Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

May 2, 2019
by funny
4 Comments

The Wages of Longevity

So Monday I’m over at Costco with my friends whom I enjoy driving to various shopping junkets. We’re checking out and chatting with the cashier, who remarks that it’s his fortieth anniversary on the job at Costco!

Wow! Can you imagine? Working as a Costco cashier for forty years! That means he would have started in 1979. He must have started back when it was Price Club, because the first Costco didn’t open until 1983. Price Club opened in 1976, in San Diego.

We know people who work for Costco love working there. Several of them have remarked to that effect to me — in fact, when I happened to say that I’d been laid off, shortly after GDU shut down our shop, one employee recommended that I apply at Costco.

I wonder how a senior cashier’s pay compares with a teacher’s in Arizona?

Hmmm… Costco cashier salaries range from $14 to $25 an hour. That’s $29,120 to $52,000. On the high end, that’s about what I was earning in a 12-month administrative job at GDU, after 15 years in the saddle. When I was teaching there, I made about $45,000 a year.

But believe me: no one at GDU will tell you they love their job. Morale in that place hovers in the sub-basement.

On the other hand, I was able to work at home a lot. Telecommuting was not much of a problem in the particular position I had. This isn’t true of all the jobs there, but faculty positions usually require you to show up only to meet classes, confer with students, and sit through faculty meetings. As a practical matter, most people are generally “around,” and many classes meet at inconvenient hours (such as 7:40 in the morning or 7 to 10 p.m. at night). But…it’s interesting that with a Ph.D., 15 years of teaching and administrative experience, and 15 years of journalism experience, you earn about what a senior cashier at Costco makes.

Yea verily: the median salary for K-12 teachers in Arizona is $47,980; average base pay in Phoenix is $38,441. And believe me, that is not for just 9 months of work: you spend your summers preparing for the next year and whiling away your time in unpaid seminars, conferences, or teacher improvement courses. Or in second jobs, to keep the wolf from the door.

Think of that: At Costco, a cashier earns more than a teacher. With one helluva lot less aggravation.

May 1, 2019
by funny
7 Comments

The iPhone Surrender

Okay, so I give up: I’m getting a damn iPhone.

I’ve put it off and put it off and PUT IT OFF, because one of my worst eccentricities is that I really truly honestly absolutely positively do NOT want an electronic tether around my neck.

No. I love you dearly, but I do not want you to be able to flag me down and yak at me while I’m driving my car or wandering around a shopping center or diving into my swimming pool or sitting in a movie theater or trying to learn how to sing some complicated musical arrangement in choir or what-freaking-EVER.

After three weeks of electronic torture, no: I do not welcome anymore techno-learning curves, techno-hoop-jumps, or techno-hassles.

But…alas. It does look like there’s no choice. Toting a cell phone around is now the standard. And you can’t very well get out of it these days.

Well. Once I tried an Android phone, purchased through T-Mobile. It was just horrible. No matter what I tried to do, I simply could not learn how to use the damn thing. Finally gave up, disconnected, and tossed the accursed thing in a box behind a bookcase.

We’re told the iPhone is easiest for the elderly to learn to use, compared to all the other obnoxious gadgets out there. And during the several lengthy, brain-banging visits I’ve had to make to Apple stores over the past three weeks, I’ve looked at these doodads and decided…yeah… I don’t want to clutter my mind with this crap, but…it’s probably easier-to-swallow clutter than most. Looks like I’ve got at least a shot of learning how to use the thing.

A-n-n-n-n-d… It appears that TracFone, which sells service by the minute, makes itself available to practically any phone for which you have a sim card (i.e., you don’t have to buy the gadget from them; you don’t have to let them “lock” it so you can’t use it with any other carrier). And the folks at Target will get those minutes downloaded into the phone for you.

Maybe. If they don’t, then one of the Apple dudes advised that In His Humble Opinion, Verizon is the best (of a bad lot) among the cell carriers.

So. I’ve purchased a sim card at the Target.

Next step, if I can ever get quit of climbing out from under the pile of work that didn’t get done during the past three weeks of computer nightmares, will be to drive way to hell and gone back out to Scottsdale, purchase an iPhone, purchase an AppleCare contract, and have them set the damn thing up for me. Then drive way to hell and gone back into Phoenix, present myself at a Target store’s electronics counter, and have them sign me up for enough minutes to figure out how to use the thing. Then figure out how many minutes I would need during the course, of, say, three months or six months; buy that amount of time; and use it to practice using the thing.

