Ersatz

a customer the other day  needed to come back with a particular color for her dinged-up cabinets. She agreed to do that; then told me she would wait until I was on duty again, as she didn’t want anybody else to wait on her. At first I was touched by the sentiment – in fact, I gave her a hug. Well, that’s probably a big fat NO..No for HD associates, so my first thought was, “Well, won’t be long before I get fired.”

But then I had a second emotion on my way home: guilt. I am a fraud. I act as though I care about the needs of my customers, but do I really? Or is this just about ginning (sp?) up interactions that lead to anecdotes for my book? I went home and mentioned my feelings to both Ray and John. Ray, Lee Ann and Jopie are visiting, taking care of Florida business en-route to relocation. But I digress. Anyway, I mentioned it to those two guys. Ray’s response was what difference does it make what your motive is if you give good service and the customer is happy? I agreed that was true. Later on, as John and I were watching Adam Sandler’s movie The Hustle, I shared those feelings with John. He reminded me: everything is copy. So my feelings about feeling guilty for not being a true “HD” person are just another chapter – or maybe a subchapter – in the book. Wow. Now let’s think about that for a minute. The implications are obvious. EVERYBODY that works at HD is effectively doing what I’m doing. Does M the Elder care about his customers? Most assuredly not – and he doesn’t really try to hide that fact. Does M the AM (parse that one out for yourselves) care, or does he just want more profitability (there’s your hint as to what an AM is). So really, it’s ALL just performance art. Huh? Yep – performance art. What the f is that? Another aside – my friend Margie just wrote a whole piece about swearing – really cool..I should put a link to it if she agrees. Update: she did. Click on the word ‘swearing’. Back to the point. Wikipedia says “Performance art is an artwork or art exhibition created through actions executed by the artist or other participants.” So we’re in a tableau. Question is: who’s the artist, what’s the art, and who are the viewers? Oh my, pithy questions that deserve more examination. So when you go to the paint department, you the customer are the viewer of performance art. My associates and I are the performers. The book will document the event, so I guess that makes me the artist? But it’s really more basic than that. You the customer want a nice paint color, and want someone competent to help you achieve that end. We the associates and managers want to sell you the paint and brushes and rollers and tarps – you get the idea. We want to add profit to the HD ledger and retain our positions. So let’s get legalistic now. It’s a contract. We make an offer (the paint), you accept the offer (carry the can to customer service), you give consideration (put the cost of that paint on your HD credit card). A contract, executed hundreds of times a day between willing buyers and sellers. But wait – there’s more. At a training earlier in the week, it was stressed that we must ‘upsell’. What is that? That’s where we sell you the customer a higher grade of paint that is more profitable to the store. Well, now – haven’t been told that before. Why? Because the profits were there doing things the way we were before. What’s changed? Covid is over, the season is over and inflation is likely going to depress sales. So the suggested solution is to upsell. Can I do that? Reflect back on my second really nasty confrontation with a customer who accused me of doing just that – upselling her when she didn’t need what I was selling, even though she had specifically requested it. So there’s the dance – knew there was one. An empathetic (or empathic) customer will know when they’re being upsold. I always do, being one. When I encounter it, I recoil and generally do not return to the scene of extortion. So that means every encounter must be quickly evaluated to see if the additional profit is worth the risk of alienating a customer who will know we’re trying to sell them something they may – or may not – need. A dance. My co-worker I made a comment yesterday afternoon that M the AM would likely fire him because he was selling too much low-priced paint. He is sensitive, but not empathic. However, he’s had enough experience to know how to do the dance. Not sure about the others. Time will tell. That’s all – gonna go ask Margie if I can link to her article. If she says yes, you’ll see a hot button above. Later!

Memorial Day

It started when the Civil War ended, and the first one was a parade around a race track that was used to house Union prisoners of war in Charleston, South Carolina, birthplace of the war. It was in honor of the dead buried there. Lots of other places also claim credit for it. Do we care? Not really. It’s just important that we take a moment to honor those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to America.

