Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Late Night Listening XLIV: Thanksgiving 2023

I think I've posted lyrics from this song in a prior post, so it seems like cheating to post the song as a Late Night Listening selection, but it captures the vibe I'm feeling tonight. The song "Coming Up Close" by 'Til Tuesday is the quintessential song that sounds like Thanksgiving, but really isn't.

We know it's not Thanksgiving in the song because the first stanza states:

One night in Iowa
He and I in a borrowed car
Went driving in the summer
Promises in every star

But that reverberating guitar and repeated references to "Welcome home," screams driving home past fields newly laid barren from recent harvests on an overcast November during my college years, looking forward to meeting up with high school friends and driving aimlessly some evening when nothing else was going on.

I'm up late because I wanted to give myself some extra time to digest dinner. The girlfriend and I went out this evening with other family members to watch a stand-up comedy show in which her niece's boyfriend was headlining. The girlfriend's daughter, came up from about an hour away and will be staying with us through Thanksgiving. After we got home from the show, the above song started playing through my head.

For almost ten months now, I've been at working at a new job. My employer is remote, up in the Windy City. It's a not-for-profit service operated by a major institution of higher learning. The pay is good. The benefits are phenomenal.

It has been one of the most challenging learning curves I've had in terms of software development, which is surprising given that the development is in a language I have been working with for a decade now. I think part of the challenge has been that the service has a complicated architecture. It has to deal with federated authentication and interaction with systems not under our control. Some of the system is handled by complicated background processes, and it has to do this within a highly regulated environment.

My group, a team of five, is scattered. Two are in the Windy City area. Another is near the Gateway city, and a third is down in the Lone Star state. We meet daily for a status meeting and a more extended planning meeting ever other week. There are also recurring cross-team meetings and even a book club, so there is plenty to keep me engaged.

Kids are both in college now. My younger daughter started her first year, with the aspiration of going on to dental school. The older daughter is struggling through her third year, and I'm afraid to think of what the grades might be come the end of the semester.

I struggle with a lot of dark moments these days. Part of it has been the ebb and flow of confidence crises at work. After 26 years of doing some form of software development, I still have a lot of days where I feel like I'm less competent than people think. Another is that I am at the age when my dad had his stroke, so mortality weighs heavily on me.

 The political mood in the US and abroad from 2016 onward has left me on edge so badly that I have to curtail my consumption of news. I feel like the past seven or eight years, it seems like those who appeal to the worst instincts have gained such a following, and the ones who pursue justice don't have a consistent answer to push back against what can only be described as an asshole liberation movement.

The lack of a disciplined journal routine has left my mind cluttered and burdened. At times my mind is fogged, having trouble keeping track with the passage of weeks. The pandemic didn't help on that front, but I think it's something other than a long COVID response.

Although the things that vex me now are quite different from what motivated this blog 17 years ago, I might return to this space to ruminate and work out the things that trouble me.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

That Bill that was Signed into Law...

I hate the Hoosier state.

I hate the party that controls the legislature by packing and cracking votes.

I hate the religious zealots who elect ignorant and corrupt people into power.

 Fuck 'em all.

Friday, May 06, 2022

I Didn't Sign Up for You

Forgive me for mishearing the lyrics of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," but I've used the phrase "I didn't sign up for this" as a tongue-in-cheek way of saying, "This wasn't part of the experience I had imagined prior" for years.

My older daughter is finishing up her first year of college, with finals wrapping up tomorrow afternoon. About two weeks ago, she told her mother and me that she didn't think she was going to pass her algebra class. 

This would be the second time she had taken this class because she had failed said course in the fall. What's worse is that the material was no harder than what she had already covered in her high school years, where she supposedly passed two years of algebra and a year of pre-calculus.

Putting aside my own frustration, I sought to help her get a realistic assessment of her chances. We looked at the syllabus to determine the basis for the grade, noting the weight for tests, quizzes, homework, and finals.

She had done a good chunk of her homework, but there were some chapters where she had not done much. Tests and quizzes were awful. Since the homework was done through an online system, we could view a ramp of progress over the semester. It looked like sometime in March, she had gone into a lull, and after that she had put in some effort, but not enough to improve things much.

The instructor reopened some of the modules so that she could resume working on them, and I put in time with her via Zoom to get her back on pace. By yesterday evening, she had completed 90% of the exercises successfully. 

Side note: She had been on edge the past few weeks already because the front axle broke on her car, leaving her without wheels. Since her mother works from home some days, she was able to use her mom's minivan a few days, but on days she was without a vehicle, she was taking Lyft to her work, which was about a mile from her residence hall and not safe to walk alone in the evening.  There is a lead for a used car that she should be able to pay cash on for most of it, but the seller had to get a title reissued, which will mean that she's without a vehicle for another week or two.

At the end of last week, she came home because she had a dance competition on Sunday. She had a meeting with an academic advisor on Tuesday, and she had to work on Wednesday. She had only two classes that had finals. One was an online exam for an English class, and the algebra final was on Friday afternoon. 

Her mother an I agreed that I would provide a ride for her to campus on Tuesday for the adviser meeting, help move out some things, and then bring her home with me so that she could focus on studying algebra. I would take her to work on Wednesday evening. My hope was that she would devote today to working through the final exam practice materials her instructor had posted.

Instead, we spent most of the afternoon packing up and moving her out of her residence hall. She lacked boxes for smaller things, so we spent about an hour organizing things to go into the boxes, and then we got some lunch and I managed to get some empty boxes from a liquor store. We packed up the items and got a basket cart from the front desk. My car, a sedan, was packed pretty tight, but nothing was left behind. I was tired and not in the best mood, but I was doing my best to not raise the temperature by expressing frustration at her.

I drove her to her mother's house to unload the materials. By then it was just before 4, and downtown traffic was clogged with early rush traffic. The closure of a section of major interstate for the past year or so has resulted in some serious clogginess. We made the trip, in about double the time it takes in light traffic. So I was really worn down.

On the way home, she was trying to convince me to leave her at her mom's instead of taking her back with me so that she could study more for algebra. I said I didn't think that was a good idea because I worried she would be more inclined to watch TV than study at her mom's. Moreover, her computer and final exam study materials were at my house. I also didn't want to make a trip back in the midday to pick her up for her final.

When we arrived at her mother's, she said she was going to stay there anyway. I said that's fine, but that she would need to figure out how she was going to get her computer and materials because I wasn't going to make the round trip to bring them to her. That would have been another hour's time at my expense.

At this point she just lost it. She started throwing the items she had in her hand on the ground... a hand vacuum, her cell phone, her lanyard, and a towel. She yelled obscenities at me. Told me that she was glad that she could say what she really felt and that I wasn't her father (she's adopted). I didn't say anything to her because I didn't want to escalate. I carried items into the house and placed them in her room because her mother was clear that she didn't want them in the family room.

I went home trying to process all of that. There had been times when she had been angry with me, but never to this level of intensity of language and never with throwing of objects. About 40 minutes later, she texted, "I'm sorry I said all that stuff to you. I did not mean to get upset with you." I didn't answer because it felt like an abusive pattern, and I didn't want to feed it.

I exchanged some texts with her mother afterwards to keep her in the loop about what was going on. She wasn't home when all of this happened. She said that our daughter had behaved similarly at times with her. I told her about the text and not replying. She suggested I send her a list of the items that were here, and I did, without any additional commentary to avoid escalation.

As she was raging, my daughter was bringing up stuff I had said in the past that she said made her angry at me. One of them was the phrase, "I didn't sign up for that," in reference to something I had to deal with as a parent. I can't even remember exactly what was being discussed when I used the phrase, but she interpreted it in the most negative way I could imagine.

She contacted her best friend from her high school days and got picked up to go to her apartment. They came to my house to pick up the materials she still had here. It was a brief exchange and she was icy. Her friend did well in math, so she might be able to help her prepare for the exam in a way that I wasn't able to.

This was difficult for me because on one hand, I didn't want to reinforce abusive behavior, but on the other, I didn't want her to fail her class by not studying after we had put in all that effort. Ultimately, though, she is an adult now, so she needs to be responsible for the things she does. I had sacrificed and rescheduled to work around her times as best as I could. It was out of my hands now.

About 10:00 tonight, I had a rare weekday glass of wine. I don't like doing that.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The Wait is Over


Three or so years later...



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Was it Really that Long Ago?

 (Checking blog archives...)

(Notices the date stamp of the first post...)

Fifteen years?

Five years since the blog was officially ended?

Yeah, that time did all fly by.

(Composes self...)

To those who stumble upon this blog using search or whose RSS feeds still point here, greetings!

I'm still here. Maybe it would be easier to catch up by noting what has changed over last half decade.

2016 was a rough year. In addition to it being sort of a Rapture of the Talented, my father died in May. A dog we had adopted back in 2001 just before the 9/11 attacks had to be put to sleep because of deteriorating health. Finally, I got a better feel for the density of racist @$$holes in the United States and it depressed me utterly.

The next few years were a blur because it seemed like an endless stream of awful in the political sphere. I became more active, attending protests, writing letters to representatives and calling them, and even trying to register voters.

I changed jobs in 2019 to go work for a startup founded by some co-workers at my prior job and realized that a couple of them, too, had worldviews that were either steeped deeply in the alternative fact universe or just too lacking in empathy to be worthy of respect.

A source of stability in all of this was my girlfriend, with whom I had been in a relationship since 2011. With her older child graduating from high school in 2017, we started to make plans toward combining households. I had some repair work done to my house in 2018, but there were some issues with the drain that required me moving out towards the end of 2018, and I haven't lived there since.

With a home equity line of credit, I continued to work on repairs and get rid of stuff we didn't want to keep under a combined house. Then in the summer of 2020, a lavatory feed line burst while I was on vacation and it resulted in requiring major restoration that continues to this day. I'm hoping to have the house on the market by the fall and finally out of my hands. Fortunately, the real estate market here has been strong, and I've had neighbors ask me if I am planning to sell.

 The relationship with my girlfriend has been strong. She has been supportive of me through some dark times, and I have been there for her struggles, too. Sometimes the spectre of discontent lurks in my peripheral consciousness, but I've accumulated enough tools to keep it in check. The filters that see only the negative can sneak in unnoticed, but once I see them there, I can push them out of the way.

My line of work has evolved. Since early 2008, I had been working on developing web applications using a loathed dynamic language that begins with a "P" and JavaScript. When I changed jobs in 2013, I transitioned to different, more respected language that also begins with a "P." By 2016, I had gotten involved with data sciency stuff at my employer and started to learn about machine learning, which propelled me into the startup I'm working at now.

I have slowly started to make and maintain contact with old friends from my college days, including two people with whom I roomed for two years back in my undergraduate days. I might actually show up at my 30-year homecoming this fall if the pandemic isn't too crazy again.

My older daughter graduated from high school in early June and is planning on attending college this fall. She's had some emotional struggles this past year because her birth family reached out to her over social media during the pandemic (long story). While she has met her birth sister and a half-sister a few times to exchange gifts, she has been reluctant to meet with the birth parents.

My younger daughter, who used to have intense bouts of anxiety about missing me in her grade school years has managed to move on. She's had a boyfriend for about two years going. She's entering her junior year of high school and will be taking classes through a local career center toward an associates degree.

More recently, I received word that a high school teacher from my hometown had passed away. I had taken several of my math classes with him and had a high regard for him because it was in high school that I really got bitten by the math bug.

I've debated traveling back to my hometown for the visitation, but I think I will make a donation in his memory to a charity mentioned in his obituary. I feel estranged from my hometown because the area is staunchly conservative, with an emphasis on gun culture. I didn't know his family that well, and I don't have any contact with anyone in town except for my step mom. Moreover, with COVID-19 cases on the rise, I'm not really feeling up for a large gathering, even though I reach full vaccination as of late May.

I may pop in here now and then to write down some things just so I can re-read them and get perspective, but I can't guarantee huge volumes of overanalyizng and agonizing. I don't really want to go back there because when I look back at some of those posts, I don't like what I see. Maybe that's a sign that I've grown? I dunno.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Benefits of Keeping a Journal

 On Saturday, the New York Times published an article about the benefits of keeping a journal. It made me think of this blog, which served a sort of a journal, yet hiding in plain sight. Comparing this space with the guidelines from the article, I cringe at some of the things I dwelt upon or in the way I expressed them. Still, I highly recommend journaling as therapy and encourage you to read the article.

With respect to relationships, I have been in a wonderful one for nine years now, hence my choice to remain silent on this space. The things that unsettle me have more to do with the present Zeitgeist, and I don't believe anything I would have to write would add anything new to the conversation.

The spectre that haunts me now has more to do with the suffering of others and the questions I ask of myself are what I can do by action or donation to replace that suffering with justice.  

Friday, April 27, 2018