CROSSROADS

As with so many other times in my life, I find myself again at my writing desk. Also, again, I find myself attempting to write with many fits and starts. That seems to be my lot in life, writing between fits of depression and starts of anxiety. Progressing only so far before the spectre of Imposter Syndrome makes its presence known, and in a bout of self-doubt, I chuck the whole of whatever it was I was working on. Such is the life of trying to be a creative person and living with mental illness that seems to be springing from a taproot of self-destruction. At least in creativity.

I am trying to return to one of the projects I haven’t deleted. A fantasy story that I’ve “started” more than once. I have to admit to myself the thing doesn’t have to be perfect or even reasonably good. After all, that is the whole purpose of a second draft, and the editing process is for. But knowing this as fact and internalizing it as a belief are two entirely separate things.

One positive that has come out of this, I’m reading as much as I ever have. What I’ve been reading is varied as well. Add to that my penchant for reading more than one book at a time has also returned. At this moment that consists of: Spellmaker a magical fantasy by Charlie M. Holmberg set in Victorian England; a reread of The Great Gatsby, the great American tragedy by F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as my morning foray into tech magazines before I get ready for my at times skull-numbing factory job.

I’m writing this to spur myself onto writing again with a goal of returning to writing at least something every day. Maybe even a way to combat my mental illness. Perhaps if I can keep my mind pointed in a positive direction, having something that I can look forward to every day will keep me in a better mental state.

Now for the hard part: Execution of the idea.

One of the best songs when I’m in this frame of mind.

It’s that Time of Year Again…

Five pounds of coffee. Check

Whiteboard cleaned. Check

Office straightened Check.

Desk organized. Sorta check…

Time to get myself and my soon-to-be written story ready for NaNoWriMo. The yearly month-long challenge to write a first draft (for me) of a novel of 50,000 words or more during the thirty days of November. Just in case you didn’t know.

Every year I plan on taking at least two weeks of vacation during and this year I was lucky enough to be given almost three. I’ve sketched out some ideas in some notes written on scrap paper. That’s how I start my process. From there, I just let things flow, for the most part without a plan.

I’m excited about this years challenge and I’m looking forweard to seeing what I can come up with.

Is there any WriMo’s out there? What are you doing to prepare?

I know this post has been a little short, but I’ve got some things going on. More to come later this week.

Splitting Time

What do I want to do? It’s such a simple question on the surface. But I have been asking this a lot of myself lately. I’ve made some choices lately to better myself, and Because of that I have been finding old interests coming back to life. One of those has been my hobby in personal computers that I have been writing about here lately. But because I have playing with the shiny and new, I’ve set aside some other things, like my writing.

It disappoints me that I’ve done this, but at least I recognize it.

Part of why I’ve been feeling like this is National Novel Writing Month is fast approaching and I know I have to get my act together to participate this year. At least it’s early enough in October that I can get going. And I’ve also been making notes,. That’s about as close as I come to outlining. But progress is still progress.

Time management has never been my strong suit. photo from pexels.com

The challenge to having more than one hobby is time management. That’s where I have been lacking. I admit it.

I have to challenge myself to find balance doing the things I love, recognizing for my own best interest, one shouldn’t take precedence over the other. At least for me.

With that in mind, I’ve going to set out to find a better balance doing the things I love.

Collecting Parts, Or Not

Today the CPU I ordered arrived, and I couldn’t be happier. I bought an AMD Ryzen 7 5700G. I got the CPU first, not that the I order that I err… order parts in matters normally bit in this case I felt compelled.

Because of the volatile nature of the market for almost anything PC-related, very few computer parts can be bought at Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price or MSRP (MSRP). AMD had just released the CPU that I chose in August of this year and it could easily be found still being sold at the MSRP of $359. This was a no-brainer for me. I ordered my processor right away. I wanted to buy this before scalpers took their cut.

