About a month ago, shortly after my annual physical, I was sitting in the quiet between the ending of the daily conference calls and dinner, and I noticed a sound in my ears like the hissing of a cassette after the music has ended before the magnetic tape runs out, or the hum of a speaker waiting for an electric guitar. And now the only time I don’t notice it is when my attention is focused elsewhere or there’s a louder noise.
It’s become the background radiation of my universe. I suppose the noise is not just a hazard, like unsolicited mailings from the AARP, of turning 50, and I should see a specialist about this. So far the only apparent damage has been to the quiet. This one goes to 11.
I’ve spent today and yesterday in chores, with a pleasant interlude of conversation with a good friend. After lunch today and the folding of the vast bulk of laundry I quite suddenly wanted nothing more to do with chores though I still in my head had great plans of making beds and putting away clothes, so I’ve sat for the past while and read some. I hear the remaining piles growing tirelessly in my concentrated rest.
The advantage of Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk is that you can see your readers, all two of them, and they might become interlocutors. While I like talking to myself here on the Web, I would prefer to know who reads the ink I spill. And then if those alien creatures talk back, then we might become friendly. Often enough, because of who makes their virtual presence on those platforms, they’re already people you know. But I’m old enough to remember the dreams of trackbacks and magically interconnected blog conversations, and well before that USENET without spam. Our gregarious species forms communities with whatever tools are available.
Social media substitute, somewhat, for the missing pieces of our real lives, in a fragmented, fragmenting way. As adjuncts, they can add some additional benefit, though we’re probably all aware by this point how horrible our neighbors can be on Nextdoor. If we look at them as replacements, virtual spaces are pale substitutes. Alone they’re not good enough, when what we need is the actual presence of others, nearby, in the informal salon of a great, good place. Somewhere close enough to touch.
Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light-hearted and humorous; wit and good-natured playfulness are highly valued.
And yet, I miss Facebook, because I miss my friends, who are there, and I miss the hubbub of Twitter. And I miss those shadows because out here in the physical world, in the suburbs, those great, good places are few, far-between, or gone.
My children and I enjoyed Disney’s WandaVision, particularly catching the references to other television shows and comics. We even laughed at their mistakes. But they had a large enough budget that they shouldn’t be making mistakes with the details: all of the cars in Westview, New Jersey, have Connecticut license plates.
Let’s pretend that this was intentional reference to the Gilmore Girls, who shared a gazebo and town square, and that any goof made in a fiction is an in-joke about how everything from Hollywood is illusion and bullshit. Let’s not pretend that any of it is real.
As the first to receive the library system’s first copy of Arkady Martine’s _A Desolation Called Peace_ (2021) 📚, I am duty-bound to read and return it quickly, so that others may also have the pleasure. Such burdens sometimes fall to those of us most able to bear them.
I love the speculation that is the core of science fiction and fantasy: what if? What if this instead of that? What if Frankenstein’s monster just wanted to be left alone? He didn’t ask to be made. What if “Second Life” and Terminators and Berserkers did not engage in an existential war of extinction? What if the Borg found a way to co-exist rather than assimilating everything? What if Ender Xenocide weren’t asked to destroy a species?
What terrifies me is not speculation, it is—and this has nothing to do with Arkady Martine’s book—how some people find elements of these speculations so attractive that they lust for them. They would create WOPR, Skynet, the Borg, not as foils for our hero but as desirable ends themselves. They play Faust or Frankenstein or Doctor Moreau. They seek to remake the world in their image, and instead of adding possibility destroy it.
After a day out with the Scouts, listening and chatting while they helped with an Eagle project, I settled down around 15:30 to read in the sun as it traced an arc along my window toward the horizon. It’s just about the vernal equinox, and the sun is setting due West.
I’m trying to enjoy Katherine May’s Wintering (2020) 📚 but I’m full instead of envy. I’ve carried that sin for years; it’s always close to the surface. What could she have that I envy? Colon cancer? No. Time and friends and baked goods and pickles. Living where she can walk to whatever she needs. And writing that makes me want to keep reading. No one reads mine, what little there is. And so I wallow in envy and despair. Why would they when I wallow in envy and despair?
Many others now work from home, since the pandemic started, and hearing the sounds of their homes behind them has brought moments of delight on the interminable conference calls. Those sounds of children, dogs, cats–even running water or dishes clattering. Except when someone apologized for a loud vacuum, and took a moment to reprimand her house cleaner. She can afford another to clean her house?
There, I did it again.
Perhaps there’s some enlightenment to be found in wallowing as well as wintering, because I certainly practice it enough. It’s not a practice I recommend. Being aware that one is, however, that’s useful. Noticing a feeling, recognizing it for what it is–and watching it, slowly, pass.
I have nothing productive to add here, yet. But first, some precepts:
A computer serves YOUR purposes, not the purposes of the vendor.
The way an operating system works SHOULD be, if not transparent, then, at the very least, predictable and consistent.
Commercial operating systems SHOULD come with extensive documentation for every function and tool provided by the operating system.
Updates to the operating system SHOULD come with documentation about its requirements, and specifically describe which functions and behaviors have changed.
Changes should be obviously distinguishable from each other.
Along those lines, my MacOS Catalina 10.15.7 needs to update to the MacOS 10.15.7 Supplemental Update 10.15.7 (see item #5 above). It has failed to do so on each attempt. The “solution” should not be delete everything and restore from the last backup. The “solution” should not be reinstall from scratch. The “solution” should not be buy a new computer.
But while clearing out some room on the disk to see if insufficient space were the problem, I noticed that the amount of available storage listed in the Finder, and in Terminal, and in the System Information storage panel were all different. By a lot: 90GB in Finder, 11GB in Terminal, and 54 GB in System Information different. After I’d thrown away files exceeding 100GB in size. (Item 2 above.)
After a couple of restarts now they’re almost the same, but none yet equal the amount of files tossed.
Meanwhile, there’s this giant “Other” category of used space which MacOS claims to “automatically” control (also a problem on iOS), which seems entirely intended to use up storage so that one is tempted to purchase space on Apple’s iCloud (see item #1 above). The decisions made here on what to remove are strangely wrong: why does the OS preserve logs and application caches while asking the user to throw away personal files?
Went out for a brief walk in the woods in the rain. There, songbirds of some kind and woodpeckers flitted around, conversing and eating insects. Standing on my porch at home, I looked up and saw, instead of raindrops on my roof, tiny pebbles of hail, the size of dots, bouncing joyfully down to the gutter.
Waffle mixing here soon. I think perhaps coffee may be in order. I started reading Love in the Western World (1940). Twenty pages in the author is introducing his purpose: It’s about passionate love, adultery in contrast to marriage. He will be arguing for marriage.
Only hear crows this morning, and the cats suggesting I move.
Out beyond the house, beyond the debris pile, just past the compost, under the trees, I didn’t see the log was a deer until her ears moved. She’s cleaning herself.
The house is dry today, after yesterday’s bright blue wind, and the sky dawned ominous grey. My head aches from the low humidity, my sinuses from the change in air pressure. Has she chosen our tree for shelter from the coming storm?
Another log with an ear lies under the next tree over. The snow has melted there for breakfast–and here comes another from the yard next door. None are in such great hurry. It’s an early morning still.
This must be their plan for the day. Now there are five here where there is shelter, food, and water.
Shows that pretend to be realistic should not require the suspension of disbelief. That is, they should pay attention to detail and accuracy. Of course, few theatrical productions on the telly or in the movies have ever paid much attention to accuracy: just enough to convince folks who don’t know better, just enough to create an illusion. Historical dramas are worse; Camelot, the musical, was more historically accurate than anything by Zach Snyder will be.
Some errors are egregious, like the Gilmore girls never paying for their coffee or eating their meals or looking both ways when they cross the street, or how the shelves are stocked in Taylor’s grocery. Others are more subtle, like the color of the light: LEDs used in place of incandescent bulbs or either instead of fire.
We started watching All Creatures Great and Small (2020). I can’t speak to the veterinary details, but given other foibles those are probably as correct as a hospital scenes starring Leslie Nielsen. Attending to an infected hoof in a muddy yard? Getting dress shoes and a woolen suit muddy, and then putting one’s overcoat back on–and having miraculously clean shoes when leaving the mud? Opening a gate and not closing it?
Perhaps pints were served in mugs, but cocktail glasses in 1937 were not the over-sized Applebee’s monstrosities found in episode two.
Cricket, one of the cats, stands patiently next to my head. She’s purring quietly. I will notice her and remember she is /waiting/ for food. Luna, the other young one, runs in to say she is also up and oh good you are too look there is no food and ok I see you are moving now let’s go!
No. 2 Daughter made what she calls excellerated brownies yesterday. They start as brownies from a box mix, and then she adds more of everything. They are good: taste like brownies.
This box is strange. Betty Crocker makes her brownie mix in the United Arab Emirates. This makes no sense. All of the ingredients are imported. The box is imported. Somehow materials, transportation, and labor is so cheap that the supply chain moves everything to a small spot on the Persian Gulf, assembles it, ships it to New York, and General Mills and the grocer still make a profit on 18.5 oz. of sugar, flour, and cocoa sold for $2.00–8¢ in 1913 dollars, when a pound of flour was 3¢ and a pound of sugar was 5¢.