Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Six

I spent much of the day watching the second day of the District 101 Toastmasters Conference. Two members of my home club, Silver Tongued Cats, earned special recognition – Gordon Mattingly placed third in the International Speech Contest and Sherman Zell was recognized for earning his Distinguished Toastmaster award (after not quite 37 years in Toastmasters).

We took our evening walk a bit early tonight to be sure we’d be home before the citywide curfew went into effect in San Jose; on the way home, we passed by neighbors who have had a Little Free Library for a couple of years. They’ve just branched out and added a Little Free Nursery – we took home a seedling of Siam Queen Basil and planted it.

On a day like today, it’s good to see people taking concrete action to make things better.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Five

It’s been a busy day. Yesterday, our neighbor dropped off some basil and kale for us to plant in our raised beds. So Diane rose early this morning to work on the garden – she pruned the tomatoes we’d planted six weeks ago, which had grown far more than I expected (and which already have fruit, though it’s still weeks from being ready) and did other cleanup work so that we’d have a place for the new plants. Then she went to Shabbat Morning services.

In the meantime, I went to the annual Toastmasters District 101 Conference. Even before the lockdown, they’d lost their original venue and had had to find a replacement – and then they had to move it onto Zoom. Patricia Fripp was the keynote speaker (and had good advice and suggestions, as always); after that, we held the Tall Tales Contest. By then, services were finished, so we had lunch and then finished our planting.

This evening, we did the Daily Kos “Flip the Senate” pub quiz. Some of the teams were pre-assembled groups of friends or colleagues; ours wasn’t – we called it “Strangers on a Team”, but we did pretty well, finishing 7th out of 30 teams. It was a lot of fun – Diane and I tried to guess which questions Jeff had created (we figured out one for sure).

Tonight was also the Shir Hadash 40th Anniversary Gala – we didn’t have to dress up this year. We didn’t even have to attend at the right time because everything was recorded in advance to avoid technical issues. There are other events scheduled to celebrate the 40th anniversary – I hope some of them can take place in the real world instead of on a screen.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Four

Today was a big day – the Wahl Peanut that Bill Nye recommended arrived and Diane wielded it on me. It was her first haircut, and she did a great job! I feel like there’s a lot less weighing on my mind now.

We drove up to Menlo Park to pick up our spice order from Penzey’s. It was the farthest we’ve driven for at least seventy-four days – traffic was light, as expected, even on the way home during rush hour (the metering lights were solid green). I called the store when we got to the parking lot; they put my bag of spices outside; I picked it up. I probably didn’t even need to put on my mask, but I did.

The weather has changed radically today – on Wednesday, it got up to 100 degrees here; today, it might have hit 70, and it’s been really windy all afternoon – I had to put on a jacket for our evening walk!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Three

Tonight is Shavuot, which is considered to be the day when the Jewish people received the Torah. It is traditional to engage in group study until late at night (until dawn, if you’re able) – this year, Shir Hadash is doing it via Zoom.

We’re taking advantage of being on Zoom; after a short study session led by Rabbi Aron, we watched The Redeeming Angel, a film made by three Israeli brothers about their mother – she was a young Dutch Jew during World War II who was sheltered by a Christian family and survived. After the war, she made aliyah to Israel; in 2017, she and her sons went back to Holland to participate in the installation of Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in front of her family’s house to commemorate their murder. And one of the brothers joined us from his home in Tel Aviv after his all-night study session.

After that, Gillian Perry, founder of the Anne Frank Trust, spoke to us from her home in London about “Anne Frank’s Life and Surprising Legacy” – her life story is familiar, but how the story has affected people all over the world was, as advertised, surprising, including, among others, Nelson Mandela and young children in Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, and Brazil.

One other Shavuot tradition is eating dairy foods. We tried another Times recipe for dinner: Blistered Broccoli Pasta with Walnuts, Pecorino, and Mint (it was East and quick and tasty – we’ll have it again), and we have some cheesecake waiting for us after the session ends.

Chag Sameach!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Two

Yesterday was shopping day, so today was cooking day. Lunch was an old friend (spiced chicken breast on the Traeger, this time mostly using Penzey’s “Tsardust Memories” seasoning, which is largely sweet paprika).

