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Running thoughts on the shut in

2020-04-07 - Social Distancing - Day 23

It's spring time!

You know what that means.  Pollen and allergies!  Joy!  That's exactly what we need at a time when every sneeze makes you think you've got the plague.

But, it's also time for box turtles to wake up from their winter sleep.  Walter, for that is her name, woke up yesterday.


She didn't even know about this whole virus thing.  I'm surprised she didn't just throw her claws up in frustration and go back to sleep.

Speaking of things outside...  I finally got my gardens going.  I have tons of plants in pots sprouting up.  Beds are ready to go, raked and fertilized.  Considering I'll be home for most of the growing season for the first time ever, I will hopefully be able to really grow some awesome stuff!

I added a new data visualization to the top line.  That is the number of new cases by date by state.  It looks like a mess when it first loads.  Because NY has the largest share, as everyone knows, the rest of the states look like a jumble of spaghetti underneath.  There are filters included so you can filter down to your state.

2020-04-06 - Social Distancing - Day 22

Monday, Monday

And boy what a week it's been so far...  Mondays are generally pretty busy at work anyway.  But today just seemed to be even heavier than usual.

Make no mistake, I'm not complaining...  Got a lot of good stuff done today.  And I'm not only talking about normal work.  Before I started my workday, I got word that my new Android app is finally live!  Also, I added a new data visualization to this blog.  If you didn't notice the icons at the top of the page, then you should probably take another look at the top of the page.

The newest viz is one that shows the timeline for this, the most f'd up thing that has ever happened to the world.  And on that, the one thing I have to point out is that at long last, the line is starting to point down!  For now.  Of course, the charts are only as good as the data that I can find.  So it might prove to be completely different tomorrow.  

2020-04-05 - Social Distancing - Day 21

On the bright side. At least it's not just YOU that's locked down

Could you imagine that?  People are already totally weirded out by the whole not being able to go out thing.  But in the back of your mind you know that everyone is in the same boat.  Which makes it better.  And not just a little bit.

I'm not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV, but imagine the toll it would take on your mind if you were sitting in your house, trapped, while the rest of the world went on about their happy business.  In a strange way, that might be the reason that most of us haven't gone completely bonkers yet. 

For my part, I'm keeping busy...  I think that this World Stats Tableua is finally ready to show.  Use a laptop or turn your phone sideways.  It's too much for a small screen.

I released a new Android app yesterday.  Haven't done that in a while.  And since ad revenue is down, I really need to do more of that.  I'm also working on updating all of my iPhone apps, which is just one of the biggest pains in the ass imaginable.  For all the things Apple does to make their devices user friendly, they sure as hell don't do that for their developers.  "Excuse me, but you haven't jumped through enough hoops yet.  You need to jump through these.  But, wait, you need to jump through THESE first.  Oh, I'm sorry, those were not the right hoops.  Please try again."

I'm being kind, believe me.  

2020-04-04 - Social Distancing - Day 20

It's Saturday again!

Since it is the weekend, I thought I would work on something not 9-5 work related.  I was doing some research on online countdowns to the upcoming election.  You know, the one where we get the opportunity to undo the greatest mistake in US history. I had my own version of the Countdown to the Election web app, and it get's a little traffic.  But what I noticed while I was looking around was there are a bunch of Android apps too.

I really should have jumped on that bandwagon months ago.  Because I've got the base code for that sort of app already.  The ones I have count down to holidays like Xmas and Halloween, and the next Star Wars movie.  Yes.  That is also a holiday.  So last night when I had some time, I re-purposed one of my existing apps, and now I have this New Android version of the app!

As of the time I am typing this, 10:30AM, it is showing as published on Google Play.  But there still might be a delay.  If you try to grab the app, and it tells you it's not there, just try again later.

They say that it usually takes some 7 days to get apps approved, what with everyone working from home.  So it would be astonishing to get this one approved so quickly. I will post in the coming days when it is available for real-like.  Then, please download it and tell all your friends.

2020-04-03 - Social Distancing - Day 19

It's Thursday. I mention that because I know you were wondering.

Actually, it's Friday.  And don't lie.  You just looked at a calendar to double check.  You're welcome. 

Anyway, I haven't done a whole lot of posting about the same thing twice in a row, but I'm doing it right now.  Yesterday... Hang on...  A freak windstorm just blew my garbage cans completely across the neighborhood.

