Ted Lasso

What a show. I thought for sure Wandavision would be my show of 2021, and I still absolutely loved it – but Ted Lasso, at least at this point, is my show of 2021, and I don’t even think it’s all that close.

If you’re put off because you’re not a sports person, the thing that stuck with me was one episode where the big buildup was to the game, and then they immediately cut to after the game, showing literally none of the actual soccer match at all. It’s not about “sports”, except in that sports can create certain types of conflict and stakes. But it’s a character-focused show through and through, and the characters in this are just fantastic.

You might have heard that it’s an optimistic show, or a positive one, and those things are true and meaningful and *necessary* right now, in a time when it’s so easy to be cynical and angry. But the thing that I was really impressed by was how Ted Lasso, as a character, can be optimistic without being naive, and kind without being a sucker. He hears the world, but chooses how to react to it.

In that way, he’s kind of a stoic. He chooses to be positive. He chooses to react to situations – even hard ones, things that cost him personally – with kindness. He chooses to believe the best in people, because those are the things he wants to bring out of them.

It’s also a funny show. Laugh out loud. And yet, it can also be subtle and very dry. It’s a show about being part of a team – so much so that I *wept* at one point because it made me miss those feelings so. There’s a whole post worth writing at some point on that – how I loved being on a team, and how I loved trying to create that sense of camaraderie at work, and why I *can’t* do that anymore in the same way. But it doesn’t make me *miss* that feeling any less.

There’s a moment in the show where Ted has a full-blown panic attack, and it reminded me *so much* of how I felt at times in the just-post-Self Aware Games era, being around folks who were still there – something about the way it was shot, his reaction, it brought me right back to that feeling. It was shocking how … immediate it felt.

There’s a lot about it. I could go on and on. How Roy Kent’s story resonated. How charming Keeley was. How every character felt like they should have been a one-note in any other show, but here they all had depth. How Sam & Rebecca’s interaction was one of my favorite moments in the whole thing. How I bought a “Believe” sticker for my laptop, and an AFC Richmond pin after seeing it, because having some physical reminders in the real world of how that show made me feel felt worth doing.

It looked like a dumb show – sort of the embodiment of Apple TV+ doing family-friendly saccharine sort of light pablum nonsense. Holy shit, though.

Watch it. I’d be very surprised if you don’t get something actually *valuable* out of it.

Random Noise

45, now. Greys are getting more and more prominent. 😐

Recently watched WandaVision, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen in a while. Ambitious, strange, yet also really heartfelt and emotional. It gave a lot of depth to two characters who previously, were leaned on for emotional depth they hadn’t really earned. Now they have.

Also been painting Warhammer 40K stuff – finished a Dark Angels & a Necron army, an additional squad of Terminators, and now, Ghazhkull Thraka – one of the best minis I’d painted in college has an updated model, and it’s bonkers. After this, a friend picked up a Primaris Techmarine for me, and I have to strip & repaint one more Terminator, and then I think I’m done, at least until I actually get a chance to play someone and justify all this effort. 😀

Ghzazhkull Thraka in progress. Painted the face first, since it’s obscured by other parts and in places “hard to reach”, then painted hte body with the arms off, then added the arms. This guy’s taken something like a week to paint, and I’d guess has at least a few more hours to go before it’s done.

Kids are good – still making all kinds of stuff in Scratch, which is a real pleasure to watch. They’ve been very into Among Us, which is also fun to play with them. The weather’s turned up, and so it’s likely we’ll be spending more time outside doing stuff – biking, going to the beach, etc. – but it’s still been a bit hit or miss.

What else? Not a lot going on, otherwise. Playing Boardgamearena with friends, which aside from swimming is the only social contact I have with basically anyone. Still *have* a bunch of new games that I’m waiting ’til the pandemic is over to actually play, but there’s a LOT. Stuff I’m looking forward to playing with people in particular:

  • The King’s Dilemma
  • Rococo
  • Era
  • Renature
  • Beyond the Sun

There’s a lot more, but I think those are the ones I’m most interested in. I’m hoping we can get the kids interested in My City, which seems like it’ll be a nice family legacy game. We got most of the way through Machi Koro, but K’s lost interest, which makes it hard to get to the table. J still seems interested in finishing it up.

Newly reorganized music setup. Got rid of an Alesis Quadrasynth, Roland TR-505, and MC-303 that I’d had for years. Loved ’em, but they were made obsolete by some of the newer stuff. Also upgraded the TR-8 with the 7×7 expansion, which gives it WAY more functionality.

