Checking in

2022-12-17: Smokey

Well it’s been a while. But I figured this Saturday before Christmas, with no obligations at all that even though I’m a bit oversmoked it might be good to come down the hill like the old days, set up a laptop, smoke an mj12 Maduro, drink a fuck ton of caffeine and put some words down.

Posting every day last month was an interesting exercise, but it was one that turned the act of putting words down into a fucking chore. Not that I’m all that shit hot at it when I’m on my game to begin with. But it was just a pointless drudge and by December first I couldn’t have been payed to look at another letter.

As I…well I was gonna say ‘implied’ but it’s actually “blasted out as a last-line zinger” the task of putting down (much less out) words had become a perfectly toxic notion.

I ended up depriving myself something close to completely of my primary mechanism for organizing thoughts and ideas, which did me no damned favors at all.

I’m not at all sure it wouldn’t be something close to completely different if I’d had an actual object or prescribed topic or set of topics. That might have worked out quite all right, in that regard at least. I’m quite sure the creative brain lock I’d have dealt with if I’d said “I’m going to do a post a day of at least 1000 words on ” may have been worse in the long run.

Who the hell knows. It’s not worth belaboring.

——

My PKMS/Wiki/Publishing code is starting to gel pretty nicely. Obnoxiously, WordPress (my current and interim solution for the front end) doesn’t want to let me use the xmlrpc api without an ssl certificate and I just don’t give enough of a shit to bother, so I’m going to work around it. I have absolutely no reason to have site access restricted to SSL.

I haven’t worked on the code in a few days as my brain is getting wrapped around a post in anticipation of the Christmas drive up to The People’s Republic of Jersey next week.

But I really want to get it across the line to where I’m publishing right to the website from the wiki in emacs. That way I can just flag certain notes and topics as being public and some as not, regenerating the relevant portions of the site as needed and making the thing completely static on the user side, with a couple surprises to fuck with anyone who’d try and snake the thing.

Becuase right now I’m going to switch topics a couple times and those things really belong with their own kind, not embedded in this post and therefore lost forever.

But seeing as how it’s still just now and not yet then, it’s how it’s going to be.
——

Watching people come through the door of the cigar lounge is actually pretty fascinating. I can’t see shit as it’s pretty dark in here and super bright outside, so all I can see is their outline as they walk in. Because I’ve been coming here pretty regularly for a while (in fact, MOST days over the last two and a half years I’ve been in here for at least a bit) I can identify a significant number of the regulars by their gate and posture alone.

——

This will end up being a post, if not a series. But for now, as I mentioned above, it goes in here.

I’ve been thinking a lot, though perhaps not all that deeply, about the horrible interference layers that SEEM to be increasing our inability to communicate.

What’s strange is that I’m seeing it on absolutely all fronts. Between the social obstacles that have seeped out of the left in the form of The New Puritanism through all manner of social structures in private corporations through regulatory load and bureaucracy and even in my own field, programming and information systems architecture.

It’s getting harder and harder to get anything done across the board, as if there’s some kind of gunshy hyper-safety consciousness that has absolutely infected all areas of earthly life.

Programming, to take a concrete example, has become an exercise in dicking around with security models and abstraction layers so fucking Byzantine that what would be a simple (and fast) hundred line piece of software has turned into an absolute fucking circus of containerization and decoupling. And people seem to be sold on this garbage, claiming, out loud with their face mouth that it “makes things easy once you get it all set up.” This of course couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. You could just Do The Thing. But instead you’ve got to do a bunch of stuff to set it up so that the thing can be done.

Conversationally people are just getting bound up in this strange “anticipation of propriety.” It’s not even a matter of having calcified social rules. It’d be one thing if we had a spreading of neo victorian or georgian rules of etiquette, but that’s not the case. The problem is that people don’t seem to even know what the fucking rules ARE anymore, so they stumble around in the dark trying to navigate the most rudimentary interactions.

And I don’t think I need to even comment overmuch on what’s happened with the mass swelling of government regulatory load bogging everything down.

But take a minute and think about the number of seemingly separate ways this is true, where it’s going on and I swear to fuck it looks like a pattern, like a phenomenon.

It’s SO true that it feels absolutely Wu.

But this was just a little intro to my thoughts on the topic (which include some interesting stuff from Snow Crash that happened to come across my ears a day after I’d started thinking about the points Stephenson raised, poignantly) to tickle both my brain and perhaps yours.

I’m gonna hit post now, finish this mj12 maduro and hang out a bit.

