passport photos and the passage of time

I’m thinking a lot about the passage of time today. I got a new passport photo taken this week, and compared it to my last couple of passport photos. I took the current one and the last two, put them next to each other, and scanned them in together. Since you need to renew your passport every ten years, looking at the photos gives me a look at how I’ve changed over the last few decades. I thought about posting that scan here, but it might not be a good idea to make my passport photos publicly accessible.

Looking at them together, I see, first, a guy in his mid-thirties, with a fair amount of hair and a mustache that he apparently thought looked good on him. He looks pretty happy. Maybe a little overweight, but not enough to bother him. He hasn’t really lost anyone close to him yet.

Next, I see a guy in his mid-forties. He’s recently lost both of his parents. He looks a little more subdued than the mid-thirties guy. The mustache is gone, and there’s less hair on his head. He’s still smiling, but it’s a less confident smile, maybe. He’s definitely overweight and needs to lose a lot of weight, but it’s not bothering him that much yet.

Finally, I see current-day Andy. He’s got bags under his eyes and looks like he hasn’t slept in a week. He’s lost a lot of weight, and a lot of hair. He kind of looks like he just got punched in the face.

Now, comparing the current photo to the previous ones is a little unfair, since the rules for passport photos have changed since the last one. You’re not allowed to wear glasses, and you’re supposed to have a neutral expression on your face. And of course the photo was taken by a random Walgreens clerk under bright fluorescent lights. So, yeah, maybe I don’t look quite that bad in “real life.” Still, the guy in that photo, staring back at me, looks like he needs a hug. And a good night’s sleep. And maybe a sandwich.

On a semi-related topic, today is the twenty-first anniversary of this blog. I wrote posts on the tenth and fifteenth anniversaries, but seem to have missed the twentieth last year. So I guess it was the mid-thirties passport photo guy who wrote the first entries on the blog, and the mid-forties one who wrote that tenth anniversary post.

And on yet another almost-related topic, I missed seeing Paul McCartney at MetLife Stadium last week. It was apparently a great show. I regret not going a little, but I’ve seen him five times already, including once before at MetLife, in 2016. I think that, if there was some way I could have teleported myself to the show and back home, I’d have done it. But the grief of dealing with NJ Transit and staying out late and all that would have been too much for me. With respect to COVID, I would have felt relatively safe at the stadium, since it’s basically open-air. I would have felt less safe on NJ Transit though, since those trains to MetLife can get packed, and there’s no mask mandate on trains anymore. And if I’d gone to the concert, I might have decided to stay overnight in NYC afterward, and then I’d have gotten caught up in the NJ Transit job action on Friday, which could have been a nightmare.

So, yeah, mid-thirties Andy would have definitely gone to MetLife for McCartney and enjoyed it. Mid-forties Andy might have gone, but would have been tired and maybe sick for a day or two afterwards. Mid-fifties Andy is staying home watching old Star Wars cartoons on Disney+ and going to bed at 9:30 PM.

more Somerville stuff

As a follow-up to my previous post, I can confirm that I did indeed “hole up in my apartment and wait this thing out,” and rewatched the whole first season of Stranger Things. The big race was won by some guy from New Zealand, which is kinda cool. But they continued playing annoying music through all the races, which was kinda not cool. Turnout was pretty good, but didn’t seem to be ridiculous, at least based on what I could see from my window. I didn’t actually go back out at all after my morning walk.

Tonight, it seems like we’re getting our first big turnout for the classic car thing that happens every Friday during the summer. I don’t hear a DJ yet, so that’s a good sign. In the past, they’ve sometimes set up a DJ booth right across the street from my apartment, and that’s always been a pain. In more recent years, they’ve either not had a DJ at all, or had him set up farther from my apartment. Of course, regardless of that, there’s still the guys on loud motorcycles, and the guys who tune their cars to make as much noise as possible. So I’m still not going to be able to have a quiet Friday night again for a while. At least I can work from home on Fridays now, so I don’t have to worry about driving home through this stuff anymore.

In theory, Somerville should be having their June street fair this weekend, on Sunday. But, from what I can tell, it’s been canceled this year. I’m not sure why. That’s good news for me, since it means I can hopefully have a quiet Sunday, at least.

I’m not sure if there was much of a point to this post, other than to vent a little about how stressed I am right now, and how much I’d like a nice quiet weekend. I’m thinking about taking a couple of days off from work and trying to go somewhere quiet for a bit, but I have no clue where. I just did a search for “quiet vacation spot in NJ,” and I found what looked like a promising list, but then saw that Caesars Atlantic City was number 3 on the list, so that’s obviously an auto-generated bit of clickbait. I’ve been to Caesars, and it ain’t quiet!

 

Memorial Day and the return of the Tour of Somerville

Well, the Tour of Somerville is back this year, after taking two years off. I imagine that a lot of people are happy about that, but so far, I’d say I could do with another year off. I woke up at 6:30 AM this morning, and things were pretty quiet. Then, just a few minutes after I’d gotten up, a blast of music came in through the window. Luckily, it was only a test of the system, and they shut it back off after a few minutes. So I got a couple of hours of peace and quiet. But that blast kind of set me on edge, and I’ve been a little jumpy all morning. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been sleeping well lately.

It’s 9 AM now, though, and the “Family Fun Ride” has started, so the music is back. I’ve been drowning it out with music of my own, played through my AirPods. (I’m charging up my Beats now too, as I may want to switch to the over-the-ear headphones at some point for the better noise cancellation.) I’m hoping they’ll turn down the music when the “real” races start, but right now, I’d call it “aggressively loud.”

I went out for my usual walk this morning, around 8 AM, and walked the race course. They’ve got a lot more metal fencing up on Main Street than I remember them doing in past years. So it looks like I’m pretty much fenced in. Just getting across the street between races seems like it’ll be more trouble than it was in past years.

So I guess I’m just going to hole up in my apartment and wait this thing out. I wish I could get into the spirit of the thing, but I really just want a quiet day off. I’m still paranoid enough about COVID that I don’t want to go out in a big crowd, and it looks like it might indeed be a big crowd this year.

I finished watching the first part of Stranger Things season four yesterday. I really enjoyed it. I especially loved the use of Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill,” which has apparently kindled a lot of new interest in Kate Bush. I was a big fan of Kate Bush in high school and college. Her album The Dreaming came out in 1982, so I listened to that a lot in high school. And Hounds of Love, the album with “Running Up That Hill,” came out in 1985, so I would have been listening to that one in college. I guess I’m a little older than the Stranger Things kids are supposed to be, since they’re just starting high school in 85.

I may decide to kill some time today by going back and rewatching season one of Stranger Things, either through my headphones, or possibly just blasted through my speakers.

The real races are supposed to start any minute now, since it’s just coming up on 9:30. And they’ll be going until maybe 6 PM. Honestly, I’m not looking forward to any of it, but I guess I’ll make the best of it and try to have a good day cocooned in my apartment watching TV.

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.

Hurricane Ida, and Labor Day weekend stuff

It’s been a rough week here in Somerset County. Hurricane Ida hit us pretty hard. A house exploded just a few blocks from here, and a building collapsed right here on Main St. I’m fine. My apartment building is fine. (I suspect we had some flooding in the basement, based on the smell coming from down there, but that’s the landlord’s problem.) Peters Brook overflowed, so that caused a bunch of damage to homes near it. I walk along the Peters Brook Greenway quite often; I walked along it yesterday, and saw a lot of downed trees and other damage.

It’s Labor Day weekend. In a “normal” year, I might go into NYC today, but the Raritan Valley line is still shut down due to the storm. And, even if it was running, the Delta variant has dimmed my enthusiasm for NYC trips this summer. So I guess I’ll be spending the day relaxing at home. I’d like to go out and see Shang-Chi, but, again, my enthusiasm for sitting in an enclosed space for two hours with a bunch of strangers ain’t what it used to be.

The Tour of Somerville, which is usually held on Memorial Day, was moved to Labor Day this year due to the pandemic. I guess the original thought was that the pandemic would be over by Labor Day. Of course, that’s not the case. It might actually have been safer on Memorial Day. Despite the Delta variant, and the flood damage, they’re still carrying on with the race tomorrow. I’m not sure how great an idea that is, but there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll likely hole up in my apartment all day and watch from my window. I wonder what the crowd will be like this year. It’s hard to imagine it being anywhere near what it usually is, but it could still be pretty big.

On an unrelated note, I got an email recently detailing some changes coming to ComiXology. In a nutshell, it sounds like they’re basically going to be shutting down the ComiXology web store and integrating it into the regular Amazon site. That makes sense, and I’m surprised that it took them so long to get around to doing it. Amazon bought them in 2014, but they’ve continued running their own site, separate from Amazon. I merged my old ComiXology account with my Amazon account a long time ago, whenever they first enabled that, but it’s still been possible for people to use a separate ComiXology login. I think that’s going to stop being an option, at least if you want to purchase new books. There’s some coverage of this announcement at The Beat and Bleeding Cool. Also, there’s some discussion on reddit, including responses from official ComiXology support.

