Finding a way to cope

I keep wondering how long this situation with COVID-19 is going to last.

It has taken a couple of weeks for me to realize what an impact this is having on our lives. We had big plans for this Spring and Summer. Those plans are now completely on hold. We have had to completely re-assess what we do with our time because of this. At first, it seems like a minor adjustment, but after a few weeks it’s starting to sink in how much different life will be and for how long it might last.

I would like to think that we’ve made an impact with our actions and that life might start to return to “almost normal” sometime in the next month or so, but my gut tells me that being back to anything close to the old normal may take much, much longer.

I’m trying to look on the bright side.

This gives us all time to reflect and focus. Time to spend with our families - if we are lucky. Time to pick up a new hobby maybe, or learn something new, or get back to an old favorite pastime.

It also gives us all a chance to reflect on how this might affect others. Some of us are forturnate enough that this doesn’t have a significant impact on our financial well-being. This should be a time when we start to think about other people who might be facing this new normal without the financial means to stick it out. There are also many others who don’t have any kind of companionship at home. I imagine there are lots and lots of people who looked forward to going to work and/or getting out and about outside of work, to meet friends or just hang out with strangers. Being “stuck” at home brings new challenges for them too.

I just hope everyone can find a way to cope - for however long it takes.

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Getting back to work

I put blogging on hold for a bit when I went back to teaching.

Today was going to be our first day back to school after a two-week Spring break, but because of COVID-19 students will be returning to school via remote learning tomorrow.

Teachers return today for a day of meetings, practice, and support. We’ve been planning for this for months, so I think we are all prepared, but most of us, I think, are still a little anxious about how things will go.

Big day today!

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Getting through the holidays

When I was a kid, my mom used to marvel at “how much Billy loves Christmas!”

I would never call my mother a liar. Seriously, I wouldn’t. And I do enjoy Christmas, Christmas Eve, which was always the bigger deal in my family, and the celebrations with family.

But I have noticed over the last ten years or so that I fall into a bit of a funk every year, just after Thanksgiving and it lasts until after my birthday, which is a week after Christmas. I’m trying to pay attention more this year to how I feel and on which days and when it stops. I’ve often wondered how much of it is holidays, how much is Winter, with its cold and short days, and how much might be that I don’t have my parents around any more.

As I’ve written before, I’m an emotional sort, so the holidays has also always brought a certain amount of reflection and nostalgia, etc. Perhaps I just feel these things more acutely than I did when I was younger. Maybe because I have adult children of my own now, the feelings are exaggerated.

In any case, I want to get through the holidays. I don’t want to rush them, because I do miss the festivities when they are over, but part of me looks forward to feeling more normal again.

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FTC Competition Zero

Yesterday, I went to my first FTC competition and it was a blast.

According to the FIRST Inspires website, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is…

… way more than building robots. FIRST Tech Challenge teams (up to 15 team members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format.

The team of which I am a part is competing in their second year. They did very well last year, and I’ve enjoyed learning from the team. I was recruited to help with the programming, and I am enjoying learning from them very much.

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No more Google - where does it end?

I’ve been thinking for some time - years, really - about how to use only free software. This is a cause I’ve cared aobut for a long time and every once in a while I get carried away thinking I can go “cold turkey” and just get rid of all of the non-free software in my life.

I saw an article recently about the evils of Google. The article had a link to a page called “No More Google” which showcased software one could use to replace the services Google provides. My obsession kicked in again. I decided I would completely give up on Google. I have several of my own email domains for which I use Google Apps. That will be a big deal to give up, but aside from that, giving up Google won’t be nearly as hard for me as it might be for others.1

Of course, I couldn’t leave well-enough alone. So, I started planning to get rid of all non-free software.

The last time I went down this rabbit-hole, the biggest sticking point for me was using Dropbox. Now, though I still use it, it’s mosly for support files for apps and such, so I could give it up. But what about OneDrive and iCloud? I also use more non-free apps than I did back then and I really like some of them. I believe I could give all of them up - except maybe Slack.

But while I’m headed down this road… why not take it one step more. I’ve been reading and learning about building apps on the blockchain for some time now and a short while ago I started following and fiddling with Dapps. Why not go ALL Dapps! Right?

Wrong!

See, this is how my brain works. I have to stop myself, take a deep breath and remind myself not to let the perfect get in the way of the good.

One step at a time.

Here’s the thing, though, I tend to use that as an excuse to not take any action at all. If I can’t go all Dapps or all non-free or all non-Google or whatever, why make any changes at all. I really like the software experience I’ve created for myself. Why make any change if I can’t make them all?

I want to stop letting my mind play these tricks on me.

So, I want to start looking into alternative apps - Dapps when possible - one at a time and just see where that takes me.

I plan to document all of this here in case you’re interested in following along.

  1. Assuming I don’t count against myself any Google use by the two companies I currently work with - and am not willing to sever ties with. 

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Life is too short to wear ripped underwear

Like everyone, I would imagine, I have a few pair of underwear in my drawer that are not worthy of wearing. I keep them, I guess, in case I’m ever far enough behind on the laundry that I need to wear them.

