1.067 prep, art, packing, concert

Friday, 2/7/2020

Tossed and turned from 4:30 to 6:30. Pre-trip jitters are getting to me. I always get amped up before travel. Need to do this, need to do that, mustn’t forget the other.

My first scheduled thing was to drive to Oakland to pick up the paintings I’d bought. But I didn’t want to leave for that until at least 9am, especially because I could see a lot of fog out my window.

After breakfast, starting about 8am, I killed the items that were making me toss:

  • looked up the pending balance for one credit card and scheduled a bill-pay for it,
  • looked up the other pending credit card and ditto,
  • set up the vacation hold for the paper,
  • made out the check to Carol Aust for the paintings,
  • neatened all the various things on my desk that I want to defer until my return (election ballot, car registration plus smog check, and more).

And still had time to catch up on blog postings. Then I remembered that yesterday, one of the other museum volunteers said, if you are going to be in London, will you visit Bletchley Park? Oh, I think that’s too far out of town, isn’t it? No, just 40 miles or so, he thought.

So now I looked that up, and per Google maps, it’s a 90-minute trip by tube and train from my hotel. Looking at my itinerary, I have an unbooked day, Friday 2/14. So maybe. I will decide when I’m there.

Off to Oakland to pick up my artworks. I had bought two, mainly this large one, seen here on the floor of my bedroom because I’m still not sure where to hang it.


Compare this image to the one from last week, Day 1.061. Notice the difference? As I recounted then, I asked the artist to add more grass so it was clear the dancer was not falling through space. I tentatively suggested maybe she had shed her shoes? And Carol took that suggestion and ran with it, adding flung-off shoes with one still in flight. Cool!

I’m worried that this painting may not appeal to people as it does to me. But when I was carrying it down the hall, Jerry was coming out of his door, and he immediately liked it. So that’s good.

Over to Oakland and back by 11am. I had reserved the laundry for 11:30-1:30, perfect! So I got the laundry started before lunch. And finished soon after. Then I packed. As for the Greek trip, I have everything in a simple carry-on that fits under the seat. I will have to wash out shirts and underwear two or three times, but as I’m in the same hotel the whole time, that won’t be difficult. I might even pay for laundry… nah.

So down to supper where I sat with Susan and Harry and Peter and Juthica. Peter wants to borrow my scanner, to experiment with scanning slides. Coincidentally, just a year ago, Day 70, I was just getting into scanning slides. Will turn the scanner over tomorrow morning.

It turned out, Susan and Harry were also going to the Bing to hear Rhiannon Giddens, and offered me a ride. I had planned to take a Lyft but this was nicer.

The concert was somewhat a disappointment. Giddens has a marvelous voice, a powerful, flexible alto. When she actually sang, the concert was great. Highlights were  Wayfaring Stranger, her channeling Ethel Waters on Underneath the Harlem Moon, and Sister Rosetta Tharp on Up Above My Head. Problem was, she spent an awful lot of time talking; and spent a lot of time on instrumentals that were, frankly, boring. There was a great 40-minute concert that took 2-1/2 hours to get through.






Day 343, plant stand, house concert

Sunday, 11/10/2019

Walked to Verve or coffee. Afterward, walked by the hardware store to pick up some abrasives and cleaner for the plant stand.

Around 9:30 I drove down to FOPAL to see what kind of mess my section was in after the Saturday sale day. Actually it was quite neat; I think some of the sale-day volunteers must tidy up the shelves. I could see where books had been sold, and not always where I had expected sales. For example I had had four books on various aspects of digital signal processing, and three were now gone. I had about 18 inches of various editions and volumes of Don Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming (with a post-it label calling it out as “Knuth Korner”), and it looked like none had been taken.

I spent an hour starting cleaning the iron plant stand. I cleaned the top tier and sprayed it with rusty-metal primer.

