If I Wanted a Job, I’d Apply For One

Today, I experienced some frustration that annoyed me beyond comprehension. Lovely and I did our best to keep our neighborhood Walmart from closing it’s doors. We had not shopped for groceries for a couple of weeks now, and our cupboards were bare. It was time to give up and shop. The big news during the week was that four Chicagoland Walmart stores closed because they were losing money. It’s my guess that the effect of the relaxation of penalties for shop lifting have been measured, and one of the world’s largest retailers has voted with it’s feet. In other words, “let’s get out of town before they steal the shelves bare, and strip all the copper wire from the building.” Anyway, we did our best to fill a shopping cart with food. We have a habit of guessing how many dollars are in the cart before we check out. Both of us guessed two hundred dollars.

A New Humanless Checkout
The Traditional Human Checkout

Usually, these stores had as many as twenty lines for check out with humans scanning and bagging. Today, there were only two human staffed checkout lines. In their place were two corrals of fifteen self checkout stations with one human overseer. Walmart has aggressively been working on reducing labor costs since the fifteen dollar minimum wage was introduced. Secondly, since COVID there has been, and still is a huge labor shortage.

Lovey and I parked at one of the computer operated checkout stations and began scanning. We bought a lot of fruits and vegetables and learned that scanning cucumbers, peppers, and onions can be challenging. Each piece of vegetable, and fruit has a label with a bar code. It all sounds great except that the labels are tiny and the bar codes don’t read or scan at all. The computer then asks you to find the item in it’s database by clicking on a photo. Of course this took some time, since it was the very first time I tried scanning a tomato, and a green pepper. Neither was shown as a photo on the screen, so it involved typing in a description of the item, or the four digit unscannable number that was on the tiny label, and then answering how many of the item there was. Okay, I got past that frustration, but then proceeded to try to place the items into a plastic bag that hangs on the station. Plastic material is a great collector of negative and positive ions. The bags stuck together agressively. I found myself fighting magnetically adhering plastic sheet stock to get the bags open, GRRR! This final step of the shopping experience taught me to avoid shopping at places where I must do a self check out. After thinking about this for a few seconds I realized I will not be shopping in too many stores because they are all headed in this direction.

This phenomenon is not new. The first labor intensive vendor switched customers to self checkout many years ago. I recall when my dad drove his car into a service station for gas, he stopped by a pump and waited for the attendant to come to his window. Dad asked him to “fill it up with regular,” or “two dollars worth please.” While Dad sat there, the attendant cleaned his windshield, checked the oil, and filled the tires to a correct pressure. Dad handed him money (credit cards weren’t invented yet) and the attendant would make change and give him a Green stamps. Most gas stations were independently owned and operated businesses. When the oil companies took them over to expand the size of the station by adding more pumps they also reduced the amount of service to zero. Car owners were forced to fill their own cars, and to clean their own windows with station supplied water, brush and paper. Today, I use my phone app to dial in to the station location, the pump number and type of gas. The pump communicates with my phone to charge my card. I still have to open the gas tank, and place the nozzle into the filler tube. Perhaps someday soon an AI robot will do all of this for me.

I don’t know if I saved enough money shopping at Walmart to make the aggravation I suffered to warrant going back there again. If Walmart goes out of business at this location it won’t be because they didn’t have paying customers, it’ll more likely be because they didn’t have customers who wanted to do their work for them.

By the way Lovely and I both guessed wrong, the total was $301.

Garden Dreams

FINALLY! The weather is beginning to cooperate a little. Of course the warmer temperatures bring on true spring fever. In my case spring fever means I get tired and want to sleep in the middle of the day. Like right now. Our flowering trees are in full display this week, and we rejoice at the beauty of it. Some trees are nearly all leafed out but others, like the cotton woods are still only budding at the tips of their branches.Historically, the Old Farmer’s Almanac warns that the last official freeze date is May 15. Since we experienced some minor snow showers last week I believe the official freeze date is holding, and I won’t waste my energy planting anything just yet.

I did take advantage of a plant sale being held by the Friends of the Library. They announced their official pick up date as May 13, and I’ll be there to bring home some baby geraniums to plant in the big pot that guards our front door. I love geraniums. Probably because my mother had them every year and wintered them in the house. She placed pots of them in front of each bedroom window to get light, and because the bedrooms were kept cool, the plants loved it. The smell of the geranium plant stirs me almost as much as bright sunshine at 6:00 a.m. every morning.

Today my grass cutter, Jose streaked across the lawn on his stand up mower, and I flagged him down. I’m not sure he has official papers to be in this country, but being a smart man, he married his anchor. I asked him if he would help me expand Lovely’s vegetable garden. Like a dummy, I told her I would double the size of it so she could expand her pickle factory. She is not letting up on me, and now I have to deliver. The problem Jose has is that his hired help left him for a better job, and he can’t find anybody to replace him. Damned cheap labor can’t get any cheap labor.

My indoor project is coming along, but most likely after next week it will go on hold as my outdoor projects will take over. I promised myself that I would drain the pond and clean it this year before I installed the pump for the summer. Then there is a slight remodeling of the landscape next to the waterfall. The grasses that I planted a few years ago are expanding at the speed of light and need to be thinned out. The only positive way to do that is to use chemical weapons. Pond grass roots deep and far. Pulling on the stems only serves to wear out the puller. Since both sides of the waterfall are lined with boulders, digging out the grass is hopeless.

Spring is a good time to split daffodils and resurrection lilies. I have two large clumps of each that I must dig up, separate and then replant further apart. Most likely I’ll spread them around the yard to spread the joy for next spring. I once saw a photo of a field filled with daffodils. I meant it was filled as far as the eye could see. Maybe it was photoshopped, but the attached article explained it was the work of a single lady gardener who kept separating and replanting the bulbs. She had no help, but after forty or fifty years she had several acres of yellow flowers covering her property. In my mind, all I could think is that she didn’t do anything except eat, sleep and replant daffodils all her life. As much as I loved that picture I will never have the property, but more importantly I would never have the drive to do the work. How could I wile away my days at the computer surfing the internet if I was out replanting daffodils from sun-up til sun-down?

This summer the Monet Vision may actually become a vision worthy of seeing, that is, if I can tear myself away from this machine, and my work shop downstairs to make it happen.

I did it once, I can do it again!

Technology Is Great, Except When It Is Not!

This day began with a bedroom filled with sunshine. When it is so bright one cannot sleep any more. The view through the window faked me out, it is still only forty degrees (F). I took my walk and loved the cold fresh air. After breakfast and reading a couple chapters of my book I sat down to my task list determined to focus and complete an important job. I am printing thank you certificates for a fellow Lion who asked for my help. It was ten o’clock and I figured it to be at most a two hour job. At this moment it is 1:15 p.m. and I have not printed a single certificate. Well, I did print one, but the job turned out streaky and missing colors. My focus shifted to cleaning print heads.

The standard HP print head cleaning process hasn’t worked, and I need to do some serious flushing for which I do not have the necessary equipment. Now the recommendation is to change out the cartridges, but I put new ones in a month ago, and don’t have any more. Although the machine is four years old and still functioning, that is, except for the color blue, it may be faster and cheaper to replace the device.

So much for time management and planning. When the supporting technology isn’t cooperating the schedule goes into the trash with the ten failed test pages. I ask myself, what did I do before the advent of computers and printers? I would have written twelve thank you notes and sent them to the individuals by mail. In the long run that might still be the best way to do it, but then the recipient wouldn’t have a nice framed certificate to hang on his office wall.

Spring’s Here, No wait It’s Gone

Throughout the month of April I have been shaking my head in wonderment. Over the year’s I have witnessed snow and beautiful mild temperatures and this year we saw some record high temps. The tee-shirts and shorts came out in droves. Air conditioners were turned on as inside temps headed toward the nineties. “This is not right,” I kept telling myself, and I was right. Today, the temperature is forty degrees cooler than it was yesterday, and it continues to drop. If that isn’t enough Mother Nature decided to water the lawns and gardens. It is perfect hypothermia weather.

The opportunity alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, and I turned it off then rolled over to sleep some more. I finally pulled myself out of bed at 8:15, had breakfast, and made it to 10:30 mass. Since then I have read a book, played in my shop, and watched Youtube videos. At this moment I am waiting for Lovely’s sirloin roast to finish and then we will over eat supper.

I had a weird dream two nights ago, and it continues to play over and over in my mind. Have you ever dreamed a scene so real that you actually thought you were living it? In this dream I was watching the Chicago skyline from the west and about five miles from the center. The skyscrapers were backed by a beautiful blue sky. It was windy, very windy. I swore I could see the buildings sway in the breeze, and the longer I watched the more they swayed. I’m thinking this is not good. It wasn’t. The three tallest buildings continued to sway more and more until finally one of them broke in the middle. I’m thinking I hope this is not the twin towers all over again. The buildings broke off in the center and started to topple into a heap in the center of the city. My mind was already beginning to feel for the people in the buildings and on the ground around them. Then something even stranger happened. The top half of the skyscrapers didn’t crash to the ground. The wind swept them away and they flew westward like hot air balloons leaving their stubs vibrating into rubble. My mind then began to envision the fifty story tops eventually crash landing into the the west side of Chicago causing major death. The day suddenly turned into night and I never saw the end.

Dreams are weird, and I know if my mother was still alive she would interpret it for me, she always did. Some people say that dreams are a way the brain deals with built up junk. It has to clear the clutter to make room for new thoughts and more weird dreams. Maybe it was the result of temperatures that were too high for the season.

A Highly Paid Pickpocket

Take a good look at this woman. She has her hands in your pocket, and is lifting your wallet and any loose change you may still have.

“During an interview aired on Wednesday’s edition of MSNBC’s “11th Hour,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm responded to a question on whether there is a plan to address energy prices that have started to tick up by stating that “the better choice is to move to electrify transportation, because it is so much cheaper for you” and “moving to clean is moving to energy security and moving to affordability.”

I almost fell off my chair. I just Googled Biden’s electrification of transportation plan and learned that he is pouring money into electric charging station infrastructure. Will it be enough? Probably not for a very long time. His desire is to have 500,000 charging stations in place by 2030. The latest stat I found on the number of gas stations in the United States is 115,400. At first the number of charging stations sounds like it will be plenty, but I don’t think so. Most of the 115,400 stations provide up to twelve or more fueling points. It takes me about five minutes to fill my tank while a fast charge will take about 45 minutes. That means the electric charging depot will require nine times as many charging points to equal the fill capacity of a regular fueling station. My arithmetic tells me that the number of charging points is only half of what will be required. Another fact of life is that the current grid that supplies us with our spark is not capable of simultaneously charging more than about five cars per city block before it crashes.

At the same time Biden is planning to increase regulation of gasoline to make it more expensive and harder to get. Remember a few weeks ago when I stated that the current car shortage is a government conspiracy to force us into electric cars. Along with that, the pandemic taught us that we don’t need to drive. Anyway, I have veered from my point which is to state that this lady who has her hands in our pockets is a moron. She actually believes she can convince us that going electric overnight will be cheaper for us.

What Ms Granholm has left out of the discussion is where the electricity needed to spark those 500,000 charging stations will come from. Maybe she has a plan to install a huge windmill on the roof of every fossil fuel and atomic power plant across the country to give us a charge. While we hire the Dutch to design and build those windmills for us we will have to rely on something else. Maybe it will be hydro-electric, but wait, didn’t Lake Meade nearly run out of water this last year? Where will we build new hydro-electric plants. Niagara Falls already has a power plant. Actually, a better idea will be to buy all the old bicycles that the Chinese are no longer using, and we can use them to move around. Not only would that be clean green energy, but we would all lose weight and be healthier. Think of all the reduced health care costs that would accrue. Surplus doctors and nurses would need to be directed to keeping the millions of illegal aliens that have descended upon the USA healthy. The downside of healthy immigrants is that they will be buying up all the beautifully efficient gas powered cars that we had to give up for the electrics.

The bottom line is that we need more power pants

Jennifer Granholm’s stupid answer was completely political talking points. She did it so robotically, and kept repeating the exact same line so many times that I wondered if maybe she is a government robot with limited artificial intelligence.

Here is my tip to Joe Biden, “we are not stupid.”