Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Politics of Cynicism

Yet another in my occasional political commentaries. If you'd rather not know what I really think, or if the fact that we don't agree means you'll stop being a friend, please click here and look at the sculptures instead.

I'm a cynic. I admit it up front, and it has certain implications for what I believe about politics.

Obama, for example, may be newish on the national stage, but he's been around long enough to have been bought several times over. I just don't think it is possible for anyone to get as far as he has without that being the case. I wish it were otherwise, but my experience with those in power shows otherwise. By the time someone is nationally known, he or she is in the pockets of any number of people and organizations.

The same is true of McCain, of course, only worse. He's been around high level politics much, much longer, and as a result has been tainted that much more. I know he was a "maverick" and authored campaign finance reform legislation, but it simply isn't possible to be that powerful and be clean. Sorry.

One more thing about Obama: I'm going to vote for him. McCain won't get my vote for several reasons, most of which don't matter to this post as my topic is cynicism. I just don't want anyone thinking I'm so cynical I don't vote. I'm not sure how much my vote matters, but I vote.

Back to McCain. There are several things about him that inflame my cynicism particularly seriously. For starters, he's radically changed a several of his positions since he started running for the presidency. (Immigration reform anyone?) And there's his obvious pandering to the Republican base, as with his life begins "at the moment of conception" comment at the Saddleback forum. As if he'd know anything about that.

And now we have his choice of running mate. When it was first announced I was mystified. Who is Sarah Palin and what does she have to do with national politics? But the more I learn, the more I realize just how crafty McCain was in chosing her, at least from the perspective of trying to win the election. Let's examine a few points:
  • She's young. McCain himself is positively ancient and has a tough time appealing to younger voters. Plus, Obama is young, and that had to be countered. Palin won't pull hard core Democrats away from Obama, but younger undecided voters now have to think about it a bit more.

  • She's female. When the Democrats went for Obama instead of Clinton, McCain must have immediately limited his choices to women. How else might he attract those disaffected Hillary voters to his side, even if they agree with him on nothing else?

  • She's a radical republican. McCain wasn't previously such a hard core right winger, but his positions have moved as the campaign progresses. Despite those changes, many in his party don't trust him because he's been wishy-washy in some of his positions in the past, positions that matter to the conservatives. (Abortion, immigration, etc.) Well, Palin has no such issues on her record. (In truth, she's so new to politics she barely has a record, but forget about that.) What we know of her is that she's a lifetime NRA member and staunchly anti-abortion. That's a major bone to throw to the right wing of the Republican party, and they love it, or so it appears based on campaign contributions since the announcement.
Can you sense a pattern here? Palin was chosen specifically to address areas where McCain is weakest, but without thinking about the broader implications of her choice. If I was a conservative republican I'd be offended, not elated. He's hand picked someone who will (hopefully) never be in power just to make far right Republicans feel good. The pandering there is simply vast.

And exactly what happens if McCain gets elected and has a health problem while in office? Palin takes over and... what? It's not her age I quibble with. As it happens, Palin and I are the same age, and I doubt it matters all that much. And it isn't even her total lack of experience. I don't actually think anyone is qualified to be president. It's a silly to think someone could be prepared for that office in a specific way.

No, what I worry about is her personality. I've listened to her speak enough to get a sense of her style, and I just don't think she's right for international politics. I recognize the problem because I suffer from the same thing myself. There's no gravitas in Palin, and she will never be taken seriously at a conference table. She's a self described "hockey mom," and she sounds exactly like one should sound. I'm sorry, but there are any number of qualified women I'd much rather have in the office of the vice president.

And again, I stress that this isn't an attack on Palin. I have the same problem. i will never be in a position of power - be it in public or private life - because my personality just doesn't work for it. You wouldn't want me negotiating with Putin either.

But McCain is so dead set on winning - whatever the cost - that he is willing to put exactly the wrong person into a position where her shortcomings could seriously matter. He's manipulating the American public as directly as he can in order to get himself elected. And since his positions have changed so much recently, I have no idea what he will do if he does win the white house.

In the end, I simply can't trust him, and while Palin might be a nice person to meet - though I am certain she and I differ on many, many issues - I simply cannot justify her in the vice president's role, particularly with McCain being 72 years old.

