athelind: (Default)
Savannah beach! It's been a full month since I posted ... or, I'm afraid, cracked open my Friends List. I'm not sure how it happened -- I simply forgot!

At this stage, I must apologize: I'm not going to try to catch up on the backlog on my Friends List, and so that means I'm probably going to have missed Important Stuff.

My last post was a bad one to suddenly vanish on, too: "Oh, hey, emergency room, hospital, chest pains, SILENCE".

For the record, I've just been busy and distracted. The "clean bill of health" is, more accurately, "nothing immediately life-threatening -- see your doctor", which I have done.

At the moment, there's no solid diagnosis as to why I've had these "flipping" sensations in my chest for two months. They've ebbed and flowed, but at their worst, a month ago ... well, let's just say I don't plan to see Prometheus in the theaters.

My regular physician is arranging a referral to a cardiologist, but because all this happened literally days after switching from a PPO to an HMO program (all under the same provider), that hasn't happened yet. My new card finally arrived on Friday, though, so on Monday I can make things happen.

Right now, the likely culprits include Premature Ventricular Contractions [PVCs] and esophageal spasms, possibly related to my chronic, lifetime reflux issues -- I have a family history with both.

(I also have had symptoms that are clearly digestive; on the other claw, whilst hooked up to a heart monitor in my line of site after a thallium treadmill exam, I got hit with a couple of "flips" -- and I saw them on the monitor.)

I am trying very hard not to self-diagnose, but it's a difficult thing; I have the kind of mind that isn't happy until it's constructed a narrative. I want to make sure the cardiologist has all the relevant data when I go to see him; unfortunately, that means my brain is trying to filter just what data is relevant, and that turns into subconscious judgment calls whether I want to make them or not.

(As a minor grumble ... there's more than just one set of symptoms going on, but every medical professional I've talked to has tended to latch onto the very first set I describe, without letting me finish my litany of hypochondria the rest. This happens no matter what order I list them: it's always the first thing. "Okay, what can we do about this?")

... that said, at the moment, it looks like all this can be managed or even resolved with just a few tweaks of diet, a bit more exercise (but not too much more), and maybe some nutritional supplements.

Oh, and losing a goodly bit of weight, if for no other reason than to avoid the knee-jerk diagnosis of "he's middle-aged fat guy, I can stop thinking now".

So don't panic. There are probably a few more decades in this old dragon after all.

athelind: (barcode)
Solstice fell last week.
Today, this song was playing.
Nothing more to say.

I'm learning to live without you now ... )

The more I know, the less I understand.

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
One of the yard cats seems to have gotten himself poisoned somehow. Maybe a he got a mouse that had rat poison in him, or something.

This is one of the three that actually is willing to be petted -- the black one with the little white "dickie" that I'd dubbed "Martini". Up until recently, he was most definitely the Beta Cat to Tawny's Alpha, Spock to his Kirk, Batman to his Superman; the last few weeks, though, he's been spending more time on His Own Dread Errands.

[ profile] thoughtsdriftby has bundled him up and put him in the animal carrier, and we're keeping a watch on him. If he survives the convulsions, maybe he'll be okay. Unfortunately, the usual "home free" point is around ten hours, and it's been a lot longer than that. I've checked on him a couple of times this morning, and he's still twitching, with occasional bouts of full-on seizures.

Having a dying cat in your living room is not the most cheerful way to start a morning.

athelind: (ouroboros)
The last panel of today's Shortpacked! sort of capturtes how I've been feeling lately. I need to snip it and resize it for an icon, if the text will still be readable at 100x100.

"We're finally growing up?"

"Screw that. We're finally catching up to all those bastards we know on Facebook who are having their third kid."

I need some kind of tag to indicate "This is a good thing, really!"
athelind: (ouroboros)
I am not a scientist.

I am not in a job where I am doing science, particularly not the kind of ecological sciences that I thought was my calling.

For years, for decades, I had I Am A Scientist, and if I am not Doing Science, I am Wasting My Life carved on my soul.

And because of that, I wasted my life.

But you know what?

I Got Over Myself.

I Am Not A Scientist. I Am Not Doing Science.

And I am finally Doing Something With My Life, because I have let that go.

I am in a position to make good use of my skills and experience. I am in a position to do some good with the second half of my life.

