Thursday, October 30, 2014


Shelton, Connecticut

Southbury, Connecticut

Vinyl Siding

Waterbury, Connecticut

It's a little too warm in the house this morning, I need to turn the thermostat down a bit. Isn't that wonderful?

Shelton, Connecticut

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Southbury, Connecticut

We have heat! The most heat the steam system has ever produced. All the radiators heat up every loop, which they had never done before. There are all these interesting noises as the air is blown out of the system through the vents in front of the steam, then sucked back in when a run is over. We should have been hearing these noises all along.

I changed out of my flannel-lined cargo pants into jeans, and am not wearing a fleece pullover for the first time in weeks.

There's lots of work still to be done. There's a nasty steam leak in a main pipe in the crawl space at the west end of the house. It only shows when the system is pressurized, so it's probably been happening for a long time. The only way you'd find it would be in a full inspection of the system with the boiler running, which of course the steamfitter did as soon as he had the system up and running and sending steam.

He also told me that I need to insulate all the main pipes, right away. It's clear that the original installation was insulated—with asbestos. Some idiot—the guy we bought it from—removed the asbestos without replacing it with modern fiberglass insulation (because he was planning to flip the property). Costs $7.25 per 3-foot section from the first online source I turned up, so a few hundred dollars will cover if I order it online and install it myself. No reason to pay plumber's rates for something anyone can do. I can spend a day crawling around in the crawlspaces installing the insulation.

More work tomorrow to deal with the side system that will make my darkroom once again a year-round operation. I find that I'm itching to get out and shoot some large format film.

Very Green

Waterville, Connecticut

I'd like to head over to Waterville and see what the color there looks like now, deep into autumn. Maybe today or tomorrow.

Speaking of which, the outside temperatures got near 70° yesterday and the house took on a lot of solar gain, so it's about 60° inside this morning, instead of the 56° we had yesterday. The contractor's specialist steamfitter was here all day yesterday, fitting out the headers and connections from the new boiler to the house main pipes. He thinks that, as long as there's no problem getting the guys who do the electrical work and the fuel connections to show up when he's ready for them (always a potential problem if they're out on emergency calls), the main system should be ready to run before the end of the day. The setup that runs the hot water loop to my darkroom might need to be finished later. He also mentioned that last winter he installed one of these "mega-steam" boilers in a much larger historical house at a nearby nature center. He said he was simply amazed at how fast it distributed heat to all the radiators once he fired it up. Something to look forward to...

Monday, October 27, 2014

En Guarde!

Shelton, Connecticut

This little guy looks as though someone has offended him, and he's not going to stand for it.

After three guys spent two hours wrestling the enormous iron core of the new boiler into the ancient cellar here, a two-man crew has been working the rest of the day putting the system together. Supposed to go down into the forties again tonight, but there's been a lot of sun and the rooms are warmer than for the past couple days now, in the late afternoon. We're hopeful we'll actually have heat by the end of the day tomorrow.

Red and White

Naugatuck, Connecticut

On the home front, the plumbers demolished and removed the old steam boiler and fittings on Friday. It's about 56° F inside the house this morning, so we sure hope they arrive with the new equipment. We're getting a lesson in basic physics as the weeks with no heat go on. Every night without heat, everything in the house, all the materials including the hundreds-of-tons of granite in the central chimney, all get a little bit colder. Every day, even when the sun is out to take advantage of the great solar gain of many southwest-facing windows, it gets back a little bit less of the lost heat and the place is a little colder. Worse after a day of rain and no sun. Entropy, Man.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fences, Gates, Warning Signs

Torrington, Connecticut

Ansonia, Connecticut

Postal Service

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

So, the question now is, does England not only have the most expensive postage in the world, but also the worst service?

