So close

My plan had very little particularly to do with blogging; just writing something down every day. So I expect that as I get more interesting, I’ll post less frequently. I just figure that if I take it in a certain kind of direction I might just as well hit post. But nobody’s even hit the site in the last two days so I’m under no particular delusion that I’m writing for anyone but me anyway.

Anyway the month is closing out as is the quarter, which has some exciting implications for me this turn.

A couple years ago I was getting very concerned about my mental fortitude and willpower. It was really bad. So I came up with an idea:

Every month, give up something or make a single habit change for the duration of the month. Just do something different and difficult that’s good for me. Seemed harder then than it seems now, but that was quite precisely the point.

So I did. Every month I’d give something up or start doing something differently. Some of the things were harder than others. Sometimes I stacked a couple.

The final list had things like:

– No gaming
– No non-meal snacking
– Read an hour or more a day
– No computer use at home
– No noncritical spending (nothing but food, gas, utilities.)
– Meditate every day
– No soda
– No Amazon
– Eat something green every day
– Only drink water
– Write daily

There were more, but they’ve slid into obscurity.

The plan worked. Over the first year it was really tough, but got quite easy. By the last few months it was such a trivial exercise that it barely seemed worth the effort.

Then in August of last year I decided to try and find something a bit tougher.

No wheat.

Now… I’ve been a baker for 35 years. I eat sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, burritos, pasta, cookies, crackers, cake, etc. This was gonna be tough.

And it was. It was complete fucking torture. I did it. But it sucked. It wasn’t “no carbs.” But “no wheat” and in the spirit of The Purity Test (look it up. I won’t be responsible for what you find) “All technicalities count.”

Did you know soy sauce was made with wheat?

I did it. I got through the month. But it was just so damn taxing that I stopped doing monthly things like that. I just cancelled the program. I’d developed what I wanted to develop and proven what I needed to prove to whom I needed to prove it.

A few days after Christmas I came back from New York on a single-shot drive to Nashville (16 hours from Albany to downtown Nashville. I was pulled over at 4 in the morning by an awfully cute cop, less than one block from my apartment. She let me off with a warning and a smile.) On the trip down I’d thought myself a good thunk and I thought to myself… “Self? Whatever happened to those little monthly prohibitions? You’ve really been taking it easy. SOME of the guys in here are saying you’re bitching out. I’m not going to name names. But… there’s….been talk is all I’m sayin’.” After all, the internal monologue on a drive like that eventually becomes an internal dialog, then a conversation and finally the cacophony of an insane asylum’s common room a month after they’ve run out of Thorazine.

“You know what you should do, I mean, if you haven’t backslid entirely into bitchdom that is?”
“Three months. Three months…aaannd because it’s three, you can’t just do one thing for three months, it’s gotta be three. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So… No soda, a tight amazon allowance ($100/month) and…. Yeah, no wheat. Three months. You aren’t a bitch, ARE you?”

New Year’s Eve I ate in such a manner that would make Oscar The Grouch flinch and say “damn dude…” But at midnight it was over.

The first couple weeks were just positively awful; stomping around yelling “What the hell do people even EAT!?!” But I started getting in a groove when the novelty wore off pretty good.

Then it was just a barren road leading off into forever where I’d have to occupy myself with keto bread substitutes (they ALL suck. Take your wacky ass egg and cheese concoctions and GTFO.) But I managed.

Interestingly, the biggest problem wasn’t craving. It was just straightforward food choice. Picking things to eat without getting crazy with repetition.

Between this and some light (twitter based) reading about a carnivore diet that people keep mentioning I started eating a WHOLE lot of red meat. The sous vide always has something going and I’ve got pounds of cooked ground beef I just bring to work and eat a little bit of for lunch (today I ate half a london broil though. *urp* A bit tough to chew but holy shit was it delicious.)

I noticed something, a few weeks in: I feel fucking great. I seem to need far less sleep. I don’t drag through the day. There’s absolutely no 2:30 lunch hangover.

I’m still dying for pizza and crackers, burgers and burritos. In fact I went to the supermarket tonight on my way home from the office and bought all kinds of bread. Plus I pulled my sourdough starter out of stasis.

I’m 25 hours and 16 minutes away from being able to eat something with wheat in it. I think what I’ll end up doing tomorrow night is make myself a grilled cheese sandwich and drink a root beer. But next week is gonna be completely fucking bananas.

I’ve got to say though, after all of this, I’m seriously considering cutting carb consumption to one day out of every two weeks or something. Go for a pizza, make fresh pasta, etc. Weekday lunches will still be a logistical bitch. But the things that cuts out are almost all in the fast food category, and how can that be bad?

Especially since I’ve lost almost 20 pounds.

Out of a fog, back to the past

It must be the fact that I’m putting pen to paper at all again. I can’t really imagine what else it could reasonably be.

This might get a little wacky, I don’t know. I’m all stream of consciousness all the time anyway lately so you get what you get.

Lately, and by that I mean within the last couple weeks to a month, I’ve felt myself coming out of a fog of sorts. It had been years since my brain felt like my own, since I progressed at all in thought or skill in any measurable way. This is not to say that I’ve been a window licking idiot for the last N years, but the difference is one in degree rather than kind.

There’s a thing I say to people when they get on my nerves, which also means I’m chanting it to myself ad nauseum: “If you were wrong, how would you know?” When I use it as an admonishment it’s usually, if I’m being honest, my way of saying “shut the fuck up.” But it has more value than that.

How DO you know if you’re wrong? You should be able to ask yourself that question about all things you think you know anything about at all. Now, the answer may very well be (and is, with frightening regularity) “I have no idea.” But at least be aware of that.

This comes up for a couple reasons: First, I’ve been listening to the narration of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “The Black Swan” which, a couple hours in is exceptional. Go get it and read it. I’ll put a link in the sidebar. I’m not going to butcher his thesis here. Suffice it to say he touches on it enough that I was bouncing up and down in my truck saying “I do that! I do that!”

The other is that one of my favorite things in business happened to me today at about 4:30. This is not something that comes from my better nature as a human (indeed there are at least a couple people who would no doubt argue that I don’t HAVE one of those. But I’ll tell that story when I’m good and fucking ready and not a moment before.)

The most nightmarish place I’ve ever worked was a firm on Wall Street. It was a huge, german, backstabby financial institution with a 12-14 hour work day. I was a C++ programmer (oh THOSE were the days *le sigh*) working on a trading system. I feel compelled to add that it was one of the best few year stretches of my life. My boss and I locked horns frequently on the job, but left that shit in the office. It’s one of the only jobs where I made friends that I still keep in touch with. For all the misery, we build quite an esprit de corps. And holy SHIT did we drink.

Anyway I was on a long running project where I had to interact with a team of junior developers on a green field project. A more contentious team of fucknuts I’ve never had the displeasure of dealing with, before or since. Anyway I was providing (after 6-9 months of negotiation and spec tweaking) a feed file every night. There were constant complaints about data quality (I could only provide data that was as good as the data I had, Garbage In Garbage Out after all) and there were all kinds of other “I’ll tell your manager/VP/Director” horseshit problems I’ve forgotten within the last 14 (holy shit is it 14?) years.

We were running tests on a daily cycle. I give them a file, their overnight process ingests it, we sort through the problems. It should’ve been really straightforward. But it was a case of them being able to do no wrong and punting everything because they didn’t understand defensive coding (be liberal in what your program accepts, conservative in what it emits.)

One morning I got in (Seven Fucking Thirty) to a series of OMG THIS CAN’T KEEP HAPPENING emails firing back and forth. Yeah there was some really wacky problem with the file.

I went out to the drop location and found “filename.xls” and “Copy of filename.xls”, screen shotted the directory and copied the files locally, zipped them up, then started looking at copies I’d made of that, while keeping my eyes on the drop location.

Someone had opened the file to putter around with it before they imported it and had fucked with the formatting badly enough that the data wouldn’t load, then tried to pin the failure on me.

Now, we all like to tell stories wherein we are the hero. It’s WHY we tell stories most of the time. I wasn’t a hero. The reason this sequence of events were sufficiently powerful to make me sweat is that a lot of the time my feed was bad. I did forget things. I was eeking in on accuracy but it was taking a long time.

But not this time. THIS time higher managers were getting called in to deal with the situation. After some rounds of nonsense I called the developer (on the PHONE, which says something about how hot I was.) The “copy of…” file had disappeared in the interim.

“Dude, you edited the file and broke it.”
“I didn’t touch anything. You submitted a bad file.”
“Okay man, look. I have screen shots of the directory and local copies of the original and the backup copy you made. I have the real original I generated here so I can point to the exact changes you made that broke your import.”
“Here’s what’s going to fucking happen next. I’m going to give you the opportunity to send an email to me, my boss, HIS boss and whomever else you want, explaining exactly what happened. If you don’t, I will and I promise you it will be a much different email.”

The righteous fury with which I was barking at him by the end of that sentence was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever felt. I was RIGHT. It was the ultimate gotcha.

Petty? Sure. But I was fucking right.

I don’t go over that story often in my head; not like I used to.

