Monday, July 30, 2007

A Weekend of Bleachhh!

What a non-starter of a weekend.

On Saturday I got off to a running start and replaced the broken parts on the Stevieling's swing. I built the Monkeybar, Vertical Ladder and Triple Swing Extravaganza wing to Fort Stevieling a few years ago, when she was still in 4th grade or thereabouts. And a back-breaking, herculean task of recreational engineering it was to design, build and mount the thing on the pre-exsisting structure, itself designed and built by these two hands (with some managerial-style input from The Stevieling, then about 5 years old). In the intervening years, the screw eyebolts I used for universal swing mounts (what do we recreational engineers know of proper bushed bearings?) had begun to show wear and tear, especially the pair used for the regular swing1.

This year I had omitted to grease the little carabiner-style snap rings that attach the chains to the eyebolts, with the result that the Stevieling managed to saw through said eyebolts in two months of furious swinging. Fortunately she hasn't inherited her mother's lack of concern over changes in mechanical environmental behaviour so she was alerted to potential trouble by the scream of failing metal, and came running into the house to report that the swing had broken before it actually failed completely and tossed her into the collection of old barbed wire, dead washing machines and broken glass I keep at the side of the house.

The damage was spectacular, in a quiet way. The spring clips had eroded almost 2/3rds of the way through and the eyebolts were showing about the same amount of wear. One of them had unfolded at the wear point (but hadn't actually broken off) due to the centrifugal forces of the swing.

It took several days to track down replacement parts. I tried Arse Hardware but they only sold 1/4 inch or 5/8ths inch eyebolts, and the ones I had settled on back in the design phase were 5/16ths. I was also of a mind to replace the zinc plated eyebolts I originally used with stainless steel and was willing to get out Mr Drill and rebore the holes out to 5/8ths if need be to accomodate them, but no-one sold those in the length I needed. So it was back to Home Despot who originally supplied all the hardware for Fort Stevieling, and back to zinc-plated hardware at that. What a pain.

Of course, I still had to get the eyebolts out of the monkeybar side-members.

I have a tendancy to over-design when kids are involved, and had originally drilled the holes for the eyebolts exactly to size so that they would have to be screwed into position. This would, in the tortured meanderings of Mr Brain's thought processes provide that little bit of extra safety should some inventive little sod child manage to climb up on top of the monkey bars and remove a nut or two.

Of course, the chemicals in the wood had long-ago formed a nice layer of corrosion on the shaft of the eyebolt, making it impossible to turn by hand. All was not lost though, because Mrs Stevie had bought me a set of those "undo anything" socket wrenches that consist of a chrome steel cylinder filled with spring-loaded pins that retract when the thing is pressed over a fastener and adopt the shape of the fastener head. This tool was able to grasp the loop of the eyebolt securely and allow me to unscrew the it with a speed-wrench (the thing that looks like an old fashioned carpenter's drill2 in your socket set) in only about a minute (the thread was about eight inches long and fine pitched).

In some time at all I had installed the new hardware, rehung the swing, applied a little 3-in-1 in lieu of grease and dashed in for a late breakfast, which was when I got a call from Jeff the Kung-Fu Accountant to help him in his search for speakers.

Jeff has recently moved from a small mansion to something slightly smaller than the Tzar's Winter Palace. When he and his clan moved they took the furniture. They took the barbecue, which let's face it, has seen better days and doesn't go with their new swank neighbourhood3. They even took the ceiling fans, which were expensive and hard to find by all accounts, but they left behind the speakers for their surround-sound home theater4. I did ask him why he did this, knowing that my readers would be eager to engage in heated discussion of his reasoningand conclusions, but I'm afraid I didn't understand any of the three of four answers he gave during the course of the afternoon. Bottom line: He had taken the center channel speaker and the subwoofer but left the satelite speakers on the wall brackets when he left.

I "tsked" at this turn of events, hung up and mournfully reported to Mrs Stevie, on her fifth cup of java of the day and beginning to simmer nicely, that I would not be able to work in the garage that day owing to having to go and help Jeff do stuff. Then I left before she could swallow the mouthfull of sausage she had just taken and issue any counter-instructions.

Jeff and I went to the Bose store, where one can hear a variety of "sound solutions" that only cost the GRP of a small African nation, and to the "Sony Styles" store, where we were obviously the uncoolest people and therefore subject to the hostile stares of all the under thirty-fives desperately trying to throw money away on expensive toys. Even Jeff got into the spirit of the thing until I reminded him that two thousand dollars is too much for a set of speakers if you have fifty year old, fifty-buck ears. I didn't say that I felt two thousand dollars was too much for speakers in any event, but I sure thought it.

More stores, more hype, little substance until I announced that by "sheer chance" we had fetched up on Merrick Avenue, home to our batchelor-days hunting ground, By Gad It's Friday, and I was in the mood for a cold beer and a snack.

Over the course of the next two hours we dissected his speaker problem and my life plan. On the speaker front, we decided he was happy with the old speakers so he should either get on the web to Sony and get replacements or break into his old house and take the ones he had left behind. Jeff had had only two whiskies at that point, and so my daring "break-in" plan was rejected in favour of the safer "google search" one. On the Life plan front, we did some complex real-time analysis and concluded I didn't have one and was better off not adopting one at this late stage as it would involve faking my own suicide, adopting a new persona and moving to the Yukon. Fortunately I had managed to consume enough Bass to prevent the analysis causing anything but the smallest crisis, and I escaped with only a mild concussion from banging my head into the bar and crying "Why Me?"

I dropped Jeff off at the East Portcullis and drove home, where I was confronted by reality and had to go to bed in the hope I could sleep it off.

The next morning I bounced out of bed at around ten, and spent the next two hours cowing the back lawns back into submission with Mr Mower and Mr Weedwacker, who was in fine form and had me dismantling the spool to untangle the nylon cord four times. Consider that the damn' tool was only in use for about twenty minutes and you get an idea of just how uncooperative it was being. By Jove, I'd give it a damn' good thrashing if I didn't know it would get it's revenge the next time I fired it up. It can usually take me three rounds in four without trying. No sooner was I done, smeared in honey and contemplating a quick game of "fashion model" with the contents of the laundry hamper before the women got back from church, than the women got back from church. Lucky escape that. I managed to explain away the honey as a snack-related accident and my nakedness in that I was just going for a shower to remedy the snack-related accident. Mrs Stevie, fuelled by an hour of coffee with the Lutheran Women's Auxilliary, was twitching and paranoid, but in need of a bathroom more urgently than in need of interrogating me.

Then, in a completely unexpected turn of things for the better, Steviewise, the heavens opened, lightning blazed and thunder crashed in continuous waves of concussive majesty, rendering any sort of cleaning out the garage work totally unpractical. This kept up until nightfall, meaning that I had nothing to do but sit around watching TV.


  1. The other two positions are taken up by a trapeeze and a glider, which the Stevieling is a little too big for now but we leave up for visiting family's kiddies to ride
  2. Properly called a "Brace"
  3. It didn't go with their last one either, to be honest. Last time I saw it it looked as though Jeff had hosted some sort of toxic waste rendering effort inside it, then had a large unrefined crude oil fire in it. I am in awe of this man's barbecue technique
  4. Which, ironically, would also turn out to be expensive and hard to find

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