What’d we learn? Lessons of the blue pill.

It’s the last day of the month. It’s the last “30 posts in November” post. And thank the good fucking lord for that. So I don’t have any fascinating final thoughts…I don’t think.

You could watch the quality and focus drop off, certainly once we got to last week, because that’s when the job started. Well, I sure as fuck did. I figure there are about four people who just tilted their head to the right a little, closed their mouths, shrugged and nodded, perhaps looking down as much as 30 degrees.

We ALso learned that the crossover between the internet and meatspace has far too many exposed faces for me to be completely honest. Not that I lie here. I try not to ever and it causes me to hold my tongue a bit more than I’d like. ‘cause there’s some motherfuckers out there that need the truth. Maybe it ain’t my fucking job.

Traditionally the cycle has been for me to create online presences in pairs, one I’d tell people about and another that I wouldn’t.

Inevitably there’d be a little bit of crossover as I succumbed perhaps inevitably to the temptation to tell SOMEone about the other site/twitter handle, whatever.

Then suddenly I’d realize that far too many people in my day to day life knew far too fucking much about what was going on in my head as I’d abdicated as enthusiastically as completely my ability to curate who did/could read what.

Rinse, repeat.

It’s been the cost of processing things externally I suppose.

And I’d love this to be the place where I made some grand pronouncement about what I’m always or never going to do from now on. But none of us would buy that shit for a minute.

Sorry guys, I’d give you a banger of a closer. But my brain went someplace I can’t say out loud.

And that, I suppose is the lesson I learned. Every word I put on this goofy little $6 a month hosted wordpress site, honest as they actually are, is a hundred fewer I’ll write for myself.

When your art becomes your duty it becomes your poison.

Let them

There are so many of these little fucking traps waiting

I almost let the day get away from me without putting a single word down. And i don’t mean like usual (the word which, in the fifth grade spelling bee kept me from accelerating into the higher level reading class because no matter HOW many chances Miss May gave me, her accent made it sound like it had a fucking ‘h’ in it. But, despite being the only kid in the grade level curriculum for the final 3 rounds before I was eliminated, having surpassed most of my ten year old peers quite handily, my implorations to be moved up to the ‘F’ book went utterly ignored…as *cough* always.)

Where the fuck was I?

OH. Yeah I don’t mean to say I was agonizing over it and succumbing to the utterly bullshit non-thing that is “writer’s block” (it’s laziness. That’s all.)

No no, I just totally spaced it. Shut down my computer and was brushing my teeth and everything, then thought “awh, fuck.” So here I lay, with my laptop on my lap.

It’s not like I just fucked off the whole evening.

In face when I got home I was thinking to myself: Self? You haven’t baked a cake in like 35 years. Breads, cookies, pastries, candies…sure. But no cake. Why not take that box of cinnamon cake mix you bought the other day and give that a whirl? I mean, it was two bucks right?

Besides, what’s the point of a quiet evening of mental decompression when instead you can pour the cake batter into the 9×13, slip and send both of them off the edge of the counter and in a split second, save half of the bowl of cake batter, condemning you to an evening of

cleaning the floor, the cabinets, your self, then taking the sloppy cleaned-up cake batter in the little cardboard box (that would hopefully be at hand) and take them out in the rain to drop in the burn barrel so as not to tempt the fates, as they sometimes manifest as rodentia.

Wouldn’t that be more fun?

So there I sat, finding the occasional sticky spot on my hoodie, wet from the excursion, with an 8×8 instead of a 9×13 cake for my effort, a new clean spot on the kitchen floor, listening to thunder, suddenly realizing what I should do next.

We’ll see if it’s any good. I’ll frost it in the morning. It’s a cake out of a box so I’m not sure how good it’ll be. But it does remind me of the spice cake my mother used to make, if only in that the kitchen smells of cinnamon.

So, worst case scenario it’ll set m down that path.

But it’s 12:30 and I’m fucking whipped.

Itch, unscratched

Up until last night I hadn’t played a video game in I don’t know how long.  Yeah, ten minutes here or there.  But I didn’t have a real mind-numbingly absorbing session.

I went for Elder Scrolls Online.  It’s…well, JUST about everything about it screams “awesome MMO.”  But there’s been something about it I just couldn’t put my finger on until I happened to think about it the right way.

It’s got all the right stuff.  Customization, lots of great writing, voice acting.  An interesting, if less than comprehensive crafting system.

But there’s something about it that just keeps me from getting soaked in to it the way I can with so many others.

