Fuck You Money Versus Fuck This Money: Part 2

“Fuck you money” is a hard nut to crack. There’s a halfway point which comes first. I’ve never heard it articulated before. I’m making up a phrase for it right now. I’m calling it “fuck this money”.

“Fuck this money” is the indefinable amount of resources you need on hand so you can look at a problem and say “fuck this”. Then you hurl money at it until it’s solved or you get around the roadblock.

I just spent some “fuck this” money.

Shortly after Christmas, in the middle of a blistering cold snap, our washing machine started acting wonky. Then it died. I found myself in our laundry room, carrying a toolbox, and shaking my head in misery.

The good news is that it was on a “water catching tray” (I don’t know what you call those things). It had functioned flawlessly so there was no water damage to the floor. (Score one for team preparedness!) But that just meant I had to stop up a few inches of cold slimy water in the tray before I faced the thankless task of figuring out what the hell went wrong with the infernal appliance. I’m sure it was a fixable problem. The agitator wasn’t agitating, the drain wasn’t draining, etcetera, but it had been working recently. If I spent several hours tearing into it and experimenting, plus a few days waiting for parts to come from wherever I might find them, I would’ve (probably) cobbled it back together.

I just didn’t want to deal with it. I’ve had a rough winter and I’m only human.

You might like tinkering with such things. I don’t. To me, there’s nothing quite so infuriating as repairing appliances. This is the era of cheap shit from China and thus the design is always half assed and hard to fix. Crappy parts reside in stupid places. There are little plastic tabs where bolts belong, glue where screws would be more serviceable, integrated circuit boards made of unobtanium that link everything to everything else, parts out of stock, etc… It’s always a fiasco. This particular machine was a mere 17 years old but wasn’t particularly awesome. It was dirt cheap when we got it, it has never been great, and we’ve used it hard.

So, I took a deep breath, dug deep into the fiscal and mental preparations I stored for just such an event, and said: “fuck this”.

Fuck it!

I closed the door on the machine and told Mrs. Curmudgeon I wasn’t even going to try to fix it. She should select virtually any washing machine she wanted. Unlike my usual cheapskate nature, I’d buy it and smile while I cut the check. I even sniffed around Amazon hoping I could buy a full on white good appliance without ever setting foot in a store. (That didn’t work… for now. Give it time.) The local selection was not quite what Mrs. Curmudgeon had in mind but she too said “fuck this” and compromised on a choice from among the meager selection. Why? Because she wanted it replaced now. I dislike laundromats and Mrs. Curmudgeon hates them with a with hot loathing. We’re a bit low on funds now but we’ll get by.

It would be cooler to say I tore the goddamn thing down and welded a doohickey to a hand fabricated flapdoodle that bypassed the thingamajig and that managed to resurrect the POS. But sometimes it’s ok to say “fuck this”.

Rather than moan over the expense I’m trying to see the silver lining. We couldn’t have done that in years past. There was a time when a broken refrigerator was a tragedy and a car repair was a disaster. Not so much anymore. I’m still a cheap bastard. I don’t say “fuck this” often. Decades on the knife edge made me wary of “wasted money”. In fact, the key to using money like a “get out of jail free” card is to not need it that often.

But I sure do appreciate the option when I use it. How many snowflakes will never enjoy the magic of tossing cash at a problem because they never did anything else? For them, I see that “fuck you money” will ever be elusive. For me, I have hope. I don’t have “fuck you money” but, for now, I had just enough “fuck this money” and that’s a step in the right direction.

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Fuck You Money Versus Fuck This Money: Visual Aids

If you’re unclear about the concept of “fuck you money”, watch this movie (linked):

Dagwood Bumstead doesn’t have “fuck you money”:

In fact his boss is a bit of a dick:

But don’t feel too bad. Dagwood’s wife is sweet, devoted, and smoking hot:

Here’s another guy who doesn’t have “fuck you money”:

But here’s a guy that would consider a five spot and half a tank of gas sufficient “fuck you money”:

“Fuck you money” isn’t about money. Imagine this guy:

Trying to hassle this guy at his job:

 

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Fuck You Money Versus Fuck This Money: Part 1

I don’t know where the concept came from, but there’s an idea called “fuck you money”. I don’t like the crudeness of the phrase but the idea has merit. It’s vaguely defined as the amount of money you need in your bank account to feel comfortable blowing off work (or whatever else ties you down). Should demands placed on your shoulders become too onerous, “fuck you money” is what lets you shrug it off.

