Using Zapier to Setup Omnifocus Projects from AirTable Entries

As you may know, I produce about a dozen different podcasts, most of them weekly, and keeping track of all the tasks of pre-production, recording, editing, distributing, and promoting them is challenging for a one-man operation like myself. Some shows I host, while others have their own hosts. Some shows I edit, while some have their own editors. It’s a lot of moving parts and if I don’t track every step, it could quickly fall apart.

I use Omnifocus, a Mac-based application, as my project management tool of choice and that’s where I keep all of the individual tasks that need to be checked off. Meanwhile, I use AirTable, a web-based database, to keep track of the shows, their episodes, who’s involved, and what stage of production they’re at, among other things. Since the steps to produce an episode of each podcast is pretty much the same every time, that means this process is ripe for automation. What was missing was a way to connect the AirTable and Omnifocus parts of the process because I was finding that I’d enter an upcoming episode of a show in AirTable and forget to setup the Omnifocus project. I needed some way to trigger the project creation from the first step of a new episode. Enter Zapier. Read More and Comment

Where Would We Go, Lord?

I have to be honest, I don’t get all the angst about staying Catholic. Don’t get me wrong; this may be my own moral failing, an inability to get sufficiently upset at how bad things are. But when I read other Catholics write about how they struggle with staying Catholic despite all the scandals and how it’s the sacraments that keep them in the pews and that the constant drumbeat of bad bishops, faithless laity, and narcissistic priests has them one foot out the door … I don’t get it.

I mean, have you seen humanity? Have you read the Bible? When has it ever been different?

Yes, what bishops and popes and priests do is important. Yes, I fully support airing out the dirty laundry and confronting our sins. Lord knows, I’ve been writing about it professionally and personally for the past 20 years.1 But what does that have to do with my faith?

God is still God. He’s still in Heaven. Jesus is still Jesus. He’s still in the tabernacle. The Holy Spirit still fills my heart and soul. The saints are still the cloud of witnesses; they still inspire and educate through their example and intercede in their prayers. The sacraments still fill me with grace. My prayers still ascend. I still talk to my children about the Light of Christ within them.

Why should some news story suck that out of me? Why should the loss of a priest threaten that? Or a bishop’s failure to govern or to attain personal holiness? If Christ cannot be found in the newspaper stories or articles shared on Facebook, He can be found in my brother on the street. The face of Christ is in my sister panhandling on the corner.

In the end, what could possibly separate me from the Church, the Body of Christ? Nothing, that’s what.

A couple of years ago, I decided I would no longer argue about theology or the scandals or Church controversies online.2 Because, what’s the point? Will I change someone’s mind with a well-crafted bon mot… or more likely an attempted barrage of invective? No, I doubt it. Yes, I read to be informed, but I don’t need that break in my peace any more because I know that Christ is still king no matter how much we endeavor to screw up the Church down here. And if God wants the Church to be fixed and the pews to be full of people, He will do it. And if He wants the pews to be empty for a while, that’s His prerogative. As for me, there’s nowhere else to go. There’s nowhere else I want to go. Where would I go?

  1. This blog, especially in its first 6 years, was a compendium of the rot that had entered into the Church.
  2. Which I have managed, with notable lapses.

My Pocket Go-Bag

A couple of years ago, I did a post about what I carried in my pockets on a day-to-day basis and mentioned that I no longer carry a bulky wallet, but instead have downsized to a minimalist wallet. However, I was still carrying pockets full of other stuff that would weigh me down and make my pockets all saggy and baggy.

That’s when I decided to go with a pocket go-bag. A regular go-bag is bag you have packed somewhere in your house or your car that contains emergency essentials that you would need if you had to “go” on a moment’s notice.1 A pocket version, however, is not so much for emergencies, but contains you may not always need with you, but would all go together: If you need one, you should probably have them all.

It’s a bit of something in the middle between a regular wallet and a larger day bag or messenger bag or backpack.

