Archive: March, 2024

My lighting endeavor has been delayed

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 29, 2024, 9:48 PM | comments: 0

I got the word this week that the lighting console that I hoped was going to ship by the end of this month has been delayed until to May. Mind you, I've been waiting six months as it is. It's a bummer.

But also, what kind of business can get away with that? It's already been nine months. Obviously, a business that's part of a duopoly for lighting control. ETC, apparently isn't much better. As I've written before, ETC, is more dominant in the theater space, while MA Lighting, which I'm waiting for, is more dominant overall, but especially for concert lighting, which I'm most interested in. Also, because that's what Disney is using in most of their venues here, and on the ships.

The thing that I'm struggling with is that it's really hard to even program for visualizers without the physical control surface. I know that pros do it, on a laptop, but it's awkward at best. I've tried. If the "performance" is more than pushing "go go go," it's not the same.

I'm frustrated with this. Especially since I started to explore the software aspect of it. The algorithms to "animate" lighting are not complex or hard to implement. The challenge is more about how to do the user experience. I don't know if MA or ETC really have it "right."

Two decades ago I would have naively tried to challenge the scene. Today, probably not.

The promise of the next thing against the moment

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 29, 2024, 9:39 PM | comments: 0

I heard a song today that reminded me very much of our time in Seattle. The general feelings associated with that time were of some anxiety, unfamiliarity, but mostly of promise for a future that I couldn't define. That was electrifying, and frankly something I deeply needed after three and a half decades in Cleveland. The idea of what might be, is energizing. I felt a lot of that same feeling here when we moved to Orange County.

Almost eleven years have passed since that move. I still get those feelings when I look at certain aspects of my life, but the thing that's different now is the influence of time. It seems like, once you hit 50, time mostly is the thing that's trying to kill you. The future may offer a great many positive possibilities, but it also moves you closer to your demise. I think to a lot of folks, that feels dark, but on the scale of accepting the ephemeral nature of your being, I'm somewhere slightly closer to acceptance relative to my peers. Probably not as far as I'd like to be. 🙂

Time is a bitch. I'm likely somewhere between 50% and 75% in my life meter. The biggest consequence of this is that I'm a lot more particular about where to distribute my remaining fucks. If I'm being honest, the only ones that weigh heavy are the around the outcomes of my son's life, and how much I can influence them. And I realize that the scope of that influence decreases every single day. Stuff that occurs at work, or whatever else affects my daily life, ranks way lower.

Prioritization is an evolving endeavour.

School testing is going to ruin my kid

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 28, 2024, 8:23 PM | comments: 0

Simon has the state writing test next week, and it's gonna be bad. They're at the point now that they expect substantial free form writing, and he... won't produce what they're looking for. It's complicated.

We do a writing drill regularly, where we ask him to write a few sentences about stuff, whatever topic Diana comes up with. This seems like a good idea, because it allows him to write without it being a real academic pressure situation. Unfortunately, it creates just as much anxiety, angst and dread as a school assignment. He can't start. When he makes a mistake, he flips out. It's not where he should be in 8th grade, so what's going on?

First off, he's not illiterate. He can read fine, and even seemed to enjoy a recent book he had to read for school. He stayed up late one night on his own accord and read a bunch of chapters, and could verbally tell you what it was about, more or less. He can also tell you all kinds of things about things that he's interested in, able to recall the most minor of details. He notices the most insignificant things about theme park attractions, but he's the opposite of detail oriented for anything he doesn't care about, like folding laundry.

But writing is an entirely different problem, and I don't know how to solve it. I couldn't even help him with recent stuff around parts of speech, because I didn't get it in school either. Writing, and structure for writing, has always come naturally to me. I can't explain how it works, I just "know." Even then, you'd think that if he can verbally tell you something, why can't he write it? We don't have an answer for this question. My interactions with him deteriorate quickly, and I am non-helpful, because I can't not react emotionally with frustration.

He hasn't been formally diagnosed with dysgraphia, but he exhibits all of the markers for it. We're going to ask if the school district can evaluate him for that, and if not, we'll go the private route. I don't know what else to do other than throw money at experts at this point. Homework is stressful for everyone, and I hate it. He needs to be able to write to enjoy a decent quality of life, and that's where my head goes to. My frustration is out of fear for his future.

