When Madonna is more Presidential than the President...

Good for her (and the world):

Prime ministers, a king, a prince and Madonna all chipped in to an $8 billion pot to fund a coronavirus vaccine, but President Trump skipped the chance to contribute. Officials in his administration noted that the United States is pouring billions of dollars into its own research efforts.

This article also taught me that Norway isn't part of the EU. Who knew? Probably lots of people, particularly Norwegians, but not me!


Paperclip + Mask = Happy Ears

If you're anything like me, a sensible person who cares about the health of others, you've been wearing a mask whenever you're out and about. You may have also discovered that masks with elastic loops that use your ears as a way to stay pressed against your face are slightly uncomfortable.

There's an easy fix that'll save your ears and press the mask even more tightly to your face. You just need one of these (it is a large paperclip, in case you can't see the lovely picture):

Masks

Which you then attach, like so, to one of the elastic loops:

Masks

Next, slap that mask on your face, place the elastic bands over your ears, and pull them behind your head so you can attach the other loop to the paperclip:

Masks

Adjust for your comfort and then send me a lovely email thanking for for this fantastic tip.

I'm sure there are little doodads you can buy, or 3D print, that do the same thing but you probably already have a paperclip laying around.

I know what you're thinking, "But, Scott, won't I look silly with a paperclip pressed against the back of my head?" There's a global pandemic happening. No one cares what you look like.

Now you're thinking, "Scott, why didn't you include a picture of you wearing a mask so we can see what it looks like on the back of your neck?" I took several of those pictures, dear reader. Trust me, you're better off not seeing them.


Books for me! A future for these stores?

The books I’ve bought during the Pandemic.  No, I have’t read any of them yet.

I feel a little bit like there isn’t much I can do to be helpful during this global pandemic. I’m not a healthworker, I can’t sew (trust me, you wouldn’t want to wear a mask I made. The last time I sewed anything was long, long ago in elementary school. I was in 2nd grade, I think, and preparing to recieve my First Communion. For some reason part of the preparations included spending a morning in our school’s cafeteria where we cut out lamb shapes from fabric, stuffed them, and then sewed them together. My lamb wouldn’t protect anyone from COVID-19 either), and I can’t convince stupid people that wearing a mask isn’t a huge civil liberties problem and the numbers aren’t as bad as predicted because of what we’re doing.

Something I can do, however, is support a few independent booksellers. Which I how I came to own the 20 books above! They are a mix of new and used books from a few of my favorite bookstores (or stores that I went to once and enjoyed):

  • Powell’s - This one shouldn’t be a surprise. I, like many people, love Powell’s for many reasons. Whenever I’m in Portland I stop by and spend more money than I should... and since who knows if air travel will ever happen again I spent a pretty penny using their (not so great) website.
  • Northshire Bookstore - I think we visited this store on our honeymoon... but I don’t know for sure. But they got some of my money anyway!
  • BookPeople - This is a great bookstore in Austin, which I visit and spend way too much money at whenever I’m in Austin. They also have nice t-shirts.
  • A Novel Idea on Passyunk - I haven’t actually visited this bookstore in person, despite the fact that it is in Philadelphia but I want it to continue to exist so I bought some books.

There is one glaring omission on the list above. My favorite bookstore in the world is The Strand. It is a favorite amongst many a book lover but they aren’t shipping books, so I couldn’t order any. I did order myself a gift card to help support them!

Indie Bookstore websites suck

One thing I discovered whilst trying to support independent bookstores I found out that many of them have horrible, horrible, very bad websites. It makes sense since these stores want you to come to their physical locations. They can’t compete with Amazon’s website (which really isn’t all that great either... but it is really easy to find what you’re looking for on Amazon, which is all that matters), so they just ignore their websites.

Bookshop.org is an interesting solution to this problem. It is a service that’ll sell books for indie bookstores and give a percentage to the bookstore. The store won’t make as much from the sale, but they also don’t have to ship books or keep the inventory so that seems like a win to me. And Bookshop.org is a very nicely designed website.


Following up on a thing no one cares about

A while back I got a bunch of t-shirts that were the wrong size.

I said then I wasn't confident I'd get replacements:

I’ve reached out to Loot Crate support, so I’m hoping I can exchange them for a smaller size. Though the response of “we are working on our shipping process so these late deliveries don’t happen again” that I got doesn’t make me think Loot Crate is great at actually reading the email folks send them (and that lots of people are contacting them about these very late boxes randomly showing up now!).

Good news! They sent me the right sized shirts. Woo!


AirPods Pro - A victim of my pandemic mind

So many Airpods Pro

People who follow me on Twitter may recall that I sent my AirPods Pro through the wash last month:

I've had AirPods forever, but this was the first time I managed to destroy a pair with prolonged washing.

Good news: I did the same thing a couple of days ago... so now I have two pairs of broken AirPods Pro.

This got me to thinking about how I could have gone for so long not doing a thing and then suddenly doing that thing twice in a couple of weeks.

It all boils down to the power of routine. I only ever really used my AirPods in two circumstances:

  1. Sitting at my desk at work.
  2. Whilst running (either outside or on the treadmill).

When I used them at work I would just slip them into my bag at the end of the day. My bag doesn't end up in the washing machine all that often, so there's very little risk of destruction for my AirPods in that routine.

When I'm outside running I don't usually bring the AirPod case, but traditionally I've run alone. So when I'm done with my run I just walk home with the AirPods in my ears. When I get home I pull them out, pop them into their case, and go about my life with functioning AirPods.

For use in the gym, I pop them into my ears before I head down the 15 floors to the gym, and then pop them out again when I'm back home (this allows me to pretend I can't hear anyone who might want to talk to me in the elevator).

Enter COVID-19.

Now, I'm no longer going to the office (I haven't been there in a month) so I don't use my AirPods during the day.

And the gym in my building is closed, so I don't use the treadmill anymore. Which means I have to run outside (even thought the air is full of death).

To make it even more different not only do I now only run outside, but since we are limiting the amounts of times we go outside we tend to all go out at the same time.

This means when I'm walking home I'm with Marisa and the boys. And I don't want to be rude to Marisa, since she is still talking to me for the moment, so I pop the AirPods into my pocket of my sweaty shorts.

Sweaty shorts which end up in the washing machine. With my AirPods in the pocket.

And that's how I ended up being the owner of two sets of very clean, and very broken, AirPods Pro.


Breakfast with the boys

Breakfast

Here's some real talk: most everything about this global pandemic sucks.

And that's an optimistic statement, just so you know how things are going these days. However, one benefit of all of this craziness is that while I'm working from home, and avoiding all human contact, new rituals have emerged.

One of the best is that I now feed these little guys their breakfast in the morning so Marisa can take a shower at a relatively sedate pace (i.e. she doesn't have to have a monitor on the shelf or an audience of two tiny freaking out men watching her shower).

It has been a learning experience for us all.


Little Yogurt Beard

As you can see, Declan likes yogurt but has to work on paying attention while his less than neat father attempts to shove it into his mouth while, at the same time, Declan turns his head in the opposite direction to look at something and opens his mouth a tiny bit.

Sammy is all business at the breakfast table, and you can see he's thinking, "Is there more yogurt in that phone? If not, put it away."


Reading in the time of COVID-19

Background stress.

That’s what I felt when I was in the hospital overnight a few months ago. It wasn’t serious, but the docs wanted to keep me under observation (these days I’m pretty sure I would have just been sent home!).

Honestly, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to get some reading done. With two babies at home, my reading time has been significantly impacted (though keep in mind Marisa was, and continues to, doing the vast majority of childcare duties). A whole night where I couldn’t get out of bed and just had to lay there? Paradise.

It wasn’t.

There’s just a lot of stress and tension in the air at a hospital, even if you’re not in mortal danger of death. I couldn’t concentrate on much other than mindless television.

And that, my friends, is how this pandemic is impacting me.

Lots of folks on social media are posting about all the time they have now since we’re sheltering in place without commutes. Time seems to have become unstuck from us, and now we can do all those things we never got around to before.

I have a stack of library books that is the result of some aggressive hold requesting and I haven’t managed to make a dent in it. Luckily, the library is closed until further notice and they aren’t taking book returns so I have time. And yet I lack the ability to concentrate.

Sure, I can read a little bit but all of my attempts to immerse myself into a book have thus far failed.

129B4981-1974-4260-BEA5-0924710FD0EBOn the plus side I’m watching lots of episodes of Time Team with Marisa. I was previously watching it while I ran on the treadmill, but my building’s gym is closed so that isn’t happening anymore.

It was a lovely surprise to find out that Marisa actually finds the show interesting. Score one for us!

Anyway, given this is an once in a lifetime event (I’m just projecting my hope there, I know this could turn into a regular occurrence) I figure I should chronicle some of what I’m thinking and doing.

Stay tuned for more entries in my COVID-19 Chronicles. I hope it continues to be relatively boring chronicle of a stressful time.


Headache or death?

Having AFib hasn’t really impacted my life all that much. I have to take some medicine twice a day, which is surprisingly difficult to remember, and that’s about it.

 

Oh, and now whenever I get a headache I have to make sure I’m not having a stroke. That’s fun.

Good thing I don’t have headaches that often, though the other day I had a pretty significant one come on and was worried for a bit. Good news, everyone, it wasn’t a stroke!


Oh, right. Loot Crate is a thing.

A couple of years ago Loot Crate announced they were doing Star Trek “mission crates.” If you ordered a year of the crates (6 boxes of Star Trek related stuff) you would get a discount on a year of CBS All Access as a bonus.

I signed up on 8/23/17 and the first crate (according to my email) was shipped almost a year later. Turns out, Loot Crate had a lot of trouble creating these things. And while they included some fun t-shirts it was mostly crap I didn’t need. I got a few more of the crates and cancelled my subscription.

Then I forgot this thing ever existed. And forgot that I had paid for a year of crates (though I had paid for them 2 years ago). Forgotten about them until yesterday when the 3 remaining crates arrived on the same day. I was supposed to get them, according to the names of the crates, in July, Sept, and Nov of... 2018.

9475D6A6-DDF2-40F3-9D80-E1607EB1BFD4

Better late than never, I suppose. The only wrinkle is that the fine folks at Loot Crate didn’t tell me these were coming. They just showed up. Why is that a problem? Each box includes a t-shirt, which is good. But I selected my size 2 years ago when I was much heavier so I went with XXL. I’m an XL now, and these fancy shirts (and I do quite like them) are way too big. Bummer.

I’ve reached out to Loot Crate support, so I’m hoping I can exchange them for a smaller size. Though the response of “we are working on our shipping process so these late deliveries don’t happen again” that I got doesn’t make me think Loot Crate is great at actually reading the email folks send them (and that lots of people are contacting them about these very late boxes randomly showing up now!).


The Best Books I read in 2019

Tomorrow is Christmas, which means you might be looking for a few last minute presents for the kind of important people in your life. Why not get them an ebook? You can buy it at any time and it is delivered instantly! Plus, you can tell people you scheduled the delivery weeks ago so people don’t think you forgot to get them something.

I read 71 books this year and as is my tradition I will share the ones that I deemed five star worthy. Surely, any person who were to recieve any of these books as a present would be very lucky indeed.

Non-fiction

Like books about real stuff? I generally don’t, but I did read a couple that I very much enjoyed this year.

  • Underground by Will Hunt - I often idly wonder about what’s happened beneath my feet. Will is one of those brave souls who actually goes to find out.
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Turns out this book that won lots of awards and everyone says is excellent... is very good indeed. And not at all what I expected.

Novellas

It seems to me that novellas are making a comeback. A bunch of publishers are pushing them, which resulted in me reading a few this year. The great thing about novellas is that they aren’t too long but you still feel like you’ve read something of substance.

Don’t start here

Since I’m a big nerd I, of course, read lots entries in series. I enjoyed all of these, but you shouldn’t start any of these series with this installment:

Novels

  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk - One of the odder mysteries I’ve read...and one that was very well written. Also, what a great title!
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - I enjoy books that force me out of my worldview in interesting ways, and this one certainly does that. And the main character is a hoot.
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett - Do you like books that have detailed magic systems? I do! And this book has that AND a pretty exciting story. Bonus.
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - One of the more exciting (and depressing) sub-generes of Science Fiction is CliFi (Climate Fiction). These books spin tales about a future shaped by climate change. This book does that very well without being heavy handed and includes a polar bear.
  • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker - Another great title! K.J. Parker is on my list of authors whose work I just buy, but this book is a great intro for anyone interested in trying out his work.
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - A great modern space opera, and another book is coming soon (so you should start here).