Ripples on a Pond demonstrate the point

Speeches will be made; picnic lunches will be eaten and maybe even patriotic songs will be sung. But today, I prefer to think about the loved ones of those who died in all the wars America has fought in since its founding. That is the proverbial ‘ripples in the pond’; all those family members and friends most affected by the loss of that soldier.

The tendency is to never talk about it; my family didn’t when my uncle Clemmie was killed in April of ’44 in New Guinea. Talking about it – about him – brought back the pain of his loss. I have come to know and love the memory of this man who died six years before I was born. I have a profound appreciation for the effect his untimely death at 21 had on everyone

The Rabbits from the story, Watership Down. It talked about mourning in the animal kingdom

That brings me to a discussion of the nature of grief. Homo sapiens are likely unique in the animal kingdom in that we can grieve the loss of a loved one for a remainder of a lifetime. We don’t forget; we just bury the pain in order to go on living. Other creatures are more fortunate. They have shorter attention spans and likely brains not capable of processing the death of a loved one for long periods of time. That may be a blessing.

So today, I honor Clemmie, for sure; but I also honor his sister Joan, Joanne, Jopie – three different names for a wonderful woman who just celebrated her 91st birthday. She still has memories of him, even though there was a fairly significant difference in their ages. But her most vivid memory is for how his death affected her mother – my grandmother. She has told me the story, and I have documented it for posterity and maybe for subsequent generations who might want to know about him after Jopie is gone.

Jopie and Jamie on the occasion of her 90th Birthday last Year

But right now, it’s her story. She is the only person I gave it to. And I will keep it that way until she goes to join Clemmie, her brother Robert and her husband Jim. She’ll also be with her mother and father again. It is then and only then that I will I share what I wrote for her with my own children. That’s a respect thing. But it’s also important to remember. So on this Memorial Day, 2022, I celebrate Jopie Estaver, my aunt, for all that she is. I hope you have a lovely day.

What is This Thing Called Leadership?

So what is this thing called leadership, exactly? Like most things of this nature, it’s easier to say what it isn’t, rather than define its true nature. So I’ll go against the grain and try to define what it is, at least so far as what America needs.

Leadership: forget it. I looked up all the various definitions from Merriam Webster to Tony Robbins. Leadership is being a leader. Boy, that’s really helpful. Tony says there’s no single answer. Thanks, Tone.. The Supreme Court would likely say they don’t know what it is, but they know it when they see it. Well, at least they usedta..that was their definition of pornography back in ’64.

OK, so we can’t define it, but maybe we can describe it. Standing up when everybody else sits down. Blue-faced Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Uh, you might say, I don’t think you should hold Mel up as an example of leadership. Oops, sorry. Moving on to real people.

Alright, I’m going back to my old tried and true: Abe Lincoln. Abraham never gave up, in spite of overwhelming abuse from his enemies as well as his peers. Yes, he made many mistakes – likely you could say, but for his efforts, the Civil War might not have happened. But he was a true leader because he never gave up. He wouldn’t quit. He tried everything in his power to see this country through what I would characterize as its darkest days. Yes, worst than now. Worse than the Depression. Worse than Vietnam. The darkest.

Lincoln and McClellan

And what was it about Abe that made him the right guy in the right place at the right time? He took ownership of the problem. Others tried to take the power away from him; he refused to cede it. Others tried to embarrass, harass and persuade him to do things he knew were wrong. He found clever and creative ways to neutralize their efforts. He was distracted by personal problems – a crazy wife and the death of a beloved son. He just picked himself up and went back to work. He was surrounded by incompetence and, in fact, treasonous intent on the part of one of his early generals (ref: picture above). He used the power of the presidency to keep replacing bad leadership until he found a general that was a keeper in Grant. He never wavered.

Of course, we know what his reward was for all this efforts: reelection and 41 days later, assassination. But that’s not the point. Ross Perot – yes, that one who turned out to be a little nuts when he had a brief run for the presidency – actually had a fairly good description of a leader. He said it was a “monomaniac with a mission.” He certainly embodied those traits, but not always to a good end. Then there’s that character from fiction – Captain Ahab. He was most definitely a monomaniac with a mission. If you read the book – or more likely saw the movie – you know that didn’t end well either. So that’s an example of leadership that loses touch with what is important: the mission, not the missionary.

