mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I am noticing how attractive I find the idea of subscribing to some coherent ideology. That I have not done so may be much more due to an inability to accept such a belief system rather than my reluctance to. The idea of being persuaded of some unambiguous meaning in life, some goal that tells me what to do and what is worth it to get there, especially if somebody else has already done the hard thinking for me and provided like-minded comrades, is very appealing. In this year's elections I had to again research parties and manifestoes and candidates not because I am proudly independent but just because I have a hard time buying others' thinking, certainly as a complex package. I already knew that I am persistently doubtful about everything from theism to capitalism but I do not think that I had properly noticed how much I would have liked more certainty about fundamental beliefs.

A nice thing about having children is that I find I can draw some confidence in action from that I want to serve their interests. That feeling may be an irrational product of natural selection but at least it is guidance that I actually feel able to buy into.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
My dreams rarely feature much emotion. I often dream of perilous situations but, despite the mortal danger, they are not frightening, just excitingly tense. I had mentioned how I often dream of people who are not part of my real life. For example, I sometimes dream of Anna with whom I have a good romantic relationship. I can be sad when I awaken because I thought that Anna existed and now I am awake I realize that she is fictional so there is a sense of loss but during the actual dream I am doing fine and life is good.

I had a surprise last night in dreaming of a different romantic partner where I experienced great sorrow in the dream itself. She was quite different from Anna: more cheerful and energetic, helpful and encouraging, less intellectual and sophisticated, in looks a little darker and heavier with broader features. She feels familiar but I cannot yet think of anybody on whom she is obviously based. Also, she was quite clearly contemporary, English-speaking and we lived in the West; with Anna it is always in Russian and possibly many decades in the past.

Anyhow, in the dream my wife had died quite suddenly, maybe in her late thirties, and I was thus widowed. I was visiting her family and in the course of that visit I was arranging and cleaning something for her grandmother. The grandmother remarked on how my late wife had always kept that item of her grandmother's so clean and nice and this comment felt very much like her, that she would be doing thoughtful but practical things for her family, so that caused me considerable upset in vividly reminding me of how she used to be and how lucky we had been to have her as a positive force in our lives.

As it is, that she had been such a joy to share life with turns out to be entirely fictional; I do not even remember her name. This journal entry becomes her only memorial. How strange our brains are. I did have a headache arrive yesterday evening and mostly depart this morning so perhaps that pain somehow became an emotional discomfort in the dream.

Update: Fortunately the night after I am back to dreams about non-scary peril. The following morning when I awoke, in my dream I had reached my laboratory and was turning my attention to barricading the door after sending one of my students for bottled water in anticipation of having to hold out against the sudden spread of aggressive zombies.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
I realized a little of why I do not make much progress on the projects I want to get on with on computers at home. I am comparing with my productivity at work but there I get to focus for a few hours at a time on a task. The kinds of projects I want to pursue at home take enough thought, and use rusty enough skills, that it takes me an hour's work just to properly get back into them and gain some momentum. By that time it is pretty much time for me to wrap up and come do something with my family, with whom I do want to get to spend time.

This is why I still manage to do jobs like posting entries to this journal: it is the kind of thing I can switch right into with little preparation and handle in a shorter span of time. Yesterday [personal profile] mst3kmoxie kindly handled the children's afternoon visit to Dundee which gave me time at home that mostly went into upgrading our OpenBSD machines to v6.1, a slightly fiddly process. I manage to keep on top of these maintenance tasks, I just don't get to make the additional time around job and family and sleep to really push forward on anything. I do need to do something because my present job is not secure and by this point is not really advancing my own career, though I am likely to soon be learning about Vert.x and at least my paid work helps scientists.

