Funny about Money

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

February 15, 2019
by funny

“River of….” FOG?

One of the reasons, I think, it’s so difficult for many people to take global warming reports seriously is the silly hysteria with which weather news is reported.  The high point of this trend comes to mind: the time the local media ALERTed us to the (terrifying!) approach of a TYPHOON, barreling across the deserts of southern California, bound to smash into beautiful uptown Phoenix and level everything in sight. Be scared, be VERY scared!

Typhoon. {snort!} The day of the typhoon dawned clear, blue-skied, and calm. It continued in the same mode as the sun made its happy way across the zenith: through a perfect, crystalline empyrean. Nary a cloud appeared in Helios’s sight.

Ever since, we’ve learned to ignore the overheated click-bait and just go on about our business. Mare’s tails foretell rain. Heavy, low clouds announce the likelihood of imminent rainfall. Lightning, thunder, and the sound of a freight train bearing down on you suggest you might want to take cover.

Welp, this time we were told that (eeeeeeekkkk!!!!!!!) a RIVER OF RAIN was cascading toward our happy vales.

And indeed, California — on the western slope — did get some substantial flooding. But by the time the “River” climbed not one but two mountain ranges, it was more like a burbling stream.

We got a full, quiet, lovely day of slow, soft, sifting rain. A delicately indolent rain was still sprinkling when I went to bed last night.

The result: this morning, a spectacular fog!

How fantastic IS that? This was what it looked like along about 8:30 ayem. And this:

Fuzzy, eh?

Well, I was supposed to deliver the Toyotamobile to Chuck’s for its regular oil change and check-up, along about 9:15. Started to make the 20-minute drive and thought…whooaaaa! I ain’t makin’ this drive through the rush-hour traffic with a bunch of crazies who have never seen fog in their lives. Got about half-way down to Main Drag East when I realized I couldn’t see far enough down the street for it to be safe to drive at all, much less on an arterial crowded with my fellow homicidal drivers. So returned to the shaque, called Chuck on the phone, and begged for a new appointment.

That notwithstanding, it was really amazing outside, so forthwith saddled up little Ruby the Corgi and headed out for a doggy-walk.

That little dog was beside herself with sheep-herding joy. She knew she had found the Climate For Which She Had Been Born! Somehow, we had magically been translated to Wales!

As we crossed into Lower Richistan, I realized I could not see three houses down the street from where we were.

It was the kind of weather phenomenon we called “tule fog” in California: mist that rises up out of wet ground when the temperature conditions are right. It’s patchy and in some spots very thick, indeed. A friend in graduate school lost a brother when he drove off the road on the way home from UC Berkeley to Salinas one holiday weekend. A few years later, she did the same thing, but managed to escape the wreck alive.

Far as I can tell, no one killed themselves in the fog this morning. So…it was just an amazing sorta thing.

Strange. Very strange. But…no river there.

February 14, 2019
by funny
1 Comment

Life in the Big City: Moron Edition

You think I exaggerate when I whine that my life is over-run with morons? Consider last night’s adventure, not an uncommon one in these parts…

Many of the neighborhood lanes here in the ’hood have no sidewalks. That’s because when the tracts were built, the area was out in the country.

People wanted to feel they were living in semi-rural suburbs, and (more to the point) it was cheaper for developers to neglect building sidewalks. Nowadays, though, we live in the big city, not in some sleepy suburb of a sleepy small town. Alas, many of our honored citizens just cannot grasp that as fact.

So…last night I’m headed down to the church. As usual, I putter along the ’hood’s smaller lanes by way of avoiding the back-wrenching speed bumps our City Parents have installed, since I’m already in plenty of pain and would rather not be treated to more of it to get to a main drag.

It’s after dark. I turn off the sub-feeder street that runs along the east side of the park onto a pretty road that gives its name to Lower Richistan, so as to get to Main Drag East. Just as I make the turn I see this whitish thing floating in the air some yards in front of me. Whaaa????

It’s a big old dog’s off-white rear end.

I know this dog: he’s a Great Dane mix, very mellow. But it takes a second to figure out what the pale patch looming through the dark is.

Fortunately I stop the car while I ponder this through. Mr. Dane is accompanying his human, who is dressed completely, head-to-toe, in black or navy-blue. The human is INVISIBLE in the dark. Not only that, but s/he’s pushing a black stroller, which is similarly invisible.

The only way I spot them is that a car passes on Main Drag East, a block ahead, and its headlights backlight them.

A-N-N-N-N-N-D this genius is walking right up the MIDDLE of the right-hand lane of the road. If he hadn’t had that dog with him, I would’ve hit him and his baby.

I almost stopped to let him know he was invisible and suggest that maybe he might want to at least get out of the middle of the road. But then thought ya can’t fix stupid and went on my way.

The walker had on a pair of sneakers with tiny reflective patches on the heels, but they were so small as to be unnoticeable. This is NOT a safe thing to rely on whilst stumbling around in the dark.

Dunno about you, but I can remember being told in grade school — more than once — to always wear light-colored clothing when walking around outside after dark. An adult who’s old enough to spawn a child shouldn’t have to be told this. Wouldncha think?

February 12, 2019
by funny

The Frost Is on the Palm Tree…

…and on the neighbors’ roofs. The Human, consequently, is suffering a spate of severe indolence, much to the disgust of the Dog, a creature of crisper climates. Soon, though, the loafing primate will be forced to get up and trot around the ’Hood with the canid. Then it’s off to the Walmart to pick up some household necessities.

It was 36 degrees out there when the Dog and the Human rolled out of the sack this morning. Just now — along about two and a half hours later — the back porch thermometer claims the ambient temp has warmed to a cozy 41 degrees. Ruby just trotted in, bearing a prize mummified orange, which (unless I get off my duff and steal it from her) she will soon chew up into messy crumbs. There she goes…off to her nest in the back bathroom.

Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner is hung up on the new moron-protection equipment at the bottom of the pool. People with not very good sense will swim to the bottom of a pool’s deep end with their long hair floating sexily loose in the water and…surprise! Their hair gets stuck in the main drain (which has very powerful suction), they panic and can’t get loose, and they drown. So to protect such bright folk from themselves, we all get to be inconvenienced: the mandated non-hair-catching drain covers, which were not required by law the last time that pool was replastered, stick up off the floor and trap Harvey, so that he just sits there while the pump runs for eight hours at a time.

Pool Dude says I need to replace Harvey (who was replaced just a year or so ago…and whose life expectancy is a good eight years or more) with a model that has wheels. Right. That’ll be $380, which I don’t happen to have laying around. So…I dunno what to do about that. Maybe just take Harvey out and manually vacuum the pool every week or two. What a PITA.

I may ask Pool Dude if his company can come up with a better price than Leslie’s can. They are, after all, a local outfit, and one of course would rather buy local, all other things being equal. But…not now. Probably not until after the end of the summer, unless I win the lottery.

As soon as the rush hour traffic abates, the dog and I must set out for the daily mile-long circuit around the hood…though I must say, I’d like to take this dog somewhere else for a change of scenery. That would require getting in the car, though, something I find increasingly aversive as the days and months go by.

Yesterday I drove out to Tempe to meet The Kid at our favorite fancy restaurant. She’s now engaged in a new master’s program, with an eye to changing careers altogether. She wants to become a psychological therapist, a calling that (IMHO) she would be very good at.

It only took about 20 or 25 minutes to get out there. But it took over an hour to get home.

Normally one would figure the rush hour begins at 3:00 p.m. here. So at 2:25, westward bound on the 202, it did not register with me that I’d best get off the freeway at 32nd Street rather than driving all the way through to the northbound 51. That was dumb. Yards past the 32nd Street offramp, the traffic started to back up. People as usual were jerking and darting around and cutting each other off…I mean, really, estúpido, what good DOES it do you to be one car-length further on down the road than you already were? So in my inimitable manner I did a bit of my own highly skilled jerking around and cut off the guy who had just cut me off to get into the lane to go north on 24th.

Damn, I’m good! Outa my way, ya crazy fools!

I shoulda been a stock-car driver. Did you know one of my freshman-year roommates raced stock cars? Yeah. Back in the day: she was one of the only female race-car drivers in the country. Nineteen and aught-sixty-two…

The offramp is moving slowly, but it is moving. We cruise past several hundred cars (no exaggeration) becalmed in four side-by-side stopped lanes and we slide off onto 24th Street. From there it is a long drive on the surface streets to the north side of North Central.

I decide to take a favorite short-cut, darting west onto Missouri. Unfortunately, so many people now know about this route that one no longer does much darting on it…unless one is cutting off another of one’s fellow homicidal drivers, of course. Traffic is moving, but at a leisurely pace. Naturally, I forget about the damn school: see a school bus way on down the road. Thank the gods and goddesses, it turns off into a neighborhood. One annoyance out of the way, anyhow.

The favorite restaurant was disappointing: for the second time in a row. The last time, I thought it was a fluke — really, this is one of the best places to eat in the entire Valley. But now it looks like the operative term is was, not is.

Usually the hired help is primo: today the server was well-meaning, for sure…but…well…okay, let’s say it: stump-dumb. He didn’t know a lot about the restaurant business, apparently, and he certainly knew almost nothing about the level of cuisine usually served up there.

But that was probably OK, because the level was decidedly not at its high-water mark. Feeling less than ravenous, I ordered an hors-d’oeuvre  platter of Greek-ish delicacies priced about the same as an entrée, and a cup of fancified tomato soup. The soup had a kind of chemically taste (supposedly “smoked” tomatoes: I suppose the smoke was applied from a bottle). The hummus was overspiced (possibly that’s why it was misspelled on the menu? not really hummus but hummus-like: hummous…). The falafel balls were overcooked, dry, and came with too little tahini to moisten them — just a few smears spread on the plate. The Kid’s salad was…well, a salad: what else can one say?

The wine? I’ve had better from Walmart’s liquor shelf, and got the whole bottle for the six bucks we each paid for a glass of the day’s “special.”

The only part of the meal that was outstanding was the dessert. A berry shortcakey concoction, it was excellent. As for the rest of it: taken together, dessert included, it was decidedly not worth the $43 and change we each paid.

So. I’m thinking the next time I go there, I’m gonna order a cup of coffee and the dessert of the day. Period. I’m sure not dropping another $43 on another meal like what we had yesterday.

Well, the sun is half-way to the yardarm, the frost has melted off the neighbor’s shingles, and so…away!

February 9, 2019
by funny

Good Saturday!

G’day, indeed… Here’s a Saturday that’s been an unusually good day. Weirdly so, one could say.

Come noon, Ruby and I are trotting along…Ruby is practically glowing with joy. Her whole little body radiates a single message: oboy, this is a PERFECT dog day! And yea verily: the weather does make for a corgi-perfect perfect dog day: cool, even crisp, under Welsh-gray sky.

The natives were outside frolicking in force. We came across two kid parties and one big yard sale, all with folks hopping around like popcorn. It’s such a nice neighborhood, with legions of great neighbors!

Today I decided to change up my “system” for keeping the rambunctious Ruby under control. Because (like many corgis) she’s given to dramatic episodes of reverse-sneezing, often set off by pressure on the windpipe, I’d been lashing her up in a harness so that she didn’t give herself a choking fit whilst dragging me down the street. This, when she was a pup, had its drawbacks: without the control of a collar, she could and would pull me along like a little tugboat, so I used a tandem (two-dog) leash, clipping one lead to her collar and one to the harness. This provided some extra traction to keep her at heel but little control to communicate my (usually ignored) desires to her doggy brain.

Cassie could not keep up with Ruby charging down the road at full throttle. So I would have one dog dragging me forward and another dragging me backward…not a very happy arrangement. The double-leash lash-up helped ameliorate that, but it was a major PITA. Now that Ruby  and I can move along without an anchor, it’s a great deal more fun to go for a doggy-walk. And this afternoon I finally registered that, now Ruby is no longer a wacksh!t puppy and now that she’s a lot less susceptible to reverse-sneezing frenzies, maybe a single lead attached to the harness would do. Her collar, of course, bears her name and my phone number, so she can’t go without it. But possibly she doesn’t need to be connected to it.

And yea verily! That proved to be the case. She still drags during the first half-mile, but after awhile she was trotting right along like a normal dog. On a perfect dog day.

Sights in Payson…

Yesterday’s comedy of errors — in which I got the date wrong for a long-planned day trip to Payson — having resolved itself, today was freed up for me to go to the special rehearsal for tomorrow’s evensong concert. Hot diggety! Our choir director has lured a gifted guest conductor into town to lead us in this endeavor, and when I heard about this (belatedly arranged) coaching session, I really wanted to go to it.

So that was wonderful. As usual I learned a lot of things and enjoyed every minute of it. It should be a pretty impressive service:

  • William McKie, “We Wait for Thy Loving Kindness” — which was written for the marriage of the then Princess Eizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten in 1947
  • Preces and responses by William Byrd
  • Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G Major
  • Sir Edward Elgar, “Give Unto the Lord”
  • Salve Regina (a Marian antiphon

The Elgar piece is pretty challenging, at least for the likes of moi. But it’s all truly gorgeous music. So it’s quite a joy to be able to participate in that.

Back at the Funny Farm, I managed to get the paperwork tasks under control, more or less, whilst treating the pained back with an ice pack. I’ve learned the cold seems to work better on this particular spavin than does heat. Indeed, the heating pad sometimes seems to make it even worse, whereas a cold pack numbs the damn thing so no pain (well…little pain) can be felt.

In the paperwork department, I was pleased to find a water bill of “only” $118. This is well below the recent “normal” figures of late. And I’m pretty sure it’s because the pool job must have sealed off a leak. Normally, in wintertime the pool would need to be topped up a couple of times a week — presumably because that much evaporates in the dry air. But nay…since we resurfaced the thing last November, I’ve only added water two or three times. Total! And that, not very much.

Admittedly, we’ve gotten a little rain over the past few weeks. But in fact, “a little” is the operative term: in years past, it would have been nowhere near enough to keep up with the “evaporation.”

Starved after the doggy-dragwalk, I enjoyed a pasta orgy in the afternoon: gorgeous sea scallops sautéed in garlic & olive oil along with some chard and cut-up spring asparagus, then doused in marvelous Pomí tomatoes flavored with a splash of wine. Not too bad at-tall. This, celebrating a return to the desired weight target (to my surprise…).

Oddly enough, pasta that is made in Italy of wheat grown in Italy does NOT elicit the usual effect of bloating me up by two to five pounds. Literally: one serving of ordinary American pasta instantly puts on a chunk of weight, which then takes two or three days to dissipate. But for some reason, a comparable amount of this expensive imported Italian stuff does no such thing. Since pasta is my comfort food, IMHO it’s worth the price. But y’know…. If the Italians can make pasta that doesn’t f**k up your system, I fail to see why we can’t do so, too. At any rate, I never buy American pasta anymore. Try it: you might find the same.

Image: Payson art gallery. By Alan Levine from Strawberry, United States – Down The Street Art Gallery. Uploaded by PD Tillman.

February 8, 2019
by funny

Comedy of Errors…That Ends Well

What a wacky day! Bill Shakespeare himself couldn’t have made this one up.

So my friends VickyC and KJG made plans to meet at KJG’s new digs in Payson, on the 9th. This entails a junket up the side of the Mogollon Rim, about a 90-minute drive.

But first, I had to find some place to farm out the dog: My son’s house.

M’hijito was pressed into duty.

From his house I would have to make my way through gawdawful rush-hour traffic, made even more nightmarish by the TWO (not one) no-left-turn-during-rush-hour roads between my house and VickyC’s house. Getting there would require some driverly gymnastics on the master level. Meanwhile my back still hurts like hell.

So I arrive at his house at the duly appointed time, a little after 8 a.m. Jangle the doorbell.

He, given a fair amount of seniority on the job, is allowed to work at home to some degree. At a little after 8 a.m., he’s on the phone to a customer and is mightily annoyed at being interrupted.

Says he: It’s tomorrow, not today! The 9th is tomorrow.

