bluebeard

Re-entry

Now that we are both fully-vaxxed, we have started Doing Things! With people! Outside the house! It's amazing!

Three weekends ago, the first weekend we were both two weeks post-vaccine, we went to the Butterfly Pavillion with [personal profile] fineplan. We hadn't been there in ages, and there were a lot more butterflies in the air than I remember. I'm not sure if it's because we usually go more in the winter (when light levels are lower, maybe?) or if it's just my lousy memory. Matthew took lots of pictures; Jerry got harassed by a butterfly that landed on his crotch. Afterwards we got lunch on the patio at R Taco, then froyo from the place a few doors down. It was lovely.

The weekend after that we got lunch at Domo with Channan and Patrock, who had never been! We waited a good while to be seated, and it was windy enough that we had to pick a couple leaves out of our food, but the garden was lovely as always. The menu has been reduced and revamped because they're under-staffed, but hopefully they'll be able to get back to where they were in time. Afterwards, we went back to their place and just hung out for a while. (Other people's houses! Amazing!) We shared Eurovision performances and other goofy videos with each other. I got to pet Midna after plying her with some tuna nibbles.

And then last weekend, on Saturday we had our first in-person Star Wars session since teh Before Times at the Nevilles'. I had to put a bunch of my stuff in a backpack and bring it with me, which was weird because I hadn't done that in a year.

Then on Sunday, we went bowling! Which I haven't since a long, LONG time before the pandemic started. We met up with the Eaton boys (Jon, Gene, Brandon, and Matt) at the bowling alley at 92nd and Harlan and bowled a couple games while it rained buckets outside. Wandered through the arcade and determined that we are now Too Old for arcades; it's all either flashing-lights gambling, giant-screen virtual snowboarding, or old-skool video games done on walls of LEDs that hurt my eyes to look at. Alas. But the bowling was fun, and it was great to hang out with those guys, and also we got to see strangers' faces!

And all of it was just lovely. Lovely lovely lovely! We have a long list of Things To Go Do on our whiteboard, and I'm looking forward to checking things off.
Tiefling

Tieflings

In the biweekly online D&D game Neal is running, our party is 80% tiefling (half-devils). Not for any role-playing reason or anything, it's just during character creation, there were a couple different people thinking about it based on stats and abilities, and somebody said "hey, wouldn't it be fun to have an all-tiefling party?" and now our characters' homeland is officially majority tiefling.

So anyway, I was poking around with the subrace options from one of the books and got dissatisfied with them because they didn't seem like they were very thematic or consistent with lore, and long story short, I got carried away and ended up redesigning all 9 of the existing options and adding 18 more. Not that I actually care about the official lore or even knew it before I started, but you know how it is, sometimes you start fiddling around with a thing, and then it grabs you, and before you know it, you've sunk a whole bunch of time and effort into it? Yeah. That happened.

Anyway, I was also poking around on various subreddits for D&D and homebrew content, and it turns out that there are websites that let you lay it out all pretty and official-looking using just a bit of markdown, so then I had to play around with it some more to make it all fancy and nice and share it online, because upvotes.

Which is to say, I made a thing, and I'm pleased with how it turned out:
https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/b8DOvJS2hrFk
bluebeard

Immunized

As of today, I am officially fully immunized against SARS-CoV-2.

I'm still working from home (and will be for a while yet), and I'm still wearing a mask in public (because we don't yet know whether being immunized prevents you from being an asymptomatic carrier), but last night I went grocery shopping and just... didn't care about how many other people were in the store and whether they were staying away from me, and that was a huge relief. Not feeling like I needed to be vigilant the whole time was really nice. I am looking forward to switching back to shopping based on convenience rather than when the stores are mostly empty.

Jerry is still only a few days after his second shot, so we're not yet attempting to socialize with people again, but we are making lists of things to do.

I think I'm going to go see a movie this week - Scott Pilgrim is back in the theaters.

I feel like the last few weeks have been busy, but I struggle to come up with anything to report. I think it's mostly that I ticked off a bunch of tasks that had been looming for work, like submitting revisions for one paper and finishing all my contributions for another. Still haven't finished my taxes, though.

Oh, and I made some D&D 5e fan content about tieflings. But I think I'll put that into a separate post.
bluebeard

Whoops!

