Economic Reality Check

Perusing the news page (yes, I’ve started doing that, it is tornado season, ya know) I came across this gem regarding the high percent interest of rent-to-own stores:

Consumer Reports Investigation: Would You Pay the Equivalent of 311 Percent Interest to Own a Big-Screen TV?

After reading the article and first few dozen comments, I simply had to post my thoughts….

  • Payday check stores, rent-to-own and secured credit cards make it possible for our nation to gloss over (although the layers of illusion are growing thinner all the time) the very real problem of poverty and economic inequality within our current financial system.
  • It’s intriguing to me the percentage of interest on a TV is 311% as opposed to the 84% for a dining room table – true, maybe they do try to make needed goods more affordable (beds, kitchen appliances, etc.) but methinks that’s probably a well-planned strategy (“See?   We don’t set our prices high on things poor people really need to live…only luxuries, like TVs…. Not our fault if people have their priorities wrong.  We don’t need regulation.)

And last, but not least:

Yet another example of a well placed, front page stories to create more divergence in our nation through finger pointing between the well-off and not-so-well-to-do, creating an atmosphere of fighting, scapegoating and blaming instead of  creative space in which to examine the question…

Is our current financial system really the best we can do?

Greenbelt training, anyone?

I’m not talking karate….

(is there a greenbelt in karate?)

By now you should know I’m a big fan of 6 Sigma process improvement tools/ideology.  Simply because the tools, if used with any degree of sincerity, make it nearly impossible for individuals or groups to not understand the reality of any process.

True, there are those who like to manipulate data points in order to paint the picture they want to believe exists, but for the most part, if you are diligent in your 6 Sigma assessments, you can quickly identify where problems exist and what options there are for solutions.

But the real reason I’m such a fan of Greenbelt training is because of the wonderful quotes I learned during that period of my life:

“Yes, Let’s Do It Wrong, Really Fast”

This lapse into sarcasm by our instructor was quipped when a suggestion was made by one member of the team to speed up turn-around time via more temp employees without examining why production was being slowed at the same area each time.

Mr. Blackbelt Certified  was King of highlighting  how often we miss the point of any exercise in which we are trying to better ourselves, our business or the world.

Whether we are trying to lose weight, cut down on defects in products or stop global warming, if an issue has become a problem, we tend to want to get something, anything, done –  NOW.

(Historically, I was the “I’ve got to do something…even if it’s wrong.” type individual)

Our tendency as a species to dive in and take action is probably why we humans are still here.   There are times when quick, decisive action is the only way to keep afloat or alive.

On the other hand, for the most part, diving in and trying to tackle major issues with the quickest and easiest solution often means short-term relief with long-term grief on the horizon.

I often revisit what I learned from that instructor when fear and stress are urgently screaming at me to do something, now!   Often, if I can manage to control my “Ms. Fix-It” tendencies for even 2 hours, what seemed like a huge issue has become understood and seen to be an issue that is, well, fixable.   And sometimes, during that ‘I’ll sit and do nothing until I’m sure what is best to do” phase, the issue resolves itself.

Best example of that is dealing with a teenager who has gotten angry and rebellious at the unfairness of (insert whatever).

If I try to talk it through with them, right then, well, the conversation doesn’t go too well.   If I instead ask if we can each take some time to think about what it is we each really want out of the deal and meet back at the table in say, an hour? well, those are the conversations that really get something accomplished – mainly restored household peace.

The trick is remembering to wait and do nothing.

It takes a woman 9 months to have a baby.  9 women can’t have a baby in a month.

This little gem was shared with me by Mr. Old Warhorse the First.   Where I worked, there were five individuals that received this distinguished honor – simply put, these are crusty ole farts who suffer fools not at all, but if you’re willing to put up with them pointing out how stupid you are, you can really learn a lot from these folks.

