Pandemic Journal, Day 440

The critters munched two more of our tomato plants overnight, though they left a few leaves this time. I sprayed Repels-All around all of the plants in the beds and on the wood, and I hope it works.

We got our first real dose of summer weather today; we stayed inside most of the day and worked. We’d put aside a lot of newspapers, magazines, and other papers for “later” and Diane dealt with many of them. I got most of my 2021 photos into Lightroom and pruned, geotagged, and labeled them up through April 22. Which means that the next time I attack the photos, I’ll have to make decisions about the many pictures I took in Joshua Tree National Park on April 23.

A Joshua Tree

Pandemic Journal, Day 439

We picked up two more tomato seedlings at the Farmers’ Market this morning: Early Girl Hybrid and Juliet Hybrid; they’re in the ground already. It looks like the Sweet 100 we planted last week may have attracted the attention of critters, but it’s not completely dead yet.

Most of our trivia team got together for a Memorial Day gathering – in person, not on Zoom! There was food. There were beverages. There was chocolate. There was hugging!

Today was also the last edition of the New York Times’s “At Home” section. It’s been very helpful in suggesting recipes over the past 430-plus days, but I can’t say that I’m sorry to see the end of its run. I wonder – will the Travel section return next week?

Pandemic Journal, Day 438

We had a quiet day today – Diane spent most of the day pulling out old photos to have scanned, and I read and did some miscellaneous cleanup.

I took a look at the tomatoes we planted three weeks ago, and they’re beginning to blossom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 437

It was time to make pretzels again today. I followed the advice I got on Facebook from Lucinda, Meri, Alison, and Sam after the last time I made pretzels, and it made a difference.

I took out the butter in advance so it could properly soften. I put the yeast in the water and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the dry ingredients. I was extra-careful in measuring the dry ingredients and smoothed them out in the bowl before I added the water and yeast.

I had to add water after the first mixing cycle to get all of the flour incorporated, but, as suggested, I did so a teaspoon at a time; it took four teaspoons before everything was included, but then the rest of the mixing went well.

When I took the dough out after it had risen, it was only slightly tacky, and it was easy to roll into logs (and later, to shape into pretzels). I used waxed paper instead of parchment paper until I was ready to bake.

It went so well that I made a second batch so we should have some left after Memorial Day – and making that batch was uneventful, too.

What I didn’t do was take any photos of the finished pretzels, and they’re all in the freezer now. :-) But I did get a photo of the first batch after shaping them.

Thanks, everyone!

Pandemic Journal, Day 436

The big event for me today was at the dentist’s office, where they installed the crown on my implant. It was painless (I’d paid at the previous visit).

This afternoon, we watched a livestream of a performance by Jake Shimabukuro from AARP in honor of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month. He was great – I don’t think the performance will be made available for later viewing, but his Mother’s Day concert is online and free at his site and of course there’s a lot of his music available on YouTube.

The weather today was stunning – we had dinner outside and it was wonderful. It’s going to heat up over the weekend, so I’m glad we could enjoy it today.

Pandemic Journal, Day 435

I had a brain fart while making dinner tonight (Blistered Broccoli Pasta with Walnuts, Pecorino, and Mint) – instead of putting the pasta in the boiling water, I dumped in the broccoli. I realized the mistake in about 20 seconds and drained everything, then continued with the recipe. It came out OK, but the broccoli was noticeably sweeter and greener than usual (and less crunchy, too!).

We watched Episode 2 of Life at the Waterhole this evening – I’m looking forward to next week’s finale.

Pandemic Journal, Day 434

We had to be out of the house this morning for our housecleaner; Diane had scheduled a dentist’s appointment for that time, and I came with her. While she was being worked on, I did a walking tour of the five shopping centers nearest her dentist – there’s been a lot of turnover since the last time I was in the area. The biggest of the centers, Westgate Mall, has done some landscaping, which was a pleasant change from parking lots and sidewalks.

A rose

After the dentist was finished with Diane, it was still too early to go home, so we took our usual walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and that put us near the Pruneyard Shopping Center at lunchtime. The next thing on our agenda was grocery shopping, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to shop on empty stomachs, so we decided to throw caution to the winds and eat at a restaurant. Outside, of course.

