That's not what the Death card means


Memory foam
written 2020-10-07 14:02:00

I haven't had a job for months. This means I haven't had a commute, haven't had a work routine, haven't had office banter, haven't had any lunch trips or takeout or pleasant Center City walks, haven't had anything going on.

When you don't have anything going on, what little you do have going on takes on unnecessary weight. Yesterday I got McDonalds, and they fucked up the curbside delivery deal and I had to wait over half an hour to get cold food which they also didn't make correctly. It's no big deal, it's McDonalds, who gives a shit. But it was the only thing I did yesterday. Having it wind up a shitshow was real fucking downer.

I went last week to help my dad with his computer, his printer and his phone. The usual "can you help me with this" family IT stuff. It was nice, because it got me out of the house, it was a chance to see my dad despite the quarantine, and it was something I could be good at. But then, a couple of days later, he needed me to look at his phone again. He offered to take Ingrid and I out to a Mexican place he likes to thank me for the help. I told him I wasn't going to a restaurant while the commonwealth is still COVID-heavy, but I'd come by and fix his phone. But Ingrid reminded me we had to go look at furniture in three hours, so I had to drive fast up to Bucks, do the work, return trip just as fast, and go shopping for furniture (Ingrid's, not mine).

So while I was at my dad's, I was keyed up. This was a timed trip now, and it was the second one I'd made in two days, and I apparently hadn't done enough or done it right the first time, necessitating this second trip. And my dad thinks going out to a restaurant is okay?! What the fuck is that about?

I guess he could tell I was worked up, but I wasn't going to blame him for my edginess, so I told him about the furniture and this appointment we had to make, and the last appointment got unexpectedly cancelled when we got a flat tire the day of. And people are dying everyday and there's no response from the goddamn government. And every 24 hours the president does some stupid shit to keep his name trending. And, and, and.

Keep in mind, this is some piddly shit in the grand scheme of things. I had to make two car trips instead of one. I still got to see my dad, which was nice, except now I was worried he was going to internalize me being anxious with him asking me to drive over there.

(Self-centered sidenote: my sister lives 15 minutes from my dad. My brother is five minutes from him. I live two counties away and an hour's drive on a bad day for traffic.)

It's just hard, when you only have one or two things to do in a given week, and you can't do much else because of income, or travel restrictions, or mental health, and those one or two things go south for whatever reason. And afterward you have to admit you're disappointed while still knowing it's a stupid thing to be disappointed over.

I don't know who's still reading this. My birthday is in a month. Buy me presents on Amazon. I'm listed under Finbar MacSwiney.

--1:59 PM EST, Philadelphia, PA, sick and tired of being sick and tired


Some dumbass with my name and birthday
written 2020-09-11 12:09:14

Modern life, lockdown, political reality got me down.

I paid off the last of my student loans. I feel real goddamn conflicted about it, which is weird, since you'd think it'd be an absolute win. But paying off student loans has been the one thing I've had to focus on for thirteen years. It has informed all my decisions, it has prevented me from making moves, it has instilled protestant guilt in me for not working or not working enough or not having a real job or whatever the fuck. I'm sure I'll get over it but right now I feel like a schmuck.

Looking at my financial records from Sallie Mae, I borrowed just over $130000. Looking at my payment records, I paid them back over $200000. I'm sure some asshole with an accounting degree or a job at his daddy's brokerage firm will tell me that $70000 is a good bargain over X years at such-and-such yield. All I know is how miserable I felt for over a decade.

Two paragraphs ago I tried to use "it's" as a contraction for "it has". I feel like that may have been correct when I learned those words in 1978, but is not correct now. Anyone?

Ingrid got a smart phone. My position as "useful person to have around" just took a major hit. She has not been able to successfully activate it yet, so there's hope.

