Saturday, August 19, 2017

Effort to Gain the Most

Nothing strikingly novel here, but board games are different from games you play on the phone.  The little one instinctively knows that board games force the family to sit down together, listen to songs together, form affinities with one another, burn one another, best one another, and generally connect.  She wants to know what the family plan is for Saturday.  When I suggest a board game she is immediately excited. 

We have just finished a rapid-fire session of The Settlers of Catan, the game where each player develops their own roads, settlements, in an effort gain the most “victory points.”  The older one was victorious.  But the little one and I were close on her heels.  The Mrs. characteristically took a bit more time to get into it but after she’d finished making a sudden pot of breakfast soup with dough knots and brought everyone a bowl soon she too was deeply involved in gathering rocks and wheat and sheep for development.

The game forces you to trade, so that you can build.  You can trade more easily if you’ve settled somewhere near a port, on the sea.  Fancy that.  Roads are nice, settlements are better and cities have the most points.  Rolling a seven, forces you to place the “robber” or grim reaper figure somewhere on the board, necessarily smiting someone else in the family.  While we were playing, everyone gets to select a few songs to play before the next person becomes the DJ.  Beyond this distraction no one is looking at their phone, no one is talking on their phone, everyone is concentrating on the roll of the dice and the resource cards they will secure as a result.  Everyone is focused on the family.

We’ve all atomized now, after the game.  I’m typing, obviously, enjoying being the uncontested DJ for myself.  The older one is off to meet with a friend.  “Yes, you’ve met her.  Remember that time she was here?”  “No.  Be home by five.”  My wife came in, borrowed a nail clipper and left.  It isn’t likely we’ll all sit down again till dinner time, if then.  It was supposed to but did not happen last evening.  I am always inclined to go push for something like a visit to a park in the country or a trip to a museum in the city.  Someone always has a good reason why they can’t.  Glad we got in a little time building settlements this morning around the dining room table.

Saturday, 08/19/17

Important to Have Humanized

There’s a bunch of newly minted eighth graders out there.  They just had pizza.  Now they’ve moved my bass amp into the middle room and are cranking tunes from their iPhone into the speaker.  When they heard how loud it could go they were so psyched.  High fives all around.  One of the young lady’s name reminded me of a song I knew, which calls out her name and says: “spirit of the moon.”  I found it.  She liked it.  Then my little one told me it was time to leave.  “See ya dad.” 

No matter how many times you find something new, the Jamaican period you realize you’ve only just cast another sand grain on the pile.  The island has world’s most recorded population, per capita, it has claimed certainly for the decades before smart phones when people pressed vinyl records.  I have been slowly adding to Youtube mix, inspired by the D.J. Trouble from WFMU.  She leads me places that yield additional discoveries like “Sister Nancy” of Jamaica whom I’ve heard of before.   This mix has moved on to the Billy Boyo stereotype-busting ditty “One Spliff A Day.”  He looks to be (or have been) about eleven. 

Watched a disturbing video this morning that was linked from Slate.  After reading so many articles and watching brief clips Charlottesville, it was interesting to watch Vice and see this very brave young woman, Elle Reeve embed and interview the white supremacists, focusing for much of the time with a group leader, Chris Cantwell. This person in particular is enervating but important to have humanized.   There it is, the challenge of changing a mind like that.  How can one remove the veil from his eyes?  What a daunting challenge to consider changing this person’s mind. How brave MLK and that generation were to fight against this perception not as a fringe but as an absolute norm.

There is half an uneaten pizza in the other room.  Hawaiian I suppose.  That will likely be it for this evening’s dinner.  Suddenly my wife informs me that another pair of parents are here.  I am needed out in the living room.  I’ll have to wait for that piece of pizza.  These people have all, already eaten. 

Friday, 8/19/17

I’ve a Rand Jdddd

It’s the end of the day.  I’m not sure if I should just head upstairs and call it a night or ride the fumes a bit further until gravity pulls me down. Writing involves motion beyond simply pupils and page turning. I might be able to make it through a few paragraphs.  I suspect my reading wouldn’t make it much further than a page text before I’d be off to the other world.  I’ve a rand jdddd. 

