Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 168

I got an email from Tripit this afternoon telling me that they could no longer monitor our flight next Friday from Porto to Madrid. Of course, we weren’t going to be taking that flight, but the note did encourage me to look at Iberia’s site to see what was going on.

They had cancelled our flight and rebooked us on a flight with “Air Nostrum” at exactly the same time; Air Nostrum appears to be an Iberia subsidiary. The rebooking notice offered three choices: accept, take a voucher, or call a US toll-free number to request a refund.

Ten minutes later, mostly spent on hold, I think I have a refund on the way. I’m not 100% positive because the connection was terrible – the agent and I had to keep repeating things to one another, but I’m pretty sure he said they’d refund the payment but to allow at least 40 days.

I’m hoping we’ll be able to take the trip as rescheduled for 2022 – but I’m not going to buy any airline tickets yet.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 167

Our next-door neighbors used to have the same kind of alarm system that we have; when they replaced it, they gave me all of their hardware. I used one of their motion detectors to replace one of mine that had gone bad and put everything else in a box in the garage and forgot all about it.

Part of trying to figure out what’s going on with the AlarmDecoder is looking at the logs it creates so that I can correlate events caused by opening and closing windows with what the system reports. I kept seeing a LOT of events for devices that aren’t attached to our house’s system, which I had to filter out. I decided to look at the box in the garage and discovered that all of the detectors still had batteries installed and were faithfully reporting their status every few minutes – probably including a plea for a new battery.

I took all of the batteries out (fortunately, they weren’t leaking) and put the box back in the garage, where it will sit more quietly.

There are still a lot of events in my log from other people’s systems, but it’s a little less messy. And what else can you ask for these days?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 166

Diane read Torah and I led services today at Shir Hadash – over Zoom, of course. Our lay cantor participated from her home in South Carolina (she moved there a few years ago to be closer to her children; she’s been a regular again since we went to Zoom services), and the Rabbi read the Haftorah and gave the drash.

In addition to leading the service, I was also taking care of streaming it to Boxcast for later viewing, and that nearly was a disaster – I probably copied an extra blank at the end of the stream encryption key when I pasted it into Zoom, and there was no obvious recovery. We even stopped the Zoom meeting and set up a new recording on Boxcast in hopes of fixing it, but got the same error. Eventually I found the link that let me re-specify the encryption key and I was VERY careful in copying things.

This afternoon, we sat in on Lyric Theatre’s sing-through of The Pirates of Penzance – it was a lot of fun, especially when people used stuffed animals or sock puppets to add to the experience. They needed singers, chorus members, dialog readers, and audience – we were audience. They’ll be having more sing-throughs between now and when they can have another show; if you’re interested, click the “sing-through” link and get on their mailing list.

I made it through half of 2008 in photo culling – somehow, the hundreds of photos that Jeff took on his senior class trip to Israel wound up in my photo library, so I just put them aside for him. :-)

Just another pandemic Saturday, I guess!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 165

I write these entries in Day One and then copy them to the blog as Markdown, which WordPress happily reads. It’s a straightforward process unless I have a photo, which requires a bit more effort to get to both platforms.

Today, I discovered that Day One offers templates to help you journal more effectively. I decided to try the “Daily Self” template, which is divided into five sections:

Clearly, they designed the template before COVID-19.

When I tried copying the templated entry to the blog, all of the pretty headers turned into plain text, and I can’t find any way to change the headers. So I’m back to starting with a blank screen.

I spent a large part of the day working on the AlarmDecoder – not the hardware, fortunately! There is a bug in the software and it gets confused if you have lots of opened windows (and with the better weather over the last couple of days, we’ve been able to open windows instead of relying on air conditioning); I finally got around to reporting it and have been generating logs for the developer to use. He thinks he’s got a fix and will be shipping it for testing in a day or so; the same fix will need to be ported to the Indigo Plugin.

I deleted four very random photos from early 2008; I will consider that sufficient to keep my streak of daily photo editing alive.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 164

I’ve finished two years of photo editing in the last couple of days – 2006 and 2007. I’m almost shocked by how few photos I took during those two years.

In 2006, I took business trips to Helsinki and Banff, my mother died, we cleaned out Diane’s father’s house after he moved to Tucson, we went to DC, Richmond, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Tucson, and the World Science Fiction Convention. With all of that happening, I only took 393 photos (and kept 137).

