"How fortunate for governments
that the people they administer don't think."
"Only two things are
infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the
Interesting year. COVID, Trump, George
Floyd, etc. We all know the long list.
Personally it was interesting. Seeing
two kids die and not being able to save them was pretty rough. COVID changed
the business a bit. We also stopped doing much work for Meryl's brother,
but that was more because of market conditions than anything else and was
planned to happen before COVID. Laid off one employee, lost another to
him returning home to Mexico (I miss him). Hired another employee and he's
working out. Got more PPP money than we probably deserved. Saved more money
than we could have hoped for given what happened this year. That said,
it was also the first time I was struggling to fill a work week. Signed
a new agreement with a property management company to handle the vast majority
of their maintenance work - something that's been in the works for a year
and came at a really good time.
COVID slowed things for us for sure,
but about 95% of the year was pretty much business as usual in terms of
staying busy and making money. The type of work shifted, but we were out
in the field nonetheless.
Merritt started kindergarten online,
which is a bummer. Zoe continues to teach herself better than I could ever
hope. Both my girls are so great and I'm so lucky to have them. They both
have tablets (for online learning only) and Zoe and I had an email exchange
once that went like this:
zoe: Dad where me and Merritt good at
getting ready today???
me: Yes, you guys did a great job! We
were out the door before 8am and I'm working right now. I love you guys
so much! Love, Dad
me: I am such a lucky Dad to have two
such wonderful daughters who are so full of love and life and happiness.
zoe: You are!
I highly recommend the new Carlin
podcast episode (garbage in garbage out). Listened to it twice today.
His last two have been absolute gold and I agree with pretty much everything
he says. It's really heartening to hear someone who sees the world in the
same way. It can be pretty lonely being a true independent. I pretty actively
avoid having any allegiance and the result of that is I'm not on a team
so there's not much solace because everyone thinks you're not on their
side. I have a lot of political stuff saved up, but I'll be up all night
if I start writing about that.
One thing I really hope for is that when
Trump isn't in office the media stops talking about him. He will no longer
be required reporting and he's never been very interesting or important
- outside of his role as president. No reason to talk about him anymore.
I've been making this point since he lost the election and seeing him banned
from Twitter, etc. actually gives me hope that this will happen. My inclination
until now has been to think that the media will continue to dip into the
Trump well for content, but now I'm less certain. We'll see.
The vaccine timeline is interesting.
We're seeing this in a few sectors in government now where things that
usually take a long time are now greatly accelerated. It leaves you wondering
why things take as long as they take if they can obviously take a lot less
time. I wrote before that the record before this was 4 years for the mumps
vaccine. This isn't just an issue of developing the vaccine, but also of
doing the tests and getting through the regulation. So we're faced with
a situation now where we either have to question the old timeline/process
as excessively long and onerous or question the safety of the current vaccine.
I'm inclined to think that the old timeline/process was overly drawn out
(as is typical with the government). That said, it's impossible to know
the long term effects of a vaccine when it's been developed over the course
of less than a year.
I incorrectly predicted the GA senate
outcomes. Surprising outcome imo.
"Think of how stupid the average person
is, and realize that half of them are stupider than that." - George Carlin.
I think he means median person, but, pedantics aside, this is a good way
of understanding why we are where we are.
According to NPR's Indicator podcast
Amazon warehouse workers are making more than market rate and this is pushing
wages up. This is probably bad news for people who like to hate Amazon.
The stories we tell each other about
our family, the videos we watch over and over again...those become the
perception of our family. Stories and images matter. Now extrapolate that
out to how the media presents our country. What are the stories the media
tell? Have they chosen to focus on the positive or the negative? One more
way in which the media is so corrosive to our socio-political situation.
And as I've been pointing out a for a while now - Trump will be gone soon
and the media remains with us.
One thing that's nice about getting older
is that you start to see patterns in society. Things aren't as novel as
they once were. It's a lot easier to see how shifty things can be. For
example, when I was growing up it was clear that conservatives were the
ones who wanted to run your life - no abortion, rap is bad, being gay is
sinful, puritans telling you how to run your life. Nowadays, though, the
liberals are the ones telling you what car to drive (SUVs are bad), what
coffee to buy (Starbucks is evil, need to buy fair trade, shade grown,
organic whatever), what movies to watch (Gone With The Wind is verboten),
what views to have, what jokes are off limits, etc.
Work lately has been a lot of unit turnovers.
