Friday Notes (Jan 28, 2022)

It’s been a minute or two since my last post. In large part, I’ve been on a three-week coding binge, moving some projects along and doing improvements and minor bug fixes on library code. At this point I’m a bit burned out and definitely over the binge. I don’t get the mood to really tuck in like this much anymore, so when that mood does strike, I surrender to it.

One consequence of not posting is that the longer I’m away from it the harder it seems to start up again. Some part of me finds this unrewarding and unsatisfying, but another part of me enjoys the writing and is drawn to it. Also, I still struggle with maintaining an artificial politeness rather than unleashing my inner guido (and I’m so tempted some days).

Anyway, without further ado, another edition of Friday Notes.

I can start with some nice news for astronomy buffs. Last post I wrote about the, at long last, successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The deployment stages all when without a hitch, and the JWST has arrived at the L2 point and gone into orbit there. Now it’ll continue with mirror alignment, final cooling down, and calibration. A lot of eager and interested people are breathless awaiting first light from this new instrument.

With regard to the cooling down, NASA’s status page for the JWST (now with 3D imaging!) reports that the cold side is down to -340° F (which makes our Minnesota January temps of a mere -10° seem balmy). The sunshield, however, is a whopping 130° — quite toasty. It really demonstrates the importance of that sun shield.

Once again, kudos to all involved!


I also mentioned last time I was going to devote to tossing old clothes long past their trash date. I can report much progress there. All the old socks: gone. Most of the old undies: gone (with the rest slated for one final wear). Lots of shirts and stuff bagged for a trip to Goodwill.

Somehow 2021 seemed a non-year. Perhaps just a much-needed time to pause and catch our breath, but 2022 makes me feel like I need to wake up and get moving again. Between the clothing and the coding, I feel I’m off to a start.  (plus BentleyMom and I have already checked out two new burger joints and may try a third this very day).


Yet another synchronicity story: To stave off leg cramps, and because I rather like them, I have a banana every day (at Banana O’clock; 9 am). About a week or so ago, as I had my banana, a fragment of a rock song entered my head — something about God’s Great Banana Skin. I knew I knew the tune but couldn’t think who did it or where I’d heard it.

(Those of you who are musically astute might be there already.)

During my coding binge I happened to put on the two Chris Rhea albums I have, The Road to Hell (1989) and The Best of Chris Rea (1994). I need to buy more of his albums; I really like how diverse and eclectic his work is. Some artists, their stuff sounds mostly the same, they have a clear style. Others explore the music map, and I tend to favor such. The title cut of that first album is one of my all-time favorite rock tunes.

Anyway, I’m coding away and suddenly in my ears, “God’s great banana skin; Don’t you laugh at nobody; You’ll let the bad luck in; God’s great banana skin; It’s the way that it gets you.” Ah, so that’s where I heard it. Makes perfect sense it’d be Chris Rea.

It’s just weird how reality answered the question in my mind. Synchronicity!


During my coding binge I noticed a habit I wish I could break. Or that what drives the behavior didn’t bug me like it does.

The coding involved a lot of web app stuff, and what I noticed is how much I hate having much of a back history trail in my browser. I’m constantly backing up to the first page. Why? Why does that history annoy me so much?

I do the same thing with Windows Explorer windows. If I do much clicking around, at some point the accumulating history begins to bug me, and I back, back, back back, omg why am I doing this, back, back, back,… arg!

It may have something to do with how I use the history to move back and forth between windows. When it gets too big, I lose track of where I am. Or, as I’ve sometimes suspected, I’m somewhere on “the spectrum” and this is just my OCD manifesting itself.

Or maybe, when it comes to my computer work, I’m just hyper-organized and neat (which is astonishing, since there’s little sign of that in my personal life; apparently all my OCD gets channeled into my work where I am, indeed, obsessive).

My email inboxes? Never more than a dozen emails. All the rest are deleted or neatly sorted in appropriate folders. My desktop? Four icons. I look at people who have a desktop covered in icons and wonder how they find anything.

I had a manager once that, looking over his shoulder, I saw had over 1000 emails in his inbox. How, I wondered, is that even possible?

I hear about “tab managers” and other strategies for managing all those browser tabs people apparently have open (like all the time?). I have six open now, and that’s about as much as I ever do. I can’t even understand why someone would have enough tabs open to be a problem. I just close windows I’m not using.


