Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

May 14, 2020
by funny
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Gasoline in the Age of Covid

Wow! Just ran down to the Costco to fill up on gas, the word from On High being that the state will “re-open” in two days. That is much, much too soon. It’s as if our honored governor is saying, “Please, God, give us a resurgence! Maybe it’ll kill off my political rivals.” But whatever: it is what it is. Or will be…

So I figured I’d better get gas now, before a) the endless waits in line are back and b) the prices go soaring back up.

Cruised right up to a pump — no wait, zero-point-zero zero! Hot dang…a first in the history of Costco shopping.

The car needed less than half a tankful. It was 2/3 full when the covid quarantine came crashing down on us. Over the past two months, I’ve burned less than 1/8 of a tank driving down to my son’s house and making a verboten run on AJ’s. That’s it. No drivey, no buyee gasolinee.

Price? A dollar a gallon less than I paid the last time I filled up. From $2.85 down to $1.85.

You can be sure they’ll raise the price at least back to what it was before the shut-down. Probably higher.

Have you looked at food prices in your favorite grocery stores? I’m not usually very sensitive to prices — I tend to buy what I need and not worry about what it costs. But… $22 a pound for beefsteak did get my attention.

One of the weirdnesses of being locked up for two months is that you forget routine stuff that previously was so internalized it was like breathing.

For example, I failed to recall that Costco does not take American Express anymore, no way no how. Because Costco is a membership deal, to buy gas there you have to insert your membership card in the pump before you insert your credit card. First time I went by there, a few days ago, I forgot the membership card annoyance and so, in disgust, left without pumping gas. Today I dutifully ran the card through the reader (twice…). Then stuck in a charge card.

“Get lost! We don’t take American Express,” quoth the gas pump.

This negated the transaction, so now I had to drag out the membership card and jump through that hoop…again. Then stick in a debit card.

The fill-up cost $17.

Refilling that vehicle normally costs just upwards of $30. That is, yes, about $60 a month for the privilege of driving around the crazy-making streets of Phoenix.

It occurs to me that some important penny-pinching lessons are to be learnt from the covid adventure. One is pretty  obvious:

The less you drive around, the less you’ll spend on gasoline.

Okay. But there’s a corollary.

The less you drive around, the less you’ll spend on anything.

The less you spend on groceries, for example. Why? Because if you can spare only a limited number of trips, then you will plan your meals and your grocery lists more carefully. You’ll diddle away a whole lot less on impulse buys and afterthoughts at the grocery store. And you’ll spend lots less on restaurants if you have some reason not to go driving around to get a meal that can easily be prepared in your kitchen.

You’ll ask yourself things like Do I really need a haircut right this minute? Can I go for a week or two without it? Or can I wait a few days or a week before running to the [grocery store] [drugstore] [Target] [Costco] [whatEVER]? Or Why am I schlepping to a restaurant when I can get a delivery service to pick it up for me? Or Do I really need to drive to a movie theater when I have a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription?

I suspect the shape of America’s economy will indeed be changed permanently, as some pundits speculate. And that will happen because we will have figured out or remembered truths that we have forgotten.

May 9, 2020
by funny
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Lockdown Learning: Hacks from the Covid Confinement

So here we still are: the Body Politick getting mighty restless after a good two months’ of confinement to our homes. This has turned into one helluva journey. But from my point of view, a number of things have presented themselves as valuable clues for the future project of Aging in Place.

Because of course that’s what I intend to do, with a little luck: stay in my home until I croak over from old age. Being stuck in your house because you dare not venture out into a contagion is much the same, in many ways, as being stuck because you can’t or should not drive or because you’ve gone too lame to hike around supermarkets and big-box stores.

Here are some little discoveries that have come about from the great Covid Confinement Event, discoveries that can be applied now or in the future:

