So we finally have full pressure running water, and as of yesterday I flipped the breaker on the hot water heater so we could wash clothes and shower. We still can't drink it yet. Like most of the greater Austin area water systems ours is under a boil notice for the next several days. This is, of course, causing folks to go out and buy bottled water or fill up from places in Round Rock or Georgetown who didn't lose power to the water pumps. Several breweries (because they can boil giant vats of water) are offering free container fill-ups if you can get out to them.
To answer TMO's question about road prep, no we have maybe one? spreader truck per county. Usually they don't use salt but sand (which when it melts and dries up results in slippery dry dust.) on the roads to ensure emergency services can get around on main roads. A few tractors were out after a few days to try and scrape up ice from the streets in some areas but that's really really bad for our roads. But yeah, any winter weather will shut down overpasses, toll roads, bridges, etc due to ice buildup. When we were out trying to cut the water off at the curb we saw folks trying to drive (escape) out of the hood, wheels spinning faster than the car was going. There had to be 2-3 inches of solid ice from curb to curb. Like, we had to use a shovel to break up the 1 inch that formed on top of the snow to walk across the yard and still nearly slipped.
The biggest issue now that the temps are in the 60-70's isn't keeping warm so much as it is getting water running again. With power out for several days everywhere the pumps froze up since the water couldn't move. There are photos somewhere of giant basketball sized industrial pipe joints just cracked open like an egg. These things had to be replaced, power turned back on, and then wait for the ice to thaw enough to start pumping without further damage. Running water through frozen pipes at full blast busts the hell right out of the pipes in the walls which many folks in our neighborhood discovered. Mostly the two story houses and places in town with exposed plumbing in the ceilings/walls. Not every place uses insulation around them because it rarely freezes that bad (running water is enough). Several neighbors have busted hot water heaters, busted interior wall pipes, and such. There was one community that didn't turn on the sewer pumps before the water came back and blew sewage up through the homes toilets/faucets/etc. Let's just say insurance companies, plumbers, contractors, and lawyers will be busy for the next several months around here.
All but a handful of streets in town have power back, and our water system is at full pressure. The one in town is still filling up but should be up to code soon. Austin proper is still having trouble getting their water levels back to normal because of extensive damage as well as psycho's deciding to wash cars, fill pools, and water their yards.
The grocery stores are restocking every day but no milk to be found anywhere. Some places have eggs, and if you go early enough you can get bottled water. We're still good on food and drinking water for the next day or two so we might venture to HEB soon to get bread and such. In fact a handful of restaurants have opened back up so today we were able to get some burgers and fries which was nice after a week of reheated canned food and such. We're just lucky the only thing that broke here was the A/C condensation exhaust pipe next to the house. That we can fix ourselves.
So quite a bit has happened since I rage quit all my sites last week. Basically I tried to set up some self hosted stuff and I just can't get dns and ssl certs to play nice so those are now all gone. I had planned to move the blog back to the main site but nobody goes there anyway. Easier to just do stuff here.
NOW. FOR THE NEWS.
For those who don't know I am in central Texas
So, last week I was checking the feed on my kids' weather station/meteorologist twitter account and noticed that a lot of folks were getting really worried about the incoming polar vortex storms heading our way that weekend. I decided to grab some extra food and such on Wednesday, as well as some pipe insulation and covers because they claimed we would hit zero to negative temps. We've already had a snow day this year but it wasn't nearly that cold. Also, the weather models being generated at this time were all reading way different than what the news and weather channel were showing. Like, a ten degree difference. That Thursday was a scheduled 40F and rain day. It was 30 and glazed everything in ice.
After that I realized the projected models were going to be closer to what happened than the national forecast and stuff on my phone. By Friday the roads had cleared enough for me and one of the kids to go grab some extra firewood, water, and snacks because I had a feeling we might lose power for a chunk of the day given the temps I saw projected plus the ice already on the ground.
Saturday began even colder, and freezing rain covered the streets again by the evening when the main show started. We could hear the wind and snow and sleet hitting the windows all night. When we woke up Sunday morning I noticed it was cooler in the room and my bedside clock radio was off. Power was gone. I mean, when you have a mini blizzard in Texas you expect the power to go off for a little while, right?
