Sure am…between Monday and Friday. What, you think I do this on my own time with a 28.8 modem? No, here, I’ve got a T-1 and I’m being paid for it!
As for the umbrella question: It is forbidden, for the tent reason. My understanding is that when you place something over your head as protection (not counting clothes, which are a different category of object), this is considered in the category of “building”, which is one of the 39 forbidden categories.
Cheeseburgers: A Jew who keeps kosher will not eat a cheeseburger. I once heard a great line about someone who keeps kosher in the home but not when dining out…the rabbi told them that their dishes will go to heaven.
Use of a non-Jew to do work on Shabbos: A Jew cannot explicitly ask a non-Jew to do for him anything that he (the Jew) wouldn’t be allowed to do for himself. However, the Jew could “hint” at it, and if the non-Jew does it, it’s fine. For example:
WRONG: Christopher, could you please turn on the light?
RIGHT: Boy, it’s dark in here, isn’t it?
Sounds flimsy, but there is a difference in Jewish law between doing something “actively” and having it done “passively”.
As for using a VCR timer: I’m unsure of the details of the VCR. I do know that most Orthodox Jews (myself included) use timers to turn lights on and off on Shabbos. My best guess is that she was using some sort of “VCR-Plus” service which would amount (according to Jewish law, as that Rabbi sees it) to her explicitly asking the company to record for her on Shabbos. But I really couldn’t say without greater knowledge of the details of the case.
The word for that “community home” is Eruv.
Chaim Mattis Keller
“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective