Welcome Simon & Edison

Did you ever find yourself mostly stuck at home for months on end and think to yourself, “This would be an excellent time to adopt some kittens”?

Well, we are, and so we did. Meet Simon and Edison!

Simon is the brown tabby, while Edison is the black fellow.

We met them because one of my cow-orkers was fostering them, and we went over to visit a few weeks ago (pretty much the only people we’ve visited indoors since shelter-in-place started in March), and we thought they were pretty adorable. But, color-wise, they fit in with our three current cats, Roulette (calico), Jackson (gray tabby with white), and Sadie (white with orange tabby markings). And they had fun, playful personalities. So we decided to adopt them!

They are not brothers – Edison is about a week older than Simon according to their records, and they’re about two and a half months old. Simon has had a rough first couple of months, with some sort of bug that suppressed his appetite, and a foxtail or something in his right eye which left an ulcer. But he seems to have recovered from both, and is a little behind Edison in size and weight.

We brought them home two Mondays ago, and they’ve been mostly confined to a bedroom since then. And holy cow they are just about the most high-energy kittens we’ve ever had, other than maybe Blackjack. They zoom around their room and play and play and play. They’re changing practically every day, learning to jump higher, complaining that I’m not scooping their litter enough (we put a larger tray in the room after a couple of accidents), finding their meows, learning to snuggle, learning to clean themselves. Some switch flipped in Simon a couple of days ago and he’s become a lot more assertive, which has been adorable.

We’ve given them some supervised access to the rest of the upstairs, which they find delightful. They’re also very interested in the big cats, though only Jackson is interested in them so far, and somewhat cautiously, although we’ve played with all of them at the same time. Sadie will get a glimpse of them and then run away, while Roulette doesn’t like the cats we already had and I think is in denial that we have more.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been fun and games.

We took them in for their first appointment with our vet, for which they did very well. Both have put on a bunch of weight since they arrived (Simon is going to be a roly-poly guy, while Edison is going to be long and lean). That’s good, but less good is that they both have upper respiratory infections, and also conjunctivitis (or something like it). So we get to give them both meds for the next week and a half, and have to keep them separated from the other cats – and likely also change our clothes when we visit them – to keep the others from getting infected (especially Roulette, who will be 17 later this month; Jackson and Sadie are 7 and can probably deal with an infection if they contract it). Aside from the hassle for us and the disappointment for the kittens, it also means it will be a couple of weeks at least before we can start integrating the household.

Hopefully we’ll all come out the other side okay, but it wasn’t a great start to the long weekend.

As for the names? I’ve had “Edison” in my back pocket for decades waiting for the right cat, and I think this is the right one. We talked through a bunch of other names and both liked Simon. Of course, these are my fourth and fifth cats whose names end in “-on” (Jefferson, Newton, Jackson), so next time we’ll have to add a little more variety. But I think these names suit these kitties.

So despite the speed bumps, we’re very excited about these new additions. I’ve felt since they arrived like these are exactly the kittens we were meant to have.

Three Months Inside

A week or so ago marked three months since I started working from home, and just a little less than that since the Bay Area started its shelter-in-place policy. Debbi started working from home about a week after I did.

As I’ve chronicled, it was rough for the first few weeks, some better than others, but we’ve mostly gotten used to it.

We were doing “happy hour” video chats with friends for the first few weeks, but those have tailed off, though we did one with some neighbors and some former neighbors last weekend. We’ve also done some in-the-driveway evening drinks with other neighbors, using our six-foot folding table to separate us. Sadly, they’re going to be moving at the end of this month, as their landlords wanted to raise their rent, and they found a place closer to where they work. We’re going to miss them. I think their landlords may be in for a surprise, as there are a couple of vacant rental homes in our neighborhood.

The county has been gradually opening things up. Construction started up again a few weeks ago, and the house across the street from us has gone from little more than a foundation to the plywood exterior going up. Other new construction is moving along, too.

Over the last few days, retail businesses are opening up as well. Diamond comics distributors had closed for several weeks, which meant no comic books, but they’re ramping up again and I’ve driven down to pick up my books at the curb the last couple of weeks. Supposedly I’ll be able to go into the store tomorrow – with up to four other people so long as we distance ourselves. Restaurants and game stores and other retail are also opening up – we picked up lunch today and saw a few people eating at outdoor tables at downtown restaurants. Ditto when I picked up coffee today. Meanwhile, the city may close the main street downtown to allow restaurants to set up seating there. (By the time I publish this, the city council will probably already have voted.)

