Swimming with the Dog

Crazy dog CJ
CJ - In a Dry Moment
Spent the evening swimming with CJ. Being a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, water is like a second home for him. So this evening I joined him – playing pool fetch with the new ball I got him over the weekend.

The new ball is larger than his other ball, so there is an added element of fun as he tries to stay afloat, grab the ball, and swim past me to escape into the yard. CJ is not yet fully fetch trained. He likes to turn a great game of fetch into a game of “Chase me, I have the ball and you do not!”

The new chlorine feeder seems to be working well. The main benefit – it is outside of the back yard and therefore dog proof. We can no longer use floaters since CJ learned he can remove them then chem them to bits.

Having a retriever puppy – even a year and half old one – is like having a toddler. They get into everything – and then they are so proud that they did.

Powerless

At 12:15 this morning we dropped into the “dark ages.”

Not the literal dark ages, as no visigoths came pouring through breaches in the Roman Wall – but the fan stopped running, the nightlight in the kids bathroom down the hall went out, and the house stilled. That moment after the power goes out always makes me think of Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” – the automated house that continues the existance of the family long vaporized by atomic conflict. Why – I don’t know – except it is that silent expectation of what will come next.

In this case – nothing.

I called the Oncor trouble reporting line and commiserated with the automated prompts – “Press 1 if you are reporting a power outage at your home or business.” I guess they get a lot of people who call the trouble reporting line just to hear the automated prompt offer options. Personally, I never think to call the trouble number unless I am having trouble.

So I got a trouble ticket number which can not be used anywhere in the known free world to find out any information about the outage – and tried to go back to sleep. About three I saw flashing lights reflected off the bedroom ceiling from the alley, so I assumed that power would be restored shortly. Was I every mistaken.

The 5:00 AM expected restore time came and went – with no further sound from the alley. And no electricity. I am not a happy person in the morning without my coffee – and it’s hard to grind coffee without a grinder. I know that we have a manual grinder somewhere – but hunting for it in a dark closet filled with boxes of camping supplies was not my idea of something to do before coffee. Viscous circle – enough to make me think of dark ages again.

So off to the nearest purveyor of coffee like substance – which since Starbucks abandoned us is McDonalds. Two large coffees restored balance to the morning for Rebecca and I.

A couple of additional calls to the nice automated voice at the Automated Trouble Reporting service brought me two additional ticket numbers that were comforting but useless. Even more discomforting was the fact the the automated voice was no longer promising any future date when power would be restored.

I decided to take a shot in the dark ( 😉 ) and call the company that actually collects my money for electricity and ask them what was going on. While I reached a person there – they have no more information that I did – except that I should call Oncor and report the problem. Which I assured them I had. The nice person went away for a while – then came back and told me that a different automated system had told her 10:00 AM.

So – working on the assurance that “crews were working in my area to restore power” I went to find said crews. All I have to say is that the US Military should utilize the same techniques as Oncor – since I drove every alley and street in the area of the outage and did not see a single Oncor truck. Very effective urban camo Oncor.

I did run into a neighbor – who had just been told 11:00 AM for restoration. Not a good trend.

Rebecca had left for Joanna’s horse expo – so I took Alex over to help Grampa with his yard. I went to fix computer problems – something that I had planned to do at home but home was not an effective work environment – lacking broadband and power.

Finished up around 11:00 and came home to find … no power. Flippy Flippy no Lightie.

Back onto the phone and into the car – driving the alleys looking for the elusive crew in my area. Around noon they showed up – all ten trucks. I guess when they arrive they arrive en-mass.

Turns out that the situation was a bit more complex than the standard smoking ex-transformer that we are so used to in this area. Our block is fed by two different high voltage underground service lines – a primary and a backup. Normally, with a failure the overnight tech (think 3:00 AM amber lights) would just switch over to the other cable and leave the heave lifting to the repair crews during the following week.

However, in this case the block was already on the backup feed. The primary feed had already been taken out of service the previous week due to problems we had see in the area. The cable was marked and ready for repair.

Then the backup feed failed.

The overnight tech had tried to take the service back to the primary with no luck – the damaged primary failed immediately. So he no fallback. Result – we were powerless!

The fastest fix was to dig up the backup service and fix the place where it was shorted – likely by all the moisture by the foot of rain we have received over the previous week. The crew worked efficiently and got us back online at about 2:30 – however we had already had to spend $30 on dry ice to keep from losing everything in the freezer.

Power is back up now – as is Internet and the other items which make our life seem civilized. However, being powerless for the majority of the day messed up our carefully calculated schedules and made me remember that we are blessed with technology that makes many things easy – but is itself a crutch which when knocked away can leave us flailing in the dark.

Thoughts on a Hot and Windy Night

In Texas spring turns quickly to summer. Today reached ninety degrees, leaving it hot even after the sun went down. However, the wind has kicked up setting the chimes in the back yard alive and howling through the trees in the back yard.

I can’t sleep.

Not sure what is keeping me awake the disappointment with our home mortgage re-finance process, the thoughts of Kathryn leaving for college, the sudden news that I will have to be away next week on business. All of these individually are small things; however I think that with them all together my mind is racing just a bit too fast for sleep to come.

Trying to take advantage of the low mortgage market seemed to be a no brainer. Reading about it on the bank website back in January made it seem so easy. Of course I would want to keep the loan with them. They have been like any other company that I have a recurring transaction with they take my money on time and automatically, they get statements out on time, and each year I visit their website to see what to put on my tax forms.

However refinancing your mortgage is like buying a house all over again just without the joy of a new home at the end. You pay a great deal of money to a lot of people you never see and at the end of the process you have the same crabgrass and squeaky door that you had when you started. The only difference is that you have a larger mortgage.

I know – reducing my rate is a good thing. Over twenty years I will save a lot of money. However, I am worried about the short term. While I don’t have to pay the interest, I also lose the interest deduction so I am not sure if I come out ahead or I just pay the black hole of government what formerly went to the bank. Continue reading “Thoughts on a Hot and Windy Night”

Strength in a Time of Troubles

One of our favorite Christmas albums (although it is good listening all year long) is “Voices of Winter” (1997 Gadfly Records) a CD of a series of live performances by Priscilla Herdman, Anne Hills, and Cindy Mangsen. One song in particular has resonated with me this season, “Witch Hazel” on track four.

The lyrics are particularly meaningful this year, with world politics, economic pressures, and the loss of a dear friend’s husband just days before Christmas.

I am looking at a witch hazel blooming in a garden
Bright yellow flowers in the middle of wintertime
And I tell my heart be strong like the witch hazel flower
And you will not be injured by these dark and troubled times.

Such a beautiful image, a yellow flower standing out against the coldness of the snow. Strong yet not forbidding.

A few nights ago I was talking to my friend who had lost her husband and I was trying to give her some words of comfort – some thing to get her through the first night that she has stayed at her own home since the passing of her husband. While we both have the same faith background and believe that her husband is in Heaven with our Lord, that does not change the fact that she misses him being here with her.

It’s a tough conversation. I have to suppress my normal “fix-it” response – because I can’t. All that I can do is be there as a supportive voice and a listening ear.

Happy 4th

Parades, fireworks, friends and family.
Another fourth of July has come and gone. With it is one of those lasts… Kathryn’s last time to march in the Duncanville parade with the band. Next year we are off as Alex will not begin to march till the summer after his freshman year.
I took lots of photos around the parade trying to work on my street abilities and quick composition. Check out the gallery for more.