Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Half a saturday, unplugged
I've always taken saturdays off, but for me, currently every day's a holiday - a holiday where I'm trapped in in house, sure, but a holiday besides. I should be relaxing, right? Naw, I'm petrified of what monday will bring. My ebay auction isn't going at all, I can't seem to get myself to face rebuilding an XP box, there's been no calls back from the classified ad in the newspaper...
Last night was one of those "Everything is too noisy" nights. You know your sound sensitivity is too high when you can hear the pitch change on your monitor as you scroll through bold and normal text and it annoys you. I turned the monitor off. I shut down my main box - sure, I lost context - but I couldn't stand the noise... Amazingly, I could still hear the cisco router in the basement - so I turned that off, too. I could hear the UPS. Off. I could hear the flourescent lights in the kitchen - OFF. I could hear the flyback transformer in the stereo - OFF. And I gradually relaxed.
I did some more work on "beating the brand" - it's about outshouting 3000 marketing messages a day - In part - it's about looking, really looking, around my kitchen. I did it on tape and on pen and paper.
Slept 5.5 hours. Had a lot of trouble getting up. I have two compulsions in my life that I must now control - I'm compelled to check my email - and I'm compelled to smoke cigarettes. Those are the really the only two things besides my cat that get me up anymore... and I need to cut back on net and eliminate cigs. I'm working on the latter, and circumstances may force the former. Good. Maybe I'll get out of the house, get some sun, fill up that empty space with something worthwhile. Or maybe I'll just lie there and somehow remember how to sleep.
The Net withdrawal symptoms started at 11AM. I did some house chores and exercised instead. I got more material for beating the brand - and I thought about how I would fix up my house - and I got this tension inducing build an XP box thing - and I wanted to login... I needed to login...
It's saturday - you CAN relax and not think about anything for a while. Just. Stay. Off. The. Net.
I read the Economist
- it was a good read, a good sit, in the hours I sat there I felt calmer than I had in weeks. Well... The housing bubble's collapsing
. Great. Super. Worry about that when it happens
, I thought. Think positively. Maybe if we eliminate the second house deduction more people will be able own rather than rent, soon. In this administration?
At least I can still bust myself up laughing.
It seems like the economist must be tuned into the blogging world - every issue seems to have something straight out of a 2-3 weeks prior slashdotting, or blogging, only it's better written... I got as far as the science section before I had to get up, reboot everything, and blog.
The great space race resumes
I get really excited - I get really enthused - when a major pub like the economist starts talking about a restart of the Space Race
. China's launching men into orbit. Japan's putting resources out there. France, hell, Spain and Italy have interesting probes going out. 3 mega-millionaire industrialists are building rockets. Who will be the Delos D. Harriman that opens up space to humanity? I can't wait to find out!
Trying to get to orbit has beat a lot of investors in multiple companies up. I remember both of Gary Hudson's attempts well (Phonix and Rotary Rocket). But John Carmack, Jim Bezois, Elon Musk - these guys have serious intent. These guys have funding - these guys might just make it off this stinking rock. Or the Japanese. Or the Chinese. I'm rooting for them all -
But I sure wish I could get one of 'em interested in mining the apollo asteroids instead of going to spaceship sucking gravity wells like Mars and the Moon. I once wrote up what the nickel in just one small asteroid is worth - on earth, and in space. $22,000,000,000.00. 22 billion dollars. Multiply that by current launch costs and there were a lot more commas in that figure. For just the nickel
Attacking the seratonin suckers
I've been frozen, locked in place, emotionally, for years in denial of the great painful events - events - that I should have let go years ago. But I stopped diarying, really, in 1982, when the pain all started, and only kept fragments going since. There were system crashes that took out part of it in 88, circumstances that made it impossible to write in most of 92-93, stolen at the end of 93 - writers block from 93-02...
- My parents nearly got divorced when I was 16.
- My first love left me for no reason I understood.
- The second girl I ever really loved? I had to pull her out of a crack house in 93, and failed to get her clean, then. We finally got together in 99, we still had that magic connection - she had cleaned herself up - and it was right right right and wrong, wrong wrong - we broke up and then I watched her become an alcoholic. She was the "Rhysling" in Rhysling and me.
- In 96, After a hacking attack at ICANECT, the FBI locked me, the VP in charge, out of the investigation. I was a suspect, and I was innocent. After 2 months of isolated agony, they offered to let me get in the game if I modified sendmail to let the rest of management censor the email on the day of the last extortion attempt. They sat there, happily reading everyone's mail "to protect the company" from bad pr from the cracker - while I slowly slid down the wall in realization of what I'd done to get back in the game. I'd compromised my principles.
- I really do have some basic ADD-like disorder which makes it hard to focus, and sequence events, and to deal with, understand, pain like this.
- Code I wrote was responsible for delivering 6 billion banner ads. I've annoyed every human being on the internet 60 times.
- My job was really frustrating. It was a mismatch of my ego and ability vs available resources. Not that it was apparent from the outside. From the outside I must have looked like an idiot/savant, or maybe just an idiot. My mind was malfunctioning, I could scarcely put together a coherent sentence while talking.
- I got the house of my dreams and all this baggage spilled out. And I couldn't sort it out. I couldn't touch it.
- I didn't manage to save josh from himself. I had to kick him out of my house... and state
- Uncle Bill's other helicopter was the Blackhawk, a killing machine.
All this pain has been locked up inside, unexamined. It comes out of me in weird ways and times. It warps my worldvew. I've been spending most of my mental energy NOT thinking about them, and the rest - grieving over them. The last time I tried to take on my past, 10 years ago, all these other people hit me with their needs, and I was driven to solve their problems, not my own, until I had nothing left to drive. I've felt like it was all happening again - and that last personal examination of my soul ended rather badly.
There, I wrote them down.
In the movies, once the patient has come out and acknowledged their deep inner sources of pain, they are miraculously cured and happily ride off into the sunset.
I still wrote them down, I know I will have write more on each. But, now: It's all in its filing cabinet. I can look at one, one, try to grok it in fullness and let the hurt slip away.
Not a cakewalk, but...
I got through all the the things in the previous blog. Even put a couple things up on ebay - and realized that in order to sell one (a MOTU 24i
) I have to finish reinstalling XP on my music box. That particular crashed project has been... wow... stalled out for 5 weeks. I couldn't bear to deal with the prospect of fixing that box, and confirming/denying the loss of everything. I was in denial.
Today has been a good face reality day.
In the great filing cabinet cleanup of 2003
we finally found the itty bitty @#$@ plastic wrap license code for XP
. The hardware is assembled. All I need is the license code for Cakewalk. Maybe I can call them tomorrow morning and convince them to give me a new one.
You know what? I've been in denial of 3 other seratonin sucking things for a few months now, and I almost, almost, almost have a grip on them. Maybe I can get through them shortly.
Just tying knots in the end of my rope I guess.
Finding some reserves...
The past couple days... the last couple hours... worth of postings are mostly bookmarks so I can restart at wherever my brain crashed. I found the TODO folder, the very first folder under my left hand. I couldn't see it from this angle. OK, find the reimbursement paperwork. Find an envelope. Find a stamp.
Envelope, check. Stamp, check. The form you need to fill out... somewhere... some pdf file somewhere...
Plug the printer in.
Some pdf file somewhere... somewhere... maybe it's on the web. Whew - mozilla remembers my password... there it is. Ah, the printer works the first time for a change, and there's ink. Always a bright spot to be found, somewhere.
Fill out the form. Take the envelope to the mailbox.
Great. That handles some longer term cash.
Think about the short term
. There's some change downstairs you can deposit. You can place that classified ad for some of the stuff you've piled up in the garage. You've wanted to get rid of that, anyway, but you wanted to find the power supply for one of the devices, first, so you got hung up on it. Call the Sentinel Ledger.
