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Tiny Life is a radical departure from conventional comics.  There are no super-heroes, there is no manga.  There are no post-apocalyptic vampire-cyborgs who terrorize the zombie populace while simultaneously falling in love with the one shy yet very attractive girl who’s just coming into her own.  It is the completely original story of Jed, a stick-figure in a world of flesh, who must eventually learn – like we all do – the truth about himself, about relationships, about God, and about reality.  Tiny Life is about the world behind things.

Taking place almost a decade before the events of the last book, “left” contains the reasons why Jed doesn’t trust his dad or the seemingly-saintly status he attained in “l(a”.  As far as he knows, his dad abandons him for no apparent reason.  As far as he knows, all of his friends just happen to be leaving as well.  As far as he knows, the red dot that chases him has no purpose.  And as far as he knows, the failed political speechwriter who understands his life’s purpose is not out to kill him.

But then again, he’s only eleven; he has time.

Permits (part 5)

Part the Last: Building Permit

Once all of the preceding parts were finished, I was able to ask for and receive my building permit.  But only after a cost and a hassle.

As a fully functioning government unit, they can’t simply have an easy formula for figuring out costs.  It can’t be a fifty dollar flat-cost (even though, I’m sure, it takes just as much manpower to file the plans for a house as it does to file the plans for a Burger King sign) and it can’t be a simple “$100 for houses less than 2000 sq. ft. and $200 for anything larger” (why would a larger house need more money?  The same reason newer cars pay more the sticker on their license plates)  It has to be extremely complicated.

For instance, did you know I wasn’t told how much my building permit would be?  Did you know they wouldn’t even take a guess?  I have to look at a list of numbers and determine how much I should volunteer for a slip of paper.

Here is the cost sheet I was given to figure out the cost of my building permit:

Microsoft Word - building permit fee schedule 2014

Yes, there’re a lot of confusing numbers on there (it’s like watching the worst episode of The Animimatrix).  None so more than these ones:

Microsoft Word - building permit fee schedule 2014

According to this, if I have a 1000 square foot house with a tiny garage and an unfinished basement, I would have to pay exactly $127849.28 for my permit.

Then I looked a little father up the page:

Microsoft Word - building permit fee schedule 2014

The numbers at the bottom are to calculate how much my house might be worth based on square footage and then I’m to use those numbers multiplied by the appropriate numbers at the top of this page in order to correctly pay for the slip of paper that says it’s legal for me to put a house on land I bought for the reason of putting a house on it.

So here’s the formula they want me to use: My house has 1700 sq. ft. of living space, a 600 sq. ft. basement, and a 24’x24′ garage.  That means I have to use this formula, as offered by the bottom set of numbers: 1700 x 107.00 + 600 x 28.46 + 24 x 24 x 40.62.  I get $222,373.12.  From there, I have to create a table as offered by the top set of numbers:


The last number is the amount I owe to the city in order to obtain a piece of paper saying that I plan on hiring people to build a house where I will live and pay taxes to the city.

I used this alternative formula: 1% of “however much I tell them I’m spending on my house” + $10.

Permits (part 4)

Story the Eighth: Water and Sewage

I’m finally moving to a city.  I’m excited.  I’ve never lived in a town before.  I can go places that aren’t on the way to someplace else (I could never go to the hardware store and the grocery store in two different trips on the same day before) and I can use the phrase, “I’ll be right back!” and mean it!

This is where I used to get my water. Now I get it from a rusty pipe. I have the same relationship with crack cocaine.

In the country we have wells for water.  For those of you in the city, let me explain: I have a company come out and dig a hole dozens (sometimes hundreds) of feet deep.  They then put in an electric pump that takes the water from the underground lake to my house where I will pretend not to taste the massive amount of cow shit that has drained to the underground lake.

For sewage, in the country, we have a massive tank in our back yard where all the human waste is stored.  Grass doesn’t grow here (or sometimes, for whatever reason, it grows wildly).  We have to get it pumped out every decade or the shit will literally run backwards into the house.

In the city, this is just a pipe the runs by my house.  I can just tap into it.  Same thing for the sewer.  Tapping an already existing pipe should be less expensive than digging a massive hole, installing a pump, and burying a poop tank so big we could ride out the apocalypse in it.

Here’s my bill:


Permits (part 3)

Story the Sixth: Soil Erosion Permit

I think one of the ways that government tries to control who lives where is by having an insane amount of paperwork the deals with city expansion.  Case in point: my soil erosion permit.

My proposed house will be called The Tower of Babel.

I understand what this permit is for.  They want to make sure that the house I build and the very tall hill I build it on (because I’m better than my neighbors, the hill will be so high it will be an affront to God) won’t erode away over time making the property dangerous and making taxes depreciate.  But I understand it in the same way that I understand standardized testing: we want to keep an eye on everything, but we’ve bureaucratized it into something almost unusable.

