A Busy Day

As previously mentioned, I got my COVID booster shot today. I also picked up my new iPhone 14 from CVS, though I had to make a separate trip for that, since it hadn’t arrived yet when I went for the booster. I guess the phone had gone back to the depot on Friday, then sat there all weekend, then got put on a truck this morning for delivery to CVS. Sigh. Well, I’ve got it now, so all is well.

This booster is my fifth shot, overall. The last shot was in April. I’m hoping I don’t get any side-effects from this one, since I’ve got a pretty busy week at work, and I don’t want to have to take a sick day. (But I will if I need to.)

The iPhone setup was relatively easy. I think the only major thing I still need to do is the MS Authenticator setup, which I’ve previously complained about. I’ll try to do that in the office tomorrow, where I’ll have access to my work desktop PC and my office phone, just in case any of my accounts still have the office phone number as a backup. I’m anticipating that’ll take about an hour.

Meanwhile, I had also ordered a new router this weekend, and that showed up today. I ordered this one, from Amazon. It was $80. I didn’t do a ton of research, bit it seems to be a successor to one that had been recommended by Wirecutter. I also found a good CNET review of it. I don’t have much to say about it yet, since it’s still in the box, and will likely remain there until this weekend.

I bought my current router in 2017, so it was time for a new one. The old one still works, but it doesn’t support some of the more modern features and standards. Honestly, I haven’t kept up with all that stuff, so I couldn’t even tell you which ones are which, at this point, but I know I was time for a new router. So I’ll try to get that set up over the weekend, probably, and I’ll have more to say about it then.

On another subject, there are a lot of changes going on at my job right now, and it looks like one of them may snowball into a pretty big change for me. (Or not. Hard to tell.) Either way, I think I need to learn a lot more about Dynamics 365 and Power Platform and stuff like that. I’ve made some efforts at learning that stuff in the past, but I never wind up actually working on anything real with it, so the knowledge doesn’t stick. And of course everything changes, so the stuff I picked up two or three years ago is different now anyway.

A lot of the changes we made in April are getting, well, changed. I wouldn’t say “rolled back,” but I am back under the boss I had before the big changes in April. But she’s under a different boss. And we seem to be backing off on our enthusiasm for scrum a bit. And, as mentioned above, I guess I’m going to need to learn more about the Dynamics 365 side of things. Which is good, I guess, but right now, my head is spinning.

COVID boosters, iPhones, and NYCC

After dithering back and forth on whether or not I should get another COVID booster shot, I decided today that I should. I read this article in the NY Times this morning, and I guess that’s what convinced me. That, plus reading the replies to this tweet from Tom Tomorrow, where he asked about people’s recent experiences with COVID. Yikes, yeah, I don’t want that. I made an appointment for Monday, at the CVS in Bridgewater.

Meanwhile, my iPhone should have shown up today. The UPS guy came and went and just left a sticky note. I’m pretty sure he didn’t ring the doorbell, though my doorbell is a little iffy so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. The sticky note says that I can pick it up at… the CVS in Bridgewater! So maybe I can pick up the iPhone and get my booster shot at the same time!

Honestly, if the iPhone is available there tomorrow, I’ll make a special trip and go get it. But I know it might not be available until “next business day,” so that would be Monday.

Monday is about two and a half weeks before NYCC, so that should be a reasonable amount of time for the shot to take effect. So if I decide to go to NYCC, I will at least be as vaxxed as possible.

COVID, and NYCC, and iPhones, and other stuff

It’s been about a month since I’ve last posted here, and I have a backlog of stuff in my head that I’ve been meaning to post about. And a number of things came up today that seem like they might be worth mentioning.

Also, I might be a little jumpy from my afternoon cappuccino, so this post might go all over the place…

NYCC announced their mask policy for this year today. In short, they’re requiring masks, but not vaccination. The con is happening in about a month (October 6-9) and I still haven’t decided if I’m going or not. I’ve been keeping an eye on the news, with regard to whether or not there will be a fall surge, and how bad it might be. I just don’t know… I know they mailed out badges this week, so I’ll have those soon. If I decide not to use them, then that’s OK.

I listened to a bit of Andy Ihnatko’s Material podcast today, and he started it out with a bit of a “sermon” on masking and COVID. He mentioned something in there about his own decision-making regarding an upcoming comic con in his area (Boston?), and his thinking seems to be pretty much the same as mine.

I was sick all of Labor Day weekend. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t COVID, and I’m not sure where I picked up… whatever it was. At work, I’m one of a very few people who are still wearing a mask around the office. I did go to a couple of large in-person meetings recently, so maybe I picked something up in one of those. But I also went out for a beer and a burger with an old friend Friday night, so maybe that’s where it came from. (Though we were sitting outside for that, so there should have been less chance of picking up anything airborne, vs. being indoors.)

I honestly think I’m getting sick more often lately. The prevailing wisdom on that seems to be that spending too much time alone, indoors, has left my immune system unprepared for normal levels of airborne… stuff. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I need to spend more time with other people?

On another matter entirely, I paid some attention to Apple’s iPhone event today, though I was too busy at work to catch everything. My iPhone XR is now over three years old, so it’s probably time to replace it. The iPhone 14 looks… fine. If I stick with the standard iPhone 14, then I don’t think it’ll be that much different from my XR. It’s the same form factor (I think) and still has the notch. It seems to have a much better camera though, which is nice, I guess. The iPhone 14 Pro has some snazzy features, though I don’t think I really need them enough to spend $200 more than for the regular 14. (Yeah, that “Dynamic Island” thing is cute, but I don’t need it.)

I also have a bunch of work stuff I want to blog about, but I really need to organize that all first. So I guess this will just be an NYCC / COVID / iPhone post.

COVID exposure

I got a notification from the NJ COVID app that I was exposed to COVID recently. I’ve had the app on my phone since October 2020, and this is the first time it’s actually notified me of anything. The exposure was more than a week ago. Not sure why it took so long to get to me.

I’d pretty much forgotten that the app even existed. When I first installed it, I was “checking in” on the app on a semi-regular basis. These apps were a pretty big deal when they first came out. But they’ve really faded to the point where it doesn’t seem like anyone bothers using them anymore. But I guess some people still do, otherwise I’d never had gotten that notification.

At this point, I guess it’s a pretty useless notification though. If I was exposed more than a week ago, I’ve had plenty of time to spread it around. I went out to dinner with a friend Saturday, and to lunch on Sunday. That’s unusual for me, and I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I might have COVID.

The date shown is May 16, which was a Monday. Looking at my Day One entry for that day, I barely left the apartment, so I’m not sure how I could have been exposed on that day. It does say that it’s “estimated” though, so maybe it happened the next day, at work, in the office? (I work from home Mon, Wed, and Fri, and in the office Tue and Thu.)

Oh well. I did an at-home COVID test this morning, just in case. It came back negative. At this point, I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to report a “near miss” to work or not.

second thoughts, and other distractions

So after spending $300 on NYCC tickets yesterday, today I stumble across this article: Coronavirus wave this fall and winter could potentially infect 100 million, White House warns. So, yeah, that October con in New York is sounding like less of a good idea.

I found that article while going down a slight rabbit hole at work. I took a quick break to look at Hacker News, which led me to this notice on Jason Kottke’s blog that he’s taking a sabbatical. That led me to follow a couple of links at the end of his post, to Dave Pell’s and Craig Mod’s sites. And something at one or the other of those led me to the aforementioned CNN article.

I say all that to illustrate the fact that I’m easily distracted, and I’m trying to get better about that. I’m finding a little guidance on that in some of the stuff I’m reading right now, and in some of the guided meditations I’ve been doing recently. But I’m still really distractable. I think maybe I need to get back to using a pomodoro timer. I blogged about distraction about a year ago, and did the pomodoro thing for a while, but didn’t stick with it.

Oh, and to follow up on the financial stuff in yesterday’s post: that’s getting even worse too. See here: Wall Street, dragged down by tech stocks, racks up more heavy losses. So, yeah, maybe I should just live in the moment?

fourth shot

On Monday of this week, I got my second COVID vaccine booster shot. So my vaccine card is full now. The first shot was in April 2021, the second in May 2021, and the first booster was in December 2021. I should be used to the vaccine side-effects by now, but I was a little surprised about how bad it was this time. I was fine Monday and Tuesday, but then it hit me on Wednesday, and I had to take a half-day Wednesday and a full sick day Thursday. I’m pretty much back to normal today (Friday).

I assume this was the vaccine side-effects, but it could have just been a cold that I got, coincidentally, right after the vaccine shot. I did go out to dinner on Tuesday, so maybe I picked up some germs there. It was a small restaurant, and it wasn’t crowded, so I figured I was relatively safe.

We’re going through a lot of changes at work right now, and I’m pretty busy, so this wasn’t a great week to lose a day and a half, but hopefully I can catch up next week.

I have a bunch of other stuff that I want to blog about, but I don’t really have my thoughts organized. For now, I just wanted to post something about the vaccine booster, for possible future reference. I’m assuming that I’ll probably need one or two more boosters this year, given the way things are going. Maybe in August and December? It’ll be interesting to come back to this at the end of the year and see how things are going with COVID. Will things get better? Worse? Both? Neither?

Back home and sick

My trip up to Albany earlier this week was a success, in that I got there and back in one piece, went to my friend’s wife’s funeral service, and generally had a pleasant time, catching up with old friends. I have gotten sick now, though, as I expected/feared.

I took a COVID self-test yesterday, and it came back negative, so it’s probably just a cold. I might take another test today or tomorrow, just to be sure. (The tests come in two-packs, so I might as well use both, now that I’ve opened the pack.)

I tried to be careful about things on this trip, of course. I wore my mask most of the time, while out in public. Mask compliance was pretty good on both NJ Transit and Amtrak. Once in Albany, I used Uber to get around, and mask compliance wasn’t 100%, but most drivers were still wearing masks. In Troy & Albany, most people in public weren’t wearing masks. At my hotel in Albany, most workers and guests weren’t bothering with masks. At the funeral service, everyone was wearing masks. Afterwards, though, they had a get-together at a local bakery, and most folks (including me) dropped the masks. It’s hard to drink coffee and eat muffins with a mask on. That get-together was quite nice, but it’s probably where I picked up whatever germs are making me miserable right now. Or maybe it was in the train station in Newark or New York. I guess it doesn’t matter. The end result is that I haven’t been real productive at work the last few days, and had to take a half-day yesterday. Hopefully, I can get better over the weekend and have a good week next week.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this is that I’m still not ready to get back out into the world in a big way. I need to stick close to home, for the most part, and carefully consider any trips that bring me into crowded public spaces, or on public transportation.

Two Years

I’ve been meaning to write a “two year COVID anniversary” post for the last couple of weeks. I thought about it on the anniversary of the first COVID case in NJ, which was March 4. NJ Spotlight News has a good article looking back on the last two years of COVID in NJ. It’s one of those fancy interactive things, with a timeline that you can move around in. (Those things usually annoy me, but it’s not too bad.)

I didn’t get around to it last weekend though. But today is a good day for it too, since March 12 is the last day I was in the office before everything shut down the following week. I was posting a lot around this time in 2020. Here’s a link to the posts from March 12, March 13 and March 14.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re getting close to one million deaths from COVID here in the US, and how to process that information. There’s a good article at The Atlantic on that subject. Honestly, the whole thing is bothering me a bit more than it seems to be bothering most people.

Here in Somerville, it looks like the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow is still on. It was canceled in 2020, of course, and also 2021. I noticed that a few towns that had their parades scheduled for today, Saturday, were canceled due to the storm. I guess that’ll all be over tomorrow, so our parade can go ahead, but it might be cold and windy Sunday, so maybe not the best weather for a parade. Still, I imagine the parade will attract a pretty big crowd. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I may spend the day holed up in my apartment and watch the parade from my window.

At work, we’re still at two days per week in the office. But we’ve dropped most of the COVID precautions. We’re not required to wear masks anymore, nor are we required to do the Sonde health check before coming in. And we never actually had a vaccine mandate, though it was looking like we might at one point. We’re scheduled to have an IT department “town hall” meeting in a couple of weeks. It’ll be an in-person thing, with an option to watch it remotely. I might talk myself into going in-person, but I’ll probably go with the remote option. I’m feeling mostly comfortable with the two-days-per week thing, but I’m still not enthusiastic about large gatherings, especially if not everyone is guaranteed to be vaccinated and/or masked.

