COVID-19

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Friday May 22, 2020: Coffee and survival

Keywords: espresso, La Llave, Melitta, Trump, Pence, elder support, urban amenities, chloroquine
bleach is back Some Safeway stores sell an espresso roast by the name of La Llave, see the can on the left, and when I tried that in my Senseo style pad coffee maker, I found the result delicious. Philips' Senseo never made it in the American market, but you can still find the machines and accessories on Ebay, for now, and German plastics manufacturer Melitta makes refillable pods (again, in the pic) that work remarkaby well, creating strong espresso style coffee with a layer of crema (coffee foam, the initial light/tawny colored liquid that comes out during an espresso extraction) on top. The combination of this coffee, the Melitta pad and my Tru pressurized coffee maker really brightens up my morning. Anyway, I paid around $5 for the cans at Safeway, until I found vacuum packed bricks of the same coffee, same weight, at Amazon, for $10 for four. Good to go.... If you like to experiment, the Tru coffee maker is available on Amazon, for around $100, but be aware that the coffee pads you would need, if you don't get the refillable Melitta's, are hard to get ahold of, and most likely have to come from England, or elsewhere in Europe. You gotta be a coffee nut to go to that kind of expense..

Many years ago, when I moved to the countryside, I made a firm resolve that I would move back into the cityscape as I got older. Simple reason: large affluent urban areas have a better support system for older folk, well financed, well staffed, with appropriate resources. Obviously, I had not planned on losing my house and my savings due to the 2008 market crash, but somehow, at the cost of time and significant loss, I managed to not only "float by", but recover, restore my credit rating, and finally the Seattle Housing Authority, hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, secured me a subsidized rental apartment in what I can only call a very nice part of Seattle. Not only subsidized, it is in a seniors development, staffed, serviced, and, in the pandemic backlash, covered by daily rounds of a sanitation crew, that wipes down the building, top to bottom, every day. So I am quite happy I got what I got when I got it - got everything right for once, still have my aging SUV, so came through the isolation period only having to go out for essentials once a week or so (Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and the Postal Service helped, too). I moved here just as this virus "hit", I don't even want to think what might have happened if I had still lived in a shared household.

If you're wondering why Donald Trump is taking chloroquine, the answer is simple: when White House staffers came down with COVID-19, he got scared. There is no reason why chloroquine, which even the Department of Defense prefers its soldiers in the tropics not to take, has any therapeutic value in treating coronavirus, but I suppose there is some weird logic in taking something, anything, if you think you might get the virus, and you don't know what to do. The main issue with his behaviour is that many of his "followers" believe he knows something we don't, and so they have are less concerned something will happen to them, thinking that Pence and Trump somehow, magically, are "exempt". This will get very interesting when we get hit with the second wave of coronavirus, which is likely to have mutated, and developed a more virulent strain, which may kill fewer, but faster. Fewer, because many potential victims will have developed antibodies during the current pandemic - but faster, as the mutation will be more potent.


Sunday May 10, 2020: Is Trump an older American?

Keywords: COVID vaccine, bleach, restricted products, gloves, Amazon, science, Trump, Pence, Kroger, Fred Meyer, Albertson's, 9/11
I honestly had not expected there would be so many people without any scientific or statistical knowledge dying to put their oar in on how to deal with the pandemic. And no, there isn't going to be a vaccine anytime soon, and once there is one that works, billions of doses will have to be created and distributed, to billions of people. And if that vaccine is successful, it will have to be provided to everybody, including all those peasants who can't afford it, otherwise they will propagate the virus, which will mutate, and then we can start all over again...

bleach is back Some things are beginning to slowly return to normal - as you can see in the picture on the right, bathroom cleaner with bleach, and hand sanitizer with alcohol, are once again on the shelves, albeit in small quantities. Earlier, toilet paper and kitchen paper had re-appeared - I have to say that my local (as in, on the island) Albertson's is doing a very good job of stocking some hard-to-get things I can't find at the (off-island) Fred Meyer and QFC. Albertson's, after Kroger acquired Safeway, converted some Albertson's stores to Safeways, but was required by the authorities to keep a "separate" Albertson's organization. Of course, these stores are stocked by Safeways trucks with Safeways products, they created a separate own brand that does not say "Safeway", so they can stock both brand stores.

In the meantime, Amazon has restocked gloves and face masks, so they are now normally orderable, and get delivered, this after hundreds, if not thousands, of fly-by-night operators conned consumers out of money, by not delivering. I now have plenty of stock, so I can grab a fresh mask and gloves every morning, and order more when I need to. We don't know if this whole thing won't restart, and what the eventual "level of security" will be, after all. The worst aspect of this is that, beginning with Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there are no decision makers that have scientific knowledge or statistical training or even disaster management training). So they try and get information where they can, and this leads to Trump and Pence and others absolutely refusing to wear face masks or clean their hands in public, leading to their "followers" to think they know something we don't, and you don't really need to be all that careful. I am not sure why exactly both Pence and Trump insist they're being tested every day - COVID-19 kills a lerge proportion of older Americans, which Trump and Pence both are, and there is no treatment, drug or other way to stop the coronavirus doing its thing, once you're infected. You test positive, there is a good chance you're toast. Yes, South Korea and Germany tested the bejesus out of their populations, but that helped in locating outbreaks and removing others at-risk. As I said: there isn't a treatment or medication.

We saw it on Pearl Harbor Day, and 9/11 - there are dangers you can't see, attacks that come out of nowhere, and that you therefore cannot build a defense against. I vividly recall our building a backup infrastructure for our new Network Operations Center in Arlington, VA, and my writing an advisory that basically said "We're so close to the Pentagon and Washington Reagan National Airport, we must create a backup infrastructure far away from here, with airplanes on standby so we can move essential staff" - after all, I had spent years on Wall Street, and knew how the banks in Manhattan had set up their emergency facilities. My management thought this was overkill and way too expensive - and then they reinstated some of my plans, when 9/11 happened, an attack using - guess what - large airports and fully fueled airplanes.


Saturday May 2, 2020: Still a lot of bull

Keywords: shopping, Magnolia, walking, supermarket, Inslee, precautions, discipline, Housing Authority support, more precautions
While I still can do with more furniture - storage units, mostly - I've got everything I need, pots, pans, ovens, cutlery, cups, plates, etc. As Spring progresses, the heat pumps are tested and installed, and even occasionally come on, as the days warm up. The weather has improved to the point I can do an almost daily constitutional, and I am able to monitor my condition using the chest strap heart rate monitor. It provides an incentive to do better, faster, what with the lack of a gym to go to. Magnolia is not only a pretty and pleasant place to walk around in, it is quite hilly, and that provides good exercise, didn't have that in Lynnwood or Kenmore. Hill walking does well for the lungs and heart, and the neighbourhood is picturesque, it sometimes remind me of the old Dutch residential areas in Indonesia, in Djakarta and Surabaia. Not knowing anything about Magnolia, out of the Seattle mainstream, I certainly had not expected that.

While in supermarkets many consumers ignore the coronavirus rules, elsewhere folks here in Seattle are all too aware the state government saved the day, when the outbreak began in the care home in Kirkland. And you can tell people are both grateful, and scared. When you create extra space for people to pass while walking, some folks actually thank you, and in the local Albertsons one staffer tallies and times each shopper, making sure store capacity is not exceeded. I have to tell you we got off lightly, as soon as the COVID-19 diagnosis was made in Kirkland, and the first deaths occurred, the facility was isolated from the outside world, staff and all, and ringed with rivers of police and emergency services. I still don't know where Gov. Inslee got his information, but I guess it was a combination of our Chinese residents, and the University of Washington medical department. I can only tell those Las Vegas mayors and Georgia governors - we got saved by the bell. Just look at New York City, and understand that one mistake will make you go the same way. I am not suggesting Mayor De Blasio did anything wrong, NYC, like London, is simply too large and dense to "contain". But look at London, and you have to ask yourself if Mayor Johnson should have locked the place up weeks earlier, when, well, he didn't. I think the jury is out on that..

residential MagnoliaI am slowly getting to a "locked-in" routine - for me, not a huge issue, as I spent many years as a freelance photojournalist, which means you spend a lot of time working on your own, and in my Bell Atlantic / Verizon years I ran a number of departments in different places - from Irving, TX, to Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. That meant untold hours in airports, airplanes, and hotel rooms, and to get your work done you need discipline, which I had luckily developed earlier. So from that perspective, the coronavirus period is just another exercise in discipline - get up, read mail, make coffee, check the finances, verify whether or not I need to be here to receive the online shopping, etc. I do understand this is an issue for many folks, who don't have that training, and I don't even want to think what is must be like to have your kids at home, suddenly, either. In hindsight, moving to my new apartment just when I did, beginning at the end of January, was a Godsend, although I spent a lot of time ordering furniture I didn't have, and moving the contents of my storage unit and my room here. Sunday February 16, if I recall, was when I was able to spend my first night here, in my new humongous bed. I can now stretch out three ways from Sunday...

In the interim, the Seattle Housing Authority has begun making wellness calls, my car insurance has announced rebates (folks drive far less, if at all) and I think even the energy bills are on hold. The City of Seattle, by itself, is already some $300 million in the hole, what with near empty buses and light rail plying their usual routes for free, so the essential workers can get to work and back home. In many cases, hotels near their places of work are making free rooms available, so as to reduce the risk for them and their families.

It does worry me that many people prefer to ignore the risk COVID-19 poses - you can't possibly seriously say you prefer a coronavirus infection over not working. Unfortunately, we cannot take these people to a hospital and have them sit with a dying patient, the risk is too great, and the TV programs I see that show the graphic detail of the deaths are on the BBC, not on American network TV, the advertisers would not stand for it.

Let me just, again, say how grateful I am to Washington State Governor Inslee and his security staff for tackling the pandemic, which started, for the United States, here in Kirkland, and, from the look of it, managed to get control of it very quickly. Inslee, today, extended the stay-at-home order to the end of May, a decision I think is wise and that I fully support. I fully expect we'll see "corona-surges" in places like Georgia, where governors do not understand the only appropriate advisor for dealing with this disaster is medical science. Sad though it is, restarting the economy when we are statistically confident we have control, a form of science that is well established, stuff we know how to do, just look at the NYC outbreak to understand what the consequences are when you create a high risk environment. By that I mean a massive, uncontrollable, cityscape, full of people who can't comply, because they don't have the means or infrastructure. Just as an example, supermarkets provide cart cleaning and hand sterilization facilities to arriving shoppers, right? What they should be doing is providing those things to people leaving the store - shoppers have run around the store for half an hour touching everything, so what you need to worry about is what they've picked up from those other shoppers, staff, truckers, what have you. So clean your hands on your way out - as Kroger, Ahold, Costco, Safeway, Walmart, etc., should have realized a long time ago.


Friday April 24, 2020: It is not getting easier

Keywords: exercise, gym, sleep, mattress, Kirkland, Amazon, wellness calls, Seattle Housing Authority, shopping, slow delivery
I am not sure what the effect is of the lack of exercise - even if the gyms did reopen, I don't necessarily think I'd want to immediately take the risk. But my recent gradual weight loss may well be related to the lack of exercise, though I have slowly gotten to my old regime of walking. But at the same time I am eating less, reducing my alcohol intake, sleeping better - I can't tell you what a huge difference a bed makes, if you have arthritis. In my rented rooms, these past few years, I was never able to properly/comfortably stretch at night, and now I am, thanks both to my new California King, and to the Linenspa mattress. The latter is a combination of an inner spring with a couple of inches of memory foam on top, and it is more comfortable that anything I have ever slept on. The 8 inch variety is described as "medium firm", while the thicker mattresses are "medium" - I think I got the better deal, because I like firm, and this certainly, and comfortably, is, I do not like "sinking into the mattress". The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that between the memory foam and my new down duvet I lose little body heat, and that is something you have to get used to. I should imagine it's a Godsend in winter, and because I have heat pumps in the living space as well as my bedroom, I am, now that Seattle is warming up, able to "pre-cool" my sleeping space and bed before turning in. Not having a thyroid makes it hard for one's metabolism to regulate body temperature, that is part of why air conditioning is so important to me.

Just (April 21, 5pm) watched Washington Gov. Inslee lay out the recovery plans - much to my relief, he wants "slow and safe", baby steps, collecting data about the effects of each step, evaluate, then next steps, or not. We were lucky in two respects: Washington was first to get hit, hard, in the Kirkland retirement facility, and we had an effective governor and administration that knew what to do, and did it. I still see plenty of people in the supermarket that don't think they need mouth masks or need to observe social distancing, you know the type, they are taking to pretending they don't notice the people around them. In the street, as well, some folks just won't "do the rules" - admittedly, there isn't evidence the mouth masks make a real difference, and between the WHO and some experts saying the mouth masks are overkill, you can't blame folks for being confused. Having said that, why would you take the risk? Not wearing protective gear, but overstocking on beans and toilet paper - none of that will help you not get killed. I try to shop only once a week, the rest is all Amazon - although their distribution network had some sizable hiccups, the past few weeks. But I received 1,000 safety gloves, today, just in time, and Amazon tells me my face masks will get here on Monday. Teehee.

You'll probably think I am whining, considering the millions of people who have lost all or part of their income, I am mostly bothered by the inability to get my car washed, and not being able to get a haircut. Other than that, I can shop and stuff, though I would have been happier if I had been able to get my normal medical checkups. I can get my lab tests, but the specialists have all postponed checkups until June. I can certainly come in if I have an emergency, so it isn't something I should fret about. I have at least managed to get back on a reasonable walking schedule, the results of which I am slowly able to see on my heart rate monitor readings. I think that once I get to go to the gym again - which likely won't be for a while - I'll have to combine that with walking. The gym, with heavy breathing and locker rooms and sweaty machines is going to be, for immune impaired people like myself, a dream for quite some time. No point in taking that kind of risk.


Wednesday April 15, 2020: Plenty to do in the house

Keywords: restrictions, unpacking round four, drapes, weather stripping, face masks, gloves, hygiene, infection
The Washington State government has, noticing that "our" corona-outbreak may have peaked last week, not lost any time adding more stringent measures to the isolation rules already in place. The reason (likely) is that, even if the peak here is past, the infections continue to happen, and our scientists seem to think this is a secondary risk factor, when folks get complacent, and interpret the good news as a reason to worry less. So large supermarkets in the suburbs that didn't control the influx of customers have begun to do so now, though my enormous Fred Meyer in Ballard has notices about "50% occupancy", but I was normally able to shop today. Same at Albertsons, though they only had one entrance open, so they could monitor ingress. Same at the bank, where I stocked up on quarters for the laundry room, I actually overstock on everything now, because you don't know, from day to day, what may not be available, or closed, any more. Downtown, many banks have been closed for several weeks, which is a bitch if you need laundry quarters.

Slowly but surely, I am unpacking and consolidating ever more boxes, and now that the heatpumps are installed, have (well, had..) some more closet space. I do need a few more closets and shelving, but that's not a desperate quest, though it would be nice if all the totes and containers were stored away - actually, every time I unpack more, more boxes go in the recycling.

Now that the heat pump vents are in, I have been able to install light blocking shades in the bedroom - the (new) apartments next door blast light through my louvre drapes, but this takes care of it perfectly, luckily enough the drapes and the shades layer as if they were made for each other. Weather stripping on the front door will hopefully stop the intense cooking smells a neighbour emits, I have a sneaking suspicion she does not use the cooker hood that comes installed in the kitchen, which works very well (if you keep the filters clean). After sealing the front door, fresh air comes in through the A/C vent strips, which I deliberately didn't fully seal.

I am just hoping I won't run out of face masks and gloves - I had a good supply, but it isn't clear the Amazon vendors will deliver, though I understand Amazon is "sitting on them" in terms of not screwing up their customers. One vendor tried to sell me hand cleaning gel they couldn't ship, and Amazon canceled their attempt at charging my credit card, and alerted me. Yes, that's nice, but by now we need this stuff, right? Anyway, we'll see. At least shoppers are wearing face masks now, even a week ago, those were few and far between. Can't believe I started doing this back in January, when I noticed the local Chinese donning the masks they normally wear "at home" - if you've spent enough time in parts of Asia, you're well used to people wearing facemasks, to help them cope with pollution. In fact, one reason I did not try to move to Hong Kong was the level of pollution in that city, which I am sure reduced Hong Kongers' lifespans significantly.

I suppose I am lucky, in a way, the COVID-19 thing didn't take off until I got my own apartment, and no longer needed to share my living space. If I've learned anything, these past few years, it is that many folks do not have a real understanding of hygiene, something they don't think they have a great need for, while I have to be triply careful because of my dodgy immune system. I am not complaining, these things happen, I've carried my immune system and "risky" medication all over the world, come home testing positive for TB, spent days in hotel rooms waiting until I could walk enough to go to a surgery to get a shot, generally, been there, done that. And I have the time and knowledge to make sure I keep my infection risk as low as possible, lucky enough to be able to unpack the gloves and facemasks I already had, while Amazon now promises me I will have more supply of both on Monday, having ordered plenty to last me for several months.


Wednesday April 8, 2020: The fear is palpable

Keywords: heat pump, Edgestar, supermarkets, food shopping, transportation, Netherlands pension authorities
You may not like the esthetics of "portable" heat pumps, but my building does not allow window A/C's or split units, and yes, they're noisy, but for the money these are cheap to run, heat as well as cool, and are quite powerful. Nighttime temperatures are still dropping to freezing, now and again, and these two units do a brilliant job, for now. I had tested them extensively in Lynnwood, in a house four times the size of my apartment, so I had no doubts they'd do the job. We'll see how goes in the summer, but this was the right thing to get, and the trying out keeps one busy. As I am testing and figuring out settings, suddenly the weather turns, and despite the nighttime temperature still dropping way down, the heat pumps are close to delivering too much heat. They're 14,000 BTU units, and that is a lot of capacity for a small apartment. I know I probably should have bought 10K units, but those were more expensive (go figure) and might be expensive to run in high summer, which is a lot hotter here now that it used to be. So this evening I turned them both off, my new bed and duvet together kep me plenty warm. Especially the mattress, which has a couple of inches of memory foam on top of the inner spring part, keeps me warm, the memory foam, unlike a conventional mattress, insulates one's body from heat loss, a strange sensation if you've never slept on that material before. And the brand new goose down duvet is another one of those heat retainers...

Edgestar 14K heat pump Much to my amazement, supermarkets keep running out of stuff, more so today than a couple of weeks ago, this should have leveled off. I mentioned this before, but I really have my doubts this is just consumers hoarding stuff, I think there are many staples that just are in very short supply, you'd think that after three weeks of shopping everybody's freezer must be totally to the brim in french fries. There's still no bleach, I could go on, it is weird. The economy has to be in tatters - Amazon, which ought to be less affected by all of this, is now pushing delivery dates out from days to weeks, for no good reason. "We're giving priority to products customers need the most" - how do they know who needs what? Amazon's suppliers ran out of hand gel, toilet paper, bleach and washing powder weeks ago, same as the rest of the universe. In Georgia, farmers are unable to ship milk, so they pour it down the drain - they can't stop the cows producing more. As I said, weird.

I am (slowly) beginning to think this is going to take a while. Until a few days ago, I was topping up my essentials once a week, not worrying too much about how much I need, but as I watch the supermarket shelves empty, I am beginning to think I need to stock a little more. This isn't something I intended to do, hoarding, but it is beginning to look this is getting much worse before it gets better, and it will take time. Public transport in Seattle is free now, so is street parking, and there is a transportation mandate in place to make sure essential workers can get to work and back. I find it frustrating I can't help - a 72 year old with an impaired immune system can't go out there, because he could do more harm than good. New one on me...

In the interim, the Dutch pension authorities appear unable to process a simple address change - I just got confirmation my change of address to Kenmore has now been processed. Scusi? I moved to Kenmore in October of last year, and immediately filed the change of address. The confirmation from the Dutch authorities arrived here, forwarded by the U.S. post office, on Saturday April 4 - I moved out of Kenmore last January... I've managed databases twenty times the size of theirs, processing billions of dollars, but the core of a database - name, address, account number - gets updated in about 15 seconds, not four months...


Monday, March 30, 2020: So we wait a little more..

Keywords: toilet paper, disinfection, obese corona patients, Germany, infection rates, test rates, Amazon, furniture, shopping
Absolutely, the supermarket workers, and the millions of folks behind them, from truck drivers and cleaners to packers and system managers, are essential workers. They are, together with the Walmart and Amazon sorters and packers and drivers, the only thing between us and a lack of food and essentials that would swiftly bring the nation to its knees. I hope they get massive bonuses, right now would be cool.

