OpInionAteD - Menno Aartsen Rants and Raves - September 16, 2021


Menno E Aartsen © September 2021. Legalese at the bottom of this page. This website is published in Singapore.

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Résumé - Patents & Papers - 9/11 - Old Stuff - Mail

Thursday September 16: 9/11 & PTSD

Keywords: power washer, Paxcell, PTSD, 9/11, late summer, FedEx, Taltz
Paxcell power washer I am not sure why I can, after all these years, still not watch the 9/11 programs and documentaries that are lighting up the media, but there it is. I would assume PTSD has an underlying long term component I was not aware of - yes, before you ask, I was officially diagnosed after "being there" and spending eight months heading recovery teams both in NYC and Arlington, VA - my 9/11 blog is linked at the top of this page. Especially seeing the prominent George Bush - "George W. President" - commercialization of BBC coverage is jarring to me. Not for nothing folks drove around Washington D.C. with Texas number plates and "No More Bushit" stickers, at the end of his presidency. Mind you, this was before we got this Trump fella - at least we got wise and ran him out of town.

The pressure washer you see to the left is a Godsend. It was on sale at Amazon ($64.99), and reading the reviews of the various models Paxcess offers, I simply bought the cheapest, not expecting magic, but it was all I could afford. I had noticed my SUV was getting very dirty - I used to clean the entire thing, including brakes, baseplate, transmission, engine and radiator, with my German pressure washer back in Lynnwood and back in Fredericksburg, but that unit ran on 250VAC, which isn't available to me here. Much to my surprise the Paxcess unit is quite powerful - I've tested it on the sidewalk but not yet washed the car - and as you can see I managed to store the unit and cords and hoses and paraphernalia in an old unused suitcase, bought in Chennai, if I remember. I don't have a lot of storage space, but like this I didn't use any. I've no idea how "hardy" the washer is, but as I don't need it very much, I really am not too worried, and it really works well and is more powerful than I expected. Time will tell..

While the hot part of summer is pretty much over, there still is plenty of nice weather and sun. I am just frustrated I cannot combine the gym with walking, I can still tell I have a latent shoulder injury. My back is not improving either, cleaning my toilet and bathroom, yesterday, was quite painful, and I guess that is just the combination of my arthritis and age.

I am not certain I should get a third COVID-19 jab, at least not until a doctor tells me so. I don't even know if they are available yet, here in King County, I have not seen any public service announcements from the State of Washington. At any rate, today I am waiting for FedEx to deliver medication - refrigerated injections in a cooler, something they do every month. Frustrating, because I don't have an announcement that says when they're coming. I the olden days, delivery of an overnight parcel happened before 10am, these days, sometime before 8pm, so you're stuck at home. They won't deliver if you're not home, this stuff is major expensive, and it can't sit around and lose it's "cool".

Monday September 6, 2021: It hurts

Keywords: A/C, heat pumps, pandemic, rotator cuff, gym, LA Fitness, Magnolia, wildfires
Magnolia sushi Seattle summer continues, with smoke added from the ubiquitous wildfires, though here on the almost-island of Magnolia, close to the waterfront, there isn't as much smoke as I was used to in Lynnwood, which is in the "convergence zone", where weather phenomena get stuck between the mountain ridges. Here, we're on the waterfront, and weather "moves through" expeditiously. Even though the news has reported haze all over the Seattle area, this morning, Magnolia started with an almost clean sky, and by now (late afternoon) there's sun all over. The heat is up to 80 degrees or so, I've not actually bothered walking today, though I do most days. I am very happy being able to go to the gym again, must say, and especially in the high heat (and later, in the cold) that's a godsend. And no, no particular reason for the picture, I just like the locally made sushi in the supermarket across the street, which I eat with spicy Indonesian sweet soy sauce.

Going back to the gym, I am paying the price, in having a shoulder rotator cuff injury, either because of the workout, or the subsequent unpacking and storage of a new pressure washer I decided I needed to keep my car clean, all in the same day. It is very painful at night, when I can't position my shoulders and back in a painfree way. I hadn't worked out my shoulder joints for a long time, due to the pandemic and not being able to go to the gym, and I guess I've got, now that the gym is "back on", to where I overdid the lifting. I recall getting this same injury when I was moving my stuff when I got my apartment, and I guess I just need to start being careful with my aging shoulder joints.

To finish off my forever A/C tale, the heat pumps are doing very well, but in this heat a single 14K BTU unit won't keep you cool, if used to cool an entire one bedroom with kitchen and bathroom in a "warm" building. Two units (which is what I have) do just fine, between them - obviously, that means keeping the bedroom door open, and as I am not there during the day, I can have that unit on high circulation. It is a "trial" I hadn't been able to do before, but the combined 28K does magic, even through what would be a real heatwave anywhere (I turn the bedroom unit off during the night, it would be too noisy, close to my bed as it is). What you do want to do, in summer, is run the A/C 24/7, and use the relative cool overnight to crank up the cooling more than you need during the day. Overnight, your apartment's infrastructure, furniture, "stuff", can soak up the cool if you program the units that way, and they can get rid, efficiently, of the accumulated humidity. It is generally not well understood that part of the "perceived" heat, in summer, is actually humidity, rather than heat calories. If you don't crank up your unit(s) overnight, the humidity will cause discomfort, your body can't sweat as effectively, and more humidity "seeps in" during the day.

Thursday August 5, 2021: Summer burbling along

Keywords: A/C, heat pumps, pandemic, gym, GP, COVID, LA Fitness, Ballard
What with the sudden heatwave (114 Fahrenheit is definitely over the top) I've finally had the chance of a lifetime to test my heat pump installation. I had bought the refurbished units a couple of years ago, while still living in a rented room in Lynnwood, and never had a chance to test the entire installation - I had calculated, tested and designed the setup as an engineer would, not even knowing what kind of apartment I would end up in, in Seattle, and not knowing how hot, cold, ventilated, and all that, the place would be. Neither did I know whether or not I'd have casement windows, or sliding, so I bought the accessories for a worst case scenario. I had been using savings to buy what I thought I might need, because I know that by the time a move would be afoot, I needed to make sure I had enough spare cash to do everything else that would need procuring - like furniture and things.

Long story short - the two 14,000 BTU heat pumps have no problem keeping the apartment cool, around 72, 73 degrees, without even having to draw the shades, despite the truly blistering heat. I love it, and I am truly happy my calculations were spot on, and the mounting kits fit perfectly. Happy with that, tell ya - until I came to live in the Puget Sound, I'd never (in the USA) lived anywhere that wasn't air conditioned, only to find out A/C isn't exactly ubiquitous here. It may well be that will change, what with the effects of climate change, and summer temperatures suddenly overtopping the norm by 30 to 40 degrees. That's a lot. Of course, A/C is expensive, and, traditionally, folks aren't used to paying for heating as well as cooling. Having said that, real summer heat is tiring and actually not good for one's health, and in some areas, humidity is bad for you and for your stuff. It is not well understood that a large part of summer comfort is humidity control, not so much heat control. Happy, of course, that even with the heat wave my HUD subsidy comfortably covers the cost of the energy my heat pumps use. Had not really expected that!

Hopefully my GP got it right - after seeing an urgent care physician with urination complaints, a few weeks ago, things got better, then worse, not helped by a complete lack of diagnosis, and advice to stop the antibiotic. This time, my PCP did another test, figured out what the problem was, gave me a different antibiotic, and that seems to be doing the trick. Between that and my rheumatology prescriptions, I do get confused, it is increasingly hard to track the side effects of the various medications - I've actually stopped one of my immuno-suppressant medications, as I got fed up having to change the dosage because of the liver impact. Without it, it is easier to track what does what. Fingers crossed.

Having said that, my PCP has opined I can go to the gym again, after more than a year, couple times a week, for now. I am in heaven, missed the workouts, and there is an LA Fitness (where I have a permanent membership) five minutes from my building. To check if my Silver Sneakers membership is valid in this fancy Ballard gym, I dropped by there yesterday, and it is. And it is fancy too, more so than the LA Fitness I used to go to in Lynnwood. So that is mega cool, I can go to the gym, and then do my bi-weekly run to the huge Fred Meyer where I get my groceries, which is three minutes from the gym. Actually, I can just drop the car at Fred Meyer, and then walk back to the gym. Teehee!

I can only apologize for my infrequent posting here. There is little going on, and with Covid-19 an ongoing concern I really am not gallivanting about. What with my return to the gym, that may change, though, we'll see. I realized only recently that my uptick in alcohol consumption, which my doctors are chiding me about, may well be because I have not had the gym and its attnedant socializing - not a lot one could do, and once I finished moving, unpacking, and redecorating, I kind of came to a standstill.

Saturday June 26, 2021: The Heat is On!!

Keywords: A/C, heat pumps, pandemic, gym, climate change, copay, prescription medication
Having finished the last of the unpacking, I find myself in the strange situation I have, after more than a year moving in and decorating and furnishing and stuff, nothing much left to do. Nothing left to do with respect to my apartment, any repairs and re-arrangements I've done in between other activities, but there really is nothing left to finish. And yes, top right, that's me, out front, in the summer heat, after my latest haircut. Still go up to my Edmonds hairdressers, ever since I lived in Lynnwood, but then I don't have to go there that often - besides, my optometrist and dentist and GP are all still up there, too.

Because of the pandemic, there wasn't much I could do anyway - no travel to speak of, no gym, no reconnoitering the neigbourhood, and until last week I had, bit by bit, tidied up everything I own, in the fairly copious amount of storage space this apartment came with. A not unpleasant surprise, lots of cupboards and nooks and crannies, and some clever organizing on my part - for instance, I ended up with a huge amount of storage space underneath my California King bed frame, about a third of which I've not had to use. Same with the storage space in my travel chests, a combination of clever packing and really throwing things out I really do not need gave me some spare space there, as well. Listing what's where helped too - you know how you spend days looking for something you need, and once you've found it "leaving it handy"? Stopped doing that too, bad habit from when I lived in a 3 bedroom "mansion" in Virginia.

