It’s Been a Week

I’m feeling pretty exhausted by everything today. I’d managed to get through all of the chores I set for myself in time to spend the afternoon lazing around and watching football.

And then this morning we discovered that our freezer was no longer working. The refrigerator seems to be hanging in there, but the freezer’s temperature has now risen to almost the same temperature as the fridge. So, we took everything out and put it in our large cooler with some ice, and we’re hoping to have someone out to look at it tomorrow.

But it pretty much shot my ability to relax this afternoon.

Deets for people who care: Cold air is coming out of the vent in the freezer – just clearly not enough. The door seems to close fine, and the gasket doesn’t see compromised. I pulled it out and dusted under and behind it, and also dusted what I think are the coils, but no luck. The fan for the condenser seems to be running fine. Obviously something is not fine but we’ve been unable to diagnose it. We hope to have someone look at it in the next day or two.

Anyway, the fridge is about 12 years old, so it could just be time to buy a new fridge.

Last weekend I joined that group of people who celebrated their birthday during the pandemic. I didn’t mind so much, though, since I don’t often have parties anymore, although I might have gotten together with friends for dinner if things were normal. I took Friday off to have a 4-day weekend, which was nice. Didn’t do a lot, which was also nice.

As with most normal citizens of the U.S., I was delighted to see Racist Impeached President Donald Trump leave the White House on Wednesday, and glad to see Joe Biden sworn in as the new President. I am not a Biden fan specifically – he’s pretty much the definition of a moderate – but I am glad to have adults running the executive branch again.

And I admit I breathed a sign of relief that there were no assassination attempts during the ceremonies – I was really worried that there would be.

But this was a rough week for me. I think the pandemic and quarantine and the racists and insurrectionists have been slowly grinding me down, and by Thursday I was having a hard time moving forward at work. (The fact that I’m so ready to move on from my current project might have had something to do with it. Fortunately I think I’ve just about got the last issues resolved.) My productivity tend to be cyclical anyway, but the down times have been especially pronounced lately. The time off for the holidays didn’t really help, which suggests it’s not downtime that’s needed.

I’ve also been having some physical problems, which at first I thought was a reoccurrence of the pinched nerve I had back in 2009, but now I suspect it actually something below my shoulder. Massaging it helps, and it’s been gradually getting better, but it’s been frustratingly slow. It mainly affects me when driving or typing – good thing I never do any of those things! – and has therefore probably been a factor in the wall I’ve hit at work. It also bothers me when sleeping sometimes. I suspect its root cause is ultimately stress-related.

Fortunately it hasn’t really impacted my ability to run or walk – there’s actually some good news there, as knee soreness I was having for a while in late 2019 and early 2020 seems to have basically gone away.

I know we’re still incredibly lucky to be where we are compared to many people. But it still feels hard, and getting harder.

Anyway, lots of doom and gloom in this post. For those who have read this far, here’s a pic of my snuggly boi:

The Republican Insurrection

As I’m sure anyone reading this knows, on Wednesday during Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes for President, racist impeached President Donald Trump wound up a crowd of his supporters, after which a large group of them stormed the Capitol building and broke in. This prompted the evacuation of Vice President Pence and the members of Congress, as the crowd wandered around the building. Eventually they left, although a number of people were injured in struggles with the Capitol Police, and to date five people – including one of those police – have died. At least two unexploded pipe bombs were found at the scene.

Since then, Twitter has permanently banned Trump, authorities are identifying and arresting many of the rioters (hilariously, many of them have either outed themselves or been outed by friends and family). Congress is considering impeaching Trump again. Conservatives are grumpily heading to Parler, resulting in them doxxing themselves and doxxing themselves again, leading people to wonder whether Parler should rename itself Evidence, or if Parler is actually an FBI honeypot. (Spoiler: The answer is that conservatives are the stupidest people alive.)

Schadenfreude aside, make no mistake: What happened Wednesday was an insurrection an an attempted coup. Moreover, it wasn’t just a Trumpist insurrection, it was a Republican insurrection, as the Republican Party has structurally and also tacitly encouraged this assault on our democracy for years. The Republican Party as a whole is culpable, and every person who is a Republican Party member, or who votes for or contributes to Republican candidates shares in the blame. The Republican Party clearly supports domestic terrorism and fascism, and we should be mindful of that whenever we engage with any Republican. We should also normalize characterizing the party and its members in these days. Move the Overton Window. Make it understood that if you are a Republican then you are part of the problem.