I may be spending some money at ComiXology this weekend. There’s a big DC Labor Day sale going on, with a bunch of graphic novels at $2.99. That includes all of the Sandman collections, which I’ve been thinking about buying. I’ve read the whole series, of course, but I don’t have all the original issues anymore, and I’ve been thinking about re-reading the series. (Oh, and the first part of the Sandman Audible adaptation is still free, for a while longer. The second part is coming out later this month. I bought the first part on MP3 CD some time ago, but I snagged the free Audible version too, since it’s convenient to have a copy in my Audible library.)

And as long as I’m talking about Neil Gaiman, I might as well mention that I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane yesterday. It’s good! I guess I’ll keep reading that today, as there doesn’t seem to be much else to do.

Temptation

I’ve now been in “fully-vaccinated” status for a few days. I still haven’t managed to talk myself into going out without a mask though. I almost tried doing my laundry today without a mask, but, well, I guess I’m not ready.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media for a lot of upcoming in-person events, and I’m starting to get kind of tempted. I haven’t committed to anything, but there’s a lot going on. Here’s a few examples:

  • Duke Farms is running a farmers market every Sunday through the summer. There’s a fair chance that I’ll head over there tomorrow. An outdoor farmers market isn’t much of a risk, of course. I went to the Bridgewater farmers market a few times last summer, but that’s been discontinued. And I don’t think they’re doing one here in Somerville this summer either.
  • There’s a walking tour tomorrow at Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage. I’ve managed to live in Somerville for around 25 years now, without ever actually visiting Wallace House. I should really go.
  • A friend texted me about the Immersive van Gogh thing that just started up in NYC. I guess there’s actually two of these things going on in NYC now, but I think the one I linked to is the better one. Both of these seem like they could be major tourist draws. I’d kind of like to go and see one. And since they have timed tickets, I guess I could see it without having to worry about too large a crowd. (I guess it depends on how many people the organizer chooses to try to cram in at once, and how well they manage entry and exit.)
  • Garden State Comic Fest is taking place this weekend, at the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth. I’ve gone to this in previous years, when it was held in Morristown. I’d be tempted to go this year, but I don’t really want to drive to Elizabeth. And I’m not really interested in any of their guests this year. Nor am I that interested in buying any comics or toys right now. But it’s worth noting that this is (as far as I can tell) the first (relatively) big comic con to be held in NJ since the start of the pandemic. When they first announced it, a few months back, I was really skeptical about it. But I guess it’s safe enough to go ahead with it now.
  • On a related note, but on a much larger scale, I got an email about NYCC this week. They’re going to go ahead with the con this year, in October, at the Javits, as usual. I’m really hopeful that COVID will be entirely under control by October, but I’m still worried that it won’t be. Tickets are going on sale soon, and I’d like to buy one, but I haven’t entirely talked myself into it yet.
  • I also just noticed that the NYCC folks are doing an online Metaverse thing from June 7-13. I should take a look at the panel schedule for that and see if there’s anything I want to watch. And they’re also launching a Metaverse Membership program which probably isn’t worth the cost, but might be worth looking into.
  • I haven’t been to a Somerset Patriots game since 2019. They’re now affiliated with the NY Yankees, so a lot has changed since the last time I saw them. Looking at this page on their site, it appears that the stadium is now open at 100% capacity, with masks not required. I guess I wouldn’t be too worried about that, since it’s outdoors. There’s a double-header today, with fireworks afterwards. I’d be a little tempted to go to that, if it wasn’t going to be 90º out today.
  • Only semi-related to the rest of this stuff: The Centre Pompidou is going to open a satellite location in Jersey City, in 2024. That’s quite a ways off, but worth mentioning, I think. I saw the Centre Pompidou in Paris once, a long time ago, but only from the outside. I’d love to go back to Paris and actually see the inside of the museum. (We also missed out on the Louvre on that trip, due to a scheduling snafu, so that’s two Paris museums I need to go see someday.)

So that’s my list of tempting in-person events that are coming up in the near future. I’m still not committing to anything, but I’m starting to bookmark some interesting stuff and create some notes in Evernote. So, who knows, maybe there will be a few weekends this summer where I don’t spend the whole weekend in my apartment reading comics and watching TV.

