web analytics

Human Pachinko

July 22nd, 2017

Disturbing Visit to IKEA

What an experience I had today. I shopped at IKEA for the very first time. It was the most dehumanizing shopping experience I have ever had.

Where do I start?

First of all, there is one cramped entrance to the huge parking garage (you have to use their garage), and in order to get in from the north, you have to make a U-turn. That’s stupid.

After that, you find yourself in a poorly marked garage which probably contains 8 acres of space. I parked on the ground floor, figuring that was where the store entrance was. Because most store owners want to make it EASY to get into their stores.

I walked up to the entrance, grabbing a cart along the way, and it turned out to be the entrance to a bank of three elevators and some escalators. The store was not on the ground floor. You’re supposed to get into an elevator…with your huge shopping cart. I am not making that up.

I got into an elevator and went up a floor. I got out. No store. Okay. I waited for another elevator. They don’t have big signs telling you where to go. You have to guess.

Went up another floor. Got out. Went to something that looked like an entrance. It turned out it was the entrance to some kind of indoor playground for kids. Who takes their kids to IKEA to play? Lunatics, I guess.

I stopped a salesperson. I said, “How do you get INTO this place?” She told me to get on the elevator and go up one more floor.

On the next floor, I found a store. I pushed my cart (with one wheel that kept trying to turn) into the entrance. I found myself confronted with one department of the store, from which there was no escape that didn’t involve going forward.

You won’t believe this unless you’ve seen it, but IKEA forces you to go through the entire store in order to get your product. It’s a one-dimensional store. It’s not like Target, where you can always move in one of two directions. It’s like being trapped in the intestines of a giant beast. You go in one end, and you visit every twist and turn until you come out the other. There are a few minor deviations, but that’s the story.

I went through the entire floor, held up by endless people who clogged the narrow aisles and barely moved, and when I got to the end, I had not seen sheets. That’s what I wanted to buy. I asked another salesperson, and she said I was on the wrong floor.

Seriously. They have enough room to put the whole store on one floor, but they used it to divide the parking garage into levels. Is that stupid, or am I?

The person who told me to go up one floor was wrong. Somewhere on the playground floor, there was a store which was somehow hidden.

I had been at IKEA for quite some time by then, but I was determined to get my sheets, so I persevered.

I got to the next floor, and I was once again confronted by the constricted concrete entrails of IKEA. Surely this is the most authoritarian store in America. I walked past aisle after aisle of Chinese garbage. After maybe ten minutes, I got to the sheet area. I found my sheets and hightailed it for the exit. Which I could not see. When you’re in the bowels of IKEA, you can’t see the checkout stations. It’s like a DVD you can’t fast-forward.

I got the one of the slow registers, and I asked the guy for a bag for my sheets. He offered me a “green bag” (which was blue) for a dollar. Are you kidding me? Do I need a reusable bag cluttering up my house when I’m trying to move? I turned it down. I made the smart move. I thought.

Got out of the checkout line, and I found myself in an non-air-conditioned room (in Miami in July) with three big elevators and maybe fifty people with carts trying to jam themselves in. I could not believe it. I had four sets of sheets and two sets of pillowcases, and I knew I couldn’t carry them on the escalator. Now I knew what the bag was for. It was a fee for avoiding the elevators.

Miraculously, I made it into an elevator during the first tide, and I got off at P1, which, I figured was the first floor of the parking garage. I looked around for my car, and then I noticed there were tree tops visible over the low walls of the garage. I was not on the ground floor. I guess in Sweden, they number floors downward, starting on random levels.

Back to the elevator bank, which took forever.

Finally got out on the correct floor. Couldn’t find my car. Okay, that was my fault. But by this point, more frustration was the last thing I needed.

Back to the elevator bank. Found the car. Drove home.

I have never had a store make me feel more insulted or unimportant, not to mention claustrophobic. You can’t walk where you want. You can’t have a bag. You’re trapped like an ant in an ant farm. And what about fire codes? If that place burns, everyone in it will die, because you can’t see the exits. You could be a hundred feet from an exit and have to make three turns to find it.

What a disgusting store. I will never go back. If I like the sheets, next time, I’ll order them online.

The merchandise is horrible. I’m sure some of it is fine, but I saw display after display of aggressively inoffensive disposable sawdust and melamine furniture. Who buys this crap? You have to be out of your mind. You spend hundreds of dollars buying a sawdust living room, and then a month later, it has a street value of $75. No one wants used sawdust furniture.

Imagine how cluttered our landfills must be, with all the sawdust and melamine furniture we buy. And the funny part about that is that IKEA preys on the weak-minded by claiming to be green and friendly and gay. How can disposable furniture be green? How can furniture made in dirty backward countries that have a license to kill under the Paris Climate Accord be green?

I felt like a character in a dystopian film like Soylent Green or Logan’s Run. I feel icky inside, thinking about it. My visit made me think of Holocaust victims being herded and sorted on arriving at a death camp. I’m not trying to be funny, either. That’s exactly what I thought of.

I hope the sheets work out, but I will never set foot in that store again, even if I can find the way in.

No Comments »

King Tut Meets Al Capone

July 22nd, 2017

Archaeology Begins at Home

There is nothing like a relaxing Saturday. I’m blowing off steam by cleaning my dad’s bathroom, bedroom, and closets. Resorts should offer activities like this.

Perhaps I jest.

If you have an older relative who is starting to tune out, you are in for interesting times when you have to go in and deal with his or her mess. I am finding things that blow my mind.

I would guess that my dad has 30 pairs of shorts, dating back 35 years. How many are worth keeping? Realistically, maybe seven. Some are too small. Some are worn out. Some are just too short; they gave my mom fits. Some are white.

You don’t want your older relatives trailing along behind you in public places, on sunny days, wearing white. Things show through.

Years ago, he had to have his roof fixed over his hall closet. There was a hellacious leak. Yesterday I was throwing things out, and I found mold on the wall and ceiling. Nice. The ceiling was done, but the mold was not removed. Today I had to clean it out with bleach. Along the way, I found his c. 1982 racquetball racquet plus a Homedics foot spa and maybe twenty pounds of pennies. Grist for the Salvation Army mill.

One nice thing about having absolutely no help is that my word is now law. I have decided which items of clothing he likes. The rest go to the trash or charity. My mother would have killed for this power. I wish she could be here to see me throw out the sheets she bought before she died in 1997. She would stand up and cheer.

I don’t think anyone wants detailed information about his bathroom, but I can say that I threw out maybe two hundred tourist-size hotel soaps and shampoos. He is one of those people who clean out hotel bathrooms every day of their stays. I’ve never understood that. A big bottle of Suave shampoo is three bucks at the drugstore, and it will last six months. Soap runs maybe ten dollars a year, if you’re a heterosexual. I think it’s unethical to take things from hotels just because you can. It’s like scooping packets of Splenda into your pockets at Denny’s. If it was really free, they’d put it out front in an open box.

He will need sheets, so I searched for a good deal. I am disgusted by today’s snowflake sheets with thread counts that require scientific notation. I have expensive dress shirts with a thread count under 200, but you can buy sheets that go up to at least 1800 per inch. Ridiculous. If you’re such a sissy you can’t deal with 200 threads per inch, you should go live in a bubble. I’m no textile engineer, but common sense tells me that the thinner the threads are, the thinner the sheet will be, and the sooner it will wear out. Nobody makes a 300-TC work shirt. Why would you pay more for something that doesn’t last as long?

Maybe I’m wrong. The deep mysteries of sheet making are closed to me.

I finally found good old white sheets at a great price. It’s harder than you think. Guess who sells them. Guess. I’ll tell you. IKEA. You can get queen sheet sets for $25. If you don’t know what a deal that is, look around. Decent sheets from good manufacturers start at around $120. I blame Norma Rae.

The IKEA thread count is 140 per inch. Now that’s a sheet. It ought to last forever. And I’m getting white. The only color a man should have. It matches everything, and you can bleach it. SOLD!

I might go totally nuts and go for the $40 set, with 300 threads per inch, but I am pretty excited about 140. People got by with worse for centuries, and they didn’t mind at all.

Here’s a neat feature IKEA sheets have: the ends tuck in. American pillowcases are open at one end, so if you use slippery bug-proof pillow protectors (also spill-proof), the pillows slowly slide out of the cases while you sleep. European pillowcases keep the pillows where they should be.