For dinner, we experimented with yet another recipe from the New York Times’ “At Home” section, this time Glazed Cod with Bok Choy, Ginger, and Oyster Sauce. Of course, we didn’t use oyster sauce – we substituted a hoisin/soy mixture. It came out pretty good – it probably would have been better had we had real garlic instead of chopped garlic from the jar, but I’d definitely have it again.

Our spice supplies are being depleted a lot faster than usual, so I was happy to get an email from Penzey’s offering contactless pickup of spices at their Menlo Park store; I placed an order and we plan to go there on Friday. It’ll be the longest drive we’ve taken since the lockdown, but it won’t make a significant dent in the podcast backlog.

And tonight was the final episode of Pirke Avot study at Shir Hadash; now we’ll have to find something else to let us know that it’s Wednesday.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy

We’re members of five wine clubs. One, Silvertip Vineyards, held its pickup event over the weekend. They barbecue steak, chicken, salmon, and pork, along with interesting veggies and munchies, and, of course, wine. We always enjoy it, even though the drive there is somewhat challenging (Highway 17 to Bear Creek, then up to Highway 35, then down Upper Zayante, which is about 1.4 lanes wide).

This year, of course, the event was different. People were invited to drive in, open their trunks, get the wine, and leave – somehow, that didn’t feel worth the drive, so we took advantage of their offer to ship the wine to our house. It was supposed to be shipped tomorrow, but this afternoon, we got a note from them saying that they were delaying the shipment because of the hot weather (well over 90 today) and the chance that the wine might be adversely affected in transit.

Last Friday, I’d ordered a few bottles from Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles – they were supposed to ship tomorrow, but when I got Silvertip’s note, I hurried to call Tobin James and postpone that shipment, probably successfully.

Fortunately, we have enough wine to get us through at least a few more weeks!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Nine

It’s been my day to be tech support.

A friend is setting up a website and having problems with getting the SSL certificates in the right place – I sent him my configuration to use as a model, and I hope that’s all the help he’s going to need.

And I had to help the Rabbi get the Kindle app properly installed on her Mac – Zoom screen-sharing made that easy (she actually had it installed but since it wasn’t on the dock, she didn’t know where to find it).

We made the chickpea recipe from the NYTimes again – we’re going to have to get more chickpeas on our next shopping trip! Dinner was lingcod from the Farmer’s Market.

And we watched some more of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre. It’s still interesting – I may have to read the book, though.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Eight

Our synagogue, Congregation Shir Hadash, has a lay-led service (Shir Shabbat) on most Shabbat mornings from just after Simchat Torah until just before Shavuot, and Diane and I are regular attendees. And from time to time, we take a role in making the service happen. We’d volunteered to do that for today’s service, the last of the season – I would lead and she would chant Torah.

That, of course, was back in February. Things changed, but this morning, I led the service from home via Zoom and Diane chanted her portion (sadly, not from the Torah scroll, since we don’t have one at home); the Cantorial Soloist sang from her home. I was also projecting the prayer book from my Kindle app, and once or twice I forgot to scroll up because I was too busy listening, and I think I muted the Cantorial Soloist for a couple of seconds at one point, but things mostly went smoothly. I think. At least no lighting bolts descended from heaven!

This evening, we watched Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s presentation of Tales from the Edge of the Bard – ghost stories inspired by Shakespeare. It was a fun way to spend an hour; we’re going to watch the previous episodes in the series sometime.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Seven

The final payment for our July trip to Iceland is due this week. We have flights and hotels reserved, including visits to our son and my brother on our way home. There are a couple of days in Reykjavik before we get on a brand new Ponant ship, Le Bellot. And the tour operator says they’re planning to operate the trip. Iceland is even planning to ease restrictions on international travelers by mid-June.

We’re not going. Even if they get permission to sail, the flight from Portland to Reykjavik is currently not operating. It looks like the “eased restrictions” would give us the choice of proving we’re COVID-19-free on arrival or quarantining for 14 days (which is longer than the trip). And neither of us is ready to fly yet.

Luckily, the tour operator offered us the choice of moving our reservations to 2021 (or even 2022) at no penalty (in fact, they’ll give us a $300 credit) – it wasn’t a hard choice. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the various airline tickets – we might get a refund from Icelandic if they don’t reinstate the flight from Portland before our scheduled departure, but all of our domestic flights are likely to operate, so we’ll have to settle for credits for those segments.

We’re still looking forward to seeing Iceland – just not yet.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Six

Last fall, we realized that our deck was showing some severe signs of wear, including a few boards that felt rather unsteady under our feet. Since we were replacing gates in our fence, we had the same company replace the bad boards – but the problem didn’t go away completely. The company, on the other hand, did – they said they’d come out to estimate the additional work, but it never happened (I guess it was too small a job).

We did have another vendor who we’d used a few years ago for re-staining the deck, so we called him – but he had decided to take the entire winter off, and by the time he was ready to open back up in the spring, COVID-19 had arrived. He did remain responsive by phone, though, and today, he came out to the house to give us an estimate.

It was strange to hear the doorbell ring, and to know that there was someone outside waiting to talk with me. He, of course, was masked and stayed far away; I told him to meet us in the backyard. And by “meet”, I meant “stay six feet away from us” – but that wasn’t a problem; we could communicate just fine at that distance.

A few minutes later, we had a plan and a deal; sometime in the next few weeks, I expect to have a re-stained and repaired deck. Progress!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Five

My cousin Mickey made an interesting comment on Facebook to my blog entry yesterday: “You are NOT sheltering IN PLACE as you have traveled.”

As far as I can tell, our travels have been within the limits of the order for Santa Clara County, but we definitely have been moving around a lot. But some things have definitely changed.

There are many places we can’t go because they’re closed: the JCC, Temple, enclosed malls, sit-down restaurants, wineries, and most stores. And, of course, we can’t get our hair cut.

Our chiropractor is open, but we haven’t seen him since the lockdown started.

We make many fewer trips to the supermarket and drug store (we used to go to the supermarket almost every day; now we go weekly). And we’ve given up on Whole Foods – the Los Gatos location is too cramped, especially the produce section.

On the other hand, we do significantly more shopping at Safeway than we used to because their salad lasts longer than what we buy elsewhere (and they tend to have good prices on Talenti gelato) – and if we’re going there, we want to get the most out of the visit.

We still hit the Farmers’ Market most Sundays, but now I pre-order the fish so we can get out faster.

We’ve stopped our Sunday walks on the Los Gatos Creek Trail – it’s far too crowded for social distancing (and the cyclists are dangerous even in normal circumstances). Instead, we walk a few miles on downtown and adjacent streets – once we get a couple of blocks from the Farmers’ Market, we see very few people.

We’ve gone to Tony and Alba’s Pizza for take-and-bake pizza a few times – that’s something we never did before, and we might keep doing it when things get back to normal.

And yes, we walk several miles every day – our goal is 15,000 steps per day, and we can’t do that inside the house. But in the old days, we’d often combine at least one of our walks with a small shopping trip – no more!

Tomorrow, the shelter-in-place order will be eased a bit more, but I don’t expect to take advantage of the changes any time soon.

Thanks for making me think through this, Mickey!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Four

This morning, I realized that I was trying to do far too much to fix the problem I talked about yesterday. All I really needed was a list of clubs (including their name and alignment) that had been active during this Toastmasters year – and that list was already being provided in the performance reports from Toastmasters; all I had to do was use that list. So I did. End of problem.

The rest of the day passed quietly – it was shopping day; Lunardi’s was busy but not ridiculously so. We had lunch from Los Gatos Meats for variety, and a Dark and Stormy with our Trivial Zoom session. And after dinner, we started watching the National Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre – it’s interestingly staged.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Three

Seven years ago, I was an Area Governor for Toastmasters. In that role, we’d get monthly reports showing how well the clubs in our area were doing in membership and progress in the Distinguished Club Program – it seemed like it would make sense to consolidate the two reports, but they came from different parts of the Toastmasters website, so it couldn’t be done. My reaction: “that’s just a small matter of programming”, and I sat down and did it.

The rest of the District 4 leadership liked what I’d done and encouraged me to keep doing it – and to automate more and more of the reports that the District needed. I was willing, and kept writing code, eventually joining the Webmaster team and then, when District 101 was carved out of District 4, I became the District 101 Webmaster and Statistician. And my code kept growing.

Today, I had to look at some of the oldest code that’s still running. When I wrote it, I made an assumption that, if I asked Toastmasters for a complete list of clubs in the District, I would get a complete list of clubs in the District. Silly me.

Apparently, it’s possible for a club to ask to be kept hidden from “find a club near you” search. But that also means that the club is excluded from the list of clubs in the District. A hidden club DOES show up in other reports, and that led to some inconsistencies.

I plan to solve the problem by adding hidden clubs to my table of active clubs when I build it so that the rest of my code doesn’t have to deal with the problem. I think I’ve figured out what I need to do, but the code that builds the table is old and cranky with lots of places where I’ve had to patch around other weird things Toastmasters has done over the years. Maybe I can simplify the whole thing instead of adding yet another layer of spackle – but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Two

The big events today were musical – first, a Zoom house concert hosted by an IBM colleague. The entertainment was by Lisa Gutkin and Lisa’s Pieces, although the limitations of the technology meant that each performer had to solo; check out her website for some samples (and she has a Zoom concert every Wednesday at 5pm Pacific, which I hope to attend). Beyond the entertainment, it was great to see and talk with many IBM friends (I think they’re all retired from IBM by this point, though I could be wrong), some of whom I haven’t seen for a decade. Thanks, Bill and Nancy, for inviting us!

We also Zoomed into the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of San Jose (aka Lyric Theatre) annual meeting. There were presentations and financial statements and a suspense-free election, but there were also G&S songs recorded by members of the company – one advantage to a Zoom meeting is that you can sing along as long as you’re muted, and we were!

Pre-ordering fish from Santa Cruz Seafood at the Farmers’ Market worked very well, so we’ll do it again next week (and the salmon was tasty, too). The cool and rainy weather probably reduced the crowd, but it was very nice not to stand in line anyway.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-One

The day started with our normal Shabbat morning rhythm – a walk, followed by Torah Study. There was no live Shir Shabbat, but we watched the taped mini-service (I’m sure there was no actual “tape” involved, but terminology persists) right after Torah Study, and then had lunch.

Diane spent a couple of hours in a Forever seminar, learning about its editing tools and about photo workflows – while she was doing that, I was reading the current issue of The Economist (I seem to be perpetually behind in my reading, but I’ve finished this week’s issue!). And then I spent an hour or so doing some photo culling and editing – I finished 2001 (and I threw out more than half the photos I’d taken on some days, so I feel like I accomplished something).

After dinner, we watched the Mount St. Helens Institute’s livestream of Mount St. Helens Goes BOOM! with Bill Nye, the Volcano Guy (if you follow the link, skip ahead 1 hour, 20 minutes); it was interesting and amusing, but I was hoping for video of the eruption, not just video of the mountain as it is today.

We visited the mountain in May, 2017 – it was beautiful and sobering.

During the livestream (at 2:02), the host asked Bill Nye why his hair was relatively well-coiffed, and he said he’d gotten a Wahl Peanut trimmer and followed Internet videos on how to use it – and it worked. I checked Amazon and eBay and found some sellers, but then I decided to look at the actual manufacturer’s site and it’s one of the few items they say is “in stock”, so I ordered one. I hope it arrives before the webcam I ordered on Easter (at least this one is a domestic order, unlike the webcam, which is supposed to be coming from China).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty

Only 23 days until I tie my record for consecutive blog entries!

We made another recipe from last Sunday’s NYT “At Home” section – this time, it was Spiced Chickpea Salad with Tahini and Pita Chips. I’d read over the recipe several times, but somehow didn’t actually realize that it required pita chips, so we had to make an emergency run to get them this afternoon.

I didn’t want to go to the supermarket – actually, I didn’t want to go into any store at all. So I placed a pickup order for pita chips at BevMo. As long as I was ordering from them, I added a bottle of Wild Turkey (we have a spare lime and we may well want a Kentucky Mule), a bottle of Tito’s Vodka (in case we want a Moscow Mule instead), and a couple of bottles of white wine (we’re using more white wine than usual, and the weather hasn’t gotten warm yet). Tony & Alba’s Pizza is right next to BevMo, so we also got a take-and-bake pizza as a backup in case the recipe didn’t work out.

Once we had all the ingredients in hand, the actual cooking went pretty smoothly and we both liked the results; next time, I’ll use a little less olive oil (it’s a good thing I bought a 1.4 liter bottle on Tuesday) and we’ll make more greens (and maybe I’ll be slightly less generous with the pita chips).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Nine

Once more, the day was dominated by Toastmasters (at least for me). I had two meetings, one of my home club and one of the club I’m mentoring, and ended up being a speech evaluator at both (and winning “Best Evaluator” at both, too!). And then I worked on other Toastmasters projects for much of the afternoon.

