Pandemic Journal, Day 554

I’m on the Shir Hadash Board this year; we have a monthly meeting on the third Wednesday of the month. This month, though, we had to postpone by a week to avoid having the meeting fall on Yom Kippur – and that put us squarely in the middle of Sukkot.

It is a commandment to dwell in the Sukkah (booth) – or at least to eat there during the holiday – so the Board had dinner together in the congregation’s Sukkah before our meeting. Dinner was supplied by Oren’s Hummus and it was quite tasty!

In a normal year, we would have each taken a turn at shaking the lulav and enjoying the scent of the etrog, but this year, that would have also involved gloves and hand sanitizer, so Rabbi Schwartz did it and we all watched.

The Board meeting was inside, with masks mandatory. Oh, well…back to reality.

Pandemic Journal, Day 553

I completed the trifecta of Apple upgrades overnight, installing WatchOS 8.0. So far, it’s the least satisfying of the upgrades. I can’t find the “Mindfulness” app (maybe because I deleted “Breathe” two releases ago?), and the News app is showing me stories from last week – but on the bright side, I can finally start more than one timer at once!

It’s been a while since we tried a new recipe, so this evening we made Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese from Food Network. Both of us thought it was on the bland side; I just read the comments on the website and got some ideas to try next time (using balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, adding more garlic, and including tomatoes all appeal). And the Times included a pointer to 24 low-fuss, high-flavor recipes in today’s afternoon wrap-up; some of those look promising for future experiments.

Pandemic Journal, Day 552

I upgraded my iPhone and iPad to iOS/iPadOS 15 today – I’d been running the iPadOS 15 beta for a while, and it had been quite stable, so I felt confident in upgrading the phone, too. So far, so good, though I’m not sure I’m going to keep the Safari address bar at the bottom of the window on the phone.

And that was the most exciting thing I did today. I forgot to bring the big camera along on our evening walk, so I didn’t get a good photo of the full harvest moon – but Diane and I did have a nice walk, so I’m happy.

Pandemic Journal, Day 551

I was surprised when I went out to get the papers this morning – it was raining! To be more accurate, it was barely drizzling – water was falling from the sky, but not even enough to wet the newspapers (which had arrived without bags). But it’s more rain than I’ve seen here in months and months, so I’ll take it as a good sign.

By the time we went to the Farmers’ Market a few hours later, the sky was clear and the sun was warm; fortunately, I was wearing my new hat and was protected from UV.

This evening, we took our after-dinner walk just about sunset; the moon was rising, almost full, and it was a very pretty sight indeed. It may be true that “the best camera is the one you have with you”, but it’s also true that there’s only so much you can do with a tiny lens.

Pandemic Journal, Day 550

I really like late summer – there’s still plenty of light, and sometimes, it’s not too hot. Today was almost perfect – the high was 77F, so we didn’t need to run our air conditioner.

We started the day with a walk, then drove downtown to the Fiesta de Artes to see how it had changed since 2019. There were fewer gourmet food sellers than in the past, and the screen door and fire pit merchants were gone. Sunday Afternoons Hats was a new arrival this year, and both Diane and I succumbed to their blandishments.

This afternoon, we wore our new hats to Silver Mountain Vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains to pick up our quarterly shipment (we’ve been members for nearly 14 years) and do a little wine tasting. We split two tastings, each of which had small pours of four different wines, and came home with a few extra bottles of Pinot as well as the wines we’d gone to pick up. That’ll hold us for a while, I hope!

Pandemic Journal, Day 549

Both Diane and I decided we wanted to order new iPhones this year; we each completed the pre-order process on Wednesday (I’m getting the Pro and she’s getting the mini) but we couldn’t actually order until the ordering window opened at 5am Pacific this morning. There was no way we were going to set an alarm for such a ridiculously early hour for a mere phone – so we didn’t.

I woke up, unprompted, at 5:10 and went into the bathroom…and as long as I was up, I took my phone with me and completed the order.

