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 אַתָּה, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
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?