Our Gift from China

It is hard to buy a manufactured product these days that doesn’t come from China or some other sweat shop nation.  But that doesn’t mean much when you are out shopping.  Normally we buy what we need and take the product at face value.  News stories of product defects, of tainted materials used in the manufacturing process, are usually sloughed off by the everyday ordinariness of life.  That’s why it took me by surprise when the reality of the danger struck home.

Here’s the situation:  T and I had started working out in the pool by swimming laps using kick boards.  The weather had turned warm early and we both needed to get back in shape after a winter of stress and strain.  I had noticed though that T likes to float around in the pool after a workout while I get out to enjoy the sun.  So I went back to the store where we got the kick boards and picked up small size belly board that was small enough for pool use but large enough for her to float on.  So much for good intentions.  What’s that saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” 

Skip forward about two days.  T says “Look at this.”  She is pointing to a small row of pimples on her right side.  “And this.”  She turns so I can see a similar breakout across her chest.  I can tell from the way she is looking that she thinks this is more of the same weirdness that has happened to her body since the gall bladder surgery in February.  In another two days the breakout has spread to the backs of her knees and all across her abdomen.  “I don’t understand what could be causing this.” she tells me.  “I stopped using any medications over a week ago.”  So we go back to the doctor, who prescribes a steroid ointment, and then, either Benadryl or Zyrtec, whichever works since he really doesn’t know what the cause is but sees it as some sort of allergic reaction.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out what could have caused this to happen.  Could it be more post surgery body stress?  Was it the sunshine, the pool water, the combination of both?  It didn’t make sense.  Then I looked at the belly board I bought for her to float on.  China, tainted lead-based paint, asbestos, flash across my mind and I suddenly realize that the pattern of the breakout actually matched the way she would lay on the board as she floated in the pool.  Shit.

“There are generally three types of product liability cases: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty” say the folks at lawyers.com.

Strict Product Liability

If you can prove that a product is “unreasonably dangerous” – that it has a design or manufacturing defect – then you may be able to establish that the defendant is “strictly liable.” Unlike negligence cases, you may not have to prove the manufacturer knew about the danger, because even if they didn’t, they should have. (One of the main purposes of this provision is to hold manufacturers accountable for developing safe products). You still, however, have to prove that the product caused your damages.

Is this the case?  How can I even start to prove it?  Yes, the board was made in China, but how do I pursue a product liability case with so many other factors involved?  Maybe it wasn’t even mis-manufactured but just made with latex in the processing.  She is allergic to that.   The lawyer.com site recommends talking to several lawyers, and warns that the whole process of pursuing a claim will be extremely expensive.

No, for now I’m stuck with this.  Blogging about it in hopes that the blogosphere might have a response.  I’m also going to take this question over to JD’s getrichslowly forum and see what the folks there might suggest.

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I caught a cold last week

Or rather I should say the cold caught me.  And I have to say that it is very seldom in my life when I can’t write – something, but this has been one of those times.  Last Wednesday about 4 AM is when it started.  I woke to go pee and felt it in the top of my mouth.  A dryness, a tightness, a difficulty to swallow.  Shit! I thought.  I should have gargled right then.  Warm water, salt stirred in, head tilted back, you know the sound, gggghhhh, and spit.  But I didn’t.  Went back to bed.  Thought, I’ll be fine.

But three hours later, no way Jose.  My head had joined forces with my tightening throat and now was stuffed with snot.  I got up to go to the kitchen to start my day.  Coffee, paper, computer.  What was I thinking, I couldn’t really tell.  That morning’s post, became an afternoon’s one, and was a fair indicator of my state of mind.  If you could read my mind that is.  About three paragraphs, ending with a self-satisfied smirk of a summary.  I couldn’t sit there without breathing any longer.

