Pandemic Journal, Day 584

It’s the off-season for Learned League, so almost every day brings four or five “One Day Specials” – single-topic trivia quizzes. I read all of them and usually submit my answers if I have good guesses (or better) for at least five questions (out of 12).

Yesterday’s One Day Specials were on Web Design, Time Inc., Math in Theatre, and David Foster Wallace. I’ve never read any David Foster Wallace, so I didn’t submit that one, but I did answer the others – and got all the questions right for Web Design.

I wasn’t alone in that – 38 players of the 1195 who submitted answers got them all right. Each correct answer earns 15 points. But there’s another factor besides correct answers on One Day Specials: moneying. You have to designate five of your answers as “money” answers – for each of those you get right, you earn a bonus, computed as the percentage of wrong answers for that question. So if 30% of the people answered wrong (or didn’t answer), you’d get 30 extra points. So you want to money the five questions that most people will miss.

I came close – I picked four of the hardest questions. But I thought that more people would know one of the frameworks powering today’s popular browsers (Blink, Gecko, or Webkit) than would know the name of the Weird Al Yankovic song which talks about HTML (White & Nerdy). I was wrong, and finished in 10th place – still by far my best finish ever in a One Day Special.

Pandemic Journal, Day 583

I’m writing this early tonight because I have a Shir Hadash Board meeting in a few minutes. Our new Transitional Rabbi will be there, and I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’d signed up to bring snacks this month; Diane graciously made pumpkin muffins for me to bring (we kept a few for ourselves, of course), and I’m also bringing grapes.

We finished watching Only Murders in the Building – I’m looking forward to the second series whenever it comes out.

Other than that, it’s been a quiet day here – there’s been a little rain on and off all day, with hopes of more in the next couple of days. No progress on the cooktop front. No photo editing. Just quiet. We didn’t even walk as much as usual, and the only wildlife I saw was birds on the high school lawn.

Two years ago was different – we were in Bulgaria, where we learned an old Bulgarian proverb: “To err is human; to blame it on someone else shows management potential”. That was an interesting trip, indeed!

Pandemic Journal, Day 582

We started seriously shopping for a replacement cooktop today – ours is probably still fixable, but if one switch failed for no particular reason, can the other three be far behind?

We’d taken a look at Best Buy and Home Depot over the weekend and were under-impressed with their selection. Two friends recommended University Electric so we went there this morning. You could look around on your own or request help – we were serious enough to ask for help, and our salesperson quickly took us to the right section of the store. Consumer Reports strongly recommends the Bosch induction cooktop, so that’s what we looked at. We got a good price quote ($50 lower than anything we found online), but availability is a question (of course). More to come….

After shopping, we took a walk on the San Tomas Aquino Creek trail, which we’d never been on before; it goes right through Santa Clara’s semiconductor heartland (we passed AMD, Nvidia, and Intel), but we did see a little wildlife while we were walking.


We had planned to go food shopping next, but we were too hungry to be trusted in a supermarket, so we went to Athena Grill for some tasty Greek food; the deep-fried pita bread was almost worth the trip by itself!

Pandemic Journal, Day 581

My main computer at home was a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2010 until last year. Actually, I had two 15-inch MacBook Pros for most of that time – but I replaced them both last year, one with an M1 Mac mini and the other with a 13-inch MacBook Air.

I’m very happy with the Mini, but the Air is a bit underpowered, and the 13-inch screen is small. So I was looking forward to today’s Apple announcements.

As rumored, they came out with a 14-inch and a 16-inch MacBook Pro; the 14-inch is the same size as the Air but has a bigger screen; the 16-inch is the same size as my old 15-inch, but with a bigger screen. And even the base model of either of them is much much faster than this Air.

But I’m not sure the new machines are really what I need. The bigger screens are very attractive – but the new computers are heavier than this one (¾ pound for the 14-inch and nearly 2 pounds for the 16-inch). And, if I’m being honest, I rarely need more computing power than this Air gives me – and if I did, an M1 Air is the same weight as this one and quite a bit less expensive than the new Pros.

