1.356 Sweeny Ridge

Sunday 11/22/2020

So by a little after 9 I had drunk my coffee, read the paper, watered the plants, and done the NYT crossword. And remembered my determination to go walk someplace different. A couple of minutes with the computer and I decided to go walk the Sneath Lane trail to Sweeney Ridge. (Easy to find on Google Maps.) Having in mind how fast recreational things fill up on a Sunday, I hustled away the 25 miles up I280, and got the last good parking spot at the trailhead.

I had no idea of the topography of this trail, although I realized it was going to be mostly climbing going up, as it ends up on the crest of the Coast Range, near where, supposedly, Gaspar de Portola and his gang, who were lost and looking for Monterey Bay, first caught sight of San Francisco Bay.

Later I worked out that it was almost exactly 600 feet of elevation gain, from the low end of the parking lot to the top. At the time I just knew I was trudging uphill, sometimes steeply and sometimes less so. At the start you get a look down the length of San Francisco’s water supply, Crystal Springs reservoir.

There was a lot of smaze in the air.

Higher up you can look back and see where you were before.

Some of those people had passed me going up, reached the top, and passed me going down.

Near the top the Bay Area Fog was starting to blow in, making me glad I had my jacket.

It took just over an hour for me to climb 600 feet up and 1.7 miles along. I was pleased however that although I often paused to rest, it felt like all my body parts were working correctly.

Also this gave a useful check on the pedometer or “Health” app in the iPhone. For the 1.7 mile return trip it only counted 1.5 miles. So it is a bit more than 10% short.

I pretty much couched the rest of the day.

1.355 model, photos, floss, video

Saturday 11/21/2020

Took a walk both morning and afternoon, for a tolerable daily distance of 2.9 miles. I’m getting quite bored with walking Palo Alto streets, despite it being the time of year when all the pepper trees and japanese maples are in full color. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll drive to another walking venue.

I spent an hour and a half chrome-plating the spokes of the rest of the wheels of the MG. I tried to take a picture of this process, but I have no good way to get really close to the work. I tried, with the Nikon on the tripod, but I have to reach with one hand to trigger it, or else use the 10-second self-timer, and the results weren’t good enough to put in here.

I have a small tripod which would be perfect to set on the work surface, but it can’t support the weight of the Nikon. It would support the iPhone, but I have no way to attach the iPhone to a tripod. In the evening I searched Amazon for “iPhone holder tripod” and of course there is the exact right thing, a clamp for the phone with a 1/4-inch threaded hole to attach to a tripod. So I ordered that.


I am running low on my favorite dental floss, “Listerine Gentle Gum Care Woven Floss”. I’ve used it for years; it is fuzzy and works well for the large gaps between my molars. So I tried to order some and found it was only to be had on eBay at $50 and up. A little more searching and I learned that Johnson & Johnson had dropped the product a year ago. Why would they do that?

A little more searching and I found multiple places on the web where people were listing “the 10 best replacements for Listerine Gentler Gum Care Floss”. I ordered some that sounded possible.


A year and a half ago, while I was making the Tasso house sellable, I had to install a new smoke detector. The one I picked up turned out to have a very confusing setup process. After I had sorted it out I thought, “I bet other people have this problem”, so I made a little 2:33 video explaining what I’d learned. This has become my most successful video! Forget all the meal replacement reviews, etc. The First Alert Location Reset video has had 6,800 views, and gained 98 likes and 23 comments, most of them just “Thank You!”. I got another comment tonight; they come every few weeks. So strange to think that nearly 7,000 people have been motivated to search YouTube for “First Alert PC1210”, which is the only way to find this video, and then played it.


In pandemic news, one additional staff person has tested positive. The official email says “We have not identified any residents who had close contact with this staff person… This brings our total Covid-positive staff members to 2. We currently have no Covid-positive residents.”

1.354 Pandemic worries

Just went back and edited the day numbers for the last few posts. Somehow I had gone from 339 to 140, instead of 340.

Friday 11/20/2020

I had set up an InstaCart order for delivery between 9-11. The shopper was at it by 8:30 and by shortly was on his way, estimated arrival 9:05. So I hung around until he came, put my few things away (stuff I’d forgotten in my Piazza’s run earlier, like laundry bleach), and then went for the full walk of the jogging route. I actually jogged about 30 feet this time, just to pass a lady with a couple of dogs who was slowing me down. It felt ok. Going to wear sneakers next time and try jogging a few blocks.

