Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From Hardship Springs Yet More Hardship

So yesterday, Tuesday, I took the day off and went to see Doc Teaspoon again, with a view to identifying why my left ear is still whistling like a ten year old trying to nick sweets from a tobacconist. The doctor sent me for another series of tests and concluded that my left ear was perfectly normal, but my right one had mutinied and was filling with fluid. What with the tendonitis in my left foot and my left elbow, life is certainly throwing me a few curveballs of late.

Case in point

The Steviemanse Ice-Sheet has finally retreated, and a trip to and from the front door of the fabulous Chateau Stevie no longer involves moves last seen in the finals of the Winter Olympic figure-skating events. The field of wood shrapnel has also been cleared from the path thanks to three days of 50 mph winds that tore through the State over the weekend. Thus it was that upon my return from Doc Teaspoon's Ear, Nose and Throat facility that I observed that one of the steps on my prized front deck was cracked along half its length.

Suspecting that my farsighted decision to put off applying waterproof stain to the deck for one more year had borne the usual fruit, I looked closer and discovered that the problem was not frost heave. What had happened was that the tree limb that fell off the tree last week during the ice storm had actually crashed down onto the deck. Mrs Stevie confirmed this, although at the time she failed to tell me that, preferring to give me a digest of the situation.

"The tree lost another branch" she had said as I staggered into the house with ankles severely sprained from climbing over the debris on the path.

It seems that the limb had a protruding branch that was just the right size, shape and angle to punch a knot out of the step of the deck. Said knot was tapered, with the wide end pointing up. I probably agonised for minutes over which side of the board to show when I designed and built the deck, and would have selected the side with the larger and more attractive knot pattern if the board had none of the other signature features of wood bought at Home Despot: Crush marks from steel banding, corkscrew warping (often in multiple dimensions), deep rents from overly careless forklifting and so forth.

The whole thing was a beautiful example of the application of wedges, Archimedes style. The tree limb had smashed into the deck and the protruding branch had magnified the force of the contact by many times. This magnified mechanical force had been applied directly to a conical knot in the wood and forced it down and through the board. The wedge-like increase in width of the knot's cross section at any given lateral slice through the wood had acted to stretch the wood length- and width-wise. The grain of the plank, running lengthwise had provided a fault along which the plank could relieve the stress by splitting. A very elegant demonstration of basic applied mechanics.

Perhaps Archimedes himself had formulated his treatises on inclined planes, screws and wedges after almost being brained by a frozen tree, having been inspired in the same manner Isaac Newton is said to have been by a falling apple. How fortunate I was to have been given this insight into a possible mechanism for humanity's progress in basic toolmaking: The observation and adaptation of natural events into man-made equivalents. A true vision of what makes humans, er, human.

I must remember to remain impressed by that in the spring, when I have to fabricate a new step for the bloody deck.

Monday, February 26, 2007

And The Award Goes To

So, no Oscar for Peter O'Toole then. Again.

I never watch the Oscars on TV. A bunch of people patting each other on the back who can't put a decent thank-you speech together or stand to listen to one when someone does. The whole thing is stage-managed and long-ago lost what credibility it ever had in the political infighting and studio shenanigans that go into the nominating process.

There are often oversights that are "corrected" in later years by honouring someone overlooked for some historic piece of brilliance in years gone by for what is now an "ok" performance. One feels torn by this sort of thing. On the one hand one feels that justice has been done (as in the Academy finally recognizing Jackson for The Lord of the Rings by awarding him a paperweight for the last installment), on the other one feels sorry for the otherwise deserving awardees who must stand back. Thus are born "Lifetime Acheivement Awards", probably the most worthwhile category in the whole nasty business and hence one not in the list of options, the nearest thing being the rather snippily named "Honorary Award". The name says it all. You're not worth a real Oscar, here's a pretend one.

I know that it's just a different name for the same thing but if your were beaten out of a "Best Actor" for Lawrence of Arabia by Gergory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird), Becket by Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady - I mean, what were the nominating comittee on?), The Lion In Winter by Cliff Robertson (Charly) and (this one is the real jawbreaker) Goodbye Mr Chips by John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn for crying out loud) then I think, twenty five years down the road when the committee are shuffling their feet and looking guilty, that the wording matters.

I did see O'Toole in the opening video collage, being asked why he hadn't won after so many nominations and I thought he gave an absolutely brilliant answer: "Because they gave it to someone else!"

Well done Peter. I'm gratified you got the Honorary Oscar in '03. I wish they'd called it something more applicable to the job they were asking that statue to do though.

The Return of the Panzerfürhen

This morning there was another inch or so of wet inconvenience snow. A little more than the last lot, just enough in fact to trigger the appearance of another Long Island phenomenon, the elusive winter Panzerfüher.

This beast can be identified by its signature habit of setting out onto the roads of Long Island with all its car windows covered in a thick layer of snow, with just the minimum scraped off the windshield and (sometimes) the rear window to actually move the car without resorting to The Force or the help of The Great Kreskin. In extreme cases this can be a simple palm-wide slot in the driver's side of the windshield at eye level, producing an effect evocative of a WWII German tank with the lid closed. Hence the name "Panzerfürhen".

It is not unusual for these idiots to be driving at speed on icy roads and they almost never turn on their headlights either. Not surprisingly, the Suburban Panzerfuhrer typically drives a needlessly large vehicle too, either a bowling alley on wheels like a Caddy Sedan De Ville or a humungous Osamamobile like the Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition.

The Suburban Panzerfürher is so clueless that they often end up in unintended ironic performance art productions. While walking across Wyandanch station car park this morning I saw a brand new, jet black Jaguar parked in it. Out of stall, and with the rear window showing the perfunctory slot carved out by its oblivious owner.

I had to smile. The Jaguar is a high-performance car whose name goes back to the dawn of the British car industry. The Marque has a high cachet even though it is now just a name bolted onto a car made by Ford. One purchases (or, more likely in this case, leases) such a car to tell the world something about onesself. One doesn't buy (or lease) a Jaguar to simply get from A to B. It is a statement that one makes any time one takes it out on the road.

In this case the statement was "I have money my I.Q. doesn't know what to do with".

Honestly. To run a car because everyone knows the name, yet to drive it in a manner more worthy of someone with a rusty truck has to be one of the all-time dumbest things you can do. I guess that in today's "luxury for the sake of it" society the irony of the situation is lost.

Apart from those of us with the magic decoder ring, that is.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Illness Sucks but Me Like Links

I spent the last weekend (a three day weekend too thanks to President George Washington being somwhat popular in these parts) sick and unable to do much of anything. I'm still somewhat ill, so I'll let other people do the writing for me by the sneaky and cheap expedient of linking to their work without their permission.

I did pick up tickets to I-Con from Men at Arms on Monday, and while we were there the Stevieling also successfully agitated for the purchase of the excellent and amusing Order of the Stick game.

If you haven't come across The Order of the Stick yet you obviously don't read "The Dragon" and haven't linked to the comic page of Giant in the Playground where one can pick up the story in progress. The humour comes from the characters being aware of the metadata behind their exsistence as Dungeons & Dragons manly high-stakes poker characters, but you don't have to understand the game to understand the humour if you give it a fair try.

For those who need a more well-known referent, try Shamus Young's brilliant "DM of the Rings" in which the Lord of the Rings is imagined as a Dungeons & Dragons manly high-stakes poker game with typical players as the main characters. The strip has had its low moments, but generally the quality is extremely high.

God I'm tired after all that linking.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Glaciation, Long Island Style

Well, last night's commute was interesting. Mrs Stevie called just as I was leaving for my train to announce that the Babylon Line was suffering 2 hour delays.

"Good!" I said. I hate those smug Babylon bastards with their "peak train every ten minutes out of Penn Station" sneers and their "elevated track the entire way to prevent 'debris' strikes" sardonicism. Serves the buggers right.

Then Mrs Stevie told me that the Ronkonkoma branch wasn't running at all.

"%@*$!" I said, but vowed to reserve judgement in case this was just annother cunning ambush ploy by my beloved.

Long story short, some nitwit in a car had collided with another nitwit in a tractor-trailer rig and the car had been launched onto the trackbed. They had, however, scraped it off by the time I got to Flatbush Avenue LIRR station and so we actually made it home, albeit half an hour late.

