For want of a nail


A few things are missing.

I am back in the Mothhouse, on the very border between Middle Moth and Outer Moth. (There seems to be no Inner Moth, for which we should probably be thankful, given the imagery.)

Today was a snowy day, and the first such this winter in the Kristiansand area. Even here in Norway, it seems there are a number of people each year who are taken by surprise by the first snow, and more than that, are unaware of this, so that they dare to hare off on worn summer tires.   If they are lucky, they may just gently slide off the road.  If they are less lucky, collisions may occur.  In any case, it is predictable that traffic in the morning will be slow at best, stalled quite likely. This was the case this year again.  I showed up for the bus that would take me to work well within the starting time I have agreed with my boss.  The bus did not show up however.  I waited for about 40 minutes. Not only did the bus not come, but there came no bus the other way either.  This says something, because the buses that go to the city are the same that come from the city, having first taken a lengthy trip into the countryside and back.  If no bus had passed in those 40 minutes, no bus would return for the next 20 at least.  I went back home and thawed out.

I made another unsuccessful attempt later.  But close to noon the buses were suddenly running almost on time again. I hear some car had been standing partly into the road on the way into the city, and during rush hour (which is much longer on slippery snow) it was hard to get past it.

Still, I got to work eventually, even if late.  That’s time I have to work in later, but for today, I left at 17 (5PM) so as to catch the bus to Møll. I fell asleep briefly but soon woke up again, long before I needed to. But it is hard to judge distances when you are unfamiliar with the route. Not to mention when you are asleep.  Anyway, I turned on the GPS on my Googlephone and tracked our progress on Google Maps.  (So could you, if you were using Google Latitude, where I am a member and automatically broadcasting my position to my friends.  Since only one of my online friends live on the south coast of Norway at all, however, this is not particularly useful.  And even she lives in Kristiansand, not anywhere near Mandal, much less Møll. Still, if curiosity gets the better of you, Google Latitude.

I got two mails from the new landlord today.  The heat pump was finished and working!  The double bed was moved up to the upstairs master bedroom.  New locks were installed and the whole house was now lockable. And a (physical) mailbox was put up with my name and address.  Those of you who actually want the address are advised to ask me for it, as I don’t want criminal elements to stop by when I am not at home, something they are unlikely to do unless I give out the address in public.  After all, there has been no crime in this area before I came here, and I want to do my part to keep it that way.  Some of you do have a legitimate interest in knowing my soon to be physical address, however, so mail me at the usual address. My handle is itlandm and you can reach me using either or as address. I read them both.

I had already planned to take a trip here today anyway, and was carrying a rucksack with various stuff from home. Soap and a towel for the bathroom (missed when last I was here). Articles of manly and not particularly intimate hygiene: Shaving gear, deodorants and such.  Thick socks, of which I am currently wearing a pair that my mother knitted for me, with lots of love I’m sure, decades ago.  When I lived in the original Chaos Node, the floor was heated electrically. There was no need for thick socks.  But even I don’t lightly throw away a mother’s love socks, so they ended up in a plastic bag in the dresser.  When I moved to Chaosnodeland, I brought along the socks, but did not actually know what was in the plastic bag and never got around to unpack them until today, when I looked for stuff to bring over to the Mothhouse.

When I came to the bathroom with the stuff, I noticed that there was no place to hang the hand towel. In fact, there is not even a holder for the toilet paper.  The walls are utterly bare, not as much as a nail.  Going around the house, I found the same blank surfaces in the kitchen and living room.  In the home office, however, the nails are not just absent. They are conspicuously absent. There are numerous holes of varying sizes where there must at one time have been nails or screws of some kind, but where there is now only a hole into the dark unknown beyond.  Oh well. There are surely ways to hang towels, not to mention toilet paper, and clothes (in the room immediately inside the front door, there is no hint of clothes-hanging remedies either).  I guess it is left to me to decide the final look of the house.

EDIT: Came home safely, despite the slippery roads. Yay!  I had a while to wait for the bus, because of the slippery roads and the snow plows and the flurries, but the bus trip itself was uneventful. For us, that is. We passed several large trucks that stood in the road, seemingly unable to advance even a moderate slope.  Reports from earlier years is that these are from further south in Europe and don’t have the equipment required here in Norway.

I had not deep cough or chest tightness today.  This supports the theory that it was the dust in the home office that caused it last time. (The room was thoroughly vacuumed.)  Although it could be the double bed, which was also removed from the home office in the meantime.  This is highly unlikely though. If they had down-filled pillows or duvets, I would have reacted with a bad allergy, but there was only mattress and cover mattress.  Besides, my feather allergy used to be more similar to a head cold than a chest cold.

