Monday, February 29, 2016

Let The Wind Blow High, Let The Wind Blow Low

So last Thursday saw the arrival of the belated November gales1.

I arrived home after attending the leaving party for a colleague and found Mrs Stevie lounging about oblivious to the stench of smoke and burning rubber in the living room. I ran around looking for fires but found none, so contented myself with opening a couple of windows to allow some air exchange to happen, putting the stench down to combustion byproducts of yet another "cooking experiment"2.

I could still smell burning rubber ten minutes later, so I checked the basement again for a furnace mishap. Finding none I muttered "perhaps I'm having a stroke". Mrs Stevie offered some kind encouragement along the lines of my needing a brain before that could happen, so I decamped outside to see if this was another case of stenches originating in the garage3.

I was testing the air outside with the Steviesnout to eliminate the next door neighbor as a culprit4 but the air was clear.

It was while I was engaged in turning around and ingesting large volumes of air snoutwise that I first saw the damage the high winds gusting about had wrought on the fence, which was drooping in a manner that said eloquently that all three non terminal fenceposts had sheared off, and that the fence was now only held together by the half-rotten rails to which the palings were fastened.

I yelled some emergency Class Four Words of Power and dashed for the driveway and the pile of fenceposts replaced after they were sheared-off the last time the wind blew the fence down, put by for just such an emergency.

In a titanic battle of Man Against The Elements In A World Gone Mad I dragged the mighty, half-rotted timbers over to the sagging fence, pushed the fence back to an approximation of upright and braced each snapped off post with an older snapped off post in the manner like that used by the Riders of Rohan to brace the door of Helm's Deep against the Orc Hordes of Mordor in the movie The Two Towers.

This is where Hollywood was shown to be full of bullshirt. When Helm's Deep's front door was braced, it stayed braced and closed in a satisfying and encouraging manner, and did not burst open the wrong way and tear out the hinges. When I used the same technique on the fence, it fell over the other way, requiring me to run around the entire property line to the other side with more antique snapped-off posts and brace it from the other side, whereupon the bracing on the other side fell away and the fence flopped forward again, forcing me to rinse and repeat, all the while being blown hither and yon by the weather. I was soon forced to re-use many of the Class Fours.

Eventually I had the fence secured, but had noticed that the back fence, the one separating me from Crazy Joe, was flapping alarmingly. Upon climbing around one of the bushtrees half killed at Mrs Stevie's request5 and almost losing an eye a few times to bare branches I discovered that one (and only one) post had snapped. Could have been much worse.

Unfortunately, that post was directly behind the bushtree and I could only reach it with one hand. Bracing was out of the question because a tree was in the way. Replacing it would also involve deforestation. I realized gloomily. When I put the posts in, I did so from Crazy Joe's side of the property line. That wasn't going to be an option this time. In any case, some sort of immediate Action was Called For, before the wiggling of the fence cause cascade failures.

I realized that I might be able to lash the post to the bushtree and restore at least a semblance of stability to the structure, so I dashed inside and down to the basement o' wonders and rope storage, where not a week before I had seen a coil of the same rope I used to manufacture the Stevieling's tree house ladder. Naturally, this was nowhere to be found this night.

I grabbed a short length of rope I used to deploy the submersible pump and ran outside again, not really with much hope. The rope was too short for the task I needed it for.

It was while doing the Impotent Rage Against The Forces Of Nature Dance that I saw the coil of rope hanging from the swimming pool deck, and so was able to enact plan "Lash The Fence To The Tree Before It bleeping Well Falls Into Crazy Joe's Driveway" after all. This involved my poking one end of the rope between the post and the fence (with the tips of my fingers because the post was just beyond arm's length) while fending off the sharp bits of the vengeful bushtree, then running around the other side to fish it out (with groping fingers because the rope was just beyond arm's length) while fending off the sharp bits of the vengeful bushtree, all by the light of the Moon.

I finally secured the post to the bushtree with five or six turns of the rope, pulling the rope taught by tugging hard with both hands while bracing one foot against the bushtree and chanting the Magic Tightening Words. It was a great triumph, and I turned around to survey the temporary6 repairs only to see that all the braces had fallen off the front fence, so I had to go and fix that all over again.

It was all very trying.

  1. The same ones that claimed the Edmund Fitzgerald
  2. The women of Casa Del Stevie are fond of taking foodstuffs and creatively incinerating them fifteen minutes before I get home. After the last effort of The Stevieling I played The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's Fire at her at volume # 11
  3. Like when the smell of solvents in the basement turned out to be gasoline leaking from the generator in the garage
  4. He has a cast iron stove as part of his heating solution and has been known to burn some pretty noxious things in the past. Tyres had not featured until then, but there is always a first time
  5. Mrs Stevie hated the way the previous winter's heavy snows had made the branches of this dendritic evergreen bushthing splay out and demanded I saw them off. It turns out that dendritic evergreen bushthings only grow on the outside of the area swept out by the tree's branches, and once the branches are trimmed back, they never grow in again. We are now the proud possessors of a tree that resembles the tail of an old lady's poodle, green and bushy at the top, ugly and revolting at the bottom. Should've done what I did before and used string to bonsai the damned thing back into shape
  6. Should be able to replace the posts etc by next summer if the pudding-like ground ever dries out

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Expecting The Best, Planning For The Worst

Spotted this loose in the wild among the used book vendor product descriptions while browsing Amazon (US site) for Haynes "U-Boats" manual (just out of interest you understand; not actually planning on passing myself off as Commodore Schmidlap and obtaining a non-nuclear submarine with which to terrorize the Atlantic shipping lanes)

Please remember to leave your feedback after your purchase. It helps other Amazon shoppers know we are a responsible and reliable seller. Thanks and we look forward to severing you!

