Funny about Money

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

June 6, 2017
by funny

The Algae Jamboree

Algae, up close & personal

Mustard algae is a tenacious resident. You can scrape it off your pool walls and within a day, it looks like moss is growing in there. This stuff came to live in my pool about four years ago.

I was going to say around two years ago but then recalled it was already a problem three years ago, when I hired a one-man pool service to maintain the pool system while I was enjoying the deboobification adventures. That guy tried to beat it back with massive applications of ferocious chemicals. Didn’t do a damn bit of good.

This algae is chlorine-resistant. That, I discovered when my finger poked through the plastic outer wall of a floating chlorine tablet dispenser. Inside the air space that holds the thing afloat was a thick layer of what in fact did look exactly like moss. That was when I realized that dumping shock treatment into the pool may have made the guy feel good, but it didn’t do a thing to control the algae.

This winter — even when the water’s cold, the stuff will grow sporadically — I decided the trick is to keep cleaning it off manually, every day. And that’s worked well enough — cosmetically, anyway — until now. With warmer weather, the little plants fly into a frenzy of green joy and grow faster than you can keep up with them.

So it appeared that I would have to get serious about this.

Don’t know what time the dogs woke me this morning, but since the thermometer on the back porch registered 109.5 degrees yesterday, I figured I’d better get the slamming around done before the sun came up.

Last night I dumped an extra-strong dose of shock treatment into the drink — about twice as much as I would ordinarily use. Since I haven’t been shock-treating much, I’m hoping the little critters may have lost some of their chlorine resistance. Ran the pump for an hour to mix the stuff into the water, suck it full-strength into the filter (which you may be sure  has collected plenty of algae spores), then shut it off for the night.

I don’t like to leave the pump on at night, despite the exhortations of power companies and  the environmentally addled, because if something goes wrong with it I want to know about it before the thing runs long enough to burn out the motor.

So this morning it was into the backyard like a shot, the instant the animals rousted me out of the sack. Vacuumed the collected debris off the bottom with the hose bonnet. Checked the pH. Cleaned out the skimmer basket. Cleaned out the pump pot. Reprimed the pump. Ran the pump and added more acid. Swept down the walls again (doesn’t do much good: the stuff sticks pretty tight, plus the nylon/plastic pool brushes on the market are stupidly designed so that the center part of the brush curves subtly upward and only the ends of the brush actually contact the damn plaster). Swept the floor, too.

Hooked up Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner — I don’t leave him in the water when hyperchlorinating because some Leslie’s dude said excessive chlorine was bad for his plastic carapace. Eased his hose into the water, pushing the air out of it, plugged it in, and…AUGH!!!! Harvey came loose from his tail and the damn hose was SUCKING AIR INTO THE PUMP!

Now the pump is straining every gut. Yank the hose end out of the pump inlet and get the f**k out of the way, half-expecting the thing to blow.

Mercifully, it does not: it manages to suck in enough water and push enough air out the inlets to recover itself without damaging (I expect) the pump motor and without blasting fragments of its lid into the air.

Jump into the puddle of Clorox to retrieve Harvey, but by the time I get in, he’s rolling down to the deep end and is out of my reach.

Climb out, find the leaf skimmer net, hook that to the pool wand, and fish Harvey into the shallow end. Dive in and nab him off the bottom.

By now I’ve poisoned myself by exposing my entire body to toxic levels of chlorine, so WTF. Despite several days of mad sweeping two or three times a day and despite seven hours or so of chemical warfare, a light film of green stuff still clings to the wall. Hook up a power spray nozzle to the garden hose and dive back into the Puddle of Death. Wash down all the steps, the bench, and the walls.

That works. Washing down the walls really does blast all the visible algae off. Of course, the plaster is porous, and so you can be sure that whatever little roots and tentacles this present brand of algae has are well ensconced in the stuff.

Showered in the garden hose, baptizing the new bottle of hair conditioner. When I came back in the house, it was 5:30 in the morning. Done before it even started to get hot out there!


June 5, 2017
by funny

Safe! Mode, that is…

Did you know an Apple computer can run in a “safe” mode? I didn’t. I thought that was a PC thing.

Yet another fun day of computer-generated time suck. Damn, but I have just about had it with the computer hassles. But one thing you do have to say, in the redeeming feature department, is that even though Apple ‘s in-store service may have jumped on the Skateboard to Hell, their phone support can NOT be beat. Those people who get on the phone with you and listen to your weird story and figure out what you’re talking about and then even figure out how to tell you to fix it: they’re the real Geniuses.

Right. So… (have you noticed that this is the new [Silicon] Valley Talk? Ask someone a question, and they’ll invariably preface their response with “Right. So…”

Wife: Did you have a nice day, dear?
Husband: Right. So yes I did. It was a very nice day.)

Okay, right. So this morning I drove to South Phoenix to meet with the PoD dude, trying to figure out why the PDF for the latest Magnum Opus’s cover art will not load. After some fooling around, we realize we can get the new wrap-around image up there, but we need to reformat cover 1 because the byline is dangerously close to the bleed border. So now I have to jump through those hoops: unfortunately, I used the image I’d built for the ebook cover and just dropped it into the template for the print cover, so I couldn’t just grab the byline and move it up.

Two hours later: I’m headed home and stop by the Safeway to grab a couple of small things. It’s now after noon: hungry time. What should I find on the bargain counter but THE most gorgeous rib steak, grass-fed free-range Angus, big enough for three meals, take an extra 30% off the marked-down price! Dang!

Having grabbed this, I streak home, relishing the prospect of a spectacular midday dinner, the steak on the grill, the onion softening and browning sweetly in the skillet, the salad rich with tasty goodies.

And indeed the sliced onion was cooking when I went to shoot off an email to a friend and discovered…No Chance. The MacBook was disconnected from iCloud, which you are now forced to use if you wish to have a MacMail account. Cox, for a change, seemed not to be responsible for this. But whatever the problem was, it afflicted the big iMac, too. Not only could I not fix the email, I couldn’t get online at all!

Since you have to get online to contact Apple and ask them to phone you, this meant I had to carry the Macbook (it contains details you must report on the form  you send to Apple to persuade them to call you) AND one of my wireless house phones over to the neighbor’s house. Put in an order using her PC…and realize the phone is out of juice. Its damn battery is dead!

RUN back to my house, clinging tight to the computer. Get in just as the phone starts to ring.

The young woman I spoke to proved to be exceptionally smart. At first she figured it was a connectivity thing. But we were able to prove that Cox was fully online. Both computers were connected. Not a connectivity thing…

Various maneuvers having failed, eventually she said, “Let’s try rebooting in ‘Safe’ mode. Sometimes this will repair any number of problems.”

Well, I know what “Safe” mode is in conjunction with PCs, but had no idea the Mac had such a thing, or that it had much practical use.

Turns out that to acquire “Safe” mode, you reboot but hold down the “Shift” key as soon as the screen turns black, and keep it held down until the machine completely reboots. This causes all sorts of flashy things to occur, until eventually you get the usual desktop, possibly (as with a PC) slightly…disturbed.

While this is going on, she keeps assuring me that the procedure can induce a certain degree of self-repair. If we’re lucky, it’ll work.

If we’re not, she does not volunteer what we will do then.

Incredibly, though, it does work! After a lengthy can-can, the thing comes back online, and lo! MacMail works. Firefox works. It lives!

And strangely, whatever happened on the MacBook also applied to the iMac, as if by magic through the ether[net]. No longer offline, the iMac also found itself suddenly speaking to MacMail and Google. That was a relief.

Hoping against hope, I checked to see if the corrupted font had somehow repaired itself. Well, no: every word that I have ever put into a Friedlander template for the purpose of publishing it as something resembling a book is now useless. Any of those books that ever needs to be revised or edited in even the smallest way will have to be reformatted from title page to author’s bio in a new font.

Oh…I haven’t told you about the Font Corruption Adventure, have I? Well, that will have to form the topic of another post. (Here ‘tis, over at P&S Press!) It is 109.5 out there on the back porch. After engaging not one but TWO computer fights, one of them involving sprinting through 110-degree heat, I am tired. The dogs and I are going to sleep through the heat…and so that tale will have to wait for a new day.

Image: DepositPhotos, © julos

June 2, 2017
by funny

The Great Hair Conditioner Fiasco

The Three Stooges would’ve felt right to home here at the Funny Farm… This place features an ongoing three-ring circus.

Okay, backstory: When the weather’s warm so I can swim every day, I like to shower in the backyard hose. To that end, I keep bottles of shampoo and conditioner on the back porch. These have to be in containers with screw-on caps instead of the pump type, because in the heat, the liquids expand and work their way up the pump and squirt all over the table or pavement.

Since I buy these products in lifetime supplies from Costco, the stuff has to be transferred from the Costco-sized pump bottle to a smaller, more manageable container. Meanwhile, a bottle of conditioner has been sitting in the closet so long it seemed to have congealed: it had become so thick it wouldn’t come up out of the bottle’s pump. I added some water to it, but it’s so thick I can’t make it blend by shaking the bottle vigorously.

So. Now I have a brilliant idea.

What I should do is dump this stuff into a bowl and stir it up with my electric mixer.

🙂 Almost makes sense, doesn’t it?

Convinced, I schlep the gear into the kitchen and whip it up with the mixer. The result: it does whip up: a lot like whipped cream! With lovely soft fluffy peaks…

Oh well. A little air in the mix can’t hurt.

Now I try to insert this thick, gloppy “whipped cream” into an old conditioner bottle, using one of those flexible funnels that you can squeeze and sort of massage stuff through.

Bad idea.

Exceptionally bad idea.

The glop will not go through the funnel. Not on your life. But it will go all over the counter, all over the sink, all over the floor, and all over you!

Holy sh!t.


Now it dawns on me that this stuff really should not go down the kitchen drain. If ordinary cooking and meat fat will clog that drain, THIS stuff will block it like a chunk of cement.

But by the time this revelation appears, it’s toooooo late. The stuff is all over everything and slopped all around the sink and has gone down not one but both drains. And it’s not just gooey: it’s also slippery.

I carry the bowl out to the garbage can, therein to dump its contents. But my hands are covered with this gunk. To get into the alley, I have to pass through two gates, one of which is secured with a padlock. My fingers are so slippery I can’t even hold onto the key!

Finally I manage to get out there and dispose of the glop. But now we have the problem of the sinks and the drains…

Back in the house, I use up almost an entire roll of paper towels wiping the stuff out of the sinks as best as I can, and wiping it off the countertops and the floors. I carry the dirty bowl to the garage utility sink to try to wipe the remaining film of glop out of it, and so of course more of the stuff goes down that drain.

What. A. MESS!

At length (great length!), I manage to mop most of the goop off the house and off me. Result: the kitchen and the garage and my hands STINK of industrial perfume. GOD, how I hate the smell of industrial perfume. The stuff permeates every personal care product on the market, unless you’re willing to pay extra for less. And so far I haven’t found a fragrance-free hair conditioner that works on locks that cascade halfway down to your waist.

So…how much is this going to cost me in plumber’s bills???

I decided to try the baking soda/vinegar trick, though I have no reason to believe either of those substances cuts congealed hair conditioner.

In this maneuver, you pour about a half-cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow immediately with about a cup of white vinegar (any vinegar will do: the white stuff is cheapest). Let it sit while you bring a pot of water to a boil. Then pour boiling water down the drain.

Subjected all three drains to this treatment. Then filled each sink with hot tap water and ran the water through, putting the weight of many gallons into the drain. This should rinse out the baking soda (which can petrify in your drain when you pull this trick) and with any luck will push out at least some of the hair-conditioner gunk.

That exploit consumed most of yesterday afternoon. Too bad I didn’t have a video cam going: it would have made a very funny show.

Larry, Mo, and Curly: public domain
Steamy water tap: DepositPhotos, © nikkytok

June 1, 2017
by funny

i-don’t-wanna-itis…Is God Tryin’ to Tell You Something?

I don’t wanna. That’s where we’re at here. I just effin’ don’t want to!

The Light has shined down from heaven and illuminated reality: I’m not doing all the things I should be doing BECAUSE…

Yesh, all the things I should be doing:

Get The Complete Writer ensconced at the PoD site, generate page proofs, copyedit page proofs, update the MS, upload corrected copy, and generate a second page proof

Ride herd on the e-book builder; if he doesn’t get his act together soon, hire someone else

Re-enroll in Toastmaster’s and effin’ get serious about it

Build more and better publicity on Facebook, Twaddle, and effin’ Mailchimp (how do i hate Mailchimp? let me count the ways…)

Hustle up some speaking engagements

Fix DropBox on the iMac (disabled by fuckin’ OS 10.11.4)

Get to work, get to work, GET. TO. WORK!

Well, all sorts of reasons not do do these things present themselves:

12 weeks of debilitating respiratory infection

Updating the Macs’ OS fucked up everything on my computers, making it a) difficult or b) impossible to perform tasks I did formerly with easy keyboard commands.

I’m way behind in the marketing program.

I can’t even begin to figure out how to run X, Y, or Z program.

Maybe the GERD is back. Maybe the respiratory “infection” is the GERD.

I’m not getting enough exercise.

I have too much paying editorial work.

I have to do __(fill in the blank)__ first.

The pool needs to be cleaned.

The shrubbery needs to be trimmed.

The groceries need to be shopped for…

Nope. ‘Fraid not. The truth is, I’m not doing all those things for one simple reason: because I don’t want to.

And y’know what? I think that’s my body or my unconscious or God Herself tryin’ to tell me something.

If they were things that would work,
if they were things that were worth doing,
I’d have done them by now

Not just by now, but a long time ago.

You know what I do wanna do? As you suspect, it surely is none of the above.

What I wanna do is draft the next scene in my current wildly unpublishable novel. That’s what I wanna do. I wanna write unpublishable novels.

The God’s Truth is that I do not need to write any more publishable copy. No. No, indeed.

The editing bidness brings in plenty of income. In the past year, it’s generated more than Social Security has plopped into my checking account. And Social Security plus the Required Minimum Drawdown from retirement savings is exactly enough to support me, coming out even at the end of a 12-month period.

So…why do I want to do anything else?

Why, indeed?

Probably because it’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done: work myself stupid, often for no very good reason.

And here’s the thing when it comes to personal finance, the putative slant of Funny about Money: FIREers: beware. 

You can achieve Financial Independence. You can Retire Early. But you may find yourself, at some level, still feeling driven to do something constructive. And because America measures “constructive” in dollars, you may define “constructive” as paying work.

What if “constructive” work is not paying work? What if it isn’t socially redeeming work, like charity or teaching or loving one’s neighbors? What if it’s not even work at all?

What I’m suggesting is that at some point in life you should do what moves you, even if what moves you is not socially redeeming, not good for the society, and absolutely absent any chance of profitability. Corollary: If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

If you can’t force yourself to do it, don’t do it. Find something else to do.

As of today, I’m stopping.

I need to reconsider what I’m doing with my life and do something else. If “something else” is the same as “nothing,” then it’s time to do…nothing.

May 31, 2017
by funny

Ratty? Is That You?

Somebody fell down inside the chimney the day before yesterday. And no, it wasn’t Santa Claus! 😀 The critter landed on the closed damper, a pretty precarious spot, flailing and scratching around.

Pretty sure it wasn’t a bird, because it would have chirped sooner or later. And a cat probably would have meowed. Maybe. It sounded like it was about the size of a cat, though.

Most probably, I figured, it was a roof rat. The chimney supposedly has screening over the top to keep the locals from tumbling or crawling or flying in there. But it may have worked loose over the years.

