Day 354, Shustek, play

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

Thursday, 11/21/2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Day 352, much FOPAL, booking

Tuesday, 11/19/2019

Since I couldn’t do anything at FOPAL yesterday, I determined to put in several hours today. After breakfast in the dining room I got to FOPAL around 8:30, first person in. There was a huge pile of books waiting for me on the floor at the Computer section.

six boxes off to the right, one more on the cart, and five piles

About twice the norm. There’s been a push on to get more sorting done (yay!) and this may be a result. Anyway, spent two hours culling these and pricing and shelving the worthwhile 50 or so.

(Time is really cruel to computer books. So many big fat tomes, The Complete JavaPerlC++ Bible, a 1000-page doorstop that sold for $35 when new in 2005, now irrelevant. Even when it’s the Third Edition Updated for Version 7.5!!, because I do a quick check and that product or language is now at version 14.3. So it’s off to the Bargain Room where maybe somebody will pay $1 for it, or more likely it will be recycled.)

That done, I started sorting. There was a small wall of boxes, mostly one donation, blocking an aisle. With a few other sorters that came and went over the next hours, we reduced and finally eliminated that wall. Yay us.

I headed on home, forgetting that I meant to stop at the hardware store. In the evening I booked one more theatrical thing in London. The first 7 days of the trip are pretty well filled now, and I think I’ll leave the last three evening open. When I’m there, I’ll see posters, or check the What’s On site, and find things to attend. Daytimes I figure to shuttle back and forth to different museums and galleries, maybe hitting the bigger ones multiple times. (Wally writes that, according to an art lecture he heard recently, you should go to a museum and just study one work, and leave. Well…)


Day 351, London, Bridge (not falling down)

Monday, 11/18/2019

Went for a run. Didn’t feel great, and I walked the last quarter mile of what I normally run. Home, showered, dressed, I sat down to do a bit more London booking. I booked a ticket to visit the Cutty Sark and the Royal Naval Museum in Grennich (as it is pronounced) on a Sunday morning. I also verified which Heathrow terminal Virgin comes into, T-3, which is on the central rail/tube hub, so it will be easy to take the Heathrow Connect train to Paddington.

Located my hotel with respect to its nearest tube stations, one of which, about 10 minutes’ walk, is: ta-daa! Paddington. From the hotel it’s a five-minute (or less) walk to Lancaster Gate station on the Central Line; ten minutes to Paddington puts me at the junction of four other lines. So assuming the weather isn’t super horrible (wait, this is February I’m talking about, of course it will be horrible) I can get about anywhere in London with a few minutes walking.

Next up was Duplicate Bridge; I’d let Craig talk me into playing in his third-Monday tournament. This is as I may have noted the prior times I did it, a whole goddam lot of bridge, 22 “boards”, i..e. hands, which take from 10:30 to 3pm (with an hour out for lunch). Had supposed I would go to FOPAL after, but nunh-unh, I was wiped.


Day 350, walk, London

Sunday, 11/17/2019

For coffee this morning I decided to emulate Dennis’ good example, and walked the 1.7 miles from CH to the coffee shop in Midtown. Wimped out and took a Lyft back, though.

Then with no small amount of nervousness, I booked the flight and hotel for a London holiday. I will fly on Sunday 9 Feb, departing SFO at 5pm. I’ll probably go there directly from Maples after the noon SWBB game. I opted to spend a bit and booked Virgin “Premium” seating both ways, two steps up from economy, one step down from Luxury or whatever they call it. Arrive in London around noon Monday 10 Feb. Depart LHR at 4:30pm on Thursday 20 Feb.

Later in the day I booked a seat at a musical, & Juliet, for the Wednesday night, and a seat at a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields for the Saturday night. I figure to book several more things, but that’s quite enough for one day.

Al Moon, a well-known and liked resident, is celebrating his 90th birthday today (somebody told me the other day CH has quite a number of 90+ people, dozens?). He booked the auditorium for a sing-along, to be followed by ice cream on the 11th. I bailed from the sing-along, I just couldn’t stand the sentimental song selection, badly sung.


