Insurance Companies – the Unexpected Ally in Long-term Planning for Disaster

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 9:38 pm

In the US, insured climate-related losses have gone up 10 times faster than premiums or economic growth since 1971. Lloyds of London issued a report in June, 2006 Climate Change: Adapt or Bust. outlining the challenges facing the insurance industry and their analysis of insurer’s risk from global climate change.

They recommend spending much more money on improving long-range climate forecasting models, using the models to be more aggressive in pricing insurance to reflect the weather expected for the coming season rather than pricing based on historical patterns, and presuming that climate change will occur much faster than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I don’t think communities will be in a position to similarly raise taxes precipitously and mobilize a response if abrupt climate change occurs.


More Trash and the Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 5:37 pm

Send in more maid stories – I couldn’t even begin to make this stuff up –

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My in-laws returned from a 3-week trip the other day. They are are a lovely, slightly elderly couple. My mother-in-law is a slight, cultured woman who is always immaculately dressed and coiffed. They, with the help of their maid, maintain an immaculate home.

While they were gone the maid came in to clean and water the plants. The maid is a nice, conscientious, personable girl from Poland with a reasonable command of English. Before my in-laws came back she collected the trash (paper towels & the like), walked it passed the doorman, dumped it in the garbage shute and stopped to chat with the doorman.

He, too, is a nice young man who likes to help out the tenants. He gave the maid the pile of mail that had been accumulating and they chatted a bit more. Not wanting to drop any of the numerous pieces of mail, she put it in the clean trash can (she’s Polish – they scrub the trash can each time they empty it) and walked it back to the apartment.

Needless to say, my mother-in-law neglected to check the trash before emptying it when she came back. She did, however, comment on the small amount of mail she’d received while they were gone, in the hearing of the maid. Their next activity was to go through the building trash until they found the mail with several large checks in it.

I do sort-of wonder if she still thinks I’m crazy for checking the trash after the maid comes.


Is My Maid Stealing?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 2:21 pm

Conventional wisdom seems to hold that all maids pilfer. If you’ve found a maid through networking this is almost certainly not true. Most maids have a very good grasp of the fact that, like Caesar’s wife, they must be above suspicion. They want to keep their jobs and get recommendations.

Maids are easy to blame – any time my husband’s wallet fails to make it to the nightstand someone is accused of stealing it. Invariably the thief takes her ill-gotten gains and hides them in the washing machine. Obviously the maid we hire isn’t very bright since she always hides it in the same spot.
 Fear of being thought a thief can lead to the failure to clean closet floors or drawers unless you are very insistent – if she doesn’t clean it you won’t think she’s been tempted by the emergency stash you keep in your sock drawer.

Someone I knew had a maid for years. Suddenly, the emergency stash she kept in her drawer started to lose money periodically. Of course the maid was blamed, but because of her long service she was never confronted. The fact that this occurred during a period when my acquaintance’s teenage son was bringing friends to an empty home for lunch each day never set off any alarm bells.

The Maid and the Toilet Paper

Everyone I know buys toiletries at a superstore and is mildly certain that the maid helps herself when she needs soap. That children or husband might replenish the bathrooms with soap never crosses their minds. (OK, it is hard to believe, I admit.)
If you seriously think your maid is pilfering you owe it to her to monitor the soap before and after she comes. A month should be long enough to convince you that the soap only goes down in the pantry when it increases in the bathrooms.

Sometimes, if you are truly anal, you will note that the fresh roll of toilet paper left the pantry and found its way to the bathroom but the old roll had only been half used. Presumably you don’t think your maid is a victim of Montezuma’s Revenge (you think of a polite way of putting it). Obviously your maid must be risking her job to stuff the half-finished toilet roll in her purse. If you had followed my advice and taken out the trash before the maid came and checked the trash she did throw away, your suspicions would change radically. Your maid is not a thief – she is just crazy.

Maids like places that they have cleaned to look nice. Money is no object to you – after all – you’re paying someone else to clean your house when you could do it very easily yourself. Rather than leave a roll of toilet paper that your child will probably use without replacing before you get to see the lovely job your maid did – the maid changes to a fresh roll. At least you won’t look at the bathroom (left otherwise spotless since said child probably snuck out without washing his hands because you haven’t said ‘wash your hands’ 587 times this month) and ask why didn’t she change the empty roll.

Checking the trash can also lead to the somewhat disconcerting discovery of half the jewelry in the house ending in the vacuum bag. Earrings fall behind the nightstand and the maid doesn’t see them, or drawers aren’t emptied before cleaning and the small pile of earrings in your daughter’s drawer find their way into the vacuum.

The one time I know that my maid took something was from a friend’s, on my behalf. I hadn’t bought new vacuum cleaner bags & the maid, having a good sense of my tendency to need to be reminded before I replace cleaning supplies, borrowed one from one of my friends. She made it very clear that she was using Linda’s bag and that I would need to pay Linda back (by giving the maid one of the bags out of the fresh batch to take back to Linda.) It did absolutely nothing about my procrastination in buying cleaning supplies but it did make me appreciate how important it was to my maid not to be thought a thief.

