13 March 2020. Friday

Throughout the week we received daily updates from both Stanford and SLAC on the state of affairs on campus and in the local counties. It seems that people are quite unsure what to expect. Social distancing (6ft from your neighbor) and lots of handwashing seem to be the only guidance we currently get. The government appears to be clueless on how to respond to this imminent threat. China and South Korea are in lockdown, Italy seems to be following in their steps. At our weekly leadership meeting it is clear that an announcement is ecpected from our top authorities. We are planning how to proceed with research and installation activities if a lockdown would follow. At this stage we do not know the level of restriction and still plan to proceed with user support and important research. Unergraduate students have been sent home, lectures would continue online only and finals would be optional.

I am still worried about Dieter in San Diego, his fever is down but he still has respiratory problems. At ER they send him home with asthma meds, no COVID test if your temp is not above 100F. His is 99.7. Not good with his medical history. I try not to be angry

All international travel is suspended. My Stellenbosch Woordfees ScienceCafe talk was delivered by Zoom – a great effort and success! I sent the team in SA a link to download the software, and then a Zoom invite through Stanford. Got up at 02:50 AM to try things out before my talk started at 4am. All went smoothly. I was happy and proud. Trying to cancel flights on KLM, Virgin and Kulula now.

14 March. Saturday.

We receive an email that activities would be curtailed and a town-hall meeting would follow on Monday. We do not know how far reaching this would be, and if normal on-site work would continue.

15 March. Sunday.

Quiet day, I make an inventory of all the food in the house to see if we need any more provisions. Niels packs up in the city to move home with his crates of food and necessities. He is quite serious in preparing for a lockdown and keeps the family on their toes. I need to buy a few more things but also do not want to go out and get in contact with people. I am very tired, last week was hectic with challenging projects and people.

16 March. Monday.

Niels packed up in SF yesterday and drives through in a rental van. We swop cars at SLAC and he and Pierre-Henri come back to pick me up. The upheaval is real. We are closing things down, trying to determine who is allowed where, with whom and during which hours. Only two staff members will be allowed on site, and one COVID-19 project can continue. At our noon (virtual) townhall meeting directors indicate that SLAC will go into lockdown from midnight, and  we receive an update that our county (Santa Clara) has declared a ‘Shelter in Place’ ordinance from midnight. I try to salvage my samples that i started to process last week. There’s so much undone and on backlog. We need to inform all users on the new state of affairs. Will EM installation continue? TEMs need to be maintained and decisions on cryo conditions need to be made. Full day in the lab, very aware of social distancing. Stop by at Safeway and Draegers. Final shopping I guess. I am not allowed to purchase more than 2 cleaning products. Bread is sold out, toilet paper and soap too.

17 March. Tuesday

First day at home. I am worried that my CLEM specimens will be wasted in the fridge in CSIF and plan to go to campus tomorrow to try and rescue them – either through processing or filling up with fixatives. I stay at home and catch up on work, also organize the house. Hope Dieter is doing fine but wish he could come home too = no a good idea before his health has improved though. Good to have Niels here. Rusks in oven, bobotie for dinner. The entire county is now in lockdown (shelter in place). We watch Reuters news and then Aljazeera. Things are not looking good. The president here is truly not a scientific thinker.

18 March. Wednesday

I’m at home all day, getting into a new routine of waking up to a Zoom call, and then only virtual communication and tasks. It is cold and drizzling outside. I drive to campus before noon to check my remaining yeast and brain specimens for our Huntington’s project and feel really bad for not being able to continue with these now. If I would, it would mean another day on campus and I don’t know if that will be possible. I am working on a report to analyze current HD results and will bring those in. At 4:15 pm we have our weekly lab meeting via Zoom, This time it is mainly about infrastructure maintenance and continuing current TEM installation. Seems that we can motivate installation of the cryo-FIB for its urgent need in COVID-19 research.

19 March. Thursday.

Our SCIENCE paper is out! With Ariane, Jia Lui and Karl Deisseroth. I am delighted, but with only my family and a few others to share with. This one took a couple of years, but it was worth it. Happy and proud.

I’m getting used to this new routine. Missing Dieter here, but happy that he is doing much better now. The entire county is in lockdown (shelter in place) since Tuesday and the roads are getting quiet. No rush hour, but still some traffic at weird hours like 6 am and deep in the night. Also police and ambulance sirens now and then. Niels and I walk around the block, we only see one other couple walking with their dog. Pierre is obsessed with the virus and believes his sinus problem indicates infection.

20 March. Friday.

What at strange TGIF. Our 8am Webex call with ThermoFisher was moved out to 9. It’s good to know they see their role as essential services and some installation will continue if the application specialists can get access to SLAC. Wonder when this will be over? All students now home and some research is continuing but with minimized personal contact – only 2 people per lab at a time. Core facilities are closed. Our S2C2 meeting is reassuring. I miss being a key player in decision making, as in SA. New times, new adjustments. Working on the HD report and going through all data again.

