Re: Status Updates!

ireactions wrote:
RussianCabbie_Lotteryfan wrote:

She definitely handled it poorly but ebay could have at least given her a heads up as not everyone has the funds to lose a sale like that.

I can assure you that I warned her and did so before asking eBay to intervene. I sent her a message quoting passages from eBay's specific policies, including:

  • "Even if you specify no returns accepted, under the eBay Money Back Guarantee, the buyer can still return an item if it doesn’t match the listing description"

  • "In some instances, we may not require that an item be returned to the seller"

  • "For example: if the return request was opened because the item was not as described"

  • "Or if the seller did not provide a return shipping label"

  • "This User Agreement, the Mobile Application Terms of Use, and all policies and additional terms posted on and in our sites, applications, tools and services (collectively "Services") set out the terms on which eBay offers you access to and use of our Services."

I seriously doubt she didn't know she was selling a 16GB item as 32GB because she refused to apologize for it and insisted that she wasn't responsible for the accuracy of her own ad when eBay policy is pretty clear that ads have to be correct. I think she was angry that she got caught. And angry to discover that selecting "No returns accepted" would not prevent consequences for fraud.

I told her that she could either give me a partial refund to cover the cost of a microSD expansion or she'd pay out the cost of the sale, the cost of the shipping, and the cost of the return shipping. She refused, shrieking, "No returns! No refund!" I reset and reboxed the laptop for a return and contacted eBay.

After eBay refunded me and told me to keep the item, I told both eBay and the seller that I'd still return her laptop even though eBay's terms no longer required me to do so. I just needed a prepaid shipping label.

She replied, "He wants to return it! He pays for shipping!" eBay responded to say, "We advise you not to pay for the shipping." She responded to say that she'd sue if I didn't return the laptop and would sue after I returned it if she wasn't happy with its condition.

At this point, I ran out of patience and had a lot of data entry to work on, so I decided to reopen the box and get to work on my $0 laptop and not worry about this person who seemed pathologically incapable of taking responsibility for her mistakes or taking action to amend them and who thought it was a good idea to threaten me when I had (a) the money (b) the item and (c) less and less reason to return either with each new threat.

Sorry to hear that.  Some people are entirely unreasonable.  And though it's not common to run into them, you never know what you're gonna get with these sorts of things.

Re: Status Updates!

I went eight days without internet and only dial-up speed on my phone. I may never be the same again.

Re: Status Updates!

Dinner with one of my favourite actresses over Zoom! Wait, hang on. Recently had to fire someone. Everyone got promoted. Dinner with my favourite actress over Zoom!

ELLIE: "Dinner over Zoom! Is this new for you?"

IB: "It is indeed, but I take comfort in knowing that we'll have exactly the amount of physical contact that we do when we eat together in person."

ELLIE: "Haha!"

IB: "Oh, I have to ask you -- have you recently joined a -- " (makes air quotes) " -- pyramid scheme, self-actualization program, potentiality unlocking process or anything that might be construed as a cult?"

ELLIE: (air quotes) "No. I've just been working on my self-tapes. Did one today!"

IB: "Oh thank God. Otherwise, I'd think that dress was for my benefit."

ELLIE: "Aren't you wearing a suit right now?"

IB: "It's a sport jacket!"

ELLIE: "I am so sorry for not knowing the difference as I can tell that really matters to you."

IB: "It makes me feel like we're in a restaurant instead of eating delivered meals."

ELLIE: "Yeah, always use the environment to assume your role."

IB: "Oh, Jezebel tells me that all my favourite actresses will be deprived of their usual botox injections and fillers and that the lines in their faces will start to deepen and their faces will be more sunken. Are you experiencing any of that and do you need sympathy?"

ELLiE: "No. And no. I figure you'll come up with some magic skin care routine for me."

IB: "Thank you, I will take you off the list, Ellie."

ELLIE: "Who's Ellie?"

IB: "Oh, I just have to call you that once for the transcript so Slider_Quinn21 won't know who you are and have to guess."

ELLIE: "Is this about that TV show you like? The one about time travellers?"

IB: "You KNOW it's not about time travellers! I think you say that just to annoy me a little."

ELLIE: "Yeah!" (snickering) "But your niece and I notice it annoys you a lot."

Re: Status Updates!

ireactions wrote:

ELLIE: "Is this about that TV show you like? The one about time travellers?"

lol - you two sound like a lot of fun!  smile

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An actress knows who I am!  I'm not even going to try and guess now! smile

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Informant once remarked that I had more tech accidents than anyone he'd ever met. It was true: I smashed my Samsung S3 screen on three separate occasions, dropped my Samsung Note 8 tablet into a bucket of water, cracked my iPad screen -- but then low-cost tempered glass protectors came onto the eBay market. I would crack my Samsung S7 phone's screen protector 2 - 3 times a year and smash my iPad screen protector once a year -- but the $7 glass protectors and the plastic case would absorb any impact and leave the device underneath unscathed.

But recently -- my Samsung S7 case tore open after a drop on some sharp-edged rocks. I got a new case, ordered a new protector -- and discovered that the raised edge of the case would always slip UNDER the tempered glass protector and raise it off the screen. The thin-edged case I'd found before was no longer on sale. An edge-less case was available -- except that this new case no longer held the screen protector in place. The S7 has a curved edge to the screen. Adhesive is only on the edge of the protector to prevent distortion on the illuminated display. Without the thin-edged case to hold the protector down, it had a tendency to fly off every time I dropped the phone. Liquid also got under the protector every time I wiped the phone down with disinfectant, causing the glass to fall off the screen. I went from losing three screen protectors a year to losing three a month.

And my new iPad tempered glass screen protectors seemed to be slightly wider and thicker than previous models -- and would also not fit within the confines of the plastic case. I could apply the protector, but then I'd put on the case and it would raise the protector and sweep it off the screen.

I've found one last set of iPad screen protectors that fit under the case -- and the seller has sold out at this point, so if I smash these last three, there will be no more 360 degree protection on the tablet. There are liquid screen protectors that supposedly add a layer of silicon dioxide, but I have some of that on my watch and that hasn't prevented fine scratches. That said, my iPad rarely leaves my carpeted home these days, so I'm not too worried.

It's the phone that worries me. I've had to stop buying tempered glass protectors for my Samsung S7; it's too expensive to buy a new one every week. I'm down to my last two. After that, I have a hydrogel protector lined up. It is a layer of flexible plastic. The adhesive side of it is made sticky by spraying it with water and then sliding it onto the screen where it can bond to the curved edges of the device. It looks good and it has a thinly sponge-like surface that can 'heal' from scratches, but there is only limited impact protection. At this point, it seems likely that the phone will break soon once the last glass protector falls off and the hydrogel fails.

But I could be wrong. I'm basing this bleak prediction on my constantly breaking my Samsung S3 phone, but the screen on that had Gorilla Glass 2. The Samsung S7 has Gorilla Glass 4 which is (supposedly) eight times more resistant to breakage than the S3. I've never tested this as I always had tempered glass as a loss leader.

Protecting phones and tablets has become difficult: cases are being made more and more cheaply to increase margins, so the precise engineering and fit of previous years to allow a screen protector to fit on seamlessly is absent and even if it were, my iPad from 2017 and my phone from 2016 are unlikely to have new accessories designed for its protection.

Tempered glass depends on flat surfaces for strong adhesion; curved screens prevent this. Part of this is manufacturers wanting to create fragile products that need to be replaced, part of it is manufacturers trying to make generic slabs of rectangular glass seem more distinctive amidst a lot of competition.

I think my next phone needs to be something with a flat, uncurved screen even if it has a poorer camera or a weaker processor. Or it needs to have a readily available case that has a built in protector.

Re: Status Updates!

Grizzlor? What's Nicole Eggert like? I've always wondered.


Found a new case for the Samsung S7! Very thin. So thin that it doesn't intrude on a tempered glass protector and doesn't peel it off, so I got a new set of tempered glass protectors and the first of this new batch has lasted five weeks and counting. Since I could be sure to keep the phone intact through drops and falls now, I got a battery replacement and now have to keep the Samsung S7 for the next three years to justify the expense. Locked in now!


