As I mentioned a week ago, the weather for the holiday weekend was not looking very promising, at home or in Portland, where we contemplated going, but we did want to get out and do some stuff. So we planned some grilling at home, a zoo trip and an overnight at Great Wolf Lodge, about 90 minutes away.
We settled on going to the Woodland Park Zoo on Sunday, as the day with the best weather. We probably didn't think that through very well, because it was crazy crowded. It wasn't terrible though, outside of having to park about three blocks from the zoo. In all of the crowds, we ran into our neighbors and PEPS friends, the Wrights, which was totally random. It also made it feel like we do in fact live here, to run into people like that.
The wagon we just bought is definitely a hit with Simon. Kinda knew it would be, since we borrowed Joe's when we took Simon and Mason to the mini-zoo near us. There is one down side, that he can't exactly crash in it the way he can in his stroller, but that will be easier once he's able to go longer between naps, or without a second nap. We didn't spend a lot of time there, and didn't see much of the zoo, the way we did last fall when he was smaller. But for five bucks on the Microsoft discount, it was still well worth it. It's an up-and-coming zoo, in my view, and I say that because I grew up with the Cleveland zoo, and the Columbus zoo was my backup. Those are fairly awesome zoos. Then there's Animal Kingdom, which sets the gold standard. We have very high expectations of zoos!
The big, magic moment, was when we were standing looking into the elephant habitat, and one of them walked into the scene and started to pick at one of the trees with his trunk. Simon thought this was the coolest thing he had ever seen, and it totally made the short visit worth it. He also got a huge kick out of meeting the goats in the petting farm, reacting much as he does to big dogs. We really wore him out, and he slept quietly in the car on the way home.
For our Great Wolf trip, I decided we should arrive on Monday, as everyone else is leaving, and take Tuesday off. It turns out that it was an excellent decision. While you can use the water park until close the day you check out, the place had cleared out almost entirely on our second trip in, after dinner.
The hotel is what I'd describe as clean, adequate and comfortable. The decor is "lodgey," which is brilliant because the room furniture can take a beating and it's just part of the theme, so as long as they keep up on the mattresses, carpet and chair covering, it stays fairly new looking despite the rigor of family use.
There are tons of things for kids to do, with an arcade, a teen hangout, various snack bars, a big animated character stage, MagiQuest stuff and of course, the water park. Overall, we thought it was a pretty good value even if we would've paid the online price of $220 a night, but it was a great value at $150, with the Microsoft discount. (It's ironic that a company full of people bringing down six figure salaries get discounts all over town.) The only real disappointment is the food choices in the evening. While their giant breakfast buffet is a slam dunk, the lunch and dinner choices aren't great. The kids menu food is also horribly bland. Snack and dessert foods, and the bar, however, are solid.
Given the mass-exodus on Monday, they had a room ready for us when we got there around noon. You can use the water park even if your room isn't ready, but this certainly made things more convenient. They're brilliant about allowing you to enjoy yourself around the resort without being encumbered by giving you RFID bracelets that act as your room key and room charge. No cards, keys or wallets to lose. Very smart, though having to sleep with them blows.
The first thing we did was get some lunch there, since there is nothing else in the area. Like I said, the food isn't great. I had a very bland chicken sandwich and bland fries. Simon's grilled cheese was better! After that, we headed up to our room to get our swimmies on and have fun in the water park.
The park isn't huge, but you can definitely spend many hours there, particularly if you're a kid. It has a significant snack bar, an alcohol bar and a swim merchandise shop. The wave pool takes up a large part of the room, as does the standard play structure with the giant bucket and two junior water slides. There's a play area for the smaller kids, though Simon is a little young still for that. On the other side, a big netted-in basketball pool and a pool for doing rope walks and such. The corner of the building has the stairs for the big slides. The slides themselves are actually outside of the building, enclosed. They have two single or double-person tube slides that start from about three stories up, and they seriously haul ass. We took turns going down those solo. They also have a standard ProSlide Tornado, which is weird because you can't look into it, since it's outside of the building. The other big one I think is a ProSlide Mammoth. Unfortunately, we couldn't ride those since we didn't have anyone to hang out with Simon, but maybe we can talk his cousins into going next year.
The big hit with Simon was, not surprisingly, the wave pool. We sat him down in the shallow part, braced between our legs in about four or five inches of water, and he absolutely loved it. He was just so excited by it all. The first time we went in, on Monday afternoon, there were still a lot of people, so the waves were diluted a bit. But our evening visit, and Tuesday morning visit, was fantastic. He seemed to really enjoy getting tossed around by the waves, which would splash up almost to his neck. Even between wave sets, if he wasn't playing in the vertical water jets, he was fascinated by the giant fans on the ceiling. He wasn't sure what to think about the big water bucket dumps, so we kind of watched those from a distance.
Overall, we were mostly impressed with the place, even if the food wasn't ideal. We'll definitely go back, perhaps this winter. The best part on the drive home was the sleepy fella in the backseat of the car.
We made the most of a crappy weather weekend, and I feel like we had some nice decompression time. Traveling with Simon, even short distances, isn't horribly challenging if we mostly roll with it. Getting him sleeping, whether in the car or in a hotel room, isn't always easy, but eventually he adapts. Haven't figured out what to do with ourselves when he goes to bed at 8 (or earlier), but we're still very thrilled to have him as part of our little family. We had a great weekend with him.
For someone who doesn't actually have any tattoos, I sure have a lot of opinions about them. I've been fascinated by them for a very long time.
When I started college in 1991, believe it or not, tattoos still seemed to be largely the domain of rock stars and sailors. At that time, I wondered why anyone would want to permanently mark their body like that. Around that time, maybe a year or two after, one of my classmates, Nikki, got a tattoo, and I thought it was kinda neat. My senior year, my girlfriend-turned-first-wife, Stephanie, had a small tattoo on her ankle that she got when she turned 18, still in high school. At that point, I think tattoos were pretty normal to me.
After college, once the Web had really started to take hold, there were many more opportunities to see a lot of great tattoos. The Midwest was not exactly a prime location for this. I remember in 1998, visiting Portland, and being blown away by all of the great tattoos (and hair). Fitting, I suppose, that a Web site called Suicidegirls was founded there a few years later. The site featured nudies of girls with tattoos, piercings (and great hair), but it was the quality of the skin art that I found so fascinating. I know, sounds like a "read it for the articles" kind of cop-out, and of course the sexuality of it was a component, but it was about this time that I saw the "artist" in "tattoo artist" for the first time.
