Day 314, quiet Saturday

Saturday, 10/12/2019

I spent a lot of screen hours this day, frittering away time on one or the other computer for various reasons. Around noon I went to FOPAL because it is sale weekend, and I like to tidy up the computer section, which buyers always make a mess of.

From there I meandered down to Best Buy and purchased a new sound bar system, a Polk Audio mini. Unlike the previous bar, which was cumbersomely large and hard to fit onto my media cabinet, this has a lunch-box-size midrange unit that sits neatly under the TV, and a separate small woofer. It sounds better than the old one, and I succeeded in pairing it with the XFinity remote so I can mute or change the volume from the one controller.

In the evening I went to a concert at Menlo-Atherton High. Not a high school concert, but a jazz concert that I learned about from a post on the house bulletin board, a recreation of Charley Parker’s “Bird With Strings” concerts of the 1940s. It could have been good but I was instantly put off by the sound quality. I don’t know if it was the room, the amplification, or a combination of the two, but all high notes were rough and discordant to my ears, really unpleasant. When the violins hit a crescendo it was discordant and really made me wince. I left at the intermission.


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 273, Scottish games

Sunday, 9/1/2019

When I had supper with Dennis and Toni (Day 266), Dennis was enthusiastic about the Scottish Games held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds Labor Day weekend. He planned to spend all day there and suggested I join him. So this morning I left about 8am, driving first to the old coffee shop at Midtown. Had an almond croissant still warm from the oven, num! and read the paper. Then drove 35 miles in light Sunday morning traffic to the fairgrounds. Connected with Dennis by cellphone (what ever did we do back then…) and we walked about. Sat for part of one concert by a band that played “bare-knuckle pipe and drums” and part of another concert by a group that did Celtic derived music but with electric instruments and a drum kit. Walked through part of the merchandise areas. Boy if you need something plaid, this was the place.

Dennis likes that we have, through my mother, a sliver of Gaelic descent specifically from the MacNeil of Barra. (Barra is a lump of rock at the ass-end of the Hebrides chain. Note in that Wiki article that the MacNeils themselves emigrated to the New World along with all the evicted crofters.)

Anyway it was now time for events to start in front of the grandstand. Dennis had obtained very nicely placed seats in the stand. We went there to watch the opening ceremonies. Then Dennis went off to spend an hour tasting Scotch. I stayed and watched all the games, the caber tossing and other ways to fling heavy weights around. This went on  pretty continuously until 4, when the closing ceremonies started. The main feature of this was to be the massed bands, about 700 musicians mostly bagpipers and drummers, but with a Marine Corps brass band mixed in. They strung it out for an hour of preliminaries before finally massing the bands. I took some cell-phone video but the light was very poor; the bands were partly in the deep shade of the stands and partly in brilliant sunlight.

Anyway after the massed bands played they announced a folk singer at which point I thanked Dennis and departed. Home before 7pm, fairly tired. Vertigo was better today, only present if I leaned over as to pick something up. Hopefully it will be gone soon.



Day 270, Yosemite and theater

Thursday, 8/28/2019

Drove to the east bay to the Yosemite ave warehouse for a day of “curatorial review”. Toni and I went through five boxes of artifacts, verifying the number, noting condition, adding notes to the database records. We found several items that hadn’t been photographed or had been photographed poorly, and passed those to Bud and Sherman who were doing photography.

This might sound boring but it had its moments. One came when we were looking at a large circuit board. Its database record description basically said “PCB board”, plus the usual dimensions and other details that we always note. But what was it, actually?

I knew from its appearance that it was an S-100 bus board, because I had owned and worked with many of them in the CP/M era, roughly 1976-1980. It had two ZIF (zero insertion force) sockets with handwritten labels in marker, 2708 and 2716, which I was pretty sure were EPROM chips. So, it’s an EPROM programming board. All I had to do was type the maker name and a couple of words more, “Solid state music s-100 programmer” into a search and there it was complete with a photograph of the identical board and even a link to the original manual! So we could enter a much more informative description and that URL into the database entry for that artifact.

This is the kind of thing that us old-fart museum volunteers can do almost without thinking, but would be hard for anyone else.

Back to C.H. to clear my email and get a quick supper, and then off to the Pear Theater to see a production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. The cast did it quite well and it was fairly enjoyable.


Day 269, docent disappointment, FOPAL, escrow closes

Wednesday, 8/28/2019

Went for a run in the morning. Initially told myself, “listen to your body”, bearing in mind I was not 100% yesterday. However when I got up, my temperature was 97.7, i.e. the Shingrex Fever is gone. Started easy and thought of cutting off one loop, but finally did the whole usual course and felt ok.

Around 10 I got a call from a lady at Chicago Title; she couldn’t figure out how to do a wire transfer to my Schwab account. I quickly gave her the number of Cindy, the knows-all does-all person at my financial advisor’s office. Shortly after I got copied on an email from Cindy, and soon after that, my Schwab account showed that my “personal value” (sum of all accounts) had increased by 112%. Not a bad gain for one day.

So I definitively am no longer a homeowner. That was one of the first firm decisions I made when, a bit more than a year ago, I started thinking about how I would order my life in the likely event that Marian did not survive. I formally started the process about seven months ago. Now it is finally achieved. I felt a brief flutter of uncertainty, almost a panic, realizing that now I have no other place than this one. The Tasso street house had not been my residence since I drove away from it June 15th. From the end of July, when the estate sale cleared everything out and emptied the place, returning was no longer even an unlikely fallback option. But now, it’s irrevocably gone.

The feeling didn’t last. Thinking about it several hours later, I don’t feel panic or uncertainty; just a bit of the familiar grief at having shed another piece of the old life.

I was scheduled to lead a tour at 11:30, a private tour of 30 Apple employees. Looking forward to talking to techies. And I had been told that semi-famous Apple guy Bud Tribble would be in the group. So I went to the Museum and waited, and waited, and they didn’t show. The desk guy called the contact number; someone answered and said, “I’ll check and call you back,” and didn’t call back. Huh. I left at 12.

I had not intended to go to FOPAL today, thinking a full tour would be enough exertion, but since there was no tour, I went back to CH, changed out of my red docent shirt and went to FOPAL. There I put up new shelf labels in the Computer section that I had made last weekend, using a bigger font so they are easier to read. Went through three boxes of books and kept almost half of them. Then did sorting for three hours. My steps for the day: 12,061, 5.4mi.

After supper there was a jazz concert in the auditorium, a local group, the leader and I think the pianist both friends of C.H. residents. They were ok but I didn’t stay for the whole show.


Day 259, visitors, house concert

Sunday, 8/18/2019

Coffee this Sunday was back at the café in Midtown. Part of cleaning up for the visitors coming, I needed to take some stuff down to the garage, so for fun took the car out to the old coffee place.

Back at home I fiddled around until finally Joanne texted they were ten minutes out, and went down to the lobby to meet them. Joanne and Brad and their daughter Sierra had visited me in January, Day 26, when I gave them some of Marian’s clothes. Now they are passing through on a vacation trip, in a rental Mustang convertible, nice choice guys.

Joanne is a sweetheart, great fun to talk to. We toured Channing House, sat for a few minutes in my unit deciding where to lunch, then went out and had lunch. They proceeded on toward Santa Cruz with the top down.

I had a couple of hours to pass then before I drove to Berkeley for a house concert. This one featured The Quitters, two musicians I’ve heard in several house concerts over the years. Glenn Houston is a wonderful guitarist, and sat almost knee to knee with him.

IMG_3889That was my chair, bottom center in the picture. House concerts are great.

I had actually signed up for a house concert on last Friday night and only remembered that when it was too late to start for it. It was in Oakland and on a Friday night one really should start about 2 or 3pm to have time for a restaurant meal before a 7:30pm concert. So I gave that one a miss.

From this one, a Sunday afternoon, there were only a few slow-downs going up 880 and the trip took less than an hour. Starting home at 9:30pm, however, I unwisely opted to keep right as I came out of Berkeley, over the Bay Bridge and down 101. That was 10mph from the middle of the bridge to the south City limit — on Sunday, at 10pm, is it ever clear? — and then around Whipple Ave CalTrans had decided to close the center lanes of 101 for construction, so it was 10-20mph for several miles more. I got in about 11:15.

Day 258, Docent, house concert

Saturday, 8/17/2019

In the morning I spritzed some more stain remover on the carpet. It will pass. My guests probably won’t be in the room very long anyway.

Speaking of the guests, I texted Joanne about 10 to check in. They’ll arrive sometime around noon. I told them not to stress about making it here in time to eat in the dining room; we can have lunch anywhere outside.

Then I left for the museum to lead a tour. Afterward I chilled in the room for a couple of hours before going out to Suzanne and Chuck’s place, where they hosted a recital by one of Chuck’s piano students. Hanna is just out of high school and will be going to UC Berkeley to study computer science this fall. She performed pieces by Chopin, Liszt, and the first movement of a Brahms concerto for piano and orchestra. Chuck played the orchestral part on a second piano (they have three grand pianos in their music room) and Hanna played the solo parts. It was rather awesome to hear these very complex pieces played with power and accuracy by a slip of a girl, but she did it.

I noshed on cheese and crackers afterward while  talking with Suzanne and with Hanna’s parents. That was almost enough food so it didn’t matter that I wasn’t back in time for supper here. I had a PBJ in my room.

While watching some old Naked and Afraids with one eye, I spent a little time on Lisp. Strange language. Old, as I’ve said, and it kind of has the same relation to computer science that Latin had to the Catholic Church. And the 1989 standard for Common Lisp was presumably thought through and argued out by big brains. So, how did they manage to leave blatant inconsistencies in the design?

Case in point, the whole damn language revolves around lists; the list is a basic data type and there’s a bunch of operators for manipulating lists. Dandy. But there is a set of related standard functions, floor, truncate, ceiling etc., all of which can return two values. For example, (floor 25 4) evaluates to two numbers, 6 and 1, respectively the quotient and remainder of dividing 25 by 4. This is very useful. The comparable function in Python is called divmod, and divmod(25, 4) returns a tuple, (6, 1), a tuple being a standard data type in Python.

Does the Lisp function (floor 25 4) return a list of two items, (25 4)? It bloody well does not! At this point all I know is the documentation says it returns the “multiple values” of 25 and 4. You can’t access the second of the values (the remainder) in any normal way. The only way to get at it — and of course finding this out involved an internet search leading to an answer on Stack Overflow; it was of course not to be found in the index of any damn tutorial — is to use the multiple-value-bind function. This special function has the magic to trap the multiple values returned by floor and related functions and assign them to names you supply. So this old well-thought-out language, used in much AI and other cutting-edge research, ignores its own basic data types and has a magic special extension to handle the special magic values returned by several fundamental arithmetic functions. Great.

Day 252, desk work, Lamplighters, Lisp

Sunday, 8/11/2019

Walked up to Verve for coffee. On return, I made a list of things that had been kicking around in the back of my mind as needing-to-do. Note this is something of a change from the first few months. From Day 1 to around Day 200, I was making detailed to-do lists almost compulsively. I knew I was being a little bit compulsive about them; see remarks earlier, on anxiety owing to not having Marian as my co-pilot. On the other hand, there was actually a metric shit-ton of stuff that I needed to do back then. For the last month-plus, I’ve been able to rely on the Google calendar to keep track of where I need to be and when; and I’ve been able to handle the routine busy-work of life pretty much ad-hoc.

But things had stacked up a bit and would come to mind when I awoke at 3am or 4am, and make it hard to go back to sleep. So I made the list and tackled it.

One item, which I should have thought of much, much earlier, was to order new checks. The current checkbooks, one from the credit union and for Schwab, have Marian’s name and the Tasso address. In the “stationery and postage” drawer I found boxes with about ten books of checks for each account. I got online with SFCU; their site makes it easy, even pleasant, to order new checks, customizing the names and addresses simply. Schwab should have been as easy, and may actually be, however it was a “service temporarily unavailable, try again” from them. C.H. very conveniently provides a box for documents to be shredded on each floor, so I put the extra checkbooks in there.

Another was to follow up on the travel insurance for the canceled Road Scholar trip. Remember how I realized too late that I wanted to reschedule that trip, so it had to be treated as a cancellation and a rebooking, and RoadScholar kept half the fee as a penalty. I’d bought travel insurance, and submitted a claim to get that $3500 back, weeks ago. What has happened? I didn’t know, and this would inevitably pop up in my mind at the afore-mentioned 3am awakenings. So. Follow the link from the email, and… my claim is “being processed”. At least it hasn’t been rejected.

