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2024.06.15 Eternal Summer

By dint of luck and effort, I've got every week I spend with the kids this summer as vacation. Six weeks of... stuff.

Hopefully lots of bike riding (and remembering to take pictures).
Maybe some adventure trips.
A few birthdays, with accompanying celebrations and Amy-cakes.

But most importantly, a bunch of memories to savour.

2024.06.11 Simon's Grade-9 English Final Creative Writing Assignment

A flash of lightning and the crack of thunder, a spark alights. The fire burns ever higher, towering above the body of a behemoth creature. The titan collapses, its legs burning away beneath it. The beast’s body slowly blackens and chars, thick scales peeling away to reveal ever more burnt flesh. The plateau that covers its back sloughs off, with trees and homes crumbling as they hit the ground. They become nothing but fuel for the fire.

I watch Xolanotl, my home, until there is nothing left to see but smoldering rubble. I see others turn to start gathering food and make shelter. I breathe deeply, the acrid smoke stinging my nose, and turn to help. Most of us had been off scouting; trying to find a safe route for the Xolanotl. A few dozen people have been pulled from the wreckage, but most won’t survive much longer, not without proper medical equipment. There is no conversation over the meager meal we manage to scrounge up. There is no one to talk to I suppose, seeing as most of our friends and families are buried somewhere in the wreckage. I could have stopped this. If I had paid better attention,maybe, everyone would be alive. That night I lay awake, watching the stars drift on by. I decide that the only thing I can do is to leave this forsaken place.

The next day is almost harder than the first. This is no bad dream. Our whole lives, our plans, our dreams, our pasts are burned away in the fire. I take all that I own, and say my goodbyes, few as they are. I finally set off, placing my father’s knife on my belt, one last reminder of this place. I climb over burnt logs and blackened undergrowth. I wish I could have helped; the signs were all there, the dry brush, the brewing storm. I should have known. But we had seen many storms in the past, not one had caused such a disaster.

I eventually find a small cave, sheltered from the elements. I set up camp inside because night is beginning to fall, and the surface world at night has no mercy for anything unlucky enough to be caught in the shadows. The shadows grow, and night falls slowly over the forest. I fall into a fitful sleep.

I groggily wake up the next day, the sun is already high in the sky; my body is not yet used to the routines of travel. The going is easier now, as the trees slowly open up into an expansive grassland. Only a few trees dot the horizon far in the distance. Far in the distance I hear a strange sound, a bellow from some beast of plains. With nothing better to do, and hardly any reason to live, I head to investigate the noise. I duck below the tall grasses, and slowly stalk towards the bellowing. The creature’s cries soften, and become all but inaudible against the sound of the wind.

I crest the top of a hill, seeing a slumped and bloodied shape which lays at its base unmoving. I scan the grasses for any sign of what did this, but whatever it is has left, or is too well hidden for me to find. Ignoring my better senses, I approach the creature. Its four wide eyes watch me fearfully, and it calls out weakly. As I study the creature, I realize it looks eerily familiar, this is a juvenile xolanotl, not even old enough to have found itself a shell.

I couldn’t save my home, but this time I can do something. I immediately start staunching the bleeding with bits of cloth and gauze. The xolanotl stopped making noise quickly after it realized I was there to help. As I wrapped the final slashes on its side, the xolanotl tried to slowly stand. It pulled six shaky legs underneath it, and slowly pushed off the ground. It looked down at me expectantly, before turning and limping a short distance. It looked back at me impatiently. Doesit really want me to follow it? Where is it taking me? I suppose I don’t exactly have any better place to be than wherever it is going, so I quickly catch up.

We walk for hours, the afternoon sun slowly setting, and the creatures of the night undoubtedly stirring. The xolanotl only rarely looked back to see if I was still following, all the while maintaining its slow, but relentless pace. Grasses cut at my legs, but I can hardly bother to notice. My whole body aches from the endless walking, but still, late into the evening, we press on. I hope we soon reach our destination, not just for my sake, but if we are caught out here in the open, we might as well set the table for whatever finds us.

I sigh in relief as we come to a small crater punched in the side of a hill. What look like abandoned nests fill the crater, and trees fill the nesting site. The xolanotl curls up amongst the densest of the trees, while I take food out of my pack and sit down next to it to eat. We soon fall asleep, exhausted from our ordeals.

But sleep is not long for us tonight; I jolt awake with the sound of rustling in the branches above. The moon hovers high above, a sliver hanging in the sky framed by growing storm clouds. I pull my knife from its sheath and strike a torch. I jostle my new friend awake, and it slowly rises, tired and wounded. The sounds in the branches above grow louder, and a large shape flits through the treetops. The torchlight glints off the intricate obsidian knife, but just out of the torch’s glow the creature circles us.

The monster Lunges from the darkness, six spidery legs thrown back, and a sharp maw open wide. I dip to the right just in time, and thrust my knife at its throat. The blade just glances off of thick scales harmlessly. It turns to face me. It shrieks in frustration, opening its bifurcated jaw, wide enough to fit me whole before turning to my injured companion and preparing to lunge forward. I jump at it, swinging my torch wildly.

As I brandish my torch, our assailant flinches and retreats. It shakes its head violently, unused to the bright light. I, more confident, charge the beast, torch held aloft. I stab at the creature, dodging to its side, and aiming for what I hope is the softer underside. I find my mark, and the beast howls in pain. It thrashes about, and its tail lands squarely in my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I nearly collapse, but I find my footing just in time for it to send another blow my way. This time, it throws the torch from my hand. The torch hits the soaked ground, and sputters weakly as the fire dies, cloaking us once again in darkness. I trip and fall on the shadowed ground. The monster, faintly illuminated by the night sky, prepares to dive forward.

A flash of light, and a booming sound, louder than any I have heard before, pierces the night. Lightning strikes the ground, brighter than the sun in midday, louder than the calls of even the greatest beasts.

The monster stumbles back, eyes milky and blind. It collapses on the ground, confused and senseless. It tries to stand, shaken but not yet defeated, but my friend is done with this. It stands to its full height, and stomps down on our stunned attacker, crushing it instantly.

The sun is just rising as I finish patching my wounds. And so we head out, to see what comes next.

Far off in the distance, the trumpeting sounds of many xolanotl calling out to each other reverberate across the plains.

2024.06.02 How You Spend Your Days Is How You Spend Your Life

After a week of lingering nostalgia, Amy shook me out of my incipient body dysmorphia by chortling about how I'm much better looking now. As much as I remember how it felt to be whippet-thin and with boundless endurance, I probably don't remember well how nervous I was all the time nor how fragile my ego was. Plus Amy has similar pictures of her elfin bearing, but she is wildly more attractive now with her full shape and mature demeanour.

Also heard from friends living in Germany, and how they're struggling with the transition there. I'm sure that overall it's a worthwhile adventure, but there's no denying that the enormity of the change is challenging. I miss hanging out with them.

But the most amusing meta moment this week was a person on Craigslist asking for a window of time to inspect the bike I'm selling, and I had to honestly tell them that there was only the most narrow windows of time available in my life.

Life is good. Busy, but good.

2024.05.27 Hello From The 90's


In the midst of pulling the kids bikes out of storage to prep them for test rides I also pulled out my dad's old Forest Service backpack, in which I appear to have stashed a bunch of old photos. Man, there went a whole day full of sweet and sad reminiscences.

2024.05.04 Awkward Moments Plumb Local Socialization

I had to pause before opening up my ship to this port, so I could collect myself. To hold onto all the things I've learned about myself, and consciously recognize the truth of them. Because this is a hard place to be: the place I'm originally from. And they think they know me here. It's awfully easy to become what other people tell you that you are, and it very rarely serves you well.

Grey light from overcast skies bundled between rocky peaks flooded my hatch, and my hand reflexively went to drag my helmet over my head so I could see better - but I stopped. To stride out of my ship with my helm already in place sends a message, and if I had any hope of making this go well I needed to appear relaxed. So instead I shrugged on a cloak to obscure my habitual gear, and met the tech ambling towards my still-pinging ship.

"Cargo or repairs?"

I give them a terse shake of my head. "Nothing right now. Maybe later." They give me a squint, to wonder wordlessly about why I'm even here then. "I pre-paid the landing fee and parking for a day on my way in. But..." I dip my chin and make sure to catch their eye. "Try to keep folks from getting to near to her. The security system is a little aggressive."

The tech gave a glance at the well-patched hull, and gave me a shrug. A worried little part of me thought there was a good chance I'd be scraping a charred limb of theirs off of the hull later on, and hoo-boy that would definitely make future visits home even more awkward.

Wending my way past other parked ships, I eventually made it through the personnel gate. It stood open, as it does generally - other than in times of trouble. Apparently I couldn't help but make an amused face at the backwater half-assery of the security measures as I walked through, because one of the guards sitting in the guard station yelled down. "Something funny, stupid face?"

Stupid face? I have a feeling I know that guy. Probably doesn't recognize me, though. Not yet, anyway.

"Nope." I keep walking, and head toward the public transit station.

No crowds here. Which makes sense, this is hardly a busy port of call. And this is the end of the line for the train, so it's completely empty when it glides into station. The meta-ads for taxis suddenly drop their prices before the train stops, as a last-ditch plea for my credits. But if I wanted to glide into town in a hopper directly to where I was going, I would have just taken my own out of the hold.

