Funny about Money

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

November 8, 2017
by funny

Dog Dunes

You think I exaggerate, don’t you, with that turn of phrase? Really?

Yes. That is from one (1) twenty-pound dog. A mound of hair larger than Ruby’s head!

Is there any question why I seem to be developing an allergy to dog hair?

Well. Yes, there is. This being lovely uptown Arizona, great swaths of dust accumulate on the floors, too. I dust the floors every day… And here’s the accumulation of one (1) twenty-four-hour period:

Yup. As a practical matter, even more dust than dog hair has settled in the course of one day. And nothing is going on. The air is perfectly still: no breezes blowing, no monsoons wailing, nary a soul tracking in and out of the house.

Arizona. It’s where you come to find out what your allergies are.


November 7, 2017
by funny

Time Management: The Meta-List

So once again I find myself feeling that I spin my wheels a lot, I loaf a whole lot, and I don’t get many things done. This, as it develops, is not entirely true…but an investigation shows that I surely do not make the best of all possible use of my time.

The other day it occurred to me to list the things that have to be done, and how often (i.e., how many times per week), and the things that I’d like to do but that are not required for survival or sanity maintenance. This produced a couple of interesting lists:

Note that this does not include paid work. This is just the stuff that needs to get done to maintain the house, the human, and the dogs…more or less.

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

Soooo….WTF am I doing that blows away day after day after day with seemingly little or nothing gettin DONE??? That is the question.

Presumably, I answer that question presumptuously, what I’m doing must be LOAFING. Procrastinating. Staring into space. Surfing the Web (which is the same as staring into space).

What always gets me off my duff is a list. So the natural response to this presumption is to create a list. But what came to mind was not a daily list but a kind of weekly list: something that would posit all those things, above, which could be used to drive a daily list. Or rather, seven daily lists a week. How to construct such a thing?

Based on the frequencies suggested in the neurotic accounting above, I wondered how much time do I actually spend on these activities? Assuming I were to do them as often as I think they need to be done… Here’s what developed:

Decimals represent portions of an hour: .25 = 15 minutes, for example.

So…on a day when I was accomplishing all these things (and often I do have to do all those things in one day), I’m spending between 6 hours, 40 minutes and 12 hours, 30 minutes each day just on living tasks…not counting paid work. That comes to a potential weekly total of almost 62 hours.

Total waking hours vary by the season — I tend to sleep more in the winter because it’s dark longer. In general, I’m awake 15 or 16 hours a day, or 105 to 112 hours a week.

So in theory, the demands above do leave time to do paying work. To break loose enough time to handle a major project — approximately 40 hours a week — I would have to cut out cleaning, gardening, networking, physical therapy/yoga exercises, dog care, shopping, surfing the Web (i.e., reading daily news), blogging, and writing. Obviously, this isn’t practical…but as a practical matter, I rarely have a project that demands a full 40-hour work week.

But…think about that:

Just to keep up the house, the yard, and the pool, care for the dogs, care for myself, and have THE most rudimentary of all possible social life occupies almost 62 hours a week! No wonder I’m so tired by the time I stumble off to bed.

Admittedly, a seven-day week…but life does not stop on the weekend. When you’re freelancing, work does not stop on the weekend, either.

So, with this meta-list in hand, what would a typical daily routine look like? Days of the week would differ, of course, because not all of these things have to be done every day.

From the meta-list comes a slew of daily task lists:

Washing the hair is a major project — it requires several hours to dry, and so time must be negotiated around that process. On Wednesday, for example, the hair would have to be done early in the day so as to have it manageable before I have to leave for choir practice. And the job had better be done on Saturday, else I’ll be charging out of the house Sunday morning with dirty hair. 😀

What with the new allergy to something — very probably dog hair & dander — the floors now have to be cleaned every day. Fortunately the house is completely tiled…but this task includes cleaning under all the furniture as well as schlepping up dog hair in more visible places. Oh well. At least the house always looks nice…

Cleaning the pool is easy, but time-consuming. Blogging is time-consuming in a big way. Cleaning the house includes laundry, a multi-taskable job.  It also includes ironing, a nonmulti-taskable job…unless you regard watching Rachel Maddow while ironing as a form of multi-tasking. Writing is by its nature time-consuming, if you make yourself sit down and do the job. A mile-long walk with two dogs, one of which drags you forward and one of which drags you backward, is good exercise but can also absorb 30 or 40 minutes. The physical therapy exercises only take a few minutes, but if I were to actually do the yoga routine that I should be doing every day, that bit of self-care would consume an hour or so. “Water and tend plants” doesn’t look like much till you realize that I live in a xeric jungle. Today, for example, I started hacking back the blue plumbago and the Lady Banks rose at 10 in the morning and knocked off at about 3 p.m.

