Today is a day of mixed emotion.

Today, in Massachusetts, same-sex couples began receiving marriage certificates. Gay couples are lining up to tie the knot, and aside from a few snot-nosed punks from Westboro Baptist Church, the protests have been civil. Even the opponents have said, "what they're doing is legal, even if it's not moral; let them have their happiness," which I think is really big of them considering how hard they fought against this.

Today, an insurance agent told me that despite being legally married to Jessie, we're not "a couple" for insurance purposes because we're both women. Aetna has defined a couple in their guidelines as "one man and one woman with a marriage license," and the fact that we have one of those conditions doesn't mean we meet them both. I mentioned the whole Boston thing, and she said "Yes, ma'am, but that's not Pennsylvania, and the underwriters in
Pennsylvania have opted at this time to ignore the social progress happening in Massachusetts, though they reserve the right to change their minds later." At least she didn't shut me out completely, but it's still
highly irritating to be told that we may be married, but we're not a couple for purposes of insurance underwriting.

Today, I explained to a recruiter for the nth time that I lost my job for reasons I don't really understand. Thursday, April 22nd, I was an employee in good standing. Friday, Apreil 23rd, I was out on the street. I got a performance-based salary increase in November, and I got an out-of-cycle performance-based bonus in January. I never received a formal warning of any sort about my job performance, either written or verbal, prior to being let go. The company then fired the Director of Technology a week later for "performance issues" two weeks after he finished migrating a fifty-machine server room plus the rest of a major office space. Every recruiter to whom I've told all of this has been incredibly sympathetic, but none of them have jobs open for someone with my skillset
right now.

Today, the chair of the department of CIS at DeVry told me she wants to schedule an interview "some time in the next four weeks" for an adjunct teaching position. She was impressed enough with my perl and my database skills to pull me in to teach a class on programming and SQL, but it sounded like she didn't think I had enough meat on my proficiencies to be a full-time professor. It's still income, just not as much as I'd like. With any luck, though, I could do that part-time and get a full-time job elsewhere, which would be enough to keep me in the black.

Today, I made arrangements to rent a truck to go pick up some furniture that Tanya's uncle is donating, and then move the rest of the contents of the apartment into the house we've owned without use for five months now. The
doors are all off the hinges because the place had hardwood and now it has carpet, and the doors weren't meant for carpet, so they all have to be shaved to fit, but hopefully the repair crews are taking care of that detail as well. I won't know for sure until I hear back from the company, though, which should be tomorrow.

Today, I realized just how much packing and cleaning I have to do in three days. Despite all the boxes we've moved into the new place already, it feels like there's no way we're going to get everything moved in time on the
schedule I want to move by. My only hope now, really, is to clean and sort as much as possible between now and Friday and plan on picking up boxes from Tanya's workplace—since she works for a grocery store and they have all the boxes they want—and packing into the boxes when they show up, meaning we have to pack and move and then at least unload all over the same two days. This weekend is going to be painful.

Today, I found out that in four months, insurance companies consider me middle-aged.

Today, I reread all my old letters from my transition, the letters from my therapist and my clinical observer clearing the path for me to become legally and physically female, or at least the best approximant thereof possible in the World of Today.

Today is the greatest day I've ever known.

Today, I learned that the income I thought I would have by June 1, I won't have for some time afterwards, meaning I don't have enough to make ends meet unless I get a job real-damn-fast or I live on the credit card. I'm not angry about it, any more than I'm angry at losing my job in the first place, but I wish I had known things would go that way in the beginning so I could plan accordingly. This is going to require emergency measures to correct.

Today, I wondered where my home was.


Every year, I have to put together a bio for the Anthrocon staff booklet. Trying to find a new way to say the same thing every year has always been a bit of a challenge, but the fifty-word restriction has always been the single biggest shut-out. Trying to express "who I am" in fifty words or less has never been an easy task.

Last year I decided to deliberately break the form by writing a bio that hit exactly fifty words and cut off in mid-sentence. I thought this was terribly clever, but I discovered that someone else had come up with the same idea!
Convergent though, certainly; I didn't get the idea from the other party. I was, however, still disappointed to see that my originality had not been all that original.

This year, I think I've come up with something that not only easily comes in under the fifty-word limit but also should be in a form that others will not so readily adopt. Therefore, I present to you the Buni Alphabet:

  1. Anthropomorphs.
  2. Buni!
  3. Computers.
  4. DEVO.
  5. Existentialism.
  6. Furries.
  7. Gender theory.
  8. Humanism.
  9. Illuminatus!
  10. Jessie.
  12. Linguistics.
  13. Modernism.
  14. Null Manifesto.
  15. Objectivism.
  16. Posthumanism.
  17. Qiti!
  18. Role-playing.
  19. Stories.
  20. Transformation.
  21. Utopia.
  22. Viridian.
  23. Writing.
  24. Xenophilia.
  25. Yacatisma.
  26. Zoomorphs.


I suppose enough time has now passed for me to talk about it, while I can still do so and have all the details fresh in my mind. I got laid off of work last Friday. I still have no real idea why, which is the really annoying part. I could handle the situation better, I think, if I had some clear understanding of what I did to warrant being terminated from my position, but as of yet nothing really adds up to a logical answer. They said it was for generating low-quality work and not performing according to task, but something about that doesn't jive with the rest of the facts at hand:

They're giving me a severance package.
People who get fired for incompetence don't get severance packages, unless they're CxOs of some sort. They're giving me through the end of the last pay period, plus another paycheck after that, without me having to do any work for them in return, while they're in the middle of a financial crisis because they've just moved into a new office and can't really afford a lot right now. This is not the behavior I would expect of a company firing someone for negligence or the level of mistakes I'm being accused of making.

They're giving me unemployment.
This is the single-biggest factor belying their statement that I did poor work. Companies don't pay their screw-ups unemployment, normally. If you botch something bad enough to get fired, that's it, you're history. Unless, of course, my understanding of unemployment policies is wrong, which I concede is possible. However, they told me to list "LACK OF WORK" as my reason for being terminated, and that they would back that up when the Department of Labor and Industry came asking about my application. I want to say that this isn't how they treated the other people I know who got fired, but I can't say that for sure.

They never gave me a warning.
My previous manager insists that I had three months of warnings and suggestions that my work was unsatisfactory and needed to be corrected, but as far as I understand employee-manager communication—admittedly not as far as I'd like, or these things wouldn't keep happening—a warning consists of a one-on-one meeting between manager and employee, or perhaps a three-way with an HR representative, in which the manager says "your work is unsatisfactory," and then either the manager or the HR rep presents a form for the employee to sign that goes in the employee's file. I know Beth got that kind of warning before she got fired, but I never did. The first I directly got any sort indication that I wasn't doing good enough work was the morning I got let go from the company. My manager insisted four times that the quality meetings and statements about "we all have to do good work all the time" and "we have to implement these quality metrics" were my warnings. That, pardon my French, is bullshit.

The other responsible parties didn't get the axe as well
This is the one that really burns me. If there were mistakes made, and I won't lie here in bed and say there weren't, 'cause there were, I know for certain I wasn't the only one making them, but apparently I was the only one who got hit. The database from which my department worked was riddled with errors generated by both the group responsible for getting data and the group responsible for creating the database, many of which we had no way of catching unless we knew to look for them, and how to identify them when they happened. The people who created those sorts of errors still have their jobs, probably because they were under different managers.

I hate to sound tinfoily, but I suspect ultimately what happened is that I did a sample project for a company that got used in a head-to-head comparison of our products against other companies', and because of a recent reranking of our address space—something done by another department—our results came in dead-last in the comparison. This cost the company marketplace credibility and probably a fair bit of money, and somebody at the sufficiently-elevated-as-to-not-directly-have-all-the-information level made the decision that somebody's head had to roll, and mine was the most easily accessible. They did some digging, found enough reason to make the charge of "poor quality work" stick, and stuck it hard and fast so they could say to whomever needed to hear it, "the problem has been solved."

Of course, the problem hasn't been solved, but they've bought themselves some breathing room to solve it, maybe.

I don't really want to see them burn in flames, 'cause my friend Bennie is still working there, and the last thing I want to have happen is to see him get caught in the crossfire simply because I think someone in upper management made a poor decision, but I really would like to know who decided what and why. Not that knowing would do me any good, mind you. If anything, it would make things harder. When I got fired from CRS, knowing that one person was ultimately responsible for the decision made the desire to act against that person quite strong. Not really having a target here keeps the anger from boiling up and out of control. There's nobody to be angry at. Not even me.

I can at best be angry with the circumstances that have brought me to this point, and hope that they don't happen again.

On the upside, Saturday I sent out several copies of my résumé, and Monday morning I had a voice mail at the new place waiting for me telling me that someone had seen my application for a position with a financial services company and was interested in talking with me more in-depth. I've called and the recruiter sounds quite positive, but is currently waiting for a more detailed job-description from the hiring company. Apparently they've had trouble filling this particular job because the data people complain about too much programming and the programmers complain about too much data management, meaning it's almost exactly what I was doing at HMS.

It would be exceptionally boss if I got a new job before the severance package for the last one vanished.

In the meantime, I'm working more on my novel and other short stories. I've got two more erotic pieces conceived that I need to write, and I need to work up the gumption to replace the chapter of Child of Man that I deleted by accident. Important note: the commands "vi" and "ci" are very close to each other on the keyboard. Further, "ci" doesn't make a copy when it puts it under revision control; it just sticks the file into revision control. Deleting the revision-controlled copy deletes the original file.

Further note: Recovering deleted files in linux should be attempted immediately after deleting, not half an hour later. This is especially true on a server system with multiple processes all running at once.

Thankfully it's nothing I can't recover by rewriting it, and doing so will let me clean the prose somewhat. I wasn't entirely happy with the segment, but I do know where I'm going and how I want to get there. I just have to put
all the ideas down onto actual hardcopy now.

I'll also have lots of time to handle moving into the house. We still have a lot of crap in the apartment that needs to be shunted over to the house, and we still haven't fleshed out the plan to do that. I'm still shuttling boxes over in the Volvo as I get time, then coming back after dumping stuff up in the attic.

It seems I have a lot of time, now, so at least the house should be easier to move.


A busy weekend, but a good one!

My last day of work this week was Friday, thanks to my company relocating to a new office. The management even told us to pack up and head home at 17h00 instead of 18h00 so they could start shutting down the computers early. Now, I had to pick up my car from the shop, meaning Tony had to come pick me up from work and take me to Manayunk to get it back, but even that's a minor setback. The car's now got a valid inspection sticker, and it didn't exceed the cost I'd expected to pay for the repairs.

On an absolutely tangential thread, how long are Pennsylvania inspection stickers supposed to last? Mine said April 2004 before, but I just got new ones and they expire in November, not April of next year. Is this a "call the shop and scream" offense, or just something about older vehicles in Pennsylvania I didn't know before?

Anyway, I got the car back, came home and packed for Jessie's and my weekend jaunt up to Boston, to visit LeDiva and the Posts. Every time I go there, I feel a bit like I'm coming home again. We left Friday after lunch, and put into Charmdown Park just before dinner, which means excellent timing on the trip. As Jessie put it, "[Kristy's] lead foot is usually a good counterbalance to New Jersey's accidents and construction", and this trip was no exception. Strangely, though, the real bulk of the traffic all appeared to be on the other side of the highway, going in the other direction. Most of the length of the MassPike was clear for me, and solid cars for the other side. 

The night we arrived, LeDiva showed us an episode of Mad Mad House, which I must say I found... odd. I like the fact that the people making the decisions about who stays and who leaves are not the ones competing for the prizes, but by the same token I don't like the fact that the show makes such a brazen attempt at deliniation between "normal people" and "alts". There's something mildly disappointing in that to me. It's the same sort of social compartmentalizing that happened in high school, and I thought the whole point of Breakfast Club was to show those divisions as artificial. The one saving grace is that it puts the power of ejection from the set in the hands of the freaks, which I must say is a nice touch.

Anyway, we also played a round of Star Munchkin the first night. I'm still not sure what I think of this whole series, and I've played it half a dozen times now. The ease with which fortunes reverse is disturbing, and the balance of power can shift wildly without warning. It's fun, but on the whole I'd still rather play INWO. Of course, to do that I would need to find my INWO cards and rebuild my decks. I think that they're boxed and packed and at the new place already, but I don't know that for certain. I'm going to be horribly annoyed if I've lost them, because I had a complete set of Assassins, and if I've lost that I don't think I can replace it anywhere nearly as cheaply. 

