5 December 2013
If you were writing a letter, as our agent advises we must do, to the seller of a house, what would you put in it? theVet advised spinning essentially a tale of woe, that we were overextended and desperate, this house was a good deal and my god, I thought, would that be all wrong or what. I don’t think you want to come across as arrogant — this house would be perfect for us but you know what, we could take it or leave it — but neither do you want to be desperate: please mister please, we don’t want to have to MOVE again and wrestle with the idea of a Mandarin program. She talked to her sister the other day and gets convinced what we really need is for her to be working full time anywhere, Target or someplace for the holiday shopping season, right?
There is so much bad advice out there. It drives me nuts, honestly. First, the letter: stay upbeat and positive. This is their neighborhood: gush about what a wonderful place it is to live, impressions that you can’t possibly know from a half-hour tour that you’ve spent inside a house, not having walked up and down the neighborhood. Talk about what you can bring to the community, or what good neighbors you’ll be to your neighbors, who are sometimes closer than family and who you feel protective of. Next, the job: I understand the urgency but we’re okay for now and we’ll be okay for the near future. We aren’t hemorrhaging money like we were after we moved (mortgage, rent, moving expenses, school supplies, furniture, clothing) and we’ll be okay for the next year too. Getting a job just to have a job sounds like a good idea, but there’s a reason I’m not a plumber, or a dead animal removal guy, or a rent-a-center agent, or a GameStop employee: something in my head intervened and told me what bad, desperate moves those were.
I understand we aren’t settled yet, and it’s scary not to know how well-off we can be, or will be. No one can predict the future. (“you may say I’m a dreamer … but I’m not the only one”) If they say they can they’re interested in your money, by the way, which will run out before you can find out whether it’s come true or not. It sounds fatalistic but things will get better sooner than you think. Dreaming about the future doesn’t make you less parctical: it gives you a vision and goals to work towards. I love you and support you in whatever we choose to decide do here. Any time you buy a house it’s going to feel like all the money in the world, because it is, but we’ll get through it and around it and most importantly over it because we’ll find a way. Our clear goals for the kids will be matched by discipline on our end to accomplish it.
4 December 2013
There’s a lot less working from home than you might think, partly because there’s a lot more distractions but mostly (okay, yeah, it’s the distractions: I lost nearly an hour in a thrift store yesterday while I was waiting for the fluoride treatment to settle in) a curiously low sense of urgency. if I had started work from home in San Diego I doubt I would have had any appreciable success by now. It’s better to be here — here now, here with the family, here with the kids, here on the way to work, this area, now, California USA Inc. Ltd. LLP. Put that in your hat. I had a dentist’s appointment yesterday which dictated my schedule, but I don’t really like disruption in my routine: any perturbation reverberates.
So now barely a week after we’ve closed escrow on our old house (we’re now former homeowners!) there’s one available, not far from where we are now at a reasonable size and price and all I can think at the moment is that man, shouldn’t we have more of a sense of urgency? There’s a lot to consider: cripplingly high house payments (we may end up assuming MORE debt than the GROSS selling price of our old place), size (one bathroom! hello morning traffic!) and my god, we just moved barely three months ago, do we need to do this again? So soon? Will theVet have a job? What do we do if we can’t … ? I dunno. You have to break it down and take it one bite at a time. Let’s get a letter together. Offer. Sincerity. We will find a place to live at a price we can live with; this is our life and this is how we move forward.
It feels like a Monday because of the day from home; it feels refreshing and brisk to bike to work like a madman. Life is good, life goes on. We jump on what we can get now and worry about the settlement later, right? Not so laissez-faire fast, of course. Right now I can’t sleep, but I can’t stay awake either: theVet has run the numbers over and over and says we can’t do it, or that we have to do it, or that we don’t know what we’re doing, and the answer is D, all of the above. No one knows, right? Some of us are just better at hiding that fact. Drive on, driver. The terror you feel inside (this is all our money in the world!) is shared by everyone else who’s ever done this (which is to say tons of people in this country) and it’s not going to get easier — or cheaper — if we wait.
