mom walk

do you wanna hear about the deal?

I just discovered i need to take 7 days holiday before the end of the year. I have 12 stocked up, but 5 i can carry over. For some reason i thought i wasn't contractually allowed to take annual leave in the first six months of employment, but turns out i could and i didn't, so now i need to jam a bunch of vacation into the coldest, shittiest part of the year.

So tomorrow i will take a day off to decide how best to take the other six days i'm supposed to take off.

In reality i shall lie in bed with a hangover.

It occurred to me, as i went down the elevator to pick up a few early morning beers from the 24 hour convenience store in my building, that being an illegal drug addict requires putting down roots.

I mean, if you want beer, you can get it 24/7 in most civilized counties. (My adopted country of Canada is not a civilized country - at least not Ontario, where you need to make sure to keep a Beer Guy on call to deliver during the many hours of the week when the government liquor stores are closed.)

Wait. Un-parenthesize that, because that's exactly my point. In Ontario, if you want to be an alcoholic, you need to have a Beer Guy.

I can't remember how i ended up with my Beer Guy. I think i might've gotten a business card from some random at a sketchy afterhours. (Yeah, they got afterhours too, because fuck Ontario.) One dry Sunday i called for a two-four (Canadian slang for 24 beers = a carton), buddy showed up with the gear and became my guy. He delivered late night, weekends, all the times that the government liquor stores were not open. We built up a relationship where he knew my usual orders, he'd let me know when he wasn't going to be in town that weekend, all that stuff. I suppose it was technically illegal, but i am sure he was sourcing from the government liquor stores, so they got their cut regardless.

Illegal drug dealers are the same as the Beer Guy, minus the government cut.

You don't just rock up in a new town and find an illegal drug dealer. Perhaps if you head down to skid row you can get some shitty heroin, or you can go to some hippie district and score some shitty pot, but if you want something less pedestrian then you have to find a proper dealer. You might obtain some pills or powder at a nightclub, but it's not really going to be high quality or habit-forming until you have a proper dealer. And you won't find a proper dealer till you settle down.

I think this is how i ended up becoming an alcoholic by default. Dealers are a pain in the ass to find. And, unless you live in a shitty place like Ontario, you don't need a dealer for beer.

Anywho, my rambling point is that i think one of the ways i have limited my addiction is to live in countries that sell alcohol 24/7. It's a good enough substitute for much better drugs that are much more of a pain in the ass to source.

Occasionally it occurs to me that perhaps not everyone is the same as me. Like, i think about this every time i buy alcohol. I think, "my, this is a shit drug". Then i think, "but it's legal, so meh". The hassle is less. Don't need to know people. Don't need to put down roots. I guess bourgeois folks don't think about that when they are picking out their latest Bordeaux or IPA.

I give money to homeless alcoholics because i get it.

I will probably be one too someday.

Anyway, today's drunken song is Kate Bush. I was a kid when this song came out and i hated it. I hated it 10 years later and 20 years later, even as all my friends held her up as a genius. For many years the only Kate Bush i liked was Utah Saints - Something Good. But now i am old, and i like Kate Bush. Am i finally "adult contemporary"?

Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill

Fuck, this is a really good song, even though it is straight as an arrow.
mom walk

what is acid?

Acid heads are an unloved demographic in the rave scene.

You see, we love acid music, but nobody else loves acid music. Not even the musicians.

Here is some psychedelic acid music. The Green Nuns Of The Revolution - Klunk, from 0:40 to 2:30.

Here is some London acid music. Magnum Force - Unlucky Punk, from 5:50 to to 8:00.

Here is some Brighton acid music. Pizzaman - The Feeling, from 3:00 to 6:00.

Here is some Hamburg acid music. U96 - Brainkiller, from 0:00 to 0:59. And again from 2:35 to 3:40 (one of my favorite acid sequences of all time btw).

Yes, this is very 90s slanted because i am almost 40 and the fuck. This is my drunken reminiscing. But still. You can listen to modern electronic music today and the same thing happens all over the place.