The one thing (apart from a bit more furniture) I hadn't done after moving was to install my heat pumps. I had been told they don't normally allow A/C's in this building, and I needed a medical certificate. Being in the middle of changing doctors, and due to the State COVID-19 restrictions not being able to see a specialist (unless it is a medical emergency) I was in the middle of composing an email to my new endocrinologist (my old endocrinologist having retired the profession in December) when I ran into the building management, and was told, no, the rules changed, and I can just go ahead and install the units. Great. I was worried about the summer, but even more so, the heat pumps heat much more efficiently than the heaters that come with the apartment - one 1,000 and two 1,500 watt 200VAC built in baseboard radiators (that would be equivalent to some 5 space heaters) - the building itself is heated, so doesn't get "cold" in winter.

Anyway, I've installed both - I had ordered some extra venting panels from the manufacturers, hoping I would be able to combine the hose vents I already had with the taller vents, which only have one opening, and my units aspirate outside air, so have two openings. With some spare panels and a lot of screws, I managed to cleanly install both units, and they're up and running, heating the place as we speak, and I'll have A/C when the heat descends on us, as it has been doing in this formerly very temperate region.


Monday, March 30, 2020: So we wait a little more..

Keywords: toilet paper, disinfection, obese corona patients, Germany, infection rates, test rates, Amazon, furniture, shopping
Everything is grinding to a halt - a prescription I needed ended up not being ordered until last Monday, days after my getting the necessary blood test, and then the pharmacy (this being a "new" pharmacy since I moved) couldn't fill it for days, despite it sitting on the shelf. Sitting, as in, having been ordered and delivered, it is an injectable they do not normally keep in stock. Even when I went into Safeway this morning they had a hard time putting the order through - it took an hour. Much of this is to do with the pandemic, the physician who wrote the prescription couldn't even do an electronic prescription, and so far I have only received half the results of my blood tests, which no longer seem to propagate from one hospital to the other. I don't know that I can complain about this, but at the same time don't know what I can do to make things "better".

There are still all sorts of products largely unavailable, in the supermarket. Paper products are few and far between, cleaning agents and desinfectants simply aren't there, there is little chlorine bleach, but I have to tell you I find it hard to imagine that shoppers in all of the supermarkets buy all of these products continuously for weeks on end. When I bought kitchen paper, yesterday, I found that most of the brands were gone, with the exception of very expensive large packages, and one (!) discounted Brawn 8-pack, which I snarfed. Same thing with toilet paper today - I thankfully have some stock, but the one remaining store brand 8-roll pack set me back $6. That makes little sense - if folks need this desperately, the larger pricey volumes would be gone too. But they're not - plenty of that in stock. So something else is afoot - stock going to hospitals, perhaps? It is hard to explain. Hoarding? But only cheap off-brands? The mind boggles. Mile long queues outside supermarkets in Manhattan? Why?

Since the beginning of the coronavirus scare the Seattle Housing Authority has been disinfecting touch surfaces in my building on a daily basis. This is a Seniors Residence - not a care home, but I guess the stage before that - you have to qualify, agewise, financially as well as regionally, the facilities and rent are subsidized by the Federal Government (HUD) and funded and managed by the City of Seattle. As a consequence, if there is a real health scare in the region, the authorities move in in force - especially since the pandemic, as far as the USA is concerned, began here, in Kirkland, some fifteen miles East of where I now live, so the Washington State authorities have had a forceful primer on what happens when the corona virus sneaks in. I say "now" because I wasn't offered a lease until the end of January, 2020, much to my delight, after a long wait and an intense State and Federal vetting operation. By happenstance, Governor Cuomo and Governor Inslee know now what coronavirus does - Donald Trump, clearly, did not. He does not understand that as the infection rate expands on an aircraft carrier at sea, he could soon lose much of the United States Navy - on board ship, you can't self-isolate, and moving sailors on shore, as they're now doing, will only spread the infection.

According to the Dutch press, quoting two ICU experts, some 80% of all corona-patients who end up in the ICU are overweight or obese. The article mentions this to have been noticed in China, too. That is, if it is true, a staggering statistic - and these are corona-patients hospitalized with breathing problems. With some 900 patients in The Netherlands currently in ICU's, that's a significant statistic, where the question is, of course, why this would be so. I was thinking about this, the other day, when King 5 mentioned one of their staff had been diagnosed, and when he was being interviewed there was no mention of his size, which, if I am right, would certainly impair his immune system. You know the type, one of those who grow sideways out of the frame, and have no neck.

So if, in fact, Germany has a high infection rate but a very low death rate, there should be a reason. The press generally states this is caused by the high test rate in Germany - Germany tests more potential sufferers than any other country. But none of the data gives any indication what the testing leads to - if indeed patients are detected way early - and Germany has huge test capacity - it would then follow that the public health system in Germany treats those patients early. But there isn't any data to suggest that they do - though that would be the logical conclusion. If that is the case, the corona pandemic would be easy to control, just here in the United States tests didn't become available until a couple of weeks ago, but even today, we do not have enough capacity to test everybod. Look at the lines at public testing sites, and you'll understand we just haven't ramped up. Apart from which, how do you treat sufferers? From the information I glean from The Netherlands, once a patient needs to go on a respirator, they are in bad enough shape to have a good chance of dying. So I really would like to know how the Germans do what they do, and how we (if it isn't too late) can replicate that.

Generally, as I am largely housebound, I have a lot of time to work on making my apartment more livable, though I had hoped to do some furniture shopping. With many stores closed and my money low I don't have a problem postponing that, though, perhaps I should take a look on Amazon to see what is available. Errmm.. or perhaps Ebay, Amazon is hiccuping a lot, I think they're getting close to capacity, an unheard of idea, right?


Wednesday, March 25, 2020: Stay safe

Keywords: COVID-19, mouth masks, food shopping, duvet, financial recovery, National Guard, TB
Thanks to COVID-19 I now have even more time to get my new apartment just the way I like it - which would be just as empty as I can get it. Yesterday I did some more re-arranging - in a little while I will buy some more furniture, but not just now, I have largely run out of savings, except for some emergency money. As is often the case, you overspend in a move, having said that, I didn't buy frivolous stuff, and I just realized the duvet I replaced was actually my spare back in New York, which means I'd had that since before 1990. So that was hardly a luxury. Did I have to get a California King bed, which means mattress and duvet and stuff are all extra expensive? Actually, yes, I did, as for the first time in years I can fully stretch my arthritic body, I can tell you that's a Godsend. Anyway - total overspend in the past 90 days, now that I've updated my budget spreadsheet, turns out to be $2800. All savings, mind, not a penny credit used.

You may not think that's a staggering number, but for someone who had to recover from near-bankrupcy (I wasn't sure until two years ago that I shouldn't file), had to completely rebuild his credit rating, and was only saved by the Fed's waiving capital gains tax on foreclosure, this is all a pretty good outcome. I still have a car, the basics that let me do some creative stuff, and thanks to Seattle's Human Services I have a decent place to live, the age based Federal subsidies that make that manageable, and thanks to my former employer the retiree health insurance that help me weather my medical bills. Can't complain, no siree... way back when, making money and being able to pay up my social security contributions were the furthest things from my mind, and yet that is, all things considered, what saved my day.

Self-isolated as I effectively am, purely as a precaution, I am now only going to the supermarket every five days or so, and then in one quick run, masked and gloved. The only exceptions were Thursday, when I had to get some blood tests, and today, because I am running low on mouth masks. The supermarket is weird - there are still plenty of products that have largely empty shelves, for no reason I can see. There is some toilet paper stock, the cheap french fries are all gone, canned food is not really anywhere, it is just hard to imagine folks have been hoarding this much for so long. The freezer section of my fridge is pretty well stocked, and I have a good supply of booze and soda, but beyond that, this is America in the 21st century. If we really run out of food, we're all toast, I don't know that folks understand that. Perhaps they'll get the message now that the National Guard has been called out, here in Washington State.

Peculiarly, staff in stores don't wear mouth masks, even though they are at increased risk of coronavirus, as most customers do not wear them. And some - I notice this as wear one, and gloves, from when I leave my car in the parking lot until I get back in - seem to think that if you wear a mask you're a high risk person, or even infected. The fear is sometimes palpable, much the same as I remember it from Manhattan after 9/11. I have to frequently remind myself that 9/11 didn't come to Seattle, so the folks here have no idea why I, and some others, take precautions. Not only that, I came back from a stint in India, and promptly tested positive for tuberculosis exposure - little did I know that with the medication I was on, getting infected with TB was a sure fire thing. I didn't get active TB, and a nine month course of antibiotics cleared it, but obviously I am now quite aware how invisible and pernicious an airborne agent can be.


Friday, March 20, 2020: more installing

Keywords: no socializing, unpacking, appliances, robovac, physicians, appointment cancellation, hospital, Swedish endocrinology
Plenty to do settling into my new apartment - I suppose I am not much of a socializer to begin with, so I shan't get lonely by not being able to hang with my friends. Those are, for the most part, the other side of the interweb, all over the planet, but secondly I am plenty busy figuring out what goes where, and why not. After many years in relatively temporary accomodation, I can now slowly set up my living space, moving things here, then there, until I am happy where everything is. I am still spending half my time trying to find what is in which box, only to then realize I moved it last week, and now I can't remember where to. Good exercize, unstacking and re-stacking ten plastic tubs, only to find it wasn't in any of them to begin with.

In the interim, I've been unpacking and testing the appliances I bought while still in Lynnwood, in the months when the house there was being renovated, and I lived there by myself, not knowing when SHA would come through with my apartment. I searched and found a number of appliances that were significantly marked down, ordered them, tested them, and then quickly bought another, before the items either were marked back up, or disappeared from the market altogether. Two induction multi-cookers, two robotic vacuums, two pod-espresso makers, and some of my previous appliances, not used since Virginia, like my multi-oven and the induction cooker. By now, all of these things are unpacked, checked, and in use (well, not the spares, they went back in their boxes). So I am very well pleased I've managed to plan and spend efficiently - and, of course, it is a welcome distraction from the coronavirus avoidance scheme we now all must maintain.

So, what with all this gear, life is getting ever more pleasant. I found the induction multi-cooker cooks Basmati rice like no other method I have ever used, for instance - truly, the folks in Asia who program these things know their stuff. And my programmable multi-oven/grill/microwave, which I bought back in Virginia, turns out to fit exactly (with breathing space) under a cabinet on the countertop, and does - sorry - the best frozen french fries in the universe. Sausages, steak, you name it - I just need to clean it thoroughly, which is still more pleasant than battling frying pan spatter around the stove - which, since I have an induction cooktop, I do not use.

Interestingly, my cheap Pyle robovacs work better than my Roomba's used to do. The Roomba's are sophisticated, with their return-to-charge automation, but, like most other robovacs, they have horizontally rotating floor brushes that - supposedly - clean the floor. Problem is that the brushes catch hair and lint and stuff and basically need to be disassembled and cleaned after every use, and replaced every few months. Don't do that diligently, and they get stuck. So I got the Pyles, and they don't have scrub brushes - just a suction element and two rotating sweep brushes, which propel dirt and debris towards the suction opening. The only thing that gets dirty, then, and needs cleaning, is the dust receptacle, which has a high density filter - I bought spare filters and sweep brushes. Unleash the Pyle in a room, it'll spend 50 minutes, until the battery empties, chasing dust. Not hair, human or otherwise, bits of plastic, what have you, all that you have to tackle with a regular vacuum. Just dust (and little bits of whatever, skin, what have you). Now that I have largely unpacked and/or reboxed my stuff, I find the Pyles, which I currently run every other day, clear up more than a regular vacuum does, because of the amount of time they take covering the space. After a week in my carpeted bedroom - they can do short haired carpet as there aren't rotating brushes - there is markedly less dust coming out of the carpet, which indicated it wasn't ever properly cleaned. Wood floored living room, same story. So I am happy, perfect solution. Charge takes 5 hours, I do that in the morning, before setting it to run somewhere. Best deal, for $50 apiece - no remote, no dock, just works.

Physicians have stopped seeing patients - not altogether, but appointments are being canceled, and new appointments are made way in the future - like June. In my case, I had an appointment with a new endocrinologist, for ongoing treatment of my thyroid cancer - my "old" one retired in December - and she abruptly canceled my appointment just the evening before. Not only that, but I had not seen her before, and that meant she refused to order the blood test I reply on to monitor my medication. You read that right: refused. For no reason - my insurance pays for the test, and she is able to use the shared medical database to check my medical history. None of that, she just refused to provide the patient care I rely on for my life - if something goes wrong with the dosage of my medication I could be toast. I can understand caution, but this is simply a refusal to provide medical care, this after her nurse kept going on about how I am a "new patient" - I've been treated in the affiliated hospitals for years, so how does that compute?


Monday, March 16, 2020: It is a zoo

Keywords: spending, clutter, clearing up, Housing Authority, disinfection, toilet paper, shopping, Ace Magnolia, Albertson's, dishwasher
Sunpentown tabletop dishwasher My financial management software tells me I have spent some $2500 out of savings in the past twelve months - that includes two moves, and a bunch of things I needed for my new apartment. That isn't too bad - by the time the Housing Authority offered me an apartment I had put some $4000 aside to facilitate my move, and at this point I probably have a little over $1100 left, less than I hoped for, as my last landlady screwed me out of my $500 security deposit. Considering I bought some things I really had not intended to - like a fresh new duvet and a dishwasher - on top of the dining table and the California King bed I had planned for, I suppose I ought not to complain (pic to the left has my kitchen counter, with the countertop dishwasher to the left, looking through the breakfast counter into the living room). Having said that, while my rent is high-ish (by comparison by how much I paid for a rented room, though), but then I got lucky in having my utilities subsidized (all appliances, including heating, are electric here).

The apartment being as small as it is makes me rethink how much clutter I own, how much of it I can get rid of, and I am consolidating some of my storage boxes, and throwing those that end up empty out - having said all that, I have not helped myself by installing a California King bed, and a 6x6 foot dining table, which doubles as my desk. And while the apartment is small, the care the City of Seattle lavishes on these HUD-subsidized buildings is impressive - a cleaner now disinfects the touch surfaces in the entire building every day. The other day a miscreant broke into the management office and stole keys, and the Housing Authority descended on us in force the very next day, and replaced every lock, and disabled the building locks (there is a keycard system for building access, as well, which is personalized). So, all told, I think this is the one I won, after losing just about everything I had back in the 2008 stock market deluge (as I write this, the stock market is falling out of the sky again, but this time I am not dependent on Wall Street for income). It took a while, but I did not forget what a Housing Authority staffer told me back in 2012, when she told me Seattle housing was the best in the area, supported by a rich commercial economy, and assisted by a very able civil service. She was right - though I had no proof of it, I concentrated on getting in their system, cleaning up my credit rating, going through the waiting list, and saving up so I could get some furniture and other necessities. Never knew it would take years, but I managed, and I did not have to declare benkruptcy, which at one point looked like a necessity.

Yesterday, there was no toilet paper in any of the supermarkets I frequent - not that I needed any urgently, but I like to have some in stock, as I now live where there are no supermarkes within walking distance - in Lynnwood and Kenmore and Bellevue, that wasn't the case. First of all, though, I found an Albertson's within s few minutes' drive - curiously, not in Google Maps, it just says "Albertson's Bakery", but then I drove over and that turned out to be an entire (smallish) supermarket. And this morning I found they actually had some toilet paper in large packages on the shelf, so I am once again well stocked. I had been building up stock of every staple I normally have, so I don't have to drive around with my gas guzzler to buy a pound of coffee, that sort of thing, all large supermarkets are ten or more miles, and a busy bridge, from my new home. Well, busy, coronavirus has put an end to traffic jams, very weird. Reminds me of NYC after 9/11, when there were more fire trucks and Army humvees and Secret Service SUVs on the streets than mail trucks. As I said, weird. But I have begun wearing a mouth mask when I shop, not because they are particularly effective, but if one catches one nasty microbe, that's a win, in my book. The other issue was a hardware store I am used to having a Home Depot or Lowe's around the corner, but not here in Magnolia. And then I found an Ace hardware store, one of those franchises, which is not only close, but is filled to the rafters with stuff you need, and doesn't gouge. Brilliant. What was very clear yesterday is that folks from metropolitan Seattle were emtying the shelves at the huge Ballard Fred Meyer as fast as staffers could stock them. A lot of panic buying, due to the corona scare, by the looks of it. Even the ramen noodle shelves are just about empty, surprisingly, as are the stocks of flour and sugar. I guess I am lucky with my Albertson's in Magnolia, which nobody off the island seems to know about. Kewl.


Thursday, March 12, 2020: Ah! Clean!

Keywords: UPS, exercise, washing up, dishwasher, corona virus, cleaning crews, immunity
Annoyingly, my UPS delivery didn't get here today - not a biggie, a sorting error, but I am trying to schedule things so am home when I expect a delivery. While the USPS has acccess to the building, there is only an assistant manager in the morning, and he has a lot of places to be during his shift. Amazon in particular has a nasty habit of delivering a day or two early, so you've scheduled to be here Wednesday, and then they turn up Monday, without warning. Etc. I have more or less everything I needed (in the first instance), so this will slowly become less of a problem. But today I sat here waiting, UPS said "delay", but did not say the crucial thing: "tomorrow", which would have let me do laundry or whatever. Anyway, I was expecting another package tomorrow, now I am getting two.

It wasn't until tonight that I shockingly realized that no, I can't go back to the gym - I didn't work out while I was moving, which I did all by myself - until the Corona virus stuff is over. That's a bitch - I guess I can go back to walking, especially with the Discovery Park right behind my building, but no gym until the old folk stop dying. Seriously. Bummer. I almost stopped by there yesterday, on my way back from shops.

I've been diligently washing dishes by hand since I moved here, as a dishwasher wasn't part of the deal, but no more. For one thing, my arthritis isn't enamoured of being bent at the waist over a hot sink, but then I looked on Amazon (where else?) and discovered the cheapest deal on a sideboard dishwasher was $262, this being one of those things you don't need to have installed, DYI, no need for a hot water line, as I write this it is chugging away at some pots and pans. No it isn't a luxury thing - a dishwasher cleans better, uses less water and energy, and inadvertently adds some quality-of-life, too. I never realized this, but a dishwasher can run hot enough to kill microbes and things, hands that do dishes clean, but don't sterilize. Same for laundry - sheets and towels washed and dried hot end up with fewer bacteria.

What with the corona virus outbreak just a few minutes upcounty, hygiene and cleanliness, and limited exposure to the world-at-large, are important. Here in Seattle the rush hour has virtually disappeared, schools and offices have closed, and in my City residential building cleaning crews disinfect every day or so, outfitted with gloves and mouthmasks. I ended up worried, as I went to get my second shingles shot last week, and ended up with a high temperature and decidedly unwell, and at that point you don't know if it's Corona or the vaccination. Doctors do not want you to come to their offices at this point, even emergency rooms would rather not have walk-ins, so you just fret in bed for a couple days. I am fine now, it clearly was the vaccination, but fun it was not. On top of that, I'd had what appeared to be a mild bronchitis for months. Now that I am in my own, clean, place, it is clear that was due to the complete lack of hygiene in my last lodging, which was mouldy, and my roommates were not given to cleaning. It was the second household I've lived in where vacuuming isn't done, and where I worry my immune system can't handle that kind of onslaught. Anyway, my sinuses have cleared up, so has my throat, now all I need to do is keep the place clean, I am finally in sole control of my environment. Honestly, I... well, 'nuff said.

At any rate, I have stocked up on essentials, big time, so I can self-isolate if I need to, I have plenty of food and other supplies, mouthmasks, cleaning agents, what have you. I am not expecting anything to happen, but this is not one to ignore - and Kirkland is only 20 miles from here. In many ways, I am lucky this corona thing happens now - I had just begun my move to living alone again, meaning no room- or flatmates, and moved into an apartment that had been cleaned by Housing Authority staff, with all new appliances, spic-and-span to the rafters. I had planned to take control of home hygiene vigorously - as a cancer patient on immuno-suppressant medication, the lack of hygiene among roommates in previous accomodations had long been a concern. I am not criticizing them, they didn't know any better, but open trash bins in kitchens is not my idea of improving health. In both families, gnats and fruit flies were normal living companions, and I can't tell you how happy I am not to have to deal with that any more. In fact, at my local Ace hardware store, I just found LED bulbs with a built-in high voltage bug zapper and UV-light, which, mounted in a cheap Wal-Mart uplighter, will make short order of flying nassties.


