Coffee heat rising

“Retire”…or no?

Cassie-off-leash
The endless doggy walk…

So this morning it occurred to me that maybe I should chuck all the paying work and call it, once and for all, True Retirement. Maybe what I really want to do in life is what SDXB does:

nothing

The truth is, I don’t want to work very hard. But on the other hand, the truth is I don’t work very hard. 🙂

The plan to build a substantial amount of exercise into daily life (so the mental argument went) will absorb a lot of time from my days. But the third truth in this calculation is that I spend an inordinate number of hours per day glued to computer screens. Frequently — not once in a while, but quite often — I will roll out of the sack, stumble into the office and check the email, then the news, then the work in progress, then Facebook, then Nextdoor, then the local news, then the email again…hours pass before I notice that I haven’t even fed the dogs.

This morning the poor little dogs didn’t get fed until after 9:30! And since we all overslept until 7:00 a.m., they must have been very hungry critters by the time I noticed it was past time to produce their chow.

But that’s not uncommon. I often sit around till 8 or 9 o’clock before feeding them or me. All of that time is pretty much wasted time: diddled away at the computer.

That is why I’ve become so sedentary and why I don’t get any exercise: I kill so much time diddling with or (sometimes) working at the computer, I can easily sit from 7 in the morning till 10 at night without getting up more than two or three times.

Is there a question why I have high blood pressure?

Well… I do like the work I do, almost as much as I like getting paid for it. And my business partner is now hot to change our business plan, reverting to a strategy used by a previous incarnation of the little corporation…when I had a co-conspirator who was pretty good at landing small government contracts for publishing and editorial projects.

These would, indeed, pay us a fair rate — which we do not get, most of the time, by working for individuals. And as she pointed out, two decent contracts a year would support us both.

So: that tends to work against the urge to board up the doors.

Daydreaming while making this morning’s dog-free walk, I wandered into Inner Richistan instead of heading directly home from the park. This added a half-mile to the stroll, making it a two-mile power walk.

Having noted the time I left, when I got home I discovered that the little journey had taken all of 34 minutes.

A mile-long doggy-walk takes about 20 or 25 minutes.

A yoga routine: 20 minutes.

One set of physical therapy exercises: about 10 minutes.

Let us suppose, for fudging’s sake, that a dog-free walk of two miles takes 40 minutes and a one-mile dog-walk takes 30 minutes. Two physical therapy sets are required per day.

So that would give us an exercise regimen that would add up to 40 minutes + 30 minutes + 20 minutes + 20 minutes: all of 110 minutes. That’s less than two hours.

At this time of year, days are short. I don’t usually wake up much before 7 a.m., and because it’s dark and often chilly, I go to bed early, around 9 p.m. That gives fourteen hours of usable waking time. In other words, I can do two hours of exercise and still have 12 hours left in which to do honest work.

Or what passes for it.

In the summertime, when we get up at 5 a.m. and go to bed around 10, the available workday time is 17 hours.

The problem here is not that I need to retire; it’s that I need to get off my duff.

Lost in Space

TUESDAY:

Total disconnect from the Internet is extremely weird. Truly: a bizarre experience.

I’ve come unstuck from life.

It occurred to me, as I stumbled back into the house after getting home from the Mayo, that it has been years – yea, verily, many years – since I arrived in the Connected Universe. My home (and, by extension, my business) has not been offline in at least two decades. Maybe three. And not being able to get online? Feels like half my life has come to a dead stop. Which, I suppose, it has.

But…this is life???

As I was trudging home from the Mayo through yesterday’s gawdawful rush-hour traffic, the mind wandered.

I need to look up CT scans. The doc’s nurse-practitioner had ordered a CT scan, in hopes of confirming or deconfirming her theory that what ails me is not allergies but a full-blown sinus infection.

Sinus infection. None of the quacks nor the dentist have suggested that one. I need to look up “sinus inf….” Uhm…well…no.

Gotta call my son and ask h… Well. no.

I wonder if the phone in the back bedroom is actually connected to the damn Internet, or if by chance it’s plugged into a real, actual land line? …Well. no.

Crap! If I slip and fall or…or…or if anything happens to me, I will have NO WAY to call for help. Retrieve the emergency inscrutable cell phone from the car; place in jeans pocket.

Has that bastard Moore won in Alabama? Did a miracle happen and drive the state’s wacksh!t bigots to vote him down? No way to know until I get to the Little Guy’s place tomorrow…and that will have to wait until after I schlep the puppy to the vet and bring her back home.

WAHHH! How can I live without watching the news?

Beats me.

On the other hand, if I’m not wasting time watching news stories about which no one can do much…if I’m not wasting time on Facebook…if I’m not wasting time on Nextdoor…if I’m not wasting time playing online games…then there will be little else to do but write the current flibbet of fiction. Under its working title of “Ella’s Backstory,” the thing has proceeded to some 10,224 words. Not bad for a rough draft of nothing much, compiled between other time-wasting activities.

If I wasted my time only on Ella’s Backstory, how much could I get done before Cox restores me to my former ersatz reality?

A lot, I’ll bet.

How much could we Americans, as a people, get done if we did not pass our time in ersatz reality?

WEDNESDAY:

They haven’t laid the blacktop in the alley yet. Possibly if they delay a day or two, the Cox guy, who is supposed to show up this afternoon, will get the lines for the wireless connection relaid.

Possibly not, too: the backhoe operator knocked over the telecomm company’s cable device in the alley, so that presumably will have to be replaced. On what time schedule is anyone’s guess.

Also anyone’s guess: who’s going to pay for this?

Cox will try its best to sock it to me: that’s their standard operating practice. If they make me pay to reconnect a line that THEY fucked up by not installing it properly, I am switching the land lines over to VoIP and buying an annoying cell phone. I’ve probably put off being leashed to a cell as long as I can – these days when you tell people you don’t have a cell phone, they give you a blank look. It’s so unthinkable, they don’t even understand what you’re saying.

Problem is, I can’t afford another monthly bill. Especially not one that’s likely to run around $130. I’m already almost out of money, with nine months to go before the next drawdown. My house is freezing, because the only way I can pay the outrageous air conditioning bills in the summer is to leave the heat off in the winter. There really aren’t a lot of other ways to economize, at this point. I do not travel, I do not go to movies, I do not go to sporting events, I rarely buy clothes, I buy makeup in the drugstore, I do not get my hair done at a salon, and I’ve quit buying food at Costco. There really are no other ways to cut corners, other than to get rid of the dogs.

That would save about $50 a month. Plus the usual Big Hits from the dogs. This morning, for example, I have to schlep Ruby to the vet: now she has a rotten tooth and is getting an abscess. Pulling Cassie’s abscessed tooth cost over $900. Now we get a replay of that disaster!**

And the City has put me out of business. With my computers offline, I’m screwed: all my business is done online. I have no idea whether my clients are trying to get in touch with me, and will not know until I can get to a coffee house with connectivity. I can’t pay my bills. I can’t retrieve clients’ payments from PayPal.

I’ll have to drop by the Little Guy’s place on GangBanger Way, on the way home from the vet. What I’m supposed to do with Ruby whilst answering email in the parking-lot café outside the Little Guy’s escapes me.

Fortunately, it’s wintertime. I can leave her in the car for awhile. But not for very long. Plus I have to be back here by 1 p.m. It’s an hour’s drive between my house and the vet (everything is an hour’s drive in Phoenix’s nightmare traffic). If I get out of there by 10:15 (this assumes he sees me on time and doesn’t consume more than a half-hour of my time), it will be 11:15 by the time I get to the coffee house. That will leave maybe an hour and a half to catch up with the email, cope with whatever headaches arise there, post these blog maunderings, and read the news.

But not so much, really: Cassie rolled out of the sack at 5 this morning with diarrhea. I can’t leave her outside – it’s cold and she’s not used to that, and besides the racket from all that heavy equipment will terrorize her. If I leave her indoors for more than an hour or so, I’ll have an unholy mess to come home to. Scrubbing up doggy diarrhea off the floors is really not what I want to do with an already unhappy day.

If I race home, drop off Ruby, let Cassie out, and then race back up to the coffee house to attend to business, I may not get back here in time to contend with the Cox guy, who is supposed to show up between 1 and 3.

Shee-UT!

** The good news (for a change) is that the bump on Ruby’s schnozz is NOT an abscess, even though her left carnassial fang is encased in tartar. She needs her teeth cleaned, which ain’t cheap. But at least it won’t set me back another $900.

Groceries: Online or In Person?

A thing of the past?

Here’s an amusement: Whilst Amazon makes a grab for Whole Foods, cheapies down its offerings, and turns it into an order-out joint, Aldi is going in the opposite direction: Opening newer and fancier stores, spiffing up the existing properties, and targeting customers who prefer to buy their groceries in brick-and-mortar establishments.

Interesting development, isn’t it? Aldi, according to the report linked above, is betting the farm (heh!) on the proposition that most people would rather shop for groceries in person, especially where fresh products are concerned.

Though it’s a huge risk, it makes sense when viewed in some lights. Given the traditionally low profit margins in the grocery business (typically around 5 percent), dropping your margin to somewhere around 3 percent for the privilege of letting shoppers order online and have stuff delivered has a whiff of suicide about it.

Also, it’s reasonable to suspect that a large number of shoppers may prefer to buy in person, for a variety of reasons. Some may prefer brick-&-mortar shopping all the time; some may find it more convenient to pick up food on the fly some of the time — and they may prefer to do the picking up in a real supermarket with substantial offerings, not in a Circle K.

This may apply to the young and the techie as well as to us cranky old fossils. Last night, for example, my son invited me over for dinner. He kindly made us a pizza, but realized he was missing a couple of items and he didn’t have a bottle of wine. A ten-minute trip to the Fry’s Supermarket around the corner caused these items to materialize… We didn’t have to search for them online, and we didn’t have to wait hours or a day to have them delivered. Obviously, when you order online, someone has to find your items, package them, ship them, pick them up at the warehouse, drive them across the city, and deposit them at your doorstep. That isn’t going to happen in 15 or 20 minutes.

As for us old folks: we’ve been around the grocery-delivery block.

Some time ago, I decided to try ordering up a week’s worth of groceries from the local Safeway. How wonderful, I imagined, not to have to get in the car, traipse through the homicidal traffic, trudge through the store, stand in line to pay, drag the stuff out to the car, and drive back home through said homicidal traffic.

And online grocery shopping would be wonderful. If it worked.

It probably would indeed work for a certain kind of buyer. If you subsist mostly on restaurant food and, when at home, on processed, packaged food, door-to-door grocery delivery would no doubt be highly successful for you.

But if you’re into real foods, unprocessed foods, fresh foods: not so much. The problem is, grocery-store clerks haven’t a clue about selecting fresh fruits and vegetables. What I got when I made the ballyhooed delivery order was under-ripe tomatoes, over-ripe fruit, and wilted lettuce. They don’t eat that kind of stuff, and so they do not know how a fresh melon or a fresh bunch of asparagus is supposed to look.

Nor do they know how to select a decent cut of meat.

Consequently, what you get is not very good — certainly not worth the price you pay for it.

I think the growing popularity of “organic” foods suggests that a number of people — maybe a lot of people — do care about the quality of the food they consume. And possibly that a larger number than you might expect prepare food in their homes.

My son for example, can make a pizza that you simply cannot buy at any pizzeria or grocery counter. Why would he want (for example) a random bag of soggy mushrooms delivered when he’s building a really first-rate meal?

It’ll be interesting to see what develops.

Meanwhile, while we’re watching: what’s your preference in grocery-shopping: on-line or in person?

General Business Frustrations

So this was an aggravating day of general business frustration. (Notice how skillfully, not to say clunkily, I include the title’s main words — yea, verily: all the words — for the pointless benefit of Google’s search engines? Thank you, oh, thank you, dear Lord Google, for improving our writing style and making us all sound like talking bots.)

High on today’s list of tasks to accomplish was to post the writing tome’s body copy and cover copy to the printer’s website and order up a set of page proofs. This chore, I expected, would occupy an hour, maybe at the outside two hours.

No.

It consumed the entire frigging day! Started on that around 10 a.m., having returned from this morning’s bidness meeting (does Google’s search-bot perceive “bidness” as a synonym for “business”?) and having completed a few chores so small they don’t rank high enough to get on the Whiteboard List, I loaded up the PoD guy’s site and began the rather simple task of uploading content.

1. Convert the Wyrd file to PDF (already done) and upload the file to the order page.

2. Go through the file for one last proofread.

3. Fix the few remaining issues.

4. Convert the Wyrd file again to PDF and re-upload the PDF.

5. Go through the file for one last, last proofread.

6.Convert the Wyrd file again to PDF and re-upload the PDF. Shirk the duty of proofing it again.

7. Upload a PDF (or is it a JPEG??) of the wrap-around cover. Make minor adjustments in size and position.

8. Submit; pay money.

9. Order one (1) set of page proofs.

Does this look hard?

Well, no. It doesn’t LOOK hard. And I don’t suppose it would be hard, if things went according to plan.

1. Go through the file for one last proofread…

Discover that in a paragraph urging readers to be sure to hire a copyeditor before inflicting their golden words upon the world, the word “your” appears as “you r.”

Far more annoying, several diagrams that came across just fine from Wyrd into the PDFs have somehow corrupted. Three of the five graphics are fucking trashed.