We should also continue to press for consequences for everyone who was involved in this insurrection, especially Trump (impeach him even after he’s left office), but also all of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, and everyone who supported them. (A local business owner is already facing consequences in the form of public pressure. To which I say: Good.)

Additionally, 147 Republicans objected to the electoral college votes, and while what they did was technically legal, we should consider them to be enemies of democracy and supporters of fascism and insurrection. They should all resign or be ousted, and we should be suspicious of anyone who supports them as another probable enemy of democracy. Leaders should set good examples, and actions by them which destabilize democracy and lie to their followers about the election are not acceptable.

I’ve also been enjoying responding to various prominent Republicans on Twitter who have been whining about Trump being deplatformed. Usually with a comment along the line of “I see you’re another whiny Republican fascist.” Mock these people. Belittle them. They are terrible people and should be treated as such. They only want to “move on” and “heal the country” to avoid consequences for their actions. Don’t let them get away with it.

This has been building for most of my lifetime. The Republican Party might not be beyond redemption, but they have a lot of work to do to be worthy of being treated as equals. They need to evict their white supremacists and deal with their systemic racism. They need to stop evicting citizens from voter rolls. They need to stop lying about the security of U.S. elections.

Some have noted that historically failed coups often lead to successful coups later on. Hopefully we can buck that trend and this is instead the beginning of America starting to wake up to the fascists in our midst, controlling one of our two major parties.

Time will tell. Next stop: Inauguration day. Expect the Republican fascists to be out in force, even if they are short on brains.

Hello, New Yorker

My Christmas gift to myself was to subscribe again to The New Yorker. I think this is my fourth go-round with the magazine.

My parents subscribed to it, and when I was a teenager there were stacks of old issues dating back into the 70s in the attic and in Mom’s magazine rack. At some point my Dad introduced me to Charles Addams, which eventually sent me poring through those old issues for Addams cartoons which hadn’t been collected. (As far as I know there are dozens – maybe hundreds – of Addams cartoons which have never been collected. I’m surprised no one has published a “complete” series of collections of his work, which leads me to think that either there are byzantine challenges in getting the rights, or there are many cartoons which have been lost. Maybe both.)

I first subscribed to the magazine around the end of graduate school. When I left school and got a job I had huge amounts of new free time, and I filled a lot of it with reading. (This was 1994/95, so the Internet was still a fairly small thing, even though I’d been very active on it since about 1989.) The New Yorker was a great source of fascinating reading material, and I clipped quite a few articles during that period which I still have in a file somewhere. (I recall one about Holocaust denial, though I can’t find it in their online archives.) Somewhat embarrassingly, I recall going to a WisCon where I kept referencing articles I’d read because I just had all this neat (to me) stuff in my head and had to get it out.

While there is a fair amount of New York-specific content (which I skip over, having never been to New York City), most of it is national or global in nature.

At the time I also subscribed to the also-weekly Comics Buyer’s Guide, the daily newspaper, and perhaps other things (maybe multiple science fiction magazines, maybe Smithsonian – it’s hard to be sure, 25 years later). The problem with any periodical is that you need to keep up with reading it or you start accumulating a stack of them waiting to be read, and at some point getting through that stack becomes so intimidating that you eventually give up (or go insane). Headline-oriented news is fairly easy to keep up with, since you can read headlines and then decide which articles you want to do a deeper dive into. But with The New Yorker and similar publications, the deep dive is the point. If you’re not reading at least a couple of articles in depth, then what are you subscribing for? Is it worth $20 per month or more just for the cartoons? Not really. (Especially today, where the cartoons are the one thing you can reliably get online for free.) So eventually I stopped.

But it’s still a pretty compelling package, so eventually I started up again. And stopped again. And then when my Mom passed away in 2015, I redirected all of her mail to me, and that included over a year outstanding on her own New Yorker subscription. When it expired, I re-upped for another year I subscribed on my own for another year, and then stopped again.

But now that I’ve dropped Consumer Reports, it felt like it was time to re-up The New Yorker.

Sadly, the cover below was not the first issue I received, which is too bad because it’s a great cover by Harry Bliss, which plays off an old Charles Addams cartoon (also below). An unknown blogger wrote about the cover here.

New Yorker cover Dec 28, 2020 by Harry Bliss
Charles Addams 1952 cartoon

Even worse, apparently it was their annual cartoon issue! Clearly I should have signed up just a little bit sooner.