For a kid who has probably more than his share of self-esteem issues, going into that test unable to get any significant traction is going to be bad. We're already anticipating a meltdown. It's not going to be a good week.

Jagged Little Pill (it feels so good)

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 5:30 PM | comments: 0

I can get pretty obsessed with any music, and listen to it a lot. I don't know if that's an autism thing or not, but Simon does it too, though I assume it might be a teenager thing. Regardless, it seems like there's at least one musical per year that I get really hooked on. I didn't expect that this year it might be Jagged Little Pill, but here we are.

Most jukebox shows are, at best, serviceable as a few hours of light entertainment, and I don't look forward to most of them. Beautiful was better than most. TinaAin't Too Proud and others I've already forgotten were terrible to meh. So I imagine that there are one of two things happening here. Either, one, my Gen-X'er nostalgia for Alanis Morissette and the era of alt-rock that wasn't confined to a box is very strong and blinds me to what might be shitty, or, two, they generally did a great job of putting these songs into the context of an interesting story. I want to believe it's the latter, but I can't see over my own bias.

We first saw it on Wednesday, on our usual subscription day in the usual seats. By intermission, I already knew it was a winner. In fact, we stayed after for the cast chat-back, something we haven't done since Come From Away came through many years ago. The cast is very strong (and very young, aside from the actors playing the parents). The adjustments made to the songs make them seem like they always belonged there, as if they were written contextually for the show. And surprisingly, the charmingly weird phrasing and word usage of Alanis doesn't sound weird when other people sing it. Heck, with the chorus harmonies and what not, it might even be better.

There are a few different plot lines centered around several characters, the biggest of which is the "Mary Jane," the mother, and her addiction. They hit plenty of other light hearted topics like racial and sexual identity, rape and over-work. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, it's all tied together pretty well with a satisfying ending.

At first glance, the choreography seems a little spastic, maybe too modern, but it balances out pretty quickly. In fact, it works out to a brilliant staging of "Uninvited," which was already one of my favorite songs (favorite ever, I mean). It's used to show the push and pull against addiction at the lowest point, and it's really effective. The minor lyric changes make it seem like it was always about addiction, even though it was originally for the City of Angels soundtrack. It's so good.

I liked it so much I went back for the Sunday matinee. Diana was working it, so I was solo, but it was totally worth it. Unfortunately, the tour is almost over, so it's hard to say when or if there will be more opportunities to see it.

On governing and government

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 22, 2024, 8:40 PM | comments: 0

Our trip last week to Washington D.C. was surprising to me in that it was bigger to me than just a tourist adventure. The United States is not "old" in the way that much of the rest of the world is. We saw things in Europe that were certainly older than anything in Washington, but the sheer volume of history concentrated in one place is staggering.

On arrival, just walking around was kind of overwhelming. Mind you, there's not really a thing in Washington that I haven't seen in photos, but from the moment I stepped on to the mall, with the Capitol at one end, and Washington Monument at the other, I immediately felt the weight of the things that happened there. Shortly thereafter, I was on the steps of the Capitol, where I couldn't help but contrast the peace of the moment and the knowledge about what happened there a few years earlier.

Less than 24 hours in D.C., my family and I toured the White House. The tour takes you through the east wing, and covers the entire second floor, from the East Room to the State Dining Room, and everything in between. The portraits of previous president line the foyer, and Washington and Lincoln still hold prominent places. I stood in the place where Obama gave his speech announcing the killing of bin Laden. I stood in the Blue Room, which held countless White House Christmas trees. Heads of state from throughout history dined with presidents in the State Dining Room. Literally every important guest entered through that foyer over the last two centuries. There probably aren't many places with that concentration of history.

The United States presidency is a serious job. The US History Museum has an exhibit about presidents, subtitling it "A Glorious Burden." The decisions a president makes could, in theory, literally lead to the end of humanity. Their words matter, because a person in that position is a figure head and symbol charged with operating our democracy.

