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The summer of our discontent

I try not to whine about my financial situation, because it makes other people unhappy, and since the Army's not paying me to do that any more, I don't much see the point. However, there comes a time when the cash isn't flowing, and I am too old and sick to be sleeping in my car or one of the various homeless shelters around here.

The root of the problem is that Social Security's notion of "expedited" and "interim" don't seem to match what's in the dictionary. After getting out of the hospital and acute care in November, I quickly realized that I couldn't return to driving for Uber, and so I put in my paperwork to go back on Social Security disability. The local office convinced me I'd be better off applying for an expedited claim review, partially because I'd be able to collect interim payments until the claim came through. Well, those interim payments ended in May, and SSA still hasn't gotten around to making a decision on my claim. I will note that they've taken four times as long to review the claim than they did to originally approve it back in 2012. I do have unemployment coming in, but that barely covers my rent, never mind the phone, internet, auto & renter's insurance, car payments...

The long and the short of it is that I need help to make rent and pay the bills until 1) Social Security gets its thumb out, 2) somebody in Las Vegas decides they need a 59 year old bookkeeper, or 3) I start making a decent amount of money off the YouTube videos I've been talked into taking a crack at. I'm not going to mess with GoFundMe again; the cut they take off donations is a little high for my taste, and it's just simpler all around to deal with PayPal. Anything over and above living expenses will go toward publishing a short story collection, The Anti-Dog Tank & Other Stories, which I need a graphic artist to finish the cover on.*

TL;dr - I have guns, I'm calling lawyers, just send money. Thanks for your help.

*I also need to finish a couple more stories for it.

sloth, indolence, etc.

Well, I haven't done a whole lot these last couple of days; I've washed some dishes, bagged up some garbage, and done the daily bloggage, of course, but not a whole lot else of a productive nature. I did go a little nuts at Jack In The Box the other night and ate half a dozen egg rolls along with my burgers.

I've plowed through Forged In Blood, which is a very good anthology with very few weak stories, just some I didn't like as well as others. Also finished 1636: The Kremlin Games, which I think has a date problem since all the goings-on in the book are from 1632 on to 1636, and that just doesn't seem quite right to me. The protagonist is drinking himself to death after the Battle of the Crapper, which IIRC happens in late 1632 or even 1633, but the book starts in January 1632. Well, despite that, it was entertaining, and reading it at the same time as War & Peace, which I am chugging through at the rate of a couple of chapters a day, makes for some interesting insights into how little Russian culture has really changed from the 17th century to the 21st.

I find myself reluctant to reach out to Fred or Angie or anyone else who could realistically help me with the rent, but I'm going to have to do something soon. Having James move down here will help with that, of course, but Murphy being the fellow he is, I don't expect that to happen this year unless something horrible happens.

Balticon AAR 2019

I went to Balticon thinking I had more than enough money and flex on various credit cards to get by comfortably, and in the end I was worrying about whether I had enough left on my credit card to catch an Uber home from the airport...but I made it.
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So...I made a few mistakes that made things tighter than they needed to be. I forgot to put my knife in the suitcase before I left, so the TSA confiscated it at McCarran. I wasted probably $20 on Uber trips to the Dulles Expo Walmart, bought stuff there (and at the CVS by BWF) that I didn't need or wound up not using, ate too much (which is to say at all) at the hotel, and stuffed too much money in the CFA and Dunkin' apps. Well, at least the credit union didn't block my credit and debit cards for being on the other side of the continent.

Planning ahead

For those of you who don't follow my LJ (which is almost all of you these days), I got a shitload of air miles from Southwest for agreeing to be bumped off my flight last week from Vegas to Atlanta, so I can afford to come out a little early for Balticon and stay an extra day after it wraps up on Memorial Day. I'll be arriving at Dulles on the afternoon of May 22, consuming mass quantities of chikuns at Buffalo Wing Factory on 5/23, and heading up to Baltimore for Balticon on 5/24; afterwards, I'll be driving over to Frederick to hang out with brian_edminster and his folks on Memorial Day before crashing overnight and going back to Vegas from Dulles on the 28th.

It goes without saying that I'd like to see family and friends while I'm in town. Give me a holler and I'll see what we can work out. I'll have wheels after Balticon, but not before, and the Uber budget is not unlimited.

Hello darkness, my old friend

My friend cipherpunk is fighting with the Black Dog at the moment, and I wish him luck with it; as he observed, depression seems to go hand-in-hand with high stress levels, and given my recent experience with this I am inclined to agree. There have been several points in my life when I was severely depressed, enough so that I agreed to go on antidepressants. The results, to say the least, were extremely mixed.

The first SSRI my doctor prescribed for me was desipramine. It turned me into a turnip and required a trip to the emergency room.

The second SSRI was nortryptiline. It didn't seem to improve my state of mind, and it made me ravenously hungry. I quit taking it because it quite obviously wasn't doing me any good and was making my life worse.

