• Carcavelos Beach is busy today

    Carcavelos Beach on 18 April 2021

  • Wet weather today. Was originally planning to take a day trip out to Sintra but postponed it.

  • As a lifelong Trekkie, I want to believe.

    Astronomers find 40 Eridani A aka planet Vulcan

  • My order of some Portuguese craft beers from DoisCorvos arrived yesterday, just in time for some sampling this weekend.

  • Okay, let’s try making hot cross buns today.

    it was going so well…

    then, disaster! 😱 😭

  • I’ve pretty much done this with Facebook now, I should start doing a bit of pruning of Instagram and Twitter too.

    Deleting tweets and other social media content · Jesse Squires

  • One year of COVID-19 Hell

    In mid-February 2020, it was just a typical day at work. There was some news a colleague had brought up over lunch that a “novel coronavirus” had been discovered in China and there were outbreaks in Seattle, but not in San Francisco yet. The office building where we worked had put out a hand sanitiser stand in the main lobby but otherwise nothing else was any different from usual.

    Anthony had been scheduled for hip-replacement surgery on 27 February, and I had already spoken to my manager about taking a few days off work with a few weeks of working-from-home after that. We had been planning to be staying home for a while, so we had done a big grocery shop, and cooked big meals to be frozen so that we had ample easy meals while Anthony was recovering at home post-op. This turned out to be prescient to what was to come later.

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    On the day of surgery, I went with him to the hospital and stayed all day. Visitors were still allowed but the hallways and waiting rooms were all relatively empty. Everybody was diligently using hand sanitiser after touching anything. The operation went well and Anthony got discharged after 2 nights in hospital.

    In the following week, the news of this new virus started getting alarming. It was probably on Wednesday or Thursday morning that Anthony asked me to go to Whole Foods that very day, to stock up on non-perishable foods and some other essential groceries. Even though it was mid-day in the middle of the week, the supermarket was busy, and shelves were already thinning out and store employees were scrambling to restock whatever they could. It was probably the most stressful shopping trip in my entire life.

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    On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared that the epidemic had become a pandemic, but the CDC and Trump administration refused to impose any restrictions or guidelines. California took the lead in imposing some restrictions to try to curtail the spread of the disease. Some restaurants and cafés had started closing or shifting to takeaway and deliveries. At the time, the CDC was not recommending wearing masks, only hand-washing, alcohol-based hand sanitiser and social distancing.

    I already made a dinner booking for Anthony’s birthday on Sunday, 15 March 2020 at Mr. Jiu’s in SF Chinatown. I checked with the restaurant, and they were still open and honouring reservations, but have adjusted the dining room layout to allow for more space between customers. We considered his post-op mobility and the pandemic situation, and decided to go ahead as it was a special occasion. We had no idea (same as everybody else) as to what was going to happen in the coming weeks or months. It was a subdued atmosphere at the restaurant. I think most people, like us, suspected it would be their last meal out for a while.

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    The next day, the City of San Francisco announced that from midnight 17 March, all residents of SF City and County are to shelter at home, with all bars, restaurants, most retail outlets and offices to close. That was The Moment when we knew shit was getting bad. Little did we know that this three week order would extend through the rest of 2020, and COVID-19 would continue to rage on across the world a year later.

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    The trip back to Australia in October to December was a brief but much welcome (and needed) respite, where things almost felt normal again. Our first restaurant meal in Sydney, indoors and seated, felt very, very weird indeed, after 7 months of only home-cooked meals and takeaway or deliveries. While walking around on Oxford St, Newtown on a Saturday night, I even felt a little claustrophobic with hardly any room on the footpath to stay 1.5 m apart from everybody else.

    Upon arriving in Portugal, we had 2 weeks of relative freedom, similar to Australia, even though there was a much higher number of cases. But this was short lived, as rapidly rising case rates due the loosening of restrictions over Christmas and New Year, combined with the new, more infectious B.1.1.7 strain of SARS-CoV-2, the whole country went into lockdown again on 15 January. This is after being lauded for handling the first wave of infections well in 2020. It’s now just over two months of us getting very familiar with the inside of our apartment, but one year on, we’re better prepared and better informed, so it’s not as scary, and with effective vaccines being rolled out, there is light at the end of the tunnel now, even if it is months or even years away from when things can get back to ‘normal’ again.

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    Yesterday, we took the train into Lisbon as we had a few errands to do, but also to spend the day walking around the city. It’s the first time since we were last here on holiday in 2019. We had made a few trips into the city a few times prior since moving here, but there were strictly to get stuff done then back home. While technically the country is still under lockdown, the PM has announced a gradual re-opening plan and daily new cases are now below 600, which is well below even when we arrived in January.

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    The weather was brilliant, and it was quite a stark difference seeing the city now, compared to September 2019, revisiting some of the same locations we had previously been. With the complete absence of tourists, and hardly any people out and about, everything seemed calm, quiet, and peaceful, even in the middle of the city.

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    We got a takeaway pizza and sat at one of the parks that overlooked the city and the Tagus river. It was just bliss. We wandered through side and back streets with our cameras, discovering interesting architecture, murals and hidden plazas. We took some photos. To finish off the day, we ordered some traditional Portuguese food from a highly regarded taberna (“tavern”) to take back home (since restaurants are still closed for dine-in customers) which we thoroughly enjoyed with a fine drop of Portuguese white wine. It was a perfect day out.