They did a combination of things over the past few years of updates that just blew it out of the water for me.  I don’t remember when.  It definitely isn’t the kind of thing I keep up with.

They made everything level-balanced.

Previously, and in most such games, you’d start in a starting area and only be able to progress to different places, all with their own little quest lines and local emergencies, once you were of a sufficient strength to do so or you’d get stomped as soon as you crossed the boundary (“zoned in.”)

Instead, what ESO has done has made everything, everywhere you go balanced to your character’s level or abilities.  There are things that are a bit stronger or weaker, and they’re denoted as such.  But they’d be the same nominal difficulty for someone who just started a new character as for someone who’s maxed everything out.

I see the logic to it.  It gives everybody exposure to all the content all the time.  Otherwise if you progressed through the ranks, more and more areas would be simply worthless as you’d progressed past the level where they’d serve any kind of challenge. 

This move counter balances that.

That kind of thing has always bugged me in games. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  I mean, on one hand you don’t have to earn progress into a new zone and that’s just shitty.  Make the content worth earning.

But it fucks up the story path something fierce.  If you are working on fetching the Golden MacGuffin for Lord PlotDevice of Dorkenshire and wander a bit too far, you could find yourself in the realm of The Lady of The Fart in The Hurricane, doing stuff for her people.

Then they release a new DLC (Downloadable Content, a large content expansion for the game) and you go screw with that a bit.

Now it’s six months later, you’ve still got this MacGuffin in your backpack and, looking through your quest log have forgotten what the hell the Fart Lady thing was all about.

It breaks the immersion of single, admittedly well told stories so completely that you just end up running around the map looking for quest markers, flash clicking *next* through all the dialog and knocking out random crap, having long since forgotten what the hell any of the context was.

It’s fun, but it’s enough to drive me out of my mind, and I forget about it EVERY time I stop playing for 6 or 9 months or so. 

I had a rule

I’m finding my brain, even after a four day work week, starting to organize itself around the structure of the week and, perhaps oddly, around structure in general. 

The fallout from yesterday’s day of frustration continues.  I just have to figure out what the right books are.  Those technologies change so damned fast that something from a few years ago might not be even out of date so much as straight-up wrong.

But it sets me on a program of trying to get this crap in my head.

On the other side, I’m starting to think in terms of what I want to get done by when and how to break that down into meaningful discrete pieces.

On another front, one of the big problems with working has always been lunch.  Doesn’t seem like it should be, but for 35 years I’ve, very soon after I’ve started someplace, come to the conclusion that “there’s nothing to eat in <fill in town>.”  Now that makes its own sense in little suburbs.  But I spent decades working in downtown Manhattan. 

It’s just not true.  But a certain kind of boredom, coupled with lunchtime executive function burnout makes every option dull within a couple weeks.  So I think what I’m going to have to start doing is both bringing lunch and setting aside days to eat at one place or another and just order the same damned thing, with the option to change it up but to always have a fallback.

Of course now that I’m thinking about it I remember that I used to do that.  I’d forgotten what my fallback was, but I had a rule that said “if I thought of three places and none of them hit me right, I’d head to…”  I think it might have been Panda Express.

Actually, fuck it.  Yeah.  That’s the rule for now. Until I come up with a better one.  It’s to easy to just eat fucking garbage then feel like shit about it by three in the afternoon.

It’s not quite Einstein’s closet full of the exact same suit so he didn’t have to make decisions about what to wear, but it’s on the right track.  Set up rules so that you don’t have to make decisions about stupid shit.  It hasn’t been so much of a problem lately since there wasn’t really any pressure.  But I’ve got other shit to do with my head.

What and when to eat.  What I want to learn.  Indeed, what to wear.  There will be a scheduling of the weeks and days, something to measure against.

I’m not sure what the final form will take.  Well…that’s a silly concept at its outset.  I’m not sure what form it’ll all settle in to first.

It’ll be fun.

A flame about this high

I can’t even begin to describe the level of blinding frustration I’ve been soaking in today.

I was thinking on to the page a couple days ago about using Microsoft OneNote’s API to go back and forth between my own PKMS data store. Frankly, the more I thought about it the better an idea it seemed to be. I could programmatically create a wiki notebook in OneNote, then detect new and changed data both from home and from the notebook itself and sync the data back and forth.

Assuming I can get all the formatting stuff right, links between pages and such so that I can get a solid round-trip going, it would really do most of the things I want the mobile interface for a PKMS to do. Most of the “advanced” functionality can just sit in the back end and create static files for OneNote while I just fiddle about with any of a few different wiki interface gateways into the engine in the background.

