Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 304

Do you know where you were 10 years ago today? I do — I woke up very early that day because I had a very important appointment to have a plumbing problem fixed.

The problem was in my heart. I’d been born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of the usual tricuspid valve, and it was failing. I’d been told I had a heart murmur a few years previously, which might or might not have meant anything. But one day at the gym, I found that I couldn’t run for more than 10 seconds – and when it happened again a week later, I went to my doctor to see what was going on.

After a few tests, they gave me the news – I had a defective aortic valve. It would get worse and worse until it failed – but I probably could wait up to 18 months before doing anything about it. Probably. And the only option was a valve replacement, which required open-heart surgery.

I did a lot of research, talked to people who’d been through the procedure, and eventually settled on Dr. Vincent Gaudiani. And on the morning of the 14th of January, 2011, I woke up bright and early (actually, it was 4:30am, so early it was still dark outside) to be his first patient of the day – I was at the hospital (Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City) by 5am, and unconscious not long afterwards.

I’m told the operation went well – I slept through it, and didn’t really wake up fully until the morning of the 15th. A few days later, they discharged me, giving me a lovely card for my wallet.

I still carry it.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 303

Today was, I hope, the last piece of plumbing work for a while. When we had our drains cleaned last month, the plumber noticed that our water pressure was very high. He tried to adjust the pressure at the regulator outside the house and discovered that it was broken (and leaking!) and suggested we get it fixed “soon”, which happened today.

Tom showed up at 9am as planned. We wanted to go out for a walk while he worked (especially since the water would be turned off), but he said he’d like to be able to bleed the air out of the system and test it, which would require access to a sink and faucet. Since there was a working faucet in the garage (finally!), I left the door open and asked him to text when he was finished.

He said he didn’t text to keep his cellphone number private. I thought about it and told him to ring the doorbell when he was finished – that way, the Ring app on my phone would alert me so that I could close the garage door remotely. He agreed, and (somewhat to my surprise), it all worked. He rang, we chatted, I closed the garage, and he left. When we returned a few minutes later, we had a bright shiny regulator and running water.

It would have been even easier if I had a camera that showed me all of the front of the house. I’ve got a camera on the garage, but it can’t quite see the porch, and it’s already at the limit of its pan adjustment. I guess I’ll have to live with incomplete information.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 302

The blinds are in the same state as they were when I wrote yesterday – but I fixed a broken tray table (I hope – it still flexes more than I’d like), picked up my new glasses (which I’m still getting used to), and Apple finalized the trade-in on our old Macs and sent the money, so that’s something, right?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 301

It’s amazing how much easier doing a job is when you’re doing it for the second time and you have the right parts! This afternoon, I re-disassembled the garage faucet and installed the new springs and seats I discovered late last night; I also replaced the cam and cap, since new ones were included in the package. The whole process took about 20 minutes including testing, and I didn’t even have to look at a single video while I was doing it!

Perhaps I’ll work up the courage to fix the blinds in the bathroom tomorrow – my calendar is clear.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 300

I tried to fix the leaking faucet in the garage that I mentioned a week ago this afternoon. I opened the blister pack with the “repair kit” to take out the removal tool, then followed the directions on a video on YouTube and set to work – it took just a few minutes to disassemble the faucet.

I carefully set aside all of the old pieces, then started on the new ones. I opened the bag with the new ball and was delighted to find springs and seats packaged along with it – but I couldn’t get them to go down all the way into the valve, no matter how hard I tried. I finally gave up and put the old springs and seats back and used the new ball – it leaked a whole lot less, but it still leaked.

I had to give up for the night because we had plans; I was just going to leave everything where it was, but Diane insisted I clean up so that things wouldn’t get lost in the event of an earthquake. As I was putting everything into a Ziploc bag, I happened to look at the blister pack and discovered another set of springs and seats hiding – they were smaller than the ones packaged with the ball, and I am hopeful that they’ll actually fit. But I won’t know until tomorrow.

Our plans for this evening were to attend Silicon Valley Shakespeare‘s “48-Hour Playfest”, which they hold every January. A writer, director, and four actors are given a Shakespeare play and a mandatory story element to weave into a 10-minute production – they start at 6:30pm on Friday night and go onstage at 8:30pm on Sunday. All of the story elements have something in common – for example, one year they were all sports-related. It’s great fun (at least for the audience).

Most years, the event is at Foothill College (and their Theatre department co-produces and hosts the event), but this year, of course, the event happened on Zoom. And the story elements were all related to Shelter-in-Place – a wrong DoorDash Order, Virtual Happy Hours, and The Great British Bake-Off were three of this year’s elements (paired with Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and Richard III, respectively).

