WHY COMPANIES “GO BAD”

While our planet is going south, the west is burning down, and COVID-19 is killing tens of thousands of people, a lot of corporations are in a state of self-demolition. WordPress is an obvious example, but by no means the only one. The usual reason is dysfunctional management. I don’t mean bad management. I mean management by those who have never done the work they are supervising but nonetheless feel impelled to micromanage their employees.

LET’S HAVE A MEETING!

I worked for several companies that died of meetings. Half the company worked. The other half were supposed to be the “important thinkers” who would figure out how to make our product popular and thus earn a lot of money. Never mind that the companies inevitably were already making more than enough money. In big money corporations, there’s never enough money.

When a company is new, it’s all about customer-friendliness and great support.  As the money rolls in, generosity to customers equivalently sinks. Phones don’t get answered. They move customer service to Pakistan where underpaid and untrained personnel give you fake answers after disconnecting you multiple times.

Important meeting

I remember when the two best service providers I had were Dell and AT&T. You may not be old enough to remember, but once upon a time, Dell had fantastic service. You called them. Someone who spoke your language answered the phone. If they didn’t know the answer off the top of their head, they knew who to ask. On the other hand, AT&T got famous for not only fixing the problem about which you had called, but fixing every other problem you had. The only thing wrong with the service was that you could be on the line for days at a time.

Then, Dell moved all their customer and technical service to India or Pakistan or who knows where. No matter what your problem was, they always said “Yes, we understand, very sorry for the inconvenience” and promptly give you the wrong part number. AT&T stopped training their service people so they couldn’t help you because they knew nothing about the product. They had scripts. If you weren’t asking a question that was on their script, they were lost. Even if it was on the script, they were still lost.

BAD SERVICE IS A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE

It was a malignancy and spread from corporation to corporation like the flu. I had a medical service and needed a medical oncologist, having already had my surgery. “Oh,” said the service provider, “We don’t have our doctors listed by specialty.”

“Then how do you list them? Alphabetically?”

Because I worked in a very high tech environment for most of my professional life, I got to see these disasters go from concept to creation to bankruptcy, often in as little as a year and a half. Everything would be working fine. Then someone would get a bright idea that it would work so much better if they saved a few dollars and had people in far away countries answer the phones. Or, they would decide what they needed was a new manager. Did they choose a manager who understood the work he or she would be supervising? Not on a bet. You always got to work for some suit who had no idea what you actually did but would set up a new bunch of rules that would make accomplishing your job increasingly difficult until you finally gave up.

Meanwhile, all those smartass promotional people held meetings all day every day and never produced any work — nor did they promote the product.

I firmly believe that people don’t get promoted on the basis of their success, but on their failures. The bigger the failure, the heftier the next promotion will be. For example, a man we knew was fired as Boston’s housing supervisor. He was then hired to run Blue Cross and when that division crashed and burned, he was hired to be the state’s transportation manager. He also built the triplex condos in which we lived in and forgot to install heating and failed to install electricity in at least one bedroom. Just forgot. I’m surprised he isn’t the governor by now, but I think he got old and retired.

BEWILDERMENT

I’m totally bewildered at who WordPress thinks their target audience is. The first thing you do when you are creating software — for for that matter, documenting software — is figuring out with whom you want to connect. But they didn’t do that. I never got a questionnaire asking what I wanted. Nobody got one. So if they know what their target audience is, I’d be curious to know where they got their statistics. To take a reasonably simple format and make it far more complicated is not the usual way to go. Mind you WordPress isn’t the only company who has done this. There was  Corel WordPerfect, StarOffice Writer, Adobe InCopy (it took off, but never flew), and many more including Wang. There were several reasons. Overly complex design, incomprehensible formatting (some companies feel obliged to recreate standard definitions so that you have to relearn everything — including the definition of “paragraph” or “file.” Graphic programs are particularly fond of doing this. And finally, inadequate documentation.

Open source — Free and it works as well or better than anything you can buy!

I used to lobby for standardization of terminology so anyone could easily move from application to application without having to relearn everything. Nope. To this day, I have at least half a dozen graphics programs I can’t use because I don’t understand what they are talking about. They use the same words other programs use, but they don’t mean the same thing.

I frankly don’t have a clue what it is that these companies — including WordPress — are trying to achieve. Even if you manage to figure out how to use their block format — and can work within the very limited boundaries they set — why force you customers to go through this experience? At best, they will be annoyed and at worse, they’ll quit.

THEY DON’T WANT US

I understand that WordPress doesn’t want we “oldies” ruining their “new and youthful” look. For all that, I’m not seeing a big influx of young bloggers or business people. The “new” bloggers set up their blog, write a few pieces, and are gone in a month or two. The internet is full of commercial websites, most of which are a lot easier to use than WordPress and this includes Wix, FourSquare, AWS (Amazon), Google, and oodles of self-hosted setups. By tossing out we older writers, they are making their site a lot less interesting.

