A lot of little stuff is happening in my world, so it’s time to sort it out. If you’ve followed me here for a while, you know this happens from time to time when things get squirrelly.
First and foremost, Helena is still missing. It’s been just over a week now, but given the geography of the area combined with the speed and intelligence of this cat, I’m slowly consigning myself to the notion that I will never see her again, even in the best circumstances. I refuse to close that door completely because experience has taught me that cats can and will surprise you when you least expect it, sometimes months or even years down the road. But I can’t be selfish enough to make this all about me. Helena was never happy in a cage, even if that cage is the size of a house. She values freedom more than anything else, and she’s cunning enough to survive. The nearby nature preserve and state park backing up to the richer neighborhood of the next suburb over, where she was last sighted, is probably the best situation she could ever ask for. And that’s assuming she opts to settle. For all I know, as restless as she is, she could be halfway across the state by now. Wherever she goes, I wish her the very best. For almost ten months, she brightened my world.
When I’m depressed, I try to distract myself. Typically that distraction will involve trying to learn something new, something that would require serious concentration, working past frustration, and ultimately give me some kind of a dopamine high when victory comes. Herein lies the secret as to why I have so many irons in the fire at any given time. This time around, the distraction took the form of a Raspberry Pi 3. I posted a review of an instruction book yesterday, before it arrived to my house, and then edited it this morning to post my progress. Suffice it to say, this project is nowhere near as cheap as advertised, nowhere near as easy as advertised, and has the side effect of making me feel stupid. Since that’s an untenable position, it’s quickly become a vendetta. In the words of the great Ricardo Montalban, it tasks me, and I shall have it!
The object of this particular quest is retro gaming. When I was a kid, I had an Atari 2600 when it was all the rage. “Pac-Man Fever” was played in every skating rink, and arcade machines could be found in every pizza palace, corner store, and pretty much every other hangout you could name. Over time, the idea of the dedicated video arcade became a thing. But in true fashion for her, Mom gave away our Atari because the cords kept getting tangled up. That was the excuse she used. What it really amounted to was she got a wild hair one day and decided to exercise her authority in some randomly insane manner as she often did. The closest thing I had to a video game setup after that in my entire life was an underpowered PC that played a handful of games. I’ve never been a big video gamer, or so I tell myself. But growing up, my best friend was a huge gamer, and he had one of every console you could name. I can’t tell you the sheer number of hours I spent watching him play because I could never get the hang of any of it. Likewise, we spent countless hours in the arcades on Saturdays. The weapon of choice was often, but not always, Street Fighter II. We’d pop $20 each into the machine and beat the crap out of our digital avatars. I got pretty good at it too, eventually. And there were other games I enjoyed, but on the whole I can say I’ve actually beaten maybe three games, none of them at an arcade. For a child of the 80s, I missed out on a world revolution that has reshaped popular culture and the entertainment industry. There are a handful of games on select platforms that I want to play, and there are a handful that I’ve played briefly and enjoyed. I’m operating under no delusion that the experience today would be the same as it was then. Mostly I’m just looking for a distraction for those times when I’m too depressed to read but too fidgety to sit and watch movies.
My goal is to have this RPi 3 up and running before the weekend because it’s going to be a kind of therapy for when the weekend is over. Hell, if I can get it working, I may take it with me. This weekend is a road trip with my Dad. It’s his birthday, but that’s beside the point. It’s also the 80th birthday of his sister-in-law. This lady is awesome. She basically stopped her world for the better part of 20 years while her husband, Dad’s older brother, succumbed to cancer. With his passing a couple of years ago, she’s re-energized and found life again, and she wanted to celebrate with family. Sounds good on the surface. The problem here is two-fold. The family is on the verge of internal civil war due to politics and religion. That’s point one. Point two is that I’ll be spending hours in the car both ways alone with my Dad, who is practically the exemplar for all things devastatingly stupid in the world right now. He’s always wanting “philosophical debates,” which really translates as “I want to talk circles around you as loudly as humanly possible, negate your sense of self worth and reality itself, and bully you into submission so that you’ll eventually agree with me, and at that point we can bond in commiseration against all things liberal and/or socialist.” And you can’t push back on any of it because his ultra-competitive streak comes out, which has been pushing us apart for pretty much all my life. It’s a lot like dealing with the Bible thumpers of the family, only with politics instead. These people can never be wrong no matter how much scientific evidence you level at them, you can never be right no matter how much fact you stockpile, and it never ends without somebody hitting a wall. Confirmation bias reigns supreme. Kid Sis was actually stopped in for a visit last weekend on her way back from a road trip of her own, and she stayed for all of 20 minutes because he started in. In what I can only call a surprise move, I didn’t get a parental email of any kind. I have a feeling that’s going to stew all week too. Yay. Why I said yes to this road trip is beyond me, except to say I love my aunt. She’s awesome. And then, of course, the weekend after this one is Mother’s Day, which means that in the fallout of whatever happens on the road trip, I get to visit the parents again, and… *head/desk* Swordfighting is only good therapy if you have a sparring partner. So you see, the RPi 3 as digital therapist makes sense, from a certain point of view. I don’t need long hours on it. I’d never be able to commit to that anyway. I just need a half hour or so every now and then to help re-center and refocus.
You know… on many levels, a cat was easier. But looking at it all, I can’t say I blame her for wanting out. She always was the smart one.