Of course, that's one of the things about tattoos, that women tend to get a lot of things that are pretty. We saw a mom in the water park today, who was very pretty and had a half-sleeve of various flowers, with great detail and color, and a cherry blossom tree up her side. Dudes tend to get a lot of scary things, for some reason. I saw a dude today who had this enormous back piece that was some kind of devil-esque dude with fire and wings. It was awesome as art, just... scary.
Then the TV shows in recent years have given a spotlight to, not necessarily the best, but artists who try to create interesting things. It's not that pick-from-a-book crap, these are people who are exceptional at illustration and design, and translating that to technique.
So in seeing all of this for many years, I love the art, but don't care for the generic stuff that a lot of people get, just for the hell of it. It isn't that I think people should have anything complex or expensive, just things that reflect something about them. Diana has her kitteh tattoo, which is simple, but reflects her personality. Seriously, if you get a barbed wire around your arm, what does that say? You like to keep animals in and intruders out?
I know some people would argue that I shouldn't judge, being ink-free and all, but whatever. I can't write a song either, but it doesn't mean I don't have opinions about them. I've had a good idea about what I'd like to start out with (knowing full well it won't stop with one), and I've had the basic idea for a couple of years.
I haven't pulled the trigger, because in many ways I'm angry with my body. While I'm still relatively healthy, with solid numbers, I know my weight is higher than it should be. The realization that I'm (almost) 38 and need to look after my shit weighs heavy on me, and I haven't stuck the lifestyle change that I know I should. So given this relationship I have with my body right now, I don't much feel like celebrating it.
Ironically, body piercing worked the other way around. I just decided one day (six years ago this week) to let a guy start poking holes in me, and the care for those holes was symbolic of the care I needed to take of myself, body and mind. It came with almost 30 pounds of weight loss in the next six months.
I'm trying to make some kind of deal with myself. When I'm ready, I'll find the best person I can to do the work and materialize the idea I have. We'll see where it goes from there. Until then, I'll continue to admire others.
I'm not sure how to sleep "right" anymore. For many years, I could sleep predictably well on the left side of the bed, on my stomach, facing outward and propped up a little by a flat pillow, keeping my head almost perpendicular to my body.
Some time around when I started sleeping alone, that stopped working, and in the six years since, I still haven't had a consistent position. Some of those years, I can blame the industrial piercing, when it wasn't cooperating and was uncomfortable at times. The small ring I have now has no impact.
Mostly it's issues with my legs. It's like there is no position that feels right. And when I'm on my side, I need to stick a pillow there to give my goodies room to breathe. It's so complicated. Then lately my shoulder has been annoyed with side-sleeping, and T-shirts seem to get pulled funny. There was a day when I didn't sleep with shirts either, come to think of it.
The really odd thing is that sometimes I'll get up and crash on the couch, so as not to annoy Diana with the thrashing, and I'll fall right asleep, going back to bed at some point in the middle of the night. I can also nap like it's my job, pretty much anywhere.
It's also not an issue of my brain being overly engaged, most of the time. Tonight I was just thinking about random unimportant stuff that should have bored me to sleep.
Let's try this again...
Simon is at the point now where he's in a bit of a push and pull mode. On one hand, he wants to be independent and look around and do what he wants, but at the same time, he wants to be at your side. Sometimes it's both. It's equally fascinating and frustrating.
Today, he didn't want to be anywhere but with one of us. He'd whine and "penguin" up to our legs until we picked him up, and then be unhappy once you did. He's been testing boundaries a lot with stuff he isn't supposed to touch, which isn't that big of a deal unless it's something that he might get hurt with. He's figured out how to open the patio door, and I suspect the other interior doors aren't far behind.
Fortunately, there are other times where he'll quietly play with his toys and do his own thing. He spends time assembling things and working things out. He likes to go into the bedroom by himself and watch people and cars go by from the window.
I really see why people are so fanatic about development in the first few years, because the changes are very drastic and fast. I also think that you can take it too far ("Your Baby Can Read," I'm looking at you), but generally even spending time with him, and helping him explore the world, kinda does the job.
And for the record, him testing boundaries now is a piece of cake compared to when he's a teenager. I have no bigger take away from my coaching years!
The funny thing about software development is that your goal is often to solve a complex problem, and that the solution itself is often complex. In fact, there are a great many things in the world that are complicated, and require equally complicated solutions.
Most of us, myself included, are not genius enough to conceive of a vastly complicated thing and then make it a reality. To fix the big problem problem, we break stuff down into smaller problems. Smaller problems have a lot of advantages to them. They're easier to solve, feel less daunting, don't take as long and tend have less risk associated with attempting the wrong solution.
It seems like there are a lot of problems in life that are easier to tackle if you make them smaller. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
Watching the news in the last week has been hard. Natural disasters suck, but they seem worse when they're more random. Tornadoes are the most random, and yet most concentrated destruction that nature can throw at you. Growing up in the Midwest, you're no stranger to tornadoes, but for the most part, they almost never happen to you.
I've often wondered how I would react in the moment of something that deadly serious. As our biggest threat, however unlikely, is earthquakes, I'm sure that the first thing I would do is go to Simon to get him to a safe place as quickly as possible. I know you're not supposed to go anywhere, but Simon can't exactly get out of his crib and crawl under a table himself.
What's most striking about these stories from the areas that have been slammed by these storms is how fast lives have been changed. I think people can be resilient to the loss of homes, and communities and outside help have certainly demonstrated that they're not alone, but losing people is awful. The heartbreaking stories of young couples losing a spouse, and of toddlers being pulled from the rubble only to die later are heartbreaking.
I wish there was more you could do from afar than just give money and "stuff." In the days immediately following stuff like this, people need people, on the ground, helping out.
Sunday night, I talked Diana into modeling for me in a "film setup" screen test using the 7D. I wanted to accomplish several things. First, I wanted to see if the new matte box was deep enough to keep light off of the lens if I had it close enough, behind the subject. Second, I wanted to see what the impact was of a full set of lights was on the camera with the aperture way open, so I have a better understanding of what kind of neutral density filters I need for the matte box. Finally, I wanted to try shooting with the Technicolor color profile, a very flat set of adjustments that help you squeeze out more dynamic range.
Let me start by saying that I'm not going to post the video, because as I suspected, it's mostly over-exposed, and where it's not, it's because I stopped down and destroyed the short depth of field I wanted. I will say that Diana is very pretty in it, if also somewhat washed out.
First off, the lighting setup. I haven't busted out my lights in awhile, and I really only have enough gear to blast a scene with light, news desk style. In fact, I don't even have an extra stand to pin my big reflector to, so this was going to be ghetto. The game plan was bright backlight, a key using an umbrella, and some light fill with the reflector.
Using the 50mm f/1.4 lens, I had no problem keeping the backlight off of the lens, and the filter stage where the ND filter would be if I had one. Right on. First part is a success.
Next, I set the shutter speed for 1/50 (close enough to 1/48, or 180, as the film kids would say), turned the ISO all the way down to 100, and opened that aperture all the way to f/1.4. Way too much light, as I expected. I had to go down to about f/4 before the clipping was reduced in the highlights. So with a ton-o-light, at night, wanting to use f/1.4, I need about three stops of filtering. That sounds about right, because I needed about 4 stops last year when I went out shooting with the 24-105mm f/4 last year in bright sun, at f/4. It also means that I'd need an assload of ND to shoot outdoors with that lens when it's wide open. Yikes.
Finally, there was the dynamic range testing. I didn't mess around extensively with it, but I found that there was plenty of detail in the shadows to work with, and some in the highlights when I stopped down to eliminate the clipping. So in other words, if I wanted the flexibility to really stylize the video, there's plenty to work with. The hard part is that it's hard to see on that little thing if you're clipping, so for serious shooting, you need an external monitor, no question. You really need it for focusing too. I would add that the color profile didn't strike me as massively different from the "superflat" profile I downloaded from somewhere last year, in terms of its ability to retain lots of range. But hey, if it's Technicolor, it has to be good, right?
Overall, the test confirmed a lot of what I already knew, that recording really solid video on the 7D requires a lot of attention to detail. There are a great many things that are less than optimal, not the least of which is the form factor, the monitoring, the lack of good audio support, no built-in filters, etc. Rolling shutter, moire and other such issues don't help either.
The thing I've always kept in mind is to be careful not to buy gear that ties me specifically to any specific camera platform. All of this support gear, including the matte box, could be just as easily used with an AG-AF100, or even my "old" HVX200 with a cine lens adapter. I've tried to keep my options open, even for stuff that might not exist until ten years from now.
It's still amazing what you can do for relatively little money these days. This stuff blows the pants off of the average $10k, standard def, pro cameras that I bought in my job 15 years ago. Much of this progress comes just in the last three or four years!
It's true that I've been getting a kick out of You Are Not A Photographer. It's extraordinary how people get their hands on a camera and Photoshop and truly believe that they've mastered photography to the point where people will pay them money to shoot. And sadly, people do. People who do make a living from photography, and don't suck at it, are I think well within their right to be annoyed.
There are two sides to the same problem. The first is that people buy an expensive camera and they think they're instantly better photographers. Some people even think that the gear makes them special, in the way they think an expensive car does. The reality is that the gear is not a substitute for developed composition skills, and understanding of exposure theory, light, etc. The skills don't come with the camera.
The other problem is that if you do happen to be capable of capturing excellent photos, people make comments like, "You must have a nice camera!" That annoys the piss out of me. Do you tell a chef after a good meal, "You must have a nice stove?" Of course not.
Then there is the weird fascination with degrading photos, and the odd assumptions that go with it. I read an article recently about teen hipsters who think that film cameras are quaint and not so perfect like digital cameras. Really? Have you seen Facebook? If anything, digital cameras have enabled more crappy photos, not less. The "risk" of film, namely the cost, made you more careful about what you were shooting, but it wasn't inferior in terms of the quality of the images it could capture. But just because, it's also trendy to mess up your phone photos to look like they're victims to processing defects, much in the way that people used to add fake film scratches and jitter to video.
What's my deal? I think I'm frustrated that it doesn't seem like anyone wants to understand photography on a deep level. Shot composition is completely disregarded. Exposure details are left to full-auto on the cameras. Understanding the dynamic range you can capture and what to do with it is overlooked. Above all, practice is shunned despite the ability to essentially shoot an infinite number of shots for free.
I'm not suggesting that everyone has to be a photographer. I just don't care for people who believe money and gear is a shortcut to great photography. I've literally been at it for more than 20 years, and it took a lot of practice. I'm still often not satisfied with what I shoot, which is itself an important trait to building your skills.
On the flip side, I don't care for people who are actually talented who are in a constant ego war to make sure everyone knows they're better than you. I've seen countless photographers, clearly good at what they do, talk about others who "don't have a voice" or some such nonsense. Please.
Ultimately, I suppose my biggest issue is that there is little respect for the craft of photography. I want people to be better photographers. I want them to understand it, to experiment, to love it. So if you're not dicking around with the shortcuts you think will make you better, I do have some advice. Like I said, I want people to love this hobby, which might even turn into an occupation.
First, learn to compose. This is a skill you can practice with any camera, including the one in your phone. Understand where things in the frame are, relative to each other. Is there too much head room? Are you cutting off some vital detail? Does your eye go the place you'd like the viewer to go? Study photos that you like, see how they're composed.
Second, understand what light does. Before it gets to your rods and cones, it's bouncing off of everything. Light isn't just the things that are bright, it's the shadows too, the absence of light. It can create the appearance of depth in a flat medium. Light can have dramatic effects on mood and feeling. It's the reason I was so drawn to it as the aspect of theater that I wanted to study.
When you do buy that first SLR, or any camera with manual settings, learn about exposure theory. Learn the impact of changing aperture, shutter speed and "film speed" (ISO, that is). Understand that the more you open that aperture, the shorter the depth of field. Notice that slower shutters lead to more blur in moving things. Observe the trade-offs for noise at higher ISO's. These are all tools that augment your understanding of composition and light.
And just one editorial point: Portrait photography sucks. Posed wedding crap, senior pictures, etc. And even worse, gratuitous color grading and/or selective coloring. It's awful. Learn to capture candid stuff. All of the stuff above doesn't make up for the fact that you need to find things that are interesting. The subject is important too, and the hard truth is that you won't always have it.
Above all, you need to be passionate about it to get better at it. I was lucky enough in high school and college to borrow my dad's ancient Nikon F, a camera 14 years older than me. Then I had virtually unlimited access to T-max 400 film in high school for yearbook. All the while, I worked in video professionally, with a great many of the skills transferrable. The point is that I got to my skill level by being into it, and always looking for ways to get better at it. I continue to do that. You have to love it.
We've been kind of fortunate that Simon has not been a daytime binky kind of kid. I think the last time he really "needed" one outside of bedtime hours was the holidays. Even when he is sleeping, he generally seems to need one only as he falls asleep. It has been rare that I've seen him have one in his mouth once he is sleeping.
There are a lot of opinions about when a kid should no longer use a pacifier. I've felt that since he could go without during his functional waking hours, we could let him decide when he didn't need it at night, for the most part. The problem is that, as Simon fans know, the kid has some serious chompers. He has over-achieved in every way when it comes to teeth. He also, and perhaps because of his teeth, has never really "sucked" on a pacifier as much as he's kind of chewed on them. He puts the bottom half of the plastic shield part in his mouth, behind his bottom front teeth, and bends the nipple part into his mouth.