Visitors come to read stories and look at photography and art … and may stay to buy something. There is no shortage of commercial space, but there IS a shortage of blogging venues. Why not play to the “soft” area of the market rather than the already overworked and overpriced commercial zone?

My guess — and I’m not alone in this — is that they don’t actually know what they are doing or why. They just feel they should be doing something that will make them look cool, new, and youthful. Personally? I’m guessing they will fail within the next three to four years. They may go bankrupt, or diminish to the point where they get bought out and become a subset of another product.

DESTROYING AMERICA

And They Cheer Him On, by Rich Paschall

Just as he has done with many of his businesses, Trump has taken America down the road to ruin, and it was not paved with good intentions. Everything he has done, or not done in many cases, has brought the country to a perilous position.

Let’s go back to the beginning. No, not to the insults of immigrants, the disabled, the press, women, and others. Let’s go golfing. You may recall that DJT promised to be working in the White House and not out on the golf course. He lied.

He has gone golfing so often it is hard to keep count. When he brags about donating his 400,000 USD salaries to charity, keep in mind that his golfing has cost the country 140 million dollars at this point. Here is the super corrupt part. Trump properties bill the federal government for rooms for the Secret Service and for other amenities and services for Trump and his guests. Guess who benefits from the profits. Yes, he can funnel your tax dollars into his own organizations. It is a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause, but he likely can not spell it or know its meaning. If you listened closely to the video, you will notice that he said he would be working his ass off.  Well clearly, that’s not true, but I digress.

Trump Airlines – Trump beverages – Trump, the board game – Trump Casinos – Trump Magazine- Trump Mortgage- Trump Steaks – Trump Vodka – Trump University – Trump travel site

Seriously, how do you bankrupt a casino, or multiple casinos, for that matter? Or multiple times? The “stable genius” managed to do just that. If I listed all of his failures I would be taking up too much space, but you get the idea. So the master of failure would now like you to believe that he has made great trade deals, great international agreements, great domestic agreements. He will tell you what a wonderful job he has done for everyone, while it is more likely that he is being played. Sometimes the con man gets played by a better con man. His tariff wars benefitted only on the other side. It meant he had to bail out farmers and US business. His attempts at diplomacy with the North Koreas and the Russians went nowhere while he was trashing our relationship with our long-standing allies. And after he failed so often, he announced at his rallies that he was a huge success and his supporters cheered him on.

“This is their new hoax,” Trump continued.

We have already detailed how the Trump administration completely mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning in “Backfire: The Big Miscalculation.” At this writing, there have been over 5,950,000 cases and 182,000 deaths. DJT and most of his red-state governors are accomplices in the death of thousands of Americans. More than eleven thousand have died of coronavirus in Florida alone where Trump had hoped to hold the Republican Convention  The US has 4 percent of the world’s population but almost 24 percent of the coronavirus cases. After all this time, there still is no national plan of action to stem the tide. And yet, Trump tells his followers he is doing a great job and they cheer him on.

Holding Back The Economy

While the coronavirus remains out of control, it will be impossible for many businesses to make a comeback. Most people are afraid to fly so the airlines suffer. Worse yet, Americans are not even allowed in many countries, stifling international travel and business. Restaurants and other service industry businesses are either closed or open on a limited scale. Of course, in some red states, business is wide open and people are dying at an alarming rate. People are not shopping in stores and most are sticking with purchasing essentials only. Those who have lost their jobs or are afraid of losing a job are not likely to buy anything extra at this time. Vast numbers of people remain unemployed. Trump will tell you they have added over 9 million jobs to the economy. This is a massive misstatement. After losing over 22 million jobs in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions have been called back. Trump will take credit for this as “job creation” and his cult will cheer him on.

Sometimes enough is not enough

Holding Back People

Most countries in the Western World have developed programs to help their citizens through the COVID-19 pandemic. Here the Republicans have literally thrown a bone to the people and think that should suffice. In return for any additional help, they wish to bargain away Social Security and Medicare, you know, those programs you paid into all your life to help secure your retirement. Since the Democrats in the House would not allow this, the people have received no additional help.

Apparently, the greedy millionaires and billionaires of the Republican Party (no longer a Grand Old Party) do not know how the economy works. Providing stimulus for the rich does not create jobs and it does not help society. People who already have enough money to buy whatever they want are not buying extra with more money. Corporations are not creating jobs with stimulus money. Many are buying back their stock. Here’s the corrupt part. Businesses associated with DJT received “small business COVID loans” and money under Payroll Protection Program. Meanwhile, many small businesses did not get help because the money ran out.

