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Coyote Lake Camping - Friday, June 11, 2021
Because we haven't been doing too much traveling and Priscilla has the travel itch, she booked a camping reservation for us at Coyote Lake for Memorial Day weekend last month. So that Saturday, we hauled it over 45 minutes down near Gilroy. Traffic was heavier than usual due to holiday travel but not terrible.

It was our second time camping at Coyote Lake, the first time being in 2017. We arrived around 4:30pm and found that most other people had already arrived and set up. Check-in starts at 3pm, so I guess people wanted to make use of as much of the day as they could.

We set up our tarp and tent, split some wood (I just bought an axe that morning), and then hiked until 7:15 (and saw a coyote in the distance while hiking - very fitting given the name of the place). Back at the campsite, we got the fire going and cooked the hash brown, cheese, chicken and tomato foil wraps that Priscilla had prepared, while eating chicken salads.

We were pretty tired after eating, and our fire had died down because we hadn't bothered to cut all the wood into smaller pieces, so we turned in early for the night. Doing so also allowed us to brush our teeth at the restroom and not really have to wait for others, since many people were still at their campfires enjoying the night. But people generally weren't too loud, and by around 10pm, the campground was pretty quiet.

It was a cold night, but the three sets of blankets that we brought helped. And I guess the design of the tent sort of kept some heat in. So by the middle of the night, we had shed a couple blankets.

We used our camping pads and were able to set the tent at a more level angle compared to last time, but sleeping on the ground still was not very comfortable. So as a result of going to bed early and not being able to sleep too well, we woke up around 5am. At least this allowed us to get a jump start on things while most others were still asleep. No line at the restroom again.

After staying in the car for a bit while Priscilla did her devos (we were also waiting out the weather since it was really cold outside), and having a quick breakfast, we went out for another hike. This time I hiked/ran 15 miles while Priscilla hiked 5.8 miles. I did a lot of the western side of the park where there's a good amount of elevation and a nice view of the valley with its farmland and scattered homes, and I looped back along the eastern side close to the lake. It was nice to get some vantage points looking out towards the lake, especially since the lake was dried up on the south side where the campground is. The drought is real.

Priscilla had everything packed up by the time I got back, and after another salad, it was time to head home. We're glad we went, but we realized during this trip that we're not really camping people. We enjoy having a comfortable bed and amenities and being able to shower after getting smokey. And camping (at least for us) involves a lot of food prep that's disproportionately high compared to the return we get. Maybe we'll do this again, but not for several years. And it would be more fun to do it with people who are actually camping minded and can show us how to have a more rewarding time.
I've Been Shot - Friday, May 14, 2021
Yesterday I got my second dose of the Pfizer covid shot. Slightly worrying is the fact that other than very minor soreness at the site of the injection (and less soreness than last time), I've been feeling no side effects. But according to articles, the severity of side effects is not predictive of vaccine effectiveness, so I'm not stressing out about it. Pretty sure they didn't just run out of vaccines and give me a placebo...

Getting vaccinated felt, well, like a mundane affair. Definitely not life-changing. I recognize how privileged I am to be able to say that. I'm thankful for the wide-scale availability of the vaccine in the US, with basically anybody who wants the vaccine able to get it (and at no cost to them), and with almost half of the population now having gotten at least one dose, and over a third of the population having been fully vaccinated. I am privileged to be able to work from home, to be paid well for it, and to be in a position where the worst part of my day is Zoom fatigue. How many countless people in the world are still suffering greatly because of the pandemic (India comes to mind as of late), how many livelihoods have been affected, lives turned upside down, and how many people are out on the front lines risking their health for the benefit of society and getting paid little for it? Yeah, I'm blessed to live in the US and privileged to be in the position that I am.

One is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose, according to the CDC. And their guidance is now that fully-vaccinated people don't need to wear masks, either outdoors or indoors (though this guidance doesn't apply to healthcare and public transportation settings). I'm grateful that I'll be effectively protected when hanging out with/being around people, but I'm still a bit skittish and would prefer to continue keeping social distance and wearing a mask when around others. After all, we're still in a pandemic and the US is still seeing around 35k new cases a day. Priscilla thinks I'm too extreme and reminds me that the number of new cases in California is quite low. Maybe she's right. Perhaps a compromise?