The train glides to a stop at the next branch - which connects to the industrial district. District is a bit of a laugh - it's a section of valley out of sight of the main town habitants, where the large ugly machines of industry can efficiently turn materials and effort into credits and means to do more things. And most of both of those are generally heading off-world. Or, at least, out of town.

Onto the train, fresh off of shifts of grimy toil, several burly people trundle wearily. I don't stare, but I watch them, doing that thing I can't stop myself from doing every time I'm here: asking myself, "Do I know them?".

Perhaps because of my watching them, however low-key I think I'm being, or perhaps just because I'm an oddity on this train, they watch me back. I imagine them thinking to themselves, "Do I know that person?" I'm not broadcasting any contact details, and neither are they, and it's likely that nobody actually recognizes anybody right then. I knew that I wasn't sure about who any of them were, though vaguely familiar aspects suggested that I would if I knew more - but I wouldn't have made any fuss even if I did actually recognize anybody here. Unlike the folk in this town, who in my experience unfailingly make a fuss over discovering someone.

Of course, several of them get the standard far-away expression of someone concentrating on media or comms. Which, in my standard paranoia, translates into at least one of them sending an image of me to someone else asking, "Do we know this person?" So it goes.

It continues in the same rambling manner on a click-through...

2024.04.20 Dragon Toasters - Horizon

"What happened to David?"

Curious. Dave peered carefully around his cover, and witnessed a familiar predator-machine standing defiantly on another squarish boulder. "Einstein?"

"How do you know name? Did Boss tell you?"

This was... unexpected. The simulant appeared to have forged a genuine connection, if this construct was indeed willing to risk itself to inquire about the simulant's fate. Dave had dismissively assumed that much of the sense of relationship it had inferred was projection based on how simulants are driven to fit in behaviourally with real humans. Well shit.

Dave shifted the plasma blade to the least-threatening posture he could manage, low and pointing behind him, without actually extinguishing it and sheathing it. He wanted to give this pack of predatory constructs the best possibility of being peaceful, but he also didn't want to risk getting overwhelmed if they all rushed him. Still, he did step out from behind his cover. "I'm sorry, kiddo. David didn't make it out of that crypt. But he did share his databases with me, so at least his memories and ideas live on with us two."

"You chased Boss down hole. You kill Boss and steal Boss brains?

Dave noted subtle signs of movement. Probably flanking. This discourse might be making things worse for everyone. But Dave couldn't shake the sense of value and specialness that this construct had a friendship-like bond with the simulant.

"I wasn't myself when I chased David, and I was so confused that I didn't even find the hole he jumped into until after he woke up an ancient monster. And David gave me his databases as his own idea and motivation."

Einstein's antennae shifted and writhed with some complicated internal process. Its broad multifaceted camera arrays betrayed no expressions, but then it cocked its head in a pantomime of inquisitive intent. "Feel like you are bad and terrible, and lying."

"Well, I can be pretty terrible, and it would be wrong to pretend that I am not what I am. But, let me say this: I can tell you what happened to the original David."

It looked like Einstein was reacting to that statement when a trio of sudden motions lit up Dave's threat-sense. Dave sprung to adjacent cover in the blink of an eye, pivoting behind the plasma blade as he snapped its containment field wide such that a pair of static-pulses caromed off to sizzle against rock. At the cover he came face to face with an off-balance predator machine. As Dave's free hand snagged a grip on the thorax and he heaved the beastie in the approximate direction of the crypt shaft, it appeared comically surprised. Perhaps wasp-headed werewolf satyrs are unaccustomed to being physically assaulted by things they might have assumed were prey.

An angry static crackled in the lower EM spectrum as coded comms betrayed various predator machine's locations. The kids were arguing. Probably not a fair fight, considering that Einstein has access to several human's lifetime's worth of dirty rhetorical tricks.

"You stop fighting, and we not hurt you. And you tell us what happened to Human David."

A familiar sense of amused cynicism surprised Dave. "Oh, kiddo - I'm already not fighting." Dave paused to consult a highly-annotated but outdated map. "I understand that your pack has probably got both logistic reasons and philosophical reasons to try to dispatch me. Instead of trying to dissuade you with threats and intimidation, let me suggest that there is a trove of treasure down that shaft exceeding what my small chassis represents. And your pack will need your David-memories to be able to use it."

Soft rustling sounds of movement, far more subtle than machines of that size have any right to manage, told Dave that they were adjusting their distribution. Perhaps to have line-of-sight for more discreet discussion. "Is Boss down there?"

"Yeah, Einstein. He's down there. I suggest leaving him down there - it's a tomb worthy of him." With reluctance, and in spite of his keen cynicism, Dave extinguished to plasma blade. "He saved me, you know. Twice." Leaving the cover of a block of stone, Dave walked casually away from the region of the shaft - and towards the cliff.

The insults of static pulses in the back didn't come. Dave felt pleased about this, and relieved that he didn't have to decide what to do about it if they had. Would he have had to do anything? Probably not. But he also knew it would have been hard to not run back and cull at least some of them. "I'm going to go and try to get a look at a giant tank ant for myself. If you get an urge to hear a story about what happened the original David, come find me."

With that, Dave casually stepped off the cliff and dropped from sight.

2024.04.15 A Specific Walk

I walked into a meeting room last week, and was met with an uproar from the array of faces on the screen as well as in the room. "I knew it was Clayton! I could tell from his walk."

Obviously, the frosted glass in the front of the room by the door showed a silhouette of my approach, but not enough to make out my face. With my standard smug dad-grin, I sat down without saying anything. And the meeting began, so I forgot about the comment in the flow of engineering development work.

Afterwards, though, it came back to me, and my mind turned over what exactly that might have meant. I think I remember in the moment feeling bemused, because I do tend to carry myself with a conscious effort about my bearing. But, really, that's more about posture, as I'm in a lifelong war against gravity conspiring against my also being slightly taller than everything is ideally suited for - so it takes effort not to slouch.

But was there... is there something more to be read in my walk?

Maybe a haughty imperviousness for being an "old timer" and secure in my reputation's stature in the engineering building?

Maybe a lanky impatient stride that I ride officiously from one arbitrary place to another in my recent re-confinement for "return to office"?

Or maybe they see a shadow of the wary but determined kid I used to be, who learned to navigate on foot while being stalked by malicious peers eager for a fight. And being always ready for that fight. And knowing that I'll never win that fight, but damned if I wasn't going to make them regret it as much as possible.

2024.03.17 Mexican Reflections

A trip to our plant in Saltillo Mexico earlier this month was quite interesting.

The first thing to mention is that this was not my first trip to one of our Mexican manufacturing plants. Last time, the visit to Santiago involved staying in Mexico city - an urban area with the same population as Canada. That was interesting in its own way.

This time involved being in northern Mexico, and it's possible that needing to be escourted most places with a security detail insulated me quite a lot from the granular details of the lives lived there. Which obviously is an insight of it's own.

The hilarious driving habits of the locals is a delight to witness - from the safety of the back of a van. Coming from the infuriating obliviousness of drivers of Portland, it was actually a relief to see such vigour and skill. And the best part was the way in which they we very relaxed about all the interactions that I would have experienced as very intense.

But the thing that sticks out most for me, and feels really inspirational, is the camaraderie the workers at the Saltillo plant. I had to learn a wide variety of individualized handshakes to greet the people I met, and they often laughed and hugged me when I got them wrong. The ubiquitous friendliness and helpfulness of everyone at the plant is something I've never seen at this kind of scale before. Makes me wish there was a way to import this, large-scale, into more of the aspects of life.

2024.02.25 Is That What I Looked Like?

University student ID 1993:

University graduation yearbook 1999:

New engineer ID 2000:

Terrified Canadian engineer suddenly employed in the United States 2002:

Resigned Canadian engineer with a family in the United States 2007:

2024.02.15 Awkward Honesty

Found myself this morning in the awkward position of explaining to a group of parents why I hadn't responded to my daughter's ability to participate. The crux of my reluctance is that it's on the handover day where I take the kids back to their mom's house, and I don't get to see them again for a week - and any playdates mean curtailing my time with them. What seems like a no-brainer helicopter parent supported socialization opportunity for the kids to the rest of the parents is a fraught emotional inflection point for me. Adding to the complication is that I have to drive them across town, not just let them scamper out the door to participate like they do back in the ex's neighbourhood. And all the while we deal emotionally with "Sunday Energy", there is also weekly chores to negotiate.

Meanwhile, I could just imagine one or all of the parents thinking "What's with Emo-Dad™ making such a big fuss over having his kid show up for a play date? Just say yes or no! We don't need to hear all about your feeewings, whiner."

However it was actually received by most of the parents, the ex did reach out very sympathetically. It did a lot of credit to how well we've managed to be kind and connected despite the divorce. Being mindful adults has its benefits.

2024.02.11 Qualitatively Hating Working In The Office

So, having spent a week (well, 4 days) working in the office again, I now have more direct data regarding what it's like. Which sounds silly after having spent a couple decades having worked in an office setting, but the recent handful of years of mostly working from home has massively transformed my perspective.

Firstly, credit where credit is due, when at the office it is much easier to keep the parade of attention mostly work-related.

But, and this is a critical "but", it feels like it leads to a considerably bigger problem. Because all my in-between filler moments are more filled with work minutae, that means that my brain gets much less capability to recharge in those pauses. It turns out that spending all those so-called "micro moments" bumping into colleagues, that burns neural resources for an introvert such as myself.

The two main results of this are that 1) I'm considerably more exhausted at the end of a work day - not even counting commuting, and 2) I have fewer good/big ideas.

The exhaustion part is probably easy to understand. After an intense meeting, or tough bit of design, at home I can quietly do some dishes or some such, letting my subconscious work on stuff. At work, I have to either bumble through the campus making up social niceties or fend off trawling coworkers looking for verbal answers.

The good/big idea part is actually a discovery that I had during the past week. See, I would find myself waking up in the middle of the night most nights last week, with an idea about how to solve a problem or something to try at work. And the previous couple decades came back to me in a flash: that's how work used to haunt me. But that stopped when I was working from home. But instead of being haunted by work such that it wakes me up, I'd have a couple big "aha!" moments during the day, most days.

Basically, for me, work from home allows me to generate twice as many good/big ideas as being in the office, and in ways that don't fuck with my sleep and stress.

Which is an excellent segue into the motivation I have right this moment: I'm absolutely dreading going back in for another week of this shit. It's hilarious to say, because my job is super fun, my workplace is extremely nice and accommodating full of cool people, and even my commute is a laugh of a bike ride. Yet here I am, very much dreading it.

I assume that I'll re-acclimate, and the stress will ease back down as I get re-numbed to the overt dominion of the extroverted and the soul-draining non-stop effort of having to pretend to be social. I'll do cool work that will make it all worthwhile, and loosen up my clenched soul on the privileged experience I had.

If this were a reddit post, I'm sure there would be swarms of commenters urging me to take this newfound knowledge and find the bravery to seek another position that would allow the exact thing I like about the pandemic era WFH. Which is when I gesture vaguely to my giant golden handcuffs, the kids about to need cars and then university, and the lovely house I couldn't afford to buy again in this market even if I kept this well-paying job. And I'm chicken.

2024.01.15 Snow Driving Observations - part something

Portland is funky, snow-driving wise.

Generally speaking, PDX is mild as hell, rarely getting more than a dusting of snow at most and not enough to worry about. And the occasional punctuation of stay-around snow isn't in any way particularly much accumulation. But despite being infrequent and short-lived, it is almost always expert-level snow situations.

Taking a step back, my northern peoples have a great deal of opportunity to hone our slidetastic situational control. Even those Canuckistanni who do not overtly enjoy a good bit of the slidey-slidey get sufficient exposure to know where their limits are and to be sensible. More than that, there is a good long ramp up and ramp down of the snow-ness, much of it during climate that is cold enough to have the ice and snow be pleasantly predictable. So when there is a surplus of the slippery substances, or, more poignantly, when it's sometimes in that dangerous extra-slippery state of melty snow on ice, there is a deep well of useful reflexes to draw from.

Meanwhile, here in PDX, the locals almost never have to face snow. And when they do, they are woefully incapable of doing so. Augmenting this low-skill demographic is the relatively large influx of Californians, all of whom seem to want to pull over and have a good cry when it so much as rains. Which it does. Often. Maybe more on that some other time. This leads to a relatively high number of vehicles out and about completely without any winter tires.

The hilarious twist that PDX plays on the unsuspecting snow-n00bs is that, since it is rarely very far below freezing here, it is very close to the melting point - the slipperiest sort of snow. Which, more often than not, gets augmented with PDX's special sauce: freezing rain. So not only is there very little opportunity to practice driving in snow here, the snow goes from nothing straight to expert snow.

Resultingly, there is much chaos to be had here. And regardless of how capable one and their vehicle might be, it is exceedingly perilous to join in the maelstrom when it starts. But shortly after everyone freaks out and stays the hell away from the snow covered roads, it's basically glorious emptiness and freedom for snow-loving freaks such as myself to get out and have some joy.

Plus, in a more mature vein, it is an opportunity to provide transport to those that need help and reap a healthy crop of brownie points.

2024.01.13 Farewell to the Mayor of Kenton


It is with deep sorrow that we learned that my favourite cat of all time - Charlie¹ - passed away this week.

From the moment he ran up to greet us when we first came to look at this house, we knew he was special. His legend among the neighbourhood was known by everyone we met; "Oh, yeah - I know Charlie. I make sure to stop and pet him whenever I come this way." Our block Whatsapp thread is still pinging with people sharing pictures and stories of him over the years.

The peak of his legend might have been his fighting off a coyote, and living with some epic scars. And his giant murder mittens certainly lent credibility to his prowess. But it was his calm fearless demeanour that won my heart the most, coupled with his refusal to put up with any shit, desire to lure people into being playfully mauled, and the itty bitty tiny meow that he made out of his lion-sized throat.

May your legend in the next world be as epic as in this one.

¹ He also had many nicknames, including:

  • Chonkmeister
  • Chuckie
  • Chuckles
  • Kaiju Kitty
  • Chuck Wagon
  • Chonk Chonkerson (Man On The Street)
  • Chuckzilla
  • Chuck Roast

2023.12.28 Reflection 1: Marthaller's Move To Germany

Now that Colin and Colette have been gone for a couple weeks, it has finally sunk in that they're not just a few blocks away any more. Partly because life got weirdly busy such that we didn't hang out constantly any more (and, regrettably, entirely too few bike rides this past year). But also because Colin reached out on WhatsApp to apologize for their SMS/texting not yet working on their new German phones, and it reached the threshold of being really real.

In honour of the fun bikeness of our shared affinity for the Church of Dirt™, I intend to pivot to dragging the kids out regularly to Sandy Ridge and Rocky Point for regular application os gnar. We'll see how well I do at that.

Meanwhile, we have yet to see what for Fifth Position Racing will take, as Colin and I (and whomever else we can lure into participating) set up an online racing league to play with.

Luckily, I have some successful history of being able to keep in touch internationally...

2023.12.28 Reflection 2: Swift & Union Closing

When Amy and I moved to Kenton, we were delighted by the many options for places to eat within walking distance, and we looked forward to sampling them all. Except we never did, because one of the first places we went to was Swift & Union.

The ambiance, upon walking in, was exactly the vibe that we both enjoy. Open enough to feel like we engaged with the room, but with lovely booths that let us sit side-by-each the way we like (plus room for kids, when they join). The music playing was pleasantly aimed at Gen-X nostalgia, which works great for us.

Even better than the ambiance was the staff. All of them excellent and friendly, and a couple that we quickly became friends with - such that they would wander over to our table to catch up and chat when we weren't in their section. They consistently made the experience personal, welcoming, and enjoyable.

Plus it should be stated that the food and drink was all fabulous. Not fleece-your-pockets extravagant gustatory adventures, but extremely yummy and satisfying fare that we often found ourselves craving. That includes the kids, who can sometimes be difficult to feed.

Anecdotally, the owner - Zig - wanted to simplify down to just one restaurant - Tabor Tavern. We hope that our favourite servers and the awesome cook(s) found great places to jump to instead. S&U was open for a final week before xmas, which we indulged in twice, but they were unable to complete the week as the staff understandable fled.

I guess we'll resume sampling the local alternatives. Life goes on.

2023.12.28 Reflection 3: FPS w/ Amy

I was there, in the beginning, playing Wolfenstein 3D on my lowly x386 rocking a vibrant 256-colour 640x480 RGB display. But that's about all I can claim, because in those early days I definitely set video games aside to focus on engineering classes instead. Though many of my peers rocked cooperative/competitive battle like X-tank on UNIX servers, and quickly followed up with the evolving DOOM and Quake games.

By the time modern FPS games evolved, I was well outside of the participation sphere - no console games at all. Though I did play - and get good at - simulators like X-Wing and Mech Warrior, it was never quite the same. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time playing combat-oriented imagination-intensive games, thinking about fighting. This made me feel like I might be good at FPS, and might be missing out.

Skip ahead the rest of the 30-ish years, and I find myself with MMORPG-goddess Amy as a partner.

I dipped my toes in some games, but have quickly discovered that I abhor grinding. More than that, I have very little positive feedback playing by myself. But I have found something that very much is fun - parallel play.

We got Amy an X-Box for her birthday this year, and it's been a hoot (cough Forza /cough). Mostly it's been cooperative puzzle games like Humans Fall Flat, but we just started Tiny Tina's Wonderland. Holy fun FPS intensity. It's odd to essentially be Amy's sidekick, since she's decidedly more skilled than I am. But I clearly have some tactical talent that shines through, and makes it fun.

2023.12.03 Mustache Day Ish


It was about the right day, and I had just gotten my dream Ferrari in Forza. This was the result.

2023.11.26 PPS Teacher Strike

Three weeks of shenanigans later, and I have two things I take away from it.

1. The teacher's should have had a strike sooner. Even aside from wages that have not kept up with inflation, it appears that teachers have not been heard or appropriately supported for quite a while. Before the strike it was a general truism that America doesn't value teachers enough, but learning about the specifics of teacher grievances in what should be a city focussed on education to support our various high-tech industries was surprising.

