Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Five

Today was a typical Thursday (even pre-lockdown) with two Toastmasters meetings. I have to admit that not having to drive to them, especially the one in Santa Clara, is a great time-saver, but it sure would be nice to see people in person again!

Beyond that, I finally got around to acting on a recent discovery about MacBook Pros that strongly suggested charging them from the right side ports to avoid confusing a heat sensor and causing bad things to happen. I haven’t actually seen the bad things, but thought it best to be prudent. So I moved my Henge Stone dock from the left side to the right.

But before I could do that, I had to find a longer Ethernet cable, AND I had to move my scanner closer to the computer because my longest USB cable was a foot too short for the new position of the dock. And as long as I was doing THAT, I decided it was worth plugging the USB-C cable into the monitor and getting more ports on the left side of the computer.

But I finally got it all accomplished, and now when I scan, I won’t have to walk halfway across the room. I guess that’s progress.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Four

I started using DoorDash just before the pandemic – mostly because I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card and they included a $60 credit to sugarcoat an increase in the annual fee, and I didn’t want to leave $60 on the table. So we tried it one day for lunch and it worked quite well (at least it did for us – I know the restaurant had to pay, but we wouldn’t have gone there that day anyway, so I think they came out ahead, too).

Once the lockdown hit, we started using DoorDash more often – we’re still not heavy users, but it’s definitely in rotation, especially for restaurants which are more than a couple of miles away (or which consistently miss their pickup times).

Now we’ve moved further into the 21st Century and made our first Instacart order. Actually, I didn’t know I was using Instacart until well into the process – I was trying to order things from Costco for “2-day” delivery with limited success, and they suggested using their sameday.costco.com site instead. The prices were slightly higher than 2-day delivery or going to the warehouse, but still good, and when I checked out, I discovered that they were just front-ending Instacart.

I’d requested delivery between 2-4pm; at a few minutes after 1, my phone buzzed telling me that my shopper had started. A few minutes later, I got another message: “They have toilet paper available – would you like me to add it to your cart?” I was impressed (but sadly, they didn’t have the brand I wanted).

And at 2:10, I got a message telling me that the shopper was at my door and needed to scan my ID because I’d ordered wine – she was able to do it from a few feet away and we were both wearing masks, so it seemed safe enough. I thanked her and went back inside so she could put the order on the porch safely – and that was it.

I might use Instacart to avoid Costco even after things get back to normal!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Three

It’s Tuesday, so we went shopping – first walking to Trader Joe’s for “light” shopping (chocolate mostly, but we did pick up some veggies and frozen fish), then driving to Lunardi’s for the “real” shopping for the week. We avoided acquiring any more bags at either store by having the cashiers put our food back into the cart and then packing it into our reusable bags out in the parking lot – I felt like I beat the system!

Between the shopping trips, we watched a “RED Talk” from Rensselaer about some of the work they are doing on COVID-19 research (much in cooperation with Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York). It was interesting and occasionally encouraging.

And now we’re watching some of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain ’s Ukulele Lockdown videos – some are just performances, others are live-streamed instructional playalongs – and all are a lot of fun. I almost wish I could play!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Two

Diane upgraded her phone today from an iPhone SE to an iPhone SE – the new one has four times as much storage, so she should be able to stop thinking about running out of space on the phone for a while. It’s also slightly physically bigger, which was NOT a selling point, and it’s significantly faster and has a better camera (her photo of the day on Facebook was taken with the new phone).

I permanently retired my Apple Time Capsule today – it’s 9 years old and has never been terribly useful; periodically, Time Machine would say something like “I can’t verify your most recent backup so I’m going to throw away all of your backups – OK?”. And even when it was working, trying to do a restore over the network was painfully slow (I’m not a super fan of the Time Machine user interface, either).

I wanted to thoroughly erase the disk on the Time Capsule before getting rid of the device; Apple offered a choice of how many passes of writing random data I wanted to make: 1, 3, 7, or 35. I picked 35 (better to be safe, right?) and it’s been erasing itself for a week and a half.

Yesterday, I (finally) got curious about why there was a choice and found the Wikipedia article on the Gutmann Method (the 35-pass erasure algorithm, which clearly explained that I wasted a lot of time – one pass would probably suffice, and three would certainly have been enough!

