1.174 A Sunday

Sunday 5/24/2020

Pretty much a standard Sunday-Rona. Paper, puzzle. Shocked when my morning weight was 174.8, highest in some time. Whyyyyy? I’ve been controlling my intake with care the past few months and had been bouncing around 173+/-1.

Watered the plants. Did some proofing at PGDP. They, along with Zooniverse, appear to be benefiting nicely from quarantime. Lots of people with time on their hands and computers.

In the TV section I noticed with pleasure that The Titan Games series is coming back. I really enjoyed that last summer. Beautiful physiques both male and female, doing amazing athletic feats over very cleverly-designed obstacle courses. It’s good mindless entertainment. Speaking of which, I also enjoyed Ultimate Tag the other night. Not as inventive as Titan Games, but again, gorgeous people doing athletic stuff.

In the middle of the night — maybe this should go in tomorrow’s blog, but whevs — I woke up with a decision: I won’t pursue Crafting Interpreters but will instead start spending my “real” computer time on the novel. I haven’t heard back from two of the three beta-readers I sent it to, but I have had enough feedback to know it mainly needs “more action”. More stuff happening. And a couple of other things. Rewrite time.

1.173 code, colors

Saturday 5/23/2020

Saturday. What did I do in quarantime? Well, I spent some time with Crafting Interpreters, and was disappointed. In this book we are at a major breakpoint. The author, Bob Nystrom, has led us through building a working interpreter for a small programming language. His implementation was in Java; I made the same program in Python. The result works, executes code written in this language. But it executes slowly; any test of serious computation quickly stretches to seconds and minutes to complete. Not too surprising, because the implementation is not optimized at all. Dozens to hundreds of statements in Python are executed in order to execute a line of a test program.

His next step is to completely rewrite all the work done to that point, in C. It’s been a while since I wrote any code in C, although at one point I’d have classed myself as good-to-expert in it. Do I want to continue with the book? His presentation style annoys me. Every time I finish a chapter, I want to go back and rearrange it, present things in a different order. “Bob, look, it would be so much better this way…” So maybe I’m done with it, or boredom may drive me back to it.

In the afternoon and evening I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the question of how to get the correct body color on the Chevy model. Pat suggested DickBlick art supplies and that is a trove of paint colors. I went through all their liquids and sprays looking for something like the right color. I found a GM brochure from 1951 online, and by sampling it I prepared a swatch, see alongside here.

Compare it to the photo; of course amateur photos in uncertain light are not reliable color sources.

I’ve also looked at all the hobby paints in online hobby stores. I can say that Sherwin Williams “SW 6444 Lounge Green” is pretty close, but of course their paints are only available in quarts and gallons. And probably too thick to spray on a wee little model car.

Then I found trycolors.com, a fascinating site, where I can put in the hex version of my RGB formula (#839A78) and it tells me I can mix something that is within 99.3% of that using a ratio of “4 drops of yellow, 5 drops of magenta, 5 drops of cyan, 3 drops of green.” Now we are getting someplace! So back to Dick Blick and order myself some bottles of acrylic paint in primary magenta, cyan, yellow and green. I have days and days before all this shit arrives in the mail. I can spend that time worrying about how I can get an air-brush. Do I want to buy one? Maybe somebody around here has one already. Maybe the paint will look ok, brushed on.

OK, it passes the time.

1.172 model, code, tandoori

Friday 5/22/2020

Started as usual for MWF with a run. I’ve been quite consistent with the running MWFs for some time now. Yay me.

I spent a bit of time trimming and fitting a couple more engine parts.

But now I really have to stop until I get paints. I could continue snipping bits off the, what’s the word for the stick with parts hanging off it like little grapes? The thingummy, and sanding them and so on, but then I’d have to keep track of many little individual parts loose in the box. Much better to have them on the thingummy where they have identifying numbers. When I can cement the bits together to make a bigger bit, fine. But I can’t do that until I have painted them. Or at least, I think painting will be easier this way. For example, the few parts in the picture need at least four colors of paint. I’m sure it would be much harder to paint the exhaust manifold rust color after I cemented it to the block which needs to be dirty iron color.

So, back in the box and put it all aside for a week. But! Thanks to that project, I got an email from someone I knew in the 70s who has, it seems, been reading this blog! The need to comment on the car model motivated her to get in touch. Hi, Pat!

At 4pm it was time for Rhonda’s weekly phone conference. No real news; except there were some questions from people wanting things to relax, and quiet but firm pushback from Rhonda. “This is a medical emergency. My concern is, if we get an outbreak, what will people ask us? Why did you allow this, what were you thinkng?” So, no to riding in another resident’s car; and no to reopening the library, although several callers wanted it. Apparently lots of people still read physical books, and miss our house library.

Could we open it, I wondered. OK, one person at a time goes into the library, selects books (or DVDs), goes away. When the items are returned, they go in a closet for a week to let the hypothetical viruses die. But then they have to be re-shelved, which means, handled. OK the librarian wears a mask and vinyl gloves. But, what about that borrower? In going around the library, they were touching things and breathing on things. Scenario: somebody borrows a book on Monday, has symptoms Thursday, and their test comes back positive on Saturday. They can have left live virus in the library on Monday, which means that now, every library user from Monday to Saturday has to go into 14-day isolation, and be tested! And every person they had contact with in between! And every person they had contact with… Take the library out of the picture, and the contact chain is much shorter.

So Patty and Gwen and I did our marginally-legal thing we had done the prior week. This time we ordered from Darbar, an Indian restaurant. Pat called the order in; Gwen drove to get it. The restaurant was supposed to pack three different orders, but they actually wrapped the three portions of Naan in one foil packet. I carefully unrolled the foil and we could each take the top piece of naan without touching other pieces. Also they provided only two boxes of rice, so Gwen dished out of the larger box with her clean spoon, slid the box to Patty who served herself.

Anyway it was a nice change from house food. We had picked Friday because it was Mac&Cheese night on the weekly menu. Tandoori chicken, rice and naan beat that hollow. Now I have half a plastic container of chicken and sauce, and half a small box of rice. I guess that will be Sunday breakfast, maybe.

1.171 walk, coffee, cleaning, more

Thursday 5/21/2020

Started the morning with Veronica’s aerobics class. Then a quick shower and out the door at 8:15 to walk to Midtown for coffee with Harriet. This is, if one wanted to be a troublemaker, a “gathering” in that I spent half an hour about 5 feet from a person not in my household. When I got back to CH, fortunately the person taking temperatures at the door did not ask me if I had attended any gatherings. It’s a gray area, all right?

Waiting outside my door was the Thursday plastic bag of fresh towels and sheets. So I got to work changing the bed and doing all the other cleaning. Finished, and feeling very well exercised, about 12:30. I mean, seriously: half an hour of step aerobics, followed by a 3.6 mile walk, followed by 90 minutes of wiping and vacuuming? Phone says 11,000 steps for the day, and well it might.

After lunch, I started, slowly and carefully, to work on the model car. I got to the point of completing the 6 pieces that comprise the engine (left and right halves of the block, left and right halves of the head, oil pan and valve cover).


This was a learning experience. The pieces are nicely detailed but they are not perfect. Nominally-flat surfaces tend to be a little bit bulgy, so two flat faces don’t quite mate. I made quite a bit of use of the sanding stick to make things flat and line up nicely. Not complaining, mind you!

I glued the halves of the block together, and the halves of the head, but stopped at that point, realizing that I would like to paint these pieces separately before assembling the engine complete. The oil pan should be gloss black but the block should be metallic dark gray (and I just noticed that little oil filter on the side, that should be orange!). Which made me realize that, oh crap, in all my buying of this and that, I didn’t buy any paints or brushes. What a doofus. So I spent a while on the ‘net buying a dozen bottles of Testor’s of various hues, as called for on the plan sheet. Such are delivery times these days that it will be over a week before they arrive. Which means, there won’t be much progress beyond this point.

Around 4pm, a cheerful guy from facilities showed up to hang my pictures. I’d put in the request for this last Friday, and heard nothing since, but here he was. So that got done.


Probably, next year, when the 6th floor gets its act together and redecorates the lounge, I expect at least the Yosemite painting will go to a more public location. But for now this is my private gallery, down here at the far end of the hall where nobody comes.

Notice that the Linsky landscape is hung on an ordinary hook, by the wire across the back of the frame. The Carol Aust one is not. Back in February I got a touch paranoid about how easy it would be for someone to grab a painting off the wall, take four steps through a door, and disappear down the freight elevator which opens to the street. Somehow that painting feels steal-able to me. The Linsky one, which is nominally about 3x its value, is more conventional and, frankly, a bit drab, in comparison.

So I went to the frame shop where I had an old print framed (Day 1.064) and asked about secure hangars, and they had some. That’s why that painting doesn’t lean, but lies flat to the wall. It took the facilities guy an extra 15 minutes to mount it, because the mounts need a drill, and screw anchors, instead of just nailing up a hook. But nobody is going to take it away casually.


1.170 car, tree, shopping, another car

Wednesday 5/20/2020

Car freedom day! Started with a run. Then after only a little time catching up with the internet (the various blogs and webcomics I follow in my RSS reader), I headed out in the car. My only destination was to visit the tree we planted for Marian last spring. It looks good!


The one beyond it, planted the same day… not so much. It’s just a stick.

Then I killed the 90 minutes until the garage opened at 11am just sitting in the car by the park, and driving slowly back up El Camino.

Back home I found an email asking me to do my first official act as Residents’ Association Treasurer. The steering committee has decided to put together a bonus for the staff. Tipping is banned, but there’s an annual Appreciation Fund drive every fall that nets a bonus for staff members. Given the extra stress they’ve been under, it was felt right to show a little financial appreciation sooner. So as I have physical possession of the R.A. checkbook, I got to write the check for that. Of course owing to the quarantine, I have not been able to go with the former treasurer to the bank to sign a signature card. So I made out the check, then left it in her mailbox for her to actually sign.

Yesterday I initiated an InstaCart order for groceries for me and 3 other 6th floor residents. It was supposed to be executed between 12 and 2pm but at 11:30 I opened the app and found that the shopper had just finished and was on her way. So I had the grocery bags upstairs, sorted out, and delivered by 12:30 just in time for my lunch tray to arrive.

In the evening a big box from Amazon Prime finally arrived with the foundation of a new hobby. Ever since I was tinkering with that metronome, I have been itching to make something. Making software is fun and all, but I really want to make something physical. So, obviously, a model car. Obviously? Not exactly. I last fiddled with model cars when I was 16 or so, because my best bud at the time was heavily into them, and I tried my hand at it. Anyway, why not? Should be good for some slow “quarantime”.

What car? Well, there are some gorgeous European models, 1/16 scale with hundreds of parts, but maybe I should aim a little lower. I looked around the ‘net for something that resonated, and, aha: a ’51 chevy, such as we had when I was 16-18. (I think it was because this kit was on the way, that I immediately thought to write about that car for the writers’ group this week.) I have some tools but decided I needed a better selection, so I ordered a Japanese model-maker’s kit, along with the car. And that package arrived tonight.


The tool kit is decent; well, the screwdrivers are junk but I have good ones. The white thing is actually a manicurist’s tool, a battery-powered thing with a selection of little abrasive heads for doing elegant nails. But it repurposes well for plastic model building. The kit itself looks great, highly detailed, many parts, opening hood, detailed motor, working suspension.


It’s a Bel Air coupe where ours was a Fleetline 4-door sedan, but that can’t be helped.

I ransacked the internet looking for a body color paint that would match my extremely clear memory of our family car’s color. I learned that GM called it Aspen Green.

Pasted Graphic 1

Pea Soup Puke more like it. Here’s a restoration that’s pretty close. However, that is a very difficult color to find either as model paint or anybody else’s spray paint. I ordered one can from Home Depot; it came yesterday but sprayed out too yellow. I have another spray color coming from Michael’s Crafts. No rush; it will be weeks before I get to the point of spraying the body panels.

1.169 if this is tuesday it must be

Tuesday 5/19/2020

Don’t know what I did. I can remember passing some time with this and that but… jeez, sorry. Must blog the same night.

