An In-Between Time

November 28 to December 19, more or less

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

The excitement of our Thanksgiving travel is behind us and nothing fills our Advent agenda. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas promises to be the quietest of our lives. No home leave visits across an ocean from Ukraine or Germany to Maryland, Colorado, and two or three places in California. No cross-country flights or half-way drives. No school or office parties. No neighborhood celebrations immersed in seasonal decorations and alcohol-aided conversation. Now, all anybody wants for Christmas is a vaccine.

Saturday, November 28, COVID Isolation Day 260

salonSaturday morning was busy with chores that the Thanksgiving trip had postponed. I paid bills. Marianne picked up medications and groceries and art supplies. For the first time in nine months, I had a professional haircut. The salon was properly spaced out and everyone wore masks, correctly covering mouths and noses. It felt less virus-contagious than the grocery store.

car washAfter lunch-dinner, I washed the new car, my first car hand-washing experience in decades! I think we are being unusually careful with the Tesla because it seems special somehow, not just expensive and not just electric, but special enough for some hand care. I wonder how long this will last, but I'll admit I enjoyed the throw-back experience this time.

Marianne spent most of the rest of the day back in her art lair. This really is her go-to place and it's hard to imagine the months of pandemic isolation for her without art distraction.

As for me, I will have to develop more resolve for isolation activities. These diaries remain a commitment I enjoy, but I do expect them to get less time-consuming as we sink into the reduced activity of winter. In principle, I have plenty of things I intend doing, but you know that old saw about what paves the road to damnation. I must choose among the options (books, puzzles, on-line classes, photo lab projects, photo street projects, friend calls and virtual visits, etc.) and act. There, that's my self-motivation for the day.

(This day in our history: Nuremberg Christmas Market, 2008)

Sunday, November 28, Pandemic Day 261

yellowSunday was a time for home activities and a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. I can't tell if we are shifting to more home activities because of virus avoidance or just because we've run out of things to do outside our little nest. Probably both, but the prospect of wandering around among people seems ill-advised. I hope we learn to be social again in the new year.garage

I took a morning walk, returning to an activity of the early pandemic, when I wandered in the neighborhood every day. Back then, neighbor Tom's garage paintings were elaborate and inspirational, lately he has simplified, but he's still hanging in there. door

Spring flowers are long gone, but Christmas color is showing up, including on friend Eric's front door.head

When I walked past the art gallery Vernissage, I noticed another friend's work being installed. Ren Lee's ceramics will be featured in the December Art Hop, a virtual showing on Zoom. Like other artists, the pandemic has allowed her more time to create art, but few if any opportunities to show or sell.Dorothy

signAt the end of my walk, I saw a neighbor from one block over on her porch giving an interview with a news station. My thoughts went back to Magdalena's centenary birthday almost a year ago. I wish Dorothy well in these very difficult times, especially for the elderly.

turkey roastMeanwhile, back home Marianne was preparing Thanksgiving dinner. She had opted for a simple meal on Thursday, because she was not in her home kitchen, but still wanted a holiday meal with all the work that entails. Of course, since it was just the two of us, one turkey thigh was enough.

While Marianne went to a Zoom art class, I moved on to another traditional Thanksgiving activity: watching football. I'm not a great fan, but I have found that watching this year is a decent pandemic distraction. On this Sunday, one team had to play without a quarterback due to Covid exposure and injuries. It is a strange year.dinner

Dinner was as good as a Thanksgiving meal could be, at least one for just two people. I wish Marianne's hard work would have received praise from a whole table full of folks, but 100% of the attendees appreciated it anyway. puzzle

After dinner we retreated to our distractions: Marianne watched "The Crown" on Netflix while I puzzled. Maybe on future Thanksgiving weekends, others will join her in the movie-watching and I will have more eyes helping me find puzzle parts. But not this year.

(This day in our history: 2005, Wismer and The Hanseatic League)

Monday, November 30, COVID Day 262

rpsesA very routine day, starting outside with an exploration of the rose garden. A few blossoms are trying to spring to life before winter slows things down, turns leaves brown, and tells us it's time to cut away the stems for winter hibernation. We're almost there.skull

Inside, I put the final pieces into the Sugar Skull puzzle. The 300+-piece wooden creation by Liberty Puzzles was a challenge, but more manageable than my 1,000-piece efforts lately. That said, I think I am done with the concentration exercise for now.

Next up was a visit to the Tesla service center for some minor tweaks on the new car. I was struck with the difference my experience was when compared to my many trips to the shop with the red Jeep. First, Tesla is a much smaller operation. In the two hours I waited, only two or three cars came in for work and only two customers showed up for test drives. The Chrysler-Jeep shop would have handled ten times that much traffic. More importantly, I felt the Tesla folks really wanted me to like my car and, if I perceived a problem, they took it seriously. I never felt that at the Jeep shop. Unfortunately, not everything got fixed. One malfunctioning mirror needed replacement and parts would need to be ordered. We'll see how long that process is.

The rest of the day was completely normal, a Peloton session, and a visit with Vern for me while Marianne worked more on Christmas cards, and then dinner (leftovers, but from a great Thanksgiving meal.)

Nothing else remarkable.

(This day in our history; 2013, Moving Day)

Tuesday, December 1, COVID Day 263

One more day and I am struggling to write a diary entry. Not much we do seems worthy of noting, but that may be the whole point: our life is stuck in the banal lane.egg  bites

We treated ourselves to breakfast out, if egg bites at Starbucks constitutes "breakfast out". I was able to talk with Justin, a Starbucks employee-friend who I had not seen since the prior times. We barely recognized each other, with only eyes peeking out above masks. I miss these casual, everyday, personal interactions and I felt that even the Starbucks crew were a bit encouraged by an old customer reestablishing contact. Small things.

After breakfast, it was off to Kaiser for "Shingrix" shots, boosters against shingles that elderly should now receive. Chatting with the receptionist and the nurse constituted another small piece of socializing. It was worth the poke.

robinBack home, I sat at my desk to try writing an earlier diary, one as content free as any other right now. A robin outside my window easily distracted me and I stopped writing to go outside and find other wild life: two birds and a bush. Some day I need to learn names.


I don't think I ever recovered my concentration enough to write much, so instead I visited neighbor Vern instead. Our conversations do not require concentration.

art zoomMeanwhile, Marianne was much busier. First, she heated the take-out Chinese food we had picked up earlier. I think we were both underwhelmed, and then she ran off to a Zoom meeting with artists up in Reno and Carson City. Her art community makes her much more social than I am.

But, at 5pm, we had our regular Tuesday Zoom Cocktails, this week only with Adrienne. Her husband Tony was out shopping for Christmas cards and Rita and Pete were mussing in action. That happens. No world problems were solved in this one-hour call

After that, I retreated to try writing a diary, a very brief one, and watching television. (It was the History Channel, geeky, but distracting.) Out in the art hut, Marianne was making great progress on her hand-crafted Christmas cards.

(This day in our history: Cambria in 2016)

Wednesday, December 2, Pandemic Day (for us) #264

Nothing this day was apparently worth a picture because the cameras came up empty. Writing a day later, there are hardly any memories in my head either. Marianne had some (fortunately) unremarkable interactions with medical folks. Otherwise, we followed Governor Newsome's pandemic advice and stayed home.

Speaking of when-will-this-be-over, I project we will get vaccinations about Valentine's Day, given our age and relative priority. Before that, we will continue with one foot in front of the other on this COVID19 slog. After our own vaccinations, we will trust that millions more "sticks" will happen, and be effective, so that normalcy could return by early summer, 2021. It is still hard to imagine another 200 days of Pandemic Diary here at

(This day in our history: Two paths a year ago - 2019)

Thursday, December 3, Isolation Day 265

deskI usually start my day at a messy desk, planning the day's activities and writing about yesterday's. Does anyone else work hard on daily plans, just so you get to cross out even lightweight items like "empty trash", "read NYT", or "finish diary"? Back in my working life, I found I needed an organized desk to be productive but, in retirement, I have given up on organization and productivity. Pandemics don't help. I mean,like, who cares?

Chase'sWe did want to go for some sort of ride in the new car, so we decided we needed to buy hot dogs. Our hot dog supplier is Chase's Chop Shop, a half hour away in Madeira, a long way for dogs, but worth it. Besides, the Chase butchers are related, in a fashion. Marianne's brother Chris' wife is a Chase, a teacher not a butcher. (There's a joke in there somewhere, but I just can't see it.)

After the beef and pork stop, we swung by our other regular farm store: Gabby's Fruit Basket. This is a pretty humble operation, but the food is local and fresh and we feel positive supporting the operation. And, in these times, it's important that it is completely outside.

