Monday, July 30, 2012

Inundation: We Has Some

So we had another wave of thunderstorms cross Long Island on Saturday Morning.

One was so pluvious the water began cascading down the walls of the house, flooding one window to the point it resembled a small aquarium and began leaking prodigiously through the frame.

The Stevieling had mentioned that this window leaked, but notably had not associated the phenomenon with sheets of water falling down the walls of the house like a cataract: a signature indication of blocked gutters.

No we no longer have large trees around the house as we used to, so I hadn't thought to clean the gutters. Now it would have to be done in the rain, rain so heavy I couldn't breathe without covering my mouth. I'd say it was like taking a shower except I haven't had a shower that delivered that much water.

I was loath to erect my aluminum ladder on account of all the celestial electricity zooming around decoratively looking for a convenient Englishman to ground out on, so I got a stepladder and put that up on the kitchen steps, then leaned out a mere thirty degrees off vertical or so and alternated drowning with pulling handfuls of what looked like Maple seeds from the damned gutter.

After about three handfuls of disgusting muck the dam broke, so to speak, and such was the force of the flow from what was not so much a gutter as a thirty foot long, five inch wide, five inch deep "dump" tank1 that the downspout disengaged from the gutter and I was doused with around 9000 cubic inches (or a shade under five and a quarter cubic feet) of filthy, ice-cold rainwater. I hung onto the siding of the house with one hand as a veitable tsunami vomited from the eaves of the house and another fell from the skies.

"Stop messing around! We've got water in the basement" yelled Mrs Stevie

"Arrrrgle bluphghgerth spthuggrphthgh!" I riposted, wittily.

It took forever for me to reconnect the downspout to the bloody gutter. It didn't help that I couldn't see the eight feet to the gutter from he ground on account of all the rain in my eyes.

I realized the other gutters were probably blocked too, but the rearmost gutter would require the Ladder of Lightning Attraction as would the front one, but that one also included the danger of accidental electrocution from brushing up against the service entrance. Not only that, the Alberta spruces fronting the house that for years were three feet tall have sprouted to a majestic and very awkward seven feet or so.

This means that the current gutter access by ladder methodology is to lean the ladder up against the Alberta Spruce, judging the eventual contact point twixt ladder and gutter by eye (there being three feet or more separation between them), then to begin climbing, whimpering for self-reassurance, and to let one's weight bend the tree until the ladder rests against the gutter, at which point the ladder can be fully ascended. One must be careful as too eager a climb rate can induce a tree-assisted bounce in the ladder which in turn can induce unmanly noises in the climber. Once at the top one must not absent-mindedly step onto the roof or the tree will flex, hurling the ladder across the lawn marooning the climber on the roof. It is all very trying.

So for safety reasons the other gutters would have to wait until the storm passed. This meant that the water pouring on the floor at the house foundation caused the local water table to rise to the point that it began seeping into the basement, then pouring in through places where builders had breached the concrete to install gas pipes and the like. It was apparently like a depth-charging scene from a WWII submarine movie or that bit from Master and Commander when the vile French cannon balls are dinging the hull and the brave British jack tars are bracing the timbers from within.

I say apparently because I no longer leap into theater when these events happen. Everything I care about has already been under water at least once even when I've taken steps to make sure several feet of vertical footage exist between the floor and whatever valuable heirloom it is. My once pristine Roland SH101 sat for hours with water pouring through it because I am the only one who can hear the ticking of the water meter and I wasn't home when the pipe in the garden burst to spray up against the basement window. My irreplaceable, mint condition lead line synthesizer was immersed in cold water for hours because there is nowhere in my house for it to be displayed and used (you really ought to see the stuff there is room for though. I digress). All that can be damaged now is, by definition, other people's crap, and these flooding events are a welcome call to tidy it the fbleep up.

Needless to say, the water was everywhere and Mrs Stevie filled the wet-dry vac before it was under control. I went outside and put the ladder up against the rear of the house. Reaching into the gutter, sure enough more of these seeds, which were smaller than the usual Maple seeds. It was very puzzling. The front gutter was the same. I had never seen this sort of seed before.

As I carried the ladder I paused to note the dwarf Japanese Maple - that has been there since we bought the house and had been about eight feet high for 15 years - had taken advantage of the fact that the two venerable Norwegian Maples we used to have had been cut down (due to them dying on us) and had sprouted to around twenty feet. An ugly suspicion formed as to where these bally seeds had come from, and I mentally began reveiwing the take-off checklist for the chainsaw. Since experience shows that it is never a good idea to fire up Mr Chainsaw while gnashing one's teeth in rage, especially when one's vision is tunneling from appoplexy, I refrained from actually declaring "chocks away" until such time as I have calmed down.

I used to have netting on the gutters to prevent crap getting in them but all that happened was the crap piled up on the roof causing moss to grow, yelllowjackets nested in the clean gutters2 and finally squirrels gnawed holes in the netting and stored gutter-blocking crap in them anyway.

I dunno what can be done, but the current design of my gutters is clearly not fit for purpose. There has to be a way of making these thing self-clean, or at least move the cleaning problem to the ground floor so it can be dealt with without balancing on ladders. I mean, we are not talking about a bird's nest or a dead iguana here, it's a bunch of seed pods with a single wing, like an Ash key, about an inch long.

There was just time to siphon off three inches of water from the now-overflowing pool and rebalance the alkalinity levels before the heavens opened again.

On Sunday things got even better when Mrs Stevie announced that the pool water level was very low and the whole garden stank of chlorine. I dashed out to discover the filter pump running dry and therefore overheating. The reason was that the lid of the debris exclusion colander thingy - which doubles as the chlorine dispenser by virtue of the huge slow-dissolving chlorine tabs I put in the basket and had, in fact renewed only the day before - had blown off and allowed all the water to drain from the pool until both the skimmer and the return outlet were above water. The water in the debris exclusion colander thingy was very hot from the heat transmitted from the dry bearings of the pump, and the steam rising off it was loaded with chlorine of course, which is what Mrs Stevie and the rest of the neighbourhood could smell.

It turned out the lid, which is a push down and turn to lock affair, had broken one of the locking tabs and popped open, which allowed the pool to siphon off about 1000 gallons of lovely filtered water into the waterlogged ground, from where it will likely ooze into the basement over the next few days. Better yet, my local pool supply store had relocated, and when I finally tracked them down they no longer carried that brand of filter or spares for it. I ended up having to drive a dozen miles in order to find a replacement lid. Then I just had to refill the pool.

Which overflowed.

It's a toss-up whether the ground will dry up before it freezes solid in the winter.

  1. A device used in Hollywood to simulate stormy weather at sea amongst other things. Go Google it
  2. a nice surprise when I climbed up and discovered them; I never came down a ladder so fast in my life

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A New Era In Commuting Dawns

So I turned 57 on Sunday, which made Monday's commute the first of a new Stevieyear.

And what a commute it was! It started really well when I woke early at 6:00 am o'clock in the morning with my bladder screaming that the two sips of water I had yesterday before bed were a colossally bad idea. I thrashed around for a bit but eventually lost the battle for sleep and went to the bathroom. Returning to my bed I fell into a deep sleep, so deep I did not hear my alarm and so awakened for the second time just as my train was leaving the platform.

"Great Scott" I cried 1 and leapt for the shower, where I spent ten minutes clawing at the packaging to the new bar of soap I needed to replace the soapy smudge on the soapdish. Once liberated, this wonder of modern hygiene science rendered me clean and bereft of certain essential skin oils as per the requirements of modern civilized life as I scrubbed and I was able to languish under the now almost lukewarm water, contemplating the workmen cutting a large hole in my next-door neighbour's roof in the quest for some sort of home improvement. A quick pause to dry off and get some clothes on2 and it was off to work on the 10:02 from Wyandanch 3.

Or not.