Dinner Friday night was some place called Joe's, which was a bit upscale but quite nice. I probably should've gone for a salad instead of the stuffed pork loin I got, but it was tasty and the green beans were nice and crunchy
without being undercooked. Everyone else split a chocolate cake dessert of some sort, which definitely looked worth the price of admission. Double, even, considering it was free. LeDiva didn't get her salad when everyone else got their meals, so they brought her a free dessert to compensate.

After dinner we retired back to the Park to relax and talk some more, and the typical Mental Synchronicity happened. I don't remember any specifics about the conversation, but I remember that we talked for hours and that I enjoyed it immensely. I think the catchphrase of the weekend was "Should I stop you because I've heard this one," in relation to the number of times in one person's life that events mirrored or paralleled someone else's.

Saturday we lounged about the house most of the morning, then went to pick up picnicky supplies for lunch. We tried to hit a local arcade, but sadly most of the machines were in disrepair and the floorspace was far too crowded with small children upon which I had to avoid treading by accident. It was a nice way to kill an hour or two, but I wish more of the machines had worked. They had a DDR machine, but I didn't feel up to the challenge of trying it in public having not exercised in nearly three weeks. I'm definitely behind on my workout routine, disturbingly so. I was good for several months, but I've fallen behind in recent weeks. I really need to get my workout routine back into full swing, but I keep saying I should wait until the move, which is stupid.

Dinner Saturday night was Brazilian Barbeque at the Midwest Grill, which was absolutely wonderful. Expensive, but well worth the cost of admission. Their garlic-crusted beef made me swoon, and their kielbasa were exceptional. My one mistake was allowing myself to be lured by the promise of a Caesar salad appetizer. Never eat veggies at a Brazilian barbeque. They are a distraction away from the meat. Ignore the veggies! Eat the meat!

After meat font, we went in search of Krispy Kreme, which was for everyone else a nice complimentary shock to the system and for me an exercise in masochism, watching everyone else snarf down hot doughnuts. I swear, despite the successes of my diet, I'm going to switch to South Beach after the next time I go off of it for kidney-protection purposes, at least long enough to see if it works for me. I've already promised Jessie I would, if only to give her a chance to share meals with me again. Plus, it will widen my dietary intake somewhat. I just have to be that much more vigilant about what I eat.

Speaking of eating, I really need to cut down on the Caesar salads, I think. I never realized until now just how much sodium the dressing contained. It's kind of a shame, but I need to drop back to regular chef salads for a while to see if that helps me break my plateau. Between that and exercise, I should see some positive results soon, I hope.

Sunday, sadly, both LeDiva and Postrodent had to take off early, but we sat around talking with Postvixen for... well... hours. We actually ended up leaving an hour later than I planned because we were so engrossed in discussion. I've decided to try running a second game, one more suited to that crowd, but I'm still in the initial planning stages for it. LeDiva, PostRodent, PostVixen, Jessie, if you've got any comments to add for things you'd be interested in seeing, let me know so I can try to work something into the story line. I've got a few niggling notions, but nothing concrete as of yet.

Jessie and I finally made it home and crashed shortly afterwards. As noted above, I love driving to Boston, but I hate the drive back. The conversations are all still fresh in my mind, and inevitably I'm already tired by the time
I'm halfway home, so the trip seems to drag forever. It's not a hard drive, just a longer one than I'd have to like to make for something I want to be a regular occasion.

Hopefully next time they can come down to Philly.


I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Saturday I was up listening to GameCast, enjoying my bottle of twelve-year MacAllan, and playing .hack//quarantine until almost five in the morning. It would've been four in the morning, but because of DST we lost an hour, so Jessie and I didn't crawl out of bed on Sunday until nearly 14h00. This threw my schedule off for most of the day, and I didn't crawl into bed until well after midnight.

Once there, though, I should have snuggled up against Jessie's side and gone directly to bed. That would've been the sane option. Instead, we both lay awake for over an hour, talking about the sorts of things that only come to
light under those sorts of conditions. I joke about lying awake at night thinking about things I can't possibly answer, but last night it happened.

I'd blame Kincaid, but she's not really at fault. That post was a catalyst for thoughts that already plague my mind. Most of the time, I have the common sense—or perhaps the will to blindness—to not think about any of these things. I live in a bubble mostly by choice, because the world at large scares me in ways I can't really define. I don't understand what makes a lot of people tick, other than to say that they believe different things about the world from me, and they let their beliefs guide their actions. That's all well and good, but what happens when their beliefs—immune to logic, reason or reconciliation—contradict mine?

There're a lot more of them than there are of me.

In a proper democracy, there'd be some understanding of the principle of "majority rules, minority rights." Everyone knows the first part, but most people forget the second. It's that part of the Master Plan as conceived by the Founding Fathers that makes majority rules possible: the understanding that there are certain lines one just doesn't cross, because if one should ever find oneself in the minority one wouldn't want those same lines crossed.

This is the step that most people forget, the most crucial and significant part. Less than a month ago, I had someone try to tell me in earnest that it was alright to trample on my rights and deny me the right to express my opinion if that were what the majority believed were in the best interest of everyone involved. He even went so far as to say that were he in the minority, he would expect me to do the same to him and thought the point was
to ensure that one never became part of the minority, so as to avoid that fate.

He didn't really seem to grok the idea that everyone is a minority of one at some level. That's what makes us truly individual, as opposed to approximate clones of each other.

All these thoughts came to me last night, as Jessie and I lie awake, talking about them. I really do fear for the future of my country. I believe in the ideals upon which it was founded, but I have lost my faith in the notion that we properly implement those ideals, or even that we can fix the mistakes we've made in trying. The founding fathers envisioned an educated populace, eminent statesmen of office who held strict moral codes, a government run primarily on inertia, and a wealth of political parties to offset the inherent evil of idea-labeling. We have none of these things with any regularity, and when we get them they are often as not decried as part of the evil of "partisan politics."

Running to Canada will not make anything better. Staying here will not make me feel safer.

I don't know what I want right now. I want to believe that the situation is going to improve, that the American people will at some point realize what they have allowed to become of their country and take back the glory that
should have been theirs by right. I want to think that a revolution like the Summer of Love is just around the corner, that we will somehow realize that we have been asleep for so very long and the time to wake up is at hand. 

