Gratitude 1/28/2021

Just thinking about how great life is when you can wake up surrounded by family and pets and good food and options for entertainment and personal enrichment that most people in the world only dream about.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in perspective, but even things I often take for granted are luxuries depending on where a person might be in the world.

Making Bread at Home

I guess we’re late to the party on this one since making bread at home was popular last year, but we decided to get an automatic bread maker to use at home. I guess it makes more sense now since there aren’t huge flour shortages. I’d have been pretty disappointed if we bought a bread maker but couldn’t get flour.

The machine arrived yesterday and I decided to use it right away. I was too excited to wait so I was up late making bread. Or rather, watching the machine make bread. It’s bizarrely easy. I was worried about the results because of some of the reviews on the product page but I had zero issues even with using oat milk instead of cow milk. I think people were just using poor quality flour or yeast and expecting miracles.

A freshly baked 1-lb loaf of “basic white bread” made using the Cuisinart CBK110P1 automatic bread maker

The texture of the bread is thick like “artisan” bread you buy from the deli/bakery in the grocery store and not spongey like pre-packed bread in the bread aisle. It was thick, heavy, and slightly chewy. On the medium setting, the crust was firm without being hard on the teeth. I’m not sure I’d want to use the darker setting.

Most importantly, it tasted good. It tasted real. The basic white bread loaf seems like it would be best with butter, jam, or dipped in soup. I’m going to give the sandwich bread recipe a try.

This machine will also just knead and manage the rising of the dough for you so all you have to worry about is shaping and baking. It will even make pizza dough and pretzels.

I’ve wanted to make my own bread and do more baking. This takes the hard work out of it and lets me just have fun while making clean, better quality bread at home.

The only thing I found really odd is that today the product page is missing from Amazon. I wonder why? It’s still listed on Cuisinart’s own site.

Jumping on the MeWe Bandwagon

I rarely use Facebook, partly because it eats up a lot of time but mostly because I started to realize just how much Facebook was doing with and profiting from my personal data. It’s creepy. So, I cut back my Facebook time to about 30 – 40 minutes every month or so. I’m not keeping up with everything on Facebook anymore and sometimes I wish I could when it comes to family, but Facebook really isn’t about family updates anymore and hasn’t been for a long time so I don’t really feel as guilty about walking away from it as I might have 10 years ago.

With everything going on with the election and the inauguration, alternative social media platforms have been getting a lot of sun. I’m always keen to try out new platforms, mostly to see if there are any great memes, but I hadn’t heard of MeWe so I decided to give it a try. It’s surprisingly well put together and fun to use, once I got over the learning curve and figured out which groups to avoid.

There are, however, some really basic things wrong with MeWe that are surprising. Here are three things I’ve noticed so far:

  1. If I create an album in My Cloud and upload photos to it, there’s no way to share that album with anyone, whether they be Close Contacts, Contacts, or Public. Those photos are dead weight. You have to create a photo post and add 50 images, share it, then create another photo post and add 50 images, share it, etc. That’s really messy. It would be nicer to create an album, caption the photos, and share it when it’s finished one time so people see the finished product. Granted, I don’t have a lot of albums that would need more than 50 photos, but I do have a few and other popular social sites offer this functionality and have offered it for many, many years.
  2. There’s no way to delete an album and have it just delete the photos in the album as well. You have to first delete the album in My Cloud and then you have to manually select every photo in your Photostream, clicking one at a time and then clicking delete which is absurdly tiresome and shouldn’t be how things work in any social network, free or paid.
  3. Once you’ve created your account, it’s apparently impossible to change your email address so I may have to delete my entire account to change to a new email address. Why this is a problem shouldn’t even need to be explained. I figured this out after opening a Proton Mail account, which is encrypted and comes with 500 MB of storage on the free account. I figured it might be nice to have a new account for professional messages, since my Gmail is now an advertising-filled dumpster fire like my Yahoo! email was before it.


I don’t want to use Facebook, but the alternatives really make it hard to settle in with glaringly obvious problems that should have been addressed a long, long time ago. MeWe isn’t brand new after all.

I’m reminded of how Signal is just now trying to add custom backgrounds and more customization options after this influx of users. They’re going to lose out to Telegram, which isn’t as secure, because it’s just more user friendly and more fun to use, because they didn’t take the initiative. It’s also possible to search for public channels or chat groups, which Signal doesn’t seem to support.

