The prologue to the weekend was getting take-out from Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too!, one of our favorite restaurants in town, which is closing for the next two years while they rebuild their building and rethink their business model. It was one of the first restaurants I went to when I moved here, and we’d gone regularly enough that several of the staff recognized us, notably the bartender. We’d patronized them regularly through the pandemic, and we’re gonna miss them. I hope they are able to execute their plan and come back in 2023.
I took Friday off to have a 4-day weekend. I decided to skip running and instead went to Byxbee Park for a nice walk in the morning. The weather was great, and it was pretty quiet. I love walking there. I did a few chores and then watched a couple episodes of The Expanse, as I slowly catch up on the latest season.
Saturday I did go for a run in the morning, and then made us pancakes and sausages for breakfast. We had a pretty quiet day, although we did do a grocery store run. I also did some work in the yard, mainly fixing a sprinkler leak. There’s some more sprinkler repair we need which might be behind my abilities – or at least beyond my interest in learning. We’ll see.
The main event for the weekend was on Sunday: We drove down to our friends Chad & Camille’s house, where we spent the afternoon and evening with them and other friends Mo and Chris. All of us are safely vaccinated, while C&C’s kids are not yet, but will be soon. But the science says they should be safe since all the rest of us have been vaxxed for a while. So we hung out, used their pool (it was well over 80°F in the afternoon), petted their dogs, and had drinks and dinner. The kids came out for dinner and a post-dinner card game. We stayed until nearly 11 pm, so it was a good time. Hopefully the first of many.
Finally on Monday we had a couple of neighbors over for a barbecue, again in very warm weather. But it was a fine time for all of us.
Debbi and I are both being pretty cautious by some standards – we’re not ready to go to downtown Mountain View and eat at a restaurant, even outside, because it’s so busy down there, even though non-diners are still wearing masks. And I don’t know whether we’ll fly anywhere this year, though maybe things will be looking good by the end of the summer. I have several (vaxxed) friends who have flown in the last few weeks, and no whammies so far. But getting together with friends, we can do.
I know things are pretty rough in much of the rest of the world, but hopefully we’re nearing the end here, and hopefully things will turn around elsewhere soon.
Since we haven’t been going on vacation during the pandemic, we’ve been instead taking the occasional day off here and there. We did so today and went out to breakfast and then to Hakone Gardens, a Japanese garden in the south bay. We’ve been a couple of times before, usually in the winter, which means not much was flowering, but I thought I read that they had some cherry trees in bloom now.
It turns out that there still isn’t much flowering, not the cherry trees, not the wisteria arbor, but it was generally greener than we’d seen before. And it was sunny but not too warm, which made for a nice outing.
Due to COVID, they arranged the paths so you had only a single long path you could walk along (with two shortcuts), which probably makes sense when the place is busier, but on a Friday morning there were only a few other people visiting, and we didn’t pass or get passed by anyone else.
The “cultural exchange center” building was open, which I don’t recall it being before – but it’s been several years since our last visit. The main displays inside concerned the creation of the gardens between the two World Wars, and then the internment of the gardener and caretaker and his family in the Japanese concentration camps in which the United States imprisoned most residents of Japanese descent during World War II, as well as memories of a few other people of their or their parents’ imprisonment. This American shame has gotten more attention in recent years through the efforts of people like George Takei, and the photos and personal memories here were pretty moving.
We spent an hour or so walking the garden. Here are a few photos:
It was a nice outing. We ran a couple of errands, and played video games (remotely) with some friends later in the day. We’ve had a bunch going on recently so taking a vacation day to not do much of consequence was something we needed.
But now, to close things out, I’m sure what you really wanted in this entry was a close-up of me, so here you go!
And three weeks after our first shots we went back to Levi’s Stadium today for our second shots of the Pfizer vaccine. So in about 2 weeks we should be as immune to COVID-19 as we’re going to get. Well, for this round, anyway. And no nasty side effects yet for either of us!
I think it’s still going to be a bit of a roller-coaster for the next year or two. I’m confident the vaccines will provide excellent protection against the main strain of the virus, and – much like the flu vaccine – against many of the variants. The problem is they might not protect against all of the variants, and until we are able to roll out vaccines worldwide to 80% or more of the planet, we’re going to keep seeing new mutations pop up.
