2.158 meeting, FOPAL, dinner

Friday 05/14/2021

Went for a walk. Futzed around on various things until lunch. After lunch went down to FOPAL where for the third? time in a row, there were no computer books to process. So I spent an hour doing sorting.

At 4 it was time for Rhonda’s phone-in. No exciting news. Today the CDC issued some rather confusing new mask guidelines, more or less saying fully vaccinated people don’t need them even indoors, except for, several conditions.

As far as Channing House, we are under the directions of the California Department of Social Services (Independent Living) and the California Department of Public Health (Assisted living and SN), and neither of these agencies have updated their mask guideliness. For the time being, all staff are required to wear masks all the time at work. Out of respect for them, we in Independent Living, are asked to wear masks whenever we are on the first floor or in elevators, places we might encounter staff. Otherwise, not required.

At 5pm I went to Susan and Harry’s unit for drinks before dinner. This was to get to know Gloria who is moving in next week. Like so many of my neighbors here, Gloria is a high achiever, retired from a career teaching Economics at Stanford. Smart, friendly, articulate. She has three daughters, respectively an architect, a software engineer, and a lawyer.

2.157 lunch, haircut

Thursday 05/13/2021

How’s that for an exciting headline, eh? In the morning I wasted some time on the internet, and also spent a little time editing Pelajis. Eventually it was time for lunch with the boys. I picked up Craig and we drove to “Zot’s”, Rizotti’s, a place a lot like a Munich beer-garden, in the woods west of I-280. There we met with Tom and Scott, and so we had four people who all worked at IBM Palo Alto in the early 1970s, around one table. Nostalgia flowed. Also, talk of our respective medical issues.

Got back to Channing House about 3pm, and at 4pm I walked across the bridge to a unit of CH I had never been to, the Beauty Salon it says on the door, where Leah gave me my first professional haircut since probably January of 2020. Leah did a fine job.

And that was the day, pretty much. When I went down to dinner the luck of the draw put me at a table with the Goldens, and there was more reminiscing. They had spent a year in Switzerland in 1975, the same year the Marian and I had started our 2 years in England. That was a year of heat and drought in England, and they remembered that weather as well.

2.156 Tara, dinner, Vella

Wednesday 05/12/2021

Went for a walk first thing. On return, had coffee in the dining room. I’m not thrilled with our selection of pastries, and future occasions I may have coffee out rather than coming back.

Sat in the seating area next to David Morrison who is running this afternoon’s Speaker Series zoom starring Tara Vanderveer. We talked briefly about that, how I should log in about 2:45.

Between then and 2:45 I did a few things. Read over my introduction for Tara and timed it (2 and a half minutes). Re-oiled the coffee table for one. And spent an hour working on a little software project which is threatening to get out of hand and turn into a big software project.

At the appointed time I logged in and shortly, so did Tara. At 3pm David opened the meeting and we soon had 75 participants, which I learned later is about 30% more than usual for the Speakers Series. I gave my intro, then Tara took over and talked for 20 minutes and answered questions until 4pm.

Afterward I got a couple of emails congratulating me on the intro, and in the dining room a couple of people went out of the way to come and tell me how they like the intro. So that was nice.

Dinner was arranged by Patty, inviting me and the Beelers, Leon and Margaret, who are relatively new on our floor. Leon worked many years as an accountant at Sunset Magazine.

Peter is trying to start a more serious critiquing group, with a few people initially. I guess I am flattered he invited me to join. Anyway, what to offer up for nit-picking?

Coincidentally last week, Amazon announced Kindle Vella, a marketplace for serialized stories. I guess Amazon has taken note of how many writers are self-publishing their books as serials, chapter by chapter as blog posts. Most famously Andy Weir published the first draft of The Martian that way, leading to a book contract and a Major Motion Picture deal. But I know of lots of others. Most of them are fan-fic but some are serious novels. Anyway, that put me in mind of my novel Pelajis, which last year I tried to get accepted by agents, to universal turn-downs.

The way Vella is set up, the first 3 chapters of a serial will be free to read, then the reader pays roughly a dime per thousand words to keep reading. So, exactly as with agent queries, the emphasis has to be on starting strong and hooking the reader in the first 1000 words or so.