I skipped the next day.  Drugged up on NyQuil, then Dayquil, and chicken soup, I slept sitting up so I could at least breathe.  But write, no I could barely think.  Finally about 2 AM, I gave it another try.  I really enjoy the experience of making something last.  I have to admit that the things in my life count for a lot.  They act as talismans.  A shirt from ten years ago that I can pull out and wear.  My homemade dance workout shoes, two pair, which I have alternated onto the dance floor for about 10 years too.  But when I tried to write that post about frugality, it was all I could do to say two things.  Rereading only shows me that I couldn’t wait to get done.  And I was really trying.  I remember going back and forth between youtube and this blog trying to imbed a Todd Rungren video that wouldn’t take and finally giving up in sick frustration.

Then came Friday.  Yes, the Lakers were into the finals, and T and I were packing for the trip to LA but I was still one sick puppy.  Dayquil all day, I even tried alcohol, two margaritas with dinner.  Here’s how sharp my thinking was.  It’s a cold I have.  So stay warm.  Not me.  We go to the book reading after dinner and sit for two hours while the cool city breezes blew in the door and swirled around my bare legs (I was wearing shorts) and sandalled feet. 

Sick Saturday, that what I’ll have to call it.  I couldn’t drive.  Thank the gods for T.  I couldn’t think or write or even read, and you know I really have to be sick for that to happen.

So now it is a tentative Sunday.  I have only sneezed once and I have managed to write this too.  I’m going to leave you with this reference point, one I gathered from the blogger at http://www.skepticsandpolitics.blogspot.com/.  I hope to write more about it tomorrow when this cold will be going going gone.  

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We are off to LA

Lakers win, Spurs go home and we are going to LA.  Yes, now that that is over until next Thursday, I don’t have to worry about missing a game while we are in West Hollywood for a book reading.  We have gotten to the point where driving somewhere has to entail a lot of different tasks.  So since summer is on the cusp and the fair season starts in June we have to stop at our storage lot in El Toro to check out the equipment. Then it’s on to West LA for a cruise of the Santa Monica Blvd. shops before we get to the book reading by Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge. 

It’s weird but the more I wrote the above the more it felt like a Twitter post.  Weird because I normally don’t do much on the social networking side of blogging.  It has taken me three years just to add an avatar to this site.  My main reason for that is that I am mostly scornful of the cell phone, text-message crowd.  I really do see most of their constant chatter back and forth as meaningless.  Of course, that isn’t true.  Amidst all the chatter, is a hard core of real work getting done.  People who use the net, and their cell connections, to actually save time and save on energy use by not having to travel physically.  That I applaud.  But people are strange to me in the way they over-indulge in talking.

There is a new movie out I want to see that deals with this issue.  Tim Robbins is in it and it’s called Noise.  Maybe we can find it on our LA trip. 

Speaking of noise, and back to that Lakers game, am I the only one who feels that the announcers have gone crazy?  They are covering a televised game.  We can see it, too.  But the play by and the color, just keep on talking.  Can you imagine watching a game in person and the fellow sitting next to you keeping up a constant chatter?  On top of that, it feels like most of the time they aren’t talking about the game, they are talking about their own experiences.  What are they afraid of, that we will switch channels because they aren’t telling us what to see?  Talk about noise.

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These feet were made for walking

Sometimes I just have to ask myself where did I get this frugal part of my nature.  It makes me laugh to think how odd it might seem to people that I really wear things out, literally.  It has to have an unfixable hole or an unremoveable stain before it goes in the bin.  And shoes, well, forget about it.  For one thing, I go barefoot a lot.  But my current pair of sandals are approximately 10 years old.  They’ve been resoled, insert supported, and resoled again. 

And that brings me to my current tennies, which are on their third life thanks to my local cobbler.  I have always wondered about the built in obsolescence factor in clothes.  You like a particular style, better buy two, because next year and for sure the year after that the style will have been newly improved and you’ll be left trying to make the oldie but goodie last. 

