Free Time During a Pandemic: Three Weeks Later

Writing Software, Retelling Folktales, Reading Camus and Leiber

By on ::            

On , I wrote about how I’m spending my free-time during the pandemic. I continue to work remote, and I still play frisbee with my dogs. The dishes and laundry continue.

Software and Data Migrations

I wrapped up some work for Soapy Gnome. I migrated the shop’s data from Square to Shopify. It was about 20 hours of work over the course of a few weeks.

I am beginning to wonder if the time is coming to move away from Atom. I’ve tried Visual Studio Code, but the UI feels a bit too much like an App Store.

So I’ve started practicing and configuring Vim, an extensible venerable plain-text editor. I’ve switch text editors over the years; from JEdit, to TextMate, to Eclipse, to TextMate, to Sublime, to Atom. Through all of those switches, Vim has remained a steady presence. Always available in a terminal shell.

I also have been tweaking my site. If you read the site by way of RSS, you may not notice much. I’ve added more accessibility keys. View Source and search for “accesskey”. I’ve also learned that on my Firefox, the “N” accesskey does not work. An odd thing.

In working on accessibility, I’ve used Firefox’s Accessibility function to review document flow. From that, I have removed some HTML elements.

I also went through all of my posts in an attempt to define abbreviations. As part of the site build, I now produce an abbreviations page.

Look at the site’s change log for more details.

Self-Soothing an Anxious Mind

Some nights, my mind awakens me at 3am, racing through the ails of our day. I have found that I can calm my mind by telling a simple tale, always beginning with “Once upon a time.” The mental exercise of focusing on an early engrained mental pattern helps draw my brain from its anxiety loop.

I often go to the tale of the Three Little Pigs. Remember, the pig that planned and toiled was a bulwark against the voracious lies of a windbag predator.

Reading Albert Camus

My tattered used copy of Albert Camus’s Resistance, Rebellion, and Death published in 1960 as part of the Modern Library Book series.

Devon Schrock, my 11th and 12th grade English teacher, introduced me to Albert Camus. Since then, I’ve enjoyed his lucid writing. Last week, I turned back to reading “Resistance, Rebellion, and Death,” a small collection of Camus’s writings. As the cover of the book says “Shortly before his death Camus himself selected the pieces that make up this volume—a collection of his writings representing the primary concerns of his life.”

The first essays, framed as letters to a German friend, are written during the later years of the Nazi occupation of France. These salient works, with optimism and purpose, cut through my mental miasma. I find myself able to concentrate and read far longer than other books. Perhaps because I see the engrained hope and drive for justice, as well as know the outcome of such efforts.

Every morning for four years each [human] received their ration of hatred and their slap in the face—when they opened their newspaper…We were left with hatred…We were left with the rage that consumes our souls at the memory of certain images and certain faces…

…Well, this is what we must overcome first of all. Our poisoned hearts must be cured. And the most difficult battle to be won against the enemy of the future must be fought within ourselves with an exceptional effort that will transform our appetite for hatred into a desire for justice. Not giving in to hatred, not making any concessions to violence, not allowing our passions to become blind—these are the things we can still do for friendship and against Hitlerism

…Even now intelligence is ill-treated. This proves simply that the enemy is not yet conquered…When that intelligence [, backed by courage,] is snuffed out, the black night of dictatorship begins…

…I should like [us] not to give in when [we] are told that intelligence is always unwelcome or that it is permissible to lie in order to succeed. I should not like [us] to give in to guile, to violence, or to inertia…Then perhaps, in a nation that is free and passionately attached to truth, we will begin again to have that for humankind, without which the world can never be but a vast solitude.

Albert Camus, Defense of Intelligence (Speech given at the meeting organized by the L’Amitié Fraçaise on 15 March 1945)

The crisp hopeful call for truth and justice reminds me just what we are dealing with.

Reading Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

I have long-loved reading the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. This past week, I read one story each night from the Dark Horse Books 2016 rerelease of the 1973 Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser comics.

Deeply steeped in the sword & sorcery tradition, these stories are part of the genetic makeup of Dungeons and Dragons: thieves guilds, broke adventurers, found family, wits, powerful patrons, witty quips, geas, and sword play. There is minimal arc between stories, instead Fritz Leiber wrote interesting adventures. One story, they start in a bar, as a brawl is ready to break out. Another, they are on a sailing vessel under attack

Goodman Games has a long-running “Adventures in Fiction” series, where they write-up about the influences of Dungeons and Dragons, as outlined in the Appendix N See Goodman Game’s What is Appendix N post for more information of the 1E* DMG* . The Fritz Leiber post goes into more detail on his bibliography.

Conclusion

The feelings I’m feeling remind me of my divorce, I previously wrote:

I continue to dig through the mental shoe box of pictures that my future self was planning on taking. Those photos are fading, yet it still fills me with sadness.

Yet the pandemic is a shared global context. We all mourn what we’ve lost. We look now to find shelter from the night. Are we at dusk or dawn? We navigate the days on a becalmed ocean, surrounded by the wreckage of a raging pandemic. Storm clouds loom, gathering strength as skies darken. May we harness those winds to restore friendship through truth and justice.

And may we find strength to engage in the hardest of tasks, to discard what we have gained through injustice and hatred.