Monday, 21 September 2015

08:07 – As of today, Barbara has only seven work days left at the law firm. As of 1 October, she’ll be working for our own company, which we’re both looking forward to.

A couple of people have mentioned that a married couple working together at home introduces stress, but I don’t see that being any problem at all. We’re both very hard workers who focus on what needs to be done, and I’m certainly not prone too micro-managing. She’s a self-starter, and she’s already familiar with a lot of what needs to be done. I expect things will work out fine, without any stress.

We’ve decided to expand our relocation search to the counties that border Ashe County. Barbara wanted to look at Mitchell County, but a quick scan of homes for sale up there makes it pretty clear that there’s not a whole lot available. Not surprising, considering that the county seat has a population of 464. We want to relocate to a small town, but that may be a bit too small. One of the first places we considered was Sparta, NC. It’s the county seat of Alleghany County, and has a population of 1,770. A quick check on the Internet shows that there are quite a few suitable homes for sale there, so we’ll probably check it out in more detail. The last/first time we went up, we just walked around town and picked up a few brochures. This week, I’ll call a real estate agency up there and tell them what we’re interested in buying. We’ll schedule another trip up there for sometime after next week. It’s 60 to 70 miles from our current house, depending on route, and about a 1.25 to 1.5 hour drive.

We’re not in a hurry. We want to get away from Winston-Salem and its large underclass population, but wherever we move is where we’re going to stay, so we need to take as much time as necessary to get it right.

15:15 – Well, this is good news. The real show-stopper for any house we’d consider even looking at is lack of decent Internet service. The Romans had a phrase for it, “sine qua non“, or “without which, nothing”.

The one time we went up to Sparta, casual inquiries led us to believe that Internet service there was spotty and slow. The people we talked to mentioned DSL. Accordingly, we downgraded that area. One of the major reasons we preferred Jefferson and Ashe County was that most of the county has fiber Internet service. As it turns out, so does most of Alleghany County, where Sparta is. I talked to Skybest Communications, and from what the lady told me it sounds like Alleghany/Sparta is in pretty much the same situation as Ashe/Jefferson: the counties got a government grant to install fiber Internet services for an “underserved” area. There are a couple small parts of Alleghany that don’t yet have fiber service, but those areas have 12 Mbit/s down copper service, which would suffice for our needs. So, with the big potential roadblock out of the way, we can start looking seriously at the Sparta area.

32 thoughts on “Monday, 21 September 2015”

  1. It’s currently low 60’s here, gray and drippy, with a breeze. Our highs are to be mid-70’s this week, with lows in the upper 50’s, and a good chance of rain.

  2. “…I’m certainly not prone too micro-managing.”

    Perhaps the first typo I’ve seen in your journal!
    I can only approve of your approach – select your future home at leisure, to avoid repenting at length… just remember to get a place with a backyard shooting range.

  3. Thanks. Yes, I noticed it after I published, but I never go back and fix stuff like that unless it’s significant to the meaning. Simple typos aren’t worth worrying about.

  4. Went from 90 last week here to 50s yesterday, the last day of summer; never a slow gradual transition between seasons, always abrupt. We’ll have a lovely brisk fall, with all the colors and sunshine, etc., and then one day it will all become Siberia, leaves gone, gray skies, snow flurries, and howling winds.

    Mrs. OFD is out in the Rockies of Colorado this week, and took a hair-raising drive along some mountain road there yesterday, around 12,000 feet up, no guard rails. She’ll be home Friday or Saturday and staying for three weeks, before leaving again for a week in Baton Rouge and then two weeks in Kalifornia.

    Sparta, NC, home of Dr. Grabow pipes:

    “Dr. Grabow International Pipes & Accessories, which produces 200,000 high quality pipes annually, the most pipes produced under one roof worldwide.[11]”

    Not much crime:

  5. Ironically, I don’t have a single Dr. Grabow pipe in my collection. I haven’t bought a new pipe in years. Most of what I have is Dunhill and other high-end stuff. But I think I’ll try a Dr. Grabow.