21 March. Saturday.

Lovely day, still cold and wintery. No shopping! We’ve got loads of food in the house, Niels prepares a lovely Indian Dal. Pierre-Henri very chuffed that everything is now online. Statistics for the USA is exponential now, as more tests are done. New York state of emergency, California and Washington too. What is this non-living form that hold us captive in fear? I am quite calm in the whole process, try to unpack a couple of boxes from the garage every day. Laundry and some cleaning. Got a nailbrush with soap bar at every sink, it works much better than liquid soap.

22 March. Sunday.

Read, finish powerpoint for tomorrow’s HD meeting. Braai hamburger patties outside. Niels drives skyline and hills for some escape. Wanted to bike out, but Pierre too upset. Unpack and organize 3 drawers. WhatsApp mom and Jos. All quiet on the western front. Send chiulab-list an email for some support and caring. Need some exercise, got gym trampoline through Amazon!

23 March. Monday.

Huntingtons Disease project meeting 9-10am, then join Moerner lab coffee till 11;00, reorganize garage and build trampoline with PH’s help. NICE! ‘Onverbeterlike bonesop’ for lunch, Bread starts to grow moldy, need more freezer space. Continuing with LBF-SEM manuscript again.

Cabin fever!

24 March. Tuesday

A quiet day. Focusing on curriculum development. It’s cold and grey outside. New York has an exponential increase in positive COVID cases. Santa Clara 13 more case, and 3 more deaths. We hope to still flatten the curve in California. New York is looking terrible and the governor is making impressive moves. By lack of national leadership it is interesting to see local governance rising to the occasion – which is probably signs of a strong democracy. Watch NY Gov Cuomo’s speech, which is inspiring even though it’s desperate and suggesting failed national leadership. It also poignantly reminds us of what people need to do and hear. Not ime for narcissism now!

25 March. Wednesday.

It’s more than a week since I’ve been to any store! Stocks still look good, we’re not a family of big eaters and now at least have 3 healthy meals per day. Getting exercise still not satisfactory, I jump a bit on the gym trampoline, but need a better schedule. P-H still writing finals tomorrow.

Working on website announcements this morning, I suggest we add info on continued training through our web portal and linking presentations from previous workshops.

Zoom call with S2C2 team this morning, lab meeting from 4pm.

Here’s the reality in the news: 24 Stanford people positive

And the COVID statistics in relative terms.

26 March. Thursday.

Started a 10-10:30 ‘daily coffee’ with Chiu labmemders today. Only Stella zoomed in, had a nice chat and learnt that her parents live in Wuhan!

Then a Virtual Town Hall meeting and panel discussion with SLAC leadership. More than 1000 people attended. It’s reassuring to know authorities are in control. The president is not. 3 trillion dollars have been dedicated to relieve the COVID crisis, at least economically, but also medically. $100M assigned for scientific research. USA figures looking grim today, especially New York. New Orleans see to be the new hot spot and it’s scary how numbers are rising there, hospital beds are expected to reach capacity by April 4th. NY Gov Cuomo gives a daily update which is worth watching.

Dieter’s buddy Dan tested positive! Sure now that he had it too, they teamed up 3 days before Dieter got sick, so one might have given it to the other 0r Dan’s gf that returned from overseas. So grateful that he is better now, staying at home in SD, but in good spirits and working out in his room ;) May be wise not to travel to Bay Area now.

Cryo-FIB was moved on site today! And TEM alpha and beta turned on again, so that SATs could continue. Chiller tripped power there, so though things were supposed to stay in cryo cycle (at RT), emitter also tripped off. Corey on site, I am working on BSL-2 approval and docs. Once EMs are up and running, all focus will be on COVID-related research.

27 March. Friday.

The day starts with the usual 08:00 AM WebEx Meet with ThermoFisher and all on our team involved in maintaining the old and installing the new cryo instruments: 2 Krios TEMs and one Aquilos FIB-SEM. Very pleased that TEM Alpha and Beta are continuing with SATs, and Aquilos was rolled in. I got the task to prepare the BSL-2 safety documents and procedures. When installation is done, we’ll probably start with COVID support right away. Normal S2C2 Zoom meeting 09-10:00, and there all in good spirits and working on updating website to reflect our ongoing (no RENEWED) support for (only) COVID research. Coffee chat with lab 10-10:30, nice group zooming in for a couple of minutes, talking about lockdown, the stats, expectations, etc, bordering between lighthearted chatter, science and life concerns.

Stats are up and NY is in bad shape. Gross leadership failure, but Cuomo is a star and tries to pull things together. Testing ramps up, as do positive cases. Still only PCR test, working on antibody test. Vaccine work also in progress, but that will take time… I go walk along Covington street, run and jump, stay strong. Niels prepares dinner; Dal! Early to bed.

