South Beach to South Bay

Feb 28 - March 15, 2021

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

Back to the pandemic diaries and this set will end with the one year anniversary of Covid Diary #1. This will also be the start of a new diet, the South Beach regime we have successfully used in years past. I can't really blame the pandemic for my weight gain, but it will be worth the inconvenience to feel better. Marianne is hoping for better conditioning.

The other big deal will be our first visit in a year to the Monte Sereno family, the South Bay family. Stay tuned.

I started the last pandemic diary sets with a picture of where I saw Corona virus infection and inoculation going over the next several months, until "herd immunity". Here is an update, with data from the last half-month.:

What's new? The infection rate is considerably less than I had guessed it would be. That's a good thing. What's bad is that the rate of inoculation did not increase as I had guessed, in part because there was not a new drug deployed. There are plenty of public statements by politicians and experts that a significant increase is just around the corner, but I'm skeptical of promises by interested parties. Nevertheless, I hope they are right.

Sunday, February 28, Covid Day 352

doveAs we recovered from six days on the road, we needed Sunday to be a chore day. First, we checked on the resident Morning Dove and she (he?) was still waiting for the kids to hatch. Boring. Then we loaded the clothes washer, only a single load for the whole trip. We've noted that we re-cycle clothes a lot more traveling than we do when at home. Around strangers, no one notices if it's the same outfit for days in a row.

As part of our travel recovery, we decided to go back to more healthy eating, both to get rid of weight gained (me) and for better general conditioning. Several years ago, we had seriously implemented a program called "South Beach" that enabled me to lose 40 or 50 pounds and Marianne to shed some pounds as well. That took months, of course, but after staying on program for an additional year or so, my weight "set-point" seemed to be permanently lower than it had been since I was in high school, and hence relatively easy to maintain. Over Covid year, the set-point has crept up 10 or 12 pounds, so it is time to get serious again. We'll see.

blankbikesMy Sunday chores also included a short walk, mostly to see what new witty saying neighbor Tom had drawn on his garage door. Nothing. I suspect he is tiring of this whole pandemic thing. Over by the local high school, kids were preparing for a city bike ride, a parade that pops up from time to time. Looks like fun, but no masks?

iMacMarianne had a Zoom art class, but there were problems. Her computer was stuck on the opening background, so I was called in to "fix it". She thinks I can always do that, but I'm afraid I lost my reputation this time. As her class time approached and the stubborn machine continued to avoid fixing, she signed into Zoom on her phone - just in time for the class to be over! I think it was not meant to be. (She did learn later that her question had qualified her for a door prize!)

char dinnerShe shifted to the creativity of making a South Beach dinner. Her fish and ersatz mashed potatoes (actually cauliflower) were darn good. I hope she can keep it up for months! car

For exercise, I washed the travel dirt off the Model Y. Hand-washing a car is actually pretty satisfying and was going great until I hit my forehead on the raised trunk lid. I hate blood, especially my own.

(This day in our history: 2015, Babysitting)

Monday, March 1, Covid Day 353white

On Monday we were back into our pandemic norm, a very quiet norm. Home activities included Peloton (John), art practice (guess who), unsuccessful fixing of the art hut iMac, and a little reading. My walking was limited to a short trip to visit Joan and Vern and almost my only photo was this iPhone flower shot in their front yard.

I had a very quick trip to the cleaners and Marianne spent a bit more time grocery shopping for our new regime - lots of veggies.

slalddessertOur South Beach dinner was on-program and excellent; lamb chops, zucchini-noodles, salmon salad, and dessert. This was all very reminiscent of the extended time on the SB program in Germany, where a ricotta cheese dessert became a standard end-of-the-meal hit. I hope we can be as disciplined in 2021 as we were a decade ago.

(This day in our history: 2016, March 1-15 at Home)


Tuesday, March 2, Pandemic Day 354

I am writing this two days later because my enthusiasm for writing about nothing is waning. Oh well, I have a job to do.

paintOn our freshly washed Tesla, we have noticed a paint discoloration, so I needed to ask for a technician appointment. Some background. The Tesla plant in Fremont California has a poor reputation for paint quality so a manufacturing flaw is distinctly possible. Unfortunately, I did not make note on the initial walk-around, so I don't know it they will do this under warranty. Maintenance scheduling is all done with a phone app and when I turned this problem in, the only option they gave me was for a roving technician to come to the house. That's convenient in some ways, but for sure he won't be fixing the problem so that means another appointment later. I m still undecided on the Tesla maintenance/reliability/service scheme.