Is it too early? My gut says ‘yes’, but a lot depends on whether the measures to keep people separate work. I do most of the shopping for us – Debbi comes with me to the farmers market on Sunday, and not much else – and what I see is pretty iffy. Safeway supermarkets aren’t very diligent about enforcing masks, distancing, or the one-way arrows in their aisles. I encounter lots of clueless people. By contrast, I went to Costco this morning for the first time since shelter-in-place and it was smooth: Everyone was let in promptly at 10 am, everyone wore masks, almost everyone was keeping their distance. Granted, it was a Tuesday morning and not a Saturday afternoon, but it made me hopeful. I also went to the nursery to get some pots and plants and it was great too. (In case you’re wondering why I wasn’t at work, I took the day off.)

We’ve had a couple of heat waves in the last few weeks – it got over 90° today – and we’ve been glad of our air conditioning. On the other hand, it got cold over the weekend. Strange days in more ways than one.

We’ve been cleaning up our study, buying new furniture and making it a more usable space, and getting rid of a lot of stuff (like, two bankers’ boxes worth of paperwork from my late mother). I’ll likely do an entry about it when we’re all done, but progress has been going pretty well, just more work than I’d expected.

On another front, we’re thinking of getting kittens, since if we’re home all the time it seems like the perfect time to have kittens. And frankly, Jackson and Sadie (who turn 8 this fall) really need and deserve kittens. On the other hand, Roulette (who turns 17 next month) didn’t like these kittens, and has gradually been showing her age. Last night she peed on our bed, though it may have been because we’d closed the door to kick Jackson out so she couldn’t get to the litter. So, I don’t know. I don’t want to have her slowly decline and end up waiting 2 years, either.

So, it’s been a time. I know lots of people have had it a lot harder than we have, even people with jobs, and maybe we’re lucky we haven’t caught COVID-19 (or maybe we have – who knows?). In two weeks Apple has its developers conference, which ought to be an odd experience as an entirely-remote affair.

Now that summer is here we’re gently mourning our vacation plans for the year, which included visiting family, going to Hawaii, and maybe to Las Vegas. But I doubt there will be any non-essential travel in our future for at least a year (and, frankly, any essential travel probably won’t be for happy reasons, if it happens).

I imagine these entries start to sound like a broken record after a while, but so it goes when you’re mostly at home. I hope everyone reading this is doing as well, or even better.

Quar Wars Day

Debbi’s birthday falls on Star Wars Day, which is convenient since she loves Star Wars, especially the original trilogy. In these days of shelter-in-place with no vacation plans for the foreseeable future, we decided to both take the day off.

The night before we re-watched Knives Out, which we saw in the theater in January and enjoyed tremendously. It holds up very well on re-watching, partly because it’s funny and lively, and partly because knowing what’s coming throws a different shade on some of the earlier scenes.

Debbi made pancakes for breakfast before our current set of eggs expired, and we turned on the original film, as some TV station was showing episodes 1-8. And, well, watching them is most of what we did for the day. We’d talked about driving to a nearby park or trail to go for a walk somewhere other than the neighborhood, but neither of us felt like it. So we each went for a local walk instead, and otherwise had a lot of couch time.

I picked up lunch from our local Hobee’s, which reopened for take-out a week or so ago, and for dinner we picked up from QBB. I puttered around doing a few chores, and Debbi got calls from friends and family, but otherwise we watched five Star Wars movies: The original trilogy, The Force Awakens, and The Rise of Skywalker, which other than Rogue One are the five best films in the series. (It’s ironic that we watched and enjoyed Knives Out, because its writer/director Rian Johnson also did The Last Jedi which is as joyless and glum as Knives Out is otherwise. Some people think it’s because it was produced by committee, but I also think it’s much worse than the two Abrams films. I’m perfectly happy to not see it again, as with the prequel trilogy.)

So, it was a low-key but pleasant day. If nothing else, we’re grateful that COVID-19 waited until this year to strike, so we still have the fond memories of Debbi’s awesome 50th birthday weekend from last year (which somehow I never did an entry about). Small favors, etc.

Anyway, happy birthday to Debbi! Hopefully we can do something more exciting for it next year.

Coffee Maker Follies

Yesterday morning we discovered our coffee maker had died. Which was annoying since we had bought this one just last summer. Doubly annoying because, you know, we’re in the middle of a global crisis and often it’s hard to get moving without coffee. Yesterday morning was a big rough. Plus it was Monday.

We’d had an 8-cup Black & Decker coffee maker with an insulated carafe for, oh, 8 years or maybe more before it started showing signs of the end last summer in that the coffee was not hot enough after brewing. I think it was the second of that model we’d owned, and they no longer made it anymore. But they did have a 12-cup model which looked very similar (this one seems to be its current iteration), so we bought that.

We liked the thermal carafe because it made it simpler not to have a heating element under it, and this model seemed to work well. But yesterday when we turned it on, the light for the button came on but nothing happened. There was no indication it was trying to push water through, or heat it, or anything. It could be that the water intake was blocked, but it felt more like some electronic problem so that the button just wasn’t triggering anything to happen. No help in the manual, of course, and Debbi said it had a bunch of negative reviews on Amazon.

So I headed to The Wirecutter to look at their recommendation for best drip coffee maker. But, not wanting to spend $200 on a coffee maker, I went instead to their recommendation for best cheap coffee maker. They recommend a Mister Coffee Easy Measure, but rather than waiting a few days to get it delivered from Amazon or Target, I instead drove over to Target (wearing a bandana) to buy one myself (along with a couple of other things I’ve built up on a list, including Neosporin for a nasty scrape I gave myself on Sunday). Their web site said they had two items in stock.

Target was pretty dead on a Monday morning in the middle of a pandemic, which was nice since it meant I could be in-and-out. Or, rather, I could have been except that I couldn’t find a model that looked just like the one on the web, nor did I see any models with 2 items in stock. Very puzzling! They did have plenty of Mister Coffee models available, so after looking at them for a bit I chose one that looked like basically the same thing – but of course I can’t find it on Amazon to link to it. Weird!

So I brought it home and set it up, and it seems… acceptable, if not great. A few observations:

  • The reusable filter seems nice in theory, but it’s one more item that needs to be washed. It appears to support using normal disposable filters, so which is better, using disposable filters, or using water to clean the reusable filter? Probably I’ll opt for the disposable.
  • The clock doesn’t work. It had lost almost an hour of time after sitting for about 12 hours. That’s not great. Fortunately we don’t need to program it while we’re home all the time.
  • The first pot of coffee tasted strong to me. The sparse manual says that it considers a cup to be 5 ounces, but I think our previous maker considered it to be 6 ounces? But its manual doesn’t say. But if so, then I am using a little more coffee than normal. I guess I can adjust that, but you’d think this would be a standard measurement! It also means this coffee maker is 16% smaller than expected (60 oz rather than 72 oz). Sheesh!

So anyway, first impression is three stars, probably fine if you need a coffee maker but don’t go crazy over it. I expect we’ll replace it again in the next year, and maybe actually spend more than $50 this time. I’m sure all my friends who are more coffee connoisseurs than I am are aghast that we didn’t do that in the first place.

Quarantine Days

Today is the start of my eighth week of shelter-in-place, and Debbi’s seventh. This entry might be a bit repetitive, but it’s helpful to write it out sometimes.

I realize that we’re both incredibly fortunate. Both of us have jobs, and we’re both able to work from home. We live in a nice neighborhood where we can get outside and enjoy the weather (which has been excellent lately, maybe even a little too warm). It’s not really “quarantine”, though that’s what we’ve been calling it, but we can still go out when we need to. We cook at home most of the time, but we’ve been getting take-out two or three times per week. I mostly run errands during the week when there are fewer people in the stores (yes, I wear a mask), but of course we order a lot through the mail, too.

Most of my friends seem to be in a similar fortunate place. I worry that as quarantine continues that this will change. Heck, it could change for us. But I try not to think about that much. I do have a few friends who are having a hard time of it, one in particular who’s been writing about his family’s struggles, and it can be pretty hard to read.

Working full time at home has been weird since I have typically tried to keep my work life and my home life very separate, and this blurring of the two has been a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, it does keep every day from feeling the same, and it still makes weekends feel different since I have a chance to relax.

