Holidays Journal

Easter Sunday 2020

It is 7:01 AM on Easter Sunday 2020. As usual on days without school my son woke up early and asked if he could go play games. Since he has woken me up I often have to choice but to get up as well since it can be difficult to go back to sleep. I do like to get up early but recently it has been more around 5:30 or 6:00 than 4:00 AM as it used to be.

I like to get up early because it is my quiet time. I make the coffee, put the dishes away, meditate and if there is time will write in this blog. The early morning is always the best time to write for me as I’m fresh and there are no distractions. I am under the gun this morning though because there is a 50% chance my wife and youngest will wake up and come downstairs in the next 20 minutes. It is Easter after all and the Easter bunny has hidden Easter eggs all over the house. How does he get in without a key?

I’m glad I got my meditation in this morning; it has been sacrificed quite often lately as I’ve opted to sleep longer then do not have ample time before everyone wakes up. I’ve discovered that meditation is critical for me at this period in my life. I’m 42 and have lots of responsibility, this is the age of Trump where anything goes and half the country loves it, and we’re also now in a historic pandemic called COVID-19 where we cannot leave our homes!

With meditation I can let it all go and come closer to the absolute truth. A good chunk of what I’ll call “truth,” is that life is short, wonderful and the only thing that really matters is to bring joy to others. Life is one big experience and it helps to try and see your own life as though you’re observing it from the outside. Appreciate all experiences, even the bad ones. When you look at your own life from a third person view you see you’re living a story and like all good stories there are ups and downs. It is also critical to believe that there is a divine level of reality that perhaps can only be sensed through meditation or in the Christian tradition prayer. For me, meditation is my preferred method as prayer to me seemed to be always asking some divine “person” aka God for some sort of favor. Meditation on the other hand is simply “to be.” Just be as present as possible in this very moment which is in itself a creation of the divine, or in other words, of that force which we can only sense in slight flickers through meditation.

Well, it is always fun diving into the deep thoughts but I’ll come back to the shallow end and write about my experience in the current moment which is that of COVID-19.

So far we’re doing just fine. We live in a fortress of a house with a view of the ocean and our very own gym. We’ve always bought in bulk from Costco so the pantry, toiletries and other necessities remain well stocked. I have to say the gym as been wonderful and we’re all getting more use out of it now than ever before. Our karate class has started streaming lessons which we do in the gym and just yesterday I learned that if I swing the punching back and rest it high up on the weight bar then we have enough room for all three of us to do a lesson. With the extra time I’ve also started my son on weightlifting. He is a solid, stocky kid and being a good Dad I want to ensure I give him the confidence he needs to live a very wonderful life. For guys, one of the main sources of confidence is having a great body and that means lifting weights.

In helping him train I’m also helping myself. I’ve been stuck doing the same exercises for decades. Now that I actually have to teach it I’m finding that I’m looking up how to do other exercises. Today I’m also going to take my stack of Men’s Fitness, cut out all the workouts and put them into a binder. In this quest to really get a good workout in I’ve also meticulously organized every aspect of my gym and even hung the various weight accessories which I rarely used on the wall for easy access. I want to use my weight cage/pully/machine to the fullest and do all of the exercises it allows so have been studying the diagrams and doing exercises on it I’ve never done before.

I also examined our elliptical and have started making use of the app again. I got the idea when the wife had trouble setting her workout time manually so I downloaded the app and taught both her and my son how to use it. The app really is convenient and much easier to use. I guess when you’re stuck inside you have the time to really examine all your toys to the fullest and find ways to use them that weren’t used before.

I’m finding I love being in the gym and am motivated to really get in shape and build up my muscles. However, I’m also cognizant that this is occurring because our normal schedule is suspended and we’re stuck inside. During the normal schedule I’m often too tired from karate and we’ve got too much going on to take two ours and get in the gym. When this Shelter-In-Place does end I’m going to have to make it a priority for gym time not only for myself but especially for my son. Gym time is an “essential activity!”

As the effects of shelter-in-place and work one aspect that has changed greatly is that I’m now using video for all my conference calls when I never had before. I’m no longer wearing my daily hoodie but instead something slightly nicer but still comfortable and warm. I also thought it would be a good idea to have something a little more professional for a background than my shed. I had some old pull down drapes that came with the house I had stored in the garage. Previously I had installed one of them in the shed to block the sun during late afternoons. I installed another one just below the ceiling so I can pull it down when I need a white background yet it is high up enough to never get in the way when I don’t need it.

