When you have a washer-dryer hookup, the dryer has an exhaust vent to the outdoors. On a quarterly basis, it is important to clear this vent of accumulated lint using a brush mounted on a flexible rod that can be spun by an electric drill. (Keywords “dryer vent cleaning kit”, cost about $25.) If the lint is allowed to back up, it can cause a fire.

We apparently managed to avoid the “cause a fire” outcome because another side effect of clogging the vent is that the pressure from the dryer can cause the tube connecting the dryer to the exhaust vent to be pushed off the dryer, thus venting the dryer’s heat and lint into the house, creating a carpet under the dryer that makes the most hideous shag rug from the 1970s look attractive by comparison. You can prevent that outcome with a $2 hose clamp.

I started out my backyard pond in mid-2007 with a dozen comets and a dozen shubunkin. They’ve been breeding much faster than the raccoons and herons eat them, and some of them are getting pretty big. But not this big. Yet.

...whose primary purpose appears to be putting nature documentaries up on the screen for the fascination of the feline members of the household. (In other news, Cleo is wondering why no one is making gazelle-flavored kitty treats.)

We now have a spare entertainment center, free to a good home. It is large and black and heavy: specifically, 47” tall × 47½” wide × 17½” deep, with a 27¾” wide × 23” high bay for an old-style cathode ray tube, a 17¼” wide × 43” high bay for stereo components (with three adjustable shelves and optional glass door), a 6” high shelf above the TV bay, and a storage bay with opaque doors below the TV. I figured I’d list it here before trying out Freecycle.

Also, if anyone would like to try out an ancient 30-hour Series 1 TiVo with a lifetime membership on it, we have one available for getting people hooked on digital video recorders.

So [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman had been marinating some steaks this afternoon and asked me to fire up the grill for cooking them, so I poured a bunch of briquettes into a chimney, set it on a patch of decomposed granite where it wouldn’t char anything else, and started lounging. As usual, there was a fair bit of smoke from the chimney... but for the first time in my ten years here, the fire department showed up to investigate. Apparently, two different neighbors had called it in.

Fortunately, they were very friendly and polite about it all; Mara said “We have four steaks” and invited them to stick around, but they declined. I guess I really need to do more grilling so this doesn’t seem an unusual event...

...I look for a natural partition point for breaking it up into manageable sizes. One of them is my own time: for instance, I may decide to allot two hours to accomplish whatever I can in a particular effort, and whatever gets done, gets done. Another is external constraints: if the garbage bin or the yard waste bin are full, it’s time to stop cleaning the garage or the yard for now. (It’s pretty easy to keep the garage from accumulating clutter faster than 1 bin per week. In some seasons, the yard is a bit more challenging.)

[livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I filled both bins today and took a trip to the recycling center. I’m calling the day a success.

mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Lemons)
( Jan. 5th, 2008 01:06 pm)
As inconvenient as the weather may get, I have resolved not to complain about it until our reservoirs are full.

We did get enough rainfall very early Friday morning that the overflow catcher on our pond engaged for the first time, waking [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and the fluffs to investigate the unusual sound.

[livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman says I could have one in the library.

Waterfall and stream
Originally uploaded by catslaugh
The pond and hardscaping in the back yard are complete. We still need to put in the low-voltage lighting system (happening this week) and later put in the plants (after we're sure we're past any potential heat waves of August). You can see the whole thing as a Flickr photostream.

We’ve also added a dozen goldfish. I’ll have to see if I can get some good pix of those...

mithriltabby: Escher’s Waterfall (Home)
( Aug. 3rd, 2007 11:04 am)
After finding skeletons in our back yard, [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I were somewhat worried that renovating our back yard could be tied up in bureaucracy long enough to prevent the work being done in time for [livejournal.com profile] rhylar and Mimsy’s wedding reception. The Native American Heritage Commission never contacted me, but when I called the coroner to inquire about the matter, she suggested I call them. I left voice mail on the NAHC number, but when they didn’t call back, I tried phoning up until I talked to a human being, who was able to refer me to Debbie Treadway, the scientist in charge of Santa Clara County (who is apparently kept quite busy in meetings a lot). I left her a message, and made followup calls until I got through to her live, at which point she was able to point me at Irene Zwierlein, chairwoman of the Amah Mutsun tribe (an Ohlone subgroup). Everyone at the NAHC was very friendly and easy to talk to; I think they’re just busy enough that interrupting them with a phone call is more effective than waiting for them to get to their backlog of calls to return.

Irene came out this morning to look at the site, and was very pleasant. She said that re-interring bones on our land would require that we note it on the deed, but it’s never been seen to affect property values. (There’s also an option for putting them in a different ground, but that would require a fair amount of paperwork with the county.) She had no trouble with letting the hardscaping proceed while the county paperwork is done in parallel; once the coroner has made her report, Irene can come out and reinter the bones with appropriate ceremony.

So, all in all, one week and a day from finding the bones to a good resolution.

[livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I are having the back yard redone, putting in some support under the gazebo, adding some nice pathways to walk, and making the pond deep enough that the local raccoons don’t think it’s a sushi bar. Today, I brought her home early because she had a really nasty migraine, and the foreman showed us around, pointing out the work that had been done thus far, and mentioned they’d found a couple of human skeletons under the back yard. They had gathered the bones and placed them in a box, and asked if we wanted to call anyone about it. (After all, if red tape got involved, that might delay the construction work.) The bones were a dark enough brown that Mara figured they had been in the ground for quite some time, so I doubted that it was even going to be in a cold case file. So I doubted we were obstructing justice... but I figured we should be good citizens and find out what the appropriate procedures were anyway.

I phoned up Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety, and they sent out a CSI officer very quickly, who agreed that it was quite old, and phoned up the coroner’s office to see if they were interested. They sent out a forensic anthropologist working as Medical Examiner-Coroner, who was able to determine that they were probably two to three thousand years old, and was hoping to find a tooth to do better identification. (One of the bodies had been buried in fœtal position, so was unlikely to be a Westerner anyway.)

So work on the pond itself will have to wait for someone from the California Native American Heritage Commission to investigate, but they’re not going to complain about all the other work going on. (She said that if this had been found during groundbreaking for a housing development, they would’ve drawn a thirty foot radius around it to investigate, but in a suburban back yard, they’re not going to do as much digging.) So they’ll probably see if a representative of one of our local Ohlone tribes wants to do anything special, and then pond-building will resume.

On the “things I didn’t know” list:

And I didn’t take photos; Native Americans tend to get unhappy when photos of their dead ancestors show up in the media, and the coroner was quite emphatic about making sure that the guy who had taken camera phone pix deleted them.

I’ve been talking about doing this research for a while, and now I need to replace some bulbs around Maine Coon Manor, so it’s time to do the research on compact fluorescent bulbs. My research notes... )
When taking possession of your new home, have one person stay at the circuit breaker box while one other person goes around to every single electric socket in the house with a small device to check and see which breaker controls which socket (and each lightswitch that doesn’t obviously control a lightsocket, for that matter). Make a map that shows what the circuit breaker box really does.

I would never have thought to go look at the pump for my pond when attempting to trace a short under the breaker labeled “bedroom”.

mithriltabby: Escher’s Waterfall (Home)
( Oct. 17th, 2006 10:42 pm)
I did my due diligence, checked the earthquake shaking maps when we bought the house, made sure it wasn’t in a liquefaction zone... and now, they do a more detailed geological survey and it turns out we’re in one after all. At least we’re only a couple of blocks from the edge of the zone; I’m very glad we’re not closer to the Bay.
Warning Shots Lost Mountain Clayworks have a fine collection of Quicksilver’s Pirate Pots to provide piratical decor for your home. They do custom work; maybe I should get a Ship’s Cat bowl for Cleo and Yeti, with a skeletal fish...

Pictured at left are the Warning Shot glasses.

(Via the Daily Illuminator, [livejournal.com profile] sjgames.)

Got a letter today from the California Earthquake Authority announcing that they’ve got new rates, new coverage options, and that they actually have the money to pay out should there be a quake.

One thing that I particularly like is that they’re now calibrating rates according to risk, using the latest data from the California Geological Survey, the USGS, and the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center. 85% of policyholders will see their rates go down, while the remaining 15% will see them go up— partly because of new understanding of risk, but also because they’re now rating risk based on number of stories and construction age.

This is great news because it creates economic incentives to be sensible about building for the hazards. There’s nothing like a dollar bottom line to get people to pay attention to risks.

They also provide a pointer to Earthquake Country, which offers a free publication Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country in separate editions for Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area [PDF].

My darling [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman got me a handy piece of software called ReaderWare for my last birthday, which can use a CueCat bar code scanner to identify books, music, and videos. In a fit of getting organized, I used it to catalogue my CD collection and my video collection. With those lesser tasks accomplished, I turned to cataloguing all the books in Maine Coon Manor.

Turns out that the two of us have accumulated over 6,000 of them.

Last year, [livejournal.com profile] hypothermya introduced me to a rather interesting Web 2.0 site called LibraryThing. I had a go at entering a few books, but I just didn’t have the stomach for the daunting task of entering it all by hand. After getting my 3000+ works of fiction into the ReaderWare database, though, I checked back at LibraryThing, and discovered that they have a bulk upload feature that takes ISBNs. So I dumped the whole database up there.

ISBNs are not entirely unique identifiers, so it’s necessary to go over these things with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also been collecting relevant hyperlinks such as author home pages, weblogs, and wikipedia pages, though those are only in my ReaderWare database as there’s no useful way to put them on LibraryThing as yet. And I’ve finally finished my first pass through my fiction section, and I think I have at least 99% of the books in the house now in the database. (Next thing to do is to start tagging all the works that have won or been finalists for various awards.)

You can look at my LibraryThing profile, see the linear catalogue, or try the author cloud or tag cloud as alternative ways of navigating the collection. Feedback from my manga-literate friends on the manga collection is particularly welcome; I’ve been going by Wikipedia’s notions of shōnen and shōjo, but would appreciate the insight of the connoisseurs. [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman’s collection is mostly tagged cookbook and mystery; she hasn’t had as much time to get into the detailed tagging as I have.

mithriltabby: Sleeping tabby (Zonk)
( Apr. 30th, 2006 06:37 pm)
After much effort (including capable assistance from [livejournal.com profile] deirdremoon), the yard at Maine Coon Manor no longer resembles the plant nursery for the FTD of Hate.

Though I suppose I missed a chance for entrepeneurship. I probably could’ve made a lot of money if I advertised nettlegram deliveries on wingnut rant sites.

mithriltabby: Escher’s Waterfall (Home)
( Apr. 27th, 2006 08:36 pm)
On Saturday, starting at noon, [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I will be wreaking havoc amongst the encroaching weeds in our back, side, and front yards. Anyone interested in joining the general mayhem is welcome to join us; we will be happy to share in similar mayhem in your own domiciles in exchange when you have similar projects.
If I were hideously rich, I’m not sure I could resist the temptations offered by CastleMagic Castle Builders:
We are structural masons with a love for castles. We also have expert knowledge in physics, engineering, and chemistry. This gives us an edge as we apply what we know to the ancient art of castle building. While the old castles were cold, damp, and downright miserable, our castles are toasty warm, dry, and healthy to live in.
.

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