OpInionAteD - Menno Aartsen Rants and Raves - November 24, 2021

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Wednesday November 24: breaking equipment

Keywords: HP Elitebook, backup, Hitache, USB3, interrupts, broadcast TV dongle, Blackberry, KEYone
Blackberry Priv 2I am not entirely sure why my "secondary" laptop, an HP Elitebook 2560p, is working properly again, but there it is. I had it, fitted with a USB3 ExpressCard, backing up to a large (3TB) external Hitachi disk drive, but at some point the devices stopped talking to each other. The 2560 sits on a native HP docking station, and between the dock, the laptop itself, and the ExpressCard adapter, it probably simply had too many ports an interrupts in use, especially considering the 2560 has no native USB3 ports. It bothered me in that I could no longer do a full system backup, something I discovered when I tried to replace the 2TB hybrid internal drive with a 4TB solid state drive I had lying around. That would give me more storage space (I use that laptop for archival storage and for recording TV via Windows Media Center) and the ability to recover a disk image. Because Windows Media Center will only run on Windows 8.1, I've kept that updated and functional, but recently, I noticed Windows Update was no longer running.

Long story short, with help from the Microsoft support database I got that running again, and for safety's sake, I ran all of the Windows repair tools I could find. They did not report very much, but somehow, the issues I had been experiencing got fixed, so now I am back to backing up a terabyte or so. Hopefully, all that works, and then I can try and restore to the unused 4TB SSD. That should make the old 2560p a lot faster, considering Windows 8.1 uses virtual memory off its hard disk to swap unused code to, not a luxury with 16GB of RAM. Not having a mechanical disk in the laptop should improve its running, though SSDs tend to run pretty hot.

Of course, after four or so backup sessions the laptop stopped talking to the backup drive, for no reason that I could figure out. Not the first time, but I thought I'd try some tricks, and one actually worked - removing the laptop from its dock, and running it standalone, which removed a number of ports from the operating system. Why that setup sometimes works, and not at other times, is beyond me - having said that, I did do a troubleshooting session, although that did not report "real" errors. My guess is that, in both laptops, I just have too many devices connected, too many interrupts used, and that the operating systems (Windows 8.1 in one, Windows 10 in the other) may grab more interrupts than are available, both laptops sit on a docking station, and so have more ports available than they are probably designed for.

I can see this especially when the older 2560 won't talk to my broadcast TV dongle, something that happens occiasionally, and I have never found the reason of. Using the dongle lets me record HD TV off air, I am lucky that I can even use an indoor antenna without having to get cable or some other kind of TV feed. I record the broadcast programs on a large external hard disk, so can watch stuff later on a large 4K screen at my leisure. The other laptop, the 2570, is able to generate a 4K output to an external screen, I eventually firgure out how to let that HP service two screens without overheating. Installing a faster Intel Core i7 CPU, and renewing the thermal compound on the heat sink helped a lot. So does blowing out the insides and the fan, once a month.

In the interim, my favourite Blackberry has died - partly my own fault, its touch screen came lose, I tucked it back in, it still worked, and then I forgot to fix it. So the next time I used it, during Fred Meyer shopping, the screen came out again, and I couldn't get it to work again. Since I rely on this phone for much of my daily activities, and get much of my email there, this wasn't good. I swapped the SIM card to an older Blackberry, which works fine, for now, but that won't run all of my applications, so I needed a replacement handset. Much to my delight, I found a new KEYone in Canada, and as I write this UPS just delivered it to my apartment, took just the weekend to get here from Ontario - right across the continent. The unit certainly looks new, I've plugged it into my laptop and it started charging - if all is well it should be the same hard- and firmware as the one I broke. It will take overnight, more or less, to fully charge the new handset - as I plugged it in I noticed the battery was empty, but by morning it had fully recovered. It took me half the morning to configure it and set it up, and as I sit here I am waiting for the first emails to come in, this atfer setting up the diary and the phonebook, which sync with Google. Should be good to go - let me see if I can set up my foreign banking up, and I'll be home dry... The picture top left is the old Blackberry, a Priv, which, out of retirement, saved my hide while I was waiting for the replacement Blackerry KEYone to get here from Canada. I am glad I hung on to some of my old handsets, at least I have the ability to carry on communicatering when something goes wrong. The Priv runs an older version of Android, so it can't handle every application, but it did what it was supposed to do...


Sunday October 17: Facebook & Fall

Keywords: whistleblowers, Facebook, weather, business cases, Puget Sound fall
hallowe'en October already, though the weather remains pleasant , the odd shower, but nothing untoward. Climate change, I understand, has "warmed up" the Puget Sound area, compared to the past, and I can still have pleasant sunlit afternoon walks, though less hot than the midsummer nineties. My heat pumps switch to heating much of the day, though I still have one running a cooling cycle overnight, mostly because this is a "warm" building, if you know what I mean.

The weather is important for my walks - due to my recent shoulder injury I can't work out at the gym, so I've reverted to walking, but the lack of a thyroid makes it hard for my body to regulate its internal temperature. So I try to stick to reasonable outside temperatures, bits of sun if it is available, aging definitely does not help. I must say that in this area of Seattle there's generally more sun than elsewhere, likely because of our proximity to the coast, today began overcast, it was supposed to rain, but the sun came out and stayed.

I am wondering why Frances Haugen decided to blow the whistle on Facebook , her previous employer. I can see the relevance, and she is certainly sufficiently experienced and erudite enough to have a valid opinion, but I don't understand the why. It is the one thing missing from her narrative: her personal motivation to come forward, and share (likely illegally) internal Facebook documents with the United States government. I personally am not convinced that what Ms. Haugen proposes in changes to Facebook's modus operandi will actually work - yes, some of it makes sense, but a service the size of Facebook will have a tremendous amount of stuff going on that is virtually uncontrollable - yes, what teens get up to on Instagram, in terms of body image, is unhealthy, but in the final analysis it is something the girls do, often to each other, it isn't "promoted" by Facebook or Instagram or whoever. Verifying the ages of members has never been possible - for each time you try, thousands of clever teens will find ways around it, all the while being chased by porn meisters and pedofiles, who do nothing else all day.


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.
The time machine through Sunday October 4, 2020, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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