Welcome to Glenn's Blog!

Here I will periodically post random thoughts and stories about what's going on in my life and the world around me. As if anyone cared. But seriously, you've found your way here, so hopefully you will enjoy at least some of what I have to say, even if you aren't entirely interested in it. At the least, it should be a good way to waste time.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Bring It, Christmas

So here we are, on the eve of December, with fall in full swing. Leaves are falling, falling, and the ground becomes a canvas of oranges and reds and yellows. One of the few places that always demonstrates the changing of season in full grandeur is Sac State, a small forest of a campus. Which, now, is virtually abandoned. Again. We've been directed to forego our former plans of face to face education in the wake of the most recent surge of Covid-19. The worst surge yet, with numbers spiking far higher than they ever have. 

Sigh.

2020 has been such a train wreck. It started full of optimism and promise, as years so often do. The start of the 20s! Again! We barely made it half way through March and BAM! Our world, as we knew it, collapsed around us. Now it's clear that we are incapable of dealing with this pandemic. Our society just simply can't do it. Hopefully a vaccine will be just around the corner, as that's the only thing that will apparently stand a chance of getting up out of this mess.  And hopefully by then we won't have completely forgotten what "normal" was like.

And Christmas is just around the corner, and houses in the neighborhood are starting to sprout lights and statues and various baubles of the holiday season. Though, not that many. I went for a walk around the neighborhood this evening - and to be sure, there was some impressive displays of festivity - but it seems less than 10% of houses had decor. Well, it's still early, I suppose. I haven't put out anything myself, but I do still plan to erect my annual Disney-ornamented tree. So at least some things will be "normal" this season. 

And today, I did some Christmas shopping for my son, so that part of the holiday tradition is underway. I imagine this Christmas will be a challenge to many. I'm still not sure how it will be for me. I mean, in many ways I've been quite fortunate this year, despite the pandemic. I still get a paycheck at least, which means I can still pay rent, and other bills. Not everyone can say the same. This will be my first Christmas in many years spent in an apartment. Which brings its own challenges in getting inspired for the holidays. But it will hopefully be my last as well, which inspires hope. It's a superficial thing to be worried over, I know. But that doesn't make it less real.

And it occurred to me during my walk this night that in the last 25 years or so, I've lived at about 10 different places. That's an average of moving once every 2.5 years. And that's a lot, especially for someone who loathes change and moving in particular. Hard to build any sort of consistency of tradition, especially for the holidays, when your living arrangement varies so often. 

But it's okay, I will persevere. And next year, new traditions will begin. With any luck, pandemic free. And it will, with any luck, be the start of my longest tenure at any residence since the house I grew up in, back in North Highlands, over 40 years ago. And that one lasted all of what, 14 years or so?

But for now, it's nearly December, and we have to focus on this year's Christmas, laden with Covid restrictions and boarded up businesses and booming homeless populations.  And curfews and masks and social distancing.Oh my. I'm sure our society will survive, somehow, and be better in the end, someday. I mean we have to believe that, right? But for now, let's enjoy some well-deserved distraction. Bring on the Christmas season!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

To Vote or Not To Vote

So, yesterday was election Tuesday in America, with Donald Trump running for re-election against Joe Biden. And even now, at 10am Pacific Time a day later, we still don't know who won. If we go with who currently has the lead in the states where it's still too close to call, Biden would win.  If we used that same logic last night, Trump would have won. As far as the popular vote goes, Biden is about 2.5 million votes in the lead.

Kind of looks like four years ago, except it's a bit closer of a race as far as electoral college votes go.

Four years ago, America elected someone whose sole qualification was that they were rich. They had no political experience, no military experience. Yet they were elected to the highest position in the land for both. It would be like me landing a job as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Crazy. Yet, amazingly, we survived. And he we are again, almost on the brink of repeating history. Well, at least he does have some political experience now.

I actually did vote, though it was back and forth there for awhile. Honestly, none of the candidates or issues really inspired me much. I should say none of the top candidates, since we are in effect only voting for the top two. And it saddens me that in this country, with all the potential candidates we have and all who were originally running before the primaries, that it's been whittled down to basically the two worst choices. Voting for the least objectionable candidate has become something of a motto around here.

Americans, for a long, long time, have been brainwashed to believe that only the top candidate from each of the top two parties has a chance of winning. And that's certainly true, as it now stands. Folks say that a vote for anyone else just "takes votes away" from these two candidates, and that you're throwing your vote away by not voting for one of them. But imagine if tens of millions of Americans decided to vote another way - any other way. That would certainly put a kink in the results. And even if it was not initially successful in getting someone else elected, perhaps it would turn the tide enough to convince this country that they can elect someone else. Of course, millions would have to eschew party lines for this to happen. But it could happen, it could.

