TeslaCam, Tesla Can’t

I haven’t been able to use the TeslaCam since 27 July 2019. That’s because, around TeslaOS 2019.28.1, Tesla broke most USB Sticks used for Dashcam functionality, because, it claimed, they were too slow.

Not having a DashCam and having such a mysterious and incomprehensible error—my USB stick was fast enough—I was afraid to buy a new USB stick to see if I could get it working again. For months I dithered on the issue, totally unsure what Tesla wanted, and wanting so badly not to waste money on a device that would fail with Tesla.

Compound that with, in December, 2019, thanks to an AutoPilot, #CO2Fre failed to stop when a vehicle with California plates cut me off by jumping into the exit lane ahead of me at the last minute, causing $4,000 worth of damage I can’t remotely afford to pay. The scratches, therefore, remain to this day. And as no solace, I don’t even have the Dashcam video to go over the details even if I wanted to make an Insurance claim. So, I have scratches but still no Dashcam.

Then TeslaOS 2020.12.5 came out, which added support for watching Dashcam videos within #CO2Fre. Since I had the time off thanks to Covidapolis, I decided to try again with the Dashcam, and found this neat video:

Thanks to that video I decided to buy a 2TB SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD drive, a SamSung SXDC UHS-I EVO Select Card, and a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

I didn’t have access to my car because of the hypochondriac until the day of my #CO2Fre demo. I plugged in the SanDisk drive with its USB-C to USB-A adaptor and… nothing. I had the drive plugged in, but no camera was showing, and I couldn’t show off any of the Dashcam features during my entire presentation, including Dashcam footage of the speed test on the main screen after I parked, despite having the drive plugged in. The demo still went well, but I’m annoyed how hard I tried to get this working and still failed.

No Camera Icon
Sometimes the Camera with an X appears, but usually there’s no camera icon whatsoever, as can be seen here. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Afterwards, I tried to play around some more. Doing so requires me to go through decontamination because, for some reason, the hypochondriac thinks #CO2Fre has SARS-CoV-2. Meaning, I have to keep changing my clothes every time I go to the car because sitting in my car contaminates my clothes.

The drive was exFAT, so I reformatted it as FAT32. The drive did flash on the screen after some cord giggling, but it said it wasn’t formatted properly despite having the TeslaCam folder and being named TeslaCam. Since I’ve read that Tesla supports exFAT, I formatted it back as that, and it sits now, unable to connect.

2TB SanDisk
I have a 2TB SanDisk Solid-State Drive USB 3.1 compatible 10GB/s Drive plugging into #CO2Fre with a USB-C connector and a USB-C to USB-A adaptor hooked into #CO2Fre, yet #CO2Fre can’t see it! © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

I also tried my MicroSD chip with an adaptor. Originally, the chip was supposed to be part of the Raspberry Pi, but I wanted to test to see if it could be used as the TeslaCam directly. No dice. I’d hook up the Raspberry Pi and try with that, but I have to finish updating my Résumé and fix my broken Zone File updater for Reston Writers first. I just have too much going on to worry about going any further with this nightmare of Tesla‘s.

The way I see it, the drive works in a PC, the drive works in a Mac, it just doesn’t work in #CO2Fre. When you’ve tried everything else, the simple answer it so blame Tesla. So, I made a Mobile Service Request and they should be here Friday morning.

Why must Tesla make this so hard!?!?

In any case, unless I find another set of clothes to wear, even without my Dashcam, I shall very much miss cruising on a cloud.

The Green Card

A Timer Most Colourful

Today, I will be the official Timer for tonight’s Loudoun Toastmasters. Last time, I was on hold to do an Evaluation but the speech maker was ill so instead I was instead without a role. On the upside, it gave me time to consider using my Zoom background to enhance the effect of the Timer role. I was therefore anxious to try it out as soon as possible.

Originally, my dear friend Capt. Laura Savino was planning to be Timer, but, since SARS-CoV-2 she’s been busy hanging out with her wonderful boys as she’s hunkered down, sheltered in place. Hope to see her again after Covidapolis is over. But, in the mean time, for tonight, I’ll be stepping into her role.

The role of the timer is to time how long speeches are and to indicate when time is running out to the speaker. Each speech has a minimum time. When that time is hit, I indicate success with a green background.

The Green Card
The Yellow Card in Toastmasters means you’re met the minimum time requirement

Next, when a speaker is half-way through her or his allotted time, I flash the yellow background.

