Ian Exposed?

Today, we were informed that an individual in [redacted]’s Grade 8-5 Homeroom tested positive for COVID-19. 

At this time, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has not completed their investigation. However, your child is/you are required to isolate at home

We believe the date of exposure to be January 18th and 19th.  That means your child is required to isolate until at least February 1stand 2nd.  The return to community life and school date is February 3rd.

AHS investigates positive cases in schools.  Once AHS completes its investigation, they will email you with additional details including confirmation of the isolation period and the return to school date.  If you have not heard from AHS prior to the estimated date in this letter, it may be due to a backlog and you may consider the estimated date as confirmed.

What do we do now?

How do you isolate him without making him feel like he’s in jail or to blame? Does Miranda write her exam tomorrow?

Can I use this as an excuse for a sick day? 😆


The CBE Pre-alert has been confirmed by AHS (for close contacts in isolation)

Today, AHS confirmed the positive case in your child’s class. The purpose of this message is to share that AHS has confirmed dates of contagion exposure are: Monday, January 18th and Tuesday, January 19th. Isolation lift date (return to school and community): Wednesday, February 3rd

Science and Another Fan

Yesterday, there were petri dishes everywhere. Miranda is doing a science experiment as part of her IB classes. Her experiment is evaluating the effectiveness of washing one’s hands with different agents: soap, antibacterial gel, etc. She prepared agar in the petri dishes, then cleaned her hands with each method and then dabbled her fingers in the agar. Now she’s waiting for bacteria to grow. It was a little hard for her to find hand sanitizer gel with 80% alcohol, but she and Tammy found some eventually. Not as bad as at the beginning of the pandemic when it was as rare as hens’ teeth.

And I got around to replacing the bathroom fan in the ensuite. When I did the one in the kids’ bathroom, I kept bouncing off things I didn’t know or wasn’t certain how to do. It made it considerably more difficult. But today, knowing what I had to do last time, it was only a couple of hours, if that.

The old one wasn’t making huge amounts of noise like the kids’ one was before I replaced it, but it never seemed to be very effective at moving air. Hopefully this one will work better.


I made this post on the new Mac Mini, and dang it’s fast. I don’t tend to use the main computer when I’ve got my work MacBook upstairs, but I might have to change that.

My Legs are Going to be Sore

In December, Apple released Fitness+, a new streaming fitness class service. Tammy was waiting for it, since it was announced earlier in the fall.

It’s pretty good for a 1.0 product. It integrates with the Apple Watch, which is cool. In a lot of ways it’s just like the workout videos that Tammy has done for decades and does with the kids. They all have really liked it, and have been using it regularly for a few weeks, even Ian and Miranda. Enough that we signed up for it.

Why am I sore? Because while my cardio is very good and my cycling muscles are hilariously over-developed, the rest of me is… not. I’ve started using some of the strength workouts which is a nice change from cycling, cycling, cycling. Maybe I’m jealous watching Terry on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Last week was working the shoulders and I felt it the next day. Today was actually legs and back, but not just the leg muscles that are strong on me: my adductors apparently don’t get much work and they’re sore already.

Call it adding a bit more balance to my exercise.

Family Art

One of the activities on Miranda’s birthday plan was a family art activity. We didn’t end up doing it on her birthday (when you watch four movies, there’s not a lot of time for it). She also needed to finish “prepping” a colouring book version of her choice of subject.

Our subject, a giraffe

Tammy took coloured pencils, Ian took felt pens, Miranda used gouache and I blew the dust off of my pastels.

I think they all turned out great. I tried for realism, Miranda for stylized and Tammy and Ian went psychedelic.

I loved working with my pastels. It’s been a very long time. I think I’d be a happier person if I did it more often. Thanks for the suggestion, Miranda. 💜

Easel and pastels

Happy 17th Birthday, Miranda

It’s the New Year, and that means it’s time for the Miranda & Stephanie double-New-Years-baby birthday extravaganza. Seriously, I’d like to see the statistics on the number of families with more than one New Years’ baby.

It got rolling as per usual on New Years’ Eve. We had our traditional appetizers meal along with playing some Minecraft and watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Nailed It! Then it was music trivia (name that song-style stuff) until midnight. Not exactly shake-the-walls stuff, but we had fun.

