Power Outages

High winds in Seattle on Friday night, with 37,000 homes out of power — including Sara and Ben. I still have power, and will post Saturday’s entries if power and internet are up. If not, will post on Saturday as soon as I can.

Conscious Aging: My New Ring Front Door Bell

How much do you think about your front door? How much do you want to think about your front door?

My new Ring system, which allows me to see and interact with anyone at my front door no matter where  am, is basically cool. The electrician installed the device and got power to it, but I had to follow through with the Ring app to get the thing working. I’m pleased that I was successful.

The system, though, verges on TMI — too much information. I now get notifications if there’s an incident within a 5 mile radius of my home — say, a package theft. I’m not sure blissful ignorance isn’t the way to go here. I’m going to have to reduce the sensitivity of the warnings. I’m getting way more info than I want.

I also get notifications every time there’s motion at the front door, including when I come in with groceries or whatever. I get that the system doesn’t distinguish between me and a random visitor. The system works on motion. But I don’t need to be notified that I came through the door. I already know that.

So, do I like the Ring doorbell system? I think so. Would I recommend that you install? Depends on how much you want to think about your front door. 🙂

Conscious Aging: Me V. the Raccoons

I get that in a world where people are starving to death in Yemen, our democracy is going to hell in a hand basket, and Great Britain seems to have totally lost its collective mind over Brexit, my raccoon problems are far down on the triage list. But the nasty beasts are bothersome enough to me.

I also get that no one solution is likely to defeat the wily critters who are rolling up my new turf to find grubs and worms. I’m having some success with a spray I bought at the hardware store, but the spray washes off when it rains. And we’re in the season where Seattle gets a lot of rain.

On Wednesday I had motion sensor lights installed to cover the back yard, and on Thursday morning my new turf was untouched and pristine. I’m hopeful, although not yet ready to declare victory. It is game on, though.

Pammie — 1

Raccoons — 0

Nuns with a Gambling Problem

During my years as a consultant, and especially after my first book How Much is Enough? came out, I often got work in church settings — usually on the stewardship side, sometimes working with the lay governing body on leadership. Rarely did the clergy think they needed any help with their own leadership or financial skills. I often brought up the issue of religious bodies having adequate financial controls, because after all, people are people. I got a lot of pushback, under the premise of “but it’s the CHURCH! No one would steal from the church.”


Two nuns in California, the principal and vice principal of St. James Catholic School, are accused of stealing half a million bucks, give or take, from the school budget over a decade. Turns out Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang had a gambling problem.  The light fingered ladies, vowed members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, are 77 and 67, respectively. The Order will reimburse the school. The L.A. diocese initially didn’t want to press charges –that old Catholic thing about not causing scandal for the church — but changed their minds when the amount of missing funds came to light. No one knows exactly where the Sisters are now; the Order has them “under supervision” someplace.

Why do people steal from churches? For much the same reason that Willie Sutton said he robbed banks: that’s where the money is. Churches take in Sunday collections, tuition payments for the parish school, large donations to the Bishop’s Annual Fund and the like. And, church accounts are much easier to raid than banks were for Sutton to rob, because churches assume no one will steal from them. Eventually, though, even in the most trusting of settings, somebody notices something.

Honestly, Sisters, did you really think you’d never be caught and have to pay the piper?


Trump’s Defenders

I’m a big fan of Anderson Cooper 360, and then I turn to MSNBC for Rachel Maddow. On Anderson Cooper Thursday night we heard former Senator Holier Than Thou Rick Santorum defending Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal as nothing more than a campaign finance violation just like any other campaign might have stumbled into.

Can you imagine President Obama paying off porn stars? I didn’t think so. Really, the contortions into which the Trump defenders twist themselves look and sound painful. I hope they are. Giving up your integrity for a corrupt empty suit like Trump ought to be painful.

The number of investigations swirling around Trump, many of them criminal, staggers the mind. He’s always skirted the legalities of whatever business he was in; so did his late father Fred. But nobody much was looking. How could Donald not have understood that stepping into the glass  house that is U.S. politics meant everyone would look?

I’m still not a fan of impeachment, because then we’d get Vice President Elf on a Shelf Pence — the religious fanatic who thinks God wants him to be president. Do I want Trump to be indicted? That’s a longer reflection. Look for a future blog post.

Flynn Doesn’t Want to Play “Lock Him Up”

Michael Flynn thinks he should incur no jail time because he cooperated with Robert Mueller and because he, Flynn, is a good guy.

Does anyone remember the sneering incivility with which he led the “lock her up” chorus directed toward Hillary Clinton during the campaign? My, what a tangled web we weave. “Lock her up” was great when it was about Hillary, but “lock him up” has a scarier ring to it when directed at Flynn himself.

I think he should go to jail, even for just a few months if that’s all his crimes deserve, just to make the point. He should get exactly as much compassion and decency and respect as he had for Secretary Clinton and those of us who supported her, which is to say none.

He actually did commit crimes, unlike Secretary Clinton. Lock him  up.

Conscious Aging: My AI Assistants

My Google Pixel 3 phone has an assistant, whom I can summon with the words “Hey, Google”. I also now have Alexa, in the form of an Echo Dot, that I summon with her name “Alexa”. I didn’t exactly set out to have Alexa as my new friend. Amazon is offering all sorts of specials leading up to Christmas, and I needed a new doorbell. They offered the Ring Video Doorbell for a good price, and basically bundled the Echo Dot with the doorbell almost for free. I assumed one had to do with the other, but no. Sara says Amazon is eager to get Alexa out there, and is bundling the devices that carry her capabilities with a lot of things.