Hell, that's right there at the top of my resume:

Coast Guard veteran with degrees in Earth Systems Science and Biotechnology seeks a position that will integrate his education and experience, to make positive change in the world.

I am there. I've got that.

And it's not at all the job I saw for myself. It's not the job I was expecting.

Life surprised me.

And Life is Good.

Allow yourself the possibility of surprise.

Edit: On reading this the next morning, I realize I didn't clearly state something very important:

I Am Not A Scientist. I Am Not Doing Science.

I am not "following my dream"—but I love my job.

I haven't "settled". This is not "disappointment".

I am in a job that leaves me engaged, fulfilled and, at the end of more days than not, happy.

Life surprised me, and Life is Good.
athelind: (Default)
Upon awakening this morning, Your Obedient Serpent had one of those epiphanies that keep expanding his mind these days.

For the last couple of days at work, I've been in and out of training. Training at my new job leans toward the casual and conversational. They take it seriously, but they want to know that you're engaged.

I've found that, when discussions of safety, odd technology, and strange experiences lean toward the conversational .... I frequently have A Relevant Amusing Anecdote.

And they all start differently.

When I was in the Coast Guard ...

When I worked in the hospital ...

When I was at Cal State, doing Seafloor Mapping ...

When I was in the comic book store ...

When you're clinically depressed, one of the things that gets into your head is the idea that "I haven't done anything with my life." And that's a hard one to dislodge.

But ... by GAD, sir! I've done all manner of things with my life.


You may have noticed that, over the last year or so, a phrase I've used more than once is 'I don't want to be That Guy. "Nobody wants to be That Guy."

Well, I think that I might be This Guy:

... and I think I'm good with that.

Pity poor [ profile] kohai_tiger, who, in the course of two to three hours of daily commute, occasionally gets stuck in the role of Hapless Gentleman's Club Member Buttonholed by Pompous Windbag McBragg ...
athelind: (work)
After the SRI debacle of 2008, I promised myself that I wouldn't count chickens on any future job offers. If something looked promising, I might let some people know, or drop some hints, but nothing that would jinx anything.

Some people say you don't really have the job for sure until you clock in that first day.

I went one further: I wasn't going to believe that I'd really landed the elusive Real Full-Time Job With Benefits until the first paycheck cleared.

The check cleared Tuesday night.
I am now officially employed as a Technical Writer.

... of course, I'm only 10 days into a 90-day trial period, so there's a part of me that thinks that even this is premature.

This was, for the record, extremely fast-tracked. The Monday before Further Confusion (09 JAN 2011), [ profile] kohai_tiger gave me a heads up about a job listing at his company, in his department. I cleaned up my resume and sent it in.

The Monday of Further Confusion (17 JAN 2011), the last day of the con, my cell phone rang while I was sitting in a panel. I took the call outside, and when I came back, I had an interview slated for Wednesday (19 JAN 2011).

The Tuesday after that (25 JAN 2011), I had my second interview.

My last day at Legends was Friday, 04 FEB 2011.

My first day on the job was Monday the 7th.

Turn-around time from first hearing about the job to starting it: 4 weeks exactly.

I should note that the job boards, the resume shotgun, and all the rest of the knuckle-down, nose-to-the-grindstone, job-hunting-is-your-job legwork aren't what finally landed me the Real Job.

What landed me the job was playing Star Wars D&D twice a month with my friends.

I'm afraid I've learned all the wrong lessons from this.

I love the job.

For those of you wondering what a "Technical Writer" does ... well, so was I, a few weeks ago. Summary: I turn field data into readable, well-organized reports.

The work is interesting, and I'm working with a good team.

During the interview, they were very enthusiastic about my resume and my writing samples. This was the first time in all my time job hunting where interviewers looked at my wide-ranging, eclectic background as an asset. this job can make use of all of my different skill sets—even my time at Legends!

Because of those wide-ranging skills, they're also going to be cross-training me as a field tech as well as a technical writer; at least one person has said "it would be a waste to keep you behind a desk."

One thing I love: after getting tossed into the deep end of the You Figure It Out pool at the last two "Real Jobs" I've had since graduation, and then spending two years in the genial chaos of Legends, I'm in a place where the standing orders are "if you have a question, ask someone"—and the answers generally start with, "let's look it up!"