OK, progress. Anything else you can do to improve the situation? Ah, there's another reimbursment form in your backpack you can do.
Take some vitamins. Plan tomorrow carefully. You're going to be eating rice and beans for a while. Remember to buy some beans. Before that, make some chicken soup.
Nothing like a little pressure to enhance your survival sense.
There must have been some form that I didn't fill out. The EDD's automated system says my last check was mailed may 15, and deposited the 20th. I don't like the phrasing "Last check". I threw out a lot of stuff this week and I don't recall seeing any form for continuation. I must call them tomorrow. And find the file that has the other stuff that I've had to mail.
Last week I was feeling pretty low, lower than I do now. I did manage to write a song about it, with my best Pink Floyd/Leonard Cohen impersonation. The first two chords are straight from "The great gig in the sky". I didn't know that when I was writing it, I just knew it felt Floydish. It still needs some chords for the bridge, but I'd rather work on some happy songs. Effect and cause. Cause and effect. You know.
Swimming through SandCopyright 2003 Michael Taht
Em A7 (no E)
Slap your feet down - on the floor
Em A7 (no E)
The coffee machine is right by the door
C D G D Em
There's some email! - oh, it's spam
Gsus Gm6/E Gm6/C D
Lately you've been swimming through sand
Open the fridge, drink a coke
Everything you're doing seems like a joke
Sit by the bed and take another pill
All you need is a triumph of the will
You remember, last December
Before the winter had come
you overloaded - it all exploded
and spring hasn't begun
seems like you're swimming through sand.
The checkbook's empty, the credit cards... maxed
There's nothing left to pay the tax
This wasn't in your plan
Funny how it all turned to sand
Afraid to close your eyes, afraid to sleep
Squint in the mirror, see your crows feet
All the things you did just to get ahead
to join the drugged out, and the dead
You won't be getting out today
there's nothing but cleaning up, and bills to pay
How did it all get out of hand?
Lately you've been swimming through sand...
Lately you've been swimming through sand...
Lately you've been swimming through sand.
Just keep on breathing
Just after that blog entry... SBC called and gave me the weekend to pay the ISDN bill.
My Net connection is the intravenious drip, my external memory, my voice of self, that keeps me functioning. I'd characterise myself as a net junkie, but it's more co-dependent than that.
I've got enough dough for food and shrink... not net, not right now.
I pulled the covers over my head. Sometimes, on the edge of sleep, I feel my breathing stop, but I was too tired to reach for the machine. And always, it resumes, and I don't drift off. The sound of the dishwasher eventually bothered me enough to keep me from drifting off. The mail came.
I got up. Maybe there was a check there. No. The local classisfieds was. Maybe there was something in here I could do. Work in a restaurant maybe. I found a couple things... Then I got some earplugs and decided to catch up on some shut-eye. Everything will be better after some sleep. But strap the machine on this time...
Well, I wandered the house for a while, then slept 2 1/2 hours on the machine, before I had to throw it off because I couldn't breathe. There's bags under my eyes. This will never do.
I have a headache and the beginnings of a cold.
Focusing on deleting things is depressing. I'm still focused on it. The bathroom's got 10 less (unread) magazines in it this morning. Another trash can is full. I threw out the cigarettes again.
I'm trying to decide if I want to try and get more sleep. I have the two things I didn't do yesterday left to do. OK... OK... some jumping jacks might shake me out of it. Nope. Some Steve Reich drumming, perhaps.
Somewhere around here's the file folder with the TODO'd items in it.
More clutter arrived yesterday - Applix's annual report. I still have stock in the place... I try and scan it and figure out what they really do, anymore. Whatever it is, it's 64 bit, they are losing money, and the stock's in the toilet. Tossed.
Old sticky paper on the side of my monitor bothers me. I break out the isopropyl alcohol and try to rub it away. I've been slowly peeling it off for 3 years now. I put two postit's over the brands a couple days ago, now the three bird logo bothers me - where's the postits?
The window's dirty. Need a squeegie on a long pole to clean it. The view would be OK if it wasn't for the power lines and the cars up on blocks. I can lower my chair. That helps, though it turns me into a hunch back.Found another postit - neon green - ugh - but it covers up the last logo within eyesight.
I make a cup of tea, and put another postit over that logo, and start the dishwasher. Lose the cup of tea, then scrape at the sticky glue on the monitor a while more.
Just keep moving, I tell myself. You aren't accomplishing what you need to do, but you are accomplishing something.
Half and Half
Half of yesterday was good. The other half sucked. Externally, most of the big news was good (see below blog entries). Internally, well...
Day before yesterday I got someone (a clutter companion) to help me clean up my filing system. It was completely messed up from 3 moves in two years - 20 years of confusion strewn across multiple filing cabinets and laid out bare. We sorted, we threw things out, we worked for 6 hours together. She kept me going - I would have gone off the rails inside of 40 minutes - and in fact - had - multiple times, these past 10 months. We ended up with 1 1/2 trashcans full of crap, and near my left hand now, is a perfectly sorted, half empty, filing cabinet.. I took a lot of joy that finally
I could find 2002 and 2003 again, and that my business life was separated from my creative one - and all those things, finally, going back to childhood, were all right where they needed to be.
I've discovered that subtracting things from your life takes more energy than adding to it. Sure, when you are done, you feel pretty good, but it doesn't take long for a delayed overwhelm reaction to hit you.
I went to see the matrix reloaded. I came home at 10 exausted, strangely, and lay on the couch paralyzed, having nightmare after nightmare - every mistake I'd made in 20 years passed before my eyes. I finally got up at 3 AM - and I don't know what sleep really is, or what dreams really are - so was I awake? Was I dreaming? - and finally got a little dreamless sleep on the apnea machine. Did I get 3 hours of sleep that night - or 8 with 5 hours of nightmares?
It took two hours to get out of bed.
I had a bunch of things that I had to do today that I didn't - Instead I got wrapped up in trying to finish a complex piece on "beating the brand", the longest thing I've tried to write since Uncle Bil's Helicopter. I struggled to sort it out. I managed to keep filing things, which was encouraging - but that was it - the piece refused to jell, and I didn't get what I really needed done, done. I completely forgot to exercise, too.
I had to get out of the house.
So I went off to lupin. Ate some fish (my omega-3 consumption has otherwise been down). I played some piano, hung out with a senior citizen who couldn't remember my name but danced to the blues and some Pink Floydish stuff I'd written last week. I talked about my problems with her, reintroducing myself 5 times. It was like talking to Eliza. Then I sat in a hot tub for a while until I felt more balanced.
Then, since I was halfway to the office anyway... I couldn't stand to go home - I've been trying to get to the mental point where I can work again for weeks, without success - I drove to the office. I cleaned up there, too. Nobody had touched the place since I left, except to take my monitors and posturepedic chair. I wiped down the desk. I straightened up. I sorted my drawers. Tons of useless stuff went in the trash. I got caught up on some email. I tried to get off a few mailing lists.
I saw all kinds of problems being taken on by the company, stuff that would have once excited me, stuff that I could solve...
Stuff that wasn't in my job description. And there was nothing within my job description that I felt capable of doing. Thinking about working on code again, on turning one more brick into something that can play doom, on fixing on more bug, on going to one more meeting - causes my brain to shut down. I can't even sit down and write a "hello world" program right now. I'm really interested at a meta level on neurofeedback, and I keep trying to sort of conceive how I would visualize brain patterns in different ways using Linux tools - and it's like that part of my brain is worn smooth. I can't get from step A to step F. On anything.
I wiped off the white board, and wrote, left handed, on it - "Where are the snowdens of yesteryear?"
I sat. For hours. I know I am overly influenced by fiction, but I feel a lot like Yossarian in Catch-22 these days. I don't remember all I thought about - I thought about all these ways to motivate myself to get back on the horse - I thought of my colleagues that were friends, and the colleagues that I'd like to be friends - I thought about colleagues that I wanted nothing to do with - I thought about getting some OJ - and I spent a lot of that time with my brain totally shut down. I just sat there, in my windowless, clean, empty slate of an office, trying to think of something else to write on the white board, something else that would inspire me...
