The Iceman Cometh

The National Weather Service forecast for Saturday here at Schloss Bodissey includes a “winter weather advisory”: we are to expect “mixed precipitation”, with “snow accumulations of up to one inch and ice accumulations of one-tenth to two-tenths of an inch.”

Furthermore, “Precipitation is expected to begin as a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain between 4 and 7 AM, then change to mostly freezing rain between 7 AM and 10 AM. Precipitation may mix with or change to rain by late afternoon, before ending during the early evening.”

It doesn’t sound serious enough to cause a power outage, but you never can tell. So if Saturday evening comes along and this is still the top post, and comments aren’t being approved, you’ll know why. Just assume that I am sitting here drinking wine (an Alvarez de Toledo Mencia, probably) by candlelight, keeping the temperature in the house above freezing by using the propane range in the kitchen…

Dymphna’s stove

Update 1:00pm EST: There was a little freezing rain, nothing significant, before I got up this morning. Since then it’s pretty much just been rain. It’s raining hard now, but not much ice on the trees. So it looks like the electricity may stay on, at least for the time being.

The Light Has Come Into the World

Merry Christmas, everybody!

The weather at the moment doesn’t look anything like the photo at the top, which was taken here at Schloss Bodissey in February of 2006. It just seemed seasonally appropriate. Right now it’s actually quite mild, and semi-overcast. There’s been almost no snow so far this season.

The future Baron is here. We’ll be having a nice Christmas dinner in a little while, so posting will be light. I hope you all have a joyous Christmas.

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’ve got family here today for the big meal, so posting will be light. However, there’s an important report on Geert Wilders’ victory that needs to be posted.

Other than that there will probably just be the news feed later tonight.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Here We Go Again

If you live on the East Coast, you’ve probably heard about Tropical Storm Ophelia, which came up through the Carolinas and is now in the process of looping through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.

The real action is pretty far away from Schloss Bodissey, but still, we’re getting a lot of rain, and some gusty winds, so anything is possible. If the lights go dark at Gates of Vienna tonight, that’s almost certainly the reason.

I went out late this afternoon and didn’t see any trees or big branches down, so I’m not really worried. On the other hand, the phone company’s antiquated equipment may decide that this is a good time to crap out. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Comms Failure

Long-time readers are aware of my persistent issues with phone and internet connectivity. The phone system out here in the Far Boondocks is roughly equivalent to two tin cans connected by a piece of string. It doesn’t take much stress on that string to zap my internet connection.

Last Friday, right after I finished moderating the comments that had come in overnight, my phone and Internet went out. Clear blue sky, no wind, beautiful day — and the phone went out, just like that.

I’ve learned from experience that when the phone goes out on a Friday, I can expect it to stay off all weekend. The phone company doesn’t send technicians out here to fix outages in their off hours. Repairs are scheduled for normal work hours, Monday through Friday. So if the phone goes out on Tuesday, it might be fixed on Wednesday, if I’m lucky. But if it goes out on Friday, I can forget about any repairs over the weekend.

As it happened, Saturday was the day of the memorial service for my very good friend who died last month (see “Thanatopsis”, August 6). The future Baron came down for the weekend so that he could attend it. Before he left yesterday, I had him come with me while I drove us to where there was a cell phone signal, about eight miles from here, and used his phone to call tech support in Bangladesh. After going through interminable touch-tone menus, and listening to horrible music while on hold, I finally got to talk to a personable young lady with a thick Bengali accent. She apologized profusely for the difficulties I was having, then made me listen to the horrible music for a while longer while she looked into the situation. When she returned, she told me that there was an outage in my area, and there was no estimated time for the repairs to be completed.

I knew ahead of time that she would say that, because that’s the way it always goes. But it’s important to go through the forms, just for propriety’s sake, and set up a trouble ticket.

I also knew that the phone would come back on today, because it always happens that way. The technician comes to work on Monday morning and looks at his trouble tickets while he drinks a cup of coffee. Then he gets in his panel truck and comes out here to Eerie Hollow to reconnect the string to the tin can.

It had been more than a month since the previous outage, which was a pretty long run. Let’s see how long it takes before the next one.

Generally speaking, if you see me disappear for a weekend without any advance warning, you can assume there’s been an outage like this one.

Weather Goes Boom!

Update: The storm seems to have passed through. It was loud, but not all that violent. There was no hail, at least not here at Schloss Bodissey.

Central Virginia is currently under a severe thunderstorm warning, and I can already hear the thunder and see the lightning. The storm is rapidly approaching, and we may be in for hail and high winds.

If Gates of Vienna stops being updated after this post, you’ll know why.

Oak Leaves

I posted last week about a huge old oak tree in the back yard of Schloss Bodissey that fell down during a thunderstorm.