Because I had forgotten that the LIRR had finally gotten its collective finger out and started to do essential and long overdue trackwork on the single track segment that runs between Pinelawn and Central Islip (I think). Therefore, it was off to Hicksville on the LIRR-supplied bus, via Pinelawn.

It was with a certain fatalism that I saw that the slip road to the Long Island Expressway crossed a bridge which was being widened that day. Naturally, before one can widen a two-lane bridge, it must first be narrowed with large concrete barriers to a single lane, thereby allowing road users to fully appreciate the way their lives will be improved when the widened bridge opens new vistas of road freedom as they fulminate in the near stationary traffic jam the temporary arrangements have caused. Ten seconds after we set off torrential rain descended from the heavens in order to make everything wet, but I cheered myself up by thinking about the hole in my neighbour's roof and the two workmen on the said roof who were by now having to deal with all the lightning zooming around the sky and crashing into things with the usual flashes, bangs and property damage.

In almost some time at all we pulled into Hickville where the elevators to the elevated platforms were all out of order, allowing me once more to demonstrate the mighty Stevielungs in action as I clung to the railing at the top of the fifty-foot staircase wheezing like one of those antique pumps used to feed life-giving air to someone in a hard-hat diving suit ten fathoms below as they patch rents, stop vents and do whatever else is required to raise the Mary Ellen Carter. Not only that, all that nonsense with the soap was rendered moot by the tropical levels of humidity preventing my sweat from actually cooling my body down and by doing so, shut down the sweating. I couldn't have been wetter if I had walked to Hicksville.

The train arrived and I boarded, but unfortunately so did about twenty bajillion yahoos with their luggage and their feet staking out as much real estate as they can in order not to have to share a bench seat that holds three with one other person. Gits.

I got to work a few minutes before noon, where the day went rapidly downhill. I cheered up for a bit when I was informed my section leader had been hospitalized but it turned out to be just an unsubstantiated rumour and he showed up at my desk to yell at me at around two. Someone should tell that man how dangerous it is to wake someone from a sound sleep like that. As it was he almost lost an eye when I reflexively stabbed for his head with my automatic pencil.

He remonstrated with me for what seemed like hours but was really only about one on the subject of giving 110% (this from a man with a masters degree in Pure Mathematics) and all would have been well had I not had the misfortune to doze off again mid-rant. Even then, my precaution of having drawn realistic "eyes" on my eyelids might have saved the day had I not begin to snore4.

We had a frank exchange of views in which he explained his (new this week) vision for the enterprise and I made inappropriate noises with various body parts indicating vehement rejection of his thesis5 and we parted in bad humor, he to whatever he does when no-one is looking, me to the large conference room where I could be assured of a couple of hours peace and quiet.

Which turned out to be a mistake as one of my colleagues was in a mischievous mood and used the opportunity to sneak into the room while I was deep in contemplation of my boss's plans and draw "humorous" features on my face with a Sharpie. Luckily I visited the bathroom before leaving for the day and spotted the perfidy in the mirror. Unfortunately the wag had used an Overhead Projector pen and the ink was too tenacious for the chemicals I could bring to bear in situ: Soap, scouring paste, dry-erase board cleaner and the spray stuff we use to clean heatsink paste off ciruit boards6. I decided the "Frankenstein" stitching across my forehead, the "Harry Potter" glasses and the two bullet holes in my left temple could be carried off as a fashion statement and set off for home. The blacked-out teeth I could hide by simply not smiling too widely.

Which after the day's events wasn't much of a challenge to be honest.

  1. Or words to that effect
  2. Won't make that mistake again
  3. Pearl of the East
  4. Which it turned out was why he had come over in the first place. Lesson learned. Obtaining proper nostril-sized nylon bushings now Prime Objective Alpha 1 A
  5. Since he never listens to a word I say I no longer waste them on him
  6. Which it turns out is mildly toxic and after a lungful of the fumes I couldn't see blue or pronounce the letter "p" for an hour and a half