Archive: April, 2024

Evolving cruise habits

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 10:40 PM | comments: 0

We took our 26th cruise for our 15th anniversary last weekend. Most importantly, we finally won some trivia, and cheap loot, and in a relentlessly dominating way. But after doing this for a decade, especially these shorter trips, things have definitely evolved.

It's hardly surprising that the biggest change is that we have a 14-year-old. Things actually started to change when he was 9, and we bought him a cheap $40 phone for the purpose of running the DCL app. With that, knowing that he could send us messages, we gave him some limited amount of autonomy. Mostly he could just check himself into the kids club, and later in the year, we let him check out as well. If he wanted to stop for ice cream or whatever, we let him do that, too. After the pandemic, he could go to the tween club, and ever since then he can pretty much do as he wants, provided he checks in, meets us for dinner and gets back to the room by midnight. This has actually been amazing, to see him be responsible. This last time, we even spotted him walking around Castaway Cay with new friends from Vibe (the teen club). It's a relief to see him find some of "his people."

This effectively means that, for much of the cruise, it's like we're vacationing without him. For a big "adventure" itinerary like Europe, this is more limited to at-sea days, but for these short "turn your brain off" Bahama runs, we're like empty nesters part of the time. I have mixed feelings about that, because we used to get all of the feels when he got hugs from Mickey or a princess, and those days have passed. On the other hand, Diana and I had a relatively short window between our first date and being parents (not quite three years), so getting more "us" time is good. We aren't really limited to specific date nights at home either, since we don't need babysitters anymore.

We've really only had one non-tropical itinerary in this new phase, last year's Northern Europe (various posts), but Simon's relative maturity is largely the reason that we could even do that. Eating for him while traveling is still very challenging, as we discovered last month in DC, so for the sake of all of our enjoyment, that's still a good way to see a lot over a relatively short period of time. We are considering maybe a single European city with him, where, worst case, we know we can find a McDonald's. We found one in Copenhagen, and it's the same shit you can get anywhere. I think longer cruises are still a safe bet.

Meanwhile, we enjoy finding a spot where we can avoid large crowds and reliably meet folks, both guests and bartenders. That's the dirty little secret about Disney cruises, is that so many families dine or see the shows late, then retire, so you can often get very exclusive feeling service. We meet so many people, and sometimes we even keep in touch with them. We've even hosted a server for a few days. Again, this is so much easier with a kid who doesn't need constant supervision.

The enjoyment comes in different ways though, and the ships make a difference. We haven't been on the Wonder or Magic since 2017, but the smaller scale and clustered adult areas I'm sure would be solid. The Dream and the Fantasy, all longer itineraries since the Wish debuted, have been a lot of fun for us, as we often hang out in Skyline, the martini bar. The adult experience on the Wish feels disjointed. The piano bar, Nightingale's, seems like our spot, but the skill of many of the bartenders and selections elsewhere has greatly improved. Also, with four laps on the Wish, half of them have been in concierge, and that is an exceptionally different and awesome experience because of the exclusive areas (including a bar) that you have access to. I'm not sure if most people would find the extra cost worth it, unless you really value exclusivity. And sometimes, we do.

I'm generally better about food and drink that I used to be, which is to say I don't stop and get pizza every time I go by it. I'm way more disciplined. That's extra hard on the Wish, because all of their daytime counter service options are the best in the fleet. The buffet stuff is great too (fantastic tikka masala!). I noticed on this last one that I don't slam drinks the way that I used to either, which I'm sure is some combination of age and having a home bar. On our last night, I left dinner with the same drink that I entered with. I'm sure my kidneys appreciate that.

The biggest change over the years though is that we're not trying to do all of the things while onboard. The point is to relax. We used to try to see every show and movies and deck parties and other stuff, but these days, it's just whatever feels right in the moment. Like 80's music trivia, which I understandably would have an unfair advantage in. That's why we had a perfect score and dominated the other 40 or so people in the room. We have the cheap swag to prove it.

