How much of our lives are wasted on scrolling through meaningless bullcrap on the internet?

How much of our lives are wasted on scrolling through meaningless bullcrap on the internet?

That is the question that I have been wanting to ask for a long time.  Unfortunately, I felt that I had to cut way back on my Facebook time before I could ask it without being a hypocrite.  Why do we even know or care who Kim Kardashian is?  Why is Miley Cyrus not broke and living out of a dumpster?

Why do we pay no-value celebrities any attention at all?  Even better, why do we worship them?

Imagine if you had all the time back that you spent scrolling through your Facebook feed.  Imagine if you spent that time with the ones whom you love…without a screen between you.

To Hell and Back

I have a device which I have cherished for many years.  It took the place of a huge notebook of compact discs and allowed me to effortlessly tote my entire music collection around the United States and overseas.  Unfortunately, my great companion came with a hard drive that started clicking over a year ago and started having to be restored, as of last week.

Since my iPod Classic had seen me on so many journeys and kept me company through countless hours using various mowers and other power equipment, I decided to rescue my buddy from the afterlife.  I found a guy in the United Kingdom that makes an adapter that one can use to remove the hard from an iPod Classic and replace it with an SD Card.

IMAG0979-1Making an omelet means breaking a few eggs.

IMAG0980-1Putting Humpty Dumpty together again.

IMAG0981My old friend back inside his iFrogz case.  Safe and sound.

So, nothing comes without a downside in reviving old tech.  This model only supports 128 gigabytes with the SD conversion, so I gave up 32 gigabytes of storage.  The upside is that there are now no moving parts inside the iPod and it should last me for a very long time.  Long enough for my kids to call it my antique music player.  I like to think of it like my Walkman from the early 2000’s.

Incidentally, the real upside is that now that I know I can successfully pull off this upgrade, I will be able to convert my last generation iPod Classic to SD.  The good news there?  Those can recognize  up to a Terabyte of SD memory.  Everything the iPod was meant to be and nothing that it wasn’t.

All week long, I’ve been missing this place.

I miss having my favorite place to eat.  I miss the food.  I miss the people.  I miss Jenny and her unique brand of service.  I miss Stephen playing with my daughter on breaks from the kitchen.  I miss Tom’s food.  I miss hanging out there with my friends.

I want a Diablo with wedges and a ginger tea.  I want fried pickles and about a gallon of Tom’s homemade ranch dressing.  I want a buffalo chicken sandwich with fries.  I want Burgermeister’s.

IMAG0086

Seriously?!

I would like to give you folks a little barometer on where our society is, as a whole.  We have a mobile home for rent, so I am fielding calls from potential tenants.  Here’s part of the last call:

Lady Caller: Do you rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, this home is within seventy-five feet of elementary school property.  North Carolina law states that a registered sex offender can not live within one thousand feet of school property.

Lady Caller: So you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am, state law prohibits sex offender residence within one thousand feet of school property.  Seventy-five percent of our properties fall within that parameter.

Lady Caller: Yeah, but is that the only reason you don’t rent to sex offenders?

Me: Ma’am state law is what it is…I don’t have to go beyond that.

Lady Caller: (Hangs up)

That, folks, is the bait and switch that every landlord and/or law enforcement officer must deal with on a daily basis.  A person fishing for the basis for a discrimination suit while I’m trying the protect the interests of the community.

There are so many kids in our biggest mobile home park that it empties a bus when they drop-off in the afternoon.  Would you put a sex offender in the middle of a community like that?  I bet your answer is no.  However, if you were to flatly state that you don’t rent to sex offenders, then you would find yourself open to a lawsuit.

This is the tightrope that we have to walk.  The fine line that exists between protecting the community and getting sued.  Fun stuff.

Public Service Announcement (If you don’t ever use power equipment, skip this one)

Sometimes I get busy and don’t catch problems until they cost me money.  Recently, I’ve been noticing problems with some of my power equipment.  I was immediately suspicious because all of my small engine equipment is Stihl (and not Stihl purchased at a big box store, Stihl purchased from a commercial Stihl dealer).

All of my equipment went from starting on the second or third pull to starting after a lot of work, if at all.  My string trimmer was the worst, so I took it in and after two trips to the shop, replaced the carburetor.  After that, the problem was solved.  The culprit…ethanol blended fuel.

As it turns out, ethanol blended fuel is devastating for power equipment.  This is especially true for two-cycle engines.  If you use ethanol blended fuel, you can expect to keep replacing your carburetor on a regular basis (which isn’t cheap).  Consumer Reports started documenting the issue about three years ago.  You can find their first article on the issue here.  Now, every major small engine producer has some sort of warning on their products or website.  This is great for consumers purchasing new equipment but not so great for those of us with older gear, as we have missed out on the warnings.

Fortunately, their is an easy (although somewhat inconvenient) solution.  You have to find gas stations that still sell pure gasoline, without any ethanol.  They are getting pretty scarce, but you can find them by visiting this website. It may mean some extra driving, but at least your power equipment will still work.

Why is this even an issue?  Well…I don’t want to get into another political discussion, so we’ll leave it at just another example of your government at work.  You can find the complete history of the issue here.  Pay particular attention to 2003 to 2009…yep, this issue spans several presidential administrations, making it a “big government” problem.

Apparently, Mail Issues Do Matter to the Postal Service

I’m not sure what happened, but after speaking to District Management in Charlotte, it looks like there is going to be some recourse on the aforementioned issues.  The misdelivery issues are apparently something that are easier to fix, but the Greenville center causing delays and lost mail is getting their attention.