By evening we realized the power wasn't coming back on and all the reports from the power company were that they were doing rolling blackouts. Well we weren't on that system so we just dead ass never got power back until 11am today (Friday). For the first three days things were alright, we had the firewood and still had running water. We cooked using sterno's on the oven since we don't have gas. All the food went outside in coolers. At night we each used a space blanket between the sheets which actually were almost too hot to be under after a while even when the room is 40F.
By Tuesday things were getting iffy. We were out of the firewood I bought and all the easy to heat up foods. (I had only planned for a day or so of power loss.) Then we noticed the water start to slow down and by that evening it was off entirely. We kept the taps open in all the sinks and tubs to keep the air flow going through them. Luckily we had some spare lumber from a project I started and failed last year that we sawed up and burned. That and a few extra fence posts we kept in the garage became the heat source for Tuesday and Wednesday. Sunday night I made a stew which lasted two days, and Tuesday was heated canned chili. Other meals were the rest of the bread/lunchmeat/cheese we had as well as any fruit or snacks. Being cold makes you hungry and being 6-19 degrees for four straight days in a place that gets that cold every 30 years is a mess.
This morning we got up ready to start sawing up some thick 4x4's we found in the wood stash (most of my other stuff had paint on it and was an absolute last resort) when while getting dressed around 11am the lights came on, and stayed on. The house temp went up to 60 and we were able to take off coats and cook food on the stove properly. We then went outside to turn off the water at the street, being able to check the websites for the water company we saw they finally got power back the night before and were planning to turn the pumps on today. If it wasn't going to freeze again tonight I would have let it run but at this point I'm exhausted and gross and would rather have proper working water when its had a chance to get up to pressure and my pipes thaw out. We also shut off the breaker on the hot water heater since folks said that if that's on while empty it can burn up the elements.
Had we known the power would have been out for four days straight I would have bought more firewood and instant meals. We normally have ramen and canned soup in the house but for some reason we were out this time (Trying to eat more fresh stuff that requires more prep and cooking). Also, after this is over we need to go buy a little propane camp stove. Even if we HAD any charcoal (I normally buy it in the spring when I start smoking meats and such) I couldn't get to the grill in the back yard due to an inch and a half of the worlds slipperiest ice coating the entire slab. Even the dog had trouble on it.
So at this point we've had power back for 12 hours now. Hoping it stays on overnight but you never know. Lots of folks had it way worse than us. We're only low on drinkable water at this point but some people ran out of food after two days and several left the neighborhood (ones who didn't have a fireplace or camping equipment) to go to other towns which had power. The roads are hardly passable, while turning off the water we watched a few try to go down our frozen street, wheels spinning faster than the car was going. I know folks are against Facebook and social media but honestly if it weren't for those local fb groups and neighborhood groups several people would have been way way worse off. Local shops offered heat and water if they had it, if you could get to them, and several of the gas stations and grocery stores finally opened up today with limits on things. We will wait till maybe Sunday or Monday to venture out for supplies, let those who had it way worse than us get some stuff first.
Keeping the mosfet mag here for now but blog has to go.
I'm not just talking about CD's and tapes, I'm talking about the stuff that went with those things. Back when physical media was the only media you needed special furniture for them. Remember having a cabinet or shelf that you only used for VHS tapes? Or those ones with the little slots for cassettes and cd jewel cases? Ikea currently sells a nice little wooden shelf in the kitchen dept that fits cassette tapes like you wouldn't believe. But those things aren't the end of the world. You expect full hifi systems with incorporated vinyl record storage and liquor cabinet to get phased out after a while. But what about like, really specific things...
Back in 2006 I worked at a commercial audio shop. Their bread and butter was those in-ceiling speakers for schools and offices but we also had high end stuff for custom home audio jobs. Now remember that this is the era of the iPod and the big deal then were those Bose iPod docking stations. Every MP3 player needed a docking station to charge and play from at the same time or you just weren't cool. Anyway, we sold these docking stations that would be installed in the walls of your house that would connect to a receiver/mixer combo somewhere in a closet or in the living room with the massive plasma TV.
These days I sit and wonder about the folks who had this shit put in their house. Do they still have a big square cut into the wall with an old school iPod port in it? Do they still have that old click wheel iPod they paid $400 for? Did they just go and put their new iPhone in the wall the next year? I kind of feel bad for the early adopters of expensive things that get phased out so quickly.