I park quite a way away from the trains themselves, and have to cross the entire carpark to get to my car. This process was made more exciting than usual by the fact that the carpark resembled a one inch to one inch scale model of the Athabasca Glacier. I know this because I've been on it. Ice as far as the eye could see (admittedly not that far because of all the cars) and every car was once again covered in a thick layer of nature's bubble wrap.

It was truly bizarre crossing the car park as literally dozens of idiots tried to scrape the ice off their windshields before their heaters had had time to loosen it from the glass. I had the distinct impression I was surrounded by a village of neolithics fashioning stone tools, the noise was so loud and evocative.

Upon reaching the Steviemobile I was able to trip the locks with my "clicker" and the ice cracked on the door enough for me to open it and get in (yes, the ice was thick enough to weld the doors shut on some vehicles that night). I eschewed scraping the windows because it was obvious that the glass would have to be warm for doing so to be of any use, and if I was gong to warm the glass I might as well wait for the ice to just melt enough for the windshield wipers to deal with it. This course of action was doubly wise because I had neglected to load a scraper into the trunk before departing Chateau Stevie that morning.

So I sat revving the engine again (because the heater doesn't work when the engine is cold and just idling, keep up!) while pondering life's eternal verities and stuff and wondering if the car would slide all over the shop on the Wyandanch Ice Field. The Steviemobile proved completely at home on the ice though, and conveyed me home safely once I could actually see to drive. It was when I attempted to enter my home that the trouble started in earnest.

The ice that coated everything had managed to bring down another limb from one of my dead-and-loving-it maple trees. The limb had apparently landed in the middle of the path and exploded, coating everything with little twigs. Which promptly froze into the landscape, forming a surface not unlike that depicted in WWI paintings of No-Man's Land.

Fighting through this series of tank-traps did wonders for the old ankles and I was in high sprits by the time I reached the front door. I struggled with the locks while the freezing wind howled around me, threatening to slam open the screen door and visit yet more damage to the frame as a result, but finally won through to the inside of the house.

Where I found Mrs Stevie engaged in chanting a litany of swear words while filling my wet-vac from the lake that had formed on the basement floor. The gutters must have overflowed during some brief period of sunlight, before refreezing. Since Mr Downspout was probably still frozen, water must have run down the outside of the house as the roof heated up under the sun.

Realising that she probably didn't want to be disturbed, I left her to it, commandeered the TV from the Gamecubing Stevieling and sat back to watch "Forbidden Planet" in peace.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ich Bin Ein Bilabong

It's miserable days like this that get me thinking of The Plan.

I speak of none other but the plan I once had to work 18 months on the East coast of the US, another six on the West coast and then head over to the Land Downunder for an extended sojurn. This plan survived contact with the devastatingly beautiful and alluring Mrs Stevie-to-be, not yet addicted to coffee and not prone to irrational rages as a result, for about ten seconds. I was like putty in her hands.

"You feel like putty in my hands" she used to say. "For God's sake concentrate or we'll be here all night".

Every now and then, when the wind is ripping the roof shingles off Chateaû Stevie, the basement has flooded and the furnace won't light, I imagine myself kicking back on Bonsai Beach, a six-pack of Fosters on the barbie, a lit dijeridoo held casually between my lips and a hat with corks-on-strings perched at a jaunty angle on my head as I watch the young women play boomerang frisbee in their string bikinis. Of course, this daydream often ends badly with me imagining Mrs Stevie arriving in theater after a marathon session in Starbux, out for blood and packing matching pearl-handled platypuses, but one can't have everything.

I could murder a Caramelo Koala right now

St Valentine's Day Massacre

The day dawned in the traditional way, with the exchange of cards and insults. The Stevieling was mad because the "snow" had only delayed the start of school by an hour rather than causing an outright cancellation of all things educational in favour of improvised recreation. Mrs Stevie was mad because there was only a card declaring true love yet no candy declaring true love nor a present declaring true love. This on account of the purchase of the Flowers of True Love1 sucking up all available funds. Roses are currently priced slightly more agressively than weapons-grade Plutonium in New York.

I left the house in plenty of time to get my usual train but was immediately confronted by A Challenge. The ice particles (still lightly blowin' in the wind) had formed Mother Nature's Bubblewrap over the entire Steviemobile, but particularly over the windshield and other windows. I gleefully used up eight or nine swear words of medium-to-harsh quality, opened the car and started the engine, dumped my bag in the trunk and grabbed my scraper/squeege. It was of no use whatsoever, as I had expected. The car looked like someone had melted about a ton of plastic and dumped it on the car to set. This is a sovreign symptom of Inconvenience Snow (ibid).