Much to my delight, I am finally able to properly assess the functionality of my heat pumps - Western Washington is going through a heat wave, to the point that the local government is taking all manner of special provisions to ensure the safety and health of the citizen. While the community room in my building has been closed since March of last year, due to COVID-19, it's been opened as of today, complete with the A/C running, so tenants have a place to cool down. Many have no A/C (not unusual in these parts, only around 30% of households have A/C, unusual to see for an East Coaster like myself, in New York State and Virginia A/C is kind of ubiquitous.

Anyway, temperatures are approaching 100 (some 38 Centipedes), unusual for the Puget Sound, but global warming is affecting our climate too. So I am happy to report that my two 14K heat pumps have no problem keeping me cool at all, first time I've really been able to properly test them, they are, so far, barely breaking a sweat. Happy with that, I can tell you. I've just given them their three month maintenance, fresh filters and all that, all hunky-dory. The filters, finely mazed woven filters I found at Amazon, have a layer of sticky material on one side, which helps in catching bacteria and dust particles in ways "regular" filters can't. A normal filter can catch particles, but the sticky stuff can "hold" particles that would blow through a normal filter.

All in all, my living is pretty much under control, much to my surprise, my finances have not taken a bad hit. I expected the increase in medical expenses, especially the biologic copay, to have hurt my savings, but so far, I think I am escaping "by the skin", so to speak. Consider that I used to get a $20 copay with my previous biologic - by the end of last year, that was up to $160 (on a total real $$s cost of around $11,000 per 90 days, which is a totally staggering number). I managed to find another drug that reduced the copay to $120 per ninety days, but that is, combined with all of my other medical expenses, still a good chunk of my ready cash. Not that I have a choice.. Curiously, arthritis medication seems to increasingly get intertwined with psoriasis treatment, and I really don't know how that happened. Yes, I had a mild form of psoriasis a long time ago, and that kind of morphed into psoriatic arthritis, and that somehow is, today, merged with ankylosing spondilitis. And if you look at the various biologics available, they are, more often than not, prescribed to treat both, or either, but I really have not seen a scientific underpinning of that "merger". Curious. Seems to work, though...

Monday May 24, 2021: Really finished this time

Keywords: spring, A/C, hotspot failure, unpacked, COVID jabs, loosening up
April 11 is when the A/C came on - or rather, when I switched my heat pumps from heating to cooling. Outside temperatures, here in Seattle, have been rising into the seventies, and I guess summer is getting closer.

Annoyingly, my internet provider didn't charge my credit card, partly my fault, as I didn't want them to auto-charge, so now my Hotspot service is out, until they restart the service, now that I have settled all of the unwitting arrears. I should have called them when I didn't see charges, but I kinda sorta forgot. Kudos - they did sort it out, but that took the better part of a week. And as of yesterday, the auto-charge is working, so that will not happen again.

In the interim, the Seattle Housing Authority did their annual apartment inspection (they skipped last year's, due to the pandemic), which I passed with flying colours. The interesting thing was that, like many people, I had never quite finished moving, as in, there are always a few packed boxes you don't get around to. After SHA announced the impending check, however, I spent much of a weekend finishing the last of the boxes, and much to my surprise, I am now fully unpacked and sorted without having to buy additional furniture, like shelving and/or cabinets. I had not expected that, but the place is indescribably tidy, dare-I-say-it, finished. Even in the kitchen, everything is incredibly tidy, especially as I have managed to throw everything out I did not need.

Anyway, I hear my sister now has had her first COVID jab, must say the USA has been more aggressive with its approach, got mine on January 26, Sis got hers on April 17. And the problem seems to be many folks don't get jabs, and many folks won't get their second shot, and it is totally unclear why they don't. Speculation is rife, but nobody in the press seems to have found folks to talk to willing to give 'em the lowdown. Something that is abundantly clear is that now that we no longer see these vast numbers of dead, folks seem to have less of a concern, we got used to the thing, so to speak. That may well be, but there are still large numbers of infected patients, and many of those still die, and mitigating that risk is really important. It reminds me of the populist attack on the Capitol, which is possibly the weirdest thing I've ever witnessed in the civilized word. In some ways, you could refer to it as domestic terrorism, but to this day we do not know what the trigger was - the trigger that sent people that far over the edge. And the truly scary thing is that we've only managed to apprehend relatively few of the attackers, and that means there isn't a good view of the organization and its aims, and that means this is simply going to happen again, the second a Trump-like lunatic with a Twitter account takes the helm. Scary stuff, people.

Folks are beginning to loosen up - one of my neighbours threw a small party for a birthday neighbour, the other day, inviting several others, including me, properly spaced in her well aired apartment, and we'd all had both our shots. I though that was wonderful and courageous of her, first time she'd had company in well over a year. Others are not as cautious, reason why most of us continue the masks and gloves and social spacing around the building. If you need an example of the COVID dangers, and aren't convinced, all you need to do is look at the statistics coming out of India, where the pandemic "explosion" is now so bad the country is running out of beds, oxygen and specialist medication. Why now and not soonder is anybody's guess, but please convince yourself it is not for nothing that the United States, Britain, France and Germany are sending dozens of fully loaded transport planes to India. The problem is, of course, that India is one of the most populous countries on the planet, and if the infection rate continues there won't be any country with sufficient resources to help, with the exception of China, perhaps, if the Chinese and the Indians suddenly decide they're friends again.

Monday April 12, 2021: Spring has Sprung

Keywords: COVID-19, spring, apartment, Fire Department medical, Spring Break, herd immunity, vaccine deniers, flu absence
cherry tree What with the weather improving I am able to spend more time on my daily walks - despite my vaccinations my doctors still don't think going to the gym is a good idea. Thankfully, weight and other health factors are well under control, so I cannot complain. On top of that, I've managed to spend more time on the apartment - funny, how clearing up and re-organizing goes in fits and spurts, I keep finding things I really don't need, should have chucked aeons ago, and am only getting around to now. More and more space, then, in this small apartment - it's actualy not that small, it all depends on how much I clutter it up. I see other folks in the building try and emulate a family space, with settees, side tables and things, and the one bedroom apartments that most of us have just aren't very suited to that. Especially since I insisted on a California King bed, there's not much space left in the bedroom, so the living room is all I am left to work with. Still, it is bigger and better than my studio in Manhattan, and cheaper, too.

The Seattle Housing Authority made arrangements for all tenants in its seniors buildings to be vaccinated, assisted by the Seattle Fire Department (which has a medical unit), but when they did the second round, earlier in the week, I saw several neighbours in line who had said they'd been inoculated. Apparently not... but at least they're "getting it" now. And several foks had brought in close relatives, this to facilitate family visits. Clever, that, they had previously included carers, as well. All in all, when I see how other countries and areas are getting on, I can only compliment that State of Washington, even though our infection percentages are going up again. My guess is the loosening of restrictions is what causes the COVID increase, Governor Inslee trying to balance caution with a measure of rule relaxation. Kids going away on Spring Break and people generally traveling more doesn't help either, I am sure.

Clear is that we're now dependent on the herd immunity thing happening - the number of people unwilling to accept vaccination is simply too great, if I look at the statistics. Something like half the U.S. military isn't interested in getting the shots, and as we've seen around the Capitol attacks, a lot of other people aren't either - it is hard to believe so many people don't believe COVID-19 is real, I guess we could have known, there are lots of people who don't believe in the flu, either, or in the necessity to protect against measles. The mind boggles. All of those lethal diseases are well documented in scientific documentation, polio comes to mind, and we've all got some form of internet. It is interesting that in many Western countries, between face masks and socila distancing, there have, during the pandemic, been no clinically documented flu deaths. As in, ZERO. You'd think the deniers would pay attention, wouldn't you?

At any rate, I need to spend a bit more time blogging, as you can see "up top" I've done a fresh selfie, and the shot with the Japanese cherry trees isn't bad either. Still behind on the car stuff, but as the sun is out, and the weather is amazing, I think I'll get to that shortly. I was worried about my finances, I've been on the edge, and I still need to somehow get the Dutch tax office to stop withholding income tax from my state pension, as I am tax liable in the USA, and have been for many years. But generally, my savings are sort of doing OK, now that the down stocks are going up again, after a dismal year. I don't need to get rich overnight, don't get me wrong, but if I can just maintain my level of savings I'd be happy. This year, so far, so good, it was scary for a while.

Thursday February 25, 2021: My second shot

Keywords: COVID-19, Boeing campus, Everett, after-effects, vaccine, second inoculation, vaccine distribution
Hopefully, I'll get my second COVID vaccination tomorrow - slightly alarmed by the amount of news that has it vaccines are delayed nationwide, due to the snow storms that have been messing up half the country. I've not had a cancellation from my provider, though, so perhaps all is well. Hopefully, the announcement that COVID took half a million (!) American lives in a year - that's equivalent to the entire population of Atlanta, GA - has convinced at least some of those non-believers that COVID is real, it's not "a flu". Not that influenza does not kill people, but not on this scale. Statistics both from Israel and from the United Kingdom indicate vaccination helps, and saves lives.

Cool. Thanks (I assume) largely to Boeing, vaccine supplies for both shots were "on hand", and there were plenty of volunteers, in a no fuss no waiting setting on the Boeing campus. Both appointments were kept and perfectly on time - my first shot was at Paine Field, in the middle of the Boeing factory, today the second shot clinic was at Boeing's Gymnasium, which has likely been closed during the pandemic (Paine Field, technically now a Snohomish County airfield, was mostly closed as well). I hear from some neighbours their King County appointments were canceled due to vaccine deliveries being late, due to the winter storms down South. Here, incredibly smooth (although it takes me 45 minutes to drive up there, but who cares), parking lot fully staffed, a lot of security, ten minute wait in the gymnasium, kind and helpful Red Cross volunteers, shot, and a fifteen minute health check wait before driving home. Both shots done, I can't tell you how happy that makes me, and thanks to Boeing, Red Cross, and Snohomish County. It was worth the drive, besides, it is good for the car and the battery to occasionally take a long drive.

