The house in in a very Heisenburgian state at the moment.

The damage is more extensive than we thought before; we found out that all but one of the radiators actually broke, and that last we're not sure survived except that we couldn't see any water in the carpet and the clean-up
crew couldn't find any traces of leakage, so we're assuming it's safe. However, the carpet in the living room and den had to be scrapped, the hardwood floor in the third bedroom will need to be rebuilt, a section of plaster wall in the kitchen has to be redone, and a new heating system has to be installed.

This sounds rather disastrous, but we're saved from much of the horror by a few key points:

Insurance is paying for all of it.
This is a key point in this being a good thing. They've said that we're covered by our homeowners' policy, so the only part of this that has to come out of pocket is the cost of the deductible, which for us is five hundred dollars. This has saved me many sleepless nights.

We can make improvements instead of strict repairs.
This makes point number one above even cooler: we're not limited to just putting back in the same as what we had before. Technically speaking, it means we have whatever it would've cost to repair the previous systems as a budget towards making whatever upgrades and modifications we want. This means that instead of going back to that nasty coal furnace, we can rip all of that out and put in an oil furnace and an electric hot water heater. This will save us not in money, but in emotional heartache when we go on vacation again and don't make it home for three weeks.

Jessie can get her act together before we move in.
The sudden rush to get into the place by the end of February put a real cramp on her plans to have herself ready by that same time. Delaying the move-in date will give her a chance to actually prepare and feel ready to move into the new place.

However, all of these things are balanced on the other hand by some at-this-point rather frustrating factors:

I don't know what's happening right now.
This sounds strange, but it's pretty much out of my hands at this point what happens to the place. I mean, it's my house, but I'm only directing the overview of what I want to see done. In addition to both of the
above-mentioned changes, we're also looking at getting an electrician to come in and fix a lot of the wiring in the place; all of the plugs read either as "open ground" or as "reversed hot/neutral", which are apparently both Bad Things. However, at this opint, aside from lots of equipment set up in the house to dry the place out, I really don't have any sense that anything is actively being done, or even if there's anything that
can be done right now.

I have no timeline for repairs.
This one's sort of an extension of the former problem. I don't have any idea when we're going to be able to move into the place. It's certainly not livable now; there's no water for bathing, and that would get unpleasant fast. However, that means we're probably going to be stuck in the apartment for another month, and that's annoying. Again, insurance will cover it if need be, but after getting so geared up to move, having to cool my heels in this apartment with all its problems is really getting tiresome.

I have no price estimates.
I said above that insurance is covering the cost, but that's not exactly true. What actually happens is more like the following: 
  1. The insurance company calculates what it will cost to repair the existingsystem.
  2. The insurance company takes that figure and determines what can be built for that cost or less that's as good as what's currently present.
  3. The homeowners make requests for other things to be done with the budget, and these changes are factored in.
  4. Any difference between the total cost of work done and the estimated budget, plus deductible, is sent to the insured as a bill.
This means that we may get a bill for the repairs anyway, but I have no idea for how much, and even though no matter what it is I'm going to pay it because we have to have the repair work and it's better to make the fixes we want before we move into the place, it's still kind of a sore point that I have no idea how much money I've obligated myself to spend at a time when I really don't want to outlay more than I must to get things back to functional.

Suffice to say, the house is an ongoing project, but it will be for a while. I'm trying to find ways to make the problems into opportunities, but I'm still irritated by the current status of things.

In other news, the diet-and-exercise front seems to be having a slow-but-marked effect. I say slow when what I mean is barely-noticable, 'cause right now I'm still sort of hovering, but at least as of today's measurements there's an actual loss. It's not much, but it's something. I thought about deleting the first day's worth of measurement, but that makes the final number look worse, even if it makes the measured loss look better.

I added a fancy chart to the weight tracking page, but I didn't want that being redrawn every time someone hit the page, 'cause it only changes on a daily basis, not a however-often-anyone-actually-looks-at-it basis. That meant a recoding of the perl that created the page, and ultimately it now generates not only the chart and the graph but the entire page, instead of just being a plugin that shows the chart. I wasn't expecting to do that when I started, but it ended up making sense.

