1/27/2017: (Something clever in latin about books)

I love books. I’ve always loved books. I love books more even than I love reading books, evidenced by the relative speeds with which I read them and buy them.

Finally, 14 months after I moved in to this apartment I found (with the help of reddit) a furniture store and went on a little Saturday morning trip (yeah I know this says 1/27. Go back a couple weeks to see why. And forget entirely the fact that I’m writing, if not posting this on a Tuesday night.)

In Brooklyn and I suppose NYC at large, there’s a furniture store chain “Gothic Cabinet Craft” that sells plain unfinished (presumably at your option, but that was always mine) furniture. I would be able to walk in to GCC and say “okay I want these bookshelves, but 5 inches shorter, with no crown, and 4 inches wider. Make me 4 of them and deliver them.” It was awesome. Of course all of that had to stay in New York (actually on my porch. Someday I’ll print THAT whole store, but it ain’t gonna be soon.)

So I wandered up to Conference Drive in…Madison? I think? to a big ol’ showroom full of “rustic” (read: painted and ‘artificially distressed’ *hurl*) furniture. I was approached, of course, by a commissionariat that I used the force on so I could peruse the selection unmolested.

In the back left corner (one might say “quadrant” as this place was hucking fuge) was acreage of that telltale blond pine wood. They had all kinds of cubicle shelving, cabinets. All kinds of nonsense in plain pine. Finally I spotted a few things.

I quested back across the land of desk, through the mires of eatery and over the barrows of bedroom to The Station, where I heard my Party Representative talking “Yeah I have the woman and that guy with the” I rounded the corner to see her gesturing at the back of hear head and I said “long hair? Or hoodie?”

She was aGHAST as I chuckled, never quite recovering.

“Yeah, could you help me with a couple bookshelves? Turn around times and such?” We started making our way through the headboards of Bedding Barrow.
“Finished, or…”
“Nope, plain pine.” She deflated more. I guessed where they probably made their margins.
“We’ve got some pieces in stock.” She added unenthusiastically.
“Well, cash and carry trumps first choice selection.” I couldn’t believe I might actually get out of there with shelves.

I pointed to a couple modular cube things 4×2 cubes of 16×16. “So…these are the…”
“ooh, I can get these made in…”
“eh, forget it. What do you…”
“It would only take 4 to 5 weeks…”
“Meh. What do you have in stock?” She led me over to a wall of varying sizes of shelves. I thought a second.

“Okay, 2 72x24s if you’ve got ’em. 60s will work if you don’t.”
“I’ll check to see if we’ve got a second 72.” And she disappeared “into the back” for a few minutes.

So yes, we journeyed back to fill out the paperwork and exchange cash and I realized…
“I have to walk down to harbor freight for straps.”
“We’ll bring ’em up.”

So…all that happened (he said, tired of writing.)

I strapped the shelving units to the top of the truck bed and drove (reasonably for a change) home and set one up.

Just one.

Because then I looked around my apartment and saw all the piles of books.

In so many corners, little stacks, big stacks, stacks by topic, by rarity (yes really) and I started collecting them, crisscrossing the apartment, carrying piles of them.

One at a time the shelves started to fill. An adjustment here…no that goes there. Wait, didn’t I have the second one of those over….AH! Yes. Hey, I forgot I had one of these…..and THREE of those!?! HA! I suppose I could keep the fiction…well…fantasy at least, over…yeah and trading down..well, up. Back and forth for hours, exhaling twice for every inhale. All the while making excited plans about reading this one first, no THIS one. And I definitely want to work through THAT. I’ve ALways wanted to learn THAT.

I stood there, smiling at my little shelf of mostly unread books that it was the most me thing in the whole place.

Books are home.

1/26/2017: And now a break from your regularly scheduled “I don’t know wtf to write about”

A couple of my favorite contemporary comedians (Warning: Not. Safe. For. Anything.):

I can’t get over the brilliance of Hannibal Buress’ matter of fact delivery. You could pick any clip of his:

The modern master, Patrice O’Neal. It’s a completely different style of comedy. There’s some absolute genius in here:

1/25/2017: Too many damn projects

I think I’m finally getting to the breaking point with the number of ongoing pursuits and projects I’m trying to juggle at once (he says, suddenly remembering that he actually planned on adding juggling.)

Between the mead (et al), the programming projects both for work and myself, trading, writing, cooking, reading, baking, leatherwork (more on that later) and well, call it what it is, gaming, I’ve gotten myself to the point where I’ll literally stand in the little junction between my bedroom, livingroom, bathroom, and kitchen and say “uhm” for five minutes when I get a block of time to myself.

In my 47 and change years I’ve gotten very good at pulling my own puppet strings (even better than I am at pulling other peoples’, which I’ll…NOT address later.)

So the game I play with myself goes something like this: “I’m really shitty at using time intentionally. I let hours just fly by and snap to attention every once in a while, amazed at what the clock says. I’m not REALLY involved in TOO much. I just need to manage my life better, then I’ll be able to fit everything I want to do in to a single .”

The problem with that is that it’s got the virtue of being ALmost true. It’s got that “just out of reach” feel that makes it indistinguishable from complete and utter nonsense.

So, off again to reread Mark Forster’s Autofocus stuff which I think, of all approaches to project/time management holds the best chance of continued commitment for my particular combination of tweaks.

