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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.

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Holidays Journal

New Year’s Day 2018

It is 8:52 AM on January 1st, 2018.  I would have preferred to write this in the early morning as usual but I was absolutely exhausted yesterday, went to bed early and slept until 6:15 AM which is very late for me.  I woke up and began all the usual chores and only now have some time in which to mildly ignore the children so I can get this New Year’s post in.

Last night we went over to Miyuki’s house so the girls could watch 紅白.  Even though there was plenty of great wine I didn’t have any because I had my neighbor Sandra as well as Kent and Brandon over the day before and we had plenty of wine then.  So, I bought myself some creme soda and had fun watching the others get pretty tipsy and enjoyed their tipsy conversation.  Note to self; do not ask Brandon if he will let his daughter date guys with neck tattoos in the future.  My stance is that you don’t even give them a chance but Brandon says he’ll raise his daughter right and if she brings a guy with a neck tattoo home, it wouldn’t be his preference, but he’ll give the guy a chance.

After the party I went straight to bed and had the most restful, deep sleep I’ve had in a while.  I was awoken by fireworks at midnight but only for a second.  Brandon invited me up to Peter’s where they continued the party but there was no way and all I wanted to do was sleep.  As usual when I don’t continue the party with them I awoke to some fun messages in the morning.  Brandon left me a nice two minute voicemail which I think I’ll save the fun parts and play back at the next party.

We have friends coming over the half an hour so I’ll have to wrap this up quickly.  We’re heading over to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve for pictures where the sunlight shines just right through the petrified trees and makes it truly seem like an enchanted forest.  Unfortunately the tide is high at this time so won’t be able to see the tide pools.

The two things on my mind which I wanted to write more about but don’t think I’ll have the time is that the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day seems like a relic already.  It represents the apex of the holiday season:  a time when you’re together more with friends and family, there are parties, celebrations and events going on all over the place and life just seems a bit more joyful.

New Year’s Day however represents looking forward and the excitement of the unknown which 2018 holds secret only to be slowly revealed throughout the year.  It also represents starting anew and the chance to change one’s life if they wish.  The joy and happiness are abundant on this day (unless one has a horrible hangover) and it last until the the holiday spirit, which could have lasted three months or so starting with Halloween, all comes crashing down to an abrupt end when everyone returns to work tomorrow.  It is especially hard because work which accumulated throughout the holidays now need to get done and one is faced with grim realities as the last remnants of the joyful holiday spell drift away and it all seems like a pleasant dream.

To add to the dismay, one still sees a few Christmas tree lots where a few sad trees sit there, dejectedly, having never been chosen, never decorated.  Their life cut short by a capitalist’s axe and there is nothing left for them except to be thrown away.  I feel a sense of sadness for those trees.

Well, I’m being told to do things and our friends arrive in 15 minutes.  I think I’d like to write a poem about the Christmas trees that do not get picked but have no time.

And so the new year beings.

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Holidays Journal

New Year’s Morning 2017

It is 6:49 AM on the first day of 2017.  I woke up much later than usual not due to staying up until midnight or drinking too much:  I woke up later than usual from a busy day hiking, playing with the boys then having three small champagne glasses of Louis d’Estree Sparkling Méthode Traditionnelle Dry.

We took advantage of Netflix’s on-demand streaming countdown and went with Skylander (above).  My oldest didn’t seem too excited by the whole ordeal  but it will be a good memory to look back upon – thanks Netflix!

I woke up with stomach aches most likely from eating too much of the delicious traditional Japanese food that my wife prepares.  The stomach ache was timely as it made me open my eyes at exactly 11:55 PM per the clock projection on the ceiling. At midnight I heard a number of fireworks and outright bombs that rogue Pacificans are known for setting off during events, holidays and at random.  I then closed my eyes and went back to sleep not bothering to get up until at least around six.

