Starting Out with Credit Card Offers

I offered a friend help with managing credit card offers. Here’s my letter to her:

Now that you’ve made your spend with your Chase Sapphire card, don’t you think your husband should get a card?

When the new card arrives, stick your old Sapphire card in a drawer and make sure you’ve set an alarm to cancel your first card about the 10 months after it first arrived, you don’t want to accidentally get charged $95 for the yearly renewal! (I have a suspicion that if I cancel my cards too quickly, the credit card company won’t want to issue me another one)

When cancelling, tell them, “I’m cancelling because I don’t want the temptation of spending money I don’t have”. They shouldn’t pester you at all about maybe keeping the card.

I’m pretty sure that you earned about 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I’d recommend that you not try too hard to get the extra bonuses, just turn it into cash money. For example, your points are worth 10% more if you spend them on internet or cell phone charges. I say, “yeah, whatever, just give me my $600 free money!”

You won’t be able to get another Chase Sapphire card and earn a bonus for 4 years, it’s in the contract. They also stipulate something like “you can’t get a card if you’ve opened more than 5 other cards in the last 2 years.” They do that to prevent people from doing what you are doing :-)

So set an alarm for late 2026. You -might- be able to get another Sapphire card, or you might just be relegated to getting other cards. Don’t worry, there are lots out there!

Have fun with the free money :-)


Lunch in the Time of COVID

COVID suggestions keep evolving. I did a little analysis in July, mostly focused on the question as to how we should have lunch at work… inside, outside,  distanced, etc… Here’s what I came up with:

There’s no perfect answer but here’s what my research is digging up. My own input at the end.

CDC on “universal masking” in schools – If community COVID levels are “high”, there should be “universal masking”. Levels are high in Marin and most of California.

CDC on colleges and masking – Wear a mask when you’re indoors. When outdoors, you don’t need a mask unless you’re in “close contact” with people. “Close contact” is defined as within 6 feet of another person for greater than 15 minutes if you’re unmasked, or 3 feet if you’re masked

CDC on building ventilation To paraphrase a long page: more ventilation, more outside air is always good. Use fans to get rid of dead air spots but don’t blow air from one person onto another. HEPA filters are good in small spaces. Improving HVAC filters is good but not at the top of the list

A google search for “study covid restaurant” turns up lots of articles saying that dining is a risky activity. A notable issue: a case where a strongly blowing air conditioner infected people 21 feet away from one another with just 5 minutes of mask-off time.

Here’s a study with an important reminder, that all of the efforts help but none perfectly:

“COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks and 39% lower in schools that improved ventilation. Ventilation strategies associated with lower school incidence included dilution methods alone (35% lower incidence) or in combination with filtration methods (48% lower incidence).”

Here’s the guidance for UCSF hospital on dining and COVID. It’s a quick read. Paraphrased, I believe it reads, “Yeah, you could eat indoors but outdoors is a lot better”

What do -I- think? Dining outdoors generally automatically provides far greater ventilation than almost any indoor venue. I do not feel comfortable dining in a shared space with potentially stagnant air.

For our space, I’d like to figure out the airflow and consider maybe adding fans to remove any stagnant air spots.

Best regards,

The Big Email Racket

I couldn’t fix my outgoing email spam problems without paying “big email”. Neither could this much-more capable guy. It’s a racket!

More discussion on JWZ’s blog and here.



Wildfires, But Not Here

For family that has been worrying about me living in Northern California with all the forest fires and such. I’m totally fine :-)

I blame the news. I just found some of the national news stories. One was titled “Mandatory Evacuations in Northern California Wildfire”. and it starts out, “Residents in three Northern California communities were told to leave their homes immediately as a fast-moving wildfire…” But that fire, the Mill Fire, is in Siskiyou County, a 4 1/2 hr drive north of me!

Yes, we often have “smoke season” where we live in the east bay but it hasn’t happened this year yet. We’re feeling generally prepared for it.

Where I live, in El Cerrito, CA, the seasons are mild (right now we’ve got a heat wave and it’s 85 degrees. 30 miles east in Concord it’s 103. 30 miles west in San Francisco it’s 75 degrees.

I live in such an urban area, it would be unheard of for a wildfire to reach me, though power failures due to wildfires are possible.

EcoEgg is Excellent Laundry Detergent

We’ve been using EcoEgg laundry detergent for about a year now and I love it.

– It gets our clothes clean. Long ago, I tried 7th Generation laundry detergent and dish soap and they didn’t do a very good job.
– Works as well as our other favorites, Trader Joes Laundry Detergent, Sheets Laundry Club, and All Free and Clear.
– I don’t smell it on my clothes at all. I have been steered away from many laundry detergents due to their strong scent. I can smell the horrid chemical stew of Tide detergent on a person from literally 20 paces. The EcoEgg itself has a slight smell (my princess-and-the-pea nose would say it’s a moderately unpleasant smell) but that smell doesn’t transfer to our clothes.
– Really easy to use: just throw the egg in the washer. No pouring, no measuring. You can take the egg out of the washer when you’re done but it’s not vitally important.
– It’s compatible with all the regular stain treating products. We use Oxyclean, Clorox Max Performance stain remover, and real bleach on occasion.
– Very inexpensive at ~$0.04/load instead of most detergents at $0.10-$0.20 per load.

