Recently…

January 31st, 2017 by helava

Some images from the recent past.

Not a lot else to say. We’re working hard on the new app, and a lot of it is coming together nicely.

Recently did some things that needed to get done on the house. Re-stuccoed the back exterior wall. Had the side fence rebuilt after it collapsed, and also shortened the front & redid the gate. Likely going to get a deck in the back in Feb, which has been years in the making, and continually pushed off for various reasons. Thinking about getting some sort of climbing structure for the backyard. Still looking at houses for the parents. I thought the market had cooled, but apparently not.

I need to find something I enjoy doing that will get me back in better health, and some time to actually do it. Eating habits have improved somewhat, but not made a really tangible difference. Partly because I’m eating less, but I’m eating more carbs. If I can eat as much as I am now, and shift to a low-carb diet, I think that’ll make a huge difference. But it also makes cooking more difficult, and cooking has been a recently-revived pleasure.

I’m finding one of my favorite meals to have company at is Sunday morning breakfast. I made pancakes the other day…

…and they turned out awesome. They were a “Japanese Fluffy Pancakes” recipe, and basically yeah, that’s what they are. Pancakes that are 3-4x thicker than normal, but fluffy and light. Still taste like pancakes, with a pancake-like consistency.

Reading

Been reading The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History and it’s fantastic. It shows what goes into making something that was consistently great, and something new that didn’t exist before. As someone who watched it consistently for 10+ years, it’s a really wonderful read. Highly recommended.

Also been working through Three Parts Dead, which is the kind of book I wish I could write. Takes a neat premise, and then blows it out and builds a whole world & characters around a core conceit. Works beautifully, with interesting characters & a really interesting core idea. Sort of a murder mystery, in a world where magic and gods exist, but are governed by contracts. Weird but good.

Kids

The kids are good. Basically like before, but moreso. They’re making little books, and they’re continually delightful and surprising. K’s starting to be able to read words, and is definitely putting a lot of letters together. Personally, I need to try to devote more time to spend on teaching him stuff. With J, he had the luxury of being the sole focus, and it’s harder with two, but something I need to really be conscious of and work at. Funny little guy. He’s in a “mom” phase at the moment, where basically I might as well be chopped liver, but he’s still such a joy to be around.

J lost his first top front tooth about a month ago, so he’s kinda funny-looking at the moment. He and his friends at school are continually making up games, and it’s great to hear about all the weird ideas they have. Mostly around monsters, different types of monsters, etc. He’s also been making up a lot of jokes. Funnily enough, K got in a good one the other day. “What does the rock say when it goes bowling? Rock and roll!” He apparently made that up on his own! J’s also making up a lot of jokes, and some of ’em have been really great.

Politics

I’ve taken a few months off of Twitter and Facebook – ever since the election. Recently, I’ve gotten to reading through them both again, and it’s just depressing. It’s not surprising, per se, it’s just depressing. Eh, that’s not actually true. It is surprising how completely free of any hint of integrity the GOP has been. History will judge them poorly. As for me, I know it’s not the right approach, and it’s not the effective approach, but here’s my perspective. If you voted third-party, I think you’re an idiot. No, really. I think you have no ability to make coherent judgments about argument, you were fundamentally unaware of the world & the plight non-majority groups were facing, and whatever hissyfit you had about Clinton, you voted like an asshole, and I think you’re an idiot. IF you voted for the GOP candidate, I will never forgive you and you are not welcome in my life in any capacity. I will not work with you. You are not welcome in my house. We are not friends, and cannot be friends. Yes, I realize that is ineffective at bridging the divide or whatever bullshit. Oh well. I don’t care what you think of me – I sincerely do not. History will judge you poorly, and you deserve every bit of it.

Videogames

Since the election, I’ve found myself a lot less interested in playing most games. I’m sick of shooting man-children yelling homophobic slurs online. I’m bored of stories where everything is shoot everybody. But I’m also bored of stories where I walk from place to place and watch things happen. If I want a story, I’ve found more interesting content in movies and TV. If I want interaction, with extraordinarily little exception, the kinds of interaction I find in games is unsatisfying now. I like some strategy, I like word games. I still like the game we’re making, and a lot of it’s coming together in interesting ways. But most console stuff? Eh. I dunno. Titanfall 2 was excellent. Clever, inventive, and tight as a drum. I still need to finish Uncharted 4, which is something I didn’t expect I’d need to say. It had some really wonderful moments. But then I got to some “shoot everyone” section, and … eh.

