July 2022

Starving Spectre

Every once in a while you get one of these little things that sneaks up on you through patterns of behavior over decades then suddenly pops out.

I’d never really thought OVERmuch about what feels like an absolute fetish for book buying. I mean I’ve set up a fucking library in my house for fuck’s sake and I spend an awful lot less time in there than most people who know me might imagine.

A couple weeks ago I hit McKay’s used bookstore just outside of Nashville, an absolute fucking candy store that’s similar in size and shape to a Lowe’s or Home Depot. It’s full and tightly packed with eight foot high shelves, not quite far enough apart to allow two people to do anything but pass uncomfortably with the white person “hup” sound of apology or the mumbled “s’cuseme.”

I’ve been better lately, on my trips to that land of insane promise. I walk out with only what I can carry and I do manage to do some economizing, trying to stay under a c-note and to only go in once a month or less.

This time I bought a couple books that I’d seen the last time or two I’d been in there that just lit me up.

I was positively giddy when I put these two books, $3 and $8 respectively, in my poor little plastic shopping basket that must have done absolutely absolutely horrible in a previous life to deserve being relegated to a bookstore instead of some fresh fruit stand. Like…it must have been a dinosaur that was a complete fucking dick. You draw the line forward.

The first one was a back version of The CRC Standard Mathematical Tables and Formulas.

The other (not in front of me so I won’t get the title right) was a huge hardcover full of financial tables. Amortization schedules. All kinds of horseshit. A thousand pages or more, full of columns of numbers.

I was absolutely fucking giddy I tell you.

Yes. I asked and answered the question that should probably have come to mind: “Dude…fucking WHY?”

And yes, my answer reminds me of the Little Red Riding Hood character from the Bugs Bunny telling. “TA HAAAAVE!”

“Are you ever going to…”
“Probably not, no. Except maybe as a goof now and then.”
“But don’t you have enough…”
“No. No such thing.”

And there. There, dear enslaved reader, is the little ‘ding!’

Because having a full library of and on whatever might interest me is about the power of potential. It’s the result of having half the equation figured out: To have the resources to just jump in any particular direction with everything I MIGHT need at my fingertips.

Yesterday I fixed my youtube downloading scripts for reasons arcane and too geeky for me to go in to. But their purpose is to monitor the people I subscribe to and the playlists and “likes” I apply to videos and pull whatever new videos there might be every night.

To have.

Just in case.

Now, with the youtube thing, there’s some logic to it. The internet is a far FAR more ephemeral repository than people understand. Things disappear all the damned time and it’s fucking infuriating. And that which is true of the internet at large is doubly true of youtube in particular.

But I never watch or listen to them.

I have them.

It’s data hoarding.

You should see my workshop, though the pattern ought to be clear. I have grinders and drills and saws (God…so many saws), hand planes and spokeshaves. Boxes full of grits for angle grinders, grinding wheels, sharpening stones and steel. Hell I’ve got a stick welding rig. Guess who doesn’t weld. Go ‘head. I’ll bet you can get it in one.

There’s a forge and a smelting furnace. Those I’ve used on occasion, I’ll concede.

I have raspberry pi computers and boxes full of electronic components, little gears and motors and leds.

I have a full set of basic tools for leather working. I’ve spent a bucket of money on stained glass tools, and about 2 dozen sheets of foot square colored pieces; never so much as sketched out a single project.

There’s not one but two 3d printers and half a dozen spools of plastic filament to run through them and make stuff; a little cnc router I built but have never plugged in.

There are boxes and boxes of screws, bolts, and nuts, surprisingly organized for me.

I might have a full ton of construction grade lumber, a few dozen pieces of dimensioned oak boards, piles of angle-iron and other pieces of mild steel, a stack of high-carbon steel (mostly 1095) for making knives; boxes of fittings for making boxes, hinges, brass corners, little latches, all in several different styles. Whatever I might need.

