Let’s Let the Letts Fix It

Our Governor  is a former Big Tech guy, and I am pretty certain the State IT Department  is a trial and a headache for him. He was successful in the private sector, but this is the public sector,  and things are somewhat different here.

For some reason, the State Unemployment Office, and only the State Unemployment Office,  is supported by an extremely old computer system for  which there is no IT support in the State. In fact, there is no support for the system or its programs in the entire US. The only people in the entire world who still know how to fix this system are in Latvia.

The Governor  is really upset about the millions of dollars the State is paying Latvians to keep the system  up and running. This has apparently been going on for years. He is proposing a huge item in this biennium’s budget (yes, the ND legislature only meets every two years) to replace the system. I would assume the legislature would go along with this, but you never know. It may cost less in the short-term to keep employing Latvians instead of a huge capital outlay right now.  We shall see how the upcoming legislative session turns out.

What country would you like to visit to repair things or teach people skills? What country would you like to hire repair people from, if it meant they would come to your house to make the repairs? What would you want them to fix?

 

Fumes

My father didn’t cook.  I can’t even recall him ever making a sandwich, much less cooking.  He did chop the onions and celery for stuffing on Thanksgiving (the only time I ever saw him chop anything) and late in life he did start making bouillabaisse occasionally – a dish with which my mother resolutely refused to be associated. 

Of course, being a middle-class American male, he did the outdoor grilling (although my mother prepared anything that was going on the grill).  I can still envision my father dousing the coals, lighting the match and flinging it from as far as he could manage.  The grill would practically explode in flames; my father used gasoline, not lighter fluid to start the fire.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as lighter fluid until I was an adult out on my own.

You’d think that having watched my father blow up the grill on a regular basis growing up that I would have a good sense of the power of gasoline.  Three weeks ago, after the last measurable snow, I got my snowblower out for the first time this winter.  It was given to me by a neighbor who moved to Chicago; he left his gas can to me as well.  As I was adding gas to the machine I noticed that the spout had sprung a leak and to keep the gas from running all over, I held the spout together with my gloved hand.  Since my glove was now wet with gas, I pulled a second glove from my pocket and pulled it on over the first.

When I got all done and went inside, I pulled off the gloves along with all my now-sweaty clothing and threw it all in the washing machine with a few other dirty items from my hamper.  Now some of you are probably already shaking your head, but I was still clueless until I opened the washing machine later to the overpowering small of gas.   If I had known I was about to do something stupid, it would have been easy to find online advice about gas on clothing.  But since I hadn’t known, now I had a washing machine full of gas fume-filled clothing.

It took me a full week and at least six washings (some with just vinegar and water, some with detergent) before I was willing to put the clothes in the dryer and even then I ran the dryer on air dry for over an hour.  Now that it’s been a couple of weeks, I’ve lost track of what clothes were in that load but I’m still feeling compelled to smell things as they come out of the washer.  (Oh, and I threw the gloves away when I realized what I had done.)

Done anything foolish recently that could have been avoided with a bit of advice?

Cleaning

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

Kelly and I both took some time off over the holidays and we both had things, “projects”, we wanted to do. Kelly aspires higher than me and she wanted to paint a room or something. I always think that sounds like a lot of work.  

I had two plans: 1) Clean the refrigerator. 2) Clean off the counter in the mudroom.

I did actually manage to get them both done. On Sunday. Before going back to work on January 4th. I laughed at myself that I had to wait until the last minute to get them done.

Neither job was hard of course. Not like painting the living room or anything.

The fridge wasn’t terrible: there was the usual crud on the back of the shelves and bits stuck in the edges. Is there a good way to clean a fridge? The warm water turns cold so quick. The glass shelves scare me a bit because I’m always afraid I’ll knock it off the counter or drop it in the sink. And I didn’t want to take EVERYTHING out at once; I cleared one shelf, then shifted things around as I cleaned and replaced things. I used the vacuum for the crumbs.

Once done it looked very nice and I didn’t even redo the shelves or anything, just put it all back just like it was. I think the layout works well.

The mudroom counter, just the one side, had turned into a catch-all. It wasn’t hard to decide what to throw and what to take out to the shop and what to keep. Then moved that bit, cleaned and scrubbed the counter. Good to have that done too. Easier to keep it clean in the first place, but oh so easy to just set stuff down too. Any horizontal surface turns into a catch all if we’re not careful.

What’s your next quick little project?

The Bookmark

I have never spent much time thinking about who has read a book before I have.  Every now and then I get a book from the library that is old enough that it still has the check-out card in the little pocket in the back and I love to see the dates on the card, but even that only suggests when it might have been read prior to computerization. 

Last week I found a bookmark (photo above) in a book from the library, left by the prior reader.  It’s not a store-bought bookmark, but a little piece of artwork that some parent (probably) grabbed when they need to mark their place.  This resonates with me because I often use a folded post-it note, an old receipt or even a piece of used envelope when the need arises, although I do have massive numbers of official bookmarks.  When I was working in the bookstore, publishers often sent bookmarks and I always grabbed one.  If I found a bookmark when I was traveling, I always picked it up.  And, of course, I make bookmarks, often as gifts, but I always make one for myself any time I do that.  But you know how it goes; if you are downstairs when you get to a good stopping point, you’re not going to go upstairs just to find a bookmark!

This particular bookmark looks to belong to someone who works in a financial advice company and is the parent to a four- or five-year old.  The book that I found it in was How to Fly in Ten Thousand Lessons by Barbara Kingsolver, so clearly a poetry lover and someone who prefers library books to purchased books this year.  But in my fantasy world I’d love to think that the last person who picked up this book was Shirley Jackson.  I just finished her book Life Among the Savages and she mentions reading several times.  She had four kids and I can imagine her grabbing a scrap of kids’ scribbling when she needed to put down a book.

What was the last book you finished?  Who would YOU like to have read it right before you? 

Puzzle Math

YA and I decided in November that maybe we should take up jigsaw puzzles now that the weather had turned cold.  In the past, jigsaw puzzles have driven us both a little crazy; we have to worry about the kitty messing with the puzzles, neither of us had a lot of extra time and we both can get a little obsessive occasionally.  But thanks to sheltering-in-place and neither of us working, we don’t have the same objections that we used to (except the kitty).  We did a Ukrainian egg puzzle in November – took us about 5 hours, both of us working on it the whole time.

Right after Solstice, we pulled a puzzle down from the attic.  It’s a 1000 piecer and it’s a doozy – no straight edges and lots of little pictures within the main puzzle.  We’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks and we still haven’t been able to identify all of the outer edges.  YA is particularly good at seeing the design of a particular piece and figuring out where it goes.  I’m better at identifying pieces by shape.  But this puzzle is currently getting the better of both of us although we haven’t given up yet.

In our prior life, having a puzzle on the table in the living room this long would have made me crazy and I am having to fight this feeling.  So much so that I decided to try to figure out how long it will take us to finish this one.  We’ve done about 350 pieces so far.  I’m assuming the tipping point (the point at which you’ve done enough of the puzzle that the pieces start going together more easily) will be between 650 and 700 pieces.  Right now we are going pathetically slowly; we averaging about 10 pieces a day (if we both spend a bit of time on it – it’s really hard to keep at it at this point).  So, taking into account the eventual tipping point and days when we ignore it entirely, I figure it will take us another 45-50 days to finish.  It could be spring before we are done with this thing!

When was the last time you had to do math?  In your head, on paper or using a calculator (or Excel)?

Stymied

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I volunteered to stop at the Grocery store the other day. Typically, that’s either Target or HyVee. Usually HyVee because I like the Smile in Every Aisle. And we know a few of the kids who bag groceries.

I only had to pick up a few things; Cheese, sliced deli ham, lettuce, milk.

I picked up some Halo Oranges because they’re right at the front door you know. I like oranges, but they’re unpredictable; I might get 18 good oranges and then a bad one and that’s it; I’m off oranges. But the little Halo’s; they always seem to be good. I never liked mandarins, just Halo’s. Then it was pointed out to me that Halo’s ARE mandarins. I refused to believe it at first; I don’t LIKE mandarins; don’t make me eat them! Ah well, another life lesson learned. So, I got Halos, I got ham, I got cheese… and then I remember I need lettuce and I stood there by the meat department trying to picture where the lettuce is in the store. I’m thinking well, it must be refrigerated but I can’t quite picture it over with the pizzas. I look around where I just was with the baloney and I know I didn’t see it there… Hmmm… I just can’t picture it. I had to ask a kid stocking a shelf and as soon as he pointed, I knew where it was. Just over there by the oranges. He gave me detailed instructions on finding them.

Just a brain fart on my part; soon as he pointed, I knew where it was.

Over to the lettuce and Kelly had given me pretty simple instructions; I just needed HyVee or Dole Shredded lettuce. (Sometimes it’s more complicated than that). And I get over there and it’s a whole wall of lettuce. I had to call Kelly. Again. I can’t usually go to the grocery store without a call to clarify something.

Lettuce shouldn’t be so hard. But there’s kale and spinach and coleslaw and green leaf and red leaf and Romain and Swiss chard, salad greens, and organic and and and. Kelly talks me through it. “All the way over on the right are the apples. Next to them are the boxes of lettuce we usually buy. Then there’s the shredded…” Ah. There it is. Boy. It shouldn’t be so hard for me. I’ve always joked I can’t find it if you put it right under my nose like that. And if I think it should be “here” and you move it over six inches, I’ll never find it.

The next day at Target I couldn’t find the Bi-Flex pills for our aching joints. She asked if I was in aisle E14. Yes I was. She kept telling me the Target App said they had it. I told her I begged to differ. The app was right. It was down on the bottom shelf and stuck in the back of the rack. Darn apps think they’re always right.

Got a favorite phone, iPad, or computer app?  

Keeping Fit

My mom (Nonny) is a jock.  She was very active as a kid and played many sports when she was in school (basketball, field hockey, tennis).  She got my dad interested in tennis after they married and they played consistently until his death.  She even played tennis the night before my baby sister was born.  Doubles and she was happy to tell everyone that they won against the other team.

So imagine Nonny’s disappointment when all three of her daughters turned out to be complete non-jocks.  I cycled fairly seriously for a couple of years (way before YA was born) and my baby sister runs occasionally, but for the most part, we are couch potatoes.  Of all seven grandchildren, only one has any spark of jock-ness: YA.  Swimming, gymnastics, running and weight training have been part of her regime over the years. 

Santa brought YA a 10-pound weight, so now she has two.  I noticed a couple of days ago that she has set up a “gym” in Nonny’s room upstairs.  She has her yoga mat, her weights, a big yoga ball and some kind of exercise bands.  This morning she had music playing on her phone while she worked out.

I admire her get-up-and-go.  While I’m doing the stationary bike at the gym occasionally (translation: every 4 or 5 days) and walking the dog occasionally (translation: if the sun is shining), I wouldn’t say that exercising is my top priority these days.  If would be nice if YA’s commitment to working out would rub off on me, but I’m thinking if it hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t.

Have you ever had a “favorite” exercise?  If you could have your own In-home gym, how would you like it set up?

Standing Firm

Our grandson is 2 1/2. His parents are good about keeping a steady schedule for meals and naps and bedtime.  Prior to our visit he suddenly started a period of change into a new developmental level, and he became disorganized and his schedule became disrupted. His appetite decreased, he didn’t want to nap, and he did everything he could to delay going to sleep at night.

A typical bedtime would see Son or DIL getting him ready for bed, reading  the requisite three books, and putting on music to lull him to sleep. In the past it only took one song to do the trick, but during our visit it turned into multiple requests for “one more song”.  Many times after it was quiet and we thought he was asleep, we found him with his light on and his bed full of books. “I reading, Daddy” he would say with an impish grin. Then came multiple requests to use the bathroom, usually with no results.  Every time he got up, he also needed to be tucked back in bed. They wisely have a baby gate in the doorway of his room so at least he has to stay there and can’t come out at will.

Son and DIL took our advice to put duct tape over grandson’s light switch so he couldn’t turn on the bedroom light. He has a night light.  They also found longer songs and stories to play continuously so that he wouldn’t keep asking for one more song.  They even agreed to stand firm and not go up to his room when he made his stay-awake ploys once he was in bed and was supposed to be going to sleep.

On Saturday night after he had been put to bed after several attempted diversions on his part, I walked past grandson’s room  His door opened, and he looked at me with big brown eyes and he said in a very plaintive voice “Oma, will you tuck me in?”   Well, of course Oma tucked him in! That sort of plea is impossible to resist.  I am happy to report that his plea to me was the last of the evening, and he slept for twelve hours despite my failure to stand firm.

How are you at standing firm?  When is it hard for you to maintain your resolve?

A New Year

January 1 is a big day around here, although not for the reasons you would think.  I am a calendar person – I love calendars.  Right now I have my daytimer calendar (which lives in my bedroom), a handmade 6 x 6 calendar (also in my bedroom), a Cobblestone Way calendar on the fridge, a Lighthouse for the Blind calendar in the breakfast room, a birthdays only calendar in my studio and the new addition, a Sandra Boynton calendar (also in my studio).   I do keep a few things on my phone’s calendar and when I was still working in my cubicle, I had a calendar there, not to mention my Outlook calendar on my computer. 

Most of these calendars are just for show.  Probably the most-used calendar is the birthdays only calendar in my studio.  It has one page per month with all the dates, but no weekly/day layout so it doesn’t have to get changed out every year.  I use it every month when I’m getting the birthday cards ready to go.  The Sandra Boynton calendar is just for fun – January 4 is listed as World Hypnotism Day. 

Not sure where along the line I got hooked on calendars; I suppose it’s been ramping up as the years go by.  I don’t think it makes me any more organized, just a personality quirk I guess. 

But it does make the first day of each month exciting because that’s when I change out the calendars.  And January 1 means not just moving to the next page but moving to a whole new calendar (except the birthday one, of course).  Tell me that this doesn’t make me a sad and pathetic being.

What have you got on YOUR calendar this month? 

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