July 13th, 2011

#2804: Overvoltage again!

Five things related to yesterday's early morning adventure:

1) The UPS that was supplying the modem and router with juice died a horrible death. When I tried plugging it in anywhere else, the "building wiring fault" indicator came on with a continuous beep from the alarm on the thing.

2) The other UPS is now complaining exactly the same way it did last night, beeping four times every 30 seconds, indicating that it's running on battery power.

3) My UPS indicates that the voltage at the outlets is 137 volts.

4) My DMM says the same.

5) The manual for the modem UPS (which is an APC ES 550) says that it goes to battery power when the supply voltage falls below 89 volts or rises above about 139 volts. Two volts is not a big deal, but obviously the overvoltage is causing the UPS to freak out.

So I get to shut down the router and modem again. Isn't it wonderful?

ComEd, WTF?

#2805: Electricity is making me lose my mind

Current voltage: 132 (Heh. "Current".)

"You should call ComEd and complain!" Right now there are still tens of thousands of people in the area who are without power thanks to the big storm that blew through the other day. I called them last night and learned that ComEd isn't listening to any calls but those reporting outages until the present emergency is over.

Why on earth the voltage is 5-8 volts lower during the day is beyond me. 132 is still too high, but at least it's only 10% over instead of 16% or more. 10% is within the range most devices can safely handle.

To make things even more entertaining, last night before bed I decided I'd replace the fan switch in the bathroom. It didn't take much doing, but it resulted in no change whatsoever: the fan still doesn't come on.

I pulled the cover off and checked the fan itself; it's not seized or anything, so I pulled the plug in the housing and checked for current: nothing. Obviously the "hot/melty" smell was something else going on; it wasn't the switch. (It might have been the UPS dying, but who knows?)


Today, then, I get to climb into the attic with my DMM and try to figure out where the juice went. The fear of a short circuit led me to turn the power to the bathroom off, even though the wires are in conduits, because you never know what can go wrong and safe is better than sorry. (Pity I haven't got RJ crimpers to hand; I could run the network cable at the same time.)

I had originally planned to do car stuff today, since it's so nice out, but fixing a wiring problem with the house comes first.

* * *

Okay, this is something I've been meaning to talk about for months (if not longer) and haven't, and I was reminded by something else that I'll write about presently.

...on route 30 in or around Dyer, Indiana, there's this little white house with a sign out front. This little white house is a business; it's a psychic's office and it's surrounded by other businesses.

The large text on the sign reads: "TARROT".


Every time I see that sign, I know what happened: the "psychic" never heard anyone pronounce the name of the deck of almost-mystical cards and said, "I want the sign to say 'Tarrot blah blah blah'." (Look: when I pass the thing, I'm doing 45 MPH in traffic--usually moderate-to-heavy--and I don't have time to read it all.) Whoever produced the sign didn't ask for a spelling and just wrote what he heard.

I have to wonder how many people pay money to get a "tarrot" reading every week.

* * *

Paganism owes its present existence to Christianity.

"Ancient" mysticism.

The latter link is to Cracked. Yoga? Not old. Satanism? Not old. Tarot cards? Not old.

Me? Not surprised.

* * *

Right now it's scarcely warmer outside than it was at 4 AM. Looks like the weekend will be hot again. Right now I--thanks to a Xanax before bed due to anxiety attack--have absolutely no energy or ambition or motivation to do anything more complicated than going back to sleep.

In fact, I'm sitting here with my eyes closed and typing, with my head back against the chair, because I just don't have any energy to hold up my head. How lazy is that?

...but it's also a pretty awesome display of my typing ability, isn't it? I always used to have to look at the keys, but somewhere along the line I learned to touch-type with only the occasional look at the keys. I still need to look at the screen in order to prevent mistakes, but by and large I need only occasional glances at the keyboard to make sure my fingers are in the right spot. The class I took in 10th grade was supposed to teach me to have my eyes on a document while typing what's on the document onto a new page, but I was not a very good student.

Still, that's what touch-typing is for. Of course, that was 1982, and I learned to type on an IBM Selectric. Thirty years later, it's a computer, and you rarely see typewriters any more, even in offices. They've just been outmoded, is all.

More power to people who use them (and handwriting) to do rough drafts and stuff, but it's just not my bag. I prefer word processors; after 29 years of typing, it's second nature. The words appear in my brain and just naturally flow out my fingertips.

...there's a commercial on the radio for some "speech to text" program, and it features the announcer speaking the way people do when they're typing as they speak. (Like in Wargames: "Later....Let's...play...'Global...Thermonuclear...War'.") If you know how to type, it's not even remotely like that.

We think a lot faster than we speak. The brain already knows how to insert "wait states" in the formulation process for speaking; typing is slower than speech but the same "subroutine" that inserts those wait states in the composition of speech works for typing. So the sentence you want to type gets held in a kind of buffer while your fingers rattle the keys, and once you've learned how to do it you can hold some really complicated ideas in mind while the bits trickle out through the fingertips.

Unless I'm thinking about it, I don't even notice the keyboard. What I think appears on the screen.

* * *

Hmm, that description of how tired I feel turned into a mini-essay on typing. If I keep up with this, I'm not going to get anything done. I'd better post this and get moving.

