I am the Costco cart master

Saturday afternoon I made my weekend trip to Costco. Walking into the store, I pulled a shopping cart from the stack as one of the employees – a young kid – struggled with a full stack of carts pulled from the cart corrals.

As I was walking out of the store a little later, the same kid was struggling in the hot sun to fetch another stack of carts. The kid was really busting his ass. I unloaded my cart and returned it to the cart corral, where my OCD kicked in yet again.

The shitty part-time job I had in high school at the Dart Drug in Sugarland Plaza in Sterling, Virginia taught me a lot about working in retail. I will forever remember how to run a register and I will forever remember how to track down errant shopping carts. Needless to say, when I’m at Costco or other stores with carts, I can’t help but want to put them away the right way. It’s a combination of my engineering mindset, a dash of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder thrown in, and a tip of the hat to the young, hard-working store employee I once was.

Thus, on Saturday I could not just carelessly shove my cart into the corral. A full string of carts were parked in the middle of the corral, mostly stacked. I added my cart to the end and then took a moment to shove the whole stack to one side, making room for twice as many new carts to be added. It’s just what I do.

Just as I tamed the cart corral and was walking away, I heard a shout from across the parking lot. The young Costco kid was standing up from the shelter of the store’s shadow and was cupping his mouth and looking at me.

“THANK YOU, SIR!!” he bellowed across the lot with a smile.

We gotta look out for each other. I gave him a big smile and a thumbs up as I walked away.

COVID-free again

Well, I am fully on the other side of my very first COVID infection. I was still testing positive on Monday morning, though I went into the office (masked) for a meeting with my manager. By Wednesday I tested negative, which would have been 11 days after being infected at EncounterQuest. According to the science stories I posted recently, a fully-vaccinated COVID patient such as myself is normally only contagious for an average of four days. Almost no one is contagious after 8-11 days from symptom onset.

I had blocked off my work week to work from home with the goal of not spreading this to my colleagues. Though I am feeling much better, I have opted to continue working from home this week.

So, was COVID fun? Not really. I was really, really tired the first two days of symptom onset. My brain felt fried all last Tuesday night and I was sweating at night, pulse racing as my body responded. Last Wednesday I began taking Paxlovid and my energy quickly returned (though the side effects of diarrhea and a bitter taste in my mouth were not fun). By the end of last week, Kelly and I were comfortable with not masking around each other.

Fortunately, there was no real pain. No fever. I was in a stupor for the first few days but once I was sleeping better (Paxlovid?) my brain function began to return. And I never lost my sense of taste or smell (though the bitter taste was a temporary add-on).

Good to be back to the land of the living again!

COVID finally caught me

COVID positive

Well, my remarkable streak of avoiding COVID came to an end this week as I finally tested positive Tuesday morning. It seems I brought it home as a souvenir from this weekend’s EncounterQuest event. Four years of successfully avoiding it came to an end.

The biggest clue was the fatigue I got Monday afternoon, that and the stomach cramps that hit me all day. I finished my work day and fell asleep on the couch, conking out by 6 PM just wiped. I went to bed early Monday night (by 8:30) and felt better in the morning. Kelly noticed my cough and suggested I test for COVID. I laughed at this suggestion but tested anyway and was flabbergasted to see it come back positive. At that point we both masked up and the COVID routine began in earnest. I wrote my VA doc and by 2 PM I had a dose of Paxlovid waiting for me at the Durham VA.

There were some earlier, subtle clues that I had caught something. Monday night as I was trying to sleep I had quite the runny nose. I chalked this up to having mowed the yard Sunday without a face mask, inhaling a bunch of dust and grass. I also had aching joints Monday, making it a little challenging to go up and down stairs. And there was a bit of dizziness Monday, too, as I stumbled around the kitchen making breakfast.
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EncounterQuest 2024

I spent part of my weekend attending the second annual EncounterQuest 2024 in Rockingham, NC this weekend. It is a one-day festival focusing on Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Mothman, and other cryptids. This year it even had a UFO aspect, with the speaker addition of LCDR Alex Dietrich, one of the F/A-18 pilots who witnessed the “TicTac UFO” in November 2004. I don’t know what to make of Bigfoot but having seen Dietrich on TV, advocating for less stigma in reporting UFOs, I wanted to hear what she had to say.

The weekend began Friday afternoon with a plaster casting class (as mentioned in the last post), where participants learned how to properly pour plaster of Paris into any Bigfoot footprints they might find out in the woods. Of course, the plaster could be used to cast prints of other cool and interesting critters so one does not have to wait for the once-in-a-lifetime Bigfoot encounter to have fun with the plaster. We practiced by stepping into plastic bins filled with soil and sand, and then followed this with a layer of plaster, learning the importance of pouring slowly and very close to the print itself. The local journalists got some photos of me making my print, which was a nice surprise.

Just as the print-making was wrapping up a thunderstorm blew in. We moved ourselves and our still-setting prints under the porch roof. Dietrich, who cheerfully introduced herself as Alex, was interviewing participants as part of a new effort she’s involved in to talk to people who go to these types of events. I said hello and before I knew it I was recounting my UFO and ET stories into her microphone.
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PHOTOS: EncounterQuest holds Bigfoot track casting workshop at Rockingham’s Hinson Lake – The Richmond Observer

I had some fun playing with plaster of Paris this weekend at the EncounterQuest convention in Rockingham, NC. We were learning how to cast prints using the plaster so that – should ever come across Bigfoot tracks – we can properly capture them. I don’t know much about Bigfoot but I have always wanted to work more with plaster so why not?

ROCKINGHAM — Several attendees of EncounterQuest had the opportunity to learn how to cast footprints and meet the speakers on Friday evening prior to Saturday’s conference.

