• COVID Memories II

    Some more things:

    • It was early March, just as things were starting to look bad, and my mom needed a procedure done, so I thought I’d go down to help out for a few days. My dad and I hung out in the hospital waiting room, half-watching whatever 24-hour news station they had on, which seemed like updates from Armageddon.
    • Masking wasn’t a big thing early on, but hand sanitizing sure was. There was no longer any sanitizer to be found in the stores of course, but my mom had already scored some for all of us.
    • The Great Toilet Paper Shortage: we usually buy in bulk, and purely by coincidence we had a pretty good supply on hand when things went crazy. That was the weirdest panic…
    • For about a week or so before the lock-down, people were basically on their own in terms of guidance for business closures, going to work, etc, and there seemed to be a great deal of confusion and anxiety about it until the lock-down made the rules easy — easy to know at least.
    • In the very last days before the lock-down, we went down to Philly for a socially-distant visit with Ben and Candace. We brought bikes, and rode things like Kelly Drive and MLK Boulevard, and out through Manayunk, which was hopping. That was my first hint that not everyone was going to take the pandemic seriously.
    • When masking became a thing, there were not a lot of N95 masks to go around at first, and crafters and sewers came up with a lot of DIY mask projects to fill the gap. Anne made a ton of these for family and friends.


  • Moving Forward

    We’re late this year, but I’ve been doing some planting in the garden the past few days. I got in some radishes, beets and various lettuce-like things (mustard, arugula) yesterday, and also planted several cuttings from a currant bush a friend gave us.This morning I put in a bunch of potatoes. I expect to be planting a few more things this week, and some warmer-weather stuff like tomatoes and peppers soon. Meantime, our new tree out front continues to thrive. I planted pansies around the base, and I water the lot of them, tree and flowers, every day.

    This afternoon I got back onto Project Creaky Bike: I removed the crank, then removed the bottom bracket bearing housings (they were in fact loose), cleaned and lubed everything and confirmed that the bearings themselves were OK, then put it all back together, nice and snug. I’ll find out soon enough if that solved my creak — hopefully success won’t conjure up a new one…

    I won’t be going riding tomorrow though, because we’re expecting the appliance service guy some time during the day — oven is on the fritz and probably needs a new thermostat or something. Since Tuesday is now also “cello duets day” with my friend Donna H, we’ll probably be playing here tomorrow instead of in her garden, so I can stay close to home. The expected rain held off today, but tomorrow and Wednesday are supposed to be wet. Maybe a ride Thursday?


  • Got A Screw Loose

    My friend Greg maintains that if your bike has a creak, it’s best to leave it alone, because if you do manage to exorcise that one, another creak will come take its place. Nonetheless, I decided yesterday to deal with a persistent creak down near my bottom bracket on the Santa Cruz.

    This creak started (true to form), just after I’d dealt with a bit of play that had developed in one of my shock mount bushings. That was an easy enough fix, once I got the parts from the bike store, but as soon as I solved that — finally, and after more than a month of annoyance — up popped the new creak.

    I’ve had this creak before, and if it’s the same one it just means cleaning and tightening the bottom bracket and crank threads. I girded my loins with some YouTube how-to’s (I can never remember what type of crank I have on which bike, or how to extract it), went out to start the process, and — the bolt holding the crank on is loose, like loose loose. I tightened it back up, thinking that might be all that was really wrong. Bullet dodged!

    I did a towpath ride this morning to Northampton, and the creak, if anything, was worse.


  • Vaccinatus

    I don’t remember the whole story — I was young, and it was a long time ago — but I remember as a kid being told that people (like me) who’d had eczema could never get the smallpox vaccine, because instead of developing an immunity they would get smallpox from it. Therefore, since proof of smallpox vaccination was needed to travel internationally, I could not leave the USA. I didn’t really have international travel on my radar as a second grader — people weren’t telling me this to keep me from trying to leave the country or anything, it was just another piece of allergy folklore, passed like “whisper down the alley” from my allergist to my parents to me, and dumbed down for childhood consumption. But here in the present, fifty or more years later, I was wondering just how much of this I understood and remembered correctly…

    According to Google, I pretty much had the story right: thanks to vaccinations, smallpox was eradicated in the USA and Europe before I was born. So even though I couldn’t get the vaccine — vaccinatus eczema was and is a real syndrome — I was pretty safe. To prevent its reintroduction and international spread generally, people crossing borders had to prove they were vaccinated against smallpox (as well as other diseases, like yellow fever). There was a huge push starting in the late 1960’s to finally wipe out smallpox, and it was declared eradicated worldwide by 1980, and as of January 1, 1982, smallpox was removed from the list of required vaccinations, which was about eight years before my first trip outside the USA.

