Local Medical and the Beer Virus

Yesterday I had my periodic dental checkup and cleaning. My dentist’s office is located an hour and twenty minutes of travel time from my current home. I have a history of issues with dentists so once I find one that I trust I tend to stick with them even if I move.

They still do check-in via text “for social distancing”. Once they were ready for me, they texted Please put your mask on and come on in. Joy. Looks like I need a new dentist. The statewide face diaper mandate expired back in May, and there is no local-level mandate in effect, so they can’t blame it on outside factors. It has to be an in-house policy.

An inspection of one’s teeth requires unrestricted access to the mouth, necessitating  the removal of any face covering prior to commencement of the procedure. Therefore, the only possible benefit from wearing one would be in the short time it takes to perambulate the twenty steps from the entrance to the exam room. If masks were beneficial.  Which they aren’t. At least not against a virus unless said mask is N95 or better. Even those are of questionable benefit.

I decided to challenge the policy when the doc (and owner of the practice) came in for his part of the exam. He hesitated before answering me. Finally, he admitted that it was for PR purposes. We had a brief conversation about it. I don’t know if he was being truthful or if he just told me what he thought I wanted to hear. He seemed sincere, but I’ve  never been good at reading people. He claimed that his staff has standing instructions to not challenge anyone who doesn’t want to wear one.

The thing that caused me to doubt his sincerity was was the mention of a mask in the text. Whether acting on their own or at his direction, wearing  one comes across as compulsory. If it was only a PR thing, he could post the door and let people choose. Those who wish to wear one can, the policy is posted as mandatory (so PR benefit is achieved) and staff keeps their fucking yap shut if someone ignores the sign. Lots of local places do that.

He’s not exactly local, though. Perhaps he’s too close to the liberal cesspools of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  Or maybe he’s drunk on the koolaid and was simply trying to placate one of his domestic terrorist patients. Regardless, I’ll find a local guy for my next inspection. I might go back if I develop a problem that requires treatment. Maybe.

And then there was this morning. Ex (the one included on my list of the maybe twelve people on the planet that I don’t actively despise) was scheduled for a surgical procedure. The procedure location was in one of the aforementioned cesspools. I got her there at 0630 as instructed and accompanied her inside for check-in so I could secure her personal items once she no longer needed them. I dutifully wore the thicker of my mesh face diapers, trying to not be antagonistic. Cunt at the front door handed me one of the generic disposable masks and said that they require everyone to put on a fresh mask. She was gracious enough to say that I could wear it over my existing mask if I chose, but that I had to put it on.

I grumbled, rushed Ex through in-processing, took her shit and got the fuck out. Less than ten minutes and I already couldn’t see through my fogged up glasses and my annoyance level  was through the roof.  Why do people tolerate such stupidity, much less actively support it? It almost makes me wish that the damn virus was as deadly as they pretend it is. Almost. There are those twelve people after all.

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State of the Homestead

Things have started to cool off around here. I never did get around planting a late garden of greens and whatnot for the chickens. Partly because I now only have three hens after losing seven during the heat of the summer, and partly because of issues I had with the jet pump I had set up with my rainwater collection and irrigation system. A simple pump rebuild didn’t fix it, so I picked up a 1/2 HP 110V submersible well pump and plumbed it into the pressure tank, removing the jet pump for troubleshooting at a later date. Then I found that one of the contact terminals on the pressure switch was severely overtorqued and impossible to remove without causing damage. So I bought a complete new pressure switch. By the time I got all that done and back together, there just wasn’t enough time left in the growing season for anything to mature. So I’ve started overseeding the yard and using the irrigation system for the barest spots. I’ll continue to put more seed down as we move into autumn.

After a couple months of constantly hanging out here, my one remaining rescue cat has turned traitor. At first I thought he’d gotten himself killed because he went from present for hours every night without fail to gone for five nights. Then he wandered back up on the back porch on night six, but didn’t stick around long enough to eat. Then crickets for several days until we saw him last week late afternoon. He circled around the back of the house, bypassing the porch, and went up the driveway. We happened to see him in real time on the camera, and watched him wander up the driveway to the road. He nonchalantly wandered out into the middle of the road, slowly circled for a bit, then continued across the street. We were sure that a car was going to turn him into roadkill, but none did. This time. I assume he’s found something there to make him call that home now.

Since his departure, two other cats that had been occasional visitors in the past have become regular fixtures, showing up separately a few times each night. I’m disappointed that none of our four rescues stayed, but the goal was a regular feline presence for rodent control and deterrence. I don’t guess it really matters which cats they are.

We finally had a predator breach the chicken run two nights ago. I’ve taken to only gathering eggs every other day, and the day before yesterday there were zero eggs instead of the usual four or five. There was what appeared to be the remains of two eggshells on the floor in the open area of the coop. I didn’t see any obvious entry point and the camera that I have in there refused to play back the recorded video, so I couldn’t identify the problem. Yesterday, I relocated the camera from inside the back door of the house to the coop after verifying that its record/playback functions performed properly. This morning at 0425 it dutifully recorded a possum entering the coop, nosing around the nest boxes and the coop proper and exiting just before 0500.

I never put a door on the chicken entrance to the coop. I felt the run was secure enough and at that time I left for work around 1700. Wife will not enter the coop for any reason, so any door I put in place would only be closed on nights that I didn’t work. Well, I’m retired now and a critter has found it, so my initial evaluation is no longer valid. This morning found me building a way to block that hole.

I also noticed a small area at the edge of the run’s fence near said coop entrance hole. It doesn’t look big enough for a possum to crawl under, but nowhere else is even remotely disturbed. I’ll seal the entrance for a few nights and hopefully mister possum will move on to greener pastures. If not, I’ll set up my trap and stay up all night to catch the fucker. One way or another, I’m going to maintain use of the eggs that my girls produce.

When I bought my tractor, I had a finish mower included in the purchase. For those who don’t know, a finish mower is pretty much a heavy duty (and larger) version of the mower deck that every riding mower on the planet uses. The only real difference is that it is built to attach to a standard three-point hitch and be powered by the tractor via a PTO driveline. Mine has performed well, but it eats up blades. Only once have I been able to make it through half of a mowing season with reusable blades. Every other time, the ends that should be squared off are broken and jagged. Obviously I’ve been hitting stuff and ruining blades without realizing it. At eighty federal reserve notes per set of blades, that adds up, and once the blades go bad, the neat and clean cut also goes away.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to buy a rotary cutter, better known as a Bush Hog. These are a heavier duty machine designed to cut brush and other heavy growth. They don’t cut as cleanly as a finish mower, but are much more forgiving of hitting stuff. They even come standard with pans underneath that are called stump jumpers. The only problem is that they come with a learning curve. Finish mowers have wheels on all four corners and follow the ground with no input from the operator once the height is set at each wheel. Rotary cutters have a single wheel in the middle at the back of the machine.

My dumb ass didn’t think before firing it up. I set the rear wheel height then dropped the hitch all the way like I do with the finish mower, engaged the PTO and took off. It immediately caught some overflow gravel that had migrated from the driveway into the yard and commenced to throwing rocks everywhere. It didn’t take long to realize that I have to adjust the front height with the hitch. Dropping it to the ground makes the edges dig into the ground and causes the blades to scalp the ground. It’ll take a couple more runs to get it right, but by the time I finished the yard I’d gotten it dialed in reasonably well.

There was an aftereffect from that initial learning process, though. I’d moved the truck a little ways up the driveway as I always do before mowing. After the job was done, I moved it back to where I normally park it. I heard a weird tinkling noise when I closed the door, and it seemed louder than usual when I started the engine. It didn’t take me long to figure out that one section of the rear window had shattered. Presumably, some part of that initial barrage of leftover gravel had impacted the window with enough force to break it. I don’t maintain full-coverage insurance on a 20 year-old work truck, so that was a five hundred dollar learning experience.

The rotary cutter definitely has potential. It is the same width but takes less power from the tractor and it doesn’t miss the tall sprigs that the finish mower takes two or three passes to completely take down once the blades are no longer pristine. It doesn’t leave the grass with a golf course perfect finish, and on unlevel ground the unevenness is more noticeable because the tractor (and by extension the hitch height and mower height) varies more than a finish mower with wheels on every corner, but it gets everything in the first pass. A fifty percent or larger overlap is unnecessary. This results in a much higher area per hour with only a minimal loss in cut quality. I’m liable to sell the finish mower if the performance trend continues.