The Yellow Card
The Yellow Card in Toastmasters means you’re half-way through your allotted, acceptable time

Finally, when the speaker is out of time, I flash the red background. At this point, the speaker has thirty seconds to wrap up or be disqualified because his or her speech ran too long.

The Red Card
The Red Card in Toastmasters means you’re out of time

I time all speeches, which range from 5–7 minutes for a standard speech, 4–6 minutes for an Ice Breaker speech, 1–2 minutes for a Table Topic speech, and 2–3 minutes for Evaluations.

It all happens tonight. Stand up straight and deliver my friends!

Meetup Online: It’s Okay to Zoom

As an Internet Security professional, I have heard some folks expressing dismay over various security issues in the Zoom video conferencing package and the MatterMost chat services. I may do a piece on MatterMost at a later date, but for now I want to focus on Zoom because Zoom is what Meetup is suggesting as one of their preferred video conferencing platforms. (The other, Google Hangouts, is limited to ten people and thus isn’t practical for a number of the meetups I run.)

The thing is, many of the earlier security issues which plagued Zoom at the beginning of the recent surge in online meetings have been solved. Tom’s Hardware wrote a very insightful analysis of these issues in a recent article by Paul Wagenseil, Zoom privacy and security issues: Here’s everything that’s wrong (so far).

Most of the issues covered have already been patched, such as UNC password theft under Microsoft Windows. This was a rather insidious security flaw but fortunately the folks at Zoom stepped up to the plate and patched.

iOS profiling also seems to be fixed. Since I do a lot of my Zoom conferencing, with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact grassroots coalition, on the iPhone, this has been a great relief. Now, though, I do most of my meetup Zoom conferences on my laptop.

The decrypting of streams at the Zoom servers and re-encrypting them as they go out to the far-end client is at first blush worrisome, but that in part is necessary for folks recording their zoom sessions and though it puts a vulnerability at the level of Zoom staff, one hopes Zoom is careful with whom it employs. But it must be said, nothing I do on Zoom is something I would be embarrassed about were it to leak. I nonetheless want to do everything in my power to make sure it stays secure and I’m happy to hear Zoom is looking into closing this security flaw.

The auto-download for Macintosh is worrisome but again I am happy to say this practice is also ending as it is a backdoor that Zoom can use to allow third party software onto ones Mac. Zoom also has ceased allowing team profiles to share email addresses, though this is not a feature I’m using for any of my Zoom conferences.

As for recording leaking onto the Internet or folks joining your conference uninvited (Zoom Bombing) or war drive scanning Zoom to find your conference, all of these can be solved by user diligence. It’s important to be mindful of who you let into a conference, and don’t let just anyone have access to your recordings. For my Writing Groups, only myself, the account owner, and the persons being reviewed will ever have access to the recordings, and if the reviewed doesn’t need the recordings, we will delete them.

Also, as of this morning, 5 April 2020, at 0:00 UTC, Zoom now requires passwords on all new Zoom events. Thus, even with a Zoom ID scan, you won’t be able to get into the meeting without the password and although the URL can encode the password in an obfuscated way, simply scanning Zoom IDs will not get you into the conferences. And even if you did, I’d still have to approve you. I won’t.

The Zoom Logo

Overall, I’m quite happy with Zoom and hope to use it all through Covidapolis. Overall, I give it this Security Engineers line of approval. And please note, I am available for hire if you like what you see!

Relax—you actually don’t need to sanitize your food

On Sunday, I posted an article about sanitizing your food after you return from grocery shopping. The thing is, the medical professional who posted the original clip went a bit overboard in terms of how sanitary he felt he needed to keep his food once retrieved from the grocery store. The truth is, not everything the doctor says in his video is strictly correct and he is no food safety expert, as has been pointed out to me. However, for the most part my textual commentary doesn’t contradict what I’m about to share and I am happy to give Dr. Don Schaffner his due:

Buckle up, readers, as it’s about to get serious! Thirty-two more tweets, seriously!

Unfortunately, the link above to my original article with take you to that video but if you haven’t hit play on the video, and just read my commentary, you should be fine. Please, trust Dr. Don!

Sometimes I roll my eyes at my fellow writers when they they try to come up with Science Fiction ideas, since I did study undergrad Physics and read a lot of science books. I feel you Dr. Don!

