It was my birthday on Friday. I'm super old.
It's a weekday, and I'm currently employed, so there was nothing unusual there. I got up, went to work, came home from work. I received some cards in the mail, sent thank-yous to the senders, and got some texts wishing me a happy birthday.
I didn't get anyone wishing me such on Facebook. This is by design, though, as I instruct Facebook not to share that information with anyone. I do it because I would like it if people remembered my birthday because they like me and are thinking of me. I am less touched by a gesture prompted by Facebook, which last year included "click here to send Matthew a gift" and this year includes "click here to donate to a cause rather than selfishly sending Matthew a gift".
Yes, this is unreasonable and fails to accept how things are today. Facebook is omnipresent, and like phone numbers in our contacts list, we have subcontracted the work of remembering birthdays to a machine. By not cooperating, it's my own fault if no one wishes me a happy birthday.
I'm going to keep doing it.
I went through the Obamacare process and learned my insurance bill is going up. I don't know by how much yet, but I'm going to price out how much going without insurance will be. If I die before I can post here again, sorry everyone. The GOP killed me with capitalized healthcare.
I received no gifts, two checks, and a friend paid me back some money she owed me by PayPal. I will probably spend some money on some things, so I can say I got something for my birthday, because I am very shallow. The idea that your birthday should stop mattering about the time you get a driver's license is a good one. It is just a pain to the people around you.
Since my birthday fell on a Friday, Ingrid and I usually go to a Mexican place. We call it 'tex-mex Friday' because we are fucking unoriginal. I skipped lunch so I wouldn't be half-full when it was Burrito o'clock. Ingrid came home, declared she wasn't very hungry, and asked if we could go to dinner later. I said that was fine. She smoked up, turned on a Miss Marple flick, and fell asleep on the couch.
Again, like the Facebook thing, I don't blame her. She worked all week, including writing up her 90 day self-evaluation at her new job. Last week she did her job, a colleague's job, and served five days of jury duty. I get it.
But, uh, it did mean that I didn't eat on my birthday. Like, I had some Pringles. And a couple of bagels at work. Not bagel sandwiches, not bagels with anything, just bagels. But no meals.
The following day, our friend Andy had a surprise party. We went to Qdoba (at no time, I'm proud to report, calling it 'tex-mex Saturday'), bought a birthday card for Andy, and went to his parents' house. When we arrived, we didn't really know anyone. When people arrived who we did know, most of them blew me off. Including Marty, which was unpleasant. When it got loud and crowded, I found an empty room and played with my phone. The only person who talked to me (despite many people coming into the room to get beer) was David, who I thought was angry at me over some fantasy football shit.
Eventually Andy arrived, was surprised, and we agreed this day would have been better spent playing D&D. I got him an RPG he had his eye on, but I didn't get to "give" it to him because I wanted to get the hell out of there before the designated gift-giving portion of the evening occurred. I hope he likes it. See above, "I'm very shallow", I would have liked to see him receive it to see if he really liked it or if he was just being polite.
Marty didn't talk to me the whole time we were trying to leave. I spent about five minutes sitting in a room with just him, Sarah and Ingrid. I have no idea what he's mad about. I didn't forget his birthday (it's the 13th) and I got him a RWBY board game for it. I could hear him talking about work inside the party. I can't envision wanting to talk about work while not currently being paid to do so.
Ingrid just thought I was being needlessly grumpy and oversensitive. She went to bed without saying 'good night'. And she's right. I'm terrible. But I guess I thought I could get a little leeway for a special occasion.
The upshot here is that my birthday isn't a special occasion. I got it.
There needs to be some aphorism akin to "you're not paranoid if they're really out to get you" to apply to being a dour cynic when things really don't go your way. But the prevailing wisdom is "you decide if you're happy or not". I've never been any good at that.
This is the part where I ordinarily hit 'delete' on a social media post. Because it's entirely self-involved, talks shit about people, and is generally mopey. But this isn't social media. There's like three people reading this, and you're all in different states, and none of them is here. I don't have a therapist, so maybe this is a replacement.
I woke up, took my blood pressure medication, and wrote this down. Let's see if I feel any better.
--7:35 AM EST, November 5, 2017, Philadelphia PA, maybe it's less than three
There was a squeaking noise in the apartment today.
I told Ingrid I thought it might be a mouse. (Our apartment is shitty with mice and possibly some kind of biting insect? I don't know, there was a lot of "not our fault" clauses in the lease about bedbugs; I was assured those are a mere formality in Philadelphia.) She scoffed and suggested it was coming from outside. Perhaps someone was test driving cat toys.
The noise continued, periodically attracting the attention of Lennie, the dog who is only a dog when it suits her. She was jamming her nose in the crack under the dishwasher, but that didn't seem likely. We had a previous incident where a mouse crawled under our refrigerator and died. We discovered this after the stench of soaked (by condensation) and cooked (by the heat of the fridge compressor) mouse filled the apartment. Not just the kitchen, mind you. The whole apartment.
The noise continued. I was not getting used to it, as I had hoped might happen, and then later on I would pull the fridge out and check for mouse carcasses before they became mouse air fresheners. I was feeling bad for the mouse. It wasn't his fault there's an old, shittily maintained apartment building full of food and crevices to hide in. He's just playing the hand he's dealt. So, I decide to do something about it.
I move the fridge out of its space between the counter and the wall. They made the space X inches wide to accommodate the X-0.01 inch fridge. It screams and scrapes every time you move it, and can only move an inch or two before it jams in its space. It's a pain in the dick to deal with, but the squeaking continues even as I'm wiggling this damn appliance out of the way.
Once the fridge is moved, you need to remove a back panel. I have not brought any tools, so I have to ask Ingrid for them. The dog is real fucking interested in what's going on now: her food and water are over there, and the squeaking continues, and if she can be a pain in the ass in any given situation, she's right there. I get the back panel removed and try to get my head craned into the now-empty space so I can see back behind there.
The squeaking is not coming from the base of the fridge, as I suspected. It's coming from beneath the counter, immediately to the left of the fridge... under the dishwasher, like Lennie thought. Well, fuck, this was a lot of work for no goddamn reason. Let me just put the fridge back where it goes and then pull out the dishwasher.
While I'm putting the fridge back, there's a burst of sparks from underneath it and the lights go out.
I think I killed the refrigerator. At 11:15 PM on the Saturday of a Jewish holiday weekend (the landlords are Jewish). While it is full of frozen goods. After a week when we found out my job is not going to last nearly as long as promised.
And that squeaking is still going.
--11:38 PM, EDT, 9/30/17, Philadelphia, PA, sometimes you the Louisville Slugger / sometimes you the ball
We'll see if I can remember how to ftp to Icculus and put something other than text on this page. Smart money's on "not any time soon."
--August 21 (Eclipse Day), 2017, Philadelphia, PA, apparently the robot needed caffeine
The headline is copyright Martin Henley, all rights reserved.
We did character creation for Unknown Armies, fulfilling a dream I've had for over ten years. A Fool, a Masterless Man, a Necessary Servant, and a hacktivist will be investigating the disappearance of a girl at a club they all frequent.
I broke a tooth last week, and went back to the dentist I used to go to when I lived further north. It's a pain in the ass to drive all that way from our new place, but I know that guy has my dental records. Also, I asked him to recommend a more convenient dentist last time, and he got all pissy about it.
So the dentist repairs my tooth, but reminds me that last time I was supposed to think ahead and plan on getting it capped or crowned or some dental nonsense. I reminded him I have no insurance, and he said "Not my problem", but more politely and responsibly.
The upshot is, I'm supposed to get some minor oral surgery to make my tooth crownable, and then get the crown. I don't know how much the surgery costs, but the crown is between two and three thousand dollars.
But then I remember - I bought an insurance plan while my last work project was ending because Obamacare. And I think there is a dental plan on it. So I go to pay for my tooth fix, and I give the receptionist my insurance card. "This is an HMO," she says to me. "Okay," I respond, not sure what that has to do with anything. "Also, this is for pediatric dental care." I nod and pay out of pocket for the work, still not sure why the insurance didn't pay for everything. Anything? What does insurance do?
