Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas, 2012

My Christmas status report...

Well, it seems we are all still here, Mayan calendar not withstanding.  I kept telling people that their calendar stopped because they ran out of numbers!

I've been living here for about a year and a half now.  Doc Deb was gracious and invited me to move in when I lost my job last year.  I'd been doing maintenance stuff in exchange for my keep, until she lost her job in March.  She decided to move down to Texas to be with her parents, who are getting a bit frail.  I'd pulled the pin on my retirement benefits (such as they are), so now I'm staying in the house, making the mortgage payment.

The last three months have been exciting - I started working as a contract writer for a company called Remilon.  I'm writing on-line classes on programming for them, for starters.  The idea is, you could take a full class on one of many subjects for free, and then take the CLEP exam, and get college credit for the class.  It's an inexpensive way to clear out a lot of undergrad requirements, given that the cost of a CLEP exam is usually under $100.00.  My first lesson is finished, and I just uploaded the video for my second one yesterday.

Given that I live at the main crossroads in Red Lion, there is a *lot* of traffic, and traffic noise, which makes recording my lessons pretty much impossible.  I went to the local library, and asked if I could use one of their conference rooms as my recording studio.  I wound up talking with the director, Don, about it.  One thing led to another, and I wound up hanging a projection screen in the board room for them.  We are working on starting some computer skills classes there.  I use the library as my office sometimes, as it gets me out of the house and away from potential distractions (like Baxter helping me type).

Got the heater working, and think I've located the leak that flooded the basement.  It's not the boiler, nor is it the water heater.  I believe that it's in one of the pipes going through the cellar wall to the heater in the kitchen.  That means, the kitchen floor will have to come up in order to locate and repair said leak.  Fun.

I got an estimate on getting the old siding replaced.  The Home Depot guy (also named Don) was mostly worried about the sagging laundry room.  I did a little poking around, and it looks like there is no really code-grade footing for it.  The floor will also have to come up for diagnosis and repair, and possible jacking/shoring.  Yay.

Christmas... I'm going to get the place picked up and cleaned up this weekend.  My plan for Monday is to bake.  Current projects are to be two pumpkin pies and weapons-grade fudge topped brownies.  (I may do soft oatmeal cookies before that, just to get me through the weekend.)  Christmas day will be my Christmas movie marathon: The Ice Harvest (John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen), The Holiday (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Jude Law), Scrooged (Bill Murray, Karen Allen), and a new one, the 200th episode of NCIS.  I think of as a take on "It's a Wonderful Life", with Gibbs taking George Bailey's place in the center of things.  And maybe, if I can find them, the "Eureka" Christmas episodes, too.  Dinner will be turkey tamales and Caesar salad.  And french vanilla ice cream laced with brandy (from the book "Ice Cream Happy Hour").  And, of course, I hope to chat with my daughter.  She is on the road from L.A. to Billings, Montana as we speak.  She expects to arrive today, and will be staying with my cousin and his wife until she can get situated.

Update - pictures!!

Living room with tree, candles, and Baxter

Dining area/work area

Bar, red hat, and Dakota

Kitchen work station, with pie!!

Close-up, workstation and pie!  Kitchen composting happens in the green bins on the left.

And that's about it for year end here in PA.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Elevating Thought

(I decided that I should cross-post this here, as well as at leelu's place.)

 It's been a month since the election, and I'm still trying to re-group.  What upset me the most (after the outcome)  was the encroaching lack of civility and clear, useful journalism on the Right as well as the Left.  I find that disheartening, since one of the Big Deals we made about the Left was and is their lack of civility, and the mendacity of the MSM.

One writer who comes to mind is John Nolte, at Breitbart.  Here is his opener on the Zimmerman/NBC suit:
"Though it might feel like a hundred years ago, it was only last April when the media joined Barack Obama's cynical crusade to gin up his base in Florida through the artificial inflaming of racial tensions. And there was no question NBC News was the worst of these co-conspirators after the network was busted editing a 9-1-1 call to make Trayvon Martin's suspected shooter, George Zimmerman, look like a racist. Today, Zimmerman filed suit against the Peacock Network."
Now, I gather that his basic assertion about NBC editing the sound track of the 911 call is factual.  But I don't think anyone would deny that the inflammatory nature of the paragraph.  I'm not suggesting that Mr. Nolte do anything differently - he has his "bully pulpit", the editors must like the way he's writing, and the First Amendment applies.  You go, John.