Come to think of it…I need to knock this off and get on with the next project. And so, to work..

November 6, 2017
by funny

Groceries: Online or In Person?

A thing of the past?

Here’s an amusement: Whilst Amazon makes a grab for Whole Foods, cheapies down its offerings, and turns it into an order-out joint, Aldi is going in the opposite direction: Opening newer and fancier stores, spiffing up the existing properties, and targeting customers who prefer to buy their groceries in brick-and-mortar establishments.

Interesting development, isn’t it? Aldi, according to the report linked above, is betting the farm (heh!) on the proposition that most people would rather shop for groceries in person, especially where fresh products are concerned.

Though it’s a huge risk, it makes sense when viewed in some lights. Given the traditionally low profit margins in the grocery business (typically around 5 percent), dropping your margin to somewhere around 3 percent for the privilege of letting shoppers order online and have stuff delivered has a whiff of suicide about it.

Also, it’s reasonable to suspect that a large number of shoppers may prefer to buy in person, for a variety of reasons. Some may prefer brick-&-mortar shopping all the time; some may find it more convenient to pick up food on the fly some of the time — and they may prefer to do the picking up in a real supermarket with substantial offerings, not in a Circle K.

This may apply to the young and the techie as well as to us cranky old fossils. Last night, for example, my son invited me over for dinner. He kindly made us a pizza, but realized he was missing a couple of items and he didn’t have a bottle of wine. A ten-minute trip to the Fry’s Supermarket around the corner caused these items to materialize… We didn’t have to search for them online, and we didn’t have to wait hours or a day to have them delivered. Obviously, when you order online, someone has to find your items, package them, ship them, pick them up at the warehouse, drive them across the city, and deposit them at your doorstep. That isn’t going to happen in 15 or 20 minutes.

As for us old folks: we’ve been around the grocery-delivery block.

Some time ago, I decided to try ordering up a week’s worth of groceries from the local Safeway. How wonderful, I imagined, not to have to get in the car, traipse through the homicidal traffic, trudge through the store, stand in line to pay, drag the stuff out to the car, and drive back home through said homicidal traffic.

And online grocery shopping would be wonderful. If it worked.

It probably would indeed work for a certain kind of buyer. If you subsist mostly on restaurant food and, when at home, on processed, packaged food, door-to-door grocery delivery would no doubt be highly successful for you.

But if you’re into real foods, unprocessed foods, fresh foods: not so much. The problem is, grocery-store clerks haven’t a clue about selecting fresh fruits and vegetables. What I got when I made the ballyhooed delivery order was under-ripe tomatoes, over-ripe fruit, and wilted lettuce. They don’t eat that kind of stuff, and so they do not know how a fresh melon or a fresh bunch of asparagus is supposed to look.

Nor do they know how to select a decent cut of meat.

Consequently, what you get is not very good — certainly not worth the price you pay for it.

I think the growing popularity of “organic” foods suggests that a number of people — maybe a lot of people — do care about the quality of the food they consume. And possibly that a larger number than you might expect prepare food in their homes.

My son for example, can make a pizza that you simply cannot buy at any pizzeria or grocery counter. Why would he want (for example) a random bag of soggy mushrooms delivered when he’s building a really first-rate meal?

It’ll be interesting to see what develops.

Meanwhile, while we’re watching: what’s your preference in grocery-shopping: on-line or in person?

November 4, 2017
by funny

Better Living Through Chemistry?

Chortle! One wonders, doesn’t one, whether all the miraculous elixirs offered up by the pharmaceutical industry are really God’s and Chemistry’s Gift to Personkind. Over-the-counter or by prescription, they all have some kind of side effect.

Lately I’ve been enjoying a new phenomenon: whenever I eat anything — doesn’t matter how much or how little, or what it is — I end up feeling like I’ve got a 10-pound boulder in my belly.

This uncomfortable sensation goes on for several hours. Then all of a sudden, as though a valve opened between the stomach and the gut, it disappears…and voilà! I’m starved again.

Last night as I was driving across the city to a social event, feeling like a stuffed pig, I was wondering what new ailment is this? I’d eaten at noon. It was after 6 p.m.: SIX HOURS LATER, the rather light meal I’d eaten was still sitting in my gut like a cannonball.