But every once in a while I find myself considering wearing a pair on a day when it “doesn’t matter” and I guess the idea in my head is that I can back up laundry day another day.

The other day I was considering this and it occurred to me that I didn’t want to sit around in a pair of underwear with the band 25% ripped off and I thought to myself “Life is too short to wear this underwear!”

It’s true. Every day is precious. No matter what the plan for the day. No matter what the day holds. No matter how inconsequential the day may feel when it starts - or even if it turns out that way. Still no reason to wear bad underwear.

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No wonder dogs hate fireworks

In 1994 we celebrated Independence Day with our son who was barely ten months old. Every Independence Day since we have celebrated with one or both of our children. This was the first year it was just the two of us.

Since our kids would be out celebrating on their own miles away and since the weather looked unpredictable and since our JRT Vanilla absolutely can’t stand fireworks and since our place would probably give us a great view of some fireworks, we thought we’d stay home this year.

I have been alive for 53 Independence Days and while I certainly don’t remember them all, I only remember staying home once. I think that’s true for most people too. We were talking yesterday about how July 4th is probably the biggest day of the year for “everyone” being out and about. I am always aware of the traffic on July 4th and Halloween but since the latter is more specific to certain ages, I think July 4th beats it.

Anyway, we did see a movie early in the day - The Secret Life of Pets 2. It was delightful and it was really fun to see it in a theater full of laughing families. I’m glad we chose it over Spiderman - which was what both of our kids watched (separated by 3000 miles).

When the fireworks started, we got a glimpse into our own pet’s secret life. From where we sat we could see fireworks from at least 10 different directions - and we could hear all of them and others which were not in our field of view. Vanilla was absolutely terrified. We thought she’d like that we were there to protect her, but I think she was more annoyed than anything since we seemed to be enjoying it.

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I Like Salt

Writing my morning pages the other day, I found myself reminiscing about a fun story about dad.

He learned, after many years of eating pretzels and cashews, that he really didn’t like either. He liked salt.

Every time I think of that discussion, I smile. It was quintessential dad. But it also makes me think a lot about other things that perhaps I’ve let “creep in” to my life. What other food - or habits, routines, friendships, etc. - do I cling to because they bring me some other thing, and how might I get that other thing in a way that’s healthier, more efficient, or better in some other way.

Following that rabbit trail a little further led me to think of how my faith has changed over the years. I have conflicted feelings about the faith of my childhood. I don’t believe some of what I did as a child, but I still believe much of what I have my whole life. I sometimes wonder why. Am I clinging to some of those things for some other reason?

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Great Sites, Winter 2018 Edition

Years ago, I had a weekly feature on my blog where I showcased some great sites I had discovered.

Haven’t done it in a while, and I’ve discovered a few really cool sites I’ve saved to share sometime.

Great Sites

Enjoy…

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Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany’s always reminds me of that Seinfeld episode. George tells Jerry that it’s the book they are reading for book club and Jerry replies with “Truman Capote?”

Breakfast at Tiffany's

George: Yeah

Jerry: Great writer!

George: Oh yeah

Jerry: You ever read any of his books

George: No? You?

Jerry: No

:)

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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

We had so much fun the weekend Fire and Fury was released, we decided we were going to read a different book together every weekend. Well, maybe not together, but concurrently.

Since the whole family was excited for the release of a new film based on an old class which neither of us had read, we decided to start with A Wrinkle in Time.

Like and equal are not the same thing at all.

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Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Only had time for one movie this weekend and we had to make it fit within a tight window, so we saw a movie we weren’t relaly stoked about - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. We both love The Rock, have enjoyed his other films, and we laughed hysterically at Central Intelligence which also featured Kevin Hart. So we knew we’d laugh but we weren’t sure of much else.

We also really liked the original, so now I wonder why this wasn’t higher on our list.

You don’t get in water with a backpack, everybody knows that.

Anyway,

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Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow

Having seen almost all of the films nominated for Oscars, we went looking for something else last weekend. As I read through the names of films, Terri responded to one of them with excitement - Red Sparrow.

Wow, what a surprise this movie was!

Great family that I have!

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Oscar Picks 2018

Oscar Statues

Writing (Original Screenplay)

All solid nominees this year, but my favorite is Get Out. Like most horror movies, things fall apart a bit at the end, but it’s a really original and thought provoking story.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

I haven’t read any of the original works here, but my favorite script from this batch is The Disaster Artist.

Visual Effects

All of this years nominees featured outstanding visual effects, but one of them blew me away - Blade Runner 2049.

Sound Mixing

I don’t have a strong opinion on this one, but my vote would be for Baby Driver.

Sound Editing

It amuses me somewhat that all the nominees are the same as for Sound Mixing. Perhaps because very few people really know what the difference is. :) I could see this going to any of the films, but probably Dunkirk or Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Short Film (Live Action)

All very good this year, but The Eleven O’Clock was my favorite.

Short Film (Animated)

I usually have one ore more of these which I do not like. This year was different, but I do have one favorite - Negative Space.

