Category Archives: Uncategorized

Our lives are being changed by COVID-19 – permanently

I just read on OregonLive.com that gas stations will be permitted to temporarily go to self-service to reduce exposure of employees to coronavirus as they take payment and interact closely with customers.

I’ve often thought that handing a credit card across is one of the best ways to give or get a cold. Now that we have a turbocharged version of the cold, we’re all looking at all the ways we might be opening ourselves to risk. This is going to create some lasting changes as we do things differently to prevent contamination.

Other examples of processes that are under the microscope and how they may change in the future:

  • public transportation seating is very close together for extended periods – fewer people may travel on planes, or airplane ventilation and cleanliness may be managed differently
  • tightly packed lines at grocery stores, TSA security, athletic events, and more – we may see a different method for managing lines involving “Disney-esque” crowd control
  • public building and restroom door handles are needlessly high-touch – more of these may become automatic when you press a switch plate
  • public or workplace plumbing faucet handles – many of these are already touch-free, and many more will become so
  • point-of-sale systems that require the employee to handle customer’s credit card – more POS will be self-service
  • POS systems that require customers to touch the screen or buttons – more POS will allow touch-free (in their lingo, “contactless” payment like Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or Apple Pay
  • reusable shopping bags introduce more disease risk than expected – customers who are tired of wiping down their reusable bags are going to buy machine-washable cloth bags or some better alternative
  • using the customer’s own reusable drink cups pose a risk to restaurant workers – we may see that restaurants stop this practice forever, even for drive-ins
  • sick leave for workers who are in contact with customers regularly is inadequate to protect public health in extreme cases like coronavirus – more employers may go to a more flexible sick leave policy (or be forced to by law)
  • recycling is now so dangerous for the workers that stores in many states are not required to accept bottles and cans for refunds – in the future, there may be more stringent requirements about rinsing or protective equipment for workers

As the effect ripples through our nation and even our world, we can only be sure of one thing – that we will encounter more surprises and challenges in the future.

What we’re going through is going to change how we work, shop, play, celebrate, and care for ourselves and others.

LastPass and my chromebook

I’m settling into my new Asus Chromebook C433T, which is a wonderful, fast, slim machine that seems to do so much of what I want out of a laptop.

This one has an Intel CORE m3 8th Gen processor and 60 GB of storage, and is running Chrome OS Version 80.0.3987.158.

I’ve been using LastPass to manage my passwords for years now and it works great on Windows PCs as a Chrome extension and on Android phones as an app. It fills usernames and passwords like a champ.

However, Chromebooks are neither a PC or an Android phone, but can use a little of both. I’ve recently learned that the best way to use a Chromebook is with Chrome extensions or apps, and not Android apps. Some of the newer Chromebooks can also use Android apps, but I find they open in a small, phone-shaped window and that’s a bit awkward to manage.

If you also have a Chromebook that can have Android apps, you may have noticed that when you are looking at your launcher and searching for a specific app, sometimes you see two of the same app but with slightly different icons. What’s happening there is your have both the Chrome WebStore and the Google Play Store apps.

Chromebook launcher with Evernote search.

Chromebook launcher with Evernote search.

Currently, the Chrome browser extension (from the WebStore) is still auto-filling with no problems.

However, LastPass isn’t auto-filling passwords between the Android LastPass app and other Android apps on my Chromebook.

Chrome LastPass extension

The Chrome browser on my Chromebook shows LastPass is ready to auto-fill my password for the Pocket website.

To log into the Spotify Android app, I must open the LastPass Android app, put in my PIN, search for Spotify and then copy and paste the password back into Spotify.

I think this is the main reason why Chromebook mavens are recommending to use the WebStore apps whenever possible. The user interface is not pleasant on Android apps when you’re trying to display them on a 14″ screen.

If you want to learn more about managing both types of apps, Google has a good answer on this topic. There was a bit of useful discussion on the LastPass Reddit as well. The website GSA Education provided a helpful comparison of Chrome OS apps, Chrome browser extensions, and Android apps, all of which are available for Chromebooks.

My favorite Young Adult books

Goodreads.com is promoting Young Adult week. Its blog article, “Can You Be ‘Too Old’ for YA? Our Expert Opinion: No,” says it all. I agree.

Young Adult Fiction that’s written with care, where the characters drive the action, is a joy to read. One of the things I love about Young Adult Fiction is that it is often more positive. In life, we can’t always have a happy ending. In fiction, we can.

My fave YA series so far:
Vega Jane, a fantasy series by David Baldacci
Harbinger Series, a fantasy by Jeff Wheeler
An Ember in the Ashes, a fantasy series by Sabaa Tahir
The Earthsea Cycle, a fantasy series by Ursula K LeGuin
The Traveler’s Gate, a series by Will Wight
Arcane Ascension, a series by Andrew Rowe
Inter World, a sci fi series by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
The Giver Quartet, a fantasy series by Lois Lowry
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, a fantasy series by Ransom Riggs
Harry Potter, a fantasy series by J.K. Rowling
Alice in Wonderland, a fantasy by Lewis Carroll
and of course, the first fantasy series in my heart – The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum

If you’re interested in checking out some YA books, your library likely has a great selection of ebooks in this category. Take advantage of this wealth of entertainment!

Not so dark and deep

Today Jim took me to Forest Park, a large urban forest in the hills overlooking downtown portland and Vancouver, WA.
 
 We were at the highest point in the park today – 1,100 ft. Nice clear day at about 65 degrees. We hiked about 3.5 miles.
 
 Forest Park, a municipal park in Tualatin Mountains measuring 5172.14 acres in size, is a gem right in the middle of the Portland metro area.
 
 We saw a chipmunk, mole, and slugs in addition to the common fauna.
 
 Best part was when the view opened up to Vancouver. It was a beautiful clear day.
 
 Without further ado, the pics:

 The forest awaits! Beginning of Fire Lane 7 trail.
 


My love makin tracks.


Weird dwelling cleverly constructed.
 


So many beautiful flowers. Is this a trillium?


You can see Vancouver through the trees.


Obligatory selfie. (left) Syl. (right) Jim.


Mosses, flowers and ferns on the forest floor.


A slug. Jim says the moles eat them but I don’t know. Who could eat a slug?

Location:Forest Park,Portland, OR

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 2

Sunday morning, Oct. 2: Left at 10 am. Silver was good all night (slept on the bed) and Sophy slept well. So did we, despite having a smoke smell in the room. Silver didn’t have a BM so I walked him on his kitty harness when we stop. Although he walked well and was super cute, he didn’t do anything. I guess he can hold it for a while longer. I offered him water in his kennel and gave Sophy some, too.

Went through lots of tunnels:

Blue Mountain

Kittatiny Mountain

Tuscarora Mountain

Allegheny Mountain

The views are beautiful but there is a low fog on everything. Bucolic. Pastoral. Like a Charles Wysocki puzzle.

Thinking in a couple of directions today – gratitude for the wonderful send-off by friends and family members, and concern about remaining logistics.

Before we left, we were able to visit some of our favorite places and see some of our favorite people again. One of our favorite places is the Raptor Trust, a sanctuary for injured and sick birds like falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, and ravens. The Raptor Trust is next to The Great Swamp, between Berkeley Heights and Morristown. I spend a lot of time there or driving through it, just enjoying how serene and beautiful it was.

I got to go out with several of my favorite work friends and they treated me so kindly. Their good wishes have buoyed me as we go through this tough journey.

I also spent time with dear friends that I knew from outside of work. I am so glad to have been able to visit with Don and Claire Kissil, just to name a couple.

As we get through more of these marathon days, my concerns are, for the most part, settling down. The dog is doing fine and the cat is not complaining at all.

NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 1

Jim holding the bag
Jim holds a bag of our stuff so I can put on my seatbelt in our overloaded Corolla before heading to his mom Marilyn’s house. We would need to further downsize to begin our journey to Oregon.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

Got a late start around noon because we needed to cash the security deposit check and trim down what we are bringing with us. Heartfelt hugs with Marilyn and Jessica, who is staying a couple weeks and flying to Portland from DC.

iftttfacebook-october-01-2016-at-0803pm
Our feast at Troegs. I loved the beet-marinated deviled eggs and the margarita flatbread. He had the charcouterie and cheese plates, and spiced roasted almonds.

Silver was quiet and well behaved and used his litter box like a good boy. The cat pan liners are a win! So easy to clean up. He did not try to escape even once, and did not disturb Sophy. He seems to really enjoy staying at Marilyn’s home.

Sophy was also great. Happy to report no accidents.

We stopped in Bethlehem and visited Marge, Nick, Chris, Paul and Cherie. Nick said a prayer to wish us well, a gesture i found very touching.

It will be his birthday tomorrow and Marge’s on Oct. 3. I hope they have very happy birthdays.

We stopped at Cabela’s to get Jim a rain coat. It rained on us as we left the store.

Didn’t make much progress today but we stopped for the night at the Econolodge in Harrisburg then drove down to Troegs Brewery for dinner. We had Sophy in the car and Silver remained at the motel. All was well when we returned.

Male-female duets remind me of ephemeral beauty

On waking this morning, I found that a song was living in my head. The song is “Dust to Dust” by The Civil Wars, a duo that is no longer together. Listen on Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/track/5P6ZBMWS66FVo6deJaDdHy.

The Civil Wars
Joy Williams and John Paul White, The Civil Wars, were an amazing duo.

I discovered this amazing group too late, it seems. The haunting acoustic melody has a stripped-down feel and perfectly showcases the incredible voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The lyrics are also amazing:

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter that gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long

All your actin’
Your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lies
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn it down
Let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flame
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It seems to me sometimes that the older I get, the more kinds of loneliness and sadness I know. Is it because experience teaches us the many variations that life can bring? Or that we simply endure more as time goes on?

This isn’t a negative post – these emotions are simply part of the mix that goes with being a human. It’s how we see beauty for what it is.

Hopefully you listened to the song and agree with me about its beauty. Knowing that they broke up makes the song even more precious to me.

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “Male Female Duets,” because what I have experienced with The Civil Wars was also the case with so many others.

Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s duet, “Unforgettable,” is one of the best examples. The father/daughter blend of voices is silvery and perfect, making me wish they’d had years of recording together. Nat King Cole originally recorded the song in 1951. Natalie sang for the remastered duet in 1991 – twenty-six years after his death. Natalie died in 2015. Sigh.

If you want to hear my playlist on Spotify, it’s at https://play.spotify.com/user/sylectra/playlist/538pZ9JkUM6XjKyIiIhZt9. Maybe you can suggest some other wonderful duets to add?

Big and tall clothing store needs an in-store makeover

I visited a men’s clothing store with my husband today. He was there to buy a suit for a job interview (he had lost weight and the old one was too big). My husband is a big AND tall guy – a real teddy bear type. He’s hard to buy clothes for.

Teddy_Roosevelt_portrait
Teddy Roosevelt. (Image source: Wikipedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teddy_Roosevelt_portrait.jpg)

I had never been in one of these stores, and it was an awakening for me. The staff was friendly and helpful and the selection was fine. However, they were missing some key opportunities to sell more clothing. Here is my list:

  1. Store employees – all men – should wear something other than polo shirts and jeans. They should be demonstrating that big and tall men can look sharp with a little effort. How about showcasing some of the merchandise?
  2. When a husband and wife come in and explain they need a job interview suit that sets him apart from the usual fashion-challenged tech worker, it’s an invitation to take charge of the situation. Don’t simply go along with the husband’s suggestion of a black suit. Or do so, but also suggest another color that is not quite as….funereal.
  3. Design your store so that customers don’t have to brush against the racks of clothing or each other as they move around. Big people feel awkward about that stuff already.
  4. Be ready with options for tailoring. Don’t just admit that your store doesn’t have it. Offer to hem pants for free with a purchase over a certain amount. These men don’t want to spend any more time fussing over their clothes than absolutely necessary, and they probably waited until the last minute to make a purchase decision because they hate trying on clothes in stores.

Contrast this with my positive experience in a Lane Bryant. Employees there did these things right:

  1. The employees gave women a little emotional space in the dressing room area – they know we would like others to pretend we don’t exist while trying on clothes.
  2. They avoided commenting on clothing that customers were browsing with comments like “that’s very slimming, it would look great on you.”
  3. Store designers spaced the racks far apart to allow customers personal space.
  4. Employees (all women) dressed nicely in the fashions on display in the store and were not all a size 2.

