The Russian Prince

I feel like I have charted out most of the family tree that I can, or at least that I want to chart, so I was copying information from to a spreadsheet I have of all the people in the tree. This is pretty good, because it makes me go back and look at people and see if I’m missing anything or if I want to do a little more research. Lately I have been working on the children of Alexander Grant, Jr., who is Mom’s great-grandfather (the son of Scotsman Alexander Grant). He had a lot of kids, mostly born in New Orleans, but at some point after the Civil War they all moved to Pensacola. One of his daughters, Kate Grant, married an Irishman named Martin Sullivan who, with his brother Daniel, started the First National Bank of Pensacola, owned a lot of land in Florida with timber, started a lumber yard, and bought a railroad. He described his occupation on one census as “capitalist” and died a millionaire in 1911. The second in charge at a bank was often the cashier, and the cashier at First National was W. A. S. Wheeler. William Wheeler married another one of Alexander Grant’s daughters, Julia Grant. They had 3 daughters before Julia died at age 32 in 1892 and got a really nice gravestone at Saint Michaels Cemetery in Pensacola. The youngest of William and Julia’s daughters was Emelie Wheeler (spelled “Amelie” later in life). After Julia died, W. A. S. Wheeler moved to Natchez, Mississippi, and Emelie became a New Orleans debutante. She married Robert Irby, the son of a very wealthy tobacco executive in New Orleans named William Irby. William Irby was also a New Orleans philanthropist who saved some historic French Quarter buildings and donated them to schools and museums. Tulane has a dormitory named for him. There is a great article about him here.

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Furnace Trouble

Today is a snow day after yesterday should have been a snow day and wasn’t, causing a huge traffic jam. This morning when I woke up it was 13 degrees outside and the high today was not supposed to go above freezing, so things weren’t looking good for any snow going away. Around noon I noticed it was kind of cold in the house. I checked the thermostat and it was 61 degrees even though it was set on 66 degrees. I played around with the thermostat for a while, lowering the temperature below 61 degrees and then back up to trigger the switch. I could hear the click of the relay, but I wasn’t getting any heat. I went outside and was surprised that the exhaust for the burner was running. I tried turning on the fan only from the thermostat and it seemed like only the return vents were coming on, not the supply vents. My conclusion was the natural gas wasn’t igniting and therefore the furnace wouldn’t run. Since the furnace doesn’t have a pilot light and just lights itself when needed, there isn’t a lot I can do (like light the pilot light or replace the thermistor, which are about the only things I know to do with a furnace; I went ahead and changed the filter once I went down to the crawlspace).
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The Weather

I have been eager to get my natural gas bills to try and determine how well my new furnace is working. It should be a lot more efficient than the old one, plus insulation was added to the attic, the ducts are much more airtight, and a lot of work was done sealing air leaks. But there are also some things going on that make comparisons with previous years more difficult. One is it has been really cold this winter. The other is that Eric is here, so I have changed the thermostat setting and am keeping the house at the same temperature all the time now instead of turning the heat down during the day when I’m at work and at night when I’m asleep.

Right now my natural gas provider is Scana. I have been with them for about 5 months. On their website you can download your bill with the gas usage and cost on it. One thing that happens is one month might have a couple of more or fewer days in it due to the length of the month or where weekends fall for the billing cycle. But the other big variable is the weather. Some Decembers are just colder than others. But that’s a really hard thing to determine. But Scana has some information in their usage section that gives you the average temperature during the billing cycle as well as the number of days where the temperature goes below 30 degrees. I don’t know that I could use those numbers to perfectly determine the right gas usage, but it would help to know that the reason I am using more gas is that it has been significantly colder or warmer than last year. The problem is I haven’t been with Scana for long enough to do a comparison year-to-year (and may not be with them next year).

I have looked on the internet before for past weather information, but I have had a hard time finding it. Nobody really cares about past weather, just present weather and future weather. But I looked again and found that Weather Underground lets you look up historical weather information. That’s maybe not that surprising from Weather Underground, since their site has a tendency to bombard you with tons of data from dozens of different weather stations in your area. The data they have for me comes from Peachtree Dekalb airport, so it should be pretty consistent. I was able to pull up information for an entire year and then export that to a comma-delimited file that I could then import into a spreadsheet. Then it wasn’t too hard to come up with an average temperature for the month and a number of days below 30 degrees (Scana lets you pick any temperature you want, so I set the spreadsheet up the same way). Just comparing December 2013 to December 2012, it was definitely colder this year, with an average temperature of 46.3 in 2013 compared to 48.6 in 2012. In December 2013, it got below 30 degrees on 10 days vs. only 4 days for December 2012. 2010 was significantly colder, but I think the data is wrong because it shows the low on December 12 as -2, which seems very unlikely. If I look for data in a nearby zip code, the low that day was 26, but overall it was a pretty cold month with 16 days below 30 and my gas usage was pretty high then, so maybe the rest of the days are right.

