Joel Always one syllable, sometimes "@jayroh"

Covid, Finally ... I Guess?

03 Dec 2022

After 9871 days the inevitable happened and Covid-19 got Sara and I. If we’re completely honest, there’s almost no way people are going to escape this thing. The opportunity to extinguish it, in the time of social media, misinformation, and buffoonery, had come and gone in a zeptosecond. So, that leaves folks like us to be ultra-vigilant with precautions, get the vaccine as soon as we could, get boosted whenever allowed and/or recommended, and be sensible when it comes to packed indoor spaces with people we don’t know2.

And that last point is where Covid had its opportunity to nip us - “Gotcha bitch!”

We’d seen Boyz II Men in concert several times in the past (Yes, that’s right. Those Boyz II Men.) So when we saw that they were playing at Foxwoods the night after Thanksgiving, we said “Sure! Why not? Let’s go!” and made our way to Connecticut. It was a fun night. We got some take-out from one of the casino restaurants, ate it in our hotel room, walked around a bit, had a drink at a bar while we waited for our meal. And then went to the show, which was pretty great. 112 and Dru Hill opened up for the main act. I know maybe 3 songs between the two of them so 🤷, whatever. Fine. Boyz II Men are great live, though so - go see them if you’re a fan. After the show, we made our way back to the room and called it a night. It was late. We’re old. We’re terrible at “the gambling”.

I realize it’s a fool’s game to try and figure out “who” and “where” and “how”, but humor me. We had been wearing masks the entire time we were inside. That leaves me with 2 possibilities:

  1. The 15 minutes at the bar where we both had a single drink. Masks off.
  2. The concert where a few thousand people were screaming at the top of their lungs for 2+ hours. Masks still on – mostly!

Again, a fool’s game. It doesn’t really matter. We’d made it through the weekend feeling fine until Sara started feeling off later on Sunday, early Monday. On Monday afternoon, while I was on a conference call, she knocked on my office door, opened it and exclaimed that the home test she just took was positive. Covid: “gotcha bitch!”. I still tested negative at that time. Thus began the home quarantine scramble - masks around the clock, doors closed, me sleeping on the office pull-out couch, G spending all his time at home in his room, door closed. We’d been together 24/7 for days so it was inevitable that I would be the next domino, and I was. I started feeling crappy Tuesday night, when I ultimately tested positive.

Mind you, through all this, G has tested negative every day and has not once exhibited any symptoms. Covid is weird. Sure, we’ve done everything in our power to keep him safe from it, but still. Bizarre. Kids are exceptionally resilient.

Lastly, what was it like for me? In a phrase, “exceptionally uncomfortable”. Flu-like? Bad cold? There’s no way around it, the experience was shitty. Fever for 3 days and nights – Tuesday night through Thursday night and into Friday, when I must have sweat out the last of the worst of it. I did not get a decent night’s sleep until Friday night. Chest congestion was bad, sinus pressure, terrible cough, chills, muscle aches. Sense of smell and taste were completely gone through the worst parts but that could be chalked up to the congestion in my head instead of the covid side effects. I can (sort of) taste things again, albeit somewhat muted.

Looking back on this experience (and most of the reason I am writing this, because I would like to refer to my own thoughts if [and when] this happens again) I am left with two thoughts. First, we are exceptionally fortunate and lucky to have scientists who can create the vaccines and therapies that help keep the worst at bay. That’s all we can hope for at this point – just dull the worst of it! And the shots did the job. With my own, and my family’s, medical history I can’t imagine what sort of catastrophe would await me in the absence of a vaccine. Second, while I do not want to get this again, I hope the near-term future affords me the opportunity to enjoy the next month or two without fear of catching it. Antibodies, and all that.

I’d like to be able to say “Wellp, glad that’s over! Done with Covid”. But, dear reader, that too is a fool’s game.

1: “987 days” because we consider Mar 13, 2020 as the day Covid shut everything down for us. It was the Friday we received an email from our son’s daycare stating that they would be shutting down “for the next 2 weeks”. Haha - “the next 2 weeks”! Oh man, that is rich! Anyway, 987 days between Mar 13, 2020 and Nov 25, 2022.

2: Like raw-dogging rides on the MBTA. #Sorrynotsorry but I am never riding the T without a mask again. No thank you.

Another Summer in the Books

04 Sep 2022

As we close the chapter on the summer of ‘22 I’m left dealing with the feelings that hit me every year at this time. “Summer’s over. School’s here. Stoke up the anxiety machine.”

As a grown man who hasn’t been in school for more than half his life, yes. I realize this makes no sense. Very well. Tell that to my brain.

In any case, I can look back on this summer and consider it a success. G had a great time at his day camp. We’d made it to the Cape more than a few times to enjoy some sun and water. I may have read a few books, and comics, that I very much enjoyed. I saw a few movies that I also enjoyed - Nope, and Top Gun: Maverick at the top of that list.

And we’ve managed to still ditch Covid. 🤜🪵

Looking back - I am grateful and happy.

