Friday, August 31, 2007

Not Enough Air Freshener in the World

In yet another new homeowner experience, we had our septic tank pumped this morning. I've smelled some rather rank things in my time, but I think the combination of 2 years of human effluent and diesel exhaust takes the cake. It also wafts in through the air conditioner. Mercifully, my septic guys say I have three years until I have to experience it again. I think the smell may be gone by then.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Instructional WTF

The Rookery took delivery this morning of a new washer and dryer (thanks again, EPM!). I am continually amused by the precautions in the owners' manuals for appliances and home electronics, and Frigidaire has not disappointed me. Some choice excerpts from Page 2: Important Safety Instructions:

  • Do not add gasoline, cleaning solvents or other flammable or explosive substances to the wash water.
  • [My personal favorite] Never ground the washer to a gas pipe

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Snow My Hindquarters!

Apparently, enough rain will, in fact keep the post office from its appointed rounds, if it submerges the post office. My mail is in there somewhere.

Attack of the Killer Split Level

The Rookery does not like houseguests. It's not us; we don't mind having family over for a weekend now and again. It's the house itself, and it is quite insistent on that point. My parents tried to visit shortly after we moved in, and I don't even remember all of the things that added up to it taking nearly a year and a half for that trip to happen. SuperDad planned a stopover on the last leg of a trip, only to have one of his in-laws die while he was on the first leg, cutting the travel plans abruptly short. Emp. Peng.'s mom had to have emergency quadruple bypass surgery a week after buying a plane ticket to see us last April. She has re-booked her travel plans for this week. As near as I can tell, the house has decided that homicide and attempted homicide is no longer an effective deterrent, so it is changing tactics and going suicidal.

Yesterday, my first glance out of the window in the morning showed that the back yard was a bit boggy in places. Given the amount of rain we've had lately, that did not surprise me much. I took my coffee downstairs to get a closer look at the state of the yard through the bathroom window. About three feet from the wall was where I discovered the leak--with my feet. T-minus 52 hours until mother-in-law, and the carpet was squishing between my toes. Water was also seeping into the utility room, too, but that is all concrete, so it dries quickly enough. Carpet, on the other hand, is slow to dry, especially when all you have to work with is newspaper and a travel hair dryer propped up in a broken mason jar.

But wait. It gets better. The new knob on the other bathroom door now resolutely refuses to latch if the strike plate is fastened on. When we came back from noontime errands yesterday, the garage door opener decided now would be a good time to stop closing. While I was up there having the gear box fall off in my hand, I happened to notice that a 2-foot by 1-foot chunk of my garage ceiling is no longer, in the strictest sense of the word, attached to my ceiling.

Leaving the ceiling for another day, after we get the chimney flashing fixed, I headed out to the garage door shop to find out how much of the garage door opener needed replaced and when I could get the parts. The parts will be in Thursday, and for a while there on the way home, it seemed like that would be about how long it would take me to get the 5 miles from the shop back to the Rookery. Seems I'm not alone in experiencing some water-related woes. At least three feet of water covered parts of every possible route from the shop back home, unless I wanted to drive home by way of Indiana. The one road that wasn't under water is under construction. Nothing quite like having every single bit of traffic in the city funneled through one lane.

We are now at approximately t-minus 20 hours until Emp. Peng. Mom. The carpet is down to being merely damp, but I think I may have discovered just how long a travel hair dryer can go before it gives up. The bathroom door still won't latch and EPM will definitely beat the garage door parts here. If anyone else gets finalized travel plans out here, I'll be sure to post a warning so you all can stock up on nonperishables to get you through the apocalypse that will surely follow.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reverse SpacePenguin News

I've recently found a nice site for continual updates on the Reverse SpacePenguin, aka the space shuttle, as well as any other space travel news. I can't say much for the layout at, but the information is up-to-the-minute and comprehensive, including not only NASA, but other space-faring countries' space programs and private space flight.

At the moment, the site is posting breaking details on whether or not the Mission
Management Team on the current Endeavour* mission is going to recommend breaking out the Space Spackle (STA-54) or not.

*-don't get too used to the "proper" spelling, Nimrod. We only kept the "u" because it is named after the HMS Bark Endeavour. NASA doesn't even get it right all the time.

Trash Talk

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting op-ed on garbage, specifically reducing the amount of it we throw away. Their stance is that when trash collection costs are hidden in tax bills, we tend not to think about how much we chuck out. When it's a matter of whatever is at the curb disappears on trash day, we don't pay attention to what we haul out to the end of the driveway on a weekly basis. Their solution: pay as you throw. Provide an economic incentive to not create so much solid waste by uncoupling trash pickup from the municipal tax bill and making people pay by the bag for pickup.

Not a bad idea, really. It works nicely here at the Rookery, where there is no municipal trash collection available, so all trash collection is handled by a robustly competitive group of private companies who have a vested financial interest in getting people to throw away less. The less people throw out, the more households the company can service on a single truckload, and the lower their expenses. To that end, they offer multiple tiers of service, and the more bags a household wants to throw out, the more they have to pay for trash service. We are on the 4-bags-per-week plan with our trash company, only because that is as low as they go. I rarely put out more than 2 bags. Because of this, my trash bill each month is less than the folks down the street who put out 3-4 overflowing cans each trash day.

Since I almost never use the full allotment of 4 bags, I would not say that my trash bill has been a big motivator to decrease my trash production (having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I have eco-guilt to take care of that). However, if, instead of paying $11 per month for 4 bags a week, I could pay $5 for 2 bags, you can bet your sweet bippy I would find ways to not produce more than 2 bags of trash a week.

There is one tiny caveat to the pay-by-the-bag system. It encourages people to consolidate their trash into one larger bag. When I first got my trash service, I called them to clarify what exactly constituted a "bag," since with a big enough bag, anyone can cut down to one bag a week. Their answer was that as long as it weighed less than 50 pounds, they didn't have a size limit. The representative encouraged putting multiple 13-gallon kitchen trash bags and smaller bags from the other wastebaskets into one 33-gallon trash bag for collection. This leads to the slightly perverse scenario wherein I actually throw away more plastic bags than I would if they didn't have a bag number limit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Almost forgot the corollary lesson to point #2: not only is there water in the pipe, the water is bleepin' COLD.

Revenge of the Plumbing Fairies

Once, just once, I'd like a home repair to go smoothly, according to plan (note to my house: this does not mean I want something else to break).

For about the last month and a half, the well pump has been switching off at random. My very helpful water softener guy, who knows more about this house's plumbing idiosyncrasies than anyone, mentioned that it looked like the cause was a short in the pump switch. No big deal. Certainly less of a big deal than replacing the entire well pump. For a while, we were content to toggle the breaker whenever the water shut off, and all was fine. Last night, for the second time, the switch shut off while the water softener was recharging, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet. My water softener guy said the switch was a $40 part, and I would just need to get my plumber to come install it.

He was wrong about the part. That was $22. He may have been right about the plumber. The part looked easy enough. Four wire connections plus a ground wire are well within my electrical capabilities. The bottom part had a nut-looking thing that screwed onto the spot where the old one was. No sweat.

Usually, I thoroughly research how to fix things before I attempt the repair. But this one looked just so darned easy, I skipped that. Had I done the research, I probably would have discovered two very important details:

1. The thing that the bottom of the part screws into is a water pipe.
2. Even if you turn off the power to the well pump, there is still water in that pipe, under pressure.

At this point, I would like to direct everyone slapping their forehead or muttering "Who didn't know that?" to the Where Were You An Hour Ago When That Information Could Have Been Useful, Before I Power-Washed My Face And The Utility Room Ceiling Department. And be careful; the floor is a bit slippery when wet.

Using techniques gleaned from watching many a submarine movie (in which, during the obligatory "take her below crush depth" scene, a pipe or rivet always bursts and the crew has to patch a hole that is spewing water at high pressure), I managed to get the new part on the pipe and securely tightened down. Reconnecting the wires was the breeze that I thought the whole job would be. And yes, I remembered to dry the part out before I turned the juice back on (note to PengDad: unlike the water, the smoke stayed in). Surveying the results, it doesn't look like there was as much water as I originally thought. I suppose it just seems like a lot when you've got Satan's Water-Pik clearing out your sinuses the hard way.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Weather Update

Here are some pics (not taken by me) of what passed over the Rookery today. I briefly considered getting the camera, but decided that I would rather continue making sure I did not need to kiss my ass goodbye on short notice. As it turns out, my description of it was not too far off. The semi-technical term for what I saw is "Mothership mesocyclone."

End of the World?

You know how, in the alien invasion movies, there is the ominous cloud that descends above the city and dissipates to reveal the mothership? That's what it looks like outside my window right now, minus the mothership, which I expect at any moment. I swear, the lead cloud actually skimmed the locust tree in the front yard on it's way through. I am comforted by the fact that any alien smart enough to pilot a mothership here is smart enough to invade places other than the middle of Ohio first.

According to NOAA (which, I still maintain, is the most unintentionally hilarious government acronym, particularly when, as they are now, they are issuing a flood warning) this is not aliens, rather it is
Yes, I'm indoors. No, I haven't seen the hail yet.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What's With the European Squirrels?

First we had the rampaging squirrel in Germany that injured three before he got taken down. Now, there is a klepto squirrel in Finland who, not content with raiding the "squirrel proof" bird feeders, has taking to going into a grocery store twice a day and helping himself to a chocolate. The squirrel's reported favorite contains a toy, and the squirrel unwraps the candy, eats it, and carries off the toy, leaving the wrapper. Which, now that I think about it, makes him a klepto litterbug squirrel.

We'll forgo the obvious jokes about him squirreling away the toys.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

And the Promised Photo of Item #3

The guy to the left is the corsetier. I darned near threw up when they let me out.