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Category Archives: Life

Are those nylons pulled over your face or my old underwear?

Trigger warning: you will learn things about my underwear you can never unlearn.

A few days ago, I was putting on a pair of underwear when part of it tore at the seam.

This got me to thinking, because this particular pair of underwear is less than six months old.

Most of my underwear is a lot older.

A lot.

Let’s just say when I casually mentioned how old my underwear was at a doctor’s appointment, the doctor laughed, assuming I was joking, and said, “I hope not…please tell me that’s not true.”

I pretended I’d been joking all along.

But I wasn’t.

This appointment was about six months ago, and the reason I now possess underwear less than six months old.

And what I was thinking was this:

Sure my old underwear was so worn you could see through it, but in all its (many) years of service, it had never split at the seams.

And as an added bonus, it got a “RRrarr!” from the Missus whenever I changed in front of her.

Sadly (for both my tear-free lifestyle and my love life), at my doctor’s urging, I threw them all away. I didn’t even save a pair for special, romantic occasions. 😦

I also have relatively new socks (as young or younger than the new underwear). They developed holes within a couple of months of wearing them.

My old socks? That predate these new socks by years? Worn thin in a few spots (forming more than one window to my sole), but no actual, stick-a-finger-or-toe-through-them holes.

WTF?

I wore an XL cardigan back then because I find loose clothing comfortable

What, you were expecting a picture of my underwear??

And I have a cardigan sweater that is over THIRTY YEARS OLD. It came from Mervyn’s and has a few stains, but no frayed cuffs or split seams!

In comparison, I have jackets and coats that are a few years old that have holes, frays, splits, and even missing buttons.

My trusty cardigan? Original buttons all fully intact and never sewn back on.

I tried to find out who exactly made that cardigan, so I could favor them with my custom again. Clearly I need a better tailor than Hanes. But good look figuring that out for something made before the internet was really a thing. As best I can tell, my only options are eBay and thrift shops.

And based on the prices I’ve seen, those folks know what they’ve got and what it’s worth.

So much for affordable…

And to add to my indignation, they weren’t afraid to use material back in those days. Twenty years ago, a Large fit me just fine. Then ten years ago or so, I guess they decided to cut some corners on fabric usage and I had to start wearing “Xtra Large” to be comfortable. And now they’re skimping so much on material I have wear XXL. All to save what, a few cents?

Outrageous!

All of this has left me wondering what has happened to the quality of affordable, overseas-manufactured clothing. A couple of decades ago, they knew how to make textiles. But now, now the imports seem to be designed and built to require replacement within a year. Or less!

Like a lot of our consumer electronics. Hmm…

This is both wasteful and a shame. As much as it pains me to say something I never thought would cross my lips, I guess it’s true:

They really don’t make underwear like they used to.

 
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Posted by on 26 January 2021 in Angst, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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You don’t just have to listen to me. You MUST listen to me!

(loosely based on a true story)

Trigger warning: not caring about your opinion

Texts between friend and me:  “Oh no, Godzilla!”  That seems immediately relevant, you’ve definitely got my full attention.  “Fire! The theater we’re in is on fire!”  You had me at ‘fire’.  “Asteroid Apophis will impact Earth and end civilization as we know in six months!”  Yeah, that sounds like something I should hear you out on. Please continue.

Texts between friend and me #2:  “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”  This sounds vaguely entertaining, tell me more.  “Halley’s Comet will impact Earth and end civilization as we know in eighteen months!”  OK, that topic bears discussion, but let me finish binge-watching Friends first.Texts between friend and me #3:  “I’d like to talk to you about these fine Amway products.”  Um, no thanks.  “Can I interest you in a home in this new real estate development in Guyana called Jonestown?”  Not really, I’m happy with my current residence.  “My political beliefs are life-changing, life-affirming, and will move you to both tears and action! I’ve told you about them before, but I need you to set aside an uninterrupted hour to discuss them with me further vis a vis your failure to enthusiastically embrace them.”

Texts between friend and me #4:  Ha ha ha! Oh wait, you’re serious?  “Yes”  Oh. Well, I’ve actually already given that topic considerable thought, and I’m fine with where I’m at.  “No no no, you don’t understand. Anything less than full-throated approval is to be against us, to be on the side of INJUSTICE!”  Um, no it isn’t. Look, we’re both good people and generally aligned on most issues. Let’s just agree to disagree on this one.Texts between friend (?) and me #5:  “I’ve been personally injured by people rejecting this belief system. WE MUST DISCUSS!”  This alleged injury from me?  “No, not that one, but now finding it hurtful to me you won’t let me evangelize you on this topic. Not hearing me violates my boundaries which means YES now you have hurt me :(”  wtf?Texts between friend (?) and me #6:  Politely declining to talk to you about this has injured you and therefore compels me to listen to you? Well, if that’s your position, you’ve violated my boundaries by ignoring my refusal to discuss this with you. Check and mate.  “[rolls eyes]" "[shakes head sadly]" "[sends out thoughts and prays for your conversion]"Texts between friend (?) and me #7:  "[adds you to list of those to go up against the wall when the revolution comes if the thoughts and prayers don’t work]" "You have failed to grasp the severity of the situation. Your close-mindedness saddens (and angers) me. Once you learn the error of your ways, I’ll be here, waiting to forgive you and accept you with open arms into the One True Faith(TM).”Texts between former friend and me #8:  "[adds you to list of those to go up against the wall when the revolution comes if the thoughts and prayers don’t work]" "You have failed to grasp the severity of the situation. Your close-mindedness saddens (and angers) me. Once you learn the error of your ways, I’ll be here, waiting to forgive you and accept you with open arms into the One True Faith(TM).”  [Laughs bitterly, rolls eyes, shakes head sadly, realizes thoughts and prayers are pointless, then clicks ‘Block’.]

