moar august 28th

1) I think I would read David Bentley Hart if he wrote the phone book. As with other authors, from time to time I hit a word in his writing that makes me think ‘I don’t think that’s the word you were looking for’ — but of course with him the odds of that are asymptotically approaching zero, so instead I get to pause and wonder why I think that, and figure out why he did choose it.

2) I don’t know why the previous owner and his electrician made the choices they made in a few cases. Mainly now I’m forced to confront something I’ve been wondering for a year — namely, why there is no battery monitor in this system. I am mysterioused. If you’re going to the trouble and expense of multiple solar panels and batteries and wiring and charge controllers and battery chargers (?) — why on earth would you not want to know how much power you’re generating, storing, and consuming?

3) It’s been raining off and on today, which is nice from a ‘the boat is not a sauna’ perspective, but less nice from a ‘please can I have a lot of electrons’ perspective. I find I’m less worried about rain in the bilges than I was a year ago.

4) From a very kind man on the towpath: ‘Have you had a boat for long?’ This is obviously a rhetorical question, but the tone was helpful and friendly. ‘How can you tell?’ ‘You’re not moored up very well.’ Helpful suggestions (with explanations) followed, with not an arrogant, irritated, or judgy note anywhere. No mocking, no patronising. No mansplaining. Just enough information — one corner of the square, not all four. People can be so wonderful.

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august 28th (2019)

Kennet and Avon Canal in the southwest UK with two narrowboats, some hedges, fields, and towpath.

Sidenote (to begin with) — I hate how hard it is to find a date on various online items of writing. Even “news” type sites sometimes seem to hide or fail to provide the date on which something was written. Even fakey ‘blog’ posts should have the damn date somewhere obvious – beginning or end, maybe both. How the hell am I supposed to know how to evaluate or interpret what I’m reading if I don’t have any idea if it’s current or ancient? wtaf.

I left Bath Marina with a non-functioning engine breasted up with Wonder Woman’s boat, nearly the same length. I have never seen anything like this woman — loads of things went wrong, and she just flew at everything and fixed it and kept on trucking. Absolutely blew my mind watching her. I (finally) got some experience on a moving narrowboat and worked some locks. I am super happy to have avoided navigating Bath on my own.

I am finally experiencing something I’ve wanted for over ten years — I’m in a narrowboat on a canal on a towpath mooring, not plugged in, with water on one side of me and a field on the other. The view from my kitchen window is a hedge of bramble and hawthorn and maybe some elder and other stuff. If I squinch down a little, I have a view through a gap in the hedge at ground level, through which I’m looking up through wildflowers and tall grasses to the sky. There are bees and butterflies. When people pass on the towpath, I see them from bellybutton level down. There are dogs and ducks and coots and moorhens, some swans, a lot of wood pigeons. Not tons of boat traffic — it’s mid-week, and I think there’s only one hire boat company between me and the Caen Hill flight, so I would guess that not many hire boaters would pass me other than people going west and back from that marina.

I’m (ironically) unintentionally practicing mindfulness by not having any options — I need to pay attention to everything at the moment. Is there sun, are the batteries charging, when should I charge or use my devices, what will the weather/sun situation be the rest of the day, and how do I manage rubbish, recycling, and toilet contents? Do I really have to poop now, or can it wait? How hot is it likely to get and will it be sunny or overcast and how do I want to arrange blinds and windows to manage the temperature inside the boat (to the extent that this is possible at all)? Is the water level dropping more, and am I still moving somewhat freely in the water or do I need to shove away from the bank a bit more and loosen my mooring lines? Are my mooring pins still secure?

Lots to learn — some of which I could have done more about in the marina, but having a safety net and extra systems makes it less urgent and sometimes complicates things. Electricity is going to take me a while to fully grasp, and possibly at least one additional thing installed — a meter — although it’s been suggested that there’s probably an app for the charge controller I have that would do this.

Having spent a day and a half moving and doing a handful of locks, I’ve got a better sense of what it’s like, and I think if I ask canalplan for a 4 hour day I should manage to do that in 6ish hours — sometimes less if there are no locks (or if I’m not the one doing them for whatever reason). I don’t think I’d want to have longer days than that for various reasons if I can avoid it. I think at that rate it will take me about two and a half weeks to get to my new mooring.

The engineer should have the part he needs today or tomorrow and should be able to get my engine functional by the end of the week. I’m getting blacked and fuel-polished early next week. I’m going to try to re-pack my stern gland while in drydock, and get all the liquid out of the engine bilges and maybe have it … not cleaned, exactly, but wiped out somewhat? I can buy spares here and get some fuel onboard and maybe some other bits I need or might need. I’m getting the hull surveyed before the blacking starts, so I’ll either be able to breathe easier for a while or have an idea what needs doing and how urgently. The new moorings have easy access to experts and equipment, so if I can make it there I’ll be in a good place to get everything sorted — location and people-wise, at least. Financially, it’s slightly more complicated.

I took a 4-day, 2600-mile road trip with my adult daughter and my cat. Here’s what happened.

