Drifts of Dust

22 May 2015

Dear J—

Well, that’s gone well; it feels like I was done with the week last night but instead the reality had me dragging up this morning and depositing myself on the train like some kind of … I dunno, like some kind of robot or trained monkey who can’t help but fall into the routine every now and again. I suppose that if I brought my computer home every night then I’d never have a problem with not wanting to go into work in the mornings. Maybe it’s time for a break, but what would we do? Where would we go? theVet’s job is (surprisingly? unsurprisingly?) booming and so there’s that slight pressure, to keep momentum there, too. How do you fix it?

We have terrible redundancies in our lives; I remember my mom advising me to get two vacuum cleaners if I ever got a two-story house, rather than having to lug one up and down the stairs. Likewise, if the kitchen is big enough, two tables: one there and another in the dining room; two sofas, two TVs, two game consoles, two DVD players, two two two or more. Because it’s smart to run your life with multiple items of many things in case one goes down you’ll never be without but frankly who has the time to worry about stuff like that, honestly? If you’re planning that far ahead then you should be able to put together a good emergency kit.

Mike

Checklist

21 May 2015

Dear J—

The worst part of a checklist is making it, because you end up with all these items to cause you anxiety: oh, I have to do that too? Especially if the list grows so long that you can’t seem to see the end of it, or the list has such high-time items like “copy the Bible” that you can never see the end. On the other hand, everything is gravy after that: hey, cool, let’s go. Check that one off too. You can fill your list with a hundred little squirrelly tasks that take no time at all, like “call those people” and “hey, send an email” in response to that and … yeah. Easy. I like it. Although you have to try hard not to add more tasks on as you go through it; that becomes discouraging, discovering prerequisite items as you are working through them.

On a not-so-distant limb, I’m going to say our time here is not unlimited; There are many things you could consider with respect to history and utility but for the most part I’ve been able to write regularly here for uh, ten years? Is that right or am I thinking of 2004 for no good reason? No, perhaps it’s 2006. If it’s long enough ago that the years are starting to blur then you know you’re getting old, which is not the kind of thing you’d ever want to admit.

Admit one.

So in all this time has there been anything of interest or particular note? Perhaps, but as figgy likes to remind me, the more I write, the less I want to write (this is in relation to her weekly traditional Chinese character test, but still … I understand). I wonder if I’m idly reaching towards the Rev. Shields-ideal or perhaps even the million monkeys and typewriters, making sure that what I do is worth it isn’t a significant part of my worrisome day.

Mike

Mail Feed

20 May 2015

Dear J—

When I’m having a particularly unproductive day I can tell by my email inbox at work: it remains unpruned and not very-well responded. If I’m up on it and motivated I can react to each of the items in turn and life is good. Otherwise we’re stuck trying to catch up all day everyday. Today’s going to be one of those days. I gave up on trying to document all the things I need to do in the next few days while simultaneously depressing myself with the length of the list and what’s left.

The lists are important because otherwise I might lose track of what I have to do, but seeing the list grow in time is disheartening as well; there’s only a few things more inevitable than a list like that and they all involve some form of punishment. I want to tell the list (because you know how helpful it is to talk to inanimate objects) that I’ll get to that … and that … and that in good time, and it will be done but please, could we stop piling stuff up for now? Thanks.

Mike

The Thousand

19 May 2015

Dear J—

Last night they caught a mountain lion in San Mateo; I’d noticed the place where I usually turn off to get figgy from her after-school care (9th and Palm) was blocked off and didn’t think to ask or search why, but my folks called up and asked me how it was. I think it might have freaked her out a little to know there was a polecat running around; indeed, that even here in what I think of as a highly urbanized core these things can happen. So that’s our excitement for the week, already spent on a Monday and what are you going to do now?

I’m getting to the point where it’s not enough, any more, not enough to be thrilled or excited or bored by all the things we’re supposed to be thrilled by, so perhaps it’s a question of adjusting expectations and not getting things crossed up. Perhaps it’s too easy to get new things and that’s why we’re not thrilled with them. Perhaps we need a break, despite the boy asking for something special every time I see him lately. Can I get a witness? If there’s no clearly defined need – like, perhaps, a new fencepost to prop up the sagging, rotting one: as theVet puts it, oh, the joys of home ownership – then why aren’t we saving that money instead? You get wrapped up in shopping and the fact that you don’t need a thing never enters the equation.

