Thursday, July 30, 2015


Google tells me that under EC laws my blog has to warn you about cookies and let you press clickies to say you understand the "risk".

I checked the UK version of TOS and the bug-ugly cookie-heading is there. I will assume it is there for Das Occasionallenstevie, Le Stevie Occasionalle, Las Stevie Occasioñalles et al. But I think I need to make something clear.

Cookies are important for adding state-awareness to the stateless protocol intended for scientific paper sharing that is the World Wide Web. Essentially, every time you click to send something once you have "logged in" to a bank or a forum or whatever, the browser has to append something that effectively logs you in again because the WuhWuhWuh cannot remember from one click to the next what you are doing and who you are.

Because of the way cookies get implemented, they can also be used to tell one site that you have visited another. This is why is is essential to erase your cookie cache after booking your session at Mistress Alexa's House of Executive Correction and before you try and browse Amazon or Google or

TO BE CLEAR: Google uses cookies to spy on you, I do not because, when you get down to it, I don't give a flying bleep where you've been, who you went with or what type of rubber you were dressed in1.

Disable your browser's ability to deal with cookies and you won't bother me at all. The blog might not display properly, it should but who the bleep knows what Google do with those insidious cookies? The comments probably won't work, but I doubt that will worry anyone. It has been about fifteen years since anyone left a comment because the CAPCHA thing that prevents bots from getting into the comments also prevents humans from doing so, I'm told. Something to do with JavaScript2 or not having it or something. Again, who gives a bleep?

So: If you hate cookie use, tell your browser you don't want to use them when you view The Occasional Stevie.

See if I care.

  1. This is not the case if you are female and were clad in very small amounts of well-ventilated PVC, revealingly cut. Such garb is relevant to my interests on scientific grounds
  2. That festering boil on the backside of the interwebs

Friday, July 24, 2015

Now That's A Pretty Song

On Wednesday I was dashing through Penn Station to catch my train home when I heard the most beautiful finger-style guitar playing.

In Penn Station they have a program for musicians to work legally, busking in a little niche out of the direct path of rushing commuters, and I've caught many worthwhile acts playing there. This time it was Glenn Roth playing "I can see clearly now" fingerstyle sans lyrics with great skill. I honestly wished I could wait for another train so I could hear his whole set.

I settled for scraping my pockets for the ten bux he wanted for his CD Into The Unknown, and it was ten bux well spent. So often I'm captivated by a solo guitarist in that venue and I buy their CD offerings only to discover their recorded work includes vocals or a full backing band, neither of which are features I was looking for when I bought.

The music on Into The Unknown is all original compositions of unaccompanied guitar works, and I recommend them to all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chateau Stevie Becomes Woodstock

This morning I unwrapped The Gift, gave it a couple of test strums to see if it was in tune (it was) and before Mrs Stevie could seek cover I launched into a mostly successfull rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle LIttle Star (Hot Sex Mix)".

I'm pretty sure Mrs Stevie missed the four or five notes that were near misses, and that the expression on her face was awe at mi' prowess in all things diatonic rather than rage (it's hard to tell before she's had two or three cups of Martillo Gigante de Orejas brand espresso to be honest and I hit the fretboard while she was frantically rattling the controls on the Keurig trying to alter the laws of physics in the quest for stimulants ASAP).

The McNally Strumstick is the best musical instrument ever invented. I recommend you buy one so you can play it at people who have laughed outright at your perhaps less-than-Clapton complicated string instrument wrangling abilities as they have done mine.