There are a lot of reasons for the high prices,. First, there is a shortage of computer chips. the reasons for this are a bit complicated, so I’m not going to get into them here. But like so many things of late it comes from a shortage of labor at the manufacturing facilities because of COVID. This has led to a ripple effect of higher prices through the PC hobby. Jay From Jay’s Two Cents YouTube Channel does an excellent job of explaining why this is happening in the video linked here:

So why should the casual hobbyist or someone (like me) returning to the hobby care a mad owl’s fart about what’s happening to the market? The short answer is: “I don’t know.”

Or do I?

This is a horrible time to be a PC enthusiast. Prices are crazy bad. People are paying two times or more (sometimes many times more) MSRP for a graphics card, CPUs are being scalped, even the ones from a generation ago. At its point, I wouldn’t place blame on anyone throwing up their hands and saying, “I’m out!”, and walking away. But in a very real sense, I think this is an opportunity.

While wanting to collect my parts for my gaming PC and putting money aside for them, I’ve been thinking about some more basic questions: Should I overclock my system? Core speed and voltage, what’s the link? Is there a sweet spot in my current build between Frames per Second and overclocking? Core temperature versus throttling, what’s the best compromise?

For me, I have put the idea of games, per se, aside and have gone back to the hardware side of things. The thing that made me interested in computers; to begin with. I’m going to look for some software that tests my current hardware and see what I can learn from that as I put pennies, quarters, and the occasional dollar aside for my next computer’s bits and bobs, expensive though they may be.

Okay, maybe not setting the games thing completely aside

Reconnecting With An Old Hobby

Years ago, when I was in the Air Force, I was stationed overseas for a time. While there, I had a roommate that was a computer hobbyist. He had an Apple IIe and of course, he loved it. He convinced me that I should take up the hobby, as home computing would be the next BIG thing. And he was the admin of a public Bulletin Board Service on base, and if I wanted, he could set me up with my own page. Of course I jumped at the chance. These were the heady days of the late nineteen-eighties. The days when I bought an Apple II myself and later upgraded to an Commodore Amiga 500.

The Amiga 500 was an impressive machine for it’s day.

Later, I learned how to upgrade my Amiga and I loved learning how to configure the new hardware and run more impressive, at least back then, programs. That was before programs were called “apps.” when did that start anyway?

For the last couple of months now, I’ve started to rekindle the love I once had for the hardware side of the computer hobby. I’ve been tinkering with some configuration settings in my Dell i7 BIOS. Carefully, of course. I’ve come to realize just how much I’ve missed being a PC power user. I guess I really am a geek at heart.

Maybe some day my hobby space will look something like this.

The next project I wanted to tackle was going to be building a gaming PC, but the current market for PC components has put that out of reach for what I wanted to do. That changes my plans for the time being to putting money aside for a carefully selected prebuilt machine with some limited customization that I will upgrade as the market eases a bit. I’m a little disappointed, yes, but all computer parts in due time, I guess.

Dear Santa…

One compromise I really do not want to make is choosing my CPU. I will get either an AMD Ryzen 5 5600 series or the 7 5700 series. Depending on price. The wife insists on paying for things like mortgage and food.

PCs can be an expensive hobby but like anything else, I guess its captures and holds your interest, and what makes one happy.

Peace.

When Opinion Becomes Mob Mentality

I want to say something about the rising anti-intellectualism that we see in the United States. This isn’t a “yelling into the bullhorn” rant, but rather my thoughts about where these ideas might have come from.

From flat-earthers to COVID non-believers, our society is heading in a direction that I feel is dangerous. Myself and a significant number of my friends and colleagues. It’s frustrating.

I’ll use the flat-earth movement as an example here. The Ancient Greeks proved the spherical Earth over two thousand five hundred years ago using experiments of various kinds. And minus a few crackpots over the years, most people agree with this. Yet, we have a growing subset in our society that “choose” not to “believe.”

It’s the same thing with COVID non-believers and “anti-vaccers.” I was talking with a coworker about the new policies put forth by the Biden administration to curb the spread of the disease in its new variants. She was adamant that she would not receive any COVID vaccines because she didn’t know what was in them. In her opinion, she would not put anything in her body that was rushed to market and might be harmful to her or her kids. She said this while mixing a supplement shake purchased through an MLM. The very supplements that aren’t regulated. The very supplements whose ingredients lists are understandable by only very advanced chemists. I don’t think she saw the irony.

