3.23.2023

3/23/23: The Trifecta Of Terrible

Today is a palindrome! I am a fan of these kinds of fun things with numbers and words. I know I have mentioned this before, but if you are not already playing Octowordle, I suggest you do it now. It does not have to be a wormhole; you can just play one game per day while concurrently keeping Alzheimer's at bay (hopefully). 

But that is not was I was going to talk about. Everyone has a pandemic story, and for many people the "three year anniversary" of their story just passed. I do not disagree that the 13th or the 16th of March were monumental days for most of us, myself included, but for me another day I will never forget was March 23rd. For those of you who don't know, I work in the finance industry. As you may remember, this was a difficult time in the stock markets. 

Here's a quick recap. The stock markets were doing well and were basically going up and up and up.  Then the decline started at the end of February, when the stories of COVID cases around the world started to increase and hit the news more and more. In the next four weeks, as news stories kept surfacing and cases kept rising, the stock market was halted four times. This happens when the index drops more than 7%, usually from it's previous day's close, and it causes the entire market to pause all trading for 15 minutes. I have only seen this happen a couple of times and it generally signifies something very bad; this can also happen with single name stocks, but that is not quite as worrying as the entire market shutting down. 

On March 9th, Italy went into lockdown, the markets took a dive and were subsequently halted, oil prices plunged, and Dr. Fauchi told cruisegoers that maybe they should rethink their vacations. On the afternoon of March 11th, I flew to New York City for work meetings and my friend's wedding, which was scheduled for Pi day (March 14th). My flight was nearly empty. By the time I left for the airport, the S&P 500 had dropped over 9%, WHO had declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Trump had suspended flights from Europe. 

Flight San Francisco to New York on March 11th

The next day in the office in Manhattan was not a pretty one; the markets were halted again and everyone was scrambling to figure out where this was going to go. I will not lie though, that evening I went for a work dinner, with hugs and no masks and shared appetizers. We just did not know what was coming. 

That evening, my friend texted to say that she was worried for me because they were shutting down restaurants in Brooklyn and that she and her fiancée were thinking of canceling their wedding. I was still skeptical and thought maybe she was overthinking things (she IS a worrier!), but I asked her to keep me posted. The next day, Friday the 13th, Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency (and the markets actually went up) and my firm stated that only essential business travel will be allowed. My worried friend told me they were canceling their wedding and I should get on the first flight out of there. 

I did what she said and left the next day (luckily my getting home WAS essential to my company!) I was in the office on Monday early as I usually am, when we got the word that people should all stay home and that the office would be closed, effective immediately. Since I was already there, I said I would stay and they let me. I am glad they did. I was not too worried about my health as I was alone in my own solo office so I did not feel unsafe, but also this day turned out to be even worse than the others; all three main indices dropped over 12% and were halted again that day and it would have been really hard to do my job not only from home but on a new system that was not even available to us before this day and so we had not practiced using! 

The week of March 16th was not awesome, and was full of stress and anxiety and yet another market halt, but the bottom of the markets came on....you guessed it, March 23rd! Of course we did not know it was the bottom; it was just another bad day in a string of bad days. But I will never forget this day; I will never forget this entire experience, but especially this day. In my time working in finance, or maybe in all of my career, this was the worst period I have ever experienced, both financially and emotionally. It was unpleasant and emotionally draining. Added to a world that was in the midst of a pandemic and going through this all while in lockdown, it was a trifecta of terrible. 

Screenshot taken on March 18th 2020

Photo sent to my parents at the end of the week of March 16th - yes, that's a pint glass.

I know that many people have kids and had to deal with that, or had to work and couldn't afford to stay home, AND had kids. I know that many people have loved ones who died. There are so many stories about coping and hardship and loss, and my story about people losing their money is not the worst of it. This entire period and beyond were horrible, as my grandma would say, and I am definitely not minimizing anybody else's horrible. This is just one story of many. 

What is your pandemic story? What part of the COVID-19 experience will you definitely never forget? What day or event sticks in your mind the most? 