In retrospect, it’s obvious, but recently I found myself noticing that winter seemed long. That was when the obvious hit me. Of course winter (and summer) are long, while spring and fall are fast. It has to do with the rate of change.

Winter and summer are, in a sense, stable states, whereas fall and spring are transitory ones, so of course winter and summer seem long or languid, but spring and fall seem to rush by.

It’s not imagination or mere perception. It’s a real thing.


Little things amuse me sometimes. I noticed my (analog) clock read 5:05, yet despite both the hour and the minutes being “5” the clock hands were in quite different positions. Somehow, it almost seems they should both point to five.

But clock faces don’t work like that. The numbers are just the hours, nothing more, whereas the minutes require a tiny bit of thinking to equate “1” with “5 minutes past the hour.” (People who say they don’t do math… we actually do math all the time!)

On the flip side, when it’s 8:40 — very different hour and minute values — both hands are pointing the same way (at the “8”).

Bottom line, it’s nice that, after 65+ cynical years, even the most mundane things in the world, if you stop and let them in, can delight and surprise. The trick is not getting too locked into the rhythms of your chosen life.

§ §

Stay safe, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

22 responses to “Friday Notes (Jan 28, 2022)

  • Peter Morgan

    Welcome back. Raising your OCD to recurring decimals, not at 8:40, at 8:x, where (8+x/60)/12=x/60.

  • Sai Sundar S

    A new era in astronomy Salute to the great people who made the mission a success

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    What distinguishes artificial politeness from real politeness?

    On leg cramps, I sometimes have them at night. But I’ve noticed they’ve gone away since I’ve increased my water intake a bit. (Note *water* as opposed to fluids.) The increased intake was more aimed at dry eye issues, but it seems to be having other benefits.

    I don’t really have that issue with histories, except when I think I might need to go back, but then I usually open links in other tabs. That said, having lots of tabs or windows open at the same time stresses me out, so I do tend to clear out the ones I don’t need for the current task. That does require making a decision about whether to bookmark something for later or just forget it. As I’ve gotten older, the just-forget-it choice has risen in frequency.

    On the other hand, my inboxes are a mess. I long ago gave up keeping them organized. I do make heavy use of mail rules, so there is some organization. For example, all my comment notifications go into a Comment folder, filtering out comments that aren’t directed at me. I have similar rules in my work email for all the various ticketing systems I deal with. But even with that, we will not speak of how much is still in those inboxes.

    Digital clocks became prevalent just as I got old enough to care about time, so reading an analog clock has always felt a bit unnatural for me.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hydration definitely helps. The bananas, of course, provide natural potassium. I used to get cramps regularly, especially when I was pushing my walking range. Since the bananas, almost no problems (and mild ones when I do cramp).

      I also learned a very effective trick from a doctor’s video: Muscles oppose, that’s how we move, and your body is actually quite good about relaxing the opposing muscle when tightening the one. Most try to fight a cramp by trying to relax or massaging, but if you attempt hard to flex in the opposite direction, your body tends to release the cramping muscle. Works pretty well the few times I’ve had to try it.

      Both my browser Favorites bar and my Windows Start menu are… highly curated, shall we say? I have links for all the places I visit regularly (WP Comments, Drafts, Admin, etc), and several dropdown folders just for temporary stuff (I have one called “Working On…” for instance with links to various post drafts). For one-shot places, I often just know I can find the site in the actual browser history (as opposed to the session history, which is what I’m constantly clearing), so I’m an almost reflexive tab closer. In fact, I find I often use that “Reopen closed tab” feature and like it a lot!

      I suppose analog clock reading is an older skill. I’ve always been a little fascinated with clocks (took tons of them apart as a kid). I haven’t worn a watch in decades (even before I carried a phone everywhere), but when I was into watches, I either bought analog or digital ones that looked analog (LCD “hands”). Way I am, I don’t particularly want to know that it’s 8:43. I just want to know that it’s about a quarter to nine! 😀

      That said, of course, there are digital clocks everywhere I look, including right above my monitor.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh! I didn’t answer your initial question. Sincerity. 🙂

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’ll have to remember that trick for cramps. Thanks! What’s often worked for me is stretching the cramping muscles, but that requires getting out of bed to stretch hamstrings. But at least it usually doesn’t take anything intense; a mild stretch for 20 seconds usually does the trick. But not having them at all is definitely better.

