Posts from 08/2022

Monday, August 01, 2022

New Edition Day

The URI! Zone turns 26 years old this month, which means that I'll have to kick it off my health insurance and out of my basement soon. By the numbers, here's what the URI! Zone looks like today:

  • over 190,500 unique visitors since 2003
  • 4717 blog posts since 2001
  • 9154 comments from 153 unique visitors since 2003
  • 9340 images, MP3s, and other files, totaling 487 megabytes
  • over $4500 spent on web hosting since 2003
  • exactly $222 in prizes given away in caption and name-that-tune contests (this will become $232 if Asmodues ever collects his 2022 Census prize)
  • $0 in income from ad revenue, because ads are awful

After nearly nine years without new features, there's a tiny new one to demarcate this 27th Edition: I added a "day in history" button under each post which will allow you to see everything I ever wrote on a particular month and day throughout the site's history. This will give you more content to rediscover while bored at work when I default to an "Easy Photos Day".

This site will continue to exist for years to come, even if the thrice-a-week updates aren't utterly scintillating. I do still enjoy blogging and have grandiose plans to someday return to long-form articles about real topics. However, those plans are on hold while I raise two kids under the age of 6. Stand back and stand by until Ian has reached kindergarten, and hopefully it'll be worth the wait!

Thank you for your continued friendship and readership!

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day in history

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

BD Cartoon Day, Part IV

a selection of original cartoons from the business development Slack channel I maintain at work

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

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day in history

Friday, August 05, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Booksmart (R):
This coming-of-age movie plays out kind of like a female version of Superbad (and also stars Jonah Hill's sister). If that's the kind of movie you need at the moment, this one hits all of the right marks and is full of pleasant and vulgar laughs. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B

Cascadia:
We got this board game for Rebecca's birthday. You build an ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest and place different kinds of animals, with points based on best habitats (longest salmon runs and number of hawks not near any other hawks, for example) and longest terrain runs. Replayability comes from different sets of scoring criteria, which allows you to learn the base game very easily and randomly choose cards with more advanced scoring later on. We've enjoyed this a lot over four or five games although it's very easy to let the game drag by overthinking any single move.

Final Grade: B

Formentera by Metric:
Metric's newest album is as good as Art of Doubt but doesn't quite reach Pagans in Vegas. The placement of a ten-minute overture as track one feels out of place, as it's the kind of song that Muse would tack on to the end of one of their albums.

Final Grade: B-

Upload, Season Two:
This show about a digital afterlife was pleasant in season one but doesn't really go anywhere in season two. There are only 7 episodes and events end just as the plot really starts to pick up. On Amazon.

Final Grade: C+

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day in history

Monday, August 08, 2022

Easy Photos Day

First date night since our anniversary 10 months ago: Dinner at Parallel Wine & Whiskey Bar in Ashburn. I had a tempranillo, Siglo, and a malbec, Llama. Rebecca had a cocktail, SMASH AND PASS.

Post-dinner walk through the muggy wilderness around Beaverdam Reservoir.

Ian rekindles his love of lasagna. No word on whether he hates Mondays yet.

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day in history

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

List Day: 12 Backlogged Side Projects

  1. Swap out my PC power supply, which currently has a 40% of not turning back on after we lose power in a thunderstorm.

  2. Become fluent in a non-Java programming language (likely Python or Kotlin) in time for Advent of Code 2022.

  3. Migrate away from Eclipse IDE for my polyglot projects, possibly towards something like VSCode or IntelliJ.

  4. Restart work on my open-source library, Sparkour.

  5. Update the URI! Zone's SSL handling to use free, auto-renewing Let's Encrypt certificates.

  6. Update the URI! Zone's ancient reliance on Apache HTTPd, OpenLDAP, and Apache Tomcat, in order to learn more modern alternatives.

  7. Do a visual makeover of the URI! Zone.

  8. Migrate the Maitz & Wurts Studio Shop to a modern storefront solution.

  9. Create a mobile app that shows nearby homeowner and sales information as I walk around the neighbourhood.

  10. Reread the Wars of Light and Shadow series and post book-by-book reviews in anticipation of the final book in the series.

