Pandemic Journal, Day 513

Another day of American History today; we took the T to the Quincy Adams station for a planned 10am visit to the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Birthplaces, part of Adams National Historic Park. Google claimed that the Birthplaces were an 11-minute walk from the T station, but its omniscience fell short of routing us through the construction zone at the station, and the MBTA’s signage was no help, either. Eventually, we got outside and called a Lyft – and the driver had a hard time finding us, too.

We got to the Birthplaces 15 minutes after our reservation, but they had waited for us, and all was well. Both houses are “saltboxes” – we could only see the first floor of each one, which had very similar layouts.

We started at John Adams’s birthplace – he lived there until he married Abigail.

The first room we entered was the “Great Hall” (it was, perhaps, 15 feet on a side), which was used for general living; the fireplace was kept running 24/7 to keep the house warm (not a problem today!).

From there, we went into the “Summer Kitchen” (I don’t think there was a “Winter Kitchen”), where all the cooking happened.

The final room on the ground floor was the “Best Room”, where company would have been entertained. Adams’s father was a deacon (and was, of course, named John), so it was used a lot.

We passed by the well that the two properties shared (our guide said that digging an extra well was much harder than sharing one!) and went into John Quincy Adams’s birthplace. Abigail and John lived there until he became VP (well, she did – he was a world traveler!).

The “Great Hall” here was decorated with portraits of John and Abigail.

John used the “Best Room” as his law office, and he put his clerks into what Abigail thought was going to be her dining room (they worked and slept there!).

John made some improvements to the kitchen for Abigail’s safety – he put in a kettle hook and put the hearth outside the fire. During the late 18th Century, burns were a major cause of injury and death to women, and John wanted to avoid that happening to Abigail.

After the tour, we decided to walk the Presidents’ Trail to Abigail Adams’ Cairn (where she saw and heard the Battle of Bunker Hill).

The trail was marked by stickers on the sidewalk like this one:

Unfortunately, every sticker had arrows on the top and bottom, whether the trail continued straight or turned – we walked quite a bit more than we needed to before we figured out what was happening and let Google guide us.

After visiting the Cairn, we’d had enough walking in the heat and humidity and took a bus into Quincy Center for the rest of the day.

We explored the Hancock-Adams Common in the center of town and paid our respects at the Hancock Cemetery (I would like to know what a “Receiving Tomb” is and why it wasn’t bricked up like the others).

We would have taken the town tour and seen where the Adamses were reburied in the “Church of the Presidents”, but the tour was cancelled because of the extreme heat warning.

Instead, we walked to “Peace field”, which John and Abigail bought while he was Minister to Great Britain and where Adams descendants lived until the 1920s. It’s a beautiful property with a very nice garden, but because of COVID, there was no access to the interior.

They said that the library had several thousand books in thirteen different languages, all of which John Quincy Adams could read.

We’d hoped to visit some sites in Boston during the afternoon, but it was just too hot and humid. Next trip!

Pandemic Journal, Day 512

We’ve walked the Freedom Trail many times on visits to Boston – most of it, anyway. We’ve never quite made it to Bunker Hill, but we fixed that today using the Rosie Ruiz method – we took the T to the Community College station and walked the rest of the way.

The Monument itself was closed due to COVID, but I’m not sure I would have been up for climbing the 294 steps anyway. The grounds were open, though, so we walked around the battlefield – it was a beautiful morning. I would have liked to have been able to go into the Lodge, but it, too, was closed.

The Museum was open, though, so we spent an hour or so looking at all of the exhibits and learning the story of the battle, which actually took place on Breed’s Hill rather than Bunker Hill. The hill got renamed after the Revolution, and apparently the original Bunker Hill got used as landfill to expand Boston!

We made a couple of stops on our way to the Charleston Navy Yard and the USS Constitution. The first was at the Charleston Training Field, where we saw a monument erected in 1872 to honor “the men of Charleston who fought in the War of 1861 for the preservation of the Union” – the term “Civil War” wasn’t in common use then, apparently.

The second stop was at Warren Tavern for lunch; it claims to be the oldest tavern in Massachusetts. I can’t speak to the truth of the claim, but the food was ok, the beer was decent, and the air conditioning worked well. Four stars!

We’d been to the Charleston Navy Yard to tour the USS Constitution many years ago. Not much had changed, at least aboard the ship – there was more security, and the Visitor Center closed for an hour at 1pm for cleaning because of Covid!

We took the ferry to Long Wharf to go to the New England Aquarium, enjoying a cool breeze on the way. We also got to see the Aquarium from the water, and our guide on Tuesday was right – that view most definitely exposes the Aquarium as a Brutalist building.

The ground floor of the Aquarium is filled with penguins, and we even got to watch them being hand-fed their allotment of fish for the day.

The centerpiece of the Aquarium is a four-story salt water tank, complete with Myrtle the Turtle, as well as many other creatures of the deep and not-so-deep.

There are other exhibits to enjoy, too, like the sea dragons and the sea lions.

It was a good way to spend a hot afternoon.

Pandemic Journal, Day 511

We went to Lexington today to learn more about how the American Revolution got started. Our first stop was the Lexington Battle Green – it didn’t look very impressive at first glance.

We took a walk around the Battle Green and saw a few interesting items, like the oldest Revolutionary War monument in the US, dating from 1799 (with the remains of the milita members who were killed at the Battle of Lexington reburied there).

And across the street, we saw a huge house with an unfamiliar flag – Google told me that it was the Grand Union Flag, the first official US flag (and almost certainly the flag that George Washington flew when he sailed across the Delaware, not the one in the famous painting).

A few minutes later, we started our tour of the Battle Green – we looked at the Battle Green as a whole and found out how the British marched up Massachusetts Avenue from Boston and encountered the Americans who were there for a symbolic presence. Their commander, John Parker, ordered them to disperse and stand down – but in the darkness and confusion, when a shot suddenly rang out, the British regular troops started firing at the Americans, killing several. No one knows who fired that first shot – and it’s not for lack of investigations, beginning the very next day.

The house with the Grand Army flag was one of the few “witness” houses to survive to the present day; another one, the Harrington House, was owned by John Harrington, one of the Americans killed that day. He is supposed to have walked from the battle to the house (a distance of less than a block) and died on its doorstep.

We finished the tour at the Old Burying Ground, where John Parker is memorialized (and may be buried – nobody knows).

I recommend taking the tour if you are in the area. I also recommend having a car – we didn’t, so we walked the couple of miles up Mass Ave to our next stop, the Minute Man National Historic Park Visitor Center.

