I noticed yesterday that about 7 months of being an all-EV family, and including the year prior, we have now logged 25,000 combined miles on our electric vehicles. That's a whole lot of driving! The 2015 Nissan Leaf came to us in August 2014, and the Tesla Model S in August 2015. The former is averaging a little under 1k miles per month, the latter just over.
There are a lot of things that I could tell you about driving EV's, but the biggest thing is that it's a whole lot of fun. I never want to go back to a gasoline car. Ever. It seems outright barbaric to drive something that makes thousands of little explosions every minute to make the car go. The feeling of even the Leaf giving you that instant torque is addictive. The unexpected point of joy is never going to gas stations. You just go home.
Late in the summer, we have to decide what to do with the Leaf, as its lease will be up. If we need to buy more time, my understanding is that Nissan is in no hurry to take back the cars (the new model has a bigger battery, negatively affecting resale), so we might be able to extend the lease a bit. So maybe we can get the new Chevy Bolt if it ships on time and in volume. We'd also consider the BMW i3, which has strangely had some lease deals that are competitive with the current Leaf. We'll do a reservation for a Tesla Model 3, but we're realistic in understanding that the actual delivery could be 18 months out, at best. Overall, the Leaf has been an excellent, maintenance-free car. It's a little tank, and perfect for commuting and daily use. It doesn't go long distances, but we don't need it to.
The Tesla is, of course, the best car ever made, or so one would assume given the reviews of the auto magazines and Consumer Reports. At the very least, it's the safest car ever made. For Thanksgiving, we proved out that road trips are a non-issue, but admittedly this is an advantage unique to Tesla because of the supercharger network. It's a comfortable car that showcases everything that technology is doing for driving. My only real complaint (other than the cost) is that it's a big car, and I'm not a fan of big cars. It sure can carry around a bunch of people and their stuff, and a robust Ikea trip is no big deal either. People staring at you is uncomfortable, however. I don't want the attention, I just want to drive a very capable electric car. At the 3-year sell-back option, I wouldn't rule out selling it, because the guaranteed price would be a positive equity situation, and in 2018, there will be more options (that cost less). If the Model 3 can use superchargers, I suspect that's the world we'll live in.
Beyond that, perhaps it's time to answer the frequently asked questions...
I hear this all of the time, and people think I'm being a dick when I answer, "I don't know." I really don't. I plug it in when I get home and that's that. We plug the Leaf into a standard 110 outlet, which is slow, but I know it charges about 5 miles per hour. Considering the rated range is only 70 miles (real life we get 80 to 100), we know it will finish before morning. Supercharging the Tesla is exceptionally fast, exceeding 300v/300a, but again, the time it takes is only when the battery has enough charge to get to the next supercharger. In practice, that was a 20-minute endeavor on our road trip, and most of that time was spent acquiring food or using a restroom.
At home. The only time we ever charge in public is when we're doing a road trip, and use the "free" Tesla superchargers, or if there's a parking advantage. Otherwise, public charging infrastructure is mostly irrelevant. Home is your charging station.
Aren't you worried about running out of gas? It's the same answer.
Never. The Leaf is a 2-year lease, the Tesla has an 8-year, unlimited mile warranty on the battery and the motors. I'm not going to have that car in eight years.
I hate that argument for any car. My parents had a Chevy Citation, and somehow the four of us managed to get around just fine. People today either overestimate the size of their children or they carry too much shit around. That said, the Leaf works fine for commutes, grocery shopping and the like. The Tesla hasn't had any issue carting around three adults, two children and all of their luggage, without even using the frunk. It handled a large Ikea run as well.
It depends on how much you drive. Our electricity costs around $0.124 per kWh, and the two cars average about 4 miles per kWh. So if we drive both cars 1,000 miles per month (which never happens), that's 500 kWh. That would be $62 in electricity. In practice, we spend $40 or less because we don't really do more than 1,500 miles combined per month. But if you want to compare to gasoline, driving a pair of reasonably efficient cars that do 30 mpg would be about 67 gallons. At $1.99 per gallon, that's $133. If your car is less efficient, say some giant SUV doing 15 mpg, you're now up to $266. I'm not saying this necessarily makes up for the cost of the car (it definitely doesn't in the case of the Model S), but that's what you're looking at. Our lease payment on the Leaf if $105, so the savings work out there. This will only continue to get better, and once we've got solar on the house... watch out.