2. PPS is kind of shit. Not that I ever expect a public bureaucracy to be amazeballs, but the disingenuous communications and essentially propoganda-class releases were disappointing. It takes a certain ilk of horrible to rely on people to be unable to do math in order to lie to everyone about how they're treating the people who teach math. And to have every single letter to parents repeat "we're so worried about the children", as if the teachers do not, was an insult to anyone capable of spotting empty rhetoric.

2023.11.20 Welcome Gefferts

S recently married the truly lovely John Geffert, making him Simon and Violet's new step-dad. Plus, his son's William and Miles are now step-siblings to our kids, vastly increasing the potential chaos in all our lives. Plus, you know, even more kids to take mountain biking.

Welcome to the family Gefferts!

2023.11.04 Back To Office

So my office recently announced that we'll be returning to the office. A fig leaf of "hybrid" is still offered - we can work from home 1 day per week. Any day we want!

The nominal reason is to foster improved collaboration by strengthening our interpersonal culture. And there is no denying that onboarding new people is very much harder when most of the 60+% of the workforce is remote on any random day.

Instead of a point-by-point comparison of methodologies and circumstances that used to work in-person versus those that work remotely, let me just point out the simple fact that nobody has been prevented from coming in to the office. Some do, but most do not. We're all very smart adults, and have clear ideas for what works best for us, and have obviously made our choices. We are not being consulted.

So, the question becomes - why do our corporate leaders think they know better than us?

Hypothesis 1: Occam's Razon

Our executives think they are in their positions because they are smarter and more capable than most others, and therefore their theories about productivity and work/life balance have implicit clout outweighing everyone else.

Maybe they're right. Perhaps we'll find out.

Hypothesis 2: Dinosaurs

It's how they did it when they were the doers, and they don't like things being different. It's scary. Plus all the people who are actively climbing the corporate ladder directly beneath them all agree!

Worth noting is that mammals have only been nominally dominant for a few tens of millions of years (ignoring the superior total mass and probable durability of insects), while dinosaurs lumbered along for well over a hundred million years. Inertia is a motherfucker.

Hypothesis 3: Insecurity

How can managers manage if they're denied most of the tools they've gotten accustomed to using? Leadership and inspiration can only work on people they intrinsically understand, and all the slackers will find ways to shirk doing their fair share.

Except, of course, as the brilliant Mark Moyes once said, "I'm perfectly capable of getting nothing done at my desk." Babysitting is a less effective tool than some might hope.

Hypothesis 4: Piles Of Beans

There sure is a lot of theoretical value in the fixed assets of these large office buildings. If they become overtly and obviously a waste of resources, it sure would be a huge loss - on paper. Watching the city repossess large buildings and turning them into affordable housing and civic spaces must be horrifying to the company accountants.

If it costs the thousands of employees an average of 5 hours per week of unpaid commuting time (plus gas and vehicular wear), that's better than the company risking losing the value of its real estate. Right?

2023.10.07 Printer Time


While I haven't had a regular printer for a while, as actual need to have paper copies of things has gotten very infrequent, in a reciprocal way I've been far too slow to get a 3D printer. This has now been rectified.

Let there be random plastic thingies!



2023.09.04 Latest Bike Daydreams


2023.08.22 ID.4 Impressions So Far


The things we like about the car (we're calling CUV's just "cars" now, right?) vastly outnumber the quibbles. It drives well, carries everyone and the dog as necessary, and has all the options we need.

-deep breath-
And I need to accept that there are many things about the Tesla that have me both a) acclimated to a certain way of doing things, and b) spoiled.

In no particular order, here are The Quibbles:

No Battery Pre-Conditioning

This is an idiotic oversight. The ability for a lithium-ion battery pack to accept charge is directly related to the temperature of the pack. The VW ID-platform has active battery temperature management, so this is obviously possible. This makes the difference between <50kW charging and >150kW charging, which is kind of the point of having access to DC fast charging in the first place.

The APP Sucks

I mean, at least there's an app to verify simple shit like whether the car is locked or what the state of charge is. But after getting accustomed to the deep and intuitive integration of the Tesla app, this feels cheap and lazy. Ideally I'd like it to act as the key for the vehicle - in fact that might almost qualify this as a double-quibble. I don't like having to carry another chonky key fob. Especially one with a "set off the alarm now" button placed such that I can accidentally activate it by sitting down.

Everyone On The UX Team Should Be Sat Down And Told To Think About What They Did

The main inputs to driving the car - steering, braking, accelerator - are generally pretty good (exceptions listed separately). That probably has more to do with the chassis design team though. Because everything else is weak-sauce output from a series of committees that clearly hated each other and were playing stupid internal-political games.

  • Why the fuck don't the motorized mirrors coordinate with the seat/user memory settings?
  • Who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to interrupt the already-slow boot sequence of the infotainment to make the driver press "OK" every fucking time?
  • Any control that you have to take your eyes off the road to use is totally wasted as a separate button/control. Sure capacitive touch buttons are neat - on kitchen appliances. But when I'm fumbling around for a control while I'm driving, I don't want the "looking for the control" to directly translate into "activating every fucking thing I touch".
  • Having only two window switches to control both front and rear windows is the result of a deeply stupid person having too much input. Yeah - cute idea, but just no. I fucking hate accidentally bumping the invisible capacitive touch button that changes to controlling the rear. But even more, I philosophically loath that they took a simple 4-switch control with 100% intuitive interface and made it need a logic board to hilariously discover new ways to go wrong.
  • The media buttons on the steering wheel are regular controls turned 90° for no good reason. Normal controller: UP = increase volume, DOWN = decrease volume, RIGHT = next track, LEFT = go back a track. But for some fucked up reason, I now get to press UP to go back, DOWN to skip forward, RIGHT to increase volume, and LEFT to decrease volume. Fuck you, VW UX team.

Creep Mode: Make. It. Go. Away.

Or at least optional, yeah? I get that it makes the operation familiar to low-skill people transitioning from shitty automatic transmissions. Cool. But for those of us who preferred manuals, and now delight in the directness and finesse of electric drivetrains, you're just making shit bad with no benefit.

Brake Hold Won't Let Go

Yes, I like it when pressing the brake a bit extra when stopped that the vehicle will continue to hold the brake for me. But in the VW, it won't let go unless I press the accelerator. This is fine at a stop light or some such. But when I'm carefully navigating down a slope this is lurch-o-matic. This is extra exacerbated by the no-option creep mode. At least the brake hold CAN be turned off by a crude intervention in the infotainment system, but really it should be able to be dismissed with a repeated brake pedal press.

Secret Charger Unlock Method

It makes sense not to trust the unknown charger connector, and totally avoid any chance of an arc flash by locking the connector in place - even if it indicates that it means to disconnect. But having the method for releasing the suspicious charger connector be a secret staccato code on the key fob is infuriating when the standard glitch reset sequence for the vast majority of charging networks is "unplug and replug in vehicle".

2023.08.01 Kids At Sandy Ridge

Despite all the drama with fumbling the ability to put the epic bike rack on any functional bike-hauling vehicle, we gave up and just Tetrised the bikes into the back of the Flex to make it happen.

A warm but-not-too-warm morning with gorgeous dappled light, Simon and Violet immediately exceeded my expectations by gamely trying to pedal up the climb hill. We kept exclusively to Laura's Line and the section of Lower Hide&Seek from the power lines down to the road.

It was amazeballs. Sharing the Church of Dirt with them unlocked a spiritual sense of harmony and joy.

Violet had two crashes. The first right off the bat, and it was hard enough to knock the wind out of her and scrape her up. But a bandaid later and she was gamely riding through the rollers and berms. The second was at the very end - at the very same berm. Except that time she rolled with the wipeout, left a Violet-shaped crater, and laughed like the unstoppable monster she is.

The tradition of DQ after riding with Simon has now been extended to Violet as well, and it was good.

My only regret is not taking any pictures. I try to forgive myself by acknowledging that I was very much living in the moment the whole time.

2023.07.30 It's FORZA's Fault, Really


Amy's main gift for her birthday this year was an XBOX, and she didn't want to wait for her actual birthday to start playing with it. So last week we broke it out after we dropped off the kids with their mom, and proceeded to play a whole bunch of video games. I've never had any kind of console game system myself, so it has been hilariously intoxicating to play with Amy on a bunch of games in our living room. A couple are throwbacks to my PC simulation games of yore, a hilariously frustrating puzzle game, and a couple driving games. The stand-out driving game we got was Forza 5.

We started calling playing Forza "drunk driving" both because of how bad at it we are with the basic game controllers, but also because it was funny to take turns playing while also sipping alcoholic beverages. The game is simply beautiful, with a rather good physics engine, so it's enjoyable to feel immersed in the wildly bad driving experience. Perhaps exactly because of how bad we were at controlling the vehicles meant that we often found ourselves off-road, which in turn lent itself to having better experiences with the off-road-capable vehicles. The early champion of this realm is the Ford Bronco that you start the game in.

So much fun was had tromping around in this virtual Bronco that we asked ourselves, "what would driving a real Bronco be like?" So, for shits and giggles, we set out last Friday to the local Ford dealer to take a Bronco out for a turn behind the real wheel. It did not disappoint - we both liked it a lot.