Here here! I already outlined most of what was right in the video in my original post. I think I may have misspoken on how to wash produce but I’ll save that commentary for later.

There’s a bit of nuance to this, but what the good Dr. Don is saying is there is a difference between a random but not yet denatured strand of viral RNA, which in itself isn’t particularly harmful—at least, not infectious—where as a live virus was not observed. As in, the crown-like outer shell of SARS-CoV-2, a.k.a. the Coronavirus, the “Crown Virus”. Without the outer shell and crown-like protrusions, the virus has no way of penetrating cells, be they eukarya, bacteria, or archaea. Note, this pathogen only infects eukaryotes, though most viruses are harmless, only infecting bacteria.

More fundamentally, though, Dr. Dan points out that the CDC Study that came up with the 17-day number for RNA was never published in a peer-review paper where the methodology and techniques used could be scrutinized and dissected. Without the process of peer review, the observation is as good as anecdotal.

This was one of my biggest beefs with the video too. I mean, it’s one thing in the winter in Lansing, MI, where the outside might already be the temperature of your freezer. But that won’t work in Florida, not by a long shot. So unless you’re gonna be like Thomas Jefferson and truck in ice from Canada to keep your food from spoiling, don’t leave your perishable food in the garage!


This is a very good point. One of the ways the SARS-CoV-2 deactivates is through desiccation. If the virus is in a medium that allows it to dry out, it will no longer be effective. This is why spittle from sneezing is the most dangerous.

The virus is highly communicable, to be sure, but its transmission with respect to someone with the virus touching an item on the shelf, putting it back, and then having you grab it is exceedingly unlikely. And by the time you get to it, it’s quite likely SARS-CoV-2 has already dried out and perished.

I have to agree, as different packaging materials will allow the virus to remain active long than others, and again, as state above, it’s unlikely by the time you pluck the item from the shelf that it would still have any active virus on it even if it had once.

Washing your hands before eating should be second nature anyway. As Dr, Don says, you can remove the item from the packaging, put it on a clean plate, and then wash your hands before eating and any contamination on the packaging will have been removed from the equation.


There are good reasons not to use soap to wash your produce and I will admit I got that wrong before. Soap dissolves cell membranes and while most produce is covered by dead epithelial cells—like those on the outer layers of your skin—and thus won’t likely cause cellular damage to your food, but if you slice the food it could spoil its flavor and if you fail to wash it all off and it gets in the nooks and crannies of your consumables, Dr. Don is right, you’re itching for a tummy ache. The oily residue soap normally removes isn’t a big issue on produce and thus a simple water bath should be sufficient for cleaning your produce.


Even the prescient Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis knew that hand washing wasn’t a panascia. It reduces the change of killing a mother giving birth, but even if done right, it isn’t perfect. Soap and water are great for removing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances from your person, but not every pathogen is removed by such reactions. SARS-CoV-2 is damaged because of its hydrophobic coating, but the same isn’t true for all toxic substances.

Indeed, human skin has many friendly microbes that help keep the skin clean and fresh. You wouldn’t want to boil those off anyway, even if you could. Love your friendly microbes. Just use soap and water to kill SARS-CoV-2. That M*th*r F*ck*r must die!

This is another good point. Not all handwashes are equal. I try to do a rather complex technique when washing my hands which I may document another day, but the long and short of it is, just rubbing your hands together isn’t enough, and even my technique isn’t one hundred percent effective.

Great point! Early food preservation in wine bottles with their tartaric acid may have worked for Napoleon’s army, but when we started using steel and aluminium cans, or even glass, we had to be very very sure everything was sterile. Watch any number of episodes from Comment C’est Fait (How It’s Made chez É-U.) to see how this is done.

Remember the words of François-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” (Perfection is the enemy of good.)

This is one point I did make in my original article. Glad to see my point is backed up by Dr. Don.

This one is simply a caveat emptor. Don’t assume a product can kill viruses. Indeed, there are many ways product makers can use language that makes it seem like it’s effective against pathogens, but unless there is peer reviewed literature to back it up, sorry, it’s not magic. It won’t protect you against SARS-CoV-2 any better than simply washing your hands.

There is something to be said for the security blanket of feeling better. But, yes, they won’t help and are no better than a simple cold-water bath.

Or for treating the fabric of your home made N95 mask.

I like using reusable bags and agree washing them like any fabric is a wise idea. If you must use disposable bags, please use ones that are recyclable or compostable.

In other words, keep your bags close but be more mindful of social distancing and that the bagger uses proper sanitary techniques. But again, the likelihood that someone with the virus has used that same checkout stand recent-enough for the virus to still be active is very likely, and most grocery stores, like Wegman’s will do their best to sanitize the checkout counter between each customer during Covidapolis.

Keeping them in your car is a good idea. I always keep my MOM’s Organic Market bag in my car so it’s ready whenever I go there.

Wash your hands!

I have indeed noticed Wegman’s doing just that. They are, IMHO, doing a great job!

Know what you want, like Low Acid Orange Juice, and head straight over. Keep those two meter buffers to keep safe!

If you can get hand sanitizer, then it’s great when there isn’t soap and water available. But when you have soap and water, always prefer that.

Done in the most complete way possible Dr. Don!

Shelter in place, y’all, and use Zoom to see a friendly face!

Much obliged Dr. Don! Happy to help promote good science, sound food handling, and how to weave a great yarn, and sew a great mask!

Bon appetit, mes amis!

Putting SARS-CoV-2 into perspective

A lot is being said nowadays about how there are more cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States of America than in any other country, worldwide. The truth is, some countries just have more people than others. Indeed, there are only two counties with greater than a billion people and while China is likely deflating its numbers, India is just not reporting anything anyway. The third biggest nation, though, is these United States.

The United States is the biggest in the class of middle-sized countries, along with Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, and Nigeria, all with over two hundred million residents. You’d expect any of these top seven nations to have more cases than Nauru and Tuvalu, or even of France and Italy because there are much more people in these top seven countries than there are, by nature, in any of the smaller ones.

The long and short of this is that the proper way to compare infection rates is to do so relative to the population size. For instance, if the numbers are taken per million, you can see which counties are handling Covidapolis better than others. And that is exactly what the following graph shows.

SARS-CoV-2 Infections per Million per Country
This graph puts SARS-CoV-2 into perspective. A huge country like the United States or China should expect by virtue of just more people to have more cases than Italy. But when compared per million it’s clear that as of now, Italy is worse off, but we are headed there. So please, Shelter in Place, everyone!

As you can see, Italy is still ahead of the United States in terms of infections and mortality in terms of overall population size, but the United States isn’t abating and is on the road to match Italy of folks don’t properly Shelter in Place.

So please, my sapiosexual friends, just stay home.

Tesla tried to bankrupt me during Covidapolis

Recall back at the beginning of the month, I had to deal with a nearly $2,000 tyre bill from Tesla? Well, that’s not the end of the story…

After I got #CO2Fre back from Tesla, my coworker and I noticed some squeaking sounds as I would drive the car at low speeds, making turns under humid conditions. So, I made the soonest appointment available to both me and Tesla, which was today, 31 March, 2020, which is therefore going to be the topic of my 50th day in of quotidian postings.

Of course, then SARS-CoV-2 happened, and all the crazy things that came with it. I haven’t left the house since my job went to 100% telework apart from a couple outings to the grocery story and stroll inside my housing community. So, when Tesla reminded me of my appointment, it wasn’t so much that I was eager to get out (at least I don’t have to fear a physical abuser) as I was eager to finally get this over with in terms of having to deal with Tesla and a potential fault in their repair.

I got up early this morning, ready to head over to Tesla. I was, alas, so tired, I ended up locking my CAC Card. The details aren’t important, but I will just add that resetting it required a long drive to work and a long drive back just to restore access. But that had to wait until after I dropped #CO2Fre off.

Anyway, I got in #CO2Fre and noticed a software update. Not wanting to delay my appointment at the Tyson’s Corner Service Center, I headed straight over and initiated the update as I arrived.

Arrived at Tesla, March 2020
I arrived at Tesla a little past 08:00 for my schedule appointment to resolve a squeaking in my steering and suspension, mainly observed in highly humid weather. What are those signs, covering the windows? © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs.

I arrived at Tesla a little after my 08:00 appointment and spotted some interesting signs on the windows. After waiting a bit for folks to pass, keeping a social distance from anyone, I made my way over to the door.

Use the QRCode to Login
Sorry this picture is blurry as I took it from inside a ziplock bag. But you can see the notes on the windows advising customers to scan the QR Code and fill out the form to register their arrival. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

The signed contains a QR Code that I could scan with my phone in order to check into my appointment. I scanned the code and opened the web page associated with it. The page contained a list of questions: who I was, why I was there, and did I have an appointment. I filled it out and got a message saying I should wait for a call to confirm my appointment.

