Pandemic Journal, Day 549

Both Diane and I decided we wanted to order new iPhones this year; we each completed the pre-order process on Wednesday (I’m getting the Pro and she’s getting the mini) but we couldn’t actually order until the ordering window opened at 5am Pacific this morning. There was no way we were going to set an alarm for such a ridiculously early hour for a mere phone – so we didn’t.

I woke up, unprompted, at 5:10 and went into the bathroom…and as long as I was up, I took my phone with me and completed the order.

Diane finished her order when she woke up at the usual time, and we both have September 24 delivery dates.

As of an hour ago, the delivery date for a Pro configured like mine is now mid-October; the delivery date for a mini configured like Diane’s is still September 24th. I guess it’s good I was the one who woke up early!

We saw Delicata squash in the store for the first time this season, so we picked one up and made Delicata, Radicchio, and Black Rice Salad for dinner. It’s a great Shabbat dinner meal because you can cook the whole thing early and just take it out of the refrigerator when it’s time to eat.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 548

Today was Yom Kippur, so we fasted and spent most of the day watching Shir Hadash’s live-streamed services.

The fasting went as well as we could hope; the live-streaming didn’t. I don’t know where the problem was, but there was a lot of buffering, and we even got thrown out of the stream several times. And at times, we were in a strange anomalous state – the browser claimed we were getting a delayed feed but if I clicked “back to live”, we traveled backward in time and saw the same bit of the service again!

Despite the technological glitches, the service got me to think about the year past and what I can do to be a better person this year, so I think it was a success.

Pandemic Journal, Day 547

I’m posting very early today because Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight, and I’ll be offline until after sunset tomorrow. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, happy, and healthy 5782, and if you fast, may you have an easy and meaningful fast.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah!

Pandemic Journal, Day 546

I voted in a very important election today. Not the California Governor Recall – I’d voted “NO!” on that almost a month ago (and I’m happy to see that all the networks and the AP have declared that the recall failed).

Today, I voted in the election for the Very Best Wrong Answer for Learned League season 90. The winner won’t be announced until Sunday, but the top 15 will be posted on the League’s Twitter and Facebook pages between now and then. My top vote went to this one:

While a certain book and staple of college writing courses is commonly known by the names of its coauthors (the first of whom originally published the 43-page book in 1918 and the second of whom enlarged it in 1959), it is also well-known by its official title, which is what?

50 Shades of Grammar

But it wasn’t all fun and games today – Apple announced products which will probably cost me money, and the author of osxphotos pushed a fix for the Unicode filename problem I ran into a few days ago. I knew Unicode was complicated, but I didn’t realize it was as complicated as it is – in particular, that accented characters have “composed” and “decomposed” forms and that it matters which one you happen to run into. What you see on the screen is just the tip of the iceberg!

Pandemic Journal, Day 545

Diane is getting ready to start working on a photo book for our Iceland trip, so I put photos from the first half of the trip into her Forever account so she can use them. I had had a good process for doing that, but I broke it somehow, so I had to figure out what was failing (the environment wasn’t being set up properly when Lightroom runs my export script; I’m not sure why, but I fixed the script to do the setup itself).

Beyond that, I spent most of the day working on the Tripit integration code I talked about yesterday and will probably talk about again tomorrow. I’m cleaning up a lot of the mess I made the first time I wrote the code – it helps that I found an XML Schema Description of the data they send, so I can easily understand what information they provide instead of trying to reverse-engineer a JSON file.

Right now, the code still has lots of issues; it reminds me of the Hverir Geothermal Area in Iceland – smelly, with lots of danger lurking.

And speaking of danger lurking, I’m going to update all of my Apple devices tonight to pick up the fix that Apple released to patch the zero-click exploits that were recently discovered. sigh

Pandemic Journal, Day 544

A mere 116 days ago, I mentioned that I was going to improve the program I wrote to update our Google calendars using information from TripIt – in particular, I wanted it to tell me what got updated when a trip’s information changed.

I finally got around to working on the program, and I was right – there was a database in my future. A sqlite3 database, not anything heavyweight, but still, it’s a database.

I didn’t forsee the need to create Python classes with multiple inheritance (mix-ins), but it seems to be the easiest way to do what I want with the least amount of code.

And that was what I spent my time on today. I’m not finished, but I’m starting to see results.