It doesn't end there. Congress makes laws that can affect 330 million people, or potentially billions. It can authorize war, it can decide to feed the hungry, it can reduce the cost of healthcare. Its impact on the American way of life is non-trivial. It is serious. It is important.

For years now, I've been watching headlines and seeing a big box of crazy say things that enable the worst inclinations of Americans. A subset of the population is deeply afraid of something that isn't actually a threat. They may have legitimate worry, but they've also been convinced that there are scapegoats with which to assign blame. They're the people not like them. And they've given unconditional trust to people that they think will help them or "defend" them. The reality is that they actually are not looking out for their interests, which I also can't explain.

There are people in office or running for office that are not looking out for democracy, or the Constitution, they're only looking for power and influence. I know that the truly disenfranchised, and those who see moral equivalence in politics, believe that it's all the same. It is not. I think back about how much I disapproved of the policy of George W. Bush, around the Iraq War. He owned up to that mistake, if subtly, but I truly believe that he had the best interest of the nation in mind. He might have been wrong, but what I truly believe is that he was, at heart, a public servant. He worked for the United States, for public service. I believe this to be true of every president in my lifetime (though I'm uncertain of Nixon, because I was too young).

The Trump movement is not that. It isn't OK to say that you're willing to be a dictator, to "suspend" the Constitution. That is not democracy. It is not public service. It is fundamentally contrary to the founding documents, to the intent of the founders. It is contrary to the Constitution. It's not an ambiguous proposition.

When I was younger, Reagan famously said, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." His intent was to sow mistrust, to suggest that government was the enemy. This is insane. As someone who spent years working in local government, I can assure you that government, led by the trustworthy and selfless, is valuable. Those who want to lead it because they believe they can protect your from it are not the right people.

I don't know what to do with this.

Spring break in Washington D.C.

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 21, 2024, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

People are fond of talking about visiting Washington D.C. on a an eighth grade trip, but going to an inner city school at the time, that wasn't a thing for me. I've driven around it a few times (Atlantic coast roller coaster trips when I was into that). We've talked about it as an educational opportunity, and with Simon studying American history this year, it seemed like as good a time as any. We've got friends who live in the area too, including Ken, who lives in the middle of it all.

We played pretty fast and loose with planning. I booked the flights, and found a hotel about half way between the Capitol and the White House. The Riggs used to be a bank. It's pretty obvious when you step inside, and they fashioned the front desk to still look like teller windows. There's a bar in the basement (which was unfortunately being renovated) in what used to be the vault, and they still have the massive door there. Overall, service was pretty great when we needed it, it was super clean and comfortable, and a solid home base for the four nights. It's a little expensive, but so is everything in D.C., and you can't beat the location.

Ken met us at the airport, because he just happened to be coming in for a work trip an hour before us. What was great about this is he had a few Metro cards for us, and I never so much as looked up a map. We just got on the train with him, since we were going almost the same place. Fortunately, the room was ready when we arrived at 1, so we were able to drop our junk and get some lunch across the street at a Shake Shack. It's not particularly economical, but we went more than once because Simon is picky about food.

After lunch, we went out to the mall just to take it in. Being about three blocks from it was perfect. Since we were there, we headed over to Air & Space, which we quickly learned required a "ticketed" time, since it was half-closed for renovation, but still popular. The Smithsonian museums are all free, but this one, along with the African American Museum, require specific entry times. That's really the worst wing-it mistake we made, but also not a big deal because there's so much to do.

We did a quick loop through the Natural History museum, and if you've been in one with a decent collection, honestly, they don't differentiate themselves much. It was so busy. After that, we met up with Ken and his lady friend and walked down to the Capitol, and just kind of hung out there for a bit. Simon was starting to get hangry, but unfortunately would not agree to eat at any of the places on Pennsylvania Ave. The youngest among us was tired of walking. So we went back to our hotel, got Simon more Shake Shack, and the rest of us went further down E to The Hamilton, where the food was solid, and the drinks were even better. We ended the night checking out Ken's place and a laser show.

Saturday was planned entirely around our scheduled White House visit. Going there is a whole thing, which starts with filling out a form from your representative well in advance. I guess there's some kind of random drawing, but if picked, they send you an email asking you to submit all of the details for your party, presumably to do a background check. We got all of that and had a noon time to arrive. When you get there, they verify your identity twice, which seemed a little weird. Then you walked between a fan and a dog, and finally through a magnetometer while they X-rayed the smallest of allowable items. From there, you follow the fence to the east gate, and enter through the east wing.

There's a White House experience app that walks you through all of the places you'll go, so check that out if you're interested. You cross the east wing through the colonnade, passing the movie theater, and you can peak in the China Room, library and Vermeil Room. From there, you go up the stairs and into the East Room. That's where it got interesting, because you more or less do a loop all the way around the second floor. From the East Room, you go through the Green, Blue and Red Rooms, then the State Dining Room. At this point, you turn back toward the Cross Hall and Foyer. It kind of makes you realize how relatively small the building is. The upper floor is the residence, with the various historic bedrooms, but you obviously don't get to go up there. They don't send you through the West Wing either, but that kind of makes sense since that's where people are actively working. The parts you go through are pretty extraordinary though, as they roll up the carpet and create lanes for you to walk through. The age and history behind much of the art is just staggering. My understanding is that the furniture is from a pool that presidents can choose from, so while much of it is quite old, the sets in the rooms vary from one president to the next.

But to stand there in those rooms, knowing all of the figures of history that stood in those same spots... I found it very moving. But it's also a reminder of the serious job that the presidency is, something that seems to be lost in the current political climate. That's a subject for another post.

We followed our White House visit with a stop for lunch at The Hamilton, then worked our way down to the Washington Monument to meet up with a friend that Diana used to work with in Orlando. Eventually we headed back up to a Walgreens for snacks, then back to the hotel to rest a bit. That night, we planed to walk around the basin to the monuments.

The cherry blossoms hit a little early because of a warm spell of weather, so that was lucky. The walk around the basin was surprisingly dark, with the first stop being the Jefferson Memorial. It's such a crazy structure. The quotes on the inside are inspiring, and again, remind you of the gravity of the position. We also hit a snag here, when Simon thought he lost his earbuds (they were in his other pocket), resulting in an almost-meltdown. I drifted between sympathetic protector to stern disciplinarian in those moments, but it was ultimately a false alarm. Unfortunately, his demeanor changed from there on, and he insisted that he wanted to go back to the hotel. Being half-way around, it didn't matter really.

The FDR Memorial felt like a random series of water features, but shortly thereafter we reached the MLK Jr. Memorial, which I thought was extraordinary. It's modern but still timeless. And his quotes are both inspiring, and a stark reminder of how far we have yet to go.

Next was the Lincoln Memorial, which has all kinds of construction and restoration going on around it. He's another extraordinary figure in history, and arguably one of the most critical in making sure the US stayed a country. From there we walked around the WWII Memorial, and eventually back to the hotel. We walked almost 12 miles that day, and we were all feeling it.

Sunday, we got out of bed pretty late. We intended to go to the American History Museum, and maybe Air & Space at 3 if we were up to it (we had a reservation), but we weren't. The main priority in American History was their new-ish exhibit about the influence of popular entertainment, and it's really, really good. They have the ruby slippers, some Muppets, and even Lin-Manuel's Hamilton costume. We also went through their first lady and president exhibits, the latter of which includes the top hat that Lincoln was wearing when he was shot. There was a food exhibit with Julia Child's kitchen. We were ready to pack it in, when Simon noticed the trains in the transportation wing, so we were there a little longer. I was just happy that he found something interesting to him.

Knowing we pushed him the day before, we were content to let Simon just hang out and watch videos or whatever the rest of the night. Meanwhile, we met Ken at a pub and racked up a fairly large bar tab on St. Patrick's Day. The weird thing is that it wasn't really busy, and much of the city was like that. Ken explained that was pretty typical, the ebb and flow of crowds and tourists. It's also influenced by fed workers who tend to be remote on Monday and Friday.