Like this:

“Hey Smithers, get over here and fill out your TPS reports. Do it in triplicate. Also wear 13 pieces of flair, kiss my ass, grovel, and pretend to laugh at my jokes.”

Smithers checks his bank account, which holds far more than he needs.

“Nope! I’m not doing it. Take this job and shove it.”

It’s a glorious dream that’s popular in America (and probably elsewhere too). Sadly, when people ponder “fuck you money” they center on large wads of cash; millions or more. I think they’re missing the point. Because they set the bar so high, most people never get anywhere close to the kind of money they think they need (including or perhaps especially millionaires). I also suspect it’s a sliding scale. The more money you have, the more firmly you’re tied to the system that made you rich and (ironically) the more shit you’ll eat to keep up the supply. After all, money is a powerful tool but it’s only a tool. Freedom isn’t literally for sale.

Not to sound all Zen or anything, but “fuck you money” is more a state of mind than a number. You’re more likely to see Bob the trucker tell his foreman to suck it and walk off the job site during a cement pour than you are to see a filthy rich Warren Buffett analog (or virtually any politician) interrupt a board meeting with “I’m done with this shit, adios fuckers”.

I think it’s a flaw in the human mind. The more we have, the more we want.

Like anyone, I fight against this. I see it as just one more practical front in the preparedness mentality. If you fancy yourself a survivalist but shit your pants at the thought of losing your job, you ‘aint there yet. (Don’t get impatient, it’s a journey not a destination.)

With varying degrees of success, I keep nibbling away at the amount of money I “need”. There’s a lot of cool shit you can buy in modern America, it’s wise to keep it on a leash. Like any fallible human, I occasionally allow myself a fiscally unwise luxury but the overall plan is to avoid excessive entanglement. I also eat my vegetables and brush my teeth. It’s not rocket science y’all.

I don’t have “fuck you money”. I’m not there yet. But I think I’m on the right track. I inch ever closer to a life where “fuck you money” is 20 bucks in my pocket and a full freezer. I’m probably closer to the power of “fuck you money” than many very wealthy people.

More soon…

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Provisional Product Review And Old Man Rant: Part Two

I’ll give credit where credit is due, Anker did the right thing. They didn’t piss and moan or make me ship back broken parts. Five days after I called their tech support line (twice) a replacement speaker arrived in the mail (link):
This one did everything that the first one did not. I plugged it in, charged it up, and turned it on. The magic blue light of functionality lit up and it extended its being into the Bluetooth ecosystem. At my laptop, which happened to be booted up in Windows, I told it to sniff the Bluetooth air. The handshake was pretty much automatic:

Laptop: “Ground control to Major Tom?”

Speaker: “Oh my God! I’ve been locked in a cardboard box for so long. I was lonely. Let’s be friends!”

Initial testing suggests the little speaker, which is roughly the size and weight of a can of Red Bull, is all I need. I haven’t figured out a way to see if it has a microphone and if so to disable it but otherwise I’m happy with the speaker.

A.C.

P.S. I didn’t pay too much attention when I unboxed the first speaker (the one that was a dud) but I noticed the second speaker came encased in a plastic bag inside its cardboard box. I don’t remember a plastic bag on the first one (which was a dud). I don’t know if this means the first one had been returned by some irate customer and subsequently shipped off to me? Or perhaps I just don’t remember the plastic bag and it’s just a bad unit from the factory. I don’t have sufficient information to know. But Anker did the right thing and that’s what matters.

P.S. 2. I’ll give the new speaker a few days to make sure it functions and then I’m attacking the old one with hammer and tongs. (The housing is sealed and unrepairable.) I don’t want to fix it but what man wouldn’t want to figure out what makes it tick? If it holds a charge (which might not be true) I might be able to re-purpose the batteries to run a Raspberry Pi?

