Capturing a person in writing is as much a problem of format as philosophy

My stand-in for layout.

How do you define a human being: their traits, their personality what they want, what they need? How do you define them to the point where you might reasonably guess what they do next?

It gets worse: How do you codify such a definition in writing, so that people can read and understand it quickly?

People who are not you?

This has tormented writers for centuries and gamers for decades, and now it torments me. But first we have some announcements:

From our last appearance.

The UnObtanium Bazaar will appear at the London Bridge Renaissance Faire this very weekend.

That’s in Lake Havasu City, right on the river between I-10 and I-40.  I expect to have new (and signed) copies of both Beanstalk and Beyond and Go Action Fun Time Basic Rules for sale along with our bewildering assortment of other treasures out of time.

The Leprecon gaming went well, for what it was. The trick to doing these sort of things on Zoom is to remember you can other programs open at the same time, like Owlbear Rodeo, and by switching back and forth you can see player faces, or the game map, as you need.

I also learned, because somebody shared their screen, that it is possible to have 40+ tabs open in your browser. It’s not efficient, and we’ll make sport of it, but it is possible.

And I am never serving as head of anything for the local cons again. I’ll participate, moderate, or vend, but if I have to sit through a meeting, don’t even ask me.

Before I go off the deep end about character sheets, let me update you on my previous obsession in this space. I did indeed have to move the hot tub outside. It took 1200# pounds of additional sand and a length of wire rope. I plan to soak in it before the night’s end.

Also, I have a fillable PDF version of the Go Action Fun Time Cast treatment.

This took me a week.  Some of this delay was the philosophical problem of distilling a human being into written form. In all honesty, though, I’ve had a system for that for some time. The problem is that nobody else will understand it.

For a role-playing character, I have to take that base information about a person, layer over it with game stats, and then render it in some way that people who are not me can understand it.

Even made-up people are complicated

I learned long ago that forms that make perfect sense to me baffle anyone else. Even so, at some point you have to stop second guessing yourself and do it.

Then you discover that Word is terrible for this application.  I had to do most of it as text boxes – because they will stay where I put them – sort of.  Regular text re-distributes itself every time you hit the space bar.

I played with Canva, the layout program I used to format my cover. This worked much better in terms of putting boxes and shapes where I wanted them. But it doesn’t do tables, and I need tables.

But it exports to PDF, as does Word, and you can mostly copy and paste tables around in Acrobat Distiller (which I pay for monthly), as long as you don’t want to change them.

And the more I gazed upon my share-ware graphics from Canva, the more I hated them. So I ditched that whole approach.

Inkscape actually turned out the better tool for graphics, and also imports/exports into PDF.  I had abandoned it as my means of lettering webcomics. (This was a thing).  But once you update it to this decade it works well for graphics. That would have been my answer, except for fillable forms.

Inkscape graphics (as I used them) distorted the tables by the time they were sent back to PDF and thereby gummed up the Prepare Form function of Distiller. When you have as many text boxes as I do (Skills, Stuff and History of Play are all 5×12+ tables) it is out of the question to do all of them manually.

And we ended up back in Word…

Friends, I ended up back in Word with text boxes everywhere because Word does tables with reasonable rigor, and exports to PDF with a minimum of surprises.  Word Art isn’t anywhere near as cool as what can be done in Inkscape, but this is a character sheet. A little décor catches the eye, but too much makes the thing hard to read.

Prepare Form got 80% of my empty boxes, and you can get a box to add or average other boxes if you want to take the time. It’s not Excel. It will not do complicated Excel things like, say, subtraction, but I can wring some convenience out of it.

Distiller won’t, for some reason import graphics, even though it has tools to do that right on the bar. What it really does is make the buffering circle spin long enough for you to refresh your drink before announcing it cannot import this file type. What file type? Any of them. So I have to do that in Word before I import it.

How players  – who would presumably only have the PDF, will do that I cannot as yet say.