2 December 2013
Back when I was in the market for a Palm (and if that one phrase doesn’t speak reams about my psyche …) I had narrowed it down to two choices at approximately the same price. There was the original Sony CLIÉ (which was the PEG-S300 I think?) and the Palm IIIc. I’d bought theVet a TRGpro so that she could laboriously enter some veterinary information by hand for school (which we subsequently never used much and therefore lost the first time the batteries died: when was battery-backed volatile memory without backing up a good idea?) and I knew about what to expect from the monochrome screen but everyone said the color screen was SO NICE and therefore that’s the one I picked. I still don’t know if it was the right choice, the CLIÉ came with a jog wheel which sounded handy if you didn’t want to tie up both hands.
There is a compromise in feature sets that lets you break the logjam and decide NOW if that’s what you want. Sure, you could wait for the next one which will always have nicer things, but that ends up in being a singular exercise in waiting for the next, and the next after that, and the next beyond as well. You’re never going to get everything you want; there’s always going to be something to compromise. If your primary criterion is cost then you’re willing to budge on other items, so be it. Part of the way my head works (or doesn’t work, in this case) is trying to reconcile some perceived need for NOW with the refusal to compromise. Well, sure: I don’t need a mechanical keyboard, but if I did the one I’d need would have to be in good shape, fairly standard layout (to keep the muscle memory adequate) and possibly ergonomic. Oh, and cheap, too, right? This is how I end up with a roomful of stuff I don’t use: if you take the union of their feature sets it’s more than enough that I don’t have to compromise but that’s silly too: how do you use more than one at a time? Oh, this one is good for this purpose, but then for something else you need to switch to this one instead. Not.
I feel the little justifications in my head like the worm in Corpse Bride telling me well gawd, this is why you need more than one thing to do that. You need a music player, because the phone doesn’t have enough storage otherwise. You need a flashlight too. You need. I keep confusing need with want and it drives everyone nuts. I need. No, not exactly. I think I need means I want. Right now all we need is a house, and even that isn’t the strongest need in the world. (he says with a sneer, curve of the lip indicating depth of feeling, until he realizes the sneer is directed inwardly, towards the gnawing inside that comes from plugging things into emotional wants.) It’ll drive you nuts, these things.
27 November 2013
Well, so much for that hypothesis. I suspected that train engines were paired up with types of cars on Caltrain, but engine # 916 “California” was paired up with some of the Nippon Sharyo cars headed north on a pusher for San Francisco, train # 101 this morning. I’d ridden on pullers with # 916 paired up with Bombardier cars before. I will not take it as an omen. It’s a pretty strange feeling to work on these high vacation days (i.e. people extending long weekends at little vacation cost: tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and they might be traveling today … or arriving … or I dunno, let them all enjoy their time together, so long as the commute today isn’t bad.
The more I look for stuff to buy the more stuff I find to buy. You don’t realize it yet, of course, but there’s a crap ton of stuff out there waiting to be paired up with the right buyer. Sometimes I see it as a noble calling: well, if not for me that might end up in the trash! — and other times I’m wracked by guilt that I have no clue what I’m doing, I’m overpaying (probably true) for stuff that isn’t really necessary. A third trackball is on its way thanks to staying up late. Let that sink in for a while. They were all cheap, true, but for that amount of money I could have gotten something new, not to mention shelling out for possibly a better model. But remember, if I wasn’t looking I wouldn’t be tempted.
I’m not sure but it looks like no rain for the weekend and beyond, so there’s hope yet for trying to grind through four days of fun and togetherness. I also need to figure out when we plan to meet up in Fremont for dinner. If you think of the Bay Area as being city by city then things feel small but once you start thinking about it as being some megalopolis with nominal city boundaries then it feels a lot more sprawling in nature. It would be nice to have the kids ride on the train to find places to go but then … they’ll be kids on a train. I dunno. I always liked riding public transit when I was small, but part of that may have been the relief of getting on and in on time, not missing buses, knowing where you’d be at the end of the line.
Random thoughts today. Thanks for sticking around.
26 November 2013
If some are good then more is not always better. More words in a succinct report? What, are they paying you by the word? I read HP Lovecraft now and it takes an effort to get into it and digest the prose, as he was one who was paid by the word. Other case in point: I picked up a third used trackball last night, having stayed up late to do so. Because, that’s why. Two I could maybe see as being one backup for another but three is right out, isn’t it? It’s one of those things they tell you: buying something because it’s a good buy, not because you need it or can use it: that’s a sign of a clutterer, isn’t it? First, though, let me explain why.
