things i'll miss about pittsburgh, part i

Yesterday I was smoking cigars with a Jewish district attorney, an Italian Catholic realtor, a gay CFO, and a black construction worker, listening to a jazz musician tell us about the Asian tour from which he'd just returned when a middle-aged black guy drove by, blaring Johnny Cash on his car stereo.

I don't know where you live, but this scene doesn't happen where you live.

endgame

Not that I'm ready to bolt outta here, but when I signed the sale agreement on this house, I already had 67 boxes packed.

Here's some fun math. And by "fun," I mean "nauseating." Let's say I sell this house, put the cash into a savings account earning a measly 1.2%, and live in a furnished townhouse hotel month-to-month.

   Current cost of state & local taxes
+ Current utility bills
+  Interest income from new cash
$40 less than cost of the hotel

I get paid $40/month to have someone scrub my toilet for me.

no cigar

I got an offer on my house two weeks ago, and I just balked at their terms, so this post is pretty much pure anticlimax.

What can I say about their inspector that I haven't already said to anyone in my presence this last week? He couldn't work the lockbox. He left my doors unlocked. When I went to get a glass of water, I'd found that he'd turned off my kitchen faucet. I turned it back on to discover that the faucet was bent and now leaking water from its base. There was no note from the man who broke it. I made my displeasure known to the buyers' realtor, and soon I was listening to the inspector's bullshit narrative about how the faucet had been leaking when he got there. The faucet a plumber installed six months ago, the one I use 20 times a day. That faucet.

His masterpiece would not come to full fruition for several days, when I was greeted in the morning to an absolute swamp of a swimming pool. To verify that the pool heater works, the inspector cranked the thermostat up to 92...and left it there. Thanks, guy!

i can't not see it

Jesus, Facebook.

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lingua miserabilis

More so than my peers, I have a hard time understanding Indians speaking English. I find the accent impenetrable, and I always try to steer them toward email or chat. "What is your phone number?" they'll respond, and I groan. I guess this is a cultural thing. They'd rather talk than write. Me, if I'm forced to speak Spanish, I'm begging to write instead of speak.

I spent yesterday in meetings with Indians, and by day's end I was exhausted from straining to understand. I needed silence. I needed solace. Not a smart person, I went to a Mexican restaurant. I cannot explain this choice. I was served by my new least favorite kind of person, the Earnest New Immigrant Who Wants to Practice His Conversational English with the Presumably Lonely Guy at the Bar.

Mierda.

reader mail: scorched earth

PITA Stank troll Marta asks why I don't write much about Trump. I'll answer her question with a question: what's been unsaid? I, myself, have Trump fatigue. I guess I figured y'all do, too. I do have one thought to share about the man. It's my metaphor for explaining his ascent.

For those too young to remember, when coalition forces spanked the Iraqi army and drove them out of Kuwait after, like, 14 minutes of fighting, the retreating Iraqis set Kuwaiti oil wells on fire. It was horrific and utterly pointless, done purely out of spite. That's Trump to me. He's the oil-well fire set by society's losers, a sky-blackening reminder of just how much they resent the success, if not the existence, of others.

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i really can't wait to miss this

My business's ledger is a dry affair, seen only by me, my accountants, and possibly someday a government. My descriptions of expenses are clinical:

Q217 941
Q217 state income tax
Q217 school district income tax
and so on. Last week, I wrote a check for I-know-not-what local tax. My irritation bubbled up in its description:
The fuck if I know.
"No," I thought. "You can figure out what this is. What was the description last quarter?" I looked.
No idea what the fuck this is. Sooooey, pig!

murder-suicide

I was in an interminable conversation with Allie today about her life's problems, and my mind wandered, out of self-defense. It wandered to another conversation with an ex, long ago.

• • •

In a Microsoft meeting room, I broke up with my girlfriend of several months. I had timed it for 15 minutes before a meeting so that people would trickle in and break up the breakup talk. I had this wired.

Then she showed up in my office, crying. My office-mate fled, the jerk. My new ex wanted more of an explanation. She wanted to tell me all about my own inadequacies. She wanted me to know that no one had ever hurt her this much before, not even the ex who beat her up. She said a whole lot of stuff. I emailed Bubba and told him that I might not be joining him for drinks after work due to the unfolding insanity.

Three hours later, the building was empty. Except for my office, that is, where I was completing lap 500 around Retard Park. My phone rang. It was Bubba.

"You're sitting there listening to the same stupid, stupid shit, over and over and over, and you're seriously thinking about a murder-suicide thing, aren't you?"

At the time, I thought he was some sort of sage. Many breakups later, I now know better.

dunkirk

You can find many fawning reviews of Dunkirk. This is not one of them. I left at the two-thirds point.

The movie is gorgeously shot and staged. If you see it, see it on the biggest screen you can find. Thus ends the complimentary portion of this post.

What this movie needs is more miracle and less masturbation. Christopher Nolan managed to take one of the greatest stories in history and turn it into a referendum on his own narrative cleverness. I found it self-indulgent and shallow, and as his indulgences revealed themselves, I grew disappointed and irritated. This story does not need to be cool-i-fied with quick cuts and time-jumps. I suppose Nolan thought that since we know the ending, we needed mystery—specifically the mystery of WTF is going on, who are these translucently thin characters, is that music or did someone fill a washing machine with cats and push it down a flight of stairs, and why didn't they just tell the damned story?

• • •

My Erwin Rommel story is fourth-hand and possibly filtered through senility, so take this with a commensurately sized grain of salt.

When I was a kid, I heard Woody Hayes give a commencement address. In addition to being a football coach, he was a history professor. The latter was his great passion, and that's what he spoke about that day. And spoke. And spoke. Woody was quite old at this point.

Woody had met Manfred Rommel, son of the great general. In Woody's recounting, he asked Rommel why his father had not pressed his advantage at Dunkirk and annihilated the British army. Rommel quoted his father as saying that with all the horrors of war he had witnessed and inflicted, he had a chance in Dunkirk to do "one good thing" in all the war. He took it.

The truth? Self-serving bullshit? The ramblings of a coot? You be the judge.

mr. free time

I have a lot of time on my hands, thanks to a work drought, so I'm mulling over taking some courses and fleshing out the ol' resume. It took all of 20 seconds of research for me to groan "Am I really up for this?"

My first stop was PMI.org, dispenser of project management certifications. The web site is a bewildering maze of buzzwords and undefined acronyms. Educational institutions that cannot teach so much as "this is how you give us money" give me pause. Then I clicked the link Test yourself with CAPM Sample Questions and read the two, count 'em, two questions that were apparently written by a slovenly ESL chimpanzee in a Tilt-A-Whirl. Two questions include a comma error, passive voice, subject/verb disagreement, and a superfluous quotation mark. This slop is what they deemed representative? Please! Take my money, stat! And then there's the vapidity of the content itself, an exercise in "which non-mutually exclusive term is the one we prefer?"

Which foodstuff is digested after chewing and swallowing?
A. Apples
B. Carbon-based organics
C. Both A and B
D. A but not B
I am skeptical.

instablock

Unless you count web 1.0 stuff like this page, I am not into social media. I have a Facebook account, but I post maybe four things per year, none of them of substance, and I don't friend people.

An acquaintance recently sent me a friend request. I accepted, and immediately he dominated my feed. Of the top 20 posts, 17 were him. Do these people really think people aren't hiding their posts out of self-defense? It's an instablock here.

You new mothers, too. I'll unhide you after their first day of school is over.

cost of deadening

If you're a Pittsburgher and you want to die horribly, inform me of how much lower my cost of living is here.

You cannot swing a dead cat without three different municipalities slapping a flight tax on it. Last week, I paid 50% more to just the school district than the entirety of my state and local taxes for a year in Washington. This was easy to calculate because, like every other taxing body, the school district sent me a separate bill. A week later, I got my school income tax bill. This is not to be confused with my separate income, property, and business tax bills from the county, city, township, state, and school district. Paying tax bills is my exciting new hobby.

It's not hyperbole to say that if some fake collection company sent me a bill from the made-up Acme Parish, I would pay it unthinkingly.

squeaker

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary, meaning Jimmy edged my relationship endurance record by 65 years.

And counting.

john...

I recounted my last post to Lynn, who was once my boss. She immediately recognized my present boss's pained, wheezing "John..." And she also recognized the pain of having no better personnel options than me.

"It is irritating," she said with obvious conviction. "I say that with love," she quickly added, with substantially less obvious conviction.

This morning I received a job posting for a gig at a university. I reviewed the job's required skills. "Got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. Got i—"

A letter describing your personal commitment to the Christian faith.
"Ick. I'd have to plagiarize that one."

I chuckled at the sheer deliciousness of stealing someone's statement of faith, which led me to wistfully recall a career highlight.

Two years ago, a client insisted that anyone with access to their network take their Corporate Ethics class.

"Fine," I told my boss. "I'll build your site without network access."

"John..." he sighed with the exasperation of someone who has no better personnel options. "Can you just take the class for me?"

It was an online course, which is how I came to pay a contractor to take my ethics class for me. She said I did really well on the test afterward.


drinking in the afternoon

For over two years now, my life has been in some form of self-inflicted limbo. I don't make friends; what's the point, when I hope to be gone in a few months? Likewise dating. Likewise improvements to my life of any kind. The sensation of running out the clock on my life is sadly routine, now.

It's a listless existence. I feel no investment. I can't plan for the future because I have no idea when my present will end. My chief hobby these days is impatiently watching time elapse. It's probably good that I've no interest in meeting new people, because to me I sound boring as hell.

tolerating box

No, that's not the name of an activity at a "Pray the Gay Away" camp. It's a heading in a technical manual that I'm presently editing. A little later, the author discusses the "box sharing policy."

You know you're in your career's twilight when you go to change such things, then stop because you kinda want to see it published.

white noise

This week's Amy theme continues.

We were in a conference call with our boss of five years. He's a Canadian gentleman, amiable and very slow to anger. But during this meeting, he heard news that outraged him, and he let fly an f-bomb.

"Oh jeez, I'm so soar-y, Amy," he said sheepishly. "I forgot there was a lady present."

There was some bewilderment in Amy's voice as she told him it was fine. "I can't even hear that word anymore," she added. "That's pretty much how John says 'good morning.'"

taxonamy

"I hope all your readers realize I'm a different Amy than Fucking Amy," she said.

This is a valid point. It's worth clarifying: they are totally and completely different women. The latter day Amy is Fuckless Amy. She gives zero fucks whatsoever.

speechless

So this is what happened next.

The day after I waxed sentimental about working with Amy, all hell broke loose with my business. I did what I could, but only one person on Earth could quickly fix the tool—the person who built it.

"Help!" I texted Amy on Friday. No reply. On Saturday, I texted her husband. "Is she around?"

He explained that Amy was spending the weekend at a silence retreat. No talking, no cell phones, no nothing.

You know you're engaged in a seriously flaky activity when your husband follows up his description with "I am not kidding."

I briefly entertained driving to the retreat with my smoldering production server and screaming "AAAAAAMYYYYYYYYY!" until she capitulated. It'd be more likely that she would turn to her fellow mutes and point accusingly at me. See?

very, very sorry

In 2010, a client asked if I could create technical diagrams. "No, but I know someone who can," I said, and that's how Amy came on board the project.

Art has always been a malignant carbuncle on the ass of my career. Dealing with art and artists is seldom not a moronic and laborious experience. Knowing this history, Amy was not surprised when I brought her on under one condition: "It's all yours. I never want to hear about it."

And for six glorious years, I never heard about it. Art just happened by magic. Then Amy left, and I've spent the last 18 miserable months trying to replace her with an assortment of drooling misfits. I'm not only constantly dealing with art, it's always in the form of damage control or my impatiently explaining how to navigate folders in Windows. Again. My running joke with Amy is "Whatever I did, I'M SO SORRY!"

Last night at a bar, a really cute woman sat next to me and chatted me up. Spotting her drawing pad, I asked to see her etchings. She’s quite talented. Bright, too. We chatted for hours, and where normally I’d be thinking “Is it too soon to give her a key to my house?” I was thinking about something else entirely. Finally, I popped the question.

“Say, do you know Adobe Illustrator?”

“Not at all, why?”

Now, I’m used to being rejected by women, but this one really stung.


jesus christ, microsoft

With every unwanted step Microsoft adds to my everyday life—no, for the billionth time in a row, I don't want to save this or anything else to SkyDrive, fuckers—an explosion nears. It’s one thing to ignore bugs have been around for 10 years, but to instead add steps—for the trillionth time, I do not want to use your POS templates, fuckers—makes me positively stabby.

Fortunately, unlike most, I have a fair chance of identifying my exact persecutor. I’ve thought of little else today.

annus horribilis

I just decided that if I ever develop hemorrhoids, I shall announce it in a post entitled anus horribilis. It's almost worth rooting for hemorrhoids.

• • •

Until such a time that I develop bleeding vaginal warts on my eyeballs, the post-Fucking Amy year will surely retain its title as my worst. For me to pretend otherwise would be absurd. I have, however, lately wondered if I don't have a new #2. I find myself asking "Is my current year worse than my divorce? Than my mom dying? Than managing Dorkass?"

That I'm even posing the question is a testament to how utterly shit my life here has been. I have beaten-dog syndrome, at this point. "Can I use your bathroom?" someone will ask of a bathroom I've never used, and I feel a wave of anxiety course through me. Rule #1 in this house: if I've never used it before, it will spontaneously explode at my touch. Rule #2: if I just used it two minutes ago, it will still spontaneously explode at my touch.

It's kind of liberating, really. There's a certain sense of peace that comes with sleeping in a nitroglycerin tanker parked on railroad tracks.

pants aflame

My friend and onetime realtor has, I have realized too late, a certain detachment from the truth. I first noticed this when she would tell stories about moments at which I was present and they bore no resemblance to what had actually transpired.

"And then John said 'Fuck you, motherfucker, come over here and say that.' I thought the guy was going to piss himself," she recounted right in front of me. I had said nothing of the kind. The actual incident: a guy was being belligerent, and I quietly suggested that we pay our tab and leave.

That is typical. To say she feels compelled to punch up a story suggests that her stories are rooted in any fact whatsoever. Worse, she does not seem to be conscious of this. She'll tell me fabricated stories about myself. It's a curious thing.

It's also proven costly. Whenever I hear her lying, I think back to her summation of my house inspection, for which I was absent. "The inspector was just shaking his head over how great this house is. 'I can't find anything wrong with it! What would you like me to say on the inspection report?'"

In hindsight, I now recognize this as exactly the sort of nonsense she makes up. I don't even need to ask the inspector. I'm sure of it.

A fatefully unfortunate characteristic in a realtor.

"Hi, John!!!" chirped the message. A woman wanted to see an item I have for sale at 7pm that night. She said she would get back to me. She didn't.

"Screw this," I thought. "I want to watch hockey with my friends. I'm just going to tell her not to come. Unless she's really hot."

I googled her. She was supremely hot.

And thus did she get an extra chance she did not deserve, and of course, she neither showed nor replied to inquiring messages. I'm not sure whether I hate her or myself more, really.

war of the worlds

I just watched a documentary about Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast and the hysteria, recriminations, and investigations that followed. The below headlines caught my eye. It's some small comfort, really, that my country has always been able to manufacture outrage over vapid distractions while the world burns.

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shadows and echoes

"When the president does it, that means it is not illegal."
—Richard Nixon

the petulant right

I've decided on a term for distinguishing the problematic portion of the right wing. My choice of adjectives was inspired by the only philosophy common to all of their positions: the petulant right. I thought about the "spiteful right," 'cuz it rhymes and all, but petulance is more accurate.

Ditzy left, meet the petulant right. Due in no small part to your tireless efforts at correcting and chastising people, they are now in charge. Thanks heaps.

the _____ right

I've been trying to come up with the right-wing equivalent of the term ditzy left. The faction I want to target are these vacuous, petulant trolls whose beliefs are completely unmoored from any sort of coherent unifying philosophy and which often, in fact, conflict with actual conservative principles. For example, let's consider the scientific method. There's nothing more conservative than cautiously forming hypotheses, testing them, and incrementally revising them based on the results of the tests. Yet these shrill airheads proclaiming themselves "conservative" are often hostile to the scientific method, because they already know what's true.

Yeah. Real "conservative." I think the word they're actually looking for is "fuckheaded."

Example two: self-proclaimed "conservatives" rammed the health care bill through the House before the nonpartisan OMB could perform its budget/risk analysis.

You can just feel the conservatism emanating from them, can't you?

And so I'm left with coining the disparaging identifier for them. Faux conservative comes to mind, but it's so nonspecific in a way "ditzy" isn't.

Petulant, gun-fetishizing, bigot-fellating intellectual and emotional 12-year olds who couldn't pass a high school civics test borders on being, perhaps, too specific. I need something in between.

the ditzy left strikes back

The term doesn't come up often anymore, as I'm no longer surrounded by Seattle folk, but today I must dust off the term "ditzy left." This is how I differentiate between thoughtful liberalism and, well, this:

Seattle Mayor Adds Diet Drinks to His Soda Tax ‘To Tackle White Privilege’

Do they like having a President Trump? Because jerking off like this is how we got President Trump.

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