The next thing on my to-do list was to try practicing using the Leica Q2 as a less-than-automatic camera. I have not been happy with some of the images the automatic systems were giving me and I remembered from the old days that carefully shooting with manual focus and exposure can teach what's going wrong, if not fix it. Partly, this is because manual shooting is much slower paced, no point-and-snap, so one puts more care into each image. (My first camera, 60 years ago, shot manually, with single-sheet film, hence limiting me to no more than a half-dozen shots in a day.) Here is a tour of the backyard, shot slowly:

door artist
white succulent pink

After closely looking at the yard, I decided to stay out in the warm weather cleaning parts of the yard. For ninety minutes, I pulled weeds under our parking strip trees, a job no p\one else notices, but that gives me exercise and some satisfaction. Of course, there are many more hours needed to complete Spring preps, but those can wait. We're no going anywhere.

We both had teeth cleaning appointments and, like everything else in pandemic times, this was a bit more complicated than in the olden days. The hygienists had masks, goggles, and protective clothing and the HVAC was cranked up to a minor gale. And there was no waiting in the waiting room. I wonder if this will continue to be the norm.dinner

The diet is going OK, at least for the third day. Marianne seems to be enjoying preparing tasty meals under the new constrictions and I am careful to just eat what's placed in front of me. I know from past experience that, for me, it is much easier to sneak in NOTHING extra rather than a "just a little". The South Beach guru, Dr. Agatston, gives all sorts of scientific reasons why this should be true, but ask me again after a month.

(This day in our history: 2019, Tahoe with the Kids)

Wednesday, March 3, Covid Day 355

breakfastTwo weeks after our second Covid shot, so we are officially as immune as we will get. Yeah! I celebrated with a good breakfast, but one that met the requirements of our new regime. At least at first, South Beach is no-carbs, essentially no sugars (including fruit), and very little snacking (only approved items, such as "23 almonds"). Eggs and diary products are OK, as are vegetables, lots of vegetables. It is filling and doable, at least for awhile.

Instead of Peloton, I walked for exercise and even that was pretty light. Our plum tree has great blossoms and neighbor Tom had restarted his pandemic garage-drawing series, another positive message. I was also encouraged by running into James, an acquaintance from the neighborhood whom I have known for a few years, but chat with only about once per year. Maybe when this pandemic is all over, we can return to just knocking on neighbor's doors when we need a conversation.

plumTom garageJames

From an easy walk, it was off to the Apple store to turn in Marianne's iMac for repair. The store was completely changed, with very tight pandemic controls. No wandering around looking for gadgets and the "Genius Bar" where problems used to be fixed, often on the spot, has morphed into windows where customers explain the problem and the cheerful-but-masked attendant takes the device and promises a diagnostic in 1 to 2 days. (Our came in the same day but the repair will take 7-10 days.) This was another experience of the inconvenience of the current times. But, it saved money because I didn't buy any new gadgets.

Marianne had another art class via Zoom, using the photography iMac I have in the basement. True to form, there were technical glitches, but ones fixed quick enough that she could then hang around with her artists. This sort of distance learning has been forced on us by the pandemic, but it may have a positive role in the future, along with in-person classes I'm sure.

(This day in our history: 2018, Uni & Ava's Birthday)

Thursday, March 4, Covid Day 356, South Beach Day 5 (so many things to track!)

This no-picture day started with a trip to Kaiser Medical Center. Not a crisis trip, thank goodness, just another inoculation. This time it was "Shingrix", against shingles, a painful, non-lethal, affliction that can hit seniors who had chickenpox as children. For us, it was deemed worthwhile and an improvement over earlier medication. As we were rolling up our sleeves, the nurse noted that the Shingrex shot is often painful and comes with inconvenient side effects, such as tiredness and joint pain. Sheesh, that's the same warning we got with the Moderna Covid shots we just had! In fact, Marianne did have significant side effects, while I had very little. Lucky, I guess.

While she was resting in her big recliner, I hit the Peloton bike. I had missed a few days in a row and would have been happy to miss more, but the rational part of my head said serious exercise may be even more important to seniors than any shot in the arm.

Otherwise, I killed time with YouTube. I have been watching a lot of Tesla-related shows including posting from Tesla owners who are testing the company's "Full Self Driving" (FSD) software in their own cars. Several dozen owners are apparently provided with the not-ready-for-prime-time capability, and some share their experiences. My favorite is "John" from Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley. He often tests the system on streets and roads I recognize, including this one where he drives past our old home in Los Gatos. Several car companies are working toward "autonomous" cars, but these everyman demonstrations convince me that Tesla is ahead.

We believe driving autonomy will be key to continued mobility into our dotage. Currently, our Model Y has relatively complete autonomous driving on highways, but not yet the "Beta FSD" that Silicon Valley John and other YouTubers demonstrate on regular streets in regular towns and cities. Tesla claims the highway version already enables a factor of ten safety improvement when being used, compared to unaided driving. Marianne and I have a few years to learn how to use the capability, but it is coming.

(This day in our history: 2013, Start Two Trips)

Friday, March 5, Covid Day 357, South Beach Diet Day 6

This was a pretty regular day. We started with weekly weigh-in and were both encouraged by pounds lost. We know, it's the health that matters, but interest in weight is inevitable.

DiamondAfter the healthy breakfast, I left on errands, starting with Diamond Auto Body and Paint. The Tesla service manager had recommended these guys when he politely said Tesla corporate would turn down my claim of a factory paint problem. The auto body manager and I looked at the discoloration, which was surprisingly hard to find in the bright sun, and he immediately took the car over to his shop to see if polishing would fix the problem. It did! I left happy and now have a body shop to recommend. (The place was littered with Porsche's, BMWs, Teslas, and other nice cars, so they probably already get recommendations.)

byeMy afternoon visit with neighbor Vern was done by giving him a ride in the new car. I tried to give him a full tour, including Autopilot where Carla drives herself and, of course, a bit of freeway acceleration. It was fun for me and, maybe, for him. At the end of the drive, we explored the mapping/navigation system and how it would show Anderson, his birthplace in Northern California. That prompted more conversation than all the extra fancy technology of the Tesla and left him and me satisfied with the tour.

I think Marianne was working on art during all this time. That would be my guess, but but I asked her for more details when she edited the draft diary. Here it is: "I spent two hours on an online Zoom class providing more tips and strategies in Abstract Art."Zoom

Our evening excitement was Friday Zoom Game Night, always fun. I have to say this has become one of my favorite new developments of pandemic times, maybe the only one. We need to keep it up on the other side. (There is another family Zoom event being planned for Sunday, this time for a few of my first cousins. In better times, this might be in-person. Next year?)

(This year in our history: 2014, Fresno)

Saturday, March 6, Covid Day 358

singerdoveA busy day started with the chirping birds outside our bedroom window. It's a nice sound and reminds me to check on our nesting dove as soon as I get downstairs to look in the porch rafters. Still no progress, but mom (or dad?) seems OK with just silently sitting and waiting. I'm afraid the chicks will emerge after we leave on Tuesday morning. Maybe I need to invest in a motion-activated game camera to get a record. One more photography gadget!

The cleaning lady was coming, so we needed to disappear from the house for social isolation. Marianne went to hide in the art hut, but I had a long drive to make - all the way across the San Joaquin Valley. My goal? The largest Tesla Supercharger in America and a whole bunch of other Tesla fans.


But first, I had to make record of the spring blossoms. The almond trees, mostly toward the east in the valley, were about done with spring blossoms, whereas fruit trees and vineyards in the west were still winter bare. I hadn't realized there was such a difference in blossom seasons. Even farther west there were fields of solar cells, the latest cash crop in these dry lands. Here are pictures, albeit without those solar cells. I should have stopped, not for fine pictures, but just as part of the story. Next time.

orchards bees bossom
end blossomsbare more bare

our Model YMy goal was "meet up" of the Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley (TOSV). I have been watching a number of YouTubes from this group where they demonstrate the "autonomous" skills of the newest Tesla driving software and since the "meet up" was almost in our back yard, I figured I'd take our almost-new Model Y and mingle with Tesla people and cars.

About 130 Teslas gathered at the Firebaugh Supercharger (which is not really close to Firebaugh, but these Bay Area folks - and Tesla itself - would have never been aware of that local knowledge.)

The 62 charging stalls are located just past a Chevron station. I wonder if EVs will take over in another decade?

Chevron chargers TOSV overhead

It was remarkable to see all these Teslas in one place, and all the fans and families enjoying themselves.

club car crowd

The guy with the trailer had had to recharge mid-way on the 105 mile trip from the Silicon Valley. There was even an electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, showing that there are more EVs than just Teslas.

X with trailer Mustang

All of us nerds got excited by a drone fly-by. It's almost as good as the Blue Angels.

fly by drone pilot

John, the TOSV president, led a few (short) speeches and then had the crowd wave for a birthday greeting for Elon Musk. I think John and Elon are on first-name basis!

crowd John wave to Elon

The gathering wrapped up with a raffle of lots of Tesla accessories, including 18 bottles of Villa Del Monte wine from Los Gatos. The final guest was Starman, the pilot of Elon Musk's Roadster that flew on top of one of SpaceX's test rockets. I wonder how he got back from millions of miles away.


