The valve on the furnace conked out a couple of days ago. That's why the furnace has not been working. The HVAC guys came by today and confirmed that the valve was dead, but they didn't have one handy so I get to spend the night in a heat-less house... again.
Therefore I finally decided to play with the fireplace. I'm quite happy that I have a fireplace now. That and my portable electric heater shall make the important parts of my house reasonably comfy (with a few layers) for the night. It's not freezing or anything, but it's cool enough out that having no heat in the house is kinda sucky. Oh well. They joys of having an old house. On the plus side though, they said that what I had in mind for the retro-fit of the heating & cooling is do-able in the house. Not necessarily cheap, but they've worked with us in the past and if I offer them the next 2 duplexes, they might be inclined to give me a good deal on the new stuff some months from now. We'll see.
I discovered something about my fireplace this evening. It used to have gas. On a worrying note, I'm not positive that the gas line that's still sitting there doesn't have gas. It's highly unlikely since I have already traced the main gas line to all the appliances and there wasn't any obvious line out to the fireplace, but still. I don't like it there. This will need to be changed, just for my own peace of mind.
Yet another thing to add to the list.
I'll post more later. Right now, my hands are getting cold. Time to go back to the warmth of the fire.