On reflection, there are a couple of solutions. I do not make the progress even with smaller-scale easier-to-start tasks that I should, even if I enjoy them, so there is something to address there; maybe I could better notice what it is that I am doing instead though that may often simply be feeling tired. I also waste time in being available to my family at times when none of them feel interactive: perhaps I need to actually plan family time a bit better and remind of my interruptibility at other times. Further, I might need to more firmly set aside a long solid chunk of some weekend day toward useful ends so that the getting-started time does not dominate.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I am very left-handed: I am not one of these people who does a couple of things right-handed because that's how they were taught to me, it's more like if I try to use my right hand for long for something then it can make me start to feel peculiarly agitated. Except, I've noticed, for trimming my facial hair: my moustache, around the top of my ears, whatever, I am looking in the mirror and using my right hand. It's a fairly brief use, of course. Still, I wonder if others also use their nondominant hand for such.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I have been feeling better over this week. I developed the theory that I perhaps had some low-grade infection that was dragging me down for a while. In recent days I may have had more mild headaches but I have generally been back to usual levels of alertness and enthusiasm.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
I recently mentioned how it had taken all my willpower to get through even that gentler workout. I did not even get that far after work today: I started my workout and was doing as usual physically but I just so could not be bothered with the whole thing and did only a small fraction of it. I felt fed up with doing so many things that I do not want to but feel I ought.

On Sunday I had also mentioned feeling tired. That has been lasting. I have been sleeping fine, well at least solidly unconscious overnight. Still, I have felt tired over the day. In my ongoing effort to familiarize myself with more American literature I am reading John Gardner's The Sunlight Dialogues before bed; last night I forewent that and just laid down to sleep.

I am perhaps suffering some accumulated frustration that my life is not as I would like. I am much more constrained now than I hope to be in the long term but it is the present I inhabit. A lot of what I do with my time is not too bad but is not what I would have chosen. I do try to appreciate how very lucky I am: I have enjoyed sunshine lately, my children are happy and healthy, [personal profile] mst3kmoxie kindly finds and makes us various food, my colleagues at work are nice, the work I do is useful to many, others in my team bear stresses that I am glad in my role to evade, etc. For other personal reasons that I suspect of being relevant, it is an awkward time of year for me so that may simply pass. I envy my children their full-time schooling: yesterday I walked past the Al-Maktoum College advertising courses in Arabic and noted that such has no chance of even making it on to my to-do list.

I indulge a little in pleasant distractions. For example, I enjoy writing in this journal and I watch some television, tonight's being the latest Have I Got News for You (1990). I know that with more spare time at home and less to distract me I would get on with productive things that please me but that is hardly a new thought. My current plan is the usual of just hanging in there and remembering that life is full of surprises.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
When I am in the US I have a strong sense of the state and national identity of my location: I look around and, in terms of what goes on and what applies, local custom and jurisdiction feature strongly in my thinking. I do not have this sense when I am in Britain and I am puzzling over why not.

Scottish law is interestingly different to English law, just as my children now experience the Scottish education system which is unlike anything I knew. I had not been to Scotland before interviewing for my current job. There is no shortage of mention of Scotland on various signs and documents. Both the Scottish and UK independence referenda demonstrate that native residents retain a strong sense of local identity. There are various local customs and foods. It is not as if I am much less familiar with the US: I have spent most of my adult life there and my impressions of it even before first living there were generally confirmed over time.

Still, when I live in, say, Ohio, I am very aware of that it is where I am, as if it brings a welcome sense of extra meaning into my existence. Maybe the difference is that more of one's rights in the US are codified explicitly in a way that conservatives may even regard as being sacred. Or, perhaps Scotland is quite like England and that I spent my childhood in England makes me less conscious of my locality when I am in Britain. It doesn't make sense to me, anyway: I do not see what, say, Scotland lacks that would from day to day make me take for granted that I am here.

I have wondered if civil liberties could provide a clue. The EU has a strong sense of personal privacy from the point of view of confidentiality. The US has a strong sense of personal freedom from tyrannical or even needlessly prescriptive authority. I do not especially notice the UK culturally exhibiting much of either, except perhaps when inventing complaints about the EU, so is that an aspect of what I am missing here? To what extent does it generalize to other social issues? Or maybe it is just about how patriotic people are: after all, for Americans July 4th is a major holiday but in England they do not even get St George's Day off work.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
I am feeling a bit better today. I didn't awaken too early: it was probably 7h30 before I got out of bed. I dropped the children off in Dundee this morning and [personal profile] mst3kmoxie is kindly staying there this afternoon and bringing them home. I indulged in a long bath after I worked out. I don't plan to push myself: I think today I'll just catch up on my filing, trim my fingernails, run some laundry, whatever. If the weather outdoors doesn't seem lovely tomorrow then I may then be a bit more ambitious and do some wiping and cleaning around the house but also take time to relax.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I have been quieter lately through feeling tired and irritable. I am usually at my desk by 8h or so and, in fasting, I don't take time for lunch, but I don't want to leave too weirdly early so I usually stay until 16h30 or so. Sometimes I stay later, for example on Tuesday I stayed beyond 17h because, as I was wrapping up, a series of three people came to ask me things. This is okay, I like to be helpful, but it did mean a longer workday.