Rather, my first issue featured an extremely long article about COVID-19 and the United States’ response to it. I’m willing to deep dive on some longer New Yorker articles, but 40+ pages on a subject I’m already fairly familiar with was a bit much for me. Well, better luck next week!

Once upon a time I’d come home from work and have one or more periodicals waiting for me, and I’d plop down on the couch and read through them. That’s not so likely these days since (1) I’m not going to work, and (2) with so many other things competing for my time, it’s more likely I’ll get to it the following weekend. Still, I think it’ll be fun to have it to read for the year or more.

Yule

Wishing everyone a highly corrugated Boxing Day!

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Apple closed down for Thanksgiving week, and I took a few extra days off before that, but it hardly seemed like enough, though it was enjoyable enough time. I particularly enjoyed walking around Byxbee Park and the Palo Alto Baylands, which reminded me of the spare beauty of the northeast corner of Hawaii’s Big Island. (Some wide-angle photos of it here.)

Everything’s been a bit of a slog, though I did manage to finish a pretty chunky project at work, which I’d originally proposed a couple of years ago but only recently became important. Although it ended up being more time-consuming than I’d expected, and was a source of some stress as it wasn’t clear I’d finish it on schedule, I was quite happy that my basic idea and approach worked well. So that made me happy.

Is that sufficiently vague? I never talk about work here.

Well, I can reveal one thing, which is that I worked on the Apple Silicon project, which was pretty darned awesome. This prompted me to go back into the office a couple of weeks ago for the first time since March, to clean out my office space for that project and bring stuff back to my main office. That was… weird, since of course all the buildings I went into were almost completely deserted. I’ve always carefully separated my work and home life, and the fact that I now work at home I think is slowly messing with my mental state. Not that I’m in a rush to go back until it’s safe, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing it were.

Anyway, everything has been a lot, as I’m sure you know. The March of the Trump Moron Brigade trying to overturn the election in a Stupid Coup hasn’t helped the stress level. Nor has the upward spiral of COVID-19 cases in the United States, driven by idiots gathering for Thanksgiving and just generally ignoring the sensible instructions to stay apart and wear masks. In some ways the worst thing about this pandemic is that many of these idiots won’t get a proper comeuppance for their hubris and stupidity, but lots of innocent people will pay the price instead. It’s so frustrating.

Anyway. The news of the vaccines is certainly great. Hopefully by spring we’ll have a good idea how how well they’re working and how long it will take to vaccinate the entire population (and, unfortunately, how many Americans will refuse to be vaccinated, either because they’re idiots or because they’re part of minority groups who have been poorly treated by the medical-industrial complex for the past century). Perhaps optimistically, I’m hoping we might return to relatively normalcy by September or so.

We shall see.

We put up our outdoor Christmas lights – as did a lot of other people in the neighborhood. I guess being stuck has home has prompted more people to decorate. We also put up one Christmas tree, the big one in the living room, and while Debbi’s fears about the kittens taking it down have been unfounded (though I did find them having climbed it once), they instead ended up chewing through some of the light cords, as well as actually chewing off parts of some of the covers of the lights. Fortunately, no harm seems to have been done; even if they ate some, the bits I think are a lot smaller than their digestive tracts at this point.

Debbi took the three days before the Christmas break off (both of our companies shut down between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day), while I took off Wednesday. We had a quiet Christmas. Jackson and Edison joined us to open presents, so Edison became the next kitten to revel in the joy of wrapping paper.

Debbi made homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and I made my traditional meatloaf and potatoes gratin for dinner. In-between we talked to family, went for a walk in Shoreline Park, and watched the football game. And today was even more low-key, except for working out in the morning.

Speaking of the kittens, they’re both doing well and growing up. They turned 8 months old earlier this month, and they’re settling into their own patterns and personalities. Both of them are snuggly in their own ways, Simon more with Debbi at night, while Edison lies on my chest – and occasionally lap – during the day. Simon has been doing his best to befriend both Sadie and Roulette, while Edison doesn’t seem to quite know how to do it: He swats at Roulette like a boy trying to get a girl’s attention in school by pulling on her hair. Roulette hisses at him. Sadie for her part swats at him and he’s intimidated by her. I hope he figures it out.

Roulette has stabilized after her rough time at the end of October. She still has the occasional bad day, but she takes her medication like a champ, seems happy sleeping her days away in three different places, enjoys her every-other-day wet food, and has been using her litter reliably.

So, that’s been the holidays, so far. I hope yours have been as good or better. I’ll leave you with a special treat: A clip of Simon getting down from the top of the cat tree, which he does by swinging himself down with his front legs like a monkey. He’s such a goofball!

Farewell, Consumer Reports

The first time I used Consumer Reports was probably when I bought my first car. In 1990 I was moving off of campus at college, and having a car would be handy for running errands and buying groceries and such. My Mom had a big stack of Consumer Reports in a cabinet in the living room (along with many, many women’s glamour and housekeeping magazines, plus a fair number of New Yorkers). While I was technically online in 1990, this was before the World Wide Web, so there were few online resources for buying things. Consumer Reports was basically the gold standard of independent consumer review publications. Its information made me decide that the best car for me in my price range (well, my mother’s price range, as she was technically buying the car) was a Honda or Toyota, which were the two most reliable brands. I ended up buying a light blue 1987 Honda Civic hatchback from Acura of Boston (which is still there!) for a whopping $5,000. I kept that car for 9 years across four states before selling it for $500 and replacing it with… a 2000 Honda Civic.

Sometime in the 1990s I subscribed to Consumer Reports myself, thumbing through each issue. I kept 3-4 years of issues at a time, recycling the older issues at the end of each year. It came in handy, and sometime in the late 2000s I decided to take advantage of an offer of theirs and extended my subscription for ten years.

Consumer Reports has not had a great decade, though. Its reporting on computers and other high tech has always been iffy at best, but its reports about the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” controversy led me to completely disregard their reporting in tech. But more significantly, the proliferation of online review sites (The Wirecutter at the high end, but a dizzying assortment of specialized sites for almost everything you can want to buy is also out there) has reduced its value significantly.

My final issue

My long-running subscription expired with the October 2020 issue, and I decided not to renew it. While I still flipped through it every month and sometimes found something interesting or useful, that was happening less and less. I imagine Generation X will be the last generation which reliably subscribes to Consumer Reports – and we’re a small generation. I have no idea how much revenue they get from their online presence – it could be a lot, for all I know! – but if they’re still primarily relying on their print arm for revenue, they’ve probably got 20-30 years of life left, unless something radically changes in the world.

Anyway, maybe it’s time for my fourth go-round of subscribing to The New Yorker. It’s much more of a time commitment to read, but I bet I’ll get more out of it.

Looking Ahead to President Biden

It’s looking pretty good today that Joe Biden will be the (presumptive) President-Elect within a day or two. Our long national nightmare is almost over.

(Well, except for the fact that tens of millions of people voted for racist impeached Donald Trump and his fascist ideology this month. We’re going to be living with that horror for the rest of our lives.)

Biden is no liberal’s ideal President, but he represents bringing competence and professionalism back to the executive branch, and showing Trump’s ineptitude and grifting the door. That’s certainly worth something. But Biden and his team have a lot of work ahead of them, which will be complicated if the do-nothing Republicans hold the Senate. (Why do we elect people to government who don’t believe in governing? sigh) The first hundred days are often seen as a bellwether for how well an administration hits the ground running, and Biden is going to have a lot to do. Here are some of the things I see him having to deal with in his first three months:

Getting all the bugs out of the White House: Trump and his people have been incompetent grifters, and there’s good reason that he personally – if not his sycophants – is deeply beholden to Vladimir Putin and perhaps others. The access he’s surely given to many of America’s enemies, as well as his rampant (here’s that word again) incompetence likely means that many of the executive branch’s physical assets (buildings, computers, maybe even personnel) are likely deeply compromised to those enemies. I have no idea what will be involved here, but I bet Biden’s team will be deploying a legion of people to make the White House secure again. We’ll probably never hear (well, not in my lifetime) just how bad things were, but there’s going to be a lot of taxpayer money spent fixing these security holes.

Besides which we’ll probably be hearing for years about state secrets the Trumpists sold during his term.

Implementing a federal response to COVID-19: The Trumpanistas have been famously inept at responding to COVID-19, and by the time Trump leaves office (angels sing) over a quarter of a million Americans will have died from the virus, many of which deaths could have been preventable with even a barely competent response. There’s probably not a more urgent crisis facing the nation today. There will likely be a high-profile component of this effort – for example, executive orders and public relations campaigns around physical distancing and masks – but the real work will be behind the scenes, restoring the compromised government agencies which respond to pandemics, installing leaders who work from the science, coordinating logistics to provide support and supplies.

