Let there be (new) light(s)

There are two important things to address this week, and then the minor stuff that usually makes up these posts.

The California Fires

It seems that the major fire that is a threat to my old neighbourhood has stopped growing. There was a chance of a second dry-lightning storm, but that appears to have either fizzled out or done nothing in terms of additional fire starts. The key point, though, is that the fire seems to be remaining within its perimeter rather than expanding. Evacuations are being lifted for some of the areas around it and people are going home. Well, maybe. The official page says there was one fatality, 799 structures were destroyed, and another 63 damaged. And the fire is not out yet. Those numbers will rise as assessment crews get into more of the burn area. So some people are going home. Others — in particular those closer to the fire itself — aren’t yet able to do so.

The immediate friends I am in contact with all seem to be OK from what I can tell, and that is good. Big Basin State Park sustained a lot of damage, though, and many redwood trees were lost. I am seeing news articles, however, saying some of the ancient ones did survive. That’s good.

The California fire season is not over yet, sadly. They probably won’t see any significant rain until sometime in October, if the year is at all normal. That’s something like six or more weeks of warm, dry, perfect fire weather. One of the reasons we moved when we did was having spent 25 years worrying about our home burning down. I feel for those still living there now.

An Anonymous Gift

Yesterday we received a lovely Harry & David fruit basket from someone, but the sender remains a mystery. The message said “Happy New Home!!!” but there was no name given. If you sent us this package, thank you! But please let us know who you are so we can thank you more personally. This is far too informal!

OK, on to the regular topics that come up here lately.

Roof Update

This was supposed to be done a week ago. And in fact the roofer was here last Saturday to finish it up, but the boss gave him the wrong parts and the supply places aren’t open on weekends, so he did what he could and left. He returned on Monday morning to wrap it up, though, and as a result the job really is done now.

Well, sort of. We still need new flashing around the chimney, which should get done in the next few weeks. I don’t have a start date yet, but the company seems good and I should get a date soon. As with any contracting work, predicting exact dates is not simple. The guy who quoted the job wouldn’t even say how long it would take. Nominally it’s only a day or two, but they can’t be sure until they actually get into it and see what they find. Surprises happen, particularly on 60-year-old homes. So we wait, and we cannot get the water heater replaced until this other work is done because the water heater venting is going to change.

Anyway, here’s what the new roof looks like now:

And while we wait for the flashing and chimney work to get started, the garage door replacement effort can get moving since the garage is clean enough to allow that. I’ll make some calls about that next week.

Adventures In Homeownering

A note to my typo hunters: I think “homeownering” is a fine word. You need not report it.

A few posts back I mentioned that I’d broken one of the track lights in the new house. This week it was finally time to deal with that. Actually, the parts have been here for some time but I only just installed them. And as a result of what I encountered during that process this section might have been called “Adventures In Track Lighting,” but it might recur so a generic title is better.

First, the old lights and tracks had to come down. I already knew (from the time I broke one) that I had no good idea how to take the lights off the tracks, so I removed the tracks with the lights still on them. That was fun, as the tracks were held up with pivoting brackets. You had to find the tabs barely sticking out from under the track, grab them, and rotate them to release the track. It is an idiotic design, prone to all kinds of issues, and I have no clue how much weight it could support in the form of lights.

Once down, I could examine things closely and remove the lights (also called “heads” in the track lighting business). First, I removed a mate to the one I had broken before. Here are two close up shots of the bits on the head that connect to the conductors in the track:

And here a couple of shots of the connectors on the other style of head mounted on the same track:

If you examine those closely, you will note that those connectors are not the same. The first one — with the smaller base — was not designed for the track. It is built for a grounded track (with three conductors) while the correct head is built for an ungrounded, two conductor track. What happens when you force the wrong kind of connector into a track it was not designed for? This:

Note the bent ground connector under the plastic wing. All three of these lights looked like that. The previous owners had just forced them in there and ignored the damage they did in the process. And when we tried to move them, we broke one. What a surprise!

If you’re curious, here’s what the connectors look like on the head I am using in the new installation:

And those are different from both of the other heads. In fact, here’s a side by side of the two smaller heads:

I expect the previous owners might have tried to wedge these in there as well. I won’t do that. Instead I will replace the track so the heads actually fit:

Far side: new white track installed with three heads. Near side: old track with two of the wrong heads installed. (Sorry about the blurry photo.)

And finally:

There you go. Six working heads, matched to their track, each fitted with a five watt LED bulb. The old system had four halogen bulbs burning 50 watts each. The new system has six bulbs burning just over five watts each, so now we use about 30 watts instead of 200, we get a lot more light, and it is better distributed besides. And in the summer the lack of ceiling heaters is welcome!

The house is full of projects like this one. There are many more to come.

Speaking of which, I also managed to spend some time tearing out some of the old back fence that is falling down.

Which reminds me that since the last post we’ve met more neighbours. The people who live directly behind us came around to introduce themselves. We share the above mentioned fence line and our trees drop a ton of junk into their pool, but Anne and I were already thinking some of those trees need to go to reduce the bear attractant and downspout clogging issues. So that meeting was great.

Turns out the previous owner of our place would not cooperate with them when they needed a new fence around their pool, so they built the fence they needed just inside the old fence. That original fence was left to rot and is basically falling down now. That’s the one I am tearing out. I may even get some project wood out of it, though most of it has rotted into uselessness. Still, cedar can survive a long time in the elements if it has a chance to dry out and is not in contact with dirt all the time.

The other neighbour we’ve now met lives across the street and down a little ways. She has a lovely puppy named Juno who is part husky but clearly has a lot of German shepherd as well. She won’t get all that huge, given the size of her feet, so she will probably stay really cute all her life. We had a lovely conversation, and I know we’ll see them again.

I don’t really have any witty content to end this post, and I will avoid sharing the depressing articles I have been reading of late.

Stay well and safe! Also, as Dr. Henry says: Be kind!

Written by

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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