  11. Reeducate myself on the current state of MIDI and wavetable synth, which has surely evolved beyond my 2001 Roland Sound Canvas, and update my old compositions currently lost in Finale file format limbo.

  12. Rip all of the CDs in the house into MP3s and develop a NAS-based solution to play an entire library of owned MP3s from Alexa devices throughout the house.

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day in history

Friday, August 12, 2022

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

6:14 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:21 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
6:41 AM: Reviewing a proposal.
8:46 AM: Someone stayed up late last night to start a calendar shop on Etsy.
8:53 AM: Off to Stroller Strides and the last day of Claude Moore Camp, respectively.
11:48 AM: Leftovers for lunch: honey soy ginger salmon and two pieces of withered Red Robin pizza (bring your own olives).
1:10 PM: Watching classic Whose Line Is It Anyways? while folding laundry.
3:07 PM: Off to grandma and grandpa's house for the weekend!
3:11 PM: Wondering what to do next.
4:05 PM: Strolling at Lake Anne.
4:31 PM: Reaching new heights like a bird in a spaceship.
6:10 PM: Joe's for dinner, with Isabella photobombing in the background.

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day in history

Monday, August 15, 2022

Pandemic Retrospective, Part I of IV

Introduction

This is the first in a short series of posts about the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term effects on my psyche. I want to capture an honest assessment of these strange times before my memories become blurry and apocryphal, because I'm ancient (over 40) and near death (I eat a lot of shells and cheese).

I've come to believe that sharing honest thoughts is one way to rejuvenate the fading social connections we all need to thrive. It's an open secret that a blog isn't truly a window into someone's inner thoughts, but a protected wall they can scribble on that highlights only what they select to be seen. With social media reinforcing just the polished stories that boost the ego and put the author in a positive light, it's important to recognize that everyone struggles. No one's life is consistently and continuously amazing as Instagram might have you believe -- you're just seeing the carefully curated high points. Your struggles, and mine, matter as much as anyone else's and being open about your vulnerability can be surprisingly healthy.

For me, "traumatic" and other emotionally-charged words are not a good description of the past two and a half years. Life is not a movie: I was never in true physical danger and my livelihood was never jeopardized. Though I knew people (including family) who caught or died of COVID-19, no one was in my first-degree circle of family and friends. However, the fact that I was privileged enough to avoid a common dreadful outcome doesn't delegitimize my experience.

So this will be my story, put in writing, showing the impact of the past two and a half years on one person. It's just one data point in our shared history. I'll talk about how things went in the moment, the unhealthy patterns I fell into as the weeks stretched into months and then years, and the positive changes I've resolved to make as time moves ineluctably forward. I'm not trawling for sympathy or Internet fame (although maybe Ken Burns III will read this aloud in a documentary someday). I just want to share something viscerally real, and hope to hear something real from you as well.

Other posts in this series: Part I: Introduction | Part II: March - October 2020 | Part III: November 2020 - January 2022 | Part IV: February 2022 - Today, and Conclusion

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day in history

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 6 years ago today, on August 17, 1026.

We were on our Colorado trip and thought nothing of waking up at 5 AM to hike high altitude trails throughout the mountains. The reason was twofold: parking lots filled up by 6 and staying too late into early afternoon usually meant getting caught in a thunderstorm.

This day, we went to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and hiked 10.5 miles to Black Lake. Rebecca looked stylish and wore all of her finest European hiking gear, while I rolled through in this outfit which, in 2022, has become my "lawncare around poison ivy" look.

In the afternoon, we went to Rock Cut Brewery where Rebecca bought an all-time faovurite swag shirt, then had dinner involving elk sausage at The Rock Inn.

