Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer In Palo Alto

Sunday: We made it home about 4:30 pm. Nice trip home except the wind was a bit gusty. We missed the last of the dirt removal for the basement construction across the street from our house. It is one really big hole 12 feet deep and about 40x40 feet in size. They must have really worked because they've already poured some concrete on the floor.

Monday through Thursday: All were much the same. Dawn has a class each morning and I'm working at her house on installing a sidewalk and fence on the North side of her house there. That added a little excitement to our week. I've been fiddling around preparing to pour the sidewalk and should actually do most of it next Tuesday. There were a couple of differences though. I had a dentist appointment Tuesday afternoon and Dawn had one on Thursday afternoon. Dawn had her midterm Wednesday.

Friday: Lou is almost through organizing her slip molds. We haven't been able to see the deck, a rather large deck, for several weeks as she sorted out the ones she likes and disposed of the ones of less interest, more than half went. Now the ones she kept will fit on the shelves in the garage.

New Sprinklers
I did some work on the sprinklers in the front yard. The one in the park strip could handle watering the entire 6 foot x 40 foot park strip. I installed 4 more to improve things. The one that was straining was hurriedly installed three years ago just before we hit the road for three months. It helped. I also relocated the 2 in the side yard. When I installed the sidewalk there, the spacing was wrong. Also one didn't work anymore. I found out why. It had buried itself about a foot underground. It muse have followed a rotting roots path and pushed itself down. We'll see if the lawn gets a little more green now.

Dawn made a couple of green tomato pies earlier in the week. They are quite good, much like a tart apple pie.

Finished Digging and Capped
They've been real busy on the house construction across the street. They poured about 4 inches ov concrete as a pad and then formed an 19 inch wall around that, installed a waterproof membrane, and have now completed the rebar for an 18 inch thick floor/foundation footing. The entire basement floor (40x40') will be 18 inches thick, pkus the 4 inch pad under it. The walls will be cast on top of that. Now that's a foundation. If we have an earthquake, it will probably remain level but may sink a few feet due to the weight and liquification of the soil? Today they were installing the pluming and sumps into the floor before they pour. They are really going fast.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pismo Beach Weekend

Thursday: We all went down to San Jose this morning, Dawn to her class and Lou and I for a walk downtown to see what's developing. Not much. I had driven the RV and Lou the car so we're read to hit the road South as soon as we can.

After Dawn's class today, we headed down to Pismo Beach State Park for the weekend. Traffic and weather were good. Lou drove from King City to San Luis Obispo including the treacherous grade into SLO. We had reservations at the North Campground at Pismo Beach State Park which had a "full" sign out. We got a nice site close to the beach but not one of our usual sites. You can sure tell it's summer vacation time. Few motor homes and lots of tents and trailers even mid week. The weather is nice here but much warmer than on our last visit.

Our Cmpsite at Pismo
I raised the dish to confirm we had Internet. i then updated this blog with a note before we went to dinner. If you've read much of this blog, especially about our visits here, you'll kn0w where we went for dinner. Pismo Beach Fish and Chips restaurant is the place. Just the best. The best coleslaw salad and among, if not the, best fish. The chips ore ordinary though.

SLO Farmers Market
After dinner, we went to downtown San Luis Obispo for the Farmers Market. It's a really nice market and street faire held each Thursday evening. Lou picked up some great sweet strawberries and some fresh peas.

As we arrived home, we met some people about to setup in the site next to us. The gentleman asked if it was a quiet place as they needed rest after a long drive. I told him we just arrived but that it was the weekend like crowd and that it should be quiet by 11pm to midnight. I also mentioned that I just saw a keg of beer popped open as we were walking around the campground after we returned. For some reason, he left? Actually, it was a fairly quiet evening for us, of course we were inside and usually don't hear anything anyway. He was in a tent so?

Friday: Lou fixed a nice breakfast. She was going to fix strawberry French toast but our bread was bad. So she warmed up some home fries and sausage and we had fresh strawberries with that. She had to do it the old fashioned way because the inverter would run for heavier loads without going into fault. It said the batteries were dead but the battery monitor and house battery tester don't agree so must be a memory problem with the inverter. It thinks the battery is dead so it's going to protect it from use. The small inverter is happy as a lark.

In the afternoon, we went up to San Luis Obispo again. We enjoyed a late lunch at the Golden Dragon restaurant, a Chinese buffet downtown. After lunch Dawn hit a nice book store as Lou and i looked around elsewhere. A stop at the Goodwill thrift store on the way back home completed the afternoon.

On our walk around camp this evening we noticed several as in half a dozen campsites with eight or more tents in them. Even though there were a few vacant sites left in the campground, there are an awful lot of people here

Saturday: Breakfast at home of French Toast and Strawberries with Dawn's homemade yogurt. Quite good!

Primping Bird
A bird entertained us during breakfast. The bird really enjoyed looking at himself in the windows and mirrors of our car. That was entertaining. He spent so much time doing it though that in time there was lots of evidence of his presence there. Dawn was nice enough to clean it off but the mess was back later in the day. The bird couldn't get enough of its reflection.
Dawn and Lou on Pismo Beach
After some studying by Dawn, we took a walk on the beach. The beach is quite different in the summer. It is now wide and flat whereas on our last visit here a few weeks ago there was a sand ledge near the narrow beach.

Our batteries died again and the inverter went into fault when Lou tried to use the microwave again. They had good voltage just before she started even though they had provided 130 ah of use last night. The voltage was OK again in a minute. When we return home, hopefully, I'll find the culprit. Seems to be the batteries not the inverter but?? They don't act like a bad battery though, more like an intermittent high resistance but the wiring looks good. There's always something to tinker with with an RV.

I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in camp while Lou and Dawn headed out to Arroyo Grande to see the shops.

Sunday: Breakfast of Granola, fresh strawberries and home-made yogurt. Then off for a morning walk on the beach. The bird was at it again but this time using the mirror or windshield of the RV. It's starting to not be cute.
After breaking camp, our next stop was the Sunset Drive-in Theater Swap Meet in San Luis Obispo. It was pretty good sized and had some interesting junk as well as a few vegetable mongers. Lou picked up some old cook books, Dawn some of her own old books, and I got a Benny Hill Video. Lou also got more strawberries and some peppers for Chili Relleno.

We then headed North again stopping for lunch at the Camp Roberts Rest Area on Highway 101. Lou fixed some open faced pita bread with roast beef, onions, cheese, and homemade yogurt. We enjoyed this feast on the lawn sitting among about 50 birds, all within a few feet, calmly waiting for a snack. Unfortunately, it was too good so no snack for the birds. I looked around for Alfred Hitchcock, just in case.

Our final stop was the mall in Salinas for a walk before the final leg of th trip home.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More Of The Same, But Hotter

We've all been doing the same old things. Dawn school. Lou cleanup and organize her ceramic molds, and me moving dirt in preparation to pour concrete in San Jose.

Yesterday, I did end up taking the day off. There was too much to watch. The pipeline construction crew that was working on our street last week had completed all the connections to the new water main and now had to make a connection at the opposite end of our street to abandon the old water line. It was quite interesting. The old water main on our street was a 4" line, the new main is 12". Wow, what a difference. Obviously thinking of the future. The new main, on this project only goes three blocks and dead ends at the connection that they worked on yesterday. The water lines are kind of a grid with valves on each end of each block to be able to route around problems. The new 12" main connected to the cross street 6" main and to the old 4" main on our street to continue down the street where they didn't replace the main. When discussing the project with a neighbor, he burst my bubble. I though it was rather wise of the city to install a bigger line since it cost about the same to install as a small line. The neighbor suggested a different reason. He thought the city might be planning higher density housing for the area. It is a block away from the university and 4 blocks away from the new city hall. His suggestion will probably turn out to be the real reason. We'll probably be taken over by the redevelopment agency. Enough negativity.

The water line project was still interesting. I sort of worked in construction for many years and am fascinated by how and why things are done. The crew working on this project seems unusually competent. They really work as a team, seemingly with little effort but getting the job done very quickly. No shovel leaners here. I was also interested in the fact that they were installing a cast iron water line but that they were installing short sections of PVC pipe at all the connections to the other mains to isolate the lines. Seems that now days there is a lot more electrolysis since the light rail line went in. They also may be looking ahead at when the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) goes in three blocks down our street. Though, the new line may be rusted out before that actually happens.