Anyways, I wasn't really sure if I was going to actually vote until the morning of the election. I wasn't even really aware of what propositions or measures were on the ballot, save from the little info I could glean from the campaign signs plastered all over the city. But as is always the case, they offer no real details of substance.

So this year, I voted based simply on the little description of each item on the ballot. If it seemed reasonable, I voted yes. If it didn't, or if I was at least unsure, I voted no. Did my vote make any difference, sway any results? I seriously doubt it. 

I did no research, save for taking a quiz which asked your stance on various hot topics of the day, and then ran through all sorts of visually stimulating screen shots while it "calculated" my results to see which presidential candidate I was most in line with. And guess what? The winner, for me, was neither Biden nor Trump.

So I didn't vote for either of them.

As an aside, I would add that our political system is clearly broken. It is dysfunctional and corrupt, controlled only by money and special interests. Which is why our "top" two candidates are always the ones with the deepest pockets.  And the whole government seems locked in a never ending stalemate, on all of the most important issues.

Sigh. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered voting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Scientific Method

So the other day, some of the "adult" folks who play on the Minecraft server that my son and I play on noticed some of Connor's builds. Specifically, they noted the "redstone" creations he made - machines with pistons basically - which he frequently loves to invent. Some are quite elaborate, actually. All of them are above my head. 

One of the adults, who I suspect is secretly an engineer, is something of a master at the art of redstone mechanisms. I suspect her to be an engineer because, when she still proceeded under the assumption that Connor's builds were done by an adult, she gave little tips on how to improve them. She suggested he google "quasi connectivity" and continued on babbling about "rising monostable circuits".  That sounds like engineer speak to me. I laughed and laughed, and informed her that he couldn't likely even spell "google". He's only 6 after all. Well, almost 7.

After the shock among the general public of the server subsided, it was generally agreed upon that Connor was quite smart and quite advanced for his age.

I wasn't about to disagree. 

I will shamelessly and selfishly concede that he gets it from his father. After all, I used to be smart too! A nerd, if you will. I actually was awarded the Bank of America Award in Science in high school. I graduated in the top 10 in my class. Not the top 10 percent mind you, but the top 10 people. Granted, it was a relatively small high school graduating class. But still. I gave all that up, by and by, because...well, I suppose because I just wasn't inspired anymore. Maybe I was tired of it. I don't know.

In any case, the other night Connor fell asleep with tablet in hand as he was reading books about kitties on Epic. As the picture clearly illustrates. He's taken to reading more, which is a good thing. He was already pretty sharp in math. Today he was struggling a bit with double-digit addition. 24+13 and so on. He's only in First Grade after all. Meanwhile, in class, they slowly plod along working out the mental processes behind determining the answer to 5+1.

Science remains, at present, still a bit of mystery in the scope of his interests. Sometimes he asks lots of questions, like tonight in which I was interrogated about the phases of moon and their relation to the position and movement of the earth and sun.

I guess I need to brush up on my astronomy. Maybe I can find the paper I wrote in college on Seyfert Galaxies. Not that that would help much, but at least it would be in the right discipline.

Usually though, his thoughts are on more typical six-year-old topics. Farts, mostly. His inquisitive mind came up yesterday with this delightful mind twister: does the smell from farts follow you? Well. I don't know about that. They sure seem to. Sometimes.

I suppose I should have applied the scientific method on this one. Would have been a good way to exercise my mind again, after all these years. The problem was as stated. The background research...I imagine would be difficult. I don't imagine there's been lots of scholarly work done on flatulence. Excepting of course in the case of cows and methane production. The hypothesis is as simple as: Yes. Yes it does. As far as experimentation and recording and analyzing data...well, does anyone really want to go into that much detail on this topic?

I think perhaps this should be left to Connor to figure out. Or maybe such scientific dealings can wait until he's a little older...and picks a slightly more appropriate topic. We didn't get that far on this question, unfortunately, as he suddenly had a "loosy goosy" toot, and our attention was directed elsewhere. On second thought, maybe that was his Step 4 in action. He was attempting experimentation in order to prove his hypothesis and find an answer to his problem.

I guess he tried too hard. So much for The Scientific Method.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Perspective

I made a reference yesterday to watching a live OMD concert on YouTube, and how those guys were "old" now. I guess in my mind I still see them the way I saw them in my youth, when they were in their 20s and I was a little kid still in single digits. They seemed grown up, and I suppose event then they were "old" in comparison to me. And my mind's eye still visualizes them looking just like that today.

