Grandpa

Saying goodbye to my grandpa, and confronting death in my own life.

My grandpa is dying right now.  He was diagnosed with late stage cancer about a month ago, and he was given 2 months to live by the doctors.  He went downhill extremely fast, he was up and about a month ago and today he’s in hospice on his death bed.

Hospice is a terrifying place.  Hospice is where people go to die.  The staff make the patients as comfortable as possible, but it’s for terminally ill people.  My grandma called me the other day and said that grandpa was taking a turn for the worse.  I knew his disease was winning, but I wasn’t prepared for bad it was.  I went in to see him yesterday and as I was making my way towards his room, I could see sick and dying people left and right in their rooms.  My wife is a nurse so she’s more accustomed to this kind of environment, but I was woefully unprepared for this.

When we finally got in to his room, I didn’t recognize the person on the bed.  Grandpa was always a slender man, but now he is literally skin and bones.  When I say that, I’m not exaggerating.  He looks like someone stretched skin over his skeleton.  His eyes are clouded over and glassy, his skin is loose, and his breathing is labored.  Every breath he takes is in great gulping breathes, as if the only energy his body has left is to desperately suck air in.  He’s almost completely unresponsive anything, including our voices or our hands on his head.  I knew that he was dying, but I had no idea what that actually looks like, outside of movies.  Death is horrifying.  My sweet old grandpa is unrecognizable, and he honestly looks like a monster in a horror movie. I don’t say that to be insensitive, I’m just shocked at how agonizing dying from cancer really is.

I’ve heard that having a baby really hammers home your own mortality.  I haven’t had that experience yet, but seeing my grandpa in this way had the same affect.  I’m very sad for my grandpa, but this experience has made me think a lot about my own mortality.  I know that’s a selfish response in light of his imminent passing, but it’s true.  Death is scary, and I want to protect my child from it.  My grandpa will pass in the next day or two, most likely.  He’ll never know his grandchild, and that makes me really sad.  I just hope that my wife and I do him proud, and raise a child that he’d be proud to call him grandpa.

Anxiety

Worried about parenthood.

My wife is 30 weeks pregnant now, as of a few days ago.  I’m getting pretty nervous.  When we first got pregnant, 9 months seemed so far away.  Slowly time has crept up on us, and our baby is right around the corner.  The pregnancy is high risk, so the doctor won’t allow it to go past 38-39 weeks.  That means I have probably roughly 2 months until our baby is here.

I feel like I’m at the top of a roller coaster.  I’m excited for what the baby means, but it’s just been me and my wife for 6 years.  We had a lot of freedom before she got pregnant.  If we wanted to take off for the weekend, we just did it.  Or if we decided we wanted to go out to the bars and stay out all night, that wasn’t a problem.  With the baby, all of that goes away.  I’m very happy and excited, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m also apprehensive and nervous about the change in lifestyle and responsibility.

I doubt that anyone can be fully prepared for life as a parent, but I feel woefully under prepared right now.  The crib still isn’t’ finished, I haven’t finished reading all the parenting books, our house is a mess, and I haven’t finished all the house projects I wanted to before the baby got here.  I’m excited about the baby but I’m discouraged by our lack of preparation.  It’ll all be fine, I think I’m just having last minute jitters.

Telecommuting

Update on my job situation.

I haven’t talked about where I’m at with my job for a while, so here’s a quick little update.

This is going to get a little techy for a minute, so if you don’t have patience for that then move along.  I’m still working as a systems admin.  I’m focused primarily on VMware and maintaining our server infrastructure.  I don’t interact with my boss very frequently, so I’m actually really enjoying my job.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that at this organization.  I’m learning a lot because our previous VMware guy left suddenly a few months back.  I’m not certified in VMware at all, so I’m learning as I go.  It’s been a lot of fun.

