The blog home of Jeff Putz

New therapist, who dis?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 15, 2021, 5:16 PM | comments: 0

I was first introduced to the world of psychotherapy in college, when my bestie and then-future roommate started seeing the school's lone therapist. That was my junior year, and while I wasn't going through anything specific, I think even I knew in the back of my head that I had emerged from some kind of depression the year before. In any case, I would next see a therapist during and after my separation, and then intermittently from that point on, with some pretty long gaps here and there. I started up again a few years into our Florida adventure when work and parenting became a bit much to deal with without some help to figure out how to manage it all.

My last streak was late last year, with my last appointment in February of this year. When I pinged my therapist last week, she indicated that she wasn't really seeing people anymore, because she had quickly expanded into a small wellness empire with a dozen people in two locations. I thought she bailed because she had seen too much in the last year, but it turned out to be the opposite.

So she referred me to one of the people in her practice, and I met with her (virtually) for the first time last week. My initial impression is good, and I think she'll get me. I've done this for so long that I have a pretty good strategy to get the most for the money (which work coverage only covers so far), setting some high level agendas toward the things I want to address. In this case, I agreed to do several straight weeks and then go to more of a monthly cadence, in order to set a good baseline for her to get to know me and set some goals for myself.

You don't need to be suicidal to take mental health seriously, and I think it's fucked up that our society doesn't see that. You would think the last year, in the pandemic, would make that obvious, but I'm surprised at how few people see it and acknowledge it.

The troubling thing is that this is largely a luxury thing, and it shouldn't be. I have literally the best healthcare coverage of anyone I know (no payroll deduction, plus a reimbursement account for co-pays and deductibles), but it still isn't enough to cover what our family needs. Simon's ADHD meds alone cost nearly a hundred bucks a month after insurance. People working service jobs don't have access to even that, or likely can't afford medications like that. And don't get me started about insulin for diabetics. The system is so broken.


Sadness for your child

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 9:45 PM | comments: 0

In the last few weeks, Simon developed a very serious tic, where he began to shrug his shoulders and tilt his head, violently and repeatedly. He's had stuff like this come and go before, like throat clearing and picking, but this came on fast. His teachers both let us know that they were observing it too. This one worried me a lot, because it seemed like there was some sudden and deep neurological problem. His doctor, however, chalked it up to stress, likely caused by the pointless state testing going on at school. It has mostly, but not entirely, subsided. He's very aware that he's doing it.

This was the latest thing, in a string of things, that have caused sadness on his behalf. He recently came home from school crying because there was some group activity where no one wanted to partner with him. Diana observed him on the playground, just before dismissal, hanging out with the teachers instead of playing with other kids. Tonight he expressed worry that once school was finished, he would never see his teachers again.

This certainly wears on us, and I live in a constant stream of guilt because I'm not there for most of it during the day. In fact, I'm usually just there for nightly routines that we can't seem to consistently make successful, and I lose patience quickly. It's just hard, all of the time, and it's emotionally draining.

I want to emphasize, Simon is not without joy. Last weekend, he got to hang out with a few of his neighborhood friends when our neighbor had a bounce house for his birthday. His return to a theme park last weekend was pure bliss. As usual, he loves to unlock achievements and play video games. But he is still emotionally immature, by a year or two, and coupled with all of the baggage associated with ASD and ADHD, he just doesn't fit in much of the time, and he knows it. I'll give him credit, he is surprisingly vulnerable most of the time, with us at least, about what he feels. Putting words on what he feels is something his therapist has worked with him on quite a bit.

We're also hopefully setting him up for success in school next year. While his grades this year tell a positive story, and his teacher and principal have been amazing, "the system" has largely failed him. His IEP process has been a total disaster. (One person from the district accounted for his poor handwriting as, "That's just how boys are.") The thought of him going to a middle school next year with 2,500 other kids seemed like a recipe for failure, so we made the decision to put him in a private school capable of meeting him where he is. Diana has been working on that for months, and she found a growing program that will suit him well. As with all things autism, there's a difference between intelligence and the interface to the world. For example, we don't know that writing is difficult for him because he can't compose a sentence, when it might be he just can't start when presented with blank lines and a deadline to put something on them.

I just want him to have more happiness, because I very much relate to his school experience, and those aren't good memories for me. I think we've got a solid reprieve coming, at least for a few months, with the end of school, and an opening world with fun things and a small network of friends with vaccinated parents. No kid should have to endure what he's enduring right now.


Stop giving all of your creative content to huge companies!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

I was saddened today to see that Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast is going to be distributed exclusively by Spotify. This comes a few days after I was chatting with my neighbor, who consults with a ton of people on podcasting, and we talked about how the big platforms have become the gatekeepers of all the content, and no one will own their own thing anymore. That sucks.

Podcasting became technically possible when the RSS quasi-standard, "Really Simple Syndication," was updated to include "enclosures" in 2001. RSS wasn't that well understood by most people, but there were a lot of computer applications popping up, and even some that were web-based, that allowed you to plug in an RSS feed (which is at a URL, like anything else on the web) and it would update and show you when there was new stuff. What's awesome about this is that no one really owns your distribution. Sure, discovery is a different problem, but once you're known, you're known.

In 2004, as the iPod started to gain traction, and broadband began to put dial-up connections out to pasture, podcasts started to get a little attention. In 2005, former TechTV host and radio personality Leo Laporte started This Week in Tech, which turned into an entire network, complete with video. Suddenly, the niche started to show potential, with tens of thousands of listeners. That fall, I got the bug too, and put those dusty radio skills to use by starting the CoasterBuzz Podcast. I wasn't really trying to make a buck with it or anything, but before too long, we were consistently getting a few thousands listeners a week, sometimes getting tens of thousands if we got some weird Google juice or something. When I look at how "cool" podcasts are now, with every formerly quarantined celebrity starting one, I firmly present my hipster card for doing it before it was cool, and on software I built, thank you very much.

Of course, 2005 was a different time. Smart phones weren't really a thing yet, and some people didn't even have wi-fi yet, let alone broadband. But people who wanted to publish stuff on the Internet owned it, with their own site, and even with the dominance of Google in search, you didn't really have gatekeepers to content. It didn't run through apps or social media or video sites.

I'm not opposed to change on principle, and there's no question that the Internet has been good for the world, and insanely good for my career and financial well-being. But I hate how the openness of the Internet has been replaced by a few huge companies owning everything when it doesn't have to be that way. I mean, our old podcast is still available virtually anywhere that you find podcasts because it is neutrally self-hosted. I can search for it on the screen in my car and find it. I mean, to be timely, yeah, you can even find it on Spotify, and I never did anything to enable that.