Actually, ours mostly comes from natural gas, but yeah, fossil fuel, I get the point. While I admire the long-term goal of reformed energy, mostly we drive EV's because they're amazing and more fun. Still, the economy of scale of centralized electric generation means that it's far more efficient than any one-off gasoline engine. This story only gets better as solar grows (it had a great year in 2015). Then you have interesting stories like Tesla making their battery factor self-sustaining on solar. They're exciting times. The electric car is a little ahead of the progress in electricity production, but not by much.
I think a lot about the importance of taking time off, and that initial six months after moving to Orlando without time off really wore on me. But now that I'm really thinking about it, Diana and I haven't taken a "real" vacation since our honeymoon to Hawaii. Seriously, we've taken a bunch of weekend cruises and trips to amusement parks up north, but that's not a week-long, hardcore vacation. We spent almost a week in Seattle after moving back to Cleveland, but that's more of a homecoming than a vacation. It's true... our last real vacation was Hawaii in 2009.
Now that I put it in that context, I guess it's no surprise that late last year we decided it was time to do it right, and take an extended trip. That trip is going to be a cruise, actually, but it's going to Alaska this summer. You can't really see glaciers splintering off into the ocean from land, and we do love cruising, so it was a natural fit. Most importantly, it was something we could do as a family. Then we had the late-breaking bonus that our Seattle family will be joining us, so that's super awesome.
There are a lot of big vacations that we've talked about. That I've sadly not been to Europe is a focus, though we can't figure out if that's something we can do without Simon or not. We definitely would like to return to Hawaii, since the weather was suboptimal on our last trip. My mental block for a long time has been about budgeting the time off. As I approached the end of last year realizing that I needed to take the last week off to avoid losing time (time off spent doing very little), I was ready to commit to something serious. Alaska was the something.
Starting in June, I'll start to accrue even more time (four weeks), so it's important that I look at vacation as essential, and plan for it. Long weekends aren't vacations, they're distractions. Sometimes you need to get out into the world for longer periods of time.
Easily the hardest thing for me as a parent is to let my kid struggle a bit. This is probably doubly so because of Simon's ASD challenges. Mind you, two years after the official diagnosis, I'm amazed at how well he's adapted in certain ways. I'm also relieved that he's doing so well academically. But it seems like every day I have to let him suffer a bit, and fight the urge to "save" him from something. Tonight it was getting his long soccer socks off so he could shower (which I also defer entirely to him). He gives up too fast, and his fine motor skills are still behind, so the emotional plus physical struggle is definitely real, and I have to back off and let it happen.
Once he got into the shower, I crashed on his bed, within ear shot in case anything went totally wrong. I couldn't help but think about him sprawled out on the bed a few minutes before, because his physical appearance is... long. Or tall. We've noticed in photos lately that he's this tall, skinny kid, for being only 6. He's in the 90th percentile for height, already 48". My little boy isn't little anymore.
This was already setting in, particularly after someone mentioned on Facebook that he's one-third of the way to adulthood. In that context... I'm not even sure what to do with that. The first six years flew by. I mean, yeah, I can easily recall the sleep deprivation and such in the first two years, but now it seems like time is going by faster.
It seems like there's a pretty small window here. At school age, kids have opinions and personalities, and you can have conversations with them and good laughs. They also retain the affection and uninhibited love that children give. Simon loves to cuddle up with us when he's watching TV, and he'll climb into our bed (entirely too early) if we're not already up. He still wants to hold hands at theme parks. Those days will be gone soon, and that makes me incredibly sad.
I think a part of this subtle dread comes from needing a break from time to time. As adults, obviously, we want to do stuff for ourselves, and also spend important time with our spouse. So if the sadness about the kid growing up wasn't bad enough, then you feel kind of bad when you just want to get away from him for a bit knowing that the window of cuddly child-parent relationships is short. Trust me, after he was sick for a week, followed by spring break, these moments have been frequent lately.