Jay Wolber, co-host of the “Cryptids of the Corn” podcast led the plaster casting workshop at the Hinson Lake Rotary Lodge. Wolber was joined by researcher Jake Dressel, of Dayton, Ohio, who was filling in for podcast partner Justin England.

While going over the casting procedure, Dr. Jeff Meldrum — professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University, who has a collection of more than 300 suspected sasquatch prints — noted that his book, “Sasquatch Field Guide,” has illustrated step-by-step instructions for casting.

Following the instructional portion of the workshop, the crowd moved outside to practice casting their own footprints in soil or sand.

Source: PHOTOS: EncounterQuest holds Bigfoot track casting workshop at Rockingham’s Hinson Lake – The Richmond Observer

Total solar eclipse, part I

Back in the summer of 2017, the Turner family was happily enjoying our summer vacation in Idaho and Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The scenery was unforgettable, of course, but there was one sight we could have seen but opted to skip, and that is the totality of the 2017 eclipse. Yes, we donned eclipse glasses and enjoyed seeing the majority of sun disappear but this pales in comparison to actually being in the full shadow of the moon like in totality. Foolish me thought there was only a slight difference in awesomeness but after hearing others’ accounts I knew we’d made a mistake. I made it a mission to get to totality for the next North American total eclipse in April 2024.

I frequented eclipse-oriented websites and Facebook groups, planning out where I wanted to see it. I considered renting a mobile home to ensure lodging. The hoops that needed to be jumped through seemed extensive, and I thought a ton of planning needed to be put into it. Still, life got in the way and rather than having everything lined up (ha!) in October 2023, I put it off until after New Year’s to make our plans.
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Out of control driver

The last solar eclipse in America until 2045 is happening tomorrow and Kelly and I decided to take a road trip out west to see it. We had just left the airport in St. Louis today when I saw a car ahead of us driving erratically. It couldn’t keep in its lane and its hazard lights were flashing. I gave it a wide berth as we both navigated the rain-slick highway road. The driver swerved one more time, plowed through a large puddle of water and then hydroplaned into the left wall, leaving its smashed bumper in the road.

I had slowed to a stop by now and didn’t know what to do. We inched up on it as traffic slowed behind us. It was a white sedan, fairly new looking up until the crash, but with pitch black window tinting. As we neared the car, I was surprised to see the driver still stepping on the gas. The car was now facing in our direction in the left lane and the rear tires were squealing against the wet pavement!

The driver turned the car back into the direction of traffic and then cut across the other lanes, leaving a good chunk of the car’s front end in the highway as it exited to the right.

Was the driver having a medical emergency? Was he or she drunk or high? I really don’t know. I might have stopped and checked on the driver had it not been for the dark windows – I just don’t know what I’d have been getting into.

Effortless day

Today felt like an effortless day. I’ve been on a winning streak basically since I woke up. Right after I got out of bed, something told me that today would be somehow different, better. It did not disappoint.

I had a great night of sleep with lots of dreaming. Then when I awoke, I opted to skip my usual PT or workout and just eat breakfast. Then it was off to work as usual. I got in and immediately got going on some challenging work I’ve been figuring out over the past week or so. Without much thinking about them, the answers came to me and I did exactly what I needed to do to solve them.

I came home and finished up my work day, then turned my attention to a personal software project that had been hanging around. For months I’d been trying to get this software to work. When I couldn’t figure out I’d shelve it for a few months and there it languished. Tonight, I zeroed in on the issue and had it working for the first time in probably a year. Again, didn’t think about it – just did it.

I’ve felt great all day and my mind has been working very well. I don’t know what it takes to maintain this kind of effortless living but I’ll sure take it any day!

Old-fashioned management is failing to reverse the productivity slump. It’s time to ‘grownupify’ work | Fortune

This is spot on. If you don’t trust your team to do its work remotely, you don’t trust your team.

We’ve created an endless spiral of elementary school practices at work. We monitor employees by hours or keystrokes or lines of code. They then “produce” to meet the expected hours or keystrokes or lines of code. And the cycle continues, with employers trying to continually up the target. This makes sense on the surface–but to employees who are already burnt out, it becomes another game of checking boxes rather than a commitment to doing more, better work.

Source: Old-fashioned management is failing to reverse the productivity slump. It’s time to ‘grownupify’ work | Fortune

Quiet house

The kids have been home from college for the last few weeks on their holiday breaks. It has been wonderful having them home again, with lots of catching up, games, hikes, jokes, and just hanging out. I know how my parents felt when I returned home back in my college/military days. There’s a special comfort knowing they’re close by. I would walk by their doors in the morning (and sometimes the afternoon), smiling at the knowledge that they were home.

The past few days have been tougher, sending them back to their studies. Hallie packed and left on Friday, bound not for Chapel Hill but for a semester interning in DC. She’s excited to be starting a new adventure and Kelly and I are both excited for her and proud of her.

We had most of the rest of the weekend with Travis, though he also packed up this morning and I drove him at 10 AM to meet his carpool buddy for the trip back to Asheville. He is doing well in his studies and the interests he has picked up.

Now it’s just Kelly, me, and the dogs, and the quiet is settling in. I’ll miss the lights left on, the dishes strewn around the kitchen, the constant loads of laundry, and even the late night kitchen raids. Those things that once annoyed me now bring me comfort. It’s a reminder of the routine we’ve had for so long.

I know our jobs as parents are to get them out on their own, and we’re mighty damn close to having done that. Yet it’s still good to be remembered and to feel needed. I guess the beauty in the building of self-sufficiency is when they come back even when they don’t really have to. I’m already looking forward to our future visits.