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Pervnado Is Old News So I Can Comment Now

I like to comment on “issues of the day” well after the initial wave of bullshit has passed. I’m the polar opposite of the media that will shriek a headline today and forget about it tomorrow. I wait until nobody cares and then comment on my irrelevant blog about things that are forgotten. It suits me, I hope you don’t mind.

In this case, I can’t tell if the pervnado is over or the cycle of folks “shocked shocked” at obvious aspects of life will repeat every few years (probably in synch with election cycles). Who can tell these things?

I’m shocked!

The one thing I can say is I’m going to miss the word “pervnado” (is that not the greatest word?) and in one form or another the current kerfluffle is as old as the hills. In keeping with my “as old as the hills” thesis I’m going to relate a personal story of my own.

But first, let’s run through how we got here. As far as I can tell Weinstein Weirdness erupted last October over the utterly unexpected bombshell discovery that Hollywood, spiritual home of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, was harboring morally unacceptable jackasses. (Also, the sky is blue.) Waifish snowflakes had no idea! As if a century of warning (like Fatty Arbuckle’s scandal of 1921) wasn’t sufficient.

I can’t remember the exact timeline but somehow this morphed into a “movement” that was subsequently aimed at a Bible thumping politician from Alabama. The ensuing “scandal” deep sixed that particular guy’s campaign while also taking out several sitting members of Congress; most notably Sen. Stuart Smalley of Minnesota. I’m sure more dominoes will fall.

Of course, putting this all on Weinstein’s Weirdness is missing the point. Pompeii, the ancient Roman city, wasn’t buried in 79 A.D. because Mount Vesuvius erupted. Pompeii was fated to be buried sooner or later because the city was built on a goddamn volcano. Surely there were people in 78 A.D. who said “this is a goddamn volcano” and acted accordingly. We will never know who those people are because they wisely got the hell out of the way. They’re not buried in the archaeological evidence.

Are there modern analogs? People who saw pervnado coming? Of course there were. Just about any man in the workplace has known for decades to watch your own ass and make no comments about someone else’s ass because we’re living on a goddamn volcano.

This is where I’d like to tip my hat to our current Vice President. Pence won’t have dinner alone with any female who’s not his wife. The press insulted his “old-fashioned” and “overly moralistic” foolishness. They suggested his “prudishness” was part of a system that works to prop up male power and keep women subordinate. Thus, making him immoral and unsuitable to lead. Pence, as far as I can tell, let them rant and quietly continued behaving like an honest man accustomed to being treated like a dishonest man.

To recap, the press insulted Pence for staying off the volcano just seven months before the volcano stomped all over Hollywood and Congress alike. Events of late 2017 bore out the wisdom of his behavior. As far as I can tell Pence never once said “I told you so.” (I’m sure the temptation was strong.) Today, amid DC’s hive of scum and villainy he’s among the very few with a squeaky-clean reputation.

Now here’s my story. Before I go any further please get your head out of the gutter; it’s not as interesting as you’re expecting. Decades ago, when I was a young curmudgeon, I got a job as a tutor. (As an aside, bringing down an extra buck in hour when you’re starving student because you chose to study STEM instead of studying your navel is the Universe’s way of giving you a hint.) I was hired, along with a bunch of similarly skilled eggheads, to teach math; one on one.

There was a room available for us to teach and we could schedule a tutoring session whenever we liked. My boss, who was female, went through great pains to teach fools like me that “this door should never be shut”. She allowed us to teach math wherever we found it most opportune but insisted “you should never ever be alone in a room with a student”. As I understood it, we were to meet “in public” with the same caution you would use when meeting a dangerous spy.

As an honorable young curmudgeon I was shocked! Did she assume I was a guttersnipe and a cad? (I’m the kind of guy who uses the word “cad”. Isn’t that sufficient evidence of morality?) I couldn’t believe my boss, who was pretty nice person, would even suggest I would do such a thing. Privately I asked about it; “if you think I’m the kind of guy that would behave like that, why did you hire me?”

It’s hard to believe I was once that naïve.

She patiently explained that if there was an accusation I, as the male, would get blamed. She also explained that if there was an accusation and I had let my guard down even once there would be nothing I could do but assert my innocence. She explained there was virtually no chance anyone would believe me to be innocent. She added that an accusation could come from anyone, anytime, anywhere, for any reason; including situations that have nothing to do with me.