Thursday, March 5, 2020: Putting it all together

Keywords: Magnolia, sorting, furniture, dining table, credit card fraud, 4G-LTE, wireless internet, Sprint data services
Sprint 4G LTE Coolpad At the unpacking-living-out-of-boxes stage I've gotten to where I can start assembling furniture - once the table is upright I can move the computer and its screen to what will be the desk area, while unpacking and reorganizing and consolidating my stuff. It is step-by-step - unpack, consolidate, schlep empty boxes to the recycling (thankfully the Housing Authority has its own, without extra charges), and repeat the cycle. Taking my time, I've been moving stuff for a month now, though I didn't actually move in - as in "slept in my own new bed" - until Sunday February 16, as I was still moving things out of my storage unit. That's all done, and I have, for the most part, taken the things I no longer need / no longer have room for to a recycling center. There's no point in hanging on to my car tools, as I don't have space to work on my car here, and stacking that stuff in my small apartment until I am assigned a parking space is just too dysfunctional.

In the interim, I have sorted out a fantastic cut-rate internet deal, which provides wireless 4G-LTE internet to seniors in social housing for $11.95 a month. It uses a small wireless internet node that doubles as a full router, sized no larger than a small cellphone, capable enough that I can stream my BBC feed live in HD while doing other net things. I have two computers and two cellphones hanging off the feed, and it is really smooth and cool - guess that is why it is called a Coolpad, $100, with approved service, from a charitable computer organization here in Seattle. Amazing. That $11.95/mo buys unlimited data, no throttling or caps or surcharges or other stuff, provided by Sprint. I get the feeling Seattle is, despite its corporate bigwigs and tech giants, at the core a fairly socialist place - being able to get a social housing apartment at way below market rates, as someone pointed out to me years ago, squarely beats the (admittedly) smaller towns in the region, despite, or perhaps thanks to, the region's stupendous affluence. I am not complaining, actually feel quite privileged being supported by the city as well as the Federal Government (HUD). All those tax dollars did not go for naught.

Of course, shit happens, so this morning some online outfit in the Carolinas charges something to my credit card. My bank, by the time I talked to them, already knew it was fraudulent, and had reversed the charge, but I still had to cancel my card, get them to ship me a new one (which arrived the next morning), and generally keep an eye on things. In between the moving and address changes it wasn't something I needed, especially since I am really busy sorting through my stuff, trying to figure out what is where, everything is pretty much still in boxes.

Malay dining table Thankfully, I not only managed to assemble my dining / living room table, but (with help from the building manager) was able to "put it on its feet". 60x60 and some 120 lbs, I was able to assemble it, but then could not rotate it, too heavy, too large, hadn't, umm, thought of that. S. came up, took a look, told me where to put my hands, and without much organizing, just lifted his side up, which meant I had to do the same. Sheesh. Good show. I love it. Interestingly, I had rarely bought major furniture as self-assembly, but the technology has gotten to the point it is economical, doable, and relatively easy - if putting 60+ screws in a table mount can be described as "easy". Especially the bed-in-a-box was surprising - I had seen them smaller, but a full California King mattress compressed into a smallish box is truly amazing, you just have to take time unpacking and, where necessary, assembling these things, which is why I did a one month overlap in my rental. SHA kindly gave a free move-in month, so it wasn't a huge deal.

I am actually going about "populating" my apartment rather slowly - it is small, so I have to consolidate, throw out a lot of stuff I don't need, and figure out what other furniture I should get. The unusual aspect (to me) of "seniors accomodation" is that one is likely to live there for a good part of the rest of your life, and I don't need to really worry about getting more clothes and shoes and stuff, I've managed to end up with one closet full after throwing lots of unused stuff out, including at least ten suits that no longer fit me. I just never checked those, and schlepped them all over the country with me. Now, many of my car tools have bit the dust, I'll use Pep Boys for repairs, and replace the jalopy as and when.


Monday, February 24, 2020: When the fat lady sings

Keywords: Seattle, Housing Authority, Magnolia, moving, dinner, security deposit, unpacking
Well yes, if there is anything I should be doing right now is write up how I am experiencing Seattle. I have not lived, as it turns out, in a city for a very long time. Perhaps Arlington, VA, in the early 90's, comes closest, but urban D.C. isn't really a city as such. Seattle certainly is, and while I had some experience of "downtown" - a.k.a. Pill Hill, or the area where many hospitals are congregated - I've never lived in urban Seattle as I do now. Completely new experience, must say, and I guess I am still comparatively lucky as I live in the relatively protected environment the Seattle Housing Authority offers. Truly new for me, is really all I can say. Last Sunday was the first night I spent in my new apartment, even managed to do some laundry Monday morning, in the communal facility. Can't remember the last time I had a building laundry, must have been back in Manhattan, 53rd and 1st...

I have absolutely no idea where I am, I knew little about Seattle, not until SHA offered me a place in Magnolia did I even know there was such a thing. Magnolia is a sort of peninsula you can only get into and out of via a few bridges, which means you have to figure out when the rush hour goes, and in which direction, or sit in traffic forever, but the advantage of the location is that there isn't a lot of crime, as you may or may not be able to get out of Dodge quickly, after a robbery, when you don't want to get stuck on the Ballard bridge. The drawback of its affluence is that you can't easily get to cheaper supermarkets, I find myself having to drive some 15 miles to get to a reasonably sized Safeway, but the large cheaper supermarkets I'd gotten used to are half an hour or more away, in the suburbs.

And I am not completely out of the woods.. My now former landlady (not the one mentioned below) has not returned my security deposit, stating they needed to get it from their landlord, which I know is complete nonsense. And then it turns out the high speed data my T-Mobile hotspot consumes goes way beyond the 20GB I bought - not that I have an issue with it, I just had hoped it would be enough. You actually don't know how much data you use unless you actually try this out, and I find this goes way over what I had thought. Not an issue, I can get a cheap Sprint 4G-LTE hotspot, I guess I'll go do that, in the next few days. Then I still have my heatpumps in the storage unit, I need to liberate those before the end of the month, or there'll be another month to pay. Etc.

Spent the evening at a celebratory dinner for my former landlady, hosted by my former landlord - she got promoted, got a permanent position at her college, good cheer all around. The 45 minute nighttime drive wasn't as much fun, though, I was never a good nighttime driver, but the road marking in the area is a bit faded, to say the least. Hopfully, in a couple of days, I'll have full internet again, and I can show you some pictures. Whatever the case may be, I'm "over".. California King, heaven!


Saturday, February 15, 2020: Actually found time for a haircut

Keywords: Seattle, Housing Authority, moving, sea chest, dumping, Costco, spending, SUV
A couple more runs, and I think the storage unit will be empty - then the contents of my room, and I'll be moved. It's been an expensive few months, since this caper started, thank heavens I had saved up for it, though by now I am a couple thou in the hole. But as I said, that was in the planning. I will still have a small reserve, and in the past couple of days I've been able to dig up the things I really need, like linen and cutlery, much of which I hadn't used since Virginia. Today I began to unpack and store the smaller items, tomorrow laundry, some of the older California King-size linen, and one of the sea chests has found a new life as a nightstand. It was only last night that I realized that now I no longer have use of a garage, there really isn't a point in hanging on to my tools and stuff. I mean, maintaining my car myself is not really going to be happening. Not that I mind, life changes, and you change with it, but doing car stuff at the kerb isn't really in the planning. I really don't have room for all this stuff, which, after all, used to live in C's garage. Owell. I've begun to start throwing things out, anyway, things I don't really need and don't have the room for. Looking forward to putting my enormous dining table / desk / worksurface together.... ;)

All in all, though, the two moves in three months, the storage unit, the driving back and forth, and now buying furniture and linen and supplies for the new apartment, have easily set me back a couple thousand, and I am not quite done yet. As it turns out I had the right size linen after all, but I had just simply forgotten what I kept, when I left Virginia, and what I tossed. Not that that matters, things wear out and I only bought one additional set. My duvet, by now, is somewhat ancient, so I'll have to replace that soonish. But the Costco gift card I kept from a previous Xmas will come in good stead to get some chairs I need.

At any rate, driving back and forth between Kenmore, Edmonds and Magnolia - pretty much on a daily basis - is beginning to be a welcome diversion from the routine, I get the SUV loaded up at my storage unit, and thankfully the apartment building has the necessary (un)loading tools and ramps so I don't have to do the stairs and things I had been used to. I suppose I got lucky with the weathere, we've not had any winter to speak of, and I am beginning to get used to the cold and soggy mornings, this beats the gym...


Wednesday, February 6, 2020: On the move again... :)

Keywords: Seattle, Housing Authority, lease, California King, Blackberry Priv, internet, SUV, moving
checking HDTV and 4GLTE Thank you, City of Seattle, for my apartment - suddenly, out of nowhere, my case manager / property manager mailed me on Monday if I could sign a lease on Tuesday. Woohoo! Sure thing! Big stack of paper - City and Fed - and I got the keys and a tour of the building. Brilliant - after the longish wait, I was a bit on shock when it suddenly all happened, then went back to my digs to start ordering furniture, Amazon, true to form, delivered sheets and mattress covers first, bed and base - ah! to sleep on a California King again! Bliss! - will get here in a couple more days.

First thing I did - apart from bringing over suitcases and stuff from my storage unit - was taking over one of the laptops, to test whether or not I have broadcast TV reception on my amplified indoor antenna. Sure enough, that works as well here as it did in Kenmore - and, in both cases, a lot better than in Lynnwood. Go figure. But I can continue to record all of the old Star Trek flavours on the laptop, on the H&I network, brilliant. 38 channels, or thereabouts, who needs cable. And then, of course, I needed internet.

While the city makes information available for seniors, the carriers, like Comcast, that are supposed to provide discounted services make no effort to actually do so. Comcast (Infinity) took my information, then told me they could not qualify my apartment - for the largest cable carrier in the USA not to be able to see, right there, whether or not an apartment building owned by the City is wired for service, is a complete joke. By which I mean they have their service database, and if that does not work they're basically cheating. It would, they said, take two weeks to see if they can provide service, and once that is established I could apply. No reason why a consumer cannot apply right off the bat, but there it is. And no, they won't call to say "you're good to go", they require you to call in uh, a couple of weeks.

Intel Core i7 2620M I figured out, after speaking with Comcast, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, my existing carrier, that I can get wireless high speed service on one of my existing cellular lines for an additional $20 per month - that may not be the $9.95/mo Comcast advertises with, but I turned it on the same day, and have now got my Linksys router to act as a repeater on the wireless 802.11n Hotspot my spare Blackberry Priv offers, and that seems to run very happily at 300MB/s, quite respectable, with the laptop connected to the router using 1GB Ethernet wiring. I know, the big guys say they give you 1GB/s off the network, but you know, that's the line speed, not the speed at which your service runs. I'll let you know once I test for a bit. Using 4G-LTE, this is quite spiffy, and stable, I've had it running for several days, all day, and no issues.

Much to my surprise, the furniture I ordered got delivered all on the same morning - not as scheduled over several days - and so I've been unpacking and installing away. Is cool... So, as you can see in the pic to the right, here we go again, moving, hopefully, just one more time. My "stuff" has largely been in storage since last October, and I am doing SUV-loads, unpacking, sorting, and the next load. The building has very convenient access, ramps, carts, you name it, and an elevator designed for wide loads - wheelchairs and the like, but with only three floors, there is never a wait, and thankfully the apartment comes with a separate storage unit, which is rapidly filling up with empty suitcases. I even found a lock...


Sunday, January 26, 2020: No, Corona isn't just beer

Keywords: coronavirus, China, Wuhan, notebook, Elitebook, HP, Intel Core, heat management, laptop cooling, thermal paste
Intel Core i7 2620M I was not majorly surprised when the Wuhan coronavirus made its first U.S. appearance in Everett, WA - the areas around Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., just up the road in Canada, are morphing into major Chinese conurbations. When I read that neither Seattle nor Vancouver airports had screening in place, and remembered that my last trip to China ran through Vancouver, and found that, on my way back from China, U.S. immigration and customs are actually at Vancouver airport, I figured that there would be additional screening measures in place for anything and anyone out of the PRC. If you have one single case outside of Wuhan, you know it is spreading, and you start worrying about anyone flying in from China. In Singapore, they can activate screening any time, ever since the SARS "situation", and entrance facilities that can check a traveler's temperature are not expensive to implement, in many ways immigration entrances should have this stuff built in by default, considering past epidemic scares. The first folks who know about these scares are Hong Kong airport medics, and they're not under the secrecy laws the mainland Chinese are. Put some on a permanent retainer, and have 'em (anonymously) report scares, so we can quietly deal with this crap.

I noticed some folks in the press express surprise the Chinese can easily "lock down" entire cities - I am not surprised. If you run a country the size of China, with an increasingly mobile population of some 1.5 billion, and you've been through a couple of scary pandemics already, you do what you have to. The Chinese are well organized, of course, and they're not restricted by this democracy thing. I remember that, from 9/11 onwards, for weeks, I spent almost more time on the phone to our lawyers, checking what I could and couldn't do, than I did organizing and coordinating recovery efforts. Before you get the wrong idea, they rubberstamped practically every decision I took, "we'll deal with the legal stuff later, do your thing". I recall the only time they stepped in was when Gov. Pataki's office tried to cut corners that had no bearing on the recovery work, we fobbed them off with MCI (which we later bought anyway).

I am still quite happy with the performance of my HP Elitebooks - they're getting older, but the construction and architecture seem rock solid, and HP have kept Windows up to date (though there have been few Softpaq updates, these past couple of years). Cleaning and polishing the CPU heat exchanger surfaces, and applying fresh thermal paste, has made a huuuuge difference, in that the CPUs do occasionally run hot, but the (new) fans get that under control very quickly. I replaced the fan with a different brand, all from China, no idea what was what, but these "newer" fans do a much better job, for as long as I clean up the innards of the laptops periodically, compressed air and all that. HP's units, with their easily removable bottom cover, are very easy to maintain. I've checked for possible replacement systems, just in case one of mine packs up, but a newer, faster, system with more memory would set me back somewhere between $800 and $1,000 - an equivalent system $600 to $800. At some point - this is how that usually works - I'll get a new (hopefully refurbished) bigger faster laptop, before I need to, and then I can spend time customizing that the way I usually do. I still have two older systems I no longer use, just because they have valid Windows 10 Pro licenses, at some point I'll no longer be able to use the Windows 8.1 Pro I use with Windows Media Center (which won't run under Windows 10), just as Microsoft has just announced the end of support for Windows 7. But the HP 2570p with Windows 10 Pro continues to be spiffy, especially since I replaced its hard disk with a 2TB SSD, which is faster than any disk I've ever had. I was a little concerned about longterm reliability of the SSD, but as it turns out a new fan and new thermal paste have kept the heat signature under control - something I did not know is that SSD's generate significantly more heat than regular hard disks.

Take that into account if you upgrade your system - make sure your cooling fan is up to par, your system board and casing are dust free, and preferably remount, polish and clean your CPU and heat exchanger, with a dollop of fresh thermal paste. Heat, if you're "pushing" your system, can be an issue - I've read on the HP bulletin boards that upgrading CPUs and installing more or bigger disks and memory can help your system run better, but if, like one respondent, you do this so you can run sophisticated games, or even some simple applications like Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center, your system can begin running very hot, and even shut itself down when it senses that. On the other hand, upgrading my 2560p from an Intel Core I5 @ 2.6GHz to an Intel Core I7 @ 2.7GHz with a larger cache has actually made it run a bit cooler. In the 2570p, where the Core I7 @ 2.9GHz drives two external displays (one HD, the other 4K UHD), the CPU runs at the top of its capacity, considering it incorporates the Intel HD 4000 graphics driver with 1.8MB of RAM as well, at between 55 and 65 degrees C. I am frankly amazed at the amount of power these 11" notebooks put out, especially my 2570p, which sits in a docking station with extra ports on the bus. But it is important to understand that, especially in notebooks and laptops, the CPU normally includes the GPU (graphics processor), and that put a good heat load on that physically small chip - that metallic 31x24 mm surface you see in the picture is all the CPU has to dissipate 35 watts of heat. Pretty amazing stuff. The picture to the right shows the Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7GHz processor that now lives inside my HP 2560p. Even more amazingly, despite all of my technology engineering knowledge, and very long term laptop use, I had no idea how CPUs were really cooled, other than "with a fan", until I did some research, last year, and found that much of the heat signature in a laptop comes from an intricate dedicated cooling system with polished surfaces and specially developed heat dissipation paste, that has a half life, and needs maintenance. Bully me!


Monday, January 20, 2020: New Neighbours to the North

Keywords: Harry and Meghan, violence increase, snow, Iran, Northern Ireland, Vancouver B.C.
Wishful thinking, I didn't retrieve my snow boots when I last went to get something from my storage unit, and now it threatens to snow in the lowlands. Having said that, I don't know how much my new location will be affected by this, as I understand I used to live in what is called the "convergence zone", which is where the valley runs into the mountains, in a kind of trough, and the clouds dump their contents. We'll see - so far, it is all rain, and the temperatures aren't currently getting anywhere near freezing.

Here in Seattle, the number of gun violence incidents seems to be on the rise, from home invasions and road rage incidents to gunpoint robberies. One entrance to the King County Courthouse has had to be closed due to assaults by violent homeless people, mostly living in tents on the street, on Courthouse visitors. Then I see reports from The Netherlands, where two teens set off fireworks in the lobby of an apartment building, killing two members of a family that gets stuck in the building elevator, by smoke inhalation - last week, miscreants spray paint one entire side of a train. Seems to be getting out of hand?

It is rather encouraging, methinks, that Iran's leadership decided to come clean about the shooting down of that Ukrainian airliner - helped, no doubt, by the knowledge that Ukraine is a somewhat toothless country, I don't want to conjecture what would have happened if that had been a German or Chinese airliner. But Iran somehow has proved it is still part of the human race, and that is perhaps encouraging. They seem to still be firing missiles at Iraqi bases, though, so there are likely multiple factions with different aims in the leadership, not all of which play to the same rules. Add the various flavours of Islam, and the kettle is on the boil.

Almost noiselessly, the powersharing agreement in Northern Ireland, so painstakingly brokered by Bill Clinton, seems to have returned some level of sanity to the proceedings, and Stormont is back in session. I imagine they decided that if they didn't do something, Brexit would render the Northern Irish even more powerless than they already were, so that, too, is good news for 2020.

While on the subject of Britain, Harry and Meghan appear to have landed somewhere different from where we thought they might - I am distinctly getting more of a "you're fired" flavour of the proceedings. The mainstream press seems to be getting that message, too, it seems to me the royal family closed ranks, rather tightly. On the one hand I can understand why Harry and Meghan can't be allowed to "carve their own niche", so to speak, on the other hand, this would have been a nice opportunity to drag the Royals into the 21st century. Not going to happen. It may well be Meghan isn't a particularly nice person, and we do remember the last American to turn up - Wallis Simpson - caused a similar rift in the royal family. Shame, really, but I must say the British press, by and large, should have been reined in a long time ago, and that opportunity is now largely lost. No, Harry and Meghan's security, on Vancouver Island, will be fine - let's see: local cops, RCMP, Canadian customs, U.S. customs, Canadian border patrol, U.S. border patrol (Vancouver Island is on the U.S. border), U.S. Department of Agriculture troops, and sundry Canadian and American intelligence agencies that were all here to begin with. This does not count the local Canadians, who don't take kindly to interlopers, and the Americans across the border in Washington State, where you get a concealed carry permit just by having the local constable take your fingerprints (and some FBI stuff). If Piers Morgan wants to come over and do a story, he better learn to swim, and get some extra travel insurance...


Saturday, January 11, 2020: Bump and Grind

Keywords: Travelex, hacking, rhinitis, sinuses, Swedish Medical, drug interaction, SHA, EU banking, Seattle, King County
With reference to this Travelex hack, can anybody explain to me why someone would order 1,000 Euros in paper currency from Travelex, for delivery trough Tesco with their shopping? When I go abroad, I take a wad of dollars for backup, then when I hit my destination I go to the nearest mall and pull some local currency out of the wall - either with a bank card or my trusted Paypal doohickey. I've been doing that for many years, apart from anything else, you then know where the nearest ATM, McDonalds, and pharmacy are, important stuff when you go to places you've not been to before. Carrying a big wallet with stuff only makes you a robbery target, and actually costs a lot more than just getting money from an ATM. Has anybody thought of doing some "vacation 101" training on these folks? Reminds me of the time I ended up in Tokyo, and kinda got my wires crossed, put a zero where it should not have been, and ended up with US$1,000 in yen, rather than the $100 I had been aiming for. Not until we got to Singapore my travel companion wondered out loud how we had not run out of money in a week...