Pandemic Journal, Day 543

This morning, we attended Shabbat Shuvah services at Almaden Lake Park in San Jose. The park does not allow the use of amplified sound; fortunately, the Cantor can sing loudly!

The service was slightly different than our usual Shabbat Shuvah service because, of course, today is the 20th anniversary of the attack on America and the destruction of the World Trade Center. I was surprised that there were at least two people at the service who had lost someone in the attacks.

It was good to be outside with friends today.

Pandemic Journal, Day 542

The Shir Hadash Men’s Club is slowly resuming activities – they’ve been having regular walks and hikes for a while, but the timing isn’t good for me to make them. Today, though, there was an activity I was willing to adjust my schedule to attend – a 2pm wine tasting at Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards in Saratoga, about 20 minutes from our house.

I had a doctor’s appointment that was supposed to end at noon, two hours before the tasting – but he ran late (as always) and I didn’t get home until nearly 2. But it was OK – we arrived at the winery just as the first glasses were being poured (and we weren’t even the last to arrive).

We tasted their whites and several of their reds. The whites were OK, but the reds were much better; we bought a 2017 Cab Franc and a 2018 Pinot Noir. The tasting included a 2005 and a 1999 Cab Franc, both of which were very very good. I don’t think we’ve got the patience to let what I bought today age that long, but I’ve entered the Cab Franc into the database with a 2024 ready-to-drink date and put it into an inconvenient part of the wine closet so I don’t accidentally use it too soon.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 541

Another day with very little to write about, but I’m not ready to break my streak, so I shall persevere.

This morning was a Silver Tongued Cats Toastmasters meeting – it included the club Table Topics contest leading up to the Speaker Showcase at the District 101 Fall Fusion event on October 30. I’d already qualified for the next round through my other club, Silicon Valley Storytellers, so I didn’t need to win here, but since I’d already signed up, I spoke anyway – practice never hurts!

Beyond that, it was a typical Thursday – a trip to the chiropractor, a trip to the grocery store, and a Trivial Zoom call this evening, followed by a walk so I could close my rings and Diane could make her Fitbit happy.

Pandemic Journal, Day 540

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Seabourn discussion group on Cruise Critic because I was curious about what might happen to the Antarctica cruise we cancelled last month. I can stop watching it now, because this morning, Seabourn cancelled their Antarctica/South America season for this year, including the trip we would have taken.

We had lunch this afternoon with one of my high school classmates – we hadn’t seen each other since graduation, so we had a bit of catching up to do. :-) She’s planning to be at Reunion next month (as are we).

And Diane and I listened to an interesting episode of Slate’s “Working” podcast – an interview with the founder and Commissioner of Learned League, Thorsten A. Integrity himself (though he used his secret identity of “Shane Bushfield” during the interview). If you’re interested in trivia, it’s worth a listen.

Pandemic Journal, Day 539

We took a walk before Rosh Hashanah services, then had a quiet afternoon and evening. The most exciting thing we did was watch the most recent episode of Only Murders in the Building.

I could use more quiet days like this.

Pandemic Journal, Day 538

Rosh Hashanah started tonight – happy 5782! Our friends hosted pre-service dinner (yummy!) this evening – they timed it so that we’d be able to get home in time for the start of the service.

We had to watch from home, unfortunately, but unlike last year, it was live, with the clergy and choir in the Sanctuary (and they are all vaccinated, masked, and tested negative for Covid-19 twice in the last 24 hours). Having people in the Sanctuary made a big difference in the way the service felt to me compared to last year – it was much more real.

Shana Tova – may we all be inscribed for a good year.

Pandemic Journal, Day 537

I was right yesterday – I was ready for bed before Delta answered the phone or the web chat. I tried again this morning, and this time Delta offered to call me back instead of making me wait; they said it would be “less than 38 minutes”.

It was closer to 48 minutes, but once they called I was connected to an agent almost immediately. She was able to change our flight home from Richmond to the one I wanted (a one-stop into SFO which will get us home nearly three hours before the two-stop routing we’d been automatically changed to would have). No long explanations or negotiations needed, either, even though I was changing the destination airport – she had to put me on hold for a couple of minutes to “manually make the change” and that was it.

