DHI #6: Fun With Gas

On Sunday Rochelle woke up with a new brainstorm, a project she thought would be simple, quick, and provide a big payoff: hook up the vintage gas heater we found at an antique store to the gas feed in our dining room. Four hardware stores and 6 pilot lights later, we’re back where we started — but at least we didn’t blow up the house!

On Sunday Rochelle woke up with a new brainstorm, a project she thought would be simple, quick, and provide a big payoff: hook up the vintage gas heater we found at an antique store to the gas feed in our dining room. I was dubious, and insisted that Rochelle have adult supervision while doing the work. Since I was going to spend the day working on my BeBox deadline, it couldn’t be me, so she called Hilda, and when Hilda wasn’t in, she called David.

David agreed to join and supervise, and soon arrived. Meanwhile I had hauled the heater to the dining room. After some discussion on what they needed, they left for the hardware store.

Upon returning, Rochelle was hot to go. During discussions about process it became apparent that Rochelle did not want to turn off the gas, because that meant we would have to re-light all the pilot lights (stove, water heater, house heater), and she was scared of that. She was of the opinion that we could just “open the windows wide and work fast.”

In the opposite corner were David and I, who were a lot more afraid of a wide open natural gas pipe — i.e., blowing up the house, or having fire engines arrive screaming and have to evacuate the block, or both — than lighting a few pilots. Apparently I fear gas more than I fear electricity. We killed the gas.

With effort, David and I were able to get the cap off the now non-active gas feed, whereupon we discovered that we didn’t have the right size adapter to hook the pipe to the heater.

So Rochelle and David went shopping.

Returning about four hours later, with much new clothing and a wee bit tipsy, they had procured more adapters in different sizes. Let’s try again!

Nope. But closer! One adapter fit the pipe, and a different one fit the heater, so we now knew the sizes we needed for the adapter. Send Michael to the hardware store, we’re too drunk to get it right ourselves!

So I go to the hardware store, 20 minutes before all hardware stores in SF will be closing, and paw through the meager collection of gas fittings and adapters. Nada.

So Rochelle and David, and now Dan and Hilda, keep drinking and having fun, while I try to work in the other room. It dawns on me that I skipped my bath for the day. With the gas out, I will have to take an ice cold bath the next morning before I go to work. Which will surely stop my poor heart (I would be wide awake, though).

So after the party breaks up, Rochelle and I take David home, and head for Home Depot in Daly City, open 24 hours. Are you keeping track? This is our fourth hardware store.

Well, Home Depot is great if you have a modern house, but if you live in a 100+ year old Victorian, it sucks. Our gas pipe is a non-standard size, and they don’t have it. We head home, with Rochelle wondering how big a beatin’ she’s going to get after I take my cold bath.

We decide to back off the project, re-cap the gas pipe, and re-light all the pilots. Re-capping is easy, re-lighting all the pilots turns out to be tricky. In 12 years in the house, Rochelle has always had PG&E do it. I’ve not re-lit a pilot myself in my five years here.

So we turn on the gas and wander from heater to heater to stove, not succeeding anywhere on the first try. Turn off the gas, look closer at all of them. Turn off the cutoff valve on the heater and water heater. Turn on the gas, try the stove, which has four separate pilots. Light all four. Still can’t get oven or broiler to light. Call Hilda. Figure it out (a little thing called a reset button).

Go downstairs, light the water heater. Rochelle’s ass is safe! Decide to call it a night.

So, anyway, my DHI for Monday was figuring out the pilot for the house heater, and getting it re-lit.

DHI #5: Razor and More Anti-Spam

DHI #5 consisted of poking a hole in the firewall for Razor to access its central servers, and disabling most of the RBL blocking in sendmail, while enabling RBL checking in SpamAssassin. I also kept Rochelle from blowing up the house.

DHI #5 consisted of poking a hole in the firewall for Razor to access its central servers, and disabling most of the RBL blocking in sendmail, while enabling RBL checking in SpamAssassin.

I also kept Rochelle from blowing up the house. But that’s a longer story, for tonight.

DHI #4: Old Machine Stripped

I removed the CD-ROM drive, hard disk, and network card from the old server, which used to be Rochelle’s old PC. What remains still starts up and runs; it’s next to the front door, ready for putting out on the street.

I removed the CD-ROM drive, hard disk, and network card from the old server, which used to be Rochelle’s old PC. It’s probably seven years old at this point. What remains still starts up and runs, but needs something to boot an operating system from.

I’ve got it next to the front door, ready for putting out on the street, but I’ve decided to let Rochelle have that pleasure. When she reads this posting, she can toss it on the sidewalk. (Hopefully gently, it’s still a usable machine for someone.)

DHI #3: New Server in Permanent Home

Today’s Daily Home Improvement (DHI from now on) was to sew up the new server, and move it from the operating table to the computer rack, its “permanent” place. This was actually more work than it sounds like.