Elementary School Keeping Out Mad Gunmen?

So what do we have today in our so-called leadership? Hucksters, cowards, frauds, liars, cheats, thieves..did I leave anything out? Oh, yes: traitors. Cloaked in the American flag, with pins on their lapels and crocodile tears shed for those sweet little children that got shot by ‘that madman’, they make suggestions to fix the problem. One door into the school. I guess that’s an allusion to the teacher that propped open the back door to quickly retrieve a cell phone. Sigh. OK. How about arm those teachers? There’s a really smart idea, but not a new one. That was floated back in 2018 after the Parkland massacre. How about this one? Man traps and trip wires. Think base perimeter in the Vietnam war. Imagine your nine year old seeing that as she walks into her elementary school. Oh my God.

So the question must be posed: what would Abe do? If we could resurrect his spirit and ask him that question, he’d likely start with the obvious. “Why does an 18 year old need an automatic weapon?” Raise the age to 40. Whoa! Are you mad? That’ll never work. Hmm. That sounds familiar. When Abe proposed the Emancipation Proclamation, there were very similar reactions from friend and foe alike. But he did it. And we all know how things turned out, don’t we? No? 180,000 black men – freemen as well as runaway slaves – joined the Union Army at a time when recruitment was seriously lagging. It likely made the difference between continuing to fight and the breakup of the union. No big deal. Right?

I Nominate Angeli Rose Gomez – even handcuffs didn’t stop her from going into that school

So what is needed now is audacity. Audacity requires heroic leadership. We need a hero right now. Got any suggestions? No? OK, then, I guess we all have to be heroes – if just for one day. Cue Bowie.

Suffer Those 19 Children

It’s surely been a dreadful week, hasn’t it? The war in Ukraine continues unabated, with no sign that all the arms we’ve sent the Ukrainian army has repelled the invaders. The stock market can’t seem to make up its mind whether our economy is in the toilet or if happy days are here again. And then there’s the massacre in Texas. A gruesome threesome.

Paintology

Now that I’ve introduced the big three, I’ll dispense with the update on my paintology stylings at the big box store down the road. I continue there, for those that thought I might have quit already. I am always early for work and stay to the end of the shift. I do a decent job – not great, lord knows I still make mistakes..but given the amount of training I received, I must say I’m certainly contributing to the store’s bottom line.

But there’s a problem in the paint department at Home Depot. There’s a pall over it. Why, you may ask? Well, based on my years of work and living experience, it boils down to one thing: lack of leadership. There is no acknowledged leader of the pack that cares enough about how things go in the paint department to come up with new ideas to improve results. It’s really that simple. I am the newest member, so my ability to lead is only by example, with unparalleled cheerfulness and emphasis on customer service. All that succeeds in doing is, my peers try to emulate that with little success..because they’ve been there so long and know that tomorrow will be the same drag they experience today. They’ve given up. I’m too new and stupid to do that.

The Children of Ross Elementary, Uvalde, TX

But talking about lack of leadership takes me back to the happenings in Texas. A lost soul ironically called Salvador (no savior here) took his misery and inflicted it on the parents, grandparents and other assorted loved ones of nineteen children and two adults. The dead are beyond feeling earthly pain. It’s the survivors of those children who now begin to understand the reality that their children and wives were not as important as the lives of the 19 policemen in the hall outside their room. Is it really nineteen, or is that just a catchy number because of the number of dead children? Who knows…irrelevant. The point is the children and adults in that classroom being gunned down by Salvador Ramos didn’t matter. They were pawns in the game.

Lack of leadership on the part of the Police Chief of the Uvalde School District certainly contributed to this massacre. He was likely a desk jockey..good at the snappy repartee necessary to win promotion, but unskilled and uneasy about stepping up, putting his and other cops’ lives on the line to save children and teachers. He was stuck; frozen in place, making up stories to justify not breaking down the door and stopping this misbegotten kid from murdering more ten-year-olds. Understandable. You never know how you’ll act until the real thing comes along. We know now. He couldn’t and didn’t, and will likely retire after this to a full pension and his bitterness at how his career ended. Not his fault.

