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?)

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.

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.

Labor Day

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the Tour of Somerville would be happening today. At some point yesterday afternoon, it was announced that the race was canceled. That’s the right decision, but waiting until the last minute to make it was… weird. Anyone participating in the race from out of state was probably already here, or on their way, when the announcement was made. I know that there’s a lot that goes into organizing the race, and there are a lot of stakeholders involved. I guess it took them a while to get to a consensus on it and work through the details.

It’s not a good outcome for anybody, but given all the work that’s still going on around Ida cleanup, pulling resources away from that to run the race, and clean up after it, wasn’t a good idea. COVID-19 wasn’t mentioned at all with respect to the cancellation. For me, I think the risk of having such large crowds downtown was even more of a worry than drawing resources away from Ida cleanup, but that’s just me.

This doesn’t really change my plans for the day at all. I was going to hole up in my apartment for the day, watch the race from my window, and probably binge-watch something or other on TV. The only difference now is that there won’t be anything interesting happening outside my window, so I’ll just be watching TV.

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.

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.

Afternoon Walk

I’ve been going out for walks nearly every day since the pandemic began, and taking photos. I haven’t posted any of the photos to Flickr since May, though. So here are a few photos from a walk I went on this afternoon. It was a nice autumn afternoon walk. (I’m trying an embedded album below, which might or might not look OK here. If it isn’t working, try this link.)

I had my Airpods in, and was listening to Invisible Man, which I started in May, and still haven’t finished yet. (I’m just at the part where he realizes that he can be invisible, so I’m getting near the end.) I don’t usually listen to audiobooks while I’m walking. Usually I go with music or podcasts. But I really felt like making some progress with Invisible Man today, so I gave it a try. It worked out OK. I managed to give enough attention to the book, and also managed to not get hit by a truck while crossing any streets.

afternoon walk 10/24/2020

Somerville news

I don’t have a lot to say about either of these news items, but I just wanted to note them on my blog for some reason.

First: There was a huge fire on Friday at a new apartment building here in town. (The building wasn’t yet complete, and no one was living there yet.) There’s been a lot of new construction in town over the last few years, including three or four big new apartment buildings/complexes. They’re all “luxury” apartments that go for around $2000 per month for a one-bedroom. Here’s the site for this development. Fancy. I couldn’t find any prices on the site, but I found a mention on another site that indicated that it was $1950. I really don’t know where they find people who can afford that. Maybe some of them are people who think it’s OK to spend a much higher percentage of their salary on rent than I do. I wonder if these high rents are going to hold up post-COVID, or if a lot of people are going to wind up in positions where they can work from home and don’t need to be so close to the train into NYC.

Second: There was another BLM protest in Somerville on Sunday. It wasn’t a big one, but it was still big enough to drown out the cartoon I was watching on Netflix at the time. I should probably feel bad about binge-watching cartoons while there’s so much bad stuff going on in the world, but honestly I’m exhausted. I need cartoons to keep me sane. And I’m still not sure it’s safe for me to be out in a crowd of strangers, even if they’re all wearing masks. Young healthy folks can go out and march. I’ll make a few charitable donations and do what I can in the voting booth. (Well, not actually in the voting booth this year, hopefully, but you know what I mean.)

more odds and ends

I’m kind of exhausted now, and I kind of want 2020 to just be over. But it’s not. I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep working and exercising and eating right (and I am doing all that), but I’m getting a little frayed around the edges. Anyway, here’s another round-up of (mostly) bad news. Writing helps me process things and clear my head. I don’t necessarily expect anything here to be useful to anyone else, but writing it down helps me.

More #MeToo

Well, the #MeToo stuff in comics is really starting to snowball. After Cam Stewart, Warren Ellis, and Charles Brownstein, now it’s Scott Allie’s turn. Allie was an editor and writer at Dark Horse. He was the editor on all the Hellboy and Hellboy-related books for a long time. And he’s written a few also. I’ve been a Hellboy and BPRD fan since Hellboy #1 from back in the 90s. I didn’t really know anything about Allie, other than just knowing his name from the credits and letter columns. So I can’t say much about him. I don’t think there’s any indication that Mike Mignola knew anything about this, so that at least is something. I’d hate to have to lose my respect for Mignola. (And I do have a good bit of respect for him.)

And back to Brownstein: He was apparently involved in another incident, about ten years ago, involving a CBLDF employee, who was then essentially forced to sign an NDA. So things are looking worse for them. I’m not quite ready to burn my CBLDF t-shirts, but I’m not going to be wearing them in public anytime soon either.

New Toys

I don’t think I’ve even turned on my new laptop yet this week. I’ve been doing a bunch of React stuff on my MacBook, and all of my actual work on my work machines, of course. So I haven’t had time to do any setup on the Lenovo.

I have had time to mess around with my Echo Dot a bit though. I’ve discovered that it’s pretty good as a speaker (given it’s small size), but not if you’re using it via Bluetooth. So if you’re playing stuff over it via the usual Alexa route, it sounds pretty good. But it’s not really worth trying to use it as a Bluetooth speaker. So I’ll yell “Alexa, play WQXR” if I want to hear some classical music while I’m working and that works out fine.

React

Speaking of React, I’ve been reading the second edition of Learning React via my ACM O’Reilly subscription. It’s an “early release” version, so it’s a little rough, but it’s more up-to-date than any other book on React that I’ve seen. I’m at a point now where I’m not sure if I should keep working my way through books and videos or if I should stop reading/watching and start actually working on a project. I think I might need to finish the Learning React book at least. I’m still having trouble getting at the big picture with React. I’m learning little bits and pieces, but they don’t all fit together in my head yet.

Reopening NJ

Somerville is really hopping this week, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Mostly nervous, I guess. All the restaurants are doing outdoor dining, which means that they’ve annexed about 90% of the sidewalks. So a walk down Main St right now is kind of an obstacle course. And the obstacles are people sitting at outdoor tables, talking, eating, and not wearing masks. My early morning walks are still OK, since there are only one or two places open that early. But I’ve been avoiding Main St on my afternoon walks. Still, though, it’s kind of fun to see the outdoor dining. And it’s nice to hear people talking and laughing and all that. I just wish I could shake the idea that one of them is going to spray COVID-19 all over me.

Meanwhile, the Bridgewater Commons is going to reopen on Monday. I don’t think I’ll be going back there any time soon though. Maybe I’d risk a trip to the Apple Store if I really needed something, but only as a last resort. I just ordered two new pairs of shorts from the Macy’s web site, and I think that’s all the new clothes I’ll need between now and the end of the year. Macy’s and the Apple Store are really the only places at the mall that I frequent, so I don’t think I’ll be tempted to go over there.

And Yestercades is reopening too, on July 2. This seems like an even worse idea that reopening the mall. There’s no way they can keep all those arcade machines clean. And that place is really too cramped for social distancing. I don’t know, maybe they’ve figured out a way to make it work. I can definitely say that I’m not going back in there anytime soon either.

I may be more stressed now than when I started writing this post, which is not how I wanted this to turn out. Maybe I should spend the next hour listening to this public domain recording of the Goldberg Variations. That’ll help me calm down.