Well I think Pelajis is quite well suited to being serialized, and its opening chapters need to be made more attractive. So I sat down and did some revision trying to do that, and sent them off to Peter’s group list for critiquing.

Gotta keep flogging that horse. Is it dead?

2.155 stuff, fopal

Tuesday 05/11/2021

After aerobics, I took the green bags to the basement. Then sat down at my desk and did a bunch of silly paperwork, paying bills and so on, which was complicated by the iMac having forgotten how to talk to the printer. Ended up having to reboot both machines.

(Distraction: the TV is on muted, and I keep seeing people doing just horrible things to dogs. WTF? Turns out it is a show on ABC called Pooch Perfect, people competing, apparently, to dye their animals more weird colors than the teams do.)

About 10 somebody above me over-watered a plant and dribbled at least half a gallon of water down onto my deck. No wonder that spot is always damp…

Drove down to FOPAL where once again there were only a few computer books to process, so I put in an hour sorting.

At 5 it was time for the monthly 6th floor meeting. We couldn’t get the audio straightened out on Zoom; there was an echo that made every speaker’s voice break up. Eventually everybody agreed it would be better to violate the rules and meet in person, so 20 people gathered in our lounge for the first time in a year.

2.154 meeting, balcony, writing

Monday 05/10/2021

Went for a walk starting early-ish in order to be back in plenty of time for the monthly Residents Association meeting. Thus I had time for coffee and a pastry at our own dining room coffee service. While I was munching, Ian sat down to ask a favor.

Ian has been running the A/V committee for several years. I’ve been a member since I moved in. We do the mics and lights for presentations in the auditorium and on the 11th floor. I’m sure I’ve written about my adventures with A/V equipment before but can’t be bothered to search for posts.

Anyway, Ian’s wife has had a mild stroke and is rehabbing, and he feels a bit stressed. He wondered if I’d take over the committee. I said OK, as long as he’d be available for consultations. Of course he would.

At the RA meeting, somebody asked Rhonda when we would get back the use of the Auditorium. She said the staff were using the Auditorium for several things like Covid testing, and it would likely be months. Well. That takes a lot of pressure off the AV committee, since there won’t be any events to support for months.


After lunch I got busy cleaning up the balcony. There was a mess of stuff, mainly flower pots, that I’d pushed to the back corner and left for someday. Several of the pots had soil and dead plants in them and all were dirty. On the end of my walk I’d dropped into Whole Foods and bought a roll of large bio-bags. Now I emptied the flower pots into bio bags.

One pot had a fuschia I bought last summer at a nursery in Half Moon Bay. It had never thrived, and most of its branches now were dead or halfway. But it was putting up a little cluster of new shoots about two inches long around the base. So I dug it out, cut off all the dead wood, and put the core with the little shoots and a reduced root ball into a smaller pot. I put it back against the wall, so it will get less direct sunlight. It’ll be fun to see if it recovers.

I carried the old pots inside to the bathroom one at a time and washed them out in the shower. In the course of that, the shower hose got away for a minute and soaked the bathmat, so I had to hang that out on the balcony rail to dry. Anyway, job done. I swept up all the loose dirt and bagged all the debris. Tomorrow I have to carry the bio bags down to the composting containers in the basement and rearrange things on the balcony neatly.


On Wednesday Tara Vanderveer will address us as a visiting speaker. I’ve been tagged to introduce her. So I sat down to write my introduction speech. That took an hour. Reads pretty well. Then I called the guy who’s running the Zoom meeting because I’d heard he would want a rehearsal. (This is David Morrison, or as I think of him, Dave 3, after me and David Golden, and before David Thornton, in alphabetical order. Somebody said there’s yet another David moving in later in the summer.) ANYway, he said he was under pressure just now because his wife Karen had fallen for some kind of scam and they were trying to clean up her ID. So maybe no rehearsal before the actual show.

2.153 nursery

Sunday 05/09/2021

While watering the plants this morning I told myself it was time and past time to do some garden work on the balcony. Last year I bought a couple of fuscias, they have not thrived, close to dead. I have two lovely pots I bought from an artist on Etsy that I’ve never filled.