To really get it right, I would need to look at the billing period which tends to go from somewhere around the middle of the month. The key thing is having the data, and I’m not sure I want to go in and enter all of the billing dates (though I keep track of those).

Modem Died

Yesterday Eric and I installed his wi-fi router instead of the one I had. His is newer and the range is supposed to be better, so it should reach to his room better than my router does. The DSL modem I have had been getting very temperamental lately, and if you moved it even a little, it would cut the power to it and then make it restart. After installing the new router, everything worked fine for a little while, but then the DSL connection was lost for some reason. I went to check on it and the modem started flashing all of its lights when I could even get a consistent power connection, which wasn’t that often. I ended up calling tech support and they said my modem was probably faulty. They would sell me a new modem for $75 plus $15 shipping. I said that was too expensive. They then tried to upsize me into a modem that also had wi-fi built in. I said no thanks and asked if I could buy a modem on my own. They said it was possible, but they wouldn’t support it. I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money because I don’t even know how long AT&T will continue DSL service before making people switch to U-verse.

I wanted to research modems, but I didn’t have internet, so that made it kind of difficult. Then I thought there must be a lot of people who have switched from AT&T or Bellsouth DSL to something else that probably have modems they aren’t using anymore. I wanted to post something on our neighborhood bulletin board. But, again, no internet. I even called the next door neighbors and asked if I could get the password to their wi-fi, which they gave me, but it was complicated and I never got it to work. So Eric and I head to Fry’s. We found a combination DSL modem and wi-fi router for about $90. We kept looking and found a DSL modem by D-Link for $50. Looking further, we found a DSL modem by TP-Link for $30, so I got that one. It was a third of the price of the one AT&T wanted to sell me and I would get it today.

I brought it home and it had some instructions for AT&T installation using an installer program. I had to run the installer from a mini CD-ROM which was a little complicated because my DVD drive wasn’t working. I think I had turned it off when I had power supply problems. But I turned it back on in the BIOS and it works fine. The installation was pretty straightforward. I gave it my username and password for AT&T service and I was on the internet pretty quickly. Then I just had to add Eric’s router between the modem and my computer and we were back up and running. Eric had me go to Speed Test to check how fast the connection was and he said it was significantly faster than the last time he measured it (I think it was about 1.2 megabits/sec download speed). Pretty good.

New Netbook

I have been looking around for a new laptop to replace the one I bought five years ago. I wanted a 14″ or 15″ screen, over 4 GB of memory, Intel’s new Haswell processor, and a 6-cell battery, which combined with the efficient Haswell, should give me a lot of run time from the battery. I found a really nice HP for $399 (recently $349) at Best Buy that had 4 GB of memory, but could be upgraded to 8 GB, but the HP has a 17-inch screen and weighed over 6 lbs, making it bulky and pretty heavy.

Office Depot had a little netbook type of thing, called an Asus Transformer T100. While it runs Windows 8.1, it has only 2 GB of memory, internal storage of only 32 GB, and has an Intel Atom processor. It has a small 10-inch screen, no DVD drive, and weighs just over 2 pounds. It has a Micro SD slot (no room for a full-size SD card) and I thought I could double the storage by getting a 32 GB card at Fry’s for $18. It even comes with a basic version of Microsoft Office, all for $329. The “Transformer” part comes in because you can remove the keyboard and have a touchscreen tablet. All the keyboard does is give you a USB 3.0 port (plus keyboard and touchpad). So I was deciding whether to go with the big 17″ laptop, the tiny netbook, or wait for a 15″ laptop like I wanted. I decided on getting the netbook thing. I liked the idea of an iPad size Windows computer. Maybe eventually I will get a bigger laptop as a replacement for my desktop computer.

I’m typing on the Transformer right now. I will post a review after I play around with it for a few days.

2014 Roth

I posted a comment as a follow-up to last year’s Roth IRA purchase. With the stock market up 30% in 2013, I am a little nervous about a correction in 2014, but one area that didn’t do well at all was emerging markets, which lost money, and international stocks in general didn’t do nearly as well as the US market. In 2003, I was going to sell the shares of Janus Overseas because of changes in management, but instead just sold half the shares and used the proceeds to buy shares in Fidelity Diversified International. From then on Janus outperformed Fidelity just about every year and I regretted the decision to reduce my position in Janus. Since the shares in FDIVX are the only ones I have left in my non-IRA Fidelity account, I thought I might sell that position and use it for my IRA purchase.
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