Disclaimer: The information above is solely an opinion based my own personal experience. You do you. I am not a tax and/or financial advisor; nothing in this post should be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone reading this post. Please consult a financial advisor for investment advice.  Sources include ReutersThe Week and CNBCFor my other posts regarding money, go here

3.20.2023

A Day In The Life: Morning Commute

Sometimes it feels like groundhog day around here. Get up, brush teeth, coffee, commute, work, go home, run, eat, read, sleep...and repeat. However, I am not really very excited to start my taxes so...I guess I will continue my routine. To me, this seems like the mundane, but it is fun to sometimes hear how other people do tasks that are just part of everyday life. For instance, Stephany and Engie recently talked about doing laundry, of all things. But it sparked a discussion about how many times we wash our sheets (about once a month), whether or not we separate whites from colors (no) and how much we love (or hate) folding and putting stuff away. 

One of the mundane things I do every day is commute to work. I never really did the work from home thing, even during the pandemic, although my commute was different then due to the lack of available public transportation and of course the lack of wanting to be in public (or being allowed to be). I am lucky to have a car and I had to use it during the pandemic

However, now we are back to "normal" again and I am back to my old shenanigans. Here is what that looks like. First, I have to get to the BART (train) station. I do this in two different ways, depending on what I have going on after work that day. If I drive, it takes about eight minutes, and I park on the streets in West Oakland and take the BART from there. For those of you who don't know this, West Oakland is the last stop in the East Bay before the BART goes under the bay and into the city. Because of this, this station is the best because on the way home, you can take any train going east and you will have to go through this station no matter what. Also, from here it is only about eight minutes into the city once the train comes. 

West Oakland BART

If I ride my bike, I go to a different station, which is closer to my house. This is about a seven minute ride and is mostly downhill. I lock up my bike and take the train into the city, which is about 17 minutes from this station. 

Either way, I usually listen to an audiobook while driving or riding and then read my book while on the train. I have been struggling lately to pick up books in print, so this is my way of trying to keep the habit of reading daily, not just listening to books, which I find myself doing more and more often. I get off in the city either at Embarcadero or Montgomery station. 

Financial District (FiDi)

As an aside, I have been trying to make sure to get 10,000 steps a day. Although this is an arbitrary number made up by someone, it is good for me to have a target; otherwise, it is easy to cut corners or just go home and sit on the couch. I say this because the Embarcadero station is about 0.10 mile further to my office than the Montgomery station, so I try to get off at this one to get those few extra steps. Every step counts right? The other thing I do is take the stairs instead of the escalator and luckily the trains are either up on rails  or underground so I get to take plenty of stairs. By the time I get to work, I usually have about 2,000 steps. 

My walk to work goes through the financial district in San Francisco. At the time of the morning that I go in there are not too many other people on the streets. It generally consists mostly of construction workers sitting in their cars (I assume they go early so they can get parking) a handful of homeless people, usually on the same corner by the 7-11, and one or two finance people (I am guessing from the way they are dressed). 

I actually really like this portion of the commute; the city is quiet but still beautiful. I walk amidst tall buildings and I can jaywalk all I want because there is not much traffic. I sometimes walk past the Equinox, a gym that costs about $200 per month, but is housed in a beautiful building that looks like it belongs in Greece or something. 

Equinox gym

I get to my building, where I say good morning to the security guard as I swipe my pass. I then go up to my floor, where we have a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz (not from our office, only from the conference room). From our side of the building you can also see Union Square and the Salesforce Tower. I get a cup of tea from the kitchen and I get to work! All together, this commute normally takes about a half an hour, but is a bit longer in the afternoon when there is more traffic. 

View of Transamerica Tower (was the tallest until 2018)

View of Salesforce Tower (tallest in San Francisco since 2018)

Are you bored yet!? What is your morning commute like? Tell me about something "mundane" that you do regularly. 

3.13.2023

Tales From the Trails: Hidden Neighborhood Gems

NGS wrote a recent post about her walks around her neighborhood and I was mentioning to her how I really have gotten to know some fun places near me due to walking and running. I have lived in Oakland for about 11 years now and have lived and worked in San Francisco on and off for about 25 years, and through those years I have found so many fun little alleyways and stairways and incredible views. 

In Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, there are a lot of little stairways or walkways where it is sometimes unclear whether or not they are on someone's property or not, but if you are brave enough to take them, you can find some wonderful shortcuts and some really fun things. You can probably find a map of where they are and follow that if you want to, but I kind of like just stumbling upon them; it's an adventure! Here are a couple of my favorites from each city. 

Oakland

Buena Vista Ave / Broadway Terrace - This may be cheating a little, as there are maybe ten different sets of stairs in this little neighborhood. It is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book and each time I go that way, I find something new! Also this neighborhood is up high and you can sometimes get some great views of the city and beyond! Google map

Yellow denotes stairs/paths.


Van Sicklen to Elbert St. via Trestle Glen - This neighborhood is nice and this path is hard to find, so I kind of felt like I was trespassing at first! However, it does get you through to higher ground and is a fun little clandestine route through someone's "backyard." Google map




Berkeley

Rose Walk - This path is about nine miles from my house and I found it on a run when I was trying to get approximately 20 miles total. I was looking for a turnaround spot and did not want to keep going down La Loma, which was the street I was on. It's a cute little path that you may even miss if you are coming from La Loma, but once you get on it, you go down the hill to Euclid where you can then turn right and check out the Rose Garden before turning around to go home. Google map



Indian Rock Path - This was another one where I just wanted to find a turnaround on a long run and I stumbled on this path. Not only is the path fun and tiny and green, but at the top of the path is Indian Rock, which I of course climbed up to see what kind of view was at the top. I was not disappointed, as you can see all the way to the city and the Marin Headlands. Google map



San Francisco

There are entire websites and books dedicated to the stairways in San Francisco, so I am not going to try to outshine them! However, here are two I frequent often. 

Greenwich Steps - If you walk along the Embarcadero going northbound, when you look up and see Coit Tower directly above you, turn left and you will be taken to a fabulous set of stairs that leads up to Coit Tower. Not only is the destination a good one, with a view and everything, but the stairs themselves lead through a neighborhood garden path and make you wonder how the people living here get their groceries home! Google map



Chestnut Street Stairs - These are not really "hidden" but they do provide a good bump in your heart rate and a rewarding view of Fisherman's wharf and Alcatraz when you get to the top. Also this has nothing to do with stairs, but if you are just looking for a run to do, going down Chestnut is fun and there is a public bathroom at the library that I have utilized often. I like to run down along the Embarcadero/Marina and then back on Chestnut for some variety. Google map

Here are a few extra photos of cool things that were not included in the list above: 

Brigeview Path

This Mormon Temple lets you cut through their property.


This sign changes from time to time.

SF alley to Transamerica tower.

Where have your walks taken you? Do you have any fun nooks, crannies or oddities in your neighborhood? 

3.06.2023

A Walk Down Memory Lane

November 2021 was a rough month. I had a falling out with a friend; we don't need to talk about that too much. Also, my grandmother passed away. She had a good life and was 89 years old, but it was a bit sudden. My aunt contacted us to say that my grandma had gone to the hospital with a UTI and shortly after that her organs started to shut down and my aunt was about to put my grandma into hospice. My brother and I got the first redeye we could find and flew to Boston to be there with my aunt and grandma. It is a good thing we did, as she was gone less than 72 hours later. 

She saved a box of journals (I suspect she also threw a lot of them away) and we have been passing them around the family and recently it was my turn to have the box. I had a great time reading them and getting an insight into her life that I had not had before. My grandma and I were not so close that we spoke all the time or saw each other very often (she lived in MA) but she was on Facebook and email and we exchanged messages and notes from time to time. She was an avid reader and we often bonded over what book we were reading. I would probably see her every few years at the very least and we had a great time swimming in her local pond, reading and eating ice cream. 

However, her journals were from the 80s, when she was in her early 50s, my parents were in their late 20s and I was but a girl. At this time in her life she was a manager at a halfway house and her journals reflect the strife that she experienced on a daily basis. She also spent a lot of time in her garden, reading and spending time with friends, often in Maine, which was a special place to her. It is interesting reading about her life not as my grandma, which is what she was to me, but as a woman, a person who did things, a person with stresses etc. 

