Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 134

It’s been at least a month since I last opened Quicken, and I was beginning to feel a little guilty about it. So I sat down this afternoon to get caught up.

Quicken is one of those programs that I’ve used for years but never really liked. It’s only recently that they’ve offered a reasonably-competent Mac version, but the current edition does everything I need – if I can figure out how to get it to behave. It likes to associate my credit card automatic payments with the wrong account (sometimes it’s the wrong credit card account; sometimes it’s the wrong checking account; sometimes both) but I’ve learned to double-check them and get them to the right place.

My problems today, though, weren’t Quicken’s fault. I blame Apple and Goldman Sachs.

Both Diane and I got Apple Cards when we bought our most recent Apple products to get the 3% rebate, and there are other times when we choose to use them. At first, the only way to look at your card activity was on your iPhone, and there was no way to export the data to Quicken. Later, Apple started exporting to CSV, and people found a convoluted path to get it into a format that Quicken would accept.

Last month, Apple (or Goldman Sachs, but probably Apple) unbent a little and added a QFX format export – that’s Quicken’s native interchange format these days (replacing QIF, “Quicken Interchange Format”, which they’ve obsoleted). You still have to export the data from your phone, but it’s easy to move it to the Mac and then to Quicken – and I did that today for both of our accounts, current to the end of June (because you can’t download transactions for the current account for some reason).

When I tried to reconcile the accounts, neither of them balanced. I carefully examined each and every transaction to make sure nothing was duplicated or omitted from the time I’d had to manually enter the data – nope! I even looked at the QFX files in a text editor to see if anything had been omitted there – nope! I finally decided to skip reconciling, which bugged me no end.


A couple of hours later, I had a brainstorm and went back to look at the QFX files. One of the fields in the file is the “Ledger Balance”, which Quicken shows as the “online balance”, and which is the target balance for reconciliation. Here’s what it looks like in my download of May transactions:

<LEDGERBAL><BALAMT>-123.45<DTASOF>20200729120000[0:GMT]</LEDGERBAL> 

Or, in English: my balance was $123.45 as of 12:00:00 UTC on July 29, 2020.

There are at least two problems with this:

1) July 29, 2020 at 12:00:00 UTC is still in the future
2) The balance shown is my true current balance as of right now, but I have no way to download this month’s transactions (and I was looking at May, anyhow).

No wonder things didn’t balance! Thanks, Apple!

After I’d had enough of Quicken, I finally did get around to processing a couple of days’ worth of photos from 2005. I kept the last photo we took of our first Prius after it gave its all for Diane, and I found the first photo I took of RPI Reunion 2005 – the bed in our room at the Hotel Desmond. I’m not sure it was worth the effort of firing up Lightroom for those two photos – you be the judge.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 133

When we remodeled our kitchen in 1999, the last thing to be finished was the kitchen desk and bookshelves. Somehow, when the plans were drawn, the bookshelves came down all the way to the surface of the desk, and when everything was installed, the desk was basically useless. The contractor quickly redid the bookshelves to leave the surface of the desk free, but it took months (and our withholding the final payment) for them to come back and finish the trim around the desk.

Bookshelves that go all the way to the ceiling seemed like a good idea, but the top shelf is awkward to get to, so all we’ve ever used it for is storing our supply of Sunset books (most of which we only looked at once or twice).

When we’ve found a new recipe we like during the lockdown, I’ve printed it and put it in a page protector; the stack of recipes has gotten fairly unwieldy (and slippery) over the last few weeks, and we wanted to organize them before doing our meal planning for this week. We’ve got plenty of spare 3-ring binders (thanks, IBM!), so I grabbed one and put the recipes in – but then I had to find a place to put the binder.

The bookshelves over the desk were the obvious place – but none of the shelves were tall enough to hold the binder. So I had to take everything off the top three shelves so I could move them around and make room for an 11-inch binder.