To make a long story longer, this recently developed into torn silicone nipples. The combination of his sharp teeth and the weird positioning has made it so they start to split and tear, to the point that he's either going to digest fragments or he's going to choke on some portion of them. So he has more or less decided for us when he can no longer use them. That, and at $6 a pair, we're not going to stock up on them either. He destroyed the last pair in less than a week.
The attempt tonight is to give him the bigger, more durable "soothie" style pacifiers, since we had a few. That isn't going well. He seemed fine for about 10 minutes or so, and after one check up, the second crying fit got serious and hysterical. Shit. After calming him down, I decided to hang out in his room for the time being, in hopes that he'll crash. The problem is that the other pacifiers don't seem the right texture or shape for him. So far, me in the room seems only like an excuse to play peek-a-boo with me. I suppose the giggles beat the crying, but we can't do this indefinitely, tonight or long-term.
Diana went out for groceries, and I called her and asked her to pick up a few more of his favorite pacifiers. The common advice seems to be to try this with naps instead of overnights first, but because of the destruction, we don't have a lot of choice but to go cold turkey. I don't think he's ready, but we can't let him keep putting a choking hazard in his mouth either.
I suspect the next few nights are not going to be fun.
We did a little trip down the Washington and Oregon coasts last year around this time. The coastal part went pretty well (except for some extreme Simon meltdowns from his extreme hunger). Did the Oregon Coast Aquarium and what not. Then we went to Portland, and did almost nothing because it was rainy and crappy.
This year, we thought we'd spend a few days in downtown Portland again, but looking at the weather, decided to bail on that plan. Looks like they're having the same craptastic cold weather we are. So we came up with a plan-B.
We'll wing it most of the weekend, and if it's nice enough, go to the Woodland Park zoo or something. When everyone else is ending their weekend, we'll do an overnight at Great Wolf and give that a try, since it depends not on weather. There's a Microsoft rate that's about $70 off, which is crazy awesome (must remember to bring employee badge).
There aren't many places to do driving trips to in this part of the country. Granted, there are many places to explore right here in Western Washington, but beyond that you have Portland to the south and Vancouver to the north (need a passport), each about three hours. Northern Idaho (Silverwood) is about five hours. Lots of flying destinations under three hours though, including Las Vegas, LA (blah) and San Francisco.
I had lots of exclusive Simon time this weekend. For all my complaining that I don't get enough "me time," I really liked spending time with him. I know I've said before that being a "present" father to him is super important to me. By default, Diana is with him more, so I sometimes worry that he doesn't feel like he has two parents. He can be a momma's boy at times.
Mobility seems to have triggered an enormous spring of personality in Simon. Very suddenly it seems, he's doing more "stuff" that is funny, cute, interesting, etc. He also seems to be willing to cuddle now, which is something he has had little interest in doing since he was about three months old. Sometimes it's good (watching a little TV before bed), sometimes not so much (middle of the night crying fits), but I'm thankful that he likes to do it. The boy is 1/4 Italian, he has to be a hugger.
One of the things that I'm really excited about is his desire for sharing. He often wants to share his food with you, and sometimes he'll give you toys, too. It's the most adorable thing ever.
I wish I had an extra day a week where I could stay home to play with him. Not indefinitely, just for his first few years. He's so amazing to watch and interact with. And it's funny how so many of his experiences trigger memories of my own, which is a strange way about self-rediscovery.
Simon doesn't watch a lot of TV, which I think is good. I guess we're just careful that we don't use it as a babysitter, and we've tried really hard to get him interested in books and learning toys and such. He really likes books, which kind of surprises me. When he gets up in the morning, he spends a little time in his room with one of us, and he always skips the basket of toys and goes for the books.
But we do tend to wind down in the evening with Sprout, for an hour or so. He doesn't get really engaged with it, except when he's drinking his bottle/cup or snacking. We've become experts in some of the shows, and really I think a lot of them are pretty good. One of the shows that I'm fond of, that isn't in his time slot, is Caillou, a show about a 4-year-old bald kid. We don't know why he's bald. But he has typical adventures and fears for his age, and I find it kind of charming.
The theme song is kind of catchy too. There's one line where he says, "Growing up's not so tough, except when I've had enough," but we recently discovered there's an earlier version of the video that goes with the opener. In the current version, he imagines he's driving a construction vehicle, and he wipes his brow. However, I was looking for it online, and we found this earlier version, where he totally throws a tantrum, and it's kind of hilarious. (Both are about 28 seconds in.) It definitely fits the lyric better.
I don't know how you write something like this without sounding like you think you know everything, but I suppose that has never stopped me before. I think I'm entitled to a pass for the frequency with which I talk about my own shortcomings, fears and anxiety.
There are several categories of stupid people that I find it hard to deal with rationally. I can't seem to ignore them either. I'm wasting energy on them, and I don't have much to give. In no particular order...
People who are whatever-ist. Racist, sexist, homophobic, religiously intolerant, whatever. In fact, I would further include people who have hang-ups about people of any particular appearance that they don't care for. Plus people who don't like kids or teenagers and assume they're out to find trouble.
People who hate politicians strictly because they're in one party or another. Some of these people are also cloaking racism lately, but whatever. People unwilling to discuss policy but willing to spew toxic nonsense rooted in party affiliation annoy the piss out of me. The problem in politics in this country isn't the two party system, it's voters who think one side or the other has all of the answers. Vote for the dog catcher because he can catch a fucking dog, not because he's a Republican or Democrat.
Protectionist parents. When I was a kid, a lot of parents went out of their way to shield their kids from sex, violence and rock-n-roll, leaving the kids shocked and unprepared for the world once they left the nest. Parents are still doing this kind of thing, but instead of shielding them from "undesirable" stuff, they're shielding them from disappointment, failure and things that really matter. Youth athletics are one source of this. It doesn't matter if the kids are developing and learning to be better team members, or exercising the discipline required to improve skills. All the parents care about if whether or not they're winning. Forget having a good time. Plus they all think their kids will be D-1 scholarship athletes. What happens to kids who don't know what it's like to fail?
That's my rant for the day. I feel better. I can move on.
Yesterday was pretty much the perfect day in terms of weather. It was long overdue, and sadly, it doesn't look like there's a repeat in our near future.
The Cloud Services Team had an off-site morale event. We had a cruise around Puget Sound on an Argosy boat, complete with faux casino and a whole lot of alcohol. It was clear enough to see everything... Mt. Rainier, Baker, as well as the Cascade and Olympic ranges in the general sense. We tooled around in a big loop from the Seattle harbor to Blake Island, which as far as I can tell is uninhabited. The views were just incredible, and I didn't really appreciate how awesome the scenery could be.