The Apple Genius I talked with the other day recommended NOT deep-sixing the land line (which really isn’t a land line but in truth is VOiP. Thus I keep the phone number used for The Copyeditor’s Desk (along with the NoMoRobo that helps, to a modest extent, to block nuisance calls). But…I end up with an iPhone that can do several things:

  • Make calls while I’m roaming around
  • Send text messages
  • Function as a mobile computer
  • Function as a camera and upload direct to iCloud
  • Let me read and answer emails on the fly
  • Track my movements everywhere I go, potentially reporting them to Big Brother or Big Advertiser
  • And jangle me up in the privacy of my car when, thankyouverymuch, I would prefer to be left alone

Ugh.

Since I now have a half-dozen dormant cell phones that can be used to dial  911 (assuming they’re kept charged), I can set these things around the house in places where I could reach them if I’ve fallen on the floor and hurt myself too badly to get up. Then I can cancel the land line (getting rid of a stiff charge from Cox) and use the iPhone as my primary phone number.

That’s something.

I guess.

April 29, 2019
by funny
1 Comment

A break in the clouds…

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters, yonder breaks a beam of light through the clouds!

Yesterday developed into surprisingly de-toxifying day.

First off, I discovered the reason the MacBook was throwing out messages to the effect that it couldn’t hold all the data stored on iCloud was…ohhh, wait for it… BECAUSE… The damn computeris somehow CLONING ALL THE DATA FILES ON ITS HARD DRIVE…over and over and over again.

Call up the AppleCare people and reach the first tech there that I’ve ever talked to who hadn’t a clue. She had never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what to do, so she made me an appointment with the Apple “Geniuses.” Like I have nothing else to do with my time…

Whenever I get off the phone with her and calm down a bit, I think to do a Web search. Find an Apple user’s forum where a) some guy says you can get rid of the redundant files by shutting down and rebooting, and b) they will eventually come back. Another user reports that this is a function of the Sierra operating system. Say what????

Well, I’ve had this computer for two years and it’s been running on Sierra for almost that long and I’ve never seen endless strings of duplicate files before. Presumably older versions of Sierra didn’t do that. When the guys in Tennessee replaced everything in this device’s innards, they would have had to reload Sierra, and in doing so, they presumably would have loaded a slightly newer iteration of Sierra. Hence: iterations, all right: thousands of them!

Really, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I just CAN. NOT. DEAL. WITH. THIS. SH!T any longer!

At that point, I about decided to shut down The Copyeditor’s Desk. The computer headaches, the DropBox headaches, the PayPal headaches…all conspiring at once: it’s more than I can handle.

Naturally, the minute I make that decision, a new Chinese mathematician e-mails in a sweat, needing to get 10 (typeset!) pages of new copy edited and jammed into an article that’s already been provisionally accepted. He, however, is at the Great Desert University, where I have spies. And he has a bank account. So he at least can pay me. However, that means I have two book projects in hand, another pending, this math thing, and a computer that is laboring to undercut me.

But… But, indeed: his piping up reminded me that not all Chinese mathematicians, scientists, and scholars of business management labor away their lives on the Mainland! A whole lot of them live in the United States. And they can pay with checks. Or get their universities to pay with checks.

And how hard is it to make nice to these folks and cultivate that set?

He blinked not at all at my bracing  per-word rate, so I will be paid fairly for turning his golden words into publishable copy.

This sounds sooo weird, but I love copyediting these Chinese scientists’ copy. The beauty of a math paper is that if its author says something stupid, I don’t know it. That, alas, is not true of work in just about any other discipline. 😀

And most of the stuff is strangely interesting, at base.

He wants to meet next week and trudge through the new content, face-to-face. That’s a new one for me, but it should be interesting. I figure if I can make nice to him and not persuade him that I’m a complete idiot, he may refer me to colleagues.

Whiled away part of the day with another new client’s effort at science fiction writing. That was light and amusing and did not leave me in a rage. Which is good. Always good.

In the morning, I tested the blood pressure again — still obsessing about whatever it was that happened in the wee hours the day before yesterday. Back down into to fairly normal range: average 123/77. One reading was an amazing 115/75. Not bad for a 74-year-old, eh?

So I think it’s safe to assume the episode in the night was a stress attack, not a life-threatening cardiac event.

That alone relieved a whole lot of stress. So did the idea that I might simply fold The Copyeditor’s Desk and really, seriously retire retire.

And in the evening, we — the Women’s Schola — sang at Compline, a particularly lovely end-of-the-day service that, being absent the hoopla of a mass and all that, is a lovely, contemplative moment entirely sung and presented by candlelight. Meditative, it is. And a very fine antidote to crazy-making stress.

This service — Compline — is in my opinion the most lovely and spiritual event in the church’s entire repertoire. Hardly anybody seems to know about it: attendance can be numbered in the single digits. This is too bad, because a whole lot of people are missing out on something that ought not to be missed.

And now…away! Off to pick up the Old Folks, the first traffic-traipse of the day.

April 27, 2019
by funny
1 Comment

The Chaos Hangover

The older you get, I think, the harder it is to deal with stress. And this past two weeks of unending techno-chaos have been nothing if not hideously stressful. Last night I enjoyed a fine hangover from that stress-storm…again, I think.

Along about 2:30 in the morning, a bright flare of pain and sweat woke me up. Gut pain, chest pain, shoulder ache…hard-to-tell pain.

Heart attack? Certainly could be. Chest pain and sweating are classic heart attack signs.

On the other hand(s):

  • It was 80 degrees in the house and I was under three layers of blankets.
  • The pain seemed to be on the outside of the ribs, not inside, not under the ribs, not under the sternum, not under the clavicle. Earlier this week I wrenched that shoulder again, wrestling the dog around the ’hood — the same shoulder I dislocated a couple years ago. Damn thing has been hurting for a couple weeks, every time I wake up.
  • The mastectomy scars hurt, in a low-key way. All the time. On the outside of the ribs. Press anyplace around that area, three or four inches to the north or south of the elegantly disguised scar, and it hurts. So if I’m sleeping in some kind of odd position, likely I’m going to wake up with my chest hurting. On the outside of the ribs, not inside, not under the ribs, not under the sternum, not under the clavicle….
  • Stress invariably creates some sort of malign hangover, usually of an unpredictable nature. And stress, frustration, time suck, and anguish have haunted every waking and sleeping moment of my existence for the past two or three weeks. I’ve lost 2/3 of my business base, my computers are a jumble, I can’t figure out how to use iCloud effectively (and don’t believe it can be used the way I need to have it work), and I feel generally f*cked over. In a big way. No wonder I’m having some kind of little tizzy…
  • Interestingly, sitting up eventually elicited a fine burp: gas! Maybe…ya think?…just maybe I shouldn’t have swiggled down that half-a-cup of cheap red wine right before turning off the light and pulling the pillow over my head.

Yes, I could call 911. They would not take me to the Mayo, where my doctor practices and which is the only local hospital in which I have anything resembling confidence. They would take me to the hospital of their convenience, where I decidedly do not want to go. And want or no want, I have soooo HAD it with doctors and doctoring, I would rather die right now today than go through any more of that. And no, my friends, I do not exaggerate.

Get up; repair to the hall closet. Chew a couple of vile Gaviscon tablets. As usual, this stuff has no effect other than to make me hate my taste buds. Remember the ranitidine stashed in the closet. That’s Zantac. Drop one of those. After about 30 or 45 minutes, this stuff seems to work.

Evidently not about to die, climb back into bed around the sleeping dog.

Resolve…

a) Quit drinking as a stress control strategy.
b) Test blood pressure sometime after sunrise; if systolic is over 140, call the quack on Monday. Maybe.

Well, come the dawn, the BP numbers are a little high: average 137/86.

On the other hand:

  • It’s hot.
  • I drank half a bottle of wine yesterday afternoon.
  • And then I spent half the night wrestling with the question of how to copy data from DropBox and from iCloud to Documents, whence we know for sure that Time Machine will copy it. It appears very likely that TM does not copy iCloud. Wouldncha know it. There is a LOT of data stored to these two fine thunderclouds…so much, in fact, that the MacBook just informed me that it doesn’t have enough space to absorb another gulp of this trash.
  • I hate loathe and despise taking my blood pressure, almost as much as I hate loathe and despise watching some underling in a doctor’s office do it wrong. That sentiment alone is enough to drive up one’s numbers.

