1.023 christmas lunch, writing, lane

Wednesday, 12/25/2019

In the morning I puttered around learning more about Affinity Photo. Lunch had been arranged by Patty, me and three women, Patty, Marion and Miriam. Marion worked for IBM in San Francisco for about a month early in the 1960s. She was hired as a systems engineer trainee but didn’t like the gung-ho atmosphere of the sales division, so quickly moved to working as a programmer at Standard Oil, and later at other companies, and wound up in teaching and management at CSU. Miriam retired from a career managing a department at Stanford.

In the afternoon I spent an hour tearing apart those two chapters of the novel and revising them. More to do.

As on all major holidays, the dining room is closed in the evening. I picked up a brown bag with a sandwich and fruit salad after breakfast. Before I sat down for supper, I checked the weather radar–no green pixels nearby for a while–and walked out to stroll Christmas Tree Lane, the two-block stretch where all the houses decorate for the season. Lots of other people were out walking as well.


I was a bit disappointed by the Lane. The displays weren’t as elaborate as I sort-of remember from previous years. It all seemed kind of perfunctory.

Another impression surprised me, though. There were lots of family groups strolling the dark sidewalks, all talking among themselves of course, and what was surprising that among all the groups, only one was speaking English. Indians and various European languages, but only as was leaving did I hear English.

1.015 coffee, deskwork, movie

Tuesday, 12/17/2019

Met with Harriet at the PA Cafe to chat, mostly to hear about her trip in the Hurtigruten up the coast of Norway to Tromso to see Northern Lights.

Back home I tackled a stack of stuff on my desk. Paid a couple of bills. Called the bill-pay outfit to ask about Anthem (see 1.012). That service rep had no clue, “Call Anthem”. The Anthem rep couldn’t say what Bill Pay might be expecting, but said she uses a like service to pay her insurance, and notes that there is an option to simply define the name and address of the payee. She was right, and I recalled doing that at one time. So I did that, defined Anthem’s payment address to Bill Pay and ordered it to pay this payment of $20 right away. Hopefully it will go through.

Cleaned up several other minor paperwork items as well. After lunch, I actually did some writing on the novel. Not adding a lot, but expanding one key conversation to set up a plot point. Well, not nothing.

I had a ticket for Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, in 3D at the Century in San Mateo. Figured I would have supper somewhere near the theater, and so should leave about 5. When will I ever learn? Of course it took an hour to go the 10 miles from Palo Alto up 101 to San Mateo, so by the time I was at the theater it was 6:15 and no time for a restaurant meal. Fortunately the theater actually had fresh Pizza Hut pizzas, so that’s what I ate, sitting in the fine reclining lounge seat. As this was a “special event” there were no previews to watch, either. Not that I missed them.

I respected the movie for the fine technical work that went into it, converting shaky old 1915-era film to watchable, color, 3D images. And if you didn’t know a lot about the Great War, it would have provided a good historical intro, with a lot of realism of life in the muddy trenches, surrounded by corpses and rats. They had a voice-over script of the actual voices of veterans, describing their experiences, and selected the images to illustrate what the men were saying.

For my taste, it was a shallow introduction, mostly because I’ve been steeped in the week-by-week review of all fronts of the war in the Great War YouTube series. The movie was limited strictly to the British experience — reasonable, since the source material was all from the British War Museum — in France. Also, for narrative structure, they talked about joining up, then training, then life in the trenches, then one long sequence describing a typical battle, then the end of the war and going home.

What was lost compared to the video series was the understanding that the war was fought on multiple fronts, east, west, and south, by soldiers from a dozen nations; and that the British (and every other country’s men) didn’t fight just one great battle, but multiple battles large and small, back and forth over the same terrain over the span of the four years. Well. Not sure what they could have actually shown, and stayed in a two-hour film.

One silly little thing that stood out in all the lingering close-ups of the British soldiers? My gosh but the common Brit of that era had awful teeth! It was so noticeable that their teeth were in really bad shape, showed in every smile and grin.


Day 333, meeting, tour, supper

Thursday, 10/31/2019

Did some exercises before breakfast. I really haven’t got a satisfactory solution for the exercise situation. I feel I need more guidance and motivation for that, since I don’t go to the Y any more. However, the C.H. “strength and balance” classes are at 11:45 on MWF and that schedule just does not suit me. I want my physical exercise done in the morning, not impinging on my midday like that. Wouldn’t have to be 6:30am, but at least 9am.

Went to the quarterly meeting of FOPAL section managers and sorters. Had a talk about emergency response from the guy who manages the Cubberly complex where FOPAL is. Basically, after an earthquake, move out to one of the athletic fields, don’t cluster in the parking lot getting in the way of emergency vehicles. In other news, Janet is organizing additional shifts of volunteer sorters to try to make headway against the backlog. And our favorite website for pricing info, bookscoutPro, appears to be down permanently. It’s much more tedious to use BookFinder, etc.

After that I went to the museum to lead a tour for a group of 19 Google software developers. They seemed to enjoy it.

Back home, got a call from Mary Beth, would I join her and her husband Bruce and new resident Ann for dinner. Sure!


Day 323, long busy day

Monday, 10/21/2019

Started the day with a run, wearing a light jacket which I really didn’t need, but at least, I did remember. Then off to FOPAL where I processed four boxes of computer books, and did a little sorting.

From there I drove to the Alpine Inn to meet Scott and Denny for lunch. Google maps had pointed out to me a route I wouldn’t have thought of, but which worked great. FOPAL is just off Charleston road, which turns into Arastradero, which meanders into the hills and ends up exactly at the Alpine Inn. Parts of that I had bicycled many times, but I just didn’t think of it in terms of a car route.

Well, come to find out Alpine Inn isn’t open on Mondays! So we adjourned to a restaurant in Ladera shopping center where we chatted for about 2 hours? A long time. Well, Denny chatted. I had not seen him since, roughly, 1979. He has had an interesting life (in both the real and sarcastic senses of the word), has many stories, which he tells well.

Back at CH I didn’t even have time for a nap before it was time for chorus practice. I am still not persuaded I have anything to offer there, but Mary the leader and organizer is very persuasive, positive and encouraging, really a model of a group leader. I’ll keep attending for now.

Out of that, I had only a few minutes before it was time to grab my hat and head out for the evening. As I planned out in detail the day before: I walked to the Palo Alto train station and caught the southbound 5:56, which makes only one stop before reaching Diridon station in San Jose. Walked out of the station and caught a Lyft across to South 1st, where I had a delicious burger and shake at Johnny Rocket’s.

This was a sniffly emotional nostalgia trip, really. For several years before it died, we had season tickets to San Jose Repertory Theater. Marian and I would drive down, park at a garage on 4th street, walk past the theater to Johnny Rocket’s for indulgent burgers and shakes, then walk back to the Hammer Theater for the play. So I was recapping old haunts.

The event this time was the dance troup Momix, which specializes in using props, costumes, and lighting effects — along with spectacular dance and gymnastic skills — to create rather jaw-dropping routines. This video has samples of some, including several that I saw this night. It was good stuff.

I had worked out that if the show let out by 9:15 I would be able to Lyft back to the train and catch one back to Palo Alto, but if later than that, I’d just Lyft all the way home. It was, and I did.


Day 315, walk, tech call, tv

Sunday, 10/13/2019

Started with the usual crossword puzzle and coffee at Mme. Collette’s. Then, it only being 9am I thought I would go for a walk around the Dish. That early on a Sunday, surely there would be parking up there, right? Nunh-unh, all the local walkers had already filled up the limited parking by the trail entrance. Plan B, I went down to the Baylands and did a walk there. There were lots of water-birds, including three different pods of white pelicans. Lots of ducks. Marian used to like to use her binoculars and pick out the different species of duck; and she doted on the white pelicans. I didn’t have binoculars with me, so I couldn’t tell a shoveler from a mallard. Actually I think I could have recognized the mallards, and there weren’t any.

I went the three miles from Byxbee park around to the foot of San Antonio road, but rather than close the loop with two miles on pavement, I just called a Lyft to get back to the parking lot where I’d left the car. Back at CH I had a snack lunch in my room and a nap; then went out again. First to FOPAL where the sale weekend was winding down.