All in all, it was a good time. I did feel like the oldest owner there, but that may be difficult to say with the masks and all. I probably need to join the Silicon Valley club and, maybe the San Joaquin Valley Club too.


While I was socializing, Marianne was painting. When I got home I dropped by the art hut and snapped pictures of some of her exercises and of the day's actual painting. Nice stuff and a reminder that "artwork is work." But fun.

desk practice
colors painting

And that was the day.

(This day in our history: 2013, Volklingen and Remagen)

Sunday, March 7, Covid Day 359

This was mostly pandemic-Sunday quiet. I read the Fresno Bee and New York Times, but have to admit I seldom go much beyond story headlines. Reading, generally, has been surprisingly difficult in these quiet times. I probably have a dozen unread books on my shelves, a few started, but none finished in the last month or two. I need to fix that or decide that it doesn't matter. Opinions?

The big activity of the day turned out to be a Zoom conference with three first cousins and a sampling of their families. Months ago, I had initiated an email to almost three-dozen Trotter relatives asking "How are you?". The initial response was great, but subsequent emails got fewer and fewer replies. At this point, cousin Tom suggested Zoom with a more limited group, just our first cousins. Sure, sounded reasonable.

On and off over the last two weeks we have been developing the logistics of such a "meeting". My Dad had five siblings and his all-deceased generation had 19 kids, as best I can recall. We knew the whereabouts of maybe half and set about trying to fill in holes in the address list. Tom and I each had one sibling who passed away years ago. Cousin Phil dropped off family radar decades ago, so failing to find him anew was as expected. Cousin Tim has three siblings, but his brother Joe has resisted contact for years and his sister Mary Lou and brother Pat may have aged out of Zoom forums. Cousin Maryetta has two sisters: Kim in Australia and less prone to jumping on technology such as video-conferencing; and Peggy, again perhaps aged out. That's 13 accounted for.

Then there are the six first cousins from my dad's sister, Mary-Betty, and brother-in-law Bill Franks. None of us knew where they were. A few of our group searched, primarily in Facebook records, and saw various breadcrumbs. Indications were that Sandy had passed away in about 2008, a fact that I vaguely recalled from the times when Marianne and I would visit his mom and dad during home leave trips to Fresno. The record of the others turned up mixed results. Cousin Mickie (they all went by nicknames, making name searches much harder) was tracked down in Santa Clara, California. Two more cousins were determined to have passed away, news which was corrected by Mickie, who noted that they were alive and well in Clovis, not twenty minutes from our Fresno neighborhood, as apparently is Cousin Missy.

zoomSo, just four Trotter first cousins were on the Zoom call, each joined by a family member. First order of business was the cousin inventory that I just described. It was funnier in person and touching, in a way, as several of us had to explain skeletons in our closets and the realities of disconnected siblings or cousins. Families are complicated.

Then we moved on to the favorite pastime of our generation, stories about our own kids and grandkids and about health. All progeny seem to be doing reasonably well, especially considering the pandemic times. Between retirement for most of my generation (one hard-working exception), and at-home work for some of our kids, or lay-offs plus scrambling for others, everyone had food on the table.

As for health, Tom noted that Gia, their frontline school social worker daughter, did contract COVID, as did her near 4-year old daughter, Zelda. Both have recovered and are doing well. Otherwise, the family was feee of the scurge. Non-Covid health problems existed, of course, but everything was being treated.

We ended the call with plans to expand the group and connect again in the not too distant future. I'll admit, I am a little fuzzy on who is supposed to make that happen, but I'll nominate Tom. We also renewed plans for an in-person gathering here in Fresno, hopefully a year from now. Maybe this family reconnection can be a slip of a silver lining in the Covid cloud.

In hindsight, I have to pause and think about extended families where the condition inventory would have been far more sobering. We have to all be thankful.

(This day in our history: 2004, Brussels )

Monday, March 8, Covid day 360, International Women's Day

My own to-do list had twelve items, four of which happened. All I'd like to record were a few flower-ish pictures, at home and in the neigborhood:


On International Women's Day, Marianne had much more happening, but little of it seemed celebratory. After home chores, she headed out to the Kaiser auditory folks to see why her hearing aids perform poorly: scratchy, varying volume, and silence. The good news was that the hearing test revealed that her ears are working as good as during the last test, but the bad news was that the technician could find nothing wrong with the gadgets. Frustrating.