Now the Steviemobile is a miracle of modern automobile technology. Its engine is superduper clean and gets reasonably impressive mileage despite the gas being watered down with ethanol2. The car itself handles extremely well in the ice and snow owing to its front-wheel drive and the addition of traction control to keep both wheels spinning in slippy road conditions3 and it has a nice red paint job to boot.

Unfortunately, all this spiffiness comes at a price. The engine is designed to warm up quickly, so that emmissions are kept within a set band of tolerances. This means that the water jacket is re-routed fairly inventively to cut out any temperature sinks until the engine is warm, and the heater is considered one of those sinks. When the engine is cold or cool, the heater only pumps hot air when the car is under weigh, and shuts down when the engine idles. This means that in order to melt the ice off the windows before I didn't care any more I had to sit in the car revving it to 2k rpm, "fooling" the engine sensors that we were moving as it were. This would of course reduce the overall mileage I would get from that tank of exhorbitantly priced gasoline, as I "drove" off a good five miles in the driveway. As I say, Inconvenience Snow.

Eventually the windshield ice calved and I was able to get moving, though I had missed my usual train and would now be getting the rather less convenient 8:17 from Wyandanch that requires that I change in Jamaica and cross from track 1 to track 3 to do so.

This is always an exciting race against time. Sometimes they have a train standing on track two with both sets of doors open so it can be used as a bridge to the Brooklyn train4. Sometimes, that train isn't there and the actual footbridge must be used. This bridge is totally exposed to the elements - depsite having a glass windshield on both sides - owing to some rather inventive design (last year there was a three foot deep snow drift inside the thing). The stairs, being made of stainless steel, freeze down nicely in the sort of weather we're having, and one must certainly have one's wits about one to dodge the plummeting fellow travellers as they lose their footing and get hurled from the stairs by the wind (50 mph today). I prefer to avoid this train if possible, for these and other reasons I'll go into another time.

Anyway, I get to Wyandanch and as I'm struggling towards the little hut at the extreme west end of the platform that serves as a station building5 an announcement is made:

"The train scheduled to depart Ronkonkoma at 7:57, Central Islip at 8:03, Brentwood at 8:07, Deer Park at 8:12, Wyandanch at 8:17, Farmingdale at 8:23, Bethpage at 8:27, Hicksville at 8:33, Mineola at 8:42, Jamaica at 8:54 and Woodside at 9:05 is running with fewer cars."

Seldom does one come across a message of such monumental idiocy even when within earshot of the LIRR public address system.

Annoyance the first: Having to wait through almost half a minute of blither to find out what the real message is - in this case that the LIRR has responded to the foul weather by losing "some" cars off the next rush hour train. Note also that the exact count of missing cars isn't present. One might reasonably assume that the cars are breaking away from the train as it progresses down the track.

Annoyance the second: The message was read at around 8:05. Are we to assume from the fact that stations were mentioned where the scheduled departure time for the train lies well into the past that the train hasn't actually departed from any of them yet? If so, then we are owed a "late train" message too. Pesumably, these originate in a different department and cannot be read by the same idiot who read this one. We shall just have to use the standard method - assuming that if the train hasn't arrived and your watch tells you that it is ten or more minutes overdue, that the train is late and an announcement telling you this will be made in five minutes or so (just as it hoves into view on the horizon).

Annoyance the third: The total inanity of reading this message at stations such as Woodside, Jamaica and Mineola where the patrons have the choice of maybe 6-12 other trains to choose from before the affected one will arrive and (more to the point) won't actually be standing anywhere where they can hear the bloody message for another thirty to forty-five minutes.

What a bloody shambles.

  1. To be delivered sometime later today at her office barring ice-storm related Rose Deployment Fiasco
  2. Ethanol may be politically correct but it severely depletes the oomph of gasoline and mileage drops accordingly when it is used to adulterate one's go-juice
  3. It uses the anti-lock brake system sensors to detect wheel slip, then applies the brake lightly on that side so the gripping wheel maintains drive. Without this the car would suffer from the usual condition where one wheel spins maddly on the ice and the other wheel does nothing. This is a result of the differential gearing used on all cars to ensure that the car doesn't try to kill you when you turn a corner
  4. Perhaps they should call the train The Brooklyn Bridge. Ahahahaha
  5. No staff on duty though, and since January all ticket machines moved outside for passenger convenience

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Pots For Mrs Stevie

Mrs Stevie went out on Saturday looking thin-lipped, and returned several hours later with about a ton and a half of new metal cookware. She unpacked the various tureens, cauldrons, double-steamers and what-have-you, purring over the balance and heft of one or two select items, then made an announcement.

Standing in the middle of a devastation of packing materials with her hands on her hips to indicate she meant business, she announced that the brand-new cookware was under no circumstances to be placed in the dishwasher, since it's space-age, non-stick coating derived from NASA heat shield technology was apparently not up to the job of withstanding hot water with a bit of detergent and some phosporus in it1. She went on to list a number of things that these works of art should not be exposed to, on pain of voiding the warranty.

Well, I had to laugh. The old pots had to be slung out because there were so many dents and dings in them they were unfit to be used for cullinary applications of any kind. The frying pan had such a large dent in the base2 that eggs come out an inch wide and five inches long when fried in it 'cos they snuggle up round the rim so tightly.

"I take it this signals a new era of tolerance and strategic limitations in the percussive use of said cookware with especial reference to La Téte De Stevie then?" I wheezed between guffaws.

A sad mistake

I came to some hours later sporting a large goose-egg on my right temple and a pounding headache. I couldn't clearly remember the events that led up to my receiving this wound, other than a memory of the signature battle-shriek of Mrs Stevie followed by a bright burst of light, but a search through the garbage the next day allowed me to reconstruct matters in the fashion of those chaps on "CSI". I had evidently been the victim of yet another cowardly assault, launched by that vile harridan while I was disadvantaged by laughter. The weapon, a rather worn saucepan, was easily identifiable from the dent3.

My false sense of security had arisen because I had forgotten that she still had the old pans to hand at the time.

  1. Bet you didn't know they put phosphorus into dishwasher detergent to shift the remains of your Chicken Marsala, did you?
  2. This dent matches quite closely the contours of the crown of my head, and dates from the time I ran my small steam engine on her antique dining table. Mrs Stevie, it turns out, disapproves of steam engines, but I feel she over-reacted since I had the fire under control and had explained that the scorch-marks could easily be covered with Formica. Sometimes I think the woman is quite mad. I blame it on her consumption of coffee
  3. Slightly damaged last week when I used it to catch the water pouring out of the busted u-bend and I forgot to move it when I was fitting the new one. Pipe-dope had dripped on it and hardened on the bottom, rendering it useless from a culinary standpoint. I didn't bother Mrs Stevie with this trifle at the time. She had a lot on her mind

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oh The More It Changes, The More It Stays The Same

I finally decided to get to the bottom of the bug that had the sidebar links sometimes stuck at the page foot instead of nicely staying at the top where it belongs. My stylesheet is a lightly modified version of one of the Blogger standard ones. I figured that I had broken it when I put in my "enhancements" but was loath to pull these out since they do things like change the colour of the links to make them stand out, format the call-outs for the various hardware outlets I reference, and most recently, add a list of links on the sidebar to the actual page contents, something Blogger's consultants didn't think would be useful.

A quick experiment showed that removing my additions didn't improve matters, but putting the vanilla template back in did. After printing and comparing each version it became apparent that the version of the vanilla template currently available does not match the one I used as the basis for mine. It's possible that the error was in the original template after all. We'll never know.

In any event I've refreshed the vanilla template and added some of my alterations to it. This has resulted in some slight differences in appearance to the blog. All I really wanted to say was that this change is in fact a feature rather than a bug in your browser, something expected and not the work of Russian Mobsters or Nigerian Scammers. You can come out from under the sideboard now.

And take off that ridiculous aluminum foil beanie

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eternal Verities and Axioms To Live By

"Thou mayest ryghtfully rejoyce yn the sheer spyffyness of thy new Black and Decker Workmate1, but surely as thee day ys long you are yn for gloomy sadness yn ye long run. For though ye tool ytself be veryly long-livéd and wyll serve lo an score of years ande more (e'en though thou mayest occasionally take an byte owt of ye jaws with an circular saw, glue thyngs toe yt by mystayke, spyll volatyle solvents o'er yt ande thenne sette fyre toe yt), Black and Decker selleth notte thee rubber feete for yt as an seperate ytem. By thee vexatious rockyng of yt may thou knowest yt is tyme for an major owtlaye of ye fundes for an newe wone."