I may change my mind when I actually see one of the new machines in person – but so far, my wallet is safe.

Pandemic Journal, Day 580

Local salmon season has ended, and our fish market contact didn’t have any halibut this weekend, so we decided to try something unusual for us – Pacific sea bass. I didn’t have any recipes which specifically called for sea bass; the New York Times did, of course, and we tried Bass Fillets Baked With Ginger and Sesame Oil.

We weren’t terribly impressed – it was ok, but uninspiring. If we make it again, I’ll try doubling the amount of ginger-garlic paste and sesame oil. The recipe also only calls for cooking the fish for 7 minutes; fortunately, I read the comments before cooking the fish – they were unanimous in suggesting 15 minutes, and that was barely long enough.

On a brighter note, it’s raining! Not much rain, but it’s the first we’ve seen here for months and months!

Pandemic Journal, Day 579

The truly observant among you will have noticed that tonight’s “Pandemic Journal” number is two more than yesterday’s and might be wondering what happened.

I usually write these entries in Day One on my Mac, then I copy them into WordPress and publish them on the blog. Day One doesn’t have an automatic numbering feature, so I look at the previous day’s entry and add one when I write the new one. But I made a mistake on May 12th and just copied “Day 421” instead of incrementing it.

I might never have noticed if I hadn’t opened up the journal on the iPhone – the iPhone version of Day One shows the number of consecutive days you’ve created a journal entry, and today, instead of the 578 days I expected to see, I saw this:

Now I have to decide whether or not to fix the incorrect titles. Day One doesn’t have an API that would let me access the entries directly, but I can export the journal as JSON, figure out the fine details of the format, write code to fix the problems, re-import the journal, and do the same thing on WordPress so that the blog is consistent with the journal. Or I could just fix the numbering starting with today’s entry, which I’ve already done. Decisions, decisions….

Pandemic Journal, Day 577

I made pretzels again today – it was the easiest batch yet. I didn’t make a big mess around the mixer and almost all the flour was properly incorporated into the dough, which wasn’t very sticky (I didn’t even need to put extra flour on my hands or the paper when I rolled and shaped the pretzels!). I didn’t even have to fight the usual boil-overs for the last couple of pretzels.

That last improvement may have come with a price, though – I couldn’t use the double burner that I usually use for the pretzel bath. I couldn’t turn its knob – and when I looked more closely, I saw that the knob was sitting lower than its mates. I’m just glad that the switch failed in “off” position so I can use the other elements until we can get it fixed.

I found out that one of my classmates brought home bedbugs from Reunion; she stayed at the same hotel as we did (the Westin), so I guess we got lucky in our choice of rooms. Before the pandemic, I had started to use a hair dryer to heat up the bed and make sure nothing came out before unpacking – I think I’ll get back into that habit for future travels!

Pandemic Journal, Day 576

A typical Thursday – Toastmasters in the morning, then the chiropractor, then shopping, then the allergist, and finally Trivial Zoom in the evening. After we got off Zoom, I turned on the Giants-Dodgers game (it’s the first baseball I’ve watched this season); as I write this, it’s 2-1 Dodgers in the top of the 9th.

While we were on Zoom, a friend suggested going out to see the Moon with Jupiter and Saturn, so we did; I got a better photo with my iPhone than with my camera!

Pandemic Journal, Day 575

We went to “Beyond Van Gogh” today at the San Jose Convention Center. Well, actually it was in the South Hall, which is really a big permanent tent.

Parking was shockingly easy – I found free street parking a few blocks away (something that would have been unlikely in the Before Times). There wasn’t much traffic to contend with on our walk, either.

We got to the entrance a few minutes before our appointed time; they didn’t make us wait, even though we hadn’t sprung for the “Premium Flex Ticket”. We had to show copies of our Covid-19 vaccination cards, and then we were in.

The exhibit started with a room filled with signs telling about Van Gogh’s art and life. There were also a lot of empty frames, which I guess fits with the theme of letting the art escape the frame.

After that, we entered the main room – Van Gogh’s paintings, or parts of them, were projected on every available surface.

They kept changing and moving – you couldn’t really examine anything because it’d vanish a few seconds later. And, unfortunately, some of the projectors were having problems, so there were some blurry areas. The musical accompaniment was nice.

I don’t know how this show compares with “Immersive Van Gogh” – it’d be interesting to see both, but not interesting enough to drive up to San Francisco.

I was hoping to visit the San Jose Museum of Art after the show, but they’re still only open Friday-Sunday. So we wandered around San Jose for a while before going back to the car and going home.

Would I recommend the show? Yes, but set your expectations for show more than art.

Pandemic Journal, Day 574

It’s been a pretty quiet day. At one point, we were hoping the “Play a Sound on your AirPods” feature of Apple’s “Find My” app would make some noise, but it turns out that it does nothing if the AirPods are in their case and the case is closed! We eventually found the errant AirPods (in their closed case), but it took a while to track them down.

The highlight of the day was a virtual tour of Jewish New Orleans (part of Shir Hadash’s “Lunch and Learn” programming), led by Roni Bossin of The Wandering Krewe. He used a mix of Google Earth and PowerPoint to lead us through the city (mostly the French Quarter) and give us closeup views of the relevant sights. Being there in person would have been better (especially when we “visited” Cafe du Monde), but this tour was a pretty good substitute and a lot more convenient.

Pandemic Journal, Day 573

Going to Reunion was a lot of fun, but there was one unsettling aspect – we spent four hours in a room filled with people with naked faces. It was the most time either of us had spent with more than a few unmasked people in at least 573 days, so I picked up a BinaxNOW Covid test at CVS and we took it this evening.

I used the macro mode of the iPhone 13 Pro camera to be sure I was reading the test strip correctly (I knew I bought the Pro model for a reason!) and both of us tested negative. whew

Pandemic Journal, Day 572

Our flight from Richmond was scheduled to leave at 1:40pm; an appropriate degree of paranoia about airport security delays dictated that we be at the airport before noon, which meant eating lunch there. Yelp research didn’t offer much hope for the airport restaurants, but my niece and sister-in-law had suggestions for places to stop and pick up something to take with us.

My niece is a foodie – she suggested we take a short detour from the direct route and order takeout from Garnett’s Cafe in the Fan District. Their menu looked very good, and she assured us that if we ordered in advance, they’d have the order ready for us to pick up when we drove by.

My sister-in-law leans more on the practical side – she suggested we buy gas and pick up sandwiches at the Wawa station two minutes from the airport. Buying gas there was an obvious choice – but we were skeptical about gas station food. On the other hand, I’d heard a lot of good things about Wawa’s food on podcasts, and she assured us we’d like it.

In the end, the clock forced the decision on us – we left my brother’s house later than we planned, so Wawa was the only option. They offered a wide variety of sandwiches, but it wasn’t easy to go through them on their ordering system. The menu tree was deep and it wasn’t easy to navigate between types of sandwiches (let alone salads or other options), and we were short on time. I’d had a LOT of beef during the trip, so I didn’t want that; I went for a Turkey Vegetable sandwich figuring it would be a safe choice, and Diane did the same thing.

We picked up our food and drove to the airport, returning the car just a few minutes before we’d be charged for an extra day. We ate before going through security and, well, neither of us was impressed. There was nothing wrong with the sandwich, but it wasn’t great – in fact, it wasn’t even the best gas station sandwich I’ve had (there’s a deli in a Valero station near AutoTec where we have our cars serviced, and I liked their sandwich better; to be fair, I had that one hot, while Wawa’s was cold).

We needn’t have worried about security delays; I don’t think there were more than ten people in the regular TSA line at any time, and there was no one ahead of us in TSA precheck. I even accidentally smuggled a half-full bottle of water through security (it had been sitting in the outside pocket of my bag since our flights on Wednesday).