But to do that, I had to clear off the desk so I’d have somewhere to put the contents of the shelves. And that got me to look at what I had on the desk – did I really need the itinerary and tickets from our 2014 trip to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Probably not.

Nor did we need a 1978 edition of “The Complete Medical Guide”, or a copy of Consumers’ Checkbook from Spring 2011, or….

When all was said and done, I had a lot more surface area visible on the desk; our accumulation of postage stamps was in one place instead of scattered; and I’d finally sorted the address labels that charities and companies have sent us over the years into “his”, “hers”, and “ours”.

Maybe I’ll do some photo editing tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 132

Another quiet day – we hit the Farmers’ Market in the morning and had very fresh salmon and corn for lunch.

The Shir Hadash Book Group (which Diane chairs) met over Zoom to discuss Philip Roth’s Nemesis; I’d read it when it first came out but didn’t reread it for the book group, so I was a little behind the curve for the discussion.

And the rest of the day went to High Holiday prep, Toastmasters work, and reading.

A quiet day, as I said.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 131

Shir Hadash has been live-streaming its services on Zoom; we also record them and make them available on the Temple’s website at https://shirhadash.org/live. Diane and I usually attend the live service on Saturday morning unless it’s a Bar Mitzvah. Today was actually a B’nai Mitzvah with two kids from different families officially becoming adults, but it was my week to tend to the recording today, so we attended anyway.

It was a lot more interesting than I expected it to be – both of the teenagers were articulate and had written thoughtful speeches, and the logistics weren’t nearly as bad as I feared they’d be. Not knowing the families meant that the parents’ speeches when they were presenting the tallitot to the kids were less than compelling, but I am sure that was the case for anyone who didn’t know us when Jeff had his Bar Mitzvah, too!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 130

It’s been another day packed with miscellaneous action and activity!

There was a letter from Chase Bank waiting for me this morning (well, it was really an email telling me to log into my account and look for a letter there – security, y’know) about my non-functioning webcam. They’ve given me preliminary credit for the purchase and, unless the merchant convinces them otherwise in the next two months, it’ll be a permanent credit. I look forward to putting the webcam onto the e-waste pile, whether I get the permanent credit or not.

We made another stab at Crispy Frico Chicken Breasts With Mushrooms and Thyme (see May 12 and June 21). The third time was the charm – I used the Anolon skillet for the stovetop work and the Lodge pan for the oven; I also used plenty of just-grated Locatelli Romano Pecorino cheese instead of a measured quarter-cup of Kraft Grated Parmesan. Nothing burned (though there was a little smoke), the mushrooms weren’t charred to death, and the cheese formed a nice (but not photogenic) crust on the chicken. And cleaning two pans with nothing burnt on is easier than cleaning one with a lot of residue.

I continued to work on the special High Holiday Honors processing for this year for Shir Hadash; some honors will be divided among two or more readers, so I have to make the code deal with that and create new cue sheets for the divided parts. I started out writing special-case code to handle the changes and quickly realized that I would be better off properly integrating things into my code and control files – now I have to undo the special-case code I wrote yesterday when I thought there were only a few exceptions for this year!

But I’m not working on any of that for the next 24 hours – Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 27 (128)

They say that if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the day can only get better from there. I didn’t eat a frog this morning, but I did have an early dentist’s appointment to have my permanent crown installed. It was quite uneventful and hardly uncomfortable. Traffic was very light, too – so light that I almost forgot to stop for the red metering light as I entered Highway 85! Fortunately, the drivers behind me stopped, too.

Last year, Diane and I decided we would skip ConZealand, the 2020 Worldcon. We’d been going to fewer and fewer events at the Worldcons we did attend, and we’d skipped 2019 in Dublin, and if we were going all the way to New Zealand we wanted to see more of the country than going to Worldcon would permit, especially given other travel we had planned for this year, and I forgot what else. So in February, we tried to sell our attending memberships – I was successful (closing the deal while on a bus in Costa Rica), but Diane still has her membership.

Today, we got a note from the Chicago in 2022 bid reminding us that, as Friends of the Bid, buying a supporting membership for 2022 and voting in Site Selection would get us free attending memberships and that the deadline was less than a week away. They also reminded us that it was going to be a contested election, since Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was also running.

We thought about it and decided that there was a fair chance we’d want to go, so I bought a new supporting membership in ConZealand (required to vote), and then we each bought memberships for 2022 and voted.

The Jeddah bid is interesting and the site is amusing, but I don’t think they have much of a chance (their bid questionnaire points out that “the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in Saudi Arabia”, to name just one disadvantage). If they do win, we won’t get those free attending memberships, so our decision will be easy!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 127

No new recipes, international commerce, or email pruning to report on today, I’m afraid.

I made a trip to the dermatologist to look at some spots on my face that seemed to be getting a little larger and darker over time. They were benign, but she froze a couple of places that might have become problems later.

We did our weekly food shopping, I filled up my car, we had our weekly trivia social, and I attended a short officers’ meeting for my Toastmasters club.

Somehow, that filled the day – perhaps I’ll have something more interesting to talk about tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 126

I think I’m hooked on deleting old mail; I spent a couple of hours doing it this afternoon while Diane was working on photos from our trip to Asia last January. I’m down to 12,550 conversations and 2.48 GB!

We tried another new recipe today, Mark Bittman’s Fast Tandoori Chicken from the New York Times. Two of the words in the title weren’t accurate, as I would have realized if I’d only read the comments on the recipe before making it.

The “tandoori” is something of an exaggeration; the chicken didn’t have the zip of real tandoori chicken. Of course, I made it in a broiler-oven, not a tandoor, so I didn’t expect quite the same results, but if I make it again, I’ll use a lot more spice and let it marinate longer (as quite a few commenters suggested).

The “fast” was the real problem. Putting together the marinade was quick enough, and the chicken marinated on the counter while we were doing other things. The recipe only called for broiling the chicken breast for four minutes on each side; this seemed a little short, but if you can’t trust the New York Times, who can you trust? When I took the chicken out of the oven, it looked OK – but I always check chicken to make sure the interior is up to 165F for safety. This one had gotten up to an awesome 70F – barely room temperature!

I put it back in the oven to bake for a few minutes. And a few more. And a few more. And then I cut into smaller pieces and put it back in again. All told, it took about 16 minutes of baking at 350F after the initial 8 minutes of broiling. Many commenters told similar stories; I wonder what kind of nuclear-powered oven Mark Bittman used to develop the recipe?

In the end, the chicken turned out OK, but next time I try a new recipe, I’ll listen to my suspicions!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 125

I decided to try a “new” email program yesterday – Thunderbird. It had to download my entire Gmail archive – and it ran into Gmail’s bandwidth limit, greatly reducing my access to my email account. New mail would come down to the computer, but anything I did to it (deleting mail, archiving it, moving it to a folder) didn’t go back to the server. I don’t understand why Google would stop me from deleting mail, but that’s the decision they made, and I have to live with it.

Fortunately, access to the mail through the Gmail webpage was unhindered, so I was able to deal with the little bit of mail that typically arrives on a Sunday.

And when we got home from the Farmers’ Market, I sat down at my laptop to clean up the mess. When I started, I had more than 28,000 emails, using 7.5 GB (three times the daily download limit).

I started by looking for emails with huge attachments – mostly photos I already had somewhere else, but there were lots of PowerPoint presentations, too.

Then I arbitrarily started looking at emails older than 1/1/2013 – when I saw one that didn’t look useful, I searched and deleted similar emails (by subject or correspondent). Goodbye, golf lessons! Farewell, ProMatch! Arrivederci, itineraries being forwarded to Tripit! Adieu, Toastmasters meeting agendas!

I still have a lot of mail that I could prune but I need to stop for the night. Google now tells me I have 14,600 emails (down by nearly 50%) and 2.52 GB (down by almost 2/3).

It was fun to visit the past, but it’s nice to say goodbye, too.