As has happened before, my sinuses are acting up again, somebody probably coughed on me, and I then develop a rhinitis that won't go away. The post nasal drip - likely aggravated by 40+ years of smoking - keep irritating my throat, which aggravates the post nasal drip, etc. I have only just discovered it actually gets worsen when I sit in a recliner, so now it is straight backd chairs or lying down. Blah. Finally got antibiotics over the weekend, the medicos don't like precribing them too often, but after three weeks it was time. At least no throatache today, maybe this stuff is helping. Sorry to whine about it, but I have really been uncomfortable - no fever or high blood pressure though. I've not been to the gym in a week, though, which is annoying.

Of course, checking drug interactions I find that the antibiotic does not play nice with another medication I am taking - all information instantly available to the physician assistant who saw me - and my rheumatologist immediately confirms this is not a healthy cocktail, and discontinue one drug immediately. Did the PA miss it? Did Swedish' prescription system not flag this? I probably should do something about it.

Not until last Tuesday did I manage to get the Housing Authority the financial information they had asked for last month. My American bank was no problem, but the European bank I use to get my (small) European pension - that was something else. No, they couldn't send the Housing folks a banker's reference, as the Housing folks aren't government to them. That much I can understand, but then they decided to apply European standards - when a European housing department requests this type of information, they treat that as a credit request, and send it to the Lending department. As my EU pension isn't large enough to cover Seattle rent, that was never going to fly, and besides, it isn't what we had asked for. After an endless three week back and forth, I somehow talked the bank (with which I've had a great relationship for years) into giving me exactly the information the Housing folks wanted, and I was finally able to run the letter into their downtown office, so, now, fingers and legs crossed. It helps, because the Dutch social services, which pays the pension, insists on sending statements in Dutch - the in the EU, which is officially multi-lingual. Go figure.

There really isn't much else to report - having moved into King County, I am slowly getting familiar with more of the Seattle area - there never was a real need, but as I am getting closer to moving into the city proper, it is useful to get "acquainted". I already had some of the suburbs and downtown - pill hill - "down", so to speak, but there is a lot more to this vast, sprawling area than I know.


Friday, January 3rd, 2020: Trump went Boom! again

Keywords: Qasem Soleimani, Iran, Quds Force, Microsoft, Windows Media Center, EPG123, Schedules Direct, broadcast TV, international banking, housing
Well, no, I can't fault President Trump for taking a shot at Qasem Soleimani. There's two aspects to this that I am not seeing the "experts" on TV talking about: the level of intelligence the US is bringing to bear, and the psychological effect on Iranian leaders.

The USA seems to have inside information on the whereabouts of top Iranian leaders when they aren't in Iran, down to the car they're driving, and the intelligence to pinpoint a location at an airport in the Middle East. That's pretty good going, and doesn't come to Trump's credit, but to the credit of the US Armed Forces and intelligence folks. The intelligence, the gear, and sufficiently finely tuned you don't kill a thousand civilians. That's pretty impressive.

And then the Iranian leaders now know we know where they are, and if they leave Iran to work around a region they think they own, there is a very good possibility a fresh faced kid in Fort Lauderdale can push a button and wipe them out. So all this running around by Iranian backed militias under Iranian military control is going to be curbed a bit, who wants to have a meeting with an ally and get blown to bits? Judging from the pictures, this was pinpoint bombing - they didn't even damage the palm trees along the airport road. A declaration of war it is not - Trump just went "you kill my people, I'll hurt you back". Unlike previous presidents, he didn't do a volley of cruise missiles, but - effectively - a single shot. That's personal. The added advantage is that the Iraqi Shia population, which lost one of its commanders in the strike too, now know they're in the American sights - be sure who your friends are, because they are not able to protect you from your enemies. That sort of thing.

Microsoft, a few months ago, announced that it would discontinue the contract they held to supply their Windows Media Center under Windows up to 8.1 with Guide Data, a lineup of TV and cable programming in the United States. In January 2020, they said. They didn't say "as per January 1st", which effectively meant the guide would stop updating a couple of days ahead of that. WMC did not report any errors, there just wasn't any programming data and thus my preprogrammed recordings couldn't record. This is how I've been watching my favourite TV shows, pre-recorded - I don't need anything live except for the news - and stored on a big 2 terabyte external drive.

As it turns out - Microplod had sent reminders, periodically, which I had blissfully ignored - there is a third party application by the name of EPG123, written by a programmer frustrated with the performance of Microsoft's Guide, that is available as shareware, with an underlying guide from "Schedules Direct", available for a small fee, that does the job of the Guide, so I decided to try that, expecting a cumbersome install. Much to my amazement, this works flawlessly, to the point where the install largely automatically integrates the new downloads and schedules and lineups into the old WMC databases. Muchly impressed, I only made one setting mistake, which I was able to correct after the first failed midnight download, and Media Center has just completed its first recording - interestingly, using the old schedule database, which I don't think EPG123 was supposed to do. This is complete magic, it is really hard to embed things in Windows, and Microsoft usually tries to disable the facilities you, as a programmer, are using, but this seems to be an OK marriage, at least until Microsoft discontinues Windows 8, because WMC does not run under Windows 10. The only reason I have one laptop running Windows 8.1 Pro is the Media Center. So I guess the year starts off OK, I still have my broadcast HD TV, on my now four, if not five, times tweaked HP 2560p - actually, it is probably six, I installed a faster Intel processor a few months ago, something I hadn't even known you can do on the HP Elitebook.

The holidays done, I can get back to a modicum of normal, and not before time. My housemates know from partying... and I am kind of in limbo waiting for the Housing folks, and I don't deal well with limbo. Hopefully the rest of my banking data will arrive from Europe tomorrow, it is a pain "they" don't play well with American authorities. Just convincing them they can't provide a bank guarantee in the United States, especially if they've not been asked for one, took more than a week, and American ways of fraud control are anathema to them. I've never been hacked in any of my bank accounts, knock on wood, over the decades, except in this one overseas account - and then it wasn't my fault, it was a random database attack on the bank that included my account data, and I found myself filling up my tank at gas stations in Brazil. They sorted it out quickly, and professionally, and put the stolen funds back within twenty-four hours, and reimbursed me for expenses incurred, paid for my transatlantic telephone calls, but still, you wonder how that happens.

It is truly frustrating to see my overseas bank completely screw up a simple bank reference, one I need for the Housing Authority. After requesting it in mid-December, I find absolutely nothing has been done two weeks later, they then turn around and tell me they couldn't contact me because my email address has changed (it hasn't, I own the domain and lease the server), and then I am required to spend more hours on transatlantic calls because they'll only tell me what additional information they need over the phone. That does not work either, but a person in the lending department finally emails me, something they insisted they can't do for security reasons, and without any explanation - I am not borrowing money from them, nor do I need a guarantee. I do hope they don't screw me up beyond this - they've now promised they'll DHL me six months worth of statements - which I do not need and haven't asked for - at their expense. Remind me not to do this again. They eventually manage to explain they have multiple forms of reference - but the one they tried to use is a form of bank guarantee based on the expected value of the lease, something I haven't asked for and they can't provide, because most of my income is US-based and that information is not available to them. On top of that, after a customer service agent sent my request to the Lending department, where it did not belong, the Lending agent, amazingly, began emailing me on an email address I used in the past, but that I changed and deleted in July, 2015, when AT&T discontinued their long standing commercial email service. I was of course flabbergasted that staffers with the bank would not use the current email address they have in their database and use for me.


Friday, December 27, 2019: One hurdle after the other discombobulation

Keywords: Christmas, Boxing Day, cultural differences, Mexico, climate change, population increase, Huawei, 5G, IP cameras, Shenzen servers
Christmas, I hope, has been an enjoyable time for you - while I've not really "celebrated" the festive season for a few years - I used to fly back to Europe and family occasionally for it - this year I turn out to be lodging with a Mexican family who really embrace and share, which is quite special to me. They actually "do" Christmas on the 24th - you live and learn - and then the 25th is sort of their Boxing Day. Americans really don't do that "2nd Christmas Day", as it is done in Europe, so this is an interesting learning curve, prezzies are done on Christmas Eve, after too much food and booze... and then more food - you can't really call these leftovers - on Christmas Day. My diet is shot, I was happy I lost three pounds during December, but I think I've found them again. Sheesh.

No, I am not a climate denier, but the noise Ms. Thunberg and cohorts make has nothing to do with reality. I've said it before, but here goes again: climate change, insofar as it is not a natural phenomenon, is caused by the wanton procreation of humans, in combination with the wealth increase. In order to combat this, going to conferences by boat and trains does nothing. For one thing, you'd have to stop going to conferences, we have plenty of technology for folks to talk to each other. And that combines with the heads of state, which go and have meetings all the time - another completely unnecessary exercise, again, that's what Skype is for. For as long as we don't stop the unnecessary travel - and that includes cars, boats, planes, trains - and stop subsidizing babies, and start requiring third world countries to forcibly reduce birth rates, we're not going to make any kind of a dent - yes, you don't reduce your birthrate, we will not give you any more money for any reason. Draconian, politically not manageable, but nothing else will do it. I have no idea what forced the Chinese to drop the one child policy, but as Ms. Thunberg hasn't gone there to convince them to reinstate it, I can't take her seriously. She could even learn Mandarin, stay at home, and give video interviews to the Chinese media. Then India is another good place to talk to, on that score, they try, but they're a democracy. With some regularity we see reports that carbon emissions have increased - with the agreements in place, and the efforts at legislative levels, we should see some result, so understanding why nothing works is vital, and it isn't because we don't buy electric cars (hint: electric cars = more cars). For the most part, cars are things we do not need, and for as long as I see people here in Seattle idle in line at Starbucks, Ms. Thunberg is a distractive expensive effing joke, who should not get attention, and be taken home by her parents to get an education, so she learns to understand what she is talking about. Honestly.

IP WiFi camera server Which reminds me, this entire story about Huawei's 5G is a technological crock. Yes, Huawei got started by technology folks from the PLA, but it was, for the longest time, run by young Chinese technologists who had - and have - no truck with traditional communism and ideologies. They're the same type of men who invented the internet, way back when, on the Left Coast. The authorities, and Trump, would be much better off looking at the technological gadgets the Chinese make and sell. Both of the cheap IP cameras I bought a few years ago shared their data freely, via the internet, to servers in China, and they sold - and sell - millions of them, 99% to people who wouldn't recognize a firewall if you shoved it up their arse. There is an entire web client and internet server in each of these things, which sell for under $30, and worm a route through your router even if you block their ports. Trust me - don't worry about Huawei, and worry about the complete lack of technology security in our Federal oversight organizations. We've got our doorbell video cameras talking to the internet via servers in Shenzen - and then the consumer accesses their pictures by connecting their mobile phone directly to those servers, with the ports wide open. I think that, largely, consumers do not care, and certainly don't make much of an effort to secure their home network. For as long as cyber criminals rake in hundreds of millions of dollars just by cold calling folks with a cockamamie story, rest assured of two things: caller ID isn't used, and people answer phones regardless. Nothing anybody can do, and we can't politically stop assisting folks who have been bamboozled, or - better - fine them.


Saturday, December 21, 2019: I hurt myself twice

Keywords: SHA, apartment hunt, gym, injury, Verizon, Aetna Medicare, income verification, impeachment, D.C. people
Tired tired tired, especially today. The ongoing house hunt is doing a number on me - not that there's anything wrong with the way the housing agency is dealing with this, please don't get me wrong. I had (hopefully) one of the last interviews this morning, this mostly to do with my finances, things are moving right along. It is such a long drawn out process - having said that, you put an application in in a place the size of Seattle, it isn't going to be double quick, so no issues. But I am not dealing with winter as well as I used to - and it isn't really that cold yet, hopefully it won't get "down there" this year, winters in the Puget Sound thankfully don't happen every year. I am saying that because I don't want to move in the ice and snow, and I can't afford a mover.

I injured my shoulder again over the weekend, third time this year, I am beginning to think I am doing something wrong in the gym, but much to my suprise it cleared up in a couple of days - last time it was weeks, and double agony. But no gym this week, or maybe just on Friday, I don't want to jinx it.

And then, of course, I had to get a shingles vaccination - in the past, I could not get those as they contained a live virus,so I got shingles instead, but all that has changed, said my rheumatologist - and the pharmacist warned me this might be painful, and she was damn well right. So now the "cleared up" upper arm hurts, feels bruised. I think I'll take an aspirin or two.

In the interim I yelled so hard at Verizon HR that Aetna suddenly got my address changed overnight ("well, that takes ten days") and gave me my new member number over the phone, I even got my new membership card. If you've got something wrong with you the idea of not having medical insurance as of January 1st is plenty scary. If you're reading this in Europe, think of living in The Netherlands and the insurance suddenly locating your policy in Poland. The only advantage I have is that I can explain all this in English, both places, but otherwise..

By now, the Housing Authority came back and wanted a fax number or email address for my European bank, this for income verification, and of course under European security rules they won't let third parties verify you, and over there, an American local government agency has no status of any kind. Sorted that, hopefully, but you sometimes think you just shouldn't tell these folks everything, because they are used to doing things the way they do them "over here". It is kind of funny, in an immigrant country - credit agencies here don't take overseas accounts into consideration, even though millions of the foreign born have them - in my case. You get the impression that the vast majority of immigrant applicants don't tell the housing folks about their overseas account(s). I just don't like that idea, and have nothing to hide, it is better to sort these things at the beginning of a business relationship.

Watching some of the impeachment proceedings (I give 'em mostly a wide berth) I can't get over a President commenting on Twitter like a rabid dog. Sorry to use those words, but this man lives on a different planet. I wonder whether he has requested the Supreme Court's email address and Instagram handle yet. I don't know if this man should be impeached, but I do think he'd do fine just playing golf. Whatever he is doing, he isn't running the country. There is a bunch of good people in D.C., who I had the privilege of working with for many years, that do that. Of course, many are getting their asses fired now, we'll pay the price for that for years to come.


Saturday, December 7, 2019: Verizon broke its database?

Keywords: Verizon, retiree benefits, United Healthcare, Priv, Medicare Advantage, Aetna, medical insurance, Blackberry, KEYone, T-Mobile
Blackberry KEYone The Verizon benefits plan I mentioned last week turns out to be a true disaster zone - for one thing, I received no open enrollment paperwork because my home address was changed in the HR database. Having lived there for seven or so years, how did Verizon suddenly decide to change it to my Verizon office address in Arlington, VA (the other coast) - apart from anything else, that is hardly a residential address, and I have not used that address since I retired, in January 2007, and certainly not for private use. When speaking with HR, the agent did her level best to dissuade me from speaking to a supervisor, who "would tell me exactly the same thing", which was absolutely zilch. The supervisor did somewhat better, went into the database, and tried to convince me I had always had two addresses in the HR database - nonsensical, because all of Verizon's communications, until this year, have always come to my home address, be that in Fredericksburg, VA, Bellevue, WA, or Lynnwood, WA - sending them to Arlington, VA, then having them returned "undeliverable", then not following up, was never the case.

There are hundreds of thousands of Verizon "regulated" retirees, whose Verizon arranged Medicare health plan is equally regulated, and I realy have to ask myself what went wrong here. The only major change is that the health plan is, as of 2020, administered by Aetna, which "won the bid" from United Healthcare, which had been managing it. As I can't get Verizon to give me some meaningful information, or updated paperwork, I really am wondering if I should not talk to the Federal folks, the Department of Labor, which regulates these plans, especially for a regulated organization.

In the interim, I've got my refurbished Blackberry KEYone working properly, and much to my surprise it fully supports T-Mobile's WiFi Calling and other special TMO features, which I had not expected, as TMO stopped selling Blackberry handsets years ago. But everything is nicely supported, under Blackberry's flavour of Android. Even the fingerprint reader works, this after I had a half day struggle to "imprint" it. Again, there are plenty of features I like, but shelling out $700 to $1000 for them, nah, can't afford to, and I am not really interested in the "all things to all people" syndrome. One thing that really concerns me is the number of "bad apps" that are around, so having financial apps run on different handsets should give me more security. Talking to my overseas bank, the other day, the agent assumed I was using Google Pay with multiple credit cards, but I am not. I've got Paypal on one handset, Google Pay on the other, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Neither of those have identifiable email addresses I use on an everyday basis - one reason to have multiple handsets is that those normally require an email address for the creator of the operating system, which means that if your mobile gets hacked your bank information is toast. One person in The Netherlands recently fell for a phishing email, entered his data at a fake bank website, and was out - I kid you not - a million Euros (some 1.11 million dollars US) within minutes. It then follows that if you ensure emails from your bank come to an email address you keep separately from others you use all the time, the miscreants cannot email you pretending to be your bank.

Making some small efforts to help secure your data makes sense - look at my example of the million Euro scam, and ask yourself whether keeping a million Euros in your current account is smart. It may be one consequence of consumers using smartphones and apps, and stop using laptops. You have everything behind one cellular telephone number and one email address, it is a bit like all the security at your house is one front door lock, I mean, knowing there are miscreants with technical prowess spending all day every day trying to break into your communications, after they "friend" you on Facebook or Instagram. One reason I really like using both multiple handsets and multiple laptops is that this should make it hard for a hacker to find out where to find your data. In my case, I even use a secondary router as a firewall, so the IP address I present to the outside world is not the IP address my internet provider shows for me. You need to know how to do that, but it helps secure you!


November 29, 2019: Hong Kong, and other things broken

Keywords: Hong Kong, Blackberry, fake democracy, Priv, Medicare Advantage, Aetna, medical insurance
Hong Kong harbour I am a bit confuddled about the Western press' continuous referrals to a Hong Kong "democracy movement". Hong Kong has never been a democracy - a British colony since 1898, Chinese (Cantonese) territory before then, and part of the People's Republic of China since 1997, democracy, as we know it, was never the political system. And as it is part of the PRC, there isn't any way it will be, or can aspire to, democracy. This would mean that there can't really be a democratic movement, and Hong Kongers know this. Had there ever been democracy in Hong Kong, millions of Cantonese and Han Chinese would have moved to the UK when Kongers was handed back to the Chinese, but they didn't - couldn't, insofar as they had British passports, they had no "right of abode" in the UK. Hah. How would they even have known what democracy is? I mean, if they had democracy, or any semblance of it, they would not need to destroy their own country, as the "demonstrators" have been doing for a while. Nah, I think the Western press needs to do its homework a bit better.

Whoops - my Blackberry Priv stopped working, just like that, dead as a dodo, won't even charge, little choice but to get a "new" cellphone, let's see, I bought this refurbished May 28, 2018, so it lasted only a year and a half, thankfully I have a spare, so I can access mail and messaging and my database again later today. Hopefully the replacement will last a bit longer... no idea what went wrong, it just won't start any more, likely the (non-replaceable) battery.

Of course, the next morning (after ordering a new handset on Ebay) the "dead" Priv has recovered enough to try and boot - unsuccessfully, because the battery is empty, but it is no longer stone dead, and it starts charging. Weird stuff. I can always return the replacement I just ordered, but I am not sure I want to use the "old" one as my primary, even if I'll be out the better part of $200. Let's see how things go - yesterday I spent much of the day getting my spare handset up, don't tell me I have to go and do that all over again.... decisions, decisions.

Like this, I am spending too much money, what with the recent move, the storage unit, and another move coming up (hopefully soon). I'll just end up pretty much out of pocket, and I just noticed my health insurance is going up next year, as well, which doesn't help. Hard to figure that, some years my corporate copay goes down, other years it goes up, the one time I called HR about it I spent so long on hold I gave up. Par for the course if you call in the middle of open enrollment, but this year I have not, so far, even received the normal catalog from Verizon or Aetna, apparently our "new" insurer. Aetna, you may recall, "merged" with CVS Health, creating a behemoth medical insurance company in the process. Aetna has been the dental provider for my former organization for years, but if the main insurer can do as well as United Healthcare has done, since I turned 65, remains to be seen. At the basis, both insurers mostly administer Medicare claims, but their "Advantage" part, the ancillary part of our insurance, is new to me. At the Verizon benefits website it looks like Aetna has been required to provide exactly the same coverage UHC has done, and they have not taken our prescription coverage to CVS, so that puts my mind at rest - a little..

This would be cool.. I had not put my 2560p laptop back into use, the unit I used to record broadcast TV, until recently, when I found all the bits needed to do that. And today, I checked Windows' Media Center, to see if there were different or additional channels I can get here. Sure enough - I've gone from 11 to 38 channels, which is kind of amazing, but more importantly, I have one channel I couldn't get in Lynnwood that reruns most of the Startrek series ever made. It works here, so I've programmed it into my lineup, and tomorrow I'll be able to check if that worked or not. Ya never know with Microplod..