On our last full day, our only intentional stop was the International Spy Museum, which is far from free, but easily the second-best thing we saw after the White House. The collection and exhibit design is exceptional. The upper floor is mostly about technology and historic profiles, while the next one down is more about history, including intelligence failures like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, war spying, interrogation, Germany as the wall came down, terrorism, etc. All of it is really well done, including a big multi-surface video piece that talks about Washington's role as the first president and commissioner of American spies. Chris Jackson ("George Washington" in Hamilton) hosts it. People were bypassing it, and they missed out. The museum also had a temporary exhibit of James Bond vehicles from the various movies. We spent four hours there, more than any other place, and we could have stayed longer.

We had to pass the US Archives on our way back, so at 5, we figured we'd roll up to the place and see if we could get a quick look at the founding documents. Sure enough, there was no line, and we walked right in. The Constitution is in decent condition, but the Declaration of Independence is faded to the point of it being illegible. The Bill of Rights isn't much better. But they're there, the real thing, and again it's inspiring to think about what those folks were getting themselves into at the time.

We dropped another $60 at Shake Shack, this time actually getting milk shakes, despite it being like 43 degrees. The Smithsonian museums might be free, but it's expensive to eat and drink in the district. At this point, we had walked about 30 miles over four days, and we were pretty spent. We saw a lot of stuff. Diana and I met Ken for one more drink, and were in bed by 9, if not actually sleeping. Fortunately, check-out time wasn't until noon.

It was a very busy vacation, but totally worth it. We definitely want to go back, eventually. The comfortable, centrally located hotel made a huge difference. I left with a lot of thoughts about government and history, and I'll write about those eventually. I'm so glad we did this.

At the Capitol

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 15, 2024, 11:07 PM | comments: 0

The relative peace at the Capitol seems strange considering what happened a few years ago. That it happened at all is shocking, but what is deeply concerning is the number of people who think it was no big deal, or worse, justified. Sometimes I don't recognize a country where some folks think having a dictator would be fine. Change happens slowly, and we get it wrong (a lot), but we're nothing without democracy, and the foundation established by the Constitution.

Long exhale

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 14, 2024, 7:45 PM | comments: 0

Spring break is here. While I'm sure Simon is breathing a sigh of relief, I am right there with him. I didn't really detach from work until about 7, which I don't like to do, but things are challenging and I wanted to set people up for success.

And so I'm sitting here, as if letting out a very, very long breath that I feel like I've been holding for months. I do this every single spring, it seems. I go three months between significant time off, but I never make it a point to unplug in between. And I wonder why I'm battling anxiety.

But I left things in a pretty good place, or at least, good enough to feel able to disengage. It feels great. I still have a little travel anxiety, because it never feels quite right until you're where you want to go, but everything is more or less headed in the right direction.


Mini-review: Asus Zenbook Duo (2024)

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 11, 2024, 7:46 PM | comments: 0

I bought the 16" M2 MacBook Pro about a year ago, and it has been fantastic. As I said, Apple got back to making excellent hardware. I've enjoyed writing code on it, as it really has no compromises. To that end, I was not in the market for another laptop, a second one, but I was looking for a solution to my lighting console problem. The short version is that the console I'm going to acquire lacks its own computer or screens (and therefore does not cost $80k!), so I was looking for a practical solution. My first thought was to get one of those little NUC machines and some big touch screens. Then Dave 2D previewed this new Asus, and it was like it was made specifically for this problem. A laptop with two screens is far more portable and easy to roll with, and I could add another external screen, too. This one is not intended to replace the MacBook, but I inevitably have to compare the two.

This machine will be the brain of the lighting rig, but it's also an opportunity for some light gaming, as my only Windows computer. With 14" screens, it also feels less cumbersome to carry about. It comes in two versions, with the base at $1,500, including a Core Ultra 7, 16 GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and 1920x1200 OLED screens. What's crazy is that for only $200 more, you get twice the RAM, 2880x1800 screens and a faster Ultra 9 CPU. I say crazy because $200 wouldn't even double the RAM in my MBP. What I'm struck by is the quality of these OLED screens, and why Apple still isn't using them. Battery life is around 8 hours for normal browser-based stuff, maybe more, and I imagine it would be about the same for dev work (with one screen, anyway). The keyboard you'd think would be squishy given its ability to separate, but it's considerably better than the one on my previous Surface Laptop and the HP that I had before that.

