Saturday, 27 December 2008

Update: Thanks to the visiting crews from Clark Public Utilities in Washington for coming over to our side of the river and helping the CRPUD crews out with this huge outage during the holiday season. The power was restored in our area Saturday night, almost exactly 72 hours after it went out.

Yesterday evening I hooked up a new generator, freshly purchased from Lowe's in Longview, Washington because the electricity has been out at my house since about 6:00 p.m. on the 24th. In my neck of the woods (which, by the way, is a fairly literal description), we have two utilities: electrical and telephone service. Internet is via a wireless broadband service and an antenna on my roof that points to a mountain over in Washington. I don't get standard phone service, since I use a VoIP-over-Internet provider. So, when the electricity goes out I'm basically shut down here.

After nearly three days without power I now have a magical gas-powered, electricity-generating box humming away outside and a few awesome orange extension cords running under the big outer garage door, then under the door between the inside of the garage and the house. I've hooked up a small space heater, a fluorescent bulb, my refrigerator and even the Internet equipment (priorities, heh) and now I’m up and running!

This morning I was even able to make coffee. It amazing what a difference that can make when your house is sitting at 47 degrees. I'm going to have to toss out most of the food in my refrigerator and probably the stuff in my freezer, too. There' still little to no running water (I have an electric well and the natural pressure is just a very slow flow at best), but the combination of fireplace and generator/space heater can put the temperature to the upper 50's or better with some effort. It's freezing outside, and it was as cold as around 22 degrees a couple nights ago, so some heat is good to have. Most importantly the pipes won't freeze when the temperature drops.

We've had a big storm here over the past week or so, at least by Northwest Oregon standards, and especially in the City of Portland. We have just over three feet of wet snow on the ground here at home in the woods north of Portland. Broken tree branches and fallen trees litter the area, falling across roads and of course on top of power lines. The other night while outside I could hear trees breaking left and right, and branches falling. Lots of people in the area are without power. On Christmas Eve a couple brothers who are friends of mine made the four-wheel-drive trek from Portland to my place in the blizzard and found utility workers asking us to wait to drive over the fallen lines until they cut the power, and burning wires in the roadway. Those Columbia River PUD guys, out in the cold instead of home with their families, racing from broken line to broken line for more than 48 hours before going home... Those guys are pretty darned great. Tough job. I've seen this much ice and snow at my place only one time before in the six years I've lived here, but the impact has not been this significant and the power has never been out for three straight days. I know they've had extra crews from surrounding towns and counties working 24/7 on getting service restored, and the weather just keeps complicating things.

Now that I've experienced the pains of a slightly drafty house in the cold weather, I'll need to work to find the draft sources and try to fix them up a bit. Trying to heat a house with a slight draft is not exactly fun. It'll help with the energy efficiency of the house anyhow, so it's worth it. To try to keep the heat in the downstairs area rather than trying to heat the whole house, I hung a thick blanket in the stairwell on the recommendation of a neighbor. That was a great idea. It's chilly up there (but not frozen), and respectably warmer downstairs as a result.

Oh, and my outside dog is now an inside dog, at least part time. He's thrilled, like a king is his castle, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how well behaved (and non-messy (in the gross kind of way)) he's been.

There's the added difficulty of three feet of very wet, heavy snow on the roof of the house. At least one of my gutters is pulling away partially with the heavy icicles, so that will need to be fixed. So far the roof is okay, and I'm hopeful the snow on there will melt some before more comes. One of my neighbors was shoveling the wet, heavy snow off his roof on Christmas Eve because he discovered his double-wide home was actually separating along the roof peak where the two halves join together. Luckily, the roof on my site-built home was specially engineered due to a county redesign mandate when they reviewed the builder’s original plans, so it's engineered to handle some massive amount of snow specifically because of the likelihood of this type of storm. They had to re-order roof trusses at the last minute that were designed to hold a lot more weight. I’m directing some thoughts of thanks at whichever person it was in the county engineer's office that caught the design flaw and forced the builder to do that structural upgrade.

At any rate, the utility company says they hope to get a crew working on our area today and to get this large region back online soon. I hope they're able to. It's been an adventure for sure, but I'm definitely ready for the electricity to come back on.