The baby should be here in two months or so.  Right now, my wife and I are planning to have her take 3-4 months off with the baby.  I’m going to take 2 weeks off initially, and then go back to work.  Once her time is up, I’m going to take the rest of my time.  That should be about 10 weeks total.  My plan is to seriously look for telecommuting opportunities while I’m off for 10 weeks.  I’m hoping to find some either permanent status jobs or contracted work from home.  I want to get into web development still, but I haven’t had the time or motivation recently to really dive into it.  I’m hoping that staying at home will allow me to work less, spend more time with the baby, and develop my web skills simultaneously.  And, we won’t need a babysitter so there’s that as well.

A Close Call

My wife and I went through a scare last week.

I’ve been trying to post twice a week, Wednesday and Friday.  I’ve been fairly consistent since November, but sometimes things come up.  The reason I didn’t post last Friday is because my wife texted me when I got to work that she thought something was wrong with the baby.

Apparently, the night before she hadn’t felt the baby move all evening.  She noticed it, but didn’t think too much of it.  In the morning when she woke up, the baby still wasn’t moving.  She got up, showered, had breakfast, and headed to work.  All the while the baby still wasn’t kicking.  My wife wasn’t worried too much the night before, but in the morning she became increasingly scared that something was wrong.  She had been experiencing some other weird issues recently, so after a few hours at work we decided that she should call her doctor.  When the doctor heard what was going on, he said that she should immediately go to the hospital for a full exam.  This all happened within a four hour window.

The sequence of events for me that day went like this:

  1. Go to work
  2. Get a text from my wife who has not felt the baby  move for 15 hours
  3. Frantically Google the symptoms she’s having and finding a bunch of horror stories on line
  4. Waiting for her to get service to respond to my texts
  5. Get the order from the doctor to go to the hospital
  6. Driving 30 minutes to meet my wife in the hospital
  7. Wait for the exam

In the time between getting the text from my wife and meeting her in the hospital, I had a sense of fear and panic unlike anything I’ve had as an adult.  Most of the time, my life is easy.  I don’t have things in my life that cause me to have true fear or dread.  The possibility of my wife having a late term stillbirth put a deep fear into me.  It was absolutely terrifying.  On top of my fear, I was scared for my wife.  My wife is an amazing woman, but she’s very emotional.  I didn’t know how badly she would handle a stillbirth, but it would have been a terrible reaction.

Thankfully, the baby turned out to be fine.  I don’t talk about my faith too much on this blog, but I was praying the whole time for God to save my baby.  I was terrified driving to the hospital, because I didn’t know what kind of news I was walking into.  When I walked from my car up to the hospital and into the maternity ward my legs felt like rubber.  It honestly felt like someone else was walking for me and I was just along for the ride.

When I walked into the room, I walked into good news.  I truly believe that was God intervening in my life.  However, I know that not everyone has such a good experience.  I read a lot of their stories that day on line.  What a horrifying thing to go through, my heart goes out to those whose story doesn’t end as well as mine did that day.  If you or your partner is pregnant, don’t hesitate to get checked out.

On a more positive note, I have made some progress on the crib.  I uploaded some pictures of one of the side assemblies, there are pictures below.

Crib – Cutting and Routing

Making some real progress on the crib.

I’ve been working on the crib off and on for the past few weeks.  This past weekend I finished up the cutting and the routing.  I haven’t been as active on this as I hoped, but I’m making some real progress now.

Cuts

I haven’t done much work with wood in years.  I’ve always liked it, but I never had money for the tools needed. Now that my wife and I have a stable income, I can afford the tools I couldn’t before.  Cutting the wood down to size was extremely satisfying.  Like I said it’s been a while since I’ve done a project like this, so I was really happy all my measurements were pretty accurate.  I wasn’t off by more than an 1/8 of an inch on any of the cuts.

Routing

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I’ve never used a router before, so that was really exciting for me.  I got one for christmas specifically for this project, and I used it to round over the edges of the wood I cut up.  You can see in this picture the difference before and after routing.  My wife got me a set of routing bits, so I have a lot of options for future projects as well.

