Electrical-fire waiting to happen…

Turned on the power to all of the circuits in the house and was seeing some strange behavior in a couple of places.

Porch light didn’t work. Wasn’t just a burnt-out bulb. Lower priority. I’ll get to it when I can.

The yard lamp (flood lamp) didn’t work. No idea if it’s a failed sodium bulb, which I’ll eventually replace with an LED. Its receptacle at the base of the pole was a GFI-variety that had no power to it. Hmm… higher priorities, but seeing both lights out suggests that the switches to each of them may be an issue.

Higher priority, though, is to get power to the outlets in the house. Spot-checked a few outlets in the house and discovered that all of the receptacles in the main living room were, uh, rather odd.

Typically, in North America, you’d see about 120VAC on a household receptacle. And I did see the expected 120VAC… on one outlet, then its other outlet in the same receptacle was rather representative of the rest of the receptacles in the living space.

Instead of the expected 120VAC, it was… 8VAC. Huh?

Another receptacle registered about 15VAC.

Okay, now it’s getting damned odd…

Seven or eight receptacles in the main living room were horribly (dangerously) under-voltage. After I threw all the breakers then removed all of the outlet and switch covers in the living room, I discovered an omen… a bad omen…

Hmm… that’s a red wire-nut… which would be rated for use on up to four 10-gauge wires on a 20-amp circuit. And it’s binding together only three (!) 14-gauge (!!) aluminum (!!!) wires. And it’s over-effing heated to the point that it’s melted.

The only way to overheat a circuit is to draw more than 80% of its rated capacity for a prolonged period of time — more than a few minutes. I’d wager that the previous owner (occupants?) had multiple electric space heaters plugged in round the room that they ran constantly. And, seeing the kludge of cobbled-together electrical add-ons, they were probably chasing problems that were entirely of their own creation.

I’ll just plan on putting in new receptacles and just replace the wiring with some proper 12/2 cable to all of the points known to be bad.

Dear God, I just had a realization — knowing that the previous owners cobbled things together, it’s occurred to me that the entire circuit is very possibly not connected to a breaker at all. I certainly hope it’s not as bad as I image it to be.

It’ll have to wait until next Friday when I can get out there again and dig into it.

Son of a…

Reminds me of something that I saw in one of the data centers I managed several years ago where teams expected a 20A circuit to have 20A of load all the time. This is what happens when you run a 20A circuit regularly between 16 and 20A.

On Burnout…

Never push loyal people to the point where they don’t give a damn.

Peter Drucker, 1909 – 2005

Thinking back, there were signs of a somewhat lessening interest in Pearson in particular and in Computer Science in general somewhere around about October, 2017. That was right about the time that one of the greatest champions of the team announced his departure.

People move on.

That year, after a business trip to Austin for KubeCon in early December, I was feeling quite burned out. We were planning another trip to Noida to transition a team in February, 2018, but I’d settled that after Christmas (of 2017), it’ll be time to start seeking in earnest opportunities elsewhere.

And The Universe said, “Oh, you have plans, do you? Here, try some gravity…” And the fall and TBI happened.

Strike one.

In the coming months, while struggling with rewiring my brain and body, the entirety of the team who’d pioneered the evolution within the company from the long-standing Mode 1 hardware model into a Mode 2 infrastructure model — which, by design, would slash spend dramatically across from the company — would disperse.

And The Universe said, “Ah, while you’re in the prolonged recovery, here’s some innocuous bacteria…” Then the infection.

Strike two.

Clearly, I’d end up being more dependent upon modern healthcare and needed to relocate to larger city. Moses Lake wasn’t nearly as connected to technologies as I’d have hoped. So, we’d planned on moving to Spokane — not only because it was a large city, but also because it wasn’t nearly as expensive as the Seattle metro area was.

And The Universe said, “Oh, you’re still coming up with ideas, are you? How about this…” Then the layoff and all of its psychological stressors.

Strike three.

My confidence in Computer Science at that moment was not only shaken… it was shattered. I doubted everything related to computer-anything. Programming, development, design, experimentation — I stopped caring about everything: the pursuit of work, life, self.

