Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New Job (Nearly), Same Railroad

I transferred into a new department about three weeks ago, which involved a move across the office of about fifty feet. There was a transistion period agreed between my old director and my new one, and I have been madly clearing my desk since then.

Last week I took off half the week so I could spend time with my visiting friend Paul the Globetrotter (I will post later on the events arising a out of that once I have recovered my mental balance and the hangover has worn off) and used that to notify the office facilities manager that my (digital) 'phone number needed moving.

It hadn't happened by the time I returned to desk clearing ops on Thursday.

On Friday, I arrived to discover that while the phone number hadn't been transferred to the new handset, my voicemail password had been disabled for my convenience. How lucky it was that my cellphone battery chose that moment to peg out and that Mrs Stevie needed to yell at me about the Stevielings upcoming Middle School graduation ceremony. Thank you the brain trust in charge of the phones.

I called Sam the Phoneguy and he assured me the work had been done. I pointed out the phone number hadn't moved an inch from where it had been since the building was opened. He told me the phone had been "forwarded". I replied that that wasn't what I ordered and that it wasn't going to do the job because the phone would ring at my old office and voicemail would be taken (and indicated) in my old office. He replied that the phone number had moved. I explained that that was complete b*ll*cks on account of how I was sitting in my old office looking at the phone which clearly displayed my number, and that it had rung twice that day in my old office forcing me to be there to answer it rather than in my new office. This witty exchange went round about three times before the penny dropped and Sam told me it would be done by COB Monday.

I arrived on Monday and went to my new desk. Five minutes later I was dragged back to my old desk by Mike the Shaman over a program I wrote that a vendor was having problems with. This program is simply a robotic "launcher" that allows people to use a PC to run a legacy greenscreen transaction, and during the writing of it I nearly ate my own leg in frustration because the transactions it launced had to be modified by a team from another political entity.

Warning! The next umptytump paragraphs are filled with boring, dense technical flappery with minimal humour and a triple helping of incoherent rant stirred in. Read at your own risk.

The first act of the manager involved, Ms Lackabrain, was to do nothing for six months and claim afterwards they had been "working dilligently". The second was to fail to use her own agency's project life cycle processes, which caused her to badly underestimate what the job entailed and do a simple conversion required by their team as a precursor to the real work but none of the required extra stuff needed to accomodate the finished project (as envisaged by them). As her final act of sabotage, she put the whole thing under the control of a person with little experience in the language used1, no experience OLTP2 or DPS3.

That last wasn't such a disadvantage since DPS, a world standard since the early 1980s and a genuine boon to productivity, had not been adopted at all by the agency in question. They had gone with a home-grown "version" of it, which was slower, more dificult to deploy and so complex it wasn't even used by everyone in that agency.

All this wouldn't have mattered if the agency in question hadn't insisted that the transaction code not be extracted and purpose-built OLTP versions built, but that the same transactions run as both greenscreen transactions and OLTP services. To do this required the adoption of DPS, which includes a nifty work-around so that people who already have DPS can quickly move into the OLTP world without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Of course, the manufacturer, Unisys, envisioned people using it as a temporary work-around while they retooled their software with bright, shiny, new purpose-built OLTP services. Thus, expedience was the watchword when making engineering choices in how to do the job4. They could not have imagined that anyone would actually begin designing a new deployment around the technology, because that is what we in the trade would call a Nitwit Solution.

Why? Well, the effort of installing DPS into an exsisting transaction requires the separation of the "buisness" logic in the program from the "presentation" logic (which is the bit DPS replaces), and if you are going to do all the work of identifying and separating them, you might as well spend two seconds turning the business logic into the OLTP service (which uses a much simpler presentation mechanism) via a build script that produces both it and the old greenscreen program. You'll be going that route in a couple of years anyway for Azathoth's sake. It should come as no surprise that the I.Q. Brigade chose the worst possible way of implementing when I add that everyone involved works for the government.