        Never noticed the reopen closed tab thing before. I also see an option to bookmark all tabs. I could see that creating a pretty messy bookmark list very fast.

        Chad Orzel just came out with a new book on the history of timekeeping. I find Orzel an excellent science communicator but I’m not sure whether I’m interested enough in that topic. But sounds like you might be.

        This might get down to how we define “politeness”, but it strikes me as something that always requires effort. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier when we’re happy with the other party than exasperated.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh, yeah, “Bookmark all tabs” sounds way too messy to me. I just drag and drop the URL into the folder I want. (And I can’t say I’ve ever been in a position where I’d want to bookmark all the tabs I had open. I rarely want to bookmark more than one at a time.)

        I’ve seen my fair share of documentaries about the history of time and clocks. At this point I think I’m more interested in the physics of time than in timekeeping (and it does have quite a history; I can see why Orzel might write a book about it).

        My observation is that being polite seems easier for some than others, more a natural or instinctive mode. I’m one of those who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, easily, or well. Ever since I saw it, I’ve been very struck by an episode of House, M.D. In it, the rare exotic “call Doctor House” disease causes a guy to lose his social filter. Any thought that comes into his head, he blurts it out. Almost ends his marriage because, while he claims everyone thinks these things (you’re fat, you’re stupid, what you do it silly/pointless, etc), she claims that’s not so (she doesn’t, she claims). And I’ve met people who do seem like her — slice them open and all you find is flowers, fresh bread, and gum drops. “Not an evil bone in their body,” as the saying goes.

        And then there’s people like me who constantly have to bite their tongues. Remember that Critical Drinker guy on the YouTube channel? You didn’t care for his style? I love that guy, because he’s just like me, but he has the balls to go with it. He has a series of published adventure novels, and maybe that makes it easier to not give a shit. That’s what’s maybe different for me; I do give a shit and don’t intend hurting anyone’s feelings, but my naturally flamboyant and aggressive style (as you’ve found yourself) can bruise. So, I sometimes feel a little stuck and wish I could move the needle one way or the other. Either find a place of better graciousness or just say fuck it and embrace my inner guido. The latter is a constant temptation just because it would be so much easier. Trying to not offend… I often find it exhausting because people are so easily offended.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        My experience is that being considerate is a muscle, one that gets stronger with practice. Having a stint in a customer service or sales job is a good way to build it. Although I don’t doubt that there are innate differences in people’s ability to develop it, similar to any other skill.

        I think I’ve noted before that I don’t buy the idea that some people are nothing but honey inside. I’ve never met a person who, sooner or later, doesn’t have bad moments, foolish ones, angry ones, selfish ones, etc. We’re all human. It’s just a matter of seeing them in enough situations. Granted, some people are able to show a lot less of those than average, while others struggle to be anything but those bad moments.

        Calling people out when they’re having their bad moments can feel really good, at least in the moment. But being called out in our own bad moments doesn’t feel nearly as good. A lot of getting along with people seems to require tolerating a reasonable number of those bad moments from them, and not burdening them with too many from us. But it always requires effort, and not everyone carries their share.

        Not that I’m any kind of master at this, having inflicted too many bruises myself over the years.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The first step is perceiving it as a value to begin with, and I think there’s a lot of variation in that judgement. The Victorian British valued it almost above all else — the civilized Englishman. (Although as with many social mores, it was often enough honored in the breach.) And surely if one’s job depends on it, that’s value right there. But some view it as social artifice that’s effectively a kind of white lie and value bluntness over it. I do have to number myself among them. But following that star has a heavy cost that I’m not sure I’m committed enough to the principle to pay. I do place some value on polite social interaction, but straight plain talk I favor slightly more. I’m conflicted.

        I don’t know what to make of the idea of people who are apparently sweet to the core. I’ve known people who do seem that way (in contrast with others who don’t at all). I’m not sure I buy it either and wonder what goes on in their heads sometimes. As you said, practice makes perfect, and could these folks be so practiced, so committed, that it becomes their reality? I can’t say it’s not possible but based on what goes on in my own head, it’s hard for me to fully credit.