Anyone else who has been cornered by someone who insists on lecturing you find these sorts of ordeals … depleting?

No, just me?

Look, don’t misunderstand me. Everyone’s entitled to their (non-violent!) beliefs, regardless of the degree of sanity inherently present in said beliefs. Have at it, good on you. I think it’s super lovely that you’re engaged in whatever process you’re going on about. I might even agree with you on some points. And if I ask you to expound on them, you’re good to go. But.

But.

As controversial as this may be to some folks, I need to be absolutely clear:

* In no way, shape, or form is anyone obligated to listen to your beliefs

* A refusal to do so is not a crime against you

Or think of it this way: if a religious missionary shows up at your door, do you want the right to choose whether or not you close the door on them? Or should you be required to hear them out? And hear out the next person who comes to your door selling something? And the person after that? And after that?

Boundaries, people, boundaries.

I get it. We’re living in divisive times. People are angry.

Scared.

Outraged.

And people have opinions.

Oh yes, we have opinions. Strong ones, no less.

But good grief! The constant flinging of opinions at me is exhausting and everywhere these days!

(Remember, I’m an introvert at heart and just want to be left alone most of the time.)

But you know what? During times like this, does it really pay to drive a wedge between yourself and your friends? Because now instead of not convincing them of your opinion, you’ve not convinced them of your opinion and driven them out of your life.

It’s like losing twice.

Twice!

Sure, “agreeing to disagree” may not feel like a win, but at least you still have a friend. And that’s not a bad thing, right?

Oh no, I just realized that this whole post is me hoisting my opinion upon you! I retroactively apologize unreservedly for inflicting this intrusive burden upon you. Though…you did click on the link, which is tantamount to asking me…

Feel free to agree to disagree.

 
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Posted by on 14 January 2021 in Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Life

 

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The Marital Bed…Of Shame!

Every night, the Missus likes to spoon me and whisper sweet nothings in my ear as I drift off to sleep.

OK, maybe not every night, per se, but most nights.

Well, a lot of the time anyway.

Fine. Occasionally.

When she’s drunk.

The frequency isn’t really the point here, just know it’s more often than you get the same treatment.

From my Missus, anyway.

She’s always here with me.

That’s one of the benefits of the lock-down: I always know where she is and the lawyers can’t call it stalking.

Anymore.

But I digress.

The thing is, recently this whole “turn around so I can spoon you and quietly praise you” went from “Aw yeah, AWESOME” to “Oh crap, no!”

Why, you ask?

Three words:

Home brewed coffee.

I was never a huge coffee drinker before the lock-down. And to be perfectly honest, I’m still not a fan of the stuff. But lock-down, well, this may come as a shock to you, but it’s led to some problems.

The whole not having to drive into work, toil myself down to the bone, and then drive home from work an exhausted, broken, former shadow of a man thing kinda sorta disrupted my sleep schedule.

Oh sure, avoiding the daily commute and a demoralizing work day seems like a good thing, but

1) I still have to be demoralized, I just do it from home now with the added benefit of laggy internet, and

2) I somehow got the idea in my head that since I didn’t have to drive to work, I could stay up later and just roll out of bed right before the start of the workday.

Big mistake, that second one.

I end up staying up WAY too late, rolling out of bed just a hair too close to the start of my first meeting, struggling to make my way to the home office with eyes sealed shut by sleep crust, and desperately trying not to snore during said meeting.

(The Missus says I snore so loud I’m afraid my coworkers will hear even if I’m on mute.)

There was only one solution to this problem.

Coffee.

No, not going to bed earlier and setting a proper alarm.

Coffee.

And for awhile it was going great. The coffee boosted my awareness / consciousness, I got through the day without my soul completely sucked away, and, having stayed awake all day, I was able to go to bed at a reasonable(ish) hour where I would (occasionally) drift off to the dulcet tones of the Missus telling me how wonderful I am while ensconced in her warm, warm embrace.

Except not.

Because now when I crawl into bed, I deliberately face towards the Missus and secretly dread the singsong request to turn around and prepare to be, as the Tick might put it, “Spooned!”

(Spooooooned!)

