And here's my #2 pick. Fingers crossed.
As part of S's adoration of Hamilton, she got tickets to see Leslie Odom Jr. at the Schnitz. His performance was pretty magical. The renditions of his heartbreakingly poignant songs from Hamilton were amazing, as one would expect, but his other songs were special in other ways. Classic jazz covers laid down the deep connections and talent. Songs from his album were contemporary and brilliant. Particularly entertaining to me was a cover of Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway.
Today I became a great-uncle. My little sister's youngest child just had a child. Man I feel old.
Welcome to the world, little guy.
I've been mulling the need to participate in the democratic process here in the United States. This has been simultaneously urged and thwarted by Cheeto Hitler. On one hand, his election demonstrates the need for people to clearly express their representation and the pitfalls of leaving decisions to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, it is hard to want to intentionally join a country that elected a sexist racist moron.
But then there's Tulsi announcing her intention to run.
That's pretty exciting.
It seems like an awkward revelation: that a great way to do a comic book movie is with... animation. Because, DUH.
Yet, it really isn't that obvious. Partially because of the thundering dominance of live-action comic book movies (mostly Marvel), and the entrenched third-tier-ness of other animated comic book movies (mostly DC). Indeed, most people reflexively under-estimated SM:ItSV precisely because of its animated nature. Anecdotally, this prejudice is part of what drove the creative team to ensure that they made are really great movie.
And it is a really great movie. I'm easily amused by most imaginative-action movies, but it also blew Simon's socks off. OK, maybe that's not super hard to do either. But we are clearly the core of the target demographic, and they succeeded brilliantly. There really isn't a moment of the movie that doesn't suck you in, thanks to a rich tapestry of clever detail both visual and audible. Plus the story is sublime, with masterfully considered characters. All this, stuffed into an animated framework that actually helps tell the impossibly visual story in a way that simply couldn't be pulled off as well with live-action.
Back when I was considering art school, I stumbled on the conundrum of being pushed towards sculpture but being drawn towards 2-dimensional work. How could 2-dimensional depict something better than the 3-dimensional? When what you were depicting wasn't possible, even though you could see it.
While Fredmas is a logical time to be thinking about my dad, I have also found myself thinking about him quite often recently. I suppose that it is impossible to know who he was to himself - the person he thought himself to be. It wasn't the sort of thing that he communicated. Most of my impressions are about how he affected me, and the many things he thought aloud.
From the perspective of my young self, he was an unknowable force of raw purpose - working and playing. Even his frequent rests, to consume books and beer and televised hockey games, were all done with relished deliberateness. It gave me a depressed sense of never being able to live up to his example, but it also gave me a clear direction to try to grow. As I grew into adulthood, I could see more about how he was always working with what he had. His lack of expressed regrets and regard for what to work towards is something I've adopted wholesale, as much as I can.
Now, as a middle-aged father myself, it is clear to me that he was totally making it up as he went along. There is an innate urge to try to mimic his parenting style, his approach to life even. But there is this odd aspect by which having lost him so soon before becoming a father has allowed me to be open to honest reflections about what was good. And there was a lot of good. But perhaps thanks to our tender wind-down as father and son, I can also see how I can do better.
The realization that I am best when considering what utility I can have to the people and ideas I care about, I think I finally understand the source of his purposefulness. Thanks dad. Happy birthday.
It has occurred to me that there are some striking perceptual similarities between mountain biking and having children.
Attempts to explain this have not gone well in person, but maybe a somewhat more deliberate construction here might work better. It goes something like this:
From an objective point of reference, it is entirely reasonable to evaluate idea-X as being characterized primarily by risk and unpleasantness. Further, there is a somewhat disconcerting difficulty for a non-X-inclined person in comprehending the ascribed benefits and joys attributed to idea-X by X-committed individuals. Even worse than that, the testimonials of the X-inclined people seem to revel in the objectively worst parts of idea-X.