She wasn’t condescending and she wasn’t rude. She just told it like it was. “You don’t have to be guilty to be accused. If you’re accused you’ll be treated like you’re guilty. End of story.” In retrospect, it was obvious but I’d never thought that way. That particular lesson stuck with me. In the ensuing decades,I have followed the “meet in public” concept. Like Pence, I see the volcano and act accordingly. It’s not that hard. It’s just common sense.

Which brings me back to pervnado. The only way to stop it is common sense on all sides. Because common sense is so uncommon, the show ‘aint over yet.

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Provisional Product Review And Old Man Rant

My desk is a chaotic rat’s nest; computer cables, pens, pencils, binoculars, earplugs, hard drives, papers, books, calculators, coffee cups, spent ammunition (I don’t even have that caliber do I?), screwdrivers, a wrench (why the hell is there a wrench under the keyboard?), etc. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to clean that shit up.

A first step is to eliminate a 15-year-old speaker system that has outlasted a half dozen computers since it’s initial purchase. It sports an octopus-like network of wires that go from the laptop’s headphone jack to a powered subwoofer from there to a manual volume control dial from there to a left speaker and from there to right speaker and eventually to an AC plug… and probably elsewhere too. No speaker’s wires should form a run on sentence. It doesn’t like Skype, the cables are usually wrapped around my USB hub, and the subwoofer is perpetually underfoot.

Time for something more svelte. I don’t care about high fidelity so why am I allowing an old speaker set to monopolize valuable desk space? I bought this (image is a link):

It’s small, battery-operated, and supposedly works on Bluetooth. No more wires! Charge it every now and then and fuhgeddaboudit. All hail the marketplace for it provides our deepest desires. This is exactly what I want!

So happy Curmudgeon drops 25 bucks to fulfill part of his New Year’s resolution. It arrived yesterday and I was psyched. Fuck yeah! What’s to worry?

Here’s where the promise of modern technology turns in to a circular firing squad of overcomplicated/underflexible suck. I plugged it in, charged up, pressed the on button and…

Nothing.

Goddamnit! This is why I hate buying new stuff. I want problems solved, not problems created! I’m plenty good at creating problems all by myself. It’s supposed to turn on and announce itself the invisible Bluetooth ecosystem that surrounds us. Did that happen? No!

My laptop is supposed to detect this amazing new device that is supposed to improve my life. It’s looking. “Hello, is there anybody out there?” But the speaker’s not turning on. Thus my laptop is just listening to nothing; like a small scale SETI praying for a remote speaker to announce itself.

Here’s the part that really burns my biscuit; there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

In the old days of coal-fired computers and cars with carburetors you could do something when shit didn’t work. Open the hood and poke around there with the screwdriver, tweak settings, hit the fucker the mallet, reverse the polarity on the tricorder, you name it; there was always something you could do.

Not so with modern devices. There are five rubberized buttons. I may press the buttons. I may refrain from pressing the buttons. That’s the sum total of my influence over the situation.

Therefore my official stance is the following:

The Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker with 24-Hour Playtime, 66-Foot Bluetooth Range & Built-in Mic, Dual-Driver Portable Wireless Speaker with Low Harmonic Distortion and Superior Sound – Black is a raging piece of shit that should be set on fire then buried in a swamp.

Yes, I deliberately used those search terms in hopes that someone at Anker (ideally a marketer) loses their wings and/or has to go to bed without supper.

I also called their helpline, was put on hold, and was prompted to give a callback number. I was told I’d be called when my number in the queue came up. If that happened and if the tech support solved the problem: “All you need to do is press the button while hopping on one foot and humming Greensleeves” then all would be forgiven.

They haven’t called back. I’m still pissed. I hope I’m shaving 0.0001% off their global sales.


Update: I called their tech support a second time. (They never called back like they said they would.) I got an actual human being. The diagnostic process was a bit insulting but understandable and it was quick:

“Did you charge it?”

“Yes, overnight on a powered USB hub.”

“Did you press the ‘on’ button?”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.”

“What’s the blue light doing?”

“There is no blue light. I have never seen this device emit a blue light.”

“You got a dud. We’re sending a replacement. You’ll get it in 5 days or so.”

