Good plans.

I’ve determined my approach to the “no pressure, but” situation, and kicked that boulder over the edge.

My quandary wasn’t really about whether or not I’d perceived the reality accurately, because that’s a long decided matter. It was just the first, easiest thing to grasp in the attempt to pull myself out of a psychic pain of unknown origin. What I really needed was a shocking and shameful experience of objective self awareness to get me squarely back over my own shadow again.

It took two days to get from knowing I was right but feeling that I was wrong to knowing why I was wrong. Honk honk honk, cognitive dissonance warning.

What had hung me up was that I’d mentally dehumanized the guy. It wasn’t a willful thing, and nowhere near being the black magic thought against which I must be eternally vigilant lest it transmogrify me into something terrible and despicable that will bring hell to me even while I live. It was just mental laziness: He is a this, and I interact with a this in a previously determined manner designed to create or restore a desired internal state — he will find the process very discomforting, but he deserves it because he’s a this and I have the right to do it because…

That’s been the dehumanizing thought process of everyone I’ve ever had to hate back, which is why it hurt so much having it inside my own mind. I was paralyzed because inaction was the correct course. Don’t just do something, stand there.

Once I got that figured, the rest was easy. I made sure that I was being my authentic self, and said what needed to be said. I find it unpleasant to be required to explain to someone the balance of power within the business relationships in which I engage, but in order to continue feeling good about myself I’ve got to continue giving fair warning. And just so it’s said, I do know the difference between fair warning and a challenge phrased for court. Picking an unfair fight would mean I couldn’t think of myself as a man any more, and I’m way too old for that.

The would-be manipulator remains an active client because I found his response acceptable, and that unpleasantness is now history.

There was a much needed but unexpected up side to the little misadventure, too. I’ve a habit of fact and reality checking myself at every terminal punctuation mark when writing my side of a conflict, and it struck me not very far into it that I’d needed the reality check. Reality checks make me happy.

This most recent one, coming in the final days before milestone 55 is reached, has got me thinking that the gods must love atheists best. Twenty years ago, my career plan was fuck it, I’m moving to the mountains and if anyone wants me the internet knows where I am. It wasn’t anywhere near so rash a decision as it sounds in summary, but to everyone I knew it seemed that it was. It’s important to keep in mind that the internet wasn’t anything at all like the one we know today back in those days — googol was still just a number, big business hadn’t yet figured out how to monetize the internet, and effective encryption was still regulated as munitions. Getting online from home meant angry family members screaming, “get off the internet, I want to use the phone!”.

Good plan, huh? Just say fuck it, and move to the mountains.


“No pressure, but” a little help, please?

“No pressure, but”. Isn’t that essentially of the same nature as “no offense, but” in that it only prefaces the intentional imposition of the emotional state known by the speaker to be unwanted by the recipient? I ask because I have a client I am going to dump or not very soon now, so it’s actually a question that’s important to me and not a rhetorical device used to open a rant.

What happened: This client has an ambitious project that I find fun to work on, and it was getting both geeked and pressured about that project that led me into last week’s episode of insomnia which took me out of the action for several days and made me intensely miserable for the duration of it. The client is well aware that I’ve a sleep disorder, and that it was the work stress of this project that invited me into the insomnia. I’ve never suggested to anyone that the client or the project was responsible for it — it’s the disorder that’s responsible for it, clearly. The work stress was just the trigger. Yesterday, this guy who has known for a long time that I’ve got the sleep disorder and have very recently suffered a week-long insomnia opened an email message about the software project as follows:

No pressure, but the pre-release sales commitments are stacking up like cordwood, according to [so-and-so]’s team.

No pressure, but. It seems to me that if there were no desire to impose pressure, those words wouldn’t have been thought, let alone used. No one ever says “no pressure, but the sunset is lovely this evening” or “no pressure, but this task is unimportant so you needn’t bother with it”. Or “no offense, but that color looks great on you”. Not in my experience. To me, those words are always and only pure mindfuck.

