On 2004-12-19, I bought a house. Technically speaking, the house is my house, not "Jessie's and my house," because of the fear that her name on the paperwork would hurt the chances of getting approved financing and the
like. Now she's got a fairly good credit history thanks to our joint accounts and the fact that I seem to have mostly dug myself out of the Black Pit of Debt with only a third of my owings going to unsecured holes. None of that is really relevant, save the fact that we have an actual house-house instead of an apartment or cave-dwelling or other stuff-keeping-place that belongs to a third party.

Our house has a garage. It's kind of a manky, tinky outbuilding, with a broken outhouse, rotting support beams and crumbling shingle-siding. The previous owners had started to put up new vinyl siding, but they'd abandoned
the effort pretty early into the game, with two-thirds of one of four walls finished and the rest ignored. It looked... bad. There really isn't any other way to say it. It was tacky and cheap, and I wasn't happy about it, but I never went back there because I was renting the garage to Aly and Aly didn't care how it looked as long as it gave her a place to work on her Firebird, toke and listen to Howard Stern.

I think she did more of the last two than of the first.

At any rate, the garage for the house has never been up to code since we bought it. The appraiser looked down his nose at this little rundown building, and the borough gave us a lot of grief over it during the purchase process, but ultimately it worked out that the previous owners would agree to finish siding the house within ninety days of the purchase, since they couldn't legally sell the house with the garage in its current condition anyway. Jessie and I both thought at the time that that was an acceptable answer, and we signed off on it when we claimed the keys and the mortgage.

The previous owners contacted me exactly once over the next ninety days after that. Perhaps twice. I remember one call to arrange a time to meet to learn about our new coal furnace, and I know at some point there was a discussion about when the siding on the garage would be finished, with the ex-owner saying he was going to do the work himself and would get to it as soon as the weather was more hospitable, and these conversations may have been on the same call but it's possible they were on two different ones. Even if they were, though, that's still only twice that I ever spoke with the people responsible for bringing my new house into code.

I probably should have done more across the intervening time after that to follow up on this and get them to fix the siding, but shortly after that—or is it those?—call(s), the pipes froze, and then there was the major reconstruction, and then The Bad hit, and by that point my focus was on other things entirely.

So, imagine my surprise when last week, I got a letter from the Borough inspector's office, saying that they'd tolerated my eyesore for quite long enough, thank you very much, and that I had thirty days to fix it, get rid of
it, or get fined. 

Of course, I called them the day after the letter arrived. I did my best to explain to them that it was the previous owners who were legally and financially responsible for the problem, as they could not have legally sold the house to me without an agreement to fix it, and in fact I had that in writing in my sale contract. The city inspector said he sympathized, but he also pointed out that I was the owner of the outbuilding in question, and that it was my responsibility to follow up my own business contracts and enforce them, not theirs. If I thought in thirty days I could cajole, beg, bargain or intimidate the previous owners into fixing the garage like they were supposed to have done by beginning of March 2004, he'd be more than willing to drop the entire matter. Otherwise, he said, it was my problem.

I hate it when other people make sense.

A day or two later, I found a contractor who could take on the job of "dealing with my outbuilding" on such short notice, and he agreed to come out and inspect it to give me a free estimate on either repairing it or hauling it away. He showed up, studied the little ramshackle shack for half an hour, pointed out all the things he thought he'd need to do to it to make it functional again, and gave me a number. 

I twitched and said, "I've got five thousand in the bank, and I'm in no financial shape to go over that; that's my entire safety net." While the statement is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, it's not much of one. I maybe have another five-hundred beyond that but that's getting into the financial Red Zone. Remember the X-Men video game in the arcade, and how when your hit points got low enough you could use your special attack without it hurting you? Ever play City of Heroes? This is Financial Defiance, people.

He chuckled, said, "I never leave anybody broke," and agreed to do the whole job for four-thousand.

He spotted Aly's Firebird in the garage and said I'd have to move it before he could get started; it'd be in the way. I told him I didn't have the legal ground to do so and explained the whole convoluted mess involved in this
piece of the Vixapede Legacy. He looked at his son, shrugged, and said he had four guys and a truck, and the car'd be "handled" as part of the job.