In 2007, we went to Tucson and Tombstone, looked at colleges in Oregon. and took a trip to Richmond, went on a Bay Cruise here, attended the North American Science Fiction Convention and I only took 126 photos (and kept 36).

Of course, one reason I have so few photos from that period is that I put many of them on Flickr and then let that account lapse without backing it up – my blog has many unresolved photo references, including one of Jeff as an IRS agent for Halloween. I wonder what he looked like….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 162

I did something today that I haven’t done for nearly two weeks – I put on long pants instead of shorts. We had to get out for an early walk and it was still in the 60s when we left.

We had to leave early to be home in time for a virtual tour of Beit Hatfutsot that we’d won at Shir Hadash’s 40th anniversary virtual auction. We’d actually bid on a trip to see the Salvador Dali exhibit in Monterey, but….

The tour was interesting and fast-paced; we’d been to the museum during our 1999 trip to Israel, but things had changed in the intervening 21 years. The tour was centered on art and culture, and I really enjoyed it – I’d like to see some of the exhibits in person, but for now, I’ll have to settle for what’s on the museum’s web site.

Today’s mail included the Valpak envelope – I always open it and glance through it, and very occasionally find a coupon of interest. Today, though, I was greeted by something different when I opened the envelope:

It’s already been donated to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s fire relief fund.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 161

We were supposed to work out with our trainer this morning, but the JCC texted us last night saying they’d be closed all day today because of the pollution from the fires, so that didn’t happen. It wasn’t completely horrible in the morning, so we did get a walk in, but there were fewer people outside than usual.

We were also supposed to be landing in Barcelona today, beginning our Iberian adventure. That didn’t happen either.

What did happen today was that I finally successfully wired up the AlarmDecoder and got it back on the air. I had more trouble putting four little 22 AWG wires into a screw terminal block than even a hardware-impaired person like me should have been able to have. I kept breaking the wires and having to re-strip them; unfortunately, 22 AWG is too small for my good wire stripper, so I had to do it by hand and…well, there’s a reason I have a good wire stripper. But after several attempts and hardly any swearing, I got everything connected and it worked!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 160

Last week, our fish vendor told us that they weren’t going to be at the Farmer’s Market today. Normally, we would have gone anyway and picked up some veggies and fruit and taken our usual long walk afterwards, but today we skipped it. I had my doubts how many of the vendors would make it because of the fires and road closures and the air was VERY smoky.

Instead, we made a bonus trip to Lunardi’s for salmon (which we cooked inside, not on the Traeger!). And then we went to Target for the first time since the lockdown started to see if we could find a thermometer and a pulse oximeter – and we found both! The thermometer is a Kinsa, so we are now donating our temperatures to science; the pulse oximeter is not connected to the world as far as I can tell.

Beyond that, it’s been a very quiet day at home.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 159

We took a walk early this morning, even though the AQI was slightly over 150 (at least that’s what the AirNow app and my iPhone’s Weather app claimed – PurpleAir gives a different number, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has yet another reading). There were occasional bursts of sunlight, but it was mostly gloomy and smoky, so we stayed home the rest of the day.

The Post Office went above and beyond the call of duty again today, delivering my new alarm interface even though it had the wrong address on the envelope. They called me to tell me that they would try to get it to me this afternoon, even though my carrier had already gone out to make deliveries – and they did!

By the time it got here, it was getting dark; I tried to hook it up anyway, but couldn’t get the wiring to stay in place properly. Tomorrow is another day, right?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 158

I’ve been getting mail all week from Penzeys Spices celebrating the DNC, urging me to watch some videos of the convention highlights, and making a special offer of two free spice blends with any purchase (Penzeys is based in Milwaukee, which was supposed to host the convention, and one of the blends they gave away was named after the intersection nearest their first store in Milwaukee).

I’d been planning to buy some Greek seasoning and we were getting low on a couple of other spices, so I was interested. And we wanted to listen to some podcasts, so I placed an order for pickup in Menlo Park and off we went.

I had an additional motive for driving North today – I wanted to look at a TV. Our TV is 11 years old – it’s so old it can’t even set its own clock! I’ve been considering the LG 4K OLED sets, and the price keeps coming down; today, Video Only in Mountain View advertised the 55” model for $1399, down $100 from last week. Diane agreed that we could look at it, so we went there after Penzeys.

The store was not busy; we were the only customers. The sales person was happy to show us the TV, and even to connect it to cable instead of the 4K demo source (though he said “no” to MSNBC – he said he didn’t allow politics on the TVs in the store, which is a good policy!). And he offered free delivery and pickup of our old TV if we bought today.

I was very interested, but Diane said “no” – she’d only agreed to look at the TV today. And, as she later pointed out, buying a new TV when we’re also being urged to be ready to evacuate may not be the smartest timing.

So we left, empty-handed. For now.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 157

The air was a little better this morning, so we turned on the fan for an hour to pre-chill the house. And I got a well-timed alert from my thermostat telling me to change the air filter; it was filthy.

I spoke at my Toastmasters club this morning. I chose the “Inspire Your Audience” project and talked about the way the family at a house near us has been entertaining the neighborhood with the ongoing adventures of Bones and Skully – not only are they entertaining, they’re inspiring and have even run food drives. But today, they stayed inside because of the pollution!

I completed editing photos from 2005 this afternoon. Less than 15 years of photos left to deal with!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 156

When we got up this morning, it was cool enough to open the windows, but one look outside convinced us otherwise. The AQI was about 150 and got worse throughout the day, though there was a little blue sky around sunset, enough to let us take a short walk.

To add insult to injury, Facebook showed me photos from five years ago today, when we were in Spokane for Sasquan. There were huge fires nearby and the scene looked very much like what we saw today; as that week wore on, the AQI got worse and worse, peaking well over 500 (“hazardous”).

We have friends who have had to evacuate because of the fire. We are in what should be a safe area, but we’ve packed a go-bag anyway (urged on by our friends the Skeletonis and CalOES)!

The Post Office claims to have delivered my new Raspberry Pis to a PO Box; unfortunately, I don’t have a PO Box. I am, however, PO’ed. I’ll see if they materialize tomorrow before trying to figure out how to get a reshipment or refund or something.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 155

I’m a speaker at my Toastmasters meeting on Thursday. I had planned to give a technical talk about the new meeting template I’m building on Google Sheets, but it’s not finished (and, if I’m honest, probably won’t be finished until the next time I’m scheduled to be Toastmaster), so I had to figure out another topic and another project for my speech – and do it before I had a chat with my evaluator this afternoon.

So just before the call, I was busy looking at Twitter instead. And I saw a tweet from the Mercury News:

followed by this one:

And when I followed the links, I discovered that we were in outage block 2K and were scheduled to lose power at 6pm – right in the middle of our weekly trivia team Zoom call!

My first step was to warn the team that we might suddenly vanish from the call. My second step was to tell Diane what was happening, since we’d planned to cook dinner after the call and that didn’t seem like a good plan any more. So we took out some frozen brisket and thawed it and she made a salad to go with it. And I turned the A/C to a higher temperature to do my part for conservation.

It worked! I suspect we weren’t alone in conserving energy, because the demand curve dropped below the predictions very quickly and our power didn’t go out at 6…and it’s still on now.

I hope they treat outages like jury duty so that being put on notice is enough to put you at the end of the line. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow – it’s still expected to be hot.

I still have to work on my speech, too. Tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 154

We followed our usual Monday morning routine today – go to the JCC for personal training outside, then go to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things. Monday morning seems to be the best time to go to Trader Joe’s – we arrive around 9:15, during “Senior Hour,” when the store is uncrowded (today, we didn’t have to wait at all to get in or to pay) and well-stocked, and we can get in and out quickly.

PG&E was warning everyone that they might have to institute rolling blackouts again today – I got a call, two emails, and two texts before lunch. They suggested pre-cooling the house to 72 and then turning the A/C up to 78 at 2pm when the peak load period was expected to begin (I wonder if the pandemic has changed the timing of peak load) – so we did. The house stayed fairly cool during the afternoon; when we got home from our post-dinner walk, we decided to open up and use the fan in hopes that it’ll get a bit cooler overnight.

Dinner was another experiment – Miso-Glazed Fish from the New York Times. We’d bought a tub of miso paste early in the lockdown; I’m not sure what I had in mind when I bought it, but this was a good way to use some of it. The recipe was easy to put together, but the actual cooking was slightly more exciting than I wanted – I used our small broiler/convection oven, and with the shelf in “broil” position, we started seeing small explosions. So I moved the shelf down and then had to bake the fish for a few minutes to finish cooking it. Next time, I’ll use the “real” oven – but it was too hot for that tonight.