Today’s Daily Home Improvement (DHI from now on) was to sew up the new server, and move it from the operating table to the computer rack, its “permanent” place.

The computer rack is a bunch of shelves where the server, the DSL box, a printer, the phone and some other electronic odds and ends share space with a couple hundred floppies and CDs, and about 40 pounds of unfiled papers. It is a mess. The rack will surely be the subject of many, many DHIs this year.

While I was at it, I removed the old server (a 150MHz Pentium with 80 megs of RAM), replaced the old power cable with a heavy duty cable, moved the CD-ROM drive to a different ATA bus than the hard disk, so the hard disk could run in UDMA100 mode, and tweaked the MIMEDefang startup script to not spew messages in a different format than the rest of the system startup scripts.

The part Rochelle will like the best is that I got a machine out of the living room. Except all I really did was move the new machine out, and the old machine in. But tomorrow the old machine is going to get cannibalized, and I’ll probably put the remains out on the street. Things like that usually disappear in about 35 seconds…

New Year’s Resolution #1

One of my many New Year’s resolutions for 2003 is to do something for the house, every day. It can be a small thing, like changing a light bulb, but it can’t be an ordinary thing, like washing the dishes. And every day, I’m going to list it here in my blog, where you can hold me to it. Gulp!

One of my many New Year’s resolutions for 2003 is to do something for the house, every day. It can be a small thing, like changing a light bulb, but it can’t be an ordinary thing, like washing the dishes. (Washing the dishes when it’s Rochelle’s turn might count, though. ;-)

And every day, I’m going to list it here in my blog, where you can hold me to it. Gulp!

Many days my little thing will have to do with the systems infrastructure for our web sites, mail servers, etc. Indeed, my first two days are exactly that:

  • 1-Jan: Add MIMEDefang and SpamAssassin to our mail server.
  • 2-Jan: Tweak MIMEDefang configuration to only check incoming messages, and not add SpamAssassin reports as attachments.

Still, I hope that no more than 200 of my 365 improvements will be electronic. God knows there’s enough things to put away or throw out, just in my office, that will qualify as a home improvement!

Slow Updates, Upcoming Downtime

I’ve been beavering away on setting up a new server, to replace the temporary server I set up to replace the machine that died while we were in France. This weekend will probably be the big swap, where I copy all the data from the old server to the new. The new server will be a _lot_ more quiet, because that’s my new Big Thing.

I’ve been very light on updates here recently, as I’ve been beavering away on setting up a new server, to replace the temporary server I set up to replace the machine that died while we were in France.

I decided to build my own PC, because my new thing is quiet, as in less noise. I have way too much ambient noise in the office, from the three computers that are constantly running, it makes it hard to concentrate. I’ve vowed to end the noise problem by the end of the year. Uh, the year 2003, if my current progress holds…

It’s currently fairly hard to buy a new PC that is silent, or nearly so. Dell has made some strides here, and there are a few specialty shops, but no one had a machine that met my other specs for price, performance, etc. So I’m building one myself, with parts ordered online and from eBay. So far it’s been very time consuming, but fun, and the new machine is so quiet, you have to lean in close to know it’s on.

This weekend will probably be the big swap, where I copy all the data from the old server to the new. This will mean quite a bit of downtime, as I’ll need to prevent things from changing on either server while I move data and configuration information.

So, anyway, if you visit on the weekend, don’t be surprised if things are not live, or sporadic.

The Final Deadline

Once upon a time, I bought a bunch of dead BeBoxes. I planned to refurbish them and resell them on eBay for a large profit. It’s been…slow to happen. And now Rochelle has a Final Solution in mind.

So, I’ve written about my collection of mostly defunct BeBoxes, and how I acquired them. My big plan was to refurbish those that could be made to run, and sell all but one on eBay. I should end up with substantially more cash than it cost to buy the lot.

Well, that was the theory.

The reality is more like, I’m working a lot, taking classes at night, and doing lots of things on my regular computer — Mac OS X on a dual 800MHz G4 with 512 megs of RAM is a lot more fun than BeOS Release 4.5 on a dual 66MHz BeBox with 32 megs of RAM. As JLG used to say, fast hardware covers a lot of sins.

In other words, I’m not working on the BeBoxes. What’s worse, Rochelle is now tired (really, really tired) of the BeBox Graveyard that was our parlor.

So, tonight came the ultimatum: If I haven’t completed the refurb project by the one year anniversary of bringing them home, they go out on the street.

And when I agreed, she said “You have to put that in your blog right now!”

So, here it is, a public commitment to my wife. Ask me how I did on January 17, 2003.

The Next Project…

Rochelle has started in on the kitchen. I wonder if I should take the credit cards away from her.

With all my BeBoxes blocking her route to completion on the cleanup of our parlor, Rochelle has started in on the kitchen. Which needs it, but it’s not a small project.