“Who’s my yummy bummy sweeteekins,” she asks.

“Oh God, not tonight,” I scream (in my head, because I’m not so foolish as to diss the Missus right before entering the helpless sleep state…RIGHT NEXT TO HER FUMING SOUL).

“Who’s a wonder-thunder-dunderkin awesome-sauce tubby hubby,” she breathes into my ear.

“Can’t you just go to sleep and leave me alone, and also, I’m working on the gut!” I retort back (again, just in my head).

“Are you a special, amazing, wonderful human being who is perfect in every way I could possibly hope,” she gushes throatily.

“Not tonight, woman! But yes, yes I am,” I whine back in a pitch carefully calibrated to be inaudible to her ears.

What’s the problem, many of you are asking just about now. Especially those of you who’ve been married as long as the Missus and I have – this sort of fawning attention is UNHEARD OF this many years into marriage.

I’ve already told you the problem:

Home. Brewed. Coffee.

More specifically, home brewed coffee that causes stomach distress such that you desperately, feverishly need to but don’t want to let loose a barrage of avalanche-inducing farts while your beloved Missus is clamped to your back.

(Also, I’m convinced my coworkers will hear these bursts of gas even if I’m on mute and the meeting doesn’t start for hours. They. Are. That. Powerful.)

Think how far back THAT might set your matrimonial relationship!

So I am forced to mumble something about being SOOOO tired, throw in a few fake snores, and then “toss and turn” until the business end of my digestive system is pointed away from the ol’ Missus and then, finally, blissfully, happily, I can safely set the blankets a-flapping.

Unless, like that one time, the Missus is feeling romantic and has sprinkled rose petals all over the floor and bed and covered every non-cushy horizontal surface with lit candles.

Egads, woman! Don’t you know the bedroom is not the place for romance!?

Yeah, that was an interesting insurance claim.

Now, I know it’s been a rough year. I know people are looking for good news instead of bad. And given it’s nearly the end of 2020, I simply can’t go out on such a negative note, leaving you all worried about the status of my marriage and my sensitive digestive system.

That’s right, I actually have some good news, a sense of hope I can impart after this tale of (quite literally) nauseating woe!

J'accuse!

There’s a fish! In the percolator!

It turns out the coffee maker we used to make our home brewed coffee had mold in it.

Yes, if you have one of those single-serving coffee machines with a reusable brew basket and you leave the wet grinds in it, mold starts to grow!

I had no idea.

But once we took the mold out of the equation, the digestive system more active than the volcanoes on Io went into remission.

That’s right. I can now be safely spooned and nuzzled and sweet-nothing’ed every night.

OK, maybe not every night, per se, but most of the time.

Well, a lot of the time anyway.

Fine. Occasionally.

When the Missus is drunk.

Which reminds me. I need to restock the liquor cabinet.

 

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And So, As A Last Resort, We Threw A Farewell Dance Party

2020 has been, to put it mildly, a somewhat sub-optimal year.

A lot of bad things have happened this year, but the worst, as astute readers of my blog would have noticed in my last posting, is that rats have moved into the crawl spaces of my house.

Speaking of bad things – Trigger Warning: Flashing Lights ahead

I tried all the usual remedies:

  • Stomping on the floors, thumping on the ceilings
  • Calmly sitting outside one of the crawlspace vents, patiently and rationally explaining to the rats why they need to let go of their Rodentia Fragilitatem and inclinatum implicita habitant and just vacate the premises, please
  • Installing a high frequency noise generator
  • Yelling obscenities in the hopes of offending their sensibilities (it worked, but just on my kids)
  • Crawling under the house with a fistful of rubber bands and shooting at the little bastards (might have worked, but my aim needs improving (I blame the constrained space))
  • Drenching the crawlspaces with peppermint oil rodent repellent (this did result in a a frenzy of movement the first night, but mostly on the part of the Missus, kiddos, and dogs)

But no matter what I did, they either wouldn’t leave or kept coming back.

So I did what any rational, red-blooded Europhile would do:

The neighbors keep muttering under their breath about what sorcery is afoot at the Dudley abode and whining how it's causing all the nearby house values to depreciate.

The System. Is Down.

I threw a rave.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, silent rave.

I achieved this by installing strobe lights in my crawlspaces. And testing them before installation gave me, the Missus, and the kiddos immediate nausea and stabbing headaches.

The rats don’t stand a chance.

And I have to admit, the nightly noises the rats make now are markedly more frenetic and, dare I say it, irritated, than before. I can’t help but beam with glee (pun absolutely, utterly intended) and derive incalculable pleasure and satisfaction from the skittering sounds that I wholeheartedly choose to interpret as anguished.

It’s the only thing keeping me sane right now.

 

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Working from home is the bee’s knees

An angry bee, full of ennui due to arthritis in the knee

He’s most upset by the fact he’s missing the rest of his legs.

I don’t know the provenance of the phrase The bee’s knees, and I’m too lazy to use an online search engine to find out, but if my work from home experience is any indication, it obviously is some sort of super villain origin story.