The less interesting parts of my job today involve sending all kinds of data all over the place, including to a company who’s charging us a terrible amount of money to provide a service they can’t seem to get off the ground. They’ve got ENDLESS problems ingesting incoming data. They shift goalposts, slide new specs in as “quick changes” and play all kinds of underhanded games they think we can’t see. They’re not only assholes, they’re inept assholes. (For the record, we deal with many counterparties who are perfectly competent and pleasant. I don’t actually just hate everybody.)

Well, I got an email…Tuesday, “Hey man, the last two files you uploaded were both truncated and they’re corrupting our upload process. This keeps happening. Can you check the process on your end?” Fuck. (Also. “keeps happening?” I’d never heard about it.) I dodged the email because I didn’t want to deal with it and replied with a mea culpa email this afternoon, when I finally started looking at it.

Okay. They’re files coming out of two different processes completely. So something’s truly fucky.

I keep copies of these files for months (3-6 depending.) I find the files, one is in a zip file I send, and the other is just a csv I transfer natively. I crack them open and…they’re fine. I look at the end of file rowcount screen shots that were sent over and, sure enough, they were truncated. I puzzled around this for about an hour this afternoon.

An ftp transfer truncating files? That’s…weird. I run a test (though not a file size test) post-upload, to be sure they transfer was successful. So it’s not possible that the data connection bails during a partial upload.

I grab our systems guy and drag him over to show him and re-narrate the sequence of events, show him the email and the files. We bat about a couple theories when I go ashen.

“Wait..” I said. “THAT file came out of a zip archive right?”
“If the transfer had truncated the zip file, it would be corrupted. He wouldn’t be able to open it, much less retrieve a partial file.” Understanding dawned.

“Fucking lying.”

I can not WAIT to go in to work tomorrow.

Freedom and Power

I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night that got me to thinking, as conversations with him are wont to do.

Since I’m now in the real name world, I’m going to be a bit sparing about details. But suffice it to say that I’ve made medium and long term decisions about where my life is going, and am acting with some alacrity to make those things happen. Some of the bigger changes are happening….not so much “on a long timeline” as “in the future” since they’re largely in stasis until a couple few other slow-rotating gears line up. Fair enough. Do what you can and make yourself ready for luck.

Having made these decisions and plans finally, a couple/few weeks ago, I’ve noticed something (though it may be related to other factors that I’ll get in to in a sec.) I’m operating from a much stronger position as far as my day to day work life is concerned.

The act of deciding upon and planning my future I knew would take me out of the world of “seat of my pants” living, sure. But it’s given me a foundation, an unassailable fortress from which I can act. Add to that the fact that my immediate manager is out on vacation for a week and I’m actually having a grand old time; moving as many projects forward as I possibly can before he gets back. It’s been a week of meetings, planning, and proof of concepts.

I’m not deluded by it though, like that Chevy Chase movie where they move in to a house, hate and are hated by their neighbors, so they work together to make it “showable” such that they can sell it and get the shit out of there. They have a moment of weakness at the apparition they’ve created for the sale, thinking it somehow represented reality. I forget what happens in the movie after that.

But it’s not fucking happening to me.

pics, upgrades, and micarta

Yeah I’ve definitely got to get image/media storage squared away. I made micarta for the first time this weekend, documenting as much of the process as I reasonably could (seeing as how I couldn’t take pictures while I was applying layers of fabric and resin.) So that will be coming.

Unfortunately I still don’t know how I’m going to get the stuff machined down to size, as I really overdid it with the initial size. Turns out that was a good thing since I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was doing and the result was…less than uniform. You’ll see what I mean. But there are some deep ridges in the top where the workpiece ended up being wider than the jig I had put together to hold it in place during clamping, so it folded a bit. Still, there’s more than enough usable material for a knife or three.

I’m going to have to run a prototyping operation with a couple pieces of hardwood. Damn I wish I could get maple down here.

A funny thing happened to my head on the way back here. Over the last 72 hours, my brain has started dredging up all the old ideas about site design and such that I wanted to implement. Even after only a couple days here my brain is plotting embedded wikis, gateways to and from social media (is there a goodreads “currently reading” addon? There must be) and all kinds of crap.

Damn. I had something else but forgot. Alas. I do want to implement some tagging scheme here and start putting in some project notes for the stuff I’ve been working on. Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll progress past this stream of consciousness stuff some day soon.

Don’t get your hopes up though. :p

Under construction

Yesterday’s move is, as implied, part of a renewed commitment to this platform. And if I’m gonna be living here more, it needs some homey touches. So expect a bunch of features to come and go, themes to change around as I try things out, etc.