 So that brings me back to the built-in frugality.  I can remember countless times watching as my mom or grandmom patched a shirt or resewed a seam. “There’s nothing wrong with this shirt that a little love can’t repair.”  So that’s what I give those shoes when I take’em to the cobbler.

 “Can you patch the inside of the rim of the heel cup?” 

 “Sure.”

“Can you resole just the heels?”

“Sure.”

Since 2003, I have had the same pair of work shoes.  They were a good solid, comfortable fit when I bought them.  And now, they are even more so.

 

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What goes around, comes around, pt. 1

I’ve written before about the credit crunch, most recently in a six part review of Charles R. Morris’, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown. I’ve also mentioned my love of irony a time or two.  So this article in the LA Times just seemed too funny to be true.  The LBO industry is in deep trouble.  Of course, so are we because of it but that is the other story.

. . . some experts predict that buyout funds launched in the last two years will generate poor returns because they overpaid for the companies they bought and some of those companies will run into deep problems if the economy keeps weakening.

This seems to me more proof that the wizards who run these top funds are no smarter than the ordinary home buyers who somehow convinced themselves that the hype they were creating by buying and trading up was true and the ride up the roller coaster slope would never head down.  Oops!  Overpriced and now the search is on to find a buyer before they lose anymore equity.

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Semi-retirement

It isn’t that I haven’t written about this before but I have been thinking quite a bit about it since I pointed out to T that she was now living in semi-retirement.  We were sitting by the pool listening to the lapping of the water, squinting at the sunshine glints, and talking about our latest movie day.  She turned her head away from the pool and smiled at me. “I like the sound of that but what does it mean?” she said.

I could feel the little thoughts start running around in my brain.  I didn’t really want to have to think.  But that’s the problem with having a conversation, sometimes you have to converse.  “It means to me that you work when and if you want to and on the things that you decide are important and at your own pace.”  I felt so proud.  I knew John D. McDonald wouldn’t turn over in his grave though now that I thought about it I wondered how such a prolific writer ever got to live his own semi-retirement.  Oh well, he’s gone now and so is Charles Schultz the man who created my other fictional role model, Snoopy.  Which reminds me did anyone else ever see that movie “My Life as a Dog”?  Because there is the perfect example of what it means to be semi-retired.  Dogs are born that way.  Cats even more so.  Domesticated ones at least.

Of course, a semi-retired human does so at their own peril.  This is not a world that likes us to do things halfway.  Either retire, you know get out of the rat race, or get back to work and, as the old song goes, “git me some money now.”  Yes, it’s also a little more difficult to be semi-retired if you live with someone who is still working.  You can see it in their eyes.  They don’t like the fact that you’re reading the paper while they’re packing a lunch.  Even if you do the housework, the laundry, the cooking, and take care of all the bill filing that doesn’t absolve you from causing them the pain of having to go into the “damn office” day after day after day.

Which is why it is really important that you figure out a way for your partner to semi-retire too.

Five ways to semi-retire without quitting your day job:

  • Set up a budget analysis – You need to know what your finances are.  How much of what you make is left over?  This can be done simply by just making a list of your expenses in one column and a list of your income streams in another.  Add up each and subtract the first sum from the second.  Think of this as laying the groundwork.  So if it turns out to be a negative amount you have already taken the first step by seeing that you are working hard for no reason since you now know that you are just treading water in the labor pool.

I know this seems like work but trust me organizing things on paper is a great way to relax.

  • Make out a list of your spare time activities – How do you unwind?  Are you a gym rat?  Do you head to the nearest bar?  What happens on the weekends?  Do you spend time alone or with friends?  When was your last semi-vacation?  You know, the kind where you went somewhere but brought your laptop just in case you had a little spare time to catch up.  While you are making this list, use a calendar to remind yourself of when these things actually happened.

Time is sometimes hard to quantify.  It passes on by or stacks up.  When you take the time to look at what you do in this backward looking way take note of how many unplanned things you do to.  Unplanning is key in the semi-retirement world.