Not My Fault..I was misled!

Not his fault. When the governor of Texas said he was livid at being ‘misinformed’, he wasn’t livid because 19 children and 2 adults died; he was livid because he was made to look bad – ‘blind-sided’ as it were – before the people of his state who expect him to be a good leader. He isn’t. He never was. Now we know that. And that won’t change.

So the question must be asked: what happens next – for Texas, for the country, for the other children throughout America whose lives are jeopardized every time they cross the threshold of their school? This will happen again. And again. It will be groundhog day times fifty. Why? Because we lack leadership. Genuine, authoritative leadership. Not authoritarian leadership. An individual – or a group – that has a clear sense of themselves and what this country is really about. Until we find that within our ranks – that George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Jean d’Arc – the killing of school children will reoccur.

I wrote Suffer the Children in 2019, about children dying at the hands of their parents caught up in a cycle of fear generated by a cult leader. This leader insisted the children could only go to heaven if their souls were pure. This was based on the leader’s Biblical interpretation of the use of the word ‘Suffer’ in the Book of Matthew. It means to bear from below. He tells the parents this, via podcast shared through Evangelical church members:

“Your children are allowed into heaven now when they are still pure.  But if you wait until the end, they will suffer – bear from below.  And the stain they carry from their parents’ sins will prevent their acceptance into Jesus’ domain.  Don’t let them suffer.  Give them a home in heaven – before it’s too late.”

Koresh & Waco

I had in mind the work of false messiahs like David Koresh at Waco in creating this podcasting character called Judge Dreadbear. Twenty chldren died at Waco, most by being shot. Poor leadership on the part of the government led to an assault on that compound that went very wrong: the inverse of what happened at Uvalde. Waco led to the Oklahoma City bombing, where 19 children died. Gee: one begins to see a pattern here.

Maureen Dowd, columnist for the NY Times, summed it up in today’s contribution. She said, “We’ve become a country of cowards, so terrified of the unholy power of gun worship that no sacrifice of young blood is too great to appease it.” Child sacrifice – as old as civilization itself. Death by gunshot is now the leading cause of child death, replacing auto accidents. Don’t you feel proud, you gun owners? I am disgusted.

A Conversation with Kennedy

Picking up a technique from Tom Friedman, I decided upon waking this morning that I’d write about an imaginary conversation with former President John F. Kennedy. I thought that might be an enlightening experience for us all. So here’s my riff on how that dialogue would go down.

Me: Thank you, Mr. President, for joining me today to talk about what’s happening in Ukraine.

The Golf Game

JFK: Oh, call me Jack. Everyone here does. Say, you have an uncle named Jack, right? I played 18 holes with him last week at Pebble Beach. He and I were partners in a foursome with Dick Nixon and Rumsfeld.

Me: That must have produced some interesting conversation.

JFK: Not really. But your uncle is a pretty good golfer. We beat the bastards. They had to buy the beer at the clubhouse.

Me: That’s great…Jack. Now, if we could change subjects: can you give me some thoughts about the war between Russia and Ukraine?

JFK: Well, first, let’s get our terms right. This isn’t a war between two countries, it’s a war between a man – an autocrat – and a notion: democracy. That Putin kid is a demented control freak. But this time he went too far. We know it and he knows it. This definitely won’t end well for anyone.

Me: Well, can we talk about that? How will it end?

Not a Soothsayer

JFK: Hey, I’m just a dead ex-president, not some soothsayer. I don’t do card tricks or predict the future. But I can tell you, based on my experience dealing with Khrushchev and what became the Cuban missile crisis, that the Russians are different cats with a very different value system. Hundreds of years of serfdom under a tsar gave them a giant inferiority complex.

Me: So what does that mean for this particular, um .. conflict?

JFK: In your Blog, you often quote that line from Hunt for Red October: “The average Russkie, son, don’t take a dump without a plan.” Well, that’s true of Putin and his military. But his greatest strength is really his greatest weakness. But Joe Biden, bless his heart, doesn’t get that. Because Putin has a plan, Biden the politician thinks Putin knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t. This is pure ego at work now. If Biden was smart – which he is not – he’d call Putin’s bluff and bring the full force of NATO down on his sorry ass. This thing would be over with in a month.