(Sorry, side story time – – Mr. OW the First told me during our first conversation, “I’ll allow you to use the word ‘paradigm‘ because I can see you actually know what it means.”  Can you believe the arrogance of telling me what vocabulary I can use?  He turned out to be my favorite coffee, lunch, smoke break, beer after work buddy.   Just goes to show what happens if you keep your indignation in check for a day or two….see first quote for further….)

The 9 women quote came when Mr. OW the First and I were having a beer after work to discuss the day’s meetings and their contents.   He was referring to several folks wanting to throw more money at an area of problems – before knowing for sure what issues were really causing the problems.

Whether it’s our money, time or other versions of energy, I’ve found throwing ‘more’ at a problem is not always the way to fix it.   A slightly different perspective, approach or technique may be all that is needed to achieve the results we aim for.

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So why was I thinking about these things this morning?   I came across an RSA Animate clip I hadn’t seen before.   And it illustrates quite eloquently what happens when governments do not take the time to ponder directions and spending priorities – and calls for a return to local democracy…and constitution….

Though this is told about Britain and from a UK perspective, I think the same applies for us.  I present you with a clip from The Economic Consequences of Mr. Brown, presented by Stein Ringen.

Enjoy!

P.S. There’s one more quote I really like, but I didn’t learn it at Greenbelt training – I learned it at the EFT Master Practitioners conference in 2007:

Every Problem Used to be a Solution

What do you think?  Applicable?

Caulking for Beginners

Mom and I had a “To Do List” to prepare things for the company coming as soon as she returns from her vacation and I leave for mine.   Needless to say, it didn’t all get done before she left and I’ve been steadily scratching off items this past week.

One item on the list was, “Call Mr. X, and have him re-caulk around the shower surround/bathtub joint.”

Did I do what was requested?  Heck no.   Am I not a plumber’s daughter?  Do we not have boxes and boxes of caulk sitting around and multiple caulking guns?   And don’t I remember watching Dad do it?  Why pay someone?

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First, I couldn’t read the fine print on the caulk I found – and wasn’t sure which one to use.   Also, the nozzles looked awfully big – I could already envision big blobs of caulk everywhere but where they were supposed to be.

So I picked up GE’s Premium Waterproof Silicone at the local store – – mainly because the following bold and eye-catching print was on the front of the tube:

  • Kitchen/Bath/Plumbing
  • 3 Hr Shower Ready
  • 5 Yr Mold-Free Product Protection

Yes, I’m using it for the bath, I like the 3 hour bit and having attempted to clean moldy caulking in rentals over the years, I liked the 5 year guarantee.

(If, and I say, IF, the caulking job I did lasts that long.)

So on to the step-by-step, which does not contain pictures of the whole process, because I rarely think to snap pics while in the middle of a project….

Tools

Pictured below are the tools I used to do this job – the tiny implements are really for doing manicures/pedicures, but hey, good enough to push back cuticles without scratching/damaging the nail bed = won’t scratch the tub, in my mind.

GE’s Premium Waterproof Silicone, cuticle pushers (two different brands with different edges), utility knife

Remove old caulk:

First run at a section, I ran the utility knife along the top edge (which was already pulling away, hence, the need to re-caulk) and then along the bottom edge, then tried to keep from scratching the tub while continuing to use the utility knife – not working so hot, so got out my black handled manicure tool and after a swipe or two using each end, switched to the metal one using the flat end.

Eureka!  Rest of the job went smoothly by running the utility knife along the bottom edge, then using the cuticle pusher to run along and pull out all the old caulk.

Not pictured is the vacuum cleaner I used to vacuum up the mess, which I later found out can be avoided if you line your work area with a garbage bag – ahh well, not too much of a mess to clean anyhoo.

I also did all the removal not utilizing cleaners or water.   Since the cuticle pusher did such a fab job of removing the old and every “how-to” said to let area completely dry before caulking, I thought, “Why get it wet to start with?”

After removing all the old caulking, I saturated a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and wiped down all the areas to be caulked.  I let it sit while having a cup of coffee and vaping on my e-cig, envisioning how perfect my caulking job is going to look when complete.  (I’ve learned over the years, taking a break and envisioning success is a useful practice.)