That is, to say I’ve been stung by WfH would be an understatement.

Sure, on paper there’s lots to love:

  • You don’t have to roll out of bed until just before your first meeting
  • You don’t have to shower or get dressed…ever
  • No dealing with traffic
  • Reduced mileage / insurance costs on your commuter vehicle
  • No more being ambushed by colleagues at your desk / in the hall when you’re trying to get actual, real work done
  • Reduced risk of catching/spreading a potentially fatal disease

But like the iPhone, looks aside, you actually have to use it. And like the iPhone, it turns out working from home has significant, painful drawbacks:

  • Your recent lack of good hygiene has left you…less attractive…to your significant other
  • Your commuter vehicle, having sat idle for months, has become home to a colony of wire- and hose-chewing rats that, to be honest, scare the bejeezus out of you what with their sharp needle-like teeth and glowing red eyes and tiny, skittering claws and that glare of intelligent hatred they seem to be directing at you
  • When sleeping at night, you discover that the above-mentioned colony of rats likes to take field trips after dark where they march up and down the crawlspaces directly above and below the room you sleep in
  • When moving to another room in order to escape the sounds of the rats, you discover the field trip isn’t limited to the spaces above and below your bedroom
  • Your kiddos, no matter how far along in brain development, simply don’t understand that you’re working and they aren’t supposed to even look at the door leading to your home office, let alone barge in and start expounding on the virtues of their most recent Minecraft mod, speaking at a volume and speed that prevents you from getting a word in edgewise and leads the leader of your Zoom meeting to mute you
  • Your dogs, no matter how far along in obedience training, simply don’t understand that you’re working and they aren’t supposed to even look at the door leading to your home office, let alone start scratching at the door while barking vociferously just because a fly (or maybe… a bee!?) landed on the tip of the radio aerial on the (idle) commuter vehicle in the driveway, leading the leader of your Zoom meeting to curse the day you were born before muting you
  • No matter how fast and ‘premium’ your internet service is, it isn’t fast or premium enough. Not. Even. Close
  • You are invariably home and have to directly deal with a pipe breaking, a child getting injured, a spouse discovering something bad you did, a fever-impaired driver crashing their car into your home office (warning: that fever-impaired driver just might be you) instead of having a phone and physical distance to serve as a bit of a protective buffer from the tr/drama
  • All the stuff your spouse complains about the house (bad pipes, terrible temperature control, leaky roof, rotting floors, rampant crime in the immediate neighborhood, feverish drivers crashing into things, etc.) that you used to just shrug off and say, “I don’t think it’s as bad as all that” turns out, now that you are directly experiencing it, to oh yes, be all that bad
  • You discover that the people you live with and used to love unconditionally have become around-the-clock irritants who just need to leave you the eff alone for a few hours a day, dammit!
  • The barrier between work time / hours and home time / hours is GONE; you’ve gone from working 40 hours per week to 168 hours per week
  • And by far the worst aspect, you now have plenty of time to follow, in excruciating detail, just how disastrously the election is unfolding

Scientists keep telling me that we need to save the bees. Well, I say, “Screw the bees and the knees they came in on!” Perhaps the dog’s bollocks would be a more accurate descriptor, but this is a family blog…

Though I hear tell traffic isn’t nearly as bad these days as it was in the pre-pandemic days

 

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Fast Cars and Loose End Times – David Hasselhoff is the Anti-Christ?

I’m dealing with a particularly pernicious ear worm just now.

It all started out of idle curiosity.

In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, was the pre-facelift Michael Long played by David Hasselhoff or another actor?

I was about 90% certain it was another actor, but memory is malleable and this is an important question. I had to know for sure.

Since nuking it from orbit wasn’t an option, I hopped onto the nearest local streaming service and found the pilot.

A two parter, and everyone knows how bad 80s television was. Would I be willing to endure nearly two hours of Vogon poetry-esque viewing in order to get my answer?

Clearly, no. Thankfully, to answer my question I would only need to watch the first couple of minutes.

Ahem.

I can confirm now that Michael Long/Michael Knight was played by a different actor for the pre-plastic surgery bits, one Larry (not Harry or Gerry!) Anderson.

(And the irony of using IMDB to look up his name for this post, and not thinking to do that earlier instead of actually watching, is not lost on me.)

I wonder if that actor was hoping for the series lead role, and if he was bummed to only get this entirely forgettable bit part instead. Is he at home now, in a fluffy recliner, watching YouTube footage of David Hasselhoff singing on the Berlin Wall, thinking bitterly, “That could have been me!”?

I like to think so. I mean, his career includes such post-Knight Rider highlights as “BMW Businessman” and “Tarlack Officer” in Star Trek:Insurrection.

On second thought, a glance at IMDB suggests he’s worked a lot more than The Hoff. Maybe it’s David sitting in the fluffy recliner, staring at the TV and shouting at Larry in that one episode of Castle.

(Let me just say, I have a newfound love of IMDB.)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, pernicious ear worm.

