Post-Thanksgiving notes

It hasn’t been a great Thanksgiving weekend, but of course I know things are better for me than they are for… most people, I guess. I’m getting over a cold, which is pretty normal for me at this time of year, so that limits what I can do a bit.

I had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. I didn’t really do anything special. There was plenty of football on TV, including the Giants vs. Dallas game, so I spent most of my time watching football.

I took Black Friday off from work. I did a bunch of random stuff, including updating my MacBook to Ventura. That was pretty simple and painless. I haven’t had any problems with Ventura at all. I started reading The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross. It’s been quite a while since i read a Laundry Files novel.  I read the previous one in 2017. I’m enjoying this one so far. I watched My Father’s Dragon on Netflix, and finished watching Rings of Power on Amazon. The only big Black Friday purchase I made was Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy on Blu-ray.

Yesterday, I did all my usual Saturday chores, then spent the afternoon watching TV, first Enola Holmes 2 on Netflix, then DuckTales season 3 on Disney+. They started in with the Christmas music on Main St. yesterday too. That started around noon and ran until around 7 PM, I think. The main reason I was watching so much TV was because I needed to drown out the music. It seems to be louder this year than it has been in previous years. And it’s definitely setting me on edge, as it usually does. I’m really not capable of listening to Christmas music anymore without getting twitchy.

For today, I spent some time this morning just reading quietly. Now that it’s past noon, and the music has started up again, I guess I’ll spend the rest of the day watching football and/or DuckTales to drown it out.

Then back to work tomorrow. It occurs to me that, since I’m still working from home three days a week, I’ll have to put up with Christmas music on weekdays too now. I guess I did that last year, and lived through it, so I can do it again this year. (That’s assuming they’re playing the Christmas music on both weekdays and weekends. I’ll find out if that’s true tomorrow.)

Overall, I feel like it’s going to be a tricky holiday season for me. I need to make sure I have some reasonable and healthy coping mechanisms in place. (Football and cartoons count as “healthy coping mechanisms,” right? How about brownies?)

another weird week

Well, it’s the end of another weird week. July is almost over. It’s been hot all week, and it’s going to be even hotter this weekend. I just saw a notice that Duke Farms is going to be closed over the weekend due to the heat, including the Sunday farmer’s market, so I guess I’m going to have to buy all my food from Shop-Rite tomorrow, assuming I can survive the three-minute walk from my apartment (and back).

Our July 4th security incident at work has basically turned July into a “lost month” for all of us. We’re coming out of it, but we’re still not at 100%. My development VM is still in pretty bad shape, since all outgoing internet access from it has been locked down, and most of my firewall requests don’t seem to have gone through yet.

I’d hoped for a quiet day today, working from home, but my internet was down, so I had to drive in to the office and work from there. It was still a quiet day, with very few people in the office, and the A/C in the office is better than my apartment A/C, so there’s that.

I was wondering if it would be hot enough tonight to discourage people from showing up for the usual Somerville Friday classic car thing. Looking out my window now, it appears to be a little less crowded than usual, but not by much. Personally, you couldn’t pay me enough to hang around outside tonight looking at cars. I was thinking about watching “The Gray Man”  on Netflix tonight, but the reviews aren’t great, so maybe I should find something a little lighter.

I had planned on blogging a bit about day two of SDCC, but I couldn’t find any news that I thought was interesting enough to blog about. I watched a few trailers and a bit of live coverage from Marvel and IGN, but it was all pretty meh. Dungeons and Dragons movie? Meh. Amazon “Rings of Power” series? Meh. I kind of wish I could watch some stuff along of lines of Mark Evanier’s panels, but nobody’s livestreaming that kind of stuff.

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.

work from wherever

My current work schedule is supposed to be three days from home (Mon, Wed, Fri) and two in the office (Tue, Thu). This week got a little mixed up though. My internet went out on Monday morning, so I drove in and worked in the office that day. Then, I decided to work in the office on Wednesday too, with the idea that I would then have two back-to-back days at home, Thursday and Friday. But my landlord had to turn off the water today to fix a problem, so I drove into the office again. So, this week has been three days in the office and (hopefully) two at home, assuming nothing goes wrong tomorrow, forcing me to drive in again.

I like this article in the Times about how employees are pushing back on the return to office. I’m happier working from home, for the most part, but it can be nice to get out of my apartment once or twice a week. And it’s good to have the office as a backup plan, for weeks like this one, when there are issues at home with internet or water or whatever. I really don’t think I’m generally more productive in the office, though, all other things being equal.

