My lab works with tuberculosis, which requires BioSafety Level 3 (BSL-3) containment. You know what else needs BSL-3 containment? COVID-19!
BSL-3 lab spaces have a lot of specialized safety features that make them expensive to construct. To save money different labs at UC Davis often share the same BSL-3 space and just schedule their time in that lab space to not get in each other’s way.
Because of that, when researchers started working on COVID-19 at UC Davis they needed a place to do it. My boss’s space was volunteered, so now another lab researching COVID works in the same space as us.
Besides the safety features, the BSL-3 also requires biohazard suits and respirators. Additionally anyone working in the room within 24 hours of COVID being used in the room has to do temperature checks for two weeks afterwards. Our safety protocols have been successful and no one working in the space has contracted COVID-19.
But working in that space puts our lab into a high risk factor, just like healthcare workers. As such, I got contacted by my HR supervisor at UC Davis Health that I’d been approved for being one of the first people to get one of the COVID vaccines.
So here’s what that was like!
I scheduled an appointment for 8:30am on the first day of distribution. I got there at 8:25, checked in, and promptly waited for an hour in line.
I am approaching the final session of the longest D&D campaign I’ve ever run.
The players have made their way through all the challenges I constructed for them. The only thing left to do is confront the final villain and defeat him.
I’m reminded of something I wrote in high school, that people are attracted to stories that excite them regardless of how real those stories are. The world, characters, and stories I’ve built through Dungeons and Dragons aren’t real, but the outcome is as important to me as the outcome of other things in my life.
There’s a glut of self-improvement apps coming out for your smartphone lately. WeightWatchers, Strava, FitBit, the various one’s built into Android and iPhone’s operating systems, and plenty of other ones.
Most self-improvement apps focus on a specific purpose, whether that’s exercise, dieting, or quitting bad habits.
My self-improvement app of choice doesn’t have any specific focus. And if you haven’t already guessed from the title, the app is called Habitica.
Habitica lets you define your goals, what habits you want to develop, and which bad habits you want to lose. You can also define rewards for yourself (such as eating a piece of cake while on a diet). Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading →
I recently finished listening to an audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. The nonfiction piece focuses on how being an underdog can occasionally confer advantages that the “overdog” doesn’t expect.
The book uses a wide-range of examples of underdogs overcoming their disadvantages and actually using them as jumping off points to topple bigger and stronger opponents.
This isn’t a new idea to me or the world. Scholars were peddling this theory at least 1,500 years ago when the Roman Empire fell. I first read about it in Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece, Dune, where the fictional race of Freman are hardened by their desert homeland and are able to overcome the forces of the Padishah Emperor. Continue reading →
I saw The Shack with my wife. We were expecting a spiritual journey movie like Field of Dreams or Peaceful Warrior. We got something far more overtly Christian than that.
The Shack stars Sam Worthington as Mack, a father who’s young daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and murdered. The tragedy ruins the lives of him and his family as they are consumed by depression.
Mack receives a note inviting him to spend the weekend at the eponymous shack where his daughter was murdered. The note is signed “Papa,” which is his family’s nickname for God.
Mack goes, half expecting the murderer to be there, but instead he finds that the note was actually delivered to him by God. Waiting at the shack are Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu (The Holy Spirit). Continue reading →
With December comes the holidays and with the holidays comes Christmas music and Christmas movies.
I’ve got my favorite Christmas movies just like everyone else, drawing from the classics as well as some stuff that is seen less often.
I like the TV classics as much as anyone else. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Ruldoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman are all films I like rewatching, I just don’t like them as much as my favorites.
I hate saying anything negative about Nashville as I had a great time while there, but the city itself was not pleasant.
As typical of large cities, there are tons of one-way streets downtown that we weren’t familiar with AND that weren’t marked on maps.
Compounding that confusion, a number of streets were blocked off due to the July 4th event.
EVEN MORE! A lot of streets were blocked off by construction work and what one tour guide called, “Tennessee’s state bird, the crane!” (It’s actually the mockingbird if you were curious).
Additionally, parking was… difficult, but at least we expected that. Parking in the Gulch neighborhood on the edge of downtown and walking in over the railroad was the way to go for us.
Second major problem with the city was the smell.
There was a faint garbage stench throughout downtown. Not exactly sure why.
Obviously it got stronger when we got close to dumpsters, but I’ve never experienced a problem like this in any major city. Seems like the dumpsters just don’t trap smells in Tennessee’s humidity.
Final issue with Nashville was the myth of Southern hospitality. I’ve heard of, experienced it, and expected it in Nashville, but it was not so!
Not that anybody was particularly rude, just people were notably less polite than what I’d experienced in Davis, CA.
