Monthly Archives: August 2014

2014/08/31(N) By Any Other Name

My first task after breakfast was to sand drywall compound and apply the next coat where needed.  I’m down to touch up work in most spots and so I am trying to apply very thin layers with feathered edges that will dry quickly and require minimal sanding.  The old A-C opening in the library, however, is taking many, many overlapping layers.  Fortunately I can finish that at my leisure as Darryll is not working in that location.  Since he just this week installed the two pieces of duct in the lower part of the wall between the garage and the library I am still building up drywall compound to fill the irregular and, in places, large gaps on the garage side.  Unfortunately, the thicker compound takes longer to dry and watching drywall compound dry is worse than watching paint dry as it’s even slower.  The trick is to have something else to do while I wait.  Fortunately, I have lots to do.

I had some e-mail correspondence on Friday with the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine, Gary Hall, whose name turns out to actually be Gary Hatt.  He had his reasons for not using his real name when he first took over BCM, which he explained and which made good sense.  BCM is running my article on Suncoast Designers in the August 2014 issue and he sent me a Dropbox link to the draft.  It looks like another really good issue, but is again coming out a month late.  Ever since the editor had a minor heart attack in early May they have been a month behind.  It appears that they will be doing an article on spin-on oil filters in the October issue and will also use my article on the Spinner II centrifugal oil cleaner that Joe and I installed a year and half ago.  I only have one other article ready for them to use, so I guess I need to get busy and write some new ones.

When I am not working on the house, the yard, or the bus, there’s always computer work to be done.  I have multiple projects to work on, but I also like to relax on a pleasant day and catch up on reading the blogs and RV magazines that I follow.  It was very pleasant today so we turned off the air-conditioning, opened up the house, and sat on the back deck reading and watching wildlife.  I addition to our resident American Red Squirrel we were treated to a visit by three Sandhill Cranes.  The squirrel has been busy for most of the month harvesting and stockpiling pine cones in what we presume is a midden under a cluster of very large fir trees northwest of the house.  The cranes spent a long time wandering around the back yard foraging.  We sat quietly and watched them and they came closer to the house than usual so we got a very good look at them.  They are large and magnificent.

I finally decided to continue editing the rough drafts of my blog posts for this month and get them ready to upload.  I still need to select photographs to go with some of the posts, or to put in separate gallery posts, but I finally uploaded the tree photos I took on the 21st to our Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Paul at Detroit Tree Recycling.

I spent some time online searching for sources of supply for an ignition coil for our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  I can get one from Darin, but he quoted me MSRP and it is an expensive part.  I wasn’t having much luck so I called Butch mid-evening to discuss the situation.  He suggested that I hold off on getting a new ignition coil until I got the coach to his place and we were able to look at it more carefully.  He said I should have had white smoke and a definite smell from the atomized but unburned diesel fuel.  I didn’t which made him wonder if the problem might be fuel delivery rather than ignition spark.  Good advice, as always.  I don’t know enough about the control circuitry on the Aqua-Hot (it’s actually a Webasto inside) to know how the operation of the spark and fuel solenoid might be intertwined.  I have the manuals, but I have not had time to dig into them.  Besides, I have enough other things to work on right now that I am willing to let this one go for a few more weeks.


2014/08/30 (S) By All Accounts

We went to the weekly SLAARC breakfast this morning.  We stopped on the way back to the house to get a food processor.  I shut down my ASUS laptop PC, packed it for travel, and headed for Mike’s (W8XH) QTH; the first time it has been out of the house since I bought it at the end of April.

I worked with Mike on the new SLAARC WordPress website, walking him back through the process of creating photo galleries.  He then uploaded pictures from the 2014 Field Day event, added captions to some of them, and created photo galleries.

I was going to create user accounts, but that turned out to still be a bit premature.  In showing Mike around the site we discovered that the home page login widget for the WP-Members plug-in was not working correctly.  It was last night, but that was before I installed the Global Hide Admin Toolbar plug-in.  Suspecting a minor incompatibility (although the site did not crash, thank goodness) I had to engineer a work-around.  The problem and solution turned out to be multifaceted.

One aspect of the problem was that we needed to remove the WP-Members widget from the Home screen, but it was the only place where a logged in user could log out.  Another aspect of the problem was the realization that users would have to click on one of the pages in the Member Only Area to get a login screen that would actually log them into the site and allow them to navigate wherever they wanted.

One facet of the solution was to create a new page that would appear at the right hand end of the main menu bar and place the WP-Members widget on that page.  It was not immediately obvious to me how to do this, or if we even could, but I eventually figured it out.  That provided something on the main menu bar, which remains visible at all times, where users can go to logout.  (They should also be able to log in there, but it’s the same widget that didn’t work correctly on the Home page.)

The other facets of the solution involved editing the e-mail that gets sent to a new user when their account is created and editing the User’s Guide, both of which describe the login and logout procedure.  As long as I had to create and upload a new version of the User’s a Guide, I decided to put the link on its own page so it would show up in the menu structure and be easier for members to find.  I did the same thing with the links to the official club roster documents.  Adding those two page then required me to edit two pages to remove the old links.  As the saying goes “it’s a process.”

Mike was still creating photo galleries so I drafted a notification e-mail for him to send to the members and sent it to him.  He had to leave to run an errand right after I left and planned to deal with sending the e-mail later that evening.  I will wait at least 24 hours after he sends it before I start creating user accounts.

I was back home in time to relax and work on this post before John and Diane arrived around 5 PM to visit and have dinner.  They brought a salad that Diane made and two bottles of wine; a sweet Shiraz that was unusual but delightful, and a more traditional Cabernet Sauvignon.  Linda made a penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms, and made Italian bread from scratch.  She also made the chilled no-bake double chocolate torte for dessert.  It was so good everyone had a second piece.

Diane now has an iPad Mini and Linda spent time with her after dinner helping her configure some things.  They also managed to get connected through the iMessage feature.  Storms rolled in around 9 PM and we had brief periods of heavy rain and diffuse lightning all around.  There was a lull in the weather just before 11 PM so they gathered up their things and hit the road.  I cleared the table and Linda loaded the dishwasher.  She started it and then we were off to bed, tired from a long but very satisfying day.


2014/08/29 (F) Sand Mud Press

Before breakfast this morning I tried to start the Aqua-Hot (hydronic heating system) in our converted coach, but the burner would not ignite.  We had the same problem back on June 9th when Darin Hathaway of Hydronic Heating Specialists serviced the unit while we were at Elkhart Campground waiting to go to the GLAMARAMA rally in Goshen.  Darin suspected a bad coil but managed to jiggle a few wires and got it to work.  It started several times in a row, so we decided not to spend the money for a new coil at that time.  I hoped then the decision wasn’t a mistake, but it looks like perhaps it was.  I will try to find some time over the next few days to jiggle some more wires and see if anything comes of it.  I recall Darin saying the ignition coils were expensive, so I don’t want to replace ours if it is not actually broken.

For breakfast we had some of the vegan muffins that Linda made yesterday.  They were yummy.  We took a little time to revisit our options for a white, free-standing, double oven, 5-burner, gas range with a convection feature in at least one of the ovens but did not come to any decision regarding purchasing a new one.  Linda made a grocery list and then went to the Howell library to see what Consumer’s Reports had to say about gas ranges before stopping at Meijer’s.

While Linda was gone I placed follow-up calls to Heights Tower Systems and Bratcher Electric to check on the status of their pending quotes and then e-mailed Darin about the Aqua-Hot.  I then got to work in the garage and library working on the drywall.  I sanded all the drywall compound (mud) I had applied yesterday and added the next layer to the places that needed it.  Patching the library side of the opening where the window A-C was installed has proven to be particularly challenging, or at least tedious.  The new piece of drywall is recessed slightly compared to the original wall surface surrounding it, so I have been building up layers of drywall compound to “fill the hole.”  It has taken many passes so far and it is going to take quite a few more before it’s done.

I finished up for the day, cleaned up the tools, and changed out of my work clothes.  Rather than spend a lot of time at the library, Linda photographed the relevant pages of recent issues of Consumer’s Reports with her iPad so we could study them at home.  What we got from the reviews was that LG, GE, Electrolux, and Samsung are making good gas ranges while Kitchen Aide, and Jenn-Air are best avoided.  Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Best Buy all carry LG, GE, and Samsung appliances, so we have a choice of local dealers.  While we were pondering all of this over lunch a group of wild turkeys came through the back yard several times foraging for food.  There were three large adults and three much smaller birds, obviously this year’s brood.

I spent most of the rest of the day working at my desk getting the SLAARC WordPress website to the point where I was comfortable creating user accounts.  I had hoped to have user accounts set up by August 13th, but that did not happen.  One reason for the delay was that I was trying to find a way to automatically e-mail each user as I created their account.  It took me a while, but I figured out how to do this with the WP-Members plug-in.  I also found a plug-in that hides the WordPress Toolbar from users based on their WordPress user role.  In this case I was only concerned about users with the Subscriber role but the plug-in allows me to control all defined user roles.  I did a final edit of the User’s Guide, uploaded it to the private Members Only Area of the website, and e-mailed Mike (W8XH) and Larry (K8UT) that the site was ready to go.  Our DSL connection was pretty good most of the day but got flaky for a while during the evening.  The phone continued to be unusable with loud noise masking weak audio.  So far AT&T’s response to our MPSC complaint has been a phone call and e-mail from someone in the “Office of the President.”  Impressed?  I’m not.


2014/08/28 (R) This And That

I put in a full day working on our garage project while Linda put in a full day working on this and that.  She baked vegan muffins, made vegan rice pudding, worked at her computer on bills, banking, and RV club financial records, and helped me in the garage with drywall installation.

My first task was sanding down drywall compound from yesterday and then adding more in certain places.  I then measured, marked, and cut the drywall for the inside of the new utility closet.  Linda helped me install it.  We had to cut one piece in half lengthwise in order to get it into position.  I also had to drill a hole for the garage furnace thermostat cable and push it out through the utility closet wall.  Once all of the pieces were secured with drywall screws I applied self-adhesive fiberglass tape to the seams and then applied drywall compound to the seams and screw dimples.

Jasper doing his cat thing.

Jasper doing his cat thing.

Since I could not sand, prime, or paint until the drywall compound was dry I worked on some loose electrical ends.  I installed a saddle connector in the side of the library HVAC for the armored AC power cable and a cable strain relief for the thermostat cable and A-C compressor control wires.  Darryll had already installed these cables through the gas pipe hole, so I made a diagram of how they were connected, uninstalled them, re-routed them through the strain relief, and reconnected them.  I prepped the AC power cable, partially installed the switch in the surface mount electrical box, and connected the armored cable to the saddle connector.  The final AC power connections for the library HVAC unit will have to wait until the drywall is finished and the surface mount junction/switch box is installed.

I mounted the library thermostat on the wall above the air return but did not connect the wires.  The color coding of the wires in the thermostat cable does not exactly match the labeling of the terminals and the instructions were less than clear, so I thought it best to leave this for Darryll.  I removed the side panel from the Reznor garage furnace and made the AC power connections.  I did not, however, connect the thermostat wires and I left the documentation packet inside the unit.

After dinner I checked e-mail and edited a half dozen blog pages before turning in for the night.


20140827 (W) HVAC and Dentistry

The only thing these have in common (for me at least) is that they occurred on the same day.  Darryll and Alec were back this morning to continue working on our garage furnace and library HVAC project and I had a 2 PM dentist appointment to have them check if I had lost a piece of one of the abfractions they did back on June 17th.

Our dentist is in Dearborn some 50 miles to our southeast, so I try to leave 90 minutes for travel.  I got there ahead of time and they got me in about 15 minutes early.  It was a quick appointment but I was glad I went.  The hard piece of material I crunched while brushing my teeth a few weeks ago was, indeed, the abfraction material from the upper outside of tooth #11.  They replaced it under warranty and I was back on the road by 2:30 PM, which allowed me to make the trip back towards home somewhat ahead of the afternoon traffic rush.

These mushrooms appeared in the yard a few days ago as round balls and then opened up.

These mushrooms appeared in the yard a few days ago as round balls and then opened up.

I needed a saddle connector and Linda needed some “power greens” for our dinner salad so I exited I-96 at Grand River Avenue and headed towards Brighton.  There is a Home Depot right there, but they only had the 3/8ths saddle connectors in bags of five.  I only needed one, which I knew I could get at Lowe’s in Howell.  Traffic headed back towards Howell on Grand River was badly congested so I used a back route, taking Challis Road to Chilson Road to Latson Road.  The Lowe’s and Meijer’s are on opposite sides of Grand River Avenue at Latson Road.

By the time I got home Darryll and Alec had left.  Darryll had indicated they would knock off early and that he would be back next week to finish up.  While they were here they set the library A-C compressor/condenser in place by the west wall of the garage and got the refrigerant lines run, the power cable routed, and the control cable run.  They also cut the openings for the two lower supply registers in the library, installed the through-wall duct work, and the register grills.  Darryll will be back during the latter half of next week to finish up.  That gives me plenty of time to finish drywall work.

Summer is coming to an end.  The parochial schools are already back in session and the public schools start on Tuesday next week.  Lots of folks are heading north for the upcoming holiday weekend which marks the end of the summer tourist season.  Fall colors have already appeared on a variety of trees in our part of the county and a few seem somewhat advanced.  Except for the last few days, it has been a cool, moist summer.

Early this morning I e-mailed Shelly from the AT&T Office of the President thanking her for calling us on Monday in response to our Michigan Public Service Commission complaint filing that morning, and for following up with her contact information by e-mail.  Our phone line is still noisy to the point of being useless, but we have not seen the dreaded “Check Tell Line” or “Line In Use” messages on our phone and the DSL has stayed connected as near as we can tell.  I am not aware, however, that AT&T has actually done anything yet to fix the problem.  They certainly have not communicated any such information to us  Unfortunately working on the SLAARC WP website and creating user accounts absolutely requires me to be reliably online, as does the Intro to Linux course I am (supposed to be) taking through edX, so these tasks may have to wait until our AT&T DSL connection has been solid for a while.


2014/08/26 (T) Dinner With Kate

Darryll planned to be back on Wednesday morning.  He figures two more days to finish everything except the hookups to the gas meter.  I figured I needed to have at least one coat of paint on the east garage wall today to stay ahead of him, so my first task after breakfast was to paint the wall.

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.

Madeline being read to by Aunt Meghan with Grandma Linda.


Madeline goes for a ride on her new Radio Flyer tricycle.

Madeline goes for a ride on her new Radio Flyer tricycle.

When I was done with the morning painting I did a light sanding of the drywall compound on the outside of the utility closet walls.  After a cursory inspection, I decided it was good enough and went ahead and painted it and then cleaned up the paint tools.  I took care of a couple of minor electrical tasks and then sanded the library side of the former window A-C opening and applied some more drywall compound.  I cleaned up my drywall tools and by 11:30 AM was done with construction projects for the day.

I got cleaned up just in time for lunch.  We had left over Koshary, after which we sat outside and read.  Linda is reading an e-book titled “Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat.”  The book is about the intertwined evolution of cooking technique, cookware, and utensils.  I started reading the September-October 2014 issue of The Gypsy Journal, which I had downloaded on Sunday and e-mailed to our iPads yesterday.


MEF3 steers the Radio Flyer with a little help from her dad.

MEF3 steers the Radio Flyer with a little help from her dad.

We left around 2 PM for our son’s house in Ann Arbor, making a stop at the Whole Foods Market for some dry ingredients.  The reason for our visit was to deliver Madeline’s new Radio Flyer convertible tricycle and visit until time to meet Kate for dinner.  Madeline started day care yesterday, which is a really big deal.  We were curious how the first two days went, and just wanted to see everyone; I think it’s only been a couple of weeks, but it feels much longer.  Today was my lucky day as Madeline decided I was the designated book reader.  She has let me read to her occasionally in the past, but usually goes to her mom, dad, aunt, or Grandma Linda, all of whom she has spent more time with than she has with me.  It made for a very special afternoon for Grandpa Bruce.



The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

The Radio Flyer tricycle even has a sunshade!

We left Brenda and Shawna’s house around 5:45 PM and found ourselves in the middle of the evening traffic jam on eastbound Washtenaw Avenue.  We slowly worked our way east towards US-23 and then turned into a strip mall to pick up some disposable paint tray liners at an ACE Hardware store.  We got back into the traffic flow using a street at the end of the strip mall that had a traffic signal.  Once we were back on Washtenaw Avenue we had more reasonable traffic flow the rest of the way in to Ypsilanti.

After weighing several options, Kate chose the Wurst Bar in Ypsilanti for dinner.  Linda had been their once before with Kate but it was my first visit.  It was well rated on Yelp and the menu had several vegan options.  They also had one of my favorite beers, the Lindeman Framboise, a raspberry lambic ale brewed in Vlezenbeek, Belgium.  They were out of the Lindeman but had another lambic from a different producer.  It came in something that looked like a large sparkling wine bottle and cost $15, so Linda and I split it.  Long before hops were used in beers they were seasoned with fruits and vegetables.  I’m not a big fan of hops, but I like fruit.  The substitute was OK, but not what I recalled from the last time I had this at a restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan.


Grandma Linda's turn to "drive" the Radio Flyer.

Grandma Linda’s turn to “drive” the Radio Flyer.


Kate had recently been to Paris, France and to both Venice and Padua in Italy with one of her nieces and nephews.  She had printed about 40 photos (8×10) for us to see.  While these are inherently beautiful places her photography was, as usual, superb.  The Wurst Bar serves “tots” instead of French fries.  Linda and I had some as an appetizer with vegan sausage crumbles, vegan cheese, and sliced jalapeños. Not health food, to be sure, but at least no animal products.  For dinner Linda had the vegan wurst and I had the Asian tofu burger.  Kate had a regular wurst and a dark beer on tap that she had not had before.  She really liked it, but I did not catch the name.




It's finally Grandpa Bruce's turn to drive the tricycle.

It’s finally Grandpa Bruce’s turn to drive the tricycle.



By the time we were done eating the lights had been turned down and the music volume had been turned up, so we moved to Sweetwater Coffee and Tea a couple doors down the street.  We all had coffee and to our delight they had a piece of vegan apple pie, which Linda took, and a piece of vegan mixed berry pie, which I took.  I really like fruit pies but they have always been a rare treat; all the more so now that we eschew animal products.  So tonight I had fruit beer and fruit pie.




I had planned to put a second coat of paint on the garage walls when we got home but the lateness of the hour disabused me of that idea and I went to bed instead.

Madeline shows her new tricycle to he mommy.  It's not a Subaru, but it's pretty cool.

Madeline shows her new tricycle to he mommy. It’s not a Subaru, but it’s pretty cool.


2014/08/25 (M) AT&T and the MPSC

I was scheduled to participate in a meeting of the FMCA Education Committee at 4 PM today but it got rescheduled to Monday, September 8, same time.  That was a welcomed change of plans which allowed me to concentrate on our construction project.

Roese Construction, the contractor for Consumer’s Energy, is still working along our street.  The main gas lines are run.  They are now digging the connection trenches, fusing the sections of pipe together, and filling the trenches back in.  We heard them working at the west end of our property and walked down to see what they were doing and take a few photographs.  A large backhoe was just starting to fill a trench at the northwest corner of our yard where two pieces of main line were joined with a branch line going to the cul-du-sac to the west.  There was a lot of water in that trench and it looked like a (muddy) lap pool.  The surface of the water was only about two feet below the surface of the ground.  I asked the backhoe operator if that was ground water and he said it was.  The northwest corner of our property is a low spot that forms small ponds around many of the trees when it rains, and stays wet for a very long time even after the surface water disappears.

We spent the morning and afternoon sanding drywall compound and touching up a few spots.  While the compound was drying I worked on electrical tasks and Linda worked in the kitchen and did some weeding in the beds around the house.  Somewhere in the middle of all that we put all of the sections of the ham radio tower back on the middle deck, had lunch, and made a trip to Lowe’s for a light switch and various cover plates.  I also picked up an 18″ x 28″ sheet of 1/4″ thick Plexiglas to use as a temporary replacement for the fogged window in the bus when I finally get around to removing it to have it repaired.

Our AT&T phone and DSL service is worse than useless at the moment.  After three un-returned phone calls to both the technician (who gave us his number and said to call him directly if the problem re-occurred within 30 days) and the infrastructure manager for this area (whose name and number we got from the technician) we were fed up, so we filed a complaint with the Michigan Public Service Commission.  About four hours later we got a call from a women who claimed to be from the Office of the President of AT&T letting me know that she was in receipt of our commission filing and that she would be coordinating the “investigation and service repair process.”  The audio level was low and the noise on the line was high, so I could barely hear her and said so.  Apparently she heard the noise too, so at least she knew we were not making this up.  She e-mailed us shortly thereafter with her name and contact information.  That’s a start, but what we really want is the clean, reliable signal that we pay for.

There are things I can do, and need to do, at my computer that do not require me to be online, such as editing the rough drafts of blog posts and selecting/post-processing photographs.  The last post I uploaded to our blog was for August 1st, so I am once again almost four weeks behind.  I needed to finish processing the tree photos from last Thursday, put them in a Dropbox folder, and e-mail the link to Paul at Detroit Tree Recycling, but I did not get that done either.  When I wasn’t eating or driving back and forth to Lowe’s I was working in the garage.

Speaking of food, Linda made stuffed mushrooms for dinner and served them with a side of grilled asparagus.  Both were very tasty.  After dinner I gave the east wall of the garage a final sanding and then worked on the utility closet wall while Linda vacuumed up the dust.  I wiped down the wall with a barely damp sponge and applied a coat of Zinzer primer.  It should be dry enough to paint in the morning.

I drove back to Lowe’s to return a couple of incorrect cover plates I had purchased earlier in the day and get the correct ones.  I picked up another gallon of paint while I was there to make sure I had enough on hand for tomorrow.  On the way home I had a nice QSO (ham radio contact or chat) with Mike (W8XH).  Ham radio is fun and we have yet to get involved in making long distance (DX) contacts with folks all over the world on the HF (high frequency) bands.  Getting our tower up with some HF antennas on it will help a lot.


2014/08/24 (N) The Critical Path

The current “critical path” on the garage/HVAC project is the east wall of the garage which has to be finished before Darryll returns.  Although not as pressing as the drywall work, our first task after breakfast was to (finally) connect the separate ground wire from the garage sub-panel to the house main electrical panel and remove the bonding screw that tied the grounds and neutrals together in the sub-panel.  That took about an hour, but that was because it was work that had to be done carefully as the main panel was energized while I was working on it.

With the ground wire taken care of we sanded drywall compound on the east garage wall.  We wiped the dust off with a slightly damp sponge and I applied the next coat of drywall compound.

We then worked on wiring.  I finally decided on the locations for the two furnace switches, each of which had to be within three feet of their respective units.  I decided to locate the switch for the library HVAC unit on the new wall opposite (20″) and above (16″) the cable entry hole in the side of the furnace.  The switch will be in an outdoor rated surface mount junction box with the supply cable entering from the rear.  I had already run the cable into the middle wall cavity and had to drill a hole through one of the studs to get the cable where I needed it to be.

I decided to locate the on/off switch for the ceiling mounted garage furnace on the ceiling about a foot to the right of the right rear corner, again using an outdoor rated surface mount junction box.  The dedicated 15A cable was already routed to that general area so we just had to move it to the new location.

We also had to install the wiring for the thermostats.  Darryll brought a large reel of 4-conductor, 18 AWG thermostat cable, so we had the material we needed.  I was studying the installation instructions for the thermostats and it appeared that they needed 24 VAC to operate.  I called Darryll and left a message regarding this.  He called back fairly quickly and told me we did not need transformers as they were already in each of the furnaces.  He also left me know he would be back on Wednesday morning.

With the transformer question answered we were able to proceed with the cable installation.  The thermostat for the garage furnace will mount on the outside of the west wall of the new utility closet, so we had to run thermostat wire from that location through the attic to the ceiling mounted switch box.  The thermostat for the library HVAC unit will mount on the wall to the right of the door into the garage and above the return air register/duct, so we also had to run thermostat wire from there through the garage attic and over to the location of the on/off switch in the utility closet.  I worked in the attic while Linda worked in the garage.

We took a break for lunch and then started installing insulation in the utility closet walls.  We got one staple installed and discovered that we were out of staples.  That meant a trip to Lowe’s.  Lowes’s is about six miles driving distance and we prefer not to go for just one small thing, so we made a list.  The Arrow staple gun takes T50 staples.  The surface mount junction boxes have several threaded holes into which you can screw different clamps depending on how the cable is connected.  I planned to use flexible armored cable, sometimes referred to as “greenfield”, to bring 120VAC power to the furnaces.  Lowe’s had 6′ lengths of armored cable with an extra foot of wire on each end.  I needed a little more than 36″ for the library furnace and a little less than 36″ for the garage furnace, so that worked out nicely.  The guy in the electrical department got me set up with the right clamps for the ends called saddle connectors.

When I got home, I discovered that I had bought brads rather than staples, so Linda headed back to Lowe’s to return the brads and buy the staples.  While she was gone I pulled the wires out of the armored cable and cut the armor into two pieces.  I fed the wires back through the shorter piece and connected it between the garage furnace and the switch box.  Linda got back before I could complete the cable for the other furnace, so I set it aside to finish later.

With a good supply of staples we insulated the west wall of the utility closet and the space above the door on the south wall.  We then installed drywall over those same areas.  We had to notch around the flue pipe and the black iron gas pipe, but we measured carefully (and twice) and the panel fit just right.  We applied fiberglass tape to the one vertical seam, and prepared a length of corner bead for the outside corner at the junction of the two walls.  Linda prepared dinner while I applied joint compound to the seam and screw dimples.  I mudded the corner, pressed the corner bead in place, and then mudded over it lightly.  I then did some touch up sanding on the east garage wall and applied what I hoped would be a final coat of drywall compound.

I finished just in time to clean up and have dinner; vegan Pad Thai made from scratch.  A small glass of the 2009 Egri Merlot and some lemon melon later for dessert put a nice cap on a very productive day.


2014/08/23 (S) Square Waves

We have so much to do at home and on the bus that we might have skipped the SLAARC (ham radio club) breakfast in South Lyon this morning, but I had agreed to meet Chuck at his shop (bus garage) at 10 AM in Novi and to bring Mike (W8XH) along with his oscilloscope to look at the tachometer signal, or lack thereof.  We had a nice chat with our ham radio friends, discussed having dinner in a week or so with Bruce and Linda, and then headed to Chuck’s shop.

We had two different opinions as to what signal we might find, if any, at the end of the wires that connect to Chuck’s tachometer.  Matt, from Bob’s Speedometer, told me that the signal to both the VDO tachometer and speedometer were variable frequency square waves at 3 to 5 volts peak and that the electronics in the gauge moved the needle in proportion to the frequency.  Mike (W8XH) had talked to Jim (N8KUE), who works in the research lab at Ford Motor Company, and Jim was of the opinion that the input to these gauges was a pulse width modulated signal.  With pulse-width modulation the frequency and amplitude of the waveform are constant but the width of the “pulse” (the “on time” of non-zero voltage) varies from zero to some maximum percentage of the half cycle, up to 100%.  If it is on for the entire half cycle it becomes a square wave.  The longer the pulse (on time percentage) the more energy is transmitted.  The gauge electronics can convert that to a needle position or run a motor faster or slower, such as might drive an odometer.

So which was it?  Well…neither.  What we saw was an alternating current signal that appeared to simply be an impulse (sudden spike in the voltage), one positive and one negative per cycle, with the frequency responding in direct proportion to the engine RPM.  The impulse had a rapid but noticeable decay time that appeared to me to exponential, but we did not have the wires connected to a load and that may have affected the signal. The voltage we were seeing appeared to be in 300 mV range, a far cry from the 3 – 5 volts we expected.

We loaded the cardboard in my car before going to breakfast, so when we were done at Chuck’s we headed directly to Recycle Livingston.  From there we went to pet Supplies Plus for some cat litter and then to Lowe’s for four more sheets of drywall (Sheetrock) and a large tub of better drywall compound.  After fighting with the back wall of the garage recently and having trouble with using the patching and repair compound yesterday, I wanted a drywall compound that would go on easier and smoother.  It could just be my technique, of course; I wasn’t that good at dry-walling 32 years ago, and feel like I have lost what little technique I once had.

Back home we unloaded everything, changed into our work clothes, and had lunch; grilled “cheese” sandwiches with tomatoes and dark leafy greens and fresh peaches, ripened to perfection.

While Linda sanded the drywall compound I applied yesterday I removed the panel from the library side of the opening for the old window A-C unit.  I insulated the cavity, cut and installed a new piece of drywall, and re-taped the seams.  I helped Linda finish the sanding, wiped off the dust with a wrung out sponge, and then applied another coat of drywall compound.  I then applied a first cost of “mud,” as drywall compound is commonly called, to the filler panel in the library.

In preparation for dry-walling the new utility closet we had to do some carpentry to box around the flue and gas pipe where they pass through the west wall.  We also had to box around the supply air duct where it passes above the utility closet door.  Finally, we added some backer boards along the edge of the platform by the west wall.  The purpose of all of this carpentry was to provide backing along all drywall edges so it will be supported and can be secured.  Our final task for the day was to trim a piece of 2×4 to block off the top of the wall cavity where the return air duct is connected next to the door between the library and the garage.

For dinner we had leftovers from Thursday:  Koshary and pita bread with vegan garlic “butter.”  Linda read somewhere recently that drier white wines are generally considered (by someone) to go better with Middle Eastern food, but we thought our 2009 Egri Merlot went quite well with dinner.  Of course, Koshary is an Egyptian dish, and so perhaps more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern.  All of that reminded me that there really are no rules about these things; drink what you like and enjoy life.


2014/08/22 (F) Radio Flyer

Today was mostly about drywall.  Most of the drywall on the lower half of the east garage wall was removed by the previous owners to access and repair baseboard heating pipes that had frozen (they used water in the system instead of coolant).  We also have a 19″ h by 29″ w opening higher up in that same wall where the window air-conditioner was installed.  (It cooled the breezeway by dumping heat into the garage.)  We needed to replace the lower drywall and patch the A-C opening before Darryll returned next week as he will be running supply air ducts down the wall at two locations to feed through the wall into the library just above the hot water baseboard heat radiator.  Before installing the drywall, however, we had some prep work to do.  When Linda wasn’t helping me she broke down cardboard boxes and got them ready to go to the recycling center tomorrow.

On the lower part of wall I drilled through the corners of the two register locations Darryll had marked on the library side.  We then added horizontal wood 2×4 blocking above and below the locations of the two registers.  We also added blocking around the inside of the old A-C opening to provide backing and attachment surfaces for the drywall.

With the carpentry done we removed some old insulation that was not in good shape and insulated the lower section of the wall.  I marked the locations of all the studs on the floor and on the upper half of the wall.  I also marked the locations of the horizontal blocking, the hot water heating pipes, and the capped off gas pipe that supplied the wall-mounted propane heater in the library.  Finally, we were able to install the drywall.  It took two pieces, 48″ x 87″, to cover the lower half along with lots of screws.  By the time we finished it was time for lunch.

We needed another sheet of drywall to cut the two pieces for the A-C opening, so after lunch we drove to Lowe’s and bought a 4′ x 8′ sheet.  When we got back we cut the two pieces and installed them.  Linda then helped me apply self-adhesive fiberglass tape to all of the seams.

The next step was applying drywall compound.  While I “mudded” the drywall seams and screw head dimples Linda started assembling a Radio Flyer configurable tricycle.  She ordered it for our grand-daughter a couple of days ago (Amazon Prime) and it arrived late yesterday.

I finished the first coat of drywall compound at 6 PM and cleaned up my tools.  While Linda pulled together leftovers for dinner (potato lentil curry, sautéed green beans with garlic, and naan bread) I measured the tow bar on the back of the bus to see how long of a cable we needed for the EZ*Connector system.  24″ + 34″ = 58″, about 5 feet, so their standard 6′ cable should be a good length.  Although it was only 3 PM in California, I decided to wait until Monday to place an order as I still needed to determine some circuit details.

After dinner I tried to check my e-mail and discovered that our DSL connection was not working, again, even though the AT&T gateway said it was.  The phone (POTS) had gone out earlier in the day and was out again.  I called Ken, the AT&T technician, and left a message and then called Steve, the AT&T infrastructure manager for the Howell and Lansing areas, and left a message.  I had called both of them twice this week already without getting a return call from either one.  My message this time indicated that I expected a return call with some information as to what they are doing to try and resolve the problem.

I called Chuck (on my marginal connection Verizon cell phone) to get a status update on his bus tachometer, then called Mike to firm up arrangements for him to bring his oscilloscope to breakfast tomorrow so we can go to Chuck’s shop and investigate the signal feeding his tachometer.  I texted Chuck back to confirm that we would be there by 10 AM.

I helped Linda finish assembling the Radio Flyer tricycle.  It is very spiffy and, of course, very red.  We spent the rest of the evening reading.  As I was typing this post I realized that I forgot to insulate the wall cavity where the window A-C unit was installed.  That meant I would have to remove the piece of drywall on the library side, insulate the cavity, and then cut and install a new piece of drywall.  I had already applied the seam tape and initial coat of drywall compound, so it will be a messy task.  Fortunately, I do not make those kinds of mistakes very often.


20140821 (R) Words With Friends

With a dry morning on tap I took care of chores after breakfast while Linda worked on preparations for dinner.  First I photographed trees around our entire property that were dead or obviously distressed and not doing well.  Next I took all of the sections of our Heights aluminum tower off of the back deck, where they have been stored since we bought it in May, and laid them out in the yard in the order in which they go together.  I then photographed all of the pieces, including details of how they interconnect, along with the fold-over assembly, fold-over motor, and bearing plate.

Thrust bearing plate for ham radio tower.

Thrust bearing plate for ham radio tower.

I transferred the photos to my computer and then processed a selection of the tower photos, resizing and sharpening them.  I put them in a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Heights Tower Systems along with a description of what we have, what we intend to do, and what we think we need to do it.  I also gave them the name of the amateur radio operator we bought the tower from.  He was the original owner.


The gear-motor for the fold-over mount. Mast rotor in the plastic bag to the right.

Fold-over mount standing up on hinge end.

Fold-over mount standing up on hinge end.



One meaning of having “words with friends” suggests that they might not be your friends anymore, but in this case it’s the name of an online game from Hasbro that Linda plays with Karen Limkemann.  Karen and Steve came to visit this today and arrived around 3:30 PM.  We all talked for an hour and then Steve and I went to my office to look at our Linux computer while Linda started pulling dinner together.




Ham radio tower sections laid out in the yard end-to-end.

Ham radio tower sections laid out in the yard end-to-end.

Linda spent much of yesterday and this morning preparing this meal.  She made a salad dressing from scratch, crushed red lentil soup from scratch, pita bread from scratch, mixed up a small batch of garlic butter, and made Koshary from scratch.  We had a semi-dry white wine from Leelanau Cellars with the meal, and red grapes for dessert.  The meal was truly outstanding.

Heights Tower Systems aluminum tower sections laid out in the yard.

Heights Tower Systems aluminum tower sections laid out in the yard.

After dinner we took a stroll around the property and showed them the landscaping work, the (disassembled) ham tower, the proposed location of the barn, and the natural gas and HVAC projects.  Back at the house we discussed past travels and future plans at some length before they needed to head for home.


2014/08/20 (W) Like A Well-Oiled Clock

Darryll and Alec (DCM Heating & Cooling) were back today to continue working on the garage and library HVAC project.  I was talking to them as they unloaded tools and materials when I got a call back from Paul Keech.

Paul has changed the name of his company from Paul’s Tree Service to Detroit Tree Recycling and is also running American Mulch.  As I was told yesterday he is trying to focus on tree removal, especially wood lots with multiple trees, rather than tree trimming.  Among other reasons, the trees he removes provides the raw material for his mulch business.  Also, the guy who did most of his climbing the last ten years has moved on to another job and it’s hard for Paul to run a business when he’s up in a tree, even with a cell phone.  I tried to describe the trimming and removal work we need done but in the end we agreed that I would take some photos, put them in a Dropbox folder, and e-mail him the link.  He also encouraged me to get a couple of quotes from some companies more local to our new location.

While I was talking to Paul, Darryll found a small leak in the reducer at the T-fitting behind the garage and tightened it.  The pipe out of this reducer will bring gas into the garage and was the last piece of pipe they worked on the last time they were here.  Alec reset the pressure to 12 PSI and it appears to be holding better than it has up to this point.

In the course of the day, they…

  • …finished setting the Library furnace/air-conditioner and connected the parts together.
  • …cut the hole for the return air register and installed the return air duct.
  • …ran the supply air ducting from the top of the unit along top of the ceiling, over the top of the utility closet door, and then angled it to run along east wall at the ceiling.  All of the duct outside the closet is insulated.  Two flexible ducts will come off the top and run through the attic to supply air through ceiling registers on the east end of the library.
  • …marked the location for the two registers that will be at the bottom of two rigid ducts running down the east garage wall to supply air to the library just above the baseboard heat radiators.
  • …removed the old library window A-C unit and covered the hole with cardboard.  We will have to patch the opening on both sides with drywall and paint it.
  • …shut off the propane to the old library wall-hung space heater, removed the unit, capped the line (iron pipe), turned the gas back on and checked for leaks.
  • …connected the double-walled flue pipe for the library furnace.
  • …connected the double-walled flue pipe for the garage furnace.
  • …ran the 1/2″ iron pipe for the gas supply to the garage furnace.

They will take care of the air-conditioner condenser/compressor installation on a subsequent visit.  In the meantime I need to install electrical junction boxes for the two furnaces, which must have switches located within three feet of each unit.  I also need to run new 12 AWG 2+g NM cable for old A-C condenser/compressor and repurpose the existing A-C condenser/compressor wiring as an outside 120 VAC / 15 Amp outlet.

We still needed to repair drywall in the library and upper east garage wall and install new drywall on the lower east wall of the garage and on the new utility closet walls.  The lower half of the east garage wall is the next thing I have to do as I need to have it done before he comes back to finish the duct work.

I got a call from Chuck Spera just before noon letting me know that he was headed to his shop to pick up his old VDO bus tachometer and take it to Bob’s Speedometer Service on Bergin Road.  Bergin is an east-west road about one mile north of our house.  Bob’s was over at Old US-23, less than five minutes away.  I met Chuck there at 12:30 PM and we met with Matt who handles their VDO instrument repairs.  He tested Chuck’s tach and pronounced it broken but probably repairable, so Chuck decided to leave it there.

Matt did confirm for us that both the tachometer and the speedometer take a square wave input signal in the 3 – 5 volt range with deflection of the needle proportional to the frequency of the waveform.  Presumably this same signal regulates the speed of a motor that drives the gears of the odometer.  I had discussed this very situation with Mike (W8XH) just last night and he is willing to bring his 100MHz 2-channel storage oscilloscope and help us look for and trace these signals if needed.  Once we have known good gauges installed knowing what waveform to look for will help greatly with troubleshooting should they still fail to indicate the appropriate information.

After we were done at Bob’s I headed over to the Meijer’s northeast of M-59 and US-23 to get a few things for Linda.  By the time I got home, Glen Williams of Tenor Clocks LLC had arrived to service our grandfather clock.  I “broke” it about a month ago by trying to wind it at just the wrong time and it has not chimed since then.  It has also never been oiled in the 11 years since we bought it and Glen told us on Saturday that it should be cleaned and oiled every 5 – 7 years.  (We saw Glen at the GLCC/CCO rally in Clio, Michigan this past Saturday when we were there.)  Glen took the mechanism out and examined it and said that nothing was broken.  Apparently it finally bound up the last time I wound it from lack of proper oiling.  He cleaned it, oiled it, and checked it for wear but did not see any.  He reassembled it, checked the operation and timing, and said it was running smoothly and keeping very accurate time “…like a well-oiled clock.”

Although my time on the computer today was limited, I managed to post my blog entry for August 1st and started selecting photos for other posts.  I updated the Technical page on the SLAARC website with a document on low band antennas for Field Day use, and added a link to an online Smith Chart Tutorial.  I then updated the online roster.  I am at the point where I need to generate WordPress user accounts for the club members so I looked more carefully at the WP-Members plug-in documentation to see if there was a way to have the website e-mail each member as I create their account.  It appears that there is, but it will take a little more work on my part to get that set up and working correctly.  As I was working on this our AT&T DSL line started dropping out; again.

Linda spent part of the day preparing food ahead in advance of having company tomorrow.  She held back some of the crushed red lentil soup for our dinner and served it alongside sandwiches.  While we were eating we noticed that the phone said “Line In Use.”  We knew we were not using it, but I picked up one of the handsets, pushed “Talk”, and got a very loud, very noisy busy signal.  We checked all of the phones to make sure there wasn’t a problem with one of them.  There wasn’t.  When I checked again the message said “Check Tel Line.”  That usually means we won’t have a dial tone when we push “Talk” and that was, indeed, the case.

Ken is the service technician that has been out twice to try to resolve the problem and he left his AT&T cell phone number in case we had recurring problems.  He also left his manager’s name and phone number.  I called and left a message for Ken and then called and left a message for his manager, making it very clear that Ken has been working hard to resolve our problem and we are happy with the service he is providing.  I also tried to convey that the service disruptions are interfering with our ability to do things online, like edit websites.  It’s bad enough that the data rate is so slow, but we depend on our “always on” DSL service to always be on.

We went to Lowe’s after dinner to buy a couple sheets of drywall.  We looked for special cover plates with a switch opening in one half and a round hole in the other, but did not find anything like that.  We stopped at Teeko’s on the way back and had Jeff roast two more pounds of half-caff blends for us; one Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and the other Seattle Blend.  He was still out of the Sweet Dreams decaf blend, which we have him mix 50-50 with the regular Seattle Blend to make Sweet Seattle Dreams, but he is supposed to be getting some in his shipment tomorrow.

Back home we unloaded the drywall, had some fresh strawberries for dessert, and read quietly for a while.  I’ve been reading the PDF version of the 2nd edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook and am done except for the glossary and the appendices.  It is over twice as many pages as the 1st edition and is the definitive resource on connectivity for RVers in particular.


2014/08/19 (T) Horizontally Boring

Yesterday the crew installing the main natural gas line down our street was at the house just east of ours, so we figured they would be at our house today.  Not long after we finished breakfast we heard the sound of trucks and checked to see where they were.  They were set up by the east end of our pull-through driveway pulling 2″ plastic pipe back through the tube they had just bored.  They then relocated their horizontal boring machine down by our third (west most) culvert that will eventually be the driveway for our bus barn.  From there they bored back towards the east following a track that was parallel to the road and about 30 feet to the north of the centerline.

We bought some marker flags at Lowe’s the other day.  I decided that this morning would be a good time to put them in the ground to mark the locations of the 240VAC/50A power lines, the propane line, the septic tank outlet to the drain field, and the drain pipe for the SE corner of the house.

The horizontal boring technology is fascinating and I got to chat with the crew chief while he worked.  He had what looked to be a fairly sophisticated measuring device that told him the current location and direction of travel of the drill head, which has electronics packaged with it that allow it to be tracked.  He relayed instructions via radio back to the operator of the Vermeer drilling rig who could then “steer” the drill head.  We also got to spend a little time by the horizontal boring machine and I tried to capture the essence of this very specialized piece of equipment.

Mel, who is one of the project supervisors, stopped to check on the crew.  I was able to get a few minutes of his time to explain our concern about how they plan to run the gas line to our house.  The diagram sent by Consumer’s Energy was not accurately drawn.  Mel called Phil, who handles the scheduling of the service drops, and had him make a note on the service card to check with us before finalizing their planned approach.  After inquiring about how many gas appliances we have, Mel said to make sure Phil gives us a 425 gas meter.

I spent the rest of the day and evening working at my computer.  I started by updating the online roster in the SLAARC/WP website.  I then selected and post-processed about 70 photos in two groups; one for the front sidewalk/stairs and one for the retaining walls and drain pipes, and created gallery posts for each project.  I will do similar gallery posts for the garage electrical/HVAC project and the natural gas project once they are completed.


2014/08/18 (M) Tasks Menagerie

I woke up early, before 5 AM, so I got up, showered, shaved (not a daily occurrence), got dressed, and sat in the living room to read.  I started making coffee around 7 AM, which provided Linda the clue (incentive?) to get up and get dressed.  Ahhh, breakfast (homemade granola).

No more limbs hanging over the bus.

No more limbs hanging over the bus.

Linda was on tap to babysit in Ann Arbor today and left around 8:15 AM.  I got the Little Giant ladder out of the front bay of the bus and set it up as 14′ extension ladder.  This is the only ladder we own that will get me onto the roof of the bus.  I took a brush to clean off the roof of bus and a pole saw/pruner to trim tree branches encroaching on the bus.  When I was done on the roof I collapsed the ladder and put it back in the front bay as this ladder goes wherever the bus goes.  I trimmed lots of other trees from the ground and then gathered up the limbs into a pile to get them out of Keith’s way so he could cut the grass.  (Monday is grass cutting day this year.)

I wanted to run the Aqua-Hot but discovered we had left the electric heating element on so the coolant was hot enough the diesel burner would not come on.  We have been told by Aqua-Hot service technicians in seminars that the unit should be run at least once a month to keep it in peak operating condition.  I turned the electric heating element off and checked to see what else might be on that wasn’t needed.

I looked at replacing the overflow reservoir with the larger Oasis one I got from Butch, but it would require stand-offs or brackets to clear existing water lines (at least until I rebuild the water bay) and I did not feel like getting involved in that today.  Besides, the overflow reservoir was just below the full/hot mark from having left the electric heating element turned on, so I needed to let the system cool down before I could do anything anyway.

No limbs hanging out into the pull-through driveway.

No limbs hanging out into the pull-through driveway.

I chatted with Keith for a little while after he finished cutting the grass and then had lunch, after which I settled in to work at my desk on the SLAARC WordPress website.  I took a break mid-afternoon and made several phone calls.  My first call was to Heights Tower Systems in Pensacola, Florida to start finding out what I need to get our used Heights tower erected, how to order it, and what it’s going to cost.  My chat with Katie made it sound like they might not be all that helpful.  They need measurements, photos, and the name of the previous (original) owner as a starting point and I said I would send her that information as soon as I could.

I called Paul’s Tree service next to see if Paul Keech might come out and trim our trees.  The gal who answered the phone said Paul was trying to get out of the tree-trimming business but wanted to know if we needed trees trimmed or felled?  We need both, but I was primarily looking for trimming.  I guess that was the wrong answer.  I left my name and phone numbers and asked that he at least give me a call.  I suspect we will have to find someone else to trim several trees in places I cannot reach.

My last call was to EZ-Connector in Tulare, California.  I talked to Joe and was ready to order until he suggested I double check a couple of things first, specifically the number of circuits (wires) I need and the length of connecting cable.  I need to get these parts ordered, but I’m not sure when I will find time to verify these things.

Linda stopped at the Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor but still got home ahead of the afternoon traffic.  She bought an Amy’s roasted vegetable pizza for dinner which we enjoyed with red grapes and sweet Bing cherries.  I worked some more on the SLAARC website creating pages for business meeting documents and uploading them.  I also uploaded my blog posts for the last five days of July to our personal blog.  I added more projects to my bus project list, got discouraged at its growing length, and went to bed.


2014/08/17 (N) Do Nothing Day

Today was kind of a do nothing day.  We slept in, had waffles (vegan) for breakfast, skipped lunch, both took naps, and had dinner.  I did a load of laundry in the morning and Linda worked on her counted cross stitch project for part of the day.  We both spent a little time reading.  I had planned to put in a long day at my desk, and tried looking up some information on Heights Tower Systems, but our telephone and DSL connections were acting up again and I did not feel like dealing with an on again, off again Internet connection.  While trying to find a PDF file on my iPad I got distracted and spent some time deleting documents from Adobe Reader that I no longer needed.  Even the cats took the day off and spent most of it sleeping. We don’t have a lot of days like this, but I enjoy them when we do.


2014/08/16 (S) Bus People

We enjoy the company of our fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) and so our first destination this morning was the Senate Coney Island in South Lyon for the weekly SLAARC breakfast.  It was a much smaller turnout than last week, but that often leads to better conversation for the lower noise level if no other reason.

Converted bus people are also our kind of people, so our second destination today was the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan where the joint CCO/GLCC “Back-to-the-Bricks” rally was taking place.  There were 22 rigs in attendance, 19 of which were converted buses.  We got there around 11AM and spent the afternoon visiting with whomever was around, starting with Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Light rain moved in during the early afternoon and we had a nice visit with our friends from Ontario, Bill and Karen, in their bus.

With a few exceptions we knew all of the attendees and they all knew us, so this was a comfortable reunion with old and new friends.  We had a chance to talk to Glen Williams, who runs a clock repair business named Tenor Clocks, about our broken grandfather clock and made an appointment for him to come work on it on Wednesday at noon.  (Glen is also part of a four man singing group named “Three Men and a Tenor”.  Glen is the Tenor.)  We were most cordially invited to stay for dinner but we had not paid to attend the rally and there was very little food we could (would) eat so we left around 6 PM as the group was assembling for the evening meal.

We stopped at the Panera in Fenton on the way home and enjoyed their black bean soup and Mediterranean veggie sandwich, hold the feta cheese.  Once home we enjoyed a small glass of Late Harvest Vignoles wine from Acres of Land winery in Kentucky while we worked on our iPads a bit before bed.


2014/08/15 (F) On The Level

I got dressed this morning for physical work, but ended up doing very little.  I worked at my desk most of the morning, including working through the first chapter of the Intro to Linux course on edX.  I came up from the basement to have lunch at 12:30 PM after which I moved my car out of the pull-through driveway.  I then started the bus and, with Linda’s assistance, backed it out of the pull-through driveway, drove it the short distance to our straight driveway (which ties into the other end of the pull-through driveway), pulled it up onto the concrete driveway as far as it could go, and parked it.  The concrete driveway runs uphill from the road to the garage and, not knowing how long it might be there, I lowered the front end and raised the back end; not enough to level it but enough to make it better.  Linda chocked the drive tires while I hooked up the electrical shore-power.  The front bay had gotten water in it from the recent rains so we opened all of the bays to let them air out while Linda soaked up as much water as she could with a couple of old towels.

Spreading 21AA road gravel to fix the driveway.

Spreading 21AA road gravel to fix the driveway.

I got out our 8′ step ladder and pole saw/lopper to prune some large (1 – 2 inch) dead branches that were hanging over the pull-through driveway where the rear end of the bus normally sits.  I no sooner started this work when Phil from Precision Grading showed up right on time with his dump truck, tracked front-loader, and rolling compactor attachment to repair the damage done to the pull-through driveway by the recent landscaping work.

Phil off-loaded the front-loader from the trailer and then disconnected the trailer from the dump truck.  He had a small load of 21AA road gravel (with lots of fines) that he dumped in two different spots in the pull-through driveway.  He then put the truck back in the street and set up his laser level to see just what he needed to do.  He used the front loader to move the gravel around and distribute it evenly and finished by back blading it with the bucket to level it.

Rolling and compacting the driveway.

Rolling and compacting the driveway.

Once he had the gravel the way he wanted it, he removed the bucket and attached the vibrating roller/compactor.  He went over the driveway several times, always making his final pass going backwards while pulling the roller to smooth out the tracks created by the machine’s drive treads.  The roller/compactor worked the fines down into the base and by the time he was done the driveway looked and felt tight; even better than last year when Phil did not yet have this attachment.  The machine also shook the entire house, especially the rear deck which is mostly supported by tall 6×6 and 4×4 posts.  He indicated that we did not need to wait for rain, or anything else, before putting the bus back in its spot, so after he left that is what we did.

But before Phil left, he used his laser level to check the grade in the back.  Although it does not appear to the naked eye to drop very much in the first 70 feet, the laser level indicated that there was a steady down slope over that distance with a total drop of over 1 foot.  He checked all the way to the edge of the cattails marsh, at which point the ground was down 4-5 feet from the deck.  The surface of the neighbor’s pond looks to be at least two feet lower from there.

The compacting roller really makes a difference.

The compacting roller really makes a difference.

There are several implications to this.  For one, it means the surface of the pond is well below our basement slab (6 – 7 feet) and at least 2 feet below the bottom of the footings for our house, so it is probably not the source of the water that runs into our sump.  It also means there is adequate grade to allow surface water to run off once the grass grows in (although it would be better if there was more grade than there currently is in the first 50 feet).  Equally important, the grade is more than adequate for a very effective French drain should we decide to have Phil pull up the existing drain lines and replace them.  Finally, having a hole dug at least 8 feet deep for the ham radio tower base should not pose a problem as the starting elevation is at least 6 feet above the basement slab.

With regards to the tower base, Phil suggested that I have the rebar cage, mounting bolts, and alignment structure built ahead of time and ready to go.  He could dig the hole first thing in the morning with his mini-excavator (up to 8’ deep) and figured it would only take an hour at most.  The assembled rebar could be positioned, plumbed, and secured in an hour or so, and the concrete could be delivered and poured in the late morning.  He indicated that spreading the work out over more time than that, especially letting the hole sit overnight, was not a good idea

Close up of the compacting roller attachment.  This thing shook the whole house!

Close up of the compacting roller attachment. This thing shook the whole house!

We discussed how to get the concrete into the hole given its location about 40 feet northeast of the northeast corner of the house.  Our two options appear to be the little dump carts or a pumper.  The carts would have to drive up the east side of the house between the house and the septic tanks, but Phil thought that would be OK as long as they put down plywood to drive on.  He said a pumper truck would be very expensive but that a separate pump is available that can be towed to the job site.  With that equipment the concrete mixer truck would simply unload the concrete into the pumper, which would then pump it to the hole.  Both the truck and the pumper would be in the east end of our pull-through driveway.  Phil suggested that I call Carl Russell in Byron, Michigan as he is a good concrete guy and probably has a concrete pump.

After Phil left we reversed our earlier steps and moved the bus back into the pull-through driveway.  It rolled right up onto the level pad area and did not leave any noticeable tire tracks.  Nice.  We hooked up the “50 Amp” shorepower cable, turned off the chassis batteries, checked that all of the battery chargers were working, and shut/locked everything.

While Phil was working, Linda went to the Howell Library to return children’s books and came back with a card for the Howell Melon Festival.  The Festival started today and runs through Sunday.  She wanted to go walk around so we skipped dinner and headed out around 5 PM.  At the first turn in our road we encountered two workers from Roese Construction.  They were working on installing the natural gas main line down the street and said another crew would be coming along behind them in 1 – 2 weeks doing the branch runs up to the meters on the houses.

The Howell Melon Festival was just getting started when we got there but parking was already at a premium.  We parked a few blocks away in an empty church parking lot.  Some of the smaller side streets were already blocked off but Grand River Avenue and Michigan Avenue were both still open to traffic.  They will be closed tomorrow and Sunday and filled with vendor booths.

The weather was perfect and all of the downtown restaurants were very busy with lots of outside seating.  In the 16 months we have lived in the new house we have never really visited most of the downtown Howell merchants.  We went into Country Squire, a business that sells fireplace logs and inserts as well as outdoor cooking grills.  They had a couple of natural gas fireplace logs that were 99%+ efficient and did not require the flue to be open.  We thought they were a bit pricey but they were actually capable of heating a room.  We don’t use our existing propane logs because they are mostly decorative and require the flue damper to be open, which just wastes fuel and money.  The Country Squire also had a couple of natural gas grills that would mount to our deck and attach to our existing quick disconnect.

We walked through the food vendor area but did not see anything that interested us.  After walking past the starting gate for the Howell Melon Run we ended up at Uptown Coffee, on the northeast corner of Grand River and Main, where we had some brew and Sabra hummus with pretzel chips.  We started back towards our car and paused at the Old Courthouse long enough to hear the first number by the band.  They sounded good and not too loud.  We had our folding camp chairs in the car but decided to pass on the concert.

We stopped at Walmart on the way home to buy a microwave popcorn popper bowl and stock up on flavors of ICE brand sparkling flavored water.  Meijer’s sells a few flavors but Walmart has the broadest selection, including my two favorites (pineapple-coconut and blueberry-pomegranate).  Our final stop was at Lowe’s for a 100-pack of bright orange marker flags.  I will use these to mark the powerline that runs under the driveway to feed the RV outlet, the propane line to the house, the drain pipe from the corner of the house into the first septic tank, and the drain pipe that connects the outlet of the second septic tank to the beginning of the drain field.

It was a long day but a good one.  We watched another episode of Doc Martin and then called it a night.


2014/08/14 (R) All Computer All Day

From the time I got up (before 8 AM) until I went to bed (after midnight) I pretty much worked at my desk, specifically at my computer.  Much of my time was spent on revising the pages of the new SLAARC WordPress website and making most of them publicly viewable.  I also revised the User’s Guide and sent it off to be reviewed.  Mixed in with that work I uploaded three more blog posts.

Another chunk of my time was spent dealing with the financial and membership records of our FMCA Freethinkers Chapter and a little time was spent with e-mail and social media, although I really limit the amount of time that goes towards the later.  Later in the evening I finally logged in to the Intro to Linux course on edX and went through a short Intro to edX demo course.  When I went to shut down my laptop it had 28 updates to install and when it restarted, the Outlook 2013 icon had disappeared from my taskbar.  The program was still there on the Apps screen and it still worked, but that was momentarily un-nerving.  I also had a Linux update to install.

It was a beautiful day today with cool, dry northwest breezes, more like early fall than the dog days of summer.  It was the perfect day for working outside and I wish I could have.  We had oatmeal for breakfast, tofu hotdogs for lunch, and lentil loaf with baked potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner.  It was all simple but very tasty fare.  Coffee and juice went with breakfast, green tea with lunch and during the day, and sparkling water with dinner.  After lunch I checked the air pressure in the black iron pipe and it was down to 9 PSI.  Darryll set it at 12 PSI yesterday afternoon and I doubt that the pressure would move that much just from the change in ambient temperature.  I just hope the leak is someplace easy for him to find and fix.


2014/08/13 (W) Bad Times

Linda had a rough night last night.  The tooth on which she just got a new crown two weeks ago started throbbing and even Tylenol did not do much to dull the pain.  She finally got some sleep early this morning and slept in while I had toast with jam and coffee for breakfast.  She called the dentist when she finally got up and they said they could see her at 10:30 AM.  She tried drinking some coffee but the hot liquid immediately aggregated her bad tooth.

Linda has been following a story in the news about Ferguson, the town in Missouri where we grew up.  There was an incident there over the weekend in which a cop ended up shooting an 18-year-old African-American male.  There were limited witnesses, so the truth about what happened is obscure at best.  The town, a northern suburb of St. Louis, is now experiencing “riots” and looting.

It is difficult for me to picture what is happening.  Although Linda’s oldest brother still lives in Ferguson we have not been back there in years.  This is the kind of situation that “happens to other people in other places” not in the Ferguson of my memory from the 1950’s and 60’s.

Darryll and Alec (DCM Heating &Cooling) showed up just after 9 AM and Linda left for the dentist at 9:15 AM.  The stormy weather of the last two days cleared out overnight replaced by cool northwest breezes, abundant sunshine, and blue skies.  When the weather in Michigan is nice it is really nice.  I took a few minutes to get the trash to the curb, made sure Darryll was all set, and then retreated to my desk to work on the membership and financial records for our FMCA Freethinkers associate chapter, of which I am the current vice-president and secretary.

I got a call from Linda around 11:15 AM letting me know she had a 2:15 PM appointment with an endodontist down the street from our dentist.  She was going to go to Fairlane Mall to kill some time but since she did not get much sleep last night I suggested she go to the endodontist’s office and sleep in their waiting room.  Given her discomfort and sensitivity to hot liquids she will likely come home today with a new root canal procedure having been done.

Darryll and Alec finished the 2″ iron pipe installation, connected an air pressure gauge, and pressurized the pipe to 12 psi to check for leaks.  The natural gas pressure in the line will only be ~4 in-WC (inches of water column).  1 PSI = ~27.67 in-WC, so 4 in-WC us is approximately 1/7 PSI, a relatively low pressure.  Still, there cannot be any leaks in the piping connections.

With the pipe done for now they turned their attention to hanging the Reznor garage heater.  To support the unit Darryll installed two U-channels in the attic spanning the top side of the bottom cord of three trusses.  He determined the location of the threaded support rods from the garage ceiling side using a cardboard template and drilled the holes up into the attic.  He and Alec then assembled everything with Darryll doing the attic work.  The Reznor is not that heavy, but he prefers to hang the unit when possible rather than screw it into something.

To position the unit they set it on top of one of our 6′ tall plastic shelving units and blocked it up another six inches with scrap wood.  (We used the same technique to install the pull-down attic ladder a couple of weeks ago as described in a previous post.)  The unit is 12″ high and they set it 6″ below the ceiling near the center of the rear (north) wall.  That location will optimize getting heat to all parts of the garage and put the unit right where Darryll needed it to connect the exhaust flue pipe using the existing flue that was originally used for the wood-burning stove.

Linda usually fixes our meals, but I used to do a lot of the cooking during “tax season” when she was working ridiculously long hours as a C.P.A.  Lucky for me we had chickpea salad in the refrigerator and I remembered how to make a sandwich.  A few almonds and some of this morning’s coffee (Teeko’s Seattle Blend half-caff) made for a tasty, quick, and easy lunch.  I checked the pressure on Darryll’s gauge and it had dropped quite a bit, so there was a leak (or leaks) somewhere that he will have to find and tighten.  That’s unfortunate given the size of this pipe and the number of connections, but “it’s all part of the job” as the saying goes.

I was hopeful that Phil from Precision Grading might come fix our pull-through driveway today, but as of 1 PM I had not seen or heard from him.  There’s still a chance we could see him later today, but it was a long shot at best based on the premise that with all the rain on Monday and Tuesday he might not be able to work anywhere else today.

Linda called around 1:45 PM to let me know the endodontist was able to see her at 12:15 PM.  They did some tests to confirm it was the nerve in the suspect tooth and then did the root canal procedure.  Apparently sensitivity to heat and a lack of sensitivity to cold is indicative of a nerve gone bad.  They gave her an initial dose of antibiotics and some pain killers (Motrin) and sent her on her way with prescriptions for more of the same.

Darryll and Alec wrapped up for the day around 2:15 PM and walked me through what they had done and what was left to do.  While I was eating, talking, and working they had run the gas pipe through the back wall of the garage and installed the flue pipe for both furnaces.  Darryll needed a few more parts to finish the job and needed to get home to deal with a flooded basement situation from the recent rains.  He indicated they should be done by the end of next week, at least with everything they can do until the gas line gets run to the house and hooked up to meter.  The timing may turn out to be tighter than expected.  When Linda turned onto our street she observed that Roese Construction had started running gas line down our road and appeared to be hooking up houses as they went, but that turned out not be the case.

I was questioning Darryll about the exhaust flue for the Reznor garage furnace and discovered that it is not a sealed combustion unit like the one we had at the other house.  He assured me it was approved for use in garages and that he has installed a lot of them over the years, but would double check to make sure.  He can return this one if needed, but said the sealed unit is more expensive.  It would also require completely different fresh air and exhaust ducting that would have to go through the back wall of the garage.  I suspect we will stick with the one that is already installed.

Darryll sprayed every iron pipe connection with soapy water and the only leak he found was the cap they put on the end of the run this morning.  Apparently they did not tighten it fully when they installed it.  He snugged it down and had Alec re-pressurized the pipe to 12 PSI but did not recheck for leaks.  (Hypothetically, if the leak at the end of the pipe was big enough other leaks might not show up anywhere else until that one was fixed.)  If there are no other leaks then the pressure should stay at 12 PSI indefinitely; certainly until they come back on Monday or Tuesday.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a pepper seitan dish served over white rice; simple but delicious.  I checked the pressure in the black iron pipe after dinner, when it was cooler and the sun had dropped lower in the western sky, and it was down to 11 PSI.  That seemed like a lot of pressure loss to me, but the Ideal Gas Law (PV=nRT) says that for a fixed volume (V) the pressure (P) and temperature (T) are directly proportional (by the factor nR).  We know from experience that the pressure in an RV tire changes a little with changes in the ambient air temperature even when sitting still and quite a bit when the tire heats up from driving.  If all the tire pressures are set to the same value first thing in the morning and one side of the RV is facing south on a sunny day the pressures in the tires on the sunny side will be measurably higher than the shady side at mid-afternoon.  Of course there is a lot of air in our bus tires since they run at 100 PSI, more or less.  Most of the black iron pipe is not exposed to direct sun for most of the day so tomorrow I may re-pressurize the pipe at 10 PSI and record the pressure and temperature every 30 minutes until 2 or 3 PM to see how it varies.  Or not.

Phil (Precision Grading) called back this evening and said he could take care of fixing the driveway on Friday afternoon for a very reasonable price.  Sold.  That means we will not be going to the Clio rally on Friday for the 1 PM roundtable discussion.  So be it.  We will probably drive up on Saturday after our ham radio breakfast.  While Phil is here we are going to shoot the grade in the back with his laser level if he has time and see what we really have.  He and I agree that just eyeballing it things do not look quite right.

It’s obvious to me after the heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday that the two plastic drain pipes running out into the back yard should have had a third drain tile line put in the trench with them (perforated with an oversock) and the trench should have been filled with pea gravel to create a French drain that would remove the water flowing into that low lying area and keep it from saturating the ground.  It would also have made the pipes better able to withstand being driven over by a vehicle.  As it stands, anything heavy that drives over that area while it is moist/soft will most likely crush the pipes (again).  I’m annoyed because I did not know enough to specify this as part of the job and because Steve, for whatever reason, did not recommend it.

To fix this correctly we would need to have Phil locate the existing plastic pipe and dig it up back past the Y-connector for the two downspouts and up into the two slopes far enough that it is out of his way.  That would allow him to re-grade the entire area properly, dig a new trench starting from the edge of the lower deck, install the three drain lines, fill the trench with pea gravel, and then finish grade the slopes and valley correctly, all of which Village Landscape should have done, in my opinion, but did not.  It would also give us the opportunity to replace the corrugated plastic drain line with PVC pipe which would better withstand the weight of a vehicle once encased in pea gravel.  The rear retaining walls and front stairs/sidewalk look nice and appear to have been built correctly so we did get something for our money, most, in fact, of what we paid for, just not everything we needed.


2014/08/12 (T) Popcorn And A Movie

It rained long and hard all day yesterday and into the evening past bedtime.  Today brought more rain, though not as hard and not quite as persistent.  Although we have low spots around our yard that turn into small temporary ponds when we get this kind of rain we are not in an area that is prone to flooding.  That’s because we live just south of the boundary between two watersheds–the Huron River to the south and the Shiawassee River to the north–so water tends to flow away from here, eventually.

Phil (Best Precision Grading) stopped by around 10:30 AM to look at the pull-through driveway he built for us last year.  He said it looked solid enough to drive the bus on it, but was obviously no longer level and had a low spot in front of the new front stairs.  He will need a half day and a small load of 21AA road gravel to repair the damage done by Village Landscape Development while building our front stairs and sidewalk.  The cost won’t be too bad (although it shouldn’t have cost us anything) but getting him to find the time to come do it could be a challenge.  He’s had a busy summer and suffered the same delays as other contractors who do outdoor work due to the wet spring and summer we’ve had.

He was also here to see the work Village Landscape Development had done.  He agreed that the hardscape work looked good but the grading in the rear did not look right and the tracks in the yard from the equipment had not been raked out properly.  He suggested I let the grass grow in and the ground dry out before assessing whether anything needs to be done.

He also looked at the west end of our property, which sits lower than the east end where the house is located.  The timing of his visit was good as all the low-lying areas had water standing in them, allowing him to see clearly the exact nature of the (lack of) drainage problem.  His suggestion was a “French drain.”  Basically it’s a trench that is shallow at the far/high end and gets deeper as it goes towards the place where the water needs to end up.  Plastic drain tile, the kind with perforations and a nylon “sock” covering, gets laid in the trench and then the trench is filled to grade with pea gravel.  The dirt that came out of the trench gets spread around to cover the pea gravel and blend in to the undisturbed soil on either side.

When completed, the drain would take all of the standing water plus much more out of the surrounding soil and allow it to flow to a culvert that runs to the southwest under the road just west of the culvert along the side of the road that will eventually be the entrance to our bus barn driveway.  A French drain is cheaper to build than hauling in large truck loads of top soil and re-grading that part of the yard.  We probably should have had Village Landscape make a French Drain around the two plastic drain lines they ran out into the yard from our basement walkout.  Oh well, “can’t should‘a done it.”

We had tofu hot dogs for lunch and then Linda left to meet up with Diane to see a movie (Boyhood) and then go out to dinner at Bahama Breeze.  I stayed home and worked at my computer, taking a break mid-afternoon to make popcorn.  The worst weather of the day was happening at that time, so I stayed upstairs for a while and read the new 2nd edition of The Mobile Internet Handbook that I had just downloaded this morning.  I worked until 7 PM and then stopped to have a light dinner consisting of chickpea spread on whole grain toast and half of a small watermelon.  Linda got home as I was finishing my watermelon.

In spite of AT&T switching our phone and DSL service to all new wire pairs our Internet service went out occasionally throughout the day and evening, although it usually returned quickly.  I think the sad truth is that their landline infrastructure is not as tolerant of wet weather as it should be and most of their money is going into expanding cellular service.  We had the same problem over the years at our house in Farmington Hills.


2014/08/11 (M) SLAARC/WordPress

Some of the members of SLAARC are former Detroit Edison employees (now DTE Energy) and one of them (Bruce, W8RA) currently works for Intercontinental Transmission Company (ITC).  Bruce was curious what size transformer we had and said that there were likely numbers on it that I could read with a pair of binoculars.  I went out this morning to check, but the only info on the transformer can is a metal plate that is too small and illegible to read from the ground even with our fairly good binoculars.

Darryll (DCM Heating & Cooling) had not shown up or called by 10:30 AM.  His work doesn’t make a mess of our yard or house, at least it hasn’t yet, so it is less of a concern that he is not here working today than it was with the landscaping.  When he left Thursday he had a short list of parts he needed to get and perhaps could not do that until this morning.  Or he may have gotten emergency service requests, which take priority over new installations.  Still, we would like to have the new HVAC work completed in the next week or so to make sure it is done ahead of the natural gas hookup.

As part of that work I have to complete some of the electrical pieces, finish dry-walling the utility closet, and continue cleaning, repairing, and organizing the garage while we have the storage pod.  I then need to get to work on a long list of bus projects.  I also have a lot of desk/computer work to do and I prefer to do that when I know I can settle in for a long stretch.  I tend not to be in the right frame of mind for desk work when I do not know if/when contractors are going to show up.  It’s turned out to be a busy, and in some ways complicated, summer that way.  Darryll called late morning to say they would be back first thing Wednesday morning.  That information allowed me to adjust my expectations and settle in for a long day and evening at my computer.

My main focus was working on the page content for the new SLAARC WordPress website, which occupied me until dinnertime with some e-mail mixed in.  After dinner I started uploading blog posts beginning with the one for July 7th.  I decided that I would not select and upload photos for most of the posts in July and early August and instead create more extensive gallery posts for the landscaping work and the garage/HVAC project.

One of the things I have noticed in the past week is that our Internet connection seems to be faster, or at least my e-mail processes much quicker than it used to.  That could be the result of the AT&T repair on the 4th, which ended up moving us to entirely new wire pairs, or a change that AT&T made to our DSL service back on the 3rd (when it kept going off temporarily), or it could be that QTH upgraded their e-mail server system, or some combination of these.  Whatever the case, it seems to be an improvement.

Phil from Precision Grading called at noon to see if he could stop by sometime after 3 PM today.  It was raining gently at the time but when he called back a little after 3 PM the rain had finally opened up into a sustained downpour.  He had an 8 AM appointment in Hell (Michigan) and we agreed that tomorrow morning after his appointment would probably be a much better time for him to stop by.

We ordered a “cat tent” the other day and it showed up this afternoon.  We opened it and set up in the living room with the “door” tied open so the cats could explore the inside.  They were wary, but did go in briefly.  It’s kind of like a back-packing tent but all the fabric, including the floor, is mesh.  We thought the floor would be a solid material, but it’s not.  It will be OK for use on our deck at home, but seems less suitable for use on the ground when we are RVing.  We intended to use it for both so we are not sure if we are going to keep it.

For dinner Linda made a tomato-onion-mushroom ragu and served it over a three rice blend with a dark mixed greens salad on the side.  Later she served fresh strawberries with Lotus brand cookies and dark chocolate with bits of almond and sea salt.  Seriously, what’s not to like about that?


2014/08/10 (N) Kathi Comes To Visit

Kathi Slater is a long-time friend, the mother of three girls who went through middle and high school at the same time as our children.  Her oldest daughter, Emily (who is now an MD) was one of our son’s best friends in high school.  Kathi ended up working at Metropolitan Bakery with Linda and is still there.  We have been trying to find a mutually agreeable time for her to come see our new house and today was finally the day.

Kathi arrived around 10:30 AM.  As with all first time guests we gave her a tour of the house and then, being another gorgeous summer day, we walked the property.  After the tours we settled in at the table on the deck under the shade of the umbrella and had a nice long chat.  Linda made her wonderful chickpea salad and served it sandwich style for lunch with sourdough pretzel nibblers, fresh grapes, and sweet cherries.  She left to return home around 2 PM.

I worked at my desk on website usernames and passwords until 5:30 PM.  For dinner Linda made sautéed green beans and a dish with whole grain macaroni, cannellini beans, kale, other ingredients, and spices.  Both dishes had a hint of garlic and red pepper flakes; just enough to elevate the dish but not so much as to dominate or overwhelm the primary flavors.

We finished eating a little after 6 PM and I had to leave for the 6:30 PM meeting of our ham radio club.  The meeting was well attended with several of our newest club members there.  After a short business meeting we had a brief introduction by Mike (W8XH) to ham radio projects that can be done with the Arduino (and similar) micro-controllers.  Mike and Steve (N8AR) then led a discussion on the subject of antennas; specifically simple ones that can be built fairly easily.

I got home rafter 9 PM and had a piece of watermelon.  We stayed up a little later than usual and decided to turn in without watching an episode any of the TV programs we are currently following.


2014/08/09 (S) WP User Accounts

We went to our ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon for the first time in several weeks after which we visited with Chuck Spera at his shop in Novi.  A while back I helped him retrieve an RV sofa/bed that he purchased from Pat and Vickie Lintner in Osceola, Indiana (near Elkhart).  He had removed the old couch from his Liberty bus conversion and installed this new (to them) one.  He wanted to show us the result and we wanted to see it.  We sat and chatted for a while about bus conversions and then left him to work on his race car while we finished a morning errand.

We loaded our weeks’ worth of recyclables in the car before we went to breakfast and headed to Recycle Livingston from Chuck’s before returning home and having a bite of lunch (we do not eat much for breakfast at the restaurant in South Lyon).

I worked the rest of the day on cleaning up the SLAARC portion of the spreadsheet I created for generating usernames and passwords for WordPress websites.  I had just received an updated roster from the treasurer, Paul (N8BHT), and had to bring my spreadsheet up-to-date before creating WordPress users.  A portion of each of the organization websites I am creating will be restricted to current members and require a username and password to gain access.  Each user account, in turn, must be tied to a unique e-mail account.  It’s been a bit of work to set up and I am far from done at this point.  While I was working on the SLAARC info I realized that I had not finished the same work for the other two organizations so I worked on that as well.

The last few weeks have been physically and mentally demanding and we both needed and enjoyed the easier days we had yesterday and today and the one we plan to have tomorrow when a long-time friend and co-worker of Linda’s is coming to the new house for her first visit.  We watched another episode of Peroit on our Apple TV before turning in for the night.


2014/08/08 (F) Decked Out

Today was the first day in over a month that we did not have contractors at the house, were not wondering why we did not have contractors at the house, or were not working on projects getting ready to have contractors at the house.  I like working on projects, but today was a deep breath day for both of us.  The weather was near perfect so we both spent much of the day on the rear deck where we made great use of our table and sun shade umbrella.

We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the deck, a first since we moved here.  Linda read there, and I worked at my computer there during the afternoon and early evening.  At one point our male cat, Jasper, was sitting by the dining room doorwall crying for us to come in and pay attention to him.  Instead, Linda put him in his carrier and put it on the table.  I don’t think he was comfortable at first, but he was near us and seemed to like being “outside” and able to look around.  At least he stopped crying.  Linda got online, found a “kitty tent” on Amazon that we liked, and ordered it.  It’s a 5′ x 6′ tent that folds up and stores like a backpacking tent.  All of the sides and the floor are nylon screen mesh.  It has a zipper door.  It should be here on Monday.

I worked at my desk all morning and finished up the test items I was writing for the Lectora version of the Michigan Assessment Consortium professional development series on Common Assessment Development.  I got the items e-mailed off to the MAC and to Bill at Wayne RESA and e-mailed an invoice to the Kathy, the president of the MAC.  Linda spent some time cleaning part of the house; she’s been doing a little bit each day.

The high point of the day was a low altitude flyover by five World War Two vintage aircraft from the Yankee Air Force based at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti about 40 miles SSE of our house.  They came directly over our house in a V-formation banking to the left and heading south.  A B-17 bomber (4-engine) was at the point with a P-38 and a P-51 fighter on either side and two additional fighters at the tips that I could not identify.  We heard them coming from some distance away and the sound was as impressive as the sight as they passed overhead.  Linda checked online and discovered there was a major air show tomorrow at Willow Run Airport so we surmised they were on a practice flight.

For dinner, Linda made sweet potatoes topped with a mixture of black beans, tomatoes, onions, and several spices.


2014/08/07 (R) Endings And Beginnings

I did not sleep well last night.  I was a bit worked up about the landscaping and a bit worried about the iron gas pipe installation which looked to me like it would be difficult no matter how Darryll decided to do it.  We were both awake at 5:30 AM and finally got up at 6:45 AM and had breakfast.

The landscapers arrived early, before 8 AM, and got right to work.  Steve brought three guys and got them busy right away.  Linda and I walked the site with him, but he immediately saw more problems than we did.  There was no arguing or convincing; he seemed determined to make sure it was done right and that we were happy with the end result.  He stayed and worked alongside the crew to make sure stuff got done correctly.  They finished up around 11 AM.  We took one last look at the work and paid Steve the balance of what we owed him.  He said he would check back in 2 – 3 weeks to spot seed and fertilize the new grass.

Linda took off for the post office and grocery store around 8:45 AM and I started routing and stapling the sub-panel ground conductor along the edge of the deck by the rear library doorwalls.  Darryll (DCM Heating and Cooling) showed up a little after 9 AM with his nephew, Alec, so I took the next 30 minutes to walk through the gas pipe installation options.

Darryll decided to go with the original plan of running the pipe from the southeast corner of the house down the east side, around the corner across the back of the house under the upper deck, dropping it down and going under the middle deck, across the back of the garage just below the bottom piece of siding, around the northwest corner of the garage and up the west side of the garage to its end point behind the whole house generator.  There will be a T-fitting on the garage side of the middle deck, to supply gas into the garage for the two new furnaces, and another T-fitting at the end of the run.  One branch of the end T will have a shutoff valve and cap and will be used to supply gas to the generator.  The other branch will be capped and available should we ever decide to run a gas line to the (future) bus barn.

I determined where I wanted the sub-panel ground wire to enter the basement and drilled a 5/16″ hole an inch to the right and an inch below the water faucet that comes through the west wall of the house about 16″ back from the northwest corner above the lower deck.  This allowed me to route the ground wire around an inside corner to the hole and will allow me to tuck it up under the bottom piece of siding.

I wanted to get the ground wire into the main panel but I could not turn off the main breaker as Darryll was using electric power tools and Linda was working on her computer.  The connection will have to wait until no one is using power.  Once the ground wire is tied into the main panel I will remove the bonding screw in the sub-panel.

Linda made a different kind of bean salad sandwich spread for lunch using Great Northern beans and various other yummy ingredients.  We had some grapes and green tea to go with our sandwiches.

Having run out of construction projects for the moment I decided to work at my desk for a while, but my mind was elsewhere and I just wasn’t feeling the love.  The steps at the back door of the garage were going to be in the way of the iron pipe, so I removed them.  As long as I was out there I hung around to watch Darryll and Alec get the pipe under the middle deck.  It was a challenge, as expected, but for reasons that were unseen until Darryll tried to drill holes through the end boards.

First he encountered wet wood that kept fouling his hole saw.  Then he hit a nail, which did not enhance the performance of the saw.  It also bent his extension shaft slightly which he had to stop and straighten.  He then encountered joist hangars on each end and had to bend those out of the way.  Finally able to feed the pipe through, they encountered wood sleepers and a couple of large rocks.  They managed to go over the sleepers and push the rocks out of the way and got the pipe through.  Darryll and Alec put in a long, physically demanding day and got most of the 2″ pipe installed.  Two inch iron pipe is very impressive stuff and we were very impressed with the work required to install it.

For dinner Linda made a Farro pilaf, after which we sat on our deck and enjoyed a small glass of Riesling wine to celebrate the end of the landscaping project that has had our property torn up for the last five weeks.  We are very fortunate that we became vegans and that Linda took a serious interest in learning about whole-food, plant-based recipes, ingredients, and cooking methods just as we retired.  I shudder to think what our health would be like had we continued to eat the way we did until three years ago where, even as “vegetarians,” our diet contained a lot of eggs, dairy, and seafood, and not so much fruits and vegetables.  We watched Dr. Michael Greger’s annual summary address on and went to sleep without the worries that interfered with last night’s rest.


2014/08/06 (W) Arrival And Departure

Well, almost.  We were up and dressed by 7 AM, had some of the granola that Linda made yesterday (soooo good), and got to work while it was still cool in the garage attic.  Our first task, however, was to straighten up the garage as we were expecting a shipment of HVAC equipment sometime today.  We cleared off the north wall and moved the plastic shelving unit there.  We gathered up various tools and supplies and organized them on the shelves.  Other things got put other places and eventually we had enough space for boxes in the back and pipe on the floor.

While we were working on the garage the landscaping crew showed up but not Steve.  They worked all day trying to finish up the job based on Steve’s verbal directions but they either got bad directions, did not understand what they were told, did not understand what needed to be done, or just did not care about the fine/finishing details absent Steve’s direct supervision.

Our next task was to pull a 50′ 12-2+g NM cable into the attic from the sub-panel location and across to the west side of the attic where I coiled it up and left it for now.  This cable will eventually provide a 240V/20A circuit for the new library air-conditioner condenser/compressor on the west end of the garage.  I will complete the installation of the outside disconnect and connection to the condenser once Darryll sets it in place and gives me the go-ahead.

I turned off the main breaker in the sub-panel and started pulling five NM cables into the panel box and making the connections.  I was part way into this work when a tractor-trailer showed up from Behler-Young with our HVAC equipment and parts.  (B-Y is the largest HVAC distributor in the State of Michigan.)  I helped Bill unload the iron pipe and the smaller and/or lighter boxes.  He unloaded the palleted equipment and heavy parts boxes using the lift gate and a hand truck.  It was a good thing we had cleaned and organized the garage when we did as the boxes of stuff took up the whole east half of the north wall.

By the time Bill left it was noon so we stopped working and had lunch.  After lunch I finished connecting the new circuits in the sub-panel, put the cover back on, and turned on the main breaker.  I tested the west and northwest outlets and discovered that the three duplex outlets closest to the back door had an open ground.  Hummm; I did not see that coming.

I tested all four of the outlets closest to the door and all of them had open grounds.  I went to the next pair of duplex outlets and found that the ones closest to the door also had an open ground but the other two tested correctly.  I turned off the circuit breaker for that circuit and took the cover plate off of the pair of duplex outlets closest to the door.  The outlets were grounded but there was only one cable feeding that box so the problem was upstream somewhere.

The box with one good and one bad duplex outlet was the likely spot.  I took the cover plate off and pulled the outlets out.  The incoming power went to one pair, the hot and neutral were bridged to the other pair, and a cable ran out from the second pair, but the grounds were not bridged through.  Really?  Yeah, really.  So I fixed it, turned the circuit breaker back on, tested various outlets, and everything was now OK.

I had assumed that that power from the attic went to the outlet box closest to the door and then ran around to the southwest corner of the garage but in fact it did not go to either of these first two outlet boxes.  Old houses often have strange wiring configurations.  We have one circuit breaker in the sub-panel that has a wire attached to it and the cable runs up into the attic but we have been unable to find what, if anything, it powers.  I also found a cable in the garage attic yesterday that runs through the attic above the library and disappears into the house attic but is not connected to anything on the garage end.  The cable is not energized and its location suggests that it may have been powered from the sub-panel at one time, but what it might have powered is a mystery at present.

Since the HVAC equipment arrived today as promised I figured Darryll would be here tomorrow to start on the installation.  We still had a lot of stuff in the garage that was potentially in his way so I moved most of it into our temporary storage pod.  It was 3:30 PM and I had apparently accomplished everything that needed to be done today.  That was an odd feeling but with nothing else to do, construction wise, I sat down and had a cup of tea.

Steve (Village Landscape Development) called to make sure it was OK to come by in the evening to inspect the day’s work and, hopefully, collect the final payment.  Linda and I did a walk-around and found so many little details that were unfinished or wrong that I called Steve back and suggested that coming this evening would be a waste of time as he would just have to come back tomorrow with a crew to fix/finish the job correctly.  He agreed.

No longer content to take someone’s word, we found our auto-level, elevation pole, and 100 foot tape measure.  (An auto-level is not a typical homeowner tool, but we have one, so I guess we are not typical homeowners.)  I set the auto-level up on the basement walkout deck and leveled it.  We pulled the tape straight out from the center of the deck 70 feet and took elevation measurements every five feet.  The grade for the first 45 feet was not clearly downhill like it was supposed to be.  At best it was level and rose slightly at two points.  There was an obvious high spot to the left headed up the slope, but I did not even bother taking a reading on that.  I really wanted the landscaping done before the HVAC work started but it looks like there will be at least a little overlap.  That means I will have to split my time and attention.  I spent a lot of my working life “multi-tasking” and now find it tiresome.  I prefer to focus on one thing at a time when possible.


2014/08/05 (T) Primary Elections

The rain started early today with a pre-dawn thunderstorm and continued off and on the rest of the day and evening.  The area beyond the basement walkout deck is a muddy mess, but Village Landscape Development has not finished grading it.  They need it to be dry, so it may be awhile before they can finish it.

Our first construction task today was to pull electrical cable up into the garage attic for three more circuits.  I wanted to get this done early in the day while it was cool and Linda’s knee was feeling better.  I had been mulling this work over last night and realized that I had probably made an incorrect assumption about the location of the 240V/20A service for the new library air-conditioner, so I put a call in to Darryll right after breakfast.  We got a call from Karen at Bratcher Electric around 9 AM to  see if it would be OK for Mike to stop by around 11 AM to look at some electrical work we need done.  He wanted to see the job in person in order to prepare a quote.

The new cable for the outlets on the west and northwest wall was already in the garage attic but I had to crawl into the low northeast corner to reach it and get it routed in the right direction.  I then had to crawl into the same corner from a different direction to pull it to the junction box I installed last week.  I secured it with cable staples and connected it to the old cable.

Next we pulled a 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the approximate location where the garage furnace will hang from the ceiling to provide a dedicated 120/15A circuit but did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.  We then pulled another 14-2+g NM cable from the sub-panel to the north end of the new west utility closet wall.  This cable will provide a dedicated 120V/15A circuit for the new library furnace.  Again, I did not install an outlet box pending a final location from Darryll.

Darryll called back and confirmed that the new 240V/20A dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner had to be routed to the location of the condenser/compressor on the outside of the west wall of the garage and there had to be a weatherproof disconnect within three feet of the unit.  That meant another trip to Lowe’s, but not until much later in the day.

Mike Bratcher showed up on time and I walked him through the project.  I want to re-wire the garage sub-panel as a 100A main panel by running service entrance cable from the transfer switch in the southwest corner of the garage to the sub-panel in the northeast corner of the garage.  We may also want to run power to the bus barn if/when it gets built.  Mike suggested that they go ahead and “stub out” the barn service at the same time with an appropriate disconnect.  The plan is to have them do this work at the same time they convert the Kohler whole house generator to natural gas and do the annual maintenance.  Mike also confirmed that they can take care of the natural gas connection to the generator as long as the pipe is located near the back of the unit, has a shutoff valve, and is capped.

By the time Mike left it was after noon so we had lunch.  While we ate we ordered a dual outlet phone/ADSL filter wall plate and a few other things on our Amazon Prime account and researched candidates and proposals for the primary election.  We then went to our polling station, located about two miles from our house, and voted.

This was the first election we participated in since moving to Livingston County.  As Democrats (and liberal ones at that) in this part of Livingston County voting in the primary is an exercise.  The real contest is on the Republican ticket; whoever wins the Republican primary for any given seat will almost surely win the general election in the fall.  Still, we always exercise our right to vote and there were statewide candidates and issues.

The last cable we installed today was another 14-2+g NM to provide 120V to a junction box on the utility closet ceiling.  I mounted a round white plastic junction box approximately 8″ from the east utility closet wall in line with, and slightly in front of, the sub-panel.  I installed a plastic bare-bulb light fixture with a pull chain and 3-prong outlet to the junction box.

I did not tie any of the new circuits into the sub-panel today as we have one more circuit to pull and I want all of the cables at the panel before I cut the power and remove the cover.  We were done with electrical work for today so I turned my attention to drywall surface preparation while Linda retreated to her desk to work on tax returns.  I sanded the drywall compound as smooth as I could and wiped everything down to get rid of the dust.  I then primed all of the new and old drywall on the northeast garage wall along with the plywood platform and exposed 2×12 on the front of the base.

By the time I was done and cleaned up it was approaching 5 PM, we were both tired, and we needed to go to Lowe’s, so we decided to dine out.  We went to Lowe’s first and bought a weatherproof plastic disconnect box, a couple of watertight fittings, a 10′ length of 3/4″ plastic conduit, and a 50′ role of 12-2+g NM cable.  All of this will be used to run the new dedicated circuit for the new library air-conditioner.  We then drove to the Panera in Brighton and used one of our gift cards to have a light dinner.

We were back home a little after 7 PM.  The primer was dry so I decided to paint all of the surfaces I had primed before dinner.  While I painted Linda made a batch of her incredibly yummy granola.  We had a small glass of wine and played a few games on our iPads while the granola cooled and then turned in for the night.


2014/08/04 (M) Phone Problems

My first task this morning was to sand all of the drywall compound and apply a second/finish coat to the walls I have been building/repairing in the garage.  Simple enough to describe but it took some time to do.  While the compound was drying I resumed working on electrical wiring.

Our phone went dead yesterday, or at least that’s when we noticed it was not working (no dial tone, no incoming or outgoing calls).  I got a call (on my Verizon cell phone) from Ken, the AT&T service technician, around 9 AM indicating that the phone was fixed but he was on his way to our house to verify service at the network interface box.  The phone was indeed working, but now the DSL was not.  🙁

Ken told me that he did not have a dial tone back at the distribution box and rather than diagnose why, they usually switch the customer to another wire pair.  He spent the entire morning working on the problem, making several trips between our house and the distribution box.  By the time he was done we were on different wires from our house all the way back to the switching station.  He was now getting a dial tone and an active DSL signal at our network interface box but we did not have a DSL connection at our AT&T gateway.

