Ghost Kitchens: The post covid food delivery scam

Answer me this, if its ok for the Cheese Cake factory restaurants to have infinitely large menus with multiple varieties of food, why do the deliver places insist on lying to us and pretending that one kitchen is 30 different restaurants rather than one with a very large menu?

This is kind of mind boggling to me. So I’m back from my travels and in the Chicago area and my body clock is all screwed up (went to sleep at noon and woke at 9pm)
and as such I started looking DoorDash for places that do late night delivery

I was kind of impressed by how many places were listed … most being restaurants that I’d never heard of before … so I started to methodically pull up the addresses of said restaurants (which is kind of hidden on the site, but it’s there) and I’m finding it is IMPRESSIVE just how many of them are all ONE location
— 34 different places!!!! see list below — are actually all coming out of one kitchen

when I googled the address it’s a place called Bacolod Chicken House, a Filipino place on Lincoln ave in Chicago with about 200 good reviews on google …. so I looked at their menu (again on google) and it looks interesting, so then I tried to search DoorDash for delivery of THAT … and it’s NOT THERE… if you’re going to be open late making all this other stuff, why not still make your own stuff?

That said, how can ONE kitchen produce ALL of these different places, and how good could any of it be?

Chicken Shaq
SOUP KITCHEN- Lincoln
Tunisian Fusion
Spaghetti Bowl
Jack’s Fish Market
Ishtar Inn Assyrian Mediterranean Kitchen
FIREWOOD PIZZA- Lincoln
Taylor Street Dogs
Zucci Italiana Pasta & Pizza
Burger Bites – Lincoln
Brazilian Steakhouse
Main Spain
Breakfast Cafe
Olive Branch Express Fine Lebanese Restaurant
Juanito’s Burritos
O.G. Flatbread Pizza
Big Philly Cheese Steaks
Steak House
Pho- Sho 2
Anthony Kings Just Desserts
Fruit Bowl
Fresh Catch
Argentinian Fine Steak – Lincoln
Soup Hot Pot
X-Treme Sandwiches
Big John’s Red Hot’s
Joe Hood Pizzeria & Grill
EGGROLLS
Chef Mony’s Fish Market
Zuzu Wraps
Lily & Nats Breakfast Cafe
Uncle Tuntunji Middle Easter Cuisine
Flamingo Portuguese Cuisine
Paul’s Pierogis

OH, and as I was methodically going through and comparing the addresses I found there’s like a second different single kitchen that is responsible for at least 16 other places that deliver to me… I find this disturbing …. THAT place however has the decency to be somewhat transparent about what they’re doing, in that among the listed restaurants there ONE called “all day kitchens” which lists all the places on one page so you can pick and choose different foods from various well known chicago junk food places around town …. the “actual” places are out of my delivery zone so I have to think those restaurants have agreed to this as a way of expanding their delivery zones and probably get a certain percentage kicked back to them…

I’m looking closer and to DoorDash’s credit for the place with 32 different names (none of which I’d ever heard of before) they have a banner in red at the top of the page saying “This is a virtual brand.” …

Hello Still in London!!

Yes I’m still in London… been here about a month now…. SO, you MIGHT be asking where are the posts? Well… I’ve decided that rather than spending my days drafting posts I’ll just START to draft said posts, with a quick draft of my personal thoughts, etc, and then when, either the weather turns utterly miserable (so far it hasn’t), or I get back home to chicago I’ll finish said posts and put them up for reading… rather than spending my time in London doing that… makes sense, neh?

The weather in London has been unusually good… You know that song from the musical Camelot where it never rains till after sundown?

Well its been a bit like that… or more to the point the mornings when it does rain are the days I’ve slept till noon and by noon the sun starts peeking out at least intermittently (this is of course England).
SO… please forgive me dear readers while I live a life OUT DOORS and tell you about it once I’m stuck back at home with nothing better to do

The Thames tidal project… because I can

This is more for me than anyone… but since I’m staying a friend’s place that sits RIGHT on the thames, a view I seriously doubt I’ll ever enjoy again, I’ve decided to document it.

Every-time it’ll be about the same view of the thames and St. Pauls …  what will change is the light and the tides. The Easiest way to register the hight of the low tide is if you look at side to side width of the beach and which buildings it wraps around or doesn’t. For high tides you need to pay attention to how high up it comes (obviously)…

Also, Rather than wait till the end of the trip, I’m just going to add to this as I get more images till I leave this location.

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Day I arrived in UK: March 2, 11:29 am

Once upon a time when I was in my late 20’s I lived in a room in a shared SF house — my room was in the basement and only had windows at the very top of the walls to let in some light, no view…. but the living room and patio had the most amazing view ever, so I didn’t care. It was right across the bay from San Francisco with a totally unobstructed panorama from from all the way south to San Jose to Richmond which was on our side of the bay north of us. Every day we watched the smog roll north from San Jose which stung our eyes and throats at 3pm (going from clean air to city air all at once is kind of an eye opener), and in certain seasons we’d watch the fog roll in over SF… sometimes it’d hit us, but not always. And I never thought to visually document it — was too busy living my life and writing my dissertation.

[Note how big the beaches are here…. March 6 9:55 am — I haven’t seen it this low since]

While the changes of the Thames aren’t as drastic as the ones in I enjoyed in SF, I realized I could be watching the variations in the tide…. So like in the video above unbeknownst to me the tide around the time I got here was unusually low because a few days later I finally got to see a high tide where all the beaches were underwater and green algae on the sides of the walls was entirely covered (and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t grab my camera at the time), and then suddenly I became aware of the changing nature of the water and a few days later — when I never spotted it quite that high again, I decided to try to document it …. so that’s what this is.

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March 11, 5:50 pm, almost no beach

Anyone who watches enough TV about historic Britain sort of knows this… we’re constantly hearing characters talking about how they have to leave London by ship catching the outgoing tide, or at high tide… or “we need to wait for the tide.”

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6am March 13th, Rainy day, beach is exposed but no where near as much as in the video above

You can see from the photos it took me a few days to realize what I wasn’t paying attention to: for you guys, In fast it wasn’t till the 13th of March (two weeks after I arrived) that I really started to pay attention.

This image is the same day, where the one above is 6am this next one is around 9am — in fact I’m doing three from the same day here…

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March 13, 9AM, 3 hours later Rains cleared and beach is GONE, but not the highest tide I’ve seen

An hour later, 10am ….

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Still March 13, 9:58 am, if you look tide is just a bit higher here

below is STILL march 13, but at 1:51pm… compare this to 6am and you’ll see the tide here is lower that it was when I first snapped it in the morning…  the beach extends farther to the left and right

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March 13, 1:51pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress: London is replacing the old black cabs with new electric ones

Updated April 19th:

The traditional Black cabs of London are in the process of being converted to all Electric Vehicles (EVs), but it is a change not without its problems. First introduced to London streets in 2018, there was some hesitancy on the part of the cabbies to make the transition; obviously, most wouldn’t be having to buy a new one till their current cab started falling apart; that said initially cabbies had a choice between the new EVs cabs and the older designed gas ones (not yet sold) and some, fearing the change, jumped to replace their cabs with a gas one before the new EVs replaced them in the marketplace, but that’s a choice that is no longer available. If they replace their cabs now it has to be with an electric one, or go without — a point I’ll get back to.

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Last time I was in London, in 2019 (pre pandemic) I don’t remember seeing a single electric cabbie nor any charging stations for them. Yesterday I spotted this when walking with an acquaintance through London’s Southwark neighborhood, and it made me very happy.

Anyone who knows anything about Electric Vehicles (EVs) know that this is a BRILLIANT choice and HAS to become the norm in the future, especially for things like cabs, busses and trucks which spend ALL their time on city streets, running more hours than not and polluting the air while burning up non renewable resources.

Add to that the fact the Europe gets most of it’s oil from Russia, and you see the problem. That said, while England does have some of it’s own North Sea Oil sites, they still supplement that with oil from Russia …  and with what’s going on right now over in Ukraine….
So let’s talk about why this HAS to happen:
Firstly, electric cabs run entirely clean, which will help reduce the horrible air quality in cities. London has some of the worst air of any city in the world, with 80% of that pollution coming from cars, and 20% of that traffic on London streets is just from the black cabs… so if all the cabs (let alone the busses and trucks) became electric that would be a big improvement in the city’s air quality right there.
And most of the old black cabs ran on diesel, which is even worse for air quality than normal gas. — blech!
Secondly while electric isn’t all that great on highways or really long drives, they are GREAT for short distance travel within limited areas (according to one of the drivers interviewed in the videos below, he recharges his electric cab at night while at home, and only rarely needs to top up at one of the currently rare charging stations around the city.
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Thirdly… and this is crucial… stop and go traffic, and the constant repetitive hard breaking that is the bane of crawling through inner city streets actually HELPS EVs to recharge their batteries — without having to pay for a top up at an aforementioned station.

That said, when they cabs were released in 2018 the drivers of black cabs, who tend to be traditionalists had to be convinced. To that end I found the following video from 2019 (While it feels like a news piece its actually an advertisement created by the company that makes the cabs) designed to look like a news piece… This is the sort of PR news submission from companies that lazy news stations will put on air as actual journalism, when they’re not; in it a woman talks about the cabs and interviews a cabbie whose been driving black cabs for 10 years before switching to this new car…

But the first major hurdle to the transition was the price. These new EVs cabs cost the drivers 60K (over $78K) to buy, which is about 25K MORE ($32K) than what they are paying for the old fashioned ones. And in 2018 they are NOT government subsidized, even though you would think they would have been (a problem now fixed by the way).

Also, there are other hidden issues I wasn’t finding in the videos but that showed up in the comments left below said YouTube videos.

So for instance, there’s been some complaints about the quality…

TXE faults reported by owner drivers 2018 — by a guy called Graham Grey (posted in 2020) responding to the previous video on YouTube
1) Software errors
2) Cracking windscreens
3) steering Bushes squeaking and need replacement
4) doors dropping
5) panels out of line
6) orange peel effect on paint work
7) steering box seals going … steering box replacement
8) vibrates over 65 mph
9) radio going off on its own
10) meter problems were its showing to much or to little
11) excessive tyre ware
12) broken charger plugs
13) unable to unlock centre seat in the back
14) door handles falling off
15) battery completely under performing from day one
16, can not use heater due to excessive battery drain
17) various intercom problems
18) anti roll bar bushes need replacement
19) charging issues
20) back door lock problems
21) fuses blowing if both front windows opened at same time
22) cab surging forward when applying the break (few accidents reported)

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And apparently above the obvious price difference there were also hidden price issues regarding the loans the drivers have to get to be able to afford buying them versus the promised savings to said drivers of the cost of running them:

“What they don’t tell you is the never ending payment plan that you are stuck on. The bubble payment after 5yrs is approx 19 grand, and the warranty on the battery runs out then also. Most of the drivers in London have the petrol range extender running all day, so the savings against diesel are not as good as stated. The idea is good, but with the current state of the trade. Stay well clear.”– Jumbo Mills (2019)
And then drivers found issues regarding the performance of these new EVs cabs:
“The electric cab does not do 80 miles on electric when u have air con and heater on it does 45 mils on electric when u turn on to to petrol u get 45 to the gallon the cost of buying is expensive u lose working time on pluging in for more electric so a lot of cab drivers run it only on petrol which u get 45 to the gallon so where is the savings it misreputation by the makers of the electric cab” — Jeff Rose (late 2021)
I then found a second video, this one from Fifth-gear, a British TV show devoted to cars enthusiasts. He talks first and foremost about the air pollution advantages, but also compares his experience of driving the old cabs, which were loud and uncomfortable especially for the drivers to this one which is quiet and according to him much more comfortable, even roomier in the back than the old cabs, allow customers to charge their phones and such while driving…  and easier to drive for the cabbie, etc.

According to him the “London Electric Car Company” which produces is the cab is part of the same company that owns Volvo, and hence the car has a lot of the same interior features. Where the last video had one cabbie talking about it, this one pulls in 3 cabbies who’ve never driven the thing before and take them for test drives in it to get their opinions. At the end 2 of the 3 drivers say they’d make the change with one having actually put in a order for one to replace his aging cab.

 So how has the transition been going? 

I found a Taxi industry newspaper article from January of this year saying that since 2018, of the around 15,000 black cabs on the road, 5,000 have been replaced with the electric option; this “total number” of black cabs seemed low to me and the answer for why it is true is a bit complicated, but in retrospect it made sense. According to a mid-covid 2020 article from the same industry paper, this number was down radically since 2015 when there had been 22,500 black cabs on London’s roads. There are two major factors at play… firstly over the last few years I’ve read numerous articles talking about how black cabs were losing out to Uber and Lyft in the competition for customers, making it less appealing to young people to jump through all the hoops necessary to qualify to drive a black cab, when they could just go work for Uber or one of the other mini cab companies popping up around London’s suburbs — although all of those must be ordered, and can not legally be hailed on London streets, something that’s becoming less and less important in the modern age. These taxis don’t use the iconic “Black Cabs” but rather look like a normal American one, and tend to be driven by recent immigrants who barely speak English, let alone have the intimate knowledge of London’s city streets for which Black Cabbies are legendary.

For those of you who don’t know, in London, to qualify to drive a black cab you need to pass a test called “The Knowledge” a somewhat legendarily difficult test to pass of all the best ways to get from point A to point B in London’s maze of one way streets, dead ends, and roads that don’t go for more than few blocks. The learning required to pass it isn’t unlike that of becoming a doctor or lawyer, but for a heck of a lot less pay. While this was invaluable in the low tech age, making London cabbies respected, if not well compensated … now, with the invent of GPS, every Uber and Lyft driver has the equivalent information at their finger tips, and as such one can begin to question if it’s still a necessary requirement (although black cab drivers know where they’re going and as such can focus their full attention on the roads while the former are distracted because they have to keep checking their screens. which makes them arguably less safe). As such, there was attrition in the profession as older drivers retired, and younger ones couldn’t see the point when they could just go drive for Uber, which was attracting more customers anyway.

This changed quite recently for a combination of two reasons, government regulation and circumstance. Firstly, those upstart/disrupter companies were forced by the UK government to raise their prices. The finding, on the part of authorities, was that essentially their prices were artificially low (yet profitable to the companies) because the they had been ripping off their workers who didn’t fully understand the TRUE cost of driving their cars all day (wear and tear, taxes, etc). As such, Uber and Lyft were able to charge customers less than it cost to provide the service, and that was making them anticompetitive with black cabs. Now that the price difference has been fixed. After that, the only true competitive advantage other than price that the high tech taxi firms still had over the tradition London cabbie, in my mind at least, also had been leveled — essentially convenience. Black cabs finally got a little bit high tech, and can now be called via an app from customers smartphones, just like they upstart competitors, and with all the similar features of being able to track it’s arrival, etc.

And that’s when Covid happened. Suddenly, the black cabs which have always been designed so that there’s a Plexiglass divide between the driver and the customers, and more than a 6 foot separation if you sit in the forward facing seats at the back, had an advantage that all the of the various taxi services that were using normal cars, suddenly could not compete with… causing the black cabs to have a resurgence in popularity with customers — but at a time when the market was simultaneously shrinking because no one was going anywhere. Additionally, as anyone who has tried to buy a car recently can tell you… You just can’t. Covid has entirely screwed up the supply chain, and the more high tech the car, the harder it is to get your hands on. SO, just as the demand for black cabs was seeing a resurgence, drivers who needed to replace their aging cars couldn’t do it. At the height of the pandemic disheartened drivers were leaving the profession at the rate of 160 cabs a week, which was worse then before the government steps in to punish the likes of uber.

That said, the turnover from gas guzzlers to EVs in the Black Cab industry is a done deal. Only time will tell how well they do going forward.

Edit: April 19th
My black cab heading home was one of the new ones so I took some pictures of the inside…
I think the sunroofs are a brilliant addition
You can pay cash, which the drivers prefer, or with a credit card that does “tap to pay”, or apple pay….
The control on the door is for turning on and off the intercom with the driver and includes a sound level control
Sits 6 people total, all with seatbelts — and the back and front are separated with plexiglass, which makes them way better during Covid
A light switch, in case you’re in the cab at night

Saw this yesterday behind the Tate Museum, London

Walked by this film crew yesterday on my way to the grocery store (Amazon’s high tech one) located south of the Tate Museum of art
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Excuse the Panorama distortions…. 
Apparently its for a TV show. I asked what show it was but they said they were not allowed to tell me as they had signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), so then I asked them “can you tell me what channel it is for?”
… and they kind of paused, and looked at each other nervously and said “can we? can we tell her?”, and then finally they whispered to me conspiratorially, “it’s for Disney. But don’t tell anyone we’re the ones who told you” —  I talked to more than a few staffers while there so I doubt the Big Black Rat (Disney corporate) will be able to identify which one squealed …

There seem to be a lot of people on roller-skates in brightly colored clothing, and other stuff that looked way more like clothing DisneyWorld cast members might wear rather than anything Londoners actually would … this one poor black woman extra was in an atrocious long fake hair wig (she looked generally miserable), and then there was this one little girl, who was maybe six years old was one of those skateboards with a pole attached to the front type things…. with bright colored streamers attached who kept having to push herself through the scene, but she looked like she was having a good time.

At a few points they kept coming over to me and saying “excuse me you’re not in the cast but your actually in our line of sight …. could you please move?” They were however very nice about it… apologized when it kept happening until the guy finally told me where to go stand … “you can be here, but you know… continuity issues”

Good morning from London! Getting here during covid & Streaming US TV while here

Good Morning from the UK!! (I write this at 3am while suffering jet lag)

After being in Illinois where everyone was vaccinated and masked (and even without the mandate most people neurotically continue to wear a mask indoors or in crowded outdoor areas), arriving in the UK was a bit of a shock. NO ONE here seems to wear a mask. Even in places like Borough Market at noon on a weekend, when the place is cheek to jowl with maskless people … most of whom are there because they won’t eat inside a restaurant, and are kidding themselves that because the market is semi exposed and not heated that means it’s safe… Dear lord people, music concerts and sporting events outdoors can be super spreaders… EEK!!!!

Anyway… After a bit of me going on about how I got here and where I’m staying, this blog post is started out intending to be about streaming American TV while in the UK, and do you need VPN? The answer in short is, probably not, but it depends who you’re signed up with back at home. For that bit, jump to the end….

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I’m loving the night capabilities of my new iPhone’s camera

After 2 years of being locked down in one place yours truly was starting to suffer the beginnings of depression. Just couldn’t do it anymore. So once the covid numbers dropped enough for me to feel the risk was worth it, I bought myself a plane ticket to the UK (like 2 days before flying — in an attempt to find the emptiest flight possible) and got the hell out of dodge.

With regards to the flight, I found if you buy a one way ticket instead of round trip there was no difference in price if I bought it for a flight this week or in a month from now. And the flight was in fact pretty empty. Ironically (or not), United’s business and economy plus zones were almost completely full. Economy basic was also kind of full, but United now charges an extra fee if you want to sit along the window sides rather than the center isle, and THOSE were almost completely empty. SO I bought a window seat in an isle where there was no one in the rows before or behind me, putting a nice buffer between me and most of the other passengers for the eight or so hours it took to get here, and I was able to lie down — go stuff it business class, which would have cost over a thousand dollars more!

I also found a place to stay with in a friend’s spare room. It’s in a truly stellar location, in fact it’s so central that if it were an Airbnb I’d normally avoid it because anyone with such a home is rightfully going to charge you just shy of what the local hotels would — because they can; and their mortgage payments/rent is probably obscene so they sort of have to. (If they didn’t need help meeting their bills they wouldn’t be offering up space in their homes to tourists.) If I’m going to pay THAT much for a place it’s often just a few dollars more for a hotel room. But this time I got lucky and hit up a friend with a spare room who agreed to let me stay for a few months as long as I chipped in for utilities and didn’t eat his food. … Granted those of you who read my page regularly know I normally stay at airbnb’s, because staying with friends for more than a week or so rarely works out, and when I do rent a place I never pay more than 2k a month if I can avoid it. But, because of Covid I needed someplace in London that was SO incredibly walkable that I could avoid rapid transit almost entirely after I arrived — and THAT you can’t find for less than 5.5k on airbnb. If he hadn’t offered I’d have probably ended up at a nearby hotel that rents out full apartments which was just a few bucks more than the airbnb’s I did find in the location I wanted (easy walking distance to the historic city).

That said, the trip from Heathrow Airport into the center of town via taxi is STUPID expensive, don’t do it unless you’ve got like a whole family you can load in  … A few years back I once flew from Tel Aviv to London for LESS than it cost to take the Taxi from Heathrow to where I was staying in north London, which because of highways is a much quicker/cheaper trip than the one into central London I would have had to pay for this time — traffic and infinite traffic lights even in the middle of the night which would have made taking the taxi from Heathrow to here even MORE expensive than the aforementioned flight. At the time I had no choice because the plane arrived really late, like 2am, just after the trains and bus options to Paddington Station had stopped running.

So unless you’re rich, accept that you’ll need to take the train from Heathrow to Paddington. To reduce covid risk I suggest the more expensive direct train, rather than the underground… also it is MUCH easier to get suitcases on and off of that train and there’s way more room to store them, and a significantly lower risk of someone trying to steal your bags… an all around win that makes the extra price worth it.

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View from the living room balcony of my friend’s place
That said I found a really choice location with a friend. It’s in a part of town that ironically I have spent almost NO time at all in during my 57 years of coming to the UK on a fairly regular basis (most of my family that I have any interest in staying in touch with lives in the UK so we came here almost yearly till the late ’70’s and I’ve come often since then — used to say I knew my way around London better than I did Chicago). The building (as you can see from the image above) is just on the Queen’s walk (an almost 4 mile promenade, built in honor of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the runs along the southern bank of the River Thames between the Lambeth and Tower Bridges). It is also directly just across the river from St. Paul’s Cathedral and right across the street from both the re-creation of Shakespeare’s Globe theater and a bank-side pier where the ferries going up and down the Thames all stop.
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Bank-Side pier: Ferries by Uber and Tourist ones with guides stop here
I will write more about these later (once I’ve actually used them) but they’re ferries, that travel up and down the Thames like open air busses…. an ancient highway that during covid has become re-discovered by the city locals as a safer way to commute east to west. Business got so good that Uber bought a stake in one of the companies and you can now pay for it via the Uber App.
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From the Pier, my building (left), Globe Theater (center), Tate Museum (smoke stack)
I mean seriously… I’m only about a 30 minute walk from a huge swath of historic London… not the Victorian England side, which is where I’ve spent most of my life in, but rather the Roman/medieval & Tudor parts of London… the walled city part of Shakespeare’s time and before, which during the time of Covid means I for the most part can completely avoid rapid transit and still keep my days full — and it forces me to do a lot of healthy walking …. my weight this week has dropped from 174.5 lbs to 168.9 lbs.
ANYWAY… before I get completely off topic.. when I got here I was of course in Jet lag HELL; I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, and in Chicago my body clock had me falling asleep at around 11am and waking at around 7pm … which meant for the first few days most of my sleep was during daylight hours… (just yesterday I had my first day of being awake while the sun was up, but I then crashed at sunset, around 6pm … slept till about 2am and then started working on this post.

Anyway, this means since I couldn’t go out in the middle of the night I was watching TV on my computer.

This leads me to my discovery which initiated this post….

I’ve noticed that when trying to stream (WITHOUT installing the new VPN software I bought just before jumping on the plane) that I ran up against inconsistencies…
Your NETFLIX account works in the UK!! They just bump you from the US version of the application to the UK one, which means the content is different but overlaps. Pretty much all the Netflix productions on offer are the same, the difference lies in content they didn’t produce … so that’ll offer up new stuff not available in the US along with stuff that is… but some of the shows you might have been in the middle of binging might not be there.

Amazon Prime: basically the same story only they will NOT bump you to UK content. Instead you’ll be able watch their content, stuff they made for their network  … I just watched the new ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ episodes for instance … but not much else. BUT there’s a lot of that, so it’s not like you’re deprived.

HOWEVER, Amazon UK keeps trying to get me to sign up for a free 1 month trial of their prime membership, which I’m sure would widen what’s available there … and could be useful if you want to use Amazon fresh to have your groceries delivered so you can avoid going into grocery stores. You can still use Amazon fresh, or get free shipping from normal Amazon (rather than dragging my supplements I found most of them for sale on the UK Amazon, and when I got to the friend’s place, he’s a very tall guy and he didn’t think to buy any step stools and his closets are uncomfortably tall for me, so I bought a cheap step ladder and a bathroom scale — which is how I know I’m losing weight) without, but the amount of money you need to spend to qualify for free shipping almost doubles.

If I try to watch let’s say to watch Disney+ or HBO directly via their websites or apps I can’t do it, in both cases its says “you’re out of country” and tries to get me to sign up.

Interestingly Disney+ says, if you buy an amazon prime membership for the UK store you qualify for a full year of Disney+ for free… so again, it might be worth grabbing that trial 1 month membership (but read the small print… I have not as yet done it so I can’t tell you).

HOWEVER if I go to my Apple+ TV account, it also knows I’m traveling, but it STILL recognizes some of my other channels that I was watching through it when in the states on my Apple TV… It also allows you to watch shows that are part of Apple+
Even though I can’t watch HBO from HBO’s app, if I open it up via the Apple+ app I can IF its a movie I’ve already started, Ditto for Disney+ (I’m currently watching West Side Story). I was unable to start new movies but if I was 1/3 through or what have you they allowed me to finish. (Odd, I know).
this is NOT however true for HULU shows or Showtime or Paramount… that said, I’m wondering if it’s like on a timer where you get 3 weeks while abroad and then it says, “you’ve been away too long if you want to continue watching these other channels you’ll need to sign up for them in that country”
BUT… if you’re interested in the Paramount shows a lot of them, along with other US tv shows that wouldn’t show on back at home ARE shown in the UK on NETFLIX… so there’s that
ALSO, while here, download the BBC’s iPlayer it will allow you to watch the BBC live stuff plus the stuff they have available for streaming
IF you have VPN, which in this day and age you should (You’re going to want to use in hotels with unsecured networks, etc)… HULU will work… any other services you pay through VIA Hulu, (I have HBO, Starz, etc.) should work… I haven’t tried ALL of mine but so far HBO and Starz have both worked).

HOWEVER, Amazon prime seems to know full well that you are NOT in fact in the USA even if the server you’re connected through is… Hulu doesn’t care, Amazon seems to.

Liver update… I’m ok

SO, My last post was Sept 23, and its now Nov 29., on Oct 19th I got yet another blood draw, and my liver numbers that needed to drop below 100 in order for them to NOT have to do a liver biopsy had dropped to 88 (still high, but a lot less high) which allowed them to use the non invasive technology (it tends to return false readings if that liver number is above 100).  In this test you can’t drink water or anything for a few hours before going in, and they bounce sound waves off your liver and then measure how much it wiggles to see if there has been any hardening of the liver, aka cirrhosis, because of scaring. There was none… according to the doctor my liver was “nice and soft and fluffy”, her actual words believe it or not. As of this week I’ve lost about 39 lbs since this whole thing started…. I’ve gone from a size X-large to a size medium and have lost enough weight that my BIGGEST pair of leather pants — black suede actually — now fit me. That said I’ve got to loose at least another 40 lbs to get to the weight I should be (and back into my favorite clothes) …. I am however in no particular rush to get there… weight is continuing to come off but no where near as fast as before.

My fault really, it’s not the eating as much as the I’ve semi locked myself down, and am not exercising as much as I was at the start because I am no longer vaccinated enough to risk going to places like gyms where folks are breathing heavily and finding excuses to not cover their faces enough to keep me protected.

As you may recall, my regular readers… The liver doctor wanted ONE final blood test for this year and asked me to hold off getting the covid booster shot until that happened….which I did on the 22nd of November…. of the liver numbers, the one that had previously dropped from over 100 to 88 had creeped up to 89, but the 2nd number had dropped yet another 20 points, so the liver doctor was satisfied at my on going progress. Today is Monday… on Wednesday I finally get the booster, and 2 week after that, covid willing, I’m back in the gym and building my muscles back to where they were when delta spiked in my area.

The larger PLAN was to go to the UK on New Years Eve, covid willing, but the travel buddy has been prevaricating and procrastinating on finalizing the travel plans, dates, budgets, etc, in spite of ensuring me repeatedly that he really does want to go (he’s never been, so I was going to be his personal tour guide — over my lifetime I’ve commutatively spent YEARS in in London).  He’s got a lot of shit going on at home and he’s never been one to manage stress well anyway, so I wait.

 

And now this week we’ve got the omicron variant….

You’ve got to love a new variant that is so incredibly infectious that they were able to discover it in about two weeks. You got the Canadian guy in Hong Kong who was fully vaccinated and in a quarantine hotel across the hallway from a guy from Africa who was carrying the variant, and who managed to get infected even though they didn’t have any face to face conversations… Scary shit. And then there’s the flight of 200 people where one by the end of the 8 hour flight from African to Northern Europe, 66 people who were NOT infected at the start of the flight were by the end.

And yet, according to the Israeli Commissioner of medicine, there have been no serious infections among people who caught it who are fully vaccinated.

For those of you who don’t grasp what’s going on with this one, think of it as though you had an old-fashioned walled city.  And an old enemy has shown up with new new ways of poking holes in our walls, or more specifically new weapons for breaching the defenses that are immune system doesn’t recognize as a weapon, and even if it did it wouldn’t know how to fight it.

You’ve trained troops to do various things. You’ve got troops have been trained to man the walls and to stop people from getting in, but obviously that’s insufficient. If the invaders get past them, they’ll face a bunch of women and children with pitch forks at best… and that would be bad. So in addition, you need to also train troops who specialize in urban fighting — as any member of the US military will tell you (even the vaulted US military was stumbling over its own feet before it started retraining troops in urban fighting during the middle east wars). Urban fighters are trained to go home to home, room to room finding the enemy and snuffing them out without taking out the whole city at the same time….. like Queen Daenerys on her dragon when she gets to King’s landing…. which by the way is what is happening with folks who are NOT vaccinated and end up in hospital on ventilators. The defenders are so stressed out by now knowing how to fight in the Urban style that they end up taking out everything and everybody… i.e., killing you in an attempt to kill the invader — and you end up on a ventilator…. all because you didn’t have specialized troops trained at urban fighting.

When they keep telling us, “yes people are getting sick, but they’re not ending up in hospital” that’s because the vaccine has done some relatively quick (6 weeks) basic training of the troops, with one 2 week refresher course 6 months later in how to take out the invaders without damaging the city or the towns folk.

And apparently even though this is a revised invading force, with newer better weapons for getting through our first line of defense (the guys protecting the city walls) this new one … as far as we currently know… doesn’t seem to be doing any better against the troops trained in urban fighting than the previous invaders… at least from what we know so far …  so yes you get sick, but no you don’t need to go to hospital to get over it…. but we’re only a few weeks in, with only a few hundred fully vaccinated people having caught it. That’s too small a sample to know for sure what’s going on.

As was true before, most of the folks who have it, are unvaccinated — relying on poorly manned city walls and no specially trained urban fighters.

So that said, I’m getting my new booster on Wednesday and hopefully in a few weeks we’ll know if the vaccinated are ok… and if we are, I might go travel on my own till my friend makes up his mind

Medical update, regarding my liver

I just got off the phone with the liver doctor — telahealth, got to love it.

She said it’ll be a few days till all the results from my blood draw yesterday — they took EIGHT vials of blood and are running like 10 different tests — get back to her… 5 to 7 days in fact … and she’ll in some cases need two different results to come back before she can comment, but so far they’ve all come back normal and if that continues to be the case than we need to just wait another 3 months to know for sure what’s happening with my liver.

She basically agrees with me — I had come across a bunch of articles on line saying that seeing a spike in liver numbers during the first 14 weeks of serious weight loss is actually kind of normal, and that you need to wait 16 weeks to see that start to reverse itself and a whole 40 weeks before the liver numbers SHOULD be normal if the person had high numbers due to fatty liver disease caused by obesity. She agreed that (assuming the blood tests all come back normal) we will need to wait another three months and get another liver blood test at that time to see what my numbers are doing.

The fact that they are currently spiking doesn’t really worry her too much. That said…

One of the first things she asked me was “when you started losing all of this weight did you change your exercise routine?” And I said that “yes in fact I had gone from being completely sedentary to working out like three times a week”, to which she started nodding her head and smiling (jee I love video phones) and saying “yes that might’ve caused the spike. We tend to see this sort of thing in people who suddenly start working out a lot in order to lose the weight.” Ironic isn’t it?

So she wants us to wait three more months, for me to continue losing more weight and working out (as I have been) and then get another blood liver panel test. If at that point the numbers have NOT gone below 100 then we will have to do a liver biopsy — eeek. She walked me through the two options of how that might happen and it doesn’t sound TOO awful…

If they HAVE gone down, then it’s all good and no sticking needles though my ribs into my liver will be required.

I told her about how I want to start traveling again like I used to before Covid. That I am currently planning to travel with a friend after Christmas to the UK for 3 months. She didn’t see a problem with that… and then I told her how I intended to get the Pfizer Covid 19 booster shot two weeks before traveling — in order to maximize my immunity. I figure its currently good enough for my current life which is mostly staying home and walking around outdoors and maybe doing some grocery shopping, etc… but airports and planes are a different kettle of fish…

This was interesting: She told me to be careful to get the liver blood test BEFORE getting the booster shot. Apparently they’ve been seeing spikes in the liver numbers in some patients after getting the Covid vaccinations. I already knew about making sure I got my mammogram well after the covid shots, but this was a new one… she said the spikes they’re seeing are very temporary, and as its almost been 6 months since my 2nd shot, NO this spike was not the result of that…

We also discussed my eating habits and she was actually really excited that I had discovered Shirataki noodles (as discussed in my last post) as she suggests those to her patients, and eats them herself. She suggested her favorite brand which she found on amazon — she’s a rice eater and uses them as a rice substitute — and I told her about the ones I’ve been eating from Costco.
We discussed my salt intake and she said there’s no reason for me to be worried about that at this point —  I had read all these web pages on liver health saying we had to reduce salt intake to 1,500 mg a day (that’s like NOTHING); she said this was especially true considering my issues with dehydration — she agrees with the advise of an ER Doctor I saw back in my 20’s who told me that ending up in the ER as often as I did with dehydration was not normal… and that best way to address it was just to eat more salt. (He basically said, we don’t say this to most people, but every person’s body is different and normal averages are not gospel and if I’m ending up in the ER on a semi regular basis with dehydration after drinking a normal amount of liquids, than clearly I need more salt in my system to retain it than the average person does.) She said until they start seeing certain very specific problematic things with regard to my liver, that I shouldn’t worry about reducing my salt intake.
This doctor as luck would have it is from Thailand, and there’s a particular food product that I’ve been worried about which is the oyster sauce from Thailand (makes ALL the difference when cooking Asian dishes at home, it’s like the missing secret ingredient to make your home cooked food taste like restaurant food). The one I have is listed on foodie sites as the BEST oyster sauce on the market, but one you almost NEVER see in American stores (got it from an Asian market in California that sells their stuff on eBay). The thing is when it arrived, it has a warning label on it from the state of California warning about cadmium and lead poisoning from the product. So I asked her is it OK for me to continue to use this one when making my noodle soup. She told me to go ahead, I shouldn’t be drinking it straight from the bottle but the occasional tablespoon of it once or twice a week wasn’t going to kill me or damage my liver.
We also discussed my use of supplements and we went through the list of which ones I had been taking (CoQ10 to counter the effects of the Statin drug I take for my cholesterol, and Glucosamine for joint health + Vitamin D)  and she said none of them are a liver risk and I can go back to taking them regularly…. again I had read on line to STOP taking all supplements, so I had….
The Green tea thing however — I had read on the British and Canadian official health services web sites that address liver health that it is a good thing to drink 10 cups of green tea a day if you have liver issues, NOT to take supplements, but to drink normally brewed green tea  — she wasn’t thrilled with (and keep in mind she’s Thai, where green tea is a normal part of any diet) … she said “if you want to have like 5 cups a day fine… but you don’t need to be doing chugging it like that, or any sort of liver cleanse things or making it the only thing you end up drinking all day” … and she was worried too much green tea could strain the liver.

Dieting again — with new toys

Back on June 18th I posted about failing my blood test in a big way, how sitting on my ass for essentially a year of Covid lockdown while watching TV and eating comfort food delivered by UberEats (and every other delivery company, I was signed up with THREE of them) every day had resulted in my blowing up to 202 lbs (from a starting weight of 160) into a size XL; so that not only was I resorting to living in T-shirts inherited from my dad and sweat pants purchased from Amazon, but when I finally was fully vaccinated and went to the doctor for blood tests and stuff, my liver numbers (which I had already brought down into the healthy range back in 2018) were once again not only wildly out of control, but were actually WORSE than they had ever been… this was not a huge surprise because my liver was so enlarged that I could feel it like a football under my ribs pressing out — very uncomfortable — after almost every meal, and towards the end it was making it painful to sleep on my right side… so yah THAT bad

AND… just for shit and giggles, my sugar levels, which I had also dieted back into the healthy range in 2018 where now not just boarder-line diabetic, which is where I pretty much had maintained it for years … were now full out diabetic. The doctor said she was giving me a few months to get it under control before resorting to drugs or insulin, but that was where I was headed if I didn’t drop weight.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the most part these last few months. Last time I posted about this, August 4, 2021, I had successfully lost 17.5 lb (like 2.5 lb a week) and today, Sep 19th, I’ve continued the trend … it’s slowed a tad to around 2.2 lb a week … so I’m now 174.2 (close to another 10 lbs lost). This was achieved on my own, no paying anyone else to help me. The method is a combination of things….

Partial Fasting: Firstly, I’ve been consciously doing something that I had also been doing unconsciously back in 2018, which is partial fasting… I wake up fully dehydrated, weigh myself… and THEN drink black coffee and water… so calorie free liquids essentially …. to rehydrate myself…. and then eat lunch snacks and dinner (in other words restrict all my calorie consumption to over the course of about 8 hours out of 24), and then make sure I STOP eating a good 4 hours before going to sleep (and making sure I get the full 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night, as needed).  And when I say I stop eating, I mean not even so much as a grape (to paraphrase Oprah, who is where I initially got the idea)… Oh, and I stop drinking even water maybe an hour before falling asleep …. Be warned, this does tend to send you to bed feeling a bit wanting a snack, but you have to fight it.

From what I’ve recently read about the power of fasting, which is now ALL the rage — like I said I was doing it without knowing I was doing it back in 2018 — your body needs a 6 hour gap from your last calorie consumption to when it starts resorting to using fat instead of what’s in your belly… and the more time it has without food the more fat it’ll burn… so that 4 hours of not eating + about 8 hours of sleep, plus 2 more hours in the morning before I put any calories in my mouth = 10 hours of my day when my body has to burn fat for lack of my giving it anything else to burn.

Before I was eating right up till bedtime, sleeping maybe 8 to 10 hours and eating as soon as I woke up… so I only had 2 hours a day to burn fat … after a day of eating things like a cheeseburger, fries smothered in cheese, a chocolate shake with chocolate cake in it, and topping that off with dessert … and that was just dinner (so yah, no chance THAT was going to get burned away).

I have also found this not eating for four hours before going to sleep did wonders for addressing my acid reflex issues which resulted in GERD (and WITHOUT DRUGS… I had been popping TUMS® Antacid ultra strength before going to sleep during lock down)… because I had been stuffing my gullet till right before I went to sleep…

Splurge days: once a month I get a splurge day… just one… and I eat till I make myself sick. I’m talking completely blowing the diet with non stop shit I shouldn’t be eating till I’m asking myself why the fuck I did it. I’m talking fried chicken wings dipped in ranch dressing, pizza, ice cream, cheeseburgers and brats, go for it. Actors who have to lose weight for roles talk about this … and I find it maintains sanity and tends to line up nicely with things like thanksgiving, Xmas, Jewish holidays, being invited to friends for dinner, etc. It keeps you sane and provides your metabolism with a kick in the ass. Just don’t go kidding yourself that you can do it more than 1 day a month. 

Weighing myself daily: The one thing I NEVER do when gaining weight is weigh myself. To be honest in 2018 I didn’t do that either… I just went by the size of my clothes. And I know they say NOT to do this… it can be entirely frustrating… and can discourage the average dieter who is denying themselves in order to lose weight. HOWEVER the “diet” I’m on is mostly medical (diabetes control and liver issues) so for me low carb and low fat is something I’m probably going to have to do for the rest of my life and if I HAD continued to do it the first time … LIKE I WAS SUPPOSED TO, instead of convincing myself that the problem was “fixed” I would not be in the situation I am now. That said, if you take away carbs and fat, there’s really not much left to gain weight on even on the days you do over eat. Additionally… there’ve been a few days where the weight went up instead of down or staying flat, so it keyed me into things I can no longer buy… Pistachios from Costco are on that list. I like them too much.

To date I’ve been using the same bathroom scale my brother bought me for as a going away gift (I was moving to SF) like 15 years ago. The thing still works, and its impressively accurate… only of late its become sporadically LESS accurate (as in radically different weights within a 15 minute period in spite of not eating or using the bathroom). So I figured it was time for an upgrade, one of the new ones with all the bells and whistles that measures way more than just your weight. At first I was looking at Withings body+ which is sold at the apple store (and amazon of course), ’cause I’m an apple person and it’s supposed to synch with apple health app and its the one a lot of my friends own, but paying $100 for a high tech scale which most likely won’t have the longevity of the my old scale, just didn’t rock my boat. After much hemming and hawing, I opted for Wyze Scale for 1/3 the price, which showed up on a lot of same lists, and sometimes was considered a better scale… especially when I searched for the most reliable scales rather than “best of year options”. Got it yesterday.

I unboxed it, did everything it said to set it up… happily both it and the old scale registered me as being the same weight, so I knew both were accurate, YAY! And then I went over the apple health app on my iPhone and of course, it did NOT synch as promised. Went to multiple web sites, worked my way through the instructions multiple times, tried various suggested fixes… nothing. I got and phone and called tech support but it being a Sunday evening, well no one was picking up, so decided I would try again today. Went to sleep, and when I woke up like 8 hours later…  I did my morning weigh in on both scales, still got the same number both times…. but this time when I went to apple health to input the data manually, to my delight, it was already there.

Apparently it took the scale a few hours to get linked…. the scale comes with it’s own app, and it’s supposed to share with the apple health app, but I have no idea HOW it does that. Hopefully this was a one time thing and from now on going forward it’ll work like clock work… one can only hope.  But it was nice to see things like BMI calculated for me automatically, along with metabolic age, a metabolic rate (it thinks I burn 1421 calories a day minimum), visceral fat, level of protein in my body (apparently it’s too low… I need less fat and more muscle tone), bone mass, lean body mass (apparently I should be weighing in at like 115, not 175… which I knew), body water %, etc.

It’s amazing what these new scales can do for $33 bucks! Granted they’re not 100% accurate but they give you a ballpark idea.

Carb control; Because of the diabetes, I’m not allowed to have more than 28g of carbs at any one time so as to not spike the sugar in my blood. This is highly limiting but do-able. Last time I did this (2018) the one thing I really missed was pasta. I love pasta. Granted I’ve tried the veggie substitutes, pretty much lived on riced cauliflower… but all of these leave you wanting and feeling like you’re denying yourself … which in fact you are. This time around I got super lucky… while at Costco (and my readers know just how much I love Costco) I stumbled across a new product I’d not seen before, “Healthy Noodles” manufactured by Kibun foods.. a product that for the most part they ONLY sell via Costco, except in a few limited parts of the country, mostly the South/East — and if you live in Colorado I’m sorry, they don’t sell it there.

With this new product I’ve been having every conceivable noodle combination, sometimes twice a day, and losing weight while doing it. And because unlike pasta/noodles this product has 6 grams of carbs, which is a LOT, it leaves you feeling full at the end of the meal. Add veggies in along with it and well… do the math. I’ve had spaghetti with meat sauce (I make it as low fat as conceivably possible, using ground bison instead of beef), fettuccine alfredo with various proteins and veggies added, beef stroganoff, Ramen/Chinese/Vietnamese noodle soups, chicken soup with noodles, macN’cheese, and 5 way chili….. all while losing weight.

For those unfamiliar with it, this is a variety of shirataki noodle, which is something you can pretty much find nation wide in any whole foods or organic section of a supermarket, but….and this is important…  that usually doesn’t quite hit the spot… because firstly, you KNOW you’re not eating pasta; A) it doesn’t feel like pasta in your mouth, or B) it doesn’t SMELL like pasta… and C), most crucially, there’s an actual health risk involved in eating it (which is why in some of the nanny states — socialized medicine — its actually illegal to sell). With THIS brand, none of those things is true … its close enough to the sensation of eating pasta as no never mind, there’s no “fishy smell” (people who are polite call it that, I call it what it is, which is it smells like a woman’s V’JayJay). Where with all the other brands — and I’ve desperately tried pretty much all of them over the years — you feel like you’re eating rubber, with this brand you can feel it falling apart when it comes in contact with the digestive juices in your mouth, and this is a VERY important difference (read on).

Listen carefully, Shirataki in it’s pure form (and there are other manufacturers of this stuff selling it formed like pasta noodles) is something I’ve been familiar with since I was in my 20’s, back when I did two summer internships in a row for companies in Japan. It is a non-digestible carb (you’re digestive system literally can not break it down, only your teeth can do that) that the Japanese make into a cake called konnyaku, and refer to as diet food… because after you’ve swallowed it it’s going to come out exactly the way it went in, as though you had swallowed a marble. It’s great for filling the stomach and your body can not derive any calories from it… in it’s pure form. HOWEVER, if you eat it made into noodles, and you snarf those down without chewing it…. well you know how, if you have a bunch of silver jewelry chains, or maybe bungie cords all bunched up together, how they turn into a gordian knot? Imagine that knot forming in your tummy and completely blocking your digestive track, which your stomach acids can’t eat through… so that the only way to get it out is surgery… I’m not making this up… it happens. Well that’s what can happen if you eat this in it’s 100% Konjac (the name of the root from which Shirataki noodles are made) form, so you have to be REALLY careful about chewing it up before swallowing it… and the texture is a bit like trying to chew up a rubber band, with the same squeak squeak squeak sound happening in your mouth.

I have over the years tried MANY different brands of these sorts of noodles, and NEVER found one that really felt like I was eating pasta, UNTIL this one. ALL of them the texture was just wrong, or my poop came out looking like noodle casserole (which was kind of scary — keeping in mind what I said about the possible need for surgery). This brand is the ONLY brand I have found so far that feels like pasta in your mouth (albeit overcooked noodles, there’s nothing ‘al dente’ going on here), has no smell at all once you’ve rinsed it out (it is stored in liquid in plastic packets) and where you can feel it falling apart in your mouth and your poop looks normal, even if you accidentally snarf them down — so no risk.

The only issue is if you, like a friend of mine who is a breast cancer surviver, can not eat soy for some sort of medical reason; if that’s the case then you shouldn’t eat this. This has NO net CARBS (the fiber and carbs are the same and cancel each other out, more specifically the carbs all come from the Konjac which as I said are undigestible), and the 30 calories is from the protein provided by the soy…. but it does have 30 calories per serving (2 servings in each bag)… but compared to 155 to 190 calories for a bowl of pasta noodles, not to mention the 40 grams of carbs, that’s not really a huge concern.

Low Fat: And of course, because of my liver, and the calories in fat, I try to keep my fat intake low and limit it to only healthy fats, so like Salmon, or Sablefish, occasionally Tuna (which is problematic because of other reasons which most of you are already familiar with, that are doubly problematic with a bad liver), avocado, olive oil, etc.

Exercise: And of course I’ve been exercising… in addition to walking, I’ve added weight training and signed up for a gym membership. I try to get there at 6am when they first open up and almost no one else has arrived. I find that first hour there’s maybe five or six people in a space big enough for 30 or 40 under normal conditions (and that’s including the equipment). At fist I was going to a private gym where you work with a trainer on machines, but now I’ve switched to the University facility (which is ginormous) near my home, and work out on my own. Happily, the University is one of the ones that has mandated full vaccinations for all students and staff, AND they follow the mask mandates as well, so I feel pretty comfortable working out there, especially during the hours when it’s mostly empty.

Still Alive and well and hanging out in Illinois

Happy belated Hanukkah and an early Merry Xmas to anyone reading this. Believe it or not I’m STILL not completely moved into the new apartment I bought right at the start of the pandemic. I have yet to finish setting up the spare bedroom and I don’t have a dining room table … but it’s not like I’ll be hosting any dinners anytime soon, and I tend to eat while sitting in front of the TV.

I WAS getting various repairs done around the new place, emphasis on the was. Shortly after moving in while having only half way unpacked the clothing that had been in storage in my friend’s attic the closets hardware, which had struck me as pretty shoddy when I bought the place, collapsed. As in the weight of the clothing caused the hardware to rip right out of the drywall it had been attached to… Happily my real estate lady had a closet company that is located in downstate IL that is happy to do jobs up here (a good 2 hour drive from their factory), that was really affordable. I got four closets redone for $2,250, which included custom cutting a pressed board frame that was installed into the closets that the hardware was then hung from (who in the heck thought drywall would support it I don’t know) with a smart design that doubled the closets’ storage capacity.

In addition to the closet, I was having furniture repaired, and other odd jobs done around the place that are yet to be completed. I found an upholster through a friend to redo an old but beautiful chair I’d inherited. They allowed me to source the material myself (I didn’t have to buy it through them) — found a source online via Etsy that was MUCH cheaper than what they or local stores were selling — and my guy said it was good quality when he inspected it. And then they only charged me $300 for the job, HALF what other guys were asking for the labor part of the job (I shopped around), and the final result is BEAUTIFUL. I also found a fully insured handyman through a gig economy (like uber) company for handymen called Andy on Call, that tests their workers skill sets, provides them with insurance and secured payment systems … but you still get to choose among their guys. And these guys (insured and you can pay with a credit card) were charging the same per hour as other independents that were referred to me that did were NOT insured and wanted to be paid in cash.

We got about half way through the various tasks I needed the repair man and the upholsterer to do, when the midwest’s infection numbers started to spike right before Thanksgiving, so we all agreed to delay completion till the numbers came back down to under 5K new cases a day…. happily (fingers crossed) the Illinois numbers dropped to JUST below that today… but Xmas is in a few days so I expect people to be stupid again… and then there’s new years. SO, I’ll wait till mid January to restart the work.

I also purchased something for the apartment I’d not intended to ever have, a highly rated treadmill that was on sale at Amazon during their black friday sale for 50% off. Took forever to arrive, but happily UPS brought it upstairs to right outside my apartment door — I was terrified they’d leave it downstairs by the mailroom in which case I’d been S.O.L. because I could never have safety gotten it to my apartment alone. It was heavy, about 80 lb, but I was able to maneuver it the short distance from the hallway into the apartment — not easy — and out of it’s box (I have almost no upper body strength and still have issues with dizziness)… It’s a collapsable treadmill designed to go under a desk for people who like to work while standing/walking slowly (the upper arm can be either up, or down and behind). It’s not great for runners — too short/narrow and no cushioning, but I have no intention of using it for that. It’s short enough that was able to fit it between my bookshelf and behind my couch, facing the TV — if I move the couch to the minimum viewing distance. So it’s a bit of crunch in terms of space. But I can watch TV while walking. Since it doesn’t really have side handles for me to hold on to I put a heavy high backed chair that was on my patio (heavy metal) to one side that I can rest my hand on it in order to steady myself when walking (otherwise I start to drift which could be dangerous).

That said, it is doing the trick and I’ve been able to get my movement rings on my apple watched closed daily, ireleant of the weather conditions outside. I do it while watch normal TV, but have also found Youtube channels devoted to videos people have shot that give you the false sensation of walking outdoors, through some of the most touristy places in the world… I’m personally loving the the ones shot in London in neighborhoods I’ve already visited. But of course on nice days I’ve been exploring my new neighborhood, which has some really nice walking areas just a few blocks away from my place.

Lake Michigan, adjacent to the Northwestern University Campus

I’ve also been perusing Facebook’s new marketplace, and found someone in my neighborhood who was selling a nice 100% oak cabinet for my living room, that was small and light enough that he could get it into his car and deliver it for me, for $50 cash (it’s now storing of my fancy dishes). So, at this point rather than buying more Ikea crap — I’ve already purchased 14 items from them, mostly bookcases, bedside tables and dressers, and since shopping at used stores or house sales would normally be my modus operandi for buying furniture, I’ve decided to try to find more used real wood items that same way. Real wood furniture used versus new Ikea crap for about the same price, kind of a no brainer. Like I said, I still need a dining room table and chairs, not to mention some more cabinets with drawers, etc. I think the last thing I MIGHT buy from Ikea is a twin daybed that converts to a double for the guest room… but again no rush unless a friend calls up wanting to stay here with me rather than finish lockdowns alone.