Goodbye Dolores.

Today I was trying to finish some drafts and sorting out material for the next ones when gossiping around I got the news that Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, passed away earlier this week.

I missed them whey they came to Argentina but they’ll always be special for me, as the first time I kissed a girl (that later became a Real Woman, unlike most of her contemporary gals) we were dancing like dorks to the tune of Ode to My Family.

Tooling up

Since I moved back to my childhood neighborhood I reconnected with a lot of people that were part of my developing years and imprinted many memories that I still recall fondly to this day.

One of them is a very nice old man, a bit younger than what my grandfather would be were he be still alive. From time to time I help him with the daily errands and every other week we share a simple lunch. He used to run a hardware store that marveled me every time I went (when I was a child I could be impressed with simple things. Thankfully, now I still do).

Nowadays the store is run by his sons. He comes anyways, sits on a corner drinking mate and welcomes the patrons. Besides knowing almost everyone around he’s also versed in almost any trade I can think of and that skill is quite useful, as many times people come without knowing what they need or how to fix something.

I visited him for new year’s eve and between a glass of wine he said come to the shop once the holiday craze fades, I have something for you.

A couple of days later I go to the store and without a word he carries me to the back into a room I never visited before.

This are all the returned items that we can not send for repair. Some customers are worth keeping and so we just give them a new machine instead of washing our hands because the manufacturer would not take them. Pick what you want, we’ll talk business later .

I got this out of the deal at a very discounted price:

  • A combo tig/stick welder plus plasma cutting with all the standard accessories and an auto darkening mask.
  • A drill press.
  • A miter saw.
  • Small air compressor.

Besides that he sold me safety gear, consumables and a couple of other things like magnetic squares and pressure clamps, air hoses with quick disconnects, a paint gun and a spraying one.

You don’t look at a gifted horse in the mouth but given that these were rejects I had to.

The welder was only banged a couple of times on one side and had some loose connectors. After fixing that it worked flawlessly. It came with all the torches, water tramp and pressure regulator and spares.

The compressor is way loud and one of the connections between the reservoir tanks and the regulator has a leak, I can see oil (or moisture?) bubbling when it’s running. It’s not a big deal and while the fix is easy it involves fumbling with very delicate tubing and I know from experience that a bit too much of torque can easily wreck them. Also it’s not very ergonomic, the handle has sharp edges and if I’m supposed to use it to move it around I have to crouch. As it is not very heavy I just lift it whenever I need to move.

The drill had less than the barely minimum grease on the table lift column (none) but surprisingly the chuck turned smoothly after loosening the belts. However the quill felt strange, like it was scratching something inside, and also the spring was harder than I’d like to. To dismantle it only needed a single screw to be removed and when it was out I swept the innards with a cloth and it came back with what looked like metal (or very thick paint) flakes. After making sure that none of that remained I applied a very generous amount of grease and put it back together.

Runs quite fine but the table has a bit of flex, nothing that a brace wouldn’t fix.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the miter saw. The stock abrasive disk is very soft and flexes, so making square cuts is a difficult task, and it really needs to be bolted on something hard, otherwise the frame tends to distort when applying pressure to the vise (just the necessary to keep things in place, seems like a production defect).

All of this came just in time, as I’m doing a couple of renovations on my parent’s house. (The neighbors are not exactly thrilled, as all of these tools make quite a bit of noise).

Cultural differences

Sunday was a very nice day among friends and partners of our neighborhood.

Instead of finishing a draft post about that I’m sad. I spent most of this Monday listening to our representatives going around circles instead of voting, while some of my friends were treated like terrorists, being searched by masked officers at gun point, others punched and kicked.

I listened to the live stream for about ten hours before the sleep took over. Most of the ‘normal’ people I met yesterday chose to ignore this and watch crap tv. Meanwhile in Japan they have entertainment shows like Supreme Skills where they pit engineers and craftsmen to see which one is able to complete very demanding projects. Some of them are very light on the details but nonetheless the content is still better than other productions and showcases a complete different scale of values.

On weekends most of us choose to numb our minds with meaningless stuff. Others enlighten themselves.

No wonder things go downhill.

A walk in nature to restore brain function.

So, it turns out that my biking escapades to Los Talas or walks among the forest have a greater side effect than letting me vent and clear the mind while it works on the background.

Urban environments tend to capture attention dramatically and require additional directed attention. Natural environments are as rich, if not richer, but tend to invoke involuntary attention more modestly, allowing directed attention mechanisms a chance to rest and recoup. Interaction with nature improves your ability to perform directed-attention tasks—things you need to concentrate on.