Production Design

Blade Runner 2049 or The Shape of Water

Music (Original Song)

I think Mystery Of Love is the favorite, and I think it’s great, but I’d choose Stand Up For Something from Marshall.

Music (Original Score)

Dunkirk or Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Makeup and Hairstyling

Tough call this time but I’d choose - Wonder

Foreign Language Film

I only saw one of these - The Square. I’d like to think that was not the best this year, so I’m picking the only other film that played near me - A Fantastic Woman.

Film Editing

Several good choices this year, but I’m going with I, Tonya.

Documentary (Short Subject)

This is much tougher than it usually is for me. I really enjoyed all of them. My favorite is Knife Skills. Traffic Stop had a lot of potential. If it had explored some of the more difficult questions related to that traffic stop, it would have been my pick for sure. Instead, I think Heroin(e) will win. It explores what is a huge, and growing problem in the U.S, and shows a glimmer of hope dealing with it.

Documentary (Feature)

I did not see Faces Places but the others were all very good. All stories that needed to be told. All told well. I found myself confused throughout most of Icarus and I’m still not sure how the film was made (who knew what and when did they know it, etc.) but if I had to pick one over the others, this is the one.

Directing

I think this if one of those years where Best Picture and Directing will be split. I think the Directing award goes to Jordan Peele for Get Out.

Costume Design

I think Phantom Thread is the least deserving, but I would not be surprised if any of these win. My pick is The Shape of Water.

Cinematography

I still don’t know quite how this is measured, but I was very impressed with all of these films. Two of them stand out for me above the others, though - Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water.

Animated Feature Film

I think this one is a lock for Loving Vincent.

Actress in a Supporting Role

I think Vicky Krieps stole the show in Phantom Thread so I was surprised not to see a nomination for her. In the end, I think she would not have beaten Allison Janney or my pick - Laurie Metcalf.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Though one performance stands out far and away above the others for me, I love seeing five spectacular actors nominated this year. All five of these men are consistently outstanding. Sam Rockwell turned in the performance of a lifetime and I would be shocked if he doesn’t win.

Actress in a Leading Role

Once again, this is the toughest category for me. McDormand and Steep are outstanding and turned in excellent performances this year, but I think the other three were better. I’d give Sally Hawkins a very slight edge over Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan just slightly behind her. I’d be thrilled to see any of those three win it.

Actor in a Leading Role

This might be a rogue pick (I’m not sure, I try not to read too much about who is the favorite, etc.) but I’m going with Denzel Washington. I almost didn’t see this film because he is not one of my favorite actors, but he really, really impressed me with this performance.

Best Picture

The best I can do is divide these films into two batches:

Should Win

Should Not Win

I liked three of these movies, but don’t think any of them should win.

My original pick was The Shape of Water but Get Out and Lady Bird really started to grow on me.

I think Best Picture and Directing will be split between Get Out and Lady Bird. I think Lady Bird takes Best Picture.

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Oscars Menu 2018

Oscars Menu

Every year for the Oscars we put together a menu inspired by the films nominated. I’ve posted the menu here twice before (here and here).

This year’s menu is not quite as elaborate as some.

Here it is.

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Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

The tea is going out. The interruption is staying right here with me.

The best art makes one ponder - or contemplate.

This film did that for me.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. The trailer made it look like an intriguing story about an aging bachelor who was set in his ways. A man that was particular and quirky and probably a little irritable.

It certainly was, but more than that it was a story about making a relationship work - no matter what it takes.

When we left the theater, Maya said to us “Well, whatever works for them, right?” which given the story worries me a little coming from my son’s girlfriend :) but I had pretty much the same thought.

The other thing that really surprised me about the film was that this is the third movie I watched in preparation for the Oscars that featured the same - very unusual - plot point. I think I could go ten years straight watching 2-3 movies per week and not see another three total. I was very surprised to see the same thing crop up so many times.

Certainly worthy of the nominations it received. I might have even nominated Vicky Krieps. Though the film wouldn’t be my pick for any of them.

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The Dispatcher

The Dispatcher

I f–king died today!

I went on an Audible binge about a week ago to start finishing books I’d already started. Naturally, I started with the shortest ones. :)

The second one I finished, on Monday, I think,

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Live Action Shorts 2018

Eleven OClock

The live action shorts this year were all very good.

Four of this year’s nominees are based on real-life events1 and they all raise important issues. The nominations alone will bring awareness, hopefully, to the issues raised in the films.

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Animated Shorts 2018

Packed Suitcase

We went to see the Oscar Nominated Short Filmes over the weekend. We started on Friday night with the animated films.

They were all really good this year.

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Different How?

Get Out

Sometimes a movie has one quote that wins best quote of the movie without any real competition. This is one of those movies.

I’ll share only part of it so we can share in the inside joke if you’ve seen it and yet I won’t spoil the incredible fun it is when you hear it for the first time.

We handle shit. That’s what we do.

It’s been a long time since I saw this one, but it still sticks with me. It’s a brilliantly directed, terrifying comedy featuring a fantastic performance by Kaluuya.

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