Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 321

It was a quiet Sunday. We talked with Jeff, our son, this morning, for his pre-birthday, and otherwise followed our usual Sunday routine of the Farmers’ Market, walks, cooking, eating, and reading. I even did some more photo editing and culling from last year’s Costa Rica/Panama trip, so I feel accomplished.

I’m supposed to avoid omega-3s, aspirin, and turmeric for the next week, leading up to my Mohs surgery on the 8th, so we had halibut (loaded with omega-3s) for lunch and Slow Cooked Spiced Lentils with Veggies (with turmeric) for dinner. I couldn’t find any interesting recipes with aspirin, though, but I’ll have one last pill tonight anyway.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 320

Today was “Shabbat Shira” (the Sabbath of Song) because the Torah reading (Beshalach, Exodus 13:17-17:16) includes “The Song of the Sea”, which the Israelites sang after crossing the Sea of Reeds. Most years, the Cantor would give a “Sermon in Song” and the choir would sing as part of the service.

This year, of course, is not like other years – but the choir still sang as part of today’s service. Not as a choir (except for a couple of pre-recorded songs), but one-by-one (sometimes taking turns during a song, often singing an entire song alone). And the Cantor was in the sanctuary, singing (accompanied by a choir member who also plays guitar – he was in another room in the building, but they were able to hear each other without Zoom delays and make music together).

It was a change from the usual Zoom service – it’ll be even better when we can all be in the sanctuary together!

Dinner tonight was another new recipe, Sheet Pan Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and Onions. I modified the recipe to use only half the suggested amount of onions – it was still way too much. And next time, we’ll try using boneless, skinless thighs in hopes of reducing the grease level. But it’s worth trying again.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 319

Even though we still need a lot of rain to get back to normal, it was a pleasure to wake to clear skies this morning after the last couple of wet days. We took a couple of walks to celebrate, then I sat down at the computer to catch up on a month’s worth of Quicken.

And as long as I was catching up, I finally got around to officially completing the projects for the speeches I’ve given at Toastmasters this week, which also completed Level 4 of the “Engaging Humor” Path.

Not an exciting day, I admit, but a productive one. Or at least one in which I reduced the piles of things-to-do.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 318

I had the opportunity to mentor Toastrix Toastmasters, a club at Citrix in Santa Clara, during the end of 2019 and early 2020 – mentoring them let me fulfill the last requirement to complete my second Distinguished Toastmaster before the “legacy” education program at Toastmasters ended. As it happened, the last Toastmasters meeting I attended in person before the lockdown was at Citrix – as I was driving home from there, I saw a billboard for a company called “Zoom” which talked about the joys of remote meetings. Little did I know…

At any rate, I continued on as their mentor until my term ended in May, 2020, and I’ve continued to attend meetings on occasion (not on Zoom, though – they used GoToMeeting until recently and have changed to Microsoft Teams). Yesterday, they reached out to me and asked if I could fill in as a speaker at today’s meeting – I agreed and presented a speech for the “Write a Compelling Blog” project.

The goal of the project was to write at least 8 blog posts within a month and then to give a short speech about the experience. The last time I considered doing the project, 8 blog posts in a month seemed like a stretch – this time, it seemed a bit easier.

I talked about my blogging history, going all the way back to my first post in 2000; I prepared the timeline at the top of the page, which has a red square for every day I did at least one posting and a blank square for days I missed. There were years where I did only two postings, but of late, I’ve been very consistent!

I also talked about the most popular postings on the blog, all of which have been postings where I’ve written about something helpful to others: finding a refill for a strange pen, Amsterdam Dos and Don’ts, Paris in the Rain and Two Great Things to Do In Paris, and even a post about dealing with Coldwater Creek’s rewards program (no link because it’s no longer applicable).

There have also been a few popular technical postings, and the occasional “meta” posting like this one.

Navel-gazing can be fun!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 317

We got out of the house for an early walk, and went about twice as far as we usually do in the morning. That was a good plan – the much-needed rains started just before lunch and haven’t really stopped since. And while I more-or-less believe what I heard in Norway (“No bad weather, just bad clothes”), I wasn’t really interested in going out this afternoon anyway.

We tried another new recipe tonight, a paleo version of Arroz con Pollo using cauliflower rice, made on a sheet pan. I don’t see cauliflower rice replacing rice for us, but the chicken and spices were pretty good. I can’t find a link to the recipe (it was in the Merc’s Spry Living supplement in early December), but I’ve typed it into the Paprika app, so if anyone wants it, let me know.

