Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Fighting the Time Bandits…

Stacks of Boxes-500 Wide.jpg

…not to mention the energy bandits. I didn’t always have trouble with those.

So. I have not abandoned Contra, am not dead nor even injured. (I took some skin off one of my toes in Hawaii.) I don’t know that I can manage a detailed entry today, but I’m not sure I’ve ever gone a month without posting here. I’ve done a little better on Facebook, but that has mostly been posting interesting links and maybe a little commentary.

Like, f’rinstance, the Sun has gone to sleep, and has been asleep now for twelve days. For ten of those twelve days, even the solar plages went missing, and I generally don’t see that. Yesterday I started to see some plages again, so I’m guessing we’ll see some spots in the next few days. It’s remarkable for this to happen just two years after a solar maximum, poor limp excuse for a maximum that it was. We’re certainly seeing a much quieter Sun than we’re used to. What that means is impossible to know right now. I doubt we’re sliding into a new Ice Age, though it’s fascinating to speculate…and one of the reasons we may not be is that we have a little more CO2 in the atmo to keep things warm.

The cool part (as it were) is that I will probably live long enough to see if a weaker solar cycle has any measurable effect on climate. (I won’t be 90 until 2042, and I certainly intend to live at least that long.)

So. The reason I’ve been so strapped is this: When we packed the house last December so we could winter over in our new house in Phoenix, we packed what we needed, and left everything else in Colorado. Now we have to empty the house except for some furniture and knicknacks for staging.

What was startling was how much was left after we extracted what we needed.

There’s a lesson in that somewhere, and if I had time I’d dig for it. Instead, Carol and I are doing triage on an enormous amount of stuff, packing and labeling the keepers and hauling the discards to whoever will take them. I’m making a salvage run to the metal yard later this week with a couple of ’50s chrome kitchen chairs with the padded panels removed, a couple of ’70s folding chairs ditto, a ’50s charcoal grill, a ’50s stepstool, some odd steel scrap, and about ten pounds of copper wire and other odd copper/brass items. I’m selling furniture and our gas grill on Craigslist. We’re shredding twenty years of odd bills and recycling several boxes of old magazines that somehow escaped the heave-ho last year. Almost all back issues of the Atlantic are now online, so I don’t need to keep paper mags, even the ones tagged with significant articles. (The Atlantic used to have a lot more of those in the ’80s and ’90s than they do today.)

Solar Panel 300 Wide.jpgCarol’s packing glassware and kitchen and office stuff and much miscellany. I have to get rid of a solar panel that I cobbled up in 1977 from six 6-cell subpanels that doesn’t work anymore, and I would like to investigate the peculiar failure mode if I had time: When first placed in the Sun it generates 17 volts, but over a period of no more than five minutes the voltage drops down under 10 volts and eventually to 5. It hasn’t been in the Sun at all these past 40 years…so what died? I’m curious, but not curious enough to keep it and do exploratory surgery on it.

The kicker, though, is this: No sooner did we get back from our Hawaii vacation than I was sent the PDF proofs of my six chapters of Learn Computer Architecture with the Raspberry Pi. That’s 100,000 words and 90 hand-drawn technical figures. I have to read them closely, because I’ve already spotted typos that were not present in the edited manuscript ARs. Somebody, somewhere changed “Jack Kilby” to “Jack Kelby.” The inventor of the integrated circuit deserves better. I may be the last line of defense against stuff like that, so I have to read slowly and pay complete attention. Also, don’t get me started on example code. Whitespace is significant in Python…and for what, Lord? To torment typesetters and technical editors?


We’re still trying to schedule some essential work, like having an epoxy coating put down on the new garage floor, getting all the outside windows washed, and having the carpets and drapes cleaned. So, evidently, is everyone else in Colorado Springs. Want to make good money? Forget your Grievance Studies degree and go into carpet cleaning.

By now you may be getting the idea. I turned 64 on the 29th, and am feeling every day of it. I’m desperate to do some new SF (so desperate that I’ve started writing country-western songs in my head while schlepping boxes) and that’s not going to happen for awhile.

The bad news is that this isn’t going to be over any time real soon. End of July, I hope. But if the house keeps vomiting up weird stuff that we didn’t have to deal with last time, all bets are off. Your best bet is to watch Facebook, as I allow myself fifteen minutes of online time during the day.

I’ll be back. (Didn’t somebody else say that? Oh, yeah: I used to have some 75 ohm terminators, but they’re long gone.) I haven’t been doing this for 18 years only to stop now.


  1. Rick H says:

    I recall my last move. We’d already downsized from the move before that, but packing everything up again was an adventure. Many times, I’d think that a room was done, and I’d turn around and there was more stuff to pack.

    It’s the old 90-10 rule: the first 90% of the job takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% of the job takes the other 90%.

    The biggest struggle was the ‘scrapbook room’ – 15’x30′ of all sorts of scrapbook stuff. It was more work than my garage.

    Hang in there…

  2. SteveF says:

    I’ve started writing country-western songs in my head

    Ha! I write songs, too (lyrics and the basic melody; I don’t arrange) and the songs that come out of my head are mostly country-western.

    I can’t stand country-western songs, or at least the stuff that’s played on the radio.

    My brain obviously hates me.

    1. Nah. It’s just that your left brain and your right brain are a bad match. Mine are too, sometimes. I used to start a lot more stories than I finished, and the problem appears to be that I tried to tell my right brain what kind of stories I wanted to write. Ever since I just gave up and let the little monster tell the stories it wants to tell, I’ve been finishing pretty much everything I start. I had no chapter outline for Ten Gentle Opportunities. I just sat down and started writing. And the Monster from the Right Brain gave me a helluva novel.

  3. Bob says:

    Regarding typos in your manuscript, I take it that your publisher does not directly use your electronic manuscript. I have not published books but nowadays most scientific journals will use my latex manuscript directly, at least in my field–physics. They used to hand typeset the paper, which was a huge hassle because it took a couple of go-arounds to get the equations in half way decent shape.

    But they still find ways to screw it up. In my latest paper, they swapped two figure graphics so the caption did not match the graphic. Doh. I think that was due to a human editor because my figure files were correctly named and their software uses them directly unless someone intervenes.

    That brings up my final pet peeve of document creation. I remember a cartoon that showed a thoroughly marked up version of the sentence:
    “there is nothing more fundamental than the urge to edit someone else’s copy.”


  4. Bob says:

    p.s. I bet you had an urge to edit the sentence 🙂

    BTW, I do not write my manuscripts using latex but instead use a GUI front end called Lyx, that I recommend highly. This can output pdfs but will also produce native latex as well as html and other formats. There are tools such as TeX4ebook to convert latex to epub or mobi but I have not used them.

    1. I have Lyx here and would probably use it except for the 15 years’ worth of skills I’ve developed in InDesign. For manuscripts I use Word 2007, which imports well into Jutoh, which outputs damned fine ebook files and talks to KindleGen automatically. If I ever do a technical ebook, it’s likely to be a PDF, as reflowability scrambles pages full of code, tables, and figures. Instead, I’ll do a large-type PDF and test its readability on screens at several common sizes, from phablet up to desktop. Large type won’t matter because I won’t be printing the book and thus don’t care how many pages it has.

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