It’s All Thursday Up In Here!

A couple of things as we slouch towards the weekend…

  1. Recently, I’ve started drinking sparkling water, thanks in part to my friend, David, who drinks it himself. David is cool beyond coolness and I like being around him. I don’t drink sugary drinks or sodas, which means I’m usually drinking water, unsweetened tea, or coffee, when I’m not drinking a fine IPA. I like it. It’s refreshing and a jump up from the usual tap water I drink. Hydration is good!
  2. Speaking of David, he and another friend recommended a book to me: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Activity by Dave Allen. I’m not a huge self-help book reader (except for Chris Hardwick‘s The Nerdist Way which is an excellent book, especially if you’re in the nerd:geek range of the social spectrum). A huge problem I have is, well, getting things done, by which I mean getting something out of my head so that it can stop taking up space. Even more, I suffer from the inability to break down a thing into manageable parts. While I’m only a few chapters in, I am learning some very useful tools for getting shit out of my head and onto paper, thus, freeing my brain to actually do things and, say it with me, Madge, get things done. Yay productivity!
  3. Speaking of productivity, I’ve been working through some web programming tutorials like nobody’s business. I’ve signed up for a few courses with Udemy, including their Web Programming Bootcamp, and am supplementing it with the HTML/CSS course over on Code Academy. My plan to make beautiful webpages is coming to fruition. Learning is Fun!
  4. Sometimes I like to have music on when I’m working on web code or when I’m writing. Lately, I’ve been varying between chiptune and nerdcore (parents, ask your kids). Recently, I fumbled onto a rock/chiptune band called I Fight Dragons, especially the song “KABOOM!”. I’m a sucker for a good rock tune accompanied by 8-bit music.
  5. Finally, a huge shout out to reddit user BorisCJ. After I posted my little story the other day about creating a BASIC computer program to get me out of having to actually handwrite 100 sentences, I remembered an FoxTrot comic strip that had a similar theme. If you’ve never read FoxTrot… what’s wrong with you?!… it’s not your typical family-based comic strip.
    Having no luck with a Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc., I even considered pestering the strip’s creator, Bill Amend, to see if he could recall it. Forgoing that, I instead made a post in the FoxTrot reddit group. That’s where the most helpful BorisCJ managed to track down the very comic in question. Thanks!

    Published 09/18/1994. Copyright FoxTrot,© Bill Amend 2017

Doin’ sumfin’ ’bout it!

This was originally going to be my post yesterday but I got caught up in all of the nostalgia about CUP and so such, and it was more fun to tell that story then what follows and it all didn’t really go together so…

Plus, I value your time & attention. Thanks for reading.

When last we checked in on Brian’s brain (Brain’s brian?), he was in a full-tilt oscillating free-fall known as the Wunderbare Weltanschauung. Troo nuff, in typical fashion, it left yon author lying in the gutters and trying to visit all the stars & planets in one orgasmic pudding of experience. He’s been a miserable sod, as any long time reader here can attest. Histoire Vrai: while everyone was oohing and ahhing over a co-worker’s recent birth of a baby, my muddled mind muttered maligned mots such as “crotch fruit” and “great, another gaping suckhole on a planet stretched to its finite resources”. I did say in my previous post that I do have passionate, rutting affairs with Aunite Natal Ism.

But bitching and bitching and bitching yet again are repeated patterns, noise-to-noise ratios, and fecund with bad thoughts, reinforcing the negative self-images I hold in my brain as well as the double depression.(“It’s two *clink* two *clink* two depressions-in-one!)

“What Is Dysthymia Called Loathe?” as Cole Porter never wrote.

So yeah, there’s that constantly running in my head. I’ve been near to broken by it and, because those sorts of thoughts, feelings, and emotions can give one such a dim view of life, the universe, and everything including the future, it becomes hard to focus on improving my lot.

I have some very good and friendly friends who are unshelfish with their words & advice. I appreciate those folks and their input — especially yours — gives me nice fuzzy warm feelings that I’m not an untalented and feckless pile of flesh. However, I have a lot of things which make people seek me out in some capacity. Obviously, there’s something there that is felt by others but I haven’t quite figured out what it is, because depression lies and anxiety always leaves you with the tab.

What I have figured out is the following:

  • I’m almost 48; I’m not getting any younger,
  • I lack structure in my life,
  • I am not as creative as I would like to be,
  • I’m not as healthy as I would like to be,
  • I’m not working a job that is personally enriching,
  • Inertia hasn’t netted positive results yet

Those are a lot of bugs that I need to fix, and my inclination is to see everything there as a large monolith, which means it would look a lot like this:

I'M ALMOST 48 I'M NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER I LACK STRUCTURE IN MY LIFE I AM NOT AS CREATIVE AS I WOULD LIKE TO BE I'M NOT AS HEALTHY AS I WOULD LIKE TO BE I'M NOT WORKING AT JOB THAT IS PERSONALLY ENRICHING INERTIA HASN'T NETTED POSITIVE RESULTS YET OH GOD THE FUTURE IS A BLACK HOLE I AM STUCK I CAN'T MOVE...

Because that’s how my mind works. It wants me to stay within the confines of said inertia and “hope” things get better. Subsisting solely on hope doesn’t get me out of this rut and sorry doesn’t put thumbs on the handMarge!

So I’m making small improvements towards addressing the above. I’m not being creative? Then I can write more blog posts. I’m also sliding back into podcasting. Naturally, it’ll be Doctor Who based because, c’mon, guys, it’s me. I lack structure? Thankfully, I’ve got a nifty Google calendar on my phone that allows me to set appointments, to know when bills are due, and to remind me to do things daily like meditate or go for a walk. As for that job? I’ve committed myself to relearning HTML before conquering CSS, and Javascript so that I can make beautiful webpages for fun & profit.

Diligence and patience are what it takes if I want to go forward. I didn’t hit bottom overnight and upgrading my life isn’t going to be instantaneous so it may be a while until I see tangible results.

For now, I need to do the things that need doing.

 

-##-

Tales of a Cheeky Geekery

Not a lot of folks know this but I went to Cincinnati’s first ever computer-based school. Well, the school wasn’t computer-based but the curriculum was. Called CUP , it was an alternative educational program run out of Hughes High School during the mid-80’s. Being a wholly unique program for its time, it began the integration of computers into school life, something that I think a lot of people these days take for granted.

What made CUP unique? Students would learn about databases, word processing, even simple computer commands. All homework handed in was to be done on computers, nothing could ever done in handwriting or on typewriters. There were no chalkboards at CUP, because chalk dust could easily make a computer overheat. Also, the fluorescent lighting had special filters to reduce glares on the CRT monitors (ask your parents, kids). In addition to notebooks, folders, and pens — no pencils because erasers, too, could gunk up a computer back then — we also carried hard plastic disk boxes to protect our 5¼-inch or 3½-inch floppy disks.

Sadly, not a lot of attention was given to actual programming, per se, and most of the teaching staff spent more time figuring out how to implement their pedagogy into this burgeoning technology. However, the two years I spent at CUP exposed me to a lot of neat, new things (for its time) and pretty much set me on a technological trend in my life that still causes my older siblings to call me for computer advice or tech questions.

The cover of COMPUTE!'S Gazette from December 1984.

COMPUTE!’S Gazette, the cutting edge of Commodore computers! No, really.

Being at CUP was a really cool thing to be apart of. You had to be selected to go to there, which meant having some knowledge of or capacity with computers, if not a desire to learn. I fit that prerequisite, I think. I’d been monkeying around with computers and programming for a couple years, first on my old VIC-20, then on my beloved Commodore 64. Back then, computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. To be into computers was to be instantly branded as a nerd or geek, the sort of person who would type in the 1000+ lines of code in the back of a COMPUTE!’s Gazette and try to figure out where you went wrong, since the programs rarely worked on first try.

Naturally, it’s all cool to be into computers these days, and many people are fine with using them having no idea of how they work. For me, however, programming is where it’s at. There nothing more fun than taking some lines of text and, say, turning them into a beautiful looking webpage. But I digress.

Being at CUP put me among people who, at the least, had one interest in common with me and probably wouldn’t be like the dolts at my junior high who branded me “Lumberjack” just because I wore a red flannel shirt to school one day.

CUP, indeed, was a unique school, but although the people in charge of the program got ‘it’, not everyone did. One particularly obstinate teacher who was at CUP once cause me doing something that I can’t remember and I probably felt was pretty arbitrary in terms of violation of principles. It probably had something to do with running a program I’d written on an Apple ][c (that’s what we had most of) during class when I should’ve been working on something else. She did the old punishment of having me write 100 hundred sentences, something like “I will not misbehave during class” or “I will not call the teacher a powerless figurehead”, and then have my parents sign it.

Remembering the mandate that CUP required all work be done on computers, I used this nifty little loophole to circumvent tedium and hand cramps. I whipped up a quick program on my old Commie that was similar to this:

5 cls
10 for x= 1 to 100
20 print x$;". I will not blah blah blah blah."
30 next x
40 end

I had also set it up so that the output straight to my printer so that it would create the following in lovely dot matrix print *.

1. I will not blah blah blah blah.
2. I will not blah blah blah blah.
3. I will not blah blah blah blah.
4. I will not blah blah blah blah.
5. I will not blah blah blah blah.
.
.
.
96. I will not blah blah blah blah.
97. I will not blah blah blah blah.
98. I will not blah blah blah blah.
99. I will not blah blah blah blah.
100. I will not blah blah blah blah.

I handed my dad the Z-fold printout (you kids with your laser and inkjet printers don’t know the first thing about spooling, do ya!) and asked him to sign it, which he did in a rather bemused manner. I then presented it to my teacher who, rather than the two or three page handwritten sentences, was given a three-page computer printout. Understanding that I would probably get some blow back on this, I had pretty much assumed that this would be taken to the next level (ie, a visit to the program administrator’s office).

Which it did.

It was over in about five minutes. She told the PA that I was being lazy and insolent. I explained that I was following the spirit of the program’s principles. Long story short: the PA chuckled at my chutzpah but reminded me that, in future, I should stick to following class rules, or “keep my nose clean” as my dad used to say. It was a small victory and I’m pretty sure I was the reason for a couple of post-school glasses of wine for my teacher.

Life and Soul

In my opinion, gallows humor is not callous humor. As much as I miss my parents, I have a distinct irreverence towards their current state (dead) and their current activities (not much), so a dark joke at their lack of expense isn’t out of the question. It’s how I’m wired. Indeed, my dad used to joke with friends often that he had purchased “property in Kentucky”. When they’d ask him where, he’d mention the cemetery plot where his mortal remains currently reside. Dad was a paramedic and would sometimes come home with stories of having picked up some poor soul who eventually became a DOA on the way to the hospital. His kids, especially me with my proclined attitude towards a morbid curiosity, would often ask how this particular person died. Dad’s response was, “his heart stopped beating”.

This is all to say that my humor tends dangles in the dark, crossing from time to time into the nihilistic. In most extreme cases, there’s a distinct antinatalist. One of my favorite Bill Hicks quotes is “We’re a virus with shoes”. In the election that would doom us to the wiles of Trumpian ignorance and bombast or to the Not-Quite-As-Evil yet surely to be obstructed to tedium Clintonian neo-liberalism, I considered throwing my support towards Asteroid/Plague 2016. It’s how my mind works.

Life and soul of the party, I am.

These last few weeks have been rather stress-based. I work a job where I’m underemployed and even further underpaid. We work a rich man’s hobby and, frankly, I’m better than what I do there. Heck, all of us are, but no one wants to pay in this economy. My brain is run through with ruts trying to get out of this problem — because I am still yoked to a capitalist’s thinking. For all the railing and distrust of a system generated to keep most of us indebted and in-debt, I still have that hangover. It was like when I walked away from Judeo-Christian (ie, “religious”) beliefs. Even though I knew I was getting away from a system that was harshly authoritarian and patriarchal, I still had doubt in my doubt. Anyways, it means that I have a hard time taking step one, meanwhile, I grow bitter and resentful of working for a company that has only slightly less disregard for their clientele as they do their employees. That’s my bridge of matches to burn later, I guess.

It’s hard to stay funny in a universe in which everything is programmed to deteriorate.