November 22, 2019: Fake White Stuff, and other medical matters

Keywords: parking, cow's milk, non-milk, parenting, Medicare, AARP
private parking Ah yes, private parking is nice. The town recently repaved and landscaped, so now the customers from the dentist next door, and others, end up in our (off street) lot. Time to put some signs up. At least I can now call parking enforcement - you can't do that if the miscreants can't see signs. First time I came here I wasn't sure I could park here, so I parked at the mini-mall down the block. But others aren't that considerate...

No, this stuff made from almonds, soy, grains, is NOT milk. Milk comes from cows (and other animals, like sheep and goats and hu-mans). Same with meat - comes from animals, not from plants. We (adults) have grown up with animal proteins - and there is plenty of research about the hows, whys and wherefores. What I am saying is that if some of those proteins aren't now deemed to be particularly healthy, we should not consume them, but there isn't a need to produce "fake" animal proteins. It would be much better to find out what exactly it is we need, in our nutrition, and how to satisfy that need, but not to create "pretend" animal proteins, that probably do more harm than good, just look at the labels and see how much unnecessary fat and sugars are in these products.

At which point, of course, you have to start asking yourself what the standard for "unnecessary" is. Who owns the principle? Reading about the anti-vax movement, I can't help but wonder about this ownership thing. Do parents "own" their children? Does the German state have a binding contract on parental rights, as seems to be the case now they have made vaccination as mandatory as German law allows? When all is said and done, there seem to be a lot of parents who claim the right to take these decisions for their children, and who claim they know better than scientists and medical professionals. I dunno - just because you've impregnated someone does not mean you suddenly know everything doctors and scientists go to school for fifteen years to learn. And if parents don't "accept" the science, there's not a lot you can do. But if you look at milk that isn't milk, and meat made of vegetable matter, you have to ask yourself if it is that strange that consumers and parents and politicos make their own realities, according to what they perceive as their needs. The alternative, of course, is that we step away from the old conventions, that we begin naming certain beverages as "milk", whether they're produced by animals or not, and certain proteins as "meat", whether or not they contain animal matter. It is a solution - kids won't know which is which, in ten years, anyway.

As the Medicare enrollment period is here, we've all been inundated with TV ads - and that's when I noticed that for you to become a member of the AARP Medicare Advantage plan, you now do NOT have to be a member of AARP. I guess United Healthcare figured out that that requirement actually stopped them from selling more plans. AARP, increasingly, is an organization that sells its members' information to commercial enterprise, reason why I dumped 'em years ago. Today, you want a cheap deal, ask for it. They have "requiremements", go to the next organization. Verizon have changed their insurance provider from UHC to Aetna - these are folks I called about my existing dental plan, the other day - that led to some 30 unsolicited calls offering their plan information, information I get automatically from my former employer. I blocked their number - Verizon's information has plan comparisons, Aetna's, I am sure, does not....


November 16, 2019: Networking, and The Prince

Keywords: Linksys, Comcast, 5G, Prince Andrew, BBC, bopping
I mentioned having slaved my Linksys router off a Comcast Aris unit - when I finally got around to booting up my second laptop, which I had not used since I moved, I found it automatically connected to my original router's WiFi, which I had only partly reprogrammed. I am not sure how to explain this, I didn't know that was possible - I set the Linksys to make a bridge connection to the Aris, but that apparently leaves the Linksys available for other "normal" clients. It does appear my second HP is running at 5G, which I didn't think the Linksys could do in bridge mode, but maybe I am wrong. I'd have to take it doen and reprogram it to test that, and really don't want to do that, since it works so well in slave mode, and I need all the bandwidth I can get, considering the number of people that use this network. So there. Or some such... ah, OK, I can try with another laptop - thar ya go.. yep, that too connects straight into the Linksys, but shows connection and IP to the Comcast host, but the "old' SSID. I had no idea that would work, right out of the box, but I guess the dual frequency implementation effectively turns one router into two. Amazing.

Watching the BBC's antics with regard to Prince Andrew I can only feel sorry for the guy. He partied with a felon, which is kinda stupid, but for allegations that can't be denied or substantiated then to surface, and the press to hound him, is massively useless. It isn't like Andrew couldn't afford to stay at the Grand Hyatt if he wanted to be in Manhattan. That makes him a dumbass, not a child rapist. The purpose of the press is news reporting - if we must assume Andrew bopped a seventeen year old, way back when, lots of us have, seventeen is well beyond the age of consent, and to start a "case" about it, when we have these morons who have sex with babies and adolescents, you'd wonder if the Beeb and Sky and The Sun have nothing better to do. I am not in any way trying to defend Prince Andrew, his has been a reasonably scandal filled tenure, but for this ex-teen to come forward years later, it is all a bit much and a bit stoopid. 'nuff said.

I am beginning to be less than enamoured with the Beeb anyway - the amount of time BBC news spends reporting live on the Prez and his antics - the BBC spends more time broadcasting hearings live than any American media do. What with Brexit looming, you'd think there is a faction in Britain that thinks the UK is an American colony - which it isn't, and will never be. We love our "Fawlty Towers", and the working classes spend tons of money at Disney, but Britain has little to offer the United States economy - imagine, they only managed to build one aircraft carrier, it breaks, they'll have none. Even something as basic as making sure you've got two of each is a notion that escapes them. If you cannot afford to build two carriers, and put them to sea at the same time, so you can test what you can do with them, you shouldn't build any. It's stupid. A waste. One carrier means that if anybody wants to take it down, they only have to look for the one thing that stands out like a sore thumb. You get my drift?


November 8, 2019: Settled in

Keywords: move, working out, network, WiFi slave, yoga, gym
This move, complete with putting more than half my stuff in a storage unit, took the better part of two weeks, I guess. That includes "finishing off", organizing myself at my new residence, doing masses of paperwork, I just finished the very last adress change, and started back on my daily vitals measurements - those go with workouts, normally, and the amount of work I did while moving, using my SUV, would not really have given meaningful data. I did, much to my pleasure, note I managed to do all the physical work without injuries, so the workouts have had their benefits, you don't really know that "until you try".

All in all I can't complain, and I have to again come to the conclusion change is good, I had pretty much settled in a routine, and this is helpful in more ways than one. I need to not only work up a new routine with new housemates, but make computer network changes in ways I had not used before. I had only recently bought this high speed Linksys router, and now needed to slave it (wirelessly) off the Comcast device my landlord uses. I had tested doing that before moving, and not exactly been successful, so I was not unhappy when the Linksys did as it was told right off the bat. What I didn't know is that these 802.11x devices are actually able to use the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies functionally separately - the 5GHz side slaves directly off the main router, the 2.4GHz side works "as normal" servicing WiFi as I had used it before, with its existing non-published host name. So hackers, technically, can see my landlord's router, but my setup, behind me, is firewalled and invisible, using WiFi, and my main system is hardwired into my router, with WiFi off, and my phones are invisible, off the main router. That's really cool, and safety freak that I am, as secure as I can make it. The facility is new to me, I hadn't seen it used, and didn't know how to set it up, but I got it working - quite possibly, the older Frontier router wasn't quite up to the task, and this newer Comcast device is.

"News" about the injury rate among yoga teachers seems to have taken over the British press, and I'll wager the story will arrive on these shores soon, but what a crock. Yes, if you exercise in a group you may get into a competitive stance, and that means you may end up doing exercises and stretches that take you beyond what your joints / muscles / tendons can handle. That's the case with all exercise, however, not just yoga, and especially if you do these things in middle age and onwards, you can do yourself some real pain. That isn't just the prerogative of yoga teachers - in fact, I'd like to suggest that if you get yoga injuries, you're not much of a teacher, you're supposed to have trained for that, and know the limits of the human physiology in the specilism you teach. To me, the jury is still out on yoga - it is a religion related meditation technique, and as such, is not a novel way of group exercise. Honestly.

I know one person who only did yoga classes because his daughter did - yes, you can socialize in a gym, but I don't know that the Good Lord intended exercise to be combined with other stuff. I studiously stay away from the group stuff I see others do, for the simple reason I need to concentrate on my exercises, to make sure my muscles do what I want them to do - in my case, of course, the risk of injury is relatively high. The older you get, the longer an injury takes to heal - when I hurt my left shoulder joint, the other day, it took weeks for the joint to repair itself. A rheumatologist, years ago, sanctioned my going to the gym, but emphasized I should make sure not to get in the "competitive arena" - when you push yourself alongside others, you may be aiming for goals that aren't good for you, especially if your body has been a bit ravaged, like mine, over the decades. Having just moved myself, all by myself, using my SUV, I can't say I am doing too badly..


November 2, 2019: Settle down, boy..

Keywords: move, Facebook, address changes, King County, upmarket, $pending
view in pub window A mile long list of address changes to do, some more important than others, from the Fed and the State to banks and other institutions - the banks are probably more important because they can really screw up your credit rating, but then the Authorities can come back to bite you, years later. Address changes, because I am about to move to a nearby town, as the house I am in is going to be rented in its entirety. Still waiting for my permanent seniors apartment in Seattle, though that is getting closer, received a shortlist confirmation only the other day. Owell, bedtime, start moving some gear "upon the morn'"...

And several "morns' later, the moving is done, and I find myself back in King County, in a decidedly more upmarket (and more expensive) town - just my vehicle and home insurances went up between 15 and 30%, the supermarket clientele is markedly less blue collar, and the gym (same chain) is much nicer, with staff who remember you by name, and it shuts overnight. I guess you get what you pay for. By which I do not mean to say there's anything wrong with Lynnwood, don't get me wrong. It is just different. No gas firepit outside the pub in Lynnwood..

I've been reconnoitering my new neighbourhood, apart from the various supermarkets I needed to find a new gym, not a huge problem as I am a member of a huge chain, but I can't walk there, so I'll have to change my routine a bit, and start using a treadmill more than I used to.

All in all, this not quite planned move will have set me back an extra $700 or so, this not counting ancillary expenses I'll have when my Seattle apartment comes trough. And as I've had to store my excess stuff in a storage unit, I am spending an extra $128 a month I had not counted on. But those aren't things you can do anything about, and while I can technically store stuff here, I think moving all my gear here, with all of the stairs and steps this place has, then moving it all down to Seattle, eventually, will probably wreck my body. I was surprised I was able to do my move without too much of a problem, certainly skipped the gym for a week or two, but the shoulder injury I did have, earlier this year, did not recur. That would have been devastating, tell ya.

Still using Facebook? A friend's mother sent me a friend request, th'other day, and as I contemplated whether I wanted to add her or not, Facebook added her all by itself. It is pretty much the same as Facebook's translating foreign languages without my ever telling it to, and without providing any way to turn that facility off. Turn off a particular language, it'll do it again a month or so later. The organization makes it money by manipulating users, and doing so without any benefit for the consumer. And what is worse, after all of the noise and lawsuits, it has in no way changed its methods and deceptive behaviour. Every time the authorities somewhere concentrate on points D and Z, Facebook goes back to S and M. Horrendous.


October 20, 2019: Packing again, moving again, ever forward

Keywords: detergent, laundry, storage, Facebook, Libra currency, bitcoin
Decades ago manufacturers began concentrating detergent, so they (and you) did not need to pay for shipping large amounts of water around the country. Doing that means advertising, spending time and money educating the public, and patience - smaller, in the eyes of the shopper, means less "stuff" and relatively more money. The past few months I've noticed they're at it again - look at the detergent shelves in the supermaket, and you may notice smaller bottles with gaudy imprints, that sport the same number of loads as the cousins twice their size. I just bought a 40 fl. oz. bottle of All good for 53 loads, and cheaper too. You just have to be very careful you follow the dosing instructions - the caps are much smaller, and for a "normal" load you seem to need less than half a capful of that smaller cap. If you're one of the gushers, or your kids handle the machine, go easy on the new technology. I wonder why now, though?

storage unitWell, yes, no, I don't know that Facebook needs the likes of Paypal, Mastercard and Visa to get its Libra cryptocurrency on the road. Facebook is massive, has a huge infrastructure, very good business connections, and about 1,000 times the money needed to start Libra up. It is likely, to me, that the prospective partners weren't going to participate in a venture where they will not have a smidgeon of control, because nobody controls nothing in Zuck's House. And I personally can't see the masses queuing to get "Facecrypto", when they can do everything with their bank- and credit card. Remember that Bitcoin started out as this amazing digital facility, that couldn't be tracked by anyone and anything, especially including the Fed. Well, these days the Fed can impound and sell Bitcoin they come across, so I am not seeing the major advantage of paying for shoes with a Facebook currency. Yes, I get it, all things to all people, but I actually do not believe that is a really good (read: safe) idea.

I am close to done moving stuff into a storage unit, not too far from here, having spent time, a couple months ago, sorting out clothes and things, and throwing out what I really am not likely to ever need, and a bunch of office clothes that really don't fit me well any more. Part of the problem was that I put on some (not a lot, pff) weight, and that is partly to blame on my going to the gym several times a week. I've got muscles where I never knew I could have 'em. Rather than dieting like crazy, I've simply gotten rid of clothes I am not likely to ever need again, like "too many" Wall Street outfits, which I should have chucked before I left Virginia, but shlepped across the country. Owell. The guy looked weird when I donated a bunch of clean spic 'n span $1,000 suits...

October 13, 2019: Credit? Debit? E-Stuff?

Keywords: Google Pay, NFC, USPS, system compatibility, chip cards, contactless, Walmart
October dawnTotally inadvertently, I noticed a blazing dawn while brewing my morning coffee, and rushed out with the Blackberry, something I don't do too often, these days. Spectacular, though, don't you think? The weather has been weird - night frost for a week, had a hard time finding my windshield scraper, not normally an October tool, in these parts. But temps appear back to normal, fingers crossed.

Where I signed up for Google Pay last year, I have had little chance to use it - apart from one (new) supermarket in my neighbourhood, Sprouts, no other store chains I frequent had it built into their payment terminals. Sprouts, however, is expensive-ish, and I found some of the fresh vegetables there less than, uh, fresh, and many of my favourite brands are not stocked at all. On top of that, Sprouts does not allow firearms in the store - I very much appreciate that, but it means you have to make sure you're not packin' heat, if you have a CPL (concealed pistol licence). It reminds me a bit of the Christian owned stores, which don't open on Sundays, because their owners think they know what's best for their staff and customers without asking them. I personally don't think it is anybody's business what I do on which day, that time is long gone. No other stores in this area have such a prohibition posted, that I know, with the exception of the United States Postal Service, which does not allow firearms on its property (law enforcement excepted) anywhere in the nation. At least Sprouts has the notice on the door - the Post Office has it only on the notice board, inside.

Anyway, I was primarily interested in being able to pay using an NFC capable smartphone, especially as some cheaper Android phones now have that capability too - I was not going to buy a $900 Samsung so I can use it as a credit card. In my particular case, it meant I can use a smartphone to pay from my overseas savings account, without having to carry the associated bank card. I've got a bunch of cards in my wallet, something that will be familiar to many of you, and I don't want to carry a second wallet.

Long story short, it works like a banshee, and should I so desire (which I don't) I can have more cards in the app. On top of that, Google USA can't pull data for my foreign bank card, because that account lives somewhere it is illegal for Google to help itself to that kind of data. Paranoid? I don't think so, I just try and control my "big data" where I can, even though that may mean some inconvenience and using multiple devices - the handset that has Google Pay normally has GPS disabled, and when it is enabled, when I shop, WiFi is off. Etc. Other apps I use a lot, like heart rate and localization, are on another mobile. Etc. Having multiple lines isn't that expensive (T-Mobile charges $10/month) and I try to buy either refurbished fancy handsets, or cheap large screen handsets, depending on which app I want them for. Works for me. While tech firms certainly have the data and processing power to gather most of my information worldwide, I am assuming (partly because of my IT expertise) they ignore what they consider anomalous data, information that does not gel with the other 95% of shoppers and buyers in the area. You can tell how important this is from the way Amazon behaves - when they use the Postal Service or UPS to deliver stuff, you're getting emails when your things are on their way. But with Amazon's own delivery service, you have to log in to Amazon to get tracking data - and every time you log in, they try to suck browser data. So - not for me, I have all but moved my online shopping to Ebay, which behaves more "normally", and does not have that much infrastructure and interest in selling your information.

According to recent research published in Britain's Telegraph, half of all debit (store) payments are now made using contactless (NFC) card, and 37% of credit payments. Those are large numbers - the percentages are much lower in the United States, but to some extent this is because those novel payment technologies started in Europe, much before they did here. The "chip card" was introduced in 1986 in Europe, but didn't make it to the United States until 2012. Slowly being superseded by NFc, or "contactless", chip-and-pin offered vastly better payment security. A good example is my European chip-and-pin card, which will automatically block if an attempt is made to swipe with it if the terminal has a chip reader. That is still, today, not the case in the US. Walmart, to the best of my knowledge, was the first to convert its card readers to chip-and-pin - at a time no American financial institutions were even issuing those cards.


October 9, 2019: Glue yourself to a building? Really?

Keywords: climate activists, electric vehicles, Doc Martin, PBS, union, strike, Republic
Watching climate activists all over the Western world "demonstrate by disruption" I continue to wonder how this is going to effect change in climate and polluted environments. The interaction between industrial might and social environments, even our propensity to leave our homelands and live in large cityscapes that are not terribly efficient or frugal, kind of preclude an effective way of dealing with climate and environmental issues. I think that if we do not somehow begin to mandate that couples must prove they are environmentally responsible before starting a family, and tell migrants they can't be accomodated if they have children, or if they plan to start a family, we don't have a chance in hell to make meningful change.

You see, it isn't about "clean" electric vehicles, because all vehicles pollute - it is about no vehicles. It sounds harsh, but there is no reason whatsoever not to mandate that a refugee may come live in your land, but must commit not to have children, and not buy motorized transport of any kind. I mean, if you are a refugee, you shouldn't care about having more rooms than you need, or a career that comes with a Toyota Prius. And we should try and extend that to all those leaving their parental home, and setting out in their own, independent lives. I keep on repeating that climate change might have improved if we'd not come out of WWII to start improving our world and breeding, we have created a society where we can drive to a coffeeshop and get a cup of coffee in the drivethrough, and I can't tell you how unnecessary and wasteful that is, and how that means we've embedded waste in the structure of our society. Why do banks have drivethroughs? I am at my bank branch maybe once a year, and that is only because the Dutch government insists I prove I am alive, but other than that I have been banking electronically for decades. The only reason I still use cash is that it saves me money when I buy gasoline, and I don't think you can blame me for this gas station chain making extra money by not using plastic for payments. If you'd like to get a good pointer as to how wasteful we really are, go to Walmart, and take a walk down the petfood aisle. First of all, few people really need pets, which are a very expensive, wasteful and polluting luxury, but then you have to ask yourself if this huge variety of foods is in any way necessary. Left to their own devices, pets don't need multiple types and flavours of foods, they have a natural instinct for what they need. They especially don't need ground up offal with vegetables, with a markup if somehow "real liver" or "real beef" was driven past the factory twice a week. I mean, do dogs and cats really need human beings to read labels on cans for them? Those same human beings who are being advised not to eat canned food, on account of the unnecessary and unhealthy sugar and sodium used as preservatives? Seriously, a hamster or a fish is nice, but if we didn't have entire stores full of them, our kids would be just as happy. I promise. Most kids that get fish do not become biologists.

I think the new season of Doc Martin has started - at least, I do not recall seeing this episode before. Don't get confused, I watch the UK's ITV via a VPN, so you don't need to chase all over PBS to find it this week. Though I must say PBS broadcasts follow on pretty closely from popular British series - I just wish they would stop broadcasting these nonsensical medical talk programs, you know, the ones that only let the presenter sell more books, and provide little, if any, value to life. And if you're wondering why I rarely post links any more - I think y'all have had Google for long enough so you can do searches, which most browsers facilitate with a simple highlight of a piece of text, anyway. wright - the sun is out (after a September night where the temperature dropped to 32!!), brunch done, time for the gym. See y'all in a bit.

Anyway, funny how much I enjoy watching British TV, and (still, after all these years) am not hugely fond of American TV. Especially today's crime series seem so much over the top to me, it isn't funny. The protagonists are too pretty, they're dressed in haute couture, and do lots of physically impossible things, where CGI, today, lets things break, fall, explode, in ways you could never survive. I am just not seeing the producers attempt to create realism - and, of course, nobody in an American TV series is ever physically realistically shot, because that's not allowed to be shown. I sometimes wonder whether kids have such an easy time with guns and knives because they have had little exposure to what death really looks like. Just a conjecture, I don't really know. It isn't like you can go buy a gun, and then shoot a couple people to find out how that goes, right?