Okay...  I'm back.  Where was I?  Oh, right...  Yesterday I told a short story about discovering that Tableau Public is a thing, and I can tie it to my existing data set to make cool visualizations of the data that I've been tracking.

datavis icon

I am working on a second one for the entire world.  I would post a link to it, but it's just not ready to show.  I'll link that up once it's ready.  It's pretty similar to many things already out there but my version includes a couple of extra things.  Formulas that were left out of other sets.

On a personal note about the state of technology...  Even at 50 years old, I am astonished at the amount of technology that is out there and free to use, as long as you can figure out how.  The kinds of things I can do from home today were unheard of 30 years ago (or even 10 years ago).  It's just an amazement to me.  I feel like a little kid sometimes.  And that's probably the reason that I am still so into this kinda stuff.  There is no end to the amount of things we can do.  These are awesome times we live in, current pandemic situation not withstanding.

Well, off for another day working from a room with a view.  Whatever you're doing today, try to get some exercise.  Jog around the block, or bench press the couch or something.

2020-04-02 - Social Distancing - Day 18

Happy to be working. It's keeping me sane.

Speaking of which...  I was working on the stats page, updating the totals, and it occured to me that many sources have interactive maps.  And I thought to myself, "Self, it would be really convenient if there were a way to tie this data I am working on to an interactive map."  So I searched around for a free version of the data visualization software I use for my real job.  And to my suprise, there is one.  As a result, the stats page now has a link to THIS PAGE, which is an interactive visualization of the State level data.

I was vaguely aware that a public version of Tableau existed, mostly from searching around for help.  It's a pretty complicated bit of software.  But I never had a need for it until now.  Of course, now that I have a need, I'm going to use the hell out of it.  Like I mentioned before, I use it for work all the time.  It helps people that don't like looking at numbers, understand what the numbers actually mean.

2020-04-01 - Social Togetherness - Day 17

yaD slooF lirpA yppaH

Don't worry.  By all accounts April Fool's Day will be moved to tomorrow.

Wouldn't it be great if we all woke up today and found out that this has just been one gigantic prank, culminating on April 1st?!  "We got you!!" LaughALot clap

Bah...  Worst April Fool's prank ever.  

Well, however you plan on spending your day today, make sure that you keep your pranks to the sort that won't send someone to the emergency room.  That would probably be really funny any other time.  But this is 2020, the year of the most f'd up thing that has ever happened that was, in fact, not a hoax.

In addition...  What a difference 1 month can make, am I right?


More can be found on Twitter - that was my contribution.

2020-03-31 - Social Distancing - Day 16

At least I've been busy

As long as we are counting days, I would like to draw attention to this spiffy program I've had running for the past couple of years.

Countdown to the new year.  According to that program, we are on day #91 of the most screwed up year any of us have ever seen.  Or, to put it another way, we are 24.694% of the way through.  It would be great if I could repurpose that program to countdown to the end of this pandemic.  But since we don't know when that is, that will be quite impossible.  On a more comical note, one of the additions I made to that thing was stuff flying through the air that changes based on the season.  We are currently in the Spring, so we get flower petals.  But in a few weeks, we will be in summer.  So the program will have a special update to include dudes like this:

I know this all serves no purpose other than to be entertaining.  But if you are denying the importance of entertainment right now, you are really doing this whole lockdown the wrong way.

On that note, I finished watching Picard the other day.  It took a weird turn in the very last 2-part episode.  Which is strange because the first 8 episodes were among the best in history.  Then they suddenly realized that had to wrap it up.  Still, if you are a Star Trek fan, or even just a Patrick Stewart fan, I highly recommend getting out the popcorn and binge watching that one. Popcorn

Hope everyone is still healthy.  And as I said yesterday...  Take some time to help someone that needs it.  As the days drag on, those people are going to become more numerous.


2020-03-30 - Social Distancing - Day 15 (right?)

The new normal

Welcome to day 1 of 30 more days of Social Distancing!  Or to put it another way, 2/3rds of the way through something we had hoped would end by now.  Alas, 30 more days is looking like the new normal optimism.

If you're curious to know what my view has been for the past couple of weeks, here you go.

My workstation:


The Chromebook is my Spotify player - Special thanks to Maynard for finally allowing all Tool, APC, and Puscifer on that system.  The Centaur machine is because there must always be something from the mid 80's around...

I really wish I had more fun stuff to say this morning.  But I am genuinely worried and concerned.  So I will now say something directly.  An additional 30 days of shutdown is going to hurt people.  And not just a little bit.  I worry for all the people that cannot work.  I worry for the businesses that must remain closed.  I worry that this is going to cause irreparable harm to this country. And the sucky thing is that it is unavoidable.  The train has already come off the tracks.  And we don't even know when it will stop bouncing across the landscape, smashing everything in sight, before finally grinding to a halt.

