Category Archives: Technology

Driving Dreams

For the most part, I love my car.  I love that she’s red, I love that she is a hybrid.  I love having a hatchback again.  I really like that she tells me when it’s time to change the oil, based on her internal workings and not an arbitrary date.  And she’s small.  No Intimida or Sherpa here; with a tank capacity of 8+ gallons, my monthly gas budget is about $30.

There is one frustrating thing though.  She feels the need to let me know when tire pressure has changed, with a big ding and a reminder every time I start the car once she has noticed a pressure issue.  This usually happens twice a year… when it first gets cold and then again in the late spring when it starts to get really warm.  I usually just drive down to the dealership; they top the tires off right away and I don’t even have to get out of the car. 

But this fall, the pressure notification has gone off TWICE.  When we had a couple of seriously cold days last month and the again this past weekend when it was warmer.  I will admit that I whined a bit to the service guy and he said that it was happening a lot this fall since the temperatures have fluctuated quite a bit.

While he was adjusting the air, I daydreamed about my fantasy car.  I’d like to have those little lights on the sideview mirrors that indicate when someone is coming upon alongside you.  I would love to have built-in GPS and a north/south/east/west display.  Heated seats would be nice.  Of course, my fantasy car would actually drive itself; of course that could only be supplanted by my ultimate fantasy car — a transporter.  “Beam me over, Scotty.”

Tell me about your fantasy transportation. 

The Find

This past Saturday morning, right before Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Husband and I decided to do a Deep Clean on an alcove right off the kitchen. This corner houses a tall shelf unit full of large items like crock pots and cookbooks, and a small chest of drawers. I had accidentally shoved something behind the tall shelves, noticed when trying to retrieve it that it was pretty dusty back there, and realized that space hadn’t been deep cleaned since we moved in 4 ½ years ago (!).

Well, you know how this goes. In the process of clearing everything off, you find stuff you’d forgotten you had – which gets returned to its proper place or tossed. Stuff piles up in the rest of the house for a while, but you promise you’ll put everything back before day’s end, and you roll up your sleeves. And you swear you won’t let the cleaning lapse for this long again.

Then you move the furniture out so you can sweep and swipe and clean everything in sight, and vacuum out the cobwebs and dust fuzzies. As the small chest was being moved away from the wall, I heard a “thunk” as something dropped to the floor, and discovered… MY CAMERA, which has been A.W.O.L. for about a year. I don’t own a smart phone, and luckily I hadn’t bought a replacement. I am so happy to have it back!

So, for the first time since last December, I’m able to submit a blog post AND supply the photo.

What have you found that was lost?  

What cleaning or clearing project are you likely to accomplish during self-quarantine?

Doin’ the dishes

Dirty dishes have always been a contentious issue between YA and me.   She has a much higher tolerance for dishes in the sink than I do; particularly I don’t like coming down in the morning to dirty dishes.  For several years, if YA leaves dishes in the sink overnight, then when I come down in the morning, I yell up the stairs and she has to come down and do them.  This is no fun for anybody but it does work pretty well as a dish pile-up deterrent.  Of course it doesn’t do anything about dishes that accumulate during the day.

When I started working from home back in March, I was assuming (like many others) that covid would have run its course by the fall.  I decided that as my gift to household peace, I would just do all the dishes during shelter-in-place.  Fretting about dishes just didn’t seem like a good vibe to add to an already bad scenario.  I’ve had a couple of times said to YA that I didn’t want to feel taken advantage of and every now and then she does belly up to the sink on her own, but for the most part, I’ve washed every single dish that has been dirtied here since March 15. 

Now that covid hasn’t gone away and we are all still sheltering-in-place, I’m thinking maybe I need to re-negotiate my dish-pan hands situation.

Any suggestions??

Assurance

Ran down to the basement yesterday morning to put the wash into the dryer – SURPRISE!.  Water all over the basement floor.  &^#%%$!## — bad words came pouring out followed by deprecations about how much I hate having such an old house.  Fantasies of a brand new townhouse or a very handy person showing up on my doorstep washed over me.  I told YA to leave me alone for about 10 minutes.

This isn’t my first rodeo where the main drain is concerned.  I called CenterPoint/Minnesgasco right away and they told me they could have somebody out between then and 11:30 p.m. last night. When I got off the phone YA said “how much is THIS going to cost?”  But what she didn’t know is that I have Home Service Plus for the main drain.  In fact, I have the house to street drain on my plan as well.

I have a love/hate relationship with insurance.  30 years ago Montgomery Ward tried to sell me an insurance plan on a dishwasher I had just bought from them.  The sales person said “if this breaks down tomorrow, you won’t be covered.”  I told him that if this brand new dishwasher broke down tomorrow, I would not be the sorry one.  When I bought my car six years ago they tried to sell me gap insurance which would cover the “gap” between the car’s new value and the normal insurance during the first year (I’m sure I’m describing this badly).   The more they pushed, the more I resisted.  I finally said “I understand the risk, my sister is an actuary.”  This is not true, but it shut them up.

But for this old house, bring on the insurance.  My home plan covers my boiler, my fridge, my washer, my dryer, my dishwasher and also the drains.  And despite the fact that I pay for this insurance every month, I’m pretty sure I’m a loss leader with my old house and old appliances.   Once about 20 years back, I had two guys working on my boiler for almost 2 days straight – over 24 hours of service time – no charge. 

So while it wasn’t fun waiting for the service folks to show up, at least I wasn’t worried about having to find a pot of money for them.  They actually showed up earlier than I expected, got the drain cleared out lickety-split and now life in the basement is back to normal.

What are you willing to insure?

Glazing Over

A good thirty years ago (plus), I visited my wasband’s grandparents who had just sold their little house and moved into a care center.  They were in their nineties and had never used a computer and smart phones were still in the future.

Wasband was (is?) a techie/programmer.  As we were sitting with his grandparents, he started talking about his job and I could see the two of them beginning to glaze over.  It was clear that they really didn’t have a clue about what he was discussing.  I remember thinking two things.  First, why doesn’t he notice them and shut up?  Then I thought how sad it seemed that the world was whizzing past them.

Fast forward all these years.  WordPress went wonky on my phone today.  It’s been more or less stable for 18 months, since I got this phone.  In fact, whenever baboons mention that WP isn’t doing something, I keep quiet, since it hasn’t been happening to me.  And now it’s happened to me.

It took me a while to get somebody at WP on the chat function and it became clear to me almost immediately that I have become wasband’s grandparents.

WP: What browser are you using? VS:  I have a Safari icon that gets me to the internet… assume that’s the browser?

WP:  Are you opening WP in the app? VS:  If I have an WP icon, isn’t that the app?

WP:  Can you take a screenshot for me? VS:  Not until I can get my daughter in here to show me how?

VS:  I have the screenshot on my desktop – how do I get it to you?

WP:  Is this issue happening on your laptop, your mobile Safari or the app? VS:  Mobile Safari???

These are just a few.  After about an hour “chatting”, my poor WP guy has had to start a bug report and we’ve moved the discussion over to email.  Not sure when it will get solved.  Luckily everything is working fine (so far, knock on wood) on my laptop.  Phone is somewhat functional, just making me sign in for every comment, which stinks.

My “Happiness Engineer” is probably not happy himself right now, since he spent at least an hour and didn’t fix my problem.  I did give him permission to laugh to himself and roll his eyes during our chat.

In what ways have you become your parents/grandparents?

Good Teaching

The trials our elementary and secondary teachers are having are also evident in the professional continuing education arena. How do you teach remotely?

I must have 40 hours of continuing education of sufficient quality and relevance every two years to maintain my psychologist licensure.  At least 3 hours must be in the areas of ethics or jurisprudence.  20 hours must be from live presentations.  These hours can be in person, or in live presentations on the computer in which you can communicate with the presenters. The other 20 hours can be through giving presentations, writing  chapters in books, reading books and taking tests on the material, or participating  in non-interactive online training.   All continuing education for this reporting period must be obtained by October 31.

This is my year to report my 40 hours. On October 1, I had a total of 20.5 hours. They were all live and in the area of jurisprudence.  It wouldn’t look too good for the president of the psychologist  licensing board to be short continuing education hours, so I had to hustle to find more training.  I found 6 hours of online workshops through the  American Psychological  Association that I completed last week. I was also very happy to find a three day workshop which started yesterday, live and online and at no cost, for 10.5 hours concerning trauma focused therapy for youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  The training was sponsored by a facility in Fargo. It was paid for by a Federal grant. The trainers were absolutely wonderful, all PhD’s and LCSW’s from places like John’s Hopkins. We had handouts we got ahead of time, and I curled up on the sofa and petted the cats while I learned from my work laptop. There were 50 participants from across ND,  and we could all see each other and communicate via a chat function on the screen or via microphone.  It was also nice that husband listened along and will participate with me in live advanced training on this topic in Fargo in December. He already had enough hours.