In the meantime, I now have two computers without a backup strategy – one is this new laptop (which doesn’t have any “real” data yet that isn’t on one of the other machines) and the other is the Plex server. So I ordered a 4TB drive from Office Depot this morning and walked over to pick it up this afternoon; it’ll go on the Plex server. I’ll probably get another one for this laptop, but I need to figure out my cabling needs, too – the laptop only has two USB-C ports, and I’m beginning to think I need a dock for it!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-One

We left early (or so we thought) for the Farmers’ Market, but when we got there, the line for the fish lady extended well into the park, about ten customers deep – and the line for the good strawberry vendor was close to a block long! We waited for fish, then quickly picked up some falafel and blueberries and left the market.

I spent most of the afternoon culling photos, mostly from Hong Kong. The next batch will start with our son’s fifth-grade “graduation” to middle school – today, we noticed several houses with signs marking their children’s fifth-grade promotion since they won’t have a ceremony.

And this evening, we watched a strange Israeli-French movie, Jellyfish. I’m not sure I can describe it – I knew it was going to be strange, but it exceeded my expectations. We borrowed it from the Jewish Community Library – you can see it on Amazon Prime.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty

We got out early enough this morning to take a long walk before Torah Study and Shir Shabbat services – both were live events, which was a very nice change of pace.

I spent most of the afternoon working on photos – I’m almost finished with April, 2001 (I finished editing a trip to Israel, Hursley, and Paris and I’m halfway through a ten-day trip to Hong Kong). So many duplicates….

Dinner was takeout from Manresa – it makes a nice change from my cooking!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Nine

It was a much less busy day today than yesterday – no need to call Apple, Chase, or anyone!

We got a shipping notice for Diane’s new iPhone SE; unlike all of the other Apple products we’ve ordered in the past few years, the origin of the shipment isn’t Shanghai – it’s Rialto, California. But at this point, all that FedEx shows is “Shipment Information Sent to FedEx”, so the phone could be almost anywhere.

I got back to editing and culling photos; I only got through a few days’ worth from 2001, but I found an amazing number of true duplicates, as well as lots of near-duplicates. Culling is fun!

We watched the final installment of From the Files of Denmark Metro live – there was a little chatter in the chat window, but nothing like the feedback you get in person. It’s a fun little comedy – worth the hour or so, especially if you like Shakespeare. Episode Three hasn’t been posted as I type this, but it will be up soon.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Eight

A couple of days ago, a notification flitted across my phone’s screen: “$99 charge from Apple on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card”. At least that’s what I thought it said – it vanished quickly and I couldn’t get it back.

This morning, I looked at the credit card online and, sure enough, there was a $99 charge from “APPLE.COM/US” – but neither Diane nor I could figure out what it could be. And neither of us had any email from Apple about a $99 charge, and looking at our Apple accounts didn’t enlighten us.

This afternoon, I chatted with Apple Support about the charge – the rep couldn’t figure it out, either, and told me to call their account support team. After 20 minutes or so on hold (props to Apple for giving me a choice of what kind of hold music to play and offering silence as an option), I was talking with a rep who looked at all of our accounts and didn’t see any $99 transactions. He told me to call Chase.

I didn’t want to call Chase – their website has been warning about LONG hold times – but I had no alternative. After going through the automated attendant and refusing to take the hint to go online, I had to wait at least 5 seconds before being connected to a human being – outrageous! She transferred me to the fraud team, and now I have a new card on its way to me.

I don’t understand how someone could fraudulently create a charge claiming to be Apple and get away with it (and the cash), but I guess it’s not my problem any more.

In more cheerful news, we watched the first two episodes of City Lights Theatre’s production of “From the Files of Denmark Metro”, a comedy/mystery set around the events in Hamlet – all of the actors are safely sheltered in their own homes and interacting over the Internet. It’s funny, and they’ve come up with some interesting ways of dealing with props. The final episode will be live tomorrow night on Facebook (you can watch the first two episodes on YouTube and they’ll add the final one to that page, too). Recommended.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Seven

We talked to Jeff this morning and played online trivia (courtesy of the Santa Clara City Library) with some of our usual trivia team tonight. Those were the high points of the day.

We also got Diane’s car smogged so we could renew the registration; it was pretty painless and nearly contact-free (I almost picked up the pen attached to the request form but realized what I was doing and used my own pen instead). And we got to walk while the car was being checked.

