Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Dearthenworks

Yeah, there’s been a dearth of postings here at the Hopper. I know it sounds like a scam excuse, but really, it’s due to being busy. The problem I face is the exact opposite of what I was contending with a year ago. Back then, being unemployed and unsuccessful at finding work, I had too much time with too little to do. Now, it is literally the exact opposite. And this problem is much better to have than that problem.

The day job is flowing along nicely. I’ve long ago mastered my routine duties, so I’ve been cross-training with one of the controllers, getting more into the accounting end of things over there. Hopefully that will result in an increase in pay. The place I work for is a non-profit and gets most of its funding from the state, which means there’s not much room to pay employees like the rock stars they are. But people do get bumps and bonuses (I’m the payroll manager there, so I know), and something in the near future might not be unreasonable.

But the night job – tax preparation – has taken off. In February I went from zero clients to thirteen in three-and-a-half weeks. Now, I’m not on commission; I’m straight salary. And it’s a starter salary, so it’s unremarkable. In fact, I probably could get more if I flipped burgers in NYC. But next year, when I do go on commission and get a chunk of what I do, that’s when it’ll all be worth it. Right now I’m still learning the theory and the practice and the system. In addition to preparing taxes for clients, I close out the till and turn out the lights at night. Got my very own key to the office today.

Both my girls are playing hoops, so there are practices on my nights off and during the weekends. And speaking of weekends, we just got back from two days at Great Wolf Lodge. My calves are killing me and the chlorine’s thoroughly dried out my skin. I’m a mess. There was a snow day, the Super Bowl fiasco, and Little One’s first Valentine’s Day dance. We motored into the Big Apple and saw Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty at Lincoln Center. Navigated and negotiated Girl Scout meetings and girl scout cookie sales. Ugh. I mean, I love it, but it’s so see-sawed from where I’m used to being that I feel, quite frankly, extremely disoriented.

Reading – ah, reading, my anchor. What words have I read these past twenty-eight days? I spent the first two-thirds reading about this liberal dude’s trip through modern day China (that means he writes about his crazy / unusual / disturbing / hilarious adventures while dumping on Bush every now and then). Interesting, but it made me realize I don’t want to know more about China. I mean, the history, yes, but anything after that demon Mao took over, not so much.

Currently I’m slogging through a newly-bought copy of The Fountainhead, about a third done. It’s interesting in an Ayn-Rand-way, not too dissimilar from Atlas Shrugged, so it has its strong and weak points. I’m also perusing Viktor Frankl’s The Will to Meaning, and find that incredibly interesting and relatable to my situation in life.

Baseball fever has overtaken me. I started watching again four years ago after taking three decades off, cheering for my childhood team, the Mets. I bought a couple of used baseball books to thumb through when the games start in a little over four weeks. Stuff on history (the Yankee dynasty), the rules and umping, and, most excitingly, sabermetrics. Somehow, some way, for some reason, I find that angle of the game endlessly fascinating. So much so that I disdain political and news websites the past month in favor of Bill James online and Fan Graphs.

Anyway, I think that about covers it. I’m devoted to work from 6:30 am until 9 at night, and a couple hours on Saturday afternoon. Free time is spent with my little angels (though not so little and not so angelic) and the Mrs. Here in the northeast we’re in the midst of a two-week warm spell, and one Sunday we spent a few hours at the park, me and wife sitting in lawn chairs watching the girls skip rocks into the lake, enjoying the sun of our skin and the feel of a book / magazine in the hand. She’s been into Homeland all month, watching in a frenzied way like I did Breaking Bad a year back. Me, I haven’t really had time to watch TV. I did watch a sadly disappointing Resident Evil with my buddy in the theaters a few weeks ago. Other than that, not much else.

So, Hopper needs to remember: All work and no play make Hopper’s website a dull read. I promise to write some weird and left-field entries and post them regularly. In fact, I have an idea already on deck …

Monday, February 20, 2017


The ancient swab sniffed the air, then spat at the corner of the stone-cold tavern.

“Aye, the cat gods be angry tonight.”

I leaned forward in trepidation. The ship! The waves! The foul winds a-blowing, frosting the heart and heads of those sheltered in the skeletal cove.

“There be no appeasin’ them bewhiskered bitches tonight.”

The Octavian-head found its way into my palm, my palm to the pitted cedars of the table. “Passage!” I cried to the gnarled mariners studying their cups o’ grog in shame. “Who’s the man can give me a passage oersea?”

The swab leaned in close, so close I smelt the socket where the man’s left eye once was.

“When the sky cats blow, we mices stay in our holes.”

And the leprous witch-crone croaked “meow” in the darkness …

(Stormkitty c. 2016)

Friday, February 17, 2017


Imagine my horror – no! you can’t, but just try to – imagine the horror when I unpacked my lunch and my read du jour for the leisurely oasis that is my 30-minute lunch break, and discovered THIS:

Somehow the bottle of ice tea I packed had sprung a leak in the bag I carried it in, destroying The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand! Though the turkey and cheese sandwich was unharmed, safe and secure in a plastic baggie, I immediately lost interest in it. At the sight of the murdered book my heart plummeted! Must I secure my books now in plastic baggies?

I immediately realized I had to replace it (I was 60 pages into the 700-page novel). Tonight? Should I leave work early and pick it up a B&N on the highway before I had to get the girls and be at the night job? No – too little time. It’ll have to be tomorrow morning, before basketball games and the tax returns come calling in the later afternoon.

What a pity!

What a disappointment!

What O what shall I do for the thirty minutes my office door is closed today?

[Note: the answer was to compose this blog post, naturally]

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Something Disconcerting ...

... about a low-flying helicopter. Especially one that’s flying low right above your head.