So after reading the paper and doing the puzzle I took myself off to Yamagami’s Nursery and just wandered around in the houseplants and shady plants area and bought three things. Dang I don’t even remember the names now. Pink cigar plant is one. Arabian Jasmine. And a little striped-leaf thing for inside. Got them planted, but now realizing what a big mess I have on my balcony with unused pots and stuff. I need lots of bio-bags to compost the extra stuff. Have scheduled that for later in the week.

I also set up the hummer feeders again. They’ve been down for most of last year because there was one little brute who took ownership and wouldn’t let any others in. Hopefully he has died or moved away and we can go back to having 5-6 hummers at a time.

Watched Austin City Limits and it was Alan Toussaint. In the closing interview he mentioned Professor Longhair and I thought, dang it has been a while since I heard any Prof. Longhair, so I went to the YouTubes. Here’s “Mess Around”. Nice close to the evening.

2.152 tech, baseball, car wash

Saturday 05/08/2021

First thing in the morning I went for a longish (3.5mi) walk, ending as appropriate for Saturday, at the local farmers market for a chocolate hazelnut swirl.

At 10:30 I had a date with Grace to work on her issue of Apple wanting her to pay for more storage space on iCloud. Her iPhone has about 900 pictures on it, which date back to her first iPhone in 2014, and which fill up the 5GB storage you get free with iCloud.

This is a sweet racket that Apple is running. iCloud is a genuinely useful service. Any picture you take (plus various other things you might store on the phone, like passwords) is instantly and silently backed up to Apple’s servers, and is immediately available on your iPad, MacBook, whatever (and lots of people around here have both an iPhone and an iPad, or a MacBook, or an iMac too). It even works on a Windows PC if you install iCloud for Windows. Or on the web from anywhere, at iCloud.com.

So wherever you go, there is your stuff. And it’s free as long as you keep it down below 4.5GB. But when you get close to the 5GB free limit, you start getting emails and notifications. They make it attractive to level up to the 50GB limit, a mere $12/year. Most people see that as a small price to pay, to avoid the alternative. The alternative? Start deleting pictures and videos until you are below 4.5GB. Who the heck wants that tedious job? A buck a month to avoid having to tidy up and organize my last 5 years’ pictures? Here, Apple, take my money, please! Like I said, a sweet racket. (*)

Grace feels like she doesn’t take many pics any more and she spleens against paying Apple. So I (having done my research) got her to sign in to iCloud.com on her PC and we worked out how she can walk through her pics from oldest toward newest, and click the little garbage can to delete ones she doesn’t need. I thought about trying to show her how to control-click to select multiple pics, but we were already straining her tech abilities. So I left her to delete pics one by one. I assured her that if she could delete just 50, she’d probably stop getting dunning emails. Hope I was right.

After lunch I went to Stanford for a baseball game. They only just now began allowing a limited number of fans into Sunken Diamond and I was looking forward to this.

I was disappointed. The Stanford opening pitcher was immediately in trouble. Arizona batted mostly around. The first inning ended after 50 minutes with Arizona up 3-0. Meanwhile, the sun was full on the seat I’d been assigned, and I was thirsty and the concessions were not open (damn you, Covid). I stood up in the shade through 2 innings and then called it a day.

I decided to get the car washed, and did. When I got back to CH I tuned into the game on the stream. It was then two hours into the game, they were in the fourth inning, and the score was 13-2 Arizona. Soooo glad I didn’t stay at the park.


(*) You might ask, can’t you just shut off the backup feature, not backup new pictures but keep the old ones in the cloud? Ha ha ha, No. This is where it becomes clearly a racket. If you go into settings and try to turn off the Photos component of iCloud? It asks you, are you sure you want to delete all your pictures? And if you insist, it will delete all your pictures. They disappear from your phone, your iPad, your Macbook…

Surely that isn’t necessary, why would they do that? Because, fuck you is why.

OK, you say, I will download my pictures to somewhere safe, a thumb drive or external drive. Yes? Maybe. On your Mac (laptop or iMac), open the Photos app. Select all photos. Choose File> Export. Select a folder on some drive. Wait patiently while Photos copies the images from the secret place it keeps them, to your destination folder or drive. Now you can go to iCloud settings and turn off Photos backup, accept that it will delete all the pics, fine. Success, yes?