#2806: Yeah, that worked out well.

After posting the last post, I laid down and slept for four more hours.

There was hardly any "spin down" time involved; I laid down in bed, got comfortable, and was asleep in about ten minutes.

While asleep I had a dream that I was listening to something-or-other, and realized that what I really wanted to listen to was the CD that had "Night Fire" on it. I couldn't remember the name of it, but I knew it had that song on it, remembered what it looked like, and knew right where it was. In the dream I was going to go get it, but then decided I'd wait until the present CD was over.

I woke up, and I realized two things:

1) In the dream I had not been referring to Andreas Vollenweider's "Down to the Moon", which contains a song called "Night Fire Dance".

2) The CD I wanted to listen to in the dream does not actually exist.


The latter is the worst part. The CD was chock-full of really cool music, and I hadn't listened to it for a while, so I'd be able to enjoy the coolness to the fullest. I was really disappointed when I woke up and realized that there was no such CD in my collection, let alone reality.

Maybe I'll listen to the Vollenweider CD, just because.

* * *

Anyway, I still haven't started on checking the bathroom wiring; that's next. I decided on a bacon mofo and had to go get it; and having just finished eating the thing I'm now approximately ready for action.

I couldn't help noticing that it's now cooler than it was this morning, though, when I first went to bed. I was actually chilly while driving to and from McDonald's; I ended up rolling the windows back up.

Yeah, it's that Chinese pollution that's doing it.

#2807: Well, at least it's not the wiring.

Here's a handy home-improvement tip for all you folks:

If you're replacing a switch, make sure the switch you're putting in is not also bad.

...given that, I expect you're thinking, "Aha, he went and bought a new switch and put it in and everything was fine!" Right?


Figuring out that the switch is bad--a closed switch should have the same voltage on both sides with respect to ground; there should not be a 40v difference across it--I hied myself out to Ace (for the second time in two days, no less) to purchase a single-pole light switch for the princely sum of $1.23 with tax. Got home, wired it in, no difference.


DMM reported that now there was no voltage drop across the switch when it was turned on (progress!) but the fan was still not coming on.

Went to garage, got stepladder--realized that helmet still needed that extra final couple of coats, so I took some time off to do that--climbed up into attic to check wiring.

I had to move a bunch of crap out of the way, but discovered that (as expected) the wires are in conduit all the way from the switch box to the fan housing. There is nothing exposed. I had thought perhaps that rodendia of some kind had gotten into something and chewed something and caused a short; but in order for that to happen here, the rodentia in question would have to have teeth made of tungsten carbide, and such rodents are not typically found in nature. That pretty much ruled out a short.

The fan motor has a 6" cord that plugs into a socket inside the housing, in accordance with the building code, and so I was able to unplug that and plug a lamp into it. When I turn on the fan switch, the lamp comes on.

That means the goddamn fan motor burned out. That is the source of the "hot/melty" smell that filled the bathroom the other night.

I suppose that means I'll end up going to the hardware store soon and buying a new bathroom fan and installing it. It's not really that big of a deal since the wires have already been run and the hole already exists; it's just a royal pain in the ass, is all. And it's going to be hot over the next few days. *sigh*

* * *

As for the helmet, once I put the stepladder away I had another look on it, and to my (mild) alarm I saw that the paint had clouded. Then I realized, Doofus, it's cool out and took it into the garage. It's plenty warm in there; that ought to take care of it.

Even if the clouding remains, I can just wet-sand it and put a couple coats of clear on it, so it's not like it's ruined or anything. Worst case I just hit it with a couple more coats of black first. WTF.

I also realized (tardily) that I don't have to put the Fairy Tail logo on the thing right away. The longer I let the paint cure the better chance I have of not causing problems with the base coat; and anyway I can't decide what color I want it to be. Red is out; I had thought white or perhaps yellow, but gold might not be too bad.

I have about a dozen cans of old spray paint of various colors in a box in the garage. I mean old--vintage 1993--but I don't believe that spray paint can spoil or harden. I mean, by definition it's in an airtight container!

This is an artifact of my model rocketry days; when I needed a color, I'd go buy it, and it typically takes a lot less than one can of paint to coat a model rocket two times. Estes rockets don't tend to use a very large palette of colors (red/yellow/blue/white/black) and other than a couple of oddities bought for custom jobs that's pretty much what I've got.

The rockets I built tended to have as little paint as possible on them. I'd put on enough to get a nice gloss finish, but no more; and in the 1990s I built some beautiful models. I used primer, too.

The best job I did was on my Estes Optima. The Optima is about 4' long, 4" in diameter; it's a nice big "demo" rocket because it's easy to see its entire flight. I flew it a couple times without paint, then buckled down and painted it; and I got a couple pictures before I flew it again. And it was gorgeous.

(I'd have to scan them; I'll do that sometime.)

...of course I flew it after painting it; the last time I flew it was in a moderate wind. It weathervaned and didn't go high enough and the upper 6" of body tube were crunched. I repaired it but never repainted it, nor flew it again. *sigh*

* * *

Now that my chore is as done as I can get it, I'm going to play WoW.