Pandemic Journal, Day 745

This morning, I was the first speaker at the Silver Tongued Cats and I decided to talk about my struggles with home automation over the years (and especially the past couple of weeks). Because I was using the speech for the “Understanding Vocal Variety” project, I chose “Home Automation Blues” as the title and exercised extreme vocal variety by literally singing the blues to start the speech – a capella and undoubtedly off-key. I wonder if a guitar would have helped?

After that, we took off for Yosemite (via Casa de Fruita), arriving at the Yosemite Blue Butterfly Inn just after 4pm. There’s a very nice view from the deck and lots of birds around – the owners told us that when the water isn’t flowing as briskly, you can see the fish swimming around.

We unpacked, got some advice, and headed off to the park to do a quick drive up to Yosemite Village before dinner. We stopped at several of the parking areas along the road and took lots of photos, mostly of waterfalls – but so far, I’ve only been able to get one of them uploaded.

Despite the technical difficulties, we’re off to a good start!

Pandemic Journal, Day 744

Tonight, the Shir Hadash Adult Education committee hosted “A Taste of Adult Ed”. Diane has been the leader of the Book Group, part of Adult Ed, for a few years, so she gave the attendees a chance to engage with a bit of a book (Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton).

I’m not on the committee, but I attended for four reasons: to learn, to support Diane, to look for synergy between Adult Ed and the committee I lead (Ritual), and to eat cheesecake (which is traditional to eat after studying on Shavuot – and Shavuot is only a couple of months away). I’m happy to report that the cheesecake wasn’t the best reason to have been there!

Pandemic Journal, Day 743

It won’t surprise anyone who knows us if I tell you that we like chocolate. And we usually have a few different kinds available so we don’t get tired of one particular variety.

Last year, we picked up a couple of bags of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises® at a post-Halloween sale. They’re not our absolute favorite chocolates, but they’ve always been good, if a little bit on the waxy side. I put them aside for later, and finally got around to opening one of the bags today.

It wasn’t worth the wait. The waxy mouthfeel dominated, and there wasn’t much chocolate flavor. It wasn’t just me – Diane had the same reaction. I tried a second piece just to make sure and couldn’t finish it.

The right thing to do probably was to unwrap each piece and put it in the compost bin – but I did the expedient thing and threw both bags in the trash.

Throwing chocolate away – what has the world come to?

Pandemic Journal, Day 742

I mentored Toastrix, the Toastmasters club at Citrix Systems, during the 2019-2020 Toastmasters year, which meant attending their weekly meetings in Santa Clara (until they had to move online).

I kept attending after my formal mentorship ended, but the frequency decreased significantly – meeting on Zoom wasn’t nearly as much fun as seeing them in person.

But today, I got to see many of the members in person – they held a get-together at DishDash in Sunnyvale and invited me. It was the first time I’d eaten with a group in a restaurant in a long time, and I don’t think I was the only one.

Over the last couple of years, the club became an open club – many of the members had moved out of the area, left Citrix, or both. One of the people who came today arrived with a suitcase – he’d flown into SFO and taken Caltrain to see us before going up to Palo Alto for a week of meetings at his new employer.

It was a lot of fun to see people and talk with them – and this makes two days in a row that I’ve had the opportunity to do that. I’m getting spoiled.

Pandemic Journal, Day 741

We went to a Shir Hadash “Gratitude Reception” today; one of the hosts is the person who got me started on the Indigo and Insteon home automation process. Their house is far more technologically sophisticated than ours; I don’t plan to emulate what they’ve done, nice as it is.

Perhaps it was appropriate that our house alarm went off while we were there. My watch told me that the alarm had gone off and that it was because the side door had opened – I figured it was because it was only closed by the latch, not the deadbolt, and the wind blew it open. And none of the motion detectors were complaining, so I ignored it – until my next-door neighbor called and said that the alarm was still sounding. I was able to turn it off, which I’m sure made her happier.

We made sure the door was well bolted when we got home.

