Saturday, October 31, 2020

Coldest Morning So Far

     At 30°F, this has been the Fall's coldest morning -- and the prognosticators are saying "coldest until Monday." 

     I ordered a new carbon monoxide alarm, the old one being both hopelessly susceptible to radio-frequency interference and several years past its expiration date.  The replacement will arrive sometime today and until then, I'm being very careful about running the furnace. 

     Roseholme Cottage was at 60° when I fed the cats at six this morning.  I let the furnace heat the house until it reached 64° and proceeded to cook a nice big breakfast.  Presently, we're holding at a surprisingly-comfortable 63°.  Sweatpants, one of my long flannel nightgowns and a warm robe have a lot to do with that, along with good thick socks and sandals.  "Gee, Aunt Bobbi, why did people wear so many layers of clothing in the olden days?"  Yes, such a mystery.... 

     Breakfast was a slice-and-a-half of applewood-smoked bacon (pretty thick slices, too), broken-yolk eggs cooked in a covered pan with a little butter, and a couple of Russet potatoes, diced and fried in the bacon fat (they got a little onion powder, too).  It's filling and the cooking added some extra heat.

      Today's supposed to get fairly warm, mid-fifties or better, so I am hoping to work on the shelf project.  And last night, the eye doctor texted that my glasses are ready, so that'll be the first order of business after breakfast and a shower.  I'm hopeful the new lenses will help with the headaches that have been bothering me since about mid-summer -- headaches, and some trouble focusing on computer monitors, which are almost to the, "Have you considered trifocals?" point.

Friday, October 30, 2020

So, Of Course

      With the furnace iffy, the official outside temperature hit 33°F last night.  That's out at the airport; in town, we can count on a couple of free bonus degrees, but still -- it's chilly.  The house was at 63 when I woke up.*

      I woke up with cats.  They were not much inclined to leave the bed, either, not until breakfast time.  Holden has caught on quickly to what Huck has known for years: once the TV turns on, chow is on the way.

     Cats fed, people-chow was next.  There was rice left over from last night's Indian take-out, so I made fried rice for breakfast and lingered over the wok, reminded that kitchen duty in Winter is still one of the better things to be doing.

      Early voting is probably not going to work out for me -- wait times at the site I pass on my way to work have varied from 354 minutes (!) down to a low, low 120.  Two hours seems like a long time to spend waiting in line with a random group of strangers, masked or not.  I'll keep an eye on it today -- there's a handy website for Marion County, indyvotetimes-dot-org -- but I'm not expecting today's sunny weather to make the lines any shorter than yesterday's cold drizzle had.
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* This sounds worse than it is.  We keep the house at 66° in Winter, up a notch from 65 in deference to advancing age.  I did most of my growing up in a house with electric ceiling heat, possibly one of the least-useful heating systems: resistance wire embedded in the ceiling plaster, which heats up and more-or-less heats the room below.  A thick layer of insulation keeps from losing too much heat to the attic (we never worried much over snow and ice build up on the roof), but the heat tends to stay near the ceiling; bed and table level's chilly and the floors, well, you didn't go barefoot and socks alone didn't help much.  The family room, a converted attached garage, had a slab floor and a baseboard heater, and was usually preferable in wintertime: at least the warm air started out at your level!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

So, About That Furnace?

      The twenty-year-old furnace at Roseholme Cottage has a cracked heat exchanger.  Oh, it's not a large crack, just a long, lovely, meandering hairline.  It's not spewing CO into the house instead of up the flue, not yet -- but a little dab of that stuff will do you and the crack is likely to get worse.

      The heat exchanger is pretty much the heart of the system, so we'll be replacing the furnace.  It's a medium-efficiency two-stage gas type and we'll get another of the same.  Scheduled for the second week of November at the price of a high-mileage used car in good shape.  Ouch.

      In the meantime?  No running the furnace overnight, or when no one is home.  We have a radiator-type space heater that will keep the place warm on its lowest setting* if outside temperatures stay above 45 F, and it only gets used when there's someone to watch it. Here's hoping for no cold snaps.
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* The lowest setting would be the one that doesn't produce noticeable heating at the receptacle.  This is important if you're going to run the heater for long periods of time: once heat has changed the temper of the contacts in the wall socket, they'll start to get loose.  The looser they fit, the more they'll heat up.  The more they heat up, well, you get the picture.  Eventually the plastic parts soften. That would be bad. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sore Winners

      What's a "sore winner?"  A lot of media attention has been focused on the possibility of sore losers, especially in the Presidential contest, endless Democrat-demanded recounts in the aftermath of a Trump victory, refusal to move out and court challenges if Biden wins.  Sore losers (or at least grounds for the feeling) are far from unknown.  We've had close elections before: U. S. history includes two Presidents elected by the House of Representatives, one Vice-President elected by the Senate, and the Bush - Gore recount and court case in 2000.

      But what worries me as much are sore winners. I've written about it before and it's only become worse.  Many political campaigns are so bitterly fought these days that after the election, the winner often takes (or retakes) office determined to be the utter and complete opposite of their opponent* -- incumbents harden their positions, and if the office changed hands, the first order of business is not doing the things their platform promised but undoing as much of their predecessor's work as they can.

      Some of that is normal enough -- if there wasn't any difference between candidates, why would we even bother to vote -- but it often spills over into bitter personal division, and runs down from parties and candidates to the the electorate.  It's pointless and counterproductive; when the election is decided, it's decided, and we've got the bulk of the next two, four or six years to get through before rejoining the fray.  In the meantime, the people we elect do have other work to do besides winning elections and positioning themselves for the next one -- or at least, they should.  As citizens, we ought get after them to do that work, even if it's just sitting on their hands and trying to stay out of serious trouble for their term of office.

      There comes a time to stop spatting and do the job.
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* Sure, they'd better be different, but these days, it is sometimes taken to extremes, from "Coke vs. Pepsi" to "a shiny tar-pit vs. a bubbling pool of red-hot lava."  And all you wanted was a cooling drink.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Polling Place

      The route I  take to the North Campus passes right by one of the "satellite" early voting locations.  TV news had shown huge lines and wait times of five hours or more over the weekend, the first day they were open, but I figured a weekday would be be better.

     Maybe it was -- people weren't lined up outside.  However, the very large parking lot was overflowing, with cars pulled onto the muddy grass along the side streets, bumper to bumper.  Indianapolis/Marion County has six of these sites; Hamilton County, next county north and with just over a third the population, has eight!  The state promises they'll do better next time.

     Me, I just want to figure out who I need to vote for to make elections boring again.  Either that, or at least make the process a little more efficient.  Alas, the election-day free coffee at our former polling place, an enormous Methodist church, won't be available this year, and the experts say we should bring our own pen to fill out the ballot.  It seems a small price to pay.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Thanks, Blogger

      Blogger ate my morning's post!  No time to re-do it, either.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

No Shelf Work

      Did everything but shelf work -- started straightening out the basement, because we'll have the furnace looked over for Fall on Wednesday; vacuumed registers; did yet more laundry; added wire baskets under some shelves; slept very late (oops!).

      I did make an omelet for brunch -- mushrooms, Swiss cheese, a little bacon and some Castlevetrano olives.  And do-not-call-it-chili Midwestern red stew for dinner, with ground beef, chorizo, fresh onion, a little diced carrot, small sweet peppers, canned chilies, diced tomatoes and mixed beans, along with good seasoning: chipotle salt, black pepper, chili-type chili powder, a dash of Kashmiri ground chili, tarragon, cilantro and bay leaves.  The resulting dish is not quite the Midwest "chili" of my youth (it'd need elbow macaroni) and not at all like the Tex-Mex stuff, but it's tasty and filling.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Work, Work, Work....

      Thanks to one of us planning breakfast and the other planning supper, we started the day with little breakfast steaks, hash browns and fried eggs, and we'll be finishing with charcoal-grilled filets, mushrooms, baked potatoes and "popcorn" asparagus.  Such a life!

     Between the two, I have done most of my week's laundry, a little housework, and assembled all of Tam's new bookshelves except for one tricky part, a storage compartment that can't be completed until the glue is dry.  Hoping to sand it and do the last part tomorrow. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Yesterday, The Weather Was Lovely

      We had sunshine and warm temperatures yesterday.  Birds were singing, a soft breeze was blowing and I'm told the Fall colors were stunning.

      I spent a lot of the day in bed with the covers pulled up, shivering.   I was increasingly dizzy all morning and along about shower time, it occurred to me that shutting my eyes while standing was a very bad idea -- and that standing in general was becoming less and less advisable.

     Allergies?  I don't know but they seem likely.  The chills were kind of an added bonus: as the day went on, I just could not keep warm.  I went back to bed with a laptop computer for work and did some digging into manuals for the various widgets and gadgets we're using at work, some of which have recently been set up to e-mail status reports (and they have a lot to say!).  I had a nap for lunch.  It didn't do much good.

     Tamara got us a nice carry-out meal for supper (gyros, hummus and for her, saganaki) and I adjourned to my room with the debate playing.  About a half-hour in, my chills stopped and pretty soon, I had a realistic (and uncomfortable) perception of the upper-seventies temperature.  Crawled out from under the covers for the rest of the debate, napped off and on and finally fell asleep on top of the covers as the debate was winding down.*  Whatever it was, it seems to have abated this morning aside from some residual dizziness and sneezing.  That's not unusual for me in the Fall.
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* In terms of "4:00 a.m. phone calls" and facing down unruly autocrats, I was kind of favoring the moderator over either candidate.  Not in terms of politics, but she seemed a lot more likely to wake up quickly and not take any guff.  But apparently she doesn't want the job and the leading applicants are what they are; if you are strongly favoring one or the other, I envy your confidence.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

And The The Waters Receded

      "...the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, [...] the tops of the mountains were seen."

     Only nowhere nearly as dramatic.  There was standing water in the basement yesterday morning and I wasn't in a position to do anything about it.  I had a prior commitment.

     So, having no other choice, I went and got my eyes checked.  My usual eye exam in in the early Spring, and they had largely shut down early in the pandemic, at least for anything that wasn't urgent. Even after they re-opened, I wasn't too sanguine about going in -- there's a lot of high-touch equipment and a lot of sitting for long periods of time in small rooms.  I figured they could work out new procedures and policies with patients who don't qualify for a senior discount and who hadn't spent twenty years as a smoker.

     Then my vision started to get noticeably worse.  I blamed it on dirty eyeglass lenses, gunk in my eye, allergies....  It didn't get better.  My eyes have never stopped getting worse.  The progression slowed down for a time in my 30s and 40s when I wore contacts a lot, but almost every visit since my nearsightedness was discovered in third grade* has resulted in a new and stronger correction.  So it was time.

     It was reassuring to find they have good screening measures in place, and while they have always been careful about wiping equipment down between patients, they have become even more so.  They're leaving exam room doors open and there appeared to be more airflow than I remembered.

     Turns out it was time for a slight adjustment in my prescription (astigmatism is also getting worse) but the main reason I'm having trouble is cataracts in one eye.  So that's on a watch now and I'll be back for another exam in six months, pandemic permitting.

     The eye doctor took twice as long as I had allowed, or a little longer.  They  When I returned home, the puddle on the basement floor was smaller.  Not a lot, but enough to give me hope.

     I went into work, actually got a few things done, and was home again by 7:30.  Once I had dinner started, I checked the basement: only a few damp spots remained!

     The dehumidifier will struggle to get rid of the last little bit of water, but the drain worked: the backflow valve had done its job and once the stormwater level in the sewer main was low enough, it opened back up.
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* I managed to fake it for two and a half years of not being able to tell what was on the blackboard, but they finally found me out.  At which point, it dawned on my Mom why I always sat so close to the TV at home.  Nearsightness doesn't run in either side of the family.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

And For Wednesday, Basement Water

     It rained heavily yesterday evening and overnight.  I went to bed with storms and woke up at five a.m. to loud thunder and lighting -- and the sounds of a deluge.  Went down to the basement a few minutes ago on a hunch, and there's a good-sized puddle of clear water on the floor.  Clear is a good sign -- it means it came in along the foundation.

     Looks like there may be an inch of water at the lowest point, which is the drain, and which probably means the backflow valve in the floor drain has closed.  Yes, we still have combined sanitary and storm sewers, and if too much ran falls too quickly, it can back up.  The next-highest drain is the laundry sink, two feet or more above floor level, with the top of the sink at maybe a yard above the floor and after that, well, I hope I won't find out.

     The backflow has a little history of sticking, so the next step will be to put on boots and apply a plunger.  I'll probably wait a while -- the rain has ended, but only just, and there's still water running to the storm drains.

     Drain-worrying times like these remind me that they make "soaping valves" for showers.  It's more often seen in regions that are short on water, a little sliding valve that goes between the supply pipe and the showerhead so you can shut off the water, lather up and scrub without changing the settings for temperature and amount.  If I ever have the washroom redone (I'd love to but it's expensive), that's something I should add.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Big Debate Tonight

      Nope, not the Presidential race -- much as that promises to be a laugh a minute, come Thursday night* -- it's the first debate in the three-way Indiana Gubernatorial race.

     In more normal times, the election would be between calm, competent incumbent Eric Holcomb and a couple of goobers filling their party's slots on the ticket with no hope of winning.  Indiana voters like quiet, low-key Governors and generally reward them with re-election.

      These are not normal times.  Governor Holcomb has managed Indiana's response to the pandemic with careful moderation, generally preferring strong recommendation over mandates until circumstances require the latter and even then, enforcement has focused on voluntary compliance rather than draconian measures.

      The Governor's approach has been criticized from both sides -- the more strident conservatives fuming that he has gone too far in requiring masks, closing nonessential businesses and limiting gatherings, while the most worried liberals think he never went far enough.  And each of those groups has their guy: Libertarian Donald Rainwater is a staunch opponent of mask mandates and group size restrictions (and, it appears, vaccination), while Democrat (and physician) Woodrow Myers is of the opinion Indiana's state government hasn't done nearly enough to control the spread of COVID-19.

      At the very least, Rainwater may be a position to act as a "spoiler" in the election and materially improve the election prospects of Dr. Myers.  Depending on how many Republicans are willing to split their ballot (and for that matter, how many Democrats are okay with the restrictions we have but don't want more), it could be a close three-way race.

      The debate will take place with the moderator and all three candidates isolated from one another.  There was some discussion of testing them beforehand, but isolation moots the need and avoids any uncertainty in the results.  The format will be challenging -- and considering the sharp divisions among them, it may be one of the more interesting debates of this election season.