Category Archives: Personal

Personal stuff.

The Strange Encounter With The Soldier On The Plane (Co-Staring Bookworm)

I’ve been drowning in nostalgia this evening. There are a lot of reasons for it – my birthday and the close proximity to Valentines day usually put me in an introspective mindset – but I’m also on the cusp of some pretty big changes (to be described when finalized). I’ve dredged up a lot of memories but one in particular has popped forth with a clarity that I haven’t previously experienced.

A few years ago I was exploring options for employment in the San Francisco bay area. Over the course of a month or so I made three different flights down, none of them lasting more than a day or two. I can’t recall which trip in particular this was but given that I was awake I’m guessing it was a flight into the area rather the return on which the events occurred.

I was on a 6 across seater of some variety – I have no interest in planes. It’s enough for me to say it had wings and was moderately comfortable. The plane was shaping up to be full. I had managed to get on fairly early and find my aisle seat the seat next to me remained empty well into the boarding procedure. I thought that maybe I’d get lucky and not have a neighbour. One of the last folks to get on board however made his way to my row and to the seat next to me.

It was a US military man of some variety. I apologize for not knowing the specifics – he was in green camo though so I’m guessing it was army or army reserve? At any rate, he was clean cut and polite and other than his initial quiet “excuse me” we never exchanged a word the entire flight.

And yet, we spent the entire flight together. Immediately after takeoff I took out my iPod Touch and started playing Bookworm (one of my very favourite games.) I was positioned such that the screen was facing in his general direction and it was being held on nearer to his seat than the aisle.

At some point not too long after I started I got the sense that he was looking at me and the game. I was a bit self conscious (a defining characteristic) but I was stuck on selecting a word I was happy with so I hazarded a glance in his direction.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I mean, I’m usually weird enough that people often stare at me but I’m not really used to them doing anything other than looking away when I acknowledge them. Rather than look away he reached out and touched the screen, completing a word.

I kinda just sat there frozen for a bit. I felt like maybe I should say something but, well, that’s not really my forte. I looked at him and made an effort to smile. I went on to complete a word of my own and I then allowed myself to pause, looking in his direction. He took the invitation.

Without saying a word we sat there together playing a game that was entirely based on words for the better part of three hours. There were lulls in the gameplay and it wasn’t exactly us interleaving our turns – each of us grew bored or stuck on occasions and would rely on the other to play for several turns in a row – but otherwise we played un-interruped and utterly silent.

Eventually we got the word that we were landing. We concluded our game in much the same way as we played, with a glance.

After we landed we departed the plane without acknowledging each other. I’d say I lost sight of him but the truth is I didn’t even look back.

I can’t express what an odd and uncommon situation this was for me. I don’t ever connect to strangers like this. I mean, I doubt many folks connect with strangers in this particular way but more generally I just don’t connect with strangers on any kind of level. It takes a lot for me to warm up to folks but in a lot of ways I feel like this man and I slipped almost immediately into a very intimate and well understood arrangement without speaking a word.

I’ve thought back on this encountered off and on over the years but I’ve never really told anyone about it. I’ve never been quite sure what to make of it and I’m not entirely pleased with how I acted. I’m always hard on myself for how folks interact with me but really I’ve crafted these defences because I’m terrified of real connections. This man was bold enough and savvy enough to find the EXACT path through and connect with me on something I really enjoyed and I just… let it all pass by.

I could have/should have spoken with him. Not only would it have been the polite thing to do, but goddamnit, he reached out! It’s profoundly screwed up that I can kvetch about folks not doing that and then pass it over when it’s presented so PERFECTLY to suit me. I’m still kicking myself for not being the person that I always find an excuse not to be.

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Google Payments WTF

I think Google has managed to send the least helpful administration email of all times. I received this in the AM

We couldn’t process a payment with your MasterCard …[removed] for $10.00 on Dec 1, 2013. Your bank or credit institution gave the following details about the decline: No reason provided by your financial institution.
We have tried to charge your account but the payment has been declined. Please go to your Control Panel to see the current status and update your account. Please contact your bank or credit institution to resolve the issue.
Learn more about credit card declines at http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?answer=1218823&hl=en-US.
To help prevent further interruptions to your Google Services account, you can add a backup credit or debit card to your account. Learn more at http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?answer=1218677&hl=en-US

————————–
This message was sent from a notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message.

You can opt out of billing emails for this customer by visiting [link removed].
This link will expire 7 days after the date of this email.

This message may be confidential or privileged. If you received this email by mistake, please don’t forward it to anyone else and delete all copies and attachments.

What product is this in relation to? I have several domains hosted at Google and this doesn’t specify which it’s for. No problem, I’ll just click the direct link they provided that allows me to fix the problem… oh wait. There isn’t one.  But they do link to a document for adding a backup credit card. I’ll go there and… oh. The instructions there only send me to a login page that tells me to use a different account other than the one the email was sent to. But since I don’t know what product it’s in reference to I guess that means I need to try all my domains…

If this workflow wasn’t designed by programmers I’ll buy a hat just to eat it.

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Gone Home

I would really like to write about Gone Home but I know folks who haven’t had a chance to play it and I cant help but think this game would be inordinately compromised by any kind of spoiler so I’ll try to keep my mouth shut. I will say that it felt like a time machine and I cried a whole helluva lot for reasons that were only tangentially related to the game. I suspect a lot of folks will have this kind of reaction. The price point felt high but it was a worthwhile 2-3 hours IMO.

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Tip Of The Iceberg

Many moons ago I had a psychiatrist tell me that I wasn’t feminine enough and that, in effect, he doubted my commitment to Sparkle Motion. Well, I saw where he was coming from. I wasn’t particularly feminine. In fact, by a lot of metrics, I was downright fucking butch (and crass and vulgar and and and). At the time, I felt like my body fit me like an ill-tailored suit and I spent a lot of energy trying to be as small and as invisible as I could be (and given how tall I am, that was a great deal of energy indeed.) I just assumed that I had bigger fish to fry and that one day I’d finally get around to blossoming like the goddamned flower I was supposed to be.

Fast forward…oh, 18 fucking years. I’m still processing that accusation and the imprint it’s left not only on my outwardly crafted persona but on the expectations I have for where my life will take me and what’s really “underneath.” See, I’ve lived every day thinking that no one really got to see the real me. I would make efforts now and then to satisfy the demands that this doctor placed upon my identity – the demands that I held to represent my true self – but it would never quite latch. I’d buy whole new wardrobes that were fitting of a woman my age but I would wear them as if I were a circus bear walking on its hind legs. These consistent failures of course would lead to more self loathing and reaffirmation that I was doing it all wrong.

That I made these efforts to satisfy his expectations shouldn’t be taken to mean that I was fully onboard with the plan. All the while that I held these expectations I was actively rebelling and sabotaging my efforts through tattoos and piercings and other unseemly modifications. Whenever I’d remember his words keenly enough to cause hurt I would reactively do something to spite him. I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favours if my intention was to satisfy his image of what I should be and yet I did it all anyway. On one level I clearly gave up on expecting to make the change his conditioning demanded.

And yet, I still held myself to his standards. When I looked in the mirror and saw the antithesis of what he expected I should be I would chide and insult myself in his voice. It didn’t matter that on many levels I liked what I saw – it was still unacceptable when measured against this narrative and ideal that had lodged itself inside my head.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not some butterfly waiting for the right moment to emerge from a cocoon – I AM a gruff and fundamentally unfeminine caterpillar. It’s not some armour I hide behind and I wont some day get over it and blossom. I’m pushing forty – this is who I am.

And how the fuck did I ever let some stupid man convince me that this was somehow a problem? Jesus, if any of my friends ever gave themselves the shit that I’ve given to myself I’d let them have an earful. I don’t know how I’ve been so willfully ignorant of this conditioning for so long. It’s only in the past few months that I’ve finally managed to get a good hard look at this part of my psyche and see it for what it is – utter shite and…

A waste of 18 years.