Tesla Service Registration Complete
Registration for service was easy as cake. Just fill in your name and your reason and if you have an appointment and they’ll call you when they’re ready.

I went back to #CO2Fre; the software was still updating. I got the call and we agreed to leave the car where it was. I got some Uber credits but had a ride home already and so used that to get home, then get a ride to work to fix my CAC, and then back home again. Phew.

Then I got a text from Tesla saying they sent me over an estimate and said I needed to replace some tyres. Are you freaking kidding me!? Didn’t I just drop almost $2,000 on tyres at the beginning of the month!?

Needless to say, I was not amused.

Tesla Service Estimate, Inflated Estimate, March 2020
When I got this in my mail, I was shocked. I took the car in, after waiting 3 weeks for a follow appointment to the tyre replacement at the beginning of March, to resolve a squeaking issue with my tyres and front suspension. I thought it’s be just, at most, $100 to do the diagnosis, only to be sent this behemoth of a bill for just over $2,000. Having just paid almost that amount at the beginning of the month and facing a 1 week suspension in addition to docked pay, I could never in a million years afford this estimate and I complained to Tesla until I was blue in the face. Not shown is the $84 in tax and the total of $2,043.75. Oy, gevalt!

Looking over the estimate I saw they recommended replacing all four tyres! Seriously? I had just replaced two rims at the beginning of the month, but, as I looked over my meticulous history of tyre replacements, it turns out I replaced a tyre just three months ago on 3 January 2020, and another on 4 November 2019. Both tyres were relatively new and there could be no possible way they could both be so worn to need replacing. It was bad enough the other two tyres were April and May of last year, but some of the tyres were less than six months old!

Looking over the costs, not only were they charging me for four tyres, but they were also charging me for a $160 Tyre Setting and a $302.25 Tyre Alignment, for a total of $1946.25 in tyre repairs! That would have been a total of $9,647.95 on tyres for 42,695 miles of driving over 19½ months!

It took a number of texts for me to get through to Tesla. I was quite frank. I didn’t agree to any tyre replacement and demanded they generate a new invoice for me without the tyre replacements. Furthermore, if they though my tyres were showing wear, I demanded they show my the tread depth to prove they had wear given one tyre was just three months old, and another only five. Thankfully, the obliged.

Tesla Service Estimate, without Tyres, March 2020
After many irate texts, they agreed to remove the tyres from the invoice which made it a manageable $97.50. I did ask them for Tread Depth readings though, just to verify that maybe some of the tyres needed replacing.

The new invoice was quite reasonable. Less than $100 for a diagnostic check which so far turned up nothing. I agreed to that and then my service advisor sent me photos of the tyres with the tread measurements.

Clearly, two tyres were at around 8/32 inch depth, which is pretty nearly as good as new. The other two hovered around 5/32 and I agreed they probably should be replaced. I therefore agreed to a new invoice where only those two more worn tyres would be replaced. Tesla kindly obliged.

Tesla Service Estimate (Revised), March 2020
This is the revised service estimate for the two low-tread 5/38 depth tyre replacements. Not included is the $42 tax, which was the perfect answer to this issue, for a total of $939.50.

Although the cost jumped to nearly $1,000, I agreed to it as the best course of action. They dropped the wheel setting and alignment which also lowered the cost quite a bit. I’m hoping I can get the alignment done elsewhere when the Covidapolis is over. It still brings my total lifetime tyre costs to $8543.70, with seven tyres and seven rims, but it’s much better than $9,647.95!

Plus, I got a software update.

Tesla OS 2020.12.1
The morning of my drop-off I noticed there was a software update. I set it going when I got to the dealership and it was done by the time I got home.

I’m not happy that it will take me a month an a half to pay for this repair as I sink further into debt, but mainly I miss driving #CO2Fre. Die SARS-CoV-2, die!

Until next time, I’ll be cruising on a cloud.

Low Acid Orange Juice, Finally!

Grocery Shopping during Covidapolis

After a week unable to leave my house apart from a walk around the community, I was finally allowed to go grocery shopping. With the confirmation that Wegman’s, Dulles had Low Acid Orange Juice, I was able to go there at 08:00 this morning and pick up the OJ and a few other items I’d needed.