Our flight arrived in Atlanta at Gate A1 and our connection left from E5; we had more than an hour before the connecting flight boarded, so we walked – it was the longest walk we’d taken since Tuesday. The second-longest walk was at SFO tonight from our gate to the AirTrain to Long Term Parking.

I’m glad that the reunion happened despite Covid, and it was wonderful to see and talk with old friends and spend time with my family. But it’ll be great to sleep in our own bed tonight – I’m even looking forward to cooking again!

Pandemic Journal, Day 571

Reunion last night was a lot of fun, even if I wasn’t able to talk to all of my classmates who were there – maybe I’ll catch up with them in five years.

Today, we were treated to a tour of the NEW J. R. Tucker High School; the school I attended was built in 1962 as a campus-style school (no interior hallways). While I was there, they added an extra classroom building (this one did have hallways) and replaced the gym after it imploded (amazingly, no one was hurt!). After nearly 60 years, the school needed major renovation – and the county decided that it made more sense to replace the facility instead.

The new Tucker High School is a huge two-story multi-wing building designed for today’s environment. There’s one main entrance leading into the office area; the rest of the school is behind additional lockable doors. This is the third high school the county’s built with these plans; the other two were built a few years ago, so they made some modifications based on what they’d learned.

The interior has lots of open space and collaborative learning areas. The library has a “learning staircase” where people can sit during free time – it looked very inviting.

There’s a commercial kitchen for the culinary program – we were amazed.

The gym is huge (three full basketball courts), and the roof is guaranteed not to fall in.

They’re still putting the final touches on the school; it’d be a good place to have the next Reunion, but there might be a problem serving alcohol on school property. But I guess it wouldn’t be the first time people drank in the parking lot….

After the tour, we drove down Monument Avenue to see what it looked like after the statues were removed. The plinths are still there, which seems odd, especially since the text in praise of the Confederates is still fully visible.

The site of the Lee Monument was the center of the protests, and it’s still fenced off and the plinth is thoroughly covered with graffiti. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the site – and I’m not sure what I would recommend.

Pandemic Journal, Day 570

The two most recent reunions of the J. R. Tucker Class of 1971 were at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, thanks to a classmate and member of the reunion committee who worked here. She retired since the last reunion, so this year‘s reunion is going to be at a hotel.

But that didn’t mean that Diane and I couldn’t come to the Gardens and enjoy the afternoon before going to the hotel. And that’s exactly what we did!

I’m going to post now so I don’t have to try to do it after the reunion – enjoy the garden! I wish I could capture the aromas, too – maybe the iPhone 14 will add that.

Pandemic Journal, Day 569

The rental car shortage is real. We’d reserved a car with Hertz at their location in the Marriott Crystal Gateway near National Airport for pickup at 10am. When I hadn’t picked it up by 10:30, they called me to find out if they could release it to another customer! I assured them I still wanted the car and we picked it up a few minutes later to drive to my brother’s house near Richmond.

Dinner this evening was outside at the Boathouse Restaurant at Sunday Park in Brandermill – it was our first experience at a “real” restaurant with DIY ordering. Some people hate it; I thought it was acceptable but I’d rather have a little more opportunity to ask questions. On the good side, no one interrupted us with questions like “how’s that tasting?”

The Boathouse overlooks Swift Creek Reservoir; it was a rather cloudy evening, but a little sunset peeked through.

Pandemic Journal, Day 568

The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is a very long day. Even when we had services in person, there was a break between roughly 1-3pm – that was even more necessary this year, with services on TV. But it’s not exactly a break – instead, there are always study sessions and opportunities to reflect. Or you can go home and take a nap, which we’ve been known to do!

This year, Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia from Jewish Silicon Valley led a session on Jewish mindfulness meditation, and both Diane and I attended. There was a short focusing meditation, then some discussion, then a 15-minute meditation, and that was it. Rabbi Hugh suggested meditating on the breath, since it’s always with you; I tried it, and the 15 minutes went by very quickly indeed. Thoughts came into my mind and left on their own; I felt refreshed afterwards.

I’ve been meditating almost every day since Yom Kippur. It’s a wonderful way to spend the time between getting a desensitizing shot and being allowed to leave (it’s certainly better than looking at Facebook and Twitter). And it’s a change of pace – a quiet time.

Today, we’re flying East for my 50th Reunion. We splurged and got seats at the front of the plane, so there’s a bit of room. They fed us soon after takeoff; we have several hours before landing, so we both meditated for part of the time. Noise-cancelling headphones helped – people are talking, but I’d have to try to hear them well enough to understand what they were saying, so I could ignore them (the same as when I meditate at the allergy clinic). When I opened my eyes, I discovered that a flight attendant had come by and taken away my empty cup, so I guess I was really focused on my breath and not the world around me!

When we arrived at Washington National, I was pleasantly surprised to find a comment on yesterday’s entry from the founder of RxGo explaining the price discrepancy I wrote about yesterday. It turns out that the list price of the toothpaste increases linearly with the number of tubes you get, but the discounted price doesn’t; I’d searched for the price of one tube ($10.56); the discounted price for three tubes is quoted at $16.67, which is more than I paid – a pleasant surprise indeed. You can read his entire reply here; thanks, Jeremy, for explaining what was going on and for providing a valuable service.

Pandemic Journal, Day 567

My ex-VP, John Patrick, sends out a weekly newsletter; last week’s edition was titled “How Big Is the Big Pharma Lobby?” and he covered some of the same territory I’d talked about at Toastmasters last week. He mentioned Amazon Pharmacy in that article; it looks good for long-term prescriptions when you have a few days of lead time. But if you need a prescription sooner, Amazon Pharmacy also offers a Prescription Discount Benefit card which works at CVS (and many other places).

We used the Amazon card at CVS a couple of days ago for a new prescription for Diane that wasn’t covered by her insurance; it cut the price by 70%.

Today, I needed to refill my prescription for high-strength fluoride toothpaste (not covered by my insurance). Amazon’s price, delivered, is $2.54 for a tube, but I didn’t have the time to wait for delivery, so I took the prescription to CVS. When I went to pick it up, the price on the bag was $47.99! Amazon’s card doesn’t cover this particular item, but others do – I picked RxGo which showed a price of $10.56 for one tube and gave the pharmacy the info. The clerk punched in the codes and told me that the new price was $14.71 – I decided that was ok (there are always weasel words on the cards saying that the prices are approximate) and paid.

When I got home, I discovered that there were three tubs in the bag, not one (the prescription was for a 90-day supply). So I wound up getting the toothpaste for a bit under $5/tube – less than half of the price that the discount card showed.

I’m very confused.

Pandemic Journal, Day 566

The moon was the barest of crescents high in the sky when I went out to get the paper this morning – I ran back in to get my big camera and took this picture:

Then I remembered that I’d just gotten a new iPhone with a spiffy new camera and ProRAW capability, so I got it and took this photo:

The sky had gotten significantly lighter in the few minutes between the pictures, but I tried to compensate in the editing.

After that, I finally had breakfast and got on with the day’s plans.

Pandemic Journal, Day 565

We were supposed to see Coded, a new play about women in the games industry, at City Lights Theatre last March. Oh, well.

But all was not lost – City Lights brought Coded back as the first show of this season, and we saw it this afternoon. Masks were required for everyone but the actors (there was a talk-back after the show, and the author/director, Kirsten Brandt, wore a mask although the actors didn’t). The ventilation was good; the theatre was far from crowded.

It was good to get back to the theatre; during the talk-back, the actors said that they got energy from the audience, even though we were few and masked. And I definitely got energy from being there.

It’s playing for the next two weeks, and they do plan to make a recording available for people who aren’t ready to go to the theatre in person. I recommend it and am looking forward to the next production at City Lights!