The sense of urgency isn't all bad. I think that's why I've been so eager to take a big vacation this year with him. (Diana and I haven't taken a "real," long vacation since our honeymoon.) I'm not sure if he'll remember it necessarily, but I sure as hell will, and I look forward to creating those memories. In the mean time, I wish he would slow down a little.
Diana and I recently finished watching The West Wing on Netflix. Well, I watched the Sorkin seasons and the last one, but she watched the entire series. I guess the middle part that I missed wasn't that great, but I did enjoy the parts that I saw. I mean, I love people walking and handing off papers while talking fast. While it's certainly a work of fiction, obviously, I suspect much of the context in terms of the decision making that the president has to make is pretty for real. It makes you loathe the idea of the people currently running taking the office, but also makes you wonder who would want the job at all.
If you're the president, people will live and die by your decisions. That's a really heavy burden (again, one that some are far too cavalier about). You have the constant stress of having to do what you believe is the right thing, and you should be considering how that rolls with what the American people expect of you. The pressure and stress have to be massive. I'm sure you've seen the before and after photos of the various presidents in our lifetime. It ages you.
You have to immediately question why anyone would want this job. That amount of responsibility and power associated with the position is enormous. That's actually one of the things that I loved about that TV show, in that the guy they got to run for president in the last few seasons was the "real deal." His motivation was one of public service. Of course, that kind of ideal is probably total fantasy in real life.
What saddens me is that the office itself has become such a joke as of late. I don't mean that in relation to the current or any past president, but in politics and news coverage and even from the standpoint of regular people on Facebook, no one respects the office itself anymore. Symbolically, it should be one of the greatest symbols of our democracy. Instead it is being used as the goal of agendas to incite fear and hate. It's a sad thing to see. I know we can be better than that.
There were two big phone launches recently: Apple's iPhone SE and Samsung's Galaxy s7. These are two premium products that people have gone pretty ape shit for, and that makes sense because people like nice things. The iPhone isn't terribly priced at $400, unless you consider that it's a smaller screen and has only 16 gb of storage. The Samsung is a staggering $800 from reputable retail. That's crazy.
I'm generally one who believes that you get what you pay for. Granted, my opinion varies based on the type of product. I've bought expensive cameras because they last me a decade and are excellent tools. Ditto for computers, which I've used for up to five years. I used to think this about phones to an extent, when most of the cost was buried in a service contract. Then, last fall, Diana and I bought Google's Nexus 5X for about $400 each. It isn't cheap, but off-contract, unlocked and not full of carrier and manufacturer software, it seemed like a good deal. We've been mostly thrilled with the phones.
This begs the question: Is a phone that costs twice as much, twice as good? I can't imagine any instance where that would be the case. If the phones can reasonably perform all of the (let's be honest) non-essential things that we do with them, and aren't intended to last more than a year or two anyway, why spend more? This question was already on my mind when we bought Diana a $50 phone early last year. Spending more doesn't really get you more.
I theorize that this is going to change soon. If Xiaomi does enter the US market, things are going to change pretty dramatically. They're building really nice phones at really low prices. It's strange that the competition isn't a bigger deal considering the size of the market.
In any case, me, the technology nerd, I'm content with something that isn't the top of the line when it comes to phones.
I heard a song that caused a flood of memories to come rushing back from 2005. That was not, as my dear friends know, a very easy year for me (you would never know it by reading my blog back then). That fall in particular was emotionally challenging, as I was learning to be single, and I wasn't very good at it.
In October of that year, Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown came out, which was pretty exciting for me, as I had long believed that Crowe's Singles was the definitive movie of my college years. The film wasn't much of a hit, but it couldn't have been more appropriate for me. A guy is professionally and personally lost, and he needs a little help figuring out what's next, how to live in the world again. Kirsten Dunst plays Claire, a dorky but charming flight attendant he meets by chance. A temporary romance develops, as she challenges him to get beyond failure, let him know someone could appreciate him, and get him back to moving forward.