I especially enjoyed a series of entries that she wrote in 1988 when I went to visit her all by myself that summer. I got to ride on a plane alone and got the wings and everything (PS do parents still do this?) She wrote a lot about the weather, but also about what we did when I was there. 

"Finally, clearing skies so we had our picnic lunch and great swims at the pond, then gardening and a fun evening with games at Lucy's. Kyria spent the night - a bit of a respite for me." (I love the last part.) I have a confession; I have also been known to keep a journal and I have an entry from this same day! "We ate blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Then I read until 9:30 and watched TV until 10:25 (I am pretty sure my grandma only let me watch one hour a day). Then I came into my room and wrote in my diary (I am very factual). I'm going to write some more when I do more things. We went to Aunt Lucy's and had dinner. I stayed the night there and stayed up until eleven. It rained that night but not in the day."  

My 1988 Journal

Here is another from grandma: "Woke to light rain; after lunch we saw Willow at the cinema - great fun! and the cows and calves at Peaceful Meadows (this was a dairy where there was ice cream - one of our favorite spots), ice cream, puzzles, books and Sorry (the board game)." Here is mine on the same day: "Today it was raining so we went to a movie called Willow. It was good." (factual)

Here are a few others from other times that I found fun: "Another wonderful day, painted lawn furniture and cleared up yard. Halcyon (where her brother lived) for herbing and talking and a great steak dinner. Home to Mondale-Reagan debate." Reagan! "Gorgeous day out but 18 degrees. Boys and I all have a touch of the tummy flu - up at 4:30 am! Baked cookies, knit, sewed, played. Nice quiet supper, home at 9 pm. Fine weekend." (funny even though she had the flu, it was a fine weekend). 

As you can see, I have had a very fun time taking a walk down memory lane and even though she probably got rid of some of the more personal or emotional sections or books, I have enjoyed reading more about her day to day life, even though a lot of it, like most of us, is pretty repetitive! 

As I mentioned, I have always kept a journal of sorts. Many times it is just factual as seen above, and usually is a record of my travels more than a daily life kind of thing, but sometimes I record thoughts or feelings. I also (obviously!) have this space, where many of my memories are held. However, this space is full of things that I don't mind being public but I am not really sure how I would feel about someone reading my journals that I am not putting out on the internet. Most likely, many of them would be similar to my grandmother's entries -- the weather, a quick recap of my day, nothing very personal -- but it does make me wonder what may be in them that I would not really want to share. However, when I am gone, does it even matter? My Mom also keeps a journal, which I would want to read when she is gone, but I have a feeling she will not want that (hi Mom!) as it is personal! Hopefully she will leave us a few. 

I will end with a passage from an entry she wrote from Acadia, Maine that I especially enjoyed: "As we eventually settle ourselves and try to organize the boxes, parcels and bags for the trip home tomorrow, we are lifted by a PBS Bernstein concert of Brahms "Violin Concerto!" Could it be played for us in a more entrancing place? The evening is calm, cool and soft. I am replete." 

Do you keep a journal? Would you prefer to get rid of it before anyone else read it? What items do you cherish from your loved ones who are gone? 

2.27.2023

Looking Back: Books

I am not going to lie; lately I have been unmotivated to read real books. It may be that the one I am reading is not really gripping me and so I keep finding better things to do than read it. However, I am still going strong with the audiobook game, and in the first two months of the year have read some good ones! Here are a few of my favorites so far. 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt: What can I say; this is a cute book. I did not hear all of the hype. I just picked it because it had a bright cover and came up on my list on Libby when I was searching for books. It is about the relationship between an old lady and an octopus and a younger, kind of troubled boy. I enjoyed the characters, the story was engaging but not too fluffy, and I was entertained throughout. 

Dinners With Ruth by Nina Totenberg: I do like RBG and enjoy learning more about her as well as hearing each different point of view from the different authors I have read. Nina was a reporter who became friends with Ruth despite their age difference. This book details their friendship as well as some of their accomplishments, especially geared toward equality for women. 

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama: In this novel, Obama talks about her relationships in life, but especially the ones with her mother and her kids. She has some words of wisdom like "start kind" which could be kind of corny coming from the wrong person but from her it makes sense. 

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman: Once again, the story of the Thursday Murder Club participants did not disappoint. This is Osman's third in the series and you can't help but love the octogenarian citizen detectives. They are annoying at times but they get the job done! I was also happy that Bogdan is still around, as he was one of my (surprising) favorites in the first book. I listened to it on audio and I also enjoyed the interview with the author that was at the end. 

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult: This is a controversial book about LGBTQ, murder, and the controversies surrounding both. I don't want to spoil anything, but I can say that I always enjoy how much work Picoult puts into the research around the topics that she writes about. Most of them are controversial and she really digs in and gives readers insights that we may not have known about. I always learn something by reading her books and this one was no different. 

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McCallister: This book may not usually be my forte, as it involves time travel which is not the most realistic, but I actually enjoyed it. A woman sees her son commit a murder and then she wakes up the next day and it has not happened yet. As the book goes on she learns more and more about the situation and in the end she has to decide what she wants to do about it. I was entertained and did not really see the ending coming, which always makes it more fun. 

Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? If not, what has been your favorite book so far this year? 

2.22.2023

What is a Regular Weekend Anyway?

Thank you to all who commented on my last post. I am taking all of your advice into consideration! However, I am still doing some digging, so if you have not weighed in yet, you can still go here and let me know your thoughts. 

Last weekend was a long one and it gave me the perfect opportunity to get some stuff done and still have fun too! I was thinking about what a regular weekend around here looks like and of course it depends on the weekend, but a regular weekend at home generally looks like this: prepping meals for the next week, laundry, house cleaning, working in the yard, a run (or two), reading, working on the purging project, and meeting up with friends for a hike/run/coffee. However, weekends lately have been a little different! 

Remember my post about being uncomfortable? Since I wrote that post, I have been even more uncomfortable! That ride was about 40 miles; after that was a success, on New Years weekend, I decided to ride to my brother's house in Santa Rosa, which is about 70 miles away from where I live. Before I started, since it was supposed to be a little wet, I got new tires and put them on Bertha. A quick backstory: Bertha is old, maybe even older than me, but I am not really sure, as I have been told that it is rude to ask a lady her age. She is a ten speed, of which maybe only three of the speeds work and her brakes have not been changed the whole time I have had her, which has been about ten years. So she is not really in tip top shape, but she gets the job done. 

The day that I planned on starting, Mother Nature was not having it; you may recall that this was the weekend where we were hit with the bomb cyclone? So I had to wait a day and shorten the ride, but in the end, I started off bright and early on Saturday morning from Richmond point and went across the Richmond bridge for the 2nd time in less than a month. Surprisingly the weather was good, the winds were in my favor and I got through San Rafael with no issues. 

I don't really know (but am learning!) what normal cyclists use for navigation, but I used Google maps and kept my headphone in while riding so that I could hear the directions as I went. Sometimes they are confusing, like when she says, "turn right, then left" but really she means, "stay on the same path" so I did go the wrong way a couple of times since I was not actually looking at the map, but generally it was fairly easy to follow. My route took me through San Rafael, Novato and Petaluma before putting me on Stony Point road, which was 14 miles long and actually went straight to Santa Rosa and almost right to my brother's house. 

Once I arrived there, we took a shake out walk and went for New Years Day pho before relaxing in the hot tub and then in front of a movie with ice cream. Broski and Mrs. Broski always treat me right. 

The next day, I got up early and left as it was supposed to start raining again at 11 am and I wanted none of that. I had gear and everything but one of my fears is slipping on the wet street and falling in the middle of traffic, or even just on the ground on a hard bike path or street. Not to say I will never ride in the rain but for now I would like to avoid it when I can. It was great riding back along Stony Point with the sun rising and no cars on the road. 

As I said above, my route generally followed frontage or access roads near highway 101, but often took me into the downtown areas of the towns I went through and I will not lie, although I have been to and driven through these towns before, I had never been to some of their downtowns and they are very cute. For example, Petaluma has a nice old town downtown with cute shops and everything! I will have to come back to explore more as I was trying to outrun the rain, but who knew! Petaluma also had a bathroom that was open, which I was very grateful for, as I had made a pitstop in the bushes the day before. 

