Friday, April 24, 2009


(We interrupt all this house talk for something unexpected.)

Today, my boss came into my office and presented me with my "15 years of service" pin. And I thought, "Wow! I've been here for 15 years."

And then I thought: I'm 40. I could conceivably retire as early as 55.

Holy crap. That's halfway.

I can't really say that the first 15 went by quickly -- but, by and large, it went by enjoyably, and I could certainly see myself doing this work for another 15 years without, y'know, wanting to gnaw off my own arm or something.

At the same time, though, I actually thought -- for the very, very first time, ever -- about my own mortality. I mean, sure, yes, I've considered my mortality when jumping into canyons, flying in small aircraft and generally doing things that could put my life on the line. But this was thinking about death in the sense of life reaching its standard endpoint. I mean, really, if I'm thinking that I could be as much as halfway done with my working life, I've surely hit some sort of significant fraction in terms of the sum total time I'm going to be spending on the planet.

Gee. Thanks for the pin.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OMG! Furniture!

There will so be photos when I figure out where that cable for my digital camera went. (Come to think of it, I should snap those pictures now, since the cat is already lying on the furniture -- so it's about as fur-free as its ever going to be.)

I'm on "voluntary furlough" from work. Basically, they've asked us to volunteer to take two days off per month in exchange for one day less pay. It's a good deal. I can't say I'm thrilled with the less pay thing, but the two days off per month kinda rock when you're moving in. I took my first day a couple weeks ago and used it to completely unpack the kitchen. Today, I scheduled: the exterminator, the electrician, the delivery of my Elliptical machine, and (squeee!) my family room furniture. (And the timing couldn't have been better -- I mean, the electrician was still here when the Elliptical was delivered, which was really handy because we needed to upgrade another outlet for the Elliptical -- it was only $22 bucks since the guy was already out here.)

And, of course, extremely happy about the family room furniture. Up until now, I've had only two chairs in the family room, and one was in front of the computer. I've sorta had to fight the cat for the one in front of the TV. Now I have seating for seven (more, if they're friendly)!

(And now I have a timer on some exterior lights, so when I come home, I can spot the driveway! And security lights! Sure ... I probably shouldn't be all excited about material things. But I have some really nifty material things.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Feel Like a Grown-Up

I didn't feel like a grown-up buying the house, but I have felt like one unpacking into it.

Whether the experience would have been the same if some of my belongings hadn't been in storage for over a year, I couldn't say. But, this weekend, there's been an awful lot of letting go of things from my youth.

Two full boxes of books from Law School? In the trash -- I haven't looked at them in (way) over a decade and they're mostly out of date anyway.

The aforementioned figure skating videotapes? Gone. Along with VHS copies (taped off TV, not purchased) of the entirety of Twin Peaks, the great bulk of The X-Files, and a surprising amount of old Doctor Who. And as long as I'm tossing old Who, I think it's time to toss the novelizations I read when I was getting into it in college. And, really, I think I'm a good twenty years past the time I'll be reading fantasy novels about pretty, pretty unicorns -- into the box with all of them.

Sure, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder -- but this isn't necessarily the case with possessions. Frankly, they've been absent for something like 20 months, and absence has just made the heart realize I've gotten on quite well without them, and don't need them taking up space in my life anymore. And certainly not in my house.

I Have a Lot of Stuff

About, oh, 15 years ago, one of my co-workers was doing some repairs to her house, and she had to box up all her clothes and put them in storage. And she said that it took about six wardrobe boxes to accomplish it.

And, at the time, I had recently moved, and I think I'd done it in about three wardrobe boxes, and couldn't imagine how one person could require six wardrobe boxes for all their clothes.

And now I think: "Amateur."

I have four wool coats. Four. Wool coats. And I live in Southern California. It's perfectly logical how I ended up with four. Bought one when I was really thin. One when I gained a ton of weight. One when I lost a lot (but not all) of it. And the fourth one when I was living in the shithole, the other three were in storage, and it was really cold. So it all makes sense. And yet I have four wool coats. And not knowing exactly what my weight intends to do in the future, and knowing that they're all perfectly good coats, I figure I might as well keep them all.

And that, in a nutshell, is the story of my closet. (Closets, if I'm going to be totally honest.)

I'm sure I've mentioned the box labelled "Towels and videotapes you like." This does, in fact, mean that there's a box of videotapes I don't like someplace. It's mostly stuff I taped off TV to share with my friends. Like Madonna videos off MTV. Or about ten years of figure skating competitions. (Some of which were taped off a TV with rabbit ears and crappy reception. Yes, videotapes of "snowy" figure skating competitions in the late '80s. And yet, for some reason, I thought I'd save them. Because you never know when you'll get a hankering to squint at the TV to try make out Tonya Harding back when she was just a good skater.)