Today makes thirty-seven consecutive days I’ve posted to this blog; I thought that might be my record but it’s not even close – I hit 83 consecutive days in 2000 (it would have been 95 days if I hadn’t joined in the “Day without Weblogs” effort for World AIDS Day that year).

I intend to blog (even if there’s not much to say) daily during the Shelter-in-Place order here; I hope I don’t break my record!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Six

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium shopping day – we made our weekly trip to Lunardi’s mid-afternoon, when it was reasonably uncrowded. More customers were wearing masks than last week, but there were still a few going around with bare faces.

And since it was Tuesday, it was also Xfinity day – this week, I returned the cable modem I’d picked up last Tuesday, still shrink-wrapped. I was hoping to return it via UPS, but couldn’t print a label because Xfinity’s website didn’t show it as a device on my account (maybe because I never activated it); in the event, I think I spent less time interacting with the greeter at Xfinity who took the modem and came back a minute later to hand me a receipt than I would have had to spend at UPS getting them to package up the modem.

And since it was Tuesday, it also was pick-up-a-take-and-bake-pizza day; once more, we got it at Tony & Alba’s, again with nearly no interaction.

And since it was Tuesday, we had our Trivial Zoom session; Khartoum’s quizmaster sends us old trivia scripts each week and we go through them. It’s not quite the same as being there, but the beer is cheaper.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Five

Five weeks down, how many to go?

I spent most of the day working on code – for fun, of course! The weather was not conducive to walking, but we took our usual two long walks anyway (and got drizzled on for our troubles).

We felt lazy at lunchtime, so we ordered from Panera Bread; I was going to have it delivered, but the quoted time was 45-50 minutes versus 10 minutes to pick up the food ourselves – we drove. They brought the food out to the car as soon as we pulled up – nice and smooth.

The sewing light on Diane’s sewing machine burned out last week; needless to say, Sears no longer carries it. But someone on eBay named klanddj has a good supply of NOS (new old stock) bulbs and now we have two in hand. Our friend Sarah also sent Diane some bias tape and it arrived today – there are more masks in our future.

And it’s been more than two days since I’ve seen a dropped packet; I hope I can safely give Comcast back their modem, which is still in its shrink-wrap. I just have to figure out how. But that’s for tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Four

The Farmers’ Market was open and doing a fairly brisk business – they’ve gotten better at marking places for people to wait and stay properly distanced, but there are still people wandering around not paying attention. We picked up fish (as usual) and were happy to find Penny Lane Farm selling tomato plants (she’s only at the market a few days a year). We picked up four varieties of cherry tomatoes and planted them right after lunch – wish us luck!

Diane runs Shir Hadash’s book club, so she’s on the mailing list for the Jewish Community Library’s brochures. They were going to have an interesting-looking lecture in San Francisco on March 26: A Slippery Slope: Jews, Schmaltz, and Crisco in the Age of Industrial Food with Rachel B. Gross – but it wasn’t interesting enough to drive up to see it. But thanks to COVID-19, the lecture was postponed to today and put on Zoom, so we went – and it was worth it.

It would have been even better if it hadn’t been Zoombombed! I do have to grudgingly admire one of the trolls – she kept suggesting that the host press Alt-F4 to solve the problem; it had been a long time since I’d been on Windows, but I was pretty sure that was the way you close a program. Fortunately, the host didn’t fall for it and they were able to get rid of the trolls fairly quickly, and Professor Gross kept her cool, despite the obscenities and other hassles.

And so ends another week. Or was it the beginning of another week?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Three

We had Torah Study on Zoom (as usual for a Saturday).

We hired a new landscape maintenance person (our previous one vanished back in October). Hopefully, he’ll be able to start work soon!

Diane finished her first mask and we mailed it to Jeff (the Post Office was surprisingly crowded, but we had masks and I was able to use the Self-Serve Kiosk to print my Priority Mail label, so we didn’t actually get close to anyone!), then we took a long walk through downtown Los Gatos and avoided people. :-)

Lunch was takeout from Armadillo Willy’s – tasty, but I probably won’t need to have any fries for a while. Dinner was balsamic marinated chicken breast (recipe from EatingWell, July/August 2011 issue).

And other than that, I’ve spent the day playing with code. At least I haven’t been watching the news!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-Two

We started the day with a little light exercise – refreshing the soil in our raised beds. I’d ordered 10.5 cubic feet (7 bags) of soil which was delivered yesterday; I thought I’d have some left over for the EarthBoxes, but it was just enough.