There's little question that the Armchair folks are getting paid, I get that. But I also think that they're giving up control and limiting their audience. Meanwhile, the small players have all been shut out, so they publish their stuff on YouTube or Facebook and never own their distribution. That's unfortunate.


I want to quit the Internet, but...

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 11, 2021, 8:14 PM | comments: 0

Early in my dotcom career, 2002-ish, I remember going down to Orlando, from Cleveland, to spend a week in November with Stephanie. This was largely a theme park endeavor, which was more my thing than hers, and I intended to cover the annual IAAPA show for CoasterBuzz. These were the days when the young web sites could reliably net four figures monthly, and I spent way too much free time working on events and stuff. That was the third year I went to IAAPA, and I realized quickly that my audience really wasn't that into it because, well, it's a trade show. Trade shows are great for relationship building and conducting business, which I was interested in, but the kids on the sites just wanted to know about roller coasters.

Anyway, I blew off the show after a few hours, and we went back to Universal, where we were staying. That week, we did a marathon day through three of the Disney parks, free on a retiree friend of my then grandparents-in-law, a road trip out to Busch Gardens Tampa, locally to SeaWorld, and of course, lots of time at Universal. Man, all that running around doesn't even sound fun to me now when I say it out loud. Steph was a saint for tagging along on that one. Anyway, paint the picture in 2002... there were no smart phones, there was no wi-fi. I did have a cell phone (a Motorola StarTAC, because that's how I rolled), but I remember in cases like that I didn't carry it on me, because why bother.

That was blissful disconnection. My sites were "social media" before it had a name, and operating such a thing was exhausting. I rarely viewed other sites of any interest, because I just didn't have time. However, the surprising thing about it is that these sites connected me with people that I consider good friends, two decades later.

I wouldn't experience disconnection like that again until early 2013, on our first cruise. For three nights, there was no Internet, no social media, no news feeds, just people feeding me and entertaining me, along with my young family and in-laws. Even years later, when you're at sea, there is no connectivity (because Disney isn't gonna give you that for free). I don't have the discipline to just turn things off at other times.

I want to be an informed person, who learns things, is challenged to grow, and contribute to the world. There is no question that the Internet has made this possible. Yes, I've read scientific papers (most recently, about the reduced instances of IBS symptoms in people taking antihistamines). I've really boned up on history, filling in a lot of blanks. I've tried to better understand statistics, especially this year. The Internet is essential for this.

Social media is only as good as the connections it offers, and many of the people that I've met over the years and addresses simply don't use it very much anymore, if at all. There's one guy we used to meet up with every year or two who has essentially disappeared from online use, and that's sad. This is hardly surprising, because the algorithms intended to build engagement have mostly minimized its usefulness. I estimate there are at most 20 people still using Facebook that I go for, and if they split too, I'm not sure how I'll be able to maintain even a passive relationship with them.

The mobile revolution has had some really terrible side effects, and you can see them all of the time. Was it so terrible, in 2002, when we were waiting in line for a theme park ride, to talk to each other? Even strangers from time to time? Now, everyone is always looking down at a screen. I am very deliberate in trying to keep my phone in my pocket in these situations. Although, people watching is pretty boring when everyone is doom scrolling.

Speaking of doom scrolling, when social media is filled with links to news, especially politics, that's exhausting. I know people who run multiple news apps, and look at every notification. (I'm guilty of just one, the NYT, but it only alerts on "breaking news," which averages less than 5 notifications anymore.

But here's the other weird thing I use Facebook and Instagram for... they're my time capsule. I have no fucks to give about the number of likes I get, but it's absolutely useful to me to see what I was up to on this day in 2010.

There's a part of me that just wants to build a social media site for me and a few friends. Get in, post stuff, read only actual friend stuff, and get out, but it might not be useful if no one else uses it. And to handle my time capsule, build it to import Facebook exports (that's more straight forward than you'd think).

Still, the reality is that the Internet makes me feel less connected, not more, but I value that small handful of people around the country that I don't want to lose touch with.


Liberty is not without social contracts

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 10, 2021, 9:00 AM | comments: 0

I recently observed a few different online discussions that revolved around individual liberties. I think that's an important topic, for sure, but I think many of the people who talk about it approach it as ideologues, over-simplifying it without the context of how humans must interact with each other.

I generally believe that individual liberties are important to a prosperous society, for sure, but they do not exist in a vacuum. People don't have the liberty to shoot each other, obviously, which comes at the expense of the person who would be dead in that scenario. There are a thousand examples that we could come up with like this, and each one is governed with accepted social contracts, whether they're written into law or not. I don't have to hold a door for a person entering behind me, as it certainly constrains my liberty to move quickly, but I hold it anyway because I'm not a dick.

The pandemic has been a real test to the balance of civil liberties and social contracts, and America largely failed that test. Much of the population believed that getting a haircut was more important than containing a disease that killed nearly 600,000 people. I get it, that it was a bad situation regardless, and there was no way of getting around the economic suffering it would cause. But consider this: When history looks back and the accounting is done, Americans will have suffered greater financial impact on a per capita basis, with higher instances of death, than those that buckled down for short-term challenges and emerged on the other side faster.

Now we have a real long-term solution to the pandemic in the way of vaccines. We have a way out, and we can get there faster than anyone because of our nation's wealth. And yet, there is a non-trivial part of the population unwilling to vaccinate, many because of their "freedom" or some willfully ignorant nonsense. Once again, this comes at the expense of the greater population, especially those that for one medical reason or another, can't vaccinate, including kids under 12. Is it judgmental to look at these folks negatively? Yeah, probably. But it's the person who doesn't hold the door, only the stakes are much higher. We get vaccinated for a lot of different diseases, not simply for our own survival, but for our families and communities. This is not a great sacrifice.

There are also people that are unsurprisingly selective about liberties, and which ones are important. A large group of Americans believe right now that there should be no restrictions to firearms, but are not at all vocal about voter suppression laws. Remember, firearm restrictions "interfere with lawful citizens," but voting restrictions apparently do not. Many of the anti-vaccine people are also the folks who want to dictate the conditions of women's health, too. It does not lend a lot of credibility to people who are ideologically inflexible when it's convenient.

The bottom line is that individual liberties do not exist without social contracts. What you believe you're entitled to can't come by way of danger or disadvantage to others.


First time back to a theme park

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 6, 2021, 12:00 PM | comments: 0

Last week we were able to buy back in to our annual passes at Walt Disney World, and our first reservation was last night, at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We did a brief after-work visit for about three and a half hours. It was, as I expected, a little weird.

They're still doing temperature screenings, which I suspect will end soon now that the CDC says it's a waste of time, and Universal stopped doing it. Masks are required unless you're stationary and eating or drinking. Capacity is apparently limited to about 35%, which is why they're doing reservations. They do allow passholders to park hop after 1 p.m. now. They're not using the finger print readers for admission.