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Adventures in Rent-a-Cop Training

Monday through Wednesday of this week is my training and certification class to be a Private Protective Service employee. That’s what the state calls security guards. Here are a few things that I learned from the training and the many tangents that the instructor chased yesterday.

He started the class by telling us that the manager of the building in which said training was taking place had a mandatory face diaper policy to which we had to adhere. He also said that he couldn’t understand why anyone would object to wearing one, because “masks don’t hurt nobody”. Except those with sensitive skin. Or breathing problems like asthma. Or a myriad of other conditions.

All the policies of the company are in place to keep us safe. Except the ones that exist to protect the company from a lawsuit. In those cases, our safety goes right out the door. Like the one that forbids us from having on our person or in our vehicle while on duty any firearm (armed guards excepted, but my position is unarmed), pepper spray, ASP, baton, pocketknife of any length or any other weapon. I could’ve kissed the dude who spoke up almost immediately. “What if I get attacked while on the way to or from work? Since the company doesn’t allow any weapons even in my vehicle, if I’m injured or robbed, will the company take care of me?” The instructor said that he didn’t know and that the person asking the question would have to take it up with their manager. And we all know how that conversation would go.

Continuing that conversation, Instructor stated that one in three people in the United States is immune to pepper spray. Therefore, he advises people, especially women, not to carry it because it “isn’t as effective as you think”. Instead he suggested a CO2 fire extinguisher, because that would blind an attacker and take their breath away and the empty extinguisher could be used as an impact weapon. So this genius motherfucker tells people, especially women who are generally more vulnerable in an attack, not to carry a small, convenient item that could help them against two-thirds of the population just because one third of potential attackers won’t suffer any effects from it. He never did say how we’re supposed to tote around a multi-pound fire extinguisher as his suggested alternative.

During the Public Demonstrations section, he went off about how the minimum wage should be $15 and when it came up for a vote we needed to take note of anyone who opposed it because those people don’t care about Americans. He assured us that prices won’t go up from that, at least not right away (despite evidence to the contrary everywhere it has been tried), and if they start to, the government should step in and stop it. Before anyone could ask, he said, “What about small businesses? If they can’t afford to pay their people that much, they need to go online (presumably transition to e-commerce only).” Note that the company only pays us $10.25 per hour.

He claims to be trying to get a law passed that anyone under 25 cannot have both a cell phone and a driver’s license. These folks would be required to pick one or the other. Violators should be penalized exactly like DUI offenders. “Because the human brain isn’t fully formed until age 25.”

Oh, and he wishes that they’d do away with the open carry law. (Which doesn’t exist. There simply isn’t a law prohibiting said activity.) He didn’t bother saying why, just that it was stupid.

He also claims that 95% of the population has PTSD. That could come about by the death of one’s parent. Even if by natural causes.

And supposedly $350 million will fit in a briefcase, because a local family was arrested for supporting terrorist groups and had that along with bomb-making materials. When questioned by another student he assured them that it must’ve been large bills.

I could go on and on, but those are the highlights. From day one.

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No Place

There’s no place in the world for people like me anymore.

Vaccination passport required for entry.

Face coverings mandatory.

No guns allowed.

History is racist.

2+2≠4

Capitalism is evil.

Fuck this! I’m done. I’m crawling into a hole and won’t be coming back out any time soon.

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Cars and Investments

A car is a horrible investment, but necessary in today’s America.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (and said) something similar. As it turns out, that statement isn’t always true.

In November of 2019, after my fifteen year old BMW developed yet another four figure ailment, I bought a commuter go-cart. Well, a closeout 2019 Ford Fiesta, so same thing. It cost me $14,922.77 out the door including governmental and regulatory fees and dealer charges. I’ve put 11,300 miles on it since then.

A couple days ago, after seeing one too many Carvana commercials, I decided to see how much it would be worth to them. I figured around $12K, given the cost of used cars nowadays. Those insane motherfuckers offered me $17,642. That’s more than the acquisition cost plus what I paid in registration fees, property taxes, inspections, insurance, and fuel for that entire time.

They’re coming to pick it up next Tuesday, and I’m back to using my old diesel F250 as a daily driver. No way I’m going to pass on that kind of ROI.

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Pen Sadness

Last week I lost one of my Lamy Safari pens, complete with converter. I was certain that I put it in my pocket, but moments later it wasn’t there. I looked everywhere I’d been since I put it in my pocket (or at least thought that I did) but it was gone. I was sad.