Marianne's celebratory stop was at the beautician for a full nail re-do on hands and feet. I think this was her first professional treatment in a year and it improved her nails and her general outlook. It seems like we are seeing the end of our tunnel. Hopefully.dinner

Dinner was good, as usual, even within the South Beach Diet limitations: store-bought salmon, leftover chicken, a huge pile of green beans, and ricotta pudding for dessert. This makes it a week and a day on our new program and things seem to be working. My weight is dropping as quickly as it ever has in the past, yet the chef is making quality meals, so there's not much suffering. I need to drop another dozen pounds, but Marianne is good as-is. We'll see how it all turns out in a month or so.

Both of us finished the day with packing for the week's big trip to Monte Sereno. We can't wait.

(This day in our history: 2000, House Tour)

Tuesday, March 9, Covid 361

dovesAfter a restless night, we were both up early. I think we were anxious to start our grandparent trip. We packed up and said goodbye to the back porch doves. There are two chicks hidden under the puffed-up parent and we wondered if they would still be there when we return Friday. At least they will have a few quiet days to try leaving the

We went to Starbucks for breakfast and dined in the car. When we finally hit the road for more travel, this may be our normal start. We like the coffees and have selected food offerings that fit our new, low-carb, low-sugar diet. Splurging will be pancakes, violating both "low" rules.

The drive from Fresno to the South Bay was routine, as routine as something we had only done once in a year can be. The Central Valley orchards were decorated with new leaves and blossoms, except for citrus trees still carrying their heavy load of oranges and tangerines. The hills on the east and west were green, although not as bright as they should be since it's been a dry winter.

autopilotI worked in some practice with the Tesla's "Autopilot" system, letting the system control speed and "lane keeping". This isn't really autonomous driving, but it's a start. I was OK with it, except for a couple specific situations. Construction zones with uneven lane marking seemed to confuse the system and automated steering pushed me closer to edges than I was comfortable with. Similarly, when going around curves at freeway speeds with traffic in all lanes, Autopilot kept the car closer to the parallel cars or trucks than I would like. When these things happened, I simply took back control.

We stopped for a half-hour in Gilroy, charging Carla and breaking for human needs. This seems to be a comfortable pattern: charge and discharge at the same time.hugs

Three hours after we left home, we arrived in Monte Sereno and jumped out to hug Gabby, Ava, and Sam for the first time in a year. It was wonderful. I tear up just writing about it.birthday

In the kitchen, we gave Ava a present for her 12th birthday (on the 7th). We hope that next year, all birthday celebrations will be big and noisy and crowded.

Beyond that, it was jut regular stuff. Ava had school (remote) and made a sign to welcome Opa and Gigi. Sam organized an army battle, gave us a tour of the new veggie garden, and caught us up on happenings since last we chatted.

school sign
sam's army gardenchat

The kids had an organized exercise session, where a trainer came in and put them through their paces. In non-pandemic times, such exercise might not need special planning, but this is a good, socially-distanced initiative.

stepping race ladder
tag trampoline

While we were having fun, Marianne was off at the dentist getting a crown built and installed to replace a tooth that broke last week. Dr. Rahimi, aka Mamal, (or Dad, to Ava and Sam) did very professional work with his high-tech gear and made a perfect replacement in just a couple of hours. This may not have been the most fun of the trip, but it was welcome nonetheless.

prepspaAfter we all enjoyed taco bowl dinner, Ava organized a foot-spa session for her mom. I think mom is ready to sign her up for regular care!

After that, it was time for baths and bedtime, with a little bedtime reading by Gigi. The whole routine felt familiar and right, for the young and the not-so-young. It was a great day.

(This day in our history: 2013, Belgium Canals and Mines)

Wednesday, March 10, Covid Day 362

Talk about a quiet day, I hardly left the living room. I tried one walk in the morning to take local pictures, but was chased back inside by dark, drippy skies. From inside, I hunted little birds outside the kitchen window.

blue bird red top
tan yellow
flower orange blossoms stormy
drips tile

SamEveryone else was busier. Ava and Sam "went" to school, screens in separate rooms. Families everywhere are having to adjust to remote learning, and these two kids MUCH prefer in-person learning. We are all watching and waiting to see how the giant experiment turns out. Personally, my faith is that kids are resilient and learn despite it all and, in the end, may benefit from having had a variety of teaching-learning experiences. I hope.

The family adults went about their normal day: Mamal to work and Gabby on several errands. His dental practice has reportedly been crazy busy as folks recover from months of avoiding elective medical work. It's a real good news, bad news story as he comes home pooped. While that's going on, Gabby has to keep school kids on plan, the main and Tahoe houses serviced, all the family and social connections going, plus some business parts of the dental practice going too.

gitlsAvaAfter school, Ava and Gigi went out for a long-awaited date: ear piercing. They had planned this excursion two years ago, but it was interrupted by cancer, and then again one year ago, only to be interrupted by COVID19 social distancing. The doctor made quick work of it with his piercing gun and the girls left the office smiling and sparkely, despite a bit of lingering discomfort.