I wonder what my future holds, in that regard. If Wonderspark doesn’t work out (and sadly, we’re getting close to the end of the runway), I don’t know what I’d do next. I don’t like most of what’s being made in my industry. Most of what people are making is just … boring. And I don’t think I could do something like Wonderspark again. If we don’t make it, it’s because… well, reasons. I’ll do some sort of post-mortem if we get to that point. In the meantime, we still have one more swing at the plate, and we’re devoting everything we’ve got to it.

Summary

Yeah, I think that’s the bulk of it at the moment. Mostly just a sort of state-of-the-world-induced malaise. It doesn’t bother me most of the time, because work and the kids demand my attention. But in the quiet moments… yeah.

 

Oakland

January 30th, 2017 by helava

I love Oakland.

The fact that Uber is going to be a mainstay of downtown Oakland’s tech scene, and probably one of Oakland’s biggest employers, disgusts me. I don’t want them in my city. They don’t stand for what Oakland stands for.

Companies are, in a way, expressions of who their leaders are. Uber didn’t make a solid statement against the Muslim Ban because Travis Kalanick is a piece of shit. Uber, as a company, behaves like garbage because it’s leadership is garbage. Character matters because there are so many pressures to grow in a situation like this – to put money and growth over everything. Some companies do exactly that – they scramble for every dollar without any concern for their role in a larger world.

Other companies actually stand for something. And if you look, simply, at the difference between Uber and Lyft, there’s a clear difference in character between the two companies that isn’t situationally-dependent. You can tell because those differences are consistent, and because they make the companies’ behavior predictable. I’m not a fan of the “gig economy” in its current form. I think in practice, it’s exploitative across the board, though some do it better than others. But if you look a the difference between Lyft and Uber, you can see the difference character in leadership makes. One company might figure out how to make the “gig economy” work, because fundamentally, they believe in something that isn’t garbage. The other is Uber.

Off to a start.

January 30th, 2017 by helava

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that if you’re not out of your mind, 2017 is off to a worse start than say, any other year in my lifetime. I’d taken a break from Facebook and Twitter after the election because I felt like that moment was as insane as things could possibly get. That enough people in the country voted for this guy was crazy, but at least it would get better because once he was in power, he’d have to moderate himself to get things done. Guess not. The theory was that at least the GOP would push him a little centrist, but I have no idea why anyone would have thought that, because in practice, the GOP has now completely revealed itself to be utterly spineless, and to stand for nothing other than power and self-aggrandizement.

Sure, you get posturing – Marco Rubio saying he was maybe not gonna approve Tillerson, for instance – but when the chips come down, every single time, everyone in the GOP reveals themselves to be a spineless, gutless sycophant. Surprise. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t think that McCain and Graham’s announcement about their opposition to the Muslim Ban means a hill of beans until they actually do something, which I fully expect they won’t.

And this all ties into something that’s been bugging me for the last few years, but has come into focus over the last few months.

It really doesn’t mean shit what anyone says. The only thing that matters is what someone does when it means something.

I can talk about my ideals all day. If I betray them in the heat of the moment, my ideals are worthless. I can claim to be someone’s friend. Whether I am or not depends on what I do when they’re suffering. Values without action don’t mean shit. What you actually value is what you do. That’s the only meaningful expression of what you value, and there’s no way to go back to your values being what you say if what you do when it counts is different.

That’s character. That’s who you are. You either put up, and act like you say you will, or shut the fuck up, you hypocrite.

There are, unfortunately, still a lot of people who will choose to believe what you say, which means people are rarely held to account for their actions. And this applies to both personal lives and to politics. It’s a shame. I get it, people don’t like to be confronted with the fact that some people are gutless. It happens. You get to know someone based on what they say they believe, and those beliefs are in practice, rarely actually put to the test.

So yeah – both in politics and in personal lives… don’t listen to the words. Look at the actions.

