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maunderings of a meandering mind

Below are the 25 most recent journal entries.

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  2019.03.12  22.26
Surprised by cheering news

I've been largely avoiding the news for most of the past three years for the sake of my sanity. But I went to the BBC this morning because of the Google doodle on the web's 30th birthday. And while there remains plenty wrong with the world, I also found a trifecta of stories to feel good about:

A heartwarming family story, featuring a mother hugging her son

A Spanish woman freaked out when her (then) daughter came out to her as trans. But seeing mother and son hug today, you wouldn't know it.

The way the story is structured, we first see the mother today, loving and supportive of her child. Only then do we learn it was not always thus.

I've had trans friends — for that matter, gay and lesbian friends — whose parents never did come around. Which would have heightened my reaction to Hugo's mother's story regardless. But structuring it as they did makes watching mother and son hug now all the more poignant.

Good government — in Italy‽

Many years as a news-junkie conditioned me to expect that "Italy" in a headline would lead me to a story of government malfeasance — or, occasionally, of someone in Italian government who was trying to actually do their job being blown up in their car. And much of my reason for avoiding the news since the Brexit vote and America's descent into Trumpery is the extent to which news out of what used to be two of the world's most admired countries has come to resemble what I expect out of Italy. So I took it as a cheering (albeit sadly ironic) turning-of-the-tables to see a headline about government actually governing come out of Italy:

Italy bans unvaccinated children from school
Imagine that: a government faced with mass stupidity refusing to coddle the idiots and let them place innocent people in danger.

MIT alum and Ivy-league-grad partner found company in Brooklyn

Does anyone know Janet Lieberman (Course II, '07)? She and her partner Alex Fine (Columbia; Psych) founded a company in Brooklyn to bring well-engineered products to an ill-served market niche.

Which would totally be a dog-bites-man story were it about two young men rather than two young women — and were their market niche something other than well-engineered sex toys designed by women, for women.

The BBC put up a video about them and their company them that's pretty much a straight startup profile. The reporting is forthright and tasteful — both marks it would have been easy to miss. And the video is almost entirely free from snickering — the sole exception being when the Ivy founder, Alex, cracks up while delivering a remark directly to camera:

There was a hole in the market, and we just penetrated it.
Yes, we did
.
I don't know Ms Fine, of course. But something — maybe just the glint in her eye as she gives up on suppressing her grin — tells me the remark came to her spontaneously during the interview. And that she, like many of my friends, engages in wordplay at a sufficiently high level that, had she come up with such an excellent line beforehand, she'd have steeled herself to deliver it totally deadpan.



After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
This entry was originally posted at https://xela.dreamwidth.org/328089.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


 
 


 
  2019.01.15  19.55
A moving opportunity

A FOAF needs quite suddenly to move. Like in 48 hours. I'll edit this with more details when I know some; meantime if this sounds like a {mitzvah | opportunity to address karmic balance | cool thing to do} to you, please let me know. (Email is best, or comment here.)

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
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  2019.01.04  16.01
Feeling Good. For real. Or only a little tentatively, anyway.

I continue to lose weight — and continue to be astounded. Two weeks ago I finally decided it was real and I wasn't really at risk of embarrassing myself half to death by posting about it and then gaining half of it back the next week. Last week I was down another 1.8 kg. Which I decided not to post about it because I know better than to get too excited about movement either direction over any one week. Today I'm down another 1.2 kg.

-15 kg in 12 weeks: I think that counts as a trend.

Today I weigh 130 kg. Hardly healthy — but the least I've weighed since 2011, maybe two years into what I now know would turn out be roughly a decade of backsliding from my post-stroke weight loss.

It continues to mystify me, to feel in some ways more like something that's happening to me than something I'm doing: I don't feel deprived; I'm not struggling with temptation or giving any thought at all to portion control or any of the other apparatus of dieting. But at this point I think it's reasonable to say I've turned a corner. And okay to feel good about it.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.12.31  19.43
A Happy New Year to All - and to All a Good Night!

I'm a tiny bit under the weather - just enough to dull my driving skills oh so slightly and to make staying up late and exposing myself to other people's germs a little ill-advised. Which wouldn't ordinarily be enough to keep me from a chance to visit with friends I don't see often enough. But throw in the earlier rain, the forecast hard freeze, and New-Year's-Eve to top it off and I'd be a fool not to stay home.

So everyone have a lovely time! And stay safe!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
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  2018.12.21  16.00
Feeling Good. Or Something.