STO zoomWe made it back again in time for my "Old Geezers" Zoom call. Every other Thursday, guys from my college fraternity hook up on Zoom and I finally joined the group in their ninth meeting. Most of these zoomers live in the Portland area, are a year or three older than I am, and have been friends for fifty or sixty years. I reestablished contact after retiring and find it interesting to listen into a level of camaraderie that my peripatetic life never fostered. At our age, there was a running commentary on the perils of aging and I felt a main purpose of the meeting was just to document who all was still kicking. All of us whoes pictures showed up were checked off the list. Reassuring.

The biggest "event" for the day turned out to be an art show, a semi-virtual art show. Vernissage, our neighborhood art gallery, was sponsoring a one-person show by ceramicist Ren Lee. Gallery owner Ma Ly and Ren are both friends, so we maximized our show of support. Ma and Ren had staged some of her work in the large room at Vernissage and scheduled a 6pm Facebook live event. Before that, I had dropped by to take pictures, still within the 6-person limit for the pandemic-affected art space.

In the Facebook event, Ren described a series of pieces, many dealing with Norse mythology, a theme she called “Old Gods & Reformed Monsters”. The pieces were amazing in detail and creativity. Each had a story. You MUST see them in person. (Ma Ly is trying to keep his gallery open in December from 9am to 6pm and we hope the state does not stop his plans.) Take one home for Christmas!

Set up and technical preparations

sign Ma and Ren large room

A small piece and two larger ones with multi-colored clays.

small piece council multi colored

Sun gods and Weirwood creatures

sun god weirwoods wolf sun

Oden, the chief Norse god. He sacrificed one eye to gain wisdom.

Oden Oden eyes Oden last

Do you recognize which of these is Ruth Bader Ginsberg?

wood face earth man RBG


And that was the day, more interesting than the day before. After the sun was down, I walked back from Vernissage and noted one more rose, trying to make an impression. I could not help but contrast the ease with which nature creates, compared with the very hard work human artists need to put into their works. I value them all.

(This day in our history: 2001, Heidelberg)

Friday, December 4, COVID Day 266

This was another fairly quiet day, starting with a long diary writing session. I think this daily task keeps me from frittering away whole days at a time. Even on days when I do not write, I know I should. It is also the time when I write my to-do list, a decades-long habit, whether there is much on the list or not. Today, there was not so much.

hillorangesAfter writing, I went for a walk, starting in the back yard. Part is covered in fallen leaves that I will need to clean up ... later. Elsewhere our citrus orchard (six trees of various flavors) is almost ready for harvest. The oranges are close, a Christmas harbinger. In this pandemic year, I notice more of the season changing process and am thankful we won't change to snow and ice!street

Out in the street, I was struck with how quiet things were for 9:30 on a Friday. With Fresno City College classes all remote, Maroa Avenue has lost it's race-from-and-to-class noise and traffic. I suppose we will look back favorably on these times. No, we won't.

colorstudentsOn campus, things were even quieter. In principle, school is in session, but I saw no one, not a student or a teacher or more than a couple grounds keepers. I snapped a shot of the military service memorial in its Fall colors and one of past student art work. I wonder how classes like this proceed nowadays. Will everyone recover?

housingI decided on a long walk, like I had been doing at the beginning of the pandemic during stay-at-home orders. (Neighborhood walks were still allowed.) Not much had changed in the months since, except the local low-cost housing project is moving right along. Locally, construction has been considered "essential" and not subject to shutdown orders. I worry how safe workers have remained.card

After the walk, it was back to the to-do chores. The only one of note was preparing Christmas Cards. Marianne does the work creating the cards and 90% of the addressing, but I am on the hook for a few notes to friends. We find it comforting to work on an old tradition and the best part is reestablishing contact with friends from the before days. I think some people have given up on actual cards in favor of electronic holiday wishes, and that's OK too, but in 2020 we have the time for hand-crafted wishes. At least, we do.

Game night on Zoom was the last to-do items with Geoff, Brian, and Jen joining us (and Richard commenting from time to time). A good time was had by all and we need to continue this sort of gathering, even in the after days.

(This day in our history :2002, Weinachtsmarkts)

Saturday, December 5, COVID Diary Day 267

updateThe day started early with an overnight update of the Model Y's software. Tesla updates car controls and features from time to time via home wifi, a great innovation compared with having to spend time to visit the dealer. And it's free, forever. This time, nothing remarkable arrived, but rumor has it that the next update will arrive around Christmas and will include (almost-)autonomous driving on city streets. Several dozen Tesla owners are already testing the feature and some post amazing examples on YouTube. Go look!