Yesterday at work, on overtime no less, I lost another pen. My dear wife bought me a two-pen leather pouch as a birthday gift several years ago before we negotiated a no-gift policy for holidays. I use it whenever I wear a shirt without pockets. I had my Platinum Prefounte in said pouch and in my pants pocket. Well, that’s where it started. A couple of hours into the shift, I saw something odd on the floor. Yep, the pouch and my Prefounte. Crushed flat. At some point I’d ran over it with the forklift. The pouch was fine, but the pen was pancaked. I pulled it apart, hoping to salvage the converter. No joy, it was equally flat.

Two of my most reliable pens, gone in as many weeks. $60 to replace (which I won’t, at least not now). I’m double sad.

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Banks, again

Synchrony Bank

Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a few “store card” credit accounts managed by GE Financial, now operating as Synchrony Bank. As I am wont to do with financial institutions, I got into a disagreement with them about one of the accounts last night – the Amazon store card. I tried to log in and verify a recent transaction. It told me that I needed a security code to complete the login.

I get these messages often from most of the companies that I do online business with, presumably due to my insistence on using a VPN for all internet traffic.  Most use text or email as the verification method. Synchrony only offered text or voice. I chose text, but nothing ever came through.  So I chose voice. The phone never rang, but a minute later a voicemail notification popped up. The message prompted me to press 1 to hear the code, and since it was a voicemail, I couldn’t do that. I tried several more times and the same thing happened every time. I assumed phone difficulties, so I called in.

After wasting almost twenty minutes on hold, I finally got a person. Early in the conversation, dude asked if it was a Google Voice or other VOIP number. Of course it is. I don’t give out my actual number to businesses for the same reason I use a VPN. When I refused to give my “real” number, he said he could unlock the account if I go through an alternate verification process that included taking a video of myself and submitting a copy of my ID. I thought that they’d allow me to use the VOIP number after completing this process, so I started it, figuring they already had my ID with picture from when I opened the account, so whatever.

About the time I got far enough through the process to get an error saying that the system couldn’t read my ID (which had to be state-issued – it wouldn’t accept a passport card) dude told me that this whole process was just for that night’s unlock. I still wouldn’t be able to use the VOIP number for future unlock needs, which I would definitely need. At that point, I was done.

Absent an email unlock option, fuck Synchrony Bank. I curtly ended the call and scheduled a payment for what I know is the full current balance, even if I couldn’t verify said balance. I’ll be closing the account as soon as that payment posts. Since then, I’ve closed PayPal Credit, BP, Lowe’s, Discount Tire, Generac, and Synchrony’s Car Care line of credit.

BBVA

BBVA was recently acquired by PNC Bank, with whom I had issues a decade and a half ago when they were still RBC Bank. Obviously I wasn’t happy to hear this news. I closed my checking and savings accounts with them a year or so ago when they froze my account for suspected fraud because I made multiple payments during a single statement period. I kept the credit card account open pending another act of stupid. They did it this past weekend.

I woke up Saturday afternoon to a voicemail from BBVA’s fraud department. Seems that someone got enough of my information to attempt a couple of transactions. BBVA declined the transactions, but I wanted a new card number just to be safe. In order to do this, they require verification via text message. They already had me on the phone, had verified enough to talk to me, but flat out refused to issue a new card without a text verification. Not normally a problem, but no text ever came through. Probably for the same reason that Synchrony didn’t like my phone number. No other option was possible.

“Can you close the account completely without said verification?”

“Yes.”

“Do it.”

And that ended my business dealings with BBVA/PNC.

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Seven

I removed another dead chicken from the coop yesterday. That’s three in about as many weeks. No symptoms, then dead. I keep hoping that their immune systems will finally conquer whatever it is, but I fear I’ll be without a flock before fall arrives.

In other news, the first weekend fully in my new role as forklift jockey went well. There were frustrating and annoying parts, but that’s what makes it “work” as opposed to “fun”. I’ll get used to the role, the team, and the leadership quickly enough. The fuckers already scheduled me for overtime on Wednesday and Thursday this week. As if the extra two days I’ve been working for the past four or five weeks to train hadn’t already exhausted me and put me way behind on my to-do list.

We had a trash panda stop by and clean out the cats’ food bowl Sunday night. Our cat didn’t like it but wasn’t intimidated. He sat there and watched it eat/wander around the porch for almost thirty minutes. At one point the coon, which appeared to outweigh our cat by a factor of at least three took a run at him, but he only retreated to the bottom of the steps before slinking back up to keep an eye on Mister Coon. It didn’t come back the next night but did show up again last night. I’d hoped it was just passing through. Trap is set and baited. With luck, by morning it’ll be fertilizer and worm food. UPDATE: Two hours after I posted this, the raccoon showed up and after several laps finally found its way inside and got caught. Moments later it was worm food.

No reappearance of the female cat after its one aforementioned return visit a couple weeks ago.

The garden is about done except for the green beans. The pole variety is still producing some. The bush variety didn’t do shit. I guess “landscape mix” (supposedly a 50/50 mix of compost and premium topsoil) doesn’t work well as garden soil. The only thing I planted that did well was the early crop of radishes. Everything else was lackluster at best. I’ll add some fertilizer and other goodies before I cover it for the winter and hopefully next year will be better. I still plan on more crops of greens for chicken treats assuming I can get them in the ground before the rest of the flock up and dies on me.

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Bye!

In thirty minutes, I will clock out from my final shift as a maintenance technician. My next shift will be my first (excluding previous training shifts) as forklift jockey. I’ve never been so happy to take a pay cut in my life.

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Possums and Cats

The current possum has been a regular fixture for the last week or so. I saw on video where it and my male cat were on the porch at the same time. They didn’t seem hostile towards each other – no hissing or angry cat noises, but it was more of a grudging acceptance of the other’s presence. Given that and my current hectic schedule, I didn’t push efforts to trap and relocate it. But I still don’t like them and regardless of how much good they might do, I want it gone.

Last night, I had the fucker. He came 0100-ish, pigged out on the cat food inside the kitty house where I’ve started putting it to keep it accessible to the cats but out of the weather. Before dark, I’d put the trap next to the kitty house with a can of tuna as bait. It sniffed the top of the trap door after the pig-out, and ran off. It came back around 0330 and was more curious. It really wanted that tuna and finally found the entrance and went inside.

Brief detour. To make it remote control and no danger to friendlies, I modified the trap with a power door lock actuator connected to the door trigger (usually connected to the step plate inside the trap) and an associated control box. For a power source, I used a lawnmower battery that I bought for the stump grinder when I upgraded it to a larger engine with electric start a few years ago, but couldn’t really use because there was no room left on the frame to which to mount it and no recharge ability on the new engine. I’d kept it on trickle charge, planning to incorporate it into a UPS at some point. The charger always indicated 100% and the actuator cycled during initial testing. I thought no more about it.

Back to last night. As soon as the possum got inside the trap, I stood at the closed back door and started pushing the button on the remote for all I was worth. Nothing happened. I tried to sneak out and snap it closed manually while it was in there but I was slow and it fast. Post-incident investigation showed that the battery was at 8 volts despite what the charger said. No idea how it even worked during testing. I should’ve put the meter on it initially but whatever. I wasn’t happy.

I found a couple old (but never used) square 6V lantern batteries. I connected them in series and got a skosh over 12V. Not ideal, as they should’ve produced 12.7V or so. Whatever. They should work. I hit the button on the remote and the voltage dropped to 5.9 and no actuator movement. Well, shit! Those batteries are trash. Then I found a plug-in 110VAC to 12VDC power cord for an old router or something and tried that. Everything worked like a charm. I’ll feed the damn thing over the weekend (my work week) and Monday night he’s MINE using another can of tuna.

Also, Quicksilver (my male cat) has another black cat friend. I saw it for the first time last night. He met it in the driveway, they rubbed noses, and QS escorted it to the porch where unlike the possum, it didn’t take long to find the tuna. Initially when I saw the two cats in the driveway, I thought the second was the female, Wanda, back for a visit. No such luck. Maybe she’ll come back again, and maybe she won’t. Regardless, Quicksilver is always close, and another tortoiseshell patterned cat is often around at the edges of dark. If this new black cat starts hanging around too, that should be enough feline presence to take care of any rodent population, which was the reason why I got cats to begin with. I would really like it if my girl would come back regularly and permanently though.

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