I spent months with my "technical" contact developing this bloody thing. At no time did she develop enough enthusiasm for the job to actually pick up a (digital) manual and start to get informed about the subject matter, but this did not stop her from lecturing me (thirty years of programming, lots of it in Cobol and some of it in DPS) on how I should be doing the job, to the point that it often took four or five e-mails to get her to actually go and ask someone who knew what they were talking about to tell her how to do the part of the job we were involved with that day. Nothing beats trying to tell someone tactfully that they don't know what they're talking about while they are telling you in plain English the exact same thing. I eventually found the person she was consulting, and began dealing directly with him, which caused a deparmental row and Ms Lackabrain to demand a conference phone call in which Mike the Shaman was called as witness for the prosecution5. Mike, being about as sick of the whole thing as I was proved to be a hostile witness, telling the I.Q. Brigade that I was right and they should stop whining and get moving.


The job was eventually finished and passed to the vendor, who sat on it for about 6 months. This was long enough for me to get my transfer and (more significantly) for Ms Einstein to "get creative".

The problem was that the I.Q. Brigade had made some changes in the screens, but forgotten they wanted me to use them too and stored them as plain old greenscreen screens. This makes them unavailable for OLTP use and kicks back an error. How long do you think it took me to suggest this had happened? About a minute. How long before I could persuade Ms Einstein that since the error was a DPS error it had to lie on her side of the border? If you said four and a half hours of constant work, you'd be right. Mike the Shaman eventually found the hard evidence, along with a memo that they'd done the exact same screw-up two years ago on something he wrote. He wryly pointed out that his programs transactions hadn't been adjusted since then, and that it was his opinion that whatever they had to change next, they would end up breaking it the same way again. I believe he is right, because this crew is all about not learning from history.

Do I sound bitter? You better believe I do. I recognised that any change in the screens would cause a potential problem on day one, and during that acrimonious conference call I mentioned I asked that when the programmers changed the screens, they add us to the CC list of the change request. This, I was told by Ms Lackabrain (the manager responsible for assigning the "techical lead", not scoping the project, etc etc), was "impossible". Note that I wasn't asking for an e-mail. I was asking to be included in the distribution of an existing e-mail that was going out anyway. This was "impossible". This kind of thinking is why the I.Q. Brigade is deploying an obsolete technology to prop up an ill-conceived work-around instead of doing the job correctly, and why I now envisage that silly b*tch being hit full in the face with a bucket of fish heads every time I hear her name.


This morning (Tuesday) I rode in on a train with no A/C. Actually, that's not strictly true. Half the car had no A/C, the other half did. Apparently the designer felt that in the event that the (two year old) A/C failed at one end of a car, the whole thing could be kept bearable by the other end's A/C unit. Another win for the I.Q. Brigade there, then. Definitely not a waste of public money, these new trains6 .

And my phone number still hasn't been moved.

  1. Cobol, for Azathoth's sake. How they found a trainee in that language (perfectly good for the job but laughed at by the young and the restless these days) is beyond me
  2. On Line Transaction Processing. A fancy name for getting a program on one computer to run programs on another
  3. Display Processing System. In the old days you had to write the screen descriptions character by character, keeping a mental picture of what it would look like as you went. This did not always work well. DPS allows you to draw the screen and save it to a file so that the program can get it again each time it runs. This works very well, and so was not adopted by the people concerned until it was obsolete technology
  4. Don't get me wrong. I think Unisys did a bang up job with this process and I recommend it to any site needing to leverage old 20th century code while they replan their enterprise around the realities of the 21st century.
  5. Of me
  6. In the same way that the US government aren't a bunch of lying, coniving weasles in the pockets of the special interests and Ms Lackabrain isn't a complete waste of around 3 bux worth of chemicals and a few pints of water

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Great Work Continues

Mrs Stevie had obtained a special shower curtain rod that overhangs the tub by a few inches and allows a bit more elbow room. She bought it after I had let out one too many shrieks when the cold, clammy shower curtain had slicked up against me while I was showering and I thought it might actually be a good idea.

The thing is actually fairly simple: A curatin rod that is shaped rather like the [ character and a couple of brackets to mount in to the walls. All that was required to install it was some measuring, some drilling and wallpluging and some screwdriving.

Of course, it turned out the srew wells were too tight for my favourite quick-change screwdriver fitting, but I had some long screwdriver bits clipped to the rear of the drill that I rarely use and one of them would work.

Rather than unchuck the quick-release collet from the drill I snapped the bit into it and it seemed to grip despite lacking the little wasp-waist detail that the collet uses to retain the bits (the torsional grip is achieved by matching the hexagonal cross sectioned bits to a hexagonal well in the collet) and I was off.

Until I turned round halfway through the job and somehow lost the bit.

It must have fallen in the Big Bag O' Garbage in the bathtub, but a cursory search amongst the silicone-impregnated paper towels and fragments of sticky wax ring didn't turn it up so I was forcéd to use a manual screwdriver for the last bit of the job.

The installation looks ok, but I thing the overhanging curtain will be in the face of anyone trying to use my new commode. What is needed is a sliding arrangement, something like that used on filing cabinet drawers, with a positive click detent on each end to lock the bar in position.


New Bog Is Finally A Bog

I can hardly believe it myself, but after a successfull series of tank fillings and flushings last night I can declare that notwithstanding the need to finish papering, install switchplates and outlet covers and put some sort of moulding around the door, New Bog is actually a Bog and not just a Bog-in-the-making.

I'm so happy I could pee.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Last night was crunch night, when The Job I Had Been Dreading was unputoffable any more. I was going to actually have to install the toilet commode in New Bog.

I had had the commode for about three years, since Mrs Stevie gave it to me in an attempt to provoke me into home improvements in fact. Up until now it had rested as a set of two large boxes in our front bedroom with scenic throws over them. They had been incorporated into the ambience as convenient side tables and as such covered entirely in crap (which is the custom in our house), but I had no excuses left and time was not on my side with the immenent arrival of Paul the Globetrotter at The Steviemanse.

To recap what is involved: A ring of wax is sandwiched between the commode and the flange, forming a water (and other things we won't catalogue) proof seal. The commode is bolted to the flange and the tank fastened to the commode base. The tank is connected via either a shaped rigid pipe or a flexible hose to the riser and thus the water supply. The tank is filled, whereupon it leaks all over the place and much swearing and some bolt tightening takes place. Care must be taken when tightening the bolts so as not to move to the cracked commode or busted tank phase. The toilet is flushed and promptly leaks all over the floor, necessitating the disassembly of the whole thing prior to repeating the previous steps. One can see from this why I wasn't keen to get started.

I dry fitted the commode the night before, and had discovered to my chagrin that it rocked very slightly on the new floor. How this happened I do not know, but the floor now had its vinyl covering on and so could not be modified further. All I could do was chalk one up to Mr Brain and go in search of toilet shimming wedges, specially made for the purpose of fixing this problem. These had been located at Syd's Hardware at lunchtime so I was hot to trot.

I dry-fitted the commode and wedged it so I could see what would be needed when I had it installed for real, then I applied the wax ring to the base of the commode and lowered the toilet onto the flange. The wax ring deformed and made the seal, which was when I remembered the flange bolts have to be placed in the flange before the wax ring bit. I did the Bonehead Dance and considered my options. Then I went down into the basement of fixing stuff, got out my grinding machine and attempted to grind the flats on the bolts down far enough so they would fit through the flange slot, turning them 90 degrees to engage the flange. That worked until I attempted to tighten the nuts, at which point the flange bolts slipped out of the slot. I realised there was nothing for it but to junk out the wax ring and start again with fresh bolts (which I had), so it was off to Home Despot for a new wax ring. Naturally, my local one closed two minutes before I got to it, so I made the trip to the Farmingdale one (which opens until ten pm).

Word must have got out about my plan because the roads filled with every idiot who owned a car. These gangs of roving incompetents engaged in trying to slow me down and prevent me achieving toilet installation, stopping at nothing in their mission.

Well, I say that, but actually the problem was they they drove so slowly that they might as well have been stopped. Two SUVs brought things to a head when they stopped at aT junction with a railroad crossing blocking the right turn, leaving only a left turn available when the boom came down, as it did as we got to the lights. the lights, not being synched with the crossing gate, turned red in both directions. The SUV "drivers" apparently didn't know that under these circumstances, one may safely and legally turn left on red in New York. No, they waited until they got a green light, which gave just enough time for a gigantic articulated truck filled with boiling asphalt (by the label on it and the stench coming off it) to crawl by and get in front of us.

