false hope beeping
Thursday, September 1 2011
Gretchen had to go to work early this morning, so it was my job to give Eleanor her morning walk in the woods (Sally never comes on these walks any more). The mosquitoes were fierce and I had to keep moving or become a human pincushion. At least one tree had fallen onto the powerline going down the farm road, but that line is steel cable and had not broken. Coming home along the Stick Trail, I saw a number of trees had fallen during Irene, most of them conveniently-positioned for salvaging. I will have to repair parts of the trail to make it so I can once again pull my woodcart down it.
I started the generator and used it to run Woodchuck (my main computer) long enough to download the latest installments of my favorite podcasts. Then I spent three hours out in the garage cleaning it for the first time since 2006. I preformed triage on the various materials I've been hoarding, deciding to keep stray woodstove parts but to throw away old rusted-out exhaust systems. The garage has been chaotic since Gretchen's car accident back in April of 2008, after which I cut our totalled Honda Civic into pieces and hoarded a bunch of it. I've found few uses for those hoarded parts, but a lot of them are still in the garage taking up space, including the multi-hundred-pound engine-cum-transmission.
I continued working on the garage until eight o'clock, when it became too dark to see what I was doing. Without electrical illumination, I had to do as people did in the 19th Century and find something I could do by kerosene lantern. (By the way, the steampunk lunar lander kerosene lamp I'd built yesterday had developed a leak over night; it seems it is very hard to create a kersone-proof seal.)
This evening Gretchen and I were sitting around reading (I was reading the New Yorker article about the scientist who sequenced the Neanderthal genome) when we heard a beeping coming from our smoke detectors. This indicated that there was electricity coming into our house, however briefly, from the grid. No other phenomenon could wake those devices up, since they do not contain batteries. I thought at first that perhaps work was being done on our powerline and that our power would soon be restored. But Gretchen, who had just come up Dug Hill Road and seen that the downed wires and tree hung in the wires had not been fixed, was skeptical. In the end, the beeping from our smoke detectors proved to be a mirage and the power did not come on. I suspect that someone in our neighborhood had hooked up a generator to their household electrical panel without isolating the panel from the grid, and had induced enough current onto the local pole-mounted wiring to energize our smoke detectors. This had almost certainly tripped a circuit breaker in the generator, as there is far too much pending load in all the blacked-out houses on our street (for example, lights that have been left "on") for any single generator to supply.
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