I haven't been to the dentist in seven months as they shut down when my April cleaning was scheduled and rebooked to August. Six weeks ago, I looked in the mirror and was shocked by the savage brown stains across my front teeth. And with my bottom teeth, surfaces unmarred by stains were also disturbingly translucent as though the enamel and dentin had eroded from too much citric acid in soda. I was horrified. I put on some Crest Whitestrips and I could see they would slowly remove the stains over the course of a 10 day treatment, but stain removal wouldn't address how my bottom teeth were rapidly becoming transparent.

I switched from an anticavity toothpaste to an enamel rebuilding toothpaste and switched from an antibacterial mouthwash to a fluoride mouthwash. Neither promised to do anything other than "reharden" worn enamel and were advertised as preventatives for translucent teeth. I switched to drinking my sugarless fruit sodas (and their citric acid) from a steel straw, rinsed my mouth with mouthwash after every cup of coffee -- but again, all this was to prevent what had already happened.

Desperate and six weeks from my dental appointment, I began taking collagen, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplements which were supposedly helpful for remineralizing teeth on dubious health and lifestyle websites. It was a long shot as most dentists' websites declare that one enamel is eroded, it can't be restored.

But I've been taking the pills for six weeks and looking now -- my teeth are recovering. I have a dental appointment for tomorrow, and as of today, the translucency in my teeth has filled back in by about half. The translucency isn't even visible unless I'm right against the mirror.

I'm always very suspicious of wellness articles written by people who can only offer anecdotal evidence and this single experience is no less anecdotal, but it's worked out. Hopefully, with a few more months of ongoing supplementation and fluoride use, my teeth will be fully restored.

Re: Status Updates!

On turkeys:

My favourite actress, last year, gave me a bit of a crash course in Turkeyology, explaining to me that cooking a turkey requires a bit more thought and preparation than a chicken.

Turkeys are MASSIVE. These are 20 pound birds. And, being poultry, they are extremely difficult to prepare safely and edibly. A twenty pound bird will not cook evenly in an oven. But poultry must be fully cooked or the bacterial load is toxic to the point of severe illness if not deadly. However, the low fat content of a turkey means that cooking all the flesh thoroughly will result in a dry, overdone, tasteless, unpleasant result with all the moisture content roasted out of the bird.

In addition, turkey is easily contaminated; it has a lot of surface area for bacterial growth that quickly spread to the entire body. And a frozen turkey must be defrosted while still remaining well-below room temperature to prevent bacterial growth; the huge volume and the need to keep it refrigerated even when it's no longer frozen solid means it takes a huge amount of fridge space.

Roast chickens have given home cooking enthusiasts the severe misimpression that roasting a bird is simply a matter of defrosting it in a microwave, throwing it into an oven and coming back an hour or two later to slice and serve it. That does not work for a turkey. While the principles of cooking a turkey are similar to a chicken, a turkey requires a greater degree of preparation and continual attention to ensure a good outcome. The best way to produce a tasty turkey is to determine when dinner is to be served and then work out the steps in reverse order.

A 20 pound turkey will take about four days to defrost inside a fridge and won't fit into a microwave. In addition, a frozen turkey will have dried out significantly from its time on ice and roasting will further remove all the moisture that makes it enjoyable.

A defrosted turkey needs to be submerged for a day in a solution of salt water to break down the proteins and soften the meat, while staying refrigerated during the entire time. This requires some preparation of the necessary space and containers to hold and soak the bird.

Afterwards, the turkey then needs to be dried for another day while still keeping it inside the fridge to prevent bacterial contagion. The salt water must dry off to ensure crisp skin. And then, the turkey must be cooked within the next 1 - 2 days, so scheduling is paramount.

Prior to roasting, the oven must be preheated so that you can season the bird with a rub of butter, mixing powder, herbs and spices, stuff it with water-heavy vegetables and get it under heating elements before the bird warms to room temperature and risks poisoning you and your dining companions. A 20 pound bird roasting for 20 minutes per pound needs about six and a half hours to cook. But that's not the end of it. Even a brined turkey will turn out too dry if roasted without treatment.

