Thursday, August 04, 2022

Camping: Lake Resort

This summer we planned to hang with our family friends at a private camping area. In BC, private camping generally means a parcel of land packed with as many camping spots as possible, geared towards young people who view camping as generally: drinking outdoors and sleeping at unreasonable hours. 

As a middle aged dad with as much enthusiasm for the outdoors as an albino with a compromised immune system I more or less subscribe to the same definition, but I object to the hours.

We made the great trek down a highway populuated by inpatient vacationers and semi drivers with a dulled sense of mortality. The road is too narrow, the drivers too fast, and I'm driving to a spot where I have to setup my own shelter, and cook with a cooking set that could generously be called rustic (but in reality screams "anything more than mac and cheese with this setup is gonna be an ordeal"). Voluntarily. 

And there is gonna be a lake, the standing water resevoir that makes me think of leeches .. eel, possibly, that aquatic plant life that isn't quite seaweed, isn't quite algae but gives anyone bred for the indoors the heebie jeebies.

It is a relatively unpleasant trip to a vaguely unpleasant destination, but in the spirit of 'giving the kids some memories', and the fact my wife is the sort who actually enjoys the outdoors, well.

At hour 2, we hit an impasse. There has been an accident. So now we either go back or attempt to pay what inflation and Covid have turned hotel fees into (a second mortgage), or go all the way home.

Weirdly, all the hotels are booked, I guess folks have alot more disposable income than I thought would be reasonable.

I foolishly allow myself to consider maybe we'll just go home and call the whole thing off, we gave it the good ol' college try. Time to sleep indoors, away from the mosquitos, sketchy cooking setups, unnameable aquatic plants.

Did I mention my wife really enjoys the outdoors? And not in the 'just here for the Gram'. But a disconcerting appreciation for nature in all it's stinging, slimy, somewhat uncomfortable glory.

We get up the next day at 5am. And do the drive again. Get to the turn off. It's 2 km of abandoned logging road. Not even sure if it was used for logging. Maybe for packmules? Was this a gold-panning spot in days of yore? That's the only reasonably explanation. The path, a mixture of 'juust too large rocks' and dust and gravel has that wonderful quality that makes one really appreciate life. I'm not sure if it's the steep grading, or the lack of any barriers tumbling down the mountainside. Or the fact that there is really only space for one car only. This is certanly making memories for the kids. Trauma is a kind of memory, sure. 

We finally make it to the spot. It's cramped, but not as cramped as it could have been, which is a small mercy.  The campsite, although very small, has twists and turns in the path that make it suprisingly easy to get lost in. 

We have a pretty good time, the kids swim in the lake. We have.. well, I cook as best as I can given the setup, my buddy has wisely pre-prepped his food and makes amazing tacos for everyone. Our kids are understandably awkward with their kids at first then hit their stride a few hours in. We get to be Outdoors, make Memories. All it took was two more trips than I thought it would take, and a bit of terrifying off-roading in our sedan. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Precipice

NOTE: I started writing this mid Marchish. 

Here I am, 8 years later, standing on the edge of another precipice.

Moving to a new job. That smoke jump into the unknown. 

You can read reviews, look up the executives, read their mission statements, parse through and try and evaluate the Glassdoor reviews. But in the end it's a gut feeling from the people you talk to.  And now in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it's not even 'meet people'. It's kind of sort of meet someone over zoom (with botchy mic output while both wearing what I assume are vietnam era chopper pilot headsets). 

There is a groove to work. A familiarity with how things fit together, who gets back to you right away, who needs incessant prodding, what specific processes to ignore if you can at all help it, office politics (which I've so far avoided like the plague). So much of work is hundreds of individual other bits of works, the flotsam, the jetsam that becomes so much muscle memory that it almost doesn't exist. And you are left with the actual nitty gritty chewy bit that's the work that you are ostensibly paid to do, that hopefully you enjoy. 

Moving to a new company is not only taking on and learning the core bit of work, but all that other sundry things. 