Just discovered that my Dreamwidth posts haven't been crossposting to LJ since shortly after the pandemic started because I forgot to update my password.

I have now gotten them all to transfer over, but that probably means the backlog is clogging up your feed. My apologies!
bluebeard

Milestones

On Tuesday two weeks ago, I gave the talk that I was scheduled to give a year ago before the conference I was giving it at was cancelled. It's still weird giving talks with absolutely zero feedback from the audience, but I had several people tell me later on that they really enjoyed it, so I'm counting it as a success. Especially since it was a talk about philosophy of science stuff at a conference on improving scientific software, so people weren't automatically going to be interested in the subject matter.

I then took half of Thursday, all of Friday, and all of Monday off, because I had been pushing hard on a lot of different projects and was feeling frazzled.

Which was good, because on Thursday I got email from Kaiser saying I'd reached the front of the line and could come get my first vaccine shot on Monday!

I got a mid-morning appointment up at Rock Creek. It was down in the basement, and the line stretched down the hallway (largely because everyone was distanced six feet, of course), but they moved people through at a good clip. I didn't even feel the needle, but later on in the day I had a little soreness and then my energy levels plummeted ("I was very busy on a molecular level," as the Daves say), so the vague wonder if maybe the guy missed or something vanished.

I have another appointment in three weeks, and then two weeks after that I should be fully immunized. It's weird to think about all the things that have been forbidden that I'll be able to do again. I am trying not to anticipate too hard, lest I get itchy and impatient, but I can't help but look forward at least a little. Weirdly, one of the biggest ones is just being able to go to the store whenever, without having to think about whether it will be crowded or if it's an unnecessary trip.

And then this last Thursday was my and Jerry's 20th anniversary! Spring of 2001 was when I flew out to Oregon and we put all his stuff in a moving truck, drove back to Colorado, moved in together. It's hard to pin an exact date on it, so a few years later we decided to just call April 1st our nominal anniversary, since it's about halfway between our birthdays. We got takeout from Afghan Kabob and watched some TV together and played a few rounds of Earth Defense Force, and it was lovely.
bluebeard

Snowpocalypse 21

It was cloudy and snizzling most of the day Saturday, but the snow didn't really start until Saturday night, and then it kept going all day Sunday. It was also pretty blowy, so it's hard to get a precise measure of how much total snowfall we got, but I went out onto the front porch and stuck a tape-measure into the snow, and it read 14 inches.

That's a lot, but not as much as the forecasters were doomsaying. ("Two to four feet! Aiiieee!") They've over-predicted the last few big storms we've gotten; I guess they'd rather be over and have people rolling their eyes than be under and have people yelling at them.

They had the roads clear enough in our subdivision that I decided to do the weekly grocery shopping this evening rather than later in the week. (After calling to check how bare the shelves were; they didn't get a truck this morning, but got one Sunday morning and had hardly any customers yesterday or today, so stock levels were fine. There was only one thing on my list they didn't have.)

More interesting is what we got up to during the storm. Somebody anonymously sent us a couple escape-rooms-in-a-box for Jerry's birthday, so we did one of those (The Mothman Prophecies!) yesterday afternoon. It was fun; we took a bit longer than the allotted time, but there were only two of us. Lots of sealed envelopes, good production values, interesting theme, nice use of website for puzzle validation. A couple of the puzzles were a bit abstruse, but we only needed a few of the hints.

Even better, though, is that I have a husband who said "I want to have a lightsaber fight in the snow." So we did! We got bundled up and tromped around in the snow for an hour slashing at one another with light-up toys. It was delightful. Key observation: lightsaber hilts are terribly un-ergonomic. And they really, really, REALLY need crossguards of some kind.

Best of all, he took video with his camera-glasses:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3NFmdbS-Ds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZSMBCkteOM

(Yes, the time codes are off by a day; it was actually the 14th.)

Highly recommended as an activity if you find yourself in similar circumstances.
bluebeard

Going to Work

I went in to the office for the first time in almost a year today.