It was also good to meet a lot of new people. I made it a point to talk to people I didn't know particularly well instead of the people I worked most closely with. I tied one on pretty quickly, so I was extra friendly. Good times.
I front loaded the drinks so I'd be sober again by the time we docked. The waterfront was really buzzing with tourists. I got a good appreciation for where the aquarium and some of the restaurants are, so one of these days we'll have to head down there.
After I got home, we headed over to Joe's for a mini-family cook-out. Simon really seemed comfortable there for the first time in awhile, and the cousins all seemed to have a good time. It was a great ending to great day. I guess it will be another month or so, but hopefully these days will be more common very soon. I'm tired of the cold temperatures!
I noticed today that my 17" MacBook Pro, after two years and change, just hit 300 charge cycles. The reported health is still 94%. I haven't done a true end to end drain of the battery in awhile, but I have to guess that it's still doing about 6 to 7 hours of usable life. At the conference in Vegas last month, I still had plenty of charge when I dropped it off in the evening before dinner.
Keep in mind that I changed out the hard drive for an SSD recently, which undoubtedly gives it a boost. The original drive is still in there, sitting in the DVD bay, but it only spins up if I'm using it. I mostly just have photos on there, so unless I use aperture or the screen saver fires up, it's not turning.
For comparison's sake, my original, first Intel 15" model, went through two batteries in about three years. I replaced the first one I think after 250-ish charge cycles, with battery health down in the 70% range, lasting around three hours. So it appears that Apple has more or less delivered on its promise of adaptive charging and such.
Granted, I can't tell you if my results are typical. My friend Aaron from work has a 15", maybe a little newer than mine, and he gets crappy battery life with fewer cycles. This implies different charging habits. For the most part, I would drain mine nearly to zero before recharging, though I did from time to time go less. Interestingly, Apple says not to do that, except once in awhile to let it calibrate its full range. They describe an ideal scenario as someone who uses it on their bus commute, and plugs in during the day. Also, when you run it in Boot Camp mode with Windows, all bets are off, since I think the OS has a lot to do with maintaining battery health.
It's kind of interesting to think about how far batteries have come in the last few years. My last iPhone (a 3GS) easily went two, sometimes three days without a recharge, though I never used push e-mail. My Samsung Focus is easily going two days, with push e-mail on, since the software update. I just got the iPad 2, but it doesn't look like that will need very frequent charging. My camera batteries go about 400 shots before needing a charge, with lots of idle time. The tiny camera doesn't go as long, but that's because of all of the mechanical opening and closing of the lens and flash every time you turn it on.
The neighborhood is having a huge garage sale today. Diana has been cataloging and gathering "old" stuff from Simon's closet, and she's selling some of the stuff from Joe as well (Nina is over 3, Mason a few months older than Simon). It seems like they were all newborns practically yesterday!
I have to give Diana a lot of credit. She has been a serious participant in the secondary market for baby stuff, and she saved us a ton of money. Not only did she score clothes, toys and other stuff for a fraction of what it would have been new, the cost was also mitigated by reselling it. There aren't any really good reasons to buy most of that stuff new. There are so many opportunities to buy the stuff too, with the big swap meets, second hand stores, and of course, garage sales.
We did have some new stuff, but I think it was mostly as gifts. The big Graco stroller and the car seat that it fits with were new, and she's trying to sell those today. We haven't been using the car seat because he's too huge for it, though we did give it one last go in Orlando in January. He barely made the height limit. We also have a lighter stroller that has been just awesome to travel with, and it's just big enough to carry essentials. It's our best friend at theme parks, and it'll stay with us for awhile still. The big one will move on to a new family.
I have to admit that I was a little nostalgic about one of his earliest toys, and we're keeping that. As much as I want to rid my life of "stuff" I'll never look at, I couldn't see that go just yet. My little guy is growing up so fast!
I'm feeling totally off balance lately. I think Diana is to an extent as well. It seems like we're both exhausted all of the time. It's not that we don't have any spare time, because certainly we spend a couple of hours in the evening unwinding, playing video games or knitting, but it seems like life has us gasping for air a bit.
The biggest thing at home is that Simon is starting to really challenge us. He's at a weird point, because his mobility is very high, we can observe him solving problems with his toys, and he's just all around becoming an active little boy. He's also at a stage where communication is difficult, and even frustrating (in both directions). He's starting to sign "eat" and "more" in contextually appropriate ways, but he clearly wants to tell us when he's tired or he's constipated, but doesn't know how. And while he's no stranger to being angry, he doesn't know it when he sees it from us. For example, he recently started just whacking us in the face, and when you tell him sternly that he shouldn't do it, he thinks it's funny. Consequences and cause and effect just aren't things he can't grasp yet. This will make for a couple of difficult months, I suspect.
I'm also leaving work exhausted mentally. I wouldn't say that anything I'm doing is hard, but it takes a lot of work to stay mentally focused to accomplish what I'd like. Aspects of the culture in my new group are not as agile as what I'm used to, so some of the things that I push for require a lot of justification. It's hard to justify something you might have accepted as the ideal scenario years ago, because as time goes by you take for granted that you already had that exercise. What I do remember about the exercise is that we had to do stuff the established way before we could see the benefit of the agile way.
The work stuff will resolve itself by just getting into a cadence, even if it's not one that's as fast as what I'm used to. I work with a lot of smart people, they just have different experiences. Eventually we'll reconcile the experience, and hopefully draw from other successful groups around the company to find a good fit. I'm not down on any of it, and overall pretty optimistic, I just don't want to think about it once I'm home!
I'm also wasting a ton of mental energy on the house I don't live in. It looks horrible. The Realtor sent me some photos today, and with days and days of rain, it looks like a vacant lot. I'm sure the grass cutting guys are backed up, but the beds and bushes and everything else look awful. The last thing I want to do is spend money on a place 2,500 miles away that I don't live in, but what choice do I have?
Home is where the balance seems to be lacking, because I feel so spent. I love Simon dearly, and if I could be a stay-at-home dad, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But last night I was just looking forward to his bed time, because I had nothing left. That scares the shit out of me, because I never want to be that parent.
There is a backlog of other things I'm neglecting too, not the least of which is myself. I'm overeating and not doing much in the way of physical activity beyond taking the stairs to the third floor of the building I work in. I'm spending no time on my side projects. I'm barely writing. Blog post counts are plummeting, and I'm not writing for the screen at all. There are hundreds of photos that I should have processed from WDW so I can take the f'ing beta tag off of MouseZoom. I'm not adequately checking in with Diana either.