Maybe it’s because Nashville is a tourist town and the locals hate tourists? Maybe it was due to the extra stress of the downtown construction and July 4th? Maybe something in the local news had everyone on edge?
Whatever it was, the people there just weren’t as nice as I expected them to be.
Like I said, all of these things by no means ruined the vacation. There were just… noticeable.
The single greatest attraction in Nashville, Tennessee is the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show turned concert that has been active since 1925.
Given that it’s Nashville most of the Opry’s music is country.
We got tickets to the concert for our first day in Nashville. The headliners were Rascal Flats and Frankie Ballard. The other acts were The Gatlin Brothers, LOCASH, Parker Milsap, and someone else I can’t remember.
The concert hall is a big place that seats over four thousand people.
There’s a concession stand and they let you bring the food into the actual venue which was new for me. Rarely do I get to bring food into a theater-type venue.
The actual music was quite nice. My favorite was Parker Milsap and my wife enjoyed LOCASH, buying their new album after we left. We both liked Rascal Flats and Frankie Ballard (the names that brought us to the concert).
The Opry is also a radio show on 650AM in Tennessee and maybe in other places.
The Opry typically plays twice a night. They repeated the concert, so as we drove to the hotel we got to listen to everything again!
We liked the experience so much that we went back for a tour.
We got to go backstage and see the musician’s entrance, the dressing rooms, and the enormous green room that felt more like a living room.
Each of the dressing rooms was themed for different country music stereotypes (old dude, young cowboy, up-and-coming girl, comedic woman, etc.).
We got to go on the stage and get our picture taken standing on “The Circle.”
The Circle is a cutout of the Opry’s previous longtime venue, the Ryman Auditorium.
The Ryman eventually became a bit small for the audiences that wanted to attend an Opry show so the new concert hall was built specifically for the Opry show.
The Grand Ole Opry House holds twice as many people as the Ryman and still routinely fills up nearly all the seats!
After the tour there was a July 4th weekend concert as well.
Before the official concert there was an opening act outside by Fifty Shades of Hey who did a bunch of covers of famous songs.
The second concert was great too, but the first one was definitely more to my preferences and my wife’s.
A great experience and one of the most important parts of Nashville. I’d say if you’re only there for one night going to an Opry show is what you should be doing!
The title of this post kind of gives it away, but I lost my license while traveling to Nashville.
My dad woke up nice and early to give my wife and me a ride to the airport. He dropped us off and gave us hugs goodbye.
I had my license when going through security and put it back in my pocket after the body scanner.
We found our gate and my wife left to go to the bathroom while I got her a bagel to eat at an airport deli.
Soon enough our plane arrived. We boarded and watched some movies while flying out to Tennessee.
We got off the plane in Nashville, walked to the baggage claim, and waited for our bags. It took awhile so I went to the bathroom by the baggage claim.
After getting our luggage we went over to the rental car location and got in line for our car. Once we got to the front I dug around in my pockets and realized, “My license isn’t here!”
Thoroughly searching my pockets, wallet, backpack, and the folder I kept our travel reservations in revealed nothing. No license.
Going to the lost and found by the baggage claim, nothing.
Going back into the bathroom I’d used while waiting for our luggage, nothing.
Talking to the airline lost and found and getting them to search the plane we were on, nothing.
Out of options, my wife ended up being the driver for our trip.
We got to the hotel and I tried a few more things to at least locate my license and secure a replacement.
I called the San Francisco airport lost and found to see if my ID fell out by that bagel place and someone had turned it in, nothing.
I contacted the California DMV and after negotiating their phone tree for about an hour I got them to send me a temporary license by fax to our hotel.
The license did not arrive next morning as they promised, so I called again and they sent it within a few hours.
With the temporary license we returned to the car rental place to get me added as a driver.
Unfortunately, a temporary California driver’s license does not come with a picture. Without a picture the rental car people were unable to “verify my identity” right as it says on that piece of paper there.
And of course my picture on my student IDs was no good. The dozen or so insurance, credit, and debit cards I have in my wallet wouldn’t do. My wife vouching for me wouldnt cut it. A picture of an expired license on my phone wasn’t good enough either. Apparently the only thing that can verify my identity to the satisfaction of the rental car company is the one thing I lost.
Please note that not even TSA is this strict. I still plan on flying home and as their website states, security will ask me extra questions and it’ll take longer, but I should still get through.
In the meantime my wife has gotten to practice her driving skills (I’m usually the one that drives) and I’ve gotten to practice my navigating skills (she’s the one that usually navigates).
It’s worked out so far! The last hurdle to jump is getting through TSA, then we’ll be home free (quite literally).