We arrived just in time to join a ranger-led walk to the site of “Parker’s Revenge”. After the British had marched up to Concord, only to find the arms they were supposed to seize had been moved, they had to go back to Boston – and there was only one road. Parker brought his troops up from Lexington and set them up as snipers – they harassed the British soldiers and shot several of them. The National Park Service carried out an archeological expedition to find out exactly where the battle happened – it’s an interesting story all by itself.

We had hoped to go to Concord, but it was almost five o’clock and we were tired, so we called a Lyft to take us back to Boston. It was a much easier journey than the British soldiers had taken in 1775. And we didn’t get rained on at all today!

Pandemic Journal, Day 510

Our streak of surprisingly good weather continued today in Boston, with a high of 76°F, and just a tiny bit of rain, enough to cool things down when we needed it.

Our son came to our hotel this morning about 10, and it was wonderful to see him after so long. We went out to his place in Allston to see where he lives (and of course to take advantage of the free laundry facilities)! We had lunch at Punjabi Palace – after 10 days in Iceland, it was a nice change!

This afternoon, we walked from Copely Square to the New England Aquarium by way of Phin Coffee House (yes, there are alternatives to Dunkin here). We’re taking a Brutalism tour with Boston By Foot – we’ve been on many of their tours in the past, mostly concentrating on all of the history that’s happened here, so this one should be different.

We looked at seven Brutalist buildings, all dating from the 1960s and 1970s – Brutalism fell out of favor quickly (partially because the cost of concrete increased!). The first was the New England Aquarium itself, which was built as part of a new mayor’s attempt to revive the waterfront and opened in 1969. Our guide told us that the best way to see the building as it was would be to see it from the water, but the photo below shows the Brutalist bones of the building, as well as the additions in 1996 and 2004, which are far more modern-looking.

After that, we looked at the two Harbor Towers apartment buildings. They’re about 40 stories tall and were built as affordable housing, opening in 1971. They faced the Central Artery highway (moved underground in the Big Dig) which separated them from the rest of Boston. They’ve been converted to condos and are now desirable housing!

Harbor Garage was the last building we looked at by the waterfront; its current owner wants to build a 600-foot-high tower over half the garage and promises to remove the other half to provide a “blue way” to the water to complement the Rose Kennedy Greenway which replaced the Central Artery. This is a controversial proposal, needless to say.

Our next stop was the State Street Bank Building (225 Franklin), built in 1966 – it was the first privately-developed major building in Boston’s Financial District in decades. The cantilevered openings along the sidewalk opened the building up to its surroundings, unlike Prudential Center and the John Hancock Building, which were built around the same time. This was my favorite building of the tour.

Walgreens currently occupies a 1972 addition to the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank building – when it was built, it was right on a street which has since been removed, giving it some breathing space.

The final building on the tour was Boston City Hall, which is the anchor of Government Center. It got mixed reviews when it was built, and still gets them today; the design is interesting since it puts the places where the public interacts with city government on the ground floor, ceremonial space on the next floor, and consigns the actual workers to the top floors.

By the time the tour ended, so had our stretch of good weather. There was a not-so-light drizzle when we got on the T to return to the Westin and by the time we got off, it was pouring. I wish I could bring some of the rain home with us!

Pandemic Journal, Day 509

It was our last day in Iceland; we had breakfast at the hotel again (the barista there makes a very nice espresso macchiato!) and finished packing before setting out for a little last-minute exploration.

We hadn’t walked all the way around The Pond yet, so that was our goal. Along the way, I was playing with Google Maps and found something called “Trivial Earth Lovers” – the description calls it a place of worship, but the photo associated with it appears to be that of the headquarters of the DAS Lottery! At any rate, that made me think of geocaching, so I hunted for easy caches near us and found two virtual caches, The Unknown Bureaucrat and Monument of Jón Sigurðsson – we’d been to both statues several times during the trip, so all we had to do was go back and take photos with one of us in the picture with the statue and submit the log.

We finished our walk around The Pond before getting the necessary photos; it was a pleasant day for a walk (we were amazingly fortunate in the weather the whole time we were in Iceland). If we’d had more time, we might have explored the “Human Expansion Station

but we skipped it in favor of leaving time for a visit to the National Gallery of Iceland (our Reykjavik cards were still valid, and I wanted to get full value from them!).

The National Gallery had a number of special exhibits – we had just enough time to visit two. The first, Death is Elsewhere, was a seven-screen video showing a couple dancing and singing very odd songs (in English) about Death being elsewhere – we stayed for a few minutes and moved on before the songs became total earworms.

The second, Hello Universe, was more traditional – it mostly had paintings, though there were some odd mixed-media pieces like Halldór Ásgeirsson’s Aurora Borealis Bar.

The labels for “Hello Universe” were only posted in Icelandic; fortunately, the museum had put the English versions online so we could look at them while walking through the exhibition.

After visiting the National Gallery, we took photos at the two geocaches and walked back to the hotel to finish packing and to check out, then we set out for one final meal at the Reykjavik Fish Company. I was pretty sure I knew where it was, but I brought it up on Google Maps to be certain – that was a mistake, because Google had the wrong address! We found it anyway and enjoyed fish and chips (they were out of Arctic char). It was next to Valdis Ice Cream – even though I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry, I wanted to try the ice cream. Valdis was the place we’d been hunting for the entire trip – our trainer had told us to find a place that served ice cream on waffles – but I had to limit myself to a single scoop on a cone. It was very good; next visit to Reykjavik, I’ll plan to go to Valdis for the full experience.

Then it was back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage, a quick walk across the street to the bus stop for the trip to the bus terminal and thence to Keflavik to fly home (well, to Boston).

The route to the airport took us near Fagradalsfjall Volcano. It had been pretty quiet the last few days, but as we passed it, there was lots of steam coming out.

The commentary on one of the YouTube channels carrying live video said that there’d been a wall collapse a few minutes before we passed by, generating lots of lava. All I could do was watch the feed and wish I were there.

Now we’re on our flight to Boston – there was no chance to see the volcano when we took off, but I did enjoy the view of glaciers over Greenland.

The movies and TV offerings on this flight didn’t excite me, but I was drawn to one album, “IBM 1401, A User’s Manual” by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

The first track, “IBM 1401 Processing Unit”, was strictly musical, so I was really surprised when the second track, “IBM 1403 Printer”, included readings of parts of the manual! Diane says she wishes her father had been able to hear this album – he spent years servicing 1401 systems as an IBM Customer Engineer.

