Moving On, Part 1

As y’all may have gathered from my earlier post about needing a vacuum cleaner, I’ll be moving into my own place soon, leaving Doc Russia to get his house back at last.

A couple of thoughts:  Doc had originally offered to put me up for a year, and subtracting the time I spent over in Britishland, France and South Africa on my sabbatical last year, that year is up (plus a month or so because it took me longer than I expected to find a suitable place to live).  Needless to say, my gratitude for his generosity is beyond words — as I’ve said several times before, that generosity (coupled with the same from Mr. Free Market and The Englishman in Britishland) quite literally saved me, giving me time to relax, recover and rebuild my life after becoming a widower.  No more need be said on that topic, because I’ve said it all before and anyway it just embarrasses them.

So:  where to live?

Fortunately, I’d done a lot of earlier research after I sold the old house last year, and I’d at least eliminated the places that were totally unacceptable.

The biggest decision, about location, was the hardest.  Of course, I’d want to stay in Plano (because I love the place, and it’s close to 2/3 of my kids);  but where in Plano?  The options:

  • an “urban” location — e.g. in one of the three “town centers” that Plano offers (Old Town, Legacy West or Shops At Legacy):  small, quite expensive, likely to be noisy, but handy and not requiring me to get in the car if I needed a pint of milk, plus having restaurants on tap within walking distance — all the pros and cons of the urban lifestyle
  • a more “suburban” type of complex:  quieter, larger, more affordable, but more remote.

When I started looking at places, though, the situation became much clearer.  Frankly, the urban apartments, while all attractive from a location perspective, were either too small (500 sq.ft), too expensive, or a little run-down (Old Town especially).  I liked the convenience, didn’t mind the noise, but ultimately I realized that I would need more space — and most importantly, none of them offered an attached garage:  parking garage or street parking only.  What I learned about that type of apartment served to crystallize my thinking on what I really needed, as opposed to what I thought I wanted.

My criteria for a Plano apartment, then, became quite simple:

  • Affordable (duh)
  • Ground floor.  After busting one of my already-fragile knees in the Scottish Highlands last year, I’m done with stairs — there’s a sound reason why I have a CLP (Cripple’s License Plate) on the Tiguan
  • 1-bedroom with attached garage (so I can let the storage unit go, and have somewhere to store my tools)
  • Large-ish (more than 750 sq.ft), to hold my still-massive book collection, my artwork, the Chubb which holds the ahem few guns I still possess, and Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer
  • Decently-finished (no crappy carpets, worn-out kitchen cabinets, etc.)
  • Gated.  I keep strange hours because of my part-time gig with Uber, and need to know the place is more or less secure whilst I’m gone;  also, if I  ever travel back to Euroland, I need to be able to “lock and leave” with some degree of confidence that I won’t come back to an empty box
  • In a decent neighborhood, and with residents who drive late-model cars and don’t keep junkers up on blocks (if you get my drift)
  • Within reasonable walking distance from at least a few shops, restaurants and such so I can get some exercise, at least.

I narrowed the choices to half a dozen “suburban” complexes, but three of them were really suburban, being miles away from any kind of shop, supermarket, drugstore, restaurants, whatever — and they were all expensive, too.

In the end, I found what I was looking for, and it satisfied every single one of the criteria listed above.  In fact, the place is perfect save for two ugh!  features:  it has an electric stove top, not gas;  and the cable/Internet provider is… AT&T*.  [pause to allow the moaning and groaning to subside]

But those two problems aside, the apartment has mostly wood floors with carpet only in the bedroom, a separate dining room, a small study and a massive garage — almost one-and-a-half-car size — with lots of storage inside the apartment itself.

And cheap (for Plano).

