Impressive Balloons

Ballons

Over the weekend we went to a birthday/seder celebration with Marisa’s family. It was a gorgeous day, which was very lucky since the celebration was outside (which was very thoughtful since the boys can’t be vaccinated yet, we have been avoiding going indoors with them in places other than our apartment for…. Well, forever it feels like).

They had a great time seeing folks and capering about, but for Declan the highlight of the day was the reveal of the balloons pictured above. They were, in theory, for David (the birthday boy) but Amy very thoughtfully bought them with Sammy and Declan in mind.

Declan sat on a little folding chair in the parking lot (which is where we were celebrating) and looked upon the balloons with wide eyes. I was sitting next to him so I heard him say, very quietly, as he looked at the Elmo and Thomas balloons, “Oh my gosh!”

He said it twice. He was very impressed.


eBay Tip

Excelsior

Thanks to my children's current obsession with wooden Thomas the Tank Engine trains I've become reacquainted with the wonder that is eBay.

When I was in college I was rather poor. Now, I didn't have trouble feeding myself, nor did I have to worry about where I was sleeping, but beyond that I didn't have a lot of "spending cash." I did, however, have a workstudy job that paid me pretty well given how much work I actually did (I worked in the library and they really just needed me to sit at the desk in case someone wanted to check out something. Occasionally I'd have to shelve books, which was more work but also fun!).

The workstudy job gave me a bit of extra money that I probably should have saved, but then I found out about eBay. eBay was my gateway to buying a ridiculous amount of Star Trek The Customizable Card Game cards. So many cards (and I do still have them all!).

In my defense, I actually had people to play the game with in college so it wasn't a complete waste of money.

After that card game phase ended my eBaying urge lay dormant for many years. Then Lego started selling random minifig collections and it awakened the beast. I soon had to have a complete collection of these minifigs. After several collections I realized I didn't really need to have any more minifigs, and more importantly, I didn't want to have any more minifigs!

Thus ended my minifig phase.

It is too early to tell if I'm entering a "starship" phase, but the image above features a model of the USS Excelsior which I almost bought on eBay. I say it there, bid on it, and then was out bid.

Speaking of wastes of money, I felt that familiar urge to raise my bid, but before I did I thought, "Why don't I see how much a new one of these costs." Turns out, a new one cost less than the one I was bidding on, so I just bought it and it showed up the next day.

That's the tip: when eBaying, make sure you aren't foolishly overpaying for something.

Mind-blowing, I know.


The Apple Studio Display

NothanksdisplayThis is not a review of the recently released Apple Studio Display because I haven't used one for any length of time nor have I even seen one in person.

This is a look at why I'm not going to be buying one for myself, even though I am sure it is a fantastic monitor.

If you're looking for actual reviews why not check out:

Ready to dive into my mind? Buckle up, buttercup.

I work in widescreen

My Desk as of 03/31

The Apple Studio Display is a 27 inch retina (i.e. super high def) display. I'm sure it is a great display because it is an improved version of the display on my 5K iMac... which itself is an awesome display.

An awesome display that I never use. In fact, I couldn't wait to get it off my desk when my Mac Studio arrived (which I bought to replace the iMac).

Why don't I use the awesome iMac display? Because many years ago at work we got widescreen curved monitors (32 inchers, I think) and I've never looked back. As soon as the pandemic started and it was clear I'd be working from home for the long haul I plunked down some of my hard earned cash for the Acer XR342CK Pbmiiqphuzx 34" Curved QHD monitor.

Ultrawide monitors aren't for everyone, but they are for me. I love being able to have a host of documents or browser windows open right next to each other, and it is really great for playing D&D via Zoom (admittedly a use case that isn't applicable for everyone).

DeclanDisplay

You can connect as many computers as you like, as long as it is one

I have a Surface Go, which is a little Windows computer I like very much. It is pretty slow, but I've found it is much peppier if you use an external monitor instead of the builtin display (don't ask me why!). The other day I had need to spend several hours in MS Access (which is a phrase you'll probably not read in any Apple Studio Display reviews) and I wanted to use my external monitor.

I thought to myself, "Sheesh, I guess I'll need to get a KVM switch and hook that up to my monitor and then plug that into my iMac and Surface Go so I can switch back and forth." Then I realized that my monitor has more than one input. I could connect TWO computers (more, actually) directly to the monitor and switch between the two.

I rejoiced.

This isn't something you can do with an Apple Studio Display, and it is something I want to be able to do.

Webcam, more like Webcan't

I don't need, or really want, a built in webcam in my monitor. This is a big selling point for the Apple Studio Display, and I get it. For most folks it is a great thing to have (and Center Stage is really fantastic - we use it every day on our iPad Pro and love it).

For me, I use a fancy digital camera hooked up to my Mac with an HDMI to USB converter thingie. This is certainly not a "normal" setup, but for me it works... and means I don't need that webcam.

One Cable to charge them all

One of the great things about Apple's displays is that they have long included an integrated charger for your laptop. There was a time when this was amazing. Nowadays this is expected, and better yet that same power cable also functions as the only connection you need for the monitor. This is true for Apple displays... and for every other USB-C display out there (like my very well named Acer monitor).

I can adjust my monitor without spending $400

My Acer monitor cost me $650, which was a great deal. When I look at the specs of the Apple Studio Display I think the $1600 isn't outrageous. In fact, I think it is a good price for the caliber of monitor you're getting.

However, if you want to be able to adjust the height of that monitor you'll need to spend $400(!) extra in order to get the "tilt - and height-adjustable stand." My $650 monitor included such a stand as a standard option, and I think it is highway robbery for Apple to sell this monitor without a height adjustable stand and then make it such a ridiculous upcharge.

I think you'll be seeing something like this on a lot of Apple Studio Display users' desks:


AdjustStudio

Should you get one?

I don't know. I will say that I probably would have bought one for Marisa instead of the Dell UltraSharp 27 4K we got her (though that monitor is also fully adjustable).

If your needs are exactly like mine, you totally shouldn't buy one.

If you can afford one and use a Mac laptop, it is probably the best display available for you.

What was the point of all this? What's the point of anything, man?


Highs and Lows of waiting for a computer

2022 03 29 15 58 51

I ordered a Mac Studio as soon as they were announced, and was very excited to get my shipping notification.

Sadly, for me, my computer has just moved across China... and then stopped. Hopefully it'll be here soon! I'm ready to welcome you to my desk, little Mac Studio!

Update 3/30, 11:54 am - My computer arrived in Alaska at 3:42am and left (for PA?) at 6:12am. UPS tells me they expect to deliver it by 7pm tonight. I do not share this expectation.

Update 3/30, 4:17pm - Looks like UPS has met my expectations:

2022 03 30 16 17 21

Update 3/30, 10:26pm - My computer arrived in Philadelphia several hours ago. Though not at my apartment. Tomorrow it shall be mine! (I hope.)

Update 3/31 8:19am - The Mac Studio has been loaded onto the delivery vehicle. I repeat: the Mac Studio has been loaded onto the delivery vehicle. More on this developing story as it happens.

Update 3/31 11:29am - Out for delivery, people! And it was a few hours ago, but I only just re-checked the status. Soon it will be mine!

Update 3/31 10:43pm - I'm typing this on my Mac Studio! OMG!


I'm an "Architect," just without training or talent

2022 03 29 09 22 25A little while ago I took this 16Personalities personality test and it told me that I'm an Architect - specifically an "Assertive Architect" (if you take the test using this link it'll compare our personality types! You'll finally figure out why you don't like me!). I've never really thought of myself as particularly assertive, but I do often get my way so maybe there's something to it (I attribute my getting my way to the fact that for the most part I don't have an opinion/preference for things. When I do, I have the right preference so of course I get my way! See, not assertive at all).

Once you take the test 16Personalities will email you from time to time with articles and insights about people with your personality type. They are very careful to say "most people with this type," so as not to piss people off (I assume). Sometimes the emails are spot on for me, and other times... not so much!

Anyway, this week's email was about work environments and it inspired this blog post... so you know it was either spot on or totally off base.

