We went to Massachusetts at the end of July for the first long trip since the pandemic started. It was for a memorial for my wife’s mother who had died of Covid-19 in May 2020 at age 89. She caught the disease in a New Jersey nursing home, and by the time she was admitted to a hospital there didn’t seem to be much they could do to help. Arrangements were made to transport her remains to where her long time home had been in the Berkshires where she was interred with no one to witness, which seemed a great lack.
Photo by Muzammil Soorma on Unsplash There is a controversy out just now about whether holders of doctoral degrees other than medical doctors ought to use the title of Doctor before their names. I have some thoughts on the subject as a PhD holder in Physics. When I was in graduate school we would joke about the German practice of using honorifics for people according to their precise level of advancement, so a Herr Doktor would be outranked by a a Herr Professor Doktor and so forth.
unsplash-logoJason Abdilla I read a piece today about how prolonged stress can lead to persistent fatigue in a person who might be at a loss as to an obvious cause, and I'm thinking that that is what's going on with me now. The worst comes at the end of what seems like a terribly long working day, which is frequently one where I felt like I came up short in results.
unsplash-logoClark Van Der Beken I like saying “I’m entering my seventh decade” today. It’s completely factual, because of the way we count things starting with one, and at the same time it sounds more weighty. The first decade was childhood and grade school. The second decade was high school and college in Illinois. The third decade was graduate school in Massachusetts, teaching in New York, and marriage. The fourth decade was research in Pittsburgh and then a break away to engineering in New Jersey and a start in writing.
Here is a time capsule from the Covid-19 plague year for future readers who might be interested in what it was like around these times. The cold rain has come back, comfort to those who worry about drought, but making it difficult to go outside to take in a little bit of exercise. Spring has been as slow to come as it has been every year, and since it doesn’t snow here we don’t have the receeding line of old drifts to tell us how much progress we’ve made since the beginning of January.
unsplash-logoEugene Triguba Last week we picked up our fifth car this month, a white Nissan Versa. It’s a little snug but will be fine just for getting around. We have this because car number four, a Nissan Altima, is in the body shop to repair a scrape it acquired a few hours before we bought it. The seller agreed that the repair would be done at their expense without our having to argue about it, and we’re hoping it will turn out fine.
© Creative Commons Zero (CC0) Free photo ID 82985451 © creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime.com The disturbing thing that happens as you age, I find, is that you begin to notice your mind working subtly differently from the way it used to. From an early age I have set great store by my thinking organ, through all the years of school and the years working in technical professions, and taking care not to mess it up with chemicals or risky activities.
© Melinda Nagy Free photo ID 582639 | Dreamstime.com The sudden violent death of someone in our extended family has brought back some thoughts of a philosophical nature to the surface for me. As near as I can tell, our circumstances did not match up closely: he was living in the East, I on the West coast, he was killed in the kind of rough urban neighborhood I rarely come into close contact with, and while have a workaday routine like hundreds of thousands of tech workers in the Bay Area, he earned money piecemeal buying and selling electronics to individuals in person.
© creativecommonsstockphotos ID 95931871 | Dreamstime.com Moving from one part of the the San Francisco Bay Area to another seems like it should be a pretty minor change, but it’s actually been the biggest thing that happened with me in the last six months. Originally we chose to live in San Mateo because of its location halfway between the tech centers of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It’s about forty-five minutes to an hour by train or by car, going north or south respectively, to reach a high concentration of tech companies.
© Alexey Kondratev ID 8616636 | Dreamstime.com By this time four weeks from now we will have moved to a new place in Alameda. The preparations for taking possession of this condo are well on their way thanks to a whirlwind two weeks of activity. They tell us it’s a slow season for people hunting for a home because of the holidays and the rise in interest rates, so we haven’t had to compete with other people for the same properties.
© Dejan Brkic ID 6798221 | Dreamstime.com Here is a description of the National Novel Writing Month stories I’ve done so far: 2011 Return of the Equinox: A man awakes to find he has been revived five centuries after his death in a world where Earth is dominated by a species of artificial humanoids. 2012 The Rise of Mother Blue: A small tech startup is creating 3D printers incorporating organic parts but the devices become self-aware and things go badly awry afterwards.