That’s all that matters.

 

The Crisp

January 23rd, 2017 by helava

K eats his pizza from the “crisp”. Which means he eats it crust-first. I think he refers to “crust” generically as “the crisp”, and I just wanted to get that down for posterity ’cause it’s adorable.

Stuffs

January 19th, 2017 by helava
  • Got a huge section of the fence rebuilt. Shortened the front & gate to 3′ from the 6′ we had before, and will be trimming the hedge in front down to the same height, mostly just to open up the front space a bit. We’d originally had it at 6′ because that was what was recommended for if you had a larger dog. But Mobi isn’t jumping over a 3′ fence anymore.
  • Been working on assembling models for Palladium Books’ game, Robotech RPG Tactics. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have anyone I’m likely going to carve out time to play this game with – you’d have to be a pretty hardcore Robotech fan to want to bother, but there’s something zen-like about it. Reminds me of building 40K minis over a summer in college. Having cuts on my hands from X-acto knives & fingertips Krazy-Glued together has a weirdly comforting glow about it. And Robotech is still pretty rad.
  • 3D printed a handful of Hot Wheels track joints last night, to set up a side-by-side ramp for the kids. Who then promptly totally lost interest in it after having been super excited about it for a day. J would send cars down and then jump (as far as I could tell, inadvertently) out of excitement as the cars ran down the ramp, through the loop, and jumped over obstacles he set up.
  • Just finished Mark Webber’s book. I was a fan of his over the last handful of years in F1 – was one of the few people who I thought was always a straight shooter. His book is sort of what you might expect. Not flashy, but fairly straightforward. I enjoyed it a lot, though I think if you’re not a fan of his, specifically, and expecting it, it’ll be kinda a dry read otherwise.
  • Recently added a backup camera to the M3, which required disassembling a good chunk of the dashboard and then running a cable back to the trunk. I need to do one final thing to tidy it up properly (and fish out a plastic connector that I dropped into the battery well), but it went pretty smoothly. Not long after that, I replaced a bit of steering wheel trim that had started to peel. Not huge jobs or anything, but nice to do some hands-on repair.
  • Speaking of which, I also replaced my iPhone 6+’s battery with a kit from iFixit. I’d also replaced my old old 3rd gen iPod’s battery with a kit from there, and it’s great that a company’s making sure older tech doesn’t all just get junked the moment it’s not perfect. I find the process of taking things apart, fixing something, and putting it back together very satisfying. Maybe sort of like the model building.
  • I need to do more to get back in shape. More weightlifting, more core. I did something fairly unpleasant to my lower back at the beginning of summer when I was running around trying to take care of my dad’s office stuff, and it’s never quite gotten better. As what appears to be a result of that, I also borked my left shoulder – appears to me like compensating for the back somehow puts a lot of stress on my shoulder. So I need to spend more time exercising and getting stronger.
  • Been also doing a little bit more cooking than we had been before, which has been a real positive. Still not doing well re: weight loss. Sad thing is I know what I need to do (cut carbs/sugar), I just lack the will to do it. But at the same time, I think the current setup, where we’ve been eating more home-cooked food may lend itself to an improvement there. One step at a time.

Yeah.

Looking Forward, Not Backward

December 28th, 2016 by helava

There were a few things in 2016 that were good.

  • Ei-Nyung & I started working with a therapist, Michael Schimek. Look, I know it’s weird to talk about, if you haven’t seen a therapist. But the weird thing for me is that I reached out randomly on Facebook asking if anyone knew a good therapist, and I got dozens of responses, often from people I didn’t expect, with recommendations. I don’t remember why we went to see Michael, but he was someone Ei-Nyung had found, and I was still reluctant at first. But it’s been life-changing, and I see so many people around me who’d benefit from this process that I feel like not talking about it is a disservice to the people who feel like seeing a therapist is a cop-out or somehow an indication of an internal failing on their part or whatever.

    He’s helped us communicate better. He’s helped us understand our respective baggage better. He’s helped me get over work trauma that dominated my life for years, and not spend every waking moment consumed with frustration and anger. I can’t recommend him, specifically, highly enough, but more I really hope that for my friends, when they find themselves in over their head in their relationships, or when they’re depressed or consumed by something, that they’d reach out to someone and get help. We learn to read. We learn math. We learn about how the world works. But we don’t get a lot of education about how we interact with each other, and how we understand our own feelings. We don’t get practice understanding why we feel the way we do, and why we react the way we do. Instead of falling into a pattern and just saying, “Well, this is who I am,” therapy has helped me improve who I am. Understand who I am. Understand who I want to be, and how to get there. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, that would be good,” find someone. If you’re local, talk to Michael. You don’t have to be resigned to misery. You can make it better. And if you need help to do it, it doesn’t make you weak.

  • I love my job. I love the people I’m working with. Sure, it’s not always easy. But it remains a fascinating, educational, often inspirational experience. I wish certain elements were going better, and early 2017 will be a make-or-break period for us. But I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come. Let’s see if we can get to where we need to be.
  • The kids are amazing. I know, they’re always amazing, but in the last few weeks, they’ve gotten to a point where they can really play together, and not need a lot of supervision. K’s really growing fast, and becoming super expressive. Sometimes a little tricky to understand – where with J, we could take the time to tease out what he meant while trying to articulate complicated thoughts, with K we don’t always have that luxury. But he tells funny jokes. He observes interesting things and loves to tell us about them. He’s an astonishingly generous kid, and deeply thoughtful in some interesting ways. J’s in 1st grade now, and just starting to really hit his stride reading, where he can read aloud at nearly “full-speed”, which is pretty awesome. He reads sometimes to K, and it’s just ridiculously adorable.

In most other ways, though, 2016 was a total rat-fuck of a year. There’s the obvious stuff going on on the national front. No sense in rehashing that here, but I thought W was clearly going to be the worst president of my lifetime, but I think we’re gonna find out in 2017 that we weren’t even close. I’ve basically removed myself from Twitter and Facebook ever since Election Day, and I think it’s been a really positive change in my life. I’m definitely less connected to news. I’m also somewhat less connected to distant family, which sucks, and peripheral/distant friends. I think for close friends, though, not having that drip-feed of their life will make face-to-face interactions more interesting, not less. I’m also wasting less time and mostly paying more attention to reality, which is an obvious plus.

I miss some of the passive observer elements of FB/Twitter – I essentially had “access” to a lot of perspectives I can’t get in my day-to-day life. So I think finding some happy medium where I dramatically cut out almost everyone & everything on Twitter except things that really, genuinely matter to me on a moment-to-moment basis is in my future somewhere, and even then, my participation on social media will probably still be radically reduced. I often feel a moment where I want to have a “take” on something. To announce to the world that I’ve picked up the clarinet today, or that I wired a new outlet in the wall. Or whatever. But why the fuck would you care about that? You wouldn’t. It’s just noise.

Instead, if I write something, I’ll sit down & write something. Got an idea for a board game I really want to make someday. Might dive into that in the evenings. Got some house repair that needs doing – painting over a place where paint blistered. Patching a wall. Small stuff like that, but there’s a lot of it, since the house has settled over the last 10 years. We’ve got a bit of stuff on the exterior that’s getting done as well. Just had the back of the house re-stuccoed, since the previous job (done in 2001) was garbage. Still need to get the trim on the windows re-done, but that’s fine. Gonna also get a deck built in the back, and the fence around the left & front sides of the house re-built, since it’s completely collapsed on the side. So maybe 2017 has some elements of literal rebuilding.

But between my dad’s accident, the results of work being quite difficult, and national events, I’ll be happy to see 2016 out the door. 2017 brings some massive challenges. Do or die for work. Nationally, a new administration that will need to be fought – and not just on social media, but through positive action. Figuring out what my role in that will be interesting.

For 2017, my goals are:

  • Wonderspark survives the year and is on the path to growth.
  • Family remains healthy (given the circumstances) and happy.
  • Get my parents out to CA in a house they’ll be happy in ASAP.
  • Get enough sleep to be patient with the kids, motivated, creative, and productive.
  • Lose 15 lbs, initially through a 5-2 diet, and build strength through weight training.
  • Play more music.
  • Create something interesting. Board game, novel, whatever. Who knows. But something significant & finished by the end of 2017.