Ken had mentioned earlier that the phone signal requires two good wires but the DSL will run on just one.  That had raised a flag in my mind and I asked Ken if reversing the two wires might cause the problem we were seeing?  He said he had never heard of the DSL signal being polarity sensitive, but it wouldn’t affect the phone operation so he switched the wires and … it worked!  We got a momentary false alarm until we discovered that the phone cable from the DSL splitter/filter to the phone had a broken tab and would not stay plugged in.  I replaced the cable and everything was OK.

Linda was going to help me but she was on her feet a lot the last three days and her right knee was expressing its displeasure so she decided to take it easy today.  Brendan and Shawna needed to borrow the pressure washer and Linda needed a few ingredients from Whole Foods for her granola recipe, so she drove to Ann Arbor to accomplish those chores.  She stopped at Lowe’s on the way back and picked up a 50′ role of 14-2+g NM electrical cable.  Ken left around 1 PM and we had a light lunch of chickpea salad and fresh nectarines.

There are too many cables going through the wall top plate above the sub-panel in the garage for me to comfortably drill new holes to run more.  I was puzzled for a while as to what I would do, and then realized I could create openings in the ceiling (drywall) directly above the sub-panel for new wires as this area will ultimately be boxed in.  I used the Porter-Cable oscillating saw I bought a couple of weeks ago to cut a long slot for new wires.  It was the right tool for the job.  The NM cables should have fed up into the attic easily, but they didn’t.  A peak in the attic confirmed that they were running into plywood on the original garage roof.  The plywood was cut back for access purposes where the breezeway (library) roof ties in, but no more than necessary.  The sub-panel is towards the northeast corner of the garage and the original garage rafters/plywood are only about eight inches above the drywall.  I had planned to run four cables today but needed Linda’s help.  I got two of them started and then turned my attention to other things.

I had a work session of the FMCA education committee at 4 PM so I  wrapped up my construction work an hour prior to that to give me time to switch gears and get somewhat organized.  The work session was via teleconference and lasted about an hour.

We got a call around 8 PM from Darryll.  He planned to order the garage furnace, the library HVAC unit, and the 2″ iron pipe tomorrow for delivery on Wednesday and wanted to make sure that was OK.  He planned to start work on Thursday assuming the materials got delivered on Wednesday.


2014/08/03 (N) Birthdays

Madeline slept well again last night.  She was awake before 7 AM this morning but still a little tired.  Linda warmed her bottle and gave it to her.  She stretched out in Linda’s lap to drink her bottle.  She’s a busy girl and a good eater and is usually up and active as soon as the bottle is done, but this morning she stayed quietly in Linda’s arms for almost 45 minutes playing with her (own) hair and carrying on a conversation.  I think Madeline really likes her Grandma Linda.  I know Linda enjoyed being able to hold her for that long.

Madeline likes her hat and her chair!

Madeline likes her hat and her chair!

The Howell Farmer’s Market opened at 9 AM and we decided to go there and stroll around.  We stayed about an hour and bought a couple of onions and several different dried fruits.  Madeline was curious about everything she saw including a woman playing the guitar and singing.  The Howell Farmer’s Market always has musical entertainment.

Back at the house Linda played with Madeline while I raked out the part of the pull-through driveway the landscapers tore up (as best I could) and then compacted it using the Honda Element (as best I could).  Madeline positioned her little plastic Adirondack chair by the front door and watched me work.  I then started the main engine on the bus, let it air up, and moved it forward about eight feet, but stopped short of the disturbed area.  I reset the parking brake, put it in high idle, turned on the over-the-road air-conditioning, and let it run for 30 minutes to get the engine up to operating temperature.  I then turned off the A-C, let it high idle for a couple of minutes, dropped the idle down for another minute, and shut everything down.  It is not good for big diesel engines to be started up and then shut down before coming up to operating temperature and is not good to shut them down with giving them a few minutes to cool down and let the head temperatures fully equalize and the turbo to spin down.

That's some sunflower.

That’s some sunflower.

Brendan, Shawna, Chris, and Meghan were due to arrive around 3 PM, so there was no way for us to work in the garage while Madeline napped and still have time to get cleaned up.  Madeline laid down for her nap a little ahead of schedule.  While she was napping Linda cut my hair and then prepped the ingredients for a porcini mushroom quinoa risotto while I got cleaned up in preparation for company.  Linda was done prepping dinner by 2 PM and then got ready for company.

At the Howell Farmers Market.

At the Howell Farmers Market.

Madeline awoke just before 3 PM and Linda had her up and dressed in her new Winnie-the-Pooh jumper before everyone arrived a short time later.  Within the span of 15 minutes she suddenly had a house full of admirer’s and had a very engaged and energetic afternoon.


Linda, Meghan, Madeline, Shawna, and Brendan (new steps and sidewalk).

Dinner consisted of a salad, the quinoa risotto, and roasted Brussels sprouts.  The salad was good and everyone liked the risotto; most of us had seconds.  Meghan pronounced the Brussels sprouts roasted to perfection.  The outer layers were crisp like kale chips and the insides were soft without being mushy.  We had fresh strawberries and coconut milk ice cream for dessert.  Chris’ daughter, Katie, was unable to attend because she was “up north” with her mom/family, but it was nice to have the rest of our immediate family gathered for dinner.

Linda, Shawna, and Chris on the front porch (new steps and sidewalk).

Linda, Shawna, and Chris on the front porch (new steps and sidewalk).

There was more vigorous playing after dinner but eventually everyone had to leave.  Once they were gone I picked up toys while Linda loaded the dishwasher and then we relaxed on the deck for a while.  Sometime during the day a “Check Tel Line” message appeared on our phone and we did not have a dial tone.  I decided we should do something about it before we settled in to watch an episode of Doc Martin.  The procedure required us to open the Network Interface Box, unplug the house from the AT&T line, wait 60 seconds for a reset, and then plug in a known good telephone to check for a dial tone.  We have a couple of old phones (not cordless) but could not find them, so we took our cordless base station out and used it.  The problem was definitely somewhere in the AT&T system, not our house.  We filed an online trouble report and were told the problem would be fixed between now and Friday at 6 PM.  We turned in and watched Doc Martin, which we streamed via our AT&T DSL connection without difficulty.


2014/08/02 (S) All Schmoo All Day

Schmoo is one of Madeline’s nicknames.  I don’t know how much her parents still use it, but I thought it was delightfully cute the first time I heard it and I still think of her as Schmoo even though I usually call her Madeline to her face.

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, we have her all day today, overnight, and tomorrow through dinner.  Having Madeline here obviously alters our daily living patterns, which is actually nice for us.  Since she spent last night here we did not go to our usual ham radio club breakfast this morning.  It also meant that we would not get much, if any, work done on our garage project.  Linda is a very good grandmother, and has cared for Madeline by herself for up to five days/nights, so I could get some work done while she is here but I like to interact with her and do not have as many opportunities for that as Linda does.  I managed to do a load a laundry this morning, sneak in a little time to check e-mail, and download photos from Ron & Mary’s Dropbox to our Dropbox, but I did not get to start the Introduction to Linux course.  🙁

Brighton is holding its annual Art and Acoustic Music event this weekend so we decided to check it out after a delicious breakfast of oatmeal with fresh blueberries and red raspberries.  Hacker is closed at Grand River which is down to one lane in each direction for re paving, so we had to negotiate the detour for Hacker Road to Grand River Road via Bendix Road.  We were patient and we eventually got to the heart of downtown Brighton where Main Street was closed from Grand River west for a couple of blocks.  We found a public parking lot south of Main Street that we had not previously been aware of, waited for someone to pull out, and parked.  It was convenient to Hyne Street, which was about the middle of the vendor booths along Main Street.

Madeline takes a stroll at the Brighton at the AAMF.

Madeline takes a stroll at the Brighton at the AAMF.

Madeline was in and out of the stroller for over an hour and got to go for a walk along the Mill Pond where we saw Canadian Geese, Mallard ducks, white ducks, a Great Blue Heron, and Painted Turtles sunning on logs.  We found a very cute sleeveless jumper for Madeline decorated with 3-dimensional Winnie-the-Pooh characters.  It will be her “party dress” for tomorrow.

Madeline on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

Madeline on the Brighton Mill Pond boardwalk.

We were back at the house by 12:15 PM, had lunch and got Madeline down for her nap at 1 PM.  She normally naps for 2 – 2.5 hours so we used that time to work in garage.

First we finished insulating the back/north wall of the garage.  We then cut two pieces of 4′ x 8′ drywall to a length of 70″ and installed them horizontally.  We put the lower piece on first using a 2″ x 4″ stud and shims to get the bottom edge the required distance off of the floor and secured it with 1.25″ drywall screws.  We set the bottom edge of the second piece on top of the first piece and Linda held it in while I got a few drywall screws into it.  I was then able to screw it to the studs.  It was getting close to the end of Madeline’s nap so Linda got her up and dressed while I continued to work.  I taped the seams, and then applied drywall compound to the seams, screw dimples, and other blemishes on the new drywall and the section of old drywall from there to the utility closet.

I need to sand down all of the drywall compound, apply a second/finish cost, let that dry, sand it down, and then apply primer to all of the new drywall, the plywood platform, and the exposed 2×12 on the front of the base in the utility closet.  But with Schmoo here and family coming that will have to wait until Monday.

We played with Madeline until dinner time and then had a fun meal.  She’s a good eater and really enjoys mealtime.  We played some more after dinner and read books before finally getting her down for the night.  She is a persistently active and inquisitive child but is often calm in her approach to the world around her.  She is delightful and it is a joy to spend time with her.

2014/08/01 (F) Schmoo Returns

(Note:  I have posted two photo galleries dated August 1, 2014, one for the front sidewalk and stairs project and one for the rear retaining walls and drain lines project.)

We took a break from personal construction projects today to get ready for another 2-night sleepover by our grand-daughter Madeline.  Her folks (our son and daughter-in-law) needed to do some painting on their rental house over the weekend and the most efficient use of their time was for Brendan to bring Madeline to our house late this morning.  That allowed him to return to Ann Arbor to work on their front porch this afternoon and will let them get an early start on Saturday morning and work as late as they want/need to.  It will also give them the option to work on Sunday morning if needed before coming to our house for dinner and to retrieve their daughter.  Brendan and Shawna both have birthdays in early August, and Brendan’s happens to be on Sunday.  Our daughter (Meghan) and her husband (Chris) will join the celebration gathering.

The landscapers were here early for what they hoped would be their last day on this job.  Linda left early to do some grocery shopping and was back well before Brendan and Madeline arrived or I had to leave for my dermatology appointment.  I got back on my computer for the first time since Monday, checked e-mails, off-loaded photographs from our digital SLR, and installed updates on four WordPress websites.

Today was also the first day to log in to edX and start the free Introduction to Linux course, but I did not have time to deal with that.  The course is self-paced and should take 40 – 60 hours to complete.  I would like to spend two hours each day on this and have it completed by September 1st.  The timing has turned out not to be that good, but I am under no obligation to take/finish the course; it’s simply a free opportunity that I would like to take advantage of while it is available.

I left for my doctor’s appointment with time to spare and ended up needing it.  There is a lot of road and utility construction going on in our area and I did not have a good way out.  I still made it on time, but not by much.  I did not have to wait very long to see Elizabeth, the dermatology PA.  I got a thorough looking over and a clean bill of health.

On the return trip from the clinic I stopped at Teeko’s to get some coffee.  Jeff had the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe in both regular and decaffeinated, so I got our usual 50/50 blend.  He was out of Sweet Dreams (a decaf blend) that I have him mix 50/50 with his Seattle Blend to make Sweet Seattle Dreams.  He did, however, have the Seattle Blend in decaf so I got a 50/50 regular/decaf mix.

Madeline was still napping when I got home.  Linda said she fell asleep a little later than normal so she let her sleep until 4:30 PM.  Once awake, she was go go go right through dinner until bedtime.

Steve (Village Landscape Development) worked on the front sidewalk in the morning, laying rectangular brick pavers in a herringbone pattern and then cutting it all the way around for border bricks.  He finished placing boulders on either side of the top steps by the front porch and had one of his crew mix up a small batch of concrete and place it along the two long/free edges.  Another crew member finished grading out the soil on either side of the sidewalk, spread grass seed, and covered it with straw.

Steve, Linda, and I did a walk-around, and the project has come together very nicely except for the leaking drain line(s).  Steve spent much of afternoon digging in very muddy conditions and ultimately unearthed about 30 feet of plastic drain line that was punctured or completely crushed.  He replaced what he believed was all of the damaged line, but until we put water down them we won’t really know.  They were not able to finish the grading because the clay soil was so wet that it was unworkable, so they will be back next Tuesday (or later) weather permitting.  They had to come back anyway as they needed a bit more egg rock to finish a bed that we added at the last minute.  As a result of the walk-around we added another bed of egg rock at the east end of the deck to tie in with rock under the deck, and two more downspout drain lines, all of which they will do the next time they are here.