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Happy New Year! - Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Happy New Year (and New Decade)! This holiday season, because Christmas and New Year's fell in the middle of the week, Priscilla and I stayed in the Bay Area for Christmas (and had dinner with Uncle Kenway, Aunt Susan and their family) and went down to LA for the four days leading up to New Year's.

So the Saturday after Christmas, we departed at 7:30am en route to LA. I-5 had been closed at the Grapevine just two days earlier due to snow and icy roads. Fortunately, it was nice and sunny on Saturday, and unlike on Thanksgiving Day, we didn't need to detour to the 101. There was constant traffic but it wasn't too bad until we got to the Greater Los Angeles area, and the total transit time was 5.5 hours. Not the most optimal, but way better than Thanksgiving's 9.5 hours.

Saturday night, we had dinner with my parents and Aaron and Lauren's family at Mandarin Deli. We stayed at my parents' place that night, and Priscilla's parents' condo the following three nights.

Sunday was pretty packed - we went to CCAC in the morning (at the new Granada Hills location), ate with Gina and Cindy at Pieology afterwards, and ate dinner at Gen Korean BBQ with Raymond in Alhambra. Our original plan was to stay at my parents' place Sunday night, but since my other high school friends weren't available to hang out that day, Raymond was the only one who could make it. He had to drive from Orange County, so we decided to go Priscilla's parents' condo one day early and meet him in Alhambra.

Monday was a more restful day, and I took the time to run a few miles. Cindy (the other one) and Tracy visited us on Tuesday and we ate lunch at Bopomofo Cafe. We even caught a sighting of the cafe's cofounder, Philip Wang of Wong Fu Productions. He said hello to the people at the table next to ours - that's as close as we got, though Priscilla later went inside to ogle at him working at the counter.

And today, on New Year's, we stopped by my parents' place to pick up food before driving back up north. My mom had cooked us a lot of food - mung bean noodles with ground turkey and vegetables, chicken and vegetable soup, and turkey porridge - so that we wouldn't have to cook after getting home. This was on top of the soup, porridge and ribs that she had us take to Priscilla's parents' place on Sunday. I've realized that cooking for us is one way that my mom expresses love, and she usually always overdoes it and heaps food on us in her neurotic, loving way, but I'm really blessed to have a mom who loves me this much.

Our trip down to LA was a good time of seeing family and catching up with friends. We're really blessed to have so many people who continue to care about us after all these years.
AirPods - Monday, December 23, 2019
It seems like Apple AirPods have been all the rage recently. And perhaps especially so with the AirPods Pro, released on October 30, which have better features (like active noise cancellation) than their predecessor models.

Apple experienced such high demand for the AirPods Pro that they're out of stock in most stores and won't ship until January when purchased from various websites. Which is especially suboptimal given that Christmas is fast-approaching. So it's a pretty amazing feat that my company gave everyone in our division a pair of AirPods Pro (with wireless charging case) as a year-end gift. How we were able to acquire a few hundred of these is beyond me, but clearly somebody in the company is on top of their game.

It seems like the AirPods hype may be justified, but Priscilla and I wouldn't be able to make use of some features like Siri-integration, since we both have Android phones. And reportedly, streaming AAC audio over Bluetooth is noticeably worse on Android, though that seems like a narrow use case. We also already each have a pair of wireless headphones that work decently well for their $26 price tag. Priscilla likes having headphones with a cord since she can wear them around her neck when they're not in use, and the cord helps her not lose them. And I don't like accumulating more things. So we were both ok with selling the AirPods.

Online, people are selling them marked up by 25% or more. Exploiting scarcity for personal gain. Or call it retail arbitrage. Since I received the AirPods as a gift, I didn't really feel like selling them for more than face value. They're retailing at $249, so I priced them at $270, which is around the after-tax total that somebody would pay in a store. A coworker recommended selling on Facebook Marketplace, as it lets you vet buyers by looking at their profiles. So yesterday, within a few minutes of my post there, I got a message from a woman whose profile showed pictures of a nice, normal-looking family. I arranged to have us meet up at the local library today.

