Tag Archives: AT&T POTS-DSL

2014/09/10 (W) A Functioning Landline

The Ibuprofen/Tylenol mix did the trick and I slept comfortably through the night.  Twinges were just starting as we were waking up, so breakfast was two zucchini muffins, half of a banana, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen, washed down with orange/grapefruit juice.  Linda went for a walk after breakfast as it was supposed to be rainy most of the day.

I spent part of the morning selecting and re-sizing photographs from the Arcadia Bus Rally 2014, uploaded them to a folder in our Dropbox, and e-mailed the link to Brenda Phelan who runs the rally with her husband Bill.  She had put out a request on Facebook for photos if anyone had them.  I did an article for Bus Conversions Magazine on that rally shot over 700 photos, so yeah, I had a few.

I registered us for an RVillage Ambassador webinar later today on the new mobile app, and then came upstairs to have lunch.  We enjoyed the vegan Sloppy Joe’s Linda had made, along with some vegan baked beans (canned) and store bought apple sauce.  It had been raining lightly for a while and the intensity increased while we ate, but it fell straight down with little to no wind.  The radar loop on Wundermap (Weather Underground) showed that we were in the leading edge of a large fetch of moisture that would likely train over our location for several hours and that is, in fact, what happened.

I took a short nap.  I rarely do that, but I always enjoy it when I do.  I worked the rest of the afternoon at my computer editing blog posts and finally getting around to selecting and processing photos to go with some of them.  I had called Kerry Fear this morning regarding snowplowing this winter and he stopped by the house around 3:45 PM to meet with us.  He lives nearby and plows our neighbor’s driveway, which is how we got his name.  We agreed to hire him for the season on a handshake; no contract or pre-payment.  He will send us a bill every now and then and we will pay it.

Linda made creamed corn for dinner and served it alongside vegan Sloppy Joe sandwiches and fresh strawberries.  Again, a soft, easy on the teeth, meal that was very tasty.

The RVillage webinar started at 7 PM EDT and lasted 45 minutes.  They wanted feedback on this latest development by Friday so they can finalize it for general release.  I continued working on photographs for the blog and installed a set of updates on our Linux box before calling it quits for the evening.  Linda had started watching the first episode of Sherlock from last year so I watched most of it with her.  Much to our disappointment Doc Martin has disappeared from Amazon Instant Video as part of our Amazon Prime account.  We can still get it, but we would now have to pay extra.  As much as we like the series we are not going to pay extra to watch it.

It spite of the rain today, we made and received a number of phone calls on our AT&T landline and were online through our DSL connection quite a bit, including streaming the episode of Sherlock, all without noise or service interruptions to the best of our knowledge.  We are hopeful that our AT&T service is finally restored and will continue to operate reliably.

One of the calls was from Chuck letting me know that Matt at Bob’s Speedometer Service had tested his VDO bus speedometer and found it to be broken and not repairable.  Chuck ordered a new one through Matt, who will take care of programming the odometer with the current mileage.  Once it comes in and Chuck verifies that it works I will likely be ordering one for our bus since ours has failed in the same way as Chuck’s.  I could go ahead and remove ours and take it in, but I have lots of other things to work on a figured it made sense to wait and see how this works out for Chuck.


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.


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.


2014/08/25 (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.


2014/08/22 (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.


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.


2014/08/17 (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.


2014/08/12 (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?


2014/08/04 (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.