Diane finished her order when she woke up at the usual time, and we both have September 24 delivery dates.

As of an hour ago, the delivery date for a Pro configured like mine is now mid-October; the delivery date for a mini configured like Diane’s is still September 24th. I guess it’s good I was the one who woke up early!

We saw Delicata squash in the store for the first time this season, so we picked one up and made Delicata, Radicchio, and Black Rice Salad for dinner. It’s a great Shabbat dinner meal because you can cook the whole thing early and just take it out of the refrigerator when it’s time to eat.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 548

Today was Yom Kippur, so we fasted and spent most of the day watching Shir Hadash’s live-streamed services.

The fasting went as well as we could hope; the live-streaming didn’t. I don’t know where the problem was, but there was a lot of buffering, and we even got thrown out of the stream several times. And at times, we were in a strange anomalous state – the browser claimed we were getting a delayed feed but if I clicked “back to live”, we traveled backward in time and saw the same bit of the service again!

Despite the technological glitches, the service got me to think about the year past and what I can do to be a better person this year, so I think it was a success.

Pandemic Journal, Day 546

I voted in a very important election today. Not the California Governor Recall – I’d voted “NO!” on that almost a month ago (and I’m happy to see that all the networks and the AP have declared that the recall failed).

Today, I voted in the election for the Very Best Wrong Answer for Learned League season 90. The winner won’t be announced until Sunday, but the top 15 will be posted on the League’s Twitter and Facebook pages between now and then. My top vote went to this one:

While a certain book and staple of college writing courses is commonly known by the names of its coauthors (the first of whom originally published the 43-page book in 1918 and the second of whom enlarged it in 1959), it is also well-known by its official title, which is what?

50 Shades of Grammar

But it wasn’t all fun and games today – Apple announced products which will probably cost me money, and the author of osxphotos pushed a fix for the Unicode filename problem I ran into a few days ago. I knew Unicode was complicated, but I didn’t realize it was as complicated as it is – in particular, that accented characters have “composed” and “decomposed” forms and that it matters which one you happen to run into. What you see on the screen is just the tip of the iceberg!

Pandemic Journal, Day 545

Diane is getting ready to start working on a photo book for our Iceland trip, so I put photos from the first half of the trip into her Forever account so she can use them. I had had a good process for doing that, but I broke it somehow, so I had to figure out what was failing (the environment wasn’t being set up properly when Lightroom runs my export script; I’m not sure why, but I fixed the script to do the setup itself).

Beyond that, I spent most of the day working on the Tripit integration code I talked about yesterday and will probably talk about again tomorrow. I’m cleaning up a lot of the mess I made the first time I wrote the code – it helps that I found an XML Schema Description of the data they send, so I can easily understand what information they provide instead of trying to reverse-engineer a JSON file.

Right now, the code still has lots of issues; it reminds me of the Hverir Geothermal Area in Iceland – smelly, with lots of danger lurking.

And speaking of danger lurking, I’m going to update all of my Apple devices tonight to pick up the fix that Apple released to patch the zero-click exploits that were recently discovered. sigh

Pandemic Journal, Day 544

A mere 116 days ago, I mentioned that I was going to improve the program I wrote to update our Google calendars using information from TripIt – in particular, I wanted it to tell me what got updated when a trip’s information changed.

I finally got around to working on the program, and I was right – there was a database in my future. A sqlite3 database, not anything heavyweight, but still, it’s a database.

I didn’t forsee the need to create Python classes with multiple inheritance (mix-ins), but it seems to be the easiest way to do what I want with the least amount of code.

And that was what I spent my time on today. I’m not finished, but I’m starting to see results.

Pandemic Journal, Day 543

This morning, we attended Shabbat Shuvah services at Almaden Lake Park in San Jose. The park does not allow the use of amplified sound; fortunately, the Cantor can sing loudly!

The service was slightly different than our usual Shabbat Shuvah service because, of course, today is the 20th anniversary of the attack on America and the destruction of the World Trade Center. I was surprised that there were at least two people at the service who had lost someone in the attacks.

