The Good Old Days

From the marriage license application of Helen Marie French and Howard Collins, April 6, 1929:

  • That neither of said parties is an habitual drunkard, epileptic, imbecile or insane, and is not under the influence of any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug. Said parties are not nearer of kin than second cousins, and there is no legal impediment to their marriage.

From the marriage license application of Hazel French and Homer Sexton, May 21, 1936:

  • Has the female contracting party been an inmate of any county asylum or home for indigent persons within the last five years? no
  • Is the female contracting party afflicted with epilepsy, tuberculosis, venereal or any other contagious or transmissible disease? no
  • Is she an imbecile, feeble-minded, idiotic or insane, or is she under guardianship as a person of unsound mind? no

Life with Arlo Pro

Now that I’ve had the Arlo Pro cameras for a few months now, what do I think?


  • Setup and placement is easy, although I recommend buying better anchors for their dome mounts.

  • The cameras trigger reliably and record video and audio with plenty of quality for their intended use.

  • Battery life is excellent at the default settings, and they recharge at a reasonable speed.

  • Notifications are usually quite quick, to the point that when I get home, the alert arrives on my phone before I can unlock the front door. I have one camera set to high sensitivity, and when it goes off in the morning, I know a cat has shown up (or the wind is strong enough to blow the bamboo in front of the camera).

  • The week of cloud storage from the free base tier is sufficient for my needs.

  • Viewing, managing, and downloading recorded videos is quick and easy.


  • The app/website frequently reports that the cameras and base station are not reachable, and insists that they must not be connected to the Internet. Never mind that the base station is pingable at all times and I can see it sending traffic to their servers. This appears to be a problem with dropped connections at their end.

  • Connecting to the camera can take a very long time even when the app/website can reach them, and often times out. For instance, just now it took me nearly ten minutes of trying to get it connect to one of my cameras, and it repeatedly claimed my base station must be “offline”.

  • Even when the app does connect, I’ve never gotten the intercom functionality to work. For instance, when the neighborhood kids were playing hide-and-seek, I couldn’t tell the kid who kept setting off my cameras to go hide somewhere else.

  • Since you can only configure the base station and cameras through the app/website, all administration is blocked when it claims you’re “offline”.

  • When notifications don’t arrive instantly, they can show up hours later, but the app doesn’t tell you which videos are new; they’re silently sorted in with the ones that showed up on time. Basically, when you get an alert on your phone, you have no idea if something just happened or if an hours-old video finally showed up.

  • The USB storage is basically useless. When I recently pulled out the drive, it had video from March and July, but nothing in between. And the only way to view what it recorded is to log into the app, hope it connects successfully, tell it to stop writing to the drive, then connect it to your PC.


A security camera that sometimes alerts you promptly is not terribly useful.

I suspect their servers are overloaded, and all of the problems they blame on my (rock-solid) Internet connection are on their end. I also suspect that the service would magically improve if I upgraded to a paid tier…

Bottom line, if your primary requirement is prompt, reliable notification of security events, buy something else right now. The Arlo Pro will record the event, but you might not find out about it for hours, and might not be able to get a real-time view of the scene without wasting several minutes waiting for a successful connection (which can require force-quitting the app).

If, like me, you’re mostly interested in package deliveries and wandering cats, it’s flaky but acceptable. Hopefully they’ll resolve these problems with server, client, and app updates, but right now it’s pretty Beta.

November Update

The app and website no longer show my base station and cameras constantly going offline. So, one major Con removed. I haven’t retested the notification, USB drive, or intercom issues yet, but if they got those sorted out as well, I’m much happier with the product.

Neko Atsume Live: Achievement Unlocked

I petted Scrawny last night. I won’t say she was happy about it, but consent was sought and received, without bloodshed.

She wasn’t up for it this morning, though. The fact that her response was silently scooting away from me on the bench rather than hissing or running away can be considered progress.

The lesson to be drawn from this is that in The Glorious Future, we should be careful not to let catgirls go feral.

Porch Cat: Whitefoot

I’m working from home today (one of those “look up from laptop and notice it’s already 3pm” days), with the windows open to catch the breeze, and I noticed Whitefoot walking along the back fence. Guessing correctly that he was headed for my porch, I was waiting with both wet and dry cat food, and despite Scrawny’s mostly-silent disapproval, he held still long enough for me to get a picture.

The surprise was that he isn’t the cat I thought he was all this time. The one who hung around on the porch two years ago had a white soul patch and only two white feet. Now that I’ve seen Whitefoot in good light, there’s very little similarity.

Scrawny, by the way, has moved onto the padded bench right by the door, which is a small show of trust. It puts her within arm’s reach when I come outside, and she doesn’t retreat nearly as far.

Porch Cats: Scrawny, Tubbs, Smoky

I’m up to five regular visitors, and the most common ones are getting comfortable enough that they don’t vanish over the fence when I open the front door. Instead, they wait to see if I’ve got a bag of food in my hand, which has allowed me to get a few pictures with a real camera.


Queen Of The Chairs, she’s out there almost every day now, and has become bold enough that she’ll let me get within three feet as she waits for the food and water dishes to be filled. She doesn’t like me, and will hiss if my hand gets within about a foot, but she’s the boldest of the lot.


Like his Neko Atsume namesake, he’ll eat everything that I leave out if nobody beats him to it, and I often see him making the rounds from porch to porch. Fortunately, he seems to have a lot of places to visit, so most days the other cats get food.


I’m stunned that he refrained from fleeing long enough for me to get even one in-focus picture.