I'm in heaven.

I made an interesting discovery on my second or third day.

Our company certifies clean rooms, vent hoods, and other lab apparatus for a wide range of companies, mostly in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Our safety-and-technical trainer repeatedly emphasizes during our training sessions that our work insures the cleanliness of locations that make medicine that gets directly injected into the bloodstreams of patients with already-compromised immune systems

Contaminants, especially unsuspected contaminants, could kill people. Lots of people.

And it comes down to us.

Lives are in our hands.

Here's the interesting discovery:

I'm good with that.

I'm a Coast Guard veteran, and my first long-term civilian job after mustering out was pushing hospital patients down to X-Ray and Nuclear Medicine on gurneys. I've had lives in my hands before.

When that clicked during training, it didn't feel like ZOMG PRESSURE. Quite the opposite: I relaxed. Some little ball of tension inside me evaporated.

When I know that lives hinge on the quality of the work I do ... I'm in my comfort zone.

It's odd place to find your comfort zone, I confess.

Maybe it's that, in a job with High Stakes, I don't feel the need to "prove" anything. Simply doing the job and doing it well and right is validation enough.

Maybe it's just that, deep down, I can only really take a job seriously if lives are on the line. "Pfffft. Urgent? You're not bleeding and you're not drowning. Let me tell you about urgent ... ."

athelind: (Warning: Biohazard)
Sanitized For Your Protection. Click at your own risk. )

Hey, I put it behind a cut! I even put "tmi" in the tags!

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
And so, another year ends, and Your Obedient Serpent will be more than happy to be shed of this one. I bid 2010 adieu with two upraised middle fingers and a shout of defiance.

It's time to face forward.

I've mentioned that sometimes, the radio talks to me, that the station I most often tune to has a tendency to play certain songs over and over again, and sometimes, the songs that cycle into that repetitious rotation are ones that directly address my moods and circumstances.

Back in November, as I was preparing to move a lifetime of belongings out of [ profile] quelonzia's garage, this one played nearly every day.

I was going to post it tomorrow, but it played again, just minutes ago.

This, then, is my New Year: No Resolutions, Just Resolve.

I've got a world and a life and a future in front of me.

And it's mine.

I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams ... )

Happy New Year, one and all!

athelind: (facepalm)
Yesterday, I asked myself a question that's come up a few times over the last few months: why do I feel hung over when I haven't had any alcohol? I had a headache that acetaminophen barely touched, and it stuck around all day, finally fading some time around 2300 hours.1

(Oddly, I seldom get hangovers when I've actually imbibed. Usually, I'm very careful to cut myself off well before bedtime, and to drink copious water before hitting the hoard. I usually add a single aspirin to my usual nighttime meds, as well.)

Since a goodly part of the ill effects of hangover come from dehydration, I've been assuming that the combination of dry winter air and the return of the heater have been the primary factors. Of course, in the summer, I was ascribing the same effect to warm overnight temperatures.

Yesterday, though, I realized that, while the headache was the most noticeable symptom, it was accompanied by what I will euphemistically refer to as "stomach upset".

Grauph. Not only do I have a wretched headache, but that milkshake from In-N-Out has triggered my lactose intolerance.

... wait a sec.


The form of stomach upset induced by lactose intolerance3 can, indeed, result in dehydration4, thus prompting the other symptoms.

Running through recent incidents in my mind, I realized that there did, indeed, seem to be a correspondence between Dinner at I/O with Strawberry Shake and a day of chronic headache and general malaise.5

The evidence seems to support the hypothesis that milkshakes give me hangovers.

No, I am not going to chug a milkshake before bed just to test that out.

Not even for SCIENCE!!

  2. Though I was in the bathing chamber without pants, I did not otherwise emulate Archimedes.
  3. Yes, that. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
  4. That's why it's important to make sure you get plenty of fluids when you have the flu.
    Or dysentery.

athelind: (Default)
Despite the events of the last year, I still have a lot to be thankful for.

If you're reading this, you're probably included in that list.

athelind: (AAAAAA)
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Have you ever closed the door on an opportunity or a relationship in order to open another door, only to realize you made the wrong choice?

oh, for crying ...

