Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sinking in

There are certain events in life that are difficult to appreciate properly in the moment. Our existence is spent on the brink of disaster and it is hard to step back far enough from trivialities to take stop and just exist. There's a part of my brain that knows that my wife is pregnant. There are pictures on our living room table of the tiny bean that has the potential to one day demand equal access to my toys.

Back in college there was an essay project... if you could do any job for one year, what would it be? My answer was 'parent.' From the outside it looks like such a mix of joy, gratification, and abject terror. I do think of it as a job, but I'm going to guess that after a while it just becomes who you are. That worried me. Not in the sense that it diminishes what I am now, but in the sense that the brain-chemicals that shape your responses to the world are superseded by this invasive presence. It sounds more hostile than I want it to, but I'm still processing this thing that's happening. In the mental to-do list I haven't created any spaces for an existential crisis.

The danger at this stage is getting too invested. Too caught up in the emotion. It took us over a year to get this far, and while the hope is that it is smooth sailing from here on out... Nature can be cruel and unrelenting.

In tangentially related news I have been informed that there is now an IKEA in Kansas City. It might be time to look at investing in some new furniture. I've had a few IKEA pieces courtesy of sending a wish-list with my parents when they made the trek to Chicago, and you can't argue with the price and function they provide.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Big Picture is hard to keep in focus

Many minor annoyances today. Took yesterday off from work for a few appointments and two of them ended up canceling at the last minute. Now there will need to be some shuffling and juggling and additional time off taken and much hassle all around. But the Big Picture, at arms length, is actually looking pretty good.

The PROJECT is being slowed down a bit. During the phase three drive wipes one of the core drives decided to reveal a large batch of bad blocks and has started losing the ability to speak with my computer. While that drive would have been the first to be retired at the end of the PROJECT, during the process it was supposed to provide some crucial maneuvering space. With that gone I need to be a lot more conservative about how much I move at once so that there is always a second copy of my data.

The easy solution would be to just buy another drive, but living on a budget has imposed many restrictions on my impulse purchases. The PROJECT does not rate dipping into one of the buffer funds.

At this point I am almost ready to give up any pretense of the deck drying out enough to be painted before winter.

Big Picture. Maybe if I squint...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Coping Mechanisms

We each have our own ways of dealing with things. Comforting routines, distractions, mental shelters that we can turn to when things get to be too much.
For the last few years one of my favorite games to relax to has been Minecraft. There's a certain zen to visualizing, discovering, and shaping the world. I've spoken about it here before, but it has been a great help in getting through these last few days. The beauty of Minecraft is also that it is 'light' enough that I can play it while having my computer perform other tasks in the background.

I've started what I will call the "PROJECT." The PROJECT is to finally overhaul the terabytes of storage attached to my machine. Various drives and backups and dusty data that has been copied, transferred, or transplanted from way back when. I have save-game states from games I haven't played in over a decade. I have a lot of junk. Outdated driver packs. Game-patches from back when that was still a manual process. ISOs for obsolete tools. A lot of stuff that's easier to just keep copying than to abandon it.
The PROJECT will force me to consolidate to a single location. The PROJECT will condense my multiple photo, funny picture, infographic, ebook, pdf, TXT notes, RTF notes, DOC notes, ODF notes, into one sustainable folder structure. The PROJECT will use several root folders to consolidate this data onto dedicated disks that can then be mirrored to paired external disks for backups.

That is what has been running in the background on my computer for the last few nights. Copying files around to empty various drives so that I can start those locations fresh and slowly feed in the data and build up the new hierarchy. Phase 1 was weeding out old backups and redundant copies to create space. Phase 2 was backing up key locations to external drives. Phase 3 is half-way complete and involves wiping the internal drives. The end of Phase 3 is pretty brutal but feeds into Phase 4. A complete, fresh, reinstall of the Operating System. That's a little scary. I've collected so many little tools and modifications to my system that I've usually just copied or restored back to my fresh installs that I'm worried that I'll overlook a key feature that won't find out about until I'm missing it... but that worry is evenly matched with the dozens and dozens of things that have been installed, uninstalled, reinstalled, and left various components of themselves resident in my system. Ghost folders and DLLs that are long obsolete but still getting loaded because the Registry is a convoluted mess.

