A Lot Of …

I have a lot of posts in drafts. I start writing with a certain energy, overflowing with some immediate concern. But after a few paragraphs I slow down and stop and take a fresh look and decide that what I’m writing doesn’t serve me, or anyone, and that I should just stop. So I do.

How does it not serve? By mostly being of a negative nature, some sort of complaint or annoyance or outright whine.

Last time, a few days ago, the subject was the emotional burden that accumulated while I sorted through boxes of old papers. Mostly these were old photographs, but also collections of letters. They take up space, they crowd over me, they are of use and interest to no one — and they’re impossible to throw away. Why? Because as I hold them I can feel the spirit that held them years ago and decided they were worth keeping. It’s not as easy as we expect it should be to turn aside the desire of a cherished relative, especially when its physical manifestation is in hand. Worse, my father and both his parents were natural-born data-collectors: accountants and scientists. They were very deliberate in their collections and pretty well organized too. Their ghosts peer over my shoulder as I look through the things they and their parents left behind.

I have some good stuff, for example the original 1875 deed for my direct great-grandfather’s 250 acres of farmland where now a thousand houses form a large neighborhood in Livermore, CA. That’s a neat-o thing; I’ll keep it. I have some not so good stuff, for example the envelope of newspaper clippings a doting mother collected of her son’s high academic achievements at Richmond Union High School in 1943. These were treasured, especially while he was off and away for the War; but they’re not treasured by me.

It is specifically to mark their passing into my office trash can that I started and, any minute now, complete this blog entry. Clippings of his valedictory address, his return from war, his college graduation, his engagement and marriage …

There are not just a few envelopes of these sorts of things. There are entire boxes. Boxes of snapshots taken in the 1950s, 40s, 30s, 20s, 10s; baby portraits galore of people who died of old age decades ago; letters from dearly loved relatives whom I never knew and who probably no one still alive has even heard of. It goes on. The psychic cost to me is not insignificant. I need the physical and psychological space to do my own work. They have to go. Yet they also need their just due, their moment of attention, an active decision on their disposition. Do I really need the many letters of commendation and recognition that poured in upon my grandfather’s retirement as County Supervisor, Contra Costa County, in 1958? No, but will I throw them out? N-n-n-no. Not yet. Damn. So it continues.

Here’s a picture of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the San Pablo Dam Road in 1956. My grandfather is third from right.

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Hm

If you are around me on Foosbook you know I’m slowly but Shirley going through my father’s stuff. Right now I have glassware to get rid of. Last week it was a stack of 78rpm records. Next it’ll be, well, I dunno, but the intent is to make space. I have a lot to do and I need space. And all this packrat shit is taking up a lot of space.

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Right now it’s the old lab glassware. It’s all older than me. An old chemist might feel good keeping it around, but not me. I keep dead old electronics on the half-ass notion that it can be used in some weird kind of art. But glassware is too fragile. And useful. It has to go. I’ll find a school that will take it. Soon, I hope. It’s kind of in the way.

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Last week the 78s were taken away. All but the single-side Enrico Caruso that I hung on the wall. But the rest were all late 1930s / early 1940s swing. Great music, but easily obtained in a more useful format, while I have no intention of owning a player that can spin at 78rpm. People have suggested I get one, but I don’t get that. Under what circumstances does it ever make sense to spin a large single-track record? None, I tell you. None but one. That one is what the person who took them took them for. He’s a DJ and has some sort of electroswing project in mind. Saw someone spinning once with dual Victrolas and thought it was pretty rad. So, I guess, I dunno, whatever. Have at em, hombre.

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These were mine. I had a brief foray into card collecting when my son was an infant. It was psychologically an expression of my unmet need for traditional American father-son interaction. It faded away long before he grew up. I put an ad on Craigslist under Free Stuff and they were gone within an hour.

Meanwhile I sit here meaning to upgrade my resume again because I ought to be seeding the contract design world with it and haven’t been. In truth, I don’t really want to work. I want to be supportive of the household and the art business and write my book. But I need an income. Not right this minute, but I will before long; and then I’ll need to rebuild my retirement, which is why I really just want to write a really good book. I’m not going to make any money as an engineer. I’m not going to make any money working for anyone else. But it’s sort of the more logical path right now, being as I’m not exactly starting my own engineering firm. Too busy researching, and assembling a story to tell.

