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2022.06.15 Waiting For The Robots

With a really cool science-fiction sounding title like that, you're probably expecting another AIF tale. Or at least perhaps another nerdy chunk of fiction, as I am supposed to be practicing producing.

Except, nope. It is literally what I'm doing. At 20:30 every night, the floor cleaning robots start their sweep of the kitchen and dining room. The vacuum isn't too noisy, but it's enough noise to make it difficult for my tinnitus-filled old man ears to hear tv shows. So when I settle down to contemplate what to do with the rest of an evening, I check to see how long until the robots are unleashed to figure out if I can binge a quick episode of something - either something fun with Amy, or something cute with the kids, or something horrifying by myself when the other two options aren't available or inclined.

But... there's not quite enough time this evening for that. So I thought I'd retreat to having a bath and reading a book. Then the thought flitted into my head, "shouldn't I be trying to write something?"

And, well, yes - I should. So I gave myself the window of "until the robots start rampaging" to see what I could come up with. Et voilà. Here we are.

This was going to turn into an awkward section of "well, I did the thing, but I'm not out of time yet". But luckily the kids started fighting, and Charlie is scratching at the door needing tribute. So that's run out the clock. Cheers.

2022.05.28 Gun Safety?

The whole country is still just calming down from another massively horrific school shooting - "nothing could prevent this, says only country in the world where this regularly happens".

Aside: that is the classic The Onion news headline that they used to post every time one of these happened. I wondered if they still do that. Um, I didn't find it, but I found some relevant gold:

  • Scientists Discover 90% Of Earth’s Atmosphere Made From Thoughts, Prayers
  • Tearful Uvalde Residents Thank Police For Protecting Parking Lot From Gunman
  • Entire U.S. Police Force Flees Country After Hearing Gunman Inside Nation
  • NRA Convention Applauds As Gunman Massacres Entire Crowd
  • Wayne LaPierre States Mass Shootings Can Be Perfectly Safe When Carried Out By A Trained, Responsible Gun Owner
  • The Pros And Cons Of Letting Children Die

It is true to say that I'm still fuming over the idea that a fucking SWAT team stood around for almost an hour during the rampage "because they were worried about getting shot". It really goes to the cowardly, spineless posturing that is the heart of gun advocacy. The whole "good guys versus bad guys" is such bullshit - it's all just "assholes".

Moving on, though, this outrage is entirely too familiar. And we know from bitter experience that this by itself is simply not enough to persuade the political will in 'Merika to enact sensible gun control laws. Every other country in the world is able to do it, but we can't in the US because... we suck.

So, clearly it's time to try something else. And that something else that I hear people discussing is systematic gun safety. The selfsame second amendment which has been twisted into this horror show clearly admonishes it be "well-regulated".

The need to have licences is just the obvious beginning. Much more important is the express assertions of the full force of the US legal system to enact financial consequences - letting people be sued for the pain and destruction of the effects of firearms. And, as has been idiotically established, companies are effectively people. Gun manufacturers should have their financial culpability considered for facilitating citizen-on-citizen violence. Individuals should be driven towards needing insurance proportional to the potential destructive power of their toys (like we already do with cars) as they become directly responsible for what those toys are used for. People become responsible for children under their care - and what they do with the things they sell them.

2022.05.14 Automotive Meta-Analysis

For many years, I've often joked that the vehicle you drive says a lot about you. As much as I hate to ascribe too much merit to stereotypes, and readily agree that general use of stereotypes is a bad thing, there are still clearly messages being sent. These messages need not accurately reflect the owner/driver of a vehicle, but they remain complicit in them nonetheless. Like the clothing we wear, even if we don't intend to have a meta message, it's still like the tag line of a political ad: "I support this message".

Turns out there's a few self-burns in here.

2022.05.05 Cinco De Covid

Tuesday night I had an oddly scratchy throat, and Wednesday morning it was still there so I did a quick COVID test while I readied my stuff to bike into the office - and the damn thing came up positive.