Honestly, the quantity of crap here is amazing. I'm going to try to call a junk hauler tomorrow, to see if he can clear a lot of it away -- largely because it is completely occupying my dining room -- even though I'm not yet finished unpacking, and I'm sure I'll find more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Official -- I'm an underachiever.

I was just reading an article on PolitiFact about Obama's job history, and it notes that, in 1990, between his second and third years of Law School, Obama was a summer associate for a law firm called Sidley & Austin.

Um. In 1990, between my second a third years of Law School, I was a summer associate at Sidley & Austin. (Different office, though.)

Gotta admit that I wasn't exactly the star of the 1990 Sidley & Austin summer associate class.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Will Not Be Deterred

I'm apparently in "I Will Not Be Deterred" mode -- it generally happens with misbehaving electronics and is the sort of thing exemplified by the night I hang a UHF antenna off a chopstick because, dammit, I was going to make this work.

In addition to finding the rabbit ears, I also found a DVD player. Had some laundry to fold so figured I'd watch a DVD. I don't have the remote, though. While I had wanted to pack all of the remotes with their related components, my mover thought he'd be all helpful by gathering the remotes together and ... putting them someplace. Still haven't found it.

So, I loaded up the DVD player, hit "play" on the player, and saw me a TV show. Of course, now I'd like to watch the next episode and the DVD player does not have the "down" button on it, so I can't make it play the next episode. Dammit.

No problem. I'll find where the hell the mover stuck the remote controls. How about this box labelled "TV Components"? Nope; no remotes there -- just a couple VCRs and a few other things I'll have to hook up once my DISH is back in business. How about "Misc. Living Room?" No. That box has a snowglobe in it and ... what's this box? It's a "Studio Nova" box -- they made my dishes. But there aren't any dishes in it. (I'd tried packing the dishes back in their original boxes and couldn't make it work, so the mover just used his Dish Pack boxes.) But what's in the Studio Nova box, then? Remotes??

No. It's empty.

The man packed an empty dish box.

I checked every other box for a label that would suggest the possibility of a DVD remote control. Hey! What about this box? It's in my "office," stacked among about 15 other boxes that say "office" on them, but this one has no label. It's ... more pots and pans. Yeah, that makes sense. I generally cook in the office.

What about this "miscellaneous" one? It looks promising, in that it has lots of power cords and chargers, but no remote controls.

Hey. Wait a minute. Every piece of electronic equipment you bring into your house wants to take over every piece you already have. Meaning that, while my DISH remote control is completely useless in terms of actually giving me satellite TV, I should be able to reprogram it to control this DVD player.

And, sure enough, I can. (Amazingly enough, it was the first of several codes listed for that manufacturer. What are the odds?)

So -- bad local TV via rabbit ears and a fully functioning DVD player. Not bad.

The DISH Box Died

If you're keeping count, that's two -- given that I had to call the DISH guy back about an hour after he'd first left because my initial box was malfunctioning. He swapped it out for a new one. I woke up this morning, turned on the TV and ... no DISH. Pushed various reset buttons until DISH magically appeared again. It worked for about 40 minutes and then ... no DISH again. This time, I called Tech Support; they had me monkey around with it for awhile, and then decided it's well and truly dead (it's really most sincerely dead) and they'll have to swap it out. "How's Monday from noon to five sound?" Sounds like time I have to be in the office, actually.

I have my technician's direct number, and will give him a ring tomorrow (decided that, on the whole, I probably shouldn't bother him on Easter) and see if he can give me something better than a five-hour time window. But, basically, no television -- and probably no television until Saturday, when I can be home for the whole window.

And, even when I get a new box, that means I'll have lost the 8 hours of television I've already DVR'd. Damn and blast. (I'd been looking forward to that Ashes to Ashes marathon. Anyone? Anyone? OK, moving on...)

So, tonight, it's back to unpacking. Have found some very important stuff. (Yes! I struck alarm clock!) (Which was followed by digging into my magic bag of cords to see if I had an extension cord that was polarized, but not grounded. Why, yes, I do. Score one for saving cables from college.) And then I found it.

Rabbit ears.

These are some seriously old rabbit ears. (Dude, I don't even know the terms here -- but remember when your TV had a little plug where you plug in the VHF antenna; and then two little screws for the UHF antenna, and your UHF antenna was a cord that had two little U-shaped metal connectors that you screwed down on your TV? These rabbit ears had the U-shaped things on the end. They're that old. But I'd also saved a UHF to VHF little attachment job, so these were functioning rabbit ears.)

Attached them to the nearest television that would take such old-school inputs (which was on the floor of the room in which I was unpacking), sat on the nearest piece of furniture (a small cat tree) and watched the last half hour of Amazing Race. So, I'm not completely without TV.