1/24/2017: Edwin Lefevre

So yeah, I’ve been doing this 52 book challenge thing and I can be justly accused of picking books for size. I actually posted a question about the legitimacy of doing so on reddit, why I have no idea. I’ll occasionally need to ask the universe questions I full well know the answer to. I guess it helps to keep track of the number of things I’m juggling in my head to hear “duh” a couple few times.

I came to the conclusion that picking books for size, so that I’ll finish them is just fine as long as they’re books I’d read otherwise. No heading to the Barnes & Noble kids section to get the Percy Jackson or Captain Underpants series to blast through in an evening or anything. But if it’s already on my shelf? All clear.

One of the things I’m working on is spinning up the engines of market familiarity again, dumping as much as I reasonably can in my head, to get me ready for trading again. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to pull those levers.

At the end of the year I read “Hedge Fund Market Wizards” which was absolutely awesome. The “market wizards” books (I think there are 3 or 4) are primarily distilled interview content from Jack Schwager’s interviews with famous traders. It was one of the most enlightening books on the market I’ve ever read. The variety of approaches, personalities, and styles really left me with both the idea that there was simply no excuse for me not to be trading and the abject terror of trying to figure out what “my style of trading” really is. It’s one thing to pick one of a few available approaches and read up on how to do that well. But there are far fewer borders and boxes than I thought, leaving me with Tabula Rasa Terror.

But one thing most traders seem to universally recommend, both in the book and elsewhere, is “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefvre, which was written almost a hundred years ago (I think the publication date was 1923) and chronicles the rags to riches to rags to riches to rags to riches journey of a man fighting with the market. Well, I finished it this morning. It certainly held up its end of the deal. Aside from some anachronistic vernacular, and a strange difference in professional culture, I was surprised (though almost certainly shouldn’t have been) at how precise he captured the general principles and pitfalls of trading (because we’re not really talking about ‘investing’ here) more than 100 years ago, and how very little it’s changed, at least in that dimension; and in that regard it was edifying to find the same emotional demons I’d faced (and, lost) occurring in someone so far out of time and experience.

Unfortunately the solutions all seem to fall in to the “Doctor doctor, it hurts when I do this….don’t do that” variety. But it’d be a lot to ask of a book from 1923 I suppose.

I’ll go back through it with a notebook and a highlighter as there’s no doubt I missed a lot of great stuff on the first read through.

Now I’ve got a bookshelf (new, more on that later) full of trading books that are starting to quiver as I get near them. Can’t wait 🙂

1/23/2017: The 52 book challenge

There is no end to the number of internet soandso challenges. There’s….ya know what, it’s not worth it.

I always mourn the fact that I’m a voracious reader who doesn’t read nearly as much as I’d like. It’s just too easy to get sucked in to other things. The lure of the internet, primarily, is just too great for my ADDitude. But I came across the /r/52book subreddit a few weeks ago and thought to myself, I thought… “Self? There’s really no excuse.”

So off I go. 52 books by the end of the year.

There are going to be some dupes. There are going to be some rereads. And, I may actually pick some smaller books just to play catch-up on the numbers.

I’m not committing to reviewing each one. Shit…I’m not PLANNING to review them. But this post will be the list, assuming I can remember to keep coming back to update it. I’m sure I’ll be in touch along the way regardless.

  1. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed these. I blew through them all so fast the first time I read them, that I missed more than I remembered. It’s kind of startling to me how much COLOR there is in everything.
  2. “The Procrastination Puzzle” Nice little book on procrastination, what it is, and techniques for dealing with it. Full marks.
  3. “Magic of Thieves” by C. Greenwood. Meh. Skip it.
  4. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
  5. “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”
  6. “Manalive” by G.K.Chesterton. This book is my favorite thing ever created by a human.
  7. “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.
  8. “How To Live On 24 Hours A Day” by Arnold Bennett
  9. “Three Hearts and Three Lions” by Poul Anderson
  10. “Buy Signals Sell Signals” by Steve & Holly Burns. A tiny little book, but so information dense it took me a week to digest.
  11. “The Ultimate Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan. Meh. 98.5% fluff around a really great idea. Skip it
  12. “Dungeon Born: The Divine Dungeon” Book One by Dakota Krout. Read this if you like fantasy. It’s got all the hallmarks of a freshman effort. But it’s a smile.
  13. “Create or Hate” by Dan Norris. Just…don’t. It’s “fine.” The way I described it on Reddit is: Take Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”, change the word “resistance” to “hate” (presumably because it rhymes with create) then water it WAY down and cut out most of the smart stuff.
  14. “168 Hours” by Laura Vanderkam. This isn’t bad. It boils down to “You’re not as busy as you think you are, and when you’re honest about that you can probably have closer to ‘it all’ than you thought possible.” Good thesis, practical ideas. Light.
  15. “We Are Legion (We Are Bob)”. Imagine you hit the dot-com jackpot and your company is bought for a couple billion. You go to a peculiar insurance company that says they’ll freeze your head when you die, then fix you up a new body when medical science is up to snuff. You wake up…but you’re not in a body…not really. Then it starts to get weird.
  16. “Practical Demonkeeping” by Christopher Moore. I love this every time I read it. It’s a goofy little modern fantasy with heart. As a freshman effort it’s truly impressive.
  17. “How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. This was a lovely little book. I don’t want to salt the dig too much. It’s a little self-helpy and a lot autobiographical. There’s some nice casual “hey man, get over yourself. This is no big deal.” energy to it.
  18. “The Club of Queer Trades” by G.K.Chesterton. Look, I love Chesterton. He’s responsible for my favorite thing ever created by a human (scroll up.) I’ve read Queer Trades before and quite enjoyed it. But the second (or maybe fourth) time through, once you’ve figured out his literary devices and way of talking, it starts getting pretty pale (Manalive suffers no such deficiency.) There are an awful lot of books that are collected small pieces, presumably from his column writing career. And they just leave me a bit cold. If you haven’t read it, read it. You can bang out one of these short stories in no time and laugh your ass off doing it. But it doesn’t rank among his more interesting work.
  19. “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis. It’s good. But not good enough for me to read the rest of the trilogy.
  20. “Trading Beyond The Matrix” by Van K. Tharp. More about this elsewhere.
  21. “The Defendant” by G.K. Chesterton. It’s got some bright points. But definitely not one of my favorites. A lot of his stuff (12 Types, Tremendous Trifles, The Defendant, The Club of Queer Trades, etc) seem to just be anthologies of essays or tiny stories on a theme that appeared in serial. As such the individual pieces tend to be pretty hit and miss.
  22. “Pudd’nhead Wilson” by Mark Twain. I hadn’t read it in 30 years. I’d apparently forgotten entirely what it was about. Enjoyed it, but the patois was pretty jarring.
  23. “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore. I adore Moore. This is the 2nd in his “Pine Cove” series. He writes dog pretty convincingly :).
  24. “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G.K.Chesterton. This was my introduction to Chesterton back in the day. If you haven’t read it, I HIGHLY recommend it. Note that the full title is “The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare”.
  25. “The Hero With 1000 Faces” by Joseph Campbell. I should’ve read this 30 years ago. Not that I’d have had the faintest fucking idea what it meant. But still. An excellent, if…somewhat dry, book.
  26. “Fluke” by Christopher Moore. I’m not sure I’d read this more than once. Just adorable.
  27. “For We Are Many” by Dennis Taylor. This is the 2nd of the Bobverse books. It’s fucking phenomenal. 3rd book comes out on 8/7 I think. I’m counting down days.
  28. “The Science of Personal Achievement” by Napoleon Hill. It’s audio, but it counts. The content is 10/10. But listening to the man speak makes me want to drive into oncoming traffic. Stop YELLING for fuck’s sake.
  29. “Coyote Blue” by Christopher Moore. I picked up some references to other books I’d previously missed on this read through. Coyote Blue’s a fun one. It slips between the cracks of his Pine Cove stuff and the San Francisco books. But…I suppose Fluke does as well, technically. I just think Fluke is strong enough in comparison that it doesn’t fall between anything. I might start the San Francisco series next, not sure.
  30. “Bloodsucking Fiends” by…you guessed it, Christopher Moore. So lovely 🙂
  31. “You Suck” follow up to Bloodsucking Fiends. I’d forgotten how much I loved this. Bloodsucking Fiends is arguably the better book. But Abby Normal absolutely steals the fucking show. It’s just… yeah. If you’re not already reading them then nothing I can say is going to push you closer to the edge.
  32. “Bite Me” the 3rd book in the San Francisco trilogy.
  33. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. You should just read this. It’s not huge. The audio version is also great as he reads it himself.
  34. “Dungeon Madness” This is the follow-up to “Dungeon Born” by Dakota Krout. It’s a dungeon crawler fantasy series where the protagonist is the Dungeon itself. It brings to mind the Bobverse books which…as I scroll up I see I haven’t put here. That’s interesting. Anyway it’s got that air of “a great concept, well ridden” that I love so much about Bobverse (which, by the time you read this, will be repopulated above.) But it really left me fiending for the 3rd book.
  35. “Spellmonger” This is the first in what I’d hope was only a trilogy if I planned on reading the rest of them. It’s a perfectly reasonable bit of fantasy pulp for people who don’t read much. I’m going to skip the rest of them.
  36. “All These Worlds”, the 3rd book in the Bobiverse series. It’s lovely. Personally I think the first was the strongest. But the author really delivers on Bob. My fear is that he milks it drier and drier over another 3 or 9 book until there’s nothing left but mediocre wordcraft. He tied up the things that needed to be tied up and left open some fascinating possibilities.
  37. “Forex For Beginners” by Anna Coulling. It’s taken me… Jesus I don’t KNOW how long to get around to finishing this book. Given the dozens of books I’ve read on trading, it definitely ranks in the top 10 if not top 5 for wide and deep introductory material to currency trading. You can read that book and immediately open an account and start trading. It’s not all you need to know. But it’s all you need to know to get started and not shoot yourself in the foot. I disagree with some of her contentions but so what.
  38. “How To Quit Your Job With Passive Income” by Dustin Heiner. I figured I’d give this a shot. It’s not a bad little write-up of using affiliate sites and the like as a passive income stream. It certainly is thorough enough that you could read it and start right from there. A quick read, I’m glad I went through it because it put to bed any curiosity I’ve had about engaging in that kind of nonsense.
  39. “Options Trading Quickstart Guide” by ClydeBank Media (weird. No author name.) This is a surprisingly good little brain blast of options information and strategies. You definitely could NOT read this then head to your local broker with a check and start writing covered calls. But it’s a solid supplement to other beginner level texts. Yeah, it’s got the basics in there (from all the way down at “What’s a Put?”.) But it also has a lot more information about options strategies. Well… a little information about each of a lot of strategies. Definitely worth reading.
  40. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” by James Meyers. Meh. I didn’t realize this was little more than a pamphlet sized book. That’s the danger of buying books on the Kindle. Unless you remember to check the page count, you could end up with something…well…like this. It’s not bad. But it’s definitely not interesting enough to recommend.
  41. “Enchiridion” by Epictetus. Translated by Thomas W. Higginson. I only mention the name of the translator because of the incredibly shitty job he did on what is supposed to be a seminal work in Stoicism. Or maybe it’s stereo instructions…or perhaps an attempt to mimic the recipe for kreplachs into Mandarin, then translated into Latin and then English. Tough to tell because of how fucking shitty a job this guy did. Reading between the lines (which is pretty much the only way to get anything OUT of this) it’s actually got some interesting principles. I hadn’t thought of Stoicism as being quite so much of a “oh suck it up, we all have our place in the universe, make the best of it because it’s not in your power to change it” philosophy. I mean…3/4 that, sure. But it really makes it seem like petulant shelter from an oppressive sociopolitical structure.
  42. “Good To Great” by Jim Collins. This was really good. It’s an interesting study on what companies did that brought them from mediocrity (or worse) to well-defined and sustained (his criteria was 15+ years) greatness. I was surprised by some of their conclusions. But it definitely scans. Well recommended if you’re a part of an organization of any type. (The research is not applicable merely to corporations.)
  43. “On Basilisk Station” The first of the Honor Harrington books. I’d forgotten entirely how much I loved these.
  44. “MT4 High Probability Forex Trading Method” by Jim Brown (different Jim Brown.) It’s a solid little trading strategy book. Not for beginners. You’ve got to have a reasonable understanding of the currency exchanges or at least equity price action trading. Not because it’s particularly advanced so much as because of the background information.
  45. “Honor Of The Queen”: (Honor Harrington, Book 2.) I know I know. But still. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed these. I’ve got the audio versions now and listening to them is quite a treat.
  46. “Trading Forex with Divergence on MT4/MT5” by Jim Brown. Another interesting little trading system book. It’s going to be interesting to backtest this and see how it performs. I’m not sure I’ll trade it. But it’s another facet.
  47. “The Short Victorious War”. Honor Harrington 3. Lovely. I got most of the way through it before sitting at home and staring at the computer for the last 3 hours of the book. Listening to fiction audiobooks is a whole different ballgame from nonfiction. The performance weighs so much more heavily into the experience than I would’ve expected. Generally I get a lot more out of it. But sometimes I wish it was more natural for me to pause and picture what’s going on, especially with massive scale space battles. But I’ve got 8 more of these.
  48. “The Appetite of Tyranny including letters to an old Garibaldian” by G.K.Chesterton. I’d been chipping away at this for about a month. It’s a real Chestertonian slog. It’s remarkably enlightening about the attitudes of Germany a bit past the turn of the last century. Unfortunately I don’t know quite what years he wrote the pieces included in here. But it is absolutely predictive of the underlying issues that brought about the second world war and, with some background information in The Frankfurt School, what’s going on in the modern world as well. Just haunting.
  49. “Field of Dishonor” Honor Harrington #4. Some of it is a little tough to get through. But it’s solid. I’ve spent some significant amount of time just sitting at my computer listening to these in 3-4 hour chunks.
  50. “The Warrior Ethos” by Steven Pressfield. Solid little book on warrior culture, mostly with reference to Sparta, though he ties it back to modernity.
  51. “All These Shiny Worlds” a sci-fi/fantasy short story anthology. It was okay. I remember there being a couple bright spots. But I can’t for the life of me recall what they were, so they couldn’t have been THAT bright.
  52. “American Gods” Neil Gaiman. Full cast recording of the author’s preferred text. I’d read this when it came out and had loved it. The audio book is exceptional. It’s been long enough since I read the first edition that I wasn’t quite sure what I’d forgotten, what had been added, and what I was only noticing because I’ve listened to instead of read it. It’s interesting how that happens. I’m going to take a break now, because this counts 52 books this year, on the witching hour of 12/2.

Not sure what I’m going to get to next. There are a few books I’m reading in parallel. I want to get back on the stick with sharpening my programming and trading chops, so I might go for some of that instead of more fantasy fiction. We’ll see.

1/22/2017: Beefstick Monkeybutt

They bought pizza for lunch for the office on Friday from the GOOD pizza place (which always takes a bunch of coercion (why, I’ll never know) and I’ve been enjoying a slice for breakfast for the last couple days.

So this morning, on my way out of our morning meeting, the fridge called to me as I passed it, so I went diving in the pizza box contained therein and scored a slice of plain, stuffed the end in my face and walked the rest of the way back to my desk.

“Do they deliver?” our resident gym rat asked.
“No. We had to go get it.”
“I know, but DO they deliver?”
“No. We had to go get it.”
“I know you DID go get it, but do they deliver?”
“Dude, listen: No. We had to go get it. That’s a complete answer to your question. I don’t know how else to say that.”

He just…blinked at me, this pained expression of confusion washed over him, before he nodded in dismissive assent.

He’s a good kid. But he’s just…been set up with fewer gears than the rest of us.

Bless his heart.

1/21/2017: Open Floor Plans (or: how to make a lunatic)

The president of our company (the technical arm of a somewhat larger company, which is a subsidiary of a yet larger company which is still only medium sized at best) is a good guy. He might be the last of the genuine Southern Gentlemen.

