Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 212

Today was Dentistry Day at Chez D2.

Diane went to her dentist this morning for her long-delayed cleaning – it was supposed to have been in April, but….

We go to different dentists for historical reasons – when we moved out here, we used the same dentist. He retired around 1995, and Diane just went to his successor; one of my co-workers’ long-time girlfriend was a dentist whose office was close to work, so I switched to her practice, and then followed her when she joined another dentist, and then I stayed in that practice when she retired, and then stayed on when that dentist sold her practice and retired. Diane’s dentist is a sole practitioner; mine is in a multi-site, multi-dentist operation.

I needed a crown to replace an old one that had deteriorated – when that’s happened previously, it’s required two visits. But my newest dentist said she could do the whole thing in one visit of 2-1/2 hours, which sounded good to me.

The first step was numbing, as usual, and then the removal of the old crown. Then the dentist put a camera in my mouth for a few minutes, moving it around until she was happy with what she saw on her screen. After that, she told me to relax for a few minutes and left; a whining sound started from an adjacent office, and the screen started a countdown.

I got up and found the whining sound – my crown was being milled on the spot in a CEREC machine.

A few minutes later, the dentist came in to do a fit test; the crown was purple because it hadn’t been fully baked yet.

She made a few adjustments and took the crown away to bake it, then came back and finished the installation. The purple was gone, and that was it (except for the most painful part – the bill). The whole process took about 2-1/2 hours, as promised. I was impressed. I’d rather not do it again, though.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 211

It was Prime Day today, and we were ready!

I’d had a cabin air filter for Diane’s car and a set of three OXO measuring cups in my cart for days, waiting for the right time. We even bought spaghetti and couscous from Whole Foods over the weekend to earn the $10 Prime Day credit they were offering.

As we got ready to order, the excitement was palpable. I checked Consumer Reports and The Wirecutter to see what other products they recommended – The Wirecutter told me about a very nice All-Clad stainless tri-clad frying pan that looked good.

I went out to Diane’s car and looked at the cabin air filter. It was clean (I guess we’d only driven the car a few thousand miles since I last changed it), so I took it out of the cart.

The All-Clad pan wasn’t available from Amazon (but I might get it from Williams-Sonoma, since it’s discounted there).

I even checked on LED “75-watt” bulbs, since the old incandescent over the kitchen table blew out this morning. The Wirecutter recommended the Cree bulb, and Amazon had it for $12; Home Depot has it for $6.

I pushed the button – one set of measuring cups is on its way at a $10 discount.

Oh, the excitement of it all!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 210

I had to give a speech at Silicon Valley Storytellers today. I’m on the “Engaging Humor” path, but not all of the speeches have to be funny; I decided to talk about the upcoming election.

No, not about the Presidential election, nor even about any elected office. I talked about the propositions on the ballot. And I didn’t even give my opinion of any of the propositions; instead, I gave a presentation about how to research the propositions instead of relying on the limited information in the Official Voter Guide and the even more limited information in ads.

People seemed to find it useful – in fact, I got requests for my slides, so I put them online here.

I did something different in preparing the presentation – normally, I just start creating slides, but this time, I made a mindmap with iThoughts. I reorganized it a few times as I was pulling the presentation together, which would have been difficult in PowerPoint! When I was happy with the mindmap, I exported it to PowerPoint. I still wound up reordering the slides to make more sense as a sequential presentation, but it was pretty easy to get the flow I wanted.

I also experimented with the “Design Ideas” feature of PowerPoint to get away from plain bullet lists – instead, I had pretty bullet lists and boxes. I added pictures to a couple of the slides, and my evaluator suggested I do more of that. I have to give a speech to my other club on Thursday, and I might just reuse this one…with more pictures.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 209

It was Sunday, so we began the day with a trip to the Farmers’ Market. Local King Salmon season has ended for the year, so we settled for lingcod and halibut. Tomatoes were still good, and we’re hopeful for the strawberries we bought, but the seasons are definitely changing.

After the market, we took our usual Sunday walk in town. We passed a very nice morning glory and both Diane and I took photos. Hers is on her Facebook page. Here’s mine:

When we got home, I looked at my photo and thought it would look better without the bright spot at the upper right of the flower. I’d been looking for a reason to try using my new Apple Pencil for something constructive – this seemed to fit the bill. I downloaded Photoshop for the iPad and started playing; the Pencil made it pretty easy to select the parts of the picture I wanted to deal with, and I wound up with this:

The bright spot is gone. If I knew what I was doing, I probably could have avoided creating the dark blotches, but considering this was my first use of Photoshop and I haven’t looked at the tutorials, I’m not disappointed.

