Can we pause a minute to note that the American Rescue Act — passed over unanimous Republican opposition –is cutting the child poverty rate in half?  Though neither a child nor poor myself, I count that a good thing.  Even if taxes on income above $400,000 go up to help pay for it.


Five friends have gotten it in the last couple of weeks, including a woman who sent her five year old daughter to stay with her mother so she could isolate responsibly.  The five-year-old, however, passed it on to her immunocompromised 77-year-old grandmother.  All are now well — hurray for the vaccine! — but everyone really does need to get fully vaccinated (duh) . . . and it might not hurt to have a few Abbott BinaxNOW 15-minute home tests handy (2-pack for $23.99 at Walgreens) before you go visit grandma.

I followed Abbott’s instructions and 15 minutes later knew I was fine.

If only IKEA instructions were so clear.


How on earth do they stay in business?  I’m certain they are nice people, but it would be so easy for them to improve! 

I ordered this “kitchen base” which arrived in ten separate boxes, plus one twin-sized mattress I had not ordered, and a spoon.

The spoon is a matter of some debate.  Friends tell me IKEA couldn’t possibly have included a single spoon with my order, and my right brain (left brain?) agrees with them.  But a day or two into the assembly, I saw a small, lone spoon in the sink.  I started to wash it —  the handle felt sort of crusty — and the “crust” turned out to be IKEA’s logo stamped into the metal.  I know every piece of frugal flatware in the house — including two extendable forks I use to amuse unsuspecting guests (or at least myself) as I reach across the table to lift something from their plate — and in 36 years had never before seen this or any other IKEA spoon.  What were the chances it had just appeared, by itself, in the sink, by coincidence?

I called the ferry company to ask them what to do with the mattress (“keep it”) and thought about spending an hour on hold trying to get IKEA to tell me what they wanted me to do with it.  Take it back to the ferry, pay the ferry to take it back to the mainland, try to get IKEA to pick it back up?  Life is too short.  I gave it away.

Somewhere, someplace, someone is still on hold fighting with IKEA about the mattress they paid for that was never delivered.

Meanwhile, confronted with ten boxes, each with its own set of 20-step instructions (all pictures, no words) — 200 or so steps in all — I spent an hour silently thinking to myself, “what have I done?” 

I have no spatial intelligence; and the “pay one of our assemblers” option is presumably not available to someone in a small island community.

As I say . . . I’m certain they are nice people.

But as I replied each time they sent a “customer satisfaction survey” (on a scale from 1 to 10, I clicked 1):

When you send something to assemble in 10 boxes, why not put a big bright yellow sticker on one that says OPEN ME FIRST.  And in that box have a DayGlo-pink QR code to scan (or URL to visit) that takes you to a YouTube of two congenial people baby-talking you through each of the 200 steps, offering encouragement from every conceivable camera angle.

Yes, I know they ship all over the world, but English is widely spoken, and they could have subtitles for other languages.  And, yes, I know this stuff is modular.  So there might be a separate YouTube for each box.  I don’t care.  The point is, it’s easily doable and would vastly improve the customer experience.

Soon, though, weekend guests arrived and one of them volunteered that he was actually really good at IKEA assembly, had done lots of it, and would enjoy the project.

“Really?” I worried he would spend his entire weekend on this.

“Really,” Mikey said — he’d do it outside on the deck listening to music, a perfect couple of summer hours.

Three hours later, his Saturday afternoon largely gone, he had made some progress.  I was impressed, grateful, relieved and hopeful.  I pretended to agree with him that the IKEA spoon could not possibly have been delivered along with the mattress . . . that it made perfect sense that it — alone — would be in the sink while my first-(and-last)-ever IKEA purchase was being assembled a few feet away.

Sunday, his work resumed.  The drawers were done and the outer cabinet was done, but, he said, we were missing two parts.  He’d be back in a month if I still needed his help finishing.

The house out here is appropriately small.  It’s a beach shack.  Do you know how much of my bedroom a big frame and four drawers that can’t yet fit into the frame take up?  (All the pictures showed three drawers, but along with the spoon and the mattress, they had sent a fourth drawer.)

I decided, look: most of the work is done; I have 18 years of education; there must be a way I can install the “rails” on the sides of the cabinet and slide the drawers in once we get the missing parts.

Monday morning, when I should have been raising money to help stave off autocracy, revitalize our infrastructure, and confront the ever-worsening climate crisis (Mars once had water, too), I set up a three-way call with Mikey, who was then back at work in a major metropolitan area, and IKEA.  Fifty minutes and one escalated IKEA technician later, we came to realize that we were not missing two parts, and that the fourth drawer was meant to fit inside the third drawer.  I was on my best behavior.  I made no mention of the mattress or the spoon.

Armed with this new information, new determination, the aforementioned 18 years of education, and a project already 90% complete, I decided to really focus and install the rails and finish the job myself.

Over the course the week, in between things, I formulated a strategy and even sort of figured out what to do.

And while I might eventually have succeeded, a new set of house guests arrived and one of them, a lawyer awash in spatial intelligence and altogether more capable than I, spent three hours finishing the job.

We moved the completed kitchen base out of my bedroom into the kitchen –and it’s pretty great.

Both the initial technician and her escalated specialist agreed that my OPEN ME FIRST idea made sense; which was selfless of them, as — if it were ever implemented — call volume would drop 95% and they’d have to find new jobs.

I’m thinking of framing the spoon.

THE KREMLIN LEAK.  In case you missed it yesterday, here is The Guardian report that has everybody talking.  At this stage, at least, we can’t be certain it’s legit — Russia, are you listening? — — but read it anyway.

Five minutes.

Michael M.:

I find that Guardian story trivial. Trump had been working with Putin for decades laundering money into U.S. real estate. More importantly, Trump and Manafort were heavily involved with Putin in laundering Ukrainian natural gas skimming funds into Florida real estate well before this time. Those skimmed funds were used to finance the pro-Russian political candidates in Ukraine managed by Manafort dating back to 2004.

Putin had already become heavily involved in U.S. politics over the Magnitsky affair sanctions of 2010. This included pouring Ukrainian money into Republican political candidates in hopes of repealing the sanctions. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, more sanctions on Russian oligarchs were imposed which resulted in Putin taking extreme efforts to get them repealed by increasing his U.S. election efforts, including getting Trump into the Presidential race.

The Guardian story reads like a possible event but there was much more involved dating back before that period. Trump was certainly Putin’s candidate, but this was just an ongoing political effort by Putin. Putin had been involved in funding Republican candidates to oppose sanctions against Russia since 2010 and Putin had been financially involved with Trump for over a decade before that. I would not be surprised to find out Putin is currently behind the Q-Anon phenomenon and the insurrection events. Occam’s Razor makes the Trump turmoil easy to understand if you realize Putin has had over a decade now in organizing shadow cyber efforts.

Unquestionably the dominant factor in recent political events is White Supremacy, but Putin has used the NRA in American politics and has to know the history of the ‘Southern Strategy’ in Republican politics as the key issue.

COVID AGAIN:I was horrible.  But I don’t think I was a bad person.  I made a lot of bad choices and thought I was smarter than everyone else.”  It’s great this famous anti-vaxxer has seen the light.  But will enough people see the light — on vaccines, on Q-Anon, on Putin, on climate, on Trump — for us to come together and get fully back on track?

Hope so.

Have a great week!



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