People without jobs and little money will spend unemployment money and stimulus money on goods and services, thus paying sales taxes and providing jobs. Many are in need of things they can not afford now. Buying goods is what helps the economy, not giving the rich more money. It’s simple Economics 101 but Trump doesn’t seem to understand it. He will tell his rallies that he has done a great job for the people, and the uneducated will cheer him on.

Sources: Between his Twitter fits, rallies that spread the virus and his golf outings, DJT does not have much time to read, but perhaps you do. Facts were sourced or verified from the following:
Donald Trump’s 13 Biggest Business Failures“, by Tessa Stuart, Rolling Stone, rollingstone.com, March 14,2016.
Trump-branded properties charged federal government at least $1.2 million, records show,” By Curt Devine and Maegan Vazquez, CNN Investigates, cnn.com, March12, 2020.
Trump is the worst possible president for this moment,” by Micahel Gordon, an opinion columnist, Business Insider, businessinsider.com
Trump says he’s ‘so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius’ in tweet bashing 2020 Dems,” by William Cummings, USA Today, usatoday.com, July 11, 2019
Trump calls coronavirus Democrats’ ‘new hoax’,” by Lauren Egan, nbcnews.com, February 28, 2020.
Coronavirus: Florida reports more than 4,600 new cases Friday,” NBC WESH2, wesh.com, August 21, 2020.
The U.S. has only regained 42% of the 22 million jobs lost in the pandemic,” by Jeffry Bartash, Market Watch, marketatch.com, August 7, 2020.
Trump Associates and Members of His Administration Received Millions in Loans From Coronavirus Bailout,” by CALEB MELBY AND SHAHIEN NASIRIPOUR / BLOOMBERG, time.com, July 7, 2020.
See also: “Backfire: The Big Miscalculation,” SERENDIPITY, August 1, 2020.
The Two Pandemics,” SERENDIPITY, July 6, 2020.

WHAT’S THERE TO BE HAPPY ABOUT?

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #12


So, Fandango would like to know what is “something that brings me joy.” Brings me joy? Well, I was briefly very happy that our appraisal came back at $10.000 more that what we needed and learned at the same time, that houses like ours are in high demand. You coulda fooled me!

These houses were all built by a single builder and he was minimally competent. At best. For example, he put a piece of our house on the neighbor’s land and it had to be later addressed by a property swap. Why did he do it? He didn’t believe in measurement. There was a big rock on the right side of the property, so he couldn’t put the house there. He could have moved the house forward on the property … or deeper on the property, but that would have been too complicated. So he moved it to the left and a quarter of it was then on someone else’s land. He also dug the well in the middle of the front sidewalk. But let’s not be fussy.

Most of them are on this road, but there are a few nearby. They aren’t beautiful to look at and in fact look rather like a big breadboxes. But they are easy to live in, easy to maintain. Big enough — and easy to redesign, exterior and interior. They have no style at all, so whatever you want them to look like, that’s what they look like. Modern or colonial or eclectic. Anything goes. Most of the single family homes in the area are much older than this one. They are more elegant to look at, but they have all the issues of 200-year old houses including seepage, crumbling foundations … and a design where absolutely nothing is anything resembling a standard size. This may not sound like a big deal until you try to buy new windows or doors. Or anything, really.

So that was a good thing. But we still don’t have the paperwork OR the money. Nonetheless, the guys were here early this morning and built the new boiler. Tomorrow morning, they will be here to remove the old boiler and install the new one. So, by tomorrow night, we’ll have a new boiler. I’ve put down the downpayment and the August payment, but by September, I sure do hope this refi is won and done.

The problem is largely that no one is in his or her own office. Not only the company with whom we are working (Mutual of Omaha, who really ARE familiar with the process). Not the appraisers. Not the underwriters. No two people are in the same office space at the same time, so everything take at least twice as long and my agent took his family on vacation last week. I took it personally. He should have stayed home and taken care of my refinance.

I’m told not to worry because as long as we get this done by the end of the month, we’re good. I sure hope so. So that’s the good part.

The bad part? Everything else. I’m good with Kamala Harris, though I really wanted Elizabeth Warren, but I get it. Biden was under a lot of pressure to pick a Black woman and that’s not unreasonable, but I still like Warren better. But I’m not unhappy with Kamala and the combination of Biden-Harris is pretty good. He’s a softie and she’s an attack dog. That could work out well. Also, I’m really looking forward to Pence V. Harris. That could be … well … something special.

And tucked in the back of my mind is the hope that in the end, Trump will be out on his big, fat butt and we will have our country back.

CAPITALISM AROUND THE WORLD

In a world that has gotten rather grim, this made me laugh.
I’ve seen it before. It made me laugh a couple of years ago,
so maybe it’ll make you laugh now. 