I’ve spent so long trying to live up to someone else’s expectations of what I should be that I never once stopped to consider if it’s really something I wanted at all. And I don’t. Throwing these poisoned assumptions aside, when I look in the mirror right now… y’know what? I’m pretty fucking okay with what I see. There are things I still would like to change and work on, but on my terms and to my specifications. I need to stop dragging around some dinosaurs assumptions on what a woman should be.

Fuck.

That.

Noise.

(For the record: I’m not angry. I am however feeling incredibly intense. For whatever reason I’m having a profound moment (or series of moments) so the profanity is going to flow freely for the time being. Context may come later. Or not. Whatever, no one’s reading this anyway. :) )

Also posted in FolksLikeUs | 4 Comments

Shaking out the Cobwebs

I’ve suffered from mental illness (of the depressive variety) to varying degrees for much of my life. For the longest time I just plodded on and stubbornly refused medical assistance in dealing with it because, well, I’ve got a head on me like a bull and I’m ornery as all fuck. Several years back I decided the whole stiff-upper-lip thing wasn’t working for me and I sought help of the chemical variety.

The results were positive, but they did have their drawbacks. My moods improved (or at least, levelled off) at the expense of my creativity, drive, and general brainpower. These side effects were taken for granted – I knew I’d be affected in these areas. There were other serious side effects of the physical variety that I was warned against but were so rare that I didn’t worry too much about them. I rolled the dice.

Weeeeell, I may have come across one of those side effects. One of the drugs I was on had as a side effect a very serious rash that could turn fatal in a very gruesome way. Earlier this week such a rash began appearing over my body.  Now, make no mistake about it, I’m as paranoid as I am stubborn. As soon as it began appearing I hit the hospital without delay. The doctor couldn’t definitively say it was the reaction I was on guard for but I was taken off my medication as a precaution. I had forgotten to take the medication in question for several days leading up to the rash so it’s been about a week now since I’ve last had them and I feel…

Well, mostly okay. The rash has me absolutely terrified but other than that (hah!) I feel pretty damn positive. My head is clearer, I feel my creativity coming back, and I’m starting to look at my life with a lot more scrutiny and interest than I’ve managed to muster in a very long time.

For now I’m content with just taking it easy and seeing this side effect in my rearview window. I’m able to dream and make plans for my future again and I’d like to do that with skin intact. :)

 

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Phase 5: Abort

I’ve struggled as to what to write here. When I do post here it’s usually because someone or something has died but that hasn’t happened. All the same, my heart is broken and I’ve moved fast from a unique and wonderful period of my life back to… well, wherever I am now. Usually I have this tendency to fall into these extremely long and depressing ruts that just last for years and years but this time things felt different. Turns out they were – they were just in my imagination and I was a chump.

My life has been broken into 5 identifiable chunks. Most have lasted many years but this last one lasted only for a few months.  For all that it was brief it was intense, and it’s going to stick with me for a good long time. Here’s to hoping the sixth doesn’t grind me up as badly as this one has.

I dont know where I’m going with this. I’m not even sure why I’m posting it. I just felt the need to mark this occasion as it feels unique – I managed to stand up for myself early rather than late. Doesn’t make it feel any better but maybe some day it will.

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I Knew This Would Come…

…but I thought it wouldn’t be any time soon.  My big boy, Cthulhu, left us last night.  I noticed he was having problems breathing and when we brought him to the vet the prognosis was bad – his chest was full of fluid and his heart was failing.  There were some medication options but they could give him a few weeks at best.  We decided it was time and shortly thereafter he went to sleep on my lap for the last time.  I thought I’d have more time to say my goodbyes and prepare myself but no amount of time ever feels like enough.