Ten weeks ago today, I weighed first thing in the morning, swore under my breath, and muttered something to myself along the lines of "I've got to get serious about this before it kills me."

That was probably the hundredth time I've enacted that little scenario in the last few years. But this time it took. As of this morning, I've lost 12 kg in the past ten weeks.


I'm having a hell of a time deciding what to write here. The first time I sat down to write this post, it started four weeks ago today.... The past three years have left me hugely suspicious of anything that looks like good news. But whatever words I come up with to appease the gods lest they smite me for hubris, a part of me is going to expect that when I step outside after posting this, that a piano is going to land on my head. So given that my fate is orthogonal to what I write here, this may as well be it.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.09.27  00.32
Less Hopeless

I couldn't afford to, but I just made my first political donation since the 2016 election. After two years of apathy and despair and generally avoiding the news because it would only make me feel worse, I saw a chance to maybe make a difference in the future of my country. This country I used to love.

People For the American Way was founded close to 40 years ago in response to religious bullying elbowing its way into our national politics in the form of the so-called Moral Majority. PFAW has been fighting rear-guard actions against the worst of the extreme right ever since. Currently that worst is Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And PFAW's major donors have offered to match donations to the tune of 5×.

Which is enough to make me feel like what little I can afford can make a difference. And that maybe telling my friends about it can too.

Donation Link

(That's just the link they emailed me, stripped of identifying information so you don't land on a form with my name and address pre-filled-in.)

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  2018.09.20  14.36
Nerd Love!

I love Adam Savage not least for his unabashed nerdiness — and his infectious enthusiasm for other nerds and their work.

Barnaby Dixon is a stop-motion animator turned puppeteer, who's devised his own puppet techne. Which is interesting in its own right, and doubly so for what it lets him achieve artistically.

In a video posted earlier today, Barnaby and some of his puppets visit Adam in his shop. And in the ensuing discussion of Barnaby's techniques and the art he makes with them, Adam's enthusiasm gets turned up to 11. The video is joy to watch.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.08.31  00.59
looking for an interim phone

I lost my phone Tuesday. Skipping the details, I've now given up on finding it, and have ordered a refurb and a new SIM. Which, because I didn't want to pay the penalties for panic shipping, will arrive next week.

But now it occurs to me that not having a cell phone during the first weekend of rush is tempting Murphy's laws.

So: does anyone know of a place in greater Boston that I can walk into and — < 30 minutes later and without a fight about not wanting a new phone or a plan — walk out with a prepaid SIM on a GSM network? And by that same token, does anyone have an old disused GSM phone sitting in a drawer you'd be willing to lend, sell, or give me for the weekend? Or of anywhere non-sketchy that sells such?

Thanks in advance!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.07.11  18.18
Pick me up at the hospital Tues?

I just got off an hour-long phone with my surgeon's nurse, discussing the stuff I need to do in preparation for my carpel-tunnel surgery Tues. In which I learned something I had not anticipated: There needs to be someone accompanying me home. And I have to let them know the day before who that will be. (I wasn't expecting to drive myself home: I'm going to be anesthetized. But I was figuring on just calling a Lyft. But they're not okay with that: they'll only discharge me into the care of someone who'll make sure I get home.)

So: if anyone would be able to pick me up at Beth Israel Needham sometime Tues, I'd be most grateful. (They don't do operating room scheduling until the day before: so "Tuesday after 10 am; before 7 pm" is the best I can do til sometime Monday afternoon.) If you're willing but don't drive, we can work make that work: The person they discharge me to doesn't have to drive me home: Just accompany me home.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.06.29  14.29
Vi Hart is a genius!

I'm not going to try to even enumerate the layers of meaning here. Mathemagician Vi Hart is possibly the most consistently brilliant artist on Youtube. And this is brilliant even by her standards. (Even if you're not familiar with her work, this is accessible on several levels, and will reward watching. Yes, it refers back to her body of work a great deal. But take that as reason to look at that work later yourself.)

Suspend Your Disbelief (or, how to ruin everything in 7 steps)
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  2018.06.14  16.51
Self-propagating typo

I wonder if AI is good enough at this point that organizations could offer a public bug reporting facility to their customers, and rely on an AI to bring only those reporting something real to a human's attention?

What brings this to mind is a minor — it probably started life as a typo — data bug I came upon today. The interesting thing about it being that I stumbled upon it in Amazon's data, where I barely noticed it. But then I went to Google Play to check their price — and they had the exact same data bug. Which reveals a detail about how both companies populate their public product databases that they might have preferred to keep private. (Or might not — but it seems to me a company would prefer not to say "we populate our store inventory with regular data dumps from foo, then apply our pricing algorithm and publish it.")

