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.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Seventy

We’re members of five wine clubs. One, Silvertip Vineyards, held its pickup event over the weekend. They barbecue steak, chicken, salmon, and pork, along with interesting veggies and munchies, and, of course, wine. We always enjoy it, even though the drive there is somewhat challenging (Highway 17 to Bear Creek, then up to Highway 35, then down Upper Zayante, which is about 1.4 lanes wide).

This year, of course, the event was different. People were invited to drive in, open their trunks, get the wine, and leave – somehow, that didn’t feel worth the drive, so we took advantage of their offer to ship the wine to our house. It was supposed to be shipped tomorrow, but this afternoon, we got a note from them saying that they were delaying the shipment because of the hot weather (well over 90 today) and the chance that the wine might be adversely affected in transit.

Last Friday, I’d ordered a few bottles from Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles – they were supposed to ship tomorrow, but when I got Silvertip’s note, I hurried to call Tobin James and postpone that shipment, probably successfully.

Fortunately, we have enough wine to get us through at least a few more weeks!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Nine

It’s been my day to be tech support.

A friend is setting up a website and having problems with getting the SSL certificates in the right place – I sent him my configuration to use as a model, and I hope that’s all the help he’s going to need.

And I had to help the Rabbi get the Kindle app properly installed on her Mac – Zoom screen-sharing made that easy (she actually had it installed but since it wasn’t on the dock, she didn’t know where to find it).

We made the chickpea recipe from the NYTimes again – we’re going to have to get more chickpeas on our next shopping trip! Dinner was lingcod from the Farmer’s Market.

And we watched some more of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre. It’s still interesting – I may have to read the book, though.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Eight

Our synagogue, Congregation Shir Hadash, has a lay-led service (Shir Shabbat) on most Shabbat mornings from just after Simchat Torah until just before Shavuot, and Diane and I are regular attendees. And from time to time, we take a role in making the service happen. We’d volunteered to do that for today’s service, the last of the season – I would lead and she would chant Torah.

That, of course, was back in February. Things changed, but this morning, I led the service from home via Zoom and Diane chanted her portion (sadly, not from the Torah scroll, since we don’t have one at home); the Cantorial Soloist sang from her home. I was also projecting the prayer book from my Kindle app, and once or twice I forgot to scroll up because I was too busy listening, and I think I muted the Cantorial Soloist for a couple of seconds at one point, but things mostly went smoothly. I think. At least no lighting bolts descended from heaven!

This evening, we watched Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s presentation of Tales from the Edge of the Bard – ghost stories inspired by Shakespeare. It was a fun way to spend an hour; we’re going to watch the previous episodes in the series sometime.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Seven

The final payment for our July trip to Iceland is due this week. We have flights and hotels reserved, including visits to our son and my brother on our way home. There are a couple of days in Reykjavik before we get on a brand new Ponant ship, Le Bellot. And the tour operator says they’re planning to operate the trip. Iceland is even planning to ease restrictions on international travelers by mid-June.

We’re not going. Even if they get permission to sail, the flight from Portland to Reykjavik is currently not operating. It looks like the “eased restrictions” would give us the choice of proving we’re COVID-19-free on arrival or quarantining for 14 days (which is longer than the trip). And neither of us is ready to fly yet.

Luckily, the tour operator offered us the choice of moving our reservations to 2021 (or even 2022) at no penalty (in fact, they’ll give us a $300 credit) – it wasn’t a hard choice. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the various airline tickets – we might get a refund from Icelandic if they don’t reinstate the flight from Portland before our scheduled departure, but all of our domestic flights are likely to operate, so we’ll have to settle for credits for those segments.

We’re still looking forward to seeing Iceland – just not yet.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Six

Last fall, we realized that our deck was showing some severe signs of wear, including a few boards that felt rather unsteady under our feet. Since we were replacing gates in our fence, we had the same company replace the bad boards – but the problem didn’t go away completely. The company, on the other hand, did – they said they’d come out to estimate the additional work, but it never happened (I guess it was too small a job).

We did have another vendor who we’d used a few years ago for re-staining the deck, so we called him – but he had decided to take the entire winter off, and by the time he was ready to open back up in the spring, COVID-19 had arrived. He did remain responsive by phone, though, and today, he came out to the house to give us an estimate.