Of course, we had to weed and till before we added the new soil – luckily, it was cool this morning. I was disappointed, though, that my Apple Watch didn’t give me credit for exercise – I was sure breathing hard, especially when I was schlepping the bags of soil!

Diane continued working on the first face mask; the second one will be much easier (she hopes). She also says that she’s sewn straighter seams in her life (but it was probably in high school).

The only time I ever tried sewing anything was at a “Sewing Machine Safety and Basic Use” class at TechShop, probably in 2010 or 2011. I made a small bag, which has been sitting in the cabinet of our sewing machine ever since!

We attended two Shabbat Evening services today through the miracles of timezones and Zoom. Dina, a friend from Florida, had been scheduled to read Torah for the first time tomorrow, but the lockdown stopped that; instead, she gave the D’var Torah at her congregation’s service and invited friends from near and far to join her. A couple of hours later, we Zoomed to Shir Hadash’s first live Shabbat Evening service – it was nice to see and chat with friends we haven’t seen for a while!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty-One

Let’s start with the good news:

  • United refunded our tickets for Taiwan/Japan! I called them on Saturday; the agent told me that it might take ten days or more before the refunds department did anything, but this morning, I saw a refund for our tickets had been posted to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account.
  • The Humanscale Freedom Saddle Seat that I’d ordered on March 25th from 247ergo.com arrived yesterday – not bad for an item that quotes 30-day delivery times under normal conditions. It was in a huge box, which I took apart on the front porch and just brought the chair inside. I think doing that reduced the chance of contamination; it certainly was easier than dragging the whole box in.
  • We ordered 10.5 cubic feet (7 bags) of potting soil to refill our raised beds late last night, and it got delivered this morning. Much easier than going to the garden center, even if I did still have to haul it into the back yard. We have to weed the beds (we haven’t planted anything for a couple of years because travel – not a problem this year!) and then we can plant some veggies for the summer. I also have EarthBox refills on order, but they may take a week or so to get here.

Diane has started to make masks; she thought it would be easier if she had some bias tape, so we walked to RiteAid and looked in their sewing section. No bias tape, but they did have a pair of sewing scissors and some hair elastics.

Both my Toastmasters meetings went smoothly; people are getting comfortable with the tools.

And Passover is over for the year; pizza tasted REALLY good today!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Thirty

I’d forgotten that today would normally have been Tax Day until we walked by our neighbors and found them greeting us on their lawn:

Of course, I made sure to be at least six feet away when I took the photo!

I’m continuing to have good Internet connectivity with my own modem (Xfinity’s is still in its shrinkwrap). An all-day ping to my Linode server has only shown three dropped packets, which doesn’t seem too terrible. But I’m going to wait another couple of days before I return their modem, just in case.

Speaking of returning things, I sent my old MacBook Pro to Apple for recycling and trade-in. I’d bought it just under 10 years ago, soon after being laid off from IBM. My manager allowed me to hang on to IBM’s MacBook Pro for a few weeks until Apple’s new models were available, for which I’m still grateful; I’m sure if I’d bought the previous model, I would have had to replace it a long time ago!

Now I’m erasing my old Time Capsule – it was never the most reliable form of backup, and it’s time to put it out to pasture, too. I guess I should get a small hard disk and use it for Time Machine; I hardly ever have restored a file from Time Machine (partially because doing it from a Time Capsule was painful), but there’ll be a time sometime when I need to…right?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Nine

Our Internet woes continued this morning; rebooting everything didn’t help, so I finally gave into desperation and called Xfinity. I used their chat tool to set up a callback from tech support; 15 minutes later, my cellphone rang and I was talking to Brian at tech support in Honduras. I described the problem and let him know I was seeing a lot of packet loss as well as huge variability in ping time; a few minutes later, he’d downloaded new firmware to my modem, restarted it, and all was well. Thanks, Xfinity, and thanks Brian!

Except that an hour later, the Internet service went all to hell again. I got back with Xfinity and another agent tried to reset my modem with limited success – then yet ANOTHER agent called me, looked at the signals and suggested I get a temporary rental modem from the service center. I agreed and he set it up on my account and drove over to the service center. It was the easiest in-person transaction I’ve ever had with Xfinity.

As long as we were out, we did this week’s shopping (Talenti gelato was still on sale at Nob Hill!), and when I returned, I was happy to hear the Sonos playing away.

