Month: June 2021

Things are heating up

Today marks the first day of a quite sudden and quite severe spike in temperatures, as we’re in for 90+ degree heat for the next days, including one day above 100 degrees. Lack of central air as an amenity in housing in this part of the country normally isn’t a problem, except for when it is. Luckily I have my portable unit deployed and running, so at least the living room is staying livable.

Good thing too, as I am extremely behind on work at the moment and find myself in the position of needing to spend all weekend getting caught up on bug squashing. Imagine this – I have a team of four developers; one of which is busy conducting performance testing for the current release, while the other three were reassigned by the VP of software delivery to participate in regression testing as ‘contractors’ for the QA team to help speed those guys up. So who’s left to fix bugs? Well… uh, nobody. So in other words, I fit that in between meetings and emails and writing annual reviews and tearing various different teams in the building new assholes for putting on a circus act while we’re trying to get some serious business done.


What’s also fun is playing bass, which I had officially taken up as my quarantine hobby while others were busy learning how to make sourdough bread. After about four months of serious practice, close to 80 hours logged in Rocksmith, and once-a-week lessons at the local music guild, I’m seeing some pretty positive results. I’ve progressed to the point where if I set aside an hour or so on Rocksmith, I can bang out simpler songs start-to-finish, and I can usually get the structure (if not the nuance) of moderate-difficulty songs right as well. Then there’s Red Barchetta by Rush, which I’ve been working on for at least three months…

Here’s the full song:

And the bass part in isolation:

In contrast to some of the other things I’ve worked on, this is less of a bass line and more of a melange of uniquely tricky phrases that all need to be glued together to form the entire piece. Part of what’s taken so long to learn this is actually just that I’m an idiot who’s focused on learning to run before figuring out how to crawl, otherwise why would I be trying to learn Rush songs four months into this endeavor? So the rate of progress has actually been gated by an overall lack of experience with the instrument, and the fact that I’m still seeing a lot of things for the very first time.

Rocksmith has been a fairly effective method of ramping up though, and although I didn’t really truly fulfill their 60-day challenge of an hour a day for… you guessed it, 60 days, it was a hell of a lot faster than sitting there with a method book playing whole notes and quarter notes would have been. The ability to dial in the difficulty (essentially taking notes off the chart and adjusting the speed until you’re able to follow along) is great for getting the “easy” rendition of a song down, then you start practicing individual passages and gradually increase the difficulty until you’re playing the full thing at full speed. One thing I’m finding more recently is that playing through a song once at about 30% difficulty is good for learning the feel of the song, but then I need to jump straight to 100% difficulty because how you locate things on the fretboard is very much based on context, and decisions need to be made about playing an C on the seventh fret of the E string versus the same C (albeit with slightly different intonation) on the third fret of the A string. So the speed slider is actually the difficulty slider for me, and I play things slowly until I’ve figured them out.

One thing of note is that while I haven’t devolved into full on guitar-collecting as it seems serious players do, I have already bought a second bass to park at the office. So to add to the Yamaha TRBX 505 that I daily drive at home, I’ll have a TRBX 174 at work to sneak in a few minutes here and there on days that I commute in. The choice of going to the Yamaha well twice is mostly based around the fact that I had a Yamaha clarinet in high school and it played and sounded great. Yamaha basses tend to grade out favorably in reviews for being good bang-for-buck choices, and my experience so far has more or less been consistent with that. A Fender jazz bass seems like a likely next step, although the Sugi NB4 is a rather striking option, even if it is $4000…

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Staying home vs. going in

I had an idea for a longer post about the upcoming struggle between companies and workers regarding work from home policies post-pandemic, but decided about four paragraphs in that the post wasn’t going anywhere particularly important or interesting. So instead, here’s a much simpler version.

Pros of working from home:

  • Can generally roll out of bed anytime I want, as long as my work laptop is powered on by 9am.
  • Don’t need to wear work-appropriate clothes (although I find it helps to do so anyway, just to get into the mindset).
  • Can get other things done while I’m on mute on conference calls, like doing laundry or starting a multiple-hour sous vide for dinner later on.
  • Quality time with the cats when they deign to grace me with their presence.

