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mdlbear: (river)

Colleen took a turn for the worse yesterday between breakfast, which she nibbled at, and lunch, by which time she was very "out of it" and apparently in pain (although I think some of that may have been pure frustration when she couldn't find words.

Apparently a severe infection can have that effect, and can strike quickly -- this is apparently a lot like toxic shock. She has at least three highly-resistant superbugs -- they identified the third this morning.

The kids are coming to visit Saturday -- the soonest they could get here.

Colleen is a stubborn old cat, though. Wish her luck.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Yesterday (Monday) she fell trying to go from her walker to the bed -- got herself into an awkward position and seemed confused when I tried to tell her how to get out of it. Rather than simply having the EMTs put her back in bed we decided to use the opportunity to get her to the ER and have her looked at. Which turned out to have been the right thing to do.

She's not doing all that well; but doesn't seem to be in immediate danger. Medical info under the cut. )

She'll almost certainly end up back in rehab again after she's discharged. I'm very worried about the mental confusion and the weakness, although getting more oxygen into her seems to have helped.

I'm not getting a damned thing done on $GIG the last few days; that's probably not surprising but is a matter for concern.

mdlbear: (river)

Just wanted to mention that I'm not planning to make a prank post tomorrow. I rarely do. I might attempt something funny, but that's different -- I'm not the kind of person who normally considers deceiving people to be funny.

mdlbear: (river)

This is a word (from an SF/fantasy serial novel in progress) that is obviously needed:

Hauneth
You are missing an incredibly important word for an emotion I know you have,...
That feeling you have when you leave something undone that you know you shouldn’t, and the longer you put it off, the harder it becomes to face, and the worse the feeling of guilt and shame becomes, until it feeds on itself? We call that Hauneth.
-- M.C.A. Hogarth in Kherishdar's Exception | Episode 38

72

2019-03-13 01:50 pm
mdlbear: (river)

I'm 72 years old today. 72 is a multiple of twelve, so it is, once again, the Year of the Pig. (However, it's a year of the Earth Pig; I was born in a year of the Fire Pig, for what that's worth.) It's also the year of my 50th college reunion, for what that's worth.

72 is also 23×32, the atomic number of hafnium, and the traditional value for room temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

I feel as though I ought to have something profound to say, but viewing the world as I am through filters of depression and anxiety, that's a bit difficult. But there was a robin on the grass outside my window a moment ago -- that counts for something, I suppose.

mdlbear: (river)

So... A week ago I had something that might have been a flashback. I think it depends on which definition you use. It was definitely an adrenaline spike triggered by remembering a stressful incident; N said at the time that the exact definition doesn't matter. One of the definitions given by thefreedictionary.com's medical dictionary is "2. In posttraumatic stress disorder (q.v.), the sensations resulting from strong emotional sequences acting as triggers."

I don't think the association with PTSD is particularly accurate -- I wouldn't describe the incident in question as traumatic, just very stressfull and potentially dangerous. And I don't think I process such things the way other people do. Like previous spikes, it was basically just a collection of symptoms that I've come to recognize. If there was an actual emotion going on there, I didn't notice it. I rarely do.

Also, like previous spikes, the symptoms showed up well after the trigger was over and done with. No idea whether that's "normal", but in most past incidents it made it difficult for me to identify the trigger, and in some cases I never did. Last week's was a bit unusual in that I'm pretty confident that I identified the trigger, while the spike was happening. I may be getting better at that.

I don't know whether any of this is interesting to anyone else; I think it was probably useful to me, so I'll keep on writing this kind of thing from time to time.

mdlbear: a rather old-looking spectacled bear (spectacled-bear)

nevermind

Today's word, "nevermind", is unusual in that it's part of the bear's self-talk (out loud -- the bear frequently talks to themself, and greatly appreciates the fact that bluetooth headsets make talking out loud to oneself socially acceptable). "Nevermind" is not expected to be heard by someone else, although it is spoken in the presence of someone else.

The approximate meaning is "I just asked or told you something. You obviously didn't hear it, but it wasn't important enough to be worth getting your attention and repeating. Never mind." It is generally spoken somewhat more quietly than whatever it was that induced the bear to say it. If heard by the other party, it is intended to assure them that they didn't miss anything important.

Understanding Ursine, the language of bears. Or at least of mandelbears. Or maybe just this mandelbear.

mdlbear: (river)

It's been twenty years to the day since my father died. (And twenty years plus two weeks since my mother-in-law died; that was a devastating couple of weeks.)

Since it's FAWM, I probably ought to try to write a song. But there are two already: "The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of" and "Rainbow's Edge". Both have pretty extensive notes; I'm not going to duplicate them here.

I'm okay; it's been long enough that most of the sharp edges have worn off. (Although, I almost posted this with 10 instead of 20 -- maybe it hasn't been that long.)

The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of: [ogg] [mp3]

I still find myself wanting to call and tell him something, from time to time.

mdlbear: (rose)

I'm not sure whether to lead with the back-story, or the song. I think the song. One of the songs. For some of the back-stories.

Today's song is Janis Ian's "Welcome to Acousticville" (Lyrics). It's on her album, Hunger. Go and listen. I'll wait.

Back-story - the song

I first heard "Welcome to Acousticville" the one time I heard Janis perform live, at a little Mexican restaurant called Don Quixote in Felton, CA. (You might want to look at my post, though it doesn't say very much.) "Welcome to Acousticville" was one of my two favorite songs from that concert; the other was "The Last Train" (lyrics. I've sung that one quite a few times, though not recently. Never had the guts to try "Welcome to Acousticville".

Janis Ian is a science fiction fan; I find it interesting but not surprising that my two favorite songs of hers are fantasy; neither would be out of place at a filksing.

Back-story - the title

This post grew out of comments by me and [personal profile] technoshaman on bairnsidhe's poem, "No Simple Highway". I've already posted a Songs for Saturday about "Ripple"; what brought this one on was the later discussion of my purple rose icon (which you can see on this post) in connection with psychopompery. (I know it isn't officially a word, but it's what psychopomps do, and I'm not the first one to use it.)

Back-story - the icon

The rose icon started out as a gif that somebody posted on Usenet; I took out the background and adjusted the color balance until it looked right. I created it in 1990, in honor of my daughter Amethyst Rose. I first used it as an icon on LJ in 2003; it appears to have been the second icon I uploaded, after the fractal that I still use as a default.

Since then, I've been using it as my standard icon not only for the Amethyst Rose posts, but for most posts and comments about grieving. Most people use a candle.

mdlbear: (river)

This morning Colleen turned to me and said something to the effect of "It's our anniversary. Forty-three years and we ain't killed each other yet." She added that "it's been close a couple of times", and I can't argue with that.

Here's to another forty-three, love. a bunch of    flowers with the words 'for you'

mdlbear: (river)

It occurred to me about an hour ago that it's probably not surprising that I feel like I'm under stress. Some of the most stressful events are supposed to be things like losing a job, retiring, and moving. In the last six and a half years I've:

  • Moved five times.
  • Been involved in three remodeling projects.
  • Been laid off twice.
  • Sold a house twice. (In both cases for a great deal less than expected.)
  • Bought a house twice.
  • Lost a (feline) family member.
  • Totaled a car.
  • Retired.
  • Started job-hunting again.

Not to mention other household members with life-threatening health problems. (Mine were just painful as heck -- multiple torn muscles and a broken nose.)

So, yeah. That happened.

mdlbear: (river)

At this point I could punt and simply carry all of last year's goals forward. Most of them -- Worldcon in San Jose is past its use-by date. But several of last year's goals were carried over from 2017. What makes me think I'd do any better this year? My biggest problem is still procrastination. It would be easy to blame it on depression or burnout but let's face it, those are largely effects rather than causes.

And many new challenges came in from the family health crisis that we couldn't possibly have forseen. Not my story to tell, but the drain on the household finances and on everyone's time and energy is huge.

  1. Okay, then. The number one goal is simply getting through the damned year, alive and with one or more roofs over our heads. Yeah, I know -- the problems aren't all my fault. Only most of them. That doesn't keep me from feeling responsible.
  2. There are two bucket-list events coming up; the first is my 50th college reunion. I don't want a repeat of the my high school reunion debacle. I'm going.
  3. The second is Mom's 99th birthday celebration.
  4. There's a lot of yard work that needs to get done in order to make the apartment over the garage attractive as a vacation rental. Weeding, mowing, and fixing the driveway are the high-order bits.
  5. There's also a huge amount of paperwork associated with setting up a vacation rental as well -- business license, tax stuff, all that. Not to mention putting (some fraction of) the associated remodeling on our taxes. Lots of figuring-out to do. Just the sort of thing I hate.
  6. I have to either get a job (which is unlikely and largely out of my control, but I have to at least crank out the applications) or start a business.
  7. I have to put in an amended tax return for 2017; that means finding the rest of the receipts for work done on the house. Mostly that's yard, deck, bathroom, studio, and the stairlifts.
  8. Having just found out that my posting software hasn't been passing the Music: header up to DW, I'm putting writing a good command-line DW client on the list. Most likely written in Perl, Python, or Go. Of course, it needs to be able to upload as well as post, in order to backfill the music.
  9. Speaking of music, we're working toward a concert at Conflikt in 2020. That means not only picking our setlist and rehearsing the heck out of it, but having CDs to sell. This is a huge stretch -- recording new CDs has been on my to-do list for over a decade now (CC&S came out in 2007).
  10. And then there's writing. No particular target, but definitely more curmudgeon and s4s posts.

Okay, ten is enough. Ship it.

mdlbear: (river)

... and as usual, even a lot of things that should have been easy didn't get done. I'd say that I blew it completely, but that's probably letting myself off easy.

Let's look at the goals for this year:

tl;dr: a total disaster )

45 1/3 out of a possible 1100. Average: 4.1%. Not one of my better years. Possibly my worst.

On a perhaps more encouraging note, here are my posting statistics by month:

Posting stats:
all of 2018 by month:
  14297 words in 11 posts	 in 2018/01 (average 1299/post)
   9412 words in  7 posts	 in 2018/02 (average 1344/post)
   8753 words in  5 posts	 in 2018/03 (average 1750/post)
  11671 words in  7 posts	 in 2018/04 (average 1667/post)
  11813 words in 17 posts	 in 2018/05 (average 694/post)
  14436 words in 15 posts	 in 2018/06 (average 962/post)
  19415 words in 17 posts	 in 2018/07 (average 1142/post)
   7579 words in 10 posts	 in 2018/08 (average 757/post)
   9339 words in 12 posts	 in 2018/09 (average 778/post)
  12017 words in 11 posts	 in 2018/10 (average 1092/post)
  15617 words in 30 posts	 in 2018/11 (average 520/post)
  12774 words in 18 posts	 in 2018/12 (average 709/post)
----------------------------------
 147123 words in 160 posts total in 2018 (average 919/post)

It looks as though I've been posting about every other day most months, and nearly every day in November. Not sure what happened in February through April -- those were little more than the done posts. Okay, that wasn't really very encouraging.

I'm not really up to writing a narrative summary of the year. I prefer stories with happy endings and, preferably, not too much bad stuff getting there. I also hate cliffhangers, and this year certainly counts in that category.

mdlbear: (river)

Not a whole lot today. I had been expecting Colleen to get out of the hospital today; apparently that will happen tomorrow. Desti had the cyst on her shoulder removed; she was gone most of the day. I got very little else done -- I could blame worry, but really it was just being unable to focus.

My health doesn't seem to have changed much; that's a very good thing. It could be better -- Colleen seems to be planning a healthier diet, which will help -- but it could also be a lot worse.

NaBloPoMo stats:
  15457 words in 28 posts this month (average 552/post)
    110 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: Wild turkey hen close-up (turkey)

It's (American) Thanksgiving, so this is the day when I try to include an extra helping of gratitude and maybe add a few explanations. So here we go: Today I'm grateful for...

  • my family, the Rainbow Caravan: my wife Colleen, my sister N, her husband G, my niblings j and m, and our housemate L. The extended family: our kids Chaos and Emmy, the Niblings' other parents, assorted cousins, and most especially my Mom and N's parents.
  • our feline family members: Desti, Ticia, Cricket, Bronx, and Brooklyn.
  • all of my friends on and off the net. Present company explicitly included.
  • our health -- or at least the good parts. Despite serious crises for many of us, we are all still alive and more-or-less functional. No thanks to our assorted conditions -- we are alive in spite of them. Or should that be "to spite them"?
  • modern drugs and medical technology, without which many of our respective health conditions would have been fatal rather than merely harrowing.
  • our medical insurance, what there is of it. Because we live in the US, the above-mentioned modern medicine is overpriced and incompletely covered, but at least it's mostly covered. No thanks to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and their paid lackeys in Congress.
  • music: the filk community, my bandmates N and m, and the songs -- notably "The Mary Ellen Carter" and "Bells of Norwich" -- that get us through rough times.
  • modern computing technology, particularly the communication protocols and software that tie our household together: TCP/IP, HTTP, ssh, slack, signal, firefox, and dreamwidth, among others. Also noteworthy are git and rsync, each of which has saved my arse more than once.
  • the GNU project for emacs, make, and bash; Don Knuth for TeX, Leslie Lamport for LaTeX, Linus Torvalds for linux and git, and IBM for the Thinkpad keyboard.
  • Whidbey Island.
NaBloPoMo stats:
  13281 words in 24 posts this month (average 553/post)
    328 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: (river)

So, once again I find myself approaching the end of a day without a post, so I'll give you an update on Colleen. When she got to her appointment with the nephrologist Monday, they took one look at her lab results and told her to go the hospital, stat. Apparently her kidney function was way down. (It has improved somewhat since then, but it's still rather scary.)

It feels like a lot longer that two days. I'm worn out. Some changes in her medication this evening should help with her level of comfort. (I'm going to skip the details, since I'm too frazzled to put in a cut tag just now. She's fired her urologist, which is expected to be an improvement.

I called the kids and my Mom a little while ago. Should call Mom before I leave for home. I've been keeping N in the loop via Slack.

mdlbear: (river)

As it turns out, coming up with four new post topics every week is fairly hard. (Four, because the other three are Thankful Thursday, Songs for Saturday, and Done Since). It's much easier to drift along watching math videos on youtube, listening to Dave Carter songs, and reading other people's blog posts rather than writing my own. So you get more rambling randomness tonight. I believe this is what they call writer's block. Or laziness.

Ticia is watching me. She wants me to come to bed. Silly cat.

Every time I look at a job description I'm struck by how little I can actually do, and how ill-prepared I was -- am -- for this stage of my life. What was I thinking? Where am I going, and what am I doing in this handbasket?

NaBloPoMo stats:
   9625 words in 15 posts this month (average 641/post)
    172 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I was reading an interesting blog post a few days ago with the catchy title "How do we make remote meetings not suck?" by Chelsea Troy. The main point was that meetings need some form of moderation, otherwise people tend to talk over one another. This is especially bad in remote meetings because a lot of the visual cues are missing (even with video), and also because network delays make pauses in the conversation hard to distinguish from a series of dropped packets.

Naturally, because I'm a filker, I immediately thought of the many ways our musical community has for organizing song circles. For those who haven't taken part in such a thing, a song circle is a group of people sitting around in a rough circle to sing. Song circles present many of the same problems as meetings, and in the sixty-odd years that people have been singing at conventions they've come up with some interesting solutions. (I might add that similar solutions can be found in operating system schedulers and computer networks; I'll leave most of the details as an exercise for the reader.)

The simplest method is the Bardic Circle, which is more familiar in the OS literature as round-robin scheduling -- the turn simply gets passed around the circle, e.g. to the right (or left) of the person singing. (Without loss of generality I'll say "person singing" for the person whose turn it is at the moment, but they have other options, e.g. picking someone else to perform, asking the group for a song on a given topic, or simply passing. This is generally expressed with the phrase "pick, pass, or play".)

The more people you have in the circle, the longer it takes for somebody to get a second turn. In a large group it can take an hour or two, but it's probably the most effective way of managing such a large group. There's a kind of computer network, now largely obsolete, called "Token Ring" that works pretty much the same way.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Chaos Circle, which is pretty much what it sounds like. This works best when there are comparatively few people who want to perform, and when they're all from roughly the same (geographic) area. Different regions have different expectations about what constitutes a pause -- we ran into this recently in a conversation that included several people from New York and others from the West Coast. Ethernet, back when every computer was connected to the same piece of coax, was chaos with the convention of exponential backoff to resolve collisions.

Moderated Chaos usually works well in slightly larger groups -- a moderator can resolve collisions by saying "okay, you get the next turn" A good moderator will also keep track of who hasn't had a turn recently, and encourage them to sing. My guess is that this is probably closest to what a moderated meeting is like. The moderator can either be assigned ahead of time by the event organizers, or may simply volunteer if things are getting too chaotic.

In between, we have Token-Passing Chaos, and Poker Chip Bardic. In a token-passing circle each performer gets to pick the next by passing them the token. The token is often an inflatable beach ball -- this has the advantage of requiring the performer to pass it along before they take their turn, to get the thing out of the way. Another good token is a ball of yarn. The resulting web makes it easy to spot people who haven't had a turn yet; if everyone gets a turn it's topologically equivalent to a Bardic Circle, but more flexible and fun.

The Poker Chip Bardic is probably the most interesting, and I think it has some potential for meetings as well. In this format, everyone gets three poker chips when they enter the room, in three different colors, and there are three corresponding rounds, one for each color. It's almost exactly the inverse of a Token-Passing circle -- people toss in their poker chip when they want a turn. Requiring each round to be completed before the next one is, again, topologically equivalent to a simple Bardic.

It gets a little more interesting -- and fun -- when you end a round when no-one wants to throw in the next chip. That gives people who pass in the first round a higher priority in the next. Reasons for doing this vary, of course. It's very effective for changing the subject or bringing in a new song at exactly the right moment.

I don't think this counts as a curmudgeon post, even with the slight technical content. But it's a post.

mdlbear: a locomotive engine dangling from a hole in a building (trainwreck)

This is going to be pretty random. I spent much of the day agonizing over a job application (which I finally finished, after about three weeks of writer's block) and an hour or so doing some necessary house repair; after which I've been vaguely out of it, and feeling as though I might be coming down with something. But it's NaBloPoMo, and I'm posting.

I'm still suffering from writer's block on the verbiage for a mailing list ad. I have a pretty good opening sentence (I think) but when it comes down to saying what it is I actually do, I come up empty.

Sometimes you just need to hire a curmudgeon to get annoyed at your computer, or your website, so that you don't have to. Get friendly advice, gentle coaching, understandable explanations, and expert help, from someone who's been using computers for over half a century.

Opinions? The reason I'm stuck is that I really don't know what I do that people would be willing to pay me for. I think I mentioned that I went to a day-long seminar on "Growing Your Consulting Business", and I've been reading books on consulting, all of which assume that you know what in heck you're doing. And have been doing it for a couple of years and just want to get better at it. You have to have at least some clients before you can specialize.

One of the posts I have planned for this month is a brainstorming session about just what I can do. I thought briefly about doing it now, but I think having a brain may be a prerequisite.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here being kind of appalled at how little I've done -- I've been looking at old posts, and old unsent drafts; old notes for projects that never got finished and in most cases never got started. It doesn't do much for self-confidence.

Our cats are being adorable, as usual. Desti is lying on my gig bag -- it's soft-sided and empty, so her weight makes a little hollow for her to lie in. It's also black, so she's pretty well camouflaged. Ticia is lying on the floor with her head on the side of the gig bag. The other thing Desti does is sit on my lap, or my computer. I can close the lid on my laptop and use just the external monitor, but it's remarkably difficult to type with a cat in one's lap. Browsing, yeah; I can do that.

A programmer looks At a blank emacs window, Mind equally blank.
NaBloPoMo stats:
   3887 words in 6 posts this month (average 647/post)
    472 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Today I'm going to talk a little about my all-time favorite Grateful Dead song (and occasionally my favorite song, period): "Ripple". OtherBear ran across a drop-dead gorgeous cover of it: Ripple - Playing for Change [YoutUbe]. Go listen and watch; I'll wait. Let there be songs to fill the air!

What I like about that video is the absolutely seamless cutting between the various musicians. Just magic. Makes you want to go off with a guitar and sing it -- so I did. The chords you usually find on the web are in G, so it's dead simple to play, and right in the middle of my vocal range. (The original was in F, so it would be perfect on a 12-string tuned down the traditional two frets. Just sayin'.)

It's a very strange song. For the most part, I have no idea what it actually means, but it hangs together nevertheless, invoking an overall feeling of slightly mystical tranquility that's been missing recently in my life. It just sort of ripples along quietly. The fact that the chorus is a haiku (though not in the usual 5-7-5 layout; it's 6-7-4) probably contributes to the tranquility:

Ripple in still water When there is no pebble tossed Nor wind to blow

If you left YouTube up, you might want to check out some other versions. this, for example, is the studio version, which is where I first encountered it. Also, check out The Annotated "Ripple" for the lyrics and more. Dodd may be going a bit off the deep end with the analysis; literary criticism really isn't my field so I can't be sure. But there really are some amazing depths in that song.

If I knew the way, I would take you home. See you next week.

NaBloPoMo stats:

   1528 words in 4 posts this month (average 382/post)
    333 words in 1 post today

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Ursine, as you might expect, is the language of bears. Or at least of mandelbears; I can't speak for the rest of the genus. Or maybe it's just this bear. In the (unlikely) event that "Understanding Ursine" turns into a series, this will serve as an introduction. The title has been somewhere on the bear's to-do list for several years -- this post from May, 2014 lists it among many proposed projects. It's well known that procrastination is a common ursine characteristic.

Reducing expectations: Much of the ursine vocabulary is involved with reducing the listener's expectations -- lack of self-confidence is another ursine characteristic. Notable in this category is "I'll try to remember", which is a common response to a non-urgent request made while the bear is doing something else. The meaning is, approximately, "I'm doing something else right now, and I might get engrossed in it again. When I reach a stopping point I hope I'll remember your request, but I might not."

Along the same lines, another common response to a request is "I'll try." It really doesn't matter what the request is or how trivial it is -- this is a default instant response that comes out before the bear has had time to think about what actions they actually have to take. It might be better to wait for a second or two, but the bear is afraid (with some justification) that the request will be forgotten by that time, or (with much less justification) fail to be accomplished.

Delaying interactions: Another large category serves to put off an interaction until the bear can actually pay attention to it. For a long time the bear has been using "Can't hear!", which is actually a worn-down form of the more accurate but longer "I'm not where I can hear you right now; I'll be out in a minute." Unfortunately, humans usually take "can't hear" as a request to speak louder. Would "later" or "busy" work better? "Busy!" has been used in the past.

"Working!" and "Working on it!" are other responses in this category. In both there is the implication that further conversation at this time would distract the bear from something it's doing. "Working on it" further implies that it's doing something you requested -- or thinks you're about to request.

Indications of overload: On rare occasions, the bear will say "Please..." in a pleading tone; this indicates that the bear is under extreme stress and is about to go completely non-verbal. A warding-off gesture, palm outward, usually means that either this has already happened, or that the bear is on the phone.

A four-letter interjection repeated at intervals of roughly a second is usually an indication that the bear is involved in a task, such as cleaning the floor or groping under the sink for a cut-off valve, that is causing them physical pain (more rarely, mental distress) but nevertheless has to be done.

Sorry: Some concepts don't translate well, and we're still unsure exactly what "Sorry" means. It may have originated with any of a number of phrases that start out "I'm sorry, ..." but now appears to be mostly an indication that something is going wrong and the bear is too overloaded to say anything else. There is also the implication that the bear is taking the blame for whatever is going wrong; that usually means that the bear's self-esteem is even lower than usual.

mdlbear: (rose)

It's been 19 years since my father died. He introduced me to science fiction, computers, digital filtering, electronics, and folk music, among other things. His paper on digital filtering of spectra is one of the most-cited papers in in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Dad was as much a packrat as I am, so there was always a good supply of reading material around the house: magazines including CACM, Science, Analog (and its predecessor, Astounding), Galaxy, American Scientist, and others; plus a small collection of computer design and SF books (including a few by his grad-school classmate Isaac Asimov).

He was also the gentlest person I've ever met.

Links:
Abraham Savitzky - Wikipedia
Savitzky–Golay filter - Wikipedia
Smoothing and Differentiation of Data by Simplified Least Squares Procedures. - Analytical Chemistry (ACS Publications)
The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of
Rainbow's Edge

I guess I'm not up to saying anything more today. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1999, a little over two weeks after Colleen's mother died of breast cancer. It's a rough couple of weeks, and I never really know why until I remember.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I've been around here for a while, for various values of "here" that predate Dreamwidth, LJ, the Web, and even Usenet. But a lot of you reading this are relatively new, so to borrow words from [personal profile] chanter_greenie et. al.,

I would like you to ask me something you think you should know about me. Something that should be obvious, but you have no idea about. Ask away.

As Sooj's song says, Ask Me Anything.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Somehow I seem to have forgotten to post this on the day, but:

As of Wednesday, Colleen and I have been married for 42 years.

We celebrated last night by going out to Toby's (nice neighborhood bar in Coupeville) with Naomi.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

This is the start of an experiment.

Last night, N took me to task for wasting my retirement time puttering around the house, reading blogs, doing things for Colleen, and not doing any of the things I retired in order to have time for: recording, writing, and programming in particular, with a side of woodworking. She pointed out that if I'm going to spend my time doing stuff that we could hire a housekeeper or caregiver to do, the family would be better off if I went back to work and we hired people to do those things. (Or increased their hours, since in fact we already have a housekeeper and caregiver.)

So.

I realized that Colleen doesn't really need all that much help these days. Normally I've been teaching on the days when Colleen has a caregiver around, and spending more time with her on the days when she doesn't. But in fact, when I've switched (for whatever reason), Colleen does perfectly well with a little help around lunchtime and in the late afternoon. So if I switched, I'd have two large blocks of time completely to myself: 8:30 to 11:30 (my teaching time, but potentially expanded to 8:00 to noon) and 1:00 to 4:00. That's six or seven hours, at least two days a week and potentially three on weeks when I'm not needed Friday.

N. suggested that I start each block with 15 minutes of guitar practice, to get my fingers back in shape without hurting, then pick something from the project list (I'll get back to that) and keep going with it as long as I'm sufficiently engaged. Then switch to something else. Lather, rinse, repeat (like the programmer who died in the shower:). I could do guitar practice at 8:00 on teaching days, and I should probably schedule time for walking as well, say 4:00-4:30 or so.

So I did that this morning, starting out with guitar at 8am and continuing on to writing. It is now 9:09. I missed breakfast; I can squeeze in some cottage cheese between now and the next sub-project. Which should include working on the project list.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Last year, as you may recall, I titled my New Year's Day post "This had better work...". Last month I went back over it, in "That Was the Year That Was". I shorted myself some, by only reviewing my actual goals and not any other notable accomplishments along the way. Wait -- were there any?

Probably the biggest was simply living through it. It's not clear that anything else was that major.

Anyway, onward! Here are the goals for 2018:

  1. Find the money for 2016 taxes and the garage room remodel. This will almost certainly involve a loan, rather than pulling it out of my retirement savings, because of the tax hit.
  2. Get the garage sufficiently cleared out to serve as a workshop. Work some wood.
  3. Do some real programming. Find an interesting open-source project and get involved, maybe. Write a DW client that works the way I want it to.
  4. Learn Wordpress and Joomla. Maybe Drupal. Build the website that N is going to need for her business.
  5. Do a lot more music. Continue lessons, play at some open mics and farmers' markets, record a CD or three.
  6. Do a lot more writing. I wrote a book once; it's not impossible for me to do it again.
  7. Attend Worldcon in San Jose. There are a lot of people in the Bay Area who we haven't seen since we left.
  8. Take care of myself Self-care is still my weakest point. Walk. Find a therapist. Eat more green stuff.
  9. Do things that get me out among people. I'm still something of a loner, and very much an introvert, but I need this.

There were also a bunch of WIBNIFs, none of which actually got done. Three of them, "Get back into recording", "Do a lot more writing", and "Do a little woodworking", are included above. That pretty much leaves:

  • Record an album, either Amethyst Rose, Lookingglass Folk, or preferably both. Last year's version of this, "do some recording", is included in "do a lot more music". See above.
  • Do something that will bring in a little money. I'm not sure I'm up for contracting again, but writing could do it. So could an album or two. And maybe I could start a patreon.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

... or something like that. 2017 was very much a mixed bag. Let's go back to last New Year's Day, and a post titled "This had better work...". I think, for the most part, it did. That didn't keep it from being horrible.

So here were my goals for this year:

  1. Downsize. Get rid of as much stuff as we feasibly can, so that we can...
    Yeah; we still kept too much stuff, but we did a pretty good job and got rid of somewhere around 2/3 of it. In the end, it all packed down into three 8x8x16 containers. 100%
  2. Sell the house. Preferably in such a way that we can move out somewhere around the middle of June.
    About $100K less than we really planned on getting for it, but we did it. Between that and the necessary repairs, we ended up with a lot less money than we needed. 90%
  3. Retire. If possible, after the house is sold. If at all possible, after my stock vests in mid-June, because we're going to need it.
    Did that, at the end of April. 100%
  4. Move. No idea where; we've had enough monkey wrenches lobbed into our plans that I could start a hardware store.
    ... and here we are on Whidbey Island. 100%
  5. Settle in. We will have emergency exit plans, but hopefully won't have to use them.
    I wouldn't say we're completely settled, but the place feels like home now. 90% (unless you count unpacking all the boxes, in which case more like 75%)
  6. Take care of myself. Self-care is one of my weak points. Diet, exercise, ... damned if I know -- I hate exercise.
    I have not been taking very good care of myself. Still no walking to speak of, though I appear to have lost between 2 and 4 pounds since last January in spite of that. Psychologically, I don't feel as though I've made much progress either, but hopefully I'm learning to be a little easier on myself. 20%?

I wrote, "Is that too much to aim for? I hope not." I don't think it was too ambitions. I also wrote: "There are a few things I'd like to do, if I can:" -- That was a lot less successful. No surprise.

  • Get back into recording.
    nope. 10%, because N and I did start singing lessons.
  • Do a lot more writing. I wrote a book once; it's not impossible for me to do it again.

  • 0%
  • Do a little woodworking.
    10%, but only if you count putting up shelves in the new house.
  • Do something that will bring in a little money. I'm not sure I'm up for contracting again, but writing could do it. So could an album or two. And maybe I could start a patreon.
    Nope. 0% Didn't do any volunteering, either.

In spite of 2017 being really sucky in a lot of ways, our household (now called The Rainbow Caravan) seems to have gotten out of it more-or-less okay. We have a nice house, plans to make it better, and two new kittens. That has to count for something, right?

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

It's Thanksgiving day, in the evening. A strange one. But I'm not going to talk about that now. Today I am thankful for

  • Colleen. Why she stays with me I'll never know, but I'm glad that she does. I don't think I'd be here without her.
  • My sister of choice. I wouldn't be here without her, either. She thinks better of me than I do; I suppose somebody has to.
  • The rest of my family, both blood and chosen. I'm especially grateful that Mom is still alive and well, and my younger daughter, at least, is thriving. The older is struggling, but I think -- I hope -- she'll be ok.
  • Our cats, especially sweet Ticia, who comes to comfort me when the black thoughts wake me in the dark, lonely hours of the night. And one mustn't forget the rampaging kittens. Not that they'd let me.
  • Retirement, I think. It's a very mixed blessing, at this point. I'll be more grateful if I can make it until next Thanksgiving.
  • Whidbey Island, mostly. It's lovely out here, but it can be a little isolated.

mdlbear: (rose)

This would have been Ame's 27th birthday.

I'm mostly over the grieving now, more than a quarter-century after our middle daughter was stillborn. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that our other daughters have both moved out, so that we see them only every month or two. In a sense, Ame's a little closer than that now. It's ok.

I'm okay. It's actually been three years since I last posted, and that was a short one, a couple of days late. We don't have much to talk about these days.

Good night, Ame. I love you.

Good night, Daddy. I love you too.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So now that 2016 is dead and buried -- not necessarily in that order -- let's see what we can make of 2017. Hopefully the goals will be more achievable, if not necessarily easier, because if they're not I'm going to have trouble surviving the next year.

  1. Downsize. Get rid of as much stuff as we feasibly can, so that we can...
  2. Sell the house. Preferably in such a way that we can move out somewhere around the middle of June.
  3. Retire. If possible, after the house is sold. If at all possible, after my stock vests in mid-June, because we're going to need it.
  4. Move. No idea where; we've had enough monkey wrenches lobbed into our plans that I could start a hardware store.
  5. Settle in. We will have emergency exit plans, but hopefully won't have to use them.
  6. Take care of myself. Self-care is one of my weak points. Diet, exercise, ... damned if I know -- I hate exercise.

Is that too much to aim for? I hope not. There are a few things I'd like to do, if I can:

  • Get back into recording.
  • Do a lot more writing. I wrote a book once; it's not impossible for me to do it again.
  • Do a little woodworking.
  • Do something that will bring in a little money. I'm not sure I'm up for contracting again, but writing could do it. So could an album or two. And maybe I could start a patreon.

Seventeen years ago I wrote a song, "Millenium's dawn.". It was nostalgic, and disillsioned, and had a place between the last two choruses where a verse ought to have been, but nothing seemed to fit. A year and a half ago, I wrote that verse.

Now we're out where the daylight can find us,
But our journey has hardly begun;
There are old bridges blazing behind us,
And we're drawing new maps as we run.

If we want the bright future we charted
We must chase down our dreams where they've gone,
And finish the work that we started
By the light of the Millenium's dawn.

  Yes, we'll make the rockets thunder
  To carry us up past the skies;
  We will build new cities of wonder
  To gleam in the bright sunrise;
  
  Here's hope to heal your sorrow
  Now that the old dreams are gone,
  And the past has turned into tomorrow
  After the  Millenium's dawn.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

2016 SUCKED. Right up until the end, and it's planning to stick around for an extra (leap) second just to rub it in. I want to be up at 23:60 to watch it die. Not that I expect 2017 to be any better.

Last year at this time I wrote It's been a harrowing year. [...] What got us through it was the love and mutual support we have for one another, scary amounts of money, and a great deal of help. But we got through it. We got through as a family. There were times when I honestly didn't expect to. But here we are, at the end of another year.

Um... Yeah. That. Less money and outside help, but certainly Trump's election provided a lot in the way of outside motivation. Any plans we had at the beginning of the year were basically blown to hell in November.

So... let's look at last year's goals. Guidelines -- that's what I called them. Anyway.

  1. Music: I tried something indefinite last year, and didn't get very far with it. So this year, let's aim for an album: Amethyst Rose. The stretch goal would be to add Lookingglass Folk.
    Pretty much a total bust. And I gave two solid concerts and didn't manage to record either of them. 10% if you count concerts, 0% otherwise.
  2. Writing: Write more poetry, and aim for at least one non-fiction (software-related, most likely) article per month.
    No poetry to speak of. Between DW and Quora I managed quite a lot of writing, but very little of it was organized. Maybe 35%.
  3. Exercise: Walk on weekends. Stretch: get my bike repaired. (That's been on the list since before I moved to Seattle, so I don't have much hope.) Nope.
  4. Food: Eat better: more salads, fewer take-out lunches. Take off more weight -- I've been stalled for months. At least under 190, and preferably under 180.
    I ate a lot more leftovers this year, My weight went up ten pounds, thanks to my doctor taking me off my diuretic. I dunno - 10%?
  5. Psych: Last year's "health" goal was all about depression, but I also made a list of plausible stress-reduction techniques, a few of which I actually tried, and I'll keep working on that. But the main thing has to be procrastination. I'll get started on that... sometime? Tonight, preferably.
    Or later. I did get a fair amount done, though, and my dysthymia and anxiety were mostly under control -- at least up until November. 40%.
  6. Web: Convert the main websites to HTML-5 and CSS. Finally get around to writing the correct lyrics-to-HTML converter (using tables instead of monospaced fonts), and a good browser-based songbook/setlist viewer to go with it. Get some experience with popular CMSs: WordPress, and if possible Joomla and Drupal.
    Well, I got the lyrics converter written, if not actually deployed to the web. And my favorite emacs mode for web, html-helper-mode, has been upgraded to HTML-5. In addition, I put three projects up on GitHub. 75%?
  7. Work: Get a new job, or get unstuck at my present one. The former is more likely. If possible, something that's mostly or entirely work-from-home. If not, get started on building a consulting business (web-related, or something else in the software range) that can fill that role.
    Hmm. I did get unstuck. My present project looks dicey, but we may be able to pull it off. I may still have to jump ship, but if I can make it until next June I should be due for more stock, which the gods know will help. I'm going to give myself a 90% on this one.
  8. Household: Get the household workshop set up and, um, working. That means organizing the garage and the downstairs kitchen. Do some serious planning (as opposed to just reading blogs) toward the eventual move-out into tiny houses.
    Well, ... I'm not sure how to rate this one. A lot of organizing in the garage, to be sure. And the planning. Not the plan we expected to have, to be sure. But we have a plan.

To quote the song that has become another household anthem, "All the dreams that I had when we started, Have crumbled to dust in my hand."

Well, here's to an age that's departed,
And to pictures we drew in the sand.
All the dreams that I had when we started,
Have crumbled to dust in my hand.

Guess I'll pull a new map from my pocket
Never mind where the old ones have gone
And I'll look for a new road to follow
By the light of the Millennium's dawn







And we -- all of us together -- did. We found our new road. It looks kind of steep. OK, very steep. More next year, but the way forward involves selling the house, retiring, and moving. Hopefully in that order, because otherwise we can't afford it.

Wish us luck!

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So, in the interest of raising my word count for the day, have a post.

Please note: this post describes a medical situation that turned out not to be the emergency I thought it might have been; I'm ok and, as it turns out, was never in any danger. However, if you have problems reading about medical emergencies, scary symptoms, hospitals, or needles you will probably be best off with the cut text.

tl;dr: I'm ok. Nothing to worry about. )

Lab work, EKGs, and X-rays all looking perfectly normal, around 3:30 am they gave me my discharge paperwork, and I called G for a ride home. He was sleepy; N came instead. Have I mentioned recently how awesome my sister is? She's awesome.

Note that at this point most of the pain had gone away, but there was still a little achiness around my right shoulder, and the second joint of my right index finger was still almost as painful as it had been at the start. It still is, over 12 hours later.

On the way home N, who is a professional massage therapist, said that it sounded like a pinched nerve was the most likely explanation. Specifically, something called thoracic outlet syndrome. Which is sort of like carpal tunnel syndrome, only between your collarbone and your first rib.

When we got home, I put a sick day on my work calendar -- if I go to the ER in the middle of the night I've damned well earned a sick day no matter how much better I feel in the morning.

So here's what Wikipedia says about it: "Pain can be present on an intermittent or permanent basis. It can be sharp/stabbing, burning, or aching. TOS can involve only part of the hand (as in the 4th and 5th finger only), all of the hand, or [...] the pectoral area below the clavicle, [...] and the upper back (i.e., the trapezius and rhomboid area)." Um... right. What they said.

"The two groups of people most likely to develop TOS are [...] and those who use computers in non-ergonomic postures for extended periods of time. TOS is frequently a repetitive stress injury (RSI) caused by certain types of work environments." ... and I noticed, as I sat there at my desk with my right hand on the trackball, that my right shoulder was uncomfortably higher than my left one.

My desk at home, which consists of a sheet of plywood resting on a 2-drawer filing cabinet and a couple of 2x2 legs, is about 3" (7.5cm) higher than it needs to be. That would probably do it.

... so it looks like I need to take everything off my (cluttered) desk, disassemble the thing, make shorter legs for it, and put everything back. Grumble.

mdlbear: "Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" - Terry Pratchett (flamethrower)

The only writing I did last week was last Sunday's weekly post. I'll try to do better; hopefully I won't be feeling as harried this week. I did get in some music time -- last Sunday, and yesterday. And some walking with Colleen and Kat, also on Sunday.

Quite a bit of back pain. It's been mostly ok in the morning, but tends to get worse on the way home. Probably something to do with being tired, but also possibly stress. Have I mentioned having trouble identifying my mental state? It's called alexithymia.

The alexithymia also bleeds into problems identifying physical state, because of course they're related. I have trouble distinguishing the physical symptoms of anxiety and hunger, for example. Not to mention distinguishing between wanting food, and needing food. The latter barely registers, and certainly not as hunger, until I suddenly start feeling the symptoms of low blood sugar. Which I have learned to recognize. Or until Colleen notices that I'm starting to snap at people.

Stress is, apparently, another of those states that I don't start noticing until it's been going on too long. And then it bleeds into burnout and depression. (And, no, depression doesn't register as sadness. At all. It's best described as a combination of apathy and despair.) I think I'm noticing a trend here.

I'm getting better at noticing. Look in the notes for an exclamation mark in column 3 -- that means I've actually noticed an emotion while it was happening. They're rare -- the only instance this last week was Sunday.

Speaking of stress, I'm oncall this week. With pages including 6am Tuesday morning -- Prime Day -- and midnight last night. This morning. Whatever. One thing I've noticed is that I don't have enough mental bandwidth. I can't multitask. At all. Period. Things get lost track of.

If a page comes in, I completely lose track of whatever I was doing, including dealing with another page, and it takes me a while to get my context back. Which leads to things like having something like 10 different browser windows open in 8 workspaces, with multiple tabs in each, many of which refer to the same tickets. Because context. And, of course, re-investigating the same thing multiple times because I've forgotten what I was doing an hour ago.

I'm getting a little better at going up to people I don't know and asking for help. But, of course, I'm even worse at remembering names than I am at multitasking, which leads to things like waking the wrong person up at six in the morning. (And forgetting that I had an email in my inbox telling me who the right person would have been. See multitasking.)

(Brief pause -- my desk is being catted on. The absolute best thing I've done for my mental health in years was putting a cardboard box on my desk, attaching it with a couple of screws, and lining it with a towel.)

Back to reaching out and talking to people. I don't think my reluctance to do that has anything to do with what I afraid people will think of me. So, this doesn't seem to have the characteristcs of social anxiety. No, it has more to do with what I think of me, and in particular feeling stupid and at a loss for what to do. Plus total lack of self-confidence, which leads to (or somehow relates to) an unwillingness to "disturb" people.

It's not just at work. Even at home, I take a closed door as a "do not disturb" sign even when I'm pretty certain that the person on the other side (usually N) would be happy to see me. It's hard enough when I know they're expecting me, though I'm getting a little better about that.

In a slightly different direction, some links from [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith about emotional self-care (see Monday, below) proved unexpectedly triggery and anxiety-provoking. So we're talking low self-esteem here, maybe. (Maybe?! Let's get real here.)

It's been a long month this week.

Notes & links, as usual )
mdlbear: (rose)

Unless the sound of silent thoughts carries up the Rainbow Bridge, I won't be saying "Happy Fathers' Day" to my Dad. He died a little over 17 years ago. He got me interested in computers, over 50 years ago -- I miss him every time I think "I'd love to call Dad and tell him about..."

Science fiction, and folk music -- he would have loved the filk community. He took me to trade shows and conventions back before they stopped allowing kids in; he would have enjoyed a filk convention. He would have loved my CD, Coffee, Computers, and Song!

Songs for Sunday:

  • The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of -- I wrote this a couple of months before Dad died, and sang it for him on my last visit.
  • Rainbow's Edge -- Mom had asked me to write a song to sing at Dad's memorial. I don't sing this one all that often.
  • The World Inside the Crystal -- Dad was a programmer (when he wasn't being a chemist). I don't think he ever said so, but I'm pretty sure this was his favorite.

Not exactly the playlist I'd planned, but...

ETA: as I hoist my glass of gin I'm reminded of the way Dad made Tanqueray martinis: straight gin -- there's a bottle of vermouth somewhere in the house. For a slightly sweeter version, open the bottle.

mdlbear: (river)

Now that we've said goodbye and good riddance to 2015, it's time to take a look ahead. As I've said before, I don't do resolutions. These are more, um, guidelines. Yeah; that's it. Guidelines.

  1. Music: I tried something indefinite last year, and didn't get very far with it. So this year, let's aim for an album: Amethyst Rose. The stretch goal would be to add Lookingglass Folk.
  2. Writing: Write more poetry, and aim for at least one non-fiction (software-related, most likely) article per month.
  3. Exercise: Walk on weekends. Stretch: get my bike repaired. (That's been on the list since before I moved to Seattle, so I don't have much hope.)
  4. Food: Eat better: more salads, fewer take-out lunches. Take off more weight -- I've been stalled for months. At least under 190, and preferably under 180.
  5. Psych: Last year's "health" goal was all about depression, but I also made a list of plausible stress-reduction techniques, a few of which I actually tried, and I'll keep working on that. But the main thing has to be procrastination. I'll get started on that... sometime? Tonight, preferably.
  6. Web: Convert the main websites to HTML-5 and CSS. Finally get around to writing the correct lyrics-to-HTML converter (using tables instead of monospaced fonts), and a good browser-based songbook/setlist viewer to go with it. Get some experience with popular CMSs: WordPress, and if possible Joomla and Drupal.
  7. Work: Get a new job, or get unstuck at my present one. The former is more likely. If possible, something that's mostly or entirely work-from-home. If not, get started on building a consulting business (web-related, or something else in the software range) that can fill that role.
  8. Household: Get the household workshop set up and, um, working. That means organizing the garage and the downstairs kitchen. Do some serious planning (as opposed to just reading blogs) toward the eventual move-out into tiny houses.
mdlbear: (river)

Here are last year's goals (I'm too irresolute for resolutions). Let's see how I did.

  1. Music. I'm going to lump recording, songwriting, and making music together, not so much because they're all aspects of the same thing as to give me a goal that I'm more likely to meet parts of. Mostly fail -- I didn't write or sing nearly as much as I wanted to, and didn't record anything at all. But I did write two songs: Windward (in January) and Ninety-Five Years (in December). And I gave a couple of good performances, but stupidly didn't record them.
  2. Writing. I'd settle for one post a week that isn't one of the two scheduled ones, though I'd like to do more. Almost complete failure on this one.
  3. Exercise. Keeping up the walking on weekdays is kind of a minimum; I'd like to walk a little on weekends, and maybe even get my bike back in working order. Between injuries and laziness, even my weekday walking declined. Mostly fail.
  4. Food. As a minimum, get back to serving salad with dinner on most of the days that I cook. Fail.
  5. Software. Get the household intranet back into shape. Finish revising my music-publishing toolchain. Set up a blogging toolchain. Bring my websites into the 21st Century, maybe. Write that HTML5-based lyrics app that I've been thinking about. OK, that's at least five sub-goals; six if you figure that the app and maybe the websites will require getting profficient in Javascript. I'll give myself 45% on this one: the household's network is back, including internal DNS. The music-publishing toolchain works pretty well, and it's part of a complete make-based toolchain that's been revamped from top to bottom. I did a fair amount of research into HTML5 and CSS, but didn't actually get anything deployed.
  6. Organization. Do more of my 15min items, get my taxes filed on time, and hack my way through the piles of envelopes on my desk and the piles of boxes in the garage. Stick to my damned budget, now that I have one. Hmm. I think I met this one. The garage clean-up was a side-effect of turning 3/4 of it into a second master suite. Taxes got done, my budget was stuck to, and I ended the year no more in debt than I started it. The piles of mail are pretty-much gone -- as of yesterday. Did I mention that I procrastinate? Might have to make that a goal for next year.
  7. Health. This is a stretch goal, but I need to do something about my depression. Or whatever it is. Find help. This was another win. After a harrowing six months or so, I finally got help in the form of regular sessions with a therapist, got my depression more or less under control (thanks to the above plus Good Drugs), and I lost on the order of 15 pounds. (On the other hand, the initial weight loss was a side effect of the severe anxiety over the effect my depression and procrastination were having on my work.)

It's been a harrowing year. Between injuries, some of which could have been fatal (I'm including the rest of the household here, but my nose-dive into a sidewalk definitely counts); months of depression that, in retrospect, could also have been fatal; the death of a beloved pet; and five figures worth of repairs to Rainbow's End -- well, let's just say that I won't be sorry it's over.

What got us through it was the love and mutual support we have for one another, scary amounts of money, and a great deal of help. But we got through it. We got through as a family. There were times when I honestly didn't expect to. But here we are, at the end of another year.

mdlbear: A brown tabby cat looking dubiously at a wireless mouse (curio)

I keep listening to the jingle of the little bell and tag on his collar. Our other cats are quiet little ninjas. When I couldn't find him I'd call his name and he'd jingle. When he stopped responding to his name I knew something was wrong.

I've said that he was "my cat", because he chose me and loved me and followed me, but in truth he was more Colleen's cat. She was the only one whose lap he would sit on. He would curl up there for hours, or sit on the footrest of her recliner, or lie on her chest next to her heart.

When he started being a picky eater, she was the one who made sure he ate, and chased the other cats away from his bowl. She fed him cat treats, and when we had bacon for breakfast she would break off pieces for him.

pictures under the cut. If you're on LJ, go over to Dreamwidth, which does a better job of scaling the pix. )

Finally, here are some links related to FIP:

links, cut for length. )
mdlbear: A brown tabby cat looking dubiously at a wireless mouse (curio)

A bear walks into a bar, and puts a dollar in the jar.

"Kahlúa and cream, Mike." It's not his usual genever, but he's not the first bear to order that drink this week. He takes it to the chalk line and stands for a while, sipping the drink and fingering something in his pocket. Finally, he raises the glass.

"To Curio!", he says, and flings the glass into the fireplace.

He was always my cat, ever since he walked up to me in the shelter two years ago and said so. My sister had to translate for him -- I wasn't very fluent in feline at the time.

He was the most outgoing and easygoing of our cats, always willing to accept attention from anybody, but I'm the one he followed around, and asked to be picked up and carried by. He spent a lot of time on Colleen's lap, too, and when he started getting picky about food, she would empty a can of catfood into a small bowl and make sure he ate it.

At night I would pat the laundry hamper in the hallway and say "Up", and he would jump up for me to carry upstairs to bed, though he often leapt out of my arms and ran up the stairs ahead of me. Most nights he slept on our bed.

I made a pad of folded leopard-print, fuzzy fabric and set it on my desk so that he could lie or sit there and be petted while I worked on the computer. He made an excellent villain's cat. He liked high places; I once found him on the highest shelf in our bathroom, afraid to come down. Perhaps he knew I'd come rescue him.

Maybe a month ago he started eating less, and became more solitary. His breathing became labored. His last two weeks I would often come home to find that he'd spent all day in our closet, or on the cool tiles of the shower stall. I would carry him to Colleen, but he would only pick at his food. His last week, he was completely miserable; we made the earliest appointment we could. It was barely soon enough.

you may want to skip this part. Wish I could have. )

Somewhere in there, Naomi reminded me that cats live in the moment, and we had done the best we could to make his last moments good ones, surrounded by the people he loved.

And he had one last gift for me: he taught me to cry again. Long ago, I forgot how. Thank you, Curio, for giving me back my tears.

The bear sits back down, and puts a tattered red collar on the table in front of him.

In the end, he walked across the Rainbow Bridge calmly, eyes open and tail held high. In Valhalla, he's finally able to go outside, get wasted on catnip, and sleep on the grass in the sunlight. In the evening he walks across the tables -- he was never a lap cat except for Colleen -- and begs for scraps from the feasting warriors. He's especially fond of beef.

Sometimes, late at night, he'll go visiting. There's a petrified forest where it's always twilight, and a glade where stands an Amethyst Rose with obsidian thorns as sharp as Curio's claws. Sometimes Bast goes with him. Bast willing, I'll see them again some day.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

So. Some goals for 2015.

  1. Music. I'm going to lump recording, songwriting, and making music together, not so much because they're all aspects of the same thing as to give me a goal that I'm more likely to meet parts of.
  2. Writing. I'd settle for one post a week that isn't one of the two scheduled ones, though I'd like to do more.
  3. Exercise. Keeping up the walking on weekdays is kind of a minimum; I'd like to walk a little on weekends, and maybe even get my bike back in working order.
  4. Food. As a minimum, get back to serving salad with dinner on most of the days that I cook.
  5. Software. Get the household intranet back into shape. Finish revising my music-publishing toolchain. Set up a blogging toolchain. Bring my websites into the 21st Century, maybe. Write that HTML5-based lyrics app that I've been thinking about. OK, that's at least five sub-goals; six if you figure that the app and maybe the websites will require getting profficient in Javascript.
  6. Organization. Do more of my 15min items, get my taxes filed on time, and hack my way through the piles of envelopes on my desk and the piles of boxes in the garage. Stick to my damned budget, now that I have one.
  7. Health. This is a stretch goal, but I need to do something about my depression. Or whatever it is. Find help.

Seven. Same as last year. We'll see.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Let's get the party announcement out first: we're having our usual "sometime around New Year" party this Saturday, the 3rd. It's actually on our anniversary this year, but we're not expecting presents, just presence. And food. It's a potluck -- food is always welcome.

OK, now the Thankful Thursday: Today I'm thankful for...

  • Having gotten a few things done off my list from last year
  • Software, gin, and a few other things that aren't exactly addictions but are nice to have.
  • Coffee, which is an addiction.
  • Rainbow's End.
  • Cat therapy.
  • Colleen. How -- and why -- she puts up with me I'll never know, but I'm grateful.

And finally, an annotated look back at last year's goals (not resolutions -- I'm too irresolute for those).

  • Get back into recording. I don't think I can manage a whole album, but I can probably manage a lot of scratch tracks and a few complete mixes, and maybe build up momentum that way. Total fail.
  • Eat better. I may not lose weight, much as I'd like to, but nothing says I can't have more salads for lunch. Total fail. Gained 7 lbs.
  • Similarly, walk more. I've gotten horribly out of shape, but my new office is farther from my preferred bus stop than the old one. (The 70 stops only a block away, but I'd have to stand around at 3rd and Pike waiting to change busses. I'd rather walk.) I mostly succeeded at this one.
  • Get the medical bills taken care of. I've been ignoring a lot of them. My sign-on bonus will probably go for that and taxes, mostly. Sort of. The sign-on bonus got squandered, but the taxes and -- I think -- the medical bills eventually got paid, out of the meager proceeds from the Starport.
  • Bring some better order to my motley collection of blogs and web sites, with as much of the content as possible deployed using git hooks. Only if you count what I've done in the last week.
  • Write more! Songs, fiction, essays, whatever. I haven't done any writing to speak of for, what? Two years? Mostly not. I've done written a handful of metafics and a recipe or two.
  • Sell the Starport. Mostly. It did get sold, but a lot later and for less money than we needed.

So, out of seven goals, two total failures, one moderate success, and four "successes" that were mixed enough to feel like failure anyway.

May this year be better.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

2014 has been stressful, expensive, and occasionally harrowing, with few high points that I can remember, plenty of anxiety and mild depression, and no major accomplishments that I can think of.

On the plus side, we're all settling in pretty well at Rainbow's End, the Starport has finally been sold (for a lot less money than we expected or needed, of course), I still have a job, neither Colleen nor I have been hospitalized, a major financial trainwreck has been averted, and a couple of enormous bills have been paid off.

Not feeling very celebratory. I guess it will have to do.

Empathy

2014-08-22 10:31 pm
mdlbear: (river)

Hmm. Haven't done a river post in a long time. *sigh*

Anyway, a lot of recent posts on my friends' pages have been about empathy. Weird subject for me. Several of my friends, and one shrink, have told me that I'm very empathic. It doesn't really feel that way from the inside. I can't "read" people, and sometimes I'm not even sure what they're talking about. I can barely recognize my own emotions; I often guess wrong about other peoples'.

Conversely, they often guess wrong about me. Apparently my sending is as screwed up as my reception.

There's definitely something there -- I recently came across the term "embarrassment squick", which is a pretty accurate description of why I don't go to a lot of movies. I don't seem to like seeing other people do things that I think would make me feel stupid or uncomfortable if I did them.

In fact, in some cases I seem to have a lower tolerance for other people's embarrassment than my own, on those rare occasions when I actually try going outside my comfort zone.

Does any of this make sense? There isn't really a point to all this; I'm just rambling. Anyway, thanks for listening.

mdlbear: (hp-c)

I'm available. I don't promise to be coherent after 11pm, but you can call any time. 408 - 896 - 6133.

(Inspired by ysabetwordsmith | Moment of Silence: Robin Williams. His death has, understandably, shaken up a lot of people.) (The userpic? Citalopram.)

mdlbear: (river)

I haven't been writing much at all lately. I'm thinking it's time I did. There are a good number of things I'd like to get back to work on; some of you might have preferences or suggestions.

Part the First: Once and Future Posts

There are several series of themed posts I'd like to get back to work on. I suppose I might be able to put out one or two -- not one of each, though that would be really nice -- every week. We'll start with the ongoing series -- there's a lot of meta work that needs to be done, like a landing page, tagging the strays, and so on.

Not to mention copying them onto my website, and working out a way to host them there and have them crosspost onto DW, LJ, etc. rather than the other way around.

The River

The longest-running series of blog posts so far is The River -- posts here tend to be introspective, on sub-themes like friendship, love (whatever that is), stress, depression, and the care and feeding of geeks. If you want to start at the beginning, it's here at skip=500. Gleep.

I'm going to keep going with this, of course. At one point I was thinking of gathering the posts between 2008 and 2010 or thereabouts into a book, with the title Two Years On the River, but of course never got around to it. Plausible?

Technology

Most of these articles never got onto LJ; it's a series of artcles on my website over a decade ago. This is mainly about Linux. Other articles along that line include Adventures in Family Computing. Repost them on DW? There are also a lot of computer and networking posts that could easily fall into this category.

I could probably put things like cooking, woodworking, and my post about how to load a dishwasher under here.

Things with Tales

This one really needs some organization. I've written about several of my "things", including luggage, laptops, and musical instruments, but the only tagged one at the moment is The Hartmann bag.

Songs for Saturday

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I should get back to it. Even though it quickly became rather a lot of work, it had and has the advantage of being based on (but be careful always to call it please) research rather than originality.

It occurs to me that I could easily fill this in by posting some of the notes/backstories of my songs. Hmm.

Songs and Poems

In addition to writing more of these, I need to go back and consolidate the tags, since I see that I've also used "songs" and "poems" in a couple of cases.

Should I post highlights from the past? Dredge up some of the poetry I wrote in college and type it in? Grovel through the usenet archives?

Understanding Ursine

This is a project I've been thinking about for a couple of years now; I seem to recall making a bit of a start in a River post. You see, my use of language tends to be a little, shall we say, idiosyncratic. Words and phrases like "sorry" and "working on it" could easily generate a longish post.

Part the Second: Fiction

I've always wanted to write science fiction. I've always been pretty bad at it. This may be something I could work on. There are two longish pieces that were, at one point, almost "finished" in the sense of having a beginning, middle, and end, with a semblance of plot in the middle. Both would require a fair amount of work.

Rambling Rose

This is probably the closest thing to a finished story, best described as the back story to my song The Rambling Silver Rose (and something of a sequel to Bound For Hackers' Heaven. It's 700-odd lines; maybe serialize it here? That would be good for a couple of posts. What's a good size?

A Place to Run Free

Bound For Hackers' Heaven isn't just a song; it actually came out of a story that I wrote back in 1988. Along with several others, some of which are on my CD. And it's part of the backstory to Silk and Steel. It has a lot going for it, and it needs a nearly-complete rewrite. I mean, 1988.

It's written as a series of forwarded emails. The absolute minimum that could be done to fix it would be to change the framing to make them blog posts, pin down the dates (in 2030 and 2038), and change the author of the cover letter from Lexy to the viewpoint character, Lady Melody. Who is an AI built into a guitar.

On the other hand, a rewrite would be a pretty big can of worms to open -- the temptation would be to fill in more pieces of the blog, and to tie it in with S&S (which takes place at least seven years later, and there's a huge hole in between). (It's also 150 years before Rose; the Lady is still around, of course, and so is Hacktown, which gets a brief mention.)

But it would be fun. I think.

Part the Third: Longer Non-Fiction

Of course, any of the post series could turn into a book, though not all of them would benefit from such treatment. Here we turn to the few projects that were planned from the start as books, and are far enough along to actually have a hope of getting finished.

Neither of these is on the web, and both are written in LaTeX (which isn't an insurmountable problem -- there's a LaTeX-to-HTML converter which I've used quite a lot).

The BIG Number Book

This is actually pretty much finished, and has been since 1999, except that it's meant as a kids' book, so it needs illustrations. A large number of them.

The Magic Mirror

If Rambling Rose is the back-story behind The Rambling Silver Rose, The Magic Mirror is the back-story behind The World Inside the Crystal. Inside the computer is a world where magic works.

I really need to get back to this. The oldest commit log message, from 1998, says "initial checkin of Aug 18, 1996 version". The only thing after that is a minor spelling correction. So, yeah. Needs updating.

There's an outline and the chapter heads, but it's very incomplete. And of course it predates most of what we think of as the Web.

So there you have it.

Thoughts? Did I mention that I tend to get paralyzed when I have too many choices? Yeah, that. Did I also mention my recording projects? I did not. Those have been stalled for a few years, too.

Sometime soon, maybe even this week, I should post something more about where I intend to go from here. Getting the nonfiction books onto the web might be good places to start, though it's always tempting to spend time revising, editing, and organizing rather than actually writing.

I don't have a very good track record with New Year's resolutions, either.

mdlbear: (river)

It's a pretty low-key "party", so I'm sitting here watching most of the guests playing scrabble with Colleen and thinking about goals for the new year. I don't do resolutions -- I'm totally irresolute. But a couple of things to shoot for? I can do that.

  • Get back into recording. I don't think I can manage a whole album, but I can probably manage a lot of scratch tracks and a few complete mixes, and maybe build up momentum that way.
  • Eat better. I may not lose weight, much as I'd like to, but nothing says I can't have more salads for lunch.
  • Similarly, walk more. I've gotten horribly out of shape, but my new office is farther from my preferred bus stop than the old one. (The 70 stops only a block away, but I'd have to stand around at 3rd and Pike waiting to change busses. I'd rather walk.)
  • Get the medical bills taken care of. I've been ignoring a lot of them. My sign-on bonus will probably go for that and taxes, mostly.
  • Bring some better order to my motley collection of blogs and web sites, with as much of the content as possible deployed using git hooks.
  • Write more! Songs, fiction, essays, whatever. I haven't done any writing to speak of for, what? Two years?
  • Sell the Starport.
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I have this feeling I should post something for the end of the year, which is fast approaching (and probably well past for most of my readers by now).

It's been a year. Or maybe a decade. I had three jobs, which is as many as I had in the previous two decades. I/we bought a house and moved into it -- last time I did that was 38 years ago. We have cats -- last time I had a cat was, I don't know, about 60 years ago? Something like that. Colleen spent months in hospitals and nursing homes.

I'm looking forward to a couple of years of being settled. I'm not likely to get them, of course. Next year I have to sell the Starport, add on to Rainbow's End, catch up on a hellacious number of medical bills, get the cars repaired, go to my 45th college reunion, ... Well, we'll see. Tomorrow is another year.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Lots of puttering around the house -- the holiday season is always good for encouraging that kind of thing. Especially since we're *still* missing a couple of boxes of Christmas lights and ornaments. Gaak!

Some good links; this time I'm going to talk about a couple of them.

I bought a poem from The Wordsmith's Forge - 2013 Holiday Poetry Sale. Today is the last day, so act fast if you want to buy a poem at half price. The poem in question is "The Last Rose of Winter", a rather unconventional love poem. Somehow I knew it would be something I wanted to read.

The other interesting link was to an article with the somewhat less than informative title The boy whose brain could unlock autism It's actually about the "intense world" theory: that autism is a defense mechanism against sensory and social overload, caused by too much empathy rather too little. Oh. Right, then.

Indeed, research on typical children and adults finds that too much distress can dampen ordinary empathy as well. When someone else’s pain becomes too unbearable to witness, even typical people withdraw and try to soothe themselves first rather than helping—exactly like autistic people. It’s just that autistic people become distressed more easily, and so their reactions appear atypical.

Many of the other symptoms are due to withdrawal during the time when children are usually learning things like reading body language and other social cues. So, yeah -- my self-diagnosis of mild Asperger's may have been correct after all.

More links, as usual, in the notes.

raw notes )
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I'll do one of my usual "done recently" posts tomorrow, maybe. For now, the big news: Yesterday Colleen's orthopedist told her she can go back to using her formerly-broken ankle. It's healed!

She has another week and a half of fairly intensive physical therapy to go before she comes home, but I'm getting my wife back!

(For those of you just dropping in from other planets, Colleen broke her ankle the day we moved into the house, on May 24th, and has been home precisely once, for half a day, since then.)

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Long month, the last week and a half. Let's see. A week ago last Thursday I got an offer of a 3-month contract at Amazon, which I took immediately. Since it's through KForce again, I had very little paperwork to do and everything continues much as it has been. Colleen got her diagnosis of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, which is associated with immunosuppressant drugs, hypertension, low K and Mg. All of which she had.

Friday I cancelled my Norwescon concert -- I really wasn't ready, and was already under too much stress.

Saturday it looked as though Colleen was coming home, but by the time I got there her blood pressure had gone up to really scary levels, and they decided to keep her until it stabilized.

I spent most of the weekend shuttling back and forth between North Starport, Rainbow's End, and the hospital in between. I slept at RE, with Naomi and I keeping one another company.

Monday I picked up Chaos and Emmy, and went out to dinner for Emmy's 21st birthday. Blue C Sushi, which was expensive but able to satisfy the YD's craving for plum sake. I have two drinking-age children now.

I didn't notice any hill.

Tuesday Colleen came home. KForce called and told me I was supposed to start Wednesday.

As it turned out, my boss at Amazon had been expecting me to start on Monday the 1st (i.e., today), so things weren't quite ready for me. More or less ok, though; they were at least able to get me a badge and a laptop. (A Thinkpad T400, which isn't half bad.)

Last weekend was Norwescon. The "surprise open mic" that took the place of my concert was Saturday night, and I gave a perfect demonstration of exactly why I cancelled. GAAK. I should know better than to try to sing anything off book. Especially when I'm unprepared and stressed.

I was plagued by charger problems all weekend, but at least my computer charger worked most of Saturday when I really needed it to. The "geek toys" panel was a lot of fun. I read off the specs for the Cray 1 from the web browser on my phone, which had it beat by orders of magnitude. (How many orders of magnitude depending on which spec you looked at. 8MB of RAM? How... quaint.)

Sunday we had dinner at Romio's in Kirkland, on the way to take Chaos home.

Aha! moment -- I figured out that apologizing (which drives Colleen crazy) is my way of trying to make myself feel better after screwing up (especially in a way that hurts somebody else). It mostly doesn't work very well, and if Colleen tells me to stop, or I'm afraid she will, I can spiral downhill very quickly. (Started to write "downhell", which is actually a pretty good description of it. What was I doing in that handbasket, anyway?)

Didn't do a lick of open filking, but I enjoyed the concerts, and spent a fair amount of quiet time in the Green Room. Which was good for (introvert) me, even though I didn't realize at the time that it was what I needed.

raw notes )

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