Acid is injected for tiny little fragments of the song, like it's nothing more than a novelty, the guitar solo of techno. And, you know, that's shit. Acid is the best goddamn bit of techno, exactly like guitar solos are the best goddamn bit of rock music. The 303 deserves front billing, for fuck's sake.

It is very sad that not all rock music is solos and not all techno music is acid.

No acid no likey.

Here is some shameless all acid all the time that i think i haven't posted before. It is from the same era as the above songs. Utrecht acid music, in the spirit of Chicago. Random XS - Zuur.

That is all.
mom walk

I wish i were more like Anne

I wanted to write about Anne of Green Gables.

As a child i remember having one of those illustrated, abridged versions, but i don't remember anything about the story. Perhaps i never read it.

I read it the first time for real only 10 years ago.

My best friend at the time was M, a former competitive swimmer with a shaved head and shoulders wide as a house. Her life had been derailed by PTSD, depression and a string of suicide attempts. Her parents were preachers, off in the Northwest Territories somewhere spreading their vile, homophobic brand of Christianity. She had dropped out of college and was living in a women's shelter. We met at the boxing gym.

When i was hospitalized during a particularly bad episode of manic depression, she came to visit a few times. She loved young adult fiction, and loaned me her copy of Anne of Green Gables.

I loved it. Anne was so wholesome and positive and able to face the worst situations far better than i, or M, or anyone we knew could. Anne gave me hope. She gave me strength. Anne wasn't enough for M, who committed suicide later that year.

Recently the CBC started a new televised version of Anne of Green Gables, which i think is also on Netflix.

It is such a good show.

What the writers have done is taken the story of Anne, and kept her as a cheerful orphan adopted by aging siblings in rural PEI, but modernized it by making her a social justice warrior too. This Anne lives in 19th century Canada with people who are gay and black and indigenous. She witnesses their oppression, as well as the oppression of her fellow women, and it pains her. Like the Anne of the books, she strives to open the minds and the hearts of the people around her.

Mostly, she succeeds.

This season has had a particularly poignant storyline about the Indian residential school system, which is one of the most shameful parts of Canadian history. For those who don't know: from the early 1800s the government forcibly removed indigenous children from their families and sent them off to Christian boarding schools, where the Indian was beaten out of them. Many died. This might be the one time Anne won't be able to help set things right. In the real world, the abuse continued right into the 1990s.

But this season also has the teen melodrama of Anne realizing that she really is in love with Gilbert after all. There is a metoo storyline. There is a bit on freedom of the press. Contemporary issues are woven through everything.

Through it all is the fierce optimism of Anne, her unwavering belief in doing the right thing and seeking justice and liberty for all. Living here in a fascist state, watching all the shit going on everywhere else in the world, it makes me despair. But in Anne's world things will be alright.

It's a total feel-good show, one i can heartily recommend for anyone feeling blue.

It won't stop you feeling blue, but it'll help you forget for a bit.
mom walk

trying another rotation

Tomorrow at work i am turning a page.

I left my previous job because there was an abusive boss and lots of shady shit going on, but i didn't want to take "any" job, i wanted to work at a place with colleagues who cared about engineering things that were really good.

My new job with a vaguely hip European unicorn seemed like it'd be that place. I thought i'd get the European startup experience here in China. But, as it turned out, most of my colleagues did not apply to work at a European startup. They were working at the Chinese megacorp that bought the European startup, then got transferred over to work in an outsourcing arrangement. Many have opted to come on full time because they like working 40 hours and getting 4 weeks of holiday each year, but it still creates a mindset gap between them and the people who applied through our standard interview process.

The issue i have been facing is how to bring a passion for building great software to a team that is both culturally (as in company culture, not ethnic culture) and linguistically separated from the rest of the company. While the engineers in Europe go to conferences and contribute to open source and gladly tackle some really tough technical problems, people here just do whatever the boss tells them to do, and that's the end.

My team is under a manager who has never managed before, and his manager who is completely set in that outsource-y project management way of doing things. That is, the only thing that matters is the goals and deadlines set by the product team, and if an employee does not spend 100% of their time appearing to work to achieve those goals, then they are a poor return on investment.

