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.

Melancholy New Year

Today is the last day of my almost-two-weeks-off from work (I decided not to take Monday, December 23 off, although almost everyone else seemed to). We had a mix of busy-and-lazy for most of it: We went to San Francisco one day, Half Moon Bay another day, walked downtown on Christmas Day and got Italian for lunch, watched Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, watched a bunch of TV and movies at home, and had people over to hang out and play some games on New Years Eve afternoon. We’ve also been working on a puzzle, something we haven’t done in many years.

Debbi went back to work on Thursday, but I took a couple more days off, mostly hanging around at home.

But I’ve been feeling kinda down since New Year’s. A little of it is watching “The Time of the Doctor” leading up to midnight on New Year’s Eve – it’s not a very good episode – manipulative and frustrating in various ways – but its manipulativeness certainly includes the obligatory sadness that’s accompanied most Doctor Who regeneration stories since “Logopolis”. But this was the least of it – it just set the tone heading into the new year. (We shoulda just turned on one of the generic New Years Eve shows, but we had inertia after watching the far superior “The Day of the Doctor” previously.)

I think some of it is my age. I’ve been trying to think and talk about my age less since my birthday last year, but it’s difficult sometimes. This year I started thinking that I’ve probably got less than 40 more New Years to experience myself. Realistically unless I get in much better shape, I probably won’t be around to see 2060. We also have our 16-year-old cat, Roulette, who is really in great shape for her age, but we probably won’t have her for many more New Years either, and if she declines like Newton did over his last two years, it won’t be an easy time. Stuff I think of when the calendar rolls over, I guess.

Or maybe it’s a touch of seasonal affective disorder. Or despair over Trump’s latest act of idiocy and its fallout. Or not being ready to go back to work. Or being more ready to go back to work and get back to my routine than I realize. I dunno.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get over it. I have a puzzle to complete.

Getting Older is Strange

The first thing that made me realize I’m getting older is that I’m shorter: I’ve lost about an inch from my peak height. A couple of years ago I had to ask them to measure me twice at the start of my physical exam. It didn’t help.

But what made it hit home is that my vision has started going. I’ve always been nearsighted, but around age 47 I started getting what is colloquially called farsighted but which is properly called presbyopia, and which interacts poorly with nearsightedness (because without lenses I can only clearly see things close up, but I can no longer easily change my focus to view things that are close). This has been predictably annoying: Reading small text up close is getting harder. Bright light helps. iPhone flashlights are great for reading the menu in dark restaurants – you may have noticed older people using them. Well, that’s why.

This year I’ve had some new developments. In June I went running one morning as usual. After lunch I went for a walk, also as usual. Around 3 pm I got up to walk to coffee with my cow-orkers, and I had a serious pain behind my right ankle, so bad that I was limping with my foot turned sideways to mitigate the pain. I have no idea what happened, but this was about a week before our flight back east so I decided to give it a few days to see if it got better, by taking time off from running. It did. By Saturday it was a dull ache, and by our vacation it felt almost all better. But it hasn’t completely gone away, although it hasn’t impaired me at all since then. I suspect I pulled my Achilles tendon, but I don’t know how.

The latest thing is the bane of middle-aged overweight guys everywhere: Knee problems. My left knee started hurting when my dad was visiting at the beginning of October, and got worse over the next couple of weeks. And then my right knee started hurting too. So I took a 2-week break from running – though I substituted some walks instead – and things got better. It’s still not 100%, but I’ve been slowly ramping up my running, and have been glad not to have sore knees for the last couple of weeks. Debbi thinks I went too long before replacing my sneakers and inserts, so I replaced them when I started up again.

All of this is strange because I don’t feel older. A little slower, maybe, but I’ve never been terribly athletic and my physical endurance has always been pretty lousy. Most of my cow-orkers are over a decade younger than me, and I don’t feel like I have a problem keeping up with them. I’m just annoyed that some things aren’t working as smoothly as they used to. It could be a lot worse, I realize; this is just normal getting-older stuff.

Anyway, a week and a half ago I was doing some shopping and on impulse I bought myself reading glasses. They help. It’s weird.

Old Man Exam

Now that I’m fifty, I “get to” start some of those rites of passage for older citizens in our society. The AARP mail has started rolling in, of course, but the other milestone is that yesterday I had a colonoscopy. I wanted to document my experience, partly for anyone searching around for personal accounts of the procedure, and partly for my own reference the next time this rolls around.

Spoiler: The exam didn’t find anything. I don’t know whether I’d be writing this post if it did find something. Writing about medical issues is something which is, well, maybe not frowned upon exactly, but something people often don’t do, due to a lot of different personal and internal pressures, as far as I can tell. I’m not terribly shy about it myself (though TBF I’m also pretty healthy), but I don’t think people really want to hear about it either. But as something which was a pretty significant subject for me over the last week, I decided it seemed reasonable to write it up.

I got a referral for the procedure when I saw my PCP last March, but I put it off for various reasons, not least worry about the difficulty of preparing for it and finding out what the results would be on the other end. But since I knew my schedule would be clearing up early this month, and not wanting to put it off into the holiday season, I made the call and was happy to find out I pretty much had my pick of dates for when to do it. So I scheduled it for noon yesterday (which, for those gliding into this entry in the future, was a Tuesday).

The pre-prep involved picking up the laxative for the day before the exam, and stopping eating nuts and seeds a week before, I guess because those take longer to digest. Although not specifically called out, I also avoided nut products like peanut butter. It also occurred to me that there are incidental seeds in a lot of things, e.g. sesame seeds on buns, those whatever-they-are on the bottom of English muffins, etc. I didn’t kill myself trying to cut out everything, but I avoided anything obvious, trying to generally stay in the spirit of things. I was also supposed to skip aspirin and ibuprofen, which was easier.

The real ‘fun’ started on Monday, when I was supposed to stop eating anything except for white liquids (lemonade, white cranberry & white grape juice, chicken broth, etc.). I did go to work and had a low-energy day. Fasting was not as bad as I thought it would be – my stomach had a dull ache all day, but it wasn’t growling out of control and leaving me weak and woozy. But it was probably the worst part of the preparation.

I left work early and went home to take the laxative (under the brand name SUPREP) at 6 pm. This involved mixing a 6-oz bottle of the stuff with 10 oz of cold water, drinking the whole thing, and then drinking 32 oz more water over the next hour. I had heard a few stories about the taste of the stuff, but it was actually not that bad. It smelled kind of like cherry NyQuil, tasted a little worse, but was pretty easy to chug down with a pause for breath in the middle. Honestly drinking another 32 oz of water over the next hour was harder, because that’s a lot of water in a short time.

My big worry was that the results of the stuff was going to be miserable: Sitting on the toilet for 2-to-3 hours, or dirtying my clothes or furniture, and I was braced for it to have an immediate effect after drinking it. In fact it took about 40 minutes before I felt the effects, and I had the usual amount of control over my bowels throughout the experience. The effects lasted about 4 hours – which is presumably why I had to drink it at 6 pm, so I could get a decent night’s sleep – and overall was not so bad. Better than not being able to eat, honestly.

As my procedure was scheduled for noon on Tuesday, I woke up at my usual time at 6 pm and showered, and then drank the second dose of laxative, and, well, let’s just say that it was pretty clear that the medical brain-trust knew what they were doing to prescribe two doses. The experience was basically the same as the night before, except that I had to stop drinking around 9 am. But I did drink some extra water before that.

Debbi stayed home in order to drive me to and from the appointment and keep an eye on me afterwards, so we went in well before check-in time, and a little after 11 I went through the whole check-in process. Since I would be somewhat sedated during the process, they put some monitors on me and an IV drip. Apparently being dehydrated makes it more difficult to put the needle into a vein, but fortunately they got it in in a single try. That was probably the worst part of the pre-op procedure. Well, that and the fact that I was cold all morning, which they said was a side-effect of the prep procedure.

While they were wheeling me into the room I reflected that the last time I was on a gurney being wheeled around a hospital was when I was 17 having surgery for a pilonidal cyst. (I remember the date because it was the summer of 1986, because I started watching baseball while recovering from that surgery in the hospital.) Before that was probably when I was 7 and had surgery for a hydrocele, which I barely remember except during recovery was the only time I’ve ever found Cheerios to be tasty. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky to have avoided this experience for the last 33 years.

