Fully Vaxxed

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.)

Uneven Willingness to Get Vaccinated Could Affect Herd Immunity

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.

Debbi & Michael after getting vaccinated
Obligatory selfie after getting our shots!

20 Years with Debbi

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.

Happy anniversary, my dove!

So Much Adulting

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.

Lukewarm

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.

Remembering Roulette, 2003-2021

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.

Thanks for everything, little girl.

One Year of Covid-19

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.

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:

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.