Do I have something left to prove? Do I have something left to give? I still don't have an answer. I'm going to sleep on it.
Novell counters SCO and a DVD case goes to court
Novell owns Unix(tm)
. Well, we all own the ideas behind Unix, but that's beside the point.
On SCO's desparate lawsuit of everybody that did Linux - and surprise backing from Microsoft - SCO's stock went from 2 to 8.75. On today's news, SCOX
went down 24%. I love it.
I wish I had some spare cash to put in this game, 'cause I'd put my money where my mouth, mind, and memory are. In put options.
In other encouraging news: The DVD trade secrets case
finally goes before the California Supreme court Thursday.
I was there for Brunner's first hearing - this collossally short-sighted assault on the creative people - this outrage against the commons
. We got a nice netwide protest going, we did, and a bunch of us showed up in meatspace to really puzzle the judge. I look forward to seeing this trial. I might even show up outside the courthouse gates with guitar in hand and another handlettered sign... the weathers nice... it should be fun.
I've smarted from the passage of the Home Recording Act for 12+ long years. The sellout of the HMRC created a loophole for digital recording that was the wedge in the sanity wall that allowed the DMCA to pass.
I've supported the EFF
, when I could, where I could, however I could, ever since.
Maybe, this time, now that enough people understand the issues, the courts can take away what the legislature and hollywood stole.
If not, well, there's one more court left in the land... and if we win this time - there are more problems that we, as netizens, must take on. The biggest one?
We've got to roll back copyright law to what America's founders intended
Copyright - IP - has a shelf life - and it is
14 years, renewable once. Not 90. Not 150. 14
, or less.
If we don't revert the length of copyright back to something sane - we will be paying rent to the copyright owners forever. We will never, ever, be able to perform or play a song we heard in our youth without some fatcat demanding cash for the right to play it, even if the original creator is long buried. We'll hardly be able to open our mouths in public without paying royalties.
So.... As much as I'm enjoying current events, I'm trying to keep my mind on the bigger picture. We can't stop here.
If an infinite number of monkeys could recreate Shakespeare
something I wrote in 1982
A million monkeys were knocking at my door
a million keyboards pounding with an incessant roar
I was gazing out my window: "Them's working monkeys there"
"Rain is life for them - Life is bedraggled hair"
I saw someone in the driveway. I heard a hesitant knock
I closed my ears and hid my eyes... He must have picked the lock.
There he stood before me, a tired bedraggled wraith
Outlined in the doorway with a slight aura of faith.
He was wet, sodden, dripping - The definition of damp!
He looked disillusioned then... as he hunched by the lamp.
His hair was long and stringy. His face a dirty pale -
But quickly he composed himself, and shyly... rang out his tale.
Memorial Day, part 1
Here's some old, dead computer stuff that deserves to be remembered.
|The first 5mb winchester drive for PCs. || My first one (1984) cost 3 grand. I threw away a couple hundred floppies. Since then we've been on a capacity curve that boggles the mind... and still... always... with nearly 300GB in the house today, I have 200% less storage than I need. I've had to spread my life across sourceforge and blogger and taht.net just to keep from being overwhelmed by my own electronic refuse. It became impossible to back all this stuff up years ago, and why's that?|
|Function Keys||you know, those keys, lettered F1-F12 on the top of your keyboard? Before we were cursed by mac-think, function keys used to actually do something. Today's software litters 1/3 of your screen with useless visual garbage, and obscures the one thing you are supposed to be doing in front of a word processor - processing words. Function keys... they were right there, near your fingers and only in your field of vision when you wanted to edit something, rather than write it. How much productivity is lost every single time we have to reach for a stinking mouse?|
|Lotus Manuscript|| The outliner kicked ass. I've never managed to write big, complexly formatted, beautiful documents since its demise - it lived in the gap between framemaker and ms-word, and asphexiated there. I write in a very fragmented fashion - and no tool I've yet used under linux lets me organise my thoughts and reorganise them and then format them properly. |
There are people that swear by metacard. Staroffice? Don't make me laugh - it has this thing called sections but outlining properly? Ha. I like blogger in that so long as much subject range is small, I can manage my topics anywhere, but there's no easy way to link back to the plethora of pieces I've put together this year. I've tried mozblog, I can't get it to work. I try to write in gvim, and I can't paste that into the damn browser. !@#!.