In addition to the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow, it’s also my birthday. I’d kind of like to do something to celebrate it this weekend, but I’m not too enthusiastic about any of the usual options. I’d consider going into NYC, but the snow and rain today makes that less attractive. And tomorrow might be clear, but a little too cold. We’ll see.

I’m a little more nervous about going into NYC now since they’ve lifted a lot of their COVID restrictions, including their indoor vaccine mandate. Looking at the web sites for the Met and MoMA, it looks like the Met has dropped their vaccination requirement, but MoMA still has one. (Or maybe MoMA just hasn’t updated their site yet.) Both still require masks, at least.

Given the weather outside today, it might be a good day to watch the last few films from the Criterion Godzilla box set that I bought about a year ago. (I also just bought their box set of Once Upon a Time in China films.) So maybe it’s a good movie weekend. Last night, I watched Turning Red on Disney+, the third Pixar movie to skip a theatrical release and go straight to Disney+. I know that bothered some people, since movie theaters are almost back to “normal” now, but I’m glad I could watch it at home.

I’m still waiting for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which should finally be out on home video next week, a little earlier than expected. I already pre-ordered the 4K Blu-ray, which won’t be out until mid-April, so I may find myself paying for this movie twice, once on digital, next week, and then again for the 4K Blu-ray. Unless I can talk myself into just waiting for the Blu-ray.

Another New Year

I missed my usual New Year’s Day post yesterday. There are a few reasons for that, one being that New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, and I decided to treat it like a normal Saturday (mostly) and started the day with my usual Saturday chores and errands (laundry and grocery shopping), then proceeded to spend a bunch of time in front of the computer paying bills and organizing paperwork and stuff. So it was a pretty industrious morning, but after that, I took a nap, and then spent the afternoon in front of the TV, watching Godzilla movies. I didn’t really have the energy left for anything more ambitious.

So today, I’m going to try to spend some time writing a blog post. It’s Sunday morning, I just had a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich and a strong cup of coffee, and now I’m ready to sit around and ruminate on the year for a bit.

I usually start these posts with links to the last few New Year’s posts, so here are a few:

This past year has certainly been a doozy. It got off to a rough start with the Capitol insurrection and resulting turmoil, which was the subject for my second post of the year. On the bright side, the vaccines arrived, and I got my first shot in April, my second in May, and my booster shot in December. After that second shot, I started feeling better about things and actually made a trip into NYC in June to go to the Met and MoMA. Then, I went in twice in October, once for NYCC, and once to go to the Met and MoMA again. And that was about it for travel. The Omicron variant started showing up around Thanksgiving, and going out started to seem a lot less safe again. Contrast NYCC in October, which felt pretty safe to me, with Anime NYC in November, where one of the earliest cases of Omicron in NYC was identified. So any thoughts I had of going into New York for another Met/MoMA trip went out the window.

At work, we went through a bunch of different “Return To Office” plans through 2021. They kept setting dates and then pushing them back. In the end, we returned to the office on a one day per week schedule in October. My first day back was October 14. My last trip to the office was December 9. I was sick the week after that, and then we were allowed to work from home for the last two weeks of the year. For 2022, we were supposed to move to two days per week in January, but the Omicron variant has put that on hold. Now, we’re allowed to work from home until mid-January. Then, it’s back to 1 day per week for the last two weeks of January, then 2 days per week starting in February. We’ll see if we actually stick to that, or if things get worse and they have to back off again. I’m thankful that I work for a company that’s been more flexible about “work from home” than a lot of other companies. But I’m a little disappointed that they haven’t been more flexible, especially for workers like me who really aren’t any more effective in the office vs. working from home. At this point, I feel like they should just allow folks like me to go 100% remote if we want and give up our cubicles in the office. It would just make things simpler and safer for everybody.