I got back to Richmond only slightly damp and it actually started raining shortly after that. Score. What are my takeaways? I learned that I am not a fan of padded bike shorts. So, when I say uncomfortable, I really do mean physically this time. I nicknamed them my "diaper" and have a few TMI things to tell you about this. First of all, did you know that you are supposed to wear them without underwear? I can't tell you how glad I am to get to my destination and take off the shorts and put on underwear. It's my new favorite thing. I learned that I need new brakes, which I have since bought and not yet installed. 

One of the most useful things I have learned on this adventure but also in life, is that you don't need special or fancy equipment to start a new adventure. You just need to try it with what you have! I put a change of clothes and some tools in a dry bag, strapped it to the back of the bike with a bungee and used that as my "paniers," I clearly do not have a state of the art bike, I wear old running shoes (another use rather than gardening!) and I wear whatever is comfortable. I get passed by sleek riders, dressed in fancy matching spandex with $16,000 bikes made of air, as I huff and puff on my 57 pound bike up a hill with my lowest of three gears. But you know what, I arrive home tired and happy and proud of myself for not letting any of that stop me. Not to get on a tangent here, but the same goes for everything! Don't let the lack of gear or the lack of experience or the fear of looking silly hold you back. 

Total miles: 105 (54 + 51)
Time taken:  10 hours (5.5 + 4.5)
Bridges crossed: 1, but I crossed it twice (Richmond)
Modes of transport: 2 (car to Richmond, bike)
Map of my trip: https://caltopo.com/m/E803B 

What does your regular weekend look like? What does your out of the box/adventure weekend look like? 

2.18.2023

Feed Me!

Hello readers; I need your help. You may have noticed that I was having trouble with my blog feed, and it was driving me nutso. I was posting posts but they were not showing up on Feedly for three days. The last one I posted (Minneapolis) actually did not show up in my feed at all, and that is when I knew that I really had a problem. I tried all kinds of things and posted a bunch of test posts (sorry if you got these) but I couldn't seem to figure it out. 

I removed all of my widgets, messed with my HTML code a lot, searched for errors and tried to fix them, removed code, added code, etc. If you know me at all you know that I do not like to leave things undone, so I spent several days patiently (??) trying to fix this issue. Then I kind of gave up, and decided to transition to WordPress. 

I spent several days staring at this

I downloaded everything in Blogger, uploaded it to WordPress and was still in the process of fiddling with the settings when my Minneapolis post showed up in my feed finally (about a week after my original post date). Clearly something I had messed with  had worked! I then posted a test, which worked, and then I scheduled the gadgets post, which worked. 

Now my conundrum is, should I stay or should I go now? From the few hours I spent working on the WP blog, it seems like there are definitely some features I like more (the commenting seems better for example) but some things that kind of confuse me (the set up of the template - I cannot seem to get my header font smaller without also decreasing my post header font and vice versa, also my side menu options seem more limited, but maybe I just need to fiddle some more). 

I need your help! 

WordPress people: What do you like/dislike about WordPress? What is the commenting like? If the person commenting is not on WP, does it make it difficult? Do you get an email if someone comments back (that is something I wish I had now. When I comment on a WP blog, I have to go back and check to see if they replied sometimes), can you comment back via email (you can do this on Blogger if the person is on Blogger too, but I can only do this with some WP people). 

Blogger people turned WordPress: Why did you convert? What things were hard during the conversion? (I noticed all of my comments came over but they are all "anonymous" now) What things do you like better or dislike more? 

Blogger people: Why do you stay with Blogger? Have you ever considered converting?

Additional questions for all: What feed reader do you use? How do WP vs Blogger posts show up on your reader? Do you have a preference for the aesthetics of one over the other? What day did you get this post? (FYI, I am posting it on February 18th) Alternatively, if you subscribe by email, when did you get this post? Also, if you have had this problem, how did you fix it? 

If you are shy, you can email me at travelspot06 at gmail rather than commenting. 

If you don't feel like answering any of the above questions, at least tell me...what are you up to this weekend? 

Thank you for your help!