I think I’m keeping the Pencil. I’ll have to find another excuse to go to the Apple Store!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 208

We watched last night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert this afternoon so we could see the interview with the cast of The West Wing, which created a “not a reunion” show on HBO Max starting Thursday. We’re looking forward to it, even though we haven’t seen all of The West Wing (I’m not sure we’ve seen the episode they’re re-enacting, Hartsfield’s Landing, but we plan to fix that before Thursday).

I wanted to make sure our HBO Max subscription was properly set up, so I did the “authorize through Xfinity” dance and watched the trailer for Thursday’s episode. I was curious what else might be available, and scrolled down until I saw “Looney Tunes”, which made me think of some of my favorite cartoons, including What’s Opera, Doc?, so I clicked through and took a look.

I wanted to watch the cartoon with “pronoun trouble”, but I couldn’t quite remember its name, so I went to Wikipedia and searched there. It reminded me that the title was Rabbit Seasoning, but the article also mentioned that it was the second cartoon in a trilogy. The others are Rabbit Fire and Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, neither of which I’d seen.

So I went back to HBO Max and watched Rabbit Fire and Rabbit Seasoning and enjoyed them immensely – but Duck! Rabbit! Duck! was nowhere to be found.

Off to IMDB, which pointed me at the Amazon listing for Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3, which could be mine for the low, low price of $25.96, or the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2 for a mere $9.96 (note: affiliate links, in case you’re feeling generous).

I wanted to see the third cartoon, but not ten bucks’ worth of wanting. Instead, I looked at the Los Gatos Library’s catalog, and they have the Golden Collection on hand. The library isn’t actually open, but they fill holds on a daily basis, so I expect to pick up the DVDs next week.

Hope it’s worth watching!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 207

A couple of weeks ago, the Mercury News ran a recipe from King Arthur Flour for German-style Pretzels. It looked good. And when I found King Arthur Flour and instant dry yeast at Lunardi’s a couple of weeks ago, I decided to buy it and make the pretzels. But I delayed until the time was right – this morning, I decided the time was right, and followed the simple recipe.

Step 0: Discard old flour that was probably well past its peak.

Step 1: Find the mixer. We have a Sunbeam. I decided to use the dough hooks rather than the beaters.

Step 2: Measure the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Everything was easy except the flour, which was still in the bag. I dipped my half-cup measure right into the bag of flour – ten times in total. This may have been a mistake.

Step 3: Mix. The mixer complained, and not much seemed to happen. After the first three minutes, I noticed that a LOT of flour was still sitting, dry, at the bottom of the bowl; I kept mixing.

Step 4: Increase the speed of the mixer. Still a lot of flour sitting around.

Step 5: Call King Arthur’s help line. The agent suggested adding water, slowly, until the dough started to come together. She also suggested weighing the ingredients next time – the original recipe at King Arthur calls for 612 grams of flour, but I’d put in about 740 grams.

Step 6: Add water and mix, add water and mix, add water and mix. Eventually, we decided it looked like dough.

Dough, right?

Step 7: Let it rest for 45 minutes.

Step 8: Fold (per the recipe).

Step 9: Let it rest for 45 minutes (make and eat lunch during that time).

Step 10: Look at it and decide it hasn’t risen enough. Give it another 20 minutes and it looks like this:

I guess it rose

Step 11: Give it another 15 minutes, then continue.

Step 12: Try to deflate the dough – nothing seems to happen. The dough is incredibly sticky, but Diane suggests putting flour on my hands and the mat and I manage to get it divided into 100-gram pieces (I get 12, versus the 10 I should have according to the recipe) and shape them into “rough logs”.

Rough Logs

Step 13: Roll the logs into 18-to-22-inch ropes and shape into pretzels. Use lots of flour to keep things from sticking, but eventually, I have proto-pretzels:


Step 14: Put the proto-pretzels in the refrigerator for an hour. Go to Target and pick up a new electric toothbrush.

Step 15: Prepare a water bath with baking soda; boil the pretzels, two at a time, for a minute each, and put them onto parchment-paper-covered baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt.

Boiled Proto-Pretzels

Step 16: Bake the pretzels (finally!) for 14-16 minutes at 450°F. Put on a rack to cool. Make dinner.

Pretzels Cooling on the Rack

Step 17: Use the pretzels as the bread for Kiddush!

Pretzels on the Plate

Step 18: Freeze the other 10 pretzels for later.