All I can really do is plan for the day when I never have to leave my house again, unless I choose to do so.

I am not a hero. I do not dream of taking on the world. I will not be one of the ones taken to Atlantis. I want to be like Candide, and tend to my own little garden. I want a hole in the ground into which I can crawl and not these about these things, because I'm too smart to be able to leave them alone and too dumb to know how to fix them. I want my hutch, the inviolate walls of a cage to protect me for when I no longer have the strength to
protect myself.

I'm not Dagny; maybe I never was. At best, I'm Cheryl, struggling to make sense of a world I didn't create. All I can truly hope is to avoid her fate.


Today has been a treasure. Yesterday I got to work, had one project that consumed most of my day, and got it done. This morning I got to work and had nine things on my desk, all of which had to be done rightthisminute.
Now, I had slated two of them to be done when I got to work, and one of them to start the following day when the data arrived, but the data arrived a day early, I had a project from the previous week ask for more information, a project from the last month ask for additional data, a "quick side task that should only take ten minutes" show up on my plate, a request for QC checks and documentation for a make-or-break task due Friday, and then my ongoing Death-March project of file-loading into Moloch Mk III hovering over my head.

I got a bit snippy with my project manager when she called me to ask me if I had room on my plate to handle something. I wonder why.

Later I did apologize to her for it, but she said she totally understood when she went back and looked at my workload. One problem this company has—and which we are desperately trying to fix"is a severe project tracking deficiency. We're improving steadily, but it's still very easy to overwhelm one person and leave others bored. We've also got enough work outstanding to keep a good half-dozen folks busy, but the tools we're using aren't up to the needs of a "generic user" yet, and it's not cost-effective to employ six trained professionals to do the work that any generic user should be able to handle.

We've got a new project lead for Moloch Mk III, apparently, as well as a UI designer, so hopefully that will improve.

I have actually decided as of this moment to christen our big in-house software tool "Moloch Mk III", for the following reasons:

  1. In the movie Metropolis, when Freder hallucinates in the Worker's City and visualizes one of the Great Machines as a demon eating rows upon rows of chained workers, he cries out the name "Moloch".
  2. Some people may remember the name Moloch from the old D&D books as one of the Lords of Hell. I think he ruled over the sixth Hell, but don't hold me accountable to that.</geek> 
  3. We're currently coding v3.0 of the software, hence the Mk designation.

Can you tell how much I love this piece of software? In order to use it properly as it stands, one must not only know perl (to write "expressions", which is a euphemism for arbitrary subroutines), but one must understand something of the underlying mechanisms by which the tool operates and have a good idea of how the programmers think about the tool, because nothing in the interface is intuitive from a process-flow perspective.

To give you an idea of how bad this thing is, the UI designer we hired to fix its "idiosyncracies" stopped taking notes and just started laughing about fifteen mintues into the hour-long demonstration I gave on how to load files. She put down her pen, shook her head, and laughed. Loudly. Repeatedly. It went from being a lecture to being a game of "how much worse could it get."

The only reason I know as much about it as I do is because I use it every day, and I'm good at rote memorization. I can only hope in the long run she can tame this beast, 'cause nobody else has managed.

All of this, and it's only Tuesday.

I've been dallying in the stock market for a while now—a little over three years—and I've tried some various strategies in the past for "making money" that, for the most part, didn't work. The Motley Fool was an invaluable research source when I first started, but I haven't looked at their site in over a year. It's not that I'm any sort of expert. Far from it. If I were an expert, I wouldn't be as far in debt as I am and as stressed over money as I get. I'm just someone trying to start saving for retirement with an idea towards what it would take.

My father always used to hound me on the power of saving money, and I never really listened to him, but now I'm starting to see it. I just wish I had more money to save. I spent another two-hundred dollars today putting fuel oil in our sparkly-new oil tank for the first time, so the workmen at the house could get some heat back into the house and see how badly damaged the plumbing system is. We know at least one toilet needs to be repaired. Hopefully that's the extent of the problem, but I doubt it.

Little by little I'm coming into the idea of putting together something in the project area of the site dedicated to my endeavors in the stock market. I could probably put together something similar to my weight chart, only it would need to read a configuration file to determine what stock I own, how much I paid, and what my return so far is.

I should get a rather nice chunk of change from the insurance company for last month's electricity bill and next month's rent. After that the real fun begins, 'cause Wissahickon doesn't do month-to-month, only short-term leases, and I'm not locking myself into another three months in this place, even if it is on somebody else's dime. It's just not worth it. The repair company said it should be "four to six weeks from the start of repairs" to be ready to move into the house, so I'm hoping it's closer to the four end of that so we can have two weeks to get into the house.

Wouldn't you know that'd put us almost square on top of moving offices at work, too?

As soon as we're moved into the house, I'll be ready to start the process of getting a debt consolidation loan to put all the past debt into a single source and make a plan for getting rid of it once and for all. It may be five years of pain, but that'll be better than paying the insurance companies through the ears in finance charges. Once that's secure, I can maybe get rid of one of my cards, now that Jessie has a copy of the debit card, and start getting back into an even financial keel.

It feels weird, worrying about stock dalliances while so far up to my ears in debt, but if there's one thing I know about the market that I've heard every professional say without hesitation, it's that time in the game matters more
than the rules by which you play, simply by the nature of the beast, so I'm trying to get my paws wet now so that when I can afford more I know more or less what I'm doing.

My goal is to be making as much on my stocks as I could at my day job by the time I'm sixty. I don't think that's an unreasonable goal.

Only time will tell.


Today's actually a fairly big day for me. I've finally done something I've wanted to do for a long time. I've put something I wrote up for sale.

I keep wanting to describe it here as vanity, but it's more than that. It's my writing. It's for sale. It's my writing for sale. Anyone who's an artist can describe this feeling. Few outside those who sell what they create can. There's something incredibly empowering in the idea of making a living on the fruit's of one's creative endeavors. It's powerful. This is in no way "making a living" on it, but if even one person pays money to read it, then I've accomplished a goal. I've written something I wanted to write, and had someone give me money for it.
I'll have sold my creative writing.

One dollar, in that context, seems pretty lousy. Professional rates for authors when I was growing up was three cents a word. At three-thousand, four-hundred-seventy-three words, three cents a word is over a hundred
dollars. Most people will not pay a hundred dollars for five pages of written text. Even I wouldn't pay that much. I would love it people did, but they don't.