So take moment today to consider what you can do to help someone that is going to be impacted by this set of events.  Look out for each other.  In the very short term at least, stop wasting breath by trying to assign blame.  There will be plenty of time for that later.

2020-03-29 - Social Distancing - Day 14

We made it through the two weeks!

I remember those carefree days two weeks ago when we were told that we just needed to hunker down and stay locked in for 2 weeks.  At the risk of stating the obvious, we all knew that was just optimism wrapped in a big bundle of hope.  At least it looks like things are getting better, right?  No?  Ah, crap.

Today I would like to send a big thank you to Al Gore, I mean, Tim Berners Lee for inventing the internet.  The single most important form of communication and entertainment to ever grace the human race.  Not to mention that you can use it to get work done too.  I should mention that, yes, I am well aware of the irony of how badly Tim's own page is in need of a makeover.  I honestly intended to link to his Wikipedia page.  But that one came up first, so there you have it.

We use the internet for everything nowadays.  A huge chunk of the workforce was already working from home before this happened.  And now a much larger chunk is.  Just about everyone who was working at a computer or on the phone 2 weeks ago, is still doing that, but doing it from home. 

Our movies, TV, video games, even phone calls, are all dependent on the internet.  When the movie theaters closed, many films suddenly became avialable on streaming services.  Something that has literally never happened before.

In short, if this crisis had happened in 1992, we would be in FAR worse shape than we are today.  In fact, I know this.  Because I remember a particularly bad snowstorm that year that had us locked down for 4 days.  And absolutely nothing got done.  And we were bored.  Although, I was also in my early 20's and more concerned about running out of beer than anything else.  But still...

The point is, we are actually able to function today.  Many businesses simply changed their working model to allow most things to be done remotely.  And they did it remarkably fast! 

It would not be possible, in any practical sense, to maintain anything close to this level of stability without this communication backbone.  We would have no choice but to be out there coughing and sneezing on each other.  So let us take a moment to thank the nerds of the world that have provided us with this technology that allows us to get through this situation without this becoming another scene from The Walking Dead.


2020-03-28 - Social Distancing - Day 13

We are on our second Saturday

It's getting difficult to tell what day it is.  I remember back in the good old days when we used to watch broadcast TV and you always knew what day it was by what happened to be on that night.  We don't do that any more, unless you watch Better Call Saul.  Which is on Monday's, by the way.

Speaking of TV shows that are not on broadcast TV, CBS decided it was a good time to enact a 30-day trial for their streaming service.  And, look, I have no problem giving them a plug for it right here.  Because once the 30 days is over, I will not be staying on board.  We have to pick and choose which streaming services we will actually keep.  And I've got enough.  But I will be consuming all the new Star Trek I can in those 30 days.

Which brings me to the point...  I've been watching Picard.  Short review:  It's truly awesome!  To say any more would spoil it.  But I will add on that there is a reason that Patrick Stewart is regarded as one of the best actors in human history.  Even though Picard is in serial form (unusual for Star Trek), it is an incredibly well done show.

In this time of sitting around waiting for the world to get back to normal, we have to find whatever silver linings we can.  New video entertainment is clearly pretty high on everyone's list.

2020-03-27 - Social Distancing - Day 12

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The ongoing joke is that, "Yes, there is a light.  It's a train coming at you."  So I'm not going to make that joke.  I actually have something else to say about that.  But first, an update that cannot wait...  Because I'm sure that all of your are just chomping at the bit for the status of the puzzle.  It's finished!

puzzle done

Some 7 days and countless hours of staring at pieces that all look remarkably alike.  In fact many of the pieces WERE alike and even fit in places where they shouldn't.  But we persevered and finished it.  Now, you may notice looking at the picture that there are 2 pieces missing.  That'll drive your OCD right up the wall.  After this picture was taken, my son's girlfriend, unwilling to accept the incomplete image, got out the flashlight and started searching.  She found them both.  Here, we were willing to settle for 998/1000.  She was not.

Now...  What I was saying about the light at the end of the tunnel.  I updated the Stats Page here and added some new things.  Notably a new State list.  But more importantly, there was a spike in the number of cases in the US.  That is something we've been waiting for.  Because that is the first step in finally setting up an end game to this mess.  Hopefully.  Please read more on that stats page.  I don't want to type it all again.