First off, what a good but weird feeling to walk in through those gates for the first time in more than a year. We didn't choose to live in this area specifically because of the proximity to the Disney property, but being this close is certainly a perk, and it's pretty great to have the kind of access that most people are lucky to have once a year at best. You kind of take a little ownership of it, like it's an extension of your backyard. Right away, we had our picture taken, which Disney is now OK with you unmaksing for.

There are no Fastpasses right now, and some queues for some rides extend outside with the 2-meter interval decals on the ground encouraging you to keep your distance. This results in fast moving lines in most cases. Some rides have staggered loading, reducing their capacity, which manifests itself the worst on Slinky Dog Dash, which never had a wait under an hour. They are still doing boarding groups for Rise of The Resistance, so we were not able to ride it because you have to either hit the app at 7 a.m., or be in the park for another shot at 1 p.m. In most queues, you can expect to find plexiglass barriers, and the barriers are at all of the food stands, and it's just hard to hear people. It's a little dystopian, even though I totally get the intention.

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway was the new ride that opened just before the pandemic, and we didn't get a chance to ride it before the closures. Simon was pretty obsessed about the ride, watching all the YouTube videos and even recreating part of it in Minecraft, where he cleverly engineered the pre-show. Unfortunately, they're not running the pre-show, and that's one of the casualties of the pandemic. There are no pre-shows or any shows that result in people standing around together. That's particularly an issue at DHS, which ordinarily would engage thousands of people in various shows at a time.

The ride is absolutely the physical manifestation of the Mickey shorts that you can watch now on Disney+, which is to say they had a lot to work with stylistically. It's a fly-by-wire (wireless?) dark ride that's a lot of fun, and does video projection really well. We did it twice. I'm impressed with the precision involved in moving the cars, as they quite literally dance through one scene. I'm absolutely impressed. We waited 35 minutes the first time, about 15 the second.

From there we went to Star Tours, which was effectively a walk-on. They're loading every other row and put up dividers strapped to booster seats to block groups of 2 and 3 people. The barriers at each staging queue are very claustrophobia causing. The last act of our tour was on the planet with the salt flats and red dust, which I had never seen before.

Next was Smuggler's Run, which I think was just under 30 minutes. They are combining groups now, with 4 people doing the pilot and gunners, then groups of 2 filling the engineer seats, with clear barriers in between. My darling wife and son are terrible pilots.

We were ready to get something to eat at this point, when we realized that quite literally everything closed around 5 except for the counter service place half way down the street toward Tower of Terror. That location probably has the crappiest food, too. They're only taking orders via the mobile app (no cashiers), but what results is a bunch of crowding there and few open tables. I realize that there are likely staffing challenges and fewer people in the park in the evening, but it's not a great guest experience. Hopefully they'll figure out how to keep one of the other big locations, Backlot or Commissary, open later. One thing that felt immediately difficult is how expensive the food is, which I only notice after not buying any for more than a year. Our non-spending in the last year was extraordinary, and I can see partially why. Also, the quality of what's available isn't that great when comparing to the water parks, which I consider a more premium offering, or the counter service on the cruise line. I don't mind paying for theme park food, but don't be basic about it.

After dinner, we did a walk-on to Toy Story Midway Mania, and a walk-on to the flying saucers. Slinky was still an hour-plus, so we skipped that. That's when we took our second spin on Railway before calling it a night.

We were happy to be back in the park. Simon, in particular, needed the break because he's doing state testing this week, which stresses him out in a pretty serious and physical way. The 90 degrees outside with a mask is definitely uncomfortable, and hopefully as vaccinations continue to rise they'll consider dropping the masks for outdoors, though I'm sure the liability they face will keep them enforced for the foreseeable future. The neutered operations are very un-Disney-like, if necessary, but it's all temporary, hopefully.


Finn and Poe: First birthday!

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 3, 2021, 10:14 PM | comments: 0

A year ago today, our furry ragdoll cats were born in Naples, Florida. Three months after that, they came home with us. Today, Finn is about 13.6 pounds, and Poe is 11.6, and they're certainly not done growing. Their fur color has changed a ton, and they're really beautiful cats. All of the breed standard attributes that I was skeptical about have largely worked out. They do sometimes follow you around like a dog, and hilariously, they will flop over at your feet if they think there are belly rubs at stake. They will kind of go limp when you pick them up, most of the time, but like any cats, they'll let you know if they're not having it. They're not generally scared of things or people, whether it's a vacuum robot or a large bird outside that could likely carry them away. They're too curious.

Their personalities are different. Finn is definitely the bigger lover of the two, and he does this thing some nights where he jumps up on the bed, "monorails" Diana, buries his head in her hair and kneads with a full-on purr. With me, he waits for me to finish brushing my teeth in the morning, then follows me into the bedroom and flops over next to the dresser, demanding rubs. Poe is different. He's not aloof, not compared to most cats, but he's particular about engagement. He prefers to lay on your feet while you're cooking, and maybe nibble on your toes. There's also a fleece blanket he likes to meditatively knead. He enjoys brushing, which is good, because his hair is more "bunny fur" than Finn's. Poe is also way more food motivated, despite being the smaller of the two.

The boys also do what we were hoping for by getting brothers. They play together, wrestle, chase each other around, and groom each other like it's a part-time job. Some nights, one or both sleep at the edge of the bed. Sometimes they catch a lizard on the patio (and enthusiastically show it to you). With all of that running around, they sleep a good bit, too, but despite their size, they're a normal weight.

We found them via the breeder in May, and would have to wait until they were three months. They would be neutered by then and well taken care of and played with. The decision to get what are effectively "designer" cats wasn't something we took lightly, given that all of our previous cats were from shelters. But we were always pretty enamored with my brother-in-law's ragdolls, and I loved how robust and big they were. They fit the breed behavior traits as well. At our age, if we're being realistic, we get one more chance after this at adopting cats, because who knows if we'll be able to do it in old age. With that in mind, I was hoping for that ragdoll magic, and we got it.

The timing was unintentionally good. Part of it is just that the pandemic went on way longer than anyone expected, and frankly, we needed a little extra joy in our lives. But we also lost Emma before they arrived. That wasn't entirely unexpected given her age, but being the cranky one, I wondered if she'd go another few years. But then after just a few months with the boys, they lost their "old man," Oliver in December. While he was not young, at 14, maybe we figured by his kitten-like behavior that he had years to go. I had nearly 14 years with both of them, and traveled through 6,000 miles of moves with them. Simon only knew life with them, and it was a sad day when we said goodbye.