Been playing more music on the electronic stuff, which has been fun – getting back into the TR-8 and TB-3, they’re super entertaining for just live stuff – not necessarily recording something, but just playing around with as they go through patterns. Also trying to get more familiar with the Push and Ableton – I spent a week trying to do something every day, and it definitely helped – but I think part of it is that because I’ve started, petered out, started, petered out, and done that so many times, I’m retreading similar ground and getting the same results. So I’ve watched a few YouTube videos of people essentially making tracks on stuff like the Push and the OP-1, and trying to imitate some of that has pushed me in a slightly different, better-sounding direction, which is nice.

Otherwise, it’s more of the same ol’ same ol’. Not bad by any stretch, but it’ll be really nice to be able to get together with actual other people one day. 😛

Minigolfing with the kids during the week.

That’s a Lotta Painting

Got the Warhammer 40K Indomitus Box for Christmas.

Ei-Nyung got me the Warhammer 40K Indomitus Box for Christmas. It’s the first time I’ve painted Warhammer miniatures since like… 1997? But it’s been super fun. The quality of the models is bonkers, and there are a LOT of them. Decided to continue a Dark Angel army I started in college, so it made color selection easy. 🙂

I made some “mistakes” – painted the bikes green instead of black, and had I given it a little more thought, I’d probably have done up all the shieldbearers (the pic below) in Deathwing colors instead of the “standard” colors. But overall, I’m really happy with how the marine army turned out.

I mean, I’m also happy with how the Necrons turned out, but there’s a bit less to it with them. They’re complicated figures, and super delicate, but I didn’t *enjoy* painting them as much as some of the more complicated marines. Still, getting close to being done with them all – my main issue is that I have a few Terminators to finish, and unfortunately, I don’t think I have the same color basecoat I used with the original guys, so I’m a little concerned I won’t be able to match their colors. Ah, well, we’ll see.

We also played New York Zoo, which is a really fun game.

New York Zoo

I’d been looking for this game forever, and it’s been impossible to find – but after an optometrist’s appointment, I randomly wandered into Walden Pond Books, and they’ve now got a board game section. More, it’s stocked by a really nice guy who’s super psyched about it. Picked up NYZ and another game that’s been hard to find or expensive called Beyond the Sun.

So if you’re looking for a small but well-curated selection of games, give Walden Pond Books on Grand a shot.

Bleh!

So, progress on some of the New Year’s Resolutions have been pretty blah so far. Getting back on the OMAD/Intermittent Fasting horse has been difficult, and I ended up with an eye infection, which kept me out of the water for a few weeks. Then threw out my back. So yeah – good times. Gotta get back on all the horses, and get things moving again.

Things have been good, though – kids are still hanging in there and healthy, parents are healthy, basically stuff’s just chugging along. Been painting a lot of Warhammer figurines.

I don’t know why I have this photo, which is still a WIP, when it’s been done for a while now.

The kids have been making tons of stuff. K & J’s art and animation have been improving by leaps and bounds, and they’ve both spent so much time coding and implementing their own little games, it’s been really super impressive.

We also got some of the external hardscaping fixed – only took us 20 years to get it done. So, front steps, retaining walls, side walkway. There’s a little more to be done – re-stucco-ing the driveway wall, and just sealing up a few gaps here and there that in rain are letting some soil out.

Been playing a lot of games with folks on boardgamearena.com, which is a pretty excellent service. Lots of great games, playable for a reasonable subscription. Great stuff. It’s one of my only real social outlets these days, with the pandemic, but I do get to see people and *do* things with folks, which is nice. Good to make new memories with friends, rather than just keeping up.

But yeah – so far, that’s about it. The VR project has stalled in part because I don’t know if it’d be useful to the people it was originally for, due to circumstances that are unrelated, but still illuminating. One of the challenges of this thing was to see if I could make some very low-barrier-to-entry stroke rehab stuff, but I think one of the challenges is that the low-ness of the barrier has to be *so* low that it might just not be possible to make something genuinely useful. I dunno. Will probably still spend more time on it, but it’s a little harder to get motivated to do it with a less clear goal in mind.

Still been mentoring folks and helping out with projects here and there – nothing big, but it’s also nice to be able to lend a hand. If you happen to know anyone who needs team management or game design help, send ’em my way!

