Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 115

It was about 7:10am. I was getting ready for my weekly Silver Tongued Cats meeting – I was the second speaker and was going to talk about my webcam saga, complete with a PowerPoint presentation. Suddenly, the lights flickered and went out!

Our router is on a UPS and most of our computers are laptops, so we didn’t lose connectivity right away, and I reported the problem to PG&E (more than 3000 customers were affected). Then I logged into the Zoom session for the meeting and arranged to trade places with the first speaker.

My speech came off without incident – having only one screen might have actually been helpful, since I was forced to look at the screen with the PowerPoint and therefore was looking directly at the camera. And I stayed connected until just after I received my evaluation – but a few seconds into the second evaluation, my UPS gave up the ghost and I dropped off until I could get back in with my phone. Our power came back just before 9; some people didn’t get their power restored until almost 11.

I decided to ride my lucky streak and finally got around to calling British Airways about the London-Barcelona flight they’d cancelled. It was part of a trip in August which we’d decided not to take, but I hoped that having BA cancel part of the trip would give us a chance at a refund. Originally, I thought I’d have to call BA in London, but digging further into their website led me to believe that I could call the US toll-free number instead. I expected to be on hold forever, or possibly to have to call back during the UK business day – but a nice agent in New Delhi picked up the call on the first ring, and 5 minutes later, she’d cancelled the whole trip and processed a refund. It’ll take 4-6 weeks to show up on my card, but it’s a lot better than having a voucher with a time limit (which will probably be the best I can do for my Iberia and Vueling flights – but I’m going to wait and see if either of them get cancelled).

We tried two new-to-us recipes today: Colu Henry’s Lemony Pasta with Zucchini and Fresh Herbs from the New York Times and Stacie Dong and Simran Sing’s Asian Fish Parcels from the Mercury News. Both are worth making again (I want to get rice wine vinegar before I make the fish again; I had to substitute apple cider vinegar this time – I’m not sure I’d notice the difference but I try to be true to the recipe).

Dinner (Asian Fish Parcels) on the deck

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 114

1-1-3 was Information. 1-1-4 was Repair Service, so it’s appropriate that I spent this morning at the dentist’s office having some Repair Service: two fillings and a crown.

There had been some changes at the dentist since the last time I needed anything more than a cleaning – instead of taking wax impressions of the spot for the crown, they used a 3D camera/scanner to get the measurements and dispatched the order to the lab as I watched.

And of course there were new COVID-19 precautions – the dentist and assistant wore face shields and masks, and they put some sort of airway protection/suction device in my mouth covering everything but the teeth they were working on.

Two hours later, I left with fillings, a temporary crown, a sore mouth, and a lighter wallet. I’m scheduled to return in two weeks for the permanent crown. It’s supposed to be a shorter appointment. I hope they’re right.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 113

When I was a kid back in Richmond, “113” was the phone number for “Information” (not “Directory Assistance”, and it was free). Eventually, it was replaced by 411 and 555-1212 and stopped being free.

In the 1970s, I started going to SF conventions and reading fanzines, and I soon learned that “all knowledge is contained in fanzines” – because fans were interested in many things, not just SF, and wrote profusely. And in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, all knowledge was contained in blogs for the same reason.

Today, of course, we have DuckDuckGo and Bing and Google and the entire Internet is filled with information, most of it free and some of it accurate. But sometimes searches still lead to blogs. Today, I got my monthly Google Search report for this blog and I was amused to see the pages that were found most often in June.

The page that got found the most was about building Python3.7 to use a specific version of encryption instead of the one the system gives you. It’s probably still accurate and useful, though at this point, I’d suggest building Python 3.8.

The other two top pages were a lot older and probably less useful – one, from 2006, documented my search for a refill for a giveaway pen (“The Refill Detective at Work”) and the other, from 2004, documented my frustration with Maytag (“Bite the Wax Motor”).

And the page that got the most growth in hits since last month is probably completely useless unless you’re researching the way PG&E handled rolling blackouts in 2001 (“Outage Block 50”) – it got 9 hits versus 2 in May.

There’s no limit to what people want to know.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 112

It was back to the JCC for outdoor personal training this morning – they’ve set up a mini-TRX and we used that for the first time in more than 112 days; I expect to feel it tomorrow.

After that, we made a bonus shopping trip to Safeway to refresh our white wine supply – and as long as we were there, we also picked up some milk and salad dressing and rice. And tequila. And blue curaçao. And Lindy’s Italian ice (which is no threat to Ralph’s, or even Rita’s). And we even found Clorox wipes and our preferred brand of toilet paper! Going early seems to be a win.

I ordered yet another webcam (Amcrest AWC2198) on Friday so we wouldn’t have to move the one we had between the family room and the office several times a week; it arrived today and seems to work fine – we’ll use it on our trivia team call tomorrow and see if anyone notices the difference. I also got an Echo Show for the kitchen to make it easier to have multiple timers running at once while we’re cooking – of course, dinner tonight didn’t need any timers other than the shutoff timer on the convection oven, but I’m sure it’ll be useful soon.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 111

The way we spend Sunday hasn’t changed much with the pandemic – we go to the Farmers’ Market and take a long walk in the morning, and spend most of the rest of the day at home. I read the Mercury News and as much of the Sunday New York Times as I can manage. If we bought fish at the Farmers’ Market, we make it (usually on the Traeger). We take another walk in the evening. And we often do something cultural in the afternoon.

