familiar voices

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, even our radio listening.

When Terry and I lived in Gilroy our evening listening Monday through Saturday consisted of the internet stream from KCSM, the public radio jazz service in San Mateo. When we moved to Hemet in 2015 we began listening to the jazz stations in Los Angeles and San Diego. I wanted to avoid any nostalgia for the Bay Area.

KCSM logoAfter a couple of years, however, I switched back to KCSM. I decided that I could listen without undue melancholy or remorse, and I very much enjoy the evening hosts on the Jazz Oasis. When COVID-19 hit KCSM switched to a syndicated public radio jazz service, and we began listening to the Los Angeles jazz station, KKJZ, again. Evening host Steve Tyrell provided an upbeat mood in the midst of a time of pandemic, even if his music selections were a bit repetitious.

Recently, however, the engineering staff at KCSM figured out how to let the Jazz Oasis hosts prerecord their shows from home. It doesn’t matter that they are not live; hearing their familiar voices in the six-to-nine time slot is delightful and comforting in this stressful time.

The KCSM web site states, “Thanks to the College and our staff, especially engineers Rene Renard, Hanns Ullrich, and Chris Cortez, for helping the music to play on!” Terry and I thank them as well. Thank you, KCSM, for returning some peace and pleasure to our evenings.


router woes and recovery

Stuff sometimes happens even when you’re minding your own business. Yesterday before I went grocery shopping I checked my email. All was well. When I got home I had no internet access. My router was non-functional. There were no lights lit up on it. None. Completely dark. He’s dead, Jim. It’s a dead parrot.

routerI called Spectrum and the automated voice support was no help, so I enunciated very clearly rep-RE-sen-TATIVE. After twenty minutes on hold I got a real person who was very friendly, but finally agreed with me that I had a dead parrot, er, router.

While I was on hold I used my Spectrum iPhone app to make an appointment at the Spectrum store to swap out my router, but the first available appointment was the next day. The real person at Spectrum told me that I didn’t need an appointment; I could just head over to the store, which I did.

I had to wait a bit for my turn, but once someone came over to help me the equipment swap was very quick. I brought the new router home, connected everything, and waited. No internet access. Another call to that automated lady, a complete power cycle on both the modem and the router, then voilà, internet access!

I did a speed test and saw that I was getting almost twice the internet speed I had before, which is what Spectrum had been telling me for some months that I should be getting.

It’s a cliche, certainly, but it’s also true: all’s well that ends well.


Jimmy

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic Terry and I agreed, out of an abundance of caution, to discontinue our housekeeping service. Fortunately Pat, the last time Terry spoke with her, had sufficient work to not feel stressed.

Of course not having a housekeeper means we have to do the housekeeping ourselves. That has been manageable, but vacuuming is an issue. Given her bad knee, which will be replaced like the other one after the pandemic is past us, Terry can’t vacuum without pain. I will vacuum when asked, but I really don’t enjoy it.

JimmyTerry, having been laid off like so many others, has plenty of time on her hands and was using some of it, unbeknownst to me, to research robotic vacuums. She decided that the Shark was the best option and announced to me one day that she was going to the Best Buy about a half hour away from us to pick one up. I was dubious, but after twenty-six years of marriage I have learned that when Terry makes a decision there is no point in arguing.

She brought the device home and set it up to charge before sending it off on its first mission. The Shark is controlled by a smartphone app, and you need to give it a name. Terry decided on Jimmy. Personally, I might have preferred HAL, but parrot heads will recognize the reference to a certain Jimmy Buffett song.

One thing you learn from the online Shark forums is that it takes several forays for Jimmy to get to know your house. I had my doubts, but on his third or fourth reconnaissance mission Jimmy found the master bedroom. And with that, as the Monkees sang, “Now I’m a believer.”

Tasha regards Jimmy with a certain level of disdain, but for me, not needing to vacuum? I’m good with that.


a fun new toy

I lost my hearing aid in the parking lot at Kaiser Riverside during the so-called storm of the decade a few years ago when I was taking Terry home from one of those routine but unpleasant procedures that we older folks must endure every five to ten years. When I went to replace it I asked for a hearing aid that would connect directly to my iPhone without an intermediate device. The clinic’s ReSound line did just that. I love it.

Sometimes, though, I want to use earbuds. The sound quality is better, and when I am doing yard work or exercising I worry that the sweat could damage my hearing aid. The wired earbuds that came with my iPhone 8 have good sound quality, but the frigging things don’t stay in my ear. Not only that, but if I’m doing yard work the cord gets in my way.

Letsfit earbudsI have avoided wireless earbuds because of the price, but our morning news tech guy on KTLA channel 5, Rich DeMuro, reviewed a product from Letsfit that sold for only $26.99 on Amazon. I thought it was worth a try, and with the rewards points on my Amazon VISA credit card the earbuds cost me six dollars and change with tax. (The price, by the way, was $19.95 at last check on Amazon.)

They are really cool. There are four sizes of ear tips and the sound quality is excellent. When the weather allows me to do yard work I can listen to audiobooks without fighting with the cords or worrying that my hearing aid might be damaged by my sweat. The earbuds are advertised as waterproof and they seem to be. The left one fell into my leftover black beans from El Pollo Loco with no apparent damage. (The only time the seem to fall out is when I am using them while eating, which I probably shouldn’t do anyway.)

Practical, fun, and inexpensive. What more can you ask?


changing my Tuesday routine

landscaping - beforeMay 6th of this year marked five years of Terry, Tasha, and me being in this house. For pretty much all of that time Tuesday has been my yard work day. Wednesday is our trash day, and we have separate Toters for trash, recycling, and yard waste, so it made sense to fill the yard waste Toter on Tuesday. After all, that allowed me to get some exercise, and I was comfortable that the yard waste gods were appeased.

landscaping - afterTerry, however, decided that our front and back yards had become far too overgrown, and that the task of cleaning it all up was way beyond our ability to undertake. At first she had difficulty getting the attention of a gardener who was willing to do the job, but on a recent Saturday she saw a crew doing work across the street. The owner of the business gave her a quote that she was comfortable with and the crew was here the next Saturday.

To say that they did a thorough job is an understatement, as you can see. That’s all good, but it means that I won’t have Tuesday yard work as a way of getting some exercise for quite some time. And the yard waste gods? They will have to go without their offerings from us for a while.

That’s simply how things go sometimes.


personal safety, personal values, and shopping

I have long avoided shopping at Walmart. I didn’t like the way they treated their employees regarding health coverage in the pre-Obamacare days, and I didn’t like their profit-above-all-else approach to business.

Here in Hemet I was happy to do my discount staples grocery shopping at WinCo, an employee-owned chain in the West and Southwest. They have low prices and a wide selection. You must bag your own groceries, but I have no problem with that. I was, after all, a box boy at two different grocery stores when I was in high school.

grocery shoppingBut in this time of COVID-19 I was unhappy that after Riverside County lifted its requirement for face masks in public most of the staff there stopped wearing them. That was not the case with other grocery stores in town. I submitted a comment on the WinCo web site and received the following response:

Currently, our employee-owned stores are complying with all local mandates in each area we call home. If a local jurisdiction mandates that each individual should wear a face covering, our employee owners follow those requirements. In areas where it is not mandatory by your local governing bodies, every employee has been provided guidance and is allowed to wear a face covering at their discretion – from home or provided by the company.

As Captain Picard once shouted at Guinan, “Not good enough, dammit! Not good enough!”

Walmart, on the others hand, has a national policy requiring employees to wear face masks and is limiting occupancy in its stores while enforcing social distancing. I also have to say that I appreciate Walmart’s commitment to energy efficiency and the use of solar power, despite some of its other faults.

So, instead of doing my usual WinCo run, I paid a visit to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. I have long found Walmart stores to be cold and impersonal, and nothing changed on this visit. When I go to WinCo I generally find everything I’m looking for (of course there are those COVID-19 exceptions), whereas Walmart did not have several items on my list.

I’m going to have to rethink my grocery shopping patterns. Perhaps it will be a combination of buying more staples at a slightly higher price at Stater Bros. (my mainstream supermarket where I buy fresh meat and produce) and making more frequent trips to Aldi, with their particularly low prices but limited selection. And of course at Aldi you never know what interesting food item you might come across.

Really, though, I wish WinCo would change its policy on employees wearing masks. That would be the simplest solution for me.


not what we had planned

Terry and I were perfectly happy with our over-the-range microwave. It worked well and did everything we needed it to do. The vent cover was broken and held together with tape, so Terry went online to the Whirlpool parts store and ordered a replacement. Before it even showed up, however, our microwave experienced a sudden and unexpected death.

