Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   cutting the top off an oil tank
Friday, May 19 2017
I got up early this morning, got together my various tools, and drove over to the Brewster Street house to begin cutting up the old fuel oil tank in the basement. There's some program involving the gas utility that gives us $4000 if we convert to gas (which we've already done by replacing the oil furnace with a gas one), but we also have to remove the oil tank. Gretchen had been quoted a price of $700 to do that job, though I was pretty sure I could fit it into my schedule.
I set up in the basement at the end of a short extension cord with my trusty Skil-brand reciprocating saw, the very same tool I had used to successfully cut up the Honda Civic Gretchen had wrecked in 2008. I started by attacking the tank at a corner about a third of the way from the top. The steel was decidedly thicker than the sheet metal used to make the Honda Civic, but it nevertheless was fairly easy to cut. It wasn't too difficult to cut off the entire top-third of the tank this way. The only trouble was when the sheet metal was unsupported and started to flap at the speed of the saw and there was no longer any cutting going on. This sort of thing was fairly absusive to the saw, even if reciprocating saws are built for abuse. Eventually the little quick-release mechanism became detached from the powered piston driving it, and I saw that the screw holding it in place had basically been destroyed. All its threads had been smushed flat and it had turned into something like a pin before just dropping out. I had no replacement that lasted for more than a few seconds, so I was forced to go to a hardware store.
I drove out to Home Depot, partly because I wanted to buy more blades and another reciprocating saw in addition to the screws that might fix my existing one. I feared the saw might break in some more fundamental way, and if it did I wanted to have a replacement ready to go. I bought the cheapest ($60) Ryobi saw and a variety of short reciprocating saw blades (I didn't need to pay for extra blade in this job), including single $8 blade with purportedly "50x life."
Back at the Brewster Street house, managed to cut the top third into two pieces and get them out of the way, allowing me to look into the remains of the tank, which now had the form of a big, deep clawfoot tub. It still had gallons of sludgy fuel oil at the bottom that I was going to have get out of there if I wanted to do any more cutting. But for some reason I hadn't looked forward to this phase of the job. I would need to go get supplies. Since I had what I needed at home, it seemed best to just go there.
As I was preparing to leave, I saw a couple guys with green vests on putting up no-parking signs on house's side of the street, and I naturally assumed they were people from the gas utility preparing to dig up the street to do whatever it was they needed to do to connect up the house (the house had an existing gas line, but for regulatory reasons, the gas utility had determined that they would need to install a new line and an outside meter). This leant a note of urgency to my tank removal project, which had to be completed by the time the gas company was working in the basement.
Back home, I gathered up the things I figured I would need: a five gallon portable blue kerosene tank, a large plastic funnel, an old one-gallon antifreeze bottle with the top cut off at an angle to make it into a large scoop, various old newspapers, and a partial roll of paper towels (the only we had in the house). At the last minute, I figured out a perfect thickening agent to add to any fuel oil I couldn't scoop out: wood ashes. I filled a five-gallon plastic bucket half full of such ashes and loaded it into the car.
Back on Brewster Street, it turned out that the street clearing had all been preparation to shoot a scene for a movie two houses to the south. There was truck parked on the street that appeared to be mostly full of director's chairs and various serious-looking red-shirted functionaries were doing whatver it is one does in preparation for a movie shoot.
Down in the basement, I managed to ladle liquid fuel into the funnel I'd placed in my five-gallon tank. The funnel would jam with sludge whenever I'd dip too deeply, but I managed to completely fill the tank. What remained after that was hopelessly sludgy, so I added the ashes and scooped out the thickened blackish material. I gathered this in the five gallon bucket, which I nearly filled. Once I'd done that, there was little else I could do; the tank still needed mopping up, and it was nearly time to start my day in the remote workplace. It was dicey driving home with an open bucket of fuel oil sludge (which was now quite liquid). I had it in the foot-well of the front passenger seat, and I paid close attention as I went around every corner. Thankfully, the sludge never sloshed out.

I've been feeling productive and competent in the remote workplace of late, and today was no different, though eventually I ran into a vexxing issue in mySQL that completely flummoxed me. I needed to use LEAST and GREATEST to find extremes of dates coming from two different sources. But the result of those functions kept being BLOBs that were useless for further calculation (such as via DATE_ADD). I tried everything I could think of, but nothing worked. I knew that nobody else I work with would have a solution for my problem, so I posted it on and inclusively asked my co-workers to contribute if they had any ideas. My boss Da joking posted a link to a clip of the Simpsons which suggested the problem was that I touch myself, but this was soon downvoted into oblivion.

This evening, Gretchen and I watched the movie Arrival, wherein aliens come to Earth in huge banana-shaped spaceships and Louise, a plucky young language expert is tapped to make sense of their language. There were things to like about the movie (for example, the weirdness of how gravity works within the space ships and the inky graphical means the seven-tentacled aliens use to communicate), although simple-minded jar-head Colonel Weber tasked with wrangling Louise, is a cartoonishly anachronistic character from some 80s movie. As Louise masters the alien language (a process that the movie skips over), she comes to understand their sense of the flow (or the lack of flow) of time, and then we realize that things we thought had been presented in the sequence of how they had happened had not always been. For her part, Gretchen mostly found the movie "boring." Like me, she wasn't the least bit interested in the geopolitical subplot, which played out the way such subplots always do.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next