Happy Holidays!

December 23rd, 2013


Every year, I think we should do a nice Christmas card or something. Everybody else with kids somehow manage to do it. I have no idea how, though. For one thing, it’s rare when we’re all awake together. And when we are, someone is often bawling in tears. Usually, it’s the kid.

But this year, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a video of singing a Christmas carol with the boy. There were a few minor details that I did not count on:

  • Dyson does not know these songs very well.
  • Neither do I.
  • He is more interested in taking funny pictures with the computer than he is in singing.

Yes, He’s My Son

December 15th, 2013

MeAndDysonRockBandI recently saw a great article by a woman who found herself constantly asked, “Is that your baby?” As another parent of a biracial kid, it’s also something I’ve heard a lot. And I felt a lot of the same frustrations that she did. But one thing that’s different is that there’s no underlying connotation that I might be the nanny, since nannies don’t tend to be male.

It got me thinking about context, though. The same thing can be said to two different people, but it might have a much different impact based on their past experiences. I recently saw an article about the stigma about dating asian men (especially if they’re short) that really hit home because I certainly have a lot of insecurities related to that.

I wondered, though, how much of it is just based on how I interpret things? I try to judge each interaction on its own merits but I’ve got to say, it’s hard to ignore a lifetime of patterns.

On Being Male

December 1st, 2013


The other day, someone came up to me and said, “You look like a girl.” I considered taking the opportunity to launch into a lecture on the speaker’s gender-normative assumptions but it seemed a bit excessive considering that she was a ten year-old girl. So I just said, “Some boys have pink hair.” And she replied, “It’s not just the hair.” Ah, youth…

Still, it got me thinking. I’ve heard similar comments often enough and mostly, I think it’s funny. But I’ve related those comments to other people and some think it’s insulting. To me, it only seems insulting if you think that women are somehow inferior to men. Although, I’m sure a lot of women would also feel insulted if they were mistaken for a woman. So maybe there’s more to it than that.

In any case, there are definitely expectations on what it is to be male or female. And sometimes, I wish I fit that a little bit better. But mostly, I think it’s funny.


November 28th, 2013


I have a lot to be thankful for this year. A great new job, a loving family, and wonderful friends. I’m particularly thankful for how much Dyson has grown up. He’s learned to count, he can kind of make peanut butter jelly sandwiches, and he’s starting to read and write.

All of this means that he’s becoming more and more independent, which is fantastic. But the thing I’m most thankful for this year? He can get up on his own to go pee in the morning.

Glass Fusing

November 16th, 2013

GlassFusingI had the opportunity to participate in a glass fusing class at The Crucible, in Oakland. The idea is to cut pieces of glass and arrange them into a pattern. Then, they toss it into an oven for 24 hours and you end up with a nice decorative tile.

I’d never done anything like it before so I wasn’t sure what to make. I settled on trying my last name “Kobayashi” in Japanese kanji.

The standard process is to cut the glass into squares and create a simple mosaic so creating pieces of glass to look like stylized brush strokes was a bit of a challenge. But I was feeling pretty good cutting and grinding that first piece of glass into the right shape until I realized I had spent a third of the time doing 1/11th of the strokes, and that wasn’t even including the background glass that had to be cut and shaped. So the rest of it was a lot more rushed.

Fortunately, I got faster the more I did it. I learned to focus on the larger shapes and not get bogged down in the details so much. I think there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

My Take on the YouTube / Google+ Integration

November 12th, 2013

RacismOnYouTubeFull disclosure: I started working for Google about a month ago (in a group completely unrelated to either YouTube or Google+). But I’ve been making videos and posting them to YouTube for far longer than that.

There are a lot of great things about the Internet. I love the fact that I can put something out there and people I’ve never even met might get some enjoyment out of it. I also understand the importance and power of anonymity.

But complete anonymity also has its drawbacks. It can be a breeding ground for some of the worst aspects of humanity: racism, misogyny, and homophobia to name just a few. Even though the large majority of comments on my videos are wonderful and supportive, there are some that are just vile. It’s especially noticeable since my family is half Black.

I understand that it’s harder to make comments on YouTube now. But if adding some accountability can help reduce the spread of hate, I think that’s a good thing.

Giant Pumpkin

October 30th, 2013

GiantPumpkinI attended a couple pumpkin carving events recently and pumpkins were supplied at both of them. The first one featured a rather large pumpkin and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it.