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day in history

Friday, August 19, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Brooklyn 99, Season Six:
The sixth season feels a little tired, but offers a continued stream of occasional belly laughs. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B-

What We Do In the Shadows, Season One:
This mockumentary about vampires (based on the the movie of the same name) is a lot of fun and starts out quite promisingly. It doesn't totally maintain the same energy throughout (and there's not much in the way of character development) but it's a harmless, fun show to watch at the end of the day. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B

Hands by Wallis Bird:
This album has a very unique sound to it, with tons of different styles mashed together in unexpected ways. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but I like it a lot now. What's Wrong With Changing? is a good representative track.

Final Grade: B+

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R):
This parody / mockumentary from the Lonely Island guys is much better than I expected (and my expectations were quite low). It drags a little right near the end, but tells a cohesive story while also having some very funny music. Finest Girl (The Bin Laden Song) (explicit lyrics) is one of the high points although the finale, "Incredible Thoughts" has some great surprise guest appearances.

Final Grade: B

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day in history

Monday, August 22, 2022

Pandemic Retrospective, Part II of IV

March - October 2020

I presume that my pandemic origin story is similar to that of many other privileged Northern Virginia residents with a comfortable middle-class life. I kept tabs on the early warnings in January while believing that COVID-19 would have zero impact on me personally, just like SARS and the bird flu pandemic long ago. I was annoyed in February when I needed masks for a dusty under-the-house construction project and they were all marked up at a premium. In early March, Maia and I had our final weekly father-daughter dinner at Fire Works Pizza, which ended with total strangers at Cascades Overlook freely sharing used marshmallow roasting sticks to make s'mores around the fire. It was superbly normal even while global tension was growing like boiling water around a frog.

On March 12th, I was in the office for my weekly meeting and, for the first time, felt a little uneasy about everyone's close proximity. I always sat along the edge of the meeting room anyhow since I rarely had an important speaking role, but the menacing undercurrent of the news by then made me decide to stop office visits for just a couple weeks.

Our offices shut down the very next day, rendering my decision moot. That morning, I went to Costco for St. Patrick's Day corned beef to find a line wrapped around the building and overseen by Loudoun County Sheriffs. This was when it sank in that what was coming was not a drill. (Tragic conclusion to the corned beef tangent: I snagged the last two corned beef packages from our disheveled Safeway and, of course, one was rancid when I opened it and the other tasted like a Teva sandal).

The next few weeks were characterized by unease (never fear) about what we didn't know as we tried to figure out how to keep everyone safe. I remember hitting the grocery store in a mask and rubber gloves right as it opened at 5 AM to avoid as many people as possible. I remember being the subject of heated glares or nervous avoidance from older white patrons -- reactions that I had never before experienced as a Korean in Virginia. I remember diligently tailoring the available CDC guidance to our risk profile as a family with a toddler and four older parents: I did mask regularly, but I wiped our groceries down exactly one time before dismissing it as too much effort. (I always saw "one-way aisles" as useless theatrics, like having to take your Kindle out of your carry-on at the airport).

An early relationship discord in the pandemic was a mismatch in how much Rebecca and I wanted to alter our behaviours to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. Our circle of friends had widely varying levels of YOLO, with some changing nothing about their day-to-day life and others avoiding emailing in case the virus could turn into an attachment. (If this were a scale from 0 to 100, I was probably a 75 and Rebecca was a 45). As someone who essentially freebases the Internet at all times through an IV, I felt like I had a better grasp of the global scope of what we were facing, while Rebecca had stronger firsthand knowledge of how the virus was spreading within our community. With continued, sometimes tense, communication and sharing of news sources, we worked towards a unified front (somewhere around 60) for the rest of the year.

Life continued and we slowly adapted. With Maia's Just for Twos program at the local community center shut down, we juggled legitimate worries about stunting her ability to socialize with more selfish worries about having to entertain her ourselves all day long. Life became an ongoing cycle of "doing things until they're worn out". We took a few big trips away from home (Hopkins Ordinary in Sperryville, Weather Lea Farm in Lovettsville, and a beach house in the Outer Banks) before realizing that travel was just a cat-and-mouse game of avoiding risky conditions until we could shelter in-place in a slightly nicer locale than our house. We reconnected with old friends and joined the Jackbox Games craze for about two weeks until everyone in the world got tired of being on Zoom. Most frightening of all, we ordered metric tons of food from local restaurants until we actually reached the point where restaurant food was no longer exciting or enticing.

