Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slowly Moving Along

After a few small changes to our floor plan to accommodate a ten foot clearance to our lot line, we are moving towards the final plans. John Harris wants to start leveling the lot on March 2nd and start backfilling the three feet needed for the foundation. He has also moved the house to within 50 feet of the road, so we are requesting that he try and move it back to 75 feet from the road, if there are no caves under that portion of the lot.

I have started looking at tankless water heaters as a way to save on energy costs. The problem has been finding one that will run on Butane. All manufactures list natural gas or LP but I can't seem to get a straight answer on Butane. It is only a few thousand BTU's hotter than LP, so I can't imagine there would be a problem. I will also be using Butane for our stove and oven so those are other applications I need to look into.

Other issues that need to be dealt with are a DSL/phone connection and a whole house or connection point UPS (uninterrupted power supply). Do I use diesel or Butane for the back-up generator? Is solar going to be cheaper in the near future?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Disney's Club 33

Working for a large corporation sometimes allows nice perks to wander your way. During my thirty years at AT&T, I was able to participate in many different functions that would normally be off limits to an outsider.

One of the big perks was being the turf technician at Rocketdyne, Santa Susanna Field Labs, just outside the San Fernando Valley, in southern California. It was there that they built and tested the Saturn and Delta rocket engines. They also tested the Space Shuttle engines and worked on the Peacekeeper missile systems. Knowing all the security personel and the AT&T toolbelt on my hips, I was allowed virtually unchecked access to the whole facility. I could sit in the stands and watch the rocket firings or I could go down in the underground control room to watch the firings from twenty different views. In the late '80s the facility was humming. They might do eight or more tests a week.

The other half of the "hill", as Santa Susanna Labs was referred to, was the Dept of Energy. They explored the "nuclear" issues. The first nuclear reactor in the US was at the field labs. It also has the dubious distinction of being the first nuclear reactor to melt down in the US. Unfortunately, this happened in 1959 and wasn't reported to the public until the late 70's. Lawsuits are still ongoing and will probably out live me.

Other perks included working the '84 Olympics in LA, behind the scenes providing communication for President Clinton, weeks on end at the Renaissance Faire, the TV shoots, the Reagan Library. There has been so much, I struggle to recall them all. But there is one which I treasure above them all.
AT&T, being a corporate sponsor of Disney, has a membership in the VERY exclusive Disneyland "Club 33"
( For every real Disney fan, the holy grail is an invitation to the Club 33. It begins with passes to both parks for all the invited. We have been lucky and have had two opportunities to visit the Club. Once for lunch and now, once for dinner.
You press a doorbell near a small sign that just has the numbers "33". Located to the right of the entrance to the Blue Bayou resturant, you might pass it as a prop. A voice asks for your parties name and soon after a non-discript door opens with a hostess in Victorian garb there to greet you and your party. You take a "lift" to the second floor where you are greeted by the Host , who will show you to your table. This time we sat in the "Trophy Room".

Looking around at all the pictures of Mr Disney and his cast of characters, it's amazing the changes in Disneyland thoughout the years. At our table was my former supervisor, John, and his girlfriend, Charlene, our long time friends, John and Chris, and Mischelle and I.

Dinner was a very formal affair and the meal was fabulous. Everyone ordered the Chateaubriand which melted in your mouth like butter. Dessert was a chocolate truffle made with imported Belgium chocolate (one of Disney's favorites). And to top it off, a sniffer of Grand Mariner (this is the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol and that bartender can mix a mean Long Island Iced Tea).

After dinner it was off to the rides. We had "fast passes" for Indiana Jones, so we were able to go to the front of the line bypassing an hour wait.

All too quickly the night came to an end. A stroll down Main Street with its lights bright against the night sky. The sparkles of the the fireworks, the loud boom echoing after the explosion of light. Tinker Bell floats across the sky. Another good day at Disneyland.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Plans Come Alive

It's been a while since my last post and things are moving along rather well. We received the foundation plans and several computer generated views of the house from John Harris, this week. Other than a few minor changes, it is pretty much how I had originally designed the house.

View looking South

View looking West

View looking to the Northwest

1st Floor layout

With the computer generated views, it starts to make the home come alive. We need to make the changes we want and get them back to John as soon as possible so he can make the changes to the foundation plans. Soon after that, John will send us site and elevation plans along with the revised foundation plans.

John has been very easy to deal with and very professional in his business, especially from what you may expect from a third world country. He has given us a "Schedule of Work" along with a schedule of payments. He has requested no upfront payments to start the job and expects to get paid after he finishes each stage of his scheduled work.

Schedule of Work

Schedule of Payments

If everything goes as scheduled, John has given us a completion date of June 8th, just one day after Mischelle's birthday. What a birthday present!