It was good to be outside with friends today.

Pandemic Journal, Day 542

The Shir Hadash Men’s Club is slowly resuming activities – they’ve been having regular walks and hikes for a while, but the timing isn’t good for me to make them. Today, though, there was an activity I was willing to adjust my schedule to attend – a 2pm wine tasting at Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards in Saratoga, about 20 minutes from our house.

I had a doctor’s appointment that was supposed to end at noon, two hours before the tasting – but he ran late (as always) and I didn’t get home until nearly 2. But it was OK – we arrived at the winery just as the first glasses were being poured (and we weren’t even the last to arrive).

We tasted their whites and several of their reds. The whites were OK, but the reds were much better; we bought a 2017 Cab Franc and a 2018 Pinot Noir. The tasting included a 2005 and a 1999 Cab Franc, both of which were very very good. I don’t think we’ve got the patience to let what I bought today age that long, but I’ve entered the Cab Franc into the database with a 2024 ready-to-drink date and put it into an inconvenient part of the wine closet so I don’t accidentally use it too soon.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 541

Another day with very little to write about, but I’m not ready to break my streak, so I shall persevere.

This morning was a Silver Tongued Cats Toastmasters meeting – it included the club Table Topics contest leading up to the Speaker Showcase at the District 101 Fall Fusion event on October 30. I’d already qualified for the next round through my other club, Silicon Valley Storytellers, so I didn’t need to win here, but since I’d already signed up, I spoke anyway – practice never hurts!

Beyond that, it was a typical Thursday – a trip to the chiropractor, a trip to the grocery store, and a Trivial Zoom call this evening, followed by a walk so I could close my rings and Diane could make her Fitbit happy.

Pandemic Journal, Day 540

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Seabourn discussion group on Cruise Critic because I was curious about what might happen to the Antarctica cruise we cancelled last month. I can stop watching it now, because this morning, Seabourn cancelled their Antarctica/South America season for this year, including the trip we would have taken.

We had lunch this afternoon with one of my high school classmates – we hadn’t seen each other since graduation, so we had a bit of catching up to do. :-) She’s planning to be at Reunion next month (as are we).

And Diane and I listened to an interesting episode of Slate’s “Working” podcast – an interview with the founder and Commissioner of Learned League, Thorsten A. Integrity himself (though he used his secret identity of “Shane Bushfield” during the interview). If you’re interested in trivia, it’s worth a listen.

Pandemic Journal, Day 539

We took a walk before Rosh Hashanah services, then had a quiet afternoon and evening. The most exciting thing we did was watch the most recent episode of Only Murders in the Building.

I could use more quiet days like this.

Pandemic Journal, Day 538

Rosh Hashanah started tonight – happy 5782! Our friends hosted pre-service dinner (yummy!) this evening – they timed it so that we’d be able to get home in time for the start of the service.

We had to watch from home, unfortunately, but unlike last year, it was live, with the clergy and choir in the Sanctuary (and they are all vaccinated, masked, and tested negative for Covid-19 twice in the last 24 hours). Having people in the Sanctuary made a big difference in the way the service felt to me compared to last year – it was much more real.

Shana Tova – may we all be inscribed for a good year.

Pandemic Journal, Day 537

I was right yesterday – I was ready for bed before Delta answered the phone or the web chat. I tried again this morning, and this time Delta offered to call me back instead of making me wait; they said it would be “less than 38 minutes”.

It was closer to 48 minutes, but once they called I was connected to an agent almost immediately. She was able to change our flight home from Richmond to the one I wanted (a one-stop into SFO which will get us home nearly three hours before the two-stop routing we’d been automatically changed to would have). No long explanations or negotiations needed, either, even though I was changing the destination airport – she had to put me on hold for a couple of minutes to “manually make the change” and that was it.

