Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Eighty-One

(That would be nine weeks if weeks had nine days each!)

It was laundry day today. I happened to be the one who took it out of the dryer and started putting it away. When that happens, I take care of all of my clothing and some of Diane’s since I know where it goes, but there’s some of Diane’s clothing that I don’t quite understand. Sometimes I leave it in the basket for her; other times, I fold it and leave it on the bed for her – but neither of those choices has made her happy.

Today, I decided to try something new – I separated the tops and the pants and put them flat on the bed. A little later, she told me “thank you for laying out the clothes so neatly and making it easy for me.”

It only took me 43 years to get it right! Sometimes, less is more.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Eighty

When Diane and I first started working at IBM Boca Raton, Thursdays were special days. The cafeteria offered a “gourmet” meal and really good chocolate chip cookies every Thursday, and that was also the day when promotions and pay increases happened (not as often as the cookies, unfortunately). Even after IBM started telling us about raises on other days of the week, Diane and I would let the other know of a raise or promotion by saying “It’s Thursday”.

Today, I can say “It’s Thursday” as a Toastmaster. I’d finished all but one requirement for my second Distinguished Toastmaster award more than a year ago – the only thing left to do was coach, found, or mentor a club before June 30, 2020, when the old educational program ended. I didn’t think it would happen – I was traveling too much to commit to attending most meetings of a new club. But last October, I was asked if I could mentor a new club at Citrix in Santa Clara – the timing of the meetings worked for me and the club was willing to accept my schedule, so I was appointed (in theory, the club had been operational too long to have a formal mentor, but an exception was made).

I attended as many meetings as I could; then COVID-19 came, and my travel schedule disappeared, so I’ve been to every meeting since mid-February. I’ve even attended some officer meetings, which wouldn’t have happened if I would have had to drive up to Santa Clara. And yesterday, the club submitted the paperwork to formally grant me credit for my mentorship. Today, the Vice President Education of Silicon Valley Storytellers submitted the application to make me a DTM again, and the system worked – I was notified of the award this evening.

I’m still working with the club at Citrix and expect to continue for a while longer. I would think about joining officially, but the club is limited to Citrix employees – and I definitely don’t want to go work at Citrix (or anywhere else).

Now, if I could find some good chocolate chip cookies….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Nine

The heat returned today; we still managed to get our quota of steps and calories burned in, but it would have been nice to be able to do some of the walking in an air-conditioned mall!

Our travel agent for Iceland sent a note saying they’d cancelled our flights and would be refunding the fare to the credit card – I had expected to wind up with flight credit on Icelandic, so I was pleased. And that reminded me to check with American – they had rescheduled our flight home from Richmond by several hours, which should qualify us for a refund on that leg. I submitted the request and I’ll see what happens in a few days.

I finished pruning and editing our photos from 2002 – I went from 664 photos to 237, all geotagged and titled. A few of the photos started their lives as film – when I had them developed, I also had Kodak make digital copies, which I’m using. Some day, it would be nice to look at the actual film photos we’ve accumulated over the years, pick out the good ones, and get them digitized but it’s going to be a while!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Eight

I am privileged to be able to shelter-in-place comfortably.

I am privileged to live in an area which has not been significantly affected by protests, riots, or police oppression and brutality.

I am privileged to be able to walk down the street without worrying about drawing undue attention to myself because of my skin color or accent.

I am privileged not to have ever had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, whether I could afford medical care, or whether I was in danger of losing my home.

Far too many people can’t make all of these statements – or any of them – in the richest country that the world has ever seen.

No one should be without medical care. No one should have to worry about their next meal. No one should have to live on the streets. No one should have to worry about being presumed guilty – or assaulted or murdered – because of their skin color or accent.

I cannot solve these problems, but neither can I desist from the work of solving them. I can be an ally. I can put money where my mouth is. I can vote.

Black lives matter because black lives are human lives. Black lives matter because black lives are under attack. Black lives matter because all lives matter.

(From Chainsawsuit by Kris Straub)

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Seven

I haven’t been listening to SiriusXM much of late – I mostly listened in the car or the gym if I was caught up on podcasts, and none of those conditions have applied for at least eleven weeks. This morning, I got a note that they’d be renewing my subscription automatically in ten days at full price (nearly $30/month), so I sprang into action.

My first step was to call them – naturally, they claimed “longer than usual wait times” but their automated system offered me a better deal than I’d even gotten from them when I’d negotiated in past years – $10/month for “All Access”. That was more than I wanted to pay, so I told the system “No”, and it instantly signed me up for the offer.

I then tried their chat and was immediately connected to an agent – a couple of minutes later, I was signed up for a year of their “Select” package for $5/month, which I was willing to pay (I hope to be back in the car and the gym sometime in the next 12 months!). I lose Howard Stern and some sports channels, but I never listened to any of those channels anyway.

JetBlue changed our flight from Boston to Richmond by seven hours, which made us eligible to get a refund instead of just a flight credit. I tried cancelling online, but the website only offered credit, so I had to call them. Fifty-five minutes later (fifty-two of which were spent listening to the hold music – to JetBlue’s credit, it was a decent set of songs), the reservation was cancelled and the money should be on my card in 7-10 business days.