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    What a year this has been, but it’s not over yet. Some other European countries are now battling their third wave of infections, and have closed their borders. People are still suffering and dying around the world. The vaccination rollout has been slower than expected due to many issues. We all still need to stay diligent and not lose hope or patience. Stay safe and stay strong, we will get through this.

    Full album with more photos

  • Dramatic sky with dark rain clouds rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Buying an ultrawide monitor in 2021

    Anthony and I have been thinking about getting new monitors for our new WFH reality. While we have 2x 4K monitors (a 24” Dell and a 21” LG Ultrafine) in a shipping container on the way to Lisbon, we have both independently concluded that we wanted ultra wide 21:9 aspect ratio monitors. This has led into several weeks of research into what’s available out there and the rabbit-hole of specs and stats. Buying a computer monitor isn’t so straightforward anymore. There are many more brands out there (though most of them use the same panels from either Samsung or LG) and different product lines optimised for gaming, colour accuracy, or basic office work. Good luck in finding a monitor that can do more than one thing well!

    Then there’s the absolute mess of connectivity standards. That’s something we’re still trying to wrap our heads around. Apparently not all monitors can do all resolutions, refresh rates, colour bit rates on all their supported ports. It all depends on your computer (or GPU) and cable, be it HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB-C and various versions thereof.

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    Last night I found this post on Startech’s blog (they sell cables, adapters and docks) on various display technologies, which is a few years old now but it still helps clear some of the confusion on the connectivity types, and more specific detail on Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C DisplayPort Alt Mode. USB-C has really muddied the waters as to what signal it’s actually carrying and what works and what doesn’t when you plug things in.

    We both use Macs but I’d also like to plug in the new monitor to my PC for a bit of occasional gaming, so we want to make sure the monitors (and cables) we buy will work properly.

  • Taken a bit of time but I’m getting the hang of this new machine and grinder, and getting pretty decent crema on my espresso shots now

  • Trying some (hopefully) fab Portuguese craft beer

  • Nice day out for a walk along Carcavelos Beach

  • Praia de Carcavelos (Cascais) was open this evening, with people surfing, and some walking on the beach

  • Yesterday a tree got uprooted from the rain and strong wind over the weekend which luckily fell on the nature reserve side and not on the road, but at some point last night or this morning someone (presumably the council) cleared it from blocking the bike path and chopped it up, but did not remove it. I’ve been watching in bemusement all day as people stop by to pick up the logs and branches, which I guess they are using as firewood? 6AC8E0DE-89D5-4E18-B027-BA8C980A3C08.jpg

  • Espresso machines

    Our cranberry-red Breville espresso machine served us well in San Francisco. Sadly, we had to sell it because it wouldn’t work with the 230V power in Portugal.

    I’ve had the Wacaco Nanopresso for a few years, and have taken it on a few trips away. It proved to be invaluable when we returned to Australia in October last year for the 2 weeks in quarantine and the following 2.5 months we spent travelling around NSW.

    Upon arrival in Portugal, I shopped around and found a new espresso machine. The one I eventually picked was the latest revision of the VBM (Vibiemme) Domobar Junior, but it had been out of stock everywhere. So in the meantime, we got our daily caffeine fix from the Delta Q pod coffee machine (like a Portuguese Nespresso) that came with our furnished rental apartment, and continued to use the Nanopresso when I ordered some locally roasted coffee beans. Until it finally broke.

    I checked the online retailer I have been keeping my eye on, and the timing couldn’t be more impeccable that the VBM was back in stock. Not the exact model I was looking to get, but a slightly more expensive one, but I had already decided that this would be a long-term investment.

    This is first time I’ve had an espresso machine with a E61 group head (the type you’d find on commercial espresso machines in cafés). There’s a bit of a learning curve to using it compared to the push-button Breville.

    And it’s SO shiny.

  • A cute castle in Estoril

  • Our @wacaco_ltd Nanopresso broke this morning 😭 This has been our constant companion for the past 4.5 months, including time in quarantine and various Airbnb’s in places where decent coffee has been difficult/impossible to find. 1EC4DE54-6D45-496A-AFAC-7EFEDF13B11B.jpg

  • Just tried ginjinha (Portuguese cherry liqueur) for the first time tonight and it tastes incredible.

  • This piece by Cory Doctorow on what’s been going on with r/wallstreetbets is worth a read.

    Once again if something is free, you’re not the customer you’re the product being sold.

    pluralistic.net/2021/01/2…

  • The best web browser is the one you have with you

    The unreasonable effectiveness of simple HTML – Terence Eden’s Blog

  • Good tips on how to de-Google-ize and some alternatives to their services. I use Fastmail for email and have been pretty happy with them

    Kira McLean - What I Use Now Instead Of Google

  • Our cats Merry and Pippin are just off the coast of Iceland right now. Yes I’m tracking their flights, what of it? 😀 #catsonaplane

  • Went into Lisbon for some errands before tomorrow’s lockdown and wandered around the city for a bit

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