1.017 Shustek, Concert

Thursday, 12/19/2019

Drove to the Shustek center in Fremont to spend the day cataloging new acquisitions with Sherman. Nothing of any great significance. A Palm Pre from 2010, Palm’s attempt at matching the iPhone, which would have been two years old when this came out. For fun we plugged this one into a USB port on a laptop and Windows 10 quickly mounted it as a drive, and we explored the pictures the donor had left on it. Nothing exciting, but Gretta emailed the donor right away, asking if they minded or would want it wiped.

The evening’s plan was to attend a Voices of Music concert. The venue was new to me, the Community School of Music and Arts, a nice and new-looking institution tucked into the San Antonio Circle cul-de-sac. My ticket said 8pm, so I left at 7:15. The CSMA parking lot was full, but I followed signs to “more parking” which led to an alley that was also full, with a harried attendant directing a line of cars to “make a u-turn and leave” because this lot also was full.

Glad I allowed extra time, I drove further along San Antonio and then a side street where I found a legal spot, and walked back to the venue, where I found that the concert had just started. Huh? “Did you not get our email with the 7:30 start time?” the nice lady asked. I guess not. Later I checked and it was in the spam folder.

Anyway it was some Handel and some Vivaldi. Two artists were featured in front of a dozen local violins and celli. One was Christopher Lowrey, a counter-tenor, singing several arias from 16-century operas written to be sung by castrati, men castrated early so their voices wouldn’t change. In modern times we don’t do that. Lowrey was very good and got a justified standing-O. The other was violinist Alana Youssefian who played the lead in a very complicated, virtuosic concerto.

One year ago I was just starting the downsizing process and learning what widowerhood meant. In hindsight I’m kind of amazed I was already throwing stuff out only two weeks in. But on the other hand, why not, and what else did I have to do?


1.003 Shustek mostly

Thursday, 12/5/2019

Pretty much a quiet day. Drove to the Shustek center and spent the day photographing. By the end of the day I and Tom had completely cleared the “to be photographed” shelves.

Two interesting new donations. One was a military computer. Alan did the online searching to figure out it was a Data General Nova minicomputer inside, but it was packaged in a long black box shaped like avionics, suitable to rack into a helicopter or something, with mil-spec cable connectors, and it weighed 90 pounds. The other was a TV Typewriter, a home-brew box with a keyboard and amateur-looking toggle switches. The design for a circuit that would put 16, 32-character lines on a TV screen was published in 1973, and was used as the primary user interface to many home-brew computers in the 1974-1979 era.

That was about it. Back to CH, had a short nap, then went to dinner. Decided I didn’t like anything on offer, so ate a sandwich in my room.


Day 354, Shustek, play

Let’s go back a day for a grief episode. I think it was Wednesday night, coming back into the building, my mind wandered to the London trip I’m planning. It occurred to me that one thing I could do that week, would be to take the train out to Strawberry Hill station and walk over Twickenham Green past the house we lived in from 1975-78. Walk down the Thames bank to York House Gardens. And even as these images were flitting through my mind — and then the image of when we re-visited it in 2005 and the present occupants saw us gawking and politely asked us in — I was hit by such a stab of grief I was amazed. Those times were some of the best of lives together, and the idea of going back without my partner, seeing those things without being able to turn to her and say, “remember that?” was just… unspeakably sad. Wow. You just never know when a train of thought will plunge into a tunnel.

Thursday, 11/21/2019

A few days ago, I knocked over the indoor/outdoor thermometer that I’ve had for… probably most of this century? Little gray plastic plinth with LCD numbers to display the indoor and outdoor temps, and the date and time. The last couple of times I’ve had to change batteries in it, it has been very difficult to set the date and time. The Set button doesn’t work, or as I finally worked out, has to be pressed with all the might of one’s thumb for a while to work. And even then, it’s never clear the order of what’s being set.

So this time when it fell over, and the back cover fell off and the batteries popped out, so now I’d have to work out how to reset it again, well, drat. Let’s fix this. Such is the nature of the modern world that it was less than five minutes before I had selected a similar but of course more stylish and smarter (does humidity too! doesn’t forget the time when batteries are changed!) device on Amazon and ordered it. So now it’s here, and I picked up batteries at the hardware store yesterday, so this morning I set it up. Very easy to set up, the button user interface is simple and clear, it worked immediately.

Now to trash the old one. But I don’t want to! Faithful old thing, still working fine, barring that the set button doesn’t work and the battery door flies off. So it is lying on my kitchen table and I think perhaps I will take it apart and see if I can diagnose and fix the button issue, and maybe give it to somebody. Or leave it at FOPAL because they do take and resell gadgets too.

Then off to Shustek for a day of cataloging. On return about 5pm, I had to decide how the rest of the evening should go. I have a ticket for Anne of a Thousand Days at the Dragon Theater in Redwood City, 8pm. Have supper here or somewhere on Broadway in RC? Drive myself, or Lyft?

I decided it would be no fun to drive to RC so I would Lyft. I decided it would be more fun to eat out. So at 6:05pm I went down to the lobby and ordered a Lyft. Might seem a little early, but I thought there might be delays. First I selected the shared-ride option, but Lyft first scheduled a pickup by a car that was 11 minutes away; and after a couple of minutes deleted that and scheduled a different car that was 10 minutes away and on the other side of the freeway. So I canceled that ride and re-ordered a regular Lyft (for $19, ouch) which came in 4 minutes.

On Broadway at 6:40, I went for the easy choice of a Mexican restaurant (at least I didn’t sink so low as Five Guys Burgers or the Old Spaghetti Factory). To the theater at 7:30.

This production was not a success, for me. The play consists of Anne Boleyn, awaiting her execution, recalling all her interactions with Henry the VIII, with her parents, with Cardinal Wolsey and others at court. Except for Anne and Henry, everyone in the small cast doubled and tripled in the various roles. The director had cast a couple of women to play multiple male roles. One had to play both Anne’s father and mother in the same scene, stepping from Anne’s left to her right and changing her pitch and body language in alternate lines. This was clearly some kind of intentional statement about gender roles, but I couldn’t figure out what that statement was.

Most of the actors read their lines very well, conveying both meaning and personality clearly. The production was spoiled for me primarily by the (male) actor playing Henry VIII. His voice and accent were completely, annoyingly wrong. Nobody was attempting a British accent, but his accent was Southern, almost into “y’all” territory, and it was jarring. And he had no stage presence, none of the overbearing, egotistical masculinity that Henry’s lines and actions seemed to call for. Just a feeble performance that stood out among a lot of quite competent ones.

So I left at intermission and was in bed by 10.


Day 340, Yosemite, not theater

Thursday, 11/7/2019

Drove to the Yosemite Ave. warehouse for a day of working with artifacts. In the morning I put away some artifacts that had been brought out 3 weeks ago for a researcher. People researching computer history can ask to look at artifacts. When their project is approved, the relevant things are found and moved out to tables in the open area of the warehouse. In this case, the person was researching keyboard technology, and ten or so things with keyboards had been brought out. Aurora the curator said he got really nice photos, but I haven’t seen them.

Anyway, you don’t just put something away any old where. You look up its object number in the database; verify the location it came from (row, block, shelf numbers); walk over to find that location and make sure there is space on the shelf and nothing is in the way of transporting the thing; walk back and pick it up (or for heavy things, put it on a cart); move it to the location and shelve it. With over 110,000 objects, it is imperative that you know where objects are at every point.

Some of the things had been in boxes. In that case you have the additional step of repacking it in its box with other artifacts, then shelve the box where it came from.

