Monday, April 06, 2020

on parental leave, social distancing

Well, it's certainly been an exciting few weeks since I last updated! Just when I was really hyped on the US Democratic nominations, COVID-19 rolls in and now we've passed through into a totally new world, a reset of global events. My hope, beyond seeing the curve flatten, is that people learn some lessons on politics, capitalism, epidemiology, statistics, and basic hygiene. Certainly it seems that everyone has an opinion on how things are being handled/mishandled by our governments.

Hwan bottle-feeding Sora.
On the bottle
I started social physical distancing back on March 12th, as MJ had pointed out then how important getting ahead of the virus was, in particular to keep it away from Sora. My work is mostly doable from home but the less than ideal setup makes it a bit of a pain. I definitely miss having a large choice of convenient lunch and snack options. How strange to think that a month ago I was on the TTC going about my day, living my life, washing my hands only after using the bathroom.

On March 30th I started my parental leave, coinciding with MJ's return to work (albeit from home), so I've been spending most of my day caring for the baby -- playing with Sora, carrying her around, changing her diaper etc. It may sound like I have a lot of free time but in reality I only have a couple hours to myself at night, and only after cleaning the kitchen, tending to the cats, and whatever other chores are outstanding for the day. So the days fly by pretty quickly. I do get some reading done but flipping through the news and social media is the most I can hope for.

I did start playing Disco Elysium, which is one of the greatest games I've played in a long while. I'm only a few hours into it but I love everything about it -- the themes, the art, the writing, the voice-acting. I suppose, at its base, it is a point-and-click adventure, but the fleshing out of the world and characters is really impressive, with lots of smart dialogue options that can give one pause to reflect. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea as there are pages of history and details to digest but I find it very nourishing, a welcome escape.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Day by day

Hola The days pass by pretty quickly, each moment slipping by. There is some routine to my week, as you can see:

08:00 Get up, feed the cats, make breakfast (usually oatmeal with toast), get dressed.
09:30 Catch the streetcar, check e-mail.
10:00 Work — meetings, more e-mail, programming, reviews.
13:00 Lunch, sometimes with friends but often listen to a podcast.
14:00 More work. Usually a bathroom break.
18:00 Head home, play Hearthstone on the streetcar. Pick up groceries.
18:30 Help prepare dinner and/or watch Sora. Eat and catch up with MJ.
20:00 Bathe Sora, prepare her for bed by rocking her to sleep.
21:00 Clean kitchen, sterilize baby stuff. Clean kitty litter.
20:00 Evening ablutions, check Twitter, watch Netflix or YouTube.

Pretty hum-drum stuff. Seeing Sora is an absolute joy, to be sure, but I’ve little time for much else as you can see. This may change in April when I take my parental leave for five months, which I cautiously look forward to.

My condition hasn’t really changed but I suppose my ability to manage it has improved. I go to the bathroom around 4-6 times a day which is still quite a bit but I don’t feel too fatigued anymore. I even manage to get some exercise in a few times a week, which is something. Still taking pain killers though I am pushing myself to taper off.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Mary Jean gave birth to our daughter at Sunnybrook hospital last Thursday morning, two weeks earlier than the estimated date. We had made arrangements to have the birth at the Toronto Birth Centre but the intensity of the contractions combined with the slow progress forced a trip to the hospital. The actual act of delivery was unexpectedly quick, a comically sudden arrival of a vernix-covered tiny alien, an event I nearly missed by taking a bathroom break at what I thought was an early stage.

We spent the next three days in the hospital as they monitored Sora's various vitals, and in particular her blood sugar and red blood cell count. MJ practiced her breastfeeding skills and I attended to her needs, both of us running on adrenaline and the jolt of being parents earlier than expected. I also got to practice my sleeping-in-chair skills, something I probably haven't done since my days in university. Being away from home, away from my comforts, was actually quite bearable -- we had a go-bag full of supplies and the hospital had a reasonable food court. Only a couple times did my condition really bother me.

Back at home, our days are starting to fall into a routine -- MJ does the feeding and co-sleeping of Sora, and I prep our meals and keep the rest of the house running. My family has been supplying us with meals and I haven't yet stepped outside the apartment. Fatherhood does make every living moment different, but I suspect being at home makes it feel less intense. Certainly, the way I see the world is colored by Sora's existence, and I grieve for the condition of it in which she'll grow up.