G posing at Cautaumet Mini-Golf
It isn't a summer on the Cape without a few trips to a mini-golf course (or two).
Me, Sara, G @ Mashpee Commons' Big-Ass Chair
The giant blue deck chair in Mashpee Commons is easy photo-op bait - so we took it.
Joel and Sara, Woods Hole
Sara and I took a trip, just the two of us, one morning to Woods Hole to get some breakfast and take a stroll. It was lovely, as is Woods Hole.

Weeknotes for the week ending Jul.29

29 Jul 2022

An empty cardboard box on the sidewalk with 'free' hastily written on the side
You know the saying - "Nothing in life is free"

A year or so ago I bought a Synology NAS and started to consolidate some of the disparate cloud storage services into one single physical box that I knew I could (theoretically) control myself. It worked out well. I liked it! I could install some packages, I could run Plex, I could back up docs, photos, mp3’s, movies, etc.

Then I started branching out a little bit and messing around with using docker to host some services that didn’t already have Synology-related package installers. With docker-compose, this was all pretty straightforward and didn’t give me too much headache.

Over time this has grown into a full-on “homelab” situation where I’ve migrated most services onto a small Dell server that sits in the corner of my office plugged into a UPS. Ultimately this has turned into the sweet spot and I am thrilled with the workflow. It looks a little something like this:

  1. Does this service I pay for (Dropbox) have a decent alternative? Is there a docker image? Give it a shot.
  2. Does this service which I DON’T pay for but serve as data points for a machine-learning algorithm (Google Anything) have a decent alternative? Is there a docker image? Give it a shot.
  3. Does something look cool on /r/selfhosted that I want to try? Is there a docker image (almost 100% of the time: “Yes”)? Give it a shot.

Pretty easy.

So what has been good for me?

  1. Dashy - A dashboard that serves as my homepage. Links to all of my self-hosted services, in their logical groups, go here.
  2. Nginx Proxy Manager - An nginx configuration front-end. Makes setting up services and LestEncrypt certs a cynch.
  3. Linkding - Bookmarking app a la “Pinboard” and “”
  4. Whoogle - “A self-hosted, ad-free, privacy-respecting metasearch engine “, AKA “Google front-end”. No google ads. No tracking.
  5. Umami - A privacy-focused website analytics package. No more Google Analytics for me.
  6. AdGuard & Pi-Hole - Both! DNS servers for local, in-house, ad blocking.

This is the tip of the iceberg. There are more, but these are good starts.

If you’re in the “tech” business you can imagine this is a potentially dangerous hole to drop down into. I recognize this, but there’s not a chance in hell I end up like the people in /r/homelab.

Knock on wood.

Weeknotes for the week ending Jul. 22

22 Jul 2022

Brothers and Sisters Coffee, Brookline Village
Brothers and Sisters Coffee, Brookline Village

Most weekday mornings I will walk G to the bus stop near Brookline High School for his trip to his day camp. We’re out the door at around 7:53AM and arriving just about at 8:00AM. The past week or so has been brutally hot so if I was going to get any time outside it’s going to be right after his drop-off. I’m not built for that 90+ degree stuff.

Thankfully, luckily, our town is pretty well stocked with parks and areas to walk in the shade. Shade is at a premium with this heat so I kept walking until I found a nice spot to take a break, and in this case, have a coffee. Brothers and Sisters (formerly the KooKoo Cafe) in the Village has been that little oasis thanks to the decent cold-brew, and copious seating & shade just outside.

Don’t know if it’s necessarily a spot to make the trip for, but for me it’s been a welcome break and spot to get my brain to slow down a bit.

Reading: A (cautionary) tale from a small-business-owner, lamenting the redesign of his website.

The comments at HN are, predictably, ludicrous, but I digress.

Having lived on the Agency side of this equation for a large hunk of my career there is a lot here that rings familiar and true. As I look back on those days, my freelancing days, I realize how profoundly underestimated and under-served the customer engagement and management portion of the equation is. I can look back and clearly pick out the spots where I done F’d up and wish I was more mature and better at that part of the job. Live and learn.

Fathers Day 2022

19 Jun 2022

After finishing a recent book – Mouth to Mouth (verdict: “meh. ⭐⭐”) – I picked up Michael Ian Black’s “A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son” and dived in. I figured, hey it’s almost Father’s Day, so let’s see what this funny guy has to say. And as the title of the book says, yes - this really is a mostly serious piece of writing. He gets into the heavy stuff pretty quickly.

But that’s not why I’m writing this. There’s a bit in the first 10 or 20 pages where he explores the feeling of when he crossed into the realm of “manhood”:

Before I sat down to write this, I couldn’t have told you the moment I felt I’d crossed, irrevocably, into manhood.

It was when I drove my family home from the hospital for the first time.

I’ve never been more terrified than the moment I turned out of the parking lot.

This statement stopped me, and I let out a quiet, “heh”, chuckle.

Because this has been, almost verbatim, what I have shared with first-time parents through the past 7+ years that I’ve been a father. “No one prepares you for the moment you strap your child in that car-seat, and drive away. There was ‘you before’, and ‘you now’, there is no manual, so go figure it out.”

Happy Father’s day to all you Dads out there. I trust, and hope, that you are navigating those waters successfully. ❤️