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January 05, 2018


It appears that I’m a little bit younger than some of you. I graduated HS in 1986 in a small town in SC. I was the bright kid in a small room. I never had to work hard until my doctoral program and then later law school (although law school is a different kind of hard … the work is easier, but the competition among students is much more evident and much more ingrained in the curriculum).

I’m slowing down mentally. I would jump in and out of online debates all the time until about five years ago. I even moderated a lively politics and religion form. When I walked away from it, I initially thought I had outgrown worrying about someone being wrong on the internet:

but now I see that I can’t multitask like I used to. I can’t do my job and post when my job requires anything beyond routine tasks. That’s why (among other reasons) I tend to post in spurts.

So I guess this begins as a me too post, but I’m noticing something else: I don’t think it bothers me so much; I’m not really afraid or worried about it.

It occurs to me that there may be a few reasons for my relative sanguinity.

First, perhaps I’m simply not as far down the aging road and in 10 or 20 years it will weigh on me more;

Second, perhaps the fact that my wife and I didn’t have children untethers me from some pressures to succeed or perform or leave them a legacy and I don’t have the immediate comparison of a child that has passed me mentally;

Third, the law (as opposed to tech or medicine) is much kinder to aging. There is a saying that one should find a young doctor and an old lawyer. In my area especially, no one “knows” all the law. Experience in terms of strategy and tactics counts for more. Relationships with clients, other lawyers and judges counts for much more. Figuring out the details of the law is a grunt job for young associates.

Fourth, I wonder if there is a generational aspect. Chronologically I’m barely a Gen Xer, but I had a quintessential Gen X childhood. Momma was a single parent (Daddy died when I was 5 and she never remarried) and I was a latchkey kid raised by television. I did some high-achieverish things (eagle scout, editor of the yearbook, etc.), but I was definitely a slacker in almost all respects. That’s carried over to my adult life. My wife and I turn down career advancement opportunities, live in a modest home, and drive modest cars. We aren’t ascetics; we travel frequently and have a little place on the gulf coast, but none of my contemporaries is the least bit impressed with our outward signs of wealth, which my inner slacker is perfectly fine with.

Fifth, I’m moved away. After deciding that academia was not for me, I packed up my VW, and my dog and I started driving west. We broke down in Tucumcari, NM and after a roadside repair, limped into Albuquerque. There I started a new life. No one knew me as the smart kid. I was untethered from all expectations. I could just be me. My road to a law practice in Florida is neither remarkable or interesting (basically: there was a girl), but the constant is that I have been able to maintain a detachment from expectations and comparisons of my academic contemporaries.

I’m not immune to the creeping dread of slowing down as I age, but so far it all seems to be within the expected norms. Aches, pains, failing eyesight and loss of mental acuity are part fo the deal. It sucks (youth is wasted on the young), but complaining about aging is like complaining about the weather; so far it’s more a common topic for idle chitchat than a cause for existential crisis. I’m more aware of taking care of my mind and body, but I’m less raging against the dying of the light than sarcastically mocking it (and myself).

As I read over this post, I hope that I don’t come across as belittling the concerns of others … lord knows I have my own demons and phobias (e.g., being a burden on my wife down the road). I’m honestly curious why I’m not as bothered about aging as others are.

We broke down in Tucumcari

now i'm gonna have that song in my head all day...

My road to a law practice in Florida is neither remarkable or interesting (basically: there was a girl)

cherchez la femme!!

dude, there's nothing more remarkable or interesting than love.

I’m honestly curious why I’m not as bothered about aging as others are.

you're not old yet.

so far i'm just dipping my toes in the big river of age, and it's kind of a trip. i'd prefer to wave dr ngo's big flag of denial, but the aging process seems to call attention to itself.

one thing i will say about it, it seems to grant some kind of socially-sanctioned right to not give a crap about a lot of stuff. so, it's got that going for it.

dr ngo, i'm so sorry to hear about your wife. i can't think of anything harder.

"now i'm gonna have that song in my head all day."

My first thought when I read it, so I fired up Spotify and listened to it.

"now i'm gonna have that song in my head all day."

My first thought when I read it


dr ngo, i'm so sorry to hear about your wife. i can't think of anything harder.