The price-point's actually probably about right. It's little enough to seem like a pittance to most people, and enough to actually be worth my time. I only see eighty cents out of that buck, but that's more than zero which is
what I'd get if I just put it online on my website. I do intend to keep writing and giving stuff away, because I enjoy writing, but I do want to at least focus some amount of my time towards writing for payment. I'd like to see some kind of positive return on my investment, and I think I'm good enough to get it, if I can just get my name out there.

Jessie actually quipped while I was writing Lateral Promotion that I'd never make it as a porn-writer because I take too much pride in my work. I can't crank it out fast enough and I spend too much time worrying about plot and character and setting and not enough time worry about which tab fits into whose slot. I'm hoping I can prove her wrong, but it'd be nice to sell more than just smut.

That's where Child of Man fits into the picture.

I've been working on this novel for the better part of two years now. I won't say it's become all-engrossing because I am writing things other than that—Lateral Promotion, for example—but it is sucking away large amounts of my brain power trying to keep the thing moving. I'm already at thirty-two thousand words and counting. I know, I know. NaNoWriMo people crank out more than that in way less time, but few of them try to sell the products of their effort. This is something I think I can actually market if I put some effort into it.

Now I just have to see if anybody bites the hook.

This week, actually, has been quite good overall. Tanya came out for a visit, and it's always good to see her. I picked up some fresh cosmetics for Jessie that should do what her concealer wand wasn't handling. I got word that the repairs on the house have finally started. The previous owner of the house has contacted me and confirmed that he's going to finish siding the garage. There've been a few big dips, but right now they seem pretty
inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

It's always nice to feel like things are getting better.


Right now, I am livid. I use that word a lot when this sort of thing happens, but I know of no better word for it. I feel an impotent anger directed at a faceless system whose representatives are trying their hardest to accomodate
an unexpected situation within a broken paradigm.

Jessie got her legal gender fixed on Saturday. Great. Wonderful. She's a chick now as far as the state of Pennsylvania and the Social Security Authority are concerned. Excellent. This means that we're now in a legally-married same-sex relationship. I am apparently the source, or at least a source, of the downfall of Western civilization.

I've chosen to start with Independence Blue Cross.

I called my benefits rep to get Jessie's information fixed on Friday, in anticipation of the success at the DMV—a success, mind you, which went far beyond either of our expectations, and for which I'm inordinately proud of her—and she said at first that there shouldn't be any problems, then later called me back to tell me she'd hit a snag with updating Jessie's information in the computer system.

It seems that IBX has their software set up such that when two people are entered into the system as a married couple, the sex of the one listed as "spouse" is instantiated as a dependent field, linked to the sex of the one listed as "applicant". This is there to prevent typos, but it also locks out updates if one member of the married couple should happen to have zir sex legally changed. There isn't even a "try it and see" option. The field is locked. It can't be changed.

Their software will allow same-sex couples into the system, but not as a married couple. It calls them "domestic partnerships" and simply refuses to acknowledge them as anything but. That option then is forced into a different category of insurance. They're no longer married as far as IBX is concerned. They're "partnered" and it's a whole
different ball of wax as to whether or not we're covered.

Now, the benefits rep told me all of this on the phone and later again in an email, and she said to me that I needed to call IBX and ask them for an exception or an override in their system so that the claims that came back that had Jessie listed as female wouldn't get rejected. I know they can do this because they did it for her prescriptions so her premarin wouldn't get rejected. That took a doctor's note, so I called IBX to find out how to get this override put into the computer.

They told me on the phone that no such option exists.

Now, to their credit, they did tell me that I had options. I could contact my company and ask them to have domestic partnerships added to our insurance options, or I could have Jessie removed from my policy and added as a separate single enrollee not linked to my entry in the database. Neither of these reflect the actual legal status of our relationship, but while they acknowledged that verbally on the phone they also seemed totally oblivious to
it. It was amazing.

I managed after much waiting and wrangling to get someone in the Enrollments department on the phone, who cheerfully explained to me that domestic partnerships didn't cost anything(?!?!?!) to add to a group policy and that having our policy holders add that to their insurance coverage would make the whole problem simply go away on its own. When I finally got a word in edgewise, I asked why Jessie was no longer covered on my policy. The conversation went something like this:

  • $buni->say("Jessie and I are legally married, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("My group policy covers legally married couples, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("Thus, Jessie should be covered under my policy, yes?");
  • $rep->say("No.");
  • $buni->say("Why not?");
  • $rep->say("Because Jessie is now female.");
  • $buni->say("At what point in my previous two statements did I say anything about male or female?");
  • $rep->say("....");
  • $buni->say("You do acknowledge that we are legally married, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("And you acknowledge that the policy my company uses covers legally married couples, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("So, does it not logically follow that Jessie, as my legally married spouse, should be covered under my insurance policy which covers legally married couples?");
  • $rep->say("No.");
  • $buni->say("Why not?");
  • $rep->say("Because Jessie is female.");
  • $buni->say("This sounds like a defect in your software.");
  • $rep->say("Oh, no, ma'am! This is no defect. You have to have domestic partnership coverage if you want Jessie on your policy.");
  • $buni->say("We don't have a domestic partnership. We have a legally recognized marriage according to the state of Pennsylvania. Where in this discussion did anybody mention domestic partnerships?");
  • $rep->say("Well, Jessie is female now, isn't she?");
  • $buni->say("....");

Again to her credit, she said she would call our benefits rep on my behalf and ask them to ask IBX to add domestic partnerships to their coverage package at no charge(?!?!?!) to the company, so that our situation would be resolved transparently without ever having to do any of the following: 

  • admit that IBX's software is defective because it does not take into account the concept of a legally-recognzied same-sex marriage
  • consider the possibility that the software, or the policy, should be corrected in advance of the situation surely to follow when Massachusetts, California, and New York all finish with their legal folderol, assuming the federal government doesn't FSU with its FMA
  • apologize for the insult of telling me repeatedly on the phone that my legally-sanctioned marriage is somehow "not a real marriage" because their software is not in error when it rejects the correction to
    Jessie's gender, saying that we need domestic partnership coverage for that

She could've outright refused to help me on the phone. She could've done a lot of things that would have really gotten under my collar and made me blow my stack in a very audible way, even from the front conference room. She was as helpful as I'm sure she thought she could be. That in no way mitigates the fact that I feel as though I have been verbally insulted. I tell myself I shouldn't take offense, but it's hard not to feel demeaned by the whole
experience. I didn't have this much trouble when I changed my sex, but at the time we weren't legally married; we were just fighting for recognition as a couple, and not even that actively.