The Pruneyard was in the middle of yet another revitalization when the pandemic hit (it’s at least the third major renovation since we moved to Los Gatos). They’ve opened a lot of new restaurants in the last couple of years; today, we tried Starbird Chicken.

First, I tried ordering through their kiosk, but there was no way to ask for anything “on the side”, so we went to the counter and ordered from a human being. A few minutes later, the food was ready, and we discovered that they didn’t seem to know how to put anything on the side even if they could take the order – Diane’s salad was already dressed, and I didn’t get the sauces that should have come with my Korean Fried Chicken sandwich. We should have gone back to get the order fixed, but we didn’t. The food was bland; the fries weren’t even worth finishing. I can, though, heartily recommend the Ginger Mint Limeade.

Today was also XM renewal day – I’ve been paying $5/month for the “Select” package, and it was about to go up to their usual rate of $16.99/month. I went to their website, hit the chat button, and in less than 10 minutes, I got another year at $5/month. Easy.

Our trivia friends have been recommending the PBS/BBC series, Life at the Waterhole. They were right – we watched Episode 1 this evening and it was fascinating. We’re supposed to go to South Africa this fall, so we’re also using it for familiarization. Sadly, the excursion to Tanzania was cancelled because of the COVID-19 situation there; I’m guessing we have a 50/50 chance of making the rest of the trip this year (there’s already a backup date for next year).

Pandemic Journal, Day 433

I gave a speech at the Silicon Valley Storytellers tonight – the title was “I Make Things Up!”, and it was about my journey to the District Table Topics championship. It was not quite impromptu, but I did make up a good bit of it as I was talking.

I finally managed to get back to working on photos from earlier this year – my goal is to trim Apple Photos down to the photos which evoke memories. I’ll keep many more photos in Lightroom.

Of course, then I have to decide what to do with photos which I think look good but really don’t bring back memories, like this one of Ross Creek when it had water, three short months ago. Posting them on the blog is one way of keeping track of them, right?

Reflections in Ross Creek

Pandemic Journal, Day 432

This morning, we went to the Farmers’ Market. We walked through town – the restaurants were hopping! We walked through Oak Meadow Park – there was a very long line for the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. As we drove home, we saw a very long line of cars trying to get into Vasona Park.

This evening, I went for a quick walk to complete a perfect week (as defined by my Apple Watch’s Fitness app, anyway).

Moon over Los Gatos

See you tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 431

After discovering I’d inadvertently bought lemon balm yesterday, we planted it in one of the raised beds. This morning, I decided to find out more about lemon balm. Wikipedia told me that it’s in the mint family, spreads “vegetatively”, and “propagates vigorously” (though that last statement has a “citation needed” attached to it).

Since we’d deliberately avoided planting mint in the raised beds (or anywhere in the ground – we have enough trouble with ivy coming from the other side of the fence, thank you very much indeed), putting lemon balm there seemed like a Bad Idea.

This afternoon, we went to the hardware store and bought a planter for the lemon balm, and I transplanted it. It doesn’t seem to have taken root in the bed, yet, so I hope we’re safe.

Pandemic Journal, Day 430

We took our typical walk on the Campbell stretch of the Los Gatos Trail this morning and were joined by a few families – here’s one:

After that, we went to Summerwinds Nursery and took care of our spring planting needs (or at least got started on them). They offer a loyalty program which gives you a 5% discount on everything in your order for each $250 you spend – we redeemed four discounts this morning, so we saved 20%.

We replaced all the soil in our three EarthBoxes, planting peppers and basil in one, cucumbers in the next one, and mint in the final box.

We also planted tomatoes in the raised beds, along with watermelon and lemon balm (we didn’t plan to buy lemon balm – I thought the label said “lemon basil”!).

There’s still room to plant more in the raised beds, but we’ll see how we feel tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 429

It was 5:35am. I was in the middle of an exciting dream about travel, hotels, credit cards, and expense account guidelines when suddenly there was a loud BEEP and a strong breeze. My eyes snapped open – the ceiling fan over our bed had started up at full blast for no apparent reason.

