AntiSocial

So it’s August 4th and y’all may not get the notification of this post until September, assuming I can even remember to post it then. I’m not sure how that’ll go. The last three and a half days has been an exercise in patience and madness.

See, for a while now I’ve been taking on a minor practice of giving up something every month. It’s mostly just to keep me sharp, remind me that I’ve got some (however little) control over my own life.

If you just let minutes flow in to hours, you realize all too quickly that it will flow into decades. You’d think there are a couple hops in between but…they’re so small that it might as well just not be true at all.

So one month it was giving up caffeine, one month it was carbs. Two months ago I gave up soda. Last month it was “no amazon” and “no trips to the supermarket” which…is likely to hit the ear a little weird. Somewhere in there I gave up video games for a month (an exercise which was refreshingly easy, in opposition to my anticipated reaction.)

But THIS month it’s no social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Now, as a “social media” platform, reddit doesn’t really qualify. BUT in how I use it it absolutely does.

The “I’ll just check…” turns immediately in to 3-4 hours in front of the computer when I’d come in the office for…who the hell even knows what. I’ve been watching it soak up my time in a way that might as well make it feel like it was literally against my will.

Last week I started thinking about it. About the stuff I mentioned in the last post about tooling up to make stuff but never actually getting to it, just soaking up hours, days, and decades in quick little dopamine hit pursuits.

I could feel the pressure of having other things I wanted to spend my time and energy on. And I’m the first one to say you can’t really quit something cold turkey without a plan. I’m sure I’ve used the quitting smoking metaphor around here someplace.

The overarching idea is that the easiest way to quit doing X is to push it out of the way by Y. But…I think that since this sort of thing, whiling away time in exactly this sort of way, in front of a computer, is something that’s been pretty entrenched in my head for more than 40 years, it was going to take a push. And, no doubt it will take several. This is going to be a matter of skipping along the bottom like a river rock, just bouncing against failure for what will undoubtedly be years.

So the combination of having a bunch of plans, hot in my head and using the “give up something every month” motivation to help snap me out of that groove seems to be working really well (he says on day 4.)

Now, the last three days have been pretty insane. I’ve had a lot of trouble not sitting in front of the computer and I failed to anticipate the number of tools my brain has at its disposal to idle away hours. So…it was a few days in before I caught myself at spending money on amazon, ebay, and etsy as a compensatory practice. Not to mention any number of trips to Lowe’s, Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Tractor Supply, and Walmart. Ah well. I can justify just about all of my expenses in the name of the projects I’m working on (stay tuned to this channel, though I may actually start a literal youtube one as well.)

But I’ve been buying steel and screws, angle grinders and strap clamps, sprockets and pulleys.

Last night I realized that something I was working on wasn’t going to work and I drove all around hell’s half acre in a state of high dudgeon, waving off (politely) the endless “can I help you find something” with a chuckle of “well, my marbles first of all, but I won’t know what else I’ll need ’til I get those.” It’s a throwaway with a smile on it that beats a “no thanks” in most cases. To her eternal credit, the girl in Walmart, instead of smiling in conclusion, waved me along to the toy section and showed me their marble selection.

I’ve rarely been so happy with my train of thought, consisting of lists of dimensions, thread pitches, major and minor diameters and rough estimates of friction ratings to be interrupted.

Of course I bought some marbles.

Duh.

But last night I got home, largely unsuccessful and, likely owing to the restoration of at least some marbles, I realized that I did actually HAVE all the parts I’d need for the next stage of this project (shh), but only because I have just…all the tools. I cleared out some space in front of the metal lathe and after approaching the problem wrong for an hour and getting 1800 degree steel razor blades falling through the holes in my crocs (what?) for an hour I stormed off in momentary frustration.

But 15 minutes later I realized I’d had the exact right idea but was approaching the problem a bit backwards. I drew out some diagrams in my head, did need to order an $11 part for the lathe (boring bar holder if you MUST know) and eventually, at about 12:30, laughed myself to sleep.

I feel fucking excellent. Yeah I’m making stuff to build a tool to help me make stuff and frankly there might be another level or two of what seems like Yak Shaving in between there.

But I can see at least most of the whole path between here and there. And the fact that I’m building a tool to help me cut steel for something else is overshadowed entirely by the fact that the resulting tool is going to be really interesting. I’ve seen a couple youtube videos of people doing something similar. But they’re really missing the possibilities in such an arrangement. So I’ve bookmarked and downloaded all the videos so I can bleed them dry of every bit of fucking clever I can get out of them (shoulders of mad scientists and all.)

And once I build this thing I’ll almost certainly start on building the next one. It’s a really low cost piece of kit, the extent of which I’ve never seen in a home made tool.

So it’ll likely end up being an article and a series of plans. But I’ve got something a bit grander in mind for it, even though in the larger scheme of things it’s really just one step on the road to something else.

It’ll be a bit of a road, to be sure. But I almost can’t wait. I’m nearly annoyed that I’m here today instead of cutting, grinding, surfacing, boring, screwing (“uh…huhhuh…he thed thkrewing”… “Yo shut up Beavis. Let him like…talk or whatever”) and otherwise machining.

That’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day. This isn’t Rome and I’ve got more than a day.

More in a minute.