Thursday, March 03, 2022

Convoy-age

I absolutely hate how the world is shaping up, just a frog boiling slowly in greed, misinformation, and lack of critical thought. I don't think I've said it here but as a former member, the skeptic movement has been an abysmal failure, handcuffed by the notion that one can think and live purely on logic like some alien, creature, free of "human" feeling. How absolutely frustrating it is to have the right answers but not willing to use one's voice. I frankly pity and loathe them.

I wrote the above back in February, when the "Freedom Convoy" was honking its way into everyone's ears, eating up media time and darling to anti-mandate-minded small business owners. And now it's March and Putin has decided to start a land war with Ukraine, threatening nukes and all, hundreds already dead, fascists looking to see how to fill in the power gaps. For once America's wolf was real, though it seems not of the mind to really do anything about it outside of sanctions. Yet. How it plays out remains to be seen but it's undeniable that many more civilians will suffer.

And while COVID continues to mutate and Omicron's numbers begin to drop, Doug Ford has decided to drop vaccine passports and loosen mask restrictions. It seems we're becoming more and more comfortable with the death of the vulnerable, the aged, the innocent. I think I remain sane but it's quite the horrorshow, doomed to rolling the dice with every strain.

Elden Ring! I heeded its call and have begun my descent, a transformation, and embrace, accepting madness to avoid madness. I admire its purity, its demand of perfection and attention.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Happy birthday!

2022. Fun to say and hard to believe. The pandemic continues as Omicron crashes across the country. Sora's daycare had an outbreak over the holidays so we've extended our stay at my parent's home. Though it's not our childhood house, it contains enough relics to cast a haze of memories over me whenever I'm here.

Hwan and Sora
2021 has passed, one day melting into the next. We've so far managed to avoid catching any of the 'rona, though to be sure we've had more than our share of colds and flus as Sora builds up her resistances through the daycare. It has kept our fall months especially busy, with barely time to recreate.

We did manage a trip in August to Saskatoon to see MJ's family, bathing ourselves in the dry prairie heat. Despite the stress of pandemic travel and it being our first flight with Sora the trip went without incident.

I watched a fair bit of Netflix last year, and maybe I'll review in another post. In terms of video games, not much went on... at least, not much by my usual marks. I did start Everdale and Clash Mini on my phone, but I don't see myself keeping with these long-term. As good as these games are at distracting me from my bowel pains, I grow weary of their grindy nature.

And yes, I continue to struggle with my diet and bathroom issues.. it seems my stomach remains sensitive, after all these years. I do take some drugs to help cope, but I wonder how long this war can continue, unceasingly flipping between peace and flareups.

I'll try to make it back here soon. Watch this space!

Saturday, April 03, 2021

gadget tears

In the early days of the pandemic, before the quarantine took hold, I ordered a pair of wireless earbuds, “Klipsch T5 True Wireless Headphones”, reasoning that since I liked their wired headsets the wireless ones must be decent too. Well, after a year of use I will say that the audio quality is good but overall this was a very disappointing purchase:

  • The buds are hilariously large, and while they do fit in my ears they stick out like Frankenstein’s bolts, and snag when I remove a mask or change my shirt etc.
  • Despite their size, they only have one button per bud, and this button is placed so that it’s frustratingly easy to accidentally play or pause by mistake.
  • The buds have these intense blue LEDs that you cannot configure in any way. Particularly annoying since I primarily use them at night while everyone else is asleep, but it’s also not great when I’m out and about, blinding passing strangers.
  • But my number one beef with them is that they are constantly losing their connection to my phone or each other. About half the time when I take them out of the case I have to reset them to connect with my phone. Sometimes one bud will just turn off. It’s bad enough that I’ll sometimes not bother with them if I’m only planning on watching something for a few minutes.
The other tech purchase I made over the pandemic was an Apple Watch, the SE with GPS. I’ve had a few episodes where my heart rate jumped around quite a bit over seemingly mild physical activity, and so I thought it’d be useful to have something to monitor my pulse. After the initial excitement I’ve cooled quite a bit over the watch, which replaced my trusty Pebble Time.