This is where I find the problem that I mentioned with anti-intellectualism. People want to believe that the opinions that they hold are valid, which they are. But they further want to believe that the opinions that they hold are as valid as people that hold expertise in a field. This is of course not true but I think I may have an idea of where this comes from.

People want to be validated. We all want to have someone support and agree with us. I believe that this is part of our social nature. But with the advent of the internet and social media, this had become are easier to find. Easy to the point of finding so many people that agree with an individual’s ideas that those in agreement become a shouting mob that any criticism is drowned out if not outright driven away. Yes, this is the definition of the internet mob. Wer all know about it. Maybe some of my readers have been victims of it.

But this trancends mob mentality. Because these people have online forums where they can exchange ideas, it’s often the same idea that gets “exchanged.” And with this comes constant reinforcement to the point that the group can’t accept any outside ideas. The original line of thought has become sacred and unassailable. The true expert has been shouted down and dissent will not be tolerated. Dunning-Kruger is at it’s most developed.

When this has happened I just leave that group to whatever beliefs they hold dear. It’s not my place, nor is it worth my time and effort to tell the emporer he is buck-ass naked. I feel that this will come to whatever group given time.

It’s Been Over a Month Now…

Now that It’s been a month since I’ve last consumed alcohol, I’ve noticed some positive changes in myself. The first thing that jumps to mind is relationships. My relationships have been a lot less strained, especially with my wife. She’s been such a huge help, mostly listening and supporting me when I tell her that I’ve been tempted to stop someplace and pick up beer. That was a daily practice before this last month. I’ll most likely be writing more on this subject soon.

Meet my editor, James Joyce Cat. It’s hard to impress him.

Another improvement I see is that I am physically feeling better. I’ve been sleeping better and waking much better rested. Along with that, I have much more energy throughout the day. It really is a huge improvement.

But the one big change that has come about from my abstinence, at least from the point of my creativity, is the return of my desire and drive to read and write. I’ve been working on my fantasy manuscript again in the mystical hours known as “wee” before heading off to work to support my newly rediscovered writing habit.

I’m finding the process not as easy as it had been before I set it aside, but I’m just as sure that as I continue to write, things will get easier again, just like getting out for long walks for exercise.

I’ve been reading in the evening as a wind-down from the day. Maybe this is helping me sleep as well?

At my blog’s peak, I had around a hundred followers. I feel that I let them down as well. For that, I apologize, and I hope I can regain your desire to follow what I put to paper here. Digitally speaking, that is. Perhaps given time, I could even grow my little corner past that. We’ll see.

My rediscovered happy place.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to find something more interesting than this to write.

Peace.

If Not Me Who? If Not Now When?

These Are questions I’ve asked myself many, many times over the last twenty years while I’ve been at work. Why wasn’t something done or not done? Who was going to finish a particular job or task? Why couldn’t a job be finished ahead of schedule? Who was going to work overtime? And on, and on and on… Like I said, for twenty years.

I’m not a supervisor, nor a manager. I’m just a machine operator where I work. But I’ve always taken more responsibility than most laborers there by far and away. That is, until this year, like I mentioned, my twentieth. In that time, I have been passed over for promotion more times than I have years there. All the while being given great performance reviews. So something wasn’t fitting.

It struck me when a person I trained when he started years ago was promoted to my shift supervisor. I had at some point run afoul of my area manager, the person who promoted my supervisor.

I wouldn’t consider him a bad person, not at all. But definitely a weak leader. He has a history of making decisions via the path of least resistance, what would be easiest for him or cause him the least amount of work. This has hurt several people that work or have worked under him. And in this economic climate, a few of those people have left. I’ve considered leaving as well. But that again would cost me accruing at least three weeks of vacation time and a loss of health insurance of sixty to ninety days.