Me: You read my blog?

What a Way to Go

JFK: Hey, can we stick to the topic at hand, please? I’m on a roll here. Listen, just like with the missile thing, something unpredictable is going to make or break this conflict – some hero – or villain – will ultimately decide the outcome. If that little guy – Zelensky? – gets kidnapped or killed, that’s the end for Ukraine. Hell, he could just be sitting on the crapper when an errant missile comes through the window and blows him up. But Putin has to worry that some little guy guarding the door gets mad ’cause his brother got blown up in a tank and fires one into Putin’s left eye. See what I mean?

Me: Are you talking about the Soviet submarines and Vasili Arkhipov stopping World War III?

He did, indeed

JFK: You know that’s what I mean. Nikita and I thought Castro was the problem. But he forgot about the subs and I didn’t even know they were there – so much for the CIA and their intelligence reports. They were wrong then and not much has changed since. So ultimately, the best thing to do is sit back and wait for that random event to occur. But you probably won’t even know about it until well after the fact. Nobody knew about the subs ’til 2005 after Arkhipov was here with us.

Me: So everything is just random? There’s no ‘invisible hand’ guiding us toward victory?

JFK: That’s for me to know and you to find out. But victory – what does that look like? No matter what, forty percent of Ukraine will be destroyed, along with a large chunk of her population killed or badly wounded. That’s always the unfortunate side of conflict. But I think you can have confidence that the Ukrainians will still have a country when this is over. And they’ll have lots of support to rebuild, unlike Syria and Libya. Doesn’t anybody care about the Middle East anymore?

Me: No, not really.

JFK: Hmm..That’ll come back to bite ya.

Me: Thank you for this conversation. I appreciate your taking the time to talk.

That’s what Clemmie told me too

JFK: Sure. Time I got a lot of. Take care and love your children unconditionally.

Me: I’ve heard that before from somebody else with you. Thanks for reminding me.

“A Children’s Bible” Review: Huckleberry Redux

My friend Martha recommended I read Lydia Millet’s “A Children’s Bible” because of its dystopian overtones. Martha’s a fan of my book series “Suffer the Children”, and likes to point me to other dystopian pieces of writing. I woulda said literature, ’cause it fits in the rhythm of that sentence, but this book ain’t. Literature. So what is it? Aha..let’s talk about that.

The Book’s Cover

First, let me say I read the book in one day. So what does that mean? Good news: it was quite readable. Not so good: it wasn’t a very long book, so it was easy to consume in a day. Bad news: it was predictable. Those of you who know me know I loathe predictable. If I can say what’s gonna happen next, I’ll throw that little book across the room.

But no, I didn’t throw ACB. It redeemed itself with one tiny mystery/allegorical reference that tamed my throwing arm. When you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Did it fit? Not really. But who cares? Ok. Enough of the introduction.

The Book’s Cover

I am forever indebted to the New York Times film critic A.O. Scott for a rather long essay he wrote about how most modern fiction is really YA fiction – young adult. It’s a great essay if you want to read it; google A.O. Scott essay, “The Death of Adulthood in American Fiction”, published in 2014. I tried writing a blog post way back when about it, but was appalled at how inarticulate I was on the topic. But now it’s forming the foundation of what I’m fixin’ to write: Lydia Millet is channeling Mark Twain in the writing of “A Children’s Bible.” It’s “Huckleberry Finn” for the new millennium. Huh?

Twain wrote the book detailing the adventures of Huck and Jim in the late 1800’s, but the story is set in pre-Civil War America with a runaway slave being protected by a young child. They encounter crises along the way, but prevail in the end. Evie, the protagonist of ACB, is a young child protecting her little brother Jack from perils both human and environmental. Jim the slave is wise in the ways of man and nature. Jack is wise in the ways of nature, well beyond his years, and gains insight into human nature with Evie’s help. Adults are drunken idiots in both books: Huck’s father Pap and all parents in ACB succumb to the siren song of alcohol, rendering them all useless in times of crisis. The children must prevail. Boy oh boy, if that isn’t YA fiction, tell me what is?

