Trivial

December 10th, 2018 by helava

Yeah, sure – but ignoring the last post, what else is new?

The kids are great. A wonderful team. Neck deep in Pokemon. J’s been playing Pokemon Emerald on the Game Boy Micro, which is pretty hilarious. K also plays sometimes, and watches. This is the first non-mobile game they’ve played, and it’s pretty neat to see them understanding the rules and narrative and all that fun stuff.

I’ve been on a board-game bender that has lasted the better part of a year. I have way more games than I can play, but there are still a bunch of fairly interesting things, and I find that the mechanics of board games are really satisfying to read through. The social and tactile nature of boardgaming is something I’ve really found to be missing from most videogames – mostly because social videogaming is such a cesspool of humanity – it’s not fun to just endure people screaming into the mic, or an endless barrage of misogyny, homophobia, etc. Gamer culture sucks.

But yeah – it’s late, time to sleep.

Updates

December 10th, 2018 by helava

So, the big update is that my dad has prostate cancer. The last week or two have been pretty rough. Because of his paralysis, he was diagnosed fairly late – the tumor is already quite large, and one of the reasons they found it was that he was essentially having some bowel obstruction – which was, of course, the tumor.

In order to fix the immediate problem before starting to address the bigger one, they had to give him a colostomy – where they pull part of your intestine out your side, and you evacuate your bowels that way. Obviously not a trivial surgery, but not an outlandishly difficult one. The operation went well, and he spent the weekend recovering. But Tuesday evening, just as I arrived at the hospital – I’d left work a little early that day – he was looking extremely pale. Literally the moment I walked in the door, the nurses found that he was bleeding severely – which is why he was pale, and his blood pressure was dropping.

This’ll get a little TMI, but I want to write it down so it’s there – basically he was bleeding out of the colostomy, and also out of his rectum. He was basically lying in a pool of blood – but because of the paralysis, he couldn’t feel anything, and the sheets were such that it wasn’t noticeable until you actually looked fairly carefully.

The entire evening, we were convinced he was going to die. The problem wasn’t just the bleeding. There was an infection from the surgery – bacterial – and he was also weak from essentially required malnourishment before the surgery. He’d lost so much blood that the nurses spent 45 minutes trying to give him an IV and failing. He’d wail at the pain when they’d puncture his arm – I imagine it must have been more severe than a normal IV puncture, because it sounded horrifying – and this went on, progressively stressing everyone out, for nearly an hour. They had a vein scanning device, trying to find something to tap into, but there was nothing.

And because of that, no blood transfusion, no liquids, nothing – it was like a progressive downward spiral there was no way out of. They took him to get a CT scan, to see if they could stop the bleeding, but nothing was obvious – and it wasn’t clear whether whatever it was was still bleeding, or whether it had stopped. So we just watched the blood pressure readings going lower and lower, and I did my best to try  and stay level-headed.

We called his immediate relatives, and he got a chance to talk to his brother & sister (and my other aunt), but we didn’t get a chance to get in touch with my cousin. My mom was getting more distraught – she was still holding it together in front of him, but she was clearly not going to last any longer.

The bleeding had indeed continued – the doctors had said if it was still going that they’d do another scan and try to embolize the bleed. Oddly, the company I work for makes products that are used in embolisms – they essentially stop the bleeding by going in through the artery (vein? I dunno) in the groin, and finding the bleed from the inside, then injecting a physical blocker to plug the hole. It’s a balance, though, between stopping the bleeding and blocking the bloodflow, so again, not a thing without some risk.

During this operation, which took an hour and some, my mom and I sat in the waiting room & talked. In part about all the things that she hadn’t said to my dad. Things she wanted to say – for forty-plus years – and hadn’t.

My parents haven’t had the greatest relationship. They’re both stoic and reserved to the point of ridiculousness. Affection, physical or otherwise, is … hard to come by. They’re both incredibly critical, perfectionist micromanagers, stubborn as hell, and self-righteous like nobody’s business. It’s amazing they’ve gone as long as they have without killing each other, but they’re also strangely suited for each other in a bizarre sado-masochistic kind of way. I say that with love, but it certainly wasn’t easy growing up as their kid.

So that they’d go their entire relationship and never talk to each other about the good things they feel for one another isn’t the most surprising thing in the world. It filled her with regret.

For my part, I think I’ve said the things I need to. Maybe not everything, maybe not the best way, but I think the important things have been said, and if something sudden happens, I’m okay.