The two-screen trick is not something that I've used that often, but when I have, it's a seamless process. You pull the keyboard off, prop up the computer on the kickstand, and that's it. I set up the computer with an external ViewSonic screen, and found it ran the lighting software perfectly across the three screens. I've used it a few times with multiple browsers open on the two screens. It's odd to have them over each other instead of side by side, but I think that's just muscle memory.

I can't understand why someone didn't think of this design sooner. The 2-in-1 convertible tablets and all of that are fine, and Surface Pro definitely fills a certain niche, but this thing is just silly practical.

I finally quit my HOA board

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 6, 2024, 9:19 PM | comments: 0

After five years, I finally quit my HOA board. It was time. It was a thankless "job" and the board had changed in ways that I wasn't crazy about.

When I first jumped in, it was to see through the orderly transition from the developer, and the likely lawsuit to sue the developer for the way they left the association. That's far enough along now that it's on autopilot. The other "young" guy on the board moved out of the neighborhood some time ago, leaving me to fend for myself against what I perceived to be not ideal stuff. And I consider myself young because, relative to the other members, I am. That's where it's at.

But also, after all of this time, we've only had one actual election with a quorum, so with me leaving, there's only one member actually elected. That doesn't feel right to me, and some members of the board were fine with that. I had to push just to get them to solicit applications for the person we would appoint last time. I'm not OK with that. I think it's time for some turnover, though I'm not sure if the members are motivated enough to actually get involved.

On a personal level, it's just another step in evaluating what I want to spend my remaining keystrokes on. This was not something in that category. I felt like I was always a dissenter, I wasn't taken seriously, and our president even emailed the association attorney once indicating that the board "didn't care what I think," then cc'd me on her reply. (Calling him out, he never responded.) Even five years ago, I would have raged and tried my best to assert my position, but now, I don't care. There's no value in chasing that.

Unfortunately, the thing I most take away from it is that people just don't give a shit. Civic engagement in this country is a joke. People bitch and moan, but they don't get involved, which is the reason for the lack of quorum. It's not hard to extrapolate that to the national scene, where apparently people are willing to elect and old man who is by every definition a fascist and a criminal. I mean, there are residents here who still think that the city on their address is the political subdivision that we live in, even though we're unincorporated. It's like they don't pay attention enough to see that they don't vote for people in that city or pay taxes to it. I'm not pointing that out to feel smarter or superior, I just think that's basic civics.

So that's it. I can say that I did it. I know how the sausage is made, and I can move on. There are a million better ways to direct my energy.

Gen-X might be having a moment

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 11:46 PM | comments: 0

Some combination of my own journey, things I hear on celebrity podcasts, stuff musicians say, articles... all point to a certain level of self-awareness among the members of my generation. I suppose this is just something that happens to people in midlife, but it feels bigger than that, if only because it's our lived experience.

The background might matter. When we were in high school, the "grown ups" told us, go to college or a trade school. Don't rock the boat. In our college years and 20's, it was already pretty clear that the generation before us left a real shit show for us to clean up. The problem is that we got so used to being called the slacker generation that we kind of bought it, and didn't engage. There were hints that we could have, as we seemed to be the only people to take the AIDS epidemic seriously, and we pushed for recycling.

Then two decades passed, and to be honest, we were still phoning it in. There has never been a Gen-X president. (Obama was born in 1961, so while he may have been embraced by us, he wasn't one of us.) Hell, we went backward and had two Boomers since, one of which is a total sociopath, the other just... old. But during these two decades, it's not like we haven't gained wisdom and experience. We've seen some shit.

Now it's starting to feel like we're waking up. We accept the reality of our childhoods, the concept of chosen family, the place of work in our lives, how remarkable technology is, the importance of mental health... just getting our priorities right. The question is, will we step up and attempt to lead? I anecdotally see it now and then in my line of work, but no obvious trend. The reality is that our role may be limited, with the understanding that it's not always worth stepping up for things that clearly do not serve us. For example, I'm ready to walk away with something that I've been involved with for years, and I'm good with it.

For me, it's coming to grips with all of my story so far. High school was socially a disaster and I was lonely most of the time. I spent literally decades embarrassed by that, instead of embracing it as a means to move on from it. In college, I struggled to make romantic connections (in retrospect, largely because I was oblivious to signals). The things that drove me out of radio and television were not really about me (well, except for the part where software was clearly a more lucrative career). Getting divorced was, in some ways, a gift that enabled Team Puzzoni, and I still get to be friends with my first wife. And the autism and ADHD diagnoses were literally a life changing gift. I can give myself the grace to believe that I'm not defective in my relationships. I'm starting to better understand my interaction with every human being, and acknowledge when I just need to break away for a bit.

It seems like a lot of anthropologists and psychologists consider all of this as the normal progression through life. But as part of a generation that has little common experience beyond 9/11, it does feel like something we share.

Simon, 14

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

What a strange year to think about my one and only child. We've managed to get him this far, and now he's technically just four years away from legal adulthood. It's really hard to wrap my head around that.

Being the parent of a teenager is one of the hardest things that I've had to do in life. I'm not particularly good at it. By that, I mean I am very impatient. That's not a good mix with a kid at an age where he wants to challenge literally everything. The thing that feeds into this is a desperate feeling that he's going through a lot of the same things that I did, and not the good parts. He's not me, but it's hard to separate what looks like a remake of a movie.

Simon is already asking about why he has to learn anything that they put in front of him, which creates a lot of fear in me. What's worse is that I now see that so much of the system intended to accommodate neurodiverse kids lacks significant accountability for the kid. The balance is completely out of whack. It's a disincentive to even try something when you know that someone will help you, especially when you're a teenager that would rather be doing anything else. My perception is that a lot of what makes it difficult to do homework is starting, especially when it involves writing. Like me, he's often not interested in the work to arrive at certain outcomes. His odds of going to college seem pretty mixed, and while I don't think it's entirely necessary, the numbers favor college grads for quality of life.

Socially, he has still not really found his tribe. When I pick him up from school and he's sitting alone on a bench, it's heartbreaking. That was me. I know what that feels like. I'm crossing my fingers that high school will be different, and we're committed to trying to get him involved in things.

The thing is, when he's not doing teenage boy stuff, he can be a funny kid. He's interested in music. He wants to know how things work. He's borderline obsessed with theme park attractions. He's fun when we're doing fun things. He's fiercely independent on cruises and often at theme parks. He loves helping with the foster cats. He can be generally delightful at times.

One of my favorite times with him last year was when he helped me out shooting for my rum documentary (which I'll edit someday). He took a real interest in understanding how the equipment worked and was eager to be responsible for things.

It's possible that he's outgrown photos with Elsa, because that's embarrassing, but cruises continue to be a safe place for him to be himself, do things on his own and generally be a happy kid.

I think the day that I realized just how tall the kid was getting was this day, when we did a Segway tour in Mt. Dora. Mind you, everyone is a few inches taller on one, but it felt extra obvious that day.

Our trip around Northern Europe was obviously the highlight of our year. It's a trip that we put off for years because we figured that it would be difficult to keep him engaged and fed. A cruise was an obvious choice, because it solved both problems (and London and Copenhagen at the bookends obviously have McDonald's). It was also a great way to sample a bunch of countries without devoting waking hours to being on planes. This was our first of two stops in Iceland, this one just outside of Reykjavik.

On the last full day of our trip, disembarking in Copenhagen, we visited Tivoli Gardens. Impossibly, a bunch of young women in another country started shouting Simon's name. It ended up being some of the youth counselors from the ship, who were making a quick day trip to the park. They're always so good to him, and it's emotional to say goodbye.

One of his prize possessions, something he bought, was an electronic MagicBand. Mostly it glows and does stuff in certain places in the theme parks and on the ships, in conjunction with a phone app.

When he does get it in his head that he wants to buy something, he starts looking for ways to make money around the house, which I don't mind. In this case, it was power washing the driveway.

For all of the drama and frustration, we do have some good times together. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when we're struggling with school work and responsibilities.