That didn’t take long.  A “rand jddd.”  Well rendered.  The wife has just said she’s heading up to bed.  The girls are already long since out.  I get it into my head to set two calendar invitations that need to happen, in order to be “productive.”  This sort of rudimentary task would normally take two to three minutes.  I’ve been working on one for about ten minutes now, as if trying to perform the task under water, within a sand storm, heavily sedated.  I blink in and out of the dream world, still determined to get the task done.  The odds of a stupid mistake happening, like inviting the wrong people to the wrong date has amplified, considerably.

A midnight snack.  Yes.  That will get the blood moving.  Stand up for a bit.  Go to the refrigerator and get a hunk of cheese and some sunflower seeds.  A sip of white wine.  Heading back it is very clear though that I need sleep and will only do compromised work with sleep standing so near by, ready to lull me. 

More then ever, I notice my addiction to the news.  It is now mid-morning back home in the U.S.  however the landing page of the New York Times hasn’t changed for nearly half a day.  Why should I care?  Me like two thirds of the rest of the country is waiting for the Trump train to reach the washed out bridge that awaits this administration, at point obscured but clearly pending, up behind a corner unknown.  My checking for it won’t make it come any quicker.  But I confess, I just can’t stop looking.  What a waste of time. 

Thursday, 8/17/18

It’s Gorgeous. Who Cares?

I never fly by the window seat unless I’m in business class.  Today I’m up in the bulkhead on a flight back home to Beijing from Shanghai.  I’ve traveled on the train six times in the last three weeks.   It leaves on time, arrives on time.  And there are ugly places to queue for cabs and an especially long cab ride through the center of the city on the Beijing side, to and from my home.  I would have been on the train today.  But there were no tickets left in any class when I checked on line earlier this afternoon and I reluctantly bought an Air China ticket. 

Reluctantly and only because I have thick callous pads form all the countless times the flight has been delayed.  I couldn’t help but imagine the stated arrival time as real for a moment: Cool.  I’ll be there at 7:10PM.  It will still be light out.  In point of fact I’d be late.  Who knows how late, but the stated time would never be met and I’d be lucky to arrive by midnight.  On the way out to the airport, after a very interesting lunch discussion with a person I suspect will be a new friend, concerning business models and ethics in technology, I spoke with my wife and she clarified that it was pouring rain back home in Beijing.  The likelihood of any on-time departure suddenly evaporated.  This was confirmed when I got to the airport and they told me that although the plane had arrived in Shanghai, (very important data point) it was unclear precisely when it would depart. 

Later, after a slow plod over to the lounge, through security, they told me my plane would begin boarding in three minutes.  I hadn’t been expecting that.  “In thirty?”  I asked.  “No.  In three.”  “Three minutes?  Well then.  I’ll have to make it quick in here.”  Air China have introduced a bit of a modest upgrade since the last time I was here in this lounge a few months ago.  No, the wine selection is still, strictly Great Wall.  But the chair lay out seems more crisp, the counter appealing and there was a noodle bar manned by a nice lady who proudly announced each of the ingredients as she dropped them into my bowl of noodles.

Flying, and the clouds outside are epic.  We slowly came up upon this massive, fleeting mountain shaft of a cloud and were it not for the fact that it was made of moisture one should certainly want to climb it.  Were it not for the fact that the water molecules shift so much faster than mountain molecules, we humans would otherwise name this water mountain.  It’s only because I intellectually know, as did I suppose my Cro-Magnon ancestors that a cloud is here for now and gone in a moment.  Because I know this I can conveniently disregard the otherwise singular beauty before me as ephemeral.  It’s gorgeous.  Who cares?  No one else will ever see it.  And perhaps more importantly, no one will ever really touch it, either.

Perhaps that’s why great artists were drawn to capturing clouds.  Ta da:  the moisture is a thing of permanence.  That cloud can be considered for the ages.  Light cutting through a field of spongey whiteness just now.  Dazzling. At  27,500 feet there’s an uninhabited world of rapid change that we’ll never know but for the fleeting visual. 

Wednesday, 8/16/17