professionalhenchman: (Faire)
I'm not sure anyone reads these anymore who won't have seen this on other social media, but our former housemate Brittney has take up soapmaking, and is trying to raise funds to scale up a bit and set herself up to sell her products. We've got a few bars, and really like them - the nitty gritty bar in particular is very good for cleaning greasy hands after working in the garage. She's also making some fun-looking bath bars and bath bombs. And she started this because her fiancee is allergic to common perfumes and such added to many soaps and bath products, so hers are low-allergen.
professionalhenchman: (Faire)
Today has been a "Technology hates me" day. I took the opportunity presented by changing ISPs to go looking at wifi routers, and discovered that T-mobile has a "Wifi Personal CellSpot" router available for a $25 refundable deposit. It's a modified ASUS AC1900, (a ~$200 router) preset to give preference to wifi phone calls, and from all reports is a pretty sweet router. So I went down to the T-mobile store in Davis, and they even waived the deposit, so I've got a free router as long as I return it if we ever switch carriers.

So far, so good. Then things started to go downhill. I swung by Omsoft's offices on the way back with the modem/router combo they'd given me, intending to swap it for a plain DSL modem. Unfortunately, they turned out to not have modem-only units for the particular service we have. This was where my internal monologue went "uh-oh", as I *hate* trying to deal with two routers on the same network. Still, I know how to put one into bridge mode, or thought so, anyway. I'd have called ahead to get this info, but I was making my run right before they opened, and was there 15min before they were supposed to be open as is.

So I went home, and started setting up the new equipment. Here's where everything started to go pear-shaped. First, I tried to log into the modem/router, and discovered that neither the default password OR the one I'd put in my password manager would let me log in. So, reluctantly, I hit the hard reset button. And discovered that this thing was way more complicated than any modem/router I've dealt with before. After a fair bit of cursing at it, I put the project down to go take Tom (one of our cats) to meet Sarah and Josh at the park so she could take Tom to his checkup at the vet, and I could bring Josh home for a nap. We both got back at about the same time, and Sarah was kind enough to take over feeding Josh while I went to poke at the equipment again. After a bit, I realized that I was out of my depth, and called Omsoft. The tech who answered the phone was apologetic for not being able to offer phone support, and asked me to bring it over to be configured - this particular model is apparently quite new to them.

So, Sarah agreed to put Josh down to nap while I ran over to Omsoft with the whole pile of equipment. Rob got the modem configured, showed me what to do if I had to factory reset in again, and I left - being foolish enough to not suggest connecting the new router right there and making sure it worked. So of course, when I got home, it didn't work.

Here, there was a break as I swore at ASUS or T-mobile, whoever decided that the password entry field shouldn't allow copy/paste, so I couldn't use 1password easily to set up the new router, and it demanded a new password on first login (a good idea, actually). I need to go back tonight and change the expletive-laced one I used for setup purposes. I wonder how many people's passwords can be guessed by trying variations on "F*ck this F-ing machine!" Or something similar.

So, I started looking through manuals and trying to figure out which device was the problem. At some point, my laptop started trying to connect via wifi to the router, which seemed to be causing problems, so I turned off the wifi - and the system panicked, refusing to boot until I restored from a backup. Great.

While it was restoring, I dragged the desktop into the network closet, and called Omsoft again. Will quickly worked out that the modem wasn't working right for some reason. Since it was 15min before they closed for the day, he decided to try and talk me through checking the modem configuration. After a few rounds of "let me put you on hold while I check something", it became apparent that he was going over to a working one and figuring out how to get that configuration set on mine, even for things that shouldn't have made a difference. The last instruction was to plug the wifi router into a very specific one of the LAN ports, and that did the trick.

So, a simple project turned way more complicated than it should, but I was very glad to be dealing with a local ISP for the debacle, as I shudder to think how long this would have taken with AT&T trying to "help".
professionalhenchman: (Default)
I hadn't had this resolve into a coherent thought until I was thanking Seanan McGuire for being welcoming of Josh at her latest book release party on Saturday. (Both the party and the book are awesome, btw. If she's still in CA for her next release you should totally come.)

Anyway, the thought is that while I'm rarely likely to think to say it, if we're bringing Josh to spend time around you, it means that we think you'll be an influence that we like on him. This is honestly the highest compliment I can think to give right now. Whether this involves coming to your place for hours or just bringing him over to say hi at Faire, it all comes down to the same thing in this respect - we like you so much that we're willing to let you influence our child. We may regret letting him learn some things, especially if he drives us nuts in repeating them, but we won't regret letting you teach them to him, if that makes any sense.

Note that our not spending time with you doesn't necessarily mean that we don't think you're a good influence. Sadly, time, money, and energy constraints prevent us from being everywhere we'd like to be and visiting everyone we'd like to visit.

Cross posted everywhere so all our scattered friends will read this.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
For any of my friends with a biology background who are looking for a job and are a reasonable distance from Richmond:  One of the other techs here at Contra Costa College just got accepted to medical school and will be leaving us sometime in August.  This means that there's going to be an opening here, minimum qualifications are a B.S. in Biology or a related field and two years of experience working in a lab.  The position will likely start out hourly (no benefits), and is currently 28 hours/week.  I know the department wants to offer a permanent position, but that may take longer than the start of the school year.  Contact me if you're qualified and interested and I'll put you in touch with the appropriate people.  Since this was the position I started in, I can also give a general idea of what's involved if anyone wants to know.  I will say that I quite enjoy working here and the particular job, so I recommend the place to others.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, this was my first week off work for the summer, and I've been busy.  We asked Ailurodragon to move out so that we can move Josh into his own room, and so I spent the week painting and otherwise getting the room ready.  Here are some photos of the finished room.

Photos cut for courtesy )

The closet doors are covered in magnetic primer and chalkboard paint, so he can stick magnets on it and draw there.  I also put up a starscape on part of the ceiling.  It approximates the night sky 8 hours after Josh was born.  It's an approximation because since I don't have a projector, the easiest way to paint it was to print the whole thing on several sheets of paper, punch holes, and use them like stencils.  I didn't quite get them lined up perfectly, but it'll do.

Starscape photo here )

