beautiful day out on the Potomac
Thursday, April 14 2022
location: upper floor, Apartment [REDACTED], East Watergate Building, Washington, DC
I awoke early this morning and went down to the dining room at about 6:30, where Gretchen's father was puttering around anxiously as he tends to do. He'd already made a pot of coffee. I helped him wrestle a completely upholstered table (he thought it was maybe from Turkey) into the breakfast nook of the kitchen, where it will eventually hold the matzo and other things needed for the Pesach that will be happening here in this apartment at the Watergate. At some point I told him about all the tricky things I've had to do at the cabin, including making my own temperature probes and figuring out how to control the generator with a thermostat. I also explained the tricky things I have left to do, such as figuring out how to automatically reboot a WiFi hotspot when it enters a condition that requires human intervention.
Eventually my workday began and I even joined the morning scrum, though for some reason I had no access to Jira on my work-issued laptop. ("Maybe you've accidentally been fired," Joe the lead developer suggested helpfully. "That thought occurred to me," I agreed.)
In the mid morning, the four members of Gretchen's brother's family arrived from Arkansas. They're all pretty much the same as they were, except my nephew has filled out a bit and isn't so skinny anymore, particularly in his face. And his sister has let her hair turn into an unruly Jewfro that has her looking a bit like Joey Ramone (a leather jacket and perhaps a prosthetic adam's apple would easily complete the look if it were Halloween).
What followed then was a light breakfast of toast and fruit (I'd already had half of last night's reuben for breakfast) as our nephew gave what felt like a press conference about his various college options. He seemed to like a school in Indiana, but his father, ever the helicopter, seemed to be steering him towards a school in Oregon, where the family is moving to soon to escape the tiresome redstatedness of Arkansas. I was really that interested in my own college choice when I made it back in 1986, so you can imagine how tiresome I found all this. So I mostly kept quiet except to inject the occasional desperately-needed humor.
This afternoon while Gretchen was up in Silver Spring visiting her childhood friend Dina (who'd just flown in with her family from Tel Aviv), I mostly sat out on the apartment's west-facing balcony with my laptop, half-heartedly working. But it was hard to work, what with the beautiful weather and the many things to see (both in other windows on my computer and out on the Potomac. I saw several large black birds down there, so I had to go fetch binoculars to get a closer look. (I'm pretty sure they were cormorants.) There were also several rowing teams out there practicing and periodically a bright red Potomac Water Taxi would steam past. Meanwhile, planes descending from the north over the river on their way to land at National Airport were coming in at a rate of one every few minutes. From my angle, most of them would quickly disappear behind Watergate West. But a few were significantly higher than that on approach and I wondered if they would have to circle the area and try again.
Also paid attention to the wildlife interacting with the Watergate's many balconies. The most visible of these appeared to be individual carpenter bees interested in building nests in the wooden deck structures people had added. But there were also a good number of birds, particularly crows, English sparrows, and pigeons. Many of these seemed to be making the rounds between apartments they knew about, in some cases seemingly unthreatened by the people visible. For such a gorgeous day, though, there were surprisingly few people evident. Sure, it was a Thursday, but many of the people in the Watergate are retired or can work from home in these times of pestilence.
The work I was having trouble focusing on was researching how best to maintain a developement environment when working with containerized web services. I was having amnesia remembering how it was that I'd set up the one successful Fargate container I'd deployed. Had I used the web-based AWS console? Had a followed a series of steps at the command line? Eventually I figured out that I'd done it all from within the Visual Studio AWS module. But then that meant that if I changed it to deploy somewhere else, I needed to take careful notes of the changes I make to them in order to deploy to a development container so I could revert back to them when I eventually need to deploy to a live container again.
As I worked, I was drinking kratom tea, which seemed to help overcome (to a small extent) the tediousness of the research. But it also intensified the pleasantness of the amazing weather.
I took plenty of breaks to socialize with the family, though most of them were wiped out from sitting in an airplane for three or four hours and were napping all over the living room. At one point Gretchen's father was in the kitchen holding forth about the amazing innvoations of Ikea to me and my college-bound nephew. Those innovations include the flat-pack and you-get-what-you-get uniformity.
Late in the afternoon, clouds rolled in, and Gretchen got caught in a downpour on her walk back from the Metro station. At some point my sister-in-law and her two kids started eating a light lupper of lentil soup, and so I had some too.
Later Gretchen and the kids were introducing each other to musicians that they liked. These were mostly, as it happened, bands that featured mandolins and had vocalists who like to sing with plenty of echo. (Though I don't think Bella White, Gretchen's biggest discovery, sings with much if any echo.)
For dinner, all of us walked to Flower Child, the heathy-eating café where Gretchen and I had dined with Andrea back in December. Last time I'd gotten the Thai Dye wrap and been a little disappointed. But when I looked at the menu today, that really was the only thing on it that looked even mildly good. So I ordered another one. Fortunately, Flower Child also has good beer on tap. Unfortunately, the specific IPA I got this evening was a bit watery and bland. (I was the only one in our entourage drinking alcohol, of course.) Unusually, matters of interest to me dominated dinner discussion (as opposed to tedious talk of college selection or food preparation). It all started when I mentioned to Gretchen's brother that I would be asking Dina's brother Daniel about Elizabeth Holmes, since Daniel is
basically a Silicon Valley biomedical gearhead. But then Gretchen's brother said that he himself had met Elizabeth Holmes at a TED or TEDx conference in 2014. He said he'd encountered her at a table where she was demonstrating one of her pinprick blood testing machines. She ran the test on him, claiming that it would tell him his cholesterol level and several other things. But then after the machine ran, she said that he'd been unlucky and his particular test result was "inconclusive." This led to a wider discussion of first Theranos and then scammers in general, such as the Anna from Inventing Anna (which out sister-in-law has also been watching).
On the walk back to the Watergate, the others all charged ahead at their usual brisk pace, but Gretchen's mother, who now walks with two canes, was proceeding slowly and needing to take breaks. I felt bad, and so did my niece, so we lagged behind and walked with her. The easiest stroll discussion for such a leisurely pace centered on plant identification. I was noticing all the willow oaks (which I've only ever seen in the greater DC area), though there was also some sort of red oak, and Gretchen's mother knew about the existence of the red and white oak groups and how you can distinguish them because the former have little spikes at the tips of their leaves and the latter do not.
Back at the Watergate, there was some eating of sherbet and cake and then our nephew and Gretchen's brother took turns plinking away at the piano. I was the first who went off to bed. I think Gretchen stayed up with our niece watching some movie.
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