So says researchers from the University of Michigan in Cognitive Benefits of Nature Interaction (Psychological Science, December 2008). They’re looking at a side-effect free, zero-cost, readily available therapy to improve your cognitive functioning. All it takes is a walk in the park.

I found this perusing the many pearls of Andy Hunt.

Birthday

This 30th birthday is way better than the last one.

Near the end, when we were almost finishing packing up a police car appeared. They said someone made a complaint about noises and that we should turn it down.

By then, after a very loud party on the street, there was just a small powered speaker, so we just unplugged it. They walked away, tail between their legs, but before that took all my personal data just in case.

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Kubero Díaz

Las night I had the privilege of meeting Kubero Díaz, a legend of argentinian music.

It’s refreshing seeing someone so great being so natural and friendly, without airs of big star. He talked a lot about his adventures with Jorge Pinchevsky in Europe and played many songs for us with the same energy he had on his youth.

I bought his last work, a magnificent cd with a beautiful crafted artwork, and he had the generosity of signing it.

Seasonality.

Reflecting on my latest relationships, most of them begin or end around this time of the year when I feel down and lonely and anxious juggling lots of things.

It’s Over.

Yesterday, after almost exactly a year it was over.

We met for the first time on November 2016 while at PyCon. It was just like a dream.

The farewell party was at a very large house with pool and a park.

After a while of all the noise, shallow chit chat and drunken jokes I went for a walk at the park. It was dimly lit and among the shadows I catched a glimpse of a cat. I followed it until it decided to stop and allowed me to pet him.

And then, She joined me. We talked a lot about how we like cats, the clear sky full of stars, funny moments of the event. We got bored of sitting near the pool and I offered to grab a big puff so we can lay and watch the stars.

But by the time I reached the house some of my friends wanted to come back to the hostel, so I had to leave as I was the designated driver.

Later on December we matched on Tinder and started to chat, moved over to whatsapp and later telegram. She was about 1000km away back then.

On our first date I was a tad nervous, almost innocent. But then the fire lit again.

We had our ups and downs, wonderful moments and some not so much. We did a couple of trips, one of the most beautiful to Bariloche.

Without doubt she was one of the few Womans that I truly cared and Loved in the last years (Love with capital L).
She was one of the two that really cared about me and gave me support in one of my darkest eras (among other things She convinced me to start seeing a psychiatrist). Also, we explored our imagination and our kinky sides. She was one of the few woman that made me open up and reveal myself with all my insecurities and weaknesses. She let my human side flourish. Perhaps a bit too much, sometimes just the right word made me cry.

But not everything was roses. I became distant and tormented with troubles, some of them real, others just a byproduct of my mind. I focused on my studies and regaining my place on the society as an active member and so I put her on a second place for most of the week.

We had previous instances where we were about to call it quits. On one of them I applied some techniques of the Dual Control model and against all odds we ended in a whirlwind of lust.

But the writing was on the wall and we saw this coming.

She put it very concisely into words:

“We Love each other a Lot.
But we are not in love.”

Double Whammy.

I’m on Paxil since August.

Things have definitely improved but still, I’m not quite there yet. Some days I feel as down as before if not more. Others I have my chin up and look at the future with bright hope. I also put some weight (about 12Kg) and it’s the first time ever that I crossed the 70Kg line.

But overall, I’m not convinced that I reached the point where systemic therapy starts taking over the meds. So today we doubled the dosage.

If this doesn’t work we’ll try another one and repeat the whole process again. Lucky me the thieves at my medical insurance only cover a laughably low 27% of a very expensive medication (it’s about on par with the monthly fee). Next month I’m switching to the local generic. All the specialists I queried agreed that it’s as good as the one from Glaxo.

Groundhog Day

Somehow on Wednesdays, it seems that I never arrive home from work before 20.30 – 21 no matter how early I get out.

Last week I reached Retiro at around 17, hoped into a bus that was about to depart and tried to make myself comfortable in a not so soft seat. After crossing most of the city swift as it did so few times we enter into the highway. A couple of minutes later we reach a complete halt. There was a big accident and only one lane carried traffic.

Besides the common spectacle of clowns riding alone on big cars there was the musical companion of raging claxons. I was a bit pissed but there wasn’t much to do about that, so I tried to rest.

Yesterday was mostly the same, except that the queue at the bus stop was way longer than usual.
Overhearing some conversations I learned that they were going to a Coldplay show in La Plata. What a great timing.

