Today is Valentine's Day, or Vamlumtine's Day, or Valentimes. I did not go the usual route of candy or flowers, instead, I thought Ingrid would like to come home from work to the smell of freshly baked bread. I have a recipe I use for bread that's pretty simple, search No Knead Peasant Bread if you want to see it.
Knowing I would need yeast for the bread, I went to the ghetto supermarket because I was also getting Popeye's fried chicken, and they are a short walk apart. The yeast they had was a brand I had never seen, and I was slightly concerned. But c'mon, yeast is yeast, right?
Actually, no. There's like six kinds and some of those kinds have subroutines you have to engage before they will make your bread rise. I had purchased one of these kinds, and Ingrid predicted the subroutine would make my whole program fail.
This extra step is very simple: put the yeast in some warm water with a pinch of sugar. I have no idea why Ingrid predicted doom based on such a minor step.
So, I look up "how to proof yeast" about six times and find different ways to do it, at least one source claim that you don't need to, and lots of others saying you have to. And today, after getting off of work (possibly permanently, thanks temping), I went to the nice supermarket and got different yeast and butter.
I was all set. I tried proofing the first yeast just to do it, and I have no idea if I did it right, because you're supposed to see bubbling or froth, and I didn't really. Also, the yeast formed into a dry clump in the warm water, which may have affected the result? I don't know. I wound up using the second yeast.
So I go about my bread baking, which I've done half-a-dozen times with no issues. I've got the correct kind of yeast, my trusty recipe, and plenty of time before Ingrid will be home so the house will smell nice and bakery-y.
Except the first proof doesn't seem to have made the dough rise much. And the dough is still very very watery after the ninety minute rise. I separated it by hand and put it in the oven to bake, wondering what the issue could be.
Ingrid's been watching a lot of British Bake-Off, so I have a lot more ideas about what could be wrong than the last time I made this bread. Almost none of them apply because it's just four ingredients, one rise, one bake. That does not stop me from being self-doubting.
Finally I go and look at the two yeasts I have. The first one, the one I wasn't certain about using, expires in fall 2020. The second one, the one I wound up using expires in June. 2019.
So, I guess I just made large pancakes, or possibly matzo? They're fuct, that's for certain. Fortunately, I bought small croissants and dessert pastry from the supermarket and an Italian bakery respectively. I'm covered.
Hope you had a happy Valentine's day. Mine's been a mixed bag to say the least.
--6:30 PM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, he's gonna try to sell you on a great big lie
Wow, my blog got hacked.
No, there's nothing to see, it's all back end. But when you've been unemployed this long and have nothing to look forward to but student loan payments, getting hacked feels like some kind of personal validation.
--12:25 PM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, so i hope that i get old before i die
Today I went to a required workshop for job seekers claiming unemployment. I jokingly referred to it as "taking a class on being unemployed." It was not great.
First, the parking meter ate my quarter.
I had to wait in line to register to wait in a different line.
The RESEA program requires you to come in and hear about the offerings available to the unemployed, mainly so they can find exmilitary and thank them for their service. This is slightly overstated, but they do ask you about nine times over five different forms if you are a veteran or a military spouse.
There was a mandatory stress management lecture.
We were required to stand in line for the mandatory stress management lecture.
"This waiting in line is giving me stress" says one of my fellow applicants.
Major takeaway from the mandatory stress management lecture: "if you a child of God, can't no one break you"
The workshop is scheduled for 9am to 12 noon. Even though it is now after 12 noon, you still have to wait around for the next available job interviewer before you can be considered to have attended the workshop.
Wait around long enough for the motion sensing lights to go out, leaving you sitting in a large meeting room in the dark.
Wait around long enough for the next session in this room to come in and awkwardly ask if you belong there.
Wait half an hour to have an even more awkward conversation with the job interviewer about the jobs for which you would be suitable. They are just doing their jobs, but it's pretty hard to tell someone who has been looking for work for twelve years that maybe they just have to look harder.
Feel bad about being negative, but try to feel good about being honest.
--2:55 PM, EST, 12/10/2019, Philadelphia, PA, "I've been looking so long at these pictures of you / That I almost believe that they're real"
It ended! The endless project ended. Finally. From January through October, $36 an hour with overtime. I made a bunch of money, paid off a bunch of loans, and I'm real tired.
I'm taking it easy now, on account of the tired, but it's hard to get out of the work routine and into a do-nothing groove. The agency offered me some bullshit rate a week after the project ended, and I advised they reconsider. Now I feel guilty and lazy and whatever thanks to the half-assed protestant work ethic I did or did not wind up with.
I got older and about four people noticed. I'm 45 now, which is old. I took the family out for lunch; two people were sick, one's unemployed and one's on a fixed income, so I paid for everybody. And I took them to somewhere my dad wanted to go, leading my friend to ask, "Isn't that the opposite of what's supposed to happen? Your family should take you somewhere you want to go?"
Anyway, I paid off another loan and ordered some shit from Amazon to make myself feel better. Still waiting on that big Kickstarter and will be waiting until March. Well, probably well beyond March, but something will show up around March. I got very little else to look forward to.
Feel terrible, but that's kinda to be expected. Went to Vermont for a week, spent a week without most human contact (but with a very good dog). Missed full 40-hour weeks of work almost every week of the last month of work, which was bad luck, but unforeseeable that the ten-month project would end suddenly.
It's getting cold, finally, thank goodness. We're going to find out how poorly insulated our apartment is.
--6:15 PM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, pitter patter, let's get at'er
So today Ingrid and I are driving out to the beach in Asbury Park, NJ, where They Might Be Giants is opening for Squeeze. I'm both baffled that TMBG is OPENING for anyone, and that they're on a bill with Squeeze. I thought that the greatest hits cassette I found in my sister's car was the last vestige of proof that Squeeze existed - by this evening I may have a t-shirt proving me wrong.
I didn't go to work because why would you ruin a day like today with a commute, bitchy coworkers, and the possibility of something happening to you OTHER than listening to legendary 1980s and 90s music? I did a few hours from home because I have that privilege (some of my coworkers do not, so it is a privilege). While I was working, the server that provides us all with work? It crashed. So I got to bill for a while doing nothing / playing games / fixing tea for Ingrid / petting the dog.
"I see this as an absolute win!" -- the Hulk -- a meme
Ingrid is sad because a friend of hers is terminally ill. She'd been poorly for months, but has now been determined to be dying. I am trying to walk a line between death-positive encouragement and genuine sympathy, without trying to sound flippant or disrespectful.
I worked a lot the last couple months, and in the last month I gave into that most terrible of coping mechanisms: retail therapy. I bought the entire Templar AZ collection, a 25th anniversary deck of Vampire:TES cards, I backed a BattleTech Kickstarter for a few hundo, completed Ingrid's collection of Transmetropolitan, and bought the tickets to tonight's TMBG/Squeeze show. Also, I paid off another student loan, so I didn't get to feeling like I'm a complete self-centered materialist.
The loans are fewer (I've paid off about half, and almost all the private ones, so FUCK YOU Sallie Mae) and the monthly payments are much smaller, which serves to make them seem more manageable and banishable. As I think I've already stated, I'm looking forward to having an existential crisis about what to do with my life once I don't have any loans to pay off, anymore.
The US government is currently holding migrants captive in detainment centers, which is what we call concentration camps in 2019 America. The Amazon jungle is on fire, glaciers are disappearing and old white men have nine thousand reasons why it's all fine.
I'll unfuck my head a little tonight and then see what I can do about unfucking the government and the world.
--2:19 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, "black coffee in bed"
It's a Thursday, which means I'm 80% done with my work week, and I get paid tonight.
Right now I'm working on the same project I've been on since January, seven months ago. I haven't had any time off in that time, barring a day here or there for sick leave. They added a dozen or so people to our project, and it still doesn't feel like it will end any time soon.
I paid off another loan last week. Six grand and change. Working overtime every week and not really having other bills is proving effective at grinding out full payments. I'm down to about thirty grand and change outstanding, and that's all in federal loans, rather than privately held loans. Federal loans have better interest rates and they're more flexible about hardships and payment plans.