Beyond that, we mostly walked around the neighborhood.

And I finally got back to working on photo culling and editing – I’m in August, 2001, when we went on a two-week trip to British Columbia and Washington with Diane’s brother and his wife. So far, I’ve been able to figure out where almost all of them were taken, at least to the town level – it helps to tell the story.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Eight

It was a pretty quiet day; there were a lot of people out when we took our walks – it’s a good thing there isn’t much traffic, because we had to go into the street several times to maintain social distance.

I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist, which we did online. I still had to wait for her, but I was able to put the time to constructive use by packing up electronics to send to Apple to recycle – much better than waiting in an exam room.

We had Kentucky Mules after dinner – now we’re out of bourbon! We still have limes and ginger beer, so we’ll have to replenish the bourbon supply; fortunately, BevMo offers contactless pickup, so I don’t think going there counts as a shopping trip (but I will have my mask with me).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Seven

It’s Tuesday, so we did our weekly shopping. I’m not sure that hitting four stores is quite in keeping with the advice to shop less, but at least we were able to stay out of Whole Foods for another week (we hit Safeway, CVS, Lunardi’s, and Trader Joe’s – all were pretty uncrowded and sane). We actually made two trips to CVS – after I’d checked out, I realized that the 70% alcohol wipes I saw on the counter were for sale (not just for in-store use) and went back to get a box of them; things are looking up!

Dinner was an experiment – we tried making Crispy Frico Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Thyme from the New York Times “At Home” section. I think my stove interpreted “medium-high” more aggressively than the author intended – the cheese was blackened and so were the mushrooms. Using real grated Parmesan cheese instead of an old container of Kraft grated parmesan-romano blend might have helped, too – but the results were edible and the cleanup wasn’t too horrible.

Every day is a learning experience.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Six

The numbers were good this morning: I’d lost the four pounds I’d gained on Cinco de Mayo, and Apple had actually refunded the trade-in value of my old laptop.

I spent most of the day doing Toastmasters work – I reimplemented the Silicon Valley Storytellers agenda template as a native Google Document to make it easier to edit and modify. The old template had started life in Microsoft Word, then been imported into Docs and not everything transferred perfectly (and it may have made other round trips in the intervening few years).

After I got the agenda updated, I used it to run tonight’s Storytellers meeting as Toastmaster; Zoom behaved and there were only a few small glitches. We even ended almost on time!

We also made a run to Summerwinds Nursery – we only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes, and we found most of what we wanted to plant (no eggplant or basil, but they’re supposed to be getting more on Wednesday). We planted peppers and cucumbers in the EarthBox, and bok choi and chard in the raised beds. There’s still room in the raised beds, too.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 55

Happy Mother’s Day!

As usual, we went to the Farmers’ Market for fish and strawberries. We got there early enough to have good selection and fairly short lines, and discovered that our fish vendor (Santa Cruz Seafood) takes pre-orders – we’ll try that next week.

Diane coordinates the Shir Hadash Book Club, which met today (via Zoom, of course). I don’t usually participate, but this time I decided to read the book (Goldie Goldbloom’s On Division) instead of starting this week’s Economist; I thought it would be lighter reading. I’m not sure; it was the story of Surie, a fifty-seven year old grandmother in an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn who becomes pregnant. For the first third of the book, her interior monologue reminded me of that of Thomas Covenant in Lord Foul’s Bane (and far too many sequels) – he kept calling himself “unclean” (he’s a leper); she keeps telling herself how her being pregnant would affect and appall her family and make her children unmarriageable. Eventually, she starts doing and thinking more interesting things, but she is not one of my favorite characters of all time. I did learn a lot about the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn, so reading the book wasn’t a waste of time, but I don’t feel a need to dive back into that world any time soon.