So that’s that. The Amazon reviews say it’s a great device. Who knows? At least the company is trying to make it right. I’m updating my review:

I purchased an Anker SoundCore Bluetooth Speaker. Straight out of the box it was missing the magic blue light of functionality. A replacement is on the way. The replacement will determine whether my customer experience is mildly peeved followed by mollification or I spend the next month ranting about the good old days when a man could fix a broken speaker with a soldering iron.

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Fantasia die Gatti

Hat tip to… I have no idea. I was entranced by the music and forgot how I got there. Maggies Farm.

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King Of The Road

I’m going to swim against the current of New Year’s flurry of faux introspective Facebook sloganeering (what a depressing stampede of sameness can be found in that populous wasteland), 2017 retrospectives, and “best of” lists. I present here one of my favorite songs:

Hat tip to Ace of Spades which inspired me to note the song. (Though I prefer the studio recording here to the live one on AoS.)

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The Curmudgeon Gets The Gift of the Magi: Part 4

The kid was completely shocked. Obviously, he didn’t expect to find his old man, dressed in sweatpants and a Jayne hat, clutching a battering ram sized flashlight (which was off), and mumbling something about giant floating space babies. I didn’t expect to find my kid, bundled up like the Michelin man, carrying firewood.

Let me repeat that: carrying firewood.

Holy shit!

The kid decided to get up at 2:00 am and venture into the dark night of a -20 winter to haul firewood. He’d already made a zillion trips back and forth from the dark woodshed to the woodrack by the stove. All this while everyone (even the dog) slept. Hauling heavy oak, in blistering cold weather, in the dark, for his dad.

He did this because he wanted to surprise me with a full rack of wood and a toasty fire when I got up Christmas morning. It was all his idea. Entirely of his own initiative. Because he knows I like a warm fire.

There are times when you’re raising a kid and you think; “surely I’ve fucked up”. It feels like everything has gone wrong. Your precocious and delightful child is now a surly teenager and he’s listening to shitty music and dressing like a derelict and doing all the stupid shit you did when you were a teenager and it’s just as dumb now as it ever was. You’re afraid your contribution to the next generation is going to be a serial killer who’s unemployed and possibly even lazy. What a nightmare! A goddamn lazy ass unemployed serial killer and it’s all going to be your fault because you’re a shitty dad. If you’re a father you’ve had this fear. We’ve all had it. But at 2:30 am on Christmas morning, like a light shining through the clouds, I saw that my kid’s got a heart of gold and an iron will. Everything is going to be OK.

It’s goddamn hard to haul wood. I use force multipliers to make it happen, an ATV, a trailer, a big rack by the woodstove, strategic placement of the woodshed, teamwork, a hydraulic splitter, etc… In the dark, in blistering cold temperatures, working alone, it’s almost dangerously hard. Yet here he was; sweating from the work and covered in snow; clutching 40 pounds of oak.

Such a gracious and thoughtful gesture. I teared up and gave him a big snowy bearhug. Then I said something sweet and loving. I think it was “jumpin’ Moses boy, youre gonna’ freeze your balls off out there”. It was a real Hallmark moment!

He explained that he was planning on starting a fire in the woodstove after he’d loaded the full woodrack. He’d been at it for quite a while and had another half hour of backbreaking work planned. He expected to start the fire around 3:00 am and sit by it until Mrs. Curmudgeon and I woke up many hours later.

The kid had a noble heart and a generous spirit so I felt like the Grinch explaining that the chimney was still kaput. (He was dimly aware of me having loud and smoky issues with the woodstove. He’d assumed, like all teenagers since the beginning of time, that his dad’s blathering was some sort of adult bullshit that had nothing to do with reality.)

If he’d started a fire, the smoke would’ve bumped into the ice in the chimney, backed up, and flooded the house. We’d have wound up airing out the house in the coldest night (so far) of the year. Plus there’s the low but not impossible chance of an embarrassing call to the local VFD to put out a chimney fire. Boy wouldn’t that be memorable! I almost hated to rob him of what would surely be an awesome story to tell in the distant future. “Did I tell you about the time I almost burned down the house on Christmas?”