Oh, listen to this story about me being a dumbass:

So, I finished up Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, a couple years after reading Ancillary Justice. I looked on the library website to get the third book in the series, and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. It took a while for the holds to arrive, since libraries are both half-shut-down and probably under a ton of pressure from people out of work, parents homeschooling, and bored people who remembered that libraries exist.

They'll hold the book for 10 days at your branch library. It took seven days for both books to be at the library at the same time. Once they were, I went and looked at the hours for my branch: three days a week, three hours a day. And I had missed the hours that day, so I had to wait all weekend.

Labor Day weekend.

Naturally the day after Labor Day is Tuesday, and the library's not open on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was super depressed (see first, second paragraphs) and I forgot I was supposed to call the branch and set up an appointment to come by and pick up my holds. I had tried calling Tuesday, but no one answered. Funny that, no one answering the phone on a day when your building is closed.

So I felt really stupid, set up a couple of reminders on my calendar app so I wouldn't forget on Friday, tried to call the closed library again on Thursday just in case there was a bored librarian hanging out in the stacks on her day off.

Well, today is Friday, and I called two hours before they open, just in case. And someone answered! I said I was calling to set up an appointment to pick up my holds, and the librarian said "yeah, we're open 1:30 to 4:30," and I said, "great, let me schedule a time" and they said "go ahead, whenever you want in that time frame", and I said, "pardon?" and they said, "we're open for three hours starting at 1:30, so come on in," and I said "I don't need to schedule anything?" and she said "yeah, what have I been saying?" and I said, "well fuck."

If there's anything more on-brand for me than continually fucking up a process which is not actually required for the thing I want to accomplish, and getting real emotionally invested in my own failure, I don't know what it is.

--12:05 PM, EST, Philadelphia PA, pink moon is on its way


It's all at once
written 2020-05-21 00:26:02

As I logged in here today, first time in some time, I noticed there were 146 failed entries. I should go look at the front page and make sure none of them made it through security.

Someone (or some script) has discovered it can submit journal entries to my submission page. A while ago it was just some jerk who left some kind of "u bin H@xx0red!" message, but this time it looks more like someone tried leaving a message that would read or a script that would run when read? I don't know. I leave all the computer brain lifting to @icculus.

It has been a day.

I got up, waiting to hear when my new job starts. It's a project that we got hired for last week, and passed through a selection before the weekend, then notified there would be training on Monday (two days ago) and work beginning Wednesday (today).

Monday went by without any word, then that night they said "oh gosh you gotta fill out these forms get on it" and then sent text messages nudging us to complete them. I generally don't do anything until I'm on the clock -- why would you fill out sixteen unnecessary forms and not get paid for it? But this time they made it sound like the forms were a prerequisite to the project starting. That's bullshit, but they sign the checks, so we are expected to nod solemnly when they spout bullshit.

So Monday passed with no training, and Tuesday passed with no training and no word on when work would start on Wednesday. I spent all of today, Wednesday, gradually accepting there would be no work and no word, just some "technical difficulties" bullshit excuse around quitting time.

Dear reader, I was a prophet.

But all that is past, and this evening was to make up for all the work nonsense possible: I was playing in an Unknown Armies game, live streamed from the author himself, Greg Stolze, with four other players who all ponied up $50 to participate.

I've run UA once, and never played it myself, so I was thrilled. And playing it with the author? Hell yes. I got my Kickstarter exclusive dice. I interviewed my 20-year-old niece to get a better sense of how to play a 19-year-old. I reread the rules and refamiliarized myself with things I thought likely to come up.

I logged in early, hoping to get some time to chat with the other players. Unfortunately, that's not how Zoom works. Zoom is a video conferencing service that has become essential to people during the coronavirus lockdown. It is reportedly super bad at security and Ingrid's company issued a fatwa against using it for law firm business. But it's free and everyone can get it on a phone or computer or tablet.

