January 2021 Part IV

Click here or on the fort above for more photos

Shortly after the new year, Chilkat and Chilkoot’s cousins came for a sleepover, giving E-Dubs and Pixel Chick a night to themselves. As I understand it, they went wine tasting. The next day, it took them six hours or so to make the 45 minute drive from their house to ours to pick up our kids. They have promised to reciprocate, but we haven’t decided how we should spend a no-kids night yet. We were thinking about getting an AirBnB and staying in Portland for a night.

Our neighborhood started getting food trucks to visit us, which has been exciting. We got Mexicuban, and the kids actually ate some of it. I wonder how long it will last.

Chilkoot’s Pinewood Derby actually raced. We don’t have any pictures, because it was done without any participation with any members of our troop. We asked another troop, which had set up the track and a three camera YouTube streaming system, if we could borrow their set up, and they just offered to run it for us. Chilkoot’s car (Car-antine) was 5th overall, which unfortunately was not first in his pack and didn’t get voted for anything, so he got no awards, even though he did pretty well.

Our bank offered us a re-finance with a rate of 2.625% with no cost out of pocket, so we’re going through that, which isn’t fun but also isn’t that hard. Just do what the bank says. We still expect to pay off our mortgage about the time that Chilkat graduates; with the refinance, maybe slightly sooner.

Chilkat’s birthday party theme is “Movie Night,” so KrisDi has been working to get decorations and everything together. They had a photoshoot in front of a newly acquired backdrop for the purpose of creating invitations, which I think look like movie premiere VIP access cards.

I finally started drinking the bourbon barrel aged coffee our friends gave me for Christmas. I do get a little bourbon flavor in the coffee, but really the grounds just reek of it to me (although KrisDi apparently only detects coffee).

Chilkoot was really tired one morning and fell asleep on the couch as soon as he came downstairs.

My neck pain has not gone away (although it has dissipated), so I went to my doctor and he sent me to physical therapy, so I’ve reunited with my therapist who grew up in South Dakota. My neck has been improving, but not steadily.

Yesterday, since we didn’t have any weekend plans, we went out to buy new bikes for the kids, since they’ve outgrown their old ones. Chilkat’s new bike is, I think, the fanciest bike we’ve ever bought, with disc brakes even. Each of them is more expensive than either mine or KrisDi’s, although we bought ours 17 years ago. Chilkoot took to his right away, but Chilkat is still struggling with starting and stopping, since the seat is high enough she can’t just straddle it while standing (and she’s a melodramatic whiner).

The Playfort has now been transformed into a bike shed. The shaft of the drawbridge’s latch absorbed too much water, expanding and softening to the point where I’m fairly sure it split in half when I forced it to rotate so we could open it again.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment

Readings again

Last posted about books in April last year. Since then…

I finished What the CEO Wants You To Know by Ram Charan (a work reading assignment). Didn’t enjoy it, exactly, but portions of it were thought-provoking and it lead to me researching and learning a little bit about business finances.

I finished Dave Duncan‘s second quartet of books set in Pandemia. I really enjoyed them, too, and I’m sure I’ll be reading more stuff by him.

I finished Earthman, Come Home by James Blish. Old Sci-Fi, with only (thankfully) brief visits from female characters, with a really out-there ending (not that I dislike female characters in sci-fi, but I really dislike female characters written by male authors in the 50s). Not bad, but not great.

I finally finished the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. I was not really wowed by any of it. Most of it was OK. Some of it was pretty challenging to finish.

The Dreamstone by CJ Cherryh. I enjoyed it, but not enough to seek out more books in the Ealdwood series. I’m fairly sure the physical book I read came from my grandfather’s collection.

Chilkat and I finished The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Of course it’s really good. We started The Magician’s Nephew, but she lost interest.

I read Existence by David Brin. It’s interesting, not really great, about a weird form of first contact that is described as a chain letter or a virus.

The War of the Wing Men (apparently also known as The Man Who Counts), by Poul Anderson. A book about an engineer, a princess, and a merchant stranded on a primitive planet populated by sentient flying creatures. Not bad.

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. Fascinating and terrifying, a book about parasites, both the specifics of individual parasites, and the effects they have on ecology and evolution.

I read the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Violent and fast paced fantasy. What I like most about it is how deeply flawed all the main characters are. I’m now in the process of reading three more books set in the same universe, featuring some of the same characters.

Another book for work: Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra. I liked this book, because a large part of it is about being open to being wrong and understanding the point of view of an “opponent.”

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (I loved her Ancillary books). This was an interesting story primarily about gods but mostly told through humans, with an interesting system of “godly power” anchored upon “anything a god says must be true,” meaning that if a god says something, it’s power is used to make it true, and the god may die if what it says is beyond its power to make true. Also with a not-so-subtle tie-in to Hamlet.

I listened to the Infernal Devices trilogy from Cassandra Clare. A fantasy series wherein the “nephalem” (or shadowhunters) are the police protecting the mundane from the magical, set in the 1800s in London. It was not terrible, but I kind of resented finishing it. The over-the-top gushy emotions and drama left a bad taste in my mouth.

I read The Inspirational Leader by Gifford Thomas. This was for work, and it was probably the worst book I have ever finished. If this book had an editor, that editor should be fired. There were multiple egregious grammar errors every god damn page, and it barely even made a point beyond “Being a leader is not the same as being a manager.” At least it was a quick read.

Since I finished Poe, I’ve started reading Sherlock Holmes as my chore book. I finished the first one, A Study in Scarlet. I enjoyed it.

I’m reading Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard.