All the dead raccoons

I saw more dead racoons than I have ever seen live racoons, pictures of racoons, gifs of racoons, racoons featured on book or magazine covers (including Ranger Rick), films or TV shows with raccoon characters, raccoon stickers, references to raccoons in literature and other media, or viral videos of raccoons, combined.

Dozens

and dozens

of dead raccoons.

Maybe pushing three figures.

There were maybe also like three possums and something that looked like someone’s dog.

This exists:

They’re super friendly. As you might expect.

I’ve changed my mind about self-driving cars

I haven’t owned a car since 2012, and that car was oldish. I also don’t consume any media or even interact with many humans, so I am out of touch with the world in a way that is possibly unimaginable to normal people. What I’m about to discuss is undoubtedly common stuff that’s been standard issue for ages now. Please enjoy my childlike wonder as I interact with the future.

I was a veryvery late adopter of cruise control, something I probably only discovered as a result of twiddling with shit out of boredom on a long drive. When I twiddled with the cruise control on the rental car on this trip, it made some sort of noise about radar something, which I did not want since I had no clue what it meant, but it didn’t seem turn-off-able and reading the text screen between the speedometer and odometer while doing 70 was a struggle without my reading glasses, so I stopped twiddling and let it do its thing.

As we approached another car going slower than we were, I got ready to do the driving again like I did last time I used cruise control—braking, reaccelerating, changing lanes, etc. But I never got the chance.

Apparently the radar DOES ALL THE THINKING FOR YOU (wrt braking and accelerating but not steering). It maintains the appropriate distance. It brakes. It accelerates. You tell it what speed you’d like to maintain and it does the thing. If you’ve set it for 80 and you approach someone doing 65, it stays at the appropriate distance behind that car at 65 unless you take it into another lane, where it will accelerate back up to 80 if conditions allow. If the person doing 65 speeds up, you speed up. If they exit, you speed up to 80 again (if conditions allow).

Look, ma, no feet.

Here’s what I would never have anticipated: I had zero (0) stress, irritation, angst, aggression, sense of urgency, or any other negative thoughts or feelings when we met traffic or reduced speed areas or some other reason to slow down. Taking me out of the braking/speed-maintaining equation took all my attachment to speed away. I would sometimes have to remind myself to compare the speed limit with our speed and the conditions and be like Hey, maybe change lanes and get in front of the slow person because we’re in a terrible rush and a difference of 15 mph adds up over 40 hours.

It also maintained the approriate safe distance. I did not have to count or think or pay attention to that. I also did not accidentally or accidentally-on-purpose or passive-aggressively or aggressively creep closer and closer to a slow person to perhaps suggest to them that they might consider moving one or more lanes to the right because they were not currently overtaking anyone and therefore did not need to be occupying a left-er lane and thus preventing their fasters from making progress as efficiently as they would like and that their antisocial behaviour was not appreciated. Nor was I tempted to while the radar-cruise-control thing was doing the thinking/accelerating/braking.*

I can’t say this in a way that conveys the strength of my feelings about this: THIS IS SO MUCH SAFER ON SO MANY LEVELS.

I love driving. I love the engaged feeling of driving manual transmission cars. I hate automatic transmissions guessing wrong about what they should be doing because they can’t see or anticipate or know what the car is carrying or towing or any of many other things that might go into deciding what gear to be in. I go out of my way to buy manual transmission cars (they are rare in the US and sales people have been agressive with me in the past to try to steer me away from them). I like the control. I don’t like having things think for me—not Word, not WordPress (ironically, their orthography is autocorrecting even though I have all autocorrection/replacement/spelling shit turned off—I did not capitalize that P), not my phone or computer or tablet or doctor or anything. It enrages me. It very, very enrages me. I would have bet my life that I would hate anything like this. I’m glad I did not.

My cat is a prince among men

He was mellow in the car. He walked nicely at rest areas and outside fast food places just off the highway. He behaved well at hotels. (He loves hotels, as it happens—my concern nowadays is that he will love them a little too hard, since he expresses his love—for people, for objects, for life—with all of his pointy parts in full jazz hands mode, and sharp pointy enthusiastic blissed-out hugs can leave holes sometimes.) He handled all 4 long driving days well, but on the most longest one—which had, incidentally, lacked a comfort break for him—he was quite good about having a 10-minute in-car break where he could walk around outside the kennel thing, and he responded appropriately when directed to the litter box at that time.

I like cereal

As I may have mentioned above, I love driving. I love driving long distances with my offspring. We had a long way to go, and a short time to get there, so we didn’t get to pootle and see cool shit like Iowa’s largest frying pan or Mount Fucking Rushmore, which is a srs bummer. So I want to find or make a way to do this more but better.