My main beef with the Apple Watch is its lousy battery life, about 100 hours. It sounds like a lot but for its size and heft I’d expect to charge only once or twice a month. After checking the time and notifications, my top use is the timer function, which really helps with meal prep. Though when I think of it this way it seems I didn’t get my money’s worth.

Haven’t been doing much reading since my last update. Slowly making my way through The GoldFinch, which I’ve mostly enjoyed — the writing is delicious but the story and main character I am thus far ambivalent about, and I’m about 60% of the way through.

Game-wise, I am having a blast with Valheim. I was never a fan of Minecraft’s aesthetic and Terraria’s control-system was a real slog for me — Valheim seems to have hit the sweet spot for myself and many others. There’s something very satisfying about setting up a new camp in an unexplored land. I do find death in the game to be absolutely punishing though.



Monday, October 26, 2020

The Outer Worlds is awful, we are boned

I rather thought the Outer Worlds to be absolute shit, and am bemused by how little people who review it seem to care that it's such a terrible game. I had expected a fun Fallout-esque romp in space but the experience felt empty, the characters completely charmless, the environments tiny and unimaginative, the action bland and forgettable. Truly, a game built by many committees and little love. 

 I felt much the same about Far Cry: New Dawn, but at least the maps and places were memorable and the characters have defining features that made you interested in what they had to say. My main beef was that the plot didn't make sense. That, and the awful A.I. Is having smart scripted enemies just too much to ask? Did we peak with Half-Life 2? Why do combatants have to shout their intentions and actions? 

Well, that's what you get when you don't update your blog in a while -- outdated video game opinions.

How am I doing? Uhm, we're still under quarantine so that's still hanging over our heads. The daughter is growing pretty rapidly it seems to me, nearly walking, nearly talking. I've been spending more time with my parents, who still manage to surprise me with their reactionary views and casual racism. I mean, I guess it goes with the life they've had but I'm still not really used to it. Not that I had much of a sense for politics when I was younger; indeed, I myself could've been considered rather conservative until my early adulthood, and even then I was just another finger-wagging liberal, no class consciousness, no analysis beyond the surface.

And though I've grown (or so I like to think), it seems the world has not much changed. Sure, we have computers in our pockets and social media reminding us to look at those computers. But is the world as a whole any better from 10 years ago? 20? No, it seems lessons have not been learnt, history has not been heeded. We can't even get people to wear masks during an infectious pandemic.

Basically, we're boned. If we can't get people to do something so easy, so obviously in their self-interest, what hope is there to turn the tide against climate change? I mean, yeah, of course I'll keep resisting and pushing to avoid that fate. But it's not looking good, and I feel bad for those who'll inherit this mess.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

ACAB's Ladder

This year is certainly moving at a brisk pace -- a US drone strike against Iraq, Bernie Sanders gaining steam in the Democratic primaries, COVID-19 and quarantines, Bernie suspending his campaign, an economic recession, a global backlash against police violence, second waves of infection and now the grumblings of the US election. I do hope that we see some lasting change, some momentum towards improving people's safety and inequality in general. This would be contingent on organizing the tangible fervor, lest it fizzle with exhaustion and ineffectual half-measures.

On the one hand, the reaction to COVID has been a rather sad display of the lack of trust in science and epidemiologists, of the speed at which conspiracies flourish, and the partisanship of public health recommendations (a known phenomenon). On the other hand, as a whole we have been successful in participating in the largest voluntary health action in history, a cooperative activity that has likely saved millions of lives:

“I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

So I think there's still some hope, but we definitely need to keep rowing towards shore.

I went back to work last week and it's really like riding a bike! A bike that I have to ride, not really one that I want to. Of course in this case I'm working from home, as many of us are, and I do miss the routine of going to work and keeping that environment physically separate from my home one.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Quarantines Gone Wild

Ontario has begun phasing the opening of businesses, and certainly it seems like people are going back out there in search of the new normal. Combined with the lack of contact tracing, I think we can expect a second wave of cases and deaths in a couple weeks. I've read that the modest drop in the rate of new cases can be attributed to institutions - their wave has passed but the broader public's still going up.

