Quarterly Inventory 2024 – Q1

Dear FutureMe,

Today would be a good day to do a quarterly inventory.

Question: How is your personal life going?

Question: How is your work life going?

Question: How is your volunteer service life going?

Personal Life

There hasn’t really been much change this quarter in my personal life.

I went to the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE 21X), but regret it because it was so much money. Previous SCaLE events were at the LAX Hilton, which is half the price of the Pasadena Hilton. The trade-off is that the LAX Hilton has only about five restaurants nearby, so if 400 people break for lunch, those five restaurants are absolutely swamped. If 400 people break for lunch at the convention center in Pasadena, there are probably 30 restaurants within a ten-minute walk nearby. But $400 per night for this show really isn’t worth it to me. If I had stayed three nights for the full four-day show, that would have been $1,200. ACK! For that kind of money, I could pay down my mortgage one month and retire a whole month early. Really, SCaLE is a wonderful show if you already live in Los Angeles and don’t have to spend money at the Pasadena Hilton.

Had my ten-year colonoscopy. Zero polyps found; I get to come back in five years because of my age.

I went to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant a couple of months ago. Lunch was $20. I suspect this was my last visit to a fast food restaurant ever 1 (well, in California, at least). Sacramento decreed that fast-food workers should get, beginning today, a minimum wage of $20 per hour (as if fast-food workers would make it a career). The result is that Sacramento has completely priced these stores out of business due to inflation (unless they replace the workers with robots).

2024 New Year’s Resolution: go to the gym more often. Resolution failed: I suspended my gym membership. $60 a month is too much (yes, inflation).

One really fun thing for me is that I bought another Tiny PC and put 32 GB of RAM in it, and I am running Proxmox on it. This lets duplicate all the steps I will go through to migrate the website (item (5) in the volunteer service list below) from Amazon to Linode. If I bungle a step, I revert the snapshot and try again. Even better, I can document about how I did the migration to my blog. I did have DNS pointing to this home device, which (via pfSense) did actually route the public Internet to this little host. I’ve since turned this off, but will turn it on again when it comes time to demo the new website.

Work Life

If $44,000 dropped into my lap today, I would retire tomorrow.

I have little to do except e-discovery and email retention policy work. We had a good system where clients would work through legal counsel before opening an email investigation; but, our new(er) management wants to bend over backwards to be helpful. That is a nice sentiment, but the previous practice protected us from liability – only the people with legal training made judgement calls. Now, I have people asking me to find “inappropriate” email, as if I know what the hell that means in a legal context. Sometimes I hate my job.

I did take on printers and the print server. I did build the replacement server and migrated over; that went really well.

The other big project is to check 5 million email that are about to be deleted: are they supposed to be deleted? There’s no way that my direct report and I can read all five million email and verify them all. So, we’re spot-checking. I probably will read about 12,000 email before we can confidently pull the trigger on the deletion process.

Volunteer Service Life

I counted up all the current service commitments I have, and it numbers sixteen at the moment.

  1. Sundays: treasurer of a weekly meeting.
  2. Sundays: Technology captain of a weekly meeting (I run the Zoom camera, speakerphone, and laptop).
  3. Second Sunday: audio recording and posting the recording to our .org website of the second Sunday speaker breakfast monthly meeting.
  4. Tuesdays: Secretary of a weekly meeting.
  5. Second Tuesday: web servant for our little 501(c)(3) central office.
  6. Second Tuesday: liaison to our district (complement of item (10) below).
  7. Second Tuesday: president of the board of our little 501(c)(3) central office.
  8. Last Tuesday: member of a monthly technology sharing session (I presented last month). Nicely enough, this is on Zoom, and happens from 16:00–17:30 which allows me enough time to be secretary at 19:00 (item (4) above).
  9. First Wednesday: Recording secretary, monthly district meeting.
  10. First Wednesday: liaison to our little central office monthly meeting (complement of item (6) above).
  11. Every other Wednesday: co-chair of the Founder’s Day Picnic; as such, I am on the planning committee. I set up the laptop, camera, and speakerphone for Zoom participants. Created two documents, but have a third pending. The other chair has been in Europe, so as far as I can tell, I’m the only one who has done anything.
  12. Thursdays: meet with my sponsee weekly.
  13. Thursdays: treasurer of a weekly meeting. Also, supplies.
  14. Fridays: literature captain of a weekly meeting.
  15. First Saturday: member of a temporary contact committee (meets monthly), and have begun outreach to a local institution.
  16. First Wednesdays (until this weekend): stage manager for our twice yearly dinner and a speaker event.

  1. Edit: this is almost certainly an overstatement. I still like Panda Express, and it hasn’t raised prices ridiculously, but it does qualify as a fast food restaurant. ↩︎

Coffee, again: inflation + energy drinks = change

I’ve given up energy drinks due to inflation. They were overpriced to begin with; but now inflation has gone too far, and I’m out.

Coffee is good, but the Keurig company is bad, so what to do?

Turns out Costco carries a Ninja Dual Brew coffee maker that fills the bill.

(longer version):

Way back when, I was a fan of Keurig. I bought an early Keurig brewer and loved it. But, foolishly, I didn’t do the de-scaling thing that one needs to do. It’s never really been a task I had to grow up with, so I don’t have a practice of doing it. (I’m still looking for To-Do list software that will do recurring tasks. Ideally it would be in Nextcloud).