NOTE: CHANGING THE SIZE OF THE FONT: If you don’t know how to enlarge type, if you have a PC, there are three dots at the far end of the line on which the post’s logo shows. If you click it, it will show you a + and a -. Hit – to make it smaller and (duh) + to make it bigger. I use it a lot for pieces like this where you really can’t make the text much bigger and also for cartoons where the “speech” is often too small for me to see. Very useful. I’m sure there’s an equivalent on the Mac and if you use Chrome, probably it’s exactly the same since Chrome is pretty much the same on all machines. This is useful to anyone whose eyes aren’t as good as they used to be and works on ALL text.

THE SOCIOPATHIC CONTRACTOR – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In 1987, my ex husband and I, along with our two children, spent weekends and summers in a one bedroom cottage on my mother’s property in Easton, CT. My grandparents had lived in the cottage when I was growing up. It was fine for them but at this point, both kids were sleeping in the living room. It was time to get a bigger house. So we decided to build one on a piece of adjoining property that Mom gave me.

We hired an architect and spent nine months designing a beautiful but budget friendly house. Unfortunately, our architect was calculating costs based on the prior year’s cost per foot. And costs were apparently rising at a ridiculous rate. When we put the house out to bids from contractors, the bids were twice what we had budgeted. We couldn’t afford to build our dream house anymore!

Only one bid came in low enough that we could just barely stretch to afford it. It came from a general contractor we knew personally. Mac was a well-liked, well-respected member of our tennis club. He had even been president of the club. We knew his friends and family. We asked him why he could put in such a low bid. He said he was just starting in the contracting business and wanted to use our house as a marketing show piece. He’d do it for cost and not expect a profit.

Mac working on the house foundation

We drafted an air tight contract (my ex was a lawyer). We broke ground. We wrote checks. The house was framed out but not enclosed. Winter was coming. We had put in all the money we were contractually obligated to put in. It was up to Mac to put in his share. On paper.

Mac told us he didn’t have the money to finish the house. If we wanted to protect the structure from the coming winter, we would have to pay for everything going forward, above and beyond the contract.

We were between a rock and a hard place. We’d lose our significant investment and our house if we cut our losses and walked away. We were frantic. We ended up selling three of my thirteen acres of land to help finance the now much more expensive house. We also borrowed money from my parents and went deeper into debt. We finished the house but it took forever. I kept paying all the bills I received but contractors either didn’t show up or came but did a shoddy job. We couldn’t understand what was going on.

Me and my kids as house framed out

Until one contractor came to me, toward the end of the process. He complained that Mac had not paid him until he threatened to sue. When he did get a check for $2500, it bounced. Mac had told him that the reason he was stiffing the contractors on their bills was that WE were not paying our bills to Mac. I was shocked. I showed the contractor my canceled checks to Mac, covering everything.

I hired a lawyer. He said that this was the worst case of construction fraud he’d seen in 15 years of practice. Apparently, Mac had just taken most of our money for himself. He was doing the same thing to another family at the same time. When contractors demanded payment, he would use some of my money or the other family’s money to pay them off and get them off his back. He was robbing Peter to pay Paul and visa versa. He was paying the contractors just enough money to get the jobs done – eventually. It took a year and a half to build our house.

My son on the building site

We fired Mac and finished the house without him. His partner told us that he would never work with Mac again. He also told us that the estimate Mac gave us was based on no calculations and no facts. Mac just came up with a number he thought we’d accept.

We couldn’t sue Mac because our lawyer couldn’t find any of our money. Mac was broke. There was no money to recover. No one could figure out what he had done with all the money he took from us, that didn’t go into our house. It came to over $200,000! His wife swore he didn’t spend it on his own house or family.

Years later, his wife discovered that Mac had conned her as well. He was supposed to be contributing his income to the college funds of his three kids. There was no college account. He was also supposed to be filing and paying the family’s tax returns. He not only didn’t pay taxes, for years he never even filed returns. The IRS came after his wife, who worked, and garnished her salary. That’s when she left Mac, taking her three kids with her.

Mac was obviously a sociopath. He screwed a lot of people. The building of my house turned out to be one of the major stress periods and financial drains of my life. I love my house and am still living in it 28 years later. But it is in spite of all the angst we suffered during the building process.

I recently renewed my friendship with Mac’s ex wife. We commiserate together over being taken to the cleaners by Mac. We still have no idea where all the money went. We think it might have gone into a land deal that went south. Mac always had some new money-making scheme in the works. But we’ll never know. They say that building a house is throwing money into a black hole. Well, in our case, it really was a black hole.

LETTER TO AN OVERSEAS FRIEND – LIFE IN THE CRAZY ZONE

Bonnie passed at the beginning of June. We were doing what we swore we would NOT do, which was keeping her alive when it was obvious that she was really gone. At least she was (mostly) physically healthy until the end, not counting the blindness, deafness, and dementia. I thought I’d written about it. It was a relief in the end. I had not realized how much of our day was involved in caring for Bonnie. I hope she and Gibbs are friends again.