Pandemic Journal, Day 740

We saw Vietgone tonight at City Lights Theatre. We’d originally planned on going to a matinée, but our schedule changed and tonight’s performance was the only one we’d be able to make. I didn’t know it was Opening Night until the Executive Artistic Director welcomed us just before the show began (I wondered why so many people were dressed up!).

I liked it – it’s funny, irreverent, and touching. There were a couple of moments where it was hard to hear one of the actors rapping because the background music was too loud, but enough came through to drive the story – and this was Opening Night, so there’s time for them to adjust the sound balance before the play closes in a month.

Go see it!

Pandemic Journal, Day 739

I went back to working on the home automation migration today – and made a little progress, despite my best efforts.

I’ve installed Home Assistant and Insteon-MQTT in Docker containers on my Raspberry Pi. Once I have everything operational, that’ll be great – it’s easy to update the software to a more recent version without messing up my configuration. But right now, it’s a pain because it’s not easy to see the actual code that’s running in the container.

Today, I wanted to check to see if the code that I was running had the most recent fixes applied – so I copied it into my configuration directory, which is shared with the actual computer so I can use an editor to look at it.

I didn’t want to keep the extra copy of the code around, so I issued the Unix delete-everything command: rm -rf *. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong directory, and I deleted my entire configuration. Which I hadn’t backed up.

Most of the files in the directory were created by the software, but there was one file that I had had to edit by hand to include information about all of my devices. I wasn’t looking forward to doing that, but I saw no alternative.

I opened my other text editor – it already had one window open, and I was delighted to see that the configuration file was there – so I saved it where it WILL be backed up, then got back to work and got another few automations converted.

Progress!

Pandemic Journal, Day 738

I was Toastmaster of the Day at the Silver Tongued Cats today. During last week’s meeting, our President asked me what I’d like as a theme for today; since it’s our first meeting of Spring, I chose “Spring Cleaning” and put it out of my mind.

Until last night, when I had to assemble and email the agenda, and I suddenly realized I didn’t have anything in mind to say about the topic. And it was late enough that I didn’t want to do any more preparation, so I went to bed.

But not to sleep, at least not well – I kept thinking of things I could talk about if only I had some information. And I didn’t want to get out of bed and do any searching. So I tossed and turned and eventually fell asleep.

This morning, I raced over to the computer as soon as I got up so I could do my research. Did you know that 78% of Americans plan to do spring cleaning this year, up 10% from last year? The American Cleaning Institute does! And Fantastic Cleaning told me that there’s an official Spring Cleaning Week in the UK and that 2-5% of the UK population are compulsive hoarders. They also talked about the Chinese custom of cleaning for the Lunar New Year, and that you’re not supposed to sweep for the first few days of the year to avoid sweeping away good luck.

The meeting went smoothly; I had things to talk about, and we had excellent speakers and evaluators (none of whom talked about cleaning, though our Table Topics Master did ask about various aspects of cleaning). Next time, if I pick a topic out of the air, I think I’ll do a little research before going to bed the night before the meeting!

Cartoon Vectors by Vecteezy

Pandemic Journal, Day 737

When I spend money on insurance, I hope I won’t actually get that money back. Ideally, I’ll never talk to anyone at the insurer – I’ll just send them checks and never have to fight my way through their claims process.

Once in a long while, though, I’ve had an insurance company offer a service that improves my life (and reduces the odds of me having to make a claim). IBM’s Major Medical used to encourage (and pay for) some preventative care, for example.

Last November, our homeowners’ insurer, State Farm, made me an offer I didn’t want to refuse – they offered free electrical system monitoring through Ting to reduce the chances of an electrical fire. The device was free, and they’d pay for three years of monitoring – and if there was a problem, they’d even pay up to $1000 to correct it.

I jumped on the offer – a lot of other people must have done so, too, because I didn’t get the Ting device until today. I plugged it in and it’s “learning” our electrical environment. In the two hours it’s been installed, it’s learned that the line voltage in the house has been as low as 121.5 volts and as high as 123.5. I hope its other learnings are as uninteresting.

