Blog: Family & Friends

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Goodbyes are hard

The sound of a shovel-full of dirt hitting the top of a casket is raw, loud, disconcerting. I wasn't prepared for that.

I met Elaine when she started coming to my synagogue's Shabbat morning minyan something like 15 years ago. She was curious, perpetually cheerful, and perceptive. She cared about everyone around her and making sure people could participate in our community without barriers, long before a car accident and a resulting brain injury placed barriers before her. Her beautiful neshama (soul) shed light on us all.

She met her husband Noah and, to hear both of them tell it, it was an instant match. They both radiated joy at their wedding twelve years ago, and every time I saw them together. We played board games with them from time to time, and had many Shabbat meals and some Pesach seders together, and were all good friends.

Elaine died suddenly last week. She was 41. This is profoundly unfair. We've all lost a good friend and Noah is of course distraught. I hope that I and all his other friends can provide some measure of support, knowing nothing can repair the wound of losing his other half.

We gathered to remember her and say goodbye this morning. I took my turn with the shovel. And the sound of the dirt felt very final, even though her memory will live on in all of us and truly be a blessing.

Breaking into a Mac?

Dear brain trust,

My father had a laptop, an old MacBook. My mother would like to know what's on it. It's password-protected. I've been unable to guess the password, even knowing some of his other passwords and some patterns he used.

I have the passwords to his two desktop computers (iMacs), but also can't get in via network share (access denied). I have his cell phone, which should let me get into his iCloud account (that's the second factor). I have the impression that none of that will help.

Is there any way I can override the laptop's password and get in anyway? Or connect an external drive and make a copy somehow? I'm willing to take the laptop and a copy of the death certificate to an Apple store, except that I don't know if it's technically possible to get in (without damaging the contents, which is the whole point of the operation). I mean, we'd all like security to actually be secure, so this shouldn't be easy, but is there something between "easy" and "impossible" that I can try?

The laptop is at my mom's house, so I can't test things immediately, but I'm looking for any clues that could help on my next visit.


My dad's funeral was 30 days ago. For some reason, Judaism counts the first days of mourning from the funeral not from the death, even though the annual commemoration (yahrzeit) counts from the death. Dad wasn't Jewish but I am, and I find our markers in time to be helpful.

Dad was part of a small music group for many years. They were all friends, as you expect in small long-running groups, and the director spoke at the funeral. Later, when I started going through his email looking for things that require action, I found out she has a newsletter and had posted about him. I recognize a lot of that, so I think this is what she read at the funeral.

My dad made a huge difference in my life and in the lives of my mom, sister, and niece -- and I'm learning about some of the other people he also touched deeply.

And after, there is tech support

My mother is not computer-savvy, and when she's ready I'll help her sort out my father's computer stuff and (I hope) break into his account so we can sort out whatever household stuff he was managing online (like bill payments). She has "an old password" written down; here's hoping that helps.

She mentioned, in passing, that she'll contact their cell carrier to drop his line -- no sense continuing to pay for a second phone, after all.

Do I need to prevent her from doing that until we determine whether he was using 2FA for anything? I haven't figured out the right search queries that will cut through what you should do in advance lest you lose your phone. Like, I don't know where or if he was using 2FA, so I can't just go in and set alternate recovery addresses or something. The point is to be able to get into those accounts later, when my mom is ready. Does she need to keep paying for cell service so that phone number will be able to receive texts, or is there some other way to handle that? Should I go with her when she visits the cell provider (yes she was going to go to a store and do that in person)?

Anybody among my readers navigated this before?

Baruch dayan ha-emet

I love you Dad. I'm sure going to miss you. :-(

Today's news

The person who murdered my friends at Tree of Life has just been sentenced to death. There will presumably be years of appeals, but it still feels like there's some closure. I mean, as much as there can be when people we cared about are gone and obviously aren't coming back.

I have complicated feelings about the death penalty. In this case I found the defense's arguments wholly unconvincing. We're supposed to believe that someone who spent months planning an attack, who talked coherently about it on social media, who carried it out methodically, and who showed no remorse -- should get a pass because he had a difficult childhood? Lots of people have difficult childhoods but don't turn into bigoted murderers, y'know? I'm no expert, but it seems to me that he was clearly capable of forming intent, and did. I guess the defense made the best arguments they could; they just didn't have much to work with.

I've noticed that the local Jewish newspaper does not use his name, and neither shall I. We don't need to give him word-fame and help make him a martyr. He's a nobody, a murderous nobody -- Ploni.

Sad tidings

I have just learned that Eftychia (Daphne) has passed unexpectedly, way too soon.

I met Daphne at an SF con, probably Darkover, about 35 years ago. She was already a capable musician then and was an outstanding one later in Homespun Ceilidh Band. We enjoyed playing together for some balls at cons, and she was often on the Pennsic bandstand when I was more active there. She encouraged others, drew shy musicians in, and had a welcoming smile. In all of these places, it was obvious that making music was her happy place. I know she struggled with chronic pain, but when she was making music, that all seemed to fade away.

I haven't seen her since before the pandemic, alas. I had been looking forward to catching up with her at Pennsic this year. I am reminded that sometimes when we say "next time" there isn't going to be one. The world is a little darker and more dissonant tonight. :-(


cat lying on desk, head on one keyboard, feet reaching for another

I have had two cats who went into kidney failure. It was a long, slow process, during which we could alleviate symptoms and slow it down. By "slow" I mean a couple years.

Orlando had no symptoms. He'd go through phases of not eating much and then a couple days later he'd be back to normal. His bloodwork showed none of the markers that kicked in for Erik and Embla a couple years out. Everything looked fine in an ultrasound earlier this year. That picture was taken two weeks ago.

Last weekend his appetite dropped a lot, but he was drinking and producing output. He was spending more time sleeping in a closet, a new favorite hiding spot. Otherwise he was normal. I consulted my vet, who concurred that I didn't need to rush to the ER, and she saw him Tuesday. He had a bad tooth, it turns out, and she thought that might be the cause, and she ran bloodwork both because he was due and because it was required before oral surgery.

She called yesterday with the lab results and said he was in kidney failure. This was not the long, slow chronic kidney failure with which I was familiar; this was something else. It was possible that he had an infection and that was causing it ("though these numbers are really off the charts"), and on that hope I took him back yesterday (after a long and frustrating search of the house; he did not want to be found). They started him on IV fluids and antibiotics.

This morning he was worse. He could barely stand and wasn't interested in trying. The infection theory was a longshot, my vet said, and even if it were that, treating it would not reverse much of what we were seeing. I went back, held him, and said goodbye. This is always the hard part -- saying goodbye, but also all the self-doubt and what-ifs and did I do enough and am I doing the right thing and... Orlando wasn't fighting it, and I dearly hope I did what's best for him.

I adopted Orlando from Animal Friends in 2012, along with Giovanni of blessed memory. The people at the shelter thought he was about six years old at the time, my vet thought younger, and another vet (more recently) thought older. He had a good (almost) ten years after a rough start in life. That will have to be enough reassurance.


Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here. Read more…


We received a beautiful and serendipitous gift today for our 20th wedding anniversary (which was a couple weeks ago, but shipping is more complicated during a pandemic). The serendipity requires backstory:

A few years ago, in a year of big design changes, Stack Overflow had a contest with SO-branded cheese boards as prizes. I won one. Recently I've been divesting myself of some of my SO swag and packing most of the rest away, because of the pain and also because I'm not very interested in promoting that company by, say, wearing those t-shirts in public any more.

I offered some of my Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange swag to folks on Mi Yodeya, with the price being a torah teaching of the recipient's choice. I got some thoughtful torah, and a taker for the cheese board. I sent it off to its new home a couple months ago.

We eat cheese not infrequently, by the way.

And then today, somebody who knows nothing of Stack Overflow, recent events there, or swag, sent us this:

bigger nicer cheese board

It's beautiful and well-crafted, and I look forward to using it with much fondness. Yay, 20 years of marriage! Yay, nice gift from someone who didn't know about the extra niceness!