I visited my dermatologist last week for a routine check-in and full-body exam. I had noticed an itchy spot under my right ear, and she took it off; she also found a spot on my right shoulder and took it off, too. Today, she called me and said that the shoulder spot was benign, but the spot under my ear was “early-stage squamous”, and just like that, I’m scheduled for Mohs surgery on the 8th of February.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 316

The good news: my dentist was able to put my crown back on the tooth, though it needed some reshaping (she thinks I might have bitten it when it came off).

The bad news: she found a possible crack in the tooth and has referred me to an endodontist for evaluation and a possible root canal – that’ll happen next Thursday morning. If the tooth can be saved, I’ll have to get a new crown (this one was at least 20 years old and wearing thin).

The best news: Santa Clara County opened up its COVID-19 vaccination enrollment system to residents over 65 (except those who use Kaiser or Palo Alto Medical Foundation primary doctors). I was able to get us appointments for next Thursday evening – it’s going to be a busy day!

The tasty news: The New York Times published a One Pot Meals section in February, 2020. It was in the edition that arrived on the day we returned from our Costa Rica/Panama trip. I saved it, even though we weren’t doing a lot of cooking at the time; we’ve finally started using some of the recipes. Tonight’s new recipe was Tomato-Poached Fish With Chile Oil and Herbs, and, even though I didn’t quite follow the recipe correctly (I left the garlic and shallots in the pan instead of saving them for the end, and my timing with the red pepper flakes was wrong, too), it came out pretty good – certainly worth trying again.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 315

I thought today was going to be another day where I had to struggle to find anything interesting to write about (let’s face it, after 315 days of sheltering-in-place, it’s just life!). We didn’t make any new recipes; we didn’t go anywhere unusual; we did order a case of wine and a new camera (from different stores, of course!), but, as I said, “it’s just life”.

And then, just before my Toastmasters meeting started, I felt something odd in my mouth. I don’t know what had happened, but a moment later, I pulled a slightly-used crown out of my mouth.

I excused myself from the meeting and called my dentist’s office. I have an appointment at 11:30am tomorrow.

It’s just life.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 314

It was another quiet day – we managed to get two good walks in before the rains came. And I started working on photos from our Costa Rica/Panama trip last February. And met with my successor as District 101 Statistician to go through more of the code he’ll be inheriting. And made fish for lunch and pesto for dinner.

As I said, quiet.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 313

We made Pomegranate Chicken again tonight, this time with skinless, boneless chicken thighs instead of the skin-on, bone-in thighs in the recipe. It was faster (30 minutes of cooking time rather than 45) and easier (because I could put the meat and vegetables in at the same time instead of staging them) and just as tasty, so we’ll do it that way from now on.

Other than that, there wasn’t much to talk about, and it’s late, so I’ll stop!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 312

Another new-to-us recipe today, Pan-Fried Trout with Rosemary, Lemon, and Capers. The trout we got was too big to fit in the All-Clad skillet, so I couldn’t use the induction cooktop, but I coped. And I’d make the recipe again – it was pretty easy and quite tasty.

This evening, I made Skillet Summer Vegetable Lasagna again, this time using the induction cooktop. I am beginning to think that it would be smarter to use the “cook power” settings than the “temperature” settings, at least for something that calls for simmering. Using the temperature setting results in long periods where the induction coils are off and nothing seems to be happening (even if the liquid actually is pretty hot). In contrast, the cook power settings keep the induction coils on the whole time. Despite the confusion, we were happy with the results.

We got a little rain today – not enough to make a dent in the drought, but enough to warrant breaking out raincoats for our walks. It’s a start!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 311


Yesterday was a day of firsts; today was an evening with a “last”. We had been members of Fleming-Jenkins Winery in Los Gatos from the day they opened in 2008 until they closed a few years later. We enjoyed their wines a lot, and their tasting room was a great place to stop when we were walking in downtown Los Gatos.

We’d bought a 375ml bottle of their 2006 Napa Valley Red Dessert Wine in late 2011. We’re not big dessert wine drinkers, so it’s been gathering dust in the wine rack for many years. Tonight, though, felt like an appropriate time to drink it during our weekly Trivial Zoom call.

The cork had not weathered the years well; it flaked into pieces as I tried to extract it. Eventually, I pushed it into the bottle so I could pour the wine – it was drinkable, but nothing special. On the other hand, we did finish the bottle!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 310

.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּ”, יְיָ אֱלֹ”ֵינוּ, מֶלֶךְ ”ָעוֹלָם, שֶׁ”ֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְ”ִ’ִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן ”ַזֶּ”
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh.
TRANSLATION
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

I knew I was going to post a shehecheyanu (the prayer above) today in gratitude for reaching the beginning of the Biden Administration, but I didn’t expect to have more than that one reason to post it. But it turns out I have two more reasons to be grateful for reaching this day.

