1.298 health

Thursday 9/24/2020

No run or exercise this morning. The back pain was minor and didn’t keep me from getting a lot of sleep. When I first got up it seemed entirely gone, but later there was a minor ache. I read internet articles about sudden back pain and about angina. This event, together with another sudden-onset pain across both shoulders a couple of weeks ago, could conceivably be angina.

So I got on My Health Online, the internet presence of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and requested an appointment with my cardiologist. In the ridiculously small 55-character comment field, I wrote “2 events of sudden back/shoulder pain, might be angina”. 55 characters, but containing two words that I thought would catch somebody’s attention, “sudden” and “angina”.

Not so much. Very shortly came a response, quote,

Dear David E Cortesi,

My name is Fred Nelson, I am replying to your message about your appointment request in Encina Cardiology. I am going to help by scheduling your appointment for

Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Time: 3:00 p.m.

With: Dr. Dibiase

…I hope that I have answered all of your questions. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. We appreciate you trusting Palo Alto Medical Foundation for your care.

Hmmm. I guess those words were not magic, for Fred.

There is a conflict here. The online appointment pages are full of red notices, “this is not for urgent problems; if you have blah blah, call 911 or go to an emergency room”. The conflict is, I do not know if this is an urgent problem. I would like my cardiologist’s opinion on whether or not it is urgent. Which apparently I will get a month from now.

I wonder what to do next. I guess I can try for a tele-appointment with either the cardio or my PCP. But what is the very first thing a doctor wants to do when presented with a symptom that might be cardiac-related? Put a stethoscope on it, duh! Which I don’t think their tele-appointment software is up to. Never mind, I went around the software again, requesting a video visit with the cardiologist, and the same 55-character comment. And got a 9/28 video appointment. So I canceled the 10/28 office visit.

Later I’m thinking, come on. Whatever happened yesterday was intense briefly, but then settled down to, and has remained, a low-level back-ache for 24+ hours. That isn’t angina by any description.

Also, it is not an issue with my artificial aortic valve. I’ve been well schooled in what to watch about that. If the valve starts to break down, the heart pumping action becomes inefficient, with a lot of blow-back on compression. So the BP drops, you feel tired and short of breath, maybe the rate goes up trying to compensate. That’s a 911 call immediately, no foolin’. Angina is a pain caused by the heart muscle not getting enough oxygen, usually from being clogged, sometimes by a “spasm”. Angina by itself is not reason for a 911 call, just a checkup, EKG, etc., to diagnose further.

Other than fussing over Doctor Google and making appointments, it was a very boring day. I started spraying color on pieces of the model. At 1:45 the housekeepers came to do my room, so I took the car out for a drive. But mostly I sogged around feeling… just a bit crappy.

It was hard to distinguish between boredom, combined with irritation at not being able to sit comfortably, versus actually feeling ill. Just before supper, I took my temperature: 99.1! Which is about 1.5F higher than my normal, as established by the spreadsheet where I’ve been recording temp, weight, and BP for months.

If it is still elevated in the morning, then shortly after I report my temp to the website where we do that each day, a nurse will arrive at my door in full PPE, take my vitals, give me a covid test, and tell me I am quarantined. So I have that to look forward to.

1.297 back, model

Wednesday 9/23/2020

Started out with a run, which ended in an unexpected way. About half-way, just as I was approaching the bridge over the creek, I was hit by a pain. It came on suddenly, in mid-stride: a very strong (7-8 on a scale of 10), diffuse, pain around my chest. I came to a halt and leaned on a pole. Obvious check: heart attack? My heart rate felt normal and I wasn’t short of breath, and it wasn’t focused on the left or radiating down the left arm. Over a couple of minutes it reduced to a general upper-back pain. I walked home.

Over a couple of hours it reduced to a localized pain across my upper back just under the shoulderblades, say T-5 or so. Curiously I am most comfortable standing up. Sitting down I have to sit very erect to minimize the pain. So. WTF? Don’t know. Don’t want to pursue medical help at this point. The treatment for back pain is almost always “tylenol and time”. I will rethink that if the severe pain comes back.