I love a good documentary. Something about watching a show about real people and real events is just so nice these days. No stilted language, no overacting, no canned responses. Anyway, you can find a handful of them on Netflix or Hulu but I find the real gems are on Prime Video. For some reason Prime has some off the wall and very indie stuff. You've got a 50/50 chance of it being totally amazing or unwatchable. Most of the good ones are the PBS documentaries that recently got paywalled (But it's not too bad). Anyway, these are the ones I've watched recently that are very good:
The Booksellers This is a doc covers the antiquarian bookshop scene in New York. It covers the various things book collectors look for and what makes an old book valuable.
Gamemaster This one follows a handful of independent tabletop game developers. (Not to be confused with TTRPG's or D&D stuff.) They have the guy who invented Settlers of Catan, the Exploding Kittens guys, all kinds of cool stuff and insights into how these games get made.
The Last Blockbuster Ok so this one isn't included in prime but can be rented for $5. It's worth the rental if you are one of us folks who used to rent tapes on the weekends. Yes there is one Blockbuster left, holding on for dear life.
So back in August or so I got a set of SA keycaps for the GK64 thinking I'd love the super tall format since I type so hard etc. Well, they were alright but I still managed to tap the edges of the top row and some of the bottom ones too. This new set is similar to an XDA format. The difference is the caps are about half the height, and are all uniform from every direction. I find this much easier to hit the keys I'm aiming for with this flat keyboard. Shorter caps + linear switches now it's even quieter but the action is much smoother (I found that SA caps wiggle too much). I also notice now using other folks keyboards how much I hate the plasticky tack from clicky switches. Gross.
Ordered groceries for delivery tomorrow. Went into walmart last week to get kiddo's iPad screen replaced and saw that they removed ALL the live cashiers and put in just two giant rows of self checkout stations. Glad I order from HEB 99% of the time. Speaking of kitchen things we cleared out all the cabinets, threw out all the old plastic and chipped dishes and replaced them with the new Fiestaware set. Made in USA glassware and such will be here tomorrow but I went ahead and tossed about 8 years worth of plastic cups and junk dishes while I was at it.
Finished a bit of flash fiction this weekend, I'll put it up on MOSFET tomorrow around lunch probably.
There are several little pen and stationary shops I've wanted to go to around town but haven't had the chance to. I've ordered from them and had stuff shipped but that's not the same as going in and browsing things. Anyway, as I was looking at pen places I saw one shop post a link to a neighboring sushi place that looked cool, and a bakery next to that so I came up with a little list of places to visit when I get the chance.
Son's replacement phone showed up last night, threw the SIM card in to test it out and wouldn't ya know, it makes calls and sends texts. Everything a teenager needs a phone needs to do. (Call us or 911.)
Zune for scale.
So how does it handle? Well it's pretty slick for an old style phone. The screen is nice and big enough to see everything and thankfully not touch screen. You can slide the cover down to answer a call and close it to end the call. It does have WIFI and will connect to a handful of apps from the shop. I wouldn't trust 90% of the ones in there from the third party developers. There is an RSS app which I want to try and connect r.w.a to for kicks. Typing is slower than a full sized keyboard but it's exactly what I remember from college (but with unlimited texting!). Also, this model does have predictive text unlike what the reviews from a year ago might say.
A second one is also on the way for a spare house phone should one of our fancy ones break on us. Once it's safe to have gaming conventions/concerts again I plan on bringing one of these with me instead of my normal phone. I'd rather someone steal/sniff my $60 “dumb” phone than the one with access to every ounce of my data.
We got four inches of snow yesterday, in the middle of Texas. This is clearly not something we can handle so everything shut down for the day and school was cancelled for today while all the slush melts.
During lunch I ran up to a repair shop with one of the kids to get his old iPad screen fixed as a birthday present. (It is not cheap.) For the past decade I've been the one who orders a replacement screen on ebay, grabs the spudgers and heat gun, and repairs the phone/tablet myself. However, lately even with all my hardware abilities I can't repair these things without ripping a cable or pulling pins or heating up something just enough to melt a microscopic cap off the board somewhere.
Everything is glued together, clipped in place, designed to be fused together for the expected two year lifespan of the device before the battery gets spicy and you loyally bring it in to trade up. I don't care how thin a device is or how it's encased in glass, I would like to be able to undo a couple screws and open the thing up. Plastic enclosures aren't evil. Metal ones aren't either but – signal issues, I understand. Just, let me fix things.