Moving to a new company with no one to 'scout ahead' as it were, is, especially in the software world, a rather large scary jump. What does the 'unlimited time off' actually end up being? What are the horrid things they aren't telling you? Is this actually a 80hr/week sweat shop of doom with just excellent recruiters? You never know. The heterogeneity of software companies is so vast, I think that's the main thing that keeps tech folks where they are, if they are reasonably happy.

But it's time to move on, learn new tech stacks, work in a larger company, different industry. We'll see.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Christmas Letter 2021

 It's an old adage that time flies when you are having fun. Which can't be right, because these Covid Times have been anything but; yet time has sped by in a streak of horror filled disaster news and covid variants and just a malaise of burnout and fatigue. Maybe the adage should be "time flies when you are having fun or the world is trapped in a whirlpool of climate change disasters and a healthcare crippling viral pandemic" Bit of a downer, that adage. 


Which is all to say that the blur of 2021 fails to bring up anything different, all days melding into one. We are all healthy and alive, which is a weird thing to put in a Christmas Letter. That it can be news is worrying. I say that now but I’m sure in 2035 it’ll be ‘the robot overlords haven’t breached our perimeter yet’ and we won’t blink an eye.


We managed to do some local vacations. One was at a resort/spa which was more of a spa than a resort. Our room was entirely too big, the kind of suite your reserve for a stakeout on corporate malfeasance or to settle an acquisition deal on the third largest carpet wholesaler in the tricities region. But it was our first vacation in the After Times, so I guess it was warranted? We did some kayaking, watched alot of olympics. Miche went for a massage, we went on beach hikes. 


We fit in a visit to our family  friends in INTERIOR TOWN. Good food, good friends, and not being surrounded by our townhouse which we've bunkered down in for, if my math is correct, eleven hundred years. 


Owlet is now 15. In grade 10. Discussions and thoughts about what she wants to do with her life have intensified but have not turned up any answers. Which granted, most people many many years older than her have not answered, so at least she's asking it. My ability to help her with her homeworks is definitely merging into the 'oh god i have to actually relearn this all over again to help her' territory. 


She still draws/paints all the time, when she isn't inundated with homework.  She’s doing alot of digital drawing, using layers and brushes and all sorts of technical art terms. She pinches and zooms and spins and pans around the piece in a Gen Z take on Minority Report.


This is her last year of mandatory high school gym, which is something she muses about and exclaims happily about at least once or nine times a day. At least she got exposed to other sports, because I don't think either of us would ever take her out to the backyard for a friendly game of lacrosse.


More in the digital realm she took to applying mods to a video game called StarDew Valley. Which is a ‘getting basic computer literacy because you want a game to do a thing’. It’s carefully following instructions you’re not entirely clear on, applying them in the least haphazard way, and hoping nothing explodes. Closest analogy to modern computer work I can think of. 


She is doing lap swimming with her brother which is the forced aerobic activity we have chosen for them. Neither being super enthused about sports in general. They are both enthused about Friends, which we just finished recently. Now they are almost completely caught up with 90’s, and 00’s culture, such as it is. 


This is also the year that Owlet has started a running ‘Pragmatic Advice From Owlet’ segment as we watch shows. I’m not even sure she’s aware she's doing it anymore. “OMG why don’t they just communicate about that.” “NO reason to make him feel guilty about that”. “Uh, hello, how is she supposed to know that”. It’s an illuminating process in what a solid head my daughter has on her shoulders, and also how each episode could be about 30s long if she was in charge.


Owl Jr. is the big 12, going on 47. He’s grown just taller than Mrs. Owl, and has a voice that cracks and drops at random times. You can hear the voice he’ll eventually have peeking through. A voice you’d feel comfortable buying a term life insurance from, I’d think, or have an overlong conversation about the latest WW2 documentary. He reads plenty. His teacher thought he could handle some more challenging books so had him read The Kite Runner, which is, if you haven’t read it, not about the sunniest of topics. He’s since read quite a few books with dour and whatever the opposite of life affirming is, topics. 


When double vaccinations were required for indoor activities, I took them to see Dune in theatres. They both enjoyed it immensely. Owl Jr. enjoyed it enough to read the dry book. His obsession with Dune and all things Dune is something to behold. In school, by happenstance, they had them write about an imaginary planet ecology, and boy howdy did he go to town on that. Word limits? For amateurs. Hundreds of years of political and socio-military history thrown in, YOU BET. 


I’ve kind of pushed/pulled him into learning more Python (the programming language) to make neato little 2D games. He’s slogging through the tutorials, and all the frustrations. Sometimes I get a little impatient because he’s not being as careful and clean as someone who’s been doing this for 20 years and has the scars to prove it. But overall his progress is going pretty well. It’s just blocks moving across the screen so far, but that’s alot.


Contrary to murmured promises, he did not take up trumpet for school band, but went with the faar cooler choice of bass guitar. My disappointment in not being able to instruct him on the finer points of embouchure is overridden by the minor hope he’ll join a cool rock band and get all disaffected with like, the world, man.


Mrs. Owl is hiking. There isn’t a vista she won’t see, not a extra rugged outdoor pro-wicking hiking gear she won’t covet. Walking over uneven surfaces seems alot for nice views, in my opinion, but NOT walking for these views is insanity according to Mrs. Owl. I’m glad someone is appreciating the great outdoors because we could be living in Antarctica and my life style would only alter slightly.


Badminton places started opening up so I’m on my way of chipping away at the Pandemic Poundage. Staring at  a screen with a furrow (working), then staring at a screen and smiling (gaming) is apparently ‘sedentary’, and ‘not far from being in a coma’. I also got a haircut. So now I’m just a slightly better well hidden nerd in the crowds of normal people. I’ve started board gaming in person with the select number of other shut ins in my complex, so things are almost back to normal.


We hope time flies for all of you in 2022, in the good way, not the horrible way; and that this letter finds you healthy or at the very very least, your perimeter holding.


Much Affection,


Mrs. Owl, Niteowl, Owlet, Owl Jr.

and Tosche

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Holding up Democracy

It's a federal election in Canada. The situation isn't as dire as it is for our neighbours to the south. Or maybe it doesn't seem as dire with their breathless reporting and political commentary with infographics that look like they are trying to compete with NFL Pro Bowl. Voter turnout, apathy, blue state, red state, explosive new revelations. 

Canada has a tendency, which in this case is a plus,  to do everything a little more boring. We are like the wholesome cousins who were homeschooled until 18, made all their own clothes, and now think they are quite 'with it' when they reference any media from that past two decades. 

We do things boring.There are issues that I find quite pressing, but more along the lines of me muttering 'oh dear', than me foaming at the mouth and marching with placards alongside a fella who looks like he has been waiting to do this sort of thing for entirely too long. 

But in a rare feeling of patriotism (being fairly indifferent to hockey, these opportunities are slim to nil) I do tend to well up with pride when I vote. 

With Covid still with us and Delta ripping through the population, I thought it prudent to register for mail in voting. Avoid crowds, overwhelming the healthcare system, death, destruction, etc. So i registered at a gov website, it had the design sense of someone who codes HTML by hand and doesn't truck with all the new fangled ideas like 'pretty', or 'nice to look at'. It looks like it was suspiciously designed by committee, a very nice and decent committee who only meet every 5 years and then only use design guides from 20 years ago.

Which, in a weird way, made it feel more official. 

So I put in the sort of extremely personal and sensitive information I've trained myself by route to never ever let get vaguely close to a computer. Things Iock under ancient tupperware tucked into the more boring parts of my closet. 

And bam, registered to get a package in the mail that I could vote with.  

A few days later after getting an eye exam we decide to do advance voting, at a mall of all things.

Somewhere between a long closed down Forever21 and across some store that is forever 'Coming Soon' Elections Canada had set up shop. It looks like they got it mid demolitions and there are alot of exposed pipes and bare walls. 

It's all quiet and organized. Lines are not long at all. Everyone is understated and helpful and it's all I can do to stop myself from uttering something bold and patriotic like 'well this is all rather good eh?'.