In the 2010 first TOP  platinum print offer, the only two packages lost were both to England, and the post office there refused even to communicate about it to the postmaster here in Woodbury. This time I found that postage to England is the most expensive in the world—more than to Sinagpore or Japan—and that insurance isn’t available. I self-insured, overall, because of reliable performance, otherwise, last time, but checked how much it would be to insure the packages to Great Britain, because of that last time. It's the one place insurance isn't available at all. Apparently the insurance underwriter knows something.

Now, a print offer buyer in England hasn't received his package shipped on Oct. 9. The USPS website tracking on the package just stops when it leaves NYC. Another package, sent to London, also just stops tracking when it leaves NYC. A package to Norway shows leaving NY, arriving in Norway, entering customs, clearing customs, attempted delivery, notice to adressee, successful delivery. Packages to England, nothing after they leave the the NY terminal.

Next chore will be to check with UPS and FedEx about shipping replacement package(s). Uninsured international Priority Mail packages all showed an indemnity valuation of about $70—I suspect I'll find that doesn't apply to mail to GB.

UPDATE: It gets more crazy. As near as I can tell using their online package pricing tools, FedEx and UPS both want over $100 to send a less-than-one-pound package from Connecticut to London. Clearly, they've consulted with the USPS insurance underwriter.

UPDATE TWO: The USPS "customer service" response is, Fuck You.

Or, in the long form:

The United States Postal Service does not accept inquiries on First-Class Mail International items and Priority Mail International. Your parcel, however, may receive scans as it maneuvers through the United States, but this is neither a requirement nor guarantee. You may find other delivery options for these services by visiting your local Post Office. If you would like a fully traceable International service, please use our Priority Mail Express International or Global Express Guaranteed services.

The first of those raises the price—for a 12x15x1-inch, 14-ounce package going from Connecticut to London, from $40+ to $50+, and the second option costs $70. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Political Signs

Catskill, New York

Autumn Is Here

Washington, Connecticut

Lots of color everywhere, country and city. Also, the temperature dipped below freezing overnight, which means an unheated house is...uncomfortable. The cats are really pissed off. We're anxious to find out how soon the contractor can get started on the boiler replacement.

Torrington, Connecticut

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oktoberfest, New Software, Old House Heating

Shelton, Connecticut

The upgrade to OS X Yosemite, which took up a lot of my time yesterday, so far looks very good indeed. In the past, system upgrades have sometimes been too much for aging computers, overburdening their processing and memory power and pushing them over the cliff. This time, our two iMacs and one MacBook Pro (all between four and five years old and with only 4 gigs of RAM) are running much better. Faster, more reliably, not losing the WiFi connection as the MacBook had been doing to the point that I was pricing replacements for it. Apple promotes the new OS as, "Like getting a new Mac—for free!" I have to admit that this is only a bit of an exaggeration. I've only done a little bit of Photoshop work with it, but everything from load times to filter runs are much snappier, so it looks as though Adobe, in this recent, latest release of PSCC, is working closely with Apple on the Yosemite upgrade.

On another front, after much research and consultation, we've been convinced that, as problematic as the steam heat system in this 1744 house has been (the steam is of course newer, but still antique), it will run enormously better with a new state of the art "mega-steam" boiler. It's very expensive, but still $10K less than replacing the whole system with baseboard. Also, no tearing the whole house apart, and the old radiators and exposed two-inch piping are a real part of the aesthetic here. Replacing with baseboard might actually lower the resale value by interfering with the look.

Finally, it's still October, so...

New Milford, Connecticut

More Walls and Weeds

Waterbury, Connecticut

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cracked Walls and Flowers

Torrington, Connecticut

Spent a lot of the morning running long, slow, upgrade procedures to bring our aging computers up into the latest Mac OS, and didn't get around to putting a post here until now. System performance seems improved.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Looking This Way, and That Way

Torrington, Connecticut

Back in early August, abundant weeds in the parking lot of an idle factory complex.

I'm not certain what the hydrant-like piece of equipment is. Maybe even a hydrant, but it looks more like some sort of metering device. Here's a crop from the first shot.


Athens, New York

Waterbury, Connecticut