The end result of the morning was that the work crew did their job and the new water line was connected. And, that i enjoyed watching them, didn't do my job of moving more dirt and took the whole day off. I hope something interesting happens next week too.

Digging Basement Digging Basement
Today, Lou took off work on her project and came down to San Jose with us. While I moved my dirt, she relaxed. When Dawn was through, we went by a nearby Mexican market for lunch. I had an excellent torta, Lou some soft shell tacos, and Dawn something like a quesadilla but with a different name. All very good. Then we moseyed home. When we got home, we could see we missed something. They had started digging out for the basement for the house being built across the street from us here in Palo Alto. Fortunately, they didn't finish yet, so, possibly something to watch tomorrow.

And now to address the hotter. It was much hotter today, into the mid 90's, which is very hot for here. The nice thing is,though, that it does still cool down in the evening. The weatherman says another day of mid 90's then down to mid 80's.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Filoli Center

I've lived here in the bay area for over 37 years, Lou for over 32 years. We've seen a lot of the area but there are many things we haven't yet seen. One of those destinations was the Filoli Center. It's a former rich folk estate on par with the Vanderbilt Mansion in Asheville. The people that built it originally were owners of a gold mine near Auburn, California. about 1935, the owner of the Matson shipping company moved in. The mansion opened to the public in 1975. The gardens are very nice. I found both the house and the gardens to be grand but very livable, unlike other mansions I've visited like the Vanderbilt Mansion and Hearst Castle. We enjoyed a bite at the cafe and then took another walk around the garden.

Lou and Dawn entering Filoli Filoli Mansion Filoli Gardens Filoli Gardens Filoli Gardens Lizard Filoli Gardens Filoli Gardens
It was rather odd but we have many more critters in our back yard than we saw in their garden. We did get to see a huge gopher snake there though.

The Filoli Center is off Highway 280 West of Redwood City.

Our Broken Tree Swing
We stopped by Redwood Supply (a camping store) in Redwood City on the way home. I needed some nylon rope to restring our tree bench swing in the backyard. When I had a seat on it Friday, I ended up on the ground due to rotten pope. The rope was half as much as at the hardware stores. It took a couple of hours to restring the bench and replace the ropes from the limbs but it seems to work now.

Lou and Dawn had to stop at their thrift sores on our route home. We stopped for dinner at Chevy's Mexican Restaurant. I had a coupon for a reduced cost second dinner. We ordered a couple of Super Chevy's combinations which fed the three of use and left some leftovers as well. Chevy's is normally reasonable priced and has great fresh Mex food but with the second dinner for $4, wow!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Puttering Around The Yard

Molds On The Deck Molds In Work Shed
Lou continued with her cleanup project.

Dawn and I were on weekend duty though. Dawn went over to a book sale at the friends of the library and came home with a couple of bags of books and tapes. She loves visiting that book sale.

I puttered around the yard. I pulled weeds from a flower bed and tied back some wisteria fronds so they would grow onto the arbor instead of into the air. I also sorted dirt, one of my favorite jobs. I hate to throw away used potting soil so I remove the old dead plant material and throw the soil into the flower beds. We have heavy clay soil here so the potting soil helps. I also potted a few jade plants that had sprung up in a flowerbed. They may return when they're bigger. It's hard to tell them from weeds when they are small. Wait, maybe I just potted weeds?

Red Flower Squirrels At Wilton Wisteria half Grown
A red cactus flower above. Squirrels enjoying breakfast in the yard. And the wisteria is now half recovered.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Domains Finally Fixed

On the sidebar of this blog are links to other blogs and websites. Several of these links failed a couple of months ago while we were on the road. The links are to domains I had registered at I started using RegisterFly more than four years ago to register my domain names and actually had all my domains registered there, about 14. They were very responsive and I liked their services and user interface for domain management. The prices were excellent as well. A good combination.

I liked them so much that when they offered Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting, I signed up. They hosted all my domains for a couple of years and I was really pleased with the service. The VPS cost $20/month and hosted all my domains and provided separate unlimited email servers for each. Life was great.
Something happened about a year ago. Their VPS server crashed and all my websites went down. Now, none of them are vital but I do like them to be working. After several online service requests and numerous phone calls, I gave up on them after a week of being offline and setup hosting at another ISP, WestHost. The new host cost more but I wanted to get on line. I was on the road so the Datastorm Satellite Internet paid off when setting up the sites. Fortunately, I had backed up the sites a week previously so not much was lost that couldn't be redone. Interestingly, one of the services supposedly provided by RegisterFly was daily backups. Guess not!. That was one of the reasons they could not restore the servers. It took a long evening to restore all the sites and some time the next day to update for the lost posts. Then, two days later, RegisterFly emails me to say the server is back up. Unfortunately it's blank and I'd need to restore myself. No thanks!. Another interesting thing is that I had just renewed for another year of service at RegisterFly a couple of days before the server failed. I ask for and got a refund, of sorts. It was a credit for their services.

I still had all my domains registered there and hadn't ever had any problems with that, so I used most of the credit to renew domains. Turns out, I should have used it all. A few months ago, Enom, the parent registrar for domains that RegisterFly was using sent me an email message saying who they were and that they were having problems with and receiving complaints about RegisterFly and were terminating their relationship. I was offered an opportunity to have Enom pull my domain names from RegisterFly and work directly with Enom in the future.

I was a little concerned thinking maybe it was another domain heist effort that many registrars try. But, they were kosher so I agreed. It hadn't been too long since the server disaster and I wasn't interested in staying with RegisterFly, just in getting my moneys worth from them.  Enom pulled the registrations from my account at RegisterFly but there was a problem. Isn't there always? They only pulled about 12 domain names, some of which were no longer mine but were former customers. Six domain names were left at RegisterFly. Evidently, RegisterFly had had to utilize the services of another registrar when Enom started having problems with them so those domains that were left there were recently registered and were not pulled to Enom. No problem, the domains still worked, as did the domains for the former customer.

That didn't last. A couple of months ago, the customer calls and says that their email server wasn't working anymore. I had notified them previously of the domain registration problem but wanted to fix it when I returned home. We worked out the registration problem and they were then ok. But, my domains names that were still at RegisterFly were now reporting DNS errors (couldn't find the host servers) when trying to access the sites. That's not good, but of the domains affected, only one was actively used. The others were either for future use, testing, or little used so I was going to wait until a more convienient time, when I was close to my blood pressure machine to work with RegisterFly to restore them. Note, I had sent them online service requests and tried to phone them when the outage was noticed. Neither was any help.

A couple of days ago, I started to work on this problem again. RegisterFly still hadn't responded to either online service requests nor phone calls. Not a good sign. I eventually found a tiny note somewhere on their site that ICANN, the registration authority for the affected domain names was preparing to pull the plug on RegisterFly and assign the names to goDaddy. I checked the ICANN website for more information. It was almost as confusing as the RegisterFly site in that they had postings and updated postings and it was difficult to determine what had occurred from what might occur. The end result was, I eventually found a link to goDaddy where I was able, eventually, to set up an account with goDaddy get access to the nameservers and reactivate the websites for those domains, at no cost. I say eventually, because goDaddy's user interface is nowhere near as good as was RegisterFly's, but it did work.

One additional problem thrown into the mix was that I had been using RegisterFly's nameservers (that's probably what went down and killed the websites) and goDaddy didn't provide nameservers, except at additional cost for hosting on their servers, so I had to use the nameservers at my web hosting service. GoDaddy just provided the registration and a place to set the nameserver addresses.

The end result is an unnecessary evening's effort and the eventual restoration of the websites. Isn't this fun! I'm leaning more and more to just using the computer as a door stop.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Back To Work

This week, Dawn started summer session at SJSU. Lou has been busy going through her ceramic molds to get rid of the less desirable. She has hundreds. She also is cleaning up in the process. That really sounds like work.