But they're not. They're old. Relatively speaking, of course. Everything is relative in regards to age, which is simply a function of the passage of time. And boy, a lot of time has passed. But I have to say, they've still got it. And oddly enough, they still sound vert much like they did...40 years ago. And what a life they must have had! Pop icons decades ago, to a different generation. Making music ever since, and still going strong with their own cult following. 

When I first started at Sac State, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman of 18 years, I would occasionally hear some of the "older" professors mention how they had been teaching there since the early 70s. To which I replied of course that I was not even born yet. Imagine that! That was back in the fall of 1993, to put a number on it. And now of course, today's freshmen were born around 2002 or so. I can now say to them that I've been working there since 1999, since the last century. And they can tell me that they weren't even born yet. The tables have turned! Now I'm the "old" one. 

Funny, I don't see myself as particularly old. But I am, I am. Relatively speaking of course. I certainly don't see myself as being as old now as those professors were in 1993. But you can tell I'm old. You can tell by all the grey hair. The hair that I still pretend is a lovely golden brown. And it is, in my imagination. And when did this happen? When did I get old? And where did all these years of youthfulness go??

So much happens in the passage of time. Yet looking back on it, it seems like it passed in the blink of an eye. Thank goodness for digital photography, so we now have mounds of photos at our fingertips to prove that we actually did stuff. That we existed. 

And I'm reminded now of my mathematical calculations, that have informed me that I will be 57 when my son graduates high school. 57! It's just a number, of course. But why is it such a high number! I could almost cry. 

I hope people at the ceremony don't assume that I'm his grandfather.

Well, I suppose in the grand scheme of things I'm just somewhere in the middle of it all. There's people younger out there. There's older people out there. They're all comparing themselves to others, who to them are "young" or "old". And, like me, they probably all see themselves as some other number than what the passage of time tells. I'll just go with what my gut tells me. With what I feel I am.

I'm 27. Why not? It's just a matter of perspective.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Rambling

Today, on my kidless Saturday, I took another voyage through nature. But no, not to San Francisco. Not even in a westward direction. I actually went...east. I found myself exploring the Auburn State Recreation Area, a popular place apparently, which I have never explored before.

So I explored it.

It's a beautiful area partway up into the Sierra Nevada mountains and along the quarries of the north fork of the American River. In Auburn. Just like the name says. And despite the water level being fairly low at this time of year, it was a beautiful if not dusty place to explore. And it had been awhile since I did some hiking through forested areas.

It's cold up there, at 8am, when the sun hasn't quite crested the topmost ridge of the surrounding mountains. My fingers were numb as I clumsily attempted taking my first photos of the day with my phone. But I persevered, and as the sun rose higher in the sky it got pleasantly warm. Just shy of being hot, actually. A pretty perfect day, as weather goes.

The trails meander through the wooded areas and along the cliffs overlooking and along the river bank. Up and down they go, though most of them are relatively flat. But some have some really sharp inclines. I won't say that at one point I stumbled on a protruding rock on one of them and fell down. But, well, I...might have done that. 

Anyhoo, after 7 miles or so of wandering through the dusty trails and trying desperately to avoid stepping on horse poop while tracking my progress on the All Trails app to make sure I didn't get lost, I sat down for a little picnic lunch back near the ranger's hut. I think they call it a park headquarters of sorts. But it's the place where you pay $10 for the right to park alongside the edge of the highway. Good thing too, because the only other option was to self-pay in the little envelopes and drop it in the metal drop box. And I didn't have exact change. Or my checkbook. Seriously, does anyone carry a checkbook around anymore?

I remember in high school when I got my first checkbook. Such a thrill! And it became its own math assignment as I tried to do the necessary amount of accounting required to make sure I didn't run out of money by the end of the month, Ah, those were the days. Before debit cards and phone apps and the ability to pay by just getting your plastic card close enough to the terminal. And frankly, the checkbook was almost never kept up to date, through sheer laziness mostly, nor was it done with mathematical precision, so no one ever knew how much money they had. Spoiler alert: we were all broke.

Anyways, it was a pleasant trip today, shared with a plethora of other hikers, joggers, bike riders, dog walkers, and so on. There was fortunately not quite as many people as I imagined there might be, from the description of the area as "heavily-trafficked" on the All Trails app. Or perhaps it's just that there's so much space and trails all over the place that they're spread out a bit. In any case, it was nice up there and even relatively secluded at times. 

