Friday, July 5, 2024

More Car Trouble

During our vacation, we had to replace the battery in the Minivan.  Less than a week later, I had to replace the thermostat.  On Wednesday of this week, the car wouldn't start while I was at Boris' OT.  I got a jump and made it back home, but then the car died again.


When this light comes on, it's serious

Since Thursday was July 4th, no auto shops were open.  For fun, I tried jumping the car again and had mixed results.  The car did power up but I accidentally crossed the streams of the jumper cables when I took them off the car providing the recharge.  This caused the car to turn off and a red dot to appear on the dashboard.  Uncle Google said this is a security feature that supposedly makes your car inoperable in case...it's not clear why this would help.

Working on your car in the South be like


There was no power to anything else.  Which means car doors don't work.  The trunk door won't open.  The driver and passenger have manual door openers but you really need to be able to open side doors and trunks.  

I didn't spend too much time on it because it was so Fucking Hot yesterday I couldn't be outside without breaking into a sweat even just standing still, let alone trying to troubleshoot a vehicle.

This morning, for grins and giggles, I decided to try again.  The red dot was still there.  I put my jumper cables on my battery and purposely cross the other set to see if I get a spark.  A spark would mean the battery has power.  I did get a spark.  But only one.  the second time I tried, there was nothing.  I removed the cables and checked the cab.  This time, the lower-level things did work, but the car didn't start.


I went back and attempted to put the cables back on.  when I put the red on the positive side of the battery, the battery shook, and the car simulated the sounds it makes when you try to start it up.  

I tried to start the car and it powered up.  Yes!  And then I put on my Bad Decision Jeans.  I told the kids that they had to come with me or go over to Kendra's house.  They chose the latter and wisely so, as it would turn out.


For some reason, I was locked into the idea that the car didn't have enough charge.  So I decided to drive it around for 30 minutes.  But about 15-20 minutes into that, the dashboard display and other electrical systems started to flicker.  I decided that I should turn around and go straight to the automotive place I had tried calling all morning with no answer.  I was about 2 miles away when the car went dead while driving.  I didn't have the smarts to pull over because Missippippi Road shoulders don't really exit.  I was trying to make it to a cutout to a subdivision but was stopped 50 yards short.  While driving, I put the car in Neutral and tried to restart, no luck.  So I put it in Park, which was good and bad.  Bad in that there was now no way to push it. But good in that it wouldn't get into an accident by suddenly moving on its own.


So there I am dead in the water at Pleasant Hill, between Goodman Rd and Nall Rd.  At the moment I decided to enact a U-turn and head toward the auto shop, I was also talking to my FIL.  I would need a ride home.  At his bequest, I called Triple-A again because we would need a tow.  I wanted desperately to avoid that because it is such a painful process to get them to send anyone (feature, not bug), but I did so.  

Because I wasn't completely off the road -- not even close -- all the cars going North had to go around me in a No-Passing Zone when it was clear to do so.  Many good samaritans wanted to give me a jump but I explained that was not the problem.  And because I was in Park, there was no way to move the car.  

While we were waiting for the Tow Truck, I decided to try to repeat my earlier steps to see if I could get the car started.  My FIL felt it was futile but I've learned to go against his recommendations and once again I was right.  I got the car started and was able to drive it to the Autoshop, where I learned why they weren't answering their phone.  They were closed.

It makes sense.  Nobody wants to work anymore.  They are closed on the weekends and were obviously closed for the 4th.  Why not give your crew a 4 day weekend, especially since it likely doesn't cost the shop owner since the mechanics probably get paid only when they are working.  

Triple-A called at that exact moment to tell me they were on the way so I was able to cancel the tow.  The options were to leave the car there or find a place that was open.  The risk was driving a car that might become disabled at any moment.  A quick call to Nightingale confirmed the right decision was to leave the car.  

Next week Natasha starts Soccer Camp.  We could technically walk there but the heat will still be terrible.  So we will rely on the In-Laws to get her there and back, while I deal with the car.





Friday, June 28, 2024

Trimming the bushes

 One of the things I got to do while we were in Chicago was trim my mother's hedges.  Notice, I call them hedges because the more common identifier would sound a lot more scandalous.

BEFORE:




AFTER:





Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Back from Vacation

We went on what was our longest vacation to do.  10 days, 8 states, 4 hotels, 2 beaches, and an amusement park.   Now most of those states were just driving through.  But we visit Michigan and Chicago to see people.  Also, most of the country was going through an excessive heatwave.  Good times!

Free Museum entry than to reciprocatory memberships

The trip started out as our bi-annual visit to Chicago to check in on my mom.  We would have stayed for free at Katness' place.  But Nightingale's sister lobbied her to come up to Grosse Pointe since she comes down here every year for Christmas.  Since we were going to be in Michigan, our former Portage Park neighbor asked us to visit them in East Grand Rapids.  And since we were going to do that, we could drop by and visit Katness in Holland, MI where she was spending a week with her in-laws at their annual beach vacation.

So on the Friday before Father's Day, we headed to Louisville, Kentucky.  We forgot to factor in the time change so we didn't arrive in time for the free hotel dinner.  We had a slim shot if we didn't need to stop for bathroom breaks, but of course with two kids, that isn't an option.  It was a six-hour drive and it felt longer.  The drive to Grosse Pointe is also 6 hours and we may have had some bathroom breaks there too.


That visit was low key.  BIL made a nice Father's Day Surf & Turf dinner.  We did our best to get the kids out of the house because if they had their way, they would have stayed in their cousin's basement playing video games all day.  

The nice thing about this visit was we were not bound to any specific time for anything.  We woke up when we felt like it and went about our day.  Sure, there were a few times we had to be somewhere and you don't want the day to get away from you, but otherwise, it was very chill.  

While Nightingale visited with a high school friend, I took all the kids to C J Barrymore's.  It's a small amusement park and arcade.  We went on enough rides to cover the cost of the wristbands and spent the rest of the time in the arcade.  Once we ran out of the money the Adama Kids had on their card from previous visits, we left.  

One thing I didn't like about the trip was our car battery died on Thursday morning when we were leaving to go to Holland.  Triple A gave us a jump and we thought gambled that the drive to Holland would be enough to recharge it, assuming we'd get a new battery back home.  Unfortunately, that battery was 5 years old and has been through a lot with the Southern Heat.  We needed another jump and went straight to an Auto Zone and $220 later, we were off to Chicago.  Both delays cost us an hour and we got to Chicago around 8 pm.  

Yes I got to trim these in the High Heat

Because my mom's house is a crapshack, we have to stay at a hotel.  That means we usually pick her up on the way because she stays with us.  This time we were staying in Glenview and I insisted that we pick her up the next morning because it was so late and I was already in a bad mood.  My mom and I famously show our affection by fighting with each other.  Also the car was packed to the gills and getting a 5th seat was going to be difficult, although we did it for the return trip.


Friday morning we had our breakfast and then went to pick her up.  Without much of a plan, I suggested we take a short stroll through Humboldt Park.  The kids could see my playground.  Since it was hot, and my mom could not walk for long, I didn't expect us to be there too long.  We ended up being there for almost two hours.  



The park is in much better condition than when I was their age, and they really enjoyed the lagoon where they got to see fish, and turtles and feed some ducklings.  Afterward, we headed to lunch but I decided to trim my mom's hedges first because were there and I didn't want it hanging over me. 

 Note: I should put these photos in better order, but the Blogger WYSIWYG editor is horrible.  



The rest of the trip was just eating some familiar foods, doing some shopping for my mom and pool time at the hotel.  On Saturday Glenview had a street festival at the Metra Station and we killed a couple hours there.   Katniss was back that weekend and she joined us Sunday.  We had Costco pizza for dinner and it was yummy.  





Sunday, June 16, 2024

Happy Father’s Day

Growing up, Father’s Day didn’t have any currency at House Icarus.  Don’t feel sad for me; those are just the cards we were dealt and we played our hand as best we could.


In the better part of the last decade, Father’s Day has had some meaning since moose and squirrel arrived.   


We visited Nightingale's family in Michigan and had a low-key dinner for the dads.  I honestly didn’t have FD on my mind this year and had to be reminded several times that it was a thing and I’m part of it now. 

Happy Father’s Day to those who celebrate.  And kudos to anyone who stepped in when a father was MIA.  And for those whose dad crossed the rainbow bridge, peace be with you. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Practical Life Lesson: Genuine Offer versus Conversational Device

 Over at the defunct ChicagoNow, I did a post about Life Lessons.  It was a gallery so when I exported that blog to my personal (unused) WordPress site, they didn't come over.  I had to use Wayback Machine to get them.  I figured putting the more pertinent ones here might be beneficial.

Practical Life Lesson: Genuine Offer versus Conversational Device

It’s really hard to distinguish 'Conversational Device’ from ‘Genuine Offer’ until you’ve been around the block a few times because Conversational Devices are often gift-wrapped as Genuine Offers.



Simply put, this is someone offering to do something for you with no intention of actually doing anything for you. Usually, it's an unintentional thing. At the time they sincerely believe they will deliver on their promise. But the reality is they just won't be there when you think they will. Other times it is totally intentional and premeditated. It is how this person gets their ya-yas which is Swedish for get's off.



Have you ever run into a friend who says something along the line of "We have to get together sometime." Maybe you take the bait and say sure and you reach out to them. In a healthy relationship on Planet Normal, you get together reasonably soon after that chance encounter. Other times you volley back and forth on dates that could work. You find that the person is either busy or non-committal on any date thrown out. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that the other party just doesn't want to get together.

You want to believe the best in people and it takes a few burns until the naive goes away. What's worse is that for some strange reason, our society seems to look down on the person who fell for it, not the person who dished it out.


Practical Life Lesson: Don't give someone a fork when they ask for a spoon

 Over at the defunct ChicagoNow, I did a post about Life Lessons.  It was a gallery so when I exported that blog to my personal (unused) WordPress site, they didn't come over.  I had to use Wayback Machine to get them.  I figured putting the more pertinent ones here might be beneficial.


Practical Life Lesson: Don't give someone a fork when they ask for a spoon

This one has a lot of subtle nuances. If someone literally hasn't eaten in a week you give them whatever is on your plate. However, if they just skipped lunch, giving them your cheeseburger doesn't do them any good if they are vegan, or lactose intolerant.



Give people what they say they want or need or get out of the way. People generally want to help one another, however, some people just aren't good at it for one reason or another. I like to say people mean well but execute poorly. Sometimes it's because they chose the one type of help that doesn't require them to get off the sofa.



Other times it is because some people want to get the credit for helping out without doing any of the actual work. Even when the level of effort to help out is far less than the effort of looking like you're helping out.

Practical Life Lesson : Don't Try to Control The Weather

  Over at the defunct ChicagoNow, I did a post about Life Lessons.  It was a gallery so when I exported that blog to my personal (unused) WordPress site, they didn't come over.  I had to use Wayback Machine to get them.  I figured putting the more pertinent ones here might be beneficial.


Practical Life Lesson: Don't Try to Control The Weather

There are things in this world that you can control, like what you eat for breakfast, what you wear to the office, and even how many books you read or shoes you buy. On the other hand, there are many things you just cannot control, like traffic or other people's actions, or as indicated: the weather.



So stop trying to control it anyway. Yes, it would be awesome if the person you gave your number to at a great party yesterday called you today. It may or may not happen but more importantly, it’s outside your powers.



Sure, it would be best if the lady standing to the left on the escalator moved to the right like everyone else, but it’s too late, she is.

Dwelling on things that you cannot control in this world will make you crazy like a bag of unpetted kittens and it will do you no good. it's wasted energy. …focus on those things that you have direct control over and indirect influence on.

Let. It. Go!

Practical Life Lesson: Cats and Dogs and Social Maintenance

 Over at the defunct ChicagoNow, I did a post about Life Lessons.  It was a gallery so when I exported that blog to my personal (unused) WordPress site, they didn't come over.  I had to use Wayback Machine to get them.  I figured putting the more pertinent ones here might be beneficial.

Practical Life Lesson: Cats and Dogs and Social Maintenance

There's a famous pet meme out there. I'm including the picture but the text is "I cannot come to your cat's birthday party. My dog is getting married that day." There are various incantations and the one I've pictured goes the extra step of pet owner A insulting pet owner B.


There are at least two life lessons here. The first is that if you want people to care about your "cat's wedding" you have to care about their "dog's birthday party."



The second is that people will treat your "cat's wedding" like it is the most unimportant thing in the world and make you feel bad for even suggesting they be part of it, but will expect you to drop everything for their "dog's birthday party."

Practical Life Lesson: 11th Hour Cancellations

Over at the defunct ChicagoNow, I did a post about Life Lessons.  It was a gallery so when I exported that blog to my personal (unused) WordPress site, they didn't come over.  I had to use Wayback Machine to get them.  I figured putting the more pertinent ones here might be beneficial.


Practical Life Lesson: 11th Hour Cancellations

When someone cancels plans with you at the last minute, the reason falls into one of two buckets.

 Bucket#1: something came up last minute that prevented the person from participating. The boss implemented an arbitrary but firm deadline. A child got sick.



Bucket #2: the person never wanted to do it in the first place and the pressure finally was too much that they hit the panic button and canceled, often through some backdoor method like a text or voice mail.



The way you know which bucket it was is whether or not they follow up to reschedule if/when things calm down. If they reach out and say something along the lines of hey things were crazy last week but everything seems back to normal, how about we try again?

Friday, June 7, 2024

Gaming the System at McDonalds

 I wrote about Gaming the System Gaming the System  Simply put, Gaming the System is taking advantage of the rules of a system in a way that provides you an advantage that others do not receive. Rather than break the rules, there are often ways to take advantage of unintended consequences of the rule design. 

And honestly, the McDonald's app deserves to be gamed for all it can.  You cannot use your reward points for more than one item, even if you have enough.  You cannot use your rewards points in conjunction with a deal.  When the app isn't working correctly, you can only upload one receipt per month, even if you go to McDonald's multiple times -- and those of us with kids will visit McDonald's more times than we should.