So I figured today I’d write a simple little “Hello World” script that connected to OneNote and got, I don’t know, a list of pages. Just to prove the API worked. Then I’d build on that.

Yeah.

That was the plan.

It’s 9 hours later and I’ve got more conflicting information about the fucking security model, OAuth, tokens, tenants, certificates, proxied permissions, roles, access modes and all KINDS of byzantine fucking horseshit.

We’ve gotten to a point in software complexity now where SOMEone has written something to do just about anything. But it’s sealed away between 724 steps and layers of access control. It’s gotten to the point where service configuration itself has become the programming task and actual functionality takes a back seat.

It reminds me a fair bit of the J2EE phenomenon back in the day. The idea being that not only should you be reusing source code or compiled libraries, but you should be able to reuse run-time instantiated components.

Given that little blocks of code did all kinds of stuff, it became a configuration job to knit all those blocks together for an application. But because it was “configuration” and not “coding” (even though it absofuckinglutely was) it wasn’t implemented in anything like a sane programming language. Instead everything was codified in some XML dialect from hell (but I repeat myself.)

J2EE eventually collapsed under its own load, though I imagine there’s a bunch of nonsense still kicking around out there using it. There always is.

But I’ve been through a bunch of tutorials, quick starts, Microsoft guides and all MANNER of resources.

None of it is QUITE clear. None of it seems to start in the right place.

I wrote my first program in the late 70s. I’m no idiot. There’s ZERO excuse for this crap to be like this. It’s just “security mindedness” run amok, full reducto ad absurdam.

And maybe that’s really it. No one wanting to say “no” to the “this will make us safer” question.

I don’t know. I don’t care.

What I am going to do is buy a couple few books on these security models that the big cloud providers seem to all be jerking off over and make one good honest attempt to grok this shit from the ground up.

Failing that? I’m out. Maybe what I’ll do is sub out the work that sets things up. Maybe I’ll just fucking bail on the projects. Who fucking knows.

So if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go find some resources and come up with a study schedule to inject as much of this fucking shit into my head as is inhumanly possible.

Hell, maybe I’ll find out I’m just going full “I’m mad because I’ve had a pot of espresso and I don’t already know all this stuff.”

But I seriously fucking doubt it.

Phoning in Friday

I’ve got approximately zero brain left.  I’ve stared at this blank page for about a half hour, figuring I’d have something.  But not so much.

This is the close of my first week of work in a few years, likely related I’m sure.  I’ve got an awful lot of thoughts about that.  But to the eternal shock of many of you (not that there ARE many of you) I have enough of a sense of discretion to not have any desire to talk about it here.

A couple of the guys are looking forward to hanging out at Smokey this weekend, and I may very well do that.  It’ll be a good time, pretty much always is. 

But I also have to start working on other stuff, both programming projects and some more analog things.

As this month draws to a close I’m starting to think about next month’s daily pursuits. I’ve got a couple ideas kicking around in my head, but nothing concrete yet.  One thing I am considering is junking the word count requirement that I held to until a couple days ago but keeping the “post a day.”

Thing is, and I remember having written this before: When I scribble a few words down with the aim of putting them on the website, ALL other writing, including journaling ceases completely.  Now, multiply that with the level of constraint I have to endure in order to hit the “publish” button and it creates a bit of a problem. So I’ll have to sort that crap out as well.

I was…well, not ‘excited’ exactly about Black Friday deals.  But I did spend a (thankfully small) amount of energy looking for deals.  I’d had a tool bundle on my amazon wishlist for…hell, probably a couple years.  Bunch of stuff.  Back in the day it was $600.  Well it, like everything else had gone up considerably.   I happened to scroll through my wishlist and saw it was back down to $599.

I got all excited and pulled the trigger then shot out a couple text messages crowing about the great deal.  I went and had a cigar after work, thought about it a bit, realized that as much as I actually wanted it; it was a well thought out purchase, if that thinking was done some time ago, then picked up my phone and cancelled the order. 

A great deal does not a need create.

Gobble Gobble

I’ve got nothin’ today guys, sorry. 

Just got back from a spectacular Thanksgiving day at Frank’s place.

Truly spectacular food, great cigars, rather a lot of whiskey and above all, great company, for which I’m extraordinarily thankful.