Or, I can get a bunch of stuff done. This past weekend, I plowed through a bunch of bills and other work in the study, then did a whole bunch of yard work. Pretty productive! But in reality I’ve been alternating productive weekends with lazy ones.

We’re rather bummed that our anniversary restaurant, Don Giovanni, is closed for quarantine, so we want to find something else to do for it. We have a few ideas, but it won’t really be the same.

Anyway.

We’ve also been watching a lot of TV and movies (Star Trek: Discovery! Mary Poppins! Lots of Harry Potter and Star Wars and a little James Bond!), and reading (John Scalzi‘s latest, The Last Emperox). I text with several friends as well as my sister, and I’ve been trying to call my dad every other weekend or so.

The cats seem to have adjusted to the new normal. Roulette, our old lady, hasn’t really changed her routine much, although she’s discovered the sunbeam in the guest bedroom has returned. Sadie mostly loves when one of us goes up to the library for a conference call, especially my morning meeting when the sun is coming in through the window. Jackson has learned that I have a ribbon by my computer in the dining room and comes in between 2 and 3 and agitates for play time. Once I tire him out he often curls up on the dining table and sleeps. Sadie also sleeps in the dining room, on the chair with the seating pad on it, which was my attempt to make those chairs more comfortable to work at. (It didn’t work, and I brought the chair down from the study instead.)

I’ve mostly been ahead of the curve in picking things up for quarantine (for example, we have flour and yeast that we haven’t even opened yet). But the one boat I missed was getting hair cutting supplies. I have an item on order which should arrive in about 2 weeks, by which time my hair should be about 2 feet long. Or maybe just feel that way.

So, life marches on. Shelter-in-place for our county has been extended through the end of May, and I think it will be mid-June at the very earliest before restrictions get significantly relaxed.

It’s of course a bummer that our vacation aspirations for the year are almost certainly washed out. No trip back east, no Hawaii or Portland, or Vegas trips. I’m glad we went to Disneyland when we did. My hope at this point is that there will be some occasional loosening so that we can go to the coast, and maybe even spend a long weekend in Half Moon Bay or Monterey, or even San Francisco. Just getting away from home for a little while would be nice.

But I don’t know. Until we have widespread testing available – and the Impeached President Trump administration seems to be in no hurry to arrange for that, and realistically there’s no one else who can – I think we’re all going to be stuck here for a long time.

Keeping Occupied

It’s been four weeks since I started working from home due to physical distancing restrictions to mitigate COVID-19. It’s been three weeks for Debbi. This past week was a little easier for me, but I think Debbi’s still working through it.

I’ve hit our two nearby grocery stores since my last entry about the virus, and they’ve had most things in stock. I didn’t check cleaning supplies, but one of them did have toilet paper and paper towels. The only thing we’ve been interested in and unable to find are eggs, which is weird since many other friends in the valley say they can find eggs. It must just be a random fluctuation in our neighborhood.

We’ve done take-out from a few restaurants, especially QBB which is a favorite of ours. Last Saturday we did take out from Chef Chu’s House, which is a valley institution (and the son of the owner directed Crazy Rich Asians), and their parking lot was nuts. Debbi says some elderly customers would drive up and demand service immediately even though there were a dozen other cars ahead of them. Sheesh! I think they’re pretty good, but not amazing; certainly they don’t compare to the late, lamented Su Hong in Menlo Park. This experience convinced us to start targeting our take-out nights to less busy nights of the week.

Sadly, another favorite, Clarke’s Charcoal Broiler, is the first of our regular restaurants to announce permanent closure due to the virus. It seems they were – as best anyone could tell – Mountain View’s oldest restaurant.

I’ve continued to run 3-4 days per week, and walked 2-3 times per day on top of that – which is more walking than I did before, but I basically replaced my drive to work with a walk. Which is good since I’m horribly behind on listening to podcasts as it is.

Fortunately we’ve been having really nice weather here most of the time, and spring is my favorite time of year in California, with everything turning green, lots of things flowering, and everything smells wonderful. On the other hand it’s been raining most weekends. Why weekends? Because the weather gods hate me and want my lawn to be 9″ high. Good thing I love rain on principle.

I bought a new humidifier a few weeks ago, because I’d read that if we do get sick then it might help. It turns out we’ve been using it every night for the last week to help with run-of-the-mill throat issues we sometimes have at night.

We also put up a few of our holiday lights outside out house, to make things a little cheerier in the neighborhood. “Corona lights” I quipped. Debbi wanted to avoid Christmas colors, so we did light blue, pink and yellow, and then I added a strand of green along the base of the porch to look like grass. We leave them on overnight, and occasionally I see someone walk by in the dark and notice them. They make me happy when they come on, anyway. And I noticed another house in a cross street put up some lights too.

I worry about actually catching the virus, of course. I mean, it’s a lottery: 80% of the time it will be a pretty bad cold or maybe less than that. But one time in five maybe it’s a really serious illness, and maybe you end up in the hospital, on a ventilator, or… well, dead. For all I know maybe we’ve already had it – but there’s no way to know, right now. Because the federal government is run the incompetent crybaby and his inept cronies and so it’s months behind on rolling out testing. I’ve been doing my best to observe physical distancing when I go anywhere, which is pretty easy when exercising, but harder in stores – although there are some people who clearly don’t care or don’t think about it, so at least I’m doing better than those people.

(The Bay Area, by the way, seems to be doing pretty well overall. Despite a few gaffes, the number of new cases day-over-day has been approximately flat for about week. Even “approximately” flat is way better than exponential growth.)

I’ve stopped reading social media during the work day because it gave me too much anxiety. I also stopped listening to NPR as my wake-up alarm for the same reason – it’s all virus, all the time. I created a Twitter list for the few people I want to catch up on at the end of the day, and I skip everyone else. I’ve also been muting people on both Twitter and Facebook who are posting too much about the virus for my mental health. It’s helped – a lot. I think it’s a big part of why this last week was better than the one before.

Yesterday a friend of of mine organized an online poker tournament on PokerStars.net which was a lot of fun, with an audio channel for us to chat during the game. We had 14 people, and I managed to fold my way into the money, finishing third (top three paid). I felt card dead for long stretches of time, and then I got bailed out by some timely all-ins that went my way. Late in the tournament I doubled up on three consecutive hands. So, you know, plenty of luck. I coulda played better, but I coulda played worse. But it was great to do something with a group of friends.

So, you know, it’s been a week. Since we’re both working full time (and I’m keenly aware that there are lots of people who not working at all, and not at all by choice) I don’t find the days run together, and I appreciate the weekends as a time not to be ‘on the clock’ at work. But it’s still something of a struggle. Probably for everyone, to some degree or another.

Home can be Strange

I’ve wrapped up my second week of working from home, and my first with Debbi also home. We’ve both been struggling a bit, adjusting to being at home all the time, working at home, and of course the anxiety that the state of the world induces.

Monday came the announcement that the six Bay Area counties were going to shelter-in-place starting Tuesday. My work gave us a lot of slack to get things lined up to work from home for the duration, making sure we had appropriate resources at home. Debbi meanwhile went into her office and picked up a bunch of stuff, including her plants and those of some of her cow-orkers which we are now fostering. (I’m taking it as a special challenge to revive a sad-looking succulent she brought home.)

Tuesday was, for me, the hardest day. I’ve been keeping my regular running routine, and also going for at least one walk around our neighborhood. The stories of hoarding were very concerning, though I had been a couple of days ahead of the curve on most things. The biggest thing we’re missing at home right now is an oral thermometer, in case one of us does get sick. By mid-afternoon I was really struggling to focus.

Wednesday was new comic book day. It turned out my store provided pick-up for some of its subscribers (and since then they’ve gotten the county’s approval for curb-side pickup of online orders). Honestly it felt great just to get in the car and drive somewhere, and I picked up dinner on the way home.

Meanwhile, Lee’s Comics here in Mountain View abruptly announced on Wednesday that they’d be going out of business. Lee’s is one of the oldest comics shops in the Bay Area (maybe there’s an older one, but I can’t think of it), and their San Mateo store closed a few years ago. Some wonder if they were in worse financial shape than anyone knew, but my guess is that Lee was not really into the retail experience anymore – he’s always seems more into selling valuable back issues, which is much more of a niche market these days – and decided this was a good time to just pursue his passion.

Anyway, apparently a bunch of his regulars have been setting up subscriptions with my regular store. Hopefully this will help him get through this tough time.

Many restaurants around us have moved to a take-out only model. A few have just closed for the duration. I imagine the take-out model will stave off the end for some restaurants, but once the quarantine is lifted I think the restaurant landscape will look very different than it did last month. Think of your favorite restaurants, and I bet half of them will never come back. We’ve ordered take-out from a few of our favorites, and at least one of them seems to be doing okay so far.