Fix the typo and a couple of other small issues. Then try to figure out what’s wrong with the artwork. After several re-conversions to PDF and then several hours spent rebuilding the (damned complicated!) diagrams, there is no way on God’s green earth I can figure out why the images are corrupted and what I can do to fix them. The new, upgraded versions come across even MORE distorted than the originals.

2. Giving up on this effort, along about three in the afternoon I decide at least to upload the cover.

Can’t remember whether they require a PDF (think so) or a JPEG (which of course would make sense). Upload a PDF. Result: a wide white border all around the painfully, tediously constructed, elaborate wrap-around cover.

Try uploading a JPEG. Result: nothing.

Wrestle with the PDF. Can NOT get the uploaded image to quit appearing inside a wide white border.

Screw with this several times but have no luck.

Decide to try re-uploading the content PDF, in hopes that maybe refreshing that page will let it upload the rebuilt images.

No luck.

It was after 5:00 by the time I decided to give up wrangling this stuff. But along about then, as I was closing out of the PoD outfit’s page, I noticed the cover had mysteriously uploaded, as if on its own or by mental telepathy, in such a way as to look almost normal.

Must be Cox’s wondrously expensive new modem/router is SO DAMN SLOW that it takes not seconds, not minutes, but large fractions of an  hour to complete a transaction.

So that was a bit of a frustration.

This morning’s business breakfast in lovely mid-town Scottsdale was a bit of a frustration, too.

You know, I’ve never much cared for First Watch, not since the first bloom of the business faded. So it was not with much joy that I greeted news that our meetin’ place of lo! these many years, a dowdy Good Egg, was to be consumed by the not-much-less dowdy First Watch. Trepidation, indeed, you might say: not joy.

And those trepidations have proven prophetic. The new management has decided serving up a weekly breakfast to a group of 12 does not meet their definition of profitability. So they’ve been pressuring us to move on for quite some time. First thing they did was move our meeting table (which occupied a part of a semi-private back room) and stuff us into uncomfortable bench seating. Then they took our favorite waitress away and gave us airheads in her place. They changed the menu, but as one would expect, it’s no better than any other lovely American breakfast menu: oversalted, oversugared, and overgreased.

Yech.

While I was sick, the group tentatively tried out a Denny’s, a store whose location would add another two miles to my already annoying drive into the blinding early a.m. glare.

Really, I do not like Denny’s. I haven’t been back to Denny’s in years, not since the time that they served me a cup of coffee in a mug with some woman’s bright red lipstick print stuck to the rim. When I asked for a clean cup, they refused to give me one!!!!!

So I do not relish meeting at Denny’s.

But it probably doesn’t matter, because I rarely order anything at the Good Egg/First Watch. Eggs make me vomit instantly, and overall I don’t care for foods that are mushy and sweet or that are oversalted. That pretty much lets out…

Bacon & eggs
Ham and eggs
Oatmeal as served in US restaurants
Gooey sugary yogurt “parfaits”
Pancakes made of undercooked commercial mix and topped with gooey sticky stuff
Cottage fries drenched in salt
And…you name it.

Their coffee’s so bad it’s undrinkable So that leaves one with…well…a glass of water.

Today’s service was so bad and the seating so uncomfortable that we decided enough was enough. We planned to meet at Denny’s next week.

This of course entailed my tracking down Denny’s management and confirming that our band of merry robbers could meet there next week, making a reservation, and sending out a notice to the membership. And that elicited a suggestion from the Boss Man that really, really despite my peevishness I should let First Watch let we would not be there next week.

That is because he is a nice man and I am not a nice woman. I personally feel that their not even bothering to have set up our table this morning is a perfectly fine reason not to bother to inform them that we will not be there next Thursday.

And therein lies the difference between a gentleman and the Wicked Bitch of the West…

Discussed the e-book with Wonder E-book Fomatter. The elaborate graphics have him pulling out what little remains of his hair, too. Not only do the images make him crazy (he’s actually got those down pat), he hates loathes and despises footnotes, which generate layer on layer on layer of extra work for him. He tortured himself by counting the damn things, leading him to point out — four or five times — that I’ve inserted 88 notes in the thing. I suggested he simply substitute links; this elicited a lengthy disquisition on what a PITA that is.

Life is a PITA.

It is now after dark. I haven’t walked the dogs. Yea verily, I haven’t walked the dogs in many days. They grow frustrated; I grow fat.

Oh well. Things could be worse. Our honored Clown in Chief could, for example, launch us into an open war with Syria, for example….

That oughta up his approval rating amongst the ones born every day…

 

 

Paper!!!

Wads and wads and wads of paper… Am I the only sheeple who’s sick & tired of having piles of paper inflicted on her? Paper physical and paper virtual, makes no difference: it’s all time-consuming, annoying, goddamn clutter.