Honestly, I expected this to take longer than it did. We'll see how Josh sleeps in it when we get back from Faire.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
It's the beginning of my birth month, and so time to wish everyone a Happy Don't Trust the Internet day.  No really, even less than usual.  Now I'll go hide under a rock until tomorrow.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
Today is the release day for Seanan McGuire's newest novel, Discount Armageddon.  She was selling her author copies at Consonance for those of us there and impatient, and Sarah was nice enough to let me spend Saturday morning curled up with the new book.  I'll hopefully post a more coherent review sometime after my stuffy head clears from this cold and I can think clearly again, but for now I'll just say that if you like fantasy in a modern setting, you should go read this book.  If you're not sure if you like that sort of thing, read this book, you'll probably like it.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
Overheard at the Williams Lair:  "Help!  I'm being kissed!". Pause.  "Have you seen how your child kisses things?"
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, Sarah and I have been attending Consonance in Fremont the first weekend in March for a couple of years now and having a blast.  We missed last year due to Josh's arrival, but will be going this year, and judging by the Guests lined up, it's going to be awesome!  Seanan McGuire will be the toastmistress this year, which would convince us to go without knowing anything else.  I don't know the group that are the guests of honor, but Mary Crowell is one of the members, so we know they'll be great.  And Brooke Lunderville is the international guest - she's the one who did "Don't touch my belly (or I'll kill you)", which Sarah was sharing extensively during her pregnancy. :). If anyone we know is interested, we'd be glad to share a room - Josh will be spending the weekend with his Uncle Skippy, since my brother volunteered to take him.  The early registration price of $45 for the weekend will last through Jan. 15th, so sign up soon if you're interested.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
One of the things I like about my current job is the time off lets me take care of things I've been meaning to get around to doing but just haven't had time.  Our hot tub has been having some issues maintaining temperature, and I don't know if it's been colder than last year, the heating element is going bad, or something else.  This morning, I spent $80 and about 2.5 hours lining the octagonal tub with 2" r-max thermasheath 3 panel insulation, and it's refilling now.  We'll see if that fixes the problem - at a minimum, I'm sure it'll cut our power use some.  I've got readings from our plug-in meter for 499 hours worth of use without insulation and will compare the readings with the insulation after a similar amount of time.  If this doesn't fix the issue of holding temperature, I have a whole unit's worth of spare parts I can use to try and fix this one, but that's a more challenging project.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
I just got our first PG&E bill since the solar panels went in, and for the period from 11/24/11-12/23/11, the electric portion of our bill was $86.11.  The panels have been producing since 12/3/11, but PG&E didn't get the new meter in until 12/10 - the net metered portion of our bill from 12/10-12/23 was $5.61.  For comparison, the electric portion of the previous month's bill was $198.71, and the bill covering the equivalent period of late Nov-Dec 2010 (since PG&E can't seem to use consistent dates for a billing cycle) was $246.01.  That's a savings of $112.60 over last month, or $159.90 over this time last year.  Next month, we start making lease payments of $124.35/month, which offsets most of the savings, but even so, we're showing an immediate savings of $35.55 over last year.  It has been an unusually sunny December this year, but even so, this is at the worst time of year for solar production (shortest days) - I was expecting that we'd pay a little more than we did this time last year and make up for it in the summer.  Instead, it looks like we're starting out saving money, and I'd expect that amount to increase as the days get longer.  It'll be interesting to reassess after a year, but it certainly looks like this is going to pay off quite well.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, the last two weeks have involved the actual installation of the
solar panels we signed the lease on back in August.  It takes a while to
draft the design plans and get the permits - I'm just glad that's
someone else's job.  The installation had a bit of a glitch - we came
home Monday to find that the power was off to the fridge.  Further
exploration showed that one of the two circuits in the kitchen had no
power, while the other one read 240 Volts rather than the usual 120. 
Not good.  The breadmaker, answering machine, and land-line phone did
not like this at all, and stopped working in protest.  So did the wall
wart for the baby monitor, but I had a spare in my bin o' parts.  It
turned out to have been a simple mistake in wiring when they moved some
circuits to a sub-panel to connect the solar array, including these
  So, I called our project manager with Sungevity, who
apologized profusely, and promised to get in touch with the installer
and find out what they could do.  I quickly got a call from Jason, the
crew chief with Skylink Solar (and judging by the website, probably the
company owner) - he offered to leave his family dinner to come fix it if
necessary that night, but since his suggestion of running an extension
cord to the fridge solved the immediate problem, I assured him that the
next day would be fine.  Sure enough, they fixed the circuits Tuesday,
with the exception of the outside circuit (it turned out that the GFI
went splat with the extra voltage) - they fixed that the next day,
before the inspector turned up to sign off.
  I would actually
recommend these guys and use them again if something came up - yes, a
mistake was made, but that happens.  It always sucks when your mistake
makes it to the customer (I've been there), but I try and judge people
by how they handle their mistakes afterwards.  Jason apologized and
fixed things as soon as possible, and he's going to reimburse us for the
busted appliances once we send him receipts for the replacements.  He acquitted himself well, and Balance was satisfied.
Today, I got an email from our project manager letting us know that the
system had passed inspection, and that we were on the list for
PG&E's people to come change out our meter - this apparently can
take up to 30 business days.  The next part of the email amused me
  <section on login and password for online monitoring of
our power generation cut> "However, I do have to tell you that,
because PG&E cannot be sure that they're accurately tracking your
solar production and billing you correctly until they change out your
meter, they request that you leave your system off. It is up to you, but
I do recommend that if you leave it on you at least check your
consumption on your meter face or online at PG&E's website to see
that your usage is being properly reflected. Your lease term will not
begin until the cycle after PG&E comes out to change out your meter.
When the meter person comes out, he or she will not mind if the system
is on - however, since it is their policy, I have to recommend that you
follow it. You can easily turn your system off and on by turning the
large knob on the bottom front of your inverter until it clicks -
clockwise turns it on."
  So I went out and threw the switch.  We'll find out tomorrow if it passes the smoke test when the sun comes up.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
Sarah and I have decided to fire up the grill tomorrow afternoon and do some grilling.  I know lots of people are out of town or otherwise have plans, but we figured we'd invite anyone who isn't busy and wants to turn up to come by our place in Davis.  We ask that people not turn up before 1pm, and warn that there is likely to be screaming starting around 7:30pm as we're working on training Josh to go to sleep without our holding him.  So far this has involved some crying before he finally settles.  Let me know if you need directions.  I'll be grilling a fair bit of food, but feel free to bring something you want to put on the grill if you like.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
Sarah and I just signed a solar lease agreement with Sungevity after five days of going back and forth with their sales rep to make sure we understood everything we were getting into and that it was a good deal for us. If we had the ~$40K needed to buy the system outright, that would be a better deal, but since we don't, can't finance it, and aren't likely to be able to anytime soon, this should give us more modest benefits in the immediate term.

What we get:
- A solar system that should provide ~70% of our annual electric usage at a rate that works out to $0.21/kWh (or better, they guarantee a certain minimum production) the first year and goes up by 2.9% each year after for the 15-year term of the lease. Since our average electric rate is currently $0.20/kWh, that should result in immediate savings for us, as we'll be buying the remainder of our power needed at a lower rate from PG&E, and shouldn't hit their upper rate tiers anymore. (OK, it's a little more complicated than that due to seasonal light level fluctuations, but the basic idea is close enough.) It's basically a hedge against PG&E rates going up faster than 2.9%/year - since the numbers here show rates as having increased an average of 4.2%/year over the last 11 years, I feel safe making that bet.