The technology challenges were huge, but the workshop went off as planned. It was so nice to have good teachers. While I would rather go somewhere and get live training, this was wonderful. I am excited for today and tomorrow.  On Friday and Saturday,  I will gain yet another 7 hours of continuing education in jurisprudence in an interactive workshop for psychology licensing board members. Dull, but I will have enough training hours.

What kind of a learner are you?  Who was your best teacher?  Who was your worst teacher?

Voting Options – who knew?

This past summer the state sent out a “do you want a mail-in ballot” form and it asked about the primary and general election.  I checked both boxes so wasn’t surprised when the ballot for November showed up two weeks back.

I had actually intended on going on election day to vote but YA wanted to vote early.  In fact, she was rather adamant about it.  So we both filled out the ballot and got then into the envelopes to mail.  That was when she informed me that she didn’t want to mail the ballots because she was worried about the postal service getting clogged up.  I said I didn’t think that was likely, but certainly not a month out.  But I acquiesced and looked up where you could drop your ballot off.  Downtown.  Ick.  I detest driving downtown and I didn’t want to pay $10-$15 for parking either.  But the drive-by drop-off in August didn’t happen until just a few days before the primary and YA was nagging me every day; I knew she wouldn’t want to wait until the end of October.

So yesterday I took a deep breath and looked up the exact location for drop-off and was ready to drive downtown and take the plunge when I saw a link to drive-by drop-off.  Yesterday was the first day!  As I headed into town I was a bit worried that it would be hard to find or that there would be big crowds, but I worried needlessly.  As I turned right onto 4th Avenue South, there were big banners at the sidewalk and there was only one other car in the drop-off area.  The worker who came out to take the ballots was friendly and helpful.  I mentioned that I was glad the weather was so accommodating and hoped it would stay that way.  She told me that they would actually be getting a tent soon so they would be able to operate in the rain.  Way to think it through Minnesota!

How will you be placing your vote this election?  In person?  Mail-in?  Drop-off?  Drive-through?

Power’s Out

I think it’s fair to say, now that it’s officially over, that the summer was unsettling to say the least.  It didn’t help that I tried to blow up the neighborhood.

I was sitting in my bedroom that morning, working on a file, when I heard a bang and saw a flash in the hallway out of the corner of my eye.  And the power immediately went out.  I rushed to the back of the house and although I could smell a little lingering smoke, I couldn’t see anything.  When I went downstairs and out to the backyard, all the other neighbors were out as well, checking to see what had happened; everyone had experienced the same thing, hearing the bang and seeing the flash.  Everything looked ok – no power lines down, no big blackened patches on garage roofs or yards.  And the smoke smell dissipated pretty quickly, so we texted the power company and wandered back inside our respective houses.

The power company showed up about an hour later.  I saw the lineman up at the power box two houses down; the power came on for about 10 seconds and then there was another bang and flash.  And again, the power left us.  Since I was standing in my backroom watching the power guy, I saw exactly where the flash came from – the power lines at the back of my yard.  It gave me a sick feeling, quickly totting up the various worse-case scenarios.  The power guy must have seen it as well; he headed straight for my garage roof, I headed for the backyard.  After about 10 minutes of poking around with a long pole, he headed back to the line to reinstate the power.  This time it stayed on.

I couldn’t resist going to talk to him and was rewarded with a tale of exactly what had happened.  A branch had broken on one of my trees, but instead of falling into the yard, it had tipped over and connected two power lines, one at the top and one at the bottom of the branch.  That caused the first burst.  When the power was restored the first time, the branch was still in place, so it connected and exploded again.  After he poked the branch with the pole, it fell into the yard; with no more connection, no more issue.   It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the branch is all blackened and many of the leaves are dry and burnt.  I was so relieved that it hadn’t been anything horrible and/or expensive to repair, I fessed up to all the neighbors that my tree was the guilty party.

When was the last time you had to have a repair person to your place?

Heavy Lyfting

There was some serious budgeting for the trip to San Diego with YA.  First off, the trip would not have been possible at all except for free airline tickets that I won last summer as well as all the award points that I’ve saved up at work over the past few years (they paid for the hotel and the zoo/safari park).  That left us with food and transportation.

We had an Excel spreadsheet for all of this and the transportation was the most challenging.  While the airport, the zoo and Balboa Park are all fairly closely clustered, the safari park was quite a distance.  Plus we were working with a limited selection of hotels due to the budget (I only had so many award points).  I initially just wanted to rent a car, but that got expensive fast with overnight parking as well as parking at many of the attractions we wanted to visit.  We used a website we found for approximating taxis in San Diego – not much better of a price point.

YA suggested we should just use Uber/Lyft like she did on her last trip and the initial research showed quite a bit of savings over rental cars and taxis.  But I was hesitant.  I’ve never used Uber or Lyft and it made me really nervous.  YA said she would take care of it all.

The first morning, the Lyft driver showed up at our house 10 minutes after she set it up.  Perfect.  Since that was the transfer I was the most nervous about, I could relax.  Uber/Lyft are just big software applications that hook drivers up with passengers.  More than once during the trip, we had a driver change while we were waiting; at the zoo the driver changed twice after we set up the initial request, which ended up getting up back to the hotel sooner than we had anticipated.  After doing a bit of research I figured out why it’s cheaper and why taxi associations are up in arms.  Uber/Lyft drivers are not employees – they are individual contractors and the software just puts them together with folks who want a ride.  No fleets of cars to maintain, no huge workforce to deal with employee issues, insurance, etc.  (I did this research because the day before we were to come home Uber and Lyft both announced they were going to stop service in California (that night!) due to a new law that the state has passed concerning the employee status of drivers.  Luckily within a couple of hours there was a stay granted so that Uber/Lyft can continue challenging the new law, so we were still able to arrange a transfer to the airport the next morning.

Really the only problem that I found was that both Uber and Lyft driver rely completely on GPS, unlike taxi drivers who actually do a lot of training and testing before getting their licenses.  So if the GPS is off, then the ride is off.  On our first full day, we headed up to Escondido to the Safari Park.  It’s a long haul, about 40 minutes and YA had her phone open to the Lyft app the entire time so we could track where we were along the route (apparently this is “how it’s done”).  As we approached the main entrance to the park, there was a clear turn off and a huge sign but our driver went right by it and turned left at the next driveway, which was exactly what GPS was telling him to do.  Unfortunately this was some sort of service entrance with a security gate; it took YA a couple of minutes to convince the driver to go back to the first entrance to the park.  Luckily, you pay upfront for your trip, not by the miles or the time you are actually in the car, so this kind of thing doesn’t jack up your price.

So every single one of our transfers was done by Lyft.  YA says she likes Lyft better than Uber but she can’t articulate why.  It doesn’t seem like the two companies can be that different; several of our drivers had both Lyft and Uber stickers on their windshields.  But whatever the difference, it worked out quite well for us, saved us money and I survived using a new technology.  Of course, we’ll see how it goes if I ever had to set up a Lyft on my own!

Any new technology that you’ve survived recently?  Or that is driving you crazy?

Putting On A Show

I was the assisting minister in church yesterday. That required me to sit up front with the pastors and read aloud a selection from the Old Testament, read the Psalm responsively with the congregation,  and then read a selection from the New Testament.  This week I read from Jeremiah and Romans. I really love reading the lessons, and I try my best to convey the meanings in them to the congregation.

Last year we hired a new Worship and Music director.  It is a lay position.  She has done a nice job revitalizing our worship services. I must confess, however, that I find her presentation more than a little disconcerting .  She really, really, loves the Lord, and during services she beams with this beatific glow from her head to her toes.  The problem is that she expects those of us assisting in the worship services as well as musicians to exude the same joy she does. I was raised in a more somber tradition, in which you don’t show much emotion in church, and public displays of religious fervor are highly suspect.  This passage from Matthew sums up what was deeply ingrained in me growing up:

And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Our services are now in person (we are all masked), as well as broadcast over a live Facebook feed and over the local radio. The other Sunday after Husband was the assisting minister, our Worship and Music Director emailed him to  chide him for looking too serious and glum during the service. Husband always looks glum. Moreover,  it is hard to exude joy in a mask, or when you are reading something gloomy from the Old Testament.  We just ignored her email.

Yesterday as I sat in front and read the assigned verses, I couldn’t help but smile surreptitiously behind my mask as I thought about this number from The Producers.

I imagine the Worship and Music Director wouldn’t think it was very funny, but it really sums up her idea of putting on a church service.  Her tenure is limited, as she and her family have moved to another state. She brought us some good ideas to enliven worship, but I am relieved I won’t be chided for not putting a sappy look on my face as I assist or provide music.

When have you had to put on  a show?