1.227 not nurseries, FOPAL, new model

Wednesday 7/15/2020

After my run and checking email I got in the car (parked on the street) and headed over the hill to the coast. I had just stopped at the first of three nurseries outside of Half Moon Bay when my phone rang: it was Nancy, of FOPAL. Today was the day the sign-up sheets should be open for signing up, and it seemed they weren’t, or at least one wasn’t.

I couldn’t do anything from there, so I started back, taking another call from her as I drove, tsk tsk. By the time I was back to the apartment, Nancy and Frank had worked out the issue, whatever it was, I really don’t know. Anyway by 11 all the sign up sheets were functioning, much to my relief. I had picked this sign-up sheet website to use and it was very distressing that it failed as soon as it was being used. Thus I didn’t get to look for plants or pots. Maybe Saturday?

Nothing much the rest of the day, except for putting the car in the garage at 2pm. With the mail one of the models I ordered came in, the 53 Ford Victoria. It includes a period Coke machine model.

According to the side of the box, it has even more detail than the 52 Chevy (peeking out above).

Observe that engine, a flat-head V-8? I know it very, very well. There was a period when mine had a head-gasket leak. With John Snow’s help I changed the head gasket, which promptly failed. We took the head off and I had it milled (I forget what I used for transportation with the car down) and John reinstalled it. I bought a torque wrench to make sure we did it right. But it failed again. I remember that John got angry at this, elbowed me away, and changed the gasket for a third time in a couple of hours, working in a complete rage. I think that third time was what worked.

I eventually more or less abandoned that car in Seattle, selling it to Tom Attwood for $100 (or maybe less?) before moving back to San Francisco. Will this be the model I do next? Must wait until three more kits come in.

1.226 writers’ meet, real FOPAL

Tuesday 7/14/2020

Did the aerobics class, then frittered time to the CH Writers’ meeting at 11. The cue this time was “your relation to France”. I didn’t realize when Connie assigned that last week, that today was Bastille Day. Anyway I had nothing. I thought about me and France. I might have made something of why in 1957 I opted to learn French as a second language in high school, instead of the presumably easier Spanish. (Or for that matter, how little old edge-of-suburbia Bethel HS in Spanaway WA even offered both French and Spanish. Go BHS!) Except I don’t remember why I made that choice. Or how I have a bunch of nice French in-laws who I don’t socialize with. So, nothin’.

Before and after the meeting I was negotiating with Frank at FOPAL to implement my actual physical presence. I got the car out and went down there at 2pm and spent a couple of hours going through some of the backlog of computer books. Found something like 15 “high-value” ones, books that bring more than $25, used, on Amazon. And two boxes of ones worth selling here, and assigned prices to them. I did all this sitting at a table in the shade in an open courtyard. It felt really good to be out of the house, doing something useful.

On return of course I had to park the car on the street. I can’t bring it in until tomorrow at 1:30. I have a plan for tomorrow morning, as well. Harriet texted me that she had seen fuchsias for sale in the nurseries over the hill at Half Moon Bay. So I’ll probably drive over there in the morning.

In the evening I tried to watch School of Rock and couldn’t hack it past 20 minutes. Sorry, Jack Black.

1.225 RA meeting

Monday 7/13/2020

Went for a run early; I was back and showered and dressed by 8am.

The Residents Association meeting went off smoothly. Only about 80 people on at peak. As treasurer I gave my report in one sentence, “There have been no transactions since the last meeting so the balance is still the same as then, $974.” A bit to my surprise the question of the cell tower on the roof was not brought up in the open discussion period. Good.

Didn’t do much else of note. Looked at some old software projects, wondering if I want to do some more hacking on them. I’m participating in a beta test of a picture storage manager. It crashed on me so I reported that, and filed a couple of feature requests. The developer is really friendly and accessible and the app is pretty, but it lacks some function I would need.

A friend asked how I liked Chariots of Fire, which aired on PBS this week. She didn’t think it deserved all the Oscar nominations it got back in 1981. I had it on the DVR so I started it. Got 45 minutes in and gave up. Very pretty PBS-style costume drama. Downton Abbey with foot races. Booooring. Other movies on my DVR: Men in Black, School of Rock. Both of which I saw in theaters when they were new. Actually we saw the Broadway production of School of Rock when we were in NYC in 2017. So some low-brow fun waiting for later in the week.

1.224 lost weekend

Sunday 7/12/2020

Totally blew this one off, I did. If Scott hadn’t reminded me, I’d have had my first break in continuity.

Was a Sunday. There was a walk. Something else happened… oh, right, I got a decent picture of the comet. Call that an accomplishment.

In the full-rez there’s fair detail. Here let me zoom in.

It’s starting to be visible after sunset as well, and I expect to see pictures from my neighbors on the west side of the building.