NOTE: I wrote this in september of last year, confident I'd come back and finish it, but I cant' remember what happened. Apologies.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Owlet's 15th Birthday

Owlet turned 15. There isn't even a small chance I can ignore the fact she's a complete teenager, careening blithely towards adulthood. At 13, maybe, 14, in a pinch, if you don't think about it too much, you can still think of them as 'so early in teens, hardly even'. But 15. 15 is basically 16 which is basically 35 and inviting me and Mrs. Owl over for Thanksgiving because we can't 'handle the turkey safely anymore'.

We had a extremely small party. Barely a gathering. Ever since Owlet turned, oh, maybe 10? She's been very low key in her birthdays. A day at the VR Cafe with her cousins or going to the PNE. The 15th was marked with hanging out on the deck with two neighbourhood friends over and Owl Jr. Eating junk food and talking? I mean, there was laughing and such. Bella got her tablet and doodled/drew and they all just chattered away. I generally don't listen partly for their privacy but mostly because it's teen/pre-teen talk and I wouldn't say it's boring, just boring for me. 

At one point someone pulls out their phone and they start watching a video. And it's not like some nationally syndicated entertainment program programmed and funneled from one of a handful of mega corporations. Regular human entertainment. No. It's some very nichy faux court drama featuring.. YouTube personalities with enough in-jokes and callbacks to make an Arrested Development fan nervous. I realized, of course, that this was how my parents viewed, say, video games or rap music. Incomprehensible.

But it's my god given right to tell them to quiet down or 'do something normal' so of course I tell them to turn off the phone. I mean, if they were watching the Best of Night Court would I have said something? I'm not sure. And it wasn't so much the nichey-ness of it. It was the cloying sense that this YT show was like the Disney channel teen shows. Full of smarmy kids always pulling one over the dowdy adults. Except in these videos there aren't even any dowdy adults, they are just pulling everything over us without us even being present.  

Pop culture, by definition, belongs to the young. 

I'm still of the age where I think I should keep up , at least in the same hemisphere in what my kids are consuming.I do a pretty shoddy job at that. But when THEIR friends bring the sort of internet culture THEIR parents let them consume, that's when it really gets out of control. There are empires built on watching particularly charismatic kids play games. Open products. React to things, for the love of.. It's never meant to be understood by adults, I'm sure. Google 'Dream SMP'. I've had Owlet explain it to me several times to everyone's regret. It's a bit like reading an excerpt from a Stephen Hawkings book where you think you get it as you are reading it, but the essential understandability of the thing scurries off into the dark as soon as you blink. 

Yes, it's certainly me being old in the ever thriving youth of internet culture. Owlet has gotten Dream SMP merchandise, to give you an idea. This incomprehensible entertainment is big enough to employ a sweat shop somewhere in Asia. 

By which I mean I get slightly panicky when I have to encounter and evaluate a new 'thing' my kids are thinking about consuming. Nevermind that I was allowed (or, more, my parents never disallowed) to listen to gangster rap in the 90's and I've hardly been in any drive-bys. But the internet is more insidious, it works in memes and half truths and before you know it my kids are 9 miles down the Conspiracy Alley and Lizard People Taking Over the Government is least extreme belief they have.

But I think too much. I think too much about thinking too much. Owlet had a fine time chattering away, consuming several times her daily allowance of sodium, sugar, and red dye number 7. She and Owl Jr. almost always have the most mundane requests for Christmas and birthdays. A life lived with on-demand, commercial free entertainment, I chalk it up to. Fun was had by all, she's not yet an adult, and by god, I can still find my way around at turkey.



Interior BC

NOTE: Lower Mainland is the part of BC closer to the cost, the further west you go, the more zeroes you add to the real estate prices. Also it rains, often and always, as a general rule.
 
We visited our friends in the Interior of BC. There's currently a blanket of forest fire smothering our hometown, so it seemed like a great alternative. It was, technically, AN alternative, not a great one. Smoke doesn't respect municipal boundaries.

It was just a weekend stay, with a bit of a drive on the Coquihala. A highway where local truckers drive the the sort of speed is reached if one is sitting high, HIGH up. High enough to not notice speeds more usually attained on the salt flats, or an episode of COPS. The road always seems to be careening. Up or down, or curving. Sometimes the wonderful down and curving. All the meanwhile other vacationing families try and keep pace with the regulars. 