Unfortunately, I awoke rather prematurely on Wednesday. I do not make much use at home of unexpected morning time because I am distracted by knowing that I have to leave the house so I just head to work unusually early. Over the afternoon I had a migraine, though not quite bad enough to prevent me from working, and on the way home I had a detour via the doctor's office which added maybe a half-hour to my trip, so that became a long day indeed. Yesterday I again awoke well before the alarm and started my workday correspondingly early.

An early workday makes sense for me. )

I have wondered if, though I do not eat at lunchtime, I could instead use the time well for some other personal task. I am not sure what that might be, though. Especially, I like to keep my own work separate from my paid work, on different computers, but I do not want to risk routinely bringing my own laptop into work. I do at least sometimes take a brief walk, as I did today to the mailbox.

Recently my work has been difficult. )

I have also been unusually busy at home. For example, last Saturday one of my children needed to be in Dundee all day and tomorrow they both need to be. So, that is basically a day of the weekend rather perturbed. I thus wonder if everything has added up to push me a little over a tipping point lately.

Feeling myself to be much inclined to utter screw this and let chips fall, I skipped exercising for a couple of days and have instead treated myself a little: for instance, after exercising yesterday I took a bath instead of a quick shower. Today I felt somewhat better. Not only did I sleep for longer but I also felt a little more enthusiastic. I did well in my exercising. Perhaps I am returning to a more tolerable state of mind but I will try not to push it too far.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
An online conversation earlier today reminded me of some work I had done ten to twenty years ago back when I was mostly working on government-funded research and development projects. It is now long enough ago that sometimes I forget how very much I enjoyed the challenge of solving various problems in science and engineering, inference and decision-making by devising software-based approaches. I turned out to be very good at it but haven't had to much do it for what must now be a decade or so. It is hard to get good applied research work without a doctorate and while needing enough income to support a family especially as my better work was also defense work that I cannot talk about especially outside the US. So, over the past decade I have done more regular software development: I am good at it but not as great as I am when faced with more need for creative solutions to technical problems.

Having been decidedly obese when I moved to Scotland I find it strange now to be in a position when on many nights I am positively trying to eat a bit more. I suppose that my diet may have had lasting effects on my appetite. For the past couple of days I could have easily eaten comfortably less than what I allowed myself when trying to lose weight. Last night after a perfectly satisfactory dinner I later decided to also have a heavily buttered piece of toast with a generous amount of Gouda, then a few mini creme eggs left over from Easter, but it is not like I was ravenous at the time, the challenge was more to think of something that seemed appealing. On the one hand, I do want to listen to my body about when it feels hungry or not, but I have still been losing a little weight on my maintenance plan so I do not want to be drifting far below even that.

I got to thinking about why, when I have been overweight for so very long, it is only in the past couple of years that I seriously addressed the issue. What switch flipped in my head? In watching a documentary about schizophrenia I came to wonder if it was about control: my best talents are not greatly exercised in my current work, I barely earn enough to get by, I live in a small, cluttered house, maybe my effort toward improving my weight and fitness stems from wanting to successfully grasp at least some facet of my existence and addressing my health was the most plausible remaining option? I do not know. Now that I have generated the hypothesis it doesn't feel as if it obviously rings true but it is also not assaulted by competition with rival explanations. (One of my military projects involved creating software for generating, evaluating, assembling hypotheses.) I thus do now wonder if my diet and exercise might indeed partly be about gaining some control and feeling good about something.

The mention of schizophrenia reminds me of a lady who used to roam the streets around our apartment in Providence, RI. She was often off her medication and would indignantly berate pedestrians and drivers for all manner of creatively imagined slights, sins like trying to sell her into prostitution to workmen down the road. While she was not causing anybody any real harm then it was her legal right to be in such a state. When I would first spy her ranting from the window I initially thought that she was speaking on her cellphone via a Bluetooth headset but her interactions subsequently made the unfortunate situation quite clear.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
I found myself reflecting on some of the periods of history that, in my ignorance, interest me. For example, in the early 1980s we had all manner of social developments with organizations ranging from the Socialist International to the Red Army Faction. I imagine these groups of earnest young people and this curious sense they must have had that, whether inside or outside the rules, change is possible and that their actions matter. Despite the many elections around now, perhaps more common in my universe is a defeatist attitude: accepting the roles into which society places us and having no great hope for potential to effect improvements in governance.