Next day was a bit of a slow start. I wasn’t feeling that well (I didn’t have much to drink, I swear!) so watching Miyazaki movies all day was welcome.

But first was opening cards and presents at breakfast.

Then we kicked off the movie marathon. The movies were, in order:

We finished the last one about 9:30. In between, we went and got Japanese food for lunch and our sea-themed decorated mini-cheesecakes “birthday cake”.

We also got to have FaceTime calls with Grandpa and with Stephanie and her family, too. Brianna was calling the shots there, with everyone watching a Harry Potter movie marathon. They were only at the Chamber of Secrets when we called. I wonder how they made out?

Happy Birthday! 🎂

2020 Retrospective

Awww… do we have to?

But, if you steer away from the looming threat of death 💀, the worry about the collapse of society 🔥 and how things might never go back to normal, 2020 wasn’t too bad for us.

But let’s not beat around the bush: when things started going sideways in March, things took a definite turn. When just going shopping is strange enough to warrant a post, you know we’re through the looking glass. In short order, we had to reconfigure our home to have two full-time workers at home and two full-time students. Our low-level love/hate relationship with our Wi-Fi had to be resolved to handle up to four different video conferences at once. Everybody reacted differently to the change. I think Ian had the hardest time, but we made efforts to have activities, like games and movie nights. In the summer, we even bought a tent for the kids. The success of that was highly dependent on the weather. Creating masks became a family activity and then Miranda took it farther. Ian got out a lot in the summer with Joey and Josh, which was a good thing despite breaking his arm. The pandemic certainly made for what might be our most unique anniversary photo ever.

School reopening in September was something that caused Tammy and I a lot of anxiety. On one hand, the COVID cases had been so low over the summer, it seemed the best option to have the kids go back to in-person classes. Miranda didn’t have an option, but Ian could have schooled from home. It didn’t take too long for the cases to rise and outbreaks to happen at each school. And then the schools closed again before Christmas. We’ll see what happens in the New Year.

Of course, there isn’t a lot of travel to post about… we started our year pretty normally, kicking it off with Miranda’s birthday trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and following up with some ski days before the hill shut down. I only managed two business trips to Edmonton before all travel for work came to a halt. The first indication that this coronavirus was going to impact things was was in the first week of March when my scheduled trip to the Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs was cancelled. I also played a big role when the annual Esri Canada gathering in Ontario turned into virtual Tech Trek at work. But it really hit home in August when I was on vacation and we would have been in Victoria.

Everybody did their best to make sure that 2020 was not a “lost year”. See the Art Roundup and Cycling Roundup for evidence of that. Miranda was super artsy in this, her year of being 16. I think almost every post this year that was about Miranda was about her art. She even did a great job of a pandemic-friendly Halloween costume this year.

Ian turned 13 this year. Ian tried his hand at slacklining this year, a pretty good activity for a pandemic. It went pretty well for a while. I don’t know what killed his interest, if it was one too many painful falls off the line or of it was my complete inability to make an effective set of anchors in the back yard, but now the slackline is on the shelf in the garage. Or maybe it was that in the summertime, he learned how to go and play with Josh and Joey. He put a lot of miles on his bike and scooter.

Tammy’s biggest news for the year was getting a full-time, daytime teaching job at Columbia College. She’s had lots of different looks at getting her career restarted since moving to Calgary, but this one finally seems to fit the bill. She was instrumental to helping the school shift to online teaching in April, and it’s paying off. Her 48th birthday went down as our last night out before the pandemic hit. Anybody want to guess when we will next enjoy a Chinese buffet dinner? Mother’s Day was typical 2020: snow outside but we’re going to barbecue steak, dammit.

I turned 47 this year, well into the new reality and before the cycling club really got going. But the weather behaved for that and for Father’s Day as well. Beyond cycling, I got to exercise a few different interests this year. There were two astronomical event that we got to see: the comet NEOWISE in the summer and the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn this winter. I also have a 195 day streak going in Duolingo. I started it with Russian and then shifted to French. I really enjoy both, but French makes more sense. Maybe I’ll speak passable French before I retire. I also did some coding on a notes app, a new version of the FFF iOS app and the Advent of Code. With the pandemic, I was instructed to schedule training at work, and so I took the courses that let me take and pass the Azure Solution Architect exams.

I had a health thing this year. It was a mystery ache in my chest that seems to have gone away. The doctors think it was an inflammation in the ribcage, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have to do the blood tests, ECG and stress test to make sure my ticker was okay. Lost most of July’s cycling to that… Stephanie’s back to wearing glasses, and Dad’s eyes are working better thanks to cataract surgery.

There were posts about other birthdays, too! Thank you so much. There were:

Birthday boy

Spending all that time at home, when there were things that needed to be seen to, there was no excuse. The biggest home improvement in terms of effort was finishing the deck. Everybody helped and the results speak for themselves. But the other biggie was replacing the furnace. Of course that happened while winter was still holding on. It was a little chilly in the house for a couple days. Miranda finally got some more shelves for her books. Our old barbecue gave up the ghost, so that was replaced, and the the same for the bathroom fan in the kids’ bathroom. But all that pales compared to what Steph and Tristan put together for their cats.

2020 also saw us paying back some of the technical debt, with long-overdue upgrades to Tammy’s MacBook, the family computer and my iPad. And the recent move of this site from one cloud virtual server to another…

So in the end, I think COVID definitely gave this year a direction that we couldn’t have predicted in January. 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.

Art Roundup for 2020 🎨

Here’s something new! When I was going through what everyone had posted this year, there was so much art.

I think Miranda put it best with the title of her post: Social Interaction is Down, Artistic Productivity is Up. Whether it was because of COVID or other lack of mobility, Miranda, Ian, Zachary, Brianna and Stephanie all knocked it out of the park.

A sampling of Miranda’s work:

Ian’s work was mostly in video:

And his virtual piano recital

Zachary and Brianna both picked up paintbrushes, or needle and thread or more delicious media, too.

Stephanie continued to make wonderful paintings. They really raised the “wow” factor on this site, that’s for sure.

Tammy and I didn’t do nearly as much, but couldn’t help being creative from time to time.

Lots of creative juices flowing in 2020!

Cycling Roundup for 2020

The 2020 ii News Retrospective will be published later today, but for now, here’s all the cycling news that happened in the year that was 2020…

Whereas I started last year’s Roundup by observing that 2019 was more of the same, 2020 couldn’t have been more different. It was the first year since moving to Calgary that I didn’t take part in any organized gran fondo events. The Badlands Gran Fondo and the Tour de Victoria were both cancelled. And yet, lots still happened.

After doing over 10,000 km in 2019, I made a New Years’ resolution that was a little different than most: I resolved to cycle less. Or to be precise, to not worry so much about distance and more about the ride. I set a goal of 8,000 km which freed my mind to enjoy the activity. And yet, I ended up with 9,565 km, not exactly a huge step down.

2020 started normally: I signed up for the Badlands and the whole family was signed up for Victoria. I got a new Wahoo Kickr Core trainer for indoors, and I started making new decals for my bike on the Cricut Maker. Tammy and I attended the Bow Cycle Service School together (one of the last non-socially-distanced activities of the year). I killed the crank on my Valence from overuse and I even got promoted to Ride Director for the Bow Cyclist Club.

But that was when things started to go sideways. March break saw everyone being sent home just as the roads were clearing enough to go for a ride. The Alberta Bicycle Association lowered the boom on clubs and races, and it was clear that the season would start late, if it started at all. We started up Zwift rides five days per week and extended them to the public, which really caught on, at least until the weather was good. With COVID numbers falling and precautions in place, the BCC started rides in June. There were fewer, smaller groups, but we doubled the rider turnout this year, so it was really busy.

With the cancellation of the gran fondos, the BCC filled in the gap, organizing rides:

They were well-received and I enjoyed the heck out of them, too. People started to get creative with their solo riding, and I joined in with an attempt at riding every road in Tuscany. I missed the Lake Louise ride because of my odd chest pains. For a bit in the summer I was wondering if I’d have to give up cycling because of it.