Cotton Mather, Ye Boyes Almanakke of Tooles pub. Salem 1682

This is the truest thing I ever read.

Update, 12/13/07

Or not.
Everything in this post has since been discovered to be the most utter tripe unbacked by any sort of fact whatsoever, other than the assertion on the general usefulness of the Workmate, which I stand by.
Black and Decker make many spare parts for the Workmate and they can be obtained from any of the Black and Decker Service Centers dotted around the place. The Black and Decker Website even has a page that will help you find a service center in the USA.

  1. Arguably the most useful tool ever to have been conceived of in the history of the human race

Wot, No Snow?

Even though it is cold enough to freeze the <insert unlikely anatomical reference> off a <insert humerous anthropological reference>, with temperatures hovering at around 5-8 degrees Fahrenheit, there is still no snow to speak of.

Bloody typical! I spend hours fitting a cab to Troll, The Snowblower Of Supreme Spiffiness, for no tangible benefit!

Scientists should fix the weather too. I'll add that to the list of stuff they should be doing instead of de-planteizing Pluto and removing Lake Huron from the atlases of the world.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Technology Sucks At Both Ends Of The Scale

So I was just settling in for a good night's entertainment listening to my left ear doing "Great Moments In Caliope History" while my hearing came and went, when Mrs Stevie stormed into the room and growled that the computer "wasn't working". I was initally concerned by her use of dense technical jargon, but upon seeing the machine for myself I understood the need. It was in constant-reboot mode.

A quick trip to Safe Mode Land had me in at an attractive and almost unusable

800 x 600

screen resolution and with the explorer defaulting to "icon" view every time the window refreshed. In no time at all I had come to the conclusion a factory restore was in order lest I go mad and chop the PC into little ittybitty bits so I began porting off all the C drive data to USB drives.

I can't be sure what had kneed the OS in the nuts, but I'm assigning blame to the shareware utility I used to ghost the hard drive on Thursday. I would have used Norton Ghost, but had decided it was too expensive last Sunday when I had a copy in my hands. It is decisions like this that have made me the financial giant and revered guru that I am.

I finally tracked down the restore CDs and ran the "make it didn't happen" job. In a matter of mere hours the machine was back in the heady days of Christmas 2001. Then I installed SP2 from a disc copy I have. This made the little green bar that tells you XP is really loading and not hanging turn into a little blue bar. Hard to see what all the fuss was about really.

Then I found the Norton executable that would reinstall my (downloaded) copy of Internet Security (by some miracle I had actually saved it in a relatively safe place) and was pleasantly surprised at how straightforward it was to re-install. Very much empowered by my success to date, I connected up the internet and let Norton download a year's worth of anti-virus templates, scam sites to block, applications to block, parental control lists and gosh knows what else, all the while screaming in bright red that the software was out of date and that I should Do Something! Ironic that the software couldn't tell "something" was in progress, given Peter Norton's open criticism of lazy programmers in the past and the beating of his own drum at their expense.

Once that phase of operation Get The Computer Working Again You Idiot 1 was complete, my appetite for watching little green bars slowly grow while wildy inaccurate time estimates flash was not quite appeased, so I let the machine download and install 63 critical XP changes (all of them since SP2 mind). In a mere three hours it was all over bar the pending installation of missing software and belatedly realising USB drivers hadn't installed and doing them again and aaaaaaaaarrrggghhh!

While it was all happening I pulled some more wiring for the new bathroom which involved taking down the drop ceiling in the downstairs bathroom then threading 14-gauge Romex across the rafters and then along about half the room, before poking it up into the upstairs again. This so a switch on one side of the room can control a device on the other. The lengthwise run had to be stapled to the rafter. There was all of about eight inches of room to swing the hammer, which necessitated the use of the technique where one uses the side of the hammer head to drive the staples. Gah! Luckily, a collection of nasty crap had collected on top of the ceiling tiles during previous work, so I had the good fortune to be showered with it when I pulled the tiles.