Now, i get we are not running a daycare, and it's important for employees to generate revenue. But we are a fucking tech unicorn, owned by a Chinese megacorp with a 20 billion dollar market cap on the NASDAQ. We're not gonna fail if the cheapest 10% of the engineering staff takes the time to build good systems to underpin their features.

Anyway, unlike my colleagues, i challenged management on their waffling. I told them i wanted to solve hard technical problems and get an awesome product out the door, not sit in meetings tossing around a hot potato. I spent the last couple months building a piece of infrastructure that will not only enable our own features, but help other teams to deliver on theirs as well.

So it really chafed to be told that even though i am contributing to the company outside the team, i am not pulling my weight on my own team's business goals. The reason my management chain sees it this way is because they have spent months arguing with another management chain over who should own the core engineering work for our features. No manager wanted their team to take responsiblity for the foundational work, so now they're blaming me and some other engineers for independently doing work that the managers are still trying to palm off on one other. It's ridiculous.

The good news is that there is an internal mobility policy in the company, so a few months ago i said i'd like to get the ball rolling on that. Management gave me a month to see if they could change things for the better, and they didn't, so then i gave them a month to plan the transition.

Because they are a useless management chain, i was forbidden from speaking to my colleagues about it. So my teammates all found out on Friday afternoon that Monday i will be rotated onto a different team. I feel bad, but what can you do?

The team i am moving to is - thankfully - not building a brand new product, so they have a huge backlog of bugs and technical debt and bullshit to solve. There is no hot potato to toss around. There is a fucking potato avalanche and they need engineers who will roll up their sleeves and start making french fries. That's something i want to do. That's something i can do. It might not be exciting or glamorous work, but at least it's work.

This experience has only made me even more convinced that building new products is not for me. I am supremely not interested in the politics around "innovation" in large companies. All that posturing to get allocated resources or trying to slice and dice features to fit into business units instead of finding the right technical solution, it's such a wank. I now know i will never get a job above line management. The moment people start talking about their colleagues as return on investment, i'm out. Fuck that capitalist shit.

At least if you are working maintenance or repair you get to solve real problems, usually left by the last round of "innovators" and their minions who made a hash of it all.

Talking about this has somehow made me hungry.
mom walk

drunk posting about music and youth

Something i am a bit jealous of Gen-Zers is that i think they will have a lifetime log of their likes and dislikes.

Perhaps i am thinking too much on "old people shit" because i am about to turn 40, but lately i have been looking back in ways that aren't rose-tinted or regretful or whatever shitty way i looked back when i was younger.

My latest thing is music.

Everyone knows the myth that people get old and their music taste gets stuck in their teens or their early 20s.

That's bullshit.

That's also true.

It's bullshit in the sense that although some people get stuck forever in the music of their youth, my feeling is that most people are fairly open-minded and continue to learn about and listen to new music their whole lives.

However. I do believe that nothing will ever affect you like it did in your teens and early 20s. Or, fuck, early 30s. Whatever.

The point is that music is like a tattoo. You get it at a certain point in your life, and then every subsequent point in your life you look at (or hear) it, you're reminded of the original moment that you got it.

Case in point.

I will never love like i did with T. She was The One. She continued to be The One through subsequent relationships and even a marriage to someone else, but fuck, whatever. Point is, i listen to certain songs by certain artists and i am right fucking back there. Instantly. It triggers exactly that emotion when i thought she was all that'd ever make my life work out.

Other songs, by other artists, they're tied to other people.

Some stuff is tied to noone in particular, just my own history. These days i tend to listen mostly to that stuff. It's less emotionally complicated.

Which isn't to say i don't burst into tears at the beauty of some songs anyways.

(Dear readers who do not listen to techno music. When ravers say "songs" it just means a track, a tune. For me personally, the best songs include zero singing. Language confuses things. Synthesizers express pure human emotion. Etc.)

Anyway. Fucking tangent.

