I know, usually I give you a lot more resolutions to carry you into the new year. But frankly 2020 has been both a long and a short year. When March rolls around, we can all restart our internal clock but I think we can wait until 2022 to start counting birthdays again.
My friends all know I didn’t wish them a Happy New Year. Instead, I wished them a Happy Second Half of The Year — because the first six months will still largely be like this. For a fully Happy, full New Year, we have to look to 2022.
Therefore, while unwritten below, the most obvious resolution for all is to stay healthy until you feel a little prick … in your arm (twice). Meanwhile, I encourage anti-vaxxers to spend a few days unmasked in a COVID-19 ward to build up their herd immunity.
Rediscover the Thesaurus
You can’t imagine the ton of real estate information I read, watch, filter and distill for readers. You also can’t imagine how sick I am of seeing and hearing words like these: “iconic,” “unique,” “rarely available,” “charm,” and “character.”
HGTV is the home of so much “charm” and “character,” any drinking game using the words would result in alcohol poisoning. Realtors, when you’re writing your patter have a thesaurus handy – there’s a nifty one online at this obviously named URL: https://www.thesaurus.com/.
In the high-rise world, it’s particularly bizarre to see “rare” and “unique” referring to a floorplan when there are four other identical ones for sale, too. Ditto when listings or buildings are called “iconic” as though the words “memorable,” “remarkable,” “extraordinary,” or even “notable” don’t exist.
Understand the Toll of “Convenience”
I despise the laziness of the modern world where convenience is all that matters. We claim the environment matters and yet we happily pollute the world because it’s convenient. The impacts of additional air miles, road miles, cardboard, and other packing materials are simply ignored because life is delivered “free” by Friday. We claim we don’t have the time other generations did (because we’re sucked into the gutter of social media for hours on end). Personally, the number of (Amazon) cardboard boxes I see in my building’s trash is astounding.
We give lip service to increasing the minimum wage yet patronize gig economy workers who barely scrape by be they Uber/Lyft/delivery drivers or Amazon warehouse workers
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 70 percent of food stamp recipients work full time. The biggest offenders? Walmart, McDonald’s, two dollar-store chains, and Amazon.
Just before the holidays, the Chicago Tribune reported that in 68 counties where Amazon has opened one of its largest facilities, average industry compensation slips by more than 6 percent during the facility’s first two years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2014, warehouse workers in Robbinsville, New Jersey, averaged $24 per hour. After Amazon opened a giant warehouse, average wages slipped to $17.50 an hour. While wages eventually recover after Amazon settles in, it takes five years.
For their part, Amazon, whose CEO’s wealth grew by 65 percent in 2020, disagreed with these findings.
People shed crocodile tears for local businesses closing because keeping them open would require physically shopping or driving themselves somewhere – and that’s soooooo inconvenient.
Stop Rewarding Unrewardable Acts
At 332 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country in the world behind China and India. India has a billion more people and half the total COVID-19 cases. Again, a billion more people and just 41 percent of the 360,078 COVID-19 deaths reported by the U.S. Even chronically impoverished Bangladesh reports 516,019 total COVID-19 cases compared to the USA’s 21,113,527 – Bangladesh has half our population and 2.5 percent the number of cases.
Put in perspective, the U.S. has already lost the population of Iceland and by the end of January we’ll have lost the equivalent population of Costa Rica. In fact, more will have died in the U.S. than the total populations of the smallest 45 nations and roughly the same as the smallest 16 combined.
Closer to home, how can Texans not be furious when seeing Venezuela, with a similar population to Texas, report 1,032 dead or Australia, with three million fewer residents and 909 dead – compared with Texas at 28,430 dead and counting – that’s essentially 28 times the death rate.
And yet, we vote time and again to return this level of incompetence to their government posts. Incompetence should not be a partisan issue. (And yes, Austin’s Democratic mayor Steve Adler showed his own idiocy vacationing in Mexico in November, but chief idiot trophy goes to Governor Greg Abbott for baring municipalities from enacting tougher rules.)
The Internet is Your Front Door
Over the holidays, I was flicking through design and real estate magazines from all over. When I saw products I liked but hadn’t seen before, I visited their website to look around. With COVID-19, websites are more than ever a business’ front door and first impression.
One, Gessi, I’d heard of before (expensive plumbing) but they had a new award-winning Hi-Fi range of plumbing gear that looks like old stereo equipment. I sent them a note asking about a particular configuration that generated a response asking what country I was in (but no answer to my question which wasn’t country-specific).
And then there’s IKSEL wallpaper. Well, their ad said they’re “way beyond wallpaper.” But we’ll never know. You see, after seeing their ad and eight-page paid spread in World of Interiors‘ February issue, I found their entire portfolio is protected, only visible/accessible to registered users – for wallpaper.
I sent them a snarky note, “Seriously? I need an account to see your wallpaper? I guess I don’t need your products.”
Their reply? “Quite right, you don’t need our products. That’s why we don’t sell to the general public; precisely in order not to have to deal with people like you” – signed by owner Mehmet Iksel.
Quite a lot of attitude – for wallpaper … oops, “beyond wallpaper.”
Think Critically; Peel the Onion
It’s not unusual for my writing to receive comments like “one sided,” “fake news,” or “subjective junk.” And hey, we all have an opinion and a pie-hole. But the internet does allow writers to link directly to their source material – which I do.
You want to know why I’m saying what I’m writing about the Preston Center garage or Reverchon Park or the gayborhood project Mike Ablon is pushing? The links to their legal ordinances and city-filed applications are in the stories. Often, I just pull the pieces together in ways others haven’t.
I’m a big boy and can take criticism, but I ask that people examine the information – especially when it disagrees with their worldview, because that’s how we learn. And yes, I’ve been pitched stories that sounded juicy that turned out to have too little there there. But I hope regular readers can see where one tidbit takes me down a WTF rabbit hole.
So yes, I’m opinionated. But it’s an opinion informed by research that respects truth.
I don’t expect everyone to be a bookworm like me, but how many of you were shocked by my COVID-19 stats above? Given what’s at stake, you shouldn’t have been. And that’s my resolution for you — put down Facebook and Twitter and dig a little deeper in the real world.
In conclusion, in 2021, stay healthy, get vaccinated, stop using trite words, stop making decisions based on their “convenience,” don’t continue to keep government idiots employed, and don’t take everything at face value, dig a little deeper – if you drop Facebook you’ll have all the time in the world.
Oh, and don’t patronize wallpaper firms that look down on you.