Cataract Conjunction Caps Coronavirus Year

Our crappy Coronavirus year wound down with a bright spot: actually, two of them. On the 21st of December 2020, Jupiter and Saturn appeared right beside each other in the early evening southwestern sky. The last time they could be seen this close it was 1226: Notre Dame was still being built and the world was filled with ill-informed naked apes that thought Astrology was a thing! Boy have we progressed — not!

For the week leading up to the “great conjunction,” I wondered if I would see it. The skies of Southern Idaho were filled with nasty opaque clouds but the weather broke and I was able to observe the conjunction from my backyard. In 16×70 binoculars I could easily make out Jupiter’s disk and see that Saturn was “not round” but my cataract comprised eyes could not resolve any moons or Saturn’s rings. Without binoculars, the great conjunction looked like a tri-junction. My cataracts split point sources of light into multiple images. The conjunction looked like a little star cluster while bright solitary stars looked like visual binaries. Declining vision blows but on a lighter note, I’m seeing a lot more stars these days! Cataract surgery is on my 2021 agenda, but it will have to wait for the Coronavirus pandemic to subside. Hospitals are way too busy coping with Winnie the Kung Flu victims to deal with minor old fart elective procedures.

Unlike many, I don’t consider 2020 to be the worst year ever. I’ve personally endured far worse. The year I simultaneously tore the quadricep tendons in both legs and spent months in painful rehab easily out-agonizes the minor irritants of 2020. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed some of 2020’s hardships, starting with being forced to work from home.

I’ve long held that there are very few “legitimatereasons for IT workers to haul their asses into the office to be “managed.” This has been true for well over a decade but in today’s world of gigabit internet, collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom, and remote desktops controlling virtual machine servers it’s ludicrous and insulting. Management still harps on about how nothing substitutes for the high bandwidth in-person experience. That when you really want to hash out ideas and wrestle with demanding concepts getting together is still the best option. This, of course, blithely assumes management deals with ideas and concepts. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve rarely observed “concepts” in the management wild. For me, the typical business meeting is an exercise in eye-rolling suppression; the Microsoft Teams experience is far superior for 90% of day-to-day meetings.

My problem hasn’t been working for home. My problem is what do I do when I’m expected to return to the office. I’m hoping to make working from home a permanent thing but if that proves impossible, I’ll retire, again, for good. It’s great having options.

My ambitions for 2021 go beyond continuing to work from home. I always have a few projects on the go, but I rarely blog about them because I hate having to explain why most of my projects never get completed or morph into something else during execution. Don’t turn your hobbies into jobs! Making a TODO list feels “jobby” but despite my advanced age and well-earned cynicism, especially about my own plans, I occasionally cough up TODO lists. Here’s one for 2021.

  1. Update JOD to handle J’s new direct definitions. I’d also like to update JOD’s tests and make sure they pass in Windows, Mac, and Linux environments.
  2. Print this blog as a proper ISBN’ed book. In 2020 I released a new printed version of the JOD manual. It’s time to do the same for Analyze the Data not the Drivel.
  3. Write at least 50 blog posts: about one a week.
  4. Upload at least 250 well-captioned images to my SmugMug picture site. I didn’t shoot very many pictures in 2020. My photographic passions wax and wane. Time to get waxing.
  5. Learn far more about the RUST programming language and write some RUST binaries that can be called from J or Python.
  6. Read at least twenty books. Binge streaming and, to a much lesser degree, work interfered with my 2020 reading.
  7. Work through at least three math-intense books.
  8. Make another pass at learning and using proof assistants like LEAN.

Well, that ought to be enough rope to hang myself with. We can all meet here again next year and peruse my magnificent excuses for doing very little of the above. Oh, and one more thing: just stay alive. At my age this can no longer be taken for granted.