The actual exam had me lying on my left side, but almost as soon as I turned onto it my memory goes blank. I assume the sedative kicked in and I either fell asleep or just got too groggy to remember. The nurse said it’s common for people to not remember or have one brief flashes of memory of the exam. I remember taking up near the end of it and seeing the screen they were looking at, which was weirdly mesmerizing, watching something tunnel around inside my innards. It was like some weird Doctor Who special effect. It was vaguely uncomfortable, but not painful. Then it was done and they wheeled me to toe recovery room.

Debbi met me there and the doctor came in and said that they’d found nothing during the exam, no polyps or anything else they needed to monitor, which means I don’t need to do this for another 10 years. Woo! Apparently I do have a few diverticuli, which the doctor says is very common and is unlikely to cause any problems.

Since I had been sedated, I was instructed not to drive or drink alcohol (or “make important decisions”) for the rest of the day. I think I was still a little groggy – without feeling groggy – because I don’t really remember getting dressed, but I remember everything after that. I basically felt normal, but I trusted that I wasn’t, really.

Debbi drove us home and I ate some soup and an English muffin, and had a quiet rest of the day. Around 3 pm I fell asleep for a couple of hours, and then Debbi made dinner. I was not as ravenously hungry as I’d expected to be, though we did also go out for ice cream. I also felt well enough to go to a walk before dinner (thus keeping my 4-month Apple Watch move goal streak alive!).

This morning was a normal day (plus a call from the doctor’s office to make sure I was feeling okay), and so far no after-effects from anything in the procedure. It’s a big relief to have it over, and to have had a positive outcome. I tried not to worry about it too much, but I did have some anxiety about it regardless. I’m very glad I don’t need to do it again for a decade.

Home Maintenance

Our house is now 11 years old (we’ve been in it for 8), which means – of course – that it’s time for little things to start failing.

Well, there’s a big thing which has been failing too, that being our lawn. But that one gets a bit of a pass since it got hammered pretty hard by California’s drought several years ago. I’ve been doing my best to keep it going and fix it up, but I’m about at the point of declaring bankruptcy on that and having someone in to re-sod it. The advantage to re-sodding is that maybe that will smooth out the very bumpy soil of the back yard. (Our soil is clay-like which is pretty annoying in several ways.) I wonder when the best time of year to do that work would be? Before the rainy season, which starts in a couple of months? Or after?

A slightly smaller thing is that we need to have several windows repaired. Some of them appear to have compromised seals, which the window cleaner last year told us is why they’re dirty between the two panes. But we also have a window which no longer opens, and another in which the outer pane broke mysteriously a few years ago (I suspect a bird flew into it or dropped something against it). Some of that might be covered by warranty, assuming the builder’s warranty transferred to us.

We also have a couple of faucets which have issues, and I suspect the issue is in the wall for both of them. One of them is the hot water for one bathtub (but not shower), so it’s not urgent; the other is the cold water for one of the sinks in the master bathroom, so it’s a little more important. We had a plumber in a few years ago for a different issue and he didn’t want to look at the sinks, so I suspect it will be a bigger job. (Or maybe he just wasn’t a very good plumber, or not rated to do that kind of work.)

More recently, we had a couple of light fixtures go out. One is one of the three pendant lights which hangs over our island. Of course the one over “my” spot at the island. Another is an under-counter light next to the stove. I might be able to fix the first one myself, but probably we’ll get an electrician to handle both.

The other outage is more amusing: The electrical outlets in the living room stopped working one evening. Not a huge deal because the overhead recessed lighting worked fine, but certainly annoying. We spent some time checking the three breaker panels around the house (upstairs, downstairs, outside) and flipping breakers, but nothing had been tripped, and no flipping fixed the issue. (We did find out that we need to evaluate and re-label some of the circuit breakers, though.) I was dreading having an electrician in for that and having it turn into a big thing. But a few days later I did some vacuuming and then plugged the hand vacuum into the one outlet in the laundry room to recharge – and its charging light didn’t come on! “Hmmm”, I said, and remembered that that outlet is one with a GFCI (since it’s near a utility sink), so I pressed its reset button, the charging light came on on the vacuum, and I checked the living room lights and they worked!

