Posts from 09/2022

Friday, September 02, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

a lighter shade of blue by Christina Perri:
Christina Perri's newest album sounds like a remix of the most inoffensive parts of her previous albums. I've listened to it multiple times but none of it gets stuck in my head.

Final Grade: C+

Motorheart by The Darkness:
Not as good as Last of Our Kind or Easter is Cancelled, but full of pleasant glam rock anthems. Justin Hawkins' falsetto is as strong as it was 15 years ago.

Final Grade: B-

Brooklyn 99, Season Seven:
This season feels a little tired and tedious, but thankfully, it's only 13 episodes long. I enjoyed it enough to keep watching the next and final season. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B-

Only Murders in the Building, Season Two:
The second season of this show shows no dip in quality from the first. The characters remain charming and idiosyncratic. There's a slight misstep in the casting of a celebrity living in the penthouse that just feels out of place (especially compared to the person living there last season), but it thankfully doesn't take over the whole season. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B+

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day in history

Monday, September 05, 2022

Pandemic Retrospective, Part IV of IV

February 2022 - Today

After almost two years of cautious living, COVID finally sluiced through our family in February 2022. Maia caught it first in an outbreak at her masked preschool. Ian and I were next, followed a week later by Rebecca. Our cases were mild, a fast fever followed by upper respiratory soreness and congestion. I, myself, never even tested positive in an at-home test. After a couple days of lying on the couch watching The Floor is Lava or playing Dance Dance Mario Mix on our ancient GameCube, Maia was totally back to normal.

Life after COVID simplified dramatically, not unlike a fraction with even numbers. Maia, the last unprotected family member, showed no long-term symptoms and now had some natural immunity. Meanwhile, the ever mercurial Ian was developing a super fun personality as he learned to walk and reached one year of age. We worried less about keeping him fed, changed, sleeping, and happy and could focus more on sharing his first experiences. It was this spring that we finally felt comfortable saying that we were "done" with pandemic planning -- we still masked indoors based on community spread and gladly followed the rules of stricter friends, but we no longer approached every social gathering with strategic scheming and tiresome mitigations.

Were all of the pandemic measures we chose to follow over the past two years worth it? Speaking solely for myself, an unequivocal yes. This was a novel event that caused over a million deaths and created over two hundred thousand orphans in the United States alone. It revealed systemic problems in our society, like the weaponization of misinformation, the rickety nature of our supply chains, and the unsustainable burdens put on critical jobs like teachers and nurses. I'm a laptop jockey that can make a living wage sitting in the basement writing utter tripe each day -- since I had the privilege of enduring the pandemic without true physical hardship, I felt like I also had the responsibility to act more cautiously for the less fortunate who lacked such flexibility.

We avoided getting sick in those uncertain early periods where hospital capacity was limited and there were more unknowns than knowns. When we finally caught COVID, we were protected from more serious conditions by vaccines developed at a miraculous rate that have not caused any long-term side effects in us or anyone we know. We definitely missed out on a lot more of life than others, but doing so to protect the vulnerable (friends, family, and people we may never even meet) was a fair trade-off for me. (Ironic footnote: The vaccine for four-year-olds was approved just 3 weeks before Maia turned 5).

Conclusion

I finally had the energy and clear headspace to recognize and counteract my unhealthy patterns this summer. Over the past two years, I had fallen into a routine where I was figuring out which logistical gates to open to get to the end of the day as easily as possible, rather than truly appreciating the passing hours. I may have gone into survival mode to ride out quarantine life, but I clearly used the raising of an infant as an excuse to stay there.

While it's satisfying to sculpt your past into an "origin story" that justifies your present circumstances, constantly retelling this story just gives you an excuse to avoid the hard work of improving yourself. I was definitely guilty of this evasion tactic as a single guy in search of a scapegoat for why I was single -- it took me far too long to learn that I had to understand and correct my own shortcomings instead of blaming things outside of my control. It's important to use your past as a springboard for growth and change rather than a comfortably uncomfortable jail cell.

Here are three of the changes I'm adopting in hopes of breaking my pandemic bad habits:

  1. Don't Just Show Up: Tiredness is no longer a valid excuse to avoid new experiences -- I'm the parent of two small kids so I'm going to be tired at the end of the day regardless. So, I'm trying to be more present and involved in social settings. I'm trying to favor choices that enrich my family life instead of always prioritizing what will be easiest for me. For example, we took the family on an airplane to visit my sister's family in Rhode Island in August and it was an exhausting blast.
  1. Recalibrate My Attention Span: My ability to focus, already weakened by raising kids with a ubiquitous smart phone, greatly decreased during the bland sameness of the past two years. I'm trying to bring long-form reading back into my daily routine and avoid doomscrolling on my phone while in the bathroom or waiting in lines. I'm trying to improve my short-term memory, multitask less, and give my brain the space for boredom (because that's when my creativity is the highest).

  2. Be Active in My Community: I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum from an activist. I don't see the value in protest marching and I will never corner you at a party in an attempt to change your mind about some issue. However, I still feel the desire to contribute more directly towards holding our society together. I'm trying to put myself out there more (see also, this essay) and be the type of person I'd want to be friends with. I'm trying to listen to more differing viewpoints to unearth the commonalities that tie us all together. For example, I joined our HOA this year as a hyperlocal way to get involved. Ian and I take two-mile walks through the neighbourhood a few times per week to gain the visceral appreciation for our community that I can't get from inside my car. We also pick up litter as we go, and we've never come home with less than 3 liters of bottles and fast-food wrappers. It's a powerful reward to see immediate improvements around you through your direct efforts.

This four-part essay is an anomaly. It's totally off-brand for me to share anything this real about myself. In a social or work setting, I'm usually the quietly competent can of WD-40 that keeps everything running smoothly and makes everyone else around me smarter or funnier. It would have been much easier for me to write nothing at all.