A turkey in the oven must have fluid injected into the inner cavity every 20 minutes after the first hour of roasting. This will restore the moisture that's being cooked out of it by the oven. That fluid is best a combination of fat and poultry broth, kept just below boiling point to prevent solidification and ready to be distributed to the chicken in precisely the right state to be absorbed by the meat. And in the last third of the cooking time, the upper skin should be covered by foil to prevent drying and retain crispness while continuing to add fluid.

Turkey doesn't have to be the dry, tasteless cardboard it's infamous for being, but it requires considerable thought to preparation, scheduling and space to cook safely and serve effectively. It's not something you can throw in a microwave and toss in an oven. You have to start thawing the turkey a week in advance and line up all the subsequent steps. I know I've made murder mysteries a task to be taken very seriously, but that's fiction and an improperly stored or cooked turkey could actually kill you.

Anyway. I told my sisters that I would roast this year's Canadian Thanksgiving turkey, but they would have to handle EVERYTHING else. I will not be stopped except by salmonella. My meat thermometer is ready. May God protect those who dine on fowl, and may God protect our troops.

Re: Status Updates!

And now for Tech Talk, with Quinn Mallory:

The charging port in my Samsung S7 phone has been a bit loose, but rather than fixing it, I started looking online for a wireless charging stand. But I decided to check in at the local dollar store where they were selling $3 wireless charging pads and I decided to go with that even if it would take over three hours to recharge from 0 - 100. It charges while I sleep, so it doesn't need to be fast.


My iPad battery has been less than awesome lately for watching Netflix in bed or while doing otherwise-tedious data entry at my desktop workstation. But rather than replace the battery, I decided to get a couple 10 feet iPad charging cables, also from the dollar store, so that the tablet can just stay plugged it when being used in places where it's at maximum brightness for hours.


My Samsung Chromebook 3 came with an awful TN monitor that was grainy and washed and distorted at even the slightest angle. I ordered a higher contrast IPS screen and it looks the same no matter what angle at which you view the monitor. Except the first one I got had white spots across any black backgrounds. I reported it and their customer service had me package up the screen and send it back to them in exchange for a new one. Which also had white spots across any black background. I reported it and their customer service had me package up the screen and send it back to them in exchange for a new one. Which had blue puddles across any white background. I reported it and their customer service had me package up the screen and send it back to them in exchange for a new one. Which had gray puddles across the lower half of the screen. I reported it and their customer service had me package up the screen and send it back to them in exchange for a new one. Which had white spots across any black colours. I reported it and their customer service had me package up the screen and send it back to them in exchange for a new one. Which was finally okay oh my God I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life exchanging this screen.


My mother informed me that she missed being able to play DVDs on her TV because even though she has a home theatre PC running Windows 10 on her television with a wireless mouse and remote for streaming services, she has a small collection of discs. I gave her my external DVD drive for her PC and then started looking for a replacement. There were a lot of cheap external DVD drives on the market for the occasional occasion when I need to burn or open a disc -- but I decided to get myself an external blu-ray drive that can also write data to blank blu-rays so that I would never, ever, ever have to upgrade my optical drive again.


RAM is going on sale. My 'gaming' laptop originally came with 4GB of RAM (dear God) and a spinning hard disk (which made it a bit hopeless for gaming even if I really bought it for photo and video editing). I opened it up and upgraded the internals to 8GB of RAM and a small 128GB NVMe solid state drive (while leaving the spinning drive in for storage). I'm wondering about buying another 8GB of RAM to boost the computer to 16GB for a slightly smoother Adobe Creative Suite experience, but I'm also remembering how intricate and annoying it was to open up the laptop to get the new drive and memory in and how if I'm going to go through that again, I might as well bring the RAM up to 32GB and never have to open up the laptop again.

Re: Status Updates!

Transmodiar recently did something for me that I really appreciated.

My favourite actress... has not always been my favourite actress. It's a title, not a person; different people have held it. Before the incumbent, there was someone else. A friend who was also my favourite actress. I'll call her... Emma Stone. (She's not Emma Stone.) Emma Stone lived about an hour and a half away from my city. I'd regularly drive to visit her to have dinner and spend the evening talking about the art of acting, which, as a socially awkward man, I really benefit from hearing about. Then I'd come home.

Emma Stone was one of my favourite people and I was very proud of and grateful for our friendship and I lived for when I got to see her. In 2019, she had to cancel a lot of our evenings due to some family obligations and work emergencies, but it was alright -- she was going to be in my city that summer to perform her show. Also, she'd said I could build her website for her new show and I was excited to get a new portfolio piece (although I was going to ask her boyfriend, a brilliant graphic designer, to make the posters and animations).

I knew would see her soon enough. I looked forward to it. And I accepted her cancellations because I knew I'd see her when she was in town. I didn't see her when she was in town; she told me she'd make plans with me, texted me when she got into town to say we'd make plans, then promptly ignored every message I sent asking her when was free.

I didn't think anything of it; she was busy, we had two weeks. But when she had four days left before she left town, I asked her to please pick a time. She picked one. Then she withdrew it, saying she was busy. She said maybe it would be easier to do a group hang on the Friday before she left town. I said that'd be fine, where and when? She promptly did not answer.

I got a message from her on her second-last day in town. It was a list of the plays she planned to see before she flew out. She said I could see them with her. I reviewed the list and determined that if I went to any of them, it would be only for the dubious privilege of sitting next to her in the dark in silence; she would be moving to the next venue so urgently that we'd never have any conversation. I said no. I think this was the exact moment when I realized this friendship was over.

But I did review her schedule and arrange for us to 'accidentally' run into each other shortly before she left town. She asked me if I was enjoying the festival. I ignored the question and told her that I'd let her know when her website was ready. Then I got the hell out of there.

Emma Stone sent me a message saying she was sorry, that she'd been distracted during her time in town, that her brain had been such a mess she could not plan anything. She said it was hard because she was in town to work and her boyfriend and cousin had been staying with her in her rented accommodation during the festival and they had all wanted time with her. She said that she knew it felt like our friendship no longer mattered to her and she promised it wasn't true.

I told her it was fine. But it wasn't fine.

She told me she would like to make plans when she was back from her tour and I said that would be fine too. But it wasn't fine. I knew even as I said things were fine that I could never sign up again for another two weeks of wondering why I wasn't worth a half-hour or a text to let me know it wasn't happening. Wondering why a supposed friend thought it was alright to have me wait for her right up to the day after she left town.

I built the site for her new play and began reviewing candidates for a new favourite actress. Because while I strike out regularly and hilariously on romantic dates, I do really well with platonic female friendship. Women have always treated me as one of the girls. (This is also part of why I strike out so often on dates.) If I needed a female friend to hang out with me to talk about acting and Emma Stone couldn't be counted on to show, well, there were plenty of people who'd be up for taking her spot, and they'd put in the minimum effort to keep it. There would be at least thirty or forty applicants.

(Alright, FINE. There were three.)

I identified someone suitably chatty, eccentric and talented. I will refer to her as Felicia Day. (It's not Felicia Day.) I asked her if she would like to be my sexlessly platonic friend with whom I'd have long dinners to talk about the art of acting before going home (separately).

I said I also really liked how she would let me know when she was busy fundraising or rehearsing or needed time with her boyfriend and wouldn't be available for anywhere from 3 - 90 days, how she sometimes asked me for help with projects and would be silent and unconversational but also clear that it was a work request and not a social call but that there would be a social activity within 5 - 25 business days. I said I saw our relationship being that of adoptive sisters like Kara and Alex Danvers on SUPERGIRL.

"That would really work for me," said Felicia.

I sent Emma Stone her website credentials, hosting and back-end passwords and a lengthy instruction manual so that I would never have to work with her to make any updates or changes to her website afterwards when she finished the play it was to promote and might want to change it to promote another. I directed her to change the passwords and assured her she could do all the updates alone. I'd felt indebted to her even after everything; I told myself that my debt was settled.