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

1.) Get up on foil while wingsurfing
2.) Keep regularly open-water swimming, or when weather doesn’t permit, indoor biking
3.) <210lbs for 3+ months, through a combination of intermittent fasting, less snacking, and more regular exercise
4.) Finish the stroke rehab project I was working on and get it into the hands of at least one stroke survivor
5.) Get verified Canadian citizenship documents for both me and the kids
6.) Get vaccinated for COVID, when appropriate
7.) Travel somewhere, when appropriate
8.) Finish a small game with the kids

Twenty Twenty

I feel like if at any point before 2020 you’d asked me what 2020 was going to be like, I’d have assumed we’d have made some significant progress toward some sci-fi ideal of equality and technological utopia.

Ten years ago, I’d have assumed the internet and smartphones were accelerating our pace towards this positive progress. But instead, we live in a bizarre technological dystopia where all of these tools that supposedly are bringing us closer together are driving us farther apart.

That’s not a new observation, obviously. But it’s the distance between what I’d hoped 2020 would be and what it was that’s the disturbing bit.

It was a year of finding out 70 million Americans vote for a racist, fascist authoritarian moron. It was seeing people unable to take even the most basic precautions against a global pandemic, or bear even the slightest inconvenience to save their neighbors. It was the year that the dream of some American ideal was irreversibly shattered for me, even as the election showed that the democratic process at least somewhat works, and we voted to get the worst leader I hope to ever see in my lifetime removed from office. Fingers crossed he gets dragged out of the White House and straight to jail.

On the personal front, it was a year of big changes. I quit my job. Technically. I mean, there wasn’t any way to stay after I was lied to about my own performance feedback, and treated with not even the slightest courtesy or consideration. But if hard times test your values, I feel like I can hold my head high. I treated my team well, I made the call, early, to transition to WFH in the early days of the pandemic, and did my best to do right by everyone. I built a team and product I was proud of given the circumstances, and if that’s the end of my career, I ended it well.

I got to spend a lot of times with the kids, helping them with the transition to remote school, through a fun summer (even if it was mostly spent at or around the house), and back to school. I’ve gotten in noticeably better shape, been doing some interesting outdoor adventures, and we’ve even made significant progress on improving the house.

It’s been a strange year, and a lot of the positive that’s come out of it has obviously been a product of being very, very lucky – both with Ei-Nyung’s job, and our past success. I get that that’s a position not a lot of people are in, and I’m grateful for it. For me, I wanted to be there for the kids, and to make sure that we, as a family, were able to get through this the best we can.

So far, so good.

For 2021, I’ve got a few hopes:

  • Return to a sane government, ideally with the GOP removed from power in the House and Senate.
  • Trump facing some sort of actual accountability or justice.
  • I actually finish the project I’m working on, where “finish” means getting it into the hands of someone who can benefit from it.
  • When possible, as much travel as possible.
  • Get up on foil on the wingfoil board.
  • Get down to <210lbs.

Mostly, though, I hope the kids stay curious and creative and healthy, that my parents and in-laws remain healthy, and that I use this time well.

7 Eleven!

It’s still crazy to me that J’s 11 and K is 7.

Feels like they’ve always been around, but were also babies just yesterday. I still don’t particularly sleep in on the weekends, even though we totally could. They’re perfectly capable of making themselves breakfast. 😀

Haven’t done a huge amount over the last few weeks. Been putting together a presentation for a group in Berkeley that wanted to learn about what game design was – the presentation’s on Friday, so that should be fun. Glued my stand-up paddle back together after the end cap popped off. Jumped back into Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, and even played a little of Witcher 3 last night, so I’m only about 10 years behind the curve.

We found a strange little beach under the Bay Bridge that appears only when the tide’s low enough. The sand was like velvet, and while I think you might be able to get to it by crawling over a bunch of rocks from the bike path nearby, I think the easiest way to get to it is to paddle out from Toll Plaza Beach, which makes this a wonderful and delightful little exploration discovery. It was shaded by the bridge, so even on a 90+ degree day, ti was cool. The sand was as pleasant as any sand at any beach, and it was completely empty, which is probably still the best part.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Whisky A Go-Go on Twitter: "happy birthday to EDDIE VAN HALEN  !!#eddievanhalen #guitargod #eruption #vanhalen https://t.co/BHtEl8BBsU"
RIP

It was only yesterday that I learned that Eddie Van Halen was half Dutch, half Indonesian. The thing I immediately felt, viscerally, was a sense of betrayal.

Is that fair? Probably not.

But growing up as a half Japanese, half Finnish kid in a place where being mixed race was a rarity (though there were some critical other folks in my life who were), a lot of my youth was a combination of being bullied, and feeling adrift from any kind of common culture.

