I didn't go anywhere yesterday! (205.7)

That's been really rare, especially since we started working on campus again. Didn't go anywhere for brunch. Didn't go anywhere to watch football. Ate food that was already in my house. It didn't occur to me until this morning that this broke my long string of checking into the City of Ithaca on Swarm, and dashed my hopes of reclaiming that mayorship. The string was going to be broken later this month when I'm away for a wedding weekend anyway, but this gap means it'll take that much longer to recover. That's OK.

I baked another loaf of the really good "overnight oatmeal bread machine bread" I'd made last weekend, since the last few slices were moldy the other day. Oops! Last few slices this time are now in the fridge. That saved me having to run out to the store for bread in order to make a sandwich with the liverwurst I'd grabbed at the store the other night to sate some cravings that were due to posts in a sandwich group on Facebook.

Also did just enough driving to earn the $250 bonus from Lyft, but no more. Totally coulda done some driving yesterday, and probably would've gotten some grateful passengers, but for an average of $3.90 per trip in town, and no reasonable bonus incentives left, it's tough to justify.

Meantime, I caught up on the laundry (including washing the guest comforter after this weekend's Airbnb guests) and a bunch of TV. Even without adding any new shows, all the fall TV starting up has filled my dance card! I think I'm caught up on the FBI shows and Chicago shows. May be a week behind on "NCIS" and "NCIS Hawaii." Current on "Star Trek: Lower Decks," but still a couple of weeks behind on "Ted Lasso" even after plowing through four episodes on Saturday night.

Hard to pass up $250 (207.4)

Back in the spring, Uber had some serious incentives to get drivers back on the road. That has really petered out, and with the exception of a few "get $2 extra for giving a ride" offers a week, Uber has really been making its offers only to the most serious full-time drivers. Drive 70 times in four days to earn $260 extra? Never gonna happen, and even if I could pull it off, it's only a few bucks extra per ride. Hardly worth it.

The last couple of weeks, Lyft's been the one with the incentives that are in reach of part-time, when-I-can drivers like me. 15 rides in a week for $150 bonus last week. 20 rides in a week for $250 bonus this week. Those goals are reachable! I reached them last week and this week. The extra $400 will really come in handy as I try to catch up on a few things.

Frustratingly, the fares themselves are still way too low. Too many of the rides are $4ish, $5ish, $6ish.Thursday's $57 to take a student to the Syracuse airport, over an hour away, was only worth it because he offered me an extra $50 when I was reluctant to take the long trip. Otherwise, $57 for a three-hour round trip, not counting the actual gas expenses or the wear and tear, is too paltry. He's offered me $100 cash to pick him up Wednesday night, and that's worth it!

I also just had my first two Airbnb guests this weekend. I've been a Couchsurfing host for years (over 15 for sure), but it feels different when the guest is paying to stay here. Expectations are higher, for sure. i'll have to think about whether I want to keep doing it. I have a guest staying for a longer stretch while in town to do some physics research, and while I don't usually want a houseguest for a long stretch, it seems a lot more manageable than having multiple people checking in and out every night or two over the same stretch.
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Traveling to a conference, in my basement (206.8)

I've gained two and a half pounds since Saturday, which isn't too bad, but I'm just gonna blame the conference I attended the last two days. I always gain weight at the HighEdWeb conference, though that's usually because it's several days of travel and eating a LOT. And drinking a lot. Beer is, for sure, one of the key factors in my weight loss over the last year and a half, as I've been drinking so much less of it. I actually didn't have much to drink the last couple of days -- nothing, until last night's sushi excursion -- so I'll blame eating well.

Last fall, for the first remote HighEdWeb conference, I made a point of cooking some of the foods I'd have been eating if we were actually in Little Rock, as we were supposed to be. This year, we'd have been in Buffalo, but I didn't actually bother making Buffalo specialties. Did make a point of getting bacon and eggs for a decent breakfast (bacon is a big part of the HighEdWeb breakfast scene), and used the bread maker timer mode for the first time to set up a batch late Sunday night to turn into a warm loaf of bread by 9am Monday. It came out great!

