Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Not Quite Full of Hot Air

          A few days ago I was driving along and suddenly a dashboard warning light came on.  It had a bright orange exclamation mark in it, so I figured it was pretty serious.  
          I pulled over and did what any sensible person would do: I called St. Bob.  This, by the way, is much quicker and easier than opening the driver’s manual in the glove box, which is the size of a Bible.
          St. Bob was not nearly as frantic as I was, however, and said he’d take a look at it that evening after he got home from work. First, he sat down in the driver’s seat and turned the car on. 
          There it was, the bright orange symbol of death.  Or something similar to death.  He looked up at me and said, “Now, what does that look like to you?”
          Well, I happen to have been raised by a psychologist, and I have no problem with Rorschach-type tests like these, so I told him exactly what it looks like: The udder of a cow with an exclamation mark inside, possibly meaning “out of milk.”
          “It’s a low tire,” he said.  (Who decided on this graphic?)  “One of your tires must be low on air.”
          Seriously?  Couldn't they just use a sign like this?
          I walked around the car.  The tires looked fine.  Nevertheless, Bob took it to the tire shop the next day.  The mechanics tested all four tires.  All were fine (Aha—see? I did something right, coming to the same conclusion after a mere glance.)
          “Let’s check the spare,” the mechanic said.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  And, sure enough, there is some sensor gizmo in the trunk that keeps tabs on the pressure in the spare tire, and then alerts me with a giant exclamation mark, about this impending catastrophe.  My spare was low.  Well, thank goodness they found the source of the crisis and averted a world overthrow. 
          How many nights have you lain in bed, wide awake, worrying about the air in your spare tire?  I know I will certainly sleep better after this ordeal.  And, by the way, next time a warning light comes on in my dashboard, I shall look askance at it and wonder just how serious this is.  After all, this is how that whole “boy who cried wolf” thing started.
But let’s talk about a real emergency: Your Christmas list.  You can find something for everyone right here—my books!  All available in hard copies, some on Kindle as well.  Shop to your heart’s content!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Zinky for Your Thoughts

          Be glad you’re sitting down. Our nearly worthless pennies, though charming, are being kept in circulation by lobbyists for the folks who make zinc blanks.
          Copper pennies only contain 2.5 per cent copper, with a whopping 97.5% being zinc.  It costs 2.4 cents to make one (your tax dollars at work, Folks). So you’d think someone would say, “Okay, we have passed the point of diminishing returns, and it’s time to scrap the penny.”
          But no.  Americans for Common Cents (ACC) argues that we love our pennies—or maybe we should call them zinkies-- and want to keep them. Fortune listed all kinds of newspapers who ran this story as a survey fact, when it turns out ACC director Mark Weller even admitted in the Washington Times, “We make no secret that one of our major sponsors is a company that makes the zinc ‘blanks’ for pennies.”
          Fortune noted that Jarden Zinc spends about $140,000 a year to get Weller to lobby for them.  Sounds pricey until you realize Jarden received $48 million in federal contracts.
          I personally like picking up “lucky pennies,” but is it worth the cost? David Owen wrote, in New Yorker, “Picking up a penny from a sidewalk and putting it in your pocket pays less than the Federal minimum wage, if you take more than 4.9 seconds to do it.” 
          For ten years now the cost of making pennies has exceeded their value.  But guess what—now nickels cost twice as much to make, too.  In fact, twice as much as making dimes.  They’re made of 75% copper, and 25 % nickel.  Can the zinc lobby be far behind?

You may as well spend those worthless coins on my fabulous books—click here for Jungle (riveting adventure-romance), Sisters in the Mix (hilarious chick-lit), Pinholes Into Heaven (literary fiction) and more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Purging or Saving?

