Next across the block…

The catalog for the next big prop auction just hit the streets this morning. The good news is that there’s nothing Buffy headed across the block next month, so there’s no reason to look into loan sharks or selling plasma to raise funds. 

There are, though, two items of interest – Eliot Ness’ badge from The Untouchables and a small trinket from a non-Buffy vampire franchise – that I wouldn’t mind making a home for if they stay somewhere in line with the pre-auction estimate. I’ll be keeping an eye out for how much interest the garner before the live portion of the auction kicks off.

Either one would be a treat to own, but fortunately neither will leave me obsessing for hours like the stake that got away. 

A surprisingly fond memory…

I have no idea what would have made me think of it this morning while driving to the office today, I had the most vivid memory of the night following my high school graduation. Maybe I’ll write it off to the mind going to odd places to avoid thinking unpleasant thoughts… like spending an otherwise perfectly fine day as a cube dweller in fluorescent-lit hell.

The notion of a raging party following graduation is so common it’s become a go-to trope in teen movies… or at least it still was the last time I saw a teen movie. There was certainly a selection of those available to choose from that night.

The one I picked was a more low-key affair. Someone, I don’t remember who, snagged a room at the Holiday Inn in Grantsville. Did hotels rent rooms to 18 year olds back then? There were maybe a dozen of us there, strictly a coed affair, all thinking we were young princelings of the universe.

There was plenty to drink, pizza to be ordered, and the possibility of other debauchery to be had, I’m sure. I wasn’t much of a partier in high school – I saved most of my boozing and smoking and other questionable life choices for college. I’m not claiming that I was an angel back then, but in some ways, the parties I did go to (and some that I hosted) were remarkably tame… as long as you didn’t look too hard at what was happening in dark corners. In any case, those long ago band parties are probably a topic for a different post.

Graduation night, though, is supposed to be the big night. Most fresh minted grads, I suppose, would have made a real time of it. Me? Well, I left the party long before midnight. I don’t remember what excuses I made, but I was sleepy and everything was loud. I stopped at Sheetz for a sub, went home, and put myself to bed not long after the clock struck twelve.

In retrospect, it feels like that night may have set the tone for how I’ve felt about parties and staying up late for almost my entire adult life. I still have no idea why I would have thought of any of that this morning.

Shutdown prep…

Years ago, the federal government was touted as stable employment, promising a career that wouldn’t make you rich, but ensured that you wouldn’t die poor. It was a guarantee of a solidly middle class lifestyle during your working years and a comfortable retirement when the time came. The trade off, for such stability was forgoing the big salaries that could sometimes be had for similar work in the private sector. Those salaries, of course, came with risk that the contract that paid so well could disappear overnight.

Stable is a relative term, of course. Over the last fifteen years I’ve worked through hiring freezes, furloughs, and more government shut downs than I can really remember. That’s not the hallmark of a particularly stable employer. Then again, when I look at the elected officials who the people, in their questionable wisdom, have sent to Washington to represent them, “stable” isn’t a world I’d choose to use for many of them – both the politicians and the electorate.

So here I am, with the next government shut down hovering in the wings, once again preparing to defer or stop payments and dramatically reduce the scope and scale of operations at Fortress Jeff.

I’ve got enough years on me now to ride out a run of the mill government shutdown if I must. Still, planning for a few weeks or months without pay does make you question going with the “stable” choice all those years ago. If you’re going to be planning how to cut spending down to the bone every couple of years anyway, maybe some of those contract jobs would have been better in the end.

Our elected representatives are increasingly incapable of acting like grown adults, but then again, the same is true of the people who elect them. The curse of democracy is we continue to get exactly the kind of politicians, government, and society that we deserve.

Another winter of discontent…

Remembering the fiasco of getting anything shipped between Thanksgiving and Washington’s Birthday last year, I’ve been in a bit of a race to pick up some books. It’s not that I’m in any danger of running out of things to read, but since I have a habit of picking up a series and then racing through it to the end, there are a few titles it’s going to be better to have on hand for when delivery services go absolutely sideways again this year.

Watching the supply chain struggle to not even keep up over the last year, it really feels inevitable that loading it down with the standard end of the year holiday surge will see the whole delicate machine grind to a near halt, if only temporarily. Products will still be flowing, of course, but there’s no guarantee that was moving through the network will be what you ordered. I fully expect basic delivery of goods to be almost unusable for a good part of the late fall and winter. Sure, I suppose your stuff will arrive eventually, but “timely service” isn’t going to be something to expect.