1.223 comet, outing, retail therapy

Saturday 7/11/2020

Up again at 4:30 to attempt another picture of the comet, this time with the camera on the tripod. And again my best shot is not quite in focus. It is extremely hard to focus the camera manually in near-darkness, but autofocus doesn’t work looking at a dark sky. End result, no detail in the comet and the few stars in the image look like white tennis balls if you zoom in. So in the daylight I carefully focused the lens exactly, and then taped it in position with masking tape, so I can’t mess it up, and I will try again tomorrow morning.

For breakfast I tried the vanilla flavor of the meal replacement I’ve been beta-testing. It was not very good. I wrote up my final beta-tester report and posted it. Short version: not ready for prime time, guys.

Under the new rules the garage is open on MW and Saturday, so I thought heck, I’ll go look at a couple of nurseries. Went to Wegman’s and the one in Ladera, and disappointed in both. I want some largish (12-inch) pots that aren’t ugly, and a couple of fuschias that have an upright pattern and interesting blossoms. Struck out on both fronts.

Nurseries, it turns out, are emotionally hard for me. I found myself tearing up when I walked by a shelf of little fuzzy cacti and succulents just like we had on the windowsill. Yeah, move on. Couple other times I noticed plants Marian had bought at various times. Notice I’m looking at fuschias? She was never very much for fuschias.

Back home, did some online shopping. First checked on the status of various orders I have pending. I have a total of three model car kits on the way. A week ago I was looking around for a kit and I was attracted by a 1955 Chrysler and ordered it from Amazon. Then today, I got the notion of an MG-TD kit, because some family friends had one in my childhood. Well there are none currently made, but oddly enough, there used to be, and people on ebay are selling them, unopened. So I ordered one. And then got to thinking how my first car, a 1941 chevy, is not available, but my second car was a 1952 Ford. Ah yes, 1953 (practically identical) Ford kits are available. So I have all these on the way and at some point I will have to decide which to do first. Probably the Ford. I spent an hour working out which model paint colors match the dark blue top, light blue bottom, of the car I owned.

Plus I wanted a new pair of jeans so ordered that from Levi’s.

And THEN I got an email from Frank at FOPAL. Boxes of computer books are stacking up in the courtyard at the Cubberly center. That’s a former high-school complex converted by the City into a community resource; FOPAL occupies several rooms there, and has been storing its donation overflow in stacks of boxes in a courtyard. At which point I realized: that’s out of doors. I could work out of doors, alone, sorting and pricing those books. Probably? So I checked with CH staff and later got an email confirming, yeah, that sounds safe. Yay! I’ll be able to do some volunteer work again.

1.222 Comet, Car

Friday 7/10/2020

Got up at 4:30am again and this time I saw the comet! Comet NeoWise was right where that web page said it ought to be, and directly opposite my balcony, very convenient. The comet is not very bright but it is easy with the binoculars. I started scanning with the binocs and in about 2 seconds the comet jumped into the frame and said “howdy!”

Once I’d seen it that way and knew where to look, I could juuuussst about persuade myself I could see it with the unaided eye. If we had a really dark sky it would be easy, but the light pollution here is so bad only Venus and maybe two other stars can be seen easily.

I took this picture with the Nikon but it is a half-second exposure hand-held and not sharp. Why didn’t I get out the tripod? I think I’ll try again tomorrow with the tripod.

I took a shot with the iPhone as well but it barely shows the comet head, never mind the tail.

Later in the day I finished up the car model. This is how my desk looks, clean for the first time in over a month.

I took a bunch of pictures and collected them into a Smugmug Gallery. Looking them over, I give myself at best a B-, more like a C+, for execution. Just so many little hacks. The body paint has gross orange peel and other goofs, and … well, I won’t dwell on it. I have another kit on order and will apply lessons learned. I have looked for John Deere tractor kits of even the approximate era without result. I have looked for 1941 Chevrolet kits (my first car), and there actually is one, but it is a convertible, which isn’t right. Later in the day I ordered a plastic display case, and also a Dremel kit, actually not a Dremel, but a different small rotary power tool that Adam Savage recommended.

In late news: I heard that Valet, the custom cabinet makers, had been allowed back in the building. I contacted Kim Krebs wondering if that meant they could now go ahead with my closet remodel? Yes! is the answer, and the ball is rolling on that. Maybe we’ll get that done soon!

Friday is the day for Rhonda’s meeting. Much discussion of the details of the upcoming testing schedule and the latest order from the County. Hair salons are reopening and, anticipating lots of us would want a haircut, she gave the following advice:

If you do choose to access these services, please ensure the following so you know that the County’s directives have been implemented:

Signage: A sign that states “COVID-19 Prepared” and a “Social Distancing Protocol Visitor Information Sheet” is to be posted prominently at the entrance to the business.

Everyone working there must wear face coverings at all times. Observe if they are wearing them properly, covering their nose and mouth at all times. If not, you should leave.

Prior to your appointment, the salon should call you to see if you have had any covid symptoms or been exposed to anyone who has. If they don’t call you to confirm this, then don’t go. If they are not confirming you are symptom-free, they are not confirming that their other customers are symptom free.

They should require that you wait in your car until your appointment is available. All waiting areas & common spaces must be closed.

They should screen you again for symptoms when you enter the building. If they are not screening you, they are not screening others.

I know the opening of these businesses has been long-awaited by many of you. I just strongly encourage you to use good judgement. I have heard some tell me that they are the only person in the room, except for the salon operator. That is not relevant, if the salon operator has been exposed and is not displaying symptoms. You can contract the virus from one person while you are in close contact. Be careful. And, ask yourself the question: Is it essential that I obtain this service right now?

1.221 no comet, cleaning

Thursday 7/9/2020

Got up at 4:30 and had a look for the comet. Nothing from my balcony so I dressed and went up to the roof, but no luck. I wasn’t certain where to look, but I noted that I could not see a single star anywhere near the horizon. Lowest stars at least 20º up. Must be moisture or haze or something. I could clearly see Venus at about 40º up, due East. Back to bed.

Later I found a web page with a better description of where to look, relative to Venus, and it should be just almost straight out from my balcony. I will try tomorrow morning and won’t have to go to the roof.

I did the aerobics class at 7:30, and at 10 went out for a 2-mile walk. Worked on the model, mostly patching up where a couple of things weren’t fitting together right, which meant un-gluing pieces and re-gluing them.

Today was the first time in several weeks when Housekeeping cleaned my room. Our 6th floor person before was Wanda, but she volunteered to go be a nurse’s aide in our nursing wing, and people who’ve talked to her since say she is very happy with this new role. I wonder if it’s higher pay? Or will put her on track for a higher paid job post-pandemic? Anyway our cleaner is now Marta, who is maybe 4′-6? She makes me feel like a basketball player. She zipped through the place in less than an hour, where I was taking 90 minutes even with practice. Probably did a better job. In fact, certainly did, because besides the inside she managed to get all the dead leaves and blossoms off the balcony, too. I would sweep out there, but she must have vacuumed it.

1.220 Many meetings

Wednesday 7/8/2020

Went for a run in the morning. Worked on the model a bit. There’s just a long punch-list of things to finish up on. Pretty sure it will be wrapped by the end of the week. I’ll take a gallery of pictures and then… what? I wonder if I can sell it through the CH gift shop?

This was a day of three zoom meetings. At 2pm the Residents Association Executive committee met. One topic was the upcoming RA general meeting. There is an on-going issue — well, it is an issue in the minds of a very small but determined minority of residents — and the question was, should it be put on the agenda.

Here’s the issue. A decade ago, CH signed a contract with T-Mobile allowing the telco to put an a cell tower on the roof our our building, which is the tallest building for some distance around. CH gets a nice rent, over $30K a year, and all was fine until a year ago when Certain People got a bee in their bonnet about the “health hazard” of having radio frequency energy all around. The matter was presented to the Board (a bunch of local luminaries who set policy and manage the finances of CH) and during that deliberation, it emerged that the contract with T-Mobile was so written, that CH could not unilaterally terminate it for another decade, assuming they wanted to, without severe penalties. Not that they wanted to, the Board deciding there was no problem.

The cell tower was brought up a couple of RA meetings back, and Rhonda, responding for the staff, recounted how CH had paid for a rather expensive technical survey to measure RF energy all through the building, and levels were well below the FCC recommendations. Which of course satisfied none of the people who are deeply suspicious that all that RF will rot our chromosomes or something. (I could have saved them the survey money just by showing them my T-Mobile cellphone, which consistently shows only 2 bars of signal inside the building. The antenna on the roof is designed to radiate horizontally and serve phones all around us; it is designed not to waste energy radiating downward, and my phone suffers for it.)

So the Executive committee decided the item would not be on this month’s agenda. It will no doubt be brought up during the open Q&A at the end of the meeting anyway.

At 3:30 we had another book talk; this by Susan Hartzell reading from her new biography. Fun stuff about growing up in the 1950s in various places.

And at 5pm we had our 6th floor meeting. Joined by Maggie, normally my two-doors-down neighbor, from the porch of her cabin above Fallen Leaf Lake, next to Lake Tahoe. Much joshing about how she had sworn never to have internet installed in the cabin her parents built in 1929, and here she was with her laptop, pine trees behind her. She’s not in a rush to come back, because by current rules anyone who sleeps away from CH has to go into 14-day isolation on return. She might not be back until the first snow.