So I'm temporarily overwhelmed. The Simon and work issues are temporary, and I know that. The house is out of my control. I don't need more hours in the day, I just need to take more time to recharge. I also need to not invalidate my own awareness of behing overwhelmed. I just feel whiny when I self-assess.
Tomorrow we have an off-site, on a boat.
Finally scored an iPad. When they announced the first version, I was totally going to buy one. Then I never did. As a lover of many things shiny and aluminum, with an Apple logo, I still couldn't really justify it. It didn't really fit any particular need that I had.
More than a year has passed, and they released the second version. The biggest difference between now and then is that I'm not sitting under five digits of debt. I also feel like, professionally, it just feels like I should have one. I build stuff for the Web, and at work I should probably be keyed in on novel uses for the form factor. I got a 32 gig model, Wi-Fi only. I've noticed even with my phone that it's rare that I'm away from Wi-Fi, and couldn't justify the cost of getting a 3G model.
The updated version is definitely nicer in terms of the feel of the device. I don't know if the thin matters, but the edges are more tapered. The smart cover is brilliant, not just in its design, but in its ability to generate a ton of cash with a ridiculously high margin. It's surprisingly heavy.
I was pleased to see that a number of the apps I already had for the iPhones required no special treatment to provide the tablet experience. My favorite apps might already be the Comcast Xfinity and AppleTV/iTunes Remote apps, to turn the thing into a glorified remote control. I dig that.
I don't know how much it will be used, but the photo browsing is really special. Once I got the last four years of photos sync'd to it, we spent quite a bit of time looking at the bazillion photos of Simon we've accumulated.
Overall, this is the first time I've spent a lot of time with iOS since switching to Windows Phone about six months ago, and truth be told, it feels dated. Where it has evolved, particularly for the purpose of the tablet size, it almost seems like a step backward. For example, the e-mail client has those floating lists of messages, and flipping to a different mailbox seems awkward. I also never thought I'd ever be wishing for a back button to traverse back through apps, but I miss that. The icon grid also seems like a relic compared to live tiles.
The Web browser has crashed a couple of times on me (on Google sites), and the text rendering isn't great on some sites. Not sure I understand that, because text on the Kindle app is beautiful.
Overall, it seems like a great consumption device, which was always my assumption. I'm not sure if it seems like a great form factor for "doing stuff" though. I definitely don't get the general hysteria over it. Just feels like a giant smart phone, which isn't a bad thing. We'll see how my opinion evolves over time.
One of the many fascinating things about being with Simon is seeing him get excited. His inspiration varies from giant dogs, to walking, to Baby Einstein videos. I remember growing up, the excitement that came from things like Christmas morning, or arriving for that annual visit to an amusement park. Then in my professional life, I loved the rush of excitement from doing a location shoot.
What I've found, though, is that with time and experience comes a certain dulling of your "excitement senses." Things just don't excite you the way that they once did. It's a frightening realization, and I'm not sure what to do with it. I'm not sure what it means. Has the world become more dull? Have I become more dull? When I think about the last time I really had that tingly feeling, it was arriving at Universal with my new little family. Before that, it was in the hospital just before Simon was born. Before that, it was arriving in Hawaii. When I think about it like that, it seems like a long time to go between tingly excitement feelings.
So I ask myself, again, if it's the world being dull or me. I have to assume that it's some combination of the two. I think in the world of massive change associated with becoming a parent, I've definitely lost sight of what excites me. I haven't paid attention to what my itch is, let alone how to scratch it.
I long for that excitement, because it has been sorely lacking. I have to do a better job at making it happen, both in my personal life and in my professional life, or both when they can be combined.
I've started to re-read Rework because I feel like it gives me a lot of focus, particularly in my new position. I'm tempted to buy a few copies for people at work, too, because I want them to to see things that I see. Work just feels good when you read that thing.
We did a focus group recently, and during a break, one of the participants asked if we were all expected to work 60-hour weeks. I kind of giggled at that, but also wondered if that was really the perception of the company from the outside. If it is, that's a pretty serious HR problem.
In my first group, we were treated as adults and it was the end results that mattered. There was no clock watching going on. My new group seems to be about the same (that's the read I got in the interviews, and have observed so far). I've noticed in particular that with the change in role, it's easier to fire off some e-mail or move something along when it's convenient, not in any particular range of hours.
I've always felt that working smarter is the right course of action. A lot of that is letting go of shit that doesn't matter. I don't call meetings unless I'm certain that people attending will get or provide value. I'm on time. I don't send e-mail that no one cares about. It's not hard to get in this mindset.
The old standard was very different, and probably worse in the Midwest. People would ascend to high career places only because they spent all of their time in the office, regardless of whether or not they were providing any value. Sadly those people would have bosses that saw things the same way. Meanwhile, they probably had a shell of a life because nothing else mattered to them. The funny thing is that if you do have a life, you're more motivated to get your job done as efficiently and as smart as possible, because you've got stuff to do!
One of the guys I interviewed with for my current position asked how I would interact with him if we worked together (he's a dev lead). I told him that what I delivered to him and his team would depend entirely on the context of what we had to do. A lot of people in a similar position will generate reams of paper with detailed specifications that no one will ever care about. I told him he'd get the appropriate level of detail, and no more. A lot of people build software with sticky notes as their use cases, because they don't need more than that.
I don't think that people are inherently lazy. I don't think people want to spend all of their waking hours working on one particular thing. I think they want to do a good job at what they're tasked with, but have room for life. What people do for a living has changed, but the desire to balance it all out has not.
I realized today that I've been tweaked out. Simon was frustrating me because he wouldn't stop touching something he wasn't supposed to be touching, and I yelled at him. That's stupid because he doesn't understand anger or consequences very well, so I was being completely irrational.
And even that came as I had acquired at least some perspective earlier in the day through various conversations and observations. Maybe the causes aren't important, but they were adding up. I'm tired of being sick. I hate the uncomfortable feeling of the ramp up time in a new job, where it doesn't feel like you're really adding any value. The weather has been unusually shitty and cold. I'm really missing my "normal" spring routines (read: amusement parks and the friends that love them). I had a buyer for my house that backed out. It all adds up to put me in a pissy place, despite the obvious acknowledgment that most of this is completely out of my control.
The perspectives and observations, and a really bright sunshiny day, really did start to get me on track though. I've been choosing to focus too much on that pool of things I can't control, instead of the things that really make me happy, and that's not me. Or at least, it's not the me that I strive to be.