Then the summer ended. October was snowy, but November and early December was nice. I’d been putting off getting Ian a new bike, because he’s growing and it seemed a bad idea to get him one at the end of the season, but COVID has caused a global shortage in new bikes. So I ordered him a mountain bike and it arrived just as the snow came again.

The Zwift rides kicked off right away this fall, and we’re doing five club rides per week. I’ve noticed the difference, and it helped me blow through my distance goal for 2020 (not that I was worried about it).

Don’t know what 2021 will bring, but I doubt I’ll ever be complacent about it again.

Migrated the Linode Server

It all started in May… May 17th, to be precise. Maybe I was overconfident with it being my birthday, but just before bedtime I started a major upgrade of the Linode cloud server that hosts this site. It went horribly wrong, and I had to restore the server from a backup. I made two promises to myself:

  1. Not to do major upgrades right before bed and
  2. I would migrate the server instead of upgrading it.

The second one might take a bit of explaining. When I set up the original cloud server, I followed the documentation, but you could drive a truck through the holes in my knowledge of what I was doing. I made at least two major mistakes: one was choosing the wrong version of Ubuntu Linux. I went with the latest version instead of the stable version, which meant I was constantly bombarded by update notices. The other was having to take two tries to set up the SSL certification process, no doubt leaving digital shrapnel behind. I knew not everything was healthy on the server: I would get notices that certain modules were missing but it would fail when I tried to install them. The failure in May epitomized that. All of that meant it was smarter to start over, even though it was a new unknown.

I started about 9:30 this morning, and this was what I did:

  • Create new server
  • Update OS
  • Harden OS
    • Create limited user so I’m not doing everything as root
    • Create SSH keys
    • Configure SSHD
    • Configure firewall
  • Set up hostname
  • Transfer all data from the old server
    • Create an SSH key for connecting one server to the other
    • scp content
  • Install Apache web server
  • Install MySQL database server
  • Install PHP
  • Install phpmyadmin
  • Transfer data for WordPress and FFF
  • Configure backup script (not tested yet… need to do that)
  • Transfer the biickert.ca domain to the new server
  • Configure HTTPS

It took a while, and I took good notes. Hopefully won’t have to do this again for a while.

And since you were so patient reading the above, here is your reward: a picture of Murphy pondering his new window bed.

Merry Christmas 2020

Yes, you read that right. We had a pretty normal Christmas for us. Stockings were hung by the… bookshelf with care and we read our traditional ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Even Murphy came to listen to the story

Tammy and I went out for a walk after the kids went to bed. It was very quiet on the streets at 10 pm Christmas Eve and with the dump of snow that we got on Monday night. It was a nice way to stop and take a breath.

Santa came and left presents.

Apparently, the kids were awake early (like four in the morning) waiting for the day. It’s nice to know that they are still excited for Christmas Day. We got up at 7:00 and opened stockings and then opened cards and had breakfast. Christmas cards were all handmade this year, which was nice and added something. Tammy was eloquent in hers, while mine to her was simple: “At least we got to spend a lot of time together this year.”

We had a little time to play with our toys before I had to finish the job with my present to Tammy: I cut her a new Snoopy decal for her new MacBook. It was super-fiddly to put on, but it ended up looking pretty good, at least from a distance.

Hugs for Woodstock

We had a round of Skype/FaceTime calls with Baba and Grandpa, Grandpa Biickert and Stephanie and the gang. Sounded like everyone was having a good, if quiet Christmas. I managed to get my Advent of Code finished before lunch was ready, so that was one worry gone.

I also got a chance to set up my new cycling computer: a Wahoo Elemnt Roam. It’s a fair bit bigger than my old Elemnt Bolt (to the right), which should be easier on my eyes as they age. I really rely on this thing for navigation, judging time and distance and pace when leading out bike rides in the summer.

It came with all the trimmings including heart rate, cadence and speed.

Turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the rest were on the menu. It was a good, juicy bird and the stuffing was good, too.

After cleaning up, it was time for trifle and a tart or two while watching Elf, the last of our Christmas movies. By that time it was five o’clock and Tammy and I tried out the new net for the ping pong table and the two new ping pong paddles Santa brought.

Merry Christmas to all!