I made the mistake of starting S.M. Stirling's The Desert and the Blade last night, which meant I was up until 0600 and that pretty much fucked up my Wednesday. I went out to sign papers and move money, but I was too late getting out the door, so neither of those things happened. I didn't have coffee before heading out, so for a few minutes I sat in the parking lot at Tonopah Station, unsure quite what to do with myself. Eventually I decided to kill all the frog portals there, flipped and buffed the stuffed bear, and headed out to work more mischief. I recharged and farmed some portals on Logan Field Road, made my way out to the Test Range, and made some fields there. Also turned off US-6 and went to the airport, where I captured the water tanks, threw more fields, and took a pic of a decrepit WW2 hangar. Then I went home and whipped up a pitcher of chocolate protein shake, which was Breakfast. Dinner. Whatever, it was the first meal of the day. BG was normal, but weight was up (which I expected after eating all the sushi) but on the gripping hand the BP was down.

I'd thought about getting a phone and a Choice Wireless prepaid card to go with it, but decided to go with the signal booster from Amazon instead. What with the refund and a gift card from T-Mobile it wound up costing me just $150. Signal did seem a little better here on the south side, but I didn't get downtown to see if it was better there too, much less the north side. Tomorrow for sure.

Did the catchup blogging, played some HoI (I am taking another shot with the Japanese) and have been feeling very tired. I think I'll just bash out the normal link post for the day and call it a night.

Trash Day in the bedroom

Slept a full six hours; weight was down a lot, BG was up, and BP was a little lower than yesterday but still high. Maybe I shouldn't have moved all that stuff in the bedroom first.

Had breakfast, waited until after noon for Jase from the rubbish company to show; he took out all the pieces of the old bed frame and the box the new one came in, and said he'd ask around to see if anyone's interested in coming in and helping me with all these damn boxes. After he left, I finished the hummus and tuna salad I fixed for lunch and crashed for several hours. The bedroom is a lot emptier now and I think I'll fill the empty space with a couple of bookcases that have been packed up in boxes unassembled for a couple of years. Real soon now.

Got up, went over to Raley's after a little Ingress and bought avocados, pork rinds, more hummus, and more naan. Misread the $5 Monday flyer and bought a bunch of sushi that wasn't actually on sale. Went home, ate the sushi for dinner while doing the daily bloggage, and browsed Reddit for a while in a semi-catatonic state.

Tomorrow I need to get down to the post office and pick stuff up, maybe do some pre-packing for Wednesday, and gird my loins for the walk up to the water tank. I do believe this time I'll drive up to the chain and save myself some sweat.

Wednesday's child is full of inertia

Picked up a pound yesterday, but my BG was normal. Fixed a pitcher of protein powder, almond milk, cream, and yogurt, and it didn't taste that great. I blame the yogurt. Got to stop putting that in the protein shakes. I futzed around in the morning with various things and eventually went back to bed for a few hours, because once again I'd gone to bed around 0100 and woke up at the disgusting hour of 0700.

It was supposed to be really really hot today (which was another justification for the nap) but as far as I can tell it didn't break 90. Oh well. It's not like I was feeling energetic enough to do anything anyway.The packages at the Post Office will still be there tomorrow.

Trying another iteration of HoI today after giving up on the previous one, where I managed to peacefully acquire Czechoslovakia & Danzig but stalled out along the Benelux borders after everybody got into the act (as usual). This time I did a little better raising a huge army and pulled off both the Anschluss and Sudetenland annexations ahead of schedule, but I misunderstood how war claims and declarations work, so I'm going to be invading Poland in late 1940 instead of late 1939. Oops.

Got an email from the THS principal telling me none of my references replied to her, so I need some new ones. Guess I'll get on that in the morning, maybe with some new references.

now I am 61

Looking back over this past year, I sometimes think that God was concerned that my humility score wasn't high enough, because the events of the last year certainly humbled me in a number of ways. Still, I managed to avoid being reduced to sleeping in the street and losing all my stuff, but I had a lot of help, much of it from people I don't even really know, which is to say the readers of The Other McCain and Instapundit, who came through for me when I needed it most.* Yes, I got evicted; yes, I half-killed myself again trying to pack up all my crap, but I did pack 90% of it up and abandoned a bunch of stuff I could replace fairly easily.

It's also hard not to see the hand of God (hopefully) in my move up to Tonopah; while it's possible that sheer chance and the nosy algorithms of Silicon Valley may have had something to do with it, it's well known that He works in mysterious ways. How else would I have tripped over an ad from the state Rural Housing Authority while browsing Facebook? Who could have predicted that Corona-chan would do me the favor of getting me moved from the USVETS barracks to a room of my own at the Candlewood, where I could work on putting together all the documentation my landlord required, sock away a few hundred bucks while staying current on my bills, and even running up to Tonopah a couple of times to do the needful?

