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.


Spring Equinox – Easter 2019

It is 6:05 AM on Sunday, – Easter – April 21st. The Easter baskets are out, eggs have been hidden throughout the house and I’m waiting for the household to wake up. As for me, I woke up at 4:00 AM and this time actually got up.

I put the dishes away, cleaned the few dirty ones, made the coffee, meditated and learned something new in VR. Let me start with the meditation.

For the location I chose a a temple in Egypt and went with a sort of Tibetan monk chant. Usually I prefer nature scenery but this time thought a temple was a good change of pace. What occurred to me during the meditation was that the ancients were very spiritual people. They built huge structures, temples, pyramids and so on that are much more impressive than anything we have today. Yes, the recently burned Notre Dame is a work of art, and St. Mary’s cathedral in San Francisco is impressive in its futuristic cult temple like glory. But, nothing we have today is as impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Chichen Itza in the Mexico, the temples in Greece and Rome and so on. The only thing that comes close to matching this splendor are the grandest cathedrals and mosques such as Westminster Abbey, any number of cathedrals in Spain or Italy. Those buildings are impressive and beautiful indeed but put any of them up against what Angkor Wat must have looked like in its prime and you’ll see my point.

So what occurred to me is that spirituality and the importance of understanding the divine, the afterlife and what reality all is must have played a much more important role in the ancient times then it does today evidenced by the structures archaeologists have discovered. To build something so grand, so immense and detailed says to me that spirituality must have played a central role in ancient cultures. It was not only pervasive but was ingrained in everything.

That is not the case today. I live in California and the root of our culture and society, the driver of everything is not the divine or religion, it is money and the accumulation of things.

Today being Easter a good part of the population will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. They go to church, reflect a bit, ask for sins to be forgiven and then the minute they step out of church return to the mold society has made for them which is to acquire more, lookout for what is best for themselves regardless of the impact to others and so on. This all sounds a bit pessimistic and negative but should one need a solid example then one need look no further than President Trump. Trump is the result of such a society, a society that has lost its way.

The real kicker is the one thing that tries to keep them in line, religion, is completely made up! A good portion of people will go to worship today something that is not true. How amazing it is to realize that. The ‘resurrection’ of Jesus is a myth based on a hearsay of a hearsay (as Hitchens would say). Easter, before its conscription by Christians, was and still is a celebration of the spring equinox when the days are equal in length. It is the beginning of the triumph of light over darkness. The warm days are getting longer and the vegetation is coming back to life. The long, dark, cold nights of winter are past. It was in winter that vegetation died and now it is risen again!

Seem similar? Yes, the Christians took all this and just like many of the holidays we celebrate today, and turned it into something Christian in order to help ease the conversion of pagans. Now, mainstream society has lost that meaning and go worship an instrument of death, the cross, and a myth of a guy who supposedly came back to life.

It is really something to realize all this when 75% of Americans are Christian. You feel smart and “woke” as people are saying these days. It is a good word to express what it is to be free of mainstream religion. I’ve woken up from the mass delusion and am in awe that so many people never will awake from it. We think of ourselves as so smart with our universities, medical and scientific advances and discoveries about the universe. All of these things are miraculous but then our society goes back and worships something whose ideas have been proven to be false time and time again. Logic and reason are thrown out the window the minute they step through the church doors.

That reminds me, one book that I just learned about and should have on my shelf is The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. It is the Bible but with notes pointing out the nonsense and craziness.

Well, the time is 6:42 and Kai has just woken up. He’ll get to do the iPad until Mom and Ren wake up then we can start the Easter egg hunt.

Holidays Journal

The Beginning of 2019

Motto for 2019:  Just be.

“To study the self is to forget the self” – Dogen 道元禅師

As I wrapped up my post for this morning (below) I wanted to get my motto and saying in this post and up top so I’m easily reminded.  I really enjoy my Zen meditation, especially whilst sitting on a mountain top or in a bamboo forest in my Meditation VR app.  Just be is of course a play on Nike’s “Just Do it.”  People are always so busy doing things they forget to appreciate what is right in front of them. They race to buy that new thing, attend the next event, complete that next task. They forget to enjoy the magic and beauty of everyday life and they forget to live.  “Just Do It” is a perfect motto for America, its capitalism, its never being satisfied and the underlying unhappiness that is satiated for a short time by consuming things.  Better to “Just be,” and I think in even a tumultuous environment one can be happy and at peace.

It is 6:07 AM on Friday January 4th, 2019.  I usually like to write a summary at the end of the year and/or a post on the first but things have been busy.

When I think of the Christmas and New Year holidays I have in my mind that it is a time to relax.  It is a time to read books, catch up with old friends, invite over the neighbors, make hot chocolate and so on.  What it actually is however is a crush of activities: decorating, buying last minute presents, holiday school plays, perhaps a trip, sending out Christmas cards and presents, and then since the kids are home playing or doing activities with them pretty much constantly.

So instead of being relaxing it is downright stressful!  But, I like the holidays and I love playing and doing activities with my kids.  I’m keenly aware that they are growing quickly and I will miss it terribly when they grow up and stop asking me to play.  The problem is that there is no break.  If we don’t have some sort of activity my youngest will want to play and I’m happy to do so for a while but Papa needs a break now and then.

