2.128 IBM, model

Wednesday 04/14/2021

Went for a walk, ending with coffee on the 11th floor. This is a really nice service the staff created: coffee and pastries from 8:30-9:30, MWF.

Next up a bit of business. Sometime in the early hours I received an email from IBM’s benefits administrator, “A recent payment we attempted to make to your account was rejected by your bank. We can no longer issue direct deposit payments to this account and need you to provide updated account information.”

There is a deep history here. For over a year, I have been trying to get VIA Benefits to deposit a periodic check of $144 to my SFCU account. I’ve filled in the routing and account number on their web form multiple times, and recently I requested a paper form and submitted it with an attached blank check as proof. It appears that this worked — to a point. At least they tried to deposit something, but couldn’t. But why would the bank reject the deposit?

I log in to my VIA Benefits account and find the following “trouble ticket” dated today at 4:01AM,

Dear MARIAN CORTESI, We are writing to inform you that your recent Direct Deposit disbursement in the amount of $144.85 dated 04/09/2021 has been returned for the reason code R15-Beneficiary or Account Holder Deceased. Please review your Banking information used for the mentioned transaction and correct the data in your account.

OK, here is the problem, clear and simple. They are trying to put money into my (formerly our) account at SFCU using Marian’s name. And SFCU is quite properly rejecting it as, “sorry, she’s dead”. Now note, VIA was informed in January 2019 of Marian’s passing, death certificate and all. And I logged in to VIA using my name and employee number and it uses my name on the web page. (It shows Marian still as “other dependent”.)

Well, this should be simple to work out. I call the customer service number and get a friendly guy (speaking with a clearly American accent, so they haven’t off-shored their customer service) who spends quite a bit of time with me and can’t make any progress. He puts me on hold for 15 minutes while he discusses it with “my coworker” and still can’t figure it out.

Now, granted, it was not that common to have married IBMers, both vested for benefits, but it is common for a retired IBMer like Marian to have a spouse as a designated beneficiary. So there should be nothing special about having two names on an VIA account, with one of them deceased. But they can’t figure it out.

I ask if he can escalate to someone who knows the system better, and he says OK, hang on. Another five minute hold and I get a lady. I ask if she is a next level person and she just says “I’m a customer service agent”. She has no understanding of the situation; she is not interested in the trouble ticket addressed to Marian; she is certain that I have somehow entered the two numbers wrong. I re-enter the numbers while on the line with here. They are immediately marked “invalidated”. She insists I need to talk to the bank and get the “correct” numbers. I ask, how could that account for a message, “Account holder is deceased” and she is unmoved; I need to talk to the bank. “Maybe they changed the number after your wife died,” she said, “they often change the number when there is some change”.

Well, that’s bullshit. First, it was January 2019 when I informed the bank (and VIA benefits) of Marian’s passing, so more than two years ago. And I am copying numbers off new checks that were issued with my name only on them. I said, “Right, thanks” and hung up.

It is a very minor annoyance for me to go and deposit a check at an ATM every couple of months. It is a minor expense to VIA to have to print and mail the check. I hope they choke on it.

Rather than post a public request for a seamstress I messaged Marcia, who knows everybody. However she is traveling and replied “talk this weekend”. They have a van exactly like the one we had, and are off for some camping. So the spray booth is on hold.

I got out the VW Golf GTI kit. The body shell is molded in a yellow plastic that is pretty close to the color I remember. However the plastic is slightly translucent, and has some texture issues, so it will still have to be painted. I spend some time researching VW yellow paint, of which they had several over the years; and then researching the yellows available as acrylics from hobby vendors. I glued one piece to another one, so the model is started.

I may be hampering myself by using only acrylic model paints. There are also enamels which are thinned and cleaned up with paint thinner, and lacquers that are thinned with (duh) lacquer thinner. But I started with a rule that I didn’t want to keep any serious chemicals in my apartment, so only acrylic paints that are thinned with water and cleaned up with rubbing alcohol. It’s really a realistic understanding of my own clumsiness. Something is going to get spilled, someday.

2.127 writing, FOPAL

Tuesday 04/13/2021

After aerobics class, I finished a little essay for the writers group. I added some finishing touches to the pattern for the cover for the airbrush booth, but didn’t have the nerve to publish a call for a seamstress to help me.

The essay was very well received by the group, in fact they praised it more highly than I expected or thought it deserved. OK, I’ll take it.

With lunch came the menu sheet for next week, as usual, but this one is special in that it has only three days on it. It ends on Tuesday April 20. The following day the dining room will open and meal service will be completely different.

After lunch I went to FOPAL and spent a couple of hours processing computer books and arranging the section. The only buyers who enter the sale room come by appointment, 2 or 3 at a time in the afternoons. Despite this, there has been quite a few sales from my computer section, with gaps opening on the shelves. I’ll go down on Thursday as well to rearrange things.

2.126 meeting, meal

Monday 04/12/2021

OK I corrected the dates on the prior 6 or so entries, where I had written a month of 03 when I meant 04. Just couldn’t believe it was April I guess.

Went for a walk and felt excellent. Really got to start partial jogging soon. At 10 I was just about to go out for a trivial errand when I thought to just take a wee peek at my calendar and, woops, today was the Resident Association meeting at 10:30, where I would be expected to give a treasurer’s report. That would have been embarrassing, not to mention a mean thing to do to our newly-installed President Carol who is a wee bit unsure of herself (although she has been doing fine). Anyway I turned back and was all present and accounted for in good time.

After lunch I finished shaping the paper pattern for the cloth front of the spray booth. Then went to Michael’s craft store and bought some sew-on velcro. Didn’t Michael’s use to sell fabric? Or am I confusing it with another store Marian would often visit. Probably. Anyway, next step has to be, asking for sewing help on CHBB.

I had canceled tonight’s supper due to not liking any choices, so I walked out to the Peninsula Creamery and ATE AT A RESTAURANT. Sitting at a table outdoors. It was good.

2.125 outing

Sunday 04/11/2021

After I had absorbed my coffee and read the paper, I decided that for Sunday morning breakfast I wanted a pastry at a coffee shop — like the old days. Which shop? I decided to walk to Midtown (1.4 miles) and Lyft back.

I was just walking up to the door of the coffee shop when the phone rang: it was Dennis proposing a trip to Capitola to have a walk along the beach. Ohhhh-kayyy but I want my “cup and a cake” (as we learned to say in New Zealand) and then I’d have to get back home to get my car. No problem, get here when you can.

So I did that, maybe didn’t hang around sipping as long as I might have, and got to his place a bit before 10. I don’t think I have ever been in the little seaside tourist village of Capitola, just down the coast from Santa Cruz. Of course it was jammed. We tried the nearby New Brighton State Beach but it was closed to day-use. The ranger lady however directed us two miles south to Seacliff State Beach. And there we did indeed find a lot of parking and a mile of sunny beach to walk alongside of. There were lots of people out with blankets on the sand, and little kids with buckets and pails trying to remodel the beach.

We had lunch at a Village Inn. That’s a Bay Area restaurant chain with which Dennis has a long history, working at one as a kid and then marrying a relative of the owners. It was a decent lunch, so the chain is still doing OK.

Not much else to report. Well, a reference on the internet reminded me of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and on impulse I bought it for Kindle. Now I have several books that are partly read on the Kindle, so I spent the evening reading, not turning on the TV.

2.124 eye, spray booth, burger

Saturday 04/10/2021

For breakfast I took a medium walk ending at the farmers market for my favorite pastry.

The walk was routed along the creek because I needed to locate a thing. Some time ago I took this picture, and a couple days ago I posted it on the in-house BB. Several people asked where it was, and I wasn’t sure so I walked past and noted the location. (400 block of Palo Alto Avenue if you must know).