We had to vacate the house for most of the morning while Juanita cleaned. Of course, Marianne escaped to the art hut. I think this is the most utilized 150 square feet on the property. When we sell, we need to add it to the house size. While Marianne was creative, I shopped for car cleaning and waxing gear. It has been a very long time since I planned to do so much hand care for a car, but that's what Tesla owners do.

We finished our house avoidance by driving out to Fäsi Estate Winery to pick up our fall wine club shipment. The drive is nice, the winery pleasant, and the wine better than our normal fare. Nowadays, medicine complications have limited our wine consumption, so it makes sense to splurge on three good bottles. Besides, we are supporting a local farmer and small business. That makes it sound virtuous.

The afternoon news was not good. The government announced that the Central Valley, including Fresno, had fallen below 15% availability for hospital Intensive Care Units. That means that the region is back under the governor's stay-at-home orders. Hair and nail salons, gyms, and other non-essential businesses must close. Restaurants have to close inside AND outside dining. The order will last for three weeks, at least, so we will not be meeting with any grandkids before Christmas. Vaccines can't arrive soon enough.

(This day in our history: 2017, Jerome to Flagstaff)

Sunday, December 6, COVID Day 268

morningSunday morning starts with routine, as do all pandemic days. I turn on the fireplace, make coffee, and open up the Fresno Bee and the New York Times. Local news is led by the new stay-at-home order from Governor Newsome. Small businesses are being stressed, perhaps more than they can withstand. Individuals may or may not go along with the requirement to stay away from other households, related or not. I can see the worst of all options: businesses devastated and behind-closed-doors gatherings of friends and family spreading the virus.

dinnerThe day's activities also follow a pattern. We each work on chores, or writing, or art, or shopping. We still do shop, despite the governor's stay-at-home order, just not so much. By mid-afternoon, it is time for our "warm meal" as the German's would say. There, it's traditional to have two cold meals and one warm, and we would do better with that pattern. This afternoon, I barbecued the dogs and Marianne did everything else. Like usual.

After the meal, we each again defied the stay-at-home order and went visiting. Marianne brought Christmas presents over to her sister and they chatted, all socially distanced and masked. I'm not sure her sister believes in all this precaution, but she follows her older sister's orders.Vrn

I visited neighbor Vern, as is normal practice. Marianne and I discussed obeying the letter of Governor Newsome's proclamation to not gather with other households, but that seemed too severe when it came to this particular "gathering". We will continue to think about it, because it would be devastating if there was any virus transmission between the "elderly and compromised" neighbors, them and us.

That was Day 270. (I think. I need to review the count.)

(This day in our history: Start of 1998 Holidays)

Monday, December 7, COVID Day 269

A no-pictures day, a sign of running out of things to tell, or at least to show.

In the morning, I dropped Marianne off at the eye clinic while I mailed cards and shopped at Fresno Ag for things I didn't really need. The hardware store sends out discount and credit coupons and I feel obliged to use them all. I think they have figured out men as customers.

Otherwise, the highlights were art (Marianne) and chatting (me). After some time with neighbor Vern, I called cousin Tim, just because we'd said it would be a good idea sometime. I was rewarded with family news from his side, political discussion, and laughs. We both recognized that phoning people out of the blue in these times is especially rewarding. Facebook and family email lists are OK, Christmas cards too, zoom calls as well, but the old fashioned telephone is still a powerful tool, particularly among those of us from before the "electronic media" age.

Otherwise, Monday was completely unremarkable.

(This day in our history: 2008, Ansbach and Rothenburg)

Tuesday, December 8, Isolation Day 270

DaleAnother quiet day, not a surprise there. Marianne started with a morning call to Dale in Germany. They had not been able to connect recently, due to health concerns at that end. It seems that sort of thing happens all too often, at either one end or the other. Fortunately, no involvement with THE virus, although that comes as a worry with any fever or even

Otherwise, Marianne practiced painting. One instructor she is following suggests pinning a piece of paper on the wall and just experimenting with anything that one wants. No plan. This seems like a useful exercise in stay-at-home times and it is producing a paper art piece that gets more interesting, layer by layer. But, as a paper piece, will it go away like sidewalk drawings or sand castles at the beach?