Today, the woman had her brother-in-law and niece meet me. They came at the arranged time, looked over the box, asked some questions about my work, and gave me the $270 in cash. They were very nice and seemed happy to finally get the AirPods, saying that it was a Christmas present for the niece and that all retail stores were sold out. This was my first time meeting a stranger in-person to sell them something (well, excluding the few times I met a fellow student in college to sell them my used textbook). But it ended nicely and I like the fact that I was able to vet the buyer to some extent, something that elevates Facebook Marketplace over Craigslist. If only either service had a reputation system built in. But I think I'll arrange my in-person transactions through Facebook Marketplace going forward, and that may even apply to the next time we're looking for a new renter.
RBF Choir - Sunday, December 15, 2019
Ever since moving to the Bay Area and joining RBF, Priscilla has always wanted to have an English choir at church. We have a Chinese choir, but nothing on the English side has materialized. Chalk it up perhaps to a lack of interest on the congregation's part, our pastors' seeming view that singing should be congregational, and the lack of somebody stepping up to lead.

Well that has changed over just the last three weeks. One of our more musically-inclined members, Stacy, used her influence to assemble a seasonal choir, with her leading/directing, to perform at this year's RBF Christmas party. And the pastors were ok with it. Nearly 30 people signed up, and Priscilla of course jumped on the opportunity, and she pretty much forced me to sign up with her. Anything for the wife...

There were three practices held, with the expectation that everybody would make at least two. The first was in late November, but we missed it because Priscilla was traveling in Orlando with Tracy at that time (and I didn't care to go to that practice by myself). The second was last Sunday after church, and the final practice was this afternoon after church. Our performance songs were "A Joyous Christmas" (a medley of "O Come, All Ye Faithful", "Angels We Have Heard On High", and "Joy to the World") and "Silent Night" in four-part harmony. We were also to lead the congregation in singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain", "The First Noel", and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", with all of us singing just the melody. Vera, who was visiting for a couple weeks, got roped into playing piano for us after the original pianist got sick. That's what happens when you've got a heart for serving others and have mad skills.

Doing choir doesn't come easy for me. Reading music is not my forte, and I'm not really able to look at notes on sheet music and immediately turn that into musical notes (hence why for worship, I play drums). I'm only able to sing through a song after essentially memorizing the notes, using the relative positions of notes on the page as a guide. The first practice that we attended was rough for me, but I spent a lot of time afterwards working through the sheet music learning my part (I chose the tenor role). I even highlighted every one of my notes, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to pick them out in real-time with so much other stuff on the page. By the time the final practice rolled around this afternoon, I knew my part fairly well, and it seemed like everybody else was in the same boat. Stacy was great about giving us constant feedback about technique, style, and everything in between. She mentioned things like rounding out our vowels, singing more legato instead of staccato, and being mindful about crescendo and decrescendo to make our singing more dynamic. People incorporated her feedback well, and we all sounded undeniably better at the end of practice versus at the beginning.

Finally, this evening, we performed for the 150 or so people at the Christmas party. I think we sounded terrific, especially for having only three weeks of practice. The choir was split roughly 50-50 between guys and girls, and there were a few other guys in the tenor section. Where I messed up, they and the rest of the choir would carry the song, and it sounded... beautiful. I really enjoyed singing as part of a large group, hearing the sum of each individual's effort culminate in something collectively grand. I guess there was interest after all!

When Priscilla first signed me up, I thought the experience would be miserable for me (only slightly exaggerating). While it's still true that doing choir is not something I would pick for fun, I did enjoy the experience of seeing the fruition of the work put in, singing with others more musically gifted than myself who lifted me when I stumbled, and reaching a shared objective as a team. I daresay that I perhaps even had fun. No promises, but if we do another choir next year, I wouldn't be entirely opposed to signing up.
An Eventful Thanksgiving - Wednesday, December 4, 2019
As usual, Priscilla and I visited LA for the Thanksgiving holiday. But unlike the previous few times when we went down, this time we drove instead of flying. Not having the Southwest Companion Pass this year was part of that decision.