Later in the morning I resumed work on the spray booth. Two changes: I now have a new spray booth which has built in LED lighting from the vendor, and I have an excellent glue.

That stuff’s the goods. It’s a cyano-acrylate, somewhat thick (like cream) with a nice dispenser snout, gets firm in 30 seconds under pressure, dries clear as glass. Using it I put together the clear plastic pieces, one I had bought at Tap, two I cut myself in our hobby shop. So here is the booth now.

The clear plastic side extensions and front lid are what I added. The paper is the general shape I want to make in cloth, with a couple of elasticized slits to put my hands through. I have to find somebody with a sewing machine to make that for me. I picture it attaching with velcro all around its 4 sides. I also have to work out how to seal along the sides of the lid. Probably just more strips of fabric held on with velcro.

The point being, I can open the lid, swab out the interior, close it up and run the fan for five minutes, and then I can put my hands through the slits, one hand holding a model car part, the other holding the airbrush, and I can spray and there won’t be any dust or hairs to get into the wet paint. Leave wet parts in the box until they can be handled, then open the lid and take them out.

So I only yesterday noticed that when filling out my menu for the week, I had canceled Saturday supper because I didn’t like the choices. OK so what to eat? I decided to go out for a burger, preferably at Gott’s Roadside in the Town & Country center. So I got there, they had a nice outdoor area with tables and a few people eating, but the only service point was a card table with a sign, “Doordash pickup and takeout”. There was a woman standing there directing traffic who apparently had was a mute, or had very limited English. I said I’d like to eat here; she just waved at the card table. I looked again, nope, still the same sign. I said, “Where’s the menu?” She just waved at the card table. I looked again for more signs. Nope. Apparently you couldn’t order there?

I turned around and walked 100 feet to Kirk’s Steakburgers. There I could order to eat there, but I decided to take a burger and fries to go, and did, and came home to have that with a beer.

2.123 tech, news

Friday 04/09/2021

I ended my walk at the 11th floor coffee service, there to meet with Elizabeth to give advice on a couple of Mac (sort of) issues. One was that Safari simply wouldn’t load news.google.com. Wut? It had no problem loading other things. I asked Dr. Google; other people had seen the same issue (of course) and the first hit said, “restart Safari”. Well, that’s easy; I told Safari to quit, restarted it, loaded the news, all was well. It’s easy being an expert when you have a search engine.

Nothing much else happened until 4pm, time for Rhonda’s open meeting. I was anticipating the news about reopening the dining room (which closed a bit more than a year ago). I’d heard a summary at the Executive Committee meeting yesterday but wanted to hear the whole deal and people’s questions.

The dining room will reopen on the 21st, as scheduled. Rhonda showed pictures of the installation of a whole line of new equipment, warming ovens, fryers, an 8-burner range, and so on, all shiny new metal.

Previously the dining room was opened only at meal times, and served cafeteria style. No more. Now it will be open at least 12 hours, probably 7:30-7:30, and serve restaurant style: you get a menu and servers take your order which is prepared fresh for you. This is a huge change, and not everybody was enthused.

There will be an always-available menu that you can order from any time. During designated meal hours, say 12-1:30 for lunch, there will also be a specific meal menu with whatever specials are on for that meal. You can order for take-out as well, or you can order by phone and have your choice of food brought to your room.

Some of the dubious questions related to the loss of the old casual air. In the new system, you’ll be met at the door and shown to a table. Prudence commented, “Part of the pleasure of the old dining room was walking from the line with your tray and looking around to see what table you wanted to sit at.” Well, that was a pleasure for an outgoing person like Prue; I can testify that for a shy newbie, that was no fun, and in the early weeks I often headed straight for the two-person tables on the margins to sit alone.

There were a lot of subtle social customs based on the old, college-residence-hall style dining. Not all of them will work in the new system. There was a lot of discussion about the old system of “open tables”, a couple of large tables that were designated for people who wanted to socialize, you couldn’t reserve them or hold chairs at them, and anybody could sit at them. Would the new system have that? It wasn’t clear if it would or could.

One reason for the change to an always-open system is that CH suffers by comparison to our competitors The Vi and The Sequoias. They have Bistros, small casual eating places always open. A Bistro is now the thing you gotta have if you want to rate as an IL facility. Well, we don’t have space for a Bistro, but at least you will be able to go to the dining room off mealtimes with a friend or visitor and order some kind of drink and snack.

2.122 tech, taxes, FOPAL

Thursday 04/08/2021

Did the aerobics. You know, I think Veronica is with child, her exercise costume is revealing what might be a baby bump. Wonder how long the Fitness Director, who gives like four classes a day as well as administrative staff work, carries on. Probably pretty far, as the kind of exercise appropriate for classes of seniors aren’t that demanding.

I was dispatched by the Tech Squad to help Nancy deal with an email problem. I believe I helped Eva with the same problem a few months ago. The Mac Mail app doesn’t tell the Comcast excuse me XFinity Connect email server to delete messages. So they build up on the server. Nancy had over 7000 messages in her inbox, dating back to 2015. Eventually the server sends a message, your quota is exceeded, and stops delivering incoming, or accepting outgoing mail.

In Nancy’s case it is complicated by the fact that she doesn’t want to bulk-delete her old emails. A lot of them have photos of grand-kids. She finds it more convenient to keep the emails and look through the pictures there, than to download the photos to the Photos app and delete the emails. Of course she hasn’t bothered to organize the good emails into named folders or mailboxes as Mail calls them. Well we managed to filter out a couple thousand emails that didn’t matter and delete them, and set the server options to empty its trash daily, and she started getting incoming mail again. But the problem will recur I’m sure.

My tax accountant said my return is ready, I can e-sign it, get all forms as PDFs, and they will e-file. So I spent an hour printing out the 1040-ES and 540-ES vouchers for the estimated tax payments and 1040-whatever voucher for paying the tax due, and addressing and stamping envelopes, so I have all the upcoming estimated tax payments ready to go except for the checks. And the April estimated tax and the 2020 tax payment in their envelopes with checks and into the mailbox and that’s all done.

Drove down to FOPAL about 2pm where I found only one (1) box of computer books, which is surprising, but processed that. One of the things in it was all three volumes of Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming, but not in the usual khaki colored Addison Wesley binding, but a blue cloth binding with the note that this edition was licensed by the publisher for printing and sale only in Taiwan. Somebody who studied Comp. Sci. there, I guess. But it made a problem for pricing because none of the resources I use to check used book prices had any comparable Taiwan-only books. Perhaps a complete 3-vol set in uniform bindings from Taiwan would be fabulously valuable — they are certainly rare — but I couldn’t prove it so I just priced them a couple dollars less than the standard binding.

There were buyers in the building, people who had signed up for the limited number of shopping appointments we allow in pandemic times. Two were an asian couple who were very serious buyers. Each had some kind of PDA strapped to their wrist that would scan the ISBN barcode on a book and apparently look up prices. They were working their way rapidly through the Business section, checking the prices of every clean book, and keeping not very many to buy. So they are basically looking for books they can re-sell on Amazon or eBay for a few bucks more than we had priced them.

Not many people realize that Amazon is a big marketplace for buying and selling used books, as well as everything else. There is a special group of FOPAL volunteers who manage our Amazon store and they bring in $20-$30 thousand a year for us.

The amateur buyers aren’t going to make anything much off my section. I price books at about $2 less than the median price reported by Bookfinder.com, which includes Amazon used prices. So they’d only make a couple of bucks per book max, which isn’t worth doing given they have to pay postage.

2.121 many meetings

Wednesday 04/07/2021

The 121st day of the blog year. That would be 1/3 of a year gone, think about that.

After my walk I went to the new coffee service on the 11th floor. Neighbor Margaret was there, and accosted me with distress because she is trying to get ready for a trip to Hawaii and the Hawaiian travel requirements are baffling her. Well, it isn’t simple and she isn’t losing her brain cells. She just isn’t as proficient with the phone and the web as the State of Hawaii expects her to be.