While I did work remotely somewhat on Wednesday, I took it easy. Today I'm still without fever, but I am definitely ill. Fortunately, I am fully vaccinated and boosted, so it's not likely to become anything more than annoying flu-like symptoms.

The urge is to write something cutesy-poignant about finally meeting the global pandemic up close and personal, but it's way too late for that. The world has changed, but it's also grown weary of this bullshit. And it's hard to focus on these now-mundane global catastrophes with fresh horrors being summoned by human shittiness.

2022.05.04 May The Fourth Be With You

What I used to do was write regularly, with the conceit that I had potential to get good at it. And my visual creativity was overflowing with ideas after decades of collaborative storytelling with my comrades. As I went along, the catharsis of expressing myself became important by itself. It started feeling like craft.

Which, I suspect, is when I started making excuses to be critical of my own work. So my budding capability for writing has suffered the same fate as my drawing: me poking at it fondly, but not really following through with most ideas.

The rare exceptions keep me wistfully thinking about it, though.

The drawing is a less-dear skill to put down and occasionally pick back up simply because I get so much satisfaction from drawing-like work as an engineer. And, frankly, the fantasy of becoming a comic artist is not the shining hope it was when I was a kid. But being an author, however...

...that continues to flicker seductively to my career-frustrated moth mind.

2022.04.16 Apathy

I've been wallowing in that place where I know that I need to be writing, and want to make progress on a couple stories, but seem to always run out of time. And it's clearly true that my life is very busy these days, packed full of work and parenting and a life with my vampire life partner. Yet it's also true that when I do dig out some time to recuperate, I let myself vegetate online.

So it goes.

2022.03.13 A Terrifying Absence of Fury

Is it so wrong that I just want most of the world to just shut the fuck up and focus, quietly, on why they are so fucking stupid?

Before this phase, I wrangled philosophically about what is the most effective way to make the world better. I generally came back to the idea of improving education everywhere - that knowledge would elevate everyone. Not that we would all agree, or anything as impossible as that. But just that by every slight increment in understanding collectively would share with everyone a sense of the innate wastefulness of most of our conflict.

It doesn't bear admitting how I stupidly use to rage at the unfairnesses and inequities, because pretty much all young people do. The idealism is usually blunted down down from cocksure generalities by experiences with complicated realities.

There also appears to be a strong trend for people to idealize what was familiar when they were younger, project from there hurtful justifications as excuses to cling to their revisionist fantasies.

And I'm just tired of wrangling with all this bullshit. It worries me to reflect on how hopeless I am about humanity having any possibility of tackling global climate change without massive suffering. Much less face any other challenge on a global scale. We suck too much as a species, having no apparent appreciation for all that we have to lose.

2022.03.02 Ukraine

It's been a week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and like virtually everybody in the world, I have thoughts and feelings about it.

Firstly, it really does seem like Putin has marinated in his crazy long enough to believe his own bullshit. For a while it seemed like blustering to distract from the crumbling Russian economy, but the bullshittery rolled on way past just being distracting. To get people to actively protest in modern Russia is a testament to how fucked up the actions are. Now it really does just feel like the desperate death throws of a dying husk of a superpower.

The bravery of the Ukranian defenders was very moving - the Ghost of Kyiv downing 6 Russian jets, the 13 defenders of Snake Island telling a warship to go fuck itself, the old lady handing sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers and telling them it's so they'll grow when they die, that farmer stealing a Russian tank with his tractor, and President Zelensky being such a ballsy rock of defiant leadership.

And holy shit did I feel humbled when Trevor Noah pointed out the raging racism of the world's reaction to a "white country" facing violence versus what has been done to "other" countries.

2022.02.05 Disillusionment

Here I am again, staring down the cold hollow of my ambition. I'm not really good at giving up, and scheming is part of my core nature, but it is awkward to consider lately. Yes - I do think I would be a good leader; yes - I want to be "in the room where it happens"; yes - access to a higher pay scale and a company Mercedes would be nice. But the fact that management has de facto told me not to bother trying to be a manager should really be a really strong counter-argument.