Oh, right. Tuesday was Channing House Writers’ group. A dozen elderly people on a Zoom meeting, each in turn reading out some piece of writing they did, in response to a “cue” put out by the group leader. This week’s cue was “my life with automobiles” and there were a lot of interesting reminiscences. I think I will just dump mine in here to take up space.

There’s a “kodak” of me, age 3, absolutely enraptured, staring into a foglight on the bumper of a ’37 Hudson. I’ve been mesmerized by cars right from the start.

In high school, however, my driving was limited to what my family owned, which was a 1951 Chevrolet 4-door sedan. It was a drab pale green in color and devoid of any of the exciting performance features that I could read about when, each month, a new issue of Road and Track arrived at the school library to alert me further to the unattainable possibilities of performance cars.

The Chevy did not have a V8; it had a straight 6 engine that was ignored, when not positively derided, by the columnists of Road and Track. It did not have a stick; it had General Motors’ worst attempt at an automatic, the abysmal “powerglide” transmission. With that engine/transmission combination, if you “floored it” coming off a traffic light, all you got was a louder hum as the engine revved up. Then, with the stately motion of a battleship leaving the dock, the car would slowly accelerate, gradually working up to the speed limit.

But that was what I could use when, after I had my driver’s license, I could ask girls on dates. Before one particular Saturday night date, I spent most of the morning cleaning the Chevy, inside and out. I don’t recall what I did that afternoon, but I was away while my father used the car.

It is important to know that we were a farm family. Ours was a working dairy farm, with a small herd of cows that had to be milked morning and night. We had a fairly elaborate milk-processing system, milking machines to automatically divest the girls of their bounty and a refrigerated tank to store it until the tanker truck from the farm co-op came every second day to collect it.

Cows age and get retired (as meat products for the family freezer), and have to be replaced, so there were always a couple of young heifers being raised up as replacements. My father chose this particular Saturday as the time to go to a nearby farm and bring back a “weaner calf”. Nothing to do with sausage; a “weaner” is a calf that is old enough to eat solid food and has been weaned from its mother: a young cow, perhaps a bit larger than a Great Dane, easy enough for a grown man to handle.

My father chose to transport it in the back seat of the Chevy.

The calf was deeply upset about being separated from its home and put into a strange green humming box, and expressed its distress as calves often do, by pooping and peeing. Actually not as much as it might have done; perhaps it hadn’t been fed lately.

To his credit, my father made an attempt at cleaning up the car. He didn’t apologize, though, although I’m sure I made my distress known. It was a farm car and it got farm uses, and that was how it was. I put more hours into cleaning. I honestly don’t remember how the date went, or even which of my few high school girlfriends it was with. I hope I had the sense to make a funny story out of it up front, rather than keeping a window open and trying to pretend not to smell the lingering odor of cow poop.

And while I really never forgave my father for that event, I did come to get along with him in later years.

1945DThat Chevy will be mentioned again here in coming days. (Foreshadowing!) Here is the Kodak of me age 3 (so, 1945). I spent quite a bit of time on the internet trying to work out what make of car that is. That grille is very distinctive. I believe it is a 1937 Hudson.

1.168 nother day nother phone

Monday 5/18/2020

Normal Monday. Went for a run. Did some stuff. Emailed the 6th floor asking if anyone wants to shop this week. Got a couple replies, so will do that, set up an Errand.com run Tuesday night.

On my run, my podcast started to break up. What? Eventually I realized the problem was that the little lightning port to stereo jack dongle was broken. It had flexed once too often in the middle, I guess. Fortunately I have another one, and maybe I’ll get out my magnifier and soldering iron and see if I can splice the teenytiny little wires.

The new phone arrived in the evening, a day before it was nominally scheduled, three days after it got to Menlo Park. I opened the box. It looks exactly like the old one! I will just have to take Apple’s word that the electronics are way faster and the camera mungs it pixels more cleverly. I didn’t set it up yet.

1.167 walk

Sunday 5/17/2020

When I got up there was a bit of a rain shower, clouds and damp streets.

Had a pleasant morning reading the paper and doing the big puzzle. And watered the plants and then it was 9:30. Oh dear. So I went for a walk, a bit under 3 miles, onto the Stanford campus. My destination was Andy Goldsworthy’s Stone River, which we always thought of as the Stanford Snake.


That was pretty much the interesting part of the day.

1.166 walk, packages

Saturday 5/16/2020

Just for fun I mixed up a meal replacement shake from powder for breakfast. I have three bags of different flavored powders, left over from last year, but I’ve been breakfasting on ready-to-drink ones. Well, that was my exciting breakfast.

Then I went for a 3-mile walk. Time to catch up on podcasts. Did some coding, watched some youtube. The usual.

I should say, over the last couple of days I’ve triaged a few more games. The oddest one was A Mortician’s Tale, in which you play a trainee mortician learning how to prepare bodies for burial or cremation. (Play the trailer at that link.) It was a teeny bit interesting at first, but after each procedure, you have to go into the chapel and attend the funeral, meaning listen to the chat between the different mourners. That’s about as interesting as it would be, attending a funeral every five minutes in real life. Uninstall. Next was Into the Breach, a turn-based game in which you deploy your robots to defend the Earth against alien invaders. Sort of a cross between chess and Dungeons & Dragons. I got bored very quickly. (“Why am I short of attention? Got a short little span of attention” — Paul Simon, “Call me Al”)

One that’s marginally a keeper is Osmos, which is visually pretty, and slow enough I can actually play it, and not full of annoying puzzles. I can put on my noise-canceling gamer headset and zone out to it. Sscchhlrrrk!

One more package of support for my new hobby arrived. About five to come including the most important. A package that did not arrive was my new phone. It is still at FedEx in Menlo Park with status “Package not scheduled for delivery”. So I called Apple support, and the guy there said, it is scheduled for delivery on the 19th. So, what, they just have to hold it until… yup. Can’t deliver it sooner than promised, apparently.




1.165 quiet day #57

Friday 5/15/2020

Went for a run in the morning. Fiddled around with programming for a couple of hours. Read a chapter in a book. So fun.

Rhonda’s weekly meeting had some news. She talked a lot about her interactions with the Santa Clara County and California state departments of public health. We, and all other group living facilities, are under new mandates. CDPH emphasizes that lifting some restrictions does NOT mean there is any reduction of risk. We are in an emergency, and facilities must implement “stellar” infection prevention. It is ok, says the state director of public health, to be fanatical. Every facility to have a general plan insuring screening, PPE use, training, public surface cleaning methods and materials, etc. by the 1st.

To implement the “stellar” infection control, the state told facilities they should have a “brigadier general” in charge. Rhonda has promoted Angela LaMothe, the woman I’ve worked with before moving in and who has been running the upgrade project, as our “general” to implement and manage this. A resident commented later Rhonda couldn’t have made a better choice, and I’d concur. Angela rocks.

SCC adds the mandate of a testing plan. By the 1st they have to decide who to test (staff? residents?), how often, how to pay for the tests. At a later point Rhonda commented she was impressed with the state and county managers, all knowledgeable and they do listen.

Meanwhile, and irrespective of any loosening of restrictions for other people, we are not to participate in any “gathering”. Over several questions it became clear that a “gathering” was any meeting with a person from a different household. Where a household is your apartment. There is “some flexibility” to allow fully-masked residents to meet in the lobby or their floor lounges. But if you go out to a relative, or a meeting of any kind, or to the emergency room or Urgent Care, you will on return enter a 14-day period of room isolation.

Exceptions are “essential activity” including: scheduled medical and dental appointments (because doctors can control access and infections, where the emergency room can’t), grocery stores, the farmer’s market. Not excepted: riding in another resident’s car. So when Patty and Gwen went out in Gwen’s car to pick up our restaurant orders? Violation. (Don’t tell!)

Coincidentally, I got a cheerful email from Janette, the FOPAL director, outlining their thoughts on when they might reopen, and asking when we volunteers thought we might come back. I replied “2021” although at greater length.

My new phone has traveled from Schenzen, China to Menlo Park, but FedEx didn’t feel like delivering it today. I did receive one of the six different things I ordered for a new hobby. Five others in transit.