Been feeding the birds. I scatter a little wild bird seed on our window ledge, because there's probably some fucking HOA rule against bird feeders. It's nice, they're cute, but they get a little violent due to the lack of space on our window ledge and the prospect of free food. I'm trying to walk a line between "here's some food, birdies" and "welcome to the terrordome, hungry assholes".
I backed a Battletech Kickstarter for "an amount of money my wife is prepared to call irresponsible." Sometime next year I will receive a bunch of little plastic robots that will require painting and not actually playing a game with.
I'm tired, and I'm bored, and I feel like I'm not doing life right. Fuck if I know what "right" is supposed to mean in this context. I should get back to doing yoga or exercising or something. I should go away somewhere. I will eventually have these things decided for me -- work will end, granting me too much free time and a feeling that I can't do anything but look for work, or this job will keep on keeping on, and I'll have the opposite problem with the same outcome.
We gave the dog a beef rib bone, and she has been happily chewing at it for an hour. I envy her ability to simply enjoy something.
--21:05 PM, EDT, Philadelphia PA, you can't buy me hot dog man
We've moved successfully. The unpacking continues because once you have a chair, a wifi connection and something cold to drink, unpacking decreases in priority over time.
We only moved a block and a half, but it feels different. We're the same distance from Lincoln Drive (that is, still real close), but the noise is less. We're still in an apartment building, but it is quieter and less shitty. We're still about a story above ground level, but it is quieter and the view is nicer.
All in all, good new place to live.
One last thing about the new apartment: it's cheaper than almost everywhere else we looked, too. We were prepared to spend $1500-$1700 for houses in East Falls and Passyunk Square, just for rent. The bill for this place is going to be $1200ish, all inclusive. The difference between what we're paying now and what we were paying, I'm going to start a high yield savings account. Put my student loan plan toward a joint housing/saving/who knows plan.
This week I gave Sallie Mae six grand, and I have two in savings and two in checking. I had lunch with a colleague, and he suggested that for how long this project has been going combined with how much pay and overtime we get, I should be able to pay off half of my loans. I looked back at my payment history and saw that yes, I had paid off about half of my $80,000 debt in the last thirteen months.
What would you do with $40,000? I don't actually know. I think I'm supposed to spend it on a down payment, or put it in my IRA, or some other grownup bullshit.
This project can't last forever, but I never would have guessed it would have lasted this long. It's been three or four months in 2018, and four months this year. There's not really any sign of it stopping either -- though we thought that last year too, and then it ended suddenly.
I would really like to put up a bird feeder, but I don't know if it would be practical or violate condo association rules.
--12:59 PM, EDT, 5/19/2019, Philadelphia, PA, "No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than central air."
This blog entry has been deleted for excessive whining.
--May 7, 2019, 7:57 PM, Philadelphia PA, Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
I have to move in ten days.
I had a colonoscopy on Friday. (No signs of colon cancer, whoo.)
My insurance didn't cover any of it, despite their claim that "all preventative medical care is 100% covered. The $1400 that would have gone to paying student loans went to some money grubbing doctor. Fuck the American healthcare system.
That lady who screamed at me at work made me emotionally fragile for a week. I'm over it now, but work now feels like a place where that could happen whenever. Whoo.
God, moving is the worst. Half of me hopes this place we're moving to is great so we can stay there and not have to move for years, and part of me hopes it sucks enough to motivate us to either find somewhere we really like with a long lease or buy a place.
Fuck if I know.
--7:39 PM, EDT, 4/9/2018, what a wookiee
"The lack of updates is probably a direct result of having steady work for most of the last five months."
This is true! I've been employed since the last entry, and all of the bitching in that entry is still applicable. Also, the stuff about student loans is still descriptive, though I have made more payments since that one.
I'm up to $21,000-ish paid down on loans for the period March 2018-March 2019. This does not include the monthly $750-$950 required due. That adds up to a bunch, I tell ya. Still feels like tossing money down a hole, but at least I feel like I have somewhere to toss it...? I don't know, paying loans is weird intersection between being a responsible adult and being complicit in the predatory system that Sallie Mae inflicted on the working classes.