Stay cool!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 153

We were awakened about 4am by a very loud clap of thunder, something that is very unusual here. When I got the newspapers at 6, the sky was dark and ominous and there was lightning flashing to the east and north. But there was no rain, and the temperature had only gotten down to 78 degrees.

Rain came later – not much, but more than we usually see in the entire month of August. We were even out in it for a bit – it was mostly pleasant.

By 10am, the clouds were gone and the temperature was on its way back to triple digits. When I went out to make dinner on the Traeger at 6pm, it was “only” 94 and it didn’t actually feel too bad!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 152

I’ve been geotagging my old photos as I cull and edit them. Putting them in the right city would probably be sufficient, but I’ve been trying to locate them as precisely as possible. Google Image Search is the main tool I use, but sometimes I have to give it some hints, and one of the best sources of those hints is this very blog. I used to be fairly good about blogging about my trips as I took them…at least the first couple of days of the trip.

When I was working on photos from our trip to London in July 2005 yesterday, I used my blog to help me find where we’d gone, which reminded me that we’d taken several walks with London Walks on that trip, starting with the Old Westminster Walk. I decided to see if their website might have any info that would help me pin down the locations of my photos. It wasn’t much help, but I did see that they are back on the streets of London and also offering virtual walks on Zoom.

We hadn’t planned on going to London this year (we were going to change planes in Heathrow, but that hardly counts!), but a virtual London Walk sounded like a good change of pace. So this morning, we took The Magic of London with Richard Walker and really enjoyed the experience. The tour was a little over an hour long, but there was chatting before and after (we were a small group: one person from somewhere else in England and one person from Boston, plus us), and being able to see and hear everything without anyone in the way was a plus. It was a nice way to spend the morning.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 151

It was a good day to stay inside and do things.

No matter whether you chose to believe Amazon, Apple, Ecobee, or Ambient Weather, the high temperature here today was somewhere around 105F. It’s 9:30pm and it’s still about 85F outside; the California ISO has declared a Stage 3 Power Emergency (rolling blackouts). We’re not helping much – our A/C has been running since about 10am (we did turn it off for a while very early this morning and brought in as much “cool” air as we could with our whole-house fan and I hope to do the same thing tomorrow).

Dinner tonight was another experiment. We made Sheet Pan Cilantro Chicken and Kale from the Mercury News in our small broiler/oven. I’d say it was in the spirit of power conservation for today, but it’s what we’d’ve used anyway. It was tasty and easy to make (the hardest part was remembering to marinate the chicken in advance). We’d run out of cilantro, but Italian parsley worked; next time, I’ll try to have cilantro and see if we can tell the difference.

I finally got back to working on photo culling and editing, starting with the 2005 RPI Reunion (boy, I took a lot of pictures of buildings with no people in the frame), and ending with the first day of a three-week trip to the UK. Let’s see if I can maintain the momentum.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 150

At IBM, I was lucky enough to work on a few projects with Mike Cowlishaw. For example, when I was writing the OS/2 Gopher client, Mike happened to be in San Jose and saw what I was doing; he got interested and quickly created GoServe, a Gopher server which let me put IBM into Gopherspace and later onto the Web.

Mike’s biggest contribution to programming is the REXX Language, probably my favorite programming language ever (even if I haven’t written a Rexx program in many years). Mike made many other contributions to IBM and the industry – one of them was the IBM Jargon Dictionary, a guide to the vocabulary of IBM. The published version is interesting and has a good deal of subtext – the source version was even more interesting and had an amazing amount of subtext hidden in the comments. Sadly, I no longer have a copy of the source version.

I was amused to find that the glossary on the IBM Archives page on includes many entries from the final edition of the Jargon Dictionary. One of them is “non-concur”:

v. To formally state that one will not support the action (such as a product announcement) of another group. The ultimate threat. Grown men have been seen to cry when threatened with this.

I never was personally involved in a non-concurrence, but I knew people who had been on both sides of them, and it seemed like a thoroughly unpleasant process which made no one happy and never really ended.

When I was preparing to interview with Amazon, my friends told me about the Amazon alternative to non-concurrence: “disagree and commit“, where you can (and should) disagree and argue until a decision is made, but then you must commit to implementing it. It seemed like a much better way to handle problems.

Today, I had an opportunity to choose between the two strategies. I was asked to add some text to a page on that I thought made the page less clear than it had been; I couldn’t even come up with a way to rewrite it to make it useful. I couldn’t make any progress with the person requesting the change; I eventually had to ask my “boss” (it’s a volunteer organization, so there are no real bosses) to rule, and she ruled against me. I could have fumed; I could have non-concurred and gone to the District Director. But I decided that I’d disagreed and that it was time to commit, so I implemented the change and moved on.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 149

Today, I finally got in touch with the makers of the AlarmDecoder, Nu Tech Software Solutions. To be more accurate, I spent a bit over an hour on the phone with the owner and creator, Sean Mathews, trying to find out what was going wrong with my AD2PI. I seem to have broken it, too – it won’t talk to any of my remaining Raspberry Pis and he thinks something’s wrong with the GPIO connector on the AD2PI.

I bought the AD2PI several years ago, and was prepared to buy a replacement – but Sean is sending me the newest version (one which is less fragile!) for free. That is unbelievably good customer service and I’m amazed and delighted.

While we were working on the problem, we noticed that the Raspberry Pi was dying after about five minutes – that didn’t stop the debugging, but after we were done I took a closer look.

I was using the same Pi I was so happy about removing from the case last night. I should have used spudgers earlier in the process – my best guess is that I cracked a trace on the Pi’s printed circuit board (or maybe the whole board) when I was using screwdrivers to try to torque the Pi out of the case, and when it heats up after running for a few minutes, something moves and that’s the end of the story.

I’ve ordered two more Pi Zero Ws and should be back on the air in a few days.

While I was talking with Sean, he mentioned that he has a very cheap small HDMI monitor to attach to a Pi for testing, and that would be a good thing to use to let us see what music is playing on our Sonos. I need a new project, right? And I should have a spare Pi Zero W….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 148

When we lived in South Florida, Eckerd Drugs was our go-to drugstore. They were convenient, friendly, well-stocked, and not too expensive, at least not for sundries, which is mostly what we bought there. One of the things we bought there, and brought with us to California nearly 36 years ago, was a pumice stone.

I’ve always been amused by the old-fashioned look of the box and the claim: “when soap fails…pumice prevails”.

Sadly, both Eckart Drugs and Requa Mfg. Co. have vanished, but the pumice stone still works as well as ever.t all

I spent most of this afternoon working on the alarm interface to the Raspberry Pi; I found problems with my wiring and fixed them, but that didn’t solve my problem. In fact, things got worse – the Raspberry Pi is no longer able to talk to the AD2PI at all. So I decided to take the Raspberry Pi out of its case so I could make absolutely sure that I was properly mounting the AD2PI to the Pi.

One end of the Pi released from the mounting pins very easily; the other end didn’t want to move. I kept tugging and nothing happened; I tried flexing the case, but nothing happened. I tried to put the Pi back onto the mounting pins – no dice. I swore – it made me feel better, but did nothing to solve the problem. Even a screwdriver wasn’t helpful.

Finally, I found a posting that suggested using spudgers to get just enough leverage to release the board, and that worked!

When all else fails, spudgers prevail!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 147

We keep both of our cars in the garage – they fit, but there’s not a lot of room to move around in there. The last time I drove my car, I happened to park it a bit farther from the wall than usual – nearly three feet between the car and the shelves I’ve been planning to organize forever.

This morning, we had to leave Diane’s car outside when we got home from our trainer because our landscaper was working on the sprinkler system. After he left, I took advantage of having easy access to the sides of the garage and got to work.

I got rid of a lot of old plant labels and the temporary pots the plants came in, boxed up my collection of water-saving shower heads and aerators, as well as corralling all of our miscellaneous irrigation parts. I did some other consolidation, too.

I only spent about an hour on it before the garage got too hot to work in, but I feel like I made great progress, and I haven’t even started to use the containers I bought at the Container Store last year!

In other news, a spammer tried to comment on the blog today, with a comment that said nothing but looked plausible; the goal was to get me to link to their website. I used to get a lot of such spam attempts; this is the first one that’s gotten as far as my inbox in quite a while. I guess writing steadily builds an audience!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 146

We watched one of our saved National Theatre broadcasts this afternoon – Amadeus. It was excellent and makes me want to see the movie again; we haven’t seen it since it was first released in 1984. The details have faded from my memory; in fact, I remember more about the theatre where we saw it than about the film!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 145

As usual for Shabbat, we took an early walk and then Zoomed to services at Shir Hadash. We’d originally planned to have Thursday’s leftover chicken for lunch today, but we enjoyed all of it on Thursday; instead, I picked up some burrito bowls (sadly light on chicken) from our local Chipotle.

Getting there and back was harder than I expected – it was a hot day, and there was a lot of beach traffic, enough to back up intersections a mile from the freeway because people blocked the box routinely.

After lunch, I tried to attach my new Raspberry Pi Zero W to the AD2PI and thence to the alarm system. I thought I was hooking it up correctly, but the AD2PI didn’t get power, so I connected it the other way. The AD2PI lit up for a few seconds and then went blank; so did the Pi.

I put the Pi Three back in and it can hear the AD2PI, but it doesn’t seem to be able to talk to it, so I can monitor the alarm but can’t control it remotely. And that doesn’t make any sense to me – there’s no reason things should have gotten worse.

I picked up a new external hard drive to use as a backup drive for the media server; it’s busy doing an initial Time Machine backup. It may take a while.

The one unqualified technical success I had today was putting my WyzeCam back into service to watch the garage door, now that I no longer need it as an emergency webcam.

One out of three ain’t bad, right?

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 144

I put what I hope are the final touches on the special COVID-19 version of the Shir Hadash High Holy Day Honors programs; I’m awaiting final approval of the emails from the Temple President.

The Raspberry Pi W Zero to replace the one I fried last Saturday arrived; I tested it and made sure that it boots up and can talk to the house Wi-Fi. Tomorrow or Sunday, I’ll hook it up to the alarm system – very carefully.

I checked the other Raspberry Pi that I thought I had fried on the off chance that it had come back to life. It hadn’t. I saved its case and put the board in the e-waste bag in the garage for eventual recycling.

We upgraded both iPhones and my iPad to 13.6.

I’m sure there are more exciting days to come, but having a relaxed day was welcome, even if it doesn’t make for interesting writing.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 143

I was Toastmaster at the Silver Tongued Cats this morning; as expected, it was a lightly-attended meeting. Several of the attendees had to leave early, too; it seems that companies are starting to schedule meetings before 9 because people don’t need to commute. *sigh*

This afternoon, we voluntarily watched an hour-long commercial. It was from AmaWaterways and was a “Sip and Sail” event where they talked about their special river cruises for repeat offenders customers for next year; the pictures were very enticing. Some brought back good memories of places we’d been (whether on Ama or otherwise); some made us sad because they were places we had planned to go this year. They are operating a few cruises in Europe already, but only for Germans – they hope to start up more fully at the end of September, but I think that’s optimistic.

After that (perhaps influenced by the “Sip” part of the “Sip and Sail”), I upgraded our home server to Catalina. It went smoothly, and everything seemed to be working – but I happened to notice a TON of errors in the logs for the home automation program (Indigo), all related to the alarm system. When I installed my last-gasp Raspberry Pi on Sunday, I had to reconfigure the alarm interface, and it suggested I install it as a new keypad at address 19 (it probably would have worked fine if I’d just used the old definition at address 18). I had to tell the alarm plugin on Indigo to use the new address, but it didn’t see the new address and started throwing errors.

I couldn’t figure out how to redefine the address, but Indigo stores its data in plain-text XML files, so I stopped it, found all the places where it had an “18” as a keypad address, changed them to “19”, and looked on in horror as it complained about a corrupted database file.

I fired up Time Machine, found a backup of the file, and restored it; all was well. What was strange, though, was that I had no Time Machine backups earlier than 5pm tonight (about the time I was doing the upgrade to Catalina)! I don’t know if the upgrade destroyed the older backups or if the backups started when I did the upgrade, but I’m grateful that I had one to restore.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 142

I learned much more about Google Apps Script today than I ever expected to need to know. And I still haven’t quite finished the project I’m working on – but I got it working well enough to generate the agenda and feedback forms for tomorrow’s Silver Tongued Cats meeting.

That, some walking, a little cooking, and a routine visit to my cardiologist, sums up my day. We didn’t even get any mail!

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 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!