Lessons Learned

  • Weigh ingredients rather than measuring by volume
  • Go to the source for the recipe rather than relying on the newspaper’s version
  • Don’t despair, ask for help
  • Stickiness can be overcome
  • Patience is a virtue

Questions for Experienced Bakers

  • Should the dough have risen visibly?
  • Should I have used the mixing blades instead of the dough hooks?
  • What should I make next with the three-plus pounds of flour I have left?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 206

We had a case of wine delivered today, and I’m not sure it was entirely legal. The box was marked as “alcohol, adult signature required”. In the Before Times, the driver rang the bell and made me sign on their terminal; since the lockdown, they’ve rung the bell and looked at me to make sure I looked over 21, then the driver signed on the terminal. Today, the bell didn’t ring; there wasn’t a knock on the door. There was a quiet “thump” when the driver put the box on the porch, but by the time I got to the door, no one was there. But the wine was waiting for me, so I’m happy!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 205

I copied the Windows virtual machine I’d created on the MacBook Air to my substantially faster MacBook Pro and was shocked and appalled to find it unable to keep up with my typing. I’d created a fancy curved path in Artisan to hold text the text – but some of my keystrokes were being dropped, and others were being doubled or tripled.

I thought that something had gone wrong when I copied the virtual machine, so I rebuilt it from scratch on the Pro, and it didn’t work any better. In desperation, I tried Notepad, and it couldn’t keep up, either!

A little searching brought up this thread on the VirtualBox forum; I applied the fix (changing a property in a hidden sub-application of VirtualBox), and it seems to have fixed the problem – now any typos are my fault.

We had a schedule conflict tonight – we had to choose between watching the Vice-Presidential debate or playing a previously-scheduled online trivia game. We went with the trivia – everyone who participated was trying to give correct answers, which does not seem to have been the case at the debate. Our TiVo captured the debate for us, so we have the option of watching it, but we’ve already seen the fly, so the surprise is gone.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 204

Today has been an interesting day. We started with a blast from the past – a walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail in Campbell. We used to go there once or twice a week when we went to the chiropractor; that fell by the way with the lockdown, but now that we’re going to the chiropractor again, we thought it was time to brave the trail.

It was a lot more pleasant than the Los Gatos Creek Trail on a Sunday in Los Gatos – it was easy to stay appropriately far away from others, and not a single crazed bicyclist tried to run us down. There weren’t even large clumps of walkers blocking the whole width of the trail!

As I mentioned on Friday, Diane’s Windows laptop is getting full; it’s suffering from other flaky behavior, too (the audio doesn’t work most of the time, for example). My MacBook Air has a 1TB SSD, so the idea of having her use it came to mind. So I installed VirtualBox, an evaluation copy of Windows 10 Enterprise and an evaluation copy of Forever Artisan on the Air to try it – it performs surprisingly well, although the fans run continuously. And if I gave her the Air, I could get an Apple Silicon machine when they announce it…oops, did I use my outside typing voice just now?

Tonight was also the night for the quarter-finals of the “Speaker Showcase” for Toastmasters District 101’s “Fall Fusion”, and I represented my club in the Evaluation Contest. I won (I was the last contestant, so I didn’t get to see any of the other evaluators), so I get to compete again in a couple of weeks.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 203

Over the weekend, the diverter in the spray head in our kitchen faucet gave up the ghost, so this morning, I took it to The Powder Room, where I’d bought it in 2008, in hopes that they could help me. They tried, but couldn’t fix it. A new one would cost $200, but they said that the manufacturer, Grohe, would send out a replacement under warranty if I called them.

Saving $200 sounded like a good idea, so I called as soon as I got home. After navigating the menu tree (only three keypresses required), I was greeted with the dreaded “wait times are longer than normal, please hold” recording. The hold music wasn’t too bad, and the announcements weren’t too annoying, but I was happy when the music stopped after about 4 minutes. And I was unhappy 2 seconds later when the recording restarted from the beginning.

An hour later, I had to hang up the phone to go to the dentist for a cleaning. And an examination. And the news that I had to have a filling redone (for free!), plus another filling and a new crown. I made the appointments and drove home to get back on the phone with Grohe.

An hour and another dozen repetitions of the recording later, an agent answered, and five minutes later, a new spray head was on its way to me. Well, not really – it’s out of stock but they expect to ship it around the 27th of this month.

We got our County Voter Information Guides and sample ballots today. Still to come: the State Voter Information Guide and the actual ballots. I can’t wait!