Anyway, I didn’t want to open the damper and try to catch it, because the prospect of getting bitten by a rat is not very appealing. So I figured if it was trapped in there, it would die fairly soon, because the exterior temps got up around 105 yesterday. Without water, even a rat will croak over in that heat.

By yesterday morning, I couldn’t hear anything in there. So I opened the damper lever, and lo!


No critter. Was it trapped behind the damper? The thing opens upward against the wall of the chimney… But no, I don’t think so.

That confirms my suspicions that it was Ratty. She probably was stunned by falling 12 or 15 feet but eventually regained her rat-equilibrium. Once she got over her panic and regained her rat senses, she just walked right back out.

Roof rats can climb right straight up a wall. Check this out this little guy:

That’s how they get into the attic: up the wall, and then in through a hole as small as a 50-cent piece.

Anyhow, Ratty got out of the chimney on her own. I’ve called the handyman and will ask him, if he will, to climb up there and secure the screening over the chimney, and also send him into the attic to check all the vents up there. I may have him sprinkle some mothballs near the openings to the attic, too.

Rats, like cats, are averse to the stinky stuff in mothballs. So, of course, are humans, as this fella points out. However, it sounds like you could put a small amount of the stuff in an attic near the vent openings, where the smell would dissipate into the outside air. And since the critters usually get into the house through the attic openings, this would go a long way toward convincing them to find another home.

BTW, if you decide to try the Mothball Solution, don’t sprinkle any of it where your own pets can get into it. Mothballs are toxic to cats, and they probably aren’t very good for dogs. And since humans aren’t fond of the parfum de naphthalene, either, don’t go overboard with the things in the attic, the crawlspace, or the basement. From this guy’s video, it looks like just a little sprinkle near potential rat entrances will do the job. You really don’t want mothball fumes in your house.

Be aware that the ingredients in mothballs are flammable. Do not sprinkle or store them anywhere near a device that has a pilot light!

For small holes a distance above a roof or attic floor, try plain old steel wool. Rats hate steel wool. So if you have holes that are too big to fill with plastic wood or DAP but not too huge (and are located in an unobtrusive place, such as under the eaves), stuff them full of steel wool. You can buy it in gay abandon at a hardware or warehouse store. Or you could order up a roll of this stuff, guaranteed not to rust.

Heh heh heh…some people think rats are pets. In that case, you’re likely to discover just how startling these weird little animals are…

May 30, 2017
by funny

The Most Expensive Grocery Store in Town?

For a brief shining moment, it looked very much like the winner of for Most Expensive Grocery Store in Town Prize was…not AJ’s (gourmet central). Not Safeway (two-for-one sale, wherein the first item’s price is inflated). Not Albertson’s. Not Costco (Home of the Impulse Buy). Not Trader Joe’s. Nay, not even Whole Foods!

Where could you buy a pound of apples for $7.++ per pound? Walmart!

I stood there staring at those Pink Ladies and thought…they must have mixed platinum powder into the fertilizer.

But no. Below the sign and hidden on the lip of the apple bin was a sticker claiming their price worked out 12.8 cents an ounce. There being 16 ounces in a pound: $.128 x 16 = $2.05 a pound.

That’s pretty cheap compared to the four bucks or so requested at AJ’s for premium apples. Oh, well. AJ’s had some exotic apple variety I’d never heard of, something called Koru. So we traded two $2.00 Pink Ladies (an excellent choice) for a $4 Koru.

Unfortunately, the Walmart didn’t have any of the dog food that I went up there to buy, hoping to avoid a lengthy trip to a more upscale store that carries the ridiculously expensive product that is the only thing I’ll feed the corgis when I don’t feel up for making their food.

So, I was going to have to traipse way to hell and gone down to AJ’s anyway, which sells the dog food for about $13 a roll, a buck more than Walmart charges, when Walmart has the stuff.

However… AJ’s has the advantage that it sells a very fine ready-made beef lasagne. Happening to be half-starved, I bought one helping, enough for two meals here at the Funny Farm. And naturally, a bottle of côtes du Rhone, on sale in the Summer Special.

Image: DepositPhotos, © korovin