This vehicle resembled something oil exploration companies let loose in the Alaska ice fields. It was about four times the size of a regular truck and designed for a top speed of three miles per hour. Naturally the convoy of truck and two tw*ts was going my way. I stuck it out for the time it took me to make the next right, then zoomed out onto the other side of the road and passed the whole crawling, stinking, brainless assembly, and finally was able to reach Home Despot before they closed and get another wax ring.

I had noticed that the first ring had not really made a great seal on one side when I lifted the commode, so I bought an oversized ring this time (40% more wax! screamed the box) and made my way back home. At the corner where I met the asphalt truck, an ice-cream van limped across two lanes to get in front of me and reduce my homeward trip to 15 mile per hour less than the speed limit. The night was going well.

Once back home I placed the bolts into the flange, thwarting any chance Mr Brain would have of interferring with the job, applied the new wax ring to the commode and carefully dropped the toilet into place.

It appeared to be hovering about an inch off the floor, so I pressed it down with all my weight to distort the wax ring and make the seal.

Wax shot out of every place it could get out of, including the two little holes the flange bolts stick through, saying to me "the seal should be excellent here" and also "that will be a bugger to get off the ceiling"

I bolted the commode to the floor and inserted the wedges to prevent it rocking, then I went looking for the tank, which took a while because it had so much crap on it I couldn't recognise it as a box with a toilet tank in it. Ironically, I finally found it under a bunch of simulation wargames I salvaged from Domestic Flood Yolanda, including one depicting the exploits of Rommel and Montgomery in and around El Alamein1.

By the time I had the tank secured to the commode it was almost 11 pm, so I quit for the night and went downstairs for more "Shogun" before bed.

Gad, I hope it doesn't leak everywhere when I connect the water on Thursday night

  1. Rommel's forces were composed of mechanised infantry and armour. In other words, this game (and a couple of the others) was primarily concerned with tanks

Bathroom Sinks: The Shame Of Our Culture

So I raced home the next day an bought the metal wastepipe'n'plug assembly from Arse Hardware and fitted it in a trice. It was, of course too short to meet the wastepipe, but the oversized extension pipe I bought on Sunday was located, the sealing washers exchanged between it and the u-bend, five inches sawn off it, and in a matter of almost 45 minutes: "Hey Pasta!" Instant sink repair.

Or not

The old plastic wastepipe had openings in its sides to accomodate flow from the overflow. This one has them, for some reson, in the front and rear, partly occluding the overflow with metal and reducing the escape flow as a result.

"No matter!" I yelled at the foul anti-handyman evil spirits that were obviously infesting the aether around New Bog, like a bunch of teenagers sulking in a Mall. Maybe that was it. Maybe, like bored teenagers1 they were attracted to the glue fumes New Bog was redolent with that night. I opened a window just in case, and decided to press on.

I filled the sink and let it overflow. There was some dripping, so I tightened the underside nut a little. More dripping. Hmm. No wetness at the bottom seal though. Hmm. I pused the plug eject lever and watched even more dripping, a lot more in fact,as the sink drained. Hmm. It all seemed to come from the part where the polished pipe emerged from the rougher casting of the wastepipe throat. Hmm.

It was obvious what was happening. The wastepipe was made by press fitting a pipe into a cast shape. The press-fit joint wasn't up to the task of keeping in the water, especially at the pressure of a full basin with a newly popped plug. Something Would Have To Be Done.

I dithered and gibbered but eventually couldn't think of anything better than giving the Never-Setting Silicone Caulk Of Annoyance another go, this time as a seal around the pipe/casting interface and open to the air (which might encourage some sort of curing). So I did that, and retired downstairs to join Mrs Stevie in watching another episode of "Shogun", which she has on DVD.

Mrs Stevie hadn't seen this show since it was on in the 1970s, and had quite forgotten how ancient Japanese culture treated its womenfolk. So had I, and it was with a secret relish that I saw stern samurai kicking their women around and generally having it all their way.

Until Mrs Stevie could take it no more that is.

I don't know whether she has no appreciation for other cultures and mores, or whether my gleefull sniggering every time some poor woman was yelled into place had become too loud, but she span round and snarled "Stop giggling and make tea!" at me. I looked at her down the length of my nose and pulled my lips into a samurai-like sneer

Then I made tea.