If people really are tired of politics as usual, then they should be very warry of John McCain. What I see there is just more of the same; manipulation and pandering for the express purpose of getting into power. Obama may be doing some of the same things, but if so he's quite a bit more subtle about it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mountain Living - Water Part IV

So we're finally getting somewhere on the water situation, but just where isn't entirely clear yet. The water purification people we've been talking to just called me back with a $6000 proposal for purification equipment. It's a lot of stuff, and I'm not yet sure we'd need it all, but it's huge. They're sending me the details so we can review them next week.

We could truck in a LOT of water for that much money, but then again, trucked in water will only get more expensive, and this is a worst case system, built to bullet proof the water against most anything. We have a lot of research to do and questions to get answered before we say "yes" to this, as you might expect.

As it happens we also got the bill for all the well work today, Another $1800. Ouch.

I've said it before: those of you on city water should consider yourselves very, very lucky.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Today I'm avoiding wor... er... the heat

It's 93 degrees at my house in the shade right now. I should be out carving stone, but I just can't bring myself to go do that. I'd just be a pool of goo on the driveway long before i was done.

But such is life. Instead I am hiding in the relatively cool house, trying to stay cool with the dogs, while the day passes by. It's supposed to be much cooler tomorrow, so perhaps I'll be working on a stone then.

For those of you looking to kill some time, I can recommend this blog:

There are some very funny things here, and clearly the world is full of people who should not be allowed to bake cakes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Busy busy busy...

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been stuck doing many things, few of them relating to things will appear here.

However, I intend to spend some hours today working on a new stone for the show in September, and I've been preparing new information for my website about that show. That's all good.

Oh, on the downside, still no news on the water test samples I sent out 1.5 weeks ago. Whenever I hear about that you'll know it here.

So, stop reading this and go do something productive. I am.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mountain Living - Too Much Fruit

Yes, that's a bathtub full of pears.

We have this not-so-little problem of a fruit loving Siberian Husky and no other place to keep the mounds of fruit we've harvested away from him.

Truthfully, the problem is a bit bigger than that. Or property has about seven very old pear trees on it and as with all farming, they all ripen at once. (Actually, with pears, they don't ripen on the tree. They only ripen after you harvest them. They started falling off the trees a couple of weeks ago, but only yesterday did Anne finish - mostly - the harvest.) It was a good pear year.

And that isn't all of them. There's a box full that isn't pictured, and we've already canned 15 quarts of pear sauce. (IMHO pear sauce is much better than apple sauce. If you get the chance, try some.) If we'd actually harvested them all at the same time and just put them directly into the tub in the guest bath, it would have been full. To the brim.

Now we wait. They must ripen a bit before we make more pear sauce. And as with all fruit they will nearly all ripen at the same time, so we'll be canning another four gallons of the stuff all too soon. Assuming we have that many jars.

Aside: why is it called "canning" if you put whatever you're preserving into jars? Dumb name.

We've already had the apricot inundation for 2008, and we only have a couple of small trees. The plum inundation is probably still coming, but I haven't checked. That'll be followed by the apple inundation, but those we mostly ignore. They're small granny smith type green apples that the deer love but we don't like so much. Of course none of that includes what Anne is growing in the garden.

Wish us luck getting all those pears processed!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nerd Check

So we were somewhere on our way back from Illinois on the recent trip when I saw an interestingly shaped cloud in the sky. I pondered it, pointed it out to my wife, and only then realized I had a camera in my cell phone and might be able to take a picture of it. To make a longer story shorter, I got one picture before it changed shape too much. Here it is. Does it remind you of something?

No? Well, as I say, it was changing shape and I wasted a lot of time. But perhaps if I show you the thing it's supposed to look like (to me, anyway). Imagine this flipped over. You might see it in the cloud then.

Perhaps you recognize that? No? Well, FOX did cancel the show way too soon. I only learned about it well after it was off the air, and even after the movie came out. Any clues yet?

The TV show was called Firefly, and both the movie and the spaceship pictured above were named Serenity. The cloud looked something like the ship if you used your imagination. (And if you're a nerd like me.) The show and the movie were quite good. Go rent them or buy them on DVD if you can. They're well written and fun.