I remember when Apple announced the iPhone, widely described as the "Jesus phone" at the time, that I knew I had to have one as soon as possible. And sure enough, I got one. I skipped on the 3G, but did get the 3GS after about two years with the original. Then Android came along, and while much of the hardware was initially not interesting, it seemed like iPhone wasn't as sweet. Then Windows Phone came out, and I figured I had to give it a shot since it was free and I could develop for it without learning anything new.
The thing that I learned after a half-year with WP7 is that a smart phone, in the general sense, has become kind of an unremarkable thing. It's not that I'm passionate about my phone (though it does have advantages, but I'll get to that), and it's not that I'm dissing the iPhone (though I don't miss it). I'm probably a fair representation of an average user, if technically more adept, and it just doesn't matter as much as it did a couple of years ago. It does what I need it to do, and that's good enough.
I will say that the recent updates, which took too long to be deployed, actually fixed the two big issues that I had. The first was that it crashed now and then. My theory was that it had something to do with the memory card I put in it, which is not supported, but Diana had no crashes so I figured that had to be it. Whatever the cause, it has gone away. The other issue was that the phone doesn't save camera settings. It still doesn't, but for my model (Samsung Focus), it now defaults to having the "anti-shake" on, which essentially forces a slightly higher shutter speed. In other words, it now matches the usefulness of the iPhone camera.
So while I'm not passionate about phones anymore, specific or in a general sense, there are some nice advantages and upsides to having a Windows Phone. As it turns out, writing software for it isn't one of them, because I don't have the time or desire to do so. However, the Facebook integration and cloud syncing of contacts to Google is infinitely more useful. The only thing that it still really has to sync from the desktop is music. I also love the Xbox Live achievement whoring that's possible. In general, I'm really pleased with the games on it.
I do think that the UI is superior and evolved, but I suspect that doesn't really matter to anyone except people who think about that stuff. It seems like the platform's long-term success will be more hinged on the deals they do with Nokia and the carriers. It makes you really appreciate how much better Apple is at creating sex appeal.
It hasn't been a good scene around here, with all of the coughing, sneezing and dripping (and in Simon's case, yacking). Simon has had a drippy nose the last few days, but otherwise seems to be coming out of the plague in pretty good shape. As for his parents, we're in the worst of it.
If there's one up side to this, it's that we're forced to spend a great deal of time with him. Diana ordinarily does that anyway, but I don't get to do it as much because of work. What's wonderful about this is seeing all of the new stuff he does. I'll be honest, I was a little anxious about his lack of crawling, particularly because it seemed that he was just too lazy. Granted, all kids do stuff at different times, but it felt like he was falling behind.
A month after he started crawling, he was walking. Now, a few weeks after that, he's doing even more. He's putting things together instead of just taking them apart. For example, he's stacking the plastic "doughnuts" on the cone. He's using the hammer on his toy work bench. He's attempting, if without success so far, to put shaped blocks into their holes. He's also starting to communicate. He uses "hi" in context, and we hear "mama," "dada" and something resembling "kitteh" in context. I'm also really excited that he's using the sign for "more" now, and we're pretty sure he's doing "eat" as well. It's very exciting!
But it's also a very bitter sweet thing to watch. I'm so proud of him for his skill development, but I'm also sad that I feel like I miss so much of it. I get to see him for about two hours at best in the evening before he goes to bed. I hate that. He'll never be this age again, and I feel like I'm missing it.
Still, I'm very proud of Simon, and I love every minute I get to spend with him.
Our house is kind of a miserable place today. Simon has been sick since Sunday. I got it Friday. Diana got it today. Not a lot of happy people here!
Simon is somewhat better during the day. He's snotty and a little needy, but he smiles and giggles. He's finally starting to eat better, too. I've been having a hard time breathing, stuffed solid, and today had a slight fever. Diana is at the general misery stage.
A week ago, we envisioned going out for dinner and what not, but with everyone being a hot mess, that wasn't meant to be. It doesn't help that the weather is crappy, too. We've been 10 degrees below normal most days for about a month now, and it's really annoying.
So while Diana's special day wasn't as special as we'd like (I made waffles, if that counts for anything), I try to make sure that she understands how important I think her role is as a mom every day. We're very lucky that Diana can be a stay-at-home mom, and her influence on Simon's development is obvious and not something to be taken lightly. Sometimes I give her crap for worrying too much at times, but it's hard to do that when she pretty much thinks of everything. While I'm more of an experimental and instinctual parent, Diana is more of a researched and refined parent. We balance each other out like that.
Diana is like the CEO of our household. She keeps us all going, she saves money, she keeps me sane, and of course, she's there for Simon every hour of every day. There are no words that can describe how important she is in our lives. It's weird because I would've never thought about her in that way when we got married, two years ago. Funny how parenthood changes things like that.
It has been a crappy day, but we'll pick this up another time. For now, a happy Mothers Day to all of the mums out there.
Simon had a tough day, and was super needy. Diana said he pretty much wanted constant attention. His nose has been running like a faucet too. After bath time tonight, he was content to just sit next to me and watch TV. No playing at all. Poor little guy! When we put him down for bed, he was clearly tired, but didn't want to be alone, so I rocked with him for about 15 minutes.
Again he had the awful cough, and the snot was pooling in his chest and/or stomach. This time, he barfed on me though. He seemed to feel much better after that, and even gave us a few smiles, but the poor kid isn't getting any regular or decent sleep. Neither did Diana all week, for that matter.
I had "the tickle" from the time that I got up, and I noticed this afternoon at my desk that I was feeling suboptimal as well. I've been sneezy and snotty with a sore throat this evening, but no fever, so I'm hoping for me it's just the typical cold symptoms. I was hoping my adult immunity would help me fend it off, but no such luck.
I still consider us lucky overall, because I know some people who seem to have a sick kid year-round. It's definitely no fun though, even for this (hopefully) short period of time.
Diana called the doctor this morning, because Simon's cough just sounds completely strange. Last night, he also ended up barfing again. With no fever, that makes it even more weird. We theorized he was just pulling down too much mucus or something. Then he did it again this afternoon. The doc wanted to bring him in.
Simon was excellent for Dr. Cargo Pants (though she was not wearing cargo pants this time). He let her stick the stethoscope down his shirt without even a squirm. Looking in the ears, he was a little less happy, but still pretty good. I was amazed at how at ease he really was. Granted, she's got a way about her that he responds to.
He checked out OK, and she said not to be really concerned unless it goes on for two weeks. We've got his mattress propped up a bit, and the humidifier on, so hopefully that will help. The worst thing is that he tends to keep his binky in his mouth by biting the hard plastic part, so his mouth isn't really closed. I gotta think that's drying him out further. Last night he seemed to breathe easier without one in his mouth when I went to check on him. Granted, it's only part of his sleep ritual, but I wonder when we should start to break him of the habit.
