1.119 grocery, tech support

Monday, 3/30/2020

Went for a run; it felt fine. Saw only maybe 8 other people on the whole route.

Took a tech support call. This is very frustrating because I can’t go to the person’s apartment and actually touch their computer. If it was a laptop or iPad, I think it will be valid to meet in the floor lounge, wipe down the device, and me to play with it while they watch and talk from a distance.

Unfortunately, Judy has an iMac. And she thinks she’s not getting email. She uses the Mail app, which I don’t. (I’ve been using the Gmail web interface since I first got Gmail, when was that? Thank you Wikipedia, beta in 2004, and I believe I applied for and got a beta invitation, so: 2005. Thus I have 15 years of saved mail in Gmail folders. Not about to start using the Mail app.)

So I have to talk this patient and willing, but not very computer literate, person, through trying to diagnose her mail problem, if she has one, on the phone. It wasn’t clear that she had a problem, because I sent her an email and it showed up soon after. We checked her Junk and Trash folders. So I was baffled.

Then I worked on the grocery shopping thing. I went to the lobby and asked if it was alright to use the copier, assuming it would be — but it wasn’t. So back to my room to print 12 order forms. Distributed them. I put an order date of Wednesday on it, so I have another day to collect info. The question will be, whether to use Edgewood Market and their more personal service, or to use InstaCart to order from Molly Stone’s. I’m waiting for reports from other floors’ shoppers.

In the afternoon, 6th floor resident Gwen asked why she hadn’t heard about the shopping? Because I overlooked you in making my spreadsheet, is why. I apologized and she was nice about it.

After supper I played Dear Esther another half-hour, unlocked a new chapter. Then to the normal TV. Late email from staff adds two new restrictions

Spouses of residents in the Lee Center [our nursing/assisted living facility] had been allowed to visit until now. We had made this exception for the well-being of both parties. We are no longer allowing this exception. Effective today, no residents may visit the Lee Center for any reason. Risks continue to increase and we are no longer willing to take this risk.

In addition, staffing is now being scheduled so that there will be no floating of staff between the levels of care (Skilled Nursing, Assisted Living, and Independent Living).

We met with the leadership of Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s (PAMF’s) Geriatric Practice today. We discussed our protocols for isolation, donning & doffing PPE, and our readiness for telehealth. They were complimentary of our preparations and knowledge on each of these topics.



1.118 grocery goat

Sunday 3/29/2020

Quiet Sunday morning of course. Felt nostalgic for the various coffee shops. And restaurants. Two weeks into the real isolation, and already it feels like a long stretch. Or as I heard one podcaster say recently, “It’s been a month since Monday.”

Speaking of the virus: today the worldwide count topped 700K, double the number from last Monday, so a doubling time of 7 days. Next stop, 1.4M on Saturday 4/4.

At 10:30 I started on the task I’ve been, um, blessed with? To manage group grocery buys for our floor. I started by calling all the apartments on the floor and asking each if they were interested in ordering grocery items, and if so, what kind of thing?

Partly this was an exercise in lowering expectations. To the two people who said “Pizza!” I said, no, we aren’t doing hot food, but people are using Uber Eats and DoorDash. A couple of people mentioned things like hand cleaner etc. To them, the message was, Channing House is (supposedly!) organizing some kind of ordering system for OTC pills, sanitation stuff, etc., and please hold on for that.

But by the end I had 11 people who are interested in ordering sodas, fresh fruit, tea, and the like. I said “start making a list and I’ll check back, probably Tuesday”. Later I realized what would need is a form. Not a web form, and not email because at least a couple don’t reliably do email. I pictured a simple form, with space for the room#, a list of items, and columns for quantity and cost. Here is the latest version: 6th floor shopping order. I made a stab at this using TextEdit but that was useless. Switched to Pages and it went very easily and quickly.

What I figure to do is, print one copy. Write the order date on the top. Down to the lobby, use the CH copier to make 11 copies. Back to 6, slide one under each door. People fill it out and turn it in. Where? OK, I have a nice aluminum clipboard, I’ll put that in the lounge.

On the day I’ll amalgamate an order, putting it in on my credit card. When it arrives, break it down and sanitize the items in the floor dining room, and pile the ordered items on top of the forms. People come and (keeping distance!) pick up their pile. Leave a check (in an envelope, where it sits for 48 hours!) payable to me. I have a couple volunteers who’ll help with that process.

Well, that was fun. Evening, I found a new YT channel I want to follow. I watch more YT that real TV these days. Well… why not?