We also made a run to the two Safeway restaurants near us on Thursday. Both were pretty quiet, as you’d expect. Chicken and prepackaged bread were in short supply, as I assume were toilet paper and cleaning products, though we didn’t check. Baked-in-house good were plentiful, though, as were other meats. Produce was hit-or-miss. But it’s clear that they are getting restocked. My guess is that first we have to get over the hump of panic buying, and then the supply chain needs to catch up to the increased demand.

I also called my Dad, which both of us enjoyed. I worry about him. There’s not much I can do if something happens to him, as it’s a 6-hour plane flight to get out to him.

On the bright side, Friday night we had virtual happy hour with some friends in Portland, over FaceTime. We had a good hour chatting with each other – not even entirely about the pandemic! Then on Saturday we ordered from our favorite BBQ place, QBB, which is now able to provide their yummy cocktails to call-in pick-up orders. And we ran into a friend while picking up. It sounds like they’re doing okay, all things considered.

We’ve both had a lot of anxiety about everything. Social media mostly doesn’t help, and the number of people who have just been sharing widely-available articles or doing their own analysis really doesn’t help. Maybe one post in a hundred is actually useful, and the rest just increase anxiety. I’m thinking I should start muting my friends who are mostly sharing stuff like this. I’ve been trying to do less of it myself, sharing more entertaining things – though I still blast Impeached President Trump and the Repugnicans for fucking everything up with their greed and incompetence. We’ve both had some trouble sleeping, though I think Debbi’s been worse than me.

Anyway, we had a quiet weekend. Yesterday we watched Doctor Who “The Day of the Doctor” and the original Star Wars trilogy. Today we lay on the couch together for a long time, and then put up a few of our Christmas lights on the front porch to hopefully bring a little more happiness to the neighborhood. And tonight I tried making Thai chicken yellow curry, which turned out really well, if a bit spicier than I’d intended. So it was a nice stretch of downtime.

But tomorrow it’s back to work. Hopefully this week will be better, both being able to focus at work, and being less stressed about how things are going. I’m not sanguine about the latter, but we can hope. I have read a few cautiously optimistic things, but I think there’s a long way to go.

I’m trying to decide what the cats think about all this. I think they’re kind of tired of us being around all the time. Well, get used to it, kids!

Virus Corona

Of course the big news of late is the coronavirus pandemic which has been spreading across the world. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been reading about it in the news since at least January, but since then it’s spread to South Korea, Italy, the United States, and many other countries.

Predictably, the incompetent administration of Impeached President Trump has been completely incapable of dealing with the pandemic, and as his lying, grifting nature dictates, Trump has been trying to suppress information to make himself look good so the pandemic doesn’t interfere with his reelection. This is a terrible thing for public safety, as we have no idea how widespread the virus is in the United States, and there’s no way for someone who gets sick to know if they have the flu or the COVID-19 illness that the virus causes – or maybe something else. Of course, Trump almost completely ignored the disaster that Hurricane Maria wreaked on Puerto Rico, so everyone with a couple of neurons to rub together saw this coming. (To be slightly fair to Trump, his ineptness in dealing with Maria was probably not just due to his incompetence, but also to his abject racism.)

For myself, it wasn’t until about 2 weeks ago that the pandemic really pushed into my mind as something that we should be concerned about and preparing for. Which maybe still puts me a bit ahead of most of the country. Apple (my employer) was perhaps a day behind other major tech companies in moving to a work-from-home policy, but honestly a day one way or the other won’t make any real difference. What will make a difference is that they’ve gone all in on reacting to events.

Last Friday, March 6, we were encouraged to work from home. I had some things to do which required I be in the office, but it was pretty quiet – maybe two-thirds of people were out. In the afternoon I walked to another building to get coffee. It was cool and partly cloudy, and I briefly reflected that this might be the last semi-normal day for a long time. I mean, I’ve read and seen plenty of disaster fiction, and if the pandemic really got bad who knows what things would be like on the other side – if I’m even among those who gets to the other side. It was a quiet, sad moment.

Friday night we ordered take-out from a pizza shop, and they were slammed. Saturday we went to one of our favorite restaurants, because we knew that small businesses would probably be hit hard by the coming changes and we wanted both to support them and to enjoy them while we could. They were pretty quiet when we arrived around 6, but by the time we left at 7:30 they were getting pretty full. We also picked up a bunch of extra stuff at the grocery store, but the run on toilet paper and cleaning supplies had already begun. We did, however, stock up on supplies for the cats – if things get bad, I don’t want them to be the ones that suffer, if we can help it.

By Monday, my work had a basically-mandatory work-from-home policy in place. There were some exceptions, but I didn’t really qualify. I had already gone into the office on Monday, so I stayed there until mid-afternoon to finish setting things up. There were maybe 8 people in my area all day.

So we’ve moved to teleconferencing for meetings, lots of chatting over Slack (though I’ve long been a big fan of chat apps for work), and the new buzzword “social distancing”. Debbi was still going in to her office, so I hung out with the cats, ate lunch by myself at home, and walked to Starbucks for coffee in the afternoon, or just around the neighborhood. The weather was beautiful last week – I wore shorts – so having the windows open was also nice as there are many trees and flowers in bloom. Wednesday I went to get comic books as usual.

By Friday, it seemed clear that work-from-home was going to be the norm for the foreseeable future. So I went into the office at the end of the day to pick up some things (especially my headphones, but some other items as well). I saw one person on my floor, and one of the janitorial staff, who I chatted with for a few minutes. I walked around the floor and took in the quiet, since I figure I won’t be there again for a few weeks. It was pretty strange.

Friday night we went to another favorite restaurant, and we’ll probably hit another one tonight. Is going to restaurants bad? Maybe. It’s hard to cut them out completely. We picked up some more items at Target today. I think this weekend is probably going to be the peak of the panicked-stocking-up around the country, mainly because most school districts have announced they’re closing for the next few weeks, so parents are trying to make sure they’re prepared for that. It remains to be seen whether the supply chains restock many of the items in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area has finally ended its month and a half long drought with a heavy dose of rain today, and more in the forecast in the next week. So the past week feels like the calm before the storm figuratively and literally. We’ve both been feeling a lot of anxiety about this, and neither of us generally has trouble with anxiety. I haven’t really felt like this since the last few months of my mother’s life back in 2014-15, that tightness in the chest, a weakness in the legs where I have trouble pushing myself to keep moving forward. The preparation we’ve done in the last couple of days has helped a lot with that, but I’m sure it will come back.

I’ve always felt that the government has an important role to play in public health and safety, and in managing the economy wisely. The Impeached Trump administration and the last 40 years of mostly-conservative government has wrecked the federal government’s ability to do all of these things: Disaster response is indifferent and terrible, the country is running huge deficits in times of relative prosperity, which is exactly the opposite of what it should have been doing. All of this results in, well, a lot more anxiety. And I suspect most of the nation doesn’t understand just how bad it could get.

So, it’s been a stressful week. But this week might feel like a walk in the park a few weeks from now. I hope it won’t be that bad, but I fear that it might. And Impeached President Trump has a way of living down to everyone’s worst expectations.

Birthday Week

Last Thursday was my birthday, and we had a heck of a busy week around it!

For starters, we went to to Disneyland last weekend, flying down Saturday and coming back Tuesday, spending 2-1/2 days in the park(s). Since SuperShuttle has gone under, we tried Wingz, which is like Uber and Lyft except that they vet their drivers more carefully (or so I’ve read), and they primarily do airport transportation, where you can request a ride weeks ahead of time. Our trip to and from the Anaheim airport both went really smoothly, with friendly drivers who were on time and flexible. It was probably a little more expensive than Lyft, but not a lot. Would definitely recommend. We learned the difference when we used Lyft to get home from the San Jose airport on Tuesday and got a driver with a messy car with way too much air freshener.

The big change at Disneyland since our last visit (two years ago!) is the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (or “Star Wars Land” as lots of people call it). It’s still kind of in its formative stages, but it was pretty populated while we were there. The main ride, “Smugger’s Run”, is okay, being kind of a guided video game you play with 6 people, with excellent graphics. But the scenery in the area is the main draw, with an elaborate settlement with a large reproduction of the Millennium Falcon, as well as a small Resistance base in some nearby ruins (with a ride which opened the weekend after we were there). And also the second place in Disneyland that sells alcohol, a cantina you should reserve a spot in ahead of time. They also have a build-a-droid experience, and a build-a-lightsaber experience, and Debbi bought me the latter as a birthday gift. The lightsaber seems like it’s really high quality, with nifty audio and visual details.