I don't know if he threw that in there to clinch the deal, but it worked.

Last night, I gave them a check for the repair work, which they took off to Magical Bank Land to convert it from a worthless piece of paper into a lot of not-so-worthless pieces of paper, or perhaps some very valuable ones and zeroes in a computer system somewhere. I think this guy is the pieces-of-paper sort of guy, though. That's fine, too. All I know is that pretty soon here, a lot of my valuable ones and zeroes—mostly the ones—are going to go away to cover this conversion cost.

The practical upshot of all of this is manifold:

  • After next week, I should have a practical, useful, pretty garage again that looks like it belongs on my lot, not as part of a set for the re-enactment of a post-apocalyptic suburban warfare movie. I'll sort of miss
    the look, but not really.
  • Jessie and I are likely going to have to cancel our planned trip to visit her parents in Shreveport in November. This one's not guaranteed, but it's pretty likely given the state of our financial cushion. Their place isn't big enough for us both to stay on their couch, and they have enough pets that my allergies get hammered after just a few hours, so that means a hotel and a car rental on top of the plane fare which at this point is likely to be over a thousand dollars of trip that we now cannot afford. I'm not giving up on
    it, but I'm not counting on it either. 
  • Further Confusion is off for both of us. Don't bother asking. If some financially-independent party has two-thousand dollars to throw at a couple of Universe-A refugees to attend church for four days, let us know, otherwise we'll be here in Philly when the opening ceremonies commence.
  • Megaplex may happen as a substitute con, but this one's stretching it. I won't have fully rebuilt our buffer by that point, and to be blunt it's in Florida for Dobbs' sake. Getting Jessie south of the Mason-Dixon Line once was hard enough; I don't think I could manage it again without, like, cookies the size of dinosaurs.

I checked with a debt collection agency about getting the money back, and they sent me to an attorney. I checked with an attorney about getting the money back, and they said it was two-hundred dollars per hour to pursue it as a case, meaning it's not cost-effective if it takes more than three days of wrangling to try to get blood from these turnips. 

Maybe I'll find the previous owners' new contact information in the paperwork for the settlement, call them and get profuse apologies and a check for costs plus heartache. Maybe I'll strike oil in my backyard, too.

Four steps forward, three steps back. 


A few pieces of news, some good, some bad, some weird.

Last week I had my first dental visit in over five years. As I had mentioned before, a part of one of my teeth broke off in my mouth the other day and it really scared me. I did a fairly good job of not showing it, but I was quite panicked over the whole thing, and I had repeated visions of sitting down in the chair and having the
dentist declare that they'd all have to go, or worse. Dreams of surgery weren't uncommon over the last few weeks.

The hygieniest took one look and said, "Oh, that's just tartar built up into crystals on your teeth; that will all come off under the water drill. A shard of crusted tartar broke off in your mouth, not a fragment of tooth." Sure enough, after about an hour of blasting my teeth, not only could I actually feel every individual tooth in my mouth again, but the discoloration was completely gone.

The dentist told me during the cursory check-up following the cleaning that I had better teeth than I had any right to possess given the way I'd abused them. Those weren't his exact words, but that was the general sentiment

The scare had some impact on me. Nothing earth-shattering; I'm still not brushing-and-flossing three times a day, but I bought a sonic toothbrush, a new roll of floss and some Listerine. I hate using brand-names when there's a
generic available, but in this instance I had specific orders from a medical professional to buy a given product, so I followed them. Hindsight being what it is, this may well have been a product-placement request for all I know,
but down that road lies visions of the corporatization of daily life to an extent that I really just don't want to consider because it would make me break out in hives.

I figure at some point the same kind of scare will happen with my weight and my dilation, but I don't know what it will take. I've put on ten pounds since I dropped off the low-carb diet, I'm back to sneaking snacks and other
less-savory habits. My brain
knows that these behaviors are self-destructive, and yet they don't stop. There is something wrong with me and I have not in thirty years figured out what it is.