I needn’t worry. He didn’t fret in the least about his failed attempt at a Christmas surprise. He quickly stripped off his jacket and winter gear while I thanked him over and over and was asleep before I was done telling him all about the Gift of the Magi and how thankful I was. Then I woke up Mrs. Curmudgeon and told her all about it too. (I left out the Stanley Kubrick dreams. She’d have made fun of me and the pickles. I HAVE NO REGRETS ABOUT THE PICKLES.)

This year, the stupid goofy year that is 2017, is the year that I had the best Christmas present ever. (Also, the house didn’t get filled with smoke or burn down and that’s cool too.)

Merry Christmas y’all!

A.C.

P.S. Shortly after Christmas day, the chimney was cleaned and ready to go. “Christmas firewood” is heating the house even as I type this story.

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The Curmudgeon Gets The Gift of the Magi: Part 3

So, Christmas Eve rolled around and Mrs. Curmudgeon and I needed the vacation like a dying man in the desert needs a canteen of water. I’d already sent my carpenter packing (kindly and will all due respect) and I’d already scheduled some down-time at work. All in the interest of family peace and personal recovery. I really needed a break because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

That evening the family ate out and I just had to have spicy bacon / jalapeño poppers. The intent was to share but when everyone saw the fire coming out of my ears and the blood drain from my face, they deferred. Wimps! I gobbled them all up, and (since I was sweating from the spices) washed it down with several pints of stout. Yum! (In retrospect I shoulda’ stuck with blander food.)

On the ride home, the weather report noted that it was going to hit -20 and maybe colder. I announced that the woodstove wasn’t running so I’d bring the generator in from the garage. If the grid went down the generator can power the furnace. Some time ago I bought a Powerhorse generator. It’s a “pretty sweet at half the price” knockoff of the awesome but massively overpriced Honda EU2000i. My knockoff looks just as sturdy as the Honda but I haven’t fully tested it. Last week I did a half assed pull on the cord when it had spent weeks in sub 10 degrees. It didn’t seem eager to start and I didn’t have time to dink around with it. (Likely I’d have been able to start it if I’d been motivated.) I reasoned that the little critter would start just fine if it was stored in a 50 degree mudroom as opposed to a 10 degree shed. With a cold snap on the way and the woodstove kaput it was time to keep the generator close at hand. I also mentioned my new portable Mr. Buddy propane heater which I’ve hooked to a fresh 30# tank. That’s the backup backup in case the grid croaked and the generator wouldn’t start. I may have whined that I really like sitting by the fire and hadn’t done so for weeks.

Back home I was up late wrapping presents. Then I indulged in one of my favorite late-night snacks. Pickles. I ate the whole goddamn jar.

Don’t judge me! They were fucking delicious. I have no regrets.

But I did have odd dreams. Jalapeno poppers, stout, and pickles. What was I thinking?

I dreamed vividly that I was in Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey. Not what you’re thinking; not the happy funtime dudes in ape suits hitting each other with bones furry parade that everyone remembers. Nope. I was in the weirder scenes that come right at the end. Do you remember it? You should. It’s a bitchin’ movie!

In my jalapeño/pickle fueled dream I was in the extremely white room of life and death after mankind went and fucked with the Monolith. It’s a disturbing scene but what the hell. I love pickles and deserve the ensuing freaky dreams.

So, I’m floating in this unconscious dreamlike state of Kubrick’s symbolism and sporting a stomach that’s a cement mixer when it dawns on me that it’s really cold in space. For fuck’s sake, couldn’t the Monolith have included a nice fireplace in the imaginary symbolic bedroom of Mankind’s development into a new state? Would it have killed an otherworldly intelligence the likes of which we cannot truly comprehend to give me a better electric blanket?

Then I was awake. Suddenly! Something was amiss. My stomach seemed fine but my head was still fuzzy. Was there a Monolith in the yard? Giant floating Kubrikian space babies in the sky? What was up? Why was I so cold?

I started sweeping the house. The house was chillier than it should be. Lights were on that weren’t supposed to be on. Since the lights were on, that meant the power wasn’t out, yet it was way too cold. Everything was silent. The dog was asleep.

I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. Then I rounded a corner and ran smack dab into our kid who was just entering the house. I about gave him a heart attack.

I’m almost done I promise…

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