So for my pocket go-bag, I needed a handful of items that I would need when going out for the day or longer, but not if I’m puttering around or running an errand. Here’s what’s in mine.

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Tip: Use your charcoal ash to reduce trash odor and kill pests

Have you ever had one of those strokes of brilliance that happened entirely by accident? One of the longstanding problems I’ve had as a homeowner has been the disgusting nature of our outdoor garbage barrels.

We get trash pickup every two weeks, a 96-gallon trash barrel and two recycling barrels of the same size. We also don’t have a garage, so the barrels sit in the sun on the side of the house. You can imagine what it’s like after two weeks in the hot, summer sun. It’s disgusting. Not only does it smell, but the barrels are literally crawling with maggots. It’s so veery disgusting. (I hate maggots.) After every pickup, I used to have to hose down the trash barrel to clean it out.

Another fact about our home: When we grill, we grill exclusively on charcoal, not propane. I love the taste and smell of charcoal on grilled food and charcoal grilling is something I’ve become very good at. I also grill a lot in the summer, as often as the weather and other factors allow. This means I go through a lot of charcoal and create a lot of ashes. I used to dump them in an out of the way place in the backyard, but that got messy after a while so I just began dumping it straight into the trash barrel. It turns I should have been doing that all along.

Ever since I began dumping the ashes in the barrel, the problems of smell and pests have dramatically lessened. I never see maggots any more before or after pickup and while you can smell the trash right next to the barrel and when you lift the lid, it doesn’t waft over the whole side of the house and down the driveway like before.

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Tesla Solar Panels: One Year Later

I wrote a long post last year about our saga getting solar panels installed on our house and approved for activation by the local electrical utility.1 While the panels were installed in the spring of 2018, we weren’t able to turn them on until August 2018. So one year later, how is it going?

Pretty awesome, to be blunt. In July 2018, our last full month on the grid, we used about 1 ,200 kWh of electricity from the utility, costing us about $286 in charges2.

This July 2019, our solar panels covered all of our electricity usage (in a massive heat wave) and generated an excess of 500 kWh to put back in the grid, generating a credit of $100. The Tesla solar panel lease is about $130, meaning we paid about 1/10th the amount for electricity this July over last.

Our current total credit balance for the year is about $450 so far and if current trends match last year’s, we should be on track to cover most, if not all, of our winter usage.3 I am very, very happy with this.

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I’m an Expert at Working from Home

I have worked from home part-time (i.e. telecommuting) or full-time for 12 of the past 23 years. I’ve done so as a single guy and as a married guy with homeschooled kids about. I’ve done so as a full-time virtual worker (i.e. no home office), as an employee of an organization where I worked several days in the office and several at home, and as essentially a sole proprietor (not really, but close enough). So I have some experience with the idea.

I did the commute to work from the suburbs to Boston, from suburbs through Boston to the other side, and from suburb to suburb and I have absolutely zero desire to get back in my car every single day and sit in that mess five days per week. This is why I wholly support the new focus by those in both government and the private sector on encouraging more telecommuting.

When I worked for Mass. Citizens for Life, I was required to drive into the office in Charlestown three days per week, which was torture, because I sat in stop-and-go traffic on the way in and on the way out, sometimes taking more than two hours to get home, and it was completely unnecessary. There was nothing in the office that I needed to be there for. For most of my time working there, only one other employee worked in the office and we had completely separate functions. Some days we said hello and goodbye. Most days I didn’t do a single thing that I couldn’t do from home, often more efficiently because I have a better computer at home. And yet, every day I drove in I contributed to traffic congestion and pollution and the consumption of gasoline and took up a spot in the parking lot and so on.1

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The Lone Pundit and the Archdiocese of Boston

Have you ever noticed that reporters tend to go to the same pundits when reporting on particular subjects and sometimes rely on a single pundit to comment? And those stories often seem tailor-made for that pundit to comment on?