And here’s another Times article about the state of the housing market. Recently, I’ve been considering buying a place in the retirement community where my parents used to live. I’m over 55 now, so I’m eligible, and the prices down there are still somewhat affordable, the last time I checked. My current idea is to hold on to the apartment in Somerville and use the retirement home as a weekend retreat, of sorts. But I’m struggling to work out how to do that in a way that doesn’t involve a lot of extra driving, and a lot of extra work, keeping two homes clean, and two refrigerators stocked, and so on and so forth. Maybe if I shifted my work schedule so I’m in the office just Mondays and Tuesdays, I could stay in the apartment on those days, then work from the retirement home Wednesday through Friday, and I’d only have to drive down there on Tuesday nights, then back up on, maybe, Sunday afternoon. Still, it’s probably more effort and expense that I want to deal with right now. I guess I’m sticking with my current apartment for the foreseeable future.

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.

Scary Travel

I’m getting ready to go on my first trip outside of NJ or NYC since 2019. And I’m spending maybe too much time this morning obsessing and worrying about it. It’ll be a trip up to Troy NY, where I went to college, for a friend’s wife’s funeral service. I’ll be taking Amtrak from NYC to Albany tomorrow, staying overnight in Albany Sunday and Monday, and coming back on Tuesday morning.

This trip will definitely involve much more human contact than I’ve had since before the pandemic began. (I guess my NYCC trip last year got me close to a bunch of people, but that was a one-day in and out trip.) I’ll be taking NJ Transit into NYC, then changing to Amtrak. I’ll be staying in a hotel for two nights. And of course I’ll be at the service. I don’t really know how many people will be there, whether or not they’ll be masked, or how many are coming in from out of state. So lots of opportunity for virus transmission. And also for weird and/or awkward interpersonal encounters.

NJ Transit and Amtrak both still require masks, so that’s good. But I know that mask compliance has probably gone down over time. I know from experience that NJ Transit won’t make a big deal of it if somebody isn’t wearing a mask. I’m not sure about Amtrak.

This is also the first time I’ve ridden Amtrak in many years. As far as I can tell, it should be pretty straightforward. I have coach tickets both way. Coach on Amtrak looks like it should be reasonably comfortable. And it looks like boarding an Amtrak train is still much more straightforward than getting on an airplane. I won’t need to check any bags, and I don’t think they have any kind of security around carry-on bags, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not I have a plastic fork in there or more than three ounces of shampoo or whatever else is forbidden by the TSA these days.

I’ve built enough slack into my schedule to allow for NJT or Amtrak delays. The service is Monday, and I’m going up on Sunday. I think that Amtrak generally has enough flexibility that, if my NJT train to NYC is late and I miss the Amtrak train, I can get on a later one. And I’m going to take a NJT train that should get me into NYC about an hour before the Amtrak one leaves.

And the two nights in the hotel give me some flexibility and allow me to go to the service on Monday without having to drag my luggage with me and worry about getting from there directly back to the train station.

Still, I’m kind of freaking out about the trip. Worried about getting sick before it and having to cancel. Worried about travel issues. Worried about forgetting something. Worried about getting sick after the trip. Oh well.

Whenever I go on trips like this, I spend a lot of time thinking about what devices I’m bringing and what I’m leaving home. For this trip, I plan on bringing my iPhone (of course), AirPod Pros, iPad, and Kindle. I sometimes bring a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad on a short trip, but I think I’ll skip that this time. Both my iPhone and iPad are old enough that their batteries don’t hold as much of a charge as they used to. I’m pretty sure Amtrak has power outlets at every seat, so I should be able to charge them up on the train. Another thing I’ve gotten paranoid about in recent years is the possibility of completely draining my iPhone battery, then not being able to use it for an Uber, or to show my ticket on the train. I do have an Anker battery back that I can use in a pinch, but that’s also a few years old and I’m not sure how much of a charge it holds these days.

And my last bit of uncertainty and slight paranoia comes from not having a real set schedule for what I’m doing while I’m in the area, outside of obviously the service itself. I know that some old friends will be around, but I’m not 100% sure who’s coming in or when they’re arriving or departing. So there might be people around on Sunday night who I can go to dinner with, or there might not. And there might be people looking to go to lunch on Monday, or there might not.

I’m just looking back at some notes, and I’m pretty sure that my last major trip was to Redmond in May 2019 for a Microsoft workshop. Looking back at my post-trip blog post on that, apparently that trip took a lot out of me. This will be shorter trip and doesn’t involve any cross-country airplane flights, or time zone changes, so this one shouldn’t be too hard on me.