Then down to sister-in-law Jean’s to help her with a software problem. She uses the Photos app to manage her huge collection of images, and she had somehow lost a bunch of them. I personally detest the Photos app because it takes possession of your images and stores them in its own proprietary “Library” files. Contrast that to comparable image managers like Adobe Bridge or Lightroom, which leave the images safe in the hands of the OS’s file system, each image a file that you can copy, back up, open with another app, etc. Those managers have their own catalogs, but they don’t hide the images in massive opaque globs where the only access to the image is through Photos itself.

But there it was: Jean had a Library of hundreds images taken in her work in the local diocese and sometime in the past month, most of the images in it had disappeared. Photos helpfully displayed the image names still, but only little blank rectangles to show they weren’t there.

Fortunately when I helped her set up her system, back in 2015 after her husband died, I set up a backup drive for use by the Mac’s Time Machine backup system. So now we just started the cool “Time Machine” effect and went back a week and restored that Library, all 27GB of it. One file, 27 gigabytes, contents only accessible through Photos. Unfortunately that version was still missing the images. So we restored a copy from two weeks back. Nope. Each restore cycle taking about 10 minutes for Time Machine to copy the file and then Photos to “recover” its catalog data, whatever that meant. Finally went back a month, and that version, when restored, was 51GB. That’s promising, we said; and when Photos had finished munging it, yes, there were all her pictures up through that backup date. She hadn’t lost a lot of work. So that made me a hero, yay me. I had gone into this assuming it was likely user error (e.g. she meant to delete one picture but accidentally selected a bunch of them), but now I think it equally likely that Photos has a bug where its database gets corrupted. Well.

Back home again, I had a nice supper sitting with Craig, Diane and Patti. Then watched more TV. Before heading off to Greece I had set up the DVR to record three new series that sounded good. One was Carol’s Second Act, Patricia Heaton as an older woman trying to have a second career as an intern. I gave up on this halfway through the second episode. The writing is pretty bad and the jokes are labored.

One was Stumptown, and this I’m kind of enjoying after two episodes. It’s basically a noir detective show, could be from the pen of Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane, except that the broke detective with the complicated past, the alcohol problem, and the propensity for getting beaten up, is a handsome woman, and instead of New York or L.A. the setting is Portland, Oregon.

Third is In a Man’s World, where women, with the help of Hollywood makeup artists, go undercover as men, to prove that they were unfairly held back. The first episode was entertaining, although it’s not clear what Emily proves, in the end.

Plus, a new season of Mom has started, and a new season of Bitchin’ Rides, and I have at least three eps of Austin City Limits, and … life is rich, I guess.


Day 294, lunch, book

Sunday, 9/22/2019

Did the NYT puzzle then went out to coffee at Mme. Collette’s. From there, walked up to Walgreen’s on University and bought a travel-size deoderant stick. I’m just about equipped for my upcoming trip.

During the morning and again in the afternoon I put in a couple of hours on the novel. I’ve just about finished the light edit I’ve been doing and getting to the part where I need to make big readjustments to fit the ending I plotted, and to once again start producing actual new prose. That will all really happen when I get back. Having a two-week trip blocked out makes all planning split in three: things that have to get done before the trip, and things to be put off until after the trip, and the various meetings and stuff that I can’t do because I’ll be away then, sorry.

At noon I went to join Ian and Jean who had invited me to lunch, which also included Ann, Michelle, whom I hadn’t met before, and Mildred, ditto, who just moved in this month. Mildred took unit #521, directly below my proper place. Michelle just lost her husband this February. She shared that with me but we didn’t chat about bereavement after.

Everybody has such interesting back-stories. Ann did research in the use of lasers for opthalmology at NYU and at SRI; sold medical lasers for Spectra-Physics; then did a career turn and trained in Transpersonal Psychology and geriatrics. More notably to me, she told me she had gotten my book from the library and was enjoying it very much.

Ian was a theoretical physicist and lecturer at Oxford for decades. (Which well-qualified him to introduce me to the A/V equipment this week, I guess.) He met Jean at a physics conference at Brookhaven lab where she was doing research in optical coatings, which she turned into a business importing optical coating materials and crystals for lasers from China. From Oxford and London they ended up at Channing House because this is where Jean’s mother lived her last decades. Michelle was born in France, met her husband Alex at Harvard, and in Palo Alto taught for years at the prestigious Castilleja school. Alex (recently deceased) taught physics at Stanford and among other things, created the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and was its director for 20 years.