A lot of great memories were made but the reality is that the break was not relaxing at all and I’m not as sad as I used to be that the holidays are over.  The first day back to work was a little depressing to be sure but my stress levels actually went down when I got back into that work rhythm and took care of the things that had piled up over the vacation.

It does help that things are still a bit slow these first few days back as many people are still on holiday.  I’m feeling accomplished as I had the motivation to accomplish to main things I’d been putting off for a while.  The first was rolling over two 401K accounts.  I had attempted once before but the company sponsored plan sent me about 20 pages of forms to be filled out and I gave up after the second page.  After speaking with a few buddies I’ve decided to roll them over to my own Schwab account and do the investing myself.  I still contribute to the company plan and max the match but I’ll use the money from the old plans to diversify a bit and it looks like 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for buying.  Hopefully the whole ship doesn’t crash under our idiot in chief Trump since a receding tide sinks all boats and I’ve got sales goals to hit.

The second was figuring out how to use VR on a Galaxy S4 and along with the Merge googles for my kids.  I learned that although I couldn’t use Samsung Gear or Oculus, I could use Google Cardboard!  It runs beautifully on the S4!!!  But not all apps do since it is an old phone and so it is a bit tricky especially when you throw in the Merge Cube.   So now I just need to figure out which apps run well and without too much fuss so my son can use VR, Cardboard and Merge by himself.

As for 2018 it was a momentous year of change.  A great opportunity came my way and I switched jobs.  I was comfortable in my previous job but the opportunities for advancement looked slim, it wasn’t something I was too terribly passionate about and I had already accomplished just about everything I could in cornering the market.  So when I got a call from an old buddy about this position, with a great company, and to help an entirely new corporate sales department, I had to take it.  Any change in job is risky but I would have regretted not taking the chance if I had declined.  It was this change in jobs that pretty much defined 2018

So to summarize the highlights of 2018:

Jamaica – Montego Bay

We took another nice trip to Jamaica and I got to see my buddy Mike of Mike’s Transportation.  Montego Bay is beautiful but two trips is enough.  If I were to go a third time I’d want to visit the Appleton Rum Estate (since we’ve seen pretty much everything else).

Jamaica – Montego Bay – 2018

Ohio and North Carolina

With the family in Japan for the summer I like to take a trip or two and it usually involves going back to Ohio to see my family and friends.  I like to ride a bicycle around Grandview, have a coffee at Stauf’s Cafe, go to the Grandview Pool, play golf on Raymond and Wilson golf courses and of course have beers with friends.  Going back is like re-reading a previous chapter in my life and I love every minute of it.

Ohio – 6.28.2018

North Carolina – Asheville

This year I combined my Ohio trip with another one to Asheville, North Carolina.  It was my Uncle Bob’s 70th birthday party and my cousin was trying to get the entire family together for it.  A 70th birthday party is one that should never be missed!  One convenient thing about it is that now that I work for an airline I fly free (standby) and so could easily choose when and where I wanted to fly back to SFO on the fly (pun intended).  No need to rehash the trip, I wrote a post about it here:

Asheville North Carolina Trip

Now as for the job, the start was a bit shaky because I had not only the Ohio and North Carolina vacations but also my Japan trip right after I was hired.  I was hired on June 4th, had the orientations and then took off on vacation! I had informed the company I was taking these vacations before I was hired but it was still a little nerve-wracking.  I’m the new person, am trying to get used to everything and still must check the work e-mails.  I had a few weeks of work after Ohio and North Carolina and then I took off to Japan.  Here are my Japan posts:

Tokyo Trip 2018

Tokyo Trip 2018 – Second Post

After Japan it was down to business and boy did I have to get down to business quickly.  A few months later and I’m comfortable in the role and have gotten off to a great start.  I never like being the new person on the job, having to learn how everything works, not knowing what to do in certain cases in so on.  It was made easier this time since the job is basically the same type of work I was doing before but the product and internal processes are different.  In learning all of this and going to Dallas two or three times the months have flown by and here I am in 2019.

I’d like to write a “check-in at 41” post here shortly but the time is now 6:51 and I need to start prepping for the day.  Today should be pretty slow since many are still out and being a sales person I certainly don’t want to bother people while they’re still in holiday mode!  So that just leaves putting out any fires, preparing for the week ahead and perhaps some general housekeeping before things really start rolling next week.

My other tasks for today are:
1. Enroll in the company stock purchase program (while I’m motivated on the financial side of things)

2.  Ensure Mint is accurate and reflecting all accounts appropriately.

3. Scan the Christmas cards we received.  Perhaps this activity is part of my OCD/Data horder tendencies but it also goes along perfectly with my “own life archaeology” and archiving projects.  As it is now, I’m the only one who has all his old pictures from grade school and so on both in physical and electronic format.  I’m the only one!  Everyone seems to forget (or want to forget) the past.  Not me, my life is a fantastic book and I like to re-read the old chapters.  That is when having everything in digital format really helps.  I imagine myself as an old man with my computer generated hologram workstation in front of me and I’m pulling up these old Christmas cards.  I’m sure 30 years from now I’ll be the only one who has them just as I’m the only one today with my old grade school sports pictures.

4.  Update the family blog with:  Ren’s holiday show, Kai learning how to ski (In one day!!) and the Tahoe trip and Christmas.

5.  Continue exploring Merge, Cardboard and what actually works on an S4 and with Merge Cube.

And with that, 2019 has begun.