*(I tell you whut, though — maintaining the appropriate distance sure as hell does stress out aggressive drivers behind you.)

not quite clear

every morning

every morning

i’m like gosh it’s a gloomy grey day today

and after a while i realise

dude

the sun has not risen yet

#notgoodwithjetlag #whenisnow #whereami #timezoneswtf

also not news

in no particular order:

I’ve been wondering if anxiety is maybe similar to allergies or autoimmune or whatever where what you have is a system that has a job, and isn’t connected to any part of your brain, so it does what it does with whatever presents itself. The immune system will attack things, and anxiety will pay attention and predict and demand action, or something like that. Both are defensive, protective systems that keep you alive. And if you’re totally safe – no bacteria, no viruses, no poisons/toxins (for the microbiological defenses), no full-body physical/existential threats to safety (for the macrobiological defenses) the systems can’t really be paused or switched off until needed or go dormant. So (like the immune system) the whatever the benign word for anxiety is has to have something to fret over, to work on, to think about and plan how to get out of or away from or make safe or investigate.

I feel somehow soothed and content with how much attention and interaction my current environment requires. There are no emergencies, but nothing on the boat is set-it-and-forget-it. To stay warm, I need to not only top up the stove from time to time (requiring me to pay attention to how the stove looks and sounds and feels and how much time has passed and what the ambient temperature is) but also to add the right amount of the right sort of thing at the right time in the right sort of arrangement while paying attention to how much air the fire is getting and if the new stuff is catching well and looks like staying lit and then sometimes adjusting things over 2-30 minutes until it’s settled in properly and I think it will be ok with less attention for a while.

The fire is the neediest thing. After that, it’s waste needing to get taken off the boat (wee, litter box scoopings, rubbish, and recycling) on a daily to weekly schedule, then water (fortnightly to monthly, it’s looking like), electricity meter (depends how much I put on it at a time and what I’m running) and propane (no idea). Then engine maintenance and blacking and painting, maybe? Batteries and solar stuff will fit somewhere in there but I haven’t started thinking about that yet.

I think probably the fire is the best part, because it’s a clear comfort/discomfort thing (and survival/not survival thing, eventually). Everything else is important, but not in as clear a way as ‘get this right and you will be comfortable and warm and cosy. otherwise, miserable at best’. Taking out the recycling can always wait a bit longer with no repercussions. Running out of electricity is disastrous while in the middle of paid work that relies on it working, so there’s an obvious incentive to make sure it doesn’t run out, but the reward isn’t as cosy-feeling or empowering.

So much for anxiety.

Happiness.

I am about as well informed about this as I am about the immune system and anxiety, but what I’ve managed to absorb from under my rock is something about a set-point for happiness – you re-calibrate so that whatever situation you find yourself in is normal, and then it’s just between you and your temperament. I feel like a way to hack this system is to constantly fluctuate plus-or-minus a reasonable base line, so that you maximize your feelings of ‘oh! how delightful!’ by crossing the threshhold in an upward direction frequently (which requires going slightly below it frequently). Coming inside to a cosy warm home after having been outside in the chilliness for a while, or waking up in the chilliness but getting the fire going and warming up and having breakfast in front of a fire, for examples. Reinforcing this is the phenomenon of not being able to smell what you’re cooking very well when you’re in the kitchen, so I love going outside in the cold for chore purposes while breakfast is cooking and then coming back in to the warmth and the bacon and coffee smell. I like delight. I’m getting more of it as a result of the lack of central heating and indoor plumbing. (obv this depends on having fuel, food, etc., but all other things being equal…)

I’m starting to tweak things in a more settling-in way. Prior to this I think it’s just been on a survival level – not sure what was going on or how to do anything. But now I’ve got nearly all my stuff with me, and systems are more or less in place, and I’m starting to take a second pass at things. The mattress is off the boat, the closet door is off the boat. The former bed is now office space and storage and entryway stuff. It’s going to need a lot of adjusting and trial and error, but I like it a hell of a lot better already. Thanks to command hooks and a broom handle, I’ve got a curtain up that I love that was in storage for a few years, so that makes me happy. Two pillowcases from storage are in the slow process of being turned into curtains for another window. Cushion covers that were left by the previous owner will probably be a third curtain within a month or two. Areas where I’d just thrown things before are getting attended to and organised and used more intentionally. I’ve got a nook for things that usually live on my dresser or nightstand, but as I currently have neither I wasn’t sure where to put them for a while.

All of the above was apparently written on February 25th and forgotten about. A cushion cover has since been turned into another window covering that I’m delighted with. On the anxiety/maintenance front – for manymany years now I’ve noticed that when I’m in a particularly bad state, one of the things my anxiety frets over is the amount of water consumed in flushing toilets. For the sake of convenience, we shall refer to the anxiety as “Timothy”. When very wound-up, Timothy seems quite insistent that I should consume zero resources at all. In toilet terms, this means zero water should be consumed in the process of getting rid of bodily waste. This has never been practical, although it is certainly possible. I’ve just never been in a position to have a dry toilet/earth closet sort of solution. I’ve always thought that these “consume nothing!” feelings were meaningless screaming or unhealthy lemming urges that were not a rational response and therefore would not alter in any way in response to reality (other than a binary presense or absence in response to stress or anxiety demons or whatever).

As a result, I’ve been really surprised that I am actually very pleased and soothed by the toilet situation and the fact that I’m consuming maybe 10% of the water that I previously did as a result of using the separator toilet and doing bulk disposal of the urine. Having assumed that Timothy was an irrational response, I wasn’t prepared for him to be satisfied by having any demands acceded to.