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.

Learning

I’ve been basically working on learning two new things:

  • Wingfoiling
  • Unity

It’s nice to actually have a more limited list of things to focus on, because otherwise I end up dividing my attention too much & not really being able to make progress on anything.

Unity’s been great because I can do it while the kids are occupied with school, but I can still be near enough to be available if they need me. There are so many tutorials that it’s straightforward to learn, and finding out that Bolt is essentially a clone of Unreal’s Blueprint has made things WAY more accessible for me.

With Wingfoiling, the big challenge has been to get up on my feet on the foil board, which is WAY less stable than the stand up paddle board I had been using. I had the good fortune to be able to borrow another person’s slightly larger board (140l vs 130l), and HOLY SHIT it makes a huge difference. I was able to get on my feet basically immediately on his board, where I’d been struggling for days to figure out how to stand up on mine.

I did pick up some technique from the 10 minutes I spent on the larger board, and then was able to stand up on mine (briefly), but I’m psyched to see if a day or two later, something’s baked in my brain that’ll help me out – basically, the thing was that in light wind, I’d been trying to stand up from a kneeling-on-one-knee position, but instead, now I’m essentially trying to stand up from a squat – which is probably not long-term the right way to do it, but in light wind, where I’m not getting much lift from the wing, it gets me on my feet.

It’s nice to have a few things to focus on that feel like long-term investments, as well – learning Unity is clearly going to serve me for years, and Wingfoiling has been really great exercise. That & open-water swimming & I’m definitely getting stronger and less flobbery.

Grey & glassy on a Sunday morning

Stuff

I’ve been on a bit of a spending spree, which I think is finally coming mostly to an end. There’s been a lot of stuff that I’ve spent $ on in the last few months that’s are about home organization or car repair, and those are things that obviously come with having more time to be at home or deal with stuff that usually didn’t fit into a workday + kids.

The two things where I’ve bought stuff recently that don’t have to do with that are both about personal improvement. One is obvious – I got some gear to try out a new hobby, wing foiling. With a new thing like this – like with kitesurfing or snowboarding or almost anything, there’s some up-front gear cost. In this case, a wing and a board. Fortunately, that’s all that you really need. It’s been really fun, trying to pick up a new skill.

I got marginally competent at kiteboarding right before getting my last job, and I could never find a way to fit in going kiteboarding and also working and being a parent. I wanted to pick it up again, but kiteboarding’s always been a challenge, as it’s something you need a lot of space to launch, and usually that also means getting someone else to help. Tons of set up and tear down time, which meant that it was just difficult to find the space to do it. In the midst of the pandemic, the specter of having to go to a populous enough place to make sure someone could help you launch & land wasn’t appealing.

Wingfoiling wing

The wing is self-contained. You don’t launch it the way you launch a kite. You hop on the board and then go. No harness, no lines. Very straightforward. Foiling – I’m quite a ways from getting the hang of that. I’m still enjoying flopping around on my knees, and trying to stand up, but the last few times I’ve been out, the wind has … well, sucked. My guess is the end of this season will come and go without me ever getting up on foil, but I’m hoping to at least stand up on the board, though because the foil is what provides stability, and it only really works when you’re moving, without wind that might not even happen in the next month before packing stuff away ’til March.

Still – it’s a great excuse to get out into the water and struggle for a few hours, and it’s been a great amount of physical exertion, and fun, to boot. EW’s hopped on the learning bandwagon, and even though he’s progressing much faster, because he’s got tons more experience, it’s been really fun doing something with someone.

Same goes for a bunch of open water swimming with SB. It’s been ages since I swam regularly, but open-water swimming in Alameda’s been a great way to get some swimming in while keeping properly distant from folks. We haven’t gone for the last week because fires have made the air quality awful, but fortunately it seems to be clearing up a little bit, at least for now.

The last thing I bought, just today, was a new laptop. My previous laptop was a gold MacBook that I got in 2015, and it was struggling with a bunch of things. It took me a while to decide to finally pull the trigger – it still does most of what I want a laptop to do. Web stuff, Keynote stuff. But there were a few things that were the nails in its coffin. It can’t do some of the newer Zoom stuff. It can’t run Ableton without stuttering to death, and the keyboard was fucking awful.