We’ve lost 4 cats and a hedgehog in the past few years.  They’ve all been difficult but Cthulhu is much worse for me.  He and I have been together for almost 15 years.  It was by chance that I stopped into the pet shop on Herring Cove Road but when I saw him there, the last of his litter, I knew he had to come home with me.  I joke that the shop owners had drugged him to make him more appealing – when I first picked him up he crawled as close as he could get to my face and started purring.  His disposition changed somewhat when we got him home and the drugs wore off – he was a bit of a terror.  He loved to attack ankles and bite my earlobes in my sleep.  Thankfully he grew out of this phase into the lazy, gentle old man that I’ll best remember him as.

He’s been there throughout all the changes in my life and was that one constant I could always depend on.  He’d always sleep next to my head when given the chance and most mornings I’d wake up with him in spot where he was the night previous.  Last night was the first time in ages that I was able to toss and turn without him kicking or pushing me and I have to say I really don’t like the freedom.  I miss that little jerk so much.

Safe travels mister.  It wont be the same around here with you gone.  Who’s going to keep Penny in line now?

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It’s That Time Again

Welp, as my wife likes to say: “It’s been swell but the swelling has gone.” The 9th is my last day of employment at RIM. I’ve had a lot of good experiences there and I’ve learned a whole helluva lot but alas it’s time to move on. I’ve had the theme song to The Littlest Hobo playing on repeat in my head now for some time and it’s best that I listen to it.

So, what am I gonna do? I’m off to write some fun apps, that’s what. I started my career in ecommerce, switched to mobile services, moved onto tooling and lately back into mobile. I like mobile, and I want to play in the space some more.  More than anything I want to have fun again.  I’ve been in the industry going on 14 years now and truth be told I’ve been struggling to maintain my interest as of late.  A lot of it has come down to just how fast the technology is changing and how I’ve been restricted for professional reasons from keeping up with it.  I need motivation to work on my own time and if there are legal obstacles to talking about or contributing my efforts openly (as is often the case in this industry) then I’m disinclined to do so.

So, yah.  Off I go!

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TweetTelegraph – Part 4 (Software)

Next up, the software.  The Arduino software would be broken into two parts.  The first part would be responsible for driving the sounder while the second would be responsible for reading from the key.  I started with the sounder because this was by far the easier problem.

I wanted to keep the serial protocol simple.  At first I had thought about sending markers for the long and short pulses (and their associated delays) over the wire and having the Arduino client be dumb but by doing so I’d require any server side implementer of the protocol to be smartish.  Although I wanted to do this project to interface with Twitter I also wanted to keep it open enough that I could send whatever I wanted along the wire to the telegraph without much fuss (ie: re-implementation of the protocol).  I decided on a message format consisting of null terminated strings which would allow for these hypothetical “other purposes” easily.

Completed Arduino source may be found here.  I think I’ve managed to comment it pretty well so I wont really get into details here.  Also I must confess my difficulty in testing this software.  The problem is, I don’t know Morse code.  This may seem weird given the nature of the project but the truth is my attachment to the technology is purely romantic.  As a result, testing was spotty and difficult.  I THINK the patterns emitted are correct and I’m fairly certain the patterns tapped are as well but my confidence is limited by my ability to hear and create those patterns.

Finally, the desktop side software.  This I don’t really want to get into.  Firstly, that code is a bit of a mess in comparison to the microcontroller code and secondly I utilized open source software packages in its construction and from a legal standpoint with regard to my employer it’s easier for me to just not deal with it here.  The general sketch of it is pretty simple, however.  First, you need a twitter client package that’ll listen to your feed (or search or mentions or whatever you want sent to the device.  The lighter the flow here the better – it takes a long time to tap out a message and you don’t want to worry about running out of buffer or having the thing clack on for hours).  From this feed you need to extract the message, massage it into a string containing the user name, and send it over the serial port in a null terminated fashion.  You will also need to listen for data on the serial port as well, which will also come across as null terminated strings.  This data should be sent off to Twitter as appropriate.