At 4pm I went down to the Auditorium where Lily (who had invited me to dinner on Day 275) presented a showing of one of the cooking shows she produced and starred in, back in the 90s. It was quite charming, “Healthy Wok-ing with Lily”; her bubbly personality and cute Chinese accent, and her evident knife skills, could have stood comparison to any of the other cooking shows on PBS in that era. Unfortunately she had a grant sufficient to produce only four, half-hour episodes, which were bought and are still being shown on a local cable system in Carlsbad, CA. It’s a pity; with proper promotion and representation it could have been a bigger success. Well, she got a cookbook out of it.

From that, not wanting to go to the dining room again, and also not feeling particularly hungry, I got in the car and wandered over to midtown, thinking maybe I would have my favorite Red Curry Duck at Indochine. But Indochine didn’t look open, or if it was open nobody was there. I didn’t feel like Mike’s. I wandered over to the other side of the street thinking I might have something at the P.A. Cafe, and I finally ended up having nothing for supper except an ice-cream sundae at Baskin-Robbins. Well, it was all I wanted.


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 289, grief, flu shot, more

Tuesday, 9/17/2019

Last night I had a bit of grief flashback, which is lingering into the morning. It started when it came to mind how I’ve ghosted Katie. Backstory. Marian’s brother Emile had two sons, Paul and Mark. Mark is currently head of a radiology group at a Seattle hospital. Paul married Katie around 1998, and they opted to start a farm on San Juan Island, in Puget Sound. Marian and I visited them in 1999 while they were still camping out on the land — we helped construct a roof over the latrine in the woods! We visited the farm again and again over the years as they built a very nice house and developed a thriving organic produce farm. Marian loved the place and loved Paul and Katie, who returned the affection. She took great delight in helping them organize things, and in just doing routine household and garden work, and loved to interact with their son, Quinn.

Marian spent many hours tidying the flower garden in front of the house.
In 1999 Marian and Paul celebrate finishing the fencing around the property with this stile.

In 2015, Paul died of brain cancer, leaving Katie and Quinn to carry on. Quinn has since graduated high school and begun attending a small college in Southern California.

A year later, Katie was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. We last visited in 2017, when Katie’s deficits were starting to show. Fortunately she and Paul had built up enough savings that Quinn is assured of money to finish school and, when the farm is eventually sold, Katie’s care will be secured for as long as she needs it.

Just after Marian’s death I got a very nice card from Katie, heartfelt but also showing  deficits in spelling and limited word choice that made clear that her alzheimer’s was advancing.

So the thought that intruded on me last night, not for the first time of course, was that “I really should communicate with Katie.” Or at least, check in with her friend Michelle who, last I knew, had shouldered the job of managing Katie’s affairs, hiring attendants to mind her and watching her finances. But when I really thought about doing that — I got a wave of emotion such as I haven’t had for months. And now while I write this. Marian loved that place and those people so much… I can’t ever go back there, I don’t want to think about it or them… but I feel a duty to make some kind of contact…

Well there were other things today. At 9am I went to the auditorium where a flu shot clinic had been set up, and got my flu shot. At 11am the Creative Writing group met. I’d been urged to participate. The exercise this was was to write something based on a list of words, which I did. Each of the eight attendees read out their creation. It was interesting to see how different people spun different paragraphs from the same words.

After that I spent an hour working on my YA novel. Then it was time to meet Scott for lunch, except he emailed to say that today President Trump was speaking just up the road from the Alpine Inn where we were to meet. He couldn’t exit 280 there, and I was stuck in stopped traffic on Alpine road. Via cell phone, after struggling with poor reception, we managed to redirect to another place.

In the afternoon I got an email saying that the new Schwab accounts were now set up, and when I log in to Schwab, I am now the proud owner of six (6) accounts. So I sat down and set up a new spreadsheet for tracking these. I had kept Marian’s spreadsheet updated for a few months (starting on Day 68, I see), but there would be such a massive change in the structure when the house closed, I stopped updating it. Now I’ll begin again, with initial values today and then when Schwab’s monthly statement intervals come around.