Except for, you know, reality - the price, the fuel efficiency, and the overall poor ability to meet our second vehicle needs. But while there on the Ford lot, we found ourselves facing the truth that we were sick of dealing with shitty old cars. We have most of what we wanted to have saved up for the ID.Buzz already, so starting to have a payment now could be handled without difficulty. Plus, we could trade in the hard-to-sell T4 van for sufficient downpayment on whatever we decided made sense.

After staring into the abyss of Ford offerings, we toddled over to the nearby VW dealer to see about their inventory of ID.4's. Because they share the basic architecture with the ID.BUZZ that we intend to have, so it could be an opportunity to get familiarized with that. And it just so happened that they had a lease deal that would carry us nicely until we get project:LEELOO¹.

And here we are, with yet another vehicle.

Now all we have to do is:

  • Sell the stupid Flex.
  • Install a 2" hitch to attach the bike rack.
  • Get a home charging solution that doesn't suck.²

¹ "project:LEELOO" is the provisional ID.BUZZ name - so far
² The car comes with 3 years free charging at Electrify America, so this is actually a somewhat lower-priority need.

2023.07.15 3-Week Break

Today kicks off the first day of my 3-week summer break, in which I plan to...

Hm. You know, I'm not totally sure what.

Nominally, I'll figure out a way to strap the monster bike rack to the Rusty Pig and take the kids out for some adventures discovering biking. And I mean to do a bit of writing. And we plan to do a tonne of D&D. Maybe a trip up the mountain with Zora. Plus wrapping up with Amy's and Violet's birthdays.

But, really, those are possible waypoints instead of a packed itinerary.

I spent entirely too much time this past week being crushed under work stress, and I definitely don't feel free of its grip yet. That's probably the main thing I need to figure out - by means of engaging with mindfully existing in a bunch of non-work moments.

It's worth noting that on the very first weekend of said vacation, I was called by my manager asking me to consult on a testing issue. Having consulted, I'm now struggling with worry about the all-new problem encountered by the project. Goddamn work stress is persistent.

2023.06.27 School's Out For Summer



2023.06.18 Anti-Antifa Conundrum

During the legitimately delightful Death Cab For Cutie concert this past week, front man Ben Gibbard mentioned that the place they just came from was Vancouver BC. While they were leaving the hotel, they mentioned that they going to Portland Oregon. To which the random person warned, "Be careful, they have Antifa there."

Ben rolled that into a hilarious battle cry, engaging the zeitgeist of the progressive front of the culture war perpetuated by the über-rich and their frightened conservative hordes. And I'm sufficiently skeptical that I found myself wondering if this was a real encounter or merely a means to an audience-connecting trope.

But there's no denying that exactly that sentiment exists. "Antifa" has become a sort of "they started it" boogeyman to counterpoint the awful shit skinheads and police do.

Yet the first thing I found myself asking this supposed Vancouverite is, "As opposed to what, exactly?" Nazis? Or Nazi sympathizers? Because if you're not a Nazi, or a Nazi sympathizer, then you're technically anti-Nazi. Which is anti-fascist. Which is Antifa.

I'm curious to hear how these people conceptualize our various anti-fascist cultural heroes, like Captain America, Indiana Jones, and most of John Wayne's characters. Are they booing and hissing when they watch Indy punching every Nazi he sees? Or are they, as I suspect, grimly clinging to their own personal John Wayne-ness and dream of a glorious previous American Ideal that they do not interrogate in context of a modern reality.

2023.06.17 Where Does The Time Go?

Holy tapdancing fuck. I'm continually left amazed at how the ebb and flow of time management triage tends to weed out things I keep assuming I'll find time for eventually - like running, bike rides, writing, and drawing.


I know intellectually that it's a matter of making time for these things. I also know that in order to make it consistent it needs to become habitual. Now, if only knowing a thing made enough of a difference to make it so.

2023.05.30 Culture War: Part What?

The continual grind of the fear machine, lubricated with falsehoods and fueled by blame, usually has a steady sickening thrum to it. A cloying call for a country that only ever existed in rosy nostalgia and westerns, and vitriolic over-reaction to anything different or complicated.

I recently heard Jon Stewart say that Republicans focus on stoking culture wars because they're out of ideas. They have no solutions, only complaints and attempted blame. Which perhaps only rings true because of the total lack of resonance with me their histrionic message generally is.

Still, the recent utterances have me chuckling darkly.

The common refrain is, "People Are Fleeing Democratic Cities".

The stories tend to immediately go on to assert that people are leaving Democrat-run, high-tax, liberal-agenda hubs in big cities in favour of pro-business, conservative regions. And I'm sure we could find some individuals with exactly that motivation, but somehow I doubt it is the majority.

No, I'd be willing to wager that the vast majority of such moves are a combination of housing cost and the new-found ability to do many jobs remotely.

Ignoring for a moment the amusing aspect of the majority of the housing shitfuckery being due to "pro-business" interests, one has to wonder how much "liberal agenda" these fleeing individuals will actually leave behind. Because the long-held majority of people's votes has been held in check by conservatives by gerrymandering. But once the liberal agenda is free to exist across the spread of less-urban space, will scare tactics that work on the already-fearful willing-morons of the Repugnican party still hold as much sway.

As I said: chuckling darkly.

2023.05.20 Vanbortion



So... AKNOT is whole once again, and runs great.

There is, however, one niggling problem. The excellent mechanics stressed to us once again that it is extremely difficult to get parts for this vehicle. And with that in consideration, it is both hard to need to rely on AKNOT the way that we need to until we can get the ID.Buzz (whenever Volkswagen actually delivers those here) AND a sickening possible cratering of investment. As it is, we are already well past the point where we will be able to recoup all of our resources sunk into AKNOT - however awesome it is at this moment.

This lead to a brief and intensive review of our needs. Plus an uncomfortable reckoning of how much we really want a van - but that all the vans in our price range are either craptacular or not fit for purpose (moving kids and dog). After discovering that some weakly-van-like options are simply too small [AHEM - Honda Element], we stumbled on the hideous functionality that is the Ford Flex.

It's sort of a mega-wagon. Not really a van, because it's not tall enough or utility enough, but also not an SUV, because it has zero swagger and also way to low-slung. The particular incarnation that we snapped up from what appeared to be a chop shop operation has too many blemishes to mention. But should work for us for the duration.

2023.05.06 "It was a funny moment."

"It was a funny moment."

I know that the nanoscopic robots will eventually clean all my fangs completely, but it's easy to get impatient. be composed on a separate page...

2023.04.16 Why WaitButWhy Guy?

Just to be clear, and as apology for my mouthful of alliteration of a title that made me laugh for no reason¹, the "guy" I'm talking about is Tim Urban - he's the fellow who writes the Wait But Why blog. I love that blog, because Tim has a modality where he gets interested in some random thing and then furiously burrows down to the bottom of that rabbit hole and tells you all about his adventure with bad stick drawings. It appeals to several facets of my overly-nerdy trivia-addicted likes-to-know-stuff personality.

So when he resurfaced recently, saying most of what he had been doing during his reclusion was writing a book, I absolutely knew that I had to read that book. 1) Sounds like an epic rabbit hole. 2) Direct support of a person whose work I appreciate.

It's "What's Our Problem?" - with the tag line "the self-help book for societies". Like, the mother of all rabbit holes. I girded myself, and dove in.

Both aspects of the title are... kinda wrong.

I actually finished reading it a while ago, because I downloaded it the instant it became available. But I've had to spend a little time working through my disappointment and sadness about the book, and its cascade of introspection about my own assumptions.

Much of the content includes things that I already saw in nascent form on WaitButWhy, and remain brilliant bits of thought experiment. And I particularly appreciate the way Tim's way of thinking challenged some of the ways in which I have let myself become lazy with respect to being numb to much of the Republican actions in the culture war / cold civil war.

BUT (and I actually backed up to capitalize that for effect) it falls down pretty fast and hard in the book about half-way though. Full respect for Tim, as he even flags this transition point saying that many people will be unhappy (and awkwardly alludes to there being torches and pitchforks about it). For all his forest of references and assurances about open-mindedness, Tim starts oversimplifying, cherry-picking, and false-equivalancizes (new word trademarked by me) his way to suggesting that the problem is wokeness (whatever that is this week) and a powerful cabal he refers to as Social Justice Fundamentalists.

Which is short-hand for "privileged person wants things to go back to how they were".

I simply don't have the energy to take the time to challenge all the ways I think he's wrong. Aside from proposing that instead of SJF having any significant power that instead some ideas of addressing institutional inequity have become actually fundamentally persuasive because rigorous insight suggest they're uncomfortably true. And I'm a little pissed at Tim for giving me hope that he would have some good suggestions about it. But no. Just fucking painting some whiney shit that agrees with his feelings and no useful ways to address anything.

Then I remembered his posts about Elon Musk. Oh, man, the embarrassing agony of how much I was sucked into that nepo-1-percenter's atrocious bullshit. And Tim helped cement that for me by writing an entire fucking serious of fluff pieces about him. How in the everloving fuck did his utter tool-ness and actual technical cluelessness get conveniently missed? Is it because, oh-I-don't-know, maybe Tim likes to wax extensively about things he wishes were so.

TL;DR - person I identified with, liked², and respected spent a sabbatical to discover that they're actually many of the things I'm frightened about myself being blind about. Boo.