Anyway, I eventually ruined my Keurig. It did last a really long time. But between the time I bought it and the time I needed a replacement, the company came out with a new line of machines that tried to implement (essentially) DRM (digital rights management). In other words, if you tried to put in non-Keurig coffee pods, the machine refused to work.

There’s a Nietzsche quote: “Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.”

When the Keurig company announced this scheme, I was done with them. I’ll never buy another Keurig branded item, ever.

It was also a stupid implementation of DRM, because it pointed a camera at the top of the coffee pod and looked for a QR code which identified the pod as authentic. So … buy one authentic pod, slice the top off of it, and glue it to the camera. Now every coffee pod is authorized.

Okay, so there is a work-around; but, what we have is a company that is willing to bully its customers. No-way am I going to reward that sort of company with any new sales.

So, what to do?

Well, turns out that Monster Energy has a line of energy drinks that are low (or zero) calories. Also, they keep working on different flavors. I started buying them. A lot of them. I was buying them by the case; usually drinking two a day. Over the course of two months, I’d go through five cases. Each case was 24 cans of 16 ounces each.

In the beginning, I was paying about $28 per case. That’s about $1.17 per can. Then the price creeped up to around $32 per case, or $1.33 per can.

But, some of the more popular flavors jumped up to $38 per case, then $43, then $48, and now over $50 per case.

In fact, to combat the perception that the prices are so bad, they’ve stopped selling them by the 24 pack case. Sure, the price per case is back down to $28, but the case is now eight cans instead of 24.

That’s the equivalent of $84 per case, for what I used to pay $28 – $32.

I’m out.

But man my ass was dragging without the caffeine boost.

Back to coffee is the answer; so I bought a normal coffee brewer.

There’s a reason the Keurig line of brewers was popular. The nightly mess of having to empty the grounds, and wash the filter basket and coffee pot definitely lowers my quality of life. It also boosts my home energy costs: I didn’t used to have to run the dishwasher every single night. I have the reusable filter with a micro fine mesh, and it’s fine; but I don’t want to reuse it without putting it through the dishwasher. I suppose that’s a choice I’m making that is picky. But that’s the way I am, so if I want coffee tomorrow morning, I need to run the dishwasher tonight.

Previously, I’d put dirty dishes and cups and tableware in the dishwasher and wait until the machine was full enough to warrant running a load. Dishwashers burn a lot of energy. I’m fine with that, because I get that “sanitize” work out of them. But running it every night for a coffee pot, filter, and coffee cup seems wasteful to me. The machine was practically empty.

Thankfully, I was in Costco a few days ago, and saw that they carry the Ninja Dual Brew coffee maker.

I don’t know much about Ninja, except that one of the podcasts I listen to is about the stock market, and one of the guys mentioned that Ninja as a company has excellent customer loyalty. Cool.

And indeed, this machine does coffee pods. I’m sold.

I’m back to 60 seconds for a cup of coffee, and no mess after. Heck, with the inflation costs of the Monster Energy drinks, this purchase has a positive ROI.

Thank you, Ninja, for making this machine. Thank you, Costco, for carrying it.

Southern California Edison wants a rate increase of 23%

If you want to file a public comment regarding this Southern California Edison (SCE) application, the link is here

This is regarding their application A2305010: the initial applications is here. The 23% increase number is shown on page 5.

Essentially, they are saying that they need to:

  • Upgrade their SAP Business Suite Enterprise Resource software, and that will cost $35 million.
  • Replace all the smart meters they installed 15 years ago that are getting old. If there is a dollar amount assigned to that, it didn’t jump out at me.
  • Finish their Service Center Modernization Projects: apparently new buildings. The document says “Please see Exhibit SCE-06, Volume 07, Enterprise Operations, for more information on the various service center modernization projects.” Where that document is, I cannot find. I did find a company that says it helped SCE design new service centers in a $180 million program. This application, A2305010, says it’s asking for $25 million.
  • Wildfire Management at $17 million. This is probably the only one I agree with. The Paradise fire a few years back was devastating, and indeed it came from negligence on the part of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) letting their transmission lines go unmaintained.

There is a lot in that application, including that they are paying about 10% on debt, and that medical / dental / optical benefits to employees is growing.

I don’t know about you, but my electric bill has already jumped up way too high; and an increase of 23% would be terrible to me.

AND ANOTHER THING: I’m submitting my public comment now. This isn’t a gripe at SCE but rather at the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission). I happen to run my own email server, so I can create as many email addresses I want, for free. If I want to filter incoming items, I can use the recipient email address for that filtering. So why wouldn’t I create an email address like california-public-utilities-commission-subscription-service@example.com ?

I did successfully subscribe to several of their daily digest notifications about various CPUC motions. I clicked on the link to verify the account. Everything is working fine.

And … the CPUC public comment form field has a maximum limit on the email address size. It is barking at me that the email address is invalid. It is not invalid: you just have a programmer who didn’t size the form field correctly. The SMTP spec says an email address must not exceed 254 characters, and mine has 71. Now I have to create a new email address alias to comply with your dumb programmer’s code.