Funny about Money

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

The Endless Uphill Battle…

Ever had one of those One-Step-Forward-Two-Steps-Backward days? Yesterday was one of those. It appears, though, that today may have flipped yesterday on its metaphysical head: one step backward, two steps forward.

Yesterday…oh God. Whatever I touched broke. Wouldn’t work. Dissolved. Undid itself. Turned into a fucking disaster. Required the attention of a professional, who was not available.

First off, the MacBook — the computer I do most of my work on because my back hurts too much to sit at a desk for any length of time — pretty much gives up the ghost. It can NOT maintain a connection to the Net. But then it starts with all sorts of other colorful frolics.

Let us say, for example, that I’ve given up on the Internet and just want to do my work. So I click to disconnect, period, from the wireless connection. So…we’re pretty sure this next antic is not a router/modem issue.

I’m typing along in, say, Wyrd or Excel, and out of the blue…CLICK! It shuts down. Before you can gasp “WTF?” it reboots…of course, losing substantial amounts of new data. Wyrd and Excel, being creatures of Microsoft, now present  you with two or three versions of every file you had open, and you have to figure out, somehow, which one has lost the least amount of data, crash out of the other versions, and save the relatively intact version under the original filename, or under the filename + a numeral to distinguish it from the one you started with.

This happens with regularity.

The machine will stay online, sort of, if I go into the back room and sit within about five feet of the router — which defeats the purpose, because there are no truly pain-free chairs in that room, at least, not one that’s suited for sitting and typing for more than about ten minutes..

MacMail starts opening messages in a pane about a third the size of the window, meaning that to read the messages you have to navigate to the green button to maximize the window…not the end of the world, but when you’re talking hundreds of messages, a certifiable PITA. I cannot figure out how to fix that.

These quirks render the computer pretty much unusable

I decide it’s probably time to buy a relatively inexpensive Windows machine plus Office 2016, the last and soon-to-be-disappeared non-Cloud-based version of Wyrd.

There’s not enough gas in the car to make it to this morning’s SBA meeting, which now takes place on the western border of the Pima Reservation…a long, long, LONG way from lovely North Central. So — all this takes place after yesterday’s encounter with the latest bum in the alley, not so much a bad thing as a sad thing — and I have a check to deposit to the S-corp’s checking account.

Figuring that the computer weirdness will turn an effort to deposit it electronically into a screaming nightmare, I decide I should drive the check to the credit union and, on the way back, stop by Fry’s Electronics to look at Windows machines, Lowe’s to buy a new hose timer, and Costco to fill up on gas. While at the CU, I’ll get two hundred bucks of walking-around cash, enough to last a couple months, at least.

Credit union: after a 20-minute drive through homicidal traffic (traffic is always homicidal here), I drive up to the building and discover the bastards have closed the parking lot! WTF? They just resurfaced that lot a few months ago? Why are they pouring more black stuff on it?

The closest parking space is about a quarter-mile away through 110-degree heat.

I park illegally, blocking another illegal parallel-parker, and fly in the door. Deposit the check, but feeling stressed about the potential for a parking ticket, forget to withdraw the spending money. Fly out the door and get back to the car before the other criminal parker returns to find her vehicle immovable.

Drive down the street to Fry’s. There I find they no longer carry the kind of table fans I used to get there. Okay: no surprise there. Over to the electronics department. They have a glorious wealth of windows hardware…woooo HOOOO! There’s even a refurbished thing with a gigantic screen and 2 TB of memory plus god only knows how many more gigabytes worth (can’t recall just now) and…gee whiz.

Fry’s has not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE sales staff lingering around an empty computer department. Literally, I’m the only customer there. Not ONE of them will give me the time of day! They’re all standing around involved in a personal conversation, and none of them even bothers to say “do you have any questions.”

Disgusted, I walk out. No wonder there were hardly any cars in the parking lot that used to be crowded all the time.

Dodging my fate once again (I’m good at that), I make my way down the street to Lowe’s. The reason I need a new hose timer is that the kitchen-timer device I ordered from Amazon leaked from the moment I attached it and yes, it does have a washer. Some months ago, Home Depot’s guy reported that they quit carrying the venerable Orbit timers because (get this!) some customer was suing Orbit and HD after the disaster that ensued when he set the thing to water his lawn and then went off on a 10-day vacation. Apparently the house’s foundation was afloat by the time he got back.

Moron. Don’t go off and leave a hose running on a cheapo timer.

But knowing that Orbit timers do leak — usually not fresh out of the plastic wrapping, but within a couple months — I figured I’d bite the bullet and get a digital timer, even though I really do not need a new learning curve so I can water the damn plants.

The cheapest digital timer was THIRTY BUCKS! Holy shit.

Exit, stage left, carrying a ten-dollar Orbit.

From there it was off to Costco.

Drive up to a gas pump, stick my card in, and am informed the card is expired, Eff You Very Much.

Hadn’t planned on going in, but now I have to trudge into the store, stand in line, pony up a chunk of dough. Might as well buy a few things. Three hundred dollars later, I’ve stocked up on a bunch of key items whose Lifetime Supplies have run low.

It’s Wednesday afternoon, so the place isn’t too busy…yet they do have enough cashiers, which is not the rule for Costco’s slow times. I get in line with my mountain of impulse buys, behind another customer with a mountain of junk.

A sweet little old lady with three (count’em, 3) items in hand gets in line behind me. I offer to let her go before me. After some politely de-rigueur demurrals, she agrees to do so.

The cashier now gets confused and racks up the guy ahead of me’s purchase to my credit card. We say no, no…confused! She fixes that.

Now our LOL steps to the front and forks over her three little items, but by then my stuff has rolled to the front of the conveyor belt.

This further confuses the hapless cashier, who racks up the LOL’s stuff on my credit card. We go nope nope nope nope and the cashier fixes this, BUT….

In the process of moving the LOL’s purchases to the front of the conveyor belt, I pick up a plastic box of blueberries, which flips open and scatters about a hundred blueberries on the floor, then slips out of my hands, falls to the floor, and (already being open) dumps most of the rest of them all over the floor, the guy ahead of me’s feet, and my feet.

The manager comes over. A clean-up crew comes over. A runner is dispatched to get the LOL a new package of berries. The LOL is upset. The cashier is unnerved. And because I’m now hysterical, I think it’s fuckin’ hilarious. I suggest to the LOL that she and I should throw in together, become bank robbers, and see what kind of fiasco we can create in a Wells Fargo. She thinks that’s funny. The cashier at this point has no sense of humor. The manager is too busy to notice.

Costco has a nice selection of little computers, and they sell the entire Office 2016 suite, on disk, for $125. That is one hell of a lot better than you can do by downloading one program at a time from Microsoft.

Probably a sweet li’l HP or Dell will do the job, for not too many dollars.

There’s just one hitch: We do not know that the problem is the Macbook.

What we do know is that the Arris router/modem the Cox dude installed when he was here is roundly reviled by Amazon customers. They do hate it…because…well…it’s given to shutting your computer down. I’ve been trying to persuade my son to help me replace it with a separate router & modem. He, in the time-honored manner of adult sons, has been dragging his feet.

I think that before I ditch the MacBook, I should make sure the problem isn’t with the wireless connection.

Make my way home through sizzling heat and crazed drivers — counting only five bums between Costco and my house, probably because it’s too hot for pandhandling.

On the way, it occurs to me that soon — very soon — I’m going to have to make a command decision.

I’m going to have to decide whether to stay in my home and do the several expensive upgrades that need to be done, or to pony up a shitload of cash to move into a neighborhood that is not the target of the City’s Bum Relocation efforts.

The Ex and I moved out of an exquisitely beautiful house that we dearly loved in the historic Encanto neighborhood because the area was overrun with derelicts that the City had pushed out of downtown in its elaborate renovation project. Most of these folks lived in SROs. The city bought or condemned the old hotels, leveled them, and left no place for the homeless mentally ill and drug addicts to live. So they all moved into the Encanto district.

And lest you think these folks are really harmless — as Dog appeared to be yesterday, as our Honored City Parents will assure you — consider the case of the paralegal who used to work in a dirty-shirt law office within easy walking distance of our house. She liked to come to work about an hour early, fix herself a pot of coffee, and use the quiet time to do the most immediate tasks before her coworkers and bosses would show up.

One morning, a prominent local bum was informed by his Voices that this woman was the Devil and he should kill her. Being an obedient type, that’s exactly what he did: he walked in the office’s front door and stabbed her to death.

This is not the sort of thing that inclines you to want to hang around a neighborhood that the City thinks is just ducky for its most unfortunate and its most neglected.

I am getting old. I no longer can handle a big dog that might provide a little protection. Nor am I especially comfortable with keeping a shotgun or a .38 on hand…too much potential for error.

Meanwhile, I’ve lived in this house almost 15 years. When I moved in, I installed a number of upgrades, all of which need to be redone. The oven no longer works. The dishwasher soon will need to be replaced. That’s about $2500 to $3,000 right there.

The pool needs to be replastered, and really, the pump should be replaced: $6,000. The exterior needs to be repainted: $2,000 to $4,000. The interior should be repainted, too. Another $2,000. The city wants to abandon the alleys and fence them off, which would help with the bum problem, but they intend to stick the residents with the cost. So we’re at…what? $12,500 to $15,000 worth of repairs and maintenance.

It’s bloody expensive to move…but it’s not that expensive. I’d probably need to replace the kitchen counters, since Mexican tile is roundly out of style and it’s cracked anyway. But that wouldn’t cost 12 grand.

If I decide to stay — really, I do not want to move — and I spend 12 or 15 grand to keep it running, the upgrades should last about 15 or maybe 20 years.

In 15 years, I will be 87 years old…and that is too old to move. I would like to live in this house until I die. But at 87, I almost surely will not have the funds to do all that maintenance over again. Nor will I have the physical strength to maintain a by-then-decrepit (again) pool.

In 20 years, I’ll be 92: even more extravagantly too old to move.

If I choose to move now, where would I move? Fountain Hills, a suburb on the far east end of Scottsdale, is a likely venue: it’s a long way from Bum Central, no ill-advised light-rail runs through it, the housing prices are more or less affordable, and it’s nice and quiet. On the other hand, it’s so far from my stomping grounds that I would have to quit the choir, make new friends (not an easy trick at this age), and would never see my son again.

There really isn’t any place in town that does not host a fair number of homeless. The tired, the poor, the wretched refuse of our teaming shores are pretty well endemic in this city. Light-rail aggravates the problem. You have to go a long way out to find a neighborhood where it isn’t an issue. Or have a lot of money. And I mean A LOT of money to buy your way into a protected district. We’re talkin’ Richistan on Steroids. And being WT myself, I personally do not find Richistan a very welcoming place to live.

I could buy a condo in one of the Central Avenue high-rises. But they’re outlandishly expensive. And what on earth would I do with the dogs in one of those places? They would have to find a new home.

Needless to say, this rumination did nothing to make my day any better.

It’s 3:00 by the time I get home: most of the day eaten up by all this Brownian motion.

I call my spy at Apple Support, having put this chore off until after the Fourth of July holiday. Leave word on his answering machine: he wants the case number, but I have so many case numbers I can’t figure out which was the one he’d worked on.

He does not call back. I’m not surprised. The laptop is now limping so badly it’s essentially dead.

Later in the day, a team of Chinese mathematicians sends over not one but two abstruse papers, asking for a bid. They also would like advice on publishing…meaning these things have yet to be brushed by the eyes of a peer reviewer.

Most of the math I edit is in bioengineering. This stuff is SCI, which has to do with information management. I could advise where to submit a paper in mathematical bioengineering, who to talk to, and how to go about it. But SCI? Not so much.

Table this message while I think about how much to charge. The Chinglish is pretty thick, which is especially problematic when I have NO clue what the authors are talking about.

Wireless connection turned off, I type up the rest of the novel “scenes” I’ve been concocting with pen & ink on paper. DAYUM! The total so far…so freaking far!…comes to over 17,000 words. What? I have eight scenes and am almost at the length of a short genre novel?

Study this and realize they’re not quite scenes: they could be construed as chapters. Okay. So…eight chapters and the first serious confrontation is not scheduled until chapter 9.


Decide to give up and wash the dog. This is never an easy chore; today it is made more difficult by the fact that I’ve put it off for a good two years. Because…well, it is an AWFUL chore.

First, brush out as much dog hair as possible:

Hard to believe one 22-pound corgi could even have that much hair at all, isn’t it?

Ruby, who has a more standard short coat, cannot understand why so much attention is being given to her rival, Cassie, and wishes to reclaim center stage.

