Category Archives: Administrative

Planes, Trains And Automobiles

We took the day off from our renovation projects (hopefully we’ll be through most of it by next week) to drive up to Mojave for the experimental fly-in (the “Plane Crazy” event held on the third Saturday of each month). It was beautiful weather, and a lot of interesting aircraft on display, including a Yak that someone had restored, and an old Chinese trainer based out of Santa Monica. After lunch with Doug and Ann Jones at the Voyager Cafe, we headed up to Tehachapi, because Patricia had never been on 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield. It was still pretty green up there from the winter rains.

I’ve driven by the sign for the Tehachapi Loop many times, but had never actually seen it. Neither had she, though she’s in the rail business. We actually took the old road from Tehachapi to Keene, and it was tightly winding and gorgeous. About three miles from the end, we found the overlook and marker for the loop. We didn’t see a train go through, but it turned out that if we’d waited a few minutes, we would have.

We had originally planned on going back from Mojave through Lancaster and over to the Poppy Preserve, to catch the tail end of the spring flower bloom. But since we were now quite a ways west, per Doug’s lunchtime suggestion, we continued west on 58 to 223, then down the hill to Arvin, where he said it had been very good. Unfortunately, though, we were too late. The mountain above us was still green from the rains, but the flowers were pretty much done along that route.

So we got to the 99, and headed back south to LA on the 5, but then cut back east over 138 to Lancaster, and took a road south to Lancaster Road, which goes right past the preserve. We saw quite a few poppies still in bloom approaching and departing the preserve, but a lot of the other flowers had faded, but there are a lot of cars parked along the road and in the (paid) preserve parking lot. It was about 4:30, and somewhat windy, so the poppies were mostly closed, though it was still sunny.

Rather than fight the crowds or pay, we decided to just head back to LA, via a new route. Normally, we go south to Elizabeth Lake, then out to Castaic via Lake Hughes Road, which is a beautiful drive, with great views of Lake Hughes and the Valencia/Santa Clarita area from above. But this time, we made a left on Elizabeth Lake road, and went down San Francisquito Canyon, then down Spunky Canyon, then Bouquet Canyon, and finally down Vasquez Canyon to Sierra Highway, all roads (other than the latter) we’d never been on before, and all beautiful, with many spectacular views, including a nicely full reservoir.

I never fail to be amazed at how much California there is to be explored, and this was an area that I’ve driven around for decades, but never through, and it’s right in our back yard.

Off The Air

We’re taking a break from our home renovation and driving up to Berkeley for the weekend to see old (now in both senses of the word) college roommates (mine). Posting will likely be light to non-existent. Be nice in comments.

[Monday-afternoon update]

OK, we’re back. That was probably the longest I’ve been completely off line for a while (not counting my phone). In answer to questions, the college roommate (and his wife) in question was from Michigan, though he does in fact have an MBA from Berkeley. They have a nice place up in the hills, where we spent the entired day of Saturday, and Sunday morning, hiking, cooking, eating, drinking and talking. It was a very nice break. We drove down to Buellton yesterday afternoon, and back to LA today.

FWIW, he voted for Hillary, she wanted Bernie, but we’re all good friends, and it’s even possible for us to discuss politics without damaging that. It can be done. Of course, it helps that she’s Canadian.


Haven’t Checked Out Yet

In case anyone was wondering, that last post wasn’t a permanent blogging break, but I’ve been taking an unannounced temporary one. I’ll be back in CA tomorrow, and back to the usual hijinks.

[Wednesday-morning update]

The above was posted from my phone, before I got on the plane in DC on the way back to LAX. I didn’t warn about the blogging break because I didn’t plan it; it just sort of happened. I had my laptop with me the whole trip, and was on it quite a bit, but just didn’t bother to post anything (BTW, for future reference, if this happens again, and you want to see if I’m still metabolizing and on line, check my Twitter account, which remained relatively active throughout, at least in RTs).

I flew out Saturday morning to Dulles, and spent a relaxing half weekend with friends in rural Virginia, then took the train into DC Monday morning to attend the Satellite 2017 conference at the Convention Center, which I normally don’t attend, and in fact never have attended, because I’m not really a satellite sort of guy. But I’d been asked to speak at a panel on Monday afternoon, and I had other business in DC. It turned out that there were a lot of friends and useful contacts at the event, and while I was checking mail and Twitter, I just never got around to posting anything, not even a brief link, because it would have been a distraction. I in fact didn’t realize that the post had been the last one that I’d made until I saw comments there, so decided to at least put something up to assuage concerns, or disappoint those who were hoping for my demise (though I doubt that to the degree they exist at all, they spend much time here).

But in thinking about it, I may be suffering from blogging burnout to a degree, after over a decade and a half of it (last October was my 15th bloggiversary). There’s a lot going on in my life right now, both professionally and personally (good things, I hasten to add), and while in the past that might have been blog fodder, I don’t really feel motivated to discuss it long form, and the things that I do make the effort to discuss long form I try to place other places than the blog these days. I do still tweet a lot (probably too much), and maybe for now the best thing to do is to get my Twitter display working on the blog again, so it will at least be a microblog, and people who stop by will know I’m still here, even if I don’t overcome the additional energy barrier to put up an actual post.

Back In The US of A

We just landed in New York from London, and have been up for 18 hours. The bad news: We still have a six-hour flight to LA, which gets in at 2 AM. The good news? We got upgraded.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, the other bad news. The plane is late.