Last Friday I wanted to buy my kids some McDonald's French Fries as a supplement to their lunch.  On Friday McDonald's give you a free medium order of fries if you purchase anything else for a dollar.  

Once again the app was acting up.  It wouldn't honor it for the McDonald's closest to us, so I punched in the coordinates for the Mickey Ds at the other end of town.  By the time I got in the car and was heading there, it rerouted to the close McDonalds.  That's fine.

After picking up my purchase, I drove around in the parking lot and tried to cash in my reward points for a free quarterpounder.  I didn't realize but it sent the order to the Mc Ds at the other end of town, so I canceled the order.

The app took my rewards points but didn't refund them when I canceled the order.  So I contacted support, which in itself was a difficult process; a feature, not a bug.

Long story, short, they wouldn't refund me my points but they enabled the app to reward me with a free quarterpounder.  

So today being Friday I went through the drive-thru and ordered my sandwich.  After getting it, I then used the app to order a lemonade and a free order of fries.   The people inside were a little confused that I went through the drive-thru twice but there was nothing they could do.

Ravioli with Tomatoes, Asparagus, Garlic, and Herbs

I came across this recipe on Facebook and decided to give it a try since we usually have all of the ingredients in stock.   We used X instead of Ravioli but it worked out fine.  Next time I will skip the asparagus and substitute mushrooms.  Also, parsley or basil is fine, no need to use both.





Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 package (20 ounces) refrigerated cheese ravioli




Directions:
Cook the ravioli according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender-crisp.
Add the cherry tomatoes and garlic to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften.
Pour in the chicken broth and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the cooked ravioli to the skillet and gently toss to combine with the vegetables and sauce.
Stir in the fresh basil, parsley, and grated Parmesan cheese. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until everything is heated through.
Serve the ravioli hot, topped with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes
Kcal: 350 kcal | Servings: 4 servings





Friday, May 24, 2024

Movies that aged not so bad

 Recently I rewatched a few movies from the 80s-'90s.  In no particular order:


  • Die Hard - 1988
  • The Fugitive - 1993
  • Backdraft  - 1991
  • The Untouchables - 1987

It's just a coincidence that 75% of them are set in Chicago. It's hilarious that I will re-watch movies I've seen more than once, yet won't invest the time to watch movies I missed out on their first passes like Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption, or Saving Private Ryan.

 I won't say the movies didn't age well, but I will say that wow, I really willfully suspended my disbelief when watching them the first time.

Most of these movies get boring (for me) by the 3rd Act.  And they certainly insult my intelligence well before that.  

For instance, in The Untouchables, there is a scene set at Union Station.  It's late at night and the point of the scene is the hero is trying to stop the bookkeeper from catching the 12:05 am to Miami.  First of all, the station is virtually empty.  Union Station is busy at all hours that there are trains coming and going.  

Second, a lady is trying to get two pieces of luggage and her child in what I guess passes for a stroller at the time up a flight of stairs.  You are going to tell me that no one, no one would help her?  And even if no one was around to help her, the clumsy climb she does makes no sense.  Any parent would simply carry the bags to the next landing, then go back for the kid and move on to the next level.  Don't even get me started on her having two big suitcases and a bassinet for her toddler.  

These movies were entertaining back in the day and I didn't mind re-watching them as a distraction from other things, but it will probably be many years before I watch them again, if at all.



Same as it Never Was

In the late 80s, I attended NMSU, a liberal arts college located in Kirksville, Missouri.  It took me a while to get any traction but eventually, I was getting good grades and had an active social life.  My mother took that away from me.  She lost a job and had a car accident and couldn't afford to keep sending me there.

But here's the thing.  back then, financial aid was more abundant than it was later.  we could totally have been able to send me back but my mom wouldn't allow it.  Because she knew the longer I was away from home, the more I would realize how dysfunctional our life was.  and she was jealous that I might meet someone who would be competing for my attention.

I tried to rebuild what I had in Kirksville in Chicago but a neurodivergent 20-year-old wasn't gonna be able to do it.  Many of my high school friends were away at other college campuses and the ones who went to city colleges didn't have the free time one does at a college town.  and a part of me thought I'd find a way back to Kirksville or after college move to St Louis where my so-called friends lived.  

There's a lot of complexity but it wasn't until I gave that up that I truly created a life in Chicago.


Fast-forward to 2021.  Nightingale decided we needed a change and she moved us to Mississippi-stan.  Not out of malice.  But because she hated her job and wanted to be closer to family.  The only reason we are in this particular city is because her younger sister set down roots here and as the baby of the family, she needed help once she had children with Confederate Jethro.  

Almost Daily, I get an On This Day from Facebook showing me some memories of our Chicago house.  I miss it terribly.  But the truth is, Chicago isn't perfect, and moving back wouldn't be the panacea I want it to be.  Just like moving to St Louis wouldn't have been the magical solution I wanted it to be.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Double Nickels

I turned 55 last week.  Nightingale tells me stories about her dad and it might be true that girls marry a guy who is like their father, for better or worse.  He is 79 and his body started betraying him long ago.  He


can't really do much and what he can do takes 3x longer because of his physical limitations.  and I am scared shitless this will happen to me too.


I haven't even tried to go for a run in 2 years.  There are so many paths that are now closed to me.  The best I can do is focus on the ones still open, such as being the best parent I can be.  

My Current Existential Crisis

I've never been very good at setting boundaries and putting my foot down when it comes to the people I call friends.  I mean I eventually do it but by the time I do, it's too late.  They are like hey when I kicked you in the stomach last week you didn't say anything, why are you making a big deal about it now?

I wrote about this last year.

We talked in January for her birthday but not since.  I figured time just moved quickly for her and she was waiting for my birthday for our next live talk.    Her text didn't mention calling to chat, but her card did, so a few days later I texted about it.  She said she's on a crazy schedule for the next few weeks and would let me know when she catches a break.  

I got a birthday text and a card from Jewel last week.  In the card she wrote that it has been way too long since we talked and wants to catch up in 3 weeks after her daughter's wedding.  So let's unpack this.  She couldn't find a few minutes in the last 49 weeks to chat with me for 20-30 minutes and now is too busy for the next three weeks.  And then she will want to talk about her daughter's wedding.  

seems appropriate

A few years ago, when I lost my job at Big Audit, I sent an email to a small group of friends I thought gave a shit.  Most responded.  One person didn't.  But a month later I was on Gmail at the same time and she said "Sorry you lost your job."  if I hadn't been online at the exact same time I might never have heard from her.  

I get that email isn't her thing, though she works in Corporate America and certainly works with email.    She could reply with a "Hey sorry this happened, you know I'm not a big emailer but if you want to jump on Gchat, I'm available. "  But her way has to carry the day. 

Our friendship was damaged (technically a 2nd time but I won't go into that). 

Back to Jewel.  Chances are good it will slip her mind.  She's not big on Social Maintenance and perhaps once enough time passes, she will forget like last year.  On the other hand, she keeps the number of friends around her small because she's not big on Social Maintenance and Friendship Obligations.  She likely has bored to death anyone she interacts with Tales of Wedding Planning.  

And this is where I have to decide what I want to do.  I could take the call and the crumbs she throws me occasionally so that I have someone to talk to in my Southern Isolation.  Or I could punt it away with my own unavailability.  I could tell her how she hurt me but all that will happen is she might acknowledge, apologize, promise and then never reach out again.  


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

First Day of May

A freeloader has arrived
It's hard to believe that three short weeks ago, we actually had to turn on the heat in the mornings.  Then it was heat in the morning, AC in the afternoons.  Now it's AC on a moderate setting just to deal with the humidity.  By next week the AC will be running more regularly.

I need to note for the future that I should work on some outdoor/garage projects in late March or early April versus now because it is getting too hot.

There is so much I want to do around here but I lack the motivation to get started.  The detached garage is now empty enough that I could use it as a workshop.  I could theoretically epoxy the floor without too much trouble although I think I would rather outsource that task if I ever get employed again.

The attached garage needs a few more things to go away and I could definitely epoxy it as well.  I would like to use some of the leftover paint from the House Repaint to repaint the dirty and chipped walls.  

Three weeks from now the kids are done with school and I will have to entertain them.  In theory, that means we get to sleep in a bit.  in reality, Boris will be on his iPad as early as he can.  And once he's been awake for a bit, he gets hungry.  And if I don't feed him a proper breakfast, he will raid the cupboards in search of crackers, pretzel chips, or other unwise choices.

When they were kept home from school because of snow, way back in January, they discovered that a school friend lived kiddy corner from our lot line.  They have been hanging out with K ever since.  In fact, she has become our third child in a way.  She's the sister Natasha never had but always wanted.

Alas, she won't be here for the summer so another BFF bites the dust.  Fortunately, she gets to see her BFF from the old neighborhood in another month. 



We have plans to visit Chicago and Grosse Pointe, Michigan in June.  It pains me that we have to spend so much money to do so.  My mom's house isn't an option so we need hotels and/or friend's houses.  And it didn't need to be this way.

My mom could have sold her house and lived in our Portage Park home.  We could have worked something out so that the mortgage didn't change but her name could be on it.  

Friday, April 26, 2024

What should have been

 It always makes me a little sad when this image comes up in my On This Day in Facebook.  I really thought this would be my dream job.  I enjoyed going into the office, even though that was challenging with 2 two-year-olds that needed to be dropped off at daycare.


When things started going South I hoped I would make it to year 5 because that would be fully invested in the 401K match.  Not a huge deal but every bit helps.  I have been struggling to get new employment because of my age, my location, and my personality.

If I hadn't been laid off, would we still have moved down here?  Perhaps.  But maybe it would have been an anchor that would make it easier to move back.  We'll never know.  

Office Nemisis won.  


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

And Another Car Bites the Dust

After 12 years I finally decided it was time to say goodbye to my 2008 element (which has become a

money suck the last few years). Didn’t want to deal with a private sale and not purchase another car, so Carmax it is. 

I honestly feel I got a good deal and now there is more room in the garage

 I remember buying the car in January of 2012.  I wanted an Element because 1) Katness had one and she recommended it and 2) I had visions of Nightingale and I throwing our bikes in the back and hitting the trails.  We did that...once.  If you add in a few times that I took the car in for maintenance and used my bike to get around then it comes to about half a dozen times.

when we moved down here and I was forced to get a Mississippi license plate, I went with a vanity.  A variation of Chicago Forever.  My BIL Confederate Jethroy gave me a hard time because the abbreviation could be something else. By something else, only an inbred illiterate or a person trying t get a rise out of someone would think it meant.

In MS, your tag is based on some formula of how old your car is and how many miles it has.  The minimum is $50.  even with the vanity option, my plates cost less than standard in Illinois (1 point for Slytherin).  it was $83.85 that first year.  $67.65 last year.  I don't have the year in between but assume $8 more.  


When I returned my tags I got a whopping $8.50 that can be applied when we renew our next tags, likely the minivan.  I had to release the vanity plate but I'm positive no one is gonna take it in the next decade let alone five months before we renew our plates.

Sometime last summer, I forget the exact dates because time no longer has any meaning down here, 

The passenger side window on my Honda Element stopped working, in the down position.  The part only costs $30 but the Level of Effort is substantial.  I didn't want to take it on myself so I paid a local mechanic to fix it.  Of course, he charged me 3X the price of the part.

Then my muffler on the Element bit the dust.  it was fine on the drive to Home Depot but apparently, I hit something on the shitty Mississippi roads and it caused problems.

To keep this long story less long, I ended up at Midas.  They took me to the cleaners.  Nightingale pushed that we get new tires and brakes even though I wanted to wait.  It turns out, if I had waited a couple weeks, we could have sold the Element as is because her parents bought their neighbor's Honda CRV and lent it to us.


They bought it because they thought their Michigan Daughter wanted it for their kid.  There is some dispute over who said what and what level of commitment there was.  The Adamas could have backed out but didn't feel it was the right thing to do, because reasons.

So we have had three cars in our garages and driveways since last summer.  Until this weekend.  When the driver's side window stopped working, along with the windshield wiper, I just had to surrender.  




Monday, April 22, 2024

Small Town Errands

 Yesterday I had to run a few errands.  Two of these errands could only be completed on opposite ends of


town*.  The other two could be done at either Big Box Hardware and Chain store at either end.

Since one of the two landlocked errands was dropping off a check at Chase Bank which didn't open until 9 am, I opted to knock out the other three at the East End.

It took me less than an hour to complete all the errands on one side of town.  I stopped home to drop off the Water Jugs and Propane tank since it was on the way and I don't like driving with a Propane tank any longer than I have to.  

* I live in Olive Branch and the adjacent "city" is South Haven.  To me, they are seamless but they are separate municipalities.  So much so that when I first moved down here and was getting a haircut, the stylist -- making small talk as stylists do -- the conversation steered towards OB and I asked "What is there to do in OB?"

She said "I don't know, I work in OB, I live in South Haven"

The way she said it, you'd think I asked if I could have her spare kidney or something.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Never Stood a Chance

 There can be no mistaking it: I'm closer to the Neurodivergent (ND) end than the Neurotypical (NT) end of the spectrum.

That said, I could "navigate a standard educational system...learn skills like speaking, reading, and writing at the prescribed times during childhood. and kept up with my classmates, and graduated alongside them."

Nightingale cited a study or source, which I don't have right now, that said a Rule of Thumb is a Neurodivergent person is on average 30% behind the emotional development of a Neurotypical person of the same age.  And that is the average.  some are better but that means some are even lower!


I did some calculations using 75% of my age at the given points and here is what I got:


Two things to note:  when you are really young, the difference isn't as noticeable.  That's why a 3-year-old NT and a 4-year-old ND can play together quite fine.  I mean they will have issues for other reasons.  

While it likely never goes completely away, at some point you do, hopefully, grow enough that it again is not as noticeable.  Now that I'm in my 50s I like to think I'm fit to handle sitting with the adults.  

I cannot believe I managed to survive in a world this cruel.  It certainly explains why I failed at times and had trouble interacting with people.  

Often when I wake up in the middle of the night, I think about some past interactions that went South.  I was hopelessly, hilariously outgunned, and often times the other persons knew it.  They might not have known terms like Neurodivergent, but they knew I was not quite right and sometimes took advantage of it.

For instance, there is no way Mel didn't know that I would do anything for her and she took advantage when we were roommates in 1999.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

My Eclipse Report

 My Facebook feed is filled with friends showing off their pictures of Monday's Total Eclipse, and
rightfully so.  This is a rare enough event unless you chase these things down.  The next time we in the USA will be able to see one without much effort is 2044.  Hopefully, I'll be around to see it.

We went to Litle Rock, Arkansas to see the Eclipse because it was one of the nearest places to see the Totality.  Nightingale also found a place that had a good, cheap package that included food and activities like Rock (wall) Climbing, hiking, canoeing, fishing, and archery.  There were some STEM activities too.  I found these kind of annoying because the person running them was doing it in a Folksy performative manner.  That might just be the remnants of my city slicker ways.

Nightingale booked this trip a long time ago but at the two-week out point, the weather forecast wasn't good.  It was going to either be cloudy or thunderstorms, which would have made the Eclipse hard to see.  I wasn't worried because we still had some fun activities planned.  

As luck would have it, as we got close to The Tuesday, the forecast improved.  It turned out to be a beautiful day.  It seems this was the case in a lot of places.  Bad weather was predicted but turned out favorable.  Maybe the moon blocking the Sun had some influence on that?  I dunno!

For this event, and presumably others, they divided us into groups with a schedule.  When we arrived Saturday evening, Nightingale was worried we'd get screwed out of fishing and canoeing because the rain that didn't come during the Eclipse was looking to arrive that afternoon.  However, it shifted to the evening but didn't actually arrive until we had gone to bed that night.

Dr Steven Smith

We had a guide who was pretty knowledgeable.  The only thing I will report is that both he and everyone else said "Y'All" more times during this trip than I have heard in my 3 years living in The South (yes, it pains me to write that).  

The also had a guy from NASA come and give a talk.  It was mind-blowing.  I learned a few things and enjoyed it very much.  We only stayed for an hour because our collective ADHD brains can only take so much.  

About the Arkansas 4-H Center: So the thing about this place is that apparently, it is a multifunction Center.  

It is a spectacular setting for your next conference or retreat. We provide a conference center available at reasonable rates for educational organizations, businesses, civic clubs, schools, church groups, government agencies and professional organizations. It is ideal for conferences, retreats, meetings, workshops, and training sessions

To be sure, it is quite affordable.  On Its website, it seems like it has great food options for normal events.  For this one, the food certainly wasn't 5-star.  Or even 4-star.  I'd say it was a step above school cafeteria and a step below hospital cafeteria food.  It was edible and the first night I had one of the best side salads I've ever seen in a cafeteria.  And most evenings they served chicken tenders which Boris would eat.  

About the Totality:  I've seen eclipses before, but I don't think I've ever experienced a Total Eclipse before.  It was truly amazing and worth the 3-hour drive.  A lot of people showed up with telescopes and other eclipse-viewing devices.  



The Chicago Style Hot Dog

When I was a kid in the late 70s and even the early 80s, I don't recall any issue with putting ketchup on a hot dog.  Most of the hotdog stands and burger joints I frequented could care less what you put on it once you paid for the item.



I suspect the Chicago Style Hot Dog was a marketing ploy and it got a little out of hand.  Sure, you don't need ketchup because you have the tomato already.  Just like if you are making Fettuccine alfredo, you don't use marinara sauce because that would be something else.  [You are allowed to use a different pasta than Fettichine because Grandma Mary is too tired to go back to the store and hasn't made homemade pasta since child #4.]


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Passport Missconnection

We need to get passports for our children.  We are going to Niagra Falls in the fall for a school field trip and because of the way things are, Passports are needed for entry to Canada.  Because our kids are minors,  both parents have to apply in person (or sign an affidavit).  

The post office here in Olive Branch only does that on weekdays.  Because Nightingale doesn't have a lot of PTO accrued yet, we don't want to spend it on something like this.  The hours are 10 - 3 so we also would have to take the kids out of school.  

We scheduled an appointment for last Saturday with a PO in Memphis because they had Saturday hours.  Obviously, they were booked a month out.  

Apparently, since we crossed State Lines to do this, we needed two forms of ID.  Nightingale read the instructions 4 times.  It didn't say anything about 2 pieces of ID.  Our trip was wasted because I only had my driver's license.  Spoiler Alert: it does say two forms are needed if you cross state lines.

We are so used to OB and Memphis being "one place" that we sometimes forget we are crossing state lines and subject to different rules.  Alcohol for instance is still not sold in Mississippi on Sundays.