We should land in Boston in a couple of hours – we’ll have to stay awake until 10pm or so Eastern Time.

Tomorrow, we see our son!

Pandemic Journal, Day 508

It was still pretty noisy outside last night when we went to bed, but closing the windows and turning on some brown noise made a huge difference, and we slept well.

We took an early walk this morning in search of a non-buffet breakfast – not much was open, and what there was didn’t appeal to us, so we went back to our hotel for their buffet after all – it was good, though not very Icelandic, except for one beverage:

Neither of us indulged.

After breakfast, we went to Kolaportið, the weekend-only flea market held in the old customs hall. It’s mostly aimed at locals rather than tourists (in fact, their official website is only in Icelandic) with lots of semi-permanent booths selling things like reading glasses, vintage clothing, and old appliances, but almost as soon as we entered, Diane found a jewelry maker who had made a nice pendant with a preserved lupin flower inside.

After wandering through the rest of the market (which reminded me very much of a con’s huckster room, though with even fewer books), we decided we’d take the ferry to Viðey Island. There were two options, both covered by the Reykjavik Card. There was an hourly ferry from the Skarfabakki terminal, which would require a cab ride. Or there was a twice-a-day ferry from the Old Harbor, ten minutes walk away – but I couldn’t find the schedule on their webpage and they didn’t answer their phone! We gambled and walked to the Elding booth at the Old Harbor and found that the next departure was 10 minutes away.

The trip was pleasant – we saw the Þúfa, an interesting artwork, as soon as the ferry pulled out, and of course there were views of Hallgrímskirkja Church and Harpa to be had, too.

The ferry stopped next to an Icelandic Coast Guard cutter, but nobody got out – we had stopped at Skarfabakki terminal to pick up passengers.

Five minutes later, we were at Viðey Island; we had a quick lunch at Viðey House and set off to explore the island.

Our first stop was the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial to John Lennon from Yoko Ono. It wasn’t lit, of course, but I can imagine it would be very interesting to see when it is!

We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole island, but we did visit a few of the Milestones created by Richard Serra.

Soon enough, though, we were on the ferry and waving goodbye to the island and its inhabitants.

We got off at the Old Harbor and decided to visit the Omnom Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Shop. It was raining lightly, and we weren’t dressed for it (I’d foolishly believed the weather forecast), so we popped into the Maritime Museum to let the worst of the rain pass.

I hadn’t really researched Omnom beyond seeing the rave reviews of their chocolate and ice cream; I thought it’d be a large operation, something like the Jelly Belly Factory or the Ritter Berlin Choco-World. It wasn’t – there was only one person staffing the store, which offered a few ice cream concoctions and a wide selection of chocolate bars. Both of us got the Lakkrís Wolf, which had soft serve covered with liquorice-chocolate sauce, raspberry-liquorice-chocolate cookie crumble and a milk chocolate wolf. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t choose it again. And we had to eat it outside, where the rain had returned.

We were able to take a bus back almost all the way to our hotel instead of walking a couple of kilometers, but we still got drenched when some clown drove his car through a puddle right next to us!

After we changed our clothes, we went on a final search for souvenirs in the Laugavegur area near our hotel – it’s Pride Week here, and the streets were filled with people celebrating (or maybe that’s what every summer Saturday looks like here!).

We had dinner at Brew Dog – good beer, messy sandwiches (sadly, they had run out of lambstrami, which was our goal, but the brisket and cheese bun was good), and a skillet cookie which might not have really been necessary. Our timing was good – when we left, there was a long line of people waiting for tables.

Now to pack up – tomorrow, we fly!

Pandemic Journal, Day 507

We got up extra early today to be sure we wouldn’t miss our Covid-19 test, so of course we were ready to leave the ship 30 minutes before our target.

The ship called a taxi for us, and a few minutes later, they said it was ready. The cruise director helped us with our luggage and we left the ship for the last time. There was a taxi there – but it had passengers in it, and when they got out, it drove off.

The people in the taxi were looking for a Golden Circle tour, which didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. Our taxi (or at least another taxi!) pulled up while they were on the phone with their tour operator and we were off to the hotel – I hope they found their tour.

It only took a few minutes to get to our home for the next two nights, the 101 Hotel. Our room wasn’t ready, unsurprisingly, so we had them store our bags and waited for our friends to arrive so we could split a taxi to and from the Covid testing place.

The test was uneventful, and our results were negative, so we’ll be able to go back to the US on Sunday.

After getting tested, we went back into Reykjavik to enjoy the day. We started at the Saga Museum, which uses dioramas like this one to bring the early years of Iceland’s history to life. There’s an audio tour included – the whole museum took about 45 minutes to explore. Fun, but not life-changing.

From there, we went to Whales of Iceland, which also uses an audio tour and whale reproductions to help you appreciate cetaceans. Again, fun, but not life-changing.

We had hoped to have lunch at Kasbah, but even though they had signs in front of the restaurant advertising their lunch specials, they were closed. I checked the web site later and found that they’re only open for dinner – and we didn’t go there for dinner, either. Since Kasbah was closed, we went across the street to Reykjavik Fish; three of us had fish and chips, while Diane held out for Arctic char. Diane and I did agree on having Boli Beer – it was the best Icelandic beer we’ve had.

We went back to the hotel and finished checking in – our room overlooks Arnarhóll. Unfortunately, that also means it overlooks Hverfisgata, a very busy street – it’s going to be interesting trying to sleep tonight.

We finished the afternoon by going to three museums, beginning with The Culture House, part of the National Museum of Iceland. Most of the space is given over to “Treasures of a Nation”, Icelandic art – there were some very nice pieces included, such as Lava Flow by Þorbjörg Þórðardóttir:

Mountain Vista by Ólöf Einarsdóttir:

Kitchen Life by Anna Líndal:

and Die of Destiny by Finnur Jónsson:

Well worth a visit.

We then went to the Reykjavik Art Museum’s Hafnarhjús location; it was devoted to a group exhibition of very modern art. The piece I liked best was called Compasses, by Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir – it was created from felled trees, mounted horizontally and motorized to rotate slowly.

The rest of the exhibit was far more challenging. I’m glad I went, but I’m also glad the price of admission was included in the Reykjavik City Card.

Our final museum for the day was the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, on the 6th floor of the City Library. It was mostly given over to photographs by Sigurhans Vignir, showing Reykjavik (and occasionally other parts of Iceland) from about 1940-1970. I was taken aback when I saw his photo of the Town Center at Siglufjörður:

and realized I’d taken a similar photo earlier in the week!

Things had changed in the intervening decades.

Pandemic Journal, Day 506

Last night was probably the longest sail of this trip; we weren’t due into Heimaey until around 9am, so we had a leisurely breakfast. I went out on deck just in time to catch the pilot boat approach and the pilot come on board.

 

 

 

Once we’d docked, I went out on deck again and was nearly overwhelmed by the smell of fish – there were local birds taking advantage of the bounty, too.

Our tour of Heimaey began at the Volcano Museum; Heimaey was nearly destroyed in 1973 by a sudden lava flow from a vent which opened without warning – the lava eventually formed a new volcanic cone, Eldfell, and added about 20% to the size of the island (so any time you hear a real estate agent tell you to “buy land because they’re not making it any more” you can ignore that advice).

After the museum, we took a drive through town, passing through the harbor (where we confirmed what our noses had already told us – fish was the core of the town’s economy!), passing by Sprangan, a cliff where young islanders learn rope swinging – it’s how they collect eggs from nesting birds.

We continued around the island, stopping at their festival grounds, which were all set up for a festival which draws about 15,000 Icelanders every year (the population of Heimaey is only about 4,000).

The festival happens the first weekend in August, the weekend which has the most domestic tourism. But it was cancelled at the last minute this year because of Covid concerns. Maybe next year….

From there, we drove to the “puffin house” to enjoy one last view of puffins before we leave Iceland.

While we were there, our guide Sindri noticed a baby kittiwake that seemed to be struggling, so he grabbed it

then he carried it down to the shore

and threw it into the air so it could fly on its own.

Our final stop was near the airport – Sindri told us about the struggle to save Heimaey after the eruption, and the use of pumps like this one to slow the advance of the lava.

At first, they used the pumps to save houses and the town, but that meant that the lava started to threaten the harbor – and without the harbor, there was no reason for the town to exist. So they concentrated on the harbor and saved it; people started moving back into town as soon as the eruption ended, six months after it started.

We didn’t get a chance to see any of Heimaey on our own – but it looked like a nice place to explore on our next trip to Iceland.

We sailed away during lunch; there was one last lecture on the schedule, from Brian Murray from Duke on the transition to a low-carbon economy. At the end of the lecture, there were announcements: macarons were available in the lounge and there were whales visible from the ship. We decided that macarons could wait and went up to the observatory lounge on Deck 6.

We were not disappointed. I’ve never seen so many whales at one time, nor for so long – they were near the ship for at least an hour. I took over 200 photos, but not all of them were worth keeping. Here are a few I like – and there are many others.

We have a Covid testing appointment tomorrow morning at 9am, so we can’t linger on the ship (which probably makes them happy – they want to clean the room for the next guests). It’s been a good trip, and there’s more to come before we’re home.

Pandemic Journal, Day 505

We’re on our way to Jökulsárlón, the glacial river lagoon – we began with a tender ride to the foggy town of Höfn, which we were assured was charming on a day when you could see it. Then it was onto a bus for an hour-long drive to Jökulsárlón. We stopped at Hotel Smyrlabjörg for a comfort stop; we were preceded by the 13 Yule Lads we’d met on Monday in Dimmuborgir, but they’d gotten much more colorful in the interim.

At the lagoon, we had a few minutes to walk around before boarding a duck for our lagoon cruise.

We had to wear masks and life jackets the whole time and sit while we were on land, but we were free to move around once we were on the water. Being out with the icebergs and glacial fragments was a lot of fun.

At one point, our guide passed around a chunk of glacial ice; it was amazingly transparent and not all that cold!

We left the duck behind and reboarded the bus for a short drive to a beach where we ate our bagged lunches. It was a delightfully warm day – 13C – but none of us had brought swimsuits. There was an art exhibit on the beach with photos of the lagoon – it seemed rather meta.

After lunch, we drove back to Höfn and made a brief comfort stop at a library(!) and then continued on to meet our ship, which had repositioned to Djúpivogur.

A short tender ride later, we were aboard and in the lounge to enjoy the drink of the day.

Drink of the day

Tonight is the Captain’s Farewell Dinner – I suspect we won’t be finished until quite late. Good thing we don’t have to pack this evening!

Pandemic Journal, Day 504

We arrived in Seyðisfjörður during breakfast; as we sailed down the fjord leading to the town, we enjoyed seeing a couple of nice waterfalls.

There was only one formal activity on the agenda for this morning, a walk to the Blue Church for a concert of mostly Icelandic music by a local duo – I’m not sure that the guitar with the electric pickup was truly authentic. They said that any cheerful songs were almost certainly borrowed from other cultures, which might explain why they followed two songs about death and ghosts with Home on the Range, even if it was in Icelandic.

After the concert, we wandered around town for a bit, then went to the Tourist Information Center at the port to take advantage of fast Internet connectivity – we managed to upload all of the photos we’ve taken in the past few days before returning to the ship for lunch.

The ship sailed at 3; the afternoon was filled with lectures (one on glaciers in Iceland and one on Historic Preservation). It’s foggy outside, but we’re in the 6th deck Observation Lounge anyway. :-)

Tomorrow, we visit Jökulsárlón (which means “glacial river lagoon”) to see what we’ve been hearing about in the lectures. It should be an interesting day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 503

We got off to another early morning start today after a late night yesterday (there was a classical piano concert after dinner, and then we just couldn’t resist staying up for sunset).

The ship docked at Húsavík just before breakfast time, and we were on the bus around 8:15 to meet our guide, Yngvar (a Norwegian who moved to Iceland with his Icelandic wife). Húsavík is an old fishing village (they have a whale museum we didn’t get to see) which now has some high-tech businesses, especially solar cell production.

But we weren’t there to see solar cells – we were off for a 120-mile drive through the countryside. Our first stop was the geothermal field of Námaskar∂, chock full of sulphurous mud springs (we could smell it well before we got to it). It reminded me of Lasson National Park, but with many fewer tourists and warning signs. The bus driver gave us blue booties to wear so that we wouldn’t track volcanic mud into the bus!

After we’d explored enough of the sulphur field, we drove a few miles (err, kilometers) to Dimmuborgir, near Lake Mývatn, to walk in an older lava field filled with giant pillars and chimneys.

We were assaulted by thousands of teeny-tiny flies at Dimmuborgir – they didn’t bite, but they certainly were annoying. We’d been warned about them by our trainer and came equipped with head nets to keep them away.

Our final stop was Go∂afoss Falls (Waterfall of the Gods), where we got to walk almost all the way down to the falls – I suspect people fall in from time to time.

Then it was back to the ship for a very late lunch. We finished about 3:45pm, so we missed the National Trust’s lecturer, but we managed to see the lecturer from Duke on energy policy.

Dinner went smoothly – the amuse bouche was beet-based, and I was shocked to enjoy it!

We’re now en route to tomorrow’s destination, Seyðisfjörður. The sky is cloudy, so we don’t have to stay up for tonight’s sunset!

Pandemic Journal, Day 502

The day started quite early with a presentation about life on Grimsey Island – it’s quite different in the summer when visitors arrive than the winter, when only the 60-odd permanent residents are there and the sun doesn’t rise. Ferry Day is a big event!

We were on the first tender from the ship and took off on the path to the Arctic Circle. We passed the monument marking the former position of the Arctic Circle after only a few minutes of walking – but because of the precession of the Earth’s axis, the marker for current position of the Circle was nearly two miles north!

According to Wikipedia, the Arctic Circle is continuing to move north, and it’s actually about 90 meters north of the monument – we walked far enough to be sure we’d crossed the current position, but there was nothing to take a photo of there!

Grimsey is also known for its puffin colonies – there were more puffins than you could shake a stick at, and they were cute beyond belief!

This afternoon, we visited the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður – we saw a demonstration of herring salting and got to taste a couple of varieties of herring (and another shot of Brennivín).

Pandemic Journal, Day 501

We were the last group off the ship this morning, which gave us the luxury of sleeping late and having a leisurely breakfast and time to wander around the ship before boarding the tender for Vigur Island. The island is family-owned and only a limited number of visitors are allowed on at any time.

The main attraction of Vigur Island is the wildlife – puffins, Arctic terns (which can be vicious – we had to carry sticks to avoid being attacked by them), and eider (ducks). The island produces about 50kg of eiderdown per year, of a world production of only 3500kg – the down is harvested from the nests of the ducks after they shed it.

We survived the terns and were treated to “happy marriage cake” before leaving the island.

After lunch, we sailed to Isafjörður and visited the Maritime and Folk Museum. There, we sampled some Icelandic delicacies – dried fish, preserved shark, and Black Death (Brennivín, Icelandic schnapps). The schnapps was the best of the three offerings.

After that, we stopped at a waterfall where we drank water right from the glacier that fed it – untreated!

Then we drove through a six-kilometer long tunnel to Bolungarvik for a short concert in an old church and a visit to the Fisherman’s Museum.

And now we’re back on the ship, en route to Grimsey Island and the Arctic Circle. I expect to lose connectivity soon, so I’m posting now!

Pandemic Journal, Day 500

We said farewell to the Hotel Borg this morning and boarded our bus for the Golden Circle tour.

We drove past the geothermal power plant, nearly to Selfoss, through Geysir, and on to Gullfoss where we got off the bus and walked to the end of the trail over the falls. Along the way, we took photos of a big glacier and of fishermen in a river.

Back to Geysir for a walk to Strokker geyser, which erupts every few minutes. It wasn’t easy to capture it, but I finally got some video.

Lunch was at Geysir Restaurant – salmon with Icelandic barley, potatoes, and a vegetable soup. Also South African wine (Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon), though Icelandic beer was on offer, and I had an Icelandic orange soda, Applesin.

Next stop: Þingvellir, the original seat of the Icelandic Parliament, and the place where the European and North American plates touch. I took many photos, but bandwidth restrictions prevent me from sharing them now.

Boarding the ship was complicated because of Covid; we are their first passengers since Before, and things are still a bit uneven.

Connectivity is very slow out here, but I’ll do what I can!

Pandemic Journal, Day 499

This morning, we began our tour with a trip to the Perlan to get a preview of the wonders of Iceland, including a trip through their Ice Cave (kept at -5C, made with more than 350 tons of snow).

The Glacier exhibits were fascinating, and more than a little scary when they used time lapse photography to show how much glaciers like the Mendenhall in Alaska have shrunk during the 21st Century; there was also an obituary for the Okjökull Glacier, which was declared dead in 2014.

I also enjoyed going outside on the fourth level to take in a 360º panorama of Reykjavik – while we were out there, the guide told us that you could get a very nice 3-bedroom apartment in a very nice part of town for about 1 million US dollars – those of us from the Bay Area wondered why it was so cheap!

From the Perlan, we took a long bus ride through the outskirts of town, eventually winding up at the National Museum of Iceland. This was the last stop of the day; the bus left 30 minutes after we got there, but several of us stayed behind to explore more of the history of Iceland (the museum was a 15-minute walk from the hotel, so planning to miss the bus wasn’t a big deal).

Lunch was at an interesting Middle Eastern restaurant, Mandi, near the hotel. The food was good, the prices reasonable, and the atmosphere non-existent. Diane and I had a “mixed plate” with lamb, chicken, and cod, plus plenty of salad. We also tried basil seed drinks which were bottled in Thailand for a company with Jordanian and Swedish phone numbers – the label, of course, was entirely in English, and the size was given in US fluid ounces first, with metric as an afterthought.

We spent the afternoon roaming around the city (if you want total honesty, it was so I could buy candy – I had to use a self-service cash register with Icelandic prompts!) and returned, one more time, to Caruso for dinner.

Tomorrow morning, we leave the hotel for a Golden Circle tour and end up on the ship – it’s already in Reykjavik, where the crew has been serving a two-week quarantine before starting to sail with passengers; I guess we’re the beta testers!

Pandemic Journal, Day 498

Our pre-tour officially began this morning when we got into a mini-bus with a dozen other travelers for our excursion to the Blue Lagoon.

The trip included a buffet breakfast (in Iceland, such things still exist!), a swim in the lagoon, a drink, and their silica mud mask – we took advantage of all four.

After the lagoon, we got onto a bigger bus for the trip into town and a visit to the Hallgrímskirkja Church – since we’d been there already, we left the group and had lunch at 101 Reykjavik Street Food. I had the plokkfiskur (traditional Icelandic fish stew) and Diane had the lamb soup. I’d go back – even if they didn’t also give us free Prince Polo bars for dessert.

The rest of the day was “at leisure”, so we wandered around town, including paying a visit to the Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront.

The weather was beautiful – sunny and 66 degrees – and outside restaurant seating was packed!