Isn't exactly High-Def, though.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And... that's where honesty gets me

Did my taxes today. Very late for me, but I was waiting to be reunited with my belongings. Good thing, too, as I needed to find the closing statement from when I'd purchased the condo (back in '95). It was pretty easy to find (I should keep my closing statement from the house purchase in the same convenient place), but it would have slowed me down quite a bit if I had to do the taxes without it.

Decided to break down and e-file for the first time, too, largely out of laziness. Yeah, and direct deposit my refund while we're at it. In for a penny...

And this year, I'd vowed to actually pay use tax on stuff I'd purchased on the internet.

I know. Nobody pays this. But, y'know, the State is my employer and all -- I figured I might as well take a shot at reporting my total internet purchases and going ahead and paying my 8.25% on them. (There are few things in life I believe in scrupulous honesty in -- taxes is one of them.)

Memo to Amazon: OK, I know you don't collect California sales tax, but do you think maybe you might make it easy on us to pay it by providing a "click here for your total 2008 purchases" button? I had to go through 5 pages of purchases with a calculator to get a total.

And, after all that was done (and I'd thrown in a few non-Amazon purchases I also wasn't taxed on), I discovered that I'd spent nearly $1800 on the internet last year. (Damn.)

The whole thing came out to a whole $144 in use tax liability, which TurboTax was more than happy to deduct from my CA refund.

Or, rather, wipe out my refund in its entirety. Instead of getting a few bucks back, I now owe the Great State of California a whole $12. The cost of honesty.

The Newspaper

I've owned the house for over a month now -- and have made daily visits before I physically moved in. All this time, there has been no newspaper delivery. This is a good thing as I do not want the newspaper.

Yesterday: Newspaper.

I figured this was a mistake.

Today: Newspaper.

I call the LA Times. Their recording puts me on hold and says I can talk to an agent as soon as I give them my phone number. (I am not falling for that. I don't have an account with them, so they don't have my phone number. And giving them my phone number is an invitation to being taken off their Do Not Call list.) The system puts me on hold and then (in the time-honored tradition of computerized customer service) hangs up on me.

I call again. I again refuse to give my number. They give me an agent. He asks for my number. I tell him he does not need my number. He asks for my subscription info. "Aha!" I say, "I'm not a subscriber, but you've been giving me the paper. Stop giving me the paper. I don't want it and I'm not paying for it." He asks for my address. I give it to him. He asks for my name; I figure he can have that, too.

He says the account is in the name of the previous owners. I point out that they've moved over a month ago and there hasn't been paper delivered here during that time. OK, he says, he can cancel the paper on May 10 -- it's paid through May 10.

No. Cancel it now. I don't want it. It's just more junk for me to throw out, and my recycling bin is overflowing as it is. Stop sending me the papers.

He'll have to get a supervisor.

The supervisor gets on and says the papers are paid up through May 10, but he can give me a better deal on the paper than the previous owner.


He can cancel as early as Monday. OK, fine.

"What do you want to do with the remaining papers? Would you like to donate them to a school?"

My eyes roll, involuntarily. I am tempted to tell him exactly what he can do with the remaining papers.

"I don't care what you do with the papers. They're not mine. I haven't paid for them. Do whatever you want with them."

He gets the message and wishes me a nice day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Found My Drill!

(It was in a box labelled "Dining Cabinet Items" with all sorts of "This Side Up" arrows on it. The major contents of the box: a router, a little wooden box with slots for sorting mail, and my drill. All of which, of course, are fragile items that belong in the dining cabinet. What the hell was my mover thinking?)

Ah, but once I got the drill, it was down to business. Moved a brace for a curtain rod and hung some shades; bought and hung a honeycomb blind for the bathroom; and mounted some under-cabinet lights in my office area. I would almost call myself "handy," but, of course, something went wrong with each installation. I'm not good at this -- none of it goes according to plan -- but (so far, anyway), I've been ultimately successful and I like to think I'm getting a bit better at it.

And I picked up some waterless cat shampoo. Jasmine didn't fight me on it (the fifteen minutes I spent in PetSmart smelling the different shampoos for one she'd accept were well-spent -- although I marvel that I actually know what scent my cat will go for). After a good shampoo and brushing, I can see some white areas on her again. She's a bit grumpy tonight -- curled up in a ball and not even interested in her food. I'm afraid she's sickened herself grooming all that ick off her body. (At least I have my awesome washer/dryer to clean my comforter, if she decides to be barf there -- just like old times.)

The cat

is gray.

Which is particularly impressive, given that she's a black and white cat.

I'm not sure exactly where she slept, but smart money is on the fireplace. Or, more precisely, in the fireplace. I wanted to brush the dust out but (of course) couldn't find the brush. Found some Kitty Bath Wipes, though, and thought "any port in a storm." They claim that a single wipe is enough for a bath. Ha. Three wipes, completely blackened, and the cat is still black with gray patches. She smells nice and fresh though.