    I hadn’t gotten around to checking crime stats, but they’re about what I’d expect. Little to no serious crime, and what there is is probably between people who know each other. It’s a nice little town, and it has a decent county hospital. There’s some shopping, but the nearest big-box stores (Walmart Supercenters) are in Galax, VA and West Jefferson, which are both about a half hour from Sparta. No big deal. If we do buy a house there, we’d make periodic runs down to the Costco or Sam’s in Winston-Salem.

    I’m not tempted by isolated homes out in the country. I want to buy a brick or other solidly-built house in a neighborhood, ideally one with 1+ acre lots.

  6. ” I want to buy a brick or other solidly-built house in a neighborhood, ideally one with 1+ acre lots.”

    Yeah, we have a bit less than an acre here, but otherwise it fits the bill. You know what to look for down there, so best wishes. Do the research and don’t forget the local building/home inspector.

  7. “Simple typos aren’t worth worrying about.”

    I agree completely, when they’re in “informal” media, such as a blog. However, typos and the like in published books drive me nuts – they just scream lack of care in preparation. I have the impression that the quality of proofreading and copy-editing in general is going downhill rapidly; it used to be fairly rare to catch a major newspaper or publisher in a typo, but now they’re all too common.

    Which reminds me – the “microsecnod” is the proper new unit of measurement for the time it takes between hitting the “send” or “post” button to launch an electronic communication and discovering a typo therein.

  8. Counties that border.

    Wow, you have a lot of counties, and very close. We live where three counties come together, but the closest county seat is 90 miles away. The other two are 120 miles each. One of them is the largest county by land area in the country. Could say we have miles and miles of more miles and miles.

    Pop density in some nearby areas is less than one household per square mile. Most of California’s population is concentrated in the big cities, while the rest is very rural. Suits me.

  9. The volkswagen emissions defeat story is by far not new, although much more serious than previous violations. California accused manufacturers over 30 years ago of using “defeat devices,” although these usually were just timeouts to allow an engine to warm up a bit before applying exhaust gas recirculation, which could stall a cold engine. The manufacturers actually met the rules, but CA cried foul anyway.

    Fast forward to about ten years ago. Some aftermarket modifications (PROMs and software) did detect the biennial inspection routines, and used a different map to cause the car to pass. While illegal, these were almost never detected. Why do that? I know instances where some engines can be reprogrammed to put out 20-30% more power AND get better gas mileage under most driving cycles. The increase in emissions is usually only slight, and the average might even be lower than stock.

    Such is the fast developing state of the art for gasoline engines. If you have certain older cars with sequential multiport fuel injection and compatible controllers, you can bring them up to later model performance and lower emissions with mods like these. They are still illegal, of course, because CA is run by id10ts.

  10. I worked (very tangentially) for several car makers. Often, with a new model, we didn’t have actual performance numbers, like MPG or horsepower prior to release.

    Usually this was because they needed to DECIDE what those numbers should be, either for competitive reasons (This car has better city mileage than that car!!!!11!!) or regulatory (need to get fleet averages down.)

    When everything is controlled by computers -fuel air mix, timing, transmission shift points, etc, you can make those final outputs whatever you want, within a range.

    So they might give up 0-60 time to meet emissions, or tweak performance curves for ‘smoother ride.’

    Enter the ‘chip tuners’. There is a whole market of guys and companies that specialize in tuning the engine management computer for high performance, or the ability to pass emissions, or some other thing you might want. It’s gotten to the point for some vehicles, that you just swap in a preprogrammed part. There is a lot of this in diesel trucks too. You might have normal, performance, and towing profiles and the ability to switch between them.

    All good for the consumer as long as the bastids don’t use the DMCA as a hammer to beat on the garage mechanic innovators, which they sometimes do. (It’s code, and there may be encryption, or reverse engineering to be done.) Several makers have attempted to become like Apple in the old days. They want to make it so only their authorized dealers can do any work at all on your car.

    One more reason to own older vehicles, as far as I’m concerned.


  11. Several makers have attempted to become like Apple in the old days. They want to make it so only their authorized dealers can do any work at all on your car.

    It’s been tried. Congress gets involved and threatens the automakers that try to do that. That’s why there are engine code readers that can read from any car. They were proprietary for a while and Congress raked some autoexecs over the coals in front of the TV cameras and they opened the ports up.

    My former boss bought a Prius when they came out and got an aftermarket box that plugged into the car’s LAN to provide additional data on the car’s performance and operation. Read-only AFAIK, though.