28 March. Saturday.

Glorious Saturday morning, no scheduled work, and also no shopping! We’re actually doing quite fine, 2 gallons milk seem to keep well in fridge for 2 weeks, and we haven’t even opened any of the almond or oats milk boxes. The only product that’s run out is lettuce and fresh green beans.

Starting the day with an online writer’s course, offered by Stanford Medicine and the Muse for medical workers and researchers. The first for me, but what an enlightening experience! More than 100 people attending online, from all over the USA, and even abroad.’

Late afternoon Niels and I drive out to check what is happening outside and at stores and shopping centers. Almost no cars on highway, but many people driving the country roads.Trader Joe’s have limited access and people lining up outside, spaced apart. On the other hand Alice’s is still OPEN for business as usual. I am surprised.

Niels prepares a lovely Arabic Shakshuka, for lunch. Dinner is chicken and veggies as normal. Trampoline. Unpack 2 more boxes! Now only 2 big ones left.

Missing Dieter. It seems that we may be in lockdown till June… USA now has the highest number of positive cases in the world. If you want to play with the big mouths, you have to suffer their big lies.

29 March. Sunday.

Grey day and a bit dreary. Go for a walk via Shoup park – but avoiding the park and any socializing with people on the way. Strictly much more than 6ft. Pierre’s turn to prepare brunch – bacon and scrambled eggs. Wish Dieter could come home too, even if just for a week. Unsure if moving here will expose him to COVID more than in SD. Luckily he’s got some great room mates.

Time to listen to good music – like Arvo Part! Spiegel im Spiegel, just what I need now.

Then his Berliner Messe – stunning.

And Tchaikovsky’s Hymn of the Cherubim

When did we stop listening to great masterpieces?

Need to get into a good routine of making music, actually practicing piano playing again. And exercising. One’s mind can get quite dull from this homestay without limits…

Heard from cousins Jeanne and Melanie, Milandre and Louisa. Thinking of my much loved Africa

30 March. Monday.

New week! Starting with our usual 09:00 Huntington’s Disease collaborators discussion. No new results, labs are closed. UCSD running at 30% capacity, at Stanford it may be less, depending on the nature of the work, and the location of the lab. Guys at the VA, Porter Drive and Arastradero may still be functioning, keeping the 6ft distance in mind.

Here is a nice video of a recent CLEM paper using cryo-EM correlated with RT FIB-SEM, that Pete and I discussed last week.

Coffee chat with Chiu lab, only David zooming up, but really great to hear more of his work and plans. Seems like stores are still open, but limiting quantities to buyers. No need here to go out  and buy anything, we even still have fresh milk! Cheese and eggs enough, and 2 loaves of bread.

Writing a daily little reflection/’blessing’ after our Saturday workshop.

Play the piano – starting with Amelia’s Hanon exercises.

31 March. Tuesday.

Always checking the COVID stats even before getting up. Early morning coffee zoom with Pete, nice to catch up and hear other opinions on statistics and what to expect in the foreseeable future.

Join lunch hour fitness class offered by Stanford Wellness! 200 people joining – really fun, just struggle to get a large enough space to move around. Feeling better after some physical activity. Wah schedules an S2C2 decision making hour for new project proposals. Good to meet up with the team.

Our house needs to get a decontamination protocol in place – only essential parcels and errands and pickups allowed, and proper procedures applied. Printed out a document.

This is what I wrote on FB: It’s not easy to stay in a good routine when disconnected from people. Take it easy on yourself. Stay safe. Stay in good health. Stay home. Listen to good music. Read the good stuff. Sleep well. Breathe deep.


1 April. Wednesday.

Manage to print a shipping label for Dieter’s parcel and drop off (wearing mask and gloves) at ‘non contact’ counter at USPS in Los Altos. Nice to take a walk on such a sunny day. Watch COVID-19 and AI online. Working on BioSafety docs for cryo-FIB, then Curriculum Development.

Chiu lab meeting 4:14 – all zoom in to update on current activities. What do our students and researchers do during the lockdown?

Fitness workout over lunchtime – more than 200 people join via Zoom! Not fit at all, just realize now how the Shaolin KungFu kept me strong.

April 2. Thursday.

Meeting (Zooming) with Risa Benwell on Biosafety docs for new lab.

Work on Curriculum, selecting video course material.

Restarting mouse nose paper – not too much to change, but it needs to be done and GET PUBLISHED!

Wake up with this new SA Blessing:

5pm Fitness class, and then 5:30 SMMN Stuck@Home virtual concert. Double bookings on Zoom – need to slow down during lockdown!

3 April. Friday.

The usual tight meeting program for Friday mornings: Webex with ThermoFisher 08:00, delighted that installation is actually going smoothly – 2 Krios TEMs almost done, then for Falcon 4 camera install on TEM Alpha. Aquilos FIB-SEM also in progress.. Lots of red tape, but we’re working through it. Corey on site, Patrick check in on dewars and TEMs. weekly S2C2 meeting form 09:00, quite a bit to discuss on future workshops, capacity building, training program, BSL-2 clearance… I’m the designated note keeper, all on google docs in this lab. Afternoon catch up on S2C2 notes, then finish AROS for Bldg 57 and SOP for BSL-0/1 there. Once this is over, we need to perform!