I’d left a ping running when we left – to my great surprise, there had been NO packet loss for the two hours we’d been away. I decided to take my chances and leave my old modem in place but monitor what was going on.

It’s been 6 hours so far with no packet losses. It’s as if agreeing to pay Xfinity another $14/month (plus $9 in taxes and fees!) solved the problem all by itself.

I’m going to leave things as they are for a few days; if the problem doesn’t recur by next shopping day, I’ll take the modem back, still in its protective plastic, and see what happens then.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Eight

Has it been four weeks already? Time flies when you’re not going anywhere!

We had lots of calls today, starting with our son bright and early at 8:30am (his lunchtime) and ending with a Toastmasters meeting on Zoom ending at 8:45pm. And we managed to walk, too.

My computer migration continues – I’ve made a backup on USB disk and it seems to work; I tried using an old backup disk (Firewire/USB 2.0) but I couldn’t make the new laptop see it at all – now I’m running it through a 7-pass erasure so I can throw it away safely.

And this evening, I’m having severe Internet problems – it comes and it goes, and even when it’s here, it’s not very fast (except when it is). During my Toastmasters meeting, Zoom did a great job of preserving the audio, but I was lucky if I got a frame of video every other second. I’ve rebooted my router, cable modem, and switches with no joy; I’m going to let it sit overnight before trying to contact Xfinity.

It’s always something!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Seven

It was Easter, so we didn’t have to decide whether to brave the Farmers’ Market because it was closed. And we didn’t walk in Downtown Los Gatos, either – all three of our walks were in our own neighborhood (as usual).

Our friend Dale led a mask-making Zoom class at Shir Hadash; she showed us how to make no-sew masks from fabric, pillowcases, kippot, and even a disposable mask using two coffee filters. She also showed how to sew masks according to the Kaiser Permanente instructions. We’ll be making some masks before our next trip to a store!

I did some work for Toastmasters and backed up my old laptop’s SSD so I can put the laptop in the mail to Apple sometime this week and complete the trade-in process. I also seem to have found a reasonable compromise between screen resolution and readability on the new laptop – I have it at 1680×1050 with several apps set to bigger fonts (the old laptop was 1680×1050 but had a 15” screen).

We watched the second half of Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s 2018 production of “Much Ado About Nothing”; it brought back nice memories.

But the sound had a lot of noise and distortion – I wound up buying a copy of Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource 4 in hopes of notching out the worst of the noise, and it helped somewhat. Strangely, the first act (which we watched yesterday) seemed to have better sound.

I read the May issue of QST today; they were scrambling to include information about the effect of COVID-19 on DXpeditions, special event stations, and Field Day (as well as the cancellation of the Dayton Hamvention). As I was looking through the issue, I noticed one special event station had planned on operating at the end of May in honor of the “Mike the Headless Chicken Festival” in Fruita, Colorado; it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to do so, but reading about the festival brightened my day!

QST also reprinted their letter column from 1970, which was largely devoted to hams condemning or supporting the “National Student Information Net” which served as a clearinghouse for the National Student Strike that year. Politics was nasty then, too – maybe we’ll change some day.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Six

When I woke up this morning, I found an email from United that they’d “noticed I’d made some changes to my flight” and that if there had been “significant changes” to the schedule, I might be eligible for a refund. I thought cancelling the flight qualified as a “significant change”, so I decided to call them after Torah Study.

“After Torah Study” became “after Torah Study, lunch, and a walk”, but eventually, I sat down to call the Premier desk (I’m a lowly Silver, but I’ll take whatever help I can get), prepared for a long wait on hold. The system asked me for my Mileage Plus number, then it made me answer one question, and ten seconds later, I was talking to a human being – I was shocked.

She looked at my record and said she’d forward the request to the Refunds Department and that I should expect to hear from them in a couple of weeks. Here’s hoping!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Five

I spent most of the day sitting in front of the new MacBook Air, migrating programs and data from the laptop I am replacing. I had to move the old laptop elsewhere to put it on wired Ethernet because its WiFi is incredibly slow for some reason, so I’ve also had to screen-share into the old machine from the new one. I’m giving the new laptop a good workout in the process, and I think I like it!

While I was doing that, Diane was removing weeds from the front yard; we don’t have a lawn, so the weeds are growing in the gaps between stones and they’re hard to get out. Our old landscapers went away a few months ago – it’s hard to find new ones, and even harder now!