Onward to the heat pump.  It is truly an amazing invention, although I am not sure how much power it actually draws.  I am told that heat pumps can deliver close to five times as much heat as a normal electrical heater for the same power, but I am not sure if this is the same across different inner and outer temperatures.  In any case, standing in front of it was like standing in a warm summer breeze. A warm summer breeze smelling faintly of chemicals, but even so. I expect that to fade within the first few days. It was running when I arrived, and I left it that way.  It is currently heating most of the house. It stands on the far wall of the home office, the one that is on one end of the house.  It points directly at the door at the other (inner) side, which  is currently open to the small hallway inside the front door.  Opposite the home office is the living room, and the door there is also open, so the warm wind can blow straight across all three rooms, although it is in practice not strong enough for that.  The heat is mostly moving passively through normal circulation from the home office to the hallway to the living room.  Oh, and the living room is open to the kitchen.  There is a door opening but not an actual door in it. From the kitchen there are two more doors again, but those I kept closed.  One leads to an outer room, poorly insulated it seems, used for storage only and with another door out.  The other door is to the inner hallway which connects to the bathroom and the shed/garage, and which also holds the staircase to the upper floor with the bedrooms. So if I had opened the door to the inner hallway I could basically have heated the whole house from the heat pump, although I have my doubts that it would be able to pull that off in winter.

While I was writing in the living room, I noticed a change in the sound, and right after my feet started growing colder.  I went into the home office and looked at the heat pump.  The power light was blinking, and the air that came from the heat pump was icy clod.  Luckily the fan was not running so the cold air was just kind of passively running down on the floor, where it slowly spread out.

Luckily I still had the user handbook.  It explained that what I saw was the process of thawing the outside unit. This makes sense:  When the air was just one degree over the melting point of ice, and snow was still coming down, carrying massive amounts of heat into the house was bound to cause the outside unit to fall well below the freezing point. I went outside and brushed the snow and ice of the unit. Really, it ought to have at least a small half roof to shield it from the snow. Anyway, it soon reverted to the normal flow of heat into the house. It is pretty impressive, really, to pump that much heat into the house when it is freezing outside! I understand in theory the physics of it, but I am still impressed.

I could probably tell more, but it is midnight and I am quite sleepy after all the fast walking in the snow.

EDIT2: The previous time, I asked the bus driver to help me get off at Outer Moth.  This time I followed the movement of the bus on my mobile phone using GPS, and pressed the stop button shortly before we came to the same place.  I was feeling pretty good about myself. The driver – another one this time – asked me: “Are you sure this is where you want to get off?” “Sure, thank you” said I.  And it was indeed the same bus stop where I went off the bus two days ago.  It was, however, not the closest bus stop to the Mothhouse. While looking for my shiny new physical mailbox, I realized that it was actually placed at a bus stop (although the bus sign was covered entirely in thick snow).  While there is only a pleasant stroll between the two, this later stop is the actual Outer Moth stop, the driver last time let me off at the last stop of Middle Moth. (I am having so much fun with these names.)  The Middle Moth stop actually services a farm or two and seemingly nothing else, so the bus driver was quite right to be surprised if he has been at this for a long time and know who lives there.

So I seem likely to get even less fresh air than before, after moving to the Mothhouse – unless I do something pointless just to be outdoors.  I may do just that, though, because it is a beautiful place in daylight.  Which, unfortunately, there is very little of at this time of the year.  But walking for half an hour home from the evening bus, fast enough to not freeze, should fill my exercise quota for the day!

5 thoughts on “For want of a nail

  1. I begin to think that what I think of as a heat pump and what you describe are different things . . .

    You need what we got Jenna when she was so small that the reach from the toilet to the installed-into-the-wall toilet paper holder was too much of a reach for her. It’s a metal stand with a t.p. holder at the top and a magazine (in her case a Dr. Seuss book) holder at the base. It worked well. And if you don’t want to screw anything into the wall, they make little towel-holders with bases similar to vanity-type mirrors that just sit on the countertop.

    It is nice to hear about the socks, too. That made me happy.

    Now for the big, funny coincidence: Central Texas may get its first snow (in a LOOOONG time) tonight! We have a good chance of snow tonight and an even better chance tomorrow. Temps are not supposed to get much, if any, above freezing. I’m hoping for a day off from school. God knows I could use one. (And it’s only the week after Thanksgiving. Tells you something about the way this year is going, huh?)