As for other improvements aside from the gym and shed I also spent a day in the garage hanging things on the wall and ceiling that had previously been on the floor. Two of the bigger items were our very large ladder, now on the ceiling and rooftop cargo box which is now on the garage refrigerator. Doing this as well as a thousand other improvements has created a lot of space and a very clean garage.

Well, the time is now 8:13 AM. My youngest and wife came down while I was in the middle of this post and so I took a break so I could watch the kids find the Easter eggs. They’re now enjoying there loot but also wandering off from time to time to try and find the especially well hidden eggs.

As for today we’ll have a nice breakfast then perhaps try yoga by watching a YouTube video in the gym. After that my other projects for the day are:

  1. Cut out the workouts from my old Men’s Health magazines to put in a binder then discard the old mags.
  2. Cut a few bars off the old fence to use as stabilization posts for areas where the hill is sliding down.
  3. Hang up the nunchakus and jump ropes in the gym.
  4. *Maybe* update WordPress on my other blogs. I’m not sure if I’ll get that permissions error again and really don’t want to spend the day fixing it so maybe not.

Happy Easter!!!

Holidays Internet Journal

New Year’s Day 2020

It is 7:35 on New Year’s Day 2020.

I always have this image that the holidays will be a relaxing time. I imagine myself sitting on the couch reading a book with a fireplace on the TV and some Christmas music in the background. What I always forget is that they are always very busy and stressful. The schedule changes but my activities increase.

Here are a few of the activities in no particular order:

  1. Buy Christmas presents
  2. Decorate the house
  3. Go get a picture with Santa
  4. Write letters to Santa and get them mailed to the USPS Santa service
  5. Do the Portable North Pole Santa video
  6. Go to holiday parties
  7. Go see the Nutcracker
  8. Do year end backups of data.
  9. Fix all the things that needed fixing but there was no time.
  10. Play with kids during any free time
  11. Set up new devices brought by Santa
  12. Take holiday trips and attend family events.

The list goes on and what I’ve found is I actually have more free time at work than I do during the holidays. I’m also still technically working except for Christmas and New Years although there really isn’t anything to do. It does add a little stress being “on call” rather than being completely off which you never can be in this line of work.

The holidays have been productive however and I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. The main thing was to take the family back to Ohio as my kids had only been there when they were very little and don’t remember much. There were two family events, my cousin’s wedding reception followed the next day by my Aunt’s 70th birthday. Kai and Mark got to spend a lot of quality time playing Fortnite which was unexpected as he had previously not been allowed to play. The second he got the OK I helped him get all set up (micro SD card, skins etc) and now he is good to go. I was hoping he would be able to play the game as it is a great opportunity to actually talk and connect with his cousin through the game as we live thousands of miles apart. If it wasn’t for Fortnite the next time they might talk to each other could be a year or even a couple of years away.

The second thing I wanted to do was to update my kid’s tech. The main thing I want them to do is take pictures and video of their lives so they can look back on their own childhoods. I really wish I had more than just one video and one low quality recording of my own childhood. With their phones especially, they can take pictures and video which auto backup to their own Google accounts. However, updating to new devices can take a while as there are the settings, transfers, automation, backups, logins, updates and so on to get it all working. It takes time.

The last activity of the holiday season was going over to our family friend’s place where we caught the final sunset of 2019, had nice wine and conversation and the women watched Kohaku, the end of year Japanese TV show.

Last sunset of 2019

Well, with all this activity, travel and stress I’ve come down with a cold. It started yesterday with a sore throat and become full blown by the end of the day. As an added bonus one of my eyes turned red which sometimes happen when I get a cold and must be a viral thing. I wasn’t going to miss the gathering last night but my energy was completely gone by 9:30 and I had to tell the wife we were leaving although she wanted to watch 20 more minutes of Kohaku. I told her she could take an Uber but I was going. We all still have a bit of jet-lag from Ohio so it really was more like 12:30 AM for me. I took NyQuil and had a good night’s sleep but I’m still very tired this morning. The question is if I’ll actually rest today or take down the decorations.

I also have another activity and this is one I really enjoy. While home my Mom asked me to delete the data in a few of her old computers so she could safely get rid of them. I had a nice surprise when I realized one of them was my old computer from my time in Japan from 2001 – 2003. Now, I love to digitally record my life – as this blog attests – and finding an old computer is like finding a gold mine. It is an old Dell Inspiron 8000, big and bulky and one where I had password protected my Windows account. I was determined to get into it but didn’t have much time to try while in Ohio so I lugged the huge thing back to California.