It wasn't all bad. I secretly left a bag of limes on the porch of a friend bemoaning the bareness of their mixed drink shelf. I finished a decade-long effort to write a comprehensive wiki for a lesser-known fantasy book series and worked with the author to overhaul her website that hadn't been renovated since SARS was a hot topic. We started getting (and continue to get) groceries delivered from Giant, mourning only when the order of 50 pork sausages gets substituted with 50 beef sausages which no one in the family can even pretend to like. Maia watched Frozen for the first time and the next five thousand times. We received the board game, Patchwork, as a gift and played it ad nauseum until we were finally able to fill the entire game board with quilt patches.

We made a quarantine pod with our local friends who had a slightly stricter risk profile than we did and, by 2021, had gotten their kids hooked on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We continued to reach out to friends and family for socially-responsible visits, either eight feet apart on our new screen porch (which luckily finished construction in March) or in the basement with masks on and windows open. We will never know for sure whether our efforts at COVID-19 prevention were of any value -- there are no visible counters to show us how many people avoided getting sick because of us -- so we'll never truly know if it was worth it. However, I feel like we did the best we could with the knowledge we had as science frantically tried to carve out the optimal path.

The switch to 100% remote work didn't really affect me because I had been advocating for and trending towards fully remote work for my entire career. (In 2004, one of my earliest performance managers told me that I needed to be in the office more so the bosses would know that I was productive and sign off on my promotions). However, it was a dramatic change to be at home and ALWAYS surrounded by my family. I had no commute to unwind in and my social energy drained faster than the quality of the final season of LOST. As an introvert, this pushed me into a weird survival mode where I was constantly socially overloaded and did whatever I could to reach the end of the day.

In retrospect, my foundational failing was treating the pandemic as a temporary sprint without pacing myself and reserving energy to continue growing as a person if it should last longer than expected. As the months piled up, my social receptors shut down. I found it very difficult to retain new information and would often forget stories told by friends or conflate them with stories from completely different people. I never knew what day it was, beyond weekday or weekend. I struggled to engage with people, even my immediate family, and would often run the clock out on individual days by focusing on heavily logistical tasks: washing dishes in the sink, picking up toys around the house, or moving Maia towards bedtime so I could finally, gratefully, sit still, quietly without listening or talking. I was constantly justifying the need to get to tomorrow by robbing myself of the ability to enjoy today.

Other posts in this series: Part I: Introduction | Part II: March - October 2020 | Part III: November 2020 - January 2022 | Part IV: February 2022 - Today, and Conclusion

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day in history

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

RI Day

We spent Tuesday through Friday last week with my sister's family in Rhode Island. This was my first trip up since we took Maia in 2018. We had a trip planned in 2019 but I caught a weird flu bug the day before and Rebecca and Maia went up without me.

The plane trip up went very well, in spite of the fact that we left from the three-character A terminal of Dulles which required at least 20 elevator rides for our stroller, car seat, and kids. Maia disliked how much patience each phase of travel required, while Ian enjoyed everything about the trip until he reached ultimate tiredness and boredom on our descent.

My sister has three kids, Sam, William, and Luca, and a commensurate number of toys to wow my kids. Ian was in heaven because almost every single toy had wheels. We listened to a garbage truck that sang "To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump" to the William Tell Overture at least 500 times. Maia liked that the boys were so interested in video games and had fun being a "cat obstacle" in their Mario Kart Live races.

We spent an hour or more each day in their giant pool which was heated to a luxurious 91 degrees and has spoiled me from ever going into a normal temperature pool for the rest of my life. Maia still refused to go underwater and get her eyes wet, but she did wear goggles and float around the pool on a noodle without much oversight. Ian went in just once and successfully avoided pooping in the pool.

Other highlights of the visit include a bike ride to Del's for frozen lemonade, smoked meats for dinner, and scooter/vehicle rides around their court.

We came home on Friday afternoon. The trip was uneventful other than a 30 minute delay sitting on the tarmac in Providence. Ian's restlessness was assuaged by a friendly seatmate who let him look at nature videos on her phone. Having learned our lesson on the way into Dulles Airport, we skipped all of the elevators on the way back by putting the car seat in the stroller and riding escalators all the way to freedom.

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day in history

Friday, August 26, 2022

Kindergarten Day

Maia's first day of kindergarten on Thursday was a success!

She's in the Yellow Crayon class and sits at a table next to our across-the-street neighbor. She was super excited for her first school bus ride ever.

She told this story about the bus ride home: "Two girls sat next to me on the bus home. They didn't know where to sit so I told them they could sit with me!"

She also wore those cat ears all day long.

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments
day in history

Monday, August 29, 2022

Pandemic Retrospective, Part III of IV

November 2020 - January 2022

The rancid mayonnaise jar that was 2020 was coming to an end. After over 200 days in quarantine, I had a barely functional system for getting through each day. I devoted all of my energy towards supporting my family, doing great things at work, and "keeping the trains running on time" with very little in reserve for relaxation or personal growth. Life was monotonous and unsustainable, but none of our immediate family had gotten sick and vaccines were just over the horizon.

Just when I felt like I had a handle on quarantine and could breathe a little easier, my situation regressed. Rebecca became pregnant with Ian and was once again plagued with day-long morning sickness and no energy to spare. Meanwhile, I developed an annoying health issue that, while not serious, demanded daily oversight for nearly five months. The continued need to stretch thinner held me captive in survival mode. I felt like I was barely keeping it together with Scotch tape and sheer willpower.

The arrival of the earliest vaccines definitely improved our spirits. Rebecca received hers in January 2021 (Ian too, by the transitive property) and all of the grandparents were vaccinated by February. Shifting focus from protecting ourselves to protecting just Maia eliminated much of the mental load in navigating our strange new world. I finally got my own shot in April at a pop-up shot clinic in an abandoned mall anchor store, and I remember how efficient and positive my experience was. The overwhelming optimism, enthusiasm, and kindness demonstrated by an army of anonymous volunteers stands out in my memory in stark contrast to the manufactured conflicts and community fractures playing out in the news and on social media at the same time. I resolved to take full advantage of "The Grand Reopening" and put some positive energy of my own out into the world... just in time for Ian to be born.

Ian as an infant was a force of nature, always uncomfortably gassy and communicating at Broadway-worthy decibel levels, while constantly punctuating the nights with ovine bleats in his sleep that triggered the baby monitor even though he required no attention. He arrived 1 day before Rebecca's scheduled hospital visit, effectively canceling our plans to have a final date night to catch our breath. The summer of 2021 felt like a new quarantine purgatory -- while everyone else was out dancing at concerts and licking porous surfaces, we were doing the standard new baby routine of keeping Ian alive at home until he reached his traditional vaccine milestones. For us, whooping cough was a bigger deal than COVID. The world was open, even if we couldn't be.

We took a beach trip with our quarantine pod in August, when Ian was just 3 months old. This trip was probably more draining for me than any pandemic-related event beforehand. We chose Sandbridge to shave a couple hours off of our traditional Outer Banks trip, and then nullified that bonus with I-95 traffic and epic thunderstorms (8 hours down, 7 hours back). Ian cried all of the way there and all of the way back. I'm sure we did a lot of fun activities (Maia had her first milkshake and her first ice cream bar from an ice cream truck which we called "the music truck" all week long), but all I can remember is pacing around the beach house, day and night, with Ian in a sling while listening to the Fratellis and trying to get him to stop crying and go to sleep.

My own sleep quality declined in 2021 and mimicked a five-year-old cell phone battery: I'd go to bed every night near 0% and barely recharge up to 59% by morning before spending most of the day right around 25%. My alcohol consumption crept up steadily over this period too, going from a six-pack per week to two or three beers each evening. I was never alarmed about this because it was never about getting drunk or giving in to addictive behavior. I didn't drink irresponsibly or exceed my limits. I used drinking as a blatant, calculated crutch to stave off boredom and sameness, as if having a few interesting beers around to try (even gross IPAs and grosser sours) might make each day feel just a little bit different than the one before and after it.