The message delivered to my brain by “no pressure but” is this: I am imposing psychological pressure upon you willfully and taking no responsibility for the ill effects I know you will experience because of it, and if you protest I will paint myself as the unfairly maligned innocent and you as the irrational aggressor. I find it dehumanizing, the intentional manipulation of another by openly taking control of his ego. “Do as I tell you or suffer the consequences of challenging my power. Your call.”

Am I being hypersensitive and/or thinking in black and white, or is “no pressure but” never innocent?

I know that it’s only a state of mind

Insomnia that lasts more than a week is a curious thing with which I’d rather have no more experience. As seems reasonable to expect, from about the fourth day onward the ole thinkeroony becomes unreliable, which is terribly inconvenient because I’ve always got clients expecting me to deliver some software that I’ve agreed to write for them and I am, at those times, completely disabled. Software is all and only about the logic of it, and when the thoughts won’t fly in formation as they need to in order for me to read the messages spelled out in their contrails the only wise choice for me is to acknowledge that I cannot do my job. That’s a blow straight to the ego as well as the bank account. I begin to wonder when my clients are going to become as tired of it as I am. No pun intended, believe me.

Thankfully, the most recent episode has ended so I’m just a couple of days now from my aberrant normality. No worries there.

At about ten days I experience a mild depression that will come and go for the remainder of the phase even if the phase lasts a month. What a great time for a depression, when your mind is just a sorely missed and still quite dear but very much former companion. It gets me every time. A word of advice: If you’re north of forty, “what have I got to be depressed about?” may be a question best left until happier times are upon you. But it’s a question I’m good at answering for myself: I have irretrievably alienated essentially everyone who ever loved me, haven’t held a steady job since 1994, haven’t got credit enough to buy a can of soup… the last thing I need is some clinical depression robbing me of the ability to enjoy being the luckiest fucker I know. So, ya know, once I get my head around it the depressions aren’t at all bad. Two weeks of insomnia IS a depressing thing, but it’s just a bad trip, man.

Speaking of which, being in recovery but not yet recovered from the bat shit non-circadian temporary insanity and also freshly out of marijuana, today was a very good day to go to my new favorite marijuana store. It’s not as good a store as the one I used to frequent, but it’s a lot closer. At the local scale, closer counts for a lot and especially so in all of those months that aren’t summertime — the towns are generally about forty miles apart so that’s the size steps we take to go places. The new favorite pot shop seems remarkably close, being just an hour away. But that’s not the good part. The good part is that the luckiest fucker I know walked into that pot shop that’s just an hour from his house…

… and there he found: Durban Poison. The long wait was over at last. I had been wanting to find my old all-time favorite since Colorado legalized, but it evaded me until today. I almost passed on it. Really, I did. I suddenly didn’t want to risk finding out that the Durban Poison I remember had improved by aging in happy memory, as it is said our memories of whatever we consider good old days are likely to do. Then Amethyst saw it, and pointed it out to me, and though she wants none of it she was excited that we had just completed a quest and the Durban Poison was now there before us on the shelf. With that, I just had to buy it. And feel silly about my initial reluctance.

Then the nice young man behind the counter informed us that the Durban Poison was on special today. See? Toldja. I’m the luckiest fucker around. I found Durban Poison for the first time I’ve seen it since Jimmy Carter was president, and it was on sale.

And, get this: The place has punch cards. In accordance with customary pot shop humor, they call it The Baker’s Dozen. Buy twelve top shelf eighths, get the thirteenth free. Offer good on top shelf marijuana only. May not be combined with other offers. Limit one punch per visit. It says all that stuff right on the card. I got two punches in my brand new card. Hmm. I’ll bet they’re getting all potted up on weed and don’t even care that they’re breaking their own rules. Still, I consider that a modern marvel. A marijuana punch card. Now all I have to do is find a sandwich shop somewhere that also has a punch card program, and if I coordinate it right I can get both free pot and free food in one outing. It’s the little things.

I am very happy to report that the Durban Poison is just as I remember it. Very happy, easygoing, friendly stuff. “It’s gonna lessen your load”, as Humble Pie sang it. I have an entirely different musical association with it, but it’s a different story. I’ll leave you with it just the same:




Insomniac Rambling

I usually don’t mind my Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder much because it stopped mattering a long time ago, but every now and then I get a bug up my HPA axis and ten to thirty days of insomnia is the result — typically, zero to three hours of sleep per every 24 hours for five to seven days, followed by sleeping almost comatose for seven or eight hours, lather/rinse/repeat until the phase ends (apparently of its own accord) and normality, such as it is, is restored.

I’ve tried all the usual things, including the ill-advised things that every DSPD sufferer I’ve ever known has tried, like alcohol. I never went the narcotic route, don’t like the stuff all that much beyond very rare recreational use — that stuff makes ya stupid, and I don’t like stupid in myself or anyone else. I’m sure there’s a dick joke in that line, huh? Marijuana is helpful with routine sleep, but the insomnia laughs it off. The insomnia makes the high less enjoyable, but the high makes the insomnia less miserable so it’s strictly a damned if ya don’t situation. For me, that is. You’re not damned if you don’t. You might avoid incarceration if you don’t. That’s a good thing. Leaves more weed for me, too.

Light boxes, sleep hygiene, dietary supplements… nada. No improvement. This stuff comes when it comes and goes when it goes. I think. I know that none of that usual stuff makes any difference at all for me even though I really wanted it to. It doesn’t work for folks like me, not one of whom I’m aware and I’m aware of an internet conglomeration of them. So I’m really, really glad that I can set my own work hours — even if not always my own sleep hours.

It turns out that swearing off duh nooze and enduring insomnia are not as incompatible as one might at first expect. I saw something recently in which Elizabeth Warren fact-checked Schrimp by pointing out that it was GHW Bush who signed NAFTA, not Slick Willy. Liz is a smart, well informed woman, so it’s absolutely certain that she intentionally obfuscated the truth for the purpose of deception. In support of the most corrupt candidate to have secured a major party nomination in her lifetime. Holy fuck am I disappointed in Senator Warren. She ain’t winning my confidence back in this lifetime.

If you weren’t there for it, or weren’t paying attention: It’s true that King George The First signed the treaty with Mexico and Canada. But he couldn’t get Congress to ratify it. Almost all Democrats and not just one or two Republicans were opposed to it. Clinton took it up himself, swung the Democrats he needed to get it done, and nine months after his inauguration addressed the nation to announce:

So now you know why Senator Warren rightly belongs in the Bernie Bin. With all the other sellouts. Marked down for quick corruption. Take a handful, they’re nearly washed up.

So that, among other things, is why I avoid duh nooze. I’ve already lost so much faith in humanity that I’m about to start thinking of myself as being of some other, distinct species in the evolution of the line. Not necessarily better or worse or more or less advanced, just less god damned disgusting. And of course I’m not the sole member of this distinct species. There are quite a number of non-disgusting two-legged critters about, actually. It seems that most of them are young these days, which is refreshing because I’d been just shy of convinced for quite a while that No Child Left Behind was working.

I have found myself facing the prospect of soon having no remote servers under monthly system administration contract. Until that happens I’ll have been with servers under contract continuously since 1999. That means being interrupted at all hours and in all places by alerts from a monitoring system that believes there’s something I ought to know about — it might be that yet another lame-ass WordPress plugin has let yet another script kiddie very briefly own a web site on a server I administer, or some piece of a mail system has crashed so mail is backing up and very soon people will notice and become pissy about it, or maybe, and far more often the case, the office internet connection hiccuped for the hundred milliseconds or so it takes to convince the monitoring system that the thing it was in the middle of talking to has fallen offline.