People are leaving the bay area and rents are dropping. People who didn't
want to agree to buyouts before are now asking if the offer is still on
the table. Landlords are the ones hurting and I'm sure no one is shedding
Our goal for a little while has been
to buy a warehouse and live there. We'd build it out for living and also
have storage space for all the staging materials (Meryl is fully into the
staging business now) and tools, materials, shop stuff. We figure we need
6,000 s.f. minimum to make it work. 1500-2000 for living and office space
and the rest for work stuff. More would be even better. Found a nice place
and put an offer on it, but it's in contract so we only get a chance if
it falls out of contract. I'm not super hopeful, but would really like
to get the place. Lots of room so I could finally have the space I need.
One thing about being a GC is that I
do a bit of almost everything. If I were just a plumber then I'd only need
plumbing tools. I'd probably have more materials on hand like extra copper
or cast iron or whatever, but I wouldn't need any of my electrical stuff,
carpentry tools, tile tools, HVAC tools, extra hardware, simpson strong
Then you add up all the tools that I
have multiple copies of...Sometimes I'm running 3 jobs at a time. I could
cart one set of tools all around the city, but doing that just gets old.
All that stuff takes up a lot of space. I've wanted more space since I
was building CD cases in my apartment. I'd say a warehouse would finally
The other thing is that I have a car
(the Chevy Volt) that I try to use most of the time for commuting and I
have the truck that I use for bringing tools and materials to/from the
job. Demo day means I usually bring the trailer and of course that means
I need the truck. When I take the Volt I don't have as much space so keeping
the tools on site is a much better option. Of course that also means I
run the risk of a theft and that's an unfortunate part of the calculus
for everything. If I'm on a job a long time then I run the risk of a burglary.
All these considerations add up to more expense and difficulty. If I lived
in the country I'd have a truck and a trailer and I'd bring the trailer
wherever I'm working and I could leave it there until the job is done.
Around here, parking and theft make that impossible.
So much of my job is logistics. What
jobs should I go to today? How can I keep Edwin and Antonio busy? What
jobs do I need to look at for next week or later down the line? What materials
do I need for now and later? Actually doing the work is basically the easy
part at this point. I guess that's an accomplishment since there was a
time when that was a struggle. Nowadays most of the jobs I get are pretty
easy for me to execute from a building perspective. Getting the right materials
and people to the job and dealing with people...those are the hard parts
of my job.
Dealing with flaky suppliers, material
availability, and customers are the most annoying things for me on a daily
basis. Home Depot is basically the only game in town for getting a variety
of materials in one stop (Lowe's is far away) and none of them around here
are run worth a damn. I know more about their products than most of their
employees. I rented an insulation blower from them a few weeks ago and
the guy renting it to me had no idea how it worked or what materials it
worked with. I had to give him a tutorial and set it up for him. This is
just one example. The lack of basic competence is a constant source of
Customers are more annoying the last
year or so than ever before. I'm guessing that part of that is COVID getting
to people and the other part is that more people are moving from SF to
Oakland. Oakland used to be more working class and laid back - live and
let live. These days, there's definitely a shift towards annoying people
who are entitled, picky, and overbearing. Basically it's the Berkeley/SF-ification
of Oakland. In this way, I definitely can sympathize with the anti-gentrification
So, that's work.
Lots to say about things lately, but
not much time. Staying up late to work and not much time to gather thoughts
and write here. Will definitely get to it soon, though.
If you recall the Carlin podcast I recommended
a couple times a few months back, that is as relevant now as ever. He talked
about being angry when he was young and now just being really disappointed.
That's where I am. Really embarrassed and disappointed by everything that's
going on. Not only what's happening with the protests, but with the reactions
to it. The way the media spins it. The way each side responds. The totally
oblivious nature of the responses on both sides. Hopefully this is the
wake up call we needed, but I think it still needs to get worse before
it gets better. Part of that is each side acknowledging their own stupidity.
The reckless nature of their extremes. Their own culpability in ratcheting
things up. Their unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of the other
side to keep things running well. This is something I write about a lot
here. Maybe it comes off as apologetic for the Right. What it really is
is an acknowledgment not just of the legitimacy of both sides, but the
necessity of both sides. We need a right wing and a left wing to
fly. Unfortunately both sides think that the other side is a mortal enemy.
What makes it really difficult is that both sides have good evidence to
back up some of their claims. There's enough blame to go around and never
enough accountability and responsibility. Often I write here about the
limitations, hypocrisies, failures, and blind spots of the Left. I do this
not because I dislike the Left more than the Right (I've pointed out before
that I'm more Left than Right), I do this in part to point out to my Leftist
audience that your shit stinks too. If you can't acknowledge your own frailties,
how do you expect them to acknowledge theirs? Without consistency there
can't be accountability.
It's not the podcast I look forward to
the most, but it may be the most important podcast I listen to. Hidden
Brain has a lot of good stuff and the host is doing a real service to the
country. He sees the commonalties between the left and right more than
most and, lately, Hidden Brain has done a lot of work to show those commonalties.