mellowtigger: (we can do it)
Over the decades, I've appeared on local news a few times.  It happened again today.

KSTP did a piece for their 10pm news today about the citizen patrols within the Jordan community.  We are occasionally the worst violent crime neighborhood in all of Minneapolis.  We've had recent homicides, and last week we held a community meeting outdoors near the site of one of those homicides.  Some of that footage made the news tonight.

Also, they called me a few minutes before the end of my workday today, and they asked me to come to the community office (rented in a local church) to do an additional interview with KSTP reporter Todd Wilson.  They included some footage from that piece too.



I still intend to write longer articles about the dark side of Jordan.  I'm woken too many nights by gunshots, and we have too many memorials attached to trees on our sidewalks. 

I still intend to write longer articles about the potential to be found here too.  There are many people who want peace, many people who want to build a future rather than wreck one.  There are beautiful old homes, and wonderfully personalized front yards.  I hope that my front yard remains one such eccentricity in Jordan.

For tonight, though, on this too-humid and too-hot night (without air conditioning, whew!), the video segment (local archive) will have to suffice.
mellowtigger: (Default)
injury on day 2My wound from being a dork at the Science March is not healing very quickly.  I stopped at a local clinic today, just to have someone look at it for me.  The doctor said that I was treating it appropriately, but to come back and see her if the swelling at the edges starts to spread outward.  She said for this type of injury that Bacitracin often works better than Neosporin, and she gave me some samples to use.

I was convinced at the Science March by speaking to some people more knowledgeable than I am on matters of property status that I should call to ask why I lost my Homesteader status on my property this year.  I assumed it was because I failed to fill out an annual form because mail delivery here is very bad, and I often get letters for people all over my block.  They told me that there is no annual renewal, though, so I called today.  It turned out that they didn't receive a form last year, even though I filled it out and turned it in at the Hennepin County office listed on the form.  The lady last year told me that it should be delivered elsewhere (even though it had the Minneapolis office address right there on the form where I delivered it), but they would sent it to the correct office.  All done... or so I thought.  The lady on the phone today from the Minneapolis City Assessor's Office said they never received it, but she'll mail another one today.  That's good, since my taxes were going up a very large amount (for me) because of that status loss.

My taxes were done months ago, and I earned just under $30,600 in 2016.  It doesn't sound like much, and it isn't, but it's a lot more than I earned working at the local animal shelter for years.  It doesn't allow much of anything for savings, but I'm still getting by "easily" in my house.  To buy my house last year, I relied entirely on the savings that I quickly acquired while working for Dell for one year.  Life would be easier if I could tolerate long commutes and for-profit corporate life, but it's just not worth the toll on my well being.  I'm better off poor at non-profits, and I don't regret it.  :)

Speaking of taxes, my property taxes were going up a LOT this year as a result of the assessment increase and the loss of homesteading.  Luckily, I've been overpaying just enough each month that I could absorb that increase, but hopefully I can get the tax reduction from homesteading back onto my property.  Meanwhile, my assessment went up from $57K to $65.5K.  That's still a lot less than the value I'm paying on insurance, since that's a full replacement cost of $150K.  But... I mentioned being poor, right?  Lower taxes are good for me.  I plan to continue volunteering to help make a difference in the local crime in Jordan community of Minneapolis, so hopefully I'm contributing a commensurate benefit with my time instead of my cash.

My parents left me a gift last year that will cover the nice fencing that I want for the yard.  I got the quote from the company if I do all the work myself.  I need to give them the okay to order the materials, since the ground is now thawed.  I'll have to install the fence myself for the cheaper price, which will still be over $3.5K for everything.  I think that I'll "feel" a lot better about living here, though, once that's done. I've been woken up a few times already this month by gunshots, so adding a small sense of security would be a good thing for me.  And with a fenced back yard, I could easily get a dog for additional peace of mind.

I'll soon be facing some new stress at work (a coworker taking a very long leave of absence for a worthwhile cause), but that's the only added stress that I anticipate for 2017.  If that's all I have to worry about, then this year will be a good one.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Chalk up another activity that I never expected to accomplish: gardening at midnight.

harvest pumpkins, cayenne peppers, and spaghetti squashIt is currently just barely above freezing here in Minneapolis, with frost warnings for early this morning. I wanted to get some things indoors before any freezing weather had a chance to turn them into mush as the plants unfroze. I went outdoors with a flashlight to make my way through the vine patches.  I brought in all of the pumpkins, all of the cayenne peppers (that were red and ready), and a few of the spaghetti squash. That cat doesn't know quite what to think of all the new smells that are clearly inedible (to a cat's nose).

Why wait until midnight to harvest them?

I was already at the Gaylaxicon 2016 sci-fi convention today (here in Minneapolis this year) before I realized that frost was forecast. I spent much of the day and evening enjoying the panel discussions. It was a trip down memory lane during the 9:30pm discussion about online gaming.  They had 2 panelists who worked on Everquest 1, which I played heavily when it first came online back in 1999.  I even helped create a gay guild there, which was an exciting thing to do back in those days because it seemed so rare.

I left the hotel before the next panel that was scheduled to start at 11pm. Yes, it's a busy day and night on their convention schedule. Overall, though, it's a nice, non-stressful convention.  I'll be back for more activities on Saturday and Sunday too.

I left early to come home tonight and get this harvest indoors. I especially want the pumpkins to survive in good condition to Halloween. Our local "block leader" is hoping to organize some kids on our block for a jack-o-lantern carving activity, and I intend to donate pumpkins to the cause. I just want to keep one for myself to use at my house. The rest are intended as donations for neighbors.

I used the central air/heating in my house this morning for the first time in many months.  I wanted to be sure it was ready for cold weather.  It worked fine, so I'll be turning it on again before I head to bed now.

#Gaylaxicon2016

mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Jordan is one of the neighborhoods of Minneapolis (maps). The crime here is bad in 2016. It was so bad August 9-15 that many of the confirmed 17 shootings of Minneapolis happened just within Jordan. Gunfire here is common, as you can tell from the Shot Spotter activations on the same map. I was woken twice this weekend by gunshots.

Too many people have died here recently. On my walks, I've started recording the memorials that I see. I haven't visited all of Jordan yet, just those areas within a few blocks of my house. Each of these memorials represents someone who was once a family member and a resident with a role in their community.  Now they leave a hole in the lives of family, friends, schoolmates, and co-workers.

Each of these deaths was unnecessary and avoidable.

I'll leave these images for visitors to ponder.

Location and Date Of PhotoMemorial Photo
Logan and 26th
2016 08 14
memorial at Logan and 26th in Jordan of Minneapolis
Penn and Lowry
2016 08 14
memorial at Penn and Lowry in Jordan of Minneapolis
Morgan and 30th
2016 08 21
memorial at Morgan and 30th in Jordan of Minneapolis
Newton and 30th
2016 08 21
 
memorial at Newton and 30th in Jordan of Minneapolis

I'll update this page as I find new memorials, but only those within Jordan.  I pass other memorials on my commute to work, but they are outside the range of this neighborhood.  All of them leave an influence on the minds of those who live here.

The Jordan Area Community Council (JACC, also found on Facebook) will soon begin citizen patrols.  Paraphrased from one of the organizers, "No more meetings, no more discussions, no more vigils.  It has to stop now.  Take a stand; cease fire!"  We begin training next week for citizen patrols.

#WarzoneInMinneapolis #TakeAStandCeaseFire

settling in

Jan. 9th, 2016 11:55 pm
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
I've lived in (as opposed to merely owned) the house for a full day.

Gunshots last night (not too nearby) woke up the cat first and then me (as the cat stirred).  Neither of us spent too much time worrying after the first two shots, because it's just too cold to worry about anything else right now.  By the time it broke out into a burst like firecrackers, we just crawled back under the blankets to get warm.  The opinion I heard from a local person several weeks ago is that most of the violence here is drug/gang/turf related stuff, so I doubt they'll have much interest in some old guy with his cat.

The current outdoors temperature as I write is -21C/-6F (windchill -31C/-25F).  It really helps to put the house through an insulation test, although it's been a bit of a challenge for me individually.  I've run a small electric heater almost continuously today, and that'll get expensive.
  • There's a spot underneath each outside door that needs to be fixed.  I replaced the trim insulation which helps, but that one corner is still leaking on both doors.  I need to patch it somehow.
  • Air circulation upstairs is very bad.  It's cold in the bedrooms.  I've got one room shut, so it's even colder in there, but my room is still unpleasant without the use of a small electric heater.  I discovered that the vent in each bedroom is an intake vent only, so the only hot air is coming from the landing by the stairs.  That heated vent, though, has poor circulation, so I need to see what's obstructing it or leaking air on the way.
  • Most of the windows seem to be sealed well.  A ground floor bathroom window leaks cold, so I've shut the door to that room.  The pair of windows in my room don't seem to leak cold, yet the outer storm panes have a solid coat of frost on them, so moisture is reaching them from somewhere (melting from roof?).
  • There are still boxelder bugs alive and newly arriving in my sight.  How do they survive this cold?  Where are they getting indoors?  The house must have holes somewhere.  Not good.
  • I've kept the basement door closed today to keep the cat from investigating until I've cleaned down there.  I'll have to go downstairs tomorrow, though, to check for cold air coming in.
I catnapped a lot today to make up for lost sleep last night.  I didn't get much accomplished.  I cleaned the gas stove burners again, so they work, but they still don't ignite on their own.  I got the dining room bookshelf put together, so the plants now have a home at the window, although little direct sunlight reaches there.  Tomorrow, I need to get the kitchen shelves done, so I can empty some of these boxes stacked around.

Tonight I broke out a wool blanket that I haven't used since Occupy Minnesota while sleeping outdoors in the cold.  We'll see if I sleep better with it on the bed.  Even Hope is spending time under the covers with me instead of on top.

I'll keep updating this thread in the coming days, so stay tuned for more escapades.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 07:55:
Currently -22C/-9F (windchill -31C/-25F) outside.  The wool blanket helped a lot.  Last night was more comfortable than the one before.  I didn't wake as frequently, so I must be growing more accustomed to the new place.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 12:50:
I did a first pass at cleaning the basement. I scooped up the cat poop that was transformed by alien fungus. 
alien fungus on cat poop in basementcloseup alien fungus on cat poop in basement

I wore a dust mask.  I'm no fool.  I've watched X-Files, and I know what happens when you inhale bizarre fungal spores.

I figured the basement was finally clean enough to let the cat down there, so I opened up the door.  While I took my first shower upstairs, the cat disappeared as expected.  I figure she's hiding down there somewhere now.  Guess I'll leave her be while I drive to the old place to pick up more clothes.

The shower worked just as I expected (which was bad).  I need one of those U-shaped shower rods so I can pull a shower curtain around both sides and the back of the tub.  The window over the tub collected water drops, as expected.  The back of the tub collected enough water to run off to the floor a bit, as expected.  Both issues I can work around.  I just need to install a U-hoop shower curtain.

Also, I stuffed the opening of the dryer hose in the basement that was leaking in vast quantities of cold air.  That plug should help a lot with the temperature in the house.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 18:26:

Slow progress. I've moved everything from the former bathroom, living room, kitchen, and basement.  Maybe next weekend I can get everything from the bedroom and garage.  Then I still have 2 weekends free for cleaning the old place.  I've got a lot more stuff than I realized.

Sometime, I still need to settle into the new place too.  First on the agenda is getting the kitchen shelves ready.

I have a lead on a recliner chair and a 2-seat sofa.  Maybe I can pick them up next weekend if I reserve a U-Haul pickup soon.

Edit: 2016 January 12 Tuesday 21:02:

I discovered why I had closed the doors to those two rooms: the spare bedroom and the ground floor toilet.  Those windows have only a single pane of glass between inside and outside air.  There is no second storm pane to create an air pocket between the two environments.  Each window has now been sealed (ineptly) with plastic in addition to keeping the door closed.  I guess those windows will need to be addressed this summer.

Edit: 2016 January 15 Friday 10:06:

I bought some metal duct tape, so I could go around the basement and seal any leaks in the ducts to help airflow toward upstairs.  Instead of leaks, I discovered that there's a vent on the stack directly above the furnace.  It's in a hard-to-reach location, and it's rusted solid in full-open position.  Most of the hot air has been going just to the basement.  Doh!  I used the metal tape to seal up the vent except for a small portion to keep the pipes from ever freezing.  We'll see how the rest of the house feels when we're back to subzero (fahrenheit) on Sunday.  Today, we're at a balmy -6C/21F, so it's not a good test, since everything feels comparatively warm anyway.

Edit: 2016 January 15 Friday 20:00:


I don't have much in the way of glassware, but it's finally washed and in the kitchen shelves.  The date of the newspaper when I boxed up my glassware for storage last time: 2003 September 21 Sunday.  It's been a while since I've lived on my own.

Edit: 2016 January 16 Saturday 16:31:

I've been hauling back and forth most of today.  The temperature has hovered at the subzero point (-17C/0F) all day.  I got small amounts of ice in my beard from emptying out the garage today.  At least I've finished the garage... mostly.  There are some cinder blocks for gardening that hopefully can wait until warmer weather, since I might also retrieve additional supplies from the garden soil if they decide to cut back on the official garden area.  Meanwhile, sun is setting, air temperature has dropped subzero again, and it's time for me to start sorting through boxes in the living room to see what can go where.  I have way too much stuff from long-term storage.  I think most of it just needs to be donated to a local thrift store, since obviously I've lived without it for a decade or longer.

On one of today's many trips, I figured I'd fill up the gas tank at the corner store.  When I saw that it's a "pay first inside" gas pump, I knew that I wouldn't be coming back because it's so inconvenient in cold weather.  On top of that, I was accosted twice by strangers for money during my brief visit.  I declined both, since I'm not feeling like a money piñata at the moment.  I'm unlikely to be spending much of my money there during this year.

The only way this area (or any area) can turn around, though, is to spend money at local stores.  I heartily recommend "The Nature of Economies" by Jane Jacobs.  It's a very simple read, and it gives a great argument for how to view economic systems as biological systems.  Think of wealth as water; it simply must flow in order for there to be any ecosystem.  When it stagnates, the ecosystem changes in response.  It can arrive/depart in bursts (like gold rush mining towns or desert rains) or filter slowly through many layers (like thriving cities or rainforests), but the wealth/water must flow.  I need to start finding local stores (besides Cub Foods) to do my shopping, so this neighborhood can thrive again.

Edit: 2016 January 17 Sunday 07:16:

It's -25C/-13F (windchill -36C/-33F) outside.  We have a windchill warning, but it doesn't feel as bad inside this week as last week.  I think those small changes I've made recently have helped.

Edit: 2016 January 17 Sunday 15:20:

I'm a doofus.  I bought that U-hoop shower curtain rod without realizing that it needed to bolt around a vertical shower pipe (as pictured) instead of the horizontal that I have coming out of the wall.  So I went to the store and got a regular tension shower rod instead, and I installed it on the other side of the bathtub.  It works fine for now.  I think I'll keep that U-hoop, though.  Maybe one of these days (or months... or years... there's so much stuff to do!), I'll rearrange it so that the pipe that would attach vertically into the ceiling instead goes horizontal into a tension rod.  Then I could still have a U-hoop, and I wouldn't have to figure out how to attach something vertically on a sloped ceiling.

I also bought some corner door seal stickers.  Both outside doors now have much better air-blocking capabilities.

Edit: 2016 January 18 Monday 15:48:

Done hauling for today.  On schedule for finishing up the move and cleaning the old place on the coming weekend.  I need a nap.  And a vacation.  I feel old.  :)

Edit: 2016 January 21 Thursday 16:48:

Car repairs.  Yuck.  The last arctic blast destroyed whatever was left of my car's suspension.  Even the smallest bumps are now hard and loud thumps.  I knew this moment was coming, but I have to get it repaired now.  With two major expenditures under my belt during the last month, I'll be running short for 2016 already.  I'll have not-quite-a-year's savings.  All of my savings are the direct result of my short time spent at Dell.  (My bank account liked me working at Dell.)  I have a much nicer salary now than when I worked at AHS, so I should still be able to recover a savings account this year.  It just means that I'll do no major fixes on the house this calendar year.   And I can't do a major computer upgrade this year either.  :(  Unless I either work another part-time job or get a roommate, and neither is anywhere in my "want to do" list this year.

There's no time to ask the various neighbors for suggestions on good mechanics in this area, so I'll just take it tomorrow morning to the same place I've been going for the last decade.  I've already logged in to move the money from savings to checking to cover the expense.  Entropy.  Gotta love it, because we can't escape it.

Edit: 2016 January 21 Friday 18:38:


Ouch.  Just.... ouch.  It was about $2600 for repairs.

car repairs suspension bill

That's more money than I was estimating.  I had to dip even farther into my savings account than what I moved last night.  I still have enough saved to absorb one more major problem, but that's now my limit.


I know that having any money saved at all means that I am in better financial position than the majority of USA citizens.  I'm down to a 6-month buffer, which still puts me better off than 71% of USA citizens (see chart above).  I should feel lucky, right, that the "bar" here is so low that I'm well off in comparison?  How exactly did we stop being a civilized nation?

Edit 2016 January 24 Sunday 22:48:

I didn't get much accomplished today.  I was woken up at 4:30 by loud music nearby.  Later, I had help from two people with hauling a small sofa and a recliner across the Twin Cities to my living room.  I have furniture, yay!  Then I spent most of this afternoon napping.  Rest is good.

Edit 2016 January 25 Monday 09:43:


I forgot to mention that I dropped off my old house key with a landlord yesterday.  And this morning I mailed my first mortgage check.  So I guess it's official; I'm living in my own house now.

I wanted to spend $1000 on my first mortgage check each year, but I felt better cutting back to just $500 (actual minimum is just under $400) this time because of the massive drain on my savings during the last 30 days.  I know that the math shows I should pay extra anyway, because skipping an extra payment this early in the exponential function will cost me more savings later, but... it's also important to keep a small bit of savings around too.

I guess this update will be my last post in this thread.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
We can't have nice things in the USA.  I wish I lived somewhere civilized that had a single-payer health care system that "collects all medical fees, then pays for all services, through a 'single' government (or government-related) source."  But, no.  Instead, we have a convoluted bureaucratic nightmare that is ripe for exploitation.

I had sinus surgery back in January.  It's public knowledge, since I blogged about it.  Many bills arrived later.  I paid all of them except for one curious letter that arrived from people I didn't know and a place I didn't know, wanting money.  There was no  privileged information in that letter, so I treated it like I do all spam email that I receive: I trashed it.

Months later, a bill collection agency tries to collect.  Once again, they say a person I don't know wants money, but nobody can offer any definitive information to help me confirm their authenticity.  Again, I refuse to pay, but at least this time I'm willing to put some effort into an investigation of the claim.

It required 2 calls to my surgeon's office, 2 calls to my insurance provider, and 2 visits to the hospital, but I finally got a claim number that I could verify.  Here's the trail of shame for the rickety medical billing system currently in use:
  • My surgeon's office had no contact information for the anesthesiologist.  How did they arrange for him to show up at my surgery?  Who knows?
  • My first call to my insurance provider (Aetna) offered only one name for anesthesiology, but it wasn't the doctor's name; it was a nurse's.
  • My hospital does include a listing for the doctor (Mark Lantz), but the information is all wrong.
  • The listed phone number (763-520-5370) is "disconnected or no longer in service".
  • It includes a webpage (apanorth.com), but it's also useless.  The webpage offers no contact information for the doctor.
  • The webpage includes its own email contact (feedback@apanorth.com), but the email bounces.
  • The webpage includes a brick-and-mortar address at the hospital itself, but the information desk at the hospital knows nothing about the group.
So, somebody wants money from me, but it is...
  1. somebody with no phone contact,
  2. somebody with no email contact, and
  3. somebody with no viable street address.
Once again, I feel perfectly justified in treating this demand for money as an unlawful attempt to wrangle money from my pocket.  This complete lack of verifiable accountability is why internet email is so filled with spam.  An unscrupulous person could easily get rich by getting a virus onto a computer for a hospital or billing service.  They can start writing paper letters to people they learn have had medical procedures done.  People will willingly write them checks for no good reason.  It's terrible.

On my first visit back to the hospital (their customer service was great!), I was able to get printouts for the anesthesiologist report and the billing report.  At least I could verify the doctor's name, but nothing provided any trail to verify the claim against me.  On my second visit back to the hospital (again, their customer service was great!) a billing person was able to connect me by phone to the doctor's billing person.  Finally, at long last, I had a reliable trail of contact to someone with knowledge of this bill.  I got a claim ticket number that they had filed with my insurance provider.

I called my insurance provider again, and this time they were able follow that claim number and give me confirmation of this bill.  I called back the bill collector and gave them my bank routing information so they could file an electronic draft immediately.  I still don't know anything about the bill collector other than the phone number (651-287-6137), but I'm tired of investigating and just want this mess to end.  Afterwards, I was so stressed out and drained from this escapade that I went to bed and slept 6pm-1am.

This is the healthcare system that we have in the USA.  It's awful.  And I'm sick again, this time with something new that's affecting my throat.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.
mellowtigger: (twitch)
A near-constant twitch under my left shoulder blade prompted my post this morning. I haven't written much about twitchiness this year. It's definitely better since metronidazole day nearly two years ago. My nerve problems have not disappeared though.

I still get painful muscle cramps, usually in my right foot where this all started so long ago. A few weeks ago during the commute home from work, it got so bad that I crossed my legs and used my left foot for both the accelerator and brake in my car. And, of course, I'm still tired of being tired. I might someday experiment with marijuana to see if it can control the muscle twitch symptom as anecdotal stories continue to assert.

The new job is still a mixed bag. The nausea during the commute is much better but still there. I feel much more confident about the day-to-day work, but less so about the larger project that somehow is my responsibility even though I'm the newcomer and less qualified for it than someone already there.

Still hoping for better days ahead. It's currently -25C/-13F this morning. I should add warmer days to my wishlist.
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
My elder cat does not have liver cancer.  Yay!

T'Reese has been confined to my bedroom for most of 2013 because of her puking, pooping, and peeing.  I still have the original plastic wrap on my new bed mattress, and it's been helpful more than once.  I've also laid down patches of carpet and rug over most of the exposed hardwood floor.  She's not shown any pain from this nausea and digestion problem, and the vet confirmed that she was a good kitty during today's ultrasound procedure without complaining of any sore spots.

I originally had my appointment on Monday afternoon at the local vet clinic.  They don't have ultrasound equipment there, so they arranged a visit from a mobile veterinarian to perform the procedure.  Unfortunately, we got fresh snow on Monday, and the mobile lab ended up stuck somewhere and unable to make my appointment.  Instead, I dropped T'Reese off at the clinic this morning where she waited until the mobile lab arrived to perform her ultrasound.  I picked her up this afternoon.  Apparently she didn't eat while stressed at the vet clinic today, so when she got home the first thing she did was eat up lots of canned food.  She is now sleeping beside me at my computer desk.

She has always been a picky eater (throwing up food if it contains fish, for instance), but apparently she may have developed a case of irritable bowel syndrome too.  I'm trying out some special prescription canned food to see if her stomach tolerates it well.  If so, I guess I'll be buying it from now on.  I hope it's not hugely expensive.  The vet also gave me 3 other medications that she needs daily.  We'll see how well that process goes.  They're intended to get her liver and gall bladder inflammation down.  Hopefully all the medications can stop if the new food works well in her system.

I was worried that she was facing her final days after 16 years, but she received a reprieve today.  Maybe 2014 will bring easier days for us both.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I finished my first week at Dell Compellent.  Like most jobs (or at least technology jobs), new employees face a veritable tidal wave of information to learn.  I think I did okay, though.  The product is certainly interesting, and I'm getting to see both the hardware and software needed to set it up.  I cabled my first system and configured it so that that someone else on my team was able to establish a virtual hard drive on it.  Not bad for a first week, I hope.

The bad part of this job, though, has nothing to do with Dell.  It's the commute.  I drove out there this morning while there was no traffic to interfere, and it took me 27 minutes to get from one parking spot to the next.  Not a terrible drive.  Unfortunately, the rush hour commute is a very different experience.  I average less than an hour on the morning trip and more than an hour on the afternoon trip.  I really don't want to spend 2 hours per day on commute, since that means living in my car for 10 hours a week.  That's bad enough, but the stressful driving makes the overall experience even worse.

Dell is flexible with start times.  They asked me to show up on my first day at 9am, but I experimented with moving my start time earlier in the morning as the week progressed.  The hassle is getting slightly better with an 8am start time.  I'll aim for arriving at 7:30am on Monday to measure that commute time.  If it doesn't offer a big payoff, then I'll probably just settle for 8am.

Meanwhile, I used the time this morning while I was in the area to scope around for cheap housing.  I don't know that there's such a thing as cheap housing anywhere in the Twin Cities, but I did make one interesting find.  A decade ago or more, back when I was still a programmer, I pondered buying a home.  I went by this house several times before I decided to spend my money buying a new car instead.  A "For Sale" sign caught my eye while driving around today, and I was surprised to recognize that house.  I'm wishing now that I had bought it... or that I had $130K laying around somewhere to throw at it now.  It's only 5.5 miles from my new workplace, and I wouldn't even have to drive onto a busy highway to get there.

I'll probably end up calling the small apartment complexes that I saw in that area to see what prices are like.  I still don't have my first paycheck from Dell yet, so I'm not sure what net income I have available to use for housing each month.  I realize that I'm still thinking like a poor person, since I spent half a decade at a non-profit and exhausted my already meager savings.  It may be nice for things to change finally.
mellowtigger: (Ark II)
car side viewI have a vehicle! I filed the title transfer at the local county office on Tuesday morning.  I made the purchase solely with funds from my parents, but I'm glad to take whatever help I can get so I can return to just one crisis at a time.

I bought a 2001 Toyota Corolla "LE" 4-door sedan with 94,100 miles. The age wasn't great, but the low mileage seemed to make up for it. It also helped that the Kelley Blue Book website rated this car highly. I think I only saw Hondas with higher ratings.

car interior viewThe interior and exterior conditions are both nice. I saw a few spots where rust damage usually appears, and they were repainted. Even so, it is still in better condition than most cars in Minnesota after a decade of salty air (from cars spraying salted slush everywhere during winter).

The engine idles so smoothly that I've wondered more than once while waiting at a stop light if the engine had died. No, it's just that quiet. The usual local mechanic looked it over, and he found only one cheap issue to fix. I had that work done plus some regular maintenance sorts of things. I think I trust this vehicle for reliable transportation for a while. Now I can move on to dealing with the previous crisis of this blood clot that still hasn't gone away.

Oh, and one quick story. I had the car windows down recently, and the wind blew a receipt from underneath the passenger seat. I picked it up and looked at it. Somebody paid $12.84 last October at a local Halloween store for a "V for Vendetta" mask. I don't remember seeing this guy at Occupy Minnesota while I was there, but cheers for #OccupyWallStreet too! *laugh*

I am easily amused.

sunburn

Jun. 2nd, 2013 10:13 pm
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
A while back, the city did some road work that required tearing up the curb and nearby lawn.  Afterwards, they used grass seed to restore lawns.  It didn't work well.  Houses near the park ended up with dandelion beds instead of grass.  One neighbor dug out the flowers last year.  Another neighbor did it this year.  I figured it was time that we finally removed them from our lawn.

I spent some time weeding on Saturday and Sunday.  I didn't think I had spent so much time outdoors to warrant a burn like this. My shoulders and thighs are the worst, and I'm only mildly burned on my arms, legs, and face.  I've been using an old aloe vera Solarcaine formula.  It helps a lot.

I normally have time spent bicycling to help me acclimate to summer daylight.  Even without bicycling, though, this amount of burn surprised me.  I went looking online to see if sun sensitivity is a side effect of the warfarin medication that I'm taking.  Officially, it seems not to be a side effect, but I find many anecdotal stories that it is.

I guess I should spend more time gradually introducing full sunlight to my skin.  Winters in Minnesota keep everybody cooped up indoors for a long time, so we all end up a little pale.  Today, though, I'm more pink than pale.  Getting to sleep tonight may be a mild adventure, since the cats like to lay up against me, but it will be uncomfortable for me tonight.  We'll see how it goes.
mellowtigger: (disconnect)
My car died.  I've had it in the shop for 1.5 days, and the mechanic finally called to say he estimated $2200 in repairs.  He said the onboard computer offered a long list of problems: camshaft, ignition coil, head gasket, and other stuff. For that price, I might as well try to get another vehicle instead.  Living without a car is a lot cheaper, however, since Minnesota currently has the highest gas prices in the contiguous 48 states. I guess I'm back to being motorless again.

The bus schedule is awful.  I made it to work today on the bus.  Unfortunately, bus service operates within a very narrow window of time near my workplace, so I have to be up at the first bus stop by 7am, and I don't get home until 5pm.  It's a terribly inefficient use of time (10 hours) for what would in normal circumstances be just a 4-hour shift at work.

My leg is still not 100%.  I would enjoy commuting by bicycle, except that my leg is still not fully healed.  I can walk, yes, but very slowly with a slight limp.  The doctor warned me specifically against exercising as soon as I felt "able".  I don't have many options, though.

I finally applied for a credit card through State Farm Insurance, the same company where I've paid my car insurance for the last 20 years or so.  Maybe my long history with them will motivate them to take pity on me by granting me a line of credit.  At least then I can dump my many medical bills into a single debt for more convenient payment.  I'd rather owe money just 1 place rather than several places.

I also finally applied for a new job.  I found an opening in the Twin Cities where they wanted a Powershell programmer.  The rest of the skills were only a moderate match for me, but the job itself is something I'm certain I can do and enjoy.  Plus, they'd pay me 4-5X what I'm currently earning.  I don't normally motivate for cash, but I'll make an exception under these trying circumstances.

Meanwhile, I suppose I'll dump some money into a bus transit card and muddle through.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I've had plenty to complain about lately, but I guess it's time for a little good news.

Minnesota marriage equalityFirst, Minnesota is officially changing its laws today to recognize gay marriages. Our state governor signs the legislation into law today. It's a good change brought to us through the hard work of many gay people coming out of the closet and even more straight people who listened to the pleas of gay couples who wanted their government to grant them the same benefits as other couples. The Saint Paul mayor even renamed the "Wabasha Street Freedom Bridge" to the "Wabasha Street Freedom To Marry Bridge" for the week, and pride flags line the bridge.  They're expecting a huge celebration in Saint Paul tonight.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of straight allies like Chris Kluwe.  It matters who speaks because it changes who will listen. It shouldn't matter, but it does. Ideas should be sufficient on their own merits, but they aren't. America abolished slavery because the free fought to share their rights. America allowed women to vote because the voting men agreed to share their privilege. America is slowly granting homosexuals equal protection under the law because heterosexuals are voting to share their benefits.

Second, T'Reese is doing much better. The veterinarian found no evidence of problems in the stool sample. Apparently old cats are prone to constipation, and it happens to cause great pain for T'Reese when that happens. I'm adding wet cat food to her diet to help avoid this problem in the future.

Third, I'm back to using a cane for mobility rather than crutches. I can even walk very slowly around my bedroom without the cane. I'm still prone to painful muscle cramps when I use my left leg, and I get electric shocks down the length of my leg, and my left knee hurts a lot when I put too much weight on it. Progress is progress, though. I'll take it.

Fourth, I estimate that I can have all of my medical bills paid off by the end of this year. It depends entirely, though, on not having any car problems in 2013. That condition seems unlikely, though, since I spend almost $1500/year on car repairs. It's been pretty consistent over the last decade. Car repairs are the big unnecessary drain on my finances. I wish I could live and work someplace where I could ditch the car altogether. I think I'll have to move to a larger metropolitan area, though, to succeed at that kind of lifestyle change.


Anyway... celebrate the good news while it's happening, right?

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band.
One more sad story's one more than I can stand.
Just once how I'd like to see the headline say,
"Not much to print today, can't find nothin' bad to say" because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town.
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down.
Nobody fired a shot in anger. Nobody had to die in vain.
We sure could use a little good news today...

How I want to hear the anchor man talk about a county fair;
And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care.
Whoa, tell me,

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today;
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play;
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA.
We sure could use a little good news today.

So today's theme song is this country music chart topper by Anne Murray from 1983: A Little Good News.

a bad week

May. 7th, 2013 01:26 am
mellowtigger: (T'Reese)
T'Reese 2013.05.07T'Reese is in pain tonight. She has vomited a few times, and she has pooped on my bed a few times tonight because she can't travel to the litter box. This contingency is why I left the plastic on the new mattress that I bought a few months ago.

I drove one of my landlords to the hospital emergency room yesterday morning. They gave him 2 liters of intravenous fluids to help him recover from dehydration from an apparent norovirus infection. My other landlord had the same infection last week, after getting it from his relatives. So far, I've stayed healthy, still dealing with the blood clot and poor circulation in my left leg.

I would take T'Reese to the vet first thing this morning, except I have to be in Saint Paul for a special phone system upgrade with Integra at 8am. I guess I'll head back home as soon as it's finished. I have no idea how I'm going to move a pet carrier while I'm on crutches. I guess I can push my luck and try a cane. Unless the sick landlord is staying home and is well enough to carry her for me. If so, maybe I can get him to carry my heavy coin bag to the bank for a deposit, so I can afford the vet visit.

T'Reese is old. She is about 15.5 years old, so she's had a good run as a cat. There may not be much that a vet can do for her. Someday, when I'm convinced that she doesn't have any pain-free days left, I'll ask the vet to euthanize her. I'm not looking forward to that day. I'll probably take her body to work so they can cremate her. I figure I can spread her ashes in the front yard where she looks through the big window while sitting on the couch.

We're a pathetic bunch this week. Mortality bites.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
left leg 2013.04.30I'm still on crutches. I injured myself on 3/23, so it's been about 6 weeks now.

The anti-coagulant medications have definitely helped with the pain.  If I don't use my left leg, the pain is gone altogether.  When I use my leg, though, it's immediately obvious that the circulation in my leg still isn't normal yet.  You can see it in this photo that I took at 9pm last night.

The calf and foot are still swollen, and the coloration is still just slightly off in my left foot.  When I suddenly go upright, I feel sharp pains throughout my lower leg.  Similar sensations follow (with bonus pains) when I try to support my weight on it.

I'm beginning to wonder if the circulation was permanently damaged by the blood clot.  I'll hold out hope for another week or two.  Meanwhile, medical bills are starting to roll in.  I paid off 3 of them today and made a small payment to my landlord for the loan to buy prescription injections.  The really big bill is still looming, though.  I expect it to arrive soon.

I've asked my boss if I can work 5 hours per day instead of 4 hours.  That's a 25% increase in costs to my employer, so I'm not sure if they'll accept that change.  I'm not thrilled (where my mental health is concerned) about the change either.  I can easily take additional stress for a few weeks or months, but permanent stress is a bad thing.  We'll see how this change works out, if it's approved.

genetic resultsAt least my Minnesota Care coverage is approved.  I made an online payment yesterday morning, so in theory my coverage should begin today since it's the 1st day of the month.  Monthly costs have more than doubled since I was last insured by them, but this taxpayer-subsidized coverage is still cheaper than buying insurance elsewhere.  Unfortunately, they do not help with any payment of previous medical bills.  The hospital basically lied to me by saying that MN Care would help for up to 90 days previous.

My mother says that I don't have a family history of blood clot issues, which is good.  My genetic testing (done years ago) also shows little genetic influence, only a very slight increased predisposition for venous thromboembolism.  Newer tests might show different results.  I'm sure that new genetic markers have been found since then, markers that my old test never checked.  Hopefully, though, I won't need to stay on my cheap anti-coagulant medication for the rest of my life.

One day at a time, I guess.  And would you believe that we have snow forecast for tomorrow morning?  Crutches make navigation fun and exciting!
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Princess Bride definitionI see phrases like "low-income", "minimum wage", and "affordable housing", but they don't mean in practice what I think they should mean. Instead, it seems that politicians have twisted the terminology into something that mocks their expected meaning.

Spirit On Lake is a new 4-story apartment building under construction in Minneapolis. The project is a result of efforts by "GLBT Generations" and "Living Table United Church of Christ" to provide affordable housing for the aging GLBT community. Quatrefoil Library will be moving into the building too. It's a really nice idea!

The building will be wheelchair-accessible (which I worry about since I've been on crutches for many weeks), will allow my 2 cats, disallows smoking, and is only 1 block from the major bicycle highway in Minneapolis called the Greenway. I wish I could live there. I would seem to meet all of their criteria, such as:

"Because Spirit on Lake has received federal and state funding as an affordable housing development,
residents must meet income requirements. Maximum income levels depend on household size:
" where 1 occupant may have a maximum income of only $28,850.

The problem, though, comes in what they consider low-income and affordable. Their brochure says "Future rent levels will be determined annually based on area rent limits set by HUD." Yet their rent is currently set at $720/month for a 1-bedroom room.

I ran some numbers based on a full-time but minimum-wage job, USDA cost of food, and utility estimates. It's not pretty.

Calculation Description AnnualTotal RemainingAnnual RemainingMonthly
7.25 * 40 * 52 income $15,080.00 $15,080.00 $1,256.67
15080 * 0.15 income taxes 15% (USA+MN) $2,262.00 $12,818.00 $1,068.17
720 * 12 rent $8,640.00 $4,178.00 $348.17
295.50 * 12 food (“moderate-cost plan”) $3,546.00 $632.00 $52.67
60 * 12 utilities (heating, a/c, electric) $720.00 -$88.00 -$7.33
45 * 12 internet $540.00 -$628.00 -$52.33
40 * 12 car insurance $480.00 -$1,108.00 -$92.33
65 * 12 car gasoline $780.00 -$1,888.00 -$157.33
77 * 12 subsidized health insurance $924.00 -$2,812.00 -$234.33
100 phone $100.00 -$2,912.00 -$242.67
? car repairs ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? doctor visits ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? entertainment ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? education ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? savings ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$

My own income is better than minimum wage, but the calculations still work out badly. Basically, nothing can ever, ever go wrong or else I'm left choosing between car repairs and food for the year.

Calculation Description AnnualTotal RemainingAnnual RemainingMonthly
19571 income $19,571.00 $19,571.00 $1,630.92
19571 * 0.15 income taxes 15% (USA+MN) $2,935.65 $16,635.35 $1,386.28
720 * 12 rent $8,640.00 $7,995.35 $666.28
295.50 * 12 food (“moderate-cost plan”) $3,546.00 $4,449.35 $370.78
60 * 12 utilities (heating, a/c, electric) $720.00 $3,729.35 $310.78
45 * 12 internet $540.00 $3,189.35 $265.78
40 * 12 car insurance $480.00 $2,709.35 $225.78
65 * 12 car gasoline $780.00 $1,929.35 $160.78
77 * 12 subsidized health insurance $924.00 $1,005.35 $83.78
100 phone $100.00 $905.35 $75.45
? car repairs ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? doctor visits ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? entertainment ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? education ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$
? savings ? -$$$.$$ -$$$.$$

Obviously, "minimum wage" has nothing to do with a livable wage for one person, and "low income housing" has nothing to do with affordability.

I'm disappointed that I'm too poor even for housing meant for poor people.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I've reached three milestones, sort of.

1) The weather here has been quite warm lately (read: mostly above freezing) only small patches of snow are still left on the landscape.  We have forecast for some snow on Thursday, but at least it will be sure to melt away quickly.

2) I had a muscle cramp last night around 10pm.  It was the first cramp in over a year of good luck. I'm somewhat bummed about it.  Luckily it was in my right foot instead of my left foot where it could have aggravated my injured leg. I got up early today so I can drive out to the Autism Society Of Minnesota and make sure I get registered for the annual autism conference in 2 weeks.  I want to visit other adults on the spectrum and ask which local neurologists they've used before.  I want to find a specialist that doesn't treat me like a hypochondriac when I report symptoms.  I mailed my Minnesota Care application yesterday.  We'll see how long the bureaucracy takes to get me into a program.

3) The local gay library, Quatrefoil, is moving to a new location.  The new development will also be providing housing for low-income, elderly GLBT folk.  I emailed my information to them (in a pdf linked to by Quatrefoil for their followers) so they should contact me about my possible eligibility when units open up.  If I qualify, it would be an awesome place to call "home" for the rest of my life.  It would mean commitment to continue working in the Twin Cities too, but I think it would be worth it to be part of that new little enclave.

The seasons are changing.  Into what, I don't yet know, but it seems worthwhile to keep looking forward.

crutches

Mar. 23rd, 2013 06:01 pm
mellowtigger: (twitch)
Well, I'm stuck on crutches for a while.  :(

Three years ago, I attended the Wildlife Rehabilitators Conference here in Minnesota at the main shelter where I work for the Animal Humane Society.  I joined them again today for their weekend conference.  My attendance this year, though, is cut short because I won't be attending tomorrow.  Instead, I expect to stay home so I can nurse a torn ligament in my left leg.

The conference was going well today until our Volunteer department started their own meeting at 1pm in the auditorium nearby.  Their microphone started coming through our speakers too.  I was the only tech staff on site, so I was running around trying to solve the problem.  You'd think I would have snapped a ligament while I was bounding up and down the stairways in a hurry, but no.  After a few phone calls to other staff, I finally just cut power to the speakers in the Wildlife conference so we could continue in peace.  Problem solved.

But I'm a dork; I injure myself just by walking.  I closed a door, pivoted on my left leg, and began taking my first step back to my seat at the conference when *snap/PAIN* happened suddenly.  My first thought was muscle cramp (those used to be common for me), but I soon realized this problem was different.  I sat through the rest of the day fine, then I limped slowly and painfully to my car for the ride home. I discovered that it doesn't hurt nearly as bad if my left foot stays far in front of me at all times, preventing me from flexing my foot and stretching my calf muscle.  My movement was more like a zombie shuffle than a walking gait.

Anyway, I have some new crutches now, so I am more easily mobile again.  Reading online about torn ligaments, I find suggestions for rest, ice, and vitamin B12 (my old friend). I have already finished a pdf for my most recent federal taxes, so I plan to take a copy to a nearby doctor's office that does sliding scale payments for the poor.  I'll see if they recommend anything different to help speed my recovery.

*sigh*
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
Today did not go as planned.

I was driving merrily along my way to work. The roads are still mottled with packed snow, so the ride was rougher than usual. Suddenly, I have no engine power. I manage to turn onto a side road before I lose momentum.