I can only hope that the upside to this is that my company will add domestic partnership coverage to its policy, but doing so doesn't fix the real problem. We're not a domestic partnership. We're married, and yet they sat there on the phone and told me without malice or regret that despite being married they couldn't cover Jessie as my dependent because she's a chick now, and that wasn't marriage according to their software. The real fix
is correcting the software, but try telling that to a midlevel bureaucrat.

I should've asked to speak with a supervisor. Barring that, I should've marched my way up the chain of command. The rep with whom I spoke is supposed to call me back this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If the answer isn't "your situation has been resolved" I'm going to have no choice but to start pushing my way up the line to talk to someone who can fix this, 'cause this time the fault isn't mine. It's theirs.

Now I just have to convince them of that.

As an afterthought, what really blows my mind on this is that twice on the phone with me she said that it cost a company nothing extra to cover domestic partnerships as equal to marriage. Nothing! Not one red cent more! Not a single penny over what we currently had to pay!

So why don't more companies cover domestic partners?

Every HR rep with whom I've ever spoken about it has said that the cost of covering the extra people on the plan didn't justify the personal savings the employees who needed it would see, but here on the phone someone from the enrollment group openly and actively said to me that it didn't cost them anything to add it! This can only mean one of two things: 

  1. The woman on the phone was lying to me.
  2. The HR reps were lying to me.

I would very much like to know which it is.

I just got a call from the benefits rep, and she said basically that if I ever get a bill for anything, I'm not to call IBX and complain, or the doctor's office to challenge it. I'm to fax it to her and forget about it. This isn't supposed to be my responsibility; it's hers. This is her job. This is what she does.

I feel like I've been pardoned.

I'm still angry that the situation exists, but I'm at least relieved of the responsibility of worrying about it. This is Someone Else's Problem.


I absolutely hate how easily stressed I get. Worse, I hate what my getting stressed does to those around me, especially my mate.

Earlier today I met with the head contractor on the extended assignment to get our house back in working order, and I found out that replacing the coal furnace and the heating system to the house is going to cost me five-thousand dollars out of pocket, or out of other repairs to the house that will still need to be done at some point. I can do things like not repaint any of the rooms that need it and that will save me some cash, and I can maybe ask Kelly if she can handle putting down fresh carpet and that will take care of another good chunk, but at the end of the day I'm still going to be out a good chunk of change.

This is a problem for two reasons.

The first and most obvious is that I can't really afford it. My credit cards are riding close to tapped, and this is going to push them to their limits, if not over them. Getting the house in the first place was a major setback to our financial situation, with the understanding that as soon as we moved into it, the house would start paying for itself in the money we were saving in the long run, but we haven't even yet gotten the chance to live in the place.

The second and less obvious and far more devastating is totally unrelated to the house. Jessie went out with some of our friends to the mall today to buy clothes, and when she got home with everyone else I was in an absolutely horrid mood that had nothing to do with her. So, instead of being able to say "Hey, great, glad to hear you had a good time" and be generally enthusiastic and positive, I was angry-mopey and short-tempered, and she
didn't deserve that. 

I keep saying that when we get into the house, things will get better. I truly believe that. We have at least one person committed to moving in with us and taking over the attic, and someone else that's expressed interest in
laying claim to the third bedroom, so once both of them arrive, we'll be cutting our mortgage bill to nearly nothing, meaning we'll be able to start actively and violently paying off these bills. I'll also feel a lot more confident about going to the bank for a debt-consolidation loan, which will help cut the interest rates on the debt and give me a better means to pay off what we owe. I have a plan for getting out of this massive hole.

I just have to get into the house, first.

I hate how uptight I get and how stressed I become over things like this. Now, admittedly, having one's house ruined from water damage is pretty stressful, especially considering it's my first house and I haven't even gotten to live there yet. That said, though, I can do nothing about the speed or the cost of repairs, only my own expectations and desires, and so getting upset about what has to happen is pointless. I know that intellectually, but it doesn't help much when I'm trying to deal with bad news.

The one thing I will say in my favor is that at least I get over problems quickly enough. I got really angsty and bitter at Jessie when she got home, and for an hour after that, but after a chuckle or two I do feel better, and I don't think there's any real risk of me slipping back into my earlier funk. Having recovered, I usually stay better.

As before when my hormones were out of whack, though, I've been crashing a lot lately. I really do feel like I'm in over my head right now. Getting into the house will help a lot of that, but that's proving to be a bigger challenge than just buying the place and moving into it. I'm still not earning what I think I'm worth, Jessie's not earning any formal income at all, and we're currently paying the bills on two living spaces at once. These have all added to the rising debt, not as quickly as saving for the house did, but fast enough to be a continuing problem.

I hate feeling like I'm in over my head, but until we're in the house and the finances settle down, I just have to live with it. Easier said than done.


Indeed, many things did come to pass....

I went off the diet yesterday. It seems kind of a strange thing to do, to intentionally break the good eating habits I've trained myself to follow that have led to the sustained and continual weight loss I've achieved. Deliberately going against that feels weird to me now. Most diet sodas are unpalatable to me, most non-diet foods are horribly oversweetened, and most breads and such just sit like rocks in my stomach and make me feel queasy. Why on earth would I want to put stuff in me that makes me feel bad?

The answer, of course, is that the cure is almost as bad as the disease. The Atkins diet—and any other ketogenic diet—works by forcing the body to cannibalize its own fat stores for glucose, because the digestion process can't convert most of the calories in fat and protein to glucose, and glucose is what the body needs to run. There's no substitute for that. However, the byproducts of fat breakdown, ketones, are actually toxic in high concentrations. They're the big reason ketogenic diet programs encourage people to drink a lot of water is because these chemicals need to get flushed thoroughly and regularly or they start causing damage to the kidneys and

Going off the diet, then, becomes a sort of reset button on the system. It's a chance to give the body time to recover from the effects of ketosis. Most of the books I've read say that going off every three to four months for
about a week helps keep the ketones from becoming a health risk of their own, and I haven't been off the diet since Thanksgiving, so I figured I was about due.

