Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 141

We drove to Shir Hadash this morning for the first time since the lockdown started. The parking lot was almost empty, of course, but otherwise, it looked more-or-less the same as the last time we’d been there.

We were there for a short meeting with the Rabbi – outside, socially-distanced, with masks (she was wearing a face shield so we could see her face). The Temple President was supposed to be there, too, but she was self-isolating because she had been exposed to someone who might have had COVID-19 (the test results are expected soon after her 14-day isolation period ends). We could have met on Zoom (or even just by phone), but the opportunity to see someone in person was too much to pass up.

As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

Dinner was another experiment, again from the New York Times: Tejal Rao’s One-Pot Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and Kale. It was good and quite simple to make. I probably used a little too much water and could have used a bit more parmesan cheese to top it (and maybe added a little chicken to give it some more protein), but it’s worth making again.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 140

It was a quiet day today.

Our landscapers are continuing to rework our irrigation and planted some flowers to decorate our fences and improve our view.

I didn’t destroy any Raspberry Pis.

All of our meals were from tried-and-true recipes.

We did a little more trimming of Diane’s hair to even things out.

A water filter and a blind restringing kit arrived, but neither has been used yet.

Perhaps tomorrow will be more interesting, but having a quiet day today was welcome indeed!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 139

After the Farmers’ Market, a chat with our son, and lunch, I set out to debug (and, if possible, fix) my Raspberry Pi problems of yesterday. A little web searching on “my Raspberry Pi won’t boot” took me to this page at RaspberryPi.org. I followed their procedure and confirmed that my Pi Zero W was completely toasted; if I’m lucky, the Pi 2B may only have a “partially blown” polyfuse and might come back to life in a few days, but I’m not betting on it.

It looks like accidentally putting the AD2PI on the Raspberry Pi backwards was a really bad idea – it probably put 5V in the wrong place. Doing it a second time with the second Pi was an even worse idea.

I had one more Pi available – it spends its life listening for keypresses on an X10 pad and converting them into MQ messages that go to my Mac and turn audio/video components on and off, and, since I have two or three other ways of controlling the A/V gear, I decided to risk it and make one more try at the alarm. I was very careful in mounting the AD2PI this time, and it worked!

I’ve ordered a new Pi Zero W for the alarm system; it’ll be coming from the East Coast by mail, so I hope to have it before the end of the month.

After that, we watched Lot in Life from Silicon Valley Shakespeare – it’s a different take on the Biblical story of Lot, from the viewpoint of Lot’s wife. It was a fun way to spend slightly over an hour, and we stuck around for the talkback afterwards.

Dinner was a surprise – I’d planned to make Lemon-Rosemary Chicken, but even though I’d taken the chicken out of the freezer a full day ago, it was still quite frozen, so we had leftover Korean BBQ Meatballs instead.

We finished the day by giving each other haircuts! Diane had cut my hair on May 29 and it was getting a little long; she hadn’t had a haircut since March 13. Cutting her hair was a little nerve-wracking (and I suspect she was even more nervous), but I think we survived.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 138

Right after I got out of bed this morning, I heard a distinct “ding” coming from somewhere in the house. A few seconds later, it happened again; I finally figured out that it was the house alarm telling me that the battery in the bedroom motion detector was low. No problem – I had another battery in hand (much to my surprise, since it’s an odd battery type).

I thought it would also be a good time to check the status of the Raspberry Pi that connected the alarm to my home automation system. I couldn’t connect to its web server – and I couldn’t connect to it by ssh. So after Shabbat services, I unhooked it from the alarm and tried to read its SD card. No dice – the file system was corrupted.

I found another SD card and installed the newest version of the software; it booted and worked on the network, so all I had to do was connect it back to the alarm panel. When I gave it power, nothing happened – no flashing lights, no nothing.

I disconnected it and powered it up again – nothing. So I dug out another Raspberry Pi, put in the SD card, and all was well. Until I plugged it back into the alarm. The alarm started beeping randomly, and the Raspberry Pi didn’t boot up. So I disconnected it and the alarm stopped beeping; the Raspberry Pi seems dead.

I’m running out of Raspberry Pis! And ideas. At least the alarm is working, even if I can’t control it from my phone for now.

On a brighter note, I got a note from Chase saying that my credit for the failed webcam is now permanent. At least there was one happy ending today!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 137

It’s wine season again; today, we drove up to Burrell School Winery to pick up the summer shipment. We usually go up on the Friday before the pick-up party to avoid the crowds; that might not have been necessary this time, but we did it anyway. Even though they always say the wines are ready to drink (and they are), I always put them away for a year or more (unless we run out, of course!). This shipment included their Merlot, which we always enjoy – the notes claim it’ll be good through 2037 (not a typo). I don’t plan to wait that long.

Dinner was a new recipe for the first time this week; we made Pasta with Mint, Basil, and Fresh Mozzarella from Melissa Clark at the New York Times. Sadly, we haven’t gotten any basil from our garden this year, so we used basil from Lundardi’s. Comments on the recipe (I read them in advance for a change) strongly suggested buffalo mozzarella from Italy, so we used that, too.

The hardest part of the recipe was digging out the blender and cleaning it; we don’t use it very often. This recipe might encourage us to keep it more accessible!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 136

Yesterday, I thought I’d gotten through Toastmasters’ transition to the new program year. This morning, they changed the headings on their CSV file and removed the columns that related to the old educational program – and to make things slightly more interesting, they also put commas in some of the headings. More boring program changes ensued – nothing difficult, just annoying.

And then a friend asked me why the values for “level 4s attained” and “level 5s attained” were identical for all 150 clubs in the District. It wasn’t a bug in my code, fortunately; instead, Toastmasters was putting the wrong data into their CSV file even though they had what I think is the right data on their webpage. So I sent them a complaint bug report and called it a day.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 135

Every morning at 7:12am, a server I control runs programs to fetch data from Toastmasters World Headquarters and load it into a database, then create various reports for my local Toastmasters District, District 101.