I did manage to get in but it was a little tricky, especially since my buddy Horacio had helped me partition the drive to half Linux. When you boot it up the first thing you see is the GNU Boot Loader and so it took me a minute to figure out how to get into the Windows Safe Mode option screen. Reading the forums I figured out I should be able to by hitting F8 immediately after selecting Windows over Linux. It took a few tries but I learned it would work if I hit F8 approx 2 milliseconds after selecting Windows.

In the Windows Safe mode screen I could select Administrator, then users and just remove the password from my own account. I had tried this from the regular login screen by hitting CTRL, ALT, DELETE, DELETE, which takes you to a screen where I could type in Administrator but that didn’t work due to “account restrictions.” However, logging into Windows through administrator while in safe mode worked!

I had to go through all of this because there is no way I’ll ever remember my password from 2001. My password hint was “What is my favorite?” I tried a bunch of things but knowing me I probably just put that to ‘throw off the hackers’ should I have ever lost my computer and the real password being just a combination of letters and symbols. Little did I realize one could just go to safe mode and through the Administrator account for full access.

Opening up my old computer was wonderful and brought back a lot of memories. Here is a screenshot.

My desktop from 2003

To my delight I was greeted with my computer saying “ich will” from Rammstein. I really liked playing with my computer and getting it to do different things. The internet was still very new and exciting then and I was enthralled. Looking at the desktop I see old programs such as Kazaa, the forgotten file sharing service, Trillian the instant messenger and my PalmPilot desktop sync. I’m currently looking for my old PalmPilot which was indispensable to me and getting around the Tokyo metro. This desktop truly is frozen in time and it will be fun exploring it more.

The only slight disappointment is that I’ve been very good at transferring my data ever since the late 90s and so I already have all the pictures and videos. There was only one I did not currently have and had been searching for over the years and was delighted to find it. The other good find was a program that kept all my passwords. Of course it itself is password protected but perhaps since it is so old there will be a trick to force it open. I’d like to see if any of my old accounts still work on any services that are still around.

Closing the computer I was also treated with a nice surprise by Agent Smith saying “Goodbye Mr. Anderson.” Boy do I miss the old days. I think I might be one of a small group of people on this Earth who can actually have a look back in time due to the preservation of old data. I continue to be fascinated by the passage of time and feel I’m surrounded by those who are only cognizant of the present moment, with any memories being nothing more than white and black flashes. With this data especially, the past for me is more like a full color, surround sound IMAX movie. It is not only the memories I remember but the feelings and mindset as well. I can pick up with a friend of 20 years ago just as easily as with a friend I just saw yesterday. At 42 I’ve learned this is a rare talent.

Well, the family is now downstairs and my concentration broken. I’d like to get a post up with reflections on 2019 and thoughts of what 2020 will bring but now is not that time.

Holidays Journal

Christmas Day 2019

It is 6:16 AM on Christmas Day 2019. My son woke up a little before 5:00 AM and then woke me up after. This is the tough part for little guys as we have to wait until the rest of the family wakes up to open the presents. He has contented himself with watching his iPad as well as playing Slither on the PC.

As for me, I’ve made the coffee, put the dishes away, took plenty of video and pictures of the Christmas tree and presents and meditated. I like using my Oculus Go to meditate because you can place yourself in a wide variety of excellent environments such as on the top of a mountain, over clouds, in a bamboo forest and so on. At this time of year the scenes I like are Mt. Huntington, the Silver Alps and Borealis. Today I did my meditation in the Borealis. I’m in snow covered mountains dotted with pine trees and one frozen lake in front of me. It is silent and serene with only the sound of the wind except for two faint other sounds one of which I want to write about. The first is a faint fog horn which calls to mind some remote outpost up in the frozen seas.

The second sound is even more faint but very magical. It is a solitary horn that plays four brief notes. It calls to mind a village that is neither near nor too far in not only distance but also time. It is something from the past, a faded memory that lingers in a very harsh landscape which renews itself with each fallen snow. The Borealis is pristine nature untouched by human hands and only few animals. A frozen tundra that keeps its secrets locked away in pine forests and under frost. I once received a visitor from this world in my backyard and hope that perhaps as a spirit I can visit this cold, isolated world that only birds and and a few foxes know about. I was inspired to write a post about this visitor: A Yukon Home – To be a Varied Thrush.

The time is now 6:40 AM and I must bring my mind back home from the frozen tundra. It is a special morning after all and I’m sure my wife and youngest will be up in the next 30 minutes or so. The time has finally arrived and another year passes.