I found a guy who was willing to cut it up and haul it out of there. He wants the wood, so he’s doing it free of charge. He’s just leaving the small branches behind to be chipped up by the other tree man. Then a third guy will come in to grind up the stump.

After his first session, enough space had been cleared back there for me to be able to walk around the surviving oak tree and assess its condition from directly below. When the other tree fell, it broke several major branches off the surviving tree as it came down. They were all on the east side of the tree, which afterwards had almost no foliage left on that side. In the highest part of the tree, all the remaining branches were on the west side, overhanging the house. If that tree had fallen during a storm, it would almost certainly have at least clipped the corner of the Eyrie — which is where I’m sitting right now — as it fell.

There was no way to avoid it: the tree had to come down.

Early this morning the tree man took it down using his bucket truck. It was an impressive operation. I watched him up there in the bucket, lopping off pieces at the top of the tree and dropping them down into the yard where his assistant could pick them up and move them out of the way. Then he got to the upper section of the trunk, and cut it into short sections, dropping them right under the bucket, each landing with a deep WHUMP. Finally he tied a rope around the top of the remaining trunk and anchored it to the bucket truck. He did the standard two cuts at the base to get the tree to fall in the desired direction, and down it came. I was taking photos of the operation, and caught the split second just before the trunk hit the ground:

That was taken through the back door. The one below was taken about three seconds later, through the storm door:

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Great Was the Fall of It

From time to time I’ve posted photos of the two huge oaks in the back yard of Schloss Bodissey. The photo above shows the northernmost of them. It was taken almost twenty years ago, in October of 2003, when the last rays of sunset were touching the top of the tree.

Below is the same tree early this morning:

It was difficult to get a view of the full length of the fallen oak. I had to set up a stepladder in the midst of the dogwood tree’s foliage to take the shot.

Here’s a view from ground level:

And from a window up here in the Eyrie:

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Sturm und Drang

Here at Schloss Bodissey the sky is very dark and thunder is rumbling…

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for this area:

Prepare immediately for large hail and damaging winds. For your safety, move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Stay away from windows.

If this post is still on top late this evening, or tomorrow, you’ll know why. Given the combination of the phone company and the electric company, some sort of outage is to be expected.

The Signal Returns

Last Friday afternoon there was a thunderstorm here at Schloss Bodissey. As storms go, it was a nothingburger — a little bit of lightning, a little bit of thunder, a brief but heavy downpour, and no wind to speak of. Even if I had thought of it, I wouldn’t have put up a warning post about it. There was no way the power would be knocked out by that storm.

And it wasn’t. The lights didn’t even flicker. But I didn’t reckon on the phone company.

The phone and internet both went out during the brief downpour. I thought they would surely come back on quickly, after a negligible storm like that one. And so I waited. And waited. Fixed dinner and waited. Then I went to bed.

The next day (Saturday) the phone was still out. That day happened to be the fourth anniversary of Dymphna’s death, so I kept to my planned schedule. In the afternoon I went down to the church to put fresh flowers (all of them hers, picked from our yard) on her grave. Then I walked across the road to the country store, learned that their phone was working, and asked to use it to call the phone company. The young lady working the cash register was very kind and helpful.

As usual, I had to go through a labyrinth of digital-touch tone menus, beginning with not pressing 2 por español. I had to punch in my phone number. I had to punch in the last four digits of my social. Then it wanted me to punch in a number where I could be reached. I didn’t have one, of course, but I had to give them one to go any further, so I punched in the future Baron’s phone number. Then I went through a series of punch 1 or punch 2 choices that I can’t remember. Then the robot voice told me to wait while it checked my service, and to see if I already had an open repair ticket (I didn’t).

Finally I was put through to a human being in Bangladesh or Kolkata, with a thick Bengali accent and an inferior fidelity phone connection, all while other Apus could be heard babbling in the background. As a result I was only able to understand about 50% of what he said, but it didn’t really matter, because I’ve been through the drill so many times before.

First he asked me the same questions that I’d just punched in all the numbers for. Evidently the robot doesn’t pass on any information to the Gunga Dins who have to talk to customers, so I had to tell him all that stuff all over again. Only then could he pull up my account and look into the issue.

He then told me what I knew all along: there was an area outage as a result of the storm.

“But Baron,” you say, “if you knew it all along, why did you bother going through all that hair-tearing rigmarole with the phone company?”

Because I needed one piece of information: the estimated time when repairs would be completed. I knew from long experience that it would be the final thing that Jamshid would tell me.

And he did: “Mr. Edward [they always call me Mr. Edward; they don’t really get the distinction between first and last names], the estimated time when the repairs will be completed is Monday June 19 at 1:30pm.”

And sure enough, service was restored today ahead of schedule, at about 10am. The signal has returned.

