F*ckin’ This and That


F*ckin’ website techie nonsense. I wrote a comment at a friend’s Blogger blog and wanted to be identified with this blog here. Signing in as WordPress was an option. But it came back and said it could not verify my OpenID credentials. I have no fucking clue what that’s supposed to mean, and there was no little ‘?’ button to learn from. I did a little searching but of course that only led to a rathole of webmaster shit without answers. It might be some kind of thing you sign up for, I don’t f*ckin’ know.


F*ckin’ DAPL protests. In my world it’s become a given that the Dakota Access Pipe Line represents Capitalist White America and its Oil Man Running Dogs running roughshod over Indians to protect a city full of white people from oil spills. I even have a couple friends with significant protest experience who’ve spent time in the blizzards and so on, and when I met one of them face to face (17 mutual FB friends; her heritage is mostly Native American) she nearly had me in tears. But a FB comment from Someone On The Other Side inspired me to look a few things up myself and now I don’t know which side has the more effective liars and impassioned dupes. The dupes on either side are, of course, quite sincere and believe strongly in what they are doing. But the facts I found contradict some of the background a more “progressive” FB feed gives one, and I just, aargh. And these days it’s not hard to imagine a certain foreign power using this as yet another thread in their multilevel chess game to distract and fracture the American people so that their government is more and more divided and unable to make the right strategic decisions. It’s already beyond ironic that so much anti-establishment news and outlook comes to us via RT.


Still Regrouping in 2016

I came down to the main branch of the library to get some quiet without the distractions of food and housework etc. I decided that as much as I should concentrate on obtaining an income, I must not abandon my writing project. I’ve been away from it long enough to make restarting difficult, and also long enough to have rethought so many things my efforts so far need a complete overhaul. I want to ignore the just-keep-going advice and start over. To this end, for the sake of one of the early chapters, I need to become an expert on the arcane details of early 1850s telegraphy. To that end, I need the right research materials. Internet and catalog searches do not assure me that they exist. But details are important, so I need to learn what there is to learn and extrapolate what I need to know from basic technical common sense.

I look around this room, three floors up and across I St from City Hall, and I see mostly men about my age quietly going about their business online, business every bit as obscure to me as mine is to them. We all seem to be of a type. Time has moved along, and we no longer have any particular role to play. Now, I could have a role to play, if I pushed hard enough along very specific paths related to my experience and expertise. But I haven’t been terribly motivated. The reality of ageism is a poor excuse for it but my motivation to go work for someone else remains weak. I really would rather create my own sources of income. How I can do that to any significant degree remains the mystery.

I can’t, is the reality-based answer, apart from just working within someone else’s plan. I am not engineer or driver enough to create a technology company, however small. If I’m going to do something significant on my own, it’s going to be something ridiculously unlikely such as writing exactly the right book. But if I could fill my days as I please, after defeating the mental monsters that leave me vulnerable to distractions and immediate needs, I would be writing that book and learning how to make programmable lighting displays. The latter is for the business we have going, and it’s nothing new. I know people who were doing things with intelligent structures of LEDs five years ago that I haven’t a clue how to do today. But it’s a fun-looking direction to go in with some growth yet in it. And it’s interesting to recall that I was dreaming of doing exactly that when I first became a technical person in 1981.

Yep. In ’81 I got my first technician job, for a company that made digital displays for cable TV. They’d sell to whatever cable company a box that allowed the company to put text on one or more of their channels, say for a viewing guide or what have you. As I recall, the central computing power was an 800-series microcontroller from National Semi. They also used those old nonvolatile memory chips in ceramic packages that could only be erased by shining UV light through the little window. Somehow I picked up that a memory device could be used as a control unit. All you do is access the contents via memory addresses, and use the resulting data as control words for whatever. It did no processing, of course, but if you set up your 1s and 0s correctly, it didn’t need to. I recall thinking how cool it would be to take something like that to control a vast array of LEDs of various colors for use as a display, say for the background at a rock concert. I even wondered if there was a way to affect the display with the music.

I followed my usual path and did nothing with this idea. I’ve never been one to put truly significant effort into any idea of my own. Or anything else for that matter. I’ve accomplished a lot because I’m talented and smart, not because I’m hard-working and driven. But Sunya is all of those things, and I’m trying, by fits and starts, to catch on.

Thus this post-Intel regrouping continues, and will continue for some time yet. I’m sometimes more willing to start digging in to my 401(k), with all the taxes and penalties implied, than to go find forty-plus-hour work to get paid for. I’m not young, and it would be nice to seriously try something of my own.

Well, my parking meter is about run down by now, and the day’s half done so I may as well toodle along home. My great challenge these days is to find a way to dive deep into my mind and produce. In other words, relearn how to hyperfocus. I did that well when I was a teenager with a typewriter or a college student with a board layout job. But family life and career cured me of the ability well over twenty years ago. Getting it back feels very important, and very difficult.

Three Questions for “Ladies”

After our flu surrendered just in time to allow us to work an event at the Crocker Art Museum, and after that, and after hanging out at a friend’s house, we got antsy and went out dancing.

Question One. If when you were a young woman the dance clubs had signs like this posted prominently, would your social life have been different in any way?


Some things are better now than when we were “young”. Let us not forget that while being cranky about all the ways the world now sucks.

Question Two. Is it weird that I decided this observation can’t go on Facebook? I decided that because a lot of, probably most, of my friends there are young enough to render Question One kind of weird and pointless.

Question Three. Am I the only one who first saw the asterisks as quotation marks and had a moment’s smirk at what subliminal message was being sent, that actually wasn’t being sent? I am? Of course. Figures.


Thirty Two Boxes

The flu hit me last night. Over the weekend I was semi-confident it would never catch me, because Sunya was thoroughly miserable and I was not. I was fine. Now she’s a lot better and I’m a lot worse. There are no digestive symptoms, barely any sniffles, just a feeling all over my body that I somehow pissed off Evander Holyfield.

That, however, cannot stop me. I do need a job, and while I’m resigned to accepting contract work out of the Bay Area if that’s all there is, a local job did drift into my perception recently that is very nearly perfect. I have to some degree or other all the engineering skills called for, and I know at least one engineer at the company whom I worked with pre-Intel. A problem is my resume isn’t ready for it and I can barely keep my head up. By ready I mean edited per the feedback from a professional resume-tweaker as well as per the requirements of that particular job. But there’s another problem. Some of that work I haven’t done in over twenty years and I really need to pull out some old textbooks and get refreshed.

A short while ago I posted a picture of my office and mentioned that there is a tall stack of boxes between it and the wall. That stack is four boxes wide and eight boxes tall. Usually when we stack things in boxes we end up with little idea of what is in which box. But somehow I know exactly where my old textbooks are. They’re in the box on the floor against the rear wall. They’re in the very last box, under and behind every other.

I can find whatever I need on the web. I guess that’s what I’ll do. I just feel it will come back to me more swiftly if it’s in an actual paper book that I referred to regularly back in … back in the day. Gawd. 1991.

That brings up another problem. The resume-tweaking career-change counseling service advises you remove dates from your resume that are from more than ten years ago. Ageism is real. But a lot of my interesting and relevant work was from far more than ten years ago. And it’s not obsolete. I wasn’t a programmer. Analog design has fundamentals that don’t change. All you get are better devices to choose from. The fundamentals of using modern op-amps have been the same since the 1960s.

I guess I’ll just say I was at Intel starting in 1995 and lump everything else under “Prior Work.” Who knows. Thanks to this illness I’m —  Okay, no more negativity! Go team.

Restart, No Start 

Probably too insensitive or otherwise inappropriate for Facebook, so I wonder only here how many young people, dissatisfied with their lives, angry at their parents, would consider using the opportunity of being one of the missing after a warehouse rave fire to go ahead and disappear completely. I know there was a time in my young life I would have considered it. 

Only briefly. I wasn’t nearly angry enough. And I’d have been even less angry if I had enough social connection to be at such a party. 

But surely the idea fits someone here and there. It’s unspeakably cruel to friends and family to fake your death. Not on a par with suicide, but headed that way. There are people confused enough to consider it, maybe even try it for a few days. Coming back would be hard, but unavoidable. 

Well, there’s a short story idea. Being the typical writer type, I’ve come up with a pretty good short story idea, and am now going to replace a door and then work down a to-do list that has no writing on it. 

Scribble Time 

I’ve been in bed and scribbling into this phone for hours. You’d think I’d want a break. 

There were a lot of social things on the calendar for tonight, and all day I wondered which I’d end up at. I’ve been feeling socially deprived lately. But that’s a complex phenomenon and subject to much revision. And as the day faded into evening, I wanted less to go out and more to stay in and keep my very sick girl company. So I did. There will be plenty of other weekends. 

The tragic fire at a warehouse artist collective in Oakland bears reflection, but it’s all been said. Yes, any of the victims could have been me or close friends. But they weren’t, and as humans at some remove do, we move on. 

We lay here, she being miserable, me eating snacks, and watched a 2001 movie called Heartbreakers. It was fun. In time she passed out (yay for painkillers) and I found myself FB PM’ing with a new friend. Story is this. 

In a Facebook group dedicated to growing up in the Bay Area, someone posted a link to a YouTube video of the old electric commuter trains that ran through my neighborhood before my time. I was super jazzed because there was a three second clip of a red SP car making the turn, in about 1940, from Solano Ave onto Colusa Ave, which are in the North Berkeley neighborhood I grew up in. The Oaks Theater where I saw Bond movies in the 60s was in the background. There were no tracks when I was a kid, but I remember a concrete strip that came down Solano and angled through the gas station as it turned into Colusa. Only recently did I realize that was where they had pulled out  the railroad tracks. Seeing film of a train making that turn made my day. (I grew up on Colusa about three blocks south of Solano.) 

The next film on YouTube happened to be a tribute to the F train, so I watched that too. The F bus was the bus you took from our neighborhood to San Francisco. The F train did the same thing on the same route back in the old train days. This guy had made a little movie about it for his mother, who grew up in the neighborhood and loved the trains. I left a comment. 

Some hours later, he sent me a PM. He’d noticed that we both went to Berkeley High School. We had a few mutual friends but as it happened he graduated four years after me. 

His YouTube handle was different than his Facebook name. It looked oddly familiar. My name was familiar to him too, actually. We pondered back and forth until Aha!  Turns out he’s on the team that reviews applications for Burning Man mutant vehicles. We had interacted over mine back in 2010. His YouTube handle was also his playa name. 

We had a great long conversation about Burning Man and mutant vehicles and maker spaces and high school drama and electric trains and railroad museums etc. Definitely the highlight of the evening. 

Honestly, I don’t regret not going out into the bitter cold to party with my friends at an old bar in Auburn. I would like to have gone, but this evening staying in was better.