We departed the Bay Area on Thanksgiving Day at 6:30am, hoping to beat most of the traffic. However, we found out halfway down I-5 that the highway was closed at the Grapevine mountain pass due to snow. We were previously made aware that this might happen, but I possibly didn't check traffic conditions the morning of and thought that any snow would've thawed by the time we got down there, and furthermore, Google Maps wasn't reporting the closure. When we saw highway signs indicating the closure, we started looking for detours. I thought that taking SR-58 through Bakersfield was the next best option. Google Maps was reporting that route as closed, but I couldn't find any information from Caltrans online for that route, so I decided that we should chance it and head that way anyway. That turned out to be a mistake, since we shortly after did see a road sign warning of SR-58's closure.

So we headed back to I-5 and hopped on SR-166 going west, hoping to take SR-33 south to get across the mountains. Alas, SR-33 was closed due to snow as well. So we ended up taking SR-166 all the way to the 101, and then the 101 down the rest of the way, encountering traffic jams along the way in Santa Barbara. Altogether, a 5-hour drive turned into 9.5 hours. Had we stayed on the 101 the whole time, the drive would've been closer to 6 hours. Next time if it's raining up in the Bay Area and is expected to be cold around the Grapevine, then we'll play it safe and stay on the 101.

Our time down in LA was eventful as well. We had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house with them and Aaron and Lauren's family. Priscilla's parents didn't join us, since they didn't want us driving on the highway at night in the rain in order to go pick them up. So instead we saw them the next day, bringing them lots of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner that my mom packed for us, and stayed at their condo for two nights. The first night at the condo, the ceiling above the kitchen started dripping water. We thought it might be due to the rain, but when the rain stopped, the dripping continued and then got worse. Priscilla's parents got the upstairs neighbors to agree to let us shut off the water (shared by both units) before everybody went to bed, and that stopped the dripping. Fortunately, the condo plumber/handyman was able to come the next day and found the issue to be a leaking fitting on the wall-mounted electric water heater for the upstairs unit. Replacing the fitting fixed the leak, and it looks like there shouldn't be much long-term damage to our unit.

On Sunday, Priscilla and I attended the second service at CCAC. Coincidentally, this was the last service ever at the Northridge location, as CCAC is moving to a new location in Granada Hills. Looks like that site used to be occupied by St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, and the buildings there are a good size. After the service, the pastors for the three congregations prayed, and we all took a church photo in the sanctuary, which was difficult because people were spilling out into the foyer. This was definitely a bittersweet moment for CCAC, but I'm excited to see how they will continue growing.

The rest of our time down in LA was more normal. It was good spending time with family and friends. And the drive back up on Monday took around 6 hours, with some extra time added due to a traffic jam on the 152 caused by a vehicle being on the side of the road. It was pouring rain at that time, of course.

December weather is fun.
Terrain Race - Monday, June 10, 2019
This past Saturday I did Terrain Race with Tracy at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose. This was where Priscilla and I did the Bubble Run last month. I was originally supposed to do Terrain Race with a coworker, but he later had plans to be out of town, so he let me have his registration. I normally wouldn't sign up for an easy event like this, but it cost only $17.09. It was touted as "free", but tacked on were mandatory insurance, a nominal donation to charity, and tax. Still quite a bargain compared to Tough Mudder or Spartan Race.

The pre-race bib pickup was last Friday at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale. It was supposed to be from 10am - 8pm, but I got there around 9:50am to try to beat the crowds. When I picked up our packets for the Bubble Run, there were maybe 200 people in line ahead of me and I waited for over an hour. I was determined to not make the same mistake with Terrain Race. Despite getting there early, there were still 50 or so people ahead of me, and it looked like the line was already moving before the announced start time. A note for the future.

On race day, we were in the first wave which started at 7:30am. This was the only free wave remaining when I signed up; otherwise I would've chosen a later one. So I woke up at 5:30, had a quick breakfast, Tracy came over to my place, and we started driving over at 6:30. We parked on the street nearby in order to avoid the $10 parking fee. We were one of the first cars to park on that street, and I soon found out that there was no additional checkin since we already had our bibs. So we had half an hour to kill before our wave started. The event email said to bring a signed waiver, but nobody was collecting those. And security was so lax that start times were not enforced. Pretty much anybody could just get in the start area and run with any wave!

The course was supposed to be 5k, but it felt a little short and my GPS measured 4.5k. We ended up walking most of the course because Tracy is not a runner. To be fair, I did spring Terrain Race on her at the last minute. She wants to do Spartan Race with some church people in November, so hopefully she'll train for that.

The obstacles on the course included 4ft walls, 6ft walls, giant tire flipping, tire on rope pulling, concrete block on chain dragging, sandbag carry, balance beams, hay bales, pipe crawl, and a cargo net crawl through a pool of mud. The cargo net crawl was the second-to-last obstacle and got everybody really muddy. A video from a couple years ago showed monkey bars and other obstacles that required upper-body strength, so I was saddened to not see any of those on the course.

The event was more enjoyable than not, but I would've liked more challenging obstacles. I don't think I'd do Terrain Race again. Even though it was dirt cheap, it's not worth the overhead of getting dirty. I think I'll stick to Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, though I'm still not planning on doing another Tough Mudder unless somebody else wants me to go with them. Running it solo isn't much fun. I'm glad I at least had a partner in crime to do Terrain Race with.
Barcelona - Monday, April 8, 2019
Priscilla and I took a vacation to Barcelona from February 23 to March 6. Why there? Mainly because she wanted to go somewhere international, and non-stop flights to Barcelona were pretty cheap ($350/person round trip on Google Flights with Iberia Airlines, contracted out to Level). So on Saturday, we boarded an 11-hour flight from SFO en route to BCN.

Day 1:
It was Sunday when we arrived. We took Aerobús to Plaça de Catalunya (the city centre), then walked to our Airbnb, a 6th floor apartment in a neighborhood close to La Rambla. Markets in the city are closed every Sunday, but restaurants are open. We ate dinner at a tapas place near our Airbnb, La Viena Blanca, which included patatas bravas (these are pretty common in Barcelona) and bombas picantes, the latter which we liked the most.

Day 2:
We first stopped by La Boqueria, the outdoor market, and bought zumo (fruit juice), an empanada, and a dish with potato and cheese. We bought groceries from Carrefour Market (we would end up visiting several times during our trip). We then joined five others at Foodie Experience Barcelona and learned how to make paella, sangria, and crema catalana from our welcoming host, Carmen. Each of us was given a different task, and mine was to make the sangria. We all got to cook our own crema catalana dish with a blowtorch. And then we got to eat everything! This was so fun and educational and was one of the highlights of our trip. We walked to Plaça de Catalunya for a free Gothic Quarter walking tour, but we were the only tourists there because it was not peak-season, so the guide canceled the tour. So we spent the rest of the day back at our Airbnb taking it easy.

Day 3:
We elected to start using our 3-day Barcelona Pass on this day and used it to visit 5 museums: Casa Batlló, Egyptian Museum of Barcelona, Casa de Les Punxes, Casa Milà, and the Museum of Modernism. So tiring! My favorites were Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, both designed by famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. His works are so creative and inspired, yet also thoughtfully functional.

Day 4:
We used our pass to see the city via the hop-on, hop-off bus (Barcelona BusTurístic). The first stop we got off at was Parc Güell, a park designed by Gaudí. We decided not to pay to see the buildings there, but walking around the park and admiring the viaducts was enjoyable and relaxing. Our next stop was Camp Nou (the home stadium of Futbol Club Barcelona), where we toured the stadium from the locker room inside to the press boxes up top. Very cool. Then we got off at Poble Espanyol, where we walked around the quaint village, saw a film about how people in different regions of Spain hold celebrations, and visited a modern art museum. The village was pretty quiet and a third of the shops were closed, not that we minded. Finally we walked over to the nearby Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), which was closed for the day but had a really photogenic exterior.

Day 5:
The morning began with a 2.5-hour walking tour of the Old Town (I learned quite a bit about architecture), followed by L'Aquàrium Barcelona (they had a cool oceanarium but everything else was meh), Las Golondrinas for a boat tour of the city shoreline, and Museu de Cera (wax museum). All these were included with our Barcelona Pass. We definitely got our money's worth from that pass (it cost €116 and we used €226 worth of benefits).

Day 6:
We had originally planned to do a day trip to Sitges (a coastal town) on this day, but instead decided to take a rest day. And Priscilla's idea of a rest day is to eat, so we got tapas from Quimet & Quimet, pinchos from La Tasqueta de Blai and Blai 9, and finally chocolate con churros from La Churre. Each place was good in its own way, but we liked the quality of the food at Quimet & Quimet the most. Their signature dishes were the most enjoyable: mussels and caviar, and salmon with yogurt and truffled honey.

Day 7:
This was our day trip to Girona, another highlight. From Plaça de Catalunya, we rode a bus for a little over an hour to Girona, a city that feels like a mini Barcelona. Our guide Guillermo gave us a tour of the old part of the city including the outside of the Girona Cathedral and old Roman fortifications. Priscilla and I had time to explore on our own while most of the group headed out to another town (Figueres) on the optional part of the tour. We had seafood paella at Via Augusta (was ok) and explored everything from the city's distinctive bridges to walking atop the Roman wall. There's much to enjoy in the old part of the city, but the sweeping views from atop towers along the walls were probably my favorite. We ended our day trip by strolling through Parc de la Devesa before reuniting with the tour bus.

Day 8:
The day started with a couples photoshoot in the Gothic Quarter, from which we got some nice, professional-looking photos. Many museums in Barcelona are free to visit on the first Sunday of the month, and since this day was that, we visited MUHBA and enjoyed seeing the underground remains of the ancient Roman city of Barcino. Next, we tried to visit the Picasso Museum but found that tickets were sold out (they need to be reserved online ahead of time). So we consigned ourselves to finding lunch and settled on Taperia Princesa, where we had some decent tapas.

Day 9:
This was our day trip to Montserrat, which was my favorite part of the entire trip. Priscilla had purchased ToT Montserrat passes from Expedia which paid for everything: subway and train fare to get there, a cable car ride up the mountain, unlimited use of the funiculars, lunch (unfortunately the buffet place was closed, so we were only able to get selected items at the cafeteria), and admission to the Museo de Monserrat. Admission to the monastery is free, and there we enjoyed the grand architecture and saw the famous Virgin of Montserrat (La Moreneta) statue. We did the hardest hike up to the Sant Jeroni lookout point (and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views) and took a funicular back down to the village. We revisited the monastery towards the end of the day, after the tour busses had left, and were pleased to find the place almost empty. I enjoyed Montserrat for the hiking and architecture, both of which there are plenty of. If I could, I would stay overnight in a hostel here so that I could explore the area over the course of two days.

Day 10:
Priscilla liked Quimet & Quimet so much that we went back again for brunch. We had the two signature dishes again plus a few other things, but the signature dishes were still our favorites. Afterwards, we walked over to La Sagrada Familia for a pre-paid tour from a company called Visit Europa Today. Our guide Isaac had a deep knowledge of the place, but more importantly, his passion for the history and culture of La Sagrada Familia was evident. The tour was very helpful, as there's so much history that you would otherwise miss. My favorite part of the church was the polychromatic stained glass windows, which bathe the inside in a flood of multiple colors. The church was designed by Gaudí, who drew his inspiration from nature. Maybe that's why his works speak to me on a personal level. After La Sagrada Familia, we made an impromptu visit to the Arc de Triomf and Parc de la Ciutadella (I enjoyed the beautiful fountains at the latter) before eating at La Viena Blanca again.

