Red Dead Objection

Ok fine. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a technical success, but it continues to bother me how flat this story is. Not just this one - we're spoiled for beautiful games with lame stories. I'm going to pick on RDR2 because it's a clear example, and I think they're doing this on purpose.

What's driving this guy - what does Arthur seek? It turns out he is remarkably unambitious. Our desire to see Arthur succeed is thwarted by the fact he's just fine. Imagine just how much we might improve this story by working his horse ranch for a chapter, then have it stolen. We need to be made curious, to become invested in something. RDR2 thinks you should hear about Dutch.

What obstacle is preventing him from achieving his goal? Nothing - there is no pressing threat. Imagine just how much better the story would be if the camera were to slowly pan to a bomb hidden underneath the camp - or a slowly approaching army. We must build tension like a python around Arthur.

RDR2 is remarkably safe compared to other worlds. The most dangerous animal is the controller in your hands as you try to chord various Rockstar button sequences. You will crash your horse.

Game companies don't hire famous aged authors. Looks like a dozen young teams made this. People should write what they know. It sounds rather ridiculous when young people try-on my middle-aged shoes. They don't realize this of course - perhaps imagine going back to read the serious concerns in your middle-school journal - now in the voice of the outlaw Arthur Morgan.

Dozens and dozens of characters written by committee. I understand it takes a team to build a world this ambitious. They dissect the story and various people work on each piece, hoping it comes together in the end - a few things get cut because someone fails to deliver. What remains are a series of interesting, if unrelated scenes.

I can't say for sure why lame story plagues these huge games. These problems have not hurt sales, so there is little incentive to fix it. Even the supposed "critics" have nothing critical to say. It's been getting worse as developers lean toward streamable content (whatever that is) and away from traditional stories.

My ridiculous dream is that games develop stories solid enough to sell as stand-alone books, or license an existing book like the movies. This isn't Elon level difficult folks.

Not So Passiv Haus

Credit: Garen Meguerian

We've spent thousands heating our house, and now I learn some people in Canada and Germany have zero heating bills! And they've had this technology for decades. High performance houses are built with foot-thick exterior walls. They're so sealed and insulated you could heat them with a hairdryer.

Buildings Account for 39% of CO2 emissions in the United States, and most of this is heating and cooling. Material costs and their durability count too - folks are looking for a five-year payback on their investment.

In new construction it's possible to use structural insulated panels (SIPs) and double-stud walls. Sealed on the inside with spray foam, and designed with the right windows, a passive house can be heated with sunshine only.

Our house was built in the '60s, and some of these thin walls have no insulation. We've insulated the floor. The windows face east and we're shaded on the south - sadly, this nearly eliminates solar gain and light in the winter.

Existing construction may be stuck with the stud-walls it already has, but it's possible to retrofit additional insulation with new exterior siding and roofing. Wrapping the house in 2" rigid foam might half our heating bill, also improve comfort and moisture handling.

Some building systems last a few decades before they need to be repaired - rule-of-thumb is to budget one-percent/year for home maintenance. What's the new hotness now that it's time to replace the roof?

You'd think there would be some amazing new tech every decade, but building performance moves in geological time, almost imperceptibly. Fixing the house would be less of a pain if there was advanced stuff. It kills me to replace sixty-year-old crap with essentially the same crap.

10 Days On The Pacific

200 miles in 10 days

Dad sent me a text on Monday 9/3, "You want to sail around the islands with me?" - This was completely in character for a retired guy, who got back from a year in Vietnam and was living on his boat in Alaska. His work had also included similar shenanigans - tiny airplanes into rural Alaskan villages.

His buddy's boat was getting kicked out of the harbor in Kona. The owner of the slip needed it back, and the boat had overstayed the 120 day limit. Move it or lose it - they faxed a copy of Dad's plane ticket to prevent impounding.

I got a one-way ticket to Kona for Thursday, landing in afternoon so Dad could row ashore in daylight to pick me up at the pier with a rubber dingy. He had the 34ft Beneteau anchored out in Kailua Bay, and started rowing when I landed. I held the tiny dinghy's rope and handed dad my suitcase as waves hit my knees.

The Beneteau had two sails and an inboard diesel motor. It had two bedrooms, bathroom, shower, refrigerator, and microwave. I was situated into the room marked "Crew" - a triangle-shaped bed at the front of the boat.

They had rushed Dad out of the harbor before he could do a proper shake-down. One sail was working, no hot-water, no dinghy motor, and no navigation. We spend the night planning a trip to the fuel docks, and reading instructions.

The next day we motored over to the Honokohau fuel docks, where the Modelo man helped us dock, and figure all that out. Modelo man drinks Modelo at 10am. We filled up both fuel tanks and both fresh-water tanks. Fueling was tricky - they don't have auto-shutoff handles.

Molokai, “The Friendly Isle”

From there, navigating with Dad's iPad, we motored 30 miles to Spencers Point. There was no wind, and we broiled in the sun. We already burned half a tank of diesel, probably from towing the dingy - so we pulled it up on deck.

