Re-reading, a book on Chinese History, and getting stuff done

The Search for Modern ChinaThe Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a REALLY well written book. First time I read it was for a course on the history of Modern China at my alma mater, Northwestern University. I think I took the course in 2010(??). And by modern they mean, post 1500 in the common era, i.e., ONLY in China is the ‘Modern’ era dated back to after the Fall of Constantinople.  I wish more history books were this well written.

That said, I’m currently “refreshing” my knowledge: i.e., am listening to the audio file via my iPhone, while getting stuff done, and I have to say the narrator is HORRIBLE (SOOOOOO glad I digitally borrowed this from the library instead of buying it from amazon). He is this really hoity toity sounding Brit who is so annoying I just want to smack him.

Something I think I’ve noticed (limited data as of yet) … the books that were read to a CD back in the day — like this one, aren’t as “well read” as the newer ones that go to Audible at initial release. I think the market has grown and matured enough, that customers are far more demanding, and hence the producers of these files have gotten better about who they hire to do the job. I think it’s doubtful that a history book will get re-recorded, so I’m suffering through…

(View all my reviews in Goodreads)

On the topic of, things to get done during this current stay in my home town:

  1. Catching up on blog posts I had neglected to write. I want this blog to start at least with my travels down to Florida last June, although I’m tempted to once I’ve done that also add in stuff from Asia from before dad died… not sure yet.
  2. I had to do ‘doctors medical stuff’ predominated by the fatty liver issues (and the threat of needing a new liver if I didn’t address them and NOW), which I have discussed already… but then I also had a normal G.P. checkup, a dental cleaning, etc.
  3. Having recently lost 40+ lb (it’s amazing how easily weight falls off when your eating a liver-healthy diet that is both low carb and very low fat).  I’m having to almost completely repack the clothes I carry with me in the car (socks still fit) — not only can I easily remove the pants I was wearing last December without having to even open them up, but I’ve even gone down two bra sizes, and am rapidly approaching needing to go down a third (and I’m talking circumference/back fat, not cup size). Heck… I’ve even changed coat sizes.However, before I could do that, I needed to move all my stuff from the attic of a friend in Orlando, Florida — who had kindly offered the space to me a year ago, back up to Chicago (where I currently am). There were two reasons for this, firstly: I realized over the course of the last year that Florida is the sort of place you really only want to go to in Winter (one season), while Chicago has two really nice seasons (Spring and Fall), and geographically is far more “centrally located”if your intent is to explore ALL of the North American Continent. The second reason is, my friend Gina (the one who flies out to meet me from time to time as I travel), had recently finished some major renovations to her home, which included fixing up her attic. While she was visiting me down in Florida last Thanksgiving, she kept saying to me, “really you need to think about my attic, we fixed it up and there’s nothing up there.” So last time I was in Chicago (in May) I took a look; and well, Let me put it this way: the attic in Florida is dehumidified and insulated so that it stays dry in the steamy Florida summers, and my friend there has lain down a handful of wooden boards across the cross beams for me to put my boxes on and have a place to stand, and there’s a terrifyingly rickety wooden ladder you have to climb to get up there … but otherwise it’s a small, cramped and mostly unfinished attic where you sort of have to negotiate where you put your feet so that you don’t go crashing through the ceiling; Gina’s attic, on the other hand, (and keep in mind that we’re both Jewish so I can say this with impunity) … when I saw it the first time I joked with her, “you could easily happily hide three or four Jewish families up here.” Not only does it have a proper floor, it is bright with windows (that you can open) and skylights, is larger than my old apartment in S. Korea, has a solid aluminum ladder, and they’ve even installed a pulley at the top for pulling things up (and or down) rather than having lug them up the stairs. So… no contest.That said, I had to now move my stuff back to Chicago. Keep in mine I had spent around $1,800 to hire a pod to schlep it all down to Florida only year ago, and now I was going to need to spend another $1,400 (same company, they price based on seasonal supply and demand) to bring it back up. Not happy about that, but I like most of my old clothes. I don’t really enjoy shopping for clothes all that much, and most of what I have not already given away (there is arguably still some excess), are what I refer to as “signature items” … or at least “office clothes” — stuff that isn’t me but dictated by social norms. I had, initially (a year ago), considered renting a truck from U-Haul, but did the math and realized the price was about the same if I drove it myself, or if I had them drive it for me (via a loaded pod). Then I searched around for the various pod companies and opted to go with U-Pack (a consumer subsidy of ABF Freight Systems).The reason came down to “core competencies” which is business jargon for what your company is so good at that other companies can try to copy you, but won’t do it as well or as cheaply. U-Haul started as a customer service company that rented cheap trucks to people who were trying to save money by moving their stuff themselves, and had only recently — in order to remain competitive — added on wooden pods (which they would move for you) to their product options. For their customer base it was all about price, and U-Haul as a result has a bit of a shoddy reputation when it comes to the quality of their trucks, etc. By Comparison, U-Pack had started out as a corporate logistics company (moving ‘less than full truck loads’ of valuable product for businesses — who as customers were demanding about tracking, on-time delivery and security while in transit), and they had only recently branched-out by adding a consumer service subdivision to compete with U-haul’s pods; but essentially, the only thing that had changed for them was the customer base, rather than what they themselves were doing. Their pods are metal and waterproof, so that even if there were a massive car accident during transit and the transit truck got (worst case scenario) turned over, your stuff would still be securely locked into the pod, rather than scattered around the highway. And the truck drivers are not allowed to stop anywhere other than at one of their strategically located and highly protected distribution centers, not even for bathroom breaks.However, that meant unloading my friend’s attic and loading up the pod. This was achieved with the help of my friend down in Florida (we hired a local handyman to do the actual lifting, way cheaper than flying down myself) … only he didn’t pack the Pod correctly the first time (I insisted that my friend send me photos before it was locked up) — and there is in fact a “correct” way to do it, if you stop to think about it (and the guys who work for U-Pack know this, but don’t tell you).
    This is the wrong way to pack a pod