And it’s so fun! I’ve collected a huge array of minor historical personages whose theoretical interactions I find fascinating. Lines cross and paths intersect all over the place. But that’s nothing but hobby-talk. Until I craft this story of mine that takes place in the fast-moving decade between the Gold Rush and the Civil War and is all about social upheaval and political skullduggery and disruptive technology and naive romance and wild multiracial group sex that sparks a bidding war between the country’s major publishers, it’s just a stupid hobby.

Anyway, back to the things. It takes so long because I’m like the people who kept it and am sentimental. I find I can’t just take the box and toss it, or call it a mystery and let someone risk $5 on the unknown. No, I have to create a spreadsheet detailing every item and do a little online searching to see what each item might be worth while simultaneously imagining that slice of my father’s or whoever’s life during which they decided to keep it; and THEN give it away for free to whoever gets to me first. Seems like a lot, but I am serene when it’s gone.

Reflection

I’m in the tub typing on a laptop perched on an inverted laundry basket. In the darker scenes of The Man in the High Castle I can see my reflection. I see the reflection of a man in his late fifties who frankly never wants to work for anyone else ever again. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my career coach, the person Intel will pay for a few more months to guide me through finding a job, and that’s what I will need to tell him.

I have money in my IRA to last, at current rate of expenditures, and taking income taxes into account, about a year and a half. Of course that can be stretched out by making money and by somehow cutting expenses. But neither of those come easy. Even so, I feel as though taking a regular job only delays my getting to what I really should be doing. The way to avoid that delay, and get to what I really should be doing, is not in finding a job. It’s in finding myself. And kicking myself out of the way so as to focus on the activities that are really in flow for me, and succeed spectacularly at those.

Write, really write, the book. Discover how to become a contract design engineer and build a solid reputation. Contribute in far more significant ways than merely providing capital and a strong back to Sunya’s business.

How are these going? Well, kicking myself out of the way remains a significant challenge. But I feel I am making progress.

Positive

I posted on Facehook about one of our cars getting stolen and my truck breaking down but I intentionally was very positive about it and I think that’s why I got one sad and nine likes. All these people liked that there were helpful people out on the road and I’m not sure any of them read to the part about the stolen car.

And that’s fine, I like positive, I just think it’s funny. Interesting. Some word like that.

So we woke up to a missing car, and the kid who normally bicycles still couldn’t because the bicycle was stolen a couple weeks ago. So two kids went to two schools in one car, and two kids went to two schools in another.

Later in the day the person whose car was jacked took my pickup to get two kids — except the battery was dead. I checked and it wasn’t that, just the terminal had come loose. Of course the bolt broke when I tightened it and it took a while to replace it for various stupid reasons that would be funny if depicted by Pee-wee Herman but wasn’t and weren’t.

So she then took the pickup to work and I took my old Jeep to meet a career coach and broke down in commute traffic during a rainstorm. That was when people were helpful for a minute and I was cold and wet for an hour and a half before the tow truck showed up.

I got home about the time Sunya returned from her trip to San Francisco, which was a lengthy ordeal because of the number the storm did on the highways and freeways and drivers and trees. It blustered and blew outside the rest of the night. I didn’t work on the Jeep. I tried to make headway on these necklaces I want to make for the weekend. Challenges included getting batteries small enough to fit into the bottle, that sort of thing.

Today the truck was gone because the eldest child wasn’t clear that I needed to be asked or at least told when it came to her driving it to work. So we were down to one car and four kids going to four schools. But Uber has changed the world so it wasn’t really a difficult problem.

Then a friend posted that he had four tickets for Rogue One at the IMAX and was looking for takers. I knew I didn’t have time for that but was talked into my evident need for an adventure. I didn’t have a car. The holder of the tickets was having his own adventure and was neither at home nor the office. He was up near the old Air Force base casing a shady motel where his iPhone said his iPad was located that had been ripped out of his truck the night before. He couldn’t tell which room it was in and the police said there was nothing they could do so he was basically waiting for suspicious persons. He didn’t have a plan as such. I took an Uber up there — we detoured through the neighborhoods because a downed tree was blocking all three lanes of Watt Ave — and slid into his car to get the movie tickets while he was glaring at the curtained windows. I wanted to help but even if I had a car and the time I don’t know what I would actually do. It’s easy to imagine knocking on doors when you’re five miles away but when you’re actually there it’s another calculation. Who knows how much stolen property justified a motel room and what the occupants thereof will do to protect it.

