Kubo Cherry Tree at Isazawa

Kubo Cherry Tree at Isazawa, Namiki Hajime, 2001

Zoom-bombing is now a thing. Zoom is a video conferencing app that is now of course all the rage. Our school district is using it for online teaching and Anne uses it to do her virtual gyro classes. Speaking of which, while she was working out, I virtually virtual exercised, while playing Civilization in the next room. Anyway, on some of the more public uses of Zoom, internet trolls have hijacked the video feed and substituted objectional imagery. I think that more experience will halt this behavior, but this is the world that we now live in. 

I have placed my first delivery order for groceries with InstaCart. I have seen their green t-shirt clad shoppers in the store for months now. With one hand on their shopping cart and the other holding a cell phone, they ply the aisles looking for other people’s food. Their website seems up-to-date with what is still available and warns when an item selected is running low. Their surcharge is modest, but my order won’t be delivered until Thursday.

Well, it wasn’t just the rain that halted the water company from tearing up the street and more importantly, putting it back together again. I think that a week is plenty of time to cure concrete. Besides they still have the other half of the block to do. They worked last Tuesday. It rained (a lot) both Wednesday and Thursday. It didn’t rain of Friday, but they usually only work a half-day anyway. They never work weekends and there was no sign of them today. I’m afraid that a torn up street is now also part of the new normal, but as Anne pointed out to me, at least they are on the other side of the street. If this situation continues, I expect that our across the street neighbors, will first cut the yellow caution tape, so that they can start using their driveways again. Then the orange cone will get moved, allowing on street parking on that side too. Except for my across-the-street neighbor who was gifted with a gravel pile. Do you detect a little schadenfreude here? Well, let’s talk about sewer lines then. The shoe was on the other side of the foot back then, when all of the work was on our side of the street.

While the above artwork version of cherry blossoms is gorgeous, there is nothing quite like the real thing. Saturday was a beautiful day and Anne and I took advantage of this brief spell of nice weather and got out for a walk. Spring has sprung and there are many varieties of flowering trees in bloom.

Neighborhood Cherry Blossoms

Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat

Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat, Camille Pissarro, 1881

Camille Pissarro frequently engaged with Millet-like peasant subjects, as seen in this portrait of a young girl. She calls to mind Millet’s own images of resting shepherdesses. Influenced by Millet, Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas, now a part of the American Virgin Islands. Once grown, he left the island and eventually moved to France. There as an artist, he grew to prominence and became a leader of the Impressionist movement. On St. Thomas, he is still considered an honored native son.

It is a very rainy first day of spring today. No workmen on the street, because of that. The radar map shows a mass of green and yellow Oobleck passing over us, with flood warning boxes following in its wake. A walk in the late afternoon might be possible, but I’m just hoping that the rain lets up enough for me to go out and get the paper, which is probably just soggy pulp by now. We walked yesterday, but it took two attempts. On the first try, we only got a couple blocks, when the rain started again. I had thought that it has finished. Later, we did get our walk in together. There were not that many people out-and-about.

Yesterday, Anne went to gyro, or rather gyro came to us. They’ve closed the studio, but now offer virtual classes via the tele-conferencing app Zoom. I sat out this week’s session, but plan on participating next week, with Anne in our living room. As we adjust to the new normal, adaptation like this is necessary. In this regard, Anne is better situated than I am. She has her many crafts to occupy herself with. One of her yarn stores even offered a virtual knitting circle using Zoom. Currently, she is into quilting and after finishing a baby quilt, has started a new type of quilt. She has ordered most of her supplies for this project online for later delivery, but there were some items that she needed right away. We broke our quarantine and drove to the fabric store, where she was treated to curbside delivery. I brought the hand sanitizer. 

As we all hunker down, quarantining ourselves from one another (I hope), We are always on the lookout for new diversions. A big one will drop tomorrow on Amazon Prime. The movie that Dan worked on, will be available for streaming. Blow the Man Down is set in Maine, where it was filmed two years ago. Here is its trailer and a recent New York Times review. In the trailer, if you look closely there is a brief shot of a plywood lobsterman sign that Dan made. If you watch the movie, be sure to watch the credits too and see Dan’s name written there.

We Protect You From Yourselves

Democracia – We Protect You From Yourselves, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, 2013

We had a home security system installed yesterday. Our appointment had been scheduled between the hours of eight and twelve. What wasn’t made clear is that the appointment would run that entire window, from eight to twelve. It turned into quite the ordeal and was way more involved than I thought that it would be.

Now that I am retired, we travel a lot more than we ever used to and I think that to some extent, we have been living on borrowed time. Don’t get me wrong, Joanie does a bang-up job of looking after the house when we are away, but she can’t be here 24/7. What triggered this project, were the experiences of some nearby friends. Before our Virgin Islands trip, we attended a dinner party. We were alarmed to hear that they their house had been robbed, while they too were out-of-town. Their neighbor’s home surveillance system indicated that the robbers had taken almost an hour to ransack their home. Based upon their cautionary tale, I made the appointment with AT&T the very next day.

Michael the tech was courteous, clean, experienced and everything else you would want in a service representative. We settled on a configuration, which he installed and then he explained its operation. Its day-to-day operation is pretty simple, but all of the what-if situations left me glad that he was there to explain and then later re-explain the processes. He informed us that AT&T will soon be discontinuing its home installation service, in lieu of a dropship, DIY process. We had to “take classes” that is watch half-a-dozen instructional videos that again reexplained how the system worked. This was required by the police, who will be none too pleased at having to answer any false alarms.

Now our front walk is flanked by two signs. The old one welcomes all of our neighbors, in Spanish, English and Arabic. On the other side of the walkway is the new sign that announces presence of the alarm system and basically says go away. Together, they make for an interesting dichotomy, but a necessary one.

In other home news, after taking the weekend and a rainy Monday off, the water company’s plumbers are back at it today. “They’re back,” I plaintively cried when I saw one of their number trundling down the block on some sort of motorized wheelbarrow. To which Anne answered, “Don’t you want them to get done, done?” Which she later revised to, “Done, done, da-done.” Being out-of-town last week, we missed the worse of their onslaught, as they connected our lateral to the new main. Evidence of this work was found in the hammering of our water pipes, when we first ran the faucets after returning, a sure sign that the water had been shutoff. I think that this phase of the job is almost done. Soon, the next and final phase will begin, road repair and after that, they will finally be done, done, da-done and then be gone.

5G to Be or Not to Be

Mr. Pointy, Takashi Murakami, 2011

This last week at gyrotonics, I noticed a stack of flyers disclaiming the dangers of 5G. Luddites Unite! The gyro studio is accoutered with many new age artifacts and I assumed that these flyers dealt with a new age subject that I wasn’t familiar with yet. The flyer listed ten alternative facts warning of the health dangers caused by 5G, but according to the New York Times, this campaign against 5G is a Russian propaganda campaign, brought to you by some of the same trolls who rigged the 2016 Presidential election, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is 5G?

5G is the next generation cellphone network communications protocol. I was a late adopter of cellphone technology (Luddites Unite!) and by the time that I took the plunge, they were already on a third generation network or 3G. Since then, we moved onto 4G, making 5G the next rung on the ladder. In addition to its detractors, 5G has also created a lot of positive buzz. Most of which is also fake news. There is a version of 5G, called 5G Plus that offers a 10X increase in data speeds over 4G, but cellphone providers are not going to go that way.

Now all you conspiracy theorists out there, take off your tinfoil hats. They have a valid reason for doing this. 5G Plus uses millimeter technology, with radio signals that are broadcasted at wavelengths that are shorter than an inch. All other cellphone radio waves have been on the order of a foot. The millimeter technology cannot penetrate buildings (no bars), while normal cellphone radio waves are doing pretty well. This limits the utility of 5G Plus to open air venues, like football stadiums, where we could see some application of this technology.

AT&T and Verizon, the two big US cellphone networks, have both announced their plans to rollout 5G nationwide in 2020 and Apple and Samsung plan on releasing 5G compatible phones this year too. So, what does 5G buy you, other than a good excuse for getting a new phone? In a word, less-latency. Latency is that interval of time, in-between when you hit return on a Google search and the first results appear on your screen. For activities like streaming movies, this isn’t a big deal, but for interactive activities like video game play or the controlling of other devices in the internet of things, this will have a profound effect. Cue your autonoumusly driving car that will now have a fast enough reaction time to get you home safely, by being able to timely communicate with all the other cars.

So, what is Russia’s deal with 5G? Russia doesn’t really have a dog in the 5G fight, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a dog in the manger and pooping all over our efforts. The country that can put up a fight is China. Like we need another China war. They have gone all in on 5G, but of course their version of it is not like ours. Naturally. Russia has aligned itself with China on 5G, with the hope of swaying Europe, who has been sitting on the proverbial 5G fence. We’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out for this year and in the years to come.

Road Trip

Open Road

Get your motor running, head out on the highway. Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way… Now, I’m not saying that we were born to be wild, and we didn’t exactly close the cookie party, but then again, we did have a dawn launch on our agenda. We ended up tripling our new car’s odometer mileage and have landed safely in Ann Arbor.

I guess that safety is the theme for this post, because this is when we first were able to fully exercise our new car’s Toyota Safety Sense. Think of this system as a combination scolding mother and intervening mom. I guess that some would view these two characterizations as different faces on the same coin. As a child of the open road, either parent could be both helpful or not. It gave us an opportunity to explore Momma T’s capabilities.

With the couple of hundred miles of intown travel that we had already logged, we had begun to familiarize ourselves with some of scolding mom’s senses. Stay in your lane. Don’t cross the lines. You are getting too close to that parked car. Use your turn signal and lookout for all of all those other fast-moving vehicles that are passing you. Why? Because, I said so. Not that she was wrong.

Getting out-of-town and after some fumbling (I still don’t know how I changed the speedometer from MPH to KPH.), we engaged the car’s enhanced cruise control. It’s like a normal cruise control except, if while in cruise control and you approach a slower moving vehicle, like say a semi, the car will slow to a matching speed. I like this feature, because there are many occasions, when in the past, I had to pop out of cruise control, because passing vehicles prevented me from passing this truck.

The most novel aspect of our new car’s enhanced cruise control is its steering assist feature. Now mind me, we were driving on entirely boring, flat and almost straight highways. Typical Midwestern driving. If an AI or even our semi-sentient AI couldn’t drive across Illinois and Indiana interstates, then it dosen’t belong on the road. We drove today in bright, clear and dry conditions. Perfect. The system performed remarkably well, but not perfectly. I could drive for miles without any limb touching a control. Initially, both Anne and I experienced a tug-of-war period, where we fought the car, but through its training of itself or us that eventually smoothed out.

After a while, it was kind of fun, just going along for the ride. We safely arrived at our destination. Now Toyota warns that this feature is not autonomous driving, but is only intended to help out, but that is probably just the lawyers talking. It is a feature that blurs the line between the present and the future.