Occurred to me that this is a fairly new phenomenon. New…new…what am i doing that’s new… Oooooohhhh yeah!

A few weeks ago I started taking a prescribed regimen of Claritin: 10 mg in the morning and 10 mg at night. This is twice the OTC dose, but it is working to clear up some very bothersome allergic phenomena.

So yeah. Now I don’t have a stuffy nose and clogged throat. Now I have a stuffy, clogged belly.

Hmmmmmm… Wonder if there’s a correlation?

Claritin is one of the lowest-side-effect drugs on the market. Taking twice the recommended dose does nothing to you.* Side effects are rare and mild. And plugged-up-belly is not one of them. It is said to cause “stomach pain,” but this is not pain.

But…maybe “10-pound lead weight in the gut” is too complicated to describe in a list of two- and three-word side effects.

So today I’m going to kick the drug cold turkey. We’ll see what happens.

Well, I’ll tell you what will happen: the nose will stuff up again, the gunk will fill the throat again, and I’ll be choking and gagging again.

The alternative is a dose of Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), a noxious drug that I cannot take after about noon, or else it will block me from sleeping all night long. It does clear up your head, but ugh…

Flonase works handsomely.

Flonase has among its many side effects cataracts and glaucoma.

Thank you, I’d rather have the bellyache or the insomnia. If you’ve been following Windy City Gal‘s misadventures as reported at Facebook, you will know why I do not, not, NOT want to trade off a stuffy nose for glaucoma, thankyouverymuch.

It seems like every drug on the market has some sort of side effect, and among those, at least one is going to be worse than the disease. In my case, if a drug has a rare, weird side effect limited to one in 10,000 users, that‘s the one I’m gonna get. You get to the point, in your jaded old age, where you figure if the disease is not terminal or hopelessly, permanently crippling, you’re probably better off to put up with it than to take on a whole new set of annoying symptoms.

* That is not to say you should double up on the stuff! Consult a doctor before messing with any drug, prescription or over-the-counter. I am not a doctor or a pharmacist and so you should believe nothing that you read here!

November 3, 2017
by funny

Makes HOAs look good…

…almost. There’s one in every neighborhood, of course: the nutcase or the malcontent who makes life a pain for everyone around him. Check out the story of this winner! How would you like to have him living next door?

HOAs have their drawbacks. But at least they can keep this kind of lunacy under control, simply by foreclosing on the lunatic.

In my experience, though, HOAs don’t head off every problem — and in some cases they cause the problems. Have you ever known anyone who served on an HOA board to say they liked the experience? Two of my friends have had endless headaches with neighbors who let hordes of cats run loose, in direct violation of the HOA rules. Nothing has been done to stop them, and in fact the violators have loaded the board with people who resent the rules and want to get rid of them — all of them, not just the loose pets thing. Kill-the-Beasters on the extremely local level, we might say.

Another couple lives next door to a woman who is batsh!t crazy and who does all sorts of stupid little things to annoy and harass them. She threatens to drive over residents who are walking in front of their homes (like much of Phoenix, the place has no sidewalks). She went a little overboard when she menaced a city councilwoman. But nothing came of it. With one exception — her boyfriend, who lives in the same development — all of the residents want her to subside or be forced to subside, to little avail. Fortunately, though, this one doesn’t paint her house in crazy colors.

HOAs are not for me. I don’t need another layer of government lording it over me and picking my pocket. So that lets out virtually all new construction: all the recent developments in the Valley are organized as HOAs, even though if you look at the real estate listings around the state, you’ll see NO HOA! all caps bold face featured in ads as a hot selling point for central city houses. A lot of people don’t want to live in an HOA. But the choices are slim, unless you’re willing to buy an older house in an urban area, or get a large plot of land in the boondocks and build your own.

I feel exceptionally lucky in having come to rest in this part of the ’hood. With one minor exception, all the immediate neighbors are quiet, and they all keep up their property. Those who are mentally ill are discreetly so.

The Perp owns two houses, one catty-corner across the street and one two houses down, in which he lodges his daughters. One, whom he used to call his Pretty Daughter, seems to have decamped — she was managing a fly-by-night nursing home he installed in another part of the ’hood, and it is generally believed she lives on the premises. Two young men, allegedly her “nephews” but more likely renters, live in Pretty Daughter’s house. They make a fair amount of racket with a couple of noisy three-wheelers that they like to tool around on, but not often and never for very long. Other Daughter dwells in the second house. Her schizophrenic husband moved out, and so the occasional dramas that would take place there have ceased.  Like her ex, whom she met while she was on an extended “vacation” to parts that her father would not name, she also lives on disability, and so most of us figure she also suffers from mental illness that precludes a steady job. She’s an exceptionally sweet woman…you wonder how she could have sprung from the loins of the Perp.

At any rate, both of those two houses are quiet and kept tidy. The other neighbors are very pleasant people who fit into just two categories: Couples who have lived here upwards of a two decades, raised their kids, and are aging in place; and young people who don’t want to commute, delighted to have found one of the only moderately priced tracts in North Central in which to raise a new flock of kids.

The part of the ’hood where my last house stood was not so perfect. The neighbors were an immediate cause of my desire to move.

The bunch across the street consisted of a young working divorcee who was trying to support her aged parents and a very difficult teenaged boy. They would park their cars all over the street — I got into the habit of backing into the garage because it I couldn’t back out of the driveway without risk of hitting some of the rolling stock. As the boy got older, he got nastier: he beat up on a girlfriend and I believe he also abused the old folks.

Then the couple next door to them, who were exceptionally nice people, sold to a violent nut case, given to throwing furniture through the front window. The day he got into a screaming fistfight with a contractor on his driveway was the day I decided to put the house on the market.

But there was also the “pastor” and his wife who liked to go off on months-long “missions” to convert the heathen overseas, during which they would rent out their house. One time they rented it to a clan of Gypsies (real Gypsies, according to the police), who turned it into a used car lot — parked used cars  with “FOR SALE” painted on them all over the yard and up and down the streets. Even though he evicted them when one of the neighbors found an address through his church and reported the happenings, it still was an annoying, property-degrading mess.

And there were the Russians whose teenaged boys could NOT be taught how to use a garbage can. The alley behind their house was always…interesting.

And the widow of the lovely man who died…he had taken care of her, as it develops, just as he had taken meticulous care of their home. She was bipolar, severely so, and couldn’t care either for herself or for the property. The place rotted away until finally she left — probably foreclosed. She was much liked by the neighbors, and so that was pretty heartbreaking.

And the “Contractor”: a self-employed loser who let the house where he was living go to rack & ruin. WHAT a mess. He had a dog that would come over the fence and attack my German shepherd whenever I walked anywhere near the place. As it developed, the former owner had stupidly carried back the mortgage when she sold to him. It took her almost two years to evict him, during which of course he lived there for free.

And the settlement house for indigent adults. They at least were quiet, and the proprietors sort of kept up the property.

And the couple who painted their house lime green. Hubby did this one day while the wife was at work. She told a neighbor that she was shocked…but she never did get him to repaint it to her taste. Fortunately, the front yard had a lot of shrubbery that blocked the view of the place.

LOL! All that local color has moved on, lhudly sing huzzah.

But the ultimate reason I moved — construction of the damned lightrail — stayed.

The city bulldozed an entire row of homes along Conduit of Blight Blvd — including one of the prettiest homes in the tract. The racket, dirt, and chaos that ensued went on for several years, and now, as we see, we have a wonderful train that freights drug-addicted bums straight into the ’hood. Because people in Richistan have money and concommitant political clout, the City built a rather attractive buffer zone, complete with a ten-foot-high decorative wall, along Conduit of Blight. But you still get the bums and the BONG BONG HONK HONK of drivers trying to clear the drunks and the stoners off the rails as the train bears down on them.

At the time, I actually wanted to move out of the hood: get as far away from the ill-advised train as I could. But I simply couldn’t afford anyplace comparable in an area where I wanted to live. Ticky-tacky suburbs are not my cup of tea, and Yarnell was just too far away and too ill-supplied with daily amenities (like, say, a grocery store and a gas station?). Then as now, a comparable house east of Seventh Avenue — anywhere east — would cost at least a hundred grand more than I could get from my house.

Satan and Proserpine had done a lot of upgrades to this house, and the cost was essentially an even trade. They did, it is true, misrepresent some of the things they’d done, so pulling out their DIY efforts, replacing them, installing xeric landscaping, and bringing the wiring to code added another $40,000 to the house’s price. But today, thanks to gentrification by the younger generation, the house is worth over $110,000 more than I paid for it.

And today, also thanks to a major recession that led to a spate of evictions followed by the present wave of gentrification, the neighbors are a LOT fancier. 😀