And yet, ACB was deemed one of 2020’s ten best by critic Scott’s employer. Really? That’s as good as it gets for that year’s crop? Clearly there’s a crisis here, but it isn’t slave hunters or hurricanes: it’s the dearth of good ADULT fiction in the world today.

But that’s really no surprise, is it? Who wants to work hard reading a great piece of writing anymore? Easier to read fluff or predictable, dystopian-tinged short books with vague endings. Clearly, Lydia read A.O.’s essay, and decided if you can’t beat ’em, why not fulfill their expectations? Here’s how he ended the essay:

Kinda Says it All, Huh?

A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

Yes, Virginia, that’s the essential storyline of this ‘top ten of the year’ book. Oh my God. We are truly lost.

Strain in Paint?

I was too tired to write this after working by myself from 8 to 11 Friday night, so I’m talking about it now on Sunday morning.

The tale of the botched Blue Paint

Generally, our customers are pleasant people just looking for a little help or a custom color for their project. However, for the second time in two months, I had a customer that I felt was dangerous. Remember the first episode with the botched blue paint job?

This one was female, about mid-twenties, thin and intense. She asked for a paint with good coverage, so I showed her the Marquee brand, one of our most expensive. She got angry, and wanted to know if there was a cheaper brand. I took her to the PPG/Glidden aisle, and she accused me of trying to rip her off by selling her the higher priced brand.

Bad Things Happen with Paint Sometimes

At this point, I started to get a really bad vibe from this woman. I suggested she take the Behr color chip she’d selected and go for a PPG color instead, since it’s usually not a good idea to mix colors and brands – you’re never quite sure it’s going to be exact because of the different components of the paint. She picked alternate colors, and after I’d mixed her paint, demanded to know why she couldn’t have the Behr color in her PPG paint. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t a good idea, but all I really wanted was for her to just go away. That’s how bad she made me feel in her presence. The strain I was feeling was quite intense, just from standing within two feet of this woman.

Finally, she left. After my heart stopped racing, I wondered if this woman had that effect on others? If so, I speculated on how many opportunities she’d missed out on with her attitude and behavior. Even if I’d wanted to try to help her mix colors, my brain had shut off by then: I was incapable of thinking through how to give her what she wanted.

Karen..Ouch

So I suppose it all goes back to the old adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. In her mind, she likely thought she was being assertive. Based on all I know, she was displaying the kind of aggressiveness that earns the name assigned to this type of women: Karen. Ouch.

Recall the incident in Central Park with the woman, the cocker spaniel and the bird watcher. The same kind of behavior my customer exhibited got that woman the temporary loss of her dog, the permanent loss of her job and likely her reputation. Obviously that doesn’t happen very often, but I think it’s illustrative. If you doubt me, just start to type into Google the words “woman in Central Park” and the search engine will finish the entry “with dog Amy Cooper”. Then you’ll be referred to other incidents in her life involving lawsuits, loans to married lovers – sheesh!

So If my Karen is anything like that Karen, her life is a mess anyway. So the lesson for me is: recall that Karma is a bitch, so she will get her comeuppance sooner or later. But wait a second. Is it possible I’ve acted like this in the past? Why, I believe I have, relative to some flooring at – yes, you guessed it: Home Depot. So maybe I need to learn from this experience, and think about it before I take my frustrations out on someone who’s trying to help me. ‘Nuff said.

Leaky Eye Fixing Hospital

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kirsten was in the hospital this past week having her gall bladder removed. Robin was in the hospital the latter part of the week having her heart looked at. Erik the Younger was at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. They determined he needs surgery on his leaky eye, an artifact of one-too-many blasts from Iraq. Talk about bad Karma, eh? The gals are now sprung and home resting, so at least for a bit, all is well. We shall see.

The Unvarnish’t Roof

We are hangin’ on the horns of several dilemmas at the moment. First and foremost: we have a serious roof leak that must be addressed. I’ve mentioned this before, but after last night’s heavy downpour, the message has been reinforced bigly.