I remember where I learned the meaning of the word "plethora". It was from the movie "The Three Amigos". What a great little comedy, with Chevy Chase, Martin Short, and Steve Martin. Though in the movie we learn the word from the bad guy, the infamous El Guapo. But I see I'm rambling. 

So it's 9pm right now on Saturday eve, the eve of getting my son back. I walked to the grocery store an hour and a half ago, and bought some pumpkin-shaped and colored sugar cookies. Because Connor wanted them last week when we walked there looking for an electric tea light candle for his jack-o-lantern. For Jerry, as he has named him. We didn't find a light, either at the generic dollar store or the supermarket. Nor did I buy the cookies then, because, frankly, I didn't want to wait in line. Selfish, I know. But now he has his cookies, ready and waiting for his arrival. Won't he be surprised?

Pro-tip: The real Dollar Tree has those electric lights. 

Boy, I'm rambling again. I must be tired. I am, I am. Well, off to bed then to recharge.

Oh and also: I put up some Halloween decorations, including two new hanging shrouded skeleton things, which frankly look really cool out on the porch with their black fabric cloaks rustling in the breeze. I got them at the Halloween Superstore, the one with the giant inflatable pumpkins on top of their buildings. They were BOGOHO, or Buy One Get One Half Off. We went there initially to get Connor the one thing he told me he wanted for his birthday when I asked him: a scythe. Like one used by the Grim Reaper. I mean, yeah, his birthday is on Halloween, but what a random thing to ask for for your birthday.

Dang it, rambling again. Did I mention I watched the last half of the live OMD concert on YouTube today? They've still go it, but when did they get so old?? OK, I'll stop...

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Bang Bang Went the Guns

Today was an adventure day, marking the end of yet another week. It seems like Monday was only yesterday; the days just seem to fly by and I don't seem to have much to show for it. And tomorrow Connor returns home.

But today I headed out on what initially appeared to be one of my regular treks to the Bay Area. But this time, I pulled up the map on my iPhone and picked a spot of green to visit, just 20 miles shy of San Francisco as it turns out. And thus I found Point Pinole, an area I had never been to before, just past an industrial area of mammoth warehouse distribution centers belonging to UPS and Amazon.

The area boasts a vast and mostly flat shoreline overlooking the San Pablo Bay, just north of the Richmond Bridge, and further south, the Bay Bridge. With wide gravelly trails running along both shoreline and groups of eucalyptus trees, it's a pretty nice area to get out and stretch your legs, and enjoy some fresh air. And fortunately, despite the recent historic fires, the air was clear and cool, with layers of cloud cover and a gentle breeze blowing in over the water.

And lots of gun shots. I...think there's a gun range near there. Or else there was a massive shootout at the San Quentin prison. I any case, I came out of the experience unscathed. But the noise sure got annoying after awhile. Bang bang bang. And so on. Over and over and over again. It's hard to understand people's fascination with guns, it really is. I know, I know, don't knock it till you try it, as they say.

Perhaps it was fitting however, as the area was apparently once used as production zone for black powder, the precursor to dynamite, and the eucalyptus groves were apparently planted as a sound buffer for planned explosions. I don't imagine they actually provided much of a buffer, but apparently a hundred years ago not many people lived around that area anyway. But there's still a few historic relics left on the grounds, including a giant black powder crusher under a wooden framed tent. It's nice to see history, left behind by people who came long before. I supplemented this by finishing the book I was reading, The Revenant, which is a piece of historical fiction set in the mid-19th century midwest during the heyday of the fur trade business. Not to mention dangerous encounters with a variety of Native American tribes. And it is in fact based on actual historical events. People who lived and struggled long ago, and slowly carved out the framework of what this nation would eventually become. But I digress.

In any case, it was a pleasant day out of town, and quite a bit shorter than I usually spend when I traipse out all the way to Fort Mason. And I got home early enough to go pull some Halloween decor from my storage unit, so my apartment is at least a little festive now. It's hard for me to get inspired to decorate when it doesn't feel like a real home, not really. Nor do I want to start nesting here. Next year I'll be in my new place, so that will be more of a holiday-decorating time. But for now, anyway, there's a few things up.

Maybe...I'll put some more up. Or at least get some pumpkins. Connor would like that.

Well soon it will be bedtime, my last night of freedom before Connor reclaims the attention of my daily schedule. And hopefully I won't have dreams tonight featuring a multitude of guns going off.  Bang bang, and so on. Sigh. Guns.