I didn’t blow dry the area with a hair dryer, nor did I fill the bathtub with water as a lot of how-to’s suggested.  (I’m guessing the water in the tub/sink suggestion is so you’re caulking the joints as they lie when under pressure….)

All I know is my mind did the following math:

Clumsy first-timer + bathtub full of water + hair dryer = Possible Disaster

Ergo, didn’t follow two of the tips – hope that doesn’t ruin the job…

Applying New Caulk:

Cutting the caulking tube tip near the very top made me feel more confident about not having big blobs laying around.     After some mid-project research, I tried using a plastic spoon (both ends) to smooth the caulk and ended up dipping my finger in water and smoothing it that way.   Very pretty (hope it holds!)

Next, a picture of a tool I should have used while doing this, but did not:

Plastic Gloves recommended if smoothing caulk with your fingers

I only figured this out when I was searching Google links on how to remove caulk from hands – – more on that later…

Finished Pics:

After cleaning up the edges and putting some extra on the end corners of the stall wrap around, I thought, “My, ain’t that pretty for my first caulking job?” and decided to snap some photos.

Corner of the surround
Long run at back of tub

How to get caulk off your hands:

A bucket of warm water and sponge was at the ready before I started this project, mainly because I seem to recall my Dad using those items.   The water came in handy to wet my finger before smoothing the caulk and the sponge helped to wipe it off.

After admiring my handiwork, I decided to wash the small residues of caulk off, take some pics and write this post.    Since I couldn’t read the fine print on the caulk tube, and since the water work so well while doing the project, I put soap on my hands, added water and then thought, “Oh, crap.”

Next I poured rubbing alcohol into my hands and rubbed around – probably would have worked if I hadn’t put water and soap on first.

Then I tried some Bartender’s Friend gritty cleanser – nope.

Then I did some research and found out, if I just wait a few days, the rest of the residue will flake off.    Although I have wondered if having some caulk on my hands might seal in the moisture and cut down on my hand lotion expenses….

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It remains to be seen if my caulking job will be both pretty AND functional.  I promise to report if it doesn’t hold up before the 5 year mold protection warranty is up.   If it does, I’ll do all my own caulking from here on out.

If it doesn’t – well, then perhaps I will try again a time or two.

With gloves on….

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Update: It’s just shy of the 1 year anniversary of this blog post – the caulk job has held up, no mold and my hands didn’t flake and fall off from waiting a few days for the caulk to rub off.   I’ll post each year to let you know if I died from having caulk on my hands for a few days.

P.S. I Super-Glued my fingers together at work when I was 22 years old – Super-Glue wears off in 3-4 days, too, and here I am, 21 years later – no cancer, still have both hands…

Shoulda blogged about that, but WordPress wasn’t around then…

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Update January 23, 2013: 19 months out from the caulking job.   Still holds, still pretty and still no mold.

I’m posting an update to inform you that a partial bottle of GE Silicon caulk saved from a job 19 months ago doesn’t work today.   I moved to a new house and needed to caulk around the edges of a newly installed doggie door.   Because of prior experience and the pleasing results, I’ll be picking up another tube of GE Silicon caulk to do the job.

Oh, and some rubber gloves…..

Update September 5, 2014: Caulking job holds up

No, I don’t have current pictures – but logged into blog and saw this post still getting views – – and here’s why I can tell you the job is holding up:

  • My Mom is probably the best housekeeper in the world
  • There are folks in the community who love her and would love to invite her over, but after being at her house, are embarrassed for her to see their house
  • She has cleaned things so well over the years, they broke from the scrubbing – I’m Serious!  My dad rarely criticized her, but when she tore into house cleaning and then said, “uh-oh” he did let loose with a few choice words….
  • She still occasionally comments on what a good job I did on the caulking – she doesn’t read my blog, so she’s not swayed by me being the Queen of How-to-get-caulk-off-your-hands advice.
  • If it was turning even a faint shade of off-white, she’d be calling me either to A. Ask if I have time to re-caulk it, or B. Ask what I used and how I did it – she’s thinking about doing it herself – or C.Informing she’s having Mr. X, the handyman, come over to re-caulk it –

So – we are 3+ years (how time flies when you’re having fun) and it’s still holding up.   And, last I checked, GE silicon caulk is still available at a store near you….  It’s working so well, they’ll probably change the formula and we’ll all be caulking every year….Sigh – – I know, just ask me what happened to Bag Balm…. 🙂

Update – February 2016 – 

No pics, just yet, to post/share – will be done this spring when I help Mom move out to other digs – BUT – Ms. Awesome Housekeeper-Keep-on-top-of-things Mom continues to report, no need to re-do job, no yellowing/fading/cracking/failing of function –

So, since this continues to be one of my most viewed posts – just thought I would let you know – nearly 5 years, still holding strong!  (And yes! My failure to wear protective handware while doing the job is just a dim/distant memory and no long-term defects – so, ya wanna walk on the wild/Oops side of things?  Probably not a life changer – though your results might vary – just saying…. 🙂

5-Year Update

The success of the 5-year benchmark deserves a post, all it’s own –  Caulking of Bathtub – 5 Year Update.

Connections

Okay, so I’m not in the garden yet.   Had one more blog subscription to read and it was sooo good, just had to share:

Anthony Eldridge-Rogers’ The Nature of Connection was a breath of fresh air for me this morn.

Simply because, he explores how our core beliefs are the foundation of how well (or how miserably) we connect with one another.

(Did the last sentence draw a “Well, Duh!” from you?  Bear with me…)

What intrigued me was his focus on the core beliefs we hold regarding the person we are supposedly connecting with – which is a topic I’ve been hot on ever since I entered the realm of the ‘we create our own reality’.  I’ve been pondering over the past few months how someone who states they do love me could have just said what they did.    To my mind, the statements made reflect their core belief about who I am – and those beliefs are, to my mind, incorrect.

Which leads me to another conundrum this a.m.   There is a school of thought that states we can never truly know another person.   We can only have the story of the person our minds have pieced together given the information they’ve shared with us.

To piece together a story that may actually have some basis in reality, we must actually listen to what the other person is saying, observe what they are doing and try to ensure our core beliefs about the person or their perspective aren’t skewing the story into something that isn’t really true.

There are times I have said to various loved ones in my life, “I can’t believe you just asked me that?   Do you really think I’m that (choose one: stupid, heartless, incompetent, selfish, etc.)

The standard reply is, “Of course I don’t, why would you even think that?”

At which point, I’m left with the feeling that perhaps I truly have gone insane and just can’t recognize the fact.

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Perhaps an example is in order.   Once after trash pickup time, I went out to bring in our trash can, only to find it missing.    A look around the street revealed my neighbors’ empty trash cans still curbside (except for the retiree across the way – he’s prompt in returning the trash can to his garage.)

After perusing the various possibilities, I called my husband at work and said, “I know this is going to sound funny, but I think someone stole our trash can.”    He laughs, I tell him my observations and he says,

Are you sure you didn’t just put it in the garage already?

Which triggered my, “I can’t believe you just said that,” response.

To my mind, he would have to hold a secret core belief that I’m either stupid, suffering from some mental defect ranging from stress induced short term memory damage to alzheimer’s, or any number of other (unflattering or scary) thoughts that are, to my mind, not really conducive to nurturing a long-term partnership.

He thinks he’s just covering all the possible reasons why our trash can has disappeared. (And he did not once, mind you, mention the Alien Abduction theory)

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On the flip side of this conversation – those whom I question as to their core reasons for saying such and such, genuinely seem shocked and amazed that I could even come up with such a thought.

Which begs the thought, do I feel that way about myself and am projecting it onto them? or do I have a core belief those around me are too uneducated and shallow to examine their own reasons for saying such things?

Either way is not too encouraging for my own state of inner health….

