Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, March 22, 2003

 

Living with the Machine



Everyone tells me there's a war on, but the only war I've been fighting has been with software, my illness and my machines.

I've got a CISCO router that I can't remember how to configure, and an ISDN line calling to it.
I've got my Kerbango Memorial Radio project to keep sanding as programming it is beyond me.
Jim Baer sent me code for COMETS to calculate launches off of Apollo asteroids like Toutatis and Castillia, I can't even get java to run...
I have a zillion things I wanted to do for the next version of MontaVista Graphics, including port gtk2, but I mostly wanted to play with it until I grokked what it really needed for small systems. No interest.

There seems to be stuff in my mind, hiding. I reach for C, nothing happens. I get really tense because nothing happens. Shell is there but doing more than a few lines of it to maybe automate ppp better doesn't come to me. Everything I learned before 1986 is there, basically. I never understood Java in the first place (Why do java when you can write in a fast, reliable, open source language like Perl or Python, but even looking at java code, trying to make it run, hurts. It's a dead spot, a dead zone, a la Steven King, when I reach for this stuff.

But hey, a couple days ago, I wasn't even up to turning that router on, maybe when I wake up again, I'll remember how to configure DHCP.

Maybe there's a magic set of commands required to reboot myself, too.


{
boot yes;
hardware address WA:KE:UP:MI:KE;
load johnny.net;
}


The first day of the rest of my life was yesterday.

It started with brunch and some quality hugging time with my ex-gf. Though we remain incompatible country boy and city girl, I think we're going to be friends again.I had some quiet time at home, too as Josh was in SF with some friends, avoiding the protests. And...

I got the sleep apnea ("CPAP") machine!, which provides continuous air pressure via a mask on your face. The pressure is high enough to keep your breathing passages open, and also tends to reduce central breathing stop events. I'm very aware these days of these latter events, it seems like I have concious knowledge of them now, but I don't have control over them. It's weird. I'm not faking these events to myself, they persist through all the levels of sleep.

I got about 2 hours sleep on the machine last night before I woke up, pretty energized, and couldn't get back to sleep for the life of me. While it was great to wake up like that, I had hoped that I'd just drop off for the first 8 hrs of good sleep I'd had in years. I tried and tried to force myself to sleep with the machine on. I probably should have done something else, like make a blog entry, but I really, really, wanted that sleep.

I grew really concious, after a while, that at full blast the machine is loud.

I am exceedlingly sensitive to noise. I live in a house with wood heat because I can't stand the sound of machines like my gas heater. The hum of a fridge really bothers me. The "thwap thwap thwap" of an operating washer or dryer makes it utterly impossible to focus. I've drilled holes in my floors and put all my fast, loud computers in the basement, so I can't hear them. I have several slow, but nearly silent C3 mini-ITX machines upstairs, muffled by pillows. The sound of the flyback transformer in my ancient 21 inch monitor drives me subtly bats. 60hz hum is the enemy. The doc at the Stanford Sleep Institute tried to re-assure me that most of my problem was with high frequency noise, that after a while it wouldn't bother me... And I knew I had once again been way ahead of my doctors, as I have done audio apps for a long time, that some of the worst noise I deal with (the fridge), has a large low frequency component, and he was BSing me to make me feel better. Well, I did feel better. Being lied to by someone with good intent remains re-assuring.

Lying awake with nothing to focus on but that noise... doesn't work for me. I lay there for about an hour before I took the mask off, turned the machine off, and went right to sleep. People claim that this sort of environmental noise doesn't bother them, but I've run experiments on many friends and guests, reducing the noise of the household to zero over the course of the taped conversation, and observed the results. Inevitably, they get more relaxed, talk more freely, and sometimes they notice how absent of civilized sound my house is. Some listen to the silence.

One remarked, recently: "It's so LOUD" -

Just as lead lining the aqueducts drove the Romans subtly insane, without them ever guessing the cause, I've long theorized the persistent environmental noise surrounding us all is making us nuts. Maybe it's not just me - there seems to be a marked tend towards quieter computing - companies like VIA and Transmeta are capitalizing on it. There's a company making quiet 350 watt ATX power supplies, 1U rack-mount cases - there's mini-itx motherboards with more power than anything you could buy 4 years ago, running fanless. I really like my Epia-M motherboard, it's very quiet. It's too slow for cakewalk's audio, but soundforge works good, as does midi. It almost keeps up with Dragon Dictate. It's basically "Good enough".

it's deeply ironic, to me, that after working on so many machines my whole life, and trying so hard, my whole life to avoid their sound, that I'm now tied to one. It's now safe for me to take sleeping pills, so I may try those. Another personal taboo, shot down - I gave up on anything but herbal remedies after being mis-diagnosed for the 4th time 10 years ago...

The visit with Terri and the 2 hours did me a lot of good. Today I put 10 miles in on my bike, cleaned the yard, sorted bills, got caught up on about 1/10th my personal email (I'm up to early feburary now, which is when I dropped of the metaverse)...

I got two hours in on the machine, just now, woke up, and decided I should blog. There's two meletonin in me, and nighttime sinutab, I keep hoping they will kick in.

Dr Richard Feynman once wrote about his process of going to sleep. "I wonder. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder why I wonder" - passing into an infinite recursive loop that ultimately resulted sleep. I keep recursively calling my personal sleep() system call, nothing happens but a stack overflow from doing nothing more than breathing in and out, and I wonder, is there a better way? Will this do for now?

It seems to be a start. Hmm, maybe some chamomille tea.

Maybe I'm so awake because I can't wait to find out what tomorrow is going to be like.

Michael


 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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