2020-03-26 - Social Distancing - Day 11

The weirdness continues

To say that this is the weirdest time in history is a ridiculous understatement.  If you go out on the town, and at some point you must, you will see that there is still a lot of activity out there.  But everyone is staying away from each other.  In many cases they won't even make eye contact with you.  This may be because people are afraid that looking at someone will get them sick.  But it might also be because people don't want to be shamed for being outside the house.

It might sound like I'm mocking this, but let's be clear - I am not doing that at all.  I firmly believe that staying home and staying away from people is the only way this thing is ever going to get under control.  But it is sometimes unavoidable - you will need to go out for food and stuff.  And let's face it, it's a good idea to patronize your favorite restaurants because we want them to be there when this is over.

We went to pick up a pizza yesterday.  You have to call ahead, and bring exact change.  Then they bring it out to your car.  The most encouraging thing about this is that the place seemed to be doing some pretty good business!  

On to other things...  Last night we initiated game night.  Settlers of Catan was the game of choice.  Back in the days before Fortnite and stuff like that, humans used to play these very elaborate board games.  We got turned on to that one so long ago that I don't even remember.  Settlers is very like Monopoly except that it's fun to play, has definitive rules, the board is different every time, only takes an hour or so to play, and doesn't cause the losers to upend the table in a screaming fit.  Actually, other than dice and cards, it's not like Monopoly at all.

2020-03-25 - Social Distancing - Day 10

We have reached double digits!

No big surprise there.  Will today be the day that we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel?  That's highly unlikely.  So today's biggest decision will be what sweat pants to wear.

My puzzle is almost finished.  It is at some 2/3rds of the way right now!  Of course this means that my biggest fear is that the cats will get into a huge fight and scatter the whole thing across the house.

Well, it's time to start my workday.  I'm headed to the office.  Not that one.  The one in the dining room.

Update:  I happened to be doing some research on the stats for this whole thing.  I'm a data nerd after all.  I decided that I would create a new page as part of this blog to show updated statistics for how things are going.  Notice the new link at the top for Current Statistics.  It is basically Google's data that refreshes once an hour, but simplified, and most importantly, a column showing precentages.  I really don't know why they left that out.  Because numbers are good.  But they don't mean as much without context.  Percentages provide that context.

To illustrate what I mean, miscounting by 1 isn't so bad when you're counting to 1000.  But it's really bad when you only have to count to 2.

2020-03-24 - Social Distancing - Day 9

This blog will be going for longer than 2 weeks

That was an amusing talking point in yesterday's team meeting.  "It looks like this is the norm for the next month or so."  

What do ya say we look at the bright side of things a bit...  Think of all the money we are saving on gas.  Think of much pollution has gone down in the world.

Here is a crazy theory that I just came up with:
What if the Earth is a gigantic super organism, and that organism is threatened by one of its species becoming too many and causing too much damage to its vital systems.  It could create something like antibodies as a means of controlling that species.  Pollution levels and population decrease allowing for more stability across the entire system.

I would compare this to how the human body produces white blood cells to hunt down pathogens in the system.

I'm not saying we are basically victims of the Earth's immune system, but what if we are basically victims of the Earth's immune system?

Whereas I really did just come up with that, I am quite sure I'm not the first to think of it.

2020-03-23 - Social Distancing - Day 8

Happy Monday

Today is the beginning of the fiscal month for me.  Because I actually AM working from home, rather than pretending to.  So I've got a lot to do and it's keeping me busy.  Which is a good thing.  Because if the alternative was to watch TV or read the news, I would probably get very angry very quickly.

I just keep telling myself, "it could be worse."  Because you bet your ass it could.  At least the weather is nice, right?


Oh, c'mon!

Well, back to work for me!  I hope you are all having a good, healthy and safe day.  And I hope you are staying home.

2020-03-22 - Social Distancing - Day 7

IT ain't over yet

In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, "great googily moogily."  So begins Day 7 of "stay in the house".  And now, here in NJ it's been ramped up to, "Stay in the house, or else!!"

If you've been following this blog, you'll be happy to see that I added some helpful links to the top of the page.  If you want to keep up with current news and stats, those are the best places to go.  Whatever you do, don't get your news from Facebook.  And whatever else you do, don't take your advice from the current administration.  Their advice is so bad that it is causing people to overdose on unapproved, do-it-yourself remedies.

Anyway...  I woke up this morning with a really cool idea for a project.  So I created a new demo for my site showing how to have multiple languages on one page.  It's not done yet.  I still need to finish the translations and the tutorial section.  But I thought I'd show that as a work in progress, and to show I'm using my time in a productive manner.

