What We Want

Decent pay and benefits to take the family to a beisbol game on Memorial Day weekend and to be able to go to a doctor or dentist as needed. No small feat anymore.

Compensation and benefits communicate how much an employer values it employees, but employees need less tangible signs of respect and appreciation as well. Specifically, they need reminders that their work matters. That they make a positive difference, that the team wouldn’t be as effective without them. The more specific and genuine the words of encouragement, the more influential.

Along with decent compensation and affirmation, employees want to be listened to. They want a voice in decision-making. They want to be asked, “What do you think? Why?”

It’s not that complicated—compensation, affirmation, participation.

Peak United States

How do we know if we’re in decline? What are signs of slippage? Do mirrors help? What about comparisons to other people and places?

What psychological barriers prevent us from acknowledging our decline?

Why, despite being very well educated and very comfortable with numbers, do I not understand our tax system well enough to prepare my family’s taxes? Why do I have to pay an expert to prepare them?

Why are there 1,000+ deductions? Why is Congress so susceptible to accounting firms’ lobbyists? And realtors’ lobbyists? Why hasn’t there been meaningful tax reform since 1986? Why does our tax accounting system benefit members of Congress more than their constituents? Why do well-to-do, stock owning citizens, pay less in taxes than others? Why do most other developed countries have far more simple, fair, and efficient tax systems? Why aren’t more people agitating for answers to that question? Why have citizens allowed their representatives to defend the status quo for 30+ years?

Why, despite being very well educated and very comfortable with numbers, do I not understand my health insurance? Why am I told what my doctor visit, biopsies, surgical consultation, and minor surgeries all cost a few weeks afterwards? What if restaurants didn’t have menus, but instead, just told you what you owed after you ate? Why are there initial charges and secondary “what insurance allows” charges? Why does Kaiser-Permanente make me go to a “surgery consultation” when the surgeon said it was unnecessary, “but Seattle won’t let us do our own scheduling”? Why was I charged $206 for the unnecessary 20 minute “consultation”?

Why is Congress so beholden to medical insurance lobbyists? Why do many other developed countries have far more simple, comprehensive, and efficient health insurance systems? Why are so many citizens resigned to health insurance pricing and paperwork lunacy? Why do citizens continue to elect representatives who preserve the medical insurance status quo?

How does anyone of sound mind claim that the U.S. is “the greatest country on God’s green earth” when our tax and health insurance systems are fucked up way beyond our compromised legislative body’s ability to fix them?

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The New Status Symbol

“The new status symbol,” according to a doctor at UC Berkeley, “is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.” Can you guess? Need another clue?

“For years, studies upon studies have shown how bad sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contributes to depression and other mood and mental disorders, as well as obesity, diabetes, cancer and an early death.”

The rest of the story is here.

 

Revenge of the Sand Castle Builders

 

Major props to the California Coastal Commission or “C3” if you’re cool.

From the LATimes.

For decades, some Malibu property owners have made it hard for the public to reach public beaches.

On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission fined two of those property owners more than $5.1 million for denying surfers, sand castle builders, kite flyers, sun bathers, yoga enthusiasts and other beachgoers access to the sand that is theirs by state law.

In one of those decisions, the commission had battled for nine years with Dr. Warren M. Lent and his wife, Henny, before unanimously approving Thursday’s cease-and-desist order for the couple and fining them about $4.2 million for diverting a public easement to private use at an expensive oceanfront rental they own at Las Flores Beach.

Commissioners described the Lent case as “very egregious” and a “flagrant violation” of state law because the couple had long refused a commission request to remove an unauthorized gate, fence, stairway and deck that blocked an easement required by a coastal development permit issued to a previous owner. The fine was far more than the $950,000 recommended by the agency’s staff.

“This represents an attitude we often see in Malibu — that the shore is our private backyard,” said Commissioner Mark Vargas, who made the motion at Thursday’s hearing for a $4.185-million fine. “It’s clear that they are dragging this on as long as they can and damaging the public’s right to use the beach.”

