Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Journal of Self-Isolation: Days 2 - 4

July 24, 2020

I was tossing and turning in the early morning and eventually dragged myself out of bed by 9am.  I wanted to sleep some more but my body refused to cooperate.  It wasn’t like I had somewhere to be.  I showered and got dressed.  There was a knock on my door at 9:40am.  I assumed it was breakfast.  I answered the door while wearing a mask.  There are small coffee tables outside each room for staff to place meals.  I picked up the meal and slowly retreated into my room while being watched by two guards.

My first breakfast in isolation consisted of scrambled eggs, potatoes, some vegetables, and a juice box.  I photographed the meal before consuming most of it.  (I’m not much of a fan for potatoes . . . unless they’re French fries).  While preparing for isolation, I thought of ways to keep myself busy and sane.  Two ideas that came to mind were: photograph all my delivered meals and keep a journal.  The photographs may come in handy in the future.  And as for the journal, to record my experience and share the best parts on this blog.  I placed the breakfast plate back on the coffee table outside my room when I was done.

There were workers on the roof of the West Memorial Building (WMB) next to the hotel.  The roof of the building is at the same height as my hotel room.  The workers were continuing with the renovation of the building.  The contracted company had built a tall tower crane next to the building to lift heavy loads.  Thankfully, the noise level of the ongoing work wasn’t too loud.

There was another knock on my door at 12:15pm.  Lunch had arrived.  The meal offered rice, chicken, and some vegetables.  I ate it while watching a classic movie from 1986: Rad. 

The phone rang at 1pm.  It was a nurse asking me how I was doing and if I was experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.  I replied I was feeling fine.  The phone call lasted a minute. 

There is a dinner menu.  You just circle what you want and place the order form on the table outside your room by 3pm.  I selected the No Dinner option because I had eaten enough.  That and I brought food into isolation and it needed to be consumed.

I quickly discovered that the walls and floor aren’t too thick and they sometimes creek.  I’m not sure when the hotel was built, but I’m certain it was quite a while ago.  I had to alter my exercise regiment because I didn’t want hotel staff coming to my door saying they received noise complaints.  Doing physical exercises is another good way to remain healthy and sane while in isolation.

I spent the remainder of the day playing games on my computer and reading a book.  Before I knew it, evening had arrived and I needed to get some sleep.  I successfully survived my first full day in isolation.  Only 13 more days to go!

Several of my coworkers began their isolation a week early, but are isolating in another location.  I only know of two coworkers who are isolating in the same hotel as I am.

                                                                         July 25, 2020

I was startled awake by a loud knock on my door at 8am.  Breakfast had arrived early.  I just roll over and went back to sleep.  I wasn’t hungry.  I slept in this time and finally dragged myself out of bed after 10am.  I showered, dressed, and was fully awake by 11am.  There was no construction activity happening next door at the WMB because it was Saturday.  I spent the next hour online reading the news and watching YouTube videos.

The next knock on my door occurred at 12:15pm.  Lunch was here.  The knock also reminded me that I had yet to pick up breakfast.  I opened the door and picked up both meals.  I was right to skip breakfast.  The main course was oatmeal.  I never liked oatmeal; it’s punishment food.  Thankfully, there was also an apple, croissant, and orange juice.  I placed them in the fridge for later.  As for the oatmeal, it went right back outside.  No thank you.


The lunch meal looked more appealing: spaghetti with sauce and two pieces of bread.  That’s all I need to get through the afternoon.  I washed the plate after eating and placed it outside on the coffee table.  I also placed a dinner menu order form with the Caesar Salad option circled.

The same nurse from yesterday called me at 1pm.  She asked me the same health questions as before.  I replied with the same answers: no COVID-19 symptoms and I’m feeling fine.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in the same way: computer games, reading, and exercise.  I knew I could go downstairs and walk outside on the designated ground floor balcony, but I had no urge to go.

The Caesar Salad was delivered to my room at 7:10pm.  That’s all I ate.  I have a figure to maintain.

 July 26, 2020

The morning knock on the door was strangely quieter this time.  I stayed in bed until 10am.  Sunday’s breakfast consisted of a bowl of Lucky Charms, 2% milk, apple, and croissant.  I placed the milk in the fridge and ate the cereal dry.  I no longer like milk in cereal.  I also ate the croissant but saved the apple for later.

Lunch arrived at 12:15pm: a sandwich and a bag of Doritos.  The small portions are okay.  I prefer sticking to two meals a day.

The usual phone call from the nurse occurred at 1pm.  So far, the nurse has been very punctual. 

My body seems to have successfully adjusted to life in isolation.  I have established a routine and am sticking to it.  I’m glad I have access to several things to keep me occupied: a laptop with games & internet access, an external hard drive filled with movies & tv shows to watch, and a few good books to read.  Otherwise, I would be staring at the ceiling or looking out the window all day & night.    

My family & friends have been asking me how isolation is going?  I tell them it’s going alright but can be boring at times.         

I skipped dinner.

Only 10 more days to go.

                                                                        To Be Continued . . . 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Journal of Self-Isolation: Day 1

July 23, 2020

I woke up early, showered, got dressed, and immediately went to work packing my suitcases.  I spent all day yesterday in bed with a migraine, so I didn’t have time to spare.  I was expected to be at the downtown hotel between 1pm – 4pm, ready to go into isolation.  Breakfast consisted of delicious pancakes prepared by my mother.

It took me all morning to finish packing.  There was also an errand that needed to be completed before I entered the hotel.  The task took me from one corner of the city to another.  I was just glad I was able to get it out of the way.  I double checked & triple checked to make sure I had everything I needed for the next 6 months.

Lunch consisted of steaks made by my father on a barbecue.  The original plan was to have them yesterday for dinner, but, as you know, my migraine got in the way.  The steaks had been marinating for a few days in the fridge.  My mother prepared the marinade.  As always, the steaks tasted great.

People going into isolation are allowed to bring food.  This helps the government save money on food expenses, but I do not know by how much.  My mother prepared a large food box for me to take.  Even though there would be room service, sometimes, it’s good to give the kitchen staff a break. 

The early afternoon was spent loading the car with all my belongings.  Everything was in various sizes so the task felt like playing a real-life version of Tetris.  In the end, everything worked out.

My dad came with me to the hotel because he needed to drive the car back home.  My mom stayed behind because the car was fully packed.  We said our goodbyes and promised to stay in touch over the phone & internet.  We also hoped that I would be able to visit during the Christmas Holidays.  The time was 3pm when we arrived at the hotel.  I entered the lobby wearing a face mask and walked to the front desk.  I introduced myself and handed over my documents.  I was given a luggage cart and instructed to bring all my stuff inside.  My dad helped me with the unloading.  We said our goodbyes when we were done.

I was escorted by security to a secluded meeting room where the Director-in-Charge greeted me.  After checking my name on his list, he gave me a form to read & sign.  He then proceeded to explain the rules I had to follow to complete my isolation.  Basically, it all comes down to 2 rules: Stay in your room, and don’t break isolation.  You’re allowed to leave your room to get fresh air in a designated area (a large porch next to the secluded meeting room) but you’ll be escorted by security.  Meals are provided three times a day, but you’re allowed to order food from outside.  Security personnel will deliver the food.  Elevator travel will take longer because only one person is allowed inside the car at a time.  Yup, sounds like prison . . . in some ways.  I nodded and understood what was expected of me.

There are other less important rules that I won’t bore you with.  The Director gave me a paper copy of all the rules at the end of his lecture.  I then waited to be called by a nurse.  I was taken to a different meeting room and the nurse took my temperature.  She asked a few medical questions and explained someone would be calling me everyday to check on my health.  Lastly, she quickly reviewed the isolation rules with me.  I was then sent back to the Director to receive my room number and key cards.

I took an elevator to the floor where my room is located.  I pushed my luggage cart out and was greeted by a security guard.  I told him my room number and he pointed to the end of the hallway.  There was another guard at the end of the hallway.  I got to the door and used my key card to enter.  I removed everything that was on the luggage cart and pushed it back to the elevator.  The guard said he would take the cart back to the main lobby.

The hotel room I’ll be staying in for the next two weeks is quite spacious.  The kitchen area is equipped with a fridge, dishwasher, microwave, hotplates, sink, and drawers & cupboards stocked with cutlery and other kitchen items.  The bed & screen tv are quite big.  The shower stall & toilet are in a separate room, but the bathroom sink is just outside the bathroom door.  Overall, there’s a lot of space for me to move around.  Unfortunately, I don’t a good view of the city from the window.  All I can see is the West Memorial Building and it’s in the process of being renovated.  I spend the next two hours unpacking everything. 

The last thing I did was read the paper copy of the rules the Director gave me.  After that, I lied down on the bed and let out a long sigh.

And so, isolation begins, I said to myself.

                                                                To Be Continued . . . 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Journal of Self-Isolation: Prologue

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has cut my summer vacation by 25%.  In an effort to prevent the disease from entering Nunavut, the territorial government mandated – (sometime in March or April) – that all travel to the territory is restricted to essential people and people who reside within the territory.  On top of that, the people who fall into the previously mentioned categories and wish to return, must self-isolate for 14 days (2 weeks) in one of four designated hotel sites in Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, or Edmonton.  The government will cover expenses.  The isolation period is to make sure that you don’t or do have COVID-19.  Better to have it down south then bring it up north where access to healthcare is more challenging.   

I’m a Nunavut resident and I like to consider myself essential.  The last two weeks of my summer will be spent in an Ottawa hotel room.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time in a hotel.  I think the most was a week or a day or two more.  This will be a new experience for me, especially since I won’t be allowed to leave the hotel or possibly my room.  Sounds like I’ll be spending time in a luxury prison cell. 

Reports on how things are at the isolation sites have been sketchy at best.  I’ve only heard rumours, and read one negative newspaper article that describes the food quality as poor, and many people not following the rules.  I’ll get a clearer picture when I go into isolation.

The self-isolation process actually began in June.  I had to submit an Isolation Reservation Request Form to the government.  My plane ticket reservation code was required as proof that I was returning to the territory.  My Confirmation Letter (CL) arrived on July 1, along with a Pre-Isolation Check Form (PICF).  The PICF needed to be submitted 7 days before I went into isolation.  The CL stated the name of the hotel where I would be staying.  The place is frequently used by Nunavut travellers after another well-known hotel closed and became a senior citizens home.  My first day of isolation was scheduled for July 23, 2020. 

                                                                    July 22, 2020

It's the day before I go into isolation and I've come down with a migraine.  I hate migraines. I wanted to spend the entire day packing, but I can't.  I can only lie in bed, hold an icepack to my head, and wait.  Taking Tylenol Extra Strength can only do so much.  The sudden change in weather triggered the migraine.

My cell phone rings, waking me from my sleep.  I want to ignore the phone call but a part of me thinks it’s important.  I sit up, do my best to ignore my pounding headache, and answer the phone.  The caller is a Nunavut public servant.  They inform me that my reservation has been changed.  I will be isolating in a downtown Ottawa hotel, but I still have to be there on July 23.  I write down the name & address of the hotel before the call ends.  At least I’ll have a nice cityscape to look at from my bedroom window.  I return to bed and sleep some more.

My migraine doesn’t begin to subside until the evening.  I slowly head downstairs to the kitchen and consume a bowl of chicken soup my mother prepared for me.  The T-bone steak will have to wait until tomorrow.  I tell my parents about the last-minute hotel change

The entire day has gone to waste.  I will have to pack tomorrow morning.  That’s not a problem because check in time is between 1 – 4pm and I already spent a few days setting things aside.  In hindsight, it’s good that I had a migraine before I went into isolation.  If it occurred while I was at the hotel, the staff would probably panic.

My migraine finally disappears late at night.  I hope it doesn’t return.    

                                                                         To Be Continued . . . 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hometown Summer

I stayed in Ottawa the entire summer.  I probably could have travelled somewhere within Canada, but decided against it.  COVID-19 & the media have done a very good job of scaring people into staying put.  I didn’t want to be Nunavut’s Patient Zero.  So far, the closest Nunavut has gotten to having the disease enter its territory is a false positive case in Pond Inlet.  Hopefully, Nunavut will remain out of reach.        

So, no fancy trips this summer.  What a letdown!  I remember promising myself at the end of my summer 2015 New Zealand trip, to return to the country in 2020.  Well, that didn’t happen.  I’m also still disappointed for not blogging about that trip on my old New Zealand blog.  Perhaps there is still time?  Well, there’s always next summer to travel somewhere.  I’ve got plenty of time to think about potential destinations. 

Some days were spent on rest & relaxation, while others were reserved for preparing for the upcoming school year in August.  My sealift order had to be completed by the end of June.  My order was split in two.  Half of the items were ordered from Loblaws while I personally bought the other half from various stores.  I was glad Loblaws delivered most of the goods on my shopping list directly to a transportation company in Ottawa.  Less vehicle trips for me!  Unfortunately, some products were unavailable due to shortages caused by the ongoing pandemic.  These things happen.

Shopping down south in a pandemic environment was “interesting” at best.  I already got a preview of it in Arctic Bay at the Northern & Co-op stores, but here in the nation’s capital, COVID-19 protocols were everywhere.  Social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, and limited capacity were happening in all business & public establishments.  Walking around with a mask on made me feel like I was in a city flooded with smog.  I found & bought most of the items I was looking to put on sealift.  I packed & labelled all the boxes and personally delivered them to the transportation company.  They would ship my order to a port facility in Montreal.  My goods would then be crated and placed on an NSSI ship.  My stuff would arrive in Arctic Bay in late August.

I explored downtown Ottawa on July 1 – Canada Day.  City Hall had announced well in advance that there wouldn’t be any big, grandiose celebrations in the city centre due to COVID-19 restrictions.  People were still welcome to come downtown and celebrate Canada’s creation, but pedestrians would have to stick to walking along the sidewalks.  The main roads are usually closed to vehicular traffic and turned into large walking paths for thousands of visitors.  This year would be different.

Getting downtown was easy thanks to public transportation being free for the day.  I was excited to travel the recently opened Confederation Line, a $2.1 billion-dollar light rail project.  Unfortunately, the light rail system has been plagued by mechanical & reliability issues since it opened in September 2019.  The system was supposed to be operational in 2018 but was repeatedly delayed.  OC-Transpo staff were present at each of the stations, giving out free face masks & hand sanitizer.  When I stepped onto the train for the first time, I mentally prepared myself for something to go wrong.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Department of National Defence.

I walked across Laurier Bridge and photographed the Rideau Canal.  The canal was full of water but there were very few boats.  The canal is usually full of boats on July 1.  The boaters come as far as Kingston or possibly further.  The canal connects the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario.  Once across the bridge, I photographed the headquarters of the Department of National Defence.  I would show the picture to my cadets so that they know where all Canadian military orders are made.

City Hall.

Aboriginal War Veterans Monument.

I continued photographing more Ottawa landmarks: SHAW Centre, City Hall, Aboriginal War Veterans Memorial, National Arts Centre, National War Memorial, the former Train Station, and the Famous Five Monument.  The Train Station has been converted into a temporary Senate Building because Parliament Hill is undergoing a massive renovation & rebuild that will be completed in 2028.  Even though I grew up here and already seen all the landmarks, it’s always good to have pictures of them for future reference. 

There were people walking around, showing off their Canadian pride in various ways.  The most common ones were waving and/or wearing something that displayed a maple leaf.  There were police officers walking around to maintain order and vendors selling food and drinks.  Bottled water was just as popular as the iconic lemonade stands.  I was glad I brought water with me and a hat.  The weather was ridiculously hot and the sun was shining brightly.

The Famous Five.

Ottawa River / Rideau Canal Locks.

Museum of History.

I photographed the Ottawa River Canal Locks next to the Chateau Laurier and then walked behind the expensive hotel to get a picture of the Museum of History on the other side of the river.  The museum used to be known as the Museum of Civilization.  From where I was standing, it looked like nothing much was happening around the museum.  I could have explored that area but I would have to walk a long way and cross a bridge.  There’ll be another time to go to Hull.  There’s a statue of military engineer Colonel John By next to the locks.  He’s the man who oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 1820s.

My next stop was the National Gallery of Canada.  I didn’t go inside because it was closed. I photographed the large glass structure and the big tall spider that stands in front of the main entrance.  The spider sculpture is called Maman and was acquired by the Gallery in 2005.  You can love it or hate it, but rest assured, it’s not alive.

National Gallery of Canada.

Maman.

Rideau Street.

Most of the Canada Day celebrations were happening in the Byward Market because a lot of bars & restaurants are located there.  Several buskers performed to the delight of onlookers.  I just walked through the area and watched people lining up to get inside the bars & restaurants.  I exited the Market onto a section of Rideau Street that was turned into a construction zone.  The road & the sidewalks had been removed.  This section is being redeveloped and repaved.  Construction was paused for July 1 to give workers a break.

The last place I photographed was the Supreme Court of Canada.  If I’m assigned Grade 12 Social Studies in the upcoming school year, I’ll use the picture for when I’m teaching the Canadian Judiciary system.

I rode the Confederation Line again to get home.  I never thought I’d see a subway tunnel underneath Ottawa but here we are.  The train ride was smooth with no mechanical breakdowns.  The Trillium Line is closed for the next two years because two extensions are being constructed.  One will go to the airport while the other will extend the line further south by 16 kilometres.

That’s pretty much all I can say about the summer of 2020.  I reconnected with family and several friends.  Now I have to prepare for a 2-week self-isolation period in a designated Ottawa hotel.  The Government of Nunavut has mandated that residents of the territory who are currently abroad must first self-isolate in one of four designated sites in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, or Montreal if they wish to return home.  Expenses will be covered.  I’ll be taking notes & pictures of my time in isolation so stay tuned for a new experience I’m about to undertake!

Parliament Hill.


 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Day In Iqaluit

I was packed and ready to go when my ride to the airport arrived in the early morning of June 11.  I had woken up very early and did my usual “year-end” extensive cleaning routine so that when I came back in August, everything would be ready to go.  I made sure all the garbage was taken out and the fridge was empty of products that could spoil.  I also unplugged appliances that didn’t need to be powered during my absence.

All passengers & visitors are now required to wear face masks at the Arctic Bay Airport.  The only mask I had was the one that was given to me at the school.  Thankfully, it was acceptable.  The faceless Inuk hunter mannequin on display in the airport was also wearing a face mask!  I checked in and then waited for the plane to arrive.  There wasn’t any snow on the gravel tarmac.  Only one other person arrived to check in their luggage. 


The Canadian North plane arrived at 8:20am.  Usually, a stream of passengers emerges and walk into the terminal so that the plane can be safely refueled.  However, on this day, no passengers walked out of the plane.  When the boarding announcement was made, I bid farewell to the terminal staff and walked towards the plane.  The other passenger & I were greeted by the steward who was also wearing a mask.  All the passenger seats were empty.  There would only be three people occupying the passenger compartment.

Adams Sound.  I've been down there and travelled up & down this waterway.

The flight to Iqaluit was direct.  We were always required to keep our masks on unless we were drinking or eating.  The in-flight meal service was not in operation and only bottled water was being offered.  (Canadian North has suspended in-flight meal services on all its flights until further notice).  I decided to wait until I got to Iqaluit.  I looked out the window and watched the Arctic landscape pass underneath.  It’s always great to look down at the land and be able to say to yourself, I’ve been down there and travelled up & down those waterways.  The 3-hour flight was uneventful.  I listened to music to drown out the monotonous drones of the propellers.  The plane landed close to lunch time.

There was little human activity happening in the terminal building.  I walked to the Baggage Claims Area and waited for my luggage to appear.  I would be overnighting in Iqaluit.  Thankfully, I had a place to stay and wouldn’t need to pay for a hotel room.  I picked up my luggage and hailed a cab to my brother’s place.  He wasn’t in town, but I had a key to get in.  I dropped off my stuff and then walked over to Yummy Shawarma to see if it was open.  Thankfully, it was.  I ordered a large beef shawarma to go and ate it at my brother’s place.

I surfed the internet and saw many birthday wishes directed to Qapik Attagutsiak on Facebook.  Several photographs of her posing with family & well-wishers were also posted.  I really wish I was there for the celebration.  There were also acknowledgements from CBC News North & Nunatsiaq News.  I read somewhere that Qapik received a Happy Birthday card from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  (The two had met in Arctic Bay in August 2019).  Happy Centennial Birthday Qapik!  

I spent the evening exploring Iqaluit with a teacher who formerly taught at Inuujaq School.  He & his wife have been living in Iqaluit for the last two years.  He teaches at the local middle school and his wife works at a grocery store.  In June, the town experiences 24-hour daylight.  However, during the evening hours, it appears as if the sun is constantly setting.  Time is stuck in “dusk mode”.

The co-worker drove his personal vehicle through all the neighbourhoods.  Even though I lived in Iqaluit for a year, I must admit the town has changed in the last 7 years.  There’s always construction of some kind happening somewhere.  We also drove to Apex, a small community along the coast.  The community is treated as a part of Iqaluit, but its remote location makes it feel like a separate town.  I lived in Apex for a month when I started teaching in Iqaluit.  I moved to the town-proper when an apartment was found.  There were a lot of people walking around Apex when we drove through.  The population must have increased because I can’t remember seeing that many people in 2012.

We left Apex and drove to another far corner of the territorial capital.  There is a very long road that extends to the north of the airport.  It’s not the famed Road to Nowhere, but it feels like it.  My co-worker explained that the road is used by locals to go hunting and camping outside the city. Some have even built cabins next to the road.  We stopped at a large radar dome that sits on top of a hill.  We got close enough to take pictures.  We then drove to end of the road, which took a couple of minutes, turned around, and then drove back.  This was my first time seeing this area.

We stopped at a place where we could take pictures of the airport and the buildings along Federal Road.  It was from this spot on a hill that I noticed a small car dump.  Vehicles of various shapes & sizes were stacked & piled into a large mass.  I’m not sure if the vehicles were going to be repaired or sent down south to be crushed.  City Hall should consider looking into getting a car crusher.  We descended the hill and drove along Federal Road.  I photographed the fuselage of a plane that was missing its wings and tail.  The last place we explored was the deep seaport.

The Iqaluit Deep Seaport project is still ongoing and is scheduled to be completed in 2021.  The port will become operational in 2022.  COVID-19 hasn’t seriously hampered the construction timeline.  The port is being built by Tower Arctic Ltd.  The two main construction methods are dredging and controlled blasting.  The people of Iqaluit are notified in advance before a controlled blast occurs.  You can probably find several videos on YouTube.  The controlled blasts have flattened a large portion of a rocky hill. 

No construction was taking place on the site when we arrived.  In fact, I was surprised to see no security fence or security personnel guarding the site.  Materials & equipment were lying around in neatly placed piles.  The only deterrent to intruders was an orange Warning sign with black lettering.  We didn’t walk past the sign.  We assumed someone, somewhere, was watching us.  We stopped short of the sign and took photographs.  We noted the large amount of materials & equipment being used to complete this much-needed capital project.  We’re all looking forward to seeing the port in operation.

Not far from the construction site, there is a launch site for people to load and unload their skidoos & qamutiks in the winter, and their boats in the summer.  There were a lot of skidoos & qamutiks around the launch site.  Some skidoos were even parked on top of a large rock!  There were a few people removing their skidoos & qamutiks and placing them on pickup trucks and trailers.  Watching them do this made me think how much easier it is to be a skidoo owner in Arctic Bay.

I do leave my skidoo out on the ice in late May, but I don’t need a vehicle & trailer to bring it back to my place before I leave for the summer.  My place is close to the coastline, so driving my machine over solid ground doesn’t inflict a lot of damage on the skis & tracks.  Iqaluit is much, much larger.  I would most likely need a vehicle & trailer to move my skidoo down to the ice & back.  The snow in town melts faster than the ice in the bay.  It’s only moving boats in and out of the water that’s a challenge in Arctic Bay because you need a trailer and a vehicle to move them.

The co-worker & his wife dropped me off at my brother’s apartment.  I thanked them for the evening tour and wished them a happy summer.  They told me to be safe down south and avoid COVID-19 like the Plague. 

To make a long story short, I safely made it to Ottawa the following day.  There weren’t a lot of people on the Canadian North jet plane, and we all had to wear facemasks.  I’m hoping to travel somewhere this summer, but the odds are not in my favour.  COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on the world and the media is reporting that a vaccine is still far away from being ready.  I’m hoping things will improve in a week or two.  In the meantime, I’ll be taking a short break from my blogging duties to enjoy my short summer vacation.  Until then, enjoy reading my previous blog posts.  They’re 325 of them (not including this one).