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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.