Pros of going into the office:

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Things are getting back to normal

I’ve made an attempt to keep updates on a regular schedule since bringing the site back a few months ago; on Saturdays, I’ll hike the iPad over to Starbucks and drink cold brew and type things, and hit the Publish button before I pack up and go back home. Missed yesterday’s regular update because I jumped on the ferry over to Seattle for errands and a couple productive hours of bug-squashing at the soon-to-be-no-longer-deserted office. Logged the following observations over the course of the day:

After multiple years of living in downtown Seattle and becoming more or less acclimated to the realities of downtown living as it pertains to homelessness (trash/excrement/needles on the sidewalk, people having meltdowns on street corners, etc), the one year I’ve lived out on the island has re-sensitized me to this particular subject. If you’re on foot coming off the ferry, you might take the pedestrian walkway that traverses over Alaskan Hwy and Western Ave and drops you off at the Starbucks on First Ave and Marion St. The segment of Western Ave under the walkway seems to rotate in and out of being used as a homeless encampment, depending I guess on Seattle PD enforcement of the area. I happened to drive over yesterday because I had other errands to run that made walking too much of a time sink, and basically any overpass I drove under was occupied by tents and completely cluttered with trash. I understand these folks are in a lot of cases playing the hand they’re dealt, so this isn’t a direct criticism of them or the situation they’re in… but it is a stark reminder of how different things are compared to where I currently live, especially the longer I go without needing to be in the downtown area.

The area in/near Pike Place Market is about as crowded as it was pre-pandemic, albeit with folks mostly masked up. I was happy to see most of the businesses seem to be still in operation. Los Agaves (the Mexican place behind one of the produce stands) is still a good place to get a burrito. I skipped over Cinnamon Works this time because a burrito is enough for lunch without adding a cookie the size of your face to the mix, but they’re still there. Johnny Hahn, the old guy who plays piano right on the corner next to Cinnamon Works, didn’t seem to be out. The north end of the market still seems deserted, with Bavarian Meats having packed up and left in the early days of the pandemic and Taxi Dogs vanishing I think sometime before that, even.

I still question the wisdom of allowing people to drive their cars into and through the market. Delivery trucks, I can kind of understand – there are a lot of vendors at the bottom of the hill that it’d be a pain in the ass to get things to if a truck had to park out on First Ave and then wheel a cart down a hill so steep that it closes when there’s any kind of snow or ice on the ground during the winter months. But cars? What’s wrong with rerouting traffic completely around the market to the parking garage on Western Ave?

Getting back to the island at the end of the day took an hour and a half longer than expected – so long that I was on the verge of it being quicker to drive all the way around instead. Originally I thought the overflow lot outside the loading dock was comically large, but it turns out on a busy Saturday afternoon, it gets quite full when the loading area is full and boats are running late. Speaking of which, I’ve seen status messages on the ferry tracker like “the boats are 30 minutes behind, this affects the 4pm, 430pm, 5pm, and 530pm sailings”. If sailings are every 30 minutes, and the boats are 30 minutes late, why not just cancel the 4pm sailing? Then your other sailings are all of a sudden on time again! GENIUS.

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Sleeping in until 6am

Central air conditioning in apartments is a bit of a novelty here in the Sound. For that matter, so is central heat. The weather isn’t hot or cold enough for months on end to justify the expense, so it gets left out. Usually, this is perfectly fine. I’m on the top floor of a building, and the thermostat (tied to the baseboard heater) usually has me at a constant 70-72 degrees without doing much other than leaving a window open during the day.

During the summer months, it’ll get worse. Cooking will spike the temperature up to the upper-70s in the living room, sometimes going as high as 80, with the bedroom lagging a degree or two behind. Last year I mitigated this somewhat by buying a window fan and reversing its flow of air depending on the outside temperature. Below 70 outside? Pull air in. Above 70? Exhaust air out. This worked for awhile, at least until the wildfires came and destroyed the quality of the air outside. Then I had to leave the fan on exhaust mode all the time.

We got our first real touch of heat earlier this week, the first week of June, as the temperature reached 80 outside (I did say I moved out here for a reason). Fortunately this year I was a bit better prepared, as I had bought a portable air conditioner for the living room a few weeks prior. The air conditioner takes up a bit of floor space, but is so far otherwise doing a good job at keeping the living room cool. So that’s a win.

However, that leaves the bedroom yet to be figured out. The bedroom is cooled by a fan only, and the general heat and stuffiness has a noticeable impact on my ability to get a full night of sleep this time of year. Now, staying horizontal much past 630 is actually a challenge, as by that point I’m usually wide awake. It’s been like this essentially every year I’ve been out here. There isn’t quite enough floor space in the bedroom to support another portable air conditioner, either.

Once upon a time, I swapped my bedroom and living room around to solve a noise-related issue, as I was essentially sleeping under the stairwell at the entrance to an apartment building. Might consider doing that this time just for the heat, but then I have to figure out how to keep the bedroom from overheating due to electronics…

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