1.117 Travel worries, happiness course

Saturday, 3/28/2020

Did a little desk work. Paid the Hyatt Card bill that includes $1200 for my ten nights in a London hotel. Which made me think how lucky it was I scheduled that trip for those days. Well, not luck; I scheduled it for a gap in the women’s basketball season, so I’d be back in good time for the post-season games. Hah. But if I’d put it even two weeks later, I might have been quarantined on return.

Also looked at, and then filed the Road Scholar info booklet for the trip to Switzerland that starts June 10th. I have paid for this in full. I deliberately paid for it in full so that, when it is canceled by Road Scholar, I will get the money back, either from them or from the insurance coverage. Half of the payment was covered by the $3000 credit I had from late re-booking of the Greek trip last fall. This is my sneaky plan to maybe get that back in cash.

Well, now I just wait for Road Scholar to admit the obvious — that Switzerland’s virus load is the same as everybody’s, and the peak of the curve won’t be seen by June (more likely, July IMO) — and cancel the trip. Or admit that there’s no non-essential international entry allowed into Switzerland. Whatever, I believe cancellation is inevitable. What will they do then?

Realistically, they are going to try to get their customers to accept rescheduling. I do not want to go to Switzerland in October, thanks. Maybe next year in May? That might be acceptable. Failing that, they’ll want us to accept a full credit, to be redeemed for some other trip at a later date. I’ll think about it. I can sympathize; if enough people insist on cash back for virus-canceled trips, Road Scholar could go bankrupt.

But now I’m also playing a game of chicken. I have not booked the air travel for the trip. I expect it to be canceled, why would I book a flight, and then have to cancel that, and have to recover from the airline? But if I put off booking the flight too long, its price goes up. So I figure I need to book a flight no later than 30 days before departure, which would be the 8th of May. Every day past that, my air fare goes up — air fare that I expect to have to try to recover after canceling. If Road Scholar still hasn’t canceled the trip by the first week of May, I am kind of compelled to book the flight. Well, that gives me all of April to not worry.

I played another hour of Dear Esther. It’s kind of a non-game, having no traps or puzzles, other than figuring out where the different sheep paths on the island lead, but it’s very impressive to look at.

In the middle of the day I learned (via a Reddit post) that the Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being” was available for free. I posted that to CHBB, and then signed up for it myself. It looks to be covering pretty much the research results that I summarized in my book chapter on happiness, with some exercises and maybe some more recent results. After I signed up, I did the first week’s lessons and readings.

Before supper I went for an hour walk. After supper I streamed a concert by Voices of Music. This is a local classical group that Marian started us on season tickets for. I last attended a concert by them on Day 1.017. Now, of course, their concerts aren’t happening, so they streamed the latest one: a musical biography of Leonardo da Vinci, the music he would have heard during his life in various cities.

Late, I learned I’ve been nominated the 6th floor person for doing online shopping. I will work on that tomorrow.

1.116 all quiet on the corona front

Friday, 3/27/2020

After breakfast, I went for my run on a nice, partly-sunny, 60º day. It was most pleasant and I felt strong.

Back in the shop I did more of what I’ve been doing. I must be getting over 100 emails a day, the bulk from CH people. The number of political emails has dropped sharply from pre-virus days.

In the afternoon I spent an hour with a game, Dear Esther. It’s a very quiet game; you walk through an extremely pretty and gorgeously rendered island, just looking at stuff and listening to strange voices on the sound track. Nothing to find or pick up, no puzzles to solve. Kills an hour or three.

At 4 it was time for Rhonda’s phone meeting. Notes:

  • Last Friday, 3/20, was when the building was closed to a single entry and screening started. We have turned people away for high temperature, including some staff, who are being monitored at home.
  • Wednesday we started meal delivery and after 3 days we are getting the kinks worked out.
  • New protocol: no staff other than nurses may enter a resident apartment without permission from Rhonda, after having been trained in all safety protocols.
  • Social distancing now should include one person per elevator (it was three).
  • We have challenges getting some supplies: masks, hand sanitizers, etc. We have centralized and locked down all supplies. We’ve requested more from SCC.
  • Soon a hand-wash station will be outside the building. Everyone entering now must wash hands (and staff will mask up) before entering. Staff must wear masks when in public areas.
  • Some staff shortages but not severe yet.

Questions: Care packages from relatives? Yes, ok.

Apartment cleaning once/month as previously announced? Yes, staff are being trained in safety protocols about entering apartments, and we will start the once a month cleaning as planned week of 4/6. But we do have staff shortages in that department and schedule may be modified.

