Sunday in the tax mines

I only got six hours of sleep, but it was a very good six hours of sleep in a king-sized bed. Blood sugar was a little high this morning, but not dismayingly so, so I shot up some insulin, packed up my stuff, and headed out to the nearby Carl's Jr. for biscuits and a large Diet Coke.

Traffic was very light on the way back to Las Vegas, and I got to the office at 0945. Going to twiddle my thumbs and hydrate for the next hour or so, I think.

Despite being just eleven clients shy of last year, I am over $700 in the hole on commission and don't actually expect to get a bonus check this year. What hurt me was all the overtime in February and March, and the near complete lack of clients in March. I'm unsure if the coming of the Trump stimulus will spark more people dropping off stuff; I do know that under the current rules, we're going to lose people who used to walk in, pay for their returns, and have done with it. I'm hoping Corporate adopts my suggestion that we let clients who have Emerald Cards from last year use them to receive their refunds, which would help, but I'm not optimistic. As I noted last night, things change on an almost weekly basis, which I find unsettling and aggravating, but there's nothing I can do about it except keep banging the forms together.

By Any Meme Necessary, 2019 Edition

By Any Meme Necessary, 2019 Edition

1. Was 2019 a good year for you?
To be quite honest, it sucked pretty hard.

2. What was your favorite moment(s) of the year?
Balticon weekend, after which the year went straight into the crapper.

3. What was your least favorite moment(s) of the year?
a) Being evicted from my apartment
b) The ongoing siege of the Social Security "expedited claim review" process.
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4. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
Drove all night to Carson City and then drove back to Las Vegas the following night.

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, as usual)

6. Where were you when 2019 began?
In my apartment on 14th Street

7. Who were you with?

8. Where were you when 2019 ended?
In my room at the transitional housing barracks, trying to sleep

9. Who will you be with when 2019 ends?
My roommates, one of whom was extremely drunk; the other was only half as drunk.

10. Did anyone close to you give birth?

11. Did you lose anybody close to you in 2019?
General Taylor died this year after a prolonged stay in a Luray nursing home.
I was privileged to attend his memorial service & interment at Arlington.

12. Who did you miss?
Most of my friends and family, from time to time.

13. Who was the best new person you met in 2019?
Not really new, but it was good to see my sister in arms Julie again after 30-some years.

14. What was your favorite month of 2019?

15. Did you travel outside of the US in 2019?
No. What for?

16. How many different states did you travel to in 2019?
Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Utah. Arizona doesn't count since I was just passing through on my way to Utah.

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

18. What date from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There weren't any days like that.

19. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting my short story anthology published and getting a positive review from Castalia House.
Sold pretty well, too.

20. What was your biggest failure?
The eviction, I guess. Everything else was pretty much out of my control.

21. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No injuries worth mentioning, but I did spend most of December sick with food poisoning/colitis/some damn thing.
Spent five days in the VA hospital with the most recent bout.

22. What was the best thing you bought?
Komi Can't Communicate, an excellent manga series.

23. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I continue to be pleasantly surprised by President Trump's performance in office.

24. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I prefer to keep family drama inside the family. I'll leave it at that.

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

26. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Visiting my sister in arms Julie after tax season wrapped up.

27. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2019?

28. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2019?
Despite recreational marijuana being legal, no.

29. Did you treat somebody badly in 2019?
Not this year.

30. Did somebody treat you badly in 2019?
See #24

31. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? - Maybe a little sadder.
ii. thinner or fatter? - I've been losing weight lately.
iii. richer or poorer? - Poorer. Definitely poorer.

32. What do you wish you’d done more of in 2019?
Made money.

33. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I suppose I could have traveled less, but I don't think it would have saved me enough money to have mattered.

34. Did you fall in love in 2019?
No, but I lusted in my heart after a fair number of women.

35. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
I was introduced to Archer and Madea by Julie, which were both hilarious.
Yes, I'm aware I'm years behind the curve.

36. What song will always remind you of 2019?
Joy Division - "Transmission"

37. How many concerts did you see in 2019?

38. Did you have a favorite concert in 2019?
See previous question.

39. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Joy Division. I don't know how I managed to overlook them all this time.

40. What was the best book you read?
Best new book? Monster Hunter: Guardian, by Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt.

41. What was your favorite film of this year?
I only saw two movies, Alita: Battle Angel and John Wick 3. They're too different to make a straight-up comparison.

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 60.

43. What did you want and get?
Aside from the trips to Florida and Balticon, nothing.

44. What did you want and not get?
My Social Security disability. I guess it's on back order along with the forgiveness I wanted the last couple of years.
Unlike the forgiveness, I haven't given up on it.

45. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
ONE thing? Well, money sure would have changed everything. (Cue the Cyndi Lauper, maestro.)

46. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
"The Festive Color Of My Tribe Is Black", although I'm continuing to branch out into khaki.

47. What kept you sane?
Realizing that being unhappy is not the same as being depressed.

48. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Most of the celebrities and public figures that came to my attention this year were fairly appalling people, with the exception of Ikumi Nakamura.

49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
No valuable life lessons, unfortunately.

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"The things that we've learnt are no longer enough..."
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Comfort Eagle

Fleshing out the plan

So, an update for the benefit of those of you scoring at home...

I'm currently in transitional housing a few blocks north of downtown Las Vegas with a couple hundred other vets. It's a lot like being in the transit barracks when I was on active duty, which is to say there's next to no privacy and there's a lot of tedious details and classes to deal with. On the other hand, they aren't requiring us to put on a uniform every day, so there's that. I'll probably be here through the end of tax season, at which point they'll help me move into an apartment while I'm working on acquiring a house with my VA loan.

All of this housing stuff is contingent on Social Security finally doing its thing and paying me SSDI, including the six months of back payments they owe me. I'm also applying for VA disability based on diagnosis and treatment for stress-induced asthma while I was on active duty; some people have opined that this may be connected to my sleep apnea, but that's what we pay the doctors to figure out. I'll be calling the local Social Security office Friday while I'm waiting at the DMV to find out where I am in the process; my caseworker and I called the state adjudicator yesterday and found that they'd already passed the files back to SSA, so we should have some idea by tomorrow where I'm at.

In the meantime, bills must be paid. You can help by throwing money at my PayPal or my GoFundMe. Thanks in advance for your help!
Las Vegas


Today I woke up, did breakfast, did blogging, went out to get my free birthday burger form Red Robin, returned books to the library, and that was about it.

Unhappiness and depression

I have a lot of friends who are unhappy, some who are being treated for depression, and it's made me think really hard about the difference between the two. I guess there's a technical difference: if you're unhappy to the point of wanting to kill yourself or for a really long period of time, and it makes life harder for you because of spoon shortages, a shrink will pronounce you as suffering from depression and hand you some pills. Sometimes the pills help. Sometimes they don't, and I've come to wonder if it's not just a matter of brain chemistry, it's a matter of trying to treat a normal human emotion like an illness.

I have some personal experience with this. Back when I was married and in the Army Reserve, I had a lot of stress in my life, to the point where one night after having a fight with the Mrs., I left my wallet and my pocket knife on the kitchen table and walked out into the night. I was thinking about killing myself, but eventually I concluded that suicide was a bad idea, quite aside from being Wrong with a capital W according to Catholic teaching, which I may be terrible at following in some respects, but I do believe it's Right. So after walking all over the west side of St. Paul and parts of Minneapolis, I came home and curled up in the back of the family K-car and went to sleep for about ten minutes before my wife, who was in a complete panic, came out, woke me up, and talked me into going down to the county hospital so they could shrink my head. The doc eventually prescribed desipramine, which turned me into a turnip for a few hours, and then changed that to nortryptiline. That didn't work either. I was still very unhappy, plus I developed a ravenous appetite that did my waistline no good, and was one of the things that got me invited to leave the active reserve. Eventually I quit taking it. The appetite went away, the unhappiness didn't.

Fast forward about ten years. The marriage had started to break down, and in the fall, about a month before I threw down the gauntlet to the soon-to-be-ex, I went to work at Wells Fargo and had to stop at the elevator because I couldn't breathe and my heart felt weird. Made it upstairs to work, but the problem continued, and eventually I wound up in St. John's hospital in St. Paul under observation for angina. My primary care doc came to see me and offered to put me on an antidepressant, and since my whole world was going up in flames, it seemed like a good idea so I could at least remain somewhat functional. It definitely made it easier to turn off the emotions and not care so much about the s2bx's fuckery. The problem was that it turned off *all* the emotions. I vividly remember standing there during my father's interment at the Family Plot and feeling nothing, nothing at all while my brother, my kids, and my nieces were crying their eyes out. That was when I knew I had to get off the drug, because it was killing my ability to feel normal and appropriate emotions along with the bad, negative ones. And over the next couple of years, with support from friends and my girlfriend at the time, I managed to wean myself off, and it would take being a lot worse off than I am now to convince me I need to try it again.

Of course, your mileage may vary. You may indeed have had a serious mental problem that drugs helped you solve. Or you may be going from shrink to shrink, pill to pill, wondering why you're still unhappy. Consider that contrary to society and its advertisements and its popiular preachers and its pundits: you have no right to be happy. You only have the right to pursue happiness. Good luck catching it, and enjoy it while it lasts.

This is being cross-posted to Facebook. Comment there, not here.

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.
Las Vegas

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.
Boss Coffee

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?