02.20.07

Seeing Red on the Sidewalk

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 7:01 am

Bergen County has some of the best traffic markings in the country. Signs showing directions to other towns are plentiful, lights are intelligent and crosswalks are clearly marked. Several years ago they started painting the sidewalks at corners red.

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This is an eyesore that people gladly accept because it is suppose to draw the motorist’s eye to all four corners of an intersection so they see and avoid the pedestrian about to cross. But does it?

It definitely draws the eye to the corners. Unfortunately, if you are an elderly driver with minor short–term memory loss, it is entirely possible that your eye goes to the pedestrian then is drawn to the next corner, which is redder because it is empty, and YOU FORGET ABOUT THE PEDESTRIAN.

Were these markings based on any kind of study? Did it include elderly drivers?

Maybe we could just go back to teaching that you make eye contact with drivers before crossing and forget about the expensive paint job.

02.16.07

Potty Talk – Cleaning the Bathroom

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:03 am

By now the maid has finished her time in the kitchen and needs to hit the other rooms in the house. Bathrooms are definitely an area you want her to concentrate on.

Send Eco-elegant flowers

I have a lot of surfaces I want cleaned every time she comes. I can live with her washing the plastic shower curtain liner once a month. If she took everything out of the bottom of the sink cabinet and dusted every 3 months I might not notice. (Don’t ask what I’ve hidden there – I think there are bath toys from when my children were small – great when my kids babysit a small child but not an everyday item.)  The original ceiling fans in the bathrooms weren’t really up to several showers in succession. I wanted the ceiling wiped every time, now it’s not quite as important. Every other surface I want cleaned every time.

Here’s the checklist:

Cleaning the Bathroom Instructions

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.

02.15.07

Should Communities Support Seed Banks?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Uncategorized at 3:09 pm


Send Eco-elegant flowers

Norway, awash in oil revenue and significantly at risk if an abrupt climate change event occurs, has been working on a seed bank. They are planning to hollow out a mountain, install failsafe climate control and rent out space to governments to store seeds against cataclysmic disasters like abrupt climate change, asteroid strikes or nuclear war.
Planning is great and they have the money to do it, but if one of these disasters occurs how are the client governments going to get to the seed bank? Who, exactly, will be authorized to make the withdrawal? Somehow I can’t picture an asteroid hitting the Midwest and the Agricultural Department riding out 10 years later, after the dust settles, to claim our corn. (Of course they did find the one mad cow in the US, so maybe I am underestimating them.)
More to the point, the USAD appears to maintain a seed bank in Colorado. Would it make more sense for communities or regions to fund local programs at local agricultural colleges? Any disaster big enough to wipe our seed stock is almost certainly going to wipe out our means to travel long distances to replace it.

Seed bank article from bbc

02.14.07

NJ and Your Wallet – Traffic Court Wastes Taxpayer Money?

Posted in Just A Thought, Vehicle Safety at 2:07 pm

Yesterday’s minor disaster involved traffic court.

The major disaster started last Valentine’s Day when I hit an 8″ snowbank on an otherwise clear dry highway – a car somewhere in front of me had not cleared the foot & 1/2 of snow off the top of his car before entering the highway & managed to drop most of it in one spot as he accelerated onto the road. My high-top full-sized van was beyond terrible on snow so I fishtailed until I went up the ramp of snow along the side of the rode.  In action worthy of Evel Knieval I did a 360 degree flip, landing softly in the previously mentioned foot and a half of snow. I didn’t puncture the tires but I did touch lightly with my roof on my way over blowing out all back windows.  I was fine but somewhat shaken. (I hate roller coasters. This was worse.)

I walked away

Many Palisades Parkway Police, who were as nice as possibly could be, arrived almost instantly on the scene (It was about 200 yards from the police station & occurred right before shift change so this wasn’t too remarkable.)  I had no idea that the snowbank I’d hit had come from a car in front of me. Instead I babbled to the poor officers about the snowbank in the middle of the road.

Rule No 1 of accidents – Do not be shaken. Think clearly & completely about what happened, recalling everything, or you will be sorry.

I violated rule no. 1. Instead of figuring out where a snowbank could have come from on a 40 degree, dry road day I just reported what I saw. The officers:

  • made sure I was fine,
  • got my cell phone & wallet from the car (the entire contents of the car- I was carrying boxes of papers for a community project & my  purse open – looked like I’d decided to make a tossed salad of paper – lots of colors & textures everywhere.),
  • took statements from all the witnesses that had kindly stopped to help and
  • listened to my statement about the snowbank . . .
  • then the police officer escorted me back to the road where I’d claimed there was a snow bank.

