Category Archives: Life of Marcos

Eclipse

We were incredibly lucky to have a total solar eclipse right over us on April 7, 2024. I was lucky to be there for 1991, but this was as a child in summer camp, and the staff wouldn’t let us all just go out and watch directly during totality. So in a way this is the first one.

We drove about an hour away to Smithville, TX in order to get a bit more time in totality. It was totally worth it. Our hosts were wonderful too and we had a great time. The clody weather turned out to not be a big problem as it was windy enough to give us nice clear views every now and then.

The photos are crappy phone pics with no tripod or anything. But they are my crappy phone pics for my own souvenir purposes. Go elsewhere for awesome shots.

COVID-19 II

On Thursday I woke up not feeling well. Body aches, slight headache, stuffy nose. Got worse throughout the day and I was eventually reduced to a human pile in bed. At night I tested:

Well, that blows.

So now I’m locked up in my room. Thankfully, Friday was a lot milder and I was mostly functional as a human. And most importantly, nobody in the family nor people I hung out with recently have tested positive or shown any symptoms so far. Saturday so far… still better on the body ache front but a weird dizzyness that I hope goes away after my coffee. We shall see.

This is the second time I get it, but the first time I was 100% asymptomatic and only tested because my kid tested positive.

I have no idea where I caught it and needless to say, there go my weekend plans. I’m so grateful to Shlomit and feel so bad that she needs to take care of locked up me in addition to both kids by herself while I’m quarantined… including on Mother’s Day. I’ll make it up!

Trader Joe’s Shakshuka Starter discontinued

UPDATE 8/22/2022: Rumor has it that Spicy Chunky Tomato & Pepper Sauce is the same product just packaged differently. I will confirm ir ASAP.

https://twitter.com/d_a_salas/status/1386415105710067715?s=21&t=MDobrDKhev-zlzYLx9Kt6A

Every time they were out at the store I would fear that the product was no more. That’s why I‘d keep the freezer in my garage I bought just for this stocked up.

RIP: Shakshuka Starter
Making Shakshuka and Turkish coffee for breakfast.

But now my worst fears are confirmed: Trader Joe’s excellent Shakshuka Starter has been discountinued. Please send them your feedback.

As it stands, I have no quick and easy way to get Shakshuka and my talented wife hasn’t made it in years.

One of my little helpers, filling up the shopping cart.

COVID-19

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.

Thankfully, the CDC recently updated its guidance down to five days of isolation.

Here’s a time lapse of my test, which I stupidly started recording out of focus:

Snowpocalypse

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.

All temperatures in Celsius, of course.

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!

Streaks Appear

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?

My bobe’s 80th birthday party, 1995. The lines are way more obvious in the full resolution images.

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, with a clean scanner.

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.

The great Scanning project

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.

Phase I

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.

Boxes full of memories, waiting to be digitized. I estimate about 3000-4000 memories in each.

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

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.

One of the large boxes, open. Under those two rows of photos there are another two rown of photos. That’s a lot of photos!

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.

Scanning baby photos of my grandfather. I started with the oldest (and toughest, I think) photos: before the world standardized on 6″ by 4″. Unlike the newer ones, these black and white photos still look great.

Future

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.

For now… keep on scanning.