So while my system is copying 850 gigabytes of stuff from location A to location B I dive into Minecraft (running on location C) and try to wrap my head around integrating IndustryCraft2 power production with the Forestry mod machines utilizing BuildCraft power. As an added bonus I've discovered that the IC2 version this pack is running is considered experimental and there are some things that haven't been really documented anywhere. For instance, I created a canning machine to 'normalize' the various stacks of food items I'm creating. Roasted chicken, beef, pork. Carrots, bread, berries, cake... each use precious inventory space when exploring. A canning machine sticks the nutrients into a can and lets you carry a stack of them without having to worry about what's inside. Fun, right? Right?! Anyway, I built the machine, hooked it up to power, and then it turned out that the cans I had created to put my food into weren't compatible. They were from a different mod. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, the recipe for the food cans had been changed. Instead of utilizing three tin ingots in an upside-down bucket formation, it now requires a single ingot to be flattened into a sheet, flattened again into a panel, and then fed through an extruder to create two cans. Or at least that's what my research last night seems to indicate. I'll be trying it tonight, while the next victim of Phase 3 formats and scans in the background.
The next challenge is exploring the various power generation cycles to begin self-sustaining loops. I have a stack of wind-turbines to keep entropy at bay, but some of these machines need more oompf to get rolling. 
There's an interesting Apple-Tree farm -> Squeezer -> Fermenter -> Still -> Biofuel that I'm exploring that will hopefully power all the machines to produce the fuel and hopefully some excess for my electric jetpack. Because flitting around the world with an electric jetpack is a lot of fun.
And all this is just to distract me from worrying about tomorrow. I hope tomorrow goes well. I really hope it goes well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The weather hates me. We've finished the sanding despite the weather. But now we need enough sunlight to dry out the wood, and then enough sunlight to cure the two coats of paint required to finish the deck. For the last few weeks and the foreseeable future we get maybe enough for one but not the other. Right now the deck is dry, but there is rain and storms in the forecast for the next three days. Then there are two days with sunshine... and then more rain. Worst case we'll rip the darn deck out and set up a stepladder. So that's gnawing at the back of my mind.

Then there's the cryptic good news from last post. The news shall remain cryptic for now, but steps are being taken. Steps that should help confirm that the news is actually good news and not just good news because of its potential (and our hopes) that it is good.

When we first got the house we took one of those "What Breed is Right for You?" Quizzes online. We're both pretty sure that we want a dog in our lives. The quiz came up with a breed called the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon. Which was great up until we started seeing more and more Corgi pics and videos. They are freaking adorable dogs. Now it looks like one of the local kennels has a Corgi puppy and is testing our willpower.

Why did I label this post "Anxiety?" Because I'm feeling it. There's so much in flux right now. Global politics are a mess. Global economies are rebalancing and shifting. The environment seems on the cusp of... something. Stress is high. Desperation is high. It seems more and more likely that someone is going to push for an endgame rather than coasting along until the future happens. I'll grant that this seems to be a repeating theme these last few decades, but it feels so much more immediate in this world with near instant communication. And that's just the faint background noise for my own personal issues.

Possibly more on that as I get time. For the moment though? Minecraft just launched version 1.8, and I've been spending time with a modpack version called Direwolf20 which is running on a much older version. I'm enjoying the mods a lot, but it makes it a much different game. In hindsight I kind of regret picking such an ambitious package of changes. There are hundreds of new recipes for conflicting, duplicating, parallel devices. So far I've encountered three different 'power' models that are not directly compatible with each other. I won't embarrass myself by trying to list them here, but basically a lot of my confusion with the various added items was alleviated when I focused on two or three core packs. This makes me think that maybe I should just start a new server with just those packs installed so I don't have to fight the clutter of all the extra stuff that I'll probably never touch. The mods I'm actively trying to work with: BuildCraft, Ars Magica 2, Thaumcraft (not as much though since I've explored that one independent of this pack), Forestry, and IndustrialCraft2.
I also found a PortalGun in a dungeon chest it is my new favorite thing. It works just like the portal device in the game Portal. Which means it breaks the game a little but in a great way! Point the gun at a wall and right-click to create a red portal. Then point the gun at a wall anywhere else and left-click to create a yellow portal. Going through one instantly teleports you to the other. It took me a while to recognize the full potential of this. Going on exploration runs is hard. Limited inventory space means that you're constantly balancing picking up something new and dropping something you might need. With the portal gun you can pop one portal in your base, and then just pop the exit portal wherever you happen to be! No more spending the twilight rushing together a hasty shelter in the dirt to huddle in for the 9 minute night cycle. Portal. Sleep in your base. Empty your backpack, top off your food and torches and portal right back to where you left off! Like I said, it breaks the game a bit, but now I also don't have to commit several gaming sessions to finding the biomes that spawn the materials I need to progress. Something as simple as a chicken or carrot can take in-game weeks to locate if the random generator gods are not smiling.

I'm having fun, and using the 'down' time to keep building my own world and catch up on podcasts.

I've set myself a bit of a coding challenge and I want to see if I can follow through with it. But more on that later.