“I couldn't live a week without a private library
- indeed, I'd part with all my furniture and squat and sleep on the floor
before I'd let go of the 1500 or so books I possess.” ― H.P. Lovecraft

Whistling In The Graveyard

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Again, I've been away for a while. Here's why.

As some of you know,
I live in a decaying, decrepit part of a decaying, decrepit town in a decaying, decrepit pit of a house. That's it there on the left. I'm sure you've noticed that the picture is shitty and dark. The reasons being that I've not yet figured out all the settings on my new camera and I don't go outside my house much in the daytime because people try to talk to me and shit. I learned pretty quickly that no good can ever come of talking to my neighbors.

Anyhow, the house is old and falling apart. It's solid at it's core, but it's location means that even if one were to put the time and money into fixing it the property value would still be about diddly-fucking-SQUAT.

So a few months ago we blew out half of the power in the house. I mentioned it here before. Well I thought we'd just been running too many electrical devices and simply overloaded the antique system that powered the house. This meant that we may have burned out some of the old wiring and maybe had the smoldering ends of said wiring were burried somewhere in the walls and the house could have burned down at any time.

Several months later, we've sprung into action.

Turns out that we weren't the actual cause of the problem. The real culprit is pictured here.

This is the box that was put in about 60 years ago that we had, up until yesterday, been running the house off of.

Notice the rust. This was caused by rain running directly through the back of the box for the last several years. Shit, you can even see the discoloration on the wall under it from the water.

Anyway, we finally blew out half of it. When we finally removed the front panel we found that one of the two power cables had actually rusted clear in half and only had any conductivity at all through the pile of rust flakes that had accumulated around it.

Needless to say, something had to be done.

I thought "Well hell, as simple as that box is it cant be too hard or expensive to replace, right?" Of course, as any simple idiot knows, whenever you end a rhetorical question with "Right?" you're just begging fate to kick you square in the nuts.

Last few days fate's been positively tap dancing on mine.

Step one was getting Chuck to come into town and slap this bad-boy on the side of the house. First thing you'll notice is it's much larger than the old one. I assure you' it's also more complicated, more expensive and much more rust-free than the old one as well.

It also, rather nicely, complies with all the city regulations (as evidenced by the green sticker there) and is far less likely to catch on fire than the old box.

Those of you that have actually been on fire already know that it's something that's nice to avoid if at all possible.

Write that down kids.

Anyhow, it's attached to a breaker box directly on the other side of the wall, for which we had to drill a hole and feed a 2 inch steel pipe to contain the new wiring. The old system had no indoor breakers. Just those old screw-in fuses in the outdoor box (the orange things in the old box pic) which were a real bitch to change at 3 AM in 20 degree temperatures when you can't feel your goddamn fingers.

Here's the breaker box. It's huge, it's sticking out of the wall and it's right next to the computer, but at least it's safe and it works. It also rather nicely covers the big hole in the wall that had previously been there.

Ordinarily these boxes are set back in the wall, but I didn't want to take on the new pile of fucking problems we'd surely have run into if we cut an even bigger hole in the wall. I have no idea what's in there.

Well, apart from asbestos. I'd estimate the house is at least 90% asbestos. It's probably the only thing that kept it from burning down.

What's not in there for damn sure is fucking insulation because this house is fucking cold as a turd popsicle.

Chances are we'll be covering insulation in a future installment, so stay tuned...

See that metal thing on the floor next to the box? Anyone know what that is? Cause I sure as hell don't. All I know is everything passed inspection and is working well without it so it can't be too awfully goddamn important can it?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. See, we put these boxes in and then we had to get them inspected before we could have the power company come out and switch the lines over from the old system to the new one.

As part of the new box we had to run this big ass pipe up the side of the house, through the roof and three feet above the house for the power company to hook the new wires to.

This seemed a tad excessive to me as the old wires were just stapled to the side of the fucking house and ran exposed down into the old box, but that was probably what allowed all the water into the old one.

Anyhow, we got two ten-foot lengths of pipe and a connector to attach them in the middle. Turns out we only needed 17 feet of pipe and we cut 3 feet off the top. Regulations say that if two pipes are used and one is longer than the other then the shorter one has to go on the bottom. It would have been a pain in the ass to change at that point and we figured "Hey, just how uptight can they be about a lousy three feet?"

