11 february 2020

I'm nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. This is my last semester & gods willing I will have my bachelor's degree by the end of May. I've even signed a job offer; I'm supposed to fly to the city where company headquarters are located the day after the commencement ceremony so I can attend an orientation; hardly sooner than I had signed the documents somebody booked the flights & hotel room. I feel like I have somehow conned my way into a ticket out of financial precarity & dependence.

The return of U.S. general election season has brought time into focus in an unsettling way; my first child was born in early 2016, & I returned to university classes in early 2017 after having dropped out entirely for four years, not to mention the personal developments of other folks at home, so I've had the feeling that so much has been happening in my life that I don't have the time to actually experience any of it. The lives of others are even further beyond my grasp. I care about them & am moved by them but I can view them only in glimpses.

I remember following the beginnings of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign before he declared. I was in a very precarious retail job, struggling to maintain a car that could get me to that job & pay the utility bills even after relying on my relatives to help out with rent, & I felt like for once there was actually someone willing to talk about reality on a national stage. I said in 2016 that there would never be another moment quite like the campaign Bernie ran that year, even if he ran again in 2020. I was right, but not in the way that I expected. The Bernie 2020 campaign has been better, with a broader coalition & more momentum.

All throughout 2016 I watched the resurgent growth of ethnonationalism with horror. Brexit, Rodrigo Duterte, Richard Spencer. But since then time has so outstripped me that it feels like I have been watching the last four years' news on fast-forward.

20 april 2019

Multiple people in my household/immediate family have some degree of, like, spirit communication. Not really within a religious context; they just receive messages from their dead relatives and encounter strange energies in our old house that have been known to upend someone's plate of rice, for example, when nobody's looking. It's just something that's accepted within my family without any explanation that it be contained or contextualized. The closest I can get to explaining what it's like is to recommend the movie Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. It's something I love about my family and I'm fascinated by and totally on board with it, but I'm exempt from it for some reason. I don't have these experiences at all.

My mother recently spoke to a medium who put her in touch with her grandmother, who had a lot to say about how she has missed the births of new children in our family, and particularly how she adores my child, her indomitable self- confidence and incredible energy, her "sass". The departed watch our children, I guess, but it falls on us, the living, to do the daily work of raising them.

17 april 2019


I have never been to Paris. I've never been in a financial position that would allow me to visit Europe. Still, the photographs I saw of the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris even as it continued to burn on Monday gave me the feeling that I was watching a portal into human history collapse. An acquaintance noted on Facebook that Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem had caught fire as well, and I said:

Fortunately it sounds like this fire was more contained / caused less structural damage. Both of these incidents make me think of everything that was lost in the fire at Brazil's National Museum, though, and of Palmyra, the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in 2003, the extensive theft of Egyptian antiquities… Humanity keeps burning down the library of Alexandria all over again

But today I feel a little differently. after listening to Oberlin College medieval art history professor Erik Inglis talk about the history of the cathedral for WBUR's On Point. It's not that I feel that the potential losses in this fire are any less important than they seemed on Monday. Inglis understands very well the historical importance of the historical artifacts involved. And yet in his voice I did not here the same quavering grief I heard in the voices of onlookers interviewed outside the cathedral as it burned. Inglis does not seem to view the fire as an ending, but as just another event in the unending and ever more convoluted story of Notre-Dame. The cathedral, Inglis says, is more "Process" than place. The original construction is said to have taken about two hundred years, but it has never been static for long. The beloved stained glass windows feared lost in the fire already had their panes replaced with lighter, more in-vogue glass in the 1800s. Statues of kings once considered integral to the cathedral were decapitated, or removed for their safety, during the Revolution. The spire that collapsed on Monday to the horror of the world was not "original" to the structure. We have arrived at another episode in the life of the cathedral, but there is always another episode ahead. The process of the cathedral continues, and this is more than we can say of many of humanity's worthiest endeavors. The purpose of building the cathedral in the first place was to raise the prestige of the Bishop of Paris. What it is today is something vastly different; that is history at work.


"It's all relative to what your community expects of you, and what your family expects of you, and what you expect of yourself… And they’re sitting at their mom’s house with everyone laughing at them, and it’s a toxic thing."

This could have described me a few short years ago. I'm intimately familiar with this situation. What's alarming is who is describing it. The above quote comes from a co-founder of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, cited a year ago in a Washington Post piece about how one recruit decided to join, published a year ago. Unlike many superficial profiles of "alt-right" leaders like Richard Spencer that we saw in 2016-2017, this piece does not focus exclusively on its subject's clean-cut, presentable side. It shows the ugly reality of his all-consuming obsession with white-supremacist ideology and how that weighs daily on his vocally disgusted mother.

When someone becomes a neo-Nazi, that doesn't render them deserving of pity, or uniquely deserving of understanding. We don't owe it to Nazis to understand why they became Nazis. But to some degree, we owe it to ourselves, because if there is a critical point where people who "fall through the gaps" become more susceptible to this kind of ideology, we must take action to ensure fewer people end up there.

I was once "humiliated," as the TWP recruiter said, by my inability to become financially independent and fulfill the expectations that my community had for me, that my family had for me, and that I had for myself. I was never drawn to white nationalism; I couldn't describe from experience why it appeals to anyone. But I was just the sort of person that recruiter described, humiliated, white, and tenuously identified as male at the time.

The period of several months between when I first dropped out of college in 2012 and when I got my first non-work-study job near the end of that same year was a very volatile and vulnerable time in my life. I was housed, and adequately fed, and convinced that I did not deserve it. Unlike the neo-Nazi unflinchingly depicted in the Washington Post piece, I didn't hold back from applying at local fast food restaurants that advertised they were hiring. I frustrated my father by using all the gas in his minivan driving around local commerical areas, filling out applications at any store with a hiring sign. I let him drive me to ill-reputed temp agencies that never got back to me. I had dropped out of school because of a looming mental health crisis, but in the short term, the thoughts I had, that I didn't deserve to live, &c, only got worse.

Back in 2013-2014, when I was working at an unprofitable Target store in central Massachusetts, begging to pick up unwanted shifts in an often futile attempt to maintain more than 12 hours of work per week, constantly terrified that I'd lose my job (in employee reviews I was told first that I was working too slowly, and not covering enough ground, then that I had improved my pace but I wasn't accurate enough, and eventually told that they couldn't give me a higher rating because the store couldn't afford the pay raise that would accompany it), or that I'd lose our appartment and my partners would become homeless while I moved back in with my parents, or just worried that if I decided to buy a McChicken on the way home from work my debit card would be declined -- under those circumstances my mental health was still probably better, overall, than it was when I first dropped out of college and was living unemployed in my father's house. Because even as I struggled with my job, I had the sense that I had something to live for. I didn't have that when I first dropped out of college.

Alienated, unemployed youth of all genders and ethnic backgrounds are caught in a psychological crisis, a social crisis, and it is one of capitalism's many failures of humanity that we allow this crisis to prevail. When those youth also happen to be white and male, this crisis is also a tinderbox feeding fascism and mass murder.

12 october 2018

I am sitting in a classroom waiting for my first class of the day as I type this, listening to Chassol's Big Sun yet again. Lately my local NPR station has been presenting some of its historical "StoryCorps" interviews, so I have heard a couple of these on my car radio before class in the morning, and they have been fairly tearjerking. There was an interview with Juan Romero, the man who held Robert F. Kennedy as he lay dying. Romero was a bellhop at the hotel where Kennedy had been staying, and recalled how Kennedy made a remarkable & congenial effort to aquaint himself with Romero and other members of the hotel staff, how all he could think to do when Kennedy was shot while shaking Romero's hand was to keep his head off the cold floor and give him the rosary beads he kept in his pocket. And there was an interview with Melvin Pender, who was ordered by the U.S. military to leave Vietnam, where one of the conscripts for whom he was responsible had just died in combat, to compete in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where his roommate was John Carlos, a track athlete who famously delivered a Black Power salute from the podium as he was awarded a bronze medal. Pender and other athletes sent by the military were extensively warned not to participate in any such demonstration under threat of demotion, which would have meant Pender would not be able to return to the platoon he had promised to take care of. Pender recalled that after that eventful medal ceremony, Carlos, on the verge of tears, told him "I did what I had to do," & Pender told him he was proud of Carlos.

I have been looking to history, as many of us have, to answer a pertinent question: What is there for us to do, when we barely have control over our own individual lives? How do we stand up to injustice when we are only footsoldiers in the dominant social order, which has co-opted the formalities of democracy to lend authority to our marching orders? More and more, I suspect the answer will often lie outside the obviously or overtly political, & definitely outside traditional partisan lines. I am thinking, for example, of mutual aid, and also of anti-pipeline activism, which is thoroughly opposed by of the two dominant U.S. political parties and largely disowned by the other. I am thinking of local public libraries offering Spanish-language information on immigration law to patrons, and of the U.S. and French farmers who have been indicted by authorities for providing water, food, & temporary shelter to migrants in border regions.

But then, for me all of this is theoretical, because I spend essentially all my time trying to bring myself & my family into a more stable financial situation, through work & school. But I'd hope that if I had to do something in the city I'd at least be capable of videorecording a police officer who is moving to arrest someone, should that occur in front of me, but then there is the question of my everyday anxiety. Am I going to let that get the better of me?

I have reached what I think is the busiest point in my academic career since I came back to university to study computer science. As I've mentioned, this is my first semster studying CS full-time, and I'm trying to determine how much more simultaneous coursework I can handle before I have to step back and make some difficult decisions. I think I can sustain this level, at least, for a little while. There's some medical forms I need to submit that I wasn't aware of; I will not be allowed to register for fall courses until I have submitted immunization records, and I am trying to determine whether this hold will remain in place until I also submit paperwork from a physical exam. I hope this is not the case, because I have not had a physical exam recently enough and the earliest one I could schedule is after course registration opens. I can't keep going to my current GP for insurance reasons, so I have scheduled a physical at a comprehensive LGBT health clinic in Boston. I'm excited because I know it's a very good medical practice, but I'm also a little anxious because getting into Boston is difficult; either I have to carefully time a trip by public transit which will take a couple hours each way and involve several transit systems, or I have to find somewhere to park my car, either at transit stations whose parking lots tend to fill up, or at my destination, where I have to hope a metered spot is open or wind up paying a couple hours' wages to park in a garage.

03 october 2018

This morning on my way to classes, as I drove through a five-way intersection in the middle of my hometown, I was confronted by someone standing on the sidewalk, screaming and gesticulating seemingly at me, although I heard them long before I had actually arrived at the intersection. They were tall, thin, appeared to be in their fourties or fifties, with short hair, dark clothing, a sweatshirt and a black baseball cap with white text I didn't see closely enough to read, over short hair. Their voice was in a baritone range; I couldn't clearly make out a word of what they were saying, except that some variation of fuck was invovled; I turned down NPR and even rolled down my window just a crack to figure out what was being said; I at first I thought the petitioner's speech ended with something like "You're not taking my fucking kids," but as I waited at the intersection they seemed to start their speech over again, and I thought perhaps it ended with "Fuck you and your fuckin' kids," or "Fuck you, and you're fuckin' queer." (I was wearing my "Fully Automated Queer Space Anarchism" sweatshirt, but, as I mentioned, I think this tirade started before this person and I could see each other.) Just before I finally crossed the intersection, the petitioner took advantage of the walk signal to cross the section of road I was about to enter, moving from the sidewalk they'd been occupying just outside a tiny daycare playground to one at the corner of a gas station, and started the routine all over again.

17 september 2018

~holyspiritomb, try this command: figlet -f jerusalem.flf "jzehvu"

                                    ___ _______ ___ ______________ _______
                                   |_  |_____  |_  |____  \__   __\.  __  |
                                     | | _   | | |_| _  | |  | |   | |  | |
                                     | || |  | |    | | |_|  | |   | |  | |
                                     |_||_|  |_|    | |      |_|   |_|  |_|

Spouse E's birthday came recently but I was woefully unprepared for it. Been wrapped up in the trip they just took and in the chaotic details of my own life. I feel like kind of a lousy spouse and I'm trying to think of ways to show that I care even though I'm a mess right now. My sister's birthday is this month too.

Gonna convene with my advisor and try to come up with tentative answers to questions like when I'm graduating, what courses I should take next semester, &c.

I saw the advisor and worked out what I need to work out. I always get this impression, possibly mistaken, that he's bored to death whenever I talk to him. He was fiddling with a Rubik's Cube when I stepped into his office, and solved it a few seconds after I sat down.

When I asked about what natural science course I should take next semester, he said a lot of people take Life Science for that requirement, but he said it was "a waste of money". He said something later about how I could take "real biology" instead, but I'm leaning toward an earth science course anyway.

I hope to take Spouse E out on a little date this weekend. I've got to get them to think about the sort of place they'd like to go, though.

Studying astronomoy has brought to mind watching Jack Horkheimer's 5-minute Star Gazer segments on PBS in the late 1990s. Here's one on YouTube.

14 september 2018

Yesterday afternoon several houses not far from where I live exploded, something to do with the gas pipes. My grandparents had to evacuate their neighborhood. Neither of them can drive right now, so they got in their neighbor's car and had my aunt pick them up elsewhere. A woman interviewed by NPR was at work two towns over when it happened, and because the buses were shut down she had to walk several miles to her children so she could bring them to a shelter; she said, "I'm exhausted, my feet hurt, my blood pressure's high. My kids are uncomfortable, and my grandkids. But I still have to show up to work." This, I guess, is the thing that makes me anticapitalist: that no one has any time to breathe.

I wound up leaving my math class halfway through, shortly before 20h last night; Spouse E and my sister were trying to get back home from Boston, but they had gone into the city by train, and the train was shut down, so they got a ride from my step-dad, but the highway was gridlocked and several exit ramps closed, and Spouse E was texting me to say we should pack some things and be prepared in case our neighborhood had to be evacuated too. That never ended up happening. I'm writing from my assembly language class right now.

I went to my advisor's office to ascertain his office hours after my classes; I need to ask him when I can expect to graduate now that I'm a full time student & figure out what courses I should take next semester. But when I got to his office I found the entire department faculty had moved out of the building, so I went around the unending construction on campus to the recently reopened and renamed building that now houses the computer science department. I've got an appointment to speak to my advisor on Monday.

Trying to work now that classes are over for the day but I'm kinda lacking direction. I was assigned to finish up a project another intern was working on over the summer, but there's still some disagreement to be settled about how it ought to be done. The project I'd been working on all summer is now essentially deployed and in use but at my manager's direction I'm looking for other people on the team whether it will handle everything they need it to.

There's some really simple tickets I could work on, but unfortunately, I might not have enough time to test them before I have to call it quits for the day, & the people who would have to approve my work on that are notoriously slow to merge branches.

01 september 2018

Really kinda depressed for no reason today? It's fall though, in the sense that it's September and the fall semester is about to start, so that's par for the course, so to speak. Trying to be caffeinated & alert enough to be responsive to my child.

~holyspiritomb's relatives from New Jersey are coming to our house today & I'm already in that overwhelmed state where it feels like people are talking loudly on purpose even though said relatives haven't arrived yet.

I had to tell my mom I have to give her part of our rent payment a week late; we're a little worried about Spouse E & my sister having enough money for their upcoming medical trip to the West Coast, to cover food & local transportation, though thankfully we've already paid for their airfare & lodging. Our rent payments don't even fully cover my mom's mortgage on the two-family house we share, so it's distressing when we can't even pay it on time. Yesterday Spouse E asked me why we're always broke & I suggested maybe it's because we're a family of five (me & my two spouses, our child, and my sister, who eats her meals & goes to most of her medical appointments with us) trying to live on the income of an undergraduate intern (me) and one other person who gets relatively small monthly disability payments.

We often talk about how crowded this town is, considering there's basically nothing of interest to do around here.

.dP'     `M
dM'       ` ,pW"Wq.   `7M""MMF' ,pMMMMMF'`7MMpdMAo.`7MMF'`7MMF',p6"bo
MM         6W'   `Wb    M  MM   8I   MM    MM   `Wb  MM   ,MM 6M'  OO
MM.        8M     M8   ,P  MM   `YmmmMM    MM    M8  MM ,' MM 8M
`Mb.     ,'YA.   ,A9 . d'  MM    dP  MM    MM   ,AP  MM'   MM YM.    ,
  `"bmmmd'  `Ybmd9'  8M' .JMML..JP .JMML.  MMbmmd' .JMML..JMML.YMbmd'

I was in a mood earlier and without thinking much spammed chat with some figlet output like the above, using the moscow.flc control file that converts certain ASCII input characters to Cyrillic letters. Above is in the Georgia11.flf font.

Socializing is hard but ~holyspiritomb's relatives are nice, so that helps. They brought a very young kitten they're fostering. Kitten & my child are napping with ~holyspiritomb in their bedroom.

My mood is seriously messed up today. I drove out to pick up some food and I was just really freaked out by all people cutting me off on the road like they usually do, and I think my reaction time was slower than usual.

~holyspiritomb's niece just piled a bunch of stuffed animals on my lap, so now I'm just sitting here in the rocking chair holding them, which is nice. Said niece is happily exploring some of our toys on her own.

I might try to see a psychological counsellor at my school, when the semster starts? I'm kinda nervous that they wouldn't know what to do, though, with a 27-year-old parent & whatnot. But I guess it's better to try it than to… not try it.

31 august 2018

The moon was bright in cloudless blue of the morning sky, gibbous and decidedly round, no danger of mistaking it for a mere disk in the heavens. And suddenly, as your car lurched down the interstate you felt that if you could only shake off the distractions of groceries & work & paying the electric bill, and just think broadly enough, just remain fully lucid & conscious for more than a few seconds at a time, that you could touch the moon without effort, & countless other spheres across space.

28 august 2018

Our child took a long nap yesterday, so the spouses & I watched an episode of Bob's Burgers together, something we used to do a lot before we were parents. The show has so many characters who say & do things that our family does, but that we wouldn't see on television otherwise. The line that stands out from the episode we watched yesterday is something Linda says to Bob as Bob prepares to drive in a horrible blizzard: "Don't call Triple A, because we don't have them, and we owe them money from when we did."

The thought of working on my poetry project or on my old interactive fiction project (in Inform 6) is so appealing right now, but it is not happening yet.

It's hard to explain how immersive IF can be. It's to do with environment as narrative, and with the experience of learning the rules of interaction. It's a conversation. That's what made me want to put so much metanarrative into my project, because often with a thing like that, why someone made it can add another layer to the story.

Or maybe it's because I read a lot of Lemony Snicket in grade school.

27 august 2018

One time I was determined to visit my favorite piece in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in the Temple Room, and I didn't realize the museum was about to close, and we had to go through rooms where they'd already turned off the lights to make our way out.

I try to visit this one every time I'm at the museum; I just feel calmer whenever I get to see him. He dates from the 12th century and is made of Japanese cypress with gold. Museum materials call him Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light.

Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light

I feel most at home in these sort of neglected, utilitarian places, the unrenonvated upper floors of the 1960s-built university library, the 190th Street A train station in New York, the wide stairways where I used to study while awaiting a ride home in high school. All of them good places to see autumn foliage, come to think of it.

The view of New York I miss most is sunrise on a cold Sunday morning, as viewed from the elevated section of the 7 train in Queens. On the way out to Flushing, maybe.

26 august 2018

My sister was using the rather decrepit old laptop I gave her to study C++ some more today. She's moving along very quickly; on Friday she was compiling some basic Hello World stuff and today she was learning to separate function implementations into separate source files and put the forward declarations in header files and use header guards. She learned a little Java back in middle school and she's picked up some Python along the way but I think she picks this stuff up really quickly. I showed her how to construct a simple GNU Makefile for a project with multiple source files; she's working in Geany for now because she had some trouble setting up Code::Blocks, & I suggested that she learn how to manage Makefiles and such manually because that's how we did it in school & it's easier for me to help with that.

give me love, give me love, give me
peace on earth
give me light, give me life, keep me
free from birth
give me hope, help me cope with this
heavy load
trying to touch & reach you with
heart & soul

I've long thought that would be the song I'd use for the end of my hypothetical film adaptation of Murakami Haruki's Kafka on the Shore. Kafka, having made some kind of peace, listens to it on the train back to Tokyo. I adapt novels as films in my head while I read them. I had this whole strategy in my head, to clearly imply the nature of Oedipal curse without luridly spelling it out to the viewer. I don't know how well it would work out as an actual movie.

When I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I imagined it as a miniseries. I gave Andrew Bird a cameo as the whistling bellhop. It's a really good show; I want everyone to see it. I think Netflix would give anything for it if I actually had anything to show them.

But it's not just book adaptations. There's my remake of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, starring Sonequa Martin-Green, and with the "Author" character replaced by one of these Silicon Valley "innovators" with an alarming cult of personality. It's contemporary, and American, but has the same pace & mystery as Tarkovsky's. That's probably the most outlandish of my head-films.

There's original material too. But I think I may have talked about that on feels before?

25 august 2018

I've stolen so much time, I'm in debt I will never repay.

Anytime I'm writing here, I'm stealing time. I ought to be stopped.

We drove out to somewhere near the coast today, and I paid $10 for the privilige of parking in a crowded gravel lot at a farm that grows corn & sunflowers. No one was there to see the corn of course; everyone was there to pose beside the sunflowers or run about them with their dogs, or, like us, to show them to their children.

Our child was impressed, at how tall and bright they were, at how they were growing in thick rows with dark tunnels running between, at their thick stalks adapted to swivel the blossoms to track the sun. She was impressed at the maize too, shouted "That's yummy!" in passing.

Spouse E turned to me in the car today, after we'd squandered some money at Target on coffee to brew later, and asked whether he was stopping me from doing the things I wanted to do.

"What would I be doing?" I asked.

"I don't know, going to festivals and movies and stuff?"

But there's no blame for that. There's just not enough time or money for me to complain about how there's never enough time or money.

Spouse H is out of the medication that helps him remember to eat regularly and check our child's diaper and respond when people ask him questions and stuff, but he's having trouble getting his doctor to convince his insurance company to pay for said medication so today he was just kinda trying to cope with withdrawing from it.

I think my big selfish desire is basically to spend one week as an independent adult with enough money and time to do just, like, whatever I want. A movie, a bus to New York, sleeping in a cheap room with free coffee somewhere, sneaking out early to watch the sun rise over the East River. I feel a lot of guilt when I think about things like that.

I've listened to "You're High" by Agar Agar far too many times lately.

I'm thinking about someone to whom I haven't written in far too long. If I could sit down and just write stuff — more stuff than I've written here — I'd want to write to a couple other people on tilde.town too; I've been browsing your feels in the stolen moments just before I deposit my own. I believe in you, ~joniwoni. I hope you get that apartment, ~staplebutter.

People talk about how messed up U.S. politics are lately, but the mess in the Capitol Building and in the White House is symptomatic of a long-disordered society. It started out less than two-hundred and fifty years ago with slavery and genocide, and certain things have not quite changed. It was not so long ago that the National Guard were called whenever a strike broke out in the factories or the mines and we've all still got scabs and National Guard troops in our heads. We got Brown v. Board of Education but the establishment of private schools and migration of Concerned White Parents means in many places the schools are still de facto segregated. About 60% of people polled after the Kent State massacre in 1970 suggested that the unarmed students brought it upon themselves by protesting U.S. military action in Cambodia, or by being near the protest. And today the survivors of high school shootings are openly mocked or accused of fabricating their friends' deaths by a not-insignificant subset of the political commentariat.

That took an unplanned and very negative turn. But the truth goes marching on, and eventually decay cracks open every fetid edifice of lies, and what lies within is inevitaby exposed to harsh light of day. Let it be so.

22 august 2018

In dreams we can chase the ebbing tide, and find ourselves upon an undiscovered causeway leading clear across the ocean, the world suddenly free & easy & at rest, the sea arrested to allow our passage, gulls leading us to whatevee land awaits us at the other end. We can walk on & on; I've set an alarm for the morning.

21 august 2018

you made me forget about
past and pain
time you washed out
like a soft
summer rain

The first time I heard Sibylle Baier sing those words it was like a startling revelation, like I was just mucking about on Tumblr with my crappy old laptop late at night and suddenly it it felt like this wise and powerful person was in the room with me, telling me her story.

But that's art, I guess. Communication that short-circuits convention to reach across borders, across decades or centuries, and just zap you directly in a part of your cognition that doesn't operate logically.

Making art — for me, anyway — means surrendering the capacity to make sense of things. And letting those things make sense of you, maybe.

20 august 2018

Il est mort
Il est mort, le soleil

I don't have the rest of the lyrics memorized; it's harder for me to do that with a language I really don't know. Everything else is a blur in my head, except…

… sur le sable chaud

On the hot sand.

No more time on the hot sand this summer, I fear. The van is out of comission, fall semester approaches, and, he has died, the sun. Or at least the summer is coming to an end.

I could bemoan my anxieties again, but I'd rather sleep.

19 august 2018

The first conference presentation I attended today was really energizing, a long look at user experience for open source software from Maírín Duffy that got me interested in the field (though… I'm really not a designer).

I… did not introduce myself to anyone at this conference in the end; I found the thought of it incredibly daunting.

Feeling a bit like a failure because

  1. with our minivan im a state where we can't afford to repair it, the spouses and my sister and my child are basically stuck at home when I drive to work
  2. even without putting money into the minivan we're pretty broke and my schlepping into the city dor this conference and spending $5 on cafeteria lunch at work all the time isn't helping, and
  3. the transportation situation will be made more accute by my return to school

Last fall I was a part-time student working 40 hours per week in retail, taking 4am shifts and cobbling together Dead Monochrome Doggerel for printing through CreateSpace in the campus library between classes. This semester might be more about just keeping it all together.

I don't know where I fit into it all, or whether I'm doing a good job as a parent, a student, an intern… I'm not going to think about how I'm doing as a writer/artist becauae I feel like right now I can only handle being three things.

18 august 2018

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

I'm actually only twenty-seven years old, but I have that bit stuck in my head right now.

Yesterday's conference experience was kind of a mixed bag; some of the presenters did very well at connecting to an audience from a wide range of backgrounds within computing, and some… didn't. Some presenters launched right into their material without explaining the meaning of the jargon of their particular technical niches, or even explaining key acronyms that appeared in the first few slides. My favorite presentation of the day was a presentation on Linux-based unikernels, presented by PhD student Ali Raza. (A unikernel is a special take on the kernel — the core of a computer's operating system that handles hardware functions, filesystem access, and basic networking on behalf of applications — where the kernel is stripped down to support only one application, and can then be combined with that application into one thing that can run directly on a computer or virtual machine without an operating system. Unikernals are of interest because they boot much faster and are much more efficient for running a single application than running an entire operating system.) The more common approach to unikernel development is to code them from scratch, or using code from other unikernel projects, because the way a unikernel is used is very different from the way one uses a traditional monolithic operating system kernel. But Ali Raza investigated a different approach; he decided that, because the Linux kernel already has so much software written for it, and so much community support, a more immediately practical unikernel could be created by tailoring the Linux kernel to this purpose.

Ali Raza's working proof of concept required adding just one line of code to the Linux kernel, and making a bunch of modifications to the GCC compilation and linking process. The important thing is that it already works! In the long run, he hopes to improve the compile-time linker so that it includes only the parts of the kernel that the application will need, to replace GCC with a compiler frontend that will perform all the extra stuff he's doing to bundle the application and unikernel together, and to get his minor Linux kernel modifications accepted by the folks who maintain the Linux kernel code, so the whole community will be able to use the latest version as a unikernel.

I'm glad I attended the conference but I hardly interacted with anyone other than a co-worker who was also attending. I briefly chatted with someone staffing a table with a bunch of merchandise for the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation but then they adopted a facial expression that I couldn't confidently interpret, but that I suspected meant that they really didn't want me to keep talking.

I got to the conference way too early and my phone battery drained at an unusually quick rate throughout the day, despite my effort to keep its screen and networking turned off, and a bunch of options enabled in the developer settings menue to limit the activity of its software, and I'd only brought a tiny bag without a phone charger or room to hold any of the stuff I was handed at the conference, and I managed to lose my CharlieCard during the conference. I bolted out of the building as soon as the last session I'd attended let out and navigated the trolly/subway and a thunderstorm to get to the commuter rail.

On the way back out of the city, I realized the train was about to pass near my middle school. I'd forgotten all about the school. I might have even had trouble recalling its name. And then I realized we were approaching it, and I saw its soccer fields right beside the tracks, and memories came flooding back. Not uniformly pleasant ones. But it was surprising, somehow, and almost foreign, as we were passing a place I had seen before only in dreams.

Didn't attend the second day of the conference today because I told my family I wouldn't sacrifice an entire weekend with them for it. But I'm going back for a few more workshops on the last day of the conference tomorrow.

I miss being artisitically productive. I think I want to get back to the poetry project I'd just barely started working on, the one that kinda derives inspiration from the cultural milieux surrounding the Human Individual Metamorphosis / Heaven's Gate movement throughout its twenty-year history. I've got to be careful to write it in such a way that its fictional nature is obvious enough, but it still engages with the social/spiritual questions around this that I find so important. Might share it semi-privately on town as I begin to work on it, then share links publicly later on. I like the idea of sharing it primarily as HTML.

I have a lot of doubt around that project, though. It feels like a subject I'm ill-equipped to approach. But it's kinda haunting me.

16 august 2018

I thought I'd try something a little unusual for what I do here and share some code. This isn't great or useful code. It's actually beginner code, in a sense. I'm used to C, C++, Python, and Bash scripting, but I've known so many people who habitually write in Java and today I decided to have an earnest go at it. This little Java program is supposed to immitate the functionality of cat, a standard utility on Unix-like systems that simply outputs text either from the files named as command line arguments, or from the standard input. (If you need a reference for these terms, I recommend ~brennen's friendly guide on the subject.)

// I only use Apache Commons CLI here instead of args because I
// thought I was going to add a help option, but I haven't
// bothered yet
import org.apache.commons.cli.Options;
import org.apache.commons.cli.CommandLineParser;
import org.apache.commons.cli.DefaultParser;
import org.apache.commons.cli.CommandLine;
import org.apache.commons.cli.ParseException;

import java.io.BufferedReader;
import java.io.InputStreamReader;
import java.io.FileReader;
import java.io.FileNotFoundException;
import java.util.List;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.Iterator;

class CatApp {
  public static void processBuffer(BufferedReader in) {
    while (true) {
      try {
        String line = in.readLine();
        if (line == null){
      } catch (java.io.IOException e) {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    // Parse command line arguments
    Options options = new Options();
    CommandLineParser parser = new DefaultParser();
    CommandLine cl;
    try {
      cl = parser.parse(options, args);
    } catch (ParseException e) {
    List<String> filenames = cl.getArgList();

    if (filenames.size() > 0) {
      // Attempt to read files to stdout if filenames were supplied
      // on the command line.
      List<FileReader> files = new ArrayList<FileReader>();
      // Iterate over filenames, trying to open a FileReader for each
      for(String filename : filenames){
        try {
          files.add(new FileReader(filename));
        } catch (FileNotFoundException e) {
          System.err.println("Invalid filename " + filename);
      for (FileReader file : files)
        processBuffer(new BufferedReader(file));
    } else {
      // If no filenames were supplied on the command line, read from
      // the standard input instead.
      processBuffer(new BufferedReader(new InputStreamReader(System.in)));

I don't know if I'm going to do more in Java anytime soon. My coworkers thought it was funny that I'd try it, as they have an aversion to using the language, probably because it doesn't fit so well into their workflows which center mostly on automation with Python and Ansible. Also, in the end, because I invoked a third-party library, the .class file I compile from this can only be run in the Java VM if I specify the location of the Apache Commons CLI classes, and most of the solutions for packaging the app in such a way that an end-user can run it without doing this are a little more involved than, say, just distributing a Python app with import statements in it.

Attending my first professional conference tomorrow. This will require actually going into the city, which I rarely do. But I'm just there as a student/intern attendee, so I guess I can relax and try to enjoy myself.

15 august 2018

I have no idea if the job where I'm working is the specific kind of work that suits me, in the long run. I spent so much time thinking about whether I ever would land a job in software, one that could eventually lead to, like, an actual livable salary, that I couldn't think much about what kind of software work I want to be doing, and now that I can think about it, it's a daunting question!

Also just… a Lot going on right now. And constant worrying about whether we'll be able to afford to fix the family vehicle I broke so people aren't stranded at the house when I go to work/school, whether I'll be able to buy the over $400 parking pass that will allow me to park on the university campus during the new school year, paying for medical stuff, &c.

I hate being grumpy like this; it doesn't suit me and makes me even less creative than usual.

14 august 2018

I've been listening to early Kraftwerk lately, particularly Radio-Activity (1975) and The Man-Machine (1978) and there's something bith profoundly satisfying and, given the temporal context, almost alarmingly precocious about the sound of these albums. The thought that a handful of people recorded tracks like "Radioland" in the mid-1970s on the ground floor of a small industrial buileing in Düsseldorf is actually kinda freaky and probably just about the wildest form of witchcraft to be found in our modern world.

And then there's this tangential thought I've been having, about life in East Germany…

When I was studying psychology in 2011, one of my professors showed us The Lives of Others (2006), a period film set primarily in East Berlin, and then invited a professor from the university's dance department, who had written about topics pertaining to dance and East German history, who had once needed to subtly decline the recruitment efforts of the Stasi without attracting suspicion. What he described of East Germany was a situation involving some amount of economic difficulty owing to the country's debts to the Soviet Union, of close-knit communities where everyday repair work was necessarily performed by friends & neighbors in exchange for good will & favors rather than direct monetary compensation, of a bureaucratic environment where, in a given year, only a handful of students from the entire country might be permitted to study dance…

But that wasn't a very long talk, and I find myself surprised, sometimes, at how challenging it can be to piece together a complete picture of life in the German Democratic Republic, a state of 16 million at its lowest population which existed in living memory, if your sources are primarily the English-speaking web. My sources other than the aforementioned are basically Wikipedia and Divided Heaven (Der geteilte Himmel; 1964), an East German (and therefore state-sponsored) film adapted from a novel about a train-factory worker and education atudent whose fiancé defects to West Berlin over the corruption he encounters in his work as a chemistry researcher.

Where this ties into Kraftwerk is, like… I've gathered that youth in East Berlin listened to pretty much whatever music they wanted to. But I can't say I know enough about the inter-German propogation of pop culture to tell you whether, say, some random resident of Leipzig would be likely to have The Man-Machine or Computer World on vinyl. Or on a bootleg tape. Or to have heard it in the first place.

It's like what the narrator talks about at the beginning of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, how so much of preserved history is the names of powerful people and the dates of battles, and how that tells us nothing about the broader, more consequential reality of how people lived.

I hear Good Bye, Lenin! is really good. It's on my to-watch list.

12 august 2018

Since we're trying not to be too busy this weekend I'll try doing small updates throughout the day.

I've got a new target for my public_html: to get it looking decent in Internet Explorer in my Windows 2000 VM. I'm going to need a good fallback for the CSS linear gradient I'm using as a background image. Also want to see if I can get an HTML5 audio tag to fallback to a legacy embedded MIDI.

We're getting heavier rain than we usually get here and it's bringing up perversely happy memories of the spring when it rained so much my high school flooded and they canceled final exams.

             | |          |
 _  _    __  | |   __   __|             _   __,   ,   ,   _   ,
/ |/ |  /  \_|/ \_/  \_/  |  |   |    |/ \_/  |  / \_/ \_|/  / \_
  |  |_/\__/  \_/ \__/ \_/|_/ \_/|/   |__/ \_/|_/ \/  \/ |__/ \/
                                /|   /|
                                \|   \|

I thought I'd just leave a little reminder here here that "nobody passes", which is to say to that the guesswork people do to read your "gender expression" is bullshit and if people aren't correctly deducing who you are from your appearance -- even (or perhaps especially) in LGBTQ spaces -- you're not really responsible for that. Also, it's not a race and it can take time to assemble the kind of wardrobe you're most comfortable with. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Spouse E & my sister are going on a Very Important trip soon and for a few days they'll be about three thousand miles away. It's kinda scary for me to think about but also kind of a necessary step for us, to test our ability to take trips and such without each other when the need arises, and also this trip itself is necessary. Hopefully they'll enjoy themselves there too, though.

My sister started playing the first Broken Sword game last night, because she remembered me playing it ca. 2010, and I also started playing the Pajama Sam games with my child this weekend. With the Pajama Sam stuff in particular, there's a lot of odd detail in the settings of these 1990s point-and-click adventures that's really quirky and particular to yhe title or to the group that made it.

Like, in Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening, when Sam breaks the weather machine hovering over his house, while most of the control room monitors begin to show catastrophic weather events, the monitor focused on Seattle's Space Needle shows merely a clear sunny day, & if you click on this specific monitor, Lightning expresses grave concern over it.

The first Pajama Sam game features a communist carrot who says "Property is theft, man" and is the leader of a "Salad Liberation Front".

One of the best features of the Humongous Entertainment games is the wild & often gleefully irrelevant animations that occur when you click on random decorative elements of a scene -- pop culture references, in-jokes, surrealist visual puns or just stimulating displays of sound & color. I just hope my child is enjoying it nearly as much as I am.

10 august 2018

Today I found myself thinking about Metropolis (1927). It's an unusual movie that's probably just about as visually striking and thematically relevant as it was ninety years ago. It's famous among film scholars for pioneering a number of visual effects that pushed the boundaries of available technologies, allowing convincing backdrops that were too large to construct in life size, stunning aerial views of a city of the future complete with fast-moving vehicles, and glowing rings of electrical current that appear to pass over the body of one of the film's title characters. But the reason this still works today is the film's artistic consistency; it captures the apex of the German Expressionist style explored in titles like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and fuses that with a prevailing strain of Art Deco futurism that was destined to fall apart with the onset of the Great Depression, and every shot, especially any shot that employed novel techniques, was executed meticulously to fit this æsthetic. It works so well I found myself largely unphased by the broad, unsubtle perdormances of the cast, who performed in a manner that was standard for the silent film era but can come across as hammy to someone raised on more contemporary talkies. And then there's the central conflict of the movie, which has to do with an increasingly radical division between the residents of a city of the future, whereby a privileged professional-intellectual class dwells in gleaming towers and lush pleasure gardens above ground while everyone else toils at constant risk of their life in a fetid, smoggy subterranean industrial & residential complex. Into the midst of this turmoil steps the mayor's son, a young man born into the highest social privilege imaginable but driven by an almost unearthly innocence and compassion — coupled with a sometimes alarming naïvety — that ultimately sets him against the excesses of his father's admininistration. Thus we arrive at the movie's boldly stated thesis: "The mediator between The Head (the intellectual, academic and professional classes) and the Hands (the working class) must be the Heart (compassion, ethics, and openness)." Metropolis director and co-writer Fritz Lang, who fled Germany in 1933, was later to say it was a naïve and ridiculous basis for a film.

If you endeavor to watch Metropolis I encourage you to seek out Kino's "Ultimate Edition" from 2010, as all prior home video releases are missing substantial (and plot-important) footage that was removed after the film's Berlin theatrical debut to achieve a more marketable runtime.

09 august 2018

Today was better. I got to present the project I've been working on all summer to a bunch of intimidating people from around the office. The cool part of that was that I got to have some technical conversations with nice people. I'm planning to attend my first professional (as in, related to my work) conference soon — a free conference sponsored by my company.

The thing with this internship is that it's exposing me to a lot of very specialized tools and methodologies and I'm not at a point where I can say for sure what I actually want to specialize in, so I want to hear about a really broad range of specialities and really get a feel what it's like to work in them.

I hope someday an employer will sponsor me to attend PyCon.

I'm so boring right now, but I feel like I'm getting closer to certain things I need in life, and that's good. I'm starting to kinda wrap my head around the use of containers. That's kind of a nightmare at a certain level; the work another intern was presenting involved VMs deployed in containers in a VM…

I'm really curious about game development but I always hear how game developers face job insecurity and have to pull consecutive all-nighters to meet arbitrary deadlines and basically never see their families. Otherwise I'd be interested.

08 august 2018

Not much to say tonight. I'm worried about money; what I'm making at this internship is extraordinary considering all the people who have to take unpaid internships but it's not a lot for someone who supports a family of disabled people. I shouldn't be writing this; I'm neglecting people to write.

Talked it over with spouse E a little. There's a lot going on right now but things should be a little better when I have my degree. My advisors had said that would be in May 2020 but I'll have to revisit the subject with them now that I'm taking on a full-time course schedule.

I'm so boring tonight. I want to talk about interesting stuff but I don't think anxiety will allow it.

07 august 2018

I love listening to the rain. Recordings are okay, but not the same as a live performance.

I don't know if it's crazy of me, but I feel there's a lot I'm meant to be doing in this life, like for a wider community outside of my family, maybe something in the artistic realm. I don't feel especially inspired or creative most of the time and at this point in my life my time is all devoted to real (and rewarding!) responsibilities, so it's kinda weird that I keep thinking about it.

About the 2018 Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference.

I went there this year for the same reasons I usually do, mostly to support members of my family who were attending, to stay with our child during sessions, &c.

The one thing I did actually attend myself was a workshop called "Being Non-Binary in a Binary World", and it was good for me. I got there early, and the room filled quickly; a few minutes into the session, people were sitting in the aisle and standing behind the chairs. The presenter who started the whole thing off was a very charismatic and capable University of Delaware student named Joe Kim, who turned out to be 20 years old. There were a number of audible gasps when fae revealed hir age in his presentation; the gathered audience seemed to skew a little young, as much of the conference does, but there were a number of attendees in their 50s or 70s and ze just had a confidence and self-awareness that eluded many of us at age 20. (Joe, like some other non-binary people, likes people to try varying pronouns on em.) But the part that made it really cool for me was that, after breezing through faer own presentation, ey used the rest of our allotted time to solicit anecdotes from the audience, and that really drew out a great diversity of experiences.

There were people whose gender experiences were informed by their immigrant families' traditions, or by exposure to gendered anti-black racism. There were young people who basically found their genders on Tumblr at age 14. That's fucking fantastic, to be honest; I can hardly imagine what it would mean for me to have that at age 14. There were veterans of the city's gay scene who didn't even have the words to say they were trans early on. There were young adults who had just lost contact with their parents because they came out. There was an audience member in their 50s who had presented themself as a straight man ever since they had a child, then found the courage to explore who they were when their child came out as trans shortly before the conference. There was a person who said they would have been a man, had medical transition been available to them in their 20s, but they came to see a part of themself as female when they became a mother to four children. "I'm a mum, not a dad," they said. Another person talked about how, when they first came out as non-binary, they felt they had to shave their beard and start shoplifting O.P.I. nail polish they didn't even want. This was a common pitfall people described, the feeling of an obligation to look non-binary when really there is no non-binary look.

There was applause, constantly. We were driven to applaud and recognize each other because for once we were in a room together, openly.

On the last day of the conference my spouses and I picked up new rings for ourselves from a vendor selling a lot of pride-themed jewelry. We'd all had matching cheap matching rings that had broken or no longer fit. This time we all got different rings in a rainbow theme. Mine is, like, really obvious. Not easily overlooked like the old one.

Some people who I think were from Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party had this really obnoxiously signed table in the vendor area promising an opportunity to take down "the Trump/Pence Regime". Most attendees seemed to be studiously ignoring it as I did. (If you're not familiar with the RCP, just know that this is about them, not about communism as a concept.)

As the last sessions of the conference were wrapping up, a few people from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up outside the Convention Center to cause trouble; I passed a few of them on the sidewalk as they were getting their bearings. My spouse later found an Instagram video of them being literally surrounded with trans flags until they could not be seen. From what I heard they subsequently got into a scuffle with a conferencegoer and were dispersed by police.

There's probably more I could write about, but this took a long time to write and I need to sleep.


06 august 2018

I've only just started participating in the social aspects of tilde.town, so I can't say I really got to know ~abraxas, but it was sad to hear we lost a townie today.

Because we were messing around with some exercise equipment in the hotel while we were away at the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference, my spouse noticed that my resting heart rate is pretty high, particularly when I'm standing. I don't like to think about it much, considering thay I still owe a lot of money for the blood cholesterol test I got last time I saw a doctor, but I need to find a general practitioner who will be covered by my new insurance and figure some of this stuff out, especially as I'm about out of statens and have no refills on the prescription.

I saw a tractor trailer on the highway today that had a U.S. flag and a little patriotic statement emblazoned on the back for some reason, and that statement ended with something about "never giving comfort or aid to the enemy", and I found that really alarming, because

  1. Who is "the Enemy", exactly? What fucking decade is this? and
  2. Since when is it bad to comfort people?

I realize "rendering aid and comfort to the enemy" is an old legal phrase, but now it's got me thinking. "Comfort to the enemy" is sort of a heroic concept to me, something I think I'd like to explore artistically, if I can ever do anything artistic again.

Some great things happened in Philadelphia, but I need to sleep, so I can't write about them now.

I'm tired and broke. Travelling 300 miles with four other people and feeding them for a weekend in a big city is expensive and difficult. I don't regret it, though.

02 august 2018

We took the Merritt Parkway on our way to Philadelphia yesterday, with its historic bridges and tree-strewn median and tiny service stations where the line for the Subway counter blocked access to the bathrooms. We had trouble fitting my sister's folding wheelchair in the trunk with the rest of our luggage in such a way that the trunk would close, but we eventually managed it. Our child got sick near Vernon, Connecticut, like she did last year, but less so this time. As we waited for check-in in the hotel lobby, someone walked by the window with their hair in neat dreadlocks colored in pastel green, blue, and lavender, with fuzzy purple cat ears in the midst of it. I bumped into this same person later as i carried bedding out of the parking garage; I didn't say anything but I had this feeling of gratitude that people were making the world cooler justby expressing themselves? It's hard to explain. I feel more at home, I guess, in Philadelphia than in Boston.

We went to the hotel pool this evening with my child and she sat on the top step leading in, kicking her feet in the water. I guess it's been kinda magical.

30 july 2018

My spouse E thinks I should bring a few copies of each of my books to this conference, just in case we meet anyone with whom it comes up in conversation. I don't really picture that happening, but we'll bring them anyway. Poetry is a difficult market and I'm not a professional, so I prefer to treat it more as another mode of communication than as a market.

A member of my extended family is recovering from a pretty serious emergency medical operation and it's difficult to think of travelling right now, but realistically there's little we can do here.

I'm tryimg to figure out how close to done with my first major project at this internship; I worry the work I've done is shoddy or inadequate, but the person assigned to supervise my work on the project is frequently unavailable. I managed to mess up the main JIRA issue for it pretty badly by mistakenly moving the workflow to the "Closed" status, in a workflow where there is no exit from that status, so I had to file a support ticket to get it reopened. I was also struggling to use an internal CI messaging tool today only to figure out I was encountering an unreported regression in its latest version. I ultimately filed a new issue for that, but I lost time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong; I've had many such moments on this job and that's part of my insecirity, I think.

I don't know if I'll be writing here over the next several days; traveling with family is a lot of work and I may not have the opportunity. But maybe thats for the best, most of the 10 most recent feels posts on tlide.town are mine at the moment and you all deserve a break.

29 july 2018

Last night I was playing around with Chafa, an application that renders ImageMagick-compatible graphics in the terminal using a wide range of Unicode characters and ANSI escape sequences to get a surprisingly good reproduction of the images. My favorite result was from an edited and recolored image I made from a photo in the catalogue entry for my favorite piece in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a 12th-century wood sculpture of the Amida Buddha. I saved the result of displaying this file in the terminal to a file I can display without access to Chafa or the original image, just using cat; I even configured my personal laptop to display this file in every new terminal window. I also made the mistake of trying to share the file with other tilde.town users via wall; what happened was that a lot of escape sequences and Unicode character code points, over 30 kB worth, were broadchast to all logged in tide.town users. Sorry about that.

We're going to be spending about half a week in Philadelphia as a family soon; it's basically an annual trip we've made a few times now. I don't think I can reasonably expect to get work done there for my internship, so I've announced it at work as time off and I'm hoping I'll manage to relax somewhat while we're there and enjoy the city.

Last time I was in Philadelphia, unlike this time, my mother was there too. We went out for a walk with my child in a stroller, and the child fell asleep less than a mile from the Liberty Bell, I decided we should go there, as my mother had mentioned a number of times that she'd had a strong desire to see it. The security regime for anyone approaching the bell is about the same as in any commercial US airport, which is to say it was an enormous hassle, and by the time we were standing in front of the bell my mother was almost too peeved about getting jostled and yelled at by all these Appointed Guardians of the Liberty Bell that she almost didn't appreciate seeing it.

It's been my experience that traveling to Philadelphia from here with a small child is… potentially stressful, for sure, but we've met a lot of good people there in the past, and we've had some really good food. I'm hopeful that we'll find some of what we need there this year, both practically and… spirtually? That's pretty much what's happened in the past.

28 july 2018

Got a cute lavender-colored cross-body bag with raibows on it, and a silver strap, to keep the various personal effects I'd otherwise put in my pockets. I got its for practical reasons, because lately I've acquired some shorts whose pockets aren't quite deep enough to hold that stuff, and also keeping those things in my pockets tends to irritate my eczema or something, so I get nasty skin irritation on my thighs. But it's also feeding into this slow transformation of my aesthetic into something a teensy bit more androgenous, which is good.

I didn't used to get this until recently, but now and then, with my hair at its current length, strangers in public will see me from a bit of a difference and address me as "Ma'am," and then they'll here my voice or catch a glimpse of my chin or something, and they'll try to correct themselves: "Uh, excuse me, sir? Oh God, I'm so sorry." And I guess that's kinda what I'm going for. It feels more attainable now that I'm not working a retail job where I have to wear a store uniform; I'm at a tech internship where the dress code is extremely casual for people on the engineering side of things. The last time I wore nail polish at my last job I got a number of co-workers asking why I was wearing it.

"Your daughter must have made you do that, right?"

I feel like it wouldn't be like that here.

27 july 2018

We decided that our child (about 2½ years old, currently) was ready ready to learn some of the basics about human reproduction, so we obtained this incredible picture book for her, called What Makes a Baby, by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth. It meets our needs in that it's very simple without being condescending, it describes some things she's ready to know (gametes, the human uterus) without overcomplicating things or contradicting the realities of her immediate family by introducing assumptions about the gender of anyone involved or conflating parenthood with biological parenthood. (Her biological parents are parents to her, but not her only parents.) And it manages to make human life sound… miraculous, or beautiful, without introducing a lot of obtuse metaphors. In the interest of simplicity of language, it does describe DNA as "so many stories about the body" that the gamete came from, and describes the fertilization process as a dance between sperm and egg, in which the sperm and egg tell each other their stories (share DNA) and ultimately become one thing (a zygote). She's fascinated with the book. She loves the part about "so many stories" and when I first read her the part about how a baby grows in a uterus, but not everybody has a uterus, she understood it enough to interject, "You have a uterus."

"Actually, I don't have a uterus, but Baba has a uterus," I said, referring to another of her parents. And now she has some idea what a uterus is, and she knows who in her immediate family has a uterus, and she knows that she can't tell just by looking at someone whether they have a uterus, and she knows approximately where in the body it is.

She has an intense curiosity about so many things, our child. She has a few board books from the Baby University series (Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, and Astrophysics for Babies). I was afraid they might be a little too abstract for her, but they're among her favorite books; she asks for them by name and has some of the text memorized, so she can "read" it aloud to us as we turn the pages.

She constantly asks about the composition of things she interacts with. About the foods we feed her, the music we share with her, the art she sees, she'll often ask, "What's in this?" I love it when she asks that.

26 july 2018

It's 7:33pm as I begin drafting this, and I'm sitting alone in a laundromat. There's a telenovela on. This little waiting area with rows of white plastic bucket seats has framed posters on its fuschia wall: Star Wars (1977), The Wizard of Oz, the Beatles, and the Rat Pack. We haven't used a laundromat since Fitchburg, and my spouse was confused by the reloadable money card system they have here; he thought the card readers on the machines would accept my debit card and I assumed he was right, so we tried it. It's a more cheerful place than the one in Fitchburg, which is nice because I'm certain there are people who spend a good chunk of their lives here.

My spouse & my sister came back from the corner store with a little black plastic bag full of snacks. Other spouse is at home with our child, who was settling into bed when we left home. There is a near-constant rattling of coins deposited into the vending machines behind me as children and grown-ups buy candy bars, chips, soda… They have Almond Joy, but I don't have the right change.

The ceiling fans are spinning. A variety of plastic plants decorate the place. A doorway by some dryers leads to a small room painted as an underwater scene with tropical fish; there are two big bean bag chairs on its floor. A sign painted on the wall by the doorway reads, "HAVE FUN!" At the other end of the room a glass door guards a prominently labeled water filtration system.

Near the front door is a claw machine full of plushies; if I were to play I'd be going for the Nintendo Goomba.

Now it's getting dark outside, but the sign outside that says "WASH, DRY, FOLD" is brightly lit.

I love porch lights and old lampposts and all manner of lights that hum and attract moths at dusk. I love the fragile little kingdoms of corner stores and out-of-the-way gas stations and barely-functioning Dairy Queens that we build as ineffective beacons in the night.

I'm thinking of our brief visit to Asheville, NC, now, of the insect chorus at night and of Cheerwine, of bluegrass in the park and the anarchist bookstore & café co-op.

25 july 2018

I wanted to keep writing here pretty much nightly, as a sort of journaling exercise, but by the time I get the chance it's way past the point where I should have gone to sleep. I have to abandon most creative projects like this because the only time I can devote to them on a daily basis is time when I should be sleeping.

I was feeling very moody driving to work this morning, worrying about money and about whether I'm good enough at my first tech internship and stuff, and then I saw a rainbow, and it helped a little.

I'm no longer on employer health insurance now that I left my old job for this intern, and I wonder if the insurance I'm buying through my university will make it more feasible & affordable for me to afford things like having my blood cholesterol levels checked so my doctor can renew my statin prescription, or to see a psychotherapist again. I'm not 100% sure I need to do that right now. I've known people who would say you should be proactive about seeing a therapist but under my last health insurance plan it would have cost me more money than I had.

I'm pretty exhausted.

24 july 2018

I never really had a period of my life where I was young, independent, and had the means to, like, travel or go out to restaurants or social establishments on a regular basis. I grew up in an area with sparse public transit, for one thing, and for reasons probably related to me being autistic it took me a good long while to learn how to drive properly. And then when I went off to college for the first time, I had access to this huge public transit network and lots of places I could walk to, but I was pretty broke. Couldn't land myself a job for anything, and while my parents did what they could I couldn't really afford groceries and stuff. I didn't really go out with people to restaurants or bars or anything, partly because of money and partly because most nightlife establishments would have been sensory hell for me. But the money turned out to be a bigger problem in the long run; by the time I dropped out after three years I wasn't eating very well for money reasons.

And then I came home, and I'd finally got my driving license in the meantime, but if I drove anywhere it was in my dad's minivan, and it really had to be just to fill out job applications at any store with a hiring sign or to go to the grocery store or the library or therapy (for which my parents paid the copays, thankfully) and even if I was only driving to those places I'd have to hear all about how I was using up all this gasoline I couldn't pay for myself. And then I finally got my first real job, stocking shelves and rearranging merchandise displays in the Boston area, and I only managed to do so with the help of some friends who let me sleep on their couch while I started the job. These friends became my chosen family, and the next couple years were largely a struggle to keep us all housed, to keep the electricity on, and to keep food we could cook with whatever assortment of appliances in our kitchen would actually work at the time, to scrounge up enough money for the minimum allowed delivery of oil to heat our apartment, to get us to a bunch of specialist medical appointments in a city where we sometimes could not afford to park our car &c. We became more committed to each other, more interdependent. We chose to have a child, who is now two years old. I went back to college when that child was about a year old, in a different major this time (computer science) and I've still got a couple years to go before I finish my bachelor's degree, and…

I'm sorry, this is the most boring thing I could have written. But it's something I have to explain to people all the time, when people try to connect with me over what bands I've seen live or what places I like to go out to or if I can recommend a really good place for dinner. I've never really lived that life.

I did manage to get a ticket to concert once before I dropped out of college. It was Andrew Bird. I didn't realize the concert was standing room only, and I was traveling with my enormous overnight bag, and I didn't have enough cash to check the bag when I got there, so I stood with it, back near the bar where I couldn't afford any drinks and didn't dare ask for water, through the show. I left during the encore because I was afraid I'd miss the bus back to New York.

Perhaps some people weren't meant to live alone.

23 july 2018

I really wanted to embed a MIDI here on my page. In a place like tilde.town there's a good chance folks reading this will understand the appeal of MIDI, but I found to my dismay that the format is not natively handled these days by either Firefox or Chrome. The format has its disadvantages; unlike various tracker MOD formats with built-in samples, for example, its sound will vary depending on the soundfonts available wherever the file is ultimately played, and it's ultimately limited to the kind of data you can express in sheet music. MIDI is like… the Microsoft Word document format of music. It has certain advantages; it was designed to be a native format for digital musical instruments, and it supports much of the same metadata that could appear in sheet music, including timed lyrics. But the reason so many of us downloaded MIDI files ca. 2002 was the file size and portability. You could download one over a bad dial-up connection in less time than it took to listen to the entire song, and you could keep a whole bunch of them on a 1.44MB 3½" floppy disk; and if you embedded one in your Geocities page, Internet Explorer could just play it without anyone needing to install Quicktime or RealPlayer.

I didn't have any MIDI files on my hard drive anymore, but it didn't take much searching, in the end, to dig up one of my favorites again, a little arrangement of some background music from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a 95-second piece called "Hedgehog's Dilemma". The file, in its original format, is 6.9 kB. Rendered to lossless WAV using timidity and reencoded as a variable-bitrate MP3 of average quality using lame, the filesize balloons to 1.6MB, decidedly too large for the floppy disks I used to put these on.

As our internet infrastructure has scaled up to handle ever more data at ever faster speeds, they've dropped compatibility with some of the formats and techniques we used to negotiate these limitations. And maybe I don't need embedded MIDI, but it makes me wonder how we're treating the developing world, or how we're treating those holes in the broadband maps of developed countries, those pockets of a country like the USA where people are using dial-up or a spotty satellite-based connection. Or how we're treating vast populations of people who access the internet primarily through mobile phones on a 1GB/month mobile data plan.

There's a lost artistry to making MIDI files that sound good or even tolerable. The track names metadata in a MIDI arrangement of the Neon Genesis Evangelion theme "A Cruel Angel's Thesis" have been used to store this note: "Edited and remixed by ranma@umich.edu. Long, tedious job, damn it!" A highly layered and sophisticated MIDI arrangement of ABBA's "Lay All Your Love on Me", arranged by John Schlegel in May 1996, helpfully suggests, "If Your Syth will accept them, try turning on the above tracks for a more layered, fuller sound!!"

I talked to my father this evening, 44 minutes on the phone. We mostly talked about cars. I don't really grok cars, and I don't generally like talking about them. But when I'm talking with my dad, I'd rather be talking about cars than just about anything else we could theoretically discuss.

22 july 2018

Probably the greatest obstacle to social progress in our time is the subtle stratification of class society that allows us to believe we are living a "hyperconnected" age while we remain ignorant to the way others live. Two months ago I was working in a godforsaken warehouse store near home where my manager was resentful that I would leave work an hour earlier than usual on certain days to attend college classes and people would freak out if the person assigned to requisition a few breakfast foods for the Friday morning meeting went $15 over budget. Now I work at a tech company where "team-building" lunches occur weekly, where I get dragged to a restaurant where people buy cocktails on someone's expense account and joke about how they'll justify the bill to accounting. A few years ago I lived in a shitty apartment with a broken oil heater, and when we couldn't afford to fill it my partners and I somehow got a discounted group membership at the local YMCA so we could take warm showers there during the winter. That YMCA shower came up in the middle of a goofy conversation I was having with the team in the cafeteria at work on Thursday and my manager seemed caught off-guard, as if I'd just told him I'd seen a bear in the office recently.

It's not that nobody here understands where I come from, or that everyone is totally disconnected from the reality of most people's lives. There are people here from the developing world. There are people here who have worked in agriculture. But there is some ignorance here.

I am constantly on edge whenever I have down-time at work, because any down-time that was not state-mandated was very much Not Allowed at my last job. I am also a little terrified by the amount of independent decision-making expected of me as an intern, but I'm told that's a common experience here, even amongst full-time associates hired from certain established companies in the industry.

I'm under no illusions that I've just joined a family, that my manager is my friend, &c. My family is at home, and I work for a corporation. That said, it's about the best corporate environment I could imagine working at this point in my life. The per-hour pay is nearly twice what I made at my last job. People are… weird here; it's part of how they attract people to their workforce. People are encouraged to keep puzzles and enormous stacks of books and vinyl figures and Halloween decorations on their desks. I was recently given the opportunity to specify they/them pronouns in my intracompany bio. People opine constantly about the company's social responsibilities on the company-wide mailing lists. I am grateful for all of this. It hardly feels real here yet.

I'm seeing more beauty in the world somehow, this summer. The character of our neighborhood has been changing lately. It's less white, frankly, and there are more children. More activity in the streets; games, lemonade stands, people gathering for backyard pool parties. It's a friendlier-feeling place lately.

On Thursday night we drove out to Salisbury Beach State Reservation for an event where local astronomers were gathering with their telescopes to offer the public views of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, some galaxies, and open star clusters. The event was held at a boat ramp on a side of the reservation I'd never visited, beyond the camping area. We parked where we usually do for beach access, as the event's organizers requested that attendees consider keeping their cars away from the event to keep light pollution down. We walked further than we thought we'd have to, about two-thirds of a mile around the edge of the campground.

I saw Jupiter and four of its brightly-lit moons lined up unevenly beside it through one of the astronomer's telescopes, but by then our child was already demanding to go home, so I walked back to our car alone to drive it back to our screaming child. This time I decided to cut through the center of the campground. Post-sundown, it had that wonderful party atmosphere of a campground at the height of summer before the onset of quiet hours; youth were out walking their dogs or skateboarding by the glow of campfires and string lights; people milled about talking in front of the camp store, inside which I could see a wood-paneled desk and its attendant. I passed an oddball assortment of sleeping arrangments: five-person tents set aglow by swaying-lanterns inside, tiny teardrop-shaped trailer campers that could accomodate perhaps two people, and fifth-wheel campers taller and more voluminous than I had ever seen. There was no wind. Some of the dogs barked at me or stirred as I passed. I hurried on for the sake of my child, but it was a rare moment of inner peace.