So everything has worked out for the best, even if this is not the best of all possible worlds. The fridge is full of food, I am going to get a little work in this month with the county elections board, which will help stretch my unemployment, and there is a very good chance that I'll be working for Block again this coming tax season as a virtual tax pro or in the franchise office across the street. It could be a lot worse. It has been a lot worse.

*And if you were one of those people, who I all too often forgot to thank in person, please accept my sincere apologies and my heartfelt gratitude.

What's it like up here?

So, having been here for about a month, what are the pros & cons?

Well, despite the elevation (6030 feet above sea level) I seem to be sleeping better and feeling better in general. Took me a while to get used to the thinner air up here - for the first few weeks even the slightest bit of exertion had me gasping for air. My blood sugar has been improving, but the weight stubbornly refuses to come down. I'll whup it. No colds, no reopened leg wounds, no health issues at all, which is just as well since there's no VA clinic closer than Pahrump, and if I'm going to go there I might as well just drive to the VA ER in North Las Vegas since that's about as far. The apartment was recently remodeled and has a very efficient a/c unit in the living room, new stove, fridge & dishwasher, so those should be good for the year or so that I'll be here. The DSL from Frontier seems just as speedy as the cable internet I had on 14th Street and Kishner Drive (RIP) as well as the wifi at the Candlewood, so no complaints there.

There's a shortage of entertainment options here, since I don't drink and have fallen out of the habit of playing video poker. I have not yet been to the library, which I've been told is pretty decent for a small town like this, but I have been to the used bookstore, whose prices are comparable to what you might find at a library sale. There are several restaurants and cafes here, but no fast food unless I want to go to the other end of town past the Clown Motel (which I haven't been to) for BK or Subway. I admit to hitting the BK a couple of times to take advantage of offers in the app, but otherwise it's not worth the time. There is an A&W downtown but it's a sit-down restaurant and not a drive-in. None of this is terribly bothersome, since with the Internet and the sizable collection of books & DVDs I've built up over the years I really don't need to go out to be entertained.

The downsides of being here aren't really that big a deal. Food is more expensive here than back in Las Vegas, since the only food stores are a Raley's and Family Dollar, and as anyone who's hopped at Family Dollar knows, the good food isn't a bargain. As for Raley's, I stick to buying stuff that's on sale, which means I'm still paying anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar more than I would have for the same things at Walmart, with occasional exceptions. Gasoline is more expensive up here ($2.75/gallon for regular) but then nothing in town is more than a couple of miles away. Despite the fact that their trucks go through town all the time (US-95 is the highway that runs from Las Vegas to Reno, and in Tonopah it's called Main Street). Amazon's Prime Delivery takes seven days instead of two, and only a fool would trust UPS to deliver to their home/apartment with any degree of reliability. Better to just have everything sent to your PO Box (you have to have one, because USPS doesn't do home delivery here either) and pick it all up at the post office, I have learned. One gets used to these things.

Crossposted to the Book of Feces; comment/ask questions there, not here.

Dinner at Mel's

So after an exhausting drive from Tonopah to Reno, I checked into the Sands Regency and did dinner at Mel's Diner, which was lavishly adorned with memorabilia from American Graffiti At this point I have to take a brief detour an explain that I completely missed this connection. The movie came out in 1973, when I was in junior high school, and I had less than no interest in it. Not only that, the whole wave of nostalgia for the late 50s and early 60s left me cold; I didn't care for the whole "greaser" culture fad, and the Beach Boys were almost as annoying as the Beatles. (My mom was really into surf music a la Dick Dale and the Ventures, but I didn't catch on to that until years later.) We will not even speak of the monumentally annoying Happy Days.

At any rate, connections to annoying movies notwithstanding, Mel's is a damn fine diner. Good food, reasonable prices, and fine service. They make an excellent club sandwich with freshly sliced turkey breast, ham and bacon, and as I told the waitress, it was nice to find someplace that didn't substitute roast beef for the bacon in the club sandwich. I plan to hit the place again on the rebound from the EHC. I would have done breakfast there on Wednesday, but they didn't open until 0600, my flight was at 0700, and I didn't realize the hotel was so close to the airport. In fact, nothing in Reno was open at 0500, so I wound up grabbing a bottle of water, some protein bars, and a bag of cashews for breakfast and emergency rations.

Speaking of which, I picked up a couple of fellow attendees at the airport Thursday, made the death march to the Hertz/Dollar desk out in the parking garage, and got a Buick Contour. This is about the size of my old Kia Sportage, although it has slightly less cargo space, and is burdened with all manner of electronic geegaws that it took me most of the drive to Clarksville to figure out. It has a keyless lock and ignition system, which are annoying, but otherwise seems nice. I'm not planning on driving much; I passed on today's range trip because I didn't bring Masha, and I already went to Walmart to get a replacement glucose meter, since I appear to have left mine in Reno.