I put in the request for permission to enter the building a couple weeks ago because I wanted to get some notes for a talk that I'm going to give in April. Currently, they have to keep the building at less than 10% capacity, so you have to sign up in advance so they can coordinate who'll be present when. (Plus you have to do a training session on how to avoid spreading germs, but I did that back in October.)

I discovered shortly after I signed up that I already had the notes (I brought them home with me last March), but I figured since the opportunity was limited, I'd go in anyway and see what else I wanted to bring home.

Jerry came with me, and we were hoping to have lunch together outside on the Tree Plaza, where we got married, but alas, it was all closed off. Plus even it had been accessible, it was SUPER-windy up on the hill today, so that was a bit of a bust.

I brought home some folders for sorting out all my notes, and my work credit card so I can pay for things like online conference registration myself. More importantly, I was also able to grab MORE NOTEPADS for taking notes! I finally ran out and the only ones they had at the grocery store were little. aw yus office supplies

I also brought home my workout gear to wash. Our climate is dry so it didn't get gross or anything, even after sitting abandoned in a locker for a year, but I figured it would be nice to have clean workout clothes when I finally go back.

Finally, my co-worker Rachel asked me to get a chair out of her office for her, which she'll come pick up this weekend.

Even though it's only 20-some minutes, the drive there and back felt notably longer than when I was doing it every day. I think I'd like to continue working from home some of the time once the pandemic is over.
Dream of Bingo

Dominion

Dominion, if you're not familiar with it, is a deck-building card game. You start off with a deck of ten cards; each turn you draw five cards, play them, and buy a card to add to your deck. Some cards give you the coins that you use to buy more cards; others do things like let you draw more cards or buy an extra card. Your ultimate goal is to buy cards that have victory points on them, because that's how you win the game.

The base game has 26 different "kingdom cards" in it. You pick ten of those to play with each time you play the game, so there are a lot of different ways to play the game. You play with one set of cards and get to know how they interact, and then you swap out half of a really good combo, or one card that countered another card, and now it's a very different game. So it has a lot of replay value.

There are now thirteen expansions, most of them as big or bigger than the base set. And you can use cards from any of them.

I did the math. There are 208,693,818,083,123,000,000,000,000 (2.09e26) configurations of the game.

That number is 208-some septillion, which is about 3,000 times the estimated number of stars in the entire observable universe.

So what I'm saying is, if you're looking for a pastime, it's got a lot of replay value.

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This post brought to you by my desire to post something just to break the long dry spell, even if I haven't mustered up the wherewithal to post about life in general. (Short version: things are fine, better now than before the change in administrations, but the pandemic still sucks.)
bluebeard

Virtual AGU

I'm done with work for the year! I'm taking today and the rest of the week and all of next week off, so I won't be going back to work until January 4th. (Work has been encouraging us to take PTO, because nobody's been using it and it's messing up the budgets...)

I spent, golly, almost the last 3 weeks doing AGU online. Which was... fine, overall.

I mean, there's no way to do a 25,000-person conference virtually and have it be anywhere close to as good as the normal in-person version. But given that, it was not bad.

Posters were done in this "e-lighting" format where there are up to 6 boxes in a standard configuration, and you click on each box to expand it, so presenters can put as much information as they want into each box. I haaaaaaaate this format in person (presented on touch-screens), because it's so slow and clunky to click on each box, wait for it to expand, scroll through it, then back out and click on the next one, plus you can't scan quickly to see if there's anything you care about, and it drives me crazy. But then I discovered that viewing them on the web, there's a "print" view that just dumps everything onto a single long page, and that works just fine. (I think the lack of length and layout constraints in the e-poster format encourages people to make bad posters with poor information flow and organization, but honestly most people make bad posters in paper format, too, so it's not that much different.)

For talks, everyone giving an oral presentation had to pre-record their talk and upload it about a week before Thanksgiving. The videos were available to watch whenever you wanted, and then there was a scheduled zoom session for Q&A where the speakers each gave a brief 3-slide summary of their talk before answering any questions. Not all that different from a live presentation, and there's one thing I would take from the virtual conference back into the real world if I could: the ability to change the playback speed. Most presenters speak WAY too slowly, and being able to speed people up to 150% was fantastic. Plus you can pause and rewind if you need to.