In the second action, commissioners approved an amicable settlement with the owners of the Malibu Beach Inn at Carbon Beach, which is known as “Billionaires’ Beach.”

Under the agreement, owners Simon and Daniel Mani, who are West Hollywood real estate investors, must build two long-required stairways to the sand, install a $425,000 signalized crosswalk near the hotel and pay $200,000 in fines as well as $300,000 to a local conservation agency.

The penalties are the first that the powerful land use agency has imposed on property owners for violating beach access provisions of the California Coastal Act.

I just hope DByrnes doesn’t antagonize the Sand Castle Builders of O.C.

This is one of those situations where the joke almost writes itself. . . Dr. Warren M. and his wife will be giving up about $4.2m for Lent next spring. Power to the people.

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Have Liberals Lost Their Mind?

Maybe we have. A homeowner in Northern Virginia took to a popular DC area parent forum:

We live in a fairly liberal part of town. Are putting house on market next week. Our next door neighbors, who we don’t know well, just put up a Trump sign-only one in the neighborhood. We are afraid this will scare off potential buyers. Do we ask neighbors to take sign down?

So pathetic a question. Imagine the horror of having to live next to a Trump supporter, the uncontrollable groping, the giant Wall to keep out ethnic looking neighbors, the constant coming and going of Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani. Probably best to get the Homeowners’ Association to write an Anti-Trump covenant. Nip this madness in the bud.

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Asia’s Rise

Such a sad headline, “Billionaires Fall on Harder Times“. Tucked in the article though is a telling factoid:

“The billionaire population in the U.S. grew by only five last year to 538, but that was offset by Asia, which is creating one billionaire every three days led by China.”

Meanwhile, a Chinese car and battery maker has invested $750 million in mass transit. More specifically, monorail.

BN-QG487_cbyd10_GR_20161014000646.jpgThe company says, “. . . building a monorail system requires only a fifth of the capital expenditure of a metro line and a third of the construction time.”

What Home Buyers Get Wrong

Six months on in the new crib, I’m ready to educate my brother who is allegedly studying design. This is for him, but I’ve been posting so infrequently of late, feel free to eavesdrop. Bro, just send a check for whatever you think my insights are worth.

Home buyers focus too narrowly on total square feet, too often thinking the bigger the better. We moved to a slightly smaller home, but it feels larger because we regularly use much more of the total area. In other words, there’s no wasted space. And even though there’s less total square footage, the kitchen is quite a bit larger. The beauty of the kitchen layout is you can open every drawer and the dishwasher and the refrigerator and still have two-three feet all around. No more sucking everything in when moving the silverware from the dishwasher to the drawer. In fact, now there’s nothing stopping me from packing on an extra 40-50 lbs this winter.

Our new master bathroom is about 60% the size of our former one. And it’s perfect. That other 40% was wasted space for the purpose of what, a slightly higher sales price? The new one has just enough room to do everything comfortably, and when it comes time to clean, it’s a breeze because damn near everything is in reach.

Homebuyers don’t realize small things make a big difference. Especially when combined together. Case in point, dimmable lights. Mercy me, how did I live in an on-off world all those years? There’s nothing like entering the bathroom at 5:30a, flipping the switch, and being met by a faint pre-dawn-like light. Same when preparing to retire at night. There’s nothing like brushing one’s teeth under a faint post-sunset-like glimmer. Every light should be dimmable.

Another lesson. You can’t put a value on genuine quiet, and on natural beauty, and on the edifying result of the two combined.

Another lesson. You can’t have genuine quiet and natural beauty without sacrificing some community. There are always trade-offs. Long time readers of the humble blog will know I value community. Is sacrificing some community worth the return in quiet, natural beauty, peace? Stay tuned, time will tell.

What else do home buyers get wrong?