Alan Porter's minimal net presence

January 2021

January was dominated by the events from the first three Wednesdays. On January 6th, the entire world watched as some brainwashed “patriots” embraced the extremist talk of “fixing” Washington by force, and in the process, they violated the very laws of the country they were supposedly trying to save. I am appalled that these seditionists were allowed to escape, and I hope the United States government prosecutes and punishes them as vigorously as they would any foreign attackers. On January 13th, the president of the United States was impeached a second time, charged with inciting the insurrection a week earlier. We all knew that the Senate would do nothing about it… they never do. Finally, on January 20th, Joe Biden was sworn in as president. Good riddance to the other guy. He was nothing but a con-man and a whiner.

I spent all of 2020 expecting a huge stock market correction. However, even though I knew the recovery since April was “K-shaped”, I never really internalized that the part of the economy represented by stocks is on fire, and is likely to stay on fire as long as interest rates are low and there is active government stimulus. So in January I decided to change my bear-ish outlook for the stock market (not the overall economy) and adjust my investments accordingly. To be frank, I did not judge 2020 well and so I ended up losing moderately during a time when I should have made significant gains. So consider my attitude adjusted. I still expect a market correction, but not until interest rates go up and the federal stimulus slows down. The prices are just too high.

Honestly, with all of these distractions, it’s pretty amazing that I can go in to work every day and pay any attention at all to the daily grind. But grind, I do.

We had a dusting of snow at the end of January… just enough to cover the grass and the roof, but to disappear within a day.

Coronavirus pandemic notes:

  • 2021-01-05 NC EO188: phase 3 (masks, 10p-5a curfew, 10in/25out limits) extended
  • 2021-01-07 Mimi & Pops : vaccine
  • 2021-01-27 NC EO189 phase 3 (masks, 10p-5a curfew, 10in/25out limits) extended

February 2021

One morning at the end of January, while I was giving Bean his morning greeting, taking him to the window to look at the world, he got “nippy” with me, biting hard enough into my fingers to draw blood. This same pattern continued for several days, with unexpected bites, mostly on my fingers but sometimes on my ears or face. He was quite aggressive. Over a few weeks, I finally came to the conclusion that pet owners must eventually come to – that his owner has missed some key lessons. I think in my case, I have been way too casual about using my hands in his cage, HIS territory. And my reaction to his bites certainly didn’t help, either – it’s hard to gently say “no biting!” when your flesh is being pierced, but that’s what needs to happen. So Bean spent about a month teaching me to stay out of his space. And so I have changed. Fortunately, he has noticed, and is back to being his good bird self.

I went to the dentist again. For some reason, that seems to be a good measure of how long some long-term thing is going on. We’ve been in this pandemic for two dental visits. The last two visits had weird questionnaires beforehand, and strange overly-cautious procedures. I appreciate them, but it’s just odd.

It’s Chinese New Year, and also Foong’s mom’s birthday. She’s doing well at 82, and we’re happy to get together, even if it’s over the phone.

I spent more than a couple of weekends trying to figure out a way to support the weather screensaver for the TMIO ovens, which are out in the world running 2006-era software. Their web clients are so old that they don’t support modern HTTPS protocols, so I need a web server that can still speak the old protocols with the ovens, while speaking modern HTTPS to NOAA, which provides the weather data. I finally worked out a solution using a chroot of the old server software and stunnel to relay the connections to a modern flask application.

I usually dread tax season, especially because I have to file four separate tax returns: federal corporate 1120-S, federal state CD-401S, personal federal 1040, and personal state D-400. But this year, I had two things going for me. First, I shut down my corporation last year, so this will be the last time I have to file corporate returns. And second, I poked some numbers into TaxCut early on and found that we’re getting a nice refund this year. So I jumped on it and got them all done in February.