What else did I do? Somehow the day went by. I did go out for a shorter walk after lunch, so at least didn’t rot away in my recliner all day. Rhonda’s 4pm meeting was about how fast the pandemic is changing.

We are helplessly watching a perfect storm developing. The number of positive cases have spiked. The number of hospitalizations have spiked. The weather is colder encouraging people to the indoors. All at a time when there is a very strong desire to travel and gather.

She went on to say she had canceled her own family Thanksgiving (“causing some anger”) and was asking the staff to join her in a pledge not to attend any indoor gatherings this holiday season. Implicitly asking us to pledge, as well, although she didn’t say so.

Per the latest guidance from the county — which has just moved into the Purple tier — if we attend an indoor gathering, or travel on a plane, it’s 14 days of isolation on return. There’s a dis-incentive for gathering with the family. The limited program of allowing in-room visits is off again, as is the limited allowance of meeting in the floor lounge or dining area.

When we had one staff person test positive in the Lee center early in the week, the people with the contractor who were doing the moving of fifth floor campers back to their new apartments? Quit. Well, not quit, but called in sick. Out of fear of contagion. Moves that had been in progress were completed by our own staff, and we are talking to the movers trying to make them understand how contagion works. Meanwhile the schedule of the remaining move-ins is in jeopardy. (Later: back on track.)

1.353 busy morning

Thursday 11/19/2020

After the aerobics class, I started doin’ stuff. First, clean up the apartment, put away all the stuff that I should have put away days ago, empty the trash and the recycle baskets, all in preparation for Wanda’s visit to clean house this afternoon.

I set up new signup sheets for the volunteers and passed them along to Marcia.

I wrote up a detailed note on how to keep your Mac up to date without upgrading to the next operating system, with images, and sent that out.

I got so busy I thought it was Friday, and told the FOPAL people that I would send the spreadsheet with the results for their Friday sale day “at 10”. Then had to follow that up with “…on Friday of course.”

I set up an InstaCart order for myself, some things I forgot to get at Piazza’s. Yes of course I could go back to Piazza’s, or walk up to Whole Foods. But there’s a pandemic on, and I am feeling antsy about contact.

My random collection of jeans has been bugging me, and during laundry yesterday I determined to straighten that out. I know I want a 35 waist because my one pair with that waist fit my newly reduced body perfectly. (And my weight, though stable at 161, is not showing any signs of climbing back.) But that 35-pair is a model 512, and the legs are just a bit too skinny, they are a pain to remove. I have to manually pull each leg down over my foot, instead of just standing on the hem and lifting a leg out. So I tried on my 512, my 511, my 505 and I think another one. What I want is a model 511, 35×30. Go online. Ha ha no. There are no 511’s in a 35 waist.

Eventually after considering Wrangler, I take a flyer on Bonobos. I like my Bonobos jacket and slacks I bought way back in, gosh, Day 231. Their jeans cost twice what Levi’s do. We’ll see.

And that was my busy morning.

After lunch and a nap, I cleared out for a 90-minute walk so Wanda could work her magic. Room looks lovely now. Published the next week’s volunteer signup sheets.

Put in some more work on the MG’s wheels, at which I can only spend limited time. My back starts hurting if I sit on my stool by the desk too long. There are five inside and five outside pieces, and I have to chrome-plate both sides of all ten pieces.

This doesn’t show the difference between gray plastic and chrome paint very well.

1.352 laundry mainly

Wednesday 11/18/2020

First thing I went for the usual walk over what I am still going to call the jogging route (4.1 miles for the day). For something to do in the morning I actually sat down and did some work on the MG model, the highly tedious work of painting chrome onto the spokes of the insides and outsides of five spoke wheels.

I had the 12-2pm window for using the laundry but checked around 10:30 and nobody was using it, so I started early. Laundry wrapped up, sorted and put away just after lunch.

After a nap I did what I’ve been meaning to do: went for a short walk to a nearby park and sat on a bench to read for a bit: getting the heck out of the room in the middle of the afternoon.

Oh, late edit: I forgot to mention this. After several weeks of “no COVID”, an urgent email arrived about 2pm saying, “We have received notice that a Lee Center staff member has tested positive… Anyone who has been thought to have had close contact with the Covid-positive employee has been notified…” and a bunch of things that were about to open up, are slammed shut again.