Pandemic Journal, Day 564

This afternoon I competed in the quarterfinal round of the Table Topics contest for the District 101 Toastmasters Fall Fusion event. All the speakers get the same question and have to reply immediately; everyone but the first contestant has to wait in a breakout room until it’s their turn. I was the first contestant, so I didn’t have to wait around; the question was “when you were a child, what was your dream job?”

One of my favorite books in elementary school was Starship Into Space by Lee Correy (a pseudonym for G. Harry Stein, SF author and real rocket man at White Sands). I can’t tell you how many times I read it. I even convinced other kids to help me act it out on the school playground – we’d run across the playground and pretend to go into hyperdrive. I hadn’t thought about the book in many years, but as I thought about the question, there was only one possible answer: “astronaut” – and not just the kind who goes into low Earth orbit, or even to the moon, but one who got to travel to the stars.

As it happened, I didn’t become an astronaut. I didn’t win today’s contest, either. Oh, well, there’s always next year!

Pandemic Journal, Day 563

This morning, I got two pieces of bad news from my high school class on Facebook – one of my classmates, Pat Vines, had a heart attack and died yesterday, and our class advisor won’t be able to attend the reunion because her husband has Alzheimer’s and she can’t leave him. We’re all getting older, but sometimes it really comes home.

And later today, we learned that the Sapporo Snow Festival has been canceled for 2022, which means our “Japan In Winter” trip for February has been postponed by a year. That trip was the replacement for a cruise to Sicily and Malta this past May, which was the replacement for a cruise to Japan and Korea in April 2020. I’m beginning to have my doubts about having taken credit for the first trip instead of getting a refund!

I was Board Representative at services tonight at Shir Hadash; we had more people watching the livestream than we had in the Sanctuary! I’m glad we were there in person – it felt good to be in the Sanctuary.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 562

I was scheduled to speak at the Silver Tongued Cats Toastmasters club this morning. I have one speech (plus the required “Reflect on your Path” project) left to do in each of the first two paths I started – Engaging Humor and Visionary Communication. The speech for Engaging Humor has to be 18-22 minutes long, which made it impossible to squeeze into today’s schedule, so I thought I’d give the second speech in the “Develop Your Vision” project and finish off Visionary Communication.

I’d had to choose a “vision” to develop in the first speech in the project. I’d chosen reinvigorating the Shir Hadash Ritual Committee – bringing in new members, for example. The project doesn’t require you to actually accomplish your plan, but I didn’t feel I’d made enough progress to give the second speech – and after last night’s two-hour meeting, I really didn’t want to talk about the committee today (it was a productive and constructive meeting, but I was tired).

I put that idea away. I’d started yet another path, Presentation Mastery, and the last project I’d worked on there called for me to take feedback from a previous speech and use it in another speech. I looked at the last speech I’d given on this path. I’d told the story of losing and regaining my sense of smell, and called the speech “The Nose Knows”. I planned to revise it slightly and sent the Toastmaster an introduction with a new title, “What’s That Smell?”

When I started speaking this morning, I began retelling the story – there had been a few developments since the first time. My allergist thought that Dupixient would reduce my nasal polyps and suggested I consider it – it’s not covered by my prescription plan, so it’d cost a mere $3000 a month. I told that part of the story and said “that smells”.

And suddenly I switched tracks. I talked about the insanity of our medical care system, where people have to choose between eating and paying their medical bills, where what you pay depends on how clever you are in working the system, where the actual payment for a procedure is often less than 10% of the list price, where medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy – I urged my listeners to contact their Congresspeople and ask for improvements. And I did all of that in three minutes.

I’m considering dropping the Ritual Committee as my “vision” and looking at ways to make a difference on medical care. Sometimes, I almost wish I wrote my speeches in advance so I wouldn’t surprise myself!

Pandemic Journal, Day 561

I woke this morning to an email from Apple saying that they’d checked out the iPhone I sent them on Monday and they’d be crediting the full amount of the trade-in to my card. It was a much better experience than I had trading in my old computer last May (that one required many phone calls and tweets to Apple Support to complete the process). We sent Diane’s old phone in this afternoon; I hope they’ll be as quick dealing with hers!

I chaired the Shir Hadash Ritual Committee meeting tonight, and I’m giving a speech at my Toastmasters club early tomorrow morning; I have Zoom fatigue, keyboard fatigue, and screen fatigue, so I’m calling it a night.

Pandemic Journal, Day 560

I slept much better last night – it might have something to do with my having taken a double dose of Atarax before bedtime as preparation for my first allergy desensitization shot today.

The shot gave me no problems, though I am mildly annoyed that I have to carry a plastic card with a barcode printed on it to be able to check in every time I get a shot. They use a slot scanner, so I can’t put the barcode on my phone, either.

My trip to the clinic gave me a bit of a scare, though – I discovered who the new temporary tenant is at the old Fry’s Electronics in Campbell.

But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised – Spirit specializes in finding large disused retail buildings and giving them a brief afterlife as popup Halloween stores, so the old Fry’s is a perfect fit. I wonder if they’ve taken over all of the old Fry’s locations – many of them would be thematically appropriate!

Pandemic Journal, Day 559

I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’ve been dragging all day. I’m going to blame it on the flu shot and hope that tonight is a bit more restful.

After surviving our hour with the trainer, we took a quick walk; one of our neighbors has some wonderful orange and pink roses, and they seemed like a good subject to try the new phone’s camera on.

I sent my old phone to a farm in the country Apple as a trade-in today; I also upgraded my T-Mobile plan to qualify for their best rebate on the new phone. I guess I’m committed!

And a follow-up from yesterday: unpairing, wiping, and resetting my Apple Watch brought the Mindfulness app back. And now that I have it on the phone, I’ve discovered it’s not terribly useful.

Pandemic Journal, Day 558

We got our flu shots today. It’s a bit earlier than we would usually get them, but we are planning to go to my 50th High School reunion soon, and it seemed like a good idea to prepare. We avoided the big drug stores (CVS and Walgreens) in favor of Pharmaca in downtown Los Gatos – there was no line and we each got a $5 gift certificate, which we immediately used to buy chocolate bars (they have a much better selection than CVS or Walgreens!).

While we were downtown, we popped into the Apple Store so I could look at the new iPad mini and show it to Diane. The store was surprisingly uncrowded for the Sunday after a phone release – so uncrowded that I was able to get some time with a tech to see if he could figure out why I couldn’t install the Mindfulness app on my watch. He couldn’t figure it out in the time we had available, which left me three choices:

• Ignore the Mindfulness app (probably the best choice)
• Do an on-line chat with tech support and see what they could figure out
• Reset the watch and set it up as a new watch to see if Mindfulness returns.

I’m trying option 3 – and it worked. Now I just have to recover everything else on the watch….

This evening, we had dinner and drinks in the Sukkah at Shir Hadash along with a couple of dozen other members – it was a very pleasant evening indeed.

Pandemic Journal, Day 557

Last year, I spent much of my birthday having my eyes examined, first in the ER at Good Samaritan Hospital and then at my ophthalmologist. All was well, but it was still a less-than-optimal way to spend a birthday (or any other day).

This year was more fun. I was the lay leader and board rep at Shabbat services this morning; Diane gave the d’var Torah, and we had enough people attend (via Zoom) to have a minyan. This afternoon, friends hosted an Open House in their sukkah. This evening, Diane and I went to La Pesca Blue for dinner, where I tried out the camera on my new phone again.

And on the way home, I stopped at Starbucks to collect my free birthday goodie (I usually miss out, since it’s only available on the one day, unlike most merchants who give you a week or two to increase the odds that you’ll come in).

A quiet birthday, yes, but that was just fine with me!

Pandemic Journal, Day 556

It was upgrade day today – UPS delivered a new top from LL Bean for Diane and new phones for both of us.