About 12:30 I took a vicodin and after eating lunch, I had a nice two-hour nap, after which the pain was reduced to annoyance level. Taking tylenol before going to bed, leaving a couple of tylenol out for use if/when I get up in the night.


We got official permission to add solo sitting spots on the 11th floor. I met with Marcia there and we set up a couple of places. She went off to make signs for them, and prepare an announcement. She sent me the draft announcement, I did a little copy-edit and posted it to the house BB.


I put two more coats of primer on the model MG. Tomorrow I’ll start spraying color.

1.296 writing, model, COVID

Tuesday 9/22/2020

Let’s not bury the lede: this afternoon the announcement went out that four additional Lee Center residents have tested positive, for a total of seven. According to the email, all seven have symptoms and “some are hospitalized”. Some meaning… more than one, I suppose.

One of our meal delivery volunteers, Carol, immediately emailed to ask to be taken off the schedule. “As I have diabetes I am at extra risk,” she said, and although delivering meals to her neighbors was “the high point of the day” she wanted to minimize contact. Very sensible. But that brought to mind the fact that all the volunteer jobs we have set up, and meal delivery especially, represent points of face to face contact. Masked and distanced, yes, but still. So I would expect that if even a single case appears in the Tower, the IL spaces, we will get shut down quick, and all those jobs will go back to staff.

I read my “turning point” thing at the writers’ group and got very nice comments. I’ll append it.

I spent some time sanding and filing on the plastic of the major two pieces of the MG body in order to make them fit just right. I also completed priming the smaller pieces and the first coat of primer on the body.

Another half hour of air time in X-Plane. I finally reached Seattle and I have to say, I’m not too impressed with the scenery. Highly accurate world scenery is one of the selling points of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator. X-Plane has highly accurate aircraft physics, but the scenery? Not so much.

Over West Seattle, approaching downtown. Definitely no Safeco field or Smith Tower.
Apparently Seattle Center has been converted to a park. Along with several blocks of downtown, the Viaduct, a lot of Queen Anne hill and the Ferry terminals. Can forgive no Great Wheel, it’s only been there 11 years.

Turning point at the Pruneyard, 1974

To understand this turning point the reader must know more about the organization and internal politics of a multi-national corporation than may be healthy.

In the 1960s, decades before anyone conceived of computers small enough to be owned by individuals, IBM enjoyed a modest income from selling interactive access, via typewriter-based terminals, to mainframe computers in what it called Service Bureaus.

Other companies, notably one founded by now-famous entrepreneur H. Ross Perot, wanted some of that action, and pointed out that IBM had an unbeatable edge in that it didn’t have to buy the mainframes to which it was selling access. The United States Justice Department agreed. To avert what might have been a disastrously broad monopoly ruling, IBM basically gave away its entire United States Service Bureau business to Ross Perot’s EDS corporation, and went out of the remote terminal access business.

However, IBM’s European division, headquartered in London, was under no such constraints, and wanted to continue offering computer services out of their offices. They particularly liked the idea of selling time on remote terminals, and in fact wanted upgrades and added features to that time-sharing software for which IBM U.S. no longer had any use.

That software had been developed and maintained in an IBM office in Palo Alto, where I and my wife both worked. (Here enters the personal connection.) IBM Europe offered to fund a major rewrite of the remote access software, and our management agreed. Our 30-person department moved to bigger quarters at the Pruneyard tower in San Jose, and set busily to work creating what was grandly named VSPC:  Virtual Systems Personal Computing — the first use of “PC” for “personal computing”, long before what we now call “PCs” existed.

Our staff was reinforced by the addition of Martin and Geoffrey, two blokes from the London office, who would be managing the software when it was finished and deployed at IBM offices across Europe and the Middle East. One day in 1974, when the project was nearing completion, I joined Martin and Geoff for lunch at a restaurant in the Pruneyard. We talked about the project and how it could be handled by them in London. In the middle of the conversation an idea popped into my mind.

“I don’t suppose you’d want to take along some people from here to help with maintenance, would you?” I asked.

Martin and Geoff exchanged a glance, and Martin said, “We might do.  Are you interested?”

I said I was, and that I was pretty sure that Marian would be also. I may have pointed out that it would be cheaper to relocate a couple than two separate assignees. Martin said he’d make some phone calls.

At home that night I told Marian, who was immediately on board with the idea. We’d both enjoyed a two-week vacation in England a couple of years earlier, and were sure that a longer stay would be fun.

It took weeks for everything to be arranged, but management on both sides of the Atlantic were clear on the advantages of getting two, top-notch programmers (I flatter myself) who both knew the software system in detail, to help deploy it and train the local programmers.

The result was our spending just short of three years living in Twickenham. We had satisfying, productive work alongside IBMers from England and across Europe, while on weekends and holidays we’d drive all around England. It was wonderful at the time, but also had the unforeseen outcome of establishing our fortune.

While we were in England, IBM’s generous relocation supplements to our salaries, along with the income from renting our Palo Alto home, collected in the bank. When we returned we had enough surplus to buy a rental property which, when sold decades later, established the bulk of our retirement nest egg — the nest egg I drew on to move to Channing House.

All that resulted from a casual question at lunch time in the Pruneyard.

1.295 writing, sheets, model

Monday 9/21/2020

I went for a run at 7:15 and it was one of those times when I felt better, stronger than average. There’s no reason for such days, as there’s usually no reason for the days when it feels very difficult. Just enjoy the ones and don’t fret about the other.

In the morning I dealt with two assignments, of sorts. It’s the week of the Writers’ group and since I blew off the last two, I thought I’d better contribute something this time. The cue was “turning point” and I wrote 700 words about the time in 1974 when, during a casual lunch at the Pruneyard, I suggested to two assignees from IBM Europe, that maybe they should take a couple of developers from here back to London to help support VSPC. With the result that Marian and I lived in England for three years.

That done, I got caught up with my volunteer sign-up sheets. I should have created a “next week” sheet for the package reception task yesterday. Creating a new sheet is a simple task: I tell the app to “clone” the previous one; then I step through each of the sign-up slots (14 for packages, 21 for meals) and change its date to a week later.

I talked to Marcia about how there were not many signups for the Safety Sitters sheet. We decided to eliminate some of the times, just do afternoons on weekdays. I made that change, then posted an email giving links to all six sheets (this week and next week, for the three tasks) to the house BB.

Later I worked on the MG-TC, two ways. One, I did more spraying of primer on small parts. This involves a short spell of “shooting” paint, followed by an hour or more of drying time. Which means, cleaning the airbrush after each shoot, or it will dry and clog. That was a pain with the spray setup on the balcony. I moved the whole thing to the bathroom.

I worked on another problem: I didn’t like the way the body tub fits into the main piece that represents those lovely curved front and rear fenders. I’ve seen this kind of problem in previous kits where it just isn’t clear how exactly one big piece relates to another. Eventually I decided that it definitely needs some plastic shaved back to let the body settle in better. I used tape to carefully define a nice smooth curve along which I will remove a shaving about 1/32 wide on each side.

1.294 walk, airbrush, fly

Sunday 9/20/2020

About 9am, after doing the puzzle and watering the plants and feeding the livestock (hummingbirds) I went for a walk, over to the California Ave. farmers’ market. I ended up with 4 miles for the day, most in that walk.

In the afternoon I used my airbrush for the first time, with mixed results. It mostly worked well, but a couple of times I wanted to stop and clean it, and that’s awkward. My “spray booth” is on the end of the balcony farthest from the kitchen sink. So I have to turn off the compressor, unscrew the air line, carry the brush to the kitchen, clean it, reverse. And waste the paint in the cup, or else work out how to store thinned paint.

I also had problems supporting the many (7) small parts I wanted to spray. You spray it, then it’s wet, and you try to set it down, and it flips over and puts the wet side against the paper towel, so you pick it up and carry it to the kitchen and wipe all the wet paint off with alcohol and dry it and take it back to do it again. I stopped after half an hour realizing I need to work out better techniques. Everything needs multiple coats (and this is just the primer; there’s still the color and the clear to do) with drying time between. I also stopped to find out how long it takes this particular primer (a good quality acrylic) to get hard. It’s dry enough to touch in ten minutes but it feels kind of tender to the fingernail. The bottle talks about curing for 12 hours before masking. I wonder how long before I can sand it? At least that long.

I spent another half hour flying X-plane, working mostly on trying to fly straight and level and maintain a constant heading. Which the plane does not want to do; it likes to just sneakily roll a tiny bit and start curving left or right, or start climbing or dropping a couple feet a minute, or something. And that is in dead still air. I should turn on weather in the app. Two days ago I flew it over Tacoma to check out the Narrows bridge and was disappointed; the scenery in this app is really basic. It knows there are two roadways but it shows them as simple raised roadbeds over the water. The two Narrows bridge spans are big suspension ones like the Golden Gate.

1.293 meeting, model

Saturday 9/19/2020

Still depressed. However, put out a BB post thanking volunteers and listing all signup sheets. Then joined Marcia to meet with Kim H.R. to discuss 11th floor issues. We suggested having two additional monitored spots particularly for solo users who want to sit up there (the penthouse is a really pleasant place to sit) and use their computers. Kim was to take that to Rhonda today; later she wrote that it sounded good but needed further staff input, see you next week. (Kim works Tue-Sat.)

I started working on the MG-TC model. It’s big, 1/16 scale where the usual is 1/25. The MG is a very small car, though, so the final product won’t be a lot bigger than the Chevy or Ford models. I set up my camera and started recording some of this work, with commentary. Maybe, if it isn’t too bad and I feel like editing it, I will put it on my YT channel. I still have over 100 subscribers, despite not having posted anything in 18 months or so.

In the evening I watched most of a solo concert streamed by Club Fox in Redwood City. I’ve attended concerts at the Fox (a restored grand old theater) and Club Fox, their blues/rock nightclub next door. They’ve just started a series of streamed concerts. This one by Drew Harrison was … ok.


In COVID news, as I noted yesterday we have a total of 4 positive tests among residents in the AL center. Tonight’s staff email noted that they and the staff members who tested positive, all have one or another symptom.

1.292 hobby shop, meeting, sadness

Friday 9/18/2020

Started with a run, felt normal. At 11 I headed out to find model paint. My first and last stop was J&M Hobbies in San Carlos. Two employees wearing masks, nobody else in the store. They’ve been in business over 50 years, and have absolutely everything a modeler could want. Such a resource! I was able to look over racks and racks of paint and pick out a red acrylic that will be just right for the MG.

At 3pm I met with Marcia on the 11th floor to review the status of our volunteer efforts. Everything is going pretty well. There are some questions on proper use of the 11th floor, especially use of the piano for piano practice. We agreed I would present this at Rhonda’s 4pm weekly meeting.

Which I started to do, and 10 seconds into my presentation, my computer lost the internet. By the time I got logged back into Zoom, Rhonda had moved on to give her remarks on the COVID status. Briefly, two staff members from the Lee (nursing) wing have tested positive, are quarantined at home, are sick and other members of their family are sick as well. Our one resident with the virus is isolated and being tended by 3 nurses, who are living in hotel rooms to protect their families.

So I gave my little spiel, reviewing the background of the 11th floor sitters, the reason for them. Basically the 11th floor is off limits because housekeeping cannot disinfect all the furniture there frequently, as they do in the main lobby. I explained that, if there was unrestricted use, you could never be sure that some person with the virus hadn’t sat in any particular chair, or leaned on any table, before you. The chance of infection is very tiny, but can’t be ignored, so the 11th floor is off limits. So the point of the “sitters” is that we have specified tables that you know will be disinfected before you sit down, and will be disinfected after you get up. Thus the floor can be used while a sitter is there.


