usually cheaper than buying prepared foods or ordering in.  I don’t know what is “the norm” these days, so any input on this welcome.

†† Clothing includes not only purchase price, but also washing, mending, dry-cleaning, etc.  It would also include any accessories and adornments, such as jewelry, hats, scarves, gloves, and so on.  I would also include wallets, purses and the like.  I’m thinking make-up and perfume for the women, aftershave and cologne for men, would be included here.  If it’s not medicine, but you put it on, put it in this category.

* Shelter includes rent/mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc.,  I’m considering the cost of internet and cell/mobile communication devices as utilities.  Again, if you live in a single family dwelling, the costs of equipment to mow lawns and clear walks goes here.  Or if you hire those services.  I’m looking for “immediacy” in these number, not long-range costs, so I’m not including depreciation, appreciation, capital gains, and so forth.

** Medical care includes the costs of dental and vision care, over-the-counter meds (e.g., sunscreen, lip balm, antacids, and such), dietary supplements such as vitamins, medical insurance, and all services from the healthcare industry. 

*** Transportation includes purchase/lease/rental, operating costs, maintenance, repairs and insurance.  I’m looking for “immediacy” in these number, not long-range costs, so I’m not including depreciation, etc.

**** Other includes education, recreation, etc.  If you have a book bag, a bicycle, a briefcase, it goes in “Other.”  “Other” also includes donations to charities, and worthy causes.  It includes gifts you give to family and friends for birthdays, holidays, and other occasions.  Arbitrarily, I’m putting computers of all sorts, and the software used on them here in “Other.”  “Other” will include any savings or retirement funds.  I’m excluding “investments.”  Yeah, it’s arbitrary.  

Here are my un-researched, off-the-top-of-my-head guestimates for a minimum standard of living in urban Iowa.  I have the raw figures and calculations on a spreadsheet: if anybody wants it, message me on Facebook.  Again, THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT.  I’m not advocating for an increase in the minimum wage.  I’m not advocating for tax reform.  I’m not advocating for some change in poverty levels.  This is not a statement about “take-home” pay, or “after-tax income.”  I’m just trying to get a handle on what it costs to live decently in urban Iowa.  Just seeking some perspective.  I’d appreciate your input.

Medical care


Food – if we figure $3.00 per meal, on average, that comes to $63.00 per week, $252.00 per month, or $3,168.00 per year.  That’s living pretty skinny.  I think a more realistic figure would be an average $5.00 per meal, which yields the figures shown.  If you have data that shows that these numbers are way off the mark, I’ll revise them.

†† Clothing – I haven’t a clue what the average urban Iowan spends on clothing, so I’m just making a wild guess here.  Let’s say three pair of jeans, 8 t-shirts, 8 regular shirts/blouses, 3 sets of work clothes (pants/skirts/dresses, shirts/blouses, etc.), underwear for two weeks,  footwear (1 pair sandals, 1 pair athletic shoes, 1 pair casual shoes, 1 pair dress shoes, winter boots).  It would also include rental of formal wear for those occasions calling for such (weddings, proms, funerals, visits to heads of state – just joking – and so on). Also, frequency of purchase, and so on.[ii]  I did some rough calculation on some rough guesses to come up with the numbers here.  As I said, I don’t have any really good numbers for this category, so this is a really rough guestimate.  Particularly for women’s clothing. If you find these numbers are way off, and you have data on specific costs, length of wear, and so on, that information is most welcome. 

* Shelter – just an estimate. There should probably be two lines for shelter; one if you rent, one if you own.  If I get good data, I’ll make that modification, if it’s warranted. 

** Medical care – just an estimate for a normally healthy 20 to 50 year old.

*** Transportation – an estimate based on the following parameters: 
Purchase/lease total of $20,000 (includes tags and taxes & interest) amortized over 36 months.  Forty-six cents per mile operating costs, and routine maintenance based on 7,500 miles per year.  Purchase, balance, install one set of 55,000 mile tires, and so on. 

**** Other – wild guess.

[i] Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, published a “hierarchy of needs” in the late 1950s or early 1960s.  I’m not sure if research has supported his hypotheses; I’m just using his pyramid for pedagogical purposes.
[ii] How long does a pair of Levis last these days?  When I was a kid, in the 1950s I grew out of my Levis before I outgrew them.  (In those days Levis had the button fly.  They were cut “loose,” and the first time you wore them, you put ‘em on soaking wet, and “wore them dry” for a good fit.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

On Being Rational in an Irrational World

You know, tradition (the Āyācana Sutta) has the Buddha being very reluctant to teach his Dhamma because it too subtle, too refined, and to difficult to “realize,” by which is meant to understand clearly. 