He got up with some nasty hacks this evening, but a little holding and some upright coughing, and he was good. He fell asleep on my shoulder while rocking, which was pretty awesome. He's not much of a cuddler, and hasn't been since his first few months. I miss that. I loved feeding him late, then just holding him for awhile. I can't believe how fast those times passed. As of today, I already have a 14-month-old.
I hope he sleeps well tonight, not just for his sake, but Diana's. She's not getting much rest this week.
February and March left me kind of a mess. Or at least, a few pound heavier. I can't say that I have an eating disorder (I've had friends at both ends of that spectrum, one of whom is dead), but I don't have to be a genius to see that I've abused food and used it as a something to prop me up when I'm anxious.
Interviewing and getting a new position, along with the ongoing anxiety around my house, really put me in a weird place those two months, and I packed on about five pounds. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but that puts me at the top of the range where I start to feel gross. I can see it in the mirror, and I don't like it.
The problem is more that I've managed to undo some of my lifestyle change that I had managed to hold on to for years. I'm still not eating red meat, and I don't eat fastfood, but I still make some poor choices. I get the tots at work. I snack late in the evening. I drink soda at my desk. I didn't even realize that I was making poor choices until I stopped to think about it and look back. I resent myself a little for it.
It's certainly not the end of the world, but I need to boost my awareness again. With nicer weather, that's going to help too. There are ways to manage the anxiety as well. I'm still about 16 pounds below where I was at the start of 2005, but I'd like to get back down to 26 under that. 46 under would be even more ideal, but I'm realistic about that given my strong distaste for exercise.
After hitting Chipotle for lunch, I did manage to keep dinner down to about 500 calories, including a beverage, so I do remember how to adjust. I'm a little hungry, but it's no problem to make it through to breakfast.
I think we've been generally pretty lucky with Simon. He had sniffles his second week of life, but beyond that, he hasn't been really sick. A little minor congestion here and there, and the nagging pain of his super-teething, but he's been otherwise pretty healthy.
He had his first real sickness about six weeks ago, with the barfing and fever. It wasn't pleasant, but it went about three or four days and he was good to go again. It's surprising that we're in that territory again so quickly.
Simon was weird on Sunday, not really eating. At the PEPS gathering at the park, he didn't seem his usual charming self. Late in the afternoon, we put him in his high chair, and he spewed. He closed in on 100 degrees and he was miserable. He didn't sleep particularly well over night, and Diana was up with him a lot.
He seemed better for much of Monday, even if he wasn't eating. Then in the evening he started to get yucky again. We got him sleeping in short blocks, separated by a lot of crying. That he couldn't tell us what was wrong was frustrating. His eyes were very fearful, like he wasn't sure if the pain and/or discomfort he was having would end. It's heartbreaking to see that. Usually, when something is wrong, mom or dad can pick him up and it's all good. It's an awful feeling to be helpless to do anything for him.
Oddly enough, he felt much better after he barfed, some time after 11. It was a tense half-hour or so. We don't communicate well when one of us is covered in barf and Simon is screaming. He only woke up one time over night after that.
Today he seemed to be in good spirits, but still didn't eat well. He's also acquired a cough, which we don't recall him ever having. He drained an impressive bottle of milk at bed time, and was the most precious thing in my lap after that, just chilling out. So adorable, and so glad he seems to feel a little better.
I was talking with one of my new coworkers today, with four boys of various ages, and he assured me it was a lot easier once they can tell you where it hurts, and you can explain to them that they're not dying. Not that I'm anxious for him to grow up, but that will put my mind at ease to some degree.
The announcement last night that Osama bin Laden was killed in a military operation against him was, I believe, welcome news to most of the world. My initial reaction was simply indifferent. I mean, he's certainly symbolic of terrorism and 9/11, but he had also become largely irrelevant. Anyone that high on the wanted list simply can't operate anyway. But still, the symbolic value is certainly huge, and I tip my hat to the guys who busted in there and did it.
Shortly after the announcement, I have to admit that the celebration in the streets also made me extraordinarily uncomfortable. Sure, I'm glad the planet is rid of that asshole, but cheering about it doesn't feel like the appropriate response. A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., started making the rounds on Facebook today, and it really captures what I was thinking:
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
(There's another part that people have been posting, but I can't attribute it to any of the King text out there: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.")
From an emotional standpoint, whether you were directly affected by 9/11 or not, there is satisfaction that the job was done. Let's be honest, it was a revenge hit, and even if it largely symbolic, it's a hell of a symbol. The guy got what he deserved. What I find uncomfortable is drunk college kids celebrating in front of the White House. It just doesn't seem like something Americans do.
Personally, I would've liked to have seen him captured alive, and tried as a criminal. If he was sentenced to die, so be it, but part of what makes our country special is due process. I'm sure people would argue that the victims on 9/11 had no due process, and you'd be correct because they didn't commit a crime. Victims aren't tried, so the comparison makes no sense. I like to think that we're simply more civilized.
The thing I still find unfortunate, and I've felt this way for ten years, is that people are generally unwilling to ask what motivates a crazy person to do what the terrorists did. It doesn't help that we had an inarticulate moron in the White House for years that insisted it was just people who "hate freedom" and are simply "evil" without cause. These guys get no pass for what they did, but how can you not wonder what made them radical in the first place?
It's a hard question that has no simple answers. The policy of western nations to intervene in conflicts in the Middle East, but not places around Africa, the former Soviet republics or Southeast Asia, certainly leave the perception that we're at war with Islam. One might perceive we've played favorites in Israel for decades as well. Of course that isn't the case, but it might appear that way to otherwise rational people there. I honestly don't know what the solution is to that problem, but a willingness to admit that it's a problem would be a good start.
So what has changed since yesterday? Al Qaeda has not disappeared. It's a network of terrorists, not one with a strict hierarchy. The crazy radicals are likely energized by this, maybe even feeling justified now. We're not going to pull everyone out of Afghanistan now or stop looking for terrorists. We won't get the victims of 9/11 back.
I'm glad the guy is gone. The optimist in me feels like the spreading desire for democratic states, and growing belief in hard core capitalism, will over time transform the Middle East. I was reading on al Jazeera that a lot of Arabs are hoping that bin Laden's death is a turning point that will get the west off their backs and let them begin a new and peaceful era, on their terms. I hope that's true.
Celebration that we killed a guy doesn't seem appropriate, but I think it's a good reason to reflect on how our lives have changed, what it did to bring people together, and of course to thank the people who volunteer to put themselves in harm's way, whether they agree with the mission or not. I can get behind that.