At 12:45 I started to a house concert in Castro Valley. The location was one where I’d attended house concerts at least three times, probably four, over the past decade, with Marian. The host recognized me when I came in. The performer was “Mark Hummel and the Deep Basement Shakers”. Mark Hummel has himself introduced as “Emmy Nominated Mark Hummel”; he specializes in blues harmonica. At one point the lady in front of me went to the bathroom, giving me the opportunity to get a brief video. Here’s 40 seconds of Hummel on a solo.

I stuffed myself on the snacks everyone brought. The drive out and back was unremarkable. Generally a nice experience.

Day 317, what happened?

Tuesday, 10/15/2019

First time I’ve missed a post by this far, writing Tuesday’s entry almost 24 hours after I went to bed Tuesday night. What did I do this day? I spent a couple of hours at FOPAL sorting. I attended a free organ concert at the nearby church. Something else. Not sure what.

Oh, right, I spent half an hour at the keyboard trying very hard to solve a problem with my novel. Writing fiction is hard, have I mentioned? Not going into it now. But the people in the story, and the readers, need to know some important facts. There’s one point in the plot sequence where that info can be expounded. How to set up that scene, and how does this important knowledge get expressed? They’d have some kind of catch-phrase or sound-byte way of saying this important principle, what is it?

In the evening was the presentation of Carousel, the movie version. It had been given a big buildup by the guy who presents this series. I found it stiff and not engaging at all. Sure, “If I Loved You” is a wonderful song, sung as a musical performance. But for two people to be singing it back and forth to each other… nunh unh. Can’t get into it. I left, and I noticed I wasn’t the only one.


Day 230, painting, shopping, tour, concert

Saturday, 7/20/2019

At 5am I woke up and had a hard time going back to sleep from fretting about my painting. Where could it be? I finally got up at 5:30. Coffee. An hour later the paper comes. An hour later the dining room opens for breakfast. On my way down I decide to just have a wee peek into some of the common rooms which this past week were shut off so their renovation can start. I opened the door into the former 6th floor lounge, and found: a big empty room and a bunch of framed artwork leaning against the wall, some wrapped in paper as for storage. And my painting in the middle. This is a serious mix-up by somebody; that painting (and I think, some of the others) was marked with colored dot stickers indicating it was to remain hung until it could be moved to my new unit.

Well, all’s well that ends well; I picked up the painting and moved it back to my room.

I was scheduled for the 2pm tour at the Museum today so I had a couple of hours, and I went to Stanford Shopping Center to resume my search for trousers and a blazer. Last evening I had found what looked like a nice pair of pants on the Nordstrom website, on sale marked down from $200 to $130. Since a pair of Levi’s costs circa $90, I feel like $200 is more or less in line for a pair of wool trousers.

It took a while to find the right size of these; the very helpful clerk assured me that this brand tended to run large, so I started with 34″. Way too tight. 35″. Nope. Each time, going into the fitting room, taking off my pants, putting on the trial pair, taking them off, folding them, putting my own back on… The 36″ size was really too tight (so much for running large, since 36″ Levi’s are a bit loose on me) but close enough to a fit that I could close them and put on my belt and look in the mirror and… I didn’t like they way they draped. Bloused out to the side like jhodpurs almost. Nothing like the picture on the website. I snuck out past the very helpful clerk while he was on the phone so I wouldn’t have to endure any more suggestions.

I dropped in to Wilkes Bashford and was almost ready to try on a pair of their pants when I noticed the price tag, $475. Nope. I mentioned to the very helpful clerk that I was also interested in a blazer and he mentioned that their blazers started at $2200. “I’m sure they are lovely; thank you so much for your time.” “You have a nice day, sir.”

Nieman Marcus. Very helpful clerk. But I just can’t swallow $300 for a pair of slacks. Wondering if I was totally out of touch (it has been a long time since I shopped for clothes), I wandered on down the concourse. Took a look in Banana Republic (from the sublime to the ridiculous, right?) who actually have blazers but not in any color I wanted to try. Had a smoothie at Jamba Juice and thought it over. Yesterday at Nordstrom I had started with the Bonobo display. They had nice looking blazers, I might have bought one except they didn’t have the combination of size and color I wanted. But the Bonobo line is, if not exactly cheap, reasonable. Sucking my smoothie I opened their website on my phone and saw that they have their own store on Santana Row. I decided heck, I’m going there. Tomorrow.