Not sure what all this means, I go home and do some research. Both the things the lady at the dentist's office told me were true! First, I do not have insurance, I have a list of doctors who will charge part of my bill to Independence Blue Cross. Not all of it, just some of it. And I have pediatric dental care, also through an HMO. I am not a pede, though, so I can't use it. And, presumably, I can't stop paying for it either because I am not in an "open enrollment period". Question mark.
I went from being glad that I had thought ahead and was a responsible adult to feeling like a stupid ass for falling for this responsible adult bullshit. I would go and look for jobs that offer insurance but HA HA HA HA HA oh my sides.
The new apartment is nice. The streets are loud sometimes, but that is what Lincoln Drive is like. It's pretty here, and the dog still has beds to lie in all over the house, so I'm sure she doesn't think it's any smaller than our last house.
I worked eight hours last week, and made so little money that I still qualified for unemployment. I need some kind of hustle where I can make part of my income regardless of circumstance. At this moment, our entire household income is my unemployment check.
The placement agencies swear more work is coming. They swear.
--12:21 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, and so Sally can wait
Moving is the worst. Next time I have to move I'm just going to kill whoever it is that is making me move, and then kill the next person, and the next. It will be easier in the long run.
A recurring theme of this move has been asking Ingrid if she is throwing away old clothes, old books, old papers; the punchline is when she says no, she might need them. We have lived together for five years and she has not seen any of these items since we moved in, in 2012. 2011? It's been a while.
I'm just as bad, but in a lesser magnitude. I have a lot of "but I received this as a gift from Respected Friend!" reasons for keeping shit. I also have a full set of Happy Meal toys from the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, so don't let my bullshit fool you.
(There's also the legitimate fear that Relative X will find out you donated or threw away something they gave you, and be hurt by that. Look, I had to accept that they're all just possessions, please don't fuck up my progress.)
Yesterday I worked eight hours and my project ended. Today, I had to go back to the old house, have an existential shock about how much shit there still was to move / donate / throw away, then move said shit for four hours. Afterward, we drove it back to the new apartment, hauled it up two flights of stairs, and put it away. I collapsed in Ingrid's IKEA chair, my legs flung across the matching footrest. I tried to get my shoes off, but I was tired, and I mostly just let them fall off my limp feet. One of the shoes hit a long (five feet?) cardboard box, which began toppling toward me. I leaned forward to catch it, which put my center of gravity too far forward for Swedish seat technology to adapt. The entire chair rolled forward, dropping me on my ass on the floor and the back of the chair banging me on the the head while my legs batted the footrest across the room and the cardboard box fell on me anyway.
I sat on the floor, screaming profanity, until Ingrid came in and demanded to know what I had done. I informed her that her Nordic devil chair had attacked me, which she took as some kind of slight.
I did the next drive to the old house alone. I feel sure that my cause is just.
--1:27 AM EST, West Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, what difference does it make?
I woke up before Ingrid, after being sick overnight (good sausage and peppers, bad digestion). The dog only wants affection from her and not me, but we'd slept in late and she badly wanted a walk. I took her out in 40 degree weather and howling winds wearing only a t-shirt, because I'm an idiot.
After I got her back in the house, I fed her, which now involves throwing her food across the house so she can chase it, and/or putting food into toys that she can play with. She actually sits and complains if the food is just sitting there in her bowl.
Then I cleaned up all the dishes from role-playing. There are a lot, because at least one of our players simply doesn't worry about cleaning up after himself. He lives with his parents, always has, and is about 40 years old. I emptied the dishwasher and put away the dishes, then reloaded all the dirty dishes from yesterday. I also threw away the food that the non-cleaning guy left, took out the super-full bin of recyclables, put away teacups that Ingrid lets get all tannined and have to be washed by hand. I had already washed those by hand before Ingrid came home on Tuesday, and they say out until this morning.
Remember when I said it was howling winds this morning? That probably means the recyclable bin is less full now and our alley is littered as fuck.
I made Ingrid a cup of tea and took it to her in bed.
The dog got ahold of some little gravel and was chewing it. She's done this at least once before, and it worries me. I don't want to have to deal with her skittishness if she breaks a tooth and bleeds all over the place, so I thought I'd try and get the gravel away from her. But she sees it as food, and so she bit me.
