In which I've been here a minute

Sometime in 2004, while I was in graduate school working on getting my teacher’s license, a friend at a party suggested that a bunch of us start blogs on a site called Xanga.  I had jumped into blogging a couple of times at a couple of different places but didn’t have anything live at that particular time, so I agreed, starting a site called Monkey Knife Fight.  Monkey Knife Fight ended up lasting much longer than any of the other blogs my friends were running; its high points were being the top Google search result in the world for the phrase “Duck cock” and my wedding, where I literally logged into my blog on a laptop at our reception and let anyone who wanted to post a comment or a little written piece.  I’m still in touch with a number of people who I would never have met had it not been for that blog, and it’s arguable that I would not be married to my wife had it never existed as well.

That blog died in 2009; the final post was a wordless picture of a five-year birthday candle posted on the five-year anniversary of its opening.  I still have all of the posts saved on my computer and a couple of different cloud-based backups; some of them were preserved in Searching for Malumba as well.

Fast forward four years, roughly, and one of those same friends announces that it is time for all of us to start blogging again.  The first iteration of infinitefreetime—the name was a joke, as I not only had a toddler in the house but I believe I was working at least two jobs as well– was actually at Xanga, which quickly killed itself soon after I started it, forcing me to reopen this account at WordPress, which is where the blog currently lives, six years and some change later.

And, as of this post, 3000 posts.

And, as of about another hundred words from now, a million words.  

Ain’t none of those other folks around any more, damn them.  More people I know IRL should be blogging.

Fun fact: this blog actually started in June of 2013, but the WordPress account it uses has been around since 2008.  I got a single pageview on whatever site was created that day and then nothing for five years after that.  I did get a nice little ten-year email from them last year, though.

By the by, here’s that millionth word:

Pants.

Because, well, obviously.   Other than “fuck”, which seems a bit gauche, what else could it possibly be?

I first figured out that I was approaching a million words and 3000 posts, I dunno, a couple of months ago, and started trying to make them happen on the same exact post a couple of weeks ago.  I have known what that millionth word was going to be for basically the entire time.  I have a cat in my house who has been here for over two weeks and we’ve not named him yet.  But hell if I don’t know immediately that if there is a chance for me to knowingly make pants the millionth word I write on my blog I’m sure as hell gonna do it.  

I dunno. What the post was actually going to be has been in flux that entire time, including various plans for retrospectives or announcing new projects or maybe my 10 favorite posts from this site or a whole bunch of other things, but honestly I’m not feeling maudlin enough right now for any of that and the end of the year is coming soon anyway if I want to do retrospectives. So we’ll just use the post for this; to note that three thousandth post, and note that millionth word, and to note that it’s ridiculous how much of my life has been spent living on the Internet.

On to the next million, I suppose.

Happy Thanksgiving

So it turns out that the iPhone’s Portrait mode works really well on cats, too, to the point where I’m figuring the people who coded it set it up that way on purpose. Dude still doesn’t have a name. Ten minutes ago I thought he had a name, and was ready to announce it, but he does not. Soon, though! He’s ours legally now, and we’ve got an appointment to get him fixed on Monday, so he really ought to have a name by then. Yesterday was the day the fifteen-day hold officially expired, though, so he’s ours.

Maybe that’ll be his name. We’ll just call him Ours. Sure.

I do not typically have Difficult Family Holidays, and do not actually have the crazy racist uncle that so many of us seem to have to tiptoe around on the holidays– or, if I do, he’s made certain to never be such in my presence or at my house. I wanted to make a joke here, the first was about my mother-in-law and the second was about my sister-in-law’s husband’s vague resemblance to Saddam Hussein, but both of them are landing rather poorly so just pretend I said something funny here.

So while we’re splitting Thanksgiving over two days this year– the Electric Boogaloo version is tomorrow– neither should be especially stressful, especially since I seem to be using my lingering illness as an excuse to go Full Metal Masculine and not be helpful in any real way at all.

