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Human Pachinko

Saturday, 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.

King Tut Meets Al Capone

Saturday, 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.

Why Can’t Denial Just be for Bad Things?

Friday, 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.

Next to Godliness

Monday, 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.

We Elected Screwball Squirrel

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

“If Your Enemy is Quick to Anger, Seek to Irritate Him”

Wow. What country did I wake up in today?

Donald Trump just posted a doctored video–humorous doctoring, not typical leftist-media deceptive doctoring–of himself beating a man with a CNN logo for a head.

The video comes from a WWE appearance in which Trump attacked Vince McMahon and did a “ground and pound” on him just outside the ring.

What to say about this?

On the one hand, one of the funniest videos ever. On the other, something resembling an admission that the world has gone to hell.

Of course, liberals are pretending the video encourages Trump fans to beat up journalists. Problem, and I know this will make some people mad: virtually all of the folks who have been caught on camera attacking journalists in the last few years fall into two categories: Muslims and black people. I am sorry to say it, but it’s true. For some reason, people in these two groups are least likely to take journalistic neutrality seriously.

There is one big exception to the rule that conservatives don’t attack journalists, and oddly, he is a new member of Congress. This nut, who was running for office in Montana, grabbed a journalist and threw him to the floor. Also, a politician who was later convicted of some sort of corruption threatened to break a journalist in half, but he didn’t actually touch him.

Trump and other conservatives are constantly accused of encouraging violence against this group or that group, but it never pans out. On the other hand, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have encouraged people to riot, and at least one man was murdered as the result of Sharpton’s exhortations. Also, there has been a wave of violent attacks on conservatives by leftists who didn’t really need anyone to incite them. Black people have been known to attack people who simply looked like they might have voted for Trump.

I suppose someone, somewhere, will get a beating from leftists over this video. Trump should have thought of that, as well as the dignity of his office, before he released it. We may see a whole lot of beatings. Thank God I carry a gun. I should probably throw a rifle in the back seat and keep it there for a while.

Here’s one thought I want to get out before everyone else writes an opinion piece: I suspect that Trump just guaranteed his reelection in 2020. Whatever Trump’s failings are, he is right about CNN and the other leftists information censors. They lie, they omit, they exaggerate…they poison our minds with their false version of the truth; their fake news. Republicans are sick of it, and many of us (myself included) have wished we could see a president communicate openly about the press. Trump has finally granted our wish. I believe that in spite of our better instincts, many of us will be so grateful to Trump that we will commit to keeping him in office for another term.

I always longed to see a president open up about bias, but there is a difference between longing for it and thinking it was a good idea. Trump goes farther than he should, and he doesn’t admit fault when he’s wrong and the press is right. Posting this video was silly. It was over the top. I believe it will harden up and enlarge his base, but it will probably heat up the partisan cold war and push us closer to a violent and even more tawdry future. It won’t inspire conservatives to violence, but it will move leftists to ramp up their pattern of physical attacks on us, and that is likely to lead to a conservative backlash that will bring us down to their level.

Before Trump was elected, I said he would be the most entertaining president in history. You can’t fault me there. My prediction has come true in spades.

What’s next? Maybe this week Al Franken will moon Mitch McConnell.

The very existence of Senator Al Franken is proof we don’t care if our leaders have any dignity.

I know of two people who will be very put out about the video: Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough. This will knock their self-pitying, juvenile bickering right out of the headlines. When you’re an unremarkable person selling a commodity that can be replaced by virtually any unemployed celebrity who can speak, you need to be in the news as often as possible.

Have fun, Mr. President, but please keep appointing conservative judges, helping Israel, and doing what you can for Christians and the unborn. You are going to do whatever makes you happy, but please don’t forget about the rest of us.

More Opinions About Shows I Don’t Watch

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Somewhere Rachel Marsden is Smiling

It’s humbling to admit it, but I was wrong. I mean when I said I was wrong about Tucker Carlson. I was actually right. The first time. And I’m man enough to admit it.

I said Tucker Carlson was not the right choice to replace Bill O’Reilly. Carlson has an unassailable track record of not winning. His shows haven’t done well in the past, and I felt there was no reason to expect better things in the future. When you read The Racing Form, you don’t pick a horse that has never won, unless you see him smoking meth before a race. And bow ties aren’t for normal men. They’re for guys who sell popcorn.

In the early days of Carlson’s tenure, he did surprisingly well, elating his mom Gretchen and leading me to conclude that I had been wrong. That has changed. Now his audience is smaller than the bizarre group of people who turn up to hear Rachel Maddow screech. O’Reilly averaged about 4 million viewers per night, and Carlson has lost 20% of those wallets. I mean viewers.

Maddow is the Alex Jones of cable news. She never met a leftist nutbar conspiracy she didn’t like. Carlson, for all his faults, is kind of a journalist. You would think he would do better than she does. But he’s bringing up the rear, consistently.

Eric Bolling would have been better. He’s smart. Same goes for Jeanine Pirro. Judge Pirro is probably the closest thing we have to a female O’Reilly. Instead, Fox looked in the fridge and chose the leftover pot roast that had been sitting in the back for several years. Crazy.

Stuart Varney! Is he dead? He would have been good.

To make up for being wrong about being wrong, I will point out that I was right about Megyn Kelly. Her departure hurt her, hurt NBC, and didn’t hurt Fox. Kelly’s star appeal has been exposed as an illusion, NBC is paying a boatload of money to someone who can’t bring the butts, and Fox is muddling along with Five Minus Beckel, which is ahead of Anderson Vanderbilt, also known as Gloria Cooper.

The odd thing here is that I find these stories interesting even though I never watch the news.

Maybe I’m wrong (for real)! After all, as a non-viewer, I base my judgment of the Fox heads on old information. Well, except for Carlson. I watched a few Youtube clips of him at his new job. I think I’m right, though.

I don’t think Kelly will last. She does a perfectly fine job, by the low standards of broadcast journalists, but she is not a big talent. She’s no Bill O’Reilly. Without Fox to propel her, she won’t recover and prosper in a liberal shark tank, in front of confused liberal viewers. NBC will eventually promote her downward into a less-damaging and more obscure role. Then she’ll turn into Deborah Norville. Maybe she’ll suddenly realize she wants to “devote more time to her family.” Then come the infomercials. “Wow, George, your grill really does KNOCK OUT the fat!”