WTF? Well, I’m sure the Big Day is Friday, because Vicky C, also gifted with a fair amount of seniority, often gets Fridays off. But now am confused.

Leave the dog with him, dart back to the car, and set out to circumnavigate the gawdawful no-left-turn lanes. This entails, in classic Phoenix driving fashion, traveling west in order to go east. I have to get over to 15th Avenue, cruise down to Indian School, fight my way across Central Avenue and the fucking train tracks, then veer south on 3rd Street, bat down to Palm Lane, cross 7th Street on that neighborhood lane (which has a light on 7th), and if I’ve lived that long make my way over a couple more neighborhood streets to VickyC’s.

This would be enough fun without the usual array of moron drivers.

But yea, verily: today I encounter the Emperor of Morons.

Wouldntcha know?

Southbound on 15th — a two-lane road, one southbound, one northbound, with a woozly little left-turn lane running up the middle — I pull up behind a jerk who’s meandering along at 15 mph. It’s a 35 mph zone, which means in Phoenix most people would drive 40 mph. Fifteenth Avenue is a main drag, you understand.

The turkey putters along and putters along. He’s not looking for someplace to turn. No. He’s just holding up the traffic.

Enough. I look around for a cop. Seeing none, I swerve into the left-turn lane and floor it!

This would be why we insist on a SIX-banger.

Sail past the moron and shoot back into the southbound lane, leaving the clown in the dust. Make the light and swing onto Indian School, where I wait through four or five lights to cross Central Avenue, pointlessly and stupidly congested by the lightrail boondoggle.

Finally get through that mess. Dart down 3rd, putter across Palm, and cruise up to VickyC’s house.

Naturally, she’s not there. Evidently my son is right: the Payson day was tomorrow. Which makes sense: the 9th is tomorrow, this being the 8th.

Back to the kid’s house. Pick up the dog, disappointing poor Charley the Golden Retriever, who was thrilled to have company today.

On the way home, stop by the park. By now, summat after 9:00 a.m., the morning is gorgeous! The air is still so crisp some frost lingers on the grass, but the sun is brightly shining. At this late hour, there’s almost no one in the park. We get in a mile’s walk, swinging south through a peninsula of Lower Richistan. Where…of course…

…we encounter another moron.

This is the Ohhhh don’t worry he only wants to play! species of moron.

Yes. Said chucklehead has a hundred-pound Rottweiller straining at a flimsy retractable(!) leash. This critter sees little Ruby and decides she’s at best a nuisance; at worse possibly a threat. The moron does not understand dog language, nary a whisper of it, and so he fails to grasp the meaning of a stiff-legged stance and a tense expression. Yea, verily, the stiff-legged stance with which his little FooFoo is approaching me and my dog, while he — the chucklehead — is being dragged along and cooing, he just wants to play!

I growl, perhaps altogether too unkindly, Right! I’ve heard the wind blow before. Poor little moron chuckles, probably nonplussed, and manages to hold his animal at bay until Ruby and I can get past, giving him and his poochie a wide berth.


And speaking of stump-stupid, when I get back to the house I email VickyC to say I had the day wrong and I guess we’re going up to Payson on the 9th, Saturday, not on our usual get-together day, Friday.

She emails back: I thought it was March 9.

Holy sh!t.

We check in with KJG and learn forthwith that she’s on her way down here for a grandchild’s birthday, and indeed was figuring on March 9.

So. This is senility for ya. On steroids.

Actually, it’s a bit of a blessing. Quite a bit of a blessing.

First, of course, because I did not look forward to having to roll out of the sack early again tomorrow, bang around to feed me and the dog and pack the dog and her dinner in the car and repeat today’s adventures in city driving. So, hallelujah brothers and sisters, I’m excused from a repeat of that task.

But FAR more to the point: Our redoubtable new choir director, by way of orchestrating a special concert for this weekend’s Evensong, has arranged for a high-powered guest conductor to come in and lead us through this event. Out of the blue, he announced that said conductor would be here for a rehearsal tomorrow and, though notice was short, he would love to have as many of us attend as possible.

Well. Of course you may be sure I really wanted to be there, because our guy has brought in some very interesting people and this one promises to be another of them. Thinking I couldn’t possibly get out of the Payson junket, I was pretty disappointed.

