landlording: a disintegrated outlet and a cut-down tree of heaven
Tuesday, June 20 2023
This morning I worked to restore internet service to the cabin from Hurley. All that was required was to pay Cricket (our cellular provider) some money to get some additional gigabytes of data for the cabin's Moxee hotspot, which had (for various reasons) exceeded its 20 gigabyte limit for the month (the first time this has ever happened). As would've happily added more data from the Cricket website, but it wasn't clear as I was doing this whether the data would be available immediately or if it would become available on July 12th, when the next billing cycle began. If so, that wouldn't be useful at all. So I called Cricket and waited the eight minutes it took to get a human. The human I got didn't speak very good English, and he insisted that the data enhancement I'd seen on the website bore no similarity to the one he could sell me over the phone. He did, however, tell me that any data I bought today would be immediately available, which was the only question I needed a human to answer. (After using ChatGPT for months, Cricket's "AI-powered" chatbot seems very brain-dead indeed.) So I ended the call and worked my way through the Cricket website to get it to take my damn money and give me more data. The plan was to pay $30 to get 15 more gigabytes. But the Cricket website was broken and I got some sort of mysterious error when I tried to complete the transaction. This forced me to call Cricket and wait again for a human. The human I got the second time spoke slightly better English and seemed to go completely rogue in what she was offering. She said that for $14 I could have 50 gigabytes of data. There was no deal anything close to this good anywhere, and even she admitted that it was something she had just spontaneously come up with. So I gave her my credit card info, and within minutes I saw I had a fat 50 gigabytes in my account for the cellular hotspot's phone number. And when I checked the PowerView info page for the cabin's inverter, I saw it once more had current data, meaning I'd completely solved the problem for only $14. (If the Moxee hotspot hadn't had a watchdog system, though, I would've probably had to drive up to the cabin to gain access to the additional data manually.)
Neville went with Gretchen to work a rare Tuesday shift at the bookstore today. That meant that when I went out at noon to get a few groceries (particularly Grey Poupon mustard, my one brand loyalty and what I'd just run out of). I also got a more expensive duplex wall outlet from Herzogs for a landlording chore I'd be undertaking after work. Then I visited the Tibetan Center thrift store to see if they had anything I wanted, but they didn't.
At 5:00pm, I drove out to the Brewster Street rental to replace an old outlet whose plastic appeared to crumbled into random bits. One of the tenants had her parents there visiting, and I'd catch bits of their conversation on multiple trips between the failed outlet and the basement to check whether or not I'd turned off the right circuit breaker. (I wonder if there is some device you can plug into an outlet that transmits a signal to a receiver so you can easily do this task without an assistant?) At some point I turned off the circuit breaker for the house's internet router, and a young woman appeared from one of the rooms to tell me that she had a remote job interview in 20 minutes and that this understandably gave her concerns about the power. So I then tried to avoid turning off the power to the router, something I almost avoided until, confused about why the damn power couldn't be turned off to the outlet I needed to replace, I started turning of the big dual breakers one by one. One of those was the main breaker, but fortunately there was still plenty of time before that young woman's interview. Somehow I'd missed the one little breaker hidden among the big ones, and it was the one to kill the power that I needed to kill to avoid being killed. After that, the replacement was fairly easy despite the old cloth-covered wires, which are always in danger of crumbling when they are bent. But then it turned out that one of the lugs into which the duplex assembly is screwed was missing, meaning I would have to improvise something to sufficiently stabilize it. I figured that if I drilled a hole through some metal, I could use a drywall screw to do what I needed to do. Then a ran up against a failure of my fail-proof automotive toolkit plans. Anticipating a frequent need to drill, I'd added a set of drills to the Subaru Forester's toolkit. But these were not bits for an impact driver (which I'd brought); they were for a conventional drill. Fortunately, I'd thought of this when preparing the Forester's toolkit; I'd added a hand-powered drill capable of turning most any small bit (it was hand-powered because nobody can count on a battery staying charged in a vehicle's toolkit). But this hand-powered drill had fallen apart after thousands of small jostles, and I couldn't figure out how to get it working again. Fortunately, on the metal outlet box for the outlet, there was a tiny screw I could remove to make a hole I could send an outlet-supporting screw through. But had that not been there, I would've had to go somewhere to buy something to get me out of that jam.
I then drove over to the Downs Street house to begin the process of removing all the wood from the tree of heaven that had been hung up on the garage. After recovering from an injury, the tree guy we'd hired had finally cut that tree down and piled it up in the backyard. My job was just to dispose of it, mostly by carting it home to Hurley either burn or to dump in the bushes and let nature deal with it. The big pieces of tree-of-heaven trunk were fairly dry but also more solid than expected, leading me to think they might make for reasonable firewood. But there was plenty of other debris, including branched of sugar maple covered with leaves that the tree guy had cut down to make room to work. I ended up stuffing as much as I could into the Forester, leaving only just enough room to drive. It's going to take about five such trips to remove all of the wood and debris that needs to be removed.
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