Rclone is a Great Way to Move Files

Rclone is the right software to copy multi-terabyte file repositories from one place to another! It’s also very capable at rearranging files in lots of other different ways. Check it out. It’s something of a sister program to rsync on unix.

I had to fiddle with rclone a bit. Here is the command I ended up using:

c:\aaa\rclone\rclone sync –modify-window=2s -v –exclude=”System Volume Information/**” d:/ f:/[my new repository]

It was so simple (after a two weeks of fiddling and yelling at my computer). Just run that command, wait 3 days (yipe, I’ve got some bandwidth/scale problems) and profit!

(If you copy-paste that text, make sure you don’t use smartquotes, use regular quotes)

Let’s look at that command one argument at a time:


rclone isn’t installed, perse, on a windows computer. You just unzip it and go! That means it doesn’t set PATH variables (unless you do it yourself. So I open up a Windows Powershell with Admin rights, specify the folder to run in (c:\aaa\rclone in my example) and go!


It’s so magically simple. Sync is better than copying because it will delete extra files on the target side.


The FAT file system doesn’t accurately capture file modification times. So every time you run rclone, it’ll compare file modification times and get it wrong. If you turn on very verbose mode with “-vv” you’ll see errors like “Modification times differ by 1.490000000s”, and it’ll copy files over and over and over :-(. This “modify-window” setting says “if the files were modified within 2 seconds of each other, don’t sweat the difference.


“-v” is “verbose” mode, “-vv” is very verbose mode, for when you want to figure out why your rclone session is failing. You can eliminate it when you are sure of your sessions.


–exclude=”System Volume Information/**”

I’m copying from the root (d:\) If I don’t specify this, rclone will try (and fail) to grab files from the system volume information folder.

d:/ f:/[my new repository]

Note that I’m using slashes instead of Window’s backslashes. It might not be essential but rclone (and I) prefers slashes.


What doesn’t work:

Windows File Explorer drag-and-drop copy doesn’t have enough checking, the ability to recover a failed copy, or the ability to “sync”.

Teracopy can copy but not sync. It recovers a bit better from failed copies but not well enough for my 2TB file moves. I think it created system instability, crashing a few times at inopportune times.

Robocopy not enough checking, mediocre recovery from failed copies, not enough feedback.

Windows File History might actually be useful as a local backup tool. I played with it a bit and seemed to work well on a local network. Though it kept nagging me when a computer wasn’t connected (yes, I know, I turned the other computer off an hour ago). Though I’ll likely stick with rclone and Backblaze instead of learning 2 tools.

Minio on a server with some fancy buy-once Amazon AWS compatible backup software for the client like Arqbackup was a good idea until I found that Minio needed to be manually updated every couple weeks or it would refuse to start up.

keywords: backup

Microsoft Office 365 Sucks

In thousands of very specific ways Microsoft 365, formerly known as Office 365 isn’t mature. Every time I use this suite of software, I discover a suite of crippling bugs. It’s like wading through mud. Did no one test it? Do they not consider reports from users?

Update 9-5-22: I started this article with just a few “for example” bugs in mid-August. I’ve been adding to it whenever I feel so much frustration I feel I’ll burst if I don’t tell someone. That has been often. Maybe I’ll stop adding items sometime. Maybe I’ll keep adding items to keep my sanity.

An abbreviated bug list for Microsoft Office 365:

– In Outlook 365, there is no speell-check when composing an email in a browser! There are, however, some completely impotent spell check options if you right-click on the body of your email in-progress.

– In Word 365, if you double-click on a word and drag the cursor, it should select the word and allow you to select other words; but this isn’t the case; Word for Windows (and every other word processor) has had this basic word processing functionality for 25 years.

– In Outlook 365 when I hit ctrl-k to turn text into a hyperlink, the interface responds so slowly that I often start typing before the ctrl-k jumps me to the Insert Link screen, messing up my text (ie. ctrl-K lags)

– In Outlook 365, when you Discard an email in your Drafts folder, you are taken back to a listing of Draft emails and the email you just deleted is still displayed until you manually reload the page.

– In OneDrive, if you want to share a document or folder and only allow viewing access (and not editing access), you’ve got to go through some byzantine hoops.

– In Word, after you click on the Print button and the file is being printed, you get this incorrect message:

The file is not “ready to print”, it is in fact being printed.

– In Outlook 365 in a browser, there’s no way to create a permalink for an email conversation. This is a big deal because it makes it impossible to reference an email with any certainty! There’s this hot mess of a solution that I could not get to work.