The bug, if you're interested: I was watching a Youtube video of a conference presentation, the speaker showed a slide that intrigued me, captioned with a barely legible credit: Gary Gruver. So I Googled the guy, and found my way to an Amazon page for a book Amazon called — in both in the headline on the page and (sans particles) the Amazon URL — Start and Scaling Devops in the Enterprise. But on the accompanying photo of the book's cover, the title is Starting and Scaling Devops in the Enterprise (emphasis added). At some point in the past few years I stopped dismissing books and articles out of hand for having "enterprise" in the title, and I (for probably no good reason) feel less trapped buying an e-book from Google than Amazon, so I thought I'd see what Google was charging. And found the exact same typo, with the same photo of the cover and the same variant in the URL.

Screencaps behind the cutCollapse )

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  2018.06.02  13.05
A lovely spring Saturday

Today is the 1"st Annual" Newton Porchfest. I hadn't planned to take any of it in, but a few minutes ago, just as a I stepped outside to take some recycling to the bin, the band at the Auburndale Library (next door) started into Here Comes the Sun — a lovely performance, entirely suited to a lazy spring day. I'm now trying to decide if walking around to the front of the Library (where I could see them as well as hear them) would be pushing it. And sitting in the air-conditioning and writing you all about it in the mean time.

(I originally wrote that I'd stepped outside just as the band next door "started an entirely creditable rendition of Here Comes the Sun" — entirely creditable being a phrase I've become fond of in conversation at some point in the past few years. I'm not sure tat I'd never used it in writing before, but I felt sufficiently unsure to Google it: "deserving public acknowledgment and praise but not necessarily outstanding or successful." Which is closer to damning with faint praise than how I've been using the phrase in speech. I like my usage better, and will probably continue using it that way conversationally, in hope of doing my small bit for semantic shift in the direction of fine distinctions. At any rate, by the definition Google gives, their performance was more than creditable.)

The band, by the way, appear to be The Nays. I'm definitely going to make a point of taking in a show some time.


Note added 2 hours later:

That was totally a good time. My knee's bitching at me now, but — whatever. It was still totally a good time.

I heard a lot of classic-rock-cover-bands when I lived in Harvard Square 25+ years ago. And only maybe two of those bands — only one I remember for sure — left me in a little pool of contentment the way I am right now. (This despite the OMG I'm old! moment when a band that had been playing songs by The Beatles, The Byrds, The Band — songs that were classics before I was old enough to like girls — started into a Dire Straits song. Not even a song from their first album. A song from an album I bought when it was new. On CD.)

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.05.30  14.59
9th-Century Scandinavia?

Behind the cut is a screencap from a Youtube video called 878: A Tour of Viking Britain. The North Sea in the 9th-CenturyCollapse ) After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!


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  2018.05.28  13.39
The Deep

When I'm reading a web page and see a link that might be interesting, I usually open it in a new (backgrounded) tab and keep reading, without really even being conscious of it. I'm sure most of you do the same. So a coupe of weeks ago I was going through a window with maybe 100 such, some waiting since April. I closed a tab, saw a youtube.com URL in the next one, shifted my eyes to a different window while it started to load — and spent the next 5½ minutes with my jaw hanging open, in total awe.

And I've been trying to write a post about it ever since. And just now, finally had the dawn-breaks-over-marble-head realization that I am never going to craft the perfect introduction that will induce everyone who reads my words to discover this astounding work for themselves. And that's okay.

Spend five minutes with The Deep. Maybe read the annotated lyrics on genius.com while you listen. But do listen. You'll be glad you did.


H/T [personal profile] rmd (whose post about this is locked, but was entirely understanding when I explained my compulsion to cite my sources).


A few related items you may find interesting:

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  2018.05.27  17.49
Consumerism: Good < 1ℓ insulated pitcher?

I have an excelent 1.5ℓ coffee pitcher: It will keep a four-to-six person team-meeting in hot coffee for an hour — or two people working on a project for a half-day. But when it's only me, it's just too much. 1.5ℓ isn't necessarily more coffee than I want in a day. But it's definitely more than I should. And after five or six hours, most of it more than half-empty, it's lukewarm.

I was hoping the people who make it sell a smaller one as well. But if they do, my Google-fu has failed to find any sign of it. So if anyone knows of a good < 1ℓ coffee pitcher, please tell me about it.


Thanks in advance!