1.351 gladness, model

Tuesday 11/17/2020

At 6am, watching the TV weatherman, I got an idea for a short essay, and drafted most of it by 7am. (Below.)

Did Veronica’s aerobics. Then, at 8am, as I had planned out days ago, I quickly showered and dressed and headed out for the grocery store, getting to Piazza’s at 8:30, still within the early “vulnerable” hours. I bought a few things I wanted and just as I was ready to pay with the phone I got a call from Scott. He wanted to bring me up to date on his medical news, which has been a lot more dire and uncomfortable than mine.

Near the end of October, he went up an extension ladder to trim a decorative tree in his backyard, and apparently fell off it. “Apparently” because he doesn’t remember: the fall gave him a severe concussion and he doesn’t remember it, or five days at Stanford hospital. He suffered several compression fractures in vertebrae and is braced up several ways, but expects to be out of braces, or in more comfortable braces, in another month.


Back home I made another experiment applying clear coat to scrap plastic using the air brush and it is absolutely not acceptable. Far too many little bits of dust, and voids, and wrinkles. I went online to various hobby stores, and ordered some Tamiya spray clear, which had enthusiastic user reviews. It won’t arrive for a couple of weeks, though.


Mid-day I did not get out of the apartment as I had sworn. It was raining.


OK, here’s the essay I wrote this morning and posted to the writers’ group, getting several enthusiastic seconds.

So glad…

The jovial weather guy on this morning’s news, delighted to finally having some weather to report, reminded us “You won’t need your AC for a while, don’t forget to put the cover on it.”
Oh lord! The AC cover! My heart warmed with the sudden knowledge that I will never again need to do that. Never again will I get the AC cover down from the dusty shelf in the garage, disturbing a summer’s worth of spider nests. Custom-fitted black leatherette, bought in the prior century, now coated with months of dust, it fits snugly over the bulky AC evaporator unit beside the back door.
But it can’t go on yet; first I have to clean the evaporator, getting rid of eight or nine months of dust, bird poop and pittosporum leaves. That takes half a roll of paper towels and many squirts of 409 cleaner. Then, once the big metal box is clean, I need to wax it. If I don’t, it will rust under the cover. Back into the garage to find a bottle of auto polish and some rags. I wax the top and sides, and “tsk” where rust is creeping up the bottom edges of the metal case.

With a summer’s debris cleaned and the paint protected, I can fit the cover. I snug it down over each corner and fasten the velcro at the ends. And now: it is time to clean the dust from the leatherette and make it rain-proof. Back into the garage to dig out the spray bottle of Armor All, and use more paper towels to wipe in the milky protectant and make the leatherette shine.

When the AC box looks like a glossy black monolith, ready to shed rain for a few months, I pull the breaker that powers it so it can’t come on if I mess up setting the thermostat. I pack all the wet, dirty paper towels into the recycle bin, and put away the bottles of cleaners. I have “put the cover on the AC”, a simple job that only takes a couple of hours.

This morning, gaping at the jovial weatherman, I am so, so delighted that I no longer care for any of the details of an old suburban house — the gutters; the roof; the random wiring; the taxes and insurance; cutting back the attractive but greedy Virginia Creeper; denying access to the roof rats; and, in November and May, covering and uncovering the AC. It was only when I was driving away from the place for the last time, on my way to Channing House, that I felt — as the old evangelical hymn says — the burdens of my heart rolled away. And I’m still glad.

1.350 keys found, tech help

Monday 11/16/2020

Checked around the apartment in a few more places. Somehow my memory of the keys is linked to when I picked up about 3 day’s mail on Saturday morning. Certainly that’s the last time I had them. So on the way out for a walk, I asked at the desk and… the Ethan handed me my keys.

They had been found hanging in the lock of my mailbox. Apparently there was so much mail and I was trying to sort out the trash from the actual bill or two, both hands full of mail, I just walked away from the keys hanging in the mailbox door.

Walked the full jogging route without stopping, which is an improvement. Then met with Margaret in the dining room to deal with problems with her Time Machine backup. She has an external drive that was being her Time Machine until it came up with a hard error last week. I’d pointed her to the inexpensive external drive I’ve been using, and now she’d bought one.