  12. aftermarket box that plugged into the car’s LAN to provide additional data on the car’s performance and operation.

    is one such item. There are many. May Garmin has a unit that connects to the ODBII port and sends information to the navigation unit via Bluetooth. Surprisingly the Garmin is more accurate than the computer in my truck when calculating fuel consumption. Garmin says I used 21.5 gallons, the Ford computer says I used 21 gallons, fill up takes 21.5 gallons.

  13. Garmin says I used 21.5 gallons, the Ford computer says I used 21 gallons, fill up takes 21.5 gallons.

    My 2005 Ford Expy fuel usage by computer is optimistic also. This may be by design.

  14. The one time we went up to Sparta, casual inquiries led us to believe that Internet service there was spotty and slow. The people we talked to mentioned DSL.

    I use AT&T DSL at both the house and office. The house DSL is 18 mb/s. The office DSL (we have two lines) is 12 Mb/s. They are not slow.

    I use a Peplink 30 to merge the two DSL lines at the office. Works well since we have many users. No one user can use both lines though. We cannot get Ipv6 through the Peplink which I consider to be a blessing.

  15. Yeah, but you live in a fairly built up area, so your runs are probably pretty short. We might end up at the end of a very long run of copper.

  16. Yup, the house run is just 1,500 ft away from the DSLAM in our neighborhood which has fiber going out.

    The office run is about two miles away from the CO in Booth, Texas. I actually have a 25 pair cable pulled from the CO to my office of which we are using 8 pairs at the moment. There is fiber on the front edge of my office property but AT&T wants $20K to put in a fiber switch plus $1,000/month for access. Way too much! I need to recheck those prices again as that was three years ago.

  17. We were having crappy service and interruptions with Comcast here a couple of months ago, and our neighbor told us likewise; so, we contacted them via email on-site and phone. A couple of days later a tech came out and climbed up against the corner of the house where all the wires and cables come in; I’d cut away a bunch of vines and brush to give him access. He found a corroded antenna relay and replaced it; bingo, service back up and running. He also noticed the wire coming in to us from the pole fifty feet away, which was theirs, was kinda crappy so he said he’d back with another guy the following week. They came and got up there and replaced that and we’ve had zero problems or interruptions since.

    I heard horror stories about Comcast from the guys in the NHLUG for many years as they have a monopoly over there, ditto many horrors told online. But with this, and other services that local customer service people and techs handle, we’ve had good luck. These guys live in town so have additional motivation to Do the Right Thing.

  18. Did my Monday dump/recycling run and my guy down there told me he’s “retiring” from his gun-smithing gig soon, i.e., it will be “paperless” from now on. You get the drift, amirite? He’s got a full-scale CNC machine in his basement that his dad scarfed from his old engineering job ages ago when the company folded. I helped him out recently with some IT security consultation, so we are mutually beneficial guys to know in the area here; his sidekick down at the “recycling” center is a fellow ‘Nam vet, Army Corps of Engineers in the Central Highlands there, before my time.

    That’s one of at least two things I don’t see emphasized enough in all the prepper lit; building neighborhood, community and social relationships if you don’t enjoy those already, and the other factor is physical health and condition. If TSHTF bad enough, life is gonna get a lot harder for most of us out here, involving more grunt and scut work to keep things going; the more genuine friends we have and the better shape we’re in can only help.

  19. My experience with the local Comcast personnel has been quite good. They come and fix stuff that was not part of the original problem. Checking signal levels and verifying all the connections. Last trip they replaced the amplifier because they no longer carried the old amplifier. Had the wrong transformer on the older amp that did put out enough current. Fixed all that up.

    What I do find strange is that every tech does the splitters differently saying what I had was incorrect. Now I don’t have splitters, just the amplifier.

    Guy is local and knows me from the football and basketball games.

  20. Ya know, now I’m wondering if our local techs do better with us ’cause we show an interest in what they’re doing and can talk with them about it on their level, and they get that and so try to do the best they can for us, and that’s whether it’s on the phone, online chat window or on-site. I go out and chat with ’em and shoot the breeze and suchlike; maybe they’re used to hysterical ninnies or totally indifferent jerks who expect miracles immediately or something, I dunno. In any case, I have zero complaints with Comcast thus fah.