Finn and Poe are not replacements, and their arrival didn't make the loss easier, but they have added joy and love that we really needed in the last year. They legitimately make me smile every time I see them, no matter what the world is throwing at me. They're wonderful additions to our family, and I look forward to many years with them.

The boys, today:

First night home last August:


Disappointing leaders and a desperate want of inspiration

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 3, 2021, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

I recently came to the conclusion that wanting to feel inspired is a good desire, but it's downright silly to think that you can just get that entirely from within. It's not a personality flaw if you need a little encouragement or someone else to give you a spark.

I started to catalog the people in my life that have in fact been inspirational to me (because the last year hasn't provided enough time for introspection, right?), and I'm actually startled at how few people qualify. So small is this list that it almost creates feelings of sadness. Maybe the part that stings is actually the number of times that you've been disappointed by people that you thought should be inspiring. This has been particularly true in my professional life, that story where you meet someone and think, "This person has their shit together!" only to find later that it isn't together, they're only full of it.

It happens with public figures even more often. How often does an athlete beat impossible odds, only to find out he was doping, or beating his wife or gambling all of their money away. In business, we don't even celebrate success anymore, and seem to assume that any rich person got their in immoral ways. Musicians and actors? Society practically wants them to fail.

But in this last year where I've wanted to be a creator of things, where do I find my muse? I desperately want to see people who inspire me.

They're out there. I'm starting to see them. Like so many other things in the world, I think inspiration is waking up.


The puzzle association with autism is no accident

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 1, 2021, 9:56 PM | comments: 0

Last night, rocket scientist and YouTube genius Mark Rober, along with Jimmy Kimmel, did a three-hour fund-raiser for adult autism charities, and it was pretty great. Simon and I watched the whole thing, and he was fixated on the beaker graphic showing the donation totals.

Between celebrity appearances, they had a lot of great stories from autistic adults of every flavor, and it was one of those reminders that autism doesn't mean the same thing for any two people. I can't imagine being non-verbal or having difficulty controlling my body, while having a brilliant mind that can't easily manifest what it's thinking. The problem isn't always that the autistic person can't fit, it's often that society doesn't know how, or is unwilling to meet them where they are. Fortunately, a lot of employers are figuring out ways to utilize these adults with great success.

We had a fun night hanging out, but tonight was rough because something about having to shower before bed set him off into a meltdown. In the postmortem analysis of one of these, you try to figure out what happened, but in the moment, you focus on how to deescalate, because rationalizing the trigger won't do anyone any good. I also find myself cataloging the current crop of ticks, some of which are harmful (picking skin until it bleeds), and others which will make him a target of cruel peers (a compulsive shrugging thing that he knows he's doing).

All things considered, I don't think I've observed anything that might derail him as a functioning adult, but he has needs that are not being met. In his education, he makes the honor roll, while being behind in reading by a half grade level or more, depending on the assessment. He can seem to compose in small doses, but blank lines on a page produce a panic response. Even after getting back to in-person schooling, he isn't quite getting what he needs to meet him where he is, and for that reason, he'll go to a private school next year instead of getting lost in a middle school of 2,600+ kids. The next three years will be critical.

Meanwhile, the social and self-care skills we try to address via therapy, which we're now doing every other week. This doesn't have the clear objectives that we have with education, and often we focus on what happened the previous two weeks and look for ways to better prepare him. For example, this week there was a partner activity at school, and the kid he normally works with was out, and no other kid wanted to work with him. I heard the tears when he got home, and I knew, because there's a despair he feels that's different when external forces make him sad, as opposed to his own choices.

Trying to figure out how to help, in a way that teaches him to help himself, is a puzzle. Professionally, I'm good at puzzles... putting the right people together to build a team, coming up with the plan for people to work together, defining a problem so we can arrive at a concise solution. These are my super powers. But those skills don't translate well when you have an 11-year-old crying for reasons he probably doesn't understand himself. "Normal" is an "N-word" of its own kind in autism circles, because it implies that anything else is broken or substandard, but in the darkest moments, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I don't wonder why my child couldn't have a more typical development experience. It can be heartbreaking.

I am still struck by all the things that he goes through that I can relate to in a deeply personal way, when I frame it in the context of my own childhood. Rober closed his fundraiser making the point that autism doesn't go away, and if you've ever had irreconcilable emotional situations, lost friends for reasons you don't understand, or socially find it difficult to adapt, autism could explain a lot. I'm glad that Simon has the diagnosis because it at least reduces that ambiguity about why he sometimes struggles. I'm not sure I have the balls to get a formal diagnosis, even if my therapist, who is not a psychologist, believes many of the stereotypical traits are there. If it's true, it's almost a relief that explains some difficult times. If it's not, then I may feel genuinely defective, which certainly isn't healthy.

But I'm deeply empathetic with Simon. I know what it's like to be in a state where something happens and your brain simply can't reconcile it in a logical way. I also understand his sense of loneliness, and seeing how he expresses it makes me understand how much I used to repress it. Despite the empathy, it doesn't always lead to connection, and I sometimes tell him that I'm doing the best I can.

While I'm nervous to see what happens when hormones are added to the mix, I feel like we're doing all the things. Tomorrow, we're going to try and have a little fun.


Back to Walt Disney World

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 5:30 PM | comments: 0

In late May of last year, we decided to opt out of our Disney annual passes, because the risk profile for visiting the parks wasn't very well understood, we didn't know how they'd do in limiting community spread, and obviously, vaccines weren't even on the radar. Well, after much discussion, we decided to buy back in, something they're allowing people to do based on some unclear criteria about when you last had a pass.

This is like any risk assessment you've looked at in the last year, but there are important factors that have changed quickly. The first and obvious part is that Diana and I are fully vaccinated. We can lick the queue rails and not worry about Covid (though I wouldn't recommend it). With nearly a third of Americans vaccinated, that helps too, because we have an 11-year-old who is obviously not vaccinated. His risk profile is the one we really have to pay attention to, since we won't likely see vaccinations in his age group until around the end of the year, and in March he'll be eligible anyway on his birthday. The under-12 crowd is generally less at risk to hospitalization and death, but they can be significant transmission vectors. After nearly five months in school, with a case or two monthly, and none of it from school community spread, we think he'll be OK given Disney's strict mask mandates and protocol in attractions and restaurants.

The parks are running at a maximum of 35% capacity, which for Magic Kingdom, many theorize is could be at least 30,000 people per day. With no Fastpass, lines move pretty quickly, though I have to admit that the plastic barriers and not being able to see peoples' faces is stilly pretty dystopian and weird. It won't be normal, but it'll be normal-ish, and get us out of the house more.

Hopefully this means higher step counts going forward for all of us. (Not negated by Dolewhip and pretzels, maybe.)

We're still fighting Disney to get Diana's refund from last year, which for reasons no human understands they can't figure out after nine months.


Yes, everything does have to be about race

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 25, 2021, 5:02 PM | comments: 0

Seeing a conviction for the murder of George Floyd felt like a moment where the nation could at least let out a breath it had been holding for too long. We've seen too many occasions where murder was recorded before our eyes and the people who did it were not held accountable. The verdict doesn't bring George Floyd back, it doesn't fix the system of institutional racism baked into the criminal justice system and it doesn't fix police training. At best, it serves as a point of recognition that there are problems that most certainly need to be fixed.

There have been broader conversations about whether or not police violence against Black people is worse than white people. Black men are in fact 2.5 times more likely to die by the hand of law enforcement than white men in the US. There's nothing to debate, it's objectively true. We know shooting people is not the first step, as Newark has proven with zero shots fired last year, while crime went down. Furthermore, supporting the role of law enforcement in our society is not a binary decision against wanting accountability and training. We can do both. But a non-trivial portion of white people are generally made uncomfortably by the race aspect of the problem, and they say things like, "I don't see color, so why do people have to make everything about race?"

Yikes. Let's break that down a little. This is hard for me, because my gut reaction is not to try and explain why that's an icky thing to say, but rather judge the person hard for being seemingly oblivious to the world around them.

First off, when people talk about "white privilege," they're talking about having the ability to not worry about race as a factor in your daily life. I know the word "privilege" sounds as if you earned something for being white, but I can't find a more appropriate word. The spirit of the phrase stands though, because if you can "not see color," great, you're believing that you can treat people of all races equally, free of bias (a dubious claim for any human), but you're also invalidating a massive number of people who are oppressed or repressed every day for little reason other than the color of their skin. The same problem applies when you say, "all lives matter." That may be true, but "all lives" are not equally valued in American society, and you're invalidating the sentiment.

Why does everything have to be about race? Well, the risk of police interaction is only scratching the surface. The entire criminal justice system convicts people of color at a higher rate and with more severe sentences. We could talk all day about how resumes with the same jobs on them tend to pass screening more readily with names like "Todd" and "Jenny" than those with "Tyrone" or "Shanice." We could talk about red lining and home lending practices. The quality of education across races has been an issue for decades. Access to healthcare has never been equal along racial lines, something we're seeing in the midst of this very pandemic.

So if you wish everything could not be about race, imagine how a non-white person must feel. Most morally just people would love for things to not be about race, but our society is not ready for that because it is not equal. It never has been. We can't wish our way into "all men are created equal," we have to act like it in every single thing we do. Until then, everything must be about race.

I don't have the answers. I enjoy white privilege in a hundred different ways, every single day. I may have worked hard and earned my prosperity (whatever that even is), but the point is that society has never worked against me for the color of my skin. I feel that it's my duty as the "white moderate" that Dr. King wrote about from the Birmingham jail that I commit to justice over order, as the way forward for a more equal society. We won't get there if we don't make everything about race.


No time like the boring present

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 25, 2021, 3:45 PM | comments: 0

Few things to me, in this stage of my life, are as difficult as being mindful of the present. I'm sure I'm not alone on that. Like most people, I've spent much of the last year mostly looking forward to some future period of post-pandemic normalcy. The anxiety over that is still there, not because it's far off, but because we have the tools to get there now and a subset of the population is trying hard to mess it up.

There are other things that have me being future minded as well. I'm paying more attention to the fact that retirement, or at the very least, empty nesting, isn't all that far away. Financially, I'm closely watching to make sure that we're gonna be OK in our 60's and over. We're transitioning Simon to a private school next year (a separate topic itself). 

Sometimes I get really stuck on the past, too. There are a lot of ridiculous things I can't let go of, like my bike being stolen when I was 16, or a former employer who screwed me over many years ago. These are not things that materially impact my life today in any way, but I'm surprised the way I still emotionally react to them.

I think some of this gets better in a vaccinated world. Simon's grandparents are no longer off limits. A number of friends are fully vaccinated. We can eat in restaurants, feeling like we have a super power. Maybe we can even leave the country for travel by the end of the year. There's a lot that's going well, right in front of us. Life's next curveball could come at any time, so logically, I know it's best to be present.

I sure sound like a midlife stereotype these days.


Feeling bad about free time

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 24, 2021, 3:41 PM | comments: 0

I was having a conversation with my boss last week about the fact that my calendar was a solid block for days, and it's annoying because you don't get any time to just think or make stuff when that happens. He pointed out that when he does get a solid block of free time, he almost feels guilty about it, like he should be having meetings. Yes! I have this same problem. How did we get here?

American work culture has been fairly ridiculous for a long time, but with so many people having desk jobs from home in the last year, a trend that may stick, it's probably worse as people try to navigate the boundaries of this work arrangement. I've struggled with this for years in remote work scenarios. I wander into my office around 8, often bring lunch to my desk, and then at some point after 5 I realize that it's time to stop. I know that this is exhausting, and while I periodically get into grooves where I break up the day a bit, I fall into the old habit. I think I do it because I want to make sure I'm doing right by my coworkers.

But something interesting happened for the three weeks that I was shuttling Simon to and from school after Diana's foot surgery. That little break, a little after 2:30 every afternoon, did wonders for me. I was less tired, more focused when I was working, and definitely happier. I think I did about the same amount of work, but I felt better. When Diana resumed bus driver duty, I immediately missed it.

Next week, I have strategically put some blocks on my calendar for anything but interacting with people. There are things I need to think about to set up a number of outcomes over the next few months. I'm going to be very deliberate in looking at how that feels at the end of the day.


The symbolic opportunity of vaccination and my health

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 19, 2021, 11:14 PM | comments: 0

Today I was two weeks after my second Covid vaccine, which means I'm officially at full theoretical efficacy. As the running jokes go in one of my communities, it's now safe to dry-hump strangers in Florida bars, lick doorknobs party on South Beach. While I don't intend to do any of those things, it does feel kind of like a super power. You don't appreciate that as a kid, because no one is saying, "Yay, no polio or measles for you!" (Unfortunately, mumps and chicken pox were not something we were vaccinated for, so yeah, I'm that old.)

While it's not a free pass, especially given the fact that the vaccine trials aren't complete for kids, and I have one, it's still a personal milestone that I've been looking forward to for a year, and it causes me to be reflective about my own health. I don't feel physically good, in a non-specific way, but it's a familiar feeling I've had in previous years. At the end of 2019, I started to correct for it by paying better attention to what I was eating and when, and I dropped a few pounds. When the pandemic started, I successfully pushed soda out of my diet, or at least 90% of it. It wasn't until the holidays last year that I really slipped and began emotional eating, mostly crap late in the evening, and unchecked amount of carb sides with meals.