It has become increasingly important to me that those remote systems under my care are the remnants of my life as fixer of the world. I want them gone. When it is their time to go, of course, so long as it’s soonish. It wasn’t until considering their imminent departure from my world that I realized that I haven’t had a job that ends since I was 18 years old. I’ve had a couple that looked cushy enough but soon imposed the overtime, weekends, travel, two and three day burnout sessions, pagers, cell phones… you pay the maintenance costs for the life you surrender to them. When a guy I used to work with heard about this gig of mine he exclaimed “You lucky fuck! On call for waking hours only!”. And though he was joking he was also being perfectly sincere. The meat grinder culture of the tech sector predates both the public internet and the ubiquitous personal computer. I’m ready to settle into a more comfortable groove and just write software, just until I’m done for the day, and not be beckoned by machines with indigestion to listen to them belch.

Not that insomnia and programming go at all well together. The ole workload is backing up and I’m trying not to let it weigh upon my mind because I have this odd hunch, probably self delusion, that part of my problem in keeping the old HPA under control is the chronic stress of those machines burping in my ear for decades. It’s been a long, long time since the alert tone from my phone that’s associated with my server monitoring system has been issued without me replying “fuck!”. I know that nineteen times out of twenty I can just dismiss the thing, but I’ve been reacting like every time is the twentieth. That’s not good, I don’t think.

It has suddenly occurred to me that it being so important to sleep when it’s time to sleep probably means that it’s equally important to relax when it’s time to relax. Without shrieking virtual crybabies and a never-ending series of emergencies that ain’t. Just doing my thing when it’s time to do it, and then letting the world get by without me holding its hand. That sounds nice.

I won’t know how to work it, but I’m a quick study.

At precisely 7:26PM this evening I received a Hangouts message from my wife. It said: “I’m in the bedroom… naked… eating a Snickers bar”. I immediately ran upstairs to the bedroom, of course. We don’t often have Snickers bars in the house.

Where’s My Shades?

Life is much better now that my non-circadian adventure has ended and Amethyst has been a while without emotionally transmitted diseases contracted at the Soylent Green factory which she no longer frequents. I’ve had a fairly productive week and a half, even.

It helps that one of my gigs is a full pop supporting role — I’m not really invested in the outcome at all. I wrote some software a while back that accomplishes an impressive amount of work and in so doing consumes pretty much all of the resources of the machine and/or network it’s running on, whichever is weaker. The client enlisted my aid in moving the stuff from the server it broke to a new system in another data center… where it promptly broke the network. And is now breaking the virtual machine environment that I suggested at the start would prove itself not up to the task. So now I’m getting paid to help the network engineers as they try to figure out how to make their network stronger than the program and the virtual machine gurus as they strive to understand the limitations of their favorite technology. It’s great good fun. They’re almost giggly when they ask me to start running the thing by saying, “okay, let’s go break some shit”. One of them is a middle aged Italian guy in Boston, and sounds it. When he says, “Okay, let’s go break some shit”, I get visions of movie gangsters in excellent suits with baseball bats and machine guns getting into black Lincolns.

Amethyst was in need of a workbench at which to make jewelry, and with things being so up in the air it seemed to make the most sense to just whip out something quick ‘n’ dirty that can be left at the curb when we blow down the road. Also, Dinkytown isn’t a place where the hardware stores stock dimensional lumber any better than grade 2, the kind of stuff you most often see tied up against bales of hay or cotton to secure them during transport, or holding up the plywood that keeps the weather out until the glass man arrives or the hurricane passes. It’s rarely straight, most often splintery as hell, has dimensional tolerances that would be unacceptable in even stud grade lumber, and is often cracked. It’s not intended for building things. So the plan was to whip something out that she could use for a few weeks, then drag it to the curb and never think about it again. If nothing else the firebug across the street would haul it into his back yard and burn it.

In the end, the silly thing came out square and straight everywhere it matters, level and plumb, rigid and lightweight, and massaging the many imperfections in the lumber with my palm sander gave the thing a unique charm. Amethyst wants to keep it, with a new top, one stout enough that she can hammer metal on a steel block without bouncing everything on the bench, and retaining the frame beneath. I planned for that possibility when I made it, so replacing the top will be easy. I’m glad she’s pleased by it.