The Tesla quality problem

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 11, 2024, 7:50 PM | comments: 0

One of the things I immediately noticed about the new Model Y that Diana is driving (replacing the totaled car) is that the quality of it is generally pretty good. I mean, you'd expect that for any car, but Tesla's quality "journey" hasn't been great. I'm comparing the new car mostly to the other three-year-old Y we have, which is not on the same level.

It's weird, because the first one, the Model S in 2015, was perfect as far as I could tell. When we replaced it with the Model 3, they had been making them for a bit, so it wasn't early in the run, but still fairly new. The only thing that I could really find wrong with it was that the trunk wasn't aligned well, but that was pretty easy to adjust. It had no rattles or squeaks. But the issues with the Model Y are pretty well documented, and they were a problem for quite awhile. When we replaced the totaled Nissan Leaf, I remember a rattle driving the 2021 Model Y home the first day. It tormented me. I'm pretty sure I actually fixed that (it was the seatbelt attachment in the passenger B pillar), but it has since developed other noises, and it's infuriating. The body panel alignment isn't great, and I had them fix the most egregious one, the front quarter where you could see the lines in the crease not line up to the door. The car is so fun to drive, but the noises grate on me. It's why I drive with open windows as much as possible, and/or loud music.

To their credit, the new car seems OK. It does sound like a stray label or something is flapping around sometimes when the AC spins up, but we can probably get that resolved if we can capture it happening. Otherwise, no rattles, no squeaks, the panels seem well aligned, doors and trunk all close smoothly, it's all just as expected. And actually it's better, because they iterate constantly, not just on model year. Diana's car has a better center console, a privacy cover in the trunk, more double-pane windows and noise isolation, better interior materials (and no piano-black), and it even has the bio-weapon defense mode air filter. Cost less, too! Overall, I'd say this car is the least remarkable one we've bought since going electric. There's nothing particularly novel about it and is simply as expected.

For now, Tesla still has some competitive advantages (if you keep in mind that 140,000 other people work at Tesla other than its off-the-rails CEO), but I'm not sure if that lasts. The supercharger network is opening to all cars. And the phone/keycard thing to get in and drive, and no "power' button, it's hard to think of a different way to go. The standard dash cams have helped document the previous accident, and we've submitted footage to law enforcement for other accidents we've witnessed.

But the Hyundai group is making some pretty great, affordable EV's now, and unlike others, they're profitable. All of the German makers are doing great stuff as well. So I can't say what our next car will be, and frankly if we can avoid any new cars for another five or six years, that would be ideal. The others are adopting Tesla's charging standard, so now it's a matter of them picking up the other things that we've gotten used to. Midlife crisis me is really liking the Porsche Macan EV, as well as their too-expensive Taycan.

Wonder versus fear

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 7:35 PM | comments: 0

You can't go a minute without me pointing out that the American factions at odds these days are not morally equivalent. But deeper than that, I've come to realize that there's a simpler way to look at it.

A portion of the population views the world with wonder and amazement. (Sometimes they get tattoos to remind them of that.) They see science and the universe as fascinating and worthy of awe, and channel that to help others. Another portion lives their lives driven by fear of pretty much everything, but especially people who aren't like them. What they can't describe, they'll create imaginary narratives around.

I'm sure there's nuance, but that feels pretty real to me.

Sleep is the foundation of everything

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 7:12 PM | comments: 0

I used to pride myself on the fact that I could generally sleep through anything, and I generally slept well. I probably didn't really appreciate this until I started cohabitating with Diana, who does... not. She has her reasons, but if there was one thing that I could count on, it's that I was a good sleeper.

Then the pandemic happened. Well, I think that's part of it. I started a new job at the same time, and it captured an unusual amount of brain cycles for me. The differentiating factor I think was having so many direct reports, I think ten at one point, while also having to do a lot of vision stuff and some architecture. But also, you know, global pandemic. More and more, I'd get up during the night, sit up, maybe walk around, pee since I was up anyway, and it hasn't returned to my previous normal since.