Coronavirus pandemic notes:

  • 2/05 BitSight “My Day” #5
  • 2/24 NC: vaccines to essential workers (educators)

March 2021

Audrey dyed her hair bright red. It’s quite a change from the previous half-green, half-black. I think it looks surprisingly good!

It’s March… it’s been one year since “lock down” (which for us, started on Friday the 13th in March of last year). So this has been a month of reflection.

I have not taken a vacation day in a year. That’s partially because I usually feel like vacation days are to “go” somewhere, and we’re not going ANYWHERE these days. But it’s also because I feel like in 2020, I sometimes worked hard and sometimes I drifted into a pandemic- and Trump-inspired funk. “Doomscrolling”. So maybe if I showed up every day and put in 3/4 effort, that’d be the same as putting in a normal effort with a couple of longer vacations. Finally, our company did offer a few “My Day” holidays, so we had the occasional three-day weekend to recharge.

We’ve been hermits for so long that I think it has changed us permanently. I don’t want to be a complete home-body. So I need to re-train my brain to get used to going out more.

Looking back on the economy, I would have never imagined the market doing so well while normal people are having such a hard time, and small companies are struggling to stay open. It’s the “K-shaped” recovery. I missed so many opportunities because I was convinced the market would eventually match Main Street’s bleak outlook. In hindsight, I should have taken my entire savings and bought stocks – ANYTHING – on election day. Everything has just popped since then.

The federal government issued another economic stimulus package, and we are lucky enough to qualify for a full payment. I know that we are not the intended target of the payments – but that’s the way the chips fell. That, on top of the very large tax refund we got in February, was a nice bonus. I suppose that means I need to help stimulate the economy.

I replaced my tired old iPhone 7 with a new iPhone 12 mini. Thanks to Trump and all of the crazy economic news, I turned into a news junkie during 2020, and so I ran my phone pretty hard. Doomscrolling. The old battery just could not take it, and I had to recharge it any time I was not using it. The new 12 mini is the same size as the old 7, but the screen is much larger. I do miss the fingerprint reader, but it turns out FaceID and a few gestures are a pretty good replacement for it. In some ways, it’s better.

We went to a drive-in movie at a local mall parking lot. It was an interesting experience. We learned that you should not park on the first row. I had to lean my seat all the way back and watch laying down. And Foong had to crouch down in the back seat and lean against my front seat. The sound was pretty bad, and so I could have used subtitles if they’d had it (we often watch movies with subtitles at home – maybe I’ve gotten used to that). And then halfway through the movie, it started drizzling rain, just enough to need an occasional swipe of the windshield wipers.

Officially, North Carolina is distributing vaccines in priority groups, with health care workers and essential workers first, older people at the front of the line, then people with health conditions, and then everybody else. But in practice, the clinics often have more shots than arms to give them to. Part of this is because of vaccine caution, but also because the distribution is a mish-mash of systems between local health agencies and private companies. I heard through the grapevine that some rural counties were giving shots to anybody regardless of priority, so I called one and scheduled an appointment for our whole family. We took a day off and drove to Butner NC to get our first shot (the Moderna one). We’ll return in four weeks for the second shot.

This is a game-changer. I’ve already been trying to reprogram my brain to get used to the idea of emerging from my hermit crab shell. And this vaccine is a big enabler in that process.

Also, I should note that this really is a miracle of modern medicine and of our society. We have been quarantined for just over a year. And in that time, someone figured out how to use the actual RNA from the virus to re-create one of its very unique attributes (the “spike”). And then they figured out how to make a vaccine that contained that mRNA so my body would create some of these spikes. That way, my immune system would know what they look like before one of those real virus particles lodges itself in my nose. Furthermore, the US federal government – not known for their agility – got a coherent plan together to buy this vaccine and distribute it all over the country, even to small towns like Butner NC, where John Q Public gets the shot with almost no effort and no cost.

Coronavirus pandemic notes:

  • 3/10 NC: vaccines to essential workers (more categories)
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