In the evening I watched the end of SYTYCD and a couple of other recorded items. The Ken Burns series on country music is piling up and I haven’t started it yet.



Day 280, coffee, drawers, show

Sunday, 9/9/2019

Harriet had texted suggesting coffee, and we met at 8:30 at the Midtown coffee shop. Nice lengthy chat.

Back at C.H. I pondered what to do for the next couple of hours, and decided to execute the plan to varnish the bathroom drawers. I took them to the basement workshop, did the sanding, put on a coat of varathane.

Back in my room, I noticed it was past 11:30 and about time for Dennis to arrive for our outing, and exactly at that moment my phone rang. Together we drove up to Foster City for lunch at BJ’s Brew Pub, and from there to the Hillbarn Theater for Anything Goes.

This was an excellent production. I totally fell in love with the lead actress, Caitlin McGinty playing Reno Sweeney. She apparently starred in  Beach Blanket Babylon for three years and is now a realtor(!) but she nailed this performance. Oddly I can’t find a personal web presence for her. Neither actresses nor realtors are usually shy about having their own page.

In the evening I watched Guardians of the Galaxy on Comcast on-demand. I keep seeing references to this and thought I should really see it. I remember a year or so ago, I started to watch it on TV and when the blue-skin villain came on ranting about destroying civilizations, I didn’t see it as over-the-top meta-humor (which apparently some do) but as just tone-deaf boring use of a worn-out trope by bad screenwriters; and turned it off ten minutes in.

This time I stuck with it. It has some charm but really it is not good SF. And the special effects space battles are way too long and confusing to watch. Who’s who and which way are they shooting? And they take a cheap way out of one of the only real emotional conflicts, the battle between the green sister and the blue sister. That should have been resolved in some constructive way. (For that matter, why is only one of the daughters of a blue-skin villain blue? The mother of the green-skin one has some ‘splainin’ to do, I think.)

I’d give the flick a C+ at best.

Day 276, car, FOPAL, dinner

Wednesday, 9/4/2019

First job this morning was to get the car to Toyota for service by 8. In fact, was a bit early. I wanted a routine minor service, plus balancing the tires in hopes of curing a vibration at freeway speeds, plus an alignment check because for months I’ve been noticing a slight pull to the right.

I dropped off the car; the service writer said “should be ready by lunchtime”. I walked the half-mile back to the shopping center and had a nice nosh at Peet’s coffee. Then walked across the parking lot to FOPAL. Only two boxes of computer books to cull and price, and yet again I found a high-value book, one whose used prices ran from $45 to $85. That’s always fun.

Then I settled in to sort books until Toyota would call me. This is always satisfying work, making order out of chaos.  When I came in there were heaps of children’s toys and the sort boxes for the children’s department were overflowing. I tidied those and moved them to the back table for transport to the children’s department which is in another building.

There were piles of boxes of donated books on the front porch (Why do people ignore where it says “donations accepted 2-4pm every day”, and just stack the books by the door? We welcome the donations, but this is really kind of rude.) and a line of them on the table and a row of shopping bags under the table. I was an hour into it and had just gotten those on and under the table cleared when the “pickup” volunteer arrived. He has a literal pickup truck that he uses to go out and collect large donations from people who can’t come in. In this case his truck had 20 boxes of books, which filled up all the empty spaces in the sorting room.

I kept plugging along, got the boxes in off the front porch, sorted them, sorted some more boxes from the Mountain in the Middle, and it was noon. Finally it was 1pm and I called Toyota. “Looks like it’s ready to go” says the perky lady in the service department. Yeah, thanks for calling me like you said you would. Anyway, now I walked back to Peet’s because I had forgotten I needed to buy coffee for myself, and then back to Toyota, and home.

They had found some misalignment of the right rear wheel, which surprised me, but whatever they did had indeed fixed the pull to the right. It now tracks straight without needing light pressure on the wheel. That’s excellent. They found one wheel 20 grams out of balance. Tomorrow I will drive to Shustek and will find out, traffic permitting, if the vibration at 70mph is gone.

I had been invited to supper by Susan and Harry. They also asked Craig and Diane and we had a nice meal, talking until the servers were closing the dining room doors and pointedly cleaning up around us.