The third SSRI was Prozac, which my doctor gave me during the year my marriage was disintegrating, because I was starting to have angina attacks and was barely functional. It worked...but it seemed to do so by turning me into a robot. All my emotions, positive, negative, and otherwise, drained out and I became a mechanism carrying out the required tasks of being a father and an accountant. Things came to a head for me at my father's burial service that December, when all my family was crying around me, and I felt nothing. I remember thinking, "This is wrong. This is my father they're burying. Why don't I feel anything?" and I think it was at that moment I decided I had to get off the Prozac, because I didn't like this lack of emotion and sensation. I consultd with my doctor, and she agreed it was probably best to stop. The next couple of years were tough (and Wells Fargo's emotional counselors were worse than useless), but thanks to my then-girlfriend the oceanographer, I pulled through it.

So I completely understand his reluctance to do the brain drugs. He's done a lot more research on them than I have, and I respect that, and if he says he's better off on Placebo* or on Scotch & cigars, I figure he knows what the hell he's talking about, and the rest of us need to let him do what he thinks he needs to do.

*Have you asked your doctor if Placebo is right for you?


So before I forget, there's a manga that's blowing up online, Komi-san wa Komyushou Desu (Komi Has a Communication Problem) which is not just another high school manga. I haven't started reading it yet, but I can see why it appeals to a lot of folks - it's the exact reverse of a situation a lot of us are familiar with. Komi, the heroine, is a beautiful young lady who everyone in her school thinks is standoffish and maybe even snooty, because she doesn't talk much, if at all. Then one day she gets seated next to Tadano, who realizes that Komi has a problem communicating with people, and he resolves to help her out in her desire to make one hundred friends. So, there's appealing characters, great art, and what sounds like an interesting plot. 3-for-3.

As is usual for me, I got interested in this ass-backwards - I saw a lot of Komi-san memes on Twitter and Reddit, one thing led to another, and now I think I'm going to pick up the first two volumes of the manga when they come out in June. Yeah, I'm going to read the online translations, but I want Oda-sensei to keep drawing, so the zoobs must flow.

Pic very much related.


By Any Meme Necessary, 2018 Edition

Mitch Berg inspired me to do this almost a decade ago, and it's come in handy enough that I've kept doing it.

1. Was 2018 a good year for you?
Not at all. In fact, it was pretty fucking miserable.

2. What was your favorite moment(s) of the year?
a. Getting approved for the lease on my new apartment.

3. What was your least favorite moment(s) of the year?
a. The whole process of moving out of Somerset Gardens
b. The related process of trying to get my relocation money
c. Getting a severe infection and spending a long weekend in Sunset Hospital
d. Severing my connections with Anime Twin Cities and Anime Detour.
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4. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
Walked away from something I started (see 3d, above)

5. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't do New Year's resolutions because I suck at following through on them.
Having said that, I am going to make serious attempts to:
a) stay rested and on track dietarily (Better this year than last year)
b) especially during tax season (Not so much)
c) keep better track of my money and put more of it away (Epic fail)

6. Where were you when 2018 began?
Home chowing down on taquitos from 7-11 after doing a Root Boy Slim thing.

7. Who were you with?
Nobody. When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.

8. Where were you when 2018 ended?
Home in the new apartment

9. Who will you be with when 2018 ends?

10. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My niece Valerie

11. Did you lose anybody close to you in 2018?

12. Who did you miss?
There were some people I would have liked to have seen at Balticon, but it didn't happen.

13. Who was the best new person you met in 2018?
Yvonne the Realtor, who stuck with me and helped me get into this place.

14. What was your favorite month of 2018?
January. Everything seemed new and full of possibilities. What a stupid delusion that was, huh?

15. Did you travel outside of the US in 2018?
No. What for?

16. How many different states did you travel to in 2018?
Minnesota. Utah. Passed through Arizona to get to Utah, but that doesn't really count.

17. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
Money. A new pancreas. The usual.

18. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There aren't any days from this year I really want to remember.

19. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not dying of sepsis in October, but I had a lot of help.

20. What was your biggest failure?
Overloading my ass at UNLV and failing most of the classes I took in the spring and summer.

21. Did you suffer illness or injury?
About two weeks after my birthday, I contracted a really bad infection that put me in the hospital for five days, and in a nursing home for another ten days. Three weeks after that, I still wasn't in shape to go back to driving.

22. What was the best thing you bought?
A replacement for Learned Cow: a refurbished Dell Optiplex with 16GB of RAM and a kickass video card.

23. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My friends and family, who raised a ton of money for me in October when I needed it the most.
Special thanks to Stacy McCain and Glenn Reynolds, who put up the Wombat Signal on their blogs, because that helped tremendously.

24. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The leadership of Anime Twin Cities and Anime Detour. You assholes know what you did.

25. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, food, gasoline. The usual. Also. hotel rooms.

26. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Honestly, I haven't had the energy to be excited about much this year, and even less to be excited about.

27. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2018?

28. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2018?
Despite recreational marijuana being legalized by Nevada last year, no.

29. Did you treat somebody badly in 2018?
Not this year.

30. Did somebody treat you badly in 2018?
No, I can't honestly say anyone did. All the suckage was purely situational.
Well, my English professor didn't return my copy of THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES, but I can't say she didn't warn me.

31. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? - About the same level of sadness as last year.
ii. thinner or fatter? - Thinner. I lost fifteen pounds in the hospital, and even without that, I was on track to lose another 10 pounds.
iii. richer or poorer? - A little richer.

32. What do you wish you’d done more of in 2018?
Made money.

33. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I hadn't wasted time and money on going back to college.

34. Did you fall in love in 2018?
No, but I lusted in my heart after a fair number of women.

35. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works. I'm so far behind on The Man In The High Castle, it's not funny.

36. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Mariya Takechi's "Plastic Love"

37. How many concerts did you see in 2018?

38. Did you have a favorite concert in 2018?
See previous question.

39. What was your greatest musical discovery?
See 36

40. What was the best book you read?
Tough competition again this year. Of the new crop, I have to give the nod to Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International: Siege over Nick Cole's Pop Kult Warlord (the sequel to Soda Pop Soldier) and Tom Kratman's A Pillar Of Fire By Night.

41. What was your favorite film of this year?

42. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went out to Fogo de Chao and ate ALL THE MEATS. I am now 59.

43. What did you want and get?
A denim jacket to replace the one (I think) I handed down to P ages ago.

44. What did you want and not get?
Forgiveness. I guess it's back ordered. Possibly out of stock.

45. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
ONE thing?

46. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
"The Festive Color Of My Tribe Is Black", although I'm continuing to branch out into khaki.

47. What kept you sane?
I'm not certain I am actually sane.

48. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Seriously, my respect for Taylor Swift as an artist and decent person just keeps increasing.
I like a singer who doesn't feel compelled to lecture her audience about political and social issues.

49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
Stop having dumb arguments with smart people.

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"...until my ship comes in, I'll live night by night."

The Empires of the Mind

There's a conservative Goth political blogger in LA I know who quotes Churchill in his sigblock thusly: "The Empires of the future are the empires of the mind."

I was reminded of that this morning on Twitter, when I found myself swapping tweets with - idk, maybe he was a forestry or ag major - who taught me some things I didn't know about trees and how they cooperate with other plants to get the nitrogen they need to keep growing. It segued into a discussion of learning and fields of learning. Where I come into it is that all of my life, I've been interested in learning about things - military history, naval history, baseball, the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union, grain marketing & flour milling, taxes...every time I come into one of these fields of knowledge, it's like opening a door and looking out onto the endless prairies of the Upper Midwest. Sure, maybe to you at first glance it's dull and boring, but every one of those little towns scattered across the prairie has its own history, and the vast farming operations are a whole different thing, a complicated interplay of economics and politics and plant biology and the soil itself. And the sky, the endless sky...

Anyway, it's why I'm seldom bored when I'm around people, because once you get them talking about what fascinates them, you can learn things. Or you can teach them things. Best of all, you can trade off - I once swapped the knowledge of The Fuller Memorandum with a Mongolian who brought me up to date on how things are in what used to be called Outer Mongolia. It's something I'm going to miss about doing the Uber thing, meeting all those people and occasionally having one of those doors opened, or being able to illuminate someone's life with a nugget of knowledge. Maybe I'll make up for it when I start working on my dastardly plan to give the Odd Fellows a shot in the arm.

If I haven't said so already, Merry Christmas to you.

The story so far

So here I am on the 24th floor of the Stratosphere, with a great view of the mountains, the industrial/strip club zone between the '15 and (what else) Industrial Road, and the really sketchy neighborhood between the hotel and the zone...

I haven't had much luck finding an apartment to stay in for the next year until I can use my VA loan and nail down a house, but hopefully the place Yvonne the Realtor and I looked at this morning will be the Real Deal. It's a nice place with tile flooring (except in the bedrooms, which are carpeted), the all-important washer & dryer, and an absence of roaches. I'm not too crazy about the neighborhood (just off Maryland & Mesquite north of 95) but I am not in a position to be terribly picky. After I finish with this, I'm going to fill out the application, pick up a cashier's check and a recent statement from the credit union, print out the app at FedEx, and submit it before I head in to the Desert Inn office at 3 PM for the preseason training I missed last week. If that doesn't work out, I think I'll just move across the street to the Aztec Inn, which has furnished studios for $130/week, and just wait until it becomes house buying time.

I have not gone back to work for Uber aside from a couple of short evenings early in the month. Between them jacking me around for some unspecified wrongness at the airport (they cleared me, but never did say what the issue was) and the county losing my business license (they want me to pay $5 for a copy) and an ongoing tiredness, I'm not too willing to go out and drive even if I felt up to it, which lately I haven't been. I may force myself to go out and do a few nights worth anyway, but I really don't think I'm up to pulling the 8-10 hour overnight shifts on weekends that I used to do before going to the hospital in October.

Social Security is expediting the reactivation of my old claim, which means that starting in January I'll be getting about $1400/month until they approve my claim: maybe in April, maybe June, hopefully not later. The downside to this is that I'm only going to be able to work about 20 hours a week for Block through the end of March. Not looking forward to telling my manager this, but the rules are what they are.



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