– In Sharepoint/OneDrive, you can’t change the file extension of a document! WTF is this stupidity?!

– In Outlook in a browser, when you are composing an email, you can triple-click to select the entire paragraph. To unselect the paragraph, you should be able to single click on the paragraph, but you have to move off of the paragraph and click.

– OMFG, I just (8-25-22) did battle with Excel 365. It has so many user interface weirdnesses, I gave up editing on Excel and copy-pasted it into Google Sheets. I got what I wanted done in seconds instead of guessing what insanity Excel was trying to do. Peeves include: if there is an email address in a cell, a single-click anywhere in the cell jumps you to sending an email, and you can’t disable this functionality; maybe making this double-click functionality would be appreciated but OMFG not a singleclick! Sort doesn’t sort if the data is broken up by a blank row (which I can understand, I guess), but you can’t fix that by selecting all the cells you want to sort by. Sort doesn’t always expand selection correctly (maybe user error? I gave up on researching and moved to Google Sheets!)

– Outlook on my Pixel 5 Android phone locks up often (0-3 times a day, average 1), I’ve got to kill it and restart. This is by far the crashiest app I have used in years

– 2 nights ago (8-28-22) , I scheduled an email to be sent in the morning. Outlook said it would do it but it didn’t send it!  Unacceptable! The email stayed as a Draft. When I manually (and frantically!) tried to send the email, Outlook on my phone kept saying “Try again later”. I copied and pasted the text of the email into a new email and it sent.

– Today (8-31-22) I was using Excel 365 with spotty internet and it kept lagging. It apparently has no offline mode. I continue to flee from Excel 365 as fast as I can.

– Just now (8-31-22) Outlook 365 decided it wouldn’t show me my emails. I’d click on an Inbox item and it would give me a blank window. Reloading the page fixed it.

– Keyboard shortcuts and email selection don’t work correctly in Outlook 365. If I select an email with my cursor, then type “j” or “k”, to move my selection up or down, I should be able to type “x” to select additional emails. Instead, weirdness appears on the screen. I can only select multiple emails with the mouse and cursor.

– OMG, I just noticed that this software is 12 years old. This is as good as this steaming pile of shit is going to get.

These discovered on about 9-5-22:
– Most (but not all) of the time when I get a notification on my phone about an email and I tap on it, instead of it it taking me to the message in Outlook, the notification simply disappears.

– When looking at the email summaries in Outlook on Android, it shows me the name of most recent sender. It should show the first sender and the most recent sender, otherwise it is VERY hard for me to track emails in my mind.

– In Excel, when I’m in a cell with word wrap turned on and I add text that has commas in it, the cell doesn’t extend vertically enough; it will grow by 1 line but not by 2, hiding the last words under the bottom of the cell.

– In Excel, when I select the entire worksheet and change the font, some cells don’t change unless I change the font, then change it again to what I really want.

– Excel forgets formatting choices in cells (IE justified to the top of the cell) when a cell or row has hyperlinking removed; it will revert the cell to default formatting which is justified to the bottom of the cell.

– 9-9-22 This kind of shit happens all the time (click the thumbnail) Outlook failing to display a message for no good effing reason

– 9-17-22 Merging conflicts sucks in OneNote. I’ve got an unmerged conflict on one of my pages (I don’t know how it happened, which is another problem, but hey) and the process to clean up the page so it isn’t always screaming “hey there’s a problem on this page!” is unintuitive and nerve wracking because the on-screen documentation is poor.

– I was sending a large attachment to someone in Outlook. Outlook suggested that instead of attaching the file, it upload it to OneDrive and share the link. Sounded like a capital idea until I follow the suggestion and it craps out this:

– 9-22-22 OMFG, OneDrive doesn’t sort files alphabetically correctly! See the image where File Explorer correctly sorts 1, 2, 9, 10, 11. And OneDrive sorts the idiotic characterwise way: 1, 10, 11, 2, 9. I remember being happy when this issue was solved in Windows 98.

Children’s Books

I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve gotten for Abigail over the years. It’s been a great help to come back to certain books (and stay away from some series!) If you know a 2-6 year-old, you might use this as inspiration. Sort by “rating” and go for any book rated a 8, 9, or 10!
Abigail’s Book List

I maintain that the best book ever written for kids is Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day. We opened that book for the majority of days from when she was 2 1/2 to 4, literally hundreds of times. Neither of us got bored with all the beautiful details, and we still talk about it!

ISO a novel file repository

ISO a novel file repository. I want my students to email me file attachments and have those files end up on a file server.

I fiddled with IFTTT and got close to a solution. Might Zapier work? Or Microsoft Flow or Google SomethingOrAnother?

Lanterman Guide to School Services

Here is a very good guide to how special education services provided by public schools works.

Lanterman Guide to the IEP Process, “Guide to Your Child’s School Years”.

I found this guide on the Lanterman Regional Center website.