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.

Deer and the Abrupt Climate Change Game

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 6:54 am

Deer are currently nothing more than a nuisance in the Northeast – areas with deer tend to have endangered tulips but don’t contend with massive outbreaks of Lymes Disease. Communities tolerate leveled hostas and even an occasional car accident out of a respect for co-existing with nature or a desire to not kill Bambi.

Does your view change if you know the climate will change? (See the rules for the game forthe changes we assume will occur – I know these aren’t terribly likely – that’s not the point.) According to th US Global Change Research Program , a taxpayer funded article that probably could have been written by the editors of Readers Digest, climate change could cause the deer population to explode and consequently cause an explosion in deer ticks. Since we’re working from a different climate model, one that predicts cold winters, would we want to put out feed for the worst parts of the winter as a relatively easy way to keep a source of meat nearby? Do we replace all the deer with sheep?

Assuming you decide deer present too great a risk to the gardens you are depending on for food, do you:

  1. Direct the community to call the police department every time they spot a deer?
  2. Declare an open season on deer in the town and tell all the non-hunter residents to stay inside that day?
  3. Import Indians from the Smokey Mountains who would like to hunt deer as part of their manhood rites and have a shortage in their area (don’t forget to contract for killing x does for every buck, since bucks are more desirable.)
  4.  Give does annual contraceptive shots and hope the vets don’t give themselves the shots. (you think it’s easy to inoculate a thrashing deer?)


Marriage and the State

Posted in Just A Thought at 2:10 pm

I’ve been following the marriage for gays controversy with some disbelief. I have decided however that conservatives have a point. Religious marriage is between a man and a woman. (Secular marriage performed by a judge is between whoever the courts say it is and in the future it may change.) Religious, indeed all marriages, have no place in our legal system.

We should purge all mention of marriage from our legal code and replace it with commitment. We still need laws governing the legal obligations, taxes, and breakups of committed people; we just should not be in the business of legislating what marriage is.

Obviously if you get married religiously you are committed to each other. Same sex couples could also be committed to each other. More importantly, people who have children together are committed to each other. Government should be codifying this relationship – all children deserve the same rights and protections regardless of their parent’s marital status. Obviously a person can only be committed to one person at a time without a formal plan of breakup.

It used to be (& I really don’t know if it still is true) that parents didn’t get married because tax and benefit implications made marriage prohibitive. Sometimes people went so far as to get religiously married but failed to file the civil papers.

Marriage would still be a highly desired state. Since we live in a graphical age, perhaps each religious group could permit people married under its auspices to use the word marriage with an icon indicating the flavor – fish for Catholic, three stars of David for orthodox Jews, one star for reform Jews, cross for Protestants, lambda for the Church of Gays Wishing to be Married. Churches could then use the full force of trademark law to insure that their marriage is what they say it is.

Just a thought.

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British Airways Lost Baggage Policy – Wrong

Posted in Just A Thought, Uncategorized at 1:31 pm

British Airways has a quaint notion that if they tell their clients with lost baggage that it is not their policy to address the issue they can ignore the problem. This is not legally correct since Britain is a signatory to the Montreal Convention and they certainly don’t even mention it in court when they are taken to small claims court.

BeNetSafe - Helping keep children safe onlineIf you check your baggage with Bristish Airways and they say even once that “it is not their policy to handle your claim and you need to go to some other carrier” ignore the customer service communications and take them straight to small claims court. 

Carrier liability for luggage is limited by the Montreal Treaty  which explicitly states the maximum liability based on the weight of the luggage and nullifies any claims of reduced liability.

Prepare for Potential Baggage Loss 

Most luggage is lost during service disruptions when everyone really wants to move along – don’t let yourself be rushed.  British Airways does not document for you the weight of  your baggage. You must write down the weight of each item on the correct baggage ticket. This may be on your boarding pass but don’t leave the counter until you know how much each item weighs. If your luggage is especially valuable – which it will be if there is a terrorist disruption and they force you to check your cameras, computers, IPODS, etc. – buy a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination. The airlines-issued equivalent of baggage insurance.

Also, be sure the luggage is evenly distributed amongst all the people in your party. If your luggage is lost and you need to sue, you want to go to small claims court. If they helpfully assign all the luggage of a family to one person the single claim will be above the small claim court limits.

British Airways has decided that not delivering luggage when there are massive delays and then only paying claims to those who are persistent is the most cost-effective way to deal with lost luggage. If more people are assertive maybe they will purchase corporate baggage insurance and automatically treat everyone fairly.


Cleaning the Bedroom

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:09 pm

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Unless your bedroom is lined with bookshelves, it is one of the fastest rooms to clean. Just make sure your maid doesn’t go too fast.
Drawers accumulate dirt. I really don’t understand this since all that goes into them is clean laundry. Perhaps the Journal of Irreproducible Results can investigagte this at some point. At any rate you want your maid to get rid of the dirt. Make sure she understands that things are supposed to be removed from the drawer before it is vacuumed. I once had a maid that thought the dust would leave and the earrings in my daughter’s drawer would magically stay if she just vacuumed without emptying the drawer first.

Bedroom Instructions


Penni’s Story

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:13 am

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.

Getting the Job You Want From Your Maid

Not everyone is comfortable with giving their maid a job description in the form of lists. Sometimes the language barrier is too great and sometimes the employer is just crazy. Penni Perfect’s maids have always been wonderful people from the local community who speak English perfectly.

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Penni’s home is perfect – everything always in it’s place and well cleaned. Her perfect husband (what other kind would Penni have?) is well trained. He always puts his plates in the sink and in wild and crazy moments he flings his laundry to the bottom of the stairs by the laundry room. How she (or perhaps his mother?) trained him to recognize a relationship between the pants that just left his feet and himself is beyond me. Both my husband and son stare at their dirty pants like they have never seen them before should they be asked to put them in the hamper. All guests are trained to put cutlery in the dishwasher sharp ends up.

Penni expects her maid to know how to clean a room. Should said maid miss an area and dust accumulate (gasp!,) Waldo comes to the rescue.

Waldo is a 6” high plastic Waldo figure based on the Where’s Waldo series. In these terrific books Waldo hides in wonderfully detailed drawings. The reader has to find Waldo.

In Penni’s house Waldo hides in the dust. The maid cleans odd nooks and crannies until she finds Waldo. Both Penni & her maid think this is fun and a great, non-confrontational way to get across an area that’s been overlooked.


Victory Gardens as Community Insurance

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:28 pm

Let’s pretend that at some point in the future a deep freeze knocks out the west coast agriculture for the coming season and a long January hot spell followed by extreme cold destroys this year’s NE apple and other fruit tree crop.
                                                      – Oh wait, that just happened.

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If climate swings occur in a strategic number of places around the globe, world food production would drop. The US Northeast could be in a position to help with the crisis if they can turn into a net food exporter.

Turning a portion of everyone’s backyard into a viable vegetable garden can be very effective. Victory gardens planted by approximately 20% of the population helped supply 40% of the food the US needed during World War II. However, getting crops to maturity can be a challenge, especially if the climate is not cooperating.

Hazard tape might keep Joe Jr. out of the garden but it won’t stop the bunnies enjoying your labor. The effect of not paying close attention to evening temperatures can be approximated by throwing a cucumber in the freezer for a few hours. Even experienced gardeners might be a bit chagrined to dig up 1” carrots at the end of the season because they didn’t know the ground carried blight. (I’m not sure if I said that right but I was definitely chagrined.)

Get a jump on the gardening learning curve in your community by starting a victory garden challenge. Form teams. Find a 4’ by 8’ plot of ground the team can farm. Figure out how the team would make the best use of the garden for the next 12 months. Measure the size of each of your crops and calculate how many calories you produced. Donate the results to the local food bank (or eat it yourself.)

If all 10th graders took this on as a challenge they could help local food kitchens deal with the rising price of food and would have a basic knowledge of gardening in case we ever were called on again to help with the food supply


Rules for the Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 12:20 pm

If you’re new – I wrote the How to Hire A Maid like a book. Click Table of Contents for future articles and links to old blogs in a more comprehensible order – or just click here & go to the bottom to read it straight through by scrolling up to each article.

Hopefully your new maid is using a checklist and working on one room at a time when she comes. Kitchen and bathroom are already available; I will be posting more. Once you’ve had her go through each room and confirmed that she understands the checklists, it’s time to start moving towards normal home maintenance.

Before you introduce your maid to the game of speed cleaning – which she probably really already knows,  take time to go over your views on general cleaning.  If it’s in writing she can get a friend to check her translation to avoid misunderstandings.  I found the following useful to go over with my maid.:

  •  Laundry found anywhere should go to the floor outside the laundry and cups/dishes to the kitchen, but please tell me about it – the kids are suppose to put their own away.
  • Do not worry about vacuuming up or throwing away anything ‘important’. I will check all trash & the vacuum bag before it is tossed. Please therefore do not put coffee grounds or other wet things in with the trash you find around the house – put them in a separate bag.
  • Wash all floors with 2 Tablespoons vinegar to each bucket of water. Please change frequently by emptying into toilet.
  • Please check all rooms when you are finished:
      • for cleaning supplies left in room
      • that pictures are straight
      • that carpets & curtains are back to their proper position
  • Be careful to clean all lights when off and cool. The halogen lights can give a bad burn.
  • Do not let Windex (TM) (any ammonia solution) and Comet (TM) (any bleach-based scouring power) mix –they will give off chlorine, a poisonous gas that can kill you.
  • If you unplug something to plug in the vacuum cleaner, please plug it back in again.
  • Shelves must be cleaned 1 at a time & the things on that shelf must go back to that shelf. Do not put things back on the wrong shelf.
  • In the pantry multiple items should be stacked from front to back.

One maid created beautiful rows – largest cans in back, smallest in front. Needless to say, I couldn’t get at anything in the back without destroying her work of art. I drew (feeble) pictures.

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