Asperia

28 August 2015

Dear J—

We reel between consciousness and sleep and the places we end up aren’t always pretty. This early first part of the ride I get to travel over territory I’ve already covered on the bike, while I wait for the next batch of people coming on and getting ready to go to work, hips bumping and walking through headlights on their way back or to or from or forward. There’s a thousand different ways to be eager and able, and we keep on long past the normal expiration date as well.

I’m rereading books, er, novels that I’ve read before in an effort to avoid having to find new things to read: the more familiar I am with the thing I’ve trod over, the faster I can read it and the sooner I get ready to go to work, though I quite honestly prefer to be asleep this Friday and ready and willing and able to be at work. I should take more tme off and volunteer at school, or at some school, or indeed with any thing else other than just the sad unreformed deals that I deal with.

Mike

Worried Way

27 August 2015

Dear J—

I see you and you’re waiting, we’re waiting, we sit down to idle away the most-of-an-hour that runs between here and there. I talk to the other train riders and I hear what they have to say, what’s happening and what’s new in their lives as we pick up and drop off more and more passengers. We’re back to the early-morning dark and it won’t be until after Halloween now, right, with the shifting clocks and lost sleep, the gathering light and shifts.

I’m still not sure what I’m saying. It’s no doubt better to work out the mental kinks now before I find myself losing it as the day wears on; there’s a balance between being fresh and getting up too early and starting too late, but there’s also a disturbing trend of not being able or willing to start hitting it as soon as you walk in that door, unless of course there’s something more … deeper? Infuriating? Urgent? We already have several thousand different things to-do on the list, so why should we even pretend that there’s free time? The thousand things we have time for doesn’t necessarily translate into productivity.

The longer I’m at work the more I feel vaguely fraudulent; who’s to say that I’m a particular expert in this versus anyone else, merely by dint of experience and effort? Is that enough? When we were putting together the slides I thought to myself how much I knew and then upon reviewing the drafts I realized how much I didn’t. When you do you stop feeling so crazed and uncomfortable with yourself? Do you ever?

Mike

Long Way

26 August 2015

Dear J—

I suppose if nothing else the whole benefit of trips is to come back and appreciate what you have, not to take these things for granted and so yes. There’s so much time in the evenings that I spend disconnected at home that I don’t know what to do with myself on the road: after dinner and before bed, though that usually just becomes extra-work time, as these things go. We have a thousand different other things to do as soon as there’s enough time, so why not? Good morning and good days ahead, let’s keep it that way, right? 

I think I’m going to spend part of the morning mourning the distance and time spent getting between here and there. We have had enough opportunity and ample allowance for distance and time and shielding but in the end it’s just a matter of waiting it out; we have an hour here, an hour there and suddenly you’re a thousand, two thousand miles away. What happened? Where do we go with this next? I need some time here, boys.

Mike

Routine Rut

21 August 2015

Dear J—

I drove to work yesterday (second time in two years) and when I got back there was a Honda Accord parked in front of the house occupying what I’ve increasingly come to think of as my spot after eighteen months of near-continuous occupation. It’s been there overnight and despite all the evil eyes I’ve cast upon it, does not appear to be inclined to move. I wonder whose car it is, but I’ve said a thousand times to other people there’s no reserved street parking, so I’m not sure where I’m going with that, honestly. Just to vent. I … I’m just … well, I guess the root is that I feel entitled to that spot, even when tthere’s no good reason to be, so just like whoever keyed my car in North Park, right?

We get into these routines and I can see us trending towards a sedentary life just recently, between going out to eat and finishing off the kids’ portions I need to start doing something, whether it’s going for an evening walk (now that it’s summer! and the days are long! we should spend some more time outdoors! shouldn’t we?) or something else. At the same time there’s much work to be done and I can’t force myself to disrupt the routine, the routine where we’re ready to take care of ourselves in favor of work, which is threatening in its own way to set us up for some pretty spectacular failure very quite soon. We’re supposed to give training and I’ve been taking it less seriously than I should, have not been reading it thoroughly enough. There’s a lot more to be done instead, perhaps, but also more challenges to overcome too.

Mike

Usual Tastes

19 August 2015

Dear J—

It’s funny how your tastebuds will decide that’s what’s right for the rest of your life, and they’ll have the final word on it, too. I went to Chef Chu’s a couple of weeks ago and ordered the almond chicken, which I expected to come as it did in Cheney: breaded, fried and covered in a gray-brown gravy and topped with crushed almonds. Nope. I got grilled chicken (boiled, almost) in a light cornstarch reduction topped with sliced almonds. When your body is expecting one thing and getting another then you don’t know what to say.

In a way I suppose it’s fine; there’s no problem, necessarily, with having something else or wanting something else, for that matter, and the food was still good. But at the same time I don’t think there’s quite anywhere else in the world that makes an almond chicken like Chinese Gardens in Cheney, and even that’s doubtful now that the ownership has changed hands. [I don’t know what the menu is like now, since I haven’t eaten there since I was in high school]. Would I have known perhaps I would have eaten more when I had the chance. As it is perhaps there’s a few thousand souls who now miss it, or not. It’s definitely an Americanized dish, but the question is to what degree, and what that might say about me.

Mike

Weekender

17 August 2015

Dear J—

There’s what feels like a thousand degrees outside, between the haze from fires up north (and I do remember those appaling days of smoke and haze from fire seasons in San Diego) and the unseasonable (?) heat of the past few days, reaching into the 90s around here. I’m not used to the heat, or the lingering heat, to be exact, as we usually see some beautiful relief once the sun goes down and the usual bay breeze comes in to cool us off. On the other hand, let’s be clear here – the prevailing direction is always winds out of the west, so what we’re seeing is an ocean breeze.