One day later, I wasn't feeling that well - in the morning I had the same chills I had after my first COVID shot, I ran out of energy in the course of the morning, and had to crank up the heating. But by now (3pm) I am feeling much better, and it does look as if the second shot has more severe side effects than the first (which is what the internet said, and the nurse who administered it said it too). But my energy is coming back, and I had to stop myself from going for a walk, let's see how we feel in the morning, and if my normal sleep pattern is returning. Not sick, just "off", I think is the expression.

I must say that the United States has done a terrific job in terms of producing vaccines, and making them available, while deficient in passing and enforcing laws that force people to wear masks and social distance. In particular Moderna and Pfizer have insured the American populace has plenty of vaccine available - I just had my second shot, the big problem being there are so many people who do not believe in vaccines, masks and social distancing. Before you accuse me of just jumping on the bandwagon, I am a scientist, and have done the necessary research to satisfy myself this is the best way to protect myself. No, it may not be the perfect solution, but running around refusing to follow medical advice because you don't believe in science is honestly not your best way out. Apart from anything else, you need to understand that if the U.S. Government makes tens of millions of doses of an expensive new vaccine available at no charge, trucks and flies this stuff all over the country, and helps the States to set up vaccination sites, and organize medical staff to provide services, there's probably something more serious than "a bit of flu" going on. There really have been over half a million people who have died from COVID-19 in under a year, over and above the normal death rate!

Tuesday February 16, 2021: Proper snow storm for a change

Keywords: snow, cold, Seattle standstill, SUV, skid plates, snow tires, impeachment, Capitol assault
Buddha in window While the snow is in the foothills and mountains, it is pretty chilly down here too, on the waterfront. Apparently, things won't warm up until Monday or so - it is Thursday evening as I write this, so it isn't too bad. Or too cold, even, if I compare the weather with what I was used to in Virginia. It is around freezing right now, some flurries, I am not going walkies though.

And then, of course, there is the one snow storm that hits Seattle proper, hard - a foot of snow outside, overnight. I am waiting until the flurries end, so I can clean the snow off my car, and do some shopping tomorrow. The forecast has it the weather will warm up by Monday, and that should be the end of winter. Often, here in Seattle, there's no snow at all, other years there are one or two snow days, hopefully it'll just be the latter. I recall moving to Virginia, and discovering winter, there, meant two feet of snow and 20 degree temperatures. I had no idea.

I suppose I could crank up the heat pumps a bit more, but my "cold sense" really has more to do with my circulation than with the temperature, for as long as I crank the heating up first thing in the morning, it really only takes a couple of hours for the entire apartment to warm up.

Anyway, I've cleared the SUV of snow every day, just in case, and that paid off yesterday, when I needed some groceries, and there was little accumulation on the car. Not only that, I am really chuffed I bought this SUV the way I did - it came with detachable four wheel drive, high and low gearing, skid plates underneath the engine and drive train, and when I needed new tires I had Pep Boys install real 16 inch snow tires, with the bigger traction blocks, rather than the 15 inch all season tires that had been there (the tire brand I selected had both 15 and 16 inch fitments on the 15 inch rim), which means it has an inch more clearing underneath the drive train and the engine, which could take a bad knock if it did not have the skid plate. So getting out of the snowed under kerbside using the four wheel drive was a doddle, and getting the car back into its space afterwards was easy too, especially since I'd just had the wheels rotated a week or so ago (before the snow hit). Thankfully, the temperature is, after four frozen days, coming back up, and the snow has changed to rain, hopefully that's it for the season..

I must say that the impeachment trial is a lot of talk, and little substance. For there to be a conviction you'd have to be able to prove Donald Trump committed one or more deliberate acts of treason, well defined in the law books, and while I certainly believe he "fanned the flames", and more importantly, wanted only to work with the out-of-control right wing folk who became his "supporters", I am not seeing the hard evidence that could lead to a conviction. He didn't tell anybody to begin a physical assault on the U.S. Capitol, not that we know, and there is a lack of hard evidence a court case requires. We now know there are legions of completely deluded individuals who firmly believe electoral fraud was committed, and require no conventional evidence that was actually the case. They're like religious fanatics, "it is true because I say so".

Tuesday February 9, 2021: A sane President came just in time

Keywords: LED HI bulbs, Durango, clearout, Magnolia, gym, HUD, kitchen efficiency
LED HID headlight The picture to the left shows the new high intensity LED headlight bulbs I bought, still waiting for a warm sunny day to install them. While we've not got a winter like they do on th'other coast, my circulation isn't all that happy in the outdoors cold, and I see little point in working on the car in the rain if I don't have to. Anyway, you can probably see the built-in fans on the back of the bulbs, it'll be interesting to see how well they do. The Hipro HI bulbs I currently have in the car are quite bright (@ 100/80 watts actually slightly overpowered, as far as Federal rules are concerned), so the new LEDs, complete with built in fan and heat dissipators, should do better @ 50/50 watts. Especially now that I live in a fully urban area the light output becomes a lesser concern.

Despite the age of my Durango, the car seems to be in good nick, my new workshop here in Ballard found little wrong with it. They replaced the coolant, which I had not done in a few years, but there's no leakage of any kind, the engine does not overheat (it used to, occasionally, but I researched and fixed that), and now that the cooling system has been flushed and the coolant replaced, she does not even warm up very fast. I wanted to make sure I had fresh antifreeze, it is getting cold here.

I've lived here for a year now, and realized I still have some of this old stuff I've had for years sitting around, really for no reason, I doubt very much I will move again, and I did away with my storage unit when I moved in. Not only is there no reason, I have a terrific deal in what is effectively a very expensive city, the apartment is comfortable and quite big enough for yours truly, but I did still have some storage bins and things sitting around, including half a ton of linen in a trunk I'd kept for something like twenty years. Not having a spare room, there really is little reason to keep things for the spare bed around, should I have guests affordable motels are around the corner. So I did another clearing round, threw out half a ton of stuff I really do not need, and having put a lot of office and computer paraphernalia in the little cabinet I retrieved from Lynnwood the other day, I can almost (in the living room) see all of my floor. This is brilliant, and I've again fallen in love with my big six foot square dining table - several of my neighbours have settees and chairs and that only leaves room for small tables, and all that does is clutter up the space, and you're never going to get loads of visitors sitting on that settee every week. Similarly, get a smaller bed, and there still isn't enough room in the bedroom for loads of furniture, besides, there is a built in large closet, and I've stored tons of stuff under the bed, which (deliberately)sits on a pretty tall frame.

So I am happy - the kitchen is all cleared up, everything that can be in the kitchen cabinets is in the kitchen cabinets, and I haven't got bits and plants and things all over the window sill and the hatch between living room and kitchen. I've managed to clear out the back of the SUV, as well, with the exception of the tire chains (required here in winter), a small fire extinguisher (the big one is now up here in the window sill), alert triangles, and some reusable shopping bags.

All I am really missing is the gym (doctors won't let me go on account of COVID-19, even though I am having my vaccine shots) and enough exercise - it's been too cold, and it's been raining, seemingly, for weeks. Despite all that, I am losing weight, hopefully just because I am eating less than I used to, full control of my kitchen means full control of my diet, and I take, at the most, a couple of days' worth of food out of the freezer to defrost.

All in all, ready for spring, or some such. I cannot complain, happy with my space, happy with the Federal subsidy. The Seattle civil servant who told me, years ago, that Seattle had the best support-and-subsidy system in the region for older folk on a fixed income was ab-so-lu-te-ly right.

Thursday January 28, 2021: The COVID dance

Keywords: COVID, vaccine, Moderna, oil change, Pep Boys, LED headlights
CDC vaccine Finally, the Fed, with Washington State, is rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine big time, I heard from several neighbours they got appointments, but in most cases they had to spend hours online to find a working site and an available slot. I didn't bother much with that, on Friday I could not get any of the recommended (by Washington State Health) sites to work properly, and gave up after half an hour, waste of time. By Sunday, however, the second site I tried (Seattle Visiting Nurse Association) was up, and had slots available at Paine Field, the Snohomish County regional airport. I am familiar with that airport as I used to live close by, and an appointment for two days hence was soon booked. Not close, but I know where it is, and I figure not too many people drive all the way to an airport in the middle of the Boeing factory to get inoculated. Sure enough, well organized, lots of staff and security and plenty of expertise, I understand these professionals normally do nothing but vaccinations for schools and businesses. So I got my first dose, and an appointment for the second, in a month's time. Teehee.

I can't say I've experienced much in the way of side effects with the COVID vaccine - out of an abundance of caution I have not taken my immuno-suppressants this week, and other than that, my left upper arm was a bit sore yesterday and overnight, but nothing like the effect of a TDAP shot, so no complaints there. I didn't sleep very well, and felt a bit chilly, which is unusual, in my new bed with memory foam and a new down duvet. In the morning, I noticed where that probably came from: low blood pressure, much lower than is normal for me, though I have not been unwell in any way. I'll check that again tonight, still a bit chilly depsite turning up the heat pumps. Nothing majorly alarming though, I'd have called doctors if that were the case. The Moderna vaccine, which is what I received, appears to have fewer side effects than its Pfizer counterpart, so nothing to worry about, methinks.

Little else is out of the ordinary - I've finally taken the Durango in for service, I used to have that done by Pep Boys in Everett, and as there is one here right by the Ballard Bridge, five minutes from my home, I've gone there. OK job, not too expensive, but they didn't fill up the oil completely, I am glad I checked, the engine needed two more quarts. They otherwise did a good job, replaced the coolant, flushing the engine block,and a heat shield that was loose underneath the car they fixed at no charge. All I need to do now is change the headlight bulbs - one replacement bulb I installed turned out to have a different colour temperature, by way of experiment I've now bought two LED high intensity bulbs, see what that gives. Something I didn't know if that those LED XENON replacements generate so much heat (headlight bulbs do that anyway) that they come with a cooling fan. Keep you posted...