This afternoon, we took a walk with the South Bay Striders in South San Jose. The walk started at a park we’ve never visited before – Shady Oaks Park, which is on the Coyote Creek Trail. We did the 5k version of the walk, which was basically an out-and-back from Shady Oaks to the edge of Hellyer County Park. It wasn’t the most interesting walk we’ve done – the 10k version adds the Hellyer Velodrome and some equestrian areas, as well as a walk around Cottonwood Lake. But there were a few wildflowers to be seen, and it was quiet and peaceful for the most part.

Pandemic Journal, Day 736

I didn’t work on home automation at all today; instead, I spent the afternoon at the dentist’s office.

When I went there for a cleaning last week, the dentist noticed that the implant I’d had done last year was a little loose, so she had me come in today to get it fixed. She thought that she’d have to tighten the screw, which shouldn’t be necessary but happens occasionally. That wasn’t the problem, though – the crown had “de-bonded” and has to be replaced.

So she removed it and did a new scan of my mouth; then she put in a “healing cap” to cover the hole until the new crown arrives. Fortunately, the crown is still under warranty!

We did manage to take a walk this morning on the Los Gatos Trail in Campbell and enjoyed seeing the birds.

And it’s a good thing we walked early, because today’s high was well over 80 degrees – spring has sprung!

Pandemic Journal, Day 735

I took a break from working on home automation software to work on home automation hardware – in particular, I installed a new Ring Doorbell 4 to replace the old first-generation Ring Doorbell we’d had since 2016. The old one’s battery had deteriorated to the point that we were barely getting a month between recharges – and there are no replacements available.

Of course, the new doorbell has a different mounting system than the old one, which meant I had to drill more holes in the house. And that meant finding the drill and recharging its battery. And so on and so on.

Eventually, I got the new doorbell mounted and removed the mounting plate for the old one. And I think I’ve convinced all of the software to use the new doorbell.

We decided to celebrate Purim and Norooz tonight by ordering takeout from a favorite Persian restaurant, Negeen. When I got home with the goodies, Diane told me that UPS had just delivered a surprise package from Green’s Bakery in Brooklyn.

I hope it freezes well, because we may not be able to eat it all before Pesach!

Pandemic Journal, Day 734

We went to the Farmers’ Market and took our usual walk this morning – it was a good way to start the first day of spring.

I continued to work on Home Assistant and Insteon; I made a lot of progress, but ran into a bug in the documentation page I found yesterday – the examples that I wanted to copy had a small indentation error which was enough to keep the Insteon-MQTT server from starting. There were fairly clear error messages, but they were in a window that I’d covered and didn’t uncover until after I’d figured out what was wrong and fixed it.

After that, I got a couple of automations set up before I ran out of time – it’s looking hopeful!

I did fix the TiVo problem I mentioned on Friday – I restarted the TiVo and it was able to successfully play the recordings that were blank before. I have no idea what’s going wrong, but I guess I should start looking at alternatives; I don’t want to buy another TiVo.

Pandemic Journal, Day 733

It’s been a low energy day today. We took a walk after Torah Study and got home just as it started drizzling, and that was the last time I left the house today.

I spent a while trying (again) to figure out how to get Home Assistant properly integrated with my Insteon devices. I’ve got everything more-or-less functional, but the UI is wonky (wrong icons for devices, names that are less than friendly), and I still haven’t tried to define any automations. As I was writing this entry, I found this page that describes the interactions between Home Assistant and Insteon-MQTT and how to tame some of them, so there’s hope for progress tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 732

The day started in the usual Friday way with a trip to the gym, followed by a short walk, a shower, and lunch.

After lunch, we planned to watch last night’s Late Show, but failed. The TiVo had recorded an hour of black screen and no audio. So I logged into Paramount+ only to discover that last night’s Late Show was a rerun – the next new show will be March 28th.