The heat and ennui are tough; we find things to do but they’re shelved in favor of some quality tube time and disconnecting into our separate worlds, which can’t be good for us, but you get tired of fighting the don’t-wannas after some time, right? You pull and drag the kids along to different things and sure, it’s good to have activities but it’s also exhausting and not always rewarding, not that that’s the only consideration we should have. Of course it’s hard work. Why shouldn’t it be? If you wanted something easy then why bother at all?
Mike

Branding

14 August 2015

Dear J—

How much do we trust brands to be correct and in our best interests? I hope that for instance the folks at Logitech have my back when I’m saying you should get this keyboard or that trackball when for all I know my sample size of two or three isn’t enough data to say anything meaningful. Yet so it goes; because of good experiences you might have had with one class of product, you’ll be inclined to see them for more similar things, maybe: good keyboards could mean good cases, too, or perhaps speaker systems. Or perhaps you’re swayed by the past history of a company; Creative doesn’t sell a SoundBlaster any more (I don’t think) but that’s going to keep you looking at their speakers and audio players, isn’t it?

The truth is our core competencies rarely apply to other areas and experiences; just because we’re good at one thing doesn’t mean we can pick another and expect reasonably good results. However, even that isn’t a good rule to apply; if you’re a reasonably gifted analyst then I’m sure you could for instance figure out how to apply those skills in other areas; I’ve no doubt that someone who could teach themselves how to perform a least-squares fit could also pick up the nuances of other spreadsheet activities. At some point we have to trust in our ability to learn and check but ask for help as we need it.

Mike

From Utah

13 August 2015

Dear J—

I’m back from Utah, where I spent three days (more or less) in Delta, which is located approximately two hours south of Salt Lake City by car. I knew nothing about the plant and the town before going, in contrast to the usual fevered searching I do in the weeks leading up to a trip, so I was surprised the first day, during a down time, to find out that Topaz was nearby.

Let me explain. Topaz is one of the euphemistically-named War Relocation Centers, one of a handful in the country and where most of the internees who were gathered up at Tanforan ended up. So one the same day that I flew from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and drove to Delta and ultimately to Topaz, I was sort of kind of retracing steps, in a sense, at least inadvertently. The site is hard to find and still, seventy plus years later, in the middle of nowhere: fields as far as the eye can see, although there’s a few houses on the way out there. I went during a relatively cool and wet time, but I can see how you’d complain of dust and mud and to have to live there for more than three years!

In town they have built a museum building and there’s ‘restored’ barracks behind it, ‘restored’ meaning the barracks are in the original as-built configuration, with exposed tarpaper and other hastily-assembled earmarks. I learned that Topaz internees were allowed to work on farms and in town, but the fact remains that you’d be stuck going ‘home’ to a place that wasn’t, a place where there’s no there, there. There’s a few times in my life that I’ve felt like there was no one else on earth and standing in the middle of the square was like that, quiet and sere and serene, I suppose, in a way.

Mike

Working Time

7 August 2015

Dear J—

The nuclear department at work – that’s three people, including me – took out a potential client to dinner on Wednesday night, meaning that I took the second-to-last train of the night northbound back home that night. I hadn’t thought it was that late but when I walked up to the station, the arms were coming down and I didn’t have a chance to cross the tracks until the train had stopped. It worked out but I wasn’t home until 11 that night, and without my bike to boot; there wasn’t enough time to retrieve it from the office (or if there was, I’d have had to wait another hour for my chance at the next train). So yes, it’s a disruptive schedule.

I’m missing the first day back at school for figgy on a work trip next week (Utah) and apparently a back-to-school night two weeks later for another trip (Mississippi) so there’s that, and it sucks; even the barest participation at school can’t be handled without me taking a vacation day perhaps. There’s some stupid administrative paperwork I should take care of before heading out, too. I … it’s work, but sometimes it’s not enough to say that.

Mike

Inner Outer

4 August 2015

Dear J—

I had a meeting in the city yesterday so i rode the train up from San Mateo, walked up to Union Square, then over to Chinatown for breakfast (char siu bow and an egg tart, both freshly heated) and back in time for the meeting and seeing folks from last time; there’s a ton of information I need to educate myself on in terms of welding technology and I know just the folks to do so when I have a chance, when they’re in the office. Life goes on, as always, as ever. Afterwards, I rode the train back down and intended to get out at Burlingame and walk over to the daycare, but the train didn’t stop at the right station last night, so there you have it.

My legs are still sore this morning from the long walks, though I suppose I should have either known better or at least trolled better. People in the city do walk faster, at least in the small sample size I took, and the added urgency of discovering the various neighborhoods added to that, i suppose. I don’t think that I’ve walked through the Stockton Street tunnel before, though it neatly delineated a border between Chinatown and the rest of the city. One side, one thing, the other side completely different (the Green Door ecstasy massage, something that you never quite get away from in San Francisco is the grit and I can’t imagine wearing sandals in some areas, even when I wear sandals everywhere.

Back on the train; you sit in an empty seat either in the window position or the aisle position. If you’re traveling with someone else, you share seating and there’s often enough available to be seated where you want to be. If you’re alone, then either you pick the inner (aisle) or outer (window) seat, though if you pick inner that usually means no one can sit next to you unless they’re willing to climb over your legs. I get why you might want to but it seems friendlier to me to pick outer and leave the inner for the next paying guest, doesn’t it? There are no wrong choices here, I suppose, though. Welcome aboard.

Mike


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