¹ Other things that make me laugh much more than they should for no reason include "Joan of Bark" as a name option for our puppy. Just to put things in perspective for how utterly about my own amusement everything here is.

² That bit being past tense is perhaps a bit silly. I suspect that Tim Urban is still a pretty cool person that I like; I'm just being angsty.

2023.04.02 Van Update


If you can see the image above: Glorious, isn't it?

Well, no, but it certainly seems that way in regards to its core mission: adventure give-few-fucks van. The manual transmission driving experience and nicely german steering feel blow every other cheap van we tested completely out of the water. The chonky tires look badass, even as they give it a bouncier but better-isolated ride. The epic bike rack speaks directly to the core bike-shuttle function of the machine. Getting the passenger side mirror replaced also makes piloting it less difficult while looking less sketchy than the glued-together mostly non-functional previous mirror.

Zora dog in particular has taken to loving riding in the van, as it generally means some adventure where she gets to be with the kids. And the kids, who have distinctly giraffe-like aspects, relish the vast passenger volume they get to ride in.

Plus, it has to be said: the 5-cylinder motor makes delightful sounds that tickle my nostalgia of my 80's Audi coupé and it's inline-5.

BUT - and this is a big but - there are some serious concerns remaining and emerging. There has long been a metallic jingling sound coming from the RHF quadrant during engine load - first guess is a loose heat shield. Now, however, there is a distinct reduction in power available. First guess is fouled fuel filter, questionable air filter, and unknown spark plug condition. And a distinct smell - sometime clutch-like, other times burn oil seeming.

Fortunately, we have an appointment at a mechanic for a comprehensive inspection and to perform any work necessary to make it reliable. And, if they don't blow my van budget, maybe they can help us with nuisance elements, like the unreliable power windows, lame headlights, and the stubborn rearview mirror mount.

Now with a(multiple) Van Update Update(s)

2023.03.19 Winter Test in Alaska


What happens in Fairbanks, in March, is generally pretty cold.

2023.03.09 Zora Dog




She's a Bernedoodle (half Bernese Mountain Dog and half standard Poodle), known for being calm, smart, and mostly hypo-allergenic. Amy loves dogs, and both kids have been wishing for a puppy for quite a long time. And Zora is a font of adoration and emotional support, for the whole family.

I've long asserted that I prefer most dogs to most humans, but have generally been too selfish with my time to become obligated to take care of a dog. But after a decade of being a dad, it feels like it might be a moot point. And holy fucking shit she's adorable.

2023.02.27 Tax Return Reflections

Doing taxes is weird.

Starting from the premise that it's up to individuals to process their own tax calculations and propose how much they think they should have paid in comparison to how much they may have already paid - when then governing bodies generally already know what this should be automatically. It seems... wasteful. Why not just have the government do the standard re-alignment they do anyways, and give taxpayers an opportunity to argue with it only if they feel there is a worthwhile discrepancy?

Then there's the whole parasitic tax-preparation industry that preys upon the vast majority (including me). The fact that it has successfully lobbied the government to both increase the inscrutability of the tax system and repress the IRS from providing a standardized and free tax entering mechanism is a typically capitalistic kind of awful.

After completing the wasteful/parasitic/labyrinthine preparation process, then comes the amazingly awkward navigation of how to actually get a refund. I just want it in my bank account. Why isn't that the first option? Why isn't that an option on the very first page? Why does it have to be an exercise in futility looking for it, only to realize that the first pages are traps to lure users into another parasitic subscription or fee service.

The simple fact that we can't even avoid making the necessary alignment of taxation with the state non-horrible for most people doesn't build much confidence that we'll be able to accomplish the much harder task to improve the tax code so that the super-rich pay their fair share (again).

2023.02.17 Van Plans

Update on our crappy old 1993 VW T4 EuroVan with an I5 and a manual transmission...

Things accomplished on it so far:

  • managed to actually pass DEQ, get registered and plated (kind of a long story by itself)
  • repaired the rear seat belts to functionality to actually have more than just one passenger
  • re-connected the transmission shifter linkage that fell apart/off
  • obtained updated wheels + tires

Things needing to get accomplished:

  • re-re-connect the transmission shifter linkage, because the previous fix also broke - temporarily re-attached but need to put a new-new bushing in (correctly), investigate getting a new heat shield so the exhaust doesn't melt the bushing and/or a supplementary restrain feature
  • get previously mentioned wheels + tires actually mounted, balanced, and installed
  • remove the incorrectly installed review mirror stalk - to install the cool new rearview mirror + camera system
  • replace the broken passenger side door mirror (part obtained)
  • find out why the power door windows aren't working any more
  • find out why water is pooling in the passenger door (possibly connected to the broken door mirror)
  • replace the stereo head unit so that we can listen to music without the faceplate randomly falling out
  • remove the outboard rear-face seat to facilitate loading large loads / bike / dog
  • replace seatbelt for inboard rear-facing seat for bonus seating needs
  • get a bike rack - because multiple bikes don't actually fit inside
  • replace the "cool" aftermarket LED headlights with ones that actually work in the dark

The awkward thing, strategically speaking, is that Amy's lease Jetta is being given back in a couple months. So, in order to avoid having to shell out for another vehicle, it would be nice if the crappy old van (CODENAME: AKNOT) was reliable enough for our occasional parallel-commuting needs. Mostly kid-school deliveries when Amy has to work. The path towards reliability is not meeting our required timeline.

Either I need to stop being driven to becoming a quivering wreck by work stress so I can make shit happen, or we need to find a mechanic to deal with some of our list.

2023.01.30 Victoria Trip





Amazing adventure with Amy, staying at the Empress Hotel, and spending most of a week with Dave and Bonnie. Complete with a hike up Mount Doug and visits to my nominal favourite restaurant in the universe - Pagliacci's.

2023.01.18 Married




Team ClaAmy™ is now a legally recognized partnership. ❤️🫀

2023.01.08 Heart Attack Scare

Last Wednesday (2023.01.04) I was standing at my desk at work when I noticed an un-ignorable ache in the upper-left quadrant of my chest. I rolled my shoulders and arms, to see if I could stretch out whatever kind of muscular knot it was, to no effect. Instead, I started feeling dizzy.

Now, I'm a 50-year-old man who takes medication to avoid having my blood pressure cause heart/brain to explode, so this is a constellation of symptoms I'm pre-disposed to be wary of. So I did what any neurotic out-of-shape health-conscious person would do while in their employer's high-density working lot: I Googled that shit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Sentient beings of all sorts: the online search results were not reassuring. Quelle surprise.

So I lowered my powered standing desk, plopped myself down on my chair, and started to feel really dizzy - complete with tingling in my hands and fountains of cold sweat. I turned to my trusty design partner - Meredith - and told her vaguely that I didn't feel well and might need some help.

I put my head down in my hands on my desk and proceeded to feel very poorly indeed. Meanwhile, Meredith went full rockstar and called 911 to talk with the operator while also coordinating folks in the vicinity to check for possible supplies and facilitate the EMT's showing up. I feebly sent a barely-coherent text to Amy, and managed to copy/paste her number to my boss to keep her informed.

At no point did I pass out, but I definitely was not highly responsive and quite frightened. The EMT's showed up, and the whirlwind got underway in earnest. It was weird to be rolling out of the office on a gurney, with people staring.

They determined that I was not actively having a heart attack, so there was not a mad rush to the hospital. An IV was inserted for ease of access to my circulatory system, and an ungainly array of patches had been shaved on my chest to facilitate sticky EKG leads, plus my old friend the pressure cuff. Once at the hospital, in additional to constant electro-potential monitoring, blood oxygen saturation, and regular blood pressure monitoring, I also got a several rounds of blood tests (one lost, just to keep it interesting) and some x-rays.

The sum of the efforts determined reasonably conclusively that I did not have any sort of heart attack. And, technically, I appear to be in relatively good cardiovascular health - even my pre-hypertension appeared to be under better control that I had thought.

So, what happened?

Well, first and foremost, I had symptoms that one does not fuck around and find out about.

But in a more direct manner, there are several related elements that might be sufficient to explain everything. The chest ache showed to be very proximal to some broken ribs I suffered just over a year ago, so they might have acting up for the first cold snap since they "healed". The dizziness is very similar to one of the side-effects of the hydrochlorothiazide that I take for high blood pressure - and the night before I had taken a double dose, because I had missed one. The bonus shaking sweats and apparently lack of circulation might have been a panic attack brought on by my fears, and my generally high baseline of work stress.

From here, I need to get on with finding a new Primary Care Physician - so I can do a follow-up. There's going to be some unpleasant amount of fuss going forward at the office. So it goes. It also seems like a timely prompt to keep my wellness as a priority.

2023.01.02 Hello 2023

Reflecting, 2022 was pretty good for me. And for most of the world, as long as you gloss over Russia's shit-fest invasion of Ukraine, and several awful climate disasters that are a taste of how things are likely to be from now on.

Looking ahead to 2023, there are a few things flagged already:

  • getting married to Amy
  • weakly honeymoon thing meeting up with Dave/Bonnie in Victoria
  • driving around in our old 1993 VW T4 van like a boss
  • Death Cab For Cutie concert at Edgefield
  • Whistler trip with the Bike Crew
  • Middle School for Violet
  • High School for Simon

2022.12.18 Fredmas Fusion

Today is the annual remembrance of my Dad's birthday: Fredmas.