That was on Saturday, so I had two more days to twiddle my thumbs and watch DVDs while my email piled up and people waited for their comments to be approved. During that time I thought about the #!@%*&@?#!! phone company, and how it could possibly take three days to rectify the effects of an itty-bitty trifle of rain. And I think I figured it out.

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Illegal Immigrant Canadian Smoke

This is what it looks like here in Central Virginia today:

(article here)

The Canadian smoke is really thick right now. I noticed the smell of it for the first time today, acrid and unpleasant. The sunlight is quite muted and orange, and I can’t see the mountains.

We had a lot of rain last night, and I thought that might wash some of it out, but it doesn’t seem to have had an effect.

My original plan was to mow the lawn today, but I think any sustained exercise outside is probably a bad idea.

This is a useful website: It has a map that shows the air quality zones, and the locations of all the wildfires. You can zoom out, and it even includes Canada and Central America.

As of right now my AQI is 216, down a bit from the highest reading I saw, which was 229. I checked out a bunch of locations on the East Coast, and the Charlottesville area had the highest reading of any of them, higher than New York, DC, or Richmond. We drew the short straw this time.

There’s an area up by the Hudson Bay that has the worst quality of all. Fortunately, almost nobody lives up there.

From the Nation Weather Service air quality alert:

Due to Canadian wildfires, smoke is prevalent in the Mid-Atlantic region, including the greater Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. Under northerly winds, smoke will continue to be pushed south over our area. Thicker smoke will continue to overspread portions of the area, resulting in poor air quality and visibility potentially less than 1 mile. Some improvement is likely through the day, but the smoke likely will continue to affect the area at times until a front on Friday potentially brings some reprieve to fine particle concentrations.

I’m going to stay in the house with the central air on, and be glad I don’t have to work outside in this.

This is Getting Tiresome

As I reported yesterday, my phone and Internet went out for most of the day, leaving me without enough time to post anything but the news feed last evening. Then today — Wednesday — I went to the retinal specialist’s office to get a periodic injection in my left eye to treat wet macular degeneration. When I got home (a little worse for the wear and tear) I discovered that the phone and Internet had gone out again during my absence.

So I ate dinner and watched DVDs gleaned from Dymphna’s collection (I’m not much of a DVD person, but she has left me a few). Right after I finished watching a movie, the Internet came back on, although the phone is still out.

So here we are. It’s almost midnight, and I haven’t even begun to look at the email. My eye is still sore, and I can see the dancing bubble, as usual. I’ve approved the backlog of comments, but this post is all that I’ll put up before tomorrow (Thursday) — when I’ll be even further behind.

If the Internet stays on, I’ll try to start catching up. And if the phone comes back on, I’ll call the @#%^&!@?$#! phone company and demand a credit for all these hours that I’ve been without service.

I’m sick of this [solid waste].

Telephonic Blues

When I got up this morning I discovered that both voice and the Internet had gone out sometime during the night. I don’t own a cell phone, and even if I did, there is no coverage out here in the Far Outback. So I just hung around, watching episodes of Firefly and waiting for service to return.

In the middle of the afternoon I got tired of waiting, and drove five miles to the house of the lady who cuts my hair to see if her phone was working. It was, so I called technical support. After going through interminable numeric touch-tone menus, I was finally able to talk to a human being, albeit one with a thick South Asian accent. He told me that there was a local area outage, and the estimated time for restoration of service was 5pm EDT. That turned out to be a little optimistic — phone and Internet service didn’t return until almost 8pm. And now I’m catching up.

It made me nostalgic for the good old days when you could call the phone company and immediately talk to a native English-speaker. And not just an American, but one with the distinctive accent of the Central Virginia Piedmont. Or better yet, I could drive less than forty miles and make myself a nuisance to the receptionist in the main office of the phone company until I got some useful information.

Alas, those days are long gone. That little regional company was bought by a larger company in the early 1980s. That company in turn was gobbled up by an even larger company, and the process was repeated several more times in the ensuing years. The last merger occurred just a few months ago, and the service is distinctly worse than it used to be. To add insult to injury, I have to call people in Karachi or Dhaka for tech support, and I often find them very hard to understand.


Goin’ Where the Climate Suits my Clothes

Actually, the place I’m going to has more or less the same climate as Schloss Bodissey, so I should be OK.

I’ll be leaving shortly on an overnight trip to visit some old friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. There will be no news feed tonight, but I expect to get back in time to post one tomorrow night.

Back in the good old days, whenever I went away overnight I would warn commenters to be on their best behavior while I was gone, because Dymphna would be watching them closely, ready to smack anyone who got out of line. She would moderate comments until I returned, and would sometimes post her own stuff while I was away, especially in the earlier years when her health was better.

Now, alas, all I can do is lock the door, pull down the shade, and hang up a “Gone Fishing” sign in the window. Everything has to be put on hold till I get back.