  • Take a look at your job – Look at a week on your job, day by day.  How does each day start?  What is the first, second, third, …, thing you do once you get there?  Who is your boss or rather what is your boss?  Is a person in charge of setting your task load or are you in charge of doing that?  Do any tasks carry over from day to day?  Who do you work with?  Where do you eat that sack lunch and how long do you take to do it?  What happens at day’s end?  Do you drop your tools and head home or do you pack up some of the work to take with you? 

A semi-retired mind is in control.  The best way to get control is to know what your job really is about.

  • Figure out your hourly pay – Go back up to your budget, take the amount you added up from column two and divide it by the actual number of hours you spend working at, thinking about, and doing your job.  I know, sometimes the amount you get might turn into a reverse motivation, but that’s life.

Again, a semi-retired mind doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the hourly stuff but you might have to do a little growing in order to reach a point where you can mentally afford to semi-retire.  Maybe you’ll even have to do some work on the self-advancement plane in order to get there.

  • Figure out your hourly pay for the spare time activities – Same deal, go back to your budget only this time look at column one.  Total up how much are you spending on leisure time into two columns, one for cash expenses and one for credit expenses.  Divide the hours you spend into the credit expenses to see how much it is really costing you hourly to do those things.

Yes, here’s the key to semi-retirement.  It is a cash only state of being.  No credit card liabilities allowed.  Just remember that the reward is in knowing you can stay semi-retired for life once you take control.

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Weekly Tags

Yes, it’s that time again.  You and I get to go back into the future as we look at the varied and sundry.

  • Frugality is in.  Who knows, maybe we will even hear GWBIII telling us to save instead of spend those stimulus checks.  Well, I don’t know that seems a little far fetched.   Anyway, for those of you who always wanted to be like your grandparents, here’s a great place to start clipping those coupons and banking those pennies in the cookie jar.

 

  • Everyone has probably heard of Life Hacker the blog but I never took the time until I was reading a post by Trent at www.thesimpledollar.com the other day and he mentioned that one of the ways he has discovered to save money is to take up a hobby that doesn’t cost a lot to start and almost nothing to continue.  Like buying a basketball and a hoop for your garage door, like I did a 66 key keyboard to teach myself how to play.  Once I laid out the $200 for the board, the only cost is time spent playing.  And just like shooting hoops, it is just as rewarding.  Now Trent pointed me at this post on the LifeHack site.  Yipee.

 

  • I came across this site while researching my post on the real estate wasteland.  And because wordpress has some funny protocols about using javascript I haven’t yet taken the time to figure out if it will work for me on this blog but if it doesn’t work here I can always take it over to by blogger blog.  I know it always likes a brainy quote.

 

  • PC World lists it in its top five best blogs and I came across Alex Eckelberry because of a comment he made on jtaplinsblog about conservatism’s rise and fall.  But I visited the site out of a curiosity about security concerns on the internet.  How much firewall do we need?  I know that wordpress uses a screen to keep out spam and still I get one or two comments a week that could only come from a bot.  Anyway, I plan to go back to this site when I have time and ask some more questions.

 

  • And finally, it is Memorial Day and stores and banks are closed while outdoor barbecues and baseball games go on.  Somewhere a soldier is killing or being killed.  Somewhere a family is mourning their loss whether it be the soldier or the ones she killed.  On this site which I think I’ll be visiting quite a bit in the future I discovered a different sort of party. 

 

 

And I leave you with this poem I penned anon:

THE SUNSHINES BLUE . . .

On the day outside my mind,
           bike rides like wind flies and trains of inconsequence trade themselves for
                        thoughts as I wish for more than I can have or hold or even use in this
                world gone mad as a hatter,

In a world where anything can un happen, can re happen, can happen more or
              less with consequences and all the trimmings,
While we (you and I) still stay in a quandary, at a loss,
Up in the air like a coin star-crossed, our minds flipping, tripping

                        at all the evil dripping from the last bomb tossed.

 

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