Monthly Update

October 2020 Update

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Here are some highlights of October 2020.

Creating Zoom Video Backgrounds

I haven’t stepped foot in the office since mid-March when the pandemic started in earnest. Instead, I’ve been meeting with coworkers via Zoom. Early on, I decided to use photos from our trip to Spain as my background. It was a fun way to re-live and re-experience the trip. I hope it doesn’t bother my coworkers too much 🙂

As the pandemic has progressed, I’ve upped my game by adding my own video loops as backgrounds. Here’s a Youtube video describing the process. And here are three of my favorite creations:

  • Sand and Surf: Basically I shot a video straight down into the surf, capturing the waves as they swept in and out. You can see the transition between the spliced break at the 2 second mark. The sweep of the waves could make this a highly distracting background.
  • McKeldin Rapids in Patapsco Valley State Park: Easy hike along the South Branch Patapsco River. We’d planned on combining this with some disc golf at the park but the sweltering summer heat put a nix to that.
  • Mist off the Lake: This lake is not far from our home. I captured this during September when temperatures started to drop, creating a misty fog rolling off the surface of the lake.

Adding a Router Access Point

Up to this point, we’ve mostly been able to manage the Wifi in our home with a single router. But recently, I moved the router to a new location, inadvertently creating some dead spots in the house. To alleviate it, I bought an identical router to my primary router, loaded it up with the latest open source Asus Merlin custom firmware, and then added it as an additional access point in my network. The custom firmware is nearly indistinguishable from the stock firmware, but opens up a bunch of new features. Since I’d wired the house with Cat 5e a while ago, adding the new access point was painless. And the dead spots are gone! Mission accomplished!


I’ve recently been looking for some new headphones for my morning jogs. The writing is on the wall for my Bose SoundSports that I’ve used for the past three years. They claim to be sweatproof but the glue on the housing is failing. I’ve also never been super thrilled by the cord as it tends to pull the headphones to one side of my head or the other, introducing friction as I try to turn my head to one direction or the other.

I decided to go completely wireless, eyeing the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds. I’d recently heard of CamelCamelCamel and decided to see if I could beat the $200 list price. As you can see from the graph on CamelCamelCamel, they get as cheap as $150, which is exactly where I bought them. When you buy something using the CamelCamelCamel link, they get the referral money from Amazon, which is fine by me.


This month we also took out a couple huge oak trees that loomed over our house, threatening to come down on it in the next derecho. I preempted Mother Nature and paid for them to be taken down. $3,100 for the three trees. Not cheap, but cheaper than fixing a crushed garage and house. You can see from this picture that disease and insects had already started working to bring this behemoth down.

From the Bookshelf

I’ll pretty much read anything and I usually have four books going at a time. This month I finished the following:

  • Becoming by Michele Obama. I was fascinated with how someone with so much power could also be living such a restricted life: unable to simply open a window to let in the evening breeze, go to a familiar restaurant without a huge production, setting up playdates for your children without needing to vet their backgrounds. I enjoyed the book and recommend it, even though I found Michele’s surprise at the animosity Barack faced by the Republican-controlled congress to be somewhat disingenuous.
  • Better by Atul Gawande. Fascinating insights in how hard it is to cure a disease like polio, ethical challenges for doctors involved with the death penalty, the influence of money on medice, and how medicine has drastically improved outcomes on the battlefield in the past 100 years. Pretty frank, insiders view from the operating room. I’m curious what Max’s perspective would be on the issues discussed.
  • Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore. Before reading this book, I wasn’t even aware of Bill Bowerman and his influence on running in America. The stories about the origins of Nike, the invention of the waffle-sole running shoe, and the frontline view of the hostage situation at the 1972 Olympics in Munich was fascinating. Ditto for Bill’s involvement in stopping the Rajneeshpuram religious community and its criminal actions. While I enjoyed the book, I would have enjoyed it more without the minutiae of split times and distances that permeates the book.


How was your October? Read anything interesting this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hasta luego!

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