After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus.
It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.05.22  23.27
a happy birthday

I've had a fantastic birthday! I didn't make any plans, as I often don't. I remembered it was my birthday when I woke up, but as I don't generally keep a facebook tab open, and haven't run biff(1) or any of its descendants for 20 years ... what can I say? It got swapped out. To the point where, an hour into the first of the wonderful hour+ phone calls I've had today whth three of my favorite people on Earth:

"So, any particular reason you called?"
"Happy birthday!"
"Oh, right." Then, through the gales of laughter on both ends, "Boy, I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?
(Which, looking at it, sounds contrived. But I'm not a good enough actor to fake being that clueless.)

In the spirit of spreading around the warm-fuzzies: Years ago, back when text was the medium we communicated on on the 'net, a friend a thousand miles away needed a hug. Now I want to embrace all of you.

Read more...Collapse ) After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.05.03  14.15
Open-source router firmware?

Do any of you have an informed view on the relative merits of DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato, et al? It's close to ten years since I looked into them in any detail; ISTR deciding at the time that none was significantly better or worse than the others. (Though I'm also fairly sure the decision I made then — to use DD-WRT — had a more substantive basis than just a dice-roll.)

Now I'm looking to set up a NAT with USB tethering from my Pixel as its upstream. Googling didn't find me any good leads for doing this with DD-WRT, but several discussions of doing it with OpenWRT. So I installed OpenWRT on a Cisco/Linksys E4200, with one of its switch ports connected to my MacBook Air via a USB_Ethernet adapter. (And with that and power as the only cables connected to it.) The E4200 came up just fine, giving my Mac a DHCP address in 192.168.1/24, and with the GUI as described in the OpenWRT setup docs. But when I rebooted it after a very little basic configuration (essentially just setting a root password and pasting an ssh public key in), my Mac came up with a self-assigned IP (i.e. one in 169.254.0.0/16).

I've now installed OpenWRT on the E4200 twice with the same results. So before I try to wrestle that into submission, I figured it would be worth while to run this by you all and see what you say.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.04.26  20.55
Ikea, anyone?

I need to make a trip to Ikea, and I'm going to need some help. So: anyone want to go to Ikea some time in the next couple weeks? If so, would you be interested in trading some labor for a ride? (The ride comes with well over ⅔ of the space in the cargo van I'll be renting. And I'll happily kill a few hours in the café to give you time to do the shopping to fill it.)

The problem is that I'm still sufficiently mobility-impaired to mostly limit my shopping to stores that have those electric scooter+shopping-carts for handicapped customers.

Which Ikea does not.

Which puts me in a bit of a quandary: Ikea is by far the best place to get the things I need. But just getting through the place in my human-powered wheelchair is going to push my limits right now. (And that without trying to actually carry anything.)

So I'm hoping to find somebody who'd be interested in working out a mutually beneficial arrangement. So I'd like to find someone interested in working out a mutually beneficial arrangement, with their contribution being to drive the shopping trolly.

If you're interested, please let me know. Or if you know someone who might be interested, please pass this URL along to them. (It's a public post.)

Thanks in advance!

—Alex

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  2018.04.23  23.44
Tape reel?

I don't suppose anyone around Boston has an empty ¼-inch magnetic tape reel laying around gathering dust, and would like me to take it off your hands? (Hey, it's worth a shot. At least among my friends....)

@WAYRTTD?{I have a 30m flat cat5 cable. Which is in many ways a lot handier to keep close to hand for those moments when I suddenly need 'net in some dark corner than a normal cat5 cable even half as long. But one way in which it is emphatically not handier is wrapping it up when I'm done with it: it always ends up a tangled mess. I'm pretty sure a ¼-inch tape reel would be the ideal way to store it. Unfortunately, it's been a good 25 years since I regularly scattered around friends apartments. But on the off chance....}

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  2018.03.26  17.09
Joy!

The scene: Harvard Square or equivalent -------- A European town center; or a par;, or even a shopping mall:  someplace people gather and meander. A busker starts performing. A minute later, another musician joins in. And this builds until the crowd find themselves in the midst of a full orchestra....

That describes enough youtube videos to make a genre. And this is my new favorite flashmob orchestra video:  Enjoy!

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  2018.03.15  00.03
An odd wrinkle...

Yesterday I read a feature story — I wish I could remember where. It started with a vignette from a woman's life: How, when she was a little girl, she'd rushed to her grandmother's house around the corner after school one day, to lose herself in the book she'd just been assigned to read: A Wrinkle in Time. The author went on to relate a few details of the sort guaranteed to make anyone who has ever been a young reader enchanted by a book grow misty-eyed.  I was quite charmed by fifty or so words in.