Went to the Museum, led a tour, people liked it. Came home, ate a quick supper at 5:30, then walked the mile down Middlefield to Rinconada park where there was a free concert, part of Palo Alto’s summer series, at 6:30. A band that alternates Creedence Clearwater and Bob Seeger numbers. They weren’t that good but the songs were great (Stuck in Lodi Again, Born on the Bayou, etc.) and I listened for an hour and walked back.

Day 228, Yosemite, concert

Thursday, 7/18/2019

Thursday means a slower start, breakfast in the dining room, and a 9am departure for the East Bay, this week to the vast Yosemite warehouse of the CHM. My task this day was to take photographs of artifacts. Aurora, the collections manager, has embarked herself and her band of volunteers on what will be a years-long process, a 100% inventory of the collection. Unlike the prior cataloging projects I worked in during 2008-9 and 2015-16, which had the fun acronym of CARP, Collections Accession and Reconciliation Project, this much larger project has no cute acronym, nor does it have a grant to fund it.

Anyway, this involves bringing down each box of artifacts and checking that it contains what it’s supposed to. The check is easy because the Museum database, an app named Mimsy, allows searching for artifacts by box number. Then you have a list and a count of artifacts that should be in the box, and can quickly verify that they are there and whether they have photographs in the catalog. A visual check finds whether the packing is optimal, so artifacts aren’t crowded, and noting any wasted space that could be used.

Typically everything will match up and the box can be moved back to shelving under a new and more space-efficient stacking scheme. Space is a problem, as the warehouse that once seemed so huge, is approaching fullness, and the Museum continues to accept new artifacts. Aurora calls the problem of space-efficient box stacking as “museum Tetris”.

For various reasons, some artifacts had never been photographed, and maybe one percent will turn up, or not turn up, to be in the box they’re supposed to be in. Today I was photographing things that needed it. Normally photography is a two-person job, but it can be done by one, and I enjoy doing it by myself, so that was a fun day.

On the way home, responding to a text from Deborah, I stopped at Tasso street to verify that a large cabinet was still in the garage. She has a potential buyer. It is there; and I was pleased to see that there was also a painting crew busily at work prepping the interior. So that’s moving along.

I at supper with Rosina, Robin, Mel, Mary (another Mary, there are a lot of Marys around here) and Ed. Working on this.

In the mailbox was a letter from the TSA telling me “Congratulations!” my application for TSA Precheck has been approved for another bunch of years.

From supper I took a Lyft to Dinkelspiel for another Stanford Jazz Festival concert. This was a much-anticipated (by others, I’d never attended one) Evening with Victor Lin. Lin is an enthusiastic teacher and proponent of jazz and, based on what I heard tonight, a superb jazz pianist. He opened the show with two long numbers that were just lovely to listen to, and to follow him through all the variations he was doing. This was the 22nd “Evening” he’s run, where he introduces students and teachers from the festival, matching them in unexpected combinations, giving them things to do outside their comfort zone, and hilarity ensues. Like bringing out four other pianists and having all five of them playing blues on the two Steinways on stage, swapping seats and reaching over each other. Tonight some of the combinations didn’t work, and the whole second half seemed slow and a bit of a downer to me, and other people who’d seen previous shows agreed.

The “other people” in question were Jerry, Betty and Margaret from Channing House, who were sitting at the other end of the row I was in. I was able to get a ride home with them. During the ride Margaret, finding I was in the process of selling my house, went at length into her (fairly recent, I gather) home sale. She had an early offer for the house as-is, but the buyers wanted a contingency on the sale of their own home and 90 days to do it. Margaret’s realtor advised her they were unrealistic, and wouldn’t be able to sell their house at the price they needed, so she rejected the offer, and went ahead with the painting and staging routine, which she apparently found stressful. In the end, the best offer they got was from the original buyers, whose home had sold, but their new offer was $100K less than before. She felt aggrieved by this process, reasonably so.


