Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 229

We decided not to offer candy this year because of the virus, so we didn’t decorate our house and we kept our outside lights off.

But we have neighbors a block away who spent several days building a candy delivery system from their balcony to their yard and we wanted to see it in action, so we decided to walk over to their house. As soon as we opened our door, we found a bag of persimmons waiting for us (I was afraid it was a bag of something else entirely at first!).

When we got to our neighbors’ house, there weren’t any kids around, but the neighbors were sitting on their balcony and invited us to come and ring the bell so we could see the candy delivery system in action. I did, and they obliged – the M&Ms got caught on exit, but the Dum-Dum flew across the yard as planned.

We had a pleasant chat and finally found out their names (not, as it happens, the same as their Instagram handles), then wandered onward.

There were quite a few houses with tables out front for kids to take candy, and it looked like kids were being respectful and not emptying the candy bowls (we tried that a few years ago, and the candy vanished within minutes). There were also a few houses with people waiting for kids to arrive; one person said he’d had about 30 kids through the course of the evening.

We returned home and tracked down the donor of the persimmons (our next-door neighbor, as we thought). Not too scary after all!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 228

On Tuesday, I took our Prius to Auto-Tec for its first service in over a year. I had tried to make an appointment a few months ago, but when I told Don how little we’d driven the car, he suggested waiting, so we waited.

As I was picking the car up, Don asked me whether we parked it overnight inside or outside – I said “inside” and he said “good, because Prius catalytic converters are being stolen at a furious pace.” Of course, parking the car inside overnight is all well and good, but I’ve been worried about taking it anywhere and leaving it for more than a few minutes because I keep reading stories about people stealing the converters in public parking lots.

Don said they could install a shield and suggested getting it from Cat Security in Sacramento; I ordered it as soon as I got home and had it shipped to him. They installed it today. I feel better.

We made another batch of pretzels today. This time, I weighed the water and the flour!

I followed the instructions in the recipe to make the dough, starting with 3 minutes on low speed to mix the ingredients. When I checked, there was still a good bit of flour that hadn’t combined, so I added a little water and mixed it up by hand. Then I turned on the mixer again and was surprised when the dough climbed up the dough hooks and onto the mixer itself (see the photo at the top of the page).

I scraped it back into the bowl and mixed some more – eventually, I declared victory and put the dough in the oven to rise (I’d warmed the oven a few degrees, thanks to suggestions here).

When I took the risen dough out to fold it, it was very sticky, and it stayed sticky through the entire process, much stickier than last time. I’m curious as to why it was so sticky and why it attacked the mixer – any suggestions?

I had to split the pretzels between two baking sheets, one on the top rack and one on the bottom. The batch on top browned evenly in 14 minutes; the batch on the bottom (closer to the heat source) was pale on its top side, so I moved it to the top rack and baked for another two minutes, and that darkened it appropriately.

The final product was tasty, despite the glitches along the way (including dumping too much salt on the pretzels as a topping), so I’m hoping to learn how to make the process run better for the next iteration in a couple of weeks.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 227

We created the Pathways page on the District 101 Toastmasters website three years ago when Pathways was first made available, and it hasn’t been changed much since then. I was asked to update the page in time for this weekend’s Fall Fusion event – no problem, especially since I was given all of the information.

As I was in the middle editing the page, an email arrived from the system, telling me that WordPress had updated itself to version 5.5.2. That confused things; the work I was doing vanished and the site became unresponsive. Fortunately, I had copied some of what I was doing to a different environment and I was able to recover without having to start afresh, but I would have been much happier if the update hadn’t happened right that second.

All of my other WordPress installations also got updated today; I guess there must have been a serious security issue, because it’s not usually so aggressive in updating.

Software is a wonderful thing sometimes.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 226

By far the most exciting thing that happened today was getting two fillings replaced. My dentist was supposed to have sent me a “before-and-after” photo of one of them for the blog, but it hasn’t yet arrived, which may be just as well.

I am not the calmest dental patient on the planet. After they replaced my crown earlier this month, the assistant suggested I try “NuCalm” for today’s procedure. I guess it helped (I could tell that I didn’t tense up as much as I did for the crown), but I don’t see myself becoming a subscriber.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 225

One of my favorite co-workers at IBM was Brian Carpenter. He came to IBM from CERN (home of the Web), and one of his big interests (then and now) was the need to move from Internet Protocol Version 4 (which had a hard limit of 4.3 billion IP addresses) to IP Version 6 (which allows 340 undecillion addresses, or 79 octillion times as many as IPv4).

It’s been an uphill battle – people found many ways to extend the IPv4 address space (such as hiding entire internal networks behind one gateway address – if your computer has an address starting with 192.168, 172, or 10, it’s using that technique). But slowly but surely, IPv6 has been making its way into the world.

For some reason, our TiVo didn’t record last night’s Rachel Maddow Show. I knew I could get it on the computer or the Amazon Fire Stick – but when I tried to watch it, I couldn’t get past the “Select TV Provider” step for nbc.com. The browser would fail to connect to oauth.xfinity.com and the Fire Stick would just give up.

I tried pinging oauth.xfinity.com from several systems at home, and none of them could reach it. Just for fun, I logged into the system hosting my blog (which is on a Linode server) and tried pinging from there – lo and behold, it worked! But the messages from the ping command were odd – instead of showing the IPv4 address of the system I was pinging, it showed the IPv6 address (something I’d never encountered before). And if I forced a ping to the IPv4 address, the ping failed, just like it did from home.