We spent part of Christmas volunteering at Give Kids The World again this year, so I guess that makes it a tradition now. When it comes to philanthropy, he kind of oscillates between what's in it for him and the benefit of serving others.

Simon had his first dance this year, which as best I can tell went about as expected. Mom was there as a chaperone, which I suspect made a huge difference in his decision to even attend.

We once again started his birthday week at Splitsville, which is expensive, but I suppose worth it once a year. He still uses the bumpers, but the ball ramp is a distant memory for this kid standing about 5'4".

My Orlando Code Camp talk was about... what else?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 3, 2024, 8:33 PM | comments: 0

Last weekend I spoke at Orlando Code Camp for the eighth time, which is to say every year since I've lived here outside of the pandemic. Every year, I wonder what it is that I can talk about, seeing as how I'm not really writing code all that regularly. But naturally, I spent all kinds of time in the last year experimenting with lighting control protocols, so that bubbled up on the list pretty quickly.

I feel pressure for this sort of thing, because most years I've presented stuff that filled the room, and some years even had standing room only. I had one stander this time, which I consider a success in terms of topic selection. It went pretty well, I think, and part of the reason for that I suspect is because it's neat to have code drive physical movement in meatspace.

I can't explain why I do this stuff, other than the idea that it reminds me a lot of doing radio. It's not really for the "likes," I think that it's a way to share enthusiasm for something. There's a fair amount of prep work for these, and you don't usually get paid (larger, regional events will generally pay for a hotel room). It might partly be out of obligation, because I learned all the things from others. I should return the favor, though I'm not sure that this particular knowledge would be useful for any normal situation.

The code from the talk is on the Github, and I did a video version from home in advance for the YouTube.

We're on our sixth electric vehicle

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 1, 2024, 4:02 PM | comments: 0

I've been trying to get over the untimely demise of our Model 3, Hygge (you can name them, you know), and maybe it helps a little that we got the replacement today. The new one, Sven, is a Model Y, basically the three-years-newer version of our other car. In terms of EV's, it was the best deal, and certainly we knew what to expect. There are also little things that Diana said she's hate to go back to, like keys, fobs and power on buttons, instead of just having your phone, which is already on you, be the thing. The Model 3/Y is a safe, reliable car. Yeah, one could take issue with Tesla's CEO (and it's a damn shame what he's turned into), but 130,000 people work for an American company making these cars, and I'd rather support that than something else when it's possible and practical.

There are a number of changes since we bought the last one. First off, the fit and finish appears better, with more consistent panel alignment. They added a trunk privacy shelf, which mine does not have so you can look right in. I missed the newer center console by a month or so. There is no piano black plastic anywhere, and they've added some Alcantara accents here and there. They also ship with biohazard defense mode, which means there's a huge HEPA filter now to clean the air.

The other thing that has changed is price. Adjusting for the same options, the car is about $3,500 less than it was, and add another $7,500 off for the federal tax credit, which is mercifully applied at the time of purchase. We were originally looking at the rear-wheel drive model with about 50 miles less range (260 I think), but decided that it may retain more value if we go AWD and 310 miles of range. The difference in cost was only $2k among inventory cars, which is weird because factory ordered it's $5k. They appear to be adjusting thee long-range a lot more.

We ended up getting $27k for the wrecked car, which is far more than I ever expected for a car that was $51,000 six years ago. I can't even believe that it retained that much value. I was just a few months away from having no car payment, but if there is a silver lining, at least the new one is $150 less, and it's only a five-year loan instead of six (remember, interest rates were near zero back in the day).

This is our sixth electric car, which is hard to believe. We leased a Nissan Leaf in 2015 and had it for four years. Tesla Model S in 2015, had it for three and sold it. That was replaced by the now-totaled Model 3 in 2018. The second leased Nissan Leaf came in 2018 as well, and was totaled in December 2020, about six months short of the end of its lease. That was replaced by the first Model Y in 2021, which is about three-years-old now. We've been all-electric now for about eight years. It's hard to imagine having a gasoline car. The convenience and relative lack of maintenance on an EV is huge.