Menu Close

Author: Joe Dillingham (page 1 of 162)

The insufficiency of “I’m sorry”

“I’m sorry” is totally insufficient. I hate it.

But, before you start to think me a monster, let me qualify.

First, I am not saying I hate apologies. Far from it. I am a big fan of apologies. We all screw up from time to time and a sincere apology can go a long way toward making things right. Trust me: I know. We’ve all done and will do stupid things that hurt other people. Apologize. Say, “I’m sorry” and mean it. You can’t travel back to the moment of your transgression and stop it from happening, but you can acknowledge that you screwed up and take steps to correct. And, don’t forget, there are no "buts" in an apology.

Second, I am not saying that I don’t think we should sympathize with other people’s pain. The human is a communal animal and our societies and our lives are better when we try as best we can to understand what other members of our tribe are going through. Stress at work, family strife, feeling unsure about your life path, whatever it is the ability to read the emotions of others and to incorporate that understanding is key to successfully navigating life. Just think how much better things would be if the GOP had a tiny sliver of sympathy for anyone. Right? A lot better.

What I am trying to get at is that I think "I’m sorry" as a phrase to mean, "I see that you are suffering and acknowledge it and sincerely wish I could help in some way to ease that suffering" is not even close to good enough. There is too much opportunity to confuse it with the other meaning, "I have regret for the harm I caused you," particularly in a moment when emotions are heightened. You know, when you might say something like "I’m sorry".

How many times have you said "I’m sorry" to someone the former meaning, for them to say, "You have nothing to be sorry about. It’s not your fault"? And then you have to clarify with something like, "No no, what I meant was that I am sorry your teeth hurt still, not I’m sorry I made your teeth hurt because we both know I had nothing to do at all with the pain level of your teeth. However, I feel sympathy for the aches in your chompers." This is a strong signal that "I’m sorry" is not up the task we’ve set out for it.

You could try something like, "I feel you," but that could just as easily be confused with "I agree". Not good enough. It leaves us with the same lack of clarity "I’m sorry" does. Grandma died? "I feel you." Wrong.

How about "I am pained for you"? Too dramatic. Try listening to less Morrissey.

Maybe "Yeah, sure, ok, yeah, ok, uh-huh"? I’ve performed extensive testing with this option when a plus-one is telling me about some upset they experienced and it didn’t go so well. I should have just used "I’m sorry".

The French have l’esprit de l’escalier to describe that feeling you get when you leave an argument and suddenly have a whole armament of pithy retorts, too late to make use of. The Germans have schadenfreude which describes the malicious enjoyment we take in the misfortunes of others. The Danish have 2016’s hottest word hygge which the OED defines as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being; contentment from simple pleasures, such as warmth, food, friends, etc." Damn, that sounds pretty nice.

And we English speakers, what do we have? "I’m sorry".

Not good enough! It’s confusing! It’s imprecise! It’s wholly insufficient for the work it’s meant to do! And, I hate it. There has to be some better, clearer way to express the same sentiment as simply but without the risk of mistaking its meaning.

While we’re all stuck inside the house due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, I want you to think about what else could take the place of "I’m sorry" and get back to me by Monday. Leave good suggestions in the comments. I believe in you.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A Night At The Bar

Sylvia nursed her double-gin and single-tonic at the hotel bar and checked out the handsome, dark-haired man across the room. Just looking at him as she had been doing the last three or four drinks, she could tell she was definitely his type. She wanted to show him and his dark curls and darker eyes a thing or two.

He was her son’s age, but reminded her of her second husband, Ali, the car salesman with more body hair than any man had any right to. She remembered how he would smell after a day working in those cheap suits he preferred. “Buy a nice one!” she’d tell him. “Those dime-a-dozen suits don’t breathe right.” By the end of a hot summer day, his rank body odor would be vile.

Read more

Building a Hackintosh

Have you ever built a computer? It’s pretty easy. You select the parts you want, do a little bit of homework to make sure they work together, purchase the parts, and then put them together. You put the processor in its slot, you put the GPU in that slot, and you put the RAM in those slots. Everything has a place where it fits. From there, you install Windows (also pretty easy) and you’re off to the races, free to do whatever it is people do with computers. Anyone with just a little technical aptitude and some attention to detail can figure out how to build a computer in an afternoon or so. Did you like building legos as a kid, especially those Technics kits with the gears that turned into cars with working steering columns or whatever? Then you can build a computer. It’s actually kind of fun and pretty satisfying.

Now. Have you ever tried building a Hackintosh?

That is an entirely different beast.

A “Hackintosh”, for those not in the know, is a PC built with off-the-shelf parts that runs MacOS.