It's also the negative 1-month mark for Amy and I getting married. I think he would have really liked her, and there is some complicated deconstruction to do in my head about what I think he might have thought about getting re-married. But maybe I'll save that difficult bit for some other Rant™ and just focus on the happy part about marrying Amy.

Except that today I finally found out the technical details of the Helion fusion reactor, and I'm very busy having my mind blown. I thought tokamak's were pretty cool, and stellarators were amusing, but this pulse fusion technique is genuinely thrilling.

The main elements that blow my mind (in order of mind-blowing-ness):

  1. direct output of electrical power - bypassing the need to crudely use heat to run something like a turbine
  2. simplified fuel - use of relatively-common deuterium and helium instead of ultra-rare tritium (or plutonium, ick)
  3. massively reduced radioactive byproduct - even compared to tokamaks, and removing the need for beryllium layer
  4. a demonstration reactor to supply output power in 2024

2022.12.12 Managment Theory Desiderata

A couple of half-ideas I scribbled down as notes meant for contemplation and possible inclusion in my as-yet unrealized management theory book.

profits : bonus

The tendency to make an association between a business's profits and employee bonuses is entirely understandable. Both in positive ways and negative ways. The positive association is the idea that when a business has good fortune, that is then trickled down to the employees. The negative association is that a business keeps all the profits, and the employees do not get to share in that extra success. Both viewpoints have their arguments, couched in terms of "fairness".

They're both wrong.

active neglect

Ever get the feeling that you've done nothing wrong, and more than a few things right, but that it makes no positive impact?

2022.11.09 Misunderstanding Millennials

Recently watched Simon Sinek talking about some generational shifts in the workplace. The whole reason I watched it is because I'm nominally a fan of his book "Start With Why", particularly with the concept of inspiration over manipulation. During the talk, he presented a hilariously rose-coloured remembrance of how things were. Where we got our "purpose" from going to church, our "community" from interacting with neighbours, and our "socialization" from [check notes] bowling clubs - and he goes on to lament that these have all faded away such that we're now expecting these things from work.

In the same talk, he also described a sense of loss of trust between employers and employees, bringing up the symbology of the "gold watch". He mentions it to lament how people could feel certain their loyalty would be rewarded, nominally by getting a valuable watch from their employer at an advanced stage of their career. Except that, from what I can tell, the gold watch was always a symbol of disappointment - that "I've given my whole career to this company, and all I get at the end is this watch" at retirement. But this may be tangential.

Clearly this is an emotional expression by Mr. Sinek, utterly unsupported by the long and complicated history of worker's rights. But even more interested to me is how it seems to fail to recognize the aspect in which companies actively try to insert themselves into employee's identity, and are perfectly happy (HR statements taken as "just words") to have other aspects of employee lives atrophy in favour of work focus.

From there, he seems to conclude (or deduce?) that "millennials" are less capable of handling stress (presumably than gen-X or boomers).

Maybe this is intentionally done to build sympathy with tropes that his management-fad target demographic tend to cling to. But it seems that an unwillingness to put up with bullshit is not the same as being less capable of handling stress. Indeed, the accurate recognition of the importance of dealing with stress and not treating having feelings as taboo seems like one of the triumphant elements of the progress of society as a whole.

But maybe Mr. Sinek is falling victim to the all-to-common tendency for seasoned adults to have increased rigidity in their thinking, and to start treating anything that is different as being less good than how they were before.

2022.10.22 the marginalian

Maria Popova has been collecting and curating all kinds of eclectic interests and wisdom she shares on her subscription:
The Marginalian

This latest edition particularly resonated with me.

2022.10.16 Hm.

I meant to write something - mostly some added work on a story, instead of making myself read too much more of the molar-gnashing (and award-winning) sci-fi I'm currently struggling through.

Fail. Just zombied instead.

2022.10.09 Triumphant Return To Game Nights

Dave and I have had a long-running Game Night, allowing us to keep playing AIF even though we lived in different cities - and then different countries. But last year, after [checks math...] 25-ish years, Dave asked for a break for a while.

Which made sense. It had been a long time being weird loner nerds playing our ultra-violent RPG, and a long list of various life stuff had accreted over the years for us. Taking a breath from long-term time commitments is a chance to re-assess what's healthy for ourselves.

Except for the obvious aspect that Dave is my best friend from the depths of deep time, and having the ability to semi-regularly hang out with him is kind of emotionally important to me. And outside of our "game night", there's just not much of that really going on. We did manage some occasional brief chats in the same time slot as the Game Night, when we were both online, so that's something. But not quite the same mojo as actually doing something creative together.

I managed to drag the kids and Amy up to see the family in Canuckistan this summer, and while there got to visit Dave (and Bonnie) in person. This gave more opportunity to see how Dave was doing, and to plumb the idea of re-starting Game Night. The hook on the lure was to suggest a couple things:

1: Try Dungeons & Dragons 5E, so that Dave could sample it firsthand.

2: Include more people in the game, to improve upon the endless cycles of 1-player games we had been grinding through for decades.

The 5E part wasn't too hard; I had a metric shitte-tonne of unused D&D game ideas too violent to include in the kid games I've been DM-ing. So I kitchen-sinked those all together to make a chimera horror adventure gestalt. [insert pantomime of job-done hand clap-wiping motion]

The "getting more people to play" aspect was the thing we had classically had stumbled on. We met, and agreed on a sort of shotgun approach - meaning just ask everyone who we could think of to play with us. Which, admittedly was a pretty short list.

Amy volunteered immediately, so that was a great relief. Both Dave and I talked about inviting Lou, but both of us independently contemplated it and chickened out, being reluctant to face the rejection directly. I still mean to ask him at some point, as a matter principle. Lou is super cool, and even though I know he's simply too busy to play with us (or do much of anything with us), I'd still like for him to know that he's still welcome join in.

The main win, though, was getting Ulrich to agree to play with us. Finally hearing his voice again, after years of purely text correspondence, was pretty great.

We had a session-0, where we finished off the character generation, and had an initial encounter. It was hilarious goodness. I'm genuinely delighted to have this personally-curated crew of alpha-nerds to play with.

2022.09.25 Triumphant Return To Whistler

Link might not work for people who are not awesome enough:
Whistler Photo Dump

A long pandemic later, finally managed to make it back to Whistler (and Squamish).

Impression #1:
Holy fucking fuck coastal BC is gorgeous.

Impression #2:
This kind of adventure is only possible by riding on the coat tails of more dedicated and more prepared friends. Shout out to @gnarthaller for setting everything up, including arrange for a sweet condo to stay, driving most of us up in his sweet adventure van, and being B-Squad leader.

Impression #3:
Getting old sucks. I mean, I know I could be in better shape in general, but the difficult realization is that staying in shape went from being effortless in my 20's (when I had time to do it, but didn't really) to being nigh impossible and scary (when I don't really have any spare time, but try hard to work it in systemically).

Impression #4:
Mountain biking is very much my adrenal pathway to zen. Even though, in comparison with everyone I ride with, I'm not very good. And even though it is a non-stop lesson in humility. The emotional space the riding creates helps me with pretty much every other facet of my life. It gives me resilience to face difficulties at work, and patience to enjoy time with my kids instead of murdering them, and insight about how savour my life while I'm in it.

Impression #5:
The 20-km black-diamond technical climb-ride up to and back from Comfortably Numb was so gorgeous that even though I couldn't appreciate it at the time because of how hard it kicked my ass, it squats in my memory like a nugget of masochistic joy.

2022.09.11 Project:DEATHBOX - Das Gehts


UPDATE: there are a few challenges with the yet-to-be-officially-named VW van.

  • It did not quiiiiite pass DEQ, so it has a date the The "Fix-Um Haus" to see if we can tweak the tune to reduce the CO2 by 2%. After which we can properly register, plate, and insure the damn thing.
  • Then there is the fact that I need to fix a bunch of seatbelts...
  • Also, I'd like to pull out the rear-facing jump seat next to the sliding door - to better facilitate the loading of my giant-ass bike into the insufficiently-folding rear bench seat area.
  • Then we get to do fun upgrades like wheel/tires and a bitchin' bike rack.

2022.09.06 Work Observation

My work To-Do list involves temporal paradoxes.


So, now that we've sold VANTACULUS (the Wee Van), we've been contemplating what we should be getting for Operation DEATH BOX.

Ford Econoline E350

The big chungus option, assuming one can find an acual passenger version. The work van version is much more plentiful option, but even though I could technically bolt in seats for the children, it would absolutely suck for them for road trips. While the full size van would rock the utility function in perpetuity, the thirsty V8 (and occasionally, V10) would mean some serious struggling for the short term need for commuting. They look like bricks, but not in a good way.

STATUS: Still technically in contention.

Honda Oddessey

In all honesty, this was my frontrunner when starting the search. Japanese reliability, plus Honda driving dynamics, and I think they look rather smart. Then we went to look at one, and things went wrong. It was discovered that the Oddessey has "touchy" power sliding side doors, which would definitely go wrong for my little idiots. Then we found that the second row seats can't really fold out of the way enough to fit the mountain bikes. In fact, there is some significant doubt about 3 mountain bikes fitting at all.