As for Priscilla, she's down in LA for 10 days now and her last day of work was yesterday. She's been consistently waking up around 5:30 now (an improvement from 3:30) and has continued being fruitful with her time. She'll be helping her parents organize their finances and hanging out with friends in LA. So I'll have to wing it as a bachelor for the next several days, though she did make me a ton of food (porridge, pulled chicken, scrambled eggs, kale, shrimp, and a huge pot of soup) before she left, so I think I'll survive.
First Quarter of 2021 - Monday, May 3, 2021
Well, it's been a pretty eventful four months into 2021. We're still in the midst of a global pandemic, but places are starting to reopen and life is starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

So far, 44% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a covid vaccine, with 31% fully vaccinated. In California and most other states, vaccination appointments are now available to anybody who wants them; I got my first dose last week. Daily infection rates in the US have been hovering around 50k, down from a high of 300k in January. Around the world, the situation is still more dire. Right now, India has it the worst with daily infections having ballooned to around 400k, and with only 9% of the population having had at least one dose of a vaccine and 2% fully vaccinated. Of course the western countries would get faster access to vaccines than the rest of the world. It's especially ironic that India is the world's largest producer of vaccines. The inequality is real, sometimes seemingly unreal, and visible. We have so many blessings living here that we must not take for granted.

One thing we're grateful for is the ability to attend church in-person with others again. Our church resumed in-person gatherings in February, and we've been meeting outdoors so as to not be limited by the capacity and singing restrictions for indoor services. Each family sits in their own socially-distant space in the parking lot and brings their own chairs, so there's a bit of setup involved each Sunday morning. We have to be there at the unbearably early hour of 9am for the morning service, and 8am on days when we help with worship, but I don't have a good excuse to not be waking up early anyway. The livestream (which we still have) is so much more convenient, but there's no substitute for meeting in person. Sometimes it feels like a drag to get myself there, but I know it's a good thing.

As for the two of us, Priscilla and I took a short trip at the end of March to hike at Pinnacles National Park, California's newest national park and the closest one to the Bay Area. We visited on a Monday, and we ran into a fair number of people but not a lot of people. Because I underestimate trail distance and difficulty, we ended up hiking for 8 hours and did nearly 14 miles over 4,000 feet of elevation, which included going a good ways up the side of a hill where there was no marked trail (I saw a sign saying there was a vista point and I thought it was at the top of the hill, but it was actually refering to an observation spot nearby which didn't register in my mind as an actual spot with a view). Priscilla was extremely tired through the latter third of the hike, but she very graciously put up with me.

I really enjoyed the relative solitude of Pinnacles, seeing a few condors on the Condor Gulch Trail, and visiting the scenic reservoir towards the end of the day (I ran there while Priscilla hiked back to the car). Because of covid, the two caves at Pinnacles were closed - quite a bummer since they're supposedly awesome to visit. Hopefully we'll be able to visit again when the caves are open, and I'm sure that the hike will be better planned the next time around...

So during that trip, we stayed overnight in Hollister, which is a 30-mile drive to Pinnacles. This allowed us to save some money (hotels near Pinnacles are pricey) but still be able to get to the park early-ish without having to drive too far. On the way to Hollister, we visited the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, which Priscilla particularly enjoyed, and Casa de Fruta, where we didn't buy anything and spent more time walking around outside than looking at goods inside the shop. After Pinnacles, we stayed overnight in Capitola (Soquel, technically) and walked around Capitola and the beach the next day. The coolest part there was walking along the old railroad trestle (the rail line is no longer active, so no chance of getting flattened by a train) high above across Soquel Creek. This trip was our first since the start of the pandemic where we stayed in a hotel (wow!).

Then at the end of April, we drove down to LA to see family. We hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving; we didn't visit during Christmas because of the increased travel restrictions at that time. Our visit was pretty low-key, but it was good to see everyone, and Aaron's kids are a little older and the older one seems slightly more comfortable with me now and couldn't stop pointing out what color everything is. It's pretty cool (and a big relief!) to see her opening up, because before she would always just stare blankly at me, not wanting to engage.