I’ll be moving in around the middle of July.  In the meantime, I have to earn Uber-$$ [sic]  so I can afford to get the necessaries, e.g. some furniture, a washer and dryer (no laundromats for Kim oh no) and so on.  Also, as The Spoiled & Ungrateful Children made off with all the kitchen goods, I’ll be needing to build that particular workshop from the ground up.  Fortunately, I know quite a bit about the latter, having worked in the Housewares department in a large retail chain, so that won’t be as difficult as some of the other areas.  (By the way:  since when did halfway-decent kitchen cutlery become so damn expensive?  Granted, it’s been about thirty years since I last bought the damn things, but still.)

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range pick up some passengers…


*I’ve had dealings with AT&T before, and they are the most dishonest bastards I’ve ever come across.  Even their connection speed leaves room for dishonesty:  “up to 50Mbps” — so they could deliver as little as 5Mbps and still be “technically” within their promise.

“The Free Ride Is Over. It’s Time To Pack Your Bags.”

Thus spoke Italy’s new Minister of the Interior, addressing Italy’s migrant population.  I have to say that I’ve been fascinated by the recent elections in Italy — it’s been quite Trump 2016-like, with populism, anti-illegal immigration and all the pearl-clutching horror from all corners of the political establishment that the stupid voters could possibly have elected so monstrous a couple of parties, the Liga (League) and the 5-Star Movement.  Both parties campaigned hard against what they see as the ruin of Italy caused by “foreigners” (migrants and the EU).

Yeah, screwing up Italy should be left to the Italians.  Their track record in this regard has been exemplary.

In fact, the only difference between 2018 Italy and 2016 U.S. is the Italian voters’ outright hostility towards the EU’s control of the Italian economy (and they have a point) — which was only exacerbated by the outright threats of the EU government towards the new government (see below).

But support for the election results has been pretty much universal in Italy:

Offering the new government cautious support was Italy’s small, far-right neo-fascist CasaPound party, which held its own Republic Day commemoration on Saturday. Banners featured images of a crossed-out EU flag and ‘#exIT’ written underneath, a reference to calls for Italy to leave the 28-nation bloc.

That, in fact, was what caused the political establishment to end their attempts to overturn the election results:  a new election, from what I can understand, would have  turned into a de facto  referendum on continuing Italy’s membership in the European Union — and it’s quite clear that this scenario was frightening enough, and the “#exIt” outcome likely enough that the U.S.-style “Resistance” to the election outcome collapsed.  Here’s the background to all of this:

The latest manifestation of this battle of wills between an authoritarian Brussels and individual nations trying to uphold democracy came this week with a set of extraordinary events in Italy.
After national elections in March, Italian voters committed themselves to what to the EU elite is the ultimate heresy. They voted in their millions for politicians who said they were prepared to abandon the European single currency.
The result was that two populist parties, the League and the Five Star Movement, came together to try to form a government.
There is little surprise that the Italian people are increasingly fed up with EU membership. Italy has struggled since adopting the euro currency 18 years ago.
Deprived of the ability to manage its own economy, there has been no cumulative economic growth since then.
In recent years, Brussels has imposed unelected technocrats to run the Rome government with savagely austere economic policies. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs.
Most outrageously, European commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the crisis would teach Italians not to vote for ‘populist’ parties next time.
Without a shred of evidence and in a manner akin to those behind Project Fear in the run-up to the EU referendum in the UK, he said menacingly that the financial markets would punish Italy and that votes for anti-EU candidates risked destroying the Italian economy.
In other words, if Italians do not vote the ‘right’ way the next time they go to the polls, they will be punished.

I’ve often thought that if the EU were to collapse, it would be because the Germans got sick of supporting the rest of Europe and went home.  I was wrong.  What started (and was crushed by Germany) in Greece has spilled over into Italy, and the Italians don’t seem to be in a mood to be bullied.  (I was also wrong about getting tough on illegal immigration.  I always thought it would be the French who would start — or at least threaten —  mass deportations.)

This is big news.  It’s the first time since the establishment of the EU — and all its forerunners — that a genuinely populist party (or coalition of populist parties, in this case)  has been elected in Western Europe.  (It’s akin to Britain’s UKIP winning a general election.)

Like the Italians, I don’t buy the threats of global financial collapse.  For one thing, the Italian economy isn’t big enough to cause it, and the only “downside” would be if Italy’s solo efforts cause the euro — the single currency union — to collapse because other countries (e.g. Greece) follow suit.

Someone pass the popcorn.  This will be interesting.  And Viva Italia!

HERESY!!!

Does anyone see anything strange about this pic?

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  A Japanese whisky just won the “world’s best” award — a Japanese single malt, withal.

Those of you who consider me to be a diehard traditionalist — and there may be a smidgen of evidence here or there to support your judgment — might expect me to start fulminating about such an occurrence, much as the French freaked out about a Californian wine winning best of show (as seen in the outstanding movie Bottle Rocket).

Well, forget that stuff.  Excellence is excellence, and it’s clear (from this account anyway), that the Japanese have worked out how to make fine whisky:

The essential difference between the classic whiskies of Scotland and those of Suntory is the type of barrels used for the ageing process. Single malts from Scotland are aged in a wide array of barrels, mostly made of French or American oak that were previously used to age sherry or Kentucky bourbon. The single malts picked up the residual essence and flavourings from the barrels, which added character to their respective flavour profiles.
The whiskies of Suntory have a distinctively Japanese touch, as only mizunara oak is used to age them and the resulting Japanese whiskies are a harmonious reflection of the place they’re from, with a purity of the sum of the ingredients and the skill of the artisans at Suntory.

The story behind Nikka whisky is equally fascinating (see the link above), and I have to tell y’all, I’m going to sample some as soon as Ye Olde Booze Allowance permits it.  The Nikka Yoichi single runs over $80 / bottle, from what I can see, and the low-end Suntory Hakushu just over $60.  Both seem worth a shot, so to speak.  (The “world’s best” stuff costs about the same as 25-year-old Macallan — i.e. way too spendy, so forget that.)

      

If they taste like drain cleaner, well, at least I tried.  If I like either of them, however, you may want to short the stock of Glenmorangie…

Japanese whisky:  who’d a thunk it?

Streets Of London

“Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London;  I’ll show you something that’ll make you change your mind.”

Thus sang Ralph McTell in his hauntingly-mournful song back in the 1970s.  Modern-day London seems to be equally tragic:

London’s violent crime epidemic appears to show no sign of ending after another spate of brutal violence gripped the capital.

  • Man, 45, arrested on suspicion of murder 2.32am after woman, 28, [stabbed to death] in Brent
  • At 8.34pm, officers were called to Brent where man was shot with ‘machine gun’
  • Police were called to Deptford at 8.10pm where a 23-year-old man was stabbed
  • Just over a mile away another man was stabbed in Brent at around 10.20pm
  • At 3.36am a 27-year-old man was arrested in Old Kent Road after a third stabbing

Of course, the “machine gun” description will turn out to be false;  after all, machine-guns are banned in Britishland so that’s just not possible.

Then again, we have this little incident:

Follow the link for the full story.  Good grief.  I’m all for carrying knives on one’s person — I have two in my pockets as we speak — but sheesh… that’s a little (shall we say) aggressive.

I know that Dallas isn’t London (thank goodness), but I can’t help but think that people like our angry cyclist might be a little more restrained if they suspected that the guy in the car might be packing a .357 revolver… just a thought.

Update: Vacuum Cleaner

Finally made my decision about a vacuum cleaner, and ordered it yesterday:

I know, I know; it’s not very sexy or modern, doesn’t look sleek and has only one function, but it should get the job done.  If you think of the above as the 1911 of vacuum cleaners, it will explain my decision.

Many, MANY thanks to all for your helpful suggestions.  (In addition to the Comments, I got dozens more via email, and they all really helped.  Thankee again.)