- Free maintenance on the system for the duration of the lease, unless we break it ourselves. We'll work to keep Josh off the roof.

- the option to buy the system at the end of the lease for the current market rate for 15 year-old panels, renew the lease for another 5 years, have them remove the panels for free, or lease a new, current tech system from them.

- $1000 referral bonus since we were referred by [ profile] buffaloraven  He also gets $1000 for referring us.  We're putting our $1000 down as a prepayment on the lease, which brings down our monthly payment a bit.

- An iPad2 (current promotional bonus for signing before Sept. 1.)  These last two tell us that sungevity expects to make enough off of us to cover these "freebies" - since we'll still be saving money over sticking with PG&E, I'm fine with them also making a profit off the deal.

- Warm fuzzies from having solar power - something we've wanted for a while now.

What we don't get:

- Any tax incentives for solar panels - they get them instead and that's priced into the rate they offer to lease us the panels.

- A bump in home value due to solar panels installed.  This will actually make the place a little harder to sell, since anyone buying would have to qualify for the lease or we'd have to prepay the remainder of it.  Since we don't plan on selling the house anytime before Josh moves out on his own, that doesn't bother us.

Overall, it's a good deal for us and I think for others who can't afford to buy solar outright and don't plan on moving anytime soon.  I was glad that I had estimates from another company that just sells the system to compare things to - it helped me make sense of this, and I also discovered that they'd screwed up their math in the proposal (the other company, not Sungevity)

For anyone interested, they'll give you a quote off a google maps image of your house if you go to  I ended up having to photograph our actual roofline for an accurate quote since a couple of big trees that no longer exist show up on our google maps image.  If you're interested, enter our referral code of 90957 and we'll both get the $1000 referral bonus ($500 each after Sept.1)
professionalhenchman: (Default)
I just cast my first vote to raise my taxes as a property owner. Here in Davis, Measure A proposes a 2-year $200/year increase in property taxes specifically to offset funding cuts at the schools. It was a very easy decision for me, and the opponents didn't help their case by using far more drastic language than the dollar amounts justify. Read the arguments here, they're hilarious.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, I finally finished a project I'd started over a year ago - I decided that I wanted a project to practice carving in hardwoods, so I made a "geeks live here" sign for the outside of our house. Well, OK, that's not what it says, but that's what it means.
Photos are here:
and here:
(links because I can't seem to get LJ to embed them properly)
I started with Tolkein's illustration of the inscription on the Doors of Durin, then used to blow up the image into one that I could print out to span four pages for a ~16"x20" final size. I planed and glued two planks of maple together, then covered them with sheets of carbon paper, stuck the printed illustration on top of that, and traced the illustration with a ball-point pen. After taking away the paper and carbon paper, I was left with my carving lines. Over the course of several months I carved away at the image (between other projects and such), until I had all the carving done. After that, I used a mechanical pencil to darken the lines with graphite, then put several coats of spar varnish over the whole thing. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out. Sarah suggested rewording the elvish in the arch to read "speak geek and enter", but I'm pretty sure it says that quite well as is.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
We'll be checking out of the hospital at 3pm today, and expect to be back at the house and settled in by about 4.  Visitors who want to see Josh will be welcome, just don't turn up too late at night.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, I forgot these on last night's post - I blame the lack of sleep.  Here are a couple of photos from my iPhone.  We left the cables for the big camera at home, so those photos won't get posted until sometime after we get home.

EDIT:  Since LJ doesn't seem to want to show the photos, here's a link to the album on flickr.
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, Joshua Benjamin Williams was born at 5:56pm today.  At the time he was weighed several hours later, he's 8lbs, 10 oz. and 20 inches long.  He and Sarah are doing fine recovering in the hospital, where we'll probably all stay until sometime Friday.  Many thanks to the staff of the Woodland hospital's Labor & Delivery section, as well as to [ profile] serendipity17 ,Guildmistress, and Sarah's sister who were an amazing birthing team.  A more detailed post will come later after a bit more sleep.  (Yeah, I know, sleep, with a newborn?  It's all relative.)
professionalhenchman: (Default)
So, Sarah's water broke around noon today.  We're currently relaxing in a room at the Woodland hospital as Sarah gets the assorted drugs necessary to induce labor.  We're waiting at this point, but hope something will start happening this evening.
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