Category Archives: Business

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?



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?  

Safe Deposit

We have had a safe deposit box at our local bank for 30 years. We also have a fire proof security box in our bedroom closet for things we might need in a pinch when the bank is closed, like passports. (Who knows when we might have to make a quick getaway out of the country!)

Our bank built a new headquarters across the street from the old building that is to open next month.  We who have safe deposit boxes have to make an appointment with a teller to remove the stuff from the current box and walk over with her to the new bank and new box. Same lock, same keys, same box number.  We did the transfer last Monday.  The teller told us they have had all sorts of customers cashing long forgotten savings bonds they are finding as they clear out their boxes. We didn’t have any surprises like that, but it has been several years since we visited our box. Our box is full of insurance policies, the abstract for our house, and our wills and POA documents. We have   copies of those last things in the bedroom closet as well.

The impish part of me wants to put some weird thing in the safe deposit box to startle  our children  when they open it after our demise.  Husband suggested a roach clip. I thought of springy cloth snakes that pop out when the lid to the box  is opened.  If I actually did that, I know that whatever child opened the box would exclaim “Mom!”.   We shall see what I do.

Have you ever had a safe deposit box? What did you keep in it? What would you like to put in one that would surprise your heirs?


Great Names

I saw the most wonderful sign on my way to work yesterday.  Taquiria el Monte Sinai was advertising a new location and taco special. I had not heard of this business before. Husband says it is run by an Evangelical Protestant  Mexican Church. It made me wonder if their fish tacos were made from gefiilte fish!  We also have a Hamburger ‘s meat store run by the Hamburger family,  I think that is a great name, too.

What are some wonderful or wacky names of places, people, or businesses that you have encountered?  Make up some names if you feel like it. What is your favorite Mexican food?

Happy Thanks-Carb-Giving

For the first time ever, it’s just me and YA today.  Even though it’s just the two of us, YA is determined that at least the food will be the same as always.   Normally all I ever bring to Thanksgiving dinner is my Sage Sourdough Stuffing (vegetarian) and sometimes a dessert.  With at least four or five other families, everything else is covered.

I did find some nice platter-sized paper plates and matching napkins along with a paper table covering at The Dollar Store, so we’ll have a festive table.  Here’s the final menu:

  • Sage Sourdough Stuffing
  • Scalloped Cheesy Potatoes
  • Mashed Potatoes w/ Vegetarian Gravy  (YA making)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Green Bean/French Fried Onion Casserole  (YA making)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Cornbread
  • Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Any plans for the day?  In a particularly difficult year, is there a way you are maintaining any gratitude?

Driving Dreams

For the most part, I love my car.  I love that she’s red, I love that she is a hybrid.  I love having a hatchback again.  I really like that she tells me when it’s time to change the oil, based on her internal workings and not an arbitrary date.  And she’s small.  No Intimida or Sherpa here; with a tank capacity of 8+ gallons, my monthly gas budget is about $30.

There is one frustrating thing though.  She feels the need to let me know when tire pressure has changed, with a big ding and a reminder every time I start the car once she has noticed a pressure issue.  This usually happens twice a year… when it first gets cold and then again in the late spring when it starts to get really warm.  I usually just drive down to the dealership; they top the tires off right away and I don’t even have to get out of the car. 

But this fall, the pressure notification has gone off TWICE.  When we had a couple of seriously cold days last month and the again this past weekend when it was warmer.  I will admit that I whined a bit to the service guy and he said that it was happening a lot this fall since the temperatures have fluctuated quite a bit.

While he was adjusting the air, I daydreamed about my fantasy car.  I’d like to have those little lights on the sideview mirrors that indicate when someone is coming upon alongside you.  I would love to have built-in GPS and a north/south/east/west display.  Heated seats would be nice.  Of course, my fantasy car would actually drive itself; of course that could only be supplanted by my ultimate fantasy car — a transporter.  “Beam me over, Scotty.”

Tell me about your fantasy transportation. 

Bag Lady

Yesterday morning I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription refill.  As the pharmacist was checking me out, I said “I don’t need any of the paperwork and I don’t need a bag.”  As I just dump the bag and the paperwork as soon as I get home, it seems a waste.   In any other setting, if I just have a few items, I pass on the bag as well.  Usually the receipt too.  I just don’t need more bags of any kind at my house.

Well, the pharmacist put the prescription right into a little bag, although she didn’t print out all the paperwork about the drug.  Probably 25% of the time, even though I have said no bag, I get a bag anyway.  It is so automatic.  I didn’t make a fuss… what good would come of it … just dropped the bag into the trash on the way out of the store.  But I was thinking about how many things we all do almost automatically.

Then YA and I took a big shopping trip to Target.  We had a couple of non-food items that we looked for first, so ended up at the END of the food area (dairy) first, instead of the beginning (produce).  Even though I’ve shopped here many times and we had a list, it was extremely disconcerting to be going “backwards”.  We ended up backtracking at least 3 times when we realized we had missed something.  I’m guessing that I would have this reaction in any grocery store that I’ve shopped at repeatedly.  I didn’t intend to internalize a direction when I shop for groceries, but clearly I have.  Part of me thinks that I should do something about this; how dare the grocery industry mess with my mind.  Another part of me thinks it’s probably too late!

Anything you do without much thinking?


Ran down to the basement yesterday morning to put the wash into the dryer – SURPRISE!.  Water all over the basement floor.  &^#%%$!## — bad words came pouring out followed by deprecations about how much I hate having such an old house.  Fantasies of a brand new townhouse or a very handy person showing up on my doorstep washed over me.  I told YA to leave me alone for about 10 minutes.

This isn’t my first rodeo where the main drain is concerned.  I called CenterPoint/Minnesgasco right away and they told me they could have somebody out between then and 11:30 p.m. last night. When I got off the phone YA said “how much is THIS going to cost?”  But what she didn’t know is that I have Home Service Plus for the main drain.  In fact, I have the house to street drain on my plan as well.

I have a love/hate relationship with insurance.  30 years ago Montgomery Ward tried to sell me an insurance plan on a dishwasher I had just bought from them.  The sales person said “if this breaks down tomorrow, you won’t be covered.”  I told him that if this brand new dishwasher broke down tomorrow, I would not be the sorry one.  When I bought my car six years ago they tried to sell me gap insurance which would cover the “gap” between the car’s new value and the normal insurance during the first year (I’m sure I’m describing this badly).   The more they pushed, the more I resisted.  I finally said “I understand the risk, my sister is an actuary.”  This is not true, but it shut them up.

But for this old house, bring on the insurance.  My home plan covers my boiler, my fridge, my washer, my dryer, my dishwasher and also the drains.  And despite the fact that I pay for this insurance every month, I’m pretty sure I’m a loss leader with my old house and old appliances.   Once about 20 years back, I had two guys working on my boiler for almost 2 days straight – over 24 hours of service time – no charge. 

So while it wasn’t fun waiting for the service folks to show up, at least I wasn’t worried about having to find a pot of money for them.  They actually showed up earlier than I expected, got the drain cleared out lickety-split and now life in the basement is back to normal.

What are you willing to insure?

Glazing Over

A good thirty years ago (plus), I visited my wasband’s grandparents who had just sold their little house and moved into a care center.  They were in their nineties and had never used a computer and smart phones were still in the future.

Wasband was (is?) a techie/programmer.  As we were sitting with his grandparents, he started talking about his job and I could see the two of them beginning to glaze over.  It was clear that they really didn’t have a clue about what he was discussing.  I remember thinking two things.  First, why doesn’t he notice them and shut up?  Then I thought how sad it seemed that the world was whizzing past them.

Fast forward all these years.  WordPress went wonky on my phone today.  It’s been more or less stable for 18 months, since I got this phone.  In fact, whenever baboons mention that WP isn’t doing something, I keep quiet, since it hasn’t been happening to me.  And now it’s happened to me.

It took me a while to get somebody at WP on the chat function and it became clear to me almost immediately that I have become wasband’s grandparents.

WP: What browser are you using? VS:  I have a Safari icon that gets me to the internet… assume that’s the browser?

WP:  Are you opening WP in the app? VS:  If I have an WP icon, isn’t that the app?

WP:  Can you take a screenshot for me? VS:  Not until I can get my daughter in here to show me how?

VS:  I have the screenshot on my desktop – how do I get it to you?

WP:  Is this issue happening on your laptop, your mobile Safari or the app? VS:  Mobile Safari???

These are just a few.  After about an hour “chatting”, my poor WP guy has had to start a bug report and we’ve moved the discussion over to email.  Not sure when it will get solved.  Luckily everything is working fine (so far, knock on wood) on my laptop.  Phone is somewhat functional, just making me sign in for every comment, which stinks.

My “Happiness Engineer” is probably not happy himself right now, since he spent at least an hour and didn’t fix my problem.  I did give him permission to laugh to himself and roll his eyes during our chat.

In what ways have you become your parents/grandparents?

The Calendar

Advent wasn’t a thing at my house growing up.  In fact, I didn’t really know what advent was all about until I was out on my own.  Of course, any thing that I can use to amp up the holiday season has my name all over it.

For many years I had an advent wreath with candles (until it caught the tablecloth on fire).  When YA was young, we had a window cling advent calendar (until she pulled all the pieces off the window – I still think that maybe some of the pieces may have gotten eaten by a dog or even flushed).  I made a big advent calendar out of little tins and lots of holiday paper; it was finally retired a couple of years ago when YA informed me that she didn’t really need to be “doing that” any more.

Two years ago a wine advent calendar hit the Aldis shelves for the first time.  I heard about it right before Christmas – too late.  So last year, I did some research and was dismayed when my friend who works at Aldi’s HQ here, said that the wine advent calendar isn’t sold in Minnesota due to the liquor laws here.  No alcohol sold in grocery stores.  I looked online and found a couple of other wine calendars but they were much more expensive than Aldis and then there was the shipping to Minnesota issue.  YA and I did score an Aldi’s cheese advent calendar and enjoyed it so I decided to try again this year for the wine.

I left the house yesterday at 6 a.m. and headed to River Falls (the closest Aldi’s carrying the calendars).  Arriving at 10 minutes to 7, I saw that four other folks were already there.  We all huddled in our cars until someone drove up at 10 after 7 and got out of her car.  At that point, we quickly started lining up outside the store.  Even though I had thought the process through a little bit, bringing a stadium chair, I neglected a coat, gloves or blanket.  I was VERY happy when the sun finally got above the tree line.  Store employees came out with “tickets” at 8 a.m.  There were wine advent calendars, beer advent calendars and hard seltzer calendars that required tickets and had limits.  It looked like the employees had about 50 of each type of ticket.  By the time the store opened at 9, there were probably 125 folks in line… all down the outside of the store, around the corner and down the whole parking lot.  I can’t speak for other parts of the line, but at the very front, we had a party vibe going right up until opening.  In addition to the wine, I also managed to get to the cheese calendars before they were gone.

Since we know we’ll be having a different kind of holiday season this year, at least we’ll have fun with our cheese and wine every night of advent.

When have you gone out of your way to get something you really wanted?