    Oh, and the kid who came out for the original install belongs to the same gun range up the road as me. Bingo!

  21. Comcast reliability and service took a huge step up when they started offering phone service. There are some regulatory issues, and people expect their phones to Just Work (TM).

    What they will do is leave you provisioned for your old level of service, even if there is a new plan that gives more for the same or less $. And they take older customers more for granted than new. It’s worth calling them every year or so and threaten to quit because you can get a better deal elsewhere. They almost always find some thing or other to spiff you.


  22. @RBT
    ” … and I’m certainly not prone too micro-managing.”

    I considered the possibility that you were deliberately trying to prove your point. Nah. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), amirite ?? Just kidding. 🙂

    Re: the “microsecnod” — at least this blog allows one to go back and edit one’s post, fix all the inescapable typos, for a little while anyway. Thank you for that.

  23. “There are some regulatory issues, and people expect their phones to Just Work (TM).”

    Yeah, we pushed on both phones and net; need both for our work (or looking for work, etc.).

    “…leave you provisioned for your old level of service…”

    This has been our first rodeo with them; we had Fairpoint before that, with nary a problem for years, but it went haywire when they went on strike and had facilities down right at the same time we tried to switch over to a biz account. Many weeks w/o net or landline phones. (other than piggybacking on the town hall’s wireless, which sucked most of the time).

    “… fix all the inescapable typos…”

    I’m an English major and a biblioholic, and even I make the occasional typo, which really frosts my ass, ’cause I won’t see them until I’ve hit “Post Comment.” About a nanosecnod later, in fact….

  24. In my volunteer work, I get to see our local Mediacom techs as often as I want. They are friendly and competent, but the physical plant is old and fails frequently. They can fix anything, and even respond reasonably fast, now that we upgraded to business class service. BUT, the system is crap and needs a good overhaul, and there is no money. Their competition is, uh… no one. Hmm. Another (local) government approved monopoly.

    At my home, I have Verizon DSL and landline. They are seeking CA Public Utilities Commission approval to sell wireline service to Frontier. Florida and Texas are already agreed upon, because no state approval is apparently required. I went to the public meeting and found out just how bad the network is. So, if approved, we will be going from a rich company that won’t spend a dime to a willing one that doesn’t have a dime.

    Meanwhile, there is a promising chap who is working on offering point to point wireless (PTP) service using the new Digital 395 fiber backbone. I hope he succeeds. I visited his operation, and he looks good. Just hope he has enough money to get off the ground.

    At the same time, there is a committee that wants to dig and run fiber to all the homes in town. THAT will cost, and they are unsure how to get money. I really wish they would consider PTP. From what I know, it is much cheaper, and although the common speed is shy of what fiber can offer, it is Good Enough (TM.)

    The fiber in those areas RBT is considering apparently was financed partly with fedgov money. There’s the rub: our small town is slightly too big, and is served (in part) by the cable company, which qualifies as broadband. Also, our median household income level is too high to qualify for anything.

    Ah, life in the slow lane. It is soooo peaceful.

  25. Have you thought about buying an empty block where you want it and having a house built for you from screatch? I can’t believe you haven’t found anything suitable yet.

  26. having a house built for you from screatch

    I don’t really know what “screatch” is unless it is to annoy OFD, a confessed biblioholic.

    Anyway, another option, is to buy such a lot and have pre-manufactured home placed on a foundation on the lot. They are not trailer type homes (double wide) but are modules built in a factory and put together on-site using a crane. The homes that are available are quite nice when configured in such a manner and are difficult to distinguish from a lot built home. Only real clue is when you are inside and notice all the plumbing is on one side of the home. When placed on a foundation the homes qualify for a full mortgage.

  27. “I don’t really know what “screatch” is unless it is to annoy OFD, a confessed biblioholic.”

    Synonym of scratch, what he fantasizes about doing to Hillary’s and Chelsea’s backs, and having them do it to him in return… 🙂

  28. Synonym of scratch, what he fantasizes about doing to Hillary’s and Chelsea’s backs, and having them do it to him in return

    Thanks for ruining my day. I will not be able to get the word, nor the image out of my head. At least he not scratching the front.

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