In the afternoon Steve and I worked over inventorying more boxes. Lucky us, the boxes we took down from the shelf turned out to be part of the big collection of slide rules that the museum received in 2005. You do a database search on the box number; that turns up records for all the objects supposedly in the box. You verify that there are that many objects in the box (one box had 35 rules, one had 54). You go through the list of object numbers, finding each object, verifying that its database record is complete (often it isn’t) and that it has a photograph (often it doesn’t). If anything needs photographing, the box moves to the to-be-photographed cart. Or if it needs repacking (as the box of 54 rules did, they could be much better arranged) it goes on the repacking cart. Or rarely, the box goes on the “reshelve” cart so Aurora can figure out a more efficient place to put it. The box’s location record gets updated for each of these moves, of course.

Coming back, I stopped at FOPAL to hang up a cute picture in my computer section.

anime with three books

This came from a wonderful collection that Frank found, of pictures of anime characters holding computer books. I mean, the internet is a wonderful and bizarre place. Somebody has created and curated a large collection of pictures of anime characters holding computer books. Just specifically that.

Back home to rest. Then at 6:30, out to attend a play at The Pear. This turned into a fiasco. I thought to just buzz down 101 to Shoreline. Hah! When I hit 101 it was bumper to bumper creeping. I got off at San Antonio with fifteen minutes until start time. Went up to Middlefield and started South with ten minutes to go. Somehow — and I don’t like the implications of this — I missed the left turn onto Shoreline and found myself too far down Middlefield, at Ellis. Back under 101 and north to Shoreline, by which time it was 7:10 and no possible way to make the curtain. So I headed back home, but retracing my steps back to Shoreline and Middlefield. Yes, I know this intersection. Yes, I am positive I came down Middlefield 20 minutes ago, through here. And I didn’t see it. Was I distracted? I don’t know. But I don’t like it.


Day 326, Yosemite, not choir, another play, some mail

Thursday, 10/24/2019

Today I had in my calendar to attend a meeting of FOPAL volunteers at the Mitchell Park Library center. Except when I got there, no meeting. Got into Gmail on the phone, retrieved the e-vite, and of course: it’s the 31st, not the 24th. Bad enough when I forget to look at the calendar; now I’m putting the wrong dates in the calendar.

Anyway, on to the Yosemite warehouse for a partial day of working with artifacts. Then back to CH, arriving around 4:45. This is a problem for the following reason. When I attended the first Chorus rehearsal the other day, Mary the leader handed out a rehearsal schedule, with rehearsals at 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next two months. Thursday is the only day of the week when CHM volunteers gather in the east bay to do collections work. I would have to leave every session an hour early, to get back to CH for a 4pm rehearsal.

I’m debating this, but I think on the whole I would rather be futzing around with old computers than singing in the back row of the chorus. Certainly my contribution to the former is a lot more substantial than the latter.

Waiting for me was the online links to all the tickets for the Stanford Women’s Basketball season. The Stanford ticket office does this in a rather lame way, sending you a list of 34 separate links, 17 to PDFs of individual print-at-home tickets, and 17 to PDFs of print-at-home parking passes (I paid the extra to park in the lot next to Maples Pavilion). I sat in my office printing 34 individual sheets of paper and organizing them into a packet, and sniffling quietly because this was a job Marian had always happily dived into, delighted to be setting up for a new basketball season.

By the time that was done it was supper time and I just didn’t feel like going to the dining room, so I had a PBJ and grapes in my room.

At 7pm was a theatrical presentation. Diane Tasca is large in local theatrical circles, formerly artistic director at the Pear Theater and often seen on stage at local shows. Today she and a partner presented a two-person play, “Love Letters”, in which the actors read out the letters written between a boy and a girl over their lives from grade school up. While the actors were doing a good job, the portraits the letters paint of the people, especially the girl, made me dislike them — the characters, not the actors. So I left at intermission.

Waiting in my mailbox were two interesting letters. One is from a bankruptcy court, setting out the details of the settlements from the bankruptcy of the San Jose Repertory theater company several years ago. The letter was addressed to Marian at the Tasso address, I presume because our season tickets to SJ Rep were in her name. The letter contains eight double-sided pages listing at least 150 names with amounts of $200-$500 owed. However, I’ve been over the list twice now and can’t find Marian’s or my name in it. So why did we get a copy?

The other interesting letter was hand-written, but I think I’ll write about it another time.

Day 312, and reviewing the trip

So, how was your trip, Dave? Well, not too bad all told. Betty and Jerry, neighbors at Channing House who took either the same or a similar tour last year, raved about it. Me? Well… I’m glad I went, especially glad to have seen Santorini and Crete. Santorini is spectacular to look at, although I would certainly not want to live there, or spend another day there for that matter. Crete was a surprise, a really attractive and scenic countryside, pleasant towns, and a functioning economy–as opposed to an economy based 90% on hotels and tourist shops, as at Santorini or the other islands. The other islands, Mykonos, Paros, Delos, are, frankly, bleak, windy deserts. Their villages are photogenic for sure, but only a hopeless romantic would dream of living in one.

Just for the record, according to the Health app in the phone, I walked an average of 4.3 miles per day, 51.4 miles total in 12 days. All the Road Scholar systems worked well; I can’t imagine a more competent, patient, charming group leader than Anastasia; and the other members were compatible and friendly.

I didn’t enjoy seeing the ancient ruins as much as I had anticipated. It’s interesting to think about people 3500 years ago (1500BCE, at Knossos and Phaistos, even earlier on Delos) building elaborate homes and having elaborate trading systems and rich religious beliefs. But on the spot, there’s just waist-high stone walls and a few fallen columns, and it’s hard to feel the history.

So how did it feel, traveling alone?

This was my first voyage as a lone bachelor. I can only think of three times I traveled alone, after I was married. In 1991 I attended Clarion West, an intensive residential writers workshop, hoping to find that I could write science fiction. I drove alone in our camper van to Seattle and lived in a dorm at Seattle University for—was it really six weeks? At the end Marian flew up to join me, and from there we went on a couple of weeks tour into Wyoming and the Tetons.

The other times were bike tours. I signed up for a ten-day, supported bike tour of Oregon. We drove the van to Corvallis for the start, then Marian went to a motel on the coast while I rode with the group, camping each night. A few years later I tried to do an unsupported solo bike tour around the wine country. Four days in I strained my knee and had to call Marian to come fetch me.

Those are the only times I remember being separated from her, phoning in every other night or so. All my other travels have been as half of a couple. The common theme is that these three were challenges I set for myself, really to test myself: could I become a fiction writer? could I handle an extended bike ride, with or without support? Marian supported me in these, but wasn’t interested in taking part herself.

Anyway, here I was this month, alone on another tour. I suppose it was again a challenge, to see if it would be enjoyable, or even tolerable, to travel alone.

Did I miss Marian, or miss having a travel companion in general? An emphatic yes to both. Several times I caught myself imagining sharing the experience with her, and getting emotional.

Also (and this was the big lesson I took away from that solo bike tour as well) having new experiences (good or bad) is richer, more real, more significant and memorable, when you share the experience with someone else. Being part of a tour group is a help. At meals we could talk about the wacky traffic in the narrow village streets, or the fact that Greek hotels, even the upscale ones, don’t supply washcloths. Sharing such observations validates them and resolves one’s feelings about them. This was an emotional support that Marian and I gave each other, minute by minute, through hundreds of travel days. Being in a group of friendly strangers was not the same as that, but better than being alone. A journal (i.e. this blog) is another partial substitute for a companion.

But also, as I realized a few days in, Marian’n’Dave was a bolder, more adventurous traveler than Dave is alone. Partly that was because Marian was more disciplined than I about traveling. She was on a trip, and she would by god make the most of it; where I am shamefully willing to back away from the effort to go out and explore this town, or attend that concert, or go find a meal in a strange restaurant. I have to fight the tendency to just wimp out and go sit in the hotel room.

Partly, it was that a couple can encourage each other, spot possibilities and explore trade-offs of different plans, more efficiently than a single person can do. Dave’n’Marian were quite a bit smarter, more flexible, and more observant traveler than Dave alone is.