My two biggest successes with behavior modification came in the midst of divorce, and then again when I moved to Central Florida. These were both enormously symbolic times that represented new beginnings, for obvious reasons. Where I got sloppy in both cases was happy comfort, oddly enough. Things like getting married or getting used to eternal summer, as it turns out, for me feel like reasons to pile on the happy with poor eating and less activity, both of which feel good in the short term.

I'm not in some place of despair where I can't understand what I have to do. The math for eating right and relative fitness is wholly uncomplicated. Choosing to commit is the challenging part, because fuck you,, I like tater tots and sprawling out in comfort to do nothing. Those are not evil or bad things. They make me happy. They just have to share the stage with restraint and getting off the couch, which are decidedly less fun. I envy the people who get a runner's high, but I'm just not wired for it. I don't run unless something is chasing me. The only time exercise feels good is if I'm playing volleyball or tennis, and those aren't easy to make time for.

Fortunately, I don't need to be one of those people who think that others want to watch them exercise (that's a form of narcissism I'll never understand), but I do need to stick to the basics. I've learned that not eating between 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. is a rhythm I settle into easily. I live in Florida, so doing a lap around the neighborhood is possible really at almost any time. If I do those two things alone, I'm more than half way there. The rest is portion control and breaking up the day with movement. Weight comes off and I feel physically better. It's just habit.

I finally bought a standing desk, after contemplating it for years. I like it so far, probably up 40% of the time, and not all at once. What I need to get better about is blocking time, not just for physical health, but mental health. I was shuttling Simon to school the last three weeks since Diana couldn't drive, and I was surprised at how refreshed I felt just getting out for 30 to 40 minutes.

So with my new immunity, it seems like a good time for a general health reset. What I know works for me is not a heavy lift (or any lift, to use exercise parlance). The challenge is largely psychological, because this has to compete with everything else, including parenting and work. It's not always easy to prioritize me.


Do I miss working in radio/TV? Not really

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 19, 2021, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

There was a post on an Ashland University radio/TV alumni group asking about how many people were still in the business, and where all they worked. Few of my classmates, give or take a few years, are still in the business, but those who stayed with it now have more than two decades behind them, which is crazy. The guy who started the thread has more than 40 years!

I wanted to be a radio DJ from the time that I was 10-years-old, and then working for the city's government access channel in high school, I wanted to make television, too (nothing more gripping than televising city council meetings and high school basketball!). I started doing the DJ thing in my second week of my freshman year (poorly), and in my junior year, started working part-time at a commercial station, where I was informed that I was doing it wrong. Shortly after graduation, I landed at a "large market" station in Cleveland to do it full-time, making almost $16,000 a year (about $28k in today's dollars). That lasted a year and change, before a ratings shakeup moved the midday guy to my overnight slot since he had a contract and I did not.

A few months after that, I landed in a suburban city as their first Cable TV Coordinator, charged with building out government and public access. It was everything a know-it-all 20-something could want, with a chance to do the engineering, production, talent, management, all of it. Getting to be a department head, even if it was ultimately only 2.5 people and a budget around $150k annually, was something that I didn't realize would set me up for a lot of leadership roles later, especially when consulting. I ultimately left that gig not because dealing with politicians was hard, but because they weren't interested in legislating me into a pay schedule similar to those of my peers in surrounding cities. That, and it was hard to resist the promise of the Internet, where I was already dabbling in software development and felt like I could go the distance. It was a really good choice.

Leaving the business was only partially a financial consideration, though I can assure you I was not content to live at home on a starter radio salary. I remember my first week as a full-timer thinking, "Wow, so here I am. That was fast. Now what?" It really appealed to my ego, sure, but the job is largely sitting alone in a room answering the phone from 14-year-olds who wanna hear "Macarena" again. My mom had even built up radio personalities as "famous," but if there was any fame, it sure didn't come with fortune.

The TV gig, as I said, was ideal because I could do everything. I didn't have to worry about union rules that prohibited me from doing certain things, and there was no daily news grind. On any given day, I could be soldering some wires on to a connector, doing a stand-up or cutting video (first on tape, then on a computer). This job had a similar problem as the radio thing, where it wasn't clear how I could level up quickly in terms of responsibility and skills. In the job itself, it literally took an act of legislation for a raise, but in the industry in general, most of the jobs were news or freelance, both of which are very lifestyle driven. I usually enjoyed the work, but I couldn't see long-term outcomes.

Fortunately, the intense desire to "play" with computers as a kid, which seemed to be treated as an annoyance to most of the adults in my life, started to resurface after college, in part probably because my "in between" job was working retail at a CompUSA for a few months. Aside from becoming an expert at reinstalling Windows95, there were some basic things like composing HTML markup and writing little Perl scripts to do stuff on the World Wide Web that were exciting to me. By 1999, four years after graduation, I was confident that I could write code for a living.

Do I regret my course of study? No, but it's clearer than ever that college is really not job training. The radio/TV program fancied itself as just that, while my other major, journalism, was more academic. I didn't have particular good grades in any of it because I was bored and felt like I was checking boxes so I could work in the "real world." I could have learned everything specific to the broadcast work from other people, blue collar style. Because of the transition to digital technologies, the shelf life of the technical education was very short. The most valuable thing I got out of college was learning how to live and work with people, and in a few classes, learn how to learn. College was valuable, but in none of the ways it had been sold to me and my generation. It was absolutely not job training.

My general attitude about the value of college is not what it was, and I'll write about that at some other point. Software is surprisingly blue collar in nature as well, as far as experience and knowledge transfer, and for the most part, no one cares if you went to college at all.

The funny thing is that I revisited "radio" for years doing our old podcast, before podcasts were cool. Last year I figured out how to do music radio shows via PRX, and had fun doing that. On the video side, I've messed around doing mini-docs or just video of my kid doing kid things. We've even made some YouTube videos for fun. The deeper appeal to the work was always the act of creation, and especially in the Internet age, you don't need to have a broadcast signal to make stuff and share it. And when you work in my field, you can afford to buy the toys, too, which can be dangerous if you have a gadget fetish.

I don't miss working in those fields. I like what I do now. I can still make things, even if I don't get paid for them.


Freedom isn't free, right?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 15, 2021, 8:40 PM | comments: 0

Americans have for a long time had a cultural contract intended to remind you that our way of life was made possible in part because because of the service of others. Specifically, it has referred to military service, and the cost of that service is sometimes the life of our citizens. The deeper intention, I hope, is for people to understand that keeping the machine working does in fact require sacrifice and some degree of selflessness on the part of its people.