I paid a couple of bills. Later, in the afternoon, I made a small spreadsheet listing all the charges shown on the Channing House invoices I’ve received so far, and all the payments I’ve made. I’m scheduled to talk to Terri in accounting about this tomorrow, and now I have my numbers all lined up so I can explain what bothers me. More on that after I see her.

Another item is my drawers. No, not my drawers, my closets’ drawers. They are old, they are of wood which is unlined, unsealed, and unfinished, and they have a persistent musty odor of oldness. I’ve been pondering what to do about this, and I finally figured out that what I might do is to access the C.H. Resident’s workshop, and use a power sander to sand the interiors (hopefully removing the odor) and spray them with either a sealer or a varnish. To get access, one calls Bert, the guy who seems to be in charge of everything technical around here. So I did and we have a date to meet Monday. I guess he’ll evaluate whether I’m safe with power tools?

At 12:30 I headed out. I stopped first at the FOPAL sale for five minutes, just to make sure my section was still in order, and it was. Then I continued down to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts to see the Lamplighters’ production of

HMS Pinafore.

I had bought two tickets for this a week ago, and invited Dennis to join me, but he wasn’t free. So then I asked sister-in-law Jean to join me and she was happy to.

Must say, HMS Pinafore is a very very silly play. I mean seriously. The resolution at the end, which gets everybody married happily, also implies that all three of the happy couples have an age difference of at least 18 years, more like 20. But the production was smooth and the soprano playing Josephine was especially good. The MVCPA auditorium is a handsome place but I didn’t think the acoustics were good, at least, not at the back of the balcony where we were. The orchestra seemed thin and distant. It was a very good thing that they projected the song lyrics above the stage. When you knew what the singers were saying, it was perfectly clear, but a couple of times I deliberately did not read the lyrics ahead and I could not follow all the words. (Worth noting that the Lamplighters are old-school, they don’t use mics or amplification for voices.)

Jean then was pleased to treat me to pizza at a local restaurant; we exchanged stories of our aches and pains, and that was the afternoon.

Yesterday and today I worked at getting set up to learn me some


It’s a different programming language, second oldest only to Fortran, and a different paradigm from the procedural languages in which I’ve written so many KLoC (thousand lines of code). What started this was linking to a list of influential books for programmers by the great Alan Kay. The first book he praised was the Lisp 1.5 Programmer’s Guide, which was formative in his education. That book, although still in print from MIT Press, is out of date for the current form of the language, but I thought, ok, how about I get into this a little bit, read an online tutorial, do a little fun programming.

Which of course, was the opening of a deep, dark internet rabbit-hole. Over several hours of browsing I’ve located some good resources, skimmed some tutorials, and installed three different Lisp implementations. One thing I can conclude is that, unlike Python, Ruby, C or practically any other modern language, the available Lisp implementations are absolutely shit-awful as learning environments. Gracious, but they are beginner-hostile. I’ve used many interpreters (helped write one), and never saw such an impenetrable thicket for the starting user. I have now found a just-tolerable interactive development environment (the free version of LispWorks), but its Mac OS version is so out of date, it makes Mac OS pop up that dialog about “won’t work with future versions, contact the developer” — which tells you they haven’t built a new version in over five years.

Anyway, after several hours of very testy and frustrating hours of exploring I believe I am set up to start walking through a tutorial (of which I’ve found several decent ones) and executing code.


Day 241, FOPAL, tour, realty, play

Wednesday, 7/31/2019

Started with a run; it felt fine.

Paid a couple of bills. Yesterday I got an email from Amy wanting the signed contract for the staging, so I did that routine: print out the contract PDF, sign it, scan the signed page, and email the scan back to her. About 11am I left for FOPAL where I found four boxes waiting at the computer section, but they only yielded a dozen books to shelve. Lots of immense paperback tomes, Everything about Windows 95, The Complete Red Hat Linux Version 3, and so forth. Fifteen-hundred page doorstops, now of no interest to anyone. However, the haul did include several high-value books, little specialist books that people are paying $35-70 for.

Then I spent a couple hours sorting, before leaving at 1:30. I had received a text from Chuck telling me how much the painter’s estimate was. I had intended to bring my checkbook along so when I got that text, I could write a check and take it to Tasso street. However I had not brought the checkbook, so now I had to go back to C.H. and get it; write the check; and go deliver it.

Now I had an hour before I was scheduled to give a tour to a private group. I had meant to spend it sitting quietly, possibly napping, in the car. However at this point I started exchanging texts with Chuck and that led to realizing that still hanging is the issue of getting fresh mulch spread on the landscaping. What day will it be ok to block the driveway with a pile of mulch, what day will Richard the gardener be available to spread said mulch, I need to order the mulch to be delivered, aaaaagggghhhh!

Flurry of texts and emails (Richard doesn’t do texts) and settled on a date of Monday. Also got an email from Amy, fine you signed, but can you send the check, also? Then into the museum to wait for the tour group to arrive, which they didn’t, so I spent the time calling Lyngso Garden Supply and scheduling the delivery. But they couldn’t give me a time, “call back on Sunday afternoon and we can tell you what your 2-hour window will be.”

Compounded by: I had signed up to lead a tour of 25 people, but the document waiting at the counter specified 50. No way can one docent lead that big a tour. But when they finally showed up they were a reasonable group of 25 after all. And pretty independent, a core group of 10 or so stuck close to me, the others kind of wandered around us on cometary orbits. Which is fine with me.

After the tour I could email Richard about the uncertain start time on Monday. Back to C.H. where I wrote Amy’s check and mailed it, fortunately the usual mail delivery hadn’t happened on time so it went out tonight.

For supper I spotted an Open table with one other person, who turned out to be Beverly, and we were later joined by Cathy. I like the Open table concept. By sitting at one you are saying, I’m unaccompanied and open to anybody’s company. There are smaller tables where you can sit by yourself and nobody will bother you, or tables where people who know each other arrive in a group.A couple of nights back, I sat at an empty Open one, and nobody joined me, which was dampening. So I saw Beverley (who I didn’t know) sitting alone at an Open table I joined her and that was Ok.

This evening I had a ticket for a TheaterWorks presentation, The Language Archive. I didn’t like it much, and left at the intermission.

Day 231, coffee, shopping, play

Sunday, 7/21/2019

Up at my customary 6am, when the orange sun rose above a band of cloud over the Bay and came through my curtains. Did the NYT crossword, and at 7:45 headed out for coffee and a roll, and was disappointed. This week I decided, on a whim, to go to The Prolific Oven. Here I found the one young woman on duty sad that none of her pastries had come in, “but they’ll be here in a minute”. So I ordered a cappuccino and sat down to read the paper. But after ten minutes, no pastries. So I walked on to Paris Baguette, a place I had dissed a couple of weeks ago, but it was handy.

Finished with the paper, it completely slipped my mind that I’d intended also to visit the downtown Farmer’s Market, and I just walked home, noting yet another coffee shop to try. At 10am I headed out to the Bonobos store in the Santana Row center off Winchester in San Jose. Here a very helpful clerk named Alex assisted me in finding the right size and style of pants and a blazer. Choosing pants wasn’t easy, as they have all waist sizes in one-inch increments (in contrast to Levi’s, which go 32-34-36 etc.) and in four cuts, Athletic, Regular, Slim and Tailored. It turns out that my shape fits the 33-Slim in their dress pants and 35 in the chinos. For the blazer, Alex showed me that their 40 short was a perfect fit for length, sleeve length, and shoulders. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite button easily over my middle.  He pointed out this one adjustment could be done by a tailor. I happen to know a good tailor/alterations shop which is now only three blocks from where I live, so I went with that.

The whole order, three pairs of pants and the blazer, totaled under $600. Take that, Neiman and Wilkes. The goods will arrive next week; then I’ll take the jacket to the tailor, and after that, will post some pictures.

From San Jose I drove to Redwood City, Broadway, and had lunch near the Dragon Theater where, at 2pm I sat down to watch The How and the Why, a play by Sarah Treem. This was an excellent play, rich in both intellectual and emotional twists and surprises, and very well acted by its cast of only two.

In the evening I exchanged texts with Chuck agreeing to meet tomorrow at 11:30.