Every time I’ve talked with Delta, the agent has been superb, making the necessary changes with a minimum of fuss, and I’ve given them praise on the after-call survey. If only the process of GETTING to an agent were smooth….

We took a sunset walk this evening. I’m not sure if the colors are due to the fires or something else (the AQI is 61 at the moment, not too bad), but it was a nice time to be out walking.

Pandemic Journal, Day 536

It’s been a quiet day – I continued to cull photos from August 5th (I’ve gotten rid of 140 of 202 so far, and I’ll probably dump another ten to twenty photos on the next pass). When we sailed out of Heimaey harbor, I noticed an interesting metal sculpture and wondered what it was – it turns out to be a navigation light!

I also chatted with a couple of my classmates about our upcoming reunion, which reminded me to check my flights – and sure enough, Delta had changed our flight home again, adding another stop. I can’t change the flight online for some reason, so I’m currently waiting for agents on the phone and on their web chat to see if they can get me on a better flight. The expected wait on the phone is “under 2 hours” and the web chat offers no clue – I think I’ll be trying again tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 535

When we canceled our Antarctica cruise, I knew it’d take a couple of weeks for the refund to show up on our credit card. Usually, refunds are for small amounts, so it’s not worth trying to get the money back from Chase – it’ll get spent again quickly enough. But the refund from this trip was a different story – it’s probably more than I’ll put on that card for the rest of the year, so I wanted it back in my bank account, and I didn’t want to wait for a couple of months if I could avoid it.

I called Chase late on Tuesday afternoon to ask how long it would take for the balance to be refunded. The agent said she’d put in the request for a refund immediately (which surprised me – the billing cycle hadn’t even ended yet) and that I should expect an email from Chase Payments offering me the chance to have the refund direct-deposited. That email came yesterday afternoon; this morning, the money was in my credit union account.

I am impressed. I complain when companies do a bad job; this time, I’m happy to be able to praise Chase and Provident Credit Union for exceeding my expectations.

We started watching Only Murders in the Building and are really enjoying it. We might even be caught up before next week’s episode drops!

I started working on my photos from August 5th – they include far too many photos of whales (not usually a problem for me). Tonight, though, I’m including my only photo of Surtsey; it’s a tourist-free island!

Pandemic Journal, Day 534

The theme of our Toastmasters meeting this morning was “Mistakes”. Famous quotes about mistakes were bandied about during the meeting – at the end, our Toastmaster, Gordon, quoted Maxwell Maltz (author of Psycho-Cybernetics), who wrote “You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.” Gordon asked us to consider the opposite argument: “You don’t make mistakes, mistakes make you.” As someone who’s done improv, I like that formulation better – it’s “yes, and” all the way!

I rectified a long-standing mistake today – back in 2006, I got a Hepatitis A shot, but I never got the second one. And I didn’t give it another thought until we were planning for our Africa trip that was supposed to happen this month. Diane got her first shot in June; I waited until I could find out if I’d actually gotten two shots back in 2006. I eventually got my official immunization record from the California Department of Public Health which only showed one shot, so today, we went to Costco so I could get my second shot.

The process was a lot faster for me than it was for Diane – I was finished in less than half-an-hour from entering the store. But that still gave us 20 minutes to wander around while they prepared the shot, which was long enough to go down aisles we usually avoid.

When I was finished at the pharmacy, we grabbed a cart and picked up the half-dozen items we’d planned to buy – as well as the kitchen rugs we’d discovered in our explorations. Having time to kill at Costco is a mistake!

Pandemic Journal, Day 533

I visited my allergist today so he could walk me through the “before” and “after” CT scans of my nose and sinuses. He was happy with the improvements, but there is still “mild thickening” of the mucus inside, so I’m going to start dust mite immunotherapy. He suspects I’ll need additional treatment in a few months, but time will tell.

I worked on the Iceland photos some more, finishing up Seyðisfjörður and Jökulsárlón before it was time to make dinner.

We started watching Schmigadoon! this evening – it’s a lot more fun than watching the news would have been.