Day 344, residents meeting, tech, FOPAL

Monday, 11/11/2019

I wanted to attend the monthly residents’ association meeting at 9am, so ate a regular breakfast. These meetings are a reminder that CH is a functioning community with a degree of self-governance. The long-range financial and other decisions are made by a Board, and day to day administration is by a CEO and paid staff; however the residents association has some discretion and input, and the meeting is run formally with a (fairly lengthy) agenda, committee reports, etc. As I’ve frequently noted before, the residents here ain’t no dummies, but retired professionals, most with all of their wits about them.

Following the meeting I met up with Susan who wanted help with her Mac. She has a wee little Macbook 13in, connected to a bit (23in?) monitor. She wanted to not be prompted to log in every time it came out of sleep, and a couple of other tweaks.

Next I went to FOPAL to do the post-sale triage of my Computer section. Before the sale it had 409 books, after it had 299, net 110 books sold. I looked through all the remaining and sent another 70 or so off to the bargain room because they’d sat too long without selling. Reduced the prices on some others. Priced and shelved two boxes of new. Did a little sorting.

In the late afternoon and evening I did more research for a possible London outing. The dates will be Feb 14-23. I made a list of 20 or so museums and galleries I might visit. Since several of them justify a full day of exploration,  obviously I won’t get to all of them. At least the biggest are open every day; the days of museums being closed on Mondays are gone.


Day 336, coffee, FOPAL, tickets, dinner, plan

Sunday, 11/3/2019

“Fall back” day. Did my usual Sunday morning thing, doing the NYT crossword at home, then going out for coffee. Today I took the car and went to good old Palo Alto Cafe in Midtown. Then, because I have something else to do tomorrow that will interfere with my usual Monday FOPAL stint, I drove on down Middlefield to FOPAL and did the Computer section pricing and shelving. The shelves are pretty full, although I think I will add more on Wednesday. Then we shut down shelving for the upcoming Sale Weekend.

Interesting internet curiosity going on. My favorite tool for book pricing (and others’) is, or was, This odd little site does (or did) only one thing: given a list of ISBNs, it would present the range of prices for those books, gathered from Amazon and Ebay. It had a brutally simple UI, was blazing fast, and told us just what we needed to know to price used books. And last week it stopped responding. Its server still answers to pings, but it doesn’t respond to HTTP requests any more. Frank, our internet (among other things) expert thinks it was a one-man operation and the one man has either died or lost interest. He and I discussed how we might go about getting the source code of the site and running it ourselves, or recreating its function.

I spent 90 minutes culling, pricing, and shelving, including taking a pre-sale count. Then I spent another 90 minutes sorting. Sorting, by myself, is a highly satisfying occupation. I just blitzed through about 8 boxes of books, creating a nice clear space in the sorting room. Then I bought a few groceries and headed home.

About 2pm I got a call from George, who is giving a talk on Monday. The A/V committee assigned me to run this show and I had emailed him about the details of his laptop earlier. Now he very sensibly wanted to do a trial now, since he  had another commitment that ran right up to his scheduled start time. Excellent idea. We met in the auditorium where I turned on the projector and we connected his laptop. All fine.

And only as I wrote this, I remembered: did I turn off the projector? I zipped down to the auditorium and no, I hadn’t. It’s an expensive projector but it wasn’t shining its light. Hopefully with no input it wasn’t burning itself out over the last 8 hours or so.

Then there was an email from Patty, to a list of several SWBB fans, wondering about the coming game with USF next Saturday. It is to be played at the Chase Center in SF, and we started an email discussion on logistics, is it practical to take Caltrain, etc. (Answer: no.) In the midst of this, it occurred to me, I need a ticket for this. It’s not part of the home season pass of course. Tickets via Ticketmaster, $50. Turns out the event is a double header, women at 3pm, USF men vs. Princeton at 6, one ticket for both events. With the result that many of the good seats have already been bought by (presumably) men’s fans. And parking is $30. Well, got that all bought.

Went down to supper by the stairs, meeting David and Helen on the way. Then Patty said we should sit together. So nice supper with four other people. David worked at SRI and knew Doug Englebart.