My point was that music is time travel. But it's subjective. If i want to look back at the songs that i loved the most when i was 35, or 30, or 25, or 20, i can't. What i think i liked back then is perhaps not what i actually liked back then. I can try to collate qualitative information from LJ or old emails, but it's not really objective metrics about how much i actually played the fucking song.

For techno subgenres i have a pretty clear progression of faves. I know it becuase i bought it. There were periods where i didn't buy much (or any) music, but just seeing what i did buy from age 15 up until i stopped buying music a few years ago exposes some common threads. The most important thread is acid music and the TB-303 synthesizer.

But for pop? Pop is the stuff that even if you hate because it's "too commercial" you still end up hearing it in the shops or at friends' houses or whatever.

And, as you get older, pop is the only music you will ever hear that reminds you of your youth. Even at "retro" rave parties, they don't play the weird quirky stuff of the era, they only play the hits.

The older you get, the more everything turns to pop.

Young people, please do not believe that everyone over 30 doesn't get underground music. We fucking do. We just saw our own underground music disappear in a puff of dollars. Now the only thing that remains from our youth culture is the garbage fire commercial takes that we hated back then just as much as you do now. But that's all we got.

What i wonder is if the young people of today will have a better insight into their youth because of big data? Will a kid from today be able to go back and check their top Spotify tunes of 2019 and get a better insight into their youth than i can get into my teenage years?

Eh. Probably not. I dunno if it really matters what the data says happened. It matters how you felt it.
mom walk

The Firday Five for 8 November 2019: Durnk

1. What could you do for an hour or so today that you would really enjoy doing?

Drink. Definitely drink more beers.

2. What could you do for an hour today that might improve your life in the future?

Not drink.

3. What could you do for an hour today that could strengthen or improve a skill you would like to be able to rely on?

I could sign up for HSK4 (Chinese certification), but i won't because see above.

4. What could you do for an hour today that would make your living space more pleasant to live in?

I already did! A couple hours ago i knocked over the folding table that one of our concierges "kindly" donated to me when they saw that i had literally no furniture in my house other than the bed that came with the house. The folding table had been annoying me in my sober state, but i suppose if you're drunk and knock shit over then why not fold it up and go to the top floor to dump it.

Y'all. Did you know that the 12th floor elevator stop literally opens out to a fucking rooftop? I did not know this. I took the folding table up to the open air rooftop. One side i could see the village. Other side i could see the university. Mountains around. We're in a bit of a bubble here, isolated from the rest of the city. This is the bestest part of Shenzhen. I came to that conclusion after i decided not to throw myself off the roof.

Anyway, i realized i was on the wrong level so i went down to 11, which is where all the abandoned furniture goes, but it was pitch black so i could not see if i should adopt another furniture to replace the folding table i dropped off. I dunno, whatever. I'm fine with leaving all my shit on the floor in my apartment. I guess just other people think that's weird.

5. What could you do for an hour today that would improve your relationships with loved ones?

I don't have any loved ones, and that's the goddamn greatest. Life is miserable when you owe people.
mom walk

conversations from the street

The last few weeks i have headed to the same 烧烤 (shāo kǎo) joint in my village. You know you are developing a "home" when the vendor sees you walking up the alley and already preps a plastic tray for you to put your selections.

(Shaokao means there is a wide variety of raw produce skewered on bamboo sticks, you pick the sticks you want and give it to the guy at the bbq, he asks how much spice you want, then he grills it over charcoal. It's all outside in the open air. The dishes arrive at your table one by one while you get drunk on cheap beer served in disposable plastic cups.)

So i am at the shaokao joint, sitting on a plastic stool, and it's not too busy because it's "cold" tonight in Shenzhen (23°C). The runner opens my beer then sits down opposite me and starts asking about my job and whatnot.

I told her where i work and she was all like "waaa", because it's one of the signature skyscrapers featured in Shenzhen propaganda videos. She said it's so nice there and bla bla platitudes. I said it's shit and there's a reason why i live in an urban village over 10km away. Perhaps the apartments near my work are beautiful, but how would anyone know? They're million dollar properties. US dollar, not Hong Kong dollar. That's more than most Chinese will earn in their entire lifetimes.