Fuck me, right?
--2:37 PM, EST, November 20, 2016, Philadelphia, PA, gimme big mac / gimme fries to go
These are some things I wrote on the morning after Donald Trump was elected president.
This morning the combination of overcast skies and recently abated Daylight Saving Time made for a unnaturally flat gray backdrop which could only appear to be the world mourning the ascension of the Demagogue.
"Don't mourn; organize."
I have already seen people on social media discussing the imminent need for a modern underground railroad. Those people should try and contact or research the abortion UGRR of the past couple decades before and after Roe v. Wade if they are serious about their intent.
I don't think Bernie Sanders would find your "SHOULDA NOMINATED SANDERS" memes at all helpful.
Hey, at least we get four more seasons of The Wire: state government, federal government, cultural imperialism and normalization of genocide.
And lastly: Ingrid's father, on the day after election day, told her that Obama was the most divisive president in history. That he was a Muslim, and he made it so that, in this country, a Muslim can throw down a prayer rug anywhere in the middle of the street, and no one can say a thing about it. He said Obama made it so that a Protestant can't even pray in public.
Ingrid's dad is a nice guy, I like him and I respect him. He's a twenty year veteran of the armed services and the post office, both. But to hear that crazy shit come out of his mouth... I can't imagine what she's going through.
Our landlady is going to sell this house next summer, so we will have to move. While I imagine that will mean changing neighborhoods in our part of Philly, it's now possible it means something more significant. I may need to work on my French.
--9:52 AM, EST, November 10, 2016, Philadelphia PA, we're not coming home (coming home) / Giving up everything we've known / All the chances we've blown / I swear we're not coming home
Perhaps everyone is liars.
--9:45 AM, EST, November 10, 2016, Philadelphia PA, maybe I'm just like my mother / she's never satisfied
While I was in Vermont, visiting my mom and remembering how great Vermont (and my mom) are, I got some emails about a new project coming up from an agency that hasn't gotten me any work for quite some months. Years, even. My phone was ringing too, but fuck that, I was on a mountain somewhere in New England. If you answer your phone for work reasons, they're allowed to deport you.
So, this project: usual pay rate, two week duration, and the unusual step of requiring a background check before you can be considered. Not sure what that's about, but I've been unemployed for about two weeks, I should get back in the rut. I mean, groove. No, actually, I think I had it right the first time.
I get home, and the emails continue, and there's this whole online application rigamarole I have to go through to apply. Not to get the job, just to apply. And the damn thing is only going to last two weeks. A bunch of nonsense, sure, but as stated: I should really get back to having a paycheck. And they... they want my social security number.
Understand, this never happens. Sometimes they ask if you've ever had an ethics violation or what kinds of doc review you've done. But never this level of scrutiny. This is weird. I almost don't hit "submit" at the end, because I have no idea who will be receiving this.
Anyway, I get the job. They send me a location and instructions to wear a suit on the first day. I think that's a bit stupid, because we aren't working at a law firm (this agency has its own review space), but whatever. Small price to blah blah blah, whatever you do, do it 100 percent blah blah.
Then it gets good.
This douchebag with 90's hair and his shirt unbuttoned to his nipples tells us we've all been vetted so stringently because this project is REALLY confidential, you guys. OH MAN, the client is MAJOR LEAGUE CONFIDENTIAL, for reals. (Being very confidential is like being a little bit pregnant. Or very unique.) And all of us in our suits look great, but there's no need to dress up, ha ha.
...so, why were we told to do so?
Next douchebag announcement: We really want to hit the ground running so we can get this project wrapped by Friday. (murmuring and discussion among the temps) "Do you... do you mean next Friday?" No, no, we think we can really accomplish a lot up front and get it done by this Friday. (flat murmuring) "We were told this would be a two week project." Oh, sure! Yeah, we're going to have more for you do, definitely. This is just the first part. Yeah.
Please note: this is Labor Day week, so the work week started on Tuesday. That means we were sold nine days of work, and then bait-and-switched for four.
