Archive for November, 2006

Being Powerless

Last night at 5:30pm, while I was wrapping up a business email, everything in the house but my laptop computer went dark. Pretty disconcerting! When Bryan got home at 6:30, he indicated that the outage was just our cul-de-sac. This is the third outage in the last month – two of which have lasted for hours and hours.

We have gas hot water, stove and a gas fireplace that does a good job of radiant heating. We lit candles, got out the propane lantern, and strategically stationed flashlights by the stairs and on nightstands.

By about 7pm, the Puget Sound Energy guys were out working on the outage. They told us the outage could be resolved quickly, if it were just a fuse, or would take hours if it were a cable. In about an hour, most of the area had their lights back on — but not the four houses at the end of the street, including ours. The line locate team came out at about 9pm and started tracing underground cable, always a bad sign.

At bedtime, I set my cell phone alarm clock, and by morning, we still had no power! Bryan checked the school district web site by BlackBerry and the schools were still closed, so I didn’t have the option to go into the Seattle office (I mostly telecommute from my home office). I called in and took the day off.

At 9am, the electrical line work crew showed up with all the gear imaginable. They had a cable truck, two cherry-pickers, a small backhoe and chainsaws. Apparently one of our neighbors had planted a big ol’ boxwood hedge in the electrical utility easement and around the transformer boxes to conceal them, and the roots had damaged the underground cables. The linemen not-so-cheerfully dismantled the hedge and dug up and replaced the affected cable section.

Meanwhile, Zach and I went out and found coffee and breakfast. I could have cooked on my gas stove, but couldn’t have made coffee, I don’t have a percolator (note to self – buy one!). Then we sat in the Starbucks parking lot and checked email and researched household generator sizing over the wireless link. Many thanks to Mary for the initial advice on how to get started!

I found an online calculator that fairly generously indicated I needed about 8000 watts of power. That seemed kind of high, and the electrical specialist at Home Depot thought so too. A manual review from a different resource put us more in the 6000 watt range.

Home Depot had a 5500 watt 10hp Briggs & Stratton generator for $699, or a 8000 watt version with electronic ignition for $1250. They run 12 hours on 5-7 gallons of gas. In addition to the generator, we would also need to have an generator transfer box installed by an electrician so that we can plug the generator into the household system – Home Depot’s box was $300 and we’re still waiting on an estimate for installation cost.

By then, we tested our home power by calling home, and it was back on. Great news! The total outage was only 18 hours.

Since our power was restored, I decided not to buy the generator today, since Bryan is flying to Alaska for a couple of days and I wasn’t sure that Zach and I could unload it from the van by ourselves. We’ll go get the 5500 watt box this weekend.

I am a little nervous about safety, given the recent news about two boys dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in Port Townsend related to generator use. Apparently they went to refuel their generator in a detached garage, decided to stay and play around, and died from the fumes. We know better than to operate one in an enclosed space, we have a covered back deck and would set the generator up under the outside edge, so it’s covered but away from any air intake vents. We can also buy a carbon monoxide monitor and install it inside the house as an added safety precaution.

It’s not like being without power for a day in the Puget Sound is life threatening for us – we don’t have medical issues or dangerously cold weather. It is annoying, though, especially from a telecommuter’s perspective, and could certainly cost us a lot of refrigerated and frozen food. I’m glad we’re going to do something about it.

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: home | Comments Off

Junk Mail Overload

I am sick and tired of junk mail in my mail box. Real mail junk mail, stacks and piles of print and paper and plastic.

We have a little neighborhood bank of post office box-style boxes in our cul-de-sac. They’re pretty small. The floods of junk mail absolutely drown out the real mail, to the point that postal service mail actually has little value for us anymore. Important items, like bills and bank accounts, I handle online. All my personal mail is entirely email anymore.

The picture above is three days worth of mail, and there probably aren’t ten pieces of real mail or subscribed magazines in the stack. The rest are credit card or mortgage offers, catalogs, neighborhood news flyers and Christmas ads. On occasion, the thoughtful neighborhood postal person shoves a phone book, a large catalog or a small parcel into our little mailbox.

