That's not what the Death card means

Rap, rap, rap upon the portal, beloved
written 2019-08-22 14:23:16

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"

Illegitimi Carborundum
written 2019-07-18 21:11:37

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

Deja vu all over again
written 2019-05-19 13:05:10

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."

Meanwhile, at Malvern Hall
written 2019-05-07 20:00:43

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

Fifteen bucks, little man, put that shit, in my hand
written 2019-04-09 19:40:49

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

Everything right is wrong again
written 2019-03-31 09:50:20

"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.

Fucked up.

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"

Admit it, it's a good bit
written 2019-01-13 00:34:01

I wrote a journal entry and it isn't here? Must've been too whiny or I didn't want to concern readers with my unemployed moaning or something.

Or I didn't hit "submit." That'll happen.

I spent way too much time today looking at how much money I owe Sallie Mae. I found a website that visualizes your debt and spent a while converting my personal debt spreadsheets into the web format. I noted the rise in the interest rates brought on by the Fed, third or fourth one in the last year. I believe I owe more on my loans at the moment than I did last month, because of the rate bump, despite paying them a thousand dollars this month.

It is not surprising that this is all FUCKING DEPRESSING, so it probably doesn't need to be said.

Another job started this week, at a good pay rate of $36. But once again it required bailing on one company and possibly burning bridges. And instead of a small, easy-to-coordinate team, it's a room full of cranky old luddites who can't remember how to turn on computers or think independently. I look forward to the paychecks but the next 6-8 weeks is going to be a good bit of suffering.

Also our client is literally Satan.

The upside of working is not having any time to dwell on how awful things are. The downside of working is the only thing I have to do with my money is give it to Sallie Mae.

BLECH blargh aglargabloo. Call the waaahbulance. It's good that I have work because work is what people do for money which is the only thing that matters. Praise Mammon, all hail capitalism.

--7:23 PM EDT, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at least I get to move in a couple of weeks

Money, fraud and ungrateful curs
written 2018-11-20 17:12:24

That's a long time between journal posts. And Christ, that last one is some weepy shit. No wonder my cousin's been tactfully asking me about my suicidal ideation.

So, it's November. I got older and almost no one noticed. Ingrid has decided that I am too hard to please and has stopped trying to do anything to acknowledge my birthday. I had a job for about a week, and a couple weeks of being a bum before that. Before that, I had about three months of overtime work and good paychecks.

On the subject of overtime work and good paychecks:

I have been supremely responsible with my income this year. Every time I get a chance at some extra hours, I take it. Every time I get a fat paycheck, I put some of it in a fund. Every time -- okay, three times -- that fund got big enough, I took the money out and gave it to Sallie Mae. Doing this has paid off three of my fourteen(ish?) loans, and eliminated about $12,000 in debt. This is on top of the usual monthly payments, which, aggravatingly have not gone down that much regardless of me knocking out loans.

I feel pretty good about this. It's what grownups do, or some other self-actualizing shit, I don't know.

So, anyway, this morning I get an email from Sallie Mae telling me my income-based repayment plan has come in and I'll have to make $X in payments each month. For those who don't know, the IBR plan is a federal measure that's supposed to take the heat off by only asking for some small percentage of your monthly income.

Here's the kicker: the amount they want is more per month than what I qualified for last year. I either made more money last tax year (that's what they base the decision on) or paying off the three loans this year makes them believe I have more discretionary income to apply to the remaining ones, or they just felt like assholes and decided to twist my balls for kicks. I worked overtime for months to pay these loans down, and my reward is paying more per month.

This is happening irrespective of my private loans, mind you. Those all saw 1-1.5% interest rate increases over the course of the year, aren't subject to IBR or any other federal help, and ask for higher monthly payments and sport higher interest rates. Never borrow privately for education, kids. They'll fuck you well after you accept that your additional degree doesn't actually qualify you for more jobs.

I've been paying student loans for twenty-one years, and paying obscene student loans for eleven years. I am scheduled to be paying them for another ten years. I do not qualify for any forgiveness or reduction from either federal or private lenders. I believe I will die before this debt does.

I wish I had a lesson at the end of this bitch session, a moral to the story. It mostly resolves to "everything is terrible, and the reward for being good is additional terrible".

Time off of work is time spent sitting and thinking about such things. The lack of updates is probably a direct result of having steady work for most of the last five months.

--5:06 PM, EST, November 20, 2018, now's about the time I gotta get up outta here, fuck this shit I'm out

Nothing worth repeating
written 2018-07-01 13:13:14

I'm working, but the work came at the cost of a bunch of drama.

I don't have insurance.

I don't really have time to play games on my flashy new computer, and the game that really has me right now (Cultist Simulator) is playable on my POS laptop.

We only play D&D about once every four or six weeks now. I say "we" - Marty and Andy are playing with strangers online, so they have three or four games a week to the rest of our once a month if we're lucky.