    • Definitely a heat pump. Wikipedia has a long and somewhat technical article on the topic. As expected, the efficiency is less than advertised. Also as expected, heat pumps are not actually more efficient than a normal space heater when temperature outside falls below the freezing point. If the landlord had invested more, we could have used the river (10 yards away!) as a heat sourche and retained a constant efficiency of about 3.5 times the electical input all year. On the other hand, air gives better effect when you need it less, during fall and spring. And in Norway, fall and spring have lately grow to encompass more of the year than they did in my childhood.

      Since landlord makes a living from building houses, lack of wood for the wood stove is unlikely to ever be a problem. You know firsthand how much leftover wood even a minor upgrade creates. He has generously promised to keep the shed stocked with free wood. Consequently, I will likely rely on wood burning during the frost days – once my fascination with the heat pump wears off, at least!

      Keep us updated on the Texas snow, will you? It is not something one hears about every day!

  2. I wish I’d been able to take pictures today.

    It snowed, and BOY did it snow! If I weren’t so stuck in Fahrenheit it would be more comfortable for you, I’m sure, but . . . I’m stuck there.

    It began to snow about 7:00 AM, just as I was leaving for school. It snowed a bit off and on all morning (Jeff locked himself out of the house in the snow and I had to go back, but that’s another story), but at the beginning of third period it was really beginning to come down in large flakes. The temperature had hovered just above 32 degrees all morning, so little to none of it was “sticking”, but the temperature had fallen to 31 degrees by the beginning of third period, and these large flakes began to accumulate a bit.

    It was so pretty! My sixth graders are my joy this year, and they were scheduled to take a test today, but we went out for a few minutes at the beginning of class to play in the snowflakes for a while. There was none on the ground yet.

    Eventually I brought them back inside and gave them their test. I had even set my room up with all the student desks facing my desk this morning so that I could watch them for cheating, but my eyes kept straying to the window, as did the kids’. No cheating went on today, I’d be willing to bet! And as we watched, the snow doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled in intensity! It was really coming down! And the temperature kept falling! It finally got down to 26 degrees by the time the kids finished their test, and it had already accumulated about 1.5 inches! There was about 15-20 minutes left in the class period, so I told them to bundle up, and we went outside again. This time we went to the rear of our building, between our school and the high school. I warned them before we went outside that they were not to hit each other with snowballs, and they were not to get down onto the ground. They had such fun! So did I! IT WAS GREAT! We just had to get out into it, because it isn’t every year (or five, or ten) that we see this kind of snowfall!

    Anyway, we had been playing for a few minutes, noticing the occasional high school student coming around the corner and looking at us, when all of a sudden . . . JARED came barrelling around the corner with a huge snowball, which he immediately launched at me, smacking me in the back with it! He then threw himself onto the ground and began vigorously making the sorriest excuse for snow angels I’ve ever seen! In the heavy jacket I’d just washed for him the night before! I just laughed and hoped that Jenna was being allowed to play like we were. (She was!) Then we went inside and the kids warmed up for the last ten minutes or so.

    About thirty minutes later the sun came out, and within thirty minutes of the sun coming out the snow was almost entirely gone. Not a vestige remained this afternoon. I am so glad I took the opportunity to take my kids outside in it when I did! It only got up to 37 degrees today, but that was enough. It is supposed to get down to near 20 tonight, and then a bit warmer tomorrow with no chance of more snow. 🙁

    • Wow, snow must be really uncommon down there! I am glad y’all had a memorable experience, and hope not too many of you caught a cold…

      (And I still think the world would be a slightly better place if you had a larger audience, but hey, I realize you have a lot of things to do.)

  3. Yes, snow is very uncommon. When I was growing up in north Texas, we got snow a couple of times per winter, maybe three. On the south side of our house it would drift pretty high (to us, of course), maybe a couple of feet. We were lucky to get 3-4 inches at a time. One time in March, in the middle of spring break, we actually got almost a foot of snow. We got little kids’ hard plastic swimming pools and slid down the sides of the overpasses. Nobody has sleds, since there is no snow (and almost no hills). The only time we had a ewe that had lambs, she chose that time to have them, and one of them died.

    Since moving to central Texas we have had several memorable, horrific sleet storms, but only one snow before today that I was present for. (I was not in San Saba then, of course.) Do you remember when I sent the pictures of Jeff and the kids playing in the snow? Jenna was about three years old, Jared was about eight. I made a little webpage and sent them to everyone I knew. I was just looking at those photos the other day.

    (My days are very pedestrian, with petty complaints and observations. I can’t imagine anyone would want to hear much other than in a conversational way, and I’m sure that sometimes that is too much! I think it would be mind-bogglingly dull and tedious for the reader. It makes me appreciate those who continue to correspond with me despite this fact!)

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