I can't wait to get home and expand mi' repetoire

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Age Happens Tomorrow

Tomorrow I become old, entering the halcyon days of my 6th decade on this planet1.
Mrs Stevie has agreed to give me a McNally Strumstick, a three-stringed thing that looks like a cross between a dulcimer and a balilika that went through the wash in a pants pocket. This despite the fact that having owned a guitar since my 50th birthday I have yet to persuade it to produce music in any way, shape or form2
I haven't been this excited since I asked for a train set for Christmas when I was two and a half and reportedly made myself so ill worrying about it the parents seriously considered holding Christmas early that year.
  1. I just deleted the scathing rant on how so-called scientists had failed to deliver on any of the promise of my single-digit years on account of it being too bleeping depressing
  2. I recently discovered a firm that makes nylon strings with steel string terminators on them so I restrung the beast. I can now report that I can play for longer3 and can make "F" with a barre4, albeit slowly. I've even managed a passable "C". Accordingly, I have hopes of producing an actual tune before the decade is out
  3. In spite of the begging of family that I cease and desist
  4. Which means I can make "G" the same way

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And Then I Fix Something, Then Break Something Else

So, after the Garage Door Repair Triumph I guess it was inevitable there would need to be some sort of cosmic scales-balancing.

It came to pass that on the following Saturday I decided to do some yard work (pygmies having taken up residence in the shoulder-high grass of the front lawn1).

I broke out the mower, last used by The Stevieling and did a quick check. No gas, no oil, all as expected. The Stevieling once admitted to me that she "worked the mower until it started puffing out blue smoke as usual ..." and was appalled to be interrupted by my outraged screams of outrage to the point that she refused to pay attention during my lecture on how in all the years I had used the mower it had never smoked blue and that when it did it was a bad sign that the engine was overworking and overheating and about to commit suicide.

I plan on letting her pick the new mower when (not if) she explodes the crankcase. The sticker-shock should be good for some remorse after the fact and fingers-crossed for some behavior modification, mower-usage-wise.

I cut the front lawn down to size and did the grass verges. As is my usual practice I did not collect all the rubbish my thoughtful neighbors leave on my property line, but drove the mower over it all to mash it up and spit it all over the road so it can blow into their driveways and shred their tires. They must hate this trailer-trash nonsense and the shredded 16 ounce drink cups, beverage cans, liquor bottles and cigarette packs it scatters about, but since it is their garbage in the first place they can bite me, the bleepers.

Overcome with exhaustion and ennui I went groaning from a dozen small aches and pains for a lie down and that was that, until Mrs Stevie insisted I take her out for ice-cream. I tried appealing to her sympathy for my aches and pains but I forgot in my distress that she doesn't have one.

The next day I replaced a board in the deck at the front of the house. The old one had become "punked2" due to the combined actions of damp and ants. I got a new cedar plank with no real trouble from Home Despot and deployed Mr Chopsaw and Mr Drilldriver for a largely trouble-free install.

True, I did peel back the nail of my left big toe and true it did bleed profusely until my skillful use of medicinal linguistics cauterized the wound, but that doesn't count and I don't want to talk about it any more. It's not my fault that an outbreak of Ultra-Virulent Alberta Foot Rot means I must wear sandals as much as possible - even when stout boots would be more appropriate - until the cream works and the skin on my feet stops dissolving. If the American medical system is so much better than the Canadian one, how come it can't cure a rural Canadian foot fungus permanently? Eh? Eh? You think I like going through this Cannuck horseshirt every year? You think it is good for sneakers to put them through an extreme bleaching every few days? And how do you bleach dress shoes or stout boots? You can't, so they cannot be worn until the fat lady sings!

Where was I?

I tackled the back lawns and the mower made short work of them. Unfortunately, the last season of mowing had been left to The Stevieling, who won't use the weed whacker3, and so there were a bunch of weeds growing, some with stems as thick as my thumb4. Also, a lot of hardy-looking growth - maple tree seedlings for the most part - had taken root in the joint between the foundation and the driveway and was threatening the infrastructure of the Steveiemanse. Action Was Called For.

So I deployed Mr Weedwhacker. and in no time at all I had removed the weeds except the ones at the side of the house. Undaunted, nay, emboldened by the epic levels of weed wastage I was dealing out with the weedwhacker I stepped forward, adjusted my stance, tripped over the old fencepost lying behind me, recovered by standing on the large diameter pipe that is the post for the Stevieling's basketball net, lost my footing completely and wiped the screaming hurtybits of the weedwhacker up the vinyl siding that replaced the aluminum stuff used everywhere else after the events related here had been rectified.

Now I wasn't too worried since I'd hit the house occasionally with the old McCullough weedwhacker once or twice, but the Ryobi weedwhacker is obviously made of sterner stuff and the vinyl siding isn't because in a trice I'd managed to cut two nice, wide, ragged slots in the siding.

I paused a moment to kick the clutter out of theater, reflecting that I should have done that before attempting weed whackage, and shut down the treacherous Weedwhacker of House Mutilation

Then I took a few moments to do The Bonehead Dance, mostly to give the neighbors something to watch as I chanted the ritual Words of Power such situations demand in order to drive away the evil anti-handyman demons.

That task completed, I departed stage left to locate one of the two dozen rolls of duct tape we have in the archives of Chateau Stevie, because it looked like rain and the siding doesn't do what it is supposed to do in such weather if it has huge gouges down to the framing in it.

Naturally I searched in vain for a single reel of said tape. I know for a fact that we have a reel of white, one of green and one of pink because who in heck uses such colors outside of certain adult-themed live-action damsel-in-distress websites where the color contrast with skin tones is deemed desirable5?

I eventually turned up a roll of black duct tape I used to repair something black years ago, but of course it was about to become a cardboard cylinder. My experienced eye said there was about enough to almost do the patching job but not enough to do it properly, and so it proved. I got the biggest holes covered but had to leave a pinhole and small crack open to the elements until we could find someone to come and fix the siding properly.

Such are the joys of home ownership.

  1. And something worse, something I never saw and for which I only have the pygmy name: "Fuggarwei". It must be a fearsome beast indeed to throw such fear into such indomitable warrior-hunters. All day long I could here the pygmy point guards leaping up to peer over the grass screaming "Ware the Fuggarwei!"
  2. So rotten it feels like a damp sponge
  3. Very wise, in my opinion. The most mutinous tool in my garage, that
  4. True, not a word of a lie. Actual thumb used for comparison. It is incredible what ordinary dandelions can become when left in peace to do their worst.
  5. Or so I'm led to believe

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

I Fix Something Without Breaking Anything For Once

After a week's aggravation doing battle with the Bloody Long Island Railroad it was time to get the rubbery mud out of the pool1.

The new plan called for all that stuff to come out and be replaced by something else, the exact nature of the something to be decided after I had had a good look at the landscaping cloth to see what was what. I'd soon have this pesky pool problem under complete control. Friday was July 3rd, a holiday2 and since I was on forced downtime I set aside that day for rubbery mud removal operations. I sent the Stevieling, ordered by Mrs Stevie to remain in-theater and to help, to get the shovel out of the garage and she returned complaining that the door was stuck again.

For some reason, the Stevieling has an unerring knack of getting the cables of our beaten-up garage door to jump off their pulleys by just looking at them, though I should mention that the right hand side cable was not functioning properly owing to some loose strands getting jammed in the spring pulley works some years ago. The cable needed replacing yonks ago, but I couldn't get the U-shackle that secures it to the frame off and at that time was uninspired on how to cut the cable - a number of attempts having come to naught due to lack of space for hacksawing etc. - so I was putting it off. The door had gradually become harder to open as the cable deteriorated3 but my natural laziness and other problems forced the issue from my mind.

I heaved a sigh4 and climbed back out of the pool to see what was going on this time.

What was going on was that the right-side cable had frayed to the point it would not feed through the static pulley so the right hand spring was unavailable for door-counterweighting duty. It was also now made of so few actual strands that the lethality had swung up to Castle Bravo levels, and the proximity of the Stevieling triggered some sort of hitherto latent parenting hormone which sharpened my perception and brought that aspect into strong relief, clearing the buffers of all other concerns and excuses. Action Was Called For™.