Some nights, I couldn't sleep at all and would just lie awake thinking about our fractured society and wondering if there was anything I could be doing about it. While the spotlight shined brightly on our divisions and how striated the battle lines were, I was thinking more about how technology was pushing us towards these divisions for the sake of monetary engagement. I remember seeing friends abandoning other friends based on opinions without any question about whether those opinions were truly heartfelt or just swayed by secretive social media algorithms. I remember seeing people I worked with and respected Liking and Sharing aggressively divisive content on LinkedIn (completely unrelated to their actual jobs). It felt like social media was turning our society into a two-dimensional quilt where anything not on the Good side couldn't be anything but Evil, and I just wasn't okay with that. I burned a good amount of my limited energy on drafting and redrafting serious posts for Facebook at 3 AM. I hoped that staying active there (and posting lots of cute MaIan pictures) would outweigh the net negative value of the platform.

We tried one more outing in 2021, a retreat at a quaint resort in West Virginia that promised strict pandemic mitigations and delivered none. The staff tore off their masks as soon as they were out of the public eye, and other patrons privately heckled the few families, like ours, that still wore masks indoors. I remember walking across the idyllic mountain campus and hearing another family seriously discussing ivermectin as a COVID cure and comparing their veterinary sources that could procure it at a discount. I remember being one of just 3 families that ate all meals outside of the crowded dining hall, only for Maia to get stung over her eye by one of the many juice-loving hornets living on the hotel porches. (We ended up eating the rest of our meals alone in our stuffy hotel room).

Ultimately, I'm sad that I don't remember more of 2021. I look at photos from the period and remember moments rather than days. I wrote a weekly series of posts on this blog about raising Ian (the Battle Reports) and, until Rebecca pointed it out, I never realized that I was always focusing on the negative aspects of keeping him happy rather than the positive aspects of his awesome personality and unique energy. Not all of this was caused by the pandemic: when a virus-related quarantine overlaps with the birth of a newborn, it's hard to know whether practiced patterns of survival are necessary or just complacency. I recognized this in the final months of 2021, but lacked the energy to do any course correction.

Other posts in this series: Part I: Introduction | Part II: March - October 2020 | Part III: November 2020 - January 2022 | Part IV: February 2022 - Today, and Conclusion

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day in history

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2022 album.

  • Events
    • Maia's first school event, Popsicles with the Principal, on H 8/4.

    • Date Night at Parallel Wine & Whiskey Bar on S 8/6.

    • Rebecca's parents visited on S 8/7.

    • Ian got his first COVID shot on F 8/12. Maia went to my parents' for the weekend, F 8/12 - S 8/14.

    • Dinner at Burton's with Ian on S 8/13.

    • Flew up to Rhode Island to visit my sister and her family, T 8/16 - F 8/19.

    • Rebecca's parents visited on S 8/20. Family dinner at Burton's.

    • Open House at Forest Grove Elementary School, on T 8/23.

    • Maia started kindergarten in Ms. Mocello's class on H 8/25.

    • Had Tammy and Patrick over for dinner (pork pesto pasta) on S 8/27.

    • Visited the Wilmers in Arlington on S 8/28.

    • Family dinner at Fire Works Pizza on W 8/31.

  • Projects
    • Repaired the blown fuse in our 11-year-old toaster oven on T 8/2.

    • Continued maintaining the common area along Lillard Rd.

    • Troubleshooting on our 18-year-old "water too hot" water heater, ultimately leading to its replacement.

    • Upgraded my PC's power supply.

    • Combined, purged, and reorganized our 900 CD collection.

  • Consumerism
    • Winding down on Fallout 76 at level 312.

    • Enjoyed Season Two of Only Murders in the Building and Season One of Everybody Hates Chris.

    • Enjoyed the album, HANDS by Wallis Bird.

August's Final Grade: B+, no one was sick!

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