After supper I thought about my oft-stated idea of spending a week in London, visiting museums and seeing shows. Quick check of Road Scholar, they have nothing like that. Given I know London fairly well, I don’t need excursions to the well-known places. So, plan it myself? How hard can it be?

First thing is, when? I look at the Google Calendar. Lots of conflicts with SWBB and other pre-purchased tickets. Also, January is when the move back to the 6th floor should happen. However, there’s a nice gap in mid-February, the 9th to the 20th, with no serious conflicts. So I open and look for hotels. There are several attractive places in Chiswick and around Hyde Park where I can stay for 10 nights for less than £1000. I find, ticket brokerage. Lots of shows one could see with prices around £30-£50. And of course there are the museums, I would use TripAdvisor to refresh my memory of those. But it should not be difficult, the work of a couple afternoons, to plan a 9- or 10-day stay with one museum and one performance a day. So we will see.




Day 296, meetings, waiting

Tuesday, 9/24/2019

Today was the special kind of day, the getting-ready-for-a-trip day. Or as it usually works out for me, the already-set-to-go-burning-down-time day.

First thing, 6:20, 24 hours before departure, I went through the KLM info page to check in for my flight. Ooops, it says, online check-in not available, use a kiosk at the airport. Oh well. Ten minutes later, I get an email from Delta, “Hello, David, time to check in for your flight.” I use that link and no problem, print boarding passes, good to go.

Rechecked my bag, reviewed my plans, done. Took the car out and had it washed. Killed some time. At 3pm it was the monthly meeting of the Tech Squad. Some issues with the new style of house phones that are being given to residents who request a wireless, carry-around handset. Some issues with coverage for wifi in the refurbished floors and what they will do about weak spots. This was of interest to me because when I move back to #621, which is in the corner of the building, coverage may be weak.

At 4:30 it was time for the monthly A/V committee meeting. Assignments for events in October were passed out, none to me. I’m to pick a couple and shadow the operator, which I will do after the trip.

Finally I requested a wake-up call from the desk, picked up my mail, and left my mailbox key for Craig who will check the box from time to time for me. And went to bed early, anticipating a 3:00 alarm.

(Edited at SFO because I couldn’t be bothered to do a post last night.)

Day 295, FOPAL, singing, packing

Monday, 9/23/2019

Went for a run in the morning, the first one in a week, also the last one for two weeks, because I don’t plan to go jogging out of a hotel in Athens or Heraklion or wherever.

Went to FOPAL at 10 and worked until 2. There were 8 boxes of computer books waiting. Chuck, the guy who trained me in managing the computer section, joined me at 11 for a refresher in pricing, and we did the last four together. Then I sorted donations for two hours, bringing a great deal of order to the chaos of the donation room, which was satisfying. Grabbed a couple of protein bars at the grocery for lunch and headed back.

Napped, and almost overslept the time for the singing group meeting, which I’d been recruited for back on the activity expo day. My voice is… I can still carry a tune, I don’t think I sang any sour notes, but my range is about |that| wide, so I’m forever having to drop an octave for the highest notes or go up an octave for the lowest.

Had supper sitting alone. Afterward, despite my best intentions to put off packing to tomorrow, I couldn’t resist, and packed up. Everything indeed fits easily into a carry bag. It’s one piece of a three-piece set of Victorinox luggage from way back. There was a big suitcase, a small roller bag, and this carry bag, or carpet bag, or gym bag: like a giant purse. I’m pretty sure it fits under an airline seat, even full. We sold the big bag several years ago. I still have the roller bag and had thought about using it for this trip, but I wanted to try using the little one.

Everything I need for two weeks, on the assumption that I do hand-laundry every third night, fits. Including a nice adapter that converts a Euro two-prong plug into a US three-prong plug PLUS two USB charging ports. The chromebook and its power supply slips right in, and I have nice noise-canceling ear-buds to plug into the phone or the airplane audio; and speaking of the phone, I have a power brick that will charge the phone at least three times over. All in the bag, which weighs out at 16 pounds.


Day 267, run, relief, bridge, shot, FOPAL, realty, dinner, outage

Monday, 8/26/2019

First thing in the day I went for a run. A bit over 30 minutes of jogging, and it felt good. Not just ok, actually good.

I was scheduled to play bridge starting at 10. I was showered and dressed by 9am so I sat down to face my fears, or at least, my discomfort: dealing with the rejection of that

Road Scholar (RS) insurance claim.

To recap, I had scheduled a tour starting September 6. Later I realized that was the day I had to transition to my temporary apartment for the upgrade, and also that the house sale might push toward that date. So I re-booked the tour for 9/28, but unfortunately did this just too late for it to be free. Instead, RS gave me half credit for the later tour and I had to pay the additional half, about $3200. So I filed a claim with the trip insurance I’d bought, and a couple days ago, got the rejection of that claim — even though I thought I had been covered by the RS “for any reason” cancellation policy.

Now I went deeper into the RS website and found that the “for any reason” clause is not part of the insurance policy, so the insurer is not required to approve the claim on that basis, only on the allowed reasons in the policy. The clause is a Road Scholar policy that applies to clients when they have bought a trip insurance policy at the time of booking the trip. The policy is, if you cancel a trip “for any reason” and the insurance doesn’t apply, they give you the value of the unpaid claim as a credit, under the small restriction it can only be used to book a different trip.

When I understood this, I called RS and a cheerful customer service rep looked up my account and confirmed that, yes, they did show a $3200 credit that I could use against any other RS trip in the next 15 months. OK. Done. I’m pretty sure I will want another RS trip sometime in 2020, so… ok.

This was a big emotional relief for me. I had been dreading trying to protest the insurance claim via email, finding documents to bolster my case, etc. That’s all off the table, I won’t lose the money and I don’t have to do any more to save it. So I went off

to play Bridge

with a light heart. Craig is a serious bridge player and, since we were bottom pair last time I partnered him, he wanted to meet before the scheduled 10:30 start so we could go over our convention card. There have been a number of small changes and tweaks since Marian and I studied bridge techniques.

Craig’s group plays tournament style bridge, with pre-made hands in “boards” that are played by all tables, with your standing at the end depending on whether on at least a few hands you did better (e.g. an overtrick) or worse (e.g. going down on a game contract) than the people at the other table. Table singular since we only had eight players, two tables.

Almost to lunch time one of the other players announced he didn’t feel well, and went off to the Wellness Wing to get looked at. So we went early to lunch and Craig scared up another player, Ruth. She was glad to join us because it was her move-out day, and she had been looking at a boring day sitting in a guest unit while the contents of her unit were moved.

We finished the last board about 2:40. (That evening I got Craig’s results email; he and I were once again bottom pair of the four. I am just not that good a bridge player to do the tournament game. I wouldn’t mind playing casual bridge, but there are currently no casual games being organized, although I understand there are couples who meet to play regularly in their private units. I can do one of two things: play a lot in some of the many online bridge games and try to get better; or perhaps organize my own casual game. Or forget bridge. TBS.) So now off to

my Shingles shot.

Multiple people have independently recommended that I get a Shingles booster. The previous Herpes Zoster vaccine has proved ineffective, and there’s a new one. I got an email from PAMF telling me that a limited supply of the new vaccine was available and recommending I book for one, which I did last weekend, for 3:15pm today. Then Craig asked me to play bridge; but I was pretty sure I could get to the Los Altos location by 3:15 after bridge, and so it turned out.

The list of possible side-effects for the new vaccine that I had to sign is pretty long and has some really dire symptoms. Most common is arm pain and possibly a slight fever.

From there I went to FOPAL to clean up the Computer section. It was a typical haul, four boxes sent to the bargain room, about 30 books priced and shelved. While I was there I got a call from Chuck. The escrow will pretty surely be closing tomorrow, and he wanted to request a favor. He’s had a good year, and would like to defer the receipt of his commission on my sale to 2020, when possibly conditions won’t be as good and his taxes would be lower.

