Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 380

I have the bad habit of checking my email almost as soon as I get up. Mostly, I just look at the subject lines and delete obviously useless stuff, but once in a while, there’s an email that grabs my attention.

That was the case this morning with email from Vueling Airlines, telling me about a schedule change to our flight from Barcelona to Porto in August. It was a flight we had no intention of taking.

Last year, I’d been able to get refunds for almost all of the flights and cruises we’d had planned; the only exception was our flight on Vueling. They would only allow me to reschedule for another day, up to a year later, so I did that, hoping that they’d allow me to postpone again and use the credit in 2022.

Today’s mail said that they’d rescheduled my placeholder flight to be about six hours later. But because they’d moved it more than five hours, I now had the option of requesting a refund.

I took the option. The website offered Flight Credit with a 10% bonus, good for three years. When I declined that, they gave me a US phone number to call to get an actual refund. After listening to yet another recording offering me the Flight Credit, I was connected to an agent in Barcelona who (after offering me credit again) actually started the refund process. It’s more complicated than it should be because my credit card number got changed since I bought the flights, but I have hope!

We celebrated by getting our hair cut professionally for the first time in more than a year – I guess I should give the Wahl Peanut a really good cleaning and put it away.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 379

It’s been two weeks since we got our second doses of the Moderna vaccine, so we are now officially Fully Vaccinated. Diane celebrated by going to the doctor for her annual Medicare checkup, which she’d scheduled long before we knew when we were going to be vaccinated. It was uneventful.

As was the rest of the day; I’ve started the final round of cleanup on photos from 2005, so I’m reliving my trip to China with the Technology Council. Sixteen years ago today, I was watching the China National Acrobatic Troupe perform; today, I watched Ted Lasso. Time marches on!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 378

I finished with my photos from 2004 today. I started the day with 1,373 photos from that year in Apple Photos and ended with what I think are the best 373 – the other 1,000 live on in backups, but I doubt I’ll ever try to restore them.

Dinner tonight was a Pesach version of a favorite recipe, Panko Crusted Halibut. I used Kosher-for-Passover “Panko Crumbs” – they were made of potato flakes, potato flour, and some flavorings. I had accidentally bought barbecue-flavored crumbs; perhaps the plain version would have been better, but I doubt it. Oh, well!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 377

I finally got back to working on photos today – I want to replace the photos in the Apple Photos library with the good ones I intend to keep, properly labeled and geolocated.

I got as far as my trip to Japan with the Technology Council of the IBM Academy of Technology in 2004; not only did I have my own photos in the collection, I had photos from two friends who were there, too. I’d already made one pass over the photos, but this time I was more selective. I also did more research on some of the photos from the day at the Toshugu Shrine in Nikko to figure out what buildings were in the photos – Google Image Search and Wikimedia Commons are powerful tools.

Needless to say, I didn’t finish. Tomorrow is another opportunity.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 376

Tonight was the first night of Passover; naturally, we attended a Seder with our friends. It was slightly too soon to be able to get together safely, even though many of us had been vaccinated, so we did it on Zoom.

! בשנ” ”בא” באופן אישי

Next year in person!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 375

Today was the final day of the season for Learned League. In some ways, it’s been my best season since I joined back in 2016 – I got 78% of the questions right versus my lifetime 68.9% and there were 7 days out of 25 where I got all 6 questions right. On the other hand, I wound up with a tie on 5 of those 7 days, which was frustrating, and ended up with 10 ties (a personal record).

Oh, well, there’s always next season!

The birds have started returning to the creek near us – ducks are there almost every time we walk by, and yesterday, there was a beautiful egret. It wasn’t there today, though, but I hope to see it again soon.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 374

The Insteon outdoor on/off outlet I mentioned on Monday arrived this afternoon, and I wasted no time in adding it to Indigo and Alexa so I can control it easily.

I had hoped to put the outlet inside the box containing the landscape lighting equipment, replacing the mechanical timer, but the only way to get it in there needed me to contort the 110-volt supply cable in ways that made me uneasy, so I gave up and mounted the outlet on top of the box. “Mounted” is a somewhat generous description, but I think it’s sufficiently stable to get by.

And now I can say, “Alexa, turn on garden” and the lights come on; they also come on automatically around sunset and turn off at 10:30pm.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 373

We had planned to go visit more appliance stores today, but a couple of friends strongly suggested we check Costco to see what kind of washers and dryers they had. I hadn’t considered Costco, expecting them to only offer huge machines (or multi-packs), but when I looked at the website, I found that they had a highly-rated compact offering from Samsung – the washer was a front loader and no deeper than the one we’re replacing, a critical consideration.

And then I got an email from IBM Retiree Benefits Discount Programs with lots of offers, including one from Samsung – and they had the same washer and dryer I wanted at an even better price than Costco. I leapt into action, only to discover that Samsung’s free installation offer didn’t apply in my zip code. So I’ve ordered from Costco, with projected delivery and installation in two weeks. In the meantime, we’ll try to baby our existing washer along.

We had Soy, Balsamic, and Sriracha Chicken Stir-Fry for dinner tonight. I ended up with some burnt-on residue that I couldn’t get off with my usual methods, but a web search took me to, which suggested using a credit card to scrape off the residue.

I didn’t have any spare credit cards, but I did have an old Best Western loyalty card, and it did the trick, though it is much the worse for wear now.

I’m still a Best Western member, of course – in fact, the reason I had the spare card was that they upgraded me (and about 5,000 other members) to their top tier in 2018 in recognition of having been a member of their program since they started it in 1988, and they sent me a new card. I haven’t stayed at a Best Western since getting the new card, but I’m glad I kept the old one!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 372

I checked with some appliance repair people and got unanimous recommendations to replace, rather than repair, the washing machine. They thought the problem was the main bearing, and that was a multi-hundred-dollar fix. So we went to Home Depot and Best Buy to look at what they had on the floor. Home Depot wasn’t very useful – the guy had to search their website to tell me anything about the machines they had available, and I can do that myself! Best Buy was more informative – the salespeople seemed knowledgable and were able to answer questions. We couldn’t find any front-loaders that would fit in the space we have available, so I have more web searching to do – “compact” washers will fit, but they are significantly smaller than what we have now. We don’t have our ducks in a row yet, but we made progress.

Diane’s Windows update remained stuck at 61% overnight, so I searched some more and found this page, which offered a batch file to fix things. Unfortunately, the file wasn’t downloadable, and the version on the web page was one long line, but I used it, as well as some other suggestions to delete Conexant audio drivers as part of the upgrade, and eventually succeeded in getting her machine upgraded.

The recipe for success was a multi-step process, which I document here in hopes of helping other seekers:

Step 1. Open Windows Update and suspend updates for 7 days.

Step 2. Open a Command Prompt in Administrator mode, then issue these commands (leave the command prompt window open – you’ll come back to it):

net stop wuauserv
net stop CryptSvc
net stop bits

If wuauserv doesn’t stop for some reason, reboot and try again, starting with step 1.

Step 3. Open Device Manager, go to “Sound, video, and game controllers” and uninstall Conexant SmartAudio HD. Be sure to check the box to delete the drivers from the system. Do not reboot – rebooting reinstalls the drivers.

Step 4. Go back to the command prompt and issue these commands:

cd C:\Windows\System32
rename CatRoot CatRoot.old
rename catroot2 catroot2.old
cd C:\Windows
rename SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.old

If you already have any of the “.old” directories, you can delete them and do the rename.

Step 5. Now, restart the services you stopped:

net start bits
net start CryptSvc
net start wuauserv

Step 6. Go back to the Windows Update window and resume updates. Windows should be able to update successfully to the new version.

Step 7. Reboot when requested – after rebooting, you should be running the new release of Windows.

Step 8. Open Command Prompt as Administrator and delete the ‘.old’ directories you created in Step 4.

You may want to open Storage Settings and delete the old version of Windows once you’re up and running – in our case, we got back nearly 30GB by doing so.


Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 371

Today has not been a good day for technology here.

Diane’s Windows machine wants to upgrade to the “2H20 Feature Release” of Windows 10, but Windows Update gets to 61% and stops cold – I’ve found lots of suggestions, but no guaranteed solutions. I’m trying one of the more promising suggestions (requiring deleting a secret Windows directory) and it’s busily downloading.

Our garden lights didn’t come on when they were supposed to. They are on a mechanical timer – turning the timer through a full day’s cycle made the lights come on, but that shouldn’t be necessary. I’d already ordered an Insteon outdoor outlet to replace the timer so I can actually control the lights – this confirmed my decision.

And our old reliable Maytag Neptune washer started making horrible noises; we were able to coax it through washing the clothes it had already gotten wet, but I think we’re in the market for a replacement. Wirecutter and Consumer Reports both like the LG WM4000, and the reviews on the Home Depot site are overwhelmingly favorable, but there are a lot of disgruntled customer reviews on the Consumer Reports site. Anybody have any experience with recent LGs?