Finally, Priscilla will be going through a career transition soon. She and her coworkers have been having a rough time due to the new CFO who's been difficult to work with. Priscilla was experiencing a lot of stress that was taking a toll on her mental health. Finally, she asked to work from home until the company found a replacement, after which she would leave. For reasons, her last day was supposed to be last Friday, but the new person hasn't started yet, so the company asked Priscilla to continue working another two weeks, which she agreed to because she knows how overloaded her team is. After she leaves, she wants to learn about self-employment and will be going down to LA for 10 days to help her parents sort out their finances, which they will pay her for - they gift her money every year anyway, but she wants to use this as a way to make self-employed contributions into a 401k. Later, she's planning to find a job with another company, ideally part-time and remote. It'll be good to see her more and for her to have more time to help me with things around the house that I don't have time for. Her sleep cycle got really messed up due to the stress she was experiencing, and she still can't help but wake up at 3:30am many days, but she's had more free time as a result and has been using her time more fruitfully.

I too need to better learn to carve out time for the things that matter. I think the pandemic has made me better in this area, but I'm still very much a work in progress. You never know how life is going to go or what day is going to be your last. If there's one thing that this time has taught me, it's that life is a gift and should not be squandered. As our modern-day millennial philosophers so eloquently put it, YOLO.
Goodbye 2020 - Thursday, December 31, 2020
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I think the opening line from "A Tale of Two Cities" perfectly sums up the year 2020. In multiple ways, this year has been one for the books. And while the pandemic rages on across the world, and now a more infectious variant of the virus is spreading rapidly, there is also hope in multiple viable vaccines which to date have been administered over 10 million times across 29 countries.

This year has separated us from loved ones, prevented people from doing things that bring them joy, and even caused tens of millions to lose their jobs and over 100,000 businesses to shut down. But during these past several months, we've also learned to slow down, refocus on the things that matter, and find new ways to connect with others. Despite the pain, or perhaps because of it, we've seen how creative and resilient people can be.

Due to increased restrictions in LA and Santa Clara County, Priscilla and I decided to not go down to LA for Christmas this year - a first. While we of course missed family, it was nice to do a virtual dinner for the first time with my parents and her parents, respectively. My dad initially thought the idea was weird, but I guess he warmed up to it. It's too bad we waited this long to do something like this - we should do this with our parents more often.

While this year has undoubtedly had its unique challenges, life has overall been fairly good for the two of us. I'm grateful for our stable jobs, our savings, our house, for our new home gym and spa room, our continuously improving backyard, and for family and friends who love us. There are many who are missing some or most of these things.

Time is a construct. There is perhaps no New Year's celebration more joyous than this one, but we celebrate now not because things will improve overnight, but because in spite of the difficult months ahead, there is hope of a better future. As Christians, our hope is in Christ who has conquered all things, but as human beings living through a pandemic, sometimes we need to be reminded to hope and that there is hope.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the new year. Nobody knows for certain whether the worst is behind us or is yet to come (though my bets are on the latter). But rather than worrying about what we can't control, let us spend our energies on what we can control.

This week, Priscilla and I visited the Willow Glen Holiday Lights for the first time. It was a spectacular sight. One reason why I enjoy lights is because they represent something in the midst of nothing, warmth and light in the midst of cold and darkness. So it is too in the metaphorical sense. It is during times of darkness when light is needed most - it's up to each of us to find that light in the world and to be light for ourselves and for each other.

So thank you 2020 for one heck of a year. For the pain, for the joy, for the love that you've taught us to not take for granted. I would not want to go through all this again, but I am grateful that I did.
Not a Normal Thanksgiving - Monday, November 30, 2020
Like this year as a whole, this Thanksgiving deviated far from the norm.

Coronavirus cases across many parts of the world are on an exponential rise, with the US topping the list at around 150-180k new cases on a daily basis now. 51 out of California's 58 counties are now back in the purple tier, and the state has a curfew from 10pm-5am, effective until December 21 but likely to be extended, during which non-essential work and gatherings are prohibited. And authorities have been asking the public to not get together with people outside their immediate household during Thanksgiving. The fear is that widespread travel will cause a surge in the infection rate.

Priscilla and I still wanted to see our families and deemed the risk acceptable since most of us have just been staying at home. We decided to see Priscilla's parents first since they're older and more at risk than mine. Since we always go down on Thanksgiving Day, this meant that we had Thanksgiving dinner with Priscilla's parents instead of the traditional dinner that my parents make. So instead of turkey, we had Peking duck! We got it and a couple other dishes from a nearby place called Tasty Duck (the food was ok).

On Friday, we found out that LA County was prohibiting gathering between people from separate households, effective the following Monday. No worries, we thought, since Monday was the day we were planning to return home. We stayed at Priscilla's parents' place for two nights and then the plan was to stay at my parents' place the next two nights. But on Saturday, we found out that effective 12:01am Monday, Santa Clara County is requiring that people traveling from 150+ miles away must quarantine for 14 days. This cutoff seems completely arbitrary and the 14-day quarantine seems too heavy-handed for Priscilla's and my situation, but we wanted to be above board for the sake of Priscilla's workplace since she needs to work from the office four days a week. So we decided that it would be best to leave Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately we had no time to see Aaron and his family, but it probably wouldn't have been a good idea anyway because one of his kids is sick with the cold.

We had enough time to eat three meals with my parents, and I was also able to fix my dad's old computer (turns out his motherboard and two sticks of RAM were bad). My mom of course made a ton of food for us to bring back with us.

In terms of driving, the drive down was surprisingly fast. We started heading down at 7:40am on Thursday, and except for a couple very minor slowdowns, traffic was relatively light the whole way - way better than in previous years. The drive back up on Sunday took 6 hours due to several slowdowns. Sunday is the busiest day after Thanksgiving to travel, so 6 hours is definitely better than it would've been in previous years. The drive up was very tiring, so we were just glad to get home.

This morning, my mom informed us that a patient with whom she interacted at her workplace has tested positive for the virus, making it the 4th infection identified there during the pandemic. My mom had gloves and a mask on when interacting with the patient, so she's probably fine, but she'll be testing in a few days. As it doesn't sound like Priscilla and I were directly exposed, Priscilla's workplace is fine with her going back to the office after getting a negative test (a general policy that was put in place for the holiday for any employees traveling out of the county), as long as my mom does not test positive. Fun times. This is the kind of thing that health experts were cautioning about, though the orders are probably aimed more at people who aren't exercising caution.

I don't think that life should stop because of the pandemic. Just about everything we individuals do carries some level of risk, yet we have learned to live our lives while unconsciously accepting calculated risk. With the pandemic, we should be able to see our family as long as people are acting responsibly and keeping others safe - and from everything I've seen, we definitely need a lot more of that. Lockdowns can only get us so far without personal responsibility.
The Rest of Summer - Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Now that it's fall, I figured I'd better get to writing an update for the rest of summer. A lot has happened since I wrote my last blog entry!

Workwise, the situation has remained unchanged. I'm still working from home, as Pure has directed all non-essential staff to continue to do so for the rest of the year. Priscilla is still working from home only 2-3 days a week.

In late June/early August, I decided that I may never be able to set foot in my gym again and that we should start purchasing gym equipment. We originally wanted to keep our two spare rooms free in case we decided to rent them out again in the future. So we were thinking of having an outdoor gym, which would involve removing two trees in the backyard and installing a canopy and hard flooring with rubber flooring over it. But eventually we decided to convert our larger spare room into a permanent gym room, meaning we'll never rent out that room again, which we decided was acceptable.

So I bought rubber floor tiles and had a glass company install a 8x6' mirror. I also purchased a weight bench and dumbbell rack on Amazon. I wanted dumbbells because they're the most versatile. The problem was that they were sold out everywhere, and the price gouging for used dumbbells on Craigslist was insane. I'd heard of Rogue Fitness and knew that they were well-regarded in the fitness community but also that their stuff had been considered pricey. But unlike most companies, Rogue had seemingly not increased prices during the pandemic, making their gear competitively priced by today's standards. It took a couple weeks, but I was finally able to order 10-50lb dumbbells, and later 60lb dumbbells and a 35lb kettlebell. Orders were naturally quite backed up, so it took 5 weeks for everything to arrive, but it was awesome once it did.

Unfortunately, now I have a problem with weight distribution. The dumbbells plus the rack weigh about 850 pounds, which is a lot to put in one small area given that we have a crawlspace and a foundation that doesn't seem too strong. We don't have major foundation issues, but we have creaking floorboards everywhere, a sagging floor in many spots, and evidence of minor settling all around. I went into the crawlspace and found that we have 4x6 beams with subfloor planks on top. No joists and no plywood, unlike with modern homes. I did a lot of research about foundations and also had a structural engineer come take a look, and he determined through very generic calculations that I can have no more than about 360-400lbs of weight in that area. I loaded up the rack with 375lbs (including the rack's weight of 75lbs), and a couple weeks later, I noticed some thin cracks on that side of the room where the floorboard was starting to pull away from the wall. I'm not sure if the floorboard was like that before, but I didn't want to take chances and exacerbate the problem, so I took the 40lb dumbbells off the rack. Now the lighter dumbbells are on the rack while the heavier ones are distributed around the edges of the room.

I have the rack centered over two beams, though it's slightly wider than the beam span by a few inches on each side. The structural engineer didn't go into the crawlspace as I had hoped he would, but he gave me a suggestion to install one additional pier per beam to support the weight of the rack. I'm having an actual foundation repair company come next week, and they will actually go into the crawlspace and give me a free estimate. Of course, I'm afraid that any work they do will cost a lot.

But the gym room has been an investment that's already been paying off. I had been feeling down due to not being able to go to the gym for 4 months, let alone losing a lot of my previous strength gains. I had the cheap adjustable dumbbells in the shed, but it wasn't the same. It's been awesome physically and mentally to be able to get a real workout again. We also added an exercise ball as well as a custom metal sign hung on the wall to complete our gym setup. Overall, we spent around $4k on the home gym, and Priscilla's parents graciously paid for most of it (they insisted). But perhaps we may have to shell out another $4k for foundation work - who knows.

Not to be left out, Priscilla decided that we should convert the other spare room into her spa room. Our last renter left a twin bed and some small furniture when she moved out. At the start of July, I purchased a Casper Wave Hybrid mattress, hoping that it would help with Priscilla's back pain. Casper was among the many companies having supply issues, and the mattress shipment kept getting delayed and ultimately took 5 weeks to arrive (and probably would've been longer had I not emailed customer support). The new mattress was pretty pricey at $2,360 (though we got a $109 refund due to the delays), but it's been an invaluable investment since it's helped a lot with Priscilla's back pain when all other mattresses we've tried have failed. Since our previous mattress was only 2.5 years old and still in good condition, we didn't want to just toss it. So Priscilla decided to use it as a backrest between the wall and the twin bed, creating a day bed. Thus, her day bed and spa room was born. It seems like we will never have renters again while we are living here. I guess we're at that stage of life now where we are ok with that.

Our other home improvement projects have been focused on the backyard. I had a handyman come and fix some things around the house including repairing some rotted wood behind the shed door hinges. We finished planting green onions in the planter box and also planted 6 tomato plants that Priscilla's coworker gave her. I installed a 3ft fence around the perimeter of the planter box to keep cats from pooping there (and it has worked!). I pressure washed the patio and also surprised Priscilla one night with string lights hung from the patio cover over our patio table. Afterwards, she bought tiki torches and a gas firepit so that we can enjoy our backyard at night in even more style.

However, we haven't been able to spend a lot of time outdoors since August. The second week of August, we saw a record-breaking heat wave. And then on August 16, a rare thunderstorm event caused a long period of dry lightning that sparked hundreds of fires. We were kept awake most of that night by the frequent sound of thunder; I have never heard so much continuous thunder in my life. Over the next few days, over 12,000 lightning strikes were recorded over Northern California, sparking up to 585 wildfires. In an unprecedented fire season, massive wildfires burned across Southern and Northern California, as well as Oregon and Washington, spreading quickly and wide due to hot weather, dry conditions and high winds. The August Complex, which originated as 38 separate fires, soon became the largest fire in recorded California history. Pretty much the entire West Coast was on fire, and firefighters were stretched thin, and it took a few weeks before any real progress was made. I found myself incessantly checking the AQI on PurpleAir and AIRNow, as most of the time the air outside was very smokey and not ideal for going out, let alone for cardio exercise. At times, the air quality in the Bay Area was the worst in the world. A couple days this month, the sky was red and orange all over the Bay Area, making everything look apocalyptic. With all that's been going on, it certainly felt like it.