I remember a time when I had successfully dropped over a hundred pounds and I could tell people, "all it takes is willpower." I can now safely say that that statement is a load of bullshit. If willpower were all it took, this would have stopped long ago. All of it. 

Friday night, I engaged in a bout of excessive drinking for fun and profit. More fun than profit, really. Actually, I did it because last week at work felt like it sucked, and in hindsight it wasn't too bad, but as my mother loves to quote from the Scarlet Pimpernel, "there's nothing in the world something that's quite so bad as that which is not so bad."

Bitching about work will not fix the problems. Finding a better company will only possibly fix the problems. I suspect that many of my current issues are endemic to large companies in general, most of them relating to manager-employee and employee-employee relationships and the nature of how to measure qualitative work.

A lot of it also has to do with the fact that I'm the only one in my department required to fill out weekly status reports and show up at a specific hour every day because my coworkers are warehouse types that don't understand a lick about information technology. Most of them don't even understand what an on-call is or what to do with one. Last week something broke at 07h00 and nobody said anything to anyone until I arrived at 08h15, and then everyone got mad at me because they were down for over an hour.

That was precisely the sort of event that I predicted when they said that I couldn't push my hours back to help cover the second shift that just started. At some point, either they're going to learn to use the on-call number, in
which case it shouldn't really matter when I'm in the office; or they'll require someone to be in the office during any possible work hour to cover all the potential problems that could occur with the system, in which case I push for being the second-shift operative and I get what I want anyway. For now, I'm stuck in the limbo between these two conditions, waiting for them to piss or get off the pot.

Anyway, drunk. My drink of choice these days is the Bourbon and Seven-Up, a mixer I learned from my father. Between that and my love of Cabernet Sauvignon, I think he warped my tastes in alcohol for all time. At least I'm
not drinking Mad Dog and Thunderbird like my mother. 

I don't usually drink for the purpose of getting drunk; there's always a hidden agenda to it. As stated, this time's open purpose was to mentally shut down for a few hours in response to the crap piling up at work, but it had an
unexpected side effect as well. In the depths of my stupor, I first dictated several paragraphs of rant in character-voice to Shay, and then I had a rather deep outpouring of emotion to Jessie on the nature of an intarweb conflict that occured a few weeks ago. The latter was shocking to me, mostly because even the morning after I remembered it with fairly strong clarity.

I know in the past I have appeared to many people to be a callous, heartless bitch. In some senses, this is true. I don't go out of my way to pander to the emotional needs of the general populace, and in fact I can be quite cruel
at times, especially towards those about whom I have do direct caring. I draw a very sharp line internally between "us" and "them", and I can be merciless to "them" if I feel "us" is under any sort of attack.

This is not because I enjoy the negativity. This is not because I like being mean or spiteful or hurtful. This is because ultimately I have a capacity to feel that runs far deeper than does my capacity to actually implement change in the world.

I am tired. I am bitter and sore and weary. I want to make the world a better place, and I feel like I am directly competing with people in the Internet-B camp—the Something Awful, Portal of Evil and like-minded crowds—for market share, and there's no way to compete with that kind of spectacle. Worse, I'm also competing with the Universe-B mentality—the Focus on the Family and 700 Club and Family Research Council and Westboro Family Church types—who proclaim that theirs is the One True Way and that anyone who disagrees is destined to rot forever.

Mathematically and philosophically, an axiom is a statement that must be assumed true as the underpinning of a framework within which the rules of logic apply. No axiom can be proven true; they can only be assumed. They are, if you will, the articles of faith on which we all rest our further statements of belief. The existence of God is a common axiom. The accuracy of the scientific model is another.

In TDB, the axiom is described as a statement which cannot tolerate its opposite. It is a statement that cannot at the same time be true while its negative is true as well. There can never be A and not-A within the same system. If there is, then there is an error in understanding A, not-A, or their relationship. It may be that either axiom is wrong. It may be that they both are. It may be that they aren't opposites as previously thought, or that some sort of Hegelian synthesis is necessary to reconcile the two positions. However, something about one of those ideas must be incorrect, either in the statement itself or in the understanding of it; it and its counterpart cannot both be true at the same time. 