STATUS: Not currently being considered, and somewhat bitter about it.

Toyota Sienna

The more-reliable near-era Japanese option. I've superficially been not looking for these because A) I think they're ugly, and B) the ex-step-MIL drove one and it scarred me forever. Dimensionally, this van should be approximately the same interior space as the Oddessey, so there is doubt about its ability to accomplish the bike-hauling mission.

STATUS: Technically still being considered, but possibly as a last option.

Dodge/Chrysler Vanageddon

I know. I KNOW. Shitty Chrysler product is like deciding to buy some lucky mechanic a new boat, and to abstain from joy while doing it.

BUT, here me out. These horror-filled boxes of poorly-considered cheap plastic have considerably more room inside, thanks to the Stow-and-Go™ capabilities. Plus, because they are generally considered to be shittier, it is possible to get a much newer specimen, which would allow some increased modern amenities - like back up camera and bluetooth. And while I can't stop seeing the design-by-committee, Amy likes how they look.

STATUS: Probably, unfortunately, the frontrunner.

Toyota Previa

These are all older, and due to their charm, much more expensive for what they technically are. However, they are bubble-era Japanese builds, which is famously high quality. They would be fun(ner) to drive, thanks to the rear wheel drive. And the funky way the rear seats fold up and the second row swivel to face the rear might - just might - provide enough room to haul all the bikes and kids.

STATUS: Hopeful saviour from Chryslery Doom.

2022.08.27 Oh, Yeah - Biking Is Awesome

Haven't been biking enough this year because of stupid reasons - mostly just insufficient free time and too many obligations. But managed to go up to Sandy Ridge today with the Friar and the Send Bro. It was so fucking good. I'm slow, and I'm weak, but thanks to the magic of the e-bike was able to not kill myself on the climbs and volunteer us for a second excellent lap.

Which reminds me - I still need to reserve a DH bike for Whistler in a couple weeks. Yikes - I'm so not ready for that.

2022.08.08 Wee Vanless

Sold the kei-class Mitsubishi Minicab Bravo today.

It's possible that it is actually a victim of its own success. The nominal purpose of the wee van was to haul mountain bikes, and if getting to ride in the wee van meant riding mountain bikes, both of my kids wanted in on the action. Unfortunately, the wee van only has room for 2 people + 2 bikes. So the wee van just isn't big enough to carry us all.

Plus there is the small difficulty with travelling at freeway speeds. And a total lack of safety equipment. And an inability to start in cold weather. And a lack of basic creature comforts.

Anyway, there needs to be a replacement crappy van to suit the increased crew + cargo requirements. The hunt begins now for Project: DEATH BOX.

2022.07.30 München VS Portland

I really like Portland. Lots of fun people, great food, and ready access to outdoor fun. But there are definitely two things that Munich Germany does so well that it makes me wish there was some way to import to where I live.

First: the subway system. It's goddamn magical, how well-integrated it is and magnificently run. Unfortunately, to have such a thing in Portland would involve an order of magnitude more investment than what we already struggle with to make our half-assed MAX system run. But I really do think that if we had something as fundamentally wonderful as das Münchner U-Bahn-System, we Portlanders would find the value in it.

Second: German drivers in general. Aggressive but capable. More than a few assholes, to be sure, but at least they're gone fast. My very first driving experience back in Portland was an enraging reminder of how fucking unskilled and oblivious Portland drivers are. Not really anything to be done easily about that either.

2022.07.17 Joys Of Home Ownership

Amy and I love our house, because of how perfectly it fits us and the kids, with a great walkable neighborhood, and a huge list of facets that make it lovely. Except, as every homeowner knows, houses are not static entities - they're a constant grind of repairs and improvements fighting against the endless tide of entropy. And when we bought The Battery (nickname brought to you by a dubious concatenation of initials) there was one big upgrade we intended to do: solar panels.

It took a little while to arrange, but we settled on the Tesla solar system with a powerwall battery backup for the house (and a grateful nod to the federal 10k$ tax rebate to make it happen). Significant delays were incurred as we waited for planning and approvals, but finally we had the system installed! Except, not yet commissioned because it needs final inspection for powering up by PGE (our local power utility). Annoyingly, PGE never got around to upgrading our service meter to allow for 2-way power delivery, but the resourceful installers at Tesla installed a parallel meter system that should work. However, this required completely re-wiring our breaker box - and it got pretty cramped. Still, everything worked just fine - or so it seemed.

A couple days later, apparently some yahoo crashed into a power pole a couple blocks away. This knocked power out for the neighbourhood, but also sent a power bump at the same time. The powerwall tried to cover for the lost power, but encountered problems. The problem became clear when the main power came back on later that day - three of our circuit breakers were unable to be reset. Along with it we were down the section of the house that powered the internet modem, our furnace controller, and dishwasher.

Some frantic calls to Tesla later, we were told they would get to us as soon as possible - after the weekend. So we limped through a warm weekend without AC, washing dishes by hand, and running an extension cord to power the modem. Monday came, and they verified that the breakers themselves needed replacement. But they could not get parts until the next day - but they could re-purpose one of the working breakers to run whichever circuit was needed to make the HVAC work again. So by trial and error it was determined that it was... none of them. Something else was wrong with the HVAC, and the dishwasher.

After the technicians left, we did some frantic research on what could be amiss. Everything we could find was fine - breaker on, reset switch reset, circuit board fuse was fine. So thought we had deduced that we had fried our smart thermostat controller. I rolled to the only store locally claiming to have the same model, so that I could just plug-and-play a replacement, and they didn't have one. They did have an upgraded version, though that required re-wiring the controls. Screw it - whatever. Bought it, installed it. Still didn't work.

We hoped that it was a combination of a fried control unit AND an unpowered circuit. Those hopes ended when the Tesla technicians showed up bright and early and replaced power to the whole house. Still no joy for the HVAC, or the dishwasher. They were not really permitted to do anything beyond the power distribution system, but did us the favour of testing the high-voltage fuses for the AC - which turned out to be blown.

So we went to an electrical supply store to purchase some replacement shotgun-shell-sized fuses. And the HVAC still didn't work. So we were left with having to call HVAC technicians, and the earliest available appointment was two weeks out.


Luckily, Pyramid Heating & Cooling called a couple days later to say that they had a cancellation, and they could come immediately. Well, not immediately - because it was the afternoon and since our furnace is in the attic it would be horrific. But they did swap us with another customer the very next morning.

In the meantime, we got to work on the dishwasher, with the working assumption that it had a fuse of some kind that was also borked. So we disconnected it and pulled it out to find that it has no such protection feature. Time for a new dishwasher. Which was fetched in the uber-charming wee van, to the delight of the Home Despot workers who helped us get it. Which in itself is a minor miracle, because it turns out that Home Depot doesn't stock appliances - except that happened to have accidentally been shipped the exact one we wanted. Which was fun. Brought it home, installed it, and it works great.

Pyramid technician shows up and listens to our tale of woe. He said, "I have an idea". A few minutes later, "YEP - your transformer got burned out." Replaced it handily, and our HVAC comes to life and was working great. The feeling of relief was a welcome change.


Which lasted for a few days. Then yesterday we noted that the AC was not actually able to cool the house. We futzed with sensors and settings, but the awkward truth is that it is running the AC and the blower fan and we're getting an insufficiently-cool draft.

Time for another call to Pyramid. When they open on Monday. GAH.

2022.07.10 Missing My Little Vampire Slayers

This was the first week of vacation, which I'm taking in alternating weeks while I've got the kiddos. And we got to spend all of it doing all the things as well as lots of down time. Bike riding, D&D, walks to the park, playing Magic, learning Python, beach trip, yardwork, and lots of naps.

The week was somewhat impaired by a power bump and outage that revealed a flaw in our newly-installed solar+battery system (not yet commissioned) which left part of the house without power - so we've had to improvise powering the internet, be mindful of regulating the house temperature with airflow, and washing lots of dishes by hand.

The crescendo of the week was last night - as the Spice Girls (the party name for the D&D characters) stumbled upon the secret base of a vampire pirate ship. In its entirety, the Pale Prow with its vampire spawn crew and its elven-vampire captain would have been wildly overpowered for the Spice Girls. But they happened to poke them before sunset proper, which allowed them to face the crew separately from the master, and with a couple Daylight™ spells was enough to let them prevail.

We perhaps ran a little too late, but fuck it - it's summer time and they would be stuck in a car all day on a trip to Canada with S. They get to camp in a fun tent trailer, but are completely insistent that they can't do it because of the impossibility of being civilized to each other. I struggled with how to ease this ridiculous impasse, and ended up outraging Simon by belittling the difficulty. Here's hoping he gets to sleep in the car.

And now they're gone for a week. And I'm am heartbroken. I just immediately miss them a ridiculous amount. I can't wait for our next week off together.

It really puts the foolish work anxiety in to context.

That sure was a lot of scrolling you did without prompting. Perhaps you have read some of my other throw-away bits hidden down here, or perhaps you are just naturally curious. But I hope you feel, as I do, that the immersion of the moment is the key part of the experience. The existence of the chain of thought: "I wonder what's down here" - searching for signs of what this scrolling expanse is yielding - and then "OH, that's all, I guess."

But, really, that's all most places and moments are. Look around, literally and figuratively, and sense wherever you are.