Pandemic Gas Mystery

Updated on Saturday, February 20, 2021

For no good reason I downloaded my gas and electricity consumption data by day for the last couple of years.

Electricity usage in kWh 2020 vs 2019 7 day moving average

The electricity trend is unsurprising. At the start of the pandemic it jumps up and stays up. With work and school from home we're running four computers non-stop, burning lights and (the horror) printing things. Overall we used 24% more electricity in 2020.

Gas usuage in therms 2020 vs 2019 7 day moving average

Gas on the other hand is pretty flat. There are some different peaks at the start and end of the year, but our total gas consumption increased by 0.08%. This doesn't make any sense to me. Being at home doesn't make much of a difference to laundry but it should have had a big impact on everything else. The heating has been on way more, we're cooking breakfasts and lunches that would have occurred out of the house in 2019 and we must be using more hot water as well.

There is one strange difference between how electricity and gas are metered. Fractional kWh are distributed randomly between .00 and .99 as you'd expect. Fractional therms are totally different - we're apparently likely to use 1.02 or 2.03 therms but never 1.50. This feels like it must be some sort of rounding or other billing oddness but I can't find any reasonable explanation despite asking Google three different ways.

Fractional therms billed distribution for PG&E billing days in 2019 and 2020

In a move that I might come to bitterly regret I have emailed PG&E to see if they can explain it. I'll update this post if I hear back. Or if you're a therm metering expert please leave a comment!

Updated 2021-02-20 13:51:

PG&E say:

"Thank you for contacting our Customer Service Center. Gas usage is registered by recording therms usage.  If you view your daily usage online, you will see that therms are only registered in whole units.  The only pace that you will see therms not as whole units is when you review the average daily usage.  The pandemic started in March 2020 and since then your gas usage is up slightly versus previous years. Most customers will see a larger increase in electric usage versus gas usage when staying home more than normal.  The majority of customers set the tempatures of the their heaters to very similar temperatures year over year and your heater will work to keep your house at the temperature whether you are home or not at home."

So the fractional therms are some sort of odd rounding on the downloaded data. Fair enough.

The majority of customers use the same temperature setting? Really? So that might be a good explanation if you constantly heat your house to the same temperature, but I know for sure that isn't us. We have a Nest Learning Thermostat and as I've previously reported this doesn't so much learn as just constantly turn the heating off. So staying warm is a constant battle with the thing.

Maybe the difference is that the pandemic started around Spring when San Francisco is warm enough to not need much heating. I'll look again when I can just compare winter vs winter in a couple of months.

(Related: 1,000th Post!; California Climate Credit; Meeting Defragmenter)

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Accessing Printer Press ESC to cancel

Updated on Tuesday, October 18, 2022


Minutes spent so far this year waiting for Excel to talk to a printer: about 290.

Lifetime Excel print jobs: maybe 2?

How to fix Accessing Printer Press ESC to cancel:

  1. Press Start, search for Printer and run the Printers & scanners setting item.
  2. Find and click Microsoft Print to PDF and click Manage.
  3. Click Set as default.

The only real disadvantage is you'll need to select a different printer when you actually need to print anything (which you probably don't).

(Related: Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet; Full Outlook Web Access on Chromebook; Monitor page index status with Google Sheets, Apps Script and the Google Search Console API)

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ITHCWY Newsletter for October 2020

Leaving the Nest

Updated on Saturday, May 15, 2021


I migrated from Nest to Google Home today to save a few bucks and while eventually inevitable it was a really dumb move.

The first thing is that it doesn't work with your Google Workspace / G Suite account because of course it doesn't. So you need an unpaid Google account to move to. Luckily I already have one from that time that G Suite didn't support Google Fi. Interestingly while Google Home won't work with your paid account it has no problem reaching over to grab credit card information from it.

The next thing is goodbye Works with Nest, hello Works with Hey Google. So there goes my IFTTT integration. Because I can't use my main Google account it's kind of useless to me that this might work with Google Assistant. There is still Alexa integration though so I can play my Nest stream on the Echo Show once a year or so as a connected home party trick.

Having not read the changed terms of service I downloaded the Google Home app which a few minutes in I've take to calling Google Nope.

Nest Protect is not supported! This is my favorite smart home device just because when the battery runs out it can tell you which one to change. It's worth almost any amount of money to not spend several hours figuring out where in the house the omnidirectional smoke detector chirp is coming from. But for some reason Google Home doesn't integrate with Google Nest Protect so you need to keep the Nest app as well. Understandable, they only have several tens of thousands of engineers.

So they nailed the camera experience at least, right? Nope. In Nest there are about a hundred settings to play with. In Google Home you can change the name of the camera. In Nest you can scroll through all of your recorded history. In Google Home, despite specifically paying for the plan with 10 days of history you can't. It has a pre-Alpha feel to it. Good for a 'hey, we got the skeleton of an app thrown together' kind of internal demo but it feels like they probably should have added the things you've paid for before shipping it to anyone, let alone bribing them to go through a feature shredding 'migration' process.

My smart home ambitions are not that great. I had a nice little setup that switched some lights on and off around dawn and dusk, but Philips end-of-lifed the bridge and I'm not about to buy a new one. I had some fun making dropcam timelapses but Google broke the public cam URL. And thank goodness I didn't get the alarm system.

