What were they thinking?

Update:Added the “Where is this body you want disposed of” picture.

We had a Energy Star energy audit of our house recently. One of the things the audit mentioned that there was some asbestos on one of the vent pipes in the basement, and that would have to be “abated” before they could work. Today I decided to take care of it. The pipe in question goes through “the scary room”, one of two dirt floored areas of the basement. Until today, I’ve never set foot in either one of them. There is no apparent reason why this particular pipe has been wrapped in asbestos – the portion of the pipe that is wrapped isn’t close to the furnace so it’s not very hot, nor is it in contact with insulation or something flammable. The register it serves is in the “breakfast nook”, which we suspect wasn’t part of the original build of the house.

I got advice from experts in the field who assured me that the sort of asbestos that forms into sheets isn’t the dangerous kind, but I should still take some precautions.

So armed with a tyvec painter’s coverall, dust mask, googles and rubber gloves, I entered the scary room to do battle with the evil asbestos. And that’s when I discovered that the asbestos wrap evidently held condensation or external water against the bottom of the vent, and now the vent pipe has rusted completely away on the bottom. But it’s fine at the top, which means there is a part between the bottom and the top where there are sharp edges and flakes of rust. So instead of just removing the asbestos wrapping, I ended up hacking out the whole rusty pipe, and stomping it flat to throw it away. And the sharp edges cut my gloves to ribbons, but at least I didn’t get any visible cuts in my skin. Unfortunately the unwrapped part of the pipe only had one hangar on the whole length, so it fell down without the added support on one end. And the “box” where it went into the register in the breakfast nook was also wrapped and rusty so I had to remove it as well.

It wasn’t until after I was done that I noticed the notice on the air mask that said it’s not for asbestos. Sigh.

Well, the whole thing is down now. Hopefully I didn’t do myself any damage doing it.

It’s not easy being green

We got the results of our EnergyStar audit on Saturday. They’re recommending $20,000 worth of work, and promising that we’ll probably save at least $150 a month on average based on last years energy bills. They also said we could save another $150 a month if we did the windows, but doing them in a way that’s sensitive to the age and architecture of the house (ie. not replacing leaded glass windows and wood frames with modern plastic crap) would be really expensive – maybe $30,000 to $40,000.

The problem is that the net present value of $150 a month for 10 years (which is the expected lifetime of the new furnace) is only about $14,000. Obviously energy prices will go up, and the only energy year we have records for, last year, was unusually mild, so the savings might be greater in a year like this year. But it’s still hard to say “go ahead and spend that money” with such an uncertain pay-back. So I have to think about the non-monetary pay-back as well, like the fact that the house will be more comfortable, and it will reduce our carbon footprint, and it might have a small positive affect on the value of the house.

Still, $20,000.


Content Management Systems

My experiments with SQLite have been on hold for the last week or so because Vicki signed me up to be on the web committee for the Browncroft Neighborhood Association. The current page is functional but not pretty, plus it’s hosted on an AOL member’s account. If I were to host it myself, they’d have gigabytes of space instead of the 2 megabytes they have now.

We’ve got a committee together, so the first thing I did was set up a mailing list for the web committee. After a week, though, not one member of the list has sent any messages to it except for me.

The second thing I did was register the domain BrowncroftNA.org and set up virtual hosting on my home server.

The third thing I did was spend some time at OpenSourceCMS.com trying out different Content Management Systems (CMS). One that caught my eye was ModX, which has a really nice AJAX-y administration interface. So I set it up on my server to experiment with. Obviously, I’m going to have to wait for the committee to decide on what content they want and where they want it, and that sort of thing. But I think a CMS looks like the way to go for the basic framework.

One thing I haven’t figured out how to do with this CMS is how to create role accounts that can upload files and link them to one particular web site – so, for example, the news letter editor can upload PDFs of the newsletters and link them from a news letter page. Or the History Committee can upload pictures and articles about the history of the neighborhood. Maybe I can do it, or maybe I’ll have to switch to a different CMS.

One thing that some CMS have, but this one doesn’t, is a web forum. I don’t like web forums much myself – I much prefer email lists. Some people like them though, so perhaps what I should look for is a web forum that can also email out posts to a mailing list as well as through an RSS feed. That way everybody can be happy.

The search continues.

If you ever see me…

…pick up a pair of vice grips and head towards the bathroom, just shoot me. I just can’t seem to get it right.

The downstairs powder room sink drains really slowly, and Vicki says it started after the carolling party. I tried plungering it, and didn’t help. (Plungering sinks is a bit of a waste of time anyway, because all it does it blow water out of the overflow hole.) So I tried taking the trap off. Didn’t find anything blocking it, so I tried to put it back on. And I couldn’t get the damn thing to stop leaking no matter how hard I tightened it. Then I discovered that in tightening it, I’d managed to knock a big chunk out the the trap. So I went to the hardware store to buy a replacement trap.

While I was there, I picked up a replacment for the handle and arm of the upstairs en-suite toilet. The current one keeps falling off the arm thingy all the time.

When I got home, I put the trap on, but because I forgot to buy teflon tape it still leaks a bit. And of course it didn’t fix the real problem – the blockage is evidently further down.

Then I tried the replacement for the handle. The existing one has a bend in it, but when I tried to bend the new one, I bent it at one of the holes and broke it. So off I went to the hardware store, and bought the exact same type again. And when I carefully bent it at the non-hole part, it broke again. Of course it wasn’t until then that Vicki mentioned to me that there are bendy type arms and non-bendy type arms. Who knew?

Rather than making ANOTHER trip to Myers hardware, I pushed the existing handle on the existing arm on as hard as I could, and hoped that can hold for a while.

Gallery migration done, party done, all is right with the world

I finished migrating my image gallery this afternoon. It wasn’t easy – it kept getting hung up at the same pictures. Upgrading from 1.4.4 to 1.5.1 and deleting the aborted albums out of the G2 album area helped, but some pictures just refused to migrate for some reason, including one whole album. In each case I had to copy the files to /tmp, delete the problematic ones, migrate the album, and import the picture from /tmp. I guess there were about 25 pictures I had to do that way. Not bad out of 2500+, I guess, but it was a pain. But the gallery looks a lot better now.

This afternoon/evening was our annual Christmas Carolling Party. I’m sure Vicki will blog about it in huge detail, but it was a rousing success. One of the things I like best about the party is that we invite people from church, people from work, and people from the neighbourhood, and I keep looking around to make sure that they’re not breaking up into homogeneous groups. Especially this year when we’re in a new neighbourhood. And it worked well. I think everybody got along with each other.

I love this house, and I love this neighbourhood.