Yesterday I was driving home from work in the early twilight hours, zigzagging along a winding road bordering a stream twenty feet below. I had just left an affluent town and was cruising toward my home town in moderate traffic, when an odd noise outside the car caught my attention. I switched off the radio and it flooded the cab of my SUV.


Then it got real loud. Oncoming cars slowed down. I slowed down, not realizing a hundred percent what was going on. I leaned against the driver’s side window and looked up, nearly veering off the road into the guardrail above the stream. A massive black body hovered right above me, maybe twenty-five or fifty feet straight up.

Except it wasn’t black. I kept darting my eyes back to the road ahead as I slowed, along with everyone else, and alternated windows I peered out of. It was dark green, like an olive green, with a red cross on a white field on its bottom. It swerved around, out over the water, then came back over the road. I lost sight of it but still heard it, then caught it in my rear-view mirror. I rounded a turn and lost sight of it again, but the sound of the rotating blades got louder.

What is going on? Occasionally we see news helicopters overhead if there is an accident on the local highway, but they tend to stay high up and stationary. This looked like a rescue operation in progress.

I imagined myself being hunted in the woods by one of these things. Scary, and exhilarating. After a minute or two of the entire encounter passed, I made a left at a major intersection and was headed up a steep hill. I lost sight of it in the rear view.

I’ll check the local papers over the next couple of days, and if I find anything of note, I’ll post it here as a follow-up.

I got Patch from aftercare, dropped her off at home (my wife had an office day), and drove into town to get a bite to eat. Still thinking of that strange helicopter I caught peripheral motion from the left side as I pulled up to a stop sign.

It was a hawk, carrying off a squirrel.

... disconcerting ...

Note: Everything in this post actually happened, exactly as written. Even the hawk / squirrel.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Snow Day

So the big day has come and gone. We survived, though my lower back is a bit achy.

Wednesday night we received the automated calls from the schools telling us they were closing for the monster 6”-12” that would blanket us in the early morning hours. In retrospect, that was nice. I got a text around 6:30 am that my work would be closed. That was nice, too. But I was already up, as Patch, a.k.a. the Human Alarm Clock, was thumping up and down the stairs around 5:45 or so.

She and I had bowls of cereal, then inspected the outside terrain. Looked like about three inches, judging from the white stuff piling up on the deck railings. But boy was it coming down. Small flakes, more like a continuous mist of snow rather than a snowfall, dropping to earth at a negative 45-degree angle. Couldn’t see the walkway, sidewalks, or street in all the whiteness, and both cars in the driveway long surrendered to a hefty coating.

The wife and Little One were still asleep, or at least upstairs, so Patch and I made a nest of blankets and pillows on the living room floor. We watched Spielberg’s CGI The BFG, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl (Patch’s favorite author) tale about a little orphan girl who befriends a gentle giant. It was okay, though being about minus-three hours sleep deprived I had trouble keeping my eyes open for varying stretches.

By 9 the movie was over and the rest of the household bumbled along in the kitchen. I went back upstairs and dozed for two hours. Came down, had some leftovers for lunch, noted another three or four inches had fallen, and also noted the girls assembling their snow gear for an expedition into the arctic back yard.

I latched up my boots, zipped up the snorkel, secured my hat and gloves, and opened the front door at 1:30. Had to push it, rather hard, as snow had breezed up a foot-high foothold against it. There was a lull in the storm and I decided to attempt a clean up now instead of later as I originally planned. (The wife: “The snow’ll get heavier the longer it sits out there!” Whether this is true or not, I haven’t any idea.)

Ninety minute later I shoveled out the porch, the walkway, the sidewalk, the cars, the driveway, and the driveway apron. I had the ingenious idea of parking my car out on the street right in front of the apron, so when the town snow plows came by they wouldn’t dump all the slush back in I had just excavated. And sure enough, not ten minutes after I did so, a snow plow rumbled by, slowed by my car, and zig-zagged around, the driving tossing me a sour look as he plowed on by, unable to redeposit snow back into my driveway.

One of the more unpleasant winter tasks I have is shoveling the snow off the garage roof. My garage roof is flat. Its dimensions are something like ten feet by twenty. So there was 200 cubic feet of snow resting atop it, 200 cubic feet of snow which weighs something like 3,000 pounds, if the Internet is anywhere accurate. (Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying you can believe anything you read on the Internet.) I have nightmares of the entire structure collapsing, so every snowfall of more than a couple inches I go out the bedroom door and shovel the snow off the roof, which is about ten feet off the ground.

I haven’t fallen off yet.

I did notice the little ones playing in the backyard, so I had to hurl shovels-full of wet sloppy snow down upon them. Had to. The temptation was too great. But they loved it.

Afterwards, dry and warm inside, we booted Patch to the upstairs while Little One and I watched James Cameron’s Aliens. Yes, her science fiction education continues. One of my top-ten all-time science fiction movies (along with Alien). I want her to understand how different the two movies are despite having the same source material so to speak, and how each is a classic defining-moment of the genre it created (horror SF vs. action SF). She seemed to enjoy it, but man were there more F-bombs than I seemed to remember.

The wife made us some beef over noodles bathed in gravy – is there any better wintertime meal, ever? – and the girls finished the night with some last minute chores. I went down to the basement, studied some tax problems I’ve been working on, then soaked in a hot tub (to alleviate a throbbing back) reading a couple of books.

Ended snow day around 11:30, a half-hour later than I wanted, and was asleep minutes after hitting the pillow.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Super Bowl Flashback

Five years ago today the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI, four years after upsetting Brady and Belichick and ruining their run at a perfect season, and cementing the fact that, to-date, they are the only team that owns New England in the big game.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Groundhog Day Aftermath

(Making the rounds on the internets ...)