Log in

Authentic thrills for a middle-aged guy

Although it's still the Age of Irony, I tell you this sincerely, authentically, truthfully, from the deepest recesses of my soul. These three things currently happening in my life have me thrilled all out of proportion, all out of compass, all out of... out of... out of sensible superlatives.


I attended my first Ham Radio flea market on the weekend, and bought a used HF transceiver. I figure I can wire a dipole antenna between the house and a couple of trees which are, uhm, kind-of on our property. I'm not sure about trying to build a clever coax-trap multiband dipole or just accept that I need to start small and simple. I've been wanting to wire a dipole for 14 MHz into my house since 1980 or so. Seriously. Why didn't I do it before now? I don't know, but if you wait until the time is right, you'll never do it, or something. Finally, although the time still wasn't right, I took the course and got my license and got a VHF set, and now I've got an HF rig too.

The galleys for the story I sold to Analog arrived for proofreading. I didn't need to make any corrections, but I still went without breathing for probably longer than a middle-aged guy really ought to. In my corporeal life, most people need it explained to them, what Analog magazine is-- so perhaps you'll forgive the not-even remotely subtle self-congratulation now shared, unsolicited, with the people in my online circle. How long has this been going on? Elementary school? So, forty years? Yeah, forty years, I'll go with. Writing cute little stories. Everyone needs a hobby.

You get two supervisors in my program at U of Eh: an academic supervisor and a clinical supervisor-- perhaps so wily clinicians can't sell the academics twenty yards of fallopian tubing and then laugh with other clinicians about it on the internets. My academic supervisor met me at the Starbucks in ECHA to gently suggest that there will be no more extensions on my thesis and he doesn't want to have to read, uhm, shit. "Don't submit shit," said he. "But you won't." So with that to motivate me, I might actually graduate before whatever we're doing for Summer Solstice. And then I'll be done school. I don't think I'll need to go back, and my supervisor suggested a way I could maybe even get to keep my library account after I graduate.

I guess the commonality among the above is in the huge lengths of time for which I've been working with minuscule scraps of consciousness and spare moments towards these comparatively, uhm, tiny things-- about which I am disproportionately thrilled in my deepening middle age.

Anyway, thanks for reading.
"Follow the North Star" was the title of a movie about the Underground Railroad which I saw at such a young age that I thought it was, well, an underground railroad.

In my defense, although the nearest municipal transit subway was Montreal (and to me, Cape Breton-to-Montreal was, for many years, calibration for the mental "journey of a thousand miles," despite being somewhat less, according to GoogleMaps this morning) I was raised on tales of Draegermen who pulled coal miners out through smoke and flames to blessed fresh air and sunlight. Underground railroads, albeit narrow gauge and primarily for hauling coal, often figured in such tales of terror. So I figured they'd built a railroad underground to help escaped slaves get to British North America. Seemed legit.  Draegermen were better than Superman, what with really existing, and were certainly nice enough guys that they'd have helped out the escaped slaves. But I digress.

Whenever I read FaceBook stuff by my Friends in the States, about how things are going to right-wing hell in ever-larger handbaskets, it's my Stock Comment. Follow the North Star.

Serious question: Is this entirely (or even remotely) fair of me? Should I just be telling you to move up to Canada like the draft-dodgers and deserters of the generation who came of age during that Vietnam thing? Of course I'm not without an agenda: smart people who don't support right-wing political movements moving to Canada is a good thing for Canada, and by extension for me. Or do I just come off snotty and smug, with my essentially-free healthcare and abortion and year of paid maternity leave?

Less serious question: In this age of GPS and compass on every iPhone, can you even find the North Star? How long would it take you on a cloudless moonless night without interfering light? Do you make a habit of it when you're out, like spotting the emergency exits in movie theatres? Is this something everybody does, or nobody does?

Built the wall

Built the wall. Amazing!

Books I'm not reading

Many of you know I don't read books.  I look things up in books, and read parts of books, but "Reading a book" is typically a task that defeats me.

"Oh,"  says that bit of the soul which is connected to that bit of the brain.  "I see where this is going."  And that's that.  The pleasure's just gone.  Of course I don't believe in souls separate from brains, but you know what I mean.  Figure of speech, the soul.  When I say "soul," that's all it is.

Started a couple of books last night.  I don't know if I'll make it back to them.  One by some Yank psycholinguist, and one by a Yank defence analyst who the jacket referred to as a "military futurist."  This morning, I feel quite sick, from my stomach on down.  Coincidence? 