I got out of bed and turned it off; I managed to fall asleep until I had to get up for my Toastmasters meeting. But when I walked by the living room, I saw that the ceiling fan there was ALSO running at full blast. And the fan in the office wasn’t running, but its light was turned on.

All of those fans are old Casablanca fans with the “W-32 Intelli-Touch system,” which sends coded pulses on the power line to tell the fan what to do. I guess Something Happened to send random pulses throughout the house. I hope it doesn’t happen again.

Pandemic Journal, Day 428

After yesterday’s fun and games, I decided to leave the photos alone for a bit and moved on to another project.

I wrote a program which takes information from TripIt and puts the most relevant items onto our Google calendars. It works well, so naturally I feel the need to change it. In particular, what I want it to do is to tell me what changed if it updates a trip (for example, if the airline changes the expected departure time) – that means I have to save the information when the program puts it into the calendar and compare it to the new information, and that’s what I was working on today.

To be more accurate, what I really did today was read my code and try to remember what it’s doing so I can make my changes. It’s not difficult code, but I didn’t plan on persisting the information in an easy-to-reuse format, so I need to figure out a smart way to do that. I feel a database in my future.

Pandemic Journal, Day 427

Today’s project was to improve the workflow I use to move files from Lightroom to Apple Photos. My goal is to keep all of my photos in Lightroom, preferably as RAW files, and to do my editing there – then export the edited photos as HEIC files to Apple Photos so I can look at them easily on all my devices.

Lightroom doesn’t export HEIC files – it will export JPEGs, but they are much larger files. So I export TIFFs (which are HUGE) and run a batch file which uses the sips command to convert them to HEICs, then uses exiftool to set the description on each photo. I tested the workflow on yesterday’s photos, and it worked; then I imported the photos into Photos and that worked, too.

I wanted to clear out the photos I’d just brought in to try something else, so I hit Cmd-A to select them all, then hit the Delete key to make them go away. Unfortunately, I was in the “All Photos” view, so I had just told Photos to delete ALL MY PHOTOS!!

I figured it out when the system put up a progress bar, not something I expected to see. There was no “cancel” button, of course. I force-quitted Photos and reopened it; it hadn’t deleted any photos, so I thought I was OK. Until I tried deleting one picture – and up popped the progress bar again.

I force-quitted Photos again, then I rebooted the machine. When I brought Photos back up and deleted one picture, things seemed OK — until Photos said that the Photos library was corrupt and quit!

A web search revealed how to repair the Photos library (press Command and Option when you open Photos) and about 90 minutes later, all was well (not only did Photos have to repair the library, it also had to validate against iCloud, which took most of the time and didn’t have any kind of reassuring progress bar). All of my pictures survived.

If worst had come to worst, I could have restored the Photos library from Time Machine or Backblaze – but I’m glad I didn’t have to do it.

Here’s one last picture from the Heritage Rose Garden.

Pandemic Journal, Day 426

A few years ago, I adopted a rose at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden as a Valentine’s Day present for Diane, and I’ve renewed the adoption ever since. Valentine’s Day is not the best time to go visit the roses, but the weather today was much more promising – sunny and in the 70s – so we paid a visit.

It had been a while since we’d been to the garden – it, unfortunately, suffered during the lockdown because it lost a lot of volunteers. There are also many people living in the park – we passed three tents on the short walk from the main parking lot to the garden. But the roses themselves were wonderful.

“Our” rose is a Pioneer, in spot M-18-23. It’s doing well.

I didn’t get the name of this rose, but I really liked it.

The Heritage Rose Garden has lots of individually-planted roses of different types near each other; in contrast, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is filled with beds which have many plants of the same variety – the effect is powerful.

I’m a sucker for multi-colored roses, especially yellows and oranges. Here’s a Chihuly.

But my favorite was “Good as Gold”.

I was happy to see pollinators at work, too.

Visiting the two gardens was a very pleasant way to spend a late spring afternoon!

Pandemic Journal, Day 425

This morning’s email brought news from Delta that they were changing their schedules and our flight home from Boston (via Atlanta) was one of the victims. They booked us on the next available flight using the same itinerary, which would have gotten us home about 10pm Pacific – much later than we wanted.