Emma Stone texted me to say she'd be in town for another theatre festival and would I like to make plans to see her? I wrote back Jesus no, that I wasn't putting myself through another round of waiting for someone who wasn't coming, that I'd chosen somebody else to be my platonic favourite actress friend, and that I was sure she'd be fine without my friendship seeing as she was obviously in demand and had her boyfriend and her family and plenty of important friends who were apparently worth her time and that she would clearly thrive with or without me in her life and also that the hosting on her website was paid up for the next two years.

Emma Stone sent me a response. A text message. It was very long. I did not read it. I was afraid to. Perhaps her text would be aggressive and cruel (although I've never known her to be), perhaps it would be gentle and kind -- but I knew it wouldn't make me feel better and I declined to look at it except on occasion with my glasses off. I'd then close the text without reading it and every time I did that, it felt like savagery, like violence, like slamming a fist into someone's face.

I kept thinking I'd read it when I wasn't busy, when I had time to be hurt and paralyzed -- but I finally realized that there was never going to be a good time for that kind of grief.

Finally, I told Transmodiar everything. I told him of how this was weighing on me still. Making me sad over a year after the original incident. I told him that the unread text message was haunting me. I felt like I had to read it eventually, but I would never want to. And I asked him to give me permission to delete the text unread, to never look at it, and to let it take up no more of my life or the flash memory on my phone.

Transmodiar wrote:

I give you permission.

It's been months of radio silence on both your parts. No point in ripping the scab off the wound if you don't intend to revisit the situation. You've got a new friend. Invest that time and energy on them.

I know how it goes, but when you get to my age you just accept that people flow in and out of your life, and there's no use investing anxiety and concern on people who aren't around any more.

I deleted the message. Along with all of Emma Stone's previous messages. Because Transmodiar said I could. He gave me permission to let go of all the exhaustion and loss and frustration and dented self-worth and anxious confusion and seething exasperation. He reminded me that I had places to be, people who were waiting on me, obligations to uphold and a lot reasons to put all this in the ground, leave it behind and move forward.

Transmodiar wrote:

You'll get shit done -- and you also have a bunch of weird friends in your weird orbit. You're a weird guy with weird friends and it's wonderful -- you're going to be fine.

Thank you.

Re: Status Updates!

So, let's talk turkey (again). My obsession with roasting turkeys comes from my favourite actress whom I'll persist in calling Felicia Day (it's not Felicia Day).

I've always hated turkey. It's cardboard protein. And when Felicia invited me to her annual turkey roast off competition, I was not keen. But my friend was in a competition. She asked me for my support. I never refuse to give that. I showed up, brought desserts, expected dinner by 7 PM and planned to head home by 10 PM as it was a work night.

We hit 8 PM and the turkeys still weren't ready, I let everyone at the gathering know that I would be leaving in two hours, but that it wasn't because I was bored or didn't like them -- they were all so nice to me and friendly -- but it was a work night. Felicia apologized to me, saying the turkey wouldn't be ready by the time I left. And I left the dinner party without dinner.

It was okay. I understood completely. I had observed that Felicia's competition had started late. Because she got out of work later than expected. It was clear to me from observing her efforts: turkeys were too damn big to be cooked inside a couple hours; that she had to repeatedly baste it every 20 minutes. Which loses heat from the oven. I could see that increasing the heat wouldn't cook the bird faster; it would simply burn and dry it when it needed to be cooked moderately and evenly.

When Felicia had time to speak to me, she explained the intricacies of defrosting a 20 pound turkey safely without killing anyone who ate it, the importance of adding moisture back into it as it cooked over the course of 6 - 8 hours, the desperate call for water-heavy vegetables, the critical need to have the turkey elevated -- I could see her struggling to get dinner together before I left; I could see her failing. I assured her that I understood.

And the evening wasn't wasted; I learned a lot from watching her roast a turkey and explain the process to me. I'm glad I was there. My niece is glad I was there; she thought my first Christmas turkey ever last year, inspired by Felicia, was splendid. My sisters are glad I was there; they said this year's Thanksgiving bird was perfectly cooked, moist and even throughout. No, I didn't get to enjoy any dinner at Felicia's turkey dinner competition. But it wasn't for lack of trying and there is no one I won't excuse from their failures if they tried.

Every year, I roast three turkeys, one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas, one just because. It takes a week of preparation and I have to station myself by the oven from morning to evening to baste while referring back to the mental notes I made watching Felicia roast her bird (which are actual notes now as I wrote it all down the next morning). I make turkey to remind myself that trying counts.

Re: Status Updates!

I'm not an anti-masker. Masks are important. I wear masks. I get angry when others don't. A few days ago, an unmasked man got into the elevator in my building and pressed the button for the eighth floor. Furious, I got off the elevator at the ground floor and then pressed the buttons for floors 2 - 7 before I left to be annoying and slow him down.

That said, I feel that these blue disposable surgical masks might be borderline useless. They are fine for containing droplets in the wearer and lowering the risk of them infecting others. But I doubt they protect the wearer. These masks sit rather loosely. They don't seal the area around the nose and mouth. The material is quite thin meaning they tear easily or dissolve if dampened and I suspect that droplets would pass through and get from the outside in. And I can easily rip just from taking them off.

I have a box of these by the door to my apartment as a backup to my backup, but I don't use them.

For reasons I never got to the bottom of, I found a small supply of N95 masks in my storage space. These rounded, thick masks are made of one for polypropylene plastic polymer with an electrostatic charge that can supposedly catch and filter out 95 per cent of airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. They have a metal band that bends over the nose for the right fit. They also have double straps of yellow elastic form an extremely tight seal around the nose and mouth -- but they are so tight that the pressure to the back of my head from the elastics is actually quite painful.

The mask I prefer to use is a KN95 mask of the same material, but with a triangular design and earloops to make it seal firmly but not uncomfortably. The KN95 mask is a bit fragile, however, in that a few times, the earloop has torn off the mask itself. In addition, these masks are difficult to wash: laundering or spraying them with disinfectant will destroy the electrostatic charge. The solution is to let the mask sit unused for 72 hours after a wearing; I've been wearing one a day and putting it in a sealed plastic box for the three days before putting it back in the rotation. The material's thick enough for multiple wearings.

And the mask I have as a backup is a cloth mask. It seems like a small step up from a disposable surgical mask, made of cloth rather than the almost tissue like surgical mask material. But it concerns me that there is no metal band or elastic to form a firm seal over the nose and mouth. There's a slight gap and I have doubts about how much protection such a mask can offer. The advantage of this mask is that, unlike a disposable or a KN95, it can be washed in a laundry machine or sprayed with disinfectant and not lose what ever (scant) protective qualities it has.

These ones aren't ideal, but I keep two on hand by my front door, one in my shoulder bag and one in my car as they can be disinfected and reused quickly if I'm short on KN95s. I've also used double-sided tape to attach thin activated carbon filters to the interiors of these masks to add a little more protection -- and I've been adding them to my KN95s as well (because why not).

Anyway. I wouldn't go out without wearing one of these masks; I wouldn't go to a Biden celebration party in the streets even if I wore one of these masks, and I certainly wouldn't drink from any bottles being passed around.

Re: Status Updates!

And now for Tech Talk, with Quinn Mallory:

For the longest time, my niece was understandably furious with me for buying what were essentially netbooks: little $200 tablet-laptops with 10.1 or 11.6 inch touchscreens that could detach from the keyboard and Atom or Celeron processors that could only be used for light office work and web browsing. I used them for word processing and messaging and spreadsheets and website maintenance when I didn't want to be at by (very powerful) desktop computer and wanted to work at the library or the living room or at a friend's house.

My niece would be mad because these machines always failed within a year: they would stop powering on. The charging ports would break. They would inexplicably get the display stuck upside down. Wifi wouldn't work when Bluetooth was on. The keyboard would start inputting random characters. The touchpads would fail. "Stop buying these pieces of junk and get a good laptop!" she'd shriek at me.

I'd protest, "I don't need a good laptop. I have a great desktop with an i7 processor and 32GB of RAM and two solid state drives -- " (really a laptop permanently plugged into a monitor and keyboard and mouse that's too heavy to move around much). "I just need a small laptop for work on the go."

"BUT YOU HAVE TO BUY ONE EVERY YEAR!" she howled at me. There was a long period where, after the last netbook failed, I simply got a keyboard for my iPad. And this past year, with all the work from home, I've come to depend on a Chromebook to tether me to work when wandering away from my desktop.

