Reflections on Time and Space for April 2024

Yuri Gagarin, Lunatics Animation, Total Eclipse 2024
Left: Yuri Gagarin from a Moldovan stamp. Middle: Lunatics “Mission Control” from Lunatics Project. Right the 2024-04-08 total solar eclipse, photographed by Twunchy @ Wikimedia Commons. CC By-SA 4.0.

It’s now April 12, 2024. It has been 63 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth; 12 years since I started the Lunatics Project to animate a science fiction story about spaceflight and colonization using free software and free culture licensing; and almost a week since I had a total eclipse of the Sun show up in my front yard. Feels like kind of a “moment” for me.

I’ve been a fan of space, spaceflight, astronomy, and all things related for as long as I can remember. I first followed the Viking Mars landings when I was in grade school, and grew up with the Voyager missions to the outer planets: Jupiter for middle school, Saturn for high school, Uranus in college, and Neptune for grad school. Pluto was a late-comer in the 2015, but still felt a bit like it rounds out the set (even if it is no longer considered a “major planet” — and speaking of “dwarf planets”, we’ve also picked up a mission to Ceres in this time).

My astronomy career peaked a little early, morphed into a computer arc, jumped a track or two into writing, and then somehow into free culture animation (but I was a Film major in college for awhile, so that’s not totally out of the blue).

And here, I’m in a very specific place with my current ambition.

My first quarter of 2024 is now over. I’ve achieved two of the goals I set for myself for that time (or at least, near enough).

One was to prepare the house adequately for guests (“An End to C.H.A.O.S.” I called it in my goals poster — meaning “can’t have anyone over syndrome”, a tongue-in-cheek acronym I picked up from a housecleaning manual). I had to remind myself that this did NOT mean I had to have everything as clean as I’d like. Merely, that I had to have things looking good enough not to be mortified when guests saw it. In the end, only my parents and one friend of my daughter showed up for our eclipse party. But even so, that’s more of an event than we have hosted for many years. So it still feels a little like a “coming out”.

The other, and linked, goal was to remodel our bathroom. I have not fully completed that task, but I’m over the “hump” (that would be rebuilding the floor and all the drain plumbing), and it is a great deal better than it was. We have a functional toilet, sink, and shower. The bathtub is still just propped up against the wall, but I’m confident we’ll get that in, soon.

The bathroom I’m remodeling, as it looked the morning of the eclipse party. Much remaining to do, but the important bits were working.

Towards the end, it became clear that this was a much bigger project than I had imagined, and I dedicated pretty much all of my time in March to it.

Two of my goals — moving our web server into a co-location site and completing episode one of “Lunatics!” —  have not been achieved yet, and so I’m going to have to re-plan a little bit.

The hold up on the server is just that I need to set up a VPN router for remote maintenance access, and I’m a little out of my depth, there. I do have a plan, but it’s going to take me a little while longer, still. Among other things, I plan to fix my laptop so I can use it to interface with the Netgate router I bought for this, and that, in turn, requires me to clean up my work bench and hook up the power to it (a remodeling step I shelved in order to finish the bathroom faster).

New Netgate 1100 Router that I plan to use to set up VPN access to my server in the datacenter.

Which is frustrating, because the cloud platform really is inadequate. Just this morning, I wanted to upload a video to my PeerTube, only to find it won’t take it — probably due to running out of disk space or perhaps RAM… again [update: it sort of did after awhile, so I’m not sure what happened there]. The new server, meanwhile, is whirring away, heating up my office, because I haven’t taken the time to shut it down (and I keep thinking I’m going to use it for rendering or work on the new Virtual Studio site).

It has been very useful for rendering animation, though. So much so, that I think I’m going to want to keep a server like this set up on my premises, mostly for rendering. It’ll also provide a convenient way to swap data with the colocated machine. I drew this up as “Atoz” in my “2024 Virtual Studio” plans, of course:

Planned 2024 Virtual Studio
The updated 2024 Virtual Studio, as I plan to set it up for 2024 on the co-located server.

As for “Lunatics!”, I finished dressing the set for the Mission Control Room in February (and made a “Set Tour” video), but with the cleaning and remodeling to meet the eclipse deadline, that’s all I managed to do. Still pretty cool, though:

Now that that deadline has passed, I plan to dedicate some time to the other goals.

With luck, I’ll be able to finish up the episode for the next big space event, “Moon Landing Day” on July 20th. This will be the 55th anniversary, if I’ve done the math right. But, I say this with caution, because it has seemed like I just had a few more months worth of work to do for the entire last 12 years that I’ve been working on “Lunatics!”

What can I say? I’m obviously bad at making these projections.

Right at this moment, I’m weighing several courses of action: what to prioritize next. I can try to get to a conference; or set up and get that server deployed; or simply go all-in on production to finish the pilot episode sooner. I’m really not sure which is the best use of my time. Probably will spend this weekend mulling it over. And/or watching a lot of movies while vegging on the couch — all that party preparation did wear me out.

At the end of April, I’ll write up proper summaries for February, March, and April, though they are going to be a little sparse on production work.


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Terry Hancock is the director and producer of "Lunatics!" and the founder for "Lunatics Project" and the associated "Film Freedom" Project. Misskey (Professional/Director Account) Mastodon (Personal Account)