Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Garden Of Your Mind

Mister Rogers, Remixed.


Monday, June 25, 2012

June recap

We went to Legoland California for a few days. It's in sunny Carlsbad, CA, between Los Angeles and San Diego. I despise Southern California and have no love for amusement parks, but Legoland is far and away the least loathsome I've ever seen, and I recommend it even if you don't have kids. Stay at the Sheraton next door: there's a private entrance for the hotel, so you can just walk down the hill and skip the chaos of the main gate. (If you wait long enough, they're building a Legoland Hotel which will be properly Lego-themed.)

J got sick and we missed most of the second day of park-going. I was sad for him and Anna, but not unhappy myself to be inside instead of out in the very, very bright sun.

Last weekend we visited the in-laws outside Seattle. I get overwhelmed just walking into their house, so it was a long weekend.

I'm often pretty brain-fried at work this month. The technical scope of my team has somewhat suddenly grown far, far beyond what I can track in my head; I am forced to pull back more and more so that I hold fewer and fewer details. Luckily my team is amazing, but it's hard to keep my head in the game, especially where I actually have to do engineering work. It's extremely difficult for me to switch out of the interrupts-and-meetings mode into a think-deeply-about-things mode. The search for solutions is ongoing.

Finally, my first Father's Day. J was with his dad, but I did get this:

Look at that handwriting! This is the kid who used to melt down sobbing when he tried to write anything. A few weeks ago I complimented him on it and he gave his current response to compliments: "I know!".

He is a marvelous and kind little monkey, and it's a privilege to be a father for him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

marriage update

We've been married all of 8 months, but we seem to be bearing up well. Marriage has all sorts of legal consequences we didn't really bother to research. There's a fashion these days for couples to discuss the prospect of marriage in-depth for months and years, and decide together when it's a good time. I find this almost literally abhorrent, and I think this more than anything else ultimately marks me as a romantic. There's a place for marriage as a tool to manipulate finances or immigration status--I know one couple who accelerated by years their marriage plans for the latter reason--but that's not really us. We didn't do the reading or the math. We just wanted to be married for no discernible reason other than an absurdly unlikely enjoyment of each other's presence.

Of course I support marriage equality for gay couples, because there every reason to do so and no reason not to beyond a mistaken belief that marriage has always and everywhere, or even in our own cultural history, been between one man and one woman; and the equally mistaken belief that homosexuality is a choice, or is somehow harmful.

(I recommend reading at least the Wikipedia article on the California Proposition 8 case. The decision itself is also good reading, especially as court decisions go.)

However, nothing quite drives home the ubiquitous civil power of marriage like this:
I rented a car, and Anna was automatically allowed as a driver. Because we're married.
I can't imagine what else is waiting for us, certainly not between us as a couple, but especially in how the everyday world treats us. No wonder you can't construct a new institution that's equal to marriage: how many thousands of these little things like rental car rights are granted just because two people happen to have the right license on file together at the county offices? The federal government alone can think of 1,138.

Does that include the car insurance?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

nothing is wasted

I did the "club shoot" today, which is the archery club's monthly tournament. It turned out they were running a state-circuit tournament at the same time, so it was a whole big thing. I think the only people doing just the state shoot were me and the four compound-bow guys with me.

  • It's a long day. You're hiking several miles, on your feet for 5 hours.
  • If you're shooting "traditional," which is a recurve bow without the bells and whistles like sights, you're spending a lot of time hunting for arrows in the undergrowth while your companions rack up points from their 4-inch groups at 80 yards.
  • The technology on compound bows is amazing. They have spring-loaded arrow rests which are linked with a string to the bowstring. When the bowstring moves as it's drawn back, the arrow rest is held up by that link; when the shooter looses the string, the arrow rest collapses right as the string casts the arrow, so the arrow rest doesn't interfere with the arrow at all (which is exactly what you want from an arrow rest).
  • I think shooting a compound bow with all the gadgets is more like shooting a gun than shooting a recurve bow. The technology, like mechanical string releases, takes out so much human error that what's left is holding still and shooting without disrupting the system. That's not easy, but it's also fewer things to screw up.
I didn't actually enjoy it. It was frustrating, I was shooting poorly even for me, I lost one arrow point and one whole arrow, and I was tired. I did finish, with a score of 120 (out of a possible 560), to my companions' 425-475. I had a nice chat on my way out with a traditional shooter I'd seen, who's been shooting for years, gets similar scores, and doesn't do the club shoot.

Years ago, there was a huge Chagall show at SFMoMA: hundreds of paintings, appearing only in San Francisco and Paris. So I left work early, waited in line for a couple hours, went through the show, and you know what?

It turns out I hate Chagall. I think his palette was dim and boring and full of black and dark red, and he was obsessed with stars and roosters. Brilliant and all, but unaffecting in the way I find most visual art.

But I don't regret it, because I make that judgement from a pretty sweeping experience of his work. Literally, hundreds of paintings, one after the other. It's not like anyone can say, as they do with Frank Zappa and any Japanese anime, "Oh yeah, you really have to listen to these 5 other albums for a few weeks/watch this first few dozen episodes and then it gets really amazing." No, I've seen a large representative sample of his work.

Now I know I don't really like club shoots, and I don't have to do one again.

field archery

Most of us grew up thinking of archery as that thing we did with the crappy one-piece fiberglass bows at summer camp. At my camp, there was was a kid, W--who had some serious family and behavioral issues, was sent to a military academy, and now appears to be a Nissan car salesman--who had a compound bow and I believe actually competed. He was certainly better at it than the rest of us, equipment aside.

His bow had a 55 lb. draw weight, and when I was 13, at the beginning of the session, I could barely move it. I took the weightlifting class for two weeks, though, and at the end of the two weeks, I could draw the bow pretty easily. So that was cool.

Anyway, without knowing the hows and whys of his very complex-looking piece of equipment, I knew there was more to archery than one-piece fiberglass bows and cheap wooden arrows.

One of the privileges of being a self-supporting grown-up is that I get to go do whatever I want that looks fun, so when I found out about the free archery range up the hill in Huddart Park, and furthermore that the club maintaining it offers a free class, I went and enjoyed it. It turns out that archery is a pretty small basic investment (compared to, say, skiing, photography, or any number of other things): for all new equipment, the shop kitted me out for a few hundred dollars. I still use the same gear five years later, minus the lost arrows. I have easily paid more in gas money going to the range than I did for the equipment.

The Huddart Park range introduced me to the idea of field archery, which is a course of targets laid out through the woods and hills and such. This is nominally about the shooting skills needed for hunting, although if you're taking shots like Target #12 and trying to hit a deer at 80 yards across a gorge, you might be doing it wrong. You certainly have a more powerful bow than I do, and probably a scope: at that distance I'm happy to get my arrows back, let alone hit the bale. (The course is extremely well-designed to maximize safety and minimize arrow loss: you're normally shooting at the side of a hill.)

I had Monday off at work, so I decided to do the course. It's beautiful, a long walk up and down hillsides in the redwoods, almost all shaded, lots of gullies with bridges over them. I'll have to take pictures next time. I made it to Target #23, about 90 minutes, before I decided I was too tired for it to be fun. Then I walked off onto the fire road, which turned out to be at least a half mile straight uphill. Of course, it turns out there are only 28 targets, so it probably would have been easier to walk the whole range.

It's sweaty work! And I was totally dead for the rest of the day, but it was good exercise.