Weeknote 0007

  • The Last of Us is an impressive show. That third episode with Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett putting down world-class performances of a great script had me bawling.
  • A working week of wacky weirdness. Knotty strategic problems. If there is a perfect answer, it’s not coming easily. Still hoping to wake up one morning with the whole thing perfectly formed in my head. It has happened before, but sadly not every time.
  • Latest mad project: eye-contact webcam. My ultrawide screen is massive, so I’m rarely able to look remotely near my webcam perched on top while talking to people on Teams or Zoom. So I started looking around for ways to set that up. I’ve used el-cheapo teleprompter setups before while filming for Lumino, and was surprised I couldn’t find something vaguely similar that was based around a computer screen rather than a phone or tablet.
  • So I dug into it. It took quite a lot of research to find a small HDMI screen that could display a mirror image of its input. Many claim to ‘flip’ but actually just rotate, which wouldn’t work for viewing in reflection. Having found a workable combination of little screen and teleprompter, I then had to find a way to suspend the whole lot above my desk over my ultrawide. The solution turned out to be a curtain pole clamped between two desk-mounted camera-lighting stands. I use a Thunderbolt dock that has two Displayport outputs so it was pretty easy just to hook up a third screen.

A cobbled-together setup for a webcam, placed behind mirror glass that reflects the image from a small computer screen

  • It’s not quite perfect yet, but it’s really good. The little screen is great for seeing other people’s faces: not so great for presentations but Teams can ‘pop out’ screen shares to a separate window that I can drag elsewhere. And when I’m looking at those faces, I’m looking almost straight down the webcam.
  • Also, made an offer on a house that I’ve not seen in person. I know, I know.

Cat notes

[In which Mo thinks about his cat]

Millie (the cat) has loved life over the last three years. She loved me being signed off sick, she loved the lockdown and she has loved the shift to hybrid working. She has no way to comprehend why any of this happened or the human tragedies that took place over this period. But she’s enjoyed having people around nearly all the time.

Millie is unusual in several ways. She is cordial to all humans, but very selective about who she sits on and when. She loathes being picked up or cuddled, but loves a rub and doesn’t observe the usual cat sensitivities about where that rub takes place. She prefers to hang out with, but not on, a human. She goes through phases of being a terrible bully. And being a bengal, she talks and listens all the time.

After about five years I realised she was kind-of saying things. I’d anthromorphised our call-and-response conversations since her kittenhood, but eventually I realised she is ‘talking’ about the limited selection of things that interest her. Something she’s seen or heard, something she wants, and most often in reply to something you say to her. She also talks to plants and other objects, and yells out at the world through the double glazing just after bedtime. She doesn’t yelp for food: I broke the association between myself and kibbles when she was young, with the introduction of an automated feeder. She has a particular little cry for ‘look at this’ even if it’s apparently mundane.

She’s getting on now. Technically a ‘senior’, although fit and in good health. She’ll be here for a good while, but not forever. I’m evermore reminded of this and it makes me pay attention. There’ll be a time when we won’t be able to hang out and chat about abstract and often tedious shit. There’ll be a time when she won’t mistake a Teams call for a conversation and crow in every pause. And to that extent she reminds me to pay attention to the present moment.

You often hear that cats are boring pets because they’re aloof. I’m sad they weren’t lucky enough to meet the right cat.

Bass notes

[In which Mo learns the bass guitar]

  • Right now I’m doing the boring bit of learning technique by repeating exercises over and over to develop muscle-memory. It is boring and at times painful. And when it’s painful I have to stop to avoid damage. So, it’s quite slow. But will be worth it, long-term.
  • I’m trying to avoid gear-acquisition syndrome, but I had long chosen the preamp that I wanted to pair with my bass, and one happened to come up for peanuts on eBay. It’s yet to arrive but I’m looking forward to it.