        It isn’t about bad moments, though. As you say, we all have those, we all can be pushed to a point of strong reaction. That’s not what I’m talking about. Exactly as you say, there’s no value in calling people out for a bad moment. We’re all different under stress. I’m talking about how people are normally — what their default modes are. I’ve never had a problem with excited outbursts. Recall my arts background; excited outbursts are normal. As I’ve said, we’re a flamboyant bunch. Emotional. Art is about connection with one’s emotions, so it’s the lingua franca. The corporate world is generally intolerant of such, which was a constant burden for me while working. My tongue got pretty sore from all the biting.

  • diotimasladder

    Delete email messages? Wow. Never thought about that. I have emails going back to…well, I don’t even know.

  • Matti Meikäläinen

    When digital time pieces became popular, I thought (hoped) it was a passing fad. Who needs that compulsive type of accuracy? That was around the time of the Apollo moon shots. And I think the space craze had an influence on it. I’m an analog fan. It’s the original graphic user interface.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yes, exactly! As I was saying to Mike above, I don’t divide my hours into minutes (let alone seconds) but things like “20 past” or “quarter of” — plenty of precision for me! 😉

      You make a good point about the influence of the moon shots. We were really into it, and technology still had that “it can fix everything” cachet. I remember those early red LED watches with the tiny numerals. I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it has a great line about “an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” I always loved that line!

  • Anonymole

    Tab Groups are my new friends.
    I no longer treat the browser as a browser. It’s an app container and should contain all the “apps” I use – open all the time. Roughly 30 tabs. But grouped. So I see five groups, and then the five tabs in the one group.

    Email? How passe’. An empty inbox is a happy inbox.

    JWST? More of the same, I predict. We are tiny, self-absorbed nothings in a cosmic sea of indifference.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Perhaps, but we might be the most interesting thing the universe has produced: a non-deterministic machine that presumes to (and is doing a half-decent job of) understanding the universe. I don’t have a source for it, but my quotes file has this: Given enough time, atoms arrange themselves and start to wonder why they exist.

      That said, I often do share your cynicism. Very often. I read far future SF and wonder how the hell we’ll ever manage to get there. Kind of a crapshoot, really. We’re capable of such heights, but we do wallow in the muck. I see things like the JWST as hopeful. Candles in the dark. (And, perhaps, in the wind as well.)

      Yeah, I get hugely uncomfortable if my inbox has more than a handful of things — balls I still have in the air. (I’ve wondered if the manager who decided I wasn’t needed based his decision, in any way, on the expression on my face when I saw he had over 1000 emails in his inbox. I can be too transparent sometimes.)

      I’d only have one tab group with a handful of tabs in it. 😀 I will say, though, that much of the coding binge involved big improvements on a web-based Python app I run on my laptop’s local webserver (the true copy of my personal dot-com website). That app is a Swiss Army knife of little applets I sometimes need: a hex dump, a file sort, all sorts of little things, a lot of image generation stuff leveraging the browser. So, I do use the browser a lot as an app space, but not to the level it sounds as if you do. Explorer windows are big for me, and I’ve never liked web-based email apps (I use Mozilla Thunderbird). Image editing and creation; do a lot of that, too.

      I’m just floored sometimes by how far browsers have come. I remember back in the early 1990s when a co-worker downloaded the C source code for this thing called Mosaic. She compiled it, and we all watched over her shoulder at this new-fangled, kinda butt ugly, thing. It was slow, especially with images. I didn’t think it would ever amount to much. FTP, Gopher, Telnet, all seemed better. Way faster, anyway. Long way in 30 years. Who knew http would so rule our lives? Lotta eggs in that basket.

      • Anonymole

        Yeah, HTTP, the poor thing. What abuse it takes these days. (Not to mention HTTPS – the fact that SSL is not a thing anymore? Wha? TLS.3, 4… 10?)
        About the only “apps” I run these days are IntelliJ, postman, slack and a DB client. I do have VSCode alongside too, because, well, I miss my VisualStudio days. Everything else is a webapp.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s… actually kind of impressive. So, you do all your source code editing in a browser. I’ve been a VIM user for decades; not sure I could live without it!

      • Anonymole

        IntelliJ is an app – like VSCode/Eclipse/VisualStudio. So, no code editing in a browser.

  • Friday Notes (May 13, 2022) | Logos con carne

    […] More to the point, it’s Friday, and I’ve been remiss about Friday Notes this year. The one last January is the only one I’ve posted so far. Big part of that is having, at long last, reduced my note […]

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