I tried a few pictures for my own stay-at-home exercise. The last-of-the-year roses are nice enough, but I really like the iPhone close-up of a white bug waiting for take-off clearance.

rose 1 rose 2 white bug

SkookumloadedFinally, it was time to start the Christmas spirit and get a tree. We debated whether this was even necessary, given that no guests would ever see it this COVID year, but tradition won out. This year we needed a relatively small tree, not because our celebrations were going to be small, though they will be, but because our car is smaller! The red Jeep could handle an 8 or 9-foot tree, but the Tesla is limited to about six feet. We have used Skookum Trees in all of the six years we have celebrated in our Fresno house, and this time their lot was less than half full because business has been so good that they sold out in November, and have refilled from their Oregon plantings twice since then. Another pandemic effect.

SunsetThe day ended with a nice sunset and the Tuesday Zoom Cocktails call with friends. The call covered the normal subjects, with added emphasis on COVID19 precautions and what new restrictions mean to each family. Marianne and I are the most conservative and, consequently, the most isolated from our own kids and grandkids. Maybe we are jealous of folks that are comfortable with somewhat more interaction, but we all just want this period to BE OVER. (The technician in me says that is still at least four months away.)

(This day in our history: 2001 A Road Stop to Beaune)

Wednesday, December 9, Covid Day 271

This was a social day, by pandemic standards. To welcome our first backyard guest, we cleaned the patio and the new table. I set up small heaters, just in case it would be cold. Marianne baked bread pudding and cut up fruit for fresh salad to add to coffee and tea.REn and Marianne

Our guest, Ren Lee, arrived as planned at 10:30. We first met her via Marianne's Fresno art community and she has become a "regular" family friend, although in these COVID days, there's not much friendly activity. We are all "of an age" and cautious, but it seemed OK to meet outside, distanced, and masked, when not eating. No crowds involved.

Much of the conversation was about art, when mostly I listened. (Ren creates wonderful ceramic pieces and is currently showing at Vernissage and Clay Hand Studios. Her pieces also show on her own website.) Of course, politics and disease were covered as well, but the art was more interesting and fun. It was ALL fun.wear masks

After coffee, I did my own visiting, at my regular stop: Vern and Joan's. Not much new there, except one of their children, or a grand daughter, had supplied a "please wear a mask" sign and ordered the senior couple to post it. Good for the kids. I have been wearing my mask when inside, but this day was warm and sunny so Vern and I could sit outside, better yet. I have to admit, however, that inside or outside, we hardly ever come up with solutions to today's problems. It's OK though, because we average 84 years old and can be forgiven.

living roomThe next task for the day was erecting and decorating our little five-foot Christmas tree. My jobs include climbing into the garage attic to retrieve decorations, carrying the tree to its stand, and stringing lights. Marianne takes it from there. Because we plan no inside guests this year, we will not go to great efforts to deck our halls, but its decked enough for just us two.

welsomekidsAt 5:30 we attended a Christmas music program put on by grandson Rich's High School - all remote of course. All contributors had recorded from their own homes and almost 200 people attended the YouTube "premiere". You can see the recorded version too. Rich is a senior this year and it has to be difficult for him and his classmates to develop enthusiasm for a mostly-remote year. With luck, and good vaccine distribution, they may have a regular graduation. We hope.

(This year in our history: 2011 Christmas, From Bavaria to Maryland and Virginia)

Thursday, December 10, Pandemic Day 272, Nine months and counting

Thursday was less social. Before noon, it was all regular: diary, breakfast, tidying up, wash clothes, etc. I worked in an hour of shopping, for just what was mandatory. Fresno and California COVID case numbers went up 50 to 65% last week, so we all need to be even more vigilant.

At noon, we went on a virtual tour, arranged by the Fresno Art Museum, of the Amend family's art studio down in Ojai. The Museum has a very nice selection of the Amends' works on display, which we had seen in October, during the one month FAM has managed to be open since the works arrived early in 2020. In today's "virtual open studio", Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend and her son Wyatt showed us inside the various art studios inside their home. Susan paints, mostly on glass, while Wyatt does ceramics, some as fine and delicate as Venetian glass. Father Richard does drawings, whenever his day job as a Hollywood set designer gives him time. Reportedly, in the current isolation, he is doing more art than ever. Everyone should go on Open Studio tours, even via Zoom, to get a better appreciation of the creative process.

SusanRichard workWyatt

dinnerAfter the art tour, Marianne settled in to creating a wonderful meal, yet again, while I tried to catch up on diary preparation and publishing. She succeeded with her Asian-ish, one-bowl feast, but I failed badly on diary publication. An explanation:

The website has been hosted by a company called "Machighway" for about twenty years. In that time, I have had to learn a fair amount about designing and composing and programming in the language used by websites, sometimes referred to as "HTML". I settled on a fairly simple web approach ten or fifteen years ago and, for the most part, things just hum along.