“What are you?” was a common question. Getting the slanty-eyes ching-chong stuff was also common. It wasn’t from everyone – it was just from the regular elementary/middle/high school bully types. But how do you respond to that, when you also constantly wonder where you belong?

My culture wasn’t my parents’ culture. In Japan, I was always too white. In Finland, I was clearly too Asian. Sometimes I was white enough, sometimes not. Sometimes talking to other mixed-race kids, you could relate… and sometimes their experience was rooted in the particular mix of stuff they came from.

Most of the time, being “me” was enough. But in the times when I felt lost, there wasn’t much to hang on to.

I didn’t realize until yesterday how much I longed for someone in popular culture who I could point to and say, “Yeah, I’m like him.” I didn’t realize it until the moment I knew I could have had that growing up – it was right there, in front of my face – and didn’t. Van Halen was popular just at the right time where it would have made a difference. Eddie Van Halen was the kind of universally beloved, respected person you could have pointed to and said, “Like him,” and it would have made things easier. Less lonely. More understandable.

So I felt betrayed, because finding out that an anchor for my cultural identity was right there in front of my face the entire time, and wasn’t, because he never made a public issue of it (nor did Alex), when it would have been so great to hear someone struggling with that sense of otherness, of being bullied for who you are… maybe he did, but it wasn’t loud enough to help. And I know that’s not fair.

I wish the younger me had someone like him to look up to.

But I didn’t.

I’m Gonna Regret This…

…because I feel like the moment I say it, it’s not gonna happen. But I’m not that superstitious.

I can’t wait for the era of Trump to be over.

It’s been this crazy high-level background stress that pervades everything. And I know it’s never really “over”, because enough of the country believed in the racist, selfish, bullshit worldview that he espoused that we’re gonna be dealing with these asshats for a long time. On top of just spending the next few decades rebuilding the institutions he’s destroyed. And the alliances. And our international reputation. And dealing with the pandemic he’s utterly failed to manage.

But still – I can’t wait for him to be out of the White House, and on his way to jail, where he clearly belongs.

I can’t wait for McConnell and Graham and the entire GOP establishment that’s supported him to wither and die. The current incarnation of the GOP has to be tainted with Trump/McConnell/Russia forever. They can’t ever be free of the stink of him, and what they wrought.

Will it be after the election? That’s obviously my hope. Will it be after January? If that’s when it happens, that’s fine. Will it be in another four years? If so, I think I’d genuinely need to work on moving (along with my parents) somewhere else. One of the really stressful things about the era of Trump has been a sense of paranoia about how many Americans actually support him, because if it’s a significant amount, it means that this really isn’t a place I want to stay.

But I don’t believe that. I think it’s a stupid minority with a really big megaphone. But god, I can’t wait for this phase of our history to be over.

Air

So, just in case I forget over the next few years, the last week and a half have been literally suffocating, as California and the entire west coast deals with record-breaking fires and the resultant smoke. In the midst of a heat wave, we were trapped inside and couldn’t even open our windows.

While the fires are still burning, the winds have changed & are now blowing the smoke out of the Bay Area, and so for the first time in a week+, we have *great* air quality, and oh my god, the difference it makes is tremendous.

As Ei-Nyung said the other day, a heat wave is something we can deal with. We’re doing our best to deal with the pandemic. When it happens, we can deal with smoke. But holy shit, all three at once is intolerable.

It definitely makes me wonder what the future for California is like. Obviously, the fires are a result of long-term inaction on climate change, and as a result, it’d take a significant amount of time for things to return to normal, and that’s *if* the entire world gets its shit together and starts making radical changes right this second, which obviously isn’t going to happen.

So if the next decade+ is going to be massive fires everywhere, is it sensible to stay here? It’s only a matter of time until those fires hit more urbanized (and suburbanized) areas, rather than hitting mostly parklands.

Is it sensible to stay in the US, if half the population has so lost their minds that a sensible pandemic response is out of the question? That, on top of persistent inaction on gun violence. And our insane healthcare “system”. And the fact that the country’s now *correctly* an international laughingstock.

I dunno. For the first time in my life, I don’t want my kids to be Americans. I don’t want them stuck with that label. And I want them to not just survive, but *live*. To be proud of their country, to know that their leaders are actually looking out for them, and that we can be a part of a society.

I’m hoping November changes that, and provides a path to a future where I can once again feel pride in my country. We’ll see. We’ll vote.