Holidays Journal

Journal Entry – The Monday after Thanksgiving Weekend

It is the Monday after the long Thanksgiving weekend. It is a time when most people have four straight days off. For me, I always have images of it being a very relaxing time where I can just sit on the couch, read, play games with the boys and consume various media. However, my image is always wrong: The four days are filled with all kinds of busyness that I had forgotten about from previous Thanksgiving weekends.

The first day off is Thanksgiving and I’m busy preparing the food for most of the morning as well as straightening up the house. The turkey is always large so must be in the oven by 10:00 AM so it is ready to take out at 4:00 PM, rest and carve. Once the turkey comes out things get really busy because the oven is now free for the stuffing and gravy is made from the turkey drippings. Therefore, most of the cooking happens when the turkey comes out of the oven and in the hour before we eat.

Everyone comes over around 1:00 so from 1 – 4 we’re chatting and drinking wine. It is always a fun time with adults catching up and kids running around the house. I like to take plenty of pictures and video so I can look back on previous Thanksgivings and reminisce. People come and go from your life and Thanksgiving especially is a perfect time marker since we often have a lot of people over.

On Friday we all wake up rather late and then clean up from the party. One family stayed the night at our house and most of the following day. The kids were able to play together another day and had a lot of fun. I don’t even remember exactly what I did but I got a workout in, and did a lot of puttering around the house.

Saturday we decorated pretty much all day. I put up the tree and the kids decorated it. The biggest challenge of the day was putting up Christmas lights during cold and rainy weather: there is an atmospheric storm coming through and the rain has continued into this week. In previous years I had tried the 3M sticky hooks but those never stuck well when exposed outdoors. So the past couple years I’ve used tape but that can take off the paint and generally isn’t a very good solution. I’m unable to nail in hooks because the outside of our house is a composite material that is very hard.

So this year I decided I’d just super glue on the transparent 3M hooks. Since they are transparent they aren’t easily visible and superglue should definitely do the job. It was a bit tricky putting them up during a wet day but I got it done and it worked. I must have been outside for 2-3 hours and was hoping I wouldn’t catch a cold as I’ve got a lot of work functions this week.

After the outdoor lights I still wasn’t done and had to set up our Christmas village as well as the indoor Christmas lights. I got all that completed and was finally done around 5. Then we had Brandon and family over for dinner since it had been a long time since we had gotten together with them.

On Sunday the wife volunteered at the annual Japanese language test so was gone all day. This is the same government issued test that is used throughout Japan for various things but especially if you want to work for a Japanese company. When I was studying Japanese there were levels N1 – N4. N3 and 4 were very easy for me and I think I could have passed N2. Now there are five levels, N1 – N5. I’m pretty sure I could still pass N3 but I would definitely fail N2. I think after all these years I’d like to try the test but I’ll have to get motivated to study. That motivation to open up a Japanese grammar book hasn’t been around in a long time.

Since the boys and I were alone we played Fortnite, Yoshi’s Crafted World and Mario Odyssey in the morning. I got a workout in and then we went for ramen at Momiji. We had to wait for about 25 minutes since it was the busier than usual due to the holiday weekend. After that it was back home, shower and wait for the wife to come home. We tried watching Avatar again since Brandon and family really enjoyed the Avatar ride at Disney World and thus got us thinking about the movie. Well, I had forgotten how much I hate that movie. I even wrote a post about it when it first came out. Basically it is bumbling American army guy goes and saves the hapless natives, sleeps with a pretty one and becomes their hero. Makes me want to pluck my eyes out.

Well, after a lull the rain is back in full force and I need to get back to work.

Holidays Journal

Thanksgiving 2019

The time is 7:08 AM on Thanksgiving morning 2019. I had hoped to get up much earlier for a quiet, serene morning in which to write but I did’t get out of bed until 6:00 AM. As soon as I sat down to write this post my son walked into the living room and has begun to do what he normally does first thing in the morning on a free day and that is to play Fortnite. Usually I’d play with him but I really want to get my annual Thanksgiving post up before the busy day really beings. So now my ‘serene’ morning is punctuated with the sound of gunfire.

The first thing I did this morning was to make a GIF of my favorite Thanksgiving scene. It looks like it could be a setting from The Shire (Hobbit/LOTR) but it really could be from any number of wonderful fantasy stories. I posted the same picture but not animated in 2014.

My favorite Thanksgiving scene

I then wanted to post my favorite Thanksgiving recipe but couldn’t find it doing a Google search so had to turn on my computer. Not a big deal to turn on a computer but it is an old rig and I have to also sign in to Veracrypt to get to my files. Not a big deal but I’d rather just leave the computer off (I’m typing this on my tiny, Linux OS laptop which is much faster. Anyway, here is the recipe.