Pierre makes dinner: bacon, eggs, potato hash browns. We’re out of fresh produce now, still lots of frozen food  and the ‘fresh’ potatoes, butternut, onions and yams. Bread done. Wine almost done too!

Dieter got his care parcel, mailed on Wednesday – WHOOP!

4 April. Saturday

Cold front moving in, grey skies. Heard from Wah last night with training/teaching notes. Need to get our training material together fast.

Reflective writing session 10-11:30, wonderful and uplifting, realize how hard it is to write well about emotions.

Bread baking trial! Tanya Schoonraad recipe, hoping for the best. ‘Onverbeterlike bonesop’.

Got a series of coloring pictures from David Griessel: candy for the eyes and food for the soul.

5 April. Sunday

Raining really hard, awesome weather for indoors. Start new bread – this time half brown bread flour, rising quickly in front of fireplace!

Afternoon drive out up Skyline, some roads closed, take the winding narrow roads. Really beautiful in the hills – surprised that Alice’s is open.

Call Dieter, very happy he is healthy again – safe in apartment and working from home. Would be awesome if he could drive up too and WFH here with us. Reading, reflecting, laundry, curriculum.

A drive in the woods

6 April. Monday

36yr Anniversary! Cold and rainy.

Up early for Huntington’s project – 9-10:00. Guys on east coast have a different lab environment with many more positive cases. Everyone have collegues who are infected. Are we just lucky? Or waiting for the upcurve?

Hear from Bart Nuttin at KU Leuven, things are challenging in the hospital – 5 colleagues positive, also his wife’s colleague. Keeping up the good spirits. Time to focus more on music! Walk around neighborhood.

Salmon, Dal, rice. Bubbly!

7 April. Tuesday.

Quiet day, working without the interruptions of countless Zoom meetings. Now need to schedule time to bake bread, mix pancakes, peel and cook apples, soak dried beans for dinner. And do cleaning! Getting fresh vegetables on Saturday, home delivered.

Noon fitness class, really helps a lot to get energized. Trying to organize Journal Club.

Beautiful day outside.

And some great humor from Cape Town!

8 April. Wednesday

Quiet morning working on curriculum, emails and infrastructure for new lab in Bldg 57.

Great workout at noon through Stanford Wellness online.

Lab meeting, all check in and show and tell about their work – mostly computational  and COVID! Great progress from Kaiming, and David will start next week. Need COVID discussions at Journal Club.

Lovely day, but indoors all the time. Niels prepares dinner: pasta!

9 April. Thursday.

Quiet day, no Zoom meetings, just working by myself and then 5pm fitness class, and Stuck@Home concert. Both great! Baking another bread, worrying about future. Open a bottle of 1994 KWV from Dad’s collection. A bit doldrummy ;)

10 April. Friday.

Feeling almost like Richard Scarry’s Busy busy World…  Today had a normal schedule of WebEx call with Thermo on TEM 1-4, TEM Alpha, Beta Gamma, and Aquilos installation. Then S2C2 weekly meeting and it’s good to catch up with everyone. Realize how I miss frequent soundboarding with colleagues and peers. Guard against a feeling of loneliness when we do NOT have Zoom meetings.

First Journal Club! What a delightful energizing experience, also interesting as newcomer to a group whose dynamics are totally different from anything I have experience before. The position at S2C2 is fully integrated with Chiu-lab, students and postdocs. It’s great, and a new challenge. Mike Schmid discusses problems in computational modeling, all novel to me. Good.

Follow up on light microscopes with Zeiss and Leica, and get great feedback and outcomes – will be ordering on Monday!

On family side great and awesome news. Dieter got into USC, NYU and LSE! WHOOP! Now to beat the COVID travel ban… So proud of this guy.

Good to get into bed by 10PM. Reading and then zzzzz.

11 April. Saturday.

Lovely day! Early morning Reflective Writing group with Laurel and SMMU, great writing, learn so much from others. Homebaked bread goes quickly – last round loaf excellent. Unpack and organize last office stuff from SA boxes – all the stationary and writing materials, when will I ever use these if I didn’t have time during my 2 yrs in SA? Read, knit, go pick up bevereges from Bevmo, online order, outside pickup.

Great news from Dieter! Got into USC, NYU and LSE, all CS masters, and exactly the courses he’s interested in: AI/machine learning, Data Science, Applied Maths. Now just for their COVID crisis…

12 April. Sunday.

Another lovely. peaceful day. And it’s Easter! The first time in history of USA all States are in state of emergency, and our statistics look bad. Trump keeps on acting like a clown, or a showman acting a part without any consequences. It is the theater if life, but it’s not reality TV. Unlike theater, the actors actually suffer and sacrifice and die…

Lovely coffee chat with Ariane! What a delightful and strong young professional. I wish her luck and we’ll stay in contact.