The thing is, in the age of Covidapolis, you can’t just bring groceries into your house. You need to assume all your groceries may be vectors for SARS-CoV-2 to enter your home! You need to have a staging area for your groceries, and an area you will consider sanitized.

Each item then must be sanitized either by washing with soap and water, like every fruit and vegetable, or wiped down with a cleaning sheet like Clorox wipes. Remove items from containers if the items inside also have wrapping. The idea is the outer container may be contaminated, but the inner container has probably been untouched long enough for any virus to have died. For items that don’t have inner containers, only outer containers, like bread, take the bread out of its packaging and place it in an adequate storage container from your cabinets, which should already be virus free.

Of course, nobody explains this better than Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD. He was kind enough to provide these and other instructions on his youtube channel, a video for which he’s received over two hundred thousand likes. Excellent work, doctor!

Finally, after the OJ was sufficiently cleaned, it was ready to be welcomed into my home and stored in my fridge. Mission accomplished, for real this time!

Low Acid Orange Juice, Finally!
I finally obtained some low acid orange juice. I had been over a week since I had been able to drink vitamin-C packed OJ so I’m so relieved to finally be able to partake again. But notice the sanatizing wipes next to it? It needs to be sanitized before it goes into the fridge. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Ah, the sweet taste of victory! Bon Appetit, mes amis!

Update 2020-04-03: It turns out most of what was said in the video is exaggerated; I posted an update with respect to handling your groceries. And please, don’t wash your produce with soap, only cold water. Please head on over there and let Dr. Don tell it like it is.

I Am Irate

Google ate me email

From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.

I Am Irate
Too angry for words!

Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.

I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.

Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.

Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.

Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.

Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.

Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…

As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!

I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.

And that’s where my troubles began.

At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.

It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.

Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.

We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.

Stop, do not pass Go. You’re done!

That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.

At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.

It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?

It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.

Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.

With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!

Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.

Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.

I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!

Maybe Google was doing me a favor?

In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!

Doctor Who: The Ark, a.k.a. Dodo gives the Monoids SARS-CoV-13

Well, no new Doctor Who for a while now so I thought it might be fun and topical to review a story from the third series in the classic run as a tie-in with the modern Covidapolis. The Ark was is the modern name for the collection of 4 stories which ran in March 1966, pretty much 54 years ago from today. In a sense, though, it is precinct because in The Steel Sky and The Plague (parts 1 and 2 of The Ark), Dodo Chaplet gives a race of humans and Monoids a coronavirus. Yes, technically that’s exactly what she had since the common cold is a coronavirus. But it’s easy to speculate the variety she has is actually some form of SARS-CoV-2, so let’s just say it’s SARS-CoV-13—we’re skipping 3–12, which is just as well as SARS-CoV-7 was really nasty. But I digress.

The Steel Sky

Doctor Who: The Steel Sky
This is a scene from the first episode of the Doctor Who serial known collectively as The Ark. The Leader is tended to by his daughter as he meets the Doctor. © 2020, The BBC

The story starts out with the TARDIS landing in a jungle with a mix of animals from Central America, South America, and India. The Doctor, Steven Taylor, and Dodo Chaplet even pet an Indian Elephant’s trunk.

The problem is, Dodo has SARS-CoV-13, or so I assume. The story takes place four billion years, or ten million years, or whatever this story misinterprets the age of the Earth to be at the time the Sun becomes a Red Giant (hint: it’s four to five billion). In that time, the human race has lost all immunities for most illnesses, having long ago eradicate them.

Meanwhile, the rather docile Monoids have also lost their home planet and are friendly companions to the last humans. The do act subserviently but the humans also see the Monoids as friends and defend the Monoids when, Niash, a human, is negligent in the beginning of the story and sentenced to suspension for seven hundred year of miniaturization. Strangely, this red herring is never seen again, even in the later episodes that take place when his sentence would have been served.

Also, why do they all drive hovercrafts on a spaceship? Wouldn’t an electric car work better? But I digress.

The Doctor and his companions—we called them companions in those days, though I’m sure they were friends—are brought by the Monoids to meet the humans. The leader of the humans welcomes them. However, Zentos—the Freshmaker—remains uneasy and fails to trust the travelers. Zentos is the second in command, and was the prosecuting attorney in the trial above.