I’ve got the theme to Knight Rider stuck in my head. Duh da duh da duh da duh da daaa duh duuuh duh doo doo doo doo doooo doo ARGH!

That, plus after quitting about 30 minutes into the pilot, I realized that Knight Rider is the start of the end times. KITT is a precursor to, not self-driving cars, but the Cylons that will nearly wipe us out in the not so unforeseeable future.

Judge for yourselves:

Based on the 'twitching' speed here, I think KITT was given some of that high octane gas by mistake.
Ya think KITT had Intel Inside?
Future human/robot hybrid, or just the future of UV protection?
Definitely Intel Inside
By your command
Mask hiding AMD Inside?

I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you wish.” *

* NOTE: Thanks to the thoughtful comment below, I have corrected an error in this post. I originally misquoted the Cylon catch phrase and said: I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you command.” I apologize for the error and constructive criticism is always welcome.

 
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Posted by on 14 September 2020 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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Let’s Be Honest: There Were Distractions Along The Way

It was a dark and stormy night

The panacea that was, then wasn’t, then was again.

So not that long ago (though with all this sheltering in place and working from home, November sure feels like a previous epoch), I talked about my search for the perfect distraction-free writing instrument. At the time, I announced the results of my search: after much soul-searching, and even more web browsing, I had procured myself a New Old Stock Psion Netbook Pro.

(Fascinating side note: Psion trademarked the Netbook name years before the Eee PC and other makers came out with their generically named “netbooks” and there were several years of litigation involving who owned the name and whether trademark was being infringed upon. But I’ll leave those distracting details for you to look up yourself, should you be so inclined.)

At the time I wrote that blog post of discovery, I had yet to heavily use the PNP. But once I started, I came to calling it the Pain in the Neck Pro. Because, you see, the keyboard fell short of my expectations.

To be clear, I knew it would sport a less-than-standard layout and, given the form factor, would be cramped compared to my IBM Model M. I accepted those…compromises. If fact, it turns out (as will be seen shortly) that I was able to adapt to those particular idiosyncrasies.

No, the problem was the spacebar.

The physical-single-switch-only-at-the-exact-center-of-the-spacebar spacebar, otherwise known as the doesn’t-register-your-keystroke-unless-you-hit-the-dead-center-of-the-spacebar spacebar.

Now as you might suspect, it turns out that most typing of stuff, at least in the English language, makes heavy use of the ‘a’ key, the ‘i’ key, the ‘e’ key, the ‘t’ key, and, oh yeah, the effin’ spacebar!

I was constantly having to arrow back several characters to put in the space that I had typed but which had not registered. This was about 80% of the time I tried to use the spacebar.

If you let your fingers do the walking, have them skip over the spacebar

It’s a QUIRKY layout, not QWERTY.

(But hey, unlike the Freewrite and the Freewrite Traveler, at least the Psion has arrow keys!)

It was more than a little frustrating and after a few false starts, I gave up. I wrote it off as a close to $200 learning experience, but one I was too embarrassed to talk about on my blog because, well, it cost me close to $200.

Actually, significantly more than $200 if you factor in the next thing I did: I didn’t just kinda sorta give up, I whole hog gave up and bought a brand new Windows 10 convertible laptop. The one with all the distractions built in (the horrible OS itself, the web browser you feel compelled to use to look up things like the history of the word “netbook” and all the litigation surrounding it in the early ’00s, the music player you are unable to resist using to listen to the ballads about those “netbook” lawsuits, and the video depositions taken as a part of those lawsuits that you simply must watch on YouTube).

Yes, I had fallen off the wagon of focus and leapt, belly-first (and fully extended), into the packed, unsanitary public pool of distraction.

The Missus was so disgusted she took the kids and moved back in with her parents. For a couple of weeks. While it’s possible she was just visiting them, given the scope of my relapse, that seems unlikely.

Anyway, yes, I had ditched the old laptop running Linux for a fresh piece of kit.

Well, that’s not true – the old Linux machine went into the pile of old computers I’ve irrationally held onto since 1981 (“Why hello there, Timex Sinclair 1000”) because someday, maybe, I will need one of them as a backup when my main computer is hit by a super virus and the only thing preventing the evil villain who wrote said virus from taking over the world is a putty ssh connection into his mainframe from an old computer viewed so obsolete that he failed to make sure the virus could infect it.

This is also the excuse I give for why I have an old 33.6K external modem and parallel port cable.

Hey! It’s a legit excuse!

Now where was I? Oh yes, my new and shamefully distracting computer. With a stylus and touch screen and name-brand speakers and a cool, cool look that draws my attention away from the task at hand even when it is off. It was by using that shiny shiny computer that I may have accidentally searched about the Psion Netbook Pro spacebar problem and found out you can just cut out a piece of card stack, place it directly over the rubber dome under the spacebar, and solve that whole problem.

Well sh*t.