Fresh produce arrive! Niels ordered a whole bunch of onions, potatoes, carrots, salad, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery, kale, spinach. Whole fridge full = wonderful! Also fresh bread, cheese and naan from Amazon Fresh. We’ll live…!!

13 April. Monday.

Early morning thoughts: area of USA more or less equal to China. Population of China = 4.4 x population of USA. COVID infection in USA= 6.6x infection in China. COVID deaths in USA = 6.6x deaths in China. Didn’t ‘The Emperor’s new clothes’ come to mind for anyone else…?

Something is terribly wrong, and that something is in the White House. This is so tragic. The self-proclaimed ‘biggest nation of the world’, for which people sacrifice land and love ones, are failing miserably in setting an example and leading the world in the first international crisis. This country came in last. It brings thoughts of ‘The  Emperor’s new clothes’ to mind…

Let’s work! Early morning Huntington’s Disease meeting, always inspiring to meet with the great minds. Hope this will come to fruition in a convincing paper.

Tuesday. 14 April.

All online work. Usual stats checking and NY still in the woods – deeply – with daily almost 800 deaths.

Afternoon EM consult with Ian from Judy Frydman’s lab, on TEM interpretation, really nice work.

Noon fitness class – great!

15 April. Wednesday.

Full day! FIB-SEM training with Zeiss 10-14:00, then lab meeting 4-6pm.

Training great – all basic SEM and SmartSEM, so I’m ahead of things for a change. Lab meeting equally great, Jesus presents on novel microbes found in dolphin mouth.

Fitness class – keeping up!

16 April. Thursday.

Sometimes scary to see how things have changed – checking the Stanford Wellness and Gym site – all in red…

Fitness class great – ‘barre’ sculpt, which is new to me, something between ballet and cardio, muscle building.

Then also Stuck@home concert, which overlaps a bit with Fitness.

17 April. Friday.

Usual busy Friday. 8-09:00 ThermoFisher webinar updating installation and EM status.

9-10:00 S2C2 weekly meeting, holding notes.

12:30-14:00: Journal Club – David presents on COVID19. He just started his first cryo-ET data collection on infected cells, Kaiming doing an amazing job on hundreds of grids with Das project.

Great news clip on our cryo-EM work in SLAC weekly report, and from Stanford this focus

Chat with Yannick and Sammy 3-4pm

Fitness Bootcamp 4pm!

What a Day!

Just wishing Dieter could come home as well…

18 April. Saturday.

Early morning Reflective Writing with Stanford medicine. Order fresh produce (meat, milk, eggs, bread) from Sprouts – only pickup slot is Thursday! In meantime order juice, chees and crackers from Bevmo – few hours later pickup, so I guess people here are not indulging in alcohol – one good thing! Cleaning, laundry, knitting, reading. Our stats keep on rising, NY seems to be peaking and reaching a plateau – though still almost 800 deaths per day…!!

19 April. Sunday.

Long WhatsApp call with Mom and Jos, all well in Paarl, just don’t know how long the poor can survive this lockdown, in SA police enforced and there are so many squatters and unemployed people. Later Zoom chat with Milandre – great to have friends to talk to, strangely in the USA I still only have colleagues and no neighborhood friends… which is probably due to the fact that I only work work work! Piano playing, watch daily updates, prepare slide deck or tomorrow’s Huntington’s meeting. Lovely day, one can hardly believe that there’s an enemy sneaking up on you if you go shopping, visit friends, have close contact. Amazing how politics in the USA is screwing up everything, and how a narcissist president with no sense of science, no compassion, almost psychopathic… can continue on his idiotic path – and even encourage citizens to resist the lockdown and insist on going back to work…

20 April. Monday.

Bad night, I guess it’s stress. Morning meeting 9-10:00 with Huntington’s group – we NEED the immuno-EM to work. Just one more round… Then workshop lecture via Zoom with Bob Glaeser, one of the fathers of cryo-EM. What a delightful scientist! Talking for 2.5 hrs, and so informed. Miss my mentors and guru friends and science chats! update our Literature folder with Glaeser references. Niels prepares pasta – nice! After dinner 8-9:30pm meeting with Subhash, potential COVID project with his hospital in India. I am just very hesitant about coronavirus survival with Glutaraldehyde fixation.

The Trump uprising continues – people in Washington marching to get back to work, disobey lockdown orders. Health care workers try to block the roads. What madness has this come to. Failed leadership, where we could have set and example to the world. Hear back from Leuven colleagues – all in good health and spirits. Great to still have contact.

Zoom meeting with colleague Subhash in India. Working on a proposal to collaborate on real patient samples. We’ll need to see what BSL requirements are. Contact my old collaborators at SOM.