Monday January 4, 2021: On being Domestick

Keywords: antiques, William IV, olive oil, wood maintenance, air conditioning, rice cooker, induction cooker, 2021
revamped William IV cabinet I had kind of stopped making more changes to my "new" apartment, but then my former landlord reminded me I still had an antique cabinet stored in his garage, and that set me off again. I would like to keep the apartment as empty as possible, but bringing over the cabinet would let me empty some more boxes, and I decided to finally toss some of the plastic storage containers that have been sitting empty, I am not likely to move again any time soon, or maybe ever. So I emptied the back of my SUV (which has been serving as a sort of shed), went to get the cabinet in Lynnwood (thanks for the help, Chris), and somehow manhandled it up to the second floor at my Magnolia digs.

So far, so good, I'd made room on the outside wall, and then I realized the cabinet (which, coming from my parental home in the Netherlands East Indies, is nothing if not old) had sustained quite a bit of damage, over the (hundreds) of years and tens of thousands of miles of travel. Amazing - it was made in The Netherlands, was moved to Indonesia, then eventually moved back to The Netherlands, from there to my home in New York, then to Virginia, and now it lives in Seattle. So I decided to clean the wood, glue some of the cracks, re-set the doors, etc. This was, by itself, an interesting activity, because most of the waxes and cleaners for ancient wood cost more than I can afford, considering you need to do this periodically. But I had thought that one of the best affordable compounds to treat wood is probably olive oil, which you can get in these handy spray cans intended for cooking. Olive oil is natural, contains no chemicals, and is, if you like, "native" to wood - you just have to be patient and let it "settle" as you're applying it in relatively copious quantities, so the wood can absorb the oil, which, to some extent, replaces other moisture which may have been present. It is probably even more natural than beeswax, I realized. So I spent the next week-and-a-half gluing panels, re-hanging doors, oiling the wood, re-oiling the wood, and generally letting the cabinet acclimatize to its new air-conditioned environment. My heat pumps, after all, condition the air, summer and winter, and control the humidity and temperature 24/7. I have just, today, finished storing office and computer stuff in it, and generally managed to do some more uncluttering. My dining table / desk is now thoroughly cleared up, and that corner of the living room is largely relegated to office / desk / computer use. I've even figured out that clearing the table (which is 6 foot square), cleaning it, rotating it a quarter turn, then putting everything back, all at the same time I am doing maintenance on both my laptops, makes things work better and look much better, too.

I've managed to put five empty storage totes by the road out front, and threw out one more Banker's Box, so it is beginning to look pretty tidy. I've even "liberated" an antique cloisonné table lamp, which I need to take to the Lynnwood store to find a lampshade. Kewl! (Believe it or not, the lampshade I needed wasn't at Lamps Plus, but at... Amazon...).

Nasi Betawi Finally, I've managed to start getting creative in the kitchen, largely because I've started actually using the automatic induction pressure cooker I bought for this apartment. Originally, I only used it as a rice cooker - Chinese pressure cookers are engineered for this, as rice is the most important staple in much of Asia, and the control systems handle rice like magic. Chinese, Japaese, Korean engineered induction cookers cook predominantly Asian dishes to perfection - with the exception of the vegetables in the picture, everything was cooked in the Housmile pressure cooker, automatic, and to perfection. Imported Asian induction pressure cookers are horrendously expensive (like $500 to $1,000!), the only reason I own one (and a spare) is that I caught two, being discontinued, on Ebay at an enormous discount. I would not have been able to afford one, otherwise, and I thank God my previous, conventional, rice cooker burnt out. Only induction can give you the graduated warming-under-pressure that cooks to absolute perfection!

It is raining cats and dogs, out here, but no winter to speak of. I note that even a little up the highway, in Lynnwood, it's been snowing, but the most we've had here is some might frost, and little at that. But I am much closer (as in, less than a mile) to the bay now than I used to be, and it may well be the bay water keeps the air moist and "warmish". So not complaining, I just won't take my walks in the rain, though I probably should. I can track this because I use a heart rate monitor, so can tell from the tracker when I do and don't walk. The tracker, by the way, isn't so much to "self-compete", but to just monitor my vital signs, so I can report anomalies to my doctors.

I am not so sure I will want to join the "Happy New Year!" chorus - I don't know how long it is going to take to vaccinate sufficient numbers of people to have an impact on COVID-19 infection rate, but between the "slow" start of the campaign - not that anything went wrong, we just don't understand that we don't have the tools for these numbers - and the vast numbers of people who don't believe in COVID and face masks etc., this is going to take a very long time. Remember, this has to be run out worldwide, and many countries don't have the infrastructure to vaccinate everybody on the planet - and that is what we must do. When I see the morons without facemasks and distancing and with their national flags I really have to ask mysel how these people can be allowed to kill so many innocent bystanders who have done nothing wrong but be impoverished and live in tenements and do menial work in crowds.

Saturday December 19, 2020: This one's almost done..

Keywords: Trump, armed supporters, apartment, COVID-19, birthdays
I am completely confused about President Trump's antics - either I am missing something or the man has gone of the rails. It should be clear his losing the election if his own doing, I think he basically self-destructed, and those thousands of "supporters" in battle dress, with bulletproof vests and significant armament, make the United States look like a banana republic. And I firmly believe they crawled out of the woodwork because of the encouragement of Mr. Trump. And I don't think you can win an election with this kind of folk on the street. Between these "road shows" and COVID-19 this country is really in a pickle. And I very much doubt those "supporters" are going to listen to President-elect Biden, either, he is not "their man".

An important part of my reason for not currently blogging much, or commenting on the presidency and the election, is that so many people spend their lives online commenting and telling us what they think, and what we need to do, that there is little I could add to this noise wave. And I most certainly do not have an idea about solution for these issues - COVID-19 is completely out of hand because the virus infection wasn't treated and controlled, but politicized, by you-know-who. That is about the stupidest thing you can do, when a rampaging illness cuts loose in your neighbourhood.

I must say I pretty much have my apartment sorted - I still need to bring over a wooden cabinet that sits in a friend's garage - I have pretty much sorted and stored all of my belongings. My heat pumps heat pumps work perfectly, both in A/C and heating mode, they've kept me cool in summer, and in the past few weeks the temperature dropped below freezing repeatedly, but they've kept up with that as well. At night the bedroom unit is off, but between the one in the living room, and the memory foam mattress and my goose down comforter, between them, keep me toasty. Amazing, how these technologies have improved, over the decades - I had brought my old comforter, but then decided, as I started moving, I might as well get all new linen, pillows and bed covers, seeing as that I will probably live in this apartment for many years. What old linen I wanted to keep now lives, nicely fumigated, in a sea chest.

It is close to 2021, anyway, my sister and I are a year older, I sent her some gifts via Amazon, which operates in The Netherlands too, now. Both shipments arrived early, which was pleasant. I hope you're having decent holidays, despite the COVID-19, and I have to add my voice to the cautious - ignore the COVID safety rules, and you have a good chance of dying, and of killing others. And no, the vaccine won't reach full effectiveness until a year or so from now - you need to understand it is a vaccine, it isn't medication, and it was put together very quickly. There's always next Christmas.

Friday November 13, 2020: Sorry it took me a while..

Keywords: medical, blood tests, immuno-suppressants, privacy, LEDs, fluorescent, electricity, A/C, BTUs
Another blood test Every few months I have to get my blood checked, related to the immuno-suppressants I have to take. This isn't a big deal, I've been getting the blood tests since the 1970s, you get used to it, though the tests are a constant reminder of one's possible fate. So far, so good - this time around, my new endocrinologist is not happy with my thyroid hormone values, but he is using a higher test frequency than any of my previous ones did. That may simply be because the medical standards have changed, you just don't know.

For as long as I have been blogging, I haven't written about wives or girlfriends or family or housemates, basically to protect their privacy. Especially my time in D.C. and environs was problematical in that respect, as so much of my work directly or indirectly impacted national security. I recall well that I initially tried to turn that assignment down, as I was very uncomfortsble, not being a United States citizen, to be put in control of high speed data networks in use by the military, security services and the government. Someone in Corporate Security, who was active duty military, put my mind at rest, supervised me, and moved me to a secure area of our local headquarters. I'll never forget my supervisor's (from our NY HQ) confusion when he was told he couldn't come up to see me, and to wait in the cafeteria while I was located and came down to him. Up in New York, they didn't know much about the national security aspects of the work our Virginia and D.C. staff did, that, after all, had been the province of the local phone company, which we had only merged with a couple of years before. I can only talk about it now as that department has been moved out of our local HQ - if I tell you my office was a couple of miles from the Pentagon, my dentist was in the Pentagon, and the doctor's office I attended was next to a CIA building that didn't even have a street address (I swear), you maybe get the picture.

One of the tube lights (fluorescents) in my kitchen passed away recently, and while I can have the Housing Association replace it, I thought I might try the LED version. Not quite clear why the Association hasn't changed the fluorescent tube lights, the bulbs are all LED, perhaps it would be too much of an investment. Having said that, the hall and corridor lights are all tubes, and they are on 24/7, so the power savings could be interesting. Went to the store with the dud, and bought two LED tubes, indeed, expensive @ $38 the pair (15 watts each). The light is superb, though, very even, turns the box fixture into a sort of light box, without hot spots or colouration. As they run very cool, these LED tubes should last forever, and no more flicker when starting, and no ballasts and starters and things.

So: the A/C, over the summer, didn't rip my electricity bill to shreds, the peak consumption came to about 500KwH/month, or $0.83 per day. That's heat, cool, cooking, lighting, appliances, these apartments do not have gas. As far as I am concerned, it is pretty brilliant, especially since I cook on induction (even my multi/pressure cooker is an induction device) and I use a small Sharp multi-oven both for oven and microwave things. It is only a few weeks ago that the heat pumps switched from cooling to heating, and that is something I had never really done before, the house in Lynnwood was centrally heated. But I am really pleased - while we did not have an exceptionally hot summer, temps got down to freezing a couple of weeks ago, early, and that didn't create any problems. Heat pumps gather condensation, and this was really the first time I had been able to test how well they evaporated that "out the window", so to speak. When testing in the three bedroom Lynnwood house, they would occasionally fill their overflow tanks, but in Lynnwood the house was too large for their capacity, and as it turns out, that isn't the case in this one bedroom apartment, where their combined 28,000 BTU capacity is enough to evaporate all the condensation. Cool cool.

Sunday October 4, 2020: That was my First Summer in Magnolia

Keywords: summer, online shopping, Amazon, physical therapy, Coolpad, hotspot, COVID-19, superspreader
Summer sort of passed by unnoticed, probably mostly because of the pandemic, I've not really gone out, or anywhere except some shopping and medical visits, since this thing started, mostly to avoid exposure as much as I can. Even then, some 60% of my shopping I've moved to Amazon and Ebay - Amazon, BTW, is pretty competitive in terms of everyday consumables, even some of my groceries (no, I don't do Pantry or Prime, I think that mostly costs more). And their $25 free delivery deal actually saves me money in that I drive less, so spend les money on gas for the guzzler. Much to my delight, there is so much space in the street, I can normally park it somewhere in plain view from my apartment windows. Teehee. On top of that, I have a remote temperature sensor in the vehicle, so one look at my weather monitor tells me if the car is still out front, and what the outside temperature and humidity are.

Just had a run-in with a local physical therapy outfit, whose owner seems to have never heard of "paying customers" or "conflict management". The longer I am here in Seattle, the more I get the feeling this is, to some respects, a bit of a backwater, compared to th'other coast. I don't mean that negatively, but some of the ways folks here treat their customers drives home the fact that they are customers, even if they call them "patients". You'd think that after the effects of the pandemic, when everybody needs as much custom as they can find, you can't afford to be arrogant. I had explained to a receptionist that they really should not lecture me, and ended my diatribe with "I pay your wages". That isn't an arrogant statement, if you're a staffer in a commercial medical facility your wages are paid by your patients, collectively - if they have insurance, it is THEIR insurance, not yours. The business owner retorted that "I pay their wages" - interesting, in that not only do I (and all of his other patients / customers) do pay their wages, we also pay his. You would expect that a business owner / manager understands that, and shows some respect, but not "Dave". So I'll take my business elsewhere, it is his loss.

In the interim, I keep seeing the major scary COVID-19 developments in large parts of Europe, where a headline in the Dutch press proclaims that "stores will not make mouthmasks mandatory". No wonder they are experiencing a severe "second wave" - various old folks' homes are being hit with large numbers of sick folks, and deaths - that is how it all started in the first place, here and there. This can only be because they slacked off their security measures, and are admitting sick visitors, who have not been tested. Yes, there is "COVID-fatigue", clearly, but is that a reason to put your life at risk? Same thing in England, where the progression, as far as I can tell, is pretty much uncontrolled.

It never occured to me, until this morning, that I can simply replace the battery in my Sprint Coolpad hotspot device, which is, to all intents and purposes, a cellphone with internet without the phone. If you follow my drift. My Coolpad has been less well behaved, these past few weeks, and I think (but don't know) its battery may be losing strength. When I bought the thing I was told to make sure it was not on a charging circuit 24/7, and I solved that by connecting it to a USB port on one of my laptops, so it would charge (and network connect) all day, until I turn the power down when I turn in, and it will then automatically stop charging. I'll leave the Coolpad on, on battery, for which it always has sufficient charge, and that should, technically, keep it in good shape. Except, several times now it has lost a lot more power, overnight, than it normally does. Now I don't know how good these batteries are, so i just ordered a replacement battery, and when that gets here I can see if the problem goes away. If it doesn't, I'll need to replace the Coolpad, if it does, brilliant - I bought the device (and the service) in February, and it is doing reasonably well, at least on the USB based NDIS port, which runs at around 424Mbps, for a primary network port from 4G-LTE that is not at all bad.

This "episode" makes me wonder if there was a "superspreader" on the White House team. You can imagine Trump being "at risk", but Hope Hicks and Melania are much younger and in better shape. So we'll see how this develops. Trump being transferred to a "military hospital", which likely means "Walter Reed", is not a good sign. I guess this is where you pay the piper, with that attitude.

Friday September 18, 2020: Smoke, and more smoke

Keywords: hydrocortisone, shoulder injury, electric bill, road tax, wildfire
It has been quite a few years since I had a hydrocortisone shot in a joint, but this week was it. It used to be a regular occurrence, when I had regular joint- and tendon inflammations, but not recently. Having said that, I did have joint or tendon injuries, especially when I moved myself, earlier in the year, but I've managed those with anti-inflammatories, and patience. But this time, I mentioned my painful shoulder and trapezoid to my rheumatologist, during a routine visit, and before I knew it, she was standing there syringe-in-hand. I don't normally go for steroid shots much any more, as the cortisone can do damage, but I took the bait, this time (she needed two shots before she got properly inside the joint..), and am actually getting some physical therapy as well. So we'll see... at least the nighttime pain is abating, which is brilliant.

I have finally received my summertime electricity bill - I had no idea what the average cost is, here in Seattle, and my previous experience in Virginia really gave me little to go on, considering the size of my house there. Anyway, it turns out I go (with 24/7 A/C and otherwise all electric utilities) through some 16 kWh per day, in mid-summer, which boils down to 83 cents per day, or about $25 per month, not including water and sewer. Not bad, and, of course, my HUD subsidy wipes out the charges. Can't complain. I am going to assume the cost of heating, in winter, using the heat pumps, will pretty much be the same. On top of that, I just had a call my car tax subsidy has been approved, and the cheque is in the mail, so it is all good.

As the wildfire smoke is slowly abating, I can resume my daily walks - my physicians still won't let me go back to the gym. I am sure that makes very good sense, but it is frustrating. One day last week the air was so bad I ended up turning back, totally out of breath. Horrendous. We had something similar a few years back, with the smoke coming all the way from Siberia, if I recall. All those poor folk who lost their homes, some lost their entire town, some lost their lives, does not bear thinking about. I must say that my heat pumps, with their special "sticky" MERV-8 filters, have done very well keeping the indoor air breathable, if only because I do not have to open windows. There is a minimum of outside air being vented in, due to the way I have installed the windows vents, I deliberately did not tape the vent assemblies completely shut, one does need some fresh air intake, and that has worked very well. I'd think I was a genius if I didn't know any better.

Not much else to report - hopefully I can soon retrieve my antique cabinet from the friend who is minding it for me, and put it in my apartment - once my shoulder is fixed, hopefully soon. The Netherlands Consulate in San Francisco ia assisting expatriate Dutch who need to evacuate because of the West Coast wildfires with return to The Netherlands, my guess is specifically those who have lost their homes in California, Oregon and Washington State, and don't want to "start over", and my guess is some elderly with pulmonary disease may want to get medical treatment. I am kind of stuck here, as my retiree health insurance is all-American and prepaid, and the MERV-8 filters on my heat pumps seem to do very well, considering. It is just very humid, what with the layer of smoke overhead preventing airflow.

Monday August 31st, 2020: No, I am not demonstrating

Keywords: IPTV, streaming video, inteligent DNS, VPN, laptop, WiFi hotspot, COVID-19, science, science denial, epidemic
While I am largely happy with my laptops, I find that my VPN occasionally stops functioning. I've tried to fix it, but perhaps may need to open a trouble ticket with the vendor again. While in the past I was not able to get ITV (my HP2570 actually crashed under Chrome) now I can get live ITV, but not streaming, and no BBC, without a "real" error message. It is a bit messy, in that Microsoft has forced the Edge browser onto all Windows 10 installations, and I have no idea if that has anything to do with it (I use Internet Explorer for VPN stuff, and I think Microsoft is messing with its settings to try and enable default to Edge.

This is one of those days I am stuck waiting for deliveries - Amazon changes delivery dates all the time - mostly to deliver quicker than scheduled, which would be fine, if I didn't have to check every day what is coming when. My building does have a mail room, but only the USPS has access to that, not Fedex, UPS or Amazon, and now that I do some 75% of my shopping via Amazon, it becomes a (manageable) issue. At the same time, I've found that practically all household goods are available from Amazon, and most of those are the same price, or cheaper, than they are in the supermarket. Because of the COVID-19 "situation", Amazon beats supermarkets in availability as well - many products are only intermittently available at Safeway or Fred Meyer, and I find that if I keep some extra stock of "staples", and order from Amazon when I finish a product, my order generally gets to me on time, if not quicker. Which is fine, I just have to make sure I have enough storage space. I am not ordering toilet paper from Amazon, though, you have to draw the line somewhere...

I hear from all sides that fewer and fewer people bother with face masks and social distancing. Today must be a field day for behavioural psychologists, although many of them likely know that most people do not change their behaviour in the longer term. Why that is? I am very cognizant that COVID-19, by virtue of there not being any kind of medication to treat it, is not going away - it is an infectious disease, and even if, by some miracle, a vaccine becomes available, it'll probably take at least a decade for that to start having a global effect (what with airplanes and cruise ships, we'll keep infecting ourselves). I mean, on March 26th, the United States counted 711 COVID-19 deaths. Today, August 3rd, our tally is 154,744. That is a statistical average of 1,185 dead per day. Tell me how you think we're doing better?

