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.