Here are the four points:

  • Architects do their best work in quiet places
  • Architects are very unlikely to feel like they’re doing their best work if they have to collaborate with others.
  • Architects are the most likely personality type to believe they would both survive and thrive working from home.
  • Architects would much rather work in a cubicle than in an open-plan office.

And my thoughts on each:


  • Totally true for me. I really like silence when I'm working. My children don't seem to understand this. Nor does the rest of the world.

  • I like collaborating with others, so this doesn't resonate with me. Well, maybe a tiny bit!

  • Interestingly, I never thought working from home would be a good fit for me. Thanks to the pandemic I've been doing it for a couples years and it turns out that I really do like it.

  • I loathe open-plan offices with my entire being. Which, of course, means that part of my job is overseeing the operation of an open-office plan office. Oh, life, you little scamp!

Ideally, I would work in a small office with the door closed. Ironically, the only time I had such ideal conditions was when working at Comcast. I was very excited about that part of the job, doubly so because everyone I interviewed with had a TV (with cable) in their offices! How cool is that? I did get an office with that job, but it didn't have a TV in it. When I sheepishly asked about it (I wasn't sure of a tactful way to ask about getting a TV in my office) I found out that they stopped doing that for some reason. No TV for me, but I really did like that office.


Checked up

The list of things I'd need for an unplanned overnight hospital stay wasn't as long as you might think.

As I was packing my bag I got it down to:


  • Laptop

  • iPad (though this is a luxury that could be skipped)

  • Kindle

  • Phone

  • Chargers for all of the above

  • Long cables for all of the above

And that's it! I figured the hospital would have my medication so I wouldn't need to bring mine, and I'd be wearing a gown so no need for a change of clothes! Toiletries are also provided, so I could travel very light!

Why would I even thinking about this as I packed my bag for work last Friday? Earlier in the week I realized I wanted to try to get "VIP" status in the Wellness program the University I work for runs and which I participate in. Some folks I work with think this is just a way for the University to gain access to more information about their employees so they can... do something nefarious. I think it is just a cheap way for them to project the idea that they might care about the staff a bit. Either way, if you get enough points you can trade them in for Amazon gift cards, which means I can fund book purchases. Therefore, I participate (plus all of my doctors work for the University associated health system, so I don't think I'm telling anyone anything they don't already know!).

Anyway, one of the things you have to do in order to get VIP status - a status which, I should mention, I know not what it imparts but which I want more than anything in the world - is a biometric screening.

The University used to hold these screenings every year. You'd go into a room that usually held sullen studying students and walk to various tables where people in white coats would take your blood pressure, check your blood sugar, and your cholesterol. They'd write all those numbers down for you and then explain what they meant. Sometimes there'd be a little delicious treat as well.

Thanks to the pandemic the University hasn't had one for a couple of years, but you can either go to a clinic and have it done OR do it at home. What a world!

I started the process of ordering an at home kit. At the very beginning of the process you're asked a couple of things: weight, height, that sort of thing. They also ask you for your blood pressure.

We have a blood pressure machine, so I looked for it (Marisa found it, in the place she told me to look but where I was unable to find it. She double-checked the same place, and lo, there it was) and slapped it on my arm.

After displaying several increasingly frustrating error codes it finally gave me a blood pressure reading. I would soon be on my way to being a wellness VIP!

According to the machine my blood pressure was so high that I shouldn't be able to see and I should take off the cuff and go directly to the emergency room.

This was mildly concerning considering my family history is full of obituaries that include the phrase "massive heart attack."

I felt fine. Clear vision, no pounding headaches, nothing.

I took a moment and calmed myself. Then I took another reading.

It was high but not super double dangerously high. I decided that I probably didn't need to go to the emergency room, but that I could consult with Dr. Google.

That wasn't a great idea, to be honest. I spent another couple of days being frustrated with my blood pressure cuff's ability to take my blood pressure at all after those two readings. It would just display a wide variety of error messages.

And at this point I was now afraid that I didn't think I was experiencing any symptoms because I had been experiencing them for so long that I no longer knew they were symptoms.

The only way to clear this up was to schedule a checkup (which I was overdue for anyway) and see what they said. I figured I'd have to wait a while but when I opened the online scheduling options I found an appointment for the next day at 7am.

