4.177 tech, lunch

Saturday 05/27/2023

First of two well-nigh unstructured days. In the morning I solved a tech problem, well, I took a second look and found the obvious answer.

Yesterday after the AV team meeting I was thinking about the upcoming dramatic presentation. I wrote about this on Wednesday (174), how at supper I had learned by chance the CH drama group had decided to have a performance in the middle of June. How this was not on the monthly calendar that was just about finalized and ready to be published; how they had not bothered to file an Event Planning Form to in request support from AV; etc. You want microphones? You want the stage lights turned on? You best file an EPF.

Subsequently I learned that they actually plan two performances, one morning and one evening on 6/16. When I suggested that they might want a tech rehearsal to try out the mics and such, they thought that was a good idea, so that is scheduled for 6/14. And they did get listed in the calendar that goes out to every apartment, before it went to press. But I had also learned that they have been working on two-person scenes, and the presentation will be four scenes, each with two people. The rest of the cast will wait in the Green Room for their turns.

So yesterday after the meeting I realized, it has been years since the Green Room — a little room off a hallway behind the stage — has actually been used as for performer prep. I wonder if the monitor in there works to show a view of the stage, and the sound works. Because if they are waiting for a cue, they need to hear a cue. So I went down and tested it. The monitor works fine, shows a camera view of the stage. But there was no sound.

I sent an email to our tech mailing list asking if anyone remembered whether Green Room audio worked before. Bert wrote back, it used to, look for a volume control. A volume control!?! What a concept!! This morning I went down there and sure enough, there is a big, obvious, black knob, just inside the door, right beside the light switch.


Turn it up, and sound from the auditorium system comes in loud and clear.

For the heck of it I called up Dennis and suggested lunch. He suggested Santana Row. I haven’t been down there since I browsed it along with Marian, probably 2016. It was good. Santana Row is a shopping mall in the form of a European pedestrian district, streets with shops and restaurants. It was bustling with lots of people, mostly youngish, and there was a good vibe. We had a pleasant lunch and chat.

Back home, about 5:30 the Comcast signal went out and all the TVs died. As of 9pm it is still not back.

4.176 docent, meeting

Friday 05/26/2023

At 9am I drove down to the museum to lead a group of 20 “members of the UK Armed Forces Advanced Command & Staff Course” according to the schedule. Bunch of 30-something men, mostly, no women, a few maybe older. I got a nice round of applause at the end so I guess I did a good job.

My other activity for the day was to hold an A/V committee meeting at 4. I had set up the two Lecternettes with their new wireless mic setups. I just checked, these aren’t made any more. There are products kinda sorta similar, but not with the extra inputs and stuff. So after we had debated over who would do what upcoming events, I urged the 4 attendees to take some time, poke around and get to know the systems. I had made an info sheet for each with pictures and arrows. When I write that I think of Arlo Guthrie singing about the “8 by 10 glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back”.

In the mail tonight? A bill from El Camino hospital for $1500. Huh? I haven’t been there in a year. So I turn it over and find that in fact, this is the residual bill for my TAVR operation of May 2022. It has taken this long for the charges to work through all the layers of insurers. The total for the operation was $360,000. After all the reductions and offsets and payments, the residue for me to pay is $1500. OK, I’m good with that.

4.175 docent, shustek

Thursday 05/25/2023

First up was to lead a tour. Supposedly “30 IEEE members” and I was the only docent signed up. I expected a crowd of engineers in mid-career, so they would know a lot. Wrong. It turned out to be 21, not 30, which was good news, and they were college students, ranging in age from 20-25, with a handful of 30-somethings. So I had to do a lot more explaining than I had expected. But they were fine.

Then off to the East Bay for an afternoon sorting more of the papers of Sandy Fraser. This session was more interesting than before because a whole box was documents from the middle 1990s and related to a project that Fraser was apparently promoting inside AT&T, to build a consumer product, a “personal music player”. This was the same era when Sony was promoting their “Minidisc” format, and Philips was promoting the “digital compact cassette”.

Sandy wrote many memos between 1992 and 1997 promoting his idea of a digital music player based on solid-state media. AT&T apparently owned some patents for high-quality digital audio compression, and he wanted to leverage those to get lots of music into the limited memory capacity of the day. It was clear to me that he came close to inventing something like the iPod.

I’m filing all these memos, and it was really interesting. However, unlike Steve Jobs, Fraser and his Bell Labs team didn’t have a clear picture of what would work as a consumer product — or any experience whatever with consumer marketing. When it came out in 2001, the iPod was a complete system, interfacing to Apple computers, with the iTunes app as a music store and music distribution system. Music publishers could just send their audio files to Apple and start earning cash from every iTunes download. I didn’t see any sign that Fraser thought about the support infrastructure, or a system of selling music.

4.174 fake people, committees etc.

Something I forgot to mention yesterday, even though it occupied a very intense hour of computer work. The novel has two main characters, Ethan and Emma. Some time ago I searched online for stock photos of young people who look like my imagination. I found a couple of attractive and striking photos, but the problem is, they are pictures of real people. There’s no intent of putting the pictures in a published book, but they might be useful in a website supporting the book, and for such a use, it is not a good idea to have pictures of somebody who might claim a copyright violation or ask for modeling fees or something. So I need some fake people, and I know how to get them: from one of the AI image generators.

I tried both DALL-E and Midjourney and preferred the results from the latter. So here are two entirely imaginary people, Ethan and Emma.

“A smiling handsome high school boy possibly of Italian descent casually dressed posed as for a school photo”
A cute but somewhat nerdy high school girl in horn-rim glasses smiling short blond hair posed as for a school photo.

The implications of this kind of thing are just a little bit profound, ya know? No modeling fees, no copyright issues, and no graphic artist or photographer to pay. And I could put one of these pictures back in and ask for “this person in combat fatigues” or “holding a saxophone” or whatever, and get it.

The pictures are really striking, yes? I am using them for motivation to keep writing. These imaginary kids need to have a story to live in.

Wednesday 05/24/2023

Took the standard walk, felt OK. At 11am I got the call from the desk; it was time to come down for my bivalent Covid booster.

At 3 it was time for the Country and Western committee. The committee that planned an executed a very successful 1950s Sock Hop now plans to have a C&W evening for 9/21. Not a barn dance, they decided early on there would be no hay bales. The main part of the committee has been working for weeks. They have finalized the list of songs and some other details. I only get involved because at some point, as before, I’ll be putting together the video sequence. (They have loose plans for a 1960s folk revival night, and a 1960s rock night later on.)

I went down at 5:30 and sat at one of the “community tables” more or less at random, ending up beside Susan. In the course of the conversation it turned out that she is in a group that have been taking a drama class from the artistic directory of the Pear Theater, Sinjin Jones. Susan told me that they had only today decided to have a public performance of some dramatic scenes in the auditorium “on the 15th”. I knew already but quickly verified that there was nothing in the A/V schedule for the 15th, and that the June events calendar was pretty well set in stone at this late date. So I and (ex-RA president) Carol kind of piled on poor Susan, wanting to know, have you filed an event planning form? Have you reserved the room? You need to call Betsy, who edits the calendar, right now. I apologized; poor Susan felt very besieged. But really. You want to have a public event in June and you decide that on May 24th? After supper I called up the people she named as actually organizing it, Prudence and then Peter.

4.173 cactus, tech

Tuesday 05/23/2023

Started with a round of the gym machines. Then I had an hour before the next thing so I went up to the 11th floor where I had the two Lecternettes (small amplifiers with mics) stashed, and took some pictures so I could make up an operations info sheet. On Friday I plan to share this with the AV crew.

I got a start on the info sheet, but at 9am I had to break off because I was joining an excursion in the CH bus over to the campus to walk around the Stanford Cactus Garden. About 20 of us trundled over there and walked around for an hour. There were not so very many blossoms but the light was good. Here are the pictures I took.

Back home I attended the tail end of the writers meeting, then finished the info sheets for the Lecternettes. Spent an hour going through the cactus pictures and picking the best and uploading them to smugmug, see above.

4.172 fopal, writing, tech

Monday 05/22/2023

Took the standard walk. Felt kind of tired toward the end.

Wrote some actual text on the novel. Cute dialog. I was pleased.

Went down to FOPAL and processed half a dozen boxes of books. Picked up coffee and bread, and discovered that cherries have arrived in the store so I bought a bag, and am having them for supper.

I was surprised to get an email from Paul of IT saying, the two microphones you requested for the lecternette have arrived, come get them. I had no idea they were actually going to do that. I had already bought a cheap pair of wireless mics. Well, they had bought a pair of cheap wireless mics.

That’s actually good, because there are two of the little portable sound systems. Now they each have new wireless mic setups. I took them both to the 11th floor and tested them. I had already planned to demo the one new set to the AV group on Friday, now I will demo two. I need to make some instruction sheets, though. I will do that tomorrow.

4.171 novel, concert

Sunday 05/21/2023

For a long hour last night, around 3am, I was obsessing about the novel that I’m not working on. During that time I worked out a resolution to one of the main conflicts. For an hour this morning before lunch I wrote it all down in the notes section of the book file.

At 3pm I met with Sandy and she drove us a whole ten minutes to Menlo Park for a house concert. The performers here were the Keller Sisters. They were very entertaining, they did some sing-along cover songs, and their original songs had clear, effective lyrics.

4.170 talk, concert, concert

Saturday 05/20/2023

In the morning I took care of some computer maintenance, installing upgraded OS’s onto both the MacBook and the desktop iMac. The latter, being an ancient 2014 one, is stuck on Caligula is it? MacOS 11.x. But it still gets security updates. It will be replaced like two minutes after Apple announces a new 27-inch or larger iMac. They have not done so but I live in hope. (The only way to get the new silicon with a 27-inch screen is to buy a Mini and a separate display.)

The MacBook is current hardware, it has been running Monterey (12.x) whose default background is a lovely abstract of a deep-ocean canyon that changes color with the time of day, shades of lilac in the daytime and deep blue-purple at night. Well, that’s gone, now I have Ventura (13.x) with the default background of a giant closeup of a California poppy, sort of, and I see that, yes, it also changes color with the time of day.

At 11am I went to a talk by a retired British doctor, actually a relative of my neighbor and fellow writer Prudence. He told about the British National Health Service, what it was like to practice under it, and so on. Quite interesting.

I bugged out of that early to attend a house concert in Oakland. This was the same venue on Rose Avenue where I went a month ago for Dirty Cello. The performer this time was Heidi Evelyn, along with a pianist, drummer, and a multi-instrumentalist Clint Baker, whom I had heard at several of the performances during the Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka last September. They did a concert of songs mostly from the 1920s, Bessie Smith songs like “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, and it was all good fun. I would like to see them perform at CH. I asked Heidi about that on the way out afterward and it might be possible to make it happen.

The drive back was tedious. I missed a turn and ended up coming through SF instead of going down 880. That was very slow, probably 20 minutes to crawl through the Bay Bridge toll plaza, and congested through the City. But home in time for supper, and then I consulted with Kass, who is running the audio for tonights concert.

That started at 7:30, the group is The Peralta Consort, a well-trained bunch of local amateurs including one CH resident. They played music of the French Baroque era, and I didn’t much enjoy it, so I left early. Not that they weren’t competent, they were; I was just bored. Give me Bessie Smith any day.

4.169 stuff

Friday 05/19/2023

Went for a walk. Then I sat down to face my email. Somehow there were about 10 different emails in my inbox, each one standing for something I needed to do: pay a bill, give some info, read something, etc. Over about an hour I disposed of all of them, and felt very accomplished.

From 2007 through 2017, I used a different blog, This Page Intentionally, to write about whatever I was obsessing about at that time. For a year-long stretch in 2014 I wrote about the long process of restoring and upgrading my recumbent bike. In 2015-2016 I wrote about a software project. But at other times I wrote about philosophy and other things. I was looking at the old blog and decided to copy the best writings in it, to a single document. Which I did for a couple of hours today.

That was about it. Did some reading. Talked to a couple of people about this or that.

4.168 shustek, ice cream, meetings

Thursday 05/18/2023

In the morning and at various other times I worked on processing the two videos of yesterday’s choir performances. This involves having iMovie churn for an hour or more generating an .mp4 file. Also worked on two other event videos that Lennie was having trouble with.

At 9:15 I left for the Shustek center where I put in a total of about three hours on Sandy Fraser’s papers. Got through two more boxes, only a dozen or so are left.

I left early at 2pm so I could attend the Ice Cream Social that CH dining services was putting on starting at 2:30. That was the first course of dinner. Then I attended a meeting of FOPAL section managers on zoom at 3pm. Later I delivered a thumb-drive with choir videos to Jerry, and one to Lennie.

At 6 I left for an event at CHM, a presentation by Kathy Kleiman on her book about the women who programmed ENIAC. I use one of those six women as a human interest story in my docent tour but she got to know all of them.