So yes, as anybody who has been in a relationship knows, people do not generally change their behaviour to achieve a non-selfish goal. At this point, it looks like hundreds of thousands of people not only have given up on science, but on teachers and doctors and others who have spent years learning care. The reason Australia, Spain, the Philippines, Belgium, and other countries, are all ramping up corona restrictions like crazy is simply that the epidemic is getting worse, there is no treatment or medication, and you can't stop the spread unless you stay home and wear masks and do hygiene like crazy - on a permanent basis, not until the fall. If you traveled to go on vacation, you already fucked up big time, and if you didn't get that, you are massively stupid, and you may die as a consequence.

Friday August 21st, 2020: More tidying and unpacking ;)

Keywords: Trump, Magnolia, Kamala Harris, summer, redecorating, apartment maintenance
Seattle MagnoliaIf there is a national or regional emergency, the government may mandate appropriate measures,, such as face masks and other protective measures. This is provided for in most constitutions in democracies, and those morons in The Netherlands and the United States that insist these public health requirements are "unconstitutional" need to go to law school, or talk to their lawyers. There is nothing in the law that says the government cannot set appropriate and mandatory rules to protect public health, and prevent deaths and an impact on health services. I should probably emphasize that civil disobedience does not give anybody the right to infect and kill other members of the public. My tuppence, FWIW...

All in all, I can't complain about Magnolia, as neighbourhoods go, the view from my building, high summer, is to your left. What's more, I am slowly getting the apartment to a manageable state, which has, for the most part, been an exercise in throwing out things one doesn't need. I am serious, you tend to accumulate so much "stuff", over the years, without there being a real reason to hoard..

So how am I to understand Donald Trump's antics? Kamala Harris and Barack Obama are not American born because they are (in some measure, they are mixed race) both Black? How does a White realtor from Brooklyn get this racist? How did this guy get into the White House? Are there really that many deluded American voters? Interestingly, what with his antics regarding Hispanics and Blacks, I should imagine he has lost most of thos voters. So what's next, only White golf aficionados get to select the next Prez? Ones that don't buy stamps? I mean, Postal Workers aren't going to vote Trump, now, after he has begun taking their jobs away.. What do you think?

Can't tell you how happy I am with my heat pumps, as I am continuing to tidy up the apartment - pretty soon I should be able to buy some kind of sideboard and storage unit, and put some shelving in. You'll think I am being a bit slow, but I am simply doing this bit-by-bit, and literally throwing everything out that I do not have real use for. As far as the A/C is concerned, I had not lived in a properly air conditioned house since leaving Bellevue, and as it turns out the "sight unseen" purchase of these Chinese heat pumps is everything I hoped it would be. The external thermostats work a treat, switching the main A/C from bedroom to living room at night, so as to manage the noise, and the humidity control - if you did not know, one of the main purposes of A/C units isn't cooling, but de-humidifying. Part of the sensation of heat in the home is humidity, when the body has to work hard to get rid of excess moisture. A/C helps with that, and dehumidifying is part of the reason an A/C makes you comfortable. For that to work, you need to not have over-capacity in cooling, and be able to adjust it (which is why I have two units, which I can individually adjust), and experiment with the output and energy level, which is usually adjustable. So no, "swamp coolers" don't do anything, and that is why they are cheap. You get what you pay for

I have to apologize for my blog delays - there are simply too many things I really don't want to write about - plenty of tales about my building and its occupants and people's antics, but I have, for many years, never written about folks close to me without their explicit approval, and especially in this seniors building there are plenty of people I don't want to expose to the risks of the internet. Only a couple of months ago, the building and the management office were broken into, and the burglar took the duplicate apartment keys from their locker. The Housing Authority immediately changed all of the locks, disabled building access with keys (only electronic key cards now), and generally made us secure, but it was a reminder there are miscreants who do little else but try to burgle and steal wholesale, especially in a building with elderly and disabled tenants. It was a wakeup call. I recall an elderly neighbour in Virginia getting a carry permit for him and his wife, where before, he only had a revolver in a bedroom drawer, telling me how the elderly were at increased robbery risk. That was part of the reason I got myself a carry permit, a couple of years ago, I wanted to be better able to defend myself, at a time when I already knew I'd be moving to the city, in the near future, where these risks are increased. Funny how that may sound, but a carry permit means I do not have to leave an unattended firearm in a parked vehicle, when out gallivanting, which makes me uncomfortable. The risk factor is not well documented in local law, and I wonder what the theft of a gun would affect my liability insurance. Paradoxically, especially for my overseas readers, having the gun on my person gives me better insurance coverage - technically, if I left the gun in the car I would have to unload and secure it, and carrying it with a permit means I do not. I know, kids, welcome to America.. *grin*

Friday July 31st, 2020: High summer in Seattle

Keywords: A/C, U.S. Mint, erratic shopping, dog owners, dog poop, blood tests, hospital, car wash, unpacking
Summer is here, and I finally have proof my A/C calculations were spot on - the two Edgestar units have no problem cooling the entire apartment, without breaking a sweat. And the MERV-8 filter material I found on Amazon keeps the air more than clean. This is, on one side, layered with a sticky adhesive layer, which does better than "dry" filter material, and checking it after a couple of month's use shows it does not clog.

After the problems at the U.S. Mint, quarters are slowly returning to the world, for a while there I wondered if we could continue to do laundry in our communal laundry room, where a batch of new LG industrial washers and dryers were just installed. But the bank tells me it is "getting better".

Even so, there still are plenty of empty shelves in the supermarkets, especially cleaning agents, paper products, canned goods, are in intermittent short supply. Why this so is anybody's guess - there isn't any way the production problems that were supposedly at the root of shortages a few months ago are still with us, and there isn't any way COVID-19 could be to blame for the shortage of quarters at all banks. So it is weird, all this stuff. Especially all these people outside, walking their dogs, many insisting on not wearing face masks. I've seen plenty of dog owners in suburbia, and in rural areas, but never the number of dogs in this neighbourhood, many owned by such dedicated "owners" they don't actually walk their dogs, but bring it 10 yards outside, let it shit, don't clean up and go back inside. Which means the gras verges next to their buildings are laden with dog poop, which they think is fine to then walk around in.

Having to go to the lab for tests again (I do this in Edmonds, where the folks are much nicer than downtown), I decided to try and have another haircut, and do some other chores, such as the car wash. Much to my amazement, the hairdresser's (this is one I've been frequenting for years) was empty - rare... I am assuming they're not allowed to do all this pedicure stuff any more, there are fewer stations, and no more recliners, so... What with the increased infection rate in the area (though Snohomish County, where Edmonds is, isn't as bad as King County, where I live) I thought about whether or not I should have a haircut, then decided that in a known salon and with staff I know, the risk should be relatively small. I still haven't done my oil change, but I can do that in Ballard, make it a separate trip. I really like the Mr. Kleen car wash in Lynnwood, that does a really good job on my SUV, though these days I mostly go to the Bear wash next to the Ballard bridge.

I've finally unpacked far enough that I have found my gun cleaning kit and gun oil and stuff, so I should take apart my Czech 9mm and give it an overhaul, and then I should be going to the shooting range again, and do my long postponed sight adjustment. I bought the tool, but then everything got packed for the move, and I've only just dug it up... At my old home, it was hard to work on things, as most horizontal surfaces were being used for storage. Over time, I have become more concentrated on storing things (insofar as I have room) - the new apartment is a tremendous incitement to be tidy, I used to live in clutter because I had so much space, but no more. No issue there, though, I enjoy doing things this way. I'll know I got it sorted when the rear seats in my SUV can come down.....

Saturday July 18th, 2020: Told ya, COVID is not even a little bit over

Keywords: salmon, Omega-3, oil change, COVID-19, face masks, mail order, apartment living, utilities, A/C, Whynter
sashimi salmonI mentioned my "salmon health kick" before, but never added the picture of my favourite brand - these folks (from Brooklyn) do a fine skinless sliced smoked salmon - one of these packs lasts me three days, on a roll with chopped shallot and crema cheese with chives. Smoked salmon, packed this way immediately after smoking, if effectively sterilized, and doesn't go off if you repack it properly. If there is anything I hate, it is fish smell - what you get when fresh fish isn't fresh, and starts to deteriorate when it is exposed to ambient air. This particular brand of smoked salmon stays firm and fresh for days, after opening. And the Omega stuff.

Must not forget to get that oil change - when you move, you need to find all of those suppliers and service folks all over again. Not to mention banks and car washes, none of it made any easier in the pandemic. Although most places are back open, the "victim count" is going back up, so I really do not know whether or not there will still be a hairdresser next week. While the South is getting particularly hard hit, we're not doing so well up here either, and there are still a lot of folks who ignore the social distancing and face mask mandates. If the State doesn't start policing these things, dunno - having store staff police, maybe not such a bright idea. Police doesn't want to know, not with all of this BLM stuff going on, and demonstrators getting killed trying to block the freeway.

I am not sure why I've not updated my blog for two weeks, on the one hand there's not a huge amount of stuff to report, on the other, there's always something to report. Today, I am waiting for UPS and Amazon deliveries - living in an apartment building without door person, I now have to be home to take delivery. Not in itself problematical, but since the pandemic set in delivery dates and times change all the time. While one of today's deliveries is a refrigerated medication courier delivery, I am ordering so much more from Amazon, now that I know many of my staples are as cheap, or cheaper, at Amazon than at the supermarket. The nearest, cheapest, mega-market is Fred Meyer in Ballard, I used to shop at Winco Foods in Edmonds, which is cheaper still, but that is now too far away, considering I drive a gas guzzler. Having said that, I now spend $23 per month on gas, shopping at Fred Meyer and through Amazon, rather than the $58 I used to spend, shopping at Winco and Wal-Mart.