I may be doing a couple of panels, but we'll see how that goes. The con technically started with a heroic fiction panel at noon, and that was good, more of a discussion than a "We're the experts and we're going to lecture you" panel. Opening ceremonies are at 5, and I'll have to work hard to not blow a bunch of money on books and sharp objects in the dealer's room.
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some observations on the cost of living

So having been to the Raley's and the Family Dollar a couple of, was I spoiled in Las Vegas. Especially by the availability of Walmart, whose normal prices were broadly comparable to sale prices at Albertson's and Smith's. Up here pretty much everything is at least a dollar a pound more expensive, whether it's cheese, cream, almond milk, meat, or whatever. I'm going to have to be very careful to watch the sales flyer and take advantage of sale items, because running down to Pahrump or up to Fallon means a 2-3 hour drive each way, and it's just not worth doing. Now, if I happen to be in Las vegas or Reno for some other reason, as I will be week after next, then it makes sense to order ahead and drag it back to Tonopah, but dedicated shopping trips just aren't worth it. Some stuff I can order from Amazon, but I'm not sure how much that's going to save me, except on the items that Raley's doesn't carry, notably Pace ed Label salsa.

Gas is $2.76 right now if I prepay in cash, and there's no reason not to since Giggle Springs has Arizona Diet Green Tea in the glass bottles for about the same price as soda pop. I'd be annoyed with the price of gas, but except for the drive to Reno and back next week, pretty much the only driving I'll be doing is down Main Street to the post office to pick stuff up.

Eating out costs pretty much the same here as it does in Las Vegas, with the important exception that there isn't much fast food here. There's a Burger King & Subway at the Chevron up north by the Clown Motel, and an A&W downtown. There's some other places to eat, notably the Pittman room at the Mizpah and the grill in Tonopah Station, but except for special occasions I think I'm going to avoid those for a while.

Crossposted to Facebook; comment there, not here.

Sympathy for the Devil

Just finished Jim Butcher's Turn Coat, and I have to take my hat off to the man - he's accomplished something that's rare in this subgenre, which is to make me sympathize with a character I was hoping to see killed off, or at least put in a position where he can't bother the protagonist, in this case wizard for hire/private investigator Harry Dresden. If you're not familiar with the Dresden Files books, Morgan is one of the Wardens of the White Council, charged with hunting down and killing rogue wizards before they get to be a danger to the public or the Council. When we first meet him, Morgan is practically drooling at the prospect of being able to give Harry the chop, and a couple of the earlier books revolve around him seemingly catching Harry in violation of the Laws of Magic, and disappointed that Harry manages to wiggle out of his (according to Morgan) well-deserved beheading. Well, he gets to be slightly less of an asshole as time goes by, and by the time he finally dies at the end of Turn Coat, I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard.

Other cases of authors having characters do a heel-face turn (in the reader's eyes, anyway) are Agent Franks in Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International series. Our introduction to Franks in the first book is a pretty unpleasant one - he's ready to put a round through Owen Pitt's eye if his lycanthropy test comes back positive, and later in the book, he seems to genuinely enjoy beating the crap out of Pitt while he's being detained by the Monster Control Bureau. So he comes off as an overmuscled thug a quart low on the ethics...but over the next few novels, it becomes apparent that Franks is no ordinary thug, and by the time he takes center stage in Monster Hunter: Nemesis you find out who - or what - Franks really is, and it changes your whole perspective on the big lug. He's still not very likeable, but you understand that he's definitely one of the good guys.

Finally, in the realm of normal human beings, we come to Lady Death, more properly known as Tiphaine Baroness d'Ath, who starts out as a teenage ninja assassin in the service of the (definitely) evil Norman Arminger, Lord Protector of the Portland Protective Association. She quickly acquires a nasty (and well-deserved) reputation during the events leading up to the Protector's War, but when the PPA and its neighbors have to deal with the combined might of Boise and the Cutters, she quickly proves to be as adept a battlefield leader as she was at offing people the Protector (and later, the PPA's Regent Sandra Arminger) wanted dead. Over the course of the war, as we see her at home managing her fief and in the field, she slowly performs a heel-face turn, befriending young Rudi MacKenzie and Princess Mathilda Arminger both, and eventually her grudge against Astrid Larsson too fades out, to the point where she's able to act as Astrid's second-in-command during the botched operations at Pendleton, and evacuate the incapacitated Lady of the Dunedain when she could easily have left her to die. Seeing her in her old age -mind you, old age in the Emberverse isn't that old- as the avuncular Grand Constable of Montival, pulling some sleight-of-hand to allow Rudi's daughter Orlaith and her Japanese guest to duck out on High Queen Matilda, is pretty amusing, especially when we remember her in her blood-stained youth.

There's probably other characters like this out there in SF, but I haven't seen them. Certainly none so high-profile.
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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.