Day 11:
This was the last day of our trip and consisted pretty much of walking to Plaça de Catalunya, taking Aerobús back to the airport, and a 12-hour flight back home. The end of the flight was pretty turbulent and made me nauseous, and I arrived home still dizzy on top of being extremely tired. There's no place like home!

Barcelona was really enjoyable; the fights there and back less so (I don't enjoy being cooped up on a plane). We went when it wasn't peak season, fearing that the weather would be a little chilly. But it turned out to be fairly comfortable. The city is unfortunately known for pickpockets, so Priscilla and I tried to travel light with our valuables in inner pockets. We left the suitcases at home and managed to fit everything inside of two backpacks, my laptop bag, and a tote bag for food. We brought a few day's worth of clothes, and Priscilla washed our clothes at the halfway point during the trip. It's surprising how much space you can save when you really try to avoid packing non-essentials.

Maybe more so than on past trips, we tried to incorporate rest time so that we wouldn't feel overwhelmed. I think that helped me enjoy the trip more. Also, Priscilla tirelessly cooked food almost every day (hence the reason we went to Carrefour so frequently), so that helped us save money. Our total cost for this trip was $2605, cheaper than our trips to Hawaii and Ireland. And after travel credits from credit cards, it was $2127. Which seems very reasonable, all things considered.

Barcelona is a polyglot city with Spanish, Catalan and English seeming to be the predominant languages. The people that we interacted with there generally seemed to understand English, but once we got out of the city, it seemed like a smaller percentage of people spoke it. Priscilla and I had tried to re-learn some Spanish leading up to the trip, but I felt that my vocabulary during the trip was pretty lacking. It was enough to get by, but only barely. Every day I would pick up a little bit more Spanish, and sometimes Catalan since some signs were only in Catalan. Trying to learn a new language is hard enough, let alone two new languages at the same time! Google Translate was an invaluable tool.

Would I want to live in Barcelona? Not really. The city is pretty dense (1.6 million within city limits, making it the second most populous city in Spain) and felt busy. I can only imagine that it would be even busier during the peak tourism season. There is also a lot of graffiti around the city, including on historic buildings. Apparently graffiti there is associated more with free expression and political dissent than gang activity, but it was still off-putting to see, especially on buildings of historical importance.

But would I want to live somewhere else in Spain? Somewhere smaller and quieter? Maybe for a short period of time. The weather during our trip was nice and the food was generally a little cheaper compared to back home. But the most appealing thing would be being immersed in a culture and having to pick up the language. I probably wouldn't want to live there long-term, but staying for a couple months learning to get by might be fun. It aligns with my desire to learn to do life better. I've been spending more time learning Spanish since the trip, and Priscilla is planning for us to take a cruise to Mexico early next year. Hopefully by then my vocabulary will extend past just the menu at a restaurant!
Idle Time - Tuesday, February 19, 2019
For the past few years, I've periodically been playing browser-based idle games. Cookie Clicker and AdVenture Capitalist were probably the first ones I tried. For me, the main appeal of idle games is that they more or less play themselves; grinding resources/power (arguably the most tedious part of games) happens automatically with little input from the user. It's gaming for busy people! Since I have my computer running most of the day, it's no real overhead to have an idle game running in a browser tab.

But the drawback of most idle games is that they never end. Events may continue to happen, but there's no overarching cohesive plot. It's just an auto-grind for eternity. After a while, the game feels monotonous and static. Numbers going up and up for their own sake.