This then is the death by a thousand cuts; if it’s moderately useful or has marginal utility, then of course we’ve kept it; there’s enough room to put it right … over … there. And at the same time, why? Why, indeed. I’m not advocating that all your stuff is some sort of encumbrance but think about what you had to do when you were getting ready to move, and that perpetual ready-to-move feeling was descending on you like a doom. That’s life and no kidding, too; we have to winnow down the amount of kipple that builds up before there’s an extra thousand pounds of stuff in boxes you haven’t opened in years going on the truck.

Mike

Small World

18 May 2015

Dear J—

In my particular theology you travel through all the lands on the It’s a Small World boat ride until you get to the last glittering area, filled with lights and uniting all the particular children of the world. I call it the afterlife, bu you’re free to think of it as any particular utopia of your choice. I like to believe this not in some fervent dislike for the ride (it may be my favorite at Disneyland: the ride is always cool inside and the lines are mercifully short and efficient, plus I like the song so repeating it doesn’t drive me bats) or the cast but because it fits with what I’ve been told in churches and religions: this is what you’re supposed to expect if you’re worthy.

We use the concept of a small world to refer, in shorthand, to the phenomenon of running into people you know; it’s one thing to have that happen in places you know you’ll both go (not so surprising to run into other parents at school events, for instance) but it’s the serendipitous meetings that keep sparking and spinning away, much as the small modern Texas of McMurtry (Danny Deck!) keeps showing us the same set of characters in different settings and combinations. The world of our lives is smaller than you might imagine and chances are … chances, like running into the girl you are crushing on at the bookstore. What are the chances? Take your chance.

When you get down to it Spokane isn’t that large of a city that you’re not going to run into anyone you know before too long; same with San Mateo or the neighborhood or you know, everything and everything else besides. I pinch myself and remind my eyes that we’re already in the last area, getting ready for … well, not the end certainly but so many more years of service and wonderment at our circumstances, our chances, our everyday miracles and the ones who populate it.

Mike

Rules Schmules

15 May 2015

Dear J—

It’s Friday and we have rolled slowly back into town; yesterday was bike-to-work day but I didn’t memorialize it in any special way, neither departing the train early nor riding up the extra distance to Millbrae; maybe I’ll try that next week sometime, but that’s going to involve me getting up earlier and biking further and … lately sleep is in short supply. We have a lot of other things on our minds, too.

The default sort of interoperability I have in my mind is an unhelpful compartmentalization with limited exchanges between projects, but I’m starting to break down those barriers in a haphazard manner, which leads to excitement and misdirection as I try to figure out what’s happening next. There’s plenty of things that are yet to be finished, so mixing up progress and process isn’t helping too much, is it? When you’re done, if you’re ostentatiously done that’s one thing, but who knows best how to trumpet success and minimize failures?

Mike

The Hunt

14 May 2015

Dear J—

My folks, who had told me weeks ago that their house was too big, are looking for new digs – hopefully smaller and easier to care for – nearer to us. I’m happy to be part of that while trying to help them out and look at local listings. And yet (and there’s always an ‘and yet’) I wonder if they wouldn’t be happier … well, no one understands their needs better than them, so they’re digging in on price (I can’t say I blame them, as their current mortgage is quite reasonable and, frankly, impossible to beat in this inflated real estate market) and hoping there’s a cheaper location nearby, which there might be … somewhere … somewhere.

I will be honest and open and offer advice and not feel slighted when it’s not taken; we’ve advocated some of the senior condos in town but quite honestly, they’re pretty expensive and offer a lot of services they don’t need – not yet, at least. Meals? Maids? Nursing care? On the other hand if they did need it at least it’s there and they wouldn’t need to move again; I suppose there’s always some other ways to go here like how to provide advice without being overbearing or overly dramatic (you must … do it NOW … you must … do it ALL) or dictatorial (here I am again trying to live their lives for them). I don’t know, for instance, how to get rid of your stuff in a graceful manner (there’s something that I’ll have to tackle in my own life) so how am I going to provide any serious help?

