Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 189

The sensor I mentioned yesterday failed again today. Fortunately, I had a replacement available from the large supply from our neighbor – the only tricky part was figuring out how to take off the old one and mount the new.

I was afraid I might have to remove the whole thing (which the installers had glued onto the window frame), but I eventually discovered how to detach the sensor from the mounting plate, and then the rest was trivial. Convincing the alarm panel to use the new sensor instead of the old one was slightly annoying (the instructions are written for professional installers, not me), but I finally found the trick (delete the old one first – then add the new one).

When something goes wrong with the alarm system (such as a failed sensor, a low battery, or an intrusion), it calls my cellphone. If I had a modem on the cellphone, it’d send information about what was happening – but I don’t, so it’s like the proverbial Jewish telegram: “Begin worrying. Details to follow.” If I’m at home, I don’t have to worry for long, but if I’m away, it’s a different story. So now I’m in the process of tying the system to Pushover so I can get details – I set up the account, and it should send both of us a weather briefing in the morning. If that all works, I’ll set up the alarm notifications.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 188

Technology has not been our friend for the past couple of days. Soon after we awoke yesterday, our alarm system started going “Ping!” every minute or so. Fortunately, the panel display made the problem clear – one of the sensors had a low battery, and I had exactly one battery of the right kind (123) in hand.

Soon after we woke today, one of the smoke detectors began croaking at us every minute – it, too, had a low battery. And I had a replacement in hand (a standard 9V battery). I decided to change all of the smoke detector batteries at the same time and discovered that I didn’t have enough, so it was off to Ace Hardware to pick up a few.

I changed the offending battery, but when I went to the next smoke detector, I discovered it had expired (they have a 10-year life). So it was back to Ace to buy three new smoke detectors, complete with 10-year batteries that I can’t change; I think I’ll keep the receipt in case the batteries don’t live up to their promise.

And in the meantime, one of our window sensors decided not to tell the alarm that the window was properly closed; I took out its battery for a few hours, then put it back in and the sensor worked. The window is open now – it’ll be interesting to find out if it tells the truth when we next close it.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 187

I posted yesterday’s entry before hearing about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. May her memory be for a blessing and an inspiration and a call to action. We’ve been giving to Senate candidates, both through the Get Mitch multi-candidate fund and directly to MJ Hagar in Texas, and there will be more to come.

We attended both halves of the Shir Hadash Rosh Hashanah service this morning. The Torah and Haftorah readings were live on Zoom at 9:30am; the rest of the service had been recorded earlier, mostly in and around the sanctuary (although the choir members recorded their parts at home and someone brought them together into a synchronized performance). Having the service out-of-order was yet another way in which 2020 has been an unusual year – but I was very glad to be able to see and hear it.

And beyond that, it’s mostly been a quiet day of reflection and thought.

Shana Tova.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 185

I was Toastmaster of the Day at my Toastmasters’ club this morning and chose “We, the People” as the theme in honor of Constitution Day. I also worked in the founding of San Francisco and Emperor Norton’s proclamation of his empire, since those both happened on September 17th, too.

Lunch today was a new recipe (Zucchini with Rotini plus a Caprese salad) from an old cookbook, Marian Burros’ Keep It Simple. We’ve had the book for more than 30 years (it was published in 1981) but there are still quite a few recipes we haven’t tried – this was one of them. The book starts with a long chapter on the politics of food (including a caution about high fructose corn syrup!), partially to convince the reader that it’s healthier to make your own food from fresh or minimally-processed ingredients than to buy packaged foods. It was amusing reading the recipe and being told that “if you can’t find fresh basil, pick a different recipe” and that “some supermarkets are beginning to carry fresh herbs” – I guess some things have changed for the better in the last 40 years!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 184

The air was so much better yesterday that the JCC was able to plan to reopen this morning; our trainer texted us last night to offer us an 8am spot, which we took. On our short drive to the JCC, Diane asked if what she was seeing on the windshield was rain – and it was! We got hit by occasional droplets while we were working out, too. I didn’t know how to react!

The rain didn’t last, but the breathable air did, for which I am grateful.

I finished 2009’s photos today; it feels like quite an accomplishment! Only 11 years to go!

And because I’m a very careful and thoughtful person, I’ve already installed iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 on my iPhone and iPad, and I’ll install WatchOS 7 overnight.

I moved all the apps I don’t actively access daily to the App Library (and even got rid of a few apps that I just don’t use), but I haven’t yet figured out how to take advantage of the widgets that are now available on the iPhone.

I’m down to one Home Screen for the first time since the App Store opened; I’m sure it won’t last, but it looks good for now.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 183

The air was noticeably better this morning, so we took our usual walk. Then we did something we hadn’t done for at least 183 days – we visited our chiropractor.

Diane started going there after her first Prius got totaled back in 2005 (actually, it was a different chiropractor – but when he moved to the Central Valley and brought in a replacement we liked him, too). We’d stopped going at the beginning of the lockdown, but we’ve been noticing more aches and pains of late, so we decided to go in for a tune-up – it seems to have helped!

I spent most of the rest of the day in front of the computer processing photos from 2009 – I finished our Labo[u]r Day Weekend trip to Banff. Not only did I reduce the stash of photos from 347 to 110, but I labeled and geotagged them all and did some editing. And then I went back to my blog entries from that trip and restored all the photos that had gone missing when I closed my Flickr account – those days look a lot better now!

I have two days left 2009 to deal with – neither of which has a blog entry to help jog my memory. And one day was a wine country tour, so those memories may need a lot of jogging!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 182

I woke up this morning to an ominous text:

The FTB is the Franchise Tax Board, California’s version of the IRS. I couldn’t figure out why they’d be contacting me – I’d filed our taxes in time for the April July 15 deadline and they’d accepted my payment long ago.

I rushed to the computer, logged onto the ftb.ca.gov site (I did not click the link, thank you very much!), and found a notice of additional tax liability waiting for me. I’d underpaid our California estimated taxes for 2019, and now the state wanted its $37 in penalties and a horrifying 30 cents in interest. Fortunately, I had budgeted for this particular expense, so all should be well.

I was surprised when the paper copy of the notice arrived in today’s mail – I would have expected the text to beat the Post Office by several days, not just a few hours.

The Raspberry Pi, new RTL-SDR.COM dongle, and new antenna seem to be working reliably to capture the temperature from the outside thermomenter (in fact, it’s also getting the temperature from some neighbor’s thermometer, as well as occasional tire pressure readings from TPMS systems on passing cars), so I moved them off the kitchen desk and hid them behind the TV.

One project down, dozens to go!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 181

I was born in Milwaukee; we moved away when I was less than two years old, and as far as I know, I’ve never been back. Despite that, I feel connected to Wisconsin. I was a Milwaukee Braves fan as a kid (the fact that the Richmond Braves were the Milwaukee Braves’ AAA farm club might have had something to do with it, too). I enjoyed the day we spent in Wisconsin in 2016 (and I recommend visiting the Peshtigo Fire Museum if you have the chance). I’ve even drunk beer from Wisconsin once or twice.

Today, I got an email from a Wisconsin-based spice merchant, Penzeys, urging me to support the Wisconsin Democrats by contributing a few dollars and watching a table read of The Princess Bride this afternoon.

I’ve read the book many times, but I’ve only seen movie twice – once when it came out and last year, in preparation for a trivia event – but I liked it and was interested in seeing a table reading. And I definitely liked the cause – I would be very happy if Wisconsin was one of the deciding states this year – on the Democratic side.

I made a contribution and Diane and I watched the event this evening – it was superb. We stayed glued to the TV the entire tine, including the after-reading Q&A – dinner was quite late tonight.

Mandy Patinkin was probably my favorite – he brought as much fire to the role of Inigo Montoya as he had to the original film. But everyone was fabulous, and the after-reading Q&A was interesting, to say the least.

Yes, there were technical glitches (especially in the Q&A), but that’s what live events are all about – and even though everyone was in their own home, you could see the chemistry among the cast.

There are rumors that WisDems will be making a replay available; I hope it’s true. They have already announced a Parks and Recreation townhall and Q&A for September 17th, which could be interesting.

On Wisconsin!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 180

If COVID-19 is a circle, we’re halfway around it.

Today was Saturday, so there wasn’t much in my email this morning: the daily New York Times and Washington Post summaries and the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day; the weekly mailings from Road Scholar and the Great Courses, and the Daily Kos Elections Voting Rights Summary. And an ad from the Mercury News’ Promo Department with this enticing subject line:

Florida Man Added This To His Diet To Help Fix His Fatigue (It Really Worked)


I wonder if anyone in the Promo Department has heard of the Florida Man meme?

Tonight is S’lichot, marking the imminent arrival of the High Holy Days. Shir Hadash is having a Zoom service at 8pm; they had hoped to have an outdoor, socially-distanced service at 10pm but the horrible air quality changed those plans. We probably wouldn’t have gone to the outdoor service anyway, but I’d rather have been able to make the decision than have it forced on us by the pollution from the fires.

Shana Tova!