You take that paragraph, and you can plug in both "mountain biking" and "having children" with equal ease. For people who are not one or the other - parents or mountain bikers - this might not be obvious. But as a person who regularly tries to describe the painful joys of parenting to non-breeders, and the treacherous thrills of mountain biking to sane people, they share some very similar variability of interpretations.
When I comment on being exhausted from being woken up in the middle of the night by my spawn, non-breeders interpret that as a cautionary tale about the horrors of sexually-transmitted parasitic primates. Whereas other parents smile and nod wearily, knowing the sensation of worthy sacrifice for these beings we adore.
When I share tales of facing down a steep treacherous track while traveling at a speed guaranteed to hurt if I make contact with the plentiful trees and chundery rocks, non-mountain bikers wince and think me very foolish to have gotten myself in such a predicament. However mountain bikers look for the opportunity apply a high-five in appreciation of the base-of-the-brain adrenalin from using skill to overcome fear.
When I reflect on the price of, well, everything to do with having children, not-parentally-inclined folks laugh and imagine all the things they don't want to give up. Instead, other people who have kids laugh about the realization that it's all wasted anyway.
When I kvetch about the misery of slogging uphill through the rain, mountain-bike-averse persons hear a tale of misery. The alternate assumption of a veteran chunder-seeker is that this was an investment that would certainly prove worthwhile for the gnar-filled joy to be reaped from the vert.
And so on.
It makes me contemplate some possible similarities of questionable evolutionary biology theory to explain how these altered states of perception might make sense. For the case of parenting, it makes evolutionary sense for humans to have altered neurobiology regarding the having of offspring - because fondly care-taking our young despite the bottomless demands they require helps the fundamental success of the species. Likewise with mountain biking, it is the same foolish wellspring of enjoying overcoming fear with talent that allowed our species to (occasionally) successfully transition from being cave bear chow to wearing cave bear pelts.
Another cold wintery bike ride today. Still fun, but not a great display of skill or bravery. When things are going well, I have a sense of flowing or flying, and there were indeed moments of that. A far greater proportion was spent feeling like I was just clunking along, trying not to crash in the slippery bits of frost built up on the previously-moist parts of the trails.
It was good to ride with Danny again, not least of all because he was able to give me a ride up the mountain while I'm bike-rack-less. The rest of the squad is young and fast and skilled and invincible and I didn't see much of them other than when they waited for us to bunch back up.
The sketchy bits of ice on the upper trails were preferable to slushy mud lower down. The large knobby tires felt like they were shredding the trail on the bottom half, and a terrifying heaping of chunky mud bits were liberally distributed over me. The mud churn was also disappointing in how it made cornering nervous and bled all momentum from the flowing lines of Lower Hide & Seek. But, as alluded above, even the worst mountain bike riding is still pretty good fun.
As is our annual family tradition, we headed out to murder a tree to decorate our living room with. While we were driving out to the tree farm, there was a noticeable vibration in the car.
S [driving]: "There's a weird shaking in the car."
Clayton [trying not to be a terrible passenger]: "Yeah, I can feel the vibration too."
S: "Is this going to be OK for me to drive to Hood River today?"
Clayton: "Well, I'll have to take a look to be sure." Meanwhile, I'm thinking to myself about how I'll make room in the garage to use my sweet sweet hydraulic floor jack and find some minor imbalance-causing thing and be a total hero. Or possibly find something that I cannot fix myself, but at least ensuring the safe operation of the Moobaru.
A short time later, while still driving, S slaps me in the arm. "Oh! I remember - there was a thing that I ran over yesterday. I thought it was, like, just a plastic bag. But then it was all bang thump under the car."
A few minutes later, when we stop at the christmas tree farm. Clayton: "UUUUH. That's a big, obvious dent in the wheel. How is the tire even staying inflated?" I also had a stray thought wondering about some sort of karmic connection between our cars, because I also managed to get some curb rash on Ghost yesterday (something that I basically never do).