7am is very early for almost anything, but I do love getting the first appointment of the day. That way I know I can avoid most delays and get in and out quickly.

I snapped up the appointment. I also assumed that I would go to the appointment and be told that I had to head to the emergency room (I'm an optimist!). Given that thinking, I did the only reasonable thing and packed a bag for an extended hospital stay (the contents of which you already know).

I went to sleep ready to wake up, shower, and be in the waiting room of the doctors' office before anyone else in the house was awake.

And that's what I did! In fact, I was there at 6:45am, 10 minutes before ANYONE else showed up to the office. This includes the front desk person... so I was sitting in a dark waiting room. Which, of course, lead me to think I had the date and time wrong so I checked about 14 times before the front desk person arrived, settled in, and checked me in.

I didn't end up in the emergency room. Turns out my blood pressure is fine. I do have high cholesterol, though, so I'm eating egg whites for breakfast now which is... exciting.

And the great thing about my hospital bag? It also makes for a good "go to work" bag. That's where I headed after my appointment which is slightly preferable to the emergency room.


Gimme that book!

Free book? Free book!

One of the best things about living in a big building in the middle of a large city is that you’re surrounded by people but they don’t know you. This means you don’t have to stop all the time and chat with people, explain what you’re doing, and promise to talk to them later. You just live your life like a normal person who doesn’t want to chit chat.

You can accomplish the same thing by living in a remote cabin, but then you won’t find free books from time to time on the little table next to the elevator.

Folks on my floor will, on occasion, pop a book they are done with on the table. This means it is up for grabs, and the people who know me know I’ve got me some book grabbing hands. That’s how I ended up the book pictured above!


He’s going to be a lawyer, isn’t he?

When dealing with a toddler it can sometimes be difficult to know if they are doing the exact opposite of what you asked them because they don’t understand you or because they are tiny jerks.

During bedtime tonight Declan brought along a plastic egg and a plastic piece of corn on the cob. Sammy invented a game with some rather simplistic rules:

  1. Take the plastic egg and corn on the cob
  2. Throw them under your crib.
  3. Ask your father to retrieve them.
  4. Throw them under the crib again.
  5. Ask your father to retrieve them.

And so on.

After the 6th or 7th round I was tired of this game and it was clear, judging by his giggles, Sammy was just getting started. I settled him down, looked into his eyes, and said, “If you roll this egg under your crib one more time you’re going to get a time out. Do you understand?” Sammy looked at me and it was hard to tell if he understood me.

What he did next made it clear.

He threw the egg behind the couch and laughed like a madman.


Books I liked in 2021 that you could enjoy in 2022

I usually try to post some of my favorite books of the year before Christmas as folks can use the list as inspiration for gift giving. This year I didn’t get a chance to do that, and really I’m pretty sure no one is waiting for my book list to buy their loved ones Christmas presents.

However, you can still buy any of these books for anyone you might like! Don’t like purchasing stuff from Amazon? Buy them somewhere else! Heck, buy from them a local indie bookstore. I dare ya!

Anyway, I read 76 books last year and here are the books that I gave the coveted 5 star rating (though in the spirit of full disclosure I gave a lot of books 4 stars last year):

  • Cloud Cuckoo Land - This book has gotten a lot of attention, and for good reason! It is sort of literary fiction with a dash of science fiction… or is it? Either way, it is very well written.
  • The Lincoln Highway - A shaggy dog story in which the main character spends several hundred pages not doing the one thing they want to.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built - Want a short book about a robot and a monk who makes tea? This is the one for you!
  • The Dictionary of Lost Words - A book about the Oxford English Dictionary and womens’ rights. How can you go wrong?
  • Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life - Did you know that fish aren’t a thing? Mind blowing.
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within - Another Becky Chambers book! This is the 4th in a series, but you really don’t need to read any of the others to enjoy this one. Nothing much happens in this book, and it is a delight.
  • The Midnight Bargain - Be careful with which spirits you make deals!
  • Piranesi - I was nervous about reading this book, so I put it off for months. Don’t be a fool like me and read this as soon as you can!
  • Mexican Gothic - This book, as the kids say, is a mood. I really enjoyed that mood, but if you don’t… you won’t like this book.
  • The Hidden Palace - I wasn’t going to include this book on my list because it is the second in a series and the author is a friend of mine (crazy, I know! I’m even mentioned in the acknowledgments) but it is so good! And you don’t need to read the first book to read this one, but it certain helps… and the first book is so good too.
  • The Liar's Dictionary - A low paid editorial assistant realizes there are fake words in the dictionary she’s working on… and it gets complicated.

There you have it! My top 11 books of 2021! Read one, or read them all! Heck, you can even not read any of them.


I did that!

Lighting Fixture

Over a year ago when we bought the studio apartment next to our apartment one of the seller's requirements was that they get to keep the light fixture in the kitchen. We didn't actually like the light fixture, so that was fine by us. Plus, surely we'd replace it soon!

Over a year passes... and we replaced the fixture! And I even installed it myself (which, I am sure, would have taken someone who knows what they are doing far less time than it took me).

Shout out to the fine people at Rittenhoue Hardware for setting me up with a voltmeter (the guy said, "This is the safest one..." And I interrupted him to say, "I'll take it!") and for having an amazing website.


Ran, Scott, Ran

The Many Faces of Post run Scott

Runkeeper, for whatever reason, asks me to take a selfie at the end of my runs. Which I do, because I do what my phone tells me.

This leads to collages like the one above, and very amusing entries in any of the autogenerated "memories" or "On This Day" photo videos that apps these days feature.

This pictures really capture how I feel about running.


Running on vacation isn’t as much fun as you might think.

We’re spending the week “down the Shore” as they say in Philadelphia, and I’m happy to report that based on people’s behaviors the pandemic is over! Hurrah! Good job, everyone.

Now, I haven’t been in many shops because, as you know, the global pandemic is still raging and I live with two unvaccinated children (I don’t know why they are anti-vaxxers. They keep telling that they are doing their own research and will get vaccinated when they feel like the facts line up. I counter with: 1. You don’t have a computer with which to do research. 2. You can’t read. At this point they usually break something to distract me), however, I have been shocked by the lack of masking in the ones I have ventured into.

I suppose I got spoiled living in a big old blue city (though really, this isn’t political). This does make me appreciate how good Philadelphians, in general, are about masking. I am still baffled by the folks who don’t seem to know that the mask needs to cover your nose, but that’s a different subject entirely.

Whilst here I am continuing to run 4 times a week. As you may know, the pandemic took my already meager supply of interest in exercising and pooped all over it. I bought a bike and signed up with Peloton in hopes that would magically make me want to exercise. It didn’t, though it did show that I like stationary biking even less than I like running.

So, I’ve been running again, and continue to run on vacation. I find, and many other people in a variety of areas concur, that consistency is key. I’m not a great runner, but I am a regular runner.

One of my internal goals has been to always run faster than a 10 minute mile no matter how far I’m running. I’m not sure where I got this idea from; it might stem from high school gym class. You see, I wasn’t a very fit high schooler. I exercised far less than I do now, and I was a very, very poor runner. In fact, over the course of those 4 years of high school I only ran 3 times a year.

How do I know this? Because each year we had to run a timed mile in gym class. If you ran it slower than 15 minutes (I think that was the target, might have been 12), you had to run it again (on another day). In order to “train” for this run we… you guessed it.. ran a little over a mile once earlier in the week of the timed run.

Therefore, I would run about 3 miles a year and always feel bad about myself. Thanks, gym class!

Last night I went for a 4 mile run (I know!) and it wasn’t very good. I know what you’re thinking, “when is a run good?” And I feel you! But this run just plain sucked. The first mile I just barely made it under the 10 minute pace, but the remaining 3 all took more longer than 10 minutes each. Not by a lot, but still!

Given that I’ve been running a lot lately I was a little bummed about this performance until I thought to check the weather. Turns out I was running during an evening with 95% humidity. No wonder it sucked so much, and after learning that I was amazed that I did as well as I did!

I suppose the moral of this story is don’t go on vacation with 2 2 year old toddlers.