Week 19, 2019 – The More Things Change…

Bet you thought I’d go a whole six months without an update, eh? Well, it’s not for lack of trying, mind. Truth be told, there’s a lot to unpack, so here goes… It all started with a letter.

Chapter 1: Death and Taxes

Back in September, I’d received a letter saying that my paternal grandfather had passed away, and that my sister and I were named in his will. Now, for various reasons beyond “That sounds like a phishing scheme if ever I’ve heard one.” we were cautious, if not incredulous.

I did a deep dive, sifting through public records and whatnot, and the person seemed to legitimately be a legal representative of our grandfather, so I established contact.

Our grandfather—whom I should note we’d only ever met once—had a Trust, which was to be distributed amongst all his grandchildren. The only remaining question mark was the taxes, and it was going to take several months for that to shake out. However I did manage to get an estimate; Something in the neighborhood of $20,000 each. Hot potato!

Now, while that is some welcome news to somebody constantly on the edge of insolvency, unable to do anything due to lack of funds, it was not without its problems. First and foremost being my Social Security benefits; If I have more than $2,000 in assets, it’ll put the kibosh on my benefits. However, I’m free and clear if I can spend down to the cap before the end of the calendar month. So I guess it’s a good thing I’ve spent the past 22 years meticulously maintaining lists of shit I’d buy if I had money, huh?

Now, I know what you’re thinking “But John, if you buy stuff with the money, aren’t those then considered ‘assets’?” and the answer is “…nyes?” the guidelines actually specify that as somebody on Supplemental Security Income, items purchased for my own entertainment, education, or employment, are exempt from being considered assets. I just can’t leave the money in the bank, or invest it.

Chapter 2: No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy

This list included things like fixing my lathe, upgrading the lathe and mill, getting a fully-outfitted Stepcraft CNC router, everything I still need for screenprinting, a NAS to solve our storage problems once and for all, and some household stuff. (Like, oh I don’t know, a bed, so I could stop sleeping on the floor.)

The estimate I was given turned out to be pretty spot-on; my sister and I each received a check for $20,357 in the middle of February. At some point in the days which followed, I had a change of heart and a lot of the makery-stuff got dropped in favor of things that were less dependent on other factors and would also improve my daily life. For instance; a new computer, and a new streaming rig. Also in that vein, a full HTC VIVE Pro kit was purchased.

Of course, because it’s me, this was a month before VALVE announced the VALVE Index HMD, which is better, and which I could’ve gotten for basically the same price a couple months later. 😑 More on that soon, though.

Instead of printers from Prusa 3D, I purchased a pair of Creality Ender 3 Pros and an Anycubic Photon. The quality of the prints from the Ender 3 are astounding, considering the $250 price tag. All three of these printers cost roughly half as much as one Prusa printer. I’m sure Prusa’s printers are worth it in the long run, but not worth it enough for me at this stage.

The NAS was a solid plan, and I stuck with it. Synology Diskstation DS1819+ 8-disk NAS, with a Tripp-Lite UPS, and ten Seagate IronWolf 8TB NAS drives—48TB array with 2-drive redundancy, and two ‘cold’ spares.

Software… So yeah. I bought a license for Marvelous Designer, because I have countless uses for it. And I actually paid for Zbrush, because I’m a total sucker and hate money. 😏

Because I’m still upset about having to shut down my Etsy shop with the demise of my previous one, I purchased a new embroidery machine… It’s no multi-needle commercial machine, but it does a helluva lot better than the thoroughly entry-level consumer one I wrecked. I also paid the $299 to upgrade to Hatch Embroidery 2…even though it makes me salty as hell, because they released this paid update basically right after I made the twelfth and final $99 FlexPay payment on the original.

In the end, various factors came together to see me not achieve all my goals, and certainly not save any money to use to build credit, or put into my projects, or anything of that sort… It is what it is; I got some things I needed, a lot of things I wanted, and while my situation has generally stayed the same, the dynamic has changed drastically.

I’d actually had some grander plans involving using the ‘Plan to Achieve Self-Support’ program to utilize the money more strategically, and with less time-pressure, but with the government shutdown, everything was a clustastrophuck and I kinda gave up on that idea.

I REGRET NOTHING!

Chapter 3: The Once and Future King

Round about the time the bulk of these items started arriving, my father went to a cardiology appointment for a cardiac stress test. They’d messed up administering a previous physical test, and were going to do a ‘pharmaceutical’ test. Turns out, he’s allergic to some of the agents involved, and he ended up in the ER, and then being transported to UVM.

For two months he was bounced back and forth between UVM Medical Center and the local hospital, eventually ending up in the local nursing home to be rehabilitated until they were confident he could even make it up the stairs to the apartment… So two months later, he’s back and doing well.

The whole thing was quite a trial for all of us. I found some novel ways to ease communications though… Previously we would communicate via XMPP clients, but honestly that just wasn’t cutting it. So when my sister brought him a tablet to read on—And I gave him an old phone that can shoot raw .dng files—I made sure he was set up with Discord.

It was a really exciting development, because we could voice chat as well as effortlessly text and share media—for a given value of ‘effortless’; he was on mobile, after all. And at one point during a voice call, I pulled one of my Logitech c920 webcams out of my streaming kit and hooked it up—mid-conversation—then clicked the little ‘video’ button, and just like that, my dad could see me. 😃 It took a little more doing to get the video working on his end, but we continued to have very regular video chats, as well as daily text communications. At one point, he called me up at like 6am and I opened a video chat with him on my Kindle Fire HD tablet, while in bed. Yay, technology! 👍

Chapter 4: The War at Home

Throughout all this, tensions have been running high. I’ve had to rely on others for things which they didn’t want to have to provide, and a lot of dumb arguments have resulted. I think everybody’s under a lot of pressure. I know I certainly feel a lot of pressure to produce results so I have something to show for all that money. Everybody demands results, but nobody wants to cooperate or lend assistance in any meaningful way.

Epilogue

Anyway, that’s it. That’s the past few months. I still have a couple partially-written posts I should finish, I want to talk about VR, and I just launched my Patreon

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