The above got me wondering if I am thinking too much inside the box, if television and suchlike gives me enough escape that I become too apathetic about and accepting of how the real world structures my existence: if there is change I should pursue, for myself or more widely, that might be more fulfilling than working to maintain a fairly normal life. I do not define myself by my consumer choices or by social approval but I still have a nagging sense of having blindly gone well off-track.

At present I have a family to support so I shall continue much as I am for some years yet. Still, an outcome of my ongoing recovery from my breakdown a decade ago is my working harder to try to see more clearly and my having less fear of consequences: even if I am skeptical about affecting society at large, those changes in me could at least help me toward some interesting challenges that would work for me personally.

I may not have the imagination to see what those challenges should be but, once my children are grown and making their own lives, I have the vague plan to try to empty and simplify my own life, reducing my income requirements, then to see what attracts me as ways to consider filling it again. I wonder if I could do so with a sense that I had been clearheaded enough to find a good path.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
Naturally one's life is a balance between what one must do and what one wants to do. Lately I am not doing quite as well as I would like in that balance: I take some relaxing time for myself but thus barely stay on top of even simple tasks. For example, it has taken quite a while for me to post to Gumtree advertising some rather old desktop computers for which we no longer have room. I made a bootable live image on a USB flash drive, brought some old-computer-related items down from the attic, brought the computers in from the garage, used the live image to check their hardware and wipe their hard drives, lost my screwdriver, found it again, photographed them, and today finally posted about them. Those steps largely happened quite separately over the course of many days: I am hardly single-mindedly focused on a mission, I instead make small advancements on the rare occasions on which I feel inclined. My ambitions tomorrow don't go much beyond spraying some glyphosate on weeds outdoors and deltamethrin around where creatures may enter the house, and trimming my nails. So, I do some useful things at home, perhaps sufficient but it hardly feels encouraging or inspiring.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
I had been feeling guilty that I am not living in the US at a time when I feel it important to be conspicuous about how we do not all share the values of Donald Trump's loudest supporters.

I am not overly cautious: for example, I visited the Washington, DC, area during the sniper attacks. Still, with our new president's having already annoyed China, made a show of bombing Syria and Afghanistan, then excited North Korea into showing its submarine-launched ballistic missiles, while Russia probes beyond its borders, I am starting to think that I am glad to have moved my family to Scotland for the duration of his term.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
Today I was reviewing a notebook of my father's dated 1962 whose cover is marked with the intriguing LON 2178. At the time he would have been living in Manchester, England. Surmising that this code may be a telephone number, I discovered from Roger Haworth's website that in the Manchester Director Area the LON (dialed as 506) would have connected to the Longford exchange. As the present-day Longford exchange is little more than a mile from a street on which my parents lived long ago I surmise that the marking on the notebook is indeed most likely to have been their telephone number back then. The Internet and its denizens make it agreeably easy to research such matters.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
It is strange for me to travel in the parts of England around Cheshire and Lancashire for I spent the first years of my life there before my parents moved us south. I know many place names that we traveled to or that came up in conversation so they feel very familiar to me but I was so young that I did not know quite where they were nor do I retain much memory of why we might have visited or mentioned them. Consequently I find myself in the paradoxical position of feeling very much at home in a region that I really do not know at all.

Oppositely, last Tuesday I was driving further south on the M5 and I noted a familiar hill, clearly visible from the motorway, whose name I did not know but it is prominent enough that it probably has one. It turns out to be Brent Knoll whose surroundings were long ago eroded by the Bristol Channel. On Sunday I had been observing the Bristol Channel from the Glamorgan Heritage Coast which features some striking sedimentary rocks.
mtbc: maze A (black-white)
The left-wing Labour politician Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the party, though not yet expelled, for his comments regarding Hitler and the Jewish Question. The criticism has been very much under the banner of not tolerating anti-Semitism and this appears to continue through the party leader Jeremy Corbyn's new investigation into Ken's conduct. While I am all for the rooting out of anti-Semites, my ongoing impression is that Ken is far more ham-handed than he is positively evil: he may not be carefully articulating a consensus historical record but I think it takes a considerable dose of whatever the opposite of benefit of the doubt is to read him as actually racist in this case. Given that, from my point of view the Labour Party's keenness to keep the matter alive brings the party into disrepute more than Ken ever has: it starts to look more like a witch hunt that distracts from and devalues real action against anti-Semitism.