What I like most about the thing is what’s in it. It was made with lumber judged inferior, and it’s actually perfectly suitable for Amethyst’s purposes. It’s got character to it. Once the top is replaced it’ll be sturdy enough that small children could jump on it without damaging it — the current top is splatterboard (as I call it; the stores call it OSB, “Oriented Strand Board”) with a rubberized fabric drop cloth cover. It’s not as shitty as it sounds. And it helps to slow those little gemstone beads when they get away, too, so maybe they don’t make it all the way to the floor.

Where Snooginator might eat them. I don’t suppose it would do her any harm, but they’re more expensive and less nutritious than dog food. Miss Awesome, well, she’s a cat, and the beads are small and round, so to her they’re toys. Cats prefer small toys that have been beneath appliances to those that have not. So, since the critter/two-leg bondings have worked out that the cat is mine and the dog is hers, I’ll do my part to retrieve from under the stove and/or refrigerator any lost beads that Autumn might discover and it’s up to Amethyst how she handles those found by Starr. Seems a naturally selected division of labor to me.

And perhaps a naturally selected bit of inferior lumber too, I think. In a strange and unexplainable way, it’s fitting. Perfect. The ultimately superior choice even though it’s impossible to explain precisely why. I look forward to experimenting some more with unconventional uses of lumber judged inferior.

Amethyst’s got her stuff in a boutique downtown now, and we’re going to take road trips to get it into boutiques in other downtowns soon. Eventually we’ll cover pretty much everywhere interesting within our extended home range, I imagine. I expect that to be major good fun. I like bumbling around mountain towns. We’ll have to hit ski resort towns, too, but I don’t really like those. They may be in the mountains, of necessity, but they are not mountain towns. Which is okay, because they’re not supposed to be. I just don’t like places that are too self-conscious. Unless we become the colorful mountain folk who come to trade with the greatly more sophisticated and worldly town merchants, it’ll be okay. I hope.

Amethyst does tend to get a mite uppity from time to time…

A kid who works at the burger joint in town thinks I’m a genius because I knew how to get a balky countertop pump-type ketchup dispenser to perform its function — by banging it flatly down upon the counter to dislodge air from around the pump inlet. He asked if I’d ever worked in fast food, to know something like that. The guy in the kitchen said that he’d never heard of anything like that before and that he, too, wanted to know how I knew it. I nearly wept in despair. Of the three of us, I was the only one capable, without prior experience or present assistance, of outsmarting an air bubble. Sometimes it’s good being in a minority.

So life is good and the future looks bright.

Ugly Cycle

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, with which I am blessed, comes with the curse of random non-circadian cycles. Not for everyone, but for many, of whom I am one. I’ve been in one of those for three weeks now, and it either just broke or just got crazy worse. I didn’t get to sleep yesterday until some time after I swore off looking at the clock at 7:30AM, arose around 3PM, went back to bed around 10PM, and arose this morning at 7:10. None of which are anywhere near my normal sleep period from around 3AM to about 11:30.

Our internet connection has been out of shape, too. Thirteen consecutive hours of outage a few days ago, intermittent outages since, then another outage of several hours today, and the whole town affected. Being of unsound mind and body, I decided to take advantage of today’s outage to build Amethyst her new workbench. Five trips to the hardware store without having done a damn thing yet convinced me that it’s time to accept that I don’t have brain enough to do even simple things.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need sufficient brain to do my job. I kinda made a career out of doing difficult things well enough that I can just sit on my ass at home and people will come to me to ask me to do them, so being three weeks jet-lagged puts me in a tricky place. I don’t know how to fake it. The computers won’t be fooled. Damned things.

It’s these episodes that remind me that I’ll be 55 years old in a few months and still in a profession that is unkind to mental decline. I’m glad to feel Strange-Ri-La getting closer, with the mothership that will give us options by making life very economical. If the software gig gets beyond me after the mothership is fully operational, well, then it does. If Amethyst’s gig is doing well, I might just kick back and put all thoughts of money and commerce out of my head for a while. I could be a kick-ass house-husband.

Except during non-circadian cycles.

Hoping that mine’s just ended I must toddle off before I screw myself up. G’night, all!