But nay verily! Now I can go to this event after all!

So it goes: All’s well that ends well.

February 6, 2019
by funny

Bills and Taxes and Budgets and Mathematicians, Oh My!

Almost fainted when I saw the American Express bill this month: $1250! Holeee Mackerel!

Since I’m running low on money anyway and am not going to make it to the end of my “fiscal year” when we’re slated to pull out another Required Minimum Drawdown, this was a bit of an eyepopper.

The fact is, though, that only about $700 of that was for living expenses. The vet charged $200 to put Cassie the Corgi down. The plumber charged $350 to rotoroot the plumbing. Et voilà: budget busted.

Fortunately, I’ve been putting $300 a month into emergency savings, so had a couple thousand bucks for damage control. Transferred $200 to help cover the bill; and if at the end of the month push has come to shove, I can transfer another two or three hunnert into checking for survival purposes.

Meanwhile, the scheme to decommission the Copyeditor’s Desk’s Paypal account continues apace. After hours of hassle, I finally managed to trick damnable PayPal to establish a new account, except that they wouldn’t let me attach it to the corporate bank account. So now money paid for editorial and blogging work will go into my personal account, and then will have to be transferred, with elaborate explanations to the tax man, over to the corporate checking account. That is going to be a vast PITA.

However, speaking of decommissioning: WonderAccountant has a modest proposal. She thinks we should change the business’s structure from an S-corp to a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or a C-corp. And she’s got somethin’ there.

If we made it a sole proprietorship, tax prep would be enormously simplified. The only drawback I can see is that the credit union will want to close the corporate checking & savings accounts. However, WonderAccountant and Mr. W.A. believe we can keep the EIN, and so we could quietly not tell the credit union that any change has occurred. This, we will address later…after tax season.

Meanwhile, all the tax stuff for her is in hand. How I hate this bureaucratic stuff! And how happy am I that I do not have a job in which all you do is wrestle with bookkeeping and taxes? Eeek! Let me count the ways!

Oh, in the PayPal department — and the Department of Outrageous Corporate Bureaucratic arrogance — can you believe this?!? Paypal actually demanded that I provide my bank account number AND password!!!!!!!!! Only in a fine-print line does one find a link to allow you to bypass that bit of bullshit.

Can you imagine? Like I’m gonna give PayPal direct access to my money and let them spy on every thing I do with my bank account? Yes, and while we’re at it, fork over my password to the next hacker who takes on PayPal!

Meanwhile, just as I thought the editing bidness was so moribund I might as well shut it down altogether, along came another of the redoubtable Chinese mathematicians, with 18 typeset pages of elaborate theroretical explication.

What amazing stuff. When you read this copy, you realize how creative and original mathematicians are. The whole premise for the system she uses to describe as a way to understand a specific set of empirical phenomena is a metaphor. Her demonstration works because she founds it in a metaphorical view of the real-world conditions she addresses.

And just as I reached the last few paragraphs of this project, in came a message from a senior scholar who contacted me some time back about helping him with a new biography of a very interesting mid-twentieth-century Chinese figure. This is a book I would really like to work on, and more to the point, he is an eminent scholar with whom I would really like to collaborate. Too, too exciting!

In other pastures of the Elysian Fields…I canceled tomorrow’s crack-of-dawn appointment with the adorable Young Dr. Kildare. Suddenly, out of the proverbial blue (is that also Elysian?), the back pain slacked off markedly. Yesterday afternoon it started to feel better, and this morning the pain was almost gone.

Well. In the first place, I’d just as soon not waste YDK’s time if the damn back sprain is going to go away on its own. Less generously, the prospect of spending a full hour in rush-hour traffic fills me with annoyed horror. To get there by the 8:00 a.m. appointment time, I’d have to leave here at 7 a.m., and the drive would be gawdawful. So…”feels better” served as a convenient excuse.

And a chimera: by 4:00 this afternoon it hurt like hell again.

Among the several tasks I’d set for today was to get a grip on Chapter 36 of Ella’s Story. Right. Well. I filled my pen, anyway.