Amazingly, the local garbage collectors are on strike. Over in Massachusetts, on the other coast the last time I looked, a union has a disagreement with Republic Services, and as that has not resolved, the union has sent pickets to other Republic worksites in the nation, where the unionized workforce then does not cross picket lines. They're not technically on strike, just can't work, as per their union contract. So Republic stopped the garbage collection, as of last Thursday. And nobody seems to have any idea how this is getting sorted. I can't say I've ever seen this before, remote control pickets. Is this even legal? How can union workers refuse to cross an out-of-state picket line when there is no way their WA State employer can negotiate with an out-of-state union?


September 29, 2019: Summer's done, here, at least

Keywords: fall, Donald Trump, Brexit, e-cigs, vaping, Heinz 57
Cherry BlossomThe Cherry Blossom in front of the house started showing the approaching fall, this week, it has grown into a beautiful shape, kinda cool. Had to drag the old Nikon out of its hidey hole, and stick a flash on, to get this shot on a rainy day. Clever though our smartphones are, there are some colours and contrasts you don't get unless it is overcast, with some reflection from a rain-slick street. I am writing this during a sudden cold spell, with the first snow (in boatloads) falling to the East, but then you can't predict that stuff much. Rain interspersed with sun, here in the lowlands - yesterday I didn't walk to the gym, in the rain, today the sun came out, so I did. Excuses only go so far...

Is it Ella? Or is it Memorex? I've gotta tell you that I am largely not commenting on the political goings-on because things seem to be getting crazier by the day. President Trump calls the Ukraine president for assistance fighting Joe Biden, Boris Johnson finally makes it to Prime Minister and then begins presiding over a larger debacle than Theresa May did, and this Swedish kid completely ignores that global warming is caused by unchecked population growth, which, by now, has begun to cause folks from impoverished countries to all move to "rich" Western countries. It is a bit like the inmates have truly taken over the asylum - thanks to Donald Trump we now all pay sales tax on online purchases, which, here in Washington State, has made most of my purchases 10% more expensive. This helps who?

Then, e-cigarettes, the tool that would help people quit smoking, has begun killing users outright, and now the CEO of Juul is taking off as his seat heats up. Boeing is fixing failing automation on some of its aircraft - something that's happened a few times since computers were invented - while the British believe Donald Trump - the man with the largest ego on the planet - will help them Brexit. Dream on, peeps. I mean, I buy overpriced English piccalilly now and again, but to help you understand what you've done, that is now largely made by one American company - in one huge factory in The Netherlands. Not an astute way to help the UK economy.


September 21, 2019: "Procrastinatering"

Keywords: saving, shopping, Macy's, shades, accessories, urban Seattle, moving, SHA, Craigslist, meat, Asian stew, processed foods
Macy's accoutrements I am trying to save as much money as I can, in advance of my move, but I somehow don't think I am being massively successsful. I packed most of my clothes, again in advance of the move, three months ago, so last month I bought a couple of pairs of new jeans, when an old pair tore, and I should have looked in the suitcases. My bad. And then, yesterday, I needed new socks, and while at Macy's "found" an RFID wallet and a new pair of shades I absolutely needed. I must say the Italian mirrored shades were both gorgeous and cheap, but they were cheap mostly because most of the others were $250 and up, and the days I could afford those are long gone. So I got this $80 pair, which my dental hygienist, this morning, said are "cool", and then the Levi's wallet replaced my Perry Ellis wallet, which wasn't even slightly worn - but bulky and ungainly - and then I threw out the Fusion wallet from before that, which wasn't really that worn either. YouKnowWhatIMean? But I guess an RFID wallet - standard purses and wallets are routinely RFID now - is safe and sensible, and as you can see in the shot both the shades (Vogue by Luxottica) and the wallet are fashionable. My old Oakleys, once bought at Amsterdam Airport for too much money, had already had their lenses and dayglo rubberoid replaced, and were definitely past the sell-by date sufficiently that I threw them out when I came home with the new shades.

I am quite looking forward to moving to Seattle, anyway - for the first time since Fredericksburg, VA, I will have a steady "base", and be able to discover Seattle properly. Living in the suburbs I really didn't have much of an opportunity to go on proper discovery trips - in many ways a shame, because the Seattle area is gorgeous, but more than the odd trip I've not really managed. Apart from anything else, rummaging around the Puget Sound by car is expensive, I really could not afford to go places and get a motel room for a couple of days, just the odd trip up to Vancouver (the one in Canada) to renew my passport cost several hundred dollars, not helped by my gas guzzler. Thanksfully we Dutch now have ten year passports, so I won't have to worry about that for a while. But hopefully, once in Seattle, I'll be able to make better use of public transport, and be closer to the train (Amtrak) infrastructure.

I do have to figure out where to live if the SHA doesn't come through in October, I need to get on Craigslist, and find somewhere between here-and-there. It is probably time to start that, a month is not a very long time, and I will have to find a storage place in the area to put some of my stuff I've got in the garage here. I've gotten rid of most everything I don't need, first of all back in Virginia, but here, as well, in the past couple of months. One nice side effect of an almost-bankruptcy is that you learn to "unload" - most of my move to Bellevue got financed via Craigslist and the pawn shop. First things first, though - mow the lawn, and see if I can get neighbour D's pressure washer started, he couldn't. Nope - it starts fine on a squirt of ether, but then dies, guess it isn't getting fuel. It has a fancy Subaru engine, no reason why it isn't running, and as it runs on ether, the electronics must be good. Puzzle.

Meat eating has attracted quite a bit of negative publicity, of late - I don't consume a lot of meat, more often than not do a kind of chicken stew, but I came across a huge T-bone steak at the supermarket, on sale, some 4 lbs of meat for under $10. Couldn't help myself, and I must say the Malaisian stew I created in the multi-cooker came out glorious. I cook for the freezer - one of the nice aspects of doing that is that you can leave the stew in plastic containers to cool down, overnight, that floats the fat to the top, and then those go in the freezer. Once defrosted in the fridge, the fat layer remains solid, and you can simply scoop that off. I cook my stews concentrated, so just add some water then, and reheat. At least I am staying away from processed meats, which have attracted, from a health perspective, a lot of negative publicity, of late. As it turns out, it is relatively easy to find minimally processed foods in the supermarket, but you do have to do some research - and there really isn't any such thing as "unprocessed foods" on the shelf. Butter? Butter is highly processed, as is milk. Oil? Most oils are processed, some more than others, I tend to stick with olive oil and sesame oil, both of which can be bought in a variety that is minimally processed, both being oils that have been around, virtually unchanged, for thousands of years. There are indeed lots of other "plant based" oils, but if you do the research you'll find that those often didn't become products until factory based production methods, using modern machinery and chemicals, became available. Highly processed, in other words, enabling mass production of these oils for various purposes, from lubrication and lamp lighting to cooking and deep frying.


September 15, 2019: Lookin' and Cookin'

Keywords: A/C, heating cost, environment, climate activists, moving, tenants, summer, fall, Housmile, induction cooking, appliance programming
I keep, especially out of Western Europe, reading that air conditioning is bad for the environment, as if A/C has no real purpose. While I understand some of the argumentation, I would suggest that those advocating for an abandonment of A/C, stop using heating as well. Heating, other than to prevent homes and people from freezing, is just as useless as A/C, it's just for comfort. We really can do away with refrigeration, to a large extent, as well - we can sterilize, pasteurize, we have plenty of technologies that let us buy fresh food that can be consumed in a couple of days, some cooked to prevent decay, and not go to Costco to buy huge amounts of refrigerated and frozen food that can then be stored for weeks in huge refrigerators and huge freezers - I mean, if you're really concerned about the environment. A four million dollar absolutely useless sailing racer built for the sole purpose of glorifying its owners and designers has to transport a sixteen year old "climate activist" to a conference in New York, so she can avoid a polluting airplane seat? And once there, the six man crew flies back to Europe?

Have we gone crazy? Is it that hard to understand that if we had begun work on carbon reduction twenty years ago we might have had a decent chance of influencing pollution downwards today, provided we reduced population growth, agressively, all over the planet, but we didn't. Even the Chinese abandoned their one child policy in 2015, and the majority of countries have no energy and population control that can make a difference. In 2000, fourty million cars were manufactured worldwide - in 2018, seventy million, almost double. Our efforts are going exactly nowhere. In the past decade, Europe's population increased by "only" 3% - but that is 21.8 million people, a lot more than live in my home country of the Netherlands today. And they're all buying cars. Some even the Eco-variety. That'll help.

As my landlord moved out at the beginning of the year, and this house has been painted and fixed so it can be rented out in its entirety, I had hoped the Seattle Housing Authority would come through with an apartment in the summer. But so far, nothing has transpired, other than that references and credit rating have been verified. This being subsidized seniors housing, there isn't a time frame you get, I am cognizant and good with that, but by November 1st new tenants will move in, so by then I have to find myself somewhere else to live. And that will cost me extra money, one more move than I had bargained for. I can cover that, barely, two moves, just not my happy summer. Owell, fingers crossed. Not complaining, just whining...

Summer is done - this hasn't been one of those hot summers, but now the temerature is down enough for some occasional heating, and as of today the atmospheric humidity went up, from 30/40% to 50/60. Still pleasant enough, don't get me wrong, still happily walking to the gym. I am just hoping I won't have to move in the middle of winter - though winters here in Seattle are mild, most years. Nothing much else to say but "fingers crossed".

What I find most amazing about this Housmile induction multi-cooker is its programming. I hadn't realized how these multi-cookers work, and that some are fully automated, with a completely preprogrammed cooking cycle, complete with an automated depressurization cycle at the end. I would assume the programmers of the firmware have to work very closely with cooking staff and chef, because the results, at least of this unit, are amazing. I've spoken to people with Instant Pots who ended up discontinuing their use, because the receipes are too complicated, and the depressurization of the device is a more or less manual process, and I am just wondering if perhaps at least some of their programmers - well, I guess, can't cook. Admittedly, I know what I wanted to cook in my Housmile - rice, stews, and soups - but I must say each has been absolutely perfect, the unit is very easy to clean (even the pressure plate with ring and mechanical sensors unscrews, and can be rinse in the dishwasher. The absence of conventional heating elements in mine helps to make it fool- and heat-proof. There aren't huge numbers of recipes you can prepare in these things, but for the $100 I paid for it, worth every penny.


September 6, 2019: Maintenance and Security

Keywords: Bahamas, hurricanes, East Coast storms, emergency generator, NAS, network drives, drive failure, heat pump, A/C, surveillance laptop, wifi camera
The Bahamas is one of those places I once thought about retiring to, like some other islands and high risk areas in the tropics I had visited. One look at the place, today, and I am glad I didn't. Same with Jakarta and Hong Kong, about the most polluted places on the planet and subject to Mother Nature too. I do live in an earthquake zone, today, complete with volcanoes, but then I grew up by the sea in The Netherlands, equally subject to weather vagaries. But on an island, in a known hurricane path.. I've been through a few hurricanes, one in Florida, when I lived there, two in Virginia, one of those I actually had the eye come right over my house in Fredericksburg, that was a scary and very unusual experience, no power for a week, and so many trees in the roads you couldn't get out, except on foot. TG for emergency generators - and by the way, if you don't have a bunch of fuel stored, the generator won't work, because you'll run out of gas or propane, because you won't be able to get to a gas station, and even if you can, they will not have power for their pumps. My property was minus 60-odd full size trees, after that storm. Ah, and there was a tornado that went right by (as in, 10 yards) my house in New York's Westchester County, that was pretty horrendous too. So think about it when you decide where to live, you can see the risk you take if you pick a high risk place. Insurance companies have risk charts based on events, if you want to figure that out. They'll make the data available, and usually the local council has that too...

Swapped the erratic 4 terabyte Seagate NAS for a new Buffalo, now all I need to do is re-back up the HP 2570, which will take, in bits and pieces, a few days. The 2560, which by now easily has more than a terabyte of data, I am not backing up to a NAS, but I've put a 3.5" 3TB spare that was sitting in a box in use to do that. After I move, I will likely replace the two 3TB drives in the Zyxel NAS with 10TB drives - running RAID 1, which means I have to buy three identical 10TB drives to have a functional spare. I had originally planned to replace the two bay drive with a four bay drive, but in the interim 10TB drives have come down so much in price I don't need to get all "complicated" - a 10TB WD Red lists for $250, as I write this, and RAID, after all, is supposed to be failure resistant.

I've been able to keep an eye on the energy consumption of my heat pumps over the summer - total home electricity consumption, (at Puget Sound rates) averages just under $50 a month (as the boiler runs on gas, add $10 a month for hot water). So that's kinda cool, and it proves I was right where the efficiency of modern heat pumnps is concerned. Admittedly, it's not been a blisteringly hot summer, but especially being able to effectively cool down the house overnight is a huge boon.

On the security front, I've now been running my surveillance laptop, with two IP cameras, for a couple of months, 24/7, and that works a treat - actually, any issues I had went away when I reinstalled Windows 10, more or less inadvertently. Considering I bought this Toshiba as a refurb, a few years ago, at Best Buy, for under $250, with extra memory, I can't complain. The old 160GB Intel SSD I got from one of the HPs went in there, too, and so, as the Toshiba is fanless, there are no longer any electro-mechanical parts to worry about.


August 26, 2019: Windows 10 "painless" recovery

Keywords: Windows Home, Windows 10 Pro, Toshiba Satellite, Bitlocker, Windows upgrade keys, safe, finances, reserves
Trying to get my old anemic Toshiba Satellite to boot from a USB device that has a Bitlocker ID as well, the encryption simply stops working. Funny, in a way, I've had (for different reasons) something similar happen with my main laptop, I actually managed to break Bitlocker. IOW: there is some stuff you don't want to do to a "Bitlockered" hard disk. I am not suggesting there is something wrong with Bitlocker, but it is best to first decrypt if you're going to mess with the operating system - Windows 10 Pro, in both cases.

2009 Toshiba Satellite Learned something useful, though - departition the entire hard disk using a Windows installer disk, then do a "clean" Windows install, without using a key. Then, boot from the new install, and now grab one of your old Windows Pro Upgrade licenses. I only have the Windows 8.1 upgrade keys I bought years ago, but as it turns out those keys will happily upgrade your "new" Windows 10 Home install, to Windows 10 Pro, with everything. No, that's not in any helpfiles I've found, I just tried it, and it worked. Completely clean unadulterated Toshiba laptop, which I had been using to run IP camera surveillance software, something I was able to re-install. Important to understand, though - once you have installed the latest, greatest version of Bitlocker, don't futz with the operating system. It's a good thing, I suppose - if anybody tries to break into your system, there's a good chance Bitlocker will permanently disable access to your entire disk subsystem. And that, after all, is the idea - security.

I think my safe is dead - yesterday, I wasn't able to open it (scary, that) until I tried a backup key, I am just not sure if I want to use it with just one key. Besides, the thing is ten years old - lessee, 3/10/2007, more like twelve. In daily use - for the statisticians, some 8,800 open-and-close operations - can't complain, I've had to replace the keypad once, I guess it is time to scrap, having to have it forcibly opened isn't on my list of fun things - and like my old NAS drive, the other day, once you encounter one of these "errors", it is better not to take chances.

Between getting ready to move - which involves buying and/or reserving funds for apartment stuff - and replacing stuff that (Murphy's Law) decides to break just as I am spending extra money, my reserves are dwindling just a bit. This was expected, don't get me wrong, but just looking at my financial management software gives me the willies. And as I have no idea when SHA will make an apartment available - that is, after all, dependent on someone in their housing stock dying, or moving, or going into a retirement home - it is kind of a double whammy. That's not something I should worry about, after all, it'll all come to an end, but still, I am one of your more anxious types, always have been. Still, I am pretty much ready, and my budget looks survivable...


August 18, 2019: Hong Kong and network storage

Keywords: Hong Kong, two systems, PRC, Seagate, NAS, network storage, HP Elitebook upgrades, heat management
Hong Kong pollution Years ago, as I was trying to figure out where to retire (all plans eventually scuppered by the 2008 stock market crash, which wiped me out), I spent time with friend and colleague D. in both Tokyo and Hong Kong. Tokyo would have been a problematic choice, considering what the Japanese did to my family in WWII, but Hong Kong, where I once had an office, and where several of my former colleagues from New York live, was a definite maybe. But much though I like the place, beautiful, wonderful people, great for business, I just could not conceive of living somewhere with that much pollution, in the deep tropics. Being able to fly in and out at will, and get some fresh air, yea, but once you retire you can no longer do what the well heeled corporate executive can. What you're seeing in the picture to the left is not "haze" - that is Hong Kong, on a clear sky summer's day, that "haze" is the normal pollution level in Hong Kong, where you can buy compressed clean air in aerosol cans.

So I know the place, and immediately clear, when I look at what goes on, is that the new generation of Hong Kongers have understood the mainland Chinese can't do a thing to them. The minute those Politburo troops cross the border Hong Kong, as one of the leading commerce and trading hubs in the world, will be finished. I've looked at both sides of that border, and the mainland Chinese have well understood that if they run Hong Kong, half the advantages that make trade and finance flock to "HK" will be gone. Trust me on this - if the mainland wanted to quell the protests, that would have happened weeks ago. I guess they've discovered the "two systems" thing is a two way street, and the young Hong Kongers have discovered they can seize the control they want, because the other thing will beat them down and finish the Chinese "Monaco". It would probably be good to remember the French tried to do the same to Monaco, and found the cost did not warrant the trouble. Again, peeps: if the Chinese wanted to exert control, they'd have done so by now. If they still do, they'll kill the Goose. They're pragmatic, most of the time....

HP Elitebook 2570p disassembly Bought my Seagate NAS drive in January 2016, it's been on line 24/7 since then, but this morning it "hiccupped". I was able to bring it back in service (the problem with these things is that you really don't get error messages, you just suddenly can't access your files, and there is a red light on the enclosure) through a simple reset, but I guess I need to get a replacement - turns out Amazon had a Buffalo 4TB NAS drive on sale, so if I can only keep the Seagate going for a week, I'll be able to move my files and ditch the Seagate. You just don't take risks with your files... I would have liked to get a larger (10TB) backup drive, but that will have to wait until after I move, and can consolidate my backups properly. Take my advice on this, though: if you have a disk drive that, for no reason, suddenly "hiccups", replace it immediately. You turn everything down, bring it back up, the drive works fine again, no lost bytes or files, but (this from experience) drives have a built in elaborate error correction, and a modern disk drive just does not "hiccup" (assuming there hasn't been a power failure, but my drives are all on UPS power supplies). The number of people I've seen lose their data, due to drive failure, over the years, I can't count on the fingers of two hands. 90% of those occurrences are completely unnecessary, and in most cases, by the time you get an error, that means your disk is demented, and from there it can only die. Trust me on that. The drive I am replacing cost me $134, for 4TB NAS, the new NAS drive (this time with a replacable disk) is $160. Not a lot to pay for security.

I told you about cleaning the cooling system in my HP laptops, and replacing the thermal compound that helps "bleed" excess heat from the CPU to the heat sink. In both of my laptops, that exercise has worked well - the 2570p does not go "Jumbo Jet" any more at all, and the 2560p rarely (but that's still running Windows 8.1, which may have something to do with it). The pic on the right shows you how you can "clean and inspect" - I have, at the bottom, from the left, removed the fan, the CPU, on top of both of those, the heat sink, and just above, the hard disk. Some compressed air to "defluff" the motherboard and the heat sink radiator, and I cleaned (alcohol) and polished (using a compound) the CPU top and the heat sink plate. Then I put everything back together, with a dab of fresh thermal compound between the CPU and the heat sink. Works well, if you can find the instructions for your computer on Youtube, doing this may give your PC or notebook new life. If your system slows down, this can easily be caused by overheating - CPUs and motherboards "clock down" when they get too hot. If your system slows and the fan runs at speed, you don't have a virus - you've got dust, and that's easily remedied. Fresh thermal compound and some manual scrubbing helps too, if done carefully. Make sure your hard disk is defragged, tools are in Windows, and make sure your hard disk isn't over 70% full, because the combination of a fragmented drive and too much data can really mess your system up, and help make it overheat, and slow down.


August 6, 2019: More Cooking

Keywords: induction cooking, induction heating, Housmile, rice cooker, soto ayam, El Paso, Dayton, gun laws, mental illness
Watching some lunatic assault, apparently without reason, a traffic warden in downtown Seattle, at one point ripping the sunroof off someone else's car (damage, to roof and windshield of a brand new Tesla: $10,000) and using that to beat on the warden... There is a lot of random violence going on. In this case, the saving grace was that a number of bystanders jumped the perp and held him for police. Now that everybody has an HD camera in their phone these "events" are on the TV news about five minutes later.