Prior to that, for a year and a half, I had the need to go to an office, and by extension, needed to be in before everyone else. That's also a traffic mitigation tactic. Before that, I had a good rhythm of getting up early enough to do a walk and stuff. In fact, I remember 2014 and 2015 as years that I was particularly active, and at an OK weight, generally feeling good most of the time. Some of it was the newness still of living here, but I generally slept well and everything else was good.

Since then, I've hit another age milestone, but what I appreciate more than ever is that good sleep is the foundation to your well being. Not getting it has a cascading effect on everything else. If you don't sleep well, you don't get up very early. If you don't get up early, you probably don't have time to move around a little. If you don't move around a little, you get flabby and you feel your core in suboptimal ways. That all in turn has psychological consequences that antidepressants can't compensate for. And that mental health situation makes it harder to sleep. It's a vicious cycle.

I think I might be starting to break out of the cycle. My biggest issue is that a combination of brain-won't-turn-off and sometimes restless leg syndrome (that shit is real) keeps me up. It sucks. The brain thing, if I'm careful and put the phone away early, I can at least partially mitigate. The leg thing not so much. I accidentally figured out that I can beat both, when I had a well-timed panic attack. I don't have these that often, but some years ago, my doctor gave me lorazepam to use "as needed." It chills me out, brings my heart rate to a good spot, and it's like getting off of a busy freeway and on to a road with no other cars and nothing to look at. It's also a controlled substance that's particularly addictive, so I don't want that. The 30 pills I've had generally last me a year.

But like everyone else in Florida, I started to wonder if medical marijuana would help, since it's "known" to help with anxiety and insomnia, and that is a permissible reason to prescribe it. (This is a blog post onto itself, for another day.) I've only been using it for about three weeks, not counting the DC trip since you certainly can't leave the state with it. But boy did I feel the RLS after walking 12 miles around the nation's capital. The problem with medicinal weed (edibles, in this case) is that the research is spotty at best, since it's still a Schedule I substance, despite scientific consensus that it's not in the same category as heroin. Hopefully that'll change. I couldn't tell you what it feels like to be "high," because I'm from the "Just say no" generation and adhered to that, but the 5mg of THC I've been taking makes it super easy to go to sleep. Whether or not it works through the night is hit or miss, and I have to experiment with the strain and combination with CBD to figure out what the "right" thing is.

I write about this now because this morning I got up at 7, an hour before my alarm, having gone to sleep around midnight. I felt good, I walked a mile and change on the treadmill for the first time since August, and I felt sharp all day on a day where I really needed to be. I have hope now that I might be headed toward my pre-pandemic status quo.

There's still work to do, and I recognize that "sleep hygiene" is a real thing. It means going to bed at a time where you confidently believe you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It means putting down the phone earlier, because that NYT crossword can totally wait (I don't doomscroll the way I used to). I have to get into these good habits, because I know that it only gets harder as you get older, and I am not young. Sleep is key.

The value of shared experiences

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 9, 2024, 7:28 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday's eclipse was interesting because, at the very least, most everyone in the United States was able to see some portion of it, weather permitting. A subset, including a non-trivial number of people who traveled, got to see it in its totality. Something that cosmic certainly affects people in deep and meaningful ways, and maybe for a few minutes at least, the differences that make us weary of each other seem less important.

Those kinds of moments are not very common. Unfortunately, many of the biggest shared experiences are of the most negative kind. The attacks of 9/11 seem like one of those things, or maybe when the Space Shuttle exploded on launch. Regardless, they're moments that we can recall, and trade stories about what we were doing at the time. I've seen anthropologists talk about how shared experiences are an important way for people to connect and be more integrated with their communities, and also why that doesn't scale very well when the population gets beyond a certain size.

Sometimes, it's the differences in people that bond them together. We've seen this in recent years as marginalized communities, including women in general, have come together to demand fair treatment. Perhaps the weirdest thing to me is the people who feel culturally threatened, but are not at any actual risk, who come together with the common goal of leaning into that irrational fear. That's an entire (loud) movement now.

But there are also small groups of people who do things together that, by extension of that experience, see the greater potential for what they can do with their fellow humans. Artists, who probably already have a more idealized and romantic way of seeing the world, are a great example of this. Find a group of people who made a movie, or live theater, or music, and see how they feel during that process. Can you imagine if the world were led by artists?