That’s pretty much it for reading right now.

I also started actively looking for new music by writing things down when I hear music or read or see something and I passively think, “Hey, I should check this band out.” Every week, I also listen to Spotify’s recommendations and dig further if there’s anything particular I really like. I’ve recently acquired music by new-to-me bands Man Man, the Swingin’ Utters, and the Pink Spiders, as well as more music by familiar bands Clutch, Johnny Cash, Our Lady Peace, and Nerf Herder.

Posted by snaotheus in Reviews, 3 comments

January 2020 Part III

Click here or above for another week’s worth of photos in January

Inauguration has occurred. The storming of the capitol also happened. I’m terrified of actually talking about politics, since I have people I love on both sides. I’m relieved Trump is gone, although I have no love for Biden. But I can hardly think of a worse leader than Trump. I think my selfish, self-centered, undisciplined, uneducated children might be better than Trump, with the possible exception that their inability to make a difficult decision would be a problem on its own. The biggest problem I perceive is the total lack of communication or respect between the two sides. Politicians, media, and individual citizens are all responsible for this. The other biggest problem in my mind is the total acceptance of two alternate sets of facts, one for each side, without questioning how a large group of humans that must include some smart ones could have reached different conclusions.

Trump widened the gap, devalued “facts” to a cartoonish extent, and upped the stakes. I worry that it’s insurmountable at this point, but then I think back to the fact that we had a civil war, and we’re still one country. Although I doubt that that rift could be considered healed, and it’s probably where a substantial portion of the current rift originates. I have absolutely no hope that people will start acting like what I would call “adults” in my lifetime, because it’s quite obvious to me at this point that in our country, this is how adults behave.

No, I don’t have a solution. I think we’re broken, and the system we currently have in place is unsuited to fixing anything. The starting point is to recognize that there is one and only one set of facts, and different ways of interpreting those facts. The second step is to actually listen to the other side and be open to the ideas that (1) you might be wrong about something, and (2) they may not be evil morons.

Like I said, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.

It’s Pinewood Derby time again. It finally gave me an excuse to set up my drill press for the first time, which I got for my birthday last year. Chilkoot named his car “Car-antine.” We used some of last year’s leftover fishing weights, and added a nut. He spray painted it blue, and then painted on a coronavirus and a mask.

The kids signed up for an online Junior Theater Festival, where Broadway actors and other professionals judged kids’ theater troupes performances and had little workshops for various things or gave little talks. It was a bit long for them, I think, at least on that Saturday when it went the whole day, but I think overall they enjoyed. Chilkoot at least really enjoyed watching the kids’ performances.

We had another socially distant social night, Zoom drinking with our friends in Oregon, which is always fun.

Chilkat has decided to have a small “Movie Night” themed sleepover for her birthday. Our resident party planner, KrisDi, decided one way to cute it up was to buy little teepees for the kids to “camp out” in (although only their heads-and-shoulders will fit in the teepees).

The kids’ school had a spirit event, “Throwback Day” or something, where people were supposed to dress up as historical figures. Chilkat donned an old astronaut costume to be either Neil Armstrong or Sally Ride. But apparently she took it off once she discovered no one else in her class had done it. Chilkoot dressed as Lincoln (who “unslaved the slaves”), and was also the only person in his class who participated. But he stuck it out and convinced a couple of his classmates to put on costumes.

KrisDi works for the federal government, so she got MLK day off. The kids also got it off. While the three of them were lounging around the house, I worked a 12+ hour day.

Monthly photo time came again. Chilkat has been just shooting up. She’s grown almost 4.5 inches in the last 11 months or so. Chilkoot‘s only two or three pounds lighter, but maybe six or seven inches shorter.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment

January 2021 Part II

Click here or on the tree climbers above for more photos

In an unprecedented act of autonomy, the kids decided they wanted to bike all the way to their school with no parents in attendance. This is a fairly short route, but requires crossing a pretty busy street. We let them do it, but sent them with Krisdi’s phone so if there was an issue we had a way to communicate. They survived.

My neck continued to suck. I pulled out my old inflatable cervical traction collar, but the plastic/rubber had started to harden and the kids broke it. I ordered a new one, and later discovered the absolute magic of using it lying down versus sitting up — way more effective. But holy damn is it unpleasantly exciting if you deflate it too quickly.

We had a nice frosty morning, and I took some pictures of the truck with frost on it.

We had a wind storm. We were woken up by branches bouncing off the roof, and due to fear of The Admiral’s inevitable demise, we moved to the other side of the house and slept in Chilkat’s room. The next morning, KrisDi and the chilluns walked around surveying the damage, including a small landscaping tree that fell over and a section of someone’s fence that blew down. A street sign fell down, too, which is odd because it seems remarkably sturdy relative to the surface area.

We took this picture of Chilkoot’s unusual posture at the dinner table.

The kids discovered a fallen tree in one of our greenbelt areas that they like to climb. They nagged and nagged until a parent came out to see it.

The kids attended and enjoyed some kind of an online dino thing.

Over the weekend, we made the kids clean their own rooms. They got Chilkoot’s done fairly fast, but got distracted and slowed way the hell down with Chilkat’s. We took away their iPads (except to set alarms for school) until they finished the room, which took another three fucking days. So far, they have mostly maintained the rooms, but their cousins are over at the moment so I don’t expect it to last the day.

I have no idea why, by Chilkoot decided to go outside and sit on the sidewalk to do his schoolwork one day. You can’t tell (especially since he’s sitting on concrete in short sleeves), but it’s like 40 degrees.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 1 comment