Day 226, book, lunch, money, concert

Tuesday, 7/16/2019

In the morning I drove to the YMCA for some exercises. This strikes me ever more strongly as a waste of money. Especially so when, in the evening, I found a letter from the Y saying they were unable to process my monthly payment against the credit card on file. When I logged on to their site, which is apparently a new one to which all accounts have been recently transferred, I found the records in some disarray. First, they had the user’s name as Marian Cortesi. Marian may once have briefly had a Y membership but I’m dubious about that; and the access to the account was via my email address, not hers. Second, when I tried to update the account info, I was able to change the mailing address, but not the name. The account showed a list of four credit cards, all out of date. I was able to remove three of them, but the fourth–actually Marian’s old BofA card which should never have been in there–could not be removed because, the site claimed, a charge was pending against it. Well, duh, you can “pend” against that card as long as you like; it was cancelled six months ago and will never pay.

Thinking about it, I speculate that when the Y set up their new website, they merged a very old, inactive account of Marian’s with my current and active account. That would explain all the dead cards in the payment method list, and the use of her name with my email.

So I paid the pending amount using a different card (one that I am almost sure I gave them the last time they couldn’t charge a dead card, but it isn’t in this diary). But with pending balance 0, it still can’t delete that old card because of “open charges”. Bad website. I really need to transition to things I can do here in the C.H. fitness center. But still waiting on C.H. management to select a replacement fitness director.

Back to the unit, and now I was able to actually order two proof copies of the book from Amazon. They won’t arrive until next week, but, yay. Looking forward to that. I spent an hour doing classifications on Zooniverse. Then went out to lunch with Scott at Gombei, where I haven’t been since… Marian and I might have gone there once in 2018 but I’m thinking it was probably 2017. We used to go there on an occasional Sunday night when we felt like eating out, and most of our regular spots were closed.

At 2:30 I went down to the lobby to meet Deborah. We went up to the penthouse and sat down and went over the accounting from the sale. It was a very successful sale, in her opinion, and in mine. My net take from it, including the money that people paid me directly when they picked up the bed and the desk, was just slightly over $2,000. Deborah had brought my share of the weekend sale in cash! So there I was holding a wad of $1650, feeling like a drug dealer.

I thanked her profusely. She was fun to work with, honest, good-natured. And she saved me a ton of effort and stress. If I’d tried to price and sell all that stuff, oh what a job that would have been. She earned every penny of her share.

At 6 I went out to Stanford for a concert, one more in the Stanford Jazz Workshop series. This was “Sarah Reich’s Tap Into Jazz”. Here she is in performance. There were a few problems with this concert, not her fault. I see in the video she is wearing the same mic, but at Stanford she had consistent problems with it, going dead, or crackling when she moved. There was a video to introduce the show and whoever ran the projector had the sound up way too far, unpleasantly loud and distorted on the highs. And the floor of the stage at Campbell Recital Hall was not as resonant as a good tap floor should be. She soldiered on. The band, only a four-piece group, was tight. It was an OK show but for a fan of Gaby Diaz, just OK.


Day 223, tour, book, concert

Saturday, 7/13/2019

In the morning I worked on creating a proper cover image for a print book. This involved a fair amount of frustration trying to use Affinity Pro, which has most of the features of PhotoShop but just enough interface differences that I frequently ran into roadblocks where I just didn’t understand what it had done, or did but couldn’t see why it did that. Joys of learning a new app.

At 11am I drove to the museum and led the noon tour. A group of 14 college students from Taiwan attached themselves to the tour, making quite a crowd. The leader told me he had brought a similar group through last year and I’d been the tour leader then. I don’t remember; but I wish this time he had booked a private tour instead of just joining the standard one. Anyway it went ok, the group as a whole gave me a nice applause round and the Taiwan students insisted on a group photo with me in the middle.