Back home, some of us got in Peloton sessions. Even Mamal went directly to the home gym after work, not because he needed more work, but because he needed a clear break. I am glad I don't have that problem!

spaAt dinner we all chatted, maybe for the fist time in a year. It was great. Talking face-to-face is just different from Facetime-phone-Zoom. Afterwards, Ava gave Gigi her foot-spa treatment, definitely a treat only possible in person!

So, this was another excellent visiting day, as quiet as it was.

(This day in our history: 2002, Lisbon Oceanarium)

Thursday, March 11, Covid Day 363

This was our last day of a too-short visit. Even without plans, the day was full from early until (relatively) late.

charliSamMornings start with a hug for Charli, the third child in the family. She probably considers herself #1 and Ava and Sam lower tier. Sam started the day with Gigi's palascintas (crepes) and then packed up for school, real, in-person school. Meanwhile, Mamal hugged us all and went to his office. He would leave straight from there to Truckee to get in some Friday skiing. Busy life!

While I tried to write diaries, Gabby and Gigi sorted and divided up Mamo's crown jewels. It's nice to see them going on to another generation.


clouds.I found I could not write, nor could I concentrate on reading. I think it's a pandemic thing. Consequently, I reverted to my mom's advice and went outside to play, or walk, in my case. Up above, a jet streaked between the clouds and it made me wonder when we will next board a plane for distant places. Months yet, I'm afraid, before we try even USA travel. The rest of the walk was devoted to blossoms, bees, and buzzards


gift1gift 2After her at-home school sessions, Ava emerged from her room and found two more birthday presents waiting for her, from Monterey Mamo and from Aunt Katinka. I think she already knows what she will spend on! (After she writes thank-you cards, of course.)Zohreh

Zohreh, Ava and Sam's other grandmother, came by for a quick visit. We had not seen her in over a year so it was good to have a few minutes. It's not been an easy year for her and Manouchehr, but visits to her family still give reason to smile. That's rule of everybody, especially all the grandparents out there. Now that the oldest generations is getting inoculated, there will be more of these visits throughout the country, an end-of-the-tunnel light, for sure.

Our next activity was golf, led by Sam the local almost-pro. The recent back yard landscape redo had a putting green and some chipping space installed. (All artificial, no-water, grass.) Sam spends a lot of time here and is getting pretty good. He also took time to coach Gigi. I think the clubs were wooden when she last held one. Ava zipped around the pickle-ball court, mugging. A popular distraction among 12-year-olds, I'm sure.

sam tech gigi Ava

Mixed in among the home fun, Gigi gave both Ava and Sam rides in the new Tesla, zooming as much as the neighborhood allowed. Ava claimed it was better than a roller coaster. Sam was more understated, as is his practice.

Dinner was meatballs and noodles, pasta-type for the kids and zucchini-type for the dieting adults. It was all good, even if I fell off my regime enough to add a couple of pounds over the week. At least I know how to get back into disciplined eating and not give up. We'll see how the next couple weeks go.couch group

After dinner, it was time for cleaning up and, almost off to bed for the kids. Sam was diverted by a Gigi tutoring session on his math class from earlier in the day. They both enjoyed the work and the new bit of confidence it seemed to give the young fourth-grader. Charli listened in and enjoyed the couch company.

charge.I finished the day by starting a charging session for the Model Y. At just 1to 2 kilowatts, the home connection speed was 50 times slower than the Tesla Supercharger we would use mid-way on Friday's return to Fresno. This was just one more experiment on electric car ownership and use.

(This day in our history: 2002, Fatima)

Friday, March 12, Covid Day 364

hugsToday was leaving day, so we were up early to pack and send the little family off on their days. Sam would have another in-school day and Ava would return to her room for distance learning. Gabby would have a full morning of chores as she prepares to take the kids up to Truckee after school. We worked in one last group hug, with Charli in the middle, her favorite location. We will miss them all.charger

We probably could have made it all the way home without more electricity, but are not yet comfortable enough to end a trip with just 5 or 10% reserve. Besides, a combined Starbucks-Supercharger stop was easy enough. I wonder how long it will take for this EV routine to become not worth noting in diaries. Not yet.