Battery? Check. Dashboard working? Check. Gas? Check. Warning lights? None. I spend a minute or two trying to start occasionally. The battery turns over the engine just fine, but nothing catches. So either there's no gas (the gauge says I do) or there's no spark to ignite the fuel. I look under the hood, but there's no obvious gas leak from a broken line.

Ugh! As usual, I don't have the cell phone on me. I knock on a nearby house that has the garage door open, but nobody answers. I walk 2-3 blocks to a school that I see nearby. They break a Yellow Pages book out of the plastic packaging for me. I call the repair shop near where I live, then I call work to let them know I won't be in today. I wait in my car for an hour for the tow truck to arrive. At least today was warm (translation for non-Minnesotans: it was almost up to freezing).

I watch the auto mechanic at the shop examine lots of wiring underneath my car. I eventually see him use a cigarette lighter to shrinkwrap some tubing onto the wiring. Eventually they show me a sample of what happened. Somebody did a terrible job of some wiring in my car long before I bought it. They wrapped wires together.  Wrapped around, not twisted together.  Then they taped them up. They eventually corroded.  Today, they finally broke apart.

wire.20130211.jpg
(click to embiggen)

I spent too much money on repairs last year, and here's another $350 that I really wish I hadn't spent. *sigh* I wish my energy would pick up so I could start bicycling again without dreading the idea.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Google has indexed 20 years of Usenet posts. Good archeological history is available in those closing signatures! You can see the planetary computer networks that flourished prior to "the internets" (a plural name that I can still use with ease) within those contact addresses. My own electronic footprint goes back to 1989, excluding genealogical records.

I still disapprovingly shake my head at people who insist on posting electronically with limited viewership. They fear retribution from employers and harassment from internet trolls. Those consequences are real, yes. But nobody ever has any control over what happens to their words after they reach another person. Either keep your words to yourself, or share them with the world. There are no secrets in a world of technological telepathy; there is no forgetting in a world of digital memory. As a rule, I post publicly. I accept the consequences of my speech. Yes, there have been consequences.

Partly, we were more cooperative back then. All the people who were connected electronically were either educated at universities or employed by multinational corporations. We were much better trained for getting along with diverse opinions. The general population just wasn't prepared for exposure to such freedom of expression. Partly, we were all just naive. We really didn't understand that anyone would want to take advantage of other helpful people or exploit the free exchange of information. Some of my assigned userids incorporated part of my Social Security Number, for crying out loud! We know better today how selfish, abusive, and exploitative the general human population can be.

Here is the timeline of my electronic adventures. (Helpful hint: when clicking to one of the Usenet discussions, scroll to the top and click the button to "Expand all" conversations.)

1989.03.21"Calculation of pi"
I asked a question on the BITnet listserv about an algorithm for calculating pi specifically on a computer platform. I was inspired to ask after reading the book "Contact" by Carl Sagan. My email address was "N107BQ@TAMVM1", one of the IBM VM mainframes at Texas A&M University. These days, virtual machine host systems are becoming quite the popular item on personal computers. Everything old is new again.
1991.03.07"Clues?! Anybody have a clue? Clues purchased for $5! "
"The One". This maelstrom of emotions happened in pre-diagnosis days. "Asperger's Syndrome" wasn't even a possible diagnosis back then. That name wouldn't enter the manuals until 1992. No wonder I was confused. I never understood the breakup that happened soon afterward, either. I asked several times over the years, but I never got an answer that I understood. "I have NO idea how the mechanic[s] work in starting a real relationship!" And half a lifetime later, it's still the same.
1991.04.10"question for you TIers out there"
I posted from a DECnet Vax mainframe, but luckily my university was slowly dual-routing their mainframe email services so they could transmit messages on both the traditional networks and the newfangled ARPAnet. My "venus::" address on the Vax mainframe translated to "@venus.tamu.edu" on the new network. Texas Instruments had its own international network, but it wasn't yet connected to ARPAnet routers. Or so I'm guessing since nobody was able to answer my question. It wasn't until more ARPAnet routers were connected together that "the interconnected networks" (aka "internets" aka "internet") were born.
1991.04.13"QUESTION: What corporations protect us?"
I asked about anti-discrimination language in corporate policy. It was rare back then. Look at some of the signatures. You'll see contact addresses for people on BITnet and WWIVnet. One Microsoft employee is listed, but he has a UUnet address in his signature because Microsoft (like Texas Instruments) wasn't connected to ARPAnet. The corporate takeover of the internet hadn't started, because the internet itself hadn't yet consumed the other networks. ;)
1991.05.08"AD&D2: Austin, Texas"
I committed months earlier to the life-saving decision to quit university and head out to get a real job. I finally do it.
Best. Decision. Ever.
1993.04.14
1993.07.23
"New Orleans travel question"
"Gay Toulouse"
Another attempt at a relationship. His work Visa ended, so he had to leave the country.
1993.07.21"Neuromancer"
I amuse myself by playing games on my Amiga.
1994.01.13"Q: HIV+/HIV- couples"
My next attempt at being a boyfriend. It was the longest relationship to survive.
1994.06.15"Austin, Texas: Liberty Books folds"
For two years, I had volunteered every Saturday morning at Liberty Books near downtown Austin. I opened the store and operated the register alone for 3 hours every weekend. I was disappointed to see it go.
1996.11.05"Q: Daggerfall residence"
I amuse myself by playing games on my pc.
1997.04.27"Q: where are endlers livebearers?"
I branch out. I amuse myself with aquaria too.
1998.09.13"70 ga aquarium, 30 ga aquarium"
Another (my last, ever) relationship ended months earlier, allergies are destroying me, and I need a change of life. I decide to move. I drive straight up I-35 from Austin, TX to Minneapolis, MN for a "Year 2000" programming project. I've been here ever since. Notice the Mindspring email account.  It eventually became Earthlink, but service declined at that point.

By 2000, the internet was everywhere. Few people talked about the old networks any more. Websites had taken over, and Usenet and Listserv seemed like ancient technologies already. The Borg assimilation was complete. :)

If you found amusement in this trip through history, be sure to help Google promote a free and open internet. It's important stuff!


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