Lesson (eventually) learned. The only new smart home devices I'll install are the ones that I build myself.

(Related: Capture DropCam (Nest Cam) frames to Google Drive; Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet; Chromecast won't connect to wifi - finally found the fix)

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Android 11 Gripes

Updated on Thursday, August 26, 2021


You have to make allowances for the fact that many people are working from home (where maybe it's harder to test code and you certainly can't do hallway usability testing). Things also improved somewhat with the October patch. But Android 11 was a Windows ME level disaster. Google says that they dropped the desserts to make Android 'more accessible to a global audience' but I think it's probably because they know that new updates are no longer sweet.

Multi-tasking is completely broken. In pandemic mode I'm on video calls all day, and dodging the 2-3 video calls that are usually going on elsewhere in my house. Being able to have Teams and notes running at the same time is pretty important right now and with 11 it's not possible.

Other than conference calls and Kindle the other main use I have for my phone is podcasts. Android 11 improved the media controls by moving them to the quick settings area of the notification shade, providing easy switching between playback devices and allowing you to swipe through recent playback apps. All good, except that none of it works. The controls are there but do nothing so I have to run the app to pause. Also, there is a weird ghost of a previous media playback that shows up and then disappears when pulling down the notification shade. And as for dismissing previous sessions that seems to require a reboot.

Multi-tasking and media were fixed in the most recent patch, but there is also some new notification system to separate out conversations. In practice this seems to mean I get multiple groups of Gmail and Teams notifications instead of a single cluster per app. This isn't what I want, gives me more work to do and so far I haven't found a way to turn it off. Notifications have steadily improved over the last few major Android releases so it's upsetting to see them becoming worse.

This is all on a Pixel 4XL which you would assume would get some level of testing love. It used to be that the main advantage of a Pixel was getting new versions of Android quickly. With 11 I'm for the first time wishing I was waiting a few months while the kinks were worked out.

(Related: Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet; The Secret Diary of a Xamarin Android Developer, Aged 48 1/3; 1,000th Post!)

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San Francisco PM2.5

Updated on Saturday, December 3, 2022

San Francisco PM2.5

This post is updated hourly with a PM2.5 (2.5 micrometer or smaller particulate matter) map of San Francisco.

The PM2.5 data comes from the Purple Air API. The map uses one hour average readings from outdoor sensors and interpolates each point in San Francisco based on the inverse of the distance to the four closest sensors. The color scale is green to yellow (0-50), yellow to orange (50-100), orange to red (100-150) and red to purple (150-200+). San Francisco is plotted using elevation contours from DataSF.

Updated 2022-06-11 12:28:

The map is currently broken. The URL I use to download sensor data started returning a 500 error code at the end of may (Error: Server Error / The server encountered an error and could not complete your request. Please try again in 30 seconds.). This seemed like something Purple would need to fix. On closer inspection the error occurs after a redirect to which sounds like too many requests (a 4xx error surely). With even more digging it turns out the download link is no longer supported (410 maybe then?) and so I'll need to migrate to the REST API to get this working again. I'm currently trying to get an API key and will get this fixed as soon as I can.

Updated 2022-06-13 17:28:

Purple Air were kind enough to issue me with an API key so the map is back to updating hourly.

(Related: Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet; Long term solar powered time lapse camera using Arduino; Improving the accuracy of the new Catfood Earth clouds layer)

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ITHCWY Newsletter for July 2020

ITHCWY Newsletter for June 2020

Visualizing Coronavirus Cases and Deaths by Country and US County

Updated on Sunday, November 27, 2022

Cases and Deaths by Country

Week on Week Incremental

Visualizing Coronavirus Deaths by Country (Daily Incremental)


Visualizing Coronavirus Deaths by Country (Cumulative)

Cases and Deaths by US County

Week on Week Incremental

Visualizing Coronavirus Deaths by US County (Daily Incremental)


Visualizing Coronavirus Deaths by US County (Cumulative)

This post is updated weekly (on Sunday) with global and US county level coronavirus data from Johns Hopkins University. Four videos show both cumulative and week on week progression (comparing seven day moving averages) of the disease together with four images that show the most recent snapshot.

Cases and deaths are shown simultaneously using blue for cases and red for deaths. Where both are high a region will be a shade of purple. Regions with no data are dark gray.

The week on week incremental visualization is useful to see the history and current state of the spread of coronavirus. Each region is shaded based on the highest number of daily cases and deaths for that region and is relative to population. For example if the highest number of deaths reported on any day in San Francisco county is seven, then any day that has seven deaths will be the brightest shade of red. This shows where COVID-19 is relatively bad over time.

The cumulative visualization is shaded relative to the highest total death and case count for any region, relative to population.

As the location and date of the peak in week on week and cumulative cases and deaths change over time the videos will be different each time you watch. Bookmark this post and check back for weekly updates.

(This is the fifth version of this post as I have changed the data source and methodology several times. I usually preserve the previous version of any post but the changes are large enough that in this case I have removed them).

Cases and Deaths by Country

Daily Incremental




Cases and Deaths by US County

Daily Incremental




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ITHCWY Newsletter for May 2020