Well, somewhat. Except now those pictures are no longer on any device except the one where you exported them. Not on the iPhone or iPad. They are no longer in the Apple ecosystem. You have to manage your pictures using some other software than Photos (Adobe Lightroom? ACDSee?). And you can develop a way to share them using an independent service like SmugMug or Google Images. And from now on, whenever you take pictures with the iPhone or iPad, if you want to back them up or share them, you have to remember to manually transfer them to your main picture device. And the ones you want to share you have to manually transfer to your sharing site. No friendly iCloud to instantly and silently back them up and share them.

Apple whispers, is it not worth $12/year to avoid all that?

2.151 Mt. Hamilton drive

Wednesday 05/07/2021

As planned I and Patty left at 8am and drove to Mountain View to pick up Jean Pawek. From there we drove up and over Mt. Hamilton past Lick Observatory. The Observatory, which we all remember touring at various times over the last 30 years, was of course closed to the public.

The car’s GPS directed us up Quimby road which is extremely steep. I was sure this was not the route I took the two times I rode my bike up to the Observatory. Eventually Quimby intersected the correct road, Mt. Hamilton road, which was the route I remembered. I remembered it particularly because it is not a difficult bike ride, because it was originally made for the mule trains that carried construction materials for the Observatory in the 1880s. Mules can’t handle steep grades, so the road is quite comfortable for bike riders too.

There was a fast-moving fire last summer that drove through this area. It destroyed one residential building but did not damage the several telescope domes, nor caused any harm to people. Blackened oak skeletons were all around.

From the top of the mountain we continued East and North another 40 miles to Livermore. This is very sparsely settled country, a ranch maybe every 3 or 4 miles. There were signs of the fire all along the first half of the route.

Downtown Livermore was crowded; we had a hard time finding a parking space and all the restaurants along the main street were doing well. We had Thai food for lunch. Then drove by freeways on to Mountain View to drop Jean and back to CH on El Camino. 147 miles, 55mpg (go Prius!), seven hours.

2.150 tech, FOPAL

Thursday 05/06/2021

Not much, pretty ordinary day. Aerobics. Futz around the apartment. After lunch I went to FOPAL where there really wasn’t much to do. There is some kind of a hitch in sorting, so not many computer books to manage. But when I went to do some sorting, there weren’t any books to sort, either. Something’s off, but there was nobody around to ask.

At dinner there were three new faces among the servers and hosts, so they are indeed expediting the hiring process. Two of these who took orders at our table had clearly had restaurant experience.

2.149 outing, meeting

Wednesday 05/05/2021

First thing today was to go downstairs at 8:30 to board a bus. The first Channing House Event Committee expedition since pre-Covid, a bus trip to the deYoung museum in the City. There are two exhibits going on there. One, Frida Kalo, is sold out. I’d rather have seen that but too bad. The other, PIcasso/Calder, was designed by the respective grandsons of Picasso and Calder.

The artists were contemporaries, and important and influential about the same time, but in fact they only met three times in their lives and as far as I can tell, didn’t pay much attention to each other’s work. But somebody (the grandsons?) thought it made sense to have an exhibit of some stuff by Picasso and some stuff by Calder. It was arranged so that works done in the same year were next to each other, but still, I didn’t see any relationship. I was not blown away by either, although generally I get more from a Calder mobile than a Picasso abstract. So I finished walking through in less than an hour and then I had two hours to kill until the bus departed.

I spent some time sitting in the sun (the fog was in, and despite the fact that I’ve lived around SF for going on fifty years, I didn’t think to wear a jacket to the City in the summer) and reading. Had a snack at the museum cafe, and then it was time to go.

Back at CH at 1:45, just 15 minutes before the Resident Association Executive Committee met. Nothing too important was discussed.

After that I finished getting a decent opaque coat of paint on the Golf model. Just in time; I had been working in the bathroom and I needed to move the spray stuff out to the balcony before Wanda cleans tomorrow. Now the Golf sits at least a day for the paint to harden. Then I use masking tape and set up to paint the black areas on it. There is black like eye-shadow around all the windows and a black stripe down the side and it is going to be fussy as hell getting it all on neatly.