It was lots of fun carving something that big. It was definitely the largest pumpkin I’ve ever done and it was neat creating a larger than life-sized face. Also, it was a lot easier to carve the details.

I took Dyson to the second pumpkin carving party. Mostly he played with the other kids and stuck his head in a pumpkin, which gives me an idea for next year. Anyways, for that one, I carved a much more reasonably sized Daruma pumpkin:


New Day Job

September 12th, 2013

GoogleResearchI generally don’t talk about my day job here because my blog is ostensibly about stuff I do outside of work. But I’m about to leave a job of over a decade and start a new one in an entirely different industry, so I figured it’s worth a mention.

It all happened very suddenly. I was about to take a few weeks off from work when I was contacted by a recruiter from Google. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in talking with them. I’m not an engineer by trade so I didn’t think I was particularly qualified. But heck, I was going to be on vacation, it’d be neat to see the campus, and it was a chance to talk to some interesting folks. Also, free lunch! So I scheduled a visit to go check it out on a Monday.

Well, the Google interviews are just as intense as they’re reputed to be. You really do need to prepare. I came out of them feeling pretty good about how I did, although I thought it was also pretty clear that this isn’t what I do for a living. But that Friday, I got a call from the recruiter and she wanted to talk about the “next steps”. And I was all, like, “Whuaaaaaaahhhhh?!”

In the end, I decided that it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. The Google Research group happened to be looking for someone with a background in computer graphics, graphics languages, and photorealistic rendering, which are all things I’m familiar with. Also, it’s a chance to work on a project and with people that are completely new to me. So it’s incredibly exciting.

But it’s also hard to leave something that I’ve known for over a decade. And because of the suddenness of it all, there are a lot of “lasts” that I didn’t realize at the time. I didn’t realize that Monsters University might be the last movie I work on or that its wrap party might be the last I attend. But life is often like that. I had no idea that the last time I saw my dad would be the last. And the same goes with some friends. I recently saw Life of Pi again there’s a quote that stuck with me: “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” I realize the truth of that sentiment and I wish I’d been better about it in the past. So I’ve spent the last couple weeks trying to be cognizant of the significance of those moments.

But change is good. I feel exhilarated by the fact that it’s even possible to make this big of a change. Part of me is terrified but I know in my heart that no matter what happens, this was the right choice to make. On to the future!

Quality Time

September 3rd, 2013

AtTheParkRecently, I had an opportunity to take a few weeks off work. I was planning on working on some silly videos and iPhone projects while I was off but in the end, I hardly did any of that. Instead, I spent most of my time just hanging out with Dyson.

A couple things came up (Dyson needed surgery and Tracy had some medical issues, among other things) and suddenly, I had to take on more of the care taking duties. But culturally, there’s a lot of societal pressure for fathers to be the providers and producers. If we’re not doing that, we’re failing. I feel that acutely since I’m the sole breadwinner in the family. Even on vacation, I felt driven to be productive. So it was hard to just … not.

But over the course of those few weeks, I came to see it differently. Taking Dyson to the park or putting him to bed wasn’t going to help “bring home the bacon”. But maybe it provided for him in more important ways. I think it was good for him to know that he could count on me to be there when he needs it. Also, he isn’t going to be 3 forever. Heck, he isn’t even going to be a little kid for much longer. I want to cherish this time with him while I still can.

So during this vacation, I made the conscious choice not to work on some projects I really wanted to do. Instead, I spent the time with Dyson and gave my wife a much needed break. And over those few weeks, I started to see it make a difference. He would accept me to comfort him when he was upset and he would turn to me when he needed something.

So. I didn’t make any new apps this time around. And I didn’t make a bunch of new videos. But hopefully, I did have a lasting impact on my son’s life just by spending so much of these last few weeks with him. (Also, I am planning on doing at least one video from this time, where Dyson counts to 1000 … sort of.)


August 21st, 2013

SCRIOSLast year, I got an email from Richard Hercher, a fan of Mach Dice who was working on his own space combat tabletop role playing game. He was doing an eBook version of the rules and he wanted to know if he could link to my app. I said, “Of course!” and asked him to let me know when it was published.

It’s out now and the eBook is free on the iBooks app for the iPad (the link to Mach Dice is on page 5). He’s even got a kickstarter for a box set. So if you’re a fan of RPGs or space combat, check it out!