Welp, last year (before I started) they moved to a new office building. Teeny one, by any estimation. Our company, comprising about 13-14 people, sits almost entirely in a single room 3 rows of desks, 3 people to a row, one in a corner, two in another room.

The president’s wife, for reasons I still can’t get anyone to explain to me, was in charge of the layout.

I’ve never met her, in my 14 months at the firm. She doesn’t work there. She’s certainly not a technologist.

As far as I can tell by the tales, she’s just a busybody.

We have no partitions, cubicle walls, nothing. Just open desks where the 10 of us sit in remarkably close proximity.

Now, on the best of days I have a lot of trouble paying attention. I put on headphones, bury my eyes in my monitors and my ears in my music. But every time there’s a conversation I can still hear it clearly. Too frequently it’s a conversation between at least one of our under-aged programmers and el jefe about some Big Decision they’re putting their heads together on in order to screw up as bad as they can.

There are a couple points during the day when it’s completely pointless to try and get anything done. Early morning, after meetings, after lunch, and from about 4:45 to the end of the day. The room just breaks out into loud cross talk about movies, cars, sportsball, or whatever else.

Until a couple months ago, I didn’t really think it was bothering me that much. But the constant din of chatter has been eroding my patience for months and today I had a little “Jesus, we need to get cubicles or SOMEthing” snap when our DBA was blathering endlessly about…hell, I don’t even remember what it was. Just throwing words out in to the room.

One of our devs went a couple rounds of jokes about how I could sit in the broom closet, which were pretty funny. But then el jefe IMed me an amazon link to a 3-fold cardboard partition, apparently to ask if I wanted him to buy me some of those to put around my desk.

I don’t have a conclusion to this. But I’m having a real REAL hard time driving to the office lately.

Was Wall Street really that bad?

1/20/2017

I came across this draft from a few days ago, thinking it was odd that I had no memory of writing it or what it could be about (not having clicked on the video)

Nothing strikes you quite so much when you’re sick as how much more aware of yourself you are. Allergies make you more conscious of breathing than meditation ever could.

But I remember. I don’t know if you know who Lindsey Sterling is. To me she was always “that funky high-energy nerdy violinist with omg that smile” and little more. But I came across that while I was looking for something to listen to in the office and, well… it brought tears to my eyes.

I stopped what I was doing and kicked my chair back from my desk a couple feet and looked around. I had a flashback to April 2002.

I was sitting in disaster recovery space (a temporary office) at my computer, row after row of long featureless white tables stretched out, lined with computers and people, plugging away in a beige room under fluorescent lights. I was working in a bond market technology company. A good company for good people, as far as it went. But this was still seven months after 9/11 and I was thinking about silly things like my place in the universe, and what I was contributing to the world. It was tough not to think of it in terms of the phrase “how little.” Sure, what I was working on was Good. It helped move the world forward, as what I do today.

I saw, in what I enjoy referring to as “the cobwebs of my mind”, the visceral sense of how little I was accomplishing; how small I was BEING in relation to what I AM. There are all manner of goofy metaphors; clouds parting and rainbows appearing, first time having a rootbeer float. It’s all pointless, really. It’s a downright physical sensation. What was amazing was how one brought me back instantly to the other. The world in those two moments, separated by 14 years, immediately had the color flushed out of it by contrast. And all of it just from watching this girl “doing what she is” in a way that I’ve been reaching for, but have never found.

I have no tight little conclusions for this. That little video is almost too stark and bright a reminder to watch again.

Part of me doesn’t want to face that much icewater on my head.

Part of me doesn’t want to dilute the joy of it by repeated exposure.

Time’s up.

In more ways than one.

1/19/2017: maters

“Alexa, 25 minute timer.”
“Five minute timer, starting now.” Ugh
“Alexa cancel timer.”
“Five minute timer cancelled.”
“Alexa, 25 minute timer.”
“There are currently no timers.” Son of a…
*turn around, stare right at the damn thing, enunciating like I’m on stage, or…well…drinking*
“Alexa, twenty five minute timer.”
“25 minute timer, starting now.” FINALLY.

I keep forgetting how well it all works, and thus my ADD brain just spins off in to the stratosphere, looking for fake internet points on imgur or reddit, or sniping at leftists on twitter. Suddenly hours will go by.

One of the best methods I’ve ever encountered for keeping me on task is “The Pomodoro Method“…technique, whatever.

First of all, it’s only named “pomodoro” because the guy who started it used a tomato shaped kitchen timer.

The idea is simple as can be. Pick a task, something a little beefy. “Laundry” or…uhm… “post about The Pomodoro Technique” for instance (hypomathetically, of course) and start a timer for 25 minutes. Once you start, do nothing but work on that until the timer goes off. If you finish, great. But if you don’t, then “pencils down, step away.” Seriously, stop.

Take five minutes for (ahem) bio breaks, to get up and walk around. Then take the next task, start a 25 minute timer, and go again. Repeat for ‘some number’ of iterations before taking a half hour break. (I forget what he says the optimum number is.)

You can get arbitrarily crazy with this by doing things like planning your tomato slots for the day or …well… there’s not really all that much to it. So I’m not sure how much “crazier” you can make this.

But I can do anything for 25 minutes. An hour? That starts stretching out a bit. My mind will definitely start wandering by that time and my effectiveness will drop precipitously.