The form I had to fill out asked for current elevations, proposed elevations, nearest waterway, current runoff rate, soil type, type of vegetation currently inhabiting the space, proposed vegetation… it was too much.  Once I was finally able to find this information, I was asked to bring out a site map from the most recent survey.  Luckily, in order to buy the land last year, a survey already was done.  This survey wasn’t good enough though.  The city wanted a better one, which brings me to…

Story the Seventh: A Site Plan

I would think the city – because they are a government agency and because government agencies love to stipulate certain criteria for more money – would’ve simply said, “This isn’t good enough.  We’ll have to do this ourselves for another $100.”  Instead they told me to go to a local survey place and have them do something official for an extra $500.

I called them up and described my needs.  Because they’re the only ones around that do this sort of thing, they treated me like they’re the only ones that do this sort of thing.  They don’t need me; I need them.  And they let me know it.  A conversation with the survey company:

Hi.  My name is Nick Jones.  I was just transferred from one operator to another, to a surveyor to a salesman to you about a site plan in order to get a soil erosion permit.

We don’t do soil erosion permits.

I understand that.  I went to the city and they recommended your company to draw up some sort of survey for their records.

So you want a survey?

I guess.  I want whatever is needed for the soil erosion permit.

We don’t do permits, sir.

But you do surveys which are then given to the city in order to get a permit, correct?

What you do after you purchase the survey is none of our business.

Well what type of survey would I need in order to get the soil erosion permit?

That is really up to the city.

What about this city that we’re in?

They do require a survey.

Ok.  Which one?

We over a wide variety of surveys.

But which one would I need specifically for the soil erosion permit?

We offer varying levels.

What’s the cheapest?

Our most inexpensive survey is simply a border survey.  It’s $300.

Is that going to be good enough for the soil erosion permit?

We don’t do permits here.  We just do surveys.

Will the city that we’re in consider that survey sufficient for their soil erosion permit?

No, they require elevations.

Do you do elevations there?

Yes.  We do several.

Will the cheapest elevation survey be good enough for the city that we’re in to consider that sufficient for their soil erosion permit?


What is the cheapest survey you offer that will be sufficient for the city that we’re in to give me a soil erosion permit?

That would be $500, but we don’t do permits here, as I’ve repeatedly explained.

Long story short: my $180 permit cost about $650.

Permits (part 2)

Story the Fifth: Driveway Permit

This is an actual picture of my driveway.

A driveway permit is pretty easy.  It’s run by the county, which has always been a society of left-overs (a county government only does what cities can’t do and what state refuse to do).  I paid like $50 and they told me to drive some stakes in the ground around the place I thought my driveway might be.  They really just need an approximation of what I want and where I want it, knowing that I might change my mind later; they don’t have the staff or the desire to get too technical on elevations and square footage.  They are, however, still a government entity.  And like any good government, they want more money.

After the fifty bucks is paid, they come out and inspect.  If it is determined that a ditch is needed, I’ll owe another $500.  If they determine a culvert is needed, I’ll owe another $500.  Guess which government entity determines that?  Guess who I write the check out to if they determine I need either of those things?  If you guessed the county road commission, then you’re aware of how government functions.

That’d be like getting your oil changed and having Jiffy Lube impound your car until you pay for the mandatory cabin air filter replacement.

Permits (part 1)

Or a house made of Tilt-a-Whirls

In order to build Xanadu, I have to get a building permit.  This isn’t unusual, and I’m sure it’s very practical.   Although I own the property, I can’t just put any piece of shit made out of egg cartons, deweaponized plutonium, and a dog coop on casters.  I get it.  What I don’t get is the number of things I have to do in order to get that permit.

On the building permit it says I need:

  1. A land clearing permit
  2. An energy use report
  3. A driveway permit
  4. A soil erosion permit
  5. A water permit
  6. A sewer permit
  7. A copy of the blueprints
  8. A site plan
  9. A sidewalk permit

That is, I need these permits before I can apply for the building permit.

Each permit has a little story.

Story the First: A Copy of the Blueprints.

As sad as it is, $2000 is on the low end of pricing for large sheets of paper.

I’ve been working with Pageant Homes since the beginning.  Although I am technically my own contractor, I’ve been using – and continue to use – their services and expertise for everything.  I ordered everything through them, I used their guy for CAD design, I talked to their resident expert/salesman about various building codes… so it makes sense that I use them for the blueprints.

In order to get these blueprints, I had to write a check for $2000.

I understand why they do it; they don’t want me getting a bunch of advice from their top guys only to walk away and use another company.  It’d be like if I brought my dog to a training facility and told them I needed a seeing-eye dog as soon as possible.  So they got their best guys on the case and before long I had a completely trained helper dog, vest and everything.  But right before graduation – the day they get paid – I say, “Thanks for everything, but it turns out I misheard the doctor: I’m not going blind, it’s Crohn’s Disease.  I have under-control anal-leakage”

Story the Second: The Energy Use Report.

Pageant homes used their expertise to write this for me.  No charge (well, no charge after the two grand).

Story the Third:  Sidewalk Permits.

Also considered for this analogy: women over 40 who still look like this.

There are no sidewalks where I live, so I don’t have to fill this one out.  I just think it sounds weird that I would have to ask permission (and pay for the privilege) to build an unwanted sidewalk that I would have to pay for and maintain.  It’d be like being mandated to trade in my car for a ’72 Mustang; it looks great, but it doesn’t start in the winter and I will always be working on it.

Story the Fourth: Land-Clearing Permits

Like the sidewalk permit, I find this one odd.  Why would I buy a piece of land if I don’t have the option of clearing it out for the purpose of living on it?  Or for the purpose of building a volleyball court for nudists?  The reason they want a permit for it is because I need permission to cut down each individual tree.  Every one of them.  You can see the results here.

I’ll have more as I get more permits.

A Glass of Water


How much would you pay if this was served in an overturned top hat? It’s still classy.

I think we all know everything tastes better out of a bottle.  It looks better too.  There’s a reason the world’s most expensive whiskey doesn’t come in a five-gallon bucket and wines that compliment swordfish don’t come in boda bags.

I’ve started a bottle-only policy when it comes to Coke.  If someone’s having some playdate pizza party, I won’t turn away a can, but I won’t physically go to Meijer and buy a 12-pack.

On my last trip to Meijer, in the same isle as the bottled Coke, I noticed some bottled water.  Like real bottled water.  In a bottle.  Not a plastic container.

Since it was on sale (I’m saving up for a house; I can’t afford extravigances like water), I bought one.  I have to say, it was the best water I’ve ever had.

“I only drink water from Italy” is the same thing as saying “My pekingese goes everywhere with me.”

I know it seems like common sense, but you’re not supposed to taste water.  It’s not supposed to be flavored or juiced or vitaminized or caramel-colored.  It’s supposed to be nothing: completely clear, no smell, no taste.  Growing up in rural Flint (by the way, check out the current Flint water report), the well-water always tasted like a softball bat.  Once I moved to California, we always bought water in plastic bottles because CA has shitty everything.  Once we moved to Middle-of-Nowhere (now sold), we always filtered our water, and so it tasted like a filter.  This bottled water was different.  It tasted like nothing.

Unfortunately, it comes from Italy.  I feel like a douche for having it in the house.

Ikea Kitchen (part 2)

ikeaSince I had heard so many horrific stories about dealing with Ikea over the phone, I decided – as I do with companies that are too successful to care (usually airlines, Windows “Help” centers, and – to make a multi-phone approach to calling.

I called their main line with the house phone, I called an alternative “online ordering only” call-center with The Wife’s phone, and I used a sweet app on my phone (it’s called Fast Customer: it basically calls the company for you, waits on hold for you, and then calls you back as soon as a real person picks up the phone).

After about 15 minutes on hold I made a sandwich.  Blueberry jam (not jelly; jelly is for kids).

After about 30 minutes I wrestled with the kids.  My crotch was only stepped on once.

After about 45 minutes I started to think: why would a company still do business like this?  Back when I was younger, like when I had a recall on my first car and had to call the “Recall Center” to find a repairshop near me, this was business-as-usual.  That was before places like eBay made it possible to buy anything anywhere and before FedEx made is possible to ship it.  That was before every major company had a mathematician on its payroll.  “Queuing theory” used to be gay slang for glory holes in a rest area, now it’s the reason you only wait 45 minutes for any ride at Universal Studios.

Is it because they know their product is so good and their customer base is so loyal that they can get away with this (call Apple sometime without an AppleCare account and see how long it takes)?  Or is it the opposite; is it because they know their product is so bad they know most people will hang up after an hour?  Or maybe it’s because their a furniture store and shipping one replacement item costs just as much as shipping an entire kitchen –

Just then, The Wife’s phone stopped playing smooth jazz.

Acladia, the head of Online Kitchen Service picked up.  That’s right: the HEAD.  She explained to me that there was “a big snow storm in Maryland so there aren’t a lot of people working right now” and that this wait time was isolated.  I was going to point her to Google where she could look up “Ikea” and “costumer service” and possibly “phone” to disprove her, but that wouldn’t help me get my two drawers, two doors, and trim.

Once the wait time was over, it was pretty quick.  I explained that I bought 184 items, five were damaged and needed to be replaced but that the company no longer makes these products, so I needed them quickly before the stock is depleted (it was the only time I’ve ever used the word “depleted”).  I heard a lot of typing.  She said, “Ok.  I’ve sent this to the store manager.  You should hear from us in a few days.”

After about 70 minutes of phone time, it took about 9 minutes of conversation.


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