So anyway, where I work, we don't really have permanent space. The placement agencies are always moving, always finding a cheaper lease, always getting moved out by office building landlords who desire more reputable tenants. As a result, I'm more likely to be working at a rented computer on a plastic table in an undecorated windowless room than I am to be in a cubicle, an office or a professional setting of any kind.
Working in this environment, we move a lot. The space we moved into on Friday was newly leased, and lacked some of the basics of office life. I went into the kitchen to size it up, and fill my water bottle. I noticed there were no ice trays, but there were two in the drying rack next to the sink. I thought I'd do my part by filling them and placing them in the freezer.
While I'm doing this, a coworker enters the kitchen. I don't know her so I don't greet her. When I pick up the (too full) ice trays, she immediately barks at me, "You're spilling! It's spilling!"
I'm aware, because I'm getting water on my shoes and pants. I say, "Yes, I know."
She repeats herself, louder and more pointed. I continue to the freezer, which I realize too late is unplugged; the working refrigerator is on the other side of the room.
As I'm recrossing the room to put these ice trays away, the coworker says something like "I must be older than you, because even I know not to spill water all over the floor."
And I reply, "Yeah, you must be."
"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME?!" I cannot express the tone of this statement with mere caps and punctuation. If you grew up in an abusive house, it is the tone that, regardless of volume or content, meant that your abuser was going to find some reason to exercise their power over you. If you are a film buff, a weird jarring music track or audio effect would begin playing in the silence after her statement.
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A DICK ABOUT IT! I'M TRYING TO HELP!" I have not yet reached the operating fridge and cannot act to clean my spill. I have indicated I am aware of the spill, but my hands are full, of something that can keep spilling unless I put it away first.
Someone else enters the kitchen. The coworker immediately begins yelling about how terrible I am being. I put the ice trays away, and get some paper towels. The coworker already has some paper towels and splitting her energy between wiping up water and shrieking at me.
"I'M CLEANING UP YOUR MESS!! YOU'RE BEING ANTAGONISTIC FOR NO REASON!!" I am now in the position of having to clean up a water spill with paper towels while someone shouts at me while helping me clean. It's pretty surreal.
"I'M JUST TRYING TO HELP!!!" She says this last with the same level of vitriol or spite one might employ in confronting their mother's murderer, or in demanding justice of the gods for this whole rolling-a-boulder-up-a-hill thing.
"Well, you're doing a hell of a job." I honestly couldn't say anything useful or normal. I guess sarcasm is my neutral gear. I throw out my paper towels and get the hell out of the kitchen.
So, in my new space, I sit along the common path to the kitchen from the rest of the entire office. Understandably, this means the enraged woman from the break room will walk past my seat. (This also means she will walk past my seat every day, every time she goes for a cup of water or a yogurt from the fridge. /shudder.) As I try and get back to work, I hear the coworker and the bystander leave the break room and approach me. They are talking in low voices until they pass my desk, at which point the woman says, "mumblemumbleFUCKING ASSHOLE".
I don't know why that took me aback. Like, she can scream and abuse me in the kitchen, and that's okay, but in the open workspace with 30 other people in it, that's somehow not? I turned my head and watched her walk out of the area, and said, "Seriously?"
This would be a funny weird work story if it wasn't for my reaction. I had a little emotional breakdown and sat there wondering if I deserved it, or I'd really done something to incite that reaction. Other people on my team were worried about it, because I looked despondent or some shit. One person said the angry woman was always like this, confrontational, hair-triggered. I left work early because I wasn't getting much done.
Weird, right? I'm usually a good candidate for letting "people being jerks" roll off my back. Not this time, though. I sent Ingrid an unironic text saying "A lady was mean to me at work and now I'm sad". I called my mom later for additional coddling.
Well, in other news, I'm getting a camera stuck up my ass on Friday, so maybe I'll post something next week about having butt cancer. Let's hope not!
--9:38 AM EDT, March 31, 2019, Philadelphia, PA, "so this is what the volume knob is for / I listen to dance music"
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