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.

Blergh.

Ugh. I feel like crap.

One of the big things is, I need to stop drinking coffee. When I do, I sleep well. When I give in and have a cup, that night I sleep like crap. Caffeine, partially, diuretic effect, partially. I ended up oversleeping and leaving SB in the lurch this morning for an open water swim, so I feel a combination of disoriented and guilty, which is no good. Ended up taking an hour or so nap in the middle of the day, which is good, but yeah – overall, just feeling really blergh.

Funk

It’s really hard not to get into some sort of death spiral thinking about the state of the US these days. Sure, Trump and McConnell are comically evil people, and there are only two of them, but it’s not that – it’s the media landscape, it’s the pervasive anti-science bent of just under half the population, it’s the absurd ME AND MY WANTS UBER ALLES! attitude that seems to have seeped into much of the American psyche.

I was talking to E about how if I were a right-wing evangelical who believed in God, I’d sure as hell feel validated by a lot of the events of the last few years. RBG passing just a few months before the election is just the latest in a bunch of things that religious zealots can point to as GOD HAS ANOINTED TEH TRUMP! So I get it. But jeebus. Enough already. Can we just get this shit over with? We’re gonna have a literal lifetime of re-building to undo the damage of the last four years to the economy, to our international reputation, to our ability to work with and create coalitions to get stuff done. It starts by getting the toxic sludge out of DC.

If things don’t go well in November… man, I don’t even want to think about what we’d have to do.

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.