I think that today will be, "clean the hell out of the house" day.  What with having both the kids home for the foreseeable future, things a piling up faster.  But the real point is that we always complain about not having enough time to do stuff around here.  Now we've got nothing but time.

2020-03-21 - Social Distancing - Day 6


Funny thing about Saturdays when you're working from home.  They don't mean quite so much. (Thank you Les Claypool)

I have something to say today about how this situation is being handled.  There seems to be lot of people saying, "If you think Trump is doing a bad job, what do you think he should be doing?"  I have a very simple answer to that question.  And for the record, I would say this about anyone.  This isn't about Trump.  That answer is:

"He should step back and let people who know what they are doing handle it."

"But, blah blah..."

"No...  He has lied to us enough about this.  His dismissive statements and straight up lies at the onset made the situation worse.  No one trusts him.  He cannot fix this because no one trusts him.  He needs to step aside."

Care to weigh in?

Happy Saturday, everyone.  Be safe.

2020-03-20 - Social Distancing - Day 5

Taking a ride

This is the first time this week that I am not posting about working from home, building a puzzle, and listening to the daily reports of what percentage of the world is suffering more than yesterday.  Since all colleges have decided to close for the rest of the school year, I need to take a ride to upstate New York to move my daughter out.

When we grabbed her for spring break, we had hoped and expected to bring her back at the end of the month to continue the rest of the year.  Yeah, not so much.  So we have to drive up one more time just to get her stuff.

At least there are plenty of places to stop if I need to go to the bathroom.  Oh, wait...  No there's not.  They closed all the rest areas. The Hulk

2020-03-19 - Social Distancing - Day 4

Still working from home, of course

Once again, we wake up to, "We still don't have this under control or know how long it will last."  Thanks for that.  I really have to stop myself from writing up how frustrating this is because it seems to me that if you are reading this right now, you are probably looking for a distraction.

I've actually gotten a lot done in the past few days.  Not only with actual work - because I really AM working from home, but work for my personal sites as well.  There is also a 1000 piece puzzle that my son and his girlfriend effectively abandoned a few months ago.  It's taken about a day and a half to get it to where he said, "Yeah, that's about how far we made it."

Puzzle undone

My hope is that we can finish the puzzle before this is done.  My fear is that we will have to buy a few more puzzles.

Hey - here's a fun thing to do.  Let's run a poll to see what your thoughts are on our president's response to this whole mess:
How do you rate Trump's response to the pandemic?

I'll post results once we get some responses...

2020-03-18 - Social Distancing - Day 3

So begins another day

Morning:  I went out to pick up food last night.  It was sad as hell walking into the restaurant, and all the chairs are on the table, the bar is empty.  The only other person there was the bartender.  Understandably upset because it was St Patrick's day, and the place should have been jumpin.

For what it's worth, we intend to continue to order food out.  Partly because it's a good way to hold on to our food in case this gets worse.  But also to continue to patronize the local businesses who are in real danger of losing everything.

That is all for now.

2020-03-17 - Social Distancing - Day 2

Still Working from Home

It's about 9:30AM as I make this post for today - and I'll likely get back to it later.  I keep hoping that we are going to wake up and get some spectacular news that we can finally see the end to this nightmare.  But obviously that hasn't happened yet.  In fact, it seems to be the opposite.

I'm back...  Now that I just told Fark.com about this, hello to all my Fark friends.

Off in the background I'm hearing all the news conferences, one after another telling us all the same stuff we already know.  One thing I didn't know was that George Lucas can do sign language.

sign language

Let's be honest here...  I can't read sign language.  But I'm pretty sure that's the sign for "Use the Force".  That is good advice anytime.


2020-03-16 - Social Distancing - Day 1

Working from Home

Yeah, great fun so far.  It appears I will indeed be working from home for the next 2 weeks at the very least.  This is upsetting to me because I actually like going into the office.

Whether upsetting or not, I will be setting up camp here in the house.

In the meantime, as of 8:00PM all businesses like bars, movies, and gyms are closing until further notice.  And Idris Elba has tested positive!  C'mon Covid-19.  That's just wrong.

Anyway...  I actually did get a lot of work done today.  I went and got one of my monitors from my desk in the office because the little laptop screen might be fine for 1 day, but 2 weeks?!  Nooooo... 

I also got this blog working.  Much of the code for this was already written.  I just repurposed it for this thing.  It's good to be a nerd. Nerd