Driving is always a proper balance between trying to maintain the ambient speed, and drying not to rev my poor honda's engines to RPMs reserved for the Fast & Furious franchise. Being tailgated at these speeds engulfs me in equal parts rage and anxiety, while being passed by local truckers, and turning a blind eye to my fellow tourists white knuckling it to relaxation.

Their city is the sort of hot dry place with devastating winters where everyone has enough room to take up hobbies like woodworking or tap-dancing. Where there are so many lakes it's impossible to find one too crowded. Compared to the lower mainland, where a spray park can cause an around the block car lineup not seen since the 70's oil embargoes. It's a city where you feel out of place if you don't own a camping trailer. Double out of place if you don't own at least one vehicle that has serious pretensions about off-roading. 

We stay at our friends rather large house. For Lower Mainlanders, any dwelling where you can say, clear your throat without someone at the other end hearing you, is big. In this house I could reasonably yell and not be sure if someone heard me on the other side of the house. This is not a house, this is an estate. Clearly one of the main reasons our friends ditched the absurd house prices of the Lower Mainland.
It's pretty great to end our vacation here. They feed us so well. The dinners put glossy perfectly photographed recipe glamour shots to shame. My buddy cooks with amazing ingredients and has a much more varied repertoire than I do; for instance, he has a very strong salad game. Apparently not all of them are bagged. He has many things that are pickled. Some that I'd argue shouldn't be until I try them and swear to pickle everything. He keeps a supply of limes on hand. He's a fellow who watches the food network then actually applies what he learns.

Our kids play with their kids reasonably well, and I get to play the occasional board game with my buddy. It's a great low key time. He does enjoy the odd nerd-game, so it does make things easier. He's an engineer, so by profession he's legally obligated to at least tolerate board games, and possibly brew beer (he does).
 
On this visit they took us to the wildlife exhibit. Which is kind of a zoo, except all the animals in it have been rescued and are, in some way, incompatible with being returned to the wild. Lame, found as a cub with no life skills, terribly unattractive, you get it.

Some are quite exotic, the kermode bear, or something one would never see usually, a cougar, for example. But some are, questionable additions. The raccoons, I'd argue. The deer. I didn't get to the point where I was expecting a border collie but I was close. There was a grumpy too cute to be successful porcupine, two grizzlies that, I dunno, I feel if there was a really tasty toddler on the other side they'd tear through the gate faster than you can say "what do mean there's no refunds?". All in all it was pretty great, though. There was a pall of smoke and an ever present heat, but that porcupine was adorable.
 
Then it's more being fed, more board games, some family board games, but snooty euro family board games that have won all sorts of unpronounceable awards. Because, obviously, I'm the one supplying the games. The snooty euro family games have one thing in common, they always have the most deviously simple rules you at first sniff and, as an average person gazing upon a Basquiat for the first time mutters, 'huh, I could've made that'. Or more likely 'but isn't that already a game', except it isn't.

For example, Just One. A cooperative game. One player leaves the room. The rest have to put down just one word in secret that'll help the person who left guess the word. Except before the guesser returns, everyone compares their one word clues, and duplicates get erased. No, you have not played this game in your grandpa's cabin in the 90's. 

And then the fun is over and our road-trip summer is over and we're back to our modest townhouse. There is slightly less smoke. There is even some rain. I still prefer living here, cramped, wet. But will most likely never take up tap dancing.
 


Monday, August 16, 2021

PNE 2017

NOTE: This continues my unofficial series of finding blog drafts I've written years ago and finishing them. This one was started in 2017 and stopped about 3 paragraphs in

NOTE: PNE is the Pacific National Exhibition, a state fair, more or less.  Well, provincial. Which means, from what I get from movies. Slightly less firearms, almost no pig rustling, and a very informative farm exhibit.

Why is it that some rides have operators that have that weather worn look of someone evading several statewide warrants, and others are manned by fresh faced high schoolers, steadily checking off the prerequisites for a well rounded college application?

And the two groups are never mixed. You never see the guy packing at least one form of concealed blade with that girl lugging around the pre-SAT preview review prep books to lunch. It's not, I don't think, linked to the rides, like the rides didn't seem to have perks I one group over the other. Does it have to do with competence? Surely the woman with the lazy eye who looks she can bench press my car is kept around because she has the least fatalities on TeaKettle Madness? I have no idea.

Must of my expertise in rides is worrying about how to best maintain fatherly non-chalance as I'm whipped at G's most likely to terrify me with the least likelihood of killing me with some sort of embolism. Because as long as my kids wanna do the ride, I better.

This year, my daughter has taken a more measured approach to the rides. Last year it was WHATEVER RIDE THAT'LL LET ME ON, which was all of them. Now it's only if the ride can go fast enough to be used to train astronauts, in a pinch.

One thing she carried over from last year is the dreaded, 'Can we go again?'. It's one thing to maintain composure during the first go around, I mean, it's your first time, you can fool yourself at how long it'll be, how much your stomach will churn, how thorough the safety inspections are. The second and third time you have no such illusions.

Some rides have that quaint quality of being built just a little too long ago, that misty, hallucinations halycon days when men were men, air was fresher, and many, many fair goers were crippled or killed by lax safety regulations.

And in those rides, there's always that one inflection point, when I'm floating free, putting just a little too much effort in keeping my seat, when I start to think a little too much about just how carefully the engineers put into edge cases.  But then I'm back again, exposed to another terror, another extreme limit of the human body, another reminder that Middle Aged Office Dad is NOT the average case they are planning for. Young things with everything to live for and untouchable invincibility and the sort of spring back ruggedness that makes tackle football seem like a good idea. That's what these machines are built for. 

And some of these machines are built for not even that. Some of these machines were built in a time when they were for the young invincibles who wouldn't sue. You can tell when there is a little too much paint over the rivets. When the framing and general look of it says 'this was likely a repurposed sherman tank'.


Oddly, it's not those ones that summon a deep existential dread in me. No. At least, not this time. This time it was The Beast. Which couldn't be named better if this was an episode of the Wonder Years and Daniel Stern was speaking earnestly about a character changing childhood event. It's a pendulum, that has a circle of seats that face outwards, and then quickly swings back and forth while rotating the seats, until very serious thoughts of life insurance flash across your mind. It's a ride where they have you take off your sandals beforehand, check for pacemakers, and make sure rider is with good standing with the Federal Bar Association.

Of course Owlet wanted to ride it. Ride it so bad she could forgo all other rides and just ride this meatblender of a behemoth. So, we get in the line with the unreasonable number of people in it. The fearful, the seemingly unperturbed, the braggarts, the excited, the parents. It's the screaming that gets you. The screaming of the machine as it throws meatsacks back and forth while trying not break itself in two, and the screaming of the people.

At first it's just the general 'oh this is fun isn't it', scream. Then it gets to the 'oh I'm really pretty, scared, mostly.. mostly', then 'I'm definitely not faking it I just hope Roger is screaming louder than me', then it ends with a hollow scream of, I dunno, acceptance of death?

It doesn't help that a few months previously this exact ride model did come undone at the fulcrum and went daisy wheeling away. There were deaths. 

We finally get on. Only when I'm on do I realize that it has one of those delightful features where the restraints don't really seem to be restraining enough. Like there were standards set by the intern (intern at a safety regulations department, that, that could happen), then watered down by the senior engineer who was wheedled by the project manager, then further loosened when they had to price it out and get the parts. "Always" withstanding breakout g-force at 45 degrees is so much more expensive then "Usually".

So it's rattling and rotating and spinning and the screaming starts. Luckily I'm not beset on all sides by the death throes of my neighbours as my own screaming drowns it all out. Right before I lose all hope and right after I remember what 'beneficiaries' means visions of the operators pop into my head. They were young kids. But they had outrageously dyed hair. For the remainder I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out if that's the youth of a keener or the stick it to the man dye job of someone who is on first name basis with the local pawn shop brokers. And in the end that doesn't matter because I still can't remember in whose hands I'm safer.

We make it to the end. Owlet is hopping with joy. We totter off and I try desperately to ignore the pleas  'Can we go again?'.