Trump is going to get a second Supreme Court nomination. They're imprisoning babies at the border. People get shot to death on a daily basis, and a mass of people gets shot on a weekly basis.

I have no job opportunities, no career, no chance for advancement. I'm middle-aged and overweight. I have nothing to say and no way to say it, and I only speak one language.

I stopped drinking soda all the time and now I just drink it once or twice a week. I don't feel any better. I haven't lost any weight. It's as though I stopped doing something that made me feel good for no fucking reason.

It's just soda, though. It didn't make me feel that good.

Nothing does.

--1:09 PM, Philadelphia, PA, EDT, July 1, 2018, this shit's in full LiveJournal mode

All over my new chair, goddammit
written 2018-05-15 13:03:37

Sunday was Mother's Day. My mother was in town. My sister convinced everyone that everyone wanted to go to the Phillies game. This is obviously something my sister wants to do, and no one else. However, my brother and I were told that this was what my mom wanted, and it wasn't until far too late that we all discovered we were lied to.

Family context: my sister is a pathological liar, and this entirely on us for believing her.

So we went to the Phillies. On a rainy Sunday less than 24 hours after the Saturday night game was rained out. I am the only family member who lives in the city, so I took SEPTA. My suburban family feels like this is dangerous or repugnant in some way. I consider it a lovely time to myself, for reading or playing games on my phone or just sitting in peace.

While trying to enter the subway, I used my new SEPTA Key card. This is the technology they are introducing to remove tokens, cash, and other 20th century means of payment. Sadly, it did not work. While I was trying to get my subway paid for, I saw that $2 was missing from my Key card, which is impossible, as I have not used this new card ever. This distracted me from getting onto the subway as quickly as possible, which was fine, because there was no subway for fifteen minutes.

SEPTA context: there is a subway arriving every eight minutes at City Hall. Maybe at every station. I'm not sure; I don't use the subway much.

This meant that in addition to having to pay extra to use cash, I was also late. This was also fine, because the game wasn't starting on time, due to the rain. I arrived in South Philly to light rain, in which I had to walk from the subway station to the ballpark, and then to the football stadium parking across the way. My sister was tailgating, which in this case meant pounding beers and eating pretzels in a parking lot.

I had to walk around either in the rain or through inch deep puddles in the parking lots to find them. Between SEPTA, rain, and the general reason I was there in the first place (lies, see above), I was in a foul mood. My sister, on seeing my face, laughed at me and tried to take my picture. I flicked my cane up at her to try to ruin her shot, and instead whacked her in the gut.

Cane context: I have recurrent back problems, and spasms that sometimes rob me of my ability to stand unaided. When this seems possible, I walk with a cane.

My sister will use any opportunity to play the victim, the affronted, the good girl done wrong. This was her opportunity. She milked it for about ten minutes before accusing me of battering her with a stick. She would later upgrade this to "stabbing" her with it.

Am I the asshole here? Of course I am, I whacked her with a cane. But there are limits to what you can bitch about. You have to have perspective.

So, after she calms down a little and tries to simultaneously be the poor bullied sister AND the too cool to be bothered tough girl, we go into the stadium. Well, they go into the stadium. I get held up at the metal detectors because I have a pocket knife on my keys.

"That's a WEAPON!" says the south Philly guido who is determined not to allow another 9/11, not at his ballpark, not on his watch.

"It's... a Swiss army knife." I reply, a little bewildered.

"It's got a BLADE, don't it?!" Chachi says.

"Of course it does, it's a Swiss army knife."

"It's naht comin' in here, pal. Go complain to the manager, you don' like it!"

"Okay, can I have my stuff back please?" This seems a little confounding to him, as though he assumed I would throw my knife in the trash in order to watch a baseball game. He hands me back my cane, my bag, and my phone.

I walk over to the ticket window and talk to the lady at the Complimentary Tickets desk. I explain that I took the subway to get here, and I can't bring my keys into the stadium, but I have nowhere to put them since I don't have a car here. She immediately figures out a solution, takes my keys and knife and puts them in an envelope to be picked up after the game. So simple, so helpful. I make a mental note to praise her to Phillies park management later.

I go back to security, same line, same belligerent chach. I hand him all my stuff and he eyes me suspiciously. "Did you hide your knife somewhere in here?" he demands.

I smile big back at him and truthfully say, "Golly, I didn't hide my knife anywhere."

He turns red and barks at the bag-searching guy, "RIP HIS BAG APART!!!"

(This is the only part of our exchange that I regret, but I said it and I should cop to it.) I answer him, "Wow. So little power, and so quick to abuse it."

The bag searching guy goes over my stuff, doesn't find anything, tells the prick I'm clean. The prick is about to say something else, so I preempt him with, "Are you sure? Do you want to spend some more time searching it? I know it's full of pockets."

They angrily tell me to get out of there, and I walk to the game with my heart full.

--May 15, 2018, 12:55 PM EDT, living on reds vitamin C and cocaine

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