The Chromebook, a Samsung Chromebook 3 with a matte IPS screen (that I had to install myself) was great -- but with the shift to working from home, I realized that all the (limited) Chrome apps and (slow) Remote Desktop access didn't replace my need for a Windows 10 laptop that could run LibreOffice and Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. Despite working from home, I often had to go to different rooms for Reasons and I needed a small laptop to keep work with me. I didn't need anything fancy, just something light in hand and on the wallet -- preferably one that fell within the stipend that my job had granted me to buy some hardware for working from home. But how would I avoid all the previous pitfalls?

QUINN: "You know what your problem's been?"

ME: "Being a cheapskate when it comes to buying a secondary laptop? Being a weirdo who needs a secondary laptop?"

QUINN: "I'm not going to confirm or contradict that -- except to say you've bought laptops that were trying to be tablets and tablets that were trying to be laptops and it isn't working. I mean, look at the Egyptian timer: instead of just trying to be a tracker-trigger for the next window to open a gateway, it became a reverse homing beacon, a coordinate repository, a sacred object in a funeral ritual, an express train to Los Angeles -- and it kept glitching and seizing because the hardware got overstretched. Just choose one specific use-case. You need a laptop within a price point. So get a laptop within the price point. Don't try to get a laptop that's also a tablet."

I was reviewing all the laptop options at an electronics chain called Canada Computers where I'd bought all my previous one year wonder tablet-laptops (this was when they were still offering in-store purchasing amidst social distancing). I went over to their small and light laptops and noticed that, as always, there was a stack of 'open box' / 'refurbished' laptop boxes stacked under the display counter, as there had been every year that I'd bought a cheap laptop from them that lasted a year.

QUINN: "You know what this means?"

ME: "Discount prices from buying a refurbished item? Yes!"

QUINN: "No, you moron. There have to be like TWENTY of these open box laptops. That means people bought them, hated them and returned them. Pretty much every laptop in this store has at least four open box laptops; that means this shop is selling garbage that people just bring back. Did you buy all your old laptops here?"

ME: "Yeah."

QUINN: "This store is your problem. You need to go somewhere else."

ME: "But the refurbished discount! So entrancing!"

QUINN: "Stop! Back away from that pricetag! I swear to God, if you buy a computer from this disaster fire of a retailer, I will have to hate you. I will hate you on a physical level if you do this."

A Best Buy had opened up the road, so to review my options and went there, and noticed that the majority of the laptops were much more expensive than the ones at Canada Computers and where Canada Computers had 5 - 6 cheap little laptops (and numerous returns piled up on the floor), Best Buy had exactly ONE cheap little laptop for sale.

QUINN: "Now, Best Buy's not the be-all, end-all of computer hardware. If you want RAM or flash memory or solid state drives or enclosures or cases or fans, that's clearly Canada Computers' bread and butter. But Best Buy -- they sell consumer gear, not hobbyist hardware. Best Buy sells preassembled units and they're not going to stock lemons that they have to take back; they only have worthwhile merchandise because showroom space is valuable."

I bought the cheap little 11.6 laptop from Best Buy and it's been precisely what it needs to be. It's slow, but I've disabled all non-essential Windows services to keep it from freezing and but a secondary machine doesn't need to be a speed demon so long as it's capable of opening any and all Windows 10 applications. The battery lasts 10 hours. The wifi and bluetooth haven't glitched, the keyboard hasn't gone haywire, the touchpad works. I was getting bad laptops before because I was going to a bad store for laptops whereas Best Buy, having survived the Amazon apocalypse on retail through price matching and raising the scale of the Geek Squad and being hyperselective in what they show in their show room, has somehow survived and also thrived.

Re: Status Updates!

I start a new job this week so I will probably not be around as much the next week or so. Just in case y’all get nervous about why I’m not here smile

Re: Status Updates!

Incredible! It must be hard to get a new job in a pandemic. Congratulations!

Re: Status Updates!

I was recruited for this job so it wasn't too hard.  But I'm sure it'll be busy.  First week was good, though.

Thank you!