I needed a Kirsten Dunst as Claire at that point in my life. That movie sat with me for a long time, because it struck a lot of chords. As you might expect, I did not magically meet a Claire and hook up with her. The unfortunate thing about movies is that they're not real. However, from that point, and through the next 20 months or so, I met a combination of people that could compositely be considered my Claire. While I don't believe there is some cosmic force in the universe designing my fate, there have been a lot of the right people showing up at the right time in my life.
I'm grateful for my Kirsten Dunst's.
Simon is getting a pretty incredible childhood. I mean, yeah, he's had a ton of attention from us, teachers and therapists so he can adapt around the ASD issues (with mostly phenomenal success, I would add), but I'm talking about quality of life. My kid gets to do a lot of stuff that most kids do not. He's been on eight cruises, and by now has been to Walt Disney World about a hundred times. We guess that he has flown at least 40,000 miles. He's six.
Keep in mind, I wouldn't consider him spoiled. He doesn't get to do whatever he wants, and we don't buy him stuff. To be fair, he doesn't really ask for stuff, but if he did, we wouldn't buy it for him. The only real misstep I think we've made is being too flexible about food. Other than that, I think he is generally not without limits. He isn't spoiled.
But he does get to do some pretty cool things that most kids do not. The Disney thing is partially a function of living so close. It would be weird to not buy access to it annually (as I hear the Magic Kingdom fireworks go off two miles from me). He doesn't seem to take it for granted. Heck, we've pulled him out of there for misbehavior. The issue I have is that I want him to appreciate how awesome it is that he gets to do this stuff. How do you teach humility for something like that? I don't want him to feel guilty or anything, I just want him to understand what he has. Perhaps this is something better understood for him at a later age.
Fortunately, he is a helper. He loves to help people with anything that he believes he can be successful at. My hope is that we can get him involved in charity work in his grade school years. I think that's a critical thing for him to learn, that solving problems requires action by people, regardless of scope, and that making that difference is one of the richest experiences we can have as human beings.
In the mean time, I hope we keep making good memories for him. I'm assuming of course that his memory will be a lot like mine (I probably remember too much of my childhood for my own well-being). He's had some challenges, but there's no shortage of fun in his life.
Scott Hanselman mentioned on Twitter that notifications (on devices) too easily get overwhelming. Mind you, his job is to be plugged in, and community online and in person is his thing. He's pretty damn good at what he does. For a power user of communication tools, I think he's right that there has to be a better way. But for most of us, I would argue that most of what we choose to be notified about is completely unnecessary, and maybe even a detriment to being present in our lives.
I've known people that have to be notified about every little "like" and message, and they never fail to be working in the middle of a cubicle farm unaware of the vibrate feature of their phone. Those people suck. I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. My phone notifies me of voicemail, text messages and when the car is finished charging (via the Tesla or Chargepoint app, the latter in the case of the Leaf, because leaving it plugged in when not charging is kind of douchey). I will often have email visual notifications on (no vibrate), but generally only in cases where my work hours are more distributed because I'm cutting out in the middle of the day for errands or something. Do not disturb is on midnight to 8 a.m.
The truth is, nothing else is that important. I'll be notified when I proactively look at the source. The biggest time suck ever can be social media. My life isn't better by knowing instantly that someone liked a post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It's just not. When it comes to email, especially if it comes in off hours, it can likely wait until morning. Other random stuff, like Amazon shipped my package, who cares?
I think it's kind of a weird time for us, because we allow technology to do stuff and never ask if it should. The constant drone of notifications is one of those situations. Allowing us to be notified, and therefore interrupted, by things that don't have a big return on investment, is probably not a good idea. It takes us out of the real, present moment that surrounds us, whether it be spending time with family or ordering a burrito. It can wait. Respect and engage with the humans that are in front of you first.
There are a lot of noodle dishes out there, a kind of mix tape of different recipes that presumably originate in Asia and have since been altered and messed with in American restaurants for years. There are two that I've had recently that I'm fond of, for different reasons. One is the pan Asian noodles from Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort at WDW. Mind you, I get it without the vegetables, but it's tasty stuff. Meanwhile, Napasorn, a Thai restaurant in downtown Orlando, has a pad see-ew that I'm very fond of. I like them for different reasons... the pan Asian is stir-fried with an interesting mix of what I imagine is brown sugar and soy sauce. Pad see-ew is more about the dark soy sauce with broccoli and bits of egg, and it uses flat rice noodles.