I did some searching and found out how to enable IPv6 on my router; I rebooted it and the cable modem, and suddenly I was able to ping Xfinity’s server; even better, I could authorize the Fire Stick (and my computers) to watch NBC programs.

Thanks, Brian!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 224

I don’t know how the winds were in the hills, but they were pretty tame where we live. We probably won’t unpack for a couple of days, just in case, but I have retrieved some of the candy already!

It was a beautiful afternoon, so I decided to take a walk. I had a small balance left on my Starbucks card and I wanted something sweet, so I used their app to order a small Frappuccino and walked over there to pick it up. There were a LOT more people in the store than I expected – I grabbed mine and left as quickly as I could.

I’d made one mistake, though – I hadn’t checked to make sure that autoload was turned off on my card. So, instead of reducing my balance, I added to it!

Starbucks Customer Service said they couldn’t reverse the transaction, but they could send me a check for the amount of the autoload. I’ve turned autoload off for sure now, and I found out how to get the balance on the card refunded when I bring it below $10…which will require yet another trip to Starbucks. But it won’t be anytime soon.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 223

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning (extreme fire danger and very high winds) for tonight and tomorrow. PG&E has turned off power to tens of thousands of customers (mostly in the hills) around the Bay (not us). The news reports included suggestions that everyone have a go-bag packed and be ready to go – so we packed our bags this afternoon, just in case.

We also responded to the suggestions that everyone get their flu shots before the end of October – we went to Pharmaca in Downtown Los Gatos because it’s more pleasant than CVS or Safeway. It didn’t hurt that I had a $10 coupon for my birthday, that they gave us each a $5 coupon for getting vaccinated there, and they have a good selection of chocolate. I think we spent longer deciding on the chocolate than it took to get the vaccinations!

And in the interest of preparedness, Diane put the new chocolate in the go-bag. We’re ready!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 222

Diane read Torah and I led services for Shir Shabbat this morning. I wasn’t trying to be quick, but we were finished in just over an hour, which gave us plenty of time to relax for the rest of the day.

I hope your day was good, too!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 221

There’s an old joke about the lobbyist and the legislator. The lobbyist takes the legislator out for dinner and drinks and asks “if I made a million-dollar campaign contribution, would you back my bill?” The legislator says “Of course!” Then the lobbyist asks “what about if I only contributed a thousand bucks?” The legislator replies “What kind of public servant do you take me for?” and the lobbyist answers “We’ve already established that; now we’re just haggling over the price.”

I switched my cell service from Google Fi to T-Mobile a bit over a month ago because it was cheaper (Google Fi was $20/month plus $10/gigabyte plus tax; T-Mobile is $30/month flat rate). I didn’t consciously change my data usage, but now that I don’t pay by the gigabyte, I find that I am using a lot more data than I did on Google Fi – and I’ve started noticing that I’m pulling the phone out and looking at it while I’m out walking, which I wasn’t doing before the switch.

I used 2.45 GB during my last full month on Google Fi; I used 4.69 GB during my first month on T-Mobile, and I’ve used 1.88 GB in just 5 days so far during this billing cycle!

I guess my price is $10/gigabyte.

Shabbat Shalom!

  1. This is, of course, the clean and election-season-inspired version of the joke. For a discussion of the origin of the more common version, visit Quote Investigator.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 220

We were supposed to go to Berlin this morning – that is, we were supposed to go on a virtual tour of the Hannah Arendt exhibit at the German Historical Museum with a group from the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community. But a few minutes before the scheduled time, the guide had to cancel because of Internet problems in Berlin, so we had the morning off.

And if it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have been in Cape Town for a Wine Tour before our big Africa cruise and photo safari.

But with the world as it is, I did the most useful thing I could – I text-banked for MJ Hagar and Joe Biden in Texas. I was given three hundred names at a time to contact (this is all done through the computer and a system called ThruText – my own phone number was never exposed); generally, fewer than 10 responded in any way.

Most of those responses were “STOP” or words to that effect – at which point I entered the person into the system’s opt-out list to ensure they never heard from us again (sometimes with a polite apology, sometimes not, depending on the nature of their response).

There were lots of “wrong number” replies – those got the appropriate response. And there were a few “I’m with Trump” (or equivalent) answers; they got a polite “thanks, have a nice day” (one person responded to that with “you have a blessed day, too”, which I appreciated).

And then there were a few people who had already voted – our goal is to get them to tell their friends or even to volunteer. I don’t think I got any volunteers, but one response made me very happy:

I’ve got all my family registered & voting. 17 of them w only one lone trump supporter. Got my grandsons to change their voter registrations & DLs 2 months ago. My husband & I voted from out of state by mail in & express mailed our ballots a week ago. My daughters & I just raised $65k for Emily’s list. I appreciate your volunteer efforts.

There wasn’t a canned response for that, but I did manage to type “Thank YOU!” just before the texting window for the day closed.

It was pretty easy – with a lot of time waiting for responses or more names to become available. The campaign has a Slack site to help volunteers be more effective and to answer questions about how to reply to “unusual” responses from voters.

If you want to help out, signup here. You have to read through a short presentation and take a brief quiz before being given contacts – but it’s worth it.

12 days left until voting ends. Vote Biden/Harris!