Oga's Cantina
The interior of Oga’s Cantina.

We rode a lot of the old favorites, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 3 times. The Indiana Jones ride is showing its age and broke down a lot, including twice when we had fastpasses to it. Space Mountain was slammed as usual, and Haunted Mansion has gotten very popular lately, typically with a wait time double that of Pirates of the Caribbean. We rode Star Tours twice, though its current Rise of Skywalker form is not as interesting as what it was after its overhaul a decade ago, when you could go to 3 different world on each ride. Hopefully once RoS leaves theaters they’ll put it back to mixing things up on each ride.

My favorite ride used to be the Californian Screamin’ coaster in California Adventure, but they’ve reskinned it using The Incredibles – a film I’m not much of a fan of – and we didn’t get to ride it because – you guessed it – it broke down when we had fastpasses. Oh well! Alas, the nifty “tour of California” theme of California Adventure has now been erased by the Disneyfication of the park over the last decade, so it’s lost a lot of its charm. The new Lamplight Lounge is pretty nice, although I don’t think it’s displaced the Hearthstone Lounge for me (the best kept secret on the property, I think). A Bug’s Land is being demolished for – I believe – a Marvel superhero area, presumably to integrate with the Guardians of the Galaxy ride behind it. We also road Soarin’ twice, which is also not as great as its previous Soarin’ Over California incarnation was.

Anyway, that and our tired feet aside, we had a good time and will try to go back sooner than another 2 years!

My actual birthday rolled around on Thursday and I treated myself to my free Starbucks drink in the morning to go with the scones Debbi baked for me. I had a pretty quiet day at work – lots of people were busy so I went to coffee by myself, and in the rain yet! (But, I love rain.) The original plan was for me to grill hamburgers for dinner, but instead we went downtown to Don Giovanni, which was yummy.

And Friday we went to Sundance the Steakhouse, which is what I always pick for my “official” birthday dinner. Their Moscow Mules are especially yummy for some reason, and birthday mud pie for dessert is also a nice bonus. Debbi noticed that some of the crew from Fox’s NFL broadcast show were eating there, including Jimmy Johnson and maybe Terry Bradshaw, but we didn’t want to stare so I’m not sure. They were in town of course because the 49ers were hosting the Green Bay Packers in The NFL championship on Sunday.

Saturday I went to Isle of Gamers for the Magic Theros: Beyond Death prerelease. I had a pretty good deck, I thought, although nothing obviously broken. My first match was a tie, but with 2 more turns I think I could have won it. I won my second match easily, and then tied my third match (and we barely started the third game). I think I played pretty well, bit a 1-0-2 record was just barely better than break-even. Well, it beats a sharp poke in the eye! I can confirm that the card Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is a house. It almost singlehandedly won 3 games for me.

The deck I ran was close to what’s shown here.

Sunday we finally took down our Christmas lights, a week later since we were away last weekend, and then we watched football for the afternoon. The Niners annihilated the Packers, as the Packers’ offense was sloppy and the defense had no answer for Raheem Mostert’s run game. It was kind of embarrassing, really. The Niners face the Chiefs in 2 weeks in the Super Bowl.

I had today off for Martin Luther King Day, and Debbi didn’t. I think in 2023 MLK Day will fall on my birthday and I’ll get it off work for that reason (something that sometimes happened when I was a kid, as MLK Day was a holiday for some of my childhood in Massachusetts). I took care of some long-standing chores and finished Charles Stross’ latest Laundry Files novel, which means I’m caught up on his books for the time being.

And that was about it. Not a bad, um, ten days of birthday celebration of various intensities. But I’m kinda ready for life to get back to normal for a few weeks, anyway. More rain in the forecast tomorrow, so that’ll make me happy.

Finished!

1000 pieces and somehow we didn’t lose a single one!

Somehow it wasn’t wrecked by the cats sitting out overnight! (We put a towel over it each night before we finished it.)

The green felt underneath allowed us to move it and even roll it up while we were working on it (it ended up getting worked on in three different spots). But I think it was more of a hindrance than a help, because it was really hard to shift the pieces over when they were a little bit out of alignment.