Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-One

The day started with our normal Shabbat morning rhythm – a walk, followed by Torah Study. There was no live Shir Shabbat, but we watched the taped mini-service (I’m sure there was no actual “tape” involved, but terminology persists) right after Torah Study, and then had lunch.

Diane spent a couple of hours in a Forever seminar, learning about its editing tools and about photo workflows – while she was doing that, I was reading the current issue of The Economist (I seem to be perpetually behind in my reading, but I’ve finished this week’s issue!). And then I spent an hour or so doing some photo culling and editing – I finished 2001 (and I threw out more than half the photos I’d taken on some days, so I feel like I accomplished something).

After dinner, we watched the Mount St. Helens Institute’s livestream of Mount St. Helens Goes BOOM! with Bill Nye, the Volcano Guy (if you follow the link, skip ahead 1 hour, 20 minutes); it was interesting and amusing, but I was hoping for video of the eruption, not just video of the mountain as it is today.

We visited the mountain in May, 2017 – it was beautiful and sobering.

During the livestream (at 2:02), the host asked Bill Nye why his hair was relatively well-coiffed, and he said he’d gotten a Wahl Peanut trimmer and followed Internet videos on how to use it – and it worked. I checked Amazon and eBay and found some sellers, but then I decided to look at the actual manufacturer’s site and it’s one of the few items they say is “in stock”, so I ordered one. I hope it arrives before the webcam I ordered on Easter (at least this one is a domestic order, unlike the webcam, which is supposed to be coming from China).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty

Only 23 days until I tie my record for consecutive blog entries!

We made another recipe from last Sunday’s NYT “At Home” section – this time, it was Spiced Chickpea Salad with Tahini and Pita Chips. I’d read over the recipe several times, but somehow didn’t actually realize that it required pita chips, so we had to make an emergency run to get them this afternoon.

I didn’t want to go to the supermarket – actually, I didn’t want to go into any store at all. So I placed a pickup order for pita chips at BevMo. As long as I was ordering from them, I added a bottle of Wild Turkey (we have a spare lime and we may well want a Kentucky Mule), a bottle of Tito’s Vodka (in case we want a Moscow Mule instead), and a couple of bottles of white wine (we’re using more white wine than usual, and the weather hasn’t gotten warm yet). Tony & Alba’s Pizza is right next to BevMo, so we also got a take-and-bake pizza as a backup in case the recipe didn’t work out.

Once we had all the ingredients in hand, the actual cooking went pretty smoothly and we both liked the results; next time, I’ll use a little less olive oil (it’s a good thing I bought a 1.4 liter bottle on Tuesday) and we’ll make more greens (and maybe I’ll be slightly less generous with the pita chips).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Nine

Once more, the day was dominated by Toastmasters (at least for me). I had two meetings, one of my home club and one of the club I’m mentoring, and ended up being a speech evaluator at both (and winning “Best Evaluator” at both, too!). And then I worked on other Toastmasters projects for much of the afternoon.

Beyond that, we mostly walked around the neighborhood.

And I finally got back to working on photo culling and editing – I’m in August, 2001, when we went on a two-week trip to British Columbia and Washington with Diane’s brother and his wife. So far, I’ve been able to figure out where almost all of them were taken, at least to the town level – it helps to tell the story.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Eight

It was a pretty quiet day; there were a lot of people out when we took our walks – it’s a good thing there isn’t much traffic, because we had to go into the street several times to maintain social distance.

I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist, which we did online. I still had to wait for her, but I was able to put the time to constructive use by packing up electronics to send to Apple to recycle – much better than waiting in an exam room.

We had Kentucky Mules after dinner – now we’re out of bourbon! We still have limes and ginger beer, so we’ll have to replenish the bourbon supply; fortunately, BevMo offers contactless pickup, so I don’t think going there counts as a shopping trip (but I will have my mask with me).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Seven

It’s Tuesday, so we did our weekly shopping. I’m not sure that hitting four stores is quite in keeping with the advice to shop less, but at least we were able to stay out of Whole Foods for another week (we hit Safeway, CVS, Lunardi’s, and Trader Joe’s – all were pretty uncrowded and sane). We actually made two trips to CVS – after I’d checked out, I realized that the 70% alcohol wipes I saw on the counter were for sale (not just for in-store use) and went back to get a box of them; things are looking up!

Dinner was an experiment – we tried making Crispy Frico Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Thyme from the New York Times “At Home” section. I think my stove interpreted “medium-high” more aggressively than the author intended – the cheese was blackened and so were the mushrooms. Using real grated Parmesan cheese instead of an old container of Kraft grated parmesan-romano blend might have helped, too – but the results were edible and the cleanup wasn’t too horrible.

Every day is a learning experience.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Six

The numbers were good this morning: I’d lost the four pounds I’d gained on Cinco de Mayo, and Apple had actually refunded the trade-in value of my old laptop.

I spent most of the day doing Toastmasters work – I reimplemented the Silicon Valley Storytellers agenda template as a native Google Document to make it easier to edit and modify. The old template had started life in Microsoft Word, then been imported into Docs and not everything transferred perfectly (and it may have made other round trips in the intervening few years).

After I got the agenda updated, I used it to run tonight’s Storytellers meeting as Toastmaster; Zoom behaved and there were only a few small glitches. We even ended almost on time!