21 April. Tuesday.

Bootcamp workout 07:00 – 08:00! Great effort, love that there’s more of a fitness routine in my life now, though it sometimes clashes with Zoom meetings! Rest of the day mostly with Zeiss in FIB-SEM training – great going! Interesting that our Zeiss host (application specialist) is sitting on east coast, and remotely controlling the FIB-SEM in Pleasanton. Also hoping to finally get time to round off the mouse nose paper… Many emails, also to the EM lab in SA, which I currently miss a lot!

22 April. Wednesday

Normal Wednesday, mostly by myself and then lab meeting 4-6:40pm. Lunch hour fitness class. Niels preparing to move out of SF – this lockdown is going to last for a very long time still… Stats for USA looking really bad, we are leading the world to new levels of denials and stupidity form the government. SA leadership impresses… an interesting shift in dynamics.

23 April. Thursday

Full day! Morning SLAC townhall 09:30-10:30, discussing potential lift of lockdown which is not going to be any time soon… Leica cryo-CLEM workshop/workflow demo, very interesting. Afternoon Stanford Medicine townhall with more interesting data and scenarios. First fresh produce pickup from Sprouts! But no milk, eggs, cheese, flour, apples, juice… What a strange time. Work on final edits of Mom’s story for Landbouweekblad (farmer’s Weekly?). Also sending pictures of the relatives involved – need to open old frame, scan in pics, all done now.

24 April. Friday.

Get up early for normal 08:00AM Webex with ThermoFisher, Krios and Aquilos installations going well, I miss being on site and playing an active role there. busy enough though. UPSs need reinstallation due to safety switch placement, many certifications needed. I’m finalizing BSL, AROS, SOP, etc with Risa.  S2C2 meeting great, discussing current and future workshops, the Zoom with Bob Glaeser was excellent. Avoid watching too much news, since Tump is really an embarrassment and health threat, advising doctors to test whether could could inject sanitizers into patients to kill virus…!! Afternoon lazy. Niels and PH into the city to start packing his stuff. It’s simply too dangerous to live in such a filthy environment with no ablusion for homeless people, and also no provision to take them off the streets!

25 April. Saturday.

Ange is 35! Wish Happy Bday in Canada. Early morning Reflective Writing class with SMMU – a great way to feel positive and in control of emotions, surrounded. by like-minded people. Albeit virtually! Organize house for Niels’s move back. Closets, cabinets, cupboards, space! PH again into SF with NIels, sleeping over and packing U-Haul truck. Great team effort with his brother. Still unsure what is best for Dieter to do – stay in SD or come home> Different mutations of virus in different areas, so immunity may not be similar.

26 April. Sunday.

Usual Sunday morning chat with Mom and Jos. Lockdown in SA lifting in different phases, depending on region. Mom may be able to go back to Groenleegte later next week. WApp call Jan , long time since we chatted, happy all is going well in Pretoria, though he is all by himself. Only now get time to sometimes keep still and reflect on my 2 extreme years in SA – the number of challenges and accomplishments!

Niels and Pierre-Henri back home late afternoon, unpack U-Haul truck, garage nicely organize, and bedroom serves as TV lounge, study, sleeping quarters! Tight fit, but it works! Reorganize garden areas to still have space to braai, trampoline and meditate/relax/garden. Tightly :) Niels and P take truck back to SF, arrive long after midnight. I finalize mitochondria summary, upload to box at 01:20…

27 April. Monday

Up early to prepare summary of HD TEM. 9-10:30 AM chat with Wah, Bill Mobley, Chengbiao, Leslie Thompson, Charlie, David MIT, Judith Frydman, students and postdoc researchers,  lovely group. Hope we can still continue with our planned experiment once this is over… Lockdown just extended to end May. ANOTHER MONTH!

Lunch hour exercises.

28 April. Tuesday

NOt as busy as last week, finally getting to watch through Grant Jensen’s cryo-EM videos and adding to EM curriculum.

Also tackling LBF-SEM mouse nose paper again.

COVID still climbing, but NY is plateauing at <400 deaths a day. A bit worried about SA, where Witzenberg Municipality is a hot spot.

29 April. Wednesday.

Good working day. Waiting for groceries from Safeway, ordered online over weekend – and arriving just after 8pm! Still no flour, but milk and eggs – wonderful!

Trying to get campus access to continue yeast project – CLEM samples sitting in fridge since 15 March and Emily is leaving in June to start her own lab…

Lab meeting, David presents, great research and presentation. These are really awesome people, even though they are so different from my previous colleagues :)

30 April. Thursday.

Infection globally above 3 million, and deaths above 120k. USA infection above 1million, deaths 60k, California infection around 50k, deaths Organize with Jeff (Zeiss) another Tutorial/FIB-SEM training next Tuesday, even though we cannot do actual Cryo samples or transfer, the stages, angles and milling can be demonstrated at RT.

Reconnecting with Cui lab for potential COVID filter/mask decontamination study. SNC fiber analyses come in handy! Long chat with Corey on terminology for cryo vs RT EM. Zeiss webinar on image analysis. Interesting how the world is living up to the moment – or rising up to the occasion – and keep us imformed and busy and connected.