The embolization went well. The bleeding stopped. They gave him a “central line” IV which tapped into something near his collarbone. I assume the “central line”. But they were able to basically give him sufficient blood to get his pressure back up, enough fluids and nutrients to survive, and by 2am, he had stabilized enough that it looked like there was nothing else to do. So we went back to my parents’ house and slept.

When we came back in the morning, he was still looking better. That was last Wednesday – it’s Sunday now, and every day has been a little bit better. He’s starting radiation tomorrow for the tumor. The infection is decreasing but not gone.

Most things are looking as good as they can, but the problem now is that “as good as they can” still isn’t great. The tumor is large. It could start bleeding again at any time. Who knows how hard radiation’s going to be on him, and what the actual odds of that succeeding are? It’s going to be a long, hard road from here forward. As long as he’s up for the fight, I’ll be helping support him.

Oh – and Wednesday morning? My mom and dad had a talk. Not a long one, but the moment I realized they were talking, I stepped out of the room. She walked out a few minutes later, and it was clear that they’d said some of the things they needed to.

Don’t wait. Tell your loved ones you love them. Tell your kids you’re proud of them.

Social Media Poison

August 15th, 2018 by helava

So, I’ve quit Twitter. How quit? Requested my archive, deleted my account quit. All my accounts – old ones, like Nonsense Industry & Give Me Fuel, my public one, and my private one. All gone.

Why?

Two major reasons:

  1. The people on the service. Yes, there are some wonderful ways that Twitter provides an outlet for marginalized voices, and real-time coverage of events in a way that hasn’t been possible before. I will miss those things. But the problem is that Twitter also enables and incentivizes a brutal hyper-aggressive toxicity and mob mentality that … well, it doesn’t provide me with anything. I’ve been caught up in the internet outrage mobs in the past. I’ve felt the thrill of being able to join in, yelling at someone doing something stupid. And I don’t need it. More, once it became really obvious that this was what Twitter is cultivating, I definitely needed it even less. But there was at least some tradeoff – marginalized voices, grist for the outrage machine.
  2. The company. @jack runs a poisonous company because he has no morality. Morality isn’t what you believe. It’s how you act. And the way Twitter acts is as though they highly value Nazis, Gamergaters, other hate mobs, and they don’t value the victims of those mobs. For a long time, I handwaved it away as part of the “well, things come with some good and some bad,” until Gamergate, which initially drove me off Twitter in disgust. Then there was the election, and their continued support of the “President”. And then there were the Nazis. And yeah, you know, when you’re talking about a company that supports Nazis and gives them a platform, and supports Alex Jones/InfoWars/Breitbart/etc. and gives them a platform, you haven’t just gone a little overboard, you’ve completely lost sight of what it means to be a decent human being.

And I don’t want any part of it. I will miss pithy little exchanges, sure. I’ll miss being exposed to some really interesting, timely, and unique voices. I’ll miss weird little mostly-passive interactions with friends who are too far away to see regularly. That sucks. But there has to be something better than this shit. And having run some online communities, a community is what the company enforces. The behavior you get is the behavior you allow, and there isn’t a way to maintain a community that isn’t toxic shit without having a set of enforcement guidelines and values that stem from believing something about the kind of community you want.

And not enforcing anything – taking the “free speech” route as a cop-out, is making a statement. The statement is that you don’t value the voices of the victims. You believe that Nazi mobs, gamer manbabies, and the like have the right to harass and threaten innocent people – sometimes because of their gender, sometimes because they said something that made you feew a widdle sad. And that shit doesn’t fly.

The thing is, once I articulated that to myself, and said, “This is what I believe,” a lot of other online things became less tenable for me to participate in. I think Facebook is fundamentally, fatally flawed because they will never act as a social network that connects people, they will always act as an advertising company that is targeting you. That’s their business model. That’s what they do, and it’s reflected in how they treat your “private” information, all the way down to a foundational level. They pitch you fake news because that’s how they make money. That’s their Unique Selling Proposition is that they can target you with propaganda better than anything else in history, and if that isn’t fucked up, I don’t know what is.

Reddit? Ugh. There are parts of Reddit that are amazing, and there are parts that are the absolute worst the internet has to offer. I don’t want to give up the amazing, but holy shit, if I could have even the slightest impact on the negative shit that it hosts, I feel like I have to quit it. And on and on and on. Quora, which ostensibly is a Q&A site – big chunks of it are clearly just Russian propagandists trying to stir up shit, and Quora doesn’t stop it because it drives engagement. So at some point, I have to ask myself, “Where is the line?” and then actually act as though I have a belief about what it means for a company to host toxic shit.

So. Yeah. How are you?

Trip

July 5th, 2018 by helava

Lovely trip so far. I assumed a lot of this trip would be spent dealing with helping my cousin, but circumstance seems to be that we haven’t ended up being able to do much for him, which is a little bit of a bummer, but it’s certainly a heck of a lot easier.

We’ve spent most of the vacation at the lake. Started out in Montreal for a day, since I’ve been near Montreal a few times, but never actually in it. We went to the science museum in the morning, and hung out with my friend Alex & his girlfriend in the afternoon. Ate Texas Barbecue the first night, and basically tapas the second day. No smoked meat, no poutine. WTF. The science museum was excellent. Big exhibit on Dreamworks (which is weird, since our friend used to work there) which was neat – maquettes, concept art, etc. A neat super-wide screen dragon flight clip, based on the How To Train Your Dragon series.

We then went upstairs, where most of the interactive exhibits are, and one of the things we had to do was try to make a little device to pull a weight down an alley that a fan was blowing down. I ended up making a binder-clip & straw “car”, which did the job, but K stuffed some foam into a tube & the tube did just about as good a job. :O

Got to Lake Meech that evening, and met up with Jussi & Kim, Kari-Michael & Deb, and hung out a bit. I think most of what we did Monday & Tuesday was just hang out & talk. Nick, Kim’s nephew (I have no idea what that makes us as relations, but it’s always nice to hang out with him), was there as well, and it turns out he knows some of Ei-Nyung’s co-workers! We might end up at the a conference he recommended this year re: accessibility. That could be pretty cool.

We went to the Ottawa Science & Tech museum, and saw the Lego Art of the Brick exhibit. Great to see in person – I’d seen pics for ages. The whole museum is really impressive, though the iPod they had on display is newer than the one in my closet. :\

Still, if you’re ever at a Wheel Of Urine, you’ve gotta spin it.

Today we hung out, went to the beach, didn’t do a ton of anything, which was great. It was the first day that J & K actually went *in* the lake, instead of just looking at the fishes, and I think they had a good time.

It’s nice up here. Hot as hell this week, but Jussi & Kim have a great setup here, and it’s also interesting to hang out with them – they eat simply, but well – the food’s nothing like what we make at home, but it’s also super delicious. It’s nice. Slower. Things can take a little more time. Obviously that’s vacation speaking, but it’s nice to slow down a bit sometimes and just relax.

I’ve been reading Dan Pfeiffer’s Yes We (Still) Can, and he was at one point hospitalized for stroke-like symptoms brought on from extreme stress & really high blood pressure. I feel like that’s where I’m at a good portion of the time. Being able to take a minute & slow down, brew coffee slowly, cook a simple meal, and just stare at the lake for a bit… yeah. It’s what I needed.

Nothin’ Much

June 23rd, 2018 by helava

Not a lot going on. Working, kids, summertime. J’s in summer camp (Sarah’s Science) all summer, mostly. I’ve been getting my old Cannondale Super-V back in shape, and tomorrow I’m likely gonna swap out the in-need-of-service-I-can’t-provide rear shock, and try to strip down the front shock & get it back in working order. It’s been pretty nice to get it back up & running. I’m hoping at some point in the not-too-distant future to get both of the kids on bikes, but this summer the big goal is “get really comfortable & safe swimming”, so that’s what we’re doing on Saturdays.

Been playing a board game called Charterstone with Sean, Ghia, and David, and it’s really fun. Not super complicated, but quite elegant, and the evolution of the game from session-to-session keeps things really exciting and fun. I’ve got a bunch of other games I’m really interested in trying out, so after Charterstone runs its 12-course session, we’ll see if that group continues with something else. Max, Hannah, and Francisco have come over and we’ve played Azul, which is excellent, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Awesome game.

I biked to work one day last week, and it was great. It’s basically 19 miles round-trip, and I did it with an electric assist via a “Copenhagen Wheel” which gives your bike a boost. It’s a neat wheel, but it’s got some glitchiness that I’m not entirely sure is fixable. We’ll see. I’ve been e-mailing them regularly to try to see if we can figure it out. It’d be a bummer to have to return it. 😐

K’s looking forward to Kindergarten. We went to a little Monte Tavor picnic today, and it’s kind of crazy to think we’ve been with them nearly 8.5 years, and it’ll be over in just about two months. Crazy.

Work’s going well. Project’s making solid progress. Every once in a while there’s a step backwards, but for the most part what we’ve been doing has been received so well by the potential customer-base that I’m pretty certain we’re gonna make some waves when we launch. 🙂 Really looking forward to it. It’s odd, because it’s not just “really looking forward to it because maybe that’ll finally mean revenue,” but when it’s “really looking forward to it because we make a real positive difference in peoples’ lives” it’s kind of a different level of motivation.

Welp. Here We Go.

May 17th, 2018 by helava

Big day today. We’re demoing our project for the first time to the whole company, and I get to be the one up on the podium talking to everyone. Five demos throughout the day to something like 200+ people per sitting. It’ll be the most people I’ve talked in front of since the Lean Startup conference.

I’ve spent about 3 weeks preparing a 10 minute talk. I’d made a whole presentation, rehearsed it by myself, and then Tuesday, gave it for the first time to a test audience. And it was terrible. That night, I decided that it wasn’t just a matter of tweaks, it was structurally “wrong”. I’d tried to give it a theme by working in our proposed name for the project & the meaning behind the name, but it was too fiddly, and the presentation in general got lost in the details.

One of the problems I have with things like this is that I find it really difficult to move away from the details, and get to the higher-level overview of what we’re doing. The demo, after all, isn’t for experts in the field, it’s for people who’ll be seeing this for the very first time. They don’t need to know the details because it’ll be impossible for them to understand. They just need the high-level overview.

So I redid the entire presentation Tuesday night in almost a stream-of-consciousness way, reusing as much as I could from the original presentation, and decided that for the demo, we’re going to pull a volunteer from the audience – which might be incredibly stupid, but in rehearsal yesterday, with a volunteer who’d never seen what we’re doing, it went great.

Today’s the day, then. I tried going to sleep at 9:45. Didn’t fall asleep until well after midnight. Woke up at 4:30 when one of the kids shot out of their room to use the bathroom, and I guess I’ll just ride that awakeness ’til the first demo at 7, and hope I don’t fall asleep before we’re done at 6:30 tonight.

Woo.

More Random Pics

May 2nd, 2018 by helava

Take a Break

May 2nd, 2018 by helava

Took today off. Was feeling under the weather. Not sick, exactly, but not good enough to go to work. I think after a few hours of rest, it’s clear that it’s basically just “accumulated stress”. I’ve been trying to be cognizant of how stressed I get, because after 2014, I think I did some significant damage to my long-term well-being by being wildly overstressed for far, far too long. It’s taken years to recover from that, and if the way I feel right now is any indication, if I’ve recovered from that, I haven’t left a huge amount of buffer.

The job’s good – but it’s stressful. There are a lot of things going on, and one of the challenges has been to not feel responsible for all of them. It’s an odd situation, because I’ve been basically responsible for the whole shebang in the past, and it’s odd – I don’t think it’s less stressful to not be responsible for it. It might not be the worst idea to actually just ask to be officially responsible for all of the software side of things, because ultimately, I have the expertise, it’s the way I’m used to working, and there’s almost nothing I hate more than knowing what should be done & not having the authority to make the call.

*sigh*

Still, it’s a great job. Great team.

Spent the day tidying up little things. I donated a box of kids’ toys, and a bag of diapers we never used to Oakland Elizabeth House, which was nice. I hope some people have good times with those toys. Still a little wistful to see some of those things leave.

Otherwise… yeah. Not a ton going on. Work, kids. Summer’s coming up in a hurry, but we’ve got camp plans organized, which is good – it’s basically just Sarah’s Science *all summer* for J, which is what he asked for. It’ll be interesting to see if K is interested in the same thing next year.

Been playing some board games with friends, which is nice. we’ve recently played Unlock, Exit, Lanterns, and Sagrada. I think next time we might either continue Pandemic Legacy or hit up TIME Stories.

Break

February 25th, 2018 by helava

I find myself taking a break from Facebook, again. I basically swore off Twitter after the election, and while I check in every now and again, because Twitter’s a place where a lot of marginalized voices can be heard, I don’t miss it. Specifically, what I don’t miss is the constant angst, and its persistent presence in my mind. Like, “Oh, I’m doing X, I should tweet!” No, I shouldn’t, because what I’m doing is irrelevant. And while sometime there’s that sense of catharsis when you can get a frustrated/angry thought out, I think net, the fact that I end up “vocalizing” those thoughts doesn’t actually help me feel better or be better.

The same kind of thought happened re: Facebook. I like a lot of political rants, because it echos what I’m thinking. It feels good. But it isn’t actually good. It gives me a little dopamine hit. And FB then sells that info to advertisers so they can better tailor how they sell me stuff. I don’t like the business model, because I don’t like how the business model drives their optimization.

I know it’d be virtually impossible to create a business that does this, but if you could pay $20/month for a FB-alike that showed nothing but chronological content from my friends and had zero ads, I’d pay it in a heartbeat – the catch is that I’d have to have my family & friends there already for it to be worthwhile, and I imagine that’s a tricky proposition. But it’d allow for a social network that’s designed primarily around *socialization*, and not around optimization for engagement and advertisement. If you only check on once a week, that’s fine – I could care less – because you’re paying a fixed, sustainable amount. I’d love to see something like that. It’s just so astonishingly high-risk that I have no idea how you’d actually do it.

But FB does have tangible value to me – some of my family’s on there, and it’s one of the primary ways I keep in touch with them. Which means that while I’ll take a break, it’s unlikely I’ll be off it for good. Which I have mixed feelings about, because I don’t think it’s a good organization overall. I know a bunch of people that work & have worked there, and they’re uniformly wonderful people. So it’s not that I think that it’s an evil organization run by nefarious masterminds – I think that the problem is that some of the core assumptions about how a business like this should work were done without a lot of thought for the unintended consequences, and it turns out the unintended consequences are globally destructive, and I don’t feel great about participating.

I have similar feelings about Reddit. I love a lot of the front-page level content, but it’s also a site that hosts some of the absolute worst trash the internet has to offer. How do I justify that, vs. something like Twitter or FB? I don’t know. Part of it is that they’re not selling my specific personal information, at least not in quite the same way. But it’s not great, either, and I waffle on whether it’s just a vile cesspit of garbage, or full of delightful jokes. It’s both, simultaneously, and sometimes the positive wins, sometimes the negative wins.

On a purely solid note, though, Ei-Nyung and I watched The Good Place, and got to the end of S1 last night. It went from being “delightful” and “charming” to one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a long time. We ended up immediately buying S2 without a second thought & watching the first three episodes of that before going to sleep, and it’s amazing. S1 has some moments where it seems like the show’s just kind of goofy and charming but not much more than that. Stick with it. Trust me.

I’ve been doing some music-y stuff recently. Nothing too deep, just because I’ve got a limited amount of time, but between practicing the drums, and firing up some of the old electronic music gear and giving it some effort… it’s just something I genuinely enjoy doing.

Also went swimming with Charles & Sean this morning, and that’s also something I genuinely enjoy doing, though waking up at 6:20 to go work out is definitely not among my favorite experiences.

And right now, my computer’s backup drive keeps “pinging” like something’s mechanically wrong with it. I think it’s time for a new backup drive. :\

 

Work Work Work Work Work

January 21st, 2018 by helava

Settling in to the new job. It’s stressful, but enjoyable. The stress is good, it shows us that we’re pushing in the right directions. I kinda wish some stuff had lined up better, but circumstances are what they are, and there are things (mostly re: people availability) that you just can’t do anything about. I pushed as hard as I could, and that’s all I can hope for.

We’re making progress. It’s odd, since working at a secret project at a public company means actually keeping secrets, where when I was running the show I more or less didn’t care because no one gives a shit about secrets from an unsuccessful-yet company. But whatever. The project’s really neat, we’re trying something extraordinarily ambitious that has never been done before, and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a really interesting, high-impact result.

So! Good times.

On the personal front, things are going well. Kids are happy & healthy, drawing all the time, working well together, blah blah blah.

I have trouble sleeping most nights due to shoulder pain. However, I know the shoulder pain goes away when I swim regularly. So the problem is that I’m not disciplined enough, or able to find time to swim regularly. I suppose it’d be easier given some fictional pool that’s open ’til 11pm, but since I don’t have that, it is what it is.

Been printing some 3D models – Omnom and the Rocinante – which in a handful of years I probably won’t even remember what those are – but whatever. It’s fun. Painted Omnom’s eyes & teeth, and reminded myself that I actually really like painting weird little models and maybe I should do more of it. Picked up a Macross Tomahawk (you’d know it as the Battletech Warhammer) on eBay. Maybe it shows up, maybe it doesn’t. Probably missing some parts. But it was $25, where newer model kits are in the multiple hundreds of dollars, so even if all it comes with is what’s in the picture, nothing major looked missing. We’ll see. I hope to stick that whole thing together & paint it up nicely.