We got a rope hooked on the prop while trying to moor on a buoy. Dad was super concerned about that, so I dove under the boat with a knife and cut the rope loose. We didn't see any sharks, so he snorkeled around and inspected the underside, and scrubbed the sensors clean with his hairbrush.

We left Spencers Point at 4am the next day for Lahaina, about 80 miles away. Outside the wind shadow, we wore bright orange seat-cushion looking life-vests. Every few hours I sent location pins to my wife, so they'd know where to search for my body.

In the channel between islands, the weather can get serious. We saw 16-18 knots on the way to Maui, which I understand is great for sailing - Dad said more than 25 knots gets unpleasant. By this point the sun had already completely kicked my ass - there is no shade on the ocean. Dad and I had taken turns napping under a makeshift tent. This crossing was the easy part as it turns out.

We got to Lahaina after 5pm. A guy named Jim rafted us to his boat, and we walked into town for pizza. Jim knew the boat, and had volunteered to climb the mast and retrieve a front sail (headsail) fastener. Jim is a hero.

Sailboats are like eighty percent rope. My main job on the boat was to pull ropes and winches. I'd pulled Jim to the top of the mast in a boatswain's chair. Whenever we docked, I'd jump out and slow the seven-ton boat to a stop. Dad knows sailboat stuff, and he would give me the pre-game run-down. I had to the learn knots for buoys and dock lines.

Hurricane Olivia - The 9th in 2018

We were hoping to hide in Lahaina during the hurricane, but they already had dozens of boats queued to get in and no space available. Being rafted to another boat wouldn't work in a storm, also it's against harbor rules, so Jim suggested we dart over to Molokai and anchor in the mud at Kaunakakai. 

On Monday, the sail over was bad. Wind gusts hit 30 knots, and our main-sail got stuck full-out. The sail creased right where it's supposed to roll back into the mast. Inside the cabin, all the cabinet doors opened and the contents were out sliding around on the floor. I threw up two Advil I had taken earlier. The sailboat is an ancient machine perfected over thousands of years, I told myself.

Dad managed to get things under control using the diesel motor to drive directly into the wind. Then while the sail was flapping around, he handed me the wheel, jumped up there and beat the sail back into the roller. It was nearly impossible to talk over all the billowing.

Once we got behind Molokai, the high winds relaxed and we cruised into harbor. The only other guy anchored, a hundred feet away, helped us set our anchor. We gently spun around in circles all night. The hurricane was scheduled to hit Tuesday.

Jim had told us to double-anchor in the mud, so we had to search the boat for an hour under the sun for a second anchor. I'd completely sweat soaked through all the clothes I packed. If they were blood free, I just rinsed them in the sink. I wore long pants as much as possible since every little bump tore my sunburn off. 

Kaunakakai Harbor

On the second day, they let us dock for "safe harbor". The mayor ordered an evacuation of the spit and was working to move some people into the high-school gym. Jerry the harbor master drove us to the grocery store so we could pass through the police checkpoint. We got more beer and peanut butter sandwiches for the boat. This place was great, we decided. 

Peak winds started around 3am. We looked out at that one guy anchored out there, and figured he was our canary. Our boat was strapped-in by all four corners in about six foot of water. I'd poke my head up periodically to experience the roaring winds, and to see if our canary was still there. There was a power brown-out, and we lost phone service.

As the storm passed, wind moved from the side to an ideal headwind. At the center, everything got quiet, and dozens of people came out to check their boats. Dad found a sharpening stone for my pocket knife and checked on the power. We listened to the emergency radio - the Coast Guard announced boat-related accidents regularly. 

After being stuck in the boat for two days, Dad's Apple watch started to heart-rate alarm and his foot looked a little swollen. That night we walked a half mile into town for Molokai Burger - it was the only food open.

We stayed and walked around Kaunakakai four more days. We watched the forecast, emailed insurance and inspection documents to the harbor in Honolulu, and did laundry. We walked to the post-office to get a check printed to pay the harbor fees. We became regulars at the Hula Bean Cafe and Paddlers Restaurant. 

Ala Wai Harbor, Honolulu

We sailed for Honolulu at 7am Monday. It was rough water - like inside a washing machine, but not much spray. We got five foot waves every eight seconds from behind and slightly north. Once and a while we'd get hit with a ten foot wave and I'd check my heart rate - it averaged around 110 bpm for about four hours. This time less crap flew out of the cabinets onto the floor.

We used only the headsail for safety reasons - the main-sail had already attempted murder once. Dad wanted to move faster, but the headsail stuck at three-quarters out. It looked to me like the rope was slightly oversize. I would've been perfectly fine without adding sail.

When I tried to steer in heavy waves, the boat spun - aiming down each wave like a surfboard. "Weather helm", dad called it. To keep our experienced captain at the wheel, I offered to climb out there with a screwdriver to adjust things. No rogue wave tried to eat me as I fiddled with the pulley - I was fairly convinced that Dad would swing around and pick me up if that happened.

We arrived at 3:30pm - thankfully, before the office closed. The Ala Wai Harbor was a huge 700 boats. Having survived, we ate a celebration dinner at CoCo Curry. I bought a t-shirt in Waikiki to commemorate the adventure.

Waikiki From The Deck