But I think this kind of writing only helps to maybe put an up-tick in the pitch fork, torch, tar, feather, and rail markets.  Which I don't think is really helpful at all, even in the short term.

My metaphysics training has taught me to stand guard at the doorway of thought.  In a nutshell, this warning is based upon the idea that we see and become what we think and believe.  If we don't pay attention to what we are admitting into our thoughts, we can start to slide downhill.  A practical example - repeat a lie often enough, and it (seems to) become true.

My distress is in no small part to my own slippage.  Looking back over my pre-election and near-post election posts, I'm struck by how they could have been less, well, vulgar, and more informative and thoughtful.  Fortunately, Gerard turned on a light for me, and gave me a glimpse of what I've been seeking.  It has apparently been wending its way thru the web.  One full copy of it is at The Thinking Housewife.  I'm excerpting the first section here:

A Plan for Traditionalists

AT The Orthosphere, Kristor offers a reasonable guide to survival and affecting the culture. In the immediate future, he recommends:
  1. Resolve to pay no more PC jizya (beautifully spelled out in the Solzhenitsyn essay that has been discussed a lot lately in the wider orthosphere). Tell the truth, and call a spade a spade: calmly, politely, and without being obstreperous about it, but nevertheless firmly. Without making a big deal about it or calling attention to yourself, fail to appear for the public rites of Moloch. If you must thus appear, quietly fail to meet the requirements of the rite.
  2. Write, read, blog, talk: join a book club, an apologetics roundtable, a bible study group. Learn the arguments for reaction, for Christianity, for theism; learn the arguments against them, and how they may be defeated. Speak up: fearlessly, scandalously, but always humbly and politely.
  3. Live a virtuous, upright life, at home and in business. Speak the truth, and do the right thing. Whatever it happens to be, don’t let it be about yourself; let it be about the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
  4. Beware; and be prepared to move, quickly. Get rid of stuff that you don’t need or that is not positively beautiful to you in some way – especially debt and belly fat, which are likely going to cost you as the financial and medical sectors of the economy devolve over the next ten years.
  5. Maintain tradition in small things: e.g., dress more formally than is customary these days, practice old-fashioned manners, refrain from swearing; read old books, and then discuss them around the family dinner table; join together in regular and serious family prayer, if only to bless each meal; remember your family holiday traditions, and observe them gravely and with joy.
  6. Pray without ceasing. Pray whenever your attention is not wholly consumed with the task at hand. Work toward praying even when it is. Nothing is so convincing as sanctity, or so attractive, or so authoritative. Without it, personal rectitude can seem like Pharisaical arrogance (and risks becoming just that). You can’t push sanctity. But you can work at allowing it to happen.
 (Debt isn't the huge problem it was five years ago.  The belly fat, though continues to be tough.)

There's more, all worth read, pondering, and incorporating into our lives.  Go!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This Old House, II

Heating.  Did I mention heating?

I got a full load of heating oil about two weeks ago.  First time in about a year, given the Doc's and my impecunious state.  Fired it up, cranked it up to 68 deg.  It kicked over and started running.  Lots of gurgling in the pipes.  Minimal heat downstairs, nothing on the second floor.  Time to punt.

Got into the library's on-line catalog, and found the Time-Life DIY series book on home heating and cooling.  Reserved it, picked it up, and read it.  It is an excellent reference (I ordered a copy from the Paper Back Swap Book Club), but of course, a bit generic.  So, back to the interweb... this time for the owner's manual for the boiler in the basement.  Which I now have in PDF format.  I love the internet, and Google is my friend.

The trouble shooting diagnostics pointed me to a low water situation.  I poked around and poked around, until I had the piping figured - input, output, and return.  I found the inlet valve, as well as the pressure regulator and the expansion tank.  Both inlet valves were open (two inlet valves - one at the top of the inlet stack, and another between the pressure reducing valve and the expansion tank.  I don't know.)  I fiddled and futzed, and finally realized that it didn't seem that any water was actually entering the system.  Just for grins, I rapped on the expansion tank.  I sounded resounding hollow, which I took to mean "empty".

So, I turned off the main inlet valve, and unscrewed the tank.  It weighed about what I expected an empty tank to weigh.  And no wonder!  The inlet was completely plugged with a tightly packed wad of rusty crud.  Just for fun, I turned the water back on.  Aaaand, still nothing.  So, I removed the pressure regulator.  It, too, was plugged with rusty crud, and when I opened the valve, water squirted out of the pipe at an angle, just like water squirts out of a hose when you have your thumb on it.