Every time I’ve talked with Delta, the agent has been superb, making the necessary changes with a minimum of fuss, and I’ve given them praise on the after-call survey. If only the process of GETTING to an agent were smooth….

We took a sunset walk this evening. I’m not sure if the colors are due to the fires or something else (the AQI is 61 at the moment, not too bad), but it was a nice time to be out walking.

Pandemic Journal, Day 536

It’s been a quiet day – I continued to cull photos from August 5th (I’ve gotten rid of 140 of 202 so far, and I’ll probably dump another ten to twenty photos on the next pass). When we sailed out of Heimaey harbor, I noticed an interesting metal sculpture and wondered what it was – it turns out to be a navigation light!

I also chatted with a couple of my classmates about our upcoming reunion, which reminded me to check my flights – and sure enough, Delta had changed our flight home again, adding another stop. I can’t change the flight online for some reason, so I’m currently waiting for agents on the phone and on their web chat to see if they can get me on a better flight. The expected wait on the phone is “under 2 hours” and the web chat offers no clue – I think I’ll be trying again tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 535

When we canceled our Antarctica cruise, I knew it’d take a couple of weeks for the refund to show up on our credit card. Usually, refunds are for small amounts, so it’s not worth trying to get the money back from Chase – it’ll get spent again quickly enough. But the refund from this trip was a different story – it’s probably more than I’ll put on that card for the rest of the year, so I wanted it back in my bank account, and I didn’t want to wait for a couple of months if I could avoid it.

I called Chase late on Tuesday afternoon to ask how long it would take for the balance to be refunded. The agent said she’d put in the request for a refund immediately (which surprised me – the billing cycle hadn’t even ended yet) and that I should expect an email from Chase Payments offering me the chance to have the refund direct-deposited. That email came yesterday afternoon; this morning, the money was in my credit union account.

I am impressed. I complain when companies do a bad job; this time, I’m happy to be able to praise Chase and Provident Credit Union for exceeding my expectations.

We started watching Only Murders in the Building and are really enjoying it. We might even be caught up before next week’s episode drops!

I started working on my photos from August 5th – they include far too many photos of whales (not usually a problem for me). Tonight, though, I’m including my only photo of Surtsey; it’s a tourist-free island!

Pandemic Journal, Day 534

The theme of our Toastmasters meeting this morning was “Mistakes”. Famous quotes about mistakes were bandied about during the meeting – at the end, our Toastmaster, Gordon, quoted Maxwell Maltz (author of Psycho-Cybernetics), who wrote “You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.” Gordon asked us to consider the opposite argument: “You don’t make mistakes, mistakes make you.” As someone who’s done improv, I like that formulation better – it’s “yes, and” all the way!

I rectified a long-standing mistake today – back in 2006, I got a Hepatitis A shot, but I never got the second one. And I didn’t give it another thought until we were planning for our Africa trip that was supposed to happen this month. Diane got her first shot in June; I waited until I could find out if I’d actually gotten two shots back in 2006. I eventually got my official immunization record from the California Department of Public Health which only showed one shot, so today, we went to Costco so I could get my second shot.

The process was a lot faster for me than it was for Diane – I was finished in less than half-an-hour from entering the store. But that still gave us 20 minutes to wander around while they prepared the shot, which was long enough to go down aisles we usually avoid.

When I was finished at the pharmacy, we grabbed a cart and picked up the half-dozen items we’d planned to buy – as well as the kitchen rugs we’d discovered in our explorations. Having time to kill at Costco is a mistake!

Pandemic Journal, Day 533

I visited my allergist today so he could walk me through the “before” and “after” CT scans of my nose and sinuses. He was happy with the improvements, but there is still “mild thickening” of the mucus inside, so I’m going to start dust mite immunotherapy. He suspects I’ll need additional treatment in a few months, but time will tell.

I worked on the Iceland photos some more, finishing up Seyðisfjörður and Jökulsárlón before it was time to make dinner.

We started watching Schmigadoon! this evening – it’s a lot more fun than watching the news would have been.

Pandemic Journal, Day 532

Today was an unusual day – there was nothing on the calendar. True, we planned to visit the chiropractor and go grocery shopping, but other than that, the day was blessedly unscheduled. And my email was fairly quiet. And I didn’t even get any offers to extend my car warranty!

So I spent much of the day working on Iceland photos and completed culling, editing, and labeling two days worth of photos (August 1 (Grimsey and Siglufjörður]) and August 2 (Námaskar∂ / Hverir, Dimmuborgir, and Go∂afoss).

Quiet is nice!

Pandemic Journal, Day 531

Diane spent the afternoon on her Windows computer working on the photobook she’s making for our trip to Costa Rica and Panama last year – which made it the perfect time for me to upgrade our home automation software.

I use Indigo on my Mac; it is relatively easy to deal with and has an active user community which makes plugins for various devices, such as the Amazon Echo. The latest release of Indigo added built-in support for the Echo; the old user-contributed plugin still works, but there won’t be any further updates or fixes, so I knew I’d want to migrate when I upgraded Indigo itself.

A normal Indigo migration takes less than an hour – they’ve been very good about not making changes that break plugins (unlike Home Assistant, one of the reasons I switched). This one took about four hours, much of which was spent deleting and redefining the devices that I control from the Echo – one at a time, of course.

As long as I was updating things, I took the opportunity to remove plugins I was no longer using and tried to do other cleanup; somehow, everything still seems to be working!

I’m not sure I like all of the decisions I made during the migration. For example, I changed from using the Sonos skill (which requires saying “Alexa, pause (or resume) Sonos”) to exposing the Sonos as a device on Indigo (so I can say “Alexa, turn Sonos on (or off)”). Making the change removes my ability to change the station or volume on the Sonos by voice, but I don’t think I ever did that anyway!

Pandemic Journal, Day 530

Another quiet day today; the air was noticeably better than yesterday, and it wasn’t quite as hot. Or so I think; I was at Shir Hadash for a meeting during the hottest part of the afternoon and by the time I left, it was just “toasty” outside.

We tried a new recipe tonight for the first time in a few weeks, One-Pot Tomato-Basil Pasta from the Mercury News. It was published right after the shelter-in-place order came down last March, but it was still new to us. I had to cut the recipe in half, but I used the full allotment of diced tomatoes (one can), so that was the dominant flavor. One lesson learned: I should have shaken up the linguini so that there weren’t lots of parallel strands next to each other; it would have reduced the sticking.

And the developer of osxphotos fixed both of the bugs I reported yesterday – he’s quick!

Pandemic Journal, Day 529

One of the surprise meetings I had at Shir Hadash on Wednesday had to do with this morning’s Shabbat service. Our Interim Rabbi had been scheduled to lead it, but his departure had already happened, and our other clergy were very busy preparing for S’lichot Services tonight and the rest of the High Holidays.

I volunteered to lead the service, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to put together a good d’var Torah on my own; the Cantor pointed me at a couple of candidates, and I chose to “adapt” (read verbatim) one that Rabbi Jethro Berkman wrote for T’ruah.org. It’s titled “Cultivating a Culture of Giving” and it resonated with me. It even encouraged me to use Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Giving as the little bit of Torah to be read right after the blessing for the study of Torah.

There had been a few changes in our procedure since the last time I led a service on Zoom; in particular, we’ve stopped using screen-sharing to display the prayerbook and weekly notes to the attendees. That reduced the amount of app-juggling I had to do substantially, and it also meant people could see one another throughout the service.

By the time the service was over, it was hot and fairly polluted outside, so we spent the rest of the day at home. The developer of osxphotos had sent me a fix for the bug I reported last week and wanted me to test it – it works, but I stumbled on another very weird problem in the course of testing the fix and reported it. It’s not one that I’ll run into in practice, but someone will!

Pandemic Journal, Day 528

Today’s highlight was Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s presentation of “Folktales from Around the World”, a charming and magical retelling of six folktales from, well, around the world. There are two more performances, tomorrow at 8 and Sunday at 3 – it’s a YouTube livestream, so no travel is necessary.

Beyond that, we mostly hunkered down to stay out of the heat and poor air – AirNow shows us at the boundary between orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) and red (Unhealthy for Everyone), so we might run the air conditioner tonight instead of taking advantage of the slightly cooler air outside.

I finished editing another day’s worth of Iceland trip photos – now that we’re off the ship, it’s probably safe to post this one of Diane looking at one of the Zodiacs aboard Le Champlain. A crew member shooed us away seconds after I took the photo, so I guess we must have missed a “Crew Only” sign somewhere!

Pandemic Journal, Day 527

I’d been doing well at hitting my fitness goals on my Apple Watch so far this month – in fact, I’d had a perfect week last week and had a twelve day streak of closing all three circles.

The day started with my usual Silver Tongued Cats meeting on Zoom. Since it was the last Thursday of the month, many of the members were going to get together in person at a nearby Panera Bread. I’d planned to walk there and join them until the club’s senior member asked me if I could give her a ride (she lives nearby and had just had knee replacement surgery).

I couldn’t say no – it was my chance to pay forward the kindness of a former member who’d taken me to meetings soon after my heart surgery in 2011. So I drove instead of walking.

I had a routine doctor’s appointment this afternoon and I thought about walking there to burn calories, but it was right after lunch and the timing didn’t work, so I drove.

After that, it was the hottest part of the day, so instead of walking, I sat down and worked on photos from Iceland, specifically from Vigur Island. I hadn’t had the time to deal with them while we were traveling, but I didn’t have that excuse today. I haven’t decided whether to go back and add photos to the blog entries from the actual travel days, but photos of cute birds are almost timeless, so I’ll post some guillemots and eiders here.

By the time I was finished with the photos, it was time to make dinner and have our weekly Trivial Zoom call, so my streak of closing all three circles was broken – but I can start afresh tomorrow, right?

Pandemic Journal Day 526

My big plan for today was go to to Shir Hadash and learn something about the new A/V system for the Sanctuary; there was lots of gear to be installed and programmed, and it seemed like a good idea for me to know something about it.

Before that, though, I had to get blood drawn for a routine test ordered by my cardiologist. I had to fast for the draw, so I wanted to get it done as early as possible. None of the Labcorp locations near me were offering early appointments; I decided to take my chances with the smaller location near me rather than the larger one next to the hospital. Labcorp’s website said that the location I wanted opened at 8, so I made sure to be there a few minutes early – and discovered that the website was wrong and they opened at 7:30. I was out of there by 8, just in time to hit school traffic near my house (something I didn’t miss at all during shelter-in-place).

When I finally got to Shir Hadash, I was pulled into an impromptu meeting about some High Holiday scheduling issues before I was able to look at the new gear. It’s all rack-mounted and very technical, and I hope to find out more about it soon – today, all I learned was how to drill out a stripped screw head and where the cameras are mounted.

And when I left, I got pulled into ANOTHER meeting – no one told me that being the chair of the Ritual Committee involved MEETINGS!

This afternoon, I finished editing the photos I took on our Golden Circle Tour; we were on the ship with limited connectivity after the tour, so I wasn’t able to post any photos then, but here are a few to make up for that lack.

Gulfoss (Golden Falls)

From Gulfoss, we went to Geysir. Geysir itself is inactive, but Stokkur erupts every few minutes.

 

The final stop on the tour was Þingvellir National Park, the original home of the Icelandic Parliament and the site of the rift between North America and Europe.

Pandemic Journal, Day 525

Today was a fairly boring day, which is NOT a complaint.

We ran some errands, the most exciting of which involved a trip to the Apple Store to drop off an accumulation of cables and other obsolete electronics for responsible disposal. I was shocked by how many USB2 cables I had; I was also surprised to discover I was the owner of a DisplayPort to MiniDisplayPort cable. And I’d clearly gone overboard in buying HDMI cables a few years ago – I got rid of a couple which were still in their original sealed plastic bags.

I also continued working on the bug I wrote about on Sunday – my bug report wasn’t completely clear, so I built a small test case and sent it to the developer. I wanted to include photos with all possible combinations of title and description, and I wanted to make it easy to tell which photo had which combination, so I sent him these photos.

Not very artistic, but probably clear!

Pandemic Journal, Day 524

When I brushed my teeth this morning, I noticed that the water in the sink was draining verrry slowly. We had to rush off to the JCC for our weekly torture session with our trainer, but I had just enough time to pour in a little drain cleaner before we left.

Two hours later, the sink was empty – but it filled up again as soon as I put some water in. This wasn’t the first time we’d had a drain problem, of course – so I pulled out the plunger and went to work, bringing gunk out of the drain AND the overflow. I cleared it from the sink and waited for the water to start draining.

Nothing happened. I poured in yet more drain cleaner and went on about my business. An hour later, the water was gone, but it had left its mark.

I cleaned the sink and ran some water to rinse it off – and the water just sat there.

I was out of drain cleaner – it was time to bring in the professionals. Our usual plumber (Scott at Thorne’s Plumbing) said he’d be able to come out late this afternoon; we cleared out the area under the sink and waited for the doorbell to ring.

Scott was successful – but it took him over an hour to get the job done. There was a huge plug of congealed gunk in the trap under the sink that refused to budge, even with a power snake. The trap had rusted in place, so he had to use a Sawzall to remove it! After that, the rest was simple (for him!), and now we have a new plastic trap and a working drain.

Homeownership – it’s always something.

Pandemic Journal, Day 523

After a very nice walk this morning, I sat down to continue working on yesterday’s problem.

You might ask “What was the problem?” since I was incredibly vague yesterday. I’m not as fried today as I was last night, so I can go into more detail. Possibly too much more detail.

Diane wants to take photos from our Apple Photos library and upload them to her Forever account to make photo books for our trips. It would be helpful if the title and description in Apple Photos went along for the ride, but trying to do it in the obvious way (use the built-in export in Apple Photos) has some problems:

• Forever only has a “description” field; you can fake the title by renaming the photo to use the title as the filename, but that’s ugly at best.
• Olympus digital cameras insist on writing “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” into one of the description fields in the photo metadata; it’s not easy to get rid of it.

So I decided to use osxphotos to export the photos; it gives much more control over the process, including being able to suppress “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA” and merge the title and description into one field that Forever will happily display.

I wanted to go a little further, though, and provide a visual separation like a hyphen between the title and description (“title – description”) but only if both parts were present. The README showed exactly how to do it, with a template like this:

"{title}{title?{descr?{descr != OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA? - ,},},}{descr != OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA?{descr},}" 

which, obviously, says put the title in; if there is a title AND a description AND the description isn’t OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, append a hyphen; then append the description (unless it’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA).

Suppressing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA worked fine – but I always got the hyphen, even if the title or description was empty, like in the photo below, which is mostly here so Facebook has an image to use. The photo is of a pizza we had from Otto Portland in the South End of Boston when we were visiting Jeff earlier in the month.

I couldn’t figure out why the hyphen was always created, even though I spent several hours trying – and that’s where I finally stopped last night to write my very vague and frustrated journal entry.

Today, I decided to keep working on the problem so, if nothing else, I could file a good bug report (when I first started at IBM, one of the groups I worked with on RPS wouldn’t accept bug reports unless you could PROVE that the problem was theirs – that early experience scarred me, I’m afraid, but I write better bug reports as a result).

I figured out how to use my preferred Python debugger (PyCharm) on a program packaged as a standalone executable and set to work. Hours later, I had it – a change that the author had made a month ago broke the handling of boolean tests for empty strings. I sent him a fix – and then discovered that my fix isn’t quite complete.

I updated my report to tell him what was left unfixed, and I’m hoping he’ll be able to solve the problem completely. And if not, I think I have a simple workaround.

But that’s for tomorrow.

Pandemic Journal, Day 522

Sometimes, I get a bit too involved with trying to solve a problem that doesn’t need to be solved. Today was one of those days – and I still haven’t solved it.

Perhaps tomorrow will be more productive. Or less frustrating.

Pandemic Journal, Day 521

I had to deal with another recall today – this one was for my car, not the Governor. Under certain conditions, the Engine Control Module might continue to power the ignition coil after the engine is shut off, causing a short circuit – this could lead to a sudden loss of power while driving, which is Not Good.

The process was about as painless as it could be – I didn’t have to wait for a service advisor when I drove in; they had outdoor waiting areas as well as their traditional inside seating, though Diane picked me up about fifteen minutes after I’d gotten to the dealership; I only had to wait five minutes to pick up the car; they even washed it!

Other than that, I’ve been busy working on photos from Iceland – getting timezones consistent between cameras is a real pain, and Apple Photos doesn’t help by making it hard to tell what timezone it’s using. Rumor has it that iOS and iPadOS 15 improve on this, so I’m installing a beta on my iPad to find out for myself.

I’ve gotten up to the day we did the Golden Circle as part of the pre-tour; I took well over 100 photos that day, but there’s a lot of duplication and many of the photos I took from the moving bus are…let’s say “technically challenged”. :-)

It was a very nice day when we took the trip – and it was the Friday before a three-day weekend, so many Icelanders were taking advantage of the day, too, like these folks fishing in some rather cold water.

Pandemic Journal, Day 520

I got an email from our Temple President this morning asking for my help “to assist a task discreetly” and asking me to reply by email because he was in a meeting. I wondered why he’d sent it to my Board address instead of my personal address, but I replied saying “sure, what’s up?”

Moments later, I got a request to “purchase 5 $100 Apple gift cards at any nearby store and I’ll reimburse you”.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy any gift cards.

If I’d been paying closer attention, I’d’ve seen this when I started writing the reply:

  | On Aug 19, 2021 at 9:58:22 AM, President’s Name <randomstring@gmail.com> wrote:

randomstring@gmail.com is not the president’s email address, of course.

The scammer hit all of the published board mailing addresses this morning; I don’t know if I was the only one to start down the rabbit hole, but the Executive Director did send out a warning a few minutes later.

Speaking of scams and scammers, Diane and I filled out our California Recall ballots and put them in an official dropbox this morning. I’m proud to display my “I Voted” badge!

Pandemic Journal, Day 519

When we booked our Antarctic wine club adventure for this winter (summer there, of course), we were hopeful – we were fully vaccinated, vaccines were becoming more available, and the trends were good. We were so confident we paid for the full trip in advance to take advantage of a 10% discount.

That was then.

This week was the deadline to cancel with a full refund; after that, if we canceled, the cruise line would still refund most of our money but they’d keep a significant chunk that we could only use as a credit on one of their sailings during 2022.

We searched our souls. We checked the relevant thread on Cruise Critic. We looked at the progress of vaccination in Argentina and Chile. We looked at Seabourn’s options for next year. We thought some more.

And we decided that discretion was the better part of valor – we want to go to Antarctica, but we want to be able to fully enjoy the experience without worrying about the trip being canceled at the last second. And we want to enjoy the trip, including the cities we fly to – and this year, that didn’t seem likely.

So we called our travel agent and canceled.

At least we got to see penguins in Boston last week!

Pandemic Journal, Day 518

We went to the chiropractor today for the first time in nearly a month. We were talking with the receptionist about our trip to Iceland, and she said she’d like to look at some of our photos while she was going to be out for a few weeks having shoulder surgery.

I thought about giving her the link to our outbound travel day and telling her to follow the “Newer Post” links to see the rest of it – but it seemed like a suboptimal plan. I promised to email her a link to the Iceland trip – then all I had to do was create one.

When I got home, I looked at ways to convince WordPress to show a series of posts starting with the oldest one so that you could just scroll through a very long page in a simple way. And I found one – just add ?order=asc to the URL for a collection of posts.

Then I needed to figure out how to make a collection of posts for the Iceland trip. The easiest way to do that was to create a category for the trip and assign all of the posts to the category.

And finally, I had to send her the URL: https://readthisblog.net/category/travel/iceland-2021/?order=asc – not a thing of beauty, but it works.

I’d already created categories for a few other trips – now I’m going through my older blog entries and looking for other travel that’s worth making more visible. It’s a slow process; I’m up to mid-2002 so far.

Just what I needed – more self-inflicted organizational work!

Pandemic Journal, Day 517

I had to get a CT scan of my nose and sinuses this afternoon (my allergist wants to see how well his treatment is working – I can still smell things, so I’m hoping he’ll be happy with the images). When I arrived at the radiology center, I was handed the usual bundle of forms and asked for my ID and insurance cards, which I handed over.

A minute after I finished the forms, one of the clerks called out “David”, so I went up to his window. He handed me a driver’s license, a Medicare card, and an AARP insurance card, which I put in my wallet, and he told me to go into the next room for the CT scan. But I happened to look at the form he’d printed – it said “Neck”.

I’m not a doctor, but I was pretty sure that my allergist didn’t care about my neck. So I asked the clerk to double-check against the original request, and he assured me the doctor wanted a scan of the neck. Then he added “for dizziness, just as Dr. [mumble] requested.”

“[mumble]” wasn’t the name of my doctor. Dizziness wasn’t my problem. And I wasn’t the “David” he’d called. So I gave him back the driver’s license, Medicare card, and AARP insurance card and went back to my chair to wait.

A few minutes later, a different clerk called out “David Singer”. She gave me my license and insurance cards, and the form she’d printed was for a nasal/sinus CT scan.

The CT scan itself was uneventful, and I walked out with a disk full of images that I can’t really interpret – I expect to hear from the allergist in a couple of days.

Pandemic Journal, Day 516

We were at the Farmers’ Market this morning for the first time in a month; it’s still local king salmon season, so we had that for lunch today.

I spent the rest of the day catching up – and the rest of this post is basically documentation for Future Me in case I have to prevent SSL certificate expiration or if I want to track down what really made a flight late. Feel free to read along, or to stop here!

While we were traveling, I got an email telling me that the SSL certificate for this blog was going to expire on September 1. This surprised me because I thought I had it set up to automatically renew itself, but I didn’t want to do anything until I got home. Today, though, I took a look at the problem.

First, I had to get rid of the last traces of the temporary domain I’d used while migrating the blog to its new server. That was easy and almost obvious.

The second thing I had to fix was the DNS entry for one of my auxiliary domains – it had an “A” record for the old address of my server, which no longer worked. I changed it to a “CNAME” pointing to the server – that way, it’ll move automatically if I change the address of the server.

The final problem was harder to figure out – the certbot renew command failed with an error message telling me that my account (with Let’s Encrypt) didn’t exist. After a bit of digging, I found that I’d created a new account when I set up the new server but that the old account was still specified in the configuration file in /etc/letsencrypt/renewal – changing the account line in the configuration file fixed that problem, and I was able to renew the certificates.

I won’t really know if I fixed everything until the next renewal attempt in about 60 days, but at least now I’ve documented things for Future Me.

And speaking of documenting for Future Me, I wanted to find out more about why our Boston-LA flight on Friday was so late and whether Delta had actually held the LA-San Jose flight for us.

FlightAware is my usual tool for looking at flight histories – I used its search tool to find the LA-San Jose flight and then used the “Track Inbound Flight” link to go back through all of the flights which that airplane (tail number N289SY) had taken on Friday. Its first flight of the day left Reno more than an hour late, and it never caught up – so it arrived in LA late and Delta didn’t have to hold the departure for us.

I was also curious about what had happened on the Boston-LA leg; FlightAware wasn’t any help. I knew there was a site that showed every event affecting a flight’s timing but I couldn’t remember its name – it took a while to find it again: FlightStats.

I looked at FlightStats’s record of events for that flight (DL346). There were four different airplanes assigned to the flight, starting with N707TW at 3:05am EDT on the 11th. A bit over a day later (4:26am on the 12th), they changed to N722TW. At 11:40am, yet another change, this time to N717TW. And a mere 43 minutes later, another reassignment to N545US (that’s when they downgraded us from Delta One and sent us credit vouchers).

But they weren’t finished making changes yet – at 11:32pm on the 12th, they changed the expected wheels-up time from 11:10am to 4:44pm (oops!) and two minutes later, they changed the airplane to N537US, which eventually brought us to LA.

What happened to all those other planes? I thought you’d never ask. N545US got assigned to the morning BOS-LAX flight on the 13th, which operated on time. N717TW didn’t go anywhere on the 13th (it spent the whole day in LAX – I’m guessing maintenance). N722TW flew LAX-BOS on the afternoon/evening of the 13th. And N707TW had a busy Friday the 13th, flying LAX-BOS and BOS-SEA.

I’m glad I’m not in charge of scheduling airplanes for Delta (or anyone else)!

Pandemic Journal, Day 515

We got home a few minutes after midnight this morning. Our flight from Boston was late getting into LA, but the flight leaving LA for San Jose was also delayed, so we and our luggage made the connection (and they were able to put us into First Class for that flight, too).

This was our first trip on Delta in a very long time; I had mixed feelings about the experience. On the good side, everyone from the airline was VERY helpful and did everything they could to make our trip pleasant. On the other hand, I’ve never had so many itinerary changes (not even counting the delays yesterday) and trying to reach someone at the airline by phone or chat took a very very long time.

We’re flying them again to my 50th high school reunion in October – I’m crossing my fingers for a smoother experience.

This morning, we looked at the garden – it’s been busy while we were away. In particular, the cucumber vines were very generous, though they may be done for the season.