Hantiles Solar Roof Tiles

I asked the roof rep to investigate the potential for including solar in a replacement roof. Now I know solar doesn’t pay if you are just adding an array of panels to your existing roof. But if I’m going to replace the whole thing, has the technology come far enough to have it included in the roof tiles? Obviously more research is needed here. In the meantime, just finding the source of the leak is tricky. Erik thinks it might be at the peak where the gables and valleys meet. Given how full the attic is with insulation and ac ductwork, it’s difficult to ascertain the leak’s exact location. Again, more research needed.

The Issue Du Jour

Then there’s the question of how to pay for it. We have an appointment on Wednesday to talk with PNC bank about converting the HELOC which is about to expire into a 30 year mortgage. But the dilemma we face is that most of the interest has already been paid on the HELOC. If we let Wells Fargo convert it into a 15 year mortgage, most of our payments go to principal instead of interest. A refi puts us back at square one again, with most of the albeit smaller payment going to interest. But going with a 15 year, accompanied by the ever looming potential for significant increases in insurance costs, may pose a cashflow problem. More research needed. Fortunately, we have plenty of time: it doesn’t convert until September of next year. But with interest rates rising – temporary or permanent? Sigh. So many dilemmas.

Then there’s the question of work. Right now I am working because it gives me stuff to write about. But if inflation is with us for the long term, does that mean I’ll need to work for the money to make ends meet in this new world of ever increasing costs for things like food, fuel and – oh my – health care supplemental insurance? I guess these are issues all us elders are having to face in the not-too-distant future. But it’s here and now for us. Your perspectives would be appreciated.

Amazon’s Jupiter Fulfillment Center

On the topic of work, I did apply for a job as an Assistant Manager at the Amazon Warehouse. It would be another dimension for the book I’m writing on my work experiences at HD. Obviously I’d have to change the name of the book, currently slated to be “My Year at the Depot.” Maybe instead it’d be “My Year of Working Dangerously” if the rhetoric coming out of the union campaign bears any truth? Oh, well. I doubt I’ll get a nod from Amazon, as their process is still very complicated, even in this new world of labor shortages. I really believe my age works against me, with suppositions about fitness of body & mind. If I do get an interview, should I pursue it, or stick with what I have? Apparently, HD thinks there will be less traffic after Easter, as they only have me down for 12 hours that week. I’d hate for my career to be cut short before the book is finished. I need a full year to make it credible. We shall see.

This One’s the Best

So there you have it, faithful readers. Lots of issues, but time to contemplate. While that’s going on, I’ll keep matching paint and showing where the spackle lives. What a life!

‘Blue’ It Again

I messed up again last night, trying to figure out how to custom mix some wood stain. The font on the bottle is about size 2, and I misread it. As such, I couldn’t figure out what number the base was. There was one bottle left, but since I misread the label I didn’t know that. Then I got busy with other customers, and didn’t tell the guy who wanted this custom stain that I was having trouble locating it. He got mad and left, as he thought I was ‘working on it’.

Clever Disguise, Huh?

Gotta admit, the guy looked like somebody who’d go ballistic and come back to murder me because his 6.5 oz container of blue stain wasn’t made for him. So on a parallel universe, I’m definitely dead. C’est La Vie, y’all.

There were two of us working last night: me and another very nice young lady called A that recently got moved to paint from another department. She’s got three years’ experience with HD, so she’s pretty savvy and learns very quickly. I really like her. But since she’s now better at this paint gig than me, I’m again on the bottom of the pecking order. Well, maybe that’s a good thing for creating copy. Thank you Nora E’s mom for that everlasting reminder.

Welcome to My World

As I sit here, it just started raining again. I suppose that means the roof leak will be reactivated. But this time, the pot is already in place, so I won’t have to open the cabinet under the gas cooktop. Erik thinks the gas leak is fixed, so maybe it’s a moot point about the roof collapsing just before the house blows up. Might be another parallel universe thing?

Which reminds me of something else. Got an email from the roof company, offering some program called Ygrene to help pay for a new roof. Now everybody knows after 21 years, ours is pretty much used up. Occasional patch jobs til now have kept things in check, but it doesn’t appear that can go on for much longer. So Ygrene is a way to let you pay for your roof over time. It appears to be something resembling a MBS – a mortgage-backed security. The investors get a return on their principal, guaranteed by a lien on my house. It’s a way to take advantage of all the equity in the house without affecting cash flow until you get ready to sell.