I believe—as axiomatic—that a tolerant society cannot itself be tolerant of intolerance. That is, if we wish to say we are an open-minded and fair-thinking people, we must reject as false any viewpoint that itself dictates that is the only right answer. This sounds paradoxical, but I think it's the only way to reconcile the contradictory views of multiculturalism and monoculture. Far too often, I hear monoculturists use the ideals of multiculturalism against those who would follow them, on the order of "you must by your own ideals grant me the right to believe what I wish, and I believe that I'm right and you're wrong, so you must believe that I'm right!"

Being able to say, "No, I am only tolerant of those ideals that are themselves tolerant of other ideals" is a way out of that trap.

So, what's the point of all of this? Masturbatory self-exploration aside, it means that yes, I do support a wide variety of views and I believe that there are an endless number of ways to achieve happiness and salvation and truth and love, but I reject outright any viewpoint that starts with "but can't you see that you're just wrong?" It means that I don't feel guilty in the slightest for ignoring people who feel that my way is the wrong way without bothering to try to explain to me what it is that I'm doing wrong. It means that I'm willing to entertain any notion of how to do things right, as long as there's a rationale that makes sense, but that I'm not just going to assume that my way is wrong just because somebody else is right. 

There is no blueprint to salvation. There is no roadmap to happiness. There is no twelve-step program for becoming a better person. Rather, there are a million, billion programs, each with a million, billion steps; and they are all right for some and wrong for others. Anyone saying that there is only one right way to do anything must be, by definition, wrong, and there is nothing contradictory in rejecting those viewpoints out of hand, because they
themselves reject other viewpoints out of hand, and intellectual cauterization is necessary to prevent the spread of philosophical gangrene. Yes, we're hacking off this monocultural limb, but we're doing it to save the
postmodern body.

All of this is, of course, my own perception.

This, ultimately, is why I seem cruel or callous. It isn't that I don't care. It's that I have had to cut off large chunks of humanity at large to preserve my own sanity and my own worldview. It's that the vast majority of people I meet have views that I find incompatible with my own except in specific singular overlapping instances. It's that I know I cannot fix the world's problems, and so I have narrowed the scope of my focus to that subsection of
the world whose problems I
can fix.

None of the people I have willingly removed from my world are bad people. None of them. Not Lurene, not Mitchell, not Andy, not President Bush, not Yeshua ben Yosef. In a universe in which I had limitless energy and patience, I would gladly and willingly continue to interact with them, offering love and caring and tenderness and what little wisdom I felt I had acquired in my time on this mudball, even in the face of such pointed opposition and even direct contradiction to my own worldview.

However, I am not possessed of infinite capacity, nor of infinite time. I have only so many resources to accomplish the tasks I have set for myself, and spending time trying to convert the masses to my view, or to get them to leave me alone, takes away from that already-limited pool and leaves me less to pursue my goals. If my choice is between trying to explain for the thousandth time why I think "lol what" isn't funny or why "you suck fag" isn't a valid debate tactic, and telling someone "I don't have time for this" and then working on my novel or a short story or even relaxing playing a game with Jessie and increasing our mutual happiness... the choice should be obvious.

Of course, if I think by pursuing someone and laying on with the Big Black Boot of Great Justice will make somebody's oily chitinous carapace crack and give me the chance to administer some Key 23, then I'm going to do it, if only because it means fewer resources spent in the future trying to get that person out of my face on other issues. It's worked a few times. Not many, to be sure, but often enough that I do still engage in such things when I feel I can spare the energy. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

Sometimes, I try, and it doesn't work, and that's really the worst time of all. That's what happened with Ilthuain, and I feel bad for it. Bad that I wasted my time, bad that it didn't work, bad that I blew what might have been
my one chance to explain myself and make things better.

How can I carry you, when I can barely walk myself?