Rants and Raves

Random Covid Thoughts 1

It’s February and we’re coming up on a year of COVID 19 (in the US). A year of life-altering changes, SIP (shelter-in-place), quarantine, pods, less socializing, work changes and stress. That’s only scratching the surface (I’m not going to touch the political third rail today)

In no order here are some random thoughts I have:

I miss my friends, but I haven’t minded being forced away from a lot of people. I miss seeing my family.

I used to hate working from home, but have gotten used to it. I need certain personal rules in place to follow to tolerate it though. I can’t stand being on Zoom all day (I have a customer facing role and like talking to the customers, but then have tons of internal meetings too).

I love cooking and still do. I haven’t really improved any of my skills though. Cooking almost all meals at home does make me want to reorganize my kitchen -or makes me want to move. Wanting to move will be a different post.

Health and exercise are a lot more important than I realized. Family even more so.

Some Book Updates

Here are some titles I’ve gone through since my last update. I’m still doing my alternating cycles of non-fiction then a detective/pulp or other fiction.

A History of America in Ten StrikesA History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

good history and overview- shows impact right up to today

A good one that turned out to be timely as we are now at Labor Day weekend.

I read this next one a few months ago.

How to Be an AntiracistHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lot to digest. And a lot of homework for me to be a better ally and an antiracist

A popular and timely book: (well, it shouldn’t need to be timely, but it is). Well-written and thought-provoking.

And here are some of the mysteries:

Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins, #1)Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read other Mosley books, but not any of the Easy Rollins series. They were in my “to read” list after watching Luke Cage when it came out on Netflix and they dropped so many interesting titles in references on the show.

A Red Death (Easy Rawlins #2)A Red Death by Walter Mosley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still engaging with the characters.

Lucky at CardsLucky at Cards by Sheldon Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this one was a Lawrence Block title and I breezed through it. Pretty fun pulp. Looking forward to his Scudder series at some point.

And another recommended read:

What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningWhat I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More Mask Stuff

Some people have asked where I got the masks that they’ve seen me wear in my selfies from the bike. Most of those are Eliel Cycling Masks. These are great for my rides.

Quick notes on the Eliel: thin material, like jerseys. Great on rides and during runs. They come in 5 packs too.

The only downside that I can think of is that on my rides that are longer than 2 hours, they do tend to stretch a bit so when I’m on my way home on the bridge, the wind can sometimes blow the mask off my nose. This is likely my fault if I’m on a 2.5 hour+ ride because I pull the mask under my chin when I eat/drink more.

I also got two “Pandanas” recently from Pandana USA based in Boulder. I just got them so I’ve only worn one once on a ride but it worked really well.

I tried the Coolmax one on a 2 hour+ ride that was a mix of SF “summer” and real summer and I wound up keeping it on the whole time like I do with the Eliel masks. It was fine.

The ear hole things on the side helped too when I got back to the windy bridge, but I didn’t really need them.

I’ll try my non-coolmax one soon and report back. I highly recommend these so far.

FYI – We also have two from Rickshaw Bags in SF which we wear while doing less strenuous stuff.

Oh, and shout out to the Paceline Forum for the Pandana info. I found them via an older thread.

I’m (unreasonably) scared of certain routes

I recently tried a route I’d been scared to do previously. I had no problems, I didn’t cramp up, I took it easy and had fun. I’m not sure why I had waited so long to do it, other than being scared.

My fears come down to: cramping, getting stuck, flatting somewhere remote, running out of water (see cramping), worries I’ll slow friends down, etc.

But when it comes down to it, the worst that could happen (other than a wreck) would be:

  • Getting a cramp and having to sit down for 10 minutes
  • My friends may need to ride on and I’d catch up with them at a cafe or another day (aka getting dropped) – not that I’m riding with anyone right now
  • getting stuck and Senol having to come get me with the car

But all of the routes I’m freaked out about unnecessarily, I’ve done most of them or big parts of them. I’m ready to knock more off my list.

  • Hawk Hill (yes, an oldie but I used to be freaked out by this long ago)
  • Muir Woods to 1 – and back to Mill Valley via 1
  • 4C down 1 to Muir Woods back to 4C 
  • Stinson Beach
  • Mt Tam
  • Alpine Dam
  • 17th St up to Clarendon to Twin Peaks
  • Up Clipper to Twin Peaks

(strikethrough means I’ve done those rides)

Mentally I think my desired routes involve Highway 1 and wanting to explore out that way. And I’m scared of not being able to get back up to Panoramic or up out of Muir back to Mill Valley. But like I said- I’ve done all of the big routes or routes that connect to most of the “1 rides”. I just need to get over it and try them.

Oh, The Watch!

A follow up to the previous post for the book!

I forgot to mention that the reason I read had the book to read was that it was a birthday gift. I had a big birthday recently and the book was a gift from my besties. BUT – tied to that was big special gift from the girlfriend. She gave me a really nice new watch.