Back home I did a bit more on the book, including uploading my cover image and having Kindle Direct generate a preview version of the completed book. This process takes something like half an hour — the software warns you, “you might want to go have coffee, or perhaps make a sandwich” while it runs. At the end of the lengthy process it found two issues that I have to fix. One, the cover image is about 150 pixels too narrow; I don’t understand why as I built it on top of their template image. And it found one place in a 270pp book where the text bled past the margin, in effect, finding a small bug in the Leanpub PDF generation. I’ll work on fixing those another day. But print publication is a few hours’ work away.

After a quick (solitary) supper (lamb curry, which was quite good) I headed out on a Lyft to Dinkelspiel for the first of the Stanford Jazz Festival concerts I signed up for weeks ago. This was led by Andrew Motis, with whom I was very impressed. Just a slip of a girl but she plays a mean trumpet and sings brilliantly. Maybe most impressive when she did an Ella Fitzgerald scat number and nailed it. She started with a small five-piece combo including Ken Peplowski, a great clarinetist whom I’ve heard in prior SJF seasons. For the second half they brought in another ten musicians, “Stanford All-Stars,” I think mostly faculty, and did big-band numbers. There are few sounds finer than a tight big band. A very nice concert.


Day 209, Dennis, bookcase, concert

Saturday, 6/29/2019

I started out the day with the plan to go to Cost Plus and buy that damn bookcase. I was getting ready to do that when Dennis called and suggested I give him a tour of C.H. Sure, when? and we settled on 11:30. That left a small window between 10am when Cost Plus opened, and 11:30. Could I go get the bookcase? Probably. Could I assemble it? Probably not (but almost did).

I was at Cost Plus when they opened, and quickly obtained the large and heavy flat pack, about 6 foot long, 18×8 inches around, and over 100 pounds. It fit easily in the Prius, but was far too heavy for me to tote alone. On the way back I stopped at T-Mobile and returned the micro-cell thingy. Back at C.H. I went to the basement office of facilities and the on-duty guy was happy to get a dolly and help me run the big box up to my room. It was now 10:45, and I had a go at assembling the thing, but it was still half-assembled on the floor when Dennis called to say he was here and had his visitor’s badge.

So I showed him around, he was favorably impressed, then we decided to have lunch. At first I was going to eat in the dining room but the offering really disappointed me. A vegetarian Rueben sandwich or an uninspired looking pasta dish. I said, let’s go out instead, and we bailed. We ended up at Joe and The Juice which was ok.

Back home I finished the bookcase and now could unpack all the decorative stuff that had been in boxes in the bedroom. No packing boxes left! Here’s how it looks.


The only disappointment is that the shelves are just too close together to let some books stand up. The tall books on top are my growing collection of print editions of online comics.

I had an early supper as soon as the dining room opened, and then headed out to attend one of Palo Alto’s open air free concerts on California Avenue. Unfortunately there was a major league soccer match at Stanford Stadium at the same time and I got caught in some nasty traffic. But I got there in time. The main act was “Fleetwood Mask”, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. They were just OK and I didn’t stay for their whole set.

The in-house email list had alerted us that there would be a fireworks display after the soccer match. I was sitting watching TV when the artillery barrage sounds of it began coming in my open balcony door. I’m on the opposite side of the building. I kept thinking, I should go take a look, but then thinking, nah, it’s almost over. But it went on and on. I finally went to the common dining room which is on the West side and watched the last several minutes. (It must have run 15 minutes in all.)


Day 174, Docent, Concert

Cannabis: At 9pm I took two gel-caps, for a total of 20mg CBD, 5mg THC. An hour along, nothing. And no perceptible change in sleep patterns. I’m becoming disappointed.

Saturday, 5/25/2019

A relaxing time-wasting morning before an 11:15 departure for the museum to lead a tour. Had about 20 people and they seemed entertained. I headed home to spend a few hours playing around before eating  a cheese and pickle sandwich for supper and heading right back to the CHM, this time for a concert.

The Saint Michael Trio is a local musical group I had never heard of until someone at Channing House — either a fan or a relative of one of the players — posted on the resident email list. They’ve been performing and educating about music in this area for 12 years. The concert was their annual “gala” performance. The first half was classical works including a Mendelsson Piano Trio. The second half was jazz numbers.