The “problem” in the human condition is dukkhā.  I’ve discussed dukkhā extensively (expansively?) in previous posts, so suffice it to say dukkhā is a condition of unsatisfactoriness of life.  The “cause” of the problem is duplex:  avijjā, the lack of insightful wisdom, interacting with taṇhā, the desire for, the emotional attachment to, self-gratification.  We lack the vision, the understanding, the knowledge of Reality (as it really it), and we are driven by wanting life to bring us pleasure, as we want it, when we want it.  But life and reality don’t work that way all of the time, so we get upset, we get discouraged, we get annoyed, we get vituperative, and sometimes we get violent, trying to make reality and life conform to our picture of how it should be.  All of our responses to dissatisfactoriness are subsumed under the rubric of dukkhā. 

Since we are sentient beings, conscious, aware beings, beings with the capacity for ratiocination, and beings with a conscience, we can, and according to the Dhamma we therefore should, raise our consciousness, apply our reason, take charge of the human condition and make it better.  We need to fix the problem.  We need to become “Homo sapiens” (wise humans) rather than “Homo neuroticus” (crazy people).  And over time we can become “Homo nobilis.” Noble Humans.  

The solution to dukkhā, the “fix” for the less-than-perfect human condition is to be disciplined in the practice of the Noble Path. 

If we examine this discipline closely, we find it is a well-thought-out program of dealing with our emotional dysfunction in a benevolent, compassionate, calmly rational way.  There is nothing in this teaching that calls on us to be devout, pious, holy.  This teaching calls on us to practice sammā-diṭṭi,”  that is practicing right knowledge, right understanding, right perspective, right view.  That is knowledge, understanding, perspective and view that is untainted by emotional bias and illogical thinking.

We are admonished to practice sammā-saṇkappo, sammā-vācā and sammā-kammanto as well.  These are respectively, Right Intention/Aspiration, Right Speech/Communication/Expression and Right Action.  You can read earlier posts on these, and you can research the whole Noble Path on your own.  The point here is that “sammā” as used here includes the idea that to be “right” means to not engender dukkhā; “right” is free of taṇhā and avijjā; “right” is unbiased, logically sound, and rationally consistent with the objective world.  “Right” is reasonable.

That’s not being practiced very much in our society.  We’re not being rational and reasonable about far too many things.  Politics, violence, religion, relationships, economics, morals, communication – dare I say Reality.  We are so un-wise, un-informed, un-insightful, so ensnared in avijjā, and we are so enmeshed in our own beliefs, caught up in our own desires, so consumed by our “selves,” that we can’t even see we’re being delusional, irrational – crazy. 

And when somebody comes along and points this out, their words, no matter how compassionately or benevolently presented are read through delusion and bias.  We have made icons out of our delusions and biases, and when someone says something that triggers those icons, we respond irrationally, and they are insulted, attacked, vituperated mercilessly.

It makes it really tough to be rational in an irrational world.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just a reminder . . .

Just a reminder; anyone who practices a silent, sitting meditation is welcome at our meditation events. No matter the technique, be it visualization, a silent mantra, emptying the mind, or focusing on the breath, they will find these events rewarding. It is, after all, just an opportunity to practice what you already know, and maybe enjoy the ambiance of the group meditation. We are not particularly "doctrinaire" in our approach. We're pretty welcoming to all meditators. 
If you plan to join us, please register by October 5th so we are sure to have enough food on hand.
See you on the 8th at the Pure Land center in Clive, IA.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ooooops! October 8 schedule


Seems I wasn't being mindful when I published the previous post, and didn't notice that the proposed "schedule" for the October 8 meditation event wasn't attached.  So here it is!

One Day Meditation Intensive Schedule
Intermediate Level

We will do our best to follow the schedule below.

8:30 a.m. sign in

8:45 a.m. meditation instruction (sitting and walking)

9:00 a.m. sitting meditation (30 minutes)

9:30 a.m. walking meditation (15 minutes)

9:45 a.m. sitting meditation (30 minutes)

10:15 a.m. walking meditation (15 minutes)

10:30 a.m. sitting meditation (30 minutes)

11:00 a.m. Comfort break (15 minutes)

11:15 a.m. Desanā (a talk on meditation) (45 minutes)

12:00 noon.  Lunch (45 minutes)

12:45 p.m. Q & A (15 minutes)

1:00 p.m. sitting meditation (45 minutes)

1:45 p.m. walking meditation (15 minutes)

2:00 p.m. sitting meditation (45 minutes)

2:45 p.m. walking meditation (15 minutes)

3:00 p.m. sitting meditation (45 minutes)

3:45 p.m. walking meditation (20 minutes)

4:00 p.m. sitting meditation (45 minutes)

4:45 p.m. closing remarks

5:00 p.m. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!  Anumodemi.