The Leader takes a shining to the strangers and even shows them a statue they’re building of a human holding a globe. The statue, though, is barely built, with only its feet complete.

So Dodo goes around touching a lot of things, failing to wash her hands, sleeping with her head on the table, spreading her SARS-CoV-13 everywhere. Eventually, the leader gets the virus and the Zentos hears the Doctor tell Steven he feels guilty for bringing the virus there. Heck yeah, Doc!

The Plague

Doctor Who: The Plague
This is a scene from the second episode of the Doctor Who serial known collectively as The Ark. Suddenly Zantos is all chummy with the Doctor. © 2020, The BBC

As if things weren’t bad enough, the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are put in jail and forced to watch a sham trial lead by Zantos. Everyone seems to be coming down with SARS-CoV-13, Monoids and Humans alike!

When Steven is called to the stand, he is shown—having clearly touched Dodo too much—to have contracted SARS-CoV-13. He collapses on the stand. Zantos assumes this to be an admission of guilt but saner minds agree that the Doctor wants to help cure the plague and they agree to let him try to experiment with a cure on Dodo.

Meanwhile, the Monoids start stroking animals in order to get samples for the Doctor to formulate his cure.

One wonders just what form of virulation he was trying to conduct. After all, can Iguanas get SARS-CoV-13 even? But I again digress.

Some timey wimey jiggery-pokery stuff happens and the Doctor’s cure works. First, Steven thrashes about, but then he his fever is down and he’s alright. The Doctor then orders the virulation to be performed on everyone.

I think it’s important to stop here and get a little sciency for a moment. Virulation is a form of early vaccination and vaccines only work on people who don’t yet have the virus. or who are at an early stage of infection such that the antibodies for the virus can have time to build up before the virus reaches a critical threshold. If someone is already at an advanced stage of SARS-CoV-13, like the leader, would the virulation even work, or would the disease have progressed too far already.

Anyway, the Doctor’s cure works and Zantos is not longer getting fresh with the time travelers. He thanks them and a Monoid takes them back to the TARDIS.

The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are off on their next adventure, which just happens to be the same jungle environment from before. They’re back on the Ark. Only this time, the that statue of feet is complete. The whole body is as normal and originally designed, but the head is the head of a Monoid.

The Return

Doctor Who: The Return
This is a scene from the third episode of the Doctor Who serial known collectively as The Ark. Juan is lording over his domain. © 2020, The BBC

We learn that the Doctor and his companions have arrived seven hundred years later, when the Ark is near its destination of Refusis-II. We don’t know where Refusis-II is as the story Refuses tell us, but we guess it’s close to Spiradon. Niash is nowhere to be seen. He must have been trapped in a plot hole.

The Monoids can talk now, and they have taken over and are lead by a ruthless leader, Juan. Juan wants to claim Refusis-II for the Monoids and leave the now enslaved humans on the Ark to wither and die. Juan captures the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo and puts them to work in the kitchens, the most menial of slave labor jobs. Apartnely, the Monoids have huge appetites. Then again, cooking seems to simply consist of a bullion cube being dropped in water to turn the contents into potatoes or chicken. I guess Rey had the same thing on Jakku. But I again digress.

Some humans are considered collaborators and work more closely with the Monoids. The regular humans don’t like them.

Steven tries to attack Monoid number 2 but fails and a human dies. The Monoids are brutal since they stopped using Sign Language.

Juan is worried about landing on Refusis-II, so he sends a collaborator, Monoid-, the Doctor and Dodo to the surface to make contact with the natives and figure out if they will be easy to subdue.

The Refusis-II people though, you never see them. Turns out, they’re invisible. Monoid-2 is no match for the Refusian and is easily disarmed, though he escapes and tries to warn Juan and the others. Unfortunately, the collaborator human dies in the struggle.

Monoid-2 makes it to the shuttle only to have the ship detonate with Monoid-2 on board.

The Doctor and Dodo are stranded. And Juan has left a bomb on the ship, to detonate when all the Monoids have left and only humans remain.

The Bomb

Doctor Who: The Bomb
This is a scene from the fourth and final episode of the Doctor Who serial known collectively as The Ark. The Doctor saves the day, as usual. © 2020, The BBC

Juan is suspicious and he and Monoid-3 decide to execute the Monoid Evacuation plan. They’re convinced the bomb in the head of the statue will never be discovered.

Juan’s personal servant hears about the bomb and decides to join the resistance. Steven uses him to help him and the other humans escape from the kitchens.