Thursday, 10/10/2019

I slept for 10 hours, from 6:30pm to 4:30am. Then I got up, made coffee, and spent two hours cleaning up the accumulation of papers on my desk, and another hour reading the paper, before time for breakfast downstairs.

I had debated whether to go and work at Yosemite today as scheduled, but I felt dandy at 9am so I headed down to the garage… and found that I had left the front door of the car ajar, and the battery was dead. Now what? I checked with the front desk and no, Facilities doesn’t have any way to boost your car; call triple-A. Which I did. The truck arrived around 10. It was too big to fit down the ramp to the garage, but no problem, they had a portable booster pack. I escorted them through the front door and down the many basement hallways to the garage. In five minutes the car was running.

So off to Yosemite for a day’s work. The 1401 restoration crew were all there, scanning old ALDs (logic diagrams) for use in maintenance.

On return I wrote up this blog. After supper I shall for the first time in two-plus weeks, turn on the TV and see what has been recorded in my absence.


Day 291, Shustek, dinner

Thursday, 9/19/2019

Drove across the Bay to the Shustek center where I and the other Dave spent the day cataloging part of a large donation of Teletext equipment that, in the 90s, was used by WTBS in Atlanta.

Back home, I met with Lynn and Florence for a supper date organized by Patty. Patty, who’s a fairly strong-minded person, had us each tell our life story, high school through our first job. Interesting people. Florence’s father was Bruno Rossi, a well-known physicist. Her family fled Italy in 1939, just ahead of WWII, ending up at Cornell U. where she was born. Some of her education involved a year at the Sorbonne. And so on. All much more interesting than my life. Anyway, good practice in listening.


Day 284, Yosemite, traffic, tech call

Thursday, 9/12/2019

Did some exercises, had breakfast, and off to Milpitas for a day’s work cataloging. Just toward the end of it I did a stupid thing with the database that will take Aurora, the curator, at least an hour of time to fix. Agghhh.

Left Milpitas at ten to four and thanks to traffic backups on 101 and Middlefield, didn’t shut down at C.H. until 5pm, about twice the normal time.

In the morning I’d had an email from Bert, the tech squad leader, referring me to a problem Bob S. was having with Apple Mail. I googled it; it’s not a common problem, but one that other people have had, so I emailed some suggestions (forgetting his problem was with email). Anyway that hadn’t helped and I futzed around with his computer for a while and declared myself stumped. I recommended the Genius Bar at the Apple store, and fortunately he had taken the Mini there before so he thought that was an OK idea.


Day 277, Shustek, move prep

Thursday, 9/5/2019

Today I did a set of exercises, then had a hearty breakfast here, and headed out to Shustek for a day of cataloging.

On return I did a few little chores to prep for tomorrow’s move. At 8am tomorrow, Angela The Move Boss comes with the moving crew. Per her email, I get 15 minutes to give the movers any last minute instructions. Then I must Go Away for the day. I will have the use of one of the guest apartments if I want it. (Most evacuees spend the night in a guest apartment, and go to their new quarters next day. Because my possessions are relatively few, Angela plans to do my move in one day.)

In the evening she will meet me at my new digs, #435, and exchange keys with me. I should find everything from #621 properly arranged in the new space.

The only special instructions I want to give the movers is on how to move my L-shaped computer desk. It needs to be split, so the two halves are moved independently. If they try to move it as a unit — well, per the Amazon reviews, it won’t stand up to the torque. Like most furniture these days, it is assembled with bolts threading into metal inserts that are pressed into the vinyl-clad chipboard. The bolts that hold the pie-shaped corner piece will pull out under stress. So the movers have to unfasten eight hex-head bolts to separate the two halves. It shouldn’t be beyond them, but just to make sure, I put bits of green masking tape on the underside and drew arrows pointing to the heads of the 8 bolts. And taped the hex wrench to the top.

With the mail today came my zero-g deck chair, which took only a couple of minutes to set up and should do well.

I ate dinner alone, reading email on my phone. I just felt like that.