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Friday, July 28, 2006

July 28, 2006

EESH! Another Month!

Well, as the 'title' implies, it's been over a month since the last post. I know, my bad.

Things have been busy but quiet around here. It's been a relatively nice summer, all things considered. I've had busier summers (and I'm not complaining), but it's been pretty much relaxing. Amongst the everyday things that happened in the last month...there are (as I can remember):

Garden Progress

While the garden admittedly has many more weeds and grass in it than I care to admit, it's much better than it was last year. In that, we're actually able to harvest things out of the garden! So far it's pretty much been limited to cherry tomatoes, beans, and peas, but there are regular tomatoes nearly ready, and the cucumbers will be soon. Pumpkins and squash come later. smile So, short of keeping it watered (see below), it's been a pretty good gardening year.

Speaking of Water...

...we're in a drought. We've had very little rain for some time. Go figure -- this spring I was complaining about the water leaking into the basement through the floor (which didn't stop for a long time). Well, the fact is that we're in a fairly serious water deficit...so it's been somewhat necessary to water things like the garden. I also noticed that some of the apple trees (specifically the smaller ones) were starting to show signs of stress, so I've had to water those as well off and on (although not nearly as much as the garden, because the trees (unlike the garden) can tap into subsoil moisture which is still available)).

So, that's always fun. It will be a watering weekend (at least a little bit) for the trees again. Speaking of which, gotta move the sprinkler quick.

Alright. Back now.

Tree Trimming

Well, I finally went and had the chainsaw chain sharpened, so I was just 'itching' to cut something once that was done. Well, that and the fact that I did a little tune-up and maintenance on the chainsaw during the time when I had the chain off. But anyway, it was getting to the point around here for some of the trees in the yard...where, well, it was very difficult to mow without being beaten by branches. It was near-hazardous. smile OSHA wouldn't have liked the situation, I'm sure.

Anyway, I took a Saturday morning (it was a hot one, I might add -- see below) and cut away. It was great -- the chainsaw operated like new. It was truly a beautiful thing. I trimmed up the several trees which were in the way when mowing, and it makes a world of difference. It also looks much nicer -- kept up.

It's became obvious that I need to do some trimming on the apple trees as well, but that's a project for much later, because it requires a different methodology. Well, that and the apples are still on the tree...

A few weeks later (after the initial trimming), I discovered that the walnut tree which overhangs the driveway was getting so loaded with walnuts that it was nearly impossible for a medium-sized vehicle to enter the yard without being bombarded on the roof with walnuts. I took care of that situation on Tuesday evening. It required use of a ladder to trim properly, because unlike the other trees, these were hanging down (and not reachable by me fro the ground). So, that also looks much better now that it's been completed.

Speaking of Heat...

...is it hot enough for you? We've had quite a summer of temperatures, I tell you. I can recall it feeling hot in summers past, but it's been a long time since it was actually this hot. We're talking on the order of 100-degree temperatures, which for this area is unusual. We had a really hot weekend in May, but it was just a weekend. June was pretty good overall, but July brought on some higher temperatures (once we arrived to mid-month).

This obviously doesn't help the drought situation...

As I noted, mid-July brought a streak of 90-degree days, which isn't so bad by itself, but it's always with a high dewpoint, which makes for a fun heat index number (which has more frequently been in the 100-degree-plus range). It cooled off for a week or so, but is now back in action. This weekend is slated to be another hot one. The heat index around here this afternoon was around 107-110.

Thank God for Central Air Conditioning

I mentioned it in a previous post (see the news post) -- we had a central A/C unit to be installed. Well, it sat around for a while (long story), but I knew it was going to get hot in July. We had been getting by with a permanently-mounted wall unit as necessary (we didn't use it very often), which works just fine -- but not as efficiently as I'd like and it was very loud in the house when running. But, when you're pretty much given the unit for free -- it's a no-brainer.

Well, I finally found someone to do the installation (which was basically limited to simply reconnecting the lineset, installing the evaporator coil (which I had), and checking the charge on the unit (because prior to uninstallation at its previous location, the refrigerant was pumped back into the compressor). They were very nice guys and came out quickly to do the work. I did the last of the electrical (outdoor) work while they were installing, but I'd done all the interior/control work (including hooking to the power company's control unit for their load management program) the weekend before.

Long story short, the unit works perfectly and cools the house much more quickly and evenly. It's not even that bad upstairs where our air flow is poor. So, that came just in time. Combined with the programmable thermostat which I installed last fall, it's been a very welcome addition to the house. I don't care to run it all the time (and during the cooler weeks between these hot flashes, it's been shut down), but now that it's in place, I'm not going to live uncomfortably either. We'll see how much damage it does to the electric bill. I'm not expecting it to be too much worse (it draws about 8 amps more (with the furnace fan included)) than the existing unit (which drew about 18 amps) in the wall. Furthermore, it actually cycles when it's running rather than being on all the time (which the old one had to do). It'll be neat to see the result. Depending upon my shock, I may or may not report the result here. smile

Speaking of shock, I got the bill for the installation last week. It's roughly double what I was expecting, and I was quite disappointed. The silver lining was that the service was prompt and the installers did a fantastic professional job. But, I'll leave it in the words of my uncle: "Did you get a kiss afterward? All good screws end with a kiss."

I wouldn't necessarily say that I got 'screwed' on this installation, but...well, use your imagination.

Miscellaneous Maintenance

I powerwashed the house quickly this afternoon. It was a good way to basically be cool outside (because of the misting), and with the dry climate lately, the house was a bit dirty. That, and the bug residue needed to be washed off on the east side of the house.

Speaking of water...I took a shower about a week and a half ago, and discovered that I was not getting any cold water. It was probably the most uncomfortable shower I've ever had. I'm glad the water heater is only at 120 degrees. That was bad enough.

As it turns out, the pressure-balancing valve (which is intended to prevent exactly such a thing from happening) had failed and was stuck. It just happened to be stuck in 'all hot' mode. I was perplexed, because the shower has only been in service around a year. So, after a few attempts, I managed to wedge the valve into a reasonable area. It's still a bit hot, but at least it's not 120. In the meantime, I called for warranty service on the valve and was promptly given a confirmation number for the warranty. That was nice. However, their delivery isn't -- I was told 7-10 BUSINESS days for delivery.

Good thing I'm mechanically inclined. It still hasn't arrived, and I don't know what I'd do if it hadn't been fixed. I don't know what other people would do either. You'd think that warranty shipping on an item as important as a valve would be a little more expedient...

Beth's Birthday

I forgot to mention that above. We celebrated another birthday of Beth's, by going to the new Italian place in Morris (a favorite destination).

Website Work

I'm currently working on a new website project. The initial design is more or less complete; it's now to the content-gathering phase. Ahh yes, side income. A Beautiful Thing.

As it looks right now, it will hopefully go live within the next two weeks or so. We'll see, but once the content and some other miscellaneous things are handled, it'll be ready for the world.

Computer Builds

The same company I'm doing the website work for is also buying computers and hardware from me. So far, I've assembled and delivered two of five machines for them. They're all quite impressive, and I was surprised how much some hardware prices have changed in the last nine months or so. The total bill really surprised me from my distributor. The other three machines have parts still arriving, and I'm guessing they'll be ready for delivery by the end of the next week.

Server Problems...

I've been meaning to downsize the network here at home for a while. Go from two servers to one. After shuffling around some hard drives last weekend, I decided to finally install Fedora Core 5 on the (newer) replacement server. So, I took an evening this last week and did just that. Got things ready to the point where it was just configuration stuff left.

Go figure, the timing was perfect for this project. Not two days after installing FC5 on the replacement server (which I hadn't yet put on the network), my existing router/DNS box had a network card failure. To be exact, the card slowed way down in response time for about 8 minutes prior to giving out completely (at least according to my monitoring software). So, I was left with one working NIC in a router box which needs two. Not exactly a Good Thing.

Once I pinpointed the problem, I decided to simply swap it out (because I was intending to do that this upcoming weekend since I installed the replacement server's software). It meant I had to do it in a little different way than I wanted to, but after a few hours of tinkering, the network was back to its original state. I've since isolated the old router box (I intend to replace the NIC and use it on a different network for someone else, because the router box itself is still in excellent working order) for some decommissioning and maintenance work, but things are back to normal.

I took some time this afternoon after coming in from powerwashing the house and more or less completed the transition for services on the file server. There are only two services which haven't been fully integrated on the replacement server, and that's all related to file sharing across platforms on the network. That will take some time to reconfigure, mostly because of the data which needs to physically move between machines.

So, a failing NIC caused problems, but forced me to do work I was intending to do anyway...

I've Rambled Enough

I've got more stuff to talk about, but not right now. I'm going to leave it at that, and call it good for the night. Until next time (hopefully not a month from now).

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/29/07

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