Meanwhile, Monoid-4 is not happy with Juan’s leadership. When all the Monoids get to Refusis-II, they try to find the Refusians but they only find the Doctor and Dodo. Juan is irate but Monoid-4 rebels and takes half the Monoids back to the ship to return to the Ark. Juan warns them about the bomb but Monoid-4 doesn’t care.

Juan decides to ambush Monoid-4’s party on the way back to the ship and a civil war erupts. Monoids are dying left and right. Eventually, only Monoid-4 is left. The Doctor, Dodo, watch the battle and find out the bomb is in the head of the statue. They return to the ship and message Steven, then return to the ship.

The thing you need to know about Refusians, they’re hecka strong. The Refusian lifts up the megatonne statue and chucks it in the airlock, then the prop just sort of teeters out of the ship, falling down toward Refusis-II before exploding in space.

On the ship, all is well. Juan is dead, and Monoid-4 and two of his companions are captured. The Refusian chastises the humans for enslaving the Monoids and the humans agree to treat the Monoids as equals.

Having made they agreements and prepared their landings, they take a hovercraft back to the TARDIS and get on their way. Steven wears my favourite striped shirt, and Dodo wears her zero camisole and skirt. But the Doctor disappears, captured by The Celestial Toymaker…

Poor Substitute for Low-Acid Orange Juice


Many people are trying to show off empty shelves to indicate the panic that is Covidapolis, what I’m calling the panic around COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2. I personally think it’s bad form to post images of empty shelves of Sanitizers, Bottled Water, or Toilet Paper. I mean, it’s bad enough even the backup-backup-backup option from ancient times isn’t available.

Winter Forest, Still No Leaves
Not only is there no toilet paper in any local grocery store, even the trees can’t be used as backup! © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Truth is, I already am good in that respect, and I have been since well before Covidapolis. From a Science point of view, though, the Economics of Hording is something I find fascinating.

Personally, I just wanted to stock up on some Orange Juice. So I get to the Tropicana section and as I approach, I am quite delighted to see the bounty. So many bottles ready to be purchased by me. I can just get my Low Acid Orange Juice and be on my way.

Wegmans Orange Juice, Covidapolis
The Tropicana Orange Juice Shelf at the Wegman’s in Dulles, VA on 14 March 2020, the first day of Covidapolis, © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

The thing is, I am a man with few ailments. But I do have one weakness, the acidity of citrus fruits. It’s a mild allergy. In small doses, I can tolerate even the most acidic fruits, but too much and my tongue starts to swell up and I start to sweat. Thus, I need my Low Acid Orange Juice.

Sadly, the Wegman’s in Dulles, VA has in the past be lax in stocking Low Acid. I have been there at least once where all Orange Juice was in stock except the Low Acid, and I had to drive all the way to Leesburg to get it. So, I knew even with all this Orange Juice, I may end up disappointed.

All Orange Juice in Abundance except Low Acid
As you can see, the there is for the most part plenty of Orange Juice, except Low Acid. As I have a mild an allergic reaction to Orange Juice acid, I can only safely drink Low Acid. Sadly, though this was taken during Covidapolis, everything but Low Acid is a common problem at the Dulles, VA Wegman’s. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Big surprise, they were again out. I really think this Wegmans need to keep better track of its inventory of Low Acid Orange Juice, especially since most of the other grocery stores don’t carry Low Acid. It seems to me if they’re often running out with all other stocks a plenty, they probably should be stocking more of it. There’s certainly the demand. It’s capitalism, 101.

In the end, I decided to go with something more like regular juice than Orange Juice since I know the mixed Orange Drinks typically have lower acidity. Fortunately, I found Orange-Pineapple to suit the bill.

Poor Substitute for Low-Acid Orange Juice
So much Orange Juice on the dawn of Covidapolis, but not a single container of Low Acid. So I had to settle for a Orange-Pineapple, which tends to be lower acid by virtue of being more like a juice drink than pure, pressed Orange Juice. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

In the end, it was a successful trip to Wegmans. But, there was one Covidapolis shortage I was curious about…

Condoms on Covidapolis
Seems the Wegman’s is running out of Condoms on the dawn of Covidapolis. Guess folks are trying to figure what to do with a fortnight off. Wish I had a use for it. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Hunker down, my friends, and stay safe and sapiosexual!