Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 193

I have to confess something (it is, after all, the High Holy Days) – last night’s journal entry was not completed at home. Instead, I finished and posted it from a place I’d rather not have been – the Emergency Room at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Diane and I went out for our usual evening walk last night. It was a little later than we’d planned, and it was already pretty dark – but I noticed flashes of light from my right eye. I couldn’t see them using my left eye. And they seemed to flicker along with my footsteps.

When we got home, I called the AARP nurse line and described my symptoms (I was also seeing a lot of floaters), and the nurse told me to go to the ER.

The ER was empty when we arrived about 8:30pm, and my name was called quickly. I told the nurse my symptoms and she did a quick stroke check (Could I hold my arms up? Could I smile evenly?), took an EKG, and told me to wait – that’s when I finished last night’s posting.

Eventually, we were taken back to Room 16, and they drew some blood (mostly a cardiac panel). Then I waited a while longer until an X-ray tech came in and took an X-ray of my lower torso. More waiting, and then a trip to the MRI. It was much like my previous MRI experience 20 years ago, though the tunes were different.

After they took me back to Room 16, we waited some more. A nurse took me down the hall for a visual acuity test (just like the one I’d undergone at the DMV earlier this month!), and then back to Room 16. She returned quickly and said that they were just finishing up the paperwork so I could leave.

Time passed. I eventually got up and walked over to the nurses’ station where my nurse apologized for the delay and handed my paperwork to another nurse who checked me out. We left the hospital a little after midnight.

So, just like on my very first birthday, I started the day in the hospital. That’s a birthday throwback I’d be happy not repeating again.

This morning, I visited my ophthalmologist – he dilated my eyes and examined them, then said I’d had a vitreous detachment and that there was probably nothing to worry about. He scheduled me for a followup in three weeks to make sure that there are no changes and sent me on my way.

I haven’t seen nearly as many floaters today as I did yesterday, and no flashes. Here’s hoping!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 192

I’ve been using Indigo for home automation for a couple of years. I haven’t written my own plugins yet (and I hope to avoid doing so), but I have created a few Python scripts to run inside Indigo, and I have set up some fairly complicated trigger/action combinations. So I didn’t expect to have any problems adding a daily Action Group to send the weather to Diane and me.

The Action Group was pretty simple:

Step 1: run a Python program to create the message (combining information from several sources) and write it to a persistent variable in Indigo,

Step 2: send a message with the contents of the variable.

But I kept getting a message with old data – data that had been captured from the previous execution of the action. I added code to the Python program to make sure that the variable was being set properly – it was. I even added a sleep to the Python program to make sure that the new value of the variable had time to propagate – no dice.

I was very confused. I had to take desperate measures: I looked at the online documentation. And there, I discovered that Indigo runs all of the steps in an Action Group in parallel – so the message was being sent before the Python script had had the chance to update the variable. The fix was simple – add a five-second delay to the second step. That’s not five seconds after the first step ends – it’s five seconds from the time the entire Action Group starts.

I’ll have to look at all my other Action Groups and see if I’ve fallen into this trap elsewhere; I suspect that I have, because sometimes, things don’t wind up in the state I expect, and race conditions might well be the cause.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 191

We’ve had the same food processor for a long time – in fact, it came with an instructional video on VHS tape. We didn’t use it very often. Cuisinart recalled the slicing blade in 2016 and the replacement took a long time to arrive – not being able to use the machine didn’t affect our cooking at all.

But that was in the Before Times. Now, we cook at home all the time, and we’ve gotten more adventurous. I find myself grating Parmesan or Pecorino cheese several times a week – I’ve used a Microplane, a box grater, and a rotary grater. All of them work – but they all require a good bit of effort. And, as a programmer, I am professionally lazy.

So today, I decided to dig out the food processor to grate cheese for today’s lunch. It did a fine job, and my hands and wrists didn’t bother me afterwards! And, unlike the manual methods, I didn’t wind up with a couple of millimeters of cheese that I couldn’t grate.

It worked so well that I grated all of the Parmesan and Pecorino in the house – that should hold us for a few weeks.

I wonder what else I’ve been doing the hard way.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 190

The weather notification I set up in Pushover yesterday worked perfectly this morning – except for one small problem. The temperature on the outside thermometer hadn’t been updated since 9:15 last night. And the display on the bedroom thermometer showed “–“ for the outdoor temperature. I replaced the batteries outside and the display came back; tomorrow, maybe I’ll get correct data, too!

Or relatively correct data – I looked at the manual today and discovered that this particular (cheap) thermometer is only accurate plus-or-minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s more than good enough for knowing what’s going on, but not so great if I want to automate turning off the house fan when it gets too warm outside. Anyone have a good, relatively inexpensive, weather station to recommend?

And now that the weather is getting cooler, we’re beginning to think about electric blankets again. I’d bought a “Safe and Warm” brand blanket from Costco in 2010; it failed early this year. Costco didn’t carry that blanket any more (that should have been a clue) but Amazon did, so I bought one. Six weeks later, one of the controllers failed – the company said they could replace it “when we’re back in the office”. That was April 20th. I tried to contact them again in June and again last week – their voicemail says “use email”, and email doesn’t get answered. I’m well past my Amazon return period, but I decided to contact them anyway – after a few minutes on chat, I have a return label for a refund! Now I have to find a big enough box….

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.