Personally, I embrace a wider view of this American history. Revolutionaries fought for independence, others fought to abolish slavery, women fought for equal rights, the civil rights fight is ongoing, healthcare workers and teachers have been putting their lives at risk for the last year, as have most people working in service industries... you could go on forever with examples like this. The freedom that we enjoy, imperfect as it is, comes on the back of a great deal of sacrifice.

I don't think that's something to shame people into believing, I think it's something that we should celebrate. And whether it's a Veteran's Day parade or people all over New York City clapping for first responders and healthcare workers, we do that.

Unfortunately, it seems there is a subset of people who do not practice what they preach. With the pandemic, we have essentially had to go to war against a faceless pathogen, and winning that war requires sacrifice. It previously meant that we had to temporarily cease business to keep it from breaking our healthcare system, and later it broke regionally anyway. It meant limits to in-person social interaction. It still means wearing masks to protect ourselves and each other. It means getting vaccinated.

And yet, an extraordinary number of people have made this a political issue where they believe that their freedom is threatened. Where is that core belief that freedom isn't free, that sometimes it requires some sacrifice? Some of what has been asked of people has had devastating results. We've lost more than a half-million people. There has been extraordinary sacrifice. But is wearing a mask, or being asked to avoid crowds, really something that has interfered with your freedom? I certainly don't care for the mitigation protocols, but they're one of the few things that I'm qualified to do to help get the world beyond this. It's not a heavy lift, and honestly, I wouldn't even qualify it as a sacrifice.

The last year has made me more aware than ever about the role that individuals play in improving our communities and the world. I have been trying to be more deliberate about charitable giving (mainly not just doing it in reaction to a need), looking for ways to improve inclusivity and equality in anything I'm involved with, and getting involved when I think my talents or time can help. We have a lot of work to do to keep that freedom flowing, or get it where it needs to be for those that don't yet truly have it.


Looking for clarity emerging from the pandemic

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 12, 2021, 8:20 PM | comments: 0

A week ago I had my second vaccine dose, and what I didn't know then is that I would be largely knocked on my ass for two nights. As is the case with a lot of people who got the Moderna shots, that second one put me deep into that sick funk, with some intermittent fever even. I tell myself that maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought, because I haven't been actually sick since late 2019 (turns out that avoiding Covid means avoiding everything). While this was not convenient, in the middle of my time off from work, I'm still thankful to have it done.

While I still technically have another week for full efficacy, the difference between 90 and 95%, probably, and likely 100% against hospitalization, I tend to view nearly every situation differently. I don't walk into a restaurant thinking about table density, or into Home Depot wondering if that contractor hacking up a lung is spreading disease. At the grocery store, I look at the old folks as the first line of enhanced humans, while I wonder how long it will be before the teenage baggers get their shot. We can make plans to see grandparents. We're talking with other parents about getting the kids together. We're even wondering when it will be time to return to the theme parks, not out of concern of Covid safety, but wondering when they'll be able to service a reasonable capacity.

But what to do with the kids? There is growing concern that youth sports and kid parties are causing a lot of community spread, and obviously the more kids get infected, the more you see some percentage of them get exceptionally ill or have long-term effects. (The lack of testing in club sports in particular seems pretty dumb.) It turns out that pediatric Covid death is also significantly more common than flu death, in part because it's more contagious. The crappy reality is that, best case scenario, the trials for kids won't be done until September.

While vaccinated adults will certainly help to slow down the pandemic, it seems like we need guidance about the kids. I think the schools have it figured out (at least, they do in my district), but their efforts assume some portion of kids are remote learning, which no one wants because it's fucking terrible and ineffective. Adult gatherings that may include kids also need some guidelines.

Vacation travel has to be figured out, too, which absolutely will include families with children. The CDC isn't getting anything right with the cruise industry, which has started to figure that their only way forward is to vaccinate crews themselves and require it of passengers. That's probably fine for most of them, but not Disney Cruise Line. The theme parks need a long-term plan as well, to understand when they can appropriately increase capacity, do standing room night spectaculars, allow queue density, with children, and probably above all, set mask expectations. For a significant time forward, there really are two populations: vaccinated adults and everyone else.

And then, what do we do about the holdouts? If herd immunity is not effectively achieved without 70-90% of people getting the shots, then what? We don't reach that level without children. We might not get there if these goofy anti-vax people don't get on board. We need to start getting the vaccine to all the places in the world that haven't started yet, too.

It's a weird time... you can see something awesome on the horizon, and it feels good. Just need to push it across the finish line. One more week and I'm licking doorknobs with reckless abandon!


Mini-review: Canon R6

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 7, 2021, 8:34 PM | comments: 0

Within a few weeks of writing about unloading some of my older camera gear, I pulled the trigger on buying a Canon R6 mirrorless camera. I expressed my concern earlier about the apparent deprecation of the classic EF lens mount, and sure enough, it looks like that's happening as they discontinue lenses. The new RF mount, which the R6 has, is obviously the new hotness. (I also swapped video cameras, but that's a different post.)

I think it has been obvious for awhile now that ditching the mirrors in DSLR's while keeping mechanical shutters was going to be the new normal in photography. Several years ago I had a great time with the tiny Panasonic and its micro-4/3 lens on vacation in Alaska, and while there are compromises in using a small sensor like that, optically the results were pretty great. A little over two years ago, Canon announced the RF lens mount, which decreased the distance between the lens and the sensor by more than half, and without the mirrors, the cameras could physically be smaller. Having four "old" EF lenses, three of which are the mid-level "L" lenses (the more capable, and more expensive, lenses), I was in no hurry to jump into the new system, but understood it was the future.

My first full-frame Canon was the original 5D, back in 2008. It was the first time I ever had the good tools, and it made me remember just how much I loved photography (my first outing with it was at WDW). The next year, I bought the 7D, which was not full-frame, but I wanted it for the video capability. The 5D came with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS, easily the most versatile lens I've ever had. I previously bought the EF 70-200mm f/4 (non-IS) to use with an older cropped sensor body. I also scored the 50mm f/1.4 for dreamy portrait photos. Those three lenses covered almost everything, and I shot babies and 5K's and engagement photos and weddings. Later I would add the EF 17-40mm f/4, which makes some amazing wide angle images. In any case, I was really invested in the Canon system, and I've had most of that gear for more than a decade.

Despite the nomenclature, the R6 is the spiritual successor to the 5D. The body by itself is priced similarly to the various 5D versions (when each of the four was new). The R5 is much more expensive, and much higher resolution, but I compare that to the 1D X, though not as expensive. For video, the R5 in theory can shoot 8K video when it isn't melting and shutting down, but its 4K down-sampling is actually terrible and not as good as the R6. All this to say, maybe a pro would be satisfied to have an R6, but it's likely more targeted to the high-end amateur and hobbyist like me. Adjusting for inflation, I paid about the same amount as I did for the 5D in 2008.