Memorial Day 2021

It’s been a quiet Memorial Day weekend so far. It rained all day Saturday and Sunday, and Friday night, so that kept most people away from downtown. It’s looking nicer today, so maybe Main St will be a little busier. There’s no Tour of Somerville today, of course. It’s been rescheduled for Labor Day. Hopefully, that’ll work out OK. The race attracts people from all over the US, and even some international racers, and I’d hate to see it turn into a super-spreader event for whatever variants are floating around in September.

Downtown Somerville is planning on returning to a somewhat “normal” schedule of events for this summer. I’m not too enthusiastic about that, since I’ve been finding them more of an inconvenience/annoyance over the last few years. But hopefully this summer will be a little more subdued than recent pre-COVID summers.

As I mentioned in my last post, the NJ mask mandate is now (mostly) gone. I haven’t gotten much of a feel for how that’s working yet, since I stayed in almost all day Saturday and Sunday, due to the rain. I did go out to my local coffee shop, and found that they were about 50/50 on masks now, among both staff and patrons. I also went on a quick trip to ShopRite this morning, and found that nearly all patrons and employees were wearing masks. I still haven’t gone out without a mask, but I may try skipping it for my morning walk tomorrow and see how it feels. Tomorrow will be exactly two weeks since my second vaccine shot, so I’ll be officially fully vaccinated then.

Apple TV

Since it’s been raining all weekend, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the TV. (I guess I could have been reading books or comics, but I didn’t really have the energy for that.) So I have a few more thoughts on my new Apple TV box.

First, I had some trouble figuring out how to deal with HDR. My TV uses a different set of video settings for HDR vs regular HD, and I found that stuff that displayed in HDR looked way too dark. The first issue is that the Apple TV, by default, is always in HDR mode, regardless of whether or not the content you’re showing is HDR. As mentioned in this article, you can fix that by going to Settings > Video and Audio > Match Content, and turning on Match Dynamic Range and Match Frame Rate. That keeps the TV in regular HD mode for regular HD content, so that fixes the problem for most content.

But for actual HDR content, I had to keep messing around. This article from Wired addresses the specific issue of HDR content looking too dark, and was helpful. In the end, the solution was to turn off the “energy saver” mode. I’d really been resisting making that change, because, well… I don’t want to waste energy. But it seems to be the only way to get a bright enough picture.

On the subject of the new Apple TV remote: I like it, but I had a little trouble figuring out some stuff. Here’s an article that explains some of the less obvious commands. Initially, I couldn’t figure out how to do the “rewind or fast forward 10 seconds” thing or the new “scrub” thing. The official Apple doc on this stuff is here.

There’s a fairly long review of the new Apple TV here. It’s worth reading (or at least skimming) if you’re thinking about buying one.

WordPress

I was going to add another section to this post, talking about some troubleshooting I had to do with WordPress on Saturday, but this thing has gone on long enough, so maybe that’ll be a subject for another day.

no more masks

As expected, NJ will pretty much drop its mask mandate this week, on Friday. (See here for an NJ.com article and here for one from the NY Times.) As I mentioned in my last post, I have some trepidation about this. But I guess I’m going to have to get used it and hope for the best.

I see that Stephen Colbert is going to start doing shows in front of a live audience again, starting June 14. NYC, in general, is opening back up again pretty quickly. I haven’t really kept up with what’s going on with the museums though. As far as I can tell, the Met and MoMA both still require masks and timed entry tickets, and haven’t announced plans to change that.

I’m still trying to manage my anxiety around all of this reopening. I bought a box of Chipwiches at the grocery store last week, and those are helping.

trepidation

This post is going to be a bit of a follow-up to my previous post, from Thursday.

To recap my vaccine timeline: NJ opened up vaccine registration to everyone on April 19, I got my first shot on April 20, my second on May 18, and I should be at full immunity in two weeks, on June 1.

So, basically, for anyone in NJ who waited for general availability of the vaccine, and got a two-dose vaccine, the earliest they could possibly be at full immunity is right around June 1.

NJ still has a mask mandate right now, which is good, but it looks like we’ll be dropping it on Friday, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. I know that, technically, people who are not fully vaccinated are still supposed to wear masks, but that’s not going to be checked or enforced, and I’m sure a lot of unvaccinated people are going to stop wearing masks. NJ currently has around 55% of adults fully vaccinated, which is great, but I’d really like to see that number closer to 75% before we get too enthusiastic about reopening. (But of course nobody’s asking me for my opinion.)