Jayzus!

At any rate, planning a strategy for organizing and transferring all this data was quite the little project…as in “took two hours to figure it out in any rational way.”

Most of my stuff is now deleted from DropBox. It took two full days and then some to transfer this data over to iCloud, an apparent exercise in futility. Copying from iCloud to the MacBook’s hard disk only took a couple of hours this morning…but of course I can’t get it ALL on the hard disk, because the MacBook is now chuckablock full.

Next: run Time Machine to back up the MacBook, thereby saving this data in perpetuity. In fact, do a TM back up to not one but two external hard drives…hope to God the hard drives are large enough. Once this stuff is saved, delete all the really old, “archived” debris that no one, myself included, cares ever to see again. This should free up some space on the MacBook.

Then get into iCloud and delete sh!tloads of data, which has about maxed the space I’m paying for. A lot of this stuff is archived business and financial documents, which really need only to be saved in a couple of places — a backup drive and the MacBook. But other than that material, much of the remaining detritus can be deleted without much risk.

How do I hate this sh!t? Let me count the ways.

I am soooo sick of technohassles! Once again, another entire day is going to be spent watching machines grinding away. No work, paying or otherwise, is going to get done. I am going to be frustrated and angry by the time the day ends, and once again I will go to bed frustrated and angry. Which no doubt contributes to things like waking up at 2:30 in the morning with a hair-raising bellyache.

Please, God: send me a patient little quarterhorse, about 50 head of cattle, and 2000 acres of upland grass country.

April 25, 2019
by funny
Comments Off on And now i want…

And now i want…

a beer…

Just a beer. And a plate of pasta: comfort drink, comfort food.

Finally finished shoveling away the layers and layers of paper that have floated in the door and come to rest atop my desk. Interestingly, the desktop seems to be made of wood…huh! I’d forgotten that.

So gawdawful much paper comes flying in the door or gets dragged into the house in a purse or stuck on the bottoms of my shoes…God only knows how it all it all makes it way in here. I tend to drop it where it arrives: on the dining room table, on a kitchen counter, on the passenger seat of the car, on my desk…on my desk…on my desk….

It took the entire morning to dig the desk out from its current burden of paper, some of it dating back to 2018. About 90% of it is stuff that either needs to be kept or needs to be shredded, so less than a trash-basketful goes to the recycling. {sigh}. Well, except for the stuff you run through the shredder…that, actually, can be composted, if you’re careful to avoid grinding up any of the plastic “envelope windows” that come with some mail.

At any rate, after several hours of sorting, file-folder stuffing, and shredding, boyoboy does that desk look CLEAN. Who’d’ve thunk it was possible?

That notwithstanding, the overall hassle never, ever stops.

This morning the DropBox hassle developed a new twist and turn. I called to tell them I don’t want them to renew my annual subscription for extra space and was horrified to discover that despite my having spent two and a half days transferring 87 berjillion kilobytes to iCloud and deleting said kilobytes from DropBox, the damn stuff is still on DropBox!

That’s right. They keep it as a “back-up” stashed away where you can’t get at it to kill it off.

Augh!

Getting rid of it takes an elaborate techno-hoop jump, following instructions that might as well be in Martian. I tried to reach a techie friend to see if I could hire him (please!) to help, but he’s not answering.

So…what alternative?

American Express, I guess. This is why I persist in using AMEX: like Costco, like Apple, they have superlative customer service. I call and reach a patient CSR. Explain the situation: DropBox is not about to let me off the hook, and I do not want to pay for the extra server space to accommodate data that they will not simply reach out and delete or explain to me in simple terms how to erase.

N-o-o-o-o-o problem, quoth the AMEX dude. He put a block on the next bill from DropBox.

DropBox charges $9.99 per month(!) for a terabyte of storage. Apple is now charging the same, for the same amount of storage — having dropped its price by 10 bucks a month. However, I do not need a terabyte of cloud space: for $2.99 I can get 200 gigabytes. Well, even unedited and un-shoveled out, my DropBox files add up to a mere(!) 160GB. A-n-n-d there’s a LOT of stuff in there that could go away. When I get around to it, I’ll move a pile of superannuated debris off of iCloud, which will free up enough space to last for all of posterity.