One thing I like to do (when I can be arsed to do this, which frankly is NOT frequently enough) is to take a couple few big tasks and to rotate through them. Yeah, the net productivity almost certainly drops when context switching back and forth through tasks. But on the whole, I’m able to “keep things interesting and therefore productive” for a greater number of tasks and it nets out in my favor.

One thing I love about it is that working on a task, even if it’s not to completion, for the whole time span IS a positively reinforcing accomplishment on its own. If find this invaluable if my project is a deathmarch of some kind (which most of them generally are) like “clean the livingroom.”

Cleaning the livingroom for 25 minutes is easy. Cleaning the livingroom to perfection is nigh impossible. I can’t see the end of the task, so my “what’s the use” circuit engages and I go back to playing stupid fucking computer games (which, aside from some light Fallout Shelter, I haven’t done in many weeks. This is NOT to say that I’ve been using the time WISEly, by any means. But…eh, I digress.)

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it’s worth buying the book. I’m pretty sure I did that when it came out and skimmed through it really quickly. But I don’t recall enough to remember. And, since just about my entire library was lost in the move (well “lost” in that I deprived myself of it, not that it “went missing”. I know exactly where the hell it all went.)

There are treatments of the technique all over ye olde internet. But there’s really not much more to it than that. There are apps for your mobile device. There are websites and applications that will let you push a button and it will count down ’til the end.

If you have trouble getting things done, I highly recommend it.

“Alexa how much time left.”
“You have one timer with about 10 minutes left.”

Not bad. This would absolutely have taken me an hour of dithering if I hadn’t set a timer. almost 700 words in 15 minutes? If I could write fiction at that speed I’d be in great shape. *looks down* well…you know what I mean.

1/18/2017: (not) Live blogging

Well, see what I’d planned on doing was live-blogging the process of working through the GameMaker initial “my first game” tutorial, since the software itself was giving me such a hilarious amount of trouble. But trying to do one and write about it at the same time was just having the net effect of trying to mesh mismatched gears. I just ended up staring at the screen for a half hour.

It could just be that the tutorial itself is wonky. But that starts sounding suspiciously like “I don’t get it, therefore it’s stupid.” There are some weird inconsistencies. The file open dialog in one section of the IDE is custom-built. In another section it’s using the windows standard file open control.

Add to that the joy that it downloads the tutorial/sample stuff to the AppData/local directory, which is invisible from the custom file dialog, so I can’t navigate to it to grab the sprites and other game collateral.

That may very well be the extent of the weirdness, and it may all work out just fine once I get that stuff set up (i.e. once I move the downloaded stuff someplace sensible.)

But for a tool people rave about so damn glowingly, this is sure a metric fuckton of headache.

Lord knows there are other toolkits and such out there. But I’ll take a couple demos/tutorials to completion first before I close in on a final assessment.

I do want to finally get going on writing my first game though. I mean, I’ve been programming for nigh on 40 years and have never made one.

1/17/2017: I’ve decided a thing

I’ve decided, in the interest of keeping myself from getting prosecuted by some overly curious cow orker who stumbles over here, not that I should ‘avoid writing about work’ by any means (see the quote on the little masthead there), but that I am not going to bind my daily posts to the events of said day unless something sufficiently interesting happens on that day. Sure, I could mine the chat logs at work and come up with rather a horrifying amount things you wouldn’t actually believe were real. BUT I’m sure I signed something saying I’d never do anything like that, which is a damn shame because there’s just so much juicy stuff.

Seriously. It’s a fucking train wreck.

I wonder, at times, if I should be trying to leap in and help pull it all together and transform the shop from 8-10 people (depending how you count them) running around in our own directions, into an actual team. But when push comes to shove I really am okay with not ‘stepping up.’ I’m a programmer (professionally) not a herdsman of cats.

So I sit, plowing through as much clean up work as I can, trying to pull in the right direction when I hear a conversation going completely off the rails by pointing out things the 20 somethings missed.

It just seems, as this goes on, that the sound of the room is getting progressively more distant and quiet, relative to the buzzing noise I can almost hear in my head as I fix another query, collapse another O(n^3) bottleneck, change another print to log.

It’s hard to escape the notion that, while they need me…

I don’t need them.

1/16/2017: Style, or the lack thereof

Blasting out that many catch-up posts in a day got my head in to what there is of my writing style….

and how disjointed and utterly directionless it is. Currently I’m just “stream of conscious”ing all this out there, which is fine. I mean, I’m not writing the great American novel here. but it took this couple/few weeks to be able to see the patterns start emerging again of what happens when I put words to paper with some regularity. It’s the kind of thing you (read: I) forget every time.

The stages are interesting and the re-emerge with the sine wave every time:

1. Getting words out there: This is when I’m just typing, much like this post (as I don’t have a particular topic in mind.) It’s lazy in all but the most basic “type stuff” sense.

2. Re-reading what I write and flinching: Sometimes I just never leave this stage. It’s when I can finally be arsed to look back at my work and start making judgments about it. This is far more rare than it ought to be.

3. Compulsion to edit: And I do mean compulsion. Once I start tweaking things for structure, moving paragraphs around and reading for …well…not quite ‘meter’ per se. But ‘flow’, I suppose. The 9/11 post is a perfect example of that. I reread it every once in a while and am more or less happy with most of it (though I did lose a bunch of edits, so the version that’s currently here is a bit back-leveled) I still want to gut it, add in a metric crapton of detail that never made it in, and generally add a pound of salt to a quart of soup. This, near as I can tell, never goes away.