  1. Redundant, I know, but so are the teenagers, mostly

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday, Monday

It didn't work.

I got home last night to find the bally thing was still leaking when the overflow was in use, indicating that the bottom seal was bad.

For those who have never seen one of these things, a sink wastepipe assembly constists of the flange (the shiny ring which you see round the plug-hole when you clean your teeth), the pipe which screws into the flange and connects it to the U-Bend, and a nut with a rubber seal that screws up the threaded portion of the wastepipe from the underside of the sink and pulls the flange down to seal it against the sink. It also provides an important sealing function itself, because the overflow of your average sink opens about an inch below the level of the flange into the side of the fitting into which the wastepipe goes. The wastepipe has two large holes in it so that water draining into the overflow can pass through the holes and go where it's supposed to. This water is prevented from dripping out by the bottom seal.

Unfortunately, it proved impossible to tighten the nut and seal enough to stop the leaks, and anyway, I had announced that if it didn't work I was replacing the unit with a silicone-free metal and rubber seal affair I'd seen (but not bought) at Arse Hardware that morning. I had missed my train and used the time thus gained until the next one deigned to show up to go and get more flange bolts for the toilet (I had lost the nuts from the original set I bought at Christmas of course). I returned that evening, just as they were closing, to buy the wax ring I would need. I waited to get that because it occured to me that leaving a wax ring in my car trunk would cause the weather to attain record heat highs and leave me a pool of wax on my trunk carpet. Each time I looked at a nice all-metal wastepipe and flange arrangement they had on the shelves, but it was too pricey to buy on spec.

I heaved a curse or two and unfastened the wastepipe again, to discover that the silicone still hadn't cured after 24 hours! There must be something wrong with it. Either that, or the surface it is in contact with is preventing the curing. I've seen that before, but wasn't expecting it. I'll have to get the metal pipe tomorrow (Tuesday) before I go to work.

It was a matter of only almost an hour to clean off the gluey silicone from the sink. I didn't bother cleaning the plastic wastepipe, since I would be tossing it out. Then I sat on my sofa and watched the last three episodes of Star Trek:Enterprise play to their series finishing conclusion.

It was all very depressing.

That Sinking Feeling

On Saturday I leapt out of bed at the crack of 10:30 am and ran up to begin painting the walls, only to discover that while I was asleep Mrs Stevie had gotten creative with the remaining paper.

The vinyl wallpaper used upstairs is of the "strippable" type, meaning that in the normal course of events you can usually just grab hold and pull it off the wall without recourse to a steamer1 or liquid solvents2.

Unfortunately, the construction of Bog includes the use of forty year-old tech like "backing paper", which used to be used to prime the wall board instead of painting it. The backing paper's singular quality is that it grips the outer paper like a pipe-wrench on steroids. Since I had already decided to leave this backing paper on3, I had actually spackled part of the new wall to the papered surface, something I would not have done if we were going to try removing it.

Mrs Stevie dealt with the situation in a no-nonsense fashion by simply ignoring it. It was breathtakingly simple. A good job too, since when I saw the damage that would need re-spackling I could have severely damaged the young and impressionable Stevieling with the vile swear words I gasped out while clutching my chest and grinding my teeth in rage at another day's labour created were I in good voice.

After a frank exchange of views, Mrs Stevie decamped to Starbux for a calming Espresso Plaque Buster while I buckled down for yet another extended bout of f***ing spackling, something I was celebrating not having to do only eight hours before.

I interspersed the spackling with painting the greenboard walls, and here I found some calm as I uncovered a lode of painting tools I had forgotten I owned. A wonderful little roller, standard width but only about a quarter the usual diameter, which makes getting into corners so much easier. An edging roller with an ingenious but useless shield that flips down at the touch of a switch to guard mouldings, skirting boards and so on allowing a fine edge to be painted with a roller. If only it worked.4. Maybe I was just using it wrong the last time. Today I would have another opportunity to refine my technique with it and tell once and for all if it was just another piece of crap or a genuinely useful tool. A beautiful slant-cut Purdy brush, great for cutting-in. A box of paint pads, forgotten in a box that was damaged during the flood. The special roller paint tray for the paint pads. A veritable cornucopia of tooly delight.

I spread a drop cloth on the floor, which was a bit of a challenge since the floor was 5x4 feet and the drop cloth, a spun olefin affair, was about the size of a standard, three masted galleon mains'l. It ruffed up in places, and formed folds that would later be the cause of much swearing. Then I lined the floor adjacent to the walls with two inches of masking tape and it was game on!

I alternated between painting the walls and poking the spackle to check if it was dry yet. It wasn't, mostly. When I ran out of unspackled wall to paint, I went downstairs and sat in front of a fan drinking iced tea, which was where Mrs Stevie found me of course, prompting an immediate second front to be opened. I was firm. I was resolute. I went outside to clean the pool filter.

Eventually it was all done and night fell. I tiredly began picking up all the tools for cleaning when from under my left foot came the horrible sound of something being smashed to plastic flinders. I madly searched through the folds of the drop cloth and eventually uncovered the edging roller, or what was left of it. The Edging Shield Of Uselessness was now smashed to pieces, leaving me with a small roller with a puzzling little swinging rod. I howled out some potent words of power to drive off the anti-handyman evil spirits that were obviously beginning to infest New Bog and decamped for a shower and bed, pausing only to tell Mrs Stevie that if she would wallpaper the corner for the sink first, I would be able to fit the vanity while she was at church.

I should explain. I'll tackle most jobs, but I won't even try doing wallpaper. It had been our agreement since work on New Bog commenced that Mrs Stevie would wallpaper it. She seemed enthusiastic at the time.

I woke on Sunday to find that Mrs Stevie had done the required papering, and done a damnfine jobofit too. I straightway set about installing the vanity. The first job was a trip to Blowes to get parts and silicone sealant, required for securing the plug/wastepipe fitting and to anchor the sink to the vanity itself. Next up was cleaning the vinyl floor, already dirty even though the bathroom wasn't actually abathroom yet. Then I took off the door5 and wrestled the vanity into place. Then I screwed it to the wall, managing to miss every single stud I was aiming for.

I put the taps on the sink with the sink dismounted. It is much easier to do this with the sink off, so much so that I'm thinking now if I can't arrange to make the sink easily removable should the need to work on the taps arise. That was when I realised I had neglected to purchase the riser coupling hoses, so it was off to Home Despot where I discovered a set of hoses with an interesting property: They would shut off the water if the hoses burst. Muttering a curse on the inventor for not getting these things to market two years ago and thus preventing Domestic Flood Yolanda, I returned home and attached them to the taps.

At this point I decided a test was in order. It would simply not do for me to discover that the "safety" pipes shut off the water in normal use or leaked or whtever else they could come up with after the sink was installed so I dropped the sink onto the vanity and connected the water, allowing Mrs Stevie the honour of turning on the water (catching it in a little spackle bucket) to check it all out. Wonder of wonders, it all worked properly with no leaks6.

The instructions called for the (plastic) wastepipe flange (the chrome ring the plug goes into) to be sealed with silicon before it was all screwed up tight, so that's what I did, only to discover that the wastepipe was about a half inch too short. Many and loud were the imprecations unleashed at that time against the evil anti-handyman demons, and great was the risk that the new wallpaper would singe as a result. I dashed off to Home Despot and bought an extension pipe. Which turned out to be the wrong size for the wastepipe, so I dashed off to Home Despot and bought one that would fit. Unfortunately, this was a "weld" type fitting rather than a screw-ring and plastic ring seal type used all over the piping elsewhere. I would use more silicone. Then it transpired that the wastepipe was at too sharp an angle for the U-bend to mate properly with the wastepipe7. I deployed Mr Heat Gun on "low" and worked the pipe into shape, then ran a sink of water and let it drain. Perfect!

And we went out for dinner after that because we were all sick to the back teeth of the smell of paint, wallpaper paste and vinegar8.

When I returned I decided to run another test of the sink "just in case". My instincts were good, because while we were at dinner, the insidious anti-handyman spirits had sprung a leak in the watepipe seal. With a merry curse or six I removed the pipe and flange, only to find the silicone had not even begun to cure. It was supposed to be touch dry by now. Odd. I cleaned up the sink wastepipe hole and seperated the wastepipe from the extension, cleaning off the silicone here too. Then I used the PVC glueing kit, last seen during construction of the Christmas Arch, to weld the bloody things together, reapplied the silicone and reset the wastepipe.

I'll wait 24 hours and see if it cures properly, then figure out where to go from there.

Pictures of this fiasco in progress will be here when I get round to putting them up, as usual

  1. Which we have
  2. Which we also have
  3. Removing it can severely damage the underlying wallboard
  4. Even the box-lid illustration shows the problem with the design, it just minimises it. Paint builds up on the shield until it overflows on the adjacent (supposedly shielded) areas anyway
  5. The vanity won't go through the doorway with the door on its hinges
  6. In retrosepct, this should have been a clear warning that something was waiting in the wings to banjax the job in the eleventh hour
  7. I had deliberately done this, and tested it to ensure that it didn't cause the U-bend water trap to suck dry, because I wanted the water velocity to be enough to keep the pipe cleaner than the bloody downstairs sink was last January when Mrs Stevie burst the U-Bend on Super Bowl Sunday
  8. Acetic acid used to keep the silicone liquid in the tube and it is is given off as vapour as the silicon cures

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Feeling Floored

And just when I think the various jobs involved in making New Bog arise from the ruins of Bog cannot possibly get any worse, I have my "bad" horizons widened dramatically.

Saturday was spent respackling the spots on the wall where I had vigourously sanded the finish back to the underlying tape, rendering the joint both ugly and non-functional. I also did some fancy textured spackling on the ceiling/wall joint to emulate the textured paint on the rest of it. This proved to be quite challenging. Stippling the brush in a few millimetres of joint compound either left no discernable pattern or left peaks worthy of a 1:50 000 scale model of the Himalayas. I needed something in between, but I got to this late on Saturday afternoon1 and my tolerance for the job was low. Everest is particularly realistic in my opinion.

My spirits had lifted by the next day, however, and I decided that The Time Of The Laying Of The Vinyl Non-Slip No-Wax Floor was upon me. Accordingly I retrieved the roll of floor material we had had to special order because all we needed was a 6 foot square and it comes on 9 foot wide rolls3 from the corner of the front bedroom, where it had leaned accusingly for lo these three months or thereabouts. It took me a while to find it, because for lo these three months or so I've been evolving a blind spot on my retina that coincides with the shape of that roll of floor in that corner.

Challenge number 1 was getting the roll of vinyl out of the shrink-wrap it came in. It had been rolled around a cardboard tube, with a lamination of thick poly sheet wound in for the last two turns or so, then cunningly tucked in somehow. It took ten minutes, a steak knife, aluminum shears, teeth and some of my very best swear words to get the floor out of its protective packing.

Challenge number 2 was putting the floor down in the bathroom without getting any folds or creases in it. Folds and creases cause the felt backing to crack. And crack it did, until I became convinced that it would have to be trimmed closer to size than the 6x6 blank. In point of fact, the area to be covered was a tad short of 5x4, with a tongue of material under the door jamb. The issue at hand was how much to trim by, since the canonical method of fitting a floor like this requires a 6 inch overlap at the edges that gets cut progressively shorter (after the glue has been applied and the floor re-positioned) while the floor is compressed into the floor/wall corner tighter and tighter. I settled for 5 foot by 5 foot 8 inches.

Challenge number 3 was finding somewhere inside the house with a 36 square foot space of the right shape (square) so I could lay out the vinyl for cutting. The kitchen turned out to be the only place that much space was available. Chateaú Stevie is a snug little place, and most of it is full of junk to boot.

Challenge number 4 was getting the newly created floor blank back into New Bog and laid down ready for glueing. This was helped by me remembering at the last possible moment to draw a center line on the cement floor and put matching line-up indicators on the vinyl. It was hindered by the need to cut for corners.

The instruction books, pamphlets, web sites and annectdotes do not address this issue. The visual media presentations show a smiling couple laying rolls of floor in a vast kitchen (usually), only having to cope with walls and the odd island appliance. Nowhere does it say "When you get to the corners, be prepared to lose varying amounts of sanity because it is impossible to fold the flooring into a corner with overlap on both walls without cutting away the fold, and it is impossible to gauge the cut without the fold nestling into the corner. A technique of guessing, cutting, folding, cursing, guessing, cutting a bit more, folding, cursing and so on must be used until the corner is formed. It was somewhere during the process of doing this on the four inside corners (two wall-wall corners and two wall-bathtub ones) and the two outside corners (where the floor goes under the door) that my hook-shaped linoleum blade somehow got blunted. Lino knives are like something out of a Quentin Tarrentino movie: Razor sharp, wickedly hooked and big. I bought one of these blades years ago for when I did the laundry room floor and it lasted a good while after the job was done. They are nice because the beak can be driven through the lino in restricted spaces, but this one suddenly, just as the precision work started, decided to start tearing the floor rather than cutting it. The pointy end of the blade must have gone blunt, and if I had to assign blame fo rthat I would probably pick the cement-board floor. I must have grazed it while cutting. The edge would have come right off, as several of my beloved tools can attest. I eventually got the floor down with overlaps 4 inches or so up the walls. The only fairly easy bit was cutting the hole for the toilet flange to poke through.

Challenge number 5 was pulling up the floor, applying the glue and getting the floor back down in the same place it came from. I resolved to glue it in two phases, starting with the bit next to the bath and working back to a point just beyond the flange, then doing the bit from there to the door. I peeled up the floor and with a few precautionary swear words spread the glue over the floor, checking first to see that no rocks, stones or tools were on the floor surface. Nothing is more infuriating than feeling the tell-tale bump on the floor that means a small piece of hardened spackle fell on the floor after the glue was applied but before the floor went back down. Then I walked the floor carefully back into place and rolled it flat with my trusty rolling pin.

The instructions had called for the floor to be rolled out with a 100lb roller, and at first I had been concerned that finding such a roller, then hauling it up the stairs would be problematical. Then I recalled that I weigh about 250lbs. A spot of 'O' level physics convinced me that this would translate to 100lbs on any roller capable of taking the weight on the handles and Mrs Stevie was dispatched to find a wooden rolling pin of sufficient sturdiness. I reasoned that if anyone could find a kitchen tool with such solidity, it would be her.

The floor had to be pressed into the corners with a straight edge, then cut progressively closer to the final fit, then the whole process repeated until it fitted snugly. It was at this point the lino blade began to malfunction badly, and so I had to take time out to swap in a conventional triangular utility knife blade, which solved the problem. Eventually I had the first half glued down and was able to repeat the process with the second half, then fit the little tongue that goes under the door. Of course, all the pressing takes a toll on the old fingers and by the time I was done I was also done-in. The fingers of both hands were totally dead, and I suspect there is some minor nerve damage involved, probably building on that inflicted during the hammering phase of last year's landscaping effort and the year before that's halloween hammering.

Memo to self: next time put the floor in first, then tape the corners, then finish off the rest of the taping. Astute readers will note this is the exact reverse of the technique used by yours truly this time around. In fact, I think if it weren't for the possibility of damaging the floor after installation, I would vote for putting in the wall board after the floor too.

It's begining to look like a bathroom again4.

  1. Breaking off work during the day to engage the enemy2 in playful and increasingly violent vocal exchanges sucked up a good deal of my intra-spackling beverage consumation breaks and ate into intra-beverage spackling time as a result
  2. Mrs Stevie
  3. Or something. We bought the stuff at Blowes where the flooring department was manned by a particularly unhelpful young gorilla. Mrs Stevie deployed her camoflage and asked sweetly for a six foot square of the flooring, only to be snarlingly told that they didn't sell it in those dimensions. I tried to defuse the situation but Bonzo was oblivious to my frantic hand signals. Naturally, Mrs Stevie's demeanour changed in an eyeblink as she dropped her cloaking field. I'm not sure what happened next as I instinctively sought refuge behind a display of white economy commodes, but when the dust had settled the gorilla had faded into the mist and a more senior member of staff was explaining that although the knuckle-dragger was correct in stating that Blowes did not sell the flooring in the desired dimensions, it could be special ordered with that geometry with no trouble at all
  4. Pictures here