I use bug-proof pillow protectors to keep mites out. Over time, they slowly ruin pillows by filling them with allergens. I even covered my mattress with a bug bag.

Sheets are complicated these days. Mattresses used to be maybe 8 inches thick, but now some go 18. For that, you need “deep pocket” sheets. You also need deep pockets to get 1800-TC sheets, but I digress. Deep pocket sheets fit big mattresses, but they’re loose on normal mattresses, so you have to buy sheet straps to hold them on. Annoying.

I found out Coral Gables lets you put one big item of furniture in the trash per week. I think I wrote about that already. I put my dad’s cardboard office credenza out last week. This week, he will forfeit the mattress from his middle-aged convertible couch. Next week, maybe, the couch itself. By spacing it out, I make the couch easier to carry. I am thinking I should keep the cushions to pad things when I move. I’m sure I’ll have to move a lot of things personally.

I’m all rested now. Writing this entry served its purpose. I’m off to IKEA, where I hope they will let me shop even though I’m not gay.

Onward and upward, or at least northward.

3 Comments »

I Have no Reservations

July 20th, 2017

Unless Motel Reservations Count

I am now so close to the closing on the new house, I have had to make a motel reservation. I won’t say the name of the motel, but I wish I could, because I would recommend all of you stay there when traveling in Florida. It’s the cleanest, most well-kept motel in the universe, as far as I know. It doesn’t have rugs! Hardwood (or convincing fake hardwood) all the way. Kiss your allergies goodbye in this place.

The pillows are so nice, I meant to remove the case on one and check the brand. How often can you say that about a motel? And the rooms run about $65 per night.

I still do not have my books packed. I was busy all day with my dad’s affairs, and I will be busy most or all of tomorrow.

I learned something that may be of use to you, if you care for someone who is slipping. You can make them pay you.

Heartless! Right? Well, not really. You may be dealing with someone who needs to have his or her assets reduced for various reasons. Estate tax is one reason. Medicaid eligibility is another. I have been advised to start charging my dad. I don’t know if I like that. I don’t want him telling me the customer is always right.

Here’s something weird. I have a list of people I pray for every day. I’m on the list. I keep praying God will help us not to be borrowers and beggars. I ask him to make us givers and lenders. It looks like he’s listening, because there’s a good chance I may have to lend my dad money so he can buy the new house. How about that! We have a ton of things going on right now, and cash is tied up in this and that, so it may be smarter for him to borrow from me than to spend his own cash.

I should foreclose on him, just to needle him.

Anyway, I thought it was remarkable.

Once your parents hit a certain age, you have to be careful about giving them things and paying for things. Everything they have has the potential to cause aggravation when they die. Besides, your worthless relations are likely to try to take everything you gave your parents.

When my dad’s mother died, my aunts and uncles literally pulled a U-Haul up to her apartment and cleaned it out. I got a crystal angel my dad gave her, and my sister got a porcelain horse.

I’ve learned a whole lot about taxes and estates and so on. You have to have a will, you have to have a power of attorney, you should have a living will, and then on top of all that, you have to think about avoiding probate. A will may not be enough, if you have a sleazoid relative who feels like suing. You may want to have real estate put into a trust so it goes from mom or dad straight to you, just like a joint bank account. My dad’s desire is to give me the house he’s buying. It would be a bummer if he passed away and I got thrown out after caring for him there in his declining years.

Here’s something ridiculous: in the state of Florida, you have to protect your parents’ wills personally. You have to preserve an original will if you want to get anything, and you can’t record it at the courthouse like a power of attorney or a deed.

What if your dad is worth a billion dollars? You could end up a situation where all you have to secure that money is four sheets of flammable paper. But a copy of the will is admissible, right? Yes. If you can find a disinterested witness who can confirm its contents. So you have to find a reliable person, show him the original will, make him learn it, and then hope he outlives your parents.

The answer, of course, is to put the will in a safe deposit box and hope the bank doesn’t burn down. But what if you have to change banks? Every time you get in the car with the will, you risk a very expensive accident.

I’m no estate attorney, but it seems like a smart person would keep copies of the will and have his best friends look at the original, just in case.

I’m not obsessing on my dad’s passing. He’s doing fine. But dealing with his assets and helping him buy a house and sell other properties has brought financial matters to the forefront of my attention. Joining a caregiver’s forum accentuated them even more. There are horror stories out there.

My grandfather died with a very bad will, and it screwed up the whole family. There are hard feelings. Some relatives have behaved badly. Belongings that should have gone to other people magically turned up in their homes. My aunt sued my cousins over an insurance policy. It may seem crass to get into the particulars of estate planning, but if you don’t, a loved one’s death may be the match that burns the family down.

I rarely hear from my relatives. They have holiday dinners without my dad and me. No invitations. I can understand why my sister isn’t invited. It would be like dumping a bag of angry snakes on everyone. But I haven’t done anyone wrong.

Too bad. I miss them. I miss Kentucky. But I can’t unburn what poor planning burned.

Soon I will be living in a place where people hang American flags on their houses and end emails with “Have a Blessed Day.” I will be able to shoot rifles from my front porch. I will be five minutes from Cracker Barrel. I’ll have a yard big enough to require a motor vehicle to tour it. Whatever struggles I have to go through in the next month or two will be well worth it. I’ll get us moved. I’ll get the financial stuff in order. Tiny price to pay.

I look forward to sharing photos of my first northern-Florida front yard pistol targets. Stay tuned.

No Comments »

I Heard You Roar

July 19th, 2017

“Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.”

The good news keeps coming. It’s amazing how God gives you relief when you start thinking about his priorities and trying to tell the truth about yourself.

As people who read the blog know, my dad is buying a large property in northern Florida, and I will be the major domo. He will be Robin Masters, and I will be Higgins. With better shorts.


“Remove yourself from Mr. Masters’ lawn or I shall release the lads.”

Yesterday I was talking to the realtor about a survey, and the realtor pointed something out. The northern boundary of the land–the second-longest boundary–is bordered by an 85-foot-wide strip that runs its entire length. The strip is wooded, and it is made up of two parts, each of which belongs to a different neighbor. It was intended to be two driveways, to provide access to their land. Bonus for me: they decided not to build driveways. There was no reason to. There is already a public road that reaches their land, and they don’t have to pay to maintain it.

This means I have an 85-foot-thick barrier of woods between me and my neighbor to the north, and it will remain wooded for the foreseeable future. Another possibility: I could buy the strips eventually and keep people off for good. No one will ever want them except me and my neighbor to the north.

This is the biggest blessing I could have hoped for, short of a spray that makes neighbors evaporate.

Of course, my neighbors are probably great. I have a bad attitude toward neighbors because I’ve lived in Miami, listening to Celia Cruz through my windows at 1 a.m. and having neighbors’ party guests park all over my yard without asking.

There is also very bad news. I am still listening to continuing legal education materials. Right now, it’s a discussion of the process of altering the Florida constitution. It’s a bunch of men and one woman. The men are okay, but the woman screeches like Gloria Allred sitting on a red-hot spoon. You can probably hear her as I type this. Somewhere in the feminist manifesto, it says men won’t respect you unless your voice sounds like a subway train hitting the brakes. She who talks loudest is respected most.

Life doesn’t actually work that way, but the notion obviously sells.

How low can I turn this down without secret snooping bar software squealing on me? My God. This woman has to be single.

Please shut up. Let someone else talk. Please, lady. I’ll stop manspreading. Whatever it takes.

When I turn her down to the point where I’m not in agony, I can’t hear the men.

“YARP YARP YARP YARP LEGAL LANDSCAPE YARP FACEBOOK YARP YARP YARP ESTROGEN.”

Did Beethoven really go deaf, or did he jam conductor’s batons through his eardrums so he could finally concentrate on his work? Was he married? I don’t even know.

“YARP YARP YARP YARP I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY.”

I’m going to tough it out. This video is “only” 2.5 hours long, and you get 3 general credits and 1 ethics credit. Ethics credits are the hardest to find. It’s a shame you can’t steal them.

I’m going to pause it after I’m halfway through. I have limits.

I’m still not done packing my books. I’m up to 29 boxes. I couldn’t pack them all. I have to have something to read until the move. I figure I’ll hold 50 books back. Once I’m done with the books, things should speed up, because instead of doing an item-by-item inventory, I can just dump things in boxes and apply labels like “KITCHEN.”

