Visiting With My Girls

As Anna put it, we had three visits in one. Anna and the girls came Friday evening. The girls went more or less straight to bed, and Anna and I talked till midnight (which was probably not the best idea, but we didn’t have one on one conversations for a really long time).

It was then a long morning at my house, and then we went to the market and picked pre-ordered bread, croissants and vegetables. Afterward, we visited my mom, and she was very happy to hold Kira and chat with all of us. Then we traveled to John and Anna’s house in Milwaukee, and I stayed there till midday Tuesday. Unfortunately, my situation at work is such that I could not take any additional time off, but we were still happy to stay under one roof for a couple of days.

The weather was not cooperating. It became sharply colder on Saturday, and I was completely unprepared. I was glad that I took a warmer coat, but frankly, I could take even a warmer one. We still went for several walks, but it would be better if the weather would be different.
I already posted some pictures from the Havenwoods State Park, and here are some pictures from the neighborhood – the Halloween decorations there are very elaborate 🙂

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Rapid Test

Although the US government does not require to quarantine after coming back from Europe, so technically speaking, I didn’t need to get tested, I still wanted to get tested before seeing my girls. I spent some before departure researching the situation with rapid testing in Illinois. It turned out that I can’t get a rapid test “just because I need it for my personal reasons.” It was either 48 hours wait or a rapid test for a fee. Forty-eight hours didn’t work for me because the samples collected on Thursday were going to go to the lab only at the end of the day, and the result would be back by the EOD Saturday. I didn’t have symptoms, so I could not get a free rapid test, and the one-hundred dollars rapid test was the only option.

I found (or rather Vlad found) one provider in the city who is doing rapid tests on-demand and with whom I could book online. They have multiple locations, and it looked like both Chicago locations are doing rapid testing. I booked an appointment at the Streeterville location because it looked easier to reach. I could even walk there from the train station, although it was a long walk, and still have time to get to the office not to disrupt my first working day upon return.

And that’s what I did: took a very early train to the city, walked to the clinic, checked in… they took my sample and said: ok, that’s it. And I: ???? they – the results will be in two to three days… I: What about the rapid test?! They: we do not do rapid tests at this location; we do not have equipment yet. You need to go to the South Loop. I: Why did your web site allow me to register for a rapid test here?!
They said they would notify the other office, and I called Uber. The other office was on the opposite side of the city, and even though there is no real rush hour these days, eight AM is not the best travel time; Uber’s rates were doubled.

When I finally arrived at the South Loop office and check-in, they told me: our internet is down! Fortunately, after a while, they connected using somebody’s hotspot and processed my information and my payment. And they even allowed me to wait for the results, although at first, they said I couldn’t wait there. I had to take Uber to the office and was only a little bit late for my first morning meeting.

So it all ended up fine after all, but it was quite an expensive and stressful test.

Havenwoods State Park

This park is very close to Anna’s house, and on Sunday all five of us went there for a nature walk. I thought that Sunday was cold, but turned out it was way warmer than Monday :).

I am so glad we went there! It is beautiful, and it is so different from Deer Grove, although it also has some prairie, wetland and woodland. Lots of pictures 🙂

Community garden
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How To Build Local Communities

This is a professional talk, but not really technical – please attend virtually, if you are intereseted

The World of Data

That’s the name of the talk I will be giving on Wednesday. I was not sure to which extent I should advertise it – after all, it is not the technical talk. But looks like there is a lot of interest already, even without my advertising efforts. Here is a talk description:

Today, Chicago PUG is the third-largest in the Western Hemisphere, but it was not the case three years ago. It is easy to announce a new User Group, but how to keep it running and growing? Nobody expected new pandemic and the effect it will take on our lives. The Open Source communities, including Postgres community, which live and breath live discussions, were hit heavily. How did we manage? What’s next? Find out during this short presentation!

If you are interested, please register here!

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Quick Status Update

For the past two days, I stay with Anna and her family in the Milwaukee home. Since Wisconsin has a very high infection rate these days, Anna decided to drive me both ways. On Friday night, she drove to Palatine with the girls, and they spent a night at my house. In the morning, we headed to Milwaukee.

Here, I am trying to do it all: to have family time, work as actual work, and work on our book. It barely fits in, but I do not feel like I can take any days off these days.
Hence this short note here: I am alive and well, but I have no time for anything. More than even.

Early Voting Day

On October 12, my 77-old neighbor texted me: I didn’t see a ballot drop box where you said it should be. Is it inside? 

I talked to her a couple of days before that. She was hesitant to send her envelope by mail, and I told her there would be a dropoff box. My very moderate, if not conservative neighbor talked like I never head her before: I filled in the ballot. I told my husband: turn the TV off; I do not want to listen to him anymore. I tried to find some logical explanations, but enough is enough! Another neighbor chimed in: my mom said she wants to vote in person. She said we could take folding chairs and wait, no matter how many hours!

From what I was told, the first several days of early voting were indeed hours. I went to check on the situation of Friday, resolving that if the line is long, I will return home and fill in my absentee ballot. 

 

The line seemed OK. It took about fifteen minutes of waiting outside, and about ten minutes inside, and then voting itself. I surrender by absentee ballot to the election judge, cast my vote, and dropped the printed ballot into the box. This process with printing and then manually casting is still relatively new. 

As it often happens this year, there were no “I voted” stickers toward the end of the day, but that is fine. I am glad that so many people are voting early. 

We were writing the postcards to the Florida voters through September, and we were told not to mail them before October 21. I mailed mine immediately after I got back from Helsinki,’ but I think it was already too late :). Which honestly, I do not regret!

Our First Day In The USA

Yesterday, there was a 24th anniversary of the day when Vlad, Anna, and I came to the US. In the past several months, I wrote so many posts about our last weeks in Russia and the first weeks and months in the US that I have almost nothing to add. But today, I was thinking about these first days again, and suddenly I recalled some of my feelings. 

After Val picked us up at O’Hare, he drove us to Des Plaines, where I would sign the lease for my first ever apartment. I was tired; I barely understood what was going on. In addition to Val, one more VIN.net employee was waiting for me in the leasing office. His name was Art; he was a sales rep, and he was supposed to help me understand what I was signing; apparently, Pam didn’t trust Val to explain it to me :). 

Reading the lease agreement was too much for me, even with Art’s help. I signed, and then, there were lots of motions. I had no money on me, and Pam wanted Val to pay my security deposit and one week of October rent, which was left; I was expected to pay it back later. But the leasing office could not accept cash, and there was an argument, and at the end, Art paid with his credit card, and Vlad gave him cash. 

Things were finally resolved, and we were moved to this empty apartment with two old coaches, which my other future co-workers gave away. And I remember that weird feeling, which I had going to bed that night: it was that easy?! 

I never, ever-never, had my place. I am not talking about an apartment; I never had a room, which would be mine and only mine, never in my life. The fact that I couldn’t have a place of my own in Russia was a major deciding factor in my move to the US. I was planning to work hard for two years and earn enough money to buy an apartment in Saint Petersburg. Cash buying was the only option: neither mortgages nor rental market existed in Russia at that time. 

And here I was, going to bed in a two-bedroom apartment in Des Planes, and that magic happened immediately upon arrival. It happened just because nobody here could imagine that less than a two-bedroom apartment would suffice. The problem which seemed utterly unresolvable in Russia resolved itself instantly… 

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

Metra Sues UP

Remember this post about fees-not-being collected on our Metra Line? Turned out, this happened due to a very peculiar situation – see this article. Although the lawsuit was filed more than a week ago, the situation with fare collection didn’t change.

Copying the article from the Metra website, because it might disappear later.

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Getting Back To The US

I am speechless … Yesterday, only after I passed the border control at ORD and was waiting for my luggage, I realized that I was not sent through the health check, and I didn’t fill in the form with my phone and email address. The CDC does not trace returning international passengers anymore. While I was standing at the carousel, a lady in the airport service uniform handed me a card, which advised me to exercise normal caution. There was no public announcement about these changes, so I went to the us.gov website to check. It turned out – yes, the quarantine is not required “unless you participated in high-risk activities.”

Then I want to check what else has changed.

And guess what I found! All the Schengen countries are still on the list, meaning you can’t enter the US unless you have family or other compelling reasons to be here. The list includes (and mind you, the list was updated in September!) China, UK, and Ireland, all Schengen zone and Brazil. Period. Russia is still not on the list, but Finland is. Argentina and Columbia are not,

Oh, and funny thing. Last time, nobody asked me what I am bringing; the only important thing was temperature control. This time, both border control and customs asked me in detail, what I was doing in Finland, why I was in Finland, what I am bringing back, whether I have any food except for chocolate, and the total value of the clothes I brought back. When I told Anna, she asked whether they believed me :).

Flying During Pandemic: Iteration Two.

This time was different from July, mostly because there were no crowds anywhere. I had my boarding passes issued online for all flights in both directions. There were no lines on the check-in.

On the way back, I had a connection in Munich, a very short one, once again, no problems, no delays.

The flights both ways had lots of unoccupied seats, so I could take three seat in a row to sleep (I didn’t sleep much, but still :)).

My only resentment is that they only serve vegetarian these days, since they can’s afford having multiple options, so it’s always pasta. With carrots 🙂