Tonopah

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.
Tonopah

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.
SSuiseiseki

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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Tonopah

some observations on the cost of living

So having been to the Raley's and the Family Dollar a couple of times...man, 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.
SSuiseiseki

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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work

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.
wombat

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.
Collapse )
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?
Nobody

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?
No

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?
May

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?
No.

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?
None.

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

[thursday]

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.
wombat

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.