Every April, I have to file an annual report with the Arizona Corporation Commission for The Copyeditor’s Desk. What this really is is an excuse to extract $45 from you. To distract you from the reality, they blitz you with pointless paperwork, which you now have to fill out online.

The annual report entails plodding through four pages of pointless questions, all of which are the same pointless questions posed last year. The pointless questions never change.

Their pointlessness aside — there’s really no reason to ask most of the questions in the first place, and there’s certainly no point in posing them over and over and over and over, once every year that your company is in business — because they’re endlessly repetitive and pro forma, all the ACC really needs to do is ask you “has anything changed since last year.” But this would absorb about 20 seconds of your time — as opposed to half an hour or so — and would consume only one line of electronic copy. As opposed to making you click through page after page after pointless page.

Once this exercise is completed, you have to — or rather, if you have a brain in your head you will — download and print a lengthy PDF showing what answers you made and attesting that you filed the document and ponied up 45 bucks. You also will download and print the receipt for the 45 bucks.

Stash this in your already bloated file folder, and then move on to the next exercise in futility: You’re also required to write and keep the minutes of your corporation’s annual meeting. Nevermind that your board of directors consists of one (1) person: you’re still required to meet with yourself and record what you said to yourself.

Interestingly, you’re not required to file this silly document with the state. But you are required to write it and keep it on file…in perpetuity.

Honestly. The amount of paper that comes into this place, whether for business or personal matters, defies belief. You could, in theory, store it to disk… But who wants to trust that a computer will not crash or a hacker will not hack when it comes to documents that the government or some insurance company requires?

Okay, so much for that rant. Now to emit some paperwork of my own…

Image: Depositphotos, © gemenacom

March showers bring April winds…

So the spring winds are here. These are somewhat more brisker than a breeze but don’t (usually) rise to monsoon levels. Normally they blow the leaves and flowers off the shrubbery and the fruit off the trees, with the aim of dumping all that stuff in the natives’ pools.

Over the past week or ten days, though, we’ve had some passing stiff blows. Conveniently, these have provided an opportunity to test the latest panty-hose approach to pool filtration. And, by golly, it works!

Picked up some cheap hose on sale at a grocery store the other day. Lobbed off the legs, tied them off, and tied the resulting bag to the leaf-catcher. The booty-bag vacuumed up the leaves and twigs in about twenty seconds, without once threatening to slip off the device and dump its cargo all over the bottom of the pool. The one I secured inside the skimmer basket filter also stayed firmly in place; it was chuckablock full of leaves and blossoms this morning.

The trick is to disconnect Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner whilst the wind blows. This keeps him from choking on twigs, flying pecan shells, and the like. Dust, twigs, palm tree cuttings, and heavier leaves drop to the bottom of the pool; small blossoms and the BB-like palm-tree seeds alight on the surface and flat. After the wind dies down, one then turns on the pump, which sucks the floating debris into the skimmer basket and, by way of the current it sets up, pushes everything on the bottom into a convenient pile in one spot. Hence: the garden-hose driven leaf-catcher, which easily lifts the mound off the bottom and sucks it into the booty-bag.

Despite the half-bushel or so of plant debris, the pool is still holding its own against the recurring mustard algae, which by this time last year was joyously coating the walls with moss.

At one point earlier this spring, I was reminded that when I first moved into this house, I was so delighted with the pool that I used to sweep it down every day or so. Of late, that enthusiasm has flagged — not so much out of boredom with the pool but because the year of surgeries broke me of habits that entailed even small amounts of physical exertion and because of late the editorial workload has been such that I just flat haven’t had time to fiddle with the yard and the pool.

LOL! A friend of mine, a middling prominent music critic, once remarked that self-employment allows you to set your own hours: any 18 hours of the day you please.

Yea, verily.

When I moved into the house, lo these many years ago, I had…well, you know…a job. (Urk!) I worked regular hours, and those hours did not start at 6:30 or 7 a.m. and run all the way through to 11 p.m.

So, back in the day, I had lots of time to break out the pool brush and run it up and down the walls. It only takes about 10 minutes, once you get yourself off the dime. So there really was no problem with doing a few light maintenance chores before leaving for work.

Today when a job or three are in-house, it’s roll out of the sack, grab the computer, answer the mail, do the books, pay the bills, work on someone’s copy — all before breakfast. Feed the dogs, bolt down some toast and coffee, maybe write a blog post (maybe not), post some PR to Facebook & Twitter, edit copy or compile index entries…allllll day long.

Heh. No wonder I never get anything done!