Day 337, A/V, welding, novel, photos

Monday, 11/4/2019

Went for a run in the morning. Did not remember to wear a sweatshirt, but the temperature was just high enough — and with the time change, there was enough sun shining on my back — that I didn’t miss it.

Next up was my first assignment running the audio/visual for a performance, in this case a talk by George Marotta. This was nominally a “Book Talk” and a review of Dereliction of Duty by General (Ret.) H.R. McMaster. But George, who was in Viet Nam in 1957 working for the US Aid program, just in time for the Tet Offensive, talked a lot about his own experiences. For example, while working in the State Department under Robert McNamara, George was responsible for administering the program run by the Rand Corporation, including working with a Rand employee named Daniel Ellsberg. He reminisced about how McNamara was insistent that Rand was to keep very good records, which they did, and those documents ultimately were published by Ellsberg as The Pentagon Papers.

Anyway, I got the screen and projector and mics all set up and the presentation went off quite smoothly.

A few days ago, I noticed an object on the balcony outside the common lounge on this 4th floor: a wrought-iron plant stand. It has 6 pot shelves arranged in a climbing spiral around a central pole, the whole being 4’8″ high and a bit under 2′ wide. It’s dirty, rusty, and has two broken welds that make it unstable. I asked around and eventually found the lady who said she owned it, who said I was welcome to it if I wanted to fix it up.

Yesterday I used Yelp to find a local welding shop. Today I brought the car around front, lowered the rear seat, and brought out the stand, which fit in the Prius just fine. And off to Mountain View to a modest little hole in the wall where the guy said, sure, I can fix that, tomorrow morning ok? Which fits my schedule perfectly.

Back to CH where I spent an hour making progress with the novel. Added 700 words, mostly well-chosen.

Then I spent an hour going through my collection of pictures and picking out candidates that have enough pixels, and enough photographic quality, that they are worth trying to print at 11×14 or 11×17, with my new printer. Way back in April (Day 149, for one) I started the project of printing my best images for framing. I’ve got a half-dozen of those framed here in the closet now. Just after the estate sale, I found a box of 11×14 frames in the garage — something that Deborah had brought in to sell, I suppose, and left — and appropriated them. Now I have a printer that can do 11×14 or 11×17, and I have some 11×14 photo paper. My eventual aim is to have a photo wall, outside my 6th floor apartment. Each occupant “owns” the hallway wall outside their apartment. People put up all sorts of art. I’ve got it in mind to put up printed photos, a rotating collection of 4 or 6 at a time.

Tomorrow is a busy, busy day. And so to bed.


Day 332, fopal, something

Wednesday, 10/30/2019

Damn. Let too much time pass. Don’t remember what I did this day. Well, a bit. I spent half an hour on the novel in the morning, adding some text that did not satisfy me at all. I went down to FOPAL around noon, priced a couple dozen computer books, then did sorting until after 4pm.

Oh, yeah. While sorting I got kind of hungry, and decided that for supper I’d go to the Peninsula Creamery and have grilled cheese sandwich and one of their magnificent chocolate/chocolate shakes. Which I did, walking up from CH and back in the dark.


Day 331, teeth, book, A/V, SWBB

Tuesday, 10/29/2019

First thing this morning was to walk to the dentist’s office for dental hygiene. Times past, I would allow 30 minutes for this walk, starting at Tasso street. Now it’s four blocks. Good news, my gums have not receded any further, and Dr. Kono couldn’t find anything to complain about, no decay or anything.

The A/V committee meeting is scheduled for this afternoon, and I’ll likely be assigned an event. It has been weeks since Ian walked me through the various features of running all the stuff in the auditorium, the lights, the screen, the projector, the mics. Lots of details, seen once. I’d been telling myself often, I should go down and poke around again. So today I did that. I went into the auditorium and turned stuff on, dropped the screen, played with the lights (of which there are quite a few, house lights, stage spots), turned on a mic and talked through it, hooked up my laptop and played a youtube video.

After lunch I added some more words to the book. When time came around for the A/V meeting I walked down to the third floor lounge. I got assigned just one show, a talk on Monday morning at 10. Only issue is the presenter, on the ERF (event request form) has stated he needs to show PowerPoint off his Windows laptop. I need a few more details, like, does the laptop have an HDMI port or what?

I had seen a message on the house email list, Lenny (woman who moved in just after me) wanted a ride to tonights SWBB game. I offered. So I got a quick dinner at 5:45 and met Lenny in the basement at 6:15. This was the first time I’d gone from CH to Maples, and I made a botch of it, ending up taking the wrong way, and then turning too soon and having to loop around for a second pass at the Maples parking lot.

The game was fine: the Cardinal beat Beijing Normal 100 to 58. Three of the freshmen played and all looked strong and capable. A returning junior, Alyssa Jerome, looked vastly improved, and the usual good players all looked good.

I am glad I can still enjoy SWBB on my own. Several times during the game I pictured Marian there with me, how much she’d have enjoyed it, and my eyes prickled and my throat closed up. But that didn’t dominate the experience, and there were a lot of moments when I was honestly and enthusiastically cheering for good play and high skills by Stanford.

Day 330, Shingrex, FOPAL, book, fugue

Monday, 10/28/2019

I opened the day and week with a run. Every run is different. This was one of those where I felt good, not just normal but positively good, jogging along. A mental tail-wind as opposed to the mental head-wind that one sometimes has to battle. At the point where I stop jogging and start walking, I did a rough time/distance calculation; I jog at about 4.5 miles per hour, the same as feels comfortable on a treadmill.

Next stop was the Los Altos office of PAMF, to get my second Shingrex shot (say that three times fast). The prior one, see Day 268, had given me a day of low-grade fever. The nurse this time said, oh yes, this one might do the same.

Moved on to FOPAL for the usual Monday morning cleanup of the computer section. Found only one “high-value” book this time, a textbook that retails from $27-$75. Then I did sorting for another two hours, leaving when the 2pm volunteer crew arrived.

Back home, I took a nap and then flogged myself over to the keyboard and added 1000 words to the novel.

I felt fine up to the time I went to bed at 10:30. But around midnight I wasn’t sleeping and I felt cold, cold enough to shiver. I got up in the dark and found a wool throw, one that we bought at a Scottish woolen mill in, probably, 1978. It’s light but very warm and snuggly(*). I knew just where it was, so I found it in the dark and brought it back to bed and wrapped myself in it, under the usual sheet and blanket. In that brief excursion out of bed, I started literally shaking with cold.

I was quite aware this was not a real sensation of cold, but a chill. I figured I probably had a fever as well, although I didn’t feel any malaise. I expected that shortly it would turn and I would find myself sweating. That didn’t happen. Eventually I drifted off. Somewhere around 2am I woke again and pushed the wool throw aside, then slept until 6:30. At which point I felt just fine.

I blame the whole episode on the shingrex shot; nothing else changed in my routine. Anyway as of the next morning, I feel fine.

(*) Sad story about the twin of this throw. We had bought two, and gave one to my mother. She moved in to a care facility,  where she often sat with the throw over her lap. There her laundry was done by the staff, who weren’t the brightest candles in the sconce. Some staff person decided to launder the throw along with everything else, and must have tossed it into a load washed with very hot water. The one-time fluffy, 4×6 foot woolen throw came back from laundry the same color as before, but now about 18×20 inches, with a texture like a hot-pad.






Day 328, laundry, docent, new printer

Saturday, 10/26/2019

The laundry room on each floor has a sign-up calendar, and I’d reserved the first slot on Saturday. Since I had to be out by 9, I got up at 6:30 and immediately started my two loads. I had it all wrapped up after breakfast, around 9am, including ironing my red CHM Docent shirt.

For some reason my newspaper wasn’t delivered this morning. I noted non-delivery at the Mercury website, and a copy was left at the front desk for me in the middle of the day sometime.

After lunch I went to the Museum and led the 2pm tour. About ten people, several of whom hung on my every word.

When I got back I had a voice mail from the front desk, you have a newspaper waiting, and a large box, it looks like a printer. And it was, my new Epson. Setting it up was interesting. It came with ten bottles of ink, two each of Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Photo Black, the same colors as the cartridges used in my old printer, but now in plastic bottles holding, oh, about six ounces probably.

The setup process involves charging the five ink tanks by carefully tipping each color bottle into its tank, waiting about 30 seconds while it goes glug glug glug, well, more of an alto tone, glig glig glig, and the color creeps up the side of the translucent tank. Then the printer takes seven minutes to initialize itself, and prints an ink jet alignment page. The pattern was perfect the first time. Nice. After it has done all that, you again uncap each bottle and pour the last ounce into the tank to take up the space used by the charging and testing. The second set of five bottles get stored for, well, in my case probably a year or so? Until I deplete the reservoirs.

Now I have to get find a new home for my old printer, which works fine. I will advertise it on the CH bulletin board mailing list, but not today I think. There are a lot of messages on the CHBB list about emergency preparedness and what to do if the power goes off, so I think I’ll wait until Monday.

After that excitement I flogged myself to the keyboard and wrote a key scene in the novel, an conversation full of important information for the characters and for the reader to know. This is the delicate problem of exposition: you want the readers to understand some important facts, preferably not by just telling  them, but having it arise in conversation between characters. But if these are important facts about this world, won’t the characters already know them? In which case, why would they talk about them? (Also known as the “As you know, Bob…” ploy, from the clumsy way that old SF pulp fiction would do it: “As you know, Bob, the Jovian Mind Eaters can only be blocked by an adamantium shield…”) Properly, you establish that one character isn’t in the picture, and you have the others fill him in. That’s what I did, hopefully in believable dialogue that sounds like actual people (or in my case, actual children) talking to each other. That done, I can resume moving the narrative along.

The other night I mentioned receiving a hand-written letter. It was slightly upsetting and I am still thinking about how I want to respond. Maybe next week my thoughts will resolve.


Day 324, in-house activities

Tuesday, 10/22/2019

Lots of in-Channing-House activities today. I started with a 9am meeting with Patty. She is a former board member and the person who thought up the Heritage Circle, a separate fund, managed by the CH board, that acts as a granting agency to fund projects suggested by residents. The Heritage Circle has funded things like upgrades to the library, a program of day-trips to various attractions, and such. They solicit funds from members.

I started thinking about the Heritage Circle because it is also time to donate to the Appreciation Fund. That’s another thing entirely. There is absolutely no personal tipping allowed from residents to staff. However, residents subscribe to the Appreciation Fund annually, the value of which is equally divided across all staff, so like a year-end bonus. I made out a check to that for $500, because I’ve only been here half a year. For a full year, I expect to give $1000, which at ~$3/day seems little enough for the cheerful service I get in the dining room, from the front desk, and from the facilities guys.

But that brought the Heritage Fund to mind, so I asked Patty about that, thinking she would just tell me how to make out a check, but instead she wanted to meet and explain about the fund, how it is run, what it does. Which she did. So I wrote a check and now am a member of the Heritage Circle.

At 11am, tickets for Eric Johnson at SFJazz went on sale, and I bought one. Then I did some actual writing, yay. First was to write a detailed email to the bulletin board, telling MacOS users how to avoid the automatic upgrade to 10.15 “Catalina”. The internet’s opinion is that it has several annoying bugs and one should wait for the .1 or .2 release; plus also, it is the threatened future release under which all 32-bit apps will no longer run.

Second, I wrote a couple of key scenes for my novel. Back on Sunday, sitting in the classical music concert that I went to as a result of forgetting about the Boogie Woogie one, anyway, sitting there I was pummeling my brain trying to think of the phrase I wanted. And I did. Think up how the people in my future would phrase the idea that all genetically modified organisms must have some crippling flaw so they can’t spread into the environment. Since this is like a fundamental rule of that society (the violation of which is the main plot device), they would not have some labored way of saying it; they’d have a short phrase. And I finally thought it up: “All new things must have a lack.” That’s the snappy sound-bite they teach kids, like “Do unto others…” in our world.

Knowing that, I could write one scene where that gets said, and start another where it will get expounded and expanded on. Painless exposition.

Three PM brought the monthly Tech Squad meeting. My MacOS email was appreciated. Some other issues were discussed.

At 5:30 I met with Mary Ann who had put in a tech squad call about her comcast DVR on Monday, a call which had been assigned to me. We spent an hour, almost, going over all the features of the remote and the various DVR menus, and she gained a lot of confidence in using the device. Hopefully she will remember the simple two-step process that gets you to a reboot of the DVR, in case it gets wedged the way she described on Monday.


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 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 290, haircut, book, FOPAL, A/V

Wednesday, 9/18/2019

This morning I was scheduled for a haircut at 9am, so, as with the prior morning’s 9am flu shot, I wasn’t able to go for a run and instead did exercises in my room. Then out to have Chris cut my hair as she’s been doing since the 1970s (when I had a lot more hair to cut). Back to C.H. for an hour working on the novel. Then to FOPAL where I found seven or eight boxes of books waiting for the Computer section, and spent three hours in total culling, pricing and shelving.

Got back to C.H. just in time for a 4:15 appointment with Ian to be shown the A/V equipment, which is quite extensive. I learned where pretty much everything is. Since there was a lecture at 7, I ate a quick supper then joined Bert, who was doing the A/V for the lecture, and shadowed him — learning several things about the systems that Ian hadn’t thought to tell me.

In fact we the A/V team had a fairly public screw-up. The speaker, a very affable and easy-going (fortunately) Stanford history prof, wanted to start his show with a short video from Vimeo. The prof was supposed to have arrived well in advance of the 7pm start so we could set him up. You need to get the lapel mic and transmitter on him, and you need to connect his laptop to our video projector, and get it ready to show the video, followed by a smooth transition to his power-point slides. On a laptop you’ve not seen before.

He didn’t arrive until 6:55, when a fair number of people had already filtered in and sat down. So we had to set up his stuff with lots of people watching and under time pressure. We set up the video easily enough, although this was one of the new Macbooks that has no old-school USB, and no HDMI, just a selection of identical USB-3s (“lightning” connectors). Bert had a dongle for this that broke out an HDMI and an old-style USB from a lightning port. Right away the Mac found the HDMI, and here my experience with Macs was a help, Bert is a Windows guy and didn’t know how to make the Mac mirror the displays instead of treating the external projector as a second screen. That set, we verified the power point (actual Power Point, not Mac Keynote) worked. And cued up the video full-screen ready to start.

UN-fortunately in the rush, neither Bert nor I thought to check whether we were getting any audio. And we weren’t. Without audio, the video wasn’t much help, so the speaker just said, forget it, let’s go to the slides. I still don’t know what the problem was, although I’m pretty sure we could have worked it out had the guy actually showed up when asked.

I think Friday I’ll take my laptop down and see if I can make things work.

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.