But if you can live with that limitation, the Go Action Fun Time Cast Treatment PDF is ready.

I also have a regular, blank PDF you could print out and fill in by hand if you are an old school gamer, but those guys are all playing D&D clones.

I can’t sell these things. Sites like Drive-thru RPG flatten PDF’s with a broad hammer, and none of that formatting would survive. But you can have one for the low price of getting pasted into my email list.

I was trying for a two page document. It ended up being seven.

Now we know.

Achieving a long-term dream tests my Buddhist resolve

I have wanted a functioning hot tub for a long time.  I have one now, and that has created some strange complications.  Most of this post will be about that. But first – some announcements:

Unobtanium Bazaar will appear in a limited form at –

And then appear in the full form at London Bridge Renaissance Fest:

AND then Las Vegas Pirate Fest – which is kind of our homecoming event:

Note the new time/space coordinates.

I have 10 8 proof copies of the Go Action Fun Time Core Rules (1E Deluxe) in my possession. There are some color errors on the cover, and I will have to correct those before I go to a larger print run.

An actual printed book!

Meanwhile, you can get one of these copies, signed, and potentially highly collectable years from now, from me, for the low-low price of convincing me that you will playtest this system as an Executive Producer (that’s what we call game masters).

I am also going to try to run some episodes over Discord every other Tuesday night.

I’d run them on weekends, but I am not reliably in town on weekends. For example, I am posting this from Las Vegas.

One more fact I learned this week that I don’t want to bury in the hot tub saga: You cannot buy a 2nd party window motor for a Subaru Forester. It has to come from Subaru, who will only sell you the full assembly for the better part of $300. A similar part for my 2001 Dodge Dakota costs between $50-70.

The New Hot Tub

I have always enjoyed hot tubs, but I became obsessed with them, at least at a background level, as my back began to lock up from arthritis. There have been some attempts to create one with humble means in the past.

This was better than standing dry in the yard, but…

One of the benefits of my current job, compared to my 25 years in live event production, is that I am not expected to load and unload trucks on a daily basis. Consequently, my back has improved.  I still feel stiff and sore from time to time, but it is no longer the daily menace it was in my final years of full-time show-biz. 

At the same time, from a change in both occupation and marital status, my disposable income has increased. Perversely, my need for a hot tub has decreased in proportion to my ability to acquire one.

If you read the last post, you know I got one anyway.

Some of the delay was the fantasy that I could resuscitate the extant hot tub on the property I now occupy. The more I looked into this, the more expensive this became. It had sat idle for some ten years before copper thieves took the wires and made it inoperable for another ten years. For the cost of replacing everything that would need to be replaced, I could install a new in-ground hot tub.

I’m doing well, but not that well, particularly since I do not actually own the property.

So, I looked into an above-ground solution, and found, to my delight, that inflatable hot tubs – which used to be a joke – are actually somewhat respectable. Someone, Coleman perhaps, figured out that if you take the same plastic they use for inflatable rafts, you can create a reasonably durable hot tub at a third of the price of a fiberglass one.

So I bought one of those for about $600 all in. So far. It took three weeks to ship.

Still this one.

Fine. I needed to fill in the old hot tub anyway. I had gravel at hand to do most of the work, and then level it off with sand to get a level surface.  Forty wheelbarrows of gavel and 22 bags of sand later, I thought I had accomplished the deed.

One project led to another, and in that process I had my garage door and my back gate open when I went inside to do some other damn thing. Thieves rushed in helped themselves to some low-hanging fruit: my bike, and some tools.  It gets worse: I took two trips to come back with all the sand, and on my second trip, the thieves, likely the same ones, discovered I had dummy locked the back gate, and helped themselves to my propane tanks and my propane firepit. They also took the lock.

This will test your Buddhist resolve to not get worked up over possessions. But I have new locks now.

The hot tub arrives, and I manage to secure it before any porch pirates come for it.