I got the cheap microphone I’d ordered to work with the improvised webcam – I think we’ll be audible on calls, but it’s less than ideal. I’ll find out tomorrow at Torah Study.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Four

If this year was like all other years, the Silver Tongued Cats wouldn’t have met this morning because it’s the first day of Passover and the JCC is closed. But this year, we’re meeting on Zoom, so we met anyway and had a productive and interesting meeting – if anyone would like to visit us, ask me for the link.

And because it is the first day of Passover and we’re home, we went to services at Shir Hadash (on Zoom); there were about 20 families in attendance, and things went reasonably smoothly.

I spent the rest of the day beginning the migration from my old laptop to the new MacBook Air – I’m starting by migrating applications and trying not to bring everything across. I’m also trying to wean myself from Dropbox, since I won’t be able to install it on this machine (I’m over the 3-machine limit for a free account) – so far, I’ve moved iTerm2 and Keyboard Maestro to iCloud Drive, but there’s much more to be done (I’m up to the “M”s in the Applications folder; I haven’t started looking at my data yet).

Good thing I’m not rushing to do this before a vacation!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Three

For the past few years, we’ve been going to friends for Seder (if we’ve been at home). They invite about a dozen people over; there’s good food, good wine, and a 14-page Haggadah with some interesting songs.

Tonight was no exception – except, of course, everyone had to go to their house over Zoom. More wine may have been involved than usual (we decided it was a great opportunity to drink the bottle of Wente Nth Degree Pinot Noir we’d picked up a few years ago), and the singing was less synchronized than it might otherwise have been – but a good time was had by all, and the Passover story was told yet again.

Before the Seder, I finished the first draft of our taxes, so it was a day of liberation in more than one way!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-Two

It was shopping day today. We hit Whole Foods, Lunardi’s, and RiteAid in the morning, coming away with enough protein to hold us for over a week (as well as other foodstuffs and drugstore items). The stores were less crowded than I’d seen them since the lockdown began, but it still felt like we were in there for a very long time.

After lunch, we walked to Ace Hardware so I could pick up a replacement handle for the toilet in the half-bath, then to the UPS store to pick up my new MacBook Air, replacing the one I bought right after being laid off by IBM ten years ago.

I’ve barely started installing software on the new computer, but I am using it to type this entry (I’d thought about leaving it in the UPS box for a day, but figured out how to get it out without touching the box with my bare hands – it’s been in transit for a week, so I’m pretty sure that any viruses inside the box are long gone). Tomorrow, I will start the migration process for real.

The toilet repair was less successful – I was able to use the new handle to figure out how to fix the old handle (it seemed easier than taking everything out), but there’s a small leak somewhere and water runs for a few seconds every hour or so. I suspect the flapper needs TLC (if I’m lucky) or replacement (if I’m not).

We had our usual Trivial Zoom session this evening, bolstered by a group of geocachers wishing “Happy Birthday” to one of our number. I tried using the WyzeCam and TV for video and my iPad for audio – it worked, more or less, but it was awkward. Right after the session, I ordered a USB microphone from BestBuy, and I’ll try that next time – and if that doesn’t work satisfactorily, I’ll go try to find a webcam somewhere (or just give up and use the laptop).

May all your problems be as trivial.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty-One

What does one do on a wet early April day? Taxes, of course. I have put all of our income into TurboTax and now I am entering charitable contributions, which is a slow and painful process. For some reason, entering a charitable contribution in Turbo Tax requires me to fill out at least three screens – you’d think they were designing for 3270 terminals instead of a GUI environment. And even though they carry the list of charities along from year to year, I haven’t found any way to alphabetize them!

We did manage to get a couple of walks in during brief breaks in the rain (one of which was so brief that we got pretty wet anyway). I’d bought halibut yesterday, which we rarely cook, so I let Bing pick out a recipe to try; I did have to make a few adaptations to fit the ingredients on hand, but it came out pretty good (and, since we had bought gluten-free panko-style crumbs, I could make it again during Passover if I wanted).

And we called the travel agent who had coordinated the Japan/Korea trip we were supposed to be leaving on tomorrow and asked them to apply our credit to a Malta/Sicily trip next May – I’m hopeful that it will really happen.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Twenty

I knew it was going to be a different kind of day today when I went out to pick up the papers and the Merc was squishy, despite being packed in a plastic bag. In normal times, I would have called for a replacement; today, I just found places to spread the paper out and let it dry.