4. Writing things I’m happy with: I…I’ve heard this happens to people. There are a couple little vignettes I can read and nod along with, seeing a tweakable moment here and there, but more inclined to leave well enough alone. I’ll have to see if I can dig some up and post them here. I’m pretty sure I’ve got something horribly close to everything I’ve ever written (no really, it’s a bit gross.) But having it and actually wading through it all are two entirely different prospects.

So I suppose the next thing for me to do is to start drafting out topic ideas, filling them in, and building them up while I’m posting along merrily. I’m not sure how it’s going to work. But, meh. Only one way to find out I suppose.

o7

1/15/2017: Zero based thinking and mead

Over Christmas I traveled from Nashville to my father’s place in Pennsylvania where I’d put a metric crapton of mead a couple years ago. I was thrilled with the list of weird permutations I’d had down there. some Lemon Basil, blueberry, jalapeno, all kinds of stuff. But the lion’s share by volume was a few gallon batch of JAOM I’d put down back in mid 2014. It’s the longest I’ve been able to keep a mead without drinking it all.

So I just bottled a case of the JAOM out of 1 gallon jars and took the opportunity to try some. It’s… eh. I’m thoroughly nonplussed. Sure, it’s nice and mellow with none of that characteristic “too young” heat. The flavors are a bit too subtle and it doesn’t suffer from my usual sin of being too sweet.

I suppose I don’t really know what I was expecting. But it was definitely something a bit more interesting. I should probably be an awful lot happier with the result.

But I know what’s going to happen. I’ll bring a bottle to some…thing and people will gush overmuch about it. It’ll be a mix of genuine appreciation, amazement that it was something someone they know made (that counts for a lot of praise of otherwise mediocre results) and some generic politeness.

I’ll give a bottle to the guys at the pizza place, bring a bottle in to the office, and a couple more to other people I can think of. But generally I’m going to try and get rid of it.

Under my desk right now there’s another 5 gallon carboy of the exact same recipe, ready to be racked into bulk-aging bottles. I’ve half a mind to just dump it. Dafuq am I gonna do with a little over two more cases of it?

It reminds a lot of this…

I’m a Brian Tracy fan. His speaking manner is jarring, with his placid tonality and peculiar mid-sentence interruptions. But this is a good little bit about Zero Based Thinking. It’s a subtle reframing of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and this is what I come up against when I think about this stuff. Endure the first two minutes of this in order to hear the rest of it. It’s a bit business focused. But that does not dilute its relevance to day to day life one bit.

The realization of this principle (or, more properly stated, the enlightenment TO it) figured tremendously in my ripping my life out by the roots and walking, for which I am eternally thankful.

But…I look around my apartment and see no less than 12 gallons of mead alone brewing away. There are also 3 cases bottled in my truck, probably 3 cases bottled around the apartment and a couple dozen other little bottles with various botanicals floating around in them. I think about the chemicals, the bottles, the hoses and corks and…I just…don’t care. If I could blink and have it all disappear…I probably would. Thing is, while I can’t literally do that, I can come pretty damn close.

I like my experiments. But I got so completely obsessive about it that now it’s all just sorta taken over. I’m torn between letting the stuff in process continue and just…dumping everything that’s not already bottled, throwing cases of glassware in the dumpster at the office.

1/14/2017: Yeah, fuck it. Let’s go for 7 in one day

I’m a BIG fan of woot.com, especially since they’re now owned by Amazon, a company second only to CocaCola in the level of brand loyalty evoked from me. (that reads like Yoda edited it.)

I made the mistake of not blocking woot.com in my hosts file last week at the office, the way I’ve finally had to with Amazon, imgur, reddit, and twitter. (Sadly, I actually use reddit for work. Rampant leftist horseshit aside, the technology subs are spectacular.)

So Wednesday…ish (maybe Tuesday, definitely “totally fucking irrelevant” day) they had a little micro-desktop. It’s got an i5, 4gig of ram, a metric fuckton of usb3 ports, a 128g ssd, and win10, for $379. Now, I’ve got a computer gaming problem. I can go a month or two without it, but I get the addiction pendulum swing and end up binging for weeks at a time. Just like a fucking bender, complete with the hangover and remorse. I’ve had it in my head that keeping a separate box to write prose and code on would be a really good idea. I could keep a low powered machine with no video capabilities to speak of (and no slot for a card) and without much space, and I could just use it to noodle around, then only go to the behemoth when I REALLY needed to (for weak ASS values of the word “need”.)

ALSO, I have a small apartment. Not NYC small. But one bedroom, a livingroom, a walk in closet, and a “kitchenette” (along with a big closet that’s the “laundry room”, thank the maker.) So for the last 13 months, my computer has been set up in the walk in closet, which became my “office.”

I ran the justifications through my head and paused over the “I want one!” button. I took a few minutes to cross-check the pricing of that particular model and realized it really was a great deal. Sooo…I hit the button.

Caught up in the shopping frenzy I ordered a new 10″ kindle and…stuff. (This must’ve been what precipitated me blocking Amazon, come to think of it.)

Most of my haul arrived Saturday. I’d been backing things up to my NAS and to my other servers for days in anticipation of the big day.

So I pulled my 30″ monitor out of the closet and put it on the table/desk I’ve got in the livingroom. (I can see out the window now. The lights of west Nashville are really quite nice at night. It’s almost enough to make me feel like I live in a city :-/)

I got the good keyboard with the Cherry Blues, and I started plugging everything in.