With a normal PC, all you have to do is make sure your parts work together. There’s quite a lot of wiggle room. With a Hackintosh, you not only have to make sure your parts work together, but also that all your parts can be made to work with an OS that does not natively support them. But that’s not all! After putting it all together, you have to then trick the computer into thinking it’s a Mac running native, supported hardware. You’re right, that does sound hard!

Oh, wow, these Threadripper Hackintoshes look neat! Oh. No. Creative Cloud doesn’t work.

Maybe I’ll go x299 over z390 for the extra juice! Damn. Documentation is sparse.

Do I need to buy a new power supply? Seems like the draw math works, but you don’t really know until everything’s plugged in.

Is it time to replace my ancient Firewire 800 audio interface so I can remove the PCIe card I had to add to make it work? The less stuff plugged in, the less there is to troubleshoot.

Are there native drivers for my chosen GPU? Nope! Nvidia and Apple are in a fight, so AMD is the only choice.

Will the Samsung M.2 SSDs work? Nope! MacOS hates the chipset that runs them. Time to find some M.2 SSDs that don’t use that chipset.

Should I reuse the tower CPU cooler I already have? Maybe, but it’s pretty big and I have no idea if the new RAM will clear. But will MacOS drive the AIO watercooler I am looking at?

What settings do I need to include in my DSDT? My SSDT? ACPI? What kexts? How do I set up the bootloader? OpenCore or Clover? Which UEFI settings? There’s a forum guide for slightly different hardware for the previous OS, so maybe that will help?

And so on and so on and so on. The questions never end. It’s an absolute nightmare.

I bet you’re asking yourself the smart question “Why on Earth would anyone subject themselves to this torture?” Price. The price to build a machine is often just a fraction of what Apple would charge for something roughly equivalent. Of course, with Apple you’re getting reliability, a warranty, and some premium touches. We don’t need those!

However, Apple has a tendency to let hardware languish for years without a refresh. Look at the trashcan Mac Pro. They released it in 2013 and gave it a single, modest spec boost once before the new 2019 Mac Pro was released. One specification update in six years. No good. There was no way to update that little machine either. You were stuck with what you bought. You can update a Hackintosh (if you like opening the gates to Hell).

And I’ve done this before! Back in late 2013 I started down the Hackintosh road. In fact, the computer that resulted from that is the computer I am typing this on right now. I built it to replace an aging Mac Pro that could no longer handle the HD video footage I threw at it as part of my job. This machine, affectionately named “The Dark Tower”, has served me pretty well in that regard these last few years.

It has never worked perfectly, though. I suspect that a lot of that is to do with my inexperience putting it together seven years ago. Maybe I didn’t pick exactly the right parts. Maybe I skipped some crucial, but tiny, step in the install process. Maybe the hardware is slowly dying after all this time. Who knows! I’ve taken it apart, rebuilt it, and reinstalled both Windows and MacOS many times since then. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

It is also stuck on High Sierra because Nvidia is no longer producing MacOS drivers for the 980 Ti GPU I have. My High Sierra install is crunchy and unstable no matter how much I do to fix it. The Dark Tower has had it’s day and now its time to replace it. I have some potential video work coming up and this machine is not up to the task.

Now I have a few questions to answer.

  • Do I stick with the dual boot Windows/Hackintosh format?

  • Do I go Windows-only? Most of the software I run works on both platforms, though I still prefer the Mac for work.

  • Do I build a 12-core monster or an 8-core smaller-monster? We’re talking about maybe a $600 difference. Significant, but not game-changing.

  • If I go Windows-only, do I build an AMD Threadripper machine? Price is roughly the same as upgrading to the 8-core machine.

  • Do I just buy an actual Macintosh desktop computer?! This is by far the most expensive, but least stressful option.

So much to consider. Wish me luck. I’m diving in. Me and Colonel Panic are going to be getting real intimate.

The Theme for 2020: Wonder

Cynicism is a shackle.

Cynicism is a shackle and being jaded is uncool and dumping on people who are putting themselves out there is a drag.

For too long I have indulged this sort of needless negativity and I feel pretty done with it. It’s a habit I (and many others) developed as a teenager and so thoroughly internalized that it’s become a dominant personality trait. But that sucks! When you have a bad habit, you try to undo it, right? Drinking too much? Cut it out. Get soft around the tum-tum? Go to the gym. Being a cynical jerk about stuff? Embrace wonder. I limit myself and the potential richness of my life by immediately writing things off that maybe aren’t the best. Or things that I perceive might not be the best. How might my life now, as a 37 year old man, be fuller if I hadn’t spent so many years thinking things were stupid because it made me feel cool? It’s terrible, and if that makes me cynical about cynicism, then so be it.

I want to get to a place where I can just be excited about things without tempering that excitement with a bad attitude. I want to go to an open mic night and genuinely think to myself, You know, that was pretty good. I want to see a dad-rock band at a local festival and not roll my eyes. I want to read the clumsy poetry of the world and not dismiss it out of hand. I want to like things because I like things and not justify my tastes. I want to take pleasure in the weird experiences that I find myself in all the time. I want to find the magic in creating things that are not masterpieces. I want to welcome the broken and wonky into my heart. I want to silence that damned voice that says so many terrible things to me. I want to embrace the joy of small, imperfect things because life is full of small, imperfect things and dismissing them robs you of so many chances for happiness.

The theme for 2020 will be:

The Year of Wonder

Maybe I mean something closer to “the year of positive attitude” or “the year of not being a judgy dickhead” or “the year of just giving it a damn rest already with the negativity”, but none of those are as punchy as The Year of Wonder so that is what we are going with.

It seems to me that embracing wonder comes in two distinct flavors: inward and outward. That is, am I directing my bad attitude at myself or am I directing it at others. I think this differentiation is pretty easy to follow.

My struggles with being creative are legendary and well-documented. I have written about it extensively before here on The Black Laser. I am sure all this results from this persistent negative voice inside me. I am sure that the same sense that makes me think someone else’s work is worthless is the same sense that makes me think my work is worthless. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right?

Why beat myself up for the imagined failures of work I am not producing? It is better to produce and release 85% perfect work, than it is to beat myself up forever because the work isn’t 100% perfect and then never release anything at all. Get over it, Joe, and just be happy that the 85% work is out there. If I consider every single thing I’ve ever created professionally, there might be a handful of works that were in the 85% to 90% range. The rest were lower than that for whatever external reality causing issues. And I made a living that way! The world isn’t looking for works that are 100% perfect. That is impossible. Just do your best and people will respond.

And this attitude is never limited to just myself, either. Why can’t I just accept that someone has worked hard on something and is doing their best to share something of themselves? Perhaps they don’t sing with Bing Crosby’s syrupy voice, or perhaps they don’t shred like St Vincent, or perhaps they don’t craft the taught, lurid prose of Shirley Jackson, but so what? The creative drive is within all of us. For the most part, I really believe, people are just doing their best to express their own truths. Why poo-poo that? Encourage people to live their lives. That starts with not being yet another negative voice in a sea of negative voices. Negativity is easy, but negativity is lazy.

It’s a bad behavior it and it needs to stop.

This year is the year I work to stop it. I imagine it will be a difficult path, one from which I will stray regularly. You don’t change 37 years of bad behavior in a single blog post. But, it is something I want to work on. Just getting over the mental hump that kept me away from The Black Laser for so long is the first step. Christ, it’s not like I haven’t had anything stewing in my head the last few years. It’s just that the voice was so loud, so persistent, that I felt stuck.

Well, I’m back. Hi. Missed you too. Let’s be positive this year.

Happy Merry!

I hope you are all enjoying your holiday, even if you don’t get much of a break from work.

Sarah and I are chilling at home with our friend Jor. We’re probably cooking something good and I probably ate too much monkey bread, as tradition dictates. Let the people you love know you love them and put your feet up. You’ve worked hard this year and a little relaxation goes a long way.

MJBizCon Las Vegas – 2019

Today I am off on an airplane to magical, mysterious, miserable Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2019 MJBiz Conference. I will be there until Saturday. If you have yet to decode the name, the conference is for people and companies interested in doing business our country’s emerging market, which is currently only legal on a state-by-state basis. This will be my third time at this particular event. The header image above is a photo I took of the line to get badges last year.

I rate my excitement for the trip, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, at about a 3. I’m being generous.

Trade shows are tiring. You spend all day walking around kissing hands and shaking babies, business card to you, business card for me, what do you have, nice booth, hello guy I haven’t seen in a while, what a neat display, oh the Futurola crew went all out again, uh oh avoid that former client. Then, after the show lets out for the day, you go out until all unholy hours of the night doing the real business of the show: making deals, talking about projects, socializing, the whole thing. Add to all this that the show is in Las Vegas and you have a recipe for coming home feeling like a shell of a person for four or five days.

The show comes at a tough time of year for it to occupy most of a week. I’ve got a lot of year-end tasks to worry about, not to mention lining up work for 2020. Squeezing a week’s worth of in-office work into Monday is not the best. I’ve got reports to figure out how to write! I’ve got to make sure my accountant has all the things he needs! I’ve got to do this and that and whatever else! The entire company office will be in Vegas this week (there are two of us). I hope the building doesn’t burn down.

Even worse is that I am not especially interested in the theme of the show. I like being part of my construction company and I am often proud of what we make happen as a small crew. Our work is excellent and we run an honorable, no-bullshit business. However, we service an industry that just doesn’t excite me. There are loads of good people working hard to make something of themselves and I have tons of respect for a lot of them. I am not in any way trying to something negative about the people we work for and with. But, I’d probably be more interested in the booths at a horror movie convention. Just not super hyped on the wacky tabacky and its accoutrements, you know?

The only reason the show gets even a 3 out of 10 is that it is, admittedly and without reservation, nice to see all our vendor friends. You spend a lot of time on the calling and e-mailing people all over and it is good to spend some real face-time with them at least once or twice a year. That part I like.

The rest of it you can have.

Wish me luck! And let’s see if we can make something happen.

In search of good Horror Fiction

I’ve read Stephen King.

I’ve read Shirley Jackson.

I’ve read Clive Barker.

I’ve read Lovecraft and Poe and Shelley and Stoker and Matheson and Staub and Rice.

I’ve read a mountain of horror fiction and seen hundreds of horror films, but I feel like I am still missing out.

Stephen King is great, but his books aren’t scary. Clive Barker is inventive and gory, but I feel like sometimes he is better in films where he can drive his ideas with visuals. Joe Hill is writing some incredibly smart, fast-paced horror fiction, but I’ve read all his books. Shirley Jackson wore the Victorian-Horror-In-The-1950s crown, but she’s not producing new work. Lovecraft set the tone for thousands of writers to follow, even if he has some real problematic race ideas in his writing.

So. Who is out there writing our era’s great horror fiction? Who is creating terrifying new worlds and driving people insane? Who is haunting the manor halls with the unjustly dead? Who is condemning the souls of the greedy to eternal torment? Who am I missing? Someone must be doing all this, right?

Give me some ideas in the comments.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

Recipe: Sausage & Sage Stuffing

My friend Nicole was recently giving me my monthly haircut and we got to chatting about Thanksgiving. She mentioned that no one in her family was good at making stuffing, which was surprising to me because stuffing might just be the easiest, most delicious part of a Thanksgiving spread. Because I am such a generous soul, I offered to send her my recipe for stuffing, which I basically stole from Mark Bittman. Ok, ok, maybe not stole, but definitely adapted.

Granted, Thanksgiving is past at this point, but Christmas is coming up and stuffing is just as good then as it is any other time. Make it during the summer time, too! It’s good!

So, in the interest of bragging about my selfless, generous nature, here is my recipe. Feel free to follow it or change it or do whatever. It’s your life.

Sausage & Sage Stuffing

Ingredients:
1.5 lb sausage, herby Italian, not spicy
2 loaves of bread, I like sourdough
Butter, 1 stick, unsalted
Yellow onion, 1 medium
Celery, to match the onion
Fresh sage, half cup
Fresh thyme, quarter cup
Fresh flat leaf parsley, maybe half a cup?
Chicken stock, unsalted, for wetness
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1) Slice and toast the bread. Allow it to cool. If you’re really nuts, I like to toast the bread on the grill. I think it give the toast better flavor and better color to the stuffing in the end. You might need to scrape off some more burnt bits, but sometimes you have to suffer for your art.

Pulse the toasted bread slices in a food processor until both loaves are broken up decently. I like a mix of medium and small chunks. Save the toast powder this creates.

2) If you could only get sausage links, pull the meat out of the casing. If it’s loose, you’re set to go. In a dutch oven, cook the sausage until it’s done. Break it up into crumbles while cooking. Remove it from the dutch oven.

Dice your onion and celery. You want approximately equal portions of each. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the dutch oven. Sauté the onion and celery in the dutch oven until soft. Salt and pepper. Add the sausage back with its accumulated juice. Stir in the sage, thyme, and parsley.

3) Next add the bread crumbs and dust. I find it’s easiest to do this in two passes. Stir the it all up in the dutch oven.

Add the chicken stock. Again, I like to do this in steps. Add some, mix it in, add some more, mix it in. That way you know when to stop. The right amount of liquid yields soft toast crumbs, but is not soupy. Better to be sparing on the liquid as you can always add more later, but you can’t get rid of it. You’re just going to need to suss out this volume yourself.

4) Bring the stuffing up to temp over medium heat for a couple minutes. Just until it’s hot. Now taste it. It should probably not be salty enough, so add more salt, but be sparing as it concentrates a little before serving. If it’s lightly salty, to your preference, then it’s good.

Transfer to a crock pot set to Warm until you are ready to serve. I like to put another two one-tablespoon pats of butter on top of the stuffing when I put it in the dutch oven. It will slowly melt and butter is good, so fuck it why not.

Yields 6 to 7 quarts. So much.