It helps to be able to give concrete examples of mail problems.  I thought the lady was going to choke when I told her about the certified mail being misdelivered and the carrier just shrugging his shoulders when he came to pick it up.

Accountability.  All jobs ought to have it.

George Lucas and the White Slavers

So, it came out last week that George Lucas likened his movies to his children and Disney to white slavers in an interview.  You can search the interview out on Google and see how ludicrous his statement was.  However, I would like to present the two following take-aways.

First, if those movies really are George’s children, then a more accurate metaphor would be that Disney and J.J. Abrams are Child Protective Services.  Clearly, those movies (and by extension, my childhood) are in much better hands, now.

Second, after reading this article, it is evident that Disney also has some attorneys who have reminded Mr. Lucas that one should be careful how one refers to the people who bought your franchise for four billion dollars.  Let’s look at all those zeros: $4,000,000,000.  Yes indeed, that is some serious back-pedaling.

The Great Asheville Mail Conundrum

We’ve been having trouble with the mail in Asheville for quite some time.  If you live here, you completely understand what I’m talking about.  We used to have great service, but once they closed the mail distribution center on Brevard Road, great mail service became a thing of the past.  What you may not know are some particulars that really need to be dragged out into the light.

Because I help manage over 300 properties in Asheville (with many of them being contained within 5 medium to large sized mobile home parks) I have a rather involved relationship with the local postal service.  Additionally, because I take time to talk to our mail carriers and postal managers, I have some information that I probably shouldn’t have about how the mail system currently works in our area.  With that being said, I say we start dragging the skeletons out of the closet.

The Inconvenient Truth of Steele

My involved relationship with the United States Postal Service began when we got a new carrier, a couple of years ago.  This particular carrier had moved into the area from out of state and was hellbent on making things difficult on our route by selective application of postal regulations.  At first, this carrier was impossible to deal with but after numerous complaints to his supervisors, he seemed to have developed a better attitude toward service and the mail delivery was greatly improved…for a while.

Oddly, I started to have tenants begin to ask me questions about whether or not we had been getting all of our mail at the office.  Although we seemed to be getting all of our mail, several of the tenants seemed to be having their mail lost or stolen.  The most disturbing element was that most of the missing mail contained money (a postal no-no from the outset) and/or gift cards.  I gave the tenants the number for the postmaster and the complaints ensued.

This was in the old days, when complaints actually got a hearing.  As a result, the postal inspector was called in to investigate.  The result?  Our carrier was escorted to his car by the postal inspector and the vehicle was searched.  Upon a thorough search of the vehicle the carrier was fired and no charges were filed to avoid public embarrassment to the Postal Service.  It turns out that our postal carrier had been stealing mail which contained money and gift cards.

You might think that something of this nature would prompt some sort of statement to customers or some sort of restitution.  You might think that, but you would be wrong.  In fact, if not for a particularly loquacious carrier, I would have never known about the confirmation of the thefts and their consequences for our carrier.  He simply would have just “gone off route.”

The Substitute for Good Service is…The Worst Service…ever

Everyone in Asheville knows the first part about this tale of woe.  The Postal Service decided to close the Brevard Road mail plant/distribution center as a means to impart efficiency and reduce costs by moving the operation to Greenville, South Carolina.  As it turns out, efficiency means the end of next-day delivery in Asheville and often lag times of up to five days.  It also means an increased incidence of missing or lost mail.

What most people don’t know is that the decision to close the Brevard Road Center was predicated on false reporting by a lady supervisor who fudged her numbers.  Her estimation turned out to be woefully below actual volume and hence minimized the importance of keeping the location open.  She has since been “relocated” by the Postal Service.  Unfortunately, now that the mail volume has been moved to Greenville, it is highly unlikely that it will return.

You might think that the loss of next-day delivery for first class mail, the increased incidence of lost mail, and the general delay in mail were the worst results.  Again, you would be wrong.  As it turns out, Greenville is in a different state and postal management zone.  Anyone want to guess what that means?  It means that complaints about service in our area go to Charlotte (if you’re lucky) and stop there.  Greenville’s zone has no accountability to our zone and vice versa.  There is no chain of resolution.  There is no method of accountability.  There is no real cooperation.  Simply put, if you have trouble with your mail, you are out of luck.

Over $12,000 Worth of Checks in the Wrong Box?  That’s Nothing…Watch Us Misplace Certified Mail

“Oh, but Stuart,” you say, “where is your hard evidence of bad service and accountability?”  You might think that all of my proof is anecdotal.  Nope.  Here are the facts from November and today:

In November, we had over twelve thousand dollars worth of rent checks delivered to the wrong address by by a substitute carrier.  Fortunately, that wrong address was also one of our tenants and they called us to come get our mail.  I sure am glad that these checks were delivered to an address with friendly individuals who could be trusted with our checks…only they weren’t…they were delivered to a family with mental health issues and criminal convictions for stealing.  It is a miracle that we got our checks.

What about today, you ask?  Oh, today was relatively minor.  Today was just a certified letter being delivered to the wrong address.  Oh, and by delivered, I mean left in our companies postal box.  Fortunately, it was one of our tenants, so we called the postal supervisor and he sent someone to retrieve the mail.  You might find yourself wondering what sort of mail was in that envelope.  Well, it was a letter from Health and Human Services for a family that has taken in an abused child.  No bid deal, I’m sure there wasn’t any important information in that.

So, here is my call to action:  Please help me shed some light on this problem.  Share this post.  Comment on it and add your issues.  Let’s stir this around enough to make it stink.  Maybe if the smell gets bad enough, we will get some service.  If not, maybe we can all start using private carriers.