I would spend the next several months seeking desperately a reason to continue — a reason to do. What I needed most was sense of purpose.

Alright, Universe… what else you got?

Locusts? Ha!

Pandemic? Please.

Earthquakes? Hey, we all get a bit wobbly with age.

Riots? Amateurs.

Wildfires? Bah!

So, bring it on.

Virtual Trip-Hazard?

So I’m using the iPhone Measure app to plot out a size of a small structure. After I capture two edges, I walk over to virtually draw out a third… carefully STEPPING OVER one of the virtual drawn lines.


Yep, augmented reality can be immersive enough.

I know how to use and am quite comfortable with a landscape tape (which I have) and a theodolite (which I don’t have), I have to say that, yes, the iPhone’s Measure tool is quite accurate — it does have some curious behavior over uneven surfaces, but over the surface that I was estimating a layout, it’s demonstrated to be within about an inch over a 26-foot distance.

If the surface were flatter, it would probably be spot-on.

Now, if we could find a way to have it snap to 90-degree angles — that would be even more amazing than it already is.

Late Additions to the SCC Tools List?

Having a read over the SCC AMT Student Handbook and there are a few late additions that will be required — a few that are for me anyway.

First: We’ll need to provide our own coveralls. I’m sure the apron and the Workman Utilikilt that I use when woodworking wouldn’t be at all appropriate. One of those details that slipped through the cracks, so be sure to venture out to a local purveyor or click around on Amazon to select some coveralls. Probably best to have two.

Second: and this one is slightly more annoying for me, the Student Handbook says, “Students will be required to have locking toolboxes” (§19, “Tools, Books and Lockers”, p13).

I’m not sure if maybe I missed that locking part during orientation. While both of the larger rolling tool cabinets that I’ve had in my shop for some time are locking, we’re not storing rolling cabinets in the hangar yet*.

The problem is that the toolbag I had retasked for AMT isn’t lockable. It’s an open-top toolbag. So, I’ll need to track down a locking toolbox or even pick one up from a local DIY center.

*I get the impression that we’re only storing rolling carts in the hangar after the first or second term. But it occurs to me, with the books and other materials we’ll have, that it would be make sense to have rolling tool cart storage sooner rather than later.


…it’s a deep subject.

To make the lot livable, we’ll need water. Without water, it has no value.

It has a well, 300 feet deep in our case. And, after some additional revelations, it’s probable that we’ll need to:

  1. blow out the silt and sediment in the existing well: cheapest monetarily, but still requires, minimally, tearing down the pump house, $5K; OR
  2. drill the existing well another 50 to 100 feet deep, $12K; OR
  3. drill an entirely new well. Upwards of $30K

Now it gets even more expensive. The original cost estimate was in the neighborhood for $1500 of parts and labor. Minimally, add a zero.

Unfortunately, it’s abundantly clear that the previous owners did little to care for or make things last, so the value of the existing infrastructure now is a liability, not an asset.

I’ve heard from a few nearby land owners that their wells are anywhere between 150 and 300 feet. One neighboring house, quite close to ours, is bored to 377ft.

Right, so what’s the depth to the actual aquifer in the region? The driller said, “There’s no aquifer in that area”. Yet, checking over the maps from the USGS, it would tend to indicate that the Grande Ronde aquifer lies closer to 400ft below the surface. We’re on the northeast fringe area of the aquifer.

Knowing that the well-report for our well is 300ft deep, and judging from the available evidence, the previous owners drilled 300ft deep wells, twice, and one of them had removed the pump at some point and had added a cistern. Presumably because the well wasn’t producing as much as they required and the cistern served a means of kicking the proverbial can down the road.

Where does that leave us presently?

I don’t like the idea of just doing things ‘good enough’ and will always leave things in a better condition than when we arrived.

Have the existing well bored another 100ft? Or have a new well drilled to 400ft? They’re both expensive — one more than the other — but we’ll have to find a way to make the cost work.

Insert heavy sigh and deep thought here. 🤔