The face that launched a thousand cookies!

We are still waiting for a final word on our refinance and THEY are waiting for the appraisal, which normally takes about a week and is now just four days ago. We might have it tomorrow or Thursday. If it’s OK, we are a “go.”

I have plan B if it doesn’t work out and I’ve put in the down payment on the boiler and prepaid the payment for August, so I don’t owe them anything more until September. It’s the back of the house that needs more immediate work — and the one remaining toilet that needs to be replaced before it starts to leak. It’s badly corroded internally and sooner or later, it’ll just stop working. The other two have been replaced.

I don’t know what will happen with this election. It OUGHT to be a full landslide against Trump, but he is doing things that I didn’t believe any president could do. Stuff that was never legal, but he has corrupted the U.S, Attorney, too. Stacking the court hasn’t done him as much good as he thought it would. It turns out that Supreme Court judges don’t have to answer to anyone since they are appointed for life. He finally admitted that we have a pandemic which is likely to get worse before it gets better. It’s bad in most of the country. It was much better here, but we are beginning to see another rise now. It’s very small so far, but I think we are about to get wave number two as people pour in from other states where it is worse and bring the virus with them.

Theoretically, we are trying to keep them out, but that’s effectively impossible. This IS one country and you can’t close all the roads in and out of the few states that have managed the pandemic better then others … and ALL of them are in this northeastern region of the country — New York and New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine). New York has the biggest problem New York City is like London: jam-packed top to bottom with high-rises and other than a few parks, no safe place to go.

Meanwhile, the teacher’s (national) union is threatening a strike if Da Prez doesn’t pull back on his orders to open all the schools full time next month. As one teacher’s sign put it, “I can’t teach if I’m dead.”

A point well taken.

The additional unemployment money the government was feeding into the economy ends this Friday and there is no follow-up plan. Along with the expanded unemployment, the protection against eviction ends for renters. I don’t know what they think evicting so many people will accomplish. The result will be a massive housing crisis – tens of thousands lot of empty apartments and no one to rent them. An awful lot of people don’t have jobs to go back to. The places they used to work are gone. If they close down restaurants a second time, most of them won’t reopen. The entire hospitality industry is down the tubes — and that includes places like casinos.

This country, whatever happens in the next election, is going to be a different one than that which we had when we went into this pandemic.. There are very few restaurants or hotels except for chains (like McDonald’s) where you can order from your car plus take-out places for Chinese food and pizza. Many hotels will never reopen, at least not as hotels. Many malls are going to be empty hulks. We can fix this — over time — but not with Trump at the helm. He is a deeply mentally-ill man.

Close for now or forever?

We are going to have to rebuild our economy. We need to bring production facilities back to the U.S. and end pur insane total dependence on foreign manufacturing and international freigh. We don’t need to eliminate foreign production, but we certainly need to bring back at least some basic, necessary industries to the U.S.

Airlines are dying and they are almost giving away cars. Sports, which only started a few days ago, are showing up with huge clumps of COVID-19. The pandemic is alive and getting worse.

Trump seems to be trying to start his own Civil War using Homeland Security as his personal secret service. It looks worse on TV than it really is (I had a long talk with a friend who lives there last night and he says it’s basically confined to a single block in mid-town Seattle — other side of the continent from us) … but he’s threatening to move into other cities … and I think that really COULD cause a war. People are so angry.

There’s potentially some good news about vaccines — but there are months of testing yet to come. They don’t know how long protection lasts and whether via vaccine or suffering through the illness confers long-term immunity. It might be less than a year. AND it might not work for everyone. And then, of course, there’s the battle for equal justice which Trump is totally ignoring … but the citizens are NOT ignoring. That battle has been waiting for 150 years to blow up. Mind you, this is not by any means its first blow-up, but this one involves more people of different races — and maybe that means something. And Trump has managed to get his very own secret police involved. Gee, and right here! Who’d have thunk it?

So, summarizing: we have no schools, no plans for what to do about them … and students are falling farther and farther behind. Computers are not a real substitute for schools. Kids need more than memorization. They need relationships with other  kids and teachers. They need the social experiences that will make them into real people and maybe save us from a future too much like the present.

Of course, a lot of people are dying — and not just old people. People get sick, get better, but there are after and side-effects from the virus — even in very young people — and there are NO cures. None at all. We have not advanced much from medieval times in terms of how to deal with a pandemic whose source of infection we don’t really understand. True this plague is a lot less lethal than Bubonic Plague, but it’s bad enough. COVID-19 grinds slowly, but surely. It just keeps going.