She does so by placing herself between Cassie and the Human, then assuming the “WTF do you think you’re doing?” look.

Next: drag Cassie outside, kicking and fighting, and scrub her off in the hose. First shampoo her very thick, heavy hair — a lot like trying to shampoo a writhing bear rug. Then condition her fur; rub that in, rinse it out, clinging to the dog for dear life.

Run after the dog, who races in the back door and SHAKESHAKESHAKESHAKESHAKEs all over the kitchen cabinetry.

Any question yet about why I haven’t laundered this animal since the memory of human runneth not to the contrary?

Frantically dry the dog as best as possible with a couple of bath towels. It’s humid. I can’t get her fully dry, and, wishing to continue living, dare not take a hair dryer to her. She is very, very pissed.

Washing Cassie causes more hair to fall out. Every time. And yea verily. Couple hours later, she’s still damp, and clumps of fur are sticking out.

Try again to get her more dry. Brush her again, brush her brush her brush her brush her…

The second mound of fur is even bigger than the first mound, but now at least she’s starting to dry off a little.


Up at 5:30 this a.m. to race around and shoot out the door for the weekly Scottsdale Business Association Meeting.

Bolt down a piece of the cantaloupe I bought at Costco yesterday and swallow two cups of coffee while getting dressed and piling hair on top of my head. Fly out the door, running 10 minutes late.

It’s a 30- to 40-minute drive with the Commuter Cowboys, made only slightly more tolerable by the several round-about traffic-jam escapes I happen to know. Cruising toward the freeway…and realize…uh oh! Got an embarrassing urgency: out of the blue, diarrhea!

I need to go to the bathroom right now. And between that moment and the freeway, there is not one fast-food joint with a public loo.

Maybe I can make it to southeast Scottsdale.

Maybe not…

I turn around and manage to make it back to the house without having to put in an insurance claim to replace the driver’s seat, but just barely.

Now I have to wash my clothes. Goody.

What brought this on, I can’t imagine. I was fine when I rolled out of the sack this morning and fine until I got on the road. The only thing I can figure is it must have been the cantaloupe.

It seems unlikely you’d experience the effects of food poisoning in under an hour…but is there another explanation? Didn’t eat anything else today. Nothing that I ate yesterday was likely to make me sick…well, no, except maybe for some salad…I did wash the “organic” lettuce leaves, but unless you soak produce in Clorox, washing it doesn’t do much to get rid of pathogens.

Damn. Are we really so Third-World that I’m going to have to resort to what we had to do in Arabia? That was: soak EVERY piece of produce in diluted Clorox, and never eat anything (strawberries, for example) that cannot hold up to that treatment.

One halfway decent thing has happened, then, over the past 28 or 30 hours: The Apple Support guy called back this morning.

If I’d made it to Scottsdale, I would’ve missed his call.

He noted that the version of El Capitan my expensive Mac freelance guy downloaded is out of date. Suggested updating from 10.11.4 to 10.11.6; and BTW, he said, Expensive Mac Freelance was wrong in thinking the Macbook could support Sierra. Don’t try it, he advised.

He then instructed in a couple of strategies for reviving a more stable wireless connection. This resulted in crashing my iCloud sign-in, so had to jump through MORE hoops for that hassle. And he explained why MacMail has decided I should see miniature slivers of incoming messages; fixed that.

He asked me to use it for a while and then call back if there were any more issues. So far it’s working OK from the room where I prefer to work. Only one glitch in the past couple of hours:

Annoying Apple Photos will not import images from the camera: try that and you get another shut-down-and-reboot. Lovely. So I can’t adjust the color and exposure on the unlovely pictures above without loading them into Preview, which I am not going to fool with just now because my head hurts.

Ugh. Now I must prepare for a teleconference, and so…away!

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Author: funny

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One Comment

  1. What a great post….Glad to see that I am not the only one who seems to “struggle” more each day. Like you, I find myself breaking the future down into 5 and 10 year increments….how old I will be….and if I will be able to maintain the lifestyle I do and if so for how long. What was hilarious was the Costco visit, but not the spill. What started as a quick stop in to get gas, that necessitated you going inside to renew membership….which caused you to drop $300 on “impulse” purchases…I swear I think this is the Costco business plan ….the “great treasure hunt”….Thanks once more for the enjoyable post and keeping up the “good fight”…..