But, every once in awhile, something strange happens and then I am left at the mercy of the Machighway help desk. This time, I repeated the process of sending my diary page to the server that "publishes" everything for public consumption, a process using something called FTP transfer, and nothing moved. I called for help, they said check your settings. I did, but there was no change. (All this sounds simple enough, but it takes me hours because I don't remember FTP and HTML details from one trouble to the next.)

I went to bed contemplating abandoning "" as just too hard for an old guy. In the morning, 4:30 or so because I could not sleep, I checked with Machighway and they had not found a problem. S---. If THEY can not find the problem, I have no hope. The end of my web-publishing career was in sight. Then, a few hours later, they said "Oops, our server was too full. We cleaned house and now it should work". And it did. I don't know if I was more relieved that the problem itself was solved or that I was not to blame and could continue on in my simple website publication ways. Until the next problem.

zoom friendsSomewhere in all this computer trouble-shooting, Marianne and I used the laptop for something more beneficial: Zoom with friends. We have kept in touch with a few of our friends from the days in Ukraine and would sometimes gather in the DC area around Christmas time to get updated on family and health and politics. This year, we met Chin and Peter and Mary and John on Zoom for the same purpose. (I failed on getting the right email, or Nancy and Steve would also have joined.) It worked as well as we could hope. Families are doing OK, health is ok-enough, and we all see hope for the political world. Maybe. We will have a return engagement after the New Year to see how everything develops.

(This day in our history: 2000, Lviv Ukraine)

Friday, December 11, Pandemic Day 273

With the website back in business, I had time for a couple of neighborhood walks. In the early weeks of the pandemic stay-at-home orders, neighborhood walks were my go-to for staying sane. Now, with the return of s-a-h, I needed a dose of past medicine. As back then, I took pictures of ordinary things along the way.

Flowers, fountain, and sunset - without the red of recent days. Darn

white rose old trumpets
fountain trees

The school just decided to drop the Indian motif. Good. Ma Ly's gallery remains closed. Bad. The COVID testing business is steady. Bad. Tom's garage remembers John Lennon. Good, but sad.

FHS Vissgage
Testing Tom's garage

Vern doortwo folksThe rest of the day remained home-bound, or at least neighborhood-centered. Masked, I visited Joan and Vern, hearing that they will not be receiving many of their extended family this Christmas season. One by one, their kids and grandkids have given them the word that family gatherings just are not safe. Reluctantly, the seniors agree, but no one is happy. Same with the Trotters.dinner

For dinner, we had a choice of Friday fish or potatoes, eggs, and sausage. Salmon lost out because it would have required a trip to the store and we are taking this stay-at-home stuff as seriously as we can. Besides, I like breakfast for dinner. Always have.

After dinner, we moved to Friday Games with our kids in Colorado and Maryland. This pandemic tradition is well entrenched by now and the chatting and laughter are always welcome. Once again, however, I have to admit our game-playing skills failed to improve. That's OK.angel

At the end of the day, we settled into our holiday-flavored living room and office. Marianne started reading Barack Obama's new book, and commited to completing all 800+ pages. I puttered with pictures, YouTube, online news, and commited to reading more - starting tomorrow.

(This day in our history: The 2008 train to Hamburg.)

Saturday, December 12, Stay-at-home (mostly) Day 274

A very stay-at-home day with no picture-worthy activities, even by our not-too-tough standards.

COVID numbers are climbing in Fresno, California, America, and the world. Virus implementation is starting, but will take months to have the hoped-for effect. Until then, Marianne and I will re-emphasize actions to reduce risk of getting sick. Defense number one is stay away from people, boring, but safe.

I did get in some book time on Saturday, as did Marianne. It had been a few weeks since I had read much and I was reminded that I actually LIKE to read. In my last trip to Costco I bought five real books, so that should last for a week or two of home staying.

Otherwise, Marianne had time for her art thing and I watched a little football, but a day later I can't honestly remember who was playing. It's a strange season, with COVID-caused game rescheduling and roster turmoil, so I am taking that as my excuse for being a less diligent fan. Nonetheless, it is a way to kill at-home time.

That was Day 274.

(This day in our history: 2012 drive in Arizona and New Mexico)

Sunday, December 13, Pandemic 275

Sunday was another stay-at-home day. We'd better get used to these since California COVID19 cases are doubling every two weeks. If this continues through the holiday season, and there is little reason to think it won't, vaccines will be arriving too late for for up to half of Californians. It is small consolation that 98 to 99% of those infected will survive.

In our morning-at-home, I called son Geoff in Maryland and Marianne called friend Christiane in Germany. Conversations are dominated by concern about the disease, no matter how hard we try to talk about normal life. Still, talking is good.

Unusual for Fresno, it was a cool and drippy day and we both stayed indoors. I tried a new gadget for making digital copies of Marianne's scrap books, but could not work out the limits of the gadget and my studio's lighting. Something to work on, anyway. My studio has a television, so I could continue watching football games as the NFL lurches through the season.

Marianne stayed in the art hut when she could and made progress on a new piece. Much of what she does involves "layering", an especially time-consuming process in our cool and damp winter weather, when paint dries slowly. Here is the progression of her current work, from solid blue to colors with depth and variety.

blue add whites
color close to done

That was COVID Day 275

(This day in our history: Gabby's graduation in 2002)

Monday, December 14, Home Stay Day 276

The weekend ended, but it was hard to tell a Monday from a weekend day. There was more national news, including Biden and Harris "winning" the College of Electors, the first COVID inoculations outside of testing, and Attorney General Barr turned in his resignation. I wish all these had happened months ago (or years, in the case of Barr.)

Our day was extremely quiet. My biggest activity was a quick trip to Smart and Final for coffee and milk, 10 minutes in and out and then back hunkered down at home. As I write this, I'm not sure what else we did. My legs are sore, so I must have done the Peloton yesterday. I opened a new book. I checked in on Vern and Joan. Nothing new there.

Marianne had an "appointment" with her cardiologist, a virtual one. Her read through the report of imaging testing of about a week ago and basically discounted all the unsettling parts of the raw test report. He noted that some items were simply part of being in one's mid-70s and others were long-standing-but-not-progressing indications. It was all reassuring.

Marianne painted, chatted on the phone or tablet or computer, and cooked. She does all three things well and somehow the day gets filled every stay-at-home day.window

houseMy only pictures were of our house decorations from outside, barely noticeable. I need to survey the neighborhood in the dusk to see who had energy, despite the somber tone imposed by the pandemic. It's hard to be festive.

That's all Day 276 held.

(This day in our history: Hamburg Christmas Markets in 2008)

Tuesday, December 15, COVID 277

There were no plans today and that's pretty much what happened. I tried a morning walk in the valley fog that was a side effect of the rain we had earlier this week. The haze made the streets seem even more deserted.

street fog trees trees

Streets and campus were pandemic quiet.

pair daisyGardenia

Few flowers remain as winter sets in.

messycleanBack home, it was a pleasant morning for cleaning leaves, really. At this time of year, I appreciate the fact that we can only put out one container of yard waste per week and filling a single bin takes just minutes. Once that's accomplished, I can disappear inside with a clear conscious.

With the free inside time, I read a page-turner: Clive Cussler's "Marauder". Cussler's books are churned out factory-style and each series is uniform enough that, overall, a reader knows the outcome before starting. Still, the action is continuous and this one kept be plugged in until I finished late in the evening. (Cussler passed away in February, but, with the help of "co-authors" managed to publish the book in September. I expect it is not the last book published under his name.)

ZoomOur own day featured the Tuesday Cocktail Zoom party and the three couples covered the normal ground; health, kids, grandkids, and the virus. Fortunately, political talk was winding down. We are all looking forward to the new administration!

End of Day 277

(This day in our history:First grandson, 2002)

Wednesday, December 16, Covid Day 278

groceriesWe went grocery shopping, something that now ranks as a highpoint. This will be our major shopping until after Christmas, and it was serious work. We went early and avoided any crowds. We went to The Market, a nice place whose relatively high prices also keep crowds out. Marianne super-organized the shopping list and we each zipped around with a shopping cart, keeping public exposure time limited to under an hour.

Back home, it took Marianne twice as long to put the food away as it did to go to the store and return. I used the time to visit Joan and Vern a little, but they too were headed out to shop, a highlight for them as well. I just hope all this limitation on social contact succeeds, for them and for us.

Dinner came and went. After the meal, Marianne and I went for an evening walk over to Vernissage, our neighborhood art gallery. Officially, it is closed, but owner Ma Ly was there and Marianne could chat with him face-to-face or, rather, mask-to-mask for the first time in months. He's hanging in there, surviving on a few painting classes, but they talked about the return of the Fresno art scene. Ma thought September 2021 for the next ArtHop, but I suggested he was two or three months too pessimistic. I hope I'm right.