Stanford Healthcare had already announced that people over 65 could start making appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine starting today. I tried to sign up before the inauguration, but they hadn’t updated the website yet. And by the time we’d watched the ceremony and a lot of the post-ceremony, drunk a bottle of California sparkling wine, taken a walk, and had lunch, I’d forgotten I needed to do it – until we turned the TV back on to watch Vice President Harris swear in Senators Padilla, Ossoff, and Warnock. The swearing-in was running late, so Katy Tur was talking to someone and happened to mention the vaccine – I rushed over to my computer to sign up. It took a few tries (the website was less than cooperative, and every time it glitched, we had to go back to Step 1), but as Chuck Schumer was making his first remarks as Senate Majority Leader, both of us had appointments for five weeks from today. Our appointments are 90 minutes apart, but the site is only a 25-minute walk from home (or a ten-minute drive and a five-minute struggle for parking), so we’ll be OK.

And the induction burner I ordered through Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s discount program arrived in time for me to use it to make dinner (One-Pot Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and Kale). It’s fast but is going to require some getting used to – and I can see at least one more cookware purchase in our future.

Not a bad day, not at all!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 309

It was 4:40am, and Diane and I were sleeping peacefully. The house was quiet and dark. Suddenly, we were awakened by a bright blue light in our bedroom – I pried my eyes open to see the “halo” on our Amazon Echo glowing brightly and then go dark. I got out of bed – everything seemed OK; the night light in the bathroom was on, as expected.

But there was a light coming from the kitchen, which I didn’t expect. I walked in and discovered the cause – our broiler oven’s panel was illuminated. I took a closer look and saw that it was set to its default setting (“Bagel”, 4 slices, mid-darkness). And the clock on the stove showed “PF” – Power Failure.

I went back to the bedroom and slept until the alarm went off as usual. My phone showed a series of alerts from the security system telling me that we’d lost and regained power twice during the night (we’d slept through the first cycle at 11:30). PG&E had texted about both failures, but only about the first restoration – it turned out that we’d been lucky in having our power return so promptly. People living on the other side of the creek from us didn’t get power back until after 2pm.

It was all due to windstorms – which are also fanning fires throughout the Bay Area. In January. I can’t wait for 2020 to be over!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 308

Diane’s ear seems to have survived yesterday’s excitement; the Band-Aid came off when she put on her mask to visit our trainer this morning, but there was no new blood. I promise to be more careful next time!

I’ve begun writing my speech for my Toastmasters meeting on Thursday – it’ll be the longest speech I’ve given in Toastmasters (18-22 minutes instead of the usual 5-7), and it’s all because I misread the requirements for the Visionary Communication Path and thought I had to give a “keynote-type” speech to complete the Path. It turns out that this particular project is an elective on this Path (it is a requirement on the Presentation Mastery Path), but by the time I figured that out, the club leadership had juggled the month’s schedule to give me the long speaking slot, so I feel obligated! Don’t tell anyone, ok?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 307

We had a quiet day today, mostly.

It was time for haircuts, so we cut each other’s hair. Diane cut mine first, then it was my turn to reciprocate. She wanted me to use her new sharp scissors rather than the Wahl Peanut – I got a bit too close to Diane’s ear, but after we stopped the bleeding, she seemed to be OK (and she even let me finish cutting, though not near her ears).

We made Soy, Siracha, and Balsamic Stir-Fry for dinner; there was a lot of residue left on the wok that I had to scrape off afterwards, so I’ve re-seasoned the wok in hopes that next time will be less messy.

And we watched the first episode of the new All Creatures Great and Small; it was enjoyable and we’ll watch the rest of the series. It brought back good memories of going to the Yorkshire Dales!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 306

This morning started with Torah Study and Shir Shabbat services, as usual. I was the leader for the service, and Diane read Haftorah.

During the service, we say the blessing for the study of Torah – in order to ensure that it’s not an empty blessing, the leader brings in a bit of text to study, which can come from the Written Torah (the Five Books of Moses), but usually doesn’t, at least at our services. Most of the time, it’s one of the readings in the prayerbook, but today, I decided to bring in a few quotations from Martin Luther King:

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

I was even able to tie the last one to the famous Hasidic story of Zusia, so it was all kosher.

This afternoon, I got back to working on photos, making another pass on photos from my 2004 trip to Japan – this time, ensuring that they all have titles (and getting rid of half of the ones from the first day in the process!).

And this evening, while continuing to battle Google Flights, the earth moved slightly – there was a 4.2 quake about 40 miles away. I felt a couple of light bumps and heard something clatter a bit – by the time I realized it was a quake, it was all over!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 305

We Zoomed to Shabbat services at Shir Hadash this evening; one new custom that has developed during the pandemic is for the Rabbi to offer up a question and then send us to small breakout rooms to discuss it. Tonight’s question was “has there been a thorn you’ve encountered in your life this week, or was there a rose, or are you seeing a bud that will blossom in the future?”

I didn’t get a chance to speak, but if I had, I would have mentioned something which is both a thorn and a bud. Today, Santa Clara County announced that they’ll be starting to offer vaccinations to 65-and-up Real Soon Now – and that prompted us to start looking at travel again, in particular planning air travel for the Africa trip we hope to take in the fall, which is complicated by my 50th high school reunion’s timing – we’ll have to fly from Kilimanjaro to Richmond with very little margin for delays.

It was wonderful to contemplate traveling again for fun – but I’d forgotten how aggravating the process of finding flights for a complicated trip is! C’est la vie!

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!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 294

We were supposed to go on a cruise to Japan and Korea last April. Needless to say, it got cancelled in early March. The travel provider (Criterion Travel) offered us a full refund or a 20% bonus if we transferred our payment to one of their 2021 programs. They were planning a trip to Sicily and Malta that looked interesting – it was at the end of May 2021, which seemed far enough away to be safe, so we took them up on their bonus offer.

Today, we found out that they are doing the responsible thing and cancelling the May 2021 trip, too. They’re still building their 2022 schedule – maybe they’ll offer Japan and Korea!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 293

We spent a quiet day today – a quick trip to the Farmers’ Market for fish this morning, Halibut with Rosemary Potatoes for lunch, Slow-Cooked Spiced Lentils with Veggies for dinner, and three walks to hit our goals for the day.

I’ve added yet another home repair project to the list – the faucet on the sink in the garage is leaking, so I ordered the parts to fix it and they should be here in a couple of days. It’s supposed to be an easy job. We’ll see.

I also discovered that my office setup is critically suboptimal – I was on a call about the District 101 website when I accidentally kicked the switch on the power strip under my desk and turned off my computer and monitor. I guess I should fix that.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 292

There are times that I realize that I don’t understand Facebook. No, I’m not talking about the Dreaded Algorithm that chooses what you see in your feed and often builds opinion bubbles; I’m confused about how Facebook chooses whether to put an image into a post that links to a website, such as my post yesterday to my blog.

I had put a photo of the zester I bought into yesterday’s blog entry, expecting Facebook to show it and add a little life to the Facebook post – but it didn’t. And I don’t know why. So I won’t go out of my way to find a photo for tonight’s entry.

After we watched City Lights’ version of A Christmas Carol last week, Diane said that she’d really enjoyed the version of the story on Topper. Somewhat to my surprise, it was easy to find that episode on YouTube; I downloaded it so we could use Plex to watch it on the big TV. As I was downloading it, I noticed that YouTube offered “automatically-generated subtitles”, so I downloaded them, too, in case the audio was bad.

Unfortunately, YouTube’s automatically-generated subtitles are in “Timed Text Markup Language” (TTML), which Plex doesn’t support – Plex supports SubRip Text (SRT) files. No problem – there are lots of converters on the web, and some converters written in Python on GitHub. I’d rather run the conversion on my own machine, so I downloaded alexwlchan/ttml2srt from GitHub and fed it the file I’d downloaded from YouTube. And I got an error message.

A little investigation showed me that the YouTube TTML file doesn’t come close to conforming to the standard. In particular, it doesn’t have a body element, and the timestamps are given as decimal seconds without a unit (10.3 instead of the correct 10.3s, for example). But it was easy to add support for the YouTube file to the program and generate the subtitle file I needed (and of course, I have offered my changes to the owner of the program).

I added the subtitle file to Plex and made sure it worked, then we sat down to watch the show; the audio was good enough that we didn’t need the subtitles – oh, and the automatically-generated subtitles weren’t all that accurate, anyway (the subtitle in the photo should say “Topper”, not “copper”).

But now I have a tool for the future – that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 291

There were more firsts today than just being the first day of the New Year.

It was the first day that I was no longer officially the District 101 Webmaster (though I’m still on the team); I spent a couple of hours going through my code with the person who’s picking up the back-end code. Explaining code I wrote five years ago is hard work! While we were reviewing the code, I got rid of some code that hadn’t ever been used in District 101 (we used it in District 4) and that wouldn’t have worked for the last couple of years anyway (because I didn’t update it for Pathways). There’s more code to explain and clean up, as well as updating anything that talks to Dropbox so that it’ll survive their new authentication model.

We used our new zester for the first time (I had been using a Microplane “fine” grater until now); it seemed to do a better job than the grater did, and it was much easier to get the zest off the zester and into the food than it was to get it off the grater.

And tonight at Shir Hadash was the first service with our new Interim Senior Rabbi, Ted Riter. His sermon was about transitions, which seems rather appropriate under the circumstances.

19 days left until a BIG transition….