After nearly two years of bullet dodging, being fairly cautious, and three mRNA vaccines, my luck ran out and I tested positive for COVID-19. I feel perfectly fine. My kids got it too. So far and as far as we know, that’s it.
As if a global pandemic wasn’t bad enough, February decided to bring us a record-breaking insane polar vortex.
I don’t even know what records were broken. But it was bad enough to bring the Texas electrical grid to its knees, break countless tree branches, and make pipes explode everywhere. We aren’t ready for it.
How did we fare? Not too terrible: Schools were obviously cancelled for a bit over a week. We live in a very hilly neighborhood, and have a very steep driveway, so for a week our cars were stuck as everything was covered in ice. We had running water for the first half of it, but then lost water pressure. A leak in the roof became very apparent as the snow accumulated and started to melt. We lost power intermittently, but never for more than maybe 8 hours which means temperatures never dropped enough inside the house to force me to use the emergency wood for the fireplace.
But it was from from all bad: I enjoyed long walks around the white neighborhood using my makeshift snow shoes and we all had a blast sledding down our neighborhood park using an inflatable raft!
After hundreds of scanned photos, I noticed streaks in the photos. I looked at the original prints and the lines weren’t there. Looking at more photos, it became obvious that the issue was in the scanner. Was my fancy toy broken so soon?
No, it turns out that the frequent warnings in the manual and in the software about cleaning the scanner often were legitimate. Turns out that dragging thousands of ancient photos through, many of them with glue residue in the back, gets things dirty.
Surely enough, a bit of wiping with the bundled microfiber cloth made the issue go away.
Pro tip: clean the scanner often.
And now what?… redo all the bad scans or no? It’s about 2000 photos.
I suppose if I don’t do it now, nobody will ever do it. Deep breath, roll sleeves up, and redo the bad scans. At least I’m now getting the hang of it.
For several years I watched the thousands of photos stored away in a closet at my parents’ house slowly rot away, the colors of my childhood fading. I wanted to digitize them all, in order to freeze the color decay.
About three years ago, Phase I of The Great Scanning Project started: to manually remove the photos one-by-one from those old-school sticky albums so they can be scanned, trasferring any hand-written captions in the process. For this I recruited Griselda who spent about a week working full time on this. And so all the photos went into boxes ready to be scanned.
On a later trip, my parents drove up from Mexico with two giant boxes and two small boxes full of photos, some from my great grandparents and dating all the way back to the 1920s.
Phase II of The Great Scanning Project is to get them into a computer. There are several scanning services out there, but I had so many photos that it would cost several thousands of dollars – and even if I wanted to pay it, the photos were too sticky and curled up that they’d just be rejected or damaged. I had to take matters into my own hands.
After much research, I chose the Epson FF-680W. It can scan photos at high resolution at about 1 photo per second, and you can just put a stack of them and let it do its job. But still, it’s a lot of work and who has the time?
Then the COVID-19 Pandemic hit: Stuck working from home, I can feed photos to the scanner in the background while in meetings. I’ll never have a better opportunity. No more excuses.
I’m about 20% done with 1857 photos scanned at 600 dpi. Some great gems in there so far. Let’s see how long it takes me to finish and how many hard drives I’ll need to buy.
The photos are just getting scanned right now. I have yet to deal with fixing rotation, restoring color, adding rough dates, and identifying people. Ideally, in an automated fashion or close as can be. Then, figure out the best way to share with family. I suspect none of this will happen right away.
As a boy in Monterrey, I grew up eating “gorditas de harina”. This is a regional pastry that is either not known in most of Mexico or whatever they call by this name is very different. For me, there were two gold standards:
First and best, those made by Fernanda at my grandmother’s house, where I’d down them by the dozen (not healthy). She retired around 25 years ago and I never had them again.
Second best were those made by Chelito at the JCC (aka “el Club”). Loving members of my family would bring me large frozen packages of them up until she retired about two years ago.
So I was surprised when my aunt Jenny shared Chelito’s recipe:
They’re easy enough to make even for someone as useless around the kitchen as me (Ilán helped, though). And it seems like baking is the thing to do in a pandemic, and if my aunts can do it so can I. I am capturing it here for posterity.
Gorditas de Chelo
1 kg flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (Rexal)
1 can of unsweetened evaporated milk (Carnation Clavel)
400 g lard / vegetable shortening (Crisco)
Pour flour, baking powder, sugar in a bowl. Add lard and mix with fingers. Add eggs. Finally, add evaporated milk. Mix well. Let it rest for a few minutes. Make balls and use roller to give the desired shape (~12 inch circle, thick). Cook on a griddle.
Update Jan 3, 2022: If using the electric griddle that allows adjusting temperature, set to 300 degrees and cook 5 minutes each side.
If you make them, let me know! I’ll make more soon, since my batch lasted only two days.