I guess this is OK, although it does mean that I would receive the amount of his commission as part of my receipts out of escrow, and would sign a no-interest promissory note to him — I think? It’s a tax dodge, but as long as my hands will be clean, I don’t mind doing him this favor. I called my financial people, and everybody was in meetings or out of the office, so I left a voice mail for Howard. Who unfortunately didn’t call me back. So I headed back to CH for

Patti’s Farewell Dinner

Patti had invited me, Craig and Diane, Jerry and Betty, and Gwen, to join her to celebrate the eve of her move-out to a different floor. People have various reactions to moving. Me, I’ve only been here 2 months. I don’t mind the move. I really like my unit with its Eastern view and floods of light all day, and will be very happy to get back to it next January. But I’ve got no big emotional investment in it. Others, like Patti, feel like it’s an exile; she’s concerned about her plants and other items, and feels like she’s being separated from her friends.

So after I’d returned to my room and was browsing Reddit about 8pm, a goose (as I learned next morning) flew into some power lines nearby and blacked out the middle of downtown Palo Alto. People took this pretty easily. No running and shouting. There was, I think, someone trapped in an elevator; at least, I heard the elevator alarm bell being rung. Don’t know how that was resolved.

I went to bed at 8:30, and woke up at 9:30 when the lights came on again. Turned them off, went back to bed.

Day 266, coffee, art fest, supper

Sunday, 8/25/2019

Coffee this morning at Mlle. Collette, who definitely have the best pastries. Walking across to there I was reminded that University avenue is closed off for the Palo Alto arts and crafts fair. I returned to that about 11am and walked the whole thing.

The first couple of blocks of this were somewhat emotional. Practically the only other times I’ve walked an arts festival I’d done it with Marian. And this time, of course, I was seeing things that she would have stopped for. A purple blouse, she’d have checked that out; every jewelry stand she’d have stopped to look over the earrings. So it was a bit sniffly walking along. But in a nice way, I guess.

I was taken with some hand-woven wool blankets. My one and only blanket is very utilitarian. I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond and basically picked one that was the right size and not ugly; but it’s plain and the fabric isn’t friendly to the hand. So at the end of my circuit I looped back to that stall and bought one. Back home I remade the bed with it and it looks very nice.

I also found a cheap broom and dustpan combo at Walgreen’s. I needed that mostly to sweep up the debris from repotting the wax plant yesterday, and in general to keep the balcony tidy.

I’ve been thinking about the tour I’m going on in just a month from now, and thinking how and what to pack. I think it is likely I can get everything I need into a single carry-on bag, not even my roller bag but a smaller one that fits under the seat. I also thought about what I wanted in my pockets, and the answer was: nothing. I don’t want to lose my phone, passport, and/or credit card to a pickpocket. Then I remembered that I still own a “man purse”, a nice leather cross-body bag about 6×9. I will carry passport, credit card and phone in that, clamped under my elbow; nothing in my pockets.

But what about clothes? The Road Scholar pamphlet actually advises having a few quick-dry garments and hand-washing them in hotel sinks. If I do that, I only need, besides what’s on my body, maybe three pairs of shorts, three of socks, two shirts, and a second pair of pants. Plus a jacket. Which all fits in that small bag.

But I don’t have any quick-dry pants. Mostly I have jeans. I don’t want to put my new slacks to this kind of rough treatment. So I sat down and poked around internet retailers and ordered a couple of easy-care chinos from Eddie Bauer.

About 4pm I drove to San Jose to meet with Dennis and Toni for supper at their favorite weekend restaurant, the Black Sheep in the Willow Glen area. Nice supper and conversation. Dennis is a great fan of the Celtic Games which are next weekend, and I’ll probably join him there on the Sunday.

They also reminded me of the upcoming wedding of daughter Denise, which reminded me I need to make some kind of wedding gift. So when I got home I looked up their registry; a very practical couple, they are registered with Crate and Barrel and Target. I bought one item off their list, a camping tent.

So between the packing and the pants and the wedding gift that was a bunch of niggling frets off my mind, with not even the satisfaction of a to-do list to check off.