I’m preparing some old equipment to send to Apple for recycling. When I upgraded my Mac mini to an SSD, I kept the old 1TB hard disk, thinking I’d use it for backup or file transfer or something like that – but since then, I’ve bought several new, larger disks, so it was clearly unnecessary. I didn’t want to send it back with data on it, but I seem to have gotten rid of all of my USB disk enclosures, so I couldn’t reformat it. Instead, I disassembled it and took out the platters – I was surprised to discover that it only took two 2.5-inch platters to hold a terabyte! They are now safely gone; I reassembled the drive and will send it in so Apple can recover any precious metals on the circuit boards.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 54

One day may be much like the last, but Shabbat still has a different feel to it. There’s Torah Study (this year, we’re looking at the weekly portion with an emphasis on Mordecai Kaplan’s writings and diary), followed by a service. Early in the lockdown, the service was pre-taped, but now most of them are live, as was today’s – it’s much better to be together at the same time, even if we can’t be in the same place. I’ll be leading services and Diane will be chanting Torah in two weeks; as of now, we don’t have a lay Cantor, but I hope someone will volunteer between now and then.

The rest of the day was quiet; we had a Zoom call with friends we haven’t seen in a few months and took a couple of walks. We also watched the National Theatre’s production of Treasure Island – it was OK, but not compelling. The NT videos seem to be refreshing at about 10 frames/second, which gives them a very strange and jerky look, which doesn’t help.

And Apple sent me an email telling me my trade-in was approved and to expect a credit to my card within 5 business days – I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the money, but things look very hopeful!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Three

I shipped my old MacBook Pro as a trade-in to Apple (actually, an Apple partner) on Day Thirty; they received it on Day Thirty-Six. I expected to hear from them within a few days, but nothing happened, so I got in touch with Apple who told me to hang on a few more days. Nothing happened, so I tried again on Day Fifty-One (Wednesday). The agent tried to figure out what was going on and finally said he’d have to escalate to the trade-in team.

The next evening (Day Fifty-Two), I got an email from the trade-in team telling me to call the actual processor, Phobio. So I did; the recording that answered asked me to press “1” if I was calling about a trade-in initiated during the purchase of a new machine – I pressed “1” and was immediately greeted by “Welcome to Apple Support”. I thought the problem might be that I was calling too late, so I decided to try this morning – same result. My Apple agent this time was even MORE helpful – she tried to call Phobio using some secret method, but, after 45 minutes listening to a dead line, she gave up and escalated me to the trade-in team, having annotated my record even more.

An hour later, I got THE EXACT SAME EMAIL from the trade-in team telling me to contact Phobio. I was not happy. I thought about writing an email to Tim Cook and seeing if that would work, but then I thought about going public and using Twitter. I wrote a polite tweet to @AppleSupport and @PhobioSupport and got a reply from Phobio a few minutes later, asking me to DM them my order number.

Minutes later, I got a DM telling me that they’d submitted the full estimated amount of the trade-in to be posted to my credit card within two weeks. We’ll see.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Two

Today, I learned the difference between “Pin Video” and “Spotlight Video” on Zoom. I was giving a speech at my Toastmasters club and wanted to show slides to accompany it. No problem – I shared the PowerPoint window so everyone could see it. I also had to be sure I could see the timer so I’d know when I was getting near the end of my allotted time, so I found him, selected “Spotlight Video” and started talking.

7 minutes later, I was finished; I unshared the screen and deselected “Spotlight Video” so I could see the speakers during the rest of the meeting.

When it came time for my evaluation, I was shocked to hear that my slides never advanced (so my title slide was on screen the whole time) and that the timer was the center of attention for EVERYONE!

It turns out that “Spotlight Video” is an action that only the host or owner of a Zoom meeting can use – it forces that person’s video to be nearly-full-screen for EVERYONE. What I wanted was “Pin Video”, which any attendee can use to make someone nearly-full-screen on their own screen, without affecting anyone else.

The title of my speech? “From Party Lines to Zoom: A brief history of teleconferencing”. At least I didn’t bill it as a “how to do it” talk!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-One

The morning started with a thud – I must have enjoyed the food from La Esquina too much, because my weight was up four pounds overnight! Too much chips and salsa, probably – I’ll stay away from the leftover chips for a while and see what happens.

Diane got bad news from Apple, too – they’d looked at her old iPhone SE and set its trade-in value at zero because the camera didn’t work well. She wasn’t surprised; this was the fourth camera for this particular phone. The first one failed while we were in Amsterdam, where they couldn’t help her because it was a US phone but Apple fixed it as soon as we got home; she’d paid for two more replacements because the camera kept developing funny spots, and it was doing it again when she sent the phone away. I just hope the new iPhone SE behaves better.