Another Way to Buy a New Roof

I’ve read tales of people not understanding the rules of the game, thinking they were getting impact windows for free. Instead, sounds like they got a a slick salespitch, eh? The person in question is from Miami, so that may be relevant to understanding the language since so much of Miami is originally from someplace south. Anyway, that person is suing Ygrene because they didn’t understand that the expenditure of $22k became a lien on the property and thus ate into their equity. No more piggybank. Ah well. So Erik & I are trying to figure out which way would make the most sense to get a new roof and manage cash flow. The interest rate looks to vary between 4.9 to 9.6 percent, depending on terms. Obviously the longer term carries the higher rate. Or would a refinance of the entire HELOC plus small second which currently gives us an estimated > 70% equity be the right way to go? I suppose that depends on whether values will continue to increase or whether we’re in for a real estate ‘correction’ as some are predicting. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

Ukrainians Praying

That’s it for now – say a prayer for Ukraine and try to stay dry and intact. I’ll do the same.

Interior or Exterior – Paint or Personality?

I’ve finally found a use for the Twitter app after all these years. I put my soothsaying up there, with predictions totalling less than or equal to 280 characters. Not hard to affix what will happen within that constraint.

Uncle Joe Stalin

But here’s the thing I want to talk about. I tweeted that Putin must think he’s the reincarnation of Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili a.k.a. Josef Stalin. There are some ironies there, but we’ll talk about that in a minute – nah, never mind about his family’s suffering in the Siege of Leningrad. Putin’s likely dismal education precluded him knowing the reality that the west nearly lost World War II in June of 1941. Why? Because Stalin effectively had a nervous breakdown and retreated to his dacha after the Germans attacked Russia in Operation Barbarossa. When his underlings came looking for him, he thought he’d be arrested. Instead, they begged him to return to Moscow and help fight the Germans. Not a very good role model, at least in the beginning, eh?

Tsar Nicholas II, the Last Romanov

Other, broader analyses would suggest that maybe he’d like to be the descendant of the Romanovs. Some segments of Russian society have this notion of a Euroasian empire, built on the Russian Orthodox Church and money from oil. How’s that for a pipe dream? So that would suggest there are elements of Nicholas II personality, mixed with Stalin’s. But that doesn’t really work, does it?

Putin has been analyzed as a ‘dominant introvert’. Stalin was a psychopath. Nicholas was a neurotic. So maybe if you mix those together those two sets of traits, you get a dominant introvert? That kinda makes sense. But as such, Putin lacks the total ruthlessness of Stalin, currently necessary to win in Ukraine and against NATO, which is really the ultimate goal here. Further, two years of COVID was hard, particularly on introverts. Putin had plenty of time to think about his enemies in the west when he was holed up in his palace. It’s pretty clear that’s where this idea of invading Ukraine as a prelude to taking over the adjacent countries, NATO and otherwise, came from. And just like with Tsar Nicholas, nobody could even hint that he might be wrong in this.

Putin or Nukes? Who Goes First?

Now he’s stuck: can’t withdraw and can’t win. What will be the inevitable result? Only one of two possibilities. He will be stopped by a bullet from one of his inner circle. Or he will employ the use of tactical nuclear weapons in a last, desperate bid to take out little Volodymyr Zelensky and Kyiv. Neither option is a good one. But maybe there’s a third option.

Talk about Leaky Gut Syndrome!

I’ve been telepathically working on having him die a ‘natural’ death instead. I visualize Putin with a big zipper between his belly button and his sternum. I unzip him, opening up both sides, revealing his intestines. I take a very sharp razor blade, and slice very carefully through that section of intestine that runs horizontally across the space. Its toxic contents start to dribble out, filling the cavity around his stomach. I poke a tiny hole in his stomach – just enough so that shortly the mixture will become lethal. Then I zip him back up. The question is: how long will it take for it to bump him off? We can only hope it does before he can issue the order to press that big red button to launch the nuke(s). Time will tell.