The other big factor is timing. I'm going to a party in Boston this weekend, assuming I get my car back on time (more on that below), and I'm going to want to be off my diet for that. Going off the diet causes a sugar crash—lethargy and dizziness—and going back on causes a sugar headache—migraine, irritability and lack of concentration—so those need to be timed to hit when they can be managed under safe conditions. This meant that if I was going to have the headache before Monday morning work, I needed to go back on the diet Sunday morning. This put the headache hitting in the middle of the drive home, but I'm sure at that point I won't be any worse than any of the other commuters.

Of course, to get any benefit from being off the diet, I need to be off for about five to seven days, so that meant going off on Tuesday. When I mentioned that to some friends, one of them suggested I go off Monday so I
could enjoy our regular Monday Night Dinner instead of eating chicken wings with bleu cheese like I do every week, and Jessie agreed with the logic, so I went ahead and started yesterday with some chicken fingers and then had nachos for dinner.

This morning I had a chocolate milk and a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit from Wawa for breakfast. I don't think I'm going to be able to eat lunch.

My weight was up this morning, too, but that's to be expected. I'm going to estimate the scale will tell me I've restored ten pounds by Sunday. I should be able to purge it again fast enough, and the trend line shouldn't rise more than a pound or two, but it's still a bit nervewracking considering that I'm deliberately going against good eating practices to protect my health.

I must be crazy; there's no other good explanation.

I mentioned above that I'm taking the car into the shop. I seem to have the worst luck with cars irrespective of their ownership history. It's not that I actively try to destroy them, so much as I know more than "nothing" and less than "enough," so I end up thinking problems aren't bad when they are, and then by the time I decide they're bad they're really bad and cost squillions to fix, or else render the cars inoperable or worse.

This time I hope to circumvent that.

Of course, I've been driving it with some known problems, but the previous owner, with whom I try to keep in at least semi-regular contact, said that they're minor so I trust that they're not going to cause the car to explode in a sudden fireball (even if doing so would contravene the laws of physics; I'm just unlucky that way). The new fuel pump is mis-timed or maladjusted or had an unhappy childhood or something; the car stalls out right after I turn it over, then stalls out immediately when I put it into gear, and then will deign to let me drive it. Also, while it's cold, it tries to stall out when idling, only to suddenly spike up in revs to double its idle speed, then slowly relax back to idle before repeating this process. However, once it's warm, it quits doing this.

I've also managed to blow the computer-driven overdrive. I checked the fuse panel by my left foot, and the one for the overdrive looks like it's intact, but the light on the dash is on constantly and it never shifts up into fourth gear, so something's wrong with it. It would have had to die right as Jessie and I were starting a major road trip, so our gas mileage for that two-thousand-plus mile stretch was a disaster. It hasn't been so great since
we got back, either.

At least, I think think it was two-thousand miles. It had to have been at least that, but another thing that doesn't work is the odometer. It's frozen at 177178 and has been since I got the car. The previous owner assures me it
just died there a few weeks before he parked the car to sell it, so I'm not worried about it being wrong, but I'm one of those people that needs to see the numbers so I know when to take the car in for a routine service. "Every 7500 miles" means nothing to me when I don't know when I hit it.

Finally, I've managed to take out some of the light fixtures on the outside of the car. One Jessie cracked when she tapped on it thinking a few quick knocks would cause a loose wire to connect. One I broke trying to maneuver it
out of the really tight parking space. Both of them need to be replaced, lest some anal cop in Boston pull me over and give me a ticket.

However, all of these things need to be done by Friday morning, 'cause Friday night I need to have the car for the trip. If it's not ready by then, I may not be able to go, or I'll have to go with half the work done and schedule a
time to do the rest, which would really be
T3H SU><0r. Here's hoping none of it is difficult, just expensive.

Expensive I can manage. It's only money.

Actually, right now it's not even money. It's just "more time in debt." I've had to shift my thinking away from "I owe people money" to "I have this much of my paycheck going into servicing old accounts" to keep myself from going into the screaming meemies every time I spend any money at all. I keep thinking that when we're in the house and the car is fixed and the roommates we've invited have joined us and everything is situated, we can start paying off this huge backlog of credit card bills, maybe by getting a debt-consolidation loan or something fancy,
but right now I'm just throwing minimum payments at stuff because I know I'm going to take a couple more big hits before it's all said and done.

I've waited this long. I can wait longer.


The house in in a very Heisenburgian state at the moment.

The damage is more extensive than we thought before; we found out that all but one of the radiators actually broke, and that last we're not sure survived except that we couldn't see any water in the carpet and the clean-up
crew couldn't find any traces of leakage, so we're assuming it's safe. However, the carpet in the living room and den had to be scrapped, the hardwood floor in the third bedroom will need to be rebuilt, a section of plaster wall in the kitchen has to be redone, and a new heating system has to be installed.

This sounds rather disastrous, but we're saved from much of the horror by a few key points:

Insurance is paying for all of it.
This is a key point in this being a good thing. They've said that we're covered by our homeowners' policy, so the only part of this that has to come out of pocket is the cost of the deductible, which for us is five hundred dollars. This has saved me many sleepless nights.

We can make improvements instead of strict repairs.
This makes point number one above even cooler: we're not limited to just putting back in the same as what we had before. Technically speaking, it means we have whatever it would've cost to repair the previous systems as a budget towards making whatever upgrades and modifications we want. This means that instead of going back to that nasty coal furnace, we can rip all of that out and put in an oil furnace and an electric hot water heater. This will save us not in money, but in emotional heartache when we go on vacation again and don't make it home for three weeks.

Jessie can get her act together before we move in.
The sudden rush to get into the place by the end of February put a real cramp on her plans to have herself ready by that same time. Delaying the move-in date will give her a chance to actually prepare and feel ready to move into the new place.

However, all of these things are balanced on the other hand by some at-this-point rather frustrating factors:

I don't know what's happening right now.
This sounds strange, but it's pretty much out of my hands at this point what happens to the place. I mean, it's my house, but I'm only directing the overview of what I want to see done. In addition to both of the
above-mentioned changes, we're also looking at getting an electrician to come in and fix a lot of the wiring in the place; all of the plugs read either as "open ground" or as "reversed hot/neutral", which are apparently both Bad Things. However, at this opint, aside from lots of equipment set up in the house to dry the place out, I really don't have any sense that anything is actively being done, or even if there's anything that
can be done right now.