Terribly shy, and mostly comes around after dark, so I’ve just got night-vision footage from the Arlo Pro cameras. Part of that same litter I found two years ago, and the first to spend a few days lounging on the chairs. That’s still the only decent picture I have. Update: finally got a good picture, and it’s not the same cat.


Scrawny claimed his chair during the day, so he mostly comes by at night now, when nobody else is around. The others all seem to get along if nobody challenges Scrawny for the chairs, and I’ve got lots of late-night footage of them just hanging out together on the porch. Still no good pictures of him, just the one where he was hiding in the bamboo.

What’s missing in all of these pictures is any hint that they’re housed anywhere. They’re healthy, but they don’t have any tags or collars, and after the rains ended, Tubbs was pathetically grateful for the self-refilling water dish I put out. And they’re not socialized; Scrawny is the least skittish, but reacts violently to any attempt at contact. In his kittenish days, Whitefoot sat on the chair and purred, but now vanishes in a heartbeat if I start to open the door.

Neko Atsume Live

Ever since I first got the back yard landscaped with lots of plants and ground cover, it’s been a popular daytime hangout for the neighborhood cats. After I had the front porch extended and put some chairs out there, I discovered a group of young cats who liked that even better than the back yard.

Some of them still come by occasionally, and I’ve gotten used to the sound of disappearing cats when I open the front door.

Recently I decided to install some cameras outside the house, mostly to watch for package deliveries and solicitors, but also to keep track of porch cats. I went with the Arlo Pro kit based on a friend’s recommendation (actually, he has the older Arlo; I went with the Pro because it adds local USB storage). Good hardware, easy set up, usually-quick notification of events (~5 seconds), iOS app is a little flaky and sometimes falsely claims that my system is offline. I like it enough that I’m probably going to add some more of the first-gen cameras for the garage and rear entrances after I’ve had it for a month or two.

To reliably detect cats, I had to set the porch cam to the highest sensitivity, which unfortunately generates occasional false positives due to wind hitting my bamboo, but I’ve caught two of them so far, one of whom I hadn’t seen before.

Orange cat has been a regular daytime visitor since he was half-grown, and always sits in the left chair, which gets plenty of sun. He used to sit in the bamboo pots, but gave that up after I added them to the drip system:

New cat comes mostly at night, always sits on the right chair, and vanishes instantly when I open the door. I’ve got some low-res night-vision shots of him, but the best picture I’ve managed so far was a quick out-of-focus snap through two panes of glass as he was making his escape through the back yard.

Clearly I need to hide a camera in the bamboo, so I can get close-up shots with better focus.

"Wind, blow!"

Soon after I bought my house in Salinas, I had a large, heavy potted plant go flying, because it was near a window, and it can get kind of windy down here. Since all that wind also gives it the cleanest air in California, I generally don’t mind.

Last night and this morning were something that hasn’t happened in the 16 years I’ve lived here. Gusts up to 60 MPH, taking down trees all over the county (including a large one at the end of my street, which admittedly was only planted a few months ago), and since today was trash day in my neighborhood, sending garbage and recyclables everywhere.

Waze estimated at least a 100-minute delay on every feasible route to my office, and when in the afternoon it thought things had cleared up on a back road, it turned out no one had told them about the latest downed tree.

No flooding in my area, at least, but I did lose an 8-foot section of wooden fence that apparently vibrated apart, and my patio umbrella will be the star item in the next visit by Junk King. Its 30-pound base was dragged ten feet before it reached the gravel and fell over, snapping the supports.

Some assembly required, French Ikea edition

When my family was visiting back around Christmas, I whined a bit about the previous year’s gift of a full set of large, heavy dishes to replace the lightweight, indestructible Corelle Ware that I was quite fond of. Not just because I didn’t need more dishes, but because I was already low on storage, and my brother had finally sent me my grandfather’s full set of monogrammed bar glassware. I said “what I really need is a good sideboard”, and twenty minutes later Mom called me over to show off several options she’d found on Wayfair.

The Parisot Ethan 6-footer was the one that fit best into the style and color of the rest of my kitchen, and they said it would be in stock on January 9th. So I figured that a few weeks into the new year, I’d have a place for my stuff.

Then the in-stock date got pushed back a few weeks. Then a few more. Then a few more. Finally, at 11:40am on April 1st, I received an in-stock email from Wayfair. At 7pm, I noticed the notice, placed the order, and was told it would ship on the 5th and arrive on the 12th. On the 5th, the ship date was revised to 5/16. On 5/17, the ship date was revised to 5/31. Mind you, I was billed on 4/1.

On the morning of 6/6, FedEx rang the bell and dropped off two large boxes containing a flat-packed sideboard and a small assembly pamphlet. (fortunately, Wayfair had a PDF of the assembly doc online, so the extent of the work required was not a surprise)

The “open first” box contained the instructions and a bag of parts. After carefully sorting and counting, I confirmed that they’d gotten it right:

Parisot Ethan sideboard assembly

(not pictured: drawer sliders, glue, and actual furniture components)

I did have to run out for replacement wood glue, though. The bottle I had was really old, and one of the two little tubes they shipped was punctured by a screw. Note to Parisot: next time, put the pointy things and the liquids in different baggies.

They estimate two hours, but I suspect they don’t include unpacking and sorting in that…

[Update: and done! Except for leveling the doors and drawers. And moving the bookshelf full of cookbooks that’s sitting where it needs to go. Etc, etc.]

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”