Sometimes a bit frustrated, still so much to do at home, cleaning, cooking – but it’s also my sanity. Need to bake rusks, and make some choc oats cookies, we’re out of chocolates! Finally got buttermilk and eggs for rusks.

1 May. Friday.

Busy busy Friday – as usual! 08:00 Webex with ThermoFisher, installation continuing well, Alpha and Beta almost done, Gamma electrical done, Aquilos should be done in 2 weeks time. S2C2 meeting, long discussions, all private, I keep the weekly meeting minutes – planning on COVID projects, future workshops, remote/virtual seminars, etc. Journal Club great., Rahel presents very recent very relevant papers on COVID and cardiac and circulatory disease, heart attacks, strokes, etc. Great group, great hour – but still a bit of a challenge to get researchers for every next week.

Bootcamp fitness 4-5pm, then tjaila ;) Pics from Calla, they are in Karoo! Sekretaarspan got water!! Miss the place, my people. Glad to be back with my own guys, but wish life was simpler, and surrounded by old friends and loved places, memories and roots.

2 May. Saturday.

Wake up to terribly sad news from Alf, that Doug Rawlings has passed away. Only 68! Heart attack, very unexpectedly. I do worry about COVID connections now… especially after recent evidence in SF, first COVID case was actually a woman in Jan, heart attack, no other symptoms! Ariane’s psychiatrist husband also died of heart attach (only 60yrs old) last week. Makes one wonder… and worry!

Gorgeous spring day. Roses are blooming. Pull some weeds in small garden, sow basil seeds in pot. Morning meditative writing with Laurel, quite a good time. Don’t do too much academic work, mostly emails, Dumi  sent beautiful congratulations of my success with giving SA the Volumescope. So lovely. Yes, it was tough, and many challenges were unnoticed, and I often wonder how I managed to live 2 years away from my fam. Thank God for PH who was there the first year!!

3 May. Sunday.

Sunny beautiful and strange to think that we still have thousands of people dying each day. WhatsApp call mom, she’s doing well on her own though a bit lonely with no conversation, visits to friends also prohibited, and wearing a mask when going out. Chat to Jos too, all safe and healthy. Walk to Safeway, first time shopping since 15 March! Mask and gloves, no (own) plastic bag allowed in store, only escalator in use, and aisles one way (though few people follow the arrows…). Americans are really a strange bunch. So privileged, but so used to their independence and own stubbornness, they refuse to follow guidelines in many states, demand opening of schools and offices, since it is their ‘RIGHT’. Interesting revelations. Buy salad, corn, pork and icecream – the stuff I couldn;t get delivered. Full fridge and freezer, we are so lucky and blessed.

4 May. Monday

Bad night, seems that stress levels are climbing with too many Zoom calls and meeting expectations and deliverables! Weekly Huntington’s call going well, though still wondering if there is going to be place for the conventional TEM when we get to the actual manuscript, after putting so much time and effort into it. Try to sign up speakers for journal club. Group needs to do a trial run on Zoom Webinar vs Zoom Meeting, especially for upcoming workshop where 300 people overnight tried to register when the announcement went out! Looking into options.

SAT and NRS review on TEM Alpha with Thermo Application guys – need to know what checks were done, and understand when they need to be corrected, updated, improved for better resolution results. Quite intense, Wah takes no deviation from perfection…

Stats for COVID in USA still worst in world. SA lockdown stage 4, mom back to her place, wearing masks.

Nice long chat with Dieter, so my heart feels more at ease again.

5 May. Tuesday.

Morning Zeiss FIB-SEM Tutorial no.3 with Jeff Marshman on east coast controlling FIb-SEM in Pleasanton…! Sign up Greg (Toronto) and Jing (SF) for next 2 Journal club meetings. Respond to Chenghbiao’s email on mitochondrial abnormalities – Wah suggests I do a Journal Club on RT-TEM. That’s good news.

Mom’s story Die Groot Griep is published in Landbouweekblad! I need to sign up for eletcronic editions (Netwerk24) to be able to read it ;) SO proud of her. Wish they placed the photo of ancestors in story, but I guess that makes it too much like a. news clip/reporting and not a story…

6 May. Wednesday

Morning rehearsal of Zoom Webinar – quite fun – though also see the glitches and errors that can happen. Sign people up as co-hosts vs panelists vs attendees, also checking which email they sign up with, version of software, etc. If we want to have breakout rooms for practical side, we’ll need to do the practical in Meeting mode. Think it’s manageable.

7 May. Thursday.

Too much Zoom can also kill you… Ealry morning Zoom with TFS to figure out best way to go ahead with training. Theoretical, tutorial based is fine – the practical one-on-one is going to be a prickly pear… In addition to safety concerns, the amount of paperwork  and organizing around safe distancing, etc, is stll unclear to all. Later SLAC Townhall Meeting, mostly focused on scales and levels of opening up. Mainly essential workers. Afternoon another session with Marcin and TFS application guys to go through all SAT results, see if we understand what they did and evaluate the performance of TEM alpha. Beta is ready to go! Just need to clear all readiness reviews and project application.