This morning, things didn’t work as expected. Toastmasters had finally closed out the 2019-20 program year and started reporting on 2020-21. Most years, my code doesn’t have any problem with the transition, but this isn’t “most years”.

When I finally got around to looking at the problem, it turned out that they’d changed the (undocumented) URL I had to use to get data from their website as a CSV; it was an easy fix once I found the new (undocumented) URL.

As long as I was making changes, I thought it was a good idea to upgrade to Python 3.8, which meant I had to build that version on the DreamHost server. DreamHost had changed the underlying Linux since the last time I’d had to build new version of Python, and now they had a reasonably current level of OpenSSL, so everything went smoothly.

Happy New Year!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 134

It’s been at least a month since I last opened Quicken, and I was beginning to feel a little guilty about it. So I sat down this afternoon to get caught up.

Quicken is one of those programs that I’ve used for years but never really liked. It’s only recently that they’ve offered a reasonably-competent Mac version, but the current edition does everything I need – if I can figure out how to get it to behave. It likes to associate my credit card automatic payments with the wrong account (sometimes it’s the wrong credit card account; sometimes it’s the wrong checking account; sometimes both) but I’ve learned to double-check them and get them to the right place.

My problems today, though, weren’t Quicken’s fault. I blame Apple and Goldman Sachs.

Both Diane and I got Apple Cards when we bought our most recent Apple products to get the 3% rebate, and there are other times when we choose to use them. At first, the only way to look at your card activity was on your iPhone, and there was no way to export the data to Quicken. Later, Apple started exporting to CSV, and people found a convoluted path to get it into a format that Quicken would accept.

Last month, Apple (or Goldman Sachs, but probably Apple) unbent a little and added a QFX format export – that’s Quicken’s native interchange format these days (replacing QIF, “Quicken Interchange Format”, which they’ve obsoleted). You still have to export the data from your phone, but it’s easy to move it to the Mac and then to Quicken – and I did that today for both of our accounts, current to the end of June (because you can’t download transactions for the current account for some reason).

When I tried to reconcile the accounts, neither of them balanced. I carefully examined each and every transaction to make sure nothing was duplicated or omitted from the time I’d had to manually enter the data – nope! I even looked at the QFX files in a text editor to see if anything had been omitted there – nope! I finally decided to skip reconciling, which bugged me no end.


A couple of hours later, I had a brainstorm and went back to look at the QFX files. One of the fields in the file is the “Ledger Balance”, which Quicken shows as the “online balance”, and which is the target balance for reconciliation. Here’s what it looks like in my download of May transactions:

<LEDGERBAL><BALAMT>-123.45<DTASOF>20200729120000[0:GMT]</LEDGERBAL> 

Or, in English: my balance was $123.45 as of 12:00:00 UTC on July 29, 2020.

There are at least two problems with this:

1) July 29, 2020 at 12:00:00 UTC is still in the future
2) The balance shown is my true current balance as of right now, but I have no way to download this month’s transactions (and I was looking at May, anyhow).

No wonder things didn’t balance! Thanks, Apple!

After I’d had enough of Quicken, I finally did get around to processing a couple of days’ worth of photos from 2005. I kept the last photo we took of our first Prius after it gave its all for Diane, and I found the first photo I took of RPI Reunion 2005 – the bed in our room at the Hotel Desmond. I’m not sure it was worth the effort of firing up Lightroom for those two photos – you be the judge.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 133

When we remodeled our kitchen in 1999, the last thing to be finished was the kitchen desk and bookshelves. Somehow, when the plans were drawn, the bookshelves came down all the way to the surface of the desk, and when everything was installed, the desk was basically useless. The contractor quickly redid the bookshelves to leave the surface of the desk free, but it took months (and our withholding the final payment) for them to come back and finish the trim around the desk.

Bookshelves that go all the way to the ceiling seemed like a good idea, but the top shelf is awkward to get to, so all we’ve ever used it for is storing our supply of Sunset books (most of which we only looked at once or twice).

When we’ve found a new recipe we like during the lockdown, I’ve printed it and put it in a page protector; the stack of recipes has gotten fairly unwieldy (and slippery) over the last few weeks, and we wanted to organize them before doing our meal planning for this week. We’ve got plenty of spare 3-ring binders (thanks, IBM!), so I grabbed one and put the recipes in – but then I had to find a place to put the binder.

The bookshelves over the desk were the obvious place – but none of the shelves were tall enough to hold the binder. So I had to take everything off the top three shelves so I could move them around and make room for an 11-inch binder.


But to do that, I had to clear off the desk so I’d have somewhere to put the contents of the shelves. And that got me to look at what I had on the desk – did I really need the itinerary and tickets from our 2014 trip to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Probably not.

Nor did we need a 1978 edition of “The Complete Medical Guide”, or a copy of Consumers’ Checkbook from Spring 2011, or….

When all was said and done, I had a lot more surface area visible on the desk; our accumulation of postage stamps was in one place instead of scattered; and I’d finally sorted the address labels that charities and companies have sent us over the years into “his”, “hers”, and “ours”.

Maybe I’ll do some photo editing tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 132

Another quiet day – we hit the Farmers’ Market in the morning and had very fresh salmon and corn for lunch.

The Shir Hadash Book Group (which Diane chairs) met over Zoom to discuss Philip Roth’s Nemesis; I’d read it when it first came out but didn’t reread it for the book group, so I was a little behind the curve for the discussion.

And the rest of the day went to High Holiday prep, Toastmasters work, and reading.

A quiet day, as I said.