|"Prayers will be answered in the order in which they were received."|
Friday, February 21, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Another area in which I’ve considered spending some of my excess cash is actually an investment, though it wouldn’t pay dividends in the form of interest: my house.
My house actually needs a lot of work, in terms of improving the aesthetics and improving the functionality, efficiency, and structural integrity.
It’s an obvious target for my financial arrows. After all, it’s my home, and given that if I’m not at work I’m pretty much always here – and indeed, I frequently work from home – so it ought to be a good place to live, to say nothing of the potential for adding much-needed equity.
Every year I think about making some improvements, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.
Part of that is because I have a difficult time bringing myself to spend even more money on my house given how much it already costs me, and besides, new computers and comic books and whatnot are more fun.
The biggest stumbling block, however, is that I just don’t know where to begin.
Take my master bathroom.*
It has an ancient toilet with a tank that holds an amount of water that’s roughly equivalent to the volume of water contained at Sea World. I think Niagra Falls stop running whenever I flush it.
It’s also disgusting thanks to decades of hard water flowing through it.
And then there are the pink tiles, the taupe walls, the gaudy wallpaper, the lack of storage, the overall cramped conditions, and the general dinginess.
It would be a relatively simple and inexpensive fix.
Except that it seems silly to put any money or effort into it, given that there are bigger plans that I have for my upstairs that would provide me with a new, larger master bath – and a new, larger master bedroom, for that matter – and I could actually repurpose that space.
And then there’s that aforementioned plan for a new master bedroom and master bath, but that would take much more money and effort, and it’s actually kind of contingent on some other more foundational work that I need to have done with the wiring. At a minimum, I’m probably going to need to get a new circuit breaker installed one of these days, but I think the problem is bigger than that I actually need to have the entire house rewired, which would cost even more, and would require some additional work as far as patching and repairing the walls afterwards. And if I’m having new wiring done, I might as well go all-out and have the house wired for networking and put in A/V hookups, and maybe look into some home automation…
Okay, what about my gutters? Those definitely need to be replaced, and that would be fairly cheap. Of course, the gutters are part of a larger problem, as their leakiness has caused considerable water damage to the roof over my patio, so I’d need to get that replaced/repaired, too, especially since it tends to leak right around the area in which the wiring runs from my circuit breaker into the house, which brings us back to the whole rewiring thing…
And speaking of the circuit breaker, its location brings to mind the biggest thorn in my side about the house: the laundry situation.
As I’ve mentioned before, my washer and dryer are in two separate locations. The washer is in the downstairs bathroom. The dryer is outside in a flimsy little shed attached to the back of the house, on the patio, under the decaying roof, the same shed in which the circuit breaker is located. There’s no way to bring the dryer inside – even though there’s room for it – as there’s nowhere I could put it that would allow for venting.
Of course, I have plans that would resolve that, but it would cost considerably more than I have to spend – if it’s even possible at all.
Beyond the looming electrical problems and rotting patio roof and the leaking gutters, the biggest problem is the overall vision I have for what I’d like to do with my house and the fact that there aren’t really any steps I can take towards completing that, as they’re all of a piece.
And they’re all expensive, as they necessitate electrical and plumbing work and a lot of structural changes, and virtually anything that I could do on a smaller scale – renovating my master bath or my kitchen, for example – would actually interfere with that overall vision rather than contributing to it, as there is an order in which I’d have to do the work to achieve the desired end. But I have difficulty figuring out what that order is, or at least what the first step should be, and I also question whether or not – even with the refund and bonus money – I could afford to take it.
About the only thing I could do that would address some of the problems and potentially lead to achieving my desired end state is replacing the roof over the patio and sealing the whole thing in with one of those Owens Corning sunrooms.
Of course, that doesn’t address the electrical issues, which may or may not be as bad – or worse – than I suspect they are, but who knows what getting my wiring checked out would lead to (or what not getting it checked out would lead to, for that matter)?
And that’s the dilemma, as it seems that no matter which direction I turn I’ll end up going the wrong way.
When it comes to investing in my house, it seems like the best investment would be buying a time machine and going back to 2007 and not buying the place. Of course, with my wiring problems I’d probably cause a short as soon as I plugged it in. To say nothing of the fact that time machines don’t exist.
And really, if they did, I should think it would make more sense to go further back and fix some of my other fuck ups, though just as with my house, when it comes to fixing my life I’d have no idea where to begin.
*Please! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
Friday, February 14, 2014
Which is to say tax refund and bonus season.
It’s still the early days of that season; I’ve received my refunds, but my bonus is still a couple of weeks away. Even so, that means that at present my bank account is rather larger than usual.*
I don’t have to buy anything, of course, and I have gotten through this season in the past without making any major purchases, but I always feel as though I ought to buy something.
The alternative to buying something, of course, beyond simply not buying anything, is to put the money away into savings or some other investment.
It’s likely that I will do that – I already have put away a fair amount into savings – but still, the odds are that I’ll make some sort of purchase that requires spending at least a bit more money than I would normally.
It’s just a question of what I’ll be spending that money on, and that has been a rather difficult one to answer.
For example, I’ve been considering picking up a Surface Pro 2 to replace my current Windows tablet, the Samsung Series 7 Slate.
There are a variety of reasons I’ve been considering this option.
The Surface Pro 2 has better battery life, a faster processor, higher resolution and a better screen, and unlike my Slate, which originally ran Windows 7, the Surface Pro 2 was designed to work with the latest OS from Redmond.
Which leads me to the other advantage. While the Slate has a Wacom digitizer – which was the primary appeal back when I bought it – Samsung has not provided a Windows 8 driver that I can install, so I’m forced to use the generic driver from Wacom, which is…not great. It’s impossible to calibrate properly, it’s laggy, and palm rejection is spotty at best.
However, the Surface Pro 2 also has a Wacom digitizer, and in playing around with it at Best Buy, I’ve found it to be fantastic in comparison to the Slate. Almost better than my Cintiq, actually (about which more later).
Beyond that, the Surface Pro 2 also has multiple accessories, such as the snap-on keyboard covers and a docking station.
So why not buy one?
Well, while it doesn’t offer all of the same advantages, I’ve also been considering the Nokia Lumia 2520. Sure, it’s Windows RT rather than full Windows, and it doesn’t have an active digitizer, but it does support 4G/LTE, so I have the possibility of being always connected, and it has a lot of features for working cooperatively with my Nokia Windows Phone.
Plus, it’s a lot cheaper (setting aside the cost of the data plan, at any rate).
I’m not really considering that one too seriously, but it is somewhat tempting.
The other problem is that there are multiple options as far as the Surfrace Pro 2. The cheapest has a 64GB SSD, with increasing storage options – and prices – going up to 512GB.
I’m not overly concerned about storage, given the expandability provided by the microSD slot and USB port, but the 256GB and 512GB versions come with 8GB of RAM, as opposed to the 4GB of RAM in the lower-capacity models. In my estimation, the 256GB version offers the best balance of price and performance.
You may be thinking, ”So just shut up and buy it, already!”
Well, unfortunately, none of the brick-and-mortar stores around here that carry the Surface Pro 2 carry anything above the 128GB version, and the 256GB version is out of stock online.
Besides, the odds are that at some point soon Microsoft will do a refresh of the line with a faster CPU. Of course, by that time it might be worth waiting to pick up the Surface Pro 3…
And then there’s yet another tablet option in the form of the Cintiq Companion.
As good as the Wacom digitizer is on the Surface Pro 2, one has to assume that it’s even better on a tablet that was built by Wacom itself. Given my love for Wacom products, and the fact that this is a tablet designed specifically for artists, one would think that buying this would be a no-brainer.
The battery life is actually worse than that of my Slate. It’s heavier and thicker than my Slate or the Surface Pro 2. It’s using a previous generation Intel processor (which is part of the reason it has lousy battery life).
And it’s expensive. The 256GB model – on sale – costs as much as the 512GB Surface Pro 2.
Even the Hybrid version – which I would have less use for – running Android is more expensive than the Surface Pro 2.
Besides, if I’m going to give a bunch of money to Wacom, there’s always this.
Then there are other computer-related purchases that I could make.
For example, I’ve been toying with the notion of getting a new, general-purpose desktop, which would allow me to turn my current desktop into a dedicated graphics workstation. One such option would be this tablet-like desktop from Dell.
So I find myself uncertain how to proceed, which is, much like the annual buying frenzy, not terribly unusual. That, more than simply weighing the pros and cons of my assorted options, is rather the point of this multi-part set of posts. In the next installment I’ll look at some of my other options, and start diving into the underlying issue at the core of my indecisiveness.
*This is despite the fact that when I went to pay my mortgage online via my checking account I accidentally selected the wrong payee. A payee to whom I didn't owe anything, resulting in my having a rather large credit added to that account, an account that isn't terribly useful to me. I called them to straighten it out, and they're mailing me a check, but in the meantime, my account is one extra mortgage payment smaller than it could be.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The first is safe for work (and is "safe" in another way, in that it's the same old, tired, predictable kind of thing I always draw).
The second, which can be seen by clicking on the "Read More" link is decidedly NOT safe for work.
Here's the first one, a picture of Scarlett Johansson (of course) wearing a dark wig:
|Yep, it's a drawing, all right. How exciting.|
The second is of Playboy Playmate (December, 1989) Petra Verkaik.
I have a particular fondness for Petra, not just because of her rather impressive endowments, but for some other intangible aspect that I can't quite put a name to.
I'm not alone in that regard - she's a very popular Playmate,being the most published woman in that magazine's history.
She is still active as a model via her Web site, and still looks amazing, especially given that she's nearly 50.
In fact, in the reference photo used for the drawing I did, she was at least in her early 40s.
So, click on "Read More" if you want to see a drawing I did of very naked lady with very large breasts.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
This isn’t something I believe is happening, of course, it’s just a rhetorical device I use to apply a patina of humor to the mundane – albeit irritating – events of my day-to-day existence.
I’ll leave it up to you to judge the relative success of my use of this particular device.
In any case, as much as I decry the way in which “the Universe” likes to screw me over, I don’t actually believe that
1. The Universe is not conscious or intelligent and therefore is not actually capable of any sort of direct action, either beneficent or malevolent
2. It would actually be interested enough in my life to take any sort of direct action either for or against me
That said, there are times when it does become difficult to avoid giving in to an actual belief in my own rhetorical construct.
Today provided some perfect examples.
I’m still having trouble with my lenses, so as I’ve yet to see the eye doctor* I’ve been wearing my glasses when I need to see things that are farther away from me than my computer screen. While driving, for example.
My glasses have magnetic clip-on sunglasses, and I also have a pair of prescription sunglasses. This morning when I was leaving for work I neglected to grab either the clip-ons or the sunglasses, but I decided that I didn’t really need them, given that I was on my way to work well before the sunrise and it was supposed to rain all day.
I did, however, remember to take $500 in cash with me (the result of saving up some of my casino winnings from last summer and cashing in all of my change at the end of the year**) with the intention of stopping at the bank and depositing it on my way home.
In any case, I made it though the workday, and, as predicted, it rained the whole time, and the sky was a dreary, wretchedly gray affair the entire time.
Stopping at the bank, I decided that, as I needed some cash for various and sundry purposes, I would hold onto $50 and deposit the remaining $450. It was at that point that I discovered that rather than $500 I had $450. I wasn’t overly concerned, as I assumed (correctly) that I had just neglected to grab the other $50 when I hastily took the money off my dresser in the morning. So I deposited the $400. It’s worth noting that the money was all in the form of $100 and $50 bills. As I had to stop at CVS to pick up a few things, rather than breaking the $50 at the bank**, I figured I’d just pay with cash at CVS and the resulting change would be sufficient for my purposes.
Unfortunately, I needed more than I had originally thought, and the total came to just over $45. So I paid with my check card and decided that I could also stand to stop and pick up a few things from the grocery store, so I’d break the $50 there.
I went through the self-checkout and my total was a mere $13. $37 in cash would certainly be enough for what I needed the cash for (buying drinks/snacks/lunch at work for the remaining two days in which I’ll be going in to work, as I’m working from home on Friday).
This plan was foiled by the fact that the bill accepter at the self-checkout won’t take anything larger than a $20 bill. So, not wanting to stop anywhere else, I opted to use my debit card and got cash back instead.
Here’s where the glasses part comes into play.
While all around me the sky was still dark and ominous, directly ahead of me the clouds had parted just enough to ensure that I would be driving directly into the sun without sunglasses.
Seriously, it was as if the sky was a venetian blind and the Universe had pried open the slats just enough to let the sun shine directly into my uncovered eyes.
Behind me and on either side of me? Nearly pitch black with dark, heavy clouds. In front of me? The brightest display of January sunlight imaginable.
To bolster the case for the Universe actually being out to get me, the sky closed back up as soon as I got home.
This is the kind of thing I’m talking about.
Granted, these are extremely minor inconveniences, but they seem so oddly specific, and they’re just two examples of the whole death by a thousand cuts approach the Universe seems to take when dealing with me.
And yes, these are all petty, #firstworldproblems concerns, but here’s the thing: that’s all part of the Universe’s (entirely fictional) evil scheme.
”Ha! I can do all of these things to make Jon’s life miserable in all of these inconsequential ways, and even in the aggregate, over time, his complaints about them will still come across as petty whining and make him appear as though he lacks perspective. ‘The sun was in your eyes? Oh, boo-fucking-hoo! Some people have cancer! Get some perspective, you entitled ass!’ I mean, look at him; he’s got an extra $500 just lying around and he’s still complaining! No one will feel sorry for him! I win again! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
(Yes, that’s how the Universe laughs. It also sits in a chair like a Bond villain, idly stroking the pure white cat resting in its lap.)
*To make matters worse, while I lack the Universe’s foresight, upon reflection, I can see how I was complicit in the Universe’s schemes. I should have taken the precaution of bringing sunglasses despite the forecast, or more to the point, I should get over my antipathy for my eye doctor and get my eyes checked out. But of course that will lead to more irritations in the form of having to go to the eye doctor at all – which in and of itself pisses me off – and most likely having to go in for multiple follow-up visits, during which he’ll undoubtedly find some other reason to keep me coming back so that he can try to upsell me on things. The problem is that I have an unusual relationship with causality. Any decision I could make exists in a quantum superposition in which it is both right and wrong until I actually make it. At that point it becomes wrong, and the other one becomes right. This is true regardless of which decision I actually make. It’s a Heisenbergian take on “Damned if you don’t, damned if you do.” This is best illustrated by the, “I’m allergic to Schrodinger’s Cat regardless of whether it’s dead or alive” thought experiment.
**See above where I admit that I am often an unwitting accomplice to the Universe.
Friday, January 10, 2014
A couple of days after achieving my six-year work anniversary at AOL, I got laid off.
With that in mind, having just hit the same milestone at my current job two days ago, I was a bit unnerved this morning when I received an invitation to a mandatory meeting with my SVP in the afternoon, particularly given that there were several HR representatives included among the invitees.
Fortunately, while the meeting did concern a major reorganization, I was not directly impacted by it, nor was anyone on my team.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for many of my colleagues.
Added to the general “that sucks” vibe of it was some serious awkwardness. During the meeting, they put up a color-coded org chart showing who was and was not impacted by the reorg.
Along with a handful of others, my team kind of stood out as being and island of the unaffected color in a sea of the blue that represented the people who were affected.
(My team not being affected was also specifically mentioned several times.)
Obviously my sympathy for the others wins out over my feelings of personal discomfort, but as my team and I walked out while the others were being handed pamphlets that outlined the details of their potential severance packages – they have the option to re-apply for the limited number of positions that will be available, or to try to find another job somewhere else in the company – I have to say that I felt like we were getting some pointed – and pointy – stares in our direction.
Still, while it definitely is a shame for all those affected, and they have my sympathies…well, I’ve been through this kind of thing so many times that I’m kind of inured to it. It’s pretty much the nature of the beast, and it’s a potential reality that those of us who work in the industry face every single day. (And will continue to face.)
Friday, January 03, 2014
Or, to keep the references to The Simpsons going, “Worst. Vacation. Ever.”
As I start to write this it’s just a bit before 5:30 AM.
I tried going to bed a few hours ago, but, well, here I am writing this.