I may have to (gasp) bathe the cat. Grooming places won't take her until she's up to date on her vaccinations -- and the vet doesn't have me vaccinate her all that frequently since she's Indoor Only. So, to get this cat professionally bathed, I'll have to wait until a vet appointment is available, get her up to date, wait two more days, then take her to the groomer. All the while she'll still be gray.

I think I'll stick with brushes and wipes for a bit, and see if I can't make any more progress. She helps, of course, what with "grooming" being one her two main activities (the other being sleeping). So, maybe we can take care of this ourselves, before attempting to involve professional help. Or a washing tub.

And buying a glass door for the fireplace has just shot up several levels on my Priority List.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

And it's also ...

... really good to have a firefighter next door, when you lock yourself out.

(Just sayin')

Things I Have Learned

I'm still unpacking, and will be for the foreseeable future. I surely don't have time to blog it all, but I can share a few of the lessons I've learned over the past couple weeks.

- Verizon Online (which, I have learned, is not the same as Verizon) has astonishingly crappy tech support. I mean, astonishingly crappy. And I'm someone who came from Charter, so I know what crappy tech support looks like. This reaches exceptional levels of crappiness.

- Oh, and if there's a phone jack on your wall, and your sellers tell you they got DSL out of it, you might want to confirm that it's an actual functioning jack, rather than a dummy that's been screwed to the wall.

- Verizon (not Verizon Online) is very good at hiding a cable run around your house. DishTV - not so much. Indeed, Dish isn't particularly good at hiding a cable run inside your house, either.

- DishTV will say anything to make you sign up for their service; on average, two of their promises will not be true.

- I have a lot of clothes. I mean, yeah, I'm coming from a place where I had a walk-in closet, so I knew it would be tight trying to fit all my clothes into a regular sliding closet. Then again: (1) the closet is oversized; (2) it's probably meant for two people; and (3) I had Closet Factory put shelving in, nearly doubling the useable space. And yet, I fill it. Tightly. I have overflow. And it's really hitting me because -- although I not-very-happily spent the last four months living in the shithole with only a fraction of my wardrobe, I got by with that, and now, a lot of my wardrobe seems like overkill.

- Before you pack to move, go through your closets and throw stuff out. And I don't necessarily mean clothes here. But stuff. Objects you don't use and haven't used for more than three years. Because, while you might have a place for it in your home, you won't necessarily have such a place in your new home, and it will frustrate you that you paid to have it packed, paid to have it stored, and paid to have it moved ... all to bring it to your new house where you will mostly likely pay to have it hauled away.

- Speaking of which, if you're a single person moving into a house previously occupied by a family of four, don't call the Sanitation Department to swap out for a smaller trash can until after you've completely unpacked.

- Label the box with the tools. Go out and buy a big flashing sign reading, "The Tools Are In Here" and plant it on the top of the box. (This from someone who still hasn't found the drill.)

- Paper plates, paper napkins, plastic silverware, folding tables. All are your friends.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oh Good Lord

Yes, I know, I should be unpacking. But this I must share.

You may recall that we've already taken care of battery changes for two smoke detectors in the new house.

And yesterday, after the movers came, another one went off. Cripes! How many of the damn things do I have in the house.

I looked around the family room where the chirping was coming from and saw the culprit: a smoke detector attached to the beam across the top of the ceiling. And this room has a high beamed ceiling, so that's quite a height. A tall friend was with me, and she tried standing on the stepstool and was a good two feet away from even brushing the beam with her fingertips.

Last night -- my first night in the house -- I heard it chirping all the way in the bedroom, so ended up shutting a convenient door separating the bedrooms from the rest of the house.

Tonight, on the way home from work, I stopped off at OSH and bought a ladder. A six-footer. That oughtta do it.

And, indeed, it does -- the shorter ladder wouldn't have done it. But I climb up there (having to move some boxes to secure the ladder, I take note that if I come crashing down, I'll land on four glass-pack boxes) and change the battery in the detector. It's a very old detector and it doesn't even test properly, but I can't get it off the beam entirely (still can't find my drill), so I just seat the new battery and wait for the blissful sound of chirplessness.


(Didn't I go through this before?)

I crank up my metaphorical antennae and try to triangulate the precise source of the chirping. Near the detector, but lower. Near the window. Is it outside? (I check outside. It is not.) Back inside then. Near the window. Right near these--

--boxes. Labelled "CDs." I recall that (a) my mover packed everything; and (b) I had thrown an old smoke detector in the drawer with the CDs. Once I knew what I was looking for, it was pretty easy to find. Sure enough, there it was, wedged in the second CD box -- that damn thing must have been chirping away in my storage cage for weeks.