The reluctance of a significant fraction of the population to get vaccinated is likely to prolong the virus. As a result I think we’ll see some regions achieve “herd immunity” until some mutation from an under-vaccinated region breaks past the vaccine. (This is my own extrapolation from this article. Not that I am not an expert in these matters.)
I’m optimistic that scientists will improve the vaccines in the future as well. And I expect we’ll need a booster shot each year, perhaps rolled into the annual flu shot.
Maintaining this pace for the whole world every year is going to be a challenge, no doubt about that. Things are very bad in India right now and I doubt it will be the last country in such dire straits. Lots more people are going to die. It’s horrifying. I hope the world can pull together to limit the damage.
In the United States it will also be interesting (that’s a word for it) to see the struggle to get everyone vaccinated, persuading the holdouts to get their shots (except people who have a good medical reason not to, of course). I suspect the luddite Republicans in many states will try to force things so people are not pressured to get vaccinated in any way, but I also think – and hope – that there will be overwhelming forces against them. For example, large companies refusing to employ or serve people who aren’t vaccinated. Insurance companies raising premiums for unvaccinated individuals. Airlines refusing to let unvaccinated people fly. And, you know, people getting sick and dying from COVID, especially newer strains. I think it will be slow going, but hopefully reason and science will prevail and the vaccines will become a natural thing for all citizens.
Anyway, on that cheery note.
Today was Debbi’s birthday, too, so getting vaxxed was a nice way to mark the day. She took part of the day off, and spent much of it watching Star Wars movies, too. Things are looking up – for us, anyway.
Today was my and Debbi’s 20th anniversary since our first date, and 6th since our wedding. We celebrated by taking the day off together.
After working out in the morning, we splurged (in a calorie sense) and got McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme for breakfast. (I lo-ove sausage biscuits, and while Debbi’s are better, McD’s are pretty good too.)
Then we drove over to Half Moon Bay, where we had lunch at Cameron’s Pub. It was pretty dead there, only a couple other parties eating. We sat outside, which was chilly but otherwise good. We also drove down Main Street, where we we happy to see that the Main Street Grill is still open, but sad to see that the quirk “adventure” store Oddyssea closed, apparently just in the last couple of months. We always enjoyed browsing there when we visited, and bought a surprising number of things there over the years. But I suspect they made too much of their money from group outings to their outdoor space to survive the pandemic. Alas.
We took a drive up the coast to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which unfortunately was still closed, and I see from their web site that it will reopen on May 3. Oh, well! Hopefully we’ll head back before too long. Instead we parked by the Miramar Beach Restaurant and walked along the coast for a bit until it got too cold and windy. Bracing! Well, too bracing for the shorts I was wearing! So we stopped by the HMB branch of Dunkin Donuts and got some very mediocre coffee (somehow this branch just can’t get the cream and sugar right) and headed home.
We had a quiet day otherwise, getting take-out from our traditional first-date restaurant Don Giovanni, which really hit the spot, and looked forward to two more days of long weekend.
In a way this day was typical of the days off that Debbi and I have together: Go do a few fun things, see a few things, eat some good food, hang out, and enjoy the lives we have. It’s been great.
The last four days have been a whirlwind of adulting. It’s been kinda exhausting.
Friday we had someone from AAA Furnace over to service our HVAC. Everything seems to be in good shape. I hung out to do anything needed inside (mostly adjusting the thermostat while he did his tests), partly because COVID, and partly because kittens.
Saturday was the big day, though.
After working out in the morning we went to Airport Appliance to buy a new refrigerator (per previous entries). We decided to go with this French door model by Beko, a Turkish company which is apparently huge in Europe and has been in the U.S. for about five years. It’s devilishly hard to find out how reliable fridges are – even if you find that one has been great, it was probably made 5 or more years ago, been discontinued, and who knows if the current models are as good. Internet reviews are generally useless, partly because a lot of them are just complaining, and partly because a review from someone who’s had their fridge for 6 months or less isn’t that helpful for reliability.