Marianne had a chance to see Ren Lee's ceramics in person and commented that they are far more impressive in person than in the video the gallery had staged as an "opening". In the before times, pieces might have sold, keeping both Ren and Ma in the art business, but now? Quite a bridge is needed to next summer, but I hope people will be even more interested in buying then. We can all hope.

roomphotographersad eyes

Day 278, done.

(This day in our history: Monterey in 2007)

Thursday, December 17, Isolation Day 279

Again I have fallen behind in these diaries and once I have not recorded what happened in a day, I look back and it seems like nothing did happen. It helps if our cameras have recorded something but on this December day, there was nothing.

I do remember being particularly worried about the pandemic in Fresno and California. New cases are skyrocketing. Hospitals are filling. Intensive Care Units are full. The governor just shipped 500 more body bags and dozens of refrigerated trailer-morgues to Southern California. A quarter of the virus deaths in Fresno county have occurred in the last 14 days. New case numbers are increasing wildly, in part because the logging system changed and managed to clear up many days of backlogged records. It is just scary.

I fear vaccines might give a false sense of hope and cause people to let down their guard over Christmas and New Years. The reality and the number trends mean that infection, hospitalization, and death will out-pace inoculation for at least a month or two or three.

(This day in our history: Pre-Christmas in 2016)

Friday, December 18, COVID Day 280

Yet another not-much-happening day. Marianne had a joint study session with Claudia. Serious art students. I went on a short trip to shop at Fresno Ag, a favorite hardware store. That's what I'm good at. Lunch-dinner happened. The day's activities finished up with a Friday Game Night with Brian and Jen. Geoff missed because he had put-to-bed duty for Sean. For next Friday, we agreed that a Zoom family Christmas meeting would be a good pandemic compromise.

During the day, I spent time trying to figure out when Marianne and I might get the Coronavirus vaccine. I wanted to develop a sense for when the end of our tunnel might be. Here's what I figured. There are three general factors: priority, population in each priority group, and supply of the two approved vaccines.

The feds have identified nine priority groups for what they call Phase 1, starting with care facility residents and staff as Priority #1. Next are elderly 80 and above along with front line health and social workers. Place #3 is people 75 and older, while #4 is 70 and above and those who are "clinically extremely vulnerable". These last two cover Marianne and me, so the lower ranks are academic for us.

Population in each group can be found on the internet, of course. There are about 1.3 million residents in care facilities and I guess center staff may be about as numerous. Priority #1: maybe 3 million. For priority #2, internet references note about 13 million Americans 80 and older, although there is some overlap with priority #1. And, there are about 21 million health care workers in America, again with priority #1 overlap. Hence, priority #2, is about 33 million folks. Next up are the 75-79 crowd, reported to be 9.5 million, with priority #1 overlap. Priority #3: 9 million, including Marianne. The next group is harder to estimate. There are about 14 million Americans aged 70-74 but I have no sense for how many folks are "clinically extremely vulnerable". 11 million? Priority #4: 25 million, including me. That makes a total of about 70 million Americans in the first four priorities.

So, how much vaccine will be available and when? This is harder to say, maybe because of the excitement over the first few shots and because these discussions, like much else in 2020, seems politicized. That said, reports indicate that 15 million people COULD be inoculated in December. That covers Priority #1 plus a part of Priority #2. January shipments COULD be enough for another 30 million Americans, finishing up priorities #2 and #3 (Marianne.) February SHOULD cover another 30 million, finishing up priorities #1 through #4 (John).

That's encouraging because it means only another two-and-a-half months before the two of us are protected. Doable. However, how real is this? First, Pfizer and Modena each say they have tens of millions of doses already produced and sitting in their cold storage. Basic supply is not a problem.

What about distribution? Most of us have no real sense of the difficulty of drug distribution, but I looked at flu vaccine inoculation for indication of what's "doable." In 2020-2021, the CDC expected 190 million doses to be available over about six months of active inoculation, or at least 30 million doses per month. The Pfizer and Modena are both more difficult to distribute because of the requirement for deep cold, and a two-shot regime, but Coronavirus has an enormously larger priority as well. Inoculating at least 30 million Americans per month would seem straight forward, even twice that rate might be OK, given the political will.

What do you think?

End of Day 280

(This day in our history: 2005 Christmas Markets)

We hope everyone's Christmas star, or maybe Valentine's Day arrow, has a vaccine attached.

John and Marianne