One of the stumps Before front sidewalk Before sidewalk
I've been busy doing some work at her house there. There has been some water coming into the basement for a few years so I'm trying to eliminate possible sources. One is water from downspouts not draining away from the house. Originally, the downspouts went in to the sewer system but that isn't appropriate anymore, so they've been draining to the side of the house for the past few years. Odd, same period as the water problem. So I'm pouring some concrete on the North side of the house to allow the water to drain away and cap a potential entrance point. I'll also put in some drainpipe for possible future use but, since it's below any drain point, a sump pump will be needed in the future to make it usable. Another someday project. Until then hopefully the cap works. Of course, I work like I'm retired, a little here, a little there. The first order of business was to get the tools there. A lot of stuff to move in a little Volvo wagon. I'll need about 54 bags of concrete, about a pallet. When I did the last project there, I had two pallets of concrete delivered. The cost was 75 dollars. One pallet now would still be $75. I'm too cheap. That adds more than 33% to the cost of each bag. So, this time, I'm collecting the bags. The car will carry about 10 bags, so 6 trips will do it. Each time I pass the store, I'll pickup some until they're all at the work site. By the time I'm ready to pour, they should all be there. Second task, a little more pruning of the last remaining bush and then to get the stumps removed. Then remove a little dirt, about 2-4 inches or about one cubic yard of the stuff.

Since I was at pruning, I also pruned an apricot tree that has gotten out of hand there as well. It was supposed to be a dwarf tree but is actually a giant tree, as big as the old apricot tree at our house. It's only twenty years old. The tree at our house is probably 60 years old.

In addition, the tenant in the main part of the house called to say the dishwasher, wasn't. Turns out the door switch failed so it was ordered and replaced as well. It is nice, though unusual, when I work on something and it actually gets fixed.

The big pipe is the new pipe for our street
And then there is my favorite job, inspector. They have been replacing the water main in the street in front of the house there. So, I have to watch the work and make sure they do the job right.

We're also having the floors replaced in the house so getting that project going was on the task list. Tomorrow, they come to measure for the flooring.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Here We Are Again, At Home.

Saturday: We went by the Black Bear Diner just up Virginia Street from our home at the Atlantis Casino. They have a great chicken fried steak breakfast so we ordered two, which fed the three of us and we left with leftovers.

We had a nice trip over to Reno. The trip back oh Highway 80 was quick and not too eventful. We stopped in Sacramento at the Spudnut donut shop on Arden Way. Dawn found out about this shop on the Internet. She's been looking for a Lou's Donut replacement since they closed in San Jose. The link above provides information about the old chain of donut shops that had a potato based donut mix. The chains gone but there are a lot of their old locations still making similar donuts. I might have to make a list of the locations. They have an excellent apple fritter and it comes with either glaze or cinnamon crumb, also crumb donuts. All good!

Enough fun, back to the road home. We continued on Highway 80 then down Highway 680 to Milpitas. Traffic was rather heavy but mostly moving well.

Lou and Dawn didn't get enough thrift shopping so we stopped at Savers in Milpitas as well. That gave me a chance for a nap. We then headed up Highway 237 to home. Dinner was the leftover breakfast from the Black Bear Diner and some celery sticks with peanut butter.

It's nice to be home again. It's actually cold here. It was getting hot in Reno.

Sunday: I got the pictures uploaded for the Folsom Lake SRA and Donner Memorial SP posts.

I emptied the holding tanks with only a small disaster, almost. The macerator pump stopped working. I feared the worst. The fuse I had installed for the power to it was still good and power was there. I thought maybe there was an internal thermal protection so I waited. That didn't help, except I did enjoy the time relaxing in the back yard. So then I got serious. I was an electrician after all. I got out my meter and there was no power through the switch. Odd. I disassembled the switch and then found the problem. There was a fuse in the switch assembly, easily replacable without disassembly, if you look in the right place. The fuse was bad and the one I installed failed soon thereafter, but the third fuse did the trick. Must have been extra thick "stuff" in the tank. So, no real disaster like having to figure out how to empty the full hoses. Whew!

On our way home, the passenger windshield crack grew another foot finally reaching the edge of the windshield. Should be more stable now. Since neither crack affects the view, I'm holding off to get the most mileage before replacing them. If the crack in the drivers windshield tries the same trick, It will have to be replaced since it's right in the center going straight up, but currently down out of view, about 18" long. The right one got a couple of pits after the first big break as well but, so far they're just tiny pits. This has been a bad year for windshields. I filled the crack and pits. I think I'll by the crack filler glue by the gallon in the future.

Am I mistaken, or is Highway 80 over the sierras the worst Interstate highway in America? It's like driving on a cobblestone road. Our tax dollars certainly aren't at work there. That road is likely the reason for the extension of the crack. It's always nice to enter Nevada and enjoy good roads.