How reliable is the ear temp test, it reads low, 92, 93? (I’m always 96.5 or so when I come in.). Nursing staff set this up and has been doing some training. We have detected high temps and kept people out. We are trying to get the infrared thermometers but they are hard to get.

Shopping, are people going out to stores, post office? We can’t make you stay in but we do not want you to go to those places. We are working on a process to do group shopping, that was to be ready today but isn’t. Stamps: we can weigh envelopes at the front desk and sell stamps. Prescriptions waiting at Walgreen’s? If it can wait a couple of days, we should be able to pick up for you.

Parking/garage: we have obtained parking for our buses off-site, which adds a few spaces in front. But in response to several questions, no, we aren’t changing the single entry policy. No re-entry to the garage.

The call ended just at 5, and I switched over to streaming a concert from SFJazz, in their new Fridays at Five series for members. For fun, I did what I hadn’t done in over a year, connected the TV to the laptop by HDMI and got the big screen and decent sound. Ironic, because I went to a lot of trouble, last year, to acquire a rebuilt older MacBook pro with the HDMI port, which newer ones lack; and this was the first time I used the port.



1.115 virus, mostly

Thursday, 3/26/2020

Another quiet day in Quarantinia. I got my weekly distribution of linens and made the bed. More reading Query Shark, and something there made me rearrange a couple of sentences in what I thought was my well-honed query letter.

I went for a 3-mile walk before lunch. I started to look at the games I had set aside in my Steam wish-list. The way to get a feel for a game is to go on YT and look for tutorials or walk-throughs. Watching a gamer play the first 20 minutes of a game tells a lot about it. On that basis I removed two games from my wish list. They’d sounded fun in the Steam storefront, but when played, they just did nothing for me.

In the afternoon, read a book for fun.

In the evening, the daily update from CH staff had the news the The Vi has 9 cases now. That’s a facility much like CH in size and clientele. They had five, yesterday. The same update had a new policy:

…effective immediately, we will be placing any resident who returns from the Hospital (including Emergency Room) or Urgent Care on a 14-day isolation/observation… If any resident on a 14-day isolation needs to leave his/her apartment in an emergency situation, they will be provided a mask which is to be worn before leaving the apartment. The resident will be followed by a housekeeper to disinfect the area of travel.

This may sound very extreme. However, after Rhonda participated in a conference call today which included updates from an Executive Director at a community in New York that is similar to Channing House, she came away even more determined to do EVERYTHING we can to keep COVID-19 out of Channing House. Our inconveniences are nothing compared to the daily battle that is being waged in communities across the country with active COVID-19 cases.

Another thing: currently every person entering the building has their temperature taken. Every afternoon about 5, a postal worker comes and spends most of an hour in our mail area, delivering all the mail. So, this:

The US Postmaster has issued a letter to LeadingAge, our trade & advocacy organization, confirming that postal workers cannot be subjected to the same temperature and health screenings that are required of all other people who enter the building. This is a nationwide policy which LeadingAge is challenging on behalf of all Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s), Assisted Living & Skilled Nursing Facilities. First, we urge you to avoid direct interactions with the postal worker while he or she is here. Second, wait for the housekeeper to disinfect the mailroom before you pick up your mail.

So: a little bureaucratic cat-fight between the Postmaster General and all the County and State health agencies, with us in the middle.


1.114 new food, agents

Wednesday, 3/25/2020

Today was the inaugural of our room-service food delivery. Here’s breakfast.


As I requested on my menu form, 3 pancakes, fruit, apple juice. Arrived about 8:20, so they started in my half of the hallway first.

There was an issue with returning up the dish. The instructions were clear that we can’t leave the dish outside our door for pickup. (Why? That isn’t explained.) We have to hang about until the server arrives with a cart to collect, somewhere in the 1-hour slot following our delivery slot, hence, 9:30-10:30. That’s a pain; they hadn’t arrived by 10 and I was itching to get out and do my run. I walked down the hall with my green container and found the server at the other end, just starting.

The lunch was delivered in disposable paper containers, and nobody stopped by to pick them up. I gather I was to just trash those.

Then at supper time, I was absorbed at my computer and failed to hear the knock on the door. So there was a paper slip under the door, cutely saying “knock knock?” and giving the extension to call for delivery. That was my bad.

Late in the day, there was further CH communication on food delivery. Surprisingly, the green containers are in short supply. We are asked to rinse ours and return them. There was also a phone/email talk by CEO Rhonda, mostly responding to her hearing some residents refer to the current restrictions as “arbitrary”. She said in part,

I’d like to explain that each change implemented has been far from arbitrary. We are receiving notifications daily… from various agencies including the Public Health Departments for the State of California and Santa Clara County. We study these updates carefully, discuss … the implications of any necessary process changes, then we change our operational processes in order implement the guidance… we are also planning for practices that will be deployed in the event that we find ourselves with a case of COVID-19.

… as a reminder, Channing House is licensed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and California Department of Social Services (DSS). A CDPH Surveyor stopped by for an unannounced visit on Monday to ensure that we were implementing the guidance and directives that have been issued. She was very pleased with what she found. … In addition, I spoke with the Santa Clara County Dept of Health yesterday and they are also very pleased with all the safeguards we have in place.

A side note, The Vi, our cross-town rival, has gone from having two cases, to five.

In the middle of the day I spent more time on agent info collection. I found Query Tracker, a site specifically designed to assist authors in the tedious and complex search for an agent. I looked up all the agents in my spreadsheet and set up my Query List. I’ll be able to track the submissions and replies there. Although in truth, I could have done the same thing in the spreadsheet, if a little more clumsily. What Query Tracker has, though, is author comments on each agent, as well as aggregating statistics on how many rejections and acceptances each has and their response time. So by using it to record my submissions and responses, I’m helping build a dataset.

Something triggered my memory of boogie woogie piano, and I looked up one of my favorite players on YT. That was so invigorating (it was because I was playing boogie woogie at high volume that I didn’t hear the supper time knock) that I decided to share. I put a link to one performance on the CHBB list with the subject “Hump Day Boogie Woogie”. I got several thank-yous, so I will continue that as a weekly series.


1.113 virus, food delivery, writer’s meeting, novel

Tuesday 3/23/2020

Hey, ya wanna see the prettiest little graph? From the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 4.05.45 PM

Like that? That, folks, is what the Moore’s Law exhibit at CHM looks like. The world is entering the jet-powered vertical climb part of an exponential curve.

Here at the senior center, we got our new meal instructions at lunch. We get a weekly menu showing what’s on for breakfast lunch and dinner each day. You can cross-out any item you don’t want. Turn that sheet in at the start of the week. Your meals will be delivered to your door.

The CH Writer’s group met via Zoom at 10:30. Thirteen people at the peak, all women except me and Peter. Smart women and good writers, mostly. They had been given a “prompt” and most had prepared a short piece based on it, and read it aloud. I was a late addition and didn’t have anything to read. I made appreciative nods and noises. The meeting logistics went quite well, although the first half hour was mostly people working out how the interface worked.

Later I read more Query Shark; but I am feeling pretty sure my current query letter is as good as it can be. In the morning at the usual 4am or so — I think I have my bladder to thank for my best obsessing spells — I realized there was a logical hole, or more aptly a needless complication, in the climax of the book. And worked out how to fix it. In a semi-dream state I actually heard the characters say the dialog that would fix the problem.

I had also been increasingly aware that, since most agent submissions ask for a few, 5 or 10, pages from the book, that my opening scene needed a little tightening, a bit snappier dialog. So in the hour before the meeting, I fixed those two things: polished the opening scene, and rewrote the climactic confrontation with new dialog.

After lunch I went for a 2-mile walk. Saw maybe four other walkers. We all avoided each other.

When picking up my take-out supper for the last time, I got the detailed instructions on the new meal system. Meals will be delivered in specific time slots, for the sixth floor those being 8:15, 12:15 and 6:15. Pickup of the trays is one hour later. One must be in one’s room when the server knocks. Staff won’t enter any room; you have to come to the door and take the tray. Or it goes back to the kitchen and you can call to arrange a later delivery.

This is going to force a change in my routines, mornings especially. I can no longer go for a run early. I have to be here at 8:15 (possibly later; it remains to be seen which end of the long hallway they will start at). So henceforth I will go out for exercise more like 10am, every day I guess, to run or to walk.

So it goes.


1.112 zoom party

Monday, 3/23/2020

Johns Hopkins dashboard: 350,563, about 10% in two days. Oh, and I’m watching a video about the virus made on 3/15, when they mention 153,517 cases. So from 3/15 to Saturday 3/21, the case count doubled. Exponential with a doubling time of 6+ days.

Of course “cases” mean people who have been tested positive. But that’s only a very approximate measure of actual infections. In the U.S. testing will be increasingly available in coming days which will accelerate the count here. But it is widely assumed that sub-Saharan African countries aren’t doing adequate, or any, testing, so likely there are many unknown cases there. But by this COVID calculator, Palo Alto alone will see 5000-8000 hospitalizations and 400-800 deaths.

Went for a run, felt fine. Then sat down to catch up with the internet and email and between them, it is almost noon! I’ve corresponded with several people and read a ton of interesting stuff, and still have the one-hour video that was strongly recommended to me waiting to play.

Quarantine, it’s a rich full life.

At 5pm I was invited to a virtual “cocktail party” on Zoom, by Betty and Jerry. Six of us, including Craig and Diane, plus Gwen and Mary. I was the only one who brought a glass of wine. Conversation was mostly about the virus, including a ridiculous, bone-headed column by Friedman in the NYT.

However in the midst of the party I checked my email and there was a Channing House announcement: starting Wednesday, the present system of take-out meals will be dropped in favor of meal delivery to each room. After all the work staff went through to set up and run the current system,  I’m surprised. And disappointed, because there’ll be no more choices to make; the menu will be fixed.


1.111 video, shopping

Sunday, 3/22/2020

Breakfast (Keto Chow and my last <sniff> cinnamon-raisin muffin) in the room.

Fixed the iPad video, uploaded it, and sent the links to Betty. Suggesting that her husband Jerry could do a better job and I’d help. (I know he has video editing experience.)

On behalf of the grocery shopping email-conference, I went to neighborhood.com and found the names of grocery delivery services people had commented on. Then looked at each site and wrote some notes. To me instacart looks best, unless shipt.com, which charges a membership fee, is more reliable.

And that brought me to 10am. I did some classifying at Zooniverse. After fetching and eating my lunch, I went out for a walk, again around my 3-mile jogging loop (I have no imagination) (or car).

Following a short nap I set up my big computer to work with Boinc on Rosetta@Home, helping to figure out the shape of virus proteins. Like ten years ago I had my larger Mac doing that. High time to put that big CPU and GPU back to work on something other than a screen-saver, where it spends 23 hours of most days.

Then read Query Shark some more, and then read more fun stuff until time to fetch my supper box.


1.110 Zoom, quarantine

Saturday 3/21/2020

Per the Johns Hopkins dashboard, 316,652. If the current, nice exponential curve fit continues with a 6-day doubling time, then 3/28 should see ~650K.

With no events on my google calendar, nothing makes the days different. Wasted time in the morning. Picking up lunch, Betty asked me to help Kiki learn to use Zoom conferencing on her iPad. Betty wants to use Zoom for various committee meetings, but finds some residents struggle.

Later Betty got Kiki’s iPad and brought it to me. I shot some video showing the process, and the same on the Macbook. Later, took the iPad to Kiki’s room and stepped her through the process to join a little meeting. Then I went back to my room and joined the same meeting, and Jerry did from an Android tablet.

In the afternoon I edited the videos. Had an issue trying to upload to YT from iMovie, which used to work perfectly. Converted to .mp4 and manually uploaded, and then found that somehow I’d lost a key edit in the iPad one, so I need to re-upload that tomorrow.

Late in the afternoon came an email from Channing House, saying in part,

First, a plea from our nursing staff. Please do not go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the doctor or any other outside location unless you absolutely have to. COVID-19 is in Palo Alto and the surrounding area and the numbers are against us. Each time you encounter others, you risk exposing yourself. Some you encounter may be carriers without showing symptoms.

In response to that, Mary M. invited me by email to join a group planning how to do group orders of grocery deliveries. You never realize how often you stop by a store for some little thing, until you can’t stop by the store any more.

The CH email also said,

Effective Sunday, access to the garages will be restricted. If you are parked in the garage now, you will be able to leave. But, you will not be able to access the garage upon your return. Please park in the lot outside on Webster Street. Or you can park on the street. Parking restrictions are not being enforced by the City at this time.

The reason for this change is to limit access to the building to one entry point, in accordance with guidance from California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This change will be in effect until further notice.

The response to that has been less positive. On my floor, Patty has been quite vocal in complaining about this. She suggests that if they want the single point of entry, that we park in the garages and walk up the entry ramp and around to the front door. IMO that’s a non-starter; the vehicle ramps are steep and present an obvious physical challenge to some, and a fall hazard to everyone, plus mixing vehicle and pedestrian traffic with poor sight-lines.

So what am I going to do? The next time I take the car out, I will have to leave it on the street, exposed to the elements (and to catalytic converter thieves). OK, I have no urgent need to take the car out just now. I will defer it as long as possible. However, I am loath to use my normal alternative, Lyft. Get into a closed vehicle with a driver who may be contagious? Nunh-unh, baby.