The drive was fine, sometimes with Autopilot and much without. Highway-speed curves are still uncomfortable for me. The automatic system takes curves exactly centered in the lane, without slowing down. My natural style would be a bit of slowing going into a curve, and a flatter arc than the lane itself. With Autopilot, the sensation is that, on a right bend, the car is going toward the center barrier. I need to have faith.skies

Out in the Central Valley, the roads were straight and, this day, the skies were bright blue with puffy clouds. It was a nice welcome back. We stopped by Costco to get steaks, as a reaction to Gabby's more healthy menus I think, and ended up with more than what we went in for. Doesn't everybody?

alonemom and kidBack home, everything was mostly as we left it. Joan had collected our excess mail and packages. Thanks. The yard had stayed green thanks to thunderstorms a couple of days ago. When we first looked in on our back-porch dove family, the new squab was sitting by itself on the nest, but mom came back soon enough, so we were comforted that all was good.

The barbecue steak was great and we were reminded that our new low-carbohydrates, low-sugars diet is not too hard to live with. That's good, because it will take a few days discipline to make up for traveling distractions.Apple

After dinner, Marianne went in to do art class homework while I drove to Apple to pick up the repaired iMac. As an indicator of pandemic progress, the store was open a little, although the clerk handed me the repaired machine out in the the shopping center aisle. Nonetheless, the inconveniece kept me from spending extra money on other new gadgets.

Since it had failed by a hard disk crash, that meant I was facing a complete re-installation of software, something I dread. Largely unaided, I have been installing and reinstalling Apple software since 1979 and, over the decades, the process probably gets easier, but I get more apprehensive.

As it turned out, everything went fine until I needed to install email, something that always seems to be difficult for me. First, I tried with an old password, but that was, of course, rejected. Then Marianne and I compared notes and found a more recent password, most likely the correct one.

Nope, that failed too. In fact, it became impossible for us to check any of our email from home, or get in touch with the website or administrative features. I turned to my domain host company's help desk, sent the required note to India, and gave up for the day. The next day I would get a response that my failed logins had triggered a security "feature" and we had indeed been locked out. Grrrh. I am beginning to hate technology.

Meanwhile, Marianne had been struggling with her hearing aid technology too, not helped when I mumbled under my breath about my techno struggles. She had taken her ears in for service earlier in the week, but the result had not been satisfactory. The tiny devices have all sorts of technology inside, but are not self-serviceable, so she faces another trip to the audiologist while wondering: "Why can't they just WORK?" Fair question.

We ended the day both grumpy, rare for us since we normally take turns.

(This day in our history: 2010, Paris on Business)

Saturday, March 13, Covid Day 365

It has been one year since Marianne and I started self-isolation and I started this daily record. At the time, we were finishing up her cancer tunnel and her mom's last-days tunnel and I under estimated the length of the COVID19 tunnel. However, now I think we can see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. For us that means US travel in 2021 and Europe in 2022. Watch for us.

redOur Saturday was exceptionally quiet. OK, maybe not "exceptionally". Marianne had an art class while I ran to the cleaners and then puttered a little more on taxes. Exercise was Peloton for us both. My walk was limited to our own block and photography was simply one iPhone picture of a red flower. In principle, I try to keep the photography muscle memory exercised, but I don't think this qualified.

We talked some about plans for future travel, car travel of course. We penciled in short visits to Sonora, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. Remind us if you live there, or we may show up uninvited. After these short jaunts, we hope to do a longer trip (3 to 4 weeks?) in Western National Parks, with a specific stop for grandson Rich's high school graduation at the end of May. That would constitute an epic trip after COVID (mostly) and in a new electric vehicle. Stay tuned.

(This day in our history: 2017, Havana)

Sunday, March 14, COVID Day 366

A standard Sunday, starting with reading the Fresno Bee and the New York Times. One paper takes only a few minutes and is finished, while the other takes twice as long just to note headlines of stories I SHOULD read. Sometimes I think I value the Sunday ritual more than the transfered information. I do go back to the NYT over the rest of the week, however.

squabDomestic chores were limited. First, we checked on the new baby dove, or "squab". It's a funny-looking bird with a tiny pinhead that only a mother could love. (And we grandparents, I suppose.) This batch had just a single off-spring, but mom will be back at it soon. Reportedly, doves have five or six pregnancies a year, normally with twins. I'm not sure why we are not buried in the squeaky little gray birds.

I made a call to son Brian because we had missed the weekly connection for Friday Games and because Longmont weather reports were scary. It seems like all along the eastern side of the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies, a heavy March stormed had arrived to show folks who's boss. Thankfully, the family was doing just fine, just staying home. Jen and Rich were trying to keep up the shoveling. Good luck. Brian still works at home, so Monday's commute should be the same as every day, a dozen stairs down to the basement.

After that call, Marianne and I had a Facetime session with my Idaho cousin Tom and his wife Kathleen. They had expressed an interest in Teslas and Electric Vehicles (EVs) generally and we are always willing to yammer along about our newest toy. Tom seemed to have done plenty of research, so much of our conversation addressed Kathleen's questions. Number one, of course, was the whole question of how the car is charged and where can one go to do that and does it limit where to travel. We noted that this is the #1 new driver question, but concern fades away with experience. (We are in the not-yet-faded stage.) Overall we endorsed the Model Y's comfort and said we looked forward to road trips in the not too distant future. We let it be known we may even visit them in early June, if they need an in-person demonstration.

Dinner was St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage. OK, we knew it wasn't the right day, but in times of pandemic one can re-arrange the calendar at will. And the chef willed that Sunday was right. I like the dish a lot, although more the beef than the cabbage. Besides, it makes me feel like I am honoring my Irish half. Grandmother Katey O'Shea would like that.

Just as that was finishing, we got another Tesla inquiry, this time from neighbor Ethan. He said his mom Tari was visiting and was interested in EVs, so we volunteered a test drive. First, I drove a little, so I could show off the zoom factor. They both asked questions and Tari especially resonated with our thought that "Full Safe Driving" (FSD) will, at some point, allow mobility farther into our later years. It is not true autonomy yet, for sure, but even today, I believe it will relieve stress of long highway drives. Soon (months to years?) it should allow folks with failing eyesight and slowed responses to continue to safely go wherever they (we) want. Drivers just need to train as the car systems are trained.

Tesla sales pitches out of the way, Marianne and I returned to our home corners. She went to the hut, where she mostly concentrated on organizing her freshly-repaired iMac. The school teacher in her is a real organizer and she seemed satisfied that she had taken the time to organize the electronic part of her workspace. Congratulations.

For me, it was vegging in front of my office TV, watching the Warriors play. This has not been a good year for them, and they were playing the Utah Jazz, a much better team, so I was not expecting too much. However, my team did well, considering all the young guys they have to play after important veterans have left or been injured. Congratulations to them too.

(This day in our history: 2019, Albany)

Monday, March 15, Covid Day 367

Another work week. Wait, we are retired. Another week.

After breakfast and a start on diary writing, we drove out to Paint Protection Fresno (PPF)to get some extra care for our new car. The Teslas coming out of their Fremont, California, factory have a reputation of less-than-stellar paint work. Oddly, this has prompted some new owners to spend money getting extra protection in the form of a film, or a chemical coating called "ceramic", or both. I became convinced this was the right way for our Model Y and had made an appointment with Aleks at PPF for a combination application.

YPPFOriginally, we had talked about film only for the forward-facing areas, surfaces that will see the highest incidence of bugs and rocks and ceramic coating for the whole car. (The coating essentially replaces any need for car wax for a few years.) After more YouTube research, I became more worried about rock dings, so we moved the ceramic coating budget to pay for a more comprehensive cover by protective film. Aleks thought that was a good plan and offered that the coating could always be applied later, so we left the Model Y to be squeezed in among the other shabby cars at PPF.

Back home, we went about our retirement business. Action #1 was to really plan for some travel. The idea is to first try some short trips to friends before we expand to a real road trip or two (or three or four or ...). That means that we needed to call some not-far-away (inoculated) friends and notify them we were arriving next week. Ted said he and Nancy would welcome us in Sonora and Barbara said she and Mike would do the same in El Dorado Hills. I think everybody is ready to end isolation, as long as it can be done safely.

Our next friend visits will happen when we are house-sitting in Monte Sereno in early April. Tim, Pete and Rita, Adrienne and Tony, you are all on notice. And, of course, family in Monterey. Maybe others too?

With short-term arrangements made, I moved to long-range planning for a Western Tour. A year ago, we had been doing this planning, but COVID stopped it and I filed away my Western US tour guides. The idea is to see several national parks during a month-long drive, anchored with a stop in Longmont, Colorado, to see our first grandson, Rich, graduate from high school on May 29th. As the COVID infections continue to go down, we are banking on being able to do this safely. All bets are off if there is a "third wave", as being experienced in Europe right now. Stay tuned.

momOutside, we checked for signs of our little dove family. They were no longer resident on our porch, but I have read that the parents and new offspring will hang around near the nest for a week or so. Sure enough, one parent and the youngster were sitting on our backyard fence. Maybe they were saying good-bye? Bye.

The day finished uneventfully with Netflix and basketball television. We were both pretty worn out from earlier Peloton sessions, or at least that was our excuse.

(This day in our history:2020, Stay-at-Home)

This seems like it will be a positive period, as positive as it can be before everyone is inoculated.

John and Marianne