I had to do some plumbing repair, but it was easier than I’d feared. One of our toilets started running yesterday – the flapper wouldn’t seal. I turned it off and let the water leak out of the tank, then took out the flapper, assuming I’d need to go to the hardware store and replace it. But I noticed it was caked with green deposits (probably copper, at least I hope so); I scraped them off and put it back, and it seems to be behaving, so I get to stay away from the hardware store a little longer – these days, I really don’t want to go somewhere for only one thing!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We celebrated by trying a new-to-us Mexican restaurant, La Esquina, about ten minutes from home. They just started using DoorDash, but I ordered the old-fashioned way – by phone – and had to go pick up the food myself. I had two reasons for avoiding DoorDash: giving the restaurant more of my money and being able to get margaritas, which weren’t on the DoorDash menu.

There were a lot of people waiting for their food inside the restaurant (I guess because it’s Cinco de Mayo), but I heard my name being called just as I got to the door and was in and out in just a couple of minutes. The food was very good; the margaritas were only OK. I’d get food from them again – but next time, I might make the drinks at home.

I had to leave our Trivial Zoom session to get the food; while I was waiting, I tried to connect from my phone. It was hard to hear, so I put the phone up to my ear – I am told that the visual was somewhat off-putting!

It was shopping day and the last day of Safeway’s sale on Talenti gelato, so we stocked up – you may not be able to tell in the photo, but we have ten pints in our freezer (some partially used). I’d’ve bought more, but we couldn’t find Belgian Chocolate or Deep Dark Chocolate. Such is life.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Nine

A few years ago, we planted some strawberries in one of our EarthBoxes. We didn’t get much of a crop, but what we did get was tasty. I never got around to replanting that box – and every year since, we’ve gotten strawberries (even though the soil level in the box keeps going down).

Today, we harvested the first three strawberries from that box for this year, and there are lots of green berries that should be ready soon. I don’t know how long we can keep going before we have to do something (and I don’t know how to replenish the soil in an EarthBox without digging everything up), but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

We watched Young Frankenstein this afternoon – it was in a 9-movie Mel Brooks Blu-Ray set that I’d bought on sale for $25 from Amazon in June, 2013 and never opened! It was as funny as I remembered, but I do have to say it wasn’t quite as deep as the National Theatre productions of Frankenstein that we saw over the weekend. Some day, I should watch the original movie.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Eight

After last week’s experience at the Farmers’ Market, we took “leaving early” more seriously and were out of the house just a few minutes after 8. Not all of the vendors were completely set up when we arrived, but the fishmonger was ready – there were only four people in line, and she had plenty of all kinds of fish.

I was planning to buy tuna (which had run out last week while we were on line), but was pleasantly surprised to find fresh local king salmon available, so I bought that instead, and we had it for lunch – yummy! I also bought fresh local lingcod for tomorrow or Tuesday.

After yesterday’s TV binge, we didn’t even turn the TV on today – instead, Diane worked on a project for Temple and I worked on things for Toastmasters (so we still got lots of screen time, just smaller screens).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Seven

Frankenstein and the Creature

We don’t binge-watch TV. I think we may have watched as many as three episodes of The Good Place at a time when Jeff first introduced it to us, but that was our limit.

Today, however, we watched both versions of the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein – one with Benedict Cumberbach as the Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein, and the other with the roles reversed. They’re available on YouTube until May 7th, and I recommend both. If you have to choose one, I’d take the one where Jonny Lee Miller is the Creature – it was just a little bit tighter.

We also attended Shir Hadash’s Zoom Torah Study and watched last night’s Shabbat message and last night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

And we even started listening to the selections in the NYT’s “Five Minutes to Make You Love Opera” playlist.

I had hoped to watch Young Frankenstein tonight, too, but we ran out of time. Maybe tomorrow.

Lest I make us sound like total couch potatoes, I should note that we did manage to hit our step and calorie goals for the day – it was a nice day to wander through the neighborhood!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Forty-Six

It was another beautiful day. We dropped off Diane’s old iPhone at the UPS store so it could go to a farm upstate (or something like that), then drove into the mountains to pick up our Wine Club shipment from Burrell School Winery. The pickup was hands-free and properly distant, but Dave, the owner, did suggest we take a stroll through the rose garden and vineyards. The roses were lovely.

And we enjoyed seeing the vines – the fruit hasn’t set yet, but that should happen later this month.

Life goes on!