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I’ve been frequently told I think too much.   And that thinking causes most of my problems.   I’ve also often begged the Universe to please show me the path to the mute button for my chatty-cathy mind.

On the other hand, I’m pretty good at hearing all the mind chatter that shows me, quite brilliantly, what my core beliefs are – which ones may need a tune-up or simply must be deleted.

I also am aware of which ones could use some encouragement, so they speak up louder next time I need to hear them.

Perhaps connecting with others only truly happens once we’ve connected with ourselves….

Sound familiar?

In case you were wondering, the missing trash can was actually in front of the next-door neighbor’s curb – seems they forgot to put out their trash and the garbage man had replaced ours closer to their house than ours.    Somewhat anti-climatic after becoming convinced aliens were actually interested in what I throw away….

What We Aim For…

More important than what we do?

Yup.

Thanks to New Urban Habitat’s Hopeful Weekend Links list, I read The Happiest Countries in the World article this morning.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) decided to collect and report data regarding “top countries” much differently from how countries have historically been rated ‘tops’ – (Gross Domestic Product – GDP standards):

“What we measure affects what we do,” the three economists concluded, “and if our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted.”

The secret to success in one sentence.   Bet these folks had Greenbelt training!

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6 Sigma Greenbelt (basic level) training in process improvement is based upon collecting data, examining the metrics and making changes based on that data.   It’s a process that relies heavily on first stating where you want to go (aim) and how to determine whether you’re on the right track or not (what data to collect/view?)

Supposedly, it is a logical process that keeps folks focused on where they are, ensures they well define where they want to be (objective) and lays out, in no uncertain terms,  the breakdowns and problems needing correction before the stated goal can be reached.

If a group of committed team members (without undue interference from their bosses or other special interest groups) are left to tackle the issue utilizing the 6 Sigma tools, I can tell you absolutely extraordinary improvements with long-term benefits are achieved.

And catastrophic failure if they are unduly swayed by outside forces or given information dubbed critical, that actually is not.

Target objectives designed without due thought and the collection/reporting of the wrong data needed to make a decision, are, in my experience, the top two quickest ways to turn mediocrity into disaster.

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In Matthew Taylor’s 21st Century Enlightenment speech to RSA the importance of what we aim for is also highlighted:

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There is a theory in quantum physics that states:

Nothing exists until it is observed and/or measured.

Perhaps happiness has been on the decline because as a nation, we’ve been measuring it utilizing the wrong data.

What happens when you die?

After years of pondering, I no longer have to wonder.  My 13 year old informed me.

Here ya go:

Thank goodness I now Know!   (and I sing a wicked 99 bottles of beer on the wall tune!)

 

P.S. I refuse, REFUSE to believe this will be my afterlife – – however, if our thoughts do create our reality, then apparently, this will be my afterlife – – after all, can’t leave the son wandering around eternity by himself, ya know.

P.S.S.  Son decided my version of the afterlife is much better than his (pool, pizza, warm weather, everyone is tan and looking fabulous, no pain, no heartache, Jesus stopped by for a slice and a homemade brew (ginger beer, not beer-beer, just so ya know)

Thank goodness I’m able to use logic, reason and good feelings to steer folks away from a sorry state of afterlife….

Xbox – please come up with a valid reason to live well before you die – – – not much I would give up or avoid if the only version of afterlife, is Halo Reach’s version….c’mon, give me something to work towards…..

P.S.P.S. Son has been informed that at least 10 other people in the world will know about our conversation tonight regarding the afterlife.  He asked that I add, in the interest of full disclosure, the blood on the camera, is not real……it’s just graphics….

(don’t I have awesome kids?)

 

And another reason to be thankful…

After a few conversations today, I realized maybe I should be feeling more grateful than I have been.

Lo and behold, I come across storm chaser blog posts with pictures showing what the storm looked like while I was driving through it and shoveling hail after the worst had moved through – –

Glad I was too busy to truly understand what was going on around me….

Check out these awesome posts and pics:

The Chasers Forum

Tornadoeskick site