I submitted feedback about those issues more than once over the time I’ve been using the app. Now, the Signal boat is sinking and they’re trying to bail it out with new features rushed out in their beta version while people are choosing whether to hop on board or swim to the Telegram boat. I wonder how you explain that to all of the people who donated to Signal to create an exceptional and secure messaging app? That they created a product that lost out to another messaging app run by a Russian oligarch as a pet project?

I think I’m going to wind up using MeWe mostly for a handful of groups and some personal updates, but probably nothing too personal. I didn’t even sign up with my full name. The way that social media is being weaponized now is honestly terrifying and has a chilling effect on speech. Something you say today that is conventional might become a weapon to attack you in 10 years.

I think the 2020s are going to be a time when people take a step back and anonymize and the web goes back to how it was in 90s, before every post and comment online became part of a global ePeen contest. If we can get around current government and corporate efforts to prevent that from happening anyway. I imagine they want and need the US to move more towards a blending of offline and online identities leading to a shadow social scoring system. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t one already in place.

Jerome Ave Flooding Damage, January 2021 – Bronx, NY

Living in the Bronx is exciting. You never know what you’re going to see when you go outside or even when you look out your window at 4 AM. For example, early last Thursday morning I saw a river where I expected to see an avenue.

4 AM Thursday Morning

A water main break at 175th Street was causing major flooding. The water main that broke was cast iron, 48″ across, and was installed in 1909. It’s kind of hard to believe that something installed in 1909 was still holding up considering all of the traffic that rolls across Jerome every day and the vibrations from the elevated 4 train. Maybe this will encourage local politicians to address the traffic issue in this area.

Jerome Avenue sits in a depression that I’ve always wondered about. Was it a river in the past that was converted into a roadway? Or just a natural valley? Regardless, it is now a major thoroughfare in the Bronx both for vehicles and for an elevated train line. That worked to funnel the water towards I-95, which sits at an even lower elevation and crosses under Jerome Ave a block away.

I can’t say I was completely unhappy to see the street flooding, even though I was worried about my car and the impact on local businesses that I frequent. This stretch of Jerome Avenue is usually filthy. It needed a good wash. It needs a second wash for good measure, but I don’t suppose that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe when the two new buildings that are going up are finished and new people and businesses start moving into the neighborhood? I have hopes that this section of the Bronx, being right on a train line and with quick access to two major highways, will be vastly improved over the next year or so.

Anyway, looking out of my window at 4 AM, I could see that the water was hip deep and rising. Cars parked along the avenue were already half-submerged. What I couldn’t quite figure out is why the water seemed to be so deep between 177th Street and 175th Street, but was almost completely absent from 175th Street down towards I-95. I could see emergency workers standing in the road there. The difference in elevation from one block to the next isn’t that severe.

Thursday Evening

Later that evening I went out to get groceries and to look around. Most of the businesses along that stretch were closed or people were using pumps to remove water from the basements. I could see people in El Gran Valle on the corner of 176th and Jerome looking around and shaking their heads like they were dealing with a lost cause.

The road itself was covered with mud and there were emergency work crews surrounding huge holes in the intersection of 175th Street and Jerome, in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts. A reporter, Naveen Dhaliwal from Channel 7 I think, was on the corner. It looked like she was getting ready for the following news segment:

Friday

People clearing damaged items out of businesses on Friday afternoon.

Today (Friday), more than 48 hours later, water was still being pumped out of the basements of businesses and workers at a church and bodega were hauling damaged equipment, furniture, and other odds & ends out to the curb for disposal. Between the physical and fire damage from the riots and this week’s flooding, the area is really taking a beating. I can’t help but wonder if the damage was done intentionally to try to clear out some of these businesses so that more new buildings can be erected.

One last thing I wanted to note. ConEdison has closed Jerome Avenue between 176th Street and 175th Street for repairs. Today, some overly clever clown got out of his car, moved the cones, and drove down Jerome anyway. He was forced to turn around both by ConEdison workers and by the lack of a road in the 175th Street intersection. People really are something else in the Bronx.

Man’s life is as a point… ever flowing

The time of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful; to be brief, as a stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul.

Marcus Aurelius

This is an interesting quote. I haven’t finished reading The Meditations or much about Aurelius’s life, so I don’t think I understand it fully, but it seems as though he’s saying that who we are physically and mentally changes from moment to moment and that we are all moving inexorably towards death.

I think it’s important to remember that people change over time and that the total time we have is fleeting. I’m not the same person I was 25 years ago and I won’t be the person I am today in 25 years, or even tomorrow. I do wonder if we should be struggling to make sure that every little thing we do is incredibly meaningful, though. I don’t know if that would make life more meaningful or just stressful. Sometimes it’s good to relax and enjoy frivolous things.