I’ve got an 8 gallon conical fermenter and a couple 5 gallon carboys along with any number of one-gallon small scale glass jars for fermenting and a little still. A dehydrator and a deli slicer, instant pot (still in the box), cases of mason jars in every size, and literally 45 pounds of bread flour (at least, it’s probably closer to 60.) You know, just in case.

Everything’s ready. Well…I mean I don’t have a milling machine or a 2×72 belt grinder. But I’ve been shopping to fill those gaps. Because then THEN I’ll be ready. Well, I mean I need a writing desk because the office is too cluttered with technology for me to think and certainly to just sit and write. But I’ll need a place to put them, so I may just convert my basement TV room into an office and my office into a quite writing room or den.

Then I’ll have all the books I need, all the tools, all the raw materials. I’ll have downloaded all the plans and made all the lists.

I’m almost there. Only a few more thousand dollars.

I’ll be ready, finally.

That constant slow-burning anxiety will finally be quiesced.

I’ll have the full potential energy and power to do any of the things that spring to mind.

And I’ll be able to start.

Right?

Won’t the madness go away?

Won’t that make it stop?

The Cost of Focus

Wasn’t gonna, but I did.

So you’ll notice (or, you know…not) that I haven’t been posting lately.

It started with a post I put up a few weeks ago which, while content rich, was a disjointed stream of consciousness mess. I read it a couple days later and realized that most of what I’ve hit ‘post’ on over the last year has been a bunch of lazy half-assed stream of consciousness mess. I just pulled it down, disgusted.

So I’ve been coding instead, when I’ve spent my few hours on a Thursday morning/early afternoon here waiting for the guys to show up.

I’ve been sticking with this project that I’ve wanted to have done for a while. But for years (literally years) I’ve avoiding diving in to the hard parts.

Well, over the last couple/few weeks I’ve torn the panels off the thing and gotten down there and figured some shit out.

The result, which I’ll do a write-up of over the next week or so maybe (I dunno. I might want to get a bit farther with it) amounts to…oh I don’t know, maybe 30 lines of code spread across a couple files.

It’s not the whole project. But it’s the kernel of everything I couldn’t figure out how to implement. A couple/few techniques that I’ve hammered out finally, heading straight into the wind instead of trying to find a way around it.

The code isn’t particularly clever looking. But then good code doesn’t look “clever.” That’s an artifact of people who generally speaking, well, aren’t. Or of programmers who like things to look clever.

It’s simple, clean, self-explanatory and I’m pretty sure I could hand it to a junior python programmer with one or two bits of explanation and they’d just get it entirely.

So while the full project is going to take me a minute, I’m going to spend some energy cleaning this bit up and posting it here.

Thing is, in order to do this I’ve had to drop an awful lot of other stuff. But, as I suspected, the sequence of decisions is the reverse of what I’d been shooting for.

Dropping pursuits in favor of having time to work on The One Thing sounds good. But it just doesn’t work. Like any habit you’re trying to get rid of, you don’t “create time” for it. You pursue what you want and then, when you’re confronted with the fact that you don’t have time to do The Other Things, you have to let them go, if only for now.

So I’ve gotten myself to a good breaking point on this for the day. Everything works. It’s pretty clean. I’ve zipped it up and put the prototypes in a “techniques” folder, where I keep all the weird stuff I don’t do from scratch very often.

That allows me to continue working on the existing code. But if (read: when) it becomes the core of a large system it would be tough to extract the hows and whys of what I’ve done. I’ll keep a comment or two in the real project, pointing me to my techniques library so I can go back and look at the prototypes if I want to use them on another project.

So that’s what I’ve been up to and what’s coming. More practical experiments, techniques and other assorted concrete real-world stuff, be it programming, baking, cooking, or workshop projects.

Of course I won’t be able to avoid editorializing or adding anecdotes and such. And I’ll post the odd story here and there. The problem with most of those is real life crossover. Too many of them involve people who read this site. And I’ve always been of the mind that you can either say What or Who, but not both. So most of those stories, and there are more than a couple of them, I have to sit on. Perhaps using them as raw material to be torn to little pieces and remixed into other stuff in a way that makes it barely recognizable.

But such is the cost of focus.