Anyway, this overly-long post is just a dumb way for me to work out some anxiety and fill a little time between getting my laundry done and grabbing lunch today. I don’t think I’ve managed to say anything witty or useful, so my apologies if you’ve read this far, thinking there would be something good or funny in here.

Weird Story

This is a completely trivial story, but it’s one of those things where something a little weird happened, and I can’t figure out a reasonable sequence of events that could result in the outcome, so it’s bothering me. Anyway, here’s the story:

I ordered some random stuff from Amazon a few weeks ago. Perfectly normal stuff. Granola bars and some other stuff. I order a lot of stuff from Amazon, and I haven’t had a problem with a delivery in ages. But this package just disappears. I get the notification that it was delivered, via USPS. I’m working from home that day, so I go downstairs and look for it. It’s not there.

Now, sometimes a package gets marked as delivered and it’s not actually there yet. I assume that’s the delivery guy trying to tweak his metrics or something, so it looks like he’s on schedule when he’s actually behind. But the package doesn’t show up by the end of the day.

And sometimes there’s a little mix up, where maybe a neighbor picks up the wrong package, realizes it, and then brings it back down to the foyer. So that could delay it a day. Or the mailman thinks he dropped it off, but it’s still in the back of his truck, so he drops it off next day. But a few days go by and the package doesn’t show up, so it’s nothing like that.

So I do the online customer service thing with Amazon and they cheerfully agree to send me a replacement shipment, which I get the next day. So all is well, and I go on with my life.

Then today, almost three weeks after the original package was meant to be delivered, the package appears, right outside my door. It’s been torn open, but there’s nothing missing or tampered with. And there’s no note.

So the likely reason for this is that one of my neighbors picked up the package accidentally, has realized that, and is now giving me the package. But I can’t figure out several things:

  1. The label on the package is perfectly clear and correct, with my name and apartment number. So it’s not a case where the label was damaged or something. So why did they pick it up in the first place?
  2. Even if someone picked it up accidentally, why did they open it? Once they had it in their apartment, it would have been hard not the notice the name and address.
  3. Why did it take them three weeks to get it back to me? It’s got to be someone from here in the building, so it’s not like they would have had to go very far with it.
  4. Given that they opened the box and sat on it for three weeks, why didn’t they write a little apology note? If they’re embarrassed about it, they wouldn’t have to sign it.

I know it can’t be a “porch pirate” kind of thing. If it was somebody taking it with the intent of stealing the contents, I don’t think they would have bothered returning it to me when they realized that it wasn’t anything good. They would have just tossed it.

The only sequence of events I can come up with is something like this:

  1. Neighbor picks up package, thinking it’s theirs. Doesn’t look at it too closely, and doesn’t open it when they get back to their apartment.
  2. Neighbor goes away on business for a couple of weeks. Or maybe they just toss the package in a corner and forgot it about it for a couple of weeks.
  3. Neighbor gets back home (or notices package that’s been sitting unopened for weeks) and opens the package. (Again, without actually looking at the label.)
  4. Neighbor realizes the contents aren’t theirs, finally looks at the label, and then walks the package over to my apartment. Maybe they knock on my door, intending to apologize in person, but I’m out. (I was out when it was dropped off.)

So that’s semi-plausible, but still pretty weird. And yes, it’s completely trivial. But now I feel guilty for paying for all this stuff once and getting two of everything. I guess I shouldn’t feel bad about that though. Amazon has plenty of money, and sending me two boxes of granola bars for the price of one isn’t going to bankrupt Jeff Bezos.

Fifty-five years

Well, I’m 55 years old today. Here’s a link to some posts from my 50th, 45th, and 35th birthdays. (Not actually “on the day” for those, but on the day before or after.)

In my post from yesterday, I mentioned that I might consider going into NYC this weekend, if the weather wasn’t so bad. Well, I only just barely left the apartment yesterday, and I’m thinking that today will be much the same. I briefly toyed with the idea of going into NYC and doing my usual museum visits today, but it was 20º out this morning, with a “feels like” temperature of 10º. And there was a stabbing at MoMA yesterday, so they’re closed today. So it’s not a great day for going in to the city.

I guess I’ll watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade from my window here in Somerville. I’m hoping one of the restaurants on Main St will have a corned beef sandwich special today, so maybe I can have a nice Irish lunch.