Tomorrow, we take a city tour in the morning – it’ll hit places we haven’t been yet, so we expect to stay with the group all day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 497

I follow a jet-lag reduction routine that I found a long time ago in Jane Brody’s column in the New York Times (if you’re a subscriber, you can read the article here; if not, most of the info is here). It seems to work well. Last night, I took my melatonin at 10pm, as directed, and was out soon thereafter, waking around 7am today and staying awake and feeling good all day – well, until I took melatonin this evening and started to feel tired again!

We visited two of the Reykjavik city museums today. This morning, we went to the Settlement Exhibition, which tells the story of the earliest days of the city, based on a 10th Century longhouse they discovered while building a hotel nearby. It was dark inside, so we didn’t take photos inside, but the outside was somewhat interesting.

We lunched at Cafe Rosenberg, where we both had lox and bagels with honeyed cream cheese.

Somehow, we had room for dessert and went to Gaeta Gelato. Fortunately, they offered “little” cones (only $6!) that were just about the right size.

This afternoon, we went back to the Old Harbor to visit the Maritime Museum.

We saw both exhibits at the Maritime Museum – one on the recovery and exploration of the Melckmeyt, a 17th Century Dutch ship that sank while trading with Iceland, and the permanent exhibit about “Fish and Folk”, how fishing shaped Iceland and Icelanders. Both were worth seeing – we spent more time with the permanent exhibit, though.

After the Maritime Museum, we wanted fish; our friends had done some research and found Messinn, less than a five-minute walk from our hotel. It was a great catch – their specialty is “fish pans”. Diane had the Atlantic Wolffish and I had the cod with curry and chili – both were excellent. And somehow, we had room for dessert and split a piece of chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream!

Tomorrow will start early; we leave the hotel at 8am to join the rest of our group for breakfast and a swim at the Blue Lagoon, followed by a tour of the Hallgrímskirkja Church (I’m hoping they include a trip to the tower, since we’ve already seen the rest of the church). The rest of the day will be “at leisure” (which means we get to figure out our own meals – I don’t think that will be much of a hardship).

Pandemic Journal, Day 496

I had hoped to post yesterday’s blog yesterday, but there was no connectivity on the plane, nor on the bus into Reykjavik, and by the time I got to the Hotel Borg, it was already today.

Other than that, the trip was pretty uneventful – Diane and I slept a little bit, but not enough! I’m not sure if the gin

and the chocolate

made it easier or harder to sleep during the flight, but they were very interesting introductions to Icelandic cuisine.

I made a strategic error when packing – instead of one heavy suitcase, we checked two light ones. And we brought a roll-aboard for those things that we didn’t want to check. All very good, until we had to get everything onto the FlyBus and from the drop point to the hotel – then I realized that it’s hard to pull two suitcases at once, no matter how light they are.

Once we got to our hotel and unpacked a little, we headed out for a walk through Reykjavik. Our first stop was the Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, not far from Reykjavik City Hall.

From there, we walked through the Old Harbor area to Aurora Reykjavik (Northern Lights Museum), passing ships being worked on and art along the way.

The museum itself was quite interesting – lots of information about the aurora (all of it in English), with good visuals. They had a long HD loop of aurora videos taken all over Iceland; it was beautiful and fascinating, but not the best choice for sleep-deprived travelers!

Lunch was nearby at Lamb Street Food – I found it through TripAdvisor, and the guy at the Aurora said it was good. They were right – it was delicious and apparently reasonably priced for Iceland.

We split up after lunch; our friends wanted to go to Fly Over Iceland (like Soaring Over California at Disney, but in Iceland); we wanted to see more of the city, so we did Rick Steves’ introductory Reykjavik walk. We retraced some of our steps from the morning, but soon found outselves in new territory, ending up at Hallgrímskirkja Church, maybe half a mile from our hotel.

Dinner this evening was at Restaurant Caruso, a five-minute walk from our hotel; it was quite good (Diane really liked her salmon risotto, and I thought the pasta bolognese was delicious (and so was the garlic bread that came with it).

Pandemic Journal, Day 495

It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten on an airplane – a very long time. But today, we flew twice – the first flight was from SJC to PDX, and as I write this, we’re on Iceland Air flight 664 from PDX to KEF, en route to our first cruise in 16 months.

So far, everything has gone smoothly – I was debating between Lyft and a taxi for our trip to the airport and finally went with Lyft; it was a good choice, possibly the best Lyft ride I’ve taken. We took advantage of the Priority Pass membership that com aes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to go to the Club at SJC – it was their new location, occupying the space that was the Admiral’s Club back when American had a significant presence in San Jose.

The flight to Portland was smooth, and we were on the side with nice views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.

We took advantage of Priority Pass again to have lunch for free at Capers on the C Concourse – the food was good, and the Pretty Good Brownie was better, Portland Airport is under construction, so we had to go through security again to get to the International Terminal; we were able to use the Express Line and avoid most of the wait time, but couldn’t take advantage of TSA Pre-Check. Life is rough sometimes, and yes, I know I’m complaining about a trivial inconvenience.

As I type this, we’re on Iceland Air to Reykjavik, There were more volcano views to enjoy as we left Portland.

This is a short flight, just over 7 hours, which makes it difficult to really sleep, but we’re going to try – Diane already has her eyes closed, and I’m about to join her.

Next stop, Reykjavik!

Pandemic Journal, Day 494

We’re out of practice – it took us a lot longer to pack than it did when we were going places every month or two. I even had to make an emergency trip to REI for sunglasses (my old ones wouldn’t fit over my new glasses). But we’re finally packed and ready to fly!

The volcano put on quite a show earlier today – it’s calmer right now, but who knows what it’ll do when we’re in Iceland?

I look forward to finding out.

Pandemic Journal, Day 493

I spent much of today working on code – first for the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors process, and then much of this evening helping with code I’d written for Toastmasters.

The High Holy Day Honors process work was actually pretty easy – and in the end, I feel pretty good that the person picking up the load while I’m away will be ok – he talked me out of making any code changes before I left, which was a very good idea, even if those changes would have made the code much cleaner.

The Toastmasters fixes were in some of the ugliest code I’ve written. The code has to parse an HTML page because Toastmasters HQ doesn’t provide any way to download data about what officers have attended training – and they changed the HTML page this year, after leaving it alone for three years. They simplified it substantially, but it still broke my code.

I got my successor on a Zoom call and we set to work – which meant I figured out what was going on and fixed the code while he listened to me think out loud. I made some improvements to my code (I created a class with meaningful names instead of using a list, for example), but it’s still ugly and fragile code, and I’m not sure it’s significantly more understandable than it was before. But it produces the report they need, and that’s something.

Oh, well; everything is working for now on both fronts, and I can go on vacation with a clean conscience.

Pandemic Journal, Day 492

Today’s Toastmasters meeting went off surprisingly smoothly considering we lost one speaker in the middle of the meeting due to a family emergency. Our Table Topics Master had plenty of questions ready, and she used them all!

After the meeting, a few of us met in person at a nearby Panera Bread – we sat outside, and a good (and, I hope, Covid-free) time was had by all.

I visited my allergist today; both he and I were happy about my progress. He’s afraid that my polyps will return now that I’m off the prednisone, so he’s working on backup plans.

And I girded my loins to do battle with British Airways to get a refund for our flights to and from South Africa. I knew they’d try to steer me towards a voucher, and they did – with one button on the first screen of the refund menu. I clicked the button that said “refund my money” and I was done 20 seconds later – no hard sell, and really no problem at all. Of course, I don’t have my money back yet. They said it would take up to a week to be credited to the card, but I can wait.

Pandemic Journal, Day 491

A little over two weeks ago, I fractured a crown – I don’t know what caused it (I wasn’t eating anything particularly tough at the time), but my mouth felt funny and I kept feeling little pieces of something where they shouldn’t have been.

Today, I got the crown replaced – it took a bit longer than expected because it was hard for the dentist to get my mouth numb enough, but she finally succeeded. She discovered a little bit of a cavity under the old crown, so she had to drill that out, too – but the new crown made it unnecessary for her to fill the cavity. I guess that’s a good thing.

I also spent a lot of time doing things for our synagogue – I finally finished the High Holy Day Honors invitations program and sent out the initial batch of invitations. There will be further invitations to send when someone declines an honor, but that process should be easier this year than last year. Last year, I had to specify which invitations should be sent to a new person every time we had changes; this year, I made a simple database with the invitations that have been sent out, and the program knows not to send an invitation to a person if nothing has changed for that slot. Databases are wonderful things sometimes – using sqlite3 for this was easier than creating a flat file and searching it myself.

I finished the invitations just in time to go to the monthly synagogue Board meeting – which ran long. At least there were goodies!

Pandemic Journal, Day 490

When I awoke this morning, I found an email from British Airways telling me that our flight from London to Cape Town on September 12th had been cancelled. They didn’t offer any alternative flights, either.

I checked with other people on our tour, and everyone who was flying BA got the same message, even if they were flying on a different day.

So I reached out to our travel agent to see what was up – he said he was checking with Ama and the other suppliers, but that the trip was still officially on.

A few hours later, we got a note from him saying that Ama was still planning to operate their normal cruises in September, but that they were willing to move our charter to 2022 and what did we think of that? Our answer was “hell, yes, move it!”

And soon thereafter, we got the official notice that the charter will move to August, 2022 – we hope that Covid will be under control there and that the riots in Johannesburg will have ended, too!

I am relieved. I still have to cancel the BA itinerary and get a refund, but that should be straightforward.

We also found out that Iceland is putting their requirement for pre-travel Covid testing, even for vaccinated travelers, back into effect on July 27; our flight arrives in Reykjavik on the 26th, so we shouldn’t need to be tested – but we’re going to get a test anyway to be safe. The test has to happen within 72 hours of arrival, so we can’t do it before Friday; I’ve made an appointment for PCR tests.

And our friend Desi headed home today; her flight to Denver was delayed by 45 minutes, which was a problem, since she only had a 43 minute layover. But her flight from was also delayed, so she made her connection anyway – and so did her luggage.

Travel. It’s always an adventure!

Pandemic Journal, Day 489

Once more, I had a busy day, but not much of what happened is worth writing about. I spent most of the day working on the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors – the program will be much better when I finish breaking it! There were also things to fix up in the assignment of honors – but it’ll be done soon. Or else.

Our friend Desi went to the Verizon store to get a new phone, and she’s spent the rest of the day beating it into submission. I’ve been called in for tech support a couple of times (which is why she wanted to get the new phone on this trip), but it’s been fun – and now I know a lot more about Android than I did two days ago. I’m sticking with Apple.

And two of our friends lost their mothers overnight. No matter when it happens, it’s too soon. May their memories be a blessing.

Pandemic Journal, Day 488

Today was a busy, busy day, and it has almost gotten away from me!

We began at the Farmers’ Market, as usual; Desi explored Los Gatos while Diane and I walked.

This afternoon, our trivia team came over to our house to meet Desi – a good time was had by all, or so we were told.

And after that, I got back to work on the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors. I think I’ve pretty much beaten the process into submission, but there are still a few questions outstanding. I’ll deal with the tomorrow – it’s late!

Pandemic Journal, Day 487

Sadly, we had to leave Sonoma this morning. Our plan was to have breakfast at Creekside Cafe, go back to the Airbnb and clean up and check out, go to UPS and ship our friend’s wine back home to Illinois, and go home.

Three out of four isn’t bad. Our host told us he didn’t think we could ship wine at the UPS Store, and he was right – the franchise would need a wine shipper’s license, which apparently is expensive. They suggested Buffalo’s Shipping Post in Napa, so we drove over there (a pretty drive!), and they took care of everything. They even had menus on display for local restaurants, so we decided to go to Gott’s Roadside in Napa for lunch before heading home.

Gott’s was busy, but the line moved fairly well. After ordering, they said it’d be 25 minutes or so, and they were right. I had a very nice burger, sweet potato fries, and a small milkshake; Diane had the ahi burger, and our friend had the street corn. Everything was good, but the street corn smelled wonderful – I would think about going to the Palo Alto location to try it while it’s still in season!

After lunch and a brief walk in Napa, we hit the road; we weren’t in a hurry, so I did something I’ve always thought about but never had done in the 37 years we’ve lived here. We stopped at the Vista Point off the Lake Herman Road exit on 680 South and took a look at the ghost fleet. There’s not much of it left (when we first moved here, there were hundreds of ships; now there are fewer than ten), but I was able to get a photo of two of the ships (I didn’t realize there were two ships until I looked at the photo this evening – it looked like one ship with the naked eye).

And then we came home; it was nice to make dinner instead of going out!

Pandemic Journal, Day 486

We were up bright and early this morning so we could have breakfast before a long hard day of wine tasting. Breakfast was at Baker and Cook, very near our Airbnb. All three of us had the same thing – cinnamon french toast with apples, walnuts and pure maple syrup. The portions were generous, but I managed to finish mine!

Our wine tour was with Platypus Wine Tours; there were 10 customers on the bus, along with our guide, Luis. We visited three wineries, Roche, Mayo, and Bennett Valley Cellars, where the winemaker met us and gave us a private tour and tasting. We bought more than enough wine at each stop to have our tasting fees refunded – I think that’s a good investment, right?

Dinner this evening was at The Red Grape just off Sonoma Plaza. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get in, since their reservations and waitlist had closed early this afternoon, but there was plenty of room when we got there just before 8pm. I wanted something sweet afterwards, so we stopped at La Michoacana and I got a guava paleta (frozen fruit bar).

It was a very nice way to spend Friday. Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 485

We drove to Sonoma (actually Boyes Hot Springs) this afternoon for a short stay surrounding a wine tasting tour tomorrow. We’re staying at a very nice Airbnb, Casita Nopal. Our host pointed us at a wonderful Mexican restaurant nearby, El Molino Central, which provided us a delicious dinner to take back to the Airbnb and enjoy with the wine our host put in the room.

After dinner, we drove into Sonoma and had ice cream at Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream on the Plaza. It was excellent, but it was too dark to take a photo (that, and my hands were busy with the ice cream).

Tomorrow, we must rise early and prepare for a day of wineries. Life is rough sometimes.

Pandemic Journal, Day 484

It’s Day Two of our friend’s visit, and we did the Silicon Valley standards.

First, we went to the Winchester Mystery House – the tour was pretty much as I remember it from past visits – no need to stand 6 feet apart, masks optional, corny jokes included.

Then we crossed the street to show off Santana Row and get a snack; I was hoping to find something in the Farmers’ Market, but we settled for Smitten Ice Cream. Darn!

After that, we made a quick visit to Apple Park to see the Visitor Center and Apple Store; I had forgotten that the visitors’ entrance was off Homestead, so I made some unnecessarily daring maneuvers to avoid going into an employee-only entrance to the complex. Fortunately, the Sheriff’s deputy across the street wasn’t interested in correcting my ways. We left with wallets intact…for now.

This evening was my first meeting as Chair of the Shir Hadash Ritual Committee. We had much to talk about and decisions to make; it was a full two hours, but we got a lot done. The Cantor suggested I post the minutes as tonight’s blog entry, but I decided to save that for a day when I really have nothing to write about!

Pandemic Journal, Day 483

SJC Terminal A "Hands"

Our friend arrived today – it was her first air trip since last February, and our first time at SJC since then, too. We didn’t actually go into the terminal – she met us at curbside – but it’s a step closer to our upcoming trip.

We spent the rest of the day talking and eating.

Tomorrow, we’ll show her some actual touristic locations – Diane wants to go to the Winchester Mystery House, but I’m holding out for the Visitor Center and store at Apple Park.

Pandemic Journal, Day 482

It was a busy Monday.

The High Holy Days are nearly here, so I had to finish overhauling the programs I use to send invitations to congregants who are getting honors – not only did I have to undo some of the emergency changes I made last year, but I also had to adapt yet more programs to use openpyxl instead of xlrd.

I also had a dental appointment – it was supposed to be a routine cleaning, but I had a tooth which had felt funny (not painful, just weird) for a week, so I asked them to look at it. The crown on the tooth had fractured, so now I have an appointment to get a new crown next week – and a crown-sized hole in my wallet.

And I had a Toastmasters meeting this evening, where I was General Evaluator. At least it was a role that doesn’t require a lot of preparation.

After the meeting, I went out for a quick walk, but I only got as far as the driveway before going in and grabbing my camera in hopes of getting a decent picture of the sunset sky.

Pandemic Journal, Day 481

We don’t watch much sports on TV (or in person, for that matter), so Ted Lasso wasn’t an automatic “must-watch” for us. But I read so much about it that we gave it a chance last November and loved it.

We wanted to watch it again to refresh our memories before the new season starts in a couple of weeks; we finished it last night. I picked up more of the fine points of soccer than I had gotten on the first viewing (though I still don’t understand the offside rule) – and was just as disappointed by Richmond’s relegation as I was the first time around.

And because we’d just finished Ted Lasso yesterday, I wanted to watch the Euro 2020 final today while my soccer knowledge was at its peak. I didn’t follow the fine points of play, but I did enjoy the game, and really was focused on the penalty kicks at the end.

Maybe I should give American football another chance, too.

Pandemic Journal, Day 480

It was hot today. We tried not to move too much, and my watch tells me I was successful at staying put – I expect to miss my calorie goal for the first time in nearly two weeks.

I decided I was finished with the server rebuild I’ve been doing over the past few days, so, just for fun, I tried running the do-release-upgrade command on the old system. An hour or so after issuing the command, I had a mostly functional Ubuntu 20.04 system – but it was still cluttered with old versions of PHP and Python that I’d installed over the past three years. It also was running a different version of the Linux kernel and of Apache than the Ubuntu 20.04 system I’d installed from scratch. I’m glad I chose to start fresh.

Did I mention it was hot today? PG&E was looking at the possibility of rotating power outages. Our house is in an outage block that would be in the first batch of outages, so PG&E wanted to let me know of the possibility. They called and texted my cell, called the house, and sent email – and then they did it all again a couple of hours later when they decided they definitely wouldn’t need to turn off our power today.

I bet they call again tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 479

I’d been dreading today. It had been two years since I’d “renegotiated” my Comcast deal, and the special pricing was expiring, raising my Internet bill by $30/month.

It’s always possible to get a better deal, but it requires a call to Comcast and a threat to cancel. If you don’t get the right agent, it can take several calls. I decided today was the day and dialed 1-800-XFINITY.

The voice response system that answered wasn’t horrible, but it did insist on texting me a code so I could use their self-service webpage to navigate the menus to get to the right department. I wanted to deal with my Account; I wanted to Change or Cancel Service; I wanted to cancel ALL my service; yes, I was willing to talk to an agent before cancelling.

Ring, ring…”hi, it’s Kristen from Comcast. How can I help you?” Me: “My rate just jumped by $30 and I want to reduce it.” Her: “Ok, let me see what I can do.”

About two minutes later, “I can keep you on the same package at the same price; you’ll still have phone, TV, your premium channels, and gigabit Internet.” Me: “I didn’t think I had gigabit Internet.” Her: “Oh, you’re right – now you’ll have it. And your upstream speed will go from 15mbps to 40 or so.”

I said “yes, do it!” And it was done – for the next two years, when I’ll have to play agent roulette again.

Speedtest results

And I even finished my server migration today. Finally!

Shabbat Shalom!