On top of that, my utilities are now subsidized by HUD, living, as I do, in subsidized Seattle housing. And that means I am now able to use my heat pumps 24/7, which wasn't the case in Lynnwood, where using A/C for the entire three bedroom house, after my landlord moved out, was not an option, at least not in the summer heat. Now that the Seattle summer is here, my two Edgestar 14K units have no problem keeping the place cool, and it doesn't cost me a penny, my latest bill still showed a credit. Edgestar, by the way, seems to have fallen by the wayside, but I noticed the Whynter brand on Amazon, which is available today, and exactly the same 14K BTU dual hose heat pump. You just want to make sure you get the dual hose unit that states it has cooling and heat, or you'll end up with just an air conditioner. They've gone up in price, but are worth every penny. During the day, I crank up the bedroom unit a bit, and that effectively takes care of the whole apartment almost by itself (it s too noisy to sleep with, though). Some of the gadgets I bought last year for my "future" apartment dwelling are described at the very bottom of this blog section, at least until I get to updating the blog, when the stuff before August will move to the archive.

Friday July 3rd, 2020: Told ya, COVID is not even a little bit over

Keywords: salmon, Omega-3, rheumatology, psoriasis, biologic, needle phobia, medical checkups, shopping, supplies, face masks
sashimi salmonIf you're into Omega-3, the packages of sashimi salmon I found across the street at an otherwise way too expensive supermarket are the way to go. This is delicious, sliced and de-skinned salmon, of a much better quality than their usual salmon, if only because this salmon (from Brooklyn...) is vacuum packed, and easily stays fresh for the three days a 148g package ($11) lasts me. Delish, and, in moderation, affordable (on a wholewheat roll with chives cream cheese and fresh thinly sliced shallots). Much to my surprise, having a kitchen I don't have to share makes it much easier for me to control my calorie intake - I think I've lost some six pounds since earlier in the year, partly muscle mass, likely, as I couldn't go to the gym, but I keep much of my food supply in the freezer, so ususally only have a day's worth of food defrosted, and that helps. So does not buying ramen noodles, which, as it turns out, pile on the pounds.

My rheumatologist has recently persuaded me to go back on a biologic - I previously (over some 20 years) was taking Enbrel, and later Humira, then decided I wanted to "stop that trend", and switch to an older medication, Methotrexate, a.k.a. Rheumatrex (methotrexate is otherwise known as a low dose chemotherapy agent, as it can inhibit cell multiplication). I had previously wanted to try that, but it was not available through my pharmacy, this despite the fact it is dirt cheap, and has an injectable form. One thing I like about injectables is that things that do not go through your stomach can't harm your stomach, and my new medication, which I began taking yesterday, is injectable as well (through a regular syringe, even, I hate those spring loaded pen things, they hurt) - why so many people have a phobia for syringes I just don't understand. One of my ex-wives was phobic for needles - I helped her get control of that by having her give me a (necessary) medication injection. The first try she messed up (that was painful as well asexpensive), but the second shot was flawless, and she ended up being able to get shots and blood draws. Important, of course, was that she knew I took a weekly shot, so the phenomenon was "part of routine", if you like.

I've finally managed to do all of my doctor visits and tests, anyway, something made more difficult by the pandemic - many physicians would only see emergency patients, and put off their "regulars" until the worst was over. That's round about now, so I've finally completely caught up on my routine checkups, of which I have quite a few, considering the various nassty medications I am on. Clean bill of health, all around, though, as I mentioned, my arthritis / psoriasis medications have been increased. "Owell" is all one can say to that.

In the interim, I need to start on unpacking some more of my storage boxes - I have two kitchen cabinets that have little kitchen use, but they can take some of the stored things I don't really use much, I just have to do some kind of inventory, so I know what went where. There are two cupboards either side of the stove that are virtually inaccessible, sort of ideal to store stuff you won't ever need, but don't want to throw out. At some point (I am sure you've been there) you've reached the stage where you have unpacked everything you need every day, and youv now remember what is in which remaining box. This is when things kind of stop and now I need to start dealing with the rest - you know, the boxes you find in the attic a year later, when you've bought some of the stuff in the boxes again, because you forgot you had it.

I have pretty much sorted my supplies - if you're not completely with the program, there is, at the present time, no telling whether or not COVID-19 will roar back into our lives tomorrow (unless you're in one of those holiday destinations where they've done themselves in, the past few weeks). And they'll keep doing it - in my seniors building, a lot of folks don't bother with masks, and, these being the United States, the rules aren't being enforced. I don't know if you saw the video of the older man attacking a security guard when he wasn't allowed into a Wal-Mart without a mask - those folks yelling about their freedom no longer understand it is Wal-Mart's freedom to decide who does and doesn't come into their store. Attacking a security guard for doing his job? Where does this insanity end? At any rate, I've got the essentials, so if the stores run out of asswipe again, I am covered. Last week, Albertson's stocked cheap Mexican toilet paper - I mean Mexican, as in having a Mexican imprint and branding and .mx website and corporate address, apparently they're making an extra buck by exporting it now. A third of the price of American toilet paper, believe it or not.

Tuesday June 23, 2020: It'll take a while longer

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic ignorance, Trump infection, looting, rioting, shopping, Ballard, Amazon, Lynnwood shopping
dentistparking Watching and reading the news, it is clear that many people are beginning to ignore pandemic precautions, and that this "inflames" infection rates. Just to see President Trump address a crowd not distancing or wearing masks is truly worrisome, considering we have an infectious disease running around for which there isn't a cure. All of this talk about a vaccine doesn't help either - if we have learned anything, it is that potential victims hear what they want to hear. The fact consumers still, in the tens of thousands, fall for phishing and phone fraud, and lose millions of dollars, has to mean a very large segment of the population is dumb stupid, and now there is one in the White House. Yes, indeed, he is a genious at making money, but that does not help anyone except the Serbian.

I asked myself if I should not participate in the "Black Lives Matter" campaign, but then when I see what the anarchists have wrought in Seattle, creating a no-go zone where even police and first responders can't help a dying crime victim, it is clear that miscreants are right on the heels of the do-gooders. Yes, I could go demonstrate with a gun under my armpit, but if even the police can't stop the looters, what would I do? Shooting somebody who isn't physically attacking you is a surefire route to jail, and you never, of course, know who else is armed. I must admit I've never demonstrated in my entire life - I generally tend to think demonstrations, by themselves, don't really have much of an effect, something reinforced when I see the Mayday battles with destructive anarchists and plenty of looting that engulf Seattle every year.

The picture to the left is the parking lot at my dentist's office in the suburbs - now repurposed as the waiting room, in accordance with COVID-19 distancing rules. You sit in your car until you're texted by the receptionist to come up. Except I didn't, as T-Mobile decided to go down for hours just as I sat there. Diana eventually came down as nobody responded to her messages, and got me upstairs.

Ever since I moved to Seattle, I've slowly changed my shopping pattern - in Lynnwood I had access to a plethora of major supermarket chains within miles, in an urban setting that is very different, and on this island there are few, if any, major stores. Just across the river, in Ballard, they've made up for that, but most of my shopping is by car. The one supermarket that is close is largely unaffordable, complete with white women in Porsches and Teslas. While I don't do food shopping at Amazon, or, like a neighbour, buy my toilet paper online (....), I have begun buying a bunch of other stuff at Amazon and Ebay that I used to buy at Wal-Mart, which, uh, isn't here. Things like shampoo, eye drops, coffee, sweeteners, olive oil and salsa are competitive at Amazon, or at least not more expensive - and if you take gasoline into account (I drive a gas guzzler) I save by using the $25-minimum-per-order-free-shipping deal Amazon does. The food shopping, no, because for "Amazon Fresh" you have to pay to be a Prime member, which means you have an inclination not to shop anywhere else. The drawback with Amazon is that their drivers do not have building access, so you have to check delivery dates, and be home. Then, of course, they like to deliver early, so the stuff they were going to deliver today they delivred yesterday, unannounced. And one order they were supposed to deliver on Friday is being delivered tonight. Or thereabouts. And since I have a UPS shipment scheduled for tomorrow I've gotten screwed around on three days, which is hard to manage. Owell, as long as it gets here, but I do want my daily walk, what with the gym closed.

As it turns out, a periodic shopping trip to Lynnwood isn't as bad as I thought it would be, although traffic is not anywhere near pre-pandemic levels. But dentist and hairdresser aren't really frequent trips, and there are always things I can get in my old neighbourhood when I am up there. Even the car wash is brilliant - along the highway near the Ballard bridge, I pass by there anyway, and it is actually cheaper than my "old" car wash.

Saturday June 13, 2020: Not herd immunity, but herd insanity

Keywords: COVID-19, flu shots, Phase Two, lab work, Cosentyx, virtual doctor visit, shopping, maintenance, Amazon
Hairdresser in Edmonds :) Thing is, look at the behaviour of people, and you can tell they think COVID-19 is going away. And thing is, it isn't. Flu never went away, even though we've been working on that since 1918, and the flu vaccine only works in a limited fashion. Flu might have less of an impact if the masses took reasonable precautions, such as testing, handwashing, staying home, mouth masks, but they don't. Nobody does. If you tell your boss you have a cold and so will stay home until it abates, you're liable to get demoted or fired. And you can see on the beaches, and in the numbers of folks planning to go on vacation this summer, that they have not understood that COVID-19 is here to stay, and it killed, it kills, and it will kill. Down South, where restrictions were lifted first, the hospitals - within weeks - have overflowing ICUs. But half the people I see in my building, in the street, in the stores, have stopped wearing facemasks. They think the worst is over. They do not understand the difference between a sniffle and DEAD. Think about it - if we've not found a cure for the flu, we will not find a cure for COVID-19. Both are highly contagious, transferable, mutate spontaneously, and both kill. There are folks out there who won't take measles vaccines, shingles vaccines, Tdap shots, flu shots, and they will not take COVID shots. And yes, for as long as they won't, they will continue to spread COVID-19, and kill other people.

As the Washington State lockdown continues, some less urban counties have gone to Phase Two, which meant I was able to go get my blood work done up in an Edmonds lab, then see my rheumatologist (no blood work = no prescription), and today, go to the hairdresser, which thankfully only entailed a fifteen minute wait. Unfortunately, my rheumatologist wants me to go back on biologics, looking at my fingers and skin that probably makes sense, and I am now going to try something called Cosentyx, as soon as $%##^& Accredo gets around to getting it approved - $17,000 per 90 days, where would I be without my Verizon retiree health plan..