Stubbornly, the plotting mechanisms in my brain keep considering possibilities for "management" to change its collective mind. Which is actually kind of important for me, spiritually, because I enjoy trying really hard on things that are difficult - and without the ambition-class reasoning for it, I fear it would wither into a dull grey existence. So I haven't officially banished my quiet stirrings of ambition.

There are counter-arguments, however. Firstly, I do legitimately love actually doing engineering, especially 3D CAD design - and managers don't get to do that. Secondly, there is a tonne more hours expected of an E4 manager, and they are clearly the sphincter of the management beast. It's a hard job. OK, quandary there - I already put in a tonne of hours, and I actually relish the challenge. The circumstantial consideration of this should be indexed with facts that the kids are still interesting and present, plus I have a lot of outdoor playing to do with my mountain biking crew, and dialling effort down would also make more time for all the good times with Amy (my Vampire Life Partner).

This week, I also had renewed insight to even more problems with my managerial ambitions.

While I firmly believe I am a great team player and dynamic contributor, I definitely lack much ability to "play the game". The game being to earn management's trust, and as open communicator I am often perceived as being challenging. Years of me helpfully suggesting progressive ideas that the company is structurally impaired to consider has me brightly marked as a problem. To change this would require, well, not being me. Tough one, that.

There's also the reality that much of the "management" side of the E4 job is painfully tedious administrivia. A budget meeting this week where I was sitting in for my recovering-from-brain-surgery boss highlighted how very much it's more reassuring storytelling than it is useful planning.

Lastly, due to the gravity of it, is the hard truth that management is where a lot of assholes are. Not that I'm entirely against assholes - I've been one myself more than I wish I had. And there are definitely assholes everywhere - or, more correctly, people willing to act in assholish ways. But the problem is that acting like an asshole is actually a successful management technique (from a career-observational standpoint, not a holistic one). That philosophical argument can linger seductively, but my point is more about how much one has to interface with assholes.

2022.01.11 Night Shift

One of the odd rhythms of life now is interfacing with Amy working night shift. It means some long overlaps of time together, but also a chance for some intervening solitude. It has also provided for some reflection.

I've worked night shift before, myself. Not just the gruelling all-nighters that were too common during engineering school, but shifts labouring in the pulp mill at my home town while I was saving up for school. All of which completely failed to help me be empathic about the struggles of shifting sleeping schedules, because it mostly happened in a period of my life when sleep seemed largely optional anyway.

More tellingly is how I have found myself smothering the kids when they're here, to keep them from disturbing Amy while she (might be) sleeping. Discussing my overenthusiastic guarding of Amy's sleep sanctorum, I unearthed the memory of my dad working shift work while I was a kid. He worked hard, and it definitely resonated with me as a sensitive little kid to be worried about my dad's wellbeing.

Ironically, this cascaded to a memory of a time when I did accidentally waken my dad while he was trying to sleep between night shifts. I had stumbled into the door of home in Castlegar after school, desperate to look at my wristwatch. A wristwatch that I had not on my wrist, but in my pocket, because that's where I stuffed it after picking it up off the street. Which is where I had to retrieve it from hurriedly, lest the kids that were chasing me managed to catch me. And it had only flown off my wrist because I had swung my arm to break free from one of the kids grabbing at my backpack. So when I finally managed to get home, and discovered that my wristwatch that was a gift from my dad, was broken in a way I couldn't fix, I let out a scream of frustration. This woke my dad, but instead of being angry with me for disturbing him he was worried about me. And even then, I could bring myself to tell him that I was being systematically bullied at school - for fear that he would be disappointed in me for not being tougher.

One of the things I have found myself doing at night, though, is write. So, here we are.

2022.01.01 Betty White


In what was the ultimate act of comic timing, Betty White died at the very end of 2021.

So, good job on the scrolling. Sadly the secret message at the end this time is... filler. There, I said it: the cool turtle-link-class zen morsel I try to work into the end just isn't up to snuff this time. Sorry.