It was strange to hear the doorbell ring, and to know that there was someone outside waiting to talk with me. He, of course, was masked and stayed far away; I told him to meet us in the backyard. And by “meet”, I meant “stay six feet away from us” – but that wasn’t a problem; we could communicate just fine at that distance.

A few minutes later, we had a plan and a deal; sometime in the next few weeks, I expect to have a re-stained and repaired deck. Progress!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Five

My cousin Mickey made an interesting comment on Facebook to my blog entry yesterday: “You are NOT sheltering IN PLACE as you have traveled.”

As far as I can tell, our travels have been within the limits of the order for Santa Clara County, but we definitely have been moving around a lot. But some things have definitely changed.

There are many places we can’t go because they’re closed: the JCC, Temple, enclosed malls, sit-down restaurants, wineries, and most stores. And, of course, we can’t get our hair cut.

Our chiropractor is open, but we haven’t seen him since the lockdown started.

We make many fewer trips to the supermarket and drug store (we used to go to the supermarket almost every day; now we go weekly). And we’ve given up on Whole Foods – the Los Gatos location is too cramped, especially the produce section.

On the other hand, we do significantly more shopping at Safeway than we used to because their salad lasts longer than what we buy elsewhere (and they tend to have good prices on Talenti gelato) – and if we’re going there, we want to get the most out of the visit.

We still hit the Farmers’ Market most Sundays, but now I pre-order the fish so we can get out faster.

We’ve stopped our Sunday walks on the Los Gatos Creek Trail – it’s far too crowded for social distancing (and the cyclists are dangerous even in normal circumstances). Instead, we walk a few miles on downtown and adjacent streets – once we get a couple of blocks from the Farmers’ Market, we see very few people.

We’ve gone to Tony and Alba’s Pizza for take-and-bake pizza a few times – that’s something we never did before, and we might keep doing it when things get back to normal.

And yes, we walk several miles every day – our goal is 15,000 steps per day, and we can’t do that inside the house. But in the old days, we’d often combine at least one of our walks with a small shopping trip – no more!

Tomorrow, the shelter-in-place order will be eased a bit more, but I don’t expect to take advantage of the changes any time soon.

Thanks for making me think through this, Mickey!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Four

This morning, I realized that I was trying to do far too much to fix the problem I talked about yesterday. All I really needed was a list of clubs (including their name and alignment) that had been active during this Toastmasters year – and that list was already being provided in the performance reports from Toastmasters; all I had to do was use that list. So I did. End of problem.

The rest of the day passed quietly – it was shopping day; Lunardi’s was busy but not ridiculously so. We had lunch from Los Gatos Meats for variety, and a Dark and Stormy with our Trivial Zoom session. And after dinner, we started watching the National Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre – it’s interestingly staged.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Sixty-Three

Seven years ago, I was an Area Governor for Toastmasters. In that role, we’d get monthly reports showing how well the clubs in our area were doing in membership and progress in the Distinguished Club Program – it seemed like it would make sense to consolidate the two reports, but they came from different parts of the Toastmasters website, so it couldn’t be done. My reaction: “that’s just a small matter of programming”, and I sat down and did it.

The rest of the District 4 leadership liked what I’d done and encouraged me to keep doing it – and to automate more and more of the reports that the District needed. I was willing, and kept writing code, eventually joining the Webmaster team and then, when District 101 was carved out of District 4, I became the District 101 Webmaster and Statistician. And my code kept growing.

Today, I had to look at some of the oldest code that’s still running. When I wrote it, I made an assumption that, if I asked Toastmasters for a complete list of clubs in the District, I would get a complete list of clubs in the District. Silly me.

Apparently, it’s possible for a club to ask to be kept hidden from “find a club near you” search. But that also means that the club is excluded from the list of clubs in the District. A hidden club DOES show up in other reports, and that led to some inconsistencies.

I plan to solve the problem by adding hidden clubs to my table of active clubs when I build it so that the rest of my code doesn’t have to deal with the problem. I think I’ve figured out what I need to do, but the code that builds the table is old and cranky with lots of places where I’ve had to patch around other weird things Toastmasters has done over the years. Maybe I can simplify the whole thing instead of adding yet another layer of spackle – but that’s tomorrow’s problem.