The reason I chose to publish this is my strong belief that, in the face of divisive, isolating social media, it's important for us all to make real connections. Check in with your old friends. Wave at your neighbour in spite of their questionable bumper stickers. Be open and vulnerable within your close circles and allow them the same opportunity. Your engagement doesn't have to be a spectacle, like a Livejournal blog circa 2003 -- it just has to be real. We're all a part of the same world. We aren't designed to thrive antisocially, and we're all a bit better off when we take care of each other.

Thank you for listening!

Other posts in this series: Part I: Introduction | Part II: March - October 2020 | Part III: November 2020 - January 2022 | Part IV: February 2022 - Today, and Conclusion

tagged as deep thoughts | permalink | 4 comments
day in history

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Easy Photos Day

Eating sweet corn cooked over the fire in Taylorstown.


Helping Rebecca shop for clothes online.


His first trip to a farm full of animals and he doesn't want to leave the toy tractors.


The animals at Frying Pan Farm were in high form, since we arrived right around feeding time.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Friday, September 09, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Will of the People by Muse:
It's hard to believe that these guys have been making music for over 20 years now. Their 9th studio album is a lot of fun -- it sounds as if they took the most effective styles and sounds (more hard rock and less EDM) and reused them to make brand new songs. The result feels a little like a fake Greatest Hits album. You Make Me Feel Like It's Halloween is an example of the bombastic sound with over-the-top lyrics that I enjoy.

Final Grade: B+

Brooklyn 99, Season Eight:
The bulk of this final season feels like a misfire. Written after the social justice events of 2020, it tries hard to be both serious and funny but fails. Not even the addition of John C. McGinley can prevent me from feeling like I'm being preached at in some of the episodes. That said, the series finale is pitch-perfect. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B-

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season One:
I gave this show another shot after abandoning it a decade ago. I got through the entire first season but it's still not my cup of tea. I get why people love and quote it, but I just don't have any interest in watching horrible people be horrible. On Hulu.

Final Grade: C

Mario Party Superstars (Switch):
There's a ton of Mario Party content in this compilation. Unfortunately the pacing of the experience is horrible -- too many setup options, too many dialog boxes, and too many distractions from the actual party game.

Final Grade: C

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day in history

Monday, September 12, 2022

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

6:03 AM: Up and ready for work.
6:23 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
6:51 AM: Off to the bus stop in 95% humidity.
7:08 AM: Preliminary sketches for today's Business Development tip.
7:35 AM: The final product.
9:50 AM: Working.
10:58 AM: Leftover molasses-braised flank steak for lunch.
12:44 PM: Home early because a bug flew in her ear and wouldn't come out (the 2nd bug to fly in there in her lifetime).
3:00 PM: Family time in Maia's room.
5:07 PM: Time to start a puzzle.
5:24 PM: Dinner from Joe's.
6:28 PM: Final lap in a live-action Mario Kart race.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Maia's 12 of 12

Maia's perspective on life (pictures taken between July 2022 and September 2022)

Maia gives Ian walking lessons:

Maia uses practical effects to make a movie about the Fire Lizard:

Daddy eats Hestu, from Breath of the Wild:

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Thursday, September 15, 2022
Monday, September 19, 2022

Easy Photos Day

Walking past the wildflowers at Claude Moore Park last Thursday.


Ian enjoying the bounce house at our neighbour's 2nd birthday party on Saturday.


Back at Lake Anne Plaza with my parents on Sunday.


First kayaking trip!

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day in history

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ian Year 1 Month 5 Battle Report

Ian has made it five months past his first birthday.

He walks well and likes climbing unsafely on chairs, tables, and high beds. Things with wheels are still his favourite and he'll always point out the wheels in books, even the books most unlikely to have cars in them. He likes picking Maia up at the bus stop in the afternoon and yelling "BUH!" when the bus rolls down the street.

He still only has 4 truly visible teeth although there have been signs of other indecisive ones near the gum line. Teething as a kid that is old enough to understand pain a bit seems rough -- he'll wake up crying in the middle of the night and won't always be able to get back to sleep.

He doesn't speak much but understands plenty. He can sign "please" and "more" and his most common real world is "nononononono". He'll wave goodbye to anyone, especially me as I disappear down the stairs to the basement office each morning. He also tries to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep and his rhythm and relative pitch is surprisingly recognizable.

He loves hanging out with Maia and doing whatever she's doing, especially crayon coloring or playing "DVD Store" with our ancient movie collection. He can get hangry very easily, but after a solid meal, he'll wander over to the bookshelf and entertain himself for a long time. If Maia watches something on TV, he'll dance to the theme song and then get bored and wander away.

His daily schedule: Up around 6:30 AM, off to Stroller Strides or the Sterling Library midmorning, an hour nap around 11 or 12, 40% chance of a half hour nap around 4:30 PM, and then in bed by 7 PM. The parent trade-off occurs sometime after I stop working for the day, usually 2 or 3 PM. Then, Rebecca will go off to work two nights per week or we'll all hang out as a family for dinner.

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments
day in history

Friday, September 23, 2022

Maia's Art Day

Even at 4 (this was painted in May), Maia was better at watercolours than I ever was.


A rare crossover fiction between Bunnytown and Cattown. They are sharing near a volcano.


This is a bunny family with a baby bunny hopping in the background. You can see the action lines.


Maia drew this bunny with fancy coloured pencils at her grandparents' house.


One of Maia's first Kindergarten assignments, she decided that the squiggly line was the butt of a fish.


This is a tree at sunset. The tree was handcrafted and artisanally cut by Maia as well.

tagged as offspring, media | permalink | 1 comment
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