How my delivery of groceries saved me some energy – and the value of that

E-mail sent to A&P Fresh Online regarding a grocery delivery I received yesterday:

Hi, I just received my order – delivery service was timely and polite – thank you. I am wondering why you do so many substitutions? Of my 42 items ordered, 10 of them were substituted. Most of the substitutions were fine, but in a couple cases I didn’t agree with the choices. I know I selected “allow substitutions” – if I do not allow them, does that mean I would only get 32 of my 42 items?

How can I select items that are more likely to be in your inventory? Why does your inventory match up so poorly with what you are offering online?

If I keep allowing substitutions, how can I get substitutions that are more likely to be satisfactory? Should I choose middle of the road pricing to allow the packers more flexibility?

Thank you,

Sylvie Dale

What I was trying to do was not spend a lot of my precious energy picking out, bagging, loading in the car, unloading from the car, and putting away groceries. I find this to be an exhausting and thankless task and frankly, I hate it. Some people love picking out their food. Not me – that is, not if I have to shlep it repeatedly from place to place. So when my work schedule swelled because of a major project and the house ran completely out of food, I spent half an hour on a grocery shopping site and had the groceries delivered.

Logistically this worked well, because there is almost always someone at home to take delivery. But the substitutions they selected are enough to make me re-evaluate my decision. One-quarter of the items I selected were substituted – that seems kind of high, doesn’t it? I won’t bore you with granular details, but give you just two examples: for people who prefer white NY style cheddar, yellow cheddar just isn’t acceptable. Substituting a box of raisin bran for a box of bran flakes is not a great idea if I already ordered a box of raisin bran in the same order.  So I am looking for a way to use the shopping site smarter, so that I have fewer surprises when the food arrives. And I may try the other service, Pea Pod, to compare how they substitute.

I read an article by the Harvard Business Review that you should manage your energy, not your time. This is a concept that makes a lot of sense. When you’re working as smart as you possibly can, it’s time to look at your energy. You may not realize it, but little dribs and drabs of your time are being stolen away due to spotty attention span or fogginess caused by being tired. If you are fresh and rested, your ideas are more brilliant, your remarks more on point, and your work is much faster.

Multitasking, hailed in the 90s as a great way to get lots done, is now being understood as a time waster for some types of job roles. I am a trainer, so part of my time is spent developing curriculum in PowerPoint and also in an e-learning format. I must also keep track of student records and training schedules. These are tasks best done without interruptions, so it’s counter-productive (and tiring) to multitask when I do them.

I was a gardener when I lived in Oklahoma. I read about how plants do what they do and why, when you pick the dead flowers off a blooming plant, you can expect it to stay in bloom longer, and how sometimes a root-bound plant will flower better than one with plenty of wiggle room in the pot. It turns out we are like plants. We only have so much energy, and it gets channeled where we allow it to go. If we cut off an energy-wasting channel, like the pointless and aggravating task of grocery shopping, it naturally flows into the other channels that are still open, such as my work.

While the grocery delivery was not perfect, it did save me a lot of effort. Maybe A&P Online will give me some good pointers on how to use their system for best results.

Injuries from running of bulls affirm my belief in human foolishness

Today I learned that 23 recently were injured in the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Some salient details from the USA article (link below for your perusal):
1. Two were gored and the rest injured in the actual stampede.
2.The stampede was caused by people falling and blocking the entrance to the ring, before the bulls arrived.
3. At least one of the steers that traditionally run with the bulls actually jumped over the people pile rather than bulldoze through them.
4. The stampede ended when someone opened another gate to the ring and the bulls ran away from the press of people.

Conclusions:
What we should take away from this story is that it’s the humans who are to be feared, both for their savagery inherent in the design of such a spectacle, and their continued devotion to this spectacle.
Also, we should not underestimate the inherent foolishness of people as seen in their clumsy pileup at the entrance before the bulls even got there.
Finally, those who run with the bulls these days are neither as brave or as stupid as those who did 80 years ago. Gorings are rarely fatal nowadays, which is a shame, because there is less of a deterrent to participating in this cruel and stupid mob behavior.

http://usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/13/23-spanish-bull-run/2514247/

Location:Watchung, NJ