Almost electric

I was surprised Sunday morning to find a Georgia Power crew parked at the driveway of our new house.


The small (looking) white box at the right rear wheel of the rightmost truck is an old dishwasher that someone dumped at the side of our driveway sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. They pulled up far enough that they weren’t really visible from the street. The fact that someone would discard a kitchen appliance on someone else’s property gives you some idea of what a substantial minority (I hope) of our population is like here in Georgia. I will call the county to report it Monday morning. I found a footprint from the culprit next to the dishwasher. Based on the size of my own foot (around 10 1/2), the person who did it may either be or be related to Bigfoot.

One of the Ga Power crew said they were trying to catch up on work that has been delayed because of the rainy weather we have had. I’m still surprised they were working on a Sunday.

I first saw them when I left the house to walk the dogs. When I came back home I could hear their little backhoe banging on the rock that underlies the entire building site. Fortunately, they said they had little trouble digging through it.

They laid the cable from our temporary power post to the front of the house where our meter will be. Here is the backhoe working near the contorted maple we saved to haunt our front yard.


Of course we wanted the electric meter to be located at the rear of our house, but the engineer said that they had to put it on the front to minimize the distance they had to run the cable. I don’t think the difference is all that great, but apparently it’s enough that the engineer was worried about voltage drop over that difference.

I didn’t post about the visit by the I-joist manufacturer’s representative. He came out on February 17 to see the damage that the plumber caused. Based on his inspection, he thought it should be relatively easy to repair two of the damaged joists. The third will take a little more work, but it’s nothing the framer isn’t familiar with. The engineer is supposed to provide a letter specifying how the damage can be repaired properly, which I will have to show the county building inspector before he will pass the framing. I haven’t heard from the engineer yet. I hope it won’t take much longer.

Huevos and stoves

I have had wood-burning stoves where I lived for about 30 years, from the little mobile home I lived in for six years when I moved to Huntsville, to the house I bought near the little town of Gurley, to the house where Leah and I live now. So, naturally, I wanted a wood stove in our new house. This time, instead of putting it in the basement, we’re putting it in the living room, so we wanted something that will look good even when it’s not providing heat.

There isn’t much in the way of choice in Rome, so a few weeks ago I drove down the Martha Berry Highway (US 27) to the small town of Bremen, not far from Interstate 20, to Bollen’s, which has a large selection of stoves. I was looking for a stove that would be small enough not to run us out of the living room with too much heat, but large enough that I can duct some of the heat into the bedroom and bathroom. I found several smaller stoves that would work. I took some pictures and brochures home for Leah to see. So on Wednesday we drove back down to make our decision.

Along the way we stopped at El Nopal in Cedartown for our traditional huevos rancheros.


Nopal is Spanish for cactus. The fruit of the nopal is called “tuna” in Mexico. In the US, it seems that the cactus and the fruit are called prickly pear, which is a native here, too, although we don’t eat them.

Every restaurant prepares their ranchera sauce differently. We like the way it’s prepared at Los Portales, our nearest Mexican restaurant. El Nopal’s was different, but good. We don’t usually eat the tortillas, but El Nopal’s were almost fluffy in a flat kind of way, so I ate a couple. Good.

After Leah ate and I stuffed myself, we continued on to Bollen’s, where we picked out our new stove.

leah and the stove

It’s a smallish Hearthstove Tribute, which is made with soapstone rather than plate steel or cast iron. The iron framework is covered with what is called brown majolica enamel. The stove manufacturer doesn’t describe how they coat the iron, but it may be a porcelain coating, which would explain the term “majolica.” In any case, it looks very nice. It was available in a pale, blue-green majolica enamel, but everyone thought the dark, reddish brown would go with more colors. That’s a good thing, since we haven’t selected the wall colors for the living room.

There are other, larger soapstone stoves in the background. Soapstone and iron or steel stoves have somewhat different heating profiles. An iron or steel stove heats more quickly, but soapstone absorbs more heat before it begins to radiate, so it heats the room more slowly. On the other end of a heating cycle, iron or steel also cool more quickly, so a soapstone stove should provide at least some useable heat longer than an equivalent iron or steel stove. I hope it will also moderate the heating so that the living room doesn’t get too hot.

I’m used to flat black iron or steel, which can be fairly decorative, but this stove is really pretty. We thought that would be a good thing, since the stove will be a prominent part of our living room décor, even when it’s just sitting there without a fire.

We left the stove at the store, since we can’t install it or even store it in the house yet. I think we’ll be ready for that in about three or four weeks, depending on when we get an engineer’s letter for repairing the joists that the plumber damaged.

The City Clock

Robert Redden, a locally well-known pen-and-ink artist, sent my parents a card in 1970. It shows a rendering of Rome’s most famous (again, locally) structure, the City Clock, or the Clock Tower.


The brick tower was built in 1872 to house a water tank, Rome’s first source of piped drinking water. A year later a large, white clock was added to the top. The tower stands on Neely Hill (now often called Clock Tower Hill), two blocks from downtown. It’s visible from much of the immediate city. It’s also visible from our new house.

This is our view east off the front porch of our new house looking towards downtown Rome. The arrow indicates the tiny speck that is the City Clock as seen from around eight miles away.


The arrow is pointing towards the Clock Tower.

I zoomed in as much as I could with my little Nikon point-and-shoot to get this shot.


That close to the ground there are air currents, particulate matter and temperature gradients that compromise visibility even on a clear day. The blue sky also tends to give the scene an overall blue tint.

Leah’s mother Venita was a china painter. Here is her rendering.

venita clock tower

This is hanging on our living room wall. My father’s sister Francis did this needlepoint or petit point rendering of the City Clock in 1977.


Here is a photograph Leah and I made Friday night.

city clock

The area several blocks around the City Clock is known as Between the Rivers. This Google Earth image shows why.


The upper river in the image is the Oostanaula. The river at the bottom is the Etowah. They join at the 100 block of Broad Street to form the Coosa River, which then flows into Alabama and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. The building with the green roof to the left of the clock tower is the old US Post Office, where my father worked for many years.

This is a zoomed view.


I labeled the Clock Tower. This view is almost straight down to the clock. The tower’s shadow is visible pointing slightly to the left of up in the image. We took the picture standing near where the “m” is in “Camera.” The street that runs above the City Clock roughly bottom right towards top left is Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is a very steep downhill two blocks to Broad Street. When my father was a kid, he and his friends would time the traffic light at Fifth Avenue and Broad Street so that they could push off on their bicycles right at the base of the clock tower, zoom down the hill and hit a green light on Broad Street. I think he was a lucky kid.

Leah’s father’s family lived about a block from the City Clock. My father’s uncle Charlie lived for a time on Third Avenue.

Some of Rome’s oldest and most impressive homes are in this area. We took our photograph next to, and later on the steps of, a house that recently sold for over $1 million. You can see one of its columns to the left in our picture. This house as well as many of the others in this area are huge monuments to something or other. Conspicuous consumption, I believe.

Although Between the Rivers is a prestigious area, living there does have its drawbacks. One of them is a 32-inch-tall bronze bell at the top of the City Clock that chimes the hours. Every hour. Day and night.

The next time Leah and I are near downtown, I want to use some binoculars to try to see our new house from the City Clock.

Sky with contrails


We have lots of commercial jets flying over us, most probably coming to or from Atlanta. Five of them left their contrails for us to see Sunday morning.

Contrails (condensation trails) are caused by water vapor condensing on tiny particulates in the exhaust of aircraft engines. Today we tend to think that means jet engines, but all engines produce at last some particulates. You may have seen photographs of World War II bombers flying at high altitude leaving contrails. Here’s an example taken by the Army Air Corps during WW II.


The water vapor that causes contrails can come from the water vapor produced by the engine (burning petroleum fuel produces mainly carbon dioxide and water vapor) or water vapor in the surrounding air. The water vapor may not condense into visible droplets if there are no condensation nuclei. Particulates produced in the engine combustion provide the condensation nuclei that are needed. If the air at the altitude where the aircraft is flying is not very humid, a contrail can dissipate quickly. If it is humid, the contrail can stick around for a long time, or even continue to grow and form much larger clouds.

Our skies must have been fairly humid Sunday morning because these contrails remained visible for some time.

If contrails remain visible for long enough, you may be able to see how the wind at altitude can blow in different directions at different locations by the way the line of the contrail distorts. You could also estimate the wind velocity if you were so inclined.

Bob Roper, a professor at Georgia Tech who was on my reading committee, studied what were called meteor winds. He had a radar unit that looked up at very high altitudes, near the top of the atmosphere. Meteors that routinely crash into the upper atmosphere create ionization trails that reflect radar. By measuring the apparent motion of the ionization trails as seen by the radar, the wind velocity can be estimated. If you’re really interested in meteor wind measurements, you can get one of his articles here for $31.50. Or you could probably visit your local university library and ask for help finding atmospheric science journals. I imagine that neither course will be particularly attractive, and I’m afraid the article would be pretty dry anyway.

As one of the very few scientists doing meteor wind measurements in the West, Dr. Roper sometimes got to visit the USSR, where they also did such work. Back in those days, he would be debriefed by the US authorities when he returned. One time the Russians showed him a radar that could look over the horizon and detect, let’s just say for the sake of argument, ships in the Persian Gulf. He thought that was rather odd, since he was really interested only in radars that looked pretty much straight up. He figured that the Russians would expect him to be debriefed when he returned, and that the Russians probably wanted the US to know the USSR could watch US ships from afar.

Fitting in

Sam continues to mold his behavior to fit into out household. He has always been good on the leash, but when I walk Zeke and Sam together, he shows true pack behavior.


He doesn’t always walk that close. Sometimes he finds something of interest and peels off, but he’s right beside Zeke for most of the walk. Sometimes he’s even closer.

Zeke is a very good dog. He is so used to having to stop on the rug at the front door to have his feet dried if it’s wet outside that he often does it even in dry weather. He steps through the front door and immediately sits until I unleash him and tell him to go on. Now Sam is doing the same thing.


I’m holding the leash here, but I didn’t have to use it to stop them.  I think Sam is learning appropriate behavior from Zeke. Lucy, on the other hand, scampers into the living room, wet feet and all, unless I step on her leash.

The two dogs get along extremely well. If you saw the way they roughhouse, you might think there was a serious dispute. But there’s not. (Click the link)


This is fairly mild compared to some of their antics. I was holding my phone with one hand and trying to keep them under control with the other. I would have liked to get a shot of Sam chewing on Zeke’s ear, cheek or neck, but it’s too hard to manage them and the camera when they really go at it.

Sam was off the leash in this case. I have been walking him on the leash lately, mainly because he has developed a limp that seems to be worse after exercise. When he’s off the leash, he doesn’t stay by Zeke’s side; he’s too busy scrambling up and down the mountain. Except when he comes back to chew on Zeke’s ear, cheek or neck.

Zeke and Sam have had two serious disputes, both involving food. Sam is still learning about pack hierarchies when it comes to food. Zeke was trying to teach him about it. It sounded like someone was going to get killed, but even though Sam had slobber on his neck, Zeke never actually bit. And he stopped immediately when I shouted “No!”

The rest of the time, they get along better than I could have expected.