I was minding my own business on Sunday morning, fixing breakfast before it was time for online Zoom morning prayer with my friends at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. I put my bacon in the microwave and set it for one minute. The microwave started, the turntable turned, the light came on, and the timer beeped. My bacon was uncooked. I tried it again with the same result. Oh, and there was the distinct smell of burned electrical components in the air.

new microwaveOn Monday, therefore, Terry and I ventured out, wearing our face masks, to our locally owned Appliance Showroom. Owner Larry Soares is, one might say, politically incorrect and perhaps something of a redneck, but his staff is loyal and he sees that his customers are well taken care of, as we have experienced first-hand more than once. This is far from the first appliance purchase for which we have visited his store. I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a countertop microwave to use until we were past COVID-19, but our counter space is so limited as it is (we still miss that remodeled kitchen in Gilroy) that we decided to do the right thing and replace the over-the-range unit.

There were three models of the over-the-range type available in white. We selected the middle-style mama bear option (think burgers at A&W drive-ins). The woman who helped us was able to squeeze in our installation for Tuesday, as our old microwave was completely nonfunctional. We appreciated that as the next proper open slot was Thursday.

The two installers showed up around 2:00 p.m. yesterday properly wearing masks and social distancing. They set about the task while we took the late lunch that we had just begun out to the patio, Tasha accompanying us. They made quick work of the job and departed with the old microwave and all the packaging and packing materials from our new one.

We’re pleased. It looks better than the old one and has a larger capacity. It has all the capabilities we need.

We have now replaced three of the four major kitchen appliances that came with the house (where we arrived five years ago today, by the way). In those five years we have replaced the refrigerator (twice), the stove, and now the microwave. The dishwasher is still going strong, knock on wood. We hope it keeps going for a while.


still going

Today is May 1st, and those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that means I am writing about our child Tasha. We long ago designated May 1st as Tasha’s birthday. We brought her home from the shelter on November 1st, All Saints’ Day, in 2005. When we took her to the vet in Gilroy a few days later she said that Tasha appeared to be about a year-and-a-half. We decided to designate her birthday as May 1st in honor of my beloved late Grandma Monaghan. That makes Tasha sixteen today. Amazing!

TashaWe did have a health scare recently. She had some intestinal bleeding, so the vet here in Hemet prescribed her a probiotic and told us to take her off the arthritis pain medication (which she had just started and which was helping her greatly). We had an appointment scheduled for a few days later. (Spaced out appointments due to COVID-19 and social distancing, you know.) The vet took an x-ray and thought he saw a mass on her spleen, so he sent it to the radiologist. Turns out that it was just the position her stomach was in for the x-ray. Tasha is now on the probiotic long term and on a less harsh (but more expensive, of course) arthritis pain medication. A hefty vet bill, but Tasha is well worth it. She is a happy girl and it’s a relief both to see her poop looking normal again and to see her moving around comfortably.

We have always made a point of taking good care of Tasha and feeding her quality food. We don’t know her origins, as animal control picked her up on the mean streets of Gilroy all those years ago, but clearly she contributed some very solid and healthy genetic stock.

We are both so delighted that Tasha is still going and still going well.


grilling again

I wrote a while back about how our outdoor gas grill never got used last year. This was due to a couple of factors: we had a new stove that we loved and on account of my surgery I was not allowed red meat until late August. So the grill sat there unused.

grillThis year we decided that we would get back to grilling, but our grill was in serious need of cleaning. Due to social distancing we discontinued the services of our housekeeper, but thinking that she might appreciate the work we told her that we would pay her the regular house cleaning rate to clean the grill. However, she failed to call us on the agreed-upon day after the rain was to have ended, so Terry undertook the task of cleaning it herself. She completed the task and we’re now good to go. Given the current heat spell I think that we’ll probably give the newly-cleaned grill its first use tomorrow. 


pots and pans

pots and pansI spent one summer in college working in a local restaurant as a dishwasher. My senior year in college I worked for the food service vendor in a failed attempt to get into food service management. (That is another whole story.) In both cases washing dishes and washing pots and pans were two separate functions.

The same is true here at home. We have the dishwasher for plates, flatware, glasses, and other dishes. Pots and pans we wash in the sink. At our house in Gilroy, both in the original and remodeled kitchen, Terry always seemed to do the pots and pans even when I was cooking. Here in Hemet, I do most of the cooking and I do the pots and pans.

This makes no real sense, but I think it somehow has to do with the choreography and flow from the dining area to the kitchen in our respective houses. And I’m happy to clean the pots and pans along with the associated utensils (the KitchenAid (cheese) shredder attachment, the mandolin, etc.). After all, I got them dirty. I ought to clean them.

I enjoy cooking and am happy taking responsibility for the follow-up.