During that meeting there was discussion about the new comet, NEOWISE (named for the telescope that found it; what are they going to do for the next comet it finds? NEOWISE-II I suppose.) So I went to bed a bit early planning to get up and look for it.

1.219 writers, FOPAL, model

Tuesday 7/7/2020

Did the 7:30 aerobics. Then finalized my contribution for today’s CH Writers meeting. This is a weekly session where those of us with a claim to be wordsmiths, meet and read something we have written, usually something short in response to a “cue” that Connie, the chair, gave us the week before. I’ve had nuttin’ the last two or three meetings, the cues just didn’t spark anything. But this week’s cue was, “write about a journey, either one you have taken or one you imagine.” Pretty loose. And something came to mind, and when it was down on paper, or, um, pixels? it read pretty well. It’s short, I’ll insert it at the end of this post.

That meeting over, I did some work on the model. Really finicky shit. I have a picture to show two of those finicky items.

One, the hood ornament, which is a bit of chrome plastic not much bigger than a fingernail paring. Had to actually cut a little hole in the hood to mount it in, also. And the license plates! What you get are little blank chromed rectangles, they are 12mm by 6mm (say 1/2 inch by 1/4?). Well crap, we can’t have blank plates; how to get proper vintage plates? My painting skills do not stretch to that.

I went to Da Googles and looked for images of Washington license plates and by golly, there was a plate with a 1954 tax sticker in a vintage auction. Captured the image, brought it into software, and with only about 45 minutes of cursing and reprinting, got it printed at the correct size. Cut them out with the X-acto, stuck them down to the plastic with clear acrylic and put clear acrylic over them. The “54” on the tax stamp didn’t quite resolve, but hey.

Pretty soon it was time to run my Zoom meeting. This was to show three other volunteers from FOPAL how the Slottr.com sign-up sheets work. Especially to Raji, who runs the membership committee, how to get the sign-ups out to an Excel spreadsheet so she can verify membership, and prepare roster printouts for sale day. But also went over every step of creating and editing a sheet, so other people are trained in how to do this.

So that was a day. I’m going to watch The Titan Games (I do like my cheesy reality shows). Oh, right, the thing I wrote. I gave it a really good reading, too. Where there is a horizontal line below, I came to a complete pause, looked around, then made like, oh, you want to hear more? and continued. What a bullshit artist I am.

This is a story that I have never shared with anyone before: one of the few transcendent moments of my otherwise mundane life.

It is nineteen sixty-two. I was twenty. I spent my days stringing wires inside the Pacific Telephone switching office on Bush at Montgomery. Evening and weekends I was heavily into amateur theater, hanging out with the drama students at the University of San Francisco, playing bit parts and doing stage managing. To locate the era in the reader’s mind, here’s a memory of that time: standing admiringly by a piano in the Gill Auditorium, as a couple of our more talented performers tentatively worked out the chords to “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks, which was then a fairly new off-Broadway sensation.

I was clinging to a fading relationship with a woman who, just at this point, was away from the City for a month. I wanted to send her something, some sort of charming gift to make her think fondly of me. I remembered that once, on a drive through the Sonoma wine country, she had admired a silly toy in a store in the village of Boyes Hot Springs. I determined to go and get that, and send it to her.

So: on a Saturday morning in San Francisco I hopped into my blue 1952 Ford and set out for Sonoma. A bright sun was holding a fog bank just off the coast as I turned onto the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay sparkled; the hills glowed tawny yellow. I had no schedule, no constraints, nobody expected anything of me. For that moment I was utterly free, and embarked on a solo expedition to buy a treat to please the woman that I pined for.


That’s it; that’s the story. Those few minutes, departing San Francisco and heading across the Bridge in morning sunlight, were an interval of magical freedom, and complete, sublime happiness. They so deeply imprinted themselves on my memory that they are still fresh today.


The rest? Well, I got the toy and sent it. I think she wrote a thank you note. On her return to the City we hung out together for a few weeks more and then parted. But I got that incidental moment that is still with me nearly 60 years after.

In point of cold hard fact, I think that during 1962 I was still parking customer cars at the Cadillac dealership. I didn’t start at the phone company until late 1963 or early 1964. But the rest is correct.

1.218 book talk, model

Monday 7/6/2020

My book talk was to be at 11, so there was time for a run, but since I’d had the upset stomach yesterday, and skipped dinner, and wanted to be at my best, I didn’t do one. Instead I went for a more leisurely walk.

The talk went off quite well, people said they liked it. So that was nice.

In the afternoon I worked on finishing up the model car. It’s pretty nearly done. All that’s left is to attach the chrome bits, bumpers, headlight bezels, hubcaps and taillights. Like I said yesterday, at best a C+ for execution. Doing this stuff well is not at all child’s play. I’m going to have another crack at one, though. Yesterday I ordered a 56 Chrysler kit.