Getting the camera in your hand, it's strange because the body is smaller, by a lot, compared even to my original 5D. Part of that is the much smaller flange depth and lack of mirrors that I mentioned. The battery is about the same size as those they've been making forever, and there are two slots for SD cards. There is no LCD on top for your shooting parameters, which is fine because you can see them on the touch screen on the back or in the viewfinder. The controls have not fundamentally changed in more than a decade, but you have two more dials than you did back then. One dial is on top, by your right thumb, which I've used mostly for menu navigation and zooming when reviewing photos. The other new dial, and it's an interesting choice, is on every new RF lens, on the end of the barrel. I think the default is for under/over exposing or something, but I honestly haven't thought of a reason to use it. You can dial in the ISO on the touch screen, and that's the only thing I might change from one scene to the next, but just once.

From a capability perspective, the thing blowing my mind is the auto-focus. I can't even put into words how amazing it is, that it has come so far in 13 years. If you set your focus to AI servo and turn on face tracking (which can be set to humans or animals), it nails the focus so crazy fast and continuously. Note the photo of Finn below, with his eyes in sharp focus at f/2.8, while he's jumping in the air. That took no special skill to get that photo. Where 1600 ISO used to be pushing it for "good" image quality, you can safely go to 3200 and still feel pretty good about the results, while 800 seems almost indistinguishable from 100.

It can also shoot video in 4K, up to 60 fps, and it looks pretty great. I have a "real" video camera for shooting video, but what this can do is basically the most cinematic vacation video you've ever made, with dreamy blurred backgrounds. The exposure setup is a little weird, but the win is that you can set the ISO to auto. You still don't have neutral density filters built-in, obviously, which is the most annoying thing about trying to shoot video on these cameras (meaning mirrorless or DSLR photo bodies). You change your shutter speed above 1/50 to compensate for over-exposure, and the video looks like a shitty Michael Bay movie.

In the new world of magical RF lenses, the broad advantage is that they're all a little shorter than their EF counterparts, and slightly less heavy. Lenses are still where the money matters the most, and you get the most out of your investment. While I love my EF lenses, I always had a little regret that I couldn't justify buying the more expensive versions that opened to f/2.8. In the case of the long zoom, not getting the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS, with the image stabilization being the most important part, was always a slight regret. Sports and animal photography would have been much better with that lens, but it was the difference between paying just under a grand and paying $2,600, and 35-year-old me made a good choice. This time around, I don't want to make those compromises, which is why I started with the RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS. When it's time to get the long zoom, I'll save my pennies for the better one. These lenses will be with me literally to retirement.

The RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS is universally reviewed as great, as its EF predecessor was. If you photograph things that aren't moving, you can be blown away at how sharp and beautiful everything is, even when you freehand shoot wide at 1/30. But combine it with the insane auto-focus ability of the camera and the speed of the motors, and again, you can get crazy cats with sharp eyes without a lot of trying. I am really floored. I put the lens on my C70 cinema camera (review forthcoming) and on a gimbal, and while the AF is slightly slower, the results are still pretty stunning.

Now, I still want to use my 50mm and the 17-40mm, so I have to buy the $100 EF to RF adapter. I mean, I can't, because they've been out of stock forever, but someday I'll be able to do that. I still have my 5D body, because it isn't really worth anything, so I can dual-wield if I so desire. I sold my 7D to a friend who is getting great use out of it.

Overall, the R6 is outstanding, in the same way that the 5D was amazing 13 years ago. I know the gains in image quality, noise reduction and auto-focus have been happening for years, it's just surprising at how dramatic it is. I'm also kind of proud of myself in that my gadget problem is not that serious when I go so long between upgrades of big ticket items (cameras, TV's, game consoles, computers).

Samples below using Canon R6 with RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS


Fully vaccinated

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2021, 9:00 PM | comments: 0

I got my second Covid shot today, about a year and three weeks after the pandemic was officially serious in the US. Obviously my first feeling is one of relief. I don't have to go to public places and wonder if there's something around in the air that could put me in the hospital, potentially carried by someone who doesn't know it (or doesn't care).

I'm absolutely astonished at the scientific process that led to a half-dozen effective vaccines in under a year. Like the miracle of smart phones, I think people completely take for granted how amazing this is. Mind you, the approaches to these vaccines were based on existing work for preventing other diseases, but creating the substance and then organizing huge trials all over the world so quickly is a big deal. Granted, the financial incentives were a big deal as well, but they needed mountains of data because the scrutiny by regulating agencies was going to be enormous. This just doesn't happen under normal circumstances.

The stats say that I'm in the first 14% fully vaccinated in Orange County, the first 17% in Florida, 19% in the US, 1% globally. Lots of privilege here, which makes me particularly grateful. Diana gets next her second next week. Simon is 11, so unfortunately he's not eligible at all yet, and they're just starting the trials for kids. As someone who lives in an international tourist destination, getting kids and the world vaccinated will have a lot to do with how "normal" things get here.

Thrilled to be part of the progress! After two more weeks, I can safely lick doorknobs again. I'm excited just to have people over for small gatherings.


How to vacation without leaving

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 2, 2021, 11:35 PM | comments: 0

I am off work for a week, starting this evening. Unfortunately, I'm not going anywhere. I can't really blame this on Covid, either. It has more to do with the fact that I have a school-age child.

Certainly I'll have to get creative and figure out how to do leisure in a non-travel way. In the fall of 2019, we actually stayed at the Disney resort closest to Simon's school, Coronado Springs, exactly five miles away as the crow flies. We dropped him off in the morning, did stuff, then fetched him for the evenings. While not ideal, it meant pool time at a cool hotel, meals we didn't have to cook, and then that weekend, solid family theme park time in a way that you ordinarily don't do as a local. It was a fun week.

I'll be blocking one day off for Diana's surgery follow-up, and my second vaccine shot (Moderna, known for kicking your ass a little). Beyond that, there will be rum sipping, LEGO building, and hopefully I'll figure out some kind of short video project to do with the family, if I can talk them into acting. Hopefully we'll do some grownup lunches, too. I also give myself permission to take long walks and take naps, if I so choose.

I wonder how things will be in the summer, once significant numbers of people have been vaccinated. Not having kids in that pool is still a concern, but it will help a great deal if their parents are pricked. While being low risk for illness or long-term problems, they are potentially a vector for those who can't be vaccinated for whatever reason, which is a drag.

Selfishly, I just want to cruise again. We spent that money more than a year ago and Disney Cruise Line is still holding on to it (though we had it refunded for the planned Alaska sailing). For now though, I just have to figure out what I can do between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., which I've learned this week is surprisingly not a lot of time, as I've been acting school bus driver while Diana recovers.