It’s so satisfying doing this project because I know that my baby is going to be using this crib.  My wife loves it to, it’s definitely bringing us closer together.  Her sister is having her own baby today and we are just over 6 months, so there’s a lot of baby stuff going on in my life.

Next up in this project is to attach the slats to the rails and start assembling the four sides of the crib.  I’ll be taking pictures and I’ll post an update when I have something more to show for myself.

Mass Effect Series

An overview of the original Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect: Andromeda came out last week, and from what I hear it’s huge.  I’m sure I’ll be posting as I play through it, but I figured now is a good time to look back on the original Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect 1

I heard about Mass Effect after it came out.  Apparently, there was a lot of hype around this game before it came out, but I was still in the “honeymoon” phase of dating my wife at the time (not my actual honeymoon) so I wasn’t really paying attention to video games.  A guy at work told me about it and said I should get it.  I picked it up at Best Buy and started it that night at home.  I had just recently purchased the new Xbox 360, and I remember the resolution on the game was so high that my crappy little TV wasn’t able to render the text of the game sharply enough to read.

Mass Effect was a revelation for me.  It was a watershed moment.  It told an adult story set in an infinitely interesting universe, and showed me that video games could be made for adults.  As I mentioned above, at the time I had kind of moved beyond video games in favor of more mature pursuits.  But the first Mass Effect brought me back in a big way.

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These games are set in the nearish future, about 150 years from now.  Humanity has moved deep into galactic space and met up with several other alien civilizations. The player character Shepard is given freedom to explore the galaxy as a Specter, a champion for the human race.  The story involves Shepard discovering an alien conspiracy to kill all sentient life in the universe and preventing it from happening.  The story is great, and the characters are even better.  Tali, Garrus, Wrex, Liara, and several other characters immediately felt like real friends to me.  You recruit these human and alien allies into your crew and go on space adventures with them.  The story is interesting, but the character development and interactions with each other are really what made these games so special.  It was really astonishing to me that a video game was able to convey this level of characterization.

I’ve since found out that this game came as a reaction to the fact that Bioware lost the Star Wars license, and it clearly shows.  The game is set in space, it’s full of aliens, there’s a “force” like power called biotics, etc.  The only thing it’s missing is lightsabers.  The in game codex narrates itself as you hover over entries.  The first time I played through this game I used that codex like a book.  I listened to every single entry, hungry for every last morsel of information I could get about the Mass Effect universe. There are many choices that you make in this game that have implications on the later games in the series.  You can carry over a save file from this game into the next two and your choices are reflected in the world.

The combat, even at the time, sucked. And it definitely hasn’t aged well.  But the universe and characters are so fascinating that after we got married, I got my wife into Mass Effect.  She’s played through all the games several times over herself.  It’s really that great.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 is the best RPG I’ve ever played hands down, and probably my favorite game of all time.  I loved the world and the characters of the first Mass Effect, and when the sequel came out, I had a ridiculous amount of excitement leading up to release.  Usually when there is that much anticipation, you are never satisfied with the result.  Mass Effect 2 lived up to the anticipation and surpassed it in almost every way.

First off, all of the ally characters in your ship are interesting and have a fleshed out background.  The sense of characterization is even better in this game than the first, and the allies you get are diverse, interesting, and fully realized.  Each ally has loyalty missions that you can complete to unlock additional abilities.  These loyalty missions also flesh out more of the ally’s motivations and personality.  By the end of the game, you feel like you really know these people.  You care about them like you care about your friends.

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The combat is also vastly improved from the last game.  The first game had terrible shooting and a glut of abilities.  This game pared down the abilities and tightened up the shooting.  It is not the best shooter ever, but it is definitely competent.  It feels great to slow down time, pick off three targets with abilities, and keep shooting.

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The ending to this game is also incredible.  Throughout the game, you pick up upgrades for your ship and your allies.  There is a series of choices that you make in the final mission.  If you don’t have the ship and your allies upgraded properly, some of those allies will die.  If you make the wrong choice or send an ally to fulfill the wrong role, they will die.  I’ve heard you can even fail the mission and have everyone die.  In a series that is built on characterization and player choice, this structure is perfect.  You care about the people in the game and your choices have a direct impact on their survival.  It creates a tense and thrilling ending with high stakes, even if the last boss is kind of dumb.

Again, this game specifically really hit me hard.  I love it.  I’ve played through the whole game countless times.  I’ve unlocked every single Xbox achievement, I’ve romanced every possible character, I’ve chosen every possible combination of choices.  The storytelling and the characters in this game is, for me, the gold standard for what video games can achieve.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3  was a letdown.  The returning characters were great as always, but I did not connect with any of the new allies.  The story was also a big bummer.  The ending was ridiculous and tropey.  The biggest strength of the first two games was in their writing and their characterization.  The story in this game went into some weird spirituality thing that didn’t make any sense in the Mass Effect universe.  And the final decision Shepard made was so large and far reaching in the Mass Effect canon that the next game in the series had to move to a new galaxy to avoid the ramifications.  The thing that I loved about the first two games was missing in Mass Effect 3.  The storytelling and the characterization that I fell in love with was gone.  Or more accurately, it was intermittent.

The choices you made in the first two games certainly had resolution, but a lot of that resolution felt forced.  It felt almost like the developers felt pressured to have Shepard run into everyone he had met over the course of two games and have some kind of interaction.  It didn’t feel natural to me. Some of it was good though, in particular the resolution of the genophage side story.

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The side missions in this game are also terrible, and an indication of where Bioware was headed.  Your quest log fills up very quickly with meaningless fetch quests, and they are often obtained by running by someone on the citadel.  There’s very little in the way of meaningful, interesting side content in the game.  When you’re racing around picking up 10 “somethings” that some nameless NPC asked you to pick up (without even having a Mass Effect conversation), it drains any fun out of the side quests.  This was also reflected in Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game they put out a few years later.  That game is filled with filler side content that adds almost nothing meaningful to the game.  I don’t have anything written up for the new Mass Effect: Andromeda yet, but unfortunately it looks like that trend has continued into that game as well.

It’s not all bad though.  The combat in this game is the best out of any of the games.  The shooting was as tighter than the last game, which I felt was the only weakness in Mass Effect 2.  It also made the new multiplayer component really fun.  The multiplayer is made up of co-op, wave based survival maps.  You and several other players survive wave after wave of enemies. If the shooting was weak, this multiplayer would have been terrible.  Thankfully, it’s probably the bright spot in this game.

Summary

The first Mass Effect trilogy is great.  The storytelling and characterization in the first two games is unparalleled, and while the third game forgot what made the first two great, it’s still worth the time to play through.  Mass Effect 2 is probably my favorite game of all time, so if you like sci-fi and shooting, I can’t recommend this trilogy enough.

Crib Measurements

Finally started working on the crib for my baby.

The season is starting to change, meaning my garage isn’t a refrigerator anymore.  I’ve had the lumber for the crib for a couple months now, and a combination of cold weather and procrastination has prevented me from getting to work.  Now that spring is (kind of) here, my wife is on me to get this crib done.  I have all the tools I need, so yesterday after work I got started.  I’m using three different kinds of lumber, pictured below.

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As you can see, my garage is a bit cramped right now.  I’m going to be updating the blog on how this project goes.  My wife is certainly excited that I’m getting started.  I really liked shop in school, but I’ve never taken on a project this big as an adult.  I’m excited and hopeful, but I’m absolutely willing to throw in the towel if what I build isn’t safe.  We’ll get a crib at Target if this goes poorly, lol.