We decided to take another walk, but as soon as we left the house, we smelled acrid smoke. The whole sky was smoky, too, so I didn’t think it was nearby; I checked NextDoor and actually got information – the smoke was coming from a four-alarm fire in a vacant commercial building a couple of miles away. Fortunately, we had brought masks with us, and they reduced the smell enough that we could keep walking.

After we got home, the rest of the day was consumed by travel planning and home automation.

And so it goes.

Pandemic Journal, Day 731

We celebrated the overlap of Purim and St. Patrick’s Day today.

We had some of the goodies in the Mishloach Manot package from Shir Hadash after lunch; this evening, we made a new recipe from The New York Times: Whiskey-Glazed Salmon With Salt-Crusted Potatoes. The recipe calls for whiskey, so we bought a bottle of Tullamore Dew – we have plenty left, so we’ll try it again.

The recipe is for four servings, and we were only feeding the two of us, so I cut everything in half; next time, I’ll make more glaze – it was quite tasty. And I’ll keep a closer eye on the potatoes – I didn’t shake them enough in the final few seconds before all the fluid evaporated, so they didn’t get properly crusted with salt (which may make my cardiologist happier).

I don’t think there are any holidays tomorrow, unlike the rest of the week (Pi Day, the Ides of March, Purim, and St. Patrick’s Day). I guess we’ll cope.

Pandemic Journal, Day 730

It’s been two years since the initial “Shelter-in-Place” order was issued for the Bay Area. While I can’t say we’re back to normal, we are doing a lot of normal things, including taking volksmarches with friends, as we did today in downtown Campbell.

The route included the Ainsley House, across the parking lot from the Campbell Library. I’ve been to the library many times, but I’d never bothered to look at the Ainsley House – it’s an interesting place, with a bit of a history. It was built by one of Campbell’s first industrialists (he owned the first local fruit cannery) and was saved from demolition and moved to the Civic Center/Library complex in 1990.

After the walk, we came home and I did a little more work on the Home Assistant migration, and then we made dinner and watched the Shir Hadash Purim Service and Shpiel.

Hag Sameach and Happy Purim!

Pandemic Journal, Day 729 (3⁶)

I got Home Assistant (HA) talking to the Insteon (which is what controls the lights and switches in the house) this afternoon. It was able to bring all of the devices into its database, and now I will put a human-friendly name on each one (recognizing “4C.13.AE” isn’t quite as easy as recognizing “Porch Light”). There should be some way to import all of the names I’ve already defined in Indigo, but with only 20 devices, it’s probably easiest to just do it through the menus in Home Assistant. Tedious, but easy.

I was even able to set up an automation to make pressing a button on a switch in the kitchen turn the Sonos in the living room on and off – just like I have in Indigo.

Despite spending too long on the computer, we did manage to take our usual walks; there are more flowers every day, like this sunflower.

Pandemic Journal, Day 728

Diane spent the afternoon working on a photo book for our 2019 Tulip Time trip with her brother and sister-in-law, and I spent the afternoon working on improving our home automation.

Today’s project was installing the latest version of Home Assistant on the new Raspberry Pi I bought last month. Yesterday, I’d tried installing the version that runs on the “Home Assistant Operating System”, which is their preferred Raspberry Pi setup. It’s based on Linux, but is locked down tightly; it was also painfully slow to boot up and shut down (to be fair, that might have something to do with running it from an SD card). So today, I tried installing Home Assistant in a Docker container; it was much faster.

I had a basic setup running with a few critical devices defined in just over an hour – and then I discovered I’d made a mistake in my Docker configuration. I wanted all of the Home Assistant configuration and log files to be in a directory on the host machine, but I hadn’t put that into the Docker file – so when I restarted the Docker container, all of that work vanished.

I fixed that mistake and started again; it was easier the second time. I still have to get the lights and switches into the system, expose everything to Alexa and HomeKit, and rebuild my automations, so there’s a lot of work ahead, but I’m hopeful.

I’m also motivated. Apple released Mac OS 12.3 today, which removes Python 2 from the system. That breaks Indigo completely – they’re working on an update to use Python 3 but it’s not ready yet. And then all of the user-contributed plugins will need to be updated, too, and not all of them still have owners. I suspect it’s not going to be smooth.

Pandemic Journal, Day 727

We went to Shir Hadash this morning to hear Mark Oppenheimer discuss the book he wrote about the effect of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting on the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh; it was quite interesting, as were the questions afterwords. The session was recorded and is available on YouTube – be warned, it starts with a little over a minute of black screen!

After that, we had a quiet day with walks and travel planning. This morning’s Murky Nooz had a multi-page ad for Mariposa County and Yosemite, and we got inspired to plan a two-night stay there before tourist season really starts. The Ahwahnee Hotel was available for one of the nights we want to visit, but we’d have to move for the second night – and it’s pricey! So we’re casting a wider net and hope to hear from a nearby B&B when they open tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 726

We did something unusual this evening – we attended an in-person talk at Shir Hadash. The speaker was Mark Oppenheimer talking about the Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, which he’d edited along with the other two principals of the Unorthodox podcast – their goal was to touch on all aspects of being Jewish and to be funny in the process.

The entries he read during his talk certainly lived up to that goal; I’d hoped he’d have copies for sale, but I guess that would have been too much to schlep, so I’ve ordered a copy. And we’ve put Unorthodox on our podcast queue.

He’ll be giving another talk tomorrow on his most recent (and much less funny) book, Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood, and I’m looking forward to hearing him again.

Beyond that, it was a typical Saturday – Torah Study and Shir Shabbat in the morning and lots of walks. The weather was pleasantly warm, and flowers are blooming!

Pandemic Journal, Day 725

Our first mixer was a Sunbeam that my Mom gave us; it had a nice heavy base, but its motor burned out sometime in the early 90s, so we replaced it with another Sunbeam. The new mixer has the same “Mix-Finder Dial” but that’s about all that didn’t change. In particular, the base is very light plastic, and the only thing keeping it in one place when you use the mixer is the five rubber feet on the bottom.

Two of those feet have gone missing over the years, and now when I use the mixer, I have to hold on to it to keep it on the counter. There are worse problems to have, but it’s annoying – so today, after making pretzels, I decided to see if I could find new feet.

My first stop was a local knife shop, Williams Cutlery, because they carry a lot of kitchen gadgetry and are nice people. They didn’t have feet, but suggested I try Appliance Repair Express across the street. I brought in the base of the mixer; they took it into the back room and found replacement feet – and gave them to me free. They even gave me a couple of spares.

I hope the mixer’s wandering days are over – I’ll find out next time I make pretzels.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 724

I started a new streak of completing all three fitness rings on my Apple Watch today.

My previous streak ended yesterday after 74 days. I had to have a small routine procedure; afterwards the doctor told me to stay home and take it easy the rest of the day – so I did.

I also missed my Toastmasters meeting today because I slept late in deference to the doctor’s advice.

After that, though, things started getting back to normal; we took our usual walks and ran our usual Thursday errands.

It’s unlikely that I’ll hit 74 days again this year – travel days make it hard to close all three rings. It’s a good tradeoff!

Pandemic Journal, Day 723

We got a very welcome email from the people who handle ticketing for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – we have tickets! Even better, they’re “priority” tickets which means we’re almost certain to get in (they overbook to ensure a full house) as long as we arrive on time.

We also booked a tour in Skagway, Alaska for our July trip.

It’s beginning to feel almost normal again!

Pandemic Journal, Day 722

We’re planning a trip to New York next month and haven’t figured out what we want to see there yet. Or maybe I should say we haven’t figured out what we’ll be able to see – we want to go to museums, plays, musicals, TV tapings, restaurants, parks, and more.