I had a hard time explaining to my physician and her assistant that no, it wasn't me who could decide whether or not I could have done a "virtual visit" (I had to explain I had been doing corporate conference video calls on my laptop since the 1990's, so yes, I was quite comfortable), it would be up to the physician to determine that. Arthritis and psoriasis are inflammatory immune conditions, and how much a doctor can discern over a video link is something the doctor should know, not something that I would be cognizant of. At the end of the consult she admitted she really did need to see and touch some of my inflammations, so I guess I "won". Not that that is relevant, I just need these folks to understand they're in a backwater, we used these technologies back east with consumers 15 years ago. Some technologies that were in standard everyday use in D.C. and NYC a decade ago have barely made it here, the mind boggles.

One of them days, today, my online shopping has caught up, I have some stock of just about everything I use on a daily basis, to the point that I can place a $25-minimum no-fee shipping order and don't have to run to the store - with the exception of fresh food and meats and milk and things. Mind you, meat has gotten expensive even here in Seattle now, so it is chicken more than anything else, which is fine with me.

I am almost caught up with home maintenance as well, some mopping left I've procrastinated over, but beyond that even the computer stuff (including the BIG Windows 10 update that ended up taking much of today), in the middle of an extra laundry run, as UPS delivered new underwear and Tees. Amazon delivered wipes, unavailable in supermarkets for weeks now, even affordable in bulk, and both laptops are now fully backed up, to the point that my main laptop now gets a daily full backup update again, first time in months, while the "backup" 2560 gets a weekly update. My 2 "robots" do a bangup job of the vacuuming, the only caveat being you have to do that twice a week, to keep the floors properly clean. So cool. I have replaced the A/C filters with a product I found online a while ago, a one inch cuttable filter, that is MERV-8, and has a sticky layer on one side, which should help catch bacteria and viruses. Monday, finally a long postponed teeth cleaning, the dentist (at least up in Snohomish) is back in business.

Thursday June 4, 2020: Working out and sleeping

Keywords: groceries, bedroom, Linenspa, gym, cancer, George Floyd
Linenspa California King While I normally get my groceries from the supermarket, I am increasingly buying some non-food things, like cleaning materials, detergent, soy sauce, coffee, etc, from Amazon, when I find they're competitive. All you have to do is make sure you have some supply on hand, and then you don't have to run out and "top up", which is not necessarily always cheap. One problem with living in an apartment building, though, is that you have to be there when they deliver, and Amazon frequently changes its delivery dates. Secondly, while the Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS let you know when they'll deliver, Amazon does not - you have to log in and check. That's nassty - it is a tool Amazon uses to collect data, they won't email you to let you know a date, the only other way is to use their mobile app, which provides them with data 24/7. Not.

While a far cry from my sumptuous bedroom in Virginia, I really can't complain about my bedroom here in Seattle. As it turned out, the (very reasonable) collapsible bed frame I found on Amazon is perfect, fills the room without crowding it, and the California King bed-in-a-box mattress fits it like a glove. What's more, the mattress is not only nice and firm, the top layer is a couple of inches of memory foam, which is insanely comfortable, and insulates like crazy. Until I bought one of these mattresses, I had no idea how this technology worked - from reviews I'd read, you needed to unwrap the compressed mattress, and then let is settle, technically, let it stretch and breathe for a week or so. So it isn't a mattress for the impatient, but as the airing gets rid of any chemical smell, the stretching lets it fully expand up to its design measurements. I am serious, I sleep like a baby now, I fall asleep completely while reading my book. I still had an old duvet and pillows, but getting new ones, and a lovely thick cotton duvet cover with shams helped too. Can't tell you how comfortable I am, and, of course, the heat pumps help too, closed windows and MERV-8 filters mean less allergy. Back in Virginia I had a King mattress, on this California King I can splay myself even better...

Not being able to go to the gym due to COVID-19, I try to walk as much as I can - not huge distances, but trying to maintain a daily routine, complete with heart rate monitoring. I know I've lost weight, and that may well be sacrificial muscle mass, since I am not lifting weights and stuff - when COVID struck, I had been going to the gym, several times a week, since early 2015, courtesy of the Silver Sneakers program my former employer provides for retirees. I'm good, in terms of condition, and besides, I don't know how safe the gym will be for an older cancer patient on immuno-suppressants even if the State thinks it's OK. I doubt coronavirus will be going away anytime soon, and dying because I work out is very much not on my radar. I have a hard time understanding the folks who think they're not at risk - but then, I got my thyroid cancer, likely, from 9/11 and its aftermath, where I was a recovery worker, and there wasn't an infectious disease then, just heavily polluted debris, that killed a lot of first responders and recovery workers. My primary care provider's eagle eyes spotted my swollen thyroid, or I would have been another statistic. Doctors, surgeons and radiologists in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., likely saved my life, but with the coronavirus, things aren't that simple.

George Floyd. I watched the man die, watched officer Chauvin squeeze the life out of him. I have a hard time understanding why and how, but I do wonder how we recruit people in the police who are capable of "restraining a person to death". There were plenty of officers to help restrain Floyd, a knee to the neck, to any educated person, is likely to impair blood flow to the brain. I just have no way to understand how we don't have hiring standards that can bring us officers who aren't potential killers. Again, there were plenty of officers, and clearly, when urged to exercise restraint, Chauvin refused. We've had these problems here in Seattle, when the Fed stepped in - and those problems have not been resolved, lessened, maybe, now that we have a black female chief of police, but watching the goings-on, this past week, not much has changed.

Saturday May 30, 2020: Bigger and better

Keywords: more COVID-19, morgue, budget, furniture, HP business notebooks, ADATA, 4TD SSD, ESATA
To some extent things are beginning to return to "normal", whatever that is, I am getting to keep some doctor's apointments, which, during the height of the pandemic, was all but impossible. Well, that's what I thought. And just after I wrote that another tenant in the building alerted me someone on the premises had been diagnosed with COVID-19. I noticed someone coughing, last weekend, downstairs, and then by Monday morning City notices were posted that the building is now Resident-Access-Only. So there you have it. I don't have symptoms, nor do I feel ill, but clearly, the virus is still doing the rounds, which is concerning, espcially with all those morons who think they will die if they skip the beach this year. Fingers crossed. Now I need to check whether my doctors will still see me next week, and the week after. Blah. The big quiet is over, anyway, traffic jams on the bridges in and out of this island, and crowded parking lots, even if the pubs and restaurants and hairdressers are still closed. What worries me is that so many folks seem to think the whole thing is just about over - the statistics, which clearly indicate there are still lots of people contracting COVID-19, and plenty of folks dying from it, have, to some extent, lost their meaning, as the numbers are getting "smaller".

Peeps, for as long as new patients are continuing to end up in hospital, and continuing to end up in the morgue, this thing is out there - I cringe when I see families walk their dogs without face protection or gloves - they think they're immune, especially the teens, and believe you me, they are not. Statistics are for scientists - if you're my age and have a condition, your chance of contracting something may be 60 or 70%, and you need to continue to be careful. If you're 16, and you've never had your immune system tested, you may have a 30% risk factor - but kids, if you get it, you're as dead as all these old folk. If you're 16, you may have a staggering 70 years of life ahead of you, so showing off your face and curves and getting a date is something you could postpone for a year, and just concentrate on learning to live in our new world. In my various co-living spaces here in Washington, these past few years, I've seen up close how bad people are at hygiene - and this is the time you all really need to learn that - I was never one for diligent handwashing, but I am convinced now, and it needs to become a habit. When the supermarkets ran out of cleaning agents and hand gel and desinfectant, for weeks, you should have got the message - part of the reason so many died is that they could not clean themselves, and their dwelling, appropriately. If you used to reuse kitchen paper, now is the time to stop that - our health has improved so much, in the past 50 years, because we have these disposable products. Understand, and use them.

ADATA 4TB SSD There is very little left to do, in terms of finishing off my living space - bookcase, shelving, not at this point a high priority. Predominantly, I have been slowing down my spending, to try and make sure I start saving again, after all of the spending for the move and move-in. So the rest I can do once my savings build back - my budget spreadsheet tells me I am doing OK, having said that, I am paying more rent, though insurances and utilities are currently discounting due to the pandemic.

Having said that, I've not done a lot of maintenance on my computers, one I have not backed up for months (save a daily core archive copy, but that does not help me do a full restore), the other does get a weekly backup, but when I ran integrity scans on both laptops, earlier in the week, I found that the HP2560 failed out with an error. That machine I only use to record broadcast HD-TV on a daily basis, but it has a full installed copy of every software package I use, and should have a full copy of my core archive. So as I have time, and we're still in lockdown, I have started a full archival backup (a terabyte, which will take the better part of a week), and I will do an archive copy from my work 2570 to the backup 2560, then to replace the 2 terabyte archive drive with a 4 terabyte SSD archive drive I just bought. At $440 including tax, it seemed a good deal, and I am very happy with the 2 terabyte ADATA SSD I installed in my 2570, which has been running without a hitch since February of last year. This new bigger drive is from ADATA too, and I think I can be less concerned about running temperature, as the archive drive gets little use. I had noticed that the SSD's run hot, much hotter than a "regular" hard disk, or even a hybrid hard disk. I like having an archival disk that is larger than the primary, so I can keep copies on the archival of files that were (intentionally) erased from the primary. The SSD will sit on an external ESATA port (both of my HPs have such an animal), so my daily archiving should be significantly faster than it has been using the smaller (well, two terabyte) conventional disk.

Friday May 22, 2020: Coffee and survival

Keywords: espresso, La Llave, Melitta, Trump, Pence, elder support, urban amenities, chloroquine
better than Starbucks 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.
The time machine through January 3rd, 2020, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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