I was steeling myself to call them and beg them to let us switch to an earlier flight even though it would cost more miles but decided to see what I could do with self-service. When I clicked on the “Change Flight” button, I was shocked – every flight from Boston to San Jose was available at no additional cost, even the ones with “Delta One” service (lie-flat beds!) which would normally have cost three times as many miles as we’d paid for our original flight. Sadly, the “Delta One” flights weren’t at convenient times, but we were able to book a nice flight through Seattle that will get us home around 8pm Pacific – and I didn’t have to wait on hold at all.

Pandemic Journal, Day 424

We decided to believe the CDC and went for neighborhood walks several times today without bringing masks with us! It was easy to distance ourselves from the few people we saw – but it did feel strange not to have a mask at hand. Tomorrow, we’ll definitely have a mask for the Farmers’ Market whether or not they are requiring one.

Shir Hadash’s Rabbi Emertia, Rabbi Aron, is leaving town for a couple of years; she and her husband are moving to Washington, DC, to be closer to their grandchild and two of their children. There was a “drive-by” goodbye this afternoon, which gave us a chance to talk with her for a while; she also led Shir Shabbat services this morning.

I wasn’t able to attend most of the service, though, because I was competing in the District 101 Toastmasters Table Topics contest – there were six contestants, all division champions. The question was “When is the time to stop calculating the risks and rewards and just do what you know is right?” I had given several speeches in the past about the danger of analysis paralysis and the need to make a decision and act on it, so it was right up my alley. I even quoted Yoda at the end! And I won. The speech was recorded; I am looking forward to watching the recording and finding out what I said.

We celebrated by going to Burrell School and picking up our latest shipment and doing a tasting – it was a cool day, so I was glad to be able to sit inside. We wore masks until we started tasting, of course.

Pandemic Journal, Day 423

We have a very kind friend who has given us a “Fruit-of-the-Month” club membership for the last few years. Most of the time, the fruit is something we buy regularly, like apples, pears, peaches, and oranges – the only challenging part is eating it all. But this month’s shipment included something new to me: a whole pineapple.

We eat pineapples, of course, but I’d never had to cut one up myself. It was easier than I expected – I should have taken a photo of it before cutting it, but I didn’t think of it. I did get a photo of the “after”, though!

Our trip to Iceland is looking more and more likely – we got an email from the travel company today, complete with information, forms to fill out, and the dreaded final invoice. In normal times, that package comes in the physical mail and I fill out the forms with a pen – it takes a couple of minutes.

This time around, I didn’t want to waste my paper, so I loaded up the PDF and used annotation tools to fill out the forms – it probably took 20 minutes – perhaps printing would have been easier after all.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 422

This morning was a typical Thursday: Toastmasters, walking, and grocery shopping – nothing terribly interesting to write about.

This afternoon, I worked on my workflow for moving pictures between Photos and Lightroom – again, nothing terribly interesting to write about.

We took a walk after the CDC announcement, but we carried our masks anyway – we didn’t get close enough to anyone to even consider wearing them, but I think it’s going to be a while before I’m willing to leave the house without one.

Pandemic Journal, Day 421

We went to the Legion of Honor to see the special exhibit, Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave – it was worth the trip. The frescos, like this one, were wonderful to see.

I was fascinated by seeing some of the everyday items that were preserved by the eruption – even some food was carbonized and then preserved.

I was amused by seeing this mosaic:

The label describing it says “The fish-sauce maker Scaurus made a fortune from his sauce and became one of the richest people in Pompeii. He bought a mansion and set four of these panels into the floor of its entrance hall””a sign of the pride he took in his trade!”

There was an amphora on display with Scaurus’s label on it – unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of it and can’t find a good one online. But clearly, it paid to advertise!

My favorite mosaic in the show was this one:

The label says, “The skeleton is death himself, and the message is very clear: Carpe diem ”” seize the day. Enjoy the delights of the banquet while you can.” We took that advice to heart and had lunch in the Museum Cafe.

Pandemic Journal, Day 421

Lots of travel news today!

We are planning a wine tasting trip to Sonoma in July, being joined by a friend we met on our Costa Rica/Panama cruise last year. I’ve reserved an AirBnB, which was a more complicated process than I expected – my password didn’t work, and my account was tied to a phone number I no longer have and a credit card whose expiration date had changed since the last time I logged into AirBnB. I spelunked through their site and finally found a number (800-234-2500) to call for help – a few minutes later, my account had been reset and I was able to make the booking. It’s a good thing my email hadn’t changed, too!

And the Tanzania extension for our hoped-for trip to Southern Africa this year got cancelled; we were offered an extension to Kenya, instead, which would probably have been even better, but that was just one uncertainty too many for us, so we declined the extension. We are still planning to take the rest of the trip, but still aren’t quite ready to buy airplane tickets.

Pandemic Journal, Day 420

The DeYoung Museum of Art in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco reopened at the end of February with a postponed blockbuster exhibit, “Calder-Picasso”. It seemed like a good idea to go see it once we were fully vaccinated, but I never got around to getting the tickets (we’re members, so the tickets are free).

This afternoon, we watched a webinar on the exhibit, presented by the Curator of American Art at the DeYoung. They showed a video he’d prepared…but it was very difficult to see the art! People asked about it in the Q&A, and the answer was “due to copyright considerations, we were limited in what we could show online”.

Sadly, there are only two weeks left in the show, and no tickets are available. And they’re not going to extend it because it’s going to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

We’re going to go to the Legion of Honor, instead, and see its special exhibit, Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave – it’s there until late August, but why take the chance?

Pandemic Journal, Day 419

It was Mother’s Day, and the yellow rose bush in our backyard was happy to join in the celebration.


It was also the first day this year that fresh wild local king salmon was available at the Farmers’ Market – naturally, we indulged.

This afternoon, we went to our first wine tasting in at least 419 days. It was a pickup party at Silver Mountain Vineyards, the first wine club we ever joined. Things were a little different, of course – everything was outside and we had to select a pre-designated flight of wines instead of bellying up to the bar at will. I took the Bordeaux flight and Diane had the French Sampler, which gave us six distinct wines to try.


The views from the deck were as good as ever.


They also provided us with a fruit and cheese box and some tastes of library wines, including a 1991 Merlot (pleasant, but definitely past its prime).

It was a nice way to spend Sunday.

Pandemic Journal, Day 418

This morning, we attended services at Shir Hadash. We had our typical group of participants, including regular attendees in South Carolina and Indiana. We, of course, were sitting on our couch.

This afternoon, we attended a house concert featuring Rod McDonald, playing from his house in Delray Beach, FL. The hosts were in Westchester County, New York, and the attendees were scattered across the country, chatting and applauding between songs as if we were in one room.

This evening, we took a walk and saw a neighbor mowing his lawn – his lawn mower, naturally, was electric and had headlights.

If you’d told me sixteen months ago that I’d be writing this today, I would have thought you were crazy. Well, maybe not about the lawnmower, but certainly about the other two things.

It will be wonderful to be able to be with people in person again, but I have to admit I’ll miss being able to “go places” without going anywhere.

Pandemic Journal, Day 417

Frequent Flyer Magazine CoverBack in the late 1980s, I flew a lot and accumulated many frequent flyer miles. I never quite reached the point of taking a mileage run just to qualify for higher status the next year, but I was an avid reader of the copy of Frequent Flyer magazine that was included in our departmental subscription to the Official Airline Guide.

We were able to take advantage of those miles over the years to travel overseas for free and to upgrade almost at will.

But as the airlines gave us more and more ways to earn frequent flyer miles, they also made it harder and harder to redeem them – and they kept increasing the number of miles you needed for a trip. The glory days of getting 10 cents/mile ended a long time ago – these days, you’re lucky if you can get 2 cents/mile when you redeem, and even luckier if you can get a route that isn’t insane.

Today, we were lucky. We booked the Boston to San Jose leg of our upcoming trip on Delta and got better than 2 cents/mile in value. I didn’t have quite enough Delta miles to buy the tickets, but I was able to convert a few Amex points into Delta miles to close the gap.

Airline miles are a depreciating asset – the airlines can, and do, change the redemption rate any time they want, so it’s better to hold as few of them as possible – after today, I’m down to under 1000 Delta miles and under 100 United miles. Instead, I do most of my spending on cards that give me points that I can transfer to many different airlines or hotels, or even turn into gift cards or cash.

And these days, I use my Apple Card for most in-person purchases – it gives me back 2% in cash, which is easy to understand!

Pandemic Journal, Day 416

Today was surprisingly productive.

I’d been hearing odd sounds from one of the toilets for a couple of days, as though water was leaking, but they were very intermittent. Until this morning, when the toilet didn’t stop after filling the tank. I was afraid it meant that the fill valve or float had failed, but it turned out that the flapper valve wasn’t closing properly. A quick trip to Ace Hardware got me a universal genuine Toto flapper, and replacing it was easy, even for someone as ambi-sinister as me.

The spreadsheet I’d built to help the Toastmaster of the Day create and manage the agenda for our meetings had developed problems – today’s Toastmaster told me that there were cells that had #REF in them instead bringing in information from elsewhere on the spreadsheet. It turns out that deleting a cell in a Google spreadsheet (or in Excel) makes all references to that cell become undefined – any formula which used the cell has the cell address replaced by #REF. I’d been deleting the cells containing the member list whenever I had to download a new roster – and thereby destroyed pieces of the spreadsheet. I won’t do that again.

And Intuit finally fixed their TurboTax problem, so I was able to resubmit our taxes without having to fiddle any of the numbers – and both the IRS and the FTB accepted them today.

We even got good news about our planned trip to southern Africa later this year – AmaWaterways expects to be able to start operating their cruises in late July, well before we will be there. It’s not quite time for us to book tickets, but things are looking up!

Pandemic Journal, Day 415

Lots of doctor visits today – Diane had her mammogram, and I visited the dentist and the ENT.

The trip to the dentist was to let them scan my mouth and order a crown, which will be installed in about three weeks – I don’t understand how the scanner, which is hand-held, is able to merge its images accurately, since the process takes several minutes, which means that the dentist is moving her hand and I’m moving my mouth. Clarke’s Third Law must be at work!

The ENT was a follow-up visit – the miraculous recovery of my sense of smell didn’t last very long. I saw the ENT for the first time last month and he confirmed that I had sinusitis (as well as a deviated septum) and put me on a short course of antibiotics, along with a new regimen of nasal irrigation, Flonase, Mucinex, and Sudafed. Since then, my sense of smell has come and gone randomly – that’s good news, in that it indicates the system is working, but it’s also bad news, because it’s not clear what will get it working all the time. He’s put me on a different antibiotic for the next 10 days to see if that can clear out the sinusitis.

But even without the new antibiotic, I was able to smell the star jasmine just outside our door today – and it looks pretty good, too!

Star Jasmine

Pandemic Journal, Day 414

My chiropractor surprised me this morning. Last week, we’d talked about barbecuing and baking, including the pretzels I’ve been making. He was interested, so I sent him the recipe and mentioned that I hadn’t tried making them with the diastatic malt powder that was listed as an optional ingredient.

We went there this morning, and he handed me a small bag of powder. It was diastatic malt – he’d ordered a jar the day we’d talked! He clearly takes his food preparation seriously.

Naturally, I wanted to make pretzels as soon as we got home to see if I could detect a difference with the malt powder. I did a few things differently this time (beyond using the malt powder). I leveled the flour in the bowl instead of letting it pile up; I added the other dry ingredients except the yeast before the water (instead of putting the water in right after the flour); I put the yeast in the water and added them together as the final step before mixing.

The dough seemed to form more quickly than usual, but, as usual, there was a lot of flour that didn’t get incorporated. I added some water – perhaps 3 or 4 ounces – and kept mixing; I wound up with a moist lump of dough that came off the dough hooks and the side of the bowl much more easily than usual.

The dough rose; when I went to fold it, it seemed stickier than normal, but not unreasonably so. But when I tried to shape it into logs, it was almost too sticky to deal with – I had to put a lot of flour on my hands and on the board to get it to work.

It rose a lot in the 20 minutes that I let it rest before making the pretzels – and it was still very very sticky. But I persevered.

When it came time to boil the pretzels, I had more problems – several of them fell apart in the water. And they were sticking to the parchment paper. And some of them seemed to retain liquid. But I got them done and put them on two sheet pans and into the oven.

The pretzels on the top sheet pan looked properly baked after 14 minutes so I took them out of the oven and moved the bottom pan to the top – usually, I have to bake the bottom pretzels for an extra two minutes. Today, though, they didn’t look brown even after three minutes – I finally took them out and let them all cool.

When I cut into one of the pretzels from the bottom batch, the inside looked weird and felt gooey. We didn’t eat it. Nor either of the next two I tested.

I don’t know what happened – my guess is that I added far too much water at the start of the process when I wanted to incorporate all of the flour. Maybe I should ignore the surplus flour next time? Advice welcome!

I’m not sure if I could tell the difference in flavor from the malt, but the pretzel we did eat was good. And we have half the batch left to try.

Pandemic Journal, Day 413

When I checked my mail this morning, I had two alarming messages from TurboTax telling me that our tax return submissions had been rejected by the IRS and the FTB. The message about the Federal return said that it had been rejected for having a duplicate Form 1099-R; the State message said they’d rejected the return because the Feds had done so. Both messages told me to start up TurboTax for more details, so I did.

TurboTax told me to check and make sure I hadn’t accidentally duplicated a Form 1099-R – I hadn’t, but we did have two forms from the same payer with the exact same amount. I checked their “help” site and discovered a lot of discussion of this issue – it appears to be new this year. The message claims that the IRS rejected the submission, but the discussion seems to indicate that the problem is with TurboTax; people have been getting around the problem by adding one cent to the amount on one form (since the IRS rounds to the nearest dollar, this shouldn’t be an issue, but it makes everyone nervous). There was also a pointer to a page on the TurboTax site where you could add yourself to a notification of any updates to the problem – but that page claimed that the problem had been solved today. So I submitted the return again with no changes and will see what happens overnight.

On a more cheerful note, we booked our flights to Iceland and Boston for our summer trip. The travel agent is only booking fully-refundable tickets for clients this year. I was surprised to see that the difference in price between refundable and non-refundable fares was less than 10% instead of the doubled or tripled fare that was typical in the Before Times – of course we bought the refundable tickets!

It was the hottest day of the year, so we didn’t go out walking until after dinner. Diane takes a lot of the flower photos she posts to Facebook on our neighborhood walks – sometimes I take flowers, too, but tonight, my eye was caught by something rather different.

Pandemic Journal, Day 412

As usual, we went to the Farmers’ Market this morning – our fish vendor told us that local king salmon season had started yesterday and she hoped to have fresh salmon next week! For today, though, our choice was halibut and lingcod – we’ve already eaten the halibut. :-)

With the advent of warmer weather, we’re drinking more iced tea – Diane makes sun tea using three different kinds of tea, and we ran out of one, PG Tips. Fortunately, we don’t have to go to England to buy more – it’s available at Cost Plus. While we were there, I (unsurprisingly) spent some time looking through the candy department, and I found a few bars of Icelandic chocolate. Most were fairly low in cacao, but they did have a dark chocolate with mint, so I bought one and we had a few squares for dessert. It’s pretty good – I wonder if it’ll be less expensive in Iceland (it was $8 for 7 ounces here). They also had Icelandic beer, but I decided to defer that piece of research for a later date.

Pandemic Journal, Day 411

We started the day at Shir Hadash (via Zoom) with Torah Study and Shir Shabbat services; we ended it at the Shir Hadash Gala (via Zoom) with a performance by ComedySportz San Jose.

In between, we walked, cooked, and ate – it was a restful Shabbat.

Well, it was until I wanted to add an image to this entry and have that image show up on Facebook as the preview of this entry. Adding the image worked, but then I discovered I’d used the wrong aspect ratio and only part of one word showed up on Facebook.

Correcting that problem required me to delete this entry…twice, as well as deleting the post on Facebook that referred to it; I also had to change the URL of this entry. And even that wasn’t sufficient – Facebook is still showing the wrong image. C’est la vie!