So, because I had so totally given up on and boxed up the ratty-keyboarded Psion and put it in storage and gone ahead and spent even more money on a brand new laptop…well, two things happened:

One, I was super annoyed with myself because if I had stumbled on this bit of info about the spacebar sooner, I either could have fixed the issue or, even better, avoided it entirely by buying my second runner up HPC candidate, the NEC MobilePro 900C. No matter how you looked at it, that would have been WAAAY cheaper than the new laptop.

Two, because I had the new laptop and didn’t care about the Psion anymore, I was willing to take the Psion apart and try to fix it. If I break the keyboard in the process (something I’ve done in the past when removing spacebars from keyboards), who cares? This particular HPC is already junk as far as I’m concerned.

But the spacebar came off fine, the square of card stock went in with little difficulty, and when I was done, the spacebar worked great no matter where on the key you actually struck it.

Which means I finally have my distraction-free writing tool!

And along with it, no more excuses.

Well dr*t.

Of course, the irony that I had to go down a rabbit hole (yet again) to learn about the relatively straightforward fix for my distraction-free writer is not lost on me. A fine $200 learning experience indeed!

I threw a bone up in the air and when it came back down it was a space station. It hit me on the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, this was next to me.

The USB port is on the other side. Allegedly.


This post (and the previous one) was written and edited on a Psion Netbook Pro using TextMaker for Windows CE. I will say this much: it works.

 

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Here’s Looking At Your Privilege, Kid

“Hey, you! Check your privilege!”

Occasionally clients would leave the club with a slab of beef instead of their privilege. It sometimes took a few days for them to notice.

“Don’t leave me!”

I was over the limit that allowed me to hold onto it, so I pulled my privilege from my shoulder holster and plopped it down on the sill of the check booth with a wet thwap. It eyed me reproachfully, a mottled blob of stumpy vestigial appendages shaking anxiously at the unexpected separation. Sure, it was punier than the other privilege already checked, but I still felt a pang of emptiness and sorrow at the parting.

The check person pulled down a meat hook on a tether, twisted it into the quivering mass, and let go with more flourish and relish than was strictly necessary, in my opinion. My privilege whip-snapped at the end of the tether and flew into the darkness of the check booth.

Even with my eyes down at the appropriate angle of obsequience, I could see the check person staring dourly at me presented as a strikingly attractive woman: youthful, flashing eyes, a nose you could only get from a skilled surgeon, and perfectly haphazard hair that telegraphed the impression it always looked this good, even when she had just gotten out of bed.

If I hadn’t been to the club on business, and if I was suicidally clueless, I would have tried to pick her up. Instead, I apologized. “Sorry, forgot I had that.”

“Of course you did,” she snorted, her thin, flawless nostrils flaring as she handed over my ticket. I took it from her and carefully secured it in a hip pocket. Privilege had a shockingly high tendency to wind up with a new and often less deserving owner at places like this. Mine was hardly a tempting target, but it paid to be cautious. When confronted, the clubs always claimed this was the legitimate transfer of debt, that gambling was the great equalizer. I had my doubts.

The good news, given I carried a couple kilos less privilege than the average patron at this particular club, was that checking it actually boosted my standing. Relatively speaking. While still technically part of the hard-working, unwashed masses, I was now entitled to the same treatment as everyone else here.

Which meant the staff still treated me like crap, but they did that to all the patrons.

It was currently quite the thing among the well-off and well-educated to be treated with disdain, but I gave the trend another six months before these clubs found their clientele had migrated elsewhere and demanded a government bail out. Even from the entrance, I could spot the occasional bored yawn from the murmuring crowd.

Of course, the guilty rich, looking to assuage their slightly less guilty consciences, weren’t the only high class people availing themselves of facilities like these. You also had individuals like the one I’d been hired to find, trying to lose themselves in the anonymity of the pseudo-privilegeless.

My mark was Lawrence Peabody, a New Roman Presbyterian on the lam with the not inconsiderable wealth that his church hierarchy had deemed to belong to his now ex-spouse. According to the Senior Bishop overseeing his divorce case, Peabody had seen the writing on the wall and liquidated his assets. Literally. By purchasing an extremely rare bottle of vintage schnapps that was worth just over one hundred percent of the (former) Peabody couple’s net worth and then pulling a runner, he got off smelling like peppermint while the ex-missus got left holding the residual debt.

Your standard booze bail scenario, and my bread and butter. You see, I’m not just a private eye. I’m also a board certified sommelier. Lapsed, but you know what they say: once a sommelier, always a sommelier. If there’s any alcohol within fifty meters, I can smell it. And identify the vintage. I have my parents to thank for that. Family money got me the education and certification, but after a couple of years sniffing and spitting fine wines and the like, I felt I wasn’t contributing to society enough. I switched to the far less lucrative but more guilt-assuaging sniffing out of mysteries.

I haven’t been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner since. Which is fine. The family has fallen on hard times, and the wine they serve is no longer up to snuff.