Fucking rhetorical questions...

The inspector made us take everything apart and switch the pipes around. That was an even bigger pain in the ass and totally unnecessary which makes it exactly the kind of thing a city official lives for.

I mean, a ten foot pipe with a three foot one on top creates a weak point that will break when stress is put on it from the weight of the wires pulling on it. But a ten foot pipe with a seven foot pipe on top, that's just splitting goddamn hairs. Only reason we tried to let it go that way was we'd have had to have gone and gotten the pipe threaded and it would have just been wasted time.

Thank god my time is so abundant and I have an uncle who owns a full machine shop.

Another thing we had to change was the breaker switches.

Now bear in mind the old system, which would have been perfectly fine by city standards to have left alone had it not stopped working, had NO breaker switches whatsoever. NONE.

When we bought this box we paid a bit extra and got it with the switches. The switches, purchased individually, run about $20 apiece. Well a new city regulation that just passed this fucking MONTH requires newer switches with an extra fucking redundant grounding wire (the ones with the green things on them) be used on anything new you add to the house.

The punchline? The new switches cost $35 each.

In the picture there's 6. By the time we're done we'll need at least 8.


So we fix the pipe and change the breaker switches and we pass the second inspection and the guy tells me that when he comes back he'll need to see a seprate outlet for the refrigerator and the microwave, each with their own dedicated ground wire, as well as the bathroom outlet with it's own ground-fault AND a goddamn outdoor outlet on the front AND back porches each with their own fucking dedicated grounds.

Ok, an outdoor outlet is a good idea, I could use one on the back porch, but they're required? And I have to have a minimum of two? What the fuck? The inspector explained that it's a city ordinance that I have them for Christmas lights so I don't have to run extension cords out the windows.

Well isn't that goddamn sweet? I've lived here for three fucking years and I've never put up any goddamn Christmas lights. Not outside the house anyway. I do have purple ones around the ceiling in the living room. I did this a while back because I got them ultra cheap and they made the room look kinda like the inside of a Covenant ship from the Halo games (and I've got a lot of time on my hands). I was commemorating the release of Halo 2 at the time so that gives you some idea of how long ago this was.

The overall effect makes the room look less like the interior of a Covenant battle-cruiser than it makes it look like the interior of a strip club, but we all agreed that was even more awesome so I just left them up. I'll get a good pic of them in a future Halo-related post.

But yeah, I'm required by the city to have these outdoor outlets for Christmas lights. That gives you some idea about where I fucking live. I could probably fight it on the grounds of it being unfair for religious reasons, but there's probably another city statute that requires the other townspeople to stone me to death an an infidel.

Damn things cost $50 each just in parts too.

On the upside, running the new wires was made relatively simple since all the drywall is crumbling and falling off in chunks.

A note on the wallpaper, my Grandma picked it out back in the 70's. One of my earliest memories is of Mom helping to put that paper up. I think that explains a fucking lot, don't you?

Anyhow, the walls falling apart makes the installation of the new wiring a lot easier. We just ran it under the house to the pantry under the stairs and up to the attic where we then brought it down into the bedrooms and bathroom.

I finally found exactly where the old chimney ran though.

One interesting thing here is the stairway light has two light switches, something not uncommon these days. You just put in some three way switches and there you go. Well when this electrical was put in they evidently didn't have those since these are just regular switches connected with a gordian knot of old wiring and junction boxes the likes of which none of us (even the ones who know what the hell they're doing) can figure out, so we're just bypassing it all and replacing the old switches with new ones.

I'll have at least one whole post dedicated to the next inspection I'm sure, as he has to come back and look at everything we've done. EVERYTHING. Fuck, given that I'm not in the shape to crawl under the house or into the attic I haven't even seen all of it myself.

That's it for now. The guys come back on Tuesday to try to finish up and I have a potentially interesting road trip planned for Monday, both of which I'll be writing about, as well as two of my little mad-science projects that I can now write about since I now have a camera to snap pictures of them.




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