Intermittent Interludes

My daughter’s summer vacation began last week, spinning my already-unpredictable schedule into a new dimension of chaos. I’ve got so many different things going on–each dependent, in equal parts, on the weather and my mood–that trying to work according to any sort of plan is beyond futile.

In no particular order…

  • The RPG is in play-testing mode, a necessary and time-consuming step in the process of getting the game’s rules together. And due to certain…realities of this collaboration with my friend, I’m pretty much stuck in a holding pattern until we have the rules sorted. No new writing, no revision work, no layout–so, I basically get the summer off from this thing, outside of my role as a play-tester.
  • I continue to go out with my camera whenever the weather is good. However…
  • Now that my daughter is home, getting outside and walking around together without the distraction of my camera is a thing that’s also happening, and by definition that takes some time away from shooting.
  • I’ve been working on a number of projects that require stinky chemicals like contact cement and spray paint. My daughter’s costume is one, art I’m doing for it’s own sake is another. Since all of the required nasty substances require a “well-ventilated area,” and the only well-ventilated place you can find in a mobile home is outside, a fair bit of good weather is being eaten up by these projects.
  • That “art for it’s own sake,” thing? That deserves a post of its own, but the bottom line is that I’ve found myself in the grip of an unrelenting need to create and experiment with various forms of visual art. And while I’m enjoying this journey immensely, it’s also taking up an immense amount of my time and attention.
  • I’ve had an idea for a novel kicking around in my skull for quite some time, and lately it’s been very insistent.

These are the big draws on my time, but there’s about a dozen other little things I’m trying to get done this summer, and the whole unsorted mess is making my head spin. I’m writing this post at about 7:30 on Monday morning, and I seriously have no idea what I’ll be doing right after it’s written, let alone how the day’s going to shape up overall.

I’d say I feel like something has gone horribly wrong with my life to be in this situation, but honestly? Flying blind doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would.

Slack and Woe

Well, my streak was bound to end sooner or later. Haven’t published a blog post since Thursday, only barely touched the socials, and I’ve done almost no work for, like, a week.

Mostly, I blame the weather.

Here in my corner of the world, we’re basically getting week-long streaks of mid-fifties temperatures, gray skies, and rain, broken up by maybe a day here and there of “partly sunny” sixties.

This isn’t exactly what you’d call “ideal” for a person whose mental state has somehow become incredibly dependent on the weather in recent years, and who’s just set walking and photography as the twin pillars of all his stress relief.

So, my last couple of weeks can basically be summed up by the following conditional…

If the weather forecast looks like crap, I will watch Netflix and maybe get half an hour or an hour of work done on something. Otherwise, I will grab my camera, go outside, and walk until my feet and legs beg me to stop.

What I really need at this point is a good four or five day stretch of solidly good weather so that a) I’m no long bogged down by whatever this environmental depression-esque mood thing is, and b) that I don’t feel like Mr. Sun is so rare I have to throw everything else aside to embrace it like it’s the last time we’ll ever see each other.

Not sure when that’s happening, though, so here, have a Buddha.

 

A Requiem for Amateur Radio

Electronics have always fascinated me. Not electronic gadgets themselves (those usually just irritate me), but the engineering and design behind them.

The how of their circuits, more than the what.

I took a very basic electronics course in high school, but until a few years ago, I hadn’t felt a need to really dig into circuit theory and understand how it all works.

And when that need struck, I decided the best “excuse” I could have to learn and practice this stuff, was to get an amateur or “ham” radio license.

There’s a huge number of ham radio enthusiasts who get their kicks from designing, building, and operating their own equipment. And there’s an equally-huge body of free or cheaply-obtained documentation and “HOW-TOs” out there, many of which will teach you the theory, and walk you through practical projects.

So, I studied up, took a couple of exams, and obtained my license. I also started hanging out with a local ham radio club filled with friendly and helpful people. Unfortunately, within a few months of obtaining my license, I learned there was a flaw in my plan: doing electronics, particularly radio-frequency stuff, is crazy expensive.

This sounds strange, at first, since if you search about online, you’ll see a plethora of detailed plans and parts lists for simple radios you can build for around five bucks worth of components. You can even get full-fledged kits with all the components and boards you need, starting at around fifteen bucks.

And that all sounds super cheap. The problem, though, is you need tools. Tools like a soldering iron. And an oscilloscope. Oh, and a spectrum analyzer would super helpful. Or you can use a fully-assembled, factory-built radio for testing.

Oh, you do have a well-lit, well-ventilated work area large enough to accommodate all of these things, don’t you?

As the months wore on, and I learned more and more about radio-frequency electronics, I also learned that those five dollar projects really only cost five dollars if you already had a twenty-thousand-dollar electronics lab.

So that sucked.

Still, I never really gave up thinking about it as a hobby. I kept it up on a high shelf of my mind, and every once and a while I’d take it down, dust it off, and see if there was a way to make it work. Then I’d put it back on the shelf for another day.

Now, though, I think it’s time to just pack it up and throw it in permanent storage. It’s an interest that might have made sense once, but I can’t see me doing anything at all with it now, even if I did have a spare $20,000 laying around.

Besides, given the luck I have with technology, I’d probably end up burning my house down anyway.

Too Many Interests

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ve really gotta pare down my interests and learn to focus.

For the most part, I’ve been managing to stick to my guns and keep doing the things that need doing: the novel’s getting written, and it’s been a while since I’ve let a weekday go by without posting something here. I’d call that progress.

But oh man, the rest of my time has just been shot to hell by one distracting, tangential pursuit or another.

Photography? I don’t know if it’s fair to call that a distraction anymore. I’m enjoying it, seem to be a little good at it, and I’ve been sticking with it consistently enough to feel like I’m building up my skills. That said, I have no idea what I want photography to turn into.

Is it something I want to do for fun?

Is it something I think I can make money at?

Having gone forty years without even thinking about visual art of any sort, the idea of pursuing one seriously is so alien to me that I can’t wrap my head around it. So, I haven’t really bothered to try. I’m just doing it, and worrying about what it’s going to be later.

Then there’s poetry.

I’ve been meaning to write a proper post about this interest for a while, but it’s probably not happening anytime soon. Suffice it to say, I started digging into poetry a few months ago—its methods, its classics—and enjoyed the experience enough to try my hand at it. And while I can’t say I have much skill at versification, I can say that I like it.

Unfortunately, I’ve neither been reading nor writing poetry with nearly enough consistency to get much of anything out of it. I maybe spend an hour, broken up, every other week on it, which means it’s little more than a depressing distraction.

A distraction, because I’ll have nothing to show for the effort. And depressing because doing any makes me feel like I should be doing more.

Finally, there’s the newest distraction: film making.

Look, Ma! It’s a still from a movie I inexplicably spent half an afternoon making!

Holy hell, where did this come from?

My DSLR camera actually takes decent video, and there are quite a few guides on how to go about doing just that. So, in the spirit of trying to learn the various features of my camera, I decided to shoot a few test videos in my house.

Just to know how, you see? Nothing more.

Two days and five hours of Adobe Premiere later, and I’m looking at a reasonably-creepy, 56-second scene and writing notes about a short film it inspired.

What’s wrong with me?

Whatever it is, it’s getting old. I have things I need and want to do, and while they’re getting done, fighting all the distractions is leaving me exhausted at the end of the day.

And not the good kind of exhausted, like you get after a great workout. It’s the bad kind, like you just spent twenty hours running from a horde of zombies and know you’ll have to do it again the next day.

Whatever.

I’ll just write this on the list of things to speak to my therapist about.

Wherein I Say “Goodbye” to Linux

Last weekend, I officially bid Linux “adieu,” and installed Windows 10 on my laptop. And while this may not seem like a big deal to you, it’s a fairly significant milestone in my life.

Since ’96 or ’97, I have always had at least one computer running some derivative of UNIX. And since about 2002, that’s meant a GNU/Linux distribution. Well, there was that year I owned a Mac Mini, but the less said about that the better.

Twenty years of Emacs, binutils, and a shell that made sense. But also twenty years of hardware woes, incompatible file formats, and moving-target user interfaces.

Well, things change.

My level of patience, for one.

I have a six-month-old Canon printer in the other room which only barely works under Linux.

Half the time, I have to power cycle both the printer and my laptop to get it to work, and Linux has not once condescended to allow any other computer in the house to even see it.

My printer is also rumored to be a scanner, but anyone who has ever gotten a scanner working under Linux should probably be burned as a witch.

And yes, I’m sure there are solutions to these printer/scanner issues, just as I’m sure there are solutions to all of the dozens of problems—both big and small—which have plagued me for years.

But that’s just it: we’re talking years. Twenty of them.

And after twenty years of reading HOW-TOs, digging through mailing list archives, and suffering through “helpful” advice like “switch distros” whenever something’s broken, I just want to plug a printer into my computer and have it work right the first time.

So, over the last few months, I weened myself off of all those things I’ve used Linux for, and last weekend I pulled the trigger.

I’ll miss the good things a nerd-friendly OS gives you. The lack of Emacs alone is something my therapist and I will probably be talking about for some time. I’ll cope, though.

And my printer will work.