Across the three states, more than 5.8 million acres have now burned - a combined area larger than New Jersey. Containment on many of the fires is still ongoing, but firefighters have been working relentlessly and under straining conditions. Finally, a couple weeks ago, the Bay Area started seeing healthy AQI levels again. Since Priscilla and I hadn't been able to travel since the start of the pandemic, we had planned a trip to Yosemite from September 26-29. We booked this a week before the start of the fires. Unfortunately, Yosemite air quality has been greatly impacted by the nearby Creek Fire, and there are a couple smaller fires burning inside of Yosemite itself, so the park was closed for about a week prior to our scheduled trip. We decided that we should go down to LA instead, so we drove down last Saturday and stayed until yesterday. Since Priscilla's parents are older and thus more at risk to covid, we saw them first for two days, followed by my parents for the latter two days. We also got to have dinner with my brother and his family. It was nice to be able to see family again; we hadn't seen them in person since the start of the pandemic.

While the Bay Area has been seeing healthier air than LA as of late, that's now changed thanks to the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma which started on Sunday. Air quality all around the bay is now back in the "unhealthy" range. People are getting fire fatigue, and those having to evacuate and go to shelters have the added danger of exposure to the virus in the middle of this pandemic. Things could be worse, but they have not been great. And weather conditions and wildfires are probably just going to get more extreme with time thanks to global warming. In all of this, while the future can look bleak and hopeless, we as Christians must remember that while we are stewards of this world and its resources, that ultimately man is sinful and creation is fallen, and our hope must be in our Creator who will redeem all things.
Reversion - Saturday, June 27, 2020
In last week's post, I mentioned the challenges of working in the office during the current crisis but that I hoped to stick it out for a couple days. Well, after two days total I decided to revert to working from home. Not having much that I could eat and having to wear a mask the whole time in the office were too burdensome (and half the time while I was at my desk with nobody around, I either wasn't wearing the mask or didn't have it covering my nose).

Everyone else on my team had already elected to continue working from home. And this week, due to the rising number of coronavirus cases both nationally and statewide, Pure decided to roll back the reintegration plan and require all employees, except essential staff, to revert to working from home again.

Today, with 44,782 new cases reported, the US set the single-day record for new cases for the fifth day in a row. For comparison, the number of daily new cases was less than half this number at the beginning of the month. Cases are spiking in western and southern states, California included. But it's encouraging to see that New York, where things seemed out of control in April, has appeared to have flattened the curve since then.

The spike in cases is likely due to states reopening, though people not taking as many precautions is probably a large contributor. One need only look around to see the signs. When we visited Santana Row mid-June, it felt like there were way too many people there, and many people didn't seem to be socially distancing or wearing masks. When I went running at Rancho San Antonio (an extremely popular hiking spot) last weekend, the trails were crowded and only about 25% of people were wearing a mask. It seems like the fact that we're reopening, plus some quarantine fatigue, has caused people to let their guard down, and now we're starting to see the consequences of that. Half of the new cases in recent weeks have been in adults under the age of 35, a worrying trend.

Personally, I'm not taking chances. I keep a cloth mask with me when running in an area where social distancing is not always possible, and I'll put it on when someone is approaching. And when going into stores, I've started wearing an N95 mask and a cloth mask over it - partly for the double protection, and partly to cover up the N95 mask because there seems to be a stigma against non-medical personnel having/wearing them due to shortages. We bought two N95 masks 2 years ago when NorCal was experiencing large-scale wildfires, but I don't want people getting the wrong idea.

At the current rate, I expect the crisis to get a lot worse before it starts getting better. Young people might continue not socially distancing and unknowingly catch the virus and spread it to others. We could be past the inflection point where the exponential spread of the virus really starts to accelerate. States could scale back their reopening efforts and shut down again, causing new economic woes that compound the earlier ones. Bay Area companies could very well require employees to work from home for the rest of the year. There's so much uncertainty now. But, places like New York (where all parts of the state have reopened to some degree) are proof that things can turn around, but it requires everyone to work together.
Back to the Office? - Tuesday, June 16, 2020
As mentioned in last Friday's post, yesterday was the first day back to the office for a couple hundred Pure employees. Every other desk is now unassigned, meaning that many people were moved, though I still have the same desk by the window. On my floor where there are normally around 200 people, I'd estimate that there were only 10 people in. I was the only one on my team who came in (the only other person on the team who elected to come back was still working from home yesterday). The next nearest person on my floor was sitting 100 feet away.

Lunch is currently not provided. And in our microkitchens, there's about 1/3 of the previous amount of snacks. There are individual-sized cups of cereal, Cup Noodles, popcorn, chips, beef jerky, granola bars, cookies, and a couple types of energy bars. Plus a couple types of soda, energy drinks, tea, and sparkling water. And one type of beer - Corona (ironically?). All the perishable stuff like eggs, hummus, carrots, yogurt, cheese, almond and soy milk has been removed. So have the bulk bin snacks, oatmeal, and peanut and almond butter. Unfortunately, there's not that much that I can eat on my limited diet.

Before work, I visited my dentist for a cleaning that was 2 months overdue. They reopened their office at the beginning of the month, and there are naturally more protective measures in place: a health questionnaire and temperature screening up front, patients having to rinse their mouth with hydrogen peroxide, masks and face shields for the dentist and her assistant, and the dentist chair and other equipment covered in disposable plastic to be changed in between patients. The assistant told me that they used to have 2 or 3 patients per hour, but now they have 1 every hour back to back. The dentist asked me to pay a $20 charge for the PPE that they have to use, since insurance doesn't cover that yet. A small price to pay given that the office is bringing in much less revenue now but can't suddenly start billing higher rates to insurance. I don't know how they'll be able to keep the lights on like this.

Being back in the office yesterday was difficult for me. Part of it is probably that I still need to adjust (it was an adjustment going from working in the office to working from home), but the lack of food that I could eat was a significant hindrance to productivity. Also, wearing a mask for long periods was uncomfortable, so half the time when I was at my desk, I either wasn't wearing it or had it resting lower on my face, not covering my nose. I don't know how cashiers, dentists and other people can stand wearing a mask for long stretches at a time. Compared to them, I have it good.

Today I'll be bringing a lot of food to work to help get me through the day. But that defeats the purpose - why don't I just stay home where I already have things I can eat, which also has the benefit of eliminating a commute (however great my commute to/from the office currently is) and not necessitating a mask. I don't have much incentive to go into the office at the current time, especially since our renter is no longer here and I can work quietly at home (see previous post). I'm planning to stick with it for a couple more days and then make the request to switch back. Everybody else on the team is already there.

With the shelter-in-place shakeup, it seems like people are embracing the benefits of working from home - having more schedule flexibility and ditching the commute - and companies are becoming more amenable to the practice. Last month, Twitter gave its employees the option of working from home permanently, even after the shelter-in-place is lifted. Many other companies will probably do the same. We'll probably see companies downsizing and consolidating their office space, which will cause office rents to fall. Fewer workers in the office may also negatively impact businesses, particularly restaurants, that are nearby. The same businesses that have already been hit hard by the economic crisis. In turn, perhaps we'll start seeing an exodus of people - those working remotely as well as those in the service industry - away from areas with a high cost of living in favor of more affordable places that still offer a high quality of life. We've seen the ability of this crisis to shake things up, and we probably haven't seen the end by a long shot.
Reopening - Friday, June 12, 2020
Today, California entered Phase 3 of the four-part plan to reopen the state. This allows schools, bars, gyms, campgrounds, professional sports and more to reopen with modifications. Bay Area counties are taking things a bit slower, though last Friday Santa Clara County opened up things including outdoor dining at restaurants, in-store retail shopping, outdoor swimming pools, camping, and all outdoor recreational activities with one other household that don't involve physical contact.

After hiking last Saturday, Priscilla and I were running errands and decided to go pick up gyros at one of our favorite restaurants, Yiassoo. We weren't aware that outdoor dining had opened up, so seeing the patio area open was a pleasant surprise and we did not miss the chance to eat there. After a few months of not being able to eat at a restaurant, this felt like such a blessing. Ah, the little things.

Today we went to the CVS by Santana Row to pick up my meds, and we took the chance to wander through Santana Row. It was uncanny to see all these shops open and so many people dining outside. The area looked to be at maybe 40% of the pre-COVID levels of occupation. It felt like an unsafe number of people, and some diners didn't appear to be seated 6 feet away from other tables. But I guess this is the new normal. Santa Clara County's coronavirus numbers have been relatively low (only 3,117 confirmed cases thus far). But will it stay that way?