    This whole saga is why vaccine resistance rankles sometimes: Herd immunity is what protected me back then, even though I couldn’t be immune myself, and now people people come up with bogus reasons they “can’t” (won’t) be vaccinated, for things like measles, etc, as well as COVID, compromising the general immunity and putting those people who can’t be individually protected at risk — and the truth is none of us are wholly protected even by a vaccine: herd immunity, starving the pandemic to death, is the only way to really be safe.

    All of which us to say, I got my second jab of the Phizer vaccine on Friday. I felt a bit headachey, tired and out-of-sorts Friday and Saturday, but I’m not sure if it was the vaccine or just seasonal allergies. I’m feeling pretty spry now though, and just waiting for my superpowers to kick in.


  • Milestones

    So, eight years ago yesterday I wrote this, and I said it out loud in front of a judge:

    Anne,

    You brought things into my life I didn’t know were missing, and you’ve made me happier than I realized I could be. I love you with all my heart, and I’ll love you until the day I die.

    In my memory, our love has grown through a series of moments where, with some choice or decision, we were given the chance to deepen our relationship, and with some trepidation we took the chance, and each time it was like walking through a doorway into a better place. Now we’ve come to the next door, the next decision, a commitment that I think we’re both ready to make, and I want to take this next step and continue moving forward with you for the rest of our lives.

    I could say a thousand things here: how I love talking with you, and laughing with you, and how I love just hanging out, holding you and looking in your eyes, but I can sum it up by saying “I love you Anne.”

    Now let’s do this!

    We didn’t actually do much yesterday: Anne had some bike education work at CAT, and I went for an afternoon towpath spin. In the evening we got word that our neighbor got her PhD, so we walked across the street and offered our congratulations and a toast, along with John & Donna and a few other neighbors.

    Meantime, I’ve managed to keep my focus/patience long enough to read a book: The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales. Pretty decent, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s mostly action — so far, but I’m only about halfway through…

    Today, for the first time in months, I’ll be playing outdoor duets with Donna H. I expect we’ll be a bit rusty, but the time has definitely come.


  • COVID Memories

    Just a few things from early last year, documented — probably, but not necessarily, in chronological order — for posterity:

    • The news about the new disease in Wuhan, China started coming out in late December 2019, and I remember it being obvious even then that this would be bad.
    • Even so, it wasn’t all that obvious right away that it was already here. I remember going to a doctor’s appointment, and she asked me if I’d managed to avoid that “nasty cold going around.” Only much later did this start to seem like foreshadowing.
    • I managed to avoid that “nasty cold,” but Anne did not — she had something in early February that was like the flu from Hell. It lasted for a bit more than a week, and there were a few times in there where I though we’d need to go to the ER. We did not make the connection to the pandemic until “loss of sense of smell” became more well known…
    • There were a number of people we knew, parents/grandparents of friends etc, who died in this time period, of things like pneumonia or “flu.” Nobody thought to test at the time.

    I’ll probably write more as time and memory permits. By the way, this is what I wrote fifteen years ago.


  • Contact!

    I get email through my contact form, not much of it but a few arrive every week, and almost all of it is spam. I have things in place to block spammy comment form submissions, based on phrases that spammers (but hopefully not legitimate form users), might use, phrases like “Oakley Sunglasses,” “internet marketing,” and variations on “nude” — I got a whole cluster of these nudie offers a few months ago, and was a bit surprised that I hadn’t already blocked them, and actually hadn’t had a need to, until that point…

    Anyway, I still get a few spam emails through the contact form, but at this point they’re really vague, with innocuous wording, and enhancing the blocking efforts to catch them has become a diminishing returns / choose-your-battles kind of thing so I let them slide. Every so often I get a doozy though, and here’s one I had to share:

    From: [SOME FAKE NAME]
    Subject: Delivery of your email messages.

    Message Body:
    Hi! donkelly.net

    Did you know that it is possible to send message fully legal?
    We sell a new legal way of sending message through feedback forms. Such forms are located on many sites.
    When such commercial offers are sent, no personal data is used, and messages are sent to forms specifically designed to receive messages and appeals.
    Also, messages sent through communication Forms do not get into spam because such messages are considered important.
    We offer you to test our service for free. We will send up to 50,000 messages for you.
    The cost of sending one million messages is 49 USD.

    This message is created automatically. Please use the contact details below to contact us.

    [CONTACT INFO DELETED]

    You’re spamming me, through my contact form, to offer me your awesome contact-form-spam service? Gotta lotta damn gall I tell ya, and your phrasing… It seemed almost too provocative, as if they were fishing for someone to reply with a piece of their mind, and thus hand over their legitimate email address. Oh well, I (mostly) didn’t rise to the bait, and for this form submission I made an exception: I found a way to block similar messages.


  • Another Bite At The Apple

    I finished those online courses on SQL. There was a bit of cognitive drift into “other data models” (i.e., JSON and XML) towards the end, but all in all it was a positive experience: I really did learn a lot, and more important, I’m now very comfortable using these new things I learned.

    (The XML foray was an interesting thing in its own right: these courses — and this is probably true of most “free courses” on the internet — are about 10 years old, which translates to “about the time XML’s heyday was starting to fade.” The course touched on XQuery and XSLT, but there was a definite “we suspect you won’t need to know this in the future” vibe about the lessons, and here in the future I had a hard time even finding a way to run the demos, and much of my internet research consisted of reading articles with names like “Why Should We Care About XML Anymore?” I eventually resorted to a bash script — brutishly practical, my workhorse go-to — to invoke the bloated, oh-so-elegant Java classes I found online to perform the queries.)

    Anyway, I was pretty impressed with myself, both for sticking it out and for actually learning something from these courses. I think that the “internet course” format is something I take to pretty well, at least the ones I found at edX, and in fact something I enjoy spending my time with. Naturally enough, I decided to continue by taking another set of courses, and this time I’m giving R another go. I’m about halfway through the third course, in a series on data analysis put out by Harvard, currently working through visualization (graphs) and ggplot, and once again I’m doing well and loving it — so far. Only time will tell.


  • The Other Snow Toys

    For what was probably this winter’s last hurrah, I met Doug and Lori at South Mountain on Thursday to get in some snowshoeing. The conditions were pretty good for the most part, except on some of the South-facing slopes — the snowshoes gripped fine, but the upper layer of snow itself would shear off and slide down like mini-avalanches (we’re only talking like 6″ or so), making the hills a bit slippery. The sun was out though, and the temperature was pleasant and the sky was a deep blue, and we had a grand time in the fresh air.

    Snowshoeing is inherently less exciting than other winter activities, but it’s good exercise and a good way to enjoy the scenery, and in the interest of equal time I thought I’d post some of my recent snowshoe photos to go along with my skiing post, so here are some shots I took on a recent hike at Sand Island:


  • Snow Crash

    Hi. I’m back. How fares the world?

    I haven’t posted much lately, because I haven’t felt like I have much to say, but I have been up to things and getting them done: I finished that SQL course, I got all my photos through the end of 2019 onto Flickr, and… uh, well I guess that’s about it.

    What else have I been doing? A lot of shoveling, and a lot of XC skiing. We got hit with a huge storm a few weeks back, with maybe 30″ of snow dumped on us, and we’ve been getting another 3″-4″ every few days ever since, and up until yesterday also we’ve had really cold temperatures — ideal conditions for skiing. I got out maybe two or three times a week this whole past month, and (until yesterday) the conditions were spectacular.

    Here are some shots from the early storm:

    After another storm I got out for some more pictures:

    I got in some snowshoeing as well, but that’s never as much fun… Sunday I misjudged conditions and blew off skiing to trudge around Sand Island, then had to see all the Facebook posts of awesome XC fun. I tried to make up for it, and went out yesterday in the snowfall, but things were so warm and sticky I broke my boot…

    It might be for the best: the air feels like spring and the light looks like spring, and the temperatures will be almost 50 by the end of the week — the XC season is probably over around here. But it was good while it lasted!

    And with that I will leave you with another GoPro masterpiece on YouTube: