Grad Photo Day for Miranda

The title says it all, really. We haven’t seen them, because they won’t get to us for a couple of weeks. Miranda says there were lots of poses, some with the cap and gown and some without.

Another milepost along the road of life, I say.

And last night Ian, Tammy and I watched the “open house” video from Bowness High School, where Ian will be attending next year: YouTube video

Ian’s going to start high school just as Miranda finishes up at Sir Winston Churchill.

Negative, Captain.

On Friday Miranda’s school handed out the first COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits to each student. There was no word on whether they’ll get a second one or when. In fact, the amount of information was slim. Her homeroom teacher recommended they test themselves twice a week. They also got masks, but not the N95 variety. We’re still waiting on Ian’s school to send him home with a kit and masks.
Today we decided to do a test on each of them since they are going to be the likely vectors of the disease by being on-site at school. I read the instruction card yesterday and the video today. Miranda was first. I was a little nervous because she has a tendency to sneeze when anything touches her nose. We managed to get through her first nostril before she started sneezing and then she managed to hold off with the second nostril until I was removing it. (She sneezed as it was being removed and nearly shot it out of my hand.) ๐Ÿคฃ While we waited the requisite 15 minutes, I swabbed Ian. He wasn’t as bad, but he did have a sneeze at the end.
The results: both negative. Yay! We will test them again on Wednesday.

Test 1

Synology

Yet another step towards making the work from home permanent, or just improving things in a multiple-computer family?

Synology is a brand that makes Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. What that means is instead of designating a computer as a “server” with lots of disks, you get a headless box and attach it to the network. It’s made to have maximum storage capacity and reliability, among other features. I have had this “on my list” for a while, but they are expensive to get started. Once you have one, expanding storage is relatively cheap.

The one that Tammy picked up for me today from Memory Express is the Synology DS920+, with two 6 terabyte drives, and four bays in total. I’m still in the process of configuring it, but so far, so good. I followed along with this video, as you can see in the picture.

The black box to the left of the monitor.

This should allow me to:

  • Eliminate the myriad of USB external drives being used for Time Machine backups. There are at least six in this house right now.
  • Centralize the iTunes media on redundant storage so one disk crash won’t lose our entire collection.
  • Potentially shift the family photos as well, but that’s not certain.
  • Other things like the pi-hole Internet filter.

Time will tell if it’s worth it. Should be a tank, it’s built to be one.

Updated

24 hours in and so far, so good. Accomplished:

  1. Installed hard disks and did basic configuration including snapshots
  2. Set up shared folders for family, user home folders and Time Machine
  3. User accounts for everybody
  4. Tammy, Ian and myself set up with Time Machine (Miranda will be done when she’s not at work)
  5. Copied iTunes library and re-pointed Tammy’s TV app at it.
  6. Added the old Seagate 6 TB drive (“Jove”) that was hosting our media into the NAS.
  7. Configured Docker to run Pi-hole

I’m really happy right now. In about 24 hours the new (old) drive will be fully integrated. The only thing that I didn’t think worked out was the iTunes Server package. It didn’t do a very good job at all, so I reverted the system back to being dependent on the Mac mini in the dining room. The files are on the NAS now, though.

Still lots to dig into and discover. I haven’t even touched the photos yet.

Updated Again – Sunday the 16th

The process of adding the third hard drive to the Synology and then scrubbing the data just finished up about an hour ago. I was surprised at how long it took to do that process, but now it’s done. I supposed it makes sense, given that the NAS had to move 3.2 TB of data around when shifting from essentially RAID 1 to RAID 5 (even though it’s SHR-1, the idea’s the same). Now there’s 10.5 TB of storage, with 3.2 used. That should be enough for a while. ๐Ÿ˜œ

Next up: figuring out if copying the photos library to Synology Photos makes sense.

New Chair

After I fixed my old chair, it lasted another nineteen months. Truly, I fixed it twice more but today Ian yanked on the back a little too roughly when vacuuming downstairs. The bailing wire and spit holding it together failed and there wasn’t enough remaining to fix it again.

I did a bit of research, and figured that I would look at the chairs at Source Office Furniture. It’s not the cheapest way to get a chair, but they were reasonable and had a few different types of chair available.

I settled on the Coolmesh Pro High-Back Executive chair with the optional headrest. I was skeptical of the headrest, but after trying it out I liked it. The new one is considerably cheaper than what I paid back in 1996: about $400 compared to $600 back in 1996. That’s $1,062 in today’s dollars.

It’s a lot more comfortable than the old chair. In truth, I’d been considering replacing it, especially with the back issues that I had in December. Nevertheless, I’m sorry to see the old chair go.

We’ll see if this one lasts 25 years like the old one.

Triple Shot

Perhaps said like Francesco in Cars 2.

I got my booster this afternoon at Rexall. Tammy’s scheduled for tomorrow and Miranda next week. It was busy there (expected) and I was seen to 15 minutes late, but whatever. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

We’ll see what side effects I get this time. This was my third different vaccine. The first was AstraZeneca, the second was Pfizer and now Moderna. Ding ding ding! I got all three!

Updated

Now Tammy and Miranda have their booster shots, too.

Growth Chart

It’s been a while, but with Ian shooting up lately, I thought I would update the spreadsheet with the kids’ heights in it. Miranda’s holding steady at 5’3″… I don’t think she’ll get any taller. Ian’s still sprouting and is 5’7″ now. Only time will tell where he ends up. I’m sure the “he’s my little brother” jokes will write themselves for Miranda for decades.

But the cool thing is that before Mom and Dad sold the house on Cedarcrest, I measured all of the lines on the wall for Stephanie and myself as well. So I am presenting a chart with a couple of generations of Biickerts:

Click on the image for a closer look

1978 was the oldest mark on the wall.

Happy 18th Birthday, Miranda!

Today our little girl legally becomes and adult in Alberta.

As I said in our card to her: “It doesnโ€™t seem real to us that youโ€™re already an adult. Not all that long ago you were a little crying ball in our arms.” And now she’s an adult. Wow!

Since we’re still following the COVID precautions, there was no party again this year. (Some year we will hold a birthday party for her in the summer.) Instead, it was up to her how she wanted to celebrate.

She had decided weeks ago that she didn’t want a cake, but a selection of cookies and bars plus some kind of Japanese food for her main meal. She put in her sweets wishlist:

  • Meringues
  • Madelines
  • Peppermint Mocha cookies
  • Banana cheesecake bars

The day started pretty early as we all stayed up to ring in the new year. She had a glass of sangria with us before going to bed. Then it was time for us to get to work decorating. It was a little difficult to do it in complete secrecy. I had gotten a series of stand up dinosaurs to put on the floor outside her bedroom door as well as some streamers to go around it and her presents hanging from the door frame. I got a balloon bouquet with a dinosaur theme and 18th birthday – these were going to be put outside her door as well, but Murph thought they were a little too interesting. ๐Ÿ˜„ There was also a banner in the dining room.

Our sleep was very interrupted with Alexa deciding to turn on Simon’s bedside lamp twice and his phone lighting up twice, so 7 a.m. came too early. We went downstairs and set up the cards and the balloons before I put together the blin batter for breakfast. She requested blin stuffed with ground pork or fruit and whipped cream for her breakfast.

We spoke to Baba and Grandpa at 9.00 and then Simon and I did our first virtual club ride of the year at 10.00. After that we had take out from Edo and started The Royal Tenenbaums, the first of many movies in her Wes Anderson movie-a-thon. Then came the time for her “cake”. You can’t see it clearly, but the candles said Happy 18 Birthday:

singing Happy Birthday

Throughout the afternoon, we snacked on cookies, popcorn, tea, and adult beverages (banana daiquiris and piรฑa coladas – we didn’t get to fuzzy navels this time) while watching The French Dispatch and The Grand Budapest Hotel. We took mini-breaks in between – including this one. We’re gearing up for the final movie: The Darjeeling Limited.

It has been a very relaxed, but pleasant birthday thus far. As soon as I post this, we’ll be watching the final movie and who knows after that.

Happy 18th Birthday Miranda! We love you so much! ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’œโค๏ธ๐Ÿงก

2021 Retrospective

I ended the 2020 Retrospective like this:

It was not a bad year for us, although there still is a lot to be concerned about both globally and locally in 2021. Time to gird our loins and prepare for whatever will come.

I don’t know that I would have predicted that 2021 was the year of people perpetually trying prematurely to get back to normal. Whatever normal is, anyways. The kids were back in school, but we had scares. Emails from the school about COVID cases became a regular occurrence. Both Ian and Tammy got to experience getting tested. Twice. And then subsequent waves meant in-person schooling was on and off. Waiting to be vaccinated was hard, like the last few kilometres of a very long ride. But then Dad got his first shot. And then Tammy and I got our first, then the kids got theirs and we got our second shots. Maybe that might have been the light at the end of the tunnel, but for one reason or another, we find the pandemic dragging on. We got our wallet cards and then QR codes, and now we’re scheduled for booster shots in January. They will probably be annual shots from now on, like the flu shot.

Amid all that, life went on. Today, Miranda is on the cusp of adulthood, but she started 2021 by turning 17. She has been head-down with her International Baccalaureate and so her usual output of art and other things was smaller this year. COVID put a damper on her volunteering, but she managed to do something unprecedented: she got me to donate blood. She had been applying for jobs before the pandemic, and during the summer lull managed to get her first job at Abbey’s. That was a fun connection: Tammy spotted the job opening online because Abbey’s became a sponsor of the bike club in 2021. Miranda’s now halfway through grade 12, and has received one acceptance to a university so far. 2022 should be a big year for her. Maybe 2022 will see cousin Zachary start post-secondary school, too, after graduating this year. Congratulations, Zachary!

Looking back at Ian’s 2021, I think he might have felt somewhat persecuted. He had to isolate himself twice and get tested twice for COVID exposures at school. He did make the most of it, but it was hard on him and on us. Ian has grown this year, both in maturity but especially in height. We’ll measure him tomorrow, but he’s really shot up. He had a final piano recital in the heat of the summer (again, a half-assed attempt to get back to normal). And a tooth had to come out before braces went on again. But it wasn’t all bad: he had a great birthday and follow-up party with his friends. See the Cycling Roundup for his experiences on the bike. Ian’s halfway through grade 9 now, his last year at middle school. It’s been a mixed bag with his class and teachers, but at least he got a cool jumpsuit.

Tammy has settled into her full-time teaching that was new last year. There have been plans at Columbia College to get teachers and students back in person, but the most recent cancellation of those plans came just a couple days ago. Her time there continues to be good, giving her professional opportunities and even the odd perk. Tammy’s skills at baking continue to evolve. Just look at most of the posts here and there’s usually a cake or something involved. ๐Ÿ˜œ She turned 49 in February and the one cake that she didn’t make was a disaster, thanks to yours truly. Mother’s Day was chilly, but we kept warm and together inside. Between her birthday and anniversary presents, she has a nice bit of ammolite and opal jewelry to remember 2021 by. And despite the pandemic, Tammy and I managed to stop by a Tim Horton’s on the 29th anniversary of our first date.

For me, if you really want to see what I was up to, check out the Cycling Roundup. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m continuing to work from home for Esri Canada. Maybe someday I’ll find myself sitting in my new, smaller cubicle at work, but I don’t know when that will be. I turned 48 this year (a busy day at workโ€”in 2022 I’m blocking some time to get a bike ride before work!). Father’s Day was perfect, but with more pictures of Murphy than of me…

Speaking of Murphy, he turned 5 this year. Every once in a while we talk about getting him a brother or sister, but he’s just such a laid-back cat (except when in “pounce” mode) that he seems happy enough. Still doesn’t get the idea of a leash outside yet.

Last year, the Retrospective section on “travel” was a joke, because once the pandemic lowered the boom, we really didn’t go anywhere. This year, we managed to see everyone in Victoria for the first time in two years. Ian and I even got a second trip to Victoria for the Tour de Victoria bike ride. We went skiing twice, but the second time I fell and hurt my ribs and that spelled the end of the season. But other than these trips, we stayed home and were thankful for each others’ company.

And when we were at home, it was an opportunity to fix things up, right? Nothing as big as staining the deck last year, but I did install a new bathroom fan, three fan timer switches, and new faucets in the kitchen and main floor bathroom. When Tammy and I traded working locations, with me in the basement, it was only a matter of time before I rearranged things. And spending all that time down there made me realize we needed to replace the basement windows. We’ve been in this house for eight years now and we’re slowly improving it… We even got new outdoor Christmas lights this year.

Art is another way to pass the time during a pandemic, as 2020 showed. Stephanie graced these pages with her paintings every few months, and even a bit of cake decorating, too! I really should pick up the pastels more often. I purchased a new guitar for the first time in thirteen years, and it’s been a treat to play. We even got some karaoke mics to help pass the pandemic evenings… The kids didn’t dress for Halloween this year, but Miranda did a very clever bit of accessorizing for school and the candy slide and spiderweb did make their second appearance on our front porch, this time with a second spider and blinking lights. Miranda learned how to make bubble tea and has been experimenting many, many times throughout the year. Tammy and I wrote like the wind in November, completing NaNoWriMo for the fourteenth year. And it might not be high art, but our “school photos” of the kids worked out well this year.

It was a bumper year for computer-related things in 2021. The Apple M1 continues to impress and I pulled the trigger on one for myself after being jealous of Tammy’s new MacBook Air for almost a year. But that wasn’t before I upgraded the heck out of my old Titanium Powerbook and played around with coding on it. I even did some of NaNoWriMo on it. I’ve got a few programming projects on the go, but so little time. Advent of Code 2021 was a mix of the cutting-edge on my new MacBook and super-retro on the Raspberry Pi. In the computer-adjacent area, we got a HomePod just as they were discontinued and managed to get our hands on an Xbox Series S.

What will we expect from 2022? I can’t say at this point. A lot of our family’s fundamentals are in good shape: we’re still enjoying each others’ company after 21 months of pandemic. But the fact is that the kids’ schooling has been delayed post-Christmas by a week due to Omicron, and there’s no end in sight.

Here’s to hoping that things get better, and that everyone stays healthy.

2021 Cycling Roundup

It’s the middle of winter, so what better time to sit back and remember the warmer days of the cycling season? Except that for me cycling season never really ends: there’s the outdoor season and the indoor season. And in Calgary, the indoor season is the longer of the two…

The indoor season started with a bang this year. There was an very busy Zwift calendar with the club, and I attended almost all the rides. There were also longer (100+ km) virtual rides that pushed my January numbers over 1000 km for the first time. I didn’t get outdoors until March, when I rode to the office to unpack my cubicle after the renovations. That was followed quickly by a real ride with Phil and Paul and then the Ronde van Cowtown in April. The Ronde was one of the highlights of the season, but even the winter virtual riding didn’t spare me the pain I felt after doing it. The spring weather in Calgary is unpredictable, so you have to roll with it.

Also in the early parts of the year, I took the plunge and signed up for the Tour de Victoria with Ian. At the time we were still unvaccinated but the promise was there. Where the Ronde was the first highlight of the year, the TdV was the last, and was brilliant.

The weather wasn’t the only unpredictable thing, though: right on the eve of the 2021 BCC season, COVID slammed on the brakes. We had another delayed start, but that gave me the freedom to try something new, like cycling to Canmore. But eventually the pandemic abated (for a while) and the weather got hot. We had only 1 or 2 rides cancelled due to rain this year. More were cancelled due to poor air quality. One of the days of the worst air quality in Calgary was the best day of the season, because the air in the mountains was clear for the BCC ride from Banff to Moraine Lake.

2021 marked a first for me: a new kind of riding. After a very long delay, I got my new gravel bike in late July. I managed to join in a handful of gravel rides before the end of the season, and I’m looking forward to more next year. We bid farewell to Ian’s Cube mountain bike: another out the door to Michelle and her family.

August saw us in Victoria, but not for the Tour this year. That wasn’t until October. But I did ride a fondo in August: the Gran Fondo Badlands was also pushed back later than usual. After a complete lack of organized fondos in 2020, it was great to participate in them again.

Tammy and Miranda didn’t re-join the BCC for 2021, but when Miranda got her job at Abbey’s, she got to be a participant of sorts in the last, biggest ice cream ride of the season. Ian also rode his new MTB a lot this year with Josh and Joey, and even did a few rides with me in prep for the TdV.

But even before the TdV, things started to wind down for the year. September saw regular weekend rides, but weekdays came to an end (except for MTB and gravel: make a note to participate more in the shoulder season next year!). One could argue that I pushed the season too far when I had a crash on ice in early December, but I mostly escaped unscathed.

The last milestone of the year was today: I reached 11,000 km total distance and 100,000 meters of total elevation gain. I pushed for the last one from early December, when Brenda (a new member of the club) posted that she’d reached her goal of 200,000 m climbing for the year. I checked my own numbers, saw that I was close-ish to 100,000 (88,000) and decided to climb a lot in Zwift in December. This morning, I crossed the line. Tomorrow’s a day off, and then the year starts all over again.

Fourth Apple Watch

On Boxing Day, Ian and I trooped to the Apple Store, braved the crowds, and picked up my fourth Apple Watch. This one is a Series 7, released this fall. This follows the “original” Series 0, the Series 3 that replaced it and the Series 5 that I purchased when the Series 3 decided it didn’t want to be water resistant any more.

It’s the aluminum one in green, but don’t take this picture as representative. It’s so dark as to be black with a hint of green. I thought it would be a brighter colour, but when I opened the box and took it out, I checked the label to see that it was actually the green one. I bought it with a Product Red sport loop (the velcro kind) because Ian inherited my Series 5. He had been soldiering on with his Series 3. When faced with the option of sticking with his 3 or getting a bigger 5 with some scratches from my bike crash, he opted for the newer watch.

It’s a more subtle upgrade than any of the previous ones. Screen’s a little bigger and brighter, it’s a bit more responsive. But considering how much I depend on it, it’s worth it to upgrade every couple of years.

Thanks to Dad’s Christmas gift that helped to pay for it! ๐ŸŽ„