We had an additional wrinkle in that the space for our fridge is only 70” tall, and many fridges are a bit taller than that. It turns out we actually have more space if we remove or trim the bracket immediately above the fridge, but we’d already made a decision when I realized that. Good to know for next time.
Anyway, we’re replacing a 13-year-old GE fridge, and not many companies make counter-depth fridges fridges that are 69” high. GE makes several, but I’ve heard bad things about their newer models, and frankly we were not very impressed with the apparent build quality or the styling of those models. Whereas the Beko seemed generally more solid and we really liked the look of it.
We did buy the extended warranty, which means it should work for at least that long, right? Right??
Afterwards we had lunch at Yiassoo (a longtime favorite which has substantially improved their patio seating during the pandemic), and then came home and took Jackson and Sadie to the vet for their annual checkup. This was the first time Sadie rode in a carrier by herself, since we’d always brought her with Roulette. And she yowled the whole way there and back. Jackson was also unhappy, and even peed in the carrier on the way home. But, both of them are healthy and that’s what matters.
(Simon and Edison seemed to barely notice that we were all gone.)
After all that I went down to pick up some books I’d ordered from Books Inc., and did a grocery run.
In the evening I managed to find COVID vaccinations for Monday, about which more later.
Sunday was finally a quieter day. We went to the farmer’s market in the morning, and in the afternoon I wrapped up our taxes, which will be filed this week. I also did a Magic draft which I am playing out this week before Strixhaven comes out, and the first game was totally bonkers, lasting well over half an hour. (I won with 6 cards left in my deck!)
This morning we found that our fridge has gone out again, so we moved stuff into our chest freezer (which has plenty of space even with the stuff we’ve already put in it) and mini-fridge (which is pretty packed now). The new fridge will be delivered on Thursday, and what a relief that will be.
And finally today we went to Levi’s Stadium to get vaccinated. Despite having a little trouble finding the entrance, everything otherwise was smooth and easy. It took about an hour and a half including driving time. We joined House Pfizer, and six hours later neither of us has had any reactions, though apparently they could show up tomorrow. It’s great to finally be on our way! We rewarded ourselves with treats from McDonald’s on the way home. And I’ve been telling cow-orkers about our experience so they have some idea what to expect when signing up.
And today there was the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis. I’m sure smarter and more informed people than me (probably none of them Republicans) will have a lot useful to say about this, but one thought I have is that if we’re not going to take guns away from the cops, let’s take tasers away from them. Tasers aren’t particularly safe either, and cops mistaking their tasers for guns is bad news. If all they have to fire is a gun, then at least they know what they’re signing up for when they draw their weapon.
In any event, there’s nothing I’ve read that says to me that Wright’s actions even merited tasing. What the hell was the cop thinking? Were they even thinking?
So, that’s been a lot of stuff, even just considering our stuff. I’m looking forward to the fridge being delivered, and dealing with much less stuff for a couple of weeks.
Ah, WandaVision… such a great start, and then you went careening off the rails, heading down a path you should have avoided. Such wonderful acting, such amazing production quality, but ultimately, a terribly disappointing story.
There was a lot to enjoy about this first major TV series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I don’t really count Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as it quickly disconnected itself from the MCU and played in its own space), but it could have been much more than it was.
This week’s unwanted excitement is that our freezer crapped out again. Worse, it did so on Monday, which was the last day of a 4-day weekend I’d taken off from work. So instead of a relaxing day reading and watching television, it was instead a day of stress and anxiety.
Last time we unloaded the freezer into a cooler and that night it started working again. This time we didn’t do that, and by Tuesday afternoon both the refrigerator and freezer were up around 54°F – not good for either one. We lost all of the food in the freezer except for a few things that we’d just been storing for long term, like some Girl Scout thin mints. There wasn’t anything in there that was a big loss – it’s all easily replaced – but it was a bummer.
But we did put some backup plans in motion. First we went to Home Despot and bought a mini-fridge, so that we can have, you know, cream for our morning coffee. And also butter. And eggs. Essentials. We also ordered a chest freezer, which is a bit less of an extravagance since we’ve been thinking for a while of getting one, as we always feel like we need more freezer space. Whether we need this much more freezer space, I don’t know, but it is just about the smallest model. It should be fine. Load it up with ice cream!