It's another one of those signs that my job is actually doing something good for me. It's improving my programming skills, even if it's doing so in small, not-really-measurable ways. Working with people like Bennie has helped. He's definitely taught me a lot. I just hope I've been as informative. 

There was a time when I thought, "I'll never enjoy coding as a hobby; it's something I do for money, not for fun." Now I've got both this chart and FormBot to prove that wrong.

There's an old quotation from Star Trek, of all places: "Kagan's Law of First Contact: 'You'll surprise you more than they will.'"

Oh, the joys of homeownership.

As noted in the previous entry, Jessie and I went out of town for two weeks. One thing I didn't note in the previous entry, because I didn't think about it, was the state of the coal-hopper in our new house.

Yes. Coal-hopper. I'm still shocked too.

We discovered that the house was coal-heated when we first inspected it. The then-current owners had actually converted the house to coal from some other heating system, saying it was dirt-cheap to power and provided
them with ample heat. They have, in fact, converted their new house to coal as well, because they like it so much. Did I mention before that the previous owners were weird?

At any rate, the house is powered by a coal furnace. We didn't get a manual for the furnace when we bought the place, but the owners were at one point to meet with us before we went on vacation to impart their wisdom on the operation of the heater. Unfortunately, we had to take care of replacing the car the day that we had scheduled to meet with them, and then we never managed to reschedule, so we never got any instructions on how to manage the furnace or any vital information about its operating parameters.

Information like, say, how quickly the coal-hopper typically empties under standard operating loads.

Last night, we went out to the house to deliver another load of boxes, and the place was frigid when we entered. We could see our breath even once the front door had been closed, so immediately we knew the fire in the furnace had gone out, and I went into the basement to restart it.

While I was down there refilling the hopper, Jessie called for me to come up and have a look at something that might suggest restarting the furnace right now was a bad idea.

I returned to the living room, and Jessie pointed to an irregular dark patch on the carpet that most definitely hadn't been present when we left. On closer inspection, we found that it was a patch of ice, near the base of the

Now, here I must digress for a moment and once again say that the old adage, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," has never been more applicable to anyone than me. The realtor said that the heater was a "forced air" heater, which I thought meant that the furnace piped superheated air through the radiation system, which heated the pipes to a degree that they radiated heat, which is what one expects a radiator to do. So, if the heater ever went out, no biggie. The house would be cold for a while, but it would warm easily enough once I got the fire started. 

Turns out I was almost right, or maybe he was almost right. The radiators had water in them, not air.

Of course, everyone should be able to guess where the story goes from here. Some time during our trip out of town and the subsequent work week of hell, the furnace ran out of coal. When that happened, naturally, the fire died. The temperature then dropped sharply over the last few days, to below the freezing point. The water, without heat, quickly froze in the pipes, and four of the radiators cracked. One actually didn't just crack; it burst. The third bedroom, thankfully the one with the hardwood floor, had a thin sheet of dirty black ice covering most of the floor, and a four-inch-by-one-inch section of the radiator itself had broken free. Thankfully, the two in the
carpeted bedrooms were actually undamaged.

This was all quite a shock to the both of us, neither of whom had ever lived with a coal furnace before.

I called the insurance company last night, and in forty minutes I have to call them again to actually speak with the claims department. Then I have to load up the car with boxes again and take them out to the house, along with
the camera and space heater I've borrowed temporarily from Bennie. The camera is for getting pictures of the damage, and the space heater is so I can work without having parts of my body freeze in the process.

Fortuitously, the insurance company called as I was making this post, and they said that frozen pipes are covered under my policy. In fact, frozen pipes are the only times under which this sort of thing is covered. so we've managed to get this under our policy. They're going to have an emergency clean-up company contact me in the next few hours, and I'm going to call a plumber and schedule actual repairs, the bill for which I can forward to the insurance company for reimbursement.

While I'm at it, I'm going to switch to an electric boiler. Filling the hopper last night and cleaning up the ash generated a huge volume of dust, which Jessie's lungs just won't handle well because of her asthma. It'll be more expensive in the long run, but as my friend JonBuck said the other night, there's no way to put a price on peace of mind.