After murdering the tree the furthest from the parking lot, we coordinated with a local Subaru dealership to find a replacement wheel. As a bonus surprise, when we got to the tire store we noticed that whatever had smashed the front wheel also managed to take a bite out of the rear wheel. Fun.
Luckily, the tire store had some used steel wheels and had an open lift. So we used the time to introduce the kids to a magical land called Olive Garden, which basically blew Simon's little pasta-loving mind.
While still maintaining a regular AIF night with Dave, I've also started playing some Dungeons & Dragons lately. The more important game is running an adventure for Simon and a couple of his buddies, who are all brand new in the realm of role playing games and discovering all the exciting aspects thereof. In addition to all of that, I've also managed to join a semi-regular D&D game with some of the 'dads' and other adults. It is particularly amusing to see these assorted personalities come to terms with my roleplaying.
They're all adept at roleplaying, and a couple of them are good at optimizing the rules for their character effectiveness. But when it comes to combat, none of them quite hold a candle to my enthusiasm. This is where Dave would just grin in an unsettling way and nod knowingly.
My wood elf ranger has earned the title "Murder Elf" among the crew. I think they meant it to jokingly shame me, and were then quietly alarmed by how much I liked it.
It feels hard to believe that we have had 100 years of resolving to avoid the horrors of modern war.
There are many things that human society is very poor at learning. Remembrance of the wastefulness of violence is merely one of those things.
LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION!
The derivative of position with respect to time is velocity.
The derivative of velocity with respect to time is acceleration.
The derivative of acceleration with respect to time is... jerk.
No, really. It's a physics term.
This was relevant to me as I was delighting myself driving GHOST to work this morning. Because, while it is true that GHOST's acceleration is awfully nice - and what gets measured by all the numbers-obsessed - it's the broad prowess to adjust that acceleration that really is a driving delight. Because that's what engaged driving is really about for me: control.
I'm not too bothered by the double entendre, either.
Went and saw the Henry Rollins Slideshow Tour today with my favourite architect neighbor, Lori. While not the most thorough Rollins fan myself, I haven't witnessed anything he's done that I haven't at least respected. Lori had never heard of him. His songs take a certain mindset to enjoy, which I'm rarely in these days, but his spoken word is always entertaining to me - that is what we got to have for this show. Listening to his radio shows and podcasts do tend to be a bit wearying if you try to binge them; he has a lot of energy, and a sanctimoniousness that is low grade but cumulative. This show was just about the perfect dose of Rollins, however.
He warned us, right up front, that he was going to keep changing directions to keep us engaged. And that he did. It landed a few solid gut punches while also managing to share intimate facets that were simply lovely, all the while being delivered with delightfully self-deprecating humour. He showed us the world, his thoughts and hopes about that world, and how it reflected on him in such a way that let us reflect on ourselves.
This is really a tale about how I'm glad I have a cushy desk job instead of being a "skilled" labourer. But before I get into that, let's go back about a year. That's when the kitchen sink started leaking quite badly. A quick inspection suggested that it would be a pain in the ass, and I didn't have time to address it right away. So, in order to buy a couple days until the weekend, I tried wrapping the pipe in some cool hydrophobic tape I've got. It worked. A little too well. I had hoped that it would reduce the pour to a containable leak (a shallow bucket was appropriately situated). It completely contained the leak instead. Which meant that when the weekend came, and I got a better idea of how much of a pain in the ass it would be, I felt able to procrastinate. As more time went by, the more I felt complacent about the patch job.
Alas, even the coolest hydrophobic clingy tape can't hold a badly corroded pipe together forever. And this past Friday the leaking resumed. So Saturday was my day to finally address the fix properly. At which time, it becomes appropriate for a hypothetical flashback to the last time this was fixed - before we bought the house. Due to the extremely awkward location of the pipe, it is rather difficult to get leverage on a modest-sized pipe wrench that can fit in the space. Gazing at the deep gouge marks on the fitting, it's easy to imagine how ardently the previous plumber tried to dislodge it. Worse, looking at how the now-leaking pipe was crudely soldered onto the remains of the compression fitting, it becomes obvious that they gave up trying to get it out, and instead hacked off the old pipe and welded the replacement directly on. I also like to imagine that the previous plumber felt some quiet shame, for the mess that the next plumber would have to face when the thin-walled pipe they installed invariably rusted through.
While I could probably have managed to saw off the pipe in the same sort of way that the previous plumber did, I lack both the tools and the skills to braze, solder, or weld on a pipe in a leak-free manner. Plus, I'd much rather fix the pipe with some corrosion-free plastic. Thus I began my attempt to unfasten the fitting that the previous plumber had given up on.
It did not go well.
After five hours, I had managed to turn the damn thing just 15°. Admittedly, most of that time was spent with the fitting not moving at all. And 2 hours were spent nursing an array of self-inflicted wounds while watching the Matrix. The awkwardness of the location of the fitting prevented easy access to leverage. The confines and the elasticity of the plumbing meant that impacts had no effect in budging the pipe wrench. I nearly maimed my face several times trying to use a crow bar on the handle of the pipe wrench while jammed under the sink. Until finally I came upon a method of bracing bits of lumber as adjustable fulcrums to use a length of square bar to inch the pipe wrench along.
Once the fitting was out, it was a 10-minute trip to the local hardware store to buy $16 worth of parts, and a further 2 minutes to install.
Whatever pleasure I might have for accomplishing this trivial piece of plumbing, even though I overcame what the previous plumber seemingly left as a booby trap, is utterly drowned in the aching discomfort of it all. Craning and straining and slipping and smashing and accidentally banging in a confined space with unyielding surfaces sucks giant donkey balls. Yes, I used my cleverness to do something difficult. But I have the joy of getting to employ my cleverness every single day at work - at my comfy desk.
More detailed exploration of the performance envelope of GHOST has revealed further insights.
- The review mirrors are really quite puny. Makes for a nice low Cd, but I'd personally trade that for improved sensor capabilities over my shoulders.
- GHOST might be lighter and more nimble-feeling than a Model S, but she's still a hefty girl. Momentum must be considered.
- Further to that, stickier tires will be required. Mostly to improve turning and stopping; not that GHOST is a slouch at either, but rather to carve out more safety factor for my enthusiasm. Though it is rather entertaining feeling the whole chassis squirm under full thrust with the current shoes.
- The turn stalk has a marginal flaw: the left "tap" sensor is mis-calibrated such that a simple triple-blink lane change is hard to get instead of continuous blinking.
- Overall, this might be the exact right embodiment of my car-self. A bit heavier than ideal, but more powerful and smarter - and carrying more baggage. And still quite silly.
Five years and one day after selling Richthofen, my beloved Porsche 911 C4S, I picked up a new alter-ego-class car. It's a 2018 Tesla Model 3, long range battery, dual motor all-wheel-drive. White. And we named it "GHOST".
This was simply a family vote.
It might have been nice to continue the monster motif set by "Grendel" by using "Wendigo" from the spooky campfire stories my dad used to tell. TESSA was a lovely runner-up, losing only the all-important Violet vote - who simply insisted on "Ghost". Even though I thought for sure she might also vote for "Princess Sparkle Prancer", but no dice. Only Simon was suitably amused by "Tesly McTeslaFace". And ForAytToo might have had a chance, if we had learned the VIN soon enough give it momentum.
The thing that most people seem to question is the colour I chose. Perhaps because I have generally terrible taste in colours. Even so, I do have preferences. Seeing the car in person, in white, it makes a lot of sense. The bright trim fits better than with anything dark. Plus, only black and white are available without metallic flakes - a feature that has come to annoy me for no good reason.