I've never seen this anywhere else

And the thing is, I had a feeling I should just bring my passport along.  But I didn't.  Because I don't trust the little voices in my head anymore.  

We did have the option of submitting the form but the lady said it might come back asking for more proof.  She didn't suggest we run home, get my passport, and come back and I didn't ask if that was an option.  our appointment was at 12 and they close at 1 pm, so it would have been tight anyway.  But next time I will ask.

Olive Branch and South Haven Post Offices do take walk-ins and appointments during the week.  Nightingale doesn't want to use up her PTO on this but we are off next week for a trip anyway.  We think we can hit the PO on the way home and get this done.

It's very hard to make friends in adulthood

A blogger friend posted something that intrigued me.  Her blog is private so I cannot simply link to it.  I'd like to screenshot or quote because I was taught to give credit where credit is due, but I also understand her desire for privacy.  

(I also have noticed that when I VagueBook and come back to read something years later, I don't remember who I was speaking about).  Therefore I will link on the off chance she ever reverts her blog back to public.  [Ironically, when I started blogging, she told me that most people don't care about your little corner of the internet.]

So Alex wrote that she tried to make friends by joining a book club but it was unsuccessful for various reasons.  In no particular order, it wasn't the drink wine and forget about the book after 5 minutes type of B-club; She missed a few meetings because of work; She doesn't like Fiction and the members already have their Friends Slots filled and only want to discuss the book.

As someone who has both organized and participated in Adult Playground Activities, I can relate.  Sometimes no matter how friendly, engaging, and/or open you are, people just aren't receptive.  They have their TopFive Friends and don't have any slots left for anyone new.

Other times it's some minor criteria like you just weren't attractive enough.  Or you didn't show up consistently.  people don't want to invest in someone who isn't gonna show up next meeting.  

Sometimes the problem is more nuanced.  If you don't have that friend to tell you that you have no sense of humor or a stick up your butt, you're not gonna figure it out on your own.  Of course some friends don't see that side of you.  Or some friends do but they are friends for other reasons and that side isn't a liability.  Finally, people take the path of least resistance and it's easier just reducing your time with someone then telling them, "Why yes, you do have a stick up your butt".

I've been told on more than one occasion that I'm so negative. My defensive self wants to argue that I'm just realistic and pragmatic, but that is self-defeating.  The truth is I'm negative but not always negative.  But once you get a reputation for being negative, people look at everything in a negative lens.



A friend posted something about a neighbor giving her a free meal.  I joked that now she has to listen to her speech about essential oils.  Is this negative?  everyone makes Essential oil jokes.  But said friend was working off years of other darker comments.  If we are being fair said friend is also a bag of crazy kittens herself.

It got me thinking about the P10s and other running groups I've been part of.  it didn't occur to Nirodivergent me at the time but there was definitely a hierarchy/caste system.   When certain people had parties, members would skip their parent's funeral to join.  But when I had one, I'd get some very ungracious responses.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Not Invited to Easter this year

On NYE 2017 I was added to a Group Text Chat.  Someone likely transposed a few numbers.  Contrary to popular belief, I don't always have my phone at my side so through the evening and next day I'd come back to some interesting messages.  I assumed after the holiday the chat would go dead.  

Boy was I wrong.  They kept it up for months.  based on messages and pictures, I can only conclude that it was a Filipino family with multiple Drama Llamas as pets.  

Anyway, on Easter, I decided to end a message and I guess my Eastern European sense of humor didn't win them over.




Tuesday, March 26, 2024

More House Upgrades

 For a guy who either works from home or is not currently working, I don't update here as much as I should.  it's hard to believe I used to journal and then blog like a madman and now I've just lost the motivation.


I have at least 5 ToDo list items that will literally take 30 minutes or less but I'm not motivated to start on them.

Before

We just dropped $8500 on landscaping and water mitigation.  When it rains here, the water would pool around the house and most likely under the house.  So I paid a guy to put in some catch basins.  While he was at it, we wanted to do something to upgrade the curb appeal of the house.  I also had him install some lights so the house would look prettier and during the holidays, the poor Amazon delivery drivers could see our porch after we went to sleep.


After

I got three quotes.  Each one was broken down into just water mitigation, and landscaping.  We decided to bite the bullet and do both.

What we Wanted

The first guy could do everything for $7k.  But he didn't send me a formal quote and I wasn't sure.

What we got

The second guy (the one we went with) was $8500.  I don't think he got me the best lighting system and might have forgotten what I told him about the front of the house not getting direct sunlight.  He gave us bushes that thrive in direct sunlight so we will see what happens.  

The third guy was a little flaky.  He could do it all for $5850.  But I just didn't get the sense that he understood just how much water mitigation was needed.