Just Respond

19 August 2016

Dear J—

I have an awful lot of good intentions but the most significant one is the avoid-everything mode where I choose not to respond because I haven’t gotten anything done yet. This is pretty much the way I operate when I want to be nice but also want to be lazy. You know, that tracing of the cross-section of the Transbay Tube wasn’t going to make itself so … So yes. It also didn’t need to be made, perhaps. Lord knows it’s the least of my concerns, although I keep thinking of just one more news article or story that I can squeeze into the writeup.

That’s the problem, though: are you breaking even work-wise, and probably not is the real answer. Why does this happen every time it feels like every time I fail to respond that’s what I end up feeling, that’s that and it’s it. Okay. First off, think of a computer that you’d want to get. That’s the first order of business. Next, let’s think about the greater relief that will be had when you’ve got some more billings done. Yes. And finally, when did project management become a discussion topic in the first place? That’s what I want to know.

Mike

Luxury Alone

17 August 2016

Dear J—

This really is a sort of Golidlocks situation, where I have the luxury of being alone to pursue my thoughts but not so alone that I’m stuck here in an endless echo chamber of checking if I think what is right is already right and yes, shockingly, yes: what we think is right can easily be confirmed to be so, at least when we’re only checking ourselves.

There is plenty to do at work before next week’s Code Week and the loss of momentum between stops means that we’ll have to keep working ourselves nearly to the bone on it, won’t we? Aargh.

I need to figure out what I’m missing. I know I’m missing something.

Mike

Way Out

15 August 2016

Dear J—

it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to write: it has been a fairly busy summer so far, but that’s drawing to a close with the kids getting back to school (or in Calcifer’s case, his first day) on Wednesday. Tomorrow is the ice cream social where we learn which teachers they get for the year and who they’ll be seeing, and then it’s a well-oiled machine for the next ten months or so, bam-bam-bam, pick ’em up and drop ’em off, rushing busy to the next day and the next instead of the patchwork quilt of camps and activities during the summer.

A year from now – next summer – what will that bring? There are changes afoot to the independence of my folks that they’re not going to respond positively to. Okay, they’re going to hate having to live in assisted living, but now is the time, or so we’ve managed to convince ourselves, with new dangers seeming to crop up every day, and only a steady decline in function stretching out ahead.

Mike

Long Mateo

29 July 2016

Dear J—

One of Calcifer’s friends is named Mateo; back when we were roaming around the city on weekends, we would occasionally run into him as he was shuttling around on the back of his dad’s bike (a Yuba ElMundo, one of the big cargo bikes with motor assist). Lately we haven’t had the ambition to go out walking, which may have something to do with the distance and heat, although figgy and I went out to the park last night to catch Pokemon and had a fairly good (yet frigid) time in the wind blowing off the Bay.

Hey, I even now own fingerless gloves (so elegant) which I keep on for the bicycle even when I secretly think how they now remind me of being a Pokemon trainer. Don’t judge me. If it’s a way to get the kids out and walking around then it’s not a bad thing at all. And if we can find a way to be more active this summer too then that’s even better. Kids learn from their parents, and when we’re not willing to go out or just wanting to lie around then …

Mike

Last Week

18 July 2016

Dear J—

Last week I learned a few things:

  • You can’t beat the train. No, really, you shouldn’t even try.
  • Last Monday, someone tried and failed by going around the barriers and abandoning their car on the tracks when they found out they weren’t going to make it.
  • The guy was hiding in the bushes when the conductor hopped out to see if they could render first aid.
  • I used to think the worst job in the world was the guy who had to come in while you were waiting at the emergency room and ask you how you were going to pay for today’s visit, but the way the substitute conductor described the first responder scene (“typically little bits of person … scattered all over the tracks”) makes me think I have a new #1 candidate.
  • After the train hits anything, they give those conductors three days off, minimum, and wow, does that not seem like enough.
  • The substitute conductor, who I initially took as someone wearing makeup well, turns out to be tough as nails and Filipina – if you had said Filipina from the start, I would have known tough as nails.

It has been an interesting week. A lot has changed in my worldview and there’s still a lot of week to get through.

Mike

Daylight

13 July 2016

Dear J—

For the most part Southern Pacific would name the intercity trains that would run during the day “Daylight” trains: so Coast Daylight, for instance. I’ve overslept and missed my first train, so today, the Santa Clara Daylight is what I’ve reflexively declared this train. Get over it. I hate being late and since I’ve been using a smartphone alarm, haven’t been until the last couple of weeks when I figured out the touch sensor will not only unlock the phone, it will turn off alarms. Handy but deadly, I suppose: I’ll have to set up another phone with an alarm next to the bed now.