We made our usual run to the Farmer’s Market for fish, but it was raining too much to take a long walk; instead, we drove to Nob Hill and picked up some necessities (wearing masks, of course).

We had hoped to watch City Lights’s production of Coded and I still might, but the audio was too hard to understand on our TV (maybe headphones would help). Instead, we watched the National Theatre’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors (available to Thursday, April 9) – since it was recorded for presentation in movie theaters (excuse me, cinemas), the audio was clear and pellucid, and the humor (excuse me, humour) was broad and welcome. We haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

And the rains paused for a while after dinner, so we managed one decent walk for the day – all told, not a bad day!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Nineteen

Manresa is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Los Gatos – it has three. Their Chef’s Tasting Menu is $295 per person (I don’t know if that includes wine or not) and reservations are difficult. Needless to say, we’ve never been there – we’ve never seriously considered it.

Until today. Like all other restaurants, they’re closed due to COVID-19; like many other restaurants, they’re offering takeout. In their case, they’re offering their “Family Menu” (which is inspired by the meal the staff eats every day) at around $50 per person. You have to order a day ahead, and there are limited quantities available. Today’s meal was:

• Salmon poached in aromatic olive oil
• Couscous salad with braised Swiss chard
• Roasted Brussels sprouts
• Roasted market vegetables
• Mixed green salad
• Parker House rolls
• Caramel mousse

When I first tried to order, they were sold out, but offered to put me on the waitlist; a few hours later, I had given them my credit card and was all set for today. We even splurged and got the Sommelier’s Choice wine (which turned out to be Château de Brézé – 2018 Saumur Blanc, ‘Clos du Midi’).

Pickup was straightforward, and soon enough we’d unpacked a pile of containers onto a protective piece of newspaper:

We disgorged them onto plates, popped the plates into the oven, and a few minutes later, dinner was served:

It was quite good! Probably not quite as good (or as hot) as it would have been at the restaurant, but needs must. There was enough food that we didn’t have dessert; it’ll probably be just fine tomorrow. I’m going to keep my eye on their family meal offerings in hopes of finding another one without pork or shellfish – but not until after Passover.

After dinner, we watched TheatreWorks’ production of They Promised Her The Moon; we probably wouldn’t have seen it in the theatre, but watching it in the comfort of our own home was appealing. It was their second or third performance, and they’d taped it for archival purposes; after the run was halted, they made arrangements to make it available for a week or so for a donation, and we took them up on the offer. The play was interesting – I hadn’t known the story of the “Mercury 13”, and it was worth seeing.

My USB gender changers came in today so that I could convert my WyzeCam into a webcam so we can do Zoom calls from the family room and watch on the big TV. I ran into a little trouble trying to reflash the firmware (apparently you have to format the microSD card as FAT, not exFAT), but once I got over that speed bump, it went smoothly. TThe camera has a very wide angle of view and horrible sound, but if I set it up near us and use the phone for audio, I think it’ll work.

Of course, since it was Saturday, we Zoomed to Torah Study and took walks in between the raindrops. Not a bad day all told!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Eighteen

We talked with our son in Boston this morning; things are going well for him.

We made improvised masks for our walk this morning. Diane made hers from a neck gator she bought from the ship’s gift shop on our Galapagos trip two years ago, following the example of the boatmen driving the Zodiacs. It looks good on her!

I sacrificed an old Comedy Sportz Rec League T-shirt (the shirt had the old branding, so it’s no longer kosher) to make my mask following the “no-sew” examples I found online. I think I need to work on it some more.

Both masks worked – at least we were able to breathe through them. We didn’t go into any buildings, so they didn’t add any real safety, either for us or others.

I tried to order fesenjan for lunch from Negeen Persian Restaurant, but they weren’t offering it today, so we cancelled the order and had leftover chicken instead.

We skipped the masks for our afternoon walk, since we didn’t plan to go in anywhere – it was a little more comfortable, but I have to admit that my face felt naked! Some of our neighbors are interpreting “social distancing” differently than we are – there were quite a few families out on the street, staying apart from one another but definitely interacting – and there was a food truck! In normal times, I might have wanted to check out the truck (Brooklyn Pizza), but today, I was happy to be on the other side of the street.