Well, great. At least doc review is still full of liars and assholes. It would be jarring if I went back to the grind and found that integrity and decency had taken hold and all the people were good to one another. HA HA HA HA HA
So, we temps will be working for the agency that hired us (who shall remain nameless for exactly as long as they can still find me a buck). They are subcontracting the work from another company that does doc review from South Carolina. They are only handling this matter - they are not counsel for the client. The SC firm is subcontracting this matter from another firm that is handling the larger universe of litigation for YET ANOTHER law firm that actually represents the client. So, I think that makes me an independent contractor (because god forbid we get benefits or humane treatment) working for a subcontractor handling local efforts on behalf of a general subcontractor handing specific matters for a general contractor handling general matters for a law firm which represents a client.
And the punchline is they think I should treat the "attorney-client relationship" between me and the client with respect. I can't even see the client at the end of this fucking corporate line of bullshit. I don't even know if there is a client. Maybe I'm on a nightmarish reality TV show. Maybe I'm dead, and this is purgatory.
Additional hits from the worst haircut in law, three years running: "If you see (Account Exec)'s name, be sure and look hard for reasons to make it privileged. (Account Exec) was involved with a lot of important communications, so we'd like to keep those protected." Temp: "But... he's not a lawyer?" Douchebro: "That's correct. He talks to a lot of lawyers, though, so try and use that." Temp, to me: "...did he just ask us to make non-attorney communications privileged?"
"The office will be open from eight to eight. So, if you can work twelve hour days, please do." Insert sound of overly competitive failed lawyers lunging at their computers to try and get as many hours in as possible before we all get fired. "Overtime will be paid after forty hours." Collective gasp of astonishment until some cynical bastard points out that since we started on a Tuesday at 9 AM, we can only work 47 hours this week. And the thundering herd of nincompoops working themselves out of job will guarantee that there isn't enough work to last that long to even get 40.
I confess: I am that cynical bastard.
The work itself was fine: privilege review for an insurance merger. The bright-eyed kids all want to talk about antitrust and other shit that's way above their pay grade. I worked three eight hour days and didn't worry about it too much. One day I ate my lunch in Rittenhouse Square and watched dogs walk by. It was nice.
You may be wondering why I said "three eight hour days" above. Well, consider the part further up where I say this industry is all liars and assholes. Afternoon on Thursday, people start notice the work is drying up. I advise them to make it last, and we probably won't be called back for Friday. They scoff and remind me we were told it would go THROUGH Friday! They said! They... they said.
I confess: I am that cynical bastard.
We were all fired via email that night. Nothing about this project was unusual. No one fought it, no one objected to it, no one insisted that words have meaning and that by contravening what they had stated, they had become liars. It was understood.
--9:29 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, nobody speak, nobody get choked
So I have been employed at this current project since October (?) 2015. I know this because when I enter my timecard in the system, I have to click through each month that has passed since then. It's getting ridiculous.
The job has been very undemanding, and they really thought it would have settled by now, but it hasn't, and as a result I continue to report for billable hours. (Fewer now, they reduced me from 40 hours to 30 when the SEPTA train shortage occurred. Basically, I couldn't get to work on time without getting on a 5:55 AM train to catch the 8:39 Wilmington. And fuuuuck that.)
I was planning on a trip up to Quebec when this project ended. Go see my mom, travel off the beaten path, see more of Canada. But between deciding to travel and now, Ingrid got pushed around at work, and began thinking about quitting. Ingrid is the reason we have a house and food and are not dead, so I am not about to suggest she do anything but what's best for her. But it means I can't be spending walkabout money when we might have an immediate need for staying-alive money.
Though, this just fits into my usual routine: Either I'm working, and I can't afford to take time off and "leave money on the table", or I'm not working, and I can't afford not to be available for when work makes itself available, and I can't afford to be spending money I'm not earning. It's bad logic, and I'm afraid it's informing a lot of the modern day "middle class."
I wonder if I'm middle class. It could go three ways, right?
Sigh. Everything is really good right now. The Waffle King visited the hemisphere this month and I curried favor to gain an audience, and we talked about the range between "how you'd like things to be" and "how things are." Things are really good right now, and being able to focus on that should help with the things that aren't: uncertainty, debt and career.
--11:19 AM, EDT, 8/13/2016, Philadelphia, PA, Feather elves aren't elves at all!
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