Anyhow, things are going pretty smoothly, given that I have no help whatsoever. I cannot wait to kiss this place goodbye, and by “kiss,” I mean “spit on the ground while shaking my fists.”

Back to CLE. Surely things will get better. Surely they tased this lady at some point.

Have a great day.

More

This is funny. I texted another lawyer.

Me: Found a bunch of free CLE. Almost as wonderful as free enemas.

Her: I think I’d prefer the enemas.

Me: I checked. The bar won’t give credit for enemas.

Her: That’s bc those are useful tools.

Then later:

Me: Enemas are brief.

Her: And more productive.

Everyone hates CLE.

No Comments »

I’ll Facebook You Those Files in the Morning

July 18th, 2017

Slimy Car Dealers and Continuing Legal Education

What a busy day I’ve had.

The first fire I had to put out involved a car dealer. My dad has a 15-year-old luxury car which is now worth maybe $700, and a dealer tried to con him into paying $480 for written estimates on three trivial repairs.

Somehow, my dad got his hands on a junk mailing saying the dealer offered full inspections with written estimates for 99 cents. He dropped his car at the dealership and told me about it later. I was not pleased.

When the dealer called him, guess who they got to talk to? Me. I didn’t know about the 99-cent offer. I thought he had gone down there on a whim, and that he was now obligated to pay them something. The salesman (“service writer”) started telling me it would cost $160 each to diagnose the car’s issues. I explained my dad’s problems, and I got him down to a single $160 charge, which seemed to be an acceptable loss, given that this was all my dad’s idea.

Eventually, my dad showed me the junk mailing. That changed things.

I spent a good part of the morning on the phone with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Consumer Services, and I had them send me a complaint form. A government analyst confirmed that the State of Florida did not approve of the bait and switch gimmick. I had a solid complaint.

When I was done preparing, I called the dealership and asked for the service manager, and of course, they gave me voicemail. I informed them that I was an attorney and that I was not very pleased with their business methods. I gave them my contact info and hung up. They never called back.

I got out my dad’s checkbook and wrote the dealership a check for 99 cents, and I added a disclaimer to it, saying the dealership released my dad from all claims. Then we drove to the dealership, and I gave them the check and told them to produce the car.

They could not have been more deferential. I would call their demeanor “mournful.” They remembered my call, even though they hadn’t had the decency to return it. We had to sit and wait while they put the car together, and then we left.

I was angry, but mostly, I felt tired. I was tired of the human race. As far as I know, every car dealer on earth is scum. I have never known one that wasn’t. It’s very draining, having people disappoint you over and over. I thought of God, and I wondered what it must be like for him. The flood makes perfect sense to me. I hate to say it, but there will be a great sense of relief the next time God wipes out the human race. It will be as if the earth had a flea dip.

After that I dealt with irrigation problems at his house, and then I started packing books and listening to continuing legal education (CLE) materials. Packing boxes is boring, but I can honestly say it’s so much less boring than CLE, it actually made the CLE go faster.

CLE is horrible. Lawyers who want good-do-bee points from the Bar assemble panels of ambitious self-promoters, and they talk for an hour about things that are nearly as interesting as watching ice freeze. They invariably start with fifteen minutes of introductions. “Here is Bob Shmerz, who has been on the Board of Governors since 15 B.C. and got a perfect attendance award in the fifth grade. Bob is an expert in an unchallenging and tedious field of law no one else can stand, and he was student body president at the Eastern Guatemala University School of Law. He has been appointed to various boards and commissions no one cares about due to affirmative action, and he thinks the people he knows on LinkedIn are his friends.”

I think the idea is that you waste a few hours of your life teaching CLE, which no ethical lawyer would ever rely on, and in the process, you advertise yourself to other lawyers who, not knowing any better, might give you referrals when they get cases they don’t understand.

The farther we get into the computer age, the more obvious it is that lawyers are technical australopithecines. People go into law because they stink at math and science. If they were capable of understanding things like HTML and metadata, they would be doctors. A large amount of CLE is dedicated to helping lawyers find the answers to hard questions like, “What’s the difference between Facebook and email?”

It’s very disheartening. And I don’t need it. I may be old, but I know what a blog is, I understand cloud computing, and I am not stupid enough to give people legal advice on Twitter. I am light years ahead of the simple attorneys who need help with this stuff.

I think the technological ineptitude of lawyers may explain why our rights are disappearing. Lawyers are probably too stupid to understand that cell phones, the Internet, and our Orwellian system of data collection have destroyed the Fourth Amendment. They still say these things “may pose a threat in the future” or “could eventually alter the legal landscape.” They don’t have any idea that the ship has already sunk.

By the way, you have to say “legal landscape” at least ten times when you give a CLE talk. It’s mandatory.

Here’s the great thing about CLE: it’s free. You can pay hundreds of dollars and get CLE which is more entertaining, but it will still be a career-threatening substitute for actual research. CLE is like porn: no one who knows anything pays for it these days. Might as well save your money and look at free stuff online. Another good thing: no exams. Why? Because the bar knows CLE is a joke. They don’t expect you to learn it. You can go to a CLE lecture and openly work on cases on your laptop while the speaker talks. I think knitting might get you in trouble, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t. The guy up front only cares about your money and the publicity he’s getting, the people around you are only thinking about the minute they can leave, and there is no bar official present to check and see if you’re paying attention.

Real CLE is something you do at your computer or in a law library. If you don’t do fresh research for every case, you’re a disgrace, and you’re probably going to get sued, suspended, or disbarred eventually. CLE is just a show the bar puts on for the public. At least that’s my guess.

That being said, I have seen lawyers handle cases without doing adequate research. “Hip shooters” is the phrase I have heard. They tend to end up shooting themselves. People like that deserve whatever happens to them.

I suppose I’m being too critical, because I resent having to listen to this mess. I can see how a CLE lecture could be helpful in helping you identify things you need to study. But the lectures themselves…totally inadequate.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve never known a lawyer who defended CLE, and I have known many who ridiculed it.

I don’t practice. Who cares. I’ll get it over with, and I’ll get my boxes packed. I can feel good about this: at least I listen to it. Some lawyers just buy tapes and throw them out. My old boss used to play CLE tapes in the office. MY office. While he worked in his.

Apart from the CLE and the time I spent at the car dealership, it has been a great day. One step closer to living in not-Miami. Things are falling into place. The seller is working hard to fix little problems with the house (doing more than we asked), and now it’s just a matter of getting a survey, closing the deal, and leaving Miami for good.

Now, in addition to my many other accomplishments, I have blogged. Time to put my feet up and watch Youtube.

No Comments »

Where is Mr. Haney When You Need Him?

July 17th, 2017

Tractor Dilemma

I am still trying to figure out what to do about farm machinery.

As I wrote earlier, the seller of the house I’m moving to wants to sell me his Kubota L3710 tractor and some other stuff. In order to avoid getting hosed, I’ve been studying the Internet to find out what I should do.

Today it occurred to me I might be able to get a bigger machine for less money. My lathe weighs about 4000 pounds, and the Kubota can only lift 1500. I’m not sure what my mill weighs. It would be nice to be able to move these tools myself, without using pry bars for the whole job. A bigger tractor would lift more.

To get a bigger machine, I would have to pick up something older. Is that a smart idea? I don’t know. My grandfather’s old Massey-Fergusons were abused and left outdoors, but they always did what he wanted, and a lot of people on the web say they’ve spend under $5,000 for good machines.

While I was looking into all this, I decided to get people’s opinions on old machinery brands like Ford, Massey-Ferguson, International Harvester, and so on. I learned something very interesting: there are no American tractors now.

That’s not quite true. If you buy a giant machine for tending 10,000 acres of wheat, it may be American. That’s not what I want. I need a typical farm tractor. Those aren’t made here any more.

John Deere sells Japanese tractors, and it’s my understanding that a lot of their stuff is Mexican. Massey-Ferguson sells Indian machinery. Indian! The scariest country of product origin in the machine tool world. The Indians still make line-shaft lathes because their electrical grid is so primitive.

If what I’ve read is right, the American tractor has been dead for a long time. Maybe thirty years. Where was I? Not buying tractors, I guess.

There go my concerns about not buying American. Unless I go antique-shopping, American isn’t an option.

The more I think about it, the more I think I should buy the seller’s tractor, IF I get a good price. If I know I can get my money out of it, no harm done. I can upgrade or downgrade later. If he wants too much, forget it. I won’t need a tractor for weeks after I move, so I don’t have to rush.

Someone on a forum wrote a great tip for buyers: check the reputation of the local dealer when you buy a used tractor, because this is the outfit you will depend on for help. I checked the reputation of the Kubota dealer in Ocala, and I did not find any good news. One buyer who has a Yelp account said the seller refuses to send people out to look at machines, so I suppose you would have to pay to have your broken tractor towed. The buyer said the dealer’s people were irresponsible, extremely slow, and dishonest, more or less.

The dealer responded. You would think they would have begged forgiveness and done their best to fix the problems, or that they would have at least argued. No, they posted what looked like a cut and paste from the boilerplate on their website. “XXX Tractors is dedicated to providing customers with the best possible service and the lowest prices anywhere, with a highly trained staff and a spacious, modern repair facility.” Something of that sort. No denials.

The message I got was, “Maybe this guy is right about us. We don’t give a crap.”

Maybe it’s the greatest tractor dealership on earth, but I have no way of knowing that, based on what I’ve seen so far. And here I am, thinking of buying a tractor they probably sold.

I shouldn’t criticize India without saying people seem to love their tractors. Mahindra tractors get fine reviews. The Koreans are also in the game now. There is a Korean brand named Kioti, and people like it.

I feel like I should try to buy the seller’s machines, and if the price is bad, I should tell him I’m not interested. Good enough.

It would be neat to have an old Ford or something, for a few grand. It would be a hassle, though. Right now I have a tractor in a convenient location where I can look at it and maybe send a mechanic. If I Craigslist an antique, I’ll probably be expected to do business beside a tractor in someone’s side yard, without much opportunity to check it out.

This reminds me of buying my machine tools. Today, I would not hesitate to check out an old mill or lathe. I know what goes wrong with them. Before I had machine tools, I didn’t have that kind of confidence. I couldn’t tell whether the machines were any good or not. Once I’ve used a tractor for a while, I’ll know what to look for when I buy a used tractor. But I’ll have to buy a used tractor in order to get that knowledge.

That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

The answer, of course, is to buy more tools. The more tools I have, the less I will need creepy tractor dealers. And the more tools I have, the more tools I have.

In a completely irrelevant vein, I talked to the realtor today. He talked to the seller and confirmed: I WILL BE ABLE TO SHOOT ON MY PROPERTY! The seller does it all the time. This has to be a dream.

On top of that, I just showed the Miami house I’m trying to sell to a young couple with affluent parents. The couple came alone yesterday, and today the parents came with them. In a Maserati. In expensive clothes. With questions about expanding the house. Could they borrow the plans? Of course they could. Maybe these people are serious. Finally, someone with money.

I don’t know if I can stand any more good news.

More updates as they unfold.

5 Comments »

All the Other Kings Said it was Daft to Build a Castle in a Swamp

July 15th, 2017

Tractor!

The house in northern Florida came through inspection okay. There are a couple of water-intrusion spots that have to be looked at, but all the other problems are BS. Example: leaky sprinkler heads. These things cost seven dollars each and can be installed without tools. I am relieved. The house is only 17 years old, and it was not built by Miami Home-Depot-Parking-Lot commandos, so I had every reason to expect it to be sound. I’m glad to know I was right.

In other news, the seller wants me to buy his tractor. He has a Kubota L3710 with a front end loader. It might be a good idea. I need one anyway, and based on the way this guy maintained the house, the tractor is probably two wipes of a rag short of tractor-show-ready. Kubota is Japanese, and they have a good reputation. The Japanese make tractors for John Deere. I’m going to try to get up to speed on prices.

Diesel tractors are not quite like cars. Like other diesel products, tractors have lifespans measured in engine hours. I have been trying to find out how many hours I should be willing to accept. People say all sorts of stupid things on the web “At 100,000 hours, International Harvesters are just getting broken in!”), so it was hard to get a good answer, but it looks like you should expect a major overhaul at 4000 hours, so I figure 2000 is a reasonable cap.

Why do I need a tractor? Because I am an idiot. Along with my dad, I chose a pretty big property. Dozens of acres. I like to think I’ll be able to sit back and do nothing, but I know there will be times when I’ll have to cut the weeds or move fallen trees or pull stumps. Things will need to be lifted. Dirt will have to be moved. When jobs like that come up, you can pay other people to do them and look like a sissy, or you can get on your tractor with your Yeti cup and get ‘er done.

The tractor has a front end loader and a bush hog. The front end loader would be fun for playing Truckasaurus on slow days. Unfortunately, it will not lift my milling machine or lathe, but I could move “little” stuff like my band saw, compressor, drill press, and table saw.

Do I want a bush hog? Maybe, but I am tempted to get a couple of goats instead. A bush hog won’t eat poison ivy while you sit in your cool bonus room watching reruns of Breaking Bad.

The seller also wants to get rid of a John Deere lawn tractor, which sounds fine, but it’s 20 years old. I didn’t know a lawn tractor could survive that long. Big diesel tractors can be rebuilt over and over. Little diesel lawn tractors…I dunno. And the stinging implication of a lawn tractor purchase is that I would be mowing the lawn.

Maybe there is still time to back out and get a condo.

The final offering: an E-Z-GO ST-350 gas-powered golf cart. This is the tool the seller used to entice us to buy the place. He had the realtor turn us loose on it, and we toured the property. His ploy worked, but the cart is not my cup of tea. It barely moves. I want to feel a little breeze when I drive. I’m pretty sure I can outrun the E-Z-GO.

The “350” in the model number refers to the size of the engine, in cc’s. Here, we see the problem. My Moto Guzzi motorcycle has 1064 cc’s and weighs a third as much. This is why it does 70 in second gear.

I hate to turn down anything that makes the place turn-key, but that cart is not going to get it. Not the way it is. Maybe it needs some work? I do not know. There’s always nitrous.

While I ponder my machinery options, I am busy throwing out and giving away bad furniture. There are some things I know the Salvation Army will not accept, so I don’t try. It would be insulting. When you give them something really nasty, you’re essentially asking them to be your unpaid garbage men. Today I broke up my dad’s office credenza. I didn’t just put it outside. I took off the doors and broke the drawers. I don’t want him to think there is any possibility that it can be saved.

My dad got his office furniture about 25 years ago. My grandfather had a car dealership, and the manager, who had been fired, got GM to terminate it. The property was then leased to a Western Auto, and they went Tango Uniform, leaving their junk behind. My dad scooped up their cardboard (okay, particle board) furniture, which had stickers with lot numbers on it, indicating it had already been sold at auction once. My dad was at least the third owner of these atrocities. No way was I paying to move this crap 300 miles.

I worked for a patent attorney who grossed 850K per year (1999 dollars) from a crappy desk. You don’t have to have great furniture to run a business. But paying maybe $300 to move junk? No. That’s not smart. They have junk where we’re going. We can pick up someone else’s trash and save money on shipping. Not that this is my plan.

If you have a parent who holds onto useless junk, you will understand how thrilling it was to see that credenza sitting by the road with no drawers. Bliss.

Time to relax and gather my energy for another day. Hope your weekend is as rewarding as mine.

13 Comments »

Why Can’t Denial Just be for Bad Things?

July 14th, 2017

Heart Refuses to Believe I’m Blessed

I feel like I’m rehearsing for a play that will never open. I am packing for a move, and I can’t fully accept that it’s truly going to happen.

A few days back, I went to Home Depot and bought 40 small boxes. Home Depot sells moving supplies at acceptable prices. Since then, I have been stuffing boxes with books. I take a box, open it up, tape the bottom, put a big number on it, put bubble wrap in the bottom, and start putting books in. While I do this, I keep a list in outline form on a laptop. Each box gets a numerical heading, and the list of books goes under it.

I have filled 21 boxes so far, and I would guess I have 15 to go. I’m kind of disappointed in my dad’s books. There aren’t a lot of great ones, and some have plastic on them. He must have joined a book club at some point. Here’s how they worked: they offer you one book a month at a good price, and if you don’t make a choice, they send you garbage publishers need to unload. Looks like my dad didn’t make a choice every month.

I have a big collection of math, physics, and engineering books. I have books relating to tools. I have a certain amount of literature, and it’s not John Grisham or Barbara Cartland. It’s real literature. I don’t buy much junk.

My dad has some solid history books. He always found history more interesting than I did.

Maybe 45 years ago, he bought The Great Books of the Western World. This is a big set of books containing every piece of writing a bunch of academics thought a person needed to read in order to be considered educated. My dad wanted to throw them out a few years ago, so I took them. You never know when you might want to get up to speed on Marcus Aurelius. I also have the Encyclopedia Britannica I got for winning my area’s spelling bee. I can’t throw those out. The books remind me that I wasn’t a complete washout as a kid.

If you don’t make a list of the things you move, and you don’t label the boxes, you will be in for a treat when you arrive at your new home. You will have a colossal mound of boxes with contents you can’t identify. You won’t even be able to move them to the correct rooms before opening them.

Every box has five numbers on it. One on the top, and one on each side. No matter which side of a box is exposed, I will be able to identify it. Very exciting.

I read somewhere that movers charge $35 per hour to pack things. It must be great to turn strangers loose in your house, have them box everything up while you sit by the pool, and not have to lift a finger. Unfortunately, it’s expensive, you don’t know what goes into each box, your stuff is packed by people who don’t care if it breaks, and you don’t get a chance to throw out or give away things you really should not pay to move. For me, packing things myself is the way to go.

I am being ruthless with the furniture. The Salvation Army and the dump will be receiving a number of items. It may seem like furniture you hold onto is free, but when you’re paying someone to move it, every article has to justify its existence, because you are paying for it all over again.

My family is dysfunctional. That means familiar possessions aren’t always heirlooms. Sometimes a couch reminds you of the time one of your mother’s friends gave her furniture because she felt sorry for her. A crappy desk can be a reminder that someone always made do with junk instead of making reasonable investments in a pleasant home. There are quite a few things I will be discarding for purposes of catharsis as well as economy.

New questions keep popping up. Example: if the movers take our beds to the new house, what are we supposed to sleep on while the move is in progress? Maybe I should get a couple of air mattresses. Good things to have anyway. You never know when you will have guests. I was thinking of putting a convertible couch in the new house, but I decided against it. They’re heavy and expensive, and they’re terrible as beds. Air mattresses are cheap, and when deflated, each one takes up as much room as a suitcase.

Too bad they don’t make air tables, chairs, and houses.

Air families. Blow them up, enjoy their company, and when they start to get on your nerves, release the air. Actually, they do make something like that, but it’s not quite that wholesome.

The more I know about the new place, the more it seems tailored to our needs. Today a concern hit me. Will the bathroom situation work? I didn’t remember what all of the bathrooms in the new house were like. It would be bad to have only one full bath.

I looked at the ads, and they said it had one full bath and two half baths. Uh-oh. My dad will have the master suite, and that means he gets the big bathroom. I will not want to have to share it with him and anyone who comes to provide care for him. And overnight guests? Forget it. Not workable. Have to put a bucket in the woods by the workshop. Yes, we will have our own woods.

I found the house plans and checked. The upstairs has two real bathrooms. Thank God. Why weren’t they in the online ads? There will be total bathroom separation. I won’t have to push through walkers, hand rails, and other equipment that might pop up in the future, after making an appointment with a nurse.

There must be two hundred moving problems I haven’t thought of yet, but they will be handled. I will…will…WILL escape Miami. My blood pressure will drop fifty points. I will be able to sleep without earplugs. I will not hear salsa thumping on my windows at night. I’ll be able to understand almost everyone who speaks to me. People in restaurants will talk instead of yelling. People in movies won’t talk continuously in Spanish. Episodes of other drivers risking my life in order to save three seconds will drop by 90%. Other drivers may actually use their turn signals sometimes. I will be able to drive 10 miles in 12 minutes instead of 5 miles in 20 minutes. My car insurance will cost less than the car is worth. I’ll be able to take pleasure drives again. The air won’t smell like damp laundry. A McDonald’s breakfast won’t cost 10 dollars. I’ll be able to hire contractors and tradesmen who know how to do their jobs, instead of greedy slackers who promise the world and perform like monkeys in Army LSD experiments.

No leaf blowers! How about that? I can’t imagine life without leaf blower noise.

Cool nights! Miami doesn’t have those. Tonight it’s supposed to be 80 degrees here. Where I’m going, it will be 74, and that’s July. If you live in Tennessee or Missouri, that may not be exciting to you, but 74 sounds wonderful to me. Granted, Marion County is hot during summer days (4 degrees hotter than Miami), but the summer ENDS, and even in August, the average temperature at night is under 72. Hot nights are disgusting. Besides, the sun is less direct up there. The sun here is noticeably less bright than it is in the Keys, and it will be somewhat less bright 300 miles north.

Check this out: I’ll be able to get real barbecue without making it myself. Marion County has a bunch of Sonny’s restaurants, and one is very close to me. It also has one-off barbecue joints. More good news: I’ll be less than ten minutes from a Cracker Barrel. Filled with real crackers.

Miami is a funny place. The traffic is so bad, you defer short trips. If you need something from a place 5 miles away, you may put it off until the weekend in order to avoid killing 40 minutes in traffic. I avoid driving between 7 and 10 a.m. and between 2 and 7 p.m. It’s that bad. Miami has a lot of stores and restaurants, but what good are they if you can’t stand to drive to them, and you can’t stand to call them on the phone because they don’t understand anything you say?

Store Guy: Yo, dica me.

Me: Hi. I’m calling to see if you have Seastar hydraulic fluid in stock.

Store Guy: Yo, whatchoo say?

Me: Seastar hydraulic fluid. Do you stock it?

Store Guy: No meng, no stockeeng. Mareeng sooply estore.

Me: No, I don’t want stockings. Is there someone there who speaks English? Ingles?

Store Guy: [angry] YO peekee Englee! No stockeeng! Comprendes?

Me: I am sorry I made you angry by trying to do business with you. I will now try Amazon Prime, which is what I knew I would end up doing anyway.

You could change that last bit to, “I am sorry I tried to live in this area. I will now move north, which is what I knew I would end up doing anyway.” English speakers have fled this place by the hundreds of thousands. They have a popular bumper sticker here: “Will the Last American Leaving Miami Please Bring the Flag?”

I guess it’s not as popular as it was before everyone left. And how many Miamians can read it?

When I came here, Miami was full of Yankees, and most people were rude. Then it filled up with people from other countries, and people were still rude. No one ever came and improved the place. Haitians are nice to Americans, but they treat each other like dirt (one of their favorite things to joke about), and they drive as if other cars were invisible. When I arrived in ’69, the nice old Florida people had been moving out for decades . I knew a few. They were great. I wonder where they went. It’s like the Atlas Shrugged of nice people. Maybe there’s a nice-person compound in Colorado, made up of Florida crackers.

We are now filling up with a new crowd, and I don’t know where they came from. They look very, very ghetto. I think they must be South Americans. Not good. Call me intolerant, but no intelligent person wants to live in a place like Brazil or Venezuela. South Americans share my feelings. I know South Americans, and they are glad to be out. They came here, didn’t they? What more needs to be said? The problem is that when too many of them come here, their problems come with them, and Miami turns into Rio and Caracas. Also, it’s one more group for Cubans to not get along with. Cubans don’t like any Spanish-speakers or Latins except the Spanish. And they don’t like black people. Or people who look partly black. Or partly Indian. They are not easy to please.

I better get back to my many boxes. Closing is in 2-1/2 weeks, and the move will not lag it by much.

No Comments »

Next to Godliness

July 10th, 2017

Relief in a Jug

This is my second day as a member of a caregivers’ forum, and it has worked out very well. Unlike members of other types of forums, the caregivers actually read the questions, don’t insult me and say, “Google is your friend,” and provide useful answers I hadn’t already thought of.

I made a great discovery for bathroom cleaning. I don’t want to go into great detail, but the product is called “Urine Destroyer.” I apply it with a spray bottle from the hardware store. Works better than bleach, believe it or not. I guess the ultimate solution would be to follow it with bleach.

It deodorized a bathroom and also me. I spilled a fair amount of it on my shirt. The perfume they put in it is pretty persistent. I changed shirts and washed, but I think I’m going to smell like a clean kennel all day.

This product is very expensive, but believe me, it would be cheap at five times the price.

Along the same lines, I can’t praise my homemade shower cleaner highly enough. I haven’t scrubbed a shower in months. In the future, I plan to keep this stuff in my dad’s bathroom as well as my own. It is a miraculous cleaner.

Just to repeat, here are the ingredients:

6 oz. Zep soap scum cleaner
1 tbsp. dishwasher rinse agent
1 tbsp. Dawn dishwashing liquid
water to fill 1-quart spray bottle

I found this on the Internet, and I removed an ingredient which was expensive and unnecessary. You spray it on everything after you shower, and you leave it there. It dissolves all the typical things that stick to shower surfaces (over time), and it leaves a great shine and a fresh smell. It makes me seem much cleaner and more industrious than I am.

It might benefit from more Dawn.

I smell like a dentist’s waiting room. I can’t wait for this stuff to wear off.

It would be pretty neat if I managed to take good care of my dad instead of having the county come out three times a week and threaten to take him away because of the filth. With these two products, I am halfway there.

Generally, it is very hard to control other people’s behavior. When you can control things from your own end, it can save you years of banging your head against the wall. The right cleaners and precautions should bring me a lot of peace. We can hire someone to come in weekly and deal with whatever I don’t want to handle.

I am now five weeks from the blessed event. Can’t wait.

7 Comments »

BUG OUT!

July 9th, 2017

Moving Strategy Gradually Takes Shape

Plans for my move are progressing. Today’s big step: joining a dementia caregiver forum.

The new house has a crazy-big upstairs, and that’s where I plan to establish my headquarters. The downstairs will be arranged to suit my dad and his needs and pleasures. That means new living room furniture and the largest TV currently known to man.

Because the furniture will be new, I will want it to have the best possible shot at staying clean and undamaged. I don’t want to name the types of contaminants that can get on furniture in situations like this; you can probably figure that out. I realized there were millions of other people dealing with this problem, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I should reach out, via forum, and see what has worked for others.

I am fine with the fact that the downstairs will be maybe…not a prime example of the Martha Stewart ethos. That’s okay. I’m a man, and I am fine in a house with no indoor plants and no wall decorations. I think the best wallpaper is tile. But I want the furniture to be something better than Ikea, and I don’t want people to smell anything when they walk in the front door.

I’m amazed at how God has provided for me. I looked at a ton of properties, so they tend to blend together in my head. I no longer have distinct memories of every room in every house. I have the plans for the new house, and I see that it’s almost as if it were designed for me.

The house has a huge master suite on the ground floor, and it’s beside the kitchen. Problem, right? No. The bedroom is between the kitchen and bathroom, so if anything unfortunate happens in the bathroom, there will be three doors between it and the air of the kitchen. Yes, three. The bathroom has a toilet room with its own door. You walk in the bathroom, close the door, walk into the toilet closet, close the door, and get down to business. That’s civilized compartmentalization.

No matter what happens in that little room, I should be able to kill it by mopping it with bleach two or three times a week. If it damages the walls, so be it. That can be fixed in the future.

The upstairs has a “bonus room” which is…get this…thirty-four feet long. I thought it was more like fifteen by twenty. Big TV which also serves as a monitor, couch, two chairs, exercise bikes, stereo…paradise. And the top of the stairs serves as a choke point for killing zombies as they approach.

Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? Bring that on.

Even with my disgusting packrat habits, clutter should be a thing of the past. I should have ample room for my 93 tons of books. In addition to the bonus room, the downstairs has a study.

I am getting clarity on the workshop dilemma. I have two garages to choose from (attached and detached). I have learned that the attached garage isn’t all that big, so instead of dividing my power tools between buildings, I think the best course is to jam everything in the detached garage. It sort of makes sense. You don’t want to have to walk back and forth between two shops all day, and I don’t want to have to buy a second big compressor.

This would leave the house’s garage empty. What do you put in a garage, if not giant machine tools? Surely not vehicles. That would be asinine.

I can put a second set of house-only tools together and put them in the attached garage, so I don’t have to walk outside every time I need a screwdriver. Then, of course, I’ll need a third set for the upstairs, so I don’t have to walk down the staircase, and then I’ll need a fourth set for my bedroom.

Too much?

I was thinking the bonus room, soon to be known as the Oberbunker, needed a convertible couch, but there will be a couple of vacant bedrooms, so maybe it’s a stupid idea. Convertible couches are heavy and uncomfortable anyway.

Maybe a better name is “Masada West.” How about “The Fortress of Rectitude”?

“Rapture Staging Area.” “Base Camp.”

I know what can go in the garage. The nasty, awful lawnmower. Which probably won’t even have A/C. It really looks like I will have to learn lawn-mowing. Maybe Udacity has a course.

With any luck, I’ll have the hygiene problems solved today or tomorrow. I hope other caregivers can help me with my questions. It will be wonderful to have something resembling a plan.

Guess I’ll pack more books today. More than ever, I regret learning to read.

10 Comments »

The Turn of the Screw

July 8th, 2017

Over the last week or two I have been learning about screwdrivers. I blogged about it on June 28. You would think that after a couple of days of Googling and asking questions, I would have learned everything there was to know. Not so. I’m starting to think universities should offer master’s programs in screwdriver studies.

I thought I’d put up a photo of some of the drivers I’ve used, so you can look at them as I complain and ramble.

The driver on the right (orange plastic) probably came from Harbor Freight. Somehow, my dad ended up with a set. Guess what? They work great. The tips are hard, the handles are reasonably comfortable, and I’m sure they were cheap as dirt. I would not hesitate to buy new ones to carry in my vehicle. If you think your tools will probably get stolen, these are a good choice.

I don’t understand how Harbor Freight pulled this off, but the facts are undeniable.

To the left of the orange screwdriver, you will see a crooked wooden-handled screwdriver. It came from China. My lathe or milling machine (can’t recall) came with two screwdrivers, and this is one of them. It has a long, graceful bend in the shank, and I can assure you, that bend was not created intentionally. Here’s the funny part: it works. The tip hasn’t stripped. The handle hasn’t peeled. It’s a very useful tool.

Seems like the Chinese (some of them) have learned an important lesson Americans can’t seem to absorb: when you make cheap tools, you put the quality where it needs to be. These Chinese screwdrivers have plenty of shortcomings, but the tips are very good, and that’s 95% of what makes the tool work. Americans don’t do it that way. When we make cheap things, we spend the money on making the whole tool look nice, and we don’t invest in the parts that count.

The two screwdrivers to the left of the Chinese no-name are Stanleys. I believe I bought a red-handled set some time ago, and the other one came from a set that belonged to my dad. I’m not going to complain about these. They worked fine, and they weren’t expensive. I wouldn’t call them good screwdrivers, but they didn’t fall apart when I really needed them.

Speaking of falling apart, the next screwdriver is a Craftsman I bought in about 1995, as part of a set. I have very few left, and I don’t lose them, so you can guess what happened. The tips on the Phillips screwdrivers didn’t last. I don’t recall, but I’m sure I threw them out. Yes, Craftsmans are guaranteed for life, buy why would you replace a tool with another tool which will also fail? It’s not worth the drive to Sears.

My Craftsmans looked very nice. Unlike Harbor Freight, Sears put the money in the appearance. Now I avoid Craftsman screwdrivers, but I heartily endorse Harbor Freight. This is what Sears should have expected.

Next comes a Klein with a rubber handle. The screwdrivers are more expensive than Craftsmans. The tip on the screwdriver is a little chewy, and I don’t abuse it, so what does that tell you? For the most part, my Kleins have held up fine, but this one is dubious.

People buy Klein because they expect something that will work better than a cheaper tool, so Klein should use very good steel and add useful features. The steel in this screwdriver seems questionable, and the tool has other problems. The shank is round, so you can’t put a wrench on it. It has no hex bolster. A hex bolster is another feature that will allow you to use a wrench. The rubber handle reacts badly to oils and solvents. The butt of the driver is plastic, so you can’t hit it with a hammer. Also, the tool is not insulated, even though Klein is known for electrical tools.

I have read that Klein had a temporary steel issue which has been fixed, but I don’t want to get caught up in a company’s confused voyage of self-discovery and recovery. I’m not Dr. Phil. I have more hair.

Add all that up, and you have to ask: why Klein?

“Well, you have to cut corners if you want to compete.” Really? Let’s look at the next screwdriver.

The yellow Phillips head next to the Klein is a Wera Kraftform 900 Chiseldriver. It doesn’t have a rubber handle that hates gasoline. It has a full-length shank which goes to a steel cap on the butt, so you can use a hammer to drive it into dirty screws. The shank is hex-shaped so you can use a wrench. The shank has a big hex bolster so you can use a bigger wrench. The handle itself is hex-shaped at the shank end. What more could you ask?

You can get a set of 13 of these for $85, shipped. And they’re made in China. No, they’re not! Don’t be so gullible! They’re made in Germany. Real Caucasian quality tools. Yes, they cost a lot more than Craftsman. If Craftsman made this set, it would be about $20. But you don’t have to throw the Weras out the third time you use them. To get 14 Kleins, you have to pay about $112. So you spend around 40% more, for something that isn’t nearly as good.

I haven’t looked at every screwdriver made, but I’ve looked at a few, and it appears that if you want something good, you have to spend $25 per screwdriver for Snap-On, or you can buy German.

That’s not completely true, and that brings me to my latest screwdriver lesson. After ordering Wera drivers, I was told that they’re not right for use on guns. Guns are among the highest quality things we own, and the screws are made very well. Ordinary screws have slots that are V-shaped when viewed from the sides. Gun screw slots have parallel sides. Most screwdrivers have tapered tips. Gun screws require drivers that have flat tips. If you jam a tapered tip into a really good screw, you open it up on the near side and deface the weapon.

Like life wasn’t complicated enough.

I found a relatively cheap solution. For about $30, you can get a set of US-made Grace screwdrivers made for guns. They have square wooden handles that don’t slip when you get oil on them. They don’t have hex bolsters, but they do have flats on the shanks.

Here’s how I see it now, and I am aware that this could change in ten minutes:

1. If you want screwdrivers that work, cheap, get Harbor Freight and check the tips to make sure they’re okay. For all I know, the screwdrivers they sell now are crap.

2. If you want quality screwdrivers that won’t put you in the poorhouse, get a German brand like Wera, Wiha, or Fela.

3. If you want to work on guns, get Grace.

4. If you want screwdrivers for electrical work, get Wera or Wiha and forget about Klein. Get insulated shafts.

5. Never, ever buy a Craftsman screwdriver, and forget about the stupid warranty. Sears is disappearing. Where are you going to go every time your mushy Phillips head fails? And how many companies DON’T have a warranty? Let me check Wera. Yes, they have a lifetime warranty. Same deal.

I don’t know what to tell you about the Stanleys. They seem to work, but they are low on features.

It’s sad that the topic of screwdrivers has to be so complex. Part of the problem is my upbringing in a culture where people don’t know anything about tools, but the bigger part is the ineptitude of an entire industry. When you go to Home Depot to get a saw or an axe, you shouldn’t have to ask (axe?) things like, “Does it work?”

Is it unfair for me to plug German tools without testing them? In short, nein. The Internet is full of people who will confirm their excellence. Besides, I have Wiha precision screwdrivers and Allen keys, and they’re very good.

If the Weras crumble like Craftsmans, you better believe I’ll blog it.

I feel like I made the best choices I could, with the information I have.

I’m going to sit here for a while and run my hands over my Weras.

Happy driving.

1 Comment »

A Moving Experience

July 7th, 2017

Boxing Day 2017

Reality is sinking in, and for once in my life, that’s a good thing. I am really leaving Miami. I need to start packing!

I’ve been stupid enough to be present at maybe 15 moves in the last seven or eight years, so I have learned a lot. Here are some rules I plan to observe:

1. Small boxes. You have to be an idiot to put more than 30 pounds in one armload. I have seen people take boxes big enough for large microwave ovens and toss books into them until they were full. Guess what a box like that weighs? Maybe eighty pounds. No.

2. Computerized inventory. Number the boxes, list what’s in them (fairly well), and put the list in a computer file. Do not use a legal pad. Trust me on this.

3. Remove the contents of all drawers and box them up. I have seen people tape their drawers shut and ship their furniture full of heavy junk.

4. Throw out, sell, or give away everything you don’t love. My dad doesn’t know it, but the Salvation Army is coming for about half of his furniture next week. It’s too crappy to move. They will also receive his golf clubs. At 85, he is not going to be hitting the links any time soon, unless it’s the sausage links at Bob Evans.

5. No Hefty bags. Come on.

6. Buy and bring every conceivable moving aid. I have a couple of handtrucks, plus those weird arm strap things, which really work.

7. Loose items are not acceptable. It may seem like it’s smart to jam your loose stuff between your big items as padding, but it will just get smashed and covered with moving grime, and people will step on it while you’re moving.

8. Never lift or move anything heavy. This is what movers are for. If you’re poor and desperate, you do what you have to, but if you can afford help, LEAVE THE PIANO ALONE.

9. If you have to move anything in an uncovered vehicle, wrap it securely, because it WILL rain. I don’t care if you’re moving in the Gobi Desert. And anything that can move will fly off into the road.

10. Pack the fragile stuff yourself, and try to move it yourself. Movers do not care about your crystal. They just want to get paid. Let them handle the books and furniture, and even then, stand and stare at them while they move it. Have a conspicuous pistol bulge in your pocket, and try to look mentally unstable. From time to time, look up at the ceiling, laugh maniacally, and yell, “YEAH, THAT’S A GOOD ONE, ROY!” Don’t explain.

When I left Texas, I got royally dinged on the price of boxes. I needed 22 small boxes for books, and it wasn’t like I could go into HEB (the grocery store) and find empty soup boxes just the right size, waiting to be taken. I bought boxes at U-Haul because I was desperate. I forget what they charged. Probably fifty dollars each. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Home Depot sells little boxes for 82 cents. I can swing that. I could drive all over town trying to save fifty dollars, but…I won’t. I have no wife and no kids, and my friends will be very little help. I am not going to suffer more than I have to.

Today I plan to pack books. I’m going to get Home Depot boxes and tape. I’ll identify the books I can live without for the next two months, and in the boxes they will go. I wonder what they weigh. A lot. That’s for sure. I will also try to pack my CD’s, which I have not used in maybe two years. MP3’s changed my life.

Some of my friends are offering to help as I write this. Maybe I underestimate them. I hope so.

I will be back before long, probably with a photo of a ziggurat constructed of boxes of books.

6 Comments »

Mount Crumpet Farm is a Reality

July 6th, 2017

I Can’t Say Hasta la Vista, so Let’s Just Say Adios

I’m in shock. I am moving to northern Florida. More importantly, I am LEAVING MIAMI FOREVER. The deal has been concluded.

So that’s it. No fireworks. No earthquakes. Just an email and a phone call from a realtor, and my ordeal is over. Shouldn’t someone be throwing me a party right now? Shouldn’t the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse be visible in the sky?

I tried to make this happen for so long, and I kept running into walls. Then I changed my prayers and started focusing on inner change. I started casting things out and asking God to do whatever he wanted in me, without restraint. Now the chains are broken. It was fast.

Today my dad and I met a boat broker and took my dad’s boat out to make sure it ran. We couldn’t get the generator started. We decided to go without it. The starboard engine wouldn’t shut down when we ran the engines to check the transmission oil. The broker found the engine-room shutoff and got it under control. The steering was out of fluid, and our bottle of fluid was nearly dry. A guy across the dock had a fresh bottle in a cabinet on his boat. The broker’s drone malfunctioned and flipped into Biscayne Bay, so I took pictures from a dock.

Got it done.

While we were fooling with the boat, my realtor up north called with the good news.

Now I have to move money around and get ready for our closing. What’s it going to feel like, sitting in that beautiful house, far from Miami, taking the keys from the seller? Overwhelming. Like watching the gates of heaven close behind me.

I don’t want to have unrealistic expectations of my new home, but I promise it will be much better than Miami. The people are nice. They speak English. Most are conservative. Most are Christian. There isn’t much traffic. I will have lots of land to disappear on. I will even have seasons, and the air won’t smell like wet socks every day.

With any luck I’ll be dead before America goes completely to hell.

I can’t absorb it. I may sit and look at pictures of the new place all day.

Thanks for your prayers. If you’re stuck in a bad place, my advice is to consider God’s advice. Put his kingdom and his righteousness first, and he will fix your problems. You don’t have to start an orphanage. You don’t have to go to Africa and be burned alive by communist guerillas while trying to convert the lost. Just work on your heart and mind, and the rest will follow.

Peace out!

24 Comments »

Deal or No Deal

July 5th, 2017

I Can Almost Smell Freedom

Things are not looking too bad in the realm of top-level real estate negotiations.

Two days ago, I submitted an offer on a place. The seller did not drive down to Miami and spit in my face (unlike last time), nor did he fill my mailbox with horse manure. He came down to nearly to the maximum price I wanted to pay, and he asked for one concession. He wanted to be able to take two weeks to move his junk after closing. That’s fine with me, because I dread the actual process of moving, and two weeks will give me time to procrastinate. I will not procrastinate because I feel bad about leaving Miami. I will procrastinate even though I am eager to leave, because I dread dealing with moving.

I sent back a counter-counteroffer, not too far from his price, and I think he will take it. That is disturbing. It means I will be leaving Miami, for real.

I do not like this place. I want out of this place. Nonetheless, it will be jarring to leave permanently. If you’ve ever seen a video of a zoo animal that was released into the wild after 15 years in a cramped cage, you’ve seen me, getting out of the car at the new place.

Prison officials use the word “institutionalized” to describe prisoners who have a hard time leaving prison. Even though they hate prison, it’s what they’re used to. They know how to get by there. Miami is full of poisonous memories for me, but I am used to it. I am not a rock. I feel something when I think about leaving. I feel distressed about the way everything went wrong here. I am burdened with the sense of waste and the wish that my life here could have worked.

Still leaving! Don’t fool yourself. As soon as I see daylight, I’m gone.

I am not trying to hammer the seller. I think I could do better, but all I care about is getting a good deal. I do not have to get a killer bargain. As a Christian, I would like to be something of a blessing to the people I deal with. I don’t want them to be miserable because I took advantage of them. I think about that when I buy things off Craigslist these days. I pass on deals that are too good.

Sometimes you can’t help but get a killer bargain. Some people are cursed with poverty and failure, and they will push you to take things at low prices. For example, someone with debt may need to unload something fast in order to raise cash, and because it’s something you don’t particularly need or want, he will have to cut the price way down in order to make it interesting to you at all. You may buy a thing like that as a favor to the other person. Generally, though, I don’t feel I have to draw blood every time I buy anything.

It’s unnerving to deal with someone else’s money. I do my best to involve my dad, but he keeps saying, “It’s all yours now. I trust you implicitly.” You can’t imagine how strange it is to hear that.

I think I’m doing okay. I will be coming in way under the appraised price on this house, and I’m coming up with ways to save a bundle on taxes on his other properties. If he didn’t have me, he would be in a world of trouble right now. I’m sure there are many people who could do a better job, but I believe I’m on top of things.

By the end of the week, I should know if this deal will work, and I will be amazed if it doesn’t.

Leaving will not be complicated. I have two friends to say goodbye to. One will even help me out with moving. No church.

There isn’t a lot more to say today. I hope to have good news soon.

More

I watched the video, above, of a bear that was rescued from a bile farm, splashing around in a pond at his new home. Suddenly I felt a wave of emotion. I felt the weight of every rotten thing that ever happened to me in Miami. I didn’t see this coming.

When you go through a hard experience, you don’t let yourself feel all of the pain, even if the experience lasts decades. When it comes to an end, the feelings make it through your defenses. I should have expected it.

I won’t have a pond at the new place, but the house has a pool.

I will make do.

7 Comments »

The Prophecies of Epimetheus

July 5th, 2017

Bill Gates Anticipates Captain Obvious

I read something interesting. Bill Gates made a bunch of predictions in 1999, and they are coming true. Amazing, right? He must be a genius.

Bill Gates may be a genius; there are claims out there that he got a perfect score on the pre-participation-trophy version of the SAT. Usually claims like that turn out to be BS, but it could be true. I know lots of people who got perfect math scores. Perfect verbal scores…not one. I failed to achieve that distinction myself, although I came closer than anyone I know.

Bill Gates may be a genius, but he is not much of a prophet. Look what he predicted. It appears that he has a genius for predicting the past.

1. “Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites…” I’m pretty sure these existed in 1999. Pricegrabber and Dealtime, for example. Yes, Wikipedia says Pricegrabber was founded in 1999. Get out of the office once in a while, Bill.

2. “People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are.” Uh…cell phones. I am a late adapter, and I had my own phone in 1997. Now that I think about it, I had access to my dad’s cell phone as early as 1986. By 1997 or 1998, I knew a guy who had a Quotrek, which was a mobile stock ticker. And let’s not forget Dick Tracy.

3. “People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the internet.” Most of us were not paying monthly bills over the web in 1999, but I had e-trading in 1994 or 1995.

4. “Personal companions’ will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data.” Personal Digital Assistants had been around for about five years before Gates made his astonishing prediction. I’m not including total-wonk versions that existed a decade earlier. Granted, they were not as good as tablets or smartphones, but it didn’t take Edgar Cayce to look at them and say, “Maybe these will get better!”

5. “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.” Maybe you couldn’t get a system like that in your area in 1999, but it was obvious that they were on the way. I guarantee you, banks and government buildings had things like that. Obvious, Bill. To get a patent on something, your invention has to be novel, useful, and nonobvious. Your prediction fails two of the tests.

6. “Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.” AOL was there in something like 1990. Where was Bill?

7. “Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.” Score one for Bill? Doubtful. Expedia, a travel site belonging to Microsoft, roared to life in 1996. Unless Bill was playing Donkey Kong in meetings, he had to know they were working on improving their marketing.

8. “While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter a contest where you vote on who you think will win.” AOL. Chat rooms. Come on, Bill. This is Chauncey Gardiner stuff.

9. “Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.” Don’t know when this started, but if Microsoft, which made a popular browser at the time, didn’t know about it in 1999, someone was slacking.

10. “Television broadcast will include links to relevant websites and content that complement what you are watching.” Obvious. Every intelligent person who got a good look at the web in the Nineties knew it would eventually merge with TV, the Postal Service, Radio, and telephony. Links were natural extensions of that merging.

11. “Residents of cities and countries will be able to have internet-based discussions concerning issues that affect them, such as local politics, city planning, or safety.” You’re kidding me, right?

12. “Online communities will not be influenced by your location, but rather, your interest.” See previous.

13. “Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project, and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements.” I had Amicus Attorney and Time Matters either in 1999 or not long afterward. Someone wake Bill up when the briefing is over.

14. “Similarly, people looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills.” Guess what year Monster.com was founded? Come on. Guess. I predict you will guess 1999.

15. “Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don’t usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don’t have a go-to provider for the said service.” This was not part of my world in 1999, but based on Bill’s spectacular failures as a prophet, I will bet it already existed.

If this is genius, what does plagiarism look like? I am confused.

Let me predict stuff. I still say the distinctions between the Internet, phones, TV, and the mail will vanish. They are unnatural and expensive. I think Amazon will eventually open showrooms where you can go look at junk before buying it, but it will only be possible in large cities, because inventory costs money. They will also have a video chat facility that allows you to watch an employee demonstrate products you want to buy, but it won’t be available for every product. TVs will be even bigger than they are now, and it will be impossible to turn off the spy functions.

Later on, it will be illegal to turn off the Internet, and Uncle Sam will always know where you are and what you’re doing, “for your own good.” You will be required to have at least one social media account, and it will be your legal address for service in lawsuits and so on. You will be required to take legal notice of all communications to it.

The devil hates literacy, and IT marketers hate products that require end users to exert themselves, so tech companies will do their absolute best to develop devices that allow you to turn thoughts into text. Eventually, it will work, and the down side is that the habit of using these things will cause you to broadcast signals continuously, the same way you form words in your mind, allowing Uncle Sam or whoever to read some portion of your thoughts.

The government will collect a whole lot of biometric stuff, without our consent. You will have to submit DNA along with fingerprints when you get a gun permit, a real estate license, or any other type of professional license. It’s for our own good.

Come back in five years and tell me I was wrong. I hope you will be able to…but you won’t.

No Comments »