Hadn't really gotten around to planning Monday's lunch, so I took advantage of a 75% off Uber Eats offer and ordered some Oishii Bowl delivered. Decent Asian eatery with ramen, udon, and rice bowls. I went with the Katsu Don, fried pork cutlet over rice, and some fried shrimp with dipping sauce. Also got a Thai iced tea and sticky rice for dessert. Ate half of the shrimp appetizer and half of the katsu, and the rest remains for another meal. Of course, a 75% off Uber Eats meal is still expensive as hell! Not least because there's a $20 maximum discount, so once you've ordered a couple of items, you're no longer really getting 75% off. Add fees and taxes, and of course a decent tip based on the original amounts, not the discounted amounts, and lunch was still well north of $20.

Monday night there were a couple of new things I wanted to try in order to write a review of the Ithaca Ghost Kitchen, so I ordered from them and zipped down the hill to pick up. Yes, they get a decent tip, too. Goat cheese and strawberry preserves bacon cheeseburger slider (as good as it sounds) and a salad, and a slice of key lime pie. The rest went in the fridge.

The Ghost Kitchen strawberry bruschetta panini (!) became breakfast yesterday before the second day of the conference kicked off, with the rest of the bacon I'd cooked Monday morning, and I had about a third of the enormous chicken parm over fettuccine for lunch. The rest of that came to work with me today, and I just polished it off.

Might write more about the conference itself later, but it was both exhausting and energizing, as it always is -- even though I didn't have to walk 20,000 steps around a city and conference center. Facebook memories reminded me this morning that the trip four of us took to WebDevShare was twenty years ago today That conference ultimately merged with another to become what's now HighEdWeb, so I've been attending this conference for literally 20 years. There were just some gaps along the way. I attended regional versions in 2009 and 2012, and then the full real one I went to was 2013 in Buffalo. I think I've been back all but one year since.

Shortest Uber trips ever? (205.9)

Yesterday's two quick Uber rides were as short as I can possibly imagine.

The first, after I had a bagel with kingpin248, was a very small woman in Collegetown (the 90% student-occupied neighborhood next to campus) who had a very heavy box to take around the corner from the middle of the block on Dryden Road to a block and a half down College Avenue. It was heavy enough (20kg) that she stalled partway up the sidewalk to my car and asked for my help. So, I went and picked up the box and put it in the car. We drove around the corner, and I told her I would carry it to the door for her. It was down a path along the side to the basement apartment of one of the handful of remaining old houses on that stretch. Would have carried it inside if she hadn't reached out to take it from me. That trip netted me $9.74 thanks to $5.56 of surge pricing and a $2 minimum fare supplement on top of what would otherwise have been a $2.18 fare. (No, $4.18 isn't much better.) It cost her $18.95.

The second was after I got back to town from an ill-fated trip to Shepherdess Cellars (they didn't have the wine Mark had literally just told me over the phone that he had before I drove up there). I picked up a shopper with a cart full of groceries and took her across the street to the Super 8 Motel. Genuinely across the street. Now, OK, she'd have had to walk the depth of the supermarket before she could've crossed the street, but I'm thinking most people would've walked the full shopping cart over to the motel, unloaded it, and brought the cart back. Or, y'know, not bothered. She paid $10.22 for her trip, of which I got $4.47. Helped her unload, of course! That wouldn't have been too bad a fare for that really short trip that was barely out of my way when I got back into town, but as I headed back towards home to walk the dogs, I got a phone call! She thought she'd left her sushi in my car. Yup! In a paper bag in the back of the trunk. Everything had been in the fancy reusable grocery bags we brought into the lobby of the Super 8, or so we thought. So, I drove back to give her her sushi! Very glad she realized it was missing and was able to get in touch via Uber's "lost item" feature -- that woulda stunk when I got in the car this morning.