Finally, just because I found it on the net, here's a better picture of Serenity:

She's a pretty ship. Now, go watch Firefly. Please. I promise not to mention it again. For a while.

Art News - New Carving Toy

The other day one of my birthday presents arrived.

it's a powered air purifying respirator. In other words it's something I can wear while carving stone to keep the dust out of my lungs, the rock chips out of my eyes, and it won't fog up while this is going on.

For years I've worn a bug nose respirator and safety glasses, but it's a lousy combination. The respirator works fine, but it gets hot. Then it happens that rock chips and dust get around the safety glasses, particularly when I'm using a die grinder. To avoid that I could wear goggles, but those just fog up and become a hindrance almost immediately.

This new device runs on a battery for 8 hours at a stretch. It's got a fan that pumps a minimum of 4 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of filtered air into a full face mask. That means that as I sweat it evaporates and is exhausted out the vents, so I can continue to see.

Yesterday I used it for nearly three hours and it worked very well. Today I got stuck on a different task and didn't do any carving, but there's always tomorrow. (And there'd better be a tomorrow for this. I'm running out of time before the upcoming show.)

Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in this development. If anyone wants to know more, email me and ask about it. I can send or post more details on what I got and why. I did a fair bit of research before making the purchase.

Vacation Drive: Illinois and The End

Illinois is changing. It's going from yet more corn fields to suburban sprawl at a horrifying rate. No, I don't really like driving through corn fields, but it takes very little time to get from Rock Island on the western edge of the state to the "greater Chicago metropolitan area". About 6 seconds, I'd guess.

What isn't suburbia is still flat and boring, but it is the end goal of these trips. Family lives there, so we go there.

Illinois was home to the worst drivers of the trip, without a doubt. The freeways around Chicago might as well not have speed limits, since none of the locals follow them. 20 or 25 MPH over the limit seems just fine.

And in the 20 years since we moved away from this part of the planet it hasn't gotten any prettier. As mentioned above, the Chicagoland area has become one giant suburban unit - a huge shopping center - from near the Wisconsin boarder all the way down to Joliet. It may go farther south too, and I have no idea how far east it goes. What I know is the farm fields and wooded streets that used to exist are now all built up.

The farmers are (or were) selling out - and getting out - to let contractors build cookie-cutter tract homes by the thousands, and at least three new strip malls per square mile at a minimum. It's actually rather depressing.

One thing they get in the midwest that we don't get at home is lightning storms. True, we get some on occasion, and the most recent did set half of California on fire, but even that storm wasn't all that impressive as lightning goes. They get real lightning out there on the prairie. The kind you watch from your open garage as it advances, bolts hitting the ground all around you. I miss those, and lightning bugs, but I don't miss much else from the that part of the world.

Our path through Illinois along route 88 is about 190 miles long, ending at someone's parent's home - whose depends on the specific trip. Here we rest for a while before turning around and driving back in time to get someone to work - or other commitments - on time.

If you ever take this trip you'll probably have very different opinions about the sites and places along the way. Someone out there must like Nebraska or Salt Lake City, for example, even if we don't. I hope these descriptions have armed you for the drive. Bring a camera for the scenic spots. We forgot to do that this time and I wish we'd remembered.

We find we like this long drive in some ways. It's a few days in each other's company with nothing to do but sit in companionable silence or talk about whatever. We stop every two hours or so, change drivers, and walk the dogs. These little stops are about 15 minutes long each, and they slow us down a bit, but they - and the shared driving - also make it possible for us to go 15 or more hours a day and cover a lot of ground safely.

This time around we noted that traffic was way down. Even truck traffic was reduced. We generally do this trip in the winter - over the holidays - and we expected more traffic in the summer. It wasn't there, and we've seen I-80 carry more traffic in late December. I guess the economy is hitting people pretty hard so they're staying home.

And that's it for the trip description. Sorry, but I'm not to the point were I'm going to document family stuff on the net. For many reasons I think that would be silly.

Posts in the series:

Vacation Drive: Iowa

The only thing good about Iowa is that there's less of it than Nebraska.

Yet another state of nothing but corn. 300 miles of corn.

True, the ground rolls a bit more than it does in Nebraska, but there's still nothing to see. And the humidity in the summer... I needed gills whenever we got out of the car. We ran the A/C just to dehydrate the air a bit before we breathed it in.

I'm a westerner at heart. If my liking of Wyoming and California and even parts of Nevada didn't make the point, my dislike of Iowa and Nebraska should drive it home.

Posts in the series:

Vacation Drive: Nebraska

Nebraska: 450 miles of nothing. Flatness without end. Dullness personified. Boredom on asphalt.

Yes, Nebraska is dull. Deadly dull. it really is 450 miles of torment.

There is nothing to see but corn, and nothing to do but suffer through it.

The westernmost 75 miles or so gets slightly more interesting, but only because the corn goes away and it's range land instead.

If there are nice parts of Nebraska they aren't along I-80, and the way we do these trips we will never see them. In truth I have a hard time imagining what any supposed nice parts of Nebraska could be like.

Posts in the series:

Vacation Drive: Wyoming

Wyoming is a beautiful state. Really. Some call it bleak and think it's too remote, but I differ. There is almost always something to look at, and whatever it may be, it's impressive. The easternmost 50 miles or so are a bit too flat for my taste, but the rest of the state is gorgeous. There are these amazing ridges. From the top of one you can see for many, many miles to the next. The landscape is interesting, full of color and shape, it holds your interest. Near the towns of Green River and Rock Springs are wonderful cliff like hillsides, sculpted by wind and rain and ice over millions of years.

And the city of Laramie is nice. It's a university town with quite a bit of character.

Politically I'd probably be a fish out of water in Wyoming, but if we ever leave California and have our choice of places to go, we'll give Laramie a lot of careful consideration.

Anyway, it's 400 miles from east to west along I-80, but we don't notice the time and distance all that much. It flies by.

Posts in the series:

Vacation Drive: Utah

I seem to have been busy with other things for a few days. Oh well. On with the trip description...

Utah presents a very special set of problems for us.

First, there is nothing in the western portion of the state along I-80. Nothing at all. The salt flats go on for miles, and so does the road, straight as an arrow and pretty dull driving.

After that there's Salt Lake City, a place we've loathed for various reasons over the years doing these trips. It all started when we discovered they don't allow dogs in the national forest just east of the city. I've taken dogs into all kinds of national forests in the past and never had a problem, but in Utah they're worried because it's "the watershed for the entire city". Like my dog was a health risk to the city compared with deer and other wild animals that never get a vet appointment in their lives. Give me a break.

And it's gone downhill from there. For many years prior to hosting the Olympics in the area I-80 through SLC was under construction. Every time we'd drive through town they'd route us around the beltway - miles and miles out of our way - giving us a scenic view of the town we hated from the start. We've never gotten over it.

Suffice it to say we despise driving through SLC. To the point that even now, years after the first trip that got it all started, we make it a point to have something loud and rude by Frank Zappa playing on the stereo as we pass through town. If that makes no sense to you, forget about it.

Oh, I do have a family living in SLC now, a cousin and her husband. They are perfectly normal, but they are the only ones we can confirm are sane in the entire SLC region, and it appears they do not set public policy for the area. If the timing allows we stop and see these folks, but it usually doesn't work out. We get there too late on the outbound leg of the trip, and the return trip is a bit variable. Oh well.

A bit east of SLC you hit Park City, where it is (thankfully) possible to find rational people and a place to sleep; even a hotel or two that will accept dogs. The surrounding mountains are quite nice, but in truth it's all too close to SLC for me, so it's only a stopover on our way through.

Utah is about 200 miles across on I-80, and Park City is our usual first stop on the trip east.

Posts in the series:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vacation Drive: Nevada

There's a certain rugged beauty to this state, or at least those portions visible from I-80. Ranges of mountains separated by the valleys. Desert scrub. In an austere way it's quite pretty. Often we drive through Nevada at night and in the winter, but this time we hit it in daylight going in both directions, and the contrast is quite vivid. A bit of snow on the ground and some moonlight can turn the landscape into something almost magical, but it was still impressive this time.

That being said, seeing the view is sometimes a problem thanks to the proliferation of billboards, mostly for casinos. Of all the states we drive through, Nevada has the most billboards by far. Based only on how many exist they must have no regulations controlling them at all, regardless of their location.

Sadly, if you are a non-smoker, you don't actually want to breathe in the state, particularly inside a building. As far as I can tell all residents of Nevada are required by law to smoke constantly, and the result is that I wind up holding my breath every time I go into a gas station. A while back someone told me that Nevada had passed a law making restaurants smoke free, but that the casinos had managed an exemption of some sort. Truth be told I don't know how that law has worked out. We almost never eat in a restaurant here, so I haven't got much direct experience with the smoking ban. I do know that breathing clean air in gas stations is just about impossible, and we've been in a "non-smoking" hotel room in Wendover where the cigarette smoke was pouring through the vent fan in the bathroom ceiling - from the floor above - making the night miserable. As I say, we try not to breathe much while we're here.

There are also some very strange looking people living here. Maybe this is what the west has become, as chaps and cowboy hats have become less and less useful the people of Nevada have taken dress and personal grooming to new lows. Or maybe it's just the residents I see along the I-80 corridor, and I shouldn't be making generalizations about the entire state. Whatever it is, I never seem to get across Nevada without encountering several people who look like they were recently released from prisons or mental institutions. None of them has ever been harmful as far as I know, but if I was only judging by appearances I'd find some way around Nevada rather than going through it.

In any event, Nevada is about 400 miles across along the I-80 corridor, and there are things to look at while you're there. Our outbound trip never stops in Nevada on the first day except for gas, so we just blow on through and keep moving. We try to do the same on the return trip, and that's just fine with us as we have no interest in gambling, which seems to be the only significant industry in the state other than mining.

Posts in the series:

Mountain Living - Water Part III.I

That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

If that's true, our water is going to turn me into King Kong.

It stinks. Badly. Some of it is still PVC cement volatiles from the repair I did just after getting home. And some of it might be related to the acid treatment of the well too, but I doubt it. At this point, all I know is it stinks and we need help.

This morning I sent samples off to a company that makes water purification equipment to be tested and see what we need. At the moment, I'll take just about anything if it will make the water smell and taste better. We're buying water to drink, of course, but we can't avoid our well water entirely.

Hopefully we'll get answers soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vacation Drive: California and The Start

We drove from California to Illinois recently (and back) as part of a vacation. We saw relatives in the Chicago area, but we didn't stop for even one attraction along the way in either direction As we've got limited time and tolerance for highway landmarks.

Driving that far may sound stupid with $4/gallon gas, but the alternative was even more expensive. Have you looked at what it would cost to kennel two dogs for a couple of weeks and buy round trip tickets from SJC to ORD? No thanks. We'll drive, stay in hotels, take the dogs along, and still save considerable money.

Our driving pattern is a bit odd, and it would probably make no sense for most people. We stop every 120 miles or so, or about every two hours. At these brief stops we walk the dogs, walk ourselves, gas up the car (or not) and change drivers. These stops tend to be between 10 and 20 minutes long, but they make all the difference in the world. They allow us to go for 15 or 16 hours and cover 900+ miles in a single day without falling asleep behind the wheel. The dogs get a bit bored by it all - particularly the Siberian Husky - but if we remove a day or two from the trip we all do better in the end. We also eat both breakfast and lunch in the car, stopping only for a sit down dinner.

The trip turns out to be a bit over 2200 miles along I-80 between the Bay Area and the Chicago suburbs. (The exact distance depends on the specific route taken at either end.) We do it in three days, and along the way we've developed some opinions and thoughts about the states and sights along the road. I'll share them with you, working from west to east, in separate, state specific posts, beginning (obviously) with California. Sadly, California is the least interesting in terms of our commentary. I hope the others are more amusing.

First off, the bay area is way too crowded. We went well out of our way to avoid rush hour traffic on the way out, but tried a more direct route on the way back. In hindsight I wish we'd gone the long route both ways, but such is life.