I started looking around at various recipes online because it's something I'd like to eat at home. I came up with the following, though this is revised from what I actually used on my first attempt. I didn't have peanut or sesame oil, so I used vegetable oil, and more of it. I didn't have egg noodles, so I used thin spaghetti. I didn't use fresh chicken either, which was my biggest mistake, because I had some precooked stuff from Schwan's in the freezer that I wasn't using for anything else. I didn't have rice vinegar, but I had some apple cider vinegar. Still, with the adjustments I've made, I think this could plausibly be delicious. I think I may consider adding broccoli to it as well, because it wouldn't kill me to get something green in me. Maybe add more garlic, too.
(revised April 2021)
Cut the chicken into small chunks, then marinate for about two hours in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame or peanut oil and a little cap full of lime juice.
Lightly oil the pan, add chicken, cook until it appears slightly cooked (don't overcook, as it will dry out), then remove the chicken and put it to the side.
Boil the noodles with salt and a little oil, cook them until they're soft and drain. Whisk the ingredients together (except sesame seeds, noodles and chicken) to make sauce. Heat frying pan to medium heat. Put cooked noodles in frying pan, add sauce mixture, sesame seeds and broccoli. Toss noodles in frying pan using tongs as they soak up the sauce. Increase heat if you want to caramelize the noodles (you should). When the noodles begin to brown and there's no visible liquid, add the chicken back in. Remove from heat when you're satisfied with the caramelization of the noodles, and serve immediately.
I'm surprised at myself, how I've been mostly apolitical lately. I suppose there are a lot of reasons for that. Four years ago, it was easy to be against Romney because he was so non-specific about virtually everything in terms of policy, and while Obama may have failed to really lead on anything important, he was at least a known quantity with very spelled out positions on most issues. It's been a mixed bag of improvement under Obama, but most numbers work in his favor, according to the various fact-checking sites, and that's assuming you can even attribute the improvement to any president. (Remember how the Republicans all vowed to lower gas prices? They don't have control over that, and maybe that's why Obama rightfully isn't credited for sub-$2 prices.)
Now, I imagine I will still lean left, but only because of the trainwreck that is the GOP. It's easier to deny the existence of Donald Trump than it is to acknowledge him in any way. That a blatant fascist, racist, misogynist moron with no specific position on anything can dominate a party is a sad reflection of the party and the process. He has no respect for the Constitution. I mean, his opponents aren't much better, but what kind of fucked up world do we live in where the governor of Ohio is the most moderate and experienced person to govern? The GOP field has managed to bring fear-based politics to an entirely new level.
As for the Democrats, I'm not a fan of Clinton or Sanders, but while both also dwell in the politics of fear (fear of failure and corporations), at least they don't hate anyone. At the end of the day, morally, I would have to side with them just on the basic principles of human respect. What's really unfortunate is that Sanders wasn't more moderate, because I think if he was, he might be president. His position on taxation wouldn't affect me, but I think his solutions to education, and to a lesser degree healthcare, are fiscally reckless. And in the end, maybe it wouldn't have mattered, because there's no way in hell he could get anything he wanted to do through Congress anyway. Sure, the same could be said of Trump, but at the very least you don't have a bigot with launch codes in the Oval.
It's such a shitty situation that it's mentally easier to deny it exists. I'll still vote of course, but no one will be even remotely in category of my ideal candidate. I can't imagine I'm the only one who would describe the ideal that way.
Diana made the observation that when it comes to being sick, Simon and I go big. We're not really people who get colds. I managed to get through the holidays, January and February without getting sick, then bam, March it hits me. We were worried that Simon would get it and ruin his birthday, but it held off. Unfortunately, it caught up with him starting last night, and today he missed an epic birthday party for a neighbor friend.