Speaking of lunatics, as I put this entry together, two mass shootings "occur": El Paso, and Dayton, OH. The mind boggles - how do these shooters get to the point they take large numbers of lives, without achieving anything, and either ending their own lives, or being incarcerated for the rest of theirs? What's the purpose?

If you've partaken of some of the televised discussions about "gun control" in the United States, let me say this: whatever laws you might think can be introduced, there are, as of the end of 2017, some 394 million firearms in civilian hands in the United States. Some are licensed, many are not - licensing of a private firearm isn't required in large parts of the USA. So whatever rules could be applied to gun sales, there are just under 400 million guns that will not be affected by those rules. If you actually think that the 250 million American gun owners are going to go to the local precinct and register their guns, your brain has just sprung a leak. And most of those guns were actually sold legally, either after a background check, or a permitted transfer. I know that, after gun massacres, both Australia and New Zealand have changed their gun laws, made much gun ownership illegal, and enforced registration of existing guns, but you need to understand both of those countries have small populations, with good law enforcement and good civil administration.

It would be possible to do those things in the USA, but the cost would be prohibitive, and large groups in the population would actively resist - "civil liberties" and all that. What I think we must look at, and tackle (and this too is an existing discussion that has not, so far, gone anywhere) mental illness. I think we should come to an agreement that many people think they can legitimately be in control of another person't life, they somehow have that right - all you need to do is look at the number of parents who mandate their children's religion, and you know something is perceptually wrong with the way we treat one another. I think that if someone is sufficiently deranged to feel they have the right to take another person's life to make a point, they are off the rails, and unable to "return to normal". The El Paso shooter gave himself up - being a Texan in Texas, he knows he's going to be fried, why wait for that?

I don't know that the connection has been made, clearly, but if we were to instigate some kind of universal health care, where kids could go and get physical and mental care free of charge (which would need their parents to be involved), we might be able to prevent some of these "derailments".

Housmile soto ayam I bought this induction "multi-cooker" despite the fact that I own a perfectly good pressure cooker, made by NuWave especially for use on induction cooktops. That's done well, although I have largely only used it for cooking rice, after I figured out the right mix, quantities, timing and pressure settings. As I mentioned, I like induction, because it is safe (very low fire and overheating risk), and doesn't involve heating elements, like rings or infra-red, burned pan bottoms, and "local" hot spots. The one defining characteristic is that the induction electronics can measure the amount of energy used by the cooking food, and can sense whether or not a compatible cooking pot is used, which none of the other cooking methods do. Wrong pot, the cooker won't turn on. Kid's hand on the plate, the cooker won't turn on. The temperature setting "knows" how much energy is consumed for a given temperature, and cycles on an off once that's reached.

If you're familiar with the Instant Pot, the "hot new" 2017 kitchen implement, that's largely the same device as my Housmile, with one difference: induction. The Instant Pot uses conventional heating elements, which, like gas hobs, cook food by temporarily overheating it. Put a frying pan on a gas hob, turn on the gas, and use an infra-red thermometer to check the temperature of the bottom of the pan, over the gas flame. Folks think that this high temperature, localized, is necessary to cook food, but nothing is further from the truth. The flame locally heats the metal, which then distributes the heat to those areas not covered by the flame - Hold your hand next to the pan, and you can feel how much heat is radiated away, and convected away as heated air. Wasted, in other words. Interestingly, all this probably came about because ancient humans dried clay pottery over an open fire, and discovered that, once cooled, you could put the pot back on the fire, put water or milk or foodstuffs in it, and heat them. The more often you did that, the "hardier" the clay got. But the open woodfire was much less concentrated than a gas burner is, and like electric heating elements, gas flames produce much more localized high heat than you really need to cook. Hence my love for induction cooking - because there is a feedback loop in this technology, an induction cooker produces only as much heat as you need, depending on the setting, and in the case of my new pressure cooker, the feedback loop is fully automated.

I've now tried and succeeded to create a Soto Ayam, an Indonesian chicken soup meal, in the cooker, and have to say its induction technology, together with its automation, produces an absolutely superb result. I prefried the chicken legs (as luck would have it, Fred Meyer had a "twofer" offer this weekend, I ended up with some 11 lbs of chicken legs for just under $10, much of which ended up in the freezer), then combined the ingredients in the cooker. The pre-frying lets you season the chicken bits, while the fat separates out. Dump the fried chicken with the fat (=flavour) in the soup base (mix of chicken broth and water), and once you finish cooking, let the soup cool down in the refrigerator. The fat, having parted with its flavour, will now float to the top, and (overnight) solidify, and you can simply spoon the fat off the soup. Better for your health.

Luckily, there is a local Asian food market which has authentic Indonesian spice mixes and condiments, and so I don't have to create the spice mix "by hand". On the "soup" setting, the Housmile cooker does a great job - gently pre-heating the soto for maybe half an hour, then bringing the pressure cooker up to high (60 lb), and finishing the cooking process in some 50 minutes. Interestingly, both temperature and pressure have indivisual settings - many pressure cooker have only "low" and "high", but this thing is infinitely variable. Once it is done, it'll gently bleed off the pressure, so there's absolutely nothing to do or watch until it warns you it's done.


July 28, 2019: Induction heating is better

Keywords: induction cooking, induction heating, Housmile, rice cooker, HP Elitebook, Intel Core i7, heat sink, thermal compound
Housmile IH pressure cooker The Housmile induction rice cooker I ordered got here, and greatly surprised me! At just under $100, I thought it was suspiciously cheap, and some reviews I found on Amazon (where it isn't on offer any more) only reinforced the doubt (a "normal" induction cooker starts at $250 or $260, and can cost up to $950). But: lo and behold, it came out of the box weighing a lot more than a conventional rice cooker would have done, has a solid steel/cast iron inner cooking pot (rice cookers generally have aluminium or alloy pots, which do not work with induction, which only works with iron based materials) and seemed to have all the electronic innards induction cookers do.

If you've not looked at induction cookers: they use electromagnetic waves to energize an iron based cooking pot, which then warms up, together with its contents. The amount of energy provided to the cooking pot is controlled electronically, and demand based - only the cooking pot warms, and the electronics measure how much energy is being used, for instance by a liquid being heated up. It is a feedback loop, if you will. Turning it on to try its "rice" setting, I was greeted with the fan noise induction cookers normally emanate - as cooking pots radiate some heat back to the induction device, a fan keeps the electronics cool in an induction heater, all under digital control. Long story short, this cooking pot is completely automatic, cooks the most perfect Basmati rice I have ever tasted (not kidding!) in just 28 minutes, and comprises a fully automatic, computer servo controlled, pressure cooker with digital and programmable settings. Amazing, honestly, and well constructed. I can't afford a $300 single purpose cooker, and at $99, this thing is my dream come true (my late wonderful Indonesian grandmother would kill me if I messed up rice). So happy I ordered another, so I can have an affordable spare, should #1 ever expire. Having said that, induction units usually last forever, as they do not generate heat, which, amongst others, makes them very safe, and the electronic controls make them pretty much child proof. This unit even electronically bleeds off the cooking pressure, and won't let you open it until that's done, and shown on the display. I should probably add that induction cooking is far more energy efficient than any other cooking technology, partly explainable because no air or conductive mediums are heated in the process. I just had not expected the pre-programmed rice cycle to be perfect, I guess the Chinese are very perfectionist, and have technology skills they apply to just about anything. My heat pumps and induction cookers all use native Chinese technology - you really ought to go and visit a Wal-Mart in Beijing, you will be amazed at the technologies the Chinese essentially build for themselves, rather than for export. Trust me, take the trip, as I did, learn.

In my previous blog entry I mentioned the CPU processor upgrade I put into my HP Elitebook 2560p - that is working absolutely beautifully, the combination of a faster processor, larger cache, cleaning and polishing of the heat sink, and new thermal compound have quietened that machine significantly, and the fan control is much more responsive to load. So a couple of days ago I did the same to my 2570p, minus the CPU replacement - a new, slightly faster i7 on this machine would set me back some $500, can't really afford that. But the rest of the maintenance had the same effect - quietened the fan, reduced the CPU temperature, and better, more acute, temperature control. Magic.

While I have always done a lot of maintenance on my computers, I don't recall ever routinely disassembling the CPU mount and heat sink, and cleaning all of that with compressed air. Turns out that's a good idea, that and replacing the thermal compound, which I think I'll start doing annually. Especially in the 2570p, the 2TB SSD I recently installed generates much more heat than the previous conventional hard disks, an SSD characteristic I was unaware of. That was part of the reason I googled the CPU thermals, and realized (gamer sites are a Godsend) you can disassemble the CPU mount, clean off and polish the heat transfer surfaces, and "renew" the thermal compound that helps transfer the heat from the CPU to the cooling mechanism. Having done both laptops, kids, that actually works!! Clean the surfaces with rubbing alcohol, polish them with a very fine polishing compound, use fresh new thermal paste (Youtube tells you how to best apply that), and Bob's your uncle.


July 22, 2019: Computer cooling research

Keywords: HP Elitebook, Intel Core i7, CPU cooling, CPU replacement, thermal compound, Trump, Congresswomen
Intel Core i7 2620M The CPU replacement in the HP Elitebook went swimmingly. Well, one hopes, it'll take a day or two to figure out whether I correctly did the mount and the thermal compound replacement, which is finicky, to say the least. The small size of my Elitebooks makes working in them hard. Especially the thermal compound - most of the help you get on Youtube involves normal size CPUs, but these mobile Core i5 and i7's are beyond small, and as I had never put thermal compound on a CPU, I really didn't know how much to apply. The only way to find out is to simply do it, and then find out after an evening's run, and a quiet night, if all is well. At least nothing is smoking or smelling... The new CPU, an Intel Core i7 @ 2.7/3.4GHz with a 4MB cache, is approved for this HP, so I should be OK, and I am hoping its extra power will help the laptop run a little cooler. Once this is tested, I'll replace the thermal compound in the other HP, my 2570p., now that I know this is actually a good idea, part of necessary maintenance, and not that big a deal in the HP business notebook, which were designed to easily come apart for maintenance and repair.

summer orchidThe pic to the left has the entire CPU - the die is 1.5 inches square, only the silver bit in the center is the actual CPU, you can imagine the heat generated in the unit, which consumes up to 35 watts of power. Not only does that small size contain the CPU, but a good amount of cache memory, and the GPU, the graphics unit, amazing when you think of it, and the heat output is not surprising. I'll want to test a few more days, but I think the additional CPU speed and cache may well reduce the heat signature, at least that's the way it looks after a day. That's combined, of course, with the new thermal compound, I have no idea how much of an effect that has, but the 2560 runs quieter, first impression, than it did before. Because I had to remove the hard disk, fan, heat sink and CPU to do the install, I was able to thoroughly clean the insides of the unit with compressed air, and retighten the entire assembly. Fingers crossed. I'll try and elaborate, in an upcoming blog entry, about what I have learned about PC maintenance - I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know, but now that I've paid more attnetion to heat management, I've learned more. Once I redo the cooling system in my 2570p (I did the 2560p, just now) I'll take some pictures of its innards, and maybe even do some video, now that I have my Nikon's self-focusing sorted, and put in a faster memory card, which is what the problem was. Sort of pleased being able to do all this "extra" stuff while I wait, marking time, for my "new" apartment. What's next? Ah, this induction rice cooker, which should be delivered tomorrow, replacing the recently deceased conventional rice cooker.

The orchid to the right is one I bought at the supermarket a couple months ago. A previous orchid died, but this one (which lost its original flowers pretty soon) seems to be holding its own, it grew that flower from scratch. I've more or less ignored the instructions that came with it, bathe and spray it once a week, add some plant food to the water I bathe it in, and after an hour drain it and put it back on its high shelf, where it gets some moderate filtered sun in the afternoon. That flower has been there for over a month now, we'll see how it does.

Actually, Mr. Trump, I think this country has done better with people unhappy with the status quo, people who then made changes, worked for improvement. Those Congresswomen who try to effect change were elected to do that, they are where they are to "Make America great again". And they aren't under any obligation to "be happy" with the mess you're creating. I personally could have "gone home" when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, flew fully fueled airplanes into the buildings across from my office, but I did my job and fixed what they broke, both in New York and in Virginia. Didn't see you there, and no, those were not happy days, it was personal for me. I think when we get the bill for your presidency we'll be truly, massively, unhappy. And, Mr. Trump, do remember you're an old guy, surrounded by old guys, and these Congresswomen are the new generation. They will be running this country, not you and your blondes, and I kinda like they make their own rules. It is an almost automatic response to "Trumpism" - you break the rules, so can everybody else, and the young ones have tricks you've never even heard of. It is what you created.

July 18, 2019: Waiting it out

Keywords: expenses, slow going, rice cooker, Trump, Rapinoe, ticker tape, long cool summer
summer rose If my lack of frequent blog entries would lead you to think nothing's going on, you'd be right. I am trying to absolutely minimize my outgoings, so that I'll have enough savings by the time SHA allocates an apartment, and can buy everything I need. I was OK by the end of last year, but then my rent went up, so I am somewhat stagnant. Stagnant, but, for now, OK. Expenses did go up, as well, medical bills somehow went up, I have had to switch (permanently) to more expensive contact lenses, all in all spending just a little more so I can't save more. My financial software tells me how I am doing, budget wise, and it looks like I am breaking even, just. That's cool, I have sufficient savings to move and buy some needed furniture, so no need to fret, although I don't know hwat my future rent will be, and what the monthly bills will be like. Worst case, I am going to have to let the SUV go, there is always that option.

Always niggly little bits, too - my rice cooker packed up, so I shopped for a replacement - although I don't really need an "automatic" rice cooker, I can create the most wonderful Basmati in my pressure cooker. And I did worse - I have often longingly looked at the Korean and Japanese induction multi-cookers, mostly based on rice cooker technology that those perfectionists are famous for. Thing is, those cookers cost between $300 and $900, give or take a dime, and I just can't afford that kind of money for a rice cooker. Induction, which doesn't use a "heat" source as such, cooks thing much more gently, uses far less energy, and has a much improved fire risk, being without heat elements, and fitted with a cooling system for the electronics. I've actually been cooking on induction only, since the flatmates moved out, and the builders, with my consent, removed the filthy electric element cooker that was in the kitchen. Anyway, I scoured the internet, and to my delight found a much cheaper induction rice cooker, with multi-cooker capability, so am just waiting for that to be delivered, will tell you all about it once I can start experimenting with it.

No, nothing special, just a budding rose in the back yard. I had been having problems getting my Nikon SLR to focus properly, but as it turns out when I use the rearview LCD it actually micro-focuses using the lens focusing motor (if so equipped) as well as the housing focus. I'd never quite gotten that to work properly, and that probably simply was my impatience. It isn't clear to me why, with some lenses, the camera uses two focus automations, but I understand now why that is better than the manual focus, which isn't as accurate. Now I need to try doing this with my other lens, which doesn't have a built-in focus. I think the focus here, considering this is an aftermarket 70-300 Sigma DG lens I think I bought rather cheaply from a huge bin at a Kaufhof in Munich, all those years ago. Chasing Esther, I was, in Bavaria, before she had enough of Germany and returned to her native South Africa. No tits, but lots of spunk...

That was funny, President Trump behind that rain soaked security screen during his July 4th talk. Like much else in this presidency, it gave a tear streaked impression, not at all the face he wanted to show, I am sure. And yes, you can't have tanks with combat treads on the National Mall. In the olden days, tanks had special "soft" treads if they needed to drive on highways - I remember this from Germany, where there were vast columns of American armour. They had their own speed limits, in mph, on small yellow roadside signs, too, or they'd rip up the Autobahn, their speedometers not having kilothings on them.

Unusual to see women's soccer get such attention, when I lived in soccer land the wimmins' variety was never talked about, or shown much. I mean, it is brilliant that is now happening, I was just a bit taken aback to see the final in Lyons broadcast integrally at (here) 8am. Not in HD though, but I watched it on the BBC. The Dutch team did well (I mean, how can you not say that when they make it to the finals?), but I think they need some of the men's teams coaches and training to get to where the US is today. The other unusual thing is that soccer never was a thing, here, though popular at school and in the Hispanic communities, so the see the women take such a popular position is interesting, and good for them. Ticker tape down Broadway on Wednesday? Superb!! The world did change - a pink haired lesbian the nation's darling, and publicly telling off the realtor in the White House....

July 4, 2019: Happy Fourth, one and all!

Keywords: travel wishes, seafood, healthy food, Windows 10 Pro, Windows update, eSATA ports, USB3 ports, native interfaces
Cheap frozen fish Gosh, I'd love to travel again - the reason I am holding back is that I've got to get my move done before I do (=spend) anything else. I'm doing OK on that score, but I'll be happier once the move is done and I can top up my savings again (I hope, what with a higher rent..) and go see some relatives in Europe. Or Australia. We'll see.

The pic to the left has some seafood - I am pretty much a meat-eater - no problem with fish, but I just can't afford my favourite, sashimi, generally imbibed in restaurants. So once they built this Winco supermarket in driving distance, I discovered affordable frozen tuna (delicious raw!), and I am progressing to frozen shrimp now. Cooking on my own kitchen equipment, now that the housemates have moved, I can experiment a bit. Reason for diet changes is that I've had an unpleasant bout with constipation a couple of time, over the past six months, something I never used to have. With some medication changes, I might as well make some dietary changes, especially since some of the more expensive stuff is actually affordable at Winco. How that will pan out once I move to Seattle I don't know, that's an expensive place to shop, the cheapo supermarkets are in the suburbs, not in the city, and certainly not where the Housing Authority is planning to put me. I may end up coming up here a couple of times a month, to get cheap stocks. And I need to check Amazon's groceries, as where I will be living they deliver everything, including perishables.

The latest update to Windows 10 installs a 8GB virtual disk on your hard disk, or, at least, reserves 8GB of disk space for Microsoft. It is virtually impossible to remove or deactivate, and as it turns out, Microsoft created this "device" because many Windows 10 users had their systems go way South when updating, simply because their hard disks were more or less maxed out, and the update process didn't make sure there was enough available space for the installer code. You may recall, last year, the bad press Microsoft got for crippling tens of thousands (if not more) of Windows systems. Well, I guess this is how they fixed it. In itself not a bad idea, though you would think Microsoft would be able to have the updater check available disk space - I have more than a terabyte available, so don't need this kluge. Having said that, it is a failsafe, just a messy one. It remind me of what we used to do with systems back in the 80's - if they weren't always well behaved we'd piut some code in that rebooted them every day at midnight, done and dusted. Just don't let Microsoft tell you it has "intelligence" in its operating systems, because if it did, these types of kluges would never have had to be thought of. Honest.

I have a large (in capacity) hard disk hanging off the back off my "main" laptop, on which I back up, using a script, my main operational archives, kind off all of the files that I want to retain. That way, I can wipe a lot of drivel I don't think I need any more, without losing it altogether. The only drawback, if that is what it is, is that you need large (2TB, in practice) drives for both primary and backup, until the backup fills up, at which point I hope they make larger 2.5 inch laptop drives. There are some today, but they're thicker than normal, and prohibitively expensive. Anyway, long story short, I have port replicators for both of my laptops, and that meant I could connect the secondary drive to one of the USB3 ports. That's plenty fast, but I would have liked to connect it to the eSATA port, where it would become one of the "local" drives, directly on the computer's bus, and file transfers wouldn't have to go through the shared USB ports, which I otherwise only use for a graphics adapter. Only today did I think to check the port replicator, and sure enough, there is a secondary eSATA port on there! How stupid am I? Anyway, that lets me connect, using a special cable, the hard drive directly to the bus, and power it from a USB port, which makes it pretty fast (3GB/sec), not a "secondary" device, and located out of the way behind the port device.

June 23, 2019: Things can be fixed, it seems

Keywords: HP Elitebook, air conditioning, heat pump, Intel CPU, plastics, recycling
operational heat pump Go back to where plastics took off, coffee filters, plastic foil, plastic bottles, and you should soon come to the conclusion that we might have solved the waste problem then, but certainly can't do so now. The wholesale production of plastic products effectively was triggered by WWII, when the volumes of war machines and utensils caused engineering solutions that enabled mass production. Recent reporting has shown that a large volume of plastic waste in the oceans dates back to the 1950's and 1960's, and does not decay. While I'll admit the problem is only getting larger, none of the "solutions" being bandied about do anything to remove the existing waste, and I personally do not believe efforts to reduce waste production have much effect, as the majority of the earth's population can't afford to switch the cheap materials we've addicted them to. In the tropics, people can now drink healthy water because it has been pasteurized, and remains so in the plastic bottle, and in the tropics, nobody is going to walk in the stifling heat to return empty bottles to the store, when kids on mopeds deliver the bottles to the consumers (and don't get paid, and can't afford the gas, to take back the empties). We're talking about kids who buy their gasoline by the half liter, as they need it.

