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Posts published in “Real Life”

It’s what happens when we’re not working or playing or thinking or doing. That thing we do that doesn’t fit into all the other categories.

Sometimes we call it living.

[twenty twenty-four day fifty-seven]: how do “normal” people manage?

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So I’m confused: I know I’m a bit weird, but I stopped to think about the supposedly "weird" way that I do things and I genuinely do not understand how “normal” people manage it.

So what you see above is my collection of genre T-shirts. I love genre T-shirts and wear them most of the year - as my shirt in the summer, and as my undershirt in the winter.

I used to think this collection was excessive; most of the other people I know don’t have near as many themed shirts, just a collection of normal clothes.

But I started pulling on that thread (ha, ha) a bit and it just didn’t make sense to me.

SO what you see there is something like 300-500 shirts in my closet. I didn’t count them all, but I estimated by counting a few piles and extrapolating by the number of piles.

But if you wear a shirt every day, this is only enough shirts for roughly a year. And I know from *ahem* considerable experience now that even rarely worn old T-shirts, which are typically made from better fabric than modern T-shirts, last at most 20-30 years.

Now, between science fiction conventions, travel, and very occasional clothes shopping, I purchase maaaaybe 10 or so T-shirts per year, which I thought was an excessive habit.

But over 20-30 years, this adds up again to 300 shirts … so by the time that I’ve worn out all the shirts in my collection, I will have purchased enough shirts to fill it up again.

Now the conundrum: most of the people I know don’t buy a lot of t-shirts, and they don’t have a huge library of clothes. So how are they not wearing through all their clothes all the time?

Now, I know my wife buys a lot of clothes (mostly at Goodwill), but she’s power tool girl, and her clothes rapidly get worn out or covered with paint and later used as rags.

But the friends that I know who DON’T seem to buy that many clothes ALSO have a similar strategy. One of them called it “the circle of shirts”: First it’s a nice T-shirt, then it’s an undershirt, then it’s a gym shirt, then it’s a yard shirt, then it’s a rag.

But if people don’t have a huge library of shirts, and they’re not buying a buttload t-shirts, why aren’t they going around in tattered rags all the time?

What do “normal” people do? Go to Target and buy white T-shirts every week, as the six pairs of shirts and undies that they have rapidly disintegrate from the rotation?

I genuinely don't get it.

-the Centaur

Pictured: my collection of T-shirts, some of which do eventually get retired from wear.

[twenty twenty-four day fifty-five]: like it always was that way

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According to legend, the man who built this house died in this courtyard. Well, technically, he's the man who oversaw its most recent renovation; the core of the house is almost 75 years old, and on plans for the renovations we found in an old drawer, the courtyard appears to have been a swimming pool. Regardless, when he passed, this big, rambling old house soon became too large for his widow, who moved out, leaving it empty for quite a while, enabling us to get it for a steal during the pandemic.

While we wouldn't have turned down a swimming pool - we were actually more concerned with getting away from the drought and the fires and the burning than we were about where we were moving to, other than "big enough for an art studio and a library" - we much prefer the courtyard, which we've started calling "The French Quarter." But the excellent design of this house - architecturally, most of the windows have an excellent view, and the landscaping slopes away from the house almost everywhere to keep it dry - has a few minor warts on it, including the courtyard: under the overhangs, nothing will live.

The feature that keeps the water away from the house - the landscaping and the big sofits - makes it hard for anything smaller than a bush to live. When we moved in, and put in that little sitting area using paving stones and chairs from my late mother's old garden, I dug up the monkey grass where I put in the paving stones, and used it to fill in the areas you now see filled with rocks. That grass lasted about a season, and by the next year, you couldn't even tell anything had been planted there. It was just dust and weeds, and even the weeds frankly weren't doing too well themselves and could have used a watering.

So, kind of in desperation, we hit on the idea of putting in more stream stone as a kind of a border, which the former owners had put around the fountain. This is something our termite folks have actually been asking us to do around the whole house to create a barrier, but we decided to get started here.

And I guess the surprise is that this stopgap effort looks really good. We sort of expected that it would have looked better than scraggly weeds and dead dirt, but, actually, it looks REALLY good, as if it was always supposed to have had a stone border around the outside.

I guess my point, if I did have one, is that sometimes you do things that you have to in order to patch a problem, but if you pick the right patch, sometimes it seems like it was on purpose.

-the Centaur

Pictured: um, well, I think I said it.

[twenty twenty-four day fifty-four]: totes cheatin it, yo

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I now FREELY admit that what I'm doing with the blog is posting, as much as possible, easy posts so I can get ahead on my buffer. Legendary cartoonist Bill Holbrook started the longest running daily webcomic, Kevin and Kell, after he'd built up a multi-week buffer, a process he's still continuing today.

SO! I find it better if I bunch up posts so that I am working on the same thing for a while - this is not just better for mental focus, but also for dealing with problems with your computing infrastructure (it is REALLY frustrating to try to do a quick post when the internet decides to gum the fuck up).

And therefore, I'm doing short, brief posts on the blog, while I build up a library of longer posts, hoping that at some point I'll get a rhythm where I'm always 2-3 days ahead, and can thus put the effort into new posts that is harder to come by when it is 145am and you need to both blog, draw, shower, and let the cat in.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the late night ritual: eat some pound cake, drink some soy milk, read a difficult book. Currently, I'm working through Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, a book which is available online, and has been almost as useful to me as Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, also online.

UPDATE: This was actually day 54. So I was ahead of where I thought I was.

[twenty twenty-four day fifty-two]: master of all he surveys

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When we finally get superintelligence, I want it to explain to me what cats are thinking. Loki clearly wants something, but it isn't clear what it is. He wants your attention, he wants to go outside, he wants to go somewhere not too far from the house, but he doesn't seem satisfied with you just standing there, nor with you bending down to scratch him, nor with you going anywhere else.

What do you want, for me to just stand here, so you feel safe rolling in the dirt?

There's no pleasing some people.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Loki, in the external cat condo which we got as part of our successful "cat sitting solution".

[twenty twenty-four day fifty]: almost halfway there

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So this is the second 2010 Toyota Prius we've owned that reached 100,000 miles. The one we still have on the Left Coast is closing in on a quarter million miles, if it isn't already there - far enough to reach the moon, if one could drive it (and even if you could, it would take half a year, and +5000 gallons of gas.

We got this car when we moved from the Left Coast after all the drought and the fires and the burning, but needed to leave the old Prius out there as I was still working for the Google remotely, visiting several times per year to perform on-robot experiments and sync with the team.

Now that's up in the air. 200,000+ miles, maybe closing in on 250K - even though we had to rebuild the whole engine at around the 100,000 mark. That gave us the confidence to purchase this used Prius at the 80,000 mile mark - we knew what this type of vehicle is capable of.

This is a completely different strategy than my father used. He used to buy a new car every two to three years, like clockwork, to try to preserve as much trade-in value as possible - and to ensure that the car was reliable. Perhaps this made sense back in the day, when cars didn't last as long, but I'm not sure.

I think it was just a strategy. He enjoyed having new cars, and could afford it. I enjoy having new cars, and maybe we could afford it, but I enjoy being environmental more, and getting a very efficient hybrid car and running it into the ground to recoup the energy that went into its manufacture feels like the way to go.

Now, I told myself that I'd consider trading in the California Prius when we'd driven it to the moon - but my experience is that cars eventually do give up the ghost, either from sheer mechanical weardown (my old Isuzu Rodeo) or from collisions (my first car, the Mustang, and my last SUV, the Pathfinder).

So I'm in no rush, here or in California.

So, congratulations to your first 100K, East Coast Prius. Here's hoping you make it 100K more.

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four day forty-eight]: he haz a comfort

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When it rains, it pours. I missed a few meetings last week due to work on the Neurodiversiverse - we were working through edits, and needed more time, and decided to extend our meeting, ultimately taking three and a half hours. But I had an afternoon meeting I was supposed to schedule - we hadn't put it on the calendar yet, and were going to schedule it over email after my Neurodiversiverse meeting. But since that scheduling hadn't happened yet, I didn't see it on my calendar when we were deciding to extend the NDV meeting, and since that meeting didn't end for several hours, I completely missed the window my colleague and I were planning to meet in.

What's worse, I forgot what evening of the week it was, and completely spaced on the Vestry (church board) meeting scheduled for that night. I've added a recurring meeting for that, but the damage is done - and cascading. Since I missed that meeting, I missed the discussion at the Vestry meeting of when we were supposed to meet with the bishop - a retreat that I just found out is scheduled in just thirty minutes, when I had already booked this time to work on Neurodiversiverse edits, which are time urgent.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to be a cat.

However, I feel the need to point out that our capabilities often exceed our estimation of them. I was wondering how I was going to get everything done. Well, now, I am still going to get everything done - I'm just, somehow, going to do more than I thought I was capable of. Funny how that happens. We often imagine that we have less resources available to us than we do - this is an adaptive self-defense mechanism that keeps us from burning out. But it can make us feel that we can't handle things - when we can.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a cat, in comfort. Actually Loki had a very terrible, no good, bad night as he wanted out around midnight, right when I went to bed, and was forced to sit on his warm heating pad, unable to get crunchies for SEVERAL HOURS while his human slept. Imagine the injustice! When FINALLY let in, Loki went to every bowl in the house in turn, sampling each one, before finally settling down to warm and fuzzy sleep.

[twenty twenty-four day forty-seven]: two of two

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Back when I worked on-site, I used to keep a lot of genre toys on my desk - Oreius the centaur, a plush Cthulhu, a Star Trek Enterprise I used as a fidget - and I told myself that I was doing so to remind myself why I was working: not just to pay for food, clothing and shelter, but to pay for fun and entertainment.

But I had too much stuff, too poorly organized, to the point that I didn't want to come home and spend time in my own library. It got ridiculous at one point. My wife and I talked about it and I took on the big project of turning the library into something that I could REALLY use, from organized files to library style aisles.

But also, it meant having a place for everything. If I was to own the genre toys, if I was to keep them, I needed to SEE them, not just store them, and, ideally, have them be a part of my day-to-day life. This meant crafting a space, and, ultimately, building custom structures which enabled the toys to go on display. This became even more urgent in the pandemic, where we built out a lot of structure to enable us to put almost EVERYTHING on display, down to Porsche's scythe hanging over my desk.

But, as I said before, after we moved away from the drought and the fires and the burning, we left the swords lying around and the hardware to hang them in the metaphorical junk drawer. It's easy to put self-care chores like this on the back burner, as they are not "urgent". And they're not even really "important", in the grander scheme of things. But they are fulfilling, on two levels: first, in that they make your environment nicer; and second, in that they involve making and building things, which is an accomplishment of its own.

Well, now, we have assembled the things that we made to make Excalibur and Kylo Ren's lightsaber an integral part of my environment. They are no longer easily visible behind me when I'm on Meet or Zoom, but they are at last up on display again. And one more piece of the library falls into place.

All I need now is to find the jade monkey, roadmaps and ice scraper before the next full moon ...

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four day forty-six]: so conveeenient

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I do like the fact that Loki is spending more time in the library (especially while my wife is gone on a business trip, so he's been getting less attention due to having fewer attendants) but I sure hope that none of the things on my whiteboard desk were important TODOs, because they're TOSMEARS now.

-the Centaur

[twenty twenty-four day forty-five]: level but not even

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So back in the day (and on the Left Coast) I had a couple of swords mounted on my bookcases. We hadn't done that here because we were busy ... but two years is too long to be busy, so my wife and I decided it was time to set up the swords again, starting with the Kylo "Kylo Ren is Best Sith" Ren cross-lightsaber.

Only ... it ain't that simple. We had to buy new brackets as the previous ones disappeared in the move. We found those at Lowe's, but it turned out that we could not install the mounting diamonds as the old bookcases were solid wood and these were hollow - the screws would have pulled straight out.

Eventually we used bolts and washers and I was able to finish the installation after my wife left town.

A little duct tape and an old Amazon delivery bag protect the books in the case. There's only one problem:

Despite our careful measuring, it was not possible to make it both level (up-and-down) and even (side-to-side) at the same time. It may be that the bookcase itself is leaning (see the top of the previous picture) and since it is screwed into the bookcase next to it for stability, well, we're stuck with that.

Still, I like how it came out.

1 of 2. Next: Excalibur.

-the Centaur