When I started work two jobs ago (how often and when should you use the phrase “two jobs ago?”) I was assigned a computer which had been used by the person I was replacing — I was replacing her, her being Ramona, so thoroughly, in fact, that my nickname was “Mikamona” which may have been a turning point for portmanteaus in my life. The only issue I had with the computer was trying to scrub off the keyboard, as it was apparent my predecessor had worn a lot of makeup. A LOT. If there was this much on the touching surfaces (the keys and mouse, both pink instead of the standard ivory/beige of the typical mid-90s computer box) then I didn’t want to know how much was left on her face. Thus I asked for and got the only sealed-in-package items left in the supply closet: a Microsoft Natural Keyboard and a Logitech Marble Mouse.
The MNK I could take or leave but I adored that mouse: when I went to a new job it was one of the first things I asked for, and when it died (left-click button failure) I was quite aggrieved when I learned I couldn’t get another one. I know that I could technically ask for one at work but it’s also one of the reasons I end up bringing my own pens and pencils in: paranoia that I might not be able to get it again, sheer paranoia and useless, baseless fear. Plus if I’m going to be touching it, I might as well be touching nicer things, right? When I can, that is.
25 November 2013
I wonder if the train is emptier today because of the holiday week: the same regular folks are here but it still feels a little empty this morning. Then again it is also pretty chilly at the moment; I would be quite happy to be asleep and warm right now except that we don’t often have a chance to sleep in. Let’s think of something less frozen than my head. Promises to spend less? I have the whole notion that if some is good more must be better firmly embedded in my head some days, and nowhere is that more apparent than me having to deal with shopping again. Oh, but that’s a good deal, isn’t it?
We went to the zoo yesterday — San Francisco Zoo — as they were opening up a new playground and Ceylon’s to the point of if she’d had her druthers she’d have stayed there all day: after seeing the first animal she was already bored and wanting to go back, complaining loudly at each step forward. On the other hand once we actually got on the train (after having spent all our cash on tickets, even the emergency money I keep in my camera bag: thank you, broken credit card machines) she declaimed loudly how much fun it was, so there’s hope for the jaded youth everywhere, I suppose. Drive on, driver: we’re all a little disappointed the routine we’ve settled into leaves us frazzled by the end of the day, most weekends, and doesn’t seem to pick up and get going until fairly late.
How much more do you need to be happy? We seem to be content with this is nice, but what about … ? I remember telling Jael my grand plan of this is what we have now and here’s where I want to be in ten years, roughly ten years ago and he asked me well gawd, why aren’t you just happy with what you have? I had all these ambitions, that I wanted things to be better and faster and shinier and I dunno what else: just that if I could leave this life behind and start over would I have chosen what I had? And if the answer then was yes, maybe if I could have that reset button now, then the answer now is no: this is a pretty sweet life after all.
22 November 2013
There’s a bit of a rattle going on here in the south bike car (Nippon Sharyo, Train 102 running south with engine 918 “County of San Mateo” in a puller configuration) but like everything else it’s all good; we are getting along fine and thanks. Camp has been nice, and we have enjoyed our time doing outdoorsy activities. There’s a bit of a breeze today which makes it all very slightly uncomfortable but I think we’ll survive: late November and no snow? Thank you again, California. It’s been a good fall. Are we ready (tuned up? warm enough? steady ready?) for winter yet? Next week is Thanksgiving already and there’s a lot of things to think about this year.
I’m grateful for the patience that’s been extended my way, but I know I need to get more done in the time I have at work: there’s only so much hopeful anxiety I can stand as people come up to me with slightly worried looks and hope in their eyes, asking if it’s ready or if I’m done with that yet. I keep wanting to haul out the “I’m new! I don’t understand your ways!” excuse but it doesn’t seem right. Everyone’s new at some poing, and that hasn’t stopped them from being able to get it done, has it? There’s a million other things to learn all at once and I’m not sure who thinks I’m doing what but such is life, and the time I spend here is valuable in terms of trying to learn style and expectations.
I wonder about the infrastructure of this place: first came the old Spanish road, right — El Camino Real, which every city on the Peninsula has running through as a major north-south thoroughfare — then the train, and lastly the freeways stuck on the last available free spaces. I like to compare the geography with that of Kansai-area Japan: the Bay, like the Inner Sea bounding one side and the hills the other, with the ocean side over the hills sparsely populated with folks making their living from the ocean. I have yet to find a beach or walk to the bridges, but that will come in time I’m sure. I love having the opportunities to explore, even if there’s been no ability to do so.