The first day of 2017 is windy and as the day begins to break I see that we’re covered with fog except for a number of clear, pink patches over the Pacific ocean.  I’ll take this as a good sign and I’m sure it will clear up further throughout the day.  This year is unique already in that I see the next seven days show rain and I cannot remember the last time we’ve had such a weather pattern.  Normally people would take rain as a bad omen but here in California we need all the rain we can get so any precipitation is very positive.

So what do I plan to do for 2017?  I do not do resolutions, I find them cliché; I set my mind, all my focus on something and then do it no matter what time of year it is.  Being New Year is convenient as it really is a time to reset, take a look at your life and then do a little planning.  As I mentioned in a previous post this is the year to focus on my career which will happen early on.  The other activities which are a continuation are:  very early morning gym, karate, studying Japanese for the official test, and spending a lot of time with my boys.

As for computers/internet I recently did a lot of studying and learned a lot.  The major thing was learning how to implement SSL on my blogs – written about here – but I also put filtering software on my son’s device.  I caught him and a little friend looking at naughty pictures on his phone using Google Voice so I had to quickly do a crash course in options available.  I went with Norton Parental Control Software as it has great ratings, is easy to implement, is free for the basic version and I have long used Norton Anti-virus.  The next interesting thing I learned about was Android Auto.  This is an app that starts automatically when connected to the car’s bluetooth and provides a screen optimized for driving.  A new law went into effect today here in California that says you cannot even touch your phone unless it is for just a second on a properly mounted phone holder.  So I’m feeling up to date and refreshed on the technology.  The only other thing I could wish for right now is for a high end new server but that most likely will not happen.

This year also is a major one for me as it is the year I turn forty years old.  My mom once told me when I was little that she never dreamed in a million years she’d be turning forty yet there she was.  Well, I thought forty would never arrive either and yet here it is, just five months away.  I’ll need to dedicate a post to my thoughts on this but in short I feel fine about it.  My life has gone the way I’ve wanted and has been very exciting and fun.  Your life is determined for you until you’ve graduated high school, then you’re still in a cocoon in college, then it is on your own after that.  For me, there have been a series of chapters since graduating from Ohio State.  The first chapter was Japan, the second Vietnam, the third living in San Francisco in a small apartment and now I’m six years into the fourth chapter where kids made their appearance, I’m in a fortress of a house and it looks like dramatic changes in location will no longer happen for the rest of this book.  I can still keep things exciting however and the next chapter will be a change job but the next chapter has given no hints just yet.

I do have to say how happy I am with karate.  It has given me a renewed vigor, a feeling that I hadn’t felt since high school wresting.  It is a life-long wish to do it and it has finally happened.  The only other new activity I’m looking forward to – also with the boy – is cub/boy scouts.  I enjoyed this as a kid and am looking forward to learning more about and engaging more with the outdoors.  Camping is on the horizon for our family and I think the cub scouts will be an excellent door opener for this.  We can also go with some of our friends who are more experienced and know how to make camping fun!  I had a number of bad experiences camping when I was a kid and so do not look too favorably on it but am sure doing it again as a parent will change my mindset on it.

Well, the family is up and the day must being.

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Bay Area Sunrise / Sunset / Moon

Sunrise on January 1st, 2016

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Holidays Journal Sunrise / Sunset / Moon

New Year’s 2016

The last sunset of 2015
The last sunset of 2015

It is 4:14 AM on New Year’s Day 2016.

No, I haven’t stayed up all night partying; I was in bed by 7:45 PM on New Year’s Eve being completely exhausted by a poor nights sleep and a day spent at the gym, running errands and playing with the kids.  Now that I’m up so early I thought I’d get a few thoughts down on the year 2015.

In our society at large I don’t think 2015 is a year necessarily worth celebrating:  we’ve got the demagogue Donald Trump leading the polls for Republicans, the Middle East is a mess, we’re close to war with China over some islands with fossil fuels that create global warming and global warming seems to be past the point of no return already.

When I look at the various parties all over the world they all seem like a tired out old record.  The date of the year is going to change and suddenly everyone forgets what the year actually brought.  It is akin to throwing a party on the deck of the Titanic while it is sinking.  We’ve hit an ice burg, the boat is going down but someone yells that we’ve got campaign and fireworks on the upper levels so the crowd immediately all shuffle and ignore that we’re all in serious trouble.  The party lasts all weekend until everyone returns to work on Monday realizing that nothing has changed, we have a hangover and to make matters worse, we still continue to sink.

However, it is possible to make 2016 better than 2015 for our own personal lives even if we cannot do something about the state of world affairs at large.  The change in the date is a good catalyst which gives us momentum to make resolutions but it will only work if we have perseverance to see them through as the days and months roll by.  For me personally I’ve been contemplating a change in careers.  This is not an easy decision as I work from home and actually like my job.  I just do not see any more room for personal advancement and wonder about all the excitement happening in the technology industry in San Francisco.  I wonder if I should go join that party or be content and pass up on opportunities which have been coming my way.

Given that I’ve changed my life – switching countries – many times in the past I know making a change can be done but I do not want to have regret or hate myself as I’ll have to leave the comforts of home and actually drive to an office everyday.  But if I do nothing than nothing changes and I do not progress in my work career.  It seems 2016 has already presented me with a very big life decision and if I make the change then 2016 could become very exciting (or awful).  If I do not make the change 2016 is just another year where nothing much happened.

But going back to Donald Trump I’m in awe that so many of my countrymen are dumb enough to support this clown.  It reminds me of looking back at history in disbelief about how a population could support such a terrible person and what they must have been thinking.  We tend to rationalize that it was in the past and perhaps the people back then just were not as educated, informed or generally smart as we are now.  Then we take a look at Donald Trump and all his support and realize not much has changed in terms of stupid people wanting to support idiotic leaders.  It makes one lose faith in Democracy as a whole.  With Donald Trump gaining so much support Democracy seems like a very poor system.

And it is not just Donald Trump.  We have legacy families that hold on to power just because that is something the wealthy want to do.  Once people gain a lot of money they are not satisfied and next want power.  The examples of this are innumerable.  We had Meg Whitman – the billionaire – who wanted to become Governess of California; in my opinion she had the money and so not being satisfied next wanted power.  We have the Clinton and Bush families who have turned America into an alternating monarchy and I imagine if there were any chance at all their children will be running for office in the future.

If I had my way we should go back to having a council of wise elders who do not depend on popular support in order to make wise decisions.  The population at large just isn’t sophisticated enough to make the correct choices and leaders who depend on the number of supporters will usually not decide against them unless there is a powerful corporation which trumps popular will.  The corporations hold the most powerful cards and even though we pretend the people are in control that certainly isn’t the case.

In fact, democracy has become a charade.  We’re lead to believe we have a choice and the power to make real change through elections but corporations have become more powerful than governments and the corporations main aim is to make ever more money no matter how many lives have to be spared.  Money and power now trump human life and the well being of the planet.

Well, I think I’ve said enough about that and should move on to other things.

It is now 5:15 AM and I have to start thinking about caching the first sunrise of 2016.  We were invited over to a friends house but my boy seems to have a stomach bug so we had to cancel so he doesn’t spread it to them.  This leaves a day wide open but keeping the boys indoors all day doesn’t seem like a very good choice.  Perhaps we’ll head down to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve or have lunch at a restaurant – if anyplace is open.  Today should be a relaxing day but I might feel the need to continue organizing different rooms of the house to really feel like I’m getting 2016 off to a great start.  And perhaps I could meet the guys outside by myself for a drink or two later on in the evening.

I’ve done a lot of grumbling in this post but I am looking forward to 2016 and starting to feel a little of the excitement regarding this change of the date.

As a last thought, I am sad to see Christmas over and have placed the last remnants of it outside over the Halloween pumpkins which have now all but disappeared.  Time marches on.

End of Christmas Here is a video I took of the last sunset of 2015:

Sunrise on New Year’s Day 2016 at Oyster Point, CA

Sunrise - New Year's Day 2016