Also very much seconded, dr ngo.


It was not artistic license ... I actually burst the coolant return hose on my '85 VW Golf. I hitched into town to a NAPA then hitched back to the car and fixed it on the spot.

I didn't realize how much harder the car has to work to maintain temperature in thin dry air.

"dude, there's nothing more remarkable or interesting than love."

No doubt, but it's personal on a level that's hard to translate or perhaps just beyond my skill; and I seriously out kicked the coverage ... I've just been holding on ever since.

That's why my fear of decline is almost completely defined by how it would impact her.

I can't stand the thought of burdening this untamable adventurous woman.

"I can't stand the thought of burdening this untamable adventurous woman."

Right up there among the greatest sentences ever uttered at Obsidian Wings.

Chickens are decent people, especially the hens, who sometimes are foxes.

Deep sympathy, dr ngo. My wife and I have only been married 37 years now, but like you, losing her in any fashion is a scary thought.

I am retired now (other than when someone comes up with a sufficiently interesting small contract job). I wanted a hobby that would keep me sharp mentally, and settled on my "partition the US" project. During my technical career, I was sometimes charged with what were known as "Mike projects": start from some assumption and push it beyond reason to see what could be learned. The partition hobby is a "Mike project" that can be taken in lots of directions. I'm studying history; I'm building models; I'm writing, fiction and nonfiction; I'm putting together little tools to do certain kinds of data presentation.

Wrt the last one, if you want to build your own cartograms or prism maps, I've written software.

Pollo: I’m honestly curious why I’m not as bothered about aging as others are.

Russell: you're not old yet.

I'd agree with that. With the caveat the "old" is far from being just a matter of the number of years that have past since birth.

First, people's bodies wear out at different rates. If yours hasn't, it doesn't really matter whether you are 50 or 80. And if, like me, you come from a family which lives a long time and is sharp to the end (grandmother, at her 100th birthday party, able to walk across the room and being the only one there who knew who all 60 people present were), you don't tend to worry about it.

Second, people stay interested in the world around them to different extents. In 1998, when she was 80, my mother broke her hip. She ended up (temporarily!) in a nursing home for rehab. Her two biggest complaints:
1) no Internet access. Yes really, an 80 year old woman in 1998 -- but she was accustomed to being able to just log on and look up stuff and was irritated not to be able to.
2) all of the "old people" there. Said "old people" being, mostly, 10 to 20 years younger than she was. But she was still interested in the world around her, learning new stuff, interacting with friends, etc. Whereas they were basically just sitting around waiting to die.

I think that, on the second count anyway, everybody here is likely to be OK. As long as we are physically able to think, we'll stay interested. After all, that's why we hang out here.

Michael, those are some cool maps! Any chance they are commercially available? (Not that I have time to play with them at the moment. But I can always bookmark the page, against the day I do.)

I'd rather take any discussion of the map stuff somewhere else, instead of threadjacking this particular post. I debated for a long time about including the link at all.

2) all of the "old people" there. Said "old people" being, mostly, 10 to 20 years younger than she was. But she was still interested in the world around her, learning new stuff, interacting with friends, etc. Whereas they were basically just sitting around waiting to die.

That was my grandmother. At 90, she was like a spry 70-year-old. She was helping the other "old people" on and off the bus to Atlantic City. Meanwhile, she was the oldest one by a good number of years.

"Chickens are decent people, especially the hens, who sometimes are foxes."

She grew up a fox on a chicken farm in PA.

She's traveled the world, owned her own business and climbed the corporate ladder until she decided "enough" on her own terms.

Her only flaw is questionable taste in men.

I hope everyone realizes that when I use the term "pigfucker" to describe my enemies, I'll be calling the pigs to the stand to testify to the truth of the matter of their fucking by said pigfuckers and in graphic detail, possibly even in Latin.

The Clinton family and all of their supporters will be pleased to operate under the new libel law legal regime, especially if all utterances by those suspected of libeling them over the past 30 years are grandfathered into the statutes.

They can commence the legal festivities by suing for monetary damages ... jail time would be good too ..... for the repeated references to crooked Hillary ..... uttered in print and broadcast (I look forward to the free time away from political blogging, as should everyone else, given the high cost of free speech going forward) over the last third of a century.

The Clintons will become so wealthy beyond all expectations by emptying the bank accounts of nearly 62 million Americans, still a minority, that they will be able to forego speaking engagements and their foundation activities for the remainder of their time living in this colossally full of shit society.

Chelsea will be set up for life solely from the proceeds gained from suing those aforementioned pigfucker conservative operatives who accuse her of Satan worship.

Satan himself may have a case. Surely libelous statements issuing from the pulpit will be challenged.

I look forward to the time in whIch the only legally sanctioned free speech remaining in the United States of Horseshit will be the exchange of political payola and bullets.

What's a pizza-shop child-prostitution ring between friends?

Conservative principles penetrate all species of livestock governance.

Other subjects I will address in coming days: on this thread, my lifelong fear of nuclear annihilation and the coming nuclear strikes on America at ump's behest as America the asshole pariah normalizes the use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

On the other thread, the fantastic precedent set by the Bundy family's acquittals for the coming seizure of all public lands by liberals and the use of military armaments by said liberals to fight to the death any conservative encroachment of our resources ... and the destruction of NAFTA and the total political and economic blockade of America's attempted commerce with the rest of the world by a world united against us, as we deserve.

The rest of the world's Nations should withdraw from all treaties and international agreements with this full of shit arrogant monstrosity we have created and cease all negotiations with the pigfucker broker, the US of A., which like a snowflake Hamlet convinces the world to agree to its big fuckng ideas like improved free trade and then, like a sniveling spoiled child, decides to fuck the world because we changed our dimwitted minds.

That was my grandmother. At 90, she was like a spry 70-year-old...

Yep... my grandfather was never the same after falling out of a tree he was pruning, and cracking his sternum, aged 90.

From the count's link:

If somebody says something that’s totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse

So says our POTUS.

That one's gonna bite him on the behind.

the use of military armaments by said liberals to fight to the death any conservative encroachment of our resources

if they come for our arugula and artisanal salamis, there will be blood.

Hahahahahahahaha wait I love artisanal salami

Don't forget our avocado toast, Russell.

That's for the kids.

That one's gonna bite him on the behind.

Probably not. Not the part about "knowingly false." It's pretty clear that he can't distinguish between what he want to be true and what actually is true. So nothing he says fits the "knowingly" part.

Wolff's lawyers have a decent turn of phrase in responding to the libel threat:
(The deadpan reply about preservation of documents at the end is excellent...)

A more succinct response based on English law might have been equally appropriate:

(Referring correspondents to Pressdram vs Arkell has ever since been the polite way for English lawyers to say eff off...)

The subject of mental crutches (or workarounds or whatever) for dealing with cognitive decline has come up. There seem to be a number of coders here. I've found myself doing everything in Perl these days (well, a subset of Perl) and have started wondering if that's a crutch, of sorts. Granted, before retirement I coded in whatever the job demanded and don't have that constraint any more. Still.

I've done a couple of little projects in Python, just to see if that would be even better. But the scoping rules drive me crazy, and I keep getting tripped up by the "everything's a reference" limit.

If Perl gets it done, use Perl.

The mental challenge of building software is (mostly) not about the language. The "mostly" qualifier is there to account for differences between languages like (frex) C vs Lisp, and the mental challenge there is not a matter of one being a "crutch" as much as they just require thinking about problems differently.

Using Perl instead of Python does not IMO represent a step down in cognitive skill level.

I agree with russell. I don't think it's a good idea to learn Perl before any other language, because you don't learn what you should about some basic concepts like typing. But obviously that's not the case for you.

I've come to prefer Python (over Perl) for anything longer than a few lines just because it's so much easier to figure out what the hell I was doing when I look at it a few months later . . . but maybe that's a sign of my own cognitive decline :)

Thanks, Jake

Personally, I learned early on to write LOTS of comments in my code in order to be able to figure out later what I was thinking. But then, I was writing Assembler. Still (again) am, rather to my amazement.

Most Popular and Influential Programming Languages of 2018

Not surprised to see Java at #1, it's the go-to language for any kind of larger scale business systems.

Glad to see C hanging in there. I miss working in C/C++, it's fun to build your own data structures and stuff from the ground up, and also fun to have some visibility into what's going on under the hood.