Perhaps most importantly, the federal government will be crucial to deploying a vaccine across the nation once it’s available. Trump was so incompetent that if he’d been reelected, I fully expected his ineptitude would have delayed effective distribution by a year or more. Having a basically competent administration in place means we might be able to end quarantine sometime in 2021 or early 2022 (which is what Dr. Fauci has been estimating). Under Trump it would have probably been 2023, and with lots more death before then. (I’m sure Fauci was keenly aware of this risk, but there was no value in him coming out and saying it.)

Financial support to people affected by the pandemic: This is more in Congress’ wheelhouse, and so far it’s done a terrible job of supporting the millions who have been rendered unemployed and who have lost their health insurance.

If the Republicans retain control of the Senate then I think we can forget about significant aid to ordinary Americans in the next two years. But there may still be measures that Biden can take using his executive authority. After all, Trump tried to redirect funds to his lunatic anti-immigration policies, so perhaps Biden can do something similar to provide aid to Americans. This is incredibly important, but also incredibly hard without Congressional action.

Brexit: One of our closest allies, the United Kingdom, is also being led by an incompetent grifter (Prime Minister Boris Johnson), and is currently in the throes of disconnecting itself from its closest allies and economic partners, the European Union. The U.K. has been waiting for the results of the U.S. election (for what, it’s unclear), but the U.S. can have some influence – perhaps a profound influence – on shaping Brexit, even at this late date, as well as influencing how the U.K. and our other allies interact with each other after Brexit. Brexit is also going to be a huge tragedy for many U.K. citizens, and is likely to lead to further upheaval (Scotland is likely to pursue leaving the U.K. again, and it’s really unclear what’s going to happen with Northern Ireland). A sane U.S. government can help mitigate some of that upheaval. This is not to say that we’re going to – or should – swoop in and be saviors, but doing what we can to prevent the worst from happening to our oldest ally seems like the rational and humane thing to do.

Rebuilding our reputation with the rest of the world: Trump has badly damaged America’s standing in the world with his racist, narcissistic, isolationist behavior. We’re no longer the de facto leader of the western world – and it’s not clear who is. Germany, by default, perhaps. Biden has the opportunity to start rebuilding our influence in and trust of the world. But it’s going to be a long road: America has elected one xenophobic nutjob, and could easily do so again, so it’s only natural that our allies make contingency plans for when they can’t rely on us. This is a project which is likely to last longer than Biden’s term in office, but the global culture we live in makes it essential that we play a role in it.

Meanwhile, many other western nations sees America’s democracy as rather backwards. That’s not something Biden can fix, nor is it something we’re likely to fix any time soon, but it doesn’t help our reputation and efforts to improve our standing, either.


Wrapping up, Trump has left Biden and America in a deep, deep hole, and it’s going to take a lot of work and time to dig out of it. Biden might only be a one-term President as he’ll be almost 82 when the 2024 elections arrive, but he has the opportunity to lead America through one of the greatest crises it’s faced since World War II. I don’t know whether he’s up to the task, but he’s the one whose task it is. So, we shall see.

But at least now we have hope. With Trump, there was none.

Endless Summer’s End

While summer technically ended in September with the autumn equinox, for me it felt like this weekend marked the end of the season. A big reason for this is that we’ve had an unusually warm summer, which lasted with highs in the 90s well into October (The Weather Channel says the temperature here hit 93°F on Oct 17, and was in the 80s and high 70s for a week thereafter). Even with air conditioning, it was a long summer. But climate change will probably make this the new normal – perhaps for the rest of my life. Pour one out for the Bay Area summers of highs in the 70s.

I took Friday off from work, as the pandemic means there isn’t much to use vacation time on other than staycations. I slept in a bit, and then went over to Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands, which was a delightful walk. I walked for about 20 minutes along the bay (more or less – it’s still pretty marshy around there), and then came back and hiked around the hills in the park. The hill reminded me a lot of the dry areas in Hawaii, with brown grass and scrub, and scenic views of the bay. I’ll definitely have to go back next time I want to do a longer walk. Although if we get some rain in the next month, it might look pretty different if the plants start waking up!

After my walk I drove up to our vet to pick up some medication for our cat Roulette.