In the past, we’ve usually chosen from the shows available at TKTS or taken advantage of discounted tickets available through the hotel. This time, we wanted to plan ahead for at least one or two performances. The first thing we did was get on the wait list for tickets for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but that’s not a guarantee of seeing a taping.

We watched last night’s show this afternoon and saw Stephen’s conversation with Sutton Foster who plays Marian in The Music Man and decided we’d like to see the show. I did a web search for tickets and followed the first link, which was Broadway.com. There were only a few seats available on the days we could go – and my, were they pricey! I’d entered my credit card and was ready to press the “buy” button but had to acknowledge that I’d read the Terms and Conditions – and I actually read them. And discovered that Broadway.com is a reseller, not the actual box office.

I had 8 minutes left to complete my purchase, so I went back to the web and found the official site for the show – MusicManOnBroadway.com. They had tickets for the same show in the same row at the same price as Broadway.com, but their service fee was $70 less for each ticket. I can’t say we’re getting a bargain – this is one of the top tickets on Broadway – but it feels better this way.

And we found the mirin I was looking for at Whole Foods. It’s even kosher!

Pandemic Journal, Day 721

We ran out of mirin the other day. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Lunardi’s early in the pandemic, but when I went there to replace it, I didn’t find anything that looked like the bottle I’d been using. The only thing I found was Kikkoman Aji-Mirin but a quick web search suggested I avoid it because it’s loaded with sugar.

Today, I went to a large Japanese supermarket near my allergist. They had several brands of Aji-Mirin (literally “tastes like mirin”), and some “Honteri” (non-alcoholic sweet mirin-like seasoning), but I couldn’t find any “hon mirin” (real mirin). There were a lot of empty spots on the shelf, though, so it might be a supply chain issue.

Of course, I had recycled the old bottle before taking a picture of the label, so I’m not 100% sure I was using real mirin anyway – but I’m going to keep looking.

Pandemic Journal, Day 720

We had a quiet day today, starting, as usual, with a trip to the Farmers’ Market and a walk through Los Gatos. After that, Diane led a meeting of the Shir Hadash Book Group (on Zoom) and I talked about the Ritual Committee at the New Member Orientation session (in person!).

Our travel agent sent us the proposal for his reworked 3-week river trip on the Rhine, Moselle, and Main rivers next fall, changing from three cruise segments on AmaWaterways to two segments on Uniworld, with two more days aboard ship. He promised a “slightly lower” price and delivered – we’ll save two full dollars!

One of my Facebook friends asked me when I was going to stop the “Pandemic Journal” and my thoughts immediately turned to Mike Angelo’s conversation with Victor Pope in Mad Magazine’s “The Agony and The Agony” from 1966.

I had a subscription to Mad back then, but I didn’t bring those copies with me to California. I was pleased to find the whole issue online; not all of the humor aged well, but a surprising amount did.

Pandemic Journal, Day 719

Every spring, Toastmasters has a cycle of contests. One of the contests is always the “International Speech” contest which ends with the World Championship of Public Speaking at the Toastmasters International Convention. The other contest is different every year – this year, it was the Evaluation contest, where several people evaluate the same “test” speech (needless to say, the contestants aren’t allowed to hear the evaluations given before it’s their turn to speak).

I’d won the Evaluation contest at the Silver Tongued Cats, which put me into today’s Area contest. Our test speaker, Chuck, gave an interesting speech titled “The Power of Three” – he started with his first exposure to public speaking as a high school student. He had the bad luck to be called as the first speaker in his very first class and had to come up with an impromptu speech based on Mark Twain’s quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Chuck survived the speaking class and discovered that the Twain quote kept haunting him throughout his life. He kept wondering what his “why” was – until a week after his 70th birthday, when someone who’d seen him speak at the Genomics Research Conference wrote to tell him how his speech had shaped the writer’s career and encouraged him to work on tricky medical research projects. And then Chuck realized that there were three important days in his life – the two Twain had identified and the day you start making your “why” come true. He encouraged us to look for that third day and to make a difference.