For those not familiar with the standard garage up and over roller door, the way it all works is that the door is segmented rather like a roller-top desk lid is. At the very bottom of the door, on either side, there are buttons like those used on guitars to mount a strap. In this case they are used to mount the loop end of a steel hawser about an eighth of an inch thick made of braided steel wire.

The door has little wheels that run in curved tracks on either side to guide the door up and overhead as it is raised. To assist in lifting the door two steel cables, one either side of the door, run up alongside the frame the track is mounted to, over pulleys mounted to the frame and then horizontally alongside the track to pulleys mounted on the end of two-foot long springs. Each spring is tied to the end of the track with a length of threaded rod in order to present the illusion that one can adjust the tension thereby.

Having passed through the pulley attached to the top the spring, each hawser runs back down its own length to the top of the frame where it is attached by feeding it through a small hole carefully positioned out of any possible sight-line and back once again down its own length for a short while, where it is secured using U-shackles to bind the end to the return length of cable.

So, to sum up, each cable runs vertically from the bottom of the door, around a pulley and then horizontally for about ten feet, around another pulley attached to a spring and back towards the door frame, through a little hole and is strapped to itself to stop the spring pulling it out of the hole and towards the back of the garage at great speed. Got that?

When it is working properly the door is pulled down, stretching the springs half the distance the door has to move5. When opening the door the springs offer a counterweight-like assistance, negating part of the door weight.

Modern garage doors are made of lightweight materials and offer no real problem if the springs are not adjusted properly or if one of the two block-and-tackle arrangements fails in some way to help lift (though they still get stuck if the problem occurs when the door is open and the wires fall off the pulleys).

The door of the mighty Steviegarage is made of sterner (and much heavier) stuff, being of sheet steel construction. Indeed, I believe the individual hinged panels once did duty as blast doors on a battleship, so sturdy are they. I was once almost killed one summer when the lift mechanism failed because I raised the door too high causing both cables to come off their respective buttons, and the door dropped sans springs, cables etc to crash mere millimeters from my anxiously wiggling toes, showering my unprotected shins and thighs with pulverized concrete shrapnel from the force of the impact.

It was what my father calls "a bloody job" jacking the door open so I could fix it too. Since that refreshing event I always prop a two-by-three in the right-hand track so that in the event the anti-handyman demons strike the door's lowest guide wheel will be arrested before things get interesting.

Now I had been putting off fixing that cable for months. I'd tried to undo the damned thing at the end of last September when it first started to fray in earnest, but the U-shackle securing it to the frame would not come loose. Now I could see the cable was demanding attention. I briefly considered simply clipping off the loose strands, then realized I was looking at a death trap and heaved another sigh. I didn't want this damned thing guillotining the Stevieling the same way it had tried to do me. She doesn't have the life experience to know when to deploy a Two-by-Three of Safety. Also, I saw I had a replacement cable hanging on the garage wall ready to be installed, so I levered the door wide open and propped it with my trusty two-by-three.

I grabbed my socket set, my Dremel tool and a set of snap-on cutting wheels and set to work. First job was to cut the old cable away. Using Mr Dremel and a cutting wheel and operating mostly by The Force in the absence of an available point-of-view to the work area I cut the cable where it doubled back from the frame to the U-shackle.

The cable cutting went surprisingly quickly, though the spray of sparks produced made the Stevieling think I was about to burn the house down and I was obliged to demonstrate that there was little heat in the sparks to calm her. This I did by taking a piece of the cable and cutting it such that the stream of sparks was directed against my T-shirt.

"See?" I said. "No danger at all."

"Then why is your shirt smoldering?" she asked.

"Global warming" I answered. "It's a little understood scourge but we must be ever-vigilant for its symptoms. Well done. Now hand daddy that bottle of water would you sweetheart?"

The cable remained stubbornly attached to the door frame even though I had cut the bit just frameward of the shackle. This was because the cable had been bent in a U-shape since Brontosaurs6 walked the Earth and was less bendy than the new one I had slowly unwinding and tangling around my feet on the garage floor. No problem. I simply reached up and located the thing by feel (no sight-line, remember) and gave it a series of carefully considered and scientifically proper mighty twisty pulls to reintroduce the cable to the idea of flexibility all the time making appropriate manly whimpering noises to encourage it. I kept my face close to the safety of the steel door, using it as a shield should the spring decide to get in on the fun and give the cable some help.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened.

The cable suddenly ripped out from between my fingers and went screaming back toward the garage's rear wall, taking time from its busy schedule to catch me a glancing blow on the right wrist as it did so7. Naturally, since the Stevieling was nearby, I eschewed my usual store of class three Words of Power set by for such occasions and contented myself with some manly howls of pain and thirty seconds or so bent double, jumping up and down while clutching the bleeding wrist and begging for death's sweet embrace. Then I went and put a Band Aid on the wound and got back to work.

Once I had the old cable unhooked from the door I could remove the fittings so I could begin what might be a fruitless search for an open hardware store with the right bits in stock. I cut the loop end off the cable and the U-shackle from the rest of the cable and cleaned up the ends with Mr Dremel so I wouldn't poke holes in the car or me. I set the Stevieling to guarding the contents of the garage (chiefly Troll, The Snowblower of Supreme Spiffiness, the lawnmower and the genny) and dashed to Arse Hardware to buy two new U-shackles and the soft lead thingy needed to form the loop at one end.

All of which went without a hitch even though this was the day set aside to observe the July 4th holiday (which fell on a Saturday this year) and which I expected might make for me running hither and yon in the fabulous Steviemobile in a vain attempt to find a hardware store that was open. Returning home I took the figure-of-eight shaped lead thingy, fed the cable through one hole and back through the other to form a loop (using the original cut-off loop as a guide) and using a combination of mighty blows with Finesse8 and mighty Words of Power I crushed the fitting so that the loop was firmly secured. I grasped the finished job in my hand so I could make a close examination of the work.

Important tip: When hammering ductile metal aggressively heat is generated, often in disconcertingly large amounts that stay around in the workpiece for a bit.

After that it was a relatively easy task to hook up the new cable and run it through the various pulleys etc. and anchor it to itself with the new U-shackles, especially easy when I realized that if the door were retracted all the way to the end of the track I could actually see where I was working. This required some inventive work with levers and blocks but no limbs were lost so it is hardly worth going into in depth. I soon had the cable secured with lots to spare should it need slackening.

The first test involved me standing inside the garage while the Stevieling closed the door but not far enough for the latch to engage. I observed everything working smoothly as I attempted to keep all the newly adjusted parts in view in case they made a bid for freedom. Even with Troll and the lawnmower removed there isn't much room for evasive maneuvers in there owing to the large amounts of crap stacked everywhere, so a keen eye was essential lest it be gouged out by a high-speed ballistic U-shackle or a pulley making a run for the border, but it all looked good.

The second test involved opening the door, which was so easy compared to the titanic effort it had required for the last few months9 that the Stevieling ended up throwing it back against the stops. This was a tense moment because the loop end hasn't had time to become teardrop-shaped from time under tension, and can escape the button on the door if the cable slackens, which then means the door is not properly counterbalanced and will come crashing down in a re-enactment of Murphy and The Bricks10, so we made a note to tell everyone not to do that any more.

The third test was to close the door fully and check it would stay closed and not inch open, which is what happened the last time I adjusted the other side cable to tension it a few months ago.

It all went very well so I used Mr Dremel to cut off the excess cable, we repacked the garage with the crap we'd removed so I could work and decamped for showers and lunch.
Nothing got done on the pool.

  1. According to the increasingly strident Mrs Stevie
  2. Something to do with a celebration of a treacherous mutiny by a bunch of colonial ingrates not recognizing the inherent benefits of benevolent British rule
  3. Engendering a potentially lethal situation, but I'm getting ahead of the story
  4. Pulling several muscles as I did so
  5. High school physics. Set up is like a block and tackle with a rope hanging from an eyebolt passing down and through a pulley in a block with a hook and back up to a ceiling-mounted pulley, thence to the floor. You reel in twice as much rope to lift twice as much weight through a given distance. Velocity ratio is 2:1 - the door travels twice as far as the spring stretches
  6. We are allowed to have them again it turns out
  7. Energy stored in spring was released. Spring retracted distance A. Thanks to velocity ratio (2:1) end of hawser moved distance 2A in the same time frame. Moving a given distance in half the time means that whatever it is is going twice as fast. The spring collapsed very quickly indeed so the hawser sped past at "better not get in the way" speed, shedding Cherenkov radiation as it went by my nose
  8. My claw-hammer
  9. Seriously. It required both hands and a powerlifter stance to get the thing open
  10. Also depicted in the second Babe movie in the incident at the well

Fun In The Pool

So we1 decided that eighteen months lying fallow was enough for the swimming pool and once again I would do battle with the elements, the Long Island Power Authority and backyard chemistry in the search for the life aquatic.

I actually spend more time in the pool when it is in commission than anyone else in the family, but that is mostly because I'm the only bugger who vacuums the sodding thing (which involves getting in and Mrs Stevie won't do that unless the water is warm enough to brew tea with). The solar cover produces an effect that sometimes fools her into believing that all the water is as warm as the top four inches, which is almost worth all the screeching when she rolls in from off her airbed or whatever flotation device du jour she is perched upon. I have been forced to point out that I did not invent physics, nor did I decree that warm water should rise, thus giving birth to the Solar Cover Hoodwinking Effect2.

The pool had sat for two seasons, one with water, one without, which had done for the liner. The Stevieling had offered to have a go removing the debris and scrubbing it clean as a father's day gift, but hadn't actually done so, so it was me who discovered after cleaning out the now soaking and reeking debris (it rained after father's day) that the pool liner was holed, so we went out to buy a new one the week before July 4th, visions of floating away the holiday dancing in our heads.

The young guy who sold us the liner was surprised we didn't want a team of young, strong people to fit it for us, but I'd done the job (admittedly, not perfectly) the last time and didn't see any issues, and they couldn't deploy their people in less than two weeks anyway. The liner was obtained for a reasonable sum3 and we returned home as it began to rain again. The next day I pulled out the old socket set and the drill-driver with the batteries that won't hold a charge any more 4 and began stripping off the top rail of the pool. It went surprisingly quickly. Then came the removal of the liner retaining ring.

For those who have never seen an above-ground steel pool - an increasingly rare beast in this age of inflatable and resin-framed pools - they consist of a ring fabricated from sections screwed together (sometimes simply clipped together) which has a groove set into it to hold the wall. Ours has plates that clip the curved sections together and provide the place to mount the vertical pillar pieces. The wall is in turn a cylinder of steel you make from a long, rolled-up sheet by fastening the ends to each other with bolts. This is the bit you need help for since the steel has absolutely no strength in it until it is cylinder-shaped and can easily be badly damaged by the wind, or people falling on it. The ring goes on the floor, slot uppermost and the sheet of steel is fitted into the groove until it is a cylinder, then the ends are secured to each other with the bolts, and good quality duct tape is applied so the sharp bits are kept away from the liner.

At this point an earth berm is built against the inside wall of the cylinder to act as an easement for the liner as it transitions from flat (hopefully) floor to vertical wall. This stops the liner's seams popping. Then the liner is unfolded and gradually pulled free of folds and wrinkles5 and draped over the steel at the top to form a sort of vinyl cup with a steel outer. This process takes forever and can drive one to the very brink of madness as wrinkle after wrinkle is chased down and eliminated, only to cause more somewhere else.

The liner is secured to the steel using long flexible clips made of plastic, and over them a second ring of slotted steel is snapped, at which point the steel wall becomes very much more rigid. The second ring is made from the same components as the first, and on our pool has joiners that must be aligned with those in the base ring so that fake pillars made of folded steel can be screwed to them. This acts to make the top ring more secure and prevents the steel cylinder from popping out of the retaining ring at the base. Then the flat coping is attached and the skimmer fitted and so on and so forth until it is a mighty open-topped tank of watery amusement.

Things began to go wrong at the point I had the top ring completely removed and pulled out the liner so I could cut it up and throw the pieces to the waiting womenfolk for disposal. Under the liner, we had been persuaded to install what looked like rubber cat litter. This was, we were assured at the time, a great idea. It turned out to be the worst idea since Hannibal said "Get the elephants saddled. Let's go punch some Romans". No matter how carefully I worked it shifted underfoot as I installed the liner so I ended up with a pool floor that closely mimicked that of the natural seabed, with humps and pits that accumulated dirt. I was expecting to have the same sort of nonsense happen this time, but when I pulled up the liner I found that water had leaked into the under-liner space and turned this rubber madness into mud.

I need to digress a bit here to explain why the water was accumulating under the pool rather than simply draining away. A previous bad experience in which a pinhole leak in the liner of an older pool had caused a Sumac tree to throw out a root that grew up into the chlorinated water - and thrive therein. I'd had to junk the pool as a result and I vowed not to have the same thing happen with pool number three. So I cleaned out all the biomass I could find, then killed the ground stone dead with a formulation I bought from Home Despot6 and then I covered the ground with several taped layers of thick poly sheet used by groundsmen to keep weeds at bay. When It came time to add the earth berm I added a skirt of the same sheet to keep the rust-inducing earth off the steel. It turns out I did a really good job because water inside this arrangement does not drain away, no matter how much I want it to. It was over this that the rubber cat litter was carefully poured and spread.

Such was the scale of the out-of-project excursion this represented, Mr Brain shut down completely and refused to have any more to do with things. I did what I usually do in these situations and walked around in small circles doing facial impressions of a fish and waving my hands around cabalistically but Mr Brain would not re-engage gears so that was that.

I looked ruefully at the mess and suggested that I could re-assemble the tarp tent I'd used to keep the rain off during the winter7 and we could talk over matters over dinner at a local diner. Of course, the purpose of having other people around at such times is for them to supply the common sense missing during Brain Treachery, but naturally they missed the opportunity to do so.

So that's what we did. I attached the individual pieces of top ring to the pool edge to provide some rigidity, but didn't clip them together as that would involve struggling with the last clip, which has to be walked into place with the adjacent ring sections only half-attached owing to the fact that the whole thing is a sliding fit so the ring ends up being bigger than the pool until the clips are slid fully into place and I foresaw a mighty struggle of Man Vs Pool Parts In A World Gone Mad At Night In The Rain. Frankly, I wasn't up to all that by then. So I just clipped the ring segments onto the pool and slung a tarp over it to keep the dusting of light drizzle off the already wet-compromised inner gubbins

A sad mistake.

For while we were at dinner in the diner, the light sprinkles of rain apparently became a thunderstorm of epic proportions, and when I got home the tarp had trapped four metric tons of water in it and had collapsed again, this time taking the wall of the pool down with it, bending it in several places. Long and mighty were the charms I cast that night to drive away the evil spirits I can tell you. Luckily the rain made the chances of young children overhearing them minimal and saved the paint on the back door from blistering.

I disentangled the tarp, now full of cold rainwater thank you, from the bent and twisted steel and went about unbending and straightening the metal. The damage was surprisingly minor, a couple of nasty bends that would require me hitting them with Finesse8 for a bit, but nothing that a few class two Words of Power couldn't take care of.

Or so I thought.

The next day was a Sunday, so I got up and wandered outside to survey the damage again. I wandered up onto the deck I put up so I could service the skimmer with relatively dry feet and stared glumly at the shallow lake in the tarp. Well, I already had the submersible pump deployed from the liner draining operations, so I reached over to grab the hose so I could swing it to where I needed it and lost my footing rather spectacularly on the wet, slimy wood.

I grabbed for the safety of the mighty pool wall and all the curved slotted steel ring segments on either side pinged off the steel and span through the air to Azathoth-knows where (I was too busy to notice). The steel wall folded like an alibi witness confronted by Mrs Stevie and I went headfirst into the pool with a cry of distress worthy of Inspector Clouseau at his best. Luckily my body landed for the most part on the sharp bolt-ends poking out of the seam in the now-collapsed steel wall, but I could have been badly injured around the face had I not had the great good fortune of having it land in the tarp's two inches or so of freezing cold rainwater, backed by slimy rubber mud.

I only had time for one rushed class three before impact, but I made up for it with a stream of extemporized class fours as I attempted to get up. I pondered a bit as to how to get out of the pool without inflicting more damage, then came to the conclusion that the pool had not afforded me the same consideration, damage wise, so I simply stalked back over the flattened section of steel to the mostly illusory firm footing of the mutinous deck.

I realized that I was going to have to reconstruct the upper ring with the clips or the same sort of embarrassing nonsense would likely happen again and again until the steel wasn't worth salvaging, so that's what I did. Once the top ring was re-installed I went around with the pillars, thinking to reattach maybe half of them to add more rigidity. That's when I discovered some of the holes no longer lined up properly. It was as if the pillars were too short or the wall too high. How could that be? The steel had bends in it where the worst offenders were - I could understand there being a problem with the walls being too short on account of that, but too tall?

Then I troubled to look down and realized that everywhere the steel had folded flat it had jumped out of the slot of the base ring, because it was no longer held in place by the pillars and top ring. I took a few minutes from my busy schedule of screws-up to do The Bonehead Dance, then, using a two-by-four to apply force from inside the pool and my foot I gently but firmly kicked the bleeping bleepery bleeptard back into place.

However, at the point by the skimmer, the place I'd fallen in, the problem was much worse. Not only had the steel popped inside rather than outside the restraining ring, when I removed the tarp and earth berm and the vinyl landscaper's cloth I found that the place where the steel seam was had been damaged so that the ends had spread in different directions. It would not seat in the groove until they were hammered back into profile. Not only that but I had no room for the two-by-four as an outside "foot" to apply force - the four foot high walls precluded me just reaching over with my hand and thumping it - owning to the snug fit of the deck to the pool wall. Fortunately I found a thinner piece of wood That would fit and that I could also use as an anvil to hammer against and in far too much time at all I had the blasted thing the right shape and properly seated with a few class fours to spare.

And so to bed after a shower to get all the flakes of rubber off my body.

  1. ie Mrs Stevie
  2. In which the top four inches of water are very warm indeed and right under that layer the water is just above freezing, with no transitional temperature gradient. It is a real wonder, science-wise but, hell on the eardrums
  3. Around $100, which doesn't sound at all reasonable for what amounts to some heavy duty vinyl sheet with some trimming and welding work done to it until you start looking around and pricing that sort of stuff
  4. And some of those batteries are reasonably new dammit
  5. Ha!
  6. Which I've vowed never to use ever again owing to the stench which I remember as having all the worst olfactory nuances of fermenting raw sewage and crude oil
  7. But which had collapsed when we left the house in the charge of the Stevieling and she neglected to notice the four foot of snow accumulating on the tarp
  8. My claw hammer