How to Cook a Turkey

Step 1: Buy a turkey
Step 2: Have a glass of wine
Step 3: Stuff turkey
Step 4: Have a glass of wine
Step 5: Put turkey in oven
Step 6: Relax, and have another few glasses of wine
Step 7: Turk the bastey
Step 8: Wine of glass another get
Step 9: Ponder the meat thermometer
Step 10: Glass yourself another pour of wine
Step 11: Bake the wine for 4 hours
Step 12: Take the oven out of the turkey
Step 13: Floor the turkey up off the pick
Step 14: Turk the carvey
Step 15: Get yourself another wottle of bine
Step 16: Tet the sable, and pour yourself another glass of turkey
Step 17: Say grace, throw-up, and pass out.

An internet Turkey Recipe

After I had found my recipe I then made the coffee and got my meditation in. Meditation is one thing that I must do before everyone wakes up. Now I’m writing this post and can do so when it is only Kai that is awake because he’ll just play his games or watch YouTube. However, when the wife and youngest come down it is almost impossible to be able to concentrate enough to write.

The next tasks this morning are to do the turkey prep and get it in the oven by 10:00 AM so it is ready to take out at 4:00 PM. Turkeys take a long time to cook. This is my one time of the year to shine when it comes to cooking and with so many people coming over the pressure is on not to mess up! I’m not worried though because I have notes and recipes very organized in my Note program which I modify and improve every year. Last year I consolidated everything and wrote down very clear instructions so it should be very easy to follow this year. I also got a new, high quality turkey rack so I could make the gravy directly in the pan. The previous rack was on the cheaper side and the coating was coming up in the pan so we couldn’t make gravy in it as nobody wants pan coating in their gravy.

I don’t plan on drinking a lot of wine this Thanksgiving because as I’ve aged I just don’t like the feeling the next morning even if I only drink a little. I like a clear mind and alcohol will fog it up and make me somewhat depressed. So I bought myself sparkling grape juice, the kind that comes in a wine bottle. I still will have some wine but I won’t be following my recipe above this year.

Yesterday was a productive day; I realized I needed to get some things done to be prepared for Thanksgiving and the weekend. For the first time this year the house was very chilly in the morning, so much so that I wanted to turn on the heater. I didn’t want to turn on the heater as I had not yet changed the filters and didn’t want to get bombarded with extra dust. So I turned on the gas fireplace which I hadn’t one in a year or two because I didn’t want an outrageous gas bill. I also brought in the heat lamp from my office. The chill of the morning made me realize I better go get new filters so our house isn’t cold for Thanksgiving!

I also had to clean out the gutters as the “ridiculously resilient ridge” which has kept California dry for a very long time finally broke down. We had one strong storm, now have a two day pause and then will get several straight days of rain. The storm left a lot of debris around our house so in addition to cleaning the gutters I had to clean up the yard as well. Then we did one karate lesson and that was the end of our activities for the day.

Therefore, I’m feeling pretty accomplished and on top of things this morning. The wife has now come down and with two family members in the living room now the ideal conditions for writing have now ended this Thanksgiving morning of 2019.

My next chores are to attempt to fix two Nintendo Switch controllers then prep the food for the Turkey. If I have time I’ll try to write another update.

Update 12:01 PM.

It has been a busy morning. I published my Thanksgiving post and only now, 5 hours later, I have a break. The turkey prep went pretty well thanks to my instructions from last year and I only needed to add two or three modifications. The house is now filled with a wonderful aroma of cooking turkey filled with aromatics, rosemary and thyme. The wine is open and decanting and I’ve got the giblets simmering on the stove to make turkey stock.

Everyone is expected to arrive around 1:00 but there is a curious phenomenon that happens to Japanese people when they’ve lived in America for a long time. In Japan they are always extremely prompt as being late would be insulting to the hosts. However, I’ve found that our Japanese friends NEVER arrive on time here in the states. It isn’t just 10-15 minutes either but often an hour late. I told the wife we’ll just have to tell them the start time is earlier than it actually is.

Side Note: I just got done reading a few entries from Thanksgivings past. I read one from 2014 and am shocked at how quickly time passes. That Thanksgiving was 5 years ago but in my mind doesn’t seem so far in the past. This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful for my online journal. It is really something to be able to read about my own thoughts and life from long ago.

As for the kids, they argued as usual this morning but are now sitting together on the chair. They fight, they play well, they fight, they play well, all in the same morning.