So that was how I spent my Friday.  Fortunately, it wasn't horrendously cold over the weekend, because I couldn't get replacement parts until Monday, when I got paid.  I went into York on my usual payday supply run, and picked up a new regulator and tank.  (Also got my new glasses, a pair of jeans, and dog food.  And beer.)

I got home, and went to work... I immediately noticed that the new valve wasn't configured quite like the old one.  That one had external thread for a coupling nut.  Mine had internal threads for a 1/2" nipple.  Sigh.

So, off to the local ACE I go.  I get the 1/2' female end piece, and happily return home.  I get the whole thing soldered together, and realize that there is no way to assemble it - all on the ends were threaded.  It seems the original coupling was there for a reason.  Duh.

All DIY home repair projects require (at least) three trips to the hardware store.  I got a coupling, plus fittings and pipe, and swung home.  This time for sure!

And it went together, and held water!!  It ran, and, when I finally went up to take a shower, the bathroom was warm!  Whoa.

However... the next morning, when I was in the bathroom again, I could hear water running.  The only open valves I knew of were the ones controlling water to the heater.  Yes, I had a bad feeling about that.  Turned out to be accurate, too.  There was about an inch of water on the basement floor.  I had work to do, so I turned off the valve, and went and did it, then stopped at ACE on the way home.  (Not a fourth trip - the first of what I expect will be another three.)

Figured I didn't need an $80.00 sump pump just yet, so I got a hand drill powered pump, rated and 150 gal./hour.  Worked great.  Turned the water back on, turned the furnace back on, and away it went.  I wisely checked back an hour or so later.  The water had risen a tad, so I turned it off, and called it a day.

When I checked this afternoon, the floor was 80% dry.  I turned the water back on, and let it run.  I then turned it off, and cranked the thermostat up so it would kick in.  I'm trying to figure out the circumstances of the leak - it it when the system is pressurized from the incoming pressure, or when it is hot and running?

I'm going to go check, and will pick up this thread later.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

This Old House

The house I am renting from my friend, The Doc, is older that she and I put together, and that's old.  It seems that the inspector may have been beholden to the seller or their agent somehow, because he said the roof was OK.  If, by "OK" he meant that, "Yes, there actually is a roof on the building.", then I'm wrong, and he was telling the truth.

On the other hand, if he meant "Yes, there's a roof on the building, and it is in desperate need of replacement, because it will do you no good when there's rain or melting snow!", then he prevaricated.

A year ago last October, I spent a weekend on the roof over the original house, tarping it.  It was freezing (really, 30 - 32 deg F) and windy.  I got black adhesive all over a new pair of jeans, and generally didn't have much fun.  But, my office and bedroom remained dry under precipitation.

A couple of months ago, I took the dogs out for a drive.  One the way home, it began to rain.  About six miles out, the rain turned into what I know as a "gully-washer".  It caused me to contemplate pulling over and waiting it.

When we got home, the laundry room was awash.  The second floor back bedroom opens out onto a small balcony/patio.  It is covered with the exact same useless roofing material as the main house and the second storey back bedroom.  So, a couple of weeks before Sandy hit, I tarped the part of it that was over the laundry room.  When Sandy hit, I discovered a drip, so I put a bucket under it.  The next morning, there was about 1/2 inch of water in the bucket, so I consider the laundry room successfully tarped.

When I went through the back bedroom to tarp said patio/balcony, I discovered that  the wall that faces the back yard had turned into a biology experiment, much like the one we did in high school biology.  We were studying molds and fungi, so we set up a bunch of petri dished loaded with agar, and let them fromage over the two week Christmas break.  (It was 1965, I was in Catholic school, so it was a Christmas break, damnit!)

Fortunately, the room does not smell anything like the biology classroom did when we got back from the break.  But it definitely alive, at least in spots.  Truly, in spots.  And runs, and eruptions.  Ecchh!

So, I got out on the roof over the bedroom/kitchen addition, and tarped it.  I have no way of telling if I was successful in stopping the leakage, because I'm going to have to remediate the room to actually tell.  But I'm not going to do that just yet, I think.

The Doc wanted to get a roof put on, but her abrupt lack of employment made that impossible.  My meager retirement income doesn't have room in it to save any significant money for the project.  And the course writing gig has taken longer that I thought to get spun up.

So, for now, I work the writing gig, and once I've officially gotten the hang of it, I can start generating disposable income for such thing as roof, old bills, and back taxes.

Life is good.  Really!