          I can’t find any statistics on this, but I’m betting the organization industry is a billion-dollar baby.  From people who organize for you, to stores that sell bins and buckets, to people like me (as the YouTube Mom) who dispense tips on how to organize a drawer or a personal file, it seems the world cannot get enough advice on this.
          You’ve probably heard of Kon Mari, the trendsetting tidiness tycoon from Tokyo who tells Konverts to touch every item and only keep what you love, what “sparks joy.”  And magazines and websites are packed with a new idea every month—how to become neat instead of sloppy, clear instead of cluttered.
          But, even though I teach it myself, I have to say it’s a little like algebra—you either love it or you don’t.  Some people are born into the world wanting order and delighting in neatness. We are the people who gobble up new ideas: Labeling! Hanging clothes by color! Grocery lists!
          Then there are those who may somewhat like the idea of a tidy home, but who are perfectly comfortable letting stuff slide.  And then slide some more.  If houses would organize themselves, they’d allow it.  But they aren’t so thrilled by the concept that they’ll actually do the organizing.  They don’t like to throw stuff out or store things efficiently.  You can show them how to file papers and de-clutter cabinets all day, and they’ll go right back to piling stuff everywhere tomorrow.  Some of these folks laughingly admit they are Stage 1 Hoarders, and you know what?  I’m actually okay with this.
          I don’t think the entire world needs to be alike.  I have neatnik friends and I have did-someone-break-in-and-ransack-this-place friends.  Both groups have marvelous traits I admire, both groups are treasures.  And I always feel a little bad for the messier ones who are made to feel guilty and shamed by the more OCD ones.
          So I’m using the Kon Mari method as I look at my friends, and I realize how much I love them all. Whether they like algebra or not.
Hey, if you’d like to see my demo of a Home Management Binder, click here!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

But, Officer, I was Obeying the Sign

          Here is what I think.  I think freeway number signs should NOT be possible speed limits.
          For example, where I live, there are not one, but TWO freeways labeled, “80.”  There’s the Interstate 80, and what is called Business 80, a loop off of I-80 that confuses anyone new to the area, and many old to the area, as well.  Wikipedia says, “Business Loop 80 is referred to as Business 80, the 80, Biz 80, Capital City Freeway, Cap City Fwy and US 50 (western section only) by residents and mapmakers.” 

That’s a lot of signs saying “80.” 
But 80 is also a speed one could reasonably reach, and therefore should be banned as a freeway name. 
As if that’s not bad enough, the even closer freeway to me is called Highway 65 (technically a U.S. Route).  
You could be tooling along, see a sign that says “65” and not have any idea whether this is the acceptable speed limit, or just a sign telling you what speedway, I mean, highway you’re on.
Just across town, intersecting with the 80, is a Highway named 50, another U.S. Route.  Can you believe this?  These are all numbers a person could hit by pressing on any gas pedal.  And I have seen many a driver who apparently thinks 50 is the speed limit on that freeway.
Both 80 and 50 intersect the I-5, the only freeway in this area with a number no one would mistake for a speed limit.
You know there’s supposed to be some order to this.  For example, odd-numbered routes are supposed to run north-south, while even numbered routes are to run east-west. And this might work if all freeways followed a strict grid pattern, and did not go on diagonals. To further muddle the works, the lower numbers are supposed to be in the eastern U.S., and higher numbers out west.  Yet I-95 runs along the East Coast and I-5 is on the West.  Oh, and lower numbers are designated to be in the north and higher numbers in the south. Yet I-10 runs along the Southern States, and I-90 runs along the U.S.-Canada border.

It gets worse. Major north–south routes have numbers ending in "1" while major east–west routes have numbers ending in "0".  Askville says, “Three-digit numbered highways are spur routes of parent highways but are not necessarily connected to their parents. Some divided routes exist to provide two alignments for one route, even though many splits have been eliminated. Special routes, usually posted with a banner, can provide various routes, such as an alternate, bypass or business route, for a U.S. Highway.”
And we’re supposed to keep all this straight. Doesn’t this read like a tax code of some kind?  Talk about a traffic jam before anyone even gets on the road!  I can’t expect to change all the freeway numbers with one blog post.  But can we at least agree to make them way outside (or way below) the speed a person might attain in their car?  I think the world would be a safer place.

Better yet, order my novel, Jungle, and travel across the world without leaving your chair.