Stupid Grin Driving Glee Factor
Tesla isn't totally transparent about some specifications for the car, but my (unofficial) understanding is that it's got two 191 kW (256 hp) motors, but that the actual power it can apply is limited by the current output of the non-Performance battery management system. It's supposed to be able to do 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds; it feels like less. It is significantly faster-feeling thrust-wise in all real world situations than Richthofen was, which feels important in my withered soul. So, while it officially lacks access to "Ludicrous" speed, it is certainly consistently hilarious. The delighted shrieks of terrified joy from the kids when we merely go in a straight line are simply dad-tastic.
It's quite an experience, and I have a lot more soaking in to do. Which will naturally translate into more writing. But for now, it is a fabulous introduction.
Maybe the people we pick to occupy the most powerful positions should be representative of our best ideas and natures, and not representative of our weakest impulses and fears.
It used to be that I spent my birthday reflecting on life; what I've learned, how I've grown, and what the future might hold.
This year, my birthday was mostly just another day trying to fiercely absorb the moments as they hosed over me, desperate to absorb as much of them as possible and to try not to dwell too much on the horizons. Life is weird.
There is another term for terrorism: asymmetric warfare.
When you consider the 3 thousand that died in the attack, the subsequent 5 thousand allied soldiers lives that have been spent since then, and the staggering 5.6 trillion dollars flushed away by directly inspired military operations abroad security fetishes domestically - you can make a pretty solid case that the terrorists made a comprehensive tactical victory. Anybody who blusters about having bombed them back into the stone age completely misses the point about how that's exactly where they started anyways. That's why they did it: they already had nothing to lose.
As sickening as that is to contemplate, it is nothing compared to my realization today. They didn't just manipulate the United States into wasting titanic amounts of money and desecrating the lives of dutiful soldiers. They succeeded in scaring the United States so badly that the country figuratively shit its bed.
Because what else is the election of Donald Trump other than the exact manifestation of mindless fear?
For my birthday this year, S surprised me with tickets to see Star Wars (A New Hope) with the instrumentals performed live by the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
It was delightful.
Star Wars has been one of the cornerstones of my connection with popular culture, and John Williams' score is a very big part of that. Hearing it performed live was magical by itself. Experiencing it amongst all the glorious weirdos who were also eagerly attending the Schnitzer added a special flavour. Especially the couple in the stormtrooper helmet with a white tuxedo and a vader helmet with a skin-tight catsuit.
The Portland Castle Clan drove up to my home town of Nelson BC, in Canada, to stay with my Grandpa Kosiancic for the "Celebration of Life" for my Grandma Kosiancic. It was deeply meaningful to be there with him, and to witness his courage and stoicism. And to be humbled both by his unwavering love for his Violet, and the vitality that still illuminates his small, wiry 90-year-old frame.
Among the rare creatures who appeared, as if from fairy tales, were:
- my mother, the hermit
- my uncle, the recluse
- my aunt, "the good one"
- my sister, her common-law husband, and her two kids with their partners
- cousins that I have not seen since childhood
- Grandpa Kosiancic's younger and-much-less-flourishing brother
- people I knew when I was a child in Valhalla
It was sort of akin to being an alien imposter wearing a human family-member's skin. My difficulty in relating with most of these people ended up feeling abstract, requiring me to simplify myself into a tritely-packaged version that they could swallow. And yet, it was still really valuable to me to have these various imperfect connections with my physically-distant family. Almost as though I was made more real by existing an incrementally more clear fractal image in their minds.
Better still was driving through the night to visit with Dave. He remains the only person with whom I am surprised by the degree to which I transform into a chatterbox. It felt really good to engage in that high-bandwidth connection after a day of low-fidelity conversations. The lonely nighttime drive itself was a conversation with my younger Kootenay-dwelling self, going swiftly and eagerly and drowning out my singing with my favourite songs.
It's late at night and I'm just feeling unable to go to bed in my current mental state. And one of the things weighing on me is my lack of contributions to this blog, or writing in general - but I have nothing specific that I want to say. So here I blather trying to satisfy the general malaise without benefit of specifics.