I normally take a significant amount of time off from work for the holidays. At a minimum, I take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, though I usually take Christmas Eve off as well.
This time around I took the full two weeks off.
I didn’t expect that I would do anything fun or exciting, or even anything productive, really (thought I had intended to try to do some work on the whole comic book thing), but I also didn’t expect to spend most of the time being sick. And yet that’s exactly what I did.
I caught a doozy of a cold that at times made it seem as though I would soon become an entirely mucus-based lifeform.
Even after I finally began to recover and return to the state that I bitterly refer to as “normal,” I was still a bit out of it and found myself sleeping away my rapidly-dwindling vacation time.
This completely irregular sleep schedule – as opposed to my normal mostly irregular sleep schedule – has thrown everything completely off-kilter.
Which is part of why I’m up writing this.
In addition to my sleep schedule being wonky, my eyes have been wonkier than usual.
When I first started developing the symptoms of the cold, my Gentle Molding lenses started to bother me. Given that wearing them while sick can lead to bad things happening – namely eye infections – and that I didn’t really have anywhere to go, what with being a leaky, disgusting abomination, I didn’t bother wearing them while I was sick.
This was problematic, as my vision rapidly deteriorates when I don’t wear them. One night without them isn’t a big deal – my typical schedule is to not wear them one night a week – as my eyes hold their shape well enough for me to function normally. After two nights without them, though, functioning becomes a bit more difficult, and after that everything that’s more than five feet in front of me becomes an indistinct blur.
So that means that I have to resort to wearing my glasses.
However, there’s a problem with that.
I can’t actually wear them and get any benefit from doing so until after about three days of not wearing my lenses, but even so, no matter how long I go without wearing my lenses, my vision never reverts back to being as bad as it was when I regularly wore my glasses.
So wearing them leads to headaches and nausea. And even if it weren’t for that, I couldn’t just wear them all the time like I used to, because back when I wore them regularly that whole “five feet in front of me” thing was too far to see without them.
So if I want to be able to see something that’s not five feet and one inch away from me and have it not be a blur when I’m in that state, I have to take them off.
That gets old real quick.
After finally recovering enough from the cold I thought it was safe to wear my lenses again.
That worked about as well as pouring sulphuric acid directly into my eyes.
So, okay, I wasn’t sufficiently recovered.
I gave it a couple more days. Same thing.
Then I thought, “Hmm, sometimes this happens when I get the lenses mixed up and wear the right lens in my left eye and vice versa,” so, because I can never remember which is which (the lenses are only distinguishable from each other by the size of the dots on them), I decided to try swapping them.
It had been my right eye that was bothering me primarily when I wore the lenses. What I found upon switching them was that my left eye started bothering me, while my right eye was mostly okay.
(Based on how my vision turned out, though, it was clear that I had been correctly matching the lenses with their corresponding eyes before doing the swap.)
So I thought that maybe there was just something wrong with that lens. Maybe it somehow got warped or something.
I still have my old pair of lenses, so I cleaned the right one, put it in, and success! My right eye wasn’t bothering me at all. But then my left eye – which had the newer lens in – started to really bother me. Okay, so both lenses are jacked up somehow.
At that point, it was 4 AM and I didn’t feel like bothering with cleaning the old left lens, so I just took the left one out and slept with the old right lens in.
So when I got up yesterday, I could see again (even though my vision was corrected in only one eye…that’s kind of how my eyes work, or don’t work, I guess. I don’t know.).
I didn’t feel like bothering with going to the eye doctor to find out what was up with my lenses, figuring I could deal with that some other day and just wear my old lenses for the time being.
So, before going to bed a few hours ago, I cleaned both lenses, popped them in and found that my fucking right eye was killing me again.
Not as bad as with the new lens, but even so.
It doesn’t seem to be an infection, as my eyes feel fine when I don’t have the lenses in (though they remain irritated for a while after I take them out), and I don’t have the problems I had in the past when my eyes were infected, so I don’t know what’s up with that..
What I do know is that the lingering irritation even after I took it out contributed to keeping me awake and finally forcing me to admit defeat and get out of bed.
The other thing I know is that these past two weeks have sucked ass.