On Sunday, I thought my luck might turn and I was right. In the middle of installing the DVD burner software, Mrs Stevie let out a yell and called for me. I wandered into the kitchen to find she had somehow burst the u-bend and the undersink cabinet, home to an ecclectic collection of half-used bottles of cleansers, poster paint, brillo pads and whatnot was now flooded with foul stinking water. I ran down to Arse Hardware and obtained a u-bend, returned to Chateau Stevie and attempted to fit it. The joint to the waste-pipe riser leaked. I tightened the nut a bit more. It still leaked. I gave the nut another tweak and succcess! The nut split into three parts and a fine spray of liquid filth went everywhere.

Muttering some stand-by words of power I undid the riser connection and (eventually) managed to make it let go from the PVC wastepipe. Not before discovering that The Builders2 had once again fitted things "Gennaro Style"3. The PVC wastepipe flapped about in a manner that screamed rather than suggested that the installer had neglected to glue one of the joints4, and it had a non-PVC sealing nut screwed to it. Fortunately the aborted wastepipe from upstairs gave me ready access to a PVC sealing nut for the new riser.

Which I naturally hadn't bothered to buy.

So it was back to Arse Hardware for a new riser, new coupling nut and new seal. Once I had got that home and cut it to length with Mr Hacksaw, it was extreme hardship itself to get it to fit in the plastic wastepipe, requiring much strength, some liquid soap, about eight types of swear words and Gerald, my Stilson's Wrench before the job was done.

Once all the bits were connected we once again had a kitchen sink, and I was able to return to the job of fixing the computer. It's almost done. I'll refit the Office software tomorrow and install Mrs Stevies Greeting Card software suites and then I'll attempt to put the Pinnacle video processing software back together.

Since it wasn't working properly before the computer went nails-up, I'm not sanguine about my chances.

  1. Mrs Stevie was kind enough to suggest the name of the project
  2. Gennaro
  3. In order of increasing naffness there is
    1. The Right Way
    2. The Wrong Way
    3. The Really Dangerously Wrong Way
    4. The Gennaro Way
  4. The joint in question must be somewhere behind the dishwasher and hence inaccessible unless I deinstall that. Not it! Not unless I see water leaking, that is

Friday, February 02, 2007

What's The Whistling In My Ear?

The whistle is back, along with the loss of hearing. Magic. Another trip to Doc Teaspoon is on the cards then. I haven't had this much fun since me leg went septic.

On the plus side, my Hyundai dealership finally fitted a wheel to my car that matched the other three instead of being just enough too large to cause the hubcap to disengage from the rim and make the new wheel look like I got it from a scrap yard.

On Monday I noticed thet the other sub-great thing that the eagle-eyed mechanics of Huntington Hyundai had allowed me to drive off the lot with1. The new wheel that had cost me deep in t'purse had a raised inner boss that was about 1/2-3/4 of an inch too high, causing the hubcap (held onto the wheel by the wheelnuts) to disengage from the rim.

I girded my loins with cheap girders and had a think on how I might make my case to any willfully unobservant staff, coming up with the idea that a straightedge laid across the wheel would allow me to measure the difference in profile between the center and rim of the wheel with a dial caliper. Another five minutes of running the scenario though Mr Brain had me convinced I should provide said straightedge and caliper, lest the same mechanic who "fitted" the wheel attempt to measure it with a steam-powered fairground pipe-organ2 so I loaded an offcut of laminate-backed chipboard I use as a clamp extension when gluing large items together (it is long and flat) into the trunk of the Steviemobile and threw Mr Dial Caliper into my bag and sallied forth.

The service manager (ibid) threw me off balance by immediately confessing that the wheel was indeed the wrong shape and offered to get a replacement fitted. This meant sending offsite again (ibid). Although it would "only take an hour or so" I had been caught in that one before (ibid) and so I left the car overnight and tok a "loaner".The loaner was a luxury sedan, but I still prefer the snugger Steviemobile.

The satisfaction of having my car back with four working wheels (finally) almost overcame my annoyance at having a possible tool deployment scenario ruined by unreasonably reasonable people.

  1. The other thing can be found by reading "A Simple Three Thousand Mile Service And A State Inspection" from last month's archive
  2. A dial caliope. Ahahaha