Today was a typical Sunday – we had salmon and fresh corn from the Farmers’ Market for lunch, and I’m working on the Sunday Review section of the Times.

Our culture for the day came from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, we would have spent a week late last month, and we would have seen eight plays during that time. One of them would have been the world premiere of The Copper Children which tells the true story of an orphan train to Arizona that ends in a town-wide custody battle. Luckily, OSF managed to record a performance of the play before their season was abruptly ended, and they’re making it available as a 48-hour rental until July 15 for $15. It was thought-provoking, far too relevant to today, and I recommend it.

OSF will be offering something lighter next – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from July 9-22, and I’m sure we’ll watch it. They haven’t announced plans for the rest of the summer; I hope they’ll show all of the plays that opened before they got shutdown.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 110

This afternoon, we visited friends for a physically-distanced Fourth of July (four couples, four pairs of chairs with about 8-10 feet between the closest chairs) BBQ (skewers, so no one had to touch the food after it was cooked). We wore masks much of the time, too.

It was really nice to see friends in person instead of in Zoom squares, but it was unnerving, especially at first – eight people in one (large) front yard! And to think that last year on the Fourth, we were in the same place with the same friends – and many more – and we weren’t worried about being too close, or touching the wrong thing, or….

The new normal may be essential, but it isn’t very normal.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 109

As we’ve added more days to our timeline (how’s that for not saying “gotten older”?), Diane and I have both had to add some prescription medicines to our daily diet. Fortunately, most of them haven’t had significant side effects.

Diane had to renew one of those medicines, dicyclomine, today. It’s a generic; in the past, it’s been very inexpensive (in fact, there was no co-pay when she got her last batch in November). But when she went to pick up her order today, the price was well north of $250 for a 90-day supply!

Luckily, we’d just read an article about using discount cards to lower the price of prescriptions. I did a quick web search and found that if I used the free Singlecare card, the price dropped to $20 (still not free, but reasonable ); a few minutes later, we walked out of the store with the pills and most of our money.

The receipt that came with the pills showed a list price of $357.99. I wonder who pays full list?

The medical payment system in this country is completely insane.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 108

It’s been all-Toastmasters all-the-time here today.

I was Toastmaster this morning, and the meeting seemed to run fairly smoothly (the new agenda helped, I think).

After that, I worked on the spreadsheet with our VP Education and next week’s Toastmaster so that it’ll be easier for someone other than me to use – that required a bit of rework and refactoring, but it should be worth it.

Then I got back to District webmaster tasks; I’ve pretty much completed the yearly rollover. There’s still some minor cleanup to be done as I get more information, but the heavy lifting is complete.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 107

It was the first day of the Toastmasters year, so I had a lot to do for the District 101 website.

Naturally, I spent the morning and much of the afternoon getting ready for my Toastmasters club meeting tomorrow morning because I forgot to exclude myself from being the Toastmaster of the Day when the schedule was being built and I got chosen.

And because I’m not always good with priorities, I decided it was the perfect time to update the spreadsheet we use to manage meetings to make it reflect the end of the legacy educational program and the move to Zoom, which meant creating feedback forms for all the speakers and ensuring they can read the responses.

Oh, and I also thought I should automate building the list of members without assigned roles for the meeting to make the Table Topics Master’s life easier – and that meant that I had to learn how to write a GoogleScript (JavaScript) formula to reformat names coming from Toastmasters International to get rid of cruft like achievement levels and middle initials.

And I didn’t remember that July 1st was going to be a busy day when my dentist offered it as a rescheduled date for my long-delayed cleaning, so I had to go there after lunch; it took longer than it would have under pre-pandemic circumstances, but not much longer, and I was happy with their COVID-19 precautions.

However, they found two cavities, one of which is partially under a bridge, so now I have two more trips to their office happening this month. And a cleaning planned for October.

After dinner, though, I finally got to the work for District 101 – most of it, anyway. There are some parts of the site that will have to wait for tomorrow – after my club meeting.

Retirement is so restful!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 106

Welcome to week 16!

We have friends who just drove from San Jose to Boston and then to Philadelphia – and in a day or two, they’re taking their son with them to Indiana where they have family. They said the trip was wonderful.

We’re still staying at home (and probably will be here the rest of the year), but we did book some travel today…for 2022, when we hope to go on a cruise with friends around New Zealand and thence to Australia. It will be lovely if it happens!

Other than that, I’ve been spending time in Windows Hell – Diane’s Windows machine suddenly won’t show some critical dialog boxes (most importantly, 1Password’s login dialog). I’ve tried to delete and restore the display driver with no success – deleting it crashes partway through, making me think something is corrupted. Time for research….