We also made a run to Summerwinds Nursery – we only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes, and we found most of what we wanted to plant (no eggplant or basil, but they’re supposed to be getting more on Wednesday). We planted peppers and cucumbers in the EarthBox, and bok choi and chard in the raised beds. There’s still room in the raised beds, too.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 55

Happy Mother’s Day!

As usual, we went to the Farmers’ Market for fish and strawberries. We got there early enough to have good selection and fairly short lines, and discovered that our fish vendor (Santa Cruz Seafood) takes pre-orders – we’ll try that next week.

Diane coordinates the Shir Hadash Book Club, which met today (via Zoom, of course). I don’t usually participate, but this time I decided to read the book (Goldie Goldbloom’s On Division) instead of starting this week’s Economist; I thought it would be lighter reading. I’m not sure; it was the story of Surie, a fifty-seven year old grandmother in an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn who becomes pregnant. For the first third of the book, her interior monologue reminded me of that of Thomas Covenant in Lord Foul’s Bane (and far too many sequels) – he kept calling himself “unclean” (he’s a leper); she keeps telling herself how her being pregnant would affect and appall her family and make her children unmarriageable. Eventually, she starts doing and thinking more interesting things, but she is not one of my favorite characters of all time. I did learn a lot about the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn, so reading the book wasn’t a waste of time, but I don’t feel a need to dive back into that world any time soon.

I’m preparing some old equipment to send to Apple for recycling. When I upgraded my Mac mini to an SSD, I kept the old 1TB hard disk, thinking I’d use it for backup or file transfer or something like that – but since then, I’ve bought several new, larger disks, so it was clearly unnecessary. I didn’t want to send it back with data on it, but I seem to have gotten rid of all of my USB disk enclosures, so I couldn’t reformat it. Instead, I disassembled it and took out the platters – I was surprised to discover that it only took two 2.5-inch platters to hold a terabyte! They are now safely gone; I reassembled the drive and will send it in so Apple can recover any precious metals on the circuit boards.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 54

One day may be much like the last, but Shabbat still has a different feel to it. There’s Torah Study (this year, we’re looking at the weekly portion with an emphasis on Mordecai Kaplan’s writings and diary), followed by a service. Early in the lockdown, the service was pre-taped, but now most of them are live, as was today’s – it’s much better to be together at the same time, even if we can’t be in the same place. I’ll be leading services and Diane will be chanting Torah in two weeks; as of now, we don’t have a lay Cantor, but I hope someone will volunteer between now and then.

The rest of the day was quiet; we had a Zoom call with friends we haven’t seen in a few months and took a couple of walks. We also watched the National Theatre’s production of Treasure Island – it was OK, but not compelling. The NT videos seem to be refreshing at about 10 frames/second, which gives them a very strange and jerky look, which doesn’t help.

And Apple sent me an email telling me my trade-in was approved and to expect a credit to my card within 5 business days – I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the money, but things look very hopeful!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Three

I shipped my old MacBook Pro as a trade-in to Apple (actually, an Apple partner) on Day Thirty; they received it on Day Thirty-Six. I expected to hear from them within a few days, but nothing happened, so I got in touch with Apple who told me to hang on a few more days. Nothing happened, so I tried again on Day Fifty-One (Wednesday). The agent tried to figure out what was going on and finally said he’d have to escalate to the trade-in team.

The next evening (Day Fifty-Two), I got an email from the trade-in team telling me to call the actual processor, Phobio. So I did; the recording that answered asked me to press “1” if I was calling about a trade-in initiated during the purchase of a new machine – I pressed “1” and was immediately greeted by “Welcome to Apple Support”. I thought the problem might be that I was calling too late, so I decided to try this morning – same result. My Apple agent this time was even MORE helpful – she tried to call Phobio using some secret method, but, after 45 minutes listening to a dead line, she gave up and escalated me to the trade-in team, having annotated my record even more.

An hour later, I got THE EXACT SAME EMAIL from the trade-in team telling me to contact Phobio. I was not happy. I thought about writing an email to Tim Cook and seeing if that would work, but then I thought about going public and using Twitter. I wrote a polite tweet to @AppleSupport and @PhobioSupport and got a reply from Phobio a few minutes later, asking me to DM them my order number.

Minutes later, I got a DM telling me that they’d submitted the full estimated amount of the trade-in to be posted to my credit card within two weeks. We’ll see.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Fifty-Two

Today, I learned the difference between “Pin Video” and “Spotlight Video” on Zoom. I was giving a speech at my Toastmasters club and wanted to show slides to accompany it. No problem – I shared the PowerPoint window so everyone could see it. I also had to be sure I could see the timer so I’d know when I was getting near the end of my allotted time, so I found him, selected “Spotlight Video” and started talking.

7 minutes later, I was finished; I unshared the screen and deselected “Spotlight Video” so I could see the speakers during the rest of the meeting.

When it came time for my evaluation, I was shocked to hear that my slides never advanced (so my title slide was on screen the whole time) and that the timer was the center of attention for EVERYONE!

It turns out that “Spotlight Video” is an action that only the host or owner of a Zoom meeting can use – it forces that person’s video to be nearly-full-screen for EVERYONE. What I wanted was “Pin Video”, which any attendee can use to make someone nearly-full-screen on their own screen, without affecting anyone else.

The title of my speech? “From Party Lines to Zoom: A brief history of teleconferencing”. At least I didn’t bill it as a “how to do it” talk!