Ultimately, it's a universal truth that everyone has their shit to deal with. At my most naive, I would hope that this alone would instill empathy in people in a way that made the world less divisive. As usual, I point out that there is not moral equivalence among all factions. While I can be empathetic toward people who fear some communities of people only because they're not like them, I cannot condone their desire to further marginalize of oppress those communities.

I don't know what kind of large scale shared experience would help, but there aren't many scenarios that I can think of that aren't terrible. I hate that we as a species haven't already evolved beyond this.

We have bad luck with tires

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 8, 2024, 4:33 PM | comments: 0

Prior to moving to Florida, I don't think I ever had to get a tire patched. The second week I lived here, I got a pretty solid nail in a tire on the Prius. It deflated in an Ikea parking lot. Fortunately it had a donut spare, and I learned how much changing a tire in July in Orlando sucks. I found this little indie local repair shop called Clark Tire & Automotive, and they're pretty great. The reason that I know that is I've been back several times.

What makes it annoying though is that a lot of shops won't even put a Tesla on the stand, for reasons I don't completely understand. There are lift points, and you just put some rubber pucks into those and you're good. It's not a huge deal, because I have a jack and a torque wrench, but still. In any case, we had to plug one of the tires on the Leaf, and now I've had two inside of a few months on the Model Y, on opposite corners. Apparently I got lucky twice, because they have foam in the tires, and the nails in both cases were just between the foam and the side wall. A little to either side and they'd have to replace the tire outright. And of course, there was the great crowbar incident of 2023 on the now-defunct Model 3 that did $12k of damage.

So this morning I pulled off the wheel and took it in. All things considered, it at worst required 90 minutes of my time, but it's annoying. Also, I've only got 18k miles in three years, so two punctured tires seems excessive.

The hopeful versus the fearful

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 7, 2024, 11:11 PM | comments: 0

I sometimes ponder the division in this country, the way one might describe the "sides." The thing that I often come back to is that there is a fundamental difference among the divided. One "side" appears to be fearful of, well, anyone not like them, while the other appears to be very fixated on a positive and amazing world with less fear.

The fearful side is pretty obvious. It's the folks that appear to be scared of literally everyone not most like them. It's the usual boogeymen... immigrants, the gays, the trans, the brown and black people, sometimes Jews and usually Muslims. For the hopeful, there's a good chance that these folks are either part of the group already, or obviously people that are in their lives. My birth lottery may be some of the reason that this group of people, despite being a white, straight male, are not people I would fear. They've always been there. They are my friends and chosen family. That I love them as a part of my life is not an exaggeration.

As a hopeful person, again, these folks are an integral part of my life. They make the world better, and I know this first hand. They're my friends and coworkers.

Is one group more morally correct? I'd like to think so. I often go back to the immigrant thing. A part of the population is deeply alarmed at the folks showing up at the border with Mexico, but are those folks really a threat to the way of life to people who fear them? Crime statistics show that they are not more likely to commit crimes than "natives." Labor statistics show they don't "take" jobs from "natives." And worse, statistics show that some of the most vocally opposed to immigrants, legal or not, are well off and in zero position to be affected by any kind of immigration.

The hard thing about this observation, for me, is that I always come back to the observation about who the "good" people are. The super weird thing about it is that "those" folks often self-identify as Christian, and while I do not, I remember enough to know that the rejection of the people not like us, who are need, are exactly the people that Christ insisted we help. It's totally non-ambiguous.

I am definitely in the hopeful camp.

Disregarding all that doesn't really serve you

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 5, 2024, 3:53 PM | comments: 0

Long-time readers know that there was a time when I wrote a lot more about politics. I still do drive-by comments in response to news articles (that I actually read) on Facebook, but that's the extent of it. I still believe that there is right and wrong, and the political "sides" are not morally equivalent, and one is particularly dangerous to democracy. But I don't write about it because I'm not going to change any minds. My approach was dumb anyway, the idea that you could shame someone into reality with facts and figures, and well-formed arguments. Obviously, a non-trivial portion of Americans live in a decidedly non-real world, devoid of science and critical thinking, replaced by fear of everyone different and ludicrous conspiracies.