For my part I made lemon bars and pignoli cookies20221124_101706

The lemon bars are bog standard.  I use this recipe. BUT I multiply the crust by 1.5, so it’s:

3 Cups of flour

3/4 Cups of sugar

1/3 Teaspoon of salt

3 sticks of butter.

Other than that, it’s this, by the book: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a12104/lemon-bars/

I find that when you use the zest AND the juice they’re super tart, which I adore.  But it justifies the 1.5x crust quite well. 

The pignoli cookies are straight off Giada’s recipe.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/fnk/recipes/pignoli-cookies-8869507

A note about those: If you’re unfamiliar with making them, the recipe reads almost like a meringue.  It’s not.  Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend the absolute everloving shit out of them.  Make sure you cube the almond paste first because it’s really tough, having the texture of something between clay and old play-doh.

At 350 for 16-18 minutes (there’s no real  way to tell by feel if they’re done), the pine nuts are a little too darkly toasted which I think adversely affects the flavor, if subtly.  So I’m going to turn the heat down to maybe 300 and increase the cook time to 20-25 minutes next time.  But, like I said, it’s pretty much impossible to tell if they’re done by touching them.  So I’m not sure how they’ll go.

Also, I like using whites from extra large eggs rather than large.  It makes more of a difference than I expected.

I realized today that I’d never had a slice of my mother’s apparently famous pumpkin pie.

I just took a few advil and a couple electrolyte tablets with a couple tall glasses of water and am heading to bed as I’ve got to be in work in a little less than 10 hours.

o/

Angle of Attack

I’ve got some thoughts about codifying your approach to things; intentionally turning your attitude about situations around by focusing on changing your approach to the situation.

But it’s 11:30 and I’m going to completely bitch out and hit post on that teaser.

The aside that became the body:

Oh, I was thinking about something that I suspect might actually be possible:  Microsoft OneNote has a REST api.  It’s not outside the realm of possibility that I could round trip a OneNote notebook as a PKMS with at least nominal wiki functionality.

I know you can create links between pages at least within a notebook.  So it stands to reason that you’d be able to generate them easily enough, even if it was a matter of creating a link in the OneNote software, downloading the page and cracking the content open to see how it’s formatted.  Can’t be TOO tough to then regenerate page links, build the pages and feed them back up to the server, which would be reflected on the phone pretty damned quickly.

If I combined that with the Todoist api stuff then I’d never have to go NEAR mobile programming.  NOT that phone app programming is so inherently scary.  But I just have a wicked blind spot when it comes to designing user experiences, particularly for constrained form factors.

But I’m fucking beat and I have to get up in the morning and bake cookies, having just put lemon bars in the fridge.

Friday night I’m going to sleep 37 hours.

Show me the way to go home

I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.

Welp, I’m not going to say it’s over.  But I am going to say that when I made this commitment to publish a post a day of a thousand words or more I did NOT anticipate starting a new job this week. 

It’s only day two and, while I have some thoughts about it and the way it’s going I find it very unlikely that those thoughts are going to see the light of day, at least not in the sense at least a couple people are hoping for.

For the last couple days I’ve left the office, turned right, driven a half mile, then turned left into the parking lot at Smokey.

Tonight someone who doesn’t usually come out during the week “put out the call” to hang out there.

As I talked about yesterday, you’ve got to understand what your priorities are and why you have them, and while I didn’t think I’d be out until 10:30 tonight, I knew it was going to be a fair hang with a level of conversation I just don’t generally get very often anymore.

He wasn’t going to get up the hill until about 7.  So I sat there with a new book “Building A Second Brain” and a cigar.

And I passed the fuck out for about an hour.  I was well awake when he showed, but I realized I was really run down.

But again, priorities are priorities.

Had some cigars then, as Smokey was about to close we headed over to Sam’s and sat out front, smoked a couple more and knocked a couple back.

Tomorrow I’ve got a shitload of baking to do when I get back from work.  Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’ve got to start it by doing even more, then expect to be gone ‘til the wee hours.

I expect I’ve got a few days where “post a thousand words” is an iffy prospect at best.

Again; you’ve got to know what your rules are, why you have them and have the strength of will to know when they don’t make sense. 

I spend an awful lot of energy proving to myself that I’ve got some self-discipline by exercising that muscle and it serves me remarkably well. 

Dogmatism certainly has its place.  But being blind about it when it’s not proactively serving you…doesn’t.

And if I’m being honest, and perhaps inappropriately self-congratulatory, knowing when to and being able to go beyond those rules is its own skill as well.

I’m going to bed.

I’ve got yet another very long day ahead of me tomorrow.