Yes, okay, yes. I woke up to that running through my brain this very morning: sometimes it seems like every single time I've had a binary choice, I've picked the wrong one. On the rare occasions that I do make the right choice, I manage to screw it up somehow with later choices.

I reiterate my conclusion from the last "life of regrets" Writer's Block I answered, less than three weeks ago:

Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda is toxic.

You can't do a damned thing about where you've been.
You can only do something about where you're going.

Face Front.

Rassin' frassin' LiveJournal Drama Llama stereotypes. There should be a cap on how often Writer's Block can ask the same kinds of question in a single month.
athelind: (facepalm)
So there I am at work, in what I hope are the last stages of a cold, running on generic DayQuil, GatorAde, and Fisherman's Friend menthol lozenges, blowing my nose whenever the store's empty, and hoping that bottle of hand sanitizer is keeping me from playing Patient Zero.

My sinuses are draining. My throat doesn't hurt, thank goodness, because working at a comic store entails a lot of conversation -- especially a comic store in a mall, where you have a lot of Curious Neophytes who wouldn't wander into your typical Android's Dungeon.

Nevertheless, the cold has affected my voice. It's not quite gravelly, per se, but there's that odd kind of vibration it gets when the vocal cords are ... pray forgive me if this is too vivid ... coated.

Not one but two different customers complimented me for my pleasant voice, and said that I should go into radio, or do voiceovers, or something of the sort.

As I'm suppressing a coughing fit.

athelind: (green hills of earth)
As if to demonstrate that Life Goes On, I just had an Archimedes moment: I ran out of the shower, towel wrapped 'round my waist, shouting "EUREKA!"

You see, I finally figured out a series of graphics that would explain to observers just what I was seeing in all that Elkhorn Slough data back in 2004-2005. I was trying to get a coherent article out of three or four different studies, each of which insisted that the Big Erosion Hotspot was in a different part of the Slough. Unfortunately, because their studies found erosion and deposition occurring at opposite ends of the Slough, the PhDs responsible for two of the papers each had ... issues ... with the other.

Bear in mind that these gentlemen were supposed to be my co-authors.

Bear in mind as well that I'm the only guy who looked at all four and a half data sets spanning 15 years.

Of course, any hypothesis that reconciled these supposedly-contradictory datasets was going to get lambasted from both ends.

Of course, after staring at all that data for three years, I came up with one:

Elkhorn Slough would experience Big Erosion Events that would dump a lot of sediment at the head of the Slough, and it would work its way down to the mouth over a period of years, thus giving the pattern of "Erosion here, deposition there" in one study, and "Erosion there, deposition here" a few years later.

I just figured out how to make maps that show the bulge of sediment moving down the slough.

It's clearly visible in the "flip chart" of cross-sections I carried around with me during that whole project, but I just figured out a way to display the data in four or five Q&D maps, rather than making people scrutinize Excel graphs for three years to see the pattern emerge.

So, yeah, "Eureka".

And you know what's even better?

When I rattled this off to [ profile] thoughtsdriftby, who's an engineer, he said, "oh, yeah. that's plug flow."

  1. I still have all that data on my desktop hard drive.
  2. And I have an open-source GIS program that I've been wanting to figure out.
  3. And I want closure, dammit.

I may have material for a Master's Thesis here.

athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Have you ever had a near-death experience? How close have you come to dying?

Oh, hooray, something morbid to contemplate.

I've had a couple, the first being at age 5.

Our family was vacationing at Yosemite National Park, and my two sisters (the oldest being all of Eight Going On Nine at the time) were set with the task of watching me as we wandered around an outdoor display of old gold mining machinery.

Well, at some point, I got it into my head that I was going to Go Find Mommy, and ran off at full tilt...

... right into the sharp, blade-like edge of some century-old piece of Gold Rush apparatus, set conveniently at Five Year Old Noggin Height.

The blade sliced neatly through the skin of my forehead, along with the layer of muscle underneath, and a major artery. Yes, one of my earliest memories is seeing the world through a red curtain of arterial blood.

Parents were not far distant, as it transpired, and the park ranger responded very quickly (dropping his groceries, as it was always related in later family tellings). With the subcutaneous muscles cut, my forhead skin sagged alarmingly, causing my father to think that there was an actual chunk of skin missing; wonderful parent that he was, he sent my sisters back to the blood-soaked ground to find it.

