Riders on the Storm, Part II

When our power came back on last night, it was a bit of a surprise. We were only without juice for a little over a day. They’d been saying on the news it could be a week or more, so we were preparing for the long haul. One by one the neighborhoods around here are coming back online, and we were lucky to be on the early side. A lot of our friends are still without power, so Jeannie invited them all over today to warm up, recharge their electronics, and hop on our internet for a while. It’s exactly what we were wishing for last night so, you know, spread some good karma. The kids were still off school today, and mostly it was parents of their friends. It made for a pleasant day. They had a little Halloween party. Jeannie made some pies. I mostly stayed down in my office and tried to get work done. My boss said we’re all telecommuting until the mass transit situation improves.

I was able to patch up our roof today too, by enlisting a roofer who’d come by to work on our neighbor’s house. That turned out to be a lucky break. He replaced some shingles and patched a leak, and the roof is good enough now to last until we get around to redoing the whole thing. Jeannie and I spent some quality time crawling around in the attic, seeing what exactly got wet, which was very little.

These extreme weather events are getting more frequent, so it’s best to think thru the backup power question for the long term. Our two main liabilities are heat and communications. Third I suppose is the fridge, but even without power it’s like a giant cooler. As long as we can get ice we’ll be okay. We had hot water, since that’s gas powered and has a pilot. Our heat is gas powered, too, but has an electric pilot and regulator. If we loose power in the winter it’d be a major problem. For now we were able to just put on sweaters and wool socks. I wonder what it would take to have that run on battery backup or from external power. I’m sure the power draw is minimal, and it’s mainly a matter of hooking up the right components. We’re going to get our hot water heater replaced sometime soon, so when that happens I’ll see about if there’s some kind of retrofit available. Otherwise we’re looking at some kind of homegrown hack, but I can’t imagine it’d be that hard.

Another possibility is to put in a fireplace or wood stove. Then we’d have no worries and be all cozy on winter nights to boot. If only we could get Hockey Night in Canada down here, eh? This is something we’ve talked about since we got our house, but have never gotten around to. Maybe it’s time to dust off that idea and push ahead. My current thinking is to install a woodstove down in our family room in the corner near the furnace room. Or maybe a full-on fireplace. I guess this is a pretty big project with lots of issues to work out, but not bigger than say building a patio, which is something I’ve done in the past.

The other liability is telecommunications. In the old days, when our phone was connected to the world with copper wires, it would never go out. When we got fiber optic a few years ago, they pulled out the copper before the truck even left our driveway. Now we have phone and internet on one glass thread, but it requires power. There’s a battery backup that lasts only about eight hours. Suk.

We hooked up the Prius last night to house via a power inverter. We’d considered buying a generator in case of a power outage, but the Prius makes an admirable generator, plus has a huge battery of built-in batteries to boot. The engine wasn’t even running most of the time. Unfortunately our old power inverter went Kaput some time ago and we only discovered it yesterday, so we had to go out and get a new one. As you might imagine, selection is limited in times of crisis, so the one we got was fairly wimpy, just ten amps. This was enough to power our phone and recharge its battery until the morrow morn. We were also able to recharge our laptops and cel phones one by one, and to get on the internet. We plugged my laptop directly into the Ethernet and bypassed the router and wifi. This created problems down the line when the power came back on and Verizon wouldn’t release our IP address to get the router back on again. Ah progress.

Of course, a heftier power inverter would be a decent upgrade. It’d be nice to be able to power the fridge, at least part time. Still, it was looking like we’d be able to get by pretty much indefinitely under that system, which is good news. We had candles for light, and could cook on the stove but not the oven (again that pesky electric regulator/ignition), and we had hot water. As long as we could go out and gas up the Prius from time to time we could run it as needed to power the essentials.

Tomorrow the kids are back to school, but I’m working at home again since they have only a half day. Jeannie’s going into the city to work, since they’ve announced limiter service on Metro North. Wish us luck!

Ridin’ The Storm Out

Our power just came back on. It went out yesterday afternoon, right after I’d googled the chords to Roger Hodgson’s “Eye Of the Storm”. The kids thought The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm” was too creepy and asked for something more upbeat.

We’re watching the news right now, and feel incredibly grateful and fortunate after seeing everything that’s gone down in Sandy’s wake of destruction. Everyone we know, family and friends, are safe and okay. At least so far. Here we hunkered down and played DIe Settler by candlelight last night and listened to the wind howl. Ate mushy ice cream for breakfast. Worked out how to power our house off Princess Pria with a power inverter this afternoon. We’ll need some repair on our roof, but that’s about it. I don’t know how we can get to work tomorrow, or until whenever the trains start running again. I guess we’ll see.

Rush In Brooklyn

Last night Jeannie and I went and saw Rush play at the Barclay Arena in Brooklyn, named after basketball great Charles Barkley, although I don’t think he ever played for the Nets, and I can’t say why they got the spelling wrong. The arena is brand new and only a few blocks from where we used to live. This site was formerly a train yard, an open pit on a triangle of land that was sort of a dead zone in downtown Brooklyn, something you’d have to walk around. I hadn’t been back there since they broke ground on the arena, but it’s good to see it finished. Apart form the overbright animated jumbotron marquees, it’s a very nice arena.

The show itself was great. Rush has a new album out, Clockwork Angels, which is full of great material. The first set concentrated on material from their 80’s synthesizer phase, song like Subdivisions, Big Money, Force Ten, The Body Electric, Territories, and The Analog Kid. I think they played about half of Power Windows over the course of the night. For the second set they brought out an 8-piece string section. They opened the set by playing most of Clockwork Angels, 9 out of 12 songs. The string players had some good rock’n’roll headbanging choreography in addition to filling out the sound on the new songs. The CA material ranged from complex and ripping metal to much more layered and gentle stuff. “The Garden” was a standout and closed that part of the set. The string ensemble stuck around as they hit a few more classics with the strings taking on what was formerly the synthesizer part. These included Manhattan Project, Red Sector A, and YYZ. Then the power trio wrapped it up with a few of their greatest hits, including Spirit of Radio, Tom Sawyer, and 2112, parts I, II, and VII.

Alex’s guitar broke down in the middle of Temples of Syrinx, so he improvised a goofy little dance while his roadies scrambled to provide a replacement. Meanwhile Ged and Neil carried on and it worked just fine. Alex came back in just in time to do to solo leading into the finale.

I really enjoyed the selection of music. Even though they skipped a lot of songs you might expect, they played a lot of great stuff you didn’t expect, and besides, I heard those other songs last tour. It’s good they’re continuing to present new things. The new material is great, and the rest put an interesting focus on a sometimes-overlooked phase in their career. It was the phase where I first started seeing the live, as it happens. As musicians, these guys just keep getting better. Geddy’s still got it in voice, and his bass chops are flawless. Alex Lifeson has such range, diversity of styles he can play, and roles to fit in with the music. And of ocurse he’s a world-class soloist. Plus all those pedals. Neil Peart’s playing is fast and precise as ever, but he’s also found a new level of fluidity. You can hear the way he pushes and pulls the groove in different songs, and for all his speed, he somehow looks like he’s moving in slow motion. Put them together and they’re great ensemble players, and the songs really bring that out.

It was a fantastic show. I sure hope they put out another album and come around again.

More of the Same

Am I in a groove, or in a rut? Who knows? On the book front, all the photos have been cropped, color balanced, edited, retouched, mastered and delivered to the publisher. 140 pictures, 12 GB upload. Thank you Bob! My last two diagrams are the Giant Squid and the Turkey. I’m to step 50 on the Squid, which is the tricky part. It looks like it’ll be about 65 steps. I hope I can finish it tonight. I’m up to step 65 on the Turkey, and I’m estimating 80 steps and hope to finish that within the week. These are the two most complex models in the book, but the light is at the end of the tunnel.

But even though I’ve been working hard, other interesting stuff is in the offing. The fall weather has been beautiful. Been getting to spend some time outside, although it’s getting light late and dark early already. The kids are alright. Work is mellow at the moment, and I’ve been working out and my health has been better again lately.

I’m planning on going to the MIT Origami Conference later this month. It should be a great time. I’m teaching and exhibiting, and it’ll be great to see the MIT origami people. Got to work out the travel logistics, which really means finding a hotel room.

Been working on learning some new songs. I’ve taken a break from writing and recording until my book is done, but I’ve been practicing. I can now sing and play eight of my own originals on piano. Recently added “Fine Red Wine” and “Angel or Alien” to the repertoire. Plus a couple new covers: “Stepping Out” by Joe Jackson and “Thunder Road” by The Boss. At least a few of them are pretty hard songs to play but I’ve gotten to the point where I know them well and continue to sharpen the arrangements and performance.

More Origami

I’m getting to the home stretch on my book. I have all the models (22) designed and folded and all the photography done. I came up with three new models for the book in the last few weeks. Two were the Cuttlefish and Giant Squid, to create a Cephalopod group along with my Octopus. I tried and tried to design a spider but never came up with anything I liked.

For my last model I designed a Lean-To, to go with the Canoe and Adirondack Chair. I really wanted one more intermediate model. This one clocks in at 34 steps, but most of it is pre-folding and it only takes 10 or 15 minutes to fold. And I got the diagrams done in two evenings! I guess I’m finally getting faster.

I went over to Bob’s one night last week to finish up the pictures, and they came out great. I have only two more diagrams to finish now, the Squid and the Turkey. They’re both more than halfway done but they’re complex models, so they have a lot of steps. After the last drawings, all that remains is writing the intro and the basic steps.

In other news, our big Q4 release of my software at work is in QA now. Really looking forward to taking a break.

Went up and saw Martin and Kathleen yesterday and picked pumpkins and apples and grapes. This seems to have become something of a fall tradition.

The weather has been really warm thru the end of September, to the point where we still have our air conditioners in. But there’s also been a lot of rain. Warm and humid. Until yesterday, when it got cold all of a sudden. Now it’s only getting up to the 50’s and we’ve had to turn on the heat.