After seeing two buses depart I get to board one but there were no seats available. I hopped inside even if that was a rip off, as the next bus would take quite a bit to arrive.

Despite being many laws and norms that forbid having standing passengers for journeys as large as this one this is actually a common situation for most of the day. The driver was generous this time and only allowed ten of us to travel standing.

After a while I got a headache and using my backpack as a pillow I rested on the floor. There was a group of young girls wearing a lot of makeup and leather in a fashion that screamed “rich princess trying to look bad” that gazed at me with an expression that conveyed something along the lines of “ugh, we have to share the ride with that hobo”. But after a while when they realized that this was going to take more time than they expected they joined me at the floor.

The road was completed stuck. Besides the rush of people going back from work there was the storm of fans.

As Buck Dharma used to say, time is the essence . So much of it wasted.

Yay.

Nightly sidewalk view

We were wanting to do this for quite a while. After installing led flood lamps over the transoms the whole corner transformed. I really like how the mixture of cold and warm lights inside portrait a scene through the frosted glass.

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Low level fun.

As a wise man said, “low level is easy”.

There aren’t that many things below that can break except for hardware (and compiler!) bugs, they are becoming increasingly common but still the level of pressure and control to keep quality up on processors are orders of magnitude greater than those on the stacks above the OS.

A minor update of Ruby broke everything? The layout is totally wrong when a browser locale is set to Spanish but no in English? Who’s to blame for that? Even if we have most of the sources fixing the problem for everyone but ourselves isn’t that easy.

The other Monday I went to the Uni to take an exam on digital circuits (graded with 9/10) and oh boy, programming in assembler again was refreshing.

The tooling is just as awful as the last time I took that course (not as bad as the first versions of mplab but the assembler is still dumb when it comes to parsing spaces and the integrated editor is notepad in disguise) but the difference is that now they allowed us to use our own notebooks. The only saving grace is that the assembler, debugger and simulator are different executables, they accept a sane set of command line parameters and they run fine under wine.

So I was able to use vim and a simple makefile to streamline the process and finish in almost no time. Sadly the bar to pass has declined a lot in the last years.

Distribution Panel III

Now it’s time to cut the umbilical cord and properly link to the main feed.

I made a hole in the wall to house a small box. I also added another pair of breakers with an rcd to rewire the adjacent room (for other reasons it’s best to keep it apart from the radio panel).

As we couldn’t disconnect the aerial fuse at the power pole we worked on live circuits.

When I’m say I’m alright

… don’t look in my eyes ’cause you’ll see I’m not alright.

But I’m trying.

About a month and half ago I snapped and couldn’t take it anymore. I sought professional help and got myself a Real Shrink and a Therapist (both extremely good and expensive). And I’m on meds now.

For the most part of the last three to four years what I described as “happy” or “fine” was actually different shades of miserable. I had my moments of truly happiness, but those were really few. And there was always that tiny rainy cloud looming above me.

I had a breakdown like this back in 2015 and I almost wanted to give up and get away from programming (I kinda did, I biked many times to the countryside trying to look for a quiet spot).

This time it’s not so bad on its own but compounded with other things happening in my life (one of the biggest is leaving Berisso) it totally wrecked me. The difference now it’s that I asked for help. I still run away from the civilization to take day long bike rides and reflex but I’m trying to get a grip on the problem and fix myself.

Lately I’ve lost interest in most of what my life is/was centered about (technology, engineering) and that bothers me a lot. Not completely, I have many drafts and toy projects that prove otherwise.

The knack it’s there but the thrill is gone. At least for a while.

As Dave Thomas put it, this is supposed to be fun. And it stopped being such for me, instead of an almost daily stream of marvel it gradually turned into a grind with an occasional touch of enjoyment, and not always at work.

I believe that we are defined by what we do (more than what we think / believe), work being a significant part of that. On that reference frame, this is a very tough situation.

So what now? I’m going to spend all the time I need to get better and take care of myself. I’m taking a bit of time off work and going back to uni for real, coming clean of my schedule to not rush things pretending I’m doing something when I’m not (attending lectures and using slack on the phone is awful). I’m saying no instead of hesitating. I’m not committing to do things just to please someone. I take a break when I feel I need it.

I know this stuff (antidepressants) takes time to make effect and it’s not a silver bullet that somehow will make everything fine overnight but I’m anxious, waiting for something to happen.

On a totally unrelated thing, the quote from the beginning is from a Storm Large song (it can be found here). I really miss her days with The Balls, the energy and vocal range from that era reminds me a lot to Skunk Anansie. But her smooth side of nowadays is gorgeous.