I was bustled to a doctor's office and stitched up, and I still have a scar neatly along my hairline; four decades later, it's only barely visible. There was a lot of blood lost, of course, and as my mother tells it, I passed out in the car at least once. I have no idea how close I came to death, but if any of several factors had been even slightly different ... .

The other time that I can remember isn't nearly as impressive a tale, and it's been told in this journal fairly recently: the 70-mph blowout I had on I-680 back in March, In this particular instance, I was wholly uninjured, but, again, a slightly different array of factors could have been Very Bad Indeed. If I'd been driving my late, lamented Aspire, with its slimmer wheels and higher center of gravity, I almost certainly would have rolled; the Aspire's tires were brand-new when it was destroyed, but if the blowout was because of something I'd run over, that wouldn't have made a difference.

However close I did or did not come to my Final Destination on that highway, it was shock enough to knock me out of the clinical depression that had plagued me throughout 2009 (if not longer).

Ultimately, I guess I survived that by keeping a firm grip on the wheel and remaining in control during the worst of the crisis.

I suspect that's a metaphor.

athelind: (green hills of earth)
I've mentioned before that my preferred radio station tends to play the same songs, over and over. I'd listen to another station, but ... most of what KFOX plays is music I like, even when I hear it all the time.

Sometimes, though, a song will reach out and grab me, above and beyond the background noise of all the other songs I've heard every other day for the last six months. Oh, a song like "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" will always catch my ear, because, well, Reaper.

Other songs, though ... sometimes they just walk up to me and say, "Listen to me. I have something to say to you, personally."

Right now, there are two of them demanding my attention in that way, and they're both from the same band.

I have climbed the highest mountains ... )

On a bed of nails she makes me wait ... )

I'm listening.

athelind: (facepalm)
[ profile] leonard_arlotte says, "Now the true test would be to enter some text from a particular author, and see if it comes back with that author's name"
[ profile] athelind grauphs, "LOL!"
[ profile] athelind grauphs, "I think it's just a very noisy algorithm with huge error bars. it's not ENTIRELY fatuous, since it tells me that I write like H.P. Lovecraft much of the time, in circumstances where, yes, I'm deliberately trying to write like HPL."
[ profile] leonard_arlotte says, "My point is, does H.P. Lovecraft write like H.P.Lovecraft?"
[ profile] athelind grauphs, "Indeed. And there's public domain HPL stuff online to use as a test case."
[ profile] athelind grauphs, "... dammit. go to lunch. I'll test it."
[ profile] leonard_arlotte says, "thank you."

Plugging in the text of "The Colour Out of Space", we find that H.P. Lovecraft ...

H.P. Lovecraft writes like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

... writes like Stephen King.

I totally need an Athelind Rolling In the Hoard Laughing icon.

athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)
[ profile] wordslinger might find this amusing, as it's tangentially related to her much more rigorous project of stylistic analysis.

To be honest, I was going to blow this one off for two reasons:

One, because the results have been so varied that it's become a matter of parody;

And two, because I didn't think I'd produced a body of work with any degree of consistency in recent years. Certainly, I haven't cranked out any fiction in a long while.

I changed my mind for two reasons:

One, because [ profile] leonard_arlotte reported remarkably consistent results from his LiveJournal entries;

And two, because I realized that my comics blog was a deliberate attempt to maintain a consisten "voice" throughout its long-form entries.

Out of ten long-form entries, I got the following results:

One J. D. Salinger:

I write like
J. D. Salinger

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Four H. P. Lovecraft:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

And five David Foster Wallace:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing! which I can only echo [ profile] leonard_arlotte's reaction: who?

Illiterate Philistine that I am, I've never read Salinger. The Lovecraft results, however, did not surprise me in the least; like HPL, I have a penchant for purple prose, archaic adjectives, and gratuitous grandiloquence. I suspect that if the algorithm were keyed to identify italics, my writing would have shown even more kinship to that of Unca Howard. One of the HPL-tagged episodes did, in fact, have several FULLY CAPITALIZED PASSAGES, though that was more in emulation of Jack "King" Kirby; I rather doubt that the meme-encoders included his Groovily Bombastic Scriptage in their algorithms.