But here’s the deal: I could shift my focus from looking at my job as what defines me to what I do to support me while I enjoy doing what defines me. For far too long, I’ve been setting aside what I love doing, namely reading and writing (this little blog is an example), and did what a great number of fictional characters, mostly middle-aged men, do. Sit on the couch, glued to the idiot box with beer in hand. The more I engaged in this behavior, the more I resented my job. The more I resented my job, the more I sat and stewed. And that, dear readers, is the very definition of a negative spiral.

What prompted this self-reflection was the realization of how much weight I had gained and how much money I had started to spend on beer. My anger for my job had been turned inwards. I needed to do something positive about it, step away from what was becoming very negative behavior.

Which brought me back to here, my writing desk: My sanctum sanctorum, my happy place. The place where I can do something that I can feel good about myself. I can write a few hundred words here and feel much more accomplished than I can during an entire eight hour shift at my place of employment.

Now I feel that I am back in the place I was meant to be, the place that brings me happiness, and the place where I feel that I can accomplish the most. At least I can feel accomplished for myself. I think for the time being, that is a great plenty.

Peace.

I Don’t Believe It

I always cringe, at least inwardly, when I hear somebody say, “I don’t believe in science.” I know that I’m not the only one who does. I say it as well, but not for the same reasons.

It’s been my experience when I hear that said, I take it to mean, “I find (insert scientific concept her) so far beyond my understanding that I reject it without pursuing it any farther.” It becomes a de facto argument from incredulity.

When I say, “I don’t believe in science.” I mean something totally different. What I am trying to convey is that Science, in all of its legitimate forms, isn’t a belief system. Science “works” by hypothesis formation, experimentation, observation, reforming hypothesis, rinse and repeat. There isn’t a place for belief because belief, and I’m talking religious belief in this context, is the assertion that one can call something true that one have never observed.

I was raised Roman Catholic. There is a tradition in the Church of Transubstantiation. The belief that during Mass that the wine is turned into the blood of Christ, and the bread is turned into the body of Christ. I remember growing up and Sister Rose Andre telling the class, as we prepared for our First Eucharist, that while these may still look like bread and wine, they are really the body and blood of Jesus. At that time, I did believe precisely that. There was no observable change. We just took it as truth. There is no harm in that belief. There is also no scientific basis for it.

That is the crux of what I’m saying. We believe as true what we can’t experience through our senses. We believe Transubstantiation is truth.

We know from our personal experience that the grass is green, water is wet and when I bounce my head off the sidewalk, it hurts like all get out. That’s empirical. That’s also Science, sort of.

My point is this: One is welcome to believe anything she, he, they want to. I have no problem with that. My problem lies where people substitute out belief for observation and that line blurs.

White Hats and Black Hats

Way back in the day a person could do the the local movie theater and catch something called the Cowboy serials. The type of story that hasn’t aged well and is hackneyed and full of cliches. And one of the biggest of these cliches is the good guys always wore white cowboy hats and the bad guys always wore black cowboy hats. It was an easy way to know good from bad.

This past weekend I watched a documentary film called

Movie Code 2600

. It was, in part, about the subculture of computer hackers. One thing that struck me was that they were divided into two distinct camps called the White Hats and the Black Hats. And it meant the same thing that it did in the days of the serials.

Black Hats are the easy ones to define. They want to disrupt, to cause harm, to steal…

White Hat hackers are a great deal more innocuous. The White Hats that I found in my research are privacy advocates, pointing out to the users of the likes of Facebook, Google, Instagram, and others, where their personal information is going. Maybe even how it’s being used. Is my data being used at directed marketing? I did look at the Pillsbury website last week…The White Hats believe that you have the ABSOLUTE right to know how the data you enter into Social Media sites, and commercial sites are being used. Are you for sale?

Perhaps there is a way that all of us can use these sites that we find useful in the extreme, without surrendering who we are and our personal data.

Holy shit-biscuits! When I started this post this morning, I had no intention that it would be multi-part series.

Give a Journalist in column inch, he’ll take a four part series.

More to come soon, gentle readers.

Peace.