I took my laptop thinking that I would set it to work running Disk First Aid on the old drive, while on her machine I formatted the new one and started a new backup going on it. But the old drive was unrepairable, Disk Utility couldn’t do anything with it (fsck exit code 8, trashed file system). Later I took it home and continued trying to access it, but it appears to be toast.

So got the new one going and then talked about her problems with photos. She has a lot of digital photos and at some point, they got disorganized. Prior machine, hard drive failure, Apple restored her data but the photo organization was lost, or something. She promises herself she will spend an hour a day reorganizing photos but never quite gets around to it. (Been there…) At some point one of my colleagues (she declines to name names) thought it would be a good idea to make backup copies of her pictures so now she has two, not quite identical, folders of photos on her desktop. Which at 15GB each are a bit of a space problem — considering all the same pictures are also being held by the Photos app.

We decided that, since we were taking a brand new complete backup onto a new drive, she would wait until it was finished, and then delete the two folder of (hopefully) duplicate photos. If she ever needs them back, they can be restored with Time Machine!

Since I don’t know Photos, I got her a copy of the latest edition of Take Control of Photos. Possibly if she reads it she will be inspired to do more.

Back at my room I had an email from the tech squad, could I help Randy who has a problem accessing the SF Chronicle e-edition from Safari on a Mac. Unfortunately I couldn’t. I spent ten minutes on the phone with Randy and got nowhere. I wanted to try logging in with his subscriber ID but that didn’t work. I strongly suspect he once set up a unique password for the Chron, and has since forgotten it but the Chron lets him in using Safari. Whatever, I couldn’t get in to replicate (or not) the problem.

Which brought me to lunchtime. Busy morning!

Afternoon was much quieter, so quiet that I was going stir crazy. I determined that from now on, I must get out of the building in the afternoon as well as the morning, even if only for a short walk to nearby park to sit on a bench and read.

1.349 omg I missed a day

Sunday 11/16/2020

Normal Sunday morning, well not totally normal. Took 10 minutes longer with the NYT puzzle than usual. And with cooler weather, the plants didn’t want much water.

During the morning I realized that my key ring was missing from my pocket. I checked everywhere I could think of, including the car but no luck. Emailed Jean asking her to check where we were sitting and walking yesterday. It isn’t a disaster; I have a spare mailbox key, and can easily get a new door key. The car key was a separate item.

After lunch Patty and I drove to the Baylands. The plan was to take both cars, park a car at each end, and walk the full path. However, 2pm Sunday? Poor planning; the parking lots were full. There’s much more room at the southern, San Antonio, end and we eventually got both vehicles parked legally there. Spent a couple hours walking 2.5 miles and talking.

In the evening I watched PBS Great Performances, The King and I. Which brought me to 9:30 and I just toddled off to bed not even thinking of a blog post.

1.348 Jean, SWBB

Saturday 11/14/2020

I had canceled CH lunch and supper both for today. First thing I went out to the Farmer’s Market. I bought a delicious huge raisin snail from the baker, and a pork empanada from the Mexican food truck. That plus some grapes was enough food for the day, pretty much.

At 1pm I drove down to visit with sister-in-law Jean. We chatted about various relatives and took a nice walk on the Stevens Creek Trail.

At 4:30 was the much-anticipated Zoom Webinar from SWBB, with Tara introducing the team and saying how “excited” she was about the new season. It was a pleasant event from the standpoint of meeting the team, but very unsatisfying in that there was minimal info about how games will be accessed. There will be “no fans in the gym”, Tara mentioned casually half-way through. Toward the end she said all PAC12 games would be on PAC12 TV, and some on ESPN. Of course, I’m pretty confident that PAC12 TV will time-shift some games, because it’s the West Coast and there will inevitably be USC and UCLA and Oregon games on at the same time as Stanford games. The SWBB staff really have no idea what fans are concerned about, and no idea how to market their wonderful product.

1.347 surgeon interview

Friday 11/13/2020

I went for a short walk. A resident has prepared a table of all the walks starting at Channing House to local destinations, with their exact mileage, and Lenny, who is now managing the resident website, put it online. So I walked from CH to the gazebo in Gamble Gardens and back, 1.5 miles. That nicely filled the time until it was time to go to Stanford Hospital to meet Dr. Watkins, who placed my aortic stents.