I want to get a functional language under my belt this year, I like the way they make you think. They have some good advantages for the distributed thing as well, or so I'm told.

It's fun to build software, especially when it works. :)

i miss C++. i've been in C and Java for too long.

C is a go-cart - fast and dangerous. C++ is a go-cart with a nice comfy seat - fast and dangerous but nice to ride in. Java is like a video game - it almost feels real, but you know it's just a simulation running in a computer somewhere.

Thanks to all of you who expressed sympathy for my domestic situation. Without going into details, it's not actually as bad at present as I may have implied, or as you may have inferred, or as it may yet become.

If there was hope of eventual improvement, or even a guarantee it would get no worse, things wouldn't be that bad. We've got a lovely house, we have adequate funds (including enough to "throw money" at some tasks we'd rather not do ourselves), we have Skype for communicating with children and grandchildren, and we have each other.

The absence of the hope and the guarantee, however, tends to wear on one after a while.

The last line of code I wrote was in C ... about 27 years ago. I guess I didn't have sufficient context at the time to think of it as anything remotely similar to a go-cart.

About music theory, don't know if I passed this on, but there was recently a boom with 'negative harmony' because of Jacob Collier,

since reading this i've been constantly watching Jacob Collier videos. don't know how i've never heard of him before, but OMG what a mind. that's what genius looks like.

This is a great post and thread that I'm late to.

When it comes to my personal life (politics is another story, but I've offloaded, some may say sublimated, those frustrations on to this Countme character known and adored (sic) here. He does worry me some.), when I was younger I use to worry inordinately about what might happen. I'm an award-winning procrastinator but not when it came to worrying about matters large and small. No, that I started in on from the get go. No hesitation. In fact, when the bad news either arrived or didn't arrive, I wasted no time in moving on to the next worrisome thing.

In the past dozen years or so I've undergone a series of setbacks, a broken marriage after 31 years and a subsequent ending of an intense love affair that followed my marriage, neither of which I saw coming. My sister died after dreadful suffering over many years. My mother died after a long ordeal with dementia. A few other things too.

I never would have predicted that a person of questionable character such as myself could have survived those losses as a sane, functioning person. But during the last couple of years, I've learned to relax into it. I take each day as it comes and I don't, as least not to the extent I once did, sweat the tomorrows or the yesterdays, the might be or the coulda beens.

If a problem arises, I deal with it as it occurs, rather than procrastinating and denying and worrying.

I will say that I'm aggrieved by the setbacks of so many expressed here and feel great sympathy. I'm even tempted to obsessively worry about you folks and your loved ones, because old habits die hard.

Long ago, I wrote a college paper on Nietzsche's concept of Amor Fati (Love of Fate) as part of a philosophy major. Weirdly, I pulled the writer Henry Miller into the mix as well, who, at least in his fiction, seemed to practice Amor Fati.

I think about this concept now that I've accepted than I am what I am, as Popeye enthused. I accept my life as I've lived it. Yes, I would do many things differently had I the chance to live my life over, but that is pointless thinking.

I wish I was Merlin so I could life backwards and see it coming.

Death and what comes after is a mystery I don't worry about much. As Alvie Singer said, I just don't want to there when it happens, but at the same time I don't want to be "not there" when it happens, meaning ridden with dementia.

Life itself is more of a mystery. What exactly are we doing?

I'm agnostic when it comes to religious matters, but I read pretty deeply in the religious texts.

I reject the Christian concept of eternal judgement. Are you telling me that now that I've accepted my life, not to mention having it judged every step of the way in judgement-addled America, it has to be judged all over again in its totality ... or else? I've heard less nonsensical sales pitches on middle of the night TV.

My goals are modest for my remaining time, and the term "remaining time" is something I've just started to think about recently. I'm 66, a number I can't really relate to, in lucky physical condition and immature for my age, which is what I tell younger women after I tell them my age.

I like to start off with two strikes against me.

Get the reading done, the good stuff. Enjoy my son's progress thru life. Play baseball for as long I can at a high level. Maybe finally master the guitar instead of merely looking at it and occasionally dusting it.

I'll relate my greatest political fear in a later comment.

Good luck and health to all of you and your loved ones.

Terrific post, Count, thanks.