ASIDE: earlier today, as I waited from 9 through 5 to hear about work, I played World of Warcraft. Yes, I renewed my WoW subscription so I would have something to do during the long hours of staying inside. And for some reason, I was disconnecting all day. Failure to open the Blizzard app, failure to connect to the realm list, failure to stay connected once I started playing. It has become so bad, I feel like I have to quit the game, cancel my subscription. For a while I spent more time DC'ed than I spent connected. Very frustrating!

Why is this relevant? Because at 8:04, four minutes after I should have been online and connected, I realized there was no internet signal. Ingrid noticed it too, and the TV asked us to please restart the router.

WHY NOW? There were NO GODDAMN problems at 7 PM, 7:30 PM, even right at 8 PM. But I was all connected and prepared, had all my accoutrements and supplies, and I was ready, until I wasn't.

Still don't know what the fucking problem was. For all I know, Zoom let someone fuck with my wifi. With no other visible culprits, I can only assume that Comcast is to blame. Fucking Comcast.

So, I log on to a "free" Xfinity signal for as long as it takes to reboot the router. I can hear the other players and the GM talking about how I'm not in the Zoom meeting, and hoping I can eventually log in. I tried communicating in chat to mixed results.

I set the game back ten or fifteen minutes. We only had a two hour window to play in, so that felt tremendously long. It wasn't my fault, and no one blamed me, but fuck did I feel responsible.

Once we got to play, it was okay. I have never played via video conferencing, and I don't like watching RPGs played that way. I don't like people talking over each other and I don't like people getting forgotten in the rush to be heard over one another. Unfortunately, our group was two yelly kids, one kinda yelly kid, and we two normal people forced to listen.

I don't blame the first three dudes - they were playing magic weirdos and the played them appropriately. But with the setting of Unknown Armies, having two magic weirdos and three bystanders kinda means this is a story about the weirdos. The bystanders still have free will, and can do things with their knowledge of magic or people, but my skills were literally "straight A student" and "dirtbag family". I didn't have much I could do.

And three times during the game, my internet connection shit the bed. I only found out about this when another player or the GM noticed that my video window had frozen, because my character didn't have much chance to say or do anything, and got overtalked when she did.

My character was eventually shot, by someone we never saw, with a rifle, which aside from being the tie-breaking vote in the decision to go ahead with a burglary, was the most she contributed to the story.

This has been a day.

--5/21/2020, about two-three months into coronavirus lockdown, Philadelphia PA, he jokes and tells me it's a lie detector


Insert REM song title here
written 2020-03-23 11:57:50

We are a full week into the coronavirus lockdown, and it is not that different from being unemployed.

I'm supposed to start a project working from home, but they're moving from "BE READY" to "like check your email I dunno" which sometimes foretells the stillborn project.

Social distancing is probably going to kill my D&D game, though part of the group thinks playing via teleconferencing is fine. Trying to watch one of those games gives me nightmares, so I can't guess what trying to play in one will be like.

One of the things I do when I'm home from work is frequent grocery shopping. Having to carry a fuckton of groceries up the hill to our building sucks, so being able to carry all of your shopping in one trip (as dudes prefer) is preferable. The coronavirus lockdown makes that socially irresponsible, especially considering how many AARP cards I saw at the store the last time I went.

All this staying home is for your benefit, old people! Stop fucking it up!

Two weeks ago I considered dropping off Facebook. This week I can't imagine life without it. Having Ingrid in the house 24/7 is a little nerve-wracking. The virus appears to already be in its exponential growth phase.

I'm going to check how much toilet paper and how many bags of Doritos I still have. I imagine one of those represents my need to go shopping and the other is my desire to go shopping.

--11:54 AM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, they'll find you in the basement


Struggling to rise
written 2020-02-14 18:33:00

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


At least someone is paying attention to me
written 2020-01-28 12:26:54

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.

(it's not)

--12:25 PM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, so i hope that i get old before i die


A day in the bureaucracy
written 2019-12-10 15:13:40

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"


What do you do on the day after doomsday
written 2019-11-08 18:29:09

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


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


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