Of course, after we emptied the freezer of the spoiled food, the thing started working again. It lasted a couple of months after the last incident, and I suspect each time the problem was blocked air flow, possibly some vent getting iced over. So it might be fine for a few more months or longer. But, the fridge is about 13 years old and that’s near the lifespan of such appliances, so we’re going to replace it.
Figuring out what to replace it with, and from where, is the next trick. All of our kitchen appliances are GE, probably because our builder bought a package when he furnished the kitchen. But GE fridges don’t seem very reliable these days from what I’ve read (and from comments from friends). A few other brands also get low marks by word-of-mouth. So we’re leaning towards Whirlpool, Maytag, or maybe Frigidaire. A friend also said they had a good experience with Fisher Paykel, about which I know nothing. Debbi is intrigued by this Whirlpool model. But mainly we know we need a counter-depth model, and we’d like a french door design with a bottom freezer. That cuts out a lot of the options, so we’ll get what we get. And hopefully get another year out of it.
(How soon we get it is yet another question, as apparently there are some long delays in appliance delivery due to disruptions in the global supply chains.)
I’m kind of kicking myself for not having moved on this two months ago, but, it’s water under the bridge at this point.
So, it’s been kind of a lousy week because of all this. The fridge and the oven are the two appliances we really can’t do without during a global pandemic. But hopefully we’ll have it worked out soon.
Roulette passed away today. She’d been slowly declining since last fall, and had been on a drug to help with arthritis. But in the last week and a half her decline accelerated, and the drug didn’t seem to help anymore. She had trouble walking and keeping her balance, so we were able to move up her planned vet appointment from Saturday to today. She was down to about 4-1/2 pounds, and the vet agreed that it was time.
Debbi adopted Roulette along with her brother Blackjack in 2003 when they were two months old. She was part of a pod of six kittens being fostered, and we think she was technically Blackjack’s aunt, but who knows, really? When we visited them she was playing by herself with a plastic rose, and she wasn’t very well socialized. But she (barely) tolerated me picking her up. Her foster name was Opal, but Debbi changed it to Roulette to match her brother’s theme. Plus she was a beautiful calico, so it seemed to fit.
Debbi brought them down from her apartment to my townhouse every weekend, and at first we confined them to the front bedroom. A week or two after she adopted them, she went back to visit her family, leaving me to sit for them. This turned out to be when we learned that Roulette had a tapeworm, so I got to give her a pill for it, and also clean up the worm segments (yuck!). Fortunately the pill did its job and she suffered no ill effects.
One day I was downstairs reading, and I looked up to see Roulette on the stair landing. “Hello little girl, what are you doing out of your room?” She had figured out how to climb the baby gate we’d put up and had started exploring. They got their full freedom not long after that.
Roulette latched on to my cat Jefferson as her best friend – and gave him no choice in the matter. She would also wrestle with Blackjack, but she loved to sleep with Jefferson.
She hated riding in the car. For a while Debbi let them out of their carrier when driving down to my place, but that ended the night Roulette escaped from the car after Debbi had parked, ran across the street, and hid in the back of my condo complex. After 2 hours of searching we finally found her and brought her inside. So she was probably happier than anyone when Debbi moved in with me.
Roulette also chose me as her human. Honestly I think she just liked men better than women. She was a little on the shy side, but after one party Debbi said, “Did you notice that Roulette came down and said hi to everyone?” “No,” I replied, “Roulette came down and said hi to all the men.” She was pretty happy to seek attention from male house guests we had, too.
Roulette had a rough time starting in 2010, when Jefferson (2010), Blackjack (2012) and Newton (2013) all passed away. Plus we moved to our current house in 2011, and we adopted Jackson and Sadie just before Blackjack passed away. I think it was too much for her. Plus Jackson became aggressive and harassed her, and unlike Newton who put him and Sadie in their place, Roulette instead just spent more time under the bed. I think it wasn’t until 2014 or 2015 that she started to behave more normally, carving out some preferred places to sleep, and standing up to Jackson. She probably would have preferred to be an only cat, and my one regret is that we weren’t able to give her a new feline family she could relate to.