The best outliner out there? Powerpoint - but it only goes a few levels deep and iuseless for anything other than single screenfulls of text. I keep seeing people trying to use it to outline meeting notes, and getting more and more frustrated. Powerpoint is a symptom of our 13 minute attention span. It's become a powerpoint-driven world, and all the sadder for it.
I'm open to recomendations. I'll even switch OS's, if that's what I have to do. Send me an email recomending your favorite outliner, feel free to plug it with all the glassy eyed conviction of a scientologist, and I'll look into it.
|WordStar||King of the control sequence - an even more typist friendly method of pounding out text than function keys. And, aside from a few throwbacks like joe, it's dead as a doornail. And I'm cursed with the memory of all the different word processors I've used over the years - Why do I still remember that Ctrl-KB started a block? I could be using that mental space for something useful, like a girl's phone number.|
| Borland's Sidekick||Hit two keys, handle a phone call. Hit two keys, write down a spurious thought. Same two keys, again, bang, you were back in what you were doing. I've reached the point where I need three monitors just to retain enough context during the day to finish something, switching between writing, browsing, coding, thinking, planning, noting....|
| Framemaker for Linux|| Why did they kill it? Is there a market yet?|
|SCO Professional ||Due to a look and feel lawsuit, the cowardly namby pambies at SCO in 92 killed their Lotus 123-alike. SCO's higher ups had already abandoned their own product internally as part of their windows capitulation strategy, and not satisified with killing off Pro, SCO's bewildered execs went on to kill off their entire office suite. It was an orgy of self destruction, utterly crippling the generall usefullness of the the product, trashing the last corporate-wide scheduling program I've ever used that worked, as part of their pathetic pacification of legal beagles with bigger backing and balls than brains. |
Note to SCO: The OS ain't the the thing, man, it's the apps. No apps, no mainstream. If you don't use your own product, why should your customers?
Now lawyers run the company. They're suing the world, crying "Foul!" - their OS IP (that they have maybe 8 engineers left working on) has been obsoleted by everyone else. I don't think they get it yet. IP ain't like land. It depreciates if you leave it fallow. Rapidly. The worth of what you have paid so much for over the past decade is zero, zip, nada, nothing. The software world doesn't run on Prop 13. Do you get it yet?
|CPM||Thank god I can't remember the syntax of the PIP command anymore. But I still remember a couple CP/M boxes fondly. Coupled with wordstar I could really pound out text and fit whole papers on single floppies and store somewhere in my field of vision where I could friggin find them again. I remember having a monochrome monitor - 19 years ago! - that let me clearly see a whole page of text instead of this 1024x768 window into a windowed world with the entire screen filled up with useless decorations, colors, fonts, scrollbars and Clippy.
You'll note that every last one of these dead pieces of software was proprietary - that nearly every company just... went under... or discontinued the product - rather than release the source code and let it find a new ecosystem. Why I don't know. If they released it, it would have at least remained as sand in the greased world of their competitors. Wouldn't that have been nice?
I've been thinking we need to rewrite bankruptcy law - in exchange for being able to rip off shareholders and lienholders when you hit chapter 7 - corporate IP should automatically enter the public domain - Wouldn't that be a trip? To still see products like the above still nipping at the heels of the monopolistic monoliths we have to deal with today? Change product obsolecence law - you obsolete a product, you give it up to the PD rather than force an upgrade or vendor change down the throats of your customers.