Hrm…HDMI cable doesn’t seem to want to fi….oh…no. NO. NO nononononono. FUCKING DISPLAYPORT. My lovely little acquisition didn’t have hdmi ports, it’s got a pair of displayports. Fortunately my spiffy monitor takes displayport native. But…and there was no way around it, that meant I was going to have to drive 20 minutes away (remember when I said “almost like a city?”) to get to a Staples (because after the Geek Squad as FBI informants kerfuffle, Best Buy can go FUCK themselves for ever and always.)

I hung my head in frustration and shook it a couple times, muttering a stream of ancient eldritch curses that almost caused tentacles to start writhing out of the sink, put on my shoes and headed off. An uneventful trip to get a couple rollerbites and a cable (aaannnd maybe a cheap pair of PC beepers) later, and home I came. (I became aDDICTED to those things you see them cooking in truck stop hotdog machines. The buffalo chicken ones are incredible. Damn things look like they’re just extruded, which, if I think about it at all, they probably are. I get a couple of those whenever I’m down there.)

Connecting the thing was uneventful (but the speakers don’t work, for some reason.) And after fighting with windows’ account creation stuff (I want my \users\ directory to be named something VERY specific, just for what little remains of my sanity.)

So I’m using it now. The game machine isn’t dismantled, per se, but it’s got the old 23″ monitor sitting near it (disconnected) and I haven’t re-plugged in anything since I yoinked the good peripherals out.

Which means I’m typing on this new little toy. And I’ve gotta tell ya, this thing goes like a streak of shit. I don’t have any cruft and crap running on this. No steam, origin stuff. No games of any kind. That, by the way, is my absolute rule. The only loophole is if I code up a game myself. Scrivener and Scapple are on here. It’s just slick. I’m pretty amazed at how fast the SSD is.

I was about to start pulling my source code repository over when I stopped. That directory, the venerable “~/srctree” is almost 30 years old, and has almost every line of code I’ve written for myself over those years. I’ve got a bunch of backups of it all. But what if I just left it, and started from scratch? A clean pseudo break seems like a really good idea. So I did that.

I certainly won’t do the same thing with writing, because there are a couple/few existing projects to continue work on, that I’m not about to start over.

With any luck, in a couple months I’ll walk in to the closet and say “Oh right, this.”

1/13/2017: Back in the saddle

In fairness, this work crap is really all starting to blend together. I’m playing catch-up this weekend and, aside from the particular narrative thread I’ve fixated on, I’m not the least bit sure I’d be able to tell one day from the next.

By the end of the day on Friday, sysguy still hadn’t figured out how to push the data, HAD managed to explain why it was everyone else’s fault, and said to el jefe that it would be done “in a couple hours” as everybody left on Friday. In sysguy code this means “I’m going to try and figure it out over the weekend.” So “I can’t WAIT ’til Monday morning’s staff meeting.” A sentence, I hope you appreciate, that’s never been uttered in the English language. The stammering is going to be delicious.

I hit the stupid market to buy a metric crapton of chicken and a couple other small things aaannnd managed to buy more than I could fit in my freezer, so the botched lentil soup had to go.

Yeah, I made a crock pot full of lentil soup a few weeks ago (I don’t tend to do things like that in half measures) and, like the ass that I am, I used beef stock instead of chicken. Wow. What an unpalatable nightmare. BUT the idea of throwing away 2 gallons of soup was just too much for me, so in to the freezer it went and I had it a couple times for meals over the next few days before just conveniently forgetting about it. Well… freezer space is at an all time premium (srsly, I should buy at the money puts on this shit.) So some hard decisions had to be made, for the sake of the ravioli. Out it all went :-(.

I put 3 bags of frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot (it’s an 8qt crock pot. It holds a lot of chicken), covered with chicken stock (oh the fucking irony) and put it on low.

Looking around the apartment, frustrated that my toys hadn’t come yet and not wanting to deal with the boxalanche that is my entranceway *turns his head and shudders visibly* I decided, well hell, 10:00. The bar was open ’til Midnight and it’s…a bit too high-rent for the area (srsly, I don’t know how long it’s going to last, which is sad because I do love it so) so…pair of jeans, charcoal jacket, deadpool t-shirt, nice shoes, filled my lighter and I was out.

It was a fun couple hours. I smoked an opus-x and Hunter was behind the bar, which was refreshing. I’d only seen him in passing for months, so we got to shoot the shit a bit. I met a few people who complimented me on my shirt, asked me for the “why’d you move from NY down here?” story, and we all know how much I hate the opportunity to talk about myself in a group of people, and were generally fun and slightly nerdy. We talked about the markets, what it’s like working in Big Finance, what they all did (lawyer, military, and a couple I didn’t catch that’s.) They invited me to go sit with them, which I decided to do for a change and actually asked me to join them on their continued hop. I thanked them but passed. They were going dancing, REALLY not my gig. Too busy and too much alcohol. I’d have about a 104% chance of doing something remarkably stupid. So I closed out and came home, my insides feeling like I’d swallowed a chainsaw blade for some reason.

I walked in to the apartment, tripped over an empty amazon box (fall broken by several other amazon boxes, so there’s that), brushed my teeth a few times (cigars are great to smoke, but the aftermath is horrendous) and passed the FUCK out, glad I’d not succumbed to “nah”ishness.