Friday, December 03, 2010

A night without power

I was hoping to get this post written before my 10am posting on Thursday, but things at work were too busy for me to do it there, and I couldn't do it anywhere else. So you won't be reading this until Friday morning, after a fairly cranky post (sorry about that), but I'm writing it Thursday late morning.

I couldn't write the post at home because there was no power in the house last night when we got home, due to the 80mph windstorms that hit the area. The UPSes were all singing their beep-beep-beep song in harmony, and some of them only last a few minutes, so it seems likely the power had been on just a few minutes before our arrival. But the house was dark, so we immediately set to the work of getting lanterns and flashlights and candles going.

Earlier in the day from work I'd done my habitual review of UPS tracking sites for the packages converging on the house (mostly Christmas presents) and noted that one of them would include a 300 lumen LED lantern which I ordered a week or two ago in order to use it when I take Socks out for walks in the dark. (Flashlights are so cumbersome and light up such a small area.) So as we were futzing about in the dark house I said to Siobhan, hold on, I'll go out on the porch and get the new lantern. For a moment she wondered how I knew that there'd be a lantern there, and how I'd arranged to have one there just on the day we'd have a power outage. But it was just a coincidence, an amusing one.

Incidentally, for $25 this is an amazing lantern. LED lamps have really come into their own in this application. The lantern is smaller than you'd expect, and quite light, probably half the weight of one of the old lantern-battery lanterns, but it gives off as much light as a dual-mantle propane lamp. It's rugged and well-designed, easy to hang (it has a hook on the bottom too), and the light it casts is nicely even without dark spots.

By the time we left for work this morning we still had no power, though it had flickered at about 5:08am for a split second, long enough to start a UPS singing again but not long enough for me to see the clock light up. Fortunately we can get by without power for most things. We have a woodstove for heat, a propane cooktop for food, Kindles that'll run for a week or two on a charge, our fridge and freezer keep cool enough to last a half-day at least before we start losing food, and there's enough water pressure in our system for a few uses of the bathroom and a quick shower. For longer outages, the water pressure becomes the breaking point, but we have a generator we can run the water pump on; I didn't use it because it's a pain to set up, I have no weather protection for it where it needs to be (and it was pouring and windy and cold out there), and we didn't really need it. But if we don't have power again tonight, I'll have to fire it up, for the first time in this application. (It's been regularly tested and maintained, but never run in earnest.)

There was one big worry though as we went to bed in the dark: we'd been locking the dog into the bedroom with us, and the cats out of the bedroom, at night, because in the past, the cats would jump on the bed all night long and chase the dog out of the bedroom, leading to no peace and no sleep. But we couldn't keep the bedroom door closed; the woodstove heat wouldn't've reached us enough and it would be freezing in the bedroom. So we left the door open and didn't expect to get a lot of sleep. But things went very well. The cats barely caused any noise, and didn't chase the dog out at all. They wandered around in the bedroom freely but didn't jump on our heads; the only naughty thing they did was a few times spending a few seconds pawing at the closet doors trying to get in, but even that was brief.

They also notably didn't go into the Christmas tree at all. While it's possible that having access to the bedroom was a factor here, the big reason was that we'd tried a new approach to dissuading them. We'd previously sprayed the tree with a commercial off-the-shelf "No Stay" spray, made with a few natural oils that are supposed to be unpleasant to cats. This had zero impact on them. Last night, Siobhan mixed into it a bunch of other oils including citronella, tangerine, and I think eucalyptus, garlic, and clove, making a much stronger and fresher smell with some different ingredients, and liberally sprayed the tree with it. And they never went near it after that.

Hopefully this is not one but two big breakthroughs in the same night in cat management. If we can sleep with the door open from now on, that'll be more comfortable and warmer, and will also help prevent our heating costs from rising since we will be able to benefit as much from the woodstove as we have in previous years. It might also make the cats less likely to make noise and be annoying and keep me awake all night. Hope it wasn't just a fluke. And if this spray continues to be effective, it could be just the thing we need to counteract their native, extraordinarily high abilities to be destructive. (I'm thinking of a moment in the show Malcolm In The Middle where the parents suddenly realize that, for the first time, they can punish the troublemaking, vicious son Reese, because there's finally something he cares about. "We can hurt him now," they exult.)

It also makes us wonder if it might be possible to stop locking the cats up during the day, if they and Socks can coexist throughout the day when no one's there to manage them. If so, I can finally get the cat litter out of the game room (them scratching in it, and its smell, are two of the things that keep me awake at night), and even go back to reclaiming the game room (the MAME cabinet has been under a tarp for more than a month now). We'll probably experiment with that soon, though I'm not sure how to start the experiment. The ideal thing would be to leave them all free in the house during an absence of only a few hours, not a full work day, but the only absences of that length we have any time soon are shopping trips which we always try to take Socks along for (she enjoys it so much and it helps wear her out). So we might have to jump in feet first and do a whole day, and hope not to come home to a disaster.

Despite how propitious the evening may have turned out, I hope there's power when we get home. We're falling behind on TV again, and I really want to make some headway on my MUD system coding. And I sure don't want to have to haul that generator out and figure out how to keep the weather off it if I can avoid it.

No comments: