Two in a month.

22 March 2022

This might be a record. Two posts in a month.

Things seem to have calmed down a little so I've had more compute cycles free to do stuff. The last week at work was uncommonly... I don't want to say "uneventful," but "less eventful." This left me a little time to work on some projects that have been hanging fire for the last month or two.

Mom's estate is still in a holding pattern, more or less. I'm still trying to get through to her tax preparer, with no success. I've also reached out to the estate attorney I'm working with and, unfortunately, he's had no luck, either. This really concerns me. My worry is that, to get her final tax return done I'll have to fly back to Pittsburgh and see to it personally. Given the state of the world right now (and by that, I mean covid), I don't know how I'll do that. In the Before Times such things required much less planning. I don't know what it'll to get this done before the USian tax deadline.

If anybody knows anybody at H&R Block, please contact me through the usual means. I'm out of ideas.

As for the projects I've been tinkering with off and on, they've reached the stereotypical ADD almost but not quite get it finished stage. In my defense, however, working a couple of all-nighters in a row is not conducive to hacking around after work. Especially when there isn't an "after work" for a while. One of the things I've been working on (yes, yet another search project) has taken a while to get anywhere. I'm working on integrating a search engine called Manticore with my news archive but it's been slow going, mostly because it's taken me a couple of tries to figure out how to interface it with Searx and in the process I ran into a bug in the search engine I want to use. I think I've figured out how to work around it but haven't had a chance to try it.

Another thing I've been tinkering with is assembling a kit that I got as a gift last Christmas, a Freenove Hexapod Robot (note: affiliate link) (note: Freenove does not have its own webstore) that uses a Raspberry Pi as its on-board computer. Additionally, the on-board software that drives it is on Github, which makes it particularly easy to not only pull down updates but tinker with it. The docs aren't bad, either. Actually assembling the kit was a bit tricky because of how the servomotors go together. Each leg has one motor that moves it forward and backward attached at an angle to another motor that moves the leg up and down. Also, each leg has a motor attached at the knee that moves the lower part of the leg. The laser cut lexan pieces that join everything together have some odd notches cut into them for joining with screws and embedded nuts.

I don't know how else to describe it. If you've ever built a RepRap you know of what I speak, though the Freenove Hexapod isn't nearly as fiddly. At one point I had to refer to a Youtube tutorial to get everything fit together. Could've been a lot worse, there could be no documentation. As one might reasonably expect I already have some ideas for software and sensors to add to the robot but it's going to take me a little while to get to that point.

I've also been experimenting off and on with ripping disk images of my Commodore 64 (and hopefully later, Atari 8-bit) disks to preserve them because they're nearly 40 years old. To that end I picked up a device called a Zoomfloppy, which is basically a professionally engineered and manufactured version of one of the X*1541 drive interface cables with, among other things, USB support. The software I'm using with my Zoomfloppy is a toolkit called OpenCBM. However, I've been having difficulty communicating with my 1541 drive so I decided to follow in the footsteps of more experienced folks and modify the drive so that it had a parallel cable as well. Not just to speed up the disk ripping process but also because I wasn't entirely sure that I'd identified the correct variant of my drive and maybe that would be the missing link. I decided to build a couple of different versions of the parallel cable using a few different pairs of connectors (vis a vis, two different kinds of IC sockets and two different kinds of DB-15 plugs) see what would happen. But that hasn't really been fruitful either, so I've been communicating with the devs on the mailing list when I have a little time.

Of course, when I get all of this stuff done I'll write it up and post it.

As much as our respective governments would like us to believe, covid is, in fact, still a thing. People are still getting sick from it. People are still dying from covid. Long covid is still impacting people who recovered for who knows how long. Mask mandates are being rescinded across the country while new variants are cropping up. As I write this the new hotness is a sub-variant of the Omicron mutation called BA.2 making the rounds. The cycle that's been repeating itself over and over again for the last two years is happening again: Cases go down because people stay home and wear masks, the folks in office decide that covid is no longer a thing so they tell everyone that it's safe to go back to the way things were, people go outside unprotected, covid spreads and mutates during transmission and infection, people get sick, cases go back up. So, prepare for another spike in cases.

In addition to that, there are way too folks who seem to think that the covid pandemic is over because they're tired of the pandemic and consequently are acting that way. A couple of weeks ago I had to visit a couple of hardware stores in the Bay Area because I was fixing something at home, and saw more folks walking around without masks (a few of whom were coughing openly) in a single store than I had in the previous year. If it wasn't for the folks who were already coughing I would have done my "sound like I have consumption act" which, to be honest, probably would have gone unnoticed. In other parts of the world I caught some flak because I had an agent posting the number of people reported who'd died of covid the day before in 9/11's (it'd been running daily for sixteen months, if that matters) because "nobody cares about covid anymore." The Internet being what it is these days, I didn't feel like getting brigaded so I shut it down.

As a confirmed computer geek, I really miss being able to go outside and have fun without worrying.

I've also been thinking lately about the Marvel cinematic universe and how many compute cycles I spend each day dodging questions of the form "Have you seen the new trailer?"

No, I haven't. And I have to be honest, I don't care.

My relationship to comic books has always run hot-and-cold. I read a given series for a while, get bored with it, and move on for a while. I don't seem wired for very long term stories, like comics and soap operas. The story lines go on for years and years with flashpoints here and there that make things interesting but then go back to the usual cadence. I much prefer time-bounded stories. The story begins, the story happens, the story is done, and then go on and do something else. This is not a new thing for me; I felt the same way about DC's War of Light when it was the new hotness as well as the original Infinity War storylines. They happened, they finished, the various constituent series went on to do their respective things again.

Great. Interesting story. It's done. Now I have other stuff to think about.

This is how I feel about the MCU these days. For the better part of two decades we got movie after movie, at first tied together in subtle ways but then turning into the blockbuster media franchise that even the hardest core anti-nerds know and love. We got our payoff. We got Infinity War and Endgame. I've had the story I signed up for. I'm good.

That's not to say that I think it's bad, or don't think anyone should pay attention to it anymore, or anything like that. If you're really into the MCU and enjoying everything, by all means, enjoy it. If you love Marvel comics and enjoy what you read, please enjoy them. Just because my off-and-on relationship with entertainment media is a thing doesn't mean that you have to join me. My hardwired preferences do not mean that what you like is bad, it means that other stuff is interesting to me these days.

In other words, it's okay for you to be intersted by things that no longer interest me, and vice versa.