  • When I’m not darting off to the grocery store or the vet or the church or the Walmart or the Costco whenever the whim so moves me, gasoline consumption drops to almost nil. Literally. After two months, that car sitting in the garage still has half a tank of gas in it. And it wasn’t full when the quarantine fiasco started.
  • The insurance companies having registered this, my insurer dropped my auto premiums by 15 percent.
  • Savings on gasoline (to say nothing of savings on car insurance) would easily cover the cost of several Instacart or Amazon deliveries each month.
  • For the nonce, the cleaning lady could go. Or at least be cut from every two weeks to once a month. Much as I’m…well..Not Fond of housecleaning, I’m having no problem keeping up with it. And it’s kind of pleasant not to have a visitor show up and bang around for four or five hours every couple of weeks. The house would be fine if WonderCleaningLady surfaced just once a month, and I would save 50% on that onerous bill. In the age-in-place department though: obviously as I get older I’d have to increase the frequency of the cleaning visits. But that time, apparently, has not yet arrived.
  • Having groceries delivered may actually save on grocery bills, because sending someone out with a list eliminates impulse buys.
  • Instacart runners know little about selecting certain kinds of groceries, especially produce and ingredients for cooking from scratch. Ordering groceries through Instacart is, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
  • Therefore the Ager-in-Place will need to visit markets in person about once a month, even if it means using Uber or Lyft to get there.
  • Amazon vendors gouge spectacularly when given any excuse to do so.
  • Mormons are scary-smart during a national emergency. And they don’t stint on the generosity.
  • Ways to exercise need to be found and engaged. Sitting and playing with a computer all day leaves you with your joints frozen up. 😀
  • You could save a w-h-o-o-l-e lotta money on groceries and probably eat healthier by making every second day a Veggie Day. That is, eat meat one day, and the next day have all vegetarian meals. This will extend your supply of meat during the present crisis. But if you made it a regular habit, now and evermore, it also would cut your grocery bills and much reduce your cholesterol levels.

So there are some life-lessons one could apply to daily existence, now and evermore. How many will stick remains to be seen. But I intend to adapt at least some of them to Life After Covid, willy-nilly.

May 7, 2020
by funny
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Can’t Win for Losin’: Covid Variant

So I’m sitting here, as usual, like some unrepentant murderer in solitary confinement at San Quentin when…. DING DONG!!!!

Amazon dude.

He has the flour I ordered. And failed to notice was not 5 pounds but a piddling 2 pounds. This package would have been overpriced at 5# but at 2# it is the ripoff from Hell. But that’s neither here nor there.

The delivery dude is this kind of adorable Hobbit of a character. Within five minutes we learn he is Bosnian, he adores dogs (Ruby is attempting to love him into submission), he has German shepherds, here lookit the pictures of them on my phone, they’re Czech and German pedigree, and his wife is working at home, which sure saves a lot on the commute time, and he loves dogs, and he madly rubs his hands all over Ruby’s fur (uhmmm…Dude…did you realize that face mask is supposed to go OVER your mouth, not over the beard on your chin?) and as I’m thinking i’ll have to wash the damn dog and dry her before she can be allowed on the bed tonight and won’t that be fun goddamit!, he picks her up and PLANTS A BIG SLOPPY KISS ON HER ON THE HEAD.

Ho. Lee. Shee-ut!

’Bye! He finally leaves.

I drag Ruby into the backyard, grabbing a bottle of shampoo on the way — therewith to launder her.

Have you ever tried to wash the top of a dog’s head without getting soap in her eyes, while the dog squirms like an angry octopus?

Ruby puts up the Battle of the Titans. We fight and we struggle and we struggle and we fight and the minute I get the top of her head wet she goes SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and splatters dirty, very likely virus-laden water into my face, my eyes, and my mouth.

Meanwhile, I’m late to go pick up the home-made face masks my neighbor has made.

I finally get the soap out of the frantic dog’s fur (I hope) and dry her off, perfunctorily. Race to the bathroom, scrub my hands and face with soap but there’s not much I can do about the dirty water that’s been sprayed into my eyes and mouth so try sloshing horrid mouthwash around in the maw. It has enough alcohol in it to burn like Hell, so maybe it will kill whatever viruses I haven’t swallowed. As for the ones that have made their way into my gut, the alcohol in a glass of wine is gunna hafta do the job.

Now I fly out of the house, leaving the confused dog standing in the middle of the kitchen, leap into the car, and charge down to the neighbor’s place. Discover this part of the ’Hood has become considerably eccentric since the last time i walked through that little cul-de-sac. Weird. Grab the face masks out of the mailbox, leave some bucks for the artisan, fly back to the house. Throw my clothes in the washer, jump in the shower, scrub my hair, scrub my face again, scorch my mouth with mouthwash again, curse one WHOLE helluva lot. Dry the dog off some more (corgis have thick fur, even when they’re not the long-haired variety).

F**kkkk! We have an interesting article reporting that by far the largest number of covid cases requiring hospitalization in downstate New York has occurred among people who dutifully self-isolated, a report we had just begun to read when Amazon Moron showed up at the door.

Yeah. This episode would explain that, right?

May 7, 2020
by funny
1 Comment

Not in Kansas Anymore…

Argh. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure!