8 May. Friday.

Another crazy day with 08:00 Thermo WebEx, 09:00 S2C2 weekly meeting, 12:30 journal club, Greg presents – highly interesting. Great to have a team member logging in from Canada. TGIF!!

9 May. Saturday.

SMMN reflective writing class with Laurel going well, though I have not yet the inspiration to share anything to the group. Cleaning, laundry, cooking, tomorrow is Mother;s Day! Missing Dieter.

And then, just before midnight… footsteps on the staircase, and in walks Dieter!! Greatest secret and surprise ever! Realize how Dad must have felt when I surprised him for his 80th Bday :) And he’ll be staying for a couple of weeks!!!

10 May. Sunday.

Mother’s Day. Call Mom, all still good in Paarl, she is fine on her own now, and their COVID stats look MUCH better than ours. Only about 200 deaths, and the informal settlements seem fine. But all in lockdown, strictly enforced, and no visiting or driving around, only the base essentials. Thousands of food parcels, goodwill and non-profits, Masks. Entire community again pulls together.

My own mother’s day lovely brunch and dinner with all together around table.I am blessed and soo lucky.

COVID stats for USA worst in the world, and our economy looking as bad as with the 1930 recession. Unemployment highest since the 1930s!! Luckily all in this house still employed, I am counting our blessing.

11 May. Monday.

Lovely meeting with Danielle Jorgens to discuss HPF and HM20 embedding – just great to talk to someone who understands my language.

12 May. Tuesday.

Catching up with my PhD student! Been home since lockdown, and doing some manuscript preparation.


13 May. Wednesday

Zoom meeting on planned FIB/SEM experiment using fiber mask and pseudovirus particles… I’ve got so much to share from recent experience in SA, with our SNC analyses, water purification, etc… Hard time to get through. Do a very efficient and fruitful breakout room test with Zoom – all in good humor and great success!

Evening instead of normal Chiu-lab meeting we tune in to Das lab seminar on m-RNA exploration for vaccines! These are the experiments that Kaiming has been working his butt off. Awesome work

14 May. Thursday.

Early rise for the UK COVID safe EM meeting, 6-9am. Learnt a lot, and great to join EM people from Australia, through Afria, Europe and USA

15 May, Friday

Another extraordinary full day. Had to skip the weekly webinar with Thermo to attend the virtual Plant Cell Atlas workshop = sooo delightful to be with plant scientists again! Later Journal club, and still concerned about the fiber/filter mask project with no further updates. Hate to be cut out.

16 May. Saturday.

What an awesome morning!  Mom calls on WhatsApp, her phone refuses to send texts…  Wish we were there to help! I am thinking of sponsoring her beanies and gloves for Milandre’s COVID youth project in Kassiesbaai. Figuring out the numbers and logistics of getting stuff from Paarl to kassiesbaai/Waenhuiskrans, Then chat with Milandre, so inspiring, back in their beachhouse in Waenhuiskrans, supporting the global Voice of the Child project in Kassiesbaai.

Then my weekly reflective writing course – lovely prompts and people  – I could probably write away for another week – if  I had time.

A tiny bit of shopping, all in PPE.

17 May. Sunday.

Slow day, cabin fever. Go hike Rhus Ridge and it’s open! My ’signature trail’ with Dieter. Beautiful day and lovely outside. Grassy hills now yellow and grey. Later braai steak i got yesterday, still loads of onions, beans and potatoes, mostly just go shopping for milk, eggs, bread, salad, veggies.

18 May. Monday.

First day back to campus! Beckman b001 to continue sample prep of HD yeast. Tricky project for clem, yeast on gridded dishes, in fridge since 11 March… It’s a bit depressing to be back there all my myself. Quite frustrated with my slow move into the cryo field. Doing what i can. Arrange FIB-SEM training with Lee FEI/THERMO and this should keep the students interested, also including some basic SEM practices,

19 May. Tuesday.

Back in lab for second day of sample prep – yeast for CLEM of Huntington’s project. Back after lunch, go run my usual 2.5 miles (not too unfit, thanks to lunch fitness sessions), shower, emails around  workshops and lectures, and Zoom working sheet.

Brief chat with mom, sponsoring knitting for Kassiesbaai project with Milandre. Mom’s positive energy is truly remarkable.

20 May. Wednesday.

Another very full day. NIH meeting 08:00AM – 14:00. Then into lab to complete sample prep of yeast CLEM, embed till 4:15 PM. Chiu lab group meeting till 6pm. Emails, quotes for CPD, organize journal club for this week. Plan ahead next week’s Zoom trial runs. All still employed, though Uber closed their SF office where Niels is based. Who knows what lies ahead?