I gotta go back to school.  Wait, I think I did, just a little while ago.  Oh, yeah, my next class starts in a month.  Now I remember.  Gotta talk to my thesis supervisor about my continued existence on Earth.  Ethics, IRB approval, and some other shit.  Did anyone ever think I'd be doing nearly-experimental research on real human subjects?

I did enjoy reading something in a book on Control Systems Engineering on the train yesterday; more respectable, I guess, than the other things, and I really do need to get the hang of part of it, since keeping your job is the new getting a raise.  But really, I want to be reading something that'll make anyone who sees it write me off as uninteresting as quickly as can be managed.  Not that I imagine myself to need protection from interest, but these days (weeks-months-years) I can't bear the thought of being considered another case study in wrong things.

Countdown to shit-all-over-the-place

The coming Saturday, the resurrected CHARLIE machine will serve as the substrate for a resuscitation simulation the likes of which the World Has Never Seen-- or, at least, that the world's simulation people have not yet published anywhere in the peer-reviewed press.

I don't remember where I first heard this little rhyme, but it's how I'm feeling about the whole thing.

H-bridges... who knew?

So when I sketched my latest thing from work for Our Brother canadian_worm, he sorta said, Oh there's a thing that does that off-the-shelf-- you'll just burn out components, trying to build it from scratch!

That explains why I released so much of the Sacred Blue Smoke, the week before vacation started.  All hail the h-bridge.  Everybody else apparently knew about these clever little things.

What would I do without DigiKey?

And what would I do, without such good friends?  Thanks again Robert!

I'm not a reader

People tut-tut and shake their heads about how hard it is for families to live with a crazy person.  I feel for them, I really do.  But if you suffered because you lived with a crazy person, I'll just take it as read.  No need to convince me.  There's compassion fatigue, and then there's compassion anaphylaxis.

Gone on another library binge, from EPL and the U of A.  There's another month until school starts.  One of these days I have to start on my capping project.  Somehow I've got to move across campus.

And I need to go back to Active Components-- but only on the company's time.  Anyone who doesn't believe we evolved from an ape-like ancestor neds to just watch me troubleshoot a circuit.  It's like the apes at the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey.  When shit works, I'm throwing bones up in the air every time.


Haven't sewn a garment from fabric and a pattern before, but there's a point when flat-felled seams have to go somewhere other than fragment's you're practicing on.  You can only repair so many things until all of everybody's clothes are mended and you have to start out into clearing off the whole damned kitchen table.

I'm going to make a torch table, pretty much the same way I made my steel workbench-- excpet the torch table's going to have sarificial slats in it.  I had an idea today of how (even) I could accomplish this.  I haven't asked anybody. Maybe I will, before I get around to it.

My new angled-pein hammer is working the way a hammer should.  The angled pein does what it's supposed to do, and the head's not even coming loose from the handle-- not yet, anyway.  I'm working on another double-edged carbon-steel knife.  It's not an athame, because, after all, How Could an Atheist Make an Athame?  Wait a minute, write that down, I bet that could be a story idea.  Or at least a seminar topic.  Heidegger: Horseshit or What?

And then I need a new hammer, a heavier hammer, to have a go at something damascus.

Next payday: lumber for raised beds.


I think that nightmares are the only worthwhile predictive dreams-- by worthwhile, I guess I'm referring in part to the well-examined idea of, "If you can predict the future and act to change things, is it still the future? Can we do that?"  According to the speculative fiction I used to read, there's always something there to stop you.

Dreams (I mean the asleep-pseudoconscious-images kind, not the awake-wishes-and-aspirations kind) play wwaaayyy too big a part in my self-evaluation process.  I am repeatedly mystified (really, like, "It's a fucking mystery to me!") why, if it's scary, it always happens in either University of Alberta Hospital or Cape Breton County.  Obviously these are both scary places, but they certainly aren't the only ones I've lived in.  Army dreams are usually all about embarrassment, not about fear.

I'd love to write more-- really I would-- but it's time to go change the future.
My experience point totals in that game, Papers and Paychecks, is really getting me down.  Keeping your job is the new Getting a raise, and Not getting kicked out is the new Doing well in Grad School.

I sort of miss the killing floor, because I always used to go home knowing how lucky I was not to be in a plastic bag or a diaper.  Wept that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.  That kind of thing.  I'm just exhausted.  At least I have work to get me out of bedin the morning, and school to keep me up late.

At the end of this course, I'll be halfway through the program.  Or, well, the coursework anyway.  The research I'd be doing anyway, probably.  At least (some of) it's on the Company's time.