I have to say, though, that seeing him immobilized and on his back is completely heartbreaking. He has his little streaks of enthusiasm while watching a movie or something, but he's so lethargic. I feel so bad for him. There aren't many things as hard about being a parent as not being able to help.
I have friends with children that have chronic disease and illness, and I don't know how they do it. I mean, I assume they roll with it, since they have no choice, but the toll it has to take has to be rough.
I don't write much about TV anymore, but it's worth noting that the Discovery show Mythbusters ended its 14-year run last weekend. That's a pretty good run, and it was a pretty good show.
In more recent years, I stopped watching it because frankly I just didn't have enough time. It also started to feel a little repetitive. Last year they rebooted the show a bit, dropping the three secondary cast members. I actually liked the overall style of the "new" show, in terms of storytelling, graphics, photography and the like. It felt more focused and polished. It's kind of a bummer that they ended it just when it was getting interested again.
The show jokingly ended up being about blowing a lot of things up, but actually the science content was consistently solid. There wasn't a lot of anything over that decade and a half that really could match it in terms of interesting science content. Perhaps one of the best and unintended angles of the show was that they frequently tested the validity of stupid shit you read on the Internet. Since there's no shortage of that, the show's content was gold.
Probably the worst thing about the show's demise is that there really isn't anything on Discovery that is worthy of its name and original intent. With hundreds of channels of stupid on cable, at least there was Discovery, not making us quite as stupid. The end of Mythbusters is something of a reality on the state of TV. We can only hope that things like the Cosmos reboot are not one-off rarities.
Last week, I got nailed with some kind of virus, and to say I felt suboptimal doesn't even cover it. Wednesday was the first day in this job that I've ever actually taken PTO to not work. Normally I just soldier on and work, since I'm home anyway. This was the kind of sick where you end up on your back with nothing but your thoughts. Honestly, me with just my thoughts is never a good thing.
I haven't felt quite like myself on and off for the last six months. I don't think I've been unhappy or depressed, but something just didn't feel right. I guess the biggest symptom is that I'm not engaging in much of anything the way that I'm used to. I've been mentally lethargic, often content to turn off my brain and watch random TV. That's completely not me.
Something is starting to come into focus though... at some point I stopped playing. I mean that in a really broad sense. The things that intrigue me and interest me simply haven't drawn me in.
For example, whether it's for outright professional development or my hobbyist bent, I'm usually one to mess around with the technology I work with, on my own time. I like to experiment and learn about the stuff, especially the newest things. There is plenty out there, but I just haven't been interested enough to engage. Granted, I think I sort of understand where this came from. Last fall I had a project, one centered on fixing performance issues, that ended up being just me. It was wildly successful, but that kind of engagement at that level for a sustained amount of time definitely took a toll on me. It was a relief even for my next project to not be something that required me to get that into the weeds on. Still, it did burn me out a little on the technology.
As far as activity and physical sports, I haven't been interested in that either. I think this might be slightly related to the technology play, because physical activity takes a lot out of my mental bandwidth, for whatever reason. I've played less with my words and writing. I play fewer video games. I don't really get down on the floor with Simon that often and play with his toys. I'm just not playing with the world!
I imagine this is temporary. Intrinsic motivation is the key driver of my life, but it has definitely been in short supply lately. This has to change.
I'm really not sure when I'll stop writing about Simon's birthdays. I thought last year's post was a pretty good overview of how I felt, and I find the sentiment to be similar now.
We mixed it up this year, and didn't do a straight birthday party. He had soccer in the morning, then we hung out at home and he opened the few gifts from us, grandparents and such. Then today, we did some bowling early, followed by an informal play date with this friends and classmates at the park. It all went pretty well, and he was a happy kid. I really liked seeing him interact with classmates, because the same kids he sometimes complains about clearly adore him. We also learned that he's become a little insensitive to the fact that "stuff" costs money, and you have to be a little humble about receiving gifts. We'll work on that this year.
Yes, he's still a handful at times, but I'm surprised at how often I really enjoy just hanging out with him. There's also an awful lot of time that I would rather get some exclusive time with Diana, but the kid is alright. He's a little human that we made, and that never stops being amazing.