The top two plays this year were “Blow Zoom & Crack Your Cheeks” (King Lear/Zoom Freeze) and “The Scourge of Verona” (Romeo and Juliet/Toilet Paper Shortage). Somehow, even the tragedies were funny this year!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 299

Today was the first Torah Study led by the new Rabbi at Shir Hadash – I enjoyed his approach. After that, we Zoomed to services – the couple leading the service were actually at Shir Hadash in the chapel where we would have been holding services in normal times. It was good to see the place!

Last week, I dug through the pile of newspapers containing recipes that I’d been collecting over the last few weeks and pulled out the ones that looked promising. My goal for this week was to try a few of them – so far, we’ve had three: Sweet Sambal Cod on Monday, Salmon with Lemon-Herb Marinade yesterday, and Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry tonight. They’ve all been worth adding to our rotation, though I hope to make less of a mess the next time I do the stir-fry.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 298

Today, I learned that dough hooks are not interchangeable. We made pretzels again, and this time, I happened to notice that there was a little diagram above each hole on the mixer showing which hook went into which hole. I followed the diagram, and the dough behaved far better than it had on my last two attempts – it stayed in the bowl instead of climbing the hooks onto the mixer body!

I did have to add a bit more water than the recipe called for to get all of the flour incorporated into the dough, and the dough was very sticky, but other than that, it was a smooth process.

Tonight, there was a special Kabbalat Shabbat service at Shir Hadash. It was billed as “an early Shabbat gathering of prayers and ‘new songs’ of peace, holding each other virtually and bringing to a close this challenging week” and it really boosted my mood, although I nearly cried when we sang Gesher Tz’ar Me’od at the end – the country and all of us are all together on a very narrow bridge and the next 12 days are going to be tense.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 297

I only spent half the day looking at Twitter, Facebook, and TV today, a great improvement over yesterday. And so I was able to actually accomplish one task on my to-do list – set up new accounts for Diane and me with our Medicare Part D (prescription drug) insurer, WellCare.

We’d become WellCare customers at the beginning of 2020 as part of the Aetna/CVS merger; I didn’t have any complaints about their plan or benefits last year, so we decided to stay with them this year. But, given our current prescription usage, we discovered that switching to “WellCare Value Script” from “WellCare Medicare Rx Select” would save us a few bucks a month – over the course of a year, it’d add up to a nice meal in a restaurant (remember those?). Making the switch during Open Enrollment was easy, too.

A few days later, we got payment coupon books in the mail, which would require mailing in checks every month – clearly unacceptable, especially since we had been able to set up recurring automatic payments for 2020. The instructions said we could set up recurring automatic payments for the new plans after January 1; I tried that day and found that our logins got us to our old accounts, with no way to make a change.

I thought that, perhaps, their systems hadn’t completely cycled yet, so I waited until today and got the same result. Their website offered “chat with an agent” – and I discovered that we had to set up brand new accounts with brand new usernames because we’d changed plans. At least they didn’t make us come up with new email addresses!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 296

I had high hopes for today. Warnock had already been declared the winner in his Senate race when I woke up, and I hoped that Ossoff would be declared the winner sometime today. And I expected that Congress would confirm the results of the election, especially after reading Mike Pence’s letter disavowing the theory that he could unilaterally discard electoral votes. I was even thinking of opening some champagne to celebrate.

Around 11 (Pacific), I turned on the TV to watch the joint session and listen to the speeches – but, of course, that didn’t last long. I wish I could say I was surprised that there was a riot and insurrection, but I wasn’t – it was clear from the rhetoric from the White House and allies what they were inciting, and they got it.

I was surprised that Congress was able to go back into session this evening to continue the process. I had hoped that today’s coup attempt would stop the specious objections, but I clearly underestimated Josh Hawley’s perfidy (as I write this, Congress is “debating” Pennsylvania based on Hawley’s objection).

On a brighter note, we tried making Delicata, Radicchio, and Black Rice Salad again. Unlike the previous attempt, we were able to find Delicata squash and that made a big difference. I remembered to cook the rice ahead of time – next time, I’ll make the squash early, too!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 295

I spent most of an hour working with the new District 101 Webmaster on turning over the website; he knows Divi and WordPress better than I do, which is terrific. We spent the time talking about why I’d set up some things the way they were so that he can make the appropriate changes. I’m looking forward to seeing the site get better and more useful!

Dinner tonight was another new recipe for us: Ayesha Curry’s Sweet Sambal Cod from Parade magazine, and it came out pretty good, despite using a fairly thick seabass filet instead of cod, putting the cornstarch into the sauce right at the beginning instead of after the liquid ingredients had combined, and putting far too much oil in the pan. We also substituted sriracha for the sambal oelek, which we’ve done in other recipes. Next time, I’ll try following the recipe more closely!