And that’s pretty much it.  It was definitely a fun first project for the Arduino and I look forward to doing more work on the platform.  Software is great and all but being able to hold and see in front of you the results of your work is definitely a different kind of satisfaction.

Video of telegraph in some phase of development (I forget which):

See also: TweetTelegraph – Part 1 (Shopping)TweetTelegraph – Part 2 (XBee Hardware)TweetTelegraph – Part 3 (Telegraph Hardware)

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TweetTelegraph – Part 3 (Telegraph Hardware)

Okay, let me level with ya.  The last two posts were written as I was doing the work described and I had every intention of doing the same for the rest of the project but that didn’t happen.  You know how it is – you get caught up in the project and the documentation suffers.  Anyhoo, from here on out I’m going to do my best to reconstruct events as I best remember them.  For this reconstruction it would be instructive to imagine the role of me being played by Kirsten Vangsness.  No, really. I do it all the time and it feels GREAT.

Shortly after I managed to get the radios working my telegraph package arrived.  The machine was beautiful and everything I had hoped for.  Heavy wood, solid brass fixtures.  Mm.  So nice.  I quickly hooked it up to a battery to ensure the sounder and coil still worked as promised and sure enough they did.  Huzzah!  Of course, now I had to ruin it.  A key / sounder pair is set up in series such that when the key is pressed the circuit is completed and the sounder sounds.  That’s all well and good back in the 1800s but I wanted the input and output from the key and sounder to be split for ease of development.  I carefully severed the connections on the board such that the key and sounder were each on their own circuits.

First up, the sounder.  I connected it to an Arduino loaded with a simple program that alternated HIGH/LOW to a pin at a regular interval and… no dice.  The sounder requires more juice than the output pin of an Arduino can muster.  Instead of hooking the pin directly to the sounder I added a transistor into the mix as a switch to allow the full 5V from the Arduino to hit the sounder.  With this setup the sounder worked reliably (and loudly).

The key is a much simpler matter.  It’s just a switch.  Press the key and complete the circuit.  For a sanity check I hooked the key up to another Arduino app which simply toggled the built in LED based on the switch and thankfully it worked.  My surgery to separate the key and sounder worked.

In addition to the telegraph I needed a switch that I could use to toggle from input to output mode.  Full duplex communication is doable here but it felt like more grief than it was worth. A simple modern looking switch might do but I wouldn’t be very satisfied by that – it wouldn’t match at all with the telegraph.  In the end I settled on a simple knife switch from RadioShack (or The Source now.  Sigh.)  It feels more appropriate than a modern switch but it’s still made of plastic and cheap metal so I’m not really satisfied with it.  I’m still on the lookout for an antique knife switch to really complete the look.

Finally, I wanted an enclosure to put the whole thing in.  Originally I was aiming for an old cigar box and while I did find one it’s unfortunately too small. It fits the Arduino and shield well enough but the telegraph base is too big to fit flush on the top of the box.  While rummaging around at a thrift store I stumbled upon an older wooden breadbox with the rolling door.  It’s nowhere near as old as the telegraph but it does the trick. I can put the whole setup inside the box without a problem.

And that’s pretty much it for hardware.  Other than the expensive antique it’s a fairly cheap project. ;)

See also: TweetTelegraph – Part 1 (Shopping)TweetTelegraph – Part 2 (XBee Hardware)TweetTelegraph – Part 4 (Software)

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  • About Me

    Hi! My name is Kimberly Horne and I have absolutely nothing interesting to say. Unfortunately for you I DO have an overpowering need to tinker with technology which is explains the presence of this journal. I mostly talk about games (video and tabletop), technology, tattoos, and my pets.

    If you're an Eclipse user you may find my Eclipse category more interesting.

    Similarly, if you're an Arduino nerd then maybe my projects might be of interest.

    Since I've discovered Twitter this journal has been neglected somewhat. If you really want to stalk me your best bet is to follow me on twitter.