One of the pieces of writing advice that I recently absorbed was the value of just writing and writing and writing and trusting that eventually your voice will appear and that inside that voice you can discover things that you want to say. It also warned that a lot of editing would probably be required, but assured that the writing in the first place was by far the greater hurdle. Having recently watched NK Jemisen's 3rd consecutive Hugo acceptance speech, where she admitted to writing a million words of crap, and a million more of meh, I think I can see how the work of writing can be accomplished. After long having been seemingly just beyond my grasp.
Except, of course, I really don't see myself having any more reach than before, time-wise. At least, not any time soon. But that doesn't mean I can't continue to fumble along with some practice until I can settle in and dedicate more of my time to really working at writing.
Probably after I break myself physically, mind you. Because it's good to have plans.
The recent televised events at Whistler has reminded me of many experiences etched into memory.
Ninja Cougar / Karate Monkey / Samurai Pizza Cat
Our "warm up ride" the first day was this series of technical trails that are listed as intermediate at Whistler. They easily rank as black diamond back at Sandy Ridge, and included a surprise drop that easily exceeded my largest drop accomplished before. This set the tone for the whole trip for being in over my head but managing to survive and enjoy the thrill.
Crank It Up / Heart Of Darkness / Family Cross
Despite punishing breaking bumps, many repeats of these intermediate jump lines did a lot to build my confidence in the air. Especially gratifying was learning to feel my balance improve from launch to landing, and learning to let go of the brakes.
Black diamond jump line. Ho-Lee-Shit. The worst part is the sheer amount of time you get to hang in the air feeling afraid. I felt like I should have added a sign to my bike saying "this machine makes braking bumps", even as I was massively thankful for its generous suspension soaking up all the casing I did.
A new "intermediate" flow trail that is hands-down my favourite trail on the whole planet. The joy of dancing and bouncing through this magical trail is unparalleled.
Top Of The World
There is nothing that squats in one's memory quite as much as riding a black diamond technical trail from the very peak of a mountain. It was legendary.
While in Whistler, my dreams were frenetic continuations of my mind racing to see what line to take next. Even while awake but letting my mind wander, a series of images of twisting banks and gut-wrenching drops and technical gnar would roll through my mind's eye. It was both mentally exhausting and amusing.
I want to write stuff here about this.
Just, you know, when I'm not so fucking sad.
The key aspects to relate about this adventure are (in no particular order):
- The beauty of the mountains in British Columbia Canada whisper to my soul's truest self. Especially including the twisty roads.
- Cramming a year's worth of technical riding into two days feels like the scene from the Matrix where Neo learns kung fu.
- The gestalt difficulty of the riding I was doing clearly over my head, comfort-wise. But it sure was fun, and rewarding in terms of skills. #safetythird.
- When I get tired and shaky, my fear of heights gets more profound. Dang those chairlifts can feel high.
- Having the right equipment is a big deal. Huzzah for:
- my Rocky Mountain Slayer - for general awesomeness
- the double-down Maxxis Minion DHF's I mounted on it - for specific no-flats awesomeness despite terrible abuse
- and my Fox Proframe helmet - for permitting good airflow while providing full-face MIPS protection
- Forcing others to listen to Hamilton on a road trip can be very cathartic.
After a year and six days of being in the hospital and various care facilities, being slowly eroded by Alzheimer's, my mom's mom Violet Kosiancic passed away today.
Holding her hand as she passed was her husband of 49-and-a-half years was my grandpa, Lawrence Kosiancic.
I will miss her.
So, not overwhelmed, exactly. But definitely doing enough that logging thoughts for posterity seem... secondary. Hard to feel motivated knowing that I still have yet to fix the claytoncastle.com link to point here correctly.
Anyway, so far July has been busy.
- Simon birthday party of surprising chaos.
- Canada Day of insufficiently picturesque biking.
- Simon birthday of extreme LEGO™-ness.
- Rebellion Day hosting the neighbourhood on our grill and blowing shit up on our street.
- Reading Bourdaine and extrapolating too much.