Upgrading from Pixel 1 to Pixel 4a

I recently upgraded from a Pixel (the original 1st Gen) to a Pixel 4a. The Pixel 4a is a perfect successor to the Pixel 1 if you like the Pixel and just need a newer phone.

In 2016 I bought an original Pixel when they came out to replace my beloved Moto X (1st Gen). It’s been a great phone for the past 4 years but in the last few months the battery life has deteriorated to the point where the phone was almost unusable, often turning itself off while reporting 35% battery remaining. This despite it almost never leaving my house with a strong wireless and WiFi signal because of the pandemic.

The Pixel did everything I wanted it to do and had all the features that I wanted — including a headphone jack — and none of the ones that I didn’t. Despite some recent consternation with Google I still think the Pixel phones are the way to go when buying an Android phone. But the Pixel 4 and 5 are physically huge and expensive. And of course no headphone jack.

Enter the Pixel 4a. Physically it’s identical to the Pixel in size with a much larger screen thanks to the almost-bezel-less design. It still has the headphone jack (yay!). And because they took out all the expensive Pixel 4/5 stuff I don’t care about (wireless charging, Active Edge, Face Unlock, waterproof) it’s much cheaper than the Pixel 4 or 5.

The Pixel 4a is a nice step up in camera, newer generation CPU, and the battery life is truly amazing, although it’s hard to objectively compare with my dying 4-year-old Pixel. Full hardware spec details available at phoneArena.

After using my Pixel 4a for two weeks now, I couldn’t be happier with it as a successor to the Pixel 1.

Granny Dot’s obituary: corrected

My birthday always brings my Granny Dot to mind (her 94th birthday was the Thursday prior) and I remembered an important omission in her obituary that bears correcting. My additions in bold.

Dorothy Birkelbach

Dorothy Lois Birkelbach was born in Littlefield, Texas, to Walter and Thelma Timian on November 5, 1926, where, according to her, “on the corner where the First Baptist Church is now.” She departed this life to be with her Heavenly Father on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Dorothy attended Littlefield High School and Draughon’s Business College in Lubbock, Texas. She became a military bride on June 9, 1943, when she married 2nd Lieutenant Werner W. Birkelbach. She manned the home front while Werner went to war.

After Werner’s discharge from the Army in 1945, the couple returned to Littlefield where they started a family and founded Birkelbach Machine & Pump in 1955.

Dorothy was a devoted wife and mother. In addition to raising their three children, she and Werner welcomed nieces and nephews into their home at various times to help out their extended families. She loved to cook, and everyone was always welcomed at her table. She was a talented seamstress and enjoyed needlework and ceramics.

Dorothy was active in the Littlefield First United Methodist Church as long as she was able, singing in the choir and teaching adult Sunday School.

Werner was an avid sail plane pilot, and Dorothy loved to accompany him to soaring competitions where she made many friends in the soaring community. She once pulled an empty sail plane trailer from the Mexican border to Canada while Werner and his friends sailed along the ridges of the Rocky Mountains, stopping when they landed at various airports along the way for fun and fellowship.

Dorothy loved to fish with her family and friends on Lake Buchannan, Texas. She and Werner hosted many “Grandkid Camps” there. Her favorite food was fried catfish.

She was “Granny Dot.”

Dorothy is survived by her daughter, Terri Peel and husband, Bruce of Austin, Texas; her son, Randy Birkelbach and wife, Ede of Collinsville, Oklahoma; seven grandchildren, Casey Peel and husband, Dr. Daniel Nidzgorski of Seattle, Washington, Kelly Peel of Spicewood, Texas, Jonathan Peel and wife, Lindsey of Cedar Park, Texas, Staci Hamilton and husband, David of Lehigh Acres, Florida, Shelli Myers and husband Brian of Montgomery, Texas, Phil Birkelbach and wife Shannon of Waller, Texas, and Steven Birkelbach and wife Brandi of Pilots Point, Texas; eleven great-grandchildren, Kooper, Isabelle, Miller, and Weslie Peel; Dustin Gibbs, Clint and Hunter Hamilton; Jared and Charlie Myers; and Chase and Kaden Birkelbach; her sister, Betty Wilkinson of Littlefield and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Walter and Thelma; husband, Werner; and son, Kenny.

Break Glass List

Today I’m working through my Break Glass list, a tool that has helped me deal with some almost-overwhelming anxiety the past few weeks. I learned about this mental health tool a few months ago from my BFF Jonobie who in turn learned it from her therapist.

A Break Glass list is simply a list of things that help ground you physically or mentally. Things that, were we not overwhelmed and just a bit down, we might do anyway. But when our systems are overloaded it’s hard for us to think of those simple things which is why we have this list made in advance. Then when we’re feeling overwhelmed we only need to remember one thing:

In case of emergency, break glass.

I keep my list in a Google Keep document that I can readily access from my phone or computer whenever I need it. Here’s my list, which is very me and likely not useful to you as-is but might give you some ideas:

  • Listen to Working Girl soundtrack
  • Close your eyes and take deep breaths
  • Text Jonobie or Jeena
  • Stretch
  • Drink water
  • Eat something
  • Step away from the computer / phone
  • Go get a Sonic cherry coke

The trick is making this list in advance so you have it when you need it.

Granny Dot would have been 94 today

My Granny Dot, who died in March, would have been 94 today. I was born two days after her birthday and every year when I called her to wish her a happy birthday she would wish me one as well.

IMG_20150412_130126254Today I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies in her memory. The irony is that while I’m certain she made chocolate chip cookies at some point, I remember all the other types of cookies she baked over the years. Marfa Light cookies, Cowboy cookies, Oatmeal and Raisin cookies, and more. But the joy was in the baking and in the sharing the result with people she loved, and I think she would have been delighted in a chocolate chip cookie today.

Happy Birthday, Granny. I love & miss you!

Pie and pottery

This weekend started my week-long staycation and I jumped right into the baking and throwing.

In the kitchen I decided to conquer the fabled braided crust after being inspired by my friend Habib’s beautiful crusts and a pumpkin pie seemed perfect for the season. Despite a panicked moment where I forgot how to braid (seriously brain?) it turned out really well! I see more of these in my future.


In the pottery studio I trimmed the spoon rests and small bowl I threw last week. This was easy and uneventful just as I was hoping it would be. I then started into the three pieces that we need around the house: a tea steeping lid for Daniel and pots for our two carnivorous plants.

After brewing his tea, Daniel has been using plastic take-out container lids on top of his mugs. This will never do – we are not barbarians. I mean, how hard can it be to make, it’s essentially a small plate with a rim. Clearly a plate thrower I am not because I re-learned the lesson: throw plate-like-things on bats. After throwing bowls for so long I got use to throwing them directly on the wheelhead and you just can’t with plates and get them off intact. Lesson (re)learned.

We have two carnivorous plants in the house which are both pretty and help keep the fruit-flies in check. Unlike other plants, carnivorous plants need to sit in water. For both plants we’ve been using, again, random plastic containers we’ve had available so I set out to throw some short wide cylinders for them. We will probably still keep them in the black plastic pots — the last time we tried to transplant some it went poorly — but it’ll be a step up.

I opened up into the Pine Lake White clay and it threw like a charm. It’s much less groggy than the Columbia White and I’m looking forward to throwing some more with it.