Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Miracle Of The Bird

So after I got the radiator cover back on the wall and screwed down tight again we walked around the building but could find no holes from the outside into the radiator.

The radiator cover had no bird-sized holes in it or gaps between it and the wall either.

While we were searching the place for avian access points the pastor wandered into theater and demanded to know why The Stevieling had her parents in tow and why we were carrying tools. She explained, to some understandable doubt on tghe part of the cleric until backed up by Mrs Stevie.

"But how did it get in there?" he said, in exasperated tones.

"We don't know " said The Stevieling. "Weird, eh?"

"You should call it The Miracle of The Bird" I opined. "It would be a monster draw. You'd be fending off the punters with a stick."

"I don't think .. " the pastor began, doubtfully

"Suit yourself, pastor" I said, "but if this were a Roman Catholic church there would already be a shrine erected to it."

Mrs Stevie took the opportunity of the pastor's speechless indignation to punch me in the head and hiss "shuttup!" at me.

I shrugged and wandered around to the pastor's office where I noted the pipes that went through the wall into the radiator.

" think the bird must've got in through there" I said.

"Idiot! How would the bird get in the office?" snarled Mrs Stevie.

I looked pointedly at the door, then at the double doors to the outside only a few feet beyond that.

"You're right" I said. "It's a miracle. Since I'm an atheist and have no useful input on how those work, I'm going home."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Family And Other Animals

The Stevieling has always had a connection with animals.

All kids have an affinity for animals of some sort, which explains the proliferation of petting zoos, but The Stevieling's connection runs deeper than that. It is as though there is some sort of psychic connection or law of the universe at work.

When she was four we took her to an "adventure park and petting zoo" and she was invited to go up on stage for a presentation involving various animals. I think the idea was that she be gently scared and provide some harmless comic relief for the parents present.

The presenter brought out the first animal, I forget what, and she promptly hi-jacked the stage and the presentation by bombarding the poor sod in the Aussie-style bush hat with machine-gun questions about the life, diet and problems involved in housing the beast and suggestions on how the current methodologies could be improved. Mrs Stevie and I were in hysterics, as were most of the other adults present.

Bwana Hat then produced a guaranteed kid-scarer, a baby alligator which he lowered to the stage. It immediately began its party-piece: running like crazy with windmilling legs. He, of course, held onto the beast's tail and waited for the screams to start. The Stevieling jumped up and down, clapping her hands in glee and shouted "Oh! Let him go! Let him go!"

The next star of the show was to be a baby bear of some sort, but Crocodile Squeegee, no doubt with visions of liability clauses dancing in his head, announced "I think you'd better sit down now!"

Later that year we visited Sea World in Florida. The Stevieling had expressed a burning desire to touch a dolphin so we sought out the dolphin pool, which used to be a voluminous but I should think boring for the dolphins oval pool with waist-high walls from the people side.

I was pleased to see that this deplorable state of affairs had been addressed, and the beasts were now housed in a much bigger irregularly-shaped pool that featured a rocky littoral at one side.

My heart fell as I saw the crowd around that pool, which took up all the available space with deep water next to it. Obviously the dolphins had just been fed which meant my plan to lure them to the waiting Stevieling with fish was doomed to failure.

Understand, The Stevieling was an angel about stuff like this, and bore disappointments that would have most kids screaming a blue fit with a shrug and a happy smile. This, naturally, worked to make me even more determined to get her what she wanted, but I couldn't see anywhere we could stand by the pool to have a go. Every linear inch of wall space was occupied by adults and larger kids.

The dolphins were in the middle of the pool, teasing the humans as they do.

Eventually a hopeless spot opened up. It was an inside right-angled corner right against the shallow rocky part of the pool where the water turned into a sort of broken rock morraine. A dolphin would have to be mad to try and get close over the sharp rocks there, but I let The Stevieling stand by the wall so she could at least see them. She bellied up, barely able to see over the wall, and stretched out her tiny hand, palm outward.

Bugger me if one dolphin didn't immediately begin swimming directly toward her.

When it became obvious that a dolphin was going to come close in to shore, a new and unexpected problem arose. All the stupid adults standing around the pool surged toward the inside corner containing my kid. I braced my hands against both angles of the wall and fended them off, and watched something miraculous happen. The dolphin swan up into the shallows, over those sharp, sharp rocks - to this day I don't know how - and parked itself within easy patting reach of The Stevieling's little hand. She patted the animal a couple of times, the dolphin turned and swam away and she said "Okay, we can go now", oblivious to the consternation of the adults around her.

Much later in her life I tasked her with mowing the front lawn for me while I made an emergency trip to Home Despot. I explained how the mower worked, got it started and warmed up and left for the store.

Now I had mowed that same small area of grass for more than a dozen years and found nothing in it other than grass and an alarming number of dandelions, so I was nonplussed when I arrived home to find the lawn half-mowed, the mower standing in the middle of the lawn and no-one in sight. I found the family in the back garden with a box full of rabbits, each about the size of my thumb.

"Where did these come from?" I sighed, already half sure of the inevitable answer.

"The front lawn. They were in a hole" said the Stevieling anxiously. "Can we keep them?"

"Absolutely not. Put them back where you found them" I said in tones that brooked no nonsense.

"But the mother will eat them now" wailed The Stevieling. Mrs Stevie was no help whatsoever.

"Phone your Cannuck Cousin. She has worked with animals and knows about rabbits1".

After being reassured by her cousin that no, the baby rabbits would be fine if they were replaced in their nest the animals were put back in the unfeasibly small hole they'd been found in and a return to lawn mowing was negotiated.

I think I've already spoken here of the time she found a squirrel in a garbage pail and reached in to pick it up, earning a bite and an afternoon in the Emergency Room of Good Samaritan Hospital for her trouble. Only my kid would not think it more appropriate to simply tip over the garbage can so the animal could escape.

And so to the latest Stevieling Animal Escapade.

The Stevieling has a job as assistant deacon at the local Lutheran church, and was away a couple of weeks ago doing her janitorial duties when we got a call from her. Mrs Stevie spoke to her for a while then passed over the phone with "a look" on her face.

"Hullo daughter. Wassamarrer now? " I asked.

"Can I borrow some screwdrivers please?"

"Why do you need tools?" I asked, my spirits beginning to droop in anticipation of the answer.

"I need to dismantle a radiator."

"What? WHY?"

"There's a bird trapped inside."

"How do you know there's a bird in the radiator?"

"I heard fluttering and I saw a beak."

"A beak? Are you sure?"

"Positive. Through the slits."

"Argh. All right, I'll get some tools and come over. Don't do anything until I get there."

A bird I could not believe, but a rat or mouse was possible and we did not need another bite and another lost afternoon in the land of the sick and screaming. Mrs Stevie decided she would also like in on this fiasco in the making, probably flashing as I was on the time I all but dismantled the sofa for an item the kid had in her pocket.

I grabbed my favorite Slotted and Phillips screwdrivers and we headed out to the church. We met The Stevieling who let us in and walked us to an aging baseboard heater about a foot tall, maybe four feet long and about four inches deep, one inch of which looked to be the brown paint it was covered in. I looked in it, and banged on it, but I saw no sign of beaks nor did I catch the merest suggestion of fluttering.

"You're sure about this?" I said, eying the painted-over screws with distaste.

"Very sure" she said, with feeling.

"Okay then" I said, and got to work.

The screws were of a variety of types, lengths, metals and probably thread pitches. Some of them might have been hand made. I could swear one looked old enough to have been salvaged from The Ark. The paint, when the screws broke the seal, proved to be several layers and colors thick. I came to the conclusion that the brown was actually the result of years of interaction between the various paint layers3 rather than a coat of brown paint. Eventually I got them all out while Mrs Stevie stood by with her arms folded in that helpful way she has and The Stevieling opened a nearby door to the outside world.

The radiator cover proved to be painted securely to the wall and would not release, so I just pulled the bottom up from the floor and bent low to see what I could see while visions of being face-bit by a rat danced in my head. I was turning to express my disgust at my wasted time to The Stevieling when with perfect timing a large bird, Starling-sized or so, burst from underneath the metal cover right by Mrs Stevie, causing her to shriek most rewardingly, and flew out of the door.

"I told you I saw a beak" The Stevieling said, smugly.

  1. Mrs Stevie had almost been caught up in a scheme my niece had cooked up to gain a fleet of rabbits in spite of her mother's absolute rule of No More Pets2 by having adults "own" them and foster them with her
  2. They had the makings of a small petting zoo by then
  3. Experiments The Stevieling had undertaken in her seminal Third Year Period had proved beyond doubt that if one uses enough different colors one inevitably converges on brown

Friday, June 13, 2014

AAaaAAaaAgony, Far More Painful Than Yours!

When you feel like your fingers ... have been slammed in car doors!

The old body has been giving me gyp for months now. My right index finger and thumb are tingling and get downright painful if I lean on my arm at any point. My upper arms (both sides) ditto. I've already referenced the Leg Mutinies I've suffered En Disney and I think I've spoken of my treacherous back once or twice. If I were a car it would be time for a new one.

Most recently I started getting twinges from Mr Back, the little finger on my left hand has started locking up and the bone where that finger joins the hand is quite tender so I decamped for Doc Rubberglove's House of Pain to see what could be done in terms of a quick paint job to hide the rust and some sponge cake to stop the differential knocking in corners1.

Doc Rubberglove is in new digs these days, having made so much money ministering to the sick that he could afford to not have to share a roof with a pediatrician. He's been there about a year now and I've been to see him there three or four times so the first problem was I forgot how to get there, got lost and had to resort to the GPS. The GPS punished me for not using it in months by resolutely refusing to find a signal until I had spotted something vaguely familar enabling me to switch from dead-reckoning navigation2 to piloting3 and get on the right road a good four seconds before the GPS began smugly telling me I was right. I later punished it by driving home so circuitously while ignoring its strident cries of alarm that by the time it had re-planned the route I was already off the re-planned plan so it had to start again. AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Where was I?

Oh right. On a previous visit to get a shot to make my alergies go away Doc Rubberglove had given me the "quick fix" version and told me to pick up the "long term" version from a local pharmacy and come back. This I had done, so one of the items on the agenda was shoot me full of slow-release cortiosone, for that is what the "long term" version was.

It transpired I had in fact got about five doses in that vial, and Doc Rubberglove said I should be able to use it next year if I store it correctly, so bonus, I suppose.

Of course, cortisone shots are a medical joke. You get one in your leg to fix your knee and your elbow feels ten times better while the knee now hurts more on account of the needlestick. Also, get one in your arm and it feels okay until you get about five feet from your car, when it suddenly feels like you've been kicked in the shoulder by a bad-tempered horse. I've alluded to this very phenominominomimumum before many times, and to the proper way to bear up under the pain, which is to stumble around crashing into things while clutching the arm and wailing "why me?" in a manly fashion until either the pain subsides or you are run over.

Doc said he'd stick my left arm and perhaps that would help the problem with the little finger. Then he had a brainwave and said that he'd give me a second dose directly into the hand, a plan to which I foolishly agreed.

The arm jab went about as usual with me bravely suffering the pain with only one or two light whimpers. The hand jab was an entirely new level of Medico Perfidy altogether.

First came the freezing spray.

"It works by evaporation" Doc Rubberglove giggled, spritzing it liberally over my hand.

"So I gather" I giggled back. "Some sort of ether formulation by the smell."

"Hold still" he responded, waving a small hypodermic in the air. "I'm going in!"

"CRIKEY THAT"S PAINFUL" I shrieked, biting my other hand as the doctor had apparently neglected to offer me the customary squash ball before driving the needle into what felt like the main pain generation gubbins of my hand.

"Hold still!" he reassured me in playful, snarling tones. "I'll just change my grip so I can squeeze the plunger with increased ferocity! There we go!"

"ARGH! ARGH! bleeping bleep of a bleep!"

"I need more leverage! I might be hitting bone here! HOLD STILL!"

Eventually it was over. Not only was my finger still not working, my entire hand felt like it had been run over with a steamroller. Result.

"I want more freezing spray before you do that again" I snarled.

"Freezing the skin won't decrease the pain unfortunately" the good doctor sniffed dismissively. "This we just proved, advancing the cause of medical science."

"I mean to take the stuff nasally next time" I riposted. "Kindly have some decanted into a suitable insuflator before putting me to the question next time."

I drove home one-handed, and got about halfway home before the horse kicked me.

Well, played, Doc. Well played.

  1. The old bodges are the best ones
  2. I think I am here and I want to go there-ish so I need to drive a straight line thataway
  3. I know where that is with respect to something else on the way to there so I'm good to go

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Backdoor Man

Things fall apart.

Case in point: the frame of the back door to Chateau Stevie was looking a bit naff a couple of weeks ago, so I poked it and had the almost orgasmic experience of having part of the house disintegrate under my mouse-like touch. A good six inches of the wood frame at the top left was rotten, punked and completely in need of replacing.

This induced a minor panic in me. I'm no longer the young go-getter who wielded the mighty Tiger Saw and ripped apart the old back door frame and who installed the pre-hung Stanley door in its place. In fact, the prospect of trying to put in a new frame had me well scared.

My carpal tunnel issue is now a constant problem and just holding things like tools in my hand is a challenge. Also, the last few jobs I've done have gone pear-shaped alarmingly quickly, requiring days to drive in a screw or replace a faucet washer as ancillary jobs spontaneously bubble out of the quantum vacuum to complicate the task at hand.

But when the panic had subsided, I recalled that the door frame is in two parts; the actual frame that houses the door, and the so-called "brick-mold" that is fastened to the frame and is the part that gets snugged-up against the wall of the house. I might be in luck, I thought.

I removed the storm door (which is basically mounted in an aluminum frame screwed to the brick-mold) and got busy with Finesse, my claw hammer. In less than an hour I had the rotten wood removed and could see that although the frame was beginning to show signs of damp damage, it was salvageable with a lick o' paint.

Finding brick-mold was a saga though. Home Despot only had plastic brick-mold, which has the advantage that it cannot go rotten but requires the same sort of glue as one uses on PVC pipe to stick together and a different glue to hang it all on the door frame. I asked whether the glued-on brick-mold would support the weight of the storm-door and received no assurances from the in-house expert that this would be the case.

Paint me purple and call me Susan but I have more faith in screws and nails in these circumstances than space-age glues, and the wood had lasted about 20 years with only one paint job after all. I saw no reason to move into experimental materials, nor to add whatever they call the morbid fear that the expensive and heavy storm door1 will come off in someone's hand, or worse drop off in the night during a storm to my list of worries and phobias2. Luckily I finally tracked down good old-fashioned wood brick-mold at Blowes, Home Despot's chief competitor.

Then there was the problem of finding a decent way of edging the siding.

Chateau Stevie is clad in stylish3 aluminum siding of a particularly nauseating color that I'd change in an instant if I had the money, and siding like this requires channel section to make the edges look nice which had been mangled when I pulled off the brick-mold. When I installed the door it had been stuck to the brick-mold with 25-year silicone sealer4 and it had torn when I tried to part it from the wood.

The problem is that no-one makes the stuff in the brown to match the rest of the trim, and I don't possess a bending brake5 to form my own from coil stock, which they sell in ten inch widths painted brown on one side and white on the other. I had a go, using my extensive collection of Black & Decker model 225 Workmates, a rubber mallet and a long piece of Melamine as an improvised6 bending brake, but it didn't end well and Mrs Stevie yelled at me about not hammering at midnight.

Eventually I discovered some pre-made channel section that would work well, but it was white not brown. I sighed, and accepted that the universe was once again working solidly against me, and went with white in the hope it wouldn't be so noticeable against the white fame of the back door, and it wasn't, really.

Getting the new brick-mold to fit where the old one came off was a challenge as the usual anti-handyman demons had infested the job-site and the brick-mold "wanted" to fit to a 1/2 inch smaller door frame, which would induce problems in re-fitting the storm door. I suspect the siding had shifted. By force of will (and hands and at one point a foot too) and some carefully selected class three Words of Power I managed to get the blasted thing back on in the same position the old piece had occupied.

Once the wood was cut to size and nailed in place with an almost perfect miter (these never work right in real life) I was ready to paint.

Or nearly. Turns out the door-frame footing had extensive rot too and I wasn't in a position to replace it. I took a chisel and dug out the rotten wood, revealing two large triangular divots, one each end and about four inches long and about an inch deep, running to the edges of the footing. I needed a quick and easy fix for this, and luckily I had one to hand.

First I cleaned out the divots and made sure there was no bad wood in there. Then I built dams out of duct tape on the ends of the footing so that I had a large triangular hole rather than a slot. Then I dug out my Alumilite casting resin.

This stuff is a two part, 50-50 mix resin with a three-minute set-up time. The only issue would be that the resin has a lower surface tension than water and will find any gaps in whatever container it is poured into. There were certain to be small gaps between the tape and the wood as I couldn't burnish it along its entire length (some of which was under the house). I ran a bead of five minute epoxy resin along the wood-tape boundary. That is thicker than treacle and did the job nicely. Then it was a matter of mixing up small batches of resin, around 20 ml or so, and pouring it into the cavities.

One unforeseen issue with this is that the Alumilite is partly thermosetting (needs temperature to set hard) and the setting process is also exothermic (gives off heat). The relatively large masses of resin allowed heat to build up to very high levels. This was good in that the resin set up very, very quickly. But it also got so hot that it caused water to boil out of the wood, and that left the top surface looking like the inside of an Aero candy bar, all bubbly. But once it was sanded it looked good and worked just as I had intended. Once it was painted it looked as good as new.

The frame got two coats of outdoor primer, and two thick coats of outdoor eggshell white, and it looked great. There were some issues with the back door doormat being covered in resin drips and paint drips but as I said to Mrs Stevie: Pfft!

Last weekend I finally tracked down the screws I needed to re-hang the storm door and on Sunday I got that done, just in time for the storm on Monday.

  1. When the glass is installed
  2. Chief of these is Sinogastrophobia, a morbid fear of under-ordering in Chinese restaurants
  3. In 1945
  4. For once that wasn't marketing hyperbole
  5. A machine that puts sharp folds in sheet metal
  6. And completely naff