It’s interesting seeing the stations by day, especially those early stations up here. If I were to take another personal day (they’ve all been personal days, lately; I’ve taken everything very personally) I’ve decided that it’s going to be me riding up to see all five tunnels along the Bayshore Cutoff. There are a lot of indulgent passions I engage in, and one of them is the joy of tradition and history: at over a hundred years old, it’s earned enough venerability points with me to warrant a visit.

I keep telling myself that today’s the day I don’t do X: I don’t oversleep, I don’t get to work and seek out and destroy an entire pack of Pop Tarts by myself, that I don’t fail to review that report that’s been sitting in my inbox for a week. I inevitably fail because really, who wants to not do things? What if I introduce a series of rewards instead, where I get to do something fun in exchange for another more mundane task? I think I can get behind that, and I hope it will snap me out of this funk that’s settled in over the past two weeks.

Mike

KoNorm

8 July 2016

Dear J—

I think I forgot to mention yesterday that Kundo – officially, Kundo: Age of the Rampant – has followed the pattern of most Korean films that I’ve watched where the hero goes through a great deal of suffering before the end, suffering of the just-when-you-think-it-can’t-get-worse variety, so be prepared for that, potential viewers. I suppose it’s better so the ending can be that much more uplifting in comparison, but it’s strange to me how these things are, sometimes. 

Also yesterday, I watched a couple of guys trying to wedge the train door open (one guy got on the train and was holding the door for his friend, who was running a little late). Apparently the edges of the door need to touch in order to recycle and come back open, so they held up the entire train for an extra minute or two and for what? It ended up that they were riding exactly two stops (Palo Alto to San Antonio) and they had bikes, so it’s not like that would have been so terrible a ride (and in Palo Alto/Mountain View, anyway, which are both bike-friendly communities). I dunno. There’s a strange selfishness that I’m sure I’m going to be (or have been) guilty of in the past as well.

Mike

Sick Drama

7 July 2016

Dear J—

As I get older my illnesses have been punctuated by new and troubling dramatic events, such as the yearly appearance of the herpes family reunion right in the middle of my face (everyone’s invited, after all) and the occasional draining of infected sinuses, which manifests itself as a very watery yellow liquid which the first time it happened I was convinced that I was going to die from some sort of meningitis (did you know that if you google “is this cerebrospinal fluid” the answers you get are NOT very reassuring?). Likewise it takes longer to get over these colds and don’t even start about the flu for which I am eternally grateful they’ve developed an annual partially effective immunization.

This is part of getting older, I suppose, part of life as we know it. There are a million ways of getting older and none of us are particularly graceful about it. I’m realizing today, as I ride to work on a later train because I stayed up too late watching/re-watching Kundo, that I’m not a kid and if I’m sleepy I should just go to bed, thank you very much. 


I’m at Hillsdale because of it: I woke up about forty minutes late and I do remember the first alarm going off, I just don’t remember turning it off, which is a problem that I’ll have to remedy tonight, when I do end up getting more sleep. I stayed up a little late Tuesday night, very late last night, and … but why? It’s back to the selfish notion that I need X amount of time to myself or I can’t enjoy things, when really, it should be apparent that I’ve got enough time as it is, thank you.

Mike

Peninsula Commute

6 July 2016

Dear J—

My mind is bubbling over with the history of the Peninsula Commute, which was run by southern Pacific for over a hundred years before operations were ceded to the Joint Powers Board in 1992. Suburban coaches. Original gallery cars, with rubber-covered plywood floors. The sources of information are out there and worth digging up if only to bookend some thoughts that I’ve had about expanding the existing article. Which is all I’ve been thinking about lately, in fact: here we are trying to get through the rest of the day and I’m stuck on go go go, let’s write up some more of the world’s accumulated knowledge in a single place.

It does feel like a race against time at some point: here we are, this is what we’ve got and how are we going to save it?

Mike

Time Flight

5 July 2016

Dear J—

To hear them describe it, everything went well: the flights were all on time and the arrival was of no great consequence, so hooray: my relatives are back in town and we’ll get to go see them this weekend. This last long holiday weekend has been somewhat challenging in terms of how to fill the empty hours and spaces between Friday and Tuesday; there were things we could have gone and tried but instead we mostly hung out within twenty miles of home and that was okay, too. Perhaps there will be a more appropriate mid-summer party later, assuming all goes according to plan.
You know that physical modeling of real phenomena is fantastically hard, which is why I’m impressed with Roland’s attempts to do so with virtual instruments: rather than replay a sample with various degrees of decay and attack based on key or bellows velocity, they’ve used various transforms to render a vibrating string as a whole series of equations and while the result may not be precise, is it precise enough? You’ll always hear some differences, I suppose, but you’ll also never be satisfied if that’s your ultimate goal. Better yet to celebrate the attempt and know the foundation it lays for the future.

Mike


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