For as much as I still have a lot of anxiety about how things are going, especially with a teenager, I'm more selective about where I put my energy. The other day, Simon told me something about some situation or sentiment around some third party (not him), and it was something that I would not even consider engaging with. So I started looking under and behind things, and Simon asked what I was doing. I told him, I'm looking for the fucks I should give. He thought it was hilarious.

It's a very midlife thing to say, but we do indeed have a limited number of fucks to give. As a citizen of the planet, it is noble to want to leave the place better than you found it. And to find the balance, you have to accept that some things you can be concerned about but have limited ability to change. I'm fortunate enough that I can donate to causes ranging from civil rights to the arts to medical research, even though I can't write legislation, produce a musical or cure cancer. Hopefully I help move some needles though. There are more immediate concerns I have to pay attention to, like parenting and my day job.

There are pretty easy things to let go of though. Randos on the Internet are easy enough to ignore. Toxic relationships you can walk away from (if only college-age-me knew this). Day to day things you can't control, like your car getting totaled, it sucks, but better to move on.

I should mention that I fully appreciate that part of my ability to choose what to put energy into is because of my win in the birth lottery. Some people have it harder than others, for a great many reasons. You don't have to try and be their saviors, but I think it's important to be a voice for anyone struggling, especially if their voices are drowned out by hate and bigotry. We have to do better, and it's low cost to speak up for others.

I used to be angry, a lot, about all kinds of things. I learned in therapy that this might be because of my inability to blend in during my teen years, while as a capable adult, I'm always trying to compensate by exercising advocacy for others, as if they now are me then. Yikes. I still get triggered by bullies, as it turns out. These days, I feel like my head is at capacity, and there's less room for the anger and non-specific resentment. It's probably why I lean into making stuff, listening to music obsessively, and hopefully setting up good times for me and my family.

We're at 15 years married

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 4, 2024, 2:23 PM | comments: 0

One of the better things about getting older is the opportunity for new adventures. You'd think that being with someone for a long time would breed some kind of routine, but the story of me and Diana has been one of constant evolution. Different jobs, changing hobbies, new travel destinations, and of course, a constantly growing child. But Team Puzzoni as a concept has been a constant.

I don't know how to account for 15 years, or explain exactly why it works. But despite my, uh, "quirks," we manage to be a good team. We can be independent and we can do things together. We can hand-off stuff to each other. We often take up certain responsibilities organically, and when we don't, we usually talk about it and make it happen. It's easy. I mostly credit Diana with the reason for the ease. Her ability to adapt and roll with pretty much anything is extraordinary, from parenting to partnering.

I love this woman for a hundred reasons, and few days go by where I'm not impressed by her in one way or another. I might like to brag a little. We're starting to think about what our third act looks like, and even though there are no clear pictures (we've got time), I'm certain that it's going to be awesome. Because when it involves a strong and incredible woman, it's easy.

Can't get back into maker mode

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 2, 2024, 9:58 PM | comments: 0

Diana and I were comparing notes about how we are both struggling to get into a mode of making stuff. We want to be passively (TV) or semi-passively (video games) entertained. As I've said before, it's pretty normal to go in waves, but I feel like I've been out of the water completely. I had a brief charge when I did my Code Camp talk prep, then went back to almost nothing.

I shot my first stuff for the now-short film doc a year ago, and it's not edited. I hate that feeling, because I'm not super charged to do it, like it's an obligation. I certainly haven't shot any new video of anything in ages. I haven't been real motivated to write code either, despite two or three projects I want to revisit. I think I have a block that I need to get into the lighting stuff, but waiting on that gear.

Diana hasn't been in her sewing studio much, though in her defense, she just came off of a pretty serious few months of work schedules, and she puts a lot of time in with the cat shelter.

That's the problem with art and making stuff... it happens when inspiration strikes. It's hard to force it. I don't know how people who are artists for a living do it, although it's telling that they can be miserable at times.