The roads in California vary wildly. I-5 between Sacramento and Stockton was very rough, but I-80 in the central valley is fine. For the really awful pavement, through, nothing on the entire trip beats I-80 through the Sierra Mountains. It seems to be paved with tiny cobblestones. It's incredibly loud to drive on, and very rough. Lots of other states get snow and I've never seen similar pavement anywhere, so I don't understand what they were thinking when the road was paved this way.

For scenery, California does reasonably well. The coastal mountains (the Santa Cruz Range in our case) are quite nice, and the Sierras are gorgeous. The central valley is dull, but it doesn't last long and you're fighting the traffic most of the way through it, so you don't have time to think about it.

Our outbound route included 341 miles in CA, while the similar portion of our homeward trip was only 275 miles. That's the above mentioned difference in our routes. At rush hour I think the extra distance is worth it, since it adds less than an hour to the length of the trip and drops the stress levels a lot.

We never stop and stay anywhere in California on these trips. We're too close to home no matter which direction we're going, so we always press on into Nevada or to home itself. That means we don't really know much about anything except a couple of gas stations along the way.

Posts in the series:

Two More Movies

Last night Anne and I wound up listing the movies that we've seen in the theater so far this year. We don't do this much, not being a fan of crowds and rude theater patrons. In fact, three in a year is an abnormally large total for us. Anyway, I realized that I'd mentioned The Dark Knight in the blog already, but not the other two. For completeness then:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: This was pretty good. We enjoyed it, and put it up there close to the first Indiana Jones movie in terms of quality. Check it out. It's a fun romp, but don't ask questions about lead lined refrigerators or the like, OK?

WALL-E: Another good movie. My dad thought it was too slow, but Anne and I enjoyed it. Visually it's stunning until the humans appear, then it becomes more or less just another animated film. Check it out too, and be sure to note the references to HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Neither if these is nearly as good as The Dark Knight, but they're both good none-the-less. We'll wind up owning both on DVD. The wait for The Dark Knight on DVD will be much tougher, though.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mountain Living - Green Waste Disposal

We live on a couple of acres of land. It's mostly very old pear orchard, so old the trees are slowly dying despite our care. We have redwoods along the street side, and a mix of things - mostly oaks - scattered about and along the drainage ditch the real estate listing for the house amusingly called a "seasonal creek".

What do you do with that much land? Mostly you mow it to keep the weeds down. That's it. Sometimes my wife plants a new tree to replace a dead one, or to fill in a space she thought was empty. Mowing around trees is a pain - particularly with a 400 pound high weed mower - so I dislike the new tree thing, but I don't get a vote.

In addition to mowing, however, we toss our green waste out there. We're don't throw anything nasty out - we don't want rats - but vegetable trimmings and the like do get tossed out into the orchard. A day or two in the sun makes most of it dry up and disappear. The rest is eaten by the deer or turned into mulch by the mower.

Nothing about this is offensive. Tonight, for example, it was some onion skins and the trimmed bits of a few peppers. I suspect most of those living up here do the same sort of thing. Mother nature will break this stuff down quickly and it saves room in the garbage. We have a friend - who will remain nameless - who readily admits this behavior, but she's also said she will never be allowed to live in town again. She's thrown whole pumpkins off her deck.

But I digress, and believe it or not there is a point to this story.

About a month ago we discovered that our vegetable peeler was missing. That's not a normal thing to have go on walkabout, and given the introduction you've probably already figured out what happened. We weren't that smart.

We checked all over the kitchen and found nothing. Eventually we gave up, and just yesterday Anne bought two new peelers. (We're going to be processing pears soon, and two peelers will make that go faster.)

This morning I did some repair work on my weed whacker and headed out into the yard to take down the tall grass on the slope near the house. Some time after starting I found the vegetable peeler laying on the ground, in perfect condition, having been thrown out there who knows how long ago.

The usual greet waste disposal event goes like this: the trimmings are gathered on a cutting board or in some vessel, taken out onto the deck, and tossed over the railing. Apparently someone - almost certainly me - piled lettuce trimmings or something on the cutting board, covering the peeler and rendering invisible, and tossed it out into the night.

Now we own three OXO vegetable peelers, a lifetime supply if I don't throw them away again.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mountain Living - Water Part III

The next update in the water saga, but first, a recap. It's been two weeks since the last post on this topic.

You'll recall that our water quality was bad, and that the production from our reverse osmosis unit dropped off. That started the cascade of events that lead to the discovery of a low water level in the tanks and no water being pumped into the tank from the well. Then we found the blowout in the well pipe, the slime all over the well, and then we left on vacation with the well disassembled and the well pro fixing it the next day after the acid treatment was done. Remember all that?

So we actually got home on Wednesday, but the story resumes about 2.5 hours before we got home. My cell phone rang with the news - from my friend Alan who'd been watching the place and watering the garden - that he'd found a water leak down by the tank. He thought it was in the line to the garden and shut it off. OK, not a big deal. I can fix that in a day or a week or whatever, so we proceeded on home and I didn't bother to run right out and examine things.

That changed when Anne determined we had no water in the house at all.

Meandering down to the tank I saw that Alan had shut off the water to the entire house. OK, I turned it back on and immediately heard the hissing of a small leak nearby, in a joint in the main line to the house. What to do? Obviously we start by turning it back off again and pondering the options. Fixing it in short order - before the hardware stores close - seemed the best choice.

So I got out a shovel and dug up the area around the leak - so I could get at it and see what needed fixing. Then I rooted around in my stash of PVC pipe fittings to see if I already had the right parts. Fortunately, I did. 45 minutes later I've cut out the damaged fitting, replaced it, and have the water back on. All good.

The next task is to flush all the lines to the house, since whenever we lose water pressure the gunk on the inside of the lines comes loose and we get filthy brown water for a while. Not fun, but relatively simple. Except for the toilet fill valve that is now partially plugged with that gunk, but I've hated that valve ever since I installed it some time back and now I've got a reason to replace it real soon.

At this point there is just one little detail I've left out. While working around the tank I noted that we had a new pump controller. It had been changed while we were gone. That's odd. Why would that be? The well pro must have found something was wrong with the one we had and replaced it. Not good, but I'll call him and find out the specifics as soon as I get a chance.

This morning he told me he was coming out today to make sure things were still working right. Interesting. Worrisome, but interesting. When he arrived a while later we talked. Putting the pump back into the well was no problem, but when he started things up, the controller wasn't shutting the pump off properly. Not wanting to burn it out, he'd installed a new one, but it had taken several visits and some time to properly calibrate it to shut off the pump at the right time.

Apparently, in addition to everything else, the water production from the well is dropping off. That's why it took so long to calibrate the controller - waiting for the well to recharge. Not good, but we are in the second year in a row of low rainfall, so not entirely unexpected.

All this extra work does not bode well for the bill, but water is a necessity, and even with a big bill it will be cheaper than trucking water up here all the time. As it happens the damaged pump controller has been sent off to the manufacturer. If they decide it was their problem, they might send me a new replacement, and that would take that cost off the bill. I'm not counting on that outcome, but we'll see.

The good news is that the well is slowly catching up again - the water level in the tank is rising - now that the pipe is repaired and the pump is working. At the current rate it will take a while, but it is catching up.

And that's where we stand. Still no samples sent off for testing. Still no idea what I will be doing about filtration. Nadda. That'll all have to wait for next week. At least, I hope nothing comes up to interfere with that plan.

With that, the three of you tracking this story are now as up to date as I can make you. Stay tuned, or keep those RSS readers going, and I'll get you more when I can.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dogs and Travel

Getting back from a vacation these days means a huge pile of email that you're behind on. In my case, the damages were slightly reduced by the fact that I had connectivity for part of the trip. My wife, on the other hand, came home to 1200 messages needing review. That's after a bunch had already been filtered into various files and others had been automatically discarded.

What I hadn't considered was that dogs fall behind too. We took our usual walk this morning for the first time in 2 weeks. Walking the loop we quickly discovered that the dogs were trying to catch up too. There was much news to be read (smelled) and many messages to be left in response to things other dogs (or cats, pigs, dear, etc.) had left in our absence.

We get behind on email. Dogs get behind on pee-mail.

I'm Home

Vacation is over and the long drive back from Chicago is done. That means there will be posts here again. I've got a couple lined up in my head, but right now I am digging out from beneath the email blizzard. I'll be back here soon. No, that's not a threat. I hope.