But two idle games in particular stand out as being well-designed, fun to play, and having a definite end. Having a defined objective, for me, makes the game more enjoyable. Those games are Candy Box 2 and A Dark Room. I find myself replaying them every couple years; they have a lot of replay value. It's especially great how both games start with a minimal premise but gradually open up into an expanding world, often in ways that are unexpected. Nonetheless, both games feel a bit too short, especially Candy Box 2. But maybe that's the counter-idea to this whole genre. An idle game doesn't need to go on forever in order to be fun. Or maybe, more precisely, it can't.
A Single Blunder - Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Because I need expensive medication every month and because I'm on a high-deductible healthcare plan, I always end up paying a lot in the first few months of the year as I rack up medical expenses towards meeting my deductible. These expenses are typically offset since I can reimburse myself from my HSA (which my company contributes to), but the idea is that I manage my own money with which to pay for my healthcare expenses until my deductible is met.

Last month, I got a call from a pharmacist at the pharmacy where my prescription is filed, informing me of a manufacturer's coupon that I should try using. This coupon should've saved me a lot of money on one of my prescriptions, but it ended up not working for some reason. So the pharmacist instead scanned a courtesy SingleCare card that they had on hand. This knocked the price of my medication down by $100, so I thought great, I'll sign up for my own card (available for free) and start using it from now on.

SingleCare is a company that negotiates prices with drug companies, sometimes at cheaper prices than what an insurance company might get. SingleCare is not insurance. The thing is, SingleCare is not a way of getting a discount in addition to billing insurance. Getting drugs through SingleCare replaces getting them through insurance. I did not know this at the time, and only found out this month when I returned to refill my prescription, tried to show my SingleCare card, and the pharmacist (a different one) informed me that using SingleCare would mean that my insurance wouldn't be billed and thus the cost of the drug wouldn't go towards meeting my deductible. And sure enough, when checking my insurance company's site, I found that they had no record of the drug I purchased last month. A $500 purchase that won't go towards my deductible.

I think SingleCare (and companies like it) might be a decent option for people who don't have insurance, but for those with a high-deductible healthcare plan, it's probably not a good way to go. But they don't seem to make it clear how the program works and what the pitfalls are, and so consumers, and sometimes even pharmacists, may be none the wiser.

Edit: I went back to the pharmacy and they were able to reverse the billing to SingleCare and bill my insurance instead. I actually went in because I noticed that this month, both of my medications were billed to some company called OptumRx instead of my insurance company, so my large bill this month did not go towards my deductible at all. No idea how that happened. The pharmacy was able to correct that and bill my insurance correctly. I guess the moral of the story is to know what you're getting into when trying to change things, and when paying out of pocket for medication, look at your receipt carefully!
Freecycle - Thursday, January 24, 2019
In 2010 I joined a site called Freecycle at the recommendation of someone (I forget whom). This site is essentially a message board broken up into different neighborhoods, where members post offers or requests for household goods, electronics, furniture and more. The core tenet of the site is that everything has to be given for free. It's a great way to help find a new home for things that would otherwise be thrown away. Other sites/Facebook groups exist with the same purpose, but Freecycle is the one that I use almost exclusively.

In my 9 years of being on the site, I've responded to several offers but ended up getting three of those offerings: 2 pairs of ice skates, a Whirlpool washer bellow, and 4 spark plugs compatible with our Corollas. One of the pairs of ice skates I would later give away to someone else on Freecycle, and the other pair I wasn't able to find a taker for and then just donated to Goodwill.