I'd had movie plans last night, but Alan turned out not to be able to make it, so we'll do "Free Guy" another time. I don't remember for sure what the trigger was, but I ended up needing to watch "Avengers: Endgame," so I did. Tonight I've done a couple more episodes of "Mare of Easttown." I had watched the first episode a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't really grab me. After last night's Emmys, though, I said "fiiiiine." Might as well give it another try. It's definitely growing on me.

Just had my first Uber Pet trip! (205.1)

Didn't even realize until I got to the pickup point. Had a very nice drive with Miss Riley (Reilly?) and her people back to their place. She's a 14-year-old pit and lab mix who doesn't love car rides, but loves being out with her people enough that the ride must be worth it. She was certainly well behaved, and I asked if I could give her a treat, and did.

We were talking about how I only do this once in a while when I have spare time, partly because it doesn't pay very well, and Uber routinely gives drivers a small fraction of what they charge the passenger. This one turned out to be a rare exception -- the trip netted $18 and change for me of the $25 and change they were charged. I think it's partly because I got an extra bit for "long pickup" time and distance, and the pet fee that must just go straight through, plus a small surge amount. They even added a tip after the ride!

Drivers get to decide whether they're open to Uber Pet, i.e. transporting people with their companion animals, but are required by law to take service animals, period. That just makes sense.

Kicking the door in worked better than I expected! (204.9)

This morning my garage door wouldn't open with the keypad. The only remote is inside the car. (I haven't succeeded in programming the car's garage door button to mimic the remote.)

Complicating the situation was that the back door into the garage has been locked for a long time, and I have no idea where the key is. (There's no door from the house into the garage; that's one of several oddities I've learned to live with.) That hadn't been a priority until this morning. On the occasion last year when tigger91872 came over to help when the garage door was stuck because the car's hatchback door had opened and was in the way, he had thought he might be able to pick the lock, but we didn't get that far because I was able to use the car remote to get it to shut the hatch.

Trying the keypad repeatedly didn't work. Waiting a while didn't work.

So, I went to the door, faced away, and kicked backwards. It worked! The doorjamb broke next to the lock, and I was able to get into the garage, open the car, and, to my relief, pushing the button on the remote opened the garage door. (It had also occurred to me there might be a circuit breaker that had tripped, preventing the keypad from working, but I guess not.) Can't recall which TV cop or firefighter I learned the correct technique from, but don't try kicking forwards to open a door. You're likely to do more damage to your ankle than to the door or lock.

Glad I didn't have to call a locksmith and pay a rush fee to get my car out of the garage this morning. The knob on that back door is now unlocked, and at some point I'll get the doorjamb fixed and get the lock rekeyed. I actually have a spare lockset that I got from someone at some point. That'll probably do the job. In the meantime, sorry, there's nothing exciting to break into my garage for!

Is it giving up or giving in? (204.4)

I have a lot of e-mail in my main Gmail account, my address. Over a decade's worth. I delete a lot of mail, of course, but that's still a lot of mail piling up over time. I've had not just the 15GB limit, but a "bonus" 2GB that I earned by doing something-or-other several years ago. (Ah, it was a "security checkup bonus.") As far as I can tell, they've stopped having occasional opportunities to get a bigger capacity.

With a 17GB limit, Google actually lets you use up to 18GB of space before cutting you off -- stopping incoming mail from reaching you, and stopping outgoing mail from being saved to your sent mailbox. In theory, if I were using Gmail on the web, I would see a warning as I approached that hard limit, but since I never use Gmail on the web, I never see the warning.

Tuesday evening, I hit the limit, and of course the main clue is that mail stops arriving. This has been happening every few to several months, and each time it happens, I've deleted enough mail to get back under 17GB. (If I stay under 18, I'm fine, but once I hit 18, I have to get back under 17.)

I spent a little while doing this on Wednesday morning, but eventually decided to take the easy way out -- pay for more space. I hate paying for a "free service," but honestly, $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year isn't unreasonable to stop having to worry about how much storage I'm using. Adding 100GB to my capacity also means I can actively use my Google Drive, store images in Google Photos, and whatever else I've been avoiding for lack of capacity. (All of this shares the Google Drive capacity with the Gmail storage.)

Maybe I'll explore the other ways I can take advantage of that 100GB of additional capacity. I suspect it's now a total of 117, not just 100. At least, it should be!

This feels really good! (204.5)

A parent who spotted my name on my name tag while I was volunteering during Cornell move-in yesterday sent me a Facebook message this morning.

We moved in our oldest of five children! Exciting, stressful, sad, etc. People like yourself make these transitions (like moving into dorms on wet, rainy and busy day) much more enjoyable! Thank you for your help and your positive attitude. You really set the tone for us as parents for our first move in and we very much appreciate it!

Especially after an exhausting day, it's nice to hear my efforts and demeanor are noticed and appreciated.

Scary letter from the Red Cross! (205.1)

I almost tossed the thin envelope from the American Red Cross right in the recycling bin, figuring it was a fundraising effort, but I noticed that they actually spelled my name right on the envelope, and decided to open it. I'm glad I did!

According to the letter, they need my help for an "investigation of a possible transfution-related problem that we recently received. A patient who received blood has developed a health problem that may be related to blood transfusion."

The letter asked me to call a number so they could ask some questions, and added that they might need me to provide a blood sample for testing.

I called, and the helpful Red Cross rep ran through a dozen or so questions about my health within a few weeks of my July 1st blood donation. A lot of the same sorts of questions they ask during intake before a donation, with a few more specifics. She says the hospital where the patient received a transfusion and then had a concerning health problem is still doing their investigation, and they may still need a blood sample from me. If so, they'll call. It sounds as though the patient had a bacterial infection, but that of course could have come from a variety of places other than my blood. She checked the records, and wasn't able to figure out what the specific infection was.

In the meantime, I've been deferred from donating blood, which is a shame, because I was about to be eligible again next week! Assuming they decide there wasn't a problem with my blood, they'll release me soon.

People are complicated. Al sure was. (204.5)

I learned Tuesday that my middle school and high school band director and music teacher died early this week due to complications from COVID-19. He had been in a medically induced coma and came out of it, and had perhaps seemed to be doing better.

Al and his wife, who's a longtime close friend of my mom, got divorced when we were all kids. I remember a lot of the talk and a lot of the rumor and, however much of it is true, I think it was long understood that Al wasn't a great husband. I've also known their kids forever, and what I always knew in the back of my head but hadn't thought that much about was that they hadn't really had a relationship with their dad for a very long time. I don't know to what extent that's because he was such a bad husband, or whether he was also genuinely a bad father.

All three -- both kids and the ex wife -- posted on Facebook about his death, and of course all received the predictable torrent of condolence comments. I contributed; however complicated the relationships, his passing has to have been a painful loss.

Al's daughter is a little younger than my brother, and they're longtime friends, so I know her better, but I got to know her little brother quite young because as a high school student I ended up teaching some very early computer classes to a small group of very-interested elementary school kids, him included.

I'm lucky! I got to interact with the fun version of Al without all the familial weight. I played trumpet, and if I recall correctly, Al was a brass player if not a trumpet player himself. Much more important, he was a Star Trek fan, and he and I bonded quickly over that shared interest. We even both went to at least one Trek convention in New York City.

I hadn't seen Al in many years, certainly not this century. I briefly tried poking around to see if there were any photos of him, but I haven't succeeded in finding any social media presence for him or about him. I know he has another daughter I never met, from another partner, and I didn't succeed in finding her, either.

So, Al goes on living in my head the way I remember him from my youth, which is probably just as well. And, on Tuesday night, I sat down and watched "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"How we face death is at least as important as how we face life."
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    James Horner