Dark Industry

Dark Industry, thanks to SoulRider.222 @ Flickr
The last few months have been very rough. I’ve been fighting the worst case of depression I’ve had in a number of years. It’s tempting to keep a journal of my outlook; hard to call it a “mood” when I just want to be left alone to sit and stare at a wall. But keeping a journal would get depressing in and of itself. Part of the problem is the weight of the current thing, so when I look back and see “day 23, still down” it might be difficult to find a brighter spot in the day.

It’s starting to cost me dearly though. How do I tell people “I didn’t do your stuff because I was too busy being depressed?” One way to climb out of the hole is to set small goals and then meet them. A small goal like “yup, I’ll do that for your website” — and I don’t meet it. And the weight of that failure gets added to world on my back.

Today feels about the best it has though, in really, the last three months. I don’t know if it’s the sunshine yesterday or what, but right now I’m feeling like I can accomplish something. So let’s start by putting some work down and getting it done. It would really help if I could go running again too, and get back on that habit.

Circle Stays Unbroken

If your circle stays unbroken, then you’re a lucky man.
‘Cause it never never never has for me.

Ronnie James Dio

High School was lit by Dio and Led Zeppelin in some personal ways. But Dio’s words at the beginning of ‘Invisible’ were a special touchstone. I had a small circle of friends, and one was dying of cancer, one was being moved by her parents to some remote Alaskan town. And me? I broke my ankle and wound up moving here to Portland. My circle was shattered. I wouldn’t meet up with any of the fragments until I found Linda in a small Idaho town (and we’re back out of contact).

Today, my circle is expanded. The obvious reason is because of the Internet (and being an adult). I have friends all over the country. People I know who would stand at my back in a knife fight. Friends here in Portland, friends in Boston. I even have friends in Anchorage. But also because the rings interlock, or your circles intertwine.

What prompts this navel gazing?

There are some people in my circles who surprise me. Sean, a friend from College who is running a gaming store in Georgia now. When I met him, I didn’t go out of my way to talk to him, or commiserate, or what I would normally consider how you “make friends.” As far as I knew, we didn’t have much in common (other than a slight geekiness) and we didn’t go out and do stuff. But every time I ran into him, about once a month or once every two months, he’d remember me, he’d be excited to see me, and we’d have some good words together. Our friendship blossomed from those seeds he planted. But I don’t know why he chose me for his dirt.

I had coffee with my friend Chris. (Chris, if you read this, I’m not asking for an explanation). Chris has some technical challenges he’s facing at work and he thinks I can solve them. You can’t swing a dead CAT5 cable without hitting a web guy, but he thinks of me. We met through Drew, who had both of us working on his stuff (more or less at different offices), but I’m not sure what makes us click like we do. Yet, when he drives to town from Las Vegas, he wants to visit and chat. Sometimes it feels a little strange; why does Chris trust my judgement? What is in our songs that make them harmonize?

I have a bunch of terrific friends. Some, I can see the road to where we became friends (Erich, David T. David D., my usual crew) and some, the road comes up from a foggy dell, Chris B, Sean. Some are combinations of those (Matthew). I don’t appreciate any of them enaough. But the circle, if you want to call it that, isn’t really round, or even contiguous any more. It’s more like a fishing net with a bunch of holes in the pattern (no, I mean, a net should be regular but this net isn’t, not the normal holes in a net, don’t over analyze that analogy).

Eighth Grade Trebuchet

Miss B came home with a worksheet for a trebuchet. Totally excellent. We’re going to build it in the backyard and lob things at our neighbor.

Uh, I mean, no we’re not.

It’s due 11/15. I told her that we needed some diagrams of what it was supposed to look like so we knew how much wood or rope to build. It’s only supposed to throw a small hackey-sack item about ten feet, so it’s not getting strapped to the roof of the car. Yet. I may build a scale replica in 3:1 scale.

So she drew this out, but it didn’t have what I wanted, and here’s where it gets sticky. If it lobs a hackey sack ten feet, what angle does it lob it at, and how hard does it lob it at? And how much of this is math/engineering she should know at eighth grade? I figured this; she should be able to take the mass of the counterweight and the different lengths of the lever in order to figure out if it’ll lift the sack. And how hard it will lift it. Then she’ll need the arm (lever) to swing in a circle then stop, and she should be able to figure out the angle of release. She might be able to (assuming a frictionless world) figure the velocity of the sack at release, but it’ll take calculus, won’t it, to determine the change in the velocity relative to the ground, so she knows how far it was thrown?

I think we’ll wind up doing a bunch of trial and error launches, but it’d be neat to figure out how the math works.

Wildmen, Wobblies and Whistle Punks

One of the things I like to believe I have in common with my Father in Law is an enjoyment of state history – in the form of stories and places. I enjoy knowing more about people like Mercer and Pettygrove. I think he’d like this book. I usually read fantasy and science fiction of varying degrees of technical depth, so picking this up was kind of unusual, but I might find myself getting more of these sorts of things as I grow up. This is the sort of tale I enjoyed listening to when I lived in Anchorage. The name of the storyteller slips my mind at the moment, but he told some pretty good anecdotes about the gold rush.

This book starts with a biographical introduction – about Stewart Holbrook, who was a logger on the East Coast who had some money and decided to see what Vancouver was like. So he hopped a train, came out west, and fell in love. He cashed in his return ticket, did some logging and then sort of fell into writing as a living. He was a prolific and voracious reader. He moved to Portland because of the library (in 1923). He wrote 3,000 to 5,000 words to day on a typewriter. He’s quoted in the introduction as signing off on a letter to a friend with “I’ve got to write 3,000 words about Automobiles before I go to bed tonight. Think of that — writing 3,000 words about horseless carriages — and pity him who has to do it.” He was a defender of the phrase “skid road” (not skid row) … and don’t get me started on his paintings.

The book, after the introduction, consists of some of his writings-about twenty articles, including an article on a cattle baron, another on the Tillamook fire, and another on the communists in Aurora (outside Canby). His writing is gripping – I really liked the story about the Prophet Joshua, you’d have to read it to believe it.

Yeah, that’s an amazon affiliate link hiding around that picture. If you want to avoid the link, just go to amazon.com. It’s a good book, and I’d recommend it to people like me who like to know a little story behind the place.

Advice on Women

Sometimes when I walk from the car to the office, I go past a huge child care place, down on first and oak (and second and oak, it takes up most of the first floor of this particular building). I like to watch the kids playing in there. One day, as I marched past, head down so I didn’t get rain in my eyes, I noticed something strange. There was one boy and two girls away from the rest of the kids, kind of tucked around behind a wooden play set. The girls were facing the boy and he was facing them. Behind them was the window past which I was walking purposefully, behind him was the wooden play thing. Kitchen? Yeah maybe a play kitchen. The teachers were on the other side of the room doing something with the rest of the kids and hadn’t noticed anything amiss.

The look on the boy’s face sent me back; way back to when I was cross country skiing* in Anchorage…

I went past a friend’s house. Her name was Katrina. We were freshmen in High School together. She was cute and I liked to pass notes back and forth with her in Social Studies. And, uh, math. Maybe some in english too. Bah, I liked flirting with her, and she never said “get lost.” The main problem was that I had a girlfriend at the time, Stacy. Stacy was pretty much my first “real girlfriend.” The first girl I kissed, and meant it. She went to a different school though, and Katrina was closer to home. As I passed her house, Katrina came out and waved me to a stop. She invited me into her garage where we could “talk” without her parents butting into our conversation. I took off the skiis, put them and the poles up against the wall (leaving would be more of a production now than just running off). And I went into the dark garage with Katrina, not knowing what to expect, but thinking it couldn’t be too bad.

This is where I learned that Katrina and Stacy knew each other. A sinking feeling, then some fifteen or thirty minutes of “discussion,” after which I was supposed to “choose.” And then, of course, both of them telling me to go away and not talk to either of them any more. I knew it was a foregone conclusion when I found Stacy at Katrinas. The Jig, as they say, was up.

The look on this poor kid’s face looked just like I imagine mine did when I was cornered like a dirty, lying, dog-faced, two-timing rat.

So, some advice for you, kid. Hang tough. Apologize to the women and hold your head high. Don’t make unnecessary choices. It’s not really “either x or y” — it’s more likely “neither” than “both.”

* Don’t mistake me. We didn’t get to ski a lot in Anchorage. I just happened to be tooling around on my skis.

Stuff in the Road

I hate stuff in the road.

I don’t know where it comes from, probably my socialist side, but I hate that when there’s a big thing in the road (bag of trash, et cetera), people just swerve into the other lanes and cause traffic problems rather than just move it. I don’t think you should put it in your car, or whatever, just get it out of the way. And I remember seeing things along the freeways as a kid, wondering where they came from and what their stories were.

Maybe it was the crowbar that came flying at me and stuck in my car so long ago. I don’t really know.

Last year it was a big five gallon tank that looked like it fell off a jeep or something. I was surprised how heavy it was as I dragged it off the highway. Last week, I pulled a big bag of trash out of one lane on Columbia. And today, there was a road sign (“steel plate in roadway”) that had fallen over and the sticklike supports were in the road just ready to be jammed into someone’s wheels or under their suspension. So when I pulled around at 42nd at the construction, I went up the hill a little way (it doubles back) and pulled over.

I thought I successfully navigated down the hill and to the sign but, alas, a sneaky (and thick!) blackberry runner caught me around the ankle and I fell down the rest of the hill, landing on my knees and hands in the muddy gravel. Not an image I like to present. But I dragged it out of the road and stuck it in the construction area anyway. Bah. Maybe I saved someone’s wheel. Maybe not. Just wonder where this hatred comes from.


I read an interesting article in Wired… ok, it’s true- I wouldn’t be telling you about a boring article I read in Wired, now would I? Anyway, it purported to be about “Google versus Facebook,” and how Google approaches the web from one direction (data) and Facebook from another (connections). But the more interesting part was a characterization of how people use “the internet” and “facebook” differently.

Most obviously, people use their real names on Facebook, and not “on the internet.” When someone suggests something to another person on Facebook, it’s one human to another – there’s less anonymousness. This makes the trust level of suggestions a lot higher there. As opposed to here, where I’m (mostly) “just a guy” and I refer to my wife as Ms B, and my kids as Miss B and Miss K (or the DQ and TT).

Part of this is the ability to ignore and block people on Facebook.

It’s a really interesting difference, and I plan to keep watching it.

A Temp Gig

I’ve landed a temporary gig at a place in Beaverton, remaking their website. I’ll be working there at least 30 hours a week. It’ll be interesting; I haven’t had a daily “go to work” job in over two years; the last one was Interlink. Since then, it’s been a combination office/work from home or just plain work from home. I’m excited and nervous, wondering about the culture there; do people eat at their desks? Will they understand peanut butter and jelly, an apple and a juice box?

Thirty hours a week won’t keep me from my other engagements. It’s temporary, so I’ll be looking for more gigs. But the stress will be off for a little while.

On the other hand, Miss B will be out from school soon (about this time next month) and we’ll have to discuss if we send her to a sitter or trust her alone. Alone in quotes; the neighbors are awesome. What’s the age you at which you were left alone? I was alone in the house … uhm third grade?

Something Upbeat? Naw.

The unemployment line has gotten a little larger; FileFront.com is shutting down, and shuttering their business. That means that I’m unemployed, again. This is not a time for going off my meds and watching a lot of television, though. And this time I’m not playing Everquest 2, so won’t be grinding my conjurer. Nope, I have a bunch of irons in the fire and, while I need to get a full time job for the security of paying the monthly mortgages and other bills, I’m reasonably optimistic. A bunch of my other friends are unemployed too; (hi, Rachel!) – we could practically have a support group.

I was hoping for a more positive post for my 1000th post, but it’s an important change in my life, and should be marked by a post. :)

It’s funny, though. Some of my other jobs that I’ve lost when the business closed down, I have always worried that I caused it. Maybe if I worked a little harder. Maybe if I didn’t make so many mistakes. What if it’s all my fault. But this time, I know it wasn’t my fault. (Thanks Chris for making this clear).

Speaking of Chris; Chris O’Brien was a terrific boss.