I strongly suspect that I should take the credit cards away from her.

The Last of the Independents

A new mattress and box spring from McRoskey, and we’re spending more time than ever in bed.

While in Europe, someone on the trip explained his strategy for coping with jet lag. Get back early, run errands all day, then go to bed at the right local time, exhausted, and be in sync by the next day. He had three events to go to the day of his return.

I had exactly the opposite waiting for me when I got back: a brand new bed.

We’d needed a new mattress for a while, because the ditch in the middle of our existing mattress was driving us nuts (never, ever, ever buy a pillowtop mattress). McRoskey Airflex is a local mattress factory that’s one of the last independents, with a great reputation, and happens to be only a few blocks from our house. We’d been meaning to check them out for nearly two years, and seeing them featured on Martha Stewart was the final straw. We went, we laid down, we bought.

Rochelle took delivery of our brand new mattress and box spring literally the day before I got back. Fortunately we stayed away from the new bed until late in the evening, because sleeping on a McRoskey is like sleeping on a buttered cloud (the only thing better than laying on a cloud is laying on a buttered cloud — everything’s better with butter). We’re having real difficulty doing anything in bed except passing out.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get your minds out of the gutter!

Looking Back at 2001

God knows we’re glad 2001 is over but, in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad.

Rochelle and I are both glad that 2001 is over with. It’s not as though a calendar can mark the boundaries of luck or experience, but as much as the date shouldn’t matter, you can’t help summing a year up into a theme. And 2001 sucked for lots of people.

But it wasn’t all bad. Rochelle and I were fortunate to be able to spend almost two months together, 24/7, and come out on the other side having more fun with each other than ever. It’s good to be married to a good partner.

Both Rochelle and I experienced job changes we hadn’t intended, mine because my company died, and Rochelle because her boss wasn’t right for her. Now we’re both in jobs we like better than what we started with last year, and which are overall more financially rewarding to boot.

We replaced the nasty carpets in much of our house with wonderful hardwood floors. The floors bring joy to us every day, and may go down as the best investment we made in 2001 (not that the others were hard to beat).

Inspired by the success of the floors, we got serious about lighting, and replaced five existing lights with 4 “new” (to us) period fixtures (this was the source of my Fun With Electricity postings). The one that gives me the greatest pleasure is in the office, which replaced a ceiling light and a 500-watt halogen lamp, lighting the office about 20% better using half as much electricity.

We also started in on our water closet renovation, but have stalled on that, because we decided that getting all of the excess crap out of our parlor and office was more important. Both of these jobs will be with us through most of 2002, I predict.

We threw or attended some really good parties, the best of which was Rochelle’s birthday, and the most impressive was David’s birthday. (One of these days we’ll get the food photos from that up on our site.)

We took some nice trips, including Mexico, Texas, and LA. We ate a whole lot of good food on those trips, most of which we photographed, and most of which we’re behind on publishing. A resolution for 2002, surely.

I bought a new Mac and transitioned entirely to Mac OS X. This is something which gives me pleasure daily, for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is that it enabled me to start this weblog.

I said goodbye to Tex, whom I miss dearly, but who is certainly living a better, happier life in her new household, where she’s the top kitten, with cat companions she likes, neither of which was true in our house.

Rochelle and I both made tremendous progress on our crap reduction and abatement programs, though we clearly have more to accomplish in 2002 (another resolution).

I’m sure we accomplished many other things we’re happy with in 2001, and my feeble mind can’t remember them. That’s why one of my resolutions for this year is to regularly update this weblog. I’m a little behind at this point…

Proper Use of the Telephone

There’s no laws against it, but drinking-and-dialing is still poor behavior. Be sure you only call your closest friends.

For those who don’t know, Rochelle got the opportunity to buy our house when the former owner lost it to his heroine addiction. The bank foreclosed, and Rochelle got a great deal.

One of the consequences of that unplanned change of ownership is that there was no orderly removal of possessions. Most of his junk — random crap stored in the basement for years — was thrown away prior to Rochelle moving in. In spite of that cleaning, some traces of the prior occupant remained, and as the new owner it was Rochelle’s job to deal with it.

Today while working on our own Crap Abatement and Reduction Program (CRAP), Rochelle came across a scrap of his that she saved, a letter he wrote but apparently never sent. It leads off with a paragraph of truly great writing, which I will share with you now:

My dearest darling Suzzi Lastname,

First and foremost let me apologize for calling you up at such a late hour last night. I was on my way to greatness in the guise of don Julio el BLOTTO when following some minor gun play I decided to stop and rest my horse and relieve my bladder. As I entered the lavatory of the cantina, I saw before my eyes that most terrifying vehicle of verbal communications — the pay telephone. The rest is history. I hope I did not disturb you.

The tradition of Drinking-and-Dialing is probably as old as the telephone itself, or very nearly. Here’s wishing that you’re on the receiving end, instead of calling us.

;-)