As a side note to today’s craziness..do you  like to bake bread? If so, try to get your hands on some of this stuff.

This is the Italian flour the Instacart lady showed up with a few days back, instead of the regular white unbleached Pillsbury-type stuff normal people use. Never heard of it, but since actual white flour is now a collector’s item, yesterday I decided to “stretch” my remaining flour with some of the Italianate stuff.

So, my breadmaker holds 5 cups of flour. I put in 2 cups of the Anna Nappy stuff and 3 cups of regular flour and then proceeded as usual. I like to have the breadmaker knead the dough; let it rise in the breadmaker’s container; then turn it out into a couple of loaves, let them rise on the counter, and pop them into an oven. (Tastes better than cooking in the breadmaker, for unknown reasons…)

Well. This combo made, bar none, THE most delicious white bread I’ve ever concocted! 

Dunno what it would do if you tried making the bread with nothing but the fancy Italian stuff, but a slightly less than 50/50 mix was awesome.

Speaking of food scarcity…M’hijito decided to opt the Costco junket this afternoon. Becaaauuuse: they won’t let you in there without a face mask, and he doesn’t have one.

Jayzus…. So I ordered up a few items via Instacart.

Costco has at least 50 varieties of cheap….ahem… delicious wines in the $8 to $12 range. Online? You can access two of them. Yeah. Neither of them anything you’d care to have. So I ordered one mediocre bottle of cheap red, and I guess when that’s gone — about a week from now — I’ll have to send another pup to Total Wine or AJ’s to get a couple of decent vintages.

And are they gouging on the prices!!!! One bag of Ruby’s favorite chicken jerky doggie treats? $24.39. Yeah. No kidding. For 3 pounds. If my ’rithmatic serves, that’s eight bucks a pound!!!!!

Plus tax.

Mygawd. You could buy a damn chicken and turn it into jerky on your grill, for a whole lot less than that.

{sigh} So I guess I’ll have to make my son a face mask. On the other hand, one of the women in the ’Hood has been making and selling them: $6 apiece. That might be preferable to cutting up a good scarf or pillowcase for the purpose.

****time passes…passes…passes****

Eventually, an Instacart guy showed up from the first Costco run of the day. (A real cutie, we might add! Born a mere 50 years too late…) He couldn’t find the brand of cheddar cheese I buy ALL the time there, and tried to claim he’d asked someone for it. This, after I explained in the special instructions where to find it. That’s hopeless BS, because the stuff is a standard there — has been for years.

So…after giving them several chances, I’d say Instacart is NOT going to do the trick as a stand-by in one’s dotage. Their contract help just doesn’t understand enough about food or about shopping to come up with the most ordinary boring stuff that you buy all the time.

Exactly how you would work the age-in-place scheme if you couldn’t get to the store and dodder around in it…escapes me. It might be that you could hire a college kid to make grocery runs for you. In that case, you’d have to do some serious training, because Americans apparently know next to nothing about real food. Evidently all anyone eats anymore is processed junk. So…how do you help them to recognize real food and, in the case of produce or fresh, raw meat, to discern whether it’s any good????

****

Thought I was kidding about the food dehydrater? Hmmm…not sooo much. The top of the line for these gadgets at Amazon sells for what three (count’em, 3) bags of doggie treats go for at Costco. Cheaper ones range from $40 to $60. Forhevvinsake, it would pay for itself in doggy treats alone in about three months…plus you’d know what was in the stuff.

The lady who makes the face masks says she’ll put a couple of them in her mailbox. So I’ll drive one down to my son, which will elicit a crabby response but at least he’ll have one. And so will I. I’ve been too lazy to make the things (plus I think it’s pointless, since they do nothing to protect you from getting the bug and probably do rather little to protect anyone else). Anyway, at least we’ll each be able to disguise ourselves as righteous, when called upon to do so.

heee heee hee HEEE! On that note, that idiot Trump is in town, entertaining his constituency of morons and sheeple. I just checked news.google.com and found THIS bit of hilarity.

Nope. Not in Kansas any more…

May 4, 2020
by funny
2 Comments

The Instacart Experiment: Living & Learning

Okay, so after the last Instacart experience — which was mixed, but overall pretty good — I decided to try again, needing a few items from AJ’s Fancy Overpriced Gourmet Grocery that I knew M’hijito would not be able to pick up in this week’s Costco expedition. This led to another strangely entertaining interlude.

Once again, the runners tried to substitute stuff for products they knew little or nothing about. Instacart would be excellent if you bought a lot of plain-vanilla processed, packaged foodoids — since these seem to be what most Americans eat today. But if you ask for anything at all different from what they’re used to, the results can be hilarious.

Day before yesterday, I tried to get another package of the Italian flour the last AJ’s runner stumbled upon (not having any clue what she’d found). The cupboards were bare of old-fashioned unbleached flour, but she found a tiny package — one kilo, 2.2 pounds — of real, unadulterated, un-Round-Upped, un-genetically modified Italian flour. I pointed to a picture of it on the AJ’s site and said that and only that was what I wanted. She showed up with a pound of tapioca flour! Heeeeee!

Asparagus? AJ’s carries, tucked away in a particular part of its produce department, lovely thin dainty spring asparagus. Well. Spring has sprung. I got the King Kong of asparagus, thick stocks trying to take after a sequoia tree. So those’ll be…uhm…just yummy. Maybe I can make them into asparagus soup, if I can find someone who can figure out how to buy plain old heavy cream. 😀

So, it looks like, unless there’s a way to connect through Instacart with a single person whom you could train to shop in your own style, that system isn’t going to work well for the Aging in Place scheme. It would work to some degree — you could get SOME of the products you use regularly. It surely would be better than the Beatitudes, because even if you were buying mostly processed foods, they’d still be better than the chow served in the old-folkerie’s mess halls…uhm, “restaurants” (heh!). But you’d have a very hard time getting an ever-changing variety of runners to bring what you want consistently. And that would be annoying.

An alternative might be to train your cleaning lady to shop for you. At least if you had her at hand as you were presenting your requests, you could say “…and if you don’t see this, that’s OK — don’t try to substitute anything else.” Someone like Luz, for example, could pull this off a lot better than the Instacart runners, because she’s very smart (indeed) and because she knows how to cook.

And another alternative might be to hire a college kid… There used to be two culinary schools in town. Two of the community colleges now have culinary programs, and there are a couple of free-standing scams. You could hire a student in one of those — community college kids, in particular, are always looking for side gigs. And if they’re interested in food and cooking, they’d probably have a better shot at understanding what you’re asking for.

The adventure continues…

May 3, 2020
by funny
2 Comments

The Coconut Furniture Oil Jamboree

Couple of days ago, I’m sitting here on the bed, reach for a glass of water, and wap! knock over a container of coconut oil that’s sitting there.

Dayum! Coconut oil is usually more like butter, congealed into a soft, greasy solid. But in this heat, the stuff melts and turns to liquid, kind of like olive oil. Only sweet-smelling. Naturally, the lid was loose (wouldn’tcha know it) and so oil spilled all over the top of the nightstand.

Jump up, haul the lamp and phone off the table, and run for the paper towels! I was, as you might imagine, pissed. But…after the mess was cleaned up, I thought…waitaminit here! This old nightstand looks great!

“Old” is the operative word for this piece. My mother bought it as part of a set when we came back to the States after 10 years in lovely Saudi Arabia, living with steel company furniture. That was in 1958: sixty-two years ago. It was nice furniture and it’s been reasonably well cared for, but as you can imagine, it’s got some wear & tear on it.

Was it greasy? No, not after I buffed the oil off. It was very nicely polished.

Huh. Who’d’ve thunk it?

Well, not surprisingly, plenty of folks have thunk it: naturally, I google this phenomenon and discover any number of websites describing the use of coconut oil as furniture polish. Many of them suggest adding lemon juice, whose purpose escapes me. Some even suggest it can be used to oil raw wood.

So this morning I took it into my feeble little head to take on a major project: re-oil all the kitchen cabinets.

Tried the coconut oil scheme in an unobtrusive corner. Darned if it didn’t…look pretty darned good. Oiled the whole cabinet: hot diggety!!!!!!!  Gorgeous, and it doesn’t stink! So launched into the project (which needs to be done once or twice a year, willy nilly) of oiling all the kitchen cabinets.

This coconut oil idea is inspired. When the stuff slopped on the nightstand, I was a) surprised it didn’t ruin the finish and b) impressed at the result of wiping it off and polishing. Coconut oil smells good (as opposed to the scary petrochemical odor of furniture polishes and waxes), and it’s good for your hands. The odor doesn’t linger after you’ve buffed the wood dry.

Now I’ve got the hang of it.

  • Clean the table or cabinetry first.
  • Rub on the oil with a soft rag — actually, I used a pad made with medical gauze.
  • Then wipe it off and buff vigorously with a clean rag…in this case, an old washcloth.

I ended up spending a nice slab of the day polishing the kitchen cabinets, quite the little project. The result? It looks really nice…well worth the work.