Road Scholar officially “suspended” our June program at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; I had to call them to accept their offer to transfer our deposit to a program to be named later (with luck, it’ll be the same program next year – we like their OSF class).

We finished the day by making tuna for Shabbat dinner, watching the special Shir Shabbat Friday night broadcast, Whose Line is it Anyway, and Young Sheldon. No news, please – it’s Shabbat!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventeen

If it’s Thursday, it must be Toastmasters – two meetings, in fact. Both went fairly smoothly; I was an evaluator at both of them.

We had to do separate walks this morning because we were waiting for another wine delivery, this time from Silver Mountain Winery via FedEx – it arrived just as we sat down for lunch (of course!). I went to the door so the FedEx driver could satisfy herself that she was delivering to someone over 21 (no, she didn’t ask to see my ID!), wrestled the box into the house, changed my clothes, and had lunch. I’ll let the box decontaminate itself for a day or so and then take care of it.

I decided that the wine that was delivered on Tuesday had waited long enough; it’s all in the closet now. There are a couple of bottles that probably need a year to rest before they’re ready, but the rest of them are fair game!

And I successfully finished pruning and geotagging my photos from 2000. It’s a start!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixteen

During our Trivia Zoom call on Tuesday, there was a lot of discussion about the dangers of shopping and how the various families on the call were minimizing their store visits. I’d been thinking we were doing pretty well to only go to the store three times a week instead of our daily-or-better visits in the olden days, but clearly there was an opportunity for improvement – and Diane pointed out we could buy a lot more at a time if we drove instead of walking.

This morning, we dusted off the car and drove to Lunardi’s with a paper shopping list (so we wouldn’t have to play with the phones in the store). I sanitized the hell out of the cart handle and we set out to get what we needed and get out – $199.13 later, we had most of what we need for the next week (we’ll have to get more fish between now and then, and I probably should have bought some chicken breasts to freeze, but I’m new at this bulk-shopping business).

We don’t do much shopping at Trader Joe’s, but it is our go-to place for chocolate, cashews, and coffee filters, so we walked over there in the afternoon (it was a lovely day for a walk!). We had to stand in line outside the store for about 15 minutes, since they were limiting the number of customers in the store, but we were fine with that. As we were waiting, an employee came out and told us the new rules: no quantity limits on anything but toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and flour, and they were out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and flour! We’d brought our own bags, thinking we’d shop into them, but he asked us not to do that – they had plenty of wipes for the cart handles and they sprayed sanitizer on our hands, both entering and leaving. We left with two fairly full bags – lots of chocolate of various kinds, two pounds of cashews, a box of coffee filters, and a container of hummus (even though it hadn’t been on the list).

I have a Wyze camera in the garage whose sole purpose in life is to let me make sure the door is closed; it hasn’t led a very fulfilling existence of late. Wyze sent me an email yesterday with instructions on turning it into a webcam (which would be handy) – all I need is a spare microSD card to flash the firmware and a USB A-A male cable. I’ve got plenty of microSD cards, but no USB A-A male cables, so I ordered some adaptors from Monoprice so I can convert one of my far-too-many regular USB cables into an A-A male connection – the shipping cost as much as the adaptors (the total was about $6)! With luck, they’ll work and we can set up the webcam in the family room and do Zoom on the big TV next week.

I went to another Toastmasters speech contest this evening; I wasn’t a functionary, so I tuned in a little late and missed most of the reading of the rules – that made the evening more pleasant (in ten years of Toastmasters, I must have heard the rules read at least 25 times – they’re not designed for excitement). Members of my club won both contests and will advance to the Division Contest in a few weeks.

A few weeks ago, I was rearranging the components in the A/V system and had to make sure everything still worked. When it came time to test the Fire TV Stick, I didn’t want to play anything that was on our queue, so I picked a random Amazon suggestion: 
“Classic Movie Bloopers Uncensored”. I watched just enough of it to make sure everything was working, and then went about my business. But every time I turned the TV to the Fire Stick, I saw “Classic Movie Bloopers Uncensored” waiting for me – last night, we were looking for something undemanding to watch, so we picked it. “Undemanding” is definitely the word – it could have used a lot of editing. Watching actors blow lines and say “shit” and “Goddammit” gets old fast – but when they react more interestingly, it was funny – so we watched the whole thing. I’m not sure I really recommend it, but I don’t mind having seen it, and I’ve developed a new respect for Ronald Reagan as an actor.