I said working in a neighborhood with a bunch of idle rich means that there is no culture, no community. Most of the apartments are empty. I tried to explain that the whole place feels artificial, but the best i could do was 假 (jiǎ), which means "fake". Perhaps that's more accurate.

I said apartments in Shenzhen cost the same as apartments in other major world cities, but the salary here is less. The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. She agreed with that. Bbq man stepped out from behind the grill long enough to say: "you know how it is in China? They're all up there," he gestured to the sky, "and we're all down here," pointing at his knees. Then he shrugged and went back to grilling, because what you gonna do?

This is the fucked up reality. I prefer to live in working class or lower middle class areas because i find the upper middle class to be insufferable. But bbq man wasn't wrong when he pointed out that even an upper middle class software developer like me somehow has more in common with a "low class" street vendor than these motherfuckers in the condos upstairs from my office. Fuck, they don't even walk past me in the lobby. Private elevator to the underground parking lot, get in the Porsche and go.

The runner talked to me about how it isn't fair in China. If you don't have money, then you can't go to a good university. If you don't go to a good university, you can't get a good job. If you don't get a good job, you can't afford "hukou" (legal residence in the city), which means you do not get healthcare and you cannot send your kids to school. So either you send your kids back to the countryside for public education, or you pay for a shady private school in the city. Either way they never get educated properly. They never make it to university. The cycle continues.

The runner said in her hometown only a handful of kids made it to university.

As i have learned from conversations with other Chinese from small towns, it's not just about being the top 1% of the top 1% of students. It's also about parents giving kickbacks to the teachers and the cadres to make sure their kid's results shuffle up to the top of the pile.

In middle class urban China kids "just" need to be the top of the class to succeed, but in rural China, parents need to pay a whole chain of corrupt pipers to get them out. And even then, it's usually only to a bargain basement university that no employer in the big cities takes seriously.

So it goes.

Get drunk. Eat bbq. Feel grateful that at least you're not still breaking your back tilling the fields. The rich live in another world, just across the way. It's unusual that a foreigner comes over this side of the tracks, but here i am. Getting drunk. Eating bbq.

mom walk

story of a totally unbiased citizen

Protestors: Can the government withdraw this extradition bill?
Police: *shoots at protestors*

Protestors: Can the government also open an inquiry into police brutality?
Police: *arrests protestors*

Protestors: How about that inquiry into police brutality?
Triad: *beats protestors*
Police: ...

Protestors: Police brutality?
MTR: *shuts down services to aid the police*
Police: *beats protestors*

Protestor: *throws a molotov*
Police: *shoots a protestor*

Protestors: So, can we get that inquiry into police brutality now?
Government: *bans face masks to aid the police*
Police: *shoots another protestor*

Protestors: ...

Capitalists: Gosh, these protests sure are hurting our bottom line.
Government: Yes, these protests are hurting innocent, hardworking people.
Police: We are indeed all victims. If only they would stop protesting, we wouldn't be forced to beat them.

Totally unbiased citizen: I am very fair and balanced. There is good and bad on both sides. Therefore, the protestors must stop the violence.
Protestors: Great! Now, let's hold the police accountable and open that inquiry we asked for 4 months ago.

Totally unbiased citizen: ...
mom walk

hardcore till i die

I'm not sure what happened to me after Golden Week. The annoying thing about the reshuffling of the weekends, is that the next week when you go back to work again, you don't get a proper weekend. So i worked Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday off, back on Monday for another week. Then the next weekend after that i was in recovery for not having a full weekend the week before.

The older i get, the more having to do five days a week wipes me out. I need two days just to recover from the five. I have no energy to do anything at all on those two days. I just lie at home in bed. Laundry and groceries. That's it. So throw in a couple of one-day weekends and i am toast for a month.

One of the pieces of good news is that they finally opened the river walk slash greenway to cyclists. When they first opened on National Day, there were security guards stationed at every entrance and exit turning back cyclists.