    As a general rule, when you’re packing a pod you want the contents to be LEVEL… very important!!! That said, along the interior of these pods are metal strips with holes in them, intended for bungee cords… which you can cheaply in bulk from Amazon (way cheaper than from a hardware store). And you when installed want the bungees to be as tight as possible, which means they should wrap behind the times, not just sit in front of them… So I said, “sorry, he’s going to have to repack it.” and I sent him a picture of how it had looked when I initially sent it down to Florida (see the difference?)

    This is the right way, same contents as in the image above

    So I had to pay him (I was paying by the hour rather than the job), to repack it — both he and my friend thought I was being nit-picky and high maintenance, but it was my money… so he did.
    Six hours of work total at $15/hour = $90, but I gave him $100.

    Pod repacked
    Pod being delivered to Chicago

    And this is what the contents looked like when I unpacked opened the doors in Chicago… Jostled to be sure, but the only item that fell out when I opened the doors was one lidded plastic bin that had been sitting on top of the blue VCR box — and it’s lid was still attached, so no problem.img_6647
    I then hired the same highly affordable local (Glenview) movers who had moved my furniture and household stuff from my father’s house into a storage locker to carry all the boxes up the ladder into the attic, these guys charged almost double what the handyman charged me (but still reasonable considering they are licensed, insured, and have a premesis to maintain).

    $192.50, for 3 men @ $154 per hour: 1.25 hours, including the time it took them to drive to and from the job.


    So Now I’m having to go over to my friends house every few days to organize the boxes so I can easily find things (they got put up there randomly) and then pull out the things I want to keep with me, as well as (in an methodical and organized manner) returning to the boxes the stuff I have been wearing the last few months, so that I can easily find them again later.

    An ‘traditional yet modern’ Korean Top I had purchased when first arriving there

    And rejoicing (which of course means sharing with my friends on FB) in the fact that stuff I had “out-grown” fits again

    A chain-mail belt that a friend had knit for me by hand
  4. Selling dad’s (our) house: The home I grew up in has been on the market now since May, and we’ve reduced the price three times so that it’s now going for only 500K, and still no reasonable offers (a few years back a developer came in off the street and offered dad an even million for it, and dad had refused to sell thinking he could get more). And of course, even an empty house needs upkeep. While I was in Canada the whole neighborhood got flooded, with our basement filling up almost mid calf deep. So I’ve been dealing with maid services and gardeners, and just last week we discovered that the flood had KILLED our boiler & our water heater. The house was built in 1910, and the boiler had originally burned coal (there’s an actual coal room in our basement). In the 1930’s it had been converted to burning gas. Apparently during the last flood water got into the electronics of the system, so that it no longer opens the door to allow in gas. So I’m now bringing in heater specialists to see if anyone is willing to fix it, and best prices for replacing it (so far the one company that has seen it has refused the job because the parts are no longer made, meaning they would have to Jerry-rigged something, and that would make them liable if anything went wrong). My brother however wants to just drain all the water from the house, rather than replace it (like I said, the house is on the market)… but that would make it harder to sell since, not only would it be very cold, but visitors would not be able to use the bathroom or turn on a faucet.
  5. Meeting with my financial planners: My brother used to be my stock broker, but he contacted me a few weeks back and said he’d decided to give up his license in Illinois (he lives in Indiana), since he had almost no customers here anymore and it costs him a lot of money to renew, and as such, I needed to find a new broker. Ah paperwork… also, apparently, there are new federal laws about money market accounts that basically mean we can now LOOSE money in them even if they go up (they used to be just like bank accounts but better) so I have to go to my various banks and change that.
  6. Am contemplating getting a 10 year multi entry visa for China, just so I can pop over there impulsively. These things only became available in 2014 (the year dad died), before then they were only good for six months to three years. Apparently you HAVE to do it at the consulate that services the state where you live… which is not true for other countries.
  7. VOTE!!!!

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