Not much new to report from our household as I continue my parental leave/quarantine. The ants are back. Our bird-feeder is very popular and I've seen some cardinals and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Sora is basically crawling, and her first two teeth are peeking out. My health is coasting along -- not great, not terrible, some nights better than others. Quality sleep still manages to escape me, there being so much to do all the time.

I have been getting a fair bit of reading done, mostly fiction.
  • The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. Really enjoyed this fantasy series following a talented, strong-headed child as they get pulled into an adventure spanning multiple worlds. 4/5
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. Beautifully written story of a life told in two parts -- as a child missing his parents and later as an adult, piecing together the mystery of his mother's role in World War 2. 4/5
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I find I cannot recommend this epic, insightful, incredibly detailed and well researched novel enough. Forget this The Martian snack -- Red Mars is the meal deal for a thorough thought experiment into how a colony on Mars would play out. 5/5
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Young man is stricken by an unforeseen, debilitating condition that requires his family to care for him, which conflicts with their and society's expectations of his role as provider. 3/5
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick. I especially enjoyed that the main character had to plead with his appliances and doors to provide services, as they were on a pay-per-use system. That and the idea of keeping dying people alive in a semi-frozen state, allowing them to slowly talk to people. 4/5
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I didn't know that this was the popular novel by Murakami, whose work I relish. It keeps similar themes to his other works but without the magical realism or violence. 4/5
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Awful, just absolute dross. It is a sad state if this work is representative of the coming generation of writers. Or am I wrong in its base, childish treatment of mental illness? 1/5
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami. Twenty years after his high school friends shunned him, Tsukuru confronts them one by one. One of Murakami's weaker works, with a more than usually weak-willed protagonist and frankly one-dimensional women. 2/5
  • Moonshot by Richard Wiseman. I always enjoy Wiseman's books, with their tidbits and trivia into human psychology. Unfortunately I somehow also forget the lessons given. 4/5
  • Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. Young Kafka runs away from his father but is pulled back by a curiously familiar woman and a fateful painting; simple Nakata helps people find their cats but is himself pulled to perform an important task taking him far outside his little world. 4/5
  • Salt by Mark Kurlansky. Reading about the history of salt and its role in commerce and food was interesting but the text was rather dry and lifeless, as if I'd read the result of someone spending hours and hours scouring a library. That is to say, without a broader context I often found the trivia rather unsatisfying. 3/5
  • Killing Commendatore by Murakami. An artist is pulled into a mystery when he finds an ominous painting in the cabin he's renting. Some truly chilling and exhausting dream-like sequences. 5/5
  • Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. Fascinating memoir by an undergraduate joining a ship's crew as a common sailor, traveling from Massachusetts to California in 1834 to 1836, with intimate and very human detail. 5/5
  • Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami. Shorter Murakami work, with lots of unresolved ends. K is in love with Sumire, a writer, who is in love with the older Miu, a business-woman. K joins them on their vacation and is tasked to solve a serious mystery. 4/5
  • Thunderer by Felix Gilman. I overheard this title on a video podcast, and as such I do not remember the reason for its mentioning, or even if it was indeed recommended. Nevertheless I enjoyed this story of a magical, almost steampunk city, full of ragamuffins, ruffians, heretics and minor gods, and the attempt by an outsider to understand it. 4/5
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami. This tome was originally three books and so is a lengthy read when combined. As unemployed Toru and his wife Kumiko begin to grow apart, a search for their cat leads Toru to become involved with several extremely particular women. It's a tale far too strange to condense easily but it contains many of my favorite Murakami themes including traveling between worlds in suffocating dream sequences. 5/5


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.

Convoy-age

I absolutely hate how the world is shaping up, just a frog boiling slowly in greed, misinformation, and lack of critical thought. I don'...