Truth to tell I wasn’t that impressed. In part this was due to the acoustics in the Hahn Auditorium at CHM, which is basically a big square room with a high ceiling. The Trio used minimal amplification, just a couple of mics on stands between the violin and the cello and I’m not positive they were on. A lot of the nuances of the sound were lost by the time they reached me, sitting near the back. Allowing for that, I still wasn’t blown away by the musicianship. They did “In a Sentimental Mood”, a Duke Ellington composition originally recorded by him and violinist Stéphane Grappelli. I’d not heard this before but there were places where I am sure the Saint Michael violinist played the wrong notes, or was late. It wasn’t pleasant listening.

Anyway, home around 10, too late to try out any edible cannabis tonight.

Day 158, Shustek and music

Thursday, 5/10/2019

In the morning I wrote a check to pay for income tax preparation, addressed and stamped it. Left a few minutes early for a day at the Shustek center in order to post it. I get tense about this, did I address the envelope correctly, put a stamp on it, will it arrive? Bleagh. (No, autocorrect, I did not mean “Bleach”. Since when has aggressive auto-correct been a thing? Here at WordPress, on Reddit, everywhere, it seems you can’t be cute any more without idiot computer telling you what it thinks you really meant.)

Cataloged a lot of stuff, most interesting being a collection of chips and a an actual lithographic mask (a beautiful thing, elegant pattern on a thick piece of glass) for the first Berkeley RISC chips. This grab bag of stuff was donated by David Patterson, who (according to that Wikipedia link) “coined the term RISC”. It was like old home week, it seemed, because another volunteer, Alan, still works for a company founded by Patterson’s student and co-author, and has met Patterson often.

Well, we have a message for Patterson; he’s been sitting on a CHM artifact for (presumably) years. In the donated collection of chips was one that had an old-style CHM accession number on the back, and was marked “ENIAC chip #3”. A quick check of our database, and yes: there it was, with a photograph and description matching this chip; its last known location a rack at Moffat Field. So sometime 15 years ago or so, when the CHM collection was mostly held in a warehouse at Moffat Field, this chip — one of a very small run of a student project to reproduce the WWII-era ENIAC machine as a VLSI design — was removed from the collection. It somehow made its way into the possession of D. Patterson, a highly-regarded professor at UCB. And here it was back home again!

This is what passes for excitement in the museum business.

Back home I had a simple supper and then went out again to hear a musical performance at CH. I mostly wanted to get a look and listen to the auditorium there. It’s a nice space, folding chairs for maybe 150 people, a low stage. Overhead, a large video projector and I could see where a big screen would roll down over the stage. Presumably that’s how they show movies on “classic movie night”.

The performance was by Bella Sorella, two sopranos that have been performing together since their college days. Accompanied by violin and piano, they performed light classical and some folk tunes and it was very pleasant, a highly skilled performance.

One of my interests in this was to watch how the sound system was managed. I’m thinking one way I might contribute at CH is to participate in the performance committee that runs this kind of event. The sound man, a resident, Herman, seemed kind of out of it. There were only two mikes in use (I could see several more on the sound console), one hand-held by the lady who introduced the show and one on a mike stand on stage for the performers to use introducing their songs.

Well, the mike on stage didn’t work, or its volume was set too low. There was an embarrassing moment when one of the singers went to introduce their first number, tap tap is this on? No, can’t hear you says the audience (this audience of oldsters was not at all shy about shouting “can’t hear you”). Herman just sits smiling. Performer takes mike off stand, looks at it, tries again, holds it close to lips — no amplification. Herman sits buddha-like smiling. Eventually somebody in the front row says, give her the mike Carla was using. The mike the introduction person used is handed up to the performer on stage, and it works. The dead mike is handed to Herman who accepts it with a smile, and the show proceeds.

I found this kind of baffling; Herman didn’t seem to follow what was going on at all, but he was in charge of the sound desk. Hmmm. Definitely some room for others to contribute here, but I do not want to come on too strong, or get myself responsible for a volunteer gig that is too demanding, either. Tread lightly as you enter a new situation.