And then, the kicker: The girl's grandmother was Madeline L'Engle.


I was a voracious reader when I was little — but somehow my reading didn't include many of the books my friends all remember fondly. I was 28 when a girlfriend introduced me to Winnie the Pooh; ten years ago another introduced me to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those were delights to discover as an adult, as were quite a few others. And it was clear by a few paragraphs in to the article that A Wrinkle in Time would be as well.

So I bought the e-book. But for some reason didn't get a chance to start it until about two hours ago.

I'm enthralled. Not only is the me reading the book today totally loving it — but as I read, I'm feeling the enchantment the ten-year-old me would have felt if he'd read it then. As a passage strikes a chord, I glance at the wall, a fleeting image in my mind's eye. And simultaneously, the memory of what I would see laying in my childhood room, glancing up at the low sloping ceiling and imagining the scene in my ten-year-old-mind's eye.

I can only imagine that this will grow more delightful as I go on. And if by any chance any of you haven't read it: Though I'm only two chapters in, I can recommend it unreservedly. Let's read it together!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.02.27  23.06
Vihart: Peace

Recreational mathemusician Vihart has long been one of my favorite Youtubers. With this video, she enters a new realm.

Watch. Listen. And be awed.

And then watch the making-of video — at the end of which you'll get to listen while watching the same video again in a different geometry. And be trebly awed.

Seriously. Even if you never watch videos. I've never been more bowled over.

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.01.27  23.25
Youngstown Ohio?

I'm looking for someone to check out a used car for me near Youngstown, Ohio. (Which is, in terms of places more likely to be on my friends' mental maps, about 80 miles SE of Cleveland or NW of Pittsburgh — or an hour west of Cooper's Lake Campground.)

Some of you will remember (and most of the rest will have heard me go on about) the best car I ever owned, my '93 Plymouth Colt Vista.1 In 2000 I traded mine in, and I've been looking for its equal ever since. I thought I'd found it five years ago, when Ford introduced the B-Max in Europe. But then Ford's US management essentially said "All that stuff about One Ford and being a world car company? Ha-ha! Fooled ya!"

Which is about when I set up searches on various used-car websites. Until now, everything they've turned up that might have been worth checking out has been at least 1000 miles away. And if I'm going to travel somewhere to buy an old used car — and then try to drive the car back — it's got within the distance I'm willing to take a Greyhound. Potentially twice. Which Youngstown is right on the edge of. But before I buy the bus ticket, I want to have some assurance that I might not be setting off on a fool's errand. Hence wanting to find someone local to scope the car out for me. Ideally it would be someone who knows a good local mechanic to take the car to for a checkover. I would of course expect to pay this person a reasonable amount for their time. f you know someone in that area who might be into this sort of thing, please let me know.

Thank you. You may now point and laugh. :^)

</p>
1Also sold as the Mitsubishi Expo LRV or Eagle Summit Wagon: A small car that fit in the footprint of a standard econobox, but had a sliding rear door and enough space inside for both your friends and your hobbies. Like a minivan, but bonsai!, to quote Siderea.  Ray Magliozzi, my mechanic, also had one and considers it the best car he ever owned. After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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  2018.01.25  11.43
Saints preserve us from marauding wirecutters!

The only thing keeping me from switching to FIOS at this point is that I don't want to put our copper pair at risk. My Google-fu has thus far failed to find me a clear signal amidst all the noise on this topic, so I figured I'd ask the hive mind: Does anyone know the magic incantation to utter when ordering FIOS from Verizon that will result in them installing it while leaving our copper pair (and the POTS that runs over it) unscathed? A talisman, as it were, to protect copper?

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  2017.12.31  17.29
Sorry to miss you!

Happy New Year, everyone! I've decided to forgo parties tonight, and want to let those of you I consequently won't see know I'm sorry to miss you. I also want to let people know that this is not a matter of avoiding social interaction out off depression.

At least, I don't think it is. :^)

I loathe driving in Boston, and never more than NYE. And this year, instead of living a ten-minute drive from any party I might end the night at, it's more like a half-hour. (I moved to my friend Mike's house in Newton last summer.) And I'm loathe to screw up my hard-fought progress toward maintaining a regular sleep schedule. All of which adds up to staying home tonight being the smart move.

Again, sorry to miss you. And Happy New Year!

After fifteen years on LJ, I have joined the great exodus. It's lovely over here. Join me!
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