[Saturday-morning update]

OK, the good news is that the plane was just a few minutes late, and we got into LA pretty much on time. The better news is that with our business-class upgrade, which allowed me to fully recline, I actually slept on a plane for the first time in my life. I’m up at 8 AM in CA (it’s 4 PM in London), making coffee and getting my body on Pacific time, ASAP. Hopefully by Monday with a good night’s sleep tonight.

American seems to have

Travel Update

We celebrated New Years Eve in Paris, in a sixth-floor apartment we rented with a view of the Eiffel Tower. It’s just a couple blocks from the Sorbonne and the Pantheon.

Unfortunately, it’s socked in, but we could see the lights through the mist. They started sparkling an hour before midnight, and then again as the hour hit. Not a lot of fireworks here, but we saw a few out that window, and others out the loft window toward Notre Dame. But the Parisians were cheering in the streets.

The trip has been pretty much stab/explosion/truck-attack free so far. Apparently they weren’t so fortunate in Istanbul; the Jayvee team struck again last night.

But it’s cold. Below freezing last night, and probably tonight as well. But we’re cozy, and we’ll be going out this afternoon to check out the Cathedral. But right now we’re heating croissants in the oven and making scrambled eggs with Welsh cheddar, and gravlox from Norway, with leftover oven-fried potatoes from dinner last night.

[Update a few minutes later]

Oh, and bonne annee to my readers.

[Monday-morning update]

Yes, speaking from current experience, international travel is so much better than it used to be.

We’re off to the Louvre. We could walk, but it’s rainy and chilly. We’ll probably take Uber.

Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year

And Happy Chanuka, to all my readers.

Posting will be light/non-existent for the next couple weeks. Patricia and I are flying to London tomorrow evening, for our first real vacation in a long time, and we’re scrambling around, while making a Christmas Eve dinner, to prepare for the trip. We’ll be there, and on the Continent (largely Benelux and France), and back on January 7th.

2016 has been a rough year (even ignoring the politics), with the death of Patricia’s eldest brother and mother, and all the time I spent in Florida getting the house ready to sell. But we sold it, and she has a new job, and we’re going to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris, where neither of us have ever been. We’ll try not to get blown up or stabbed or run over.

[Christmas-morning update]

I’ve always thought that the Wexford Carol was one of the most beautiful. Hard to imagine it being done better than this.

And on a lighter note, “I Saw Daddy Pat Down Santa Claus.”

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, this is heartwarming.

[Update a while later]

It’s that crucial time of year to give your cat an annual performance review.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I know I shouldn’t complain in southern California, considering how brutally cold it is back east, but we woke up this morning to a 63-degree house, and listening to a struggling furnace on the morning after the coldest night of the season to date. The blower seems to be on the fritz.

On a Sunday.

I had other plans today, but I’m going to have to take it apart, and see if I can fix it. It’s twelve years old. Hoping it’s just a bad capacitor. I doubt I’d be able to find a replacement motor today.

[Update a few minutes later]

Not really complaining, and have no right to. If we were back east right now, this would be life threatening, and we’d either have to get an emergency HVAC guy in, or find somewhere else to stay, but for us, it’s just an inconvenience. Worst case is extra blankets tonight, and I’ll find a replacement motor (or limit switch, or whatever the problem is) tomorrow.

But it’s also a reminder of how thin the veneer of modern technology can be, and that nature is not our friend. Whatever the climate is doing (and anyone who claims they can confidently predict it out decades is either fooling themselves, or attempting to fool us), we have to maintain enough societal wealth to deal with it. The policies promulgated by those who insist we can control the climate would have the opposite effect.

[Monday-morning update]

When we woke up this morning, temp in the house was 61 F. A couple hours later, it’s down to 60. It will probably warm up when the sun gets higher, but high temp today is only predicted to be 67.

In troubleshooting, I’ve learned two things: 1) Modern gas furnaces are complicated as copulation and 2) the burner isn’t lighting, which is why the blower motor isn’t bothering to. The status light isn’t flashing any of the error codes in the manual, just steady on, the way it’s supposed to if everything is copacetic, so it’s not useful for diagnostics. I’m suspecting the gas valve (a problem with which the control board would be unaware), but not sure how to tell if it’s working. Could also be the igniter, except I’d think I’d at least momentarily smell gas if that were the problem. Anyway, I’ve got to go start poking at things with a VOM.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, I am briefly smelling gas when it tries to start up, so the valve seems to be working. Now suspecting igniter:

1. Remove burner compartment door to gain access to the ignitor.
2. Disconnect the ignitor from the Ignition Control.
3. Using an ohmmeter measure the resistance of the ignitor.
4. Ignitor cool should read between 40 to 75 ohms.
5. Reconnect ignitor.
6. Place unit in heating cycle, measure current draw of ignitor during preheat cycle. Should read approximately 4 to 4.5 amps.
7. If ignitor is receiving 115 Volts and will not light, replace.
8. After check and/or replacement of hot surface ignitor, reinstall burner compartment door and verify proper unit operation.

Supposed to be 40-75 ohmns, showing infinite. That seems like the problem. Looks like they’re about $20. Now to go out and find one.

[Update a while later]

OK, a replacement (and improved version) was $42 bucks. The old one had clearly failed; you could see the burn through in the element that had opened it up. It probably got hit by a piece of dust or something when it was hot. House is now warming up.

[Update a while later]

Temp is up to 64 degrees and rising. In retrospect, I would have saved time if I’d relied on Occam: If something isn’t igniting, first check to see if there’s ignition.

Further thoughts: Pilotless ignition saves fuel, and is probably more reliable, but if a pilot blows out, it doesn’t cost $40+ to relight it.

Anyway, I understand my furnace much better now. It was the first time since we had it installed a dozen years ago that I’d opened it up to see how it works.