Day 252, desk work, Lamplighters, Lisp

Sunday, 8/11/2019

Walked up to Verve for coffee. On return, I made a list of things that had been kicking around in the back of my mind as needing-to-do. Note this is something of a change from the first few months. From Day 1 to around Day 200, I was making detailed to-do lists almost compulsively. I knew I was being a little bit compulsive about them; see remarks earlier, on anxiety owing to not having Marian as my co-pilot. On the other hand, there was actually a metric shit-ton of stuff that I needed to do back then. For the last month-plus, I’ve been able to rely on the Google calendar to keep track of where I need to be and when; and I’ve been able to handle the routine busy-work of life pretty much ad-hoc.

But things had stacked up a bit and would come to mind when I awoke at 3am or 4am, and make it hard to go back to sleep. So I made the list and tackled it.

One item, which I should have thought of much, much earlier, was to order new checks. The current checkbooks, one from the credit union and for Schwab, have Marian’s name and the Tasso address. In the “stationery and postage” drawer I found boxes with about ten books of checks for each account. I got online with SFCU; their site makes it easy, even pleasant, to order new checks, customizing the names and addresses simply. Schwab should have been as easy, and may actually be, however it was a “service temporarily unavailable, try again” from them. C.H. very conveniently provides a box for documents to be shredded on each floor, so I put the extra checkbooks in there.

Another was to follow up on the travel insurance for the canceled Road Scholar trip. Remember how I realized too late that I wanted to reschedule that trip, so it had to be treated as a cancellation and a rebooking, and RoadScholar kept half the fee as a penalty. I’d bought travel insurance, and submitted a claim to get that $3500 back, weeks ago. What has happened? I didn’t know, and this would inevitably pop up in my mind at the afore-mentioned 3am awakenings. So. Follow the link from the email, and… my claim is “being processed”. At least it hasn’t been rejected.

I paid a couple of bills. Later, in the afternoon, I made a small spreadsheet listing all the charges shown on the Channing House invoices I’ve received so far, and all the payments I’ve made. I’m scheduled to talk to Terri in accounting about this tomorrow, and now I have my numbers all lined up so I can explain what bothers me. More on that after I see her.

Another item is my drawers. No, not my drawers, my closets’ drawers. They are old, they are of wood which is unlined, unsealed, and unfinished, and they have a persistent musty odor of oldness. I’ve been pondering what to do about this, and I finally figured out that what I might do is to access the C.H. Resident’s workshop, and use a power sander to sand the interiors (hopefully removing the odor) and spray them with either a sealer or a varnish. To get access, one calls Bert, the guy who seems to be in charge of everything technical around here. So I did and we have a date to meet Monday. I guess he’ll evaluate whether I’m safe with power tools?

At 12:30 I headed out. I stopped first at the FOPAL sale for five minutes, just to make sure my section was still in order, and it was. Then I continued down to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts to see the Lamplighters’ production of

HMS Pinafore.

I had bought two tickets for this a week ago, and invited Dennis to join me, but he wasn’t free. So then I asked sister-in-law Jean to join me and she was happy to.

Must say, HMS Pinafore is a very very silly play. I mean seriously. The resolution at the end, which gets everybody married happily, also implies that all three of the happy couples have an age difference of at least 18 years, more like 20. But the production was smooth and the soprano playing Josephine was especially good. The MVCPA auditorium is a handsome place but I didn’t think the acoustics were good, at least, not at the back of the balcony where we were. The orchestra seemed thin and distant. It was a very good thing that they projected the song lyrics above the stage. When you knew what the singers were saying, it was perfectly clear, but a couple of times I deliberately did not read the lyrics ahead and I could not follow all the words. (Worth noting that the Lamplighters are old-school, they don’t use mics or amplification for voices.)

Jean then was pleased to treat me to pizza at a local restaurant; we exchanged stories of our aches and pains, and that was the afternoon.

Yesterday and today I worked at getting set up to learn me some


It’s a different programming language, second oldest only to Fortran, and a different paradigm from the procedural languages in which I’ve written so many KLoC (thousand lines of code). What started this was linking to a list of influential books for programmers by the great Alan Kay. The first book he praised was the Lisp 1.5 Programmer’s Guide, which was formative in his education. That book, although still in print from MIT Press, is out of date for the current form of the language, but I thought, ok, how about I get into this a little bit, read an online tutorial, do a little fun programming.

Which of course, was the opening of a deep, dark internet rabbit-hole. Over several hours of browsing I’ve located some good resources, skimmed some tutorials, and installed three different Lisp implementations. One thing I can conclude is that, unlike Python, Ruby, C or practically any other modern language, the available Lisp implementations are absolutely shit-awful as learning environments. Gracious, but they are beginner-hostile. I’ve used many interpreters (helped write one), and never saw such an impenetrable thicket for the starting user. I have now found a just-tolerable interactive development environment (the free version of LispWorks), but its Mac OS version is so out of date, it makes Mac OS pop up that dialog about “won’t work with future versions, contact the developer” — which tells you they haven’t built a new version in over five years.

Anyway, after several hours of very testy and frustrating hours of exploring I believe I am set up to start walking through a tutorial (of which I’ve found several decent ones) and executing code.


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