As I apparently can swap the CPU on both of my HP laptops, I decided, as I need to dismantle the heat sink to replace the thermal paste anyway, to replace the Intel i5 CPU in my 2560p Elitebook with a faster (2.7/3.4GHz) i7 with a larger cache, which HP lists as compatible. Strictly necessary it ain't, but I can learn from it, and as the 2560 sometimes runs very hot when recording HD broadcast video, the combination of a faster processor with fresh thermal compound my have a benefit. It's been a very long time since I last replaced a CPU, so good practice, and I've replaced everything else that is replaceable and may affect performance, such as hard disk memory and cooling fan. The disk in the 2560p is now a Seagate Hybrid, i.e., a combination silicon / platter based drive, which works very well. A "true" SDD might make the 2560 run faster still, but as I discovered with my other laptop, a silicon hard disk can run much hotter than a conventional disk. As the 2560 isn't essential to my daily operations, it is worth running that experiment. If it works OK, I may do the same to the 2570.

I've finally figured out there's nothing wrong with either of my heatpumps. I bought them both reconditioned, but the first one I bought was not always kicking in its heating cycle, or so I thought, especially when the second one I bought did better. Turns out the two (otherwise identical) heat pumps have different firmware, and so function differently. The "original" if you will, needs to run a double cycle to reset from cooling to heating, the newer one does not, but they both work fine. It was, mostly, me being impatient, and not letting it simply complete its cycle. Duh. At least I won't have to get another, as I had been worrying. Amazing units, if a bit noisy, but cheap to run, and powerful.

June 15, 2019: Tools and Utilities

Keywords: Windows 10 Pro, HP Elitebook, Roomba, Pyle USA, robotic vacuum, SSD, air conditioning
So if you take out an auto policy with the Hartford, you won't get dropped if you have an accident, and as you are required to be an AARP member, they will help you enroll. Well, uh, insurers don't normally drop you if you have an accident, unless you did something really bad, they only raise your rate. And I don't hear anything in there that says "We save you money" - because the AARP has a membership fee, and in the few years I had a membership, there wasn't anything the AARP offers that benefits me. It's just an organization that sells your information to other companies, which then try to sell other things to you. So no Hartford for me...

Pyle USA Robovac Back in my large house in Virginia, I used to have Roombas to help me vacuum, in addition to a regular vacuum cleaner for the more intense work. Now that I am heading for an apartment, I thought something like that might be a good idea, but when I looked at the prices I had second thoughts. Reading reviews, I noticed that even a $1,000(!!) Roomba still has the same problems they always did - the rotating brushes get clogged easily, need endless cleaning, and you really can't run these things unattended, because they will occasionally get stuck, and, AI or not, they're not sufficiently intelligent to figure out how to liberate themselves, so the "unattended" vac job isn't. The more complicated (read: expen$ive) Roombas and like contraptions tend to clog themselves up by sucking dust and hair and particles through their mechanisms and bearings, the end result being you have to spend hours cleaning the self same mechanisms. So: I decided to stick with simple, stupid. I've ended up with a refurbished Pyle robotic vacuum without the horizontal rotating brush - it just rotates two side brushes, and quite powerfully sucks air through a filter bin with a fine maze, that does not clog, and that air then cools the batteries on its way out. Its dust- and small particle uptake is pretty amazing. It runs for an hour, uses various different rotations, and takes four hours to charge. Refurbished, these units looked and behaved brand new, came with spare filters and side brushes, and at $46, I bought two. That gives me a double set of spares, an extra battery, an extra dust receptacle, and a spare unit. If you ever come across something you need, and find it cheap and refurbished (like a vacuum, or an espresso maker), buy two. There is nothing worse than an appliance you bought in the sale, that breaks, and then you find out a replacement is going to set you back four times as much. Same with my two heat pumps - found one refurbished, for some 40% off, tested, quickly bought another. Many of these refurbished things are actually new, and were returned by a buyer who never used them. If they're damaged, you can always (at least with Ebay and Amazon) return them for refund.

Done. All three PCs / laptops updated with Windows 10's latest - because of the number of updates triggered by the update, and the slow speed with which this all happens, my old Vaio took some six hours to do - this after turning off all boot security, passwords, screen savers, what have you, because if you don't do that
a) the update will fail; or
b) you have to sit there to manage the repeated boots
Turn it all off and it takes care of itself, and at the end of the road all you have to do is to put your settings back. As I mentioned earlier, doing this install from disk, which involves burning a DVD using an ISO file Microsoft makes available, using an application, works fine, I am just amazed I have had to do that for at least three years, as, in my case, the online "big" update always fails, without any indication why.

Speaking of updating, I discovered the other day that SSD's, solid state drives, run significantly hotter than do conventional or even hybrid drives. One commenter mentioned a large disk transfer failed due to over-temperature, and while cloning my "old" drive to the SSD I noticed that my SSD was pretty much cooking, like close to 80 degrees centigrade. So while the cloning software says you can use your system during the cloning process, you may be better off not to. My two SSD's (ADATA and Intel) both came with management software, so I was able to keep an eye on things. As you never know where the threshold is, better be safe than sorry.

In the interim, the hot weather has subsided, so I now have an opportunity to test my heat pumps, in that I have turned off the gas central heating, and am heating the entire house with two 14K BTU portable heat pumps. I had really never had a chance to test the heating cycle, as I had been sharing this house until the beginning of the year, but being on my own, until my Seattle apartment becomes available, I have started preparing for apartment life. The builders have finished the indoors stuff they started on when my landlord and his wife moved out, so I have a chance to do more preparing, having packed much of my gear in the past month, ready to roll. There were some household things I needed to buy and/or unpack and test, as my landlord took (by agreement, I needed to buy this stuff anyway) his kitchen things, cutlery, pots, pans, stuff, so I have had some (planned for) expenditures, from a vacuum cleaner to additional vents for the heat pumps, and I managed to get some cheap 20 gallon storage totes at Home Depot, as I was shopping for those an entire pallet of half-off leftovers with lids came in, so I was able to snarf five, rather than the four I had budget for. With two large sea chests with wheels, and a bunch of large boxes, I have (I hope...) more storage than I need, for the move, having packed three quarters of my stuff already. I don't know I've ever been ready this early for a move - did pretty good when I moved from Amsterdam to London, but then I had help.

June 5, 2019: Windows and Blu-Ray

Keywords: Windows 10 Pro, Blu-Ray, HP Elitebook, ISO DVD, heat sink paste, CPU temperature
Windows decided to do its big annual Windows 10 update something like seconds after I finished installing the BD drive I tell you about below, and as has been the case the past three or four years(!), the online update fails. In this case there was no error message, not even an announcement, and when I ran the troubleshooter the error code was not listed at Microsoft, and there wasn't an error found anyway. As I had done the previous times, I had to run the Media Creation Tool, an offline update tool, create an ISO file (which makes a bootable disk able to do a "clean" install), put that on a DVD (so the new BD drive came in handy, I'd had to use an external drive before), and then run it from the Windows desktop. As has been the case before, I needed to tell the installer not to run any online updates before the install, and off it went, for an hour or so. I've just finished reversing the various settings Windows changed, mostly "new" functions that get turned on to help Microsoft collect data, and I just noticed the updates to the update completed too, so now I have to abort my backup and reboot the machine. At least I have the ISO disk, so I can do my other PCs manually. And it is working, I guess, hopefully that will still be the case with the "update updates". Finish the backup tomorrow.

One additional laptop repair I had postponed was a non-working internal CD/DVD writer, which I was not sure was broken. I couldn't boot from it, but there were no errors, and the Windows troubleshooter couldn't figure it out. So I gambled, and ordered a Blu-Ray drive from China, as I had been having a hard time playing Blu-Ray disks with one of my external BD drives - writing went fine. I guess I got lucky, because other than a struggle with transplanting the bezel, which is laptop model specific, the drive went right in, one screw and a bracket and Bob's your uncle. After traipsing through my Videolan install, and reinstalling all Blu-Ray libraries, my test movies (Ender's Game and Wallace & Grommit) ran like the clappers. Brilliant. The drive cost $76, and even though the Chinese said it would take four weeks or so, it only took a week. There were several cheaper offers on Ebay, but this was the only that specifically mentioned compatibility with the Elitebook 2570p, which I thought was the safest way to go. I don't use the BD/DVD/CD drive that much, but to have it to boot from if I have to recover a disk or OS failure is a boon. Windows is, by now copy protected to the point that I've even had a restore fail, because the recovery software didn't recognize all drives...

Having replaced the fans in both laptops, and installed an SSD in my "main machine", all I need to do now is replace the CPU heat sink paste, which helps transfer heat to the cooling system. I came across a mention on Youtube - didn't even know you could do that, kinda makes sense that that would break down over time, especially in a small fast laptop, which, with the new fast SSD, is really clocking up the cycles. Live and learn. As I understand I need to completely remove the old paste, then apply fresh, etc, I think I'll try this on the 2560p first, which is essentially my spare, which I can fix if I screw up.

May 28, 2019: Spring into life

Keywords: stomach trouble, Seattle Housing Authority, Car2Go, Theresa May, Brexit, child abuse
(Unusually) felled by a stomach bug for a week, it looks like I would do well to review my diet, and change my eating habits. It looks like I eliminated so much "bad" stuff from my diet - sugar, fat, processed meats, processed mixed oils, yada - that I ended up with an abundance of other bad stuff. I have no real idea why my tummy acted up, but it's the second time this year, and my bi-annual blood tests were all clean, so it is unlikely it's a "real condition". So I'll try the light stuff, probiotics, white bread, eliminate the meat and beans, white chicken maybe, see how we do. I had originally intended to go back to the gym as of today, not having worked out since May 18, but I think I'll start with a couple of days walking instead, before restarting gym visits. Ease back in, so to speak, lost about six pounds, which doesn't make me unhappy. Maybe I can keep the weight below 190, with the new diet.

House in flux The Housing Authority is truly in motion - after my April intake interview, last week they pulled my credit report, and a few days ago called my landlord for a reference. I don't know why that makes me anxious, I've cleaned up my credit report to perfection, and things are hunky-dory with my landlord and -lady, especially since they recently moved to their other home, and I am more or less living in a construction zone - which I don't mind. At least the place won't get burgled, which happens frequently in empty homes being refurbished. Anyway, wheels in motion - and friends and neighbours all comment that the Seattle neighbourhood I'll be living is a wonderful upscale safe area. When I submitted my choices for residence to SHA I predominantly concentrated on being able to grab Car2Go vehicles in walking distance - this will enable me to eventually let go of my SUV, not replace it, and save money, the car costs me (including the original 2006 purchase) some $300 per month, and using Car2Go there won't be any "base charges", so hopefully it'll be cheaper, and I will have more cost control. The apartment will make my monthly cost go up, so I need to save all I can.

I think Theresa May should have know several cycles ago her Brexit deal was never going to happen - it seems to be generally forgotten May was chosen as PM, she was never elected. And if you're not elected, you don't have that voter support mechanism. When I saw her fly back and forth to Brussels, month after month, it became clear she is not of this era, she doesn't negotiate using her smartphone and Skype, instead wasting millions of pounds on totally unnecessary travel and dinner meetings and endless security. In the business world, we started using new communication technologies twenty-five years ago, to replace meetings and travel - Mrs. May, clearly, is a dinosaur, and thus never stood a chance. She, sadly, can't claim to have "served the country I love" - she brought the place to an almost complete standstill in just a few years. The delay itself will be very very costly, not to speak of the consequences.

By the way, I just noticed folks in New York with billboards that state "It's a parent's right to choose" - it really is not. A parent does not own their child, to do with as they wish. Just because you have some weird idea about vaccines, does not mean you are at liberty to disable or kill your child! Yourself, arguably, but a child is not property, it is not a pet, and if your not a medical scientist you are not qualified to draw medical conclusions, any more than you can approve construction drawings for a house. It is a hot button item, parents generally seem to think they can inflict their religion on their kids too, it is an issue. Perhaps we should make "parental rights" something parents need to earn, as their parenting skills are tested and assessed. Inflicting measles and mumps on innocent children should never have been part of the permissions.

May 20, 2019: Improving vi$ion and $peed

Keywords: contact lenses, daily wear, Bitlocker, SSD, silicon drive, move, packing, eye inflammation, immune system
After months of trying different contact lenses, multiple optometrist visits, comments from my rheumatologist (the condition I have can effect some soft tissue, like heart valves and eyes), and finally a visit to the ophtalmologist, the verdict is in: no more extended wear lenses. I think I've been wearing those since the 1980s, and interestingly, it's been the insides of my eyelids (first one, then the other) that no longer tolerate the continuous wear well - the eyeball itself is not affected. So now I have to get used to daily wear lenses, which is an entirely different "experience" - after some testing, I've stopped for several weeks, and now have my first "full" order of "dailies". I think it may well take a month for my eyes to settle down to different vision correction, not to mention non-continuous wear.Bausch & Lomb My new lenses - a Bausch & Lomb product called "Biotrue" - are thinner and more flexible than my extended wear lenses, so I hardly notice them. I tried Acuvue lenses first, but they were so thin and "floppy" I had difficulty putting them in, which is not good from a hygiene perspecitive, a lens coming back out and having to be re-inserted. So I am glad I tried various different brands, before settling on the Bausch & Lomb variety. Rather than test with a few weeks of my optometrist's samples, I've actually bought a 90 day supply, if after a month or so they don't "work right", I'll head back to the optometrist, and try something different.

I have more or less finished packing for my move, insofar as I can, without having a date, the rest should be done in a day or so, as and when, plenty of empty chests and boxes. When I do get an apartment, I'll need to wait for furniture to arrive - I've got the wish lists all set up, so all I need to do is pull the trigger, order internet, and put in the alarm system.

I've plucked up the courage to Bitlocker encrypt my boot drive on the Elitebook - the 2TB ADATA Solid State Disk (SSD) I put in (see March 5, below) works amazingly well, and while backing up, this morning, using Windows' image backup tool, I found it transferred 400GB or so in under ten minutes - unheard of, that normally takes 30 minutes to an hour from a regular hard disk, but this is something else. And so I thought I might as well set that up for Bitlocker, a Microsoft encryption tool I have been using on my Toshiba with Intel SSD boot drive for a year or so. Never a problem, so why not, I thought, and it is running now. Scary shit, on your main machine... the only problem is that the SSD is running hot, so I've had to stop using the laptop for other things, I was streaming video, and the drive reported a temperature of 68 degrees Celsius, when the specs state 70 is the max. 2TB of silicon is a lot to reformat, and the cooling inside the laptop is primarily controlled by the CPU temperature, I don't know if a hot running disk will crank up the fan. There is, after all, a lot of processing power going on in that small footprint. Stopping the video stream helped, it is down to 60 degrees, better be careful, after all, this is silicon, therefore really fast, and 2TB is a lot of cells.

Not that bad - it took about six hours to encrypt the entire 2TB drive, and - at least on this HP Elitebook with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, boot and run are completely transparent, the system logs itself in. Is the added security that important? Probably not, although it is nice to know nobody can now ever access my financial and other confidential data, but I wanted to see how well Bitlocker works, on a large solid state disk, and what the effect on processing power is. I guess my next backup will tell me how good or bad Bitlocker is. Important is not to use a third party application, but something Microsoft has built into Windows, and therefore will likely continue to support for a long time. My nightmare is always that a vendor stops doing what they're doing, or goes belly-up, and you terrific tool is no longer supported, or worse, stops working. It's happened.. Microsoft's lawyers know you really can't stop providing a service that has been integrated into your main product. I did not want to add processing load to a traditional hard disk, but with an SSD there's really no "load", in terms of electro-mechanical actions that cause additional wear, even though the read/write heads on a drive float on a cushion of gas - that still causes some friction, none of which applies to SSD electronics - so far, so good, happy.

May 4, 2019: Any day now?

Keywords: Housing Authority, HP Elitebook, computer maintenance, CPU cooling fans,moving
Quicker than I expected, my next Housing interview was called, mostly consisting of Federal questionnaires, and bank statement review, as HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) subsidized housing requires. While that does not in any way give me a timeframe, I received an apartment building assignation during the same interview, something I had not expected yet, especially since the preceding presentation had it that wouuldn't be until later!? Don't look a gift horse in the mouth - it would be wonderful if that means my apartment will be granted soon, though I do understand discrimination rules prevent SHA from making prognoses. At least this is a seniors development, which means I can't get pipped at the post by a family of refugees - no such thing in senior developments. So I probably should relax and count my lucky stars. One bedroom, too, so that's brilliant.

In the meantime, I have largely finished making packing preparations - partly, I've packed the clothes I don't really need, secondly, I'd brought out the suitcases and storage boxes and plastic totes I either already had, or just bought, been lucky with those things. What's been packed has been labeled, and I bought another two travel chests, as the three I have are pretty much full up. Only for one heatpump I have no packing material, so that will have to come "as is", wrapped in blankets. I am still using that as auxiliary heating, anyway.

At the same time, I am doing some computer maintenance - after replacing the hard drive in my fastest laptop, the fan began to make noises during startup, so I ended up ordering a replacement fan from China, as I was not in a rush, and they were cheap - $8.70 for an OEM fan. That works great, and now I am, after moving the load on my big (2TB) disks from the regular drive to a hybrid drive, doing a full wipe on the original laptop drive, and am now cloning the SSD load to that drive, as a backup. Seagate lets you do that, if one of the two drives connected to your PC is a Seagate product, you can install and use their (free!) Discwizard, which contains Acronis cloning software. Once cloned, should anything happen with your installed drive, you can install the clone and boot from it, and it will have the same Windows key your original installation did. I am still fussy about the SSD, as I have had some bad experiences with them - one reason why I replaced the fan, and keep an eye on the internal temperature.

I am just hoping I can keep those two HP notebooks going through my move, because I am spending a fair amount of money to prepare for the apartment, and if I need to replace one of my laptops it'll be more than I can afford. From the look of it, my future rent will be at the top end of what I can handle - though I was told they may take my significant medical expenses into account - and anything I hadn't budgeted for is going to be a problem. All it needs is a small mistake.. I can see my savings shrink already - that's OK, that is what they're for, but it just makes me nervous, if you know what I mean.

April 17, 2019: World in turmoil, kinda sorta

Keywords: Notre Dame, Assange, packing
There are just a couple of things I don't understand about Julian Assange. First of all, a number of his supporters and "friends" signed on for his bail money. When he failed bail, the judge eventually made those folks forfeit a total of £93,500. I've never heard a word about this, apparently this is OK for him to do? And secondly, however strongly someone may feel about their principles, isn't it a bit insane to lock yourself in an apartment in Knightsbridge for seven years? Even if he had been summarily extradited to the United States, which wasn't all that likely, he'd probably have spent seven years in jail there. The only difference would have been that he'd not have had a cat in a Federal Penitentiary. To me, this man is an egomaniac on a path to self destruction. Manning served her time, Snowden buried himself in Russia, and this guy now bit the hand that fed him - hard. No, you can't publish stolen documents and think you'll get away with it. Americans, in particular, stay on your ass when you wrong them - forever, if that is what it takes.

Although I've not even had my final housing interview yet, I have - hesitatingly - started packing. And in the process, I realize I brought a lot of clothes up here from Virginia that I don't really need. Apart from anything else, quite a few no longer fit, and additional to that, I am unlikely to get a new position in the corporate world, where, especially in the Seattle area, the clothes I used on Wall Street and in the Government environment aren't en vogue, up here. So, with some trepidation, I have started sorting them out, and will, tomorrow, get the first batch over to a thrift store, thankfully I am not having to get rid of all of my suits. Funny, though, thinking why I hung on to this stuff for so many years, probably a "what if" thing stuck in my craw from the corporate East Coast. Off with it..

Watching my early morning (US time) BBC news, I suddenly saw a flash of the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris on fire. That's bad, I thought, but not until an hour later did I see announcements flashing up here-and-there, and soon realized that the cathedral was well and truly on fire. Calling my sister, who used to live in Paris, we commiserated, and I found it hard to believe the fire got (clearly) out of hand so quickly. Some of that damage is irrepairable, seeing the photography this morning it is pretty amazing the entire thing didn't collapse. I was there many years ago, but am glad I've at least seen it the way it's been, the past couple of centuries. In hindsight, the fire service have done an amazing job, but I think in future just relying on alerter technology is not enough.
The time machine through April 16, 2019, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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