It was a trace emotional, driving down into the underground parking and walking past the reflecting pool to the main hospital building. That was a trip I made at least 30 times, maybe 50, while Marian was undergoing a series of procedures back in 2018; and I hadn’t made that trip since. (For my own recent procedures I was in a newer building and didn’t drive and park.) Anyway after filling out a form and answering some questions for the nurse coordinator and the nurse practitioner, Dr. Watkins herself entered the room. She’s not quite as dramatic looking as I remember her from last month, but still a big, tall woman, maybe 40? (could be a bit younger but not a lot, to be an experienced surgeon) with lots of red-brown hair, a pleasant face, and thick nerd glasses. She was quite generous with her time, for a busy surgeon, giving me at least 20 minutes of discussion on all sorts of things, during which she made these notes:

First, the aorta. The wiggly lines are the ends of the overlapping wire stents. The bulge on the right is the aorta wall, with its split-off lining inside. The space between the lining and the wall proper is full of blood and starting to clot and will eventually be resorbed by the body. However there are currently a couple of “endo-leaks” (small arrows) where blood is seeping past the stents into the “false lumen”, the space between the lining and the wall.

She expects they will stop and clot also, when I stop taking Plavix (clopidogrel), the anti-clotting med that caused my recent endless nosebleed. And here I learned something: that drug is prescribed for six months following a cardiac stent, and is not needed by the aortic stents in the picture. Remember back during my first hospitalization, as part of clearing the floor for the aortic work, they did a catheterization of my heart and found one artery 80% blocked, and more or less on the spur of the moment, placed a stent? That one. Because of that stent, I’m on Plavix for six months, to March. When I go off it, the “endo-leaks” in the aortic lining should clot up.

We’ll know because, see the stack of dates lower right? Those are the call-backs for CT scans and re-checks. If the endo-leaks don’t clot up, she says there’s a very simple procedure where she goes in with a catheter and inflates a balloon to smush (I think she used that word) the lining outward. Not even full anesthetic, and discharge the next day. Very confident, like all surgeons. Other things to watch for in later scans: dilation of the aorta. Currently it is stable at 4.5cm (see right side of notes), dilating further would be a problem.

The big question raised by Dibiase was, with all that hardware in the aorta, could the complicated catheterization of the TAVR procedure be done? Good news. Dr. Watkins said cheerfully, “Oh yes, I can scoot a TAVR right up there, no problem.” And went on to point out that she does most of the TAVR’s in her group. So that resolved that question.

Then we talked TAVR and she got up the CT scan to check a few things. An experienced person can basically fly through the CT image like a drone, turning through all dimensions. At some points I could see my ribs as a line of ovals, so I was looking in from the left side, and then she swung it around and there were ribs as curving bars so we are looking out or down or something.

Anyway, she looked in detail at the aortic valve. “See the circle of bright dots? That’s the stitching around the valve seat.” The CT didn’t resolve the leaflets in really high res, but she could see maybe a little gap in one that might account for the current regurgitation. But her take was that my valve looked “great”, and it could last “three to five years yet”. She said she looks at a lot of aortic valves when evaluating TAVR prospects. The way the prosthetic valves usually fail is that they get calcified and stiffened, which shows up clearly on the CT. Compared to the usual TAVR candidate, my valve looks pristine.

One caveat, though. She asked if it was a cow or a pig valve. Pig, I said. “Ah. Well, there is one kind of porcine valve that doesn’t get calcified, but just fails anyway.” So there is that uncertainty. Things to watch during the 3/6/12 month scans are listed in the upper left of the notes. In particular, if the valve gets very leaky, the left ventricle tends to dilate in size, which would show up on either a CT or an echo.

We also talked about the carotid arteries because Dr. Dibiase had heard something that didn’t sound right in my neck. Watkins pointed out that in a pre-op carotid echo, the analysis noted one artery had a 50% velocity increase, which usually indicates some kind of blockage. However (see lower left of notes) this is not usually a problem until an 80% blockage. Things to watch for: any neural symptoms, especially episodes where your vision gets blurry for a brief time and then recovers. People tend to brush that one off but it means carotid insufficiency.


Later in the day we had Rhonda’s weekly meeting, which was mostly good news. In particular for the 2nd or 3rd week in a row, we have zero COVID cases. She shared the official guidance on holiday gatherings that was just released by a consortium of ten Bay Area counties. You know the drill: max three households, outdoors, masked, and short. No fun. What’s the point?