Roulette was very playful when she was younger, but played much less after that. Granted she was over 10 years old when she got over her (I assume) depression, but I think she just wanted to be snuggled and didn’t want to attract the attention of Jackson. I could get her to play with the right toy as long as she didn’t have to leave the couch, but that happened less and less.
She did, however, love catnip and especially wet cat food. “Is it time?” was a phrase which would perk up her ears and often get her running over to the kitchen in anticipation of the paté goodness. Sadie and Jackson both have an on-again-off-again interest in wet food, but she loved it.
We warned her that if she lived long enough she might have to deal with more kittens, and she was about as thrilled as you can imagine by the arrival of Simon and Edison. On the other hand, these kittens also adore wet food, and I like to think that it helped acclimate her to them. Edison was also a bit of a bully to Rou, but he couldn’t bully her off of a bowl of wet food. Simon tried more gently to cozy up to her, and I think she tolerated him.
The last year or so she started sleeping with us at night, usually between my legs. Over the last couple of weeks she moved up to sleep between us, or even right next to my chest. I guess she was not feeling well and just wanted to be closer to us. She had her usual helpings of wet food, and she got one last comic book night with me last Wednesday. I think the others knew she wasn’t feeling well, as they gave her more space. She also became addicted to drinking water out of running bathroom faucets, and would sometimes meow at us to come water her.
Last week she growled at a cat who came up on our back porch. Defending our house to the end!
Our vet has not been allowing people inside for check-ups since COVID-19 started, but they make an exception for pets’ final moments, so we were able to go in and be with her at the end. She hated the car, she hated the vet, but we gave her a space to feel safe at the end. Old kitties are not very demonstrative with their emotions, but I hope she knew we were trying to make her more comfortable.
She was a willful, demanding kitty, but she was our willful, demanding kitty.
These first two weeks of March mark one year since many Americans found their lives changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. March 9, 2020 was my last day in the office – I went in once more to collect my equipment to work at home, and then I wouldn’t go in again until a day in December when I had to clean out some stuff from where I’d been contributing to the M1 Macintosh project. And then again this past Friday to pick up a package I’d accidentally gotten sent to work.
That first month was downright weird. I continued my morning run, and added one or two walks per day as well. But I hardly saw anyone most mornings. There was one morning that I counted five people on my run. I did our runs to the grocery store by myself, staying distant from other people and sometimes admonishing them for not following the arrows for the one-way aisles. Masks weren’t yet a thing.
By the end of March my comics shop had temporarily closed, though it reopened later in the spring and has stayed open since. We ordered a lot of take-out, and cooked at home, discovering a few new recipes.
My wife has mostly avoided going out. The one trip she’d do every week would be to the Mountain View Farmer’s Market, which ironically is one of the busiest places I ever go. Otherwise she’d drive me places to get take-out.
The fear of that first month drained away over the next couple of months, maybe due to exhaustion more than anything else. Not that we were being less diligent, just less fearful. We got together with friends, keeping 6 or more feet apart for drinks in the driveway or in our back yard. The only visit we made to see people inside was to visit my boss and his wife, who were fostering the kittens who we eventually adopted as Simon and Edison. (Who are doing great, by the way!)
We had coincidentally done a lot of things to prepare for shelter in place shortly before it occurred. We’d made a Costco run and had plenty of toilet paper. I made a couple of big grocery runs. We’d both been to the eye doctor, and I’d been to the dentist. We’d taken the cats in for their annual check-up. Lucky, really.
Since then I’ve been to the dentist – twice. We’ve both been to the eye doctor recently. We’ve made numerous trips to the vet for the kittens and for our elderly cat Roulette, but we never go inside. Our parents have been vaccinated, as has my sister. It will probably be a couple more months for us. We made one trip to Half Moon Bay on a day off last summer and ate at a restaurant outside, but otherwise we’ve only left our county to go to the vet. We’ve eaten outside at a couple of restaurants here, but none of them have wait staff.
I try to call my father every other week, and mostly succeed.
In January I joined the people who celebrated a birthday at home. I’ve done that before, of course, but this one wasn’t by choice.
We watched the numbers tick up as hundreds of thousands of people died who probably wouldn’t have if we hadn’t had an incompetent, racist, narcissistic President in the White House. The depth of his failure to act – or even to show the barest human empathy – was breathtaking. Meanwhile the whole Republican Party is careening into fascism.
I miss all the things everyone else misses: Hanging out with friends, eating at restaurants, going on vacation. Even going into the office – working from home has never been my thing.
It’s gradually been wearing me down. More than most? Less? I have no idea. Last year was the year I was going to take more vacation than usual. Well.
While racist impeached President Trump deserves credit for “Operation Warp Speed” to get vaccines developed, he showed his incompetence once again in refusing to expedite distribution. Things have gotten a lot better under President Biden, and tens of millions of Americans have been vaccinated. Hopefully most of the rest will be by summer. Then we mainly have to wait for vaccines to be approved for children – maybe by next fall or winter?
So much more I could write, from the election to the job losses to the concern about vaccinating the rest of the world.
I don’t expect things will change much for us for the rest of 2021. Maybe by fall we can eat at restaurants? I doubt we’ll fly anywhere this year, though.
But I’m ready to. I can really use those postponed vacations.
We finally got around to watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) last night. As the film rights to Spider-Man are still owned by Sony, the film isn’t available on Disney+. Fortunately, we’re GenX’ers, which means we still have cable and a TiVo, so, go us!
I actually hadn’t been very spoiled about the story. I knew it was based on a comic book story – which I hadn’t read – and starred the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man – which honestly know almost nothing about – and that the animation was supposed to be great.
It was all that and more.
It was amazing.
It’s a take on Miles Morales’ origin story, and it has a surprisingly slow burn (the film is nearly 2 hours long, which is pretty lengthy for an animated feature film), building up to Miles getting his powers over the first third of the movie. But with a twist, as there’s already a Peter Parker version of Spider-Man in his dimension, and they both run afoul of a plot by the Kingpin which rips a hole between universes, resulting in five other Spider-people ending up in Miles’ dimension. Miles ends up being trained by an older, sadder Peter Parker, but also meets the others, especially Spider-Woman, Gwen Stacy on her world, who failed to save her best friend – Peter Parker.
As a Spider-Man origin story, it hits a lot of the beats you expect such a story to have: With great power comes great responsibility, death of a loved one, the outsider trying to fit in, triumph over great odds.
But this remix has a lot of touches which make it different, too. Miles isn’t being raised by his aunt and uncle, he’s being raised by his parents, and his policeman father wants the best for him, loves him dearly, but pushes him in a direction Miles doesn’t want to go. Miles finds a different father figure in the older Peter, but their relationship has issues, too, due to Miles’ inexperience. One always senses that Peter’s wisecracking persona as Spider-Man was a front, an escape from the sorrow that undercut his life. But for Miles it’s his true self, not an escape but an ability to be free, and so to gain confidence in his abilities in both his lives. Including an appreciation for his family.
The film is smartly written, upending a number of the conventions of Spider-Man, such as: Aunt May, who’s a much stronger figure here (I think inspired by J. Michael Straczynski’s version from his run); the older Peter’s sense of humor being much sharper and acerbic; and playing a little loose with secret identities.
It’s also very fun, and very funny. While there’s a sequence in the middle where Miles and Peter are breaking into a lab which is trying too hard, otherwise almost everything works. Peter has a quip for the gizmo they need to find to hack the device to send everyone home. He also shows his experience in escaping when Miles ties him up, but his not-really-caring attitude causes problems too. He needs this adventure to find himself as much as Miles does.
And of course there’s the big moment where Miles gets knocked down as far as he can go… and bounces back to become his own Spider-Man. It’s a scene that got a lot of accolades, and they’re all deserved.
The animation is beautiful. It’s not for everyone, as it’s frenetic and flashy and jerky-jerky (by design – some of the “how the animation was done” videos are pretty neat). The art style is just about perfect – how far computer animation of human beings has come in the years since The Incredibles. The staging of some of the action sequences must have been insane to storyboard and then animate.
This was one of the most fun superhero films I can recall watching. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.