NY

December 18th, 2016 by helava

The last time we were in NY was the summer. We went to the Natural History museum, did a one-day trip to Philly. We’re here for longer this time, but I suspect we’ll actually do less. The intention isn’t to do anything exciting, it’s just to try to take a little bit of stress off my parents & give them a little breathing room. Will they breathe? Who knows. But it’s a thing we can do and we’re doing it.

Random Pics

December 4th, 2016 by helava

Kuno & Ei-Nyung going down the slide @ Legoland

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J& K meeting Lego Santa.

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K making some Pokemon art.

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The King and I

December 4th, 2016 by helava

We got season passes to SHN in order to get Hamilton tickets, and as a result, we ended up at The King & I last night. It was interesting.

The performances were good, and it was an interestingly put together thing, but the story was never engaging, and while I understood what was going on, I really didn’t get why it was supposed to matter to me. I think one thing might be that with this revival of the show, they changed certain things to make it less… old. But I think that maybe an inadvertent change of making it less “exotic” and “Oriental” meant that now the characters should be less “inscrutable”, but while their motivations work on the surface, they never seem to have any consistent driving force.

One of the turning points of the show, the King cries “DISHONOR” as he’s about to do this thing, and you’re supposed to (I think?) feel this tension between his desires to move Siam into more Western-friendly “modernity”, but he’s pulled to feeling this sense of honor when someone wrongs him, and that honor is so valuable that he’s willing to potentially destroy all the progress he’s made to this point.

But it’s meaningless.

In the context of the show, there’s no explanation of why honor matters. Or what it is about that that should pull him in multiple directions. Instead, it looks like he’s just … lost it, and is the barbarian that the West is supposedly accusing him of being. I can kind of piece together what I should be understanding out of the scene, but it doesn’t actually click, and it doesn’t actually feel meaningful.

And I feel like a lot of the show suffers from the same problem.

That moment of tension (the one that didn’t work) is basically about Westernizing in order to potentially save Siam from colonization. They put on an elaborate dinner for British envoy to convince the West that the King isn’t a “barbarian”, but the whole time there’s this other plot that one of his (many) wives is going to run away with her lover, and they set up this conflict where either he’s going to need to deal with her in a “modern” way or a “traditional” one.

But the dinner goes off (mostly) without a hitch, and *after*, there’s the revelation of the wife’s infidelity, at which point the King goes berserk. But the problem is that the dinner went fine. The stakes that matter (the future of Siam) are off the table. Maybe the idea is that the relationship between Anna and the King is as important, but that doesn’t work at all. So you have this tension (will the dinner work?), you resolve it (yes), and then introduce the conflict? It’s really, really weird.

But again – the whole show felt that way. Things played for comedic value (etc., etc.) that happen not just too often, but in ways that undercut emotionally charged scenes. The King is essentially trying to fight for the future of his country, but he’s often played for laughs (the laughs work, but it makes the character a joke).

I dunno. It’s odd – Ei-Nyung & I were talking on the way home about how season tickets were like getting a prix fixe meal at a restaurant – you don’t get necessarily what you want, but you’re forced to try some new stuff. And in that way, this was super enjoyable. I didn’t necessarily like the show, but I liked experience of it all, and it’s not something I’d necessarily have chosen independently.

 

House Projects

December 3rd, 2016 by helava

On top of looking for a place for my parents, we’re also doing some tidying up around our place. We’ve been planning on a deck in the back for ages, but we’ve gotta get the rear of the house re-stuccoed before getting the deck built, or we’re putting the cart before the horse in some sense. Our old neighbor Ron’s a painter, and he’s going to be patching & repainting a couple things – the kitchen ceiling, which developed a big crack, and had never been refinished when we got the rest of the kitchen remodeled, a wall in the kids’ room, whose paint started peeling, and the exterior trim, which has faded really badly over the last five years. Gotta also get the fence between our house & our neighbors’ rebuilt, because it just completely collapsed a month or so ago. 😛

We’ve got a bunch of other stuff – exterior hardscaping, etc. that needs to get done, but because we’re looking for a place for the ‘rents, it makes sense to hold off on stuff that isn’t necessarily a big impact in at the moment.