My fellow underachievers,

The Count has inspired me to stop procrastinating. I have put off making my contribution to this excellent thread for two (well, three) main reasons.

First, I don't do sympathy very well. Other people's troubles and fears make me choke up, even in writing. I start to commiserate and end up spouting banalities or digressing into minutia. Or worse, indulging in metaphors like "black holes". (Don't ask.)

Second, what's the point of repeating what you all said already? I mean, does it add anything to the thread if I mention that, as an immigrant 4th-grader who barely spoke English, I got pegged as the "wicked smaht Greek kid" entirely and only because I could already do long division -- and have basically coasted on that reputation ever since?

Maybe I can contribute a minor meme, though: the notion that one can be "unfortunately lucky". The most obvious illustration is the apparently common phenomenon of being so smart as a kid that you never really learn how to study until it's too late. But wait, there's more: imagine landing a first job that you like enough to let it seduce you into forgoing the opportunity to go back for a PhD; imagine succeeding well enough at your first entrepreneurial foray that you don't seek to "grow" the business until your comfortably profitable market niche dries up. Or, imagine falling in love in your youth with a movie-star-beautiful woman who runs triathlons, plays classical piano, cooks divinely, and is a loyal Democrat to boot: wonderful while it lasts, but leaves you indifferent to perfectly nice, attractive, normal women in your middle age.

To be sure, "unfortunately lucky" feels, in the moment, like just plain lucky. The opportunity costs only become visible in retrospect. By then you are a different person though, which takes some of the sting out of forgone opportunities. For example: my freshman-year roommate at MIT (who had also been my senior-year roommate in high school and whose name was also Tony P---) went on to be an MIT lifer (undergrad, PhD, professor) which I have sometimes envied, but can't quite envy now that I have seen more of what the academic life is like.

Parenthetically, I went to MIT thinking I wanted to become an architect. Why? Because as a kid I watched a TV sitcom called "Family Affair" (look it up). Turns out my roommmate chose mechanical engineering because his father was a MechE. I signed up for some of the same classes he was taking, and here I am.

By being "unfortunately lucky" at several points in my life, I have arrived at a position of both insignificance and irresponsibility, which turns out to suit me just fine. For now.

Oh, third: I must be about the slowest writer on the internet. In high school, I wavered between my passion for writing and my passion for physics. Had I pursued writing as a career (doing mechanical tinkering as a hobby) that might have been different. Would I have been happier today? Who knows.


I didn't address intelligence.

I've never known my IQ scores and really don't care to know. But whatever the number is, I've pretty much squandered it, except for what I can put to my own personal use.

I've never figured out what it is I should be doing. I have avocations not a vocation.

That use to worry me. No longer. I am what I am and what I am is danged lazy. Like a cat. When I'm motivated and interested, I can excel at anything. But I'm rarely motivated. Very easily bored.

The very idea of coding sends me into a power nap.

But I can read Proust, for example, for hours on end without a yawn.

What I have decided is that my intelligence is an unusual ... peculiar would be a better word ... one. I am never doing what I'm supposed to be doing. In school I was reading Moby Dick or some such, the book surreptitiously balanced on my lap under the desk, in math class, which I hated, though I can do large sums in my head in a few seconds and can peruse stock market figures all day, while in English or History classes, which I told myself I loved, I was secretly calculating baseball batting averages.

Unlike Sebastian's fear that he can't hold a number of thoughts or ideas in his head at one time as he comments here, I bring everything but the kitchen sink into my comments, including a phrase Marty or someone wrote weeks before that struck me as fodder for satire, few of which have much to do with the subject at hand.

Sometimes I wish I was more along the lines of Sebastian.

I make connections between oddly disparate thoughts. My IQ doesn't have a number. It is somewhere on the Dadaist scale, though like Marcel Duchamp, who was careful about the term Dada, maybe that doesn't match exactly.

All I know is that when Marty says "potato", I say "the bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even".

"My IQ doesn't have a number. It is somewhere on the Dadaist scale, though like Marcel Duchamp, who was careful about the term Dada, maybe that doesn't match exactly."

Count, that is by far the awesomest thing I have read today.

I got a chuckle out of this, myself:

The very idea of coding sends me into a power nap.

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