By this time next month, I’m planning to drastically curtail my use of online shopping and delivery. The sheer aggravation of waiting for weeks or months on things that should arrive in a day or two just isn’t worth it. I’ll draw down the stocks I’ve put up for the winter, or shop regional retail if it’s absolutely unavoidable. Now if I could just find the last book or two I’m looking for (at something less than fully-loaded collector prices), I feel like I could be all set to ride out another winter of discontent.

I’m not under any delusion that the supply chain will be completely untangled in 2022, but by the time the last Christmas card arrives in February or March, maybe last mile delivery will at least be usable for household basics again. I’m certainly preparing myself to see as much or more disruption than we did in in the closing weeks of 2000 and the first months of 2021. It’s one of those cases where I really hope I’ll be proven wrong and over reactionary… but I don’t think I am or will be.

Get a helmet…

This morning I stumbled across a thread on Twitter wherein the poster bemoans their seeming inability to work, pay bills on time, eat three times a day, perform basic personal hygiene, clean their place, and take care of the lawn. “How does anyone get it all done,” they rage into the electronic void.

By the time I saw it, the post had garnered 26,000 likes and hundreds of replies of “Same girl” or “Uh, this is the world capitalism gave us.” Other replies were some variation of “I just live in filth,” “Nobody does that,” “They’re rich and hire help,” or “They have a significant other who does it.”

I’m sorry, but that whole line of logic sounds like raging bullshit to me. Not all of those things are the top priority on every day – sometimes the house is a little dusty or I pull a meal out of the freezer instead of making a full dinner. But taken on average doing all the things is pretty much just being a responsible adult.

I’m sure someone will come screaming into the comments that my cis het white male conforming neuro-normative privilege is showing, but all I really read in that thread was a laundry list of excuses. There’s no staff here at Fortress Jeff. There’s no domestic help or significant other picking up the slack for whatever basic household task I don’t handle. Sure, I farm out some of the more specialized tasks (like fixing the well and cleaning the gutters), but I’m a one man show keeping up on the day-to-day essentials.

If anything, I suppose it’s my non-religious Protestant work ethic is showing – or maybe I just don’t expect to have others manage all my basic life functions for me. Then again, it could be a matter of trying not to take so many cues about how your life should look from Instagram and spend that time taking a damned shower or folding some laundry.

Life’s tough, kids. Get a helmet.

Top load or: The old fashioned way…

Six years ago when I bought the current homestead, it came with a Bosch front loading washing machine. It’s quite a piece of kit. It’s got approximately 40 buttons on it and about 3700 different settings for getting your clothes just the right kind of clean (I guess). Honestly, I never loved it. Two hour wash cycles and having to let the door hang open for days after a load of laundry in order to avoid the stench of mold and mildew kind of turned me off of the whole front load concept.

Its replacement should be here in about a week. It’s a standard top loader from Whirlpool. Aside from the various rounded edges, it looks like home washing machines have looked in America for decades. No glass top, three or four knobs controlling maybe a dozen settings, and one button. My only concession to modernity was opting for the slightly more efficient impeller model versus a true agitator.

It’s not the kind of machine that turns the laundry room into a showplace, but it’s exactly what I wanted. I’m not the kind of person who wants to spend a lot of time tweaking settings on wash day. I want to dump in some detergent, pick hot or cold water, and push the start button… the same way I’ve been washing laundry my entire life, with the exception of the last six years when I was left to deal with someone else’s front loading ideal.

Plus, my nice middle of the road top loader still ended up costing less than the estimated repair on the ailing Bosch. I consider it a win both for personal preference and value for money.

Paper check…

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out where my checkbook was this morning. Once upon a time, its assigned spot was laying right in the place where I kept my wallet and keys. It hasn’t lived there in a decade or more. The age of paying for things by check feels like it really ought to be over. In fact, before today, I can’t remember the last time I paid for goods or services by scrawling words on a small slip of pre-printed paper. I know this to be the case, because today I used check #5, drawn on an account that I’ve had since gods know when. 

As of this morning, I’ve handed over a paper check to the nice people from the company who will be renovating the master bathroom. I’m assuming it will have plenty of time to clear since none of us are anticipating a start date any time before the first of the year. The supply chain delays brought on by the Great Plague are apparently a very real thing. My delightfully hermetic life has mostly protected me from them. Seeing the months long lead time for ordering cabinetry and tile, though, yeah, my general mockery of just-in-time inventory when they first taught it to us in logistics school feels a little prescient. It’s the kind of system that seems brilliant in the good times, but is entirely based on the assumption that times will always be good. Personally, I’ll take old fashioned warehouses full of stuff and damn the carrying costs. 

So, the long-deferred bathroom renovation is now one step closer to getting underway. I suppose this means that we’re all about to discover if I know anything at all about design. Given certain physical space and layout limitations, I have to think the final product will end up being better than what I’ve got currently. Now, though, I’ve got to go out and find a nice antique storage cabinet since I just savagely cut the linen closet out of the plan in favor of knocking out a wall to free up more shower space.

All that’s left now is picking out tile and lighting fixtures… and the interminable waiting. I’m sure none of those things will drive me absolutely mad.

Where no one wants to live…

For a while on Sunday afternoon my Twitter feed was near filled with what I’ll generally call serious lefty climate people. Look, I’m there. Climate change is a real thing. It’s a topic worthy of serious discussion by serious people. I’m not in any way sure that’s what was happening on twitter. The one theme I kept seeing over and over was the call to “reimagine” cities.

That’s fine, I suppose. Cities have been reimagining and rebuilding themselves for as long as there have been cities. I’m sure in 3428 BCE some Sumerian urban planner in Ur was convinced there was a better way to build a ziggurat. 

The trend of growing urban populations increasing while rural populations decline is not in any way a new feature in this country. It’s been happening since nearly the beginning as people left the farm for new job opportunities in the city created during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. There’s no reason to think that trend will stop as we move forward, so our cities should absolutely plan for dealing with larger populations in the future.

What I always struggle with in these discussions is these “thought leaders” on social media never seem to take into account is the number of people who have never, do not currently, or never will have any desire to live in a densely urbanized bicyclist and pedestrian paradise. I just don’t care how many bus routes you have or how wonderful the subway is, trading my patch of land with its flora and fauna for 600 square feet on the 87th floor just sounds awful.

Good luck with it, though. The more people you convince to be warehoused in towers of steel, concrete, and glass, the more green space I’ll have out here “where no one wants to live.” You might want to talk about nature, but I value seeing it from my back porch. We’re not the same.

Three days, three appointments…

It’s going to be a busy and unavoidably expensive week.

Tuesday: Should be appliance repair day. Hopefully they can tell me why the washing machine is throwing periodic errors and if it’s reasonably economical to repair. Otherwise, I’ll have to add appliance shopping to the list of things to do that I don’t want to do.

Wednesday: The bank has, at long last, funded my bathroom renovation loan. All that’s left to do is sign the paper work and hand over a ponderously large down payment for the work… and then we can get properly started in approximately 3-4 months… assuming the backlog in materials doesn’t get any worse.

Thursday: The last estimate on repairing and resurfacing the driveway… and shortly thereafter cutting another unpleasantly large check.

It’s fun that no matter when I start planning for projects they all eventually seem to tend towards a bottleneck.

Perhaps the one true up side of the parade of home repair projects over the last 18 months has been that I’ve mostly been here. Whether it’s getting estimates or needing to let people in to do the actual work, it’s all been sorted with minimal time off required. I’m very much going to miss that part when we get back to the new, new, new normal.

Observations from an unpleasant week…

I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one here when I say that I don’t, as a general rule, like new things. I like the same meals I’ve been eating for decades. Every object in the household has its place and should be in it. I mostly can’t control what happens outside the doors here, but what happens inside is done with good order and discipline. I suppose it’s the kind of thing that could make a person hard to live with, but the animals don’t seem to mind, so all is well.

Over this last week we’ve been adjusting, by necessity, to the new order of things. From that, I’ve made a few observations.

The most surprising of the bunch, is just how much water Maggie was taking in every day. I was refilling their gallon bowl at least three times a day. Now I’m averaging about a quarter of that. No wonder she wanted to go outside every two hours. I knew she was a thirsty girl these last few months, but the slow upwards creep of her water intake just didn’t seem overly alarming – except in retrospect. As always, hindsight is a bitch like that.

Jorah, fierce guardian and barker at of anything that moves in the yard or on the street has become terribly fearful of the backyard at night. For most of the last week he’s had to be trussed up in full harness and nearly carried outside for his pre-bedtime bathroom break. For these last two years, I had no idea that he was relying on a security blanket the approximate size and shape of a labrador retriever to cover him while charging off to bark at and chase anything that rustled during his nightly rounds.

The cat, not surprisingly, seems to be the most adaptive of us all. Hershel was back in the warm embrace of his own daily routine inside 48 hours. A week along, I’m quite convinced he’s starting to throw the stink eye at the rest of us who are still deviating, even if only slightly.

We’re still very much in a transitional mode here, but our wild ride over the last week is starting to settle into a new and slightly different rhythm. The sooner that comes together, the better, because new sucks.