I have spam filtering for my email, and it works pretty well, with about 98% success. I have my phone numbers listed at donotcall.gov and it has cut down on phone soliciting.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were something like that for paper mail? Not only is it tremendously annoying but it’s a huge environmental problem – if millions of families throughout America are getting stacks of unwanted junk mail just like mine, it’s killing an awful lot of trees and clogging landfills. And marketing statistics show that direct mail marketing is one of the least effective forms of marketing – so WHY DO IT to people and the planet?

So I googled “fighting junk mail”. I found lots of interesting information on how to combat the problem.

The do-it-yourself method seems to be a combination of:

Then I ran across this service: greendimes. It’s a fairly intriguing startup business. They will:

  • Remove me from more junk mail lists than any other service
  • Unsubscribe me from the catalogs I tell them to stop
  • Plant 12 trees for me every year
  • Track the impact that I, and my family, friends and associates have made by stopping our junk mail

The cost? A dime a day. $3 a month, month to month. My time is worth much more than that and the do-it-yourself method is time-consuming! So we’re going to try it and see if it has an impact on our mail volume over the next six months.

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: downshifting | 1 Comment »

Masochism

I have been torturing myself lately by looking at pictures of Tibetan Spaniel puppies.

Do we need a new puppy? DEFINITELY not. We have two doggies and our household works very well that way, and the vet bills are plenty already. Adding a third would be more work and more cost. Lyza may be getting older (she’s 13) but she’s in great health except for her chronic cough.

What would we do with a new puppy, besides, of course, housebreaking and spending lots of time cleaning carpets and fixing chew marks? We could train him or her for agility… we could work on that therapy dog certification (although that’s still a dim and distant wish for Panda)… we could even go the extra mile and spring for a show prospect and Bryan could get involved in a new hobby. There is the slim chance Bryan would leave bodies lying on the floor in the process, he’s not patient with bureaucratic idiocy, but it could be fun for him. And, of course, we could just basically love the puppy and do the basic obedience training and cuddling you always do with a new baby in the house.

So, although it doesn’t make sense to actually get one, I have still been looking at puppies on the websites of known west coast breeders – and a couple of national breeders. It’s fun and they are sure heartbreakingly cute. And mindbogglingly expensive.

Pictures courtesy of, in vertical order:
Royal Court Tibetan Spaniels
Nanjo Tibetan Spaniels
Tamzil Tibetan Spaniels
Tibroke Tibetan Spaniels

Posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: dogs | Comments Off

Snowhawks

When I decided last year to buy season tickets for the Seahawks, I recognized the distinct chance existed that I would spend many afternoons (and some Sunday and Monday nights) in the rain. I never really considered the possibility that I might be standing in the SNOW. IN SEATTLE. Now, I know it snows here on occasion. But you don’t normally expect any snow football games at Qwest Field. So what did I know…

Last night’s game was in a pretty darn impressive snow storm. Irony, being what it is, made the opponent the Green Bay Packers, a team whose field is know for some of the coldest, snowiest games in history, the famous “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” of old NFL Films fame. Actually, Lambeau field has hot water pipes under it, to keep it from freezing. Now, I have to say that “the frozen Tundra of Qwest™ Field” does not have the same imposing ring to it, but it did its best.

Well, as for the game, the Hawks won 34-24 after struggling mightily in the first half. Matt Hasselbeck was back at QB, after about 5 weeks off for a knee injury, and the rust showed. Matt three 3 interceptions and coughed up a fumble for a touchdown. Meantime, however, Shaun Alexander had a great night, running for just over 200 yards…so he seems well recovered from his injury.

It was a fun game to watch. When it was snowing hard, it was truly like being in the middle of a snow globe, there under the lights. It took me forever to get home after, as neither the roads nor the drivers were prepared for the icy conditions. I ended up staying home today to avoid having to drive on it again…and it is still pretty cold here…with more bad weather coming.

We still have two more home games, but I won’t be at the last one on Christmas Eve, though I managed to sell those tickets for a tidy profit on Stub Hub. So, one more game for me, in two and ½ weeks, on a Thursday night. The Hawks look destined to make the playoffs, but I have yet to be convinced that we’ll get much farther than that.

Posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 by Bryan
Under: sports, weather | Comments Off

Short Short

Wired Online has a pretty fascinating article about short short short stories – with a six word max! They list their contest winners, plus a second tier set. Here’s a random belated entry I brainstormed:

Tumbled, torn, frozen, Pearl Harbor died.

Feel free to add your own in comments!

Posted on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: writing | Comments Off