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 363, Movie, plant stand, mess

Sunday, 12/1/2019

I’m confused with my day numbering. But no, today is the 363rd day since Marian died. I numbered the day following, Day 1. Tomorrow is the 364th complete day since she died, and the anniversary of her death.

Coincidentally, it will be my birthday. A coincidence I’ve not drawn attention to. We never made much of birthdays anyway, but if I needed a reason to not celebrate mine, there we are.

Today I went for coffee at the old spot, the Palo Alto Cafe, still the nicest venue for sitting and sipping.

At 11 I headed out to meet Dennis at the Pruneyard for a movie, Ford v. Ferrari. Generally it was pretty good. The in-car racing sequences would be more effective in an iMax theater (I’m not sure there is an iMax version, but there should be). And there were a couple of times when drivers going 200mph down the Mulsanne straight turned to glare at each other, and I was annoyed. Driving 200mph you do not turn your head and look sideways to lock eyes with a competitor, not for a second. But, OK in all.

In the afternoon, I went to the resident shop and brought up the plant stand, and put it on my balcony and put a couple of pots on it. It’s going to do very well. After I move back to #621 in February I overhaul of plant collection, repot a couple of them, maybe add a couple, organized around the plant stand.

After moving the stand I observed that the tile floor of the shop was a bit sticky and although the color wasn’t noticeable, there was an obvious ring where the bottom had been. I had taken some care while spraying, holding newspaper behind to catch the overspray, but the green mist of paint had settled out on the floor. Well, I had a can of Goof-Off and a roll of paper towels, so I got down and started cleaning.

The Goof-Off (a pungent liquid in a squeeze can) produced an odd, and embarrassing, effect. I say the green mist wasn’t obvious, but as soon as a towel dampened with solvent hit the tile, all the microscopic mist dots melted and ran together to make a very visible light green smear, which quickly dried, so it had to be wiped. So I ended up using up most of the can and the roll of towels. In hindsight, I should have laid newspaper all over the floor. Of course. Duh.

I spent yet more time going through previous posts, tagging them and sometimes extracting paragraphs of text to use in the wrap-up I plan to do. Later in the week, I guess.

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 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 224, coffee, book, movie

Sunday, 7/14/2019

I had a date for coffee with Harriet this morning. We met at Mme. Collette at 8, and had a lengthy chat over coffee and pastries. I had imagined she might want to see Channing House, so I tidied my apartment before going out. During this I thought of a name for the decorating style I’ve achieved here: MCMM, Mid-Century Modern Monastic. Really, the open, spare feeling, with plain walls and carpet, is reminiscent (alright, very slightly reminiscent) of a monastic cell. A very comfortable cell. The plain walls aren’t an affectation; it’s just that I’ve not hung any of the prints I brought from Tasso street. When I move back from purgatory in January, I will hang them.

Anyway, Harriet expressed no interest in seeing the place. So we parted about 9am. I worked a bit on the book, regenerating the PDF of the text to correct one of the two problems that Kindle Direct found in my uploads. The other problem had to do with the cover image, and I decided to remake two of the three parts of that. But I quickly ran into small issues with Affinity, and decided to post a request for help on its user forum. Did that and set the project aside until Monday.

I didn’t fancy the lunch menu at C.H. — nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like the formality of sitting down in the dining room as at dinner. Some days you just want a peanut butter sandwich, you know? So I walked up Homer street to Whole Foods and had a smoothie.

After lunch I paid a few bills and organized a couple of files. Later I decided to see a movie, and went out to a 5pm showing of Toy Story 4. It’s cute. I found it dragged a bit, and just too many events. Could have used cutting IMO. Anyway, I just made it back to C.H. in time for supper at 6:59.

Day 192, A/C repair, FOPAL, Elton John

Wednesday, 6/12/2019

Last night I had good results from the Yelp “get quotes from several vendors” system. Three of four HVAC companies responded to my request for repair of the condenser fan. Two said, maybe next week or later. But one said, “Thursday” and then said “Maybe tomorrow”.  This at 10pm!

With no A/C, the only way to get the house temp down is to open all the windows, set the HVAC on “circ”, and wait for the outside air temp to go down. Which it did only very slowly (where oh where has the onshore flow gone?). It was past 2am when I felt any need to get under the blanket. At sunrise the outside temp was 73, the inside 75. They were pretty well equalized by 7am, so then I closed the windows and drapes. The house is quite well insulated for an old building, and it will probably stay under 80 until mid-afternoon.

Now (8am) I’ve nothing to do but wait for (1) a callback from the HVAC company and (2) the arrival of the appraiser, and Chuck, around 10am.

8:40, yelp message from the HVAC (Herz Appliance Repair) that a repairman is coming between 10-11am. I am pleased.

The appraiser, a cheerful guy about my age who says these estate-related appraisals are 80% of his business, rolled in at 10. He busily measured the house and took a page of notes, and said he would email me the PDF in a week or so.

The repair guy came and in two minutes had spotted a large capacitor in line with the compressor and fan, which had bulged and melted in a most dramatic way. It took an hour during which he spent a lot of time on the phone getting advice from somebody, but he replaced it and the system works again, yay!

I spent 3 hours at FOPAL tending my computer section and sorting. During which Chuck texted that the L.L. and her ex-husband — who apparently actually is an architect! — want to have one more look, around 7:30pm, ok? Oh, ok. No, wait; Deb had said that a buyer for the bed would come at 6:30. So I texted her, and she texted back that the buyer had never gotten back to her, “Craig’s list flakes” she grumped. So there was no conflict; L.L. could come ahead.

I had somehow skipped lunch, so about 4pm I went to the In-and-Out burger place on Rengstorff and had a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake, nummm, as both lunch and supper. Then home for a brief nap, and to pick a movie to go out to, by way of passing the evening away from home. I picked Rocketman, an Elton John bio-pic  because it was nearby and started at a convenient time, 6:30.

The movie was a rather sad downer, in that it very convincingly portrayed Reg Dwight’s loveless childhood and his miserable loveless life up until he put himself into rehab. It had about the steamiest man/man love scene I’ve watched. It would have been steamier than usual if it were a hetero sex scene, but with nude guys… Well, that’s just me, the innocent who (apparently unusual in this day and age) doesn’t watch porn on his computer.

Also unlike music bio-pics, and here I am thinking of Bohemian Rhapsody which I watched just a few weeks ago, Rocketman did not have a lot of emotionally satisfying musical performances. It seems to me that in Bohemian Rhapsody, in between all the drinking and sex, we got to watch several complete, or nearly-complete, Freddy Mercury performances. In Rocketman there is just one real “wow what a great song” scene, when Elton first performs “Crocodile Rock” at the Troubador in L.A., the breakout performance that made him a star in the U.S. And even that one, they cut short. All his and Bernie Taupin’s other great songs are done in snippets, or as accompaniment to big production numbers.

The movie only gets happy in the closing credits, when it shows you the real Elton John and recaps his career since getting sober, “28 years and counting”, his charity work, etc.

During the movie Chuck texted that the L.L. and her ex were done, and things still seemed positive.

Day 167, dish, movie

Saturday, 5/18/2019

I’d been aware since yesterday that Saturday was a blank on my Google calendar. Nothing scheduled. But I know how important it is to Get Your Butt Out Of The House And Do Something. An aimless day of sitting around feels awful. So, eating breakfast, I’m thinking what to do, what to do.

Bailed out in part by the daily event calendar from CH. At 3pm they are going to show The Green Book in the auditorium. That’s a movie I meant to see in the theater and couldn’t sync up with Dennis to go. Also I’m curious to see how good their projection system and sound system are. So that’ll be the afternoon.

For the morning, well, a walk. Where? Why not the famous Dish walk? I’ve only done it once that I recall. Marian and I walked up as far as the Dish and back (a 2.5 mile round trip) maybe 5 years ago. I know it’s very popular and parking around the trailhead is scarce. Still, it was only 8:30, so I thought there should be space.

There wasn’t a spot on the first pass but I looped back and got a spot on the second. In hindsight, it would make great sense to take a Lyft to the entry gate, especially starting from Webster street.

The walk is pleasant but not easy; there are several steep upgrades. I did a full loop, nearly four miles, 9000 steps per the Health app, and 19 flights of stairs to show I wasn’t wrong about the upgrades. There were lots of people, of all ages and physical conditions. And turkeys:turkies.jpg

From there I came down to California Avenue and had a cappuccino and a scone for brunch. At home I played two hours of the game I’m exploring. Then it was time to head for CH and the movie.

The projection system is just OK. It’s a big video projector mounted to the ceiling, and with the lights dimmed its color and brightness are OK. But something was wrong either with the DVD or the projector settings because it was showing the image at the hi-def TV 16:9 aspect ratio, while clearly it should have been in the slightly wider, widescreen movie ratio. Everybody looked slightly skinnier and taller than life. It wasn’t a bad mis-match and I could it ignore it most of the time. The sound also was OK, although it seemed like mono; if it was stereo the speakers aren’t far enough apart for the size of the room.

The movie was OK. Viggo Mortenson did a wonderful job of being an ignorant Italian tough guy. Mahershala Ali was impressive as both an actor and as a pianist. The script tried too hard and unsubtly to push the audience’s buttons, but it was hard to resist the manipulation.

cadillac-deville-1962-5I could forgive a lot because the film also featured a 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. I have a history with this car. When I first came to San Francisco, a dropout from the UW, my sister Joyce let me live in her apartment and also got me a job as a flunky at the Cadillac dealership where she was the PA for the dealership manager. So for one long summer I had the job of parking customer cars and bringing them back when the customers came to pick them up. I hopped in and out of these pretty machines hundreds of times. I can remember exactly how the steering wheel and shift lever felt under my hands.

After the film I sat around in the lobby reading for a bit until the initial 5:30 supper rush had subsided, then had a decent supper and came home to watch the Warriors, for the second game in a row, come from behind to beat Portland.


Day 90, Shustek and old movies

Thursday, 2/28/2019

Toddled off to the Shustek center for a day of archival work. I and Toni worked together to photograph items that had been cataloged. Three years ago when we were doing this work the photo setup was a couple of (in my opinion) lousy little HP pocket cameras, and the day’s pictures had to be uploaded for later processing. Now we have a fairly decent Canon connected to a laptop so the pictures go directly into the database.

We caught up, clearing the shelves of a backlog of “To Photo” items. Like the FOPAL work this is good exercise: I was on my feet, moving items on and off the table and composing the images, for about five hours all told, and when I got home I could feel it. But before I ate I sat down and scanned old slides for an hour. Got to keep that project moving.

I’ve accumulated a bunch of famous movies on the DVR which is getting under 40% available. So tonight I swore to get rid of some. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World lasted only ten minutes. I stuck with Casino Royale for nearly an hour but finally lost interest. Two down.

Got an email from SouthWest reminding me of my reservation for a flight to Vegas for the PAC-12 women’s basketball tournament. This will be my first solo travel in, practically, ever(*). I’m nervous! Which is nuts; traveling by myself has to be easier than the last half-dozen flights I’ve taken, when Marian’s mobility and stamina were greatly limited, having to book wheelchair assistance, always checking the location of the elevators so as to avoid stairs, always looking to minimize walking distance between gates. And I booked those flights, and we executed all those travel plans, with confidence and panache.

So here’s another difference in my new bachelor life. Planning and carrying out travel as a couple, was easier (at least in anticipation) than it is solo. I need to think about what the difference really is.

At least partly it’s that I had the confidence of knowing Marian agreed in the plans. It’s like what I wrote about on Day 83: having made plans as a couple, the plans feel solid. When I make the plan by myself, for myself, I get the feeling I’m over my head and probably messing it up. I don’t know any cure for this but experience: go out and do it and verify that I haven’t screwed it up.

(*) The last solo trip I can think of is when in 1980 I drove to Seattle to attend the Clarion West writer’s workshop. After the ten(?) day workshop Marian flew up to join me and we drove back together.


Day 85, museum and a movie

Saturday, 2/23/2019

The first scheduled thing for the day was to lead a docent tour at 2pm. So I settled in for a relaxing Saturday morning with the computer. After about two hours I was bored, so finally I left early for the museum — might as well be bored there as at home. Did my tour; went home; changed clothes; and headed out to meet Dennis at the Pruneyard for a movie.

This was my first experience with a theater that not only has the reserved-seat reclining chairs, but the chairs have a tray, and a menu, and you can order a meal. So we ate supper in the theater while the many trailers ran. Not bad food, either. I had a “sesame chicken on rice noodles” thing which had generous amounts of chicken and bell pepper chunks in a fairly tasty sauce.

The movie was Alita: Battle Angel, a sci-fi effects adventure based on a manga series. It was entertaining, although it got kind of draggy toward the end, with a long and complicated third act. The most challenging thing was figuring out how the digital artists at Weta Studios created the central character. According to the Wiki page linked above, famous director James Cameron intended Alita to be 100% CGI. The character interacts fully and continuously with the live-action actors.

Eyes like golf balls…

Throughout the film I was looking at the effects as effects, trying to work out how this or that was done. I was assuming that at least Alita’s face and head were that of a live actress, but the eyes… her eyes are at least 30% larger than real human eyes. Did they have to edit every frame to make the eyes bigger? I was trying to imagine a program that could automatically analyze every frame, find the eyes, and stretch them. No, probably the whole face and the rest of her is all computer imagery. And yet the actress Rosa Salazar is credited with playing the part. So presumably she supplied at least the voice, and perhaps some of her body movements were captured as the basis for the images.

Day 21, what will I do with myself?

Saturday, 12/22/2018

9am: In my Google calendar, today and the next two days (through Christmas) are blank. The first un-eventful days since… I don’t know when. How will I fill them? There are many possibilities… I’ll update this post later.

For a start, I made an errand run, first to the hardware store to turn in three fluorescent bulbs for recycling, then to Whole Foods for some groceries. I supplement the meal replacements with fruit, cheese, avocados, occasional bacon or sausage. Stuff that I can prepare in 5 minutes or less. While making this run I was hit with a couple of waves of deep sadness, not triggered by anything specific, just… sad.

Putting the groceries away turned into a further clean-out of the pantry. I’ve been nibbling at the edges of this job off and on. Threw out two more boxes of breakfast cereal that were lurking up there. Box of cake flour: out. I’m recycling these food items: the food itself is poured into a bio-bag and put in the green recycle bin; the box is flattened for the blue bin. I set aside quite a few unopened cans and bottles; I mean to find a food donation box for them. Saved a container of baker’s sugar because it will work in the hummingbird feeders. But I wonder how long the cake flour and baker’s sugar had been up there? I can’t remember the last time Marian did any baking.

Brought in the hummingbird feeders and filled them. The feeders tend to get patches of a nasty black mold inside and have to be thoroughly cleaned. We’ve been supporting several hummers for a couple of years now. I feel obligated to feed them through the winter, but come spring when blossoms appear, they’ll be on their own.

Finished painting the little tables. There are imperfections but I’m done. They look better than they did after 40 years of neglect.

I have several “real” projects, projects that might have meaning beyond my domestic room. Two software projects, two books. I haven’t “laid a finger” (to use a phrase of my mother’s) on any of those worthwhile projects in weeks. This afternoon I spent two hours re-familiarizing myself with one of the software projects — rereading the code, editing the comments, getting back into it. Two hours is about all the concentrated thinking my brain can stand, but I did that much, and it felt like progress.

Watched the rest of the Return of the King DVD special features, all about the making of that huge project. They wrapped in 2003, 15 years ago. Wow.

Went out for a burger at Gott’s, then to see Bohemian Rhapsody. So quite a bit of stuff in this empty Saturday. Just to make sure tomorrow isn’t empty, I scheduled myself for a docent round at the Museum. And so to bed.