The upgrade process this year seemed easier than in years past – I followed a tip from John Gruber of Daring Fireball and did a phone-to-phone transfer instead of restoring the new phone from a backup of the old one – all of the data on the old phone transferred, as did logins and even the state of most apps. And there was no need to move the SIM; the new phones activated themselves on T-Mobile early in the setup process.

I was a little surprised that the transfer process didn’t bring over apps – the phone had to download them from the App Store (which it did all by itself). I was worried that I might lose RunFit, an app for my Wahoo TICKR heart rate strap, since they’d removed it from the App Store several years ago, but it came over just fine; I did lose an EXIF viewing app that had also vanished from the store, but I didn’t need it any more with the improvements to the Photos app in iOS 15.

I’ve only taken one photo with the new phone so far, of the sky after sunset; I don’t think it was any better than it would have been with the old phone, but here it is anyway, unedited.

The new phone has 5G – I just ran a test inside the house and got 85.2 Mbps down; I only got 60 MBps on the Wi-Fi. I tried outside where the phone showed the “5G UC” indicator and got 260 Mbps down – that’s speedy!

The new phones are not a life-changing improvement (and Diane isn’t sure losing the home button is an improvement at all!), but it’s nice to have them already (and we have two weeks to make up our minds).

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 555

I was Toastmaster of the Day for today’s Silver Tongued Cats meeting, so I had to come up with a meeting theme. Sometimes, it’s easy to draw the theme from things happening in my life, but I didn’t think “Refactoring Python Code” made a good theme for this group. Other times, I choose a theme based on something that happened on that day in history, but nothing appealed to me. But as I was searching for ideas, I stumbled across National Love Your Files Week and had my theme: “This week is…”.

The Table Topics Master asked questions like “What makes a week good for you?” and “Do you think the weeks starts on Sunday or Monday?” and the Wordmaster picked “Timing” as the Word of the Day, so the meeting held together well.

I introduced a “special” week at each break in the meeting agenda, five in all. I also threw in a little information from the sponsor’s website – here were my choices:

National Love Your Files Week from Jan Jasper at Jasper Productivity Solutions:

I created this week to promote a positive attitude towards filing – whether paper or computer files. Filing gets a bad rap and it’s undeserved. A good filing system can actually be a powerful asset. People dislike filing because they’re doing it the hard way. If your file system is set up correctly, it’s easy to maintain and a pleasure to use.

International Week of Happiness at Work from Happy Office Academy in the Netherlands:

Everybody wants to be happy. Also at work. We spend a lot of time at work after all. Plus, when we are happy at work, we are likely to also be happier in the rest of our life. We believe that Happiness at Work should be on the list of top priorities of all organizations, big and small, national and international. That’s why we declared the last week of September, in 2021, 20 – 26, the International Week of Happiness at Work. Join us!

International Clean Hands Week from the Henry the Hand Foundation and the Clean Hands Coalition:

We use International Clean Hands Week (3rd week of September annually) as our pivotal marketing strategy to raise awareness. Remember, we humans are the petri-dish that grow and multiply all seasonal flu, influenza-like illnesses, and even COVID-19. So if we all practiced vigilant hand hygiene and cross-contamination awareness, we would eliminate many preventable respiratory and foodborne infectious diseases.

Tolkien Week from the American Tolkien Society:

Tolkien fans celebrate Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week by throwing great feasts (often with seven meals) and sharing the joy and merriment of being with people that have the same interests. In honor of the Hobbits’ favorite choice of footwear, many fans also spend Hobbit Day barefoot.

National Indoor Plant Week from Interior Tropical Gardens:

National Indoor Plant Week is a week-long celebration of the perfect indoor air cleaner. Annually celebrated the third week in September, it was established to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces. Remember, “the oxygen doesn’t arrive until the plants do!”

I’m giving a speech at next week’s meeting – maybe I’ll stretch this theme to cover that speech, or maybe I’ll talk about Python code. I’ve got days to decide!

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!