I’m going to have to cook the whole goddamn meal next year to make up for this year, is what I’m saying.

But: while still ailing, I remain at least nominally alive, which is still an improvement over earlier this week, and I had mashed potatoes today and did not deliberately eat myself into a food coma, which may be a sign that I’m getting smarter as I get older but is probably just a sign that I remember I get two of them this year. So now I get to spend two days stressing about grading and a day actually grading, and then there’s a two-and-a-half week run to Winter Break, and then I can fall into a damn coma for all anyone cares.

Which, y’know. That’s the dream.

More– possibly lots more– tomorrow.

I’m alive

It would be just like me to suddenly go radio-silent before a major milestone number; be it known that I have the worst case of bronchitis I’ve had in years, didn’t make it to work at all this week, and am about to go to bed for about the fourth time today.

I’m alive, but I’m not enjoying it.

#REVIEW: Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

Longest post title ever? Possibly. Gotta love nonfiction books.

This is known: there exists an alternate-universe version of me who has a Ph.D and works as either an astronomer or a planetary geologist. I’ve been fascinated by this stuff for as long as I can remember, and every now and again I really wonder how it is that I didn’t take all that much math and science in college.

(Actually, I know why that’s true. My current enjoyment of mathematics dates to realizing how fascinating statistics was when I had to take a stats class for my … oh, wait, I was a Psychology major, among other things, so I guess I did have to take a fair number of science classes in college.)

(Let’s say “hard science” classes and piss off the psychology people. Like, science with math, which– other than stats– Psychology really doesn’t trouble itself all that much with. Shut up you know what I mean.)

Anyway. I followed the New Horizons mission with no small degree of fascination, and the data they’ve acquired about Pluto and its associated moons is endlessly interesting. Earlier this year the spacecraft did a flyby on a Kuiper Belt object now known as Arrokoth, and I believe there’s at least one more KBO flyby planned before the craft is shut down. Stern and Grinspoon’s book isn’t so much about the science, or about Pluto, however; it’s about the 20-plus-year effort to get the mission to explore the ninth planet(*) approved and the political and scientific process by which the mission itself actually came to be. As it turns out, there were a lot of people who for one reason or another didn’t want New Horizons to happen, and the mission was either actually cancelled or nearly cancelled five or six times, to say nothing of the number of times where something went wrong with the craft itself. For example, I wasn’t aware that they lost contact with the craft just a few days before the Pluto flyby began, and the book’s description of the mad scramble to not only reestablish contact with the by-then-several-billion-miles-away craft but to then slowly re-upload a bunch of mission-critical code updates before the thing sped by Pluto at thousands of miles per hour is compelling as hell.

So, yes– this book is less a work of popular science or a textbook about Pluto than it is a book about history and politics. It’s about the mission, not the planet, and while I wasn’t quite aware of that when I picked it up it’s no less of a good read for it– I’m always down to read something about NASA’s inner workings, and some of the squabbling that takes place between Caltech’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins over who was going to actually design and build the spacecraft that eventually became New Horizons is pretty damn cool. One way or another, while I haven’t read a ton of nonfiction this year I’m glad I finally let this stop languishing on my shelf and picked it up. You’ll probably see it mentioned again in a month or so, when I write my 10– or possibly 15– best books of the year post for 2019. In the meantime, check it out.

(*) For most of the book, Pluto is very much considered a planet, and the authors’ open derision toward the new definition of “planet” that reclassified Pluto is hilarious. Needless to say, for these guys Pluto is the ninth planet and it ain’t going anywhere.

In which I approach milestones

This is my 2996th post, and I am just over 1500 words away from writing my millionth word on this blog. I’ve been keeping track pretty carefully over the last several weeks because I want them both to happen on the same post.

…I, uh, probably ought to start figuring out what I’m doing with that post, shouldn’t I? 🙂

The cat remains unnamed; current frontrunners include Gordon, Hup, Tyrion, Hodor, and I just suggested Hercules. I don’t understand why this is so difficult.