But enough about that. I usually include a section on my general health in these posts, so I’m going to do that now. I started the year at around 135 pounds. I’ve gradually gained some weight this year, ending up at around 140. I’m trying to hold the line there. I set 140 as my goal weight in Lose It, so any time I go over it, my calorie budget is adjusted down a bit and I eat a bit less until I’m back under. I’d dropped down to 130 pounds briefly in 2020, without actually trying. Since then, it’s just been going up though. I guess it’s mostly due to my habit of going out for a cappuccino and a cookie in the afternoon on most weekdays. There are now three good places to get cookies here in downtown Somerville: Lucid Coffee, Blue Sheep Bake Shop, and Epic Cookies. So that’s kind of a problem. But it’s not a huge one. I’m managing to hold the line at 140. And even if I let myself go to 150, that would still leave me with a healthy BMI.

I’ve been doing OK on exercise. I take a walk outside almost every day. I started doing some yoga recently too, though I haven’t stuck with it. I’ve just been doing it on mornings when it’s too cold out for a walk. According to the iOS Health app, I’ve averaged 49 minutes of exercise per day over the last year, and 491 calories on my “move” ring. My move goal was 500 over the summer, when I was doing a lot of walking, and it’s 450 now. I generally hit my exercise goal most days, and the move goal 4 or 5 days each week.

I’ve continued meditating on a fairly regular basis. I’ve been using Calm all year, and generally do one of their 10 minute meditations every weekday, alternating between their two regular features, the Daily Calm and the Daily Trip. I signed up for a lifetime sub with them during their Black Friday sale, as I’ve mentioned previously. I’ve occasionally tried to get a streak going, meditating every day. The longest I’ve managed is 40 days, from November 1 to December 10. I’m not overly concerned with getting to a point where I meditate every single day, as long as I’m doing it more often than not, but it’s fun to try to see how long I can keep a streak going.

Looking at my history on this blog, I can see that I was posting a lot earlier in the year (7 posts in January and 11 in February), but less later in the year (only one post in December). I don’t know if that means anything, really. I still like using the blog as an aid to organizing my thoughts and reflecting on my life and my choices. A lot of my posts last year were all about entertainment though: comics, movies, TV, podcasts, music, and so on. I think I indulged in a lot of escapism in 2021. I do that every year, of course, but more than average in 2021, I think. It was a rough year. I spent a lot of time alone in my apartment. I don’t really feel bad about that. I’m still very engaged in my work, and I keep up with news and politics and make informed decisions about all that stuff.

And on that “escapism” front, I always like to look back at the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched and so on and so forth in these posts. My Goodreads history last year is mostly comics. I set my goal at 100 books and read 79. I have a few serious books in there, like Americanah and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it’s mostly comics and Doctor Who audio dramas. A few highlights would be reading through Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, discovering the Hilda books by Luke Pearson, and finally finishing Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina.

I watched quite a few movies this year too, though I never did make it into a theater. (The Spider-Man movie is really tempting, but I’m probably going to wait for that one to hit Blu-ray or Disney+, like I’ve done with all the other Marvel, Disney, or Pixar stuff since the pandemic started.) My Letterboxd stats show that I’ve watched 108 movies in 2021. I started and ended the year with Thin Man movies, which makes me happy. I love those movies. At the start of the year, I would have been watching them on my TiVo from TCM’s New Year’s Eve marathon. I gave up on premium cable in 2021, so for this New Year, I bought a DVD set from Amazon with the first four movies. I watched the third and fourth ones on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Still looking at my Letterboxd stats, I see that Spirited Away is the only movie I gave five stars to in 2021. That was obviously a rewatch for me, part of an effort to watch a bunch of Ghibli films, then listen to the corresponding Ghibliotheque podcast episode. I still have a bunch of movies to go on that front, and I should get back to that effort at some point soon. My other big watch/rewatch project in 2021 was to work my way through the Criterion Godzilla box set, which I wrote about in my last post.

I usually cover “professional development” in these posts, but I’m going to gloss over that this time. I did learn some new stuff last year, and I could list some nice work accomplishments, but honestly I haven’t been terribly ambitious about that stuff lately. This has largely been a “let’s just get through this” kind of year. And I think 2022 will be more of the same. I discontinued my Pluralsight subscription yesterday, since I haven’t been using it much lately. I still have access to LinkedIn Learning through work and O’Reilly through the ACM, and I think that’s more than enough for now.

