That's not what the Death card means


Curled up at the foot of the bed
written 2021-05-18 17:11:05

So, we got our dog, Lennie, six years ago, when Ingrid was freshly overcome with grief from losing her previous dog, Abby.

Lennie was a shelter dog, who had been taken out of a home with "too many animals". She is a little Chihuahua mutt, she is mean, and she is responsible for one of the few scars I have. She took some getting used to, but we love her and we put up with her periodic violence and psychosis.

We've had some trouble with her vet care this last year - I might have written about it elsewhere on this page. Basically, she had an infection near her eye, we figured it was dental, the vet said she'd look at it but only after a cardiologist okayed her for anaesthesia, we got the cardiogram, the vet forgot about us, made us go to another cardiogram, checked her teeth, didn't find anything. That sentence took eight months to play out, and her face is still swollen.

We were pretty salty because the vet made us jump through hoops for six months to accomplish sweet fuck all. We took her in again today to remind them that her face is swollen and we'd like some goddamn vet care. The vet's response was to the tune of "What Do You Want Me To Do About It?" from the hit musical "Bad Veterinary Bedside Manner". She basically said we could look into some good expensive dental or cardiological care, not from her, from a specialist, or we can just accept that our dog has a swollen face and a bum ticker. The subtext was "how much money are you really trying to spend on this dog?"

She's not wrong, I acknowledge she got a degree in veterinary science. I just wish she'd minored in Not Being A Bitch To Your Clients Studies.

I admit, my go-to response to "your dog is sick" is just "give the dog everything she wants and love her and hug her and squeeze her" and not "make hard decisions about your budget and her lifespan". I frequently remind Lennie she cost us $52 in fees at the shelter. I'm a monster, I acknowledge, and a hypocrite.

I don't want Ingrid sad about our dog for the rest of Lennie's life. I don't want Ingrid mad at me for doing or not doing whatever it is she thinks the dog needs. My inclination is to do nothing and try and give Lennie her best life, and when she goes, she goes.

I have not had income for over a year, so I also feel a little unqualified to make decisions that have substantial price tags associated with them.

--5:07 PM EST, 5/18/21, Philadelphia, PA, lean in close to the little record player on the floor


The Music Hall of Williamsburg
written 2021-05-04 15:14:40

Ingrid is all vaccinated, which is good.

I drove her across the city to the pharmacy where her work made vaccine appointments for all their employees. There was an accident on the one road we always use to get to Center City, so we had to U-turn and get out into North Philly and cross the entire city. Philadelphia drivers are self-obsessed assholes, so you have to account for that in your driving. Example: while stopped at a red light, third or fourth in line, the driver behind us began laying on his horn immediately after the light turned green. Like, there was no forward progress yet. I was stationary, because the car in front of me was stationary. Just, HOOOOONNNNNNKKKK HONNNNNNNK HOOONNNNNNKKKKKKK.

Baffling.

Anyway, Ingrid got her shot and decided she wanted lobster rolls for lunch. She is to be commended for her civic responsibility and should get all the lobster rolls. Unfortunately, she picked a place in Center City, while we had got her shot all the way over in Fishtown. So I start recrossing the city, only to discover that over by 95 some of the roads are one way, but not the way I was expecting, and we wound up having to nearly go all the way up north past 676. Also, Center City is well back into its crowded and busy phase (pandemic? What pandemic?) so there were double-parked delivery guys and trucks with their hazards on just blocking all the traffic.

I was dodging around stationary cars and pedestrians and making slow progress and completely missed my turn. (Except I couldn't because it was a one way street. Ah, Philly.) About a block later, Ingrid asks me where I think I'm going, and I obviously respond that I'm going to hell, and expected the traffic would be lighter.

I circle Rittenhouse and go up two blocks (one way streets) and over one (one way street) to come back down a block and a half (one way fucking street) and get her to the one place in Philadelphia where you can get a lobster roll. I illegally park and spend five minutes watching for meter maids. Ingrid gets back in the car and asks me what I want for lunch.

"To be home and out of this godforsaken traffic nightmare."

--3:12 PM, EST, May 4th, 2021, I find your lack of faith disturbing


The year of the cat
written 2021-01-19 15:55:39

  1. Recognize you need to go to the drugstore for tissues.
  2. Realize you need something else, but can't think of what.
  3. Decide to go and hope you remember what it was you wanted.
  4. Bring a reusable bag.
  5. Get to the drug store.
  6. Can't find tissues. Can find "paper goods" aisle, but no tissues.
  7. Find a few other things that are on sale.
  8. Ask for help finding tissues. Get directed to the paper goods aisle.
  9. Look again, find empty shelves where tissues would be, and three packages of individually wrapped 20-tissue pocket sized items.
  10. Decide to wait and find another place to buy tissues.
  11. Go to pay, but the self-service kiosk has an elderly person confused about how the self-service kiosk works.
  12. Go to pay an actual cashier. Cashier asks for your member's club card, which is required for all the sales that were the reason you selected all the other things you are buying.
  13. You don't have your member's club card, and they can't search for it.
  14. Take all your items back to the shelves from which you acquired them.
  15. Buy lottery tickets.
  16. Walk home defeated.

Not much going on these days. Unemployed, only one snowfall this winter, the dog needs to see the dentist. Trump lost, thank G-d, but Biden is a Democrat to the core, and Democrats are experts in fucking up unfuckable situations.

John Fetterman is going to run for Senate again. I'll knock on doors for that guy.

--3:52 PM, EST, Philadelphia, PA, and talk about everything


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"


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