I’m seeing a lot of other signs that people and organizations are rushing to open things back up. The Catholic Bishops of NJ are lifting the dispensation on the Sunday mass obligation, effective Sunday June 6. That doesn’t really matter to me, since I stopped attending mass regularly at some point in the 90s. But a lot of Catholics take that stuff seriously.  (Hopefully, good Catholics might also be the kind of people who care enough to get vaccinated and/or to wear a mask to mass.)

We got an email at work this week saying that there would be an announcement next week about returning to work. I’m not sure what they’re going to announce. I’m sure it won’t be anything crazy, like “we’re reopening the office on June 7 and everyone needs to come back full-time.” But I’m a little worried about what it might be, and I’m finding myself not at all enthusiastic about returning to the office. (And I’m not the only one.) I’d love to see the company require vaccination for all employees, but I doubt they’d do that. The original, pre-vaccine, plan was to have people come in two days a week, in two groups, so the office would basically be half-full Monday through Thursday, and (mostly) empty on Friday. Post-vaccine, they may decide that’s not necessary, but I’d like to see something like that to start. I don’t necessarily mind going back to the office at this point, but I really hope they’ll let us continue to have some flexibility regarding remote work.

I saw a quote on Twitter today that said “No amount of guilt can solve the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” (I’m not sure where that came from originally. It seems to circulate in various forms, usually with an “unknown” attribution.) So I guess I should just relax and enjoy the weekend, and stop worrying about returning to work, at least until I know more about my company’s plans.

Meanwhile, on the topic of distractions, which I touched upon in the previous post: I am now binge-watching the old Clone Wars cartoon on Disney+. This seems like a perfect thing to do at this stage of the pandemic. There are seven seasons to get through. It’s got some complexity to it, which keeps me engaged, but it’s all just nonsense, really. Basically, it’s a perfect distraction from my anxiety.

On a related note, my Apple TV showed up yesterday, and I’ve got it hooked up and working. I can’t see much of a difference between the old, non-4K, box and this new fancy 4K version. But I’ve mostly been watching stuff where I wouldn’t expect to see a difference, like Clone Wars and old episodes of New Tricks. (By the way, New Tricks is another good series if you’re looking for pointless distraction.) I tried the new color calibration stuff on it, but it didn’t work. I may try it again at some point, but it sounds like it might not be worth doing, so I’m not in a hurry on that. The main selling point of the new Apple TV is of course the new remote. I’ll just say that I’m liking it so far, but I’d gotten so used to the old remote that I’m still getting used to the new one. Once my brain starts remembering where the buttons are, I’m sure this new remote will be much less frustrating than the old one was.

scheduling my vaccine shots

Today was the first day of universal eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine here in NJ. So I finally got my chance to register for it. I went online at 6:30 AM, while I was eating breakfast, and managed to secure an appointment for tomorrow, at a CVS in Union. It’s about a 30-45 minute drive from my home, so that’s not perfect, but it’s not bad either. And it’s tomorrow! The second shot will be in mid-May, so I guess I’ll have a reasonably degree of immunity in… early June?

It would be nice to be able to make a few trips into NYC over the summer, to visit the Met and MoMA, stroll through Central Park, and other stuff like that. I don’t know what the overall situation will be, though, so maybe that’ll be something I feel comfortable doing, or maybe it won’t.

I took a full day off from work tomorrow for the shot. It’s scheduled for 11:45 AM. If it was closer to home, I could have just done it on my lunch break. But with the drive there and back, plus whatever waiting I’ll have to do, and taking into account the possibility of post-shot side-effects, I figured it would be safest to just take the whole day off. Plus, I think I need a day off anyway. I’ve been tired and distracted at work a lot lately.

I read a NY Times article on languishing this morning, and I think I see myself in the description of that condition. Successfully registering for the vaccine actually brought me a lot more joy that I thought it would. I was pretty happy for a few hours there. Things started settling back towards my “new normal” around lunch time, but I gave myself an afternoon boost with a cappuccino and got through the rest of the work day. (I’ve been spending way too much money on afternoon cappuccinos at my local coffee shop lately, but I guess it’s not the worst thing I could be spending money on right now.)

So the plan for tomorrow is to maybe sleep a little late, have a leisurely breakfast, maybe read some comics, then go get my shot. The CVS I’m going to is near Galloping Hill Inn, so I can stop for a hot dog on the way back, maybe. I haven’t been there in years. And maybe I can get home in time to watch the Apple event at 1 PM. I don’t think they’re going to be announcing anything I’ll be interested in, but you never know. Then, maybe more comics, then dinner. Unless the vaccine shot throws me for a loop, in which case: nap, then dinner. That should be a nice day off either way.