Rou – who turned 17 in July – had had a rough week: Last Sunday after a normal morning and early afternoon, she suddenly slept for most of the next day and a half, didn’t seem able to jump like before, and was peeing outside of the litter box. She got a little better by Wednesday, but still didn’t seem quite right. She was also having a little, well, leakage in other places she slept, which would not be that big a deal if one of her favorite places wasn’t between my legs in bed overnight. So I’d picked up some puppy pads to lay down in a few of her normal places, and also ordered some waterproof blankets.

We talked to our vet on Thursday. We didn’t really want to take her in unless we had to, because the car and the vet really stresses her out (and we couldn’t go inside to the vet with her because of the pandemic). Our vet suggested that she might have arthritis, which might be getting worse as it gets colder, so she prescribed some meds for that. We’ve started her out at the lowest level, and it seems to be helping: She’s able to jump more, and she’s curling up more normally, not sticking her legs straight out as much. And while she’s not always hitting her litter, she’s doing better than she was last Monday. And she seems fine with the extra blanket I have over myself at night.

She still seems to be basically happy, so hopefully we can keep her comfortable.


Yesterday we filled out our election ballots and dropped them off, and then got ready for the evening.

Halloween for us is usually a pretty lively evening, as some years we’ve gotten 300 kids or more. Our neighborhood I think attracts kids from surrounding neighborhoods – and even cities – to be driven in. It’s not really a big deal for us – Debbi enjoys seeing all the costumes, especially of the young kids, and we buy a bunch of candy and when we’re out we’re out – but this year of course we had no idea how many kids would show up.

So I bought a couple of bags of candy and we divided them up by putting 2 or 3 pieces each into a plastic snack bag. Then around 5:30 Debbi laid a bunch of baggies out on our front steps. I cleaned off our wooden glider and sat there, while Debbi brought out a folding chair, and we sat on the front porch to say hi to people as they went by or came up to get candy.

Some friends stopped by and hung out in the yard for half an hour before they drove around to look at Halloween decorations (something we did on Friday night). Otherwise we had a steady trickle of kids until about 8:15 pm, with maybe 50 to 60 kids coming by. Most of the kids were younger and accompanied by their parents, and almost all of them were wearing cloth masks and/or keeping their distance from other people. So it seemed pretty safe for everyone involved, and we felt pretty good about having helped them have a positive Halloween experience.

Our award for “best costume” was a girl – maybe 11 years old or so – who went as a jellyfish: She carried an umbrella which had streamers and strands of mini LED lights hanging from it, with frills around the edges. It was a neat look.


Today we made our weekly run to the farmer’s market, and then mostly sat to watch football. But I did go out to mow the lawn for what will probably be the last time this year. Our lawn has been getting a bit ratty, between the clay-like soil getting bumpy, and the drought a few years ago killing off some random patches around the edges. Now we have a zone of sprinklers which isn’t working, and that grass is dying, too. We’ll probably have someone come in and at least fix the sprinklers and spot-patch the lawn, although I’m sorely tempted to just get the whole thing re-sodded.

Anyway, it’s been a long strange summer around here. I’m looking forward to winter and hoping we get some good rainfall to stave off another drought. But I know the winter is going to be rough for the nation, as it will signal an end to outdoor dining for restaurants in many places, and I bet the inability to do things outdoors will lead to even wider spread of COVID-19.

I dearly hope Joe Biden can win the Presidency on Monday. I think he’ll not be a lot more than a caretaker President, but anything would be better than the incompetence of the Racist Impeached President Trump administration, whose lack of leadership has lead to over two hundred thousand American deaths. Otherwise I expect we’ll be stuck in quarantine until at least some time in 2022, if not even later, as I doubt Trump and his sycophants are capable enough to spell ‘vaccine’, never mind organize distributing one.

The Edison Blues

The weekend after our trip to the coast, we noticed that Edison was feeling kind of down – or a least acting that way. He’s been a high-energy kitten, but now he was spending a lot of time sleeping, not really playing. He was eating and drinking, and would engage with us if we worked at it, but otherwise he was just finding different sleeping spots and hanging out there.

So Saturday we took him to the vet – we seem to spend a lot of time at the vet since getting these kittens, but fortunately all for treatable issues. In this case, Edison was running a fever, so our vet gave him some subcutaneous fluids and a shot of something – I think a broad-spectrum antibiotic – to help him shake it. She also drew some blood to run a deeper test if that didn’t help. And then we took him home.