With no time conflicts and the fact that I didn't have to spend any time going between things or waiting for things to start, I actually go to see a whole lot more AGU than normal. They have an electronic program where you can tick a box to add a presentation to your schedule, so I go through and add everything that looks interesting (based on keywords, people I know, and skimming through the session titles in the Atmospheric Science, Informatics, and Global Change secsion), and normally what happens is that I then have a jam-packed schedule for five days and I end up triaging away at least half of it on the day. But this time, I ended up skipping only a handful of things, and by the end of it, I had seen almost 260 talks and posters. (I exported my schedule and made a spreadsheet...) There were plenty of things that I spent about 30 seconds glancing over before writing "meh" in my notes, but most of what I saw was good.

The thing that I missed out on, of course, was people. I only went to one live poster session (for a friend from grad school, not even in my field), and I didn't run into anyone in the poster hall or the lobby or have any good post-talk conversations or meet anybody for lunch. So that was disappointing. But I don't think that was because it wasn't run well, I think that's just a limitation of the virtual format.

My only major complaint about the conference was the scheduling. Following some asinine reasoning about trying to be a "global scientific society", they tried to make the schedule friendly to Europe and Asia. Which means it was quite UNfriendly to all the North Americans making up the vast majority of the attendees. The oral Q&A sessions were all scheduled early in the morning or late in the evening. My talk was at 5:30 in the goddamn morning. I had to get up at 4-bloody-30-A.M. in order to be presentable and conscious on zoom from 5-6 (because I needed to be there for the whole thing, of course), speak for less than five minutes in the middle, and have time to get asked one (not particularly relevant) question near the end because the moderators didn't do a great job watching the clock. I was less than thrilled. (And I went straight back to bed afterward.)

But overall, it was pretty useful. I saw a lot of good stuff about machine learning, which has moved from "we think AI techniques might be useful for this kind of problem" to "we used deep learning for this process and got it to work well." So I've got my student assistant working on some ML stuff.

And this year I had the time to sit down afterwards and go through my notes to distill out the best stuff, so I'm hopeful that I'll put more of it into use. Not a bad note to end the work year on.

I still miss getting to go somewhere for it and see people and all that good stuff. Next year.
bluebeard

Thanksgiving

We stayed home for Thanksgiving this year.

We'd been planning to anyway, but then the week before my Mom & Larry had a potential exposure from Leslie, who's working at a group home. Everyone's tests came back negative, happily, but we all agreed that it was best to just stay home.

I took Wednesday off, so had a full five-day break, which was nice. We did a bunch of cooking Wednesday and only had a few things to finish off Thursday. Ate dinner at around 2, and otherwise just had lots of downtime.

I made a pork roast instead of a turkey because we had one in the deep freeze, neither of us is all that enthused about turkey, and it takes a lot of effort to do turkey well. It was a little over-cooked (the recipe said two hours in a 250-degree oven to get to 140, and when I checked it after an hour and a half it was already up to 150. :-/ ) but otherwise good. I made very satisfactory gravy from the drippings to go along with the mashed potatoes Jerry made. He also roasted up a bunch of Brussels sprouts.

I also made sausage-apple-walnut-sage dressing, which was great, and swankified green bean casserole. (Use frozen instead of canned green beans and cream instead of milk; add some wine and fry up some extra mushrooms and garlic.) We had the traditional log of cranberry jelly, and I also tried out Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish, which is frozen and has cranberries, onion, sugar, sour cream (sub Greek yogurt) and horseradish (sub wasabi). It was good and packed a punch. I also make the cranberry curd tart from Cook's Illustrated, which was (as is often the case) a lot of work but produced a really good result. I liked it a lot better than pumpkin pie.

We did a couple evenings of online gaming with Joe Z and Chris. And a zoom birthday gathering for Ian a week ago. Otherwise, mostly just a lot of downtime. I read two books! (Books 2 & 3 in Dennis Taylor's Bobiverse.) Which warrants an exclamation point because 2020. I'm feeling better since the election, but still run out of mana a lot.

We still have snow on the ground from... Wednesday, I think? Poor Panthro only goes on brief walks before his little feet get cold. Also, sunset is before 5 pm, which I hate.

Overall, it was not a bad holiday. There are a lot of things I'm missing, but I still have a lot to be thankful for.