We have killer mosquitoes which are an outgrowth of our changing climate. These mosquitoes never came this far north before, but it has been warm through the winter, so the bugs didn’t die and now we have lethal mosquitoes. Very few people survive those infections (there are two or three of them and I forget the names).

Trump, in his madness, thinks he can order sick people to work and that solves all the problems. He has the mental aptitude and social graces of a toddler with a bad temper. As for medical care: “Obamacare” (really it’s the ACA, but everyone calls it Obamacare), we are eligible for Medicare which was put in place in the early 1970s by Lyndon Baines Johnson — along with Medicaid that supposedly helps those who really have NO money at all. It isn’t free, but it’s a lot less than we’d pay if we were working. I think also that Massachusetts is better off than most states. We had our ducks in a row,  medically speaking, for at least 25 years — the first state to have full medical care for everyone. Under a Republican governor too.

I suppose in the end, what worries me the most is if we are going to have a “real” election and whether or not we will wind up in our own civil war. I would have thought this was impossible, unthinkable. Obviously not. It’s looking very real and I am so glad we live out here in the sticks. Whatever is going to happen, it’s the big cities that are going to get hit the hardest. We are a low density population. The battles will be fought in the cities.

A woman wearing a mask walks past a wall bearing a graffiti asking for rent forgiveness on La Brea Ave on National May Day amid the Covid-19 pandemic, May 1, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. – Several cities and states, including California, have passed executive orders prohibiting eviction of tenants affected by the coronavirus crisis. But when the lockdown lifts, the moratorium will end. And tenants will have to pay their back-rent or move out. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Finally, there’s the mental state of our country. People are depressed, bummed out, demoralized. Wondering if there is a normal in our future or if this is the new normal. I really don’t know. I have no way to predict anything and should we manage to have a fair election — without the intrusion of China, Russia, and Iran — there’s a big question about whether or not Trump would even be willing to leave the White House.

It’s a catastrophe, top to bottom. And how quickly it all happened, too. From what we thought was a normal country to this disaster in just about three years, most of it in the past four months.

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

WHERE’S MY STUFF? – Marilyn Armstrong and Rich Paschall

I know this isn’t the sexiest subject on the Internet, but this morning, I had to explain to my furniture store from whom — at the beginning of June — we ordered a new loveseat. The one we sit in — ALL the time — is 15 years old and has more or less collapsed. Considering that we are home pretty much all the time, we need something to support our backs — and sturdy enough to not be done in by the Duke’s sharp, pointy feet.

They have no idea when I’ll get my sofa. I’m not in a hurry anyway, so it was more a matter of information than urgency. Rich Paschall has explained this to me and to you (if you read the posts), I explained it to her. She hadn’t understood it either and said she was grateful because customers get restless and don’t seem to understand why the world isn’t working like it used to.

Tracks are the road

Most people think the delays are (or were) because so many people are (were, will be) sick, but that was where it began. From then on, it is far more complicated and it is not repaired. Most places aren’t entirely sure how to repair it. Until it is finally fixed, it might be quite a long time  before we see the improvements, even if every airline and freight mover works as hard as they can to get it working. Old ideas need to be replaced, in some cases with older ideas we abandoned or changed to entirely new ways of doing things.

We won’t have an economy if we can’t move our goods. Forget about overseas shipping. Even shipping in this country — which is a very big country with many airports and uncounted numbers of roads — has a lot of moving to do.Living in New England, we are completely dependent on getting fruits and vegetables from California, Florida, and Mexico from November through April and often longer. By early summer, I’m drooling over the idea of a fresh orange.

Spanning the river

Weather matters. Road conditions are critical.  That’s why public works — resurfacing, rebuilding roads and bridges — is a very big deal. It’s not just whether or not you get to work on time.

It’s also whether or not you have work to get to.

We need trains that run in addition to trucks, but we’ve never bothered to repair the tracks, so throughout the country, many direct routes are unusable. We have the trains, but the tracks are old and have not been maintained.

So, while wondering how come we don’t have our new recliner, we should ponder where it’s coming from and how it will somehow get from it’s point of manufacture to the shop in Uxbridge (where we bought it) and ultimately, to our living room.

A big truck and a low bridge

So for all of you waiting for a shipment, I’m posting a list of three of Rich’s well-written, clearly explained posts about the shipping. How it is broken and how it is being resurrected — to the degree that it can be resurrected.

I’m sure most of you don’t read these pieces because they aren’t sexy or exciting, They won’t make you laugh, but it’s information you nee, whether you are running a business or dependent on those who do. Shipping affects everybody, from grocery stores to flower growers, and people who just want a new fridge.

No one has stopped making stuff … but getting it? That’s a whole other story.

1. THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTION – RICH PASCHALL

2. SENDING AND RECEIVING STUFF – RICH PASCHALL

3. BRING ON THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – RICH PASCHALL

Considering that I had to explain this to my furniture company this morning what’s going on in the shipping industry, I’m pretty sure we all need to understand how complicated this process is. We’ve come to depend on getting everything as soon as we want it, whether it’s coming from China, England, or Australia.

Stuck in traffic on the way to Connecticut

The freight and shipping lines are broken. Like the damaged train tracks all over the U.S,, our supply lines are badly damaged. Restoring them to something like what we used to have won’t be instant. It will take time, cost big money, and require rethinking the process.

It’s a great opportunity for local farms, carpenters, builders … anyone whose business is close to its customers to do a major “reboot.” For everyone else, it’s the giant migraine of migraines. Be patient … or order locally, even if it costs more — assuming there IS a local manufacturer. When we moved all our manufacturing to Asia, a lot of things we all need went far away. I don’t think we make kitchen or laundry appliances anywhere in this country. When you aren’t buying it from a Chinese factory, it will cost more and try to remember even if it has an American brand name on it, that doesn’t mean it was made here or even on this continent.

On the other hand, it might be worth more, too. And you might get it during this lifetime.

ONCE UPON A TIME, WE HAD A GOVERNMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

For the past couple of weeks, Garry and I have been watching (again) all 7 seasons of “The West Wing.” Aside from being a brilliantly written show, it clarifies where we are as a nation. That we are fighting exactly the same battles today we were battling 10 years ago. They are using the same words on the show we are using now. They are fighting the same “refusnik” Senate we have been fighting. Maybe it’s worse now, but it was not much better then.

As you watch the show, it produces a lot of responses:

  1. Realizing there were actually some good television shows with great dialog.
  2. Recognizing the mistakes Democrats made, mostly by trying to be everything to everybody and never being themselves.
  3. Failing to recognize issues which needed to wait until another day would become life and death issues in less than a decade. For example, all those environmental issues they ignored or avoided because it would anger contributors or Republicans or their own members.
  4. Never really confronting the gun issue or immigration.
  5. Often doing half a job and never completely dealing with major issues.

The show is so well written that you see how and why they fail and why even the successes aren’t really successful, how many bills were essentially toothless.

Middle of the road is not a safe place to drive and this show has a liberal president who is essentially afraid to be the liberal he really is. He’s always trying to placate someone and the results leave you wondering if he really accomplished anything. When you drive in the middle of the road, you are very likely to crash into another car or truck or pedestrian.

The show is so well written you feel as if you are actually participating in a government. Our government. Because whatever is wrong with their televised version of “The West Wing,” it is a government. They try very hard to do the right thing. Even though they often don’t get where they should go, they do the best they can. They work very hard. Win, lose, or partly succeed, it was a government, though I think people on it were a bit more clever and witty than they are in real life.

It’s playing continuously on Netflix. These days, because we have been down the Obama and now the Trump path, we know where those decisions lead and why it wasn’t the right way to go. We watched the whole series during the last few weeks and when we ran out of shows, we decided to watch it again. It fills a gap in our lives. It makes us feel that somewhere in the ether, a better government awaits us.

LET’S BAN PENNIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email from AT&T. It was alarming. I was overdue on my bill! They were going to report me to collection agencies, send it to all those companies that decide whether or not you deserve to have a credit card or a mortgage.

I was surprised because I paid the bill. On-time. Online. I know I did.

Obverse side of a 1990 issued US Penny. Pictur...

So, after resetting my password — it doesn’t matter how many times I set my password … the next time I go to AT&T’s website, I will have to do it again — I looked at my bill. Somehow, I had underpaid the bill by a penny.

One cent. $00.01

In retribution for my oversight, AT&T said they would sic the collection agencies on me. I deserve to pay heavily for this lapse in fiscal responsibility. Though I think it was their error, not mine, but let’s not quibble.

There are many battles to fight in life. One must pick amongst them lest one be overwhelmed. This giant corporation is going to destroy my credit for want of a penny. This is what happens when computers run the world and no people monitor what they are doing. I’m sure this was all automatically generated.

I am sure if I’d called them, they would have canceled the bill. but that would take even more time and effort. I fondly believe my time, even retired, is worth more than a penny.

So I paid the bill. I wasn’t actually sure my bank would let me pay a one-cent bill, but they did.

One cent. Just one cent. Mind-boggling.

CONUNDRUM – A QUANDARY ENCLOSED BY CONFUSION AND VEXATION – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Conundrum

We are living in a conundrum of rather massive proportions. The definition is confusing because the word is confusing.

It is a difficult, vexatious problem. It is not unlike an enigma. It may be a riddle impossible to solve. It’s a quandary, often with many potential solutions, but none which work.

We live in a nation of laws where laws don’t seem to have any current relevance. Our protections — Congress and the Supreme Court — are as much a part of the conundrum as the moron in the middle. We can’t count on protections from anywhere. Where a few years ago, we were nervous and worried, today many of us are plain terrified.

He was described last Sunday by Jake Tapper as follows:

We have a “leader” who cannot lead because he knows nothing. That would be bad enough, but he also doesn’t accept advice from those who actually do know many of the answers.

He is driving the world like a 12-year-old kid who just stole the family car. Can his tiny little legs even reach the brakes?

The economy of the world is endangered by him. He refuses to allow sane people to do what needs to be done.  He denies science, evidence, facts, and truth. Although he certainly appears to be among the most stupid men alive, I have trouble believing he is really as stupid as he seems, but no matter how I look at him, I cannot see anything but stupidity, cruelty, meanness, and rage.

Did he get this way via dementia or Alzheimer’s? Is he — above and beyond the obvious loss of brainpower due to disease — also so deranged he thinks the disaster he is creating is amusing? Is anyone laughing?

In my nightmares, I imagine him sitting in one of his ugly, tasteless “homes” cackling at the misery he is causing and wondering what else he can do to make it worse.

People keep asking, “How can he look at himself in a mirror?”

The answer is simple. He has no conscience, no moral center, no sense of right and wrong. The only reason he hasn’t built more effective concentration camps is that he hasn’t got the money. Yet.

Not to worry. He’s working on it.

ABOUT THE HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — House

These days, when I hear the word “house” my brain flicks into “fix-me” mode.

On television commercials, people always have plenty of money to hire “pros” to fix whatever needs repair. I hope they get better service than we’ve gotten.

For the rest of us, finances get a bit thin as repairs pile up. All of those television people are more concerned about finding the time to find a contractor then they are about how much the job will cost.

They live on a different planet than I do. Because even when we were both working, we had to be careful about how much anything would cost and whether or not we could pay for it.

So here’s my wish list.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

A house in which the pipes never corrode or clog. Where the electricity doesn’t blow if you turn on the hairdryer at the same time as the microwave. Where the modem never needs rebooting and the price of electricity goes down. Where any item you ever purchase lasts forever and the price of heating oil is always low.

Where snow is moderate and melts before noon and the wind blows the dead leaves off the driveway.

Windows never sag. Mice don’t move in and try to take over. Ants don’t invade. Doors never rot. The lawn, mowed once, stays mowed and the garden, once weeded never needs a redo. Where a roof lasts for the life of the house, as do all the windows and doors.

And above all, never let the well run dry or lightning strike the pump.

NO SPENDTHRIFTING THIS YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spendthrift

There was a time when “spendthrift” meant spending too much money for something that wasn’t necessary. This was when we were both working and earning good salaries. Summer vacations were when we really spent money.  Great restaurants, jewelry, clothing, hotels, airfare. We worked hard. We deserved it. We still work hard, for our age and we still deserve it.

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

We did most of our summering on Martha’s Vineyard. We shared a house with a lot of other people — which made it sort of affordable. At the end of the season, everything went on sale, so I would buy all the Christmas presents in August on the Vineyard. People got interesting stuff.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club. The house where we stayed before it was restored.

Now we don’t go to the Vineyard — and we also don’t give much in the way of Christmas gifts, either. If someone really needs it, we can’t afford it. If we can afford it, they don’t need it.

Basically, these days, being a spendthrift would mean spending any money for anything unrelated to fixing the house. There’s no “fun money” lying around. Being a spendthrift was a lot more fun than being “house poor.” Although I dearly love our new bathroom, I wouldn’t object to a vacation, either.

I was a lot younger, too

I’d like to get some good graphics software for my MacBook Air, but all the good “full service” software that normally works on a Mac won’t work on this one. The MacBook Air is the lightest weight “real” computer made. It’s incredibly light. To make it so lightweight,  Mac removed a lot of stuff.  It weighs less than my more solid (older) 10-inch Kindle with its Bluetooth speaker. It also has a very small hard drive (half a gig SSD) and it feels kind of fragile. I’m very protective of it because I don’t think it would survive a serious fall onto a hard surface.

I wanted it so I could process photos while we were out of town. Without hauling the big Dell which weighs like a cinderblock. As it turns out, I can’t do it anyway. Either the hard drive is too small and the application won’t fit, or it doesn’t have the right graphics processor. Everything in the machine is rather miniature. It wouldn’t make much of a difference if it weren’t for photography. Photographs use a LOT of space.

I’ve been saved from myself. Most of what I want doesn’t exist.

Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs

Except for the vacation. I’d really like a long vacation. But we’ve got three dogs, two of whom are getting old. I’m not comfortable leaving them for long periods of time.

Never mind. We’ll save tons of money and enjoy that new shower!