We are not dreaming of drama here; this is not something that should be handled with big screaming fights and raised voices or I’m-putting-my-foot-down. Looking for a new place to live should be fun and exciting but it is a lot of work and I appreciate that they’re willing to take the time and effort to do that. I don’t necessarily want it to turn into a situation like Spokane, the annual announcement that we were going to move at the end of each school year and the strange disappointment of not actually going, having to show up sheepish each September. We’ve got a long way to go yet, and I’ve got to pace myself.

Mike

Longview

13 May 2015

Dear J—

I’ve started off this day with a list of don’t-wannas: don’t wanna get up this early, don’t wanna go in to work, don’t wanna make my breakfast, don’t wanna get going quickly enough. I ended that particular phase about ten minutes ago, as I was puffing into the station having gone the fastest way I could, involving only stop signs on the way to Burlingame along North Amphlett and then Howard. What I have noticed today is a distressing time slip: I’ll get started on something only to notice that maybe half again as many minutes have gone by as I estimated. What, the second alarm already? That time? This stop?

It’s hard to fix it when you feel like you’re moving in slow motion, though perhaps that’s just an artefact of skipping out on sleep so much, so often. You get on over your bad self, now. There’s already enough beat-down negative thinking in this world to think that you’re unique in this or all alone, even. Take it easy until you understand why time is disjoint and you’ve warmed up; we all have days like that.

The last few days I’ve noticed glimmers of light in the sky at the station, usually shading to nearly-full daylight by the time I get off the train; perhaps, I think with a guilty start, perhaps I’d be getting up anyway even without the alarm but I doubt it. It’s plenty easy enough to be asleep and letting these daylit hours wash over me. Maybe those don’t-wanna blahs are telling me something more fundamental and fiercely; between the reluctance to go and the difficulties in getting here, I wonder what might be waiting for me over there?

Mike

New Stories

12 May 2015

Dear J—

At some point or another we all burn out or get fed up with it and stop making sense. I’m nearly at that point now, between gathering up references and needing to take a break from all the other things going on at work; where has the time gone, I think, by the end of the day, what did I do and when did I do it? It’s not the easiest thing in the world to think of but there you go instead of driving on into the night like calm children. What sort of story are we telling today, anyway? What are we selling, what did we know and when did we know it?

I suppose this is where I stop to consider that, but instead there’s a thousand other things to be done first; let’s put this together, let’s put that there and by the way, when did we decide that this was right, anyway? This is the way we’ve always done it and so it must be so, but without a better choice of words we run the risk of living under the permanently chilled environment of petty grudges and favoritism; you worry that folks are not going to like you if you keep asking questions as to what to do next but heck, I dunno if I’m doing this right in any manner, anyway. The custom configuration files and various knobs to tweak; who knew that was right or if I’m even feasible with how I’m doing it anyway?

I seriously doubt myself in most instances at the best of times; when I’m learning something new I’m a wreck, worried that I’ll do it wrong or worse yet, that what I did has irretrievably broken something fundamental and it’ll never work quite the same again. This is one of the joys of being me. I should hasten to add, one of the many many joys. Yet at the same time if all I did was the same thing over and over then I doubt I would be happy for long; playing the same mind-numbing levels or exploring the same corners of the world without any doubt that what I’ve done is good enough. Life and everything you do; new is more interesting than precedent and tradition.

Mike

Wonderment

11 May 2015

Dear J—

We have thousands of days ahead of us like glittering sparks in the sky; we have hours and minutes stacked up beyond counting. Don’t we? 80 years is 28,920 days and on the order of half a million hours; perhaps our time is not as unlimited as I thought. Plus there’s invisible hand of fate attached to our strings, pulling and winding us up, to say nothing of the work of Clotho, Lachesis and … uh, the other one (Atropos?). Guy on the train – regular commuter – just told me his niece’s friend just passed away in an auto accident at sixteen and just exploring a driver’s license. What does the rest of the time hold for us? Can we expect it writ large in the stars?

Mike


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