P.S. I’m reading How I Live Now and yes I enjoy the style of Cormac McCarthy as much as anyone although I realize maybe the novel is not so much a clone but an homage but my God they invented punctuation for a reason and the affectation is getting on my nerves.
21 November 2013
It’s Thursday, and every Thursday this week has been accompanied so far with a giant UGGHH. Ready to get up? Ready to go to work? Ready to ride your bike? Ready to board the train? Ready? Ready? To be honest I’m a little surprised by how many people are riding this morning, as though it was free money day or something similar, but that’s what it has been so far: come do this work and you’ll get paid. So far so good. Incorporate writeups and charts, redo graphics, come see what’s new.
The early morning train (first train southbound, # 102; today running Bombardier cars in a pull configuration using engine # 916 “California”) seems to be full of folks working for Recology, which is our local trash hauling service; I see them on the streets picking up what seems like twice a week, maybe every day; it’s one of those low-level things you don’t think about until it doesn’t work. I need to remember that and not take it so seriously when more sophisticated things (internet, ATSC TV, etc) don’t. What I really need to do is stop trying to fix blame for everything on the people around me: it’s not fair and it’s not right. It seems like the more of a reaction I get the angrier I become, unless I don’t get a reaction, in which case I get angry too. Where does all this come from?
My parents are not unreasonable people but I hear echoes of me sometimes when my mom calls to say he went flying off the handle some times, not stopping until or raging against or shouting out words in traffic. It’s up to me to understand how I am and to take steps — appropriate steps — to control it. That I’ve seen it before doesn’t excuse it. Keep feeling fascination at the world and get more sleep: your responsibilities do not end when you step through the door at home.
20 November 2013
I can count the number of times I’ve driven the Subaru here on one hand: once with the kids to get to figgy’s first day of school, once to and from work to get some paperwork filled out, once to go get hamburgers, and now once to the train station in lieu of walking or riding my bike (this, fulfilling a dual purpose: I don’t have to get wet when it rains today and I get to drive my car and get the parking police off my back for leaving my car parked at the apartment complex for too long). There’s approximately one million ways to get to work and I think this is reasonable but not ideal: more gear needed (rain cape and spats, which will make me look like even more of a goon on my bike).
I remember being able to live car-free when I was younger, but I think it would be hard being a single-car family: there may be times I need to go pick them up, so it may be premature to declare victory in a bare two months, but at the same time I’m incredibly pleased with the commute part of work, at least. Two months in and the drills are starting to pay off for figgy, too; she seems to be doing better at school. Calcifer is headed to day care before too long so it’s only theVet who plans to start networking when she can. I’m surprised by how easy it has been to adjust but then again I haven’t had to do much of the heavy lifting between here and there. We have fast-forwarded since the last time and we have less stress, although I’m sure that will change as we start looking for a house.
I like watching the places pass in the train windows; I enjoy seeing the northbound lines and city lights pass while the infrastructure of an urban hub hums around us. It feels modern, which is maybe just to say it feels different and novel, and the next time I get stuck while the trains stop my feelings may change but for now so far so good. The feeling of taking a train in the middle of the day is one I have to try again: I remember the first time taking N-Judah out of the tunnel in the middle of a week day I smiled and said this is where I belong. Why did we leave? What were we afraid of?
19 November 2013
All the interesting ideas I have in the night I never seem to bother to write down and by the time I’m writing I’ve it forgotten them. Plus I left my keyboard in the other bag so it’s down to tap tapping for me right now. Excuses. I have them. There’s a lot of shoulda I can think of. I should have sat in the north car of this train, that’s closer to my platform exit. Should spend more time taking and uploading pictures. See how that works?
At least I’m trying to control my spending, which is hard given that I’m now feeling like money is coming in and the house situation is reasonably stable (here’s a hint: until you have a house it’s not). I don’t need that watch. Let’s leave it at that, and working it into the rotation would be difficult, so stop asking. My other initial instinct is to think about more bike stuff and that’s not too unreasonable is it? Need versus want. It’s supposed to rain today and I feel strange without a bike.