I found the speech moving and inspirational – and hard to improve, which made it difficult to evaluate effectively! But I did find a few places where Chuck could have tightened up the speech or added a bit more to it – and that must have impressed the judges, because I won and will move on to the Division contest in mid-April.

If I can make it. We’re going to be on a tour in Charleston on the day of the contest; the contest is on Zoom, so distance is not a barrier, but the schedule might be. I warned our Area Director that I might not be available and to arrange for the second-place finisher to be ready just in case. If I can’t make it because we’re too busy having fun in Charleston, so be it!

Spring is approaching – the egret who likes to visit the creek near us is back.

Pandemic Journal, Day 718

I finally got back to working on home automation today and got the alarm system defined to Homebridge, which makes it visible on the Home app on our phones. It was surprisingly easy to do.

The next step is to get the lights and light switches to have the same behaviors with Homebridge and HomeKit as they do under Indigo; that’s mostly straightforward, but I don’t yet know how to detect and process a double-tap of a switch, which I use to do some “extra” tasks (like turning off all the lights in a room instead of just the one that the switch controls).

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 717

Today began, as usual for a Thursday, with a Toastmasters meeting. We only had one speech today – one of our members led a panel discussion about the “Journey to Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM),” and I was one of the two Distinguished Toastmasters on the panel. The other DTM was the District Club Growth Director for this year; his comments were loaded with references to other, even more senior, Toastmasters who he’s been interacting with. I didn’t start out talking about other DTMs, but I found myself talking about some of my mentors and colleagues as we continued – I guess peer pressure had an effect on me. The questions we got from the audience were on point and I think the panel was helpful to our listeners.

I had a few other meetings on my calendar for today, and it seemed that I spent the rest of the day trying to get things done before the next meeting. First it was a frantic trip to the chiropractor before he closed for lunch, then a quick walk before I was scheduled to mentor another Toastmaster, and then making dinner before our weekly Trivial Zoom session.

Tomorrow should be more relaxed – I hope to get back to working on Homebridge, too.

Pandemic Journal, Day 716

The only thing I did today on the home automation front was to use it – I didn’t even try to make progress on the conversion to Homebridge.

Instead, we went to the gym this morning and took a walk with the Striders through San Jose State and downtown San Jose this afternoon. I also had a follow-up visit (“Shot Review”) with my allergist – it was completely uneventful.

Quiet days are nice sometimes.

Pandemic Journal, Day 715

I spent another few hours working on migrating from Indigo to Homebridge. Today, I tried working on the most critical item – Insteon, which controls all of the lights in the house.

First, I made sure I had a dump of the Insteon configuration in Indigo; I also cleaned up a couple of the linkages between devices while I was at it.

Installing the plugin was easy, but when I plugged in the hub, Homebridge crashed with a weird Javascript error. And it did it over and over again, because it restarts immediately after a crash, with no apparent limit on how many times it’ll try.

It took me a while to figure out how to stop it and keep it stopped (hb-service stop), but once it was stopped, I figured out that I didn’t have any devices defined to the plugin, so I defined one and tried again.

This time, Homebridge crashed with a different error: “Permission denied, cannot open /dev/ttyUSB0” (which is the device name assigned to the Insteon hub). I was afraid I would have to figure out how to make that device world-readable and writable but eventually discovered that all I had to do was add the homebridge user to the dialout group, which is easy.

And then Homebridge crashed again because several of the other plugins that used Web interfaces were unable to start because all of the other restarts had triggered anti-hacking measures on their servers. I should have set up the Insteon plugin on a child server so that it wouldn’t blow up the main server and force so many restarts!

I disabled everything but the Insteon plugin and got back to work. This time, it was able to read the configuration from the hub and use it – but I had to go through and put names on all of the devices, which took until dinnertime.

I moved the Insteon hub back to the Indigo server for now, but I expect to make more progress tomorrow. And I was able to enable the other plugins again, so the house is back to normal, whatever that really means.