And all of that helped me avoid obsessing about the news. For a little bit.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Six

I spent much of the day watching the second day of the District 101 Toastmasters Conference. Two members of my home club, Silver Tongued Cats, earned special recognition – Gordon Mattingly placed third in the International Speech Contest and Sherman Zell was recognized for earning his Distinguished Toastmaster award (after not quite 37 years in Toastmasters).

We took our evening walk a bit early tonight to be sure we’d be home before the citywide curfew went into effect in San Jose; on the way home, we passed by neighbors who have had a Little Free Library for a couple of years. They’ve just branched out and added a Little Free Nursery – we took home a seedling of Siam Queen Basil and planted it.

On a day like today, it’s good to see people taking concrete action to make things better.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Five

It’s been a busy day. Yesterday, our neighbor dropped off some basil and kale for us to plant in our raised beds. So Diane rose early this morning to work on the garden – she pruned the tomatoes we’d planted six weeks ago, which had grown far more than I expected (and which already have fruit, though it’s still weeks from being ready) and did other cleanup work so that we’d have a place for the new plants. Then she went to Shabbat Morning services.

In the meantime, I went to the annual Toastmasters District 101 Conference. Even before the lockdown, they’d lost their original venue and had had to find a replacement – and then they had to move it onto Zoom. Patricia Fripp was the keynote speaker (and had good advice and suggestions, as always); after that, we held the Tall Tales Contest. By then, services were finished, so we had lunch and then finished our planting.

This evening, we did the Daily Kos “Flip the Senate” pub quiz. Some of the teams were pre-assembled groups of friends or colleagues; ours wasn’t – we called it “Strangers on a Team”, but we did pretty well, finishing 7th out of 30 teams. It was a lot of fun – Diane and I tried to guess which questions Jeff had created (we figured out one for sure).

Tonight was also the Shir Hadash 40th Anniversary Gala – we didn’t have to dress up this year. We didn’t even have to attend at the right time because everything was recorded in advance to avoid technical issues. There are other events scheduled to celebrate the 40th anniversary – I hope some of them can take place in the real world instead of on a screen.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Four

Today was a big day – the Wahl Peanut that Bill Nye recommended arrived and Diane wielded it on me. It was her first haircut, and she did a great job! I feel like there’s a lot less weighing on my mind now.

We drove up to Menlo Park to pick up our spice order from Penzey’s. It was the farthest we’ve driven for at least seventy-four days – traffic was light, as expected, even on the way home during rush hour (the metering lights were solid green). I called the store when we got to the parking lot; they put my bag of spices outside; I picked it up. I probably didn’t even need to put on my mask, but I did.

The weather has changed radically today – on Wednesday, it got up to 100 degrees here; today, it might have hit 70, and it’s been really windy all afternoon – I had to put on a jacket for our evening walk!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Three

Tonight is Shavuot, which is considered to be the day when the Jewish people received the Torah. It is traditional to engage in group study until late at night (until dawn, if you’re able) – this year, Shir Hadash is doing it via Zoom.

We’re taking advantage of being on Zoom; after a short study session led by Rabbi Aron, we watched The Redeeming Angel, a film made by three Israeli brothers about their mother – she was a young Dutch Jew during World War II who was sheltered by a Christian family and survived. After the war, she made aliyah to Israel; in 2017, she and her sons went back to Holland to participate in the installation of Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) in front of her family’s house to commemorate their murder. And one of the brothers joined us from his home in Tel Aviv after his all-night study session.

After that, Gillian Perry, founder of the Anne Frank Trust, spoke to us from her home in London about “Anne Frank’s Life and Surprising Legacy” – her life story is familiar, but how the story has affected people all over the world was, as advertised, surprising, including, among others, Nelson Mandela and young children in Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, and Brazil.

One other Shavuot tradition is eating dairy foods. We tried another Times recipe for dinner: Blistered Broccoli Pasta with Walnuts, Pecorino, and Mint (it was East and quick and tasty – we’ll have it again), and we have some cheesecake waiting for us after the session ends.

Chag Sameach!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy-Two

Yesterday was shopping day, so today was cooking day. Lunch was an old friend (spiced chicken breast on the Traeger, this time mostly using Penzey’s “Tsardust Memories” seasoning, which is largely sweet paprika).

For dinner, we experimented with yet another recipe from the New York Times’ “At Home” section, this time Glazed Cod with Bok Choy, Ginger, and Oyster Sauce. Of course, we didn’t use oyster sauce – we substituted a hoisin/soy mixture. It came out pretty good – it probably would have been better had we had real garlic instead of chopped garlic from the jar, but I’d definitely have it again.

Our spice supplies are being depleted a lot faster than usual, so I was happy to get an email from Penzey’s offering contactless pickup of spices at their Menlo Park store; I placed an order and we plan to go there on Friday. It’ll be the longest drive we’ve taken since the lockdown, but it won’t make a significant dent in the podcast backlog.

And tonight was the final episode of Pirke Avot study at Shir Hadash; now we’ll have to find something else to let us know that it’s Wednesday.