So my Uber waited for me because when I ordered a new one, the system naturally chose him. We went on downtown and now I was at the IMAX on K St. One other person had responded about the tickets so I wrote his name on it and left it for him at the box office. I managed to convert the other two for future usage so my motel-casing friend didn’t suffer a total loss. I enjoyed seeing that movie a second time and enjoyed the food and drink we had afterwards, and then I Ubered on home again. I could have taken the train. In hindsight I sort of wish I had. But time is money and I’m not sure it would have added up.

While I was gone Sunya arranged for a bicycle, so at the appointed time I drove way up into my old family-man stomping grounds and picked it up. Hopefully it will avoid theft for a few good months.

A Post out of Principle

Why do I blog? Because it is here. What’s on my mind?

First, I need to be writing, but I am not. What I am doing is coming up with ever better details and plot points as I research this and that obscure set of information. And that’s nice, since I think of a thing and jot it down in my ever-present electronic journal that’s automagically up to date whether in my pocket or at my desk. Lots of notes in there. But they’re only notes. The actual writing is hard work, and I still have a lot to learn about turning on my magic-maker when all my impulses aim towards taking care of life. I have a lot of life to take care of. These writers who are single and live alone piss me off.

Not really. You who know who you are know you’re not who I mean. I’m just whining about circumstance.

When I was a kid and Mom would go away for the weekend I’d sit under my trusty Royal (the one Mom used to type up Dad’s doctoral thesis in 1953) and pretty much write fiction all day and night. It was nothing but juvenile shit derived from rereading Conan books, but it was something. I had the ability to focus and create. This is the ability that after several decades of family and corporate living I want to recapture. I have not yet done so outside a few precious moments.

Meanwhile my plot is fricking brilliant. I’m passionate about historical accuracy and I love browsing old newspapers and have come up with unexpected turns driven be real events that happened on the dates I have them happen. And it doesn’t even matter if anyone notices. Someone will, but while historical fiction is better if it’s accurate, it’s still fairly worthless if it isn’t fun. So my dream is to write a great story that really could have happened. A lot of historical fiction has migrated away from my nightstand for failing in this area.

Second, I take a lot of pictures and have nowhere to put them. I put a few up on Facebook, but it seems annoyingly self-serving to show all the fun things. And yes, even if it’s not on Facebook, it did happen. I just wish for a better means of remembering things that happened than storing hundreds of gigabytes of non-annotated photographs. Is there a business opportunity of some sort, a market for very personal photo-essays? Perhaps, if the writing is outstanding AND the pictures are too. But just thinking about it is an awful lot of work already.

I’m told I have a good eye. Some of my pictures are really great. Even if taken on a smartphone. Oftentimes because. Apart from the little plastic lens, smartphones have much smarter photographic guts than any camera I’ve ever owned. Pretty amazing what you can capture with them these days. But good eye or not, I see lots of things and have a strong impulse to see if I can keep them as I saw them.

Which suggests an opportunity. As the technology advances, more and more people are going to be saving their pictures. Very few spend much time organizing them. They require an assistant, and an AI of some sort that takes care of this for us all would be very helpful and popular. Something that can analyze the date and location and content and automatically put pictures into categories and albums with useful tags would be great. It’s completely feasible. I just don’t think AI is advanced enough yet. And I am absolutely not positioned to do anything about it. Maybe if I were some genius who worked at Google, I could use my 20% time on it.

Speaking of living life while not writing and taking lots of pictures, shortly before sunrise of New Year’s Day we met a genius who worked at Google and spent his 20% time on a project that made him rich. It was quite an interesting visit. But the man has a fairly extensive writeup at Wikipedia and I’m not comfortable sharing info and risking an invasion of his privacy. Here’s one clue: His penthouse apartment complete with roof garden overlooks the Old Mint, located here.

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Some of the shadowy Mint in the foreground with the Chronicle behind.

Tempted to make a NYE album — we were all over the place this weekend — but, eh.

Third … I could make a third subject. Any of many that come to mind would do. But this is long enough. Whatever this blog is for, here it is.

Oh, third, it’s 2017 and time to rename this thing. Removing the 16 from the title.

F*ckin’ This and That

This.

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.

That.

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?

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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.