Now a 1897 (Big Fed calendar) Pimpernel Kuiper Peppermint Schnapps has a distinctive, minty odor that I could normally suss out faster than you can say, “Wager saugt Fledermausbälle!” But Peabody was no pea brain – he’d selected The Virtuous Signal, a club renowned for its cheap yet extremely, overpoweringly fragrant hangover-inducers. My nose didn’t so much recoil at the olfactory assault as go gibberingly insane.

Sammy’s sense of smell wasn’t going to help me today. Instead, I turned the peepers loose on the room, trying to spy anyone who wouldn’t be happy to see me and had a half liter bottle of vintage booze in their pocket.

With all of their privilege checked at the door, the crowd looked decidedly unimpressive. Their designer clothes had a manufactured shabbiness about them, their teeth looked just ever so slightly not quite straight, and their aristocratic accents lacked a sense of…authenticity. All arranged beforehand, no doubt, with the best tailors, dentists, and voice coaches money could buy. Not permanent, of course, just to blend in at the club. They wouldn’t have any work done that couldn’t be reversed with the flash of a Beryllium Card. But not until after they left, because these sorts of clubs only took cash, and only in small denominations and with lacerating looks of disapproval upon receipt.

The job should have been made easier by the fact that there weren’t a lot of people who qualified for this type of club’s services, so the crowd was fairly thin. But they all looked the same to me: mostly old and male, with the occasional glass-ceiling-busting female with, it seemed to me, surprisingly large hands.

The women were easy to dismiss, and not just because the big hands made me oddly uncomfortable. Per the ex, Peabody was and always had been male, so I could safely ignore the women. It was a habit I found came easy. But that still left a crowd of paunchy phallus-bearers to sift through, and I couldn’t be one hundred percent certain Peabody was even at this particular club.

My guess was Lawrence (no doubt ‘Larry’ inside these walls) would try and walk out with someone else’s privilege, hopefully a gob with enough to get him a berth out of town. Maybe to Happyville, Beet City, or if he was truly desperate, Trenton. Talk about checking your privilege: word on the street was that the denizens of Trenton couldn’t afford the vaccine for the latest pandemic! All this meant I needed to add to my search criteria: a down-on-his-luck on-the-lam bounder with half a liter of schnapps on him and trying to pickpocket people’s priv check tickets.

That made the task considerably simpler. With the new parameters, I spotted my mark in a jiffy.

Larry was making nice with a group of geriatrics at the craps table. Smart move, targeting the octagenarians. They, having lived longer, were more likely to have accumulated large amounts of privilege, assuming they hadn’t squandered it all on their offspring. Larry was playing the odds like a professional, and clearly was no dummy. They were having a spirited conversation about equality. It largely involved who could most magnanimously apologize for his success, but in such roundabout terms that it didn’t flag a reprimand from the staff.

I didn’t know which type was worse in these clubs, the sincere grovelers, the insincere grovelers, or the smug staff witnessing the display of self-flagellation. I found all three irritating and for the fleetest of moments, felt sympathy for Peabody, trapped in this no-win social circle. But then I remembered the cover charge to get in.

I put on my most determined (yet privilege-neutral) face and made my way to the craps table. I needed a drink, and it was going to be peppermint schnapps.

 

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Personal Hygiene in the Time of [Insert Current Pandemic Here]

Today I cut my own hair.

It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t pretty.

It did end in tears.

Like all brutal acts of insanity and self harm, there was a triggering event.

Picture if you will:

The mild-mannered novelist, entering his fifth week of isolation. Laser-focused on his current task, determinedly chasing a particularly vexing fly around the house, his electric fly swatter at the ready, he ignores the terrified screams of his family.

They are of no consequence when a fly is about.

We can’t have flies inside houses. That isn’t normal.

They belong outside.

Yesss. Outside…

And then, tragedy strikes (for our erstwhile hero, that is, not the fly).

His overly long hair swooshes down in front of his eyes and in that terrible blinding moment, the fly…escapes.

ESCAPES, I TELL YOU!

Our hero can be heard to mumble, just above a broken whisper, “He tasks me, he tasks me, and I shall have him!”

So as the above, extremely reasonable anecdote clearly illustrates, the hair simply had to go.

As I stepped out of the bathroom, vision unencumbered by an overly hirsute state, the Missus took one look at me and laughed while simultaneously throwing up.

(You have not experienced true horror until you’ve seen someone vomit-chortle. It’s like a spit-take, but more colorful and far less pleasant smelling.)

The kiddos were more curious once they got through their dry heave-giggle fit. When one could finally speak, he asked, “Dad, have you ever been stupid enough to do this before?”

I’d be lying if I said no, and I raise my kids by example to not be obviously deceitful, so I just gave them an enigmatic wink as if to imply no.

Yes, it was stupid of me, a man who scars his face every time he shaves (with an electric razor, no less!), but I just couldn’t take it anymore. And the only other alternative was a…shudder…man bun.

Clearly that isn’t going to happen.

Honestly, if you had to go a month enduring with what I’ve been dealing with, you’d feel the same way:

  • Previously noted impaired ability to hunt down and punish flies.
  • Confidently running my hand rakishly through my hair to move it out of my eyes.
  • Flipping my full-bodied hair sexily in order to see who I’m flirting with (always turns out to be the Missus, fortunately, except that one time I gave the dog the wrong idea).
  • Facing down angry neighbors every morning after my shower, still dripping wet and with only a towel wrapped around my waist, because they don’t think my vocalizations while shampooing my hair with Herbal Essences is appropriate.

I could go on, but I don’t want to upset the frail among you. (Trigger warning: hair)

And given the present state of the world, clearly I can’t just go out and get a proper haircut.

Personal Grooming Secrets of the (not so) rich and (not so) famous

Even at the best of times, my personal grooming habits aren’t exactly top notch. Just ask my coworkers.

Oh sure, I’ve heard the rumors of the pop-up stealth salons and black market barber shops, clandestinely operating their “non-essential” services in contravention of local health ordinances.

But secretly slouching to one of their shops to partake of their illicit offerings only serves to validate the government claims that they should not be operating. That they aren’t essential. I’ll be damned! If I can’t walk openly into a hair salon to get a trim and a shave, well, I just don’t live in America anymore!

(More like Amerika, amirite?)

Plus, these places charge a lot and really up-sell you hard on hair care products when you try to leave. While I may be privileged, I’m not that privileged!

Instead I’ve been forced to take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, a pair of scissors in one hand, a fistful of hair in the other, and trying to figure out how to hold those scissors at the right angle to actually snip away some of that pesky growth.

And so it will continue as long as I am locked in my home, sheltering in place.

Or, as my kids are constantly putting it, “We’re not locked in here with you! You’re locked in here with us!”

The Missus tells me I have to love them, and that weeks of forced proximity is not an excuse to turn my electric fly swatter on them. But I tell you true, tomorrow I might start eating my own. And that’s despite being a pescaterian.

Assuming I can see well enough to find them.

 
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Posted by on 17 April 2020 in Angst, Life, Pandemic, Parenting

 

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Every Crisis Has Its Silver Lining, Right?

I'm worried that going to the hospital could expose me to the virus

Dude! You’re sick! Stay away!

So looks like we’re in the grip of another crisis in this country. Not since election night 2016 have things looked so dark…

And I just so happen to be lucky enough to live in one of the more badly impacted regions for this pandemic.

But I find solace in the knowledge that even in the face of this medical, economic, and extroverts’ social interaction disaster, there is always a silver lining to be found.

No, it’s not that I’m an introvert.

(Though I am, thank goodness!)

No, it isn’t the lack of crowds at the store.

(Quite the opposite of late, actually, plus the damned shelves are all empty due to the panic buying that occurred before I got round to panicking myself.)

And no, I’m not talking about the news stories coming out about people offering to get supplies and the like for the more vulnerable so those people can stay safely isolated at home.

(That lining is tarnished by all the stories of greedy capitalists buying up and then re-selling hand sanitizer and toilet paper at a huge mark-up.)

No, it isn’t any of those.

It’s the traffic.

My daily commute has been, at the risk of sounding a tad insensitive, awesome! All the Google and Apple employees are working from home, so I don’t have nearly as many Telsas to navigate around.

(Cars that on a normal day, even with Autopilot engaged, still manage to cut me off regularly.)

But unfortunately, even this silver lining is tenuous at best.

Back in 2008 when the Great Recession struck, I noticed the same thing. People lost their jobs as their companies folded and my commute got really pleasant. I could leave for work later and get home earlier, providing me with just that much more time to spend with my wife, who was pregnant. With twins.

(Fans of clichés can probably guess where this is headed…)

So yes, I enjoyed the lack of traffic even if there was a tinge of survivor’s guilt associated with each uncharacteristically speedy round trip.

Then I lost my job.

And didn’t have a commute at all.

Fast forward to now and as I zip into and out of work, I can’t help but worry about the economy and job security as well as the health of me and mine.

Last time the crisis was economic only, and the worst that could (and did) happen is that my company went bankrupt, screwed us on severance packages, I was unemployed for 13 months, and calls into the Unemployment Office, due to high volume, involved waiting on hold for a couple of hours before maybe, just maybe, you’d get a human.

(And the hold music / prerecorded messages were only about ten minutes long before they looped. Over and over and over again!)

So this time there’s the health concern as well, and knowing my luck, I won’t just get laid off – I’ll get sick too.

Plus Spring came early and along with it my allergies. Which means my eyes and nose have never been itchier or in more need of being touched, rubbed, scratched, and whatever else you aren’t supposed to do to your face during a plague.

And do you have any idea how hard it is to find facial tissues right now? I’d blow my nose in toilet paper, but holy crap, that stuff, gram for gram, is more expensive than gold these days!

So I’m feeling a little down at the moment. But that might also be because I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which means I won’t get to take advantage of the traffic-free commute.

Some silver lining.

 
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Posted by on 15 March 2020 in Angst, Life, Pandemic

 

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