During the meeting, an attendee broke in with the news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. And everyone’s hearts sank. This is just so depressing. You immediately know that Trump will nominate some troglodyte, the Democrats will try to stall the nomination until after the election, blah de depressing blah. I’m so discouraged about the state of the country. I’m again reviewing the chances of moving to New Zealand. Or some other country with a touch of sanity. Seriously. It would cost a good chunk of the Nest Egg but could be done.


At about 8pm came a new email from staff: tests were administered to all Lee Center residents and staff after yesterday, after the 2 staff and one resident were found positive. Results of those tests came back this evening and, quote “We are sad to report that we have 3 additional residents and 1 additional staff member who have tested positive for Covid-19.

The one staff member was one who had been sent home to quarantine on Friday 9/11, owing to close contact with another staff member who tested positive. So that was no surprise. But three residents? That was not expected and is very serious. There are now 4 cases in the “COVID wing” that was set up months ago and hadn’t been used until last week. Will it stop there? Have they contained it? Only time will tell.

So the sequence was, two staff members had symptoms, were tested, went home, are now sick along with family members. Staff exposed to them were also sent home; one of those has now tested positive. First one resident positive, then three more a week later. Scary.

1.291 Shorts, paint, God

Thursday 9/17/2020

Started the day as typical for a Thursday, with Veronica’s aerobics. I remembered to have my phone in the pocket of my shorts, so I know that during that half hour it records 1600 steps, half a mile.

Following that I was takin’ care of business like a boss. I tidied the place, anticipating Wanda coming in to clean this afternoon. Wouldn’t want the maid to think I’m messy, would I?

Then I took care of something that has been bugging me lately: my exercise shorts keep slipping down. So between sets of aerobic moves, or every few blocks while jogging, I have to pull them up. I would love to find out this was caused by losing weight, but I am keeping track of my weight and it is stable, 172 +/- 1.5. Why, then? Well, when I actually looked I found that the button in the waistband, which I had re-sewn six months ago, was loose. My stitches had slipped or stretched or something so the button had half an inch of play. So I got out my sewing kit and sewed that sucker down flat again. I expect that the shorts will stay up better now.

I took care of several emails from volunteers, then wrote to George, our banker who helped us at WFB on Tuesday, asking for more info on what a “key executive” is and whether we need one. Later he called me directly, mainly wanting to assure me that with two people with signing authority, we had all the access we needed and I shouldn’t worry about it. Later he did send links to the business account info which I’ll review later.


There’s been some confusion over whether/if/when the WBB season will start. Today I got an NCAA email saying 11/25. However it is my speculation that Stanford won’t allow fans into Maples. Marcia suggested that they might use cutouts with pictures, like the Giants have been doing. Oh, with our own personal season-ticket-holder faces in the appropriate seats? That seemed such a very “Fast Break Club” concept that I sent a note to uber-fans Harriet and Lily suggesting it. Today Harriet cc’d me while passing the idea to Eileen, the operations manager for the team. So something may come of that.


In the afternoon three packages arrived, including some model paints I’ve been waiting for. I particularly want a solid, bright red for the MG TC, and had ordered three, one of which I thought would be good for a 54 Chrysler. But when I painted them out on scrap plastic and photo paper,

…I didn’t like any of them. This photo is not accurate, the colors are too dark. Anyway finding paint has been a constant frustration when limited to buying online. The paint colors shown on the web pages are not accurate. When you find the paint you think you want, then the store is out of stock, so you try a different store. They all ship very slowly, even when you order from Amazon, because Amazon’s hobby supplies are not stocked by Amazon, they pass it off to another online hobby store. Anyway, bitch bitch.

I sat down and used Google Maps and Yelp to find hobby stores. There still are a few, and tomorrow I am going to visit a couple. They all say their employees are masked and yadda yadda. If I see unmasked people or the place looks janky I won’t go in. But I just want to find one place with a good rack of model paints so I can go down the line of bottles and say, right, that one, gimme.


In the evening I watched some of Palo Alto Players’ An Act of God. It’s mostly a monologue, God in the form of actress Emily Scott muses on the creation of the world and other topics. It had some moments but mostly it seemed labored and obvious. So I clicked “Leave Meeting” after about 40 minutes.