This is the weird way new parks open in China. First the land is all scruffy and polluted and there are squatters and chickens and mangy dogs. Everyone goes in and does whatever, including littering and trashing the place because human beings are terrible. Then the government fences it off completely while they build a park. Then they do a "soft open" with security guards everywhere. Cycling, fishing, loitering, photography, it's all banned. During the soft open it seems the only people they want inside are high class types who do nothing but walk children and compare designer jogging outfits. I guess that's when the party members do their stroll-through to self-congratulate and talk about Xi's Chinese dream and what a civilized society they are building. Eventually the security guards taper off and the atmosphere loosens up till it becomes a normal park.

It's remarkable that i've seen the cycle happen several times already in just a couple of years of living here. Shenzhen is gentrifying at a blistering pace.

The up-side is that i can now ride a share-bike almost 10km along the river without having to get cut off by yet another fucking asshole in a Porsche SUV who thinks being rich gives them right of way. These folk are marginally less annoying in their running shoes and yoga gear. Traffic aside, it sure is nice to be able to pedal non-stop for 30 minutes to the smell of flowers and cut grass. I think it'll chill me out.

Still gotta work, though, hey. I really wish i could live where i want and do what i want without having to be employed. I feel like my life since i left Canada is just... some months of living happy and carefree and traveling about... then years of unremarkable work... then snatching a few more months of joy.

In January work is flying me back to the UK. I feel guilty for flying, but i feel less guilty if work pays for it. Because it's another business trip i might not have a lot of freedom, but i am going to try wangling a holiday on the end there. Holidaying in China is much cheaper than holidaying in the UK, but it seems like a waste to fly all the way over there for just a couple days in the office.

I'll be 40 in February. It might be amusing to visit the town of my birth. It's probably hideous. Home of the British Army. Origin of happy hardcore legends Hixxy and Sharkey. Bonkers!

Sharkey - The Awakening
mom walk

gotta live, gotta live, gotta live

I was trying to remember the first time the coppers really made me resent them.

We were sitting in a garage at my dad's place in Christchurch New Zealand. I don't remember what year, but it was early/mid 90s. I was on Christmas holiday. I was a young teen who had just discovered techno music and clubbing in Europe. I was all metrosexual and bleach blonde and gaunt as fuck. My mullet had been shaved a couple years earlier. Going back to New Zealand was like going back to the stone age.

Fucking. Fucking fuck Nirvana. That was a thing that happened in the 90s. They ruined everything that was awesome about rock music, which was the theatrical campiness of it all.

Anyway, i didn't give a shit about Nirvana because by that point i was listening to techno. But that Christmas i went back to New Zealand they were listening to post-Nirvana guitar music because Kurt was dead. I remember L7 being a big thing. Also Pearl Jam.

And Live. Fucking Live. We drank a lot of bourbon and coke. That was very New Zealand, bro. Cuz. Cuzzy man bro. Bourbon and coke and drunk-driving shitbox cars round a small town. Going fishing. Smoking bowls. Y'all country folk know what i'm talking about.

We were in the garage, middle of the night, very drunk, doing what we called "spots", which was taking hash and pressing it between two knives heated red-hot on the BBQ, then sucking that smoke up through a cut-off 2L coke bottle.

Like, i fucking hate pot, but i was a kid and when you're a kid you'll do anything that gets you high. You gotta try it all till you figure out your drug of choice, i guess.

Spoiler: my drug of choice is most assuredly not marijuana.


We were singing along to Live - Shit Towne. It was fucking anthemic.

Listening to it 25 years later... bro. Cuzzy man bro. It's still pretty epic, ay. I don't live in a shit town any more, but gettin' drunk in my own damn apartment in a city of 20 mill, i can remember exactly how it felt to be young and stuck in a suburban/country hell hole screaming "gotta live, gotta live, gotta live, SHIT TOWN!" with my buds.

Anyway, yeah. The cops showed up and gave us a right talking to. I guess they couldn't be bothered arresting anyone that day. We had enough white people to balance out the Maori bros. They told us to turn it down.

We didn't.


PS. I know i haven't written recently. It will come. Golden Week messed up my whole routine. Work is killing me. Bla bla. Gotta live, gotta live, gotta live.