When we moved into our house, there were a few things that the previous owner had left that I didn't want: wall art, decorative light switch covers, and a key hangar. I gave all of those away on Freecycle. In the past several months I've gotten really into decluttering, which has translated to an uptick in my postings. To date I've posted around 60 things. All with the exception of the following items were taken:
  • Broken rice cooker
  • Neoprene water bottle sleeve (one person contacted me but they were looking for a different size)
  • One of the pairs of ice skates
  • RC truck that is now sluggish and possibly needs a new motor (I got one reply but they ended up not taking it)
  • Hair gel (unused but several years old - yeah, no surprise that nobody wanted this)

And some highlights about the things I have given away:
  • Most expensive: Probably a three-way tie between an ASRock motherboard (mostly working but sometimes would crash), a Fitbit Charge HR (working but had a broken band), and a Moto 360 smartwatch (screen had some burn-in)
  • Least expensive: 2 college ruled notebooks and some colored paper (4 reusable bags and 4 rolls of wrapping paper were runners-up)
  • Smallest: A leather keychain from Florence, Italy
  • Most sentimental: 2000 Chuck E Cheese tickets (earned over several years of playing arcade games at Chuck E Cheese as a kid)
  • Had the most replies: 2 framed art pieces (got 4 replies)
  • Most unique: A stuffed plush pink letter 'A' that Priscilla had given me as a gag gift when we were dating
  • Most boring: 500 sheets of college ruled paper

Giving away stuff through Freecycle has been fun and liberating, and has been somewhat of an art for me. In my posts I include a detailed description and a photo. If the item is dusty, I'll try to clean it up first to make it more appealing. In the past I would keep the posting up until I had worked out pickup details with a person. This would often result in me getting replies from multiple people and having to tell the rest that the item was no longer available. Then I got smarter and realized that a person contacting me would almost always eventually show up to pick up the item, so I began taking down posts as soon as I got one reply. And originally I would have the person come by and get the item from me in person (perhaps partly because Priscilla and I lived in a quadplex where we had experienced some petty theft), but eventually I just started leaving the item outside for the person to pick up at their leisure (and having our own house helped allay concerns about theft).

Lately there's been one older lady who's taken several of the things that I've posted. Priscilla half-joked that we should let the lady walk through our house and pick out what she wants, since more often than not she's responded to each of my recent postings.

It's become somewhat of a hobby to give stuff away (I've also been throwing out things that don't seem usable), but it's become harder to do so since I've now gotten rid of most of what I can part with. But our place still feels cluttered, so the purging must go on!
Stuck with Comcast - Monday, January 21, 2019
Comcast was the only viable option for Internet when Priscilla and I were renting at the quadplex, and it remains the only viable option at our house now. We need high speeds because we and our renters stream media and download large files. The only other broadband providers here seem to be AT&T and Sonic, which are able to provide 1.5mbps down for $40 and 10mbps down for $50, respectively. Yeah, no thanks. Gotta love when a company has a monopoly.

Normally when my Comcast promo ends and the rate goes up, I call and threaten to cancel and they renew my promo for another year. But this time around, the rep didn't have a good deal for me. So I started looking around some more.

There are two companies in the area, Common Networks and Sail Internet, that provide a rooftop wireless service. They install a receiver on your roof, requiring line of sight to a relay. Common's website told me that there's currently no relay that can reach my home, while Sail's website told me that service was an option. But when I spoke with a Sail representative, she said that while there is a relay close by (atop a 4-story condo building on El Camino), line of sight might be blocked by a row of tall trees. She was able to have a technician come over a couple hours later, and he climbed on top of my roof with binoculars and confirmed that line of sight was blocked. He also found only a couple two-story buildings within line of sight of my roof. So it looks like we are still stuck with Comcast for the time being.

Sail's offerings are pretty impressive. 150mbps down and 50mbps up for residential customers, priced at $55 (which includes taxes and fees). Faster and cheaper than what I'm getting from Comcast. Meanwhile, relays get 300mbps down and 100mbps up and don't pay anything. A home is eligible to host a relay if it is two stories tall.

Common and Sail's coverage areas continue to grow as they add more relays. So I hope that it will be only a matter of time (the Sail rep estimated several months) before one of them can provide service to my home. I did my part in posting about Sail on Nextdoor; I just hope that people in my neighborhood ditch Comcast and get on board soon. I wonder if Common and Sail would be more viable if they were one larger company instead of two separate ones, but maybe it's not a bad thing to have some competition in this space for a change.
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