It was 20 minutes and 5 million cars later & the road was just wet with a little slush. No snowbank.

If a little slush made me go off the road I must have been driving badly, so of course he gave me an unsafe driving ticket.  At least he mailed it to me so I didn’t have to fret about it on top of the car.

The disaster came trying to get my temporary lack of clear thought corrected. I was given a court date in June, just 4 months after my accident. Court cancels so it’s rescheduled to November.  Terrible storm, so I cancel. Rescheduled for February 13th, the eve of another terrible storm.  Just lucky I guess.

Roll call 3 pm.  You plead guilty or not guilty. Five plead guilty, 60 plead not guilty. Five no-shows – $200-$1,000 fine to the court. Policeman – go find them. Judge deals with guilty pleas.  4:30 pm  Prosecutor deals with those who have lawyers. 5:20 pm Bad drivers from the local hoosegaw are prosecuted.  5:30 pm Prosecutor explains that everyone gets benefit of doubt once; he will reduce your fine if you don’t have a prior traffic history. No one should question his judgment since it will hold up everyone else & he’ll increase the fines/suspend your license if you try to bargain down your ticket with a prior conviction. I go to back of line since I’m stubborn & I don’t want to hold everyone else up. 6:45 pm My turn with Prosecutor. He determines no witnesses in my car. Other witnesses unavailable (officer misplaced cards of witnesses). Decides to dismiss because he can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I was driving badly. 7:30 pm Appear before judge. Prosecutor recommends dismissal. Case dismissed. He warns me to drive safely on snow in future. What snow? The roads were dry. Does he have a clue what kind of driver he just released onto the road?

New Jersey is throwing money away on this process.

First time offenders, guilty

They did not need the space & 3-4 highly paid court staff (Judge, Prosecutor, court clerk, & cashier, at least) processing the 50 people with no issues. People with a first-time conviction in 5 years could log on to a website, enter a ticket number, select a no point penalty or low immediate payment penalty & pay the fine.  The state would have received their money 8 months earlier. If the state is counting on the court fees, roll the cost into the fine structure & be done with it.

Stagger Appearance Times

All 70 people were instructed to arrive at 3 pm even though most didn’t have prayer of something happening until 5 pm.  The appointments were made with a pleasant, helpful woman who seemed more than capable of asking if you were bringing an attorney. Schedule those with attorneys at 3 or 4 pm, everyone else at 5 or 6 pm. Should all the attorneys move to adjourn & no one comes early, fill in with those waiting in the jail in back. 

Schedule Expected Dismissals Last

Have all the people who were not imperiling their neighbors because they’d forgotten their license when they went to the grocery store scheduled last. The cashier can finish up the payments while the dismissals are being processed and they’ll not tie up the system. Better yet, have them take the documents to their local precinct where they can prove they have them and let the officers enter the dismissal in the computer system. Since licenses, registrations, insurance and inspections are all a matter of computer record I don’t think police officers would be in any danger of being tempted to enter fraudulent waivers.

Spend More Time on the Chronic Bad Drivers and Other Exception Cases

I am an extremely conservative driver (friends who have had the misfortune of driving behind me in school caravan events thought it extremely funny that I got a summons for bad driving.) I could have just as easily been an older driver starting to lose control of my car. Watching other cases, I get the feeling that spending a minute or two with someone in danger of loosing his license just didn’t seem adequate.

We live in an information processing age. Could we try and use it’s tools to save the state money and not pile a time penalty on top of legally sanctioned penalties for traffic violations?

02.12.07

Does a Maid Destroy Your Child’s Character?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 8:26 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.

Everyone knows of the stereotype of the son of the Lord of the Manor dallying with the new maid. Or you would if you were partial to regency romances. This is no longer a problem with a maid since one’s progeny can dally pretty much wherever they please if they are so inclined.

Having a maid when you have children, particularly young ones, is a life-saver. After a long day of work one does not have to try to have quality time with one’s children while scrubbing toilets. If a maid is keeping the dust mites down you can spend time volunteering to improve your child’s school or community. Maid’s can vastly improve the quality of life you give your children.

There’s just one little problem. It is very easy for children to become accustomed to having someone clean up after them. Given a choice between ignoring piles of shredded love notes that are probably large enough to be a fire hazard and a screaming match to get it cleaned up, it’s easier to chose inaction if you know the maid will be there tomorrow.