I have no timeline for repairs.
This one's sort of an extension of the former problem. I don't have any idea when we're going to be able to move into the place. It's certainly not livable now; there's no water for bathing, and that would get unpleasant fast. However, that means we're probably going to be stuck in the apartment for another month, and that's annoying. Again, insurance will cover it if need be, but after getting so geared up to move, having to cool my heels in this apartment with all its problems is really getting tiresome.

I have no price estimates.
I said above that insurance is covering the cost, but that's not exactly true. What actually happens is more like the following: 
  1. The insurance company calculates what it will cost to repair the existingsystem.
  2. The insurance company takes that figure and determines what can be built for that cost or less that's as good as what's currently present.
  3. The homeowners make requests for other things to be done with the budget, and these changes are factored in.
  4. Any difference between the total cost of work done and the estimated budget, plus deductible, is sent to the insured as a bill.
This means that we may get a bill for the repairs anyway, but I have no idea for how much, and even though no matter what it is I'm going to pay it because we have to have the repair work and it's better to make the fixes we want before we move into the place, it's still kind of a sore point that I have no idea how much money I've obligated myself to spend at a time when I really don't want to outlay more than I must to get things back to functional.

Suffice to say, the house is an ongoing project, but it will be for a while. I'm trying to find ways to make the problems into opportunities, but I'm still irritated by the current status of things.

In other news, the diet-and-exercise front seems to be having a slow-but-marked effect. I say slow when what I mean is barely-noticable, 'cause right now I'm still sort of hovering, but at least as of today's measurements there's an actual loss. It's not much, but it's something. I thought about deleting the first day's worth of measurement, but that makes the final number look worse, even if it makes the measured loss look better.

I added a fancy chart to the weight tracking page, but I didn't want that being redrawn every time someone hit the page, 'cause it only changes on a daily basis, not a however-often-anyone-actually-looks-at-it basis. That meant a recoding of the perl that created the page, and ultimately it now generates not only the chart and the graph but the entire page, instead of just being a plugin that shows the chart. I wasn't expecting to do that when I started, but it ended up making sense.

It's another one of those signs that my job is actually doing something good for me. It's improving my programming skills, even if it's doing so in small, not-really-measurable ways. Working with people like Bennie has helped. He's definitely taught me a lot. I just hope I've been as informative. 

There was a time when I thought, "I'll never enjoy coding as a hobby; it's something I do for money, not for fun." Now I've got both this chart and FormBot to prove that wrong.

There's an old quotation from Star Trek, of all places: "Kagan's Law of First Contact: 'You'll surprise you more than they will.'"

Oh, the joys of homeownership.

As noted in the previous entry, Jessie and I went out of town for two weeks. One thing I didn't note in the previous entry, because I didn't think about it, was the state of the coal-hopper in our new house.

Yes. Coal-hopper. I'm still shocked too.

We discovered that the house was coal-heated when we first inspected it. The then-current owners had actually converted the house to coal from some other heating system, saying it was dirt-cheap to power and provided
them with ample heat. They have, in fact, converted their new house to coal as well, because they like it so much. Did I mention before that the previous owners were weird?

At any rate, the house is powered by a coal furnace. We didn't get a manual for the furnace when we bought the place, but the owners were at one point to meet with us before we went on vacation to impart their wisdom on the operation of the heater. Unfortunately, we had to take care of replacing the car the day that we had scheduled to meet with them, and then we never managed to reschedule, so we never got any instructions on how to manage the furnace or any vital information about its operating parameters.

Information like, say, how quickly the coal-hopper typically empties under standard operating loads.

Last night, we went out to the house to deliver another load of boxes, and the place was frigid when we entered. We could see our breath even once the front door had been closed, so immediately we knew the fire in the furnace had gone out, and I went into the basement to restart it.

While I was down there refilling the hopper, Jessie called for me to come up and have a look at something that might suggest restarting the furnace right now was a bad idea.

I returned to the living room, and Jessie pointed to an irregular dark patch on the carpet that most definitely hadn't been present when we left. On closer inspection, we found that it was a patch of ice, near the base of the

Now, here I must digress for a moment and once again say that the old adage, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," has never been more applicable to anyone than me. The realtor said that the heater was a "forced air" heater, which I thought meant that the furnace piped superheated air through the radiation system, which heated the pipes to a degree that they radiated heat, which is what one expects a radiator to do. So, if the heater ever went out, no biggie. The house would be cold for a while, but it would warm easily enough once I got the fire started. 

Turns out I was almost right, or maybe he was almost right. The radiators had water in them, not air.

Of course, everyone should be able to guess where the story goes from here. Some time during our trip out of town and the subsequent work week of hell, the furnace ran out of coal. When that happened, naturally, the fire died. The temperature then dropped sharply over the last few days, to below the freezing point. The water, without heat, quickly froze in the pipes, and four of the radiators cracked. One actually didn't just crack; it burst. The third bedroom, thankfully the one with the hardwood floor, had a thin sheet of dirty black ice covering most of the floor, and a four-inch-by-one-inch section of the radiator itself had broken free. Thankfully, the two in the
carpeted bedrooms were actually undamaged.

This was all quite a shock to the both of us, neither of whom had ever lived with a coal furnace before.

I called the insurance company last night, and in forty minutes I have to call them again to actually speak with the claims department. Then I have to load up the car with boxes again and take them out to the house, along with
the camera and space heater I've borrowed temporarily from Bennie. The camera is for getting pictures of the damage, and the space heater is so I can work without having parts of my body freeze in the process.

Fortuitously, the insurance company called as I was making this post, and they said that frozen pipes are covered under my policy. In fact, frozen pipes are the only times under which this sort of thing is covered. so we've managed to get this under our policy. They're going to have an emergency clean-up company contact me in the next few hours, and I'm going to call a plumber and schedule actual repairs, the bill for which I can forward to the insurance company for reimbursement.

While I'm at it, I'm going to switch to an electric boiler. Filling the hopper last night and cleaning up the ash generated a huge volume of dust, which Jessie's lungs just won't handle well because of her asthma. It'll be more expensive in the long run, but as my friend JonBuck said the other night, there's no way to put a price on peace of mind.

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