It is a little weird that the living room outlets are on the same circuit as the laundry room outlet, but to be fair there are no other outlets in the other small spaces around the laundry room, so putting it on a circuit with a larger room makes some sense. We’ll just have to remember that. It’s a relief to have it fixed.

I also did exciting things like changed a light bulb and fixed a latch on the sliding screen doors to our deck. I need to figure out why one of our drip sprinklers seems to be mostly-clogged, and replace an accent light in the back yard. And then see about getting our Internet service upgraded (which I’ve been dragging my feet on all year, on a probably-misplaced fear that they’ll do the upgrade and it will stop working for several days). And we want to get our bar stools reupholstered, as the faux-leather covering is flaking away faster and faster.

And fall means yard work. I’ve been trimming the jasmine on the back yard fences, and cutting back the bushes in front between our house and a neighbor’s. And fall also means endless raking until probably New Year’s as the sycamore tree over the front yard gradually drops thousands of leaves, mostly on our lawn.

My dad visited last week so some of this stuff has on hold for that and other reasons, but it should give us some stuff to do for the fall. Like we need things to do!

Amazon Oddity

Last weekend I ordered a couple of things with Amazon Prime. They were supposed to be delivered on Tuesday, but Tuesday afternoon I got an e-mail saying my items were delayed because they’d been delivered to the wrong carrier facility. Okay, unusual but not a big deal; I wasn’t in a hurry to get them, really.

Tuesday night I got another e-mail, this time saying my package wouldn’t be delivered at all because it had been damaged. Moreover, it was being returned to the sender and my credit card would be credited.

Which is weird, because Amazon’s site said that both items I’d ordered were still available. Why refund my money rather than send me new items?

Anyway, Thursday I get another e-mail , saying that one of the two items is out for delivery. Yeeeeaaaahhhh, I didn’t believe them. It never showed up. My guess is that it was actually out for delivery to be returned to the sender, and their system didn’t handle that well.

The refund hit my card today, backdated to Thursday. So that was weird, too.

Anyway, I still want the items, so I guess I’ll order them again. One of them was from a small vendor, although it was supposedly shipped by Amazon, but I have a feeling that both items were really shipped by that vendor, and something went wrong somehow. I dunno. Maybe I’ll order them separately this time. Because Amazon Prime means not having to hit a threshold to get free shipping.

A Temperate Trip

Yesterday we flew back from our latest trip back east to visit our families. I’ve been working so much over the last year that I haven’t taken much vacation since last year’s trip – just a few days here and there – so I was so ready for this one. We took 2 weeks for this trip, like we did for last year’s, but we didn’t have chores to take care of for the beach house this time so it was pretty much a pure vacation.

The JetBlue red-eye flight isn’t getting any easier, but there aren’t a lot of choices for flights from the Bay Area to Boston unless we’re willing to make a connection (we’d rather not). Our flight was also delayed an hour. So we landed around 6 am EDT time on a Wednesday morning, then picked up our rental car. This was supposed to be a mid-sized car, but was actually a Mazda 3 hatchback. This was a pretty crappy car, with a lousy console, a buggy entertainment system (no CarPlay! The console went dead on Debbi at one point while she was driving to her sister’s house!), it was missing the cover for the hatchback and we couldn’t fit all our luggage back there anyway. And the tire pressure light came on during our second week there. At least it had 4 doors, but not my idea of mid-sized. Our experience with it definitely makes me disinclined to buy a Mazda in the future. If we had been more awake when we picked it up we would have gone back to request another car when we saw it was a hatchback. I made a note for future trips to be sure to request a sedan.

Anyway, car bitch-fest aside, the trip went smoothly. Debbi spent a night with me at my Dad’s before heading out to meet a friend of hers for lunch, as said friend was also in town from out-of-state. I spent a couple of quiet days with Dad, going to the cemetery to visit Mom’s grave, where we also saw red-winged blackbirds and a small turtle – we definitely hit the jackpot with her site at Mount Auburn Cemetery. The second half of the Women’s World Cup tournament was on while we were there, and I watched one game with Dad, and others with Debbi and other family. Maybe I’ll get into soccer as my next spectator sport.

The first weekend there I borrowed Dad’s car and drive down to the beach house to meet Debbi and spend the night there. Debbi’s friend from out-of-state as well as another friend met us there for the afternoon, which was a nice, relaxing time. We ran some errands after they left and had a quiet evening. On Sunday Debbi’s family came by to hang out for the day.

Oh, and I bought Debbi a late birthday gift, the Lego Millennium Falcon, figuring we’d spend time putting it together on our vacation. I’d originally planned to get her the totally bonkers Ultimate Millennium Falcon until I saw that that one would take 40 hours or more to put together, and came with instructions on how to lift it without it falling apart. Plus the box weighs 30 pounds! I decided that was a little too ridiculous, so I got her the basic set (from the original trilogy – there are also sets from The Force Awakens and Solo). But the joke is that we never put it together and ended up shipping it home before we left. Oh well!

I drove back to Dad’s Sunday night, while Debbi went to stay with her sister. Debbi had another friend drive up with his daughter and her friend (both teenagers) on Monday to stay the night, and it sounds like they had fun. Meanwhile Dad and I went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which we’d last visited a decade or more ago. They’ve updated a lot of the exhibits since last we were there and it looks a lot spiffier, although it’s somehow comforting that the room with the dinosaur fossils and the coelacanth seem to only have received a fresh coat of paint. (Technically this is the Romer Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology.)

Plateosaurus
Plateosaurus
Coelacanth
Coelacanth
Triceratops
Triceratops

Several of our favorite restaurants near Dad’s have closed in recent years, so we tried a few new ones (to me, anyway, and one new one to Dad). Fortunately one favorite, Taberna de Haro, is still there (we went twice).

I decided not to go out to Waban on this trip, because with Mom’s house gone, my elementary school replaced, and not really anyone left out there whom I know, it didn’t seem necessary to go again this year. I belatedly realized that this means 2019 is likely the first year since 1971 when I didn’t spend any time in Waban. Truly the end of an era for me.

Tuesday Debbi picked me up and we started the second half of our trip, which consisted almost entirely of hanging out at the beach. We didn’t quite think our meal plans through as we kept going back to the grocery store to pick up stuff for lunch or dinner, but otherwise it went smoothly. I was reminded that unfortunately while there are several “okay” restaurants in the area, there are not many really good ones. I think my favorite that we’ve tried is The Galley, a small plate restaurant in downtown Scituate with some good drinks and a nice open-air atmosphere. (Check the mirror behind the bar for their wi-fi info.)

Debbi’s family came out for July 3rd, which is when many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of (illegal) fireworks are set off by homeowners up and down the beach. It’s quite a display, and a highlight of our trip. Then Friday night an old friend of mine from high school, Matt, came to visit. I’d contacted him around the time of my 50th birthday and learned he lives near the beach house! So I grilled burgers and we hung out and chatted for the evening. I think it’s been over a decade since we’d seen each other, so we had a lot to talk about. In many ways I feel like we haven’t changed a lot, at least not as far as how we relate to each other.

We had really good weather for this trip, much nicer than the sometimes-brutal weather of last year, but Saturday was the one rough day of heat and humidity on this trip. We mostly spent it sitting in front of the fans, though we ran a couple of errands in the afternoon. About 5 pm a storm rolled in and it instantly got cooler and drier. We got a good view of some lightning strikes out over the water before the rain crashed in for about an hour. We did take a walk in the drizzle in the evening to go get ice cream, though! I’m grateful that even though we did have some very warm days, it always cooled off at night so we could sleep, since we don’t have A/C at the house.

Storm coming
Storm coming (click for larger image)

The fam came over again on Sunday to watch the World Cup final and have a last day at the beach before we left (and several of them headed off on their own vacation). Debbi and I had a quiet evening and a last day at the house before we drove up to Dad’s for the last night with him.

We flew home Tuesday night and miraculously our flight arrived 40 minutes early, so we were able to decompress a bit before bed. We smartly took today off from work so we were able to reorient ourselves and get ready to go back to work. Plus it took most of the day to convince Roulette to come out from under the bed and warm back up to us. She will be 16 years old later this month and she is definitely looking a little thin, so it’s hard to see her traumatized by us going away like this. Poor girl. (Sadie and Jackson, of course, bounced back immediately.)

Holy cow did 2 weeks of vacation fly by! On the other hand, now I have so much in the bank at work that I can’t let another year go by before taking another one.

Sunrise