© Anna Vorobyeva ID 8789711 | Dreamstime Stock Photos Here I am on Easter Sunday, the week before the diet began and here again this morning, carrying the equivalent of the shed pounds more or less
© Braendan Yong ID 5658144 | Dreamstime Stock Photos It took ninety days. Was 190 pounds, now 150 pounds. Was officially over the line between overweight and obese, and now I’m down to dimensions I haven’t sported in maybe twenty-five years. It was becoming clear to me that most of my long-term health issues were linked with diet and fitness, and that that was going to be the only way to avoid worsening quality of life in my remaining years, I was going to have to do something major about it.
I have been attracted to religion from an early age, though I have lots of friends and acquaintances who have no interest in it or have an active dislike of it. Towards them I bear no ill will, though I understand that this blog post is probably not going to be their kind of thing. For Lent I listened to the audiobook version of Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward as my assignment and it was an experience of a contrary way of looking and doing things.
© Peter Mautsch / Maranso Gmbh ID 1268669 | Dreamstime Stock Photos One of the things I like best about the end of the year has to do with music, which is one of the main ways I pass the time all year round. Now, I don’t hang around in places featuring non-stop Christmas carols on loop so that is not the kind of thing I’m referring to. I am also not big on the music countdown segments that certain DJs like to put out during the last week of the year.
On the one side, it’s been an absolutely brutal time in which to generate creative ideas for reasons described well by author John Scalzi. And yet, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2011. Basically, I think that doing any kind of creative writing is like developing proficiency in a sport – you have to exercise the basic skills, over and over, until they become automatic. The way I’ve always prepared for NaNoWrimo before was to put together a plot outline, a list of characters, some idea of pivotal scenes, and, sometimes, a timeline of the world I’m building.
I have been spending the majority of my time these last four weeks talking about myself to people I don’t know. It isn’t something I would choose to do, but it is a necessary part of the job interview gauntlet. I talk about what I’ve done, and about things that have been done to me, and about what I thought I was good at doing, and about what I wish I were better at.
The job where I am working now is going away by the middle of next month, so there is some urgency right now to work out some alternate work arrangement, and no way to rig up some sort of a remote engineer position. And so, yesterday I was booked on the short flight there, and ended spending about ten hours waiting in airports because some cloud cover appeared in Los Angeles and some rain fell in San Francisco.
Twice a year, during Advent and Lent, I try to do some spiritual reading as a discipline, and this Lent I’m reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle, generally accounted to be a masterpiece of contemplation. The idea is that the human soul is pictured as a transparent castle containing many rooms, sort of a diamond cloister, the most impregnable fortress against the dangers of the outside world. It was natural that this member of a cloistered order would write based upon something she knew, of course, but the interesting thing will be how much I can make of this idea living in the world.
For a number of years Michael Dylan Welch has been organizing National Haiku Writing Month, more commonly known as NaHaiWriMo during the month of February where anyone can post their minimalistic poetic contributions every day. There would be a prompt for each day the participants could, if they wanted, use as a theme for that day’s installment. I had fun participating this year and would like to present a selection of what I came up with.
For every post here I write maybe three for my own use over on Penzu as a sort of diary of what’s going on. I’ve learned that it’s too easy to forget a lot sooner than you expect just what you were experiencing and saying and doing if you don’t leave some kind of traces for yourself to get back into your head in times past. What I write are things too personal or professionally sensitive to want to put out on a public blog like this, or more often things that only I figure I would be interested in knowing about.
It’s been years since I have worked at a place where I’ve had an office of my own. In fact, only two of the eight jobs I’ve had since finishing schools have featured this My first job teaching physics at a college was the only one where I had an actual room with bookshelves and a desk and a phone of my own. I also had a lab with benches and cupboards and could ask the departmental secretary and the departmental machinist for help.
I’m starting this personal blog as a successor to my previous blogs: * Heavy Heavy Water * Poor Poor Thing * Frabjous Times * evilHow * Worlds in the Upper Right Hand Corner I have some ideas of stashing some of my tech work here, links to my creative stuff, pointers to things I’ve found on the web, and other miscellaneous items. I have been on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and Linkedin for a while now, but it seems like social media has mostly resisted the idea of sharing content outside of their walled gardens.