Vignettes

I was chatting with my old friend Arthur over a continental breakfast at the Hotel Palomar.

~ Dave Pell from, https://nextdraft.com/2017/04/02/the-cell-phone-time-machine/

I’m deeply in lust for vignettes. I’ve quoted the opening of the short piece and I’m saying nothing further about it. Although, I’ll happily arrange a few more bytes about vignettes.

You see, I’m a sucker for cuts; Cuts in the sense where one visual transitions to another exactly in the way that the real world doesn’t. (With a hat tip to Douglas Adams if that last turn of phrase feels familiar.) Movies like Up, or Bicentennial Man—which I love, but most people seem to pan—or check out the “Epilogue” in the movie, Cherry, (on AppleTV. Get AppleTV for a month just to watch this movie.) I’m a sucker for Vignettes that give you just enough information for you to navigate… and leave to your own devices to pull up your own memories, and to yank on your own heart strings.

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Water pump

Have you ever worked a hand-operated water pump? I mean the outdoor, permanently installed ones for pulling up drinking water. There’s a lot of varability to them, but generally there’s a bit of pumping before there’s any fruit to the labor. In my mind, there’s also a particular sound that goes with the initial machinations.

Sometimes, when I want to create a blog post from nothing, I hear that sound. You start on that pump. Then you’d hear the sound change, you’d feel the water make the action of the pump more leaden as the amount of effort changed.

But still, no water yet. You’d lean into it a bit more. Some sounds of water now. A gurgling rising in pitch which you instinctively know means the space for air is dwindling rapidly. And at a hard to predict moment . . .

You get a blog post about water pumps when you were expecting drinking water.

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Black Friday at my house

Not only do I not shop, but I very specifically try to not spend one cent. NOT because I hate shopping—I do hate shopping. And NOT because I hate sales, mobs, false-scaricity, commercialism, consumerism—I do hate those too. No, I do it because I like people; And no people should have to work any sort of holiday chaos insanity. I digress.

But I do have a Black Friday tradition! I have a rather enormous collection of sappy holiday music. I shuffle that play list and turn it up. If you’ve never heard Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of Sleigh Ride… uh… I don’t know what to say. (Other than, go find a copy and play it.) Giddy up! Giddy up! Let’s go!!

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The TV in the other room

It may surprise you that the words keep coming even if you’re not entertaining them, just as a TV program keeps showing itself to an empty room. You can always hear it carrying on, but it’s up to you whether to go in and sit on the couch.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/07/how-to-get-out-of-your-own-head/

Funny, but I don’t ever recall the TV being on in the other room. I certainly have spent a lot of time—that’s a vast understatement—directly sat before the TV. But somewhere somehow somewhen I must have developed the habit of turning it off when I left the room. Which strikes me as very odd.

No great epiphany here. Just: That strikes me as very odd.

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Click

I’m a child of the vinyl album era. We had a collection—about 5 feet of shelf space—of classic rock, some jazz, the usual suspects collected during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s. There was sublime magic in that vinyl. My dad wasn’t an audiophile per se, but he had a few nice things that comprised the stereo system, and the crown jewel was a Marantz turn-table. We had special soft-cloth cylinders for gently lifting dust off the surfaces. We even had a little space-ray-gun-looking thing that [as far as I recall] neutralized static charge on the vinyl, (which apparently can accumulate when you pull them out of their sleeves.) A classic Pioneer amp… at one point he found someone who rebuilt his speakers for him—repair rather than replace was, at one time, the norm in America. There was a dedicated cabinet for the gear, with a built-in power strip, and lighting…

And the CD was invented while I was a kid. We—society at large—had endless arguments about sound. I even did a high-school presentation about how CDs actually work to encode the sound digitally, and how that encoding uses compression, and how quality is lost… and I bought more and more CDs. I skipped right over collecting cassette tapes; I made countless of my own from albums and CDs, but I don’t believe I ever bought a single one. The Sony Walkman was the driver for my recording cassettes. Then the portable CD players arrived and all hell broke loose. I only purchased a handful of vinyl albums and I never ever set up the Marantz after my dad died. (I passed it to my cousin who did get into collecting vinyl as a kid. I made him promise to spin the helll out of it, and play music loud— damn loud.) And my CD collection grew to thousands. Then I mixed in my dad’s extensive CD collection which had almost zero overlap with mine. My stereo? I keep a scary-old little AirPort Express plugged in, with a cheap-ass set of “computer” speakers, with a woofer, plugged into the AirPort’s 3.5mm headphone jack.

This morning… “I think some Mozart would be nice.” Click, click… and click… and Symphony no. 39, recorded in 1977 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra streams from the little stereo. Rather loudly I might add.

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Speaking of Pac Man

When Pac-Man needs a break from his endless cycle of hunger and pain, there is a simple trick he can use. When a new level starts, move Pac-Man one space to the right and three spaces up, then stop; the ghosts will leave him alone for about fifteen minutes or so. So when you’re feeling like life is completely hopeless (and it is), find yourself a cozy little corner to cry in. I can’t guarantee that your demons will leave you alone for at least fifteen minutes, but you’ll feel a lot better regardless.

~ Syd Lexia from, http://www.sydlexia.com/pac-nihilism.htm

Turns out… Pac Man is an accurate simulation of your meaningless life.

My dad and I dropped bajillions of quarters into cabinet games back in the day. I can still vocalize Pac Man’s little jingle… bloo-dee doo-dee doodle-eedle doodle-eedle doo! wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka bee-ooh ee-oo ee-oo ee-oo ee-oo oop!

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White-with-orange

white-with-orange, orange
white-with-green, BLUE!
white-with-blue, GREEN!
white-with-brown, brown

I have probably said that sequence—sure, aloud many times, but mostly muttering under my breath, always moving my lips—about 9 gazillion times. If you know what that is, I weep for you; and we have a support group which meets at the bar and the first round is on me.

I’m reading—literally just this moment… I have my arms stretched around the book as I type—On Writing by Stephen King. (Highly recommended by the way. In parts deeply useful, deeply touching, deeply funny, just all-around deeply.)

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

~ Stephen King from, On Writing

POW! my brain muttered “white-with-orange…” And I was yanked, much in the way I’ve yanked L I T E R A L L Y miles of wire through ceilings… hell, I know what a plenum is and why you can pull that cable through it and not this other cable. POW! “white-with-orange, orange, …” Yanked back to good old, kill-me-now I’d forgotten this and hoped I’d never remember it: T568B.

B. BEE! mind you. omgbecky don’t go all white-with-green on me to start the sequence ‘cuz that’s T568A and if you we do B on this end, but A on the punch-down blocks back in the squirrel closet we won’t even get link lights let alone have the tester [magic box of circuitry] be happy.

Never mind when they started using Category-5 cabling and I stripped off the jacket… Actually, with Cat-5—or was that 5+? or Cat-6… I need a drink—where the jacket is sort of partly heat-shrunk on so you need a special tool just to get the jacket cut before you can pull it off. And then you discover not only are the pairs of wires twisted—bro’ that’s so Cat-3, right? No, now in Cat-5 the pairs are twisted at different rates—the number of twists-per-inch is different on each of the four pairs to reduce the magnetic inductance coupling—no, I’m not making this stuff up; pay attention, kid. Oh, and they’re not only twisted, but the pair is actually in a stuck together jacket—so you need this other little tool that you shove onto the end of the pair and it has a teeny razor blade in it that cuts the wires apart like—sorry for this metaphor—like a razor cutting the skin between your fingers, as you push and spin the tool to separate the wires.

Then you can wrestle the pairs, in the right order (see above!) into the shape, like a whale tail. Eight tiny wires that you VICE-finger-pinch flat, then cut ’em all off in one go. Wizards could shoot those eight tiny wire snips into a little trash catch we had with us so we didn’t leave ’em in the ‘ol office carpet. Then—hey, don’t slip!—slide the plug on the end, and stuff it in this special tool… When you grabbed it, you had to exactly judge where to grab cuz if you’re too far from the end it’s not good, too close to the end and you can’t get the plug on fully, and you can’t move your fingers at all because it takes full-strength to pin 8 tiny wires perfectly in the right place after you cut them off in one go.

Or if you’re making up a wall-jack or a punch-down panel you can just sort of lay the wires in the v-grooves—but don’t untwist them too far, each one is a tiny radio antenna—and “punch” them down with a tool that trimmed the ends—which always managed to ping, pong, bing, bong right into anything that you couldn’t get into to retrieve them. Ever wonder why vents on computers, and everything are on the sides?

One. That’s one. This office has 150 more wall jacks, and the other ends of course, and all the wires have to be labeled cuz the rat nest has to make sense…. and then you have to test it and if one single wire isn’t perfect.

So yeah, that was fun. Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?!

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Nostalgic

All people have a “tact filter”, which applies tact in one direction to everything that passes through it.

~ Jeff Bigler from, http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/tact.html

A short and startlingly insightful idea about— …well, no. I’m going to make you click.

Also: Cue my misty-eyed nostalgia. That’s what the web looked like in ’96. Back when I proudly wielded the self-selected job title of “spyder.” (Do I have to explain that? Please tell me I don’t have to explain that.)

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Gaming the System

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

~ From https://fs.blog/2013/02/gaming-the-system/

A long time ago, a social studies teacher had been giving the same multiple-choice, high school, final exam, every year, for [as I recall the story] decades. The catch was two-fold: First, each year he cut the exam into strips separating each question. Yes, by hand, with scissors. He then shuffled the strips, scotch taped them onto a new sheet which did have sequential numbers on it already, and then ran it through the mimeograph machine. There was no way to create a “cheat sheet” for this exam based on previous years (even if we could have gotten a previous test.) Second, the test was insanely long; hundreds and hundreds of questions long. In fact, it was—intentionally—impossibly long.

When he graded the exams, he noted the total number of questions each student attempted. To be clear: He’d note the number of the last question you answered. So if one skipped around, you’re doomed since you definitely get wrong, the ones you didn’t even try to answer. So the incentive is to start at the beginning and just work straight through; recall, they’re totally shuffled. He then computed the average number attempted, and that average was used as the total possible points on the test. If you scored above the possible points (unlikely, but possible,) the points got added to your semester’s total points. (So if you score +2 on the final, the first extra point, brought up your 9/10 quiz score to 10/10. That second extra point brought a homework up from 5/7 to 6/7.)

Have you spotted how you game this system?

Bonus question: I regret what we did, (there were 3 of us.) But, can you tell me why I regret it?

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Nearly ripped my heart out

Depending on how well you know me, you’ll have differing ideas about how much of a “softie” I am. I’ll be clear: I’m a big softie; all bark and no bite.

Here on the ‘ol blog—3,000 posts is coming up fast—I don’t normally bother even mentioning entertainment—”tv” colloquially… Well, I just finished watching Halt and Catch Fire (originally from AMC, but streaming on Netflix.)

Now, maybe it’s the fact that I basically lived through what the show is about. Maybe it’s because, you know, I was the Wizard behind the curtain who built those things and lived through those creations and wrote the code and pulled the wires and bent stuff until it caught fire. Maybe it’s because I’m getting up there in years. Maybe it’s because the thing just had to fucking end on Peter Gabriel’s, Solsbury Hill. Maybe because 30 years ago I made some life-long friends listening to that music… Maybe it’s because I still believe I’ve not accomplished anything and absolutely understand the pull… Or maybe it was just Gordon’s words…

Or maybe I’m not conveying the feeling at all.

…but perhaps—just maybe—you’ve caught a glimmer of apprehension…

So.

What are you gonna’ do with that, Craig?

And hey, what are you going to do next?

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