I’ve got a couple Big Idea projects I’d like to test here, but I may decide to sandbox all that kind of stuff at home. We’ll see.

It’ll look like there are multiple posters here for a while, as I get users sorted out. There are decidedly not.

I realized last night after publishing yesterday’s post that my images have all flown the coop. Apparently I was storing them on imgur and had deleted my account somewhere in the interim. I’ll see what my options are for restoring them. I could host them here. But frankly I’d rather not.


RIP: Mad William Flint

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

I was a frequent blogger. This was back in 2002 I think. I used Radio Userland as my blog platform. I still remember my user id number (which was a part of my blog url) 0108194. The title of the blog was “The Universal Church of Cosmic Uncertainty” and I had all kinds of little cross-links, badges, cute little cycling memes, etc. Someplace I have a copy of most of the front page template. I’ll put it up at some point, it was funny; probably cringeworthy now. But I don’t much care.

Back then social media (as a series of monolithic aggregation points for individuals to come scream at political opponents and silly memes) didn’t exist. NOR, I hasten to add, did smartphones, so “food pictures” weren’t a thing.

Sharing ideas on the internet was generally done in long-form writing, cross linking between websites and huge comment discussion threads. You’d post stupid web quizzes and other nonsense. There were instant messaging platforms (icq, aim, yim, etc) where you had contact lists of people you’d talk to in one-on-one conversations, for the most part. The old guard of IRC and usenet were there then as they are now, creeping around in the background of things, generally out of the light of the normal internet user.

It was a golden age of the internet. We were emerging from the crash of the dot-com bubble and people were building and using interesting tools.

I loved writing on that little blog. I wasn’t particularly good at it, except for the occasional tuning fork of word choice I’d stumble over, combined with what I’m told is a relatively natural tendency to “write exactly how I talk” which I’d always heard was a good thing.

I talked a lot of smack and relayed work stories, dating stories, and all kinds of nonsense that, today, would make me absolutely cringe. Stories in fact that should have made me cringe back then. Not for their content, but for the possible exposure, were the people involved to have read them. And yes, more than once I had the rookie mistake of a girlfriend stumble over my site (who even knows how) and misunderstand what she read (I’d taken to the habit of pulling stories out of the past and telling them in the present tense as a narrative device. So imagine HER surprise when I talked about dates I’d gone on that he had no memory of. Go Team Dumbass *\o/*.)

Eventually I whitewashed UCCU.

During this couple/few year period of absolute wonderful chaos I had, at one point, taken a “Stupid Web Quiz” that was “What’s your Pirate Name?” It went on for about 10-15 multiple-choice questions and actually put something funny together:

Mad William Flint.

I liked it.

Blog friends liked it.

I decided this was the other half of the isolation process between my online presence and my meatspace presence.

So I went and grabbed the gmail address (having gotten a gmail alpha invite, donchaknow. *preen*) a domain name, and I set off to carve my niche anew.

But my narcissism would NOT let me maintain an online presence without SOME crossover. So I’d give a work friend the address with an admonishment. A week or two would go by and I’d start blowing out the lines on the keyboard about some work story and I’d stop….Shit. I can’t say that here.

Then there was the 9/11 account, the link to which I sent to a family member. Welp, there’s a whole new raft of shit I couldn’t talk about at all.

So I became weirdly detached and noncommittal. If I couldn’t really blow out the lines, what was I doing there. Years of false starts, multiple parallel sites with different “blogonyms” and such; every one a further fragmentation. Every one received less attention.

Until finally I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed writing entirely and I was finally fully adrift.

There’s a book, I’ve not yet read, preferring to cover the author’s prior works first. It’s “Skin In The Game” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. If you’ve never heard of him, go get some of his stuff and read it.

It’s sufficiently popular that the title is bandied about pretty frequently. The thing is, even not having read it yet, the phrase “skin in the game” conjures up a powerful and immediate mental admonishment to “put up or shut up” in me, every time I see it. And so, an idea repeated in different contexts over a long enough time (especially one we agree with at the outset) tends to sink in.

In what areas of my life am I just a dilettante? Well, that question has a truly horrifying array of answers. But I’ll get to that…perhaps not today.

All this winding nonsense does bring me to my point: I’ve decided to stop the anonymous internet thing. Screw it. I’ve got too many wacky little compartmentalized clusters of interactivity to manage.

So today heralds the death of Mad William Flint. Once I hit post on this, I’ll paste the link a couple other places and cross-pollinate once and for all, these disparate forums. This of course means a whole lot more for me than it does for you. After all, in order to have a superhero unmasking, you need a superhero first.

I’m just some asshole with a blog.