No problem you think. My children, stellar examples of humanity that they are, will have their own maids when they grow up. They haven’t really lost a significant life skill. Perhaps not, but you might be horrified to know that your child goes through school treating teachers, librarians and other staff as if they were paid to clean up after your darling child. The children are not rude about it; just unconscious of such things as the impact of every child leaving books taken out of the bookshelves where ever they land instead of on the return cart. Meanwhile, of course, Librarians and other staff with masters and doctorates are doing a slow burn because they are being treated like maids.

Ideally you would imbue your child with your mother’s maid ethic and get them to clean their rooms before the maid comes. This takes the least time long-term and is the least stressful. If you just can’t do it try task time.

Task time is the time when the family (husbands may be excused – we’re not looking for miracles) works on a set of tasks tailored to each individual. Small children get short lists with big check boxes in colorful fonts. Their lists may include eating, getting bathed, getting dressed, making their bed, picking up 20 things in their room and washing the dog bowl. Their lists should cover a number of easy items they can do themselves, taking care of their space with your help, and tasks that contribute to the whole family.

As children get older tasks should take up a 2-4 hour block. I’ve found teaching children to organize closets and other areas results in a home kept in better order, a sense of pride in a legitimate skill and the potential for a lucrative summer job.

There are never guarantees, but hopefully making sure your children spend a significant part of their life taking care of their home will increase the respect they have for others.

Trash and the Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 12:50 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.

It’s a dirty subject but someone has to tackle it. It shouldn’t be your maid. I strongly recommend that you take out the trash before the maid comes.

Maids are in the business to make your house look nice and to clean it.  They have a very strong inclination to throw out anything that is making the house look not nice. It doesn’t matter if it’s your son’s half-finished pinewood derby project or your great-grandmother’s vase that cracked & you want to get restored by Pierre the Expensive’s Fine Art Restoration Service. A Maid is not going to give a lot of thought to the question of whether or not you treasure the broken item she’s found. She’s more likely to worry that you’ll blame her for breaking it if you see it.

Worse, when she’s dusting shelves you have no guarentee that she’ll even see the pair of earrings carefully placed on a high shelf for safety. When she dusts and something goes flying, she may or may not identify the correct thing under the bed that came from the shelf. (It could just as easily have been fishing weights from my husband’s pocket, which have accumulated in odd corners.)

I know this is bizarre, and is probably why I don’t use my last name on this site, but after the maid comes I check the vacuum bag and the rest of the trash that my maid finds to throw out.  I have found my great-aunt’s silver & tortise shell comb in a set of boxes one maid took out for me. I had planned to move the boxes to the attic for future panarama projects for the kids. Imagine my shock when I realized the comb had fallen from the dresser into the box when I went to retrieve them.

I have discovered that the maid service vacuumed out my kid’s drawers – including the contents of my daugther’s jewelry box – filled with expensive earrings from Grandma.  Every one was there in the trash. I would have been convinced the maid was stealing. They weren’t – just rushing.

Every week I have found something I would have rather they didn’t throw away – ususally my son’s small lego toy pieces – he cannot grasp that legos should be built on a table and all the peices are needed. Not infrequently there’s more valuable stuff.

Even if you don’t go through the trash every week but have taken out the trash before the maid comes, the one week you are missing your diamonds you only have to check a small amount of trash. And you won’t blame your maid for stealing.

02.09.07

Training the Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 11:38 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.

The new maid has finally arrived. Your first task is to convince her that you don’t want her to clean the house.  (If at all financially feasible, keep your old maid coming on a different day for about a month.)

Explain that you just want her to deep clean the kitchen for this visit. The way to do this should not be left to your new maid’s imagination.  Emphasize that you don’t even need the kitchen completed in one visit (this is obviously a function of the length of her visit and the size of the kitchen.)

Then give her a copy of the following checklist (modified for your home):

Kitchen Checklist

Be sure to add items specific to your kitchen:

Coffee pots should have a pot of vinegar water & then a pot of fresh water run through them.

Ask for detailed cleaning of things like juicers and bread machines that one’s family feels aren’t really dirty if they can’t see the places where strange organisms are growing.

The dog bowl if everyone feels a quick rinse is sufficient for Fido. if you & your family are meticulous about cleaning the pet bowls, explicitly ask the maid not to touch the pet’s things. You probably do a better job rinsing chemicals off than your maid might.

How you want her to clean the oven exhaust fan and filter.