In other news, I might be coming down with something...!

Monday, March 18, 2019

flu means anime

Last month I came down with a terrible flu. I wondered where I could've picked up such a punishing version of the virus. Wherever it came from, it hit me hard, forcing me to spend several days in bed, weak and feverish. With my appetite so affected my usual meal regime was thrown out the window, and my trips to the bathroom were more uncomfortable than usual. I had such a bad cough that I ended up going to a walk-in clinic, getting some heavy duty cough medicine and an inhaler to stave off pneumonia.

In those moments of wakefulness, between sips of tea and soup, I found myself turning to old anime. Namely, I watched Hikaru No Go and Great Teacher Onizuka again. Oh, how it does bring me back. The voice acting in both of these series is really quite excellent. And the music! Haha oh man it brought a smile to this old brain.

Out of curiosity, I started reading the Hikaru No Go manga, and so far it's been a real treat, seeing the source for the anime. I think I can recommend both to pretty much anyone dipping their toes into the mediums. It's also gotten me thinking about playing go again, though I remain terrible at it, despite my various attempts at learning over the years.

In preparation for the movie, I also started reading Battle Angel Alita and I gotta say, it's really not aged well. At least, not aged well for me -- young me loved seeing Alita fight her way up the Spire (and beyond) but adult me wants to throw the whole thing into the sun. It's just so stupid, so clearly written by someone obsessed with guns and martial arts and disembowelments and constructing thought experiments. I don't think I have anything in particular against thinking about artificial situations but there needs to be some plausibility to it, to the environments that brought it about -- what Battle Angel Alita asks you to swallow is far too much. For example, there's a character that can experience the history of anything he touches, and in one scene he gains the skills of a sword’s original wielder by holding it -- this is homeopathy for touch, and it's truly one of the dumbest things to pivot a plot around.

The movie was also shit, and not because of those big dopey eyeballs.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

reading here and there

It occurred to me, some time last October, that I used to really enjoy reading. That is, I hadn't read a book in a long time, and I did not really have an excuse. So I looked up how to read library books on my iPhone, installed Libby, got my library account re-activated (I had applied for one many years ago but it had expired from inactivity), and have been burning my way through books, my appetite much returned.
  • The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian. Still a classic to my heart, an excellent appetizer easing me back on the reading track. I don't think I could ever tire of this series. 5/5
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Superbly written, I so enjoyed the film that I was pleased to find that the novel gave so much more. Sublime, thoughtful narrative. 5/5
  • Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro. I only made it through a 1/4 of the 1200+ pages before I had to return it but that was enough to convince me that this was a historical work worthy of its many accolades. An efficient, dense tome.
  • The Senate, William S. White, the body's most prominent chronicler, wrote in 1956, is "the South's unending revenge upon the North for Gettysburg." Not just revenge, unending revenge.
  • A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. A great disappointment, how such dreck makes it to the best-seller's list is beyond me. While individually the characters are not so terrible, having them all together was simply too much to take. An unsatisfying mystery of shallow, absurd characters. 1/5
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick. I'd read this many years ago and remembered liking it. Certainly the world-building is a delight -- typical Dick stuff. What I didn't recall was the heavy sexism, and the main character being such an arse to everyone around him. 3/5
Becoming so enamored with reading on a device but tired of straining on a small screen, I asked my family to get me a Kobo Clara HD e-reader for Christmas*, which is now a constant companion.
  • The Outsider by Stephen King. Was King always this bad or did my tastes change so? While the build up to the mystery was intriguing, the beginning interviews were rather tedious and the ending anticlimactic. Also, he falls in love? Really? 2/5
  • Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle. Biting political commentary and eye-opening history lessons, relevant to a pre- and post-Trump world. 5/5
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Riveting, plausible post-apocalyptic story set in Ontario. 4/5
  • The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso. I can't remember who suggested this one but I found it a bit too much of a child's story for my liking -- overly tidy, the love story uninspired. 3/5
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This did not age well. I couldn't finish it, saw no reason to do so.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. About half-way through and loving it. Every word finely crafted, every sentence manicured for maximum impact. Unforgettable.
I also, as many of you do I'm sure, have a stack of books that I am very slowly making my way through. Currently I'm on The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll, a gift from my father-in-law. It's really quite decent, slowed only by the details of the atrocities those poor animals have suffered through at people's hands.

* Kindle doesn't directly support library loans.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Andrew passed away on January 4th after a battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. It was a surprise to us, his university friends, a passing shot fired over e-mail, apparently nearly a year since his diagnosis. Those that could visited him at his house, his frame weak and thin, weighed down by the cancer, drugs, and radiation therapy. He kept a brave face, a rather deceptive face in hindsight.

I last saw him on December 12th, about a week before heading to Saskatoon for Christmas. At the time a small thought entered my head, that this could be the last time I'd see Andrew but I quickly dismissed it as we talked of foods he could try and measures he could take to make living at home safer. I was back in Toronto on the 31st when we got word that he had been moved to palliative care and would no longer be taking visitors, a concerning sign but even then we thought he still had a few weeks left, maybe even months.

His memorial was on January 12th, in Scarborough near his father's home, and I was heartened to see that it was well attended by family, friends, and coworkers, both current and old. I finally got to meet Andrew's sister, a figure whom he'd never given much detail about -- she seemed nice and appreciated everyone's sentiments. Andrew's father looked much the same though I felt like he did not recognize me. I was happy to see some of the old gang back together for the memorial. I gave a short speech which probably covered about 1% of all the things I could say about him, though of course I left out the stuff I nagged him about like climate change and Jordan Peterson.

Honestly I feel like I'm still processing Andrew's death, as if he's too fresh in my mind's eye. Not that I talked to him much in the past year, a fact that I lament somewhat now, though I suppose I was busy with my own medical and life goings-on. And certainly our personalities had diverged, something I credit to the different circles we frequented and relationships (or lack thereof) we were involved in.

But that he's no longer around is unreal to me. I can still hear his voice, hear his stifled laughter, see his grimacing smile. I will miss him, certainly, but he continues to be very much alive in my mind.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

a literal pain in the

How is it already December 19th? Yeesh. And it seems my aim of writing more posts this year has been a failure, a goal that kept getting pushed aside as life threw more things my way. Sure, a lack of discipline can also be blamed, but so can simply having very few tales to tell. And that's due to my disinclination to going out, being shy about breaking my routine and leaving my rather comfortable base.

MJ and I did go to Tokyo in September, which I'll write out in full later. A mostly enjoyable trip, memories that are still rather fresh in my mind's eye. I'd never had a strong desire to visit Japan, and I still find it odd that I was there, among the throngs of conservatively-dressed, impassive citizens, along spotless avenues and riding equally spotless subway trains. I'd say the highlight was a bicycle tour which took us through and around the downtown, the city being fairly amenable to cyclists. People talk about how good the food is, but I wonder if those people have taken advantage of the best Toronto has to offer.

When we got back MJ received news that she'd contracted a disease for which she needed surgery, so we've been dealing with her recovery, as well as attempting to plan for the future with what little we know. And a veterinarian visit revealed that Monkey also needed surgery, albeit a far less serious dental procedure, so that also added to our daily duties for a while.

Myself, my condition seems to have pretty much leveled out, a dismal molehill with little hope of much more. While I've gotten the hang of my diet, I still suffer in small bouts; nothing nearly as dreadful as my colitis pains but inconvenient enough to keep my ambitions low and spirit wan. The pain I experience can be of 3 types:
  1. A dull, throbbing pain in my groin, which began happening after my J-pouch connection surgery, leading me to think the operation brushed a nerve in the area. It seems to occur after using my pelvic muscles, or when I'm trying to hold my bowel movement for an extended period. In terms of intensity it's relatively low but it's enough to disturb my sleep.
  2. Going to the bathroom 5 to 6 times a day can take its toll on the skin, and mine is pretty aggravated on a good day, and explosively agonizing on bad ones. That's definitely something I miss about Japan -- why doesn't the world embrace water toilets?! I don't know how people with my affliction manage without one.
  3. Often the urge to visit the bathroom comes with cramps, unpleasantly bundled with a not insignificant threat of an embarrassing breach.
I manage with diet, and a couple pain killers when I know I need some extra protection.

Anyway, I'm off now to Saskatoon for a week. More when I get back, yeah?