Happily, that treatment seemed to do the trick, as by Monday he had perked up considerably, and by today he was just about back to his normal self. I think his brother Simon missed having his playmate, although he is pretty self-entertaining. But seeing Edison charge after toys at high speed again was a joyful thing.

I guess this is just part of getting new kittens: They come with some new issues. But hopefully now that we’ve taken care of the chlamydia, the conjunctivitis (twice!), and whatever this was, they won’t come down with anything else for a while. For years, with any luck.

An Unexpected Puzzle

Puzzles have been a popular pastime during the pandemic lockdown. We’ve only done one, though: Megaplanet, which was pretty neat both because of its vivid colors and its round shape. We finished it over the course of a week – and found we were missing two pieces. Since we have young kittens, we suspected they might have been the culprits, and indeed I found one piece under the couch. But no luck finding the other one so far, so we eventually gave up and took it apart. Would definitely recommend, though.

But this weekend we found ourselves with another puzzle to unravel, as it were:

Like most people, we now own a bunch of cloth masks. Debbi puts them through the laundry in a lingerie bag, which seemed great until she took out the latest load with eight masks in it. In addition to the ear loops, many of our masks have loops to hang them over your neck when not using them. (This is pretty handy when driving from place to place.)

The problem is that the eight masks their loops all tangled up in a big mass. After quite a few minutes Debbi was able to free one mask, but after another while she got frustrated and handed it to me.

It took me several minutes to figure out how to tackle the problem: Pulling at the tangled mass wasn’t any good, as pulling on one end just tightened another end. But eventually I figure it out:

I laid the masks on the counter, with the mass in the center, and arranged them in a circle around the mass. Then I realized that it was a puzzle with two “moves”:

  1. Undo a twist in the loops of two adjacent masks, and
  2. Push one mask through the loop of an adjacent mask.

So the trick was basically to figure out which masks were “adjacent” to each other, and then to take whichever two masks had the “outermost” connection and perform one of the two moves. Every few moves I’d rearrange the masks slightly (basically a simple form of undoing a twist), but this technique made it really easy to methodically untangle the mass. Two masks got freed after a number of moves, and then after a few more moves the other five were freed from each other.

It was actually a pretty neat little puzzle! Not one we need to do every time, and we’re trying to figure out how to wash the masks without this happening again. But it gave me a nice little feeling of accomplishment.

Far From Home

Debbi and I took a vacation day yesterday. I’ve taken some time off since the pandemic started, but Debbi hasn’t taken much, and she was ready for a day off. We decided to take a day trip to one of our favorite places in the Bay Area, Half Moon Bay.

Our trip was slightly complicated by the latest round of fires in the region, specifically the Glass Fire, which has triggered evacuations in the north bay, and dropped a new layer of smoke across the area. But the smoke mostly stayed above the ground layer, so we decided it was safe to go. Well, as safe as anything is in the middle of a pandemic.

It turns out that a pedestrian bridge along our usual walking route was closed – not clear why, but we assume it’s due to the ongoing erosion of the sandstone cliffs along the ocean – so we parked somewhere else and walked along the streets and trails near Pillar Point Harbor. The ocean waves were high, and there were a bunch of surfers out. Also a number of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists, but for the most part it was not hard to keep our distance from others. The ocean mist combined with what smoke did come down to sea level helped keep it from getting too warm, as the area is also in the middle of a heat wave.

We’d made reservations at the Miramar Beach Restaurant, which we’d eaten at once before, and where I saw some friends of ours ate last month. They managed to lose our reservation, and the hostess had trouble keeping her mask over her nose, but otherwise it was a good outing: We only had to wait 15 minutes for a table on their patio, and they were otherwise doing a good job of serving customers with physical distancing and masks.

Afterwards we stopped by the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which is one of several San Mateo County parks which is still closed, so that was a bummer. But, we stopped off at Dunking Donuts on the way home.

Did I mention the heat wave? It was about 100°F at home, while it only got a little above 80 in HMB. Despite that, we got a little too much sun and spent the rest of the day lying around at home. The cats – who have had us around almost 24 hours a day since early March – seemed a little put out that we’d been gone. The kittens of course have never seen us leave for so long, and Edison was unusually snuggly with me in the evening.

Despite the bumps, it was a nice, relaxing day. And it was nice to get away – safely, we think – for a change.