Specify where you want problem things to go. (I used the dining room table for this.) Nothing wastes more time than looking for something when the maid guessed where to put it away.  Emptying the dishwasher can be fraught with peril. When you finally do find the item, the logic she used may be obvious. Or not.  Worse, it’s really disappointing when she tosses the rare blue cheese imported at enormous cost from Timbuktu.  Asking your maid to make judgment calls can be really unfair. Make it easy for her.

Write down the exact cleaning supplies you want her to use on each item. I have really old wood cabinets (worn out old, not antiques) and messy children. Cleaning the gunk (a technical term for those things you don’t want to know about) takes a cleaner like Fantastic (TM) and a wood polish cleaner makes me think that it looks like it’s been cleaned. This regimen would destroy good wood cabinets.

Once your maid has completed the room go over the checklist together. If she couldn’t figure out how to get the ceiling light off, now’s the time to show her.

You’ll then give her the list to the next room (don’t worry, I’ll put up the lists) & do this for every room in your house. Twice. Assuming that neither of you has had a nervous breakdown, you’ll move to phase 2.

02.08.07

In Defense of Clutter

Posted in Hiring A Maid, Uncategorized at 3:20 pm

I often read about ways to organize my life and eliminate clutter. It sounds very seductive – relieve stress, find your keys instantly, purify your mind. I wonder though about the other values you embrace on your way to a clutter-free life.

I have games from my grandmother’s generation. Handed down from relatives near & distant that know I worship hoarding. Board games in boxes so strong you could prop up the side of the home with them should it start to collapse. (One wonders if Haggard had taken out an old game & played it with his family when he was first tempted to illicit activity if he would be happier now.)

Gifts from my clutter-happy side of the family tend to be few but worthy of keeping forever. Small collector’s items, large lathes for creating hand-made wooden pens, origami kits that supply the Christmas decorations for the following year’s tree. Of course, no one said my family was practical – I have some trouble finding homes for all these things.
Other friends are definitely in the clutter-free pew. Equally generous, they tend to arrive with a multitude of cool gifts never meant to be kept. Do they know the stress of determining if the pieces can be mended or worked into some other collection so their memory is treasured?

Does buying an object knowing that it will be trashed in a relatively short time lead to a lack of respect for all things material? I’m not sure, but I think it a very slippery slope. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a home for this tiny screw. The ones I had like this from 25 years ago are starting to corrode.

02.07.07

It’s Important Not to Let Your Kids Torture the Maid

Posted in Dee Stories, Family Legends, Hiring A Maid at 9:49 am

Dee’s Story

Dee is a respectable matron with a responsible position in municipal government, but she wasn’t always. In fact, Dee seems to have been a bit of a terror.

In the ancient times of party lines and B&W TV, Dee attended Kindergarten. Since she came from a well-to-do and progressive family her father would leave his stores to bring Dee home from school while her mother worked. There, their treasure of a maid, Ida, would keep an eye on Dee.

This was not always easy to do since Dee was very petite and liked to hide under furniture. In fact, her favorite spot was under the console that held the TV and the phone, armed with her alarm clock. Hardly a weapon of mental destruction unless Ida were sleeping on the job. (She wasn’t – she loved Dee and wanted to make sure she was safe.)

Secure under the console, Dee would ring the alarm clock. Ida, would immediately pick up the phone with a professional “Smith residence” (of course I changed the name – I like Dee too) which is what one did when one’s phone rang. The operator would ask, as operators did in those days, “What number please?” Forthwith would ensue a fight Lucille Ball would be proud of. Each heatedly accused the other of ringing first.

(Did I mention terror?) – Dee did this many times but Ida never caught on. I suspect both Ida and the operator to this day think the other was tippling on the job.

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.

02.06.07

How Likely Is It That The Gulf Stream Will Actually Stop?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 5:10 pm

There’s only about a 10% possibility (very unlikely) that there would be an abrupt climate change event in the 21st century according to the 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (p. 16) It assumes things are too uncertain for projections past this century.  I believe it is based on the scenario (p. 18, A1B) that there is a rapid development and implementation of new efficient technology and a variety of fuels are used across the globe.  (That means everyone throws out their old refrigerators every 10 years and gets a new car frequently.)

Does considering that a 30-year old male with a new baby will probably buy life insurance for the next 20 years on his 5 1/2% chance of dieing put this in perspective? I’d keep working on the plan and really hope that we’re in the 90% scenario but don’t get too crazed over it.