So in today’s Boston Herald, the reporter goes to Peter Borre of the so-called Council of Parishes, a tiny organization that purports to represent Boston Catholics, but which apparently has a tiny membership and almost no public footprint1, to comment on the “news” that the Archdiocese of Boston has hired a consultant to help with parish fundraising.

I worked in the Archdiocese of Boston’s fundraising arm for several years and then in a parish for several more. I am well aware of the deficiencies in fundraising in the Archdiocese. I also know that dioceses hiring consultants to help parishes with increased offertory campaigns or capital campaigns is as run-of-the-mill as hiring waste disposal firms to take away the trash. This is not news and one wonders why it is that the Herald decided this was news and perhaps whether the reporter called the pundit or the pundit called the reporter.

The Archdiocese of Boston has hired a fundraising agency to boost donations for parishes — an expense that shouldn’t be necessary with all the employees raising money in the finance department, a Catholic Church watchdog said Tuesday. … Borre told the Herald, “The use of an outside firm surprises me. They have salaried people in the finance department who are supposed to be pretty good at fundraising.”

Borre’s complaint is off-base. Fundraising doesn’t happen in the finance department. Fundraising is a separate function done by Boston Catholic Development Services, a department of the archdiocese which does fundraising for the clergy health and retirement fund, Catholic schools, and the annual Catholic Appeal that funds the operations of the Archdiocese.2 They also provide fundraising services and assistance to related Catholic entities within the Archdiocese, like parishes. There are definitely criticisms that can be leveled against the fundraising practices of the archdiocese and questions raised about the relative size and expense of BCDS compared to their results, but neither the reporter or the pundit come close to those.

You could also point out that lack of funding is not primarily a problem of extracting more money from the people left in the pews, but one of evangelization and discipleship (i.e. not more dollars per person, but more persons at the same dollar level).

But this Herald article is bunk, a criticism of a common and standard practice, and its reliance on a self-described Catholic Church watchdog is deceptive and religion reporters need to do a better job than this.

  1. They have a Facebook page with almost no followers and very little activity and a domain name that doesn’t have a web site. And their Facebook page links approvingly to information about schismatic parishes.
  2. Unlike some dioceses, the annual Appeal does not fund Catholic Charities. They do their own fundraising.

Camping Vacation in Gettysburg

We just returned from our summer vacation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend. It was a great choice of place to visit for several reasons, but it was also not without its hardships. (Incidentally, if you want to read Melanie’s take on our trip, check out her blog posts on it, which she’s writing about day-by-day. We also talked about the trip on our podcast, Raising the Betts1.)

We were supposed to visit Gettysburg for a day or so last September at the end of our two-week, 11-state family reunion trip, but Ben got sick on the way to there from the Great Smoky Mountains and we had to cancel at the last minute. But we promised the kids that we would go back another. I”m not sure why we picked Gettysburg in the first place; we’re not especially Civil War buffs, but it might just have been halfway from Tennessee to home. In any case, we’re much more interested in the Civil War now.

Heat and Other Weather Woes

Let’s get the not-so-good aspects out of the way first. We camp in tent on most of our vacations, partly because we enjoy the outdoors and mostly because we’re a family of 7 without a lot of money. Camping in a tent costs about a fifth of renting enough hotel rooms or getting an AirBnB. But the downside, of course, is that you are at the mercy of the weather. And we picked the wrong week to visit central Pennsylvania. Temperatures all week were in the 90s and at night, it was humid and still hot. Luckily, our new tent has sides that zip way open to provide excellent ventilation, but hot and humid is still hot and humid. And during the day, we had to stick close to the air-conditioned car. If I had to do anything more strenuous than sit and read a book, I ended up drench in sweat and gross. And with the forecast showing even hotter temperatures on Friday night and record heat on Saturday, we decided we’d seen most everything we’d wanted to see and cut our trip short by a day and went home on Friday. My takeaway is that we don’t camp in July or August unless we’re in the mountains or by the sea.

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