Speaking of which, I’ve been taking notes on a book I wanted to write. Just fiction noodling, but I think it’s got potential to be an interesting story if I can get some of the details right. First time in a few years I’ve been motivated to write something.

J with the nReal Light

There’s also a good chance I can do some Unity development on this laptop, which is something I’m trying to spend some time with, because a year ago I ordered an nReal Light devkit, which is a (relatively) affordable set of AR glasses. IMO, VR has pretty limited utility in its current form, but AR, when someone gets the style & social stigma stuff down, is going to completely blow up. And so while I have relevant VR experience, I feel like I need to make sure I’m prepared to be on the cutting edge when AR comes around. I think when it happens, it’ll be really sudden, and if you’ve kept up your VR chops, or played around with the early AR stuff, you’ll be in the best place to take advantage of the next “new tech” wave. My guess is the first promising AR headset will show up before 2023. We’ll see.

I also went on the first mountain bike ride I’ve been on in what, 15 years?

Most of what I’ve been doing, though, has been helping the kids get through school stuff. Some days it doesn’t require much – just a little prodding to get to class on time and snacks. Other days, it’s crystal clear how much the support I am able to provide is needed, and I think one of the interesting things will be over the next year or so what the gap is between having a parent who can focus on the kids full-time, and not, is. I think the current setup is going to be brutal for families who can’t afford to have someone who can focus on the kids, and it’ll be yet another jump in the gap between the haves and have-nots.

I miss people. I miss being able to go places. That said, we have about the best potential setup we can possibly have, and every privilege under the sun. I have nothing to complain about – I just miss hanging out with folks. Playing games, making new memories, watching other peoples’ kids growing up. Stuff like that. Once this is over, let’s hang out.

Perfect Day

Yesterday was just about perfect.

The kids & I went to the beach, to try out a cheap inflatable stand up paddle (SUP) board I’d gotten. The kids have gone SUPing before, and I’ve been once, when I think Alan & I tried one out on Donner Lake a few years ago.

When I tried it then, I was kinda “eh” on it, because it was hard, and felt unstable, and was a ton of work. But having spent a few years thinking about it, and having seen a bunch of people paddling around Crown Beach and the surrounding areas, it’s something I’ve wanted to try again. Eric & Christy have a few inflatable SUPs, and while I’m sure they’d have let me borrow one of theirs, I figured a cheap one from Amazon’s not too expensive, and even if it’s blah as a SUP, the kids will get a kick out of riding it around.

So we went to the beach. It was a beautiful, fairly hot day, but totally calm. Perfect weather for this. The kids ran out into the low tide and played around in the muddy sand while I inflated the thing. A few minutes later, I walked the board out, and gave it a shot on my own. I was able to stand up and paddle a bit, but it was a lot of effort. The kids came running out as soon as I got back, and wanted to go for a ride. So me on my knees, with both of them sitting in front of me, we paddled out a ways. Turns out the low tide at Crown means you can paddle out for *hundreds* of feet away from shore and be all of a whopping 2 ft deep.

But it was great. The kids loved riding around, they jumped off it into the water, they stood up, they jumped, J paddled a bit. K hung his feet off the sides of the board, and would cackle every time his feet rubbed past some seaweed, laughing about how much it tickled.

They held onto the board & kicked, pushing it around. Every time we drifted towards shore, I asked them if they wanted to go in – it was close to lunch, and they usually don’t like doing these kinds of things for too long – but they kept wanting to go back out, so we paddled out to where it was about 6-7ft deep repeatedly. A family (a mom & two kids) were chasing us around, sorta, which was hilarious.

After we finally got back to shore, after something like an hour and a half on the board, the kids ran up a small (3-4ft) like sand “cliff” and would tumble down it repeatedly, laughing and laughing. Eventually, they finally got hungry, and we went to Burger King for lunch.

I wish I had pictures, but we were out in the water the whole time, and it was better to just spend it being with them. It was one of my favorite days of my entire life, though. Like snorkeling in Oahu earlier this year. Fantastic.

Post-Work

What’ve I been doing? A lot of cleaning up. Organization. Trying to find homes for things in our house that have never had a home. Cleaning up a decade of child-rearing entropy. It’s been a long project, and not anywhere near done yet. But getting there.

Today, I did a sweep through a part of our bookcase, and did some organization, and put a bunch of books into a donation pile that we’re unlikely to read again. Will be donating them to the organizations that support the Oakland Public Library.

Been making a knife, which has been fun – it’s slow going, but I’ve got the shape roughed out, and most of the bevels ground out. I’ll need to finish the bevels first, drill out pin holes for the handle, then figure out how to heat-treat it. After that, put on the handle, grind that into shape, then done.

Also doing some small home-repair/touch up projects, like patching up all the trim nail holes on the windows – some of which haven’t been patched in the decade since we got the trim installed. Done a lot of weeding, as well.

Mostly, though, trying to spend time with the kids, now that they’re on summer break. It’s a LOT easier now that they’re not doing distance learning school stuff. WAY easier. I think I need to get them to do a *little* bit of math or something so they don’t forget it all, but for the most part, we’re just taking it easy for a week or three.

So yeah. Pandemic. Racial justice. Those are also things, and we’re chugging along on that front. But the bulk of the day at this point is resting up from the three year long sprint of my last job, and trying to find a better balance in my life. So far, so good.

Left Penumbra

So, at the end of 2017, I joined Penumbra in order to build up a software team for a VR system they had started working on.

Over the last two years, I built the team up from nothing to something like 38 developers. We figured out how to build a series of VR activities to help with upper body stroke rehab. We restarted big chunks of the product that had been in development by other teams, and brought them in-house to get them up to the necessary quality.

I ran the software side of the project from zero to the point where it was ready to go out the door. I built up a team of people I loved working with, and through that network, made a lot of new connections with people I now love working with.

It was difficult. It was stressful. 2019 was hands-down the most professionally challenging year of my career, but we got it done.

And now I’ve left.

Why?

Well, officially, I wanted to spend more time with my family. And while that’s true, it’s obviously not the whole story. For those who know, there are echoes of the past in there. Suffice it to say, when you build something that’s as valuable as what we built, there are always people who want to control it.

But, I can rest easy. After Wonderspark, my confidence was utterly shattered. Now? It’s totally fine. Give me a problem space with a really high degree of uncertainty and enough money to fund a team of 5-20 people for a few years, and I’d go toe to toe with anyone in the world.

I’m sad to not be able to be part of the iteration that’s necessary to make the thing we built truly great – that’s unfortunately the nature of these things – you launch, and *then* it becomes great. But the thing we built? It’s the best thing like it in the world, by far.

I hope it reaches the people it’s supposed to. As for me, I’m sure the same thing will happen as before. It’ll go on to be worth a bunch of money, I’ll be erased from its history, and that’ll be that.

I don’t care. I know what I did. I know who helped me do it.

2019

Didn’t write much this year. Mostly because it was a crazy year, and an exhausting one. My dad survived, as I probably mentioned, which is great. Work was hugely challenging almost nonstop all year. The kids were great. Growing like crazy – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

We went to Tahoe at the end of the snowy season, which was a really nice trip. Read all of Dragon Ball & all the available English-translated Doraemon. Also Whistle. All of which were really good.

I went to a swim meet for the first time in 20+ years.

The kids were super into Pokemon Go, Let’s Go, and Sword.

We went to Russian River. Twice. Wicked Slush is delicious.

We got the entire backyard redone, basically from the ground up.

We went to Oahu, and stayed in Ko Olina. Hung out with the Kimizukas for Thanksgiving. Went back to Kailua. Ate at Boots & Kimo’s. Snorkeled with the kids & played in the waves. My favorite vacation, ever, to date.

So here we are at the end of the year. Lots of good things, but overall, too much work, not enough life. Something I need to change in 2020.

Resolutions:

  • Sleep better. My new formula is: In bed by 11. Blue-blocking glasses on at 9. No food after 8. No drink after 9.
  • Release the thing we’re working on. My hope is that by the end of the year, we’ve helped 10,000+ people.
  • I spend lots of quality time with the kids, fully-engaged with them, and not just perpetually exhausted from work.
  • Cook more interesting things.
  • Develop a physically-active hobby of some sort.

Well. It’s Been a While

Been a bit since the last time I’ve written anything. What’s happened in 2019? My dad survived prostate cancer almost killing him. That’s certainly the most significant thing that happened in the first part of the year.

Through the rest of the year, for me, it’s mostly been work. Lots of work, lots of stress. Trying to ship a combination of novel software and novel hardware turns out to be even more difficult than I’d thought. And I wasn’t expecting it to be anything but hard.

Kids are good. 1st and 4th grade, which still feels crazy. We recently redid our backyard, and the result is really, really great. If you haven’t seen it, come over some time.

I was never able to resuscitate my iMac, which is kind of a bummer, but having a PC in the house is useful for gaming, and if I ever decide to do some independent development, it’s nice to have something I can actually do non-iOS stuff on. Unreal’s been really neat to learn – even though I’ve basically forgotten everything I learned at the start of the project, knowing more about the state of the art re: tools has been a great experience.

Mostly, though, still just chugging along. Trying to get this shipped. Trying to spend as much meaningful time as possible with the kids. Trying to get enough sleep and mostly failing.

Life’s good, though.

2018 pt 2

And yeah – the end of the year post is supposed to be sort of reflective, right? I’ve already mentioned my dad’s health, which is hands-down the big negative of 2018 aside from the dumpster fire of American politics.

The kids have been spectacular. Both of them are reading up a storm, they get along like gangbusters, and it’s just great to see them grow into their own, different, little people. K writes little stories, and he likes singing and dancing. J isn’t so much into dancing, he sometimes likes singing, but really likes drawing. Both of them like drawing. They make up little games to play, and have also been playing a bunch of games as well. GBA Pokemon Emerald is the only videogame they’re playing (though they were exposed to Smash Bros. at Sean & Hoa’s place, and J was smitten, so I expect that’ll change), but they’ve also been playing Bug Bingo (gift from Kim & Jussi), Go Nuts for Donuts, Uno, and more. They gave Dos a shot, but didn’t like it nearly as much.

They’re taking swimming lessons, and mostly getting the hang of it – they clearly like just bouncing around in the water aimlessly more, but eh, what’cha gonna do. I told them they’ve gotta keep at it until they both reach a certain level where they can comfortably swim across the pool, and if they can do that by next summer, we can stop & get a membership again @ Piedmont so they can play.

Work’s been great – chugging along. Project still secret, so there’s not much to say about it other than I’m really happy at work, I love the team I’m working with, and I think we’re doing something both interesting and meaningful. What’s not to like?

So yeah. That’s where I’m at right now. How are you?

2018

So. Basically the end of 2018. I dropped the kids & Ei-Nyung off at the airport in the very early morning, and will spend the next week alone at home while they’re in Atlanta, visiting Ei-Nyung’s side of the family. I was out of PTO days, and given my dad’s recent issues, it seemed like it made sense to stick around. So here I am.

We’ve got some handy-folks coming starting tomorrow to fix the drywall issues that resulted from the water line to the kitchen faucet bursting. That was no fun. They’re going to be doing some other things, too – mostly finishing up details in the house that we’ve spent 10 years without finishing, like painting trim, finishing and painting the drywall under the stairs – stuff like that, and adding trim to all the windows that still have that shitty, rounded-corner finish from the original contractor, who’d done an abysmal job.

I spent the entire day today trying to prep for that by cleaning up where I could so that there’s actually space to move around. Which is good, but geez. Spent the entire day at it, and didn’t even come close to finishing. Hopefully they’re willing to move some stuff around in order to get access to the things they need to get access to. 😐

My dad’s still in the hospital. Still struggling. While recovering from the colostomy operation, they’ve started him on chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy, so he’s getting pummeled on all sides, and it’s taken a huge toll on him, which then takes a huge toll on my mom. I get out to the hospital when I can, which is basically every day I have off, and I try to leave early one day a week mid-week to relieve my mom early. I basically haven’t had a “down” day since he went to the hospital in the beginning of the month – it’s either kids, work, or my dad – I can handle two okay, but all three is definitely grinding me down a bit more than I’d have hoped. Still, while he’s miserable, everything is kind of “best case scenario given the circumstances”, so hopefully things start feeling better sometime soon. We’ll see.

It’ll be interesting – the kids & Ei-Nyung left, and when they return, the house will be different – mostly in subtle ways, but they’re touching every single room in the house in some way or another. Gonna be an odd week.