She had just been down to a place near the SJ airport to get her COVID test, and she had with difficulty installed the unique app the testing service insisted she have before they could send her a simple goddamn PDF of the results. Couldn’t fucking email it, oh nooooo, you have to get our app and then you can work your way through three levels of menu to see the one-page PDF of results, and use our proprietary interface to move it with Airdrop to your Mac.

I know this is the case because I helped Margaret get through it. Then to the State of Hawaii web page and go through their proprietary interface to upload the PDF to your account page. She went away to print all the documents and forms so she will have paper copies at the airport because who knows.

Around lunch it was my time to use the laundry so I ran my usual two loads, with the result I was two minutes late to the Resident Association Executive Committee meeting, which was a physical meeting with 8 people sitting around 6 feet apart in the 8th floor lounge. Everyone agreed it was way better than Zoom.

At the meeting we heard some pretty amazing news from Rhonda about the plans to open the dining room on the 21st. I won’t put them here because they are confidential until Friday. But big changes for sure.

That ran long and I missed the first ten minutes of Margaret’s talk on the anatomy of the pelvis, a quite entertaining presentation with diagrams of all the stuff “in a sack in a bony basket” as she explained, and all the things that can go wrong with them. Her panic over the air travel was partly because she was also nervous about this scheduled talk. Now that has come and gone, she will probably be all right.

I have another neighbor with computer issues who requested we meet on Friday. I am going to have to start saying “no, put in a call to the tech squad” pretty soon.

That brought us to 4:45 and the monthly 6th floor meeting, still conducted by Zoom. The only news from there was that three of my neighbors have formed a committee to get our lounge redone. When we moved back in after the upgrade, when was that, January 2020! we were told we had access to a sum of money to spend how we liked on upgrading the common lounge. Then the pandemic happened and that has been pending, but now the effort to choose new furniture etc. has resumed, and I am delighted I am not asked to be on said committee.

2.120 writers, FOPAL

Tuesday 04/06/2021

Did the aerobics class. Messed around on the internet. At 11, joined the writers’ group, although I had nothing to contribute.

After lunch, drove to FOPAL where I spent 2:30 processing five boxes of computer books, and tidying the shelves of the computer section. Had an unusually rich hall of “high-value” (over $25) books, 6 or 7 out of the whole pile, and quite a few I could shelve priced above $10.

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow is going to very busy, according to my Google Calendar.

2.119 shopping, craft flop

Monday 04/05/2021

Went for a full walk. What with walking I did later, I ran up well over 4 miles today, close to 5.

Next was a long-standing to-do list item, shop for jeans that fit. I was going to go to the local Stanford shopping center but I saw that Macy’s has a larger men’s store at Valley Fair mall, which I’m not familiar with, so I went there. It’s a mall. Looked in the Levi’s store and Macy’s and it was getting close to lunch time. Being back on house food, I have to show up to accept my tray around 12:45 so I gave up and came home again with no purchases.

About 1:45 I noticed an email from 11am from Stanford: the women’s team would do a victory parade around campus at 2pm. Could I make it? I nixed driving myself, as I had no idea of the parking situation on campus. So I tried for a Lyft, but although it initially promised “pickup in 8 minutes” the time stretched out until at 1:59 and the car still minutes away, I canceled the ride and went back in.

Reader and friend Pat suggested that rubbing alcohol would release the double-sided tape in the spray booth. I used a blunt hypo to squirt alcohol along the 12-inch strip, twice, and it didn’t show any signs of loosening. (Pro Life Tip: when two half-inch pieces of sticky tape would do the job, don’t use the whole strip that came with the product just because you can.) Also realized in trying to pry on the light bar I had cracked another essential piece of plastic. That’s that; I’m getting another spray box, and one that has LED lighting built in for just $10 more.