Chongo & Ramona
Wednesday, September 9 2015
My recent work up on the solar deck revealed a few other maintenance issues needing attention. I noticed a number of large insects (particularly Bumble Bees, but also hornets and at least one true bug) had found their way into my large 60 square foot homemade solar panel. They'd been trapped beneath the glass, quickly died in the heat, and been bleached to a uniform cardboard color. I found that a gap had opened up in the back of the panel at the top, where the planks forming the panel's shallow boxlike shape had gradually warped and twisted outward. Today I filled this gap with spray foam, which should help keep insects out and heat in.
I fixed and altered a couple of the various custom tools I've made to help me maintain the panel and its hydronic fluid. One of these is a large funnel I'd made from a brass lamp stand. The only place I ever attach this funnel is to the topmost spigot on the panel, but that spigot is angled in such a way that when the funnel is attached to it, it is always tilting at an angle that prevents me from using it at anything near full capacity. Today I added a little 45 degree fitting to its main stem, thereby making it much more useful.
Then I turned my attention to a hose manifold in the basement from which I like to drain water when forcing hydronic fluid up through the loop at pressure (the procedure that flushes out air pockets). Evidently that hose manifold was not designed for the near-boiling water temperatures it occasionally encounters, because of late it had begun to leak. I made a replacement from scratch using half inch fittings and ball valves, though of course it also had to include a female garden hose fitting (since, as I mentioned yesterday, much of this hydronic system developed out of pieces that included glorified garden hoses, whose interfaces persist even after the hoses themselves are replaced with copper pipes). I'd been unable to find proper brass garden hose fittings the other day at Home Depot, so I'd bought what looked like might be brass hose fitting replacements in the garden section. But today when I went to solder them into my new manifold, they quickly crumpled in the blue flame from my MAPP gas torch, indicating they'd been made of aluminum. Aluminum cannot be soldered. Luckily, I found a proper brass attachment in among my salvaged brass collection, though getting it to attach to my manifold meant making my own custom fitting out of a strip of copper sheet metal rolled into a loop. I'm growing fearless when it comes to making completely improvised solder joints.
We'd be having another dinner party tonight, so this afternoon I did my part by mowing the lawn for the first time since late July. I stopped short of mowing as far north as I usually do, but otherwise the job was fairly complete. I even did a round of weed wacking. The GreenWorks lawn mower, whose last use ended up killing its bridge rectifier, seemed to work okay with the replacement. It felt perhaps a little underpowered at times, but that was probably a function of the long, tough late-season grass.
The people who came to our dinner party tonight were Q & N (Q being Gretchen's bookstore colleague whose wedding to N we attended this past June), Nick and Chrissy (also at that wedding) and their dog Chongo, and our friend Jeff E. (who works as a cameraman for various reality shows). Jeff came with his girlfriend Alanna. Unusually for our social circle, none of these guests were vegans. They all arrived as a big thunderstorm approached, darkening the sky beyond its normal for 7:00pm in late early September. We braved it for awhile out on the east deck with the usual finger foods, but then some close lightning strikes sent us into the living room.
Gretchen made a pasta-and-tempeh dinner almost identical to the one she'd made two days ago, though this time she also made a tomatoe salad with faux ricotta cheese that was much better than I expected it to be. There would also be an upside-down cake (something I forgot to mention from the Monday dinner party).
There was much talk of music, since Nick and Chrissy are musicians and Jeff used to be a music critic in Chicago. The three cultural references I remember making tonight were to John Denver, Farrah Fawcett, (both references to awkward stages my hair had recently passed through), and Johnny Cash's song "One Piece at a Time" (which is how I described assembling my own computer on the cheap back in the early 1990s, though what for Mr. Cash was General Motors for me was the Mac IIsi computer lab in Gilmer Hall at the University of Virginia.
When talking about how the terrorists will attack an airplane next, I predicted that at some point someone will weaponize a laptop computer, since a lithium battery would be hard to distinguish from an explosive charge in an xray image. Then I went and fetched my old portable hard drive, the one with a homemade linear power supply that I used to use the way today someone today might use a thumb drive, though of course in those days the interface was SCSI, not USB. "I used to be able to take this on airplanes," I said. Obviously something so clearly homemade with no immediately-apparent use would never be allowed on an airplane today.
Meanwhile, in the dog world, Chongo kept trying to engage Ramona and Eleanor, though initially they (especially Ramona) regarded him with thinly-disguised contempt. I kept having to reprimand Ramona for growling at him. Chongo is a purebred Corgi with a normal-sized body and disproportionately-short legs (in humans, this is called achondroplasia). Nick and Chrissy are a bit sheepish about his not having been rescued, and Nick joked that Chongo likes to pass himself off to other dogs as having come from a shelter.
Despite her earlier hostility, at some point in the evening something clicked in Ramona's brain and she decided Chongo was awesome. The two ran all around the first floor at ridiculously high speeds, careening into each other and into various objects, sending couches and area rugs flying. Occasionally one would end up on the other and start humping. I'd only ever seen Ramona this way with Ray & Nancy's dog Jack, but this was about twice as extreme as those encounters.
The last to leave tonight were Jeff and Alanna.
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