No, Alexa and Hey Google do not talk to each other. They are competitors, not friends. 🙂 And yes, it is possible to activate these devices when you don’t intend to. I actually summoned up my phone assistant, even though I don’t remember saying anything remotely like “Hey Google”. The device startled me when it asked if I needed to make a grocery list or anything.

Sara and Ben promised to set both Ring and Echo Dot up for me, but they’ve been traveling. I needed an electrician anyway to install motion activated lights in the  yard — my latest armament against the raccoons that continue to bedevil my new sod — so I had the guy install my Ring. I set up Alexa myself.

I went briefly through all the things Alexa can do, and right now I’m using just the minimal level to play classical and Christmas music and a wicked good Joan Baez mix. The Echo Dot isn’t even connected to my Sonos sound bar yet, although I see how to do it. Actually, Google knows how to do it. As you may recall grandson Archie saying, Google knows everything — even how to expand the use of a competitor’s products.

My problem with making the most use of the technology I have is that I’m not curious enough to fiddle with it. I get the latest acquisition to do what I most want, and then let the vaster capabilities remain unused.

I think I will try to introduce Alexa and Sonos to each other, just to see if I can do it.

Lordy, “introduce” sounds as if I think of them as human. I don’t actually, even when they talk to me unbidden.

On Wednesday night when I was writing and listening to Joan Baez on Alexa. my Hey Google buzzed to ask if it could do anything for me. You don’t think Hey Google was jealous, do you?

Conscious Aging: This Old House

Old houses are hilarious when you go to make what should be a simple repair, which is no surprise to me. Jerry and I owned a 1929 Tudor in Rochester, NY, and doing anything electrical or with plumbing there was never simple and never inexpensive. Sara’s house here in Seattle is about the same vintage. The doorbell hasn’t worked since I moved in, and it didn’t work for the four or so years Sara lived here either. Didn’t seem to bother her, but I wanted to get it fixed. Hence the purchase of the Ring video doorbell from Amazon, which I thought would be pretty snazzy, being able to see on my phone who was at the front door.

The first inkling that the matter would be more complicated than expected was the literature that came with the Ring, which announced that the device would use my existing door chime. That meant finding the existing door chime, along with the wiring between the bell and the chime and the transformer in between that should have been providing power. The electrician and I looked hither and yon, until I finally tucked into a storage closet just off the new kitchen. “Nah,” said the electrician. “They’d never have put the chime in there.”

Sure enough, it was in there, high up above the door jamb.

These pics illustrate two critical elements of the problem. The third complicating element was that fishing a new wire through the wall to the actual doorbell was going to have a minimal chance of success due to the way they did wiring in houses of this vintage. Old houses, as I said, are hilarious and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

You can take one look and know that ancient chime was never going to work. You can also get that the draggly wiring in the basement, parts of which had been spliced by an earlier owner, needed to be replaced. To my great good fortune, the one bit of wire that wasn’t going to be able to be replaced worked when spliced to the new wire.

I now have a functioning doorbell, which rings on my phone although not in the house. The chime is older than Methuselah, and cannot be made to create sound. On the advice of the electrician, it will simply be left hanging on the wall.  We’re not going to touch it or the dodgy wires connected to it. I also, courtesy of the electrician, have motion-activated flood lights in my back yard which are to deter the raccoons. I’m hoping my neighbors aren’t unduly unsettled by a blast of light in the middle of the night — which will go off after twelve seconds but come back on if the raccoon returns.

I have a good new electrician to add to my list of people I can call upon for house issues. All in all, a successful day.

“Chuck and Nancy”

Trump can’t bring himself to be respectful to incoming Speaker Pelosi, or Senate Minority Leader Schumer. He calls them “Chuck and Nancy”.

The savvy New Yorker — Schumer, not Trump — and the wily Californian Pelosi absolutely rolled Trump in his own reality TV episode of “Averting Government Shutdown”. They came to the White House to talk about getting a budget through. Trump called in the press, and tried to play Big Guy over his silly wall. Remember that wall, the one Mexico was going to pay for?

Pelosi and Schumer rolled him, got him to say that shutting down the government would be absolutely on him. They got under his skin, visibly. He lost his cool; Pelosi and Schumer didn’t. I can’t wait for the gavel to change hands in January. I know people have their doubts about Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. They should watch this interaction. Pelosi rocks.

Pence was the comic relief. Tee up the video of the Oval Office smack down and watch Pence’s face. The late night comics will be at it for days.

Evangelicals and Trump

There are three things, apparently, that Evangelicals want and are getting from Trump that leads them to excuse any level of corruption and criminality coming from the Oval Office: conservative judges, a concerted attack on women’s reproductive freedom, and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Rural white Evangelicals with limited education also like Trump’s harsh immigration policies. “Make America White Again” sounds just fine to them.

We’ve all struggled with having to work with people whose personal and professional traits we find challenging. Sometimes we go ahead, and sometimes we demur, saying that the compromises required are simply too much. My problem with the Evangelical community is that Trump doesn’t seem to present any struggle for them.

Makes me wonder what version of the Bible they are reading.