Happy fall to you

As it was pointed out on the news today, the autumnal equinox occurred at twenty-three-something last night.  The time is, of course, in Eastern Daylight Time.  For one, I am fairly happy to see this summer go away.  It has been a very hot and muggy summer.  It was pretty much full of days where you didn’t even want to go outside for any reason.  If you did, you’d be covered in sweat perspiration, and your clothes would hang on you like burlap bags.

I notice that Flighty’s post today (http://flightplot.wordpress.com/) holds a wonderful picture of ‘punkins’; the traditional Autumn and October vegetable.  Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to call them by their proper name of pumpkins.  I’ve always called them the diminutive of punkin.  My dad used the term as well as his dad when he grew them on his farm out in Colorado.  Like Flighty, I’m not all the keen on punkins, but they make a great severed head for Halloween.

It is still  muggy and hot outside.  Yesterday it hit 95 degrees and it is supposed to be this way for the rest of the week.  We had a touch of rain, but it pretty much steamed up from the ground right as it hit.  I don’t see any more on the way for us for the rest of the week.  There is a storm system to the west of us, but it seems to be carrying northwards up into the Michigan peninsula and will probably cross the border into Canada instead of coming this way.

The house and grounds I am caring for is once again up for sale.  The price has been reduced drastically down to around $215K.  If I had the money, that would sound attractive to me for a historic house and just a hair under 3 acres of huge trees.  Since I’m the ‘caretaker’ I’ve been asked to get it ready for tours by making sure all the doors close properly and the floors are nice and clean – that sort of thing.  Since the house as been vacant for so long, and the heating/cooling has been turned off, some of the frames around the doors have warped slightly.  I need to touch them up with a little filing or planing so they will close.  I am told that doors not closing is a big turn-off for potential house buyers.

Well, breakfast is done, so I guess it’s time for me to get moving over to the house and begin working on it.


I am severely puzzled

It isn’t rocket science.  It’s not even hard to comprehend.  Here’s the situation:

First, by way of explanation, we are on a well.  Water is pumped into our house from around 160 feet down, softened, and sent throughout the house.  Since we also connected to the county sewer line 20 years ago some method had to be found to charge us a fair amount for the ‘water and other stuff’ we put down the sewer.  Seven years ago our county came up with the idea of putting a water meter sin the house so they could find out how much water we were using and charge us a percentage of that for their sewer rate.  The meter is installed between the water softener and the rest of the house – allowing unmetered outlets to exist for lawn watering and the like.  With me so far?

Two weeks ago, we had our old water softener break a seal and push out ‘sludge’ from the resin container into our household water pipes.  To get there it had to first go through our water meter, which promptly clogged up and stalled.  This caused no water to flow in the house.  We called the county and they sent out a technician to “check things out”.  He pulled the old meter and replaced it with a new one.  This one didn’t work (didn’t resister any flow) so for two weeks we went unmetered.  Then, they came back and installed a meter that DID work.  It’s dial was set to zero (as all new meters should be) and away we went.

Yesterday, we get a bill from the county for the use of 18,000 gallons of water,to the tune of $147.  Our normal usage, according to their own records, is between 6 and 8 thousand gallons a month.  We call the county and are told “well, that’s what the meter readings show”.  They will not, or don’t want to, listen to any explanations of WHY the meter reading is off.

They don’t want to listen to the explanation that the difference between the old meter reading and zero is because it’s TWO DIFFERENT METERS.  They think that our meter readings just “overflowed” and rotated back to zero like a car turning over 99,999.9 miles into 100,000.0 miles.  But nooooo, their response was to send someone over to check and see if we have any leaks.  Leaks in a well system are usually announced by the well pump running 24/7 and your water pressure fluctuating between 30 and 55  PSI wildly.  You can also tell by all the water flooding the basement, kitchen, or bathroom.  He arrived today (same guy as the last two times), took a look around the basement, pronounced “no leaks” and left.

Now we have to call his supervisor (who, incidentally, is also “sorta the head of billing too”) and try to explain that when you change a meter, all you have to do is chop off the reading of the old meter and ADD the meter reading from zero on the new meter.  NOT, roll it all the way over and charge us for filling four swimming pools.



Are the RSS feeds worth it?

I have about ten or twelve blogs that I read regularly.  All of them come to me using the RSS feed button up on the right side of the address bar (the little red/green one, depending on which browser you use).  All but a couple work just fine. I get each blog entry just a few minutes after it is posted – except MINE!  I make a post, and wait, and wait, and wait, but it still doesn’t get delivered.

My RSS client is Mozilla’s Thunderbird.  TB is a great email client and has no equal as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve used it for years and haven’t had a moment’s trouble.  Lately, it has begun screwing up.  The ‘you have email’ tone will sound and I go looking for the newly arrived email – nothing.  There isn’t a single email I haven’t read anywhere.  I also get the tone for an arriving blog post via RSS.  Same thing – no new post.

The TB forum has a couple of suggestions, but they simply don’t work very well.  I hesitate to go delving into the files that TB uses to keep entries separate and emails from getting put into the wrong slot but this time I tried it.  I deleted the indexing files for the two most troublesome blog threads and restarted TB.  That appeared to work, but the very next blog entry made, I think it was by my brother, I got the tone and nothing else.

WordPress has been informed, and they’ve at least attempted to find out what is going on, but they are hampered by the “not invented here” syndrome.  They claim their house is clean, so it must be that awful software from ‘outside’ messing about.  I’m not so sure.  I think that there is some sort of blockage on my blog here and no matter how many entries I make, they won’t get posted to the RSS feed.

Let’s see if this one makes it.

On another subject:  Just today I had a new water softener installed.  Our old one blew a gasket or something and pumped the resin out of the green oxygen-tank-looking-thingie in the basement.  It was a mess.  All our toilet filler valves were clogged and didn’t stop when they should have (thank goodness for overflow valves), the flow-restricting washers in our showers plugged up, and horrible coffee-colored water oozed out of our faucets.  Fortunately, we caught it early and kept the sludge out of the hot water heater (whoo-hoo).  So now we have a new Culligan unit with all sorts of filters, reverse-osmosis membranal dongles and a space-age control unit that even has a wireless remote up in the kitchen.  There is also a new tap on the left side of the sink with nicely fresh water that has been triple filtered and softened to the point that it won’t stand up at all.  I don’t even have to lug 40 pound bags of salt down two flights of stairs either – they do that.  All for the monthly bill of around $93.  Believe me, it’s worth it not to have to deal with it.

According to the weather radar at NOAA.com we are about to have a tiny little rain cell go over us.  It’s been hotter than ever here with temperatures running around 95 and higher for weeks.  It looks as if this might be broken for a while because the weather guessers are predicting temperatures down in the mid 70’s now for a week or so.  I hope they’re right.  But I bet they aren’t.

Oops, I amend my last to – it’s raining now.  Thunder is rumbling as I type.

I wrote a small program to help me out of a jam.  I bought a nice 1500VA UPS last month and it is hefty enough to plug three computers in to and still keep them alive for over 30 minutes if the A/C goes out.  The big problem being that the software that came with the UPS only runs on one computer and the USB connection only runs to that computer.  So, if the A/C craps out, the one computer will be informed that it should shut down and it does.  The other two computers are left in the lurch.  When the A/C drops, they don’t care because the UPS keeps them alive.  BUT, they don’t know when the UPS tells the one computer to shutdown.  So, what to do?

I wrote a program that runs in the other two computers.  I also added a cheap A/C powered USB hub to each computer and a cheap one-gig thumb drive to each.  I created a special file (POWER.txt) in a special folder (POWER) in the root folder of each thumb drive.  My program looks for this file every 5 minutes.  If it is found, nothing whatsoever happens until the next five minute period.  If the file comes up missing then my program assumes that the A/C power has failed (which would make the power supplies for the USB hubs die) and causes the computer running the program to shutdown in an orderly manner.

If anyone is interested in this program, add a comment here and I’ll pass a link so you can download it.  It is customizable in that you can pick the drive/folder/file you wish to monitor AND you can choose a check time between 1 and 15 minutes.  It’s free also.


I have a web site!

Two days ago I uploaded the first draft of my web site.  The first page has a picture of me at the controls of a steam engine.  Number 97 of the Valley Railroad.  The railroad itself is over in Connecticut, in the town of Essex.  It is known also as “The Essex Steam Train” and their web site can be found here: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/.

My site is a specialized site aimed at allowing people whose versions of the train simulator sold by Auran (Australian company) have become unsupported.  A ‘route’ is a collection of train boards with all manner of textures, trees, houses, tracks, trains, and the like set down on them.  Terrain can be modeled from actual digital maps and can be quite realistic.

I offer some pictures of a route that I created several years ago so you can get the general idea what Trainz is all about.

The site is here: http://trainzroutez.info/welcome.html so drop on by if you’re curious to see what I look like (with an added 20 pounds I have since lost).

Something screwy going on here.  I’m not getting my RSS feeds of this blog.