Were I in a more frivolous mood, and had more respect for the underlying algorithms of random internettery, I might dig out some of my college papers (aside from the one that got repurposed as a KDDR entry) and see how they test out; even when I'm writing serious technical discourse, my florid style often bleeds through, and I can never resist a good chain of alliteration.

For the record, I analyzed this post, and got H.P. Lovecraft again. Given that I found myself deliberately emphasizing the Lovecraftian tendencies of my style as I wrote, that's not only unsurprising, but quite probably biased: "gaming the game", as it were. So, grains of salt all around, and 'ware your blood pressure, all and sundry.
If the meme-writers had my sense of humor, any text that referenced the "I Write Like" page itself would be weighted toward Douglas Hofstadter.

athelind: (coyote durp durp durp)
I think I'm a hypochondriac, but maybe I'm just imagining the symptoms.

athelind: (ewd3)
I went to the doctor's today, to make sure some discomfort I've had in my back wasn't a kidney issue, since it was right where the kidney should be. It's most likely a pulled muscle or something similar, for the record.

As always, of course, they took my blood pressure. For years, it's been running around 120/85, which isn't great, but isn't terrible for a man in his mid-40s.

Last time I went in, a few months ago, it was at 110/80.

Today, it was at 106/76, which is pretty good for a guy in his twenties.

Please note that this is after six months of morning coffee, a habit I've never indulged in regularly before. The 120/80 period was when I was strictly decaf.

Well, coffee does have diuretic properties, and they do prescribe diuretics for high BP.

Or maybe it's just six months of not living with a teenager.

athelind: (AAAAAA)
I can sleep through earthquakes and storms at sea. I can sleep through my car getting demolished by a drunk driver out on the curb in front of my house. I plug Rush and Meat Loaf into my CD player to rock myself to sleep.

I cannot sleep through the sound of mice rustling around my room.

The bottle of Melatonin with Theamine that I picked up at CostCo on Wednesday is supposed to be for "Stress Relief and a Sounder Sleep". It is not supposed to give me super-hearing.

When I've taken Melatonin in the past, I've consistently gotten six hours of sound sleep, and then snapped awake. I was hoping to get more useful hours in the morning, since evening shift in the comics store has made it increasingly difficult to get started.

I'm on less than four hours of low-grade sleep, but after snapping awake to rustle rustle rustle and Dawn's Early Light, I'm pretty much done for.

I need to tidy up in here.

athelind: (eco-rant)
Okay, one reason, and one alone:

The United States of America consumes a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and produces a disproportionate amount of its pollution. Even a massive socio-economic catastrophe isn't going to do more than moderate that, at least over the next half-century or so. this is an issue that I can't run away from, because the ripples affect the entire world, and not just economically.

I am an Earth Systems Scientist.

If I have any hope of having an effect on this globe-threatening situation, it's gotta be here.

I've got my lever, rusty as it may be, and I think I'm narrowing down my places to stand.

athelind: (politics)
This was originally tacked on as a footnote to my last post, but I think it needs to stand on its own.

For the record, the "Divided States of America" is only a "worst-case scenario" if the Balkanization is violent. That's not unlikely, because we're all pretty pissed at each other right now, and we do like our guns.

On the other claw, the Soviet Union managed to spin off its component without devolving into all-out war, though, even if there were border skirmishes; if the U.S. pulled off the same trick, California might wind up better off than we are now, with the Federal Government funneling money out of the eighth-largest economy in the world and into Red States who rant against taxation, welfare and government interference.

athelind: (prisoner)
Mostly for my own reference: some thoughtful and measured words about emigration.

I'll tell ya: ever since reading Toffler's predictions for the future of the two "Second Wave" superpowers in 1990's Powershift, and watching it come true in the Soviet Union less than a year later, there's a part of me that's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yes, I'm fully aware that this kind of apocalyptic paranoia has contributed to the paralyzing stasis of my life since graduation.

Still, there's an important truth in play: things aren't getting any better in the Untidy States, and the best-case scenario is to hope that the continual erosion of our rights and freedoms will be sufficiently gradual that we won't notice.

And the alternatives ... well, we seem to be using all the worst clichés of Cyberpunk as a road map as it is, why not that one, too?*

I would really like to convince myself that this is just pessimism due to the latest economic downturn, but even during the boom years of the '90s, I saw the "New Democrats" quietly and casually continuing the trends of restricting the rights of biological individuals and increasing the freedoms of "corporate persons". Some oppressed groups have made a few advances in acceptance, but really, it's just welcoming them to the same Village that the rest of us live in. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm in the process of reevaluating my life, realigning my goals, and trying to get a better grip on how the "real world" works.

And around here ... it doesn't. Not very well. Not in ways that will do me any good, now or in the future.

Realistically, if I'm trying to reconstruct my present to make plans for my future, "emigration" needs to be one of my options—even and especially if I land the elusive "Real Job" locally.

The big issue, of course, is that the other Anglophone nations don't really want more USian expatriates.

This is not a post about pessimism or defeatism. This is a post about options.
*See next post.

athelind: (Eye: RCA Magic Eye)
I just realized this morning that I have always and consistently been a technological iconoclast, as far as my choice of computing environment.

My systems have always run AMD processors, with the exception of the 8088 I had for less than a week before upgrading it to an AMD 286.

That machine also ran DR-DOS instead of MS-DOS; after a year or two, I installed an advanced, multi-tasking, multi-threading GUI with an office suite: GeoWorks Ensemble.

(That one was dubbed "Oracle", after an omniscient AI from my old Champions campaign; the character not only preceded the comic book character, but the software company. So nyaah.)

The 486 that followed ("Oracle II") continued with DR-DOS and GeoWorks.

My next system was a 686, since AMD continued with the "x86" numbering scheme after Intel started calling their CPUS "Pentiums". The need to establish software compatibility with campus systems necessitated a switch to Windows 3.1. The sheer physical size of the machine (Very Large CPU Tower, and a hitherto-unheard of seventeen inch monitor), combined with the stubborn determination of the operating system to make me do what it wanted, rather than vice-versa, earned it the name "Colossus" (and a Forbin Project desktop theme to match).

Colossus was succeeded by Rocinante, whose name, of course, was a multi-level reference to Cervantes, Steinbeck, Rush, and ... the EtherShip my character piloted in Mage: The Ascension. Rocinante began life as an AMD Athlon running Windows 98, I believe—only to slip further into iconoclasm when I installed the much-reviled Windows ME on the poor thing.

And that's where it gets odd. WinME was notoriously unstable, particularly if you just used the upgrade path instead of reformatting your drive and doing a clean installation—on every machine except this one. I ran ME for years with no trouble, right up until a power surge fried her original motherboard. Apparently, WinME liked that specific mobo, and not the computer; after a few weeks, I realized that suddenly, Rocinante was exhibiting every single reported misbehavior I'd ever heard about in an ME box.

That resulted in an upgrade to Windows XP.

Rocinante is George Washington's Axe, now: new motherboard, new case, new almost everything. She's got a modem that may not even work anymore, from one of her earlier incarnations, and her old 80 Gb hard drive is now strictly a back-up drive that I mostly leave unmounted. She's still running off that old mobo that I installed back in 2003; currently, she's running Ubuntu.

The closest I've come to a mainstream "Wintel" system was my IBM Transnote, with the crazy hybrid digitizing pen-and-ink notepad, purchased at a ridiculous discount from TigerDirect after they got remaindered. As off-beat as that model is, mine was even moreso: unlike the photographs in the linked article, I had a left-handed model, with the notepad on the port side and the computer to starboard.

My primary system now is my laptop, Dancing Star, named after the vessel in my Unwritten Magnum Opus, which in turn takes her name from a Nietzsche quote referenced in the Principia Discordia. Yes, once again, it's an AMD processor, and it's running Ubuntu. Like the TransNote, it's More Nonstandard Than Nonstandard: inside, it's effectively a netbook, with the almost-universal 2009 Netbook Standard Array: 1.6 GHz processor, 2GB memory, blah blah blah. However, it's got a 15.6" widescreen monitor, a number pad alongside the keyboard, and a DVD drive.

That's right, she's got the power of a netbook and the portability of a widescreen laptop. One would almost say it's the worst of both worlds, but you know what?

She works, and works very well indeed. Other than the graphics, in fact, she's faster and more powerful than Rocinante.

But still. An oddball machine, like all of my computers.

And that's the way I like'em.

November 2016

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