1.290 IT support here

Wednesday 9/16/2020

Air was clean, fog was in making damp streets. Hopefully that will squelch all the fires burning to the West of us, toward the coast. Don’t know if it gets far enough to help the ones on the East side of the Bay. Anyway, I got to go for a run, yay.

At 9:30 I got out the car and went to visit sister-in-law Jean. She was having some computer problems, which I was able to solve. From there I went to Target and bought a doormat to replace the offensive one that came from Amazon. This one is just boring, but at least it isn’t annoying.

Back home I found an email from the tech squad. Lynn was having trouble with her old iPad, “it won’t swipe”. What? “You know what I mean by ‘swipe’, and nothing happens”. Craig Allen who was CC’d on the email suggested, “restart it” and he was right. I had some trouble getting Lynn to restart the iPad over the phone but we met in the lobby and I did it (hold power and Home down for 10 seconds until the Apple logo appears) and magically the iPad would respond to swipes again. But it was dog-slow responding to everything. Given it was quite old, I strongly suggested she should start hinting to the kids that she’d like a new one for Christmas.

In the afternoon there was to be a talk, about the artistic revolution of Paris in the I forget what decade. But it turned out to be a recording of a zoom meeting, delivered over zoom, which might have been tolerable but then they lost the sound on it, so I bailed. And that was about it for the day.

1.289 meetings

Tuesday 9/15/2020

Did the aerobics class. At first I was the only one logged on to the zoom session. Two others clicked in 5 minutes late. But I think Veronica worked me harder than usual because I was the only one there.

First business of the day was to meet with Martha, the former RA treasurer, and walk to Wells Fargo to negotiate giving me signature authority. We’d put that off after I was elected in March, owing to the virus. Now we had staff authorization to do this. It turned out to be more involved than I’d thought. The banker, who I think had not done this before, spent a lot of time on his computer and on the phone with someone, checking that he had the right forms and was filling them out correctly.

A problem arose in trying to remove two former signatories. Diane had been president of the RA, and was still in the records as signing checks. Taking her off was easy. But also Andrew, who was Treasurer under Diane, was somehow listed as a “key executive” of this business account. In order to remove him we need to provide proof that he is no longer a key executive. That means finding records of the minutes of the RA meeting where his replacement (Martha) was elected, printing them, getting them signed by all concerned, and returning them to the bank.

Also should probably get Tom, current President, listed as a signer, and then remove Martha. What a pain.

On return I checked on the novice Safety Sitter, Mary Beth on the 11th floor. She was of course fine. At 2pm I met with Bob, who had taken the full 3 hours, 2-5pm. Later he emailed that he really enjoyed having so much time to read. Meanwhile, the signup sheet for sitters is filling up nicely. I was worried at slow adoption but it looks like it’s a goer.

I flew X-Plane over what should have been familiar territory, but was disappointed. They apparently have a ground map that has roads and terrain contours, but they don’t have the actual buildings or vegetation. They just generate buildings and vegetation algorithmically. So the lakes and rivers and highways (oh and railroads, I’ve seen a little train rolling along tracks) are accurate (ish), but they don’t look like Google Earth. Too bad.


In the afternoon came an email from staff: Monday’s testing turned up one positive case! Not among the IL but over in assisted living in the Lee Center. Which is surprising to me. The people over there have very little opportunity to get infected. We independent types are out and about; the Lee center people see staff and, recently, got the opportunity to visit with family, but only in very controlled circumstances, in a special gazebo structure with plexiglass between, or so I thought. Contact tracing will be revealing I guess.


In the evening I was filling out an online survey from Stanford Blood Center, which asked for me to enter my age. Specific age, not just a decade or “over 70”. So as usual I had to stop and think, and was a bit surprised. Shit, in a few months I’ll be 78. Dude. That’s old. Which in an odd way makes me feel good, because (so far, knock on wood) I don’t feel like what I imagine 78 should be like. More like 45 with a bad hangover, or something.