We Don’t Talk Enough About Mental Health.

269864622_422901456099049_7511180958883630960_nYesterday afternoon, well into the evening, I had a long conversation with a family member who, for complicated reasons, I had never had the opportunity to speak with before – and, thanks largely to Covid-19, we had a video chat that lasted for over 3 hours. Before Covid-19, we may not have even bothered.

It was worth every bit of time for me. It helped me put together things that had puzzled me about my own life, and it put the lives of others into a deeper context than I would have expected. It put me in a context when looking through the eyes of those now dead, and what some of the things they said that made no sense to me at the time actually meant.

Pretty vague, isn’t it? Well of course it is. You don’t have to know everything about the conversation.

We spent a lot of time talking about mental health in those we knew – some mutual, some not, about growing older and how our perspectives change. We knew insane individuals, but to what degree their insanity? Where is the line drawn? And what good is being normal when being normal should drive people insane?

It made me think as I lay in my bed that we don’t discuss these things enough. There are many things we don’t understand and ignore but we should understand and should not ignore, particularly in our own family histories.

To do otherwise is… insane.

To the M1: Initial Thoughts.

83664148-1E23-47E7-A938-F6E543C2AB8AFirst, let me give some context: I have an Intel NUC 7 that has done well over the years to annoy the hell out of me. Between Windows 10 and the Nuc itself, whether it detects audio on the HDMI has been something that I could never get correct. It would simply get it right 1% of the time, and 99% of the time, I had to rely on a bluetooth speaker.

I updated the firmware, manually, because the automatic firmware updates didn’t work. I updated device drivers. I updated Windows 10. I did all these things with decreasing alacrity over the past 2 years. Booting took forever as, apparently, Windows and Intel could not quite figure out how to play well together.

I will tell anyone considering buying an Intel NUC of any sort to consider, perhaps, randomly giving yourself paper cuts across your knuckles throughout the day. It’s cheaper.

I shopped around. Ever since I did some work with a telecommunications company in Florida where Mac minis were all over their dev environment, I kept an eye on them and lo! The M1 Mac mini showed up with stuff related to neural networks. I like neural networks. They’re smarter than dumb people, generally, and what I have learned is elevating the level of stupid I deal with daily is all I can do in this world.

Nuc replacement? No. I’ll likely toss Linux on that thing where it can quietly do… something… without annoying me too much. I honestly have had such an annoying experience with that NUC that I will only sell it to someone I don’t know or like should I decide to get rid of it.

These things, of course, never show up in reviews of devices because it takes time to truly find the annoyances of any device, and you should bear this in mind as I write about the M1 – but truth be told, it has already begun to annoy me a bit.

The Mac Mini M1.

And so, I unpackaged the Mac mini M1 I had custom ordered (more RAM, more SSD, etc, because: because). I note a lot of reviewers like to talk about the packaging, and I have no idea why when it takes 5 words to communicate that: “It was hard/easy to unpack”.

It was easy to unpack.

In my mind, thoughts of someone in a sweatshop packing everything just so drifted through my mind, but I did not afford myself the luxury of that thought too much since the amount of packaging was minimal.

Next, not being an avid Apple user, I tried to turn the thing on which, of course, required me to read the 1 page documentation that came with it since in my experience there was an ‘on’ button on Mac keyboards. It wasn’t there. That took me all of 2 minutes.

It came on. It recognised the mouse and keyboard, and began the ‘new computer’ interrogation:

Where are you from?
What is your Apple User Id (or whatever the hell they call it)?
Do you want to… use this? That? The other? All 3? Just 2? Which 2?

I think the most amusing thing was that it asked me about Siri, so I set that up thinking, “Hey, did this thing come with an internal microphone?” Well, of course it didn’t, so the de facto world leaders in User Experience (UX) made a boo boo. It should have said, “Oh darn, you don’t have a microphone, no Siri for you”, instead of having me shout “Siri” at the Mac repeatedly.

And then, suddenly, we’re doing updates which are always annoying (who wants to start a new machine for updates? Nobody.) but they were relatively painless. It offered the latest Mac OSx version, Monterey, but I’m sticking with Big Sur a bit. 

And then it just… Worked. And that’s what people want. We want stuff that works. It recognised my monitor, the audio – though for some peculiar reason it didn’t save using the monitor as the default setting, something I’ll figure out in time.

So, out of the box – I like the M1.

Then comes the wonderful part of passwords from accounts, etc, which is always a hassle, but that’s pretty much done – and then, there is the adjusting of using the keyboard from the PC keyboards to the Apple keyboards.

Ctrl? No, Command, which is a key over and takes some getting used to.

And lastly, the part that’s horrid about the M1: Some applications just ain’t ready for it. Android emulators do work, but not as automatically as one would hope. Some games are hokey. The M1, being out for about a year, hasn’t grown the support outside of Apple that would make it a real contender out of the box, and I imagine the marketshare is something that doesn’t have software companies racing to compete for.

So on the software end, it’s a mixed bag – and fortunately, I have basic needs of the machine that are met which make the inconvenience bearable.

It is quiet. Creepy quiet. The silence that when it comes with a 3 year old human makes you wonder what they’re into.

Overall: It does what I need it to do, and it inconveniently does not do some things (yet?) that I want it to.

Ebb and Flow

15125228371_8d48671870_wThe trouble with not blogging for a while is getting back into the routine – something which I have not been doing quite that well for the past few years. It’s been mainly health related. I’ve been driving through the issues, making myself my own project. The hardest part was getting started.

I won’t bore you with the health stuff. I will say it’s improving, from the treadmill to tucking parts of myself back where they belong to getting rid of infections (not Covid-19). The part I’m going through now, some oral stuff, had my dentist tell me, “You will feel like a weight has lifted off of you” a week ago, and despite my cynicism at the time, I feel he may be right.

This got me into reading up on chronic infections and their effects. It’s a real thing that we don’t think about enough, perhaps because when we’re suffering from a chronic infection our energy levels drop and self-sabotage sets in.

I tried to make it into a metaphor about life and relationships because that’s what I do when I am convalescing between being poked and prodded. In that, I failed, so we get this bit of writing instead. 

Most of my life has been putting others first, which I do not regret. I tried thinking of why that is, and I came up with values that were instilled in me by society and those around me and a library or two of books. We all want to be one of the ‘good guys’, those white knights riding around saving the world from itself because our stories, our fictions, are about that. We love those stories. Like sponges we soak them in, and if those around us think it’s not enough, they do their best to shove more in.

There is a price to be paid, though, which doesn’t fall under ‘happily ever after’. If we put others first all the time, eventually it catches up with us, so it’s important to be selfish just enough to keep going.

Ebb and flow.