Curious to double-check my impressions, I was surprised and reassured to find online that various groups, including of some Jewish Labour Party members, appear to agree. I caught myself wondering if Jeremy Corbyn is going along with this continued investigation because his advisers are being lobbied by those who too eagerly show offense. More generally, I fear that if politicians are made to worry greatly about putting their feet in their mouths then their public face becomes as uselessly bland as the typical British politician's now is.
mtbc: maze J (red-white)
I am of average height for men but when seated among others, in lecture halls or on airplanes or wherever, I notice that my head is markedly among the higher. I do not have any difficulty buying clothes so I infer that I am not unusually proportioned. I thus guess that my high sitting may arise from my lower back issues: I am sitting so as to get good support from the chair rather than slouching in some way.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
Unusually I had considerable insomnia last night: I awoke after 3h and did not sleep well thereafter. I did get up for a little while and drank some water. I had a slow start at work but got through the day okay. I have taken things fairly easy* this evening and hope to sleep rather better tonight.

While awake I did lie in bed quite a lot: I was sleepy enough to remain there without being too restless and mostly with my eyes closed. I suspect that I did manage to nap because time did pass reasonably quickly and I would occasionally have the increasingly strange thoughts that feel as if my dreaming machinery is starting up before I lose consciousness. As I lay there thinking I wondered, is it advantageous to still lie relaxed in bed if sleep is not coming? Is it quite recuperative or actually little better than just coming downstairs, making a cup of tea and watching some television?

*Why isn't it easily?
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
This afternoon actually went quite well. I felt tired and achy and inclined to laze around but I did make it to my desk and started to get my previous Erlang work back into my mind and perhaps even made a little progress with it, for perhaps the first time in years. I noticed that initially forcing focus on that work felt a little like meditating wherein I prevent myself from indulging in stream-of-consciousness random thoughts. The trick now is to make my work upstairs more like a daily than a monthly habit. At least I had left myself some design notes from previous work meaning that today I did not have to think as hard as before. Still, it was difficult enough that I did not also have music on.

Afterward I brought my four desktop computers in from the garage so that I can inspect them and wipe their hard drives. We might have a use for them in a larger house but certainly not here. They were quite highly specified for a decade ago but now are probably ready to be just given away, along with some extra expansion cards I have in a box in the attic. With the surprisingly balmy weather I also turned the heating off and mowed our small front yard.

Update: Later on in the evening I put on Jean-Michel Jarre's Zoolook and did a bit more of my Erlang work.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
It's about time for me to be bothered about my productivity again. Though, it does help that my server-side code at work seems to be behaving rather better now I adjusted part of it to interact with Spring more and Hibernate/JDBC less. I don't much understand why and it took inconveniently long for me to hit on a recipe that behaved. Though, testing was tricky as the problem initially looked like a race condition or resource depletion which took a while to happen, compounded by that it turns out that some of our client-side tests positively hemorrhage file descriptors.

At home I have been managing an unimpressive but not-worst level of activity: my clothes have been staying hung up, I've occasionally washed my bedsheets, I'm mostly on top of my filing, I've been keeping frequent backups of our computers. I even briefly considered wiping down some window frames. I have been able to tread water quite well but in incoming e-mail at work I recently read What is current long-term career goal? (sic.) and had to laugh inwardly. Within my current position I think there is scope for someday working on OMERO.iviewer which would allow me to brush off my rusty JavaScript while avoiding Django. But, overall, I am in an impermanent post away from any large cities: it feels just a little too fragile.

Unusually I have been sufficiently on top of things to actually have had some free time lately. I am not much drawn into television: since SS-GB (2017) finished perhaps The Americans (2013) is the only current drama I watch. But, I have felt tired or unmotivated; I've largely let that free time slip through my fingers. Often I've wanted to spend the time with my family but they do understand that if I go away to my desk upstairs to get things done then it is not because I want to be apart from them. Maybe I will get around to actually doing that.

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mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
Mark T. B. Carroll

July 2017

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