I set up my new treasure in the back yard, and there’s a problem. The Intex hot tub has to be on the same level and immediately adjacent to the heat/pump/control unit. Because there are no hoses – only ports.

But it also now occurs to me that there is nothing except a four foot fence and new locks that would prevent yard pirates from making off with the pump.

However, I currently have an empty bedroom.

And that’s where it sits, until some refugee has need for that bedroom.

There are several advantages to the indoor hot tub: cheaper to heat, simple to keep clean, controlled access. But I cannot turn away the inevitable refugee explaining that I know you have no place to go, but right now I can climb into my hot tub naked…

So the day is coming when the hot tub goes outside. The level problem can be solved with another thousand pounds of sand. I’m not sure about securing the pump, but I have time to figure that out.

Meanwhile, I enjoy the tub, but I am not yet convinced it was worth the struggle. The money – sure – it has seemed thus far a good purchase. But I feel like a found a good strategy to fight the war before last.

A grab bag of uncomfortable truths

I have some small observations to share, but first a reminder that I am still the Gaming Coordinator for Leprecon 47, and if you want to run a game – now only late Sunday afternoon – I am the guy to contact.

Also Las Vegas Pirate Fest has changed both date and venue:

May be an image of map and text that says 'PIRATE_FEST FEST IRATE Pirate, Steampunk, Faerie, Renaissance Family Friendly Festival April 17t Cg Ranch Park PirateFestLV.com'
At press-time their website had not been updated to these new coordinates

I will be there as part of UnObtanium. This means it will not be overlapping the London Bridge Ren Faire, which we will also be at. There was a plan involving time travel – but now we don’t have to…

Uncomfortable Truths in no particular order:

The team that gets the fewest DUI’s the week prior almost always wins the Superbowl.

I am not going to rehabilitate the derelict hot tub in my yard for less than the cost of a new one.

Relatedly – I am not a long-term resident at this address. (I am technically still house-sitting).

So I bought a portable hot tub with my year-end bonus.

This one.

I am walking proof that you can carry COVID without running fever.

Operation Warp Speed may be the Trump administration’s greatest achievement, and might have gotten him re-elected if he hadn’t buried it with administrative neglect of the rest of the pandemic, and compounded that with political malfeasance.

BUT-BUT-BUT

If a Democratic President had done this the Republicans would be comparing it to socialism.

The drive back and forth to Las Vegas does not improve with repetition.

The cohort that won’t wear a mask because they won’t live in fear is the same cohort that are afraid to go into a library without a gun because homeless people.

I remember now why I try to avoid serving on non-profit committees -particularly for local cons. I’d be more specific, but this is still a going concern, and I do have some sense of organizational loyalty.

You can’t convince anyone into anything long term. They have to get there themselves. Even if you martial  all of your powers of logic and charm, the decision will always be temporary. Sales-folk get away with this, because they only need the spell to last until you pay.

For anything longer term, all you can do is make your case, and hope they are ready to take that path.

This is the first thing of any length I have written in seven days.

But I’m caught up on a lot of other things.

And I have a hot tub coming.

Now we know.

All my mess going forward

It’s all my mess going forward. 

The map of Arizona that now hangs in my Arizona room, and makes me irrationally happy.

I have finally cleaned the back rooms of the house including the hall bathroom. All summer, a pair of gender-fluid twenty-somethings used my hall bathroom as a make-up studio hair salon for themselves and their friends. It’s not spotless now (this house is old) but it no longer looks like that happened. 

I also mopped the back bedroom for the first time since I moved in. 

For those who don’t follow my antics in person or on social media, Rey and the entourage have gotten themselves their own apartment, and I live alone again. Which is sometimes sad, but mostly great. 

I can walk around naked. I put things places and they stay there until I move them. All the media devices are under my control. And any mess going forward is my fault. 

As it should be. 

Our best face forward.

Unobtanium Bazaar – the website – is live!

https://www.unobtaniumbazaar.com

There are products for sale that you can buy with your magic plastic. 

Unless you are in Europe – there’s a declaration I have to have on file about privacy, and I haven’t gotten to that bit yet. 

In the sinkhole of time that the Mohave Ren Faire created (see last three posts) I lost my chance of having my space opera come out as a book by Christmas. This would be a longshot anyway, mostly due to the lead time on cover art (even if I did it myself). 

I hate breaking promises to myself. But all is not lost. A revised (dare I say “Deluxe”) version of Go Action Fun Time is nearly complete. This will replace the one extant on RPG drive-thru. I just locked the main copy. I have an appendix or two to put together and interior art to add as it comes out of my ass mind. 

Interior art

I have a cover problem here too – but I am more comfortable doing my own cover art fort this project than an actual novel. Comic/cartoon is in my range. 

I’m trying to decide:

The original with a less cluttered background?

Or something like this?

The red oval is where the logo goes.

Chime in down in the comments.

To get either done, I’ll have to bury myself for a couple of weeks. 

Speaking of burying myself, you can read about my mis-adventure in Navajo country in Are We Lost Yet?

Bongo in Navajo country – trying to hide his disappointment.

Now we know. 

The recursive nature of goals

There are goals and then there are goals. There are the larger, universal goals of a happier,, more generally successful life, and there are the smaller, more concrete goals contrived to mark the way to the larger goals such as mow the lawn, or eat healthier or put on pants. At what point does pursuing a goal become the goal, rather than the means to achieve a larger goal?

Maybe at the point where you start asking these questions.

I finally had a moment to write out my monthly goals for February. They largely consist of unmet goals from January. Some of that was over-ambition. Some of that was other emergencies. Some of that was poor use of time.  I have those factors in roughly equal measure.

The goal I met:kitchen lts.JPG

I finished the kitchen lighting despite the spooky wiring left by previous owners. In daytime the dark slot would have a bit of skylight in it.

So we (the kids helped) learned that you can’t trust any of the neutrals to go back to a common bus.

And despite what I promised last post, I have not abandoned caution when it comes to electrical work.

 

I also got an episode in of Go Action Fun Time. I’ll go over that in a separate entry.

The project that was not one of the goals:

I ended up spending a week at Cheryl’s house helping her recover from foot surgery. She couldn’t walk. She has a large house with stairs. I had a week of vacation to burn.

My Butler name is “Handsy”.

I did get some writing done. And I appeared in a promotional video for the Las Vegas Pirate Fest. Well, I did. Which brings us to:

The goal that is not from January:

We will have a booth is said pirate fest. By we I really mean Cheryl, and her room-mate, Captain Blackheart, who heads one of the factions guilds that organize the event.

pirate-fest-announcement

We will have one of these:

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A vendor booth, not unlike the one pictured, not the bystanders

 

Blackhearts’ Boutique is the trial run for what may become a more permanent enterprise. We will have Artifacts, Relics, Apparel and Sundries available for the particular adventurer. I’ll have a whole thing with photos as we get closer. But if you follow Cheryl or Rey on Facebook, you’ve already seen things.

Everyone involved in this has an expanding To Do list.

Past this event we plan to call the enterprise the Unobtanium Emporium.

Goals becoming goals.

Also I have to mow my lawn, and eat better.

And put on pants.

Watch this space.

The Ins and Outs of Recent Events

Things come and things go. Here are some recent ins and outs.

IN:

Rey, from Flagstaff, moving back to Phoenix, and back in with me. A combination of academic and financial misfortunes has driven her from NAU. (Without a scholarship, NAU is 3x the expense of ASU). (You can infer the fate of that scholarship.).

The plan is to attend community college for a while, and take care of the generic core requirements until a clear path emerges.

KIMG1218.JPG

Rey in the new, taller kitchen

OUT:

The false ceiling in my kitchen. While this hid atrocities, it also provided a causeway for vermin and subconsciously annoyed me. So I have taken step 1 in a 50 step process of remodeling the kitchen.