That watch? Well, it’s a really nice model from Kobold. The model is named after the author of that book- the explorer, Richard Byrd.

It’s a great model- a no-date automatic reminiscent of a classic like an Explorer I. I think it fits me well.

From Kobold’s site:

The new Kobold Richard Byrd Automatic pays tribute to the great American naval aviator and polar explorer Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd. The watch features a black DLC-coated stainless steel case with domed sapphire crystal, screw-down crown and screw-locked caseback. It is powered by a Swiss automatic-winding movement

I didn’t mention this in the book review, but Byrd was really famous during his lifetime and only faded from American memory towards the end of the 20th Century. But back in the day he was a very well-known explorer and a household name.

By the way- I’m always hesitant to blog about watches because it can come off as douchey, but I really like timepieces and watches. I also don’t post watch pics because my phone snapshots don’t do the watches justice.

Alone : The Classic Polar Adventure – *****

Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure

Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure by Richard Evelyn Byrd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A relatively quick read and very interesting even though I was worried I wouldn’t like the book’s story (it was a gift). The afterword was a welcome addition which helps provide some historical context and insight after the tale had ended.

I think it was interesting timing that I read this given what is going on in the world right now with Covid-19. In particular, this account of the author being alone in the Antarctic had a few passages that seemed very relevant to today.

eg: being solo and trapped inside and keeping to a schedule -the author was to be taking weather readings at regular times and had to maintain his hut/base- extreme WFH? Even Scott Kelly (astronaut) wrote about this recently in the NY Times.

Another example was a passage about a previous expedition with a healthy crew in isolation, but one day they opened a crate of old clothes and all of them got sick.

View all my reviews

Tips for Video Conferencing if you’re new to the WFH world

If you haven’t had to work from home before (or weren’t allowed to previously) you may be having a tough time of getting used to video conferencing. Here are some tips.

(I’ve listed these out in no order but I will likely edit this post and add or re-order the items below.)

Pre-requisites- I’m under the assumption you have a decent and stable internet connection. If you’re in the US, you likely don’t have it as good as our friends overseas with their fancy fiber connections, but it’s likely good enough. But if you have kids- you may want to limit their gaming/streaming during your work hours.


Test your software and hardware. I have just about every conferencing software installed and use all of them a lot. But even with that I have to test things. By this I mean, I try to: double-check my mic and audio (with and without the headphones). Then I double-check my video (I usually cover up my camera after each call, but I use it on a lot of calls).

Every conferencing software should have a way to test the setup or do a test call. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, BlueJeans all do. You should also test-call a friend or yourself and find the mute button- see below


This is critical. If you’re not the host, you should be muted unless you’re being asked a question. Learn where the button is on the app’s control screen. Also you should know how to do this on your phone. This is critical – not just for you but for everyone else on the call.

This may seem minor, but it’s not. It’ll derail the call, even for minor reasons.

For example usually the video will focus on the speaker/presenter. But in some cases when a noise is detected, the “focus” will then display the “speaker”. It’s fine to un-mute to ask questions, etc. but mute yourself immediately afterwards. MUTE MUTE MUTE.

If you’re the presenter/host– find out if you can pre-mute everyone on a test call. You should be setting that up for massive calls and if not, you’ll need to do it on a call when you start (screenshot below)

Speaking of starting a call- Have an agenda each time in your email invitation. Item 1 should be “Reminder to be on mute if you’re not the presenter”. If it’s a recurring meeting the agenda item will eventually sink in.

Workspace– I’m going to skip this one for the most part (sit at a decent chair when you can instead of the sofa all day), but just do a quick double-check on what your space looks like behind you. You don’t want anything weird or embarrassing showing up on video.

Notes for Presenters (and Teachers)

See above about muting the attendees. I’d also recommend that you insist on having the attendees turn on their cameras. We don’t have to do this for work calls w/ customers- it’s optional- but for internal meetings we insist.

You can also set this up in the meeting settings before hand. Have a reminder in the meeting invite that the attendees will be expected to be on video. See screenshot of Zoom settings:

Another setting I’d recommend doing (for now) is possibly limiting the Audio to Computer Audio. I’d recommend this for 2 reasons.

  1. The conferencing companies are seeing high volume as more people work from home, BUT SO ARE THE PHONE COMPANIES. Because of this, people are skipping meetings “because they can’t dial in”. If they’re new to this, they may not realize they can be calling in over computer audio. If you don’t want to change the setting, that’s fine, but remind people in your meeting invitation that they may need to do so.
  2. There are some nuances about taking screenshots of attendees. If you’re the host of a mandatory meeting you can get the attendance list. But if you’re in a hurry and are looking at the attendee list, you may not know who owns that 510 number. I say this because the conferencing software will have you tie your phone # to an attendee id, but people skip this step all the time.

But this step is optional- it depends on your group- be sympathetic to those who may not have a good connection.