There’s a lot more I could write here, but I’m going to try to wrap things up. I started writing this around 8 AM, and it’s now 11 AM. I took a half-hour walk at 9 AM, but I’ve just been sitting here ruminating and writing for most of that time. So it’s about time to stop and maybe go out for another walk. It’s 55ยบ out right now, so I should take advantage of that while I can. I know it’s going to start getting cold again later this week.

 

 

Post-Thanksgiving stuff

I survived Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t a great day. The fire alarm in my apartment building went off on Thanksgiving Eve, at 11 PM. So I had to get out of bed and go stand around outside in the cold for about a half-hour, before being allowed back in. I’d gone to bed at 10, and was pretty well asleep at 11 when the alarm went off. And afterwards, I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So I didn’t have a lot of energy on Thanksgiving. About all I did was re-watch some episodes of Doctor Who and nap. I guess that’s a reasonable Thanksgiving, really.

I tried to get back to something closer to normal yesterday, Black Friday, but that was also a pretty low-energy day. I didn’t read anything on Thanksgiving, and read only one comic on Friday. I’m noticing that my resilience just isn’t what it used to be, physically (and sometimes, mentally). One bad day or night can screw me up for a few days afterward. I’m not sure how much of that is just normal for my age, vs. being something I should worry about.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about was really just some Black Friday stuff. I don’t buy a lot of physical stuff on Black Friday, typically, but I keep my eye on some digital deals on software, subscription services, and stuff like that.

  • Last year, around this time, I signed up for a free one-year subscription to Calm. The deal was for one free year, and a second year at half-price. I’ve been using it pretty consistently this year, so I was ready to let it renew for the second year. But Calm runs a Black Friday deal every year, where you can get a lifetime sub at 60% off. So I went ahead and took advantage of that, and paid $160 for a lifetime sub. That’s a fair amount of money, but I’ve stuck with my meditation habit pretty consistently this year, and I think I’ll keep it up for the foreseeable future. That was my big Black Friday purchase.
  • Another thing I did last year was to sign up for Hulu’s Black Friday deal, which was $2/month for their ad-supported tier, for a year. So that was coming to an end. For that, I decided to pause the subscription for a few months are reevaluate it later. There’s some good stuff on Hulu, but I feel like I’ve got too many streaming services going right now, and too much stuff to watch.
  • I also subscribed to Letterboxd Pro last year, on Black Friday, for $12/year. I’ve been using Letterboxd a lot this year, so I let that renew, and it looks like I’ll continue to get the discounted $12/year rate.
  • It’s also about time for me to do my yearly review as to whether or not Pluralsight is worth renewing. I’m currently on a “legacy” plan, which should renew in January at $179. If I cancel my account, then I won’t be able to get that old rate back. Though it seems like their current Black Friday deal would let me subscribe to their “standard” plan for $179, so maybe there’s a little wiggle room there. I haven’t actually used Pluralsight that much this year, so maybe it’s time to give up on that. I’ll have to decide on that before the end of the year.
  • Meanwhile, my Amazon Prime subscription renews on December 1, for the usual $119. I’m always a little unhappy about supporting Amazon to the extent that I do, but honestly, it’d be kind of hard to live without Amazon at this point, and dropping Amazon Prime would not affect Amazon’s fortunes in the slightest. So I’ll just let that one renew too.
  • I generally think about various hardware upgrades around the end of the year. I don’t really have anything pressing this year though. I looked at the Kindle deals at Amazon. I’m happy enough with my current Kindle, but the new Paperwhite is supposed to be really good. But I just don’t need it. I might want a new iPhone next year, but, again, I don’t really feel like I need one just yet, and there aren’t any really good deals on iPhones. So probably no new hardware this year.

So that’s about it. Nothing much exciting, but it kept me out of trouble for an hour. I need to try to get back in the swing of things today and tomorrow, so I can go back to work Monday and have a good productive day. I know there’s going to be a lot of work waiting for me on the first day back from vacation.