Presumably the vendor also stocks Samurai katanas.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Ever Outwards, Into The Fields Of Suck

So we got back from Florida on Sunday evening, a trip so uneventful1 that I couldn't be arsed to post about it.

I returned to work on the following Tuesday, to discover that there was still no hot water on my floor, and that inexplicably no-one had burned the place to the ground so we could be relocated to One World Trade Center2. A quick e-mail to facilities re: the hot water situation and it was "spend all day emptying my e-mail inbox, flooded with automated messages from some vendor software monitoring tool and therefore unable to send on some crucial business e-mails to me while I was on vacation, so my e-mail would start working again time".

I'd told my employer that I would be out of e-mail range and therefore unable to work while on holiday (a philosophical stance to which I hold firmly) but I'm not so callous as to leave the stand-by guy with no safety net. I had arranged for three of the most important confirmation mailings sent out by scheduled jobs to be forwarded to my own e-mail address, and checked it on a daily basis when I had net access so I could, in an emergency, offer Mr J. On-the-spot some sage advice on where to start looking for holes to plug. I had seen no e-mails at all.

This is because when the vendor-supplied monitoring thing sent a blizzard of useless e-mails to me, each the size of a telephone directory, it filled my meagre in-box probably in hours. The default action in these circumstances is to still accept incoming mail, indeed, to exacerbate the space problem by launching daily "your mailbox is full" mailings from the Administrator, but to shut down outgoing mailings. This had cut off a) me from the information stream and 2) my employers nose from his face.

Now we have an archival "Vault" that is supposed to take the body of these mailings and store them somewhere vast and roomy, leaving only a linking mail in the inbox, but perplexingly it doesn't trigger on a full inbox condition, only on the age of the mailings themselves. Not only that, telling the vault to archive a mailing takes almost 12 hours to actually action the request, so archiving everything for safety was not an option. The metaphor I need here would involve adding a pair of ears to the severed nose lying at my employer's feet by deft self-use of a straight razor.

Given the obstacles placed in my way preventing the job being done the right way, I took my own sweet time figuring out what could be deleted forever.

Wednesday dawned and I was invited to join everyone in celebrating the Chinese Lunar Year by partaking of a luncheon. The group putting this on called for everyone on the umptytump floors to arrive on a staggered schedule. Naturally, everyone but my group went at noon with the result that the line for what was an excellent buffet-style lunch was longer than that I suffered to experience the Despicable Me ride in Universal Studios only a week before.

Work over, I arrived in Wyandanch, perl of the east, in the pouring rain that evening and drove home. There I discovered that sometime during the day an "unhooked phone" situation had developed in Chateau Stevie's voice comms infrastructure. Re-seating each phone didn't fix the problem. Unplugging all the phones didn't isolate the problem. Neither did disconnecting the alarm system from the phone line, once I remembered that was a possible source of problems.

It was all very annoying.

I decamped to the Basement of Crap Storage and traced the place where the one phone line becomes a star topology of individual cables branching all over the house. I'd installed that about twenty years ago using parts from Radio Shack and it had worked flawlessly since. My plan was to disconnect the feed line from the outside of the house and install a jack into which I could plug a phone in order to test the line. Naturally this meant excavating several metric tonnes of crap so I could reach the junction box.

The issue is that the phone company now only takes responsibility for the phone line that arrives at the wall of Chateau Stevie, leaving all internal wiring to Yours Truly. I wanted to get a head start on the inevitable "Not at the pole, your problem" argument that was sure to be used by the phone company technicians by demonstrating that there was no line problem inside the house, or in the event there were, to deal with it quickly.

It was around that time when I remembered that Radio Shack, my go-to source for the little plugs, sockets, wire and so forth I'd need to enact plan Install Another Phone Connection Point To The Outside Line And Demonstrate That All Is Well Inside Chateau Stevie, was no longer in business, at least around me, and that every retail store they'd operated in my locale was a distant memory.

Additionally, although the phone company had been called, and although they had assigned the case to their Ultimate Galactic Top Emergency Awooga Awooga classification, they wouldn't actually have anyone at Chateau Stevie before noon Sunday, and that was before the snow complication.

For late last night it began snowing, and it was snowing even harder this morning when I fired up the fabulous Steviemobile and began what is certain to become a commute I will end up regretting.

I began well by finding I had forgotten my cell phone just as the train began leaving the station with me in it. I didn't think to panic at first, but then the reality set in that the phones at Chateau Stevie are hors de combat and I can't remember anyone's cell phone numbers because I use the autodialer in my cell phone to call them and I don't want to talk aboiut that any more. Then I did the Bonehaed Dance and used some well-chosen Class Two Words of Power (I'd have used Class Threes but there were women present).

Thus reduced to the same levels of family support I'd had in 19843 I would have to hope that the Steviemobile's traction control and a folding snowshovel would suffice to get me home, and that the Bloody Long Island Railroad cound be relied upon to deliver me back to Wyandanch in a reasonable time-frame.

I'm bleeping doomed.

  1. Bar the usual unpleasantness at the entrance to the Goethals Bridge courtesy of one's fellow drivers and the usual Sunday evening traffic jam on the Belt Carpark Parkway courtesy rubbernecking dolts who can't pass even the flashing runway approach lights at JFK without slowing down for a look and apparently have never seen anyone digging their car out of a snowbank with a snowshovel of all things. Thank you bleeping New York Hicks
  2. You leave them one job ...
  3. Nil