Pandemic Journal, Day 470

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nature abhors a vacuum.

In our family, that truth has a corollary: we abhor an empty flat surface. And that works well enough most of the time.

But we’re about to do something we haven’t done for a very long time – host a visitor for a few days. A visitor who isn’t even related to either of us. And who probably doesn’t have to see everything that’s found its way to a formerly-empty flat surface.

So we’ve begun a clearing and organizing project. And by “we”, I mostly mean Diane so far – she has taken on the challenge of getting all of the travel souvenirs we’ve accumulated in the past few years off of flat surfaces and into folders, envelopes, and files. With labels.

It’s a lot of work! And it required finding an unused empty flat surface to use as a staging area – about the only thing available was our bed!

Of course, that particular flat surface has to be cleared at night, but we’re motivated to deal with it instead of postponing the task (which is how we filled up all the other flat surfaces).

My turn is coming, of course. I’m lucky, though – there’s less material of sentimental value in my stacks of stuff. Anybody interested in a partially completed Immunization Consent Form?

Pandemic Journal, Day 469

I’m not sure if I’m happy or annoyed that both Toastmasters and Shir Hadash observe the same fiscal year, but it does mean that I’ve been busy today getting ready for the transitions which will happen on Thursday.

I got a request from the Toastmasters District Director to help the Webmaster team redo the email forwarding for the new year, so I sent a note with instructions (and an offer to help if needed).

At the club level, I made sure the new Treasurer, VP Public Relations, and President have the information they’ll need to deal with our web host, and I pulled together the paperwork to give to the new Treasurer (my term as Treasurer ended last year, but I never got a chance to give the stuff to this year’s Treasurer – I’m sure she didn’t miss having to keep track of it for a year).

And on the Shir Hadash side of things, I started organizing the first Ritual Committee meeting of the new year, as well as sending the High Holiday Honors information to our Interim Rabbi so he’d know what we’d done in years past.

Despite spending most of the day glued to the screen, we did manage to get a couple of walks in, so here’s Lily Du Jour:

Pandemic Journal, Day 468

We tried another new recipe today – a Greek Salad Sandwich. We made it with Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Pita Bread instead of the suggested English muffin; it was worth repeating (though I might try a different pita next time – the Joe’s pita was very thin and the sandwich leaked a lot). It’s not a big meal, but it was surprisingly satisfying.

Greek Salad Sandwich
Tonight was the Silicon Valley Storytellers 8th Anniversary Meeting. It’s the club’s custom to finish every year with a Story Slam, where members compete for prizes by telling 3-5 minute stories that incorporate the meeting theme. This year’s theme was “Infinity”.

I signed up as a speaker weeks ago and promptly forgot about it – I had photos to edit, recipes to try, and newspapers to read. But it came back to me on Sunday morning when I looked at the week’s calendar. I didn’t really have a story dealing with infinity, but I did come up with a title: “All the Time in the World”.

And that made me think of friends and family who died early; friends who nearly died but didn’t; and people who fled one danger only to die in a different way (like the Paraguayan President’s sister-in-law, who came to the US to get a Covid vaccination but stayed in the condo that collapsed last week). And that gave me a foundational phrase for the speech: “they had all the time in the world…until they didn’t.”

This morning, I looked in the Virginia Death Records for two of the people I wanted to talk about. Carol was my age; she died at age 13 from familial dysautonomia. The other was my cousin Ruby, who taught me to play bridge when I was very little and died suddenly at age 67 – the same age I am today.

I also talked about a classmate’s husband who keeled over at our most recent high school reunion – I called 911 while people gave him CPR and used a defilibrator to get his heart beating again before the paramedics arrived. He survived and recovered, and I expect to see him in October for our next reunion.

And then, just before the meeting started, I glanced at Facebook and found out that there had been a 4.2 earthquake just a few minutes before – and that gave me my ending.

The club voted on the three top speeches – mine was one of them, and the prize was an Amazon gift card.

Last night, I nearly withdrew from the contest because I didn’t have a coherent story in mind; I’m glad I didn’t. I may not have had all the time in the world, but I had enough!

Pandemic Journal, Day 467

This afternoon, we went to Shir Hadash’s first in-person masks-optional no-reservations-required-if-you’re-vaccinated social event since last March – an outdoor Klezmer concert by Jeannette Lewicki, Sheldon Brown, and Richard Saunders (from the San Francisco Klezmer Experience).

About 100 people were there enjoying the music – some (not us) even danced to tunes like “Zemer Atik”.

The “stage” was the patio in front of the Sanctuary and the audience sat in the parking lot.

It was a great way to spend Sunday afternoon.

Pandemic Journal, Day 466

Lance Milbrand is a videographer whose videos have been featured as part of the CBS Sunday Morning “Moment in Nature” segment, most recently with a video of Muir Woods. He’s also a member of the Silver Tongued Cats Toastmasters.

I helped him with an email problem a few weeks ago – somehow, Verizon had set up one of his email accounts as a POP account so he could only access it on his phone, not his computer – I walked him through converting to IMAP so he could use it both places. In return, he offered to help me with photography issues, and said I really needed to learn about tone curves.

I haven’t taken him up on his offer yet. This morning, though, I was thinking about the Moon photos I posted last night and how they weren’t quite what I remember seeing – and the words “tone curve” came to mind.

I sat down with Lightroom today and started with the same photo I used last night – 1/2500 second, so it was quite dim. This time, I played with the tone curve right after cropping the photo and boosting the exposure – I made Lightroom map the small part of the luminance range that was actually in the photo to the full 0-255 range. I still had to do more fiddling to get to the image I wanted, but it’s much closer to what I remembered seeing – and I didn’t have to go to Photoshop to remove speckles from the dark sky!


Thanks, Lance – now I can declare victory on one project!