Weather is starting to warm up a bit. If I felt like jumping into slightly chilly water, I could plunge into the newly resurfaced pool. But I’m too lazy to get cold just now: bad human.

The watering system is on the fritz. I need to call an irrigation guy to fix it, since all Gerardo seems to do is shut off the valves for the parts that spring a leak, leaving my plants to die. He doesn’t seem to understand — or to care — that a potted plant will die in one day flat if it’s not watered daily once the temps are over about 90 or 95 degrees. So that’s yet another hassle to deal with.

And I do need to find a tree guy to remove the devil-pod tree on the west side, which has become a bit menacing. The US weather service expects this winter’s El Niño to linger over the Pacific through the summer. What meant nice rains in the winter, then, will mean heavy winds and violent monsoons this summer, hiking the risk of that tree breaking and falling on my neighbor’s house or mine. Again, Gerardo said he’d do it…but…no action there. Dayum….just what I need to kill some more time on.

The winter’s rain, though, produced some very gorgeous flowers this spring…

 

Unfortunately these look awful. Somehow the new iCloud thing has f**cked up my photo function. Dammit! Am I ever SICK of this computer bullshit! It just simply never stops!

 

April 23, 2019
by funny
4 Comments

“Why didn’t I think of that…?”

Ever have one of those “Why Didn’t I Think of That Before?” moments? 

The chore-a-day approach to household cleaning is one of those. Why did it take me 70 years to figure that out? How come it never occurred to my mother? Duh!

Well, I just came up with another one.

As you may have noticed, the price of beef — particularly of steaks — is through the roof. I no longer can afford to eat steak at all. However, I do require at least one serving of some kind of meat per day…sorry, I’m simply not the veggie type. I don’t like the icky flavor of farmed chicken and also can’t afford organic free-range air-cooled chicken. Nor do I care at all for farmed American pork (ech!). So one way of filling this gaping hole in my normal diet is by substituting Costco’s excellent hamburger (which really is first-rate) for steak.

But…really…I’m just not that nuts about grilled hamburger patties. Once in a while…okay, whatEVER. But I find the “while” gets longer and longer. So now what do I have in the freezer but a TON of hamburger, divvied into patties and frozen as single servings. Which — let’s face it — at the rate my enthusiasm is flagging, is not likely to be consumed anytime soon.

So I’m sitting here thinking am i gonna throw all that meat out? don’t think so…but what’m i gonna do with it?

While, no, I’m not nuts about grilled hamburger, I do love a pot of chili. Or Caribbean-style stuffed squash. Or curry. Or cheese ravioli or spaghetti or lasagne bathed in tomato sauce spiked with hamburger.

For all of those, you start with the same first step: sauté some onion and garlic (add celery and carrot if you want to go all out). Remove from the pan and then brown the hamburger in the veggie drippings. Then mix the cooked veggies back into the cooked meat. This is the basis of most American-style tomato pasta sauces. And it’s where you start when you make chili.

But it’s enough of a chore that when you’re tired and hungry at the end of the day, you just don’t feel like bothering.

But…but…wait…BUT? Why do you have to do that every time you cook one of those dishes?

Why couldn’t you cook up the foundation  for any of these sauces or stews ahead of time and freeze it? Why not take that mountain of Costco hamburger, chop a couple of onions, a couple of celery sticks, and a carrot, and sauté the vegetables, brown the meat, let it cool, and then divide it into meal-size portions, pack them into Ziplock bags, and toss them in the freezer?

Estimate how much of your meat mixtures would go into any one of the desired final dishes. That’s how much you’d pack into one bag.

Then, when you a crave a pot of chili (let’s say), you pull out a bag, defrost it, dump it into a stew pot (or a crockpot, if you’re in no hurry), add a hefty dose of chili powder, a big can of tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce or paste, maybe a little beef broth if have some around, and a generous splash of red wine. Allow to simmer long enough to blend the flavors, And voilà! Chili without the work. You could easily throw this together after a day of work.

Same for any other dish that requires a base of sautéed hamburger (or sausage!) and aromatic veggies.

It’s a weekend project that could feed you for many weeks to come.

Why didn’t I think of this before?