This coming Monday, I'll be joining a couple hundred or so other Pure employees in returning to the office. When the survey went out to see who wanted to return sooner and who preferred continuing to work from home until August, I was quick to respond and choose the former. But that was at a time when our renter was home all day and it was more difficult for me to have focused time at home. She has since moved out (her last day was June 6) in order to do a PhD program on the East Coast. So now our two non-master bedrooms are unoccupied, the first time in over 6 years that we haven't had a renter. Priscilla and I are enjoying the long-forgotten peace and quiet and privacy, and we're not rushing to find a new renter. I'm not really jumping at the possibility of finding someone only to have them be at home all day if there's another lockdown this year.

In terms of work, though, the current situation at home has allowed me to have better times of focus. Going into the office could actually make me less productive, especially when you factor in time commuting, less schedule flexibility, and the strict health guidelines (e.g. having to continuously wear a mask when in the office) that we'll have to abide by. Also, lunch will initially not be provided, and drinks and snacks will be limited. I know that many others don't get those things at their workplace, but it's a major productivity booster to have food taken care of, especially since I get hungry all the time and find it difficult to focus when my mind is on my stomach. So we'll see how things are next week.

With all this uncharted territory that we as a society are venturing into, I think we can only take things one step at a time, assess regularly, and try to do the best with the situation we're in.
Not Quite Eden - Monday, May 18, 2020
It's now been two months of mandatory working from home for my company, but it feels like it's been forever. Today, Santa Clara County finally went to Phase 2 of California's four-phase plan to reopen the state. Now only two counties in the state - Los Angeles and Sacramento - are still in Phase 1. Nonetheless, an end to the current shelter-in-place order seems far off.

I've accepted the reality that I may never set foot in my gym again. It seems more likely that they won't survive the current economic crisis. I've been doing pullups and dips at the park, and I have some really ghetto adjustable dumbbells in the shed in the backyard. In the midst of sheltering at home, the backyard has become my second home, of sorts.

I've contemplated building my own monkey bars in the backyard, but that project will be at least a few months out. What I have been doing is clearing out weeds, as I do every year. Except this year, I've also been filling in the gaps between patio sections (where weeds love to take root) with polymeric jointing sand. I also plan to replace sections of the backyard with rocks and mulch, and convert sprinklers to drip irrigation. With investments in making my backyard low-maintenance, I hope to reduce the amount of time I spend doing manual labor in the future. Like with improving the infrastructure at work, it's about spending less time bailing water out of the boat and finding more time to build a better boat.

I've also planted quite a few green onion bulbs. Every time we finish using a sprig of store-bought green onion, the bulb gets planted in the back. So far I've planted 36 bulbs in the planter box and another 30 in small plastic pots. I've had issues with some animal burying its poop almost nightly in some of the planter box holes where I planted a green onion bulb, and from some cursory research, I believe the animal to be a cat. Covering the smaller plantings with buckets at night and spraying the area with citrus has seemed to deter the animal from leaving its droppings. I've also noticed that the animal hasn't gone for the larger plantings, which is another reason I started the new bulbs in pots instead of immediately putting them in the ground. Not to mention, starting plants in pots seems to be a very common thing to do.

I also had to deal with bugs which appear to be aphids attacking the green onions. Spraying with neem oil seems to have helped. And when I watered using a wide spray pattern, small weeds popped up everywhere. After spending a couple hours painstakingly pulling all those weeds out, I switched to spot-watering using a pitcher. I have drip irrigation parts due to arrive in a couple weeks, at which time I'll run a drip emitter to each planting, with weed barrier and mulch in between plantings. Overkill for green onions, maybe. But, better boat.

While I've been spending much of my free time in the garden and learning more about gardening, I wouldn't say I actually enjoy it. I guess what really appeals to me is not the act of gardening, but the state of not having a ghetto, weed-ridden garden. And I like the idea of having food automation - having low-maintenance plants that will provide some food during the year. It won't really protect us from being affected by potential food shortages, but it's something productive and worthwhile that we can do with our space. One of the many ways in which we are truly blessed.
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