Carlson will stay right where he is, for at least a couple more years. He’s doing too well to fire and not well enough to keep for the long haul. It would be great news for Fox if he showed up to work naked and told his producers he needed time off to build a second home on Venus. That way, they could start over, and Carlson would become a viable successor to Alex Jones. As it is, they’ll have to wait until tuning in at eight and seeing the wrong guy gets to be too much.

Who will Fox hire when Tucker’s time is up? Tough call. I would guess…Martha MacCallum. Someone who has been around forever and is clearly not up to the job. A rusty tool from a very familiar box, just like Carlson. Or how about Bret Baier? A solid journalist who doesn’t have the weight to anchor a show.

Maybe they could go full-bore alt-right. They could have Ted Nugent, killing and dressing a chicken on his desk. Or they could just tape a laser-printed photo of Andrew Breitbart (PBUH) on the wall behind the chair and have Jesse Watters pretend to be his voice.

Whoever it is, it will probably be a bad choice. I don’t think I’ll have to say I’m wrong about that.

Meet Wallace

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

My Emotional Support Rattlesnake

Today, as always, I am watching America disintegrate. The topic that has my attention at the moment: emotional support animals.

Have you noticed that you can’t go into a store or restaurant now without running into someone walking a dog? Over the last few months, these people have gotten my attention. It seems their numbers have increased rapidly. The dogs wear little vests, like the ones real service animals wear. They must be highly trained animals which provide essential help to disabled people, right?

Wrong.

For under a hundred bucks, you can get your dog, cat, snake, owl, lemur, wombat, tarantula, or alligator snapping turtle certified as an emotional support animal. After that, many cowardly business owners will bow to you when you bring your pet–that’s what it really is–into places like the hardware store or the movies. You can get your certification over the phone. You can buy an emotional support dog vest from Amazon: LOOK.

One lady in the reviews describes her ESD as “a 70 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback/Lab mix who is easily excitable around people.” Great. See anything wrong with that?

This is so crazy, even our left-leaning mental health establishment is voicing disapproval.

Is it so bad if animals get to go where we go? Am I an animal hater or what? Actually, it IS bad, and I’m not an animal hater. Emotional support animals (and their owners) have no training. They are not held to cleanliness standards. They bite. They poop on stuff.

Today I read about a couple of animals that pooped on airplanes. DISCLAIMER: Marv (my African grey parrot) has done this many times, but he was in a pet carrier, and no one pretended he was performing a vital service.

One animal, a dog, took two aisle dumps in a single flight. People got sick to their stomachs. What could be better than being trapped in a small space with one of the most fragrant types of poop on the planet? Another animal, a pig, relieved itself on the floor and got itself and its owner thrown off the plane before it took off. Have you ever been around pig manure? The smell really carries. It’s not a wholesome, farmy smell like horse or cow manure smell. It’s funky and gross.

If you didn’t have the straight poop (sorry) on emotional support animals when you got up this morning, now you do. It’s a scam that permits selfish people to abuse the rest of us. Snowflakes who can’t find anything else to complain about are now entitled to make us share restaurant seats with creatures that lick their anuses.

This is good information to have. The other day I saw a scam dog at Home Depot, and I nearly ran a cart over its tail. I thought it wasn’t a big deal, because an educated service dog wouldn’t lunge at me if I hurt it. Now I know that dog wasn’t educated at all. I almost provoked a big German shepherd which probably had as much training and restraint as Charlie Sheen. You and I are informed now, so we can avoid being bitten, pawed, and peed on.

Look how crazy we’ve gotten. We can’t even count on eating our meals in areas free of dog crap.

This is what Americans are becoming. Today it is completely possible that you will see a grown “man” wearing a baby’s romper, sitting in a restaurant, working on a coloring book, with a vicious emotional support rottweiler straining to break its leash and eat the waiters. And anyone complaining about such sorry spectacles risks being treated like Josef Mengele after a sighting at a B’nai Brith luncheon.

Normal people run from nuts and brats now, and it’s going to get worse.

The airlines are trying to limit the insanity. They require “patients” to get current letters from mental health professionals, listing their mental illnesses and stating the need for a llama or penguin or whatever. Of course, a lot of crazy people and crooks have medical degrees, as any savvy Percocet addict can tell you. It won’t be hard for determined, imperious snowflakes to get their documentation.

If I were a seeing-eye dog, I would be really miffed about this. These amateurs will reflect very badly on real service dogs.

Life is no longer permitted to provide any type of inconvenience or unpleasantness, unless of course you’re a Christian, a male, white, straight, or conservative. We get all sorts of unpleasantness. We are not allowed to own bakeries, for example. It’s open season on us, but God forbid you should ask a “medical marijuana” enthusiast not to light up in front of your kids at a park. Not being allowed to get high in a park could be traumatic, so shut up and go home, normal people.

I shouldn’t make fun of medical marijuana. It’s very hard to get a prescription. You have to make a phone call and tell a doctor you’ve never met that you have a headache.

I want an aggressive emotional support chimp that smokes medical marijuana in my safe space with me. Oh, wait. I can’t have a safe space. I’m an old white guy. I’m not supposed to be safe, because any consideration or help I receive is “white privilege.” I’m supposed to be mistreated, because it makes up for the way I microaggress everyone around me simply by existing.

Honest to God, I wish we could all be transported to December of 1941 and experience real problems for a few days, just so the snowflakes would have a frame of reference. They have no idea what a problem looks like, so they try to fabricate them, and they don’t do a very good job. If a white man makes a taco, it is not a problem. If your ball python has to fly in the luggage hold, it is not a problem. The Spanish Flu of 1918…that was a problem. Polio was a problem. The Civil War was a problem. Compare and contrast and see if you can spot the difference between these challenges and the pain of having your high school history teacher tell you to stop showing the boys your nipples.

Now I’m off on another tangent. It seems like every third news story I see is about some mom who “shut down” a teacher or principal who asked her daughter to quit dressing like a slut.

Jeff Lebowski was wrong. The bums won!

The world (mainly America) is nuts right now. It won’t be long before it’s insufferable. I’d fake my death and move somewhere safe, but there is no such place.

Russia. I keep forgetting Russia. I don’t know if I can handle their weather, though. They wouldn’t take me, anyway. Unlike the US, other countries require you to prove you will be an asset before you can move in.

Be careful where you step in restaurants, and make sure you stay at least two yards away from emotional support dogs. You should probably start cooking at home more. Let’s face it: we should start doing everything at home more.

I’m really stressed, so I’m going to stop. I need relief. I wonder if I can get a chiropractor to give me prescription heroin.

Pining for Cleanliness

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Use This Stuff and Your Floors Will be Shipshape

In my quest to become NOT the worst housekeeper on earth, I am always looking for new products to use. Today I thought I’d share some news about an old product.

I am not referring to Pine-Sol. But I will use Pine-Sol to set the stage. Remember how great Pine-Sol used to be? It was loaded with pine oil, which cleans well and smells even better. Now Pine-Sol is crap. They took the pine out and substituted the chemical that gives Fabuloso its characteristic, congestion-inducing stench. I don’t know what that chemical is called, but if you enjoy lying awake all night with your eyes smarting and your nostrils swollen shut, it’s exactly what you need.

I found out turpentine was full of pine stuff. It’s loaded with alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Together they make up most of turpentine. I started adding a little turpentine to my mop water, and it worked very well. It shines wood floors and leaves the house smelling great.

The other day I started thinking about another pine product: Orpine boat soap. This is a product boaters swear by. It’s a white jelly that comes in a gallon jug. You mix one ounce with 3 gallons of water, and you’re ready to go. It cleans like nobody’s business, and one of its two main ingredients is pine oil. The other is the active ingredient in dishwashing detergent.

Orpine costs a lot. You can expect to pay over $60 for a gallon. But that’s less than 50 cents per mop bucket. Pine Sol, which no longer works, costs almost exactly fifty cents per bucket. You can get a fantastic product with real pine oil and save trips to the store, or you can buy ten bottles of Pine Sol and get inferior performance and zero pine smell.

I ordered Orpine from Amazon, because it was cheaper than local boating stores, and I tried it today. It works great. I am quite pleased with it. I bought the regular kind, not the one that has wax in it.

I found out Pine-Sol isn’t the only cleaner that has been debased. Lestoil has been changed, too. The manufacturer claims they had to take out “volatile organic compounds,” i.e. anything remotely piney, to make the tree-huggers happy. Too bad. It used to be wonderful. I remember using that time in high school when I put Vaseline in my hair.

Long story.

My last Pine-Sol purchase was a really bad deal, because I poured most of it down the toilet. I tried to use it, and the funky smell let me know I was being ripped off. The toilet was my next stop.

You can find 80% pure pine oil in gallon jugs online, but you have to exclude the word “essential” from your search, or you’ll get 9,000,000 results featuring tiny bottles of aromatherapy pine oil running about $20 per ounce. Janitor supply places sell the big jugs. I should try that, when my Orpine runs out in 2025.

I don’t know how much pine oil Orpine contains, but it’s somewhere between 10 and 50 percent. That’s pretty good.

Pathetic Exercises for Pathetic People

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

How I Narrowly Avoid Having to Buy a Mobility Cart

The other day a wonderful thought occurred to me, and I felt I should share it: “There is no exercise in heaven.”

Think about that. Imagine never having to work out again. That, all by itself, makes it heaven.

I am not in heaven, and for a few months I’ve been doing regular cardiovascular exercise to keep me from collapsing in a heap of Jell-O. I found out about a type of exercise that didn’t sound too bad, so I decided to try it, and I’ve stuck with it. It’s called “HIT” or “HIIT,” and I forget exactly what those things stand for. “High Intensity Training,” or something.

The idea is that instead of suffering mildly for 40 minutes, you try to kill yourself for about 5 minutes, including breaks. For example, you sprint as hard as possible for 20 seconds, and then you rest for 10. Then you sprint again. Supposedly you get most of the benefit of long workouts for a small percentage of the pain.

It has worked for me. I don’t know if I’m in good cardiovascular shape, but everything is toned up, and I have lots of energy.

I was thinking about it this week. Who looks better? Sprinters or marathon runners? Easy question. Marathon runners are weak and spindly, with tiny muscles. They look like malnutrition victims. Sprinters are full of bulgy, springy muscle. It makes sense that intense workouts give better results.

I also thought about the demands daily life places on the body. Have you ever, in your entire life, had to exert yourself moderately for 40 minutes, with your pulse at 75% of maximum? Of course not. That only happens when you work out. But how many times have you had to exert yourself intensely for two to three minutes? Thousands, right? Moving a couch. Carrying things up stairs because an elevator has gone out. Moving something heavy across your garage when there is no one to help. What good is a stringy, wobbly marathon runner when you have to dig up a stump with a mattock?

Most people who do cardiovascular exercise are training for something that will never happen. In order to use that type of fitness, you have to enter a race, which is a contrived event. We have to make up challenges that use that kind of endurance.

HIT is supposed to be a heart thing, but it does other stuff for you. As you maintain your workout schedule, you get stronger, so you have to jack up the resistance. That means bigger muscles, without weights.

Another interesting thing: the fact that you work out for 40 minutes at a time doesn’t mean much when you really have to push it. When you work out at a low level of intensity, increasing the speed or effort a little bit will tire you out in a hurry. What if you’re used to brief periods of extreme intensity? What if you go through that five or six times a week? Obviously, your body will be ready the next time life throws you a tough job.

It all makes sense to me. If you want your body to try to repair and improve itself, you have to put it under stress. Piddling around with your pulse at 120 doesn’t tell your body to shape up. It says, “This is only a drill. Relax and have more pound cake.” My body suffers horrible abuse four to six times a week, so it’s always expecting the worst and trying to prepare.

I still hate exercise, but I hate it for much shorter periods, so it’s a win.

When you get old, you quit deluding yourself about 18″ biceps, 5% body fat, and a resting pulse rate of 50. You know from experience that you won’t work out more than a few minutes per day for more than six months. You start looking for moderately effective exercises you will actually do instead of crazy-effective exercises you will give up as soon as they start working.

Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. He quit working out and grew moobs and a gut. His arms shriveled away. For a long time, I was able to say I had a better body than the Terminator. He started exercising again, but he’ll quit eventually. If he can’t keep it up his whole life, what chance do normal people have?

I use a recumbent exercise bike and an upright bike. The upright bike is for my upper body. I put my chest on it and push the pedals with my arms. Sounds funny, right? Try it and see if it’s still funny. Most cardiovascular exercises do almost nothing for the upper body. It’s startling when you find something that actually puts it to work.

You can have good endurance in one part of your body and be a creampuff in other parts. That’s what happens to runners. Big thighs combined with chicken drumette T-rex arms. The bikes make everything work hard.

I’m still a flubbery old man, but my old-man exercises are preventing me from falling completely apart.

Something to think about, if you hate exercise as much as I do.

Six Feet Over Everest

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Bad Choices and Globetrotting Cockroaches

Every once in a while, I see the word “Everest” on the Internet, and I start reading about high-altitude mountain climbing. It’s fascinating, and not in a good way. It’s like reading about people who die feeding sharks or trying to commune with bears.

Everest is popping up in the news right now. I should have seen that coming. Because of the way the weather works in Nepal, people climb Mount Everest in May. An American internist named Roland Yearwood just died up there, and his sherpa is in bad shape. An Indian climber named Ravi Kamar is also in trouble. He’s missing. Terrible to think about.

Here is the question that has been bugging me lately: why do people who climb tall mountains get frostbite?

The obvious answer (“It’s cold up there.”) doesn’t cut it. It’s cold in lots of places. It’s cold in outer space, but astronauts don’t get frostbite when they spacewalk. There has to be more to it.

I found some articles aimed at climbers. One claims something like 90% of frostbite incidents involving climbers are caused by human error. The others list things people do wrong.

Surprise, surprise. That’s pretty much what I figured.

The articles list a bunch of causes. People wear things like jewelry, which slow circulation. They wear boots that are too tight. They wear boots that aren’t very good. They wear boots that are worn out. They wear the wrong socks. The best boots come in two layers: outer and inner. Climbers let their inner boots freeze while they sleep, so when they put them back on, they’re applying ice to their feet.

Here’s another cause they mention: not turning around when you start to freeze. I can understand that. You’ve spent a hundred thousand dollars on your climb. You’re in your late forties, so you may not be physically able to return in the future. You’re a thousand feet from the top. Your buddies already summited, and you feel bad about it, because you’re the kind of competitive, insecure person who thinks he has to climb Mount Everest. Everyone back at J.P. Morgan or the department of thoracic surgery is rooting for you on Instagram. When your feet or fingers start to feel funny, the natural urge will be to keep going. Maybe they’re supposed to feel that way! Think of the glory. Think how all the other Google kids will be buying you free lattes.

I could never be a mountain climber. I’m too old, and I don’t want to do it in the first place, but even if those things weren’t true, I would still fail, because every time I started to think I MIGHT be getting frostbite, I would turn around and walk home. A nice, mild case of frostbite will cost you the tips of several fingers. There is not much of a limit to what severe frostbite can do to you. Noted frostbite victim Dr. Beck Weathers lost his right arm halfway up to the elbow. I’m not going out like that. Not without a better reason than Instagram likes.

“Steve is a sissy.” “Steve is a quitter.” Say what you want, but follow it up with, “Steve has all his limbs. Steve hasn’t had skin grafts. Steve isn’t a frozen mummy lying beside the trail wearing the wrong boots. Steve will never have to be carried around in a basket because of ego tourism.”

I think if I were up there freezing to death, I’d make the thumbs-up gesture with both hands. That way, when people walked by my dead body years later, they’d get a little encouragement.

I also read that things like smoking, drinking, and diet-induced bad circulation cause frostbite. Don’t people make any effort to screen themselves? I guess not. A man in his eighties just died on Everest.

I saw another story about bad Everest behavior. A couple of vegans tried to climb Everest, in order to prove “vegans can do anything,” and one of them died. What can you say about that? Was someone out there making rude claims about salad impacting people’s ability to climb mountains? This is like climbing Everest to prove people who wear blue socks can do anything. It’s a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Maybe the vegan angle was his way of getting other people to pay for the trip. Sponsorship angles are very important to Everest tourists.

NASA should try that. Think how much money we would save if we sent up space shuttles and stations with Coke logos on the sides. They could call their outfit “NASACAR.”

The vegans tried to climb Everest. The wife got sick very close to the top. Naturally, the husband and the guide turned around immediately, got her to safety, and begged God to forgive them for their foolishness. Well, not really. The actual story is horrific. The husband asked his sick wife if it was okay if he kept climbing and came back for her. When he got back, they headed for the nearest camp, and she didn’t make it. Now he tells interviewers how empty it was, summiting without her. As if that were the problem with the story.

He is now planning a trip to recover her body. Picture me throwing up my hands.

People amaze me. You have to be a little off to climb a mountain that kills 3% of its tourists. Climbing unprepared is a completely different level of insanity. How many photos of freeze-dried bodies do you have to see on Google before you decide to buy good boots and gloves? What does it take to convince you that you should start with a plan that includes firm guidelines on when to turn back?

Climber: So the really good boots are $1000, and the ones that make your toes fall off are $600. And my budget for the trip is $100,000.

Salesperson: That’s right.

Climber: I’ll take the cheap ones and a Gopro.

If the human race lasts long enough, we will eventually be able to fly people to the top of Everest or build some kind of tram system. It may be 50 years from now, but it will happen. We are constantly improving our tools. I wonder what would happen if it suddenly became possible to pay a reasonable fee, ride a cable car, and have lunch at the summit.

I can tell you what would happen. Climbers would go up there and blow up the machinery. They would shriek about how wrong it was to take the challenge out of it. They would say everyone should do it the hard way, i.e., by emptying their IRA’s and being dragged up by sherpas.

I say let’s do it. Let’s put a McDonald’s up there. McMuffins on Everest! I’m down. Starbucks is probably there already. Maybe if getting to the tops of huge mountains were easy, fewer people would feel motivated to struggle and die on them. The Facebook photos would lose their eclat. “Here I am on the summit! Took four days and cost me three fingers, but I made it! I’m hugging Grammy and Grampy, who came up on the cable car! Thank goodness Mr. Toodles brought his dog sweater!”

It’s so strange that people are willing to climb big mountains. It’s not like there’s a big pot of gold on top of each one. What do you really get when you climb Everest? A nice view and severe credit card debt. You can’t even say you did something really hard, because people who have done it say it’s not that difficult. You don’t really climb. You just walk. Very slowly. It’s dangerous and unpleasant, but it’s not that hard. An old lady did it twice.

Maybe the pride is based on beating the odds. You rolled the dice, and the weather happened to be okay, so you made it. I’m not impressed. If you want to be a big mountain climbing braggart at your local bar, don’t walk up Everest. Climb K2, which is the world’s second-highest mountain. You can’t walk up this one. It’s held out to be the hardest mountain to climb. The K2 death rate is nearly 20%. In your face, Everest tourists. Still, there is nothing valuable at the top.

I leave you with a bit of the greatest piece of mountaineering literature: “archy on everest,” transcribed in 1935 by author Don Marquis. It’s part of a series of essays about the mountain, dictated by the first westerner to climb to the top: Archy the cockroach. Non-climbers will find it accessible because of the lack of technical jargon.

everyone i meet is all hopped up
with the altitude
caught up with the maharajah of nepal
gaily hopping over snow and ice
bare legged i said to him
hello spinach face are you starting
a nudist colony up here
and he replied
an avalanche
tore off my panche
and left me feeling funny
but we never rest
on everest
my himalaya honey
yes i says but who was that lady
i seen you walking with
a mile of so below
that wasnt no lady he says quick as a flash
that was the taj mahal

That bit about the avalanche makes me think of what happened to Sir George Mallory. But I won’t go into that. Still too soon.

At Liberty to Speak

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Trump Offends on His Day Off, by Acknowledging God

I’m waiting for my laundry to dry, so I felt like I should write.

Trump spoke at Liberty University today. This is the school Jerry Falwell ran. Not sure if he founded it. Go check. It’s a Christian school.

I saw a little bit of his speech. Trump praised a Catholic clergyman in some way or another. I thought that was funny. Liberty is probably full of Protestants who see Catholicism as paganism in disguise. Trump is not what you would call a minister, so he may not be aware of the issue.

Is it good to invite Trump to speak at Christian colleges? Probably. He’s not a great Christian, and he’s no role model, but he’s a friend of Christianity, so he should receive honor and gratitude, just as Nehemiah showed honor and gratitude to Artaxerxes. The relationship doesn’t become a problem until we start pretending Trump is one of us. That’s hypocrisy. His record of fornication and adultery is solid, and he runs casinos. He’s not Jerry Falwell.

Incidentally, we should ask ourselves what Artaxerxes did. He commissioned Nehemiah to build a WALL and a TEMPLE. Aliens had overrun Jerusalem, and the temple and walls had been destroyed. Nehemiah and others rebuilt Jerusalem and wielded power over the aliens and pagans. MJGA. “Make Jerusalem Great Again.” Trump wants to build a wall, and he may give us time so many of us have the chance to become God’s temples.

Trump is a phenomenon. Every time I look at the news, I see people screaming and wetting their pants over something he has said. He says some pretty wild things; there is no denying it. I’m not disturbed by it. I think it highlights our snowflake natures. We’re like women now; we look for ways to turn every remark into a slight, and we think verbal slights are more important than actions. Trump’s actions have generally been unremarkable. He’s not running around the South Lawn naked. He hasn’t bombed North Korea. He hasn’t interned anyone. He just flies off the handle on Twitter, like the rest of us, and then he forgets about it. Is that really a big deal? We ought to get used to it.

A leader who says nutty things can be a real advantage. Look at the the Kim dynasty in North Korea. They scare the daylights out of the entire world, when in reality, they could be extinguished in a week of military action. They hav a few puny bombs we could probably neutralize before they could be used, and their army is small and poor by western standards. Nonetheless, when the Norks scream and throw tantrums, we bow and grovel and make concessions. We don’t want to set them off. If Trump’s tweets put the rest of the world on edge, it’s probably good for us. It sure beats Obama’s policy of traveling the world to kneel and apologize to second- and third-world Mickey Mouse regimes that need a boot in the rear.

When you box, one of the best things you can do is to keep your opponent off balance. That tactic works in every area of life. People like Trump and Kim Jong-Un and Philippine President Duterte never let their adversaries find balance. They keep them on the defensive. They force them to react instead of planning. I have no problem with that. We’ve kissed up to erratic foreign leaders for decades. Let’s see what happens when the shoe is on the other foot.

No one is going to nuke us over a tweet. No one will send troops across the border. There will be huffing and puffing, but they can’t blow our house down. I say relax and enjoy it.

Maybe Trump will teach us a valuable lesson. Maybe he’ll teach us that sticks and stones may break our bones, et cetera. We used to know that. It’s funny how we have become less wise with time. The natural thing is for wisdom to accumulate, but we manage to lose it. That should be impossible.

We shouldn’t be sweating so much over other people’s contrived, manipulative offense. We hold most of the cards. They should be concerned about offending us.

I’m not going to worry about it. I hope he’ll do a few good things while he’s in office. It would be great to have a 6-3 Supreme Court, real progress on restoring the Second Amendment, and no estate tax. I’m sure he will help the unborn, and he will be much better for Israel than Clinton. Good enough. America is going down the tubes, so anyone who slows it down is okay in my book.

COMEY OUT

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Nugent In?

I just read that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. I don’t know too much about this story, but I really enjoy Trump, and I thought I’d publish my short list of potential Comey replacements.

1. Donald Trump. Where does the Constitution say you can’t be president AND FBI Director? nowhere. Because the Constitution was written before the FBI was created. LOOPHOLE!

Instead of the bizarre, disturbing interactions we’ve seen lately between presidents and FBI directors, we’d see useless, self-serving, highly entertaining press conferences that looked like this:

2. Steve Bannon. He’s not that busy these days, and his appointment would fill DC with the sound of exploding heads.

3. Bill O’Reilly. I seriously believe it would be worth it to see America dissolve into chaos if it meant I got to experience one week of a Bill O’Reilly FBI regime. I don’t think Bill would do a good job. I don’t think he has any qualifications at all. I just think it would be funny to see the looks on people’s faces. Everyone on the left thought O’Reilly was toast. Imagine having him pop back up in a major political office with a guarantee of nearly four years of uninterrupted rule. I don’t watch Rachel Maddow, but on the night Bill got appointed, I’d be there with Jiffy Pop made and all my phones turned off.

4. Sarah Palin. Please, let it happen. And I want her to ride to the office every day on a snow machine.

5. Ann Coulter. She’s a nut; I know. That’s irrelevant. I just want to see people like Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer suppress the gag reflex while saying, “FBI Director Coulter.”

6. Franklin Graham. With a big white cross on the front of his podium. He could establish a special task force to hunt down people who cross state lines to break commandments. The hilarity could prove unsurvivable.

7. Joe Arpaio. JOE ARPAIO. Forget all the other choices. This is the one. I want to see the air conditioning go off in all our federal prisons, and I want to see Gitmo detainees in pink boxer shorts.

Let me know your choices. If you can top Arpaio, I’ll send you a case of Golden Double Stufs.

Learning not to be a Mark

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Real Estate Education Continues

Today I’m waiting to see what happens with the offer we put in on the house in Marion County. The listing agent got the bad news on Friday, and I assume they’re going to make me sweat until Monday. I’m not sweating, though. The house is not ideal, and there are a couple of other possibilities that might be better.

I looked over the county website and learned some things. Maybe a discussion of my diligence will help other people.

When you buy a house, you don’t just walk in, look around, guess what it’s worth, and offer that amount. There are a ton of things to consider. I don’t know a whole lot about getting loans, but I can tell you about other things you need to think about.

1. Get it appraised before you make an offer. If you’re borrowing, the bank will want an appraisal anyway, so you might as well get it over with. Also, how are you supposed to decide what to offer if you don’t know what the house is worth? The people who own the house I want overpaid by maybe $250,000. They really got ripped off. Now they have it priced $110,000 over the appraised value. Zillow provides online estimates of home values, and Zillow thinks it’s underpriced by over $30,000. If I didn’t have an appraisal, I would have thought the property was worth more than it is, and I would not have had a sane valuation to beat the sellers with.

Maybe I’m wrong; apparently, most people don’t get appraisals before making offers. It sounds like a very stupid approach to me. You can get a $3,000,000 suburban house appraised for $400, and it might save you $400,000.

2. Get ahold of the covenants and restrictions. People who craft deeds have the crazy ability to restrict what buyers do with their land. You might buy land for a chicken farm and find out a lunatic vegan (redundant) who used to own it put in a restriction barring all types of meat farming. The restrictions on the place I’m trying to get say I can’t raise pigs or carry on a business. Annoying, but not deal-breakers. Besides, if things ever get so bad I need to raise pigs, I’ll raise them anyway, and my neighbors will be in the same boat, so they won’t complain.

3. Look at maps of your lot and the surrounding lots. There might be weird little strips of land set aside for driveways or something. I was excited because I thought I was next to a peanut field I could buy and add to my lot, but I found out there’s a skinny driveway strip between me and that lot, so if I wanted to increase my holdings by buying the peanut field, I would have to buy the other lot, too, or drive all the way around the driveway when I wanted to go from my house to the peanut field.

4. Find out if you’re in a flood plain or some other area with problems. If your house is in an area that floods even once a century, you may have to buy expensive insurance. If you have a wet area on your land, which, in a sane world, you could fill in and improve, the tree-huggers may have you by the throat. They may have had it declared a “wetland” (synonym for “dirty swamp”), and you may be stuck with mud and mosquitoes for life.

5. Get the best inspector you can find, and do not let the realtor pick him. The realtor just wants your money. He wants a quick sale. He may have inspector buddies who will do anything he tells them. Once you buy a place, after inspections and appraisals, you’re pretty well stuck with it, and the inspector is not going to come over and write you a check for a hundred grand because he missed the sinkhole under your foundation. That will be your problem.

6. Make sure you know what’s happening on surrounding properties. I thought the house I like was next to a pasture belonging to a nearby farm. In reality, the pasture is an undeveloped lot belonging to an absentee owner. Six months from now, a family from Hialeah could have a 6,000-square-foot orange McMansion sitting on it, and they could be having salsa parties every night until 4 a.m., with drunken guests vomiting mojitos over my fence. If my deal goes through, I want that lot.

Interesting fact: there are eight lots in my subdivision, and to change the covenants and restrictions, you need seven of the eight owners to vote yes. If I buy the pasture, I’ll have two of the eight lots, and no one else will be able to do anything unless I approve. That would be cool, because I would never agree to anything unless they agreed to cut restrictions I didn’t like.

Twenty-nine percent of one of the other places I like is in a “Zone A” flood plain. That means it’s expected to flood once a century. What a bummer. I don’t want to buy the insurance, and I don’t want to come downstairs after a rain and find the piano floating in the living room.

The lesson I’m learning is this: when you buy real estate, it’s impossible to have enough information. Everyone except you will be trying to cheat you, and they want you to know as little as the law allows. I’ve been looking at this same house since early March. It’s early May, and I am still learning things I wish I had known sooner.

I keep marveling at the things I hear about the way other people buy real estate. No appraisals. Offers based on whimsical asking prices. Offers above the asking price, to secure deals in hot markets. I think people are nuts. It’s hard for me to believe people buy properties so stupidly, but it appears to be true.

Should it surprise me if people routinely pay too much for houses? No. Most people get gypped very badly when they buy cars. They buy new instead of used. They bargain down from MSRP instead of bargaining up from cost. They look at monthly payments instead of total cost. They believe salesmen who say, “I’m trying to get you a good deal.” People are not shrewd.

I remember a Harley salesman telling me a regular customer came into his dealership, threw the keys to his old bike on the counter, pointed out the bike he wanted, and said, “Make the payments two-fifty a month.” He didn’t care how the dealer arrived at the figure. Imagine how much money that guy threw away. He probably got a twenty-year note at 20% interest. I guarantee he paid at least $36,000 for an $18,000 bike.

I went to law school with a guy who bought a Camaro with student loan money. We used to call it “the Ferrari,” because after paying the interest, it cost as much as a Ferrari.

No one expects consumers to know anything about money. I remember talking to a cell phone company about something or other they wanted me to buy, and they said it only cost twenty bucks per month. I would have to pay that over two years. I said, “So $480.” She was stunned. She didn’t know the figure herself until I said it; she was not used to thinking about the total cost. I said whatever it was was not worth $480 to me. That’s how you have to think about money. I’m bad with money, and even I knew that.

Regarding houses, I’ve heard people say, “If you’re planning to live there the rest of your life, it’s okay to pay too much.” No it’s not! That’s crazy. If money doesn’t matter, let the other guy sell for too little.

The sellers of the house I want are detached from reality. I don’t understand why they paid so much, and I don’t understand why they’re asking so much. Maybe they used the same realtor twice. Maybe he helped the original seller nail them to the wall, and now he has gotten their sale listing by claiming he can limit their losses with an astronomical asking price.

Realtors will do anything to get a listing, and they don’t care if it hurts the owner. If you’re a realtor with one listing, it opens doors to other properties. When people call you about it, you can show them your listing plus dozens of others belonging to other realtors. You can deliberately suppress the sale of your listing in order to keep calls coming in. If you have a seller who is dumb enough to give you an overpriced listing, it may work out well for you. You can sell other houses off of the leads it generates, and eventually you may get the sellers to face reality and lower the price to a level where you can unload the place and get a commission. In a case like that, you’ve basically used the owners to finance the promotion of your business.

I’m not a sharp buyer. I have some experience with selling and managing real estate, but I don’t know a lot about buying. I’m trying to wise up so I don’t get skinned.

Maybe I should stop being so picky about the house. There is always a house out there you can buy for less than it’s worth, and you don’t have to live in it forever. Maybe I should be looking at a good buy I can stand instead of an okay buy which is close to what I really want.

I wish we could buy a big lot and build on it, but right now, that’s a bad idea. It costs more than buying a newish place with the bugs worked out. If the green place doesn’t work out, there’s another place which is cheaper and has no outbuildings. We could take that and build a dynamite shop building in a month.

I’ll give myself this much credit for brains: we’re offering to buy the farm machinery and most of the furniture. The machines are nearly unused, and the place is decorated beautifully, with nearly new furnishings. We can sell the awful stuff we have here, or we can give it away and get a tax deduction. Save on moving expenses.

The experiences of the last year have really gotten me thinking about how to handle property, and I’m getting ideas. Eventually I want to dump all of my dad’s residential rental real estate. Residential tenants are whiny and needy. They’re also hard to evict. Commercial is the way to go. Commercial tenants improve the property, they leave the improvements behind, they don’t bother you until they leave, and you can throw them out in a heartbeat.

I’m not worried at all. The longer buying takes, the better I get at the whole enterprise. If the place we’re trying to buy can’t be had at a reasonable price, it will be an opportunity to find something better and more economical.

I do want to get out of here, though. I have heard enough Spanish and car horns for two lifetimes.

Kim Impossible

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

All is Not Well on Gilligan’s Island

Vince Gilligan has blessed us once again. The second episode of the third season of Better Call Saul has aired. I have thoughts concerning this momentous event.

Jimmy McGill (Saul) has a girlfriend named Kim. She is supposed to be a straight arrow. She’s an associate with his former firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. His brother, Chuck, is the most-senior senior partner. Chuck took Kim’s only client, and Jimmy got the client back for her by falsifying documents Chuck was using in his representation. Chuck got Jimmy to admit what he did, and he recorded the confession without telling Jimmy.

Now Jimmy knows about the tape. A grunt at HHM found out about the tape, and he told Kim. Kim then went to Jimmy, demanded $20 cash from him in order to be able to represent herself as his criminal defense attorney, and told him about the tape. She wanted to tell him about the tape, but she was concerned that her remarks would not be confidential. As his attorney, she figured, she would be able to speak under cover of attorney-client privilege. Does that work when you know about the crime before you become the defendant’s attorney? I do not know. It smells off.

The HHM boys can’t play the tape for the client, because that would make them look like vengeful idiots, and it would offend the client. Going to the cops would not be a slam-dunk (in BCS logic, anyway), so there is no point in trying. Chuck has a plan for the tape, and it involves further action. In Episode 3, he showed what the plan is.

Kim had a lot of Jimmy-related problems before the tape kerfuffle arose. She has committed two crimes with Jimmy. On one occasion, she helped him con a very sharp, successful securities trader into buying them hundreds of dollars’ worth of drinks. Second, she got Jimmy to help her con an amorous engineer into giving her a $10,000 check to invest in a non-existent enterprise. She didn’t profit from these crimes, apart from the free booze. She didn’t cash the check. Still, they were serious crimes.

Here’s another thing: squat cobbler. Jimmy had a drug-dealer client. The client was robbed of some drugs plus a baseball card collection. Stupidly, the client called the cops, thinking he could get the baseball cards back without having any issues related to the drugs. He didn’t mention the drugs. The cops found a suspicious cavity in his house, suitable for hiding illegal items. The cops kept calling the client, claiming they were real excited about the cards, but they really wanted to get info on his suspicious hiding place.

In real life, the answer to this problem would be to tell the police this: “If you find the cards, let me know, but I don’t want to be bothered until then.” Better yet: “I don’t care about the cards. Let it go.” The cops can’t make you come to the police station over and over just because they feel like it. Jimmy’s answer, however, was to claim his client hid embarrassing fetish videos in the hole, and that they featured vignettes of him sitting on pies and crying. Jimmy made up the name “squat cobbler” to describe the fetish. He told Kim about it, so now she probably has a legal obligation to tell the bar association. But she has not done so.

Kim has bar trouble waiting to bite her on the butt, along with two solid criminal cases which would bring bar troubles of their own.

What is Vince Gilligan going to do with this? More importantly, will he bring the Skipper into it?

Here’s what I’m thinking. During the Heisenberg years, Kim Wexler is dead or in prison. We never saw her in Breaking Bad, which took place after the Saul prequel. That means something happened to her. Gilligan has put several nice traps in front of her, and they are waiting to spring open and swallow her.

Jimmy is a tragic figure. He screws up and screws up and screws up. He knows he’s ruining his future, but he can’t stop. It’s his nature. Tragic figures are more interesting if their screwups hurt the people they love. I think Vince Gilligan will pull that string eventually.

We’re supposed to think Kim is pure and responsible, but she is neither. She committed two ridiculous, brazen crimes, in a sparsely populated state, against two victims who were highly likely to run into her later in the course of business. She concealed a crime (Jimmy’s) that would send a goody-two-shoes like Chuck running to the bar with bells on. She also recommended Jimmy, a con artist, for a job with another firm. This is not how pure, responsible people act. Maybe Gilligan is planning to shatter the audience’s rosy estimation of Kim.

Scenario: the securities trader walks into HHM one day looking for representation. The partners haul Kim out and sing her praises to him. “This is the gleaming angel that will handle your case.” We already know the securities trader is a shrewd and somewhat nasty character. Would he nark on Kim immediately and go to another firm? Of course not. He’d smile and shake her hand and act like he had never seen her before. Then in private, they’d talk. He’d be able to make her do anything he wants. Sex. More crimes. Squat cobbler. Who knows?

Scenario: the amorous, rejected engineer comes to HHM for help. Kim is assigned. Because he’s not sharp or nasty, he flips out instantly and starts ranting about her crime in the lobby. Kim’s life is thrown into turmoil. She loses her job. Prosecution is a real possibility. Chuck may squeal on her; it’s what he loves.

Maybe the engineer will turn out to be nasty after all. That would be more interesting than a nasty guy we already dislike.

She has bills to pay. Maybe she’ll have to start working for Jimmy. Maybe Jimmy will call Mike Ehrmantraut to come up with a way to squeeze the engineer. Blackmail is a possibility. Maybe the engineer has a trove of squat cobbler videos. Mike goes to the engineer’s house to “reason” with him. The engineer tries to shoot him. Mike shoots first. Kim is overwhelmed with guilt, so she kills herself.

Kim is going down. That, I am sure of. Maybe there will be some kind of standoff, and Kim, wanting to restore sanity, will get in the way and take a bullet.

I’m not sure why I watch this show! It’s kind of depressing, knowing it has a miserable ending. Jimmy is going to end up managing a Cinnabons stand in a mall in some flat state full of wheat. Walter White will die. Jim’s romance with Kim will end in failure. Mike will be shot in the belly by a high school teacher. Badger will never get his GED. Q will get distracted and let two planes crash into each other.

In any case, it’s fun to guess. My sincere apologies to anyone who doesn’t watch the show.

The Word of the Day is “Denial”

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

It’s Like Al Franken has Gone to Heaven, and We’re Forced to Watch

I made conservatives mad when I gave up on Ann Coulter and Ted Nugent, and if anyone had known about it, they probably would have been mad when I said I didn’t support Milo Yiannopoulos. I guess I’ll continue doing what I do best: Bill O’Reilly is not helping us.

Leftists are digging up dirt on O’Reilly, pointing out that he has been accused of sexual harassment on a number of occasions. He has been sued for it, successfully. Fox has paid out eight figures in hush money. O’Reilly doesn’t admit fault. At all.

Conservatives are saying it’s a witch hunt (like the Bork hearings or ridiculous attacks on Trump over Russia, which were and are bona fide witch hunts). They’re saying O’Reilly is the victim here. Come on. Be serious.

To anyone who says leftists don’t care about harassment, and that the O’Reilly siege is only about silencing a prominent conservative, I say, “I agree.” Leftists don’t care about the many women Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, and the rest of the Clinton Gang destroyed or at least soiled. They don’t care about them any more than they care about the millions of women who have been pressured into abortions they didn’t want. That’s true. Doesn’t matter. If O’Reilly is guilty of the things of which he has been accused, he should be released.

Is it really that big a deal if the office horndog makes advances toward disgusted women? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not. It depends on the facts. Merely asking someone out is not harassment. But O’Reilly is accused of far worse things. He is accused of extremely gross, persistent advances, and of coupling them with threats and attacks. His accusers say he followed through on his threats. He is accused of using his power to make and break careers to push women into the sack with him.

That’s a whole lot worse than a few inappropriate come-ons.

No sane person would want his mother or sister to have her career wrecked by a creep who sees other people as disposable receptacles, and seeing them give in and allow themselves to be violated would be even worse.

As for the advances themselves, at least in the case of former producer Andrea Mackris, they were pretty bad. In her complaint, she said she had recorded him, and the transcribed portions are extremely graphic, prolonged descriptions of the sex acts he wanted to perform. The recordings must have existed, because no lawyer on earth would willingly make up transcriptions and submit them to a court, knowing he would be forced to come up with actual recordings later. Disbarment would only be the beginning of his problems.

If the recordings hadn’t existed, Fox would have forced Mackris’s lawyer to admit it, and Fox wouldn’t shell out $13 million to settle frivolous suits it expected to win. It seems likely that O’Reilly told his counsel the recordings existed, and Fox buckled and paid the plaintiff off.

I am tempted to remind everyone that O’Reilly is not indispensable. He can be replaced easily. He’s not really that good at what he does. But to talk about his value to conservatism would be to take the position that a highly successful ally should be permitted to profit from egregious, malicious wrongdoing simply because of his value to a cause. That’s wrong. If a lowly copywriter would be fired for what O’Reilly did, then O’Reilly should be whacked with the same axe.

If we’re going to talk sympathy and patience, where is the sympathy for the women? Losing your career is a whole lot worse than losing one gig.

To argue that O’Reilly’s supposed value to the right justifies letting him ruin women’s careers is to commit the sin of the O.J. jurors, who would literally have permitted Simpson to cut his ex-wife’s throat in the courtroom without repercussion. “I’m on your side, and I’m successful” is not a good excuse for destroying people in the name of base, lower-brain drives.

If I’m against O’Reilly, why am I not against Trump? Mainly because Trump has not been accused of harassment. He has been accused of adultery (consensual) and putting his hands on willing women (also consensual). Leftist propagandists have accused him of sexual assault, but they based their claims on a video in which he described consensual contact. Also, Trump has not been accused of linking women’s careers to their pliability. O’Reilly and Trump and very different.

I’m not thrilled that a serial adulterer is in the White House, but I don’t go around crusading for adulterers and fornicators to be fired. That standard wouldn’t leave many people standing. That would be a very personal standard based on my religious views. My stand on O’Reilly is pretty much the same standard the vast majority of Americans would observe.

I can be a good Christian and not insist every person who commits gross sexual sin be fired, but I can’t see myself pleasing God AND insisting a persistent destroyer of weaker people should keep his job.

If the poop on O’Reilly is true, and it looks like much of it is, then he may a very bad guy. It’s easy to excuse inappropriate flirting, but ruining people who turn you down is sick and cruel. It goes beyond lust, which is something everyone has to fight with, and into the realm of viciousness. It is also blatant corruption.

What if he decided to come clean and change his ways? What if he apologized on the air and said he intended to turn over a new leaf? Would that justify keeping him? I don’t know. There has to be some punishment for what he has done already, and merely losing a job is not a penalty commensurate with the offenses in question.

I say let him go. He has had plenty of chances to turn this around, and it hasn’t happened.

That’s the memo for today. Name and town, if you wish to opine.