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 27 December 2008 10:21:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Got the kids all set for Santa's arrival? You can help them track the jolly ol' elf's progress via NORAD's Santa tracking service on Christmas Eve.

There's also a Google Earth feed that you can use to track Santa's progress in 3D - Way cool for all the younger geeks among us! They also have cameras positioned around the world to allow us to see Santa's progress on Christmas Eve!



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Geek Out | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 23 December 2008 23:30:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 21 December 2008

I'm stuck at home during this incredible and unusual snow storm. I quite literally cannot drive my four-wheel-drive truck out of my driveway due to the wet and icy layer under the two feet of snow that's accumulated, melted slightly, and then refrozen over the past week. Unfortunately, when the storm is at its worse, my iPhone has lost it's connection to AT&T's network. "No service" has become its full-time status. I've tried both enabling 3G (which we don't have out here) and restricting it to EDGE only, and it simply will not connect. Until recently I would at least get a signal if I set it down it in the right spot.

When the power goes out at the house, I need to be able to make at least one phone call (to the power department). In a storm out here, power outages are a fact of life. I've been unable to call the PUD this week because I had no cell service on the iPhone. And the power went out for 7 hours the other day.

Today I got fed up with the inability to place a call and waded through the sea of snow to my truck (which is stuck), rifled through my center console, and found my old Blackberry 8800 and the battery. It's been in there and unused for over a year. I popped the SIM card out of the iPhone and slid it into the Blackberry, then popped the battery in. Even after sitting for a year the battery had a half-full charge (wow) and the Blackberry powered up and within a few second acquired the AT&T network. Text messages started to flow in - success! Of course, the data connection was refused, but the GSM phone service works fine for text and voice service. It makes Snowmageddon a little more tolerable.

I've grown more and more frustrated with my iPhone's network performance over the past month. I plan to take it in and see if it's the individual phone, or a network change, or if it's more of a design thing, but I'm not holding my breath. Luckily the iPhone still works on WiFi without the SIM card (which actually makes it an "i" rather than an "iPhone" I suppose, heh), and that's good because I rely on it for a number of truly invaluable network-capable applications.

Anyone else done comparisons, or had network performance issues with their iPhone 3G after some time has passed? I've done complete restores of the phone to make sure the phone was clean software-wise, same issues. Any experience you have will be appreciated.



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Apple | Tech | Things that Suck
Sunday, 21 December 2008 19:13:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 13 December 2008

I know, it's not in any way tech-related but when it snows for the first time each year, I just have to write about it. It always snows and sticks where I live before it does in the city of Portland. We got a couple inches of snow overnight.

The snow started last night at around 8pm and that's what I woke up to. The power went out three times last night, but each time came right back on. It's been snowing off and on all day and the forecast is for more tonight and into tomorrow. This first snow is wet and heavy, so I kind of hope it melts off some before today is over, so my neighbors and I don't end up snowed in due to a frozen layer of slush under the next snowfall, like happened a few years ago.



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 13 December 2008 15:00:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 12 December 2008

Try explaining to someone that you're thinking of flying a route into the State of Washington from Oregon that will take you close to Rainier. It's not quite as simple as it sounds...


"Where are you?"

"I'm near Rainier."

"Ummmm..."



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Humor | Random Stuff
Friday, 12 December 2008 22:41:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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There are a few different options out there for running virtual machines on your desktop. One of those available options is Parallels, and an electronic-delivery special offer lets you get two copies of Parallels v4.0 for the price of one. That's $40 per copy, quite a deal. So, if you have a need to run Windows apps on your Mac, or you want to run any other PC-based operating system, you might consider grabbing a copy. You could give the other one away as a good, geeky Christmas gift.

Link: Parallels two-for-one offer



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Apple | Tech
Friday, 12 December 2008 10:36:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 03 December 2008

15 years ago Rwanda was the scene of massive genocide. Today the country is working to transform itself become an Internet hub of the African continent.

This is a good video by Internet Evolution, and shows that the Internet's not just about big companies and catch-phrase ideas like Web 2.0. You can't really see or know the extent of the Internet and it's impact without going places to see the impact for yourself. Since most of us can't do that on our own, Internet Evolution's Web Wide World videos take us there.



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Tech
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 08:56:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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