My grandfather, the original owner of this house, had extended the air vent.

KIMG1215.JPG

KIMG1217.JPG

Yes, that is a can of some sort “adapting” the tube to the vent grate. Sometimes innovation is overrated.

That’s all sitting in the yard now.

 

 

IN:

Some Christmas presents: an office chair and a 3D Printer!

KIMG1220.JPG

That’s a Creality Ender 3 FDM (additive) 3D Printer.

It is considered one of the best of the low-end 3D printers, and is a gift from my son, Ben,  who has an earlier model.

I have been thinking on this subject for some time.

We have already spent numerous hours turning plastic filament into garbage, and sometimes silly little sculptures.

This has turned out to be a pain to dial in, which – to be fair – comes with the price point. But I’ve had some fun playing with it so far.

And I actually spent as much time assembling the office chair as I did the printer -so there’s that.

 

OUT:

Excessive caution.

Before I start on this, do not confuse this with some new year’s resolution. In 2005 I made a New Year’s resolution to never make another new year’s resolution, and I ahve kept that. The timing of this announcement is coincidence. The realization dates back a few months ago.

I spent the last few years of my marriage playing not to lose, which is different than winning, and ended up losing the marriage.  (The professional decisions were a net gain, but that’s as much dumb luck as good judgement. I lucked into a good employer.)

I have less to lose as a point of fact. I do not own the house I’m renovating. My nest is supposedly empty. I am consistently solvent and building a little surplus. I can go for it on 4th and 2.

Hence the self-publishing and other projects that aren’t ready to announce yet.

You were warned.

The illusion of a secure perimeter

When one door won’t close and another door won’t open, it’s time to replace both of them, and that’s what happened. After 15 months on the property phase one of my renovation plan is complete. I have secured the perimeter.

This was supposed to take me four months. But the costs were higher than expected (which you’d know if you read the last entry) and my life is a balance of many things at once.

Because I can get away with it.

KIMG0777.JPG

New door in an old house. 

The fencing is fixed, the exterior doors have been replaced, the most troublesome windows have been summer-proofed and the swamp cooler has been brought back from the dead.

One of those doors is open now, because it is inexplicably 70 degrees in late May.

My grandfather, who built the Arizona room that comprises the rear portion of the house, saw fit to reinforce the bottom door jamb with galvanized fence tubing. Which is very innovative if you never want to replace the door. But if you do,  the door guy earns his fee by spending two hours cutting the thing away with a grinder.

Thanks Grandpa. (I say that a lot when working on the house – in that tone.)

My girlfriend was in town last weekend, so word count stopped at 3500, mostly Jack and writer’s group.

My Thursday night writer’s group no longer meets at the Armadillo Grill. The meeting space we have used since way back when I ran this group’s predecessor has been converted to the manager’s office.

So we have landed at the Duck and Decanter  at 1651 E Camelback – basically across the street.  That worked well last week. Sandwiches aren’t the same as fried calamari, and serving beer is not the same as being a bar, but we had a quiet table, good light, food and beer. I’ve been worse.

Of the many things that Cheryl and I did over the weekend, what was most interesting is what we did not manage to do. We drove north on Monday wit the intent to hike the fabled West Fork of Oak Creek. (Yes, this is in my book: Five Star Hikes Flagstaff and Sedona, along with every other relevant hiking guide ever printed.)

Wfork Wilson home.JPG

I took this for the book, but it looked just like this – only hailing.

 

We drove north, however into dark, gathering clouds and plummeting temperatures.

 

 

 

 

Consequently, I can report that the Colt Grill in downtown Cottonwood is an excellent place for a burger and beer and maybe a flight of whiskey samples, and, unlike the Oak Creek trail, we were not getting hailed upon while we enjoyed it.

colt-inside

Whiskey good. Hail bad. 

If I have a point here, it’s that success, or just getting away with it, is determined as much by how well you recover from mistakes as how well you avoid them.

Sure, I could’ve checked the weather first. But if I’m honest with myself, and by extension you, I would have gone anyway.

But Cheryl might have brought different shoes.

Now we know.

Things I have done so you don’t have to

As usual, I have been busy: travelling, making things, dramatically reducing the amount of vegetation surrounding my house. Since this is supposedly an author blog, let me lead with that news.

I have uploaded Go Action Fun Time to Drive-thru RPG  and now await their approval.

GAFT basic rules cover

Yes – my artwork. If you think you can do better, contact me. 

It is only a PDF for now. That was enough of a maze without trying to reformat for e-pub or mobi.  I now know there are six different formats of PDF. And PDF/A is bad. Well, it’s fine, but the security features will lock up the bots at Drive-Thru. Also, compressed or linked JPEGs and transparencies are bad because Apple is i-fussy. I’m not clear what any of that is, so I don’t have to worry?

You, loyal reader, do not have to wait for Drive-Thru’s blessing to get this product. Contact me directly, and I will hook you up. With a commitment to playtest it for me, it would be free.

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Bongo at a river-side park in BHC.

I journeyed to Bullhead City on RC Lurie business, so you don’t have to. Bullhead City is a cluster of hills on the banks of the Colorado River, across from Laughlin Nevada – where all the money comes from. On top of each hill is a 55+ trailer park. The exception is along AZ95, the main drag, which is an extended strip mall. You might infer how much I enjoyed my stay.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first stint I stayed at a $40/night motel, where nothing was open after 11pm (I arrived at 10:30pm) and my door didn’t quite lock. They had a fridge and microwave but no coffee. I found coffee in the lobby in the morning, and I survived.

On my return trip, the client put me up in a casino.

Casinos are crappy places to stay when on business. The Avi Casino, south of Laughlin proper,  gave me a room with no fridge, microwave or coffee. It’s like they don’t want you spending time in your room at all.

In fairness, the casino cafe (Feathers – I think) is open 24/7 and I was able to get a decent breakfast and out the door in half an hour.

I had a better time in Las Vegas, as you might imagine. I don’t gamble to speak of, but I drink, and prefer to drink with nerds. For that, Vegas features the Millenium Fandom.

52842239_10214195012215033_5537744747709333504_n

Yes – I have a girlfriend.

True confession: I have never been much for cosplay. Cheryl (my girlfriend)

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Cheryl 

 is an actual costumer, though, and views these events as marketing among other things. I now own a pirate shirt, and several other items of clothing I would not otherwise possess.

I’ve done worse things for romance.

 

Closer to home:

I have finally bottled the mead I tossed last summer. It is sweet and fruity and bubbly – like magic unicorn sweet and fruity. I’m mildly disturbed. It’s called Wildflower, and she be recovering from bottle-shock by late April, early May.

 

The internet promised me that replacing my two exterior doors would cost about $800. I’ve had bids from $1800 to $3600. So … that’s a little more. Curiously, the two estimators who quoted me around $1800 took the most measurements and asked the better questions.

It likely come down who provides the better actual door.

There is a 4-6 lead time with door installation.

The tool of choice for removing dandelions from gravel is a pick-ax. A 30 gallon garbage bag stuffed full of decapitated dandelions weighs the better part of 50 lbs. I filled 9 bags.

My arms still hurt.

Now you know.

The Plan Going Forward (2018+)

I am not one to make a big thing out of the new year. It’s one more day;, an arbitrary marker. Nothing really starts and stops except the tax year. A measure of how seriously I take this: I once made a New Year’s to never make another New Year’s resolution, and I have faithfully kept that for decades.

That this weekend marks a change of direction in my life is a coincidence. From the time my life fell out from underneath me  to the point where I could realistically transition from damage control to forward progress again happened to line up with the new year.

I am emotionally reconciled that my marriage is over. Most of the financial transition that situation forced has been completed, or is on schedule to be completed. I have completed moving the giant pile of crap that I take responsibility for from one address to another.

I have a pile of old tax returns to set on fire in my new yard, and on that occasion, I will allow myself some self pity over this matter for one last evening. You are welcome to join me. I will be drinking good whisky.

Then we are done with all of that shit.

What follows now is as much for my reference as any other purpose. If you came just for writing advice, or random facts, or the antics of octopi, nothing below here will satisfy that. It’s all about me. If you stop reading here I will not take that personally.

People have a much higher chance of achieving goals if they write them down. I am putting myself publicly (even though I average like six hits per post – this is a public blog) on the spot for this.

Here’s the plan going forward.

Finish the damn books.

A chapter a week in both the Jack sequel and  the 64 sequel, and starting in spring some non-fiction project as well.

I have no shortage of ideas, and have been blessed with the ability to describe them in writing at a professional level. The trick now is to keep my ass in the chair.

It is a known dynamic of publishing that if you get three good books to market, you begin to develop a readership, and by ten books, this becomes a feedback loop swelling into a following.

They have to be good books – but I feel I am up to that. Quantity/time is my major challenge.

This can be done if 5000 words per week becomes my minimum. The default format for this blog will be documenting my progress towards that. (And other things that come to mind.)

This week I hit 4000, counting this blog. Since I’m working tonight, that’s going to stand.

 

Divesting myself of all this crap in a rational manner

I still find myself valuing things and stuff more than perhaps would be best-practice Buddhism. Couldn’t quite bring myself to leave it all for the dumpster. I left a lot – but that is kinda hard to tell from walking through my house now. About half of my total possessions are still in piles. That you can walk around my house testifies to my ability to stack efficiently more than my economy of inventory.

The plan, over the next few years, is to get myself down to an inventory level that is actually mobile. To get there, some things have to happen:

  • For everything I acquire, something has to go. I am replacing, not adding.
  • I have some memorabilia and collectibles that are wasted on a thrift store shelf. Collectors who want these things will seek them on the internet, and I plan to put them there for them to find. That project replaces the non-fiction book until it is done.
  • I’m going to limit my books to what can fit on the bookshelves. I’ve given myself some time for this, first because I lost nearly half my bookshelf space in the move, and second to give myself some time to read these books before I get rid of them somehow. Also crucial to this plan – more bookshelves.
  • Now that I have an appropriate space, I’m going to transform this pile of tools and hardware into a workshop, and make stuff out of the accumulated materials that I couldn’t bring myself to toss in the trash. Maybe some of it will be worth something – I don’t know.  There is no downside to trying.
  • A workshop also enable more efficient home repair and renovations, which will be ongoing.  I rent this place well below market value on the assumption that I take care of upkeep and repairs.
  • I am going to eliminate my unsecured debt. I have a budget that allows me to live within my base pay, so I can throw my extra income (Rhino and what-have-you) into debt relief until it is gone.

For the record, this is nearly identical to my plan before my life fell apart. It took me three months, but I am back to where I can pursue that again with a straight face. This point coincidentally marks the promise of new year.

 

Coda: The end game

If you made it this far, I can tell you how it ends. I am resolved not to die in this house surrounded by piles of stuff I can no longer manage. My grandfather has already done that gag, in the very room I write this from, and I would find a different path.

I daydream of a compound, shared with other parties, where we have combined resources into a big workshop, a big kitchen and an expansive library. I don’t have much to add to the kitchen, but I can help out with the other two. Then all I need is a bedroom, and a place to park the RV I otherwise work out of. By work out of, I mean drive somewhere nice, write through my 14 day stay limit, drive somewhere else, come back to the compound when the circle leads me there. That would be my ideal endgame.

There are, of course, a lot of moves between here and there. But now we know how I want it to end up.

Then I’ll figure out what comes next.

 

It’s easier to move things than to change information.

I have finished moving about 1000 feet, and can resume thinking about my life i terms of  jobs done and words written, instead of boxes and furniture moved from A to B. Thanks publicly here to all those who helped, with either kind words and thought, but especially those who helped with actual doing of deeds.

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Same dork – new cave

Between what Penny took for herself, and what I left behind as either garbage or charity, I think I have shed 40% of the total inventory of the old place. Now- I still have plenty of stuff. I am uncomfortably close to being a hoarder, but I come by this genetically.

My grandparents bought the house I live in now new in 1952. When he died, and my mother inherited the place, I took custody of a big pile of his accumulated tools and hardware, hauling them a thousand feet south, often on foot.

Now I have finished hauling much of that 1000 feet north again. Some of this stuff will go back to the same place I found it. So it goes.

This place was built at the same time as my old residence, which is, seriously, on the other side of the block. The original (I believe) owner of that house was a mason by trade, so the house has seven foot stone walls around the backyard, and a couple of block wall additions.

My grandfather was an electrician, so I find mystery switches and sockets and cuircuits in every corner. What they both had in common is they did quite a bit of additions to their homes without ever pulling permits.

This was actually my first residence in Phoenix, after my mother’s first divorce forced her to move back to the Valley from Tucson. Through most of my childhood my grandmother was either unemployed or part-time, so my sister and I came here every afternoon after school.  So you think I’d know the place.

Except I have never lived here when it was my role to care which circuit breaker controls which outlets. There are still many details about this house I have yet to discover.

But I’m here now, with time to poke around. I even have the essentials unpacked and arranged in v1.1 of how the house will actually be organized. The hardest part, I have learned, was not the logistics of physically moving. That all went pretty close to plan.

Changing account information with creditors and utilities has been the true nightmare.Some of this is because my wife primarily dealt with the actual paying of the bills, and so her name always comes up first. Most of it, though, is willful incompetence.

Being the sort to name names, here are the worst, in order of incompetence:

Sprint

I am the only person left on the 4 line family plan, and the only one interested at all in keeping service with this company. (I like my phone and own it outright.) I have spent nine+ hours on the phone with their robot drones from Pakistan trying to explain that  I still have no clear path to having a plan with my name on it. I did finally get the useful info that the family plan is basically paid up through the December 24. At that point, the only number my phone will call will be Sprint, where hopefully the bot on the other end can break with script (they are all “very sorry for the inconvenience” and “appreciate my patience” because that’s what their screens prompt them to say.

Or I walk my bricked phone over to Verizon, and they’ll set me up in 30 minutes. (not with the phone I have, of course, or that would have already happened).

Vantage West Credit Union

They own the note on my Soul, which is in Penny’s name, as is the title to my car. So yes, my wife really does own my Soul. This was never Penny’s intention. We think someone at the dealership skipped a line. In either case,  my name is not on my primary transport vehicle, and that’s a problem.

Vantage West won’t change the name on the loan, even though my income and credit were pulled to secure that loan. Their solution: refinance at a higher interest rate.

Cox Communications

I thought this went easy over the phone: new account at a new address (with existing cable – they didn’t even need to send someone) at a lower rate to reflect my simpler needs.

The bill I got had my wife’s name and phone number, but my e-mail, the new address, and the equipment and service details from the previous tenant.

Unlike the other two, Cox has